be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
the final wish
–cannot be bitter,
Welcome back to the Spirit Box Radio Advice and Community Segment.
That was a poem, faithful listeners, by my most favourite and the best poet, Allen Ginsberg. Ah, listeners, we have a lot to get through today, but first, faithful listeners, I have some pressing news!
You may recall that last week I spoke with friend of the show and frequent caller Rhytidia Delphus about the rose I was mysteriously delivered in the early hours of Christmas eve. Rhytidia was kind enough to point me in the direction of a hedge witch, who just so happens to be the very same florist who has been sending Madame Marie these beautiful bouquets since just before she disappeared. Or maybe immediately before.
At any rate, the flowers come from Oliver Boleyn, owner of the Hatfield Karpos, and, oh, faithful listeners, is it beautiful! I took a short bus trip over there on Tuesday.
The pavement outside of the Hatfield Karpos is lined with stands adorned in freshly cut blooms, some of them displayed individually, among others of their same type, others organised into gorgeous bouquets, carefully enrobed in paper bindings and fastened lovingly with ribbon.
Inside, the shop is small and likewise dripping with with florals, and the smell is absolutely divine. There were even flowers on the ceiling, tiny little pink things, absolutely blisteringly beautiful, but nothing on the man standing behind the counter in a dusky pink apron with a pocket on the front. Sticking out of the pocket was a pair of ceramic handled clippers, a flowery design of lavender and ivy twisting up and down, and a moisture gauge made of glass, and the chain of what I can only assume was a pocket watch.
Under his apron he wore a dark green t-shirt and a hoodie, once black but faded and fraying at the seams. I can see why he held onto it, though; it hugged his frame perfectly. Lean, but not twiggy.
He had the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, revealing arms covered in runic and floral tattoos, some of them broken with thin scars. His hands were bare as he handled the flowers, knuckles dirty, a thin scratch on the back of his hand where he must have caught it on an errant thorn. His black hair was artfully messed in a dark halo around his head and here was a scar across his lip, the ghost of a wound which must have been severe, and another down his cheek. One side of his face, where it was not covered by his wavy hair, was scarred and thick, as though in many layers. His green eyes glimmered when he looked up at me and smiled with slightly, charmingly crooked teeth.
He’s much too young to have dated Madame Marie.
Anyway. We’ve had a lot in the P.O. Box this week, including a request from listener Holly West from Edinburgh to explain how to use the Spirit Box Radio Service. Holly says she has looked on the forums and thinks she has a pretty good grasp of what she’s doing but she’s a bit worried about muddling the basics.
Aren’t we all, Holly! I’ll walk you through what I’ve learned from LBBM, or, the Little Book of Big Magic.
The section on Spirit Boxes isn’t particularly lengthy, but it is the best and most succinct one I’ve found! It says;
‘A Spirit Box is a device which skips through multiple radio channels which can possibly be manipulated by arcana which otherwise struggles to communicate with the living. Fragments of speech in radio waves may be linked up to complete words, phrases, and, rarely, sentences of dialogue.
Spirit Boxes are best used for Minor Arcana and the generally benign but can be used in attempts to commune with more major powers if the caster is experienced and knows what they are to be looking for.’
Now, Holly, most of the time, a Spirit Box is a small, well, box, which can be carried from room to room. But they can be pretty pricey buy, which is one of the reasons we set up Spirit Box Radio You can tune into the live broadcast of channel skipping on any device capable of connecting to the internet for absolutely free.
Results are obviously not as reliable as with a proper spirit box because the device is only broadcasting and has no channel skipping abilities of its own, which means it tends to favour slightly more proactive arcana and might be a bit useless if what ever you’re dealing with is shy and unmotivated.
The other big source of confusion is of course that multiple users can access Spirit Box radio at the same time and it can be unclear which of them has been successful in their attempted communications, which is why we bang on so regularly here at Spirit Box Radio about using the forums to let other faithful listeners know when you’re going to be using the service to commune with the dead.
So, to get started, you need to download an app onto your phone, tune into [WEIRD NOISE] three oh three, and we’re there!
Just sit with your device and play the station wherever the activity is most frequent. Some people like to draw a power circle, but that can be risky if you’re not sure what you’re dealing with, or if this is your first time! You could just light a candle and turn out the lights – ghosts and other minor arcana do generally respond well to a bit of scene setting!
From there, it’s like any sort of divining or communing; ask your questions clearly and wait patiently for a response.
I hope that was useful!
Goodness, me, you know, I was so excited to tell you all about Oliver the Florist that I clean forgot to tell you about the rose! I approached the front counter, I was very nervous. He was very good looking, despite the scars, because of the scars. My hands were all sweaty.
Oliver had a sort of surprised look and he said in the most beautiful velvet tones my ears have ever had the luxury of hearing that people didn’t usually just walk into his shop, it was by appointment.
So I told him I had been sent by Rhytidia Delphus and he seemed very surprised by this.
He said something else, but I was just so taken with the sound of his voice that I clean forgot to actually listen to the words he was saying. There were lots of oos and aahs and I think at some point he may have mentioned Madame Marie, which was about when I remembered that when people talk it’s usually to communicate something and not just to grace you with the sound of their voice, though I could have listened to him make any sounds he liked and have gone away just as satisfied…
So I just took out the rose and his sentence just trailed off into nothing and then he said, ‘may I’. And with a sort of deep amusement, and then he ducked through a small door which was almost hidden by a curtain of hanging flowers.
In that little room, the light was entirely blue. It danced on Olivers scars and made them shine like silver. The flowers and plants in that room were strange and marvellous shapes, and some of them seemed to be moving. Some of them swayed as though in a gentle breeze, but the air was still, hot and wet, like a rainforest, despite the chilliness of the shop we’d just walked in from. The other plants trembled and flexed, leaves furling and unfurling, all about me a quiet rustling was under cut by the faint gush of heavy running water and the chirping of distant crickets, though the room itself could have only been very small, from the size of the building the shop was in.
Oliver walked a winding path between the plants, some snapping at him as he walked. One reached to nip me on the arm but without looking back Oliver snapped at it and it retreated with a disappointed rustle.
I did think it odd, the place being called the Hatfield Karpos, being nowhere near any Hatfield nor selling any fruit, that was until, of course, Oliver. Clearly it is named for Karpos the great beauty of Greek legend. The Hatfield part of the name I confess I still have no idea as to where it comes from. Perhaps he likes hats and fields. Or hats in fields. Who knows.
Well, anyway. I’m getting distracted. I should get on with a little bit more advice and community!
We have received a letter from someone in Whitby, about… oh, there’s blood on it.
We had another one of those scraps of cloth this week. We started getting them the week after Madame Marie disappeared. We’ve had three more since then, but. This one was weird because the blood seemed fresh. I got it on my favourite t-shirt. I hope the stain comes out in the wash. It was right over one of the little blue stars, and it’s completely ruined Orion’s belt. So annoying. I wish whoever was sending them bothered to put them in an envelope.
They put stamps on them but they’re never post marked and – well. I think the post people would probably put it in a little bag if the blood was still wet wouldn’t they? It’s very curious. Maybe it’s some kind of spell, to make it last for longer?
Oh I should stop talking about this in case Anna decides to listen in this week.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that she’s getting involved! She’s always had a healthy amount of scepticism about Madame Marie’s work.
Or perhaps an unhealthy amount, actually but… I don’t know. My memory is fuzzy.
It’s funny because I often find I recall far more detail than most people but it’s like there’s a sort of fuzzy wall in my head, and before that, there are all these great big holes in my memories, until it’s more like void punctuated by bright lights of things I do remember, like the pentagrams at Christmas and my bedroom with the window and the white door.
The white door.
How it haunts me.
But that’s beside the point.
The letter from Whitby comes from Karina, who has kindly sent us some as yet indecipherable runes and several very clean teeth. I’m not sure why, but thank you nonetheless, Karina!
We have also received a short note from a Mr Prakash in Mumbai…
[STILTEDLY] I don’t recall this letter being this long when I looked at it.
But, I put it in the pile of things to read so.
Mr Prakash says:
I am an old man now but many years ago I was a young one. I grew up here in Mumbai, and I have lived here all my life. Here I learned to walk, talk, ride a bike, and it was here that I met my wife when I was just sixteen.
She was from a family much wealthier than mine. She was very beautiful and always wore blue and gold. By some stroke of luck, I caught her eye too, and we began to have secret liaisons.
I knew her family would not happy with our match – she had been betrothed to a politician’s son who was very wealthy and had been intended to marry him in five years time, when she turned twenty-one.
So. We kept our love secret, and as the years wore on, though I was convinced of her feelings for me I became convinced also that she intended to leave me to marry the politicians son when the time came. Perhaps… we would continue to love one another in secret after she was married, but I was certain this was what she would do.
This idea possessed me, though looking back I had no evidence. She would say I was simply insecure, but I dared not tell her any of these suspicions before she passed away not long ago, and I certainly didn’t mention the lengths I went to in order to prevent her from leaving me.
You must understand; I was eighteen. I believed I would die without her, truly. I loved her with that all consuming love that only comes when you are young and you have not learned the way of the world. I believed I would die without her, truly. I thought she was my world. I would have done anything if it would have prevented her from leaving me. Anything at all.
I had heard rumours of a man, a white man in a flat cap and shell suit. I’d heard tell of him from shamans and shady people alike. I had heard tell of him from paper boys and the woman who sold roti on the street corner on my way to school.
If you look for him, they told me, you will not find him. If you seek him, they said, but do not search, then you will find him. And then their eyes would glaze and they would just… carry on talking as though nothing had happened. No amount of questioning would get them to elaborate on what they’d meant.
It took me weeks to understand it. I took to wandering the streets trying to empty my mind, to mediate as I slipped down alleys.. I had to find him, because the people who would tell me about him, they also told me that he was a witch who specialised in love spells.
It was not until the end of summer that I finally found him. I had spent the night with friends and had had maybe one or two too many beers and as I stumbled home I found myself down a street I didn’t know.
The buildings were familiar, but wrong. There were too many windows to fit in the walls. The doorways too large or too small. And all of them were lit as though it was dusk, even though it was the middle of the night. The chatter of the street was gone, replaced by a kind of silence that drills into your eardrums, a silence somehow louder than any sound I had ever heard.
And then it was pierced by the sharp yap of a dog.
It was a small, straggly thing. I would have said it was a stray. But it had no eyes. No scars where eyes had been. Just dark fur.
Its tail wagged so fast that at first I didn’t notice that it was not one tail, but many, thin and splitting. It barked, jaws hinged too far back, red tongue lolling over serrated teeth so white they glowed in the murky half light.
The dog barked again, and I knew to follow.
Around the corner I found myself on a square.
A wind was blowing, cold and scentless.
A man in a flat cap and shell suit sat at a small table with his feet on upturned box.
The little dog with no eyes and many tails hopped into his lap.
‘Prakash, is it?’ said the man. ‘’Been expecting you.’
I don’t remember what he said to me, nor how I got home. The memory is like runny eggs dripping through my fingers. But when I woke up in my bed the next morning I knew what had been done. And I knew there was a price, though I could not remember what it was.
I continued to see my girlfriend in secret, now certain she would not leave me, but I wasn’t sure why. When the time came for her to marry her politician’s son, we talked about it at length. She told me she would never leave me, but I found myself saying the strangest thing, without intending it.
I told her to do it, to leave me and marry him.
She was upset, she wept and wept, but I insisted and I don’t know why and the moment she was gone I cursed myself for having been so foolish, despaired in the months up to the wedding, and wept all through the night, only to be woken the next morning by a knock on the door.
It was my beloved.
Her newly wedded husband was dead.
There was no clear cause of death the autopsy could find. They wrote it down as a heart attack but from what the coroner said, it was as if his heart had simply stopped beating, and there was no sign of trauma whatsoever.
Two years later, my beloved and I were wed.
We spent some years travelling, before coming back here, to Mumbai, to have our six beautiful children.
Three years ago my beloved was diagnosed with cancer. She fought long and hard, but yesterday, she finally gave in shuffled off this mortal coil.
Our youngest daughter is only five.
I would beg for more time but I know now what is happening, and there is nothing I can do. Walking home from the hospital just an hour after my wife had died, I saw the dog on the corner of the street. Without knowing why I flung the window wide.
Not half an hour ago a cold, scentless wind blew in. The light, though it is now gone three, rose into thin, dusky blue.
The dog sits in his lap wagging its many tails.
The man in his flat cap and shell suit told me that time has come for my payment. And my payment is this: a letter to you, Sam Enfield.
Now, as I sign my name, he is handing me a deep, red rose, but as it touches my fingers, it crumbles to dust, and now my fingers too, and I —
And then it just… trails off, faithful listeners. And there is a smudge of something dark on the page. How curious. A letter specifically for me? It definitely didn’t look like this when I put it in the pile
How Strange. How curious.
For me? This arcana wanted him to write a letter to me?
Could it be that… this person, this man in this story, whoever he is the same one who delivered me my rose on Christmas Eve? Maybe he’s some kind of witch or a psychic like Madame Marie. Kitty and Anna’s father’s are both powerful in the arcane arts in their own ways, be they very different. Maybe this man, the man who is responsible, well, me. Maybe he is too.
The rose in the letter sounded very like my rose, and–
Goodness! I forgot to tell you!
Oliver, the exquisite Florist, he said he’d seen one like it before, a long time ago, when he was witness to some terrible tragedy of which he couldn’t speak, That rose that he had seen had crumbled as soon as he touched it,
there was this sort of odd beat of silence where I could feel the energy fizzing in the air between us. and then Oliver reached out and as soon as the tips of his fingers grazed the petals, it turned to ash, and Oliver yelped a melodic yelp, clinging to his wrist. He curled in on himself, twitching, and then was still.
He wasn’t breathing.
I didn’t know what to do except stand there, and then, minutes later, he took a deep shuddering breath and sat up. His fingers were covered in a delicate net of scars, like the veins of a leaf. He stared at them a moment and then said, very quietly and evenly and, of course, beautifully, just one word: ‘curious’.
After a moment or two of catching his breath, he helped me sweep up the ashes, and put them back in the box, without him touching them of course, which is here in front of me now.
It’s so strange. There seemed to be an awful lot of ash for just a single rose. It’s, I— oh. Faithful listeners! Now that is curious! It seems it’s a rose again.
Perfect as the day it was sent to me.
Yeah. Very weird indeed.
I wonder if I—
I probably shouldn’t try to touch it, but it was fine when I touched it before.
Yep. Nothing. Just a rose.
Oh, is that – has it lost a petal I–
Oh, faithful listeners, I must go, I am afraid my nose is bleeding. Tune in next week. This is Spirit Box Radio, thank you and good night!
[CHAIR LEGS SCRAPING, AND A SOFT THUD]
| Content Warnings |
– Background music of varying volumes
– References to blood
– Mention and description of scars
– Mention of death by cancer (referred to by a one-off minor character)
– Distant dog barks
– Implications of adultery/cheating
– References to alcohol (mild, undetailed)
– Descriptions of emotional distress
– Descriptions of physical distress
– Distorted audio
– Abrupt loud sound effects