SBR 1.11: Mud

As I sit here in this small dark room, I wonder, how many have sat here before me? How many sets of lungs have breathed the particles of this very air I breathe now? How many creatures before I existed? What plants turned out the oxygen that I breathe? How many thousands, millions of years ago did they wither and die? How long, now, until I wither and die too? Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

[MUSIC]

Sorry for the gloomy opening, faithful listeners, I am afraid I’ve found myself somewhat melancholy of late. Right, rather than lingering in the specifics, lets dive right in, shall we?

We’ve had a lot of emails this week! For those of you asking for slots to use Spirit Box Radio, you never need to ask permission to try to use the service we provide! We run the Spirit Box continuously, almost 24/7, apart from this brief fifteen, twenty minute segment where I pop in to talk about Advice and… well. Community! I know Madame Marie and myself bang on about using the forums to schedule your slots, but that’s not to say there is any kind of formal booking system. If you wish to use the Spirit Box provided by our channel, you may do so at any time, but it’s always best to check in on the forums with other faithful listeners just to make sure you’re not going to be communing with the other side at the same time as anyone else, as that can make the results fuzzy and difficult to interpret.

Whilst we’re on the topic of forums I would implore, yet again, that the user under the alias of covenbabe666 stops attempting to use the service to organise a group séance. If you want to try and summon any kind of arcana you must do so elsewhere. It’s a legal nightmare on our end if anything goes wrong. Do you not remember what happened a few years ago with that poor guy Tim and his brother? Awful, awful thing. At any rate, there will be no more group seances. Not after what happened to Tim.

Right, so other forum based things; Tina and Michelle have set up a new chatroom on the forums for LGBT plus listeners of Spirit Box Radio! They’re a little bit snowed under and asked me to drop a message to let you all know they are working through approving all of your membership requests as quickly as possible, as it appears there is a very high percentage of LGBT cuties amongst our faithful listenership. If you’re thinking of joining, I’ll see you in there! I’m still figuring out this technology lark but I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere.

And, of course, finally, this week the forums, and the email, and the telegram. All of them have been absolutely rammed with people asking about my wellbeing. I would like to reassure you all that I am absolutely fine, faithful listeners. If a little melancholy. But who doesn’t get melancholy from time to time? I admit… well. It pains me to say it but.

I am beginning to wonder if perhaps I did something wrong which caused Madame Marie to leave so abruptly. That perhaps she has set up a new Spirit Box Radio elsewhere, far away from me, and this basement studio. Perhaps that’s why everything was in such a mess when I first came down. I cannot think what I could have done that might have wronged her. I hope I didn’t offend her too deeply and if– if there is any chance she is listening now, I would tell her that I am truly, deeply sorry for anything that I might have done.

Anna kept saying I was talking nonsense but I’m not. She left without a word of explanation apart from that flagrantly falsified note. I’ve heard nothing for weeks. Oh, I know I’m being maudlin, listeners, but this week has been absolutely dreadful.

Kitty and Anna would not let me sleep down here in the studio and Kitty made an awful fuss about the window in my bedroom. Anna insisted it must have always been there, which is insane because there is a photograph I took in my room when it definitely only had one window in it, so I know, for sure, that the second window is new, despite how very, very old it is. After I agreed to sleep in my freezing bedroom, kitty was happy enough that she left, but Anna parked herself in the beanbag opposite my bed and sat there all night. She stayed in the house until Sunday morning and made a great fuss of me whilst simultaneously barely saying a word.

Kitty came in once or twice and shared a silent coffee with Anna and I in the kitchen before leaving with a few tersely muttered words with Anna in the hall. She’s gone now, not even in the shed, off on some adventure neither she nor Anna would tell me about. Maybe she’s had word from Madame Marie. Maybe she doesn’t need word from Madame Marie to know what she ought to be investigating. She always did have a knack for knowing just what to do. Not like Anna.

Fortunately for me, though, faithful listeners, Anna had to return to her lawyering on Monday, and I told her however obedient her husband… Nick? Paul? Anthony? Whatever his name is, he can surely only tolerate her being gone for so long, before missing her. She made a great show of course about how it was more important that I am well than that oh, him, the fiance, that he can miss her all he likes, it’s less important.

I wish that Madame Marie thought it important. I wish she had done more than label everything with post-it notes to guide me through the airing of the show. I wish I had more than these screwed up pieces torn from note pads with the Augury forecasts scribbled on them in handwriting which is sometimes Selim’s and sometimes decidedly does not belong to anyone whose handwriting I have ever, ever seen before, written on paper worn soft with age or else so think and heavy it is practically card.

If Kitty and Anna know more than I do, they aren’t telling me.

But I really am fine, honestly, faithful listeners. I promise.

Without further ado, then, I shall proceed with the regularly scheduled programming for the Advice and Community Segment, starting with a very brief question from Tony in Cambridge. Tony wants to know what the best way to make an alter is, for somebody with absolutely no experience.

First off, Tony, you made what I’m assuming is a tiny spelling error in your email. I’m assuming you meant ‘altar’ as in ‘A L T A R’ as opposed to ‘alter’, as in ‘A L T E R’. as you’re an absolute beginner, Tony, I’ll start off by outlining for you and any other new comers to the arcane arts just what an altar actually is.

An altar is any space specifically used for offerings or sacrifices and they are found in many religious spaces, such as at shrines and temples. For arcanists, like those of us who use Spirit Box Radio are bound to be, altars are most commonly a designated space in our home or locale which we have devoted to offerings to the spiritual world in the hopes of leaving food, herbs, or anything of value for any nearby arcana to take in exchange for granting us some kind of auspiciousness.

To set up an altar if you’ve never done so before, first, find a surface in your home you won’t mind losing for other functions. I have an altar set up on the windowsill in my bedroom! The old windowsill, that is. The new old one is covered in mold. Make sure it’s not something like a table or desk you’re likely to need frequently, or a jumping off spot where you often leave phones and keys, otherwise these items may be taken as offerings should you inadvertently place items on your altar once you’ve sanctified it.

Clean the surface ordinarily, and then smudge the area with sage. If you have any crystals, organise them in a way that feels nice and pleasing for you. You may wish to furnish your alter with a piece of cloth – I have a strip of purple velvet decorated with a golden pentagram inside two concentric circles – it sets the tone just right. Some people have statues on their altars. Baphomet is popular, as is ygdrassil, and the three faced goddess. You can place anything meaningful on your altar, if you feel it sets the right sort of tone. The great thing about this kind of arcanism is it’s all about looking inside yourself to find what is important to you, and using that to channel arcane forces to your benefit or the malediction of others.

I hope that was helpful, Tony!

Okay, and the next email is from… Rhytidia Delphus! Oh! Rhytidia is an interesting witch, actually, she is really into. Well. Dirt. At any rate she often has interesting insights and it says here that, hmm, blah blah blah, questions to be had, in the place you are to answer them, la la, yada yada, important circles, and when you finish reading this the phone which once was hidden shall ring again.

[PHONE RINGS]

Oh, I love psychics!

SAM: Hello, you are live on—

RHYTIDIA: Samael Enfield, I have a prediction for you.

SAM: Oh, uh, right. Well. Go ahead.

RHYTIDIA: Hang on, let me just– [rummaging] [something falls over] AHA! You will return to the place from once you were banished, and you will learn more ther than you ever cared to learn.

SAM: Yeah, I think that might be about the studio? So that’s already come true.

RHYTIDIA: But it is true.

SAM: Yeah.

RHYTIDIA: And I predicted it!

SAM: Well, that really depends on—

RHYTIDIA: I listen to the earth, you concrete crybabies wouldn’t understand the songs of the bubbling depths.

SAM: No, you’re right. I really wouldn’t.

RHYTIDIA: So in that case, we’re agreed.

SAM: Um. Okay?

RHYTIDIA: Perfect. I knew you would agree, of course.

SAM: I’m not really sure what I—

RHYTIDIA: You have a question for the mud, young witchling!

SAM: I— I mean, I do have a question, but it’s for you.

RHYTIDIA: You may think it is for me, you cosmopolitan cretin, but it is really for the mud.

SAM: Of course, sorry. My mistake.

RHYTIDIA: You’re going to ask about— [toaster pops] The flower.

SAM: Yes. I am.

RHYTIDIA: Send me a picture of it and I will tell you the answer.

SAM: Oh, won’t that take a couple of days, I could just describe it to you?

RHYTIDIA: Send it on WhatsApp.

SAM: You have—

RHYTIDIA: Of course I have WhatsApp, come on, hurry up.

SAM: Ah, okay, hang on, I… Yeah there you go, sent it!

RHYTIDIA: Ah, a Black Bacarra.

SAM: A what?

RHYTIDIA: That’s the variety of rose in the photograph.

SAM: It’s just a very dark red.

RHYTIDIA: The species is called Black Baccarra, if you stop arguing this process will go a lot more smoothly, buckeroo.

SAM: Yes. Right. Sorry.

RHYTIDIA: it is clear this rose has been grown in conditions it was not meant to grow. The size and shape of the thorns are all wrong. Much too large. And the colour of the stem? Yes. Much too peaky. Definitely enhanced by the arcane arts.

SAM: It’s an enchanted rose.

RHYTIDIA: Yes, yes, the rose is enchanted!

SAM: So, what do I do with it?

RHYTIDIA: Well, I don’t know, do I? You need a hedge witch, not a bog witch.

SAM: A hedge witch?

RHYTIDIA: I know of some. There is one not far from you. Oliver Boleyn of the Hatfield Kapos.

SAM: [GASPS] Mr Oliver! Beth was right!

RHYTIDIA: I highly doubt he’d have sent this to you. He has an interest in plants that are actually arcane, or otherwise deadly, not simpy little stage kids like this Black Baccarra

SAM: Where can I find him?

RHYTIDIA: I’ll text you the address.

SAM: Oh, uh. Great.

RHYTIDIA: The mud is calling, Sam Enfield. I must return to it.

SAM: Oh sure, I— [dial tone] Thank you?

///

Oh, faithful listeners, this is wonderful news! I can visit this florist, this Mr Oliver person, who is apparently a hedge witch, and he can tell me about this Baccara rose, and perhaps something about Madame Marie, or at the very least he might explain what his little note cards mean! Oh. Yes. Yes! How exciting. I should go as soon as she sends me the address!

[phone ping]

Sorry, how unprofessional of me to leave my mobile on, especially after my sisters have been such… nuissances. It’s directions. From Rhytidia! They lead to the Hatfield Kapos! I should go now faithful listeners, I— no that would be foolish. It’s almost half past three in the morning, he’s probably in the middle of important witching hour things, I shouldn’t bother him. No. Right. Well. I shall go first thing in the morning! I can’t believe it, finally! The Hatfield Kapos! I’m going to buy the biggest bouquet they’ll sell me.

Ah, I’m getting carried away, aren’t !?! I’ll continue with the show. Now as well as the forums and the emails, we’ve also received a telegram this week! Whoever sent this one didn’t sign it off or give explicit permission for me to read it on air, but I’m going to go ahead and so so anyway as I think it has some very helpful advice for our wonderful community of faithful listeners.

///

It reads as follows:

In the darkness, the eight silent figures of scarecrows watched and waited.

The traveller fumbled in his pockets for a cigarette, found one, and put the stick in his mouth, searching for a match.

He lit it, and the resulting flare lit his face briefly, illuminating the features of his face for an instant. He inhaled the smoke, and coughed. You couldn’t smoke in a place like this. You felt dizzy and sick, either from lack of oxygen, or something far more sinister. After all, this was the domain of many unspeakable things.

The silence crowded around the traveller, and he began to wish that he’d never lit the cigarette. The mist was developing into a fog alarmingly quickly, and the traveller walked around the barren landscape, searching desperately for cover. It wasn’t safe to be caught in weather like this, and anyway, you heard stories…

“But not all stories are true,” muttered the traveller, arms wrapped around himself for comfort and warmth. The fog thickened, and soon he couldn’t even see his own hand in front of his face. He sat down on the dead soil, half frozen with cold, half frozen with fear. This is what happened to people before they Vanished. And he desperately didn’t want to become one of the many names on the back of the newspaper, under the title of “Missing: presumed Dead or Gone”. It was a kill-or-be-killed world he lived in, and he preferred to do the killing.

He wrapped his cloak around himself in a vain attempt to keep the cold from seeping further into his bones. Shaking now, and craving warmth, his stiff, trembling hands found the matchbox and struck. He cupped the little flame; the mere sight of the warmth and light it offered was enough to sustain him… For now.  Too late, he realised that he should not have drawn attention to himself. “Only stories,” he muttered.

“Ah,” said a dry voice from beside him. “But some stories are true.”

The traveller started, looking for the source of the voice. But there was nothing and no one there.

The traveller slowly drew his knife from its sheath and held it in front of him as he stood up. He squinted into the fog. Mocking laughter drifted on the edge of his hearing, like the whispering of dead leaves.

The traveller twisted around, and lunged at a shadowy figure, barely visible. The fog parted to reveal a rather battered and ugly scarecrow. The traveller nearly cried with relief. “Better you than me, my friend.” He whispered.

A harsh caw was heard, muffled by the fog. The scarecrow twitched, and to the traveller’s horror, turned it’s misshapen, deformed face towards him.

He yelled and ran, not daring to look back until he was sure he wasn’t being followed. He bent over, panting, and saw something out of the corner of his eye. He straightened up slowly, deciding to back away when he bumped into something soft and moist. He jumped and turned away with a muffled curse. Another scarecrow loomed before him. It spilt open, maggots crawling out of the filthy straw and sackcloth as if it were a bloated corpse.

The traveller stared, half-paralysed with terror as the scarecrow lurched towards him and tried to run again, but found his route blocked by another scarecrow. In sheer panic and desperation, he struck a match and threw it at the scarecrow, which instantly went up in flames. The traveller grinned; he was going to get out of this alive! He left the flailing scarecrow and ran on through the fog, but soon found himself surrounded by seven scarecrows. Dead eyes studied him from bits of sackcloth. Stitched mouths twisted in a grimace of triumph. Slowly but surely, the scarecrows lurched towards him, their joint-less limbs swinging and swaying in a cruel parody of human gait.

As they closed in on the traveller, he cried for help, seeking aid of any sort. But there was no one to help him. As the charred but whole eighth scarecrow appeared to join its brethren, the traveller realised an awful truth. Fire couldn’t stop them. Maggots dwelled inside them. And as he realised this, he remembered the rumours that circulated. How there was supposedly treasure buried beneath the barren soil. How eight people had gone missing in a mysterious fog that appeared out of nowhere. And how, after each disappearance, another scarecrow was sighted, silently guarding the field.

The screams of the traveller cut into the fog, as leathery sackcloth hands began to pull and tear.

The fog cleared as if it had never been. The dancing dead leaves covered the body of the traveller.

Soon there would be nine scarecrows in Dead Man’s field.


///

See, what did I tell you? Excellent advice there! Thank you so much to whoever sent that in. That’s a good point, actually; this advice and community segment is about more than just me sitting here preaching to you. As I’ve tried my best to make you aware, my skills as an arcanist are lacking to put it lightly, despite what Regular Caller Beth said last week I… I’m afraid I have no idea what she was talking about. Which is troubling. Because my sisters certainly did. Anyway, that’s beside the point. The point is I’m not very good at this and it’s highly likely that many of you faithful listeners out there have just as good if not better ideas on how to perform seances and everyday household magic. If you have any tips and tricks, feel free to call or write into the show. I’d be thrilled to hear from you!

On that note, I shall sign off for the evening, faithful listeners! Remember to check in with one another on the forums to organise timings for communing with the otherside. I’ve been Sam Enfield, this has been Spirit Box Radio’s Advice and Community Segment, thank you, and goodnight!

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Spirit Box Radio is distributed by Hanging Sloth Studios under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The show was created, directed and produced by me, Pippin Eira Major, the voice of Sam Enfield.

Alex Peilober-Richardson wrote the telegram of advice regarding scarecrows.

Elara Leatherbarrow is the bog witch, Rhytidia Delphus

Music is by Maybe Wednesday.

Find us on twitter at spiritboxradio, or tweet the sloths at hangingsloths.

Find out more at hangingslothstudios.wordpress.com, where you’ll also find transcripts of all our episodes.

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