Hopeless Lonely Hearts

With Valentine’s Day safely behind us, it is time for those less fortunate in love to creep out of the shadows, at least for long enough to wave a hopeful tentacle. We’ve had some great submissions, names of the wonderful, infamous people who sent each contribution are in brackets – if you don’t know them, look them up!

 

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And now, without further ado, onto the latest from the Hopeless Maine Lonely Hearts column….

Travel writer/warlock seeks companion for walks on beach, reading sessions and constant reassurance that the little green abomination with a lisp sitting on her shoulder is real and she’s not going insane oh gods why won’t it go away why why. Non smoker preferred.

(Francesca Dare)

 

Lonely mortician seeks introvert for quiet nights in, surgical practice and possibly more. GSOH and own surgical kit a must!

(Charles Cutting)

 

Melancholic poet seeks occult practitioner for stargazing and beachcombing. Romantic aspirations and love of dustcats a must.

(Craig Hallam)

 

Priestess seeks Worshippers. Bring appropriate offerings to the waterfront at the rise of the Full Moon. Next of Kin details required.

(Cat Treadwell)

 

Man, 45 GSOH seeks woman/man/cyborg for long walks in the attic, light animal experimentation and occasional explosions. LIKES: orang-utans, tannin, occasional explosions. DISLIKES: Coffee, men with banjos and/or moustaches.

(Professor Elemental)

 

Indian exch. witch offers Walpurgisnacht carpet pool York – Harz Mountains. Imperial Persian carpet, 12 places. Departs: York Minster Central Tower 28/04. 1st come, 1st serve. Contact Aaliyah Baba, scry/orb, open astral channel btw 12.00-01.00. Fee: Soul Secrets, Lover’s Vows.

(Suna Dasi)

 

Mild mannered maniac seeking companionship, 1969 vintage, original body (with modifications), full service history, test drive advised. NO TIRE KICKERS. The ideal candidate would need large bumpers or airbags, and go from 0-60 in less than 8 seconds.

(Ian Crichton)

 

Perfectly Normal But Lonely Single F, 40 y.o but with the body of 18 y.o.[stored safely in the freezer], own transport, seeks like-minded individual for good times, long book shop visits and romantic Staring Into The Void. Living preferred but vital status negotiable for right person. Must look good in riding boots and share sense of pedantry. No slime wasters.

(JJ Bannister)

 

Mature gentleman with GSOH and both original hips seeks very patient companion for experiments in unwearable clothing. Human preferred but some exotic ancestry not necessarily a problem. Must be warm blooded and breath air. No fish.

(Nimrod)

The Blind Fisherman

The Blind Fisherman is a sequence of illustrations and poems that you can currently find at the front of Hopeless Maine, The Gathering.

Before we get any further, I’d like to mention that the fisherman in question matches the legal definition of ‘blind’ in that he has significant sight impairment, not total blindness. This is most usually the way of it. Some of the things he does in the sequence have a magical component to them which is why he binds his eyes – it’s just better not to be distracted by looking.

This sequence began life the autumn we launched Hopeless Maine as a webcomic (back when we were itisacircle.com). We’d started this Hopeless Vendetta site already while we were waiting for technical stuff on the webcomic. Tom wanted to launch with something a bit special, and also he is slightly masochistic, so he did this series of images telling a story. At the last minute he realised he wanted an extra image and sat up all night just before the webcomic launch! Not something I can recommend, but we weren’t living together then so getting him to go to bed was a good deal more difficult.

The words followed the images. I was painfully inexperienced around comics at this point, and working with a forgiving webcomic format, not the harsh realities of the printed page. If I was doing it now, I would be thinking from the start about how the words might fit and be big enough that a middle aged person like myself might be able to read them! One of the pieces in the set pre-dates the art, and was written as a song in my late teens. It was such an uncanny match that I felt I’d been moving this way all along.

The Blind Fisherman wasn’t in the Archaia editions, but Nick at Sloth was happy to give it a home when Personal Demons and Inheritance combined to be a single volume. It also meant we had something extra in there, which felt good. So at that point, that we had got an eccentric combination of art and words into the front of a fat comic was the extent of our aspirations.

Tune in next week for another instalment as I try and explain the curious journey of going from this initial body of work, to making a film.

The Little Drummer Boy

As has been noted before in these tales, the good folk of Hopeless, Maine, are not renowned for their love of walking. This, in many ways, is understandable. The island is a veritable smorgasbord of hazards, natural, supernatural and downright unnatural. The business of staying alive is tricky enough, without wandering around and taking unnecessary risks and – some would maintain –  unnecessary exercise. Philomena Bucket, however, was the exception to the rule. She loved to walk, especially in the early hours, with Drury, the skeletal hound, more often than not jogging happily along by her side. Despite appearances, Drury was not Philomena’s dog. He had been on the island for as long as anyone could remember and had but one objective in life (or death, depending on your point of view) and that was the pursuit of fun. At that moment, he considered Philomena to be the human most likely to provide the wherewithal to achieve this.

Our tale begins one grey, late summer morning. Summer mornings on Hopeless, it must be admitted, are very much like the mornings of any other season, except that it tends to get light earlier. So, it was almost 6a.m. when the sun finally managed to persuade the fog to let it through, the signal for Philomena to set off for her daily constitutional.

Philomena liked to vary the route she took for her walk. Some days she would wander up into the Gydynap Hills. On others, she might choose to stride out along the headland towards Chapel Rock, or maybe to the secluded part of the island which at that time was unnamed but known in later years as Scilly Point. Today, however, Philomena was feeling bold and decided to walk a particularly  long strip of narrow beach, only accessible at low tide. This was hazardous for a number of reasons. Besides the slimy, many-eyed and tentacled rock dwellers, whom Philomena felt could be avoided with Drury’s help, was the danger posed by ocean itself. While, even at low tide, these waters could be capricious, more worrying still were its denizens. Chief among these was the mighty Kraken, with suckered arms long enough to reach across the waves and drag the unwary into a watery grave. (Some say that the Kraken is as old as the ocean itself. Personally, I cannot believe this, but it is certainly ancient and quite pitiless).

Call Philomena brave, or merely foolhardy, but oblivious to any danger, she resolutely set off along the beach with Drury scampering happily along beside her. Within minutes an obfuscating sea-fog began to roll in, even more relentless than usual, until nothing was discernible beyond more than a dozen feet. Most people might have given up at this point but Philomena was nothing if not stubborn. Even Drury was slightly hesitant to proceed but emboldened by his companion’s determination, soldiered on with a spring (and a rattle) in his step.

Philomena was not able to say how far or for how long she had been walking. Fog tends to do that to the senses. Time and space can become meaningless in that grey cocoon and it is not unusual for one to easily lapse into an almost trance-like state. This was exactly where Philomena’s mind was hovering when she was pulled back to reality. There was a muffled drum-beat coming from somewhere in front of her, further down the beach. She stopped, wondering who, or what, might be making such a noise at this hour of the day. Then, to her surprise, she found herself suddenly confronted by the figure of a child, a boy with a drum marching through the mists.

“Are you lost, young fella,” she asked as he drew closer.

The boy looked at her with large, soulful eyes but said nothing, not missing a beat as he passed her by. He could not have been any more than twelve years old, Philomena reckoned.

“He’s too young to be out alone on such a dangerous spot,” she said to herself, seemingly unaware of her own vulnerability.

“I can’t leave him.”

She turned to Drury.

“Come on Dru’, we’ve got to catch him up, before he gets into real trouble.”

She turned back, following the steady beat of the drum but her eyes were unable to penetrate the fog and see the drummer.

“Hey, slow down, we’ll walk with you,” she called but to no avail. All she could do was follow the rhythmic rat-a-tat-tat of the drum and hope the lad stayed safe.

The tide began to come in, forcing Philomena and Drury to scramble to safety. There was no sound of a drum anymore, just the crash of the waves on the rocks.

“I’d best go to the orphanage, the lad will be one of theirs, I guess.” She had aimed the comment at Drury; by now, however, the dog had lost all interest in the walk and was attempting to extricate a diminutive but somewhat irate gelatinous creature from a crevice in the wall.

 

The office was small and badly lit.  Miss Calder chose to remain standing while Philomena told of her encounter with the drummer boy.

“No, he’s not resident in the orphanage,” Miss Calder said sadly. “Although, I wish he was.”

Philomena rubbed her eyes. The fog must have really upset them for the woman in front of her seemed to waver slightly as she spoke. Once or twice – and this must be a trick of the candlelight, Philomena thought – half of her face even appeared to be little more than a skull.

“I think you were in great danger, Philomena,” Miss Calder said gently. “The Drummer Boy is known to me; a ghost who came to save you. Three fishermen were taken this morning, from just up the beach where you were walking.”

Philomena raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“Ghost? But it was broad daylight… well, except for the fog…”

Miss Calder smiled mischievously.

“Ghosts are all around, Philomena. They don’t need darkness. The very need to manifest is enough.”

Philomena shifted uncomfortably in her chair.

“Long ago,” said Miss Calder, “a convict ship left England, bound for Virginia. A terrible storm blew it hundreds of miles off-course and few survived. Those who did settled on Hopeless but not all who made landfall lived to tell the tale. The boy you saw was part of the detachment of marines guarding the convicts – the drummer boy who used his drum to call the marines to quarters, an important role. I don’t know how, exactly, he met his fate, but the story is that, when they landed on Hopeless, he beat his drum to warn the others of a terrible danger – a danger that he did not survive. He has been seen a few times, over the years and generally thought to save only the good and innocent, like himself. You have been fortunate, Philomena.”

Philomena reddened and lowered her eyes. After the briefest moment she looked up to reply but Miss Calder had vanished.

Upon arrival in Hopeless

From

The ongoing works of Algernon Lear

(and Pulvis)

(Really Craig Hallam)

 

Upon arrival in Hopeless

 

A veil of mist covers the screaming shore,

smoke pouring into a drowning maw.

A sea of green glass

laced with antique foam

rattles the bones of the beach.

 

The sea tastes the shore and the beach bites back,

splintering hulls and breaking backs.

Hopeless’ dark beauty

looms like a threat,

and a dream sweat prickles the skin.

 

Crawling from the surf to clandestine shore,

paying forth the brine from our lungs,

the island gifts rotten breath,

we arrive in debt

to a ledger writ in abyssal hand.

 

A Hopeless Film

Readers, we have a delectably crazy project on the go and have got to the point where it feels like talking about it may not jinx it!

We’re going to make a Hopeless Maine film.

At time of writing this is a project with no funding. It does however have a script, and most of the team in place to make it happen. We have some ideas about funding. However, if you have a magic money tree and were wondering how best to deploy it, we’re here to help you!

From here on in, I’m going to be blogging regularly about how this all goes. There’s quite a lot of backstory to tell, so I’ll be working my way from the beginnings of this idea forward. It’s not been a smooth path at this point, and all things considered, it’s not likely to be smooth in the future either.

While all of the team members are experienced professionals, only some of us are experienced professionals when it comes to film making. Tom and I are the least experienced in all of this. There is a great deal to come where we’ll be depending on the knowledge, skills and cunning of the rest of the team. Beautiful people that they are, they have enough faith in us and enough enthusiasm for Hopeless Maine to give this a go. I’ll be talking more about who does what as we go along – my fondness for telling a story means I want to introduce the key characters as they enter the plot. That said, if anyone wants to ‘out’ themselves that’s fine by me!

So, if that wasn’t quite bonkers enough, here’s what we’re planning. We want to make a silent movie, on a period camera, with a soundtrack. There will be puppets and actors. It will be based on The Blind Fisherman (the series of poems and images at the start of The Gathering). If you’ve read The Blind Fisherman, you will know that it doesn’t really suggest a smooth translation into film, which is part of the fun of it. We don’t want to make a film version of something we’ve already done in the comics. We want to go somewhere new.

Thank you for joining us on our latest madcap adventure, and watch this space for the story as it unfolds…

Not Quite A Dog

By Detective Deirdre Dalloway

What he got was not quite a dog. It was just a sort of dog. The sort-of-dog certainly acted like a dog, alternately running around in circles chasing its own sort-of-tail and wriggling around on its sort-of-back with its sort-of-paws flapping joyfully. But it was a sight that made Michael Dalloway smile and shudder at the same time. Because the dog was composed entirely of bones.

Suddenly aware of his presence, in spite of its lack of nose, eyes and ears, the sort-of-dog bounded up to him and within seconds Michael Dalloway’s fears were gone and he was sharing his trek with a bouncing, bounding companion. Along the top of the cliffs they went, and the dog set quite a pace. It was as though it had a purpose. Yes, it definitely seemed to have a purpose, and before long Michael Dalloway realised that in following the skeleton dog, he was getting further and further from the lighthouse. He was being guided by a dead animal away from the only sign of human life that he could discern.

And yet the dog was clearly not dead, in the conventional understanding of the word. It had no eyes, nose or ears but this did not hamper it. It had no tongue either, but if Michael Dalloway slowed down for a rest from the load he was carrying, it would seem to lick his hand to encourage him onwards. And when he had lightened his load by drinking tea and eating most of the biscuits, the sort-of-dog had sat and begged like any other dog to be fed. That the biscuits fell straight through onto the wet peat did not seem to bother it at all.

Yes, the dog was sort-of-alive, so Michael Dalloway decided to take a chance on it, and sure enough, just as the drenched, rain-blinded and exhausted traveller was wondering about regretting his decision, they cleared a small copse of dead trees and a dimly lit settlement came into view. Both of them now bounded through the spikey gorse towards it, the dog still leading the way through the darkness, now past simple, mainly unlit dwellings, to a rather more welcoming looking inn. Scratchy recorded music was audible through a broken window. The dog threw itself at the door to make its presence known and it was opened from inside by a man in an apron.

“Drury!”, he exclaimed, “There you are! Everyone, look! Drury’s back! We put your favourite tune on, old boy, to encourage you to come in from the rain”. The man stooped to tickle the dog’s skeletal jaw. “And you’ve brought someone with you. Do excuse my manners, Sir. I’m  Rufus Lypiatt, the landlord of the Squid and Teapot, and this is my pub. We welcome all unhappy travellers. I take it that you are one of those? Do come on in. We were just about to play ‘Molly Malone’ on the gramophone again.”

Find out more about Detective Dalloway here – http://detectivedalloway.com/ 

Nightshade

By Craig Hallam

 

 

 

Nightshade

 

Pale ankles buried in the brine,

the sand washing against your roots,

you were timeless there,

the hem of your skirts

floating on the ebb tide.

O, let me never see the ocean again

if it does not caress your sweet self.

 

The wind gave birth to the sea breeze

that it might play in gentle fronds

loosed from your tress.

The scent of wood smoked fish

comes on the wind.

O, let me never breathe again

if your scent is not in the air.

 

With dulcet command the horizon obeys,

the midnight ocean bows.

Blade summons your rich blood,

and shocked arousal

from this onlooking thrall.

O, Nightshade, strike me down.

This life is lived at your behest.

Annamarie Nightshade is Going To Die

Annamarie Nightshade is Going To Die

Just Not Today

Annamarie Nightshade is going to die. She knows this in her bones, in her toes. She knows this the way she know how to breathe. Annamarie Nightshade is going to die. Just not today.

Seeing the future is not a particular specialty of hers, but sometimes you don’t need to See. you just have to pay attention, and as a witch a lot of her job is paying attention. People are sick, the cemetery is full of vampires and O’Stoats, and they’re looking for someone to blame. Annamarie knows how that goes

She’s got tea on the hearth. She’s cursed Durosimi O’Stoat one last time. She’s hidden her broom in the attic, and tucked a bucket of seawater outside her door where it’s unlikely to be knocked over. Lamashtu is glaring at her. His tail twitches.

“I could just move you away from here,” he says.

“Oh, so they can burn me again next time?”

“You have no idea if this will work.”

You have no proof that it won’t.”

“I won’t stay about to watch.”

“I’m not asking you to.”

The kettle sings. Annamarie reaches over and strokes Lamashtu carefully. He allows it.

“Keep an eye on Sal,” she says. He vanishes.

Annamarie waits until she can hear the mob approaching before she drinks the tea. It tastes sharp, and it burns all the way down. She doubles over, snarling, and collapses. She loses feeling in her fingers, in her toes, in her ankles. Her vision is beginning to blur when the door is kicked in.

She’s glad that her mouth has stopped working, because she’d have to laugh. Or cry. Or curse. Emanuel you fool, she thinks. The fog creeps in behind them, crawling into her house. Emanuel Davies is raving about purging the town, cleansing it of evil. Nobody seems to question that their witch is conveniently not struggling or cursing anybody.

At least if this doesn’t work I won’t feel anything, she thinks. She’s dragged along, head lolling. People are holding her, they must be. Torchlight gleams in eyes and she recognises face in the crowd.

Hopeless is small when it comes to people: that’s Incompetence Chevin whose broken leg she set last month. Josephine, who goes to church and prays and comes to Annamarie for preventative tea. Her mouth tastes dry, and salty. Something in her gut boils.

Emanuel yells something. His face looks like a horrible mockery, stretched and unreal. You stupid bastard, she thinks, not entirely without fondness. She loses feeling in her ears, and all she can hear is the mob roaring. It sounds like waves. It sounds like an ocean coming to eat her.

She can still mostly see when they drag her to the stake. She just isn’t paying attention because her insides are crumbling into sand. Annamarie is aware of the heat. In the same way she is aware of the smoke. Of the crackling around her feet. She is already burning. She’s just thankful her sense of smell is gone too: she doesn’t want to smell herself cook. Please, she thinks, please…

 

Outside Annamarie’s cottage, Frampton Jones stands very still looking at the mess. At the bucket of seawater next to the door, which bothers him for some reason. Something inside it moves; it has a lot of eyes. Frampton does not step nearer to the thing in the bucket. He instead finds a stick and gently pokes it. It steals the stick.

Frampton is looking for another stick when he hears footsteps and turns. The blind fishermans walks out of the mist.

“Seth.”

“Frampton.”

“What are you doing here?” he wants to take notes, but, well, Annamarie was a friend of sorts. It feels crass.

“Job to do.”

“I can’t imagine there are any fish here,” says Frampton. Seth sighs. He walks past Frampton and goes to the bucket. Frampton notes that he does so confidently, with no indication that he doesn’t know where he is. He crouches by the bucket, and mutters. Frampton inches closer. “Hello Aunty,” he hears. Which makes no sense.

Seth picks up the bucket, apparently not worried about the whatever-it-is. He walks away. Frampton follows him, because the alternative is to stay here at the empty house of a murdered friend. He’d rather not do that.

They reach the sea. It’s chilly, there’s a wind, and Frampton can still smell smoke. Seth carefully empties the bucket into the water. Something goes ‘ploop’. Frampton feels as if an important thing has happened. Seth remains quiet. Water seeps into Frampton’s shoes.

“Well,” says Seth, “that’s dealt with.”

The two men stand there, Frampton looking for a horizon he cannot see and Seth, presumably, thinking whatever mysterious thoughts a blind fisherman has. The fog gets thicker.

“Come on,” Seth says abruptly, “I’ve got tea.”

 

Annamarie doesn’t hurt. She doesn’t feel anything that she can recognise. She shudders. There are voices. She knows them. There’s a gentle puff of power. A breeze. She shivers. She moves. She dances, oh! This is it! It’s like flying a broom, except for how it’s entirely different. The wind carries her up. She holds onto the power in the air, moves it. Pushes. Drifts across the island and over the sea in a thousand tiny pieces. Concentrates, and draws herself together into… something. A form. It’s different, yes, but who said change is bad?

She pulls herself together and drifts upward, up and up and up through the mist and fog and ah! She turns her face (is it a face? She has to hold it together. She’s ash and water and flakes of salt) she turns her face up and feels the air move through it, looks up and sees sky. She grins.

Annamarie Nightshade is going to die. Just not today. Today she changes. I’ll have to see if the island can still hold me, she thinks. It might. She might be more attached than ever before. But it’s worth a try, she thinks. And if it turns out she’s still trapped, well. She’s never been any good at backing off from a challenge. But first, there’s a monster in the ocean she wants to check up on.

Annamarie gathers herself together, all her little pieces, and soars.

 

This piece was written by the rather astounding Meredith Debonnaire. She is the creator of Tales from Tantamount and other wonders. We wish to thank her, as this is utterly wonderful and gave us many feelings.

Hopeless Optimists

So here we have it – the next Hopeless Maine book cover, for the penultimate book in the graphic novel arc. We don’t know what happens after the final book and will worry about that when we get there.

At no point in the story itself does this image get explained. I thought I’d do that here, for the reading pleasure of those of you (you know who you are) who like to ponder the details.

Here we see experimental occultist Salamandra O’Stoat making protective magical glass for the light on her lighthouse. You will see some of this glass magic going on in Optimists, but not at this location. The reason she’s doing this, is to create a light that will drive back the fog. Or The Fog, if you prefer.

The colours of this owe to a version of Hopeless that pre-date my involvement. During one of those rare periods of his life when Tom overcame his fear of strong colours, he did a version of the lighthouse with complex rose designs in stained glass windows. He wasn’t working to deadline then and hadn’t thought about having to draw that design repeatedly. So this is a nod to that, without the nervous-breakdown inducing potential of the original design.

Helke Jonkman’s fateful map

By Frampton Jones

Helke Jonkman had not, it turned out, even intended to be on this side of the Atlantic, but is not so very good with directions. And of course sometimes directions here are complicated. We’re so used to the way paths come and go. There are places you can only ever reach at the full moon, doors that only open in winter, graves that are only properly visible at twilight – if you’ve been here a while, you likely already know this. It bemuses newcomers and of course there are always people who are confused by directions that include questions of time, or wind direction.  Perhaps as island people we are more used to thinking about tides, and places that are sometimes unavailable.

The shortage of reliable maps has always been a problem, but how do you map that which changes? Being someone who struggled with directions, Helke became one of the few people to ever try and map the island, in all its oddness.

Helke has gone, but the maps remain. One map could never be enough. There are paths painted in silver, and one marked with a note that it requires blood to walk it. There are paths on these maps that I have never seen myself and would not venture down.

I speculate that there is also a missing map; the one Helke took along on that final journey. The one that tracks the route into whatever mystery occurred, two weeks ago. The map from which Helke may well never return.

We none of us know what might wait for us in the trees, in the darkness, in the silvery trail of moonlight we have never seen before. The unknown is always so alluring, but seldom treats anyone kindly.

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.