It was in these caves, in some far-off time, that the creature known as Manchachicoj was conceived, the spawn of a demon and a local witch. Manchachicoj soon grew up to be an eloquent, softly spoken romantic, driven by a burning obsession to seek out and seduce beautiful young women. Although his pedigree was a mixture of native Calchaquí and demon, with his charm and elegance you could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that he possessed all of the attributes of a classic Latin lover. Sadly, this was not the case, for Manchachicoj was somewhat hideous to behold; everyone he encountered eschewed the amorous attentions of this stunted, ugly creature.
After many centuries of unsuccessfully pursuing this quest all over Argentina it gradually dawned upon him that he was definitely not widely regarded as being boyfriend material. So, one bright morning in the latter part of 1886, while loitering around the docks in Buenos Aires, he made the decision that it was time to move on – and the three masted barque making ready to set sail for Portland, Maine looked perfect for the task.
With sails billowing as they left the quayside of Buenos Aires, Captain O’Neill looked lovingly around his ship. The Annie C. Maguire had made good progress. The passage from Liverpool to Argentina had gone exactly to plan and now, with a cargo of salt beef, he was determined to reach Portland by Christmas Day. Others on board were his wife and an eleven man crew. Just four thousand, seven hundred and twenty five nautical miles separated them from Christmas dinner in Maine. Little did he know that deep in the hold, sharing a barrel with a quantity of salt beef, was a diminutive and not particularly attractive stowaway.
Being a half-blood demon Manchachicoj’s senses were sharper than that of any mortal. He heard every conversation on board clearly and was able to see perfectly well in the pitch-black belly of the hold. Besides this, he had little need for food or drink. Occasionally, however, it pleased him to help himself to a mouthful of meat, or, in the early hours when the sailor on the middle-watch was half asleep, would steal a sip or two of water.
The long voyage passed without incident, and on the afternoon of Christmas Eve the imposing tower of the Portland light came into view. Manchachicoj was quietly dozing in his barrel at the time and the buzz of excitement on board brought him fully awake. But there was something else, some sound in the distance beyond the hearing of the others that drew his attention. It was enchanting – a voice so achingly beautiful that it stirred him in ways he had never known. He was suddenly wrapped in a maelstrom of tenderness and lust, joy and sorrow, sunshine and moonlight. This must be the voice of the lover he had sought for so many centuries.
He scrambled from the barrel and made to climb out of the hold. He swore to himself. It had been battened down to safeguard the cargo as they entered the rough seas around the coast of Maine. Undeterred and driven wild with desire to see the owner of such a wonderful voice he found a marlin spike and began to hack away at the wooden walls of the ship with a superhuman frenzy.
If you examine the official report regarding the sinking of the Annie C. Maguire you will be told that she struck the ledge at Portland Head Light. The Lighthouse Keeper and some volunteers made a makeshift gangplank with a ladder, allowing everyone to clamber to safety. The report goes on to say that the cause of the wreck was puzzling; visibility was good and the crew swore that they had plainly seen the Portland Light prior to the disaster.
The truth of the matter is that the barque’s rudder had been damaged when Manchachicoj burst through; she was out of control. And so was poor Manchachicoj. His head was filled with an unworldly music that promised pleasures beyond all comprehension. Little wonder that he was so determined. There can be few in this world more obsessive and insistent than a siren-besotted Calchaquí-demon hybrid.
There we must leave the crew of the Annie C. Maguire, who all survived without a scratch and doubtless got to enjoy their Christmas dinner in Portland, though salt beef would more than likely have been off the menu. As for the barrels of meat, many made their way to the grateful populace of Hopeless. How that little episode eventually unfolded, however, is a tale for another day.
Oblivious to the damage he had caused, Manchachicoj swam frantically towards the source of the sweet-voiced songstress – which happened to bring him close to the coast of Hopeless. Demonic types conceived on land are not the most natural of swimmers. His technique, for want of a better word, resembled something between a dog-paddle and a panic attack but nevertheless, what he lacked in style he made up for in enthusiasm. Through dogged determination he fought his way through the icy waters towards his goal.
Both of his hearts leapt in unison as he saw her, a vision of loveliness perched daintily on an outcrop of rocks, known to the locals as The Devil’s Fingers. She was as beautiful as he had hoped and envisaged – and he was not at all fazed by her fishy extremities. As far as he knew, all of the girls in Maine looked like that. You must understand, Manchachicoj had never seen a mermaid or even heard tales of their fatal beauty. He had no inkling that, if he were a mere mortal, by now he would have drowned, having been driven mad by her siren song. Happily ignorant of these facts he was in love and anyway, drowning isn’t an option for a demon, half-blood or not, however badly he swims.
By the same token, the mermaid was impressed. Here was someone who had survived long enough to put himself in line to be properly seduced by her. It had never happened before. And looks aren’t everything, she told herself. Manchachicoj pulled himself up onto the rocks and the two gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes…You may ask if there was a ‘happy ever after‘ for these two? Some of you will remember the report in The Vendetta a few years ago of a mermaid turning up and singing seductively on The Devil’s Fingers. We nearly lost a few good men that day, including the venerable Doc Willoughby. These fellows were more than a little appreciative of the song she sang and it took a great deal of combined effort to stop them jumping into the sea. Fortunately everyone survived, including the mermaid. She was something of a disappointment to those who saw her, though. To put it mildly, she certainly wasn’t gifted with classic mermaid good looks. Have a look at the picture. Let’s just say she takes after her father.
Master Scutcheon Bugleblower of Hopeless Maine has recently released a new beverage from his coffee concoctionary (otherwise known as his cellar). Master Scutcheon is well known for his Brown Lining coffee shop, where he has sold many strange and very brown coffees to the unfortunate souls who were lured in by the promise of ‘Genuine Coffee Liquid in A Cup’.
This new beverage has been named by Master Scutcheon as ‘Hairy Coffee’. After having left a cup of coffee lying about for several weeks and accidentally sprinkling exotic fungi spores into it, Scutcheon found himself confronted one morning by a large cup coated with hair, underneath which when he had managed to summon up enough gumption, he found lurking some coffee whose taste sent him into an ‘exquisite reverie’ that made him fall in love with coffee again and renew his vows to the Goddess Kafeteria.
Scutcheon then proceeded to find out how he had created this hairy coffee and having spent several months obsessively perfecting the right amount of fungi spores needed to create the ideal coating of hair, he finally announced from his shop door the dawn of a new age in coffee culture. Scutcheon has strong views about what constitutes real coffee, which he proudly tells anyone who asks, were passed down from his grandmother. Real coffee as he believes is all about the Brown Lining. This he will not elaborate on, so zealous is he about keeping his coffee recipes secret, but as drinkers of his coffee will tell you: ‘Brown and more brown, combining into a strata of solid brownness upon which you can rotate your finger for up to a minute without anything giving way’ often is what you find Scutcheon making and serving you.
A Hairy Coffee public trial day was held last week at the Brown Lining, where Scutcheon appeared apparelled unfailingly in his brown matching breeches, jacket, waistcoat, and tricorn hat. Several individuals participated, whether they were tricked into it or chose out of their own will, is as yet unknown. The Hairy Coffee was reverentially served with several of his stale biscuits from the bottom of the tin. At the time of the drinking Scutcheon gave a libation to the Goddess Kafeteria, and then he began to chew meditatively on one of his finest stale biscuits, enjoying the sound from the kitchen of his huge greasy coffee vat slowly congealing. The Hairy Coffee was particularly hairy that morning.
(By Robin Collins- art by Tom Brown)
A strand of folklore common to various cultures throughout the western world is that of The Wild Hunt. From the Viking settlements of Scandinavia to the plains of Arizona, via several points in-between, many attest to having seen this ghostly cavalcade of wraiths racing across the night sky, filling the air with the clatter of hooves and the baying of hounds.
No one would express surprise to learn that Hopeless has more than its fair share of Wild Hunts. On a particularly busy night two or three can run into each other and the result is invariably chaotic. There are always tantrums, hissy fits and disagreements regarding rights of way and inevitable disputes about who is entitled to pursue what or whom. Occasionally a scuffle ensues, which is one of the more entertaining spectacles for anyone brave or foolhardy enough to be abroad on such a night.
One of the lesser known and least exciting of these chases across the sky is locally referred to as The Mild Hunt. Legend has it that many years ago a group of six lady authors set out from England to seek intellectual freedom in the New World. They had little money and their only possessions were three mules, a pair of springer spaniels and enough paper and ink to keep them occupied on the long sea voyage. The journey was largely uneventful and the ladies spent their days sitting on deck, laboriously writing improving pamphlets, which were intended to be distributed among the grateful inhabitants of New England when they eventually reached their destination. Sadly, just as they had sighted Maine, a terrible storm arose, as if from nowhere. The wind picked up and every one of their pamphlets was swept into the air. The ladies scuttled around the deck trying to retrieve them but all to no avail. Before long, near one of the many little islands that cluster around that coastline, the ship struck an outcrop of rock and quickly sank; every living creature on board descended to a distinctly watery grave. Under normal circumstances that would have been the end of the tale but this particular rocky outcrop was part of an Island that is frequently omitted from the charts. An island that seems reluctant to let its dead rest for very long…
As far as anyone knows the drowned crew all retired to a happy eternity drinking rum in Davy Jones’ locker. The ghosts of the ladies and their livestock, however, had a different fate. So distraught were they over losing their handwritten pamphlets, they vowed to scour the skies until each one was retrieved. Doubling up on the mules, with the spaniels at their heels, they rose into the heavens, amid a chorus of brays and irritating barks, eternally damned to fulfil their quest. Occasionally, when not unceremoniously falling off the mules, they can be spotted taking tea and cake with other wraiths, notably The Mad Parson of Chapel Rock and The Headless White Lady who is known to haunt The Squid and Teapot (though how she manages to consume tea and cake is a mystery in itself).
The legend gave rise to a popular song, often heard around the island.
Ghost Writers in The Sky
A night-soil man went strolling out across the darkened land,
Upon a ridge he rested, his bucket in his hand.
For all at once he spied some paper flying through the air
Ghostly pamphlets, by and large, littering everywhere.
The edges of these pamphlets burned with a fiery glow,
The ink was black and shiny and the paper white as snow.
A bolt of fear went through him as they fluttered through the sky
For he saw the riders plodding up and he heard their mournful cries
Dearie me, oh
Dearie me, oh gosh.
Ghost writers in the sky
Their faces gaunt, their glasses blurred their skirts all creased and stained,
With wraith-like spaniels at their heels they clung on to the reins.
They’ve got to ride forever across the Hopeless skies
On flatulent old mules, you can often hear their cries.
As the riders loped on by him he heard one call “Yoo hoo,
If you want to help us out, young man, there’s something you can do.
If you should see some pamphlets a-fluttering in the breeze,
Stick them in your bucket, lad, and put the lid down, please.”
Dearie me oh
Dearie me, oh gosh!
Ghost writers in the sky
Ghost writers in the sky
Ghost writers in the sky
art by Tom Brown
Finding Hopeless, Maine
Come in, dear traveller! I hear you are looking for directions. Yes ,yes, sit down. Now, you want to get to Hopeless, Maine. Are you sure? You’ve been warned about it, yes? The witches, the eldritch terrors, the night potatoes… Alright, alright, I can see that you are a stubborn and headstrong sort, who will not be dissuaded. Not even if I tell you that most people are desperately trying to come the other way? Well it was worth trying. Now let me think; directions to Hopeless Maine. Hmmmm.
Well there are a lot of different paths, yes, and they tend to shift. I can’t guarantee that you’ll arrive safely. Or arrive at all. So here, dear traveller, are three ways of getting to Hopeless Maine that will probably succeed. You have been warned…
1) Collect all of your best spoons, and lay them out in the centre of your bathroom. Lock the door. Nail it shut. Turn the light off. Watch the spoons. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait until the walls start crawling and you can hear things skittering. Wait. Do not take your eyes off the spoons. Wait. Bite your nails to the quick, sing, mutter; do what you must but keep your eyes on the spoons; everything depends on this, dear traveller. Sooner or later, a creature will arrive. It will take the spoons. If you are lucky, it will dance a slow and mesmeric dance. Watch. The. Spoons. When the creature leaves, you must follow it. Try to avoid looking at anything other than the spoons; the sight of the creature itself has been rumoured to cause madness and soul-deep tea cravings.
2) Contrive to find yourself shipwrecked while carrying the following in your pockets:
One month’s worth of nail clippings (yours or someone else’s)
A single baby tooth (any species)
A very sharp fishhook
A small bottle of rum
A memory stolen from an elderly relative (must be an actual relative, although if you are lacking in these a memory borrowed from a badger and an ivory hairgrip will substitute well)
It is preferable to be shipwrecked on a night with a moon. Once shipwrecked you must follow the moon. So long as you have not lost any of the listed accouterments, you will find a road of moonlight to walk along. There will be beings, dear traveller, that demand tolls. Be very, very careful about what you give up; I heard a tale about a venturer… Well, you are so set on going and I would hate to dissuade you. What happened? Well, she traded the wrong thing to the wrong guardian, you see; the outcome was not pretty.
3) On a windy day, with the sun shining and clouds scudding over the sky, build a labyrinth. It need not be a large one, but the materials must be light. Walk it, turning back in every time you exit. If the wind changes the labyrinth, do not correct it. If the technique is working, you will find yourself walking in smaller and smaller circles, and getting quite dizzy. There will be a quite unseasonal mist, and a sound best described as a choir of snails trying to sing. Keep on walking, around and around and around… Side effects of this route include ending up somewhere else entirely, although they are likely to be more pleasant places than the intended destination.
Now, are you still sure you want to go?
This set of directions ( or love letter to Hopeless, Maine) was penned by the (frankly bloody amazing) Meredith Debonnaire. You can (and should) find her blog here.
Art by Tom Brown
Dear Mr Jones,
We are writing to express our displeasure with your report on the Children of Thasaidon’s annual feast of the lunar eclipse in last week’s Vendetta.
We were very distressed by your one-sided coverage of this year’s event.
You made it sound as if almost everyone present was some sort of deranged cultist, when in fact, the meeting was a philosophical and spiritual conference aimed at raising awareness of our beliefs.
We feel that the worship of The Demon Lord Thasaidon has been demonized since we arrived on the island and this article doesn’t help matters!
Implying that we are a secret society, and referring to us as a “lunatic fringe” in your article was misleading and insulting.
First of all, the feast was not limited to a “fringe group” of one particular religion, but had the support and participation of a broad cross-section of this island’s community.
Nothing was said about the charity raffle, children’s workshops or free auguries from our seer – for which, I would like to point out, we didn’t charge a penny. In fact, your article seemed to focus on one minor incident in which a rather excitable member of our brethren plucked the still-beating heart from a goat and howled at the moon (all done in a good-natured spirit of fun I might add).
This was hardly what the feast was entirely about. In all, your coverage was so inaccurate that it could lead one to believe that your publication has significant prejudice against religious groups, regardless of their activities.
Furthermore, each time I try to get through to your office telephone number to put our case forward, Mr Jones, you act as though I were an annoyance!
An apology is in order. You should consider the ramifications of such irresponsible reporting, which will surely not go unnoticed by the public. As for the undersigned and those who were in attendance, we have lost confidence in the credibility of your news reports. We hope you are interested in regaining this confidence and look forward to your correcting the problem.
Kindly retract your statements and apologize. We understand that it may be difficult for the island’s sole local newspaper to be impartial in reporting such matters, but impartiality is important if you wish to have any credibility at all.
Chief Hierophant of The Church of The Children of Thasaidon, The Blood-Coloured, Jackal-Headed Lord of the Seven Hells of Zothique. (Bingo every Saturday).
This gem was brought to you by none other than the esteemed MR Charles Cutting. (Who is no stranger to dark regions and has explored such places as Kadath and environs)
Artwork by Tom Brown
I was saddened to learn, this week, of the sudden death of my old friend and sometime drinking companion Sir Fromebridge Whitminster, last of the great actor managers, tragedian and founder of the ill-fated theatre troupe The Hopeless Players.
Sir Fromebridge washed up¹ on to our shores many years ago from England, following a fall-out with the management of an esteemed London repertory company. He cited artistic differences as being the main reason for his leaving the land of his birth and that of his beloved Shakespeare.
From the moment he arrived in Hopeless he became convinced that the island had been The Bard’s inspiration for Prospero’s Isle in ‘The Tempest’, possibly gleaned from tales related by a sea captain who had ventured to the early colonies. On one occasion I challenged this assertion, quoting the words of Caliban:
Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not…”
It hardly sounded like the Hopeless I knew.
“Poetic licence, dear boy,” he said. “But the bit about the place being full of noise is deadly accurate.”
It would be impossible to celebrate the life of this man without mentioning the short-lived Hopeless Players; their history is not a particularly happy one. The troupe toured the island several times, aiming to bring Shakespeare to the people. The problem was that, by and large, not only the people but the the island itself were hostile to this intrusion of, what they regarded as being, largely incomprehensible language and convoluted plots.²
The tragedies which occurred within The Tragedies are too numerous to recall, but certain ones stand out. There was the memorable occasion on the North of the island when the profusion of ghosts on the stage made it impossible for an uncharacteristically elderly Hamlet to pick out which one was supposed to be his father. As it happened none of them were, as the actor assigned to the job was, at the time, being seduced in his dressing room by a passing succubus.
The following year saw the King Lear incident. In a less than salubrious town-hall the cry of “Out vile jelly” had a swarm of timid, diminutive and generally shapeless life-forms climbing out of the woodwork in the mistaken belief that they were being evicted from their homes. The final straw came during a production of MacBeth, or The Scottish Shambles, as the company came to call it. Sir Fromebridge had completely underestimated the potency of the witches’ spells when cast on this particular island, especially beneath a full moon. The sight of Birnham Wood being transformed into a window-box, Banquo’s sporran spontaneously combusting and Lady MacDuff sprouting bat wings and a tail was unforgettable. Any rapidly diminishing chances of the show going on were scuppered completely when a set of bagpipes scampered around the stage viciously attacking the surviving members of the cast. On the plus side, this was the only time any of their performances received a standing ovation. The applause was deafening and enough to waken the dead, had they not already been enthusiastically joining in from the second row of the balcony.
After that what remained of the troupe quickly disbanded and Sir Fromebridge spent his twilight years holding court in the snug of The Squid and Teapot, a quayside hostelry frequented by mainly British exiles. He was a familiar sight in his trademark flop-brimmed fedora and billowing black cape, sharing anecdotes of a flamboyant theatrical past and gossiping about his various leading ladies.³
To keep himself occupied he attempted to teach the local people the correct pronunciation of certain words, such as tomato, schedule, lieutenant and aluminium. Sadly, none of these really featured much in the vocabulary of the average Hopeless resident so all was to no avail. However, while his efforts to anglicise the natives came to nothing, the culture of the island managed to reach him in its various ways. In fact, the very last time I saw him he was lurching out of The Squid singing, almost in tune, a popular island ditty:
” You can bring Rose with the grotesque nose
But don’t bring Cthulu…”
To my knowledge he passed away soon after, slipping quietly away in his sleep. (4) He will be sorely missed.
1) Many believed him to be washed up long before he came to Hopeless.
2) And also unaccountable financial discrepancies concerning ticket receipts.
3) The chances are that he didn’t mention the critic who observed that
‘Whitminster believes himself to be elevating the stage, when in reality he is only depressing the audience’
4) This is not completely true. Eye-witnesses relate that he staggered out of The Squid and Teapot, following a particularly agreeable liquid lunch, to settle down to sleep upon, what he seemed to believe to be, a large smooth rock. This was in fact the belly of a juvenile aboo-dom-k’n, basking in the thin, greasy light of some unaccustomed sunshine. This sudden burden disturbed the beast which, hardly believing its luck, slipped quietly into the sea, taking its lunch ( that is, the artiste previously known as Fromebridge Whitminster) with it.
This post written by the esteemed Martin Pearson, proving that it does indeed run (or slither) in the family.
New residents discovered!
Hopeless, Maine sits in a particularly cold and damp pocket of Casco bay and is hardly a tropical isle. Thanks to the efforts of two recently discovered residents though, it has just become much, much cooler.
Derek Dubery and Lisa Cunningham-Black have heroically donned Hopeless, Maine attire and done a series of photos for us. We (it hardly needs to be said) are over the mist-enshrouded moon.
So, without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to our new found islanders, they are “Captain” Jerrimiah Thomson Flynn and Bonnie Black. (It’s unknown whether the Captain title is genuine or not) If Bonnie and Clyde were to have been born off the coast of Maine, it likely would have been these two. The Captain has at some point in his “career” led a group of local brigands, but they have disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Not long after this, he was seen in the constant company of the young lady pictured. When asked their feelings regarding the underground residents of the island, they expressed a willingness to go “which ever way the wind blows”.
This reporter is not entirely certain they can be trusted, but they are certainly stimulating company.
Gentleman of the Green house, Hopeless, Maine. Seeks Lady of supportive means for future relations. Must not be of lower classes, interest in anatomy and Babylonian texts preferred. Interested parties should leave details along with a quartz crystal in a favour of their choice, at the crossroad oak past the Inn. Full moon essential.
The Dowager McAdams, formerly of Suffolk, England. Current resident of Hopeless, Maine. Seeks suitable discreet Gentleman with good blood stock, unsullied reputation and minimal deformities by wart. Must like cats, lace and water lilies. The ability to swim is no longer necessary though steadiness underfoot would be a boon. Enquiries by postal correspondence to this publication only.
Incubus seeks lonely housewife for nights only the damned could dream of. Moonlit strolls along windswept clifftops your thing? You dream it, I’ll make it real for you. Want to make love on the beach as the tide laps up around your hips? I can take you there without ever having to leave the comfort of your bed. Let me bring your darkest desires to life. Let me break you on the wheel of sex and feed on you to your heart’s desire. Your body isn’t as important as your mind. That’s where I work my magic. Good sense of humour not essential.
Well to do couple seek partner for daughter struck down with a terrible case of ‘The Hysteria’. Doctor preferred or good understanding of the affliction. Family will provide safe haven and privacy, efforts are being made to procure suitable invention to alleviate the suffering. Discretion required, enquire at the Stocksmans hut on the outskirts.
I would like to meet someone I am not related to and have babies with them. Symmetrical people preferred. Left to right symmetrical, not back and front cos that’s bit weird. Own toes and fingers and none of anyone else’s. Replies to the Vendetta please.–
Lonely hearts contributed by
Of all of the flora and fauna of the island of Hopeless, Maine, the Spoonwalkers are a clear favourite with readers and people we meet at events. (They even have their own mythology…) One of our first readers, Theronody Krishna Isley, has created a sculptural Spoonwalker in a profoundly appropriate setting. To see more of her lovely work, you , could go… here!