The Stroud Vendetta

Hopeless Maine Classifieds from the Stroud Book Festival….

For Sale!

186 spoons for sale. All conditions, many showing fine traceries of dried slime. $5 the lot. Please collect soon. Bring weapons to allow access to the door. Address as foll…

Old “sale” signs (business gone bust).

32 vials of the cure for all known diseases. Each vial will treat approx 10 people. £100 per vial, but for all 31 vials I would be happy to accept $2000 as, if one thinks about it, there are fundamental problems with only treating part of one’s Community. Sven Flowermountain 134 Elderberry Road.

Bloodthirsty socks.

Magnanimous vitriol. Would suit most homes.

Last night’s conversation with my Dad. 3 footprints. My book about dots. Job lot £8.50

Copious amount of luscious hairy coffee strands. Perfect for the balding gentleman, or pre-pubescent boy looking to visit the Squid and Teapot. Self adhesive, pungent and durable. Also could be used to fix minor structural cracks.

Irritating younger sibling.

A fish-headed kitchen wench.

 

 

Lonely Hearts!

Bubbly obesity sucking gob-stoppers 6 at a time until we POP into a lurve bubble to bounce into perennial Happy Ever After sunsets over frothy coffee seas – Antigani will squeeze forever the night potato of your heart.

Will mate with anything creature so the progeny of my horrible species can continue. GSOH optional.

Desperately seeking a Gloopy Maloopy to gimble and gyre with. And share hairy coffee (before we die) if after… Henrietta Gerbil.

Desperately seeking spoons! Spoonwalker would like to meet spoons. Lots of spoons. Must like long walks and… er… just long walks.

Small furry eyeball seeks monosyllabic wisdom tooth for occasional outings.

AH, YES! Looking for landscapes I can write filthy poetry about. Ah YES! Must have voluptuous features and curves made of innuendo and lust.

Parish Notices

The shrunken head craft workshop will begin four days hence at the ungodly hour. You are encouraged to bring along a head to shrink. Makes an ideal Christmas present! (Hang from the mantelpiece).

Fully qualified Spoon-o-mancer offers spoon readings. Unlock the secrets of your future. The answer lies in your cutlery drawer.

I have been observing you creatures for some time now – it’s all about the journey, right? I mean, you have to be careful around here – direction wise. You could run into the caretakers – Ruby Mace with her doggerel. You don’t want that, not for anything. It comes up right being you before you know it’s there…

Wanted – dead body to fill Parish council vacancy.

The community hedge between mucky meadow and the recreation pound has become uncooperative. Volunteers needed on Wednesday for 12 hours (free biscuits).

(The second half of this happy madness will go up next week…)

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The Unquiet Gravy

These days, unlike much of North America, Hallowe’en is not widely celebrated on Hopeless. This is fairly understandable; there seems little point in masquerading as some shabby version of a supernatural creature when living on an island where encounters with ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, vampires and a host of nameless horrors are fairly commonplace. This, however, has not always been the case.

Hallowe’en, as a trick-and-treating, dressing-up and scaring the neighbours affair, kicked-off as a commercial  success in America in the 1930s. Although Hopeless was then no less of a haven for the weird and not particularly wonderful, the novelty value of the occasion was not wasted upon its inhabitants when the trader, Joseph Dreaming-By-The-River-Where-The-Shining-Salmon-Springs brought news of the festival to the island. (Joseph was now living on Hopeless, having very recently married Betty Butterow, the barmaid of the Squid and Teapot).  It must be said that much of the enthusiasm generated for the occasion had a great deal to do with the prospect of a feast, for Joseph had loaded his canoe to the gunnels with candies, fruit, pumpkins, corn, vegetables and one very skinny game bird.

If the various communities of world have one thing in common, it is the desire to form a committee whenever the opportunity arises. There seems to be a universal belief that anything of the slightest importance which needs to be organised requires a group of people with vastly differing opinions to put it together. The Hopeless Hallowe’en committee was no exception. Arguments regarding the the distribution of the food, the venue or venues involved, even the exact specifications regarding the carving of the Jack O’Lanterns abounded for days. Hallowe’en was in danger of slipping by unnoticed while the committee debated the way in which it should be celebrated. At last Joseph, who was a patient man and had kept an inscrutable silence so far, banged the table with his moccasin and threatened to scupper his canoe, complete with cargo, if no decision could be made by supper time. This seemed to concentrate minds wonderfully and it was unanimously decided that all preparations for the celebrations should be put in the capable hands of the staff of the Squid and Teapot. It was a huge task and Joseph pretended not to notice the withering glance that Betty threw at him. Since marrying, the couple had set up home in a small cabin in Creepy Hollow. Joseph had the distinct impression that he might well be banished to the spare room for a night or two.

Both Betty and the Lypiatt family, who owned the inn, thought that the children of the orphanage might be recruited to carve the Jack O’Lanterns. Given the number of people to cater for, they reached the conclusion that the most economical use of the meat and vegetables would be to make a huge stew. The most mediocre of cooks will tell you –  and I speak with some authority here – that not only is a stew one of the simplest dishes to prepare but also, when allowed to cook slowly enough to enable the various flavours and textures to combine, can rival the nectar of the gods on a cold October evening. All that was required to create this culinary delight was a container large enough to hold all of the ingredients.

It was Gwilym Davies who came to the rescue. His family had settled on the island over a century before and Gwilym and his descendants on Hopeless were the remains of the Davies diaspora that had left North Wales all those years ago.

Gwilym’s great grandparents, Gruffyd and Bronwen had sailed from Liverpool with few possessions but the one thing they refused to leave behind was the huge copper cauldron that had been in the family for longer than anyone could remember.  As far as Gwilym was aware,  the cauldron had not been used during his lifetime and it seemed an ideal vessel for the job in hand.

One of The Squid’s outbuildings was selected to house the cauldron. So large was the container that it was deemed necessary to keep a fire burning steadily beneath it for at least twenty four hours in order for the flavours to properly mingle. In view of this, a couple of islanders were roped-in to tend to it. These took the shape of Daniel Rooksmoor, one of the boys from the orphanage and old Amos Gannicox. In his younger days Amos had been the ship’s carpenter on the ill-fated ‘The City of Portland’. After the ship capsized Amos had found himself stranded on Hopeless. Now, some fifty years later, on this most auspicious of occasions, he was awarded the task of stirring the stew. Meanwhile, Daniel, a burly fourteen-year-old, volunteered to feed the fire.

 

All seemed to be going well until it came to adding the meat. When the game-bird was plucked it looked too thin and bony to provide any sort of meaningful nourishment. It was a disappointment but by this time it was too late to do anything other than gut the carcass and throw it into the pot as it was, head, legs and all. At least a day of slow cooking would gently ease whatever flesh it once possessed from the bones.

By nightfall, on the last day of October, the air around The Squid and Teapot was rich with the aroma of stew. Folk started to drift towards the inn, bringing bowls and cutlery. It was rare for anyone on the island to give  their jealously guarded spoons an airing, for fear of theft by the Spoonwalkers, but tonight there was a devil-may-care attitude and caution was thrown to the wind. Lanterns, music, laughter and a certain amount of alcohol, all added to the atmosphere of the evening.

Daniel had gone to the woodshed for more fuel and Amos was alone with the cauldron when it suddenly bubbled with a strange glooping noise. The old man dug the wooden paddle, that served as a stirring-spoon, into the mixture and pushed it around. It was hard work – the paddle moved sluggishly, as if through treacle. The stew glooped again just as Daniel walked through the doorway, his arms loaded with logs.

“I don’t know what’s going on with this,” said Amos. “Give me a hand with the paddle, please lad.”

Daniel grasped the paddle and helped move it around. Maybe it was the firelight or something to do with the bottle of ‘Old Colonel’ he’d craftily consumed while supposedly looking for wood but the stew seemed to have taken on a strange hue. There was a certain luminous green quality lingering in its depths.

“Gloop”

This time the bubbles were fiercer and sent a fine spray of stew into the air, three generous drops of it landing on Daniel’s hand. The pair jumped back with some alarm, yelling in consternation and letting the paddle drop into the cauldron. Daniel licked the burning drops off his hand.

By now a crowd, hearing the commotion, had gathered outside the doorway just in time to see Amos fall over and Daniel reel back against the wall, holding his head.

The bubbling noises from the cauldron were louder and more frequent by now. A green steam arose from the surface of the stew and hung ominously in the air above it.

“Get back” screamed Daniel, grabbing Amos by the collar of his jacket and dragging him out of the building, the crowd falling back to let them pass.

The cauldron began to groan as if possessed by some demon and its sides appeared to pulsate in the dancing firelight.

The crowd drew back, everyone well aware that something unpleasant was about to happen. This was, after all, Hopeless on Hallowe’en. Of course something unpleasant was about to happen.

Then it did.

The cauldron groaned once more, a heart-rending, guttural cry that became a drawn-out moan, then a roar. With a blinding flash the cauldron exploded into a thousand copper shards, embedding themselves into the walls and ceiling of the outbuilding. Many of the spectators standing close by were temporarily blinded by the sudden burst of light. Very few saw the creature that arose from the ruins of the stew which, by now, was seeping into the earthen floor. Even by Hopeless standards it was odd. There was something reminiscent of a bird of prey about it, but huge and with glowing eyes, as big as turnips. Its wings might have been leather but looked like massive cabbage leaves and its talons were uncannily like parsnips. With a beak and wattles that glowed, as if made of copper, it rose into the air

with a deafening squawk, then flapped, slow and silent as a heron, into the night sky,  towards the mysterious Gydynap hills.

Daniel Rooksmoor stood alone over the unmoving form of Amos Gannicox. The three livid red scars on his hand marked where the drops had landed and he had changed, for all to see. His skin was deathly pale and he looked older, far older, than his years. There was a light in his eyes that spoke of madness; the madness of prophets and poets. The madness which has little time for the mediocrity of daily life.

Wordlessly he walked away from the throng, into the darkness, following the flight of the Cauldron Bird. He was oblivious to danger and careless of any creature that might be abroad on this most haunted of nights. Those who saw him leave fell to silence. No one moved to stop him.

 

Despite the facts that Gwilym Davies was stoic about the loss of his cauldron, Amos had made a full recovery and there appeared to have been no fatalities, Joseph was wracked with guilt. He was convinced that the responsibility for everything that befell that night was all his own. He felt especially bad about Daniel Rooksmoor and resolved to find the boy and bring him back. Joseph  knew this was something that he had to do alone. There was no changing his mind and so, with a heavy-heart, Betty Butterow watched the love of her life leave their cabin to head deep inland, where loomed the mysterious and forbidding Gydynap hills…

 

To be continued…

art by Tom Brown

Horrorscope guidance for Citizens of Hopeless

Scorpio: If you’ve made your peace with what’s haunting you, this month will be only slightly depressing. Things look grim all the way to midwinter. Expect your shoes to let you down repeatedly.

Sagittarius: Your good luck in beachcombing may lead to horror and dismay.

Capricorn: For the next two weeks, you are at great risk of being struck by lightning and/or falling into your own privy.

Aquarius: Those of you who survived last month can expect things to be mercifully quiet until the gibbous moon, after which it’s just going to be one disaster after another.

Pisces: Being generous will only get you taken advantage of. Say not to everything until at least next week, and make sure all the locks on your doors are sound.

Aries: A small injury will fester and you’ll have to decide whether to trust to witchcraft or take your life into your hands with a visit to Doc Willoughby – it will be kill or cure.

Taurus: Nothing has gone well for you recently. The next new moon offers chances to shine, but they could so easily turn into dreadful humiliations.

Gemini: You can’t hide under the bed forever. You will eventually have to face up to your ghastly misjudgements and deal with the consequences.

Cancer:  Watch out for aerial bombardments, ill-considered axe use, and goats falling off roofs.

Leo: You’ve finally hit on a brilliant plan, but no one will believe you, or take it seriously.

Virgo: those aren’t mice making noise in your attic. Get help.

Libra: The stars have aligned to give you excellent prospects this month for any acts of revenge or score settling you have in mind.

Do spoonwalkers write poetry?

It washed up in a bottle on the beach here at ‘Morrigan’s Bay’ and was not easy to decipher, being sloppily scrawled with many ink blots. Reminiscent of Vogon Poetry, it alludes to both Hopkins and Leer in a most amateur and offensive way, showing little grasp of the works it clumsily references. It is almost as if some spoon obsessed creature with tentacles has stumbled across the tatters of a beach-washed poetry book and this is its sad attempt at mimicry. I am not sure whether to feel pity or repulsion…

The Runcible’s Lament

The Demitasse and Bouillon set to sea

In a vessel of pea green glass

The runcilble sighed to be left behind

And he called it a terrible farce

No ducks here to sieve,

To quinces to give

Only caviar, soup, and tea

And many strange

ephemera of spoons

With holes in for company

He sighed at his own

Pied beauty alone

Reflected grotesque

In his bowl

And prayed for the end

That fate would soon send

Some demon to feast on his soul.

 

 

Words by Lou Pulford

Art by Tom Brown

The Ravens of Chapel Rock

Wildlife, or at least the varieties not in receipt of tentacles, is not particularly plentiful on this island of Hopeless. Whatever position any particular species finds itself in, while clinging precariously to the food chain, it can be confident that something, somewhere will regard it as being no more than lunch. Although humans are far from being exempt from this aspect of island life (and death) their innate deviousness gives them a definite edge in the survival stakes. The only other creatures to rival, and indeed surpass, them in this respect are the small colony of ravens that live on Chapel Rock.

In the late 1600s the Reverend Obadiah Hyde managed to browbeat a few of the more God-fearing unfortunates who had found themselves shipwrecked with him to build a simple chapel. Being the pious puritan that he was, he offered them the prospect of an eternity of fiery damnation as an alternative. After his strange and unlamented demise the place quickly fell into disrepair. The ravens, being naturally theatrical creatures, had a fine sense of the dramatic and decided that this would be a splendidly Gothic place to set up a permanent home. They only briefly deserted the area when, about two hundred years later, some young monks thought it would be a good idea to give the ruins a new lease of life as an abbey. When that came to nothing the ravens returned and since then have enjoyed a fairly uninterrupted existence.

As far as anyone knows they were roosting on the island long before any human set foot upon it. The gradual trickle of people coming to Hopeless, whether by design or accident (but usually accident) has had no detrimental impact upon these birds at all. One reason is that virtually every culture that has washed-up here has brought with it a wealth of lore and superstition surrounding ravens, often endowing them with a supernatural, almost god-like, presence. This, coupled with the simple fact that they are not particularly edible, even to the unfussy palate of the average islander, has probably secured their continued success.

Any student of natural history will tell you that the average lifespan of a raven in the wild is about twenty-one years. The ravens of Chapel Rock, however, seem to enjoy greater longevity than this, often surpassing that of a human. Several factors have been attributed to this but the most likely, in my opinion, is the addition of the occasional spoonwalker to their diet. Anyone in need of a spoon or two need only go to the base of the rock to find various bits and pieces of cutlery discarded by their late owners.

Back in the first half of the nineteenth century, in the years before the attempted renovation of the chapel, one of the ravens, which had a distinctive white tail-feather, took to visiting the other inn on the island every night. Here it waited to be fed scraps of meat and the odd beakful of beer. In return it would utter a few words that it had picked up from the locals. It did this for many years and became something of a novelty. In its honour the landlord proudly renamed (and misnamed) his drinking establishment “The Crow”.

I would love to be able to tell you that this bird was the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem but sadly there is no record of Mr Poe ever visiting the island, as much as the place would have undoubtedly fascinated him. At the time  he would have been newly married and his young wife – his very young wife – would not have liked Hopeless one bit. At thirteen years old she would have been more interested in skipping-ropes than spoonwalkers.

I was asked recently who actually owns the island. There was no doubt in my mind.

“The ravens,” I said.

Art by Clifford Cumber

Messages in bottles

Hello, people (and others)!

Two days ago, I posted this image and asked our community (Via the electronic ether) what message they would put in a bottle on Hopeless, Maine. Here are the (bloody amazing, funny, wonderful) results of this.

Help me.

Please help me.

Our boat has sunk and I have washed up on some god forgotten land.

I know not of my crew, I hear their voices weeping in the dark dank fog that encompasses this shore but in the two weeks since I awoke on this crag I have seen or met none.

Maybe they are phantoms of the men that they once were, here to torment me until I succumb to the same fate that befell my crew mates.

Maybe they are like me, lost in the fog, waiting for the light to come.

There is an abundance of seaweed that I have come to rely on for sustenance. In my delusion I swear that the weed moves along the shoreline but when I am hungry it is always at my feet. Occasionally I will bite down on what can only feel is some kind of leech in my mouth but I swallow before I realise what I am eating.

I have screamed and screamed but nobody has come. I was beginning to think that this craggy isle was deserted but I swear to you and to the god I hold dear that I sometimes see flickering lights above me, like fires or torches at the top of the cliff. Waiting for me to perish.

I have tried to end my existence by just swimming out to sea and sticking to my doom but in my previous half dozen attempts, I have been gently pushed back to shore by what feels like the very weed that sustains me.

The fog is getting thicker. I have not seen my own skin in days. My breath feels wet.

I am hungry.

I still hear their voices.

Help me.

Please.
Simon La Thangue

Send underwear. Urgent!
Fraser Hale

Grandmother says a bottle will get you off this island better than any boat, though neither works for long. She means gin. It killed mother and Nelly but somehow all it does to Grandmother is pickle her. It makes her harder, more bitter, and helps her to forget where she is. Better to whisper down a well than try to get a message to the mainland, she says. She isn’t even certain there is a mainland any more.

But I‘m going to try anyhow. The sea scares me, and the fog. So I’m rolling this message up and putting in one of Grandmother’s empties. I will throw it into the waves in my stead. It may still smell of sloe gin.

We need … something new. Something solid and rooted to the ground. A window to the outside to let in new colours and a wind that will blow away all these ghosts. Hopeless has been left alone too long. It’s gone sour … it’s gone wrong … every angle too sharp or too open … all its truths undermined. We don’t need to leave, we just need the possibility of doing so. A bridge to the world. A way for what we’ve lost to come back.
If you find this [here damp has reduced the remaining message to a dark wash of ink swirls]
Mark Lawrence

Message in a bottle: Dear Tax, revenue and customs, my new address is Geezo’s Bight, Hopeless Maine, The Middle Of Nowhere. Good luck recovering the £3,000,000 I owe you for my (now bankrupt) hamster-wheel-powered taxi service. Take consolation from the fact that avoiding my liability is the only up-side of living here! Yours Faithfully etc etc.
Charles Cutting

SOS. Have run out of spoons. Pls send c/o Hopeless, Maine. P. S. No sporks. Thk u.
Clifford Cumber

Send Champagne, or failing that a small quantity of explosives. What cannot be sent directly can at least be obtained locally with the right tools.”
Stephen Mosley

This is Charles Oliver. An unseasonal wind has arisen and blown us far off course. Do not trust the Henstridge sisters, they be foul wyches.
Dickon Springate‏

OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE!!!

My Dearest

I am Nigerian Prince, King of Smallish island of Variable size, I seek you most trusted beloved for discreet partnership and Trade.

I hvae 1,000,000 pounds US stirling and strange-awful-betentacled things in jars, souls, human sacrifice. too exchange for goods, linens, building materiels, a good time, alcohol, armaments, particularly ones using fire, holy water.

Send supply-laden cargo ships! My address!

The Non-Functioning Lighthouse,
Spiked-Rock Shore,
Hull-Tearington,
Hopeless, Maine 666.

PS I have much monies!

Clifford Cumber

“Get in the bottle”, they said.
“It will be fun”, they said.
Now I lie in here, hopelessly stuck on the foggy shore of a forgotten island *sigh*…

Cynthia

I had to get out of there; I needed the quiet. Although, going from living in a town surrounded by people to being trapped in the middle of nowhere is quite the adjustment. For now, this place is my new home. This desolate island just between a sea of infinite darkness and the path from where I came. Pretty sure there’s a sea monster skulking around somewhere under the murky, green depths, too.

Not that I’m planning on going back.

Sabrina

To whomever finds this message, They won’t let me leave, I try and they won’t let me leave, The chattering is infernal Stay away, I beg of you, stay away. Capt Hubert , HMS Persephone
Adrian TrevelyanIn 1939 Mr Ross Parker and Mr Hughie Charles were walking along a beach on the south coast of England when they found a bottle containing the following message. After reading it the two gentlemen were inspired to dash off and write a song…

From J. Nailsworthy, Hopeless, Maine.
A whale was beached here a month ago and we’ve been living off it ever since. Here’s my lament:

Whale meat again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when
We might get fresh meat again before next May.
We’ll keep smiling through,
But we’d love Irish stew,
Or something cordon bleu,
Not whale-meat grey.

Martin Pearson


Cat Treadwell

Help! Please come rescue us! We’re mired on Tentacle Point – bring your ship straight in (the rocks aren’t nearly as dangerous as they look, I promise) and save us from the awful creatures here! We will dismemb be eternally grateful for your delici valuable aid.”
Laura Perry

The Headless Lady

Betty Butterow, the barmaid of the Squid and Teapot had, you may recall, unexpectedly discovered a ghostly headless lady in the inn’s shiny new toilet annexe. Shrieking in banshee fashion at her great  misfortune of having been reduced to haunting a privy, the apparition had managed to wake the whole inn. Fortunately there were no paying guests that night so it was only the Lypiatt family – Sebastian, Madrigal  and their son Isaac –  who were disturbed and they wasted no time in coming to investigate the cause of the blood-curdling wail emanating from the privy. Upon their arrival the ghost decided to sulk and disappeared back into the stones which, at one time, had formed a diminutive portion of her previous home, Oxlynch Hall.
It became apparent that the Headless Lady only deigned to manifest herself when the moon was full. This tended to create a degree of consternation with some customers who found themselves sharing a seat with her and more worryingly, finding her disembodied head resting weightlessly on their lap. It was the sort of thing likely to put anyone off the task in hand!
Fortunately for the ghost, Betty Butterow was the caring type who made it her business to give a welcome to everyone who visited the Squid. Having inherited the dubious gift of The Sight from her great-great grandmother, Colleen O’Stoat, she reasoned, therefore, that it was no more than her duty to make contact with the spirit and try to win her trust and friendship. And so, little by little, she did and in doing so unearthed her tragic story.

After the siege of Gloucester in 1643, when Royalist attempts to capture the city were thwarted, the Parliamentarians were keen to clear the county of Royalists and their sympathisers for good.
Sir Rupert D’Avening, master of Oxlynch Hall, was on the other side of the Severn in Wales, rallying support for the crown, when his home was sacked by the Parliamentary forces. The small garrison that he had left to guard both the manor, his wife and the tiny hamlet of Oxlynch stood little chance against the well-armed and dedicated Roundheads, who were spurred on at every step by one Obadiah Hyde. Hyde was a puritan rector of the worst sort. He preached Hell-fire from his pulpit and famously tried to fell the churchyard yew tree one Christmas when parishioners began to cut greenery for, what he regarded as being, ungodly, festive uses. Unsurprisingly, when he learned that Oxlynch was to be rid of its Royalist – and even worse – Catholic masters, he was delighted and became intent, to the point of madness, on contributing personally to their downfall.
While the Roundhead invaders were content to drive out the servants and ransack the manor for anything of value, the fanatical Hyde had another agenda.

If he had been a man given to celebration, which he most certainly was not, the parson might have thought that it was his birthday when he burst into the bedchamber of Lady Margaret D’Avening. It was with a mixture of disgust and glee that he discovered her to be flimsily clad and enthusiastically entertaining a young Royalist colonel who, having suspected little chance of intrusion, had foolishly hung his sword at the bottom of the four-poster bed. Confident in his own righteousness and without hesitation, Hyde grabbed the blade and ran the young man through the heart. Frozen with horror, Lady Margaret could only watch as the parson wrenched the sword from her lover’s twitching body. Roughly he caught her by the hair and dragged her from the bed; she felt herself being pushed on to her knees. There was a deranged look in Hyde’s eyes as he denounced her as being the Devil’s Whore, then, reminding himself that he was the instrument of a vengeful God, brought the sword swiftly down upon her pale neck. Popery, adultery and fornication were high on Hyde’s list of unforgivable sins and he had no compunction whatsoever about parting the lady’s head from the rest of her.
Decapitation is a bloody messy business. I mean that quite literally. Lady Margaret’s blood liberally sprayed the walls and door of her bedchamber and left no small amount on her attacker, either. Although he had witnessed and thoroughly approved of public beheadings many times, Hyde was totally unprepared for the close-up, physical reality of his abhorrent act and he fled the room, wild-eyed and even more entrenched in the slough of his own insanity than he had been previously.


For almost three hundred years the Ghost of Lady Margaret D’Avening haunted the bedchamber in which she died. Much to her dismay, the wraith of the soldier who had so recently enjoyed a brief spell as her lover, having no particular attachment to Oxlynch Hall, declined to join her and wasted no time in ‘going to the light’ as he put it.
As the years passed Lady Margaret’s apparition grew weaker and so she confined her energy to only appearing when the moon was full and she was at her most powerful. When she found her home being dismantled and shipped abroad she retreated into the stonework, which, along with her chamber door, was kept on its own pallet. After the little of what remained was eventually moved, she emerged briefly to try and find out exactly where she was and what was happening. Unfortunately she did this in full view of the captain and crew of the ‘Daneway’, who immediately abandoned ship and for their trouble, perished to a man in the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean.


Over the following months Betty Butterow and the ghost of Lady Margaret D’Avening became close friends. Inter-dimensional relationships are generally frowned upon in the wider community, so you must understand that this is a fairly unique situation that is only likely to happen  somewhere like Hopeless (other magically tolerant islands such as Hy Brasil or Tír na nÓg spring to mind but never having visited either, I am in no position to comment).
It occurred to the wise and beautiful barmaid that if Lady Margaret could disappear into the stonework of her chamber then it followed that, should a stone, or stones, be placed in a different spot she ought to be able to manifest herself in that particular location. The ghost thought this over and agreed it was worth a try. The prospect of spending the next however many years witnessing the patrons of the Squid and Teapot easing bowel and bladder, unsurprisingly, held little charm for her.
It took a certain amount of badgering, not to say mild flirting, by Betty to persuade the landlord, Sebastian Lypiatt, to prise out one of the more modestly sized  stones and place it in an unoccupied guest room. Sebastian was not particularly inclined to start ripping apart his prized privy but if it kept his favourite barmaid happy, so be it. Besides this, he was becoming more than fed-up being told how chilly the privy was feeling every time the moon was full.
Much to the delight of both Betty and Lady Margaret this seemed to work, though the ghost’s disembodied head steadfastly refused to leave the privy, for some reason known best to itself. This mattered little, as the Lady Margaret was in receipt of all of her faculties, head or no head. The physical aspect of an apparition is, after all, only there for the benefit of anyone lucky, or more probably, unlucky enough to see it.
Over the following months and years the block of stone was moved around the inn and its grounds, allowing the headless lady to haunt the premises properly, though she was careful not to drive business away. There was an exception to this rule, however. When a particularly troublesome guest had outstayed their welcome they would find, one night, when the moon was fat and full, that a medium sized and unassuming stone had mysteriously appeared in the corner of their room. Strange to relate, such guests rarely visited again.
In case you wondered, following Oliver Cromwell’s death and the growing certainty that the monarchy would once more be restored, Obadiah Hyde fled England’s shores in fear for his life. With a small party of like-minded and equally cheerless companions he decided to travel to the New World and be the founding father of his own austere community. It was something of a surprise for him, therefore, when he was shipwrecked on Hopeless and scuppered by two small but persistent demons when he tried to achieve his goal. This story is related in the tale ‘Chapel Rock.’

Art by Tom Brown

Dr Cornelius Porridge arrives on Hopeless, Maine

He knew he couldn’t run much further. His lungs burned with the effort and his teeth ached as he inhaled the dense, wet fog that seemingly blanketed every square inch of the island of Hopeless Maine. His legs felt like bags of wet sand as they carried him out of the thick woodland and to the edge of the granite cliffs that held back the Atlantic Ocean.

Realising he had nowhere to go he fell to his knees and looked down over the edge, towards the clamour of the water crashing against the rocks below. He couldn’t remember when he had started running or even how he had come to be on this cursed island. He just knew he had to get away.

The sound of branches being ripped from a tree focused his mind. He looked round to see the creature that was pursuing him. It was nearly eight feet tall, covered in furry, dark green and brown scales. Yellow eyes blazed at him hungrily as a blue, forked tongue licked saliva from its sharpened teeth.

“What do you want?” He shouted breathlessly at the beast. “Why do you constantly haunt my dreams?”

The beast’s eyes widened as it began to charge. He tried to get up and run, but it was no use. His legs refused to push against the ground. It was only when he looked down that he realised the ground was breaking away from the edge of the cliff. He scrambled forward, but it was too late. He instinctively reached out, succeeding only in grabbing a handful of dust, before falling towards the rocks below.

 

Doctor Cornelius Porridge woke with a start and stared, out of breath, at the ceiling. Blinking as sweat rolled from his forehead and into his eyes, he pushed the blanket down to the bottom of the bed and sat up. Despite it being the middle of January and no fire being lit, the sweat made his nightshirt cling to him as if it were a second skin. He looked around the room and realised he had been dreaming again.

He washed and dressed and as he was waxing his red moustache he looked at himself in the mirror and said, “How did you know it was a dream?” He stared at his unanswering reflection for several moments before putting on his greatcoat and top hat and letting himself out of the house.

 

When the steel tipped arrow thudded into his front door, missing his head by less than an inch, Porridge began to wonder if it was going to be one of those days. It wasn’t the first time someone had tried to kill him. In the six months since his return from a two year expedition in the Arctic and Northern Canada, there had been several attempts on his life. At first he thought the falling plant pot that had shattered by his feet had been blown off the high wall by the wind. Then there had been the horse drawn carriage that had lost control coming down Steep Hill in Lincoln. It was perfectly understandable that the driver had lost control. It was reckless of him to even attempt such a descent. It was strange however, that there was no sign of him when the horses had been steered away from him at the last moment.

It was only when he woke one morning face to face with the frothing mouth of a rabid llama that Porridge began to suspect foul play was afoot. Fortunately he was in the habit of keeping a loaded blunderbuss under his pillow for just such emergencies. It was as the beast began to chew the cud, getting ready no doubt for the first projectile of spittle, that Porridge grabbed his trusty weapon and let fly. The result had left a nasty mess on the curtains, but it was for the best he told Gertrude, his horrified maid.

Porridge pulled out the still quivering arrow and inspected the hole that it had made in his front door. “I wonder if his Lordship will lend me a fiver to get that fixed?” he mused. He turned around to look for the failed archer and noticed a group of people standing near the house. I wonder if they saw anything, Porridge wondered as he slowly walked over to the small crowd. As he drew near he could see that everyone had gathered around a woman prostrate on the floor.

“It was horrible,” cried the woman. “It was covered in green and brown scales and had yellow eyes like the devil himself.”

“Impossible,” said Porridge to himself. Shaking himself out of his reverie he stalked towards the prone woman. Kneeling down, he put his hand on her shoulder, “Did you say Green and brown scales?” asked Porridge. The woman looked at him and weakly nodded. “Yellow eyes?” the woman nodded again. “About eight feet tall?”

“You saw it too?” the woman asked. “It was horrible,” she re-affirmed.

“Impossible,” Porridge repeated as he released the woman and pushed his way back through the crowd. It was then, as he looked up towards his house, that he noticed the front door was open. He was certain he had closed it. He looked at the arrow in his hand. He had just locked the door when it had struck, narrowly missing his right ear. The door had definitely been closed. Also, it was a Tuesday. A fact in itself quite unremarkable, but Tuesday was Gertrude’s day off and she never came near the place if she didn’t have to. When he had left the house it had been empty, which could only mean one thing. Someone, or something, had gone in.

Porridge looked around in vain for a constable. “Typical,” he muttered. “Never one close by when you need one.”

He threw the arrow onto the floor and pulled a navy flintlock from inside his greatcoat. Gently pushing the front door open, Porridge stepped over the threshold and into the hallway.

“Who’s there?” he called, his voice croaking rather more than he would have liked. If it was a man he could dispatch him without any hesitation, but the thought of finally coming face to face with the beast that had been haunting him for the past six months had set his nerves on edge.

“I have a pistol,” he shouted. The affirmation engendering a firmness to his voice.

Porridge drew level with the door to the sitting room, it was ajar. He never left the doors inside open for fear of fire spreading. His mouth was dry and he could hear his heart pounding. Porridge had no doubt the creature was inside.

He drew breath and kicked the sitting room door open with a violence he hadn’t realised he could muster. The door crashed against a wooden bookcase. Porridge was showered with books as the bookcase wobbled in a most precarious way. A shadow darted from the window. Porridge instinctively threw out the hand containing the pistol towards the window and pulled the trigger.

A small hole appeared in the window as the small, lead ball flew into the street and shattered the glass of a nearby street lamp. Porridge’s attention was diverted from the window by a dull thud followed by a loud creak. He turned to look at the book case as he realised the massive oak structure and the several hundred volumes it contained was falling towards him.

His face paled as the realisation dawned on him that this was the end. Before he could draw breath the shadow fired towards him, hitting him like a cannonball in the midriff. Porridge slid into the hallway gasping for breath. As he managed to draw oxygen into his body he heard books falling, like leather raindrops, onto the floor. The books were followed by the crash of oak shelves as the bookcase shattered.

The sound in the sitting room faded into irrelevance compared to the sight unveiling itself in the hallway. A huge creature, a cross between a bear and a dragon, stood before him. Its yellow eyes glared at Porridge with complete puzzlement.

“I say old boy, what on earth do you think you’re playing at?” asked the creature, pushing the words through a gap between its two front fangs.

“W…what?” stammered Porridge.

“That firearm,” the creature pointed at the pistol. “You could have hurt someone.”

Porridge blinked as the creature flicked a thin, blue forked tongue at him.

“My pistol, I still have it,” said Porridge as he pointed it at the creature.

“It’s a single fire flintlock, so it won’t do any further harm unless you throw it.”

“What do you want?” gasped Porridge as he let the pistol fall to the floor.

“Well, a thank you would be nice.”

“Thank you?”

“You’re welcome. After all, I did just save your life in there,” the creature gestured in the direction of the sitting room.

“Save me? You’ve been trying to kill me for the last six months,” exclaimed Porridge as he struggled to sit up.

“Kill you? Nonsense. If it wasn’t for me you would have been dead six months ago.”

“What about the bookcase?” asked Porridge.

“You had far too many books on the top shelves,” said the creature. “When you kicked the door open with such force into the bookcase, even I wouldn’t have been able to stop it crashing over. Quite unnecessary if I may say so ”

“What about the arrow? That only just missed me.”

“Yes, it did, but it didn’t miss the Loxosceles reclusa on the door,”

“The what?”

“Loxosceles reclusa,” repeated the creature. “A brown recluse spider. Quite deadly and about to bite you. I don’t know how you didn’t see it. One bite and your bowels would become an unstoppable force of nature.”

“Oh,” said Porridge, not entirely convinced.

“What about the llama?”

“Alouitious?”

“Who?”

“Alouitious, the llama. I sent him to watch over you. Why did you shoot him?”

“He was rabid.”

“Rabid?”

“He was frothing at the mouth.”

“He wasn’t rabid, he was just a messy eater.”

“He had red eyes,” added Porridge.

“Yes, he’d been crying. His girlfriend had just left him. I asked him to do me a favour, I thought it would take his mind off things and you shot him. Talk about having a bad day,” the creature shook its head and looked at Porridge. “He was very upset and he’s not too keen on coming back either. After everything that’s happened I can’t say I blame him to be honest.”

Porridge studied the creature for several seconds. “What about the plant pot?”

“Ah, yes. Sorry about that. I did whistle though. Stopped you in your tracks.”

“So you didn’t push it?”

“No, why would I push it? It was the wind.”

Porridge looked slightly crestfallen, but rallied when he remembered the runaway carriage.

“Well, what about the runaway carriage? There was no driver and you were nowhere to be seen.”

“Ah yes. The driver had lost control. I managed to throw him off and steer the carriage away from you at the last moment. The horses seemed quite spooked, I can’t imagine why.”

Porridge raised an eyebrow. “There was no one driving,” he insisted.

“I didn’t want you to see me so…I hid.”

“Where could you hide on an open carriage?”

“It was my defence instinct kicking in. When I want to hide I become…invisible.”

“This is ridiculous,” snorted Porridge.

“How else do you explain the horses turning at the last moment?”

Porridge considered the question as he stared at the creature.

“Do it now. Become invisible.”

“I can’t,” said the creature with an indignant tone. “I can only do it when I’m startled or under stress,” the creature could tell Porridge was still having trouble believing him and decided to push on. “Anyway, the driver was an idiot. He should never have been allowed to drive a carriage down such a steep hill.”

“He wasn’t allowed. The City Magistrates banned all carriages from using that street because of the sharp incline.”

“The City Magistrates you say,” the creature looked out of the window before settling his unnerving gaze straight at Porridge. “Tell me Doctor Porridge, do you know where you are right now?”

“I’m in the City of Lincoln. In my house. In the hallway to be precise.”

“Are you certain?”

“Quite certain. Where do you think we are?

“Well, I’m afraid we’re not in the City of Lincoln and we’re certainly not in your hallway.”

“Of course we’re in my hallway,” said Porridge, unaware he was angrier at the creature’s geographical repudiation than he was in fear of its physical presence or intent. “Where else do you think you are?”

The creature studied the prone figure for several seconds before reaching out a muscular, scaly paw. Porridge shuffled back, but the creature grabbed hold of his arm and hauled him to his feet as easily as if he were a kitten and walked into the sitting room. Porridge followed the creature as it cleared a path through the fallen books to the drinks cabinet. The creature poured brandy into two glasses and offered one to Porridge. He hesitated.

“Take it,” the creature said. “You may need it with what I’m about to tell you.”

Porridge took the glass and sat in a large leather chair, satisfied that if the creature had wanted him dead they wouldn’t be drinking brandy together.

“How did you get back?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t follow,” said Porridge, the question taking him by surprise.

“The island of Hopeless Maine. How did you get from there to here?”

Porridge shuffled uncomfortably in his chair. In the six months since his escape from that dark, mist shrouded island he had often wondered exactly how he had returned. He had spent two years surveying Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in a small, hydrogen filled dirigible. During his last flight he had been caught up in a huge storm which had caused considerable damage. He was already losing height when the gondola was hit by lightning and caught fire. It was only by luck, or so he had thought, that he found land. The island of Hopeless, Maine.

“I can’t remember,” he said after a short pause.

“Let me see if I can help restore your memory,” said the creature. “You were undoubtedly drawn to the island by the lighthouse on the North shore. You actually crashed by a small lake on the South side of the island. I was being held captive in that lake,” the creature’s face altered. Porridge wasn’t sure if it was a smile or indigestion.

“There are squid in that lake,” continued the creature, “Who now think you’re a deity.”

“I’m worshipped by a cephalopod?”

“Not just one, there’s a whole village down there. We all saw you come down in a ball of flame and they thought you were going to liberate them onto dry land. Whilst they were distracted I made my escape. If it hadn’t been for your, very timely, arrival I may have been next on the menu. I knew I owed you my life so, when I saw your balloon…”

“Dirigible.”

“…Dirigible burning on the shoreline, I had to help.”

“So it was you who dragged me from the shore line and into the woodland?”

“Yes, it was,” said the creature. “The squid were about to come ashore and they would have undoubtedly dragged you back in. They do come out of the water occasionally, usually to hunt, but tend not to venture too far. As soon as you were safe I had to leave as they were rather upset at my disappearance and may have tried something stupid. ”

Porridge realised he hadn’t touched the brandy and took a large gulp. “This is all very interesting,” he said, wiping his lips with the back of his hand, “and I’m very grateful, but how do you get into my dreams?”

It was the creatures turn to take a swig of brandy.

“I have the ability to project myself into people’s dreams.”

“Why would you want to?”

“As I said, after your fortuitous arrival helped me escape, I felt I owed you a debt. But every time I tried to say hello, you ran screaming. So I decided to project into your dreams. It was only when there that I realised you are as clumsy when dreaming as you are when you’re awake.”

The furrow on Porridge’s brow deepened.

“They say,” continued the creature, “that if you die in your dreams you will die in reality. I think I’ve saved your life seven times in all. You’re a full time occupation Doctor Porridge.”

“So…” said Porridge, trying to collect his thoughts, “when I was last asleep, you were there. When I fell off the cliff you saved me?”

“Sort of,” said the creature, putting his empty glass next to the decanter. “Except, you weren’t asleep. I caught you just before you hit the rocks and you fainted.”

“But I awoke with a start. My heart was pumping,” said Porridge, the words coming out slowly as the truth sank in.

“No,” said the creature. “As you fainted you re-entered a dream state. I projected myself in and that’s when I saw the spider. Unfortunately, when I fired my crossbow I became visible and a woman saw me. I managed to take the key from your greatcoat and hide in your sitting room,” the creature looked at the fallen bookcase. His attention turned to Porridge at the sound of glass shattering on the floor.

Porridge was slumped in the chair, his shoulders rounded and his face as white as the morning frost.

“So…” he leaned forward in the chair, “…what you’re saying is…I’m still on Hopeless Maine. That this is just a dream?”

“I’m afraid so.”

The remaining blood drained from Porridge’s face and he fainted.

 

Doctor Cornelius Porridge opened his eyes and looked around. He was in a log cabin which was dimly lit by a small oil lamp resting on a table in the corner of the room. The door opened and the creature from his nightmares walked in. Porridge felt no fear.

“Ah, I see you’re awake. No ill effects I presume?”

Porridge shook his head. His body ached as though he had fallen off a cliff. He smiled at the thought and looked at the creature.

“So, this is real then? I’m still on this cursed island?”

“I’m afraid so. Many have tried to leave. All have failed.

Porridge sat up on the edge of the bed and extended his hand.

“Doctor Cornelius Porridge,” he said. “At your service.”

The creature extended its huge arm and its paw engulfed Porridge’s hand.

“Barnaby,” said the creature. “Pleased to meet you at last.”

“Tell me,” said Porridge, “why were the squid holding you prisoner?”

Something akin to a smile spread across Barnaby’s face. “Well,” he said, “that’s a long story.”

 

Written by S. A. Sanderson- author of Out of Time

Based on the Fictional person Dr Cornelius Porridge

Art by Tom Brown

The Jacobean Manor House

Upon a whim and with a certain amount of desire to impress, multi-millionaire businessman and entrepreneur, Hiram P. Shortwood lll, had, via the good offices of Colonel Ruscombe-Green, purchased a genuine Jacobean Manor House. One small problem was that the manor, Oxlynch Hall, sat foursquare in the English countryside while Mr Shortwood resided some three thousand miles away in North America. Luckily his friend, architect and fellow freemason, the appropriately named Elias Archway, always had the scent of money in his nostrils and had secured the purchase using Ruscombe-Green as middle-man.  Archway insisted to his client that distance was not necessarily an impediment. He pointed out that many wealthy families were taking advantage of the apparent prosperity America was enjoying in the roaring twenties and were constructing country estates inspired by some of the grand buildings that they had seen in Europe. If Mr. Shortwood wanted to show his obvious superiority, rather than merely imitate, he could do worse than put a genuine English manor house on American soil. There was no earthly reason why Oxlynch Hall could not be dismantled, crated and transported successfully across the Atlantic. Such a thing had been done before with great success. By a stroke of remarkable luck Archway himself was in the process of developing what would become a fashionable new neighborhood in Connecticut and the perfect site for Mr Shortwood’s new home. The architect estimated that the whole process could be achieved for the not inconsiderable sum of $300,000. He could not help but reflect, however, that this cost would have been appreciably lower had it not been for the fact that in Connecticut a labourer could command as much as 5 or even 6 cents an hour in wages. On the other hand, it was indeed fortunate for Mr Shortwood that the power of the unions had waned somewhat during the 1920s, or the greed of the lower orders would have known no boundaries.

 

By the time the recently dismantled Oxlynch Hall arrived in the port of New Haven in 1929, Mr Shortwood’s fortune – and indeed, Mr Shortwood himself- had also been dismantled, courtesy of the Wall  Street crash. Suddenly no one was interested in reassembling the manor house, least of all Elias Archway. The array of crates and mountains of stonework sat upon the quayside in the forlorn hope that a buyer might appear or, at least, the manor would remain undisturbed until the tide of fortune turned once more.

One could be forgiven for believing that several hundred tons of dressed stone and ornate woodwork would be safe from scavenging hands but in times of great hardship necessity gives birth not only to invention but also to ingenuity, which may take many guises. Scavenging was raised to an art-form as, bit by bit, the components of the building began to disappear, liberated by anyone who hated to see fine stonework go to waste. Parts of Oxlynch Hall now incongruously adorned barns, boundary walls and outhouses all over New England. Several otherwise undistinguished homes suddenly sported exquisite Jacobean oak panelling. Regrettably, some of the less aesthetically astute decided that firewood was firewood, Jacobean or not.

It took little under a year for the bulk of the wood and stone to disappear from the quayside until just a cairn of honey-coloured stone blocks and one unassuming oak door remained. These last items were bagged by a passing steamer, ‘The Daneway’,  which, according to its manifest, was bound for Portland, Maine. No one knows what purpose the captain had in mind for the remnants of the manor because he and his crew all abandoned ship for no apparent reason two days after leaving New Haven and, under the watchful gaze of a fat full moon, they perished to a man. ‘The Daneway’ itself floated free until it floundered on the fog-bound rocks off the island of Hopeless.

 

Young Isaac Lypiatt could hardly believe his luck when he spotted the wrecked steamer sitting on the rocks. It took little exploration to discover that, while no longer seaworthy, the ship was filled with a hold full of precious cargo that would doubtless find its way into the homes of every islander before the day was out. Besides this, the more industrious would find uses for the last plank and retrievable rivet they could salvage. It was a good day for Hopeless when bounty of this quality was delivered to its shores. Despite his elation, Isaac could not help but feel a little apprehensive however. He had seen a few wrecks in his twenty years, but in the past there had always been bodies to dispose of or survivors to help ashore. This time there were none. It was as if he had stumbled upon a ghost ship.

It did not take long for news of the wreck to get out and soon a steady procession, bearing bags and boxes, pushing carts and crates could be seen, each one keen to grab whatever they could. A disinterested watcher may have been surprised to see that few squabbles ensued. This was because most had long learned that the only way to survive on Hopeless, with its many dangers and privations, was through cooperation at such times. Among the salvagers was Sebastian Lypiatt, father of Isaac and landlord of The Squid and Teapot. Sebastian was a generous man and was not only looking for something for his family and the inn but also some items which might benefit young Randall Middlestreet, the Night Soil Man, who would doubtless be sleeping after a night of toil. The first thing to catch his eye was the Oxlynch Hall door, which no one else had laid claim to. It dawned on Sebastian that this would be an ideal way, with Isaac’s assistance, to stretcher a reasonable amount of salvage to Randall’s cottage.

By the time they had left Randall’s goods and returned to the wreck, still carrying the door, the Lypiatts found that the best of the booty had been taken. Gazing stoically around him Sebastian wondered if anything worth having was left. He wandered the ship, looking for inspiration and while standing in the captain’s cabin, he found it. Tucked away behind a curtain was a fine porcelain toilet bowl, complete with a cistern and pipework. What a  prize this would be for the Squid. Sebastian had already noticed the pile of stone blocks and these, along with the little door, would give him the means of creating an annexe to house an inside privy for the inn. It would take a little planning and hard work but with Isaac’s assistance he was certain that within a few weeks they would be the proud possessors of Hopeless Maine’s very first privy with a flushing mechanism.

As the month slipped by the excitement generated by the wreck gradually subsided and things settled down to what passes as normality on Hopeless. There had, happily, been few reports of vampire attacks or Spoonwalker sightings for a while. The Squid and Teapot continued to be the haven of conviviality that it had always been (not counting the regrettable period in the early years of the century when it suffered under the egregious stewardship of Tobias Thrupp) and all in all, life was as good as one could ever expect it to be. Work on the new privy had gone well and Sebastian was particularly proud of having installed a waste pipe that deposited its load several yards out into the ocean. The project was an immediate success and within hours of the newly installed wonder being open to the public and tastefully concealed behind the sturdy oak door, a steady stream of grateful customers were quick to test its efficacy.

 

The mood of the island always changes a little when a full moon is imminent. Admittedly, although a proportion of some of the more eccentric behaviour can be attributed to the effect that the moon, full or otherwise, has on certain individuals, it must be said that the islanders’ concerns are well-founded. There are always the usual worries regarding the likelihood of werewolf activity at such times and experience has shown that a full moon is often a harbinger of strange (or, more correctly, even stranger) occurrences on Hopeless. This next one was to be no exception.

 

Betty Butterow, the barmaid of The Squid and Teapot, had finished her work for the night and had just one more personal requirement to fulfil before retiring to her small room in the attic of the inn. Betty was grateful that Mr Lypiatt had thoughtfully provided an inside privy, especially on nights like this. Wandering outside to the old one was a life-threatening experience when the worst of the night-stalkers were at their most powerful. And there was no chance of accidentally having an embarrassing late-night encounter with the Night Soil Man, either, now that the pipeline was in place. So it was, with a light heart and a full bladder that Betty swung open the privy door and prepared herself for a few minutes of quiet contemplation.

The barmaid was a hardy soul but even she could not help but give a small scream of surprise when she beheld the vision before her. You cannot blame the poor girl, having been confronted with the alarming sight of a lady dressed in the attire of a seventeenth century English noblewoman sitting daintily on the porcelain throne. The apparition shimmered slightly, glowing with a pale and eerie luminescence. It was not so much the presence of the ghost that shocked Betty, who was the great-great granddaughter of Colleen O’Stoat and, like her ancestor, gifted with ‘The Sight’. What really upset the barmaid was the fact that this particular specimen had been decapitated and was holding her severed head in her lap.

To Betty’s horror the ghost slowly tilted its grisly trophy in order to look her squarely in the eye. The barmaid’s blood froze as an unearthly banshee scream erupted from the apparition’s long-dead lips and echoed through every inch of the inn.

“A privy!” it wailed. “A lady of high birth like me, nearly three hundred years dead and you have me haunting a bloody privy…AAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!”

 

To be continued….

Art by Clifford Cumber

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.