Tag Archives: Hopeless Maine

Mrs Beaten is judging your night-time activities

Despite the cold, Mrs Beaten lies with her arms outside the covers, pressing her hands against the side of her body in the hopes that they will not go numb. She understands that it is important to keep the arms, and therefore the hands, outside the covers.

People who put their hands inside the covers may end up fiddling about with their own bodies.

Mrs Beaten is not quite sure what the fiddling about would involve. She has a feeling that the body at night, the body under the blankets, is not the same as the body by day. Something happens down there. Something it would be better not to fiddle about with.

As she tries to distract herself from the cold, she wonders who else on Hopeless Maine has the decency to sleep in this way. So many of the islanders seem indecent that she supposes most do not. She imagines the decadent snuggling of limbs beneath covers. The lustful indulgence of putting personal ease ahead of morality.

She supposes other islanders fiddle about in the night with the unspeakable things that go on with their own bodies. She supposes that it is terrible, and the terribleness holds a fascination for her that she cannot help but revisit, over and over again.

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New Sea life discovered!

Your publisher may be cool, I grant you. Your publisher may be very cool indeed, *but* you will have to go a long way to find a publisher as cool as ours (Sloth Comics) Example- Our publisher-editor Nic Rossert has created and drawn a new form of Hopeless, Maine sea life. Here it is…

Now, Nic is a busy sort of chap. He’s got the publishing editing stuff to do, plus he is a comics creator (Steam Hammer, for instance) So… let’s take a job off his hands, shall we? WHAT IS THIS THING? Also- can we eat it? Additionally, what are its habits and nature??

 

Suggestions/ideas in the comments, please!

 

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

In which the island is invoked by Craig Hallam

Gentlefolk here gathered, I thank you for your attendance…and your bravery.
I introduce you to a place which, as a concept, evokes the untamed imagination, encourages fraternising with the dark and embracing of the weird; as a quirk of geography, cosmology and fickle theology, it has been known to shatter the mind and baffle the sensible.
(Luckily there aren’t any if that sort here)

Maybe this is your first time, perhaps this is your prophesized return, some might say you never left…
Either way, we arrive.

The day’s last embers fade into the horizon and Night awakens, stretching its lithe frame over the uncertain terrain of the island of Hopeless, Maine.

The stars do not twinkle above. They cajole. The shadows do not gather, or creep, but walk brazen on the cobbles.

Cottages knot together, hastily made by those who must constantly glance over their shoulder with little time for aesthetic or architectural standard. Only the knowledge that they need shelter. And soon.

Beside rune-etched doors, chimes tinkle on a breeze that isn’t there. Dreamcatchers twist above beds encircled with salt.

Part of the island’s eerie soundscape the sound of lapping waves on this forsaken pebbled shore, is a wordless lullaby sung by that which waits beneath the brine.
Whispers from the woods in a voice half-remembered, perhaps once loved, threatens sweets things to those who wander too close.

But not all inhabitants of Hopeless are so. Though they choose different weapons (rationality, faith, hearsay) they all stand against the What-might-it-bes and I’ll-never-tells that rattle the locks and skitter along rooves.
Make no mistake, there are no winners, here. Only those who survive a little longer.

Of course, none of this is any fault of the night. It is merely witness to all that happens below its silken arches. The only witness. As forgetfulness, here, is a tool of survival. Those who remember are doomed to ramble in step and word. Those who question, may regret the answer.

Sit back. Set your drink on the table before you,
lest your hands begin to shake.
Welcome to the impossible isle. Hopeless, Maine.

As the title suggests, this is an invocation of the island of Hopeless, Maine by the bloody fantastic (literally) author, Craig Hallam. It was read aloud as the opening piece of the Hopeless Vendetta Live during the Asylum steampunk festival. We all had goosebumps. If you have not yet encountered Craig’s work, you would do well dive into the Adventures of Alan Shaw. (The third and final book in this series is eagerly awaited in this household!)

 

Art by Tom Brown

Journal of Doctor Hedley Case

First Entry

I have found myself somewhat delayed in my jaunt to the colonies. Our ship ran aground in the middle of the night and gave us all a terrible fright! Fortunately I was able to get to the life boats in plenty of time, so much so in fact, that I was able to bring quite a few of my books along. I really must thank Mother dearest for splashing out on the top notch rooms so close to the lifeboats. I’m not sure how many of the crew made it out, but there does seem to be decidedly less of us, oh well!

Fortune smiles upon me a second time, the Island is inhabited! However, the locals seem very odd. They were eyeing us from a distance. But being the “man of the world” I am, I marched up to the crowd and introduced myself with all the gusto I could muster. “I am Doctor Hedley Case, pleased to meet you all!”

I won them over in an instant! I’ve never seen such a miraculous change in demeanour. “Doctor!?” they said “We’ve needed a man like you on the island” and helped to carry both my scientific journals and the more maimed of the survivors to the town proper.

Almost everyone seemed to want to buy me a drink, which would have been marvellous, but for the exotic beverages they drink here. What do you do to beer to turn it green? I could not identify a single flavour. Never mind, “when in Rome” and all that. Fortunately, my public school background means I have excellent gag reflex control and could act perfectly natural.

I have a feeling I’m going to really enjoy my time on this jolly little Island.

Second Entry

Tragedy and woe. All that was looking up is now obscured by the bleak sphincter of despair.

One of the townsfolk insisted on escorting me to where he said I would be “working,” as if a man of my breeding did such things. But try as I might to explain to the little chap that I would not be staying on the island for long, he seemed impervious to the very notion I would ever leave.

He took me to the residence of one Doctor Willoughby. What an inscrutable fellow. Before he had even laid eyes upon me I’m sure he had made his mind up to dislike me.

He was curious to know all about my Doctorial experience. So I regaled him on all my academic achievements. Studies into the darkest regions of the mind! Modern science attempting to dissect the human soul and understand its inner workings. Truly I stand as a man at the threshold of a bold new frontier.

His reply wounded me as if he had cut me with one of his wretched knives. “So you’re not a real Doctor”. What backwards terrible dark age have I been marooned upon?! It was worse than talking to Father. Psychoanalysis maybe in its infancy, but to dismiss it so callously as poppycock?! The silly old fool! This man has clearly never read the works of Cidney Fraud.

Well, that was it. The whole town changed before my eyes. Where everyone had been so generous in offering me food and bed to sleep upon, now they are asking me to kindly remove my belongings and shove off!

It’s a bloody good thing my pursuit of knowledge has given me such a robust and enduring mind. A normal man would have been rocked by such harsh rejection. Yes, he’d be rather upset I’d say.

Third entry.

*This page is indecipherably water damaged. As if someone has spent a great deal of time crying over it.*

Forth entry.

I have found a mostly unoccupied and mostly upright abandoned house in the less trendy part of town. I think this will suit me just fine as temporary accommodation. By my reckoning it will be two weeks before our ship is reported missing. A Further four weeks before news could reach Mother, and then a further three weeks till rescue. I just have to hold on until then.

Fifth entry.

Catching something to eat isn’t working out as well as I envisaged. If I am going to eat again in the next few months, I am going to need a job. It can’t be that hard. I’m sure I have a cousin who had a job for a few weeks; it practically runs in the family. I shall play to my strengths. I’m going into town to find someone mentally disturbed that needs analysing.

Sixth entry.

Off to a good start! This town has a wealth of disturbed and unhappy people. My first patient, Mr Derrick Jones is a veritable encyclopaedia of problems. He is plagued with vivid nightmares that his mother is trying to feed him to a sea monster with big wavy tentacles.

Well, it couldn’t get any more rudimentary than that for dream interpretation! So I confronted him head-on. To rip the bandage off, as it were!

“I say, good fellow, do you worry about the size of your Johnson?”

He was so overcome with both conscious and subconscious emotional realisations that he accidentally lashed out punching me square in the face. After committing such a social faux pas he stormed off, no doubt overwhelmed by the revelation I bestowed upon him.

Fortunately, I have decided that all consultations must be paid for in advance to mitigate the effects of such extreme reactions. Thus tonight I dine upon something very turnip like but with more eyes.

Seventh Entry

Hugo survived the shipwreck! He was found later than the rest of us on account of there being no room in any of the lifeboats. The poor Devil had to swim to shore. The careless chap has lost an arm somewhere along the way. He never did seem to have any luck the poor old bean.

He was ranting about a malicious rumour among the survivors. Apparently, someone took up a large proportion of a boat with books, leaving less room for people.

I have moved my books to the attic for safe measure. Unbalanced people can sometimes overreact in preposterous ways when they are emotional. I suspect Hugo may have been breastfed for too long the poor fellow.

Still, the public school boys are reunited! What a force we shall become. I have already encouraged him to start to repairing and maintaining the house if I am to peddle my skills to earn us coin.

Eighth entry.

Hugo really is being impossible. He is taking forever to fix the hole in the kitchen wall. His excuse? “It’s very difficult to hammer in nails with only one arm”. With such an attitude he will never overcome adversity. I am refusing to help him in anyway so that he can grow as a person. He really is very lucky to have such a supportive friend in me.

Ninth Entry.

I’m having a surprisingly difficult time in helping the residents of Hopeless Maine. None of them seem to be responding to my therapy sessions in the way that’s laid out in Fraud’s case studies. Indeed, I felt so exasperated listening to Mrs Cheesewright’s problems I exclaimed “Well I think I would be pretty traumatised if I had been through all that! That’s ridiculous!” She said it was the most helpful session yet, even though I didn’t in anyway manage to connect the trauma to her parents. I am at a loss.

Tenth Entry.

The residents of Hopeless Maine are clearly too demented for just a “talking cure”, I’m going to have to find helpful medicines on the island through trial and error.

Hugo isn’t talking to me at the moment. He lost an eye trying to hold a nail in place with his teeth. The trauma is causing his anger to misdirect at me of all people. Sometimes, being the only person to truly understand the human mind can be a lonely existence.

Eleventh Entry.

I have selected an interesting assortment of plants, fungi and …other to experiment with their possible medicinal effects. I shall begin trials today. I’ll show that so called Doctor Willoughby who’s qualified!

Twelfth Entry

The Ocean has been explaining to me why everyone is so unhappy. It’s the miasma in the air. I have created an air tight fortress by putting the duvet over my head and asking it to hold its breath.

Hugo has outdone himself being passive aggressive this time. He inflated his head to three times its normal size, melded into an armchair and then refused to do the washing up.

Thirteenth Entry.

I now see a massive flaw in my drug trials. I’m already a picture of perfect mental health. There can be no point in studying the effects of those drugs on me. I need to study the effects on someone who requires mental correction.

Fourteenth Entry.

I spotted Derrick Jones leaving something outside my front door this morning. He had left a human skull! How wonderful! I have longed for one of these for my office. I have begun drawing the diagrams on its delightful dome so I can be the proud owner of a Phrenology head. The sweet man must have felt dreadful after bashing me. Gosh, it feels really wonderful to be appreciated.

Fifteenth Entry.

The blue mushrooms with indigo fins are deadly poisonous. Another secret of this unforgiving landscape uncovered by yours truly.

Hugo’s funeral was a touching event. That Reverend Davis seems pretty glum though. I left a few of my cards at the orphanage in case he wants to make an appointment to talk about it.

The house seems much bigger and more solemn now. Still just as drafty! I shall have to get a man in to accomplish what poor Hugo could not.

Sixteenth Entry

That Damn Mrs Beaten! I go through the sufferance of attempting to explain psychoanalysis to a Woman, (which is of course completely futile) and she spurns my polite gesture and starts a damn crusade against me.

The front page headline of the Vendetta today reads “All feelings are obscene”, Mrs Beaten goes on to clarify that it’s okay to express feelings of moral outrage and at certain times disapproval and disappointment, especially where children are concerned.

She has smeared my practice as “nonsense at best” and at worst “corrosive to the moral fabric of society”. She asks, “If we start asking people how they feel, soon we might start asking them what they want! Where will it end?”

Well, this is me well and truly dashed. I always knew it would be a woman that would be the death of me, but this is even more depressing than even I dared imagine.

 

Here, we welcome the utterly brilliant poet, Rebecca Willson to the island. As this proves, she also has a penchant for comic prose! The art may have been done by Tom Bown (possibly)

Why Do I Paint Monsters?

 

They say I am veiled as the paintings in my attic

that I keep my life concealed like skeletons beneath white sheets

that only hair pins hold me together and a spinster’s habits

that I am pale because only tentacles touch my heart.

How little they know what goes on in my secret place,

my haven, where I keep my paintbox, my paints, my easel,

which always tells the truth whoever steps from behind the curtain

into the frame and by the steady brush of my hand coalesces.

Why do I paint them? You ask. Why do I keep their faces

emptied out with a candle above as a nod to their puttering souls

lit without a single match by flames that grow ever brighter

as this island gets more hopeless and I grow wiser?

My life has not been easy. Read this in my downturned lips –

this would not have been my first choice, but now they want me

to oversee the rules of a new game I am hiding my damp brushes

and paints away and smiling a small smile like a masquerade.

 

Words by Lorna Smithers, who we welcome to the island with this piece. I have had the honor and pleasure of doing the art for two of her book covers- The Broken Cauldron and Gatherer of Souls. It is beautiful writing of the sort that will change your internal landscape.  Please visit Lorna here.

 

Art- Tom Brown

The Jester

 

Riddle me this, riddle me that
What am I sowing under my hat?”

Gifting hallucinatory dead flowers
at the Bridge of Bottles underpass
The Jester bites his teeth
and swirls his swanky walnut hourglass
Jabbing japes and swastika shapes
he slinks the serried lanes
and covets nocturnal landscapes
with those knotty sweat-soaked veins
residents pass scornfully dumb
he amuses dogs and orphans
laughing and trustingly they come
as lambs to the terrible slaughter

“Riddle in laughter, riddle in tears
What am I knowing between my ears?”

Playing imaginary dead reality
at the cold and broken children’s home
The Jester tastes his tongue
and masks his manic antique metronome
Flaunting flouts and swiping clouts
he sinks the barley wine
and communes with gnarly snouts
with motives of ill design
naked and torn willingly shoved
the dispossessed son and daughter
hurting like they’ve never been loved
as fish out of turbulent water

“Riddle your heart, riddle your brain
Where are you going in Hopeless, Maine?

Here we welcome, bus driver, poet, artist, photographer, ponderer of the imponderable, worker of miracles- Derek Dohren to the island. We very much hope to hear from him again soon, as this is a brilliant addition to the lore of Hopeless, Maine.

 

Art-Tom Brown

In which Mrs Beaten is both confused and alarmed

It has come to my attention that some of the persons wearing trousers and sporting cropped hair are not in fact men at all! I had been making the perfectly reasonable assumption that anyone dressing like a man or possessed of locks that do not reach the jawline must of course be a man. However, yesterday I chanced upon three young creatures who were involved in such an indelicate conversation that the truth did not escape me! Women! In trousers! With short hair! And one of them had her hands shoved roughly into her pockets for good measure!

What next? Swaggering? How are the ladypersons of Hopeless Maine to tell if they are being courted by a proper boy or by another ladyperson? Now that I’ve started looking for this, I find I’m not at all sure who are the boys and who are the girls dressed up as boys, and who has linked arms with whom does not clarify matters at all. Could they be doing it on purpose? Why would they do that? It is most confusing.

It led me to the uneasy possibility that the reason some of the women of Hopeless Maine look so oddly proportioned is that they could be men, wearing dresses.

Then it struck me (oh, horror) that the reason Doc Willoughby always sounds as though he is putting inverted commas around the ‘Mrs’ when he addresses me, might be because he thinks I am in fact a chap wearing a dress. Oh, the shame of it! And I can hardly go round telling people that I’m not a chap wearing a dress because it will only serve to confirm whatever suspicions they now have.

Hopeless Tourist Officer

Thank you, dear people Now let me explain

That if on Hopeless
You wish to remain

I am the chap
With whom to converse

The truth you will hear
For better or worse.

You have probably formed An impression so far

Of darkness and fog
Of the world left ajar

And while it is true
That things can look drear

There are many joys
To be found living here.

Uummm!
Ah!
The landscape is stunning

When viewed through the murk Which lends it a grandeur

And hides things that lurk On the edge of your vision

That watch as you pass That rustle the bushes

And slither through grass Behind you

Speaking of which
If you’re into your plants

The flora is…nice
Though some of it chants

In dialects dead
The language of dust

It whispers to both
The true and unjust

Constantly

Errr!

The animal life
Is completely unique

And whether it has
Toothsome grin or sharp beak

Tentacular grip
Or glowing green eyes

There are certainly habits To keep, it is wise

Lock your damn spoons away

We have many graveyards Really – a lot

So we know where our dead are As often as not

It’s not just the fact
That the corpse can up sticks

But the graveyards themselves
Are not geographically fixed

And the dead wander

The truth is, dear friends
To survive here you’ll need

A guidebook, a reference Something to read

That will tell you the rules Of this Island so odd

And give you some help
On the paths you have trod

And so we have made THIS…

A game, it is true
That will guide you

Prepare you,
And give you a clue

How best to endure
On this island of mist

To visit this land
And put up a fist

That cries NO to the demons Which infest our dreams

And wards off the vampires Who suck at our seams

To give us some hope
That out of despair

Something less Hopeless Can take to the air.

Written by the rather brillaint Keith Healing (Creator of Travels in Hopeless-the impending Hopeless, Maine RPG and all around lovely chap) Illustrated by Jacinta Haden-Newman who was our work experience student for a week. I see a bright future ahead of her! (DO look closely at the detail of the lighthouse)

The Prospect of Joy

 

Lady Alison Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew had a very long name, very long head of hair, two very long legs, and came from a very long line of somewhat eccentric English explorers and adventurers. Her grandfather, Allan Tiffany Addleby Pettigrew, had crossed the artic by balloon, and one of her distant ancestors, one Wilfred Addleby Pettigrew, had discovered the fabled Isle of Black. (Which subsequently disappeared in a rupture of the ocean floor sometime in the Sixteenth Century.) And although Alison shared her surname with her illustrious, intrepid and inspired ancestors, there was one important aspect about her that was thoroughly different – her sex. She was the first of the Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew women to take up exploring. She was a very determined young lady, and despite it being unfashionable and ill-advised, she was heroically determined to outdo all her masculine predecessors, or at the very least, equal their dauntingly impressive list of achievements.

To this end, she spent her formative years pursuing all those pursuits that admirable, well- prepared, professional explorers should. She learnt about geography, astronomy, navigation, survival, baritsu, fencing, horse riding, negotiation and more. She mastered several languages from both European and Eastern cultures, and a number of classical writing systems. She also kept herself physically fit, through hill-walking, cycling and workouts with dumbbells, medicine balls and a fitness instructor named Henry. (She always smiled when she mentioned him – I’m still not sure why).

As you might imagine, all this was wildly unusual for a lady in society, and it was regularly remarked upon with tuts being muttered almost constantly when she occasionally mingled with the country’s social set. Partly because of this, but mostly because she had little time for her fellows, she withdrew early on and kept herself to herself. This was easy enough to accomplish, given that she lived in a large mansion in the English countryside surrounded by servants, landscaped grounds and a certain air of mystery.

As I was her nephew and perpetually intrigued by this “mad” and possibly dangerous lady, I would visit her often. I found her neither mad nor unfriendly; she insisted I called her Auntie Ally, which amused her – probably because she considered herself far too young to be an auntie. (Her brother – my father – was considerably older than she and had married, and then fathered, young).

She liked to tell me of all the activities she had planned, the trips she had been on, the strange people she had encountered and the effective use of a garotte. I was captivated by her.

One hot June day, she told me of the strange rumours she had heard of a mysterious island. No-one was quite sure where it was, but the few scattered accounts she had managed to put together had indicated three things. Firstly, that it was always surrounded by a strange mist. Secondly, it seemed that there were a handful of tales of people and ships disappearing near the Island – but remarkedly – not one of anyone actually returning. Thirdly, a solitary scrap of parchment from a fifteenth-century, fire-damaged collection of

books briefly mentioned a mist-covered island and then one other discernible word had been shakily scrawled in the margin; “Hopeless”.

Whether this was a comment on the search for the Island, the chances of returning from it, or more poetically perhaps, the name of the Island, Auntie Ally really didn’t know. But she became irrevocably intrigued by the possibility of its actual, physical existence.

She was planning an expedition she told me. “Can I come?” I asked.
“No” was the simple, but firm reply.

And that was that.

I was at college by this time and at a crucial stage of my education. So, most unfortunately, it was quite a while before I could find the time to visit again, and by that time Auntie Ally’s disappearance was in all the newsheets.

The following are the collected accounts from her personal papers, recovered from her exploratory vessel. I have omitted the more routine entries and those of a personal nature.

–– •◊• ––

I, Alison Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew, depart now, on a great adventure. I do so in the spirit of my many illustrious forefathers and the greats of exploration; Columbus, Polo, da Gama and others of their ilk. I would be modest – but modesty has no part in a great exploration; I have studied them all and I know that only through a steadfast will and an iron determination did they manage to succeed in their endeavours.

And so I set off now, my quest fixed firmly in my mind. I was fortunate that a relative owned a number of merchant ships, and a suitable vessel was hired for the conveyance of my very own transport of delight – the submersible, The Prospect of Joy. It had taken three years to build and was designed by the finest submarine builder in Europe – monsieur “Eau” Cousteau. Whilst I had supervised its construction at Chatham and had insisted on some modifications of my own, I cannot claim responsibility for its magnificence. And although it was a one-woman vessel, it was quite large – for I had ensured that plenty of fuel and food could be stored on board. It incorporated a number of truly revolutionary devices – the most impressive of which, was the atmosphere recycling unit – this patented and highly secret apparatus cleaned the air and allowed the submarine to stay in its natural environment under the water for weeks at a time. I am looking forward to seeing if it’s endurance would be matched by its captain. For in maritime tradition I was now Captain Pettigrew – yes, that has a certain ring to it – almost heroic I think!

–– •◊• ––

We have been asea for many days now – I have finally become accustomed to the roll of the ship and the nature of the changing seas. The Captain tells me we are about halfway. Of

course, he doesn’t know exactly what we are halfway to – he only has a longitude and a latitude to work with. Indeed, there may well be nothing there, but the clues I have pieced together point to that spot if they point anywhere at all.

Why a submarine I hear you ask? After all, it would surely be easier to discover an island in a boat? Well, the tales I read spoke of many shipwrecks, some quite ancient, and I wanted to see if I could find these and use the submarine’s equipment to recover whatever treasure was still extant. And the number of shipwrecks suggested treacherous waters for a surface vessel, and likely hostile natives – it was a matter of record that savages in war canoes had caused the fateful end of many a sea-going expedition. I shiver now, even to think of it – tall, strong, muscular, dark-skinned natives attacking the ships and dragging the helpless passengers into their canoes and then doing who knows what to them, whilst fires rage, native drums beat and strange substances are inhaled. I often lie awake at night thinking of it…

A submarine, on the other hand, may well be able to investigate the seas around the island whilst remaining undetected by local miscreants. And there was yet another reason – the sketchy accounts I had read spoke of strange sea creatures like none seen anywhere else on God’s Earth. Perhaps I could become the first to discover a new species – to document them and classify them. I must admit, the prospect filled me with an almost sensual feeling of anticipation. But the final reason I chose a submarine was simply childish fun – travelling under the water like Verne’s Captain Nemo would be immensely exciting!

–– •◊• ––

Finally, oh finally, we are here. As much as an empty patch of ocean can be a here. There is nothing on the Captain’s charts. I am suddenly reminded of Melville’s Moby Dick; “It is not down on any map; true places never are.” But, there is a curtain of mist in front of us – halfway to the horizon. The Captain has become quite agitated and is insisting we turn back. “There is nothing here!” he protests – but I assure him, the mist is the sign that I have been seeking. He refuses to lower the submersible into the water citing my womanly frailty and delicate beauty – why, I do believe he is sweet on me! I remind him of his contract, the money accorded to his account and afford him a kiss on the cheek and with that he orders his men to do the work whilst hiding his blushing cheeks from them.

–– •◊• ––

At last, it is time and I climb down, through the hatch and into my new temporary home, waving cheerily to the assorted sailors watching bemusedly from the rail. I reduce the buoyancy, throw the lever to disconnect the cradle and drift off into the unknown – free of all restraint and feeling a truly unique freedom to explore.

–– •◊• ––

It’s the end of the first day – a routine day. I have been spending most of it ensuring I was fully familiar with all the submarine’s systems, equipment, layout and living arrangements. It goes without saying that I had trained for this – I am not a foolish person, and proper planning was a topic close to my heart, but truly nothing can prepare you for an actual expedition – no matter the circumstance or mode of transport. I surfaced to signal to the ship that had so recently been my home and that I had now left a short distance behind – letting the captain know I was fine and everything was as expected. I took the opportunity to prepare a simple meal and sat carefully on the deck of the Prospect to eat it under the darkening sky. Later, I submerged, anchored the vessel in the currently placid depths and repaired to my cosy berth.

–– •◊• ––

Today, I had planned to skirt the mist covered area – looking for any signs on the ocean floor or in the undersea fauna and maritime life that the environment was changing and an island might be nearby. I rose early and manoeuvred my craft to run parallel with the edge of the mist. And here was my first surprise, the water in the distance was noticeably darker than that I was currently travelling through. Whilst ahead of me the visibility was good – here a shoal of small fish, there a solitary squid, below some modest coral; to my right side – starboard if you will – there was only an inky black greenness with occasional swirls of lighter grey-green water. The difference was striking.

–– •◊• ––

I had travelled around the misty area for three days, and I hadn’t been able to discern a shape to my path. By always keeping the mist on my right, I imagined I would circumnavigate the area in two days at most – given the lack of any landmass on the charts of the area, any island would surely have to be correspondingly small.

–– •◊• ––

It is now the fourth day of my trip around the island – for I am now convinced that an island does indeed lie at the centre of the mist, although, truth be told, I cannot place a finger on why I feel that so strongly. Navigation has proved difficult. At first, I thought only to circle the area of mist – feeling sure that I would return to the start and find the ship waiting for me. And although I have steadfastly kept the mist on my right, I have not returned to the ship’s position, or if I have, then the ship is no longer there. Perhaps an emergency has compelled them to return to the nearest port. I was not worried, the ship’s captain was beguiled enough to return for me, I had plenty of supplies, and if I was in real trouble, there was always the Island…

–– •◊• ––

Waking up this morning I found to my astonishment that the misty area was now to my left. I checked my instruments, but there were no signs that my little underwater ship had been turned around in the night. (My compass had long since proved useless – which would help to explain why so many vessels ran aground in this area). I resolved to surface that evening and check the stars.

I had been inching closer to the edge of the darker waters and occasionally I would catch a glimpse of a mast or a fragment of broken hull. Indeed as I am writing this, I can espy a piece of rudder just visible in the murk. It seems I would have to leave the safety of the clearer waters and venture beyond if I wanted to seek out ancient treasure. I would not be long – just a quick dip in. But I probably shouldn’t, something there is not quite right.

–– •◊• ––

Night-time – I have surfaced, but the night sky is full of constellations I do not recognise. Admittedly, there are wisps of cloud – or is it mist? – obscuring parts of the sky. I tried to force the stars into shapes I knew – but they did not oblige. I could not explain this, and I was struggling with it, but then – The Plough! Yes – a constellation I recognised – the first I learnt as a child. I hung on to this, despite the lack of other signs, I let the familiarity of the Plough reassure me, and I retired to my berth and slept.

–– •◊• ––

In the morning I realised that I still did not know where I was exactly. It was strange – part of me found that disconcerting – almost frightening, and yet a part of me found it exciting, after all, I could always land on the island and gain directions. Hopefully it will not come to that.

–– •◊• ––

There were things moving in the dark. Curious things. Strange things. There would be a flash of serrated fin or a brief sighting of a split tail, and even now – a dark mass, which as it came closer, was revealed to be hundreds of small fish I think. Yes, fish. Let’s say fish. I was very close to the dark water now, and as the fish turned I saw a rippling glitter which I thought most beautiful. That was, until I realised that it was hundreds of sets of wildly angled teeth that caused the effect. I wanted to see more – to know more. They looked dangerous. But you must take a risk to learn, must you not? Surely the risk is too great? But science! I should venture in for science. No, no, I should be cautious, history tells us that many an expedition failed through rash decisions.

–– •◊• ––

I feel I must learn more, the tantalising impressions of wrecks and strange, odd, well, weird really, marine life seem to be exerting a strange pull on my intellectual self, my curious self. I was suddenly reminded of a cat one of the servants had, many years past. It was forever chasing and catching frogs, and one day it had decided to investigate the well in an exploration that did not end favourably for the poor cat. Yes, my feeling self is ill at ease in these waters. I sense a sadness, a foreboding, a dark presence. But that’s just nonsense. I must investigate – after all, I’ve come all this way…

–– •◊• ––

I realise I have lost all track of the days that have elapsed since I launched from the ship, I can’t even bring myself to surface to gauge the time of day. The Prospect of Joy is touching the darker waters now on the starboard side, creating weird little eddies in the murky wall of water. Water which even seems physically different, exerting a greater drag on that side of my craft, so I am having to compensate in the trim and the heading to keep the Prospect from spinning around. I am strangely torn – half wanting to end the suspense and sink into the velvet green black darkness, half wanting to run away. Although, there is precious little space in the submersible to get very far on foot.

–– •◊• ––

I have not slept well. Strange dreams have been visited upon me and haunt my waking hours too. I am not a religious person, but I found myself praying last night. Praying. Preying. Preying on my mind.

I need to pull my self together and be the great explorer that is my destiny… or leave. Yes, I must leave. I don’t want to be a cat. My mind feels so woolly – what is wrong with me?

Leave, immediately….
…Or soon at the very least…

…But not before I examine, capture, erm… take a sample of the water, it is in my head I think, therefore I am Ishmael. Sorry? Who said that?

Is it too late? Can I still go? In. Out. Where is my hat?
Onwards. Away. To the Island or to my home? Where was my home?

The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. I must anchor, go full speed, dive, surface. Swim, relax. Oh – I just don’t know anymore? So difficult to think. In two minds. To decide. Today. Too much. I must get a grip. A moment of clarity…

…So can I escape?

Or is it hopeless?

–– •◊• ––
That was the last entry in my Aunt Ally’s notebook.

At around the same time, I had received word she was missing, and immediately mobilised the family’s resources to find her. There was no trace of the boat that had given her submarine a ride, but by chance, they had encountered another ship the day before my aunt had launched into the sea, so we managed to determine a start point for our search.

After three days we found The Prospect of Joy. It was bobbing on the surface just in front of a wall of mist. I was a most superstitious person, and so arranged to have the vessel grappled from a distance and then reeled in. Once we had lifted it on board I wrenched open the hatch, expecting the worst. And the worst was what I found.

At this point, you may be forgiven for imagining that we found a ravaged body, some inhuman horror, or no body at all. But what we found was far worse.

Aunt Ally was lying in her berth – apparently asleep, the picture of peacefulness, not a mark upon her. We brought her out and laid her on the cot in the Captain’s cabin. It was a while, but eventually, she opened her eyes and I breathed a sigh of relief. That feeling quickly drained from me and became deep dismay as she turned to look at me. Her face was entirely blank, her eyes devoid of the normal human spark. She sat up and we fed her, but she said not a word.

It has been six months since that fateful rescue, and Alison’s condition hasn’t changed. She breathes, eats, sleeps – the basic movements of life, but there seems to be no-one there. I cannot look her in the eye – the emptiness chills my soul. Her body is physically present – but there is no Aunt Ally – she is simply not at home.

Having read her account and being close enough to that mist to feels it’s power, I have my own fanciful ideas of what has happened. I am no scientist, and I fear if I fully state my thoughts out loud I would be laughed at. But even so, I will say that I just have this feeling that Aunt Ally was left behind that day we rescued her. Where she is, I do not know. What form she now takes, I can only fantasise.

I am having The Prospect of Joy refitted to my own design – for I am resolved one day to return and search for her – no matter the personal cost.

But, whatever has happened to her, I just pray it’s not Hopeless.

Written by Keith Errington who has joined us on the island for the first time with this fine piece. (we hope he will return as soon as may be)

Art-Tom Brown

The Perilous Life of a Reviewer

A warning here (lavishly illustrated with photos) from the frighteningly brilliant Nils Visser. It may be wise to prepare to defend yourself (and your book) before sitting down to read Hopeless, Maine. Nils is the author of Amster Damned, (which I loved!) among other things, also,  he is apparently handy with a cutlass.

 

“Upon my first attempt to mind me own business and settle down for a good read of Hopeless, Maine SINNERS, I was blissfully unaware of the dangers posed…ere I knew it a slithering serpent with many rows of razor-sharp teeth materialised and attempted to snatch the graphic novel away from me. Fortunately, I’m skilled with a cutlass, and sliced the dastardly creature into sushi. I was given no chance to recover, however, as a first tentacle wrapped itself around the book, announcing the appearance of a far more dangerous creature. All I can say, never try to wrestle with an angry octopus. I have retreated, but have vowed: I’ll be back!”