Tag Archives: gothic

Hopeless Romantics

While others rush to immerse themselves wholeheartedly in the fads and fashions of their age, over the years the inhabitants of Hopeless have steadfastly ignored such shallowness. This is not totally out of choice. In fact, it’s not at all out of choice. No one enjoys a spot of puddle-deep diversion more than the average Hopelessian but when you live on an island surrounded by fog and crawling with an assortment of nasties these things just don’t turn up by mail-order. Anything of a remotely novel nature generally arrives by accident.
One such serendipitous item is now  a treasured possession of Rufus Lypiatt, current landlord of The Squid and Teapot. This is a carpet-bag which was left at the inn by the renowned librettist, Mr. W. S. Gilbert. You may recall that Mr Gilbert returned to the mainland in something of a hurry following a night apparently disturbed by several spoonwalkers invading his bedroom. The bag he left behind contained several items of interest, not least of which was a collection of hand-tinted daguerreotypes of nineteenth century works of art, including some reproductions of paintings by the group who called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
When, in the latter years of the nineteenth century, this book was shown to Beatrice Merrywalk, one of the older girls in the orphanage, she immediately fell in love with Romantic art and Sir John Everett Millais’ painting of Ophelia in particular. Although she had absolutely no idea who Ophelia was, she sensed from the painting that here was young woman who epitomised all of the yearnings for tragic romance that stirred in her own breast. It felt to her that Death was the greatest artist of all, perfect in its dark finality. Having become quietly obsessed with Millais’ painting, she decided that she not only wanted to become Ophelia, the girl in the stream, but to be seen in that role forever, so that people would understand the turmoil and anguish churning in her young heart. To add to her sense of the dramatic, not to say melodramatic, she had come across ‘The Death of Chatterton’, another picture heavy with the illusion of romantic death, this time of a young poet. Maybe if she, as Ophelia, could find her Chatterton, they could let the world know of, and appreciate, their great pain.
That cruel trickster, Adolescence, is famous for filling certain young heads with dark clouds and yearnings for a picturesque death. It was, therefore, almost inevitable that Beatrice would find her Chatterton before too long had elapsed. He arrived in the form of Algernon Box, an unassuming young man who lived alone in an old and falling-down cottage next to a babbling creek that led down to the sea. Like so many on Hopeless, Algernon’s parents had disappeared under mysterious circumstances and as a consequence the lad was given to staring at the most incongruous items with dewy-eyed sensitivity and looking glum.
No one objected when Beatrice moved in with Algernon. The orphanage was happy to have one mouth fewer to feed. Besides, on Hopeless none of the usual rules apply. Life is difficult enough without unnecessary complications. To call these two young people lovers, however, would be a vast overstatement. They were bound together by a common bond of platonic melancholy. This usually involved staring at incongruous items with dewy-eyed sensitivity and looking glum. Their conversation, when it dragged itself out of the Slough of Despair, would invariably turn to the subject of finding a suitable artist to capture their last, tragic moments as perfect replicas of Ophelia and Chatterton.  They named the little plot of land upon which they lived Tragedy Creek and planned their suicide pact.
“Only Death will give us what we most desire,” said Beatrice, and she truly believed this to be so.
You may have noticed that Hopeless is quite a strange place. The unusual and bizarre is fairly run-of-the-mill around here. In view of that, neither of the two young people felt remotely surprised when, one dismal afternoon, the very man they had hoped for arrived at the door of their cottage. In a deep, sonorous voice, he introduced himself as being an artist visiting the island and asked to be invited in. His gangly frame, lean to the point of appearing cadaverous, seemed to fill the tiny kitchen.
In truth, this mysterious visitor did not resemble anyone’s idea of an artist. In his smart, dark business suit he looked more like a lawyer. Or an undertaker. The only clues to his trade were contained in the portfolio he carried under his arm.
“I have the paintings you requested.”
The pair looked at each other in puzzlement.
“Paintings? We’ve ordered no paintings.”
“Oh but you did. I heard you. Is this not what you most desire?”
The dark stranger placed the portfolio on the kitchen table and, opening it, produced two paintings. One was of Beatrice. This was exactly as she had visualised herself; Ophelia, alone and tragic, lying in the creek that ran by the side of the cottage. The other painting was of Algernon as Chatterton. He had painted him as though in his home surroundings.
They both gasped.
“They are beautiful,” said Beatrice. ”But how…”
“You asked. Don’t you remember?” said the stranger, then, without another word he picked up his portfolio and left. At least they assumed he had left, for the whole episode passed as if it were a dream. Only the two works of art lying on the table proved that any of it had really happened.
Several days passed before either noticed some subtle transformations occurring in the paintings. Small creatures had suddenly appeared around the bodies, which had somehow started to appear less attractive. Ophelia began to bloat. The pallor of both became quite ghastly.  After another week or so things began to look really awful. They had become carrion. Although the corpse of Chatterton was subject to the attentions of anything that could crawl, squirm or slither through his window, Ophelia, out in the open, fared worse.
By the end of the second week Beatrice and Algernon had to turn the pictures around so that they faced the wall. The images of each had become the stuff of the most horrible nightmare imaginable. Faced with such brutal reality all their ideas of romantic death were gone. Alone and terrified they clung fiercely to each other and wept.
It was the night-soil man who found them. They were huddled together in the little cottage, a look of terror and madness imprinted upon their young faces. They had been dead for some days. He looked around him at the sparse furnishings and few possessions. It struck him as strange that amid all the poverty were two quite beautiful paintings, each depicting doomed youth.
Even now, Tragedy Creek is felt to be the most melancholic place on Hopeless. In over a century only a handful of people have stayed in Algernon’s cottage for more than a night or two. The most recent resident was a would-be poet who was later discovered to be a escaped convict. Although he reported no strange experience there, some claim to have seen two unhappy ghosts walking from the front door to the babbling creek. It was long ago thought best that the paintings be removed to more cheerful surroundings. Today they hang safely behind the bar in the Squid and Teapot.  Occasionally Rufus will be asked who the artist is. He always gives the same answer, usually with a wry smile. “I’m damned if I can tell you…
Art by Tom Brown

Meet Philomena Bucket

Please meet Philomena Bucket. She has recently shipwrecked on the island (which may explain her worried expression)

Philomena is a Traveller. Which is to say,  the example character in the Hopeless, Maine role playing game which is in development by Keith Healing. The whole project is coming along beautifully and has a publisher, so, fear not (or, not too much) it will be with you in the fullness of time. Keith understands the setting and the story in a way that makes us nearly giddy and is finding ways of having players explore and interact with the island and its flora and fauna (and those things which are uncomfortably neither or both) and create experiences and dark adventures.

Here, in Keth’s words, is how Philomena Bucket was born (or created) with some rolls of the dice-

“Philomena Bucket
These numbers tell us a lot about her. Philomena is of average build (STR 11) but a little sickly (CON  She could well appear a little pale and wan. However, her manual dexterity is good. She is not stubborn but can possibly be manipulated (WILL 10) but is of above average intelligence. She gets on pretty well with people (CHA 11) and is naturally drawn towards things spiritual (PSY 15).
Philomena rolled 52 on Class, making her as Middle class as could be, and 47 on Age. The player determines that as this is towards the top end of the range Philomena is 28 years old.
Given her physical characteristics and her high PSY Philomena’s player decides that she is an Artist specialising in painting. Her high PSY and DEX give her a base skill of 36% to which is added another 10% for her age, giving a total of 46%. She is pretty good but a bit rough around the edges.
She is a keen amateur Biologist.
Finally, and intriguingly, she is albino.”

If the roll had gone another way, she would have been inexplicably attractive to small bits of metal.

If you would like to know how all of this is developing and keep up with progress and news of release dates and such, I can recommend following the development blog, here!

 

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Death at Twilight

Lost souls
Lost Souls

(by Frampton Jones)

 There have been ghosts on this island for as long as there have been people. Most residents will have seen one or two in their time, I have no doubt. Most of our departed did not appear to stay on, but every so often some pale echo of a lost citizen would manifest. Tragic and disturbing though they are, these ephemeral echoes of the once living are a familiar part of life.

 I have noticed this year that the numbers of ghosts have increased significantly. They have gone from being a rare, uncomfortable occurrence, to being a frequent sight across the island. Some, like Vortigern Frog and Greta Calder retain many of their human qualities and will even converse with the living. However, many of the shades we are now seeing are far less substantial. I can only speculate as to why the dead are no longer departing as they once did. Are these echoes, or are we seeing spirits, doomed to continue here for all eternity? It is a hellish thought.

This week’s photograph shows a trio of the dead. I cannot identify them, they retain so little of their original humanity. I have never before been especially fearful of dying, but the horror and pathos of these figures fills me with dread. I fear we will none of us sleep easily in our graves, nor ascend to some better place.

Spoon mystery stirs up more trouble!

(by Modesty Jones)

Mrs Witherspoon's spoons are missing!

When I interviewed Mrs Witherspoon about recent events at the orphanage, she told me she slept soundly all through the night when one of the little girls was taken and Miss Calder was killed. I tried to talk to the little girl but she just stared at me. I guess she’s too traumatised to talk.

Apparently other people can see Miss Calder and talk to her, but I can’t see her, so that didn’t go very well either. Maybe she wasn’t there. How do you tell? But what Mrs Witherspoon did say is that all the spoons have gone missing from the orphanage kitchen too. I suspect a connection with the theft from The Crow. Did they break in to steal the spoons and kill Miss Calder by mistake? Or were the spoons an afterthought? All very mysterious.

What Beautiful Babies

Bertram Chevin, in all his glory.

Normally I don’t care much for the beautiful baby competition, but this year my camera cast the whole event in an entirely different shape.

All the usual array of mothers and bored dignitaries turned out to look at our island’s most recent offspring. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, to our eyes they looked so much like children. You could almost believe they were of human stock! The camera sees differently. Does it capture their true forms? I think it does.

The more pictures I take of you all, the more clearly I see you for what you are. Phantasms and nightmares.  I have not yet managed to photograph myself. Am I the same as you? Am I the one true person here? Sometimes it feels like that. Do you know what you really are, beneath the surface? Or do you think you are real? People of Hopeless, look upon the beautiful babies, and know the horror of your own nature!

12th Night

 

12th Night revels

 

 
The evening was crisp with an unusually clear sky, which may be why we had one of the best 12th Night turnouts for many years. Torches and masks made a dramatic show as we paraded around the town centre, and the traditional dance was a great success. I know there are some who want to modernise the event with lively tunes, but the traditional, mournful dances and slow airs have a certain majesty that suits the dark time of the year.

What haunts the skies?

Blood and feathers
Blood and feathers

 

Somewhere above us, hidden by the fog, strange and violent things are happening. The screams are enough to terrify the boldest man amongst us. The blood and feathers fall everywhere. Something in the clouds is killing the giant black birds that appeared last week. It doesn’t appear to be eating them, but pulling them apart and scattering their remains over the town.

 

What happens when there are no more birds? Will this latest fiend then unleash itself upon us, or will we be faced with something even worse? I dare not think.

Freak Storm Hits Hopeless!

rain of blood 

I can’t imagine anyone missed the major event of last week, but as nothing else of note happened, I’m reporting it anyway as there may be more to this than meets the eye.

On Tuesday night, a bloodstorm swept the island, covering people, buildings and streets. We were lucky in that the rain on Wednesday washed away the worst of it. I consulted Doc Willoughby who confirmed that the red rain was definitely blood, but he could not say if it was animal or human. Where did all the blood come from? Does it represent some unimaginable horror that has happened beyond the boundaries of our beloved island? How could so much blood have become airborn, with no trace of any bodyparts? I fear this latest mystery may go unsolved, but if you have possible answers, do share them.

Community News

Deaths – Audrey Pickett, 79, a rare case of natural causes. Funeral Thursday.

                Bendigo Weaselgrease, 7, partially eaten by creature or creatures unknown. Funeral Friday.

The rest of Millicent Cobbage will be buried on Thursday evening, with special prayers, in the hopes that she can now rest in peace.

Births – Angel StJohn Goodfellow, born on Wednesday afternoon to Glory StJohn Goodfellow and StJohn StJohn Goodfellow.

Arnold Sanctity Brown, born midnight Thursday to Hephziba Brown and Veritable Brown.

Congratulations to both families, keep up the good work!

Farm Day a Success

name_that_mutant_goat_by_CopperAge

Once again the Jones’s opened Meadow Farm to the public to share the delights of spring. Families flocked to see flowers, chicks and lambs. Nothing quite equalled last year’s mutant goat, but the three legged chickens were as popular as ever. Other attractions included the traditional pie fight, a tour of the farm and assorted contests. The spitting contest was won by Ethan Miller while the wife carrying contest was won by Reginald Aubergine. However, this caused some controversy as Mrs Asumpta Aubergine is of course dead, and as a ghost, weighs nothing and cannot technically be carried, which many feel gave him an unfair advantage. No prize was given for best cake, as the cakes were enlisted in attempts to solve the problems over the wife carrying contest. Whether cake throwing will replace pie throwing for next year remains to be seen! This reporter feels that the jam involved provided a nice change from the less appetising pie contents we get most years.