SBR 1.13 Yardstick

What’s an hour to a single second? What’s a year to a day? In the immortal words of Madame Marie, there is no time for eternity. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

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Hello, faithful listeners. I’m alive and kicking! Thanks for your concern about me on the forums after the abrupt ending to last week’s episode. I’m perfectly fine, listeners! I have always been prone to nosebleeds, especially in the winter or during stressful situations. Not that recording the Advice and Community Segment for you faithful listeners is ever anything but a delight! When I first came down into the studio I found I was having them more frequently, but it’s eased off a little now, especially since Anna has been too busy to come and visit, and Kitty is still off investigating, so I’ve been sleeping down here again!

A lot of you were concerned because you heard me fall; I want to reassure you that the nosebleed was no so severe that it caused me to pass out! No, I actually suffer from something called absence seizures, where. I don’t really know how to describe it, really! I’ve been on medication for it for years, but occasionally I’ll get a break through one. Nothing to worry about!

On with the Advice and Community content! A couple of you have noticed I’ve not picked up your tarot requests, and I am sorry about that faithful listeners, but Anna took the tarot deck with her and Kitty has hidden the crystal ball somewhere. In my cleaning up of the studio, however, I did find a different tarot deck, but it’s a bit unusual compared the other one I had been using and most of the guides I’ve found.

The cards are larger, palm sized, and there seems too be too few of them, but when I was looking through them the other day, I realised some of the usual cards are missing. I found the moon, sun and stars and a few others from the major arcana, but none of the usual minor arcana were there. Instead of a usual four suits, there seemed to be six. There were a variety of cards pertaining to be witches – bog witch, house witch, forest witch, house witch, you know – and there were psychics – augurs like Salim the weather guy, tarot readers like Janet, though she liked to call herself a ‘tarot witch’, crystal diviners like Astrid.

The other five suits were… bizarre. One of them was different kinds of rain. Another was wind. One was flame. There was a suit that was what I would spiritual creatures; poltergeists, benign ghosts, malevolent ghosts, spectres, that kind of thing.

The major arcana that I did happen across were strange. There was the Mouth, which had an illustration of a gaping maw unfolding from the ground in the middle of a medieval street, peasants screaming and running from their burning homes under a red sky. There was a full compliment of deadly sins. And there were also a few cards which were not made of the same ancient starched cloth as the others, but metal, etched. These were not marked with names. There was a sword, amongst a rabble of swords dripping blood. Another was a grinning face, empty eyes, laughing as something dripped from it’s lips. The third one I found was a hand, the skin barely clinging to the bones, torn away in parts, haggard and festering. There was also a card that was an emaciated deer lying in a field of plush grass.

I did try to do a one card draw from this deck, just to see what happened, but every time I tried, I pulled a different card. I could tell they were different because of the uneven, brown-stained edges. But all of them were blank, even though I had not found a single blank card any time I’d shuffled the deck.

I’ve set my sights on finding out what type of tarot deck this is and learning how to properly use it. Perhaps I could stop by the Hatfield Karpos and see what Oliver has to say? It seems like the kind of thing he would know about. He is so very clever. And beautiful.

(SIGH)

Until I’ve worked it out or found a different deck, faithful listeners, I’m afraid I won’t be reading any tarot for you, I’m very sorry, but at least now you know why and that I’m making every effort to set things to rights!

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There is plenty to be getting on with, though! As I’ve not been able to practice any divining, I’ve had a lot of free time, so I decided to have a look through some of the parts of the forum I don’t usually get a chance to look at. I’m getting a bit more confident with computers, and it’s been great for improving my skills, and it’s been really awesome to have you all to help me when I’ve got stuck, so thank you, faithful listeners.

A few weeks ago on one of the parts of the forums I do usually manage to see, the ‘Show Requests’ section, someone had posted this story about something strange that had happened to them. I didn’t end up reading it out on the show as there was quite a lot to get through that particular week and it wasn’t exactly a particularly thrilling tale, nor was it something I felt I’d be able to give advice about.

To summarise, Jinghua recently moved back to the UK after living for some time in Australia. Her mother is sick, so she packed up her whole life, quit her job, and moved herself, her wife and their three daughters from Melbourne to Birmingham, where she grew up.

Jinghua’s wife is a research biologist, specialising in plankton, so found it pretty easy to find work after the move. Jinghua found it a bit more challenging. She found herself suddenly with a lot of free time, even with caring for her mother and looking after her children. As such, she started trying to reconnect with friends she hadn’t spoken to for twenty odd years, since she left for Melbourne.

One of those friends was Ellen. Ellen and Jinghua has been best friends in high school. They’d played netball together on the school team. Ellen seemed really enthusiastic to reconnect, so Jinghua suggested that she and Ellen take up tennis together on Tuesdays. Ellen didn’t drive, so Jinghua arranged that she would pick her up, and was surprised to learn that Ellen still lived in the house she’d lived in when they had been in school together.

Things went by without much note for several weeks. Jinghua would pull up to Ellen’s house and she’d be peering out from the side of the lace windows in the living room, and a few moments later she’d come out and they’d go to tennis. The only odd thing Jinghua noticed was that when Ellen got in the car, she often smelled odd. Not bad, exactly, but strange, sort of like the smell of a room which had been closed up for a while.

As well as meeting Ellen every week, Jinghua also reconnected with a bunch of other high school friends. They all had kids about the same age as Jinghua’s and some of them went to the same school. They often met up for drinks in the evenings, but even though they’d all known Ellen, Ellen never seemed to be invited. None of them said anything untowards when Jinghua mentioned she’d bene seeing Ellen for tennis, so she assumed it was some kind of historical disagreement, and not being one for drama, she didn’t press the issue.

Winter came and the nights drew in. Jinghua and Ellen usually took the nine o’clock booking for the indoor tennis court, so it was really quite early when she would come by to pick Ellen up. Ellen was always there, waiting in the window. But one morning, Jinghua saw a silhouette in the upstairs window.

‘You never told me you had a kid,’ said Jinghua.

‘I don’t,’ Ellen snapped. And she refused to say more on the subject.

The next week, the silhouette was in the window again.

One morning in the New Year, Jinghua pulled up and Ellen was not in the window. Jinghua waited for a few moments before she decided to go and knock on the door. Before she got there, though, a neighbour of Ellen’s stopped her at the gate and thanked Jinghua for finally coaxing Ellen out of the house. Jinghua thought that was odd and a little sad, and resolved to invite Ellen for coffee with a few of the others she’d reconnected with.

Before she asked Ellen, though, Jinghua thought she’d being it up with the others. Apparently, there had been no falling out, and for a while, they’d seen Ellen quite frequently. But everything changed after her brother died. Ellen’s brother was fifteen years her junior. He’d only been four or five when Jinghua moved to Melbourne, and she had almost completely forgotten he existed. The others seemed keen but uneasy about getting Ellen to rejoin the group, but wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly had been strange about her behaviour after her brother’s death.

Jinghua wasn’t sure what to do so for a while she did nothing. She didn’t invite Ellen for drinks and the others didn’t mention it. Ellen was always at the window when Jinghua came to pick her up. Jinghua was not accosted by any neighbours. Occasionally, she asked Ellen to grab a smoothie with her after tennis. Ellen would always agree but said very little.

As the mornings had grown brighter, Jinghua didn’t see the silhouette in the window anymore, and by April had almost entirely forgotten about it. But then, one morning in May, Ellen was not in the window. As she pulled up outside the house, she noticed the curtains upstairs were not drawn as they usually were.

Jinghua went to the door and knocked but received no answer. She peered through the lace curtains at the front of the house but saw nobody inside. Concluding that, despite going to tennis every Tuesday for almost nine months at this point, Ellen had forgotten, Jinghua was about to give up and go home, when she heard a clatter.

This being the same house Ellen had lived in all her life, Jinghua had been around many times and knew that the gate to the back garden was on a latch which would come off if you knocked it in the right spot. She did, and the gate swung open. There, standing in the garden, was Ellen’s brother.

Only it couldn’t be Ellen’s brother. He was dead. And even if he hadn’t been, this boy was exactly like Jinghua remembered him. Wide eyed, shorter than four feet, and five-years-old.

Jinghua stood there for a long time, and this impossible boy looked back at her. And then, very quietly, he said ‘I’ve had an accident with Ellen’.

Jinghua turned and ran. She left a series of detailed posts on the Spirit Box Radio forums, which I’ve summarised for you now, but the actual posts themselves are far longer and more detailed, totalling some ten thousand words. I tried to get Jinghua to call into the show today but she hasn’t responded to my messages, nor, in fact, anyone else’s messages! The last thing she posted was that she was going back to Ellen’s house.

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So, the reason I bring this up even though Jinghua posted all of this months ago and won’t reply to me, is because it made me think of a letter we received in the P.O. Box some years ago. It’s funny; usually I’d know right away which tray a letter belonged in without having to open it, but when this one came in it was like, well, it wasn’t like it was screaming at me, it being a small piece of paper folded and neatly sealed into an envelope, and letters don’t scream.

And it wasn’t screaming. But in a lot of ways it felt like it was. And no matter what I did I couldn’t make myself put it down. I wanted to open it so badly, I couldn’t understand it. Madame Marie must have sensed something was wrong because the next thing I knew, the locks were clattering and clicking open on the other side of the studio door and she was stepping out.

She said ‘give that letter to me Sam, right now’, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I couldn’t let go, and then, it was like. I knew what it said. I hadn’t opened it. I hadn’t even turned it over to look at the seal but I knew it was there.

And earlier this week when I was indexing Madame Marie’s letters I found it, still sealed.

She’s not here now, so I opened it, and it’s just so similar to what happened to Jinghua. I’ll read it to you now:

The second time I met Maria Gillespie she had drawn a picture of me and pinned it to her wall. It’s standard behaviour for a seven-year-old; when I came into her room, she plucked it down and pressed it against the observation window that separated us and said ‘there’s you, and there’s me’. We were holding hands, a blazing sun above our heads. The typical escapism of a child confined. She dreams of the outside world she can no longer experience.

Despite it’s typification, the drawing was also unusual. The sketch was almost photo-accurate, save for the garish colours she’d rendered me in. My eyes were lilac instead of grey; lips blood red to match her own. The sun, a swirling, Vivaldi-esque mass of yellows, greens and oranges that occupied the whole rest of the page.

There are drawings all over Maria’s walls. Sunny days; doctors faces; herself, over and over. All of them are like the one of the two of us; hyper-real in some aspects, and in others dizzyingly abstract. There are layers and layers of them, all dated and signed. Thirty years’ worth of drawings produced by the same three-inch hands that smudged the glass between us.

They serve as an as accurate as possible description of Maria herself that I can think of. Their subject matter – both the subjects in them and the scenes in which they occupy – is as childlike as Maria’s appearance. Standing just a little over three-foot, wide hazel eyes; a pretty but unremarkable seven-year-old girl. Some aspects of her personality, too, are infantile. She rarely wants to cooperate in interviews. Though I’d been warned of this before I ever met Maria, I can’t deny it came as something of a shock, because Maria is not seven-years-old. Well, arguably she is not seven-years old.

The complicating factor as represented by her artwork is the complexity of it. No seven-year-old ought to be able to produce figures that detailed or fine. No, that’s not exactly true. For a kid to produce work so complex and detailed, they’d be considered a prodigy. The unsettling thing about Maria’s work the evidence of practicing a craft, of assimilated influences – Vivaldi, Munch, Monet, to name but a few – and the sheer volume of it. The walls must have been seven, eight layers of artwork thick.

I’m told by one of her carers that you can see the progression of her interests in art if you flick back through the timeline of her paintings and drawings. Go far enough, there are poorly rendered stick figures and half-painted ponies with pink manes and tails.

Maria herself remains unchanged.

If I were to visit her in twenty years’ time, she might show me a new drawing of the two of us, holding hands under a beautiful, blistering sun, holding it up with the same three-inch hands and peering with the same wild, child’s eyes.

Maria was born in June of 1968. When I last visited her, it was August 2012. I’m writing this down and its April, 2016. Whenever you’re reading this, it doesn’t matter. Maria Gillespie is still, for the most part, seven-years old.

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You see?! An impossible girl! Just like Jinghua’s friend’s impossible brother. Children that last forever but are somehow, what, cursed? Dangerous? It’s unclear to me now but I’ve decided that I should look into it.

If any of you faithful listeners know of anything related, send us a message on the forums! I’d be so excited to know what you have to say. Tune in next week for any updates! I’ve been Sam Enfield, this has been the Spirit Box Radio Advice and Community Segment. Thank you for listening, and goodnight!