SBR 1.18 Innocents

Lay out your belongs on the tiled kitchen floor, the crows are coming fast now you don’t fear them anymore. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

[INTRO MUSIC]

Hello, faithful listeners! I found that phrase written on one of the back pages of Madame Marie’s copy of the Little Book of Big Magic, but it’s not her hand writing. It feels weirdly familiar but I don’t know where I’ve heard it before. It was on a page about crows and their various abilities as agents of the arcane. Some animals, crows included, are predisposed to have a sensitivity to the arcane. Cats are probably the second most sensitive after corvids, which is why they are so often stereotyped as witches’ familiars!

I’m loving having access to most of Madame Marie’s extensive collection of books about the arcane. I’m trying to stick to the basics for now, hence re-reading the Little Book of Big Magic, but there are some great big, ancient looking tomes. One of them is always cold to the touch, and when I left it on the table as I was finally re-stacking the shelves the other day, it grew a fine film of frost. The pages are old, heavy and stiff, covered in hand-inked runes.

The cold book is not the strangest I’ve encountered in the collection, though; there is an incredibly beautiful volume I cannot seem to open. I can see it has pages, and when I run my finger along the edge, I can tell they are all real. It’s not like the pages are gummed together, either. When I try to lift the books’ cover, it’s like, I don’t know, all the strength leaves my hands, the book falls to the floor with a quiet thud, and I’m left standing there, staring at my empty fingers, wondering what happened.

It’s funny, I never thought of Madame Marie as a big reader. There are hardly any books upstairs, apart from my notebooks. For a while, she kept trying to throw those out but they kept finding their way back, somehow. It was quite funny actually. Well. I thought it was funny. Madame Marie hates my notebooks. The drawings of the white door always creeped her out. I thought that was pretty funny, too; all day she spends trying to contact ghosts and things and some silly little drawings of a door are the things that scared her.

You know, a couple of days before she left for wherever she is now, I caught her in my room. I’d been sitting downstairs in the kitchen, listening to the tick of the clock, and I heard the floorboards creak right above me. Madame Marie very rarely went into my room, again because of the drawings of the door. When I got to the top of the stairs I saw her standing next to my bed, holding one of the drawings. I asked her what she was doing and she just looked at me and turned the picture around, and there it was, the door, as I’ve always drawn it. A white door, wooden, with a knocker fixed in the centre. A streak of dirt is spreading down the white paint. I always draw the space around it black, but I don’t think it is. The door exists in isolation, in a void of darkness and nothing else. It’s haunted me all my life.

Madame Marie didn’t say anything. She just stepped into the hall and held the picture out. And that’s when I spotted it. A sliver of light around the doorframe.

In all of my other drawings the door is closed. It’s closed when I draw it in my sleep, when I doodle it absent mindedly whilst I’m thinking about other things. I’ve not drawn it open since that one Madame Marie found, if you could even call it open. It was more like, I don’t know, a suggestion that perhaps it could be opened. That there was something beyond it where before there had been nothing at all.

The white door isn’t the only thing I draw, of course. Sometimes I sketch out these funny little scenes, places I’ve never been, faces I don’t recognise. Sometimes I’ll wake up from a vivid dream and find a smiling face looking up at me from the page, my hand smudged silver-grey from rubbing back and forth across the drawing.

The weird thing is, if I sit down and try to draw, I’m really terrible at it! Oh well.

Anyway, that’s quite enough about me and the studio!

I found an augury forecast for this week! It was under one of the legs of the crystal ball table, like it was trying to stop it from wobbling, but it’s actually a lot more stable now I’ve taken the paper out. I’m pretty sure this is Salim’s handwriting. Salim, if you’re tuning in, thanks for setting this aside! I’ll share the forecast with you now, faithful listeners.

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If you are an Aquarius, do not change your profile picture on social media this week. Doing so may invite a malevolent presence into your account.

If you are aged sixty-four, seventy-two, eighty-six, or nine, do not chew gum for the next six weeks if you wish to retain your sense of self-worth.

The appearance of three birds in a bush local to Mrs. Keay’s home in West London suggests now is a bad time to finish your novel.

The coming weeks will provide you with an excellent opportunity to learn a new language, but opportunities to dry your laundry will be thin on the ground.

So concludes the augury forecast!

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This week on the forums you’ve all been busy coming up with some excellent suggestions as to what I can do with my limited spiritual abilities to try and convince Madame Marie to let me stay on once she comes back. Thank you so much, faithful listeners! For those of you who don’t use the forums, I’ll run through some of the most popular suggestions now.

Shelagh from the Isle of Wight suggests that I could have a segment discussing various forms of witchery. That’s a great idea, Shelagh! My knowledge is still a work in progress, but I suppose we could all learn together. I know one bog witch and one hedge witch, which is a great start! Perhaps I could get them to come onto the show to be interviewed? That could be fun, right?

Mabel from Bath suggests I spend some time each week going over what spells I know, which is a great idea, although I’ve pretty much exhausted my list already. I learned the attraction spell I shared with you in my very first show as temporary host right along with you! The only spell I actually specifically know is the protection and binding spell I made faithful listener Martin aware of to deal with his Baphomet statue. If anyone has another way to reach Martin, by the way, would you make sure he’s okay? He hasn’t been on the forums for a few weeks now and he was previously a fairly regular poster.

Regular Caller Beth suggested that as I’ve now started to get to grips with technology, I could take over Salim’s previous bi-weekly slot where he went over the most popular talking points on the forums. This, I think, is a spectacular idea, though I will need a lot of technical support from you, faithful listeners! As Beth has pointed out, I’ve actually been doing this for some time, as with drawing everyone’s attention to Jinghua’s disappearance a few weeks ago.

This actually brings us up to some rather tragic news, Faithful Listeners. One forum user was sad to report that Jinghua has been located. She was found walking around the Yorkshire Moors in late February. She had no shoes on and seemed to have been walking for miles. It was clear she had not eaten or drunk anything for some time. She didn’t know where she was or what she was doing, and wasn’t capable of remembering even her own name.

Through sheer force of luck, she had a membership card to a Birmingham gym in the back pocket of the jeans she was wearing. When Jinghua was brought into a hospital, one of the members of staff was able to call the gym, and found out that Jinghua hadn’t been seen for weeks and matched the description of the woman they had found wandering the moors. Jinghua is still in hospital, but she has now been transferred to a specialist head injury unit closer to her family. Despite the fact there is no sign of trauma, a head injury was the only thing doctors could think of to explain why Jinghua has forgotten almost everything about herself, has forgotten her wife and children, and can only seem to say a handful of words.

The forum user who explained all of this actually works at the hospital where Jinghua is now staying. She told the forums that the only things Jinghua ever says are ‘if you seek him, but do not search, you will find him’, and ‘beware the Heir Apparent’. Nobody in the comments could work out what any of this means, except to remind us that it the first phrase is oddly similar to what was mentioned in that story I was told by Mr Prakash from Mumbai about the man in the shell suit and flat cap.

Nobody seems to have any more information about this man, except for some rumours. Though some of them are pretty compelling, none of them have any real substance, except for one story recounted by user Amzzzie747. I dropped them a DM and they said it was fine for me to share their story on the air.

This is what Amzzzie747 wrote:

When I was a kid my brother got really sick. He was a couple of years younger than me and it was really hard because at the time my mother was pregnant with my sister. I don’t remember much of the details; my parents were really great at making sure I had to deal with as little of the stress as possible. What I do know is that he had a kidney transplant, but it didn’t work out, and he needed another one or he was going to die. I went to have some tests but I didn’t match well enough with him. I remember it was really weird because my mum kept telling me how good I’d been and I got one of those big, whirly lolly-pops, but my mum kept crying and crying.

It started out like he was a bit sick and couldn’t do some things but as time went on he got sicker and sicker. Even though my parents were good at keeping me safe and happy, sometimes after I went to bed I would hear them arguing downstairs. My dad has always been super spiritual but my mum has always hated it. He liked to keep crystals by the bed and burned a lot of incense and stuff, nothing serious, but just a general spiritual vibe. As Tommy got sicker, though, my dad really leaned on that kind of witchy stuff. At some point I know he started looking into Arcanism, specifically; he knows a lot about it still even though he doesn’t actively practice it and it’s great to talk to him about how it relates to his own personal spirituality stuff.

Anyway, my dad was getting big into Arcanism as Tommy was getting sick and he was suggesting they took him to some kind of witch to see if there was anything they could do. He wasn’t under any illusions that witchcraft could cure him or save him or anything, before you go off in the comments, he just wanted to know if there was anything Arcanism could offer to help him, I don’t know, with pain and with the idea of death. I think that’s why my mum was so dead set against it, to be honest. I heard her yelling at my dad that it sounded like he’d given up on Tommy.

A few weeks later, Tommy’s health got a lot worse. He was admitted into hospital first time and after a few days he was in intensive care. One night we got a call saying that we should come in and be with him. I didn’t know it at the time, but I don’t think anyone expected Tommy to make it through the night.

We were all crammed into this little hospital room. I remember I was scared. Tommy was all full of wires, and my mum was super heavily pregnant and my dad kept fussing about getting Tommy to feel the baby kick, saying he was going to have to stick around at least to meet his new sister. I didn’t know what was going on. I just sort of sat there, with a little book. My mum was adamant I stayed, that I talked to Tommy, held his hand, read him stories from my book. He just lay there, all grey-looking, his eyes only half-open. It was horrible.

We stayed up really late. There was a pull out sort of camp bed they made up for mum next to Tommy’s bed. My dad pulled in an extra plastic chair so I could sit in the big, plush one right up next to all the flashing monitors they had Tommy plugged into. I held his hand and sort of snoozed, but it was difficult because the machines keeping him alive were really loud.

It was the quiet that made me wake up. All the monitors hushed. They were still running but I could barely hear them. There was this cold breeze that wound in like someone had opened the window but nobody had moved and nobody had come in. I sat up. Mum was asleep on the camp bed, but dad was awake. He was looking right at me.

Through the silence I heard a click-clack click-clack, exactly like the sound our dog’s paws made when she walked on the kitchen tiles. The door to Tommy’s room cracked open, the light from the hallway spilling in all at once.

A man stood in the gap between the door and the frame. I couldn’t really tell what he was wearing. He seemed tall to me, but I was only six, and all grown-ups looked like giants. He had on his head a squat, flat hat. At his heel was a small, wiry dog, standing perfectly motionless. I couldn’t see his face but somehow I knew he was smiling.

He called my dad’s name. My dad kept staring straight at me. I told the man in the flat cap my dad was asleep. He chuckled. The sound was… I don’t know, wrong somehow. He asked, very quietly, if my dad had considered his offer. My dad nodded, still staring straight at me. The man in the flat cap asked him what his decision was. This time, my dad shook his head. The man in the flat-cap chuckled again, but this time it was nastier, and then he said ‘very well’.

The light in the hallway flickered and there was this weird, stagnant smell, and when I blinked, the man and the dog were both gone, and the monitors were so loud they made me jump. My dad had his head in his hands. He was muttering something I couldn’t work out fully, but it was something like ‘its not worth it’ or something. I don’t know.

The next morning my dad wouldn’t talk about it, and my mum wrote it off as a nightmare. Tommy pulled through the next few days and they were able to find him a new kidney. He’s not great, and he’ll need another transplant some day, but for now he’s alive and he’s happy. I’ve always believed it was a nightmare, like my mum said, something about my worry about Tommy manifesting in a strange, weird way. But the smell, the cold, and the strangeness of the man’s laugh have always stuck with me.

It’s really like what you described in the letter from Mumbai and the summary of what happened when Sam was caught in the gaze of the crystal ball, so I thought I’d share in case any one else has a story like this, in case this jogs your memory.

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Thanks for taking the time to share that, Amzzzie747. A few people have already commented, and I’m sure if anyone else has aa similar story, this will help them remember and hopefully give them the incentive to speak out as you did. If Amzzzie747’s story has struck a chord or rung any bells for you, do leave a message on the forums. User BasilBrash has helpfully created a whole new subsection of the forums about the man in the flat cap.

Of course, that’s not the only thing you can use the forums for! Please remember to check in with one another if you’re going to use Spirit Box Radio to commune with the dead in order to avoid confusing overlaps, and always keep your seance’s safe, sane and ceremonial!

This has been the Spirit Box Radio Advice and Community Segment. Tune in next week for more from me, your temporary host Sam Enfield, unless Madame Marie sees fit to return. Goodnight Faithful Listeners!