The reward for making it to adulthood is nobody can tell you not to have cake for dinner. Incidentally, this is also the punishment. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello Faithful Listeners! I’ve had a busy week here in the studio, but it’s mostly been, you know, organisational things, looking to see if there was… anything to explain what the mystery caller last week was saying. Ghost maker. I can’t find the term anywhere. So I thought rather than anything too strenuous, we could go through the forums and have a look and see what you’ve been doing. I took a look earlier and there was…
The screen is blank. I must have knocked the switch, ugh, how annoying, I had everything cued up, picked out all of the things I was going to read for you, oof… wait. No it’s still plugged in.
There’s a little… line, flashing. Like the line that pops up in a word document, you know. Anyone know what could be wrong with this? Is it some kind of virus i– oh, well, I suppose it’s no good you putting an answer on the forums when I can’t see them!
Oh! My phone! I could maybe get everything up on there? Uh…
Just bear with me a moment.
Oh. Faithful listeners. Some words have appeared on the computer screen.
‘I can’t believe you stuck with her for all this time when all she ever did was lie to you about who you are and I’m glad the One will keep her for himself, just as she deserves.’
[SAM MAKES A WORDLESS SOUND OF SHOCK]
What does that mean, faithful listener?
‘You are more important than you’ll ever understand. You are Samael Heir Apparent, Ghost maker.’
Stop. Please. Whoever you are just stop.
Why can’t I do this when I want to do it? Why does it only ever happen by accident?
[IT CLATTERS AS SAM LIFTS IT TO HIS EAR]
SAM: [FEARFULLY] Huh—- hello?
KITTY: Sam? Sam can you hear me?
SAM: Kitty, you’re breaking up, I can hear you.
[SPIRIT BOX-LIKE SOUNDS, SQUEAKING, IN THE NOISE, KITTY’S VOICE, EXTREMELY DISTORTED]
SAM: I don’t know what I did?
KITTY: [DISTANT, QUIET] Must have got the recording machine again.
[STATIC, BUT IT’S DIFFERENT. QUIETER, CLEANER]
SAM: Kitty? Hello?
INDI: In this place, that’s impossible to say.
BLISS: Does it matter? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the girl.
INGRA: Every time I think I work out the system, it changes.
INDI: Who cares? We don’t need the system. She’ll come to us, when the time is right.
INGRA: You can’t know that.
BLISS: She doesn’t know that.
INDI: It doesn’t matter, either way.
INGRA: We’re screwed, Indi. You messed this one up. You should have known it wasn’t Madame Marie.
BLISS: There is no way of knowing.
INDI: I fail to see how it matters, either way.
INGRA: All I know is this sucks and we are no closer to finding out how to stop this.
BLISS: Do we need to know anything? Can’t we just… end things?
INDI: Either way, we’ll get what we want.
INGRA: Yeah, right.
BLISS: Did you hear that?
INDI: I did.
[Floorboards creak, FOOTSTEPS]
INDI: Here, Kitty Kitty.
[FAINT, DISTANT SPIRIT BOX SOUNDS]
SAM: I can’t do this, I can’t, I’m sorry, I ca- I can’t I, I’m s-s-sorry.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
[A DOOR SLAMS OPEN, FEET RUSH DOWN THE STAIRS]
ANNA: [HER VOICE CRACKING] Sam. Are you with me? Sam? Can you feel my hand? Sam?
SAM: [WEAKLY] Anna. Anna.
ANNA: Oh thank god, okay, okay. Good. This is good. This is really good, Sam. I came as soon as I… Sam, I’m so sorry.
SAM: I’ll be fine.
ANNA: Right, not about me, not at all about me. Gods, I wish Kitty were here. She’d. What would she. Something about senses. Uh, I have mints? Would you like a mint? You’re so cold. I’ll get you a blanket.
ANNA: There, better? Yes? You’re nodding? I can’t tell if you’re nodding, Sam. Look at me. There you go. You’re fine. Aren’t you fine? You’re not dying. You’re just cold. And barely breathing. And your eyes aren’t focusing. But you’re okay, they said you’re okay. You’re fine. Great.
SAM: [STILTED, AS THOUGH FORCING THE WORDS FREE] I’ll be— fine.
ANNA: [FRIGHTENED LAUGH] Oh, Sam, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have gone, not when I knew Kitty was off Investigating what had happened. You don’t have anyone else. It wasn’t right to just leave you like that.
Oh I. This is embarrassing but. I’ve been sitting in the car outside the house whilst the broadcast airs every week. I keep it on, blast the heating, drink some tea, read my case files. It seems like, I don’t know. It seems like when things happen to you it’s always when you’re broadcasting so
SAM: Anna, breathe.
ANNA: Gods, Sam, I’m sorry, I’m supposed to be helping you, I’ve let you down so badly, I’ve been so selfish. But you really do need to take better care of yourself and I don’t understand why you keep putting yourself at this risk.
SAM: Anna. Focus. In. Out.
ANNA: [DEEP BREATH, IN, OUT] I’m so sorry.
SAM: Stop apologising. Just breathe.
ANNA: Right. Yes. Breathe. Oh you look, you just look so terrible, Sam. How could I abandon you like this?
SAM: You didn’t. You were outside. And I’m fine, see?
ANNA: There’s blood on your teeth.
SAM: Ah. Mm. Sorry. I won’t smile then.
ANNA: Do you need anything? Water? Tea? I could make you some food? Have you been eating??
SAM: I’m fine. I have water. I’m fine, okay? Look at me. I’m fine. It looks worse than it is. I know, I know, I know. It just happens sometimes. It’s over now. I’m okay. I promise.
SAM: You’re doing great. You’re looking after me. Thank you.
ANNA: Oh, I’m a mess. I’ve been a mess, since… you know. I can’t. Guy isn’t great for conversation. He listens but he never reflects. It sometimes feels like I’m talking to a mannequin, I know it’s cruel of me to say; he’s bright, he’s a brilliant lawyer, but legal precedent doesn’t help when I’m talking about my feelings, and it’s not as though I can— well I can’t talk about this.
SAM: This? Do you mean me?
ANNA: Kind of? He knows you exist. He knows my relationship with M was… strained, that Kitty and I don’t get on so fabulously, that you are blindly loyal to M.
SAM: I am not blindly loyal.
ANNA: I’m sorry, I know it sounds harsh. I just mean he has the broad strokes of the situation but how can I explain the rest? How do I begin to tell him what growing up in that house was like, even before you were born? The unrelenting pressure. The way she turned her back the moment it was clear we were not—-
whatever she wanted us to be. And then what it was like when you were born, and it was so clear that you were whatever she’d been wishing for. And then you. How to explain you?
SAM: Most people opt for ‘incompetent and fragile’, I think.
ANNA: Don’t joke, Sam. Gods, why are you always so happy?
SAM: What else should I be? Would you rather I was miserable?
ANNA: At least that would make sense. [BEAT] Sorry. I don’t mean that. I don’t want you to be miserable. I just, I just don’t understand, that’s all.
SAM: You know, for someone who staunchly maintains she doesn’t believe in the arcane, you, you try really hard to read minds.
SAM: I’m not M. If you don’t understand, you can just ask. I can’t promise I’ll know the answer but I can at least try, if that would help. What? You’re looking at me like I’ve grown a third eye. Oh god, I haven’t have I?
ANNA: Sam. Sorry, I just. When did you get so grown up?
SAM: Over a number of years, I think. Time is generally like that.
ANNA: No I mean. Oh, never mind. [BEAT] You’re shaking.
SAM: Oh, yeah. It’s fine, it just happens sometimes. Some times I feel like I’m standing at the edge of this great precipice, and there’s nobody around me, just this great, endless darkness, spinning out, spiralling down into imperceivable nothingness, and I’m right there, on the edge of it, and there’s no railings, no barrier, nothing to stop me from just… stepping out.
ANNA: I’m so sorry. That sounds awful.
SAM: I’m used to it. It’s not like that all the time, it passes. Everything does. It’s the one thing you can rely on, remember? That and taxes.
ANNA: Don’t joke about dying. You have too many near death experiences for it to be funny.
SAM: All that, and I barely leave the house.
ANNA: It’s been better though. Well, sort of. I do wish you’d choose better company.
ANNA: The Florist. I don’t trust him.
SAM: You don’t?! Anna, you haven’t even met him. Sure, he’s an Arcanist, but they aren’t all like Madame Marie. And you don’t have to worry about it anyway, because he’s gone.
ANNA: He’s not just an Arcanist, Sam. I have met him, years and years ago. I told you. Back when I was too young to prevent M from dragging me everywhere in tow. You were so young then. It was just before.
SAM: Before what?
ANNA: You know. Before you were sick.
SAM: I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.
ANNA: But. It was so long.
SAM: I can’t remember much of anything. I’m sorry.
ANNA: I know your memories are hazy, but. Surely you must recall the… the impression of it?
SAM: No. Nothing. It’s like a brick wall in my head. Everything I can remember before that is foggy, and Kitty said she’s not sure it’s even real. She said she’d spoken to you about it, too. Said you thought the memories were still there, that I should talk them out in therapy, but, like there’s a therapist who wouldn’t lock me up immediately.
ANNA: I mean. Would that be so bad?
SAM: Yes. It would be bad. I like to not be institutionalised. I can’t believe this is something I’m having to say out loud to you
ANNA: Sorry, I’m sorry. I just. I worry about you, that’s all.
SAM: The worrying is fine. That’s normal. It’s the most normal thing in my life, most of the time. What I can’t stand is the way you weaponise it.
ANNA: I— what?
SAM: Sometimes you’ll use it like a threat. ‘Don’t do that or I’ll worry’. A sort of emotional blackmail. I need to live my life, Anna. I don’t go about throwing caution to the wind every minute of the day, but sometimes I have to take risks, don’t I? Otherwise I’d never leave this room.
ANNA: I’ve never thought about it like that.
SAM: No, because it’s just something you do without thinking. A knee-jerk response.
ANNA: I just want to take care of you.
SAM: I just. I know that. But sometimes I feel like you just want me to do nothing at all so you can get on with your life. Sometimes when you get like this, I don’t feel looked after; I feel like a burden. Sometimes I feel like I’m hurting you but I don’t know how or why. I just– I’m just trying to live, Anna. I don’t understand.
ANNA: What do you remember, about growing up?
SAM: I don’t, really, uh. Christmases. Birthdays. That kind of thing. Sort of stuff you can trick yourself into thinking you really remember but what’s actually happening is you’re remembering being told about them, like Kitty says. Not that it makes me feel better about it.
ANNA: So just… nothing?
SAM: Nothing, in all likelihood, yeah.
ANNA: I, ah. I didn’t know things were that bad. What’s the oldest thing you do remember, then?
SAM: I… I. You were yelling at Madame Marie. You’d come back from uni. You didn’t stay at the house again after.
ANNA: That’s the earliest thing you can remember?
SAM: I think so. But it’s still hazy around there. Things don’t straighten out until I’m sort of seventeen, eighteen.
ANNA: I had no idea. It’s like your whole past has been stolen from you. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.
SAM: How would you? You weren’t here.
ANNA: I— I know. I left. [PAUSE] From your perspective it must seem like I was never there. Sam, you. You must barely know me.
SAM: I know you’re my sister and I love you.
ANNA: I love you too. I hope you know that.
SAM: I do. It just. It just sometimes doesn’t feel that way. Even though you were out in the car, so you really hadn’t abandoned me, I still felt very much. You know. Abandoned.
ANNA: Kitty says I shouldn’t crowd you. I don’t want to- I don’t know, Sam. I don’t want to seem like I’m hanging over you like a shadow.
SAM: Then don’t. There are ways to look out for someone that don’t involve basically stalking them.
ANNA: I know, I just. It’s hard. And. Gods, Sam, I thought you just didn’t care. But you don’t know what it was like, growing up. What M was like. What she did, what she didn’t do.
ANNA: I— I don’t know if I can. I want to lie to you. I want to tell you everything was fine. I—
SAM: It is fine, now. I’m fine, Anna. Whatever happened, it’s not going to break me to know.
ANNA: Sam, I—
SAM: So, tell me about it.
ANNA: [SHAKY BREATH] Well, my earliest memory is… a beach. Pale golden sand. Kitty and I digging sandcastles, running into the sea with our trousers rolled up to our knees, squealing, drawing our names in the sand. And then the sun started to set. We were hungry. Madame Marie was still in her tent, and the flap was closed. She was working.
Even then, and I most have only been four or five years old, I knew not to disturb her when she was working.
We waited by the tent. It was this dark blue thing, covered with a golden lines, marking the shape of constellations. Inside, you could see the ceiling was punctured by a thousand pinprick sized holes. Lying on the floor, looking up, it was like looking at the night sky, on the clearest night you can imagine. We’d sleep in there in bundles of blankets, and in the morning, Madame Marie would stuff them into the Teak Box where the tent was stored and… kick us out to entertain ourselves.
We didn’t have any money. Usually M would come out of the tent and buy us something for dinner but often she forgot, or whatever she did with her clients, those strange shambling, shadowy people who would slope in through the tent flaps, things would run over and she wouldn’t come out at dinner time.
We got really good at rifling through bins without getting caught. Sometimes we’d shoplift, but only for little things, like chocolate bars and apples, and Kitty was always so much better at it than I was.
Sometimes, she would let Kitty and I draw the cards for her clients. The clients were always entranced by this, but Madame Marie was never satisfied. She’d sit us in front of the crystal ball for hours and hours, just sitting, waiting. Watching us with a sort of wild look in her eyes. But… nothing ever happened.
I remember I’d see this… cold disappointment in her eyes. I wanted nothing more than for her to look at me with pride. With excitement. But she didn’t. And as years wore on, she took less and less of an interest in us. She no longer let us draw cards for people. She’d leave us with a weekend’s worth of food and we’d manage on our own. Of course, it was awful, but I told myself it was better than getting dragged up and down the country for no apparent reason to sit, bored, outside of the tarot tent. At least we had TV at home.
And then, one day, M was pregnant.
It was… weird. I’d seen pregnant people on television. I knew people at school who’d had younger brothers and sisters. I thought it was supposed to be exciting and wonderful, and there would be cards and buying clothes and going for scans. But M seemed… I don’t know. Like a wild animal. She was gone for more and more weekends, and some times didn’t come back until Monday, or even Tuesday. When she was home, she barely seemed to sleep.
I could tell something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what to do with that information. There are only eleven months between Kitty and I, I was too young to know what it was like when she was born, so I don’t know if she was this way with all of us, but. I will never forget the sound she made that night you were born.
Kitty was curled up in my bed, hiding under the duvets. There was a storm, it had been raging for hours, lightning in bright veins across the sky, thunder so deep the floorboards rattled. I held her hands and we promised we’d keep each other safe.
And then M…
It wasn’t a scream, exactly. It was an awful, mournful wail. I remember, absurdly, I thought that she had been struck somehow by the lightening, the scream coming as it did exactly as another bright flash of blue lit everything in our little bedroom in shades of silver and white.
The lights in the house wouldn’t turn on, but I had a little torch I kept under my pillow to read with into the night. Kitty went first, her arms spread in front of me.
M was in the living room.
There was… so much blood. I think I must be mad, the way I remember it. Perhaps it’s a quirk of my child’s mind, but I remember the carpets oozed red through my toes. The walls were streaked and splattered. M was on the floor on all fours. Her hair was lank with blood and sweat.
Kitty ran right to her. I don’t know how she had the courage. She grabbed pillows of the sofa, seeing a thousand things to do. I remember asking if I should get help. I couldn’t believe nobody had heard her screams, but the storm was so loud, rain hammering relentlessly against the window. M told me not to get anyone. She told me not to leave.
She screamed again, another flash of lightening pouring through open living room curtains, and I found myself walking towards her. Everything is a blur, and then, you were born.
This perfect little thing, lying on the blood soaked carpet.
I remember thinking it was strange that you didn’t cry, not even as M continued to scream like she was in the throes of death.
Kitty picked you up, bundled you in a blanket, handed you to me.
I’ve heard people say that all baby’s eyes are blue, but yours, even then, were the brightest shade of blue I’d ever seen. So blue they were almost white. As blue as the lightning which had flashed so consistently before but now, all of a sudden, was gone. No thunder or wind. Just rain, in a rhythmic thrum against the house. M sat there, whispering, though I didn’t catch what. Eventually, she took you from me and sent Kitty and I to bed.
In the morning, I thought it was all a dream, until I heard you cry.
And there you were, in a little crib next to where M lay sleeping on the blood-soaked sofa. My baby brother.
When you were a baby, M doted on you, and after that first day, she rarely set you down. Right away though, it seemed like something wasn’t right. You’d cry and… I don’t know. It was like it filled up my whole head, the sound of you crying. M painted algiz on the door of our bedroom and told us you were special, and it got a bit better after that. But. I don’t know.
M carried you everywhere. She must have but at the time it was like she didn’t sleep. Kitty and I would go to bed and leave her in the kitchen, rocking you back and forth, and when we came down in the morning, there she was, still swaying idly side to side, humming a little tune.
Things started to get really strange when you learned how to talk. You wanted for nothing. You asked for a pear, you got a pear. Nobody could argue with you. You weren’t exceptionally charming or fantastically articulate, people just… did things when you asked them to. I did it. All the time. It was. Well, it was a lot.
By this point, Kitty and I were twelve, old enough to begin to grasp at the situation. And then M started taking you to places. Not just sitting in a tarot tent, Sam. She’d take you to hospitals. And I. I don’t know. She was frayed, at the edges. Burningly proud of you, but at the same time I think some part of her was afraid.
I came down one night and she was drawing algiz over and over on the floor. The walls were covered with it in white paint. The crystal ball was out on the table. I looked at it and for the first time it seemed to shift under my gaze and M snapped her gaze onto me and I froze stock still.
She grabbed my wrist, told me to get Kitty. I went up and woke her. When we came downstairs, the front door was hanging open and M was getting into the car. I asked what was going on and she said we were going on a trip. She wouldn’t let us get dressed; she just packed us into the car in our pyjamas.
Kitty fell asleep but I couldn’t. I stared at the rearview mirror, and every now and then, M would catch my gaze, her eyes sunk in deep shadows. She said ‘it’s fine Anna. Everything is fine’. She said it hundreds, maybe thousands of times.
By the time we stopped driving it was morning. We were outside a small shop. The window was full of flowers. That man. Oliver. He was standing by the door. He looked at us, in the backseat. M leapt out of the car. His face transformed from one of concern to one of abject horror. M went into the shop.
I must have drifted to sleep. Oliver woke us. I remember, He gave us sandwiches and bottles of pop. I was afraid to eat mine, but Kitty tucked straight in. M came out, brought us into the flower shop. She had clearly been crying. You were sat in your carseat, fast asleep. I remember, there was a small cloth bag around your neck, and I wondered what that was for, but you didn’t wake up, not even to stir.
For a while then, things returned almost to normal. And by normal, I mean extremely strange, but in a way I recognised. Except for M. She stopped taking you places. She left you with me and Kitty, but sometimes she—
Sometimes she locked you in your room. You’d scream and scream and I’d try and do as you asked but M never left the key, so I’d just sit there and talk to you through the door until you stopped.
And then. It was the Autumn after I was fifteen. The night of your seventh birthday. I sat bolt upright in bed. I woke in the middle of the night to an awful scream. It was storming outside. Kitty was awake in her bed, staring at me, motionless on the pillow. The light wouldn’t turn on. In a strange sort of fugue I remember we came down the stairs, and I don’t know what I expected to see and I can’t. I couldn’t make sense of it then, and I can’t now.
[THUD THUD THUD]
SAM: Did you—
ANNA: Yes. I did.
[THUD THUD THUD]
KITTY: [MUFFLED] You guys! Move the bloody chair!
SAM: Oh my god!
[CHAIR LEGS SCRAPE, THE TRAPDOOR SLAMS OPEN]
KITTY: SO, tired
ANNA: Woah! You’re wobbly!
KITTY: I think I’m going to throw up.
SAM: Well. I think that’s all I have time for tonight, Faithful Listeners. See you next time, faithful listeners!
| Content Warnings |
– Background music of varying volumes
– Distorted audio (brief, contained segment towards the beginning of the episode)
– Static (brief, two instances between minute 2 and minute 5)
– Descriptions of past child neglect
– Panic attack (with the sound of hyperventilating, which is resolved)
– Mentions of hospitals (brief, undetailed)
– Mentions of blood (from a nosebleed, AND during childbirth)
– Descriptions of unhealthy pregnancy
– Description of unsafe childbirth (no support, with blood)
– Descriptions of screams of pain (no sound effects)
– Thunderstorms (descriptions of)
– Thunderstorms (sound effects of rain and thunder of varying volumes)
– Mentions of locking up a child
– Self-loathing and negative self-talk
– Sounds of emotional distress (shaky voices)
– Crying/sniffling (very mild)
– Implications of murder or wrongful death
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