SBR 1.8: Keepsakes

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Today is the last day of your life up until today. Time is relative. Time does not exist. Somewhere, the sun is rising. Here it is the middle of the night. Three oh three am, in fact. Welcome to the Advice and Community Segment of Spirit Box Radio.

///

Welcome, faithful listeners, to the first episode of the Spirit Box Radio Advice and Community Segment in this new year, 2021. For those of you who don’t know, I’m Sam Enfield, temporary host standing in for the illustrious psychic Madame Marie, who has been missing for, oh, some… time. I’m not sure. But I am sure she’ll be back soon!

As many of you well know, for the first episode of the year, we have a little tradition here at Spirit Box Radio where we cast a circle of good intent to welcome positive vibes into the studio! I’ve tried my best to recreate that, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing as I’ve only heard Madame Marie talk about it on the radio and I’ve not actually seen it.

What I’ve done is drawn a large circle in chalk and written the latin for ‘good intent’ in the proper latin alphabet seven times around the inside edge. Inside of the letters I’ve drawn another circle, and inside of that, I’ve drawn a beautiful pentagram, at the corners of which I’ve place five candles. The studio smells just divine, and there has only been a little bit of mournful wailing, which is pretty good going in my experience!

I’ve made up a little cup of my vegan alternative to the blood of the innocent, which you can find on our forums, and splattered that across the centre of the circle. Since I’ve sat down and started talking to you, I’ve noticed a few pieces of paper sort of gently fluttering on the bookcases near the circle, and a leaf I must have walked in down the staircase has skittered down onto the floor. How peculiar!

///

I thought perhaps we could talk today about New Year’s resolutions. I know Madame Marie usually goes through the forums, emails, telegrams, and P.O. Box to find any resolutions you’ve sent in and inform you on whether or not to bother. As I am not, in fact, a psychic, I don’t see very much point in me covering this particular aspect of the traditions, but I do think New Years resolutions are a good thing to touch on.

I took the time to go through everything we’ve been sent in and I’ve read through them all, faithful listeners! As you know I’ve had a couple of mishaps before where I’ve ended up reading something on air which really ought not to have been read, or might have better gone answered in a follow up email or on the forums. You see, I am learning, faithful listeners! I’ve compiled a list of all of the the most interesting resolutions we’ve been sent in for this year!

Sarah writes in via email from Wyoming! Wow, it’s so great to hear from faithful listeners across the pond – what time is it where you are? Sarah’s resolution is to learn more household spells. I think that’s a wonderful resolution, Sarah! Be sure to keep us and the forums up to date on your progress!

John from London says his New Year’s resolution is to escape the unending scrutiny of his toxic workplace! It think that’s a great idea, John! Best of luck to you.

Cory from Paris writes in that their New Year’s Resolution is to become a vigilante fighter. Well, Cory, we wish you the best of luck and hope it doesn’t clash too much with your school work.

I’d also be remiss to mention my own resolution, faithful listeners! That is to keep working at my tarot reading skills. I’ve progressed most of the way through Ye Olde Tarot Reading for Beginners, and the last chapter mentioned something about crystal balls. It’s really exciting! I’m looking forward to trying other kinds of psychic reading in future, the crystal ball included! I have noticed that the crystal ball Marie keeps to the side of the desk changes colour a bit when I’m sitting next to it. The other day I had a really good cup of tea and it turned from it’s swirling, moody violet to swirly, moody violet with a streak of lavender running through it, which seems to me like a pretty good sign!

As it’s a New Year, I’ve actually been sorting through some of my old things and trying to put them in order, and before I came on air to chat with all of you, faithful listeners, I started sorting in the studio, too! I was actually fairly surprised when I came down here about the state things were in. It was like someone had ransacked the place! I mean, there was a semblance of organisation to it, here and there. Books were, for the most part, on shelves. But there were feathers and bits of bones all over the place, a few shards of broken glass. The cabinet that held Madame Marie’s collection of broken pairs of glasses was on its side. I’ve been keeping them in a box. I’ve decided it will be another of my resolutions for 2021 to get the studio into proper organised order! It would be nice to be able to find all the bits and pieces I need for casting spells, if I was to ever actually start doing that properly without Madame Marie’s supervision, which of course, I haven’t, except for, you know, the odd thing here and there. But not magic, not really. I have no particular skill in that regard.

We actually received a rather interesting letter this week in the PO Box about keepsakes and organising things, about a book the letter write, Laura, was unsure whether or not to keep. She tore a few pages out, she said, but the next time she opened the book the torn out pages were still there. Laura actually stuffed the torn out pages in with her letter. Or at least, I assume that’s what they were! I’ll share a few of them with you now, as they are fairly curious!

Tara rested her finger on the switch at the kettle’s base, leaning back to avoid the plumes of steam that billowed from its spout. She could hear her housemates moving around above her, getting ready for another night out on the town. It was only the third day since she’d been home with a heavy cast on her leg, and it was already driving her mad.

When it was made, she carried her mug of coffee carefully to the couch. Unhindered by splintered ankles, Tara could manage to carry an impressive four pints back from the bar. Negotiating a single mug and a pair of crutches, on the other hand, was proving very difficult indeed. She already had a large stain on the side of her jogging pants from where she’d poured scalding tea onto them not three hours before.

Kim clacked into the room in her six inch heels that made her just about average height. “Sophie already gone?” she asked.

Tara glanced around the room, as though Sophie might be hiding under a throw pillow. “She not upstairs with you?”

“Nope.” Kim pouted in the mirror, blending purple and pink across her eyelids. “I guess she already left.”

“Must have,” Tara agreed. There was a small, black book on the arm of the couch, right in the spot where she normally rested her mug. It was bound like a paperback, but the cover was completely plain. The corners were battered and dog eared. “This yours?”

“Pf, no,” Kim snorted, barely glancing at it over her shoulder.

Tara opened the book, hoping to find an inscription. The first few pages, which should have housed publication dates, dedications, or at the very least declared a title, were blank. When she finally found something inside it to read, it made her frown.

The book was opened. The creature reared its head.

“You should come out,” Kim complained, still inspecting her make up in the mirror. Tara propped her foot up on the table, wriggling her plaster-free toes.

“Yeah, sounds like a great plan.”

Kim click-clacked into the kitchen. Tara sipped her coffee, still holding the book open in her lap. The TV remote was all the way on the other couch. The air was cool against its skin, the grass whisper wet around it’s body as it lay flat against the ground, waiting. It had been called.

Kim reappeared with a glass of wine and sat opposite Tara. Tara closed the book on her finger and looked over at her. “You want some?” Kim offered, gesturing at her glass.

Tara rolled her eyes. “Because what I need right now is to be more wobbly.”

Tara turned back to the book. It breathed the night, feeling the earth beneath it. Time meant nothing to it. It only sensed the call. Often it came across seas or skies, through the ground and up onto the other side of it. This time, though, the calling had come from nearby. From a place that it had visited before.

Kim giggled and Tara peered up with one eyebrow raised. “Sorry, Tar.” Kim sipped her wine. “Taxi should be here by now.” She stood up and peered through the curtains out at the road. “No sign.” She sighed and slumped back onto the sofa. She took her phone out of her pocket.

Across the field, the darkness shifted to frame the face of a girl. She peered out, turning her head this way and that, frowning. She turned and peered over her shoulder, then let the curtains fall back into place. There were other windows in the house that were lit and uncovered. The creature stared. It felt the call again.

Tara frowned.

“You alright?” Kim asked.

“Yeah… I’m fine.”

The creature reached the edges of the grass, where it thinned into mud. The ground shook. The creature shied back, indistinct and barely shimmering, and a car stopped outside the house.

A bright light poured through the gap in the curtains. “Taxi’s here.” Kim slung her bag over her shoulder. “You’re sure you can’t come?”

Tara bit her lip and toyed with the edges of the book. “I’m sure.”

Kim patted Tara’s head as she clacked past her. The door opened and closed. Tara sipped her coffee and nestled deeper into the sofa.

The road was still warm, baked by the now-absent sun. The creature breathed exhaust fumes as it slithered from grass and crouched beneath the growling engine. Nearby, a door opened and released other fumes; richer; sweeter. Fear. Intrigue. The creature’s lines trembled with hunger.

Stiletto heels click-clacked, gait stuttering as the girl rummaged through her purse. The creature waited. She stopped altogether and turned, click-click-click all the way back to the door, wrenching it open and calling inside –

The front door opened with a bang and Tara squeaked with fright. “Forgot my phone!” Kim called. The door slammed again.

‘Forgot my phone!’ When the girl returned, the car rolled aside and the creature warped against the tepid earth. It knew the call was coming, but it had not yet been made. The girl sat with a book in her lap was getting closer to making it.

Tara stopped reading. She heard the crunch of tyres on tarmac as the taxi drove away. The light on the other side of the curtains shrank into nothing.

The creature could see the sky. It didn’t look at the stars. It stared at the place where the curtains had parted. It could taste the call in the girl’s dark mind. It curled and tugged to break free.

Tara stopped again, her stomach turning. She stared at the curtains. She grabbed her crutches and heaved herself onto her good foot. It was only a book; she knew she was being stupid. She just had to check. When she reached the window, she peered out through the curtains. She squinted, pressing her face right to the glass. She couldn’t see anything in the washed out glow of the streetlamps.

She didn’t want to pick up the book. Whether she admitted it or not, she was scared. She took a gulp of coffee and swallowed it, feeling the hot liquid trickle through her body. It couldn’t be real. It had to be coincidence. She opened the book again, this time skipping ahead right to the middle so she could find something that proved that the book was just a book.

The girl’s face appeared in the window. The creature stared at her. It watched her eyes dart back and forth across the empty road, curled and peering up at her from right beneath the window ledge. Its almost-mouth twisted into a shapeless almost-smile.

Tara slammed the book shut, her heart thumping in her chest. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment and got back onto her feet. She didn’t bother with the crutches that time, hopping instead and dragging her broken foot behind her. She couldn’t muster the courage to peel back the curtains for a good while. She could taste the sweat on her upper lip.

She had to know, she had to see. She pulled the curtain back.

There was nothing there. Well, nothing but the petunias. With a gulp, she looked up and down the street again. Once more, it was completely empty. She released a shuddery breath, and let the curtain fall back into place.

Maybe Kim’s suggestion hadn’t been such a bad idea. She hobbled back to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine. She leaned against the counter, gaze fixed alternately on the blue patterned curtains and the beaten up cover of the book. She sipped her drink, rolling the liquid around her tongue.

She was being stupid. Just working herself up over nothing. The story wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. The book was old and clearly well read; someone had sat down and put those words down onto that paper long before it had ever been in Tara’s hands. It only seemed like it was narrating her life back at her.

She gulped the rest of her wine in one. She was being stupid. She went and sat back down, grabbing the TV remote from the arm of the other couch, and turned on the news.

The book was open, lying face down on the coffee table. She’d left it on the couch. She was sure. She peered around the room. “Sophie?” she called. Maybe she’d not left yet after all.

Reluctantly, Tara reached forward. She peered down at the page.

The girl reached again for the book. It moved fast. She had called it. There was a small window open, right beside the one the girl had looked out of. The creature shifted through it, its not-body undulating to fit through the gap. The tiles of the bathroom floor were cool beneath it. It had come.

The girl was looking. She could not see it behind the couch. The girl was a fool. She was afraid. It felt her gaze upon the call, and slipped out towards her. It was not time, yet. She was afraid, but not afraid enough. Suspecting the truth was enough for it to find her, but it could not take her until she had seen. It could not take her before she knew.

“Fuck!” she barked, throwing the book across the couch. She was too afraid to look anywhere but at its pages, crumpled against the pillows. She couldn’t lift her head. She could barely force herself to blink. She was aware of the rest of the room, but she refused to see it. She would not.

There was a crash in the kitchen and Tara flinched, closing her eyes for the briefest of moments.

Tara, read the book’s front cover. She squealed and covered her face with her hands. She could hear something moving against cloth. She could feel something hot against the back of her neck. She peered through her fingers. The cover had changed again.

Turn Around.

CUT ABRUPTLY. SILENCE. OUTRO