All’s fair in love and war, except that’s not really true, is it? There are conventions we all must abide by, lines we should not cross.
Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello, Faithful Listeners! It’s a relief to get to sit down with you. It’s been an eventful week for me. I. [HE CHUCKLES] I became briefly convinced I might be dead. I made Anna find my pulse. She was extremely concerned that I asked her to do it, but. Well. I agreed to spend the night at her and her fiance’s house if she did it, so she did.
I do have a pulse! And a temperature. And a blood pressure. Anna even has a blood sugar monitor and my blood sugar is a thing that exists and is also fine. So. I’m not dead. Or if I am dead, I’m dead in an extremely unusual manner which appears very much like I’mnot dead.
Kind of like. Oliver. Ugh. No, I can’t let myself think about him or it’s all I’ll do, Faithful Listeners. It’s bad enough that every time I fall asleep I see him. Sometimes, I swear, the bedsheets smell of him when I wake up. But he’s never been in my bed and he’s certainly never been in the spare bedroom at Anna and, oh, whatever his name is. Charlie? Ugh. Who cares.
I wish it was nice to dream of Oliver. I wish I dreamed about him like I think about him, which I allow myself to do sometimes because I think trying not to think about him entirely would make me think about him more. I— I only kissed him a handful of times but. Somehow it. I can still.
Ugh. It doesn’t matter.
But when I dream of Oliver is dark and its frightening. It’s like what I saw of him in the Crystal Ball before I, you know. Made it explode or whatever. However I did that.
It’s like he’s been swirled in with all my old nightmares. My dreams of the door. My dreams of the empty town. My dreams of. Ach, I don’t even know!
When I wake up, I don’t remember and it hurts me to try to remember them. But they’re strange and frightening, I can tell you that much.
But I’m alive, and Anna promises she saw me the day I was born so I’m not a hundred years old or anything, and she says she watched me grow like a miracle plant child or something in my sleep as I lay there, so I’m not stuck like the Impossible Children in those letters and your messages on the forums.
The fact that I’m not dead is more surprising, given everything, is what Anna said. And maybe she’s right.
I don’t know.
I do have some good news, though, Faithful Listeners! Regular-Caller-Beth has returned to the Spirit Box Radio user forums! I’m sure you’ve all seen and had a chance to speak with her. She sent me a message, saying that after we last spoke, she felt weak, for a while, like realising she’s a ghost took a lot out of her. She wanted to tell me she’s not angry with me about what happened to her, even though she’s pretty sure her mother is.
She’s realised she can visit her mother, if she thinks about her very hard. Those few times that Beth has thought she’s been getting ready for school, or sorting through her laundry, she’s pretty convinced that explains all the paranormal activity her mother seems to have been experiencing around her home.
A new user has appeared in the forums since Beth came back, too. Their user name is just Mystery Caller and I think. Well. I think it might be the mystery caller who called into the show some weeks ago and told me that I had somehow made them into a ghost because… I don’t really know how to explain it, but. I can sort of. See it? I don’t know. When I see their posts. I see it’s the same person. I know it doesn’t make any sense.
I’ve also noticed that. Well. I can feel that Beth and Mystery are… mine somehow.
Ugh it makes me shudder, thinking about it. But I can feel them, sort of, existing nearby or something. Like they’re connected to me, but just barely, like an electrical current moving through steam. It’s. I don’t know. It’s strange. I think. I think it’s always been there, somehow. And it’s not like I’m only just noticing it, it’s more like I’m only just. Knowing about it. I know that makes no sense but, ha, isn’t that what Arcanism is all about?
Anyway, Faithful Listeners. I have an Augury Forecast for you today! I found this one underneath Eggroll when she was asleep on one of the cat trees. I barely go in the living room these days, it’s cat central. I just leave the window cracked and Revel, Cosmo and Eggroll, and their dozens of buddies, just come in and out as they please. Most of the others stay away from the studio in big numbers. There’s always a couple of them down here with me. Right now, I’ve got Revel, Cosmo, a big ginger cat, a little ginger cat with one eye, and a tabby with half his ear ripped off There’s probably another ten or so asleep on the many cat trees in the living room. They’re fabulous company, no trouble at all, though I dread to think of the state of the neighbours lawns.
Without further ado then, the Augury Forecast for this week:
The sparrows shift to the centre of the bush. Avoid the centre of town on Friday; there won’t be anywhere to park.
If your name begins or ends with the letter ‘K’, do not answer the door between five and ten on Saturday evening to callers that were uninvited. You have been warned.
The dawn chorus breaks on a raven’s cry; you’re going to drop your book into the bath. Try standing it on it’s end with the pages fanned out.
If you are torn between two options that seem of equal weight and importance, toss a coin, and remember that one day the earth will burn into nothing, subsumed by the sun that at this moment sustains all life, and in the end what matters is what you want, not what anybody else thinks, because life is fleeting and nothing is infinite.
The magpie preens on the low wall in the garden. Soon the fates will allow him to fly again.
And so concludes the Augury Forecast!
You know, I’ve long given up trying to work out where these come from. This handwriting is in blue ink, it’s slanted but cramped and kind of scratchy looking. I don’t recognise it all.
Oh, and speaking of things I barely recognise! For the first time in a while, we’ve received a proper paper letter in the PO Box! This one is from Nik. Just, Nik. Well, anyway. I’ll share it with you now.
[SAM’S VOICE CHANGES, PITCHING DOWN SLIGHTLY, AND AFFECTING AN AMBIGUOUS, COCKNEY-ISH ACCENT, DROPPING ALL THE ‘H’S]
That sounds…overly formal, I’m sorry. I must confess, I don’t actually listen to the show. Apart from a few ill-informed rituals in my youth, I’ve never been spiritually inclined. But my grandfather was. He was a lovely man, and he would always be up at this hour listening to the show. It was quite helpful for a while, actually; I used to work a late night shift at a bar, so I knew I could always call him on the walk home.
I’m getting slightly off topic. But this is still to do with my grandpa.
He died, a month or so ago. It was sudden, despite his age. As cheesy as this sounds, he always seemed so full of life.
My grandfather didn’t die under suspicious circumstances at all. He just had a heart attack, which then led to a stroke. It was sudden but not suspicious. Honestly, it was a wonder how he’d lived this long in the first place.
I think it was the pigeons that kept him going. He used to keep them for the Air Force, when they were still used. After that, he couldn’t bare to let go, so he started racing them across the country with silly little messages attached to their legs. One time he showed me a message from his friend that was just a picture of their cat. I think that’s what kept him alive for so long, really; the pigeons were a part of his youth, and they were all loved and cherished like his own children and grandchildren.
When he died, he still had four; Joe, Shirley, Thomas and Shelley. Even though he didn’t like to pick favourites, I’m pretty sure he liked Shelley the most. Her feathers were less grey, and more steely, and when they caught the light they’d turn this perfect iridescent purple, like an oil slick.
When I took over his duty of caring for them, I must admit, I kind of saw what he did in her. She just seemed to stand a little taller than the others. When I opened the door to the coop, the others would ruffle their feathers and flap their wings. She never did, just stared with those black, beady eyes of hers.
My point is, that she’s not easily startled or spooked, like most pigeons. So that makes the events of the last few weeks very peculiar indeed.
I let them out a few weeks ago, and Shelley didn’t return that evening. This seemed a little weird, but in the notes my grandpa left he mentioned that some of his friends live in Scotland and Ireland, so I assumed she might have just flown over to see a friendly face. As I expected, she returned the next morning.
She was pecking rather insistently at my window when I woke up. I let her back into the coop and it was only when she hopped through the window that I noticed the note attached to her leg.
The note was not addressed to me, but to my grandpa. I say note, but this was almost a letter, the paper covered with the tiniest handwriting on both sides. It seemed to be from one of my grandpa’s old RAF friends. His name was William.
At first, it was just a normal letter; he told me what he’d been up to as of late, how the shop on the corner had started selling something called oat milk now, and pondering how you get milk out of oats. But then he started writing about something just outside of his vision waiting. Observing.
He mentioned an army mission he and my grandfather were involved in, but I’m afraid I had no idea what he was talking about; all I gathered from the details in the letter was that it took place somewhere along the Nile, and it involved something on fire, from a mention of how singed both of their uniforms had got.
It wasn’t a concerning note at the time, you must understand. I simply put William’s worries down to paranoia, and wrote him a simple note back that sadly, my grandfather had passed on, and he was welcome to attend the memorial service if he wished.
I let Shelley rest for the day, and then sent it off the next morning.
I awoke a few days later to Shelley pecking at my window again but…something seems different. She jumped away when I opened the window, the feathers on the back of her neck ruffled and out of place. Every sudden movement from me had her fluttering her wings, cooing oddly. Retrieving William’s reply from her leg was a very slow process, but I eventually managed it.
Yet again, it was William, but this time addressed to me. He was much less polite; he insisted on knowing how exactly my grandfather had died, There was one point where the pen had poked a hole straight through the paper. His paranoia seemed more pronounced now too. He mentioned that when he’d gone to the shops on a quote ‘supply run’, he came back to find that his house seemed…off. There was nothing out of place, he said, but he just knew that someone had come in, someone had searched through his house whilst he was away. What they were looking for, he didn’t say.
William was starting to worry me. This was clearly a man who lived on his own, and it didn’t seem like he was in the right frame of mind at all for this.
Admittedly, I was a little harsher in my reply. I assured William that my grandfather had passed peacefully, and if he really thought that someone had been through his house whilst he was away, he should call the police. I sent Shelley off that afternoon. Usually, I would have let her rest until the next day, but her…skittishness wasn’t fading at all. I thought that maybe another flight might get her nerves out of her system.
The next letter was the one that had me phoning the police myself.
Shelley returned in a whirlwind of loose feathers and startled squawks. She barely seemed like a pet, at this point; she seemed almost feral, a cornered animal. It took over an hour for me to manage to get the note pinned to her leg.
This letter was burnt at the edges, like someone had rescued it from a fireplace before it crumpled to ashes. There were a few odd drawings and symbols around the side. I only recognised one; the same one that was carved on the doorframe above my grandfather’s bedroom door. It was William, again, but his writing at this point was barely coherent. But he said he was right, about someone breaking into his house. He was right and he wish he hadn’t been. He could hear things moving around when he was alone now, the rustle of fabric, the creak of a foot on the stairs. He pleaded with me; I was the only person he could contact without alerting…whatever it was that had found him. He begged me to not reply, and to send help, as soon as I could.
The only part of the address that hadn’t burned away was the house number.
I did try to ring to police, but there’s only so much you can do with just a house number and the name of a corner shop. After a few frustrated phone calls, I started searching for anything I could think of; reported house fires, hospital admissions, even obituaries. It was only three nights later I found a report in the paper, about William’s disappearance. His one remaining family member stated that he may be lost and confused. He never sounded lost and confused to me for all the strangeness of his letters.
I fell asleep in my grandfather’s room that night. I was…scared of something, I don’t know what. The fear tightened around my throat, choking me, and suddenly I was a scared little boy hiding under the covers again. My grandpa helped me with nightmares a lot, I recall. He’d carved his little symbol into my bedframe, and told me it would protect me from anything lurking in the night.
I guess I just…wanted that peace again.
I’m starting to think that it was the only thing that kept me safe
I woke up to nothing today.
It crawled up my spine, slithered its way into my brain, gripped it with terror.
I only understood the silence when I went to check on the pigeons.
The door of the coop was wide open, straw and pellets scattered across the floor. I was sure I’d locked it tight the night before, but there was the padlock, hooked onto the outside of the door – not buckled, but hanging open. The air stank like rotten fruit and copper, like before a storm. I barely stepped inside before it hit me like a brick wall, the stink of it and the faint buzzing of flies.
There was Shelley. Utterly still, spread across the floor on a bed of her own loose, blood-soaked feathers. Where there should have been the soft grey of her belly was nothing but a red gash of blood and broken ribs, her poor withered heart shrivelled now as it faced the open air. Dew clung to her beak.
But her eyes, god, her eyes. Not carved out and kept, but gone. Like they’d never been there in the first place. Her tiny skull was just feathers, no indents, no blood, nothing. Just…nothing.
And every time I close my own eyes, it’s all I see.
I only write this to you now because the vet I’d called in the aftermath found a note attached to Shelley’s leg. It wasn’t in William’s handwriting. It was sh-sharp, each line a needle poking and prodding at my eyes.
It read: ‘no survivors’.
I’m terrified, and no one believes me. I’m fully convinced that maybe this nonsense of yours has some use after all. That protection sigil – that’s what I presume it is anyway – it’s the only thing keeping me from the same fate as Shelley.
Something knows that William was talking to me before he died, knows what he told me, even though I don’t have the first clue what any of it means, I think–
I think I may be being hunted.
I need all the help I can get, magical or not.
Please. Help me.
[SAM’S VOICE RETURNS TO NORMAL]
Well, Nik, thank you for your letter, it certainly sounds like you’ve been through a lot, and I’m so sorry about your losses, both human and pigeon. It must have been really hard.
I wish I could offer you some more help, I really do. I’m not even sure where else to send you. I will scan a copy of this letter and post it on the forums, and, well, I’ve already read it on the air so those Faithful Listeners who don’t use the forums will have heard it too, so perhaps someone will be able to help you; I sincerely hope they can.
And with that, Faithful Listeners, I believe it is time for me to call it for the night. Please, if you have any advice for Nik, please put it on the forums. And as always, check in if you’re going to try and use the Spirit Box Services for commune with the other side, though if you are attempting that, wish you sincere luck, as nobody has been able to get anything coherent there for months now.
I say that. It’s actually the opposite, I suppose. Things are just a little too coherent.
At any rate, Faithful Listeners, thank you for tuning in. Sleep well. Dream nice dreams.
| Content Warnings |
– Background music of varying volumes
– Static (brief, two instances between minute 2 and minute 5)
– Implications of past child neglect
– Non-detailed brief references to medical tests (heart rate, blood sugar, temperature, blood pressure)
– Mentions of nightmares and sleep issues
– Implied PTSD in a non-main character, referenced in passing
– Descriptions of paranoia
– Descriptions of a pigeon corpse (brief, with some graphic detail)
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