Tag Archives: Hopeless Maine

Tales of the night potato

The Legend of Stern Ericsson

By Graeme Talboys

Ericsson’s field is given to grass now, sour and wiry. Even the passing geese refuse to stop off there on their journeys to wilder climes. Nothing but the thin, cold wind plays there, and its game is spiteful.

Few, now, know who Ericsson was. Some even doubt he existed at all. But he did. He dug the soil of that field in a daily battle, breaking the sod as it slowly broke his back. For many years he had risen daily to the task with the rising of the sun and worked until the sun was gone from the sky. He grew vegetables there in the strange soils on the haunted hill.

It left little space in his head for ought but the small compass of earth in all its forms and moods. Letters meant nothing to him yet he could read the history of the world in that patch of soil. Many say it drove him mad. Once placid, his eyes had, in latter years, begun to glow with dull and obsessive fire.

With gothic inevitability, it was the night of a full moon that others noticed his eyes had taken a different shine; the same night that he was first heard to mutter: “They are here. The night potatoes are here.”

Some put it down to drink which he consumed with a destructive steadiness. Others simply pointed to the fact that no matter how much he consumed, his walk was ever steady and his speech never slurred. And those who put it down to the strong ale soon abandoned the idea as he was heard muttering it over and over at all hours of the day long after he had stopped appearing in the tavern of an evening. And he had taken to carrying his large, sturdy fork wherever he went – a fearsome tool that had broken many acres and lifted many a vegetable.

In the end it was thought his long years of toil had broken his mind before it had broken his back. Until, that is, a child who was out after dark when he should have been abed and asleep came screaming into his parents’ kitchen with tales of angry potatoes, eyes aglow, scuttering along Ericsson’s field.

Roused, the village men turned out in force. Alas, too late. What heroic action had been fought, they could not tell other than by surmise. All they saw as they approached the field was Stern Ericsson silhouetted against the rising moon, laying about his person with his dread fork as he was assailed by the vengeful tribe of root vegetables, their eerie pale eyes aglow with vengeance for generations of their brethren.

By the time the villagers had reached the spot, the warrior horde of perennial nightshades had gone. As for Stern Ericsson, prone on the ground he had tilled for decades, it was a sight they would never forget – the horror and despair in his sightless eyes; his arms and legs planted in the ground, earth banked up around his corpse.

The winter that followed was hard on everyone. Ericsson’s harvest had upped and run and there was little appetite for potatoes that year. And for many years after. Even now they are an imported delicacy, a luxury only to be found in shipwrecks.

No one knows what made them turn, nor why they turned on Ericsson, but there his field now lies, the cold wind knifing its way through the rough grasses. And if you dare to venture along the lane at night, just as a moon is rising, you’ll see a mound in silhouette, the final resting place of Stern Ericsson.

http://www.graemektalboys.me.uk/

 

 

From Lou Lou Pulford

“Where d’you want me t’put ‘em Ma’am?”

Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding. Another one. I had asked for vegetables. I had asked this very clearly and slowly, stretching my mouth around each syllable after the fashion of all well bred English women travelling abroad. Again it seemed my earnest attempts at meaningful communication had fallen foul of the islanders’ intellect. I do not mean to say that the locals here are backward in any way, simply that years of isolation for any community will lead eventually to the evolution of a very particular strain of intelligence… and it was the brick wall of this esoteric wit that my own frazzled faculties have been thrown up against since my arrival three days ago.

It was only a month or two ago that my dear friend Nimue Brown sat in my little soup kitchen in Lancaster nodding and smiling and making encouraging noises at my, obviously foolish, suggestion of a holiday to the island of Hopeless, Maine. Being a witch in my country is never easy, as women are not permitted to practice magic. I manage to hide my identity by running a little soup kitchen for the street orphans of Lancaster but it is a terrible strain and so when I heard about the plight of the poor orphans of Hopeless I decided to hitch my soup cauldron to the back of my broomstick and see if I could lend a culinary hand – nothing makes one forget the misery and futility of a poverty stricken life like a hearty bowl of home cooked soup.

It was now midnight (ish) on the third day since my arrival and, having spent a good amount of energy explaining why ‘bottom of the garden stew’ is not a nutritious diet for a growing child and the last of my good will reserves arguing that ‘just because it came out of the sea does not mean it can be called sea food’, I was now faced with a man bringing me armfuls of wriggling, root-flailing abominations insisting that these were potatoes.

‘Night Potatoes, Ma’am’ he sounded both exhausted and inexplicably pleased with himself.

‘Oh…but they are…um…moving?’ I thought I had made it quite clear that vegetables should on no account move of their own volition – much less glare at the cook with glowing eyes!

My benefactor leaned in conspiratorially ‘ better than them Gnii Ma’am… and the Spoon Walkers… and the Post Meridian Cucumber… and them After Eight Carrots..’

It was true; ever since the soup kitchen had opened its doors I had been inundated with a dauntless stream of locals proffering their contributions to the pot (along with various blessings, charms, curses, death threats…)

I sighed, better perhaps to humour this gentleman and his Night Potatoes than risk him return with some more frightful offering. ‘Very well, thankyou, thankyou so much I’m sure I shall find…something to do with them.’ I smiled gratefully and closed the door, leaving myself distressingly alone with a kitchen full of sinister spuds, who were now congregated around the stove, blinking menacingly at me with probable murderous intent. I rolled up my sleeves, picked up a rolling pin in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other and thought fondly of the onions of home, once again it was going to be a long Hopeless night but I was determined that at the end of all the screaming and the torment, all the carnage and the blood, there would be soup.

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Local Woman Takes The Plunge

artistLOCAL WOMAN TAKES THE PLUNGE AND OPENS GALLERY OUT ON GEEZO’S BIGHT

Local artist, Fuschia Van Der Hvergulmir, has taken the plunge and opened a gallery out on the small bay known as Geezo’s Bight which is situated on the northern coast of Hopeless.

The designer, who has previously had her work exhibited in the town hall, makes jewelry and ‘objets d’art’ from items that she discovers in the pit near Geezo’s Bight.

‘I’ve been exploring the pit for a few years now’ Mrs Van Der Hvergulmir told Frampton Jones of the Vendetta ‘ I used to beach comb but that became problematic when an albino seal (at least I think it was a seal) got very territorial and took to chasing me away every time I went down to the beach.’

‘Then I discovered the pit when out for a walk with my husband and our dog, Pepper. I still haven’t got to the bottom of it yet!’ She laughs.

Mrs Van Der Hvergulmir said that she and her husband Glenn thought long and hard about opening her own gallery given the current bleak economic outlook, but decided she would regret it if she did not at least try.

‘I’m really excited’ she said.

“I’ve had a really positive response – fellow businesses have been particularly supportive – and so far we have had five customers since we opened our doors three months ago.’

Mrs  Van Der Hvergulmir has built a workshop at the back of the gallery so she can make jewelery while being on hand for customers.

The jewelry and ‘pieces’ themselves are somewhat hard to describe given the strange quality of the materials used. This reporter particularly liked a crouching figure made from a sort of crumbly pumice stone entitled ‘Lier-in-wait’ and also a necklace made of a dark viscous substance that gives off a dull brown radiance.

The Van Der Hvergulmir Gallery produces one-off commissions, including engagement rings and is open to the public on Saturday between the hours of 1.00pm to 3.00pm.

(This Vendetta contribution was written by Charles Cutting, of http://charlescutting.com/ author and illustrator of the most excellent graphic novel – Kadath. Art on this piece by Tom Brown.)

Salamandra and The PLM

These two fabulous dolls were made by Sabrina Beckstead and sent to us. Which gives me an opportunity to explain The PLM a bit.

sal-and-plm

In the first volume of Hopeless Maine, we never name the creepy blonde girl. In the script she’s The PLM – The Poor Little Me. Her name, and her very existence owe to a song by Eliza Carthy – Me and Poor Little Me. I started wondering what a Poor Little Me would be like as a separate entity, and thus the PLM was born.

Thank you Sabrina for the awesome crafting, these two dolls have cheered us on darker days and are a constant reminder of why we are doing this stuff. And yes, they do normally live in our mistletoe.

Join our Vendetta

The Hopeless Vendetta launched some years ago as an accompaniment to the Hopeless Maine webcomic. We had time to spare, and the idea of a weekly newspaper for the Island of Hopeless Maine, running alongside the webcomic, appealed. Of course with the webcomic uploading at a rate of 2 pages a week, the time didn’t always match up very well, but no one minded.

A thing happened, and it was a thing we had not anticipated. People started joining in. They gave themselves Hopeless-style names and characters and started posting comments. Island life expanded, and we were very excited about this.

Then work pressures, and life pressures, and living on a boat and having no electricity or internet most of the time pressures took over, and that extra post and extra drawing per week became too difficult, and we left the Hopeless Vendetta to languish.

Times change… the webcomic has gone, we’re published by Sloth Comics, and the Hopeless Vendetta stirs and shifts in a way that may cause some people to think of dead and dreaming elder gods…

One of the things that hasn’t changed, is the way in which people are moved to create Hopeless things of their own. It’s one of the things I love most about this project – I came in as a collaborator, so I know all too well the lure of the island, its strange inhabitants and moody possibilities. I love it that other people respond as I did and want to get involved.

And so, the Vendetta shuffles a bit, dust falls from its ungainly form. Life, or something that resembles life, returns.

We’re going to be using this space once again to explore the life of Hopeless Maine beyond the graphic novel series. We’re throwing it open to anyone who wants to share – art, music, stories, poems, cosplay, creations of any sort and shape that capture something of life on a haunted, troubled sort of island in a cold, cold sea.

Wave your tentacles if you want to get involved.

Celebrating 60 Years of the Vendetta

(Frampton Jones)

The Hopeless Vendetta reaches a remarkable milestone this week. Seventy years ago, Edgar Titus Prerogative arrived here from the mainland, enthused by developments he had seen there. According to his journals, Hopeless was a wilder place in those days, with society structured around the four founding families, and very little technology at all. At first unable to buy or make a printing press, my maternal grandfather erected a large board, painted it black and wrote news upon it in chalk. A tradition that continues to this day, as does the habit of writing personal comments upon it in response to local events.

 Five years later, Prerogative managed to buy a small press from the mainland, however, the ship bringing it floundered on rocks, and the press sank. Over the next year, my ancestor dived repeatedly and was able to bring up what he believed to be the greater part of the press, improvising whatever was needed to fill in the gaps. Only at this point did the issue of paper occur to him, and two more years passed during which he mastered the art of paper making. The first press produced copies one at a time, and was remarkably slow and cumbersome to use.

 Sixty years ago this week, the first Hopeless Vendetta went to press. It was a historical moment for the island, bringing the community together, facilitating public arguments, and allowing opinions to be widely aired. Edgar’s daughter married one Percival Jones, who took on the business of the press, inventing a new, faster device, and thence it passed to me. The future  of this publication lies, it appears, in the hands of Modesty Jones. God willing however, I shall maintain its noble tradition for many more years yet.

Youth Crime Rises

Owen Davies, caught red handed.

by Modesty Jones)

During this difficult time with so many folk being sick, young people have really been letting the side down. Vortigern Frog says that non-return of library books is at an all time high. He said ‘I understand its hard for people when they are ill, but I suspect some people of deliberately retaining books for their own nefarious purposes.’ Questioned further, he revealed that the worst offender is none other than Owen Davies, son of Reverend Davies. I caught up with the miscreant at his house, and challenged him about non-return of library books. Owen claimed he had intended to take them back and merely forgotten. I also note that that the young offender had a number of spoons in his possession and can only wonder if he is responsible for all these spoons going missing lately as well. Revered Davies told me he would look into the matter.

What does the future hold?

(Frampton Jones)

Back in my youth, people did occasionally leave Hopeless. Ships sometimes arrived entirely of their own will. Back in those days, we were more optimistic as a community, and a good deal better off. When did anyone last build anything new here? I imagine it must be a disheartening place to grow up. I offer these thoughts as a counterpoint to my nephew’s report. What are we doing to build a future for our younger citizens? What do they have to look forward to? Can we blame them for small crimes inspired by futility and despair? The weather has improved, and I encourage you to spare whatever time you can for the bridge project. Parents with wayward young sons, in need of hope and direction, are encouraged to send their lads along. We can give our young folk something to believe in!

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!