Tag Archives: madness

An Afternoon Stroll

Drury, the skeletal hound, was enjoying a particularly productive day. Mrs Beaten was mysteriously missing two pairs of unmentionables from her washing line, Reverend Davies was wondering where his scarf had gone and a diminutive cephalopod was suffering severe heart palpitations, having been tossed in the air several times – and all this before his afternoon walk with Philomena Bucket. Could life, or more correctly, afterlife, really get any better?
It had long been Philomena’s practice to take a walk between the busier times at The Squid and Teapot. Having cooked a batch of Starry-Grabby pies that morning, and washed-up after the lunchtime trade, she felt that she had earned her hour or so of leisure time. There are those who would argue that battling through the inclement, not to say downright hostile, weather that plagued Hopeless, Maine, along with the island’s many hazards, hardly constituted leisure. Philomena, however, was a hardy soul, and usually never happier than when striding the Gydynap Hills with Drury beside her, but for some reason, today she felt differently. The daylight hours of December are scant for all of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, but on Hopeless, where the sun is perpetually fighting a losing battle, winter days rarely struggle to be any more than a dismal twilight. Philomena was not particularly bothered by this, but an air of foreboding, and the promise of returning to the cheer of The Squid seemed especially attractive.

Drury liked it when Philomena sang to him. Sometimes it would be a traditional Irish ballad, a music-hall ditty or, more often than not, just scraps of a half-remembered song that she had heard somewhere or other along the way; Drury did not care, and had no interest in its origins. He just loved to hear her soft, lilting voice. It made him feel warm inside, or it certainly would have, had he actually possessed an inside. Today she was singing ‘Shortenin’ Bread’. As to the meaning of the words, Philomena had no more idea than did Drury. She thought it must be a nonsense song; after all, if mamma’s little baby did indeed indulge in the pastime of shortening bread, which apparently he or she loved to do, it would be hazardous in the extreme. As far as Philomena was aware, the only way to shorten bread is with a bread knife and no one in their right mind would let a baby loose with such an implement.

She was pondering these thoughts, and in the middle of singing the chorus for the forty-fifth time (in fact, the chorus, which consists solely of the words ‘Mamma’s little baby loves shortenin’ bread’ was the only bit of the song that Philomena knew), when she was suddenly stopped in her tracks by the sight of a brace of spoonwalkers, tottering along in front of her and carrying between them something that looked remarkably like a bottle of ‘Old Colonel’ ale. Drury let out a low growl, and would have given chase, but Philomena placed a hand on his bony back, and commanded him to stay (it says much for their relationship that she could actually do this. Drury has long been thought to be untameable).
Although the dog had been successfully looking after himself since long before Philomena, or, come to that, her beloved old granny, was born, the barmaid wanted to go home and would not have felt comfortable leaving Drury alone and up on the hills after dark, chasing these vicious little cutlery thieves .
The pair watched the spoonwalkers creep unsteadily into a cleft in the rocks. This, in itself, would not be deemed unusual, but the pale yellow light that issued from within the hill was decidedly other than normal.
Throwing caution to the wind, Philomena, with Drury at her side, tiptoed to a spot near to which the spoonwalkers had disappeared. Upon closer inspection the cleft was larger than it had at first appeared, being as high as Philomena was tall, and just about wide enough for her, or a particularly thin man, to squeeze through. While she had no wish to enter the cave herself, Philomena could not help but notice that a particularly thin man had, indeed, already accomplished the feat, and was squatting on the ground, surrounded by a band of, apparently adoring, spoonwalkers. His eyes looked huge and glowed with a ghastly luminescence in the pale candlelight.
“It’s Linus!” gasped Philomena, with surprise.
Linus Pinfarthing had not been seen on the island for months. Following the death of Marjorie Toadsmoor he had become a drunkard and, as such, his disappearance was generally attributed to his having fallen off a cliff and into the sea. No one really knew the full extent of his story, related in these very tales, of how he had been possessed by the Trickster, then later saved by a band of grateful spoonwalkers that he had once rescued from the clutches of the trapper, Zeke Tyndale.
Philomena watched, fascinated, as the cadaverous figure clambered to its feet and swayed dangerously in the greasy light of tallow candles. A chilling rictus, that might easily have denoted pleasure or pain, masked his face, and he began to dance clumsily, with the spoonwalkers milling around his feet on their cutlery stilts.
She wondered what to do. Should she tell someone; raise a rescue-party to take him back to the town? The sad truth is that the friendship of spoonwalkers – which, as far as I am aware, no other human being had previously enjoyed – does not make one invulnerable to the fatal madness induced by their gaze; it was clear to Philomena that Linus was well beyond the reach of reason. Into whatever strange landscape his mind had retreated, that was his home now. There could be no escape until his wasted body gave up entirely, and by the look of him, that day would not be too far away.
Philomena had never harboured any great affection for Linus, but to see him now, reduced to the shadow that he was, brought a lump to her throat.
“Come on old friend,” she said to Drury, hurriedly turning her back on the tableau inside the cave, “it’s high time we were getting back.”

Frampton Jones pays tribute to Gregg McNeill

Many years ago, Gregg McNeill saved my life. It is with great sorrow, then, that I must report upon his death, and the probable connection with my own terrible experiences. Those of you who have lived on the island for some years, will remember that I went rather awkwardly mad.

There was that business with the beautiful baby competition, and all that followed. I became convinced that my camera showed me true reality, while what I saw with my own eyes was nothing but illusion. The camera showed me horrors, and things I shudder to recall and will not describe. I came to believe in the truth of my camera, and would not relinquish it.

Gregg McNeill sat with me as I raved, and calmly explained the technical details of cameras to me until I was persuaded to relinquish my grip on the device and hand it to him for repair. My recovery began at that moment, and I have no doubt I would have done myself some terrible harm, had I been allowed to continue. I did not ask what became of the camera, thereafter.

Gregg himself appeared to live a normal enough life, with no more fits of mild and temporary insanity than is normal for those of us who live here. I recall with some fondness the night he climbed onto his roof and refused to come down because of the way the chickens had been looking at him. There was the time he became convinced that the sea creature he had eaten had in fact eaten him – but these things pass in their own way. Who amongst us has not done something of that ilk at one time or another?

Only after his unexplained demise have I come to realise the full extent of the horror that possessed him. Despite what he claimed at the time, he never did destroy that camera, but continued to take photographic likenesses with it, and to develop them. A room in his house was devoted to the images – strange, uncanny things that they are. Faces unknown to me peer back from the walls. Eerily attired, sometimes inhuman – somehow he has drawn these beings from beyond the veil, or through the void and captured them.

The last image Gregg made was of himself, gazing mournfully at the camera. I have no idea how he achieved this self-likeness. I took it home, along with the cursed device, which I will keep safely and make sure no one ever uses again. No matter how tempted I may feel. Gregg stares at me from my mantelpiece. Sometimes I feel that he is trying to speak to me, but I do not know what he is trying to say.

 

You can find out more about the beautiful babies here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/what-beautiful-babies/

And you can find out more about Gregg NcNeill’s Dark Box Photography here – https://www.darkboximages.com/

To get involved with the Hopeless Maine kickstarter – source of all the carnage – throw your non-corporeal self this way – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

The Lighthouse

Following the coming of the founding families to Hopeless, one of the earliest structures to be erected was the lighthouse. To begin with this was a simple affair, no more than a fiery beacon on a pole to warn any passing ships of the treacherous rocks that lurk beneath the tide-line. As a navigational aid, however, it was by no means infallible and did nothing to prevent the disaster which deposited Mr Hamish Stevenson on the shores of the island.

There was a certain irony in Stevenson being shipwrecked. You see, Hamish was a nephew of Robert Stevenson, the brilliant engineer responsible for many of the lighthouses that still stand sentinel around the rocky shores of Britain. Young Stevenson, who had worked closely with his Uncle Robert, had been entrusted with the task of accompanying the transportation of a Fresnel lens, complete with the mercury bath that it would float upon, to the soon-to-be-renovated Portland Head Light.

The small matter of a shipwreck did little to bruise Hamish’s unquenchable enthusiasm for his work. Encouraged by the fact that both the lens and the mercury bath had miraculously been undamaged by the disaster, he immediately decided that Hopeless, Maine needed a proper lighthouse and he, a Stevenson born and bred, was the man for the job. And so – with no small amount of help – Hamish built a lighthouse. Maybe his was not as elegant or stylish as those of the elder Stevenson but Hamish was proud to call the Hopeless lighthouse his own. The job was done and done well. Bob’s your uncle, you might say (or, at least, he was Hamish’s uncle).

By a happy coincidence, the recent completion of the nearby Gnii distillery meant that there would be an ample supply of fuel to keep the light burning. All that was required now was to find a willing volunteer to be its keeper.

There was no shortage of applicants. Eventually the role of Hopeless’ first lighthouse keeper was given to Egbert Tinkley, a man who had spent twenty years before the mast, prior to his being shipwrecked with Hamish. Egbert was a wiry man with twinkling blue eyes and an impressive salt-and-pepper beard. In his seaman’s cap, roll-neck sweater (that perfectly matched his beard) and turned down sea-boots he looked every-inch a lighthouse keeper and embraced his role with vim and vigour, endlessly polishing the brass and cleaning the lens as it perched and rotated gently and quietly on its mercury bath.

When not involved with maintaining his beloved light, Egbert would occasionally venture into Hopeless town to obtain whatever provisions might be available. He would invariably stop and chat to anyone who would listen but as the weeks passed into months people began to notice some less-than-subtle changes in him. His blue eyes no longer twinkled but instead, stared, unblinking and glassy. His conversations became fewer, at least with other people, although he could be frequently heard having, sometimes, violent arguments with himself. He would wander the streets with squids tucked into the tops of his boots and his cap on backwards. Some of the islanders began to get somewhat concerned about Egbert, but put it to the back of their collective minds and attributed his behaviour to no more than colourful eccentricity. After all, the light never failed to be lit exactly one hour before sunset each evening and that was all that mattered.

It was only when Arabella O’Stoat called by the lighthouse with some squid tarts did anyone realise the extent of Egberts eccentricity. The lower floors of the building were a mess, the walls daubed with paint and papers and sea-charts strewn all around. There were heaps of pebbles and seaweed covering the floors, while a combination of dead gulls, driftwood and useless flotsam covered every flat surface. Only the lantern remained pristine and it was here that she found Egbert. He was humming to himself and delicately cleaning the lens with a mixture of vinegar and water (an excellent solution for achieving smear-free glass).

“Are you alright, Egbert?” asked Arabella warily.

“I can fly, you know,” the keeper replied, for no apparent reason. “Just like a seagull, when the mood takes me.”

“Of course you can,” said Arabella soothingly. “Why don’t we go down to the kitchen and have a nice cup of tea?”

“It’s not called the kitchen, it’s the galley,” yelled Egbert, suddenly angry. “I can fly there. Watch me.”

With that he scrambled outside, on to the gallery that ran around the lantern.

“Watch me,” he cried, standing on the top rail.

Arabella could only look on, horrified, as he launched himself into the air.

Over the following months and years a succession of lighthouse keepers went quietly mad attending to their duties, though it must be said, none as fatally as Egbert. It was generally felt that the building was cursed; surely, even on Hopeless, it was too much of a coincidence that every shred of reason chose to leave the keepers who tended the light.

After a while the brass became dull through neglect, the clockwork mechanism that rotated the light lay still and the lamp was lit no more. No one wanted to ascend the steps to the lantern and the lighthouse became derelict.

The madness suffered by the Egbert Tinkley and his successors is no great mystery, though on Hopeless the lighthouse curse is still spoken of in hushed tones. It is often suspected that lighthouse keepers are all a little mad. It is not just the loneliness of the work, as many believe, but the proximity of mercury. Like hatters, who used mercurous nitrate to cure felt, lighthouse keepers suffered prolonged exposure to mercury vapour – and like hatters, they often went mad.

The lighthouse still stands, though these days the lantern is long gone and its stonework bleached by the weather and ravaged by time. Ravens roost in its highest reaches, while spoonwalkers and puddle rats make uneasy neighbours on the lower levels. On a stormy night, when the wild wind howls off the ocean and screeches through the ruined walls, those unwise enough to be out at such a time have reported  that it sounds like the manic shrieks of souls in torment. Of course, this is purely the product of an over-active imagination … isn’t it?

By Martin Pearson-art by Tom Brown

Cower in dread before your horrorscope!

You said I could not tell the future. You said I was mad.  I have stared at the sky day and night without pause and I have seen the truth of what resides there. The truth, the horror, and the glory of it. We are all going to die. Some things will happen before then.

Libra: Stare into the abyss. Stare until your eyes bleed.

Sagittarius: I still don’t believe you exist. You are all lies and illusions. I refuse to imagine you any longer.

Hideous Goat Things: I hate you. Everyone hates you.

Constellation of the Nebulous Squid: It is all futile, your baleful influence condemns us all.

Aquarius: Something has fallen into your well. Trying to get it out may antagonise it.

Aries: Where are you in the sky? Does the sun rise in your house any more? I bet it doesn’t.

The Great Unseeing Eye: Gods help you if this is your birth sign.

Taurine: I have sipped of your liquor. I know why you are Gods.

The Evil Twin: There’s only one of you, really. You killed the good twin ling ago and have been lying to yourself ever since.

The Monstrous Crab: The sea makes you long to throw yourself in.

The Shoggoth: I know this is your true form. I stared until I saw you. There is no hope for any of us.

Virgo: What are you? Sometimes I think you are a creature from ancient times, raised up from the deep earth to torment us all.

Our Cuttlefish Overlords: I beg that you, our true masters, will take pity on us. May the sun never rise in your terrifying house in the night sky. May the darkness of your sign be perfect and eternal.

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)

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!