SBR 1.21: Enlightenment

I’ve always wondered if it hurts a caterpillar to become a butterfly. When they emerge, skins shed, having become something beautiful and vulnerable, do they think that it’s worth it? Perhaps they never spend a thought on it at all. I suppose I’ll never know. Anyway. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.


Hello faithful listeners! Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio. It feels like an eternity since I’ve said that. Kind of. Believe it or not I’ve spent the most of the last few weeks asleep. Anna said it was more of a ‘comatose situation’ but between you and I, Faithful Listeners, she does tend towards the melodramatic. Either way, I’m back now! And I’m fine, Faithful Listeners. Or, well. As fine as you could expect to be? Thank you for your concern on the forums, all of you. I haven’t been able to… respond to much of it because… well. I’ve been asleep and it’s also… it’s a lot. I appreciate you, Faithful Listeners. Thank you.


I won’t lie to you. Things have been. Hard. I keep thinking it will get easier but it doesn’t. I keep thinking that— I keep– thinking. Sometimes I think I remember what happened, the vague shape of a bannister under my palm, the buzz of flies, the smell of death… but then it’s gone, like dry sand through my fingers. I can’t hold onto it.

So, for those of you asking, I. I–I’m afraid I don’t know. Kitty told me there was a flash of light, and then I was on the ground next to what Madame Marie had carved into the floorboards. My name. Heir Apparent. There is something else there, when I think of the words. The shape of a phrase. The taste of something bitter at the back of my throat. Thorns and the smell of roses. But that’s it.

I want to ask Madame Marie. I need to ask her but— she’s gone. Really gone. I can’t reach her, wherever she is, I tried, I laid out a board, I cast a circle, turned on the Spirit Box. But… it’s. There is this gaping space where she should be. Like a cliff edge in the pitch black dark. Probably doesn’t mean anything. I’ve never been good at arcanism.


Which brings me to the purpose of this episode, actually! I’ve had plenty of time since I woke up to think about what we’re going to do here at the Advice and Community Segment now that Madame Marie is… now that I.

I– I don’t know enough about arcanism to give you the sort of Advice Madame Marie used to, so I thought the focus of this segment could shift towards bringing in the expertise of other, more proficient arcanists. This way, I’ll learn so much, and I’m sure there will be lots for you to learn, too. Today, long-time friend of the show the Bog Witch Rhytidia Delphus has agreed to come on and talk to us about… well. She didn’t actually specify what it was she was going to tell us, but it will surely be about her… unique methods for witchcraft!

For those of you who don’t know, Rhytidia is a bog witch, which, uh

[papers shuffle]

Typically bog witches are very connected to the earth, and the ground, that kind of thing. According to the Little Book of Big Magic. Rhytidia has a particular interest in. Well. Mud. Anyway. I’m sure she’ll explain this all to you in more detail. I have her waiting on the line, so I’ll bring her on for you now, faithful listeners!

Rhytidia, are you there?

RHYTIDIA: Where else would I be?

SAM: Uh. Thanks for agreeing to–

RHYTIDIA: The thing you have to understand about the mud is that it sings.

SAM: Right.

RHYTIDIA: Sit at the edge of any bog, swamp or sludge pile and you can hear it. The bubbles, the movements of creatures submerged in the ooze. All of it comes together in a beautiful harmony. The mud song.

SAM: So, you would call yourself a bog witch, wouldn’t you, Rhytidia? But this sounds like a kind of divination.

RHYTIDIA: You arcanists and your categories. The lines are blurrier than you’d like. Muddier.

SAM: Of course.

RHYTIDIA: Really the difference between me and someone who just uses the mud for predicting things is that I am not so self-important as to think the mud is always singing for me. I simply listen to what it has to say, and respond, and in return, the mud offers me favours.

SAM: You get favours from mud?

RHYTIDIA: Yes, but only after years of developing my relationship with it.

SAM: What would you advise any young arcanists out there hoping to develop their own, um, relationship with mud?

RHYTIDIA: First step is to get your head out from where it’s been wedged between your buttocks and understand that what you want to do is about as far from the neatly defined lines of arcanism as you can get. You’re going to have to get dirty.

SAM: That goes without saying.

RHYTIDIA: [SOUR LAUGH] I couldn’t agree less. Too often I’ve seen young pretenders think they can scoop a bit of mud into a jar and call themselves a bog witch. You’ve got to get out there, get your toes into it, if you really want to connect.

SAM: So you’d suggest going out barefoot?

RHYTIDIA: It’s a start, that’s what I’m saying.

SAM: So, once you’ve started doing that, how do you learn to hear the song of the mud?

RHYTIDIA: It’s a skill, it takes time and practice. You have to connect with it. Wallow in it. Sleep in it. That’s what you need to do. You can take some mud home with you but make sure it goes back to it’s point of origin when you’ve spent a few days with it, or it will die, and the last thing you want is to be haunted by dirt. Trust me.

SAM: That does sound pretty nasty.

RHYTIDIA: If you’re just starting out, the best thing you can do is get your hands in it. Really dig your fingers deep into the mud and feel it get into all the creases of your knuckles, into the whorls of your skin. Really let it soak in there. Bring it up to your ear and listen; the crackle of tiny bubbles, the subtle slick slip of mud adjusting to your presence. Understand that you could become one with it. Understand that there is very little difference between you and the mud. Understand that what difference there is between you, is that you have left the mud behind, you have lost your connection, and now you must do deference in order to regain that connection you have lost. Mud is the world. That’s why we call it the earth.

SAM: Um. What about people who live in drier climates?

RHYTIDIA: There is more to the song of mud than bubbles and slips. You can learn to read cracks like runes, to understand the ways in which dry mud flakes in your hands so as to interpret a message from it.

SAM: Fascinating, is there a book—

RHYTIDIA: There is no book because there does not need to be a book! Everything you can learn from the mud, the mud will teach you, if you only become open to learning it.

SAM: Right. And how does one—

RHYTIDIA: You have a tendency, young witchling, to tie yourself in knots looking for answers that both do not exist and are right in front of you. Connect with the mud, Samael.

SAM: I’ll give that a go. Thanks Rhytidia! I’m sure some of the faithful listeners found that very informative.

RHYTIDIA: Ugh. Perhaps. I saw all three of you when you were small and the only one of you that showed even the slightest respect and attention to detail was Anastasia.

SAM: Anna? Really?

RHYTIDIA: You and Ekaterina are far too closed-minded.

SAM: Anna has an open mind?

RHYTIDIA: Exceptionally so.

SAM: You must have her and Kitty confused. Anna is the most stubborn person I know.

RHYTIDIA: [DISGRUNTLED WITCH SOUNDS] Sometimes when a situation is baffling, it takes courage and open-minded-ness to think inside of the box rather than out of it. There’s worth in seeking explanations where you’ve been taught to seek them and reaching out in other directions if those methods fail you. You and Ekaterina are happy to stubbornly stay in your lane and never ask the difficult questions.

SAM: Hey! That’s not true.

RHYTIDIA: Nevertheless.

SAM: Well. Thanks anyway, Rhytidia. Unless you have anything else to add?

RHYTIDIA: Hmm., no. No, I’m done.

SAM: Great, in that case, thank you for–


SAM: Everything…

Chh– Why does she do that every time I call her? She just hangs up! It’s like she doesn’t want to talk to me or something. I mean, why agree to be on the show at all, you know? But whatever. I’m not going to pretend like I could have any great insight into the motions of Rhytidia Delphus. She came over, you know, just as I started waking up. I was trying to talk to her and she was completely ignoring me. It was extremely frustrating. She just kept talk ing to Anna like I wasn’t even there, and then, apropos of nothing, she dumped an entire jar of mud right on my face. It was cold, too, and really thick. It smelled divine, though, like the air after a heavy summer rain. Petrichor is the word, I think.

After she left it took me about an hour to wash the stuff out of my hair. I had to sit in the bath with a mirror, picking at it. It dried like pottery, almost. It was a real shocker, too, because it was the first time I’d seen my reflection, and my hair. Well. Whatever happened to me in Madame Marie’s office, the streak of grey that’s been there pretty much as long as I can remember – which isn’t really saying much, I know – it’s spread.

Kitty says I was sort of… smoking, when the ringing in her ears let up enough that she could get over to me. They didn’t see anything happen, exactly, it was just this flash of light and then, there I was, sizzling and grey on the floor.

Weirdest of all though, I have this birthmark on my neck. It’s almost shaped like an algiz, but it’s sort of wonky. It used to be just sort of pale and not raised at all but since whatever happened it’s sort of… inflamed, bruise coloured and thick under my fingers, like someone has pressed a strand of yarn into my skin. It’s. Well. It’s bizarre. Maybe it’s an allergic reaction to Rhytidia’s mud.

I’d ask Kitty or Anna but, well. They’ve gone. Kitty said she had to get back to the old house, the Impossible House, to see if anything had changed, what with the whole of Madame Marie’s office apparently showing up under the studio. I tried to remind her about the old new window, but I was still not really with it at that point, and she just sort of frowned and patted me on the head.

I don’t know what to think. How did an office appear under the studio, which I feel I must remind you is already in a basement. It must have been at least another seven, eight feet under the ground. A few of you mentioned this on the forums, and it’s not like Kitty has any reason to be lying, but… I don’t understand. If it was all three of us down there, it can’t have been a hallucination and… the new old window can’t be argued with.

The funniest thing happened, the first day I was alone in the house since they left. I was standing in my room, looking at the picture of the door with the light around the frame, and then I glanced up. It was dark outside, and with the light on in my room I could see myself reflected in the glass of the new old window, a thousand drawings of the white door on the wall behind me, but then I realised… they weren’t the same drawings as the ones on the wall that was actually behind me. They were my sketches, yes, and they were of the white door. But they were organised differently and stopped a few feet short of the ceiling, as though I was too short to reach the rest of the wall. I’m not the tallest person in the world but I can reach up high enough to stick sketches on the wall. It was like I had the reach of a child.

As I stared at my reflection, the edges of the sketches quivered, as though in a breeze, but I couldn’t feel it. The door to my room, which I was sure I had left open, inched open. There was someone in the gap between the door and the frame. I saw a hand and the toe of a heavy boot and I whipped around to see whoever it was but…

It was just my room. The sketches all the way up to the ceiling. My bedroom door hanging open like I’d left it. Revel was suspended awkwardly across the bannisters, like he was melting. He meowed at me like he was asking if I was okay and hopped down as soon as he saw the state I’d got myself in. We sat on the floor together for a while, until I could breathe again.

That’s not the only thing, either. It took me days after I woke up to pluck up the courage to go down into the studio. The desk was still shoved aside, and there it was. The trapdoor. My heart was in my throat when I saw it. It was real, the pentagram and all. My palms were sweating as I reached the for the hollow groove at the side I could pull up and wrench it open. I dropped the door back, my eyes squeezed shut in horrid anticipation, and then… it was just… dirt. Maybe if I knew how to listen to the mud like Rhytidia it would be able to tell me something, but I don’t know.


And I don’t have anyone to ask. How long was it between us going down there and the room disappearing? It’s not something that I even though tot ask Kitty about before she left, I didn’t even know the room was gone. I’d ask Anna but. Well. She’s gone too. But with less of an explanation. For a few days I wasn’t really up to much talking and she stayed, ignoring me whenever I’d try to speak, and then, the first day I started to feel enough of myself to get out of bed, she said ‘Right then,’ and she left. I tried calling her but. Well. I think she’s blocked my number.

I’ll be fine, Faithful Listeners. I’ve not blacked out for two full days now!

Goodness, I’m so sorry Faithful Listeners, I do go on a bit, then, don’t I? Let’s see what’s been happening on the forums.


I’ve not been completely up to date, for obvious reasons, but there are a few that leaped out at me to mention!

A few people have commented on Jimmy’s post about his late partner, Ben, remarking that they’d had similar experiences of roses appearing briefly, temporarily, shortly after the death of a loved one. The deaths were often, though not always, of a sudden and or dramatic nature. Someone’s brother fell down the stairs. A best friend had a spontaneous heart attack. Someone’s neighbour slipped and hit her head on the bathroom floor.

The disappearing roses were seen at different times, sometimes right after the person had died, and sometimes not . Janet’s neighbour Beryl, for example, who fell onto her pruning sheers when she decided to trim a branch off a hedge during brunch. Janet didn’t know how to react. It was an instantaneous and fairly neat death, by Janet’s account. She rushed over to Beryl, who had the sheers sticking right out of the back of her neck, and as she knelt down in horror, knowing already nothing could be done to help her friend, she saw there in the hedge a deep red rose. As she watched, the petals plucked themselves free and twisted upwards, into smoke, one by one, until the flower was completely gone. It took seconds.

The other story that stood out was Michael’s. He went away for the weekend and it wasn’t until he came back on the Tuesday that he found his housemate, Josh, dead in his sleep. Michael knew as soon as he found him that Josh had been gone for days, and the autopsy confirmed he’d died of a spontaneous heart attack sometime Friday evening, just hours after Michael had left. Josh’s gaming computer was still on in the corner of the room when Michael found him, wheezing and groaning, heat coming off it in waves and making the smell of the room that much worse. On the glowing rainbow keyboard, Michael saw a rose. Before his eyes it twisted and turned in on itself, petals furling strangely inward and up, and then it was gone, as though it folded itself into nothing.

The thing about that is. The rose wasn’t there for Josh. Or, maybe it was, at first. But it wasn’t only there for him. It was there for Michael, too. Whatever message these things are trying to convey it’s not just for the victims. It’s for the people left behind, too. A calling card. But what’s the point in a calling card that disappears?


If my rose comes from the same place, why did it reform the way it did? And who died to have it left there? Was it M? But at that point, none of us even knew she was…


Not one of the fifteen, sixteen people who have claimed to have seen one of these temporary roses has said anything about them reconstituting themselves. Though, of course, none of them have said anything about there being anything left behind once the roses turn to smoke, and after Oliver the Florist touched my rose, there was a considerable amount of ash left behind. Far more than one rose should have left. Especially not one which hasn’t even been on fire.

Perhaps I should try to talk to Oliver about the rose again? No. No. I couldn’t. I’m not quite up for making the trip to the shop yet and I– well. To be frank with you, faithful listeners, I look pretty terrible at the moment, with this bright red scar and these bruise-like shadows around my eyes. I look positively frightful. Well. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll ask Oliver for some more advice about the rose. We’ll see.

Anyway, Faithful Listeners, I hope you enjoyed this very first episode of the newly minted Enlightenment Segment! I’m looking forward to learning and sharing so much more about Arcanism with you over the coming weeks. For those of you offering your thoughts, wishes, and sacrifices at your altars in honour of Madame Marie, I— thank you. It really does mean the world.

I’m sorry I’ve not talked more about her today. About losing her. About your kind words, your thoughts and memories. I—


I think that will have to wait for a while, too, Faithful Listeners. For now, know I appreciate your kind words. Thank you for tuning in to Spirit Box Radio, I’ve been your temporary—


No. I’ve been your host, Sam Enfield, and I bid you a restful night.


Lyrics to Mouth Full of Blood

Lay out your belongs

On the tiled kitchen floor

The crows are coming fast now

You don’t fear them anymore

Clear out all the cupboards

And the shelves up in your mind

Sleep is for the dead

Give up everything you find

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

Someone would have stopped you had they only known they could

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

If only they’d believed you

You would have saved them if you could

Drench your soulless body

In fragrant gasoline

Let the moment last forever

You’ve never felt this clean

Walk into the fire

That burns under your skin

Step out into the desert

Of life yet to begin

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

Someone would have stopped you had they only known they could

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

Mouth full of blood

If only they’d believed you

You would have saved them if you could

Find yourself untarnished by

The flames that raged for years

Let your whole self melt away

With the last scraps of your fears

| Content Warnings |

– Background music of varying volumes

– Static-y sound effects

– Discussion of death generally, including the loss of a parent

– Description of violent and non-violent deaths (brief, somewhat detailed)

– Sounds of emotional distress

– Implications of neglect

– Sounds of physical discomfort

– Mentions of a corpse

– Descriptions of a corpse

– Abrupt loud sound effects

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