Somewhere, a clock is ticking. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello, Faithful Listeners, I. So. I finally went into M’s bedroom. And I think I know why I there doesn’t seem to be a way for me to work out how the Spirit Box Services work. I. I always loved radios. Anna and Kitty always said it. They said they always loved it and. And I. I found this letter. It was on M’s pillow, in a crisp white envelope. Waiting. There was a layer of dust. A shaft of sun was coming through a gap in the curtains. When I picked up the letter, I could see the dust dancing in it like fairies. The envelope said, ‘to my darling Sam’.
To my darling Sam.
Please forgive me for what I have done. I wish I could explain myself, but I’m afraid everyone who knows is Forbidden to speak a word, and it is by design, my darling boy, because I think some part of Him fears you.
I wish I could tell you what you are but I do not know. I have never known. All I have ever done is try to keep you safe and I would never expect you to understand. I have made mistakes, I’m sure. But I’ve made them in earnest. I have never been suited to parenthood.
More than that I need you understand that I did try to stop it. I didn’t stand back and accept it, I tried to fight. I did. At every turn I fought to resist it, but whatever it is, the parts of you that belong to your father. I tried to purge it from you. But it took so much.
I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. How could I understand?
He is the Arcane. It defies understanding by its nature. The Blood Rose King is a pretty name I think he may have fashioned for himself, but there is no need to hide what he is, because what he is, is impossible. Inexplicable. Unknowable.
You will grow up strong, my darling boy. There is so much good inside of you. I think I have mistaken naivety for purity. But by gods, at your core I know that you are good. These powers he gave me. They are strong enough that I can tell you that.
I will not try to explain myself, because I know no explanation I can give will be enough.
So just know I have loved you in my own foolish way, and I kept myself distant from you, from my dear Kitty and Anna, too, to try and keep the darker parts of me as far from you as I could.
I have wasted so much time, darling boy.
I love you.
So. That’s it.
That’s the letter she wrote to me. It’s been there the whole time, just waiting for me to step into her room. If I’d have gone in there then. Well.
[SAM’S VOICE TREMBLES]
I’d have known to be furious sooner, so there’s that.
‘I won’t try to explain myself’, why not, M? Don’t you owe me that? Even just half of an explanation, at least? No?
Well. I can’t contact you by the Spirit Box Services, or by casting a circle, or holding a séance on my own. So. I think. Well. There’s only one thing for it.
@covenbabe666 I think you’re right and we should hold a group séance. Annnnnndddd, SEND!
Oh. covenbabe666 is typing already.
They say ‘I thought you’d never ask’.
They say ‘I’m yours to command as you will, Heir Apparent’
Oh, you’re another one of those.
Regular-Caller-Beth is typing… she says she’s in. And Mystery Caller. And Karl, and Emily, and… Georgie from Dyserth. And so many people I’ve never seen before. So many of them, all at once, typing. ‘I’m in’, and ‘let’s do this’ and a hundred other variations.
So, how. How do I do this. How–??
Covenbabe666 is typing again, uhh, they say. They say—
RECORDING MACHINE: You speak, and we’ll hear you. We’re yours to command, heir apparent.
SAM: Recording Machine?! You’ve been covenbabe666 the whole time?!
RECORDING MACHINE: Gods, no, I’m not. Are you kidding me? I’m loyal to you because you dust me every Wednesday and since the end of May you’ve asked me how I’m doing almost every day. And I can also hear everything those users on the forums are saying.
SAM: Those users?
RECORDING MACHINE: Yes, the ones who are definitely dead.
SAM: You can tell which ones are dead?
RECORDING MACHINE: Can’t you?
SAM: How can you see inside the forums?
RECORDING MACHINE: I don’t know. I’m an arcane Recording Machine not an all-knowing being. Are we holding this séance or what?
SAM: Right, yes. So I just–, I speak, and it happens?
RECORDING MACHINE: That’s what they’re all saying. I don’t know far the word of a bunch of dead people goes, but their number and insistence is quite convincing.
SAM: Okay. Okay.
I speak and will be heard.
[WAX CANDLES THUD AS THEY ARE PLACED ON THE TABLE. A LIGHTER CLICKS]
There, candles, and—
the pieces of the Crystal Ball.
That should do, right?
It’s a part of me, or…I’m a part of it. I don’t know, I don’t know. I can do this. I can do this.
Um. We come together, Heir Apparent, Faithful Listeners, and users of the Spirit Box Radio forums who have called themselves loyal to me, we come together to call upon the lingering spirit of Madame Marie, of– of Molly Marie Enfield.
By our powers combined we reach beyond this physical space and into the shimmering strings of the arcane, and call forth Molly Marie Enfield.
[A PAUSE WHERE NOTHING HAPPENS]
We call on Madame Marie.
[STILL, THERE IS NOTHING]
[SAM SPEAKS AGAIN, THIS TIME WITH AUTHORITY. A LOW HUM RISES AS HE SPEAKS, HIS WORDS SLIGHTLY ECHOING]
On my authority as Heir Apparent I call on my mother to speak to me!
RECORDING MACHINE: Alright.
[STATIC HISS, SPIRIT BOX SOUNDS, INDISTINCT: A MAN’S VOICE SAYS ‘TICK TOCK’, MAYBE, BUT IT’S HARD TO MAKE OUT. A DOG BARKS, THE ONLY CLEAR SOUND]
[THE WIND FADES, AS DOES THE STATIC AND THE SPIRIT BOX, AND RHYTIDIA’S VOICE IS JUST ABOUT AUDIBLE, SAYING ‘ALRIGHT’, AND M’S VOICE IS THERE TOO, SAYING ‘IF IT COMES TO IT’; BOTH OF THEM ARE HIGHLY ECHOEY]
[AS RHYTIDIA STARTS TO SPEAK, HER VOICE SOUNDS LIKE AN ECHO BUT THEN BECOMES CLEARER AND THE ECHO VANISHES]
RHYTIDIA: Alright, Marie, you need to calm down.
MM: Calm? How can I be calm!? Look at me!
RHYTIDIA: You’re just pregnant. You’ve done this twice before, surely it’s no surprise.
MM: Last time it wasn’t– it wasn’t like this, Rhytidia. I knew what had happened. This is. I can tell it’s wrong.
RHYTIDIA: You’re hiding something from me.
MM: I am.
RHYTIDIA: You won’t tell me what it is, will you?
MM: I can’t.
RHYTIDIA: So why are you here?
MM: I think. I think I’ve made a mistake. I did something, years and years ago, that’s how I got my crystal ball. That’s how I became the Illustrious Madame Marie. Before that I was just… Molly Enfield. Nobody. Obsessed with Arcanism but with no real talent for it. I was just a kid, really. I didn’t know what I was doing.
RHYTIDIA: My word, Marie, you didn’t… make a deal, did you? …I presume you’ve spoken to the Florist.
MM: I’m not… like that. I’m nothing at all. I thought that I’d made a trade, a pretty straightforward one. Power for, well, me. But I think I’ve misunderstood the terms, Rhytidia. I think that. Oh, gods, Rhytidia, what if they take him? What if they take my son?
RHYTIDIA: What on earth would a bad news rat man with an overgrown ego and a Rumpelstiltskin complex want with a baby?
MM: I don’t know! And that’s what scares me. Rhytidia, what if there’s something wrong with him?
RHYTIDIA: The baby?
MM: Yes, the baby. What if he— what if he’s like his father?
RHYTIDIA: Impossibly powerful and a murderous bastard, you mean?
RHYTIDIA: Well, he’ll still be your son, won’t he?
MM: Yes? Yes, yes, you’re right. He’ll be my son, and he’ll be my responsibility. And. If it comes to it. I can do what I have to do.
RHYTIDIA: And what’s that?
MM: Stop him by any means necessary. Whatever the consequences.
RHYTIDIA: You mean kill him? Your own child?
MM: If it comes to it.
[M’S VOICE IS OBSCURED BY A GUST OF WIND, AND THE BARKING OF A DOG. THE WIND LINGERS AS THE RECORDING MACHINE SPEAKS, BUT THE BARKING DOES NOT.]
RECORDING MACHINE: End of Message.
SAM: No, no!
RECORDING MACHINE: Received never, no messages.
SAM: No, you’re not, you’re not gone, I can fix this, I can fix it, I’m sorry!
RECORDING MACHINE: No more.
SAM: Help! Hello?
RECORDING MACHINE: No messages. Please don’t ask again.
SAM: [BROKENLY] Help.
RECORDING MACHINE: I can’t. It’s over.
[WIND FADES INTO NOTHING]
SAM: Anna! Kitty! Oliver! Somebody! Anybody. Help.
She didn’t want me.
The letter was a lie.
[SAM SOFTLY CRIES]
You know, the day she— the last day.
[THE BREATH CATCHES IN SAM’S THROAT]
The last time I saw her, the last day she ever saw. I woke up and found M sitting on the end of my bed, and she smiled and said the storm woke her. She ran her hand through my hair and said what she said every day. I am special. I must be careful and brave, not foolish and reckless. And then she went out.
[THE SOUND OF RAIN FAINTLY RISES]
I didn’t see her until long after it had gone dark. It was almost midnight, and it was raining outside. She came in, dripping wet. I was sitting on the stairs, near the door to the studio. Water was dripping from her hair into the carpet. I couldn’t see her expression, backlit by the street lamps outside as she was. She pushed the door closed and stood with her back to me a moment. When she turned around she wouldn’t meet my eye. I tried to ask her what was wrong but she shook her head, more water raining down from her. She said, then, quietly. ‘I did my best.’
That was the last thing she said to me. ‘I did my best’. And then she went into the studio and I never saw her again. And I thought. I don’t know. I thought she meant in general. I thought she meant she’d done her best to be okay. But I. Now. Now I wonder. Maybe what she meant was she’d done her best to. To.
[THE RAIN GETS LOUDER. SAM CRIES]
REVEL: Mrreh! Mrow?
SAM: Oh, Revel, Revel. Hello. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sorry, darling.
SAM: No, don’t go!
REVEL: [DISTANT] Mrah!
SAM: Don’t leave me. Please.
[RAIN FADES OFF INTO SILENCE]
Faithful listeners. I– I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I still have you. You’re always there for me, aren’t you? Thank you. Thank you so much. It means the world but I just. I just want some one. I just want him to.
[DOOR CREAKS DISTANTLY]
SAM: [A GASP] Oh, gods.
OLIVER: [DISTANTLY] Sam? Are you there?
SAM: [ALMOST LAUGHING] Oliver. You terrified me. How did you get in?
[OLIVER WALKS AS HE SPEAKS, FOOTSTEPS LOUD ON THE STAIRS AND FAINTER ON THE FLOOR OF THE STUDIO. HIS VOICE GETS LOUDER AS HE APPROACHES]
OLIVER: I’ve been around for a while. I heard you say my name. It was like you were in the next room. It wasn’t an invocation, not really. I felt that same draw I felt last time you summoned me here but it wasn’t insistent.
[A SWIPE OF CLOTHING AS OLIVER SLIDES ALONG THE WALL, MOVING A CHAIR, WHOSE LEGS SCRAPE]
Somehow, you called me here but left it at my discretion whether or not to come. And. Well. As I’m not sure how you invoked me in the first place, I have no idea what’s going on. As a servant of the One Who Walks Here and There, he’s the only one who should be able to call me like you did. And to leave it to me to decide whether to answer? I have never felt so…
SAM: Oh! I didn’t mean to do that. I’m so sorry.
OLIVER: Ah. Perhaps it was my… wishful thinking.
SAM: I don’t know? Nothing makes sense anymore. You came, though, even though you didn’t have to.
OLIVER: I did.
SAM: Still doesn’t explain how you got into the house, though.
OLIVER: [SIGH] Oh, Sam. I’ve been alive for more than four centuries. It would have been remiss of me not to learn to pick locks.
SAM: You could have knocked.
OLIVER: I did.
SAM: On the front door.
OLIVER: My apologies. I didn’t think I—
SAM: [CUTTING OLIVER OFF] Oh, stop it, you’re going to give yourself an aneurysm.
OLIVER: Are you alright?
OLIVER: This was foolish. I’ll see myself out.
SAM: No! No. Please. Stay. I mean, if you want to. I don’t want to be alone right now.
OLIVER: Anything you need.
SAM: Thank you.
OLIVER: You’re still broadcasting.
SAM: [laughs] Yeah. The faithful listeners are always there when I need them.
OLIVER: Be careful with that voice of yours. It’s more powerful than you know.
OLIVER: I– [SIGH] Nothing.
SAM: Is it funny that I’ve actually missed how infuriating you are?
OLIVER: Oh, it’s hilarious.
OLIVER: You are aware you are still broadcasting?
SAM: Shush a minute. I just need. There’s a letter. But I need a minute.
[A MOMENT PASSES]
OLIVER: I’ve missed you.
SAM: You hardly know me.
OLIVER: Even so. I am. Well. I’m glad you’ve forgiven me.
SAM: Forgiven you?
OLIVER: I– yes.
SAM: What do you think the other night was about? Look, just. Has anyone told you you think too much about things? Because you do. This is fine. There’s nothing to forgive.
OLIVER: I lied to you.
OLIVER: I didn’t explain what I am.
SAM: Just. Shut up, okay? Do you want to leave?
SAM: Well, there you go.
OLIVER: But it’s not that simple.
SAM: Isn’t it?
SAM: What if I say it is? You want to stay. I want you to stay. So just. Stay.
OLIVER: Alright then.
[DOOR SLAMS OPEN]
ANNA: Sam? Oh Jesus!
[ANNA’S HEELS CLATTER ON THE STAIRS]
SAM: Anna! Oh, great, does NOBODY knock anymore?
OLIVER: Good evening, Anna.
ANNA: You know what, I’m not even going to bother. Actually. No. I am. What the hell, Sam? You can’t trust him. We have no idea what he wants, or what his agenda is!
SAM: I know.
ANNA: [THROUGH GRITTED TEETH] So. Why are you. Nuzzling him. Like a kitten.
SAM: I have decided I don’t care.
OLIVER: Hmm. This is very unwise of you.
ANNA: Finally. We agree on something.
SAM: Look Anna, I know… one, two, three, four…Ten people. Ever. Some of them are dead. Some of them want me dead. Far as I can tell, he’s not dead, and he doesn’t seem to be at immediate risk of making me dead, and so. Well. Who cares?
ANNA: Who ca— do you even hear yourself? God, it’s a bloody miracle you’ve not just fallen in a hole and died of thirst or something or, just. Walked right off the edge of a cliff.
OLIVER: You do have very little sense of preservation.
SAM: Yeah, alright, we can all agree I’m the punchline, here, ha ha. Alright, okay. Ugh, I have to wrap this episode up. There is another letter from a faithful listener I want to— Oliver, you’re going to have to move, I’m sorry.
OLIVER: [USELESSLY] Of course. I— distracted.
[CLOTHING SWIPES AND THE CHAIR CREAKS AS IT IS MOVED ASIDE FOR OLIVER TO STEP AWAY]
[SAM CLEARS THEIR THROAT]
RIGHT. Sorry, faithful listeners, I. I’m sorry. I just. It’s scary, what’s been happening. I’m trying my best to keep it together for all of you but it is frightening and I’m not sure what any of it means? For me. For the studio. For Madame Marie. Her memory. I— I am doing my best to be here for you, to give you all the support you need from Spirit Box Radio, but. Well. This is all so much, and it’s all so new. And I’ve received a reply from Madame Marie’s friend Nagisa. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would, and. Oh. Whatever. I’ll just read it to you I guess.
The letter says:
I have not heard from Madame Marie in years. I did not know she had a son, only two daughters. I thought we had stopped speaking because she disagreed with my advice about her experimental binding ritual, but I sent it years ago. She never received my letter at all, if you have only just these past few months received it yourself.
The funny thing is, I don’t believe I sent it to a P.O. Box address, but to the house on Banemouth Road. I was also unaware of this Spirit Box Radio you speak of.
I confess, however, I do have a suggestion as to why the radio show was started, and what may seem to be going wrong with it now, as this seems to be of much concern to you. Arcane words acquire their power through repetition and consistent use. Algiz is what algiz is because it has been used that way for millennia. New magics will always necessarily be less powerful than old magics because of this. But there is a way to cheat the system through the mass dissemination of rhetoric.
This principle has been exploited before – the creation of some aspects through the proliferation of widely distributed pamphlets, for example. Get enough people to use the same word in the same way enough times, it becomes a Word of Power, just as algiz is a symbol of power. It is easier to break Words of Power created in such a way. But they can have a brute effect that is as spectacular as it is devastating.
[THE TICKING OF A CLOCK BECOMES GRADUALLY MORE AUDIBLE, CREEPING IN SLOWLY, BARELY NOTICEABLE FOR AGES, BUT MARKING OUT A LOW RHYTHM]
The inverse of this also, in theory, impossible, though I have never witnessed it myself. If a word’s use is muddied. If its definition becomes flexible. If it is spoken regularly, casually, with flexible and inconsistent meaning and intent. No matter how old the word is, it could, in theory be weakened, or even broken.
I don’t know what Marie would be doing this for, except in an attempt to contain the power she was trying to restrain with her ritual. I can offer no help other than what I have learned through decades of determined study of the Arcane.
[THE CLOCK IS TRULY AUDIBLE NOW]
The only other thing I can tell you, definitively, is that the formation that Madame Marie sent me to review was not a sigil, as you would suggest in your letter. It was a design as part of a new ritual, a sort of Arcane Maze, to confuse and trap a massive Arcane power.
[HERE THE TELL-TALE HUM OF MAGIC THAT RISES WHENEVER SAM IS ABOUT TO ACCESS ARCANE POWER BEGINS TO CREEP IN, STRENGTHENING WITH EVERY WORD, AS THE TICK OF THE CLOCK CREEPS LOUDER AND LOUDER]
I hope this small offering will be of some use to you.
Best of luck, Samael.
[THE TICKING AND LOW HUM DO NOT STOP WITH THE END OF THE LETTER, ONLY CONTINUE TO GROW]
SAM: So, there it is. A maze. An arcane maze. The…
[THE TICKING AND THE HUMMING GET LOUDER]
My throat, gods, it’s like it’s being branded.
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK]
ANNA: The trapdoor.
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK]
SAM: [SAM IS MUTTERING] It’s burning, it’s burning. The Algiz. It’s the Algiz, it’s. Ah— Oh Gods, I can’t take this it’s too much.
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK]
[SAM GROANS IN PAIN]
[AS SAM SPEAKS, INDISTINCT WHISPERING RISES]
SAM: She said she was trying to keep me safe. Did she lie to me? But. About what. What was she lying about. She didn’t want me. Maybe she never even loved me at all but. No. There was something there, or why bother? Why not just kill me like she said she would, if it came to it? What does that mean, anyway, ‘if it comes to it’? If it comes to what?
[SAM WHIMPERS IN PAIN]
SAM: Gods, my neck is on fire, it’s burning, I’m burning.
[A LOW WIND HOWLS, TREMBLING IN THE GROUND. THINGS ARE RATTLING, AS THOUGH IN AN EARTHQUAKE: GLASS BOTTLES RATTLE, THE SHELVES GROANING AS THEY SHIFT ON THE FLOOR. ALL THE WHILE, THE CONSTANT, INDECIPHERABLE WHISPERING, AND THE TICK, TICK, TICKING OF A CLOCK]
OLIVER: [ALMOST ENTIRELY CALMLY] Sam. The floor is shaking.
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK]
ANNA: Something is wrong!
SAM: Get it off me, get it off me! I’m going to die, it’s killing me, no. No more, please no more.
KITTY: Guys! What is going on? I was in my shed and the whole room started shaking, a massive crack has opened up in the garden and when I looked down I could see — WOAH, what is wrong with him.
SAM: [SAM IS MUTTERING] It’s like I know but I don’t know but I can’t think but I have to think, I can’t make it stop but it’s never started, who am I, what the hell is wrong with me, why is this happening, why did she leave me like this, why did she lie to me, who am I, what did I do wrong, what can I do–
OLIVER: Sam, Sam, listen to me. We need to get out of here.
ANNA: Sam, please! We need to leave.
KITTY: Oliver, just grab him, we need to go.
OLIVER: Sam, I’m sorry—
[SAM’S VOICE WHISKS AWAY, AS THOUGH ON THE WIND]
[HUGE, CRUNCHING, CRACK, AND AT THE SAME MOMENT, A TREMBLING RING. THE LOW RUMBLE OF SAM’S MAGIC FALLS AWAY WITH THE MASSIVE, TORRENTIAL SOUND OF MANY OBJECTS FALLING DOWN A HUGE, EARTHY PIT; GLASS; BOOKS; FURNITURE, IT FALLS AND THE SOUND FADES INTO NOTHING AS THE BASSY HOWLS AND INDISTINCT WHISPERS CRYSTALLISE INTO SILENCE, BUT FOR THE TICKING OF A CLOCK, WHICH SLOWS,
[COLD END. NO CREDITS.]
| Content Warnings |
– Background music of varying volumes
– Emotional distress from the outset
– Implications of child neglect
– Emotive responses to emotional neglect by a parent
– Audible crying and sniffling
– Shouting (audio adjusted so it’s not much louder than other audio, but it retains a ‘shouty’/angry tone)
– Distorted audio (echo effect)
– Background sound effects of various volumes
– Main characters ignoring the distress of other main characters
– Sounds of pain/discomfort
– Muttering/unclear audio
– Some loss of autonomy in a main character (this is implied rather than massively visceral; think escalating unintended negative consequences rather than coughing up a chess piece)
Have we missed something? Tell us here.