SBR 1.16: A Thing That Shivers

Word of the day is ‘smite’, as in let’s smite the demon, the foul beast has been smote, or, I am completely smitten. I’m Sam Enfield, and welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

(INTRO MUSIC)

Hello faithful listeners, for this edition of the Spirit Box Radio Advice and Community Segment, I have some interesting floral facts for all of you! I went back to the Hatfield Karpos and had Oliver the Florist put me together a beautiful bouquet. He chose all the flowers specially, and most excitingly of all, he actually explained what all of them are! How exciting is that?

I actually went back to the Hatfield Karpos with the intention of asking Oliver if he might be able to shed some light on the strange tarot deck I found in the studio some weeks ago, but when he offered to make me a bouquet, I clean forgot about everything else, I’m afraid! He did ask about my rose, which I told him had reformed from the ashes, and he made a quiet, melodious humming sound and stared into the middle distance for a moment, before leading me into the back room behind the shop as he had last time.

All of the plants he keeps in the back room, he explained to me, are in some way deadly. He put me together a bouquet of flowers which are deadly in entirely mundane, rather than arcane, ways! How interesting is that?

The tiny pink blooms almost like cherry blossoms fixed atop an oversized rosemary stem are oleander. They smell like apricots! It’s really quite uncanny. They are massively toxic and can cause severe stomach aches, coma and death. Even just a couple of leaves are enough to kill an adult human if prepared and administered properly.

The pinks of the oleander are perfectly complimented by the bell-shaped blue of the Aconitum. These pretty peepers will cause heart failure and muscle paralysis, and are also called Monkshood or Wolfsbane. Sounds like they should be called everything’s-bane to me, though! They don’t smell of anything in particular but they are very beautiful.

These are wreathed in the tiny pale buds of Lily of the Valley, which of course smells absolutely delightful, especially as a compliment to the oleander, and is, of course, capable of incapacitating just about anybody if ingested.

The bouquet is finished with beautiful, mysterious bells of belladonna, also unaffectionately known as deadly nightshade, and a few tall sprigs of Hemlock. The whole thing smells absolutely wonderful, and is, Oliver has informed me, entirely safe because of the soil in which it was grown.

He ferments the compost himself, but told me with twinkling eyes that his exact methods are completely top secret. It makes plants incredibly agreeable, he says, and they can be easily persuaded to forgo their poisonous personality traits for ones more befitting of such beautiful blooms, if just cultivated in the right conditions. He winked at me after he said that. I don’t know why but I couldn’t say anything for a long while afterwards.

Thank you so much for the bouquet, Oliver; the studio smells divine and I’m sure the faithful listeners have enjoyed learning about these poisonous beauties just as much as I have!

///

We have received a rather interesting letter in the P.O Box this week! It wasn’t signed off, but I read through it earlier and nothing untoward has happened, so I think I’ll share it with you now, faithful listeners!

It reads as follows:

The new house that isn’t new is smaller than ours. The loft hasn’t been converted, and the cellar isn’t finished and sealed. Downstairs there is just the kitchen and the living room the staircase, the master bedroom, a bathroom and separate, tiny, windowless toilet room, and a box room. I’ve been in there three times and every time I find myself walking right into the box roome. The walls are papered in stripes, pale green and blue, with a border of tiny ducklings just above waist height. The light switch is a crack plastic bear, the paint on his eyes and nose scratched off.

The rest of the house has high ceilings, but in the box room, it’s lower, boxed in around the window. The wires from spot lights hang down from three gaping holes in the cheap plasterboard. Through them, only cobwebs, and the old ceiling, about a foot further above the new one. The window is large, absurdly so for such a small room, lower than the windows in the other rooms of the house. It looks out over the tangled, messy garden, and the tree I used to watch the birds in when I walked the dog. I don’t watch them there anymore because the house is in the way.

There is less than a foot of separation between the edges of the window and the walls, and in the right hand corner, the side of the house that meets ours, there is a patch of black mould. Every time I go back to the house, no matter how sure I am I’m going somewhere else, I always open the door and finds the blue box room, with the cracked, ghostly grin of the light switch bear, and the faded yellow ducks, and the black mould, festering in the corner. Last time I visited, without knowing why, I found myself pulling at that faded paper a bit, where it was raised from damp, and underneath the wall was slick with that same black mould, oozing a stench like rotting flesh and vinegar.

I haven’t been back to the new house since. But it’s still there. When I walk the dog I see it watching me, the un-shuttered windows on the first floor like wide eyes, beckoning, calling me in.

[PHONE RINGS]

Oh, sorry faithful listeners! Bear with me a moment.

SAM: Hi, you are live on Spirit Box Radio?

KITTY: Really? The show is still on? Isn’t it almost morning?

SAM: Kitty! I hope that wasn’t a comment on my hosting capabilities.

KITTY: No, I just thought… never mind. There is something weird going on, here.

SAM: How exciting!

KITTY: Maybe. Maybe not.

SAM: Where are you?

KITTY: I’m at the old house.

SAM: The old house?

KITTY: Yeah, the one we lived in before where we live now, when you were a kid.

SAM: But Kitty, we’ve always lived here.

KITTY: [sigh] Oh, right, I forget about your sieve brain. We didn’t always live there. We used to live here. The house on the corner of Banemouth Road. You were born here.

SAM: No, but. All my memories are of this house.

KITTY: That’s probably your brain trying to fill in the gaps. You know how you say there’s a wall in your memory and everything before it is fuzzy?

SAM: Yeah?

KITTY: Well, maybe that’s because everything before the wall isn’t a real memory. Maybe it’s an invented memory based on things you’ve been told by other people. Just think. What sort of stuff is it that you tend to remember? Christmases, birthdays, New Years, right? It’s never just one specific Tuesday or stuff we did all the time. It’s events, stuff people talk about and reminisce about. None of it comes from you.

SAM: Kitty, what…?

KITTY: I know, sorry. I don’t have any answers as to what or why but that’s just what it seems like to me.

SAM: Why can’t I remember?

KITTY: I don’t know. I’m sorry. Anna reckons the memories are all still there, and you could probably figure out what happened if you went to therapy, but of course, you can’t go to therapy, because that means talking, and your life is insane.

SAM: It is?

KITTY: You advise people about smudging their bedrooms and extol the benefits of a vegan alternative to the blood of the innocent in ritual spell casting, Sam, that’s not very ordinary is it? You walk into therapy and say any of that you’re going to get yourself locked up. Course, Anna probably thinks that isn’t an entirely bad idea.

SAM: I’m sorry, what?

KITTY: You know what she’s like, it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t know what she’s saying half the time. This is all really besides the point, anyway. There is something wrong with the old house.

SAM: What do you mean?

KITTY: It’s… different somehow. I can’t explain it.

SAM: I mean, that makes sense, right? How long has it been since we lived there? I suppose the new people would want to change it a bit.

KITTY: No, it’s not like that. I went in there the other day and everything was the same except… off.

SAM: As in, like milk goes off? Mouldy?

KITTY: No. Not mouldy. The lights were on in the wall. It felt like things were… moving in the corner of my vision, but when I turned my head, nothing was there. It’s not ghosts. It didn’t feel like ghosts. It didn’t even feel like a presence, not exactly. It was like the house itself was moving. Wriggling. Just out of sight.

I went up the stairs and it was like everything was… less. Not smaller. Not like there were walls missing. Just that everything felt somehow diminished, insubstantial, as though at any moment despite the solid floor under my feet I might find myself outside, staring at an empty plot.

And then I found your bedroom.

Of all the rooms in the house I had seen through open doorways, it was the only one which seemed to have aged. The blue paint was peeling. Cracks laced like spiderwebs through the plaster. Your old drawings, the white door, closed, they’d fallen to the floor, the edges mouldy, the paper yellowed and spotted with black dots of mould. The air was thick and wet and sweet, heavy and undisturbed, and although the door was hanging open it was like it had been shut for weeks upon weeks, maybe even months.

And, Sam. The window was gone.

SAM: The window.

KITTY: Yes. I think, somehow, and I don’t know how or why, but I think the new window in your bedroom in the new house, I think it’s the window from here. From this house.

SAM: But… how? That doesn’t make any sense.

KITTY: I don’t know, Sam. I already told you I just don’t know.

SAM: It’s funny. Just before you called, I was reading a letter from the PO Box about a house that came from nowhere.

KITTY: Interesting. I’ve been trying to call you all night. Or, well. I thought I had, but if the show is on the air it can’t be as late as I thought.

SAM: Where are you now?

KITTY: Oh. Um.

SAM: Kitty?

KITTY: I don’t know.

SAM: Are you still in the old house?

KITTY: I… yes. I am. You know, it’s funny, I could have sworn I left and went back to the Travel Lodge.

SAM: I think you need to get out of the house.

KITTY: Yeah. Right. Get out of the house.

SAM: Now, Kitty.

KITTY: Yeah, okay.

[Footsteps, a door opens and closes]

SAM: Are you outside?

KITTY: Yeah, I’m on the path. I… Did I actually go in?

SAM: What?

KITTY: The house. I came all this way, it seems stupid not to go inside.

SAM: Kitty, no! You’ve been inside already. You need to leave.

KITTY: No, Sam, I haven’t. I need to see this house. It’s the first time I’ve been this close and that defense mechanism hasn’t kicked in. Usually I’d be halfway back down the road by now. I have to take this chance.

SAM: Kitty, listen! Whatever is wrong with the house, it’s not what you think right now. You’ve been inside. You were talking to me about my bedroom. About the window.

KITTY: The… window…

SAM: Right. It’s here, it’s in this house now. The window moved.

KITTY: That doesn’t make any sense.

SAM: You’re telling me!

KITTY: Sam, I don’t understand what you’re playing at but I need to go into the house and take a look around. I promised Madame Marie I would.

SAM: Kitty, please. Do not go back into the house.

KITTY: Okay. Fine.

SAM: Thank you. Come back home, would you? Leave the old house for now. I’ll play you this conversation back. You went in there.

KITTY: I– fine. I’ll come back.

SAM: Good.

[LINE GOES DEAD]

Honestly.

I have no memory of this house and… I don’t know. If Kitty can step outside and immediately forget she ever went in, then maybe it’s not real. Maybe it’s like the house in that letter, the new old house. Maybe it lied.

I don’t know.

I’ve go the Little Book of Big Magic here. Maybe there’s something about houses. Hmm. Dwellings… yes, let’s see. There is an entry here called ‘the Impossible House’. It doesn’t say very much about it, just that a few people have seen houses that weren’t there before or that don’t make sense when you go into them, but there’s nothing that detailed, you know? But. Hang on, there’s a note, really tiny. I think it’s Madame Marie’s handwriting. It says ‘sometimes a house is a home, warm and nice. Other times its a place of pain that makes you shiver when you step inside. Other times, a house itself can be a thing that shivers’

A thing that shivers. Huh.

[A LOUD BANG AND SUDDEN GUST OF WIND CATCHES UP THE PAPERS ON THE DESK. A CAT TRILLS]

Not again! How do you and your friends keep getting in here?

[CAT MEOWS]

Fine. You can stay. But just you, none of your buddies, okay?

[CAT MEOWS]

Fascinating.

Okay, faithful listeners. I think that’s all for this evening! Remember to post on the forums to organise when you’re going to be using the Spirit Box services, and tune in next week for more Advice and Community from Spirit Box Radio, though we’ve not got around to much of that today! I’ve been Sam Enfield, and I’ll speak to you next time.