We’ve got a show with songs – traditional, original and borrowed, Maine folklore and Hopeless Maine oddities… Do come and see us!
On the mist shrouded, grave dark sea, a boat shatters its hull against the malice of rocks. Hungry water sucks the living down, until only one remains, kept afloat by a large tea chest and drifting towards dawn and the shore
James Weaselgrease is a young scientist, who washes up on the island. He doesn’t really believe in vampires, selkies or mermaids. the dustcats are confusing and he fears that he is losing his mind…
“It’s strange how things go round,” confided Bartholomew Middlestreet to Philomena Bucket. “Although the Lypiatt family ran The Squid and Teapot for over a century, my great-great grandpa, who was also named Bartholomew, was the landlord here before Sebastian Lypiatt, founder of that dynasty, washed up on these shores. Luckily for us, old Bartholomew never missed a thing and kept a journal; I found it a few years back in one of the attics. Grab yourself a drink, Philomena. There was a good tale in that journal which might interest you…”
It was a wet and windy night on the island and the snug of The Squid and Teapot was virtually empty. Bartholomew’s wife, Ariadne, rolled her eyes. She knew exactly what was coming next – a story she had heard a dozen times before. If he noticed Ariadne’s reaction, Bartholomew chose to ignore it. He took a generous swig of ‘Old Colonel’, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and warmed to his task. “It’s unlikely that even the founding families actually intended to come here,” he said. “Old Gruffyd Davies, one of the early settlers, implied as much in his memoir ‘Grief is a Thing with Tentacles.’ There was one guy, though, according to great-great grandpa’s journal, who was paid to sail here by a tightrope walker, or a funambulist, as they called them then…”
Bartholomew Middlestreet is, possibly, Hopeless, Maine’s most enthusiastic raconteur. Once he gets going, Bartholomew has been known to hold court for hours, filling his discourse with plenty of homespun wisdom, incidental anecdotes and never missing an opportunity to remind his listeners that his grandfather, Randall Middlestreet, was the only Night Soil Man to hang up his bucket, as it were, and retire, uniquely going on to become a family man. As my allocated spot in the ‘Vendetta’ is somewhat restricted, and the patience of my readers not infinite, it feels only common sense to tell the tale of the funambulist in my own words.
As Bartholomew has stated, few people have arrived on Hopeless voluntarily. It was necessity that drove the lobsterman, Joel Cranham to be persuaded to sail to the island. It was in the 1840s that the nascent canning industry discovered that the humble lobster, a species that had previously required eating soon after death, could be successfully preserved in a tin. They also discovered that canned lobster was a huge money-maker. Within thirty years the once plentiful Homarus Americanus was fished to the brink of extinction. In response, the state of Maine imposed severe but necessary lobster-fishing restrictions, and the livelihood of Joel Cranham and his fellow lobstermen suffered accordingly. However, no one knew the waters around Maine better than Joel, so it was unsurprising that, when he was offered more than the equivalent of a year’s income to pilot a specially adapted Downeaster around some of the islands peppering the coast, he thought that all of his financial problems had been solved for good.
Joel’s benefactor was a slightly built and ridiculously wealthy young man named Lancelot Pensile. Like many an impressionable youth, Lancelot had been inspired by the recent feats of one Jean François Gravelet. Gravelet, who was better known to his adoring audience as The Great Blondin, was a funambulist extraordinaire who had famously traversed Niagra Falls on a tightrope several times. Being naturally athletic, Lancelot Pensile soon mastered the art of funambulism and, in a very short time, had become almost as adept on a tightrope as his hero.
For reasons which will become clear, Pensile had devised a plan which would involve linking just a few of Maine’s several thousand islands to each other by high-wires. These islands would, by necessity, need to be situated fairly close together. He had installed, on the deck of the Downeaster, an extremely large drum which held an equally large reel of hemp cord, two inches thick and half a mile long. The plan was to visit an island, erect a high platform – if nothing suitable already existed – and run the rope to a neighbouring island. By ferrying back and forth to the mainland for more reels of rope, Pensile hoped to create a slender highway over the ocean, upon which he could wander at will, thereby gaining an enviable reputation to rival that of The Great Blondin himself.
For a while, all seemed to be going as planned. Four islands had been bridged and Pensile had, indeed, proved that his plan was surprisingly feasible. It was only when the expedition hit a dense fog-bank that progress was halted. Joel was certain that an inhabited island was hidden somewhere inside, for although there had been no warning blast of a fog-horn, he had seen the beams of a lighthouse struggling to penetrate through the ghastly murk during the previous night. After a short conference with the skipper of the Downeaster it was decided to drop anchor and that Joel and Lancelot would run a tender ashore. A light rope, about an inch thick, was attached to the tender at one end, and to the hempen cable at the other, so that it could be conveyed easily to the island. All went well until the tender floundered upon the rocks and the two men were forced to wade to safety, with Pensile steadfastly gripping the rope with one hand and a carpet-bag with the other..
While being shipwrecked would have dampened the spirits of most people, Lancelot Pensile was extraordinarily cheerful, especially when he spotted the lighthouse. This was exactly what he needed; a tall, solidly built structure to which he could secure his cable. As you have undoubtedly guessed, the pair had arrived on Hopeless. In the best traditions of the island, a small crowd had gathered even before the two had managed to get on to dry land. It took little time for Pensile to introduce himself and his companion and explain his plan. At first no one appeared to be particularly impressed, then D’Arcy Chevin grew curious. “Why are you doing this?” he asked, suspiciously. “To emulate my hero, The Great Blondin. Why Blondin has traversed Niagra Falls on a tightrope many times.” Chevin had absolutely no idea what or where Niagra Falls might be, but it sounded impressive. “And you could do that?” “Indubitably!” exclaimed the young man, brimming with confidence. D’Arcy Chevin had as sharp a mind as any and had quickly worked out that here was a possible means of escape from the island. If Pensile could get across on foot he was sure that he could manoeuvre his way to the next island by hooking a leg over the cable and dragging himself along. In time, it might be possible that more lengths of rope could be added and some contraption assembled to allow all and sundry to leave whenever they chose. If getting to the mainland meant undertaking a series of hops from island to island, D’Arcy Chevin told himself that he was the man to do it.
Word soon got around that escape from Hopeless might at last be possible and, as a result, there was no shortage of willing hands offering to set up the high-wire and provide whatever help the funambulist might require. The heavy hempen rope was soon hauled ashore and, with a block and tackle, hoisted up to the gallery of the lighthouse, where it was pulled taut and unyielding. As I have said, so often, in these tales, what could possibly go wrong?
The following morning was, as ever, misty but there was no wind to speak of and conditions seemed ideal for a leisurely half-mile stroll on a tightrope over an angry sea. From the depths of the carpet-bag Pensile retrieved his costume, along with a pair of fine leather shoes with soft soles. A little over an hour later he was ready, poised confidently on the rail of the lighthouse gallery, resplendent in pink tights and a jerkin of blue, which was covered in sequins. In his hands he held a long, slender balancing-pole which some of the islanders had fashioned from a felled ash tree. “This should not take me too much time at all,” he called down to Joel. “As soon as I’ve reached the other end I’ll tell the crew that you’ve been shipwrecked. It shouldn’t be too long before you get rescued. In the meantime do you have any messages for the folks back home?” “The missus will wonder where I’ve got to, so you’d best make it sound exciting,” Joel grinned. “Tell my wife that I’m trolling Atlantis, but I still have my hand on the wheel.” “Will do,” replied Pensile, breezily and, with that, started his death-defying walk over the sea.
Those who watched from the shore could not help but be impressed as the slight figure of Lancelot Pensile, clutching his balancing-pole, disappeared gradually into the mist. The minutes ticked by and, as if mesmerised, everyone continued to stare at the quivering tightrope. Just when the realisation began to dawn that the spectacle was probably over, the rope began to bend worryingly, as if something was pulling it from below, as they might a bowstring. Then, to the shock and dismay of all, there was a loud TWAAAANG and the rope buckled and lurched upwards. Somewhere, in the distance, they heard an ominous splash, such as a body might make, if dropped into the water from a great height. Seconds later there followed a horrible crunching noise; this was the sort of noise you might expect to hear when a large wooden vessel is being crushed to pieces by some huge and unseen creature, which was, indeed, the case. Just when the assembled onlookers decided that they had seen and heard enough excitement for one day, a long ash pole hurtled down from on-high and crashed into the top of the lighthouse, sending shards of wood and lumps of masonry flying everywhere. “What the hell caused that?” yelped Joel. All the blood had drained from his face. D’Arcy Chevin, all hopes of escape dashed, looked crestfallen. He turned to leave, then stopped and looked squarely at Hopeless’ newest resident. “You’ll get used to it.” he replied. “There are giants out there, in the canyons.” People trailed away in silence. Only Bartholomew Middlestreet stayed behind, generously offering Joel the hospitality of The Squid and Teapot and hoping for a good story to add to his journal in return.
It was nearing midnight when Bartholomew finished his tale. “What became of Joel?” asked Philomena. “He eventually came to terms with losing his old life and settled down and raised a family. His descendants are all gone now, except Rhys, a great-great grandson. He was in the orphanage from an early age and now he’s our Night Soil Man. Philomena shifted uncomfortably. When she first landed on Hopeless she had completely lost her sense of smell and had enjoyed a brief flirtation with the Night Soil Man. “And what happened to your great-great grandfather?” she asked quickly, seeking to change the subject. Bartholomew lowered his voice. “It’s believed that he was murdered by a scoundrel called Tobias Thrupp,” he said conspiratorially. “Now, there’s a tale you need to hear…” “And that can wait until another day,” said Ariadne firmly, and blew out the lights.
Hello people (and others) Here we continue the story of how an image from Hopeless, Maine was made real by Nimrod Lancaster Fiona Sawle and others in the steampunk creative community. Part one can be found here.
On the making of the masks and outfits
Nimrod made one version of his own mask, but two of Fiona’s
The body of each mask was Fosshape but the attached parts around the edge were mainly EVA foam sheet. plus two of his were wooden dowels. For the edge of Fiona’s I used two layers of EVA foam with stiff wire in between to make it stronger and pose-able. The top spike on his was 3D printed as was his medallion. The glass cabochons were painted using nail varnish and then Mod-Podge behind to give strength. The Fosshape was coated in liquid latex and then acrylic paints mixed with latex were applied over that. Fiona made her handbag from scraps of fabric left over from the outfits. The fabrics were sprayed with Dirty Down spray in various colours. The shells dangling from Fiona’s mask were collected from the beach in the Bahamas in February. Nimrod’s mask also has dangling sharks teeth. Thin black fabric was glued behind the eye and mouth holes. The tentacles are removable for ‘ease’ of storage!
One of the amazing and inspiring aspects of steampunk is the collaborative energy and what can happen when creative people combine their passion and creativity to bring new things into the world.
This project started because we had long admired the outfits and creativity of Nimrod Lancaster and Fiona Sawle at steampunk events in the UK. We met them at Steampunks in Space (which happens here) and gave a print of this image to them in the hopes that they would adopt it as a costuming project.
They took the print away with them and soon we began getting photos like these…
John Naylor was brought in to assist with the masks . He introduced Nimrod to Fossshape and helped him make the rigid part of his mask.
This is the first part of a series on this stunning project and we will show more progress, the outfits and the unveiling at Sanctuary in the following posts…
Following on from Mithra Stubbs Item in the paper yesterday, New Evidence has been found that may (or may not) shed new light on the case. You will have to read the note that has been found and come to your own conclusions.
TO BE READ IN THE EVENT OF MY UNTIMELY DEMISE A ‘head injury’ the papers said. My darling Fiona no more died from a head injury than from a broken finger nail. I know this fact because I was able to carefully examine her head at around 09:30 as she lay on the ground under Evangeline Plumage’s sewing machine, still wearing the chartreuse-coloured wig that she had been given by another of Evangeline’s clients, not five minutes later. The client in question was Marine Molly, taxidermist in waiting to the village aquarium, one of the region’s foremost photographers of sewers and Frampton Jones’ half-sister. The broken finger nail in question was really no more than a scratch in the shellac, but it was nevertheless clear evidence that a struggle had taken place, most likely a struggle between Fiona and Molly. After checking for signs of physical injury (of which there were none other than the scratched nail) I carefully stepped into the handbag that Fiona had been carrying and soon discovered that Molly had made away with the bronze key to Fiona’s shoe room. I hastened back to the room myself, entering through the secret staircase from the laundry chute, where I found fourteen pairs of almost identical black court shoes, one pair on each step. When I reached the shoe room I found further evidence of a struggle, this time seven pairs of green court shoes along with four dresses, two pairs of trousers and three skirts; Fiona had clearly been in a hurry to get dressed that morning. The broken clock on the floor suggested she had still been getting dressed at 10:30. I returned to Evangeline’s sewing room (via the Black Swan Bakery for a light breakfast), arriving around 9:15. As the sound of Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony from Testimony Albatross’s fish organ filled the air from the nearby church and as the village clock struck 9:00, I became acutely aware of a metallic taste in my mouth and I started to feel unsteady. Tumbling forwards, I pricked my finger on Evangeline’s sewing needle before grabbing a lock of the chartreuse wig on my fall to the carpet. Desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. I must find out the true cause of and hopefully prevent Fiona’s demise, to which end am going back to my workshop to continue work on my time travelling shoe machine. To date I have succeeded only in travelling back from an F fitting to an E fitting. If I can travel back from a size eleven to a size ten and a half, then the future of the island will surely lie in my hands. Should my own life come to an apparent end in the pursuit of this objective I implore the finder of this note to seek out the toxicology report on the chartreuse hair and I bequeath my collection of tintype portraits of cats, ferrets and subterranean clowns to the village museum. NR
If you are wondering why the mortality rate on the island is so dreadfully high at present, it is because Nimue has offered to write one hundred obituaries for the early birds from our kickstarter campaign to launch a new line of Hopeless, Maine illustrated fiction. It is ongoing, and can be found here.
Ever since the episode with the phonograph – described, you may remember in the tale ‘Ghost in the Machine?’ – Gwydion Bagpath had begun to register the existence of Philomena Bucket. Previously, she had barely caught his attention. As the self-appointed elder of the Commoners, his lofty position had rendered him far too busy to notice her. There had been beachcombing and salvaging expeditions to oversee. In addition to this, he felt that it was his duty to ensure that the Nailsworthy family were attending properly to the venerable elder trees that the community relied upon. Then there was his role as both chairman of the Gydynap Preservation Society and the Common Committee (organisations which met for a liquid lunch, twice yearly in ‘The Crow’). On top of these onerous duties was the business of standing around and looking important; the gravitas that his position required would not cultivate itself. But I digress. Gwydion had noticed Philomena Bucket and realised that, despite her pale skin and white hair, she was an extremely attractive young woman – that is to say, young by Gwydion’s standard. He was at least twice her age, but he was a widower looking for a young wife to comfort him through his old age and Philomena seemed to be perfect for the task. Philomena would be honoured, he felt certain, to be invited to step out with him, with a view to courtship and eventually marriage.
Blissfully unaware of Gwydion’s long-term plans, Philomena was happy enough (if not exactly honoured) to join him occasionally for a brisk stroll along the headland. As ever, Drury, the skeletal dog, would amble along beside her, sniffing everything in his path and chasing shadows.
‘Damned infernal creature,’ thought Gwydion uncharitably, seeing Drury as being less of a dog and more of a passion-killer. Of course, he would never voice this opinion aloud, knowing how fond Philomena was of her strange companion.
In order to win Philomena’s approval, Gwydion would use these walks to inform her of his many qualities. He would speak, at some length, of his altruism, his bravery, his generosity – the man’s virtues knew no bounds, at least in his own mind. Philomena, of course, was no fool and soon realised that she was being played like a fish on a line. She did not dislike Gwydion but the feelings he invoked in her were far from romantic – and she could never love anyone who displayed such obvious coldness towards Drury. She resolved, therefore, to find reasons to avoid these strolls. She would do this gently, however, to avoid hurting Gwydion’s feelings. That was her intention, anyway but being, perhaps, too kind for her own good, she left things too late and found herself, one foggy afternoon, in the position of being subjected to a proposal of marriage.
They had been walking towards the town when Gwydion suddenly dropped down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage.
“I’m sorry Gwydion, but I can’t possibly marry you,” she stammered.
A pained look passed over the old man’s face and his voice shook.
“Your hand… give me your hand… “
“I told you no…”
“For heaven’s sake, give me your hand, you idiotic woman, and help me up. My back has gone and goodness knows what else. I’m stuck.”
Try as Philomena might, this was to no avail. Gwydion was well and truly locked into a kneeling position and no amount of heaving by Philomena could budge him.
“I’ll get Doc Willoughby,” she said. “He’ll know what to do.”
Doc Willoughby knew exactly what to do. He arranged for a couple of burly lads from the Common to come along and carry Gwydion, still stuck with one knee bent in the time-honoured proposal attitude, back home.
“Silly old fool,” the Doc muttered. “What was he doing down there, anyway?”
“He was proposing marriage,” replied Philomena, simply.
“Well I propose that he stops making himself look ridiculous and give up chasing young women. He must be seventy, if he’s a day.”
Sad to relate, Gwydion never recovered from this latest affliction. Even though he was eventually able to stand normally again, his joints were past their best and his life was never the same. To the relief of everyone concerned, he reluctantly gave up his committees and overseeing duties. The job of Elder of the Commoners was discontinued; most had long realised that elder did not necessarily mean wiser. It came as something of a shock when Gwydion realised that nothing had suffered for his absence and life on the Common progressed as it always had. Before many months had elapsed, he died, a broken man. Little by little the name of Gwydion Bagpath faded from people’s memories.
It was many, many years later that an American soldier named Dwight Eisenhower, (who, I am reliably informed, did quite well for himself in later life) revealed that he always carried in his pocket a copy of the following poem. It’s a pity that Gwydion had not read it…
The fog by night is darker, deeper, shrouding everything,
No stars shine through, no moonlight glimmers,
All sounds are muted colours dim, there is no hope here,
No hope at all, only cold and damp malevolence.
Dawn comes queasy grey to light another joyless morning,
Cold light without colour lacks the power to warm my heart,
I’d dream of something better but I don’t know how to picture it,
There is no hope here, no hope at all.
The world is bleak with apathy, too willing to accept it all,
The empty listless life, the sunless mournful days and night terrors,
Fear becomes your companion, familiar and cruel,
There is no hope here, only poison in this world.
The chill within my bones has been with me most of my life,
If I ever knew true warmth I forgot about it long ago,
There is no salvation and no heroic rescue,
When the monsters are inside you, there’s no hope at all.
(The Hopeless Fog Song features in the opening to The Gathering. It does have a tune and I have sung it in public. The image is from Hopeless Maine Victims, out this summer. Any conclusions you may wish to draw from the juxtaposition are entirely up to you… )
Philomena Bucket had found it easy to stow away aboard the merchant vessel ‘Hetty Pegler’, as she lay anchored in the Coal Quay of Cork. It had been almost as easy as Philomena’s decision to leave Ireland for good and seek fame and fortune as an artist in the United States of America. That, unfortunately, was where ‘easy’ came to an abrupt halt. It took just three days for her to be discovered. Racked by hunger and confident, though misguided, in her belief that the ship would be deserted in the early hours, Philomena crept on all-fours from her hiding place in the hold, only to come face to face, or rather, face to knees, with the first mate, who was attending to his duties as middle-watchman. It took very little time for Philomena to learn that here was a man who had little room for freeloaders on the ship and would happily have thrown her overboard. Fortunately, however, his respect for the chain of command overcame his natural instincts.
Captain Longdown was cut from a different cloth to his second-in-command. He had been at sea for forty years, had a weak heart and really did not want any more difficulty than was avoidable. To the first mate’s barely concealed disgust, he treated the waif-like creature, unceremoniously hauled before him, with great leniency. It was tricky enough keeping his crew in order at the best of times, without having this young woman aboard. Despite her bone-white pallor and long, snowy tresses, he could see that standing before him was a beauty, albeit an odd one, who could cause more than her fair share of trouble if left to wander about his ship.
“You can get off at the first landfall,” he said, not unkindly. “In the meantime, please keep out of the way.” He waved his hand dismissively, “Just go back into the hold, or wherever it was that you were hiding. I’ll get food brought down to you.”
Not wishing to advertise the presence of the strangely attractive stowaway, the captain entrusted the task of conveying her meals to the less-than-amused first mate, who fumed quietly. It was bad enough for a stowaway to be aboard, but for him, second only to the captain in rank, having to wait upon her was untenable.
From Philomena’s point of view, things were not too bad. She was enjoying a better quality of food and shelter than she had ever known. Staying out of sight was a small price to pay. The only fly in the ointment was a sudden attack of hay fever, which, in this enclosed space and hundreds of miles from the nearest land, puzzled her. The truth was that ‘Hetty Pegler ‘ had previously conveyed a cargo of raw cotton from Virginia, the spores of which still stubbornly fluttered around the rotund casks of Irish whiskey now gracing the hold. The result was that her previously pink, albino eyes were now quite red and her sense of smell seemed to have abandoned her altogether.
It was fully three weeks into the voyage that things started to go awry. A violent storm blew up from nowhere, mercilessly lashing the merchant ship and sweeping a young seaman overboard. For two hectic days the storm refused to abate. A ripped section of the foresail came free from the gaskets. It took four men to climb the rigging to secure the sail but only three returned. The other fell to his death, sprawled like a stringless puppet upon the deck. When, at last, the depleted crew breathed a weary sigh of relief as the tempest eventually blew itself out, an extra rum ration was distributed. Their troubles, however, were far from over. They had been blown far off course and it was not many days later, picking their way gingerly through the many islands peppering the coast of Maine, that the Captain Longdown, succumbing to his heart condition, watched the sun sink over the yardarm for the last time and quietly died. Command of ‘Hetty Pegler’ passed to the first mate, a man, we have already learned, not known for his tender heart.
The captain’s body was still cooling when the recently promoted first mate dragged Philomena up on to the deck. Stunned and blinking in the sunlight, she winced as he grasped her roughly by the wrist.
“Here is the cause of all of our troubles. This albino witch has cursed this voyage and all the time your oh-so-tender-hearted captain just stood by and let her do it.”
The superstitious crew muttered angrily as they saw, for the first time, the pale, fragile beauty being paraded, humiliatingly, before them.
“Even now she casts some sort of spell. Look at the fog curling up around us. This is not natural.”
The sailors looked and had to agree that the thick mist that had suddenly engulfed them was quite unlike anything they had ever experienced. Its murky tendrils, sinuous and smoky, curled over the ship’s sides, slithering up the masts and coldly caressing their legs. One could, indeed, be forgiven for believing it to be an enchantment, for the crew, to a man, stared in absolute silence, totally mesmerized by the ghostly fog. They quite forgot that their ship, now almost becalmed, was quietly inching forward through dark and hazardous waters. Only when the agonised scream of tortured timbers being reduced to matchwood shattered their reverie, did they realise that they had hit a submerged reef. The ‘Hetty Pegler’ was sinking.
“Abandon ship. Get to the lifeboats” yelled the mate, quite unnecessarily as it happened; the self-same thought had occurred to everyone else.
Philomena suddenly found herself alone, standing on the deck of a doomed ship. She could just make out the blurred forms of the retreating lifeboats. Despite the fact that everyone else had apparently escaped unscathed, there seemed to be an inexplicable amount of noise and commotion coming from their general direction. Terrified screams and huge splashes, as if a large object was being smashed to a thousand pieces by an even larger object, filled her ears. She strained her eyes, still sore from the hay fever, to see through the creeping fog and ascertain what, exactly, might be causing such a disturbance. Mercifully, they failed her and she was spared the spectacle of a gaping beak and long, thick tentacles writhing from the churning ocean, savagely ripping apart the fleeing lifeboats and their gibbering occupants.
It was less than a minute later that the wreck of the ‘Hetty Pegler’ came to an abrupt halt, with her wooden walls still intact, by and large, and bobbing about just above the waterline. Philomena’s feet were barely damp. She gazed about her with a mixture of relief and puzzlement. The ship appeared to have run aground on an island. Had the crew known how close they were to safety and not acted so hastily, they could have reached the shore with ease. Why, there were even lit candles, tiny beacons that would have guided them in. It was almost as though they were expected. She could not help but notice other lights, too. They seemed to be moving, as if with a purpose, yet high in the sky, barely discernible through the murky air. Wading thigh-deep through the chilly waters, Philomena wondered to herself how such a thing might be done but immediately dismissed the question from her mind, as the more pressing problem of getting dry and finding shelter occupied her. Stepping on to terra firma, she sneezed violently three times. Despite this, the cotton pollen that had insinuated itself deep into her nasal passages was determined not to move.
Within the hour, night had fallen and a weak, sickly moon peered through the misty sky. Philomena had made slow progress. She found herself walking a dark and rocky path that she fervently hoped led somewhere. Anywhere that had four walls – three walls, even – and a roof of some sort, would suffice. She was frozen. Her wet dress clung heavily to her pale legs and seemed to be getting heavier by the second. It was almost as if something was trying to drag her to the ground. She looked down and stifled a small squeal. Something was!
If you’ve read Hopeless Maine, Sinners, you may have noticed the two page spreads. Being the clever sort of people you are, you will have noticed that the two page spreads tell a story that has nothing to do with the main story. The super-attentive will have recognised Melisandra – mother of Salamandra, and will have figured out that she’s collecting a young man and drawing him into her underground, night time lifestyle.
A note about vampires on Hopeless, Maine. Some of them really are vampires in all the traditional senses of the word. Some are energy vampires. Some are lifestylers. The lifestylers take up living underground – for the glamour, the excitement, to get away from the voices, because they cannot bear the attention of the eyes in the sky, and so forth. They are not vampires, even though they act like vampires. The consequence of this is a slow death from malnutrition – which is quite likely what would have happened to them over a Hopeless winter anyway, only with less romance.
Back to Erik. As there’s no text in the two page spreads, you had no way of knowing that his name is Erik, but it is. The reason his name is Erik, is that we borrowed the face for this character from actor Erik Moody, who we met through the awesome Ragged Isle project.
A bit of back history on that score – some years ago, director of Ragged Isle Barry Dodd made contact with us online. He suggested that as we are both spooky islands off the coast of Maine, that perhaps we could be friends. We love Ragged Isle, and have huge love and respect for the many brilliant people involved with it. You can find out more about Ragged Isle here – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1870996/
If you’ve read The Gathering, you will have encountered Miss Calder- it is she who opens the door when Annamarie Nightshade brings Salamandra to Pallid Rock Orphanage. Things do not go well for Miss Calder (spoiler alert) as a direct consequence of young Sal’s night wanderings.
If you haven’t read The Gathering and don’t want to know about the details yet, step away from this blog post now!
During The Gathering, Miss Calder dies. In that book, she comes back as a ghost, and from then on simply continues to work in the orphanage, comforting traumatised children with stories about vampire feasts, the martyrdom of saints and what happens when you die. Her memory is patchy on this score, but she’s not squeamish.
As a ghost, Miss Calder does not age. As Owen Davies has grown closer to her in age, she’s developed something of a crush on him. She’s a little embarrassed about this because she’s known him ever since he was a snotty, dribbling toddler. Also, her skull shows sometimes when she isn’t concentrating, and Owen isn’t good for her concentration, which is awkward.
Miss Calder’s mother was a member of the Penobscot tribe, local to the area. She assumes her father was a man called Calder, but knows nothing about him. She came to the island voluntarily in her late teens, fascinated by the name, and the stories. Her mother called it ‘that place we go to when we are young and stupid and have something to prove.’ Miss Calder’s mother had clearly made the journey and survived to tell all manner of tales. However, by the time Miss Calder made her own attempt on the island, getting out had become impossible. Even in death, it is notoriously difficult to leave.
Miss Calder has taken to death very well. She feels deeply motivated to prepare her young charges for the harsh realities of life, and death and to set them a good example. Having set out to learn about the mysteries of Hopeless, Maine she is quite at ease with having become one of them.
She does have a first name, but it is a private matter and she has never felt moved to share it with anyone else on the island.