Tag Archives: Keith Errington

The First Cutlery Case

By Keith Errington

If you have a problem,

if no one else can help,

and if you can find him….

maybe YOU can hire…

The Cutlery Detective

Phillip Fork, The Cutlery Detective, was excited. His new venture in the role of private investigator was only a week old and already his first case was filed away. Well, it wasn’t really a cutlery case, and he did have to refuse it, but nonetheless it was a good omen, he thought.

He had been called to the cottage of Douglas Patch one morning and wasted no time in interviewing the man. Unfortunately, it turned out that Doug’s prize spade had gone missing during the night and he was distraught, in his own words, “It was a lovely digger that one, couldn’t have asked for a better tool. Lovely green handle it had, and a nice matt black blade. Not likely to find the likes of that again – not round here anyway.”

Phillip sympathised, but he had to explain that it simply wasn’t what he did – he was The Cutlery Detective you see, not the Garden Tool Sleuth. The poor man offered him lots of money, but Phillip stood fast – after all, you were never going to succeed in business if you didn’t specialise.

And fortune delivered for Phillip, for within two days he received a message that some spoons had gone missing at no 9 Tendril Drive. The road was a small group of cottages, actually not that far from Mr Patch – maybe he had mentioned the cutlery detective to a neighbour? Phillip thought this was a good sign – if there were that many crimes in such a short space of time in such a small area, then surely there must be hundreds across the island happening every day?

Phillip wasted no time in following up the lead. He found a cottage with a broken gate – half hanging off its hinges, but still with a number on it hanging on by a single screw at the top. Phillip glanced down briefly – saw the number nine – and walked confidently up the path.

He found the front door slightly ajar. How thoughtful, remarked Phillip to himself, they were clearly expecting me. He entered the hallway but was taken aback by the untidiness of the place. A painting was askew on the wall and a Writhing Plant in a small pot had been knocked off its stand.

Phillip righted the stand and carefully avoiding the rustling leaves, put the pot back in place. He then went on to straighten the painting. That’s better he thought.

Phillip thought it odd that there was nobody to meet him, but then he realised they must clearly know of his reputation and therefore trusted him. And obviously, they were thoughtful enough to stay out of the way and let him get on with his work.

He passed a couple of open doors – to his left was a dining room, unremarkable except for broken cabinet containing just empty display stands. These people were both clumsy and untidy thought Phillip. Why there was glass everywhere. He avoided the room and looked through the doorway on the right. On a chair was a middle-aged man, clearly a busy butcher, as he was fast asleep, and his chest was covered in dried blood. Well, a hard-working man deserves his rest, observed Phillip, and moved down the hall to the kitchen at the end.

Now here was a crime scene, thought Phillip – yellow curtains and blue wallpaper – what were they thinking? His eyes caught sight of an open drawer. Aha! It was the cutlery drawer! Phillip drew a breath, flexed his fingers, stretched his hands out and crossed the room.

The drawer was neatly compartmentalised with a section for every item. Disappointing, he mused, not a single spoon was missing, just this empty section here – possibly a large knife? Phillip sighed, he found knives boring – so straight and uninteresting compared with the sexy roundness of a beautifully curved spoon. You could only cut things with a knife but a spoon – well, it just had so many uses.

Nonetheless, there was no denying that a knife was cutlery – even if this one was of some size – possibly even a carving knife. He retraced his steps and took the stairs to the bedroom to see if there were any clues there. But there was nothing, just a bedroom that its owner was clearly in the middle of re-organising – drawers were on the floor, wardrobes were open and clothes strewn all over the bed. Nothing here, noted Phillip and made his way downstairs again.

He went out into the large back garden – a standard place to check when hunting for cutlery. Although this was his first real case, Phillip had obviously thought through the whole idea and had reasoned that many people took cutlery into the garden; a spoon in a mug of tea, a knife to help cut the rhubarb, a fork to prick the night potatoes, or the end of a peeler to ‘dibble’ a hole for dark bulbs. Obviously, many people did a number of tasks in the garden and after a while forgot about the temporary implement they had removed from the kitchen, and thus a common solution to the problem of missing cutlery was delivered.

As Phillip diligently searched the back garden, he noticed a freshly dug patch of ground – maybe there was something nearby. But all he could see was a digging implement lying on the ground. Well, chuckled Phillip to himself, Douglas was wrong, spades with green handles and matt black blades must be very common, for here was another one!

As Phillip continued his search of the large garden, he noticed a shed across the other side to him. Just at that moment, he saw the door open, and a man emerged carrying an old, dusty and almost certainly moth-ridden carpet, rolled-up and over his shoulder. He was headed back to the house. He looked a rough type thought Phillip, dirty, bruised and covered in fresh, dark stains. Clearly the gardener.

Phillip waved. The man stopped, seemingly startled, and dropped the carpet. Phillip hoped the man might know something and started walking towards him, but the gardener looked this way and that, then grabbed a large haversack lying next to the shed, and ran off, jumping over the low fence on the far side of the garden. Well, he must have been late for something mused Phillip. Let’s take a look in that shed.

And there, on the bench was the missing knife. The gardener had clearly borrowed it to harvest some beetroot as its blade was red along with the well-worn handle. Phillip shook his head – this is too easy he thought and took the knife back to the kitchen. Being careful not to wake the sleeping butcher, he carefully cleaned the knife using soap and hot water till it was gleaming again, and then replaced it in the proper place and closed the drawer. 

With a happy smile on his face Phillip left the house, carefully and silently pulling the front door shut behind him, and then closing the rickety gate as he left the property, not noticing the number falling off as he did so. It fell into the mud upright. A number six.

Meanwhile, Mrs Ansty who lived a bit further up Tendril Drive – at number 9 – was slightly annoyed and also disappointed, where was the infernal man? How could she make tea or eat pudding without spoons?

Back at his desk, Philip put his feet up, took a glass out of a drawer and poured some potent looking liquid into it. A good day he thought. He would send a bill along to number 9 tomorrow. Case closed.

Once upon a Hopeless, Maine

Being some words from The Keith of Mystery

When is a children’s book, not a children’s book? Why, when it’s a Hopeless, Maine children’s book of course.

One of the things I love about the world of Hopeless, Maine is its dark sense of humour. To be honest, I am not a big fan of straight horror, but horror with a twisted sense of fun – yep – that will get me every time! And I love playing with genres, tropes, memes, and subverting people’s expectations – which is basically what the world of Hopeless, Maine does.

And it’s that world, along with its creators Tom & Nimue Brown, that I find endlessly inspiring – responsible for generating so many bonkers ideas in my brain – usually late at night, and sometimes after beer!

So at some point, I was playing around with these random ideas and it occurred to me that the very opposite of the dark, frightening world of Hopeless, Maine, would be a happy, cheery, children’s book.

And then I thought – but what would a Hopeless, Maine children’s book be like? Well, clearly not like any other children’s book, that’s for sure! The idea led to some words, and once I had the story, I felt that I had to realise it in print. Fortunately, when I told Tom and Nimue about it they loved it – I distinctly remember Nimue’s reaction to it, which was to tell me I have a wonderfully warped and twisted mind.

The concept required something new in the way of an illustrative style from Tom – but luckily, he has worked on children’s books before – so he had a style in mind – at least for the beginning of the book. And his drawing, along with Nimue’s colouring, are perfect – wonderfully sweet and darkly dangerous, all at the same time.

I can’t tell you much more – that would give away the plot! But expect a story that starts all nice and fluffy and gradually becomes darker and more demonic!

The book Once upon a Hopeless, Maine is available to order from our Tales of Hopeless, Maine store.

And here’s a little taste of what’s inside…

Not for the faint-hearted part one.

Not for the faint-hearted

A tale in three parts by Keith Errington (AKA the KEITH OF MYSTERY)

Part one – a beginning and an end

Not much was known about Flora, she lived on the edges of what many in Hopeless just called ‘the town’ – but which was in essence little more than a sprawling, overgrown village. She kept herself to herself and had few visitors. A pale beauty, some suggested she must have suffered from a touch of tuberculosis in her youth – although others pointed out how unlikely this was, as tuberculosis was generally fatal – especially here on Hopeless.

Like many on the island, she was raised in the orphanage and when she came of age she went to work for Mrs Grangewurm – the laundrywoman, but she didn’t last as she started to suffer from syncope – she would faint at inopportune moments. At first, they lasted but a few seconds, and were a minor inconvenience, but over time they became more pronounced and poor Flora became embarrassed and unable to face either Mrs Grangewurm, her job or other people.

So she moved out to the seaward side of town, and somehow, she eked out a living doing washing and ironing for folks who couldn’t afford Mrs Grangewurm’s prices.

And that’s the scene set for our story.

— < ooo > —

Enter young Horace D’Arblay – a thoroughly disagreeable individual of the type usually found in Victorian penny novels tying ladies to railroad tracks for not paying their rent. Although he was brutish and gruff, he nevertheless paid attention to his appearance – his one and only redeeming feature. As if having a neat beard could really compensate for a life of nastiness, meanness and petty grudges. When his latest manservant ran away, he decided to do without and so he called on Mrs Grangewurm to have his collars starched and his trousers cleaned and pressed. There followed an extended argument over prices – which ended with Mrs Grangewurm almost pushing Horace out of her door (she was a tough one, that one), and this meant that Horace had to look elsewhere for sartorial satisfaction.

Asking around in his usual polite and diplomatic manner – that usually consisted of shouts punctuated by thumps – he eventually learnt about Flora and set off to visit her.

Horace arrived at Flora’s humble cottage early evening – the sun was thinking about leaving – but had yet to make up its mind. So there was still enough light to adequately illuminate Flora’s figure as she answered the door to several, unnecessarily loud and insistent knocks.

Even Horace – with his heart made of ironwood – was struck by her beauty. She had a perfectly proportioned face with large, limpid eyes, her skin was wonderfully smooth and almost translucent, and her small delicate hands moved gracefully as she opened the door to face the brute.

For the first time in his life, Horace was stuck for words but managed to mumble something about his trousers, and getting things stiff again. She beckoned him inside and he lay his collars and trousers on the table in the small front room.

Horace now regained his composure and spoke about the work he needed doing and the price he wanted to pay. Flora listened quietly to his demands and simply nodded. The light from the window caught her dress in such a way as to emphasise Flora’s figure, the smooth curves of her breasts lying underneath the thin cotton, and Horace felt a familiar rising of the blood. Horace had always got what he wanted – he never asked permission and never thought of others. Now, with his passion rising he wanted Flora.

He stepped towards her and grabbed her – she didn’t flinch, even though his intentions were plain enough – evident in his burning eyes. He leaned in to kiss her roughly and she fainted, going limp in his arms. Horace simply bared his teeth in an unsightly grin.

— < ooo > —

Are you imagining the hideous fate that is to befall Flora? Are you shocked, dismayed, truly horrified at the events that have come to pass in my story? But no, I am not that kind of writer. Let me continue…

— < ooo > —

Over the next few days, there were no sordid tales in the local paper, no funerals for fallen women, in fact, no stories related to Flora at all. Flora’s small band of loyal customers continued to get their needs met – no shirt went un-ironed, no clothes were left unclean. If anyone asked how Flora was (although they never did) they would have received the reply “same as ever”.

Over the next few months, tales of Flora’s beauty attracted a number of visitors whose motives were not entirely wardrobe-based. Some were young men who were too shy or too polite to actually do anything, but at least they came home smartly dressed with the most immaculate collars and clean, pressed clothes.

A second group were bolder and propositioned Flora – presenting flowers or other small tokens and asking her to walk with them, but Flora always refused in the most wonderfully polite and sensitive manner, and these considerate fellows left it at that – disappointed but satisfied that they had at least tried their luck.

Sadly, there was a third group – a few bold and brazen types who were cocky and self-sure, pushy and occasionally violent who didn’t understand the simple no and would go that one step too far, with no regard for the consequences.

— < ooo > —

In many societies, suicides would be remarked upon, they would be noticed amid much outrage and outpouring of emotions – why didn’t we do more? I wish I had just spoken to them. How could they be so inconsiderate? And the like. In civilised societies, suicides are rare – or at least rare enough to cause comment. Some sectors of society even consider them sinful and frown upon the practice perhaps hoping to stop practitioners repeating their offence. Not so in Hopeless, Maine where suicide is often seen as a valid option for escaping the island. In fact, one could truthfully say that death was pretty much the only option if you were bored with life on Hopeless, Maine. And deaths were surprisingly common as the many interesting obituaries attested to.

And so it was, that no-one really thought too much about it when Horace’s body was found washed up on the shore. He’d probably just walked into the ocean – a common occurrence amongst the lost of Hopeless, Maine; or perhaps he had jumped off of the nearby Corpulent Cliff – a site well-known for attracting those tired of what passes for life on Hopeless.

Our tale continues in Part two…

Why I ended up trapped in Hopeless, Maine

By Keith Errington

One of the wonderful things about Hopeless, Maine as a project is that the creators, Tom and Nimue, have opened up their world for others to play in. It’s a lovely, generous and munificent (love that word) gesture and it has resulted in some amazing and very talented people contributing to a glorious shared unreality.

And then I came along.

As many of you may know, I was responsible for the Hopeless, Maine Kickstarter last year where we launched two illustrated books, Nimue’s New England Gothic, and my own The Oddatsea. I thought I would write about how I came to write my story, the choices I made and why I made them.

The Oddatsea is actually composed of four short stories, that together make up the whole tale. The first was called The Prospect of Joy – and this is how it came about…

What attracted me to Hopeless, Maine? Was it the atmosphere? The dark humour? The weird creatures, amazing characters or the tentacles? There is no doubt I have come to love all those things, but if I am totally honest, it was actually the idea of playing in some else’s world that attracted me the most. I know I write best with limitations – give me some boundaries, some rules and I will creatively sidestep and subvert them. Basically, I like a challenge.

I had long wanted to contribute something, and my passion is for short stories. (Actually, my real passion is for a long novel, but my patience and attention span don’t seem to want to play ball!) Working for myself, and – fortunately – being very busy with work, meant that finding time to write was always going to be a problem. But in the beginning, I had an even bigger problem. I knew nothing about Hopeless, Maine!

Yep. I started my story knowing zilch, nada, nothing about the world in which my story was set. So that was my first challenge – how could I write a story set on an island I had never visited; metaphorically or otherwise? Oh alright, I had read the first graphic novel, so the one thing I knew was that you could never leave the island – and that was pretty much the only rule I was given when I asked Tom about what I could and couldn’t do. (Yes, I know I eventually broke it… twice!).

And that gave me an idea.

At what point did this mysterious power that stopped you leaving the island begin? It seemed to me that if your ship was in trouble off the coast – you were inevitably headed to Hopeless. But how far out at sea did the dreaded pull of Hopeless, Maine extend? It must end at some point? I started to think about a sort of aquatic Lagrange point – a point of no return. What would happen if someone travelled to that point and got stuck there – caught between trying to leave and the unnatural lure of the island?

My literary childhood had been all about ‘hard’ science fiction, Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Phillip K Dick, John Brunner, Richard K Morgan, David Brin, Herbert, – I was voracious, reading up to five books a week. Over time I read other science fiction (softer?) and eventually even other genres, but my earliest love was for science fiction. These days I also consider myself a steampunk – I just love that juxtaposition between history and mad science.

Oh, by the way – no spoilers lie ahead if you haven’t read The Oddatsea*.

I decided my story would have elements of science fiction and Victorian steampunk – harking back to Verne and Wells. But I also wanted it to fit with Hopeless, Maine – and for that, I drew on Lovecraft to a certain extent – his weird, literally maddening stories and dark sense of humour. (Well, I think he’s funny anyway).

I chose a female protagonist because I love strong women and it suited the story – I needed a rebel – someone who would go further – what could be more rebellious than a woman in Victorian society who is an explorer, an adventurer and takes no nonsense from anyone?

And I chose a submarine as her chosen mode of transport in the tradition of Verne and because I wanted something different – something that hadn’t travelled to Hopeless, Maine before. We knew ships became wrecked on the rocks of the island, but how would a submarine fare? It was a delicious unknown.

As I found time to write, you will be pleased to know I also found time to read all the graphic novels, and eventually as much of the Hopeless, Vendetta (this very website dear readers), as I could. So about two-thirds of the way through the story, I was as well-versed as I could be in the shared delusion of Hopeless, Maine.

The way I write is quite organic. Oh, I used to plan a story, plotting out every twist and turn, every character and every scene. But the problem was that this was all done in my head. And when I came to write it, I just couldn’t be bothered! As in my mind, it was already written – committing it to paper just seemed a painful chore.

I know to avoid that now. I start with a vague idea and a couple of characters – perhaps an overall aim of the story – but no more. And most of the time I do not even have an ending. I just start writing and it takes on a life of its own. This means that the way the story unfolds and what happens to the characters is probably as much as a surprise to me as it is to the reader! Anyway, it might seem peculiar and ill-advised, but it seems to work for me.

The Prospect of Joy was conceived as a single standalone story – and definitely not part of a quadrilogy (clumsy word – maybe that’s why writers stick to trilogies!). But I didn’t want a straightforward ending – in keeping with the overall feel of Hopeless, Maine, I wanted something unresolved, something uncomfortable, something where the reader could envisage their own resolution. On the other hand, I hate stories that just fizzle out – so, although ambiguous, it needed to feel like an ending.

In the end, I was fairly pleased with the way the story turned out – and even better, Tom and Nimue seemed to like it too. (Or perhaps they were far too polite to tell me they hated it! I did tell you they were very nice people didn’t I?) But as I finished it, I realised something. It was crying out for a sequel, by posing the ending as a sort of intriguing what happens next, I was caught in a fiendish trap of my own making. I knew I had to write a follow-up…

*just WHY haven’t you read it?

And also, you can get copies of the Oddatsea over here – https://hopeless-maine.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders

Hopeless, Maine returns to North America with Outland Entertainment

Hello people! (and others)

We can now reveal that Hopeless, Maine is returning to North America with Outland Entertainment! The first two volumes will be printed and released soon, along with illustrated prose novels by Nimue Brown and Keith Errington and the Hopeless, Maine RPG is in development and may well be out at the same time. Here is the press release! 

Cover art – collaboration between Nimue and myself.

The Prospect of Joy

Why yes, that is a very steampunk looking submarine, isn’t it? What would happen if some intrepid adventurer took a steampunk submarine into the troubled waters around the coast of Hopeless, Maine?

When Keith Errington first suggested the idea, we were slightly uneasy because one of the features of the island is that no one ever leaves (aside from Owen) and this device was so obviously designed the work around that premise. But, as we found out more about his mad scheme, we became ever more enchanted by it, and so, dear readers, we let him have his way.

The result of this, is the rather fabulous tale The Oddatsea – illustrated by Tom. Keith is a bit prone to the puns, so if the title gives you a small shiver of horror, the rest of the book will only prove worse. You were warned! More of it over here – https://hopeless-maine.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders

One of the things that is an ongoing joy around the Hopeless Maine project, is seeing what happens when other people get in to play with it. Keith Errington’s novella has been one of the more ambitious moves so far, alongside Keith Healing’s role play game. But, participating in Hopeless is not just for people called Keith and we are pretty much always open to suggestion!

The Hopeless Maine Scientific Society

Those of you who followed the kickstarter obituaries last autumn may have noticed the presence of The Hopeless Maine Scientific Society. Membership of this organisation is generally a death sentence, and this picture, of the four key members, gives you some sense as to why!

This is a two page spread from the next Hopeless Maine graphic novel, and like most of our two page spreads it has nothing to do with the rest of the story. It is a peek into island life. What we’re doing in addition with these two page spreads, is to feature actual people who have played a key role in the Hopeless Maine project. And while these dodgy scientists may be the kiss of death on the fictional island, in real life they are hugely important to us.

Going left to right…

The young man setting fire to the tablecloth is my son and heir, James Weaselgrease (his steampunk name, not his real name). James is central to our song-based performances, and this is his second time in a comic. If you look closely, there’s a much younger him on a two page spread in The Gathering.

The gentleman holding the tablecloth is Robin Treefellow Collins, who is responsible for the hairy coffee, and who has written a number of ‘Daphne’ stories for this blog.

Next up, a justifiably worried Keith of Mystery, aka Keith Errington, who is responsible for Hopeless Maine prose novel The Oddatsea and without whom we would never have managed a kickstarter. He is an organisational force to reckon with. He’s also performed with us, and is responsible for the Hopeless Maine Home Companion, without which there would never have been a Spidermilk Biscuit song!

Finally, breaking the fourth wall to stare at you from the right of the image, is Keith Healing (whose title I won’t mention as he didn’t get the most dignified nickname). Keith is responsible for the Hopeless Maine roleplay game – an epic attempt at taking the madness of Hopeless and turning it into a coherent and playable system without sacrificing anything much of the magic and mystery.

The Journey of Faith

You may have heard of the disappearance of the explorer Lady Alison Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew and the subsequent rescue expedition organised by her nephew, Jason Hercules Pettigrew Johnson. At the time the papers reported it a great success – a wonderful story of a family reunited. But the few that knew the truth, were aware that it was anything but.

Auntie Ally, as she was known to her devoted nephew, had launched an audacious subaquatic expedition to observe new species and explore ancient wrecks around a mythical island. But she had returned from her ill-fated expedition little more than a husk of a human being. Despite her nephew’s best efforts, as the months passed, that truth eventually came out and poor Auntie Ally’s fate was news again. She was even described in the parlance of one of the more fanciful penny dreadfuls ‘reporting’ the story as a revenant or zombie-like creature – albeit one that did not shuffle, threaten, or hanker after the meat of humankind.

It seemed a sad tale, and soon the public started to lose interest in even reading about the more sensational, and let me say, entirely fictional versions of the story. So poor Auntie Ally eventually moved from being a passing concern to a forgotten tragedy. But there was one person who never gave up hope, never lost his faith in an eventual solution to Aunt Ally’s lamentable condition; her devoted nephew, Jason.

Jason had grown up into a determined young man – a man who, by virtue of a series of circumstances, had essentially inherited a considerable fortune and a number of residences. Since Aunt Ally’s return, he had become obsessed with returning to the spot where her submersible was found, to investigate, and to find some way of returning Aunt Ally to normality. Let me point out dear reader, right here, right now, that although he was obsessed with his Auntie, it was an entirely innocent obsession; this is not one of those stories.

Jason had few friends, but one, in particular, seemed to put up with his single-mindedness and adored him for his pureness of heart. Homily Williams was a singular young woman who had known Jason from his college days. They had met at an evening science lecture on the talking cure and had long discussions over coffee afterwards. She was an intelligent and pragmatic lady and had remained a faithful friend when his fixation with his aunt took hold. Although when she learnt of his plan to return to the seas and dive in that fateful craft, she urged him to reconsider. After all, she argued, one soul had been lost to those hopeless waters, why lose another? And particularly why lose his, she thought to herself.

But Jason was not to be swayed, he spent time, money and a great deal of thought on planning a new expedition using The Prospect of Joy – Lady Allison’s revolutionary underwater craft. He had made sure the finest English mechanics and engineers had checked the entire vessel more than once for faults or possible weaknesses in construction or design. But the famous French marine designer had done his job well, and Jason was reassured on that score. He did, however, add some new elements – he fitted bigger, stronger windows, five, lead-shielded compasses, added a more powerful periscope, several inches of armour, multiple torpedo tubes, and mounted a waterproofed machine gun of radical design to the front deck. He even fitted a device based on Tesla coils that would pass an electrical current of great magnitude through the outer hull at the throwing of a knife blade switch. As originally conceived, The Prospect of Joy was purely an exploratory vessel, the product of an inquiring, innocent, peaceful mind. But in Jason’s determined hands it was turned into a most potent weapon of war. To transport it, the expedition utilised as it’s floating base an old steam cruiser retrofitted to suit Jason’s more single-minded requirements and renamed: The Journey of Faith.

A week before the scheduled start of the expedition, the Admiralty caught wind of the submersible and its militant new capabilities. This forced Jason’s hand, and he slipped port in the dead of night having checked that Auntie Ally was being looked after, but without the chance to say goodbye to faithful Homily.

The journey to the area of sea where Lady Allison had met with her singular fate was largely uneventful. It is true that when they left port, they were hastily followed by navy ships, mustered as quickly as they could manage, but Jason’s expedition had a decent head start and soon outdistanced them.

Arriving at the most likely spot to start their search for… well, to be honest, Jason wasn’t sure. Alison had written of an island – but she had never seen it, it wasn’t on any charts and there was simply no evidence of it. What he had seen with his own eyes was a wall of mist, beyond which human vision could not penetrate, but which seemed to have a definite influence on the psyche. If there was an island in the mist, he was determined to press ahead and find it, for he was sure that there he would find the means by which to save his aunt.

It took them several days to locate the mist – and to be honest, Jason had been prepared for this, sending out no less than six steam launches in a complex, scientifically developed search pattern that would cover an enormous area of ocean in a short space of time.

Once located, they recalled the launches and sailed to the relevant spot. Jason viewed the swirling mist ahead of him and remembered the last time he had witnessed it. Lady Alison was always very fond of quoting literature, but all Jason could think of at that moment was Dickens: “There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated.” He pulled his jacket tighter against the slight chill that had crept up on him.

“Well”, he said out loud to himself, grabbing at another quote:

“Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero”.

“What’s that?” asked the captain of The Journey who had quietly pulled up alongside Jason on the ship’s rail.

“Oh, sorry – it means to pluck the day, time for action. Launch stations Captain if you please.”

“Aye, aye sir!”

Jason felt a strangeness as he lowered himself into The Prospect of Joy – he must be experiencing some of the same emotions and sensations that Lady Alison had felt as she set off on that fateful undersea voyage. He had left strict instructions for The Journey of Faith to withdraw at least twenty leagues from this spot – he did not want them becoming yet another disappearing victim of the mist.

Unlike his cautious Auntie, Jason set his teeth together, strapped himself in, and set a course directly for the water under the mist. As he advanced, he could see the water getting darker, seemingly heavier, and the pace slowed. Almost immediately he noticed strange sea creatures in the murk around him and the vague shapes of masts and funnels of wrecked ships beneath.

Despite the upgraded engines, he was making slow progress, and weird, dark, twisted, shapes that resolved into loathsome, many-eyed creatures began to investigate this mechanical interloper. Small creatures, but threatening nonetheless, Jason detected a maliciousness in the way they twisted and turned around the craft. Suddenly one darted forward in a flash of fins and teeth. At the last moment, it was propelled unnaturally sideways as one of its brothers snared it between hugely out of proportion jaws – picking its moment to strike against it’s distracted shoal mate.

Jason shivered, and checked all the weapons systems again, although truthfully, these small creatures would be no match for the submersible’s thick iron hull. And almost as he thought that Jason noticed a darker shape off to his right, just too far into the gloom to make out its proper form. After observing it for a minute or so, it became obvious it was of a magnitude larger than of the other aquatic beasts in these dark waters. Indeed, Jason realised that there were no other creatures near it – as if they feared to be in its very presence. At the back of his mind, Jason felt an unnatural fear – a strange contradictory wave of emotions urging him on and yet at the same time compelling him to leave. Driven by his fondness for his Auntie, Jason’s will was resolute. He quelled the rising feelings and pushed on.

The submersible swayed for a moment as something tugged against it and Jason took a moment to swing the vessel around. Swirling purple tendrils were writhing up from the sea bottom – the monstrous fronds of some huge marine flora. Trimming The Prospect of Joy to rise to a higher level, Jason resumed his course.

Something ahead and in the distance caught his eye. A slight iridescence in the gloom. It was getting closer, and brighter. To Jason’s eyes, it was like an underwater waterfall – somehow catching the light as it tumbled down to the depths below. But this was a waterfall that was moving. And not composed of water. And… Jason realised at the last minute that the iridescence was caused by some sort of electrical discharge and that he was witnessing the lower part of what could only be described as some sort of gigantic electric jellyfish. Or more like a Portuguese man ‘o’ war of unparalleled size and literally stunning beauty. Jason slammed the controls hard to port as he broke the spell of the creature’s dangerously enticing glamor.

The Prospect of Joy was a fine example of the best of French marine knowledge and English engineering and manufacturing. It responded fast to helm control and it’s powerful engines and streamlined shape helped it speed through the water at an unprecedented rate and with fine manoeuvrability. It was designed to cope and excel in all waters known to man. These waters, however, were not known to man. And here, alas, The Prospect was a little slower, a little less powerful, a little less manoeuvrable, and in this case, found a little wanting. Jason had almost got away with it, but at the last possible moment a single, smallest tentacle lightly caressed his iron craft.

All the lights in the cabin went out and there was a sudden silence. Jason – to his credit – did not panic and scrambled over to the wall on his left and a huge bar attached to a rotary switch. He grabbed the bar and wrenched it counterclockwise for a count of three, then clockwise for a count of three… nothing. As the submersible sank slowly lower, he tried again: left, one…two…three…, right, one…two…three… This time there was a loud buzz of electricity and a massive clunk as the engines started up again and systems returned. Lights came back on and Jason threw himself back in the chair. He had regained control. Nervously checking the windows all around him, he could see nothing.

Would this reassure you? It did not reassure Jason. After witnessing an ocean teeming with deadly ravenous life, the absence of it seemed to him to be by far the most frightening outcome.

It was not long before those irrational fears proved entirely legitimate. Shapes in the dark distance. Movements in the murk. Darker water now moved around The Prospect of Joy, and the feeble light that was fighting its way down to the depths was fading.

If Jason could see above him, he would have found the surface roiling with violent waves, rocks awash with huge spumes of spray, and a mere few hundred yards away – the cliffs and chines of Shipwreck Bay, the most notoriously treacherous feature of all those that made up the hazardous coastline of Hopeless, Maine.

At the surprising depths below the bay, all was calmer, well, current-wise anyway. This was of absolutely no comfort to Jason however, who now found himself surrounded by a veritable menagerie of misshapen aquatic beasts, monstrous miscreations of teeth and spines and eyes and claws and tentacles and… unidentifiable vicious appendages. Jason did not suffer from nightmares, nor did he read ‘gothic’ fiction, but here was the very embodiment of the most exaggerated form of night horror, or ghastly, obscene, bestiary become life.

He could feel them somehow calling to him like he had ants crawling through his mind. He ran his fingers through his hair, scraping his skin sharply with his nails as he sought to get a grip on his sensibilities. Oddly, it seemed to help and he gained a moment to assess his predicament.

Jason could hear their freakish forms grinding against the outer hull, teeth scraping on metal, tentacles trying to find gaps to worm their way insidiously into. The submersible was not moving forward now and Jason could see a wall of rock ahead of him, so even if he could proceed, there was simply nowhere to go. Jason considered his options as The Prospect of Joy was rocked by unseen brutish forces.

There was really no point in the torpedoes – there was simply too many creatures and only one was conveniently lined up with a firing tube. And hitting it point blank was likely to cause an explosion that might do as much damage to the submersible as to the creature. The Tesla shocker came to mind, but Jason wondered if it would still work after the earlier encounter with the electric behemoth. He reached for the switch, paused a moment, and threw it. There was an extremely satisfying arc of wild blue electricity around the craft, an intense crackling, buzzing sound, a boiling of water and a nauseous burning smell which was so intense, Jason could feel it assaulting his nostrils even through several inches of iron, however improbable that might seem.

The end result, however, was not nearly so satisfying – it merely seemed to drive the creatures outside mad with rage and they buffeted Jason’s vessel with renewed vigour – some even swam directly away and then back again at high speed to ram the sides, the bottom or the top of the submersible. Jason was thrown out of the chair and anything not tied down was to be found rolling around on the floor. The Tesla shocker was effectively a one-shot deterrent – it would be a while before it had built up enough charge to use again. Several more times the iron ship was buffeted. Every time Jason managed to stagger to his feet, he was thrown down again and new bruises were added to his pain-wracked body. All throughout this time, the ants in his head were also getting worse – they felt more like small mammals now – noisy rats talking to him, murmuring, muttering, seemingly urging him to leave the safety of the craft.

Just as he felt he would surely be pummelled to a pulp, the pounding stopped, and things went dark again. But it was not the cabin lights that had failed, they were soldiering on; although much dimmer, they were still illuminating the small metal cabin – no, this was darkness from outside. Two or three huge forms were enveloping The Prospect of Joy. There was a sudden brighter shape in the forward window – Jason made out the shape of a mighty tooth the size of a man – and a tall man at that. It was vaguely ivory in colour, but with much green mould around its edges and a yellowy red vein running randomly across its side. That was all Jason could discern before it was gone.

But then, seconds later, there was an ominous grinding noise. And Jason was no longer sure that the armoured iron would be enough. Should he try to swim to shore? How deep was he? Would he survive the swim to the surface? He could feel the island calling to him.

–– •◊• ––

Out of the three, it was Gertrude who was inevitably the most observant, so whilst Ludmilla and Mildred were often wrapped up in the latest gossip, Gertrude still managed to keep one of her three eyes trained upon the seas around the island.

The three were called the Agents of Change, or The Ocular Ones. Those that had perhaps encountered their influence in some way, or knew them better, called them The Aunties – a name they rather liked. But whatever you named them, they had been around since – well, let’s just say it’s a very long time.

“Look,” Gertrude said, “Stop your fussing for a moment, there is some sort of commotion over there.”

“Oh yes,” said Ludmilla, “the pets are getting obstreperous again.”

“I don’t know why you call those nasty creatures that,” responded Mildred “and stop using silly long words – you know it irks me.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing, just some simple shipwreck I’m sure. Their ship will break up and the silly humans will die. That’s that.” responded Ludmilla.

“Oh don’t be so trite Ludmilla. This is different – it seems to be happening underneath the waves” pointed out Gertrude.

“Oh yes, why there is some sort of tin can with some poor dear stuck inside” observed Mildred.

“Well, they will soon open that and he’ll be pet food for sure!” Exclaimed Ludmilla.

“Stop it with the pets again. Can’t we help him – I sense he has come a long way in search of something… or someone” reasoned Gertrude.

This statement piqued their curiosity and they all turned their many and varied senses towards the trapped submersible.

“Oh – he’s searching for that nice young lady that arrived here a while ago – she was in a tin can too. Most interesting – not at all like the others” said Mildred.

“Oh yes, she was a lot more ethereal – a strange one that. Still, she’s lost like the rest” stated Ludmilla off-handedly.

“I think we should help him to find her” decided Gertrude. “He is resolute and determined to find that lady – he is devoted to her.”

“Oh, not another tale of lost love, how pathetic,” said Ludmilla petulantly.

“No – it’s not that sort of love – she’s family. And family is important.” Gertrude said firmly.

And despite her general reluctance to agree Ludmilla nodded – as did Mildred, family was important.

“Besides, we have to help” affirmed Gertrude.

“Why?” asked both Ludmilla and Mildred in unison.

“Because, dear ladies, she is an Auntie, just like us!”

This piece from Keith Errington (sometimes known as the Keith of Mystery) continues the tale started in The Prospect of Joy (which can be read by clicking on the highlighted text)  We were lucky enough to hear Keith read this aloud at the Vendetta Live at Asylum Steampunk festival this year.

Art by Tom Brown

Hopeless Sinners and other Oddities

Hello again people (and others)

Hopeless, Maine Sinners has had a proper send off into the world at The Ale House in Stroud.  It was a grand evening, enjoyed by (almost) all. (There was a bloke who was convinced that we were somehow anti-Pope…? Not an audience member I should add.. For the record, no, we’re not. We don’t really think about the Pope that much at all, truth be known)

My personal takeaway from the event is that we are building a truly amazing creative tribe around the Hopeless, Maine stuff. Long may it continue and take on new forms and bring in more people! In times where it sometimes feels as though we are standing on shifting sand, this is a good and solid thing to hang onto.

Nimue enchants

Martin Pearson- The father of the Squid and Teapot (and also- Nimue)

The hero of the night was Madeleine Harwood. Despite personal difficulties, she came, brought and set up the PA and performed an utterly beautiful rendition of Nimue’s Lullabye for a Dustcat. (we all had goosebumps) There is a possibility that there may be more Hopeless, Maine music from her in future! Watch this space. Martin Pearson, the creator of (and writer for) The Squid and teapot performed with panache! Keith Healing (the creator of the Hopeless, Maine RPG) wrote and performed a poem which introduced people to the island (and the game) Keith Errington (The Keith OF MYSTERY) read, to dramatic and amusing effect, his recent addition to Hopeless, Maine lore, and a long-awaited tale from Rebecca Willson was read by the author, introducing doctor Headly Case to the island. (You will get to read the text this coming Friday- or if you are reading this later, it will be on the site already)  Nimue and I were masters of ceremony and Nimue told stories of how things had come to be and generally enchanted people. Robin Collins performed Daphne and the Dead Seagull (including the song contained within it, which will *have* to be recorded for posterity one day!) and Meredith Debbonaire read The Aunties (which is a tale that will make you think differently about the beginning of the Graphic novel series) The Hopeless, Maine sea shanty (written by Nimue) and “Magpies” were performed by a Cup of Tentacles (Which is James, Nimue, and I…currently)

The feeling, in the end, was that there should be more of this sort of thing. So, there will be! (and i’m very much looking forward to it)

 

 

Photos- thanks to Meredith Debbonaire

 

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