Paul Jarman’s final chapter

By Frampton Jones

In the months since his arrival on our island, Paul Jarman has made a number of startling suggestions. That libraries should be places where people can go to read and borrow books has divided opinions. Many young islanders are taken with the notion of having more reading material than my humble newssheet. A fair few people like the idea of a library as a place you might visit, not nervously avoid.

Our deceased Librarian Theophrastus Frog has maintained however, that people are not good for books and that frequently, books are not good for people and it is best to keep the two separately.

The launch of The New Hopeless Maine Library for People Who Want to Read was initially a success. Many book owners donated from their own collections, and offered their own writings. As a consequence, Paul Jarman’s new library had dozens of books in it, and regular visitors. However, in recent days things have taken a dramatic turn.

Paul’s body was found this morning, in a blood spattered scene that spoke all too clearly of murder. Paul’s ghost was very much resident at the scene as well, but unable to say anything useful about how he had died. What he did say, goes as follows.

“I understand now. Some books are not good for people. Some books should be hidden away. I must remain here now, and make sure that the books are safe from the people, and that the people are safe from the books.”

So now we have two libraries with ghostly librarians who see it as their job to keep people out, and frankly, I do not believe this to be a coincidence.

Mirco “SteamTinkerer” Sadrinna has been remade

By Frampton Jones

There are some people whose lives you watch with a feeling of morbid unease. Mirco was one such – a tinkerer by nature whose fondness for messing about with devices seemed likely to prove fatal. The risk of attracting a demon into a warm, comfortable device is one I wish more people would take seriously. But, I shall not use Mirco’s untimely death as a reason to lecture on the dangers of demonic infestations.

Not least because I am fairly certain demons were not to blame on this occasion.

In recent weeks, Mirco’s workshop had ever more figures in it. I’ve been seeing more of these little figures around town for a while now – at first I thought they were amusing sculptures made of rubbish. Then, having seen a few of them move, I assumed them to be clever automata. Now, I am unsure and uneasy. Those figures, with their vegetable and bucket heads, their whimsical anatomies do not seem so innocent now.

Mirco was found propped outside the workshop, having been reassembled to resemble one of these creatures. I am no longer sure what to call them. Where Mirco’s actual head went, no one knows. About half of the available body parts are missing, according to Doc Willoughby. All of the automata, sculptures, creatures… whatever they were, they have all gone. Not a one remains in the workshop, and I have not seen one about town for a few days. I am afraid we will start finding parts of Mirco in other assemblies of parts made to resemble a person.

Reverend Davies will be performing the funeral rites for a percentage of a person, where the unburied parts are assumed to have taken on some kind of unwholesome second life. It will be an unsettling service, these forms always are, but we can hope it will bring some relief to the departed.

Lord Loverduc – a jest too far

By Frampton Jones

Arthur Foot III, Lord Loverduc of The Cogkneys gave me a curious education into the strange world that exists somewhere beyond our unquiet waters. I was never able to ascertain to my satisfaction where The Cogkneys are, but understand it to be a small kingdom with its own language, based on English, but wholly inexplicable to non-natives.

Arthur’s ribald poetry made him a popular figure at any gathering, saving for the Church picnic, from which he was banned at least four times for making lewd remarks. Not that the ban proved effective. I think Arthur saw all gatherings of people as potential audiences and acted accordingly.

His death was unfortunate, and it seems that he was killed deliberately – with repeated blows to the head. As the killer left a helpful letter to explain their motives, Doc Willoughby has not needed to assess the body and there’s not much need for further investigation. A note was left on Arthur’s fallen form, that clearly reads, “Let this be a warning to all of you who live careless, unGodly lives and bring this island into disrepute.” Clearly, any of us could be next by that reckoning, and we can safely assume that either Reverend Davies or Mrs Beaten is to blame.

Arthur is survived by fellow shipwreckee from his Cogkney kingdom, Miss Tilly Maydme, who said “He was a dirty old man, but I’ll miss him.” When I suggested that Arthur had not seemed so very old, she burst into tears, and said, “That’s what he always said.”

 

Jeffrey Fleisher’s ghastly premonition

“I am so sorry to see me go,” announced Jeffrey Fleisher at a meeting he called last night. “I have had a premonition that I will shortly be eaten by an Elder God, and thought it only fair to warn everyone. In the meantime, I thought you might all like the opportunity to say something nice about me while I’m here to appreciate it.”

On the whole it was a pleasant evening and a cheerful sort of party. Curiously Doc Willoughby felt the need to publicly declare that he did thought people preparing for sacrifice should take the whole situation a lot more seriously and not make jokes about it. “You never know when you’re going to be sacrificed,” he said. “That’s part of the point.” When questioned, he refused to comment further on this.

At the end of the evening, Jeffrey called out a cheerful “See you in another life,” to the crowd and opened the door into the street. There was a puff of something sulphurous and suggestive of old decay. The three people nearest the door were reduced to trembling wrecks and could not find any decent adjectives to describe what they had seen. Or they were already exceptionally drunk – it was hard to tell. Rather than risk whatever was outside, the rest of us stayed in the hall overnight and kept drinking.

Of course by morning, there wasn’t much to see. Perhaps it is for the best.

Emerson Kasak’s final adventure

By Frampton Jones

When an exciting new island, complete with trees appeared just a short distance from our own island a few days ago, most of us ignored it. Being relatively new here, Emerson Kasak had not acquired the levels of disinterest that preserve life. Curiosity kills. In fairness, apathy and disinterest also kill, but they tend to kill someone else and many of us are less troubled by this.

Emerson took a small boat and went to visit the new island, no doubt excited by the mystery and romance of it all. There were of course a fair few onlookers. It’s one thing being too apathetic to act, quite another to pass up a few hours of entertainment. And so, as is often the way of it, a sizeable crowd formed and several members of the Chevin family ran books on what would kill our intrepid adventurer first.

Emerson reached the island unscathed, and wandered around its small circumference. I placed a bet on the island itself being a sea beast that would dive beneath the waters. We all watched, and waited. Emerson climbed back into the small boat, still unharmed, and started rowing. We were then able to observe the dory going round and round the tiny island, unable to break away from it. Eventually exhausted by rowing, Emerson allowed the boat to drift – and still it would not leave this tiny piece of land. When twilight set in, we onlookers went home.

Returning the following morning, I observed that the dory remained, but Emerson Kasak had vanished without a trace. It occurred to me that there might be an extra tree on the island, but I had not counted them before and could not be certain.

It has been confirmed that Greg Tulonen was not Aqua Man

 

By Frampton Jones

If you ever spent time with Greg Tulonen you likely heard him mention that he isn’t Aqua Man. That he can’t breathe underwater, has no gills, definitely can’t swim long distances, did not swim to this island in the first place, has no mermaids in his ancestry and so on and so forth. You probably also assumed that he was protesting too much and there was some awkward shred of truth in amongst the protestations.

And apparently, you would have been wrong.

How Greg came to be down the well in the yard behind the abandoned public house – The Hand of Glory, is anyone’s guess. Did he go there by himself? Why would anyone do that? Did he have enemies? It seems unlikely, he was always a popular chap. Was he lured? Was he killed somewhere else and then hidden in the well? Did he jump? No one knows.

It was only because, by some perhaps-related freak incident, the glass washing machine in the pub started up. Normally it only continues its peculiar activities at night. The lack of glasses to wash has never dissuaded it. Drawn by the noises of the machine, several children came to the scene. They’ve asked not to be named and I assume they were not supposed to be there, but a good journalist protects his informants.

They found Greg’s boots sticking out of the well, and on closer inspection, the rest of Greg turned out to be in the well. It’s not a deep one, so removal was not difficult.

Doc Willoughby said, “I can confirm that he definitely didn’t have any gills at all. There were no occult markings on his body. I expect it was an accident. It’s not a deep one.” And then he kept repeating the phrase ‘not a deep one’ while staring past my left shoulder.

Greg had somehow taken up a considerable quantity of water and his remains continue to drip, so the funeral will have to wait until he has dried out enough. He’ll be at the mortuary until then. Friends will be taking shifts with the body to prevent the curious from looking for gills.

 

(Whether Greg is in any way Aqua Man, can be ascertained by watching Ragged Isle, which you should definitely do… http://www.raggedisle.com/ )

Edward Sostre was too attractive

Edward always used to say that he was quite a normal chap before he came to the island. He had no supernatural powers worth mentioning. What it was about the island that changed him, we may never know. Edward became curiously attractive to small pieces of metal. In the few years he lived here, it was a mostly funny, sometimes annoying trait that he learned to live with. In the end, it killed him.

Jed Grimes’ biggest ever nail sale happened this week. It was, it is true, the biggest sale of nails he has ever undertaken. There were so many nails, that many of them were on display outside the shop, in boxes.

The rest, it may be as well not to dwell upon. I am told that it all happened fairly quickly and that the speed at which Edward could draw metal to him had increased quite dramatically.

Jed Grimes told me, “It’s a tragic waste of nails. We’ll have to bury him like he is, and then I’ll have to dig him back up in a year or so to get the nails back. It’s a lot of work, and nails are important. No one ever has enough nails. And I’d only just got those nails back from last time.”

Which leads to the question – is being attractive to metal something inherent in the person, the island, or the metal objects themselves? Anyone finding they have become attractive is advised to keep well away from Jed Grimes’ store.

Edward’s funeral will be held on Monday next, the matter of a coffin having become problematic due to the sudden shortage of available nails.

Dan, the man, the lamb chop

By Frampton Jones

 

Some of you will remember how Dan “the man” Lam “Chops” got his curious name. It was that terrible winter seven years ago when those of us who did not starve to death mostly wished that we had. For some of our citizens, hunger lead to hallucinations, and so it was that three people in the street saw Dan Lam, and thought him to be a tray of freshly cooked meats. They fell upon him, but soon discovered that his hat, scarf and coat were neither tasty nor easy to swallow. A man less prepared for the cold might easily have been eaten alive in such circumstances.

In the embarrassed aftermath, someone managed to explain what had happened, and thus the notion that he was both man and lamb chop took hold.

If, like me, you have ever experienced a powerful hallucination, you will understand what I am about to write. Others may not. Afterwards, there remains that lingering feeling, that the hallucination exposed something real. A truth normally hidden from sight. Once you have felt the suspicion that all is not as it seems, it is hard to trust what your senses tell you, for the senses may lie to us. To this day, I cannot look upon a baby without a creeping sense of horror.

The story I have managed to piece together is a troubling one. Some weeks ago, Dan took to lying on tables in The Crow and the Squid and Teapot. Jack Ephemery had to remove him from the kitchen having found Dan trying to get into the oven. Fortunately the oven was cold and no one was hurt in that incident. A week ago, Dan caused consternation by setting himself out on a large board in the street, covered in a herb garnish and little else.

I can only conclude that Dan had come to see himself as a lamb chop. Citizens of Hopeless Maine are about the usual distance from starvation this winter and thus no one was moved to take him up on the implied offer.

Dan was last seen heading for the mermaid-infested beach, where the black dog is assumed to still be at large. No one has been to see if there is any evidence there – myself included. It seems likely that he threw himself to the hungry dog.

Perhaps I will not be the only one to wonder if the hallucinations revealed a deeper truth. What are we, any of us?

Nothing is ever simple

By Frampton Jones

Chris died after falling from a roof. It is, on the whole, a rather simple and uncomplicated death – Chris was on the roof alone, there were witnesses on the ground, a misplaced foot, a slip, a brief plummet, and that was that.  It’s rare that anyone gets such a good, quick and simple death, and it is something to admire and envy.

Or at least, that is how it first seemed.

As I interviewed the witnesses, I noticed mixed reports about how Chris came to be on the roof in the first place. “Chris acted like there was something else up there, but we couldn’t see anything,” Petunia Chevin told me.

There was nothing odd or peculiar to be found inside the house. This struck me as unusual. How does a person have a home free from all traces of the sinister, occult and dangerous? How had this been achieved?

Chris’s neighbour, Mrs Beaten said, “Chris always had the lights out at a decent hour. Always got up early in the morning. Always had spotless laundry on the line. Never buried anything in the garden in the middle of the night. I kept watching, but I never saw anything untoward, and that troubles me.”

On examining the body, Doc Willoughby pronounced that Chris had clearly been dead for at least a week and had probably drowned. I saw the starfish in Chris’s ear. I do not know what to think of this.

Professor Stephen Candy’s death may be permanent

By Frampton Jones

Where most of us have the good sense to stay away from anything that seems remotely creepy, Professor Stephen Candy seemed oddly attracted to all things uncanny. He was one of the few people shipwrecked here who gave every sign of actively enjoying the place. You might find him out voluntarily of an evening, admiring the way a ghost caught the moonlight, or listening attentively to the sound of a distant werewolf, howling and sneezing.

On several occasions, I saw his distinctive, tall figure from afar and was briefly convinced that Stephen himself was some unnatural entity on the prowl at night. One can never tell with confidence who has a second, secret life and whose secret life is tainted with magic or monstrosity. Gentlemen who find themselves unexpectedly meeting each other in the dark do not tend to ask questions.

I have never spoken of this before, but over a period of several years and many unexpected night encounters, I observed that Professor Stephen Candy was not always fully corporeal. Sometimes he seemed a regular fellow of flesh and blood. At other times, he was oddly translucent and his feet barely touched the ground. As though body and spirit were already pulling away from each other, or had never been quite as attached as is normal.

Late last night, as I was walking home, I met Stephen in the street. We raised our hats to each other. I noted that he was perhaps a foot above ground level, but said nothing. This morning, I heard that he had been found dead in his rooms yesterday afternoon, his landlady, Mrs Accuracy Jones, having found him slumped over his desk. She said “This happened a lot and at first I thought nothing of it. He keeps odd hours, and sleeps erratically. He’d stopped breathing – he often does when asleep, so I just let him be. Usually he wakes up in an hour or so and goes back to normal. But there he is, still not breathing.”

Doc Willoughby confirms that Professor Stephen Candy is dead. “I don’t know if he’s been dead before, I’ve never been asked to look at him. He could wake up I suppose.”

Professor Stephen Candy’s remains will be left at the mortuary for a while to see what, if anything, happens.

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.