Click to Reveal Content Warnings
- Background sounds and music
- Panning effects (sounds will be different in right and left headphones)
- References to death and dying
- Implications of child neglect
- Mention of a threat of nonconsensual medical intervention on a child (very brief, not detailed, and was not carried out)
- Mild emotional distress
[INDISTINCT SOUNDS OF RUMMAGING AND MOVEMENT. SOMETHING FALLS OVER]
SAM: Careful, Eggroll, that is a lit candle, you cannot play with lit candles.
KITTY: [DISTANTLY, BUT GETTING CLOSER AS SHE SPEAKS] Sam, do you want the last— what in hells have you done to my floor!?
SAM: It’s a circle.
KITTY: Yes but- it’s in sharpie! Why can’t you use chalk like a normal person?
SAM: The floors are all scuffed anyway.
KITTY: I should turn you onto the street.
SAM: You wouldn’t.
KITTY: No. Anna would kill me. Actually, there’s a thought. Why don’t you go and stay with Anna?
SAM: Gods, can you imagine?!
KITTY: No. You’re right. What about Oliver?
SAM: What about him?
KITTY: Anna says he’s been here every time she’s been over while I was away. Why don’t you go and stay there?
SAM: I don’t know. It feels more of a big deal when I go there, you know? It’s his space.
KITTY: And this is mine, and look what you’ve done to it.
[MUSIC STARTS TO PLAY, QUIET AT FIRST, BUT GETTING LOUDER]
KITTY: What are you trying to do, exactly, anyway?
SAM: Well, I had a theory that if a cast a circle and— [GASP] It worked, it worked!!
KITTY: What worked?!
SAM: The red light is glowing! We’re live! Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio!
SAM: Hello, faithful listeners! Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio! It’s so great to talk to you again. Kitty’s gone out. I think she’s pretty mad about the floor but it worked, didn’t it!? I got the show to broadcast again! It’s pretty wild, actually, I had this idea this afternoon when I was messing around with one of Kitty’s spell kits, and I thought, oh, maybe it’s less of a technical problem, and more of an arcane problem! And I was right!
Which. You know, possibly concerning.
So, how have you been?
Oh. Right. Right. I speak, you don’t get to answer. That’s how it works. Ehem. Yes. Well. I’ve been… I don’t know! Pretty good, actually! It’s been really annoying that I’ve not been able to get the show to go live, but. Yeah. I, uh. Oh, I have so much to tell you about!
First, though, thank you so much for all of your support in the PO Box whilst I’ve been unable to broadcast. Just reading your letters aloud on my own it’s been so wonderful. I’ve far too many of them to share with you now, but honestly, I’m so grateful, Faithful Listeners!
Amidst all the support, there has also been quite a lot of business as usual! Or. Rather. Not business as usual because this isn’t exactly a business and I don’t think anything Spirit Box Radio has been used for has ever been usual. But there have been letters. The big thing is, of course, the Spirit Box services.
Why the volume suddenly skips up to 100% and every device in your homes, even those which have no speakers, begin. to play the skipping stations of the Spirit Box Service, whenever you try to use it, I don’t know. But it’s been happening to me, too.
Those of you trying to commune after your kids had gone to bed, I’m really sorry for all the disruption. I can’t honestly tell you I’m doing my best to fix it because I don’t know where to start. But I am trying, I promise.
All the letters Madame Marie dealt with on the show were from small-time arcanists, or psychics, or witches, people who interact with the Arcane Arts but aren’t necessarily… I don’t know. How do I…
There’s a lot of theory, it seems like, with Arcanism. A lot of categorisation and organisation of things which can’t really be categorised and organised.
Like what’s the real difference between a ghost and an echo? Karl on the forums said a ghost has more personality, and an echo can only really repeat what has been said to it, or sometimes paraphrase. But. Both have a point of origin. They’re both the imprint of someone’s Arcane energy lingering beyond their death. Is the echo an incomplete ghost? So is one lesser than the other? In that case, in what sense is a ghost complete? And ghouls, well. Ghouls, by everyone’s account, seem to just be ghosts which aren’t very nice to deal with. But it hardly seems fair to annex them in their own separate category just because they aren’t very nice. And forum user Emma Puranen said that sometimes ghouls just repeat what people say but twist it, which makes them sound awfully like an echo. And don’t even get me started on phantoms. ‘A ghost with less substance’. What on earth is that supposed to mean? And poltergeist? Like a ghost with more of an ability to meddle with mundane objects?! How much more?! Nobody seems to know. Or if they do, there are eight people with their own very different answers.
Point is, these definitions, they seem hazy and almost… I don’t know. Pointless. What are they for? Who do they help? Is it for people like Stykler and Stykler, who spend their time cleaning up arcane messes? For people like Madame Marie, who seem to spend their time making them? I don’t know.
None of this is helpful day to day, and a lot of it is pretty contentious, and most of the people who tuned into Spirit Box Radio, or at least, those who wrote into the show, they didn’t seem to have that much of an active interest in it. Arcanism was for them what it needed to be. They wrote to Madame Marie to get advice because they needed it.
Madame Marie, on the other hand. She had a Little Book of Big Magic. She had this deck of True Arcanist Tarot Cards. She had boxes and boxes of notes which make very little sense at all, and I’m convinced half of them are written in some sort of code. Those lines, the ones between echoes and ghosts and ghouls and phantoms, she was barely interested in them, seems like.
She was interested in something else. The big ticket stuff that everyone else seemed to be taking for granted.
See, it’s like Kitty said. Arcanism, it’s just vibes, really. Intent, belief. Whatever. Arcane energy can be used and manifested if you find a way to tap into it within yourself. There are loads of ways to do it, call it intent, call it belief, it doesn’t matter. But that’s the thing that happens when you cast a circle or draw a card or gaze into a crystal ball. You’re narrowing your focus, focusing your intent, and through it, the arcane energy which is a part of us, it flows through us, and connects us with the very fabric of existence.
Madame Marie seemed to want to take that apart and examine it, even though it seems to me like a pretty impossible task. I mean, it’s pretty abstract, isn’t it? The whole point with the arcane is that it is arcane, right? So. How do you understand the thing that by its nature defies being understood?
All of this is a very long winded way of saying that I have no idea what’s going on with the Spirit Box service. I have laid out on the floor in Kitty’s shed for hours, even a whole day, once, just listening to the constant flick, flick, flick through the channels, and hearing things that come through. Whispers. Voices. Ghosts, or echoes, I don’t know.
Since we don’t know where the sound is being broadcast from, and the only way I’ve managed to interrupt it is– well. I’ve drawn a circle and I thought very hard and the microphone light came on and. It’s not plugged into anything but it’s not worth worrying about, not really. Plugging it in did not help. So I just marked out the lines, lit some candles, sat in the middle of them, picked up the mic and said ‘you’ll let me do this’, and it did! Which. Small victories, isn’t it? It seems to be playing along just fine, at least, from what I can tell.
Okay, so, moving on, then, to the forums.
You all have a lot of questions which is, you know. Understandable. I could try and make my way through them one by one but we’d be here all night, Faithful Listeners, and a lot of them are variations on the same few things over and over so, I think it’s best to just tell you what I know, which, to be honest, isn’t really a lot. But it’s something!
I’ve been trying to set up to broadcast ever since– well. Ever since the last broadcast. It took hours to get back from the ruins of the Impossible House, and when we got here. There was nothing but a broken husk. The walls were still standing, but every window was broken, like gaping, empty eyes. The neighbours were standing in the street. They’d called the fire brigade, but there hadn’t been a fire. Nobody saw or heard anything, apart from a little girl from the house at the end of the street. Maisie, her name was. She woke up at three in the morning to a cat tapping at her second floor bedroom window. She let him inside, and noticed he was covered in dust. She was still hanging onto Revel when we got there at about nine. He seemed rather pleased to see me, if a little irritated, didn’t you darling?
SAM: And then the house. The house. I can’t explain what it was like to walk through the rubble. There was nothing there, nothing at all that resembled the only house I can remember living in. It was never a happy place, but it was a home, and I was at times happy there.
Kitty and I had hopes for the basement studio, but. Whatever I did that whisked us from the studio into the nowhere place of the Impossible House seems to have been the source of the damage, and so the basement fared the worst of all. The door, with it’s sixteen locks, stood in it’s frame, a few fragile pieces of plasterboard with yellow paint the only remains of the wall it had once stood in. The stairs were blocked by everything that had once stood above them.
There was nothing we could do.
Kitty’s been back and forth between here and the few places she knows of where she might find people who knew Madame Marie, trying to learn whatever she can about this Heir Apparent stuff.
One of my biggest concerns when we got back and saw what had happened to the house was the rest of the cats, but they all seem to be fine. Cosmo and Eggroll are dozing on the fluffy blanket Anna bought for us to ward off the winter chill in the Shed, and all of the other strays I’ve seen before are accounted for. I’m tempted to name them all but Oliver said that would be absurd as he’s seen at least four tabbies coming and going and the addition of names only adds to the potential for offence, and I suppose he’s right, much as I’d love to just forge ahead and make a huge spreadsheet about it or something.
SAM: Yes, thank you, I am aware I’m going on a bit.
SAM: You’re quite right.
I feel… different.
Ever since what happened in the house I’ve felt it. It’s like the volume has been turned up on the universe. Maybe it’s because I’m going outside more now but– I don’t know. I feel more whole somehow. And the mark, on my throat, where Bliss severed the bond to Madame Marie’s arcane maze? The scar has grown, spread, like lightning crawling though my skin, right up to my chin, and all the way down my chest. It’s a scar, and it should be new, but, it’s old, white, almost pearlescent–
SAM: Yes, sorry, Revel darling, I did distracted again didn’t I? What else do I need to…
SAM: The Recording Machine! The only thing we actually managed to pull out of the basement studio. It’s pretty beaten up. It did burst into flames after we all seanced I think it’ll be alright. I’ve not managed to get it to talk to me yet, but I think it will. Eventually. I don’t know how I know that I just sort of… do.
Ugh, I hate how much of this is like that. How much it’s all about a sense, and it’s like. What sort of nonsense is that, ‘I just know?!’. But then, Oliver is right, I guess. Things seem to work out– well, not exactly work out, but they do at least change, when I just sort of let things be what they are. I don’t know. But maybe that’s good? Ugh. You see?! It’s infuriating.
Think about it, but not too much. It’s like the bloody Man in the Flat Cap’s riddle. ‘Seek but don’t search’. It’s all about giving up a piece of yourself to it. It’s all about surrender.
I can’t let it go, though. I have a running theory, about the show. And me. I think it was somehow connected to the maze Madame Marie made to contain my power, which involved the house, and maybe herself? I don’t really know. It’s how I’ve managed to get things to work, actually. It’s completely bonkers, really. I’ve actually cast a circle around this whole part of the Shed. I knew I was on the right track because as soon as I crossed the chalk lines, even before I lit any candles, I could feel a sort of thrill under my skin. I smudged the chalk away; that’s when I reached for the sharpie. It’s great, I. I don’t know. Anyway. Yes.
As those of you who use the forums likely already know, they’ve been back up and running for a couple of weeks now. I don’t know how that happened, either. Except I had a dream about it and then. Well. There we are. Best not to overthink it. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.
Ugh. Which brings me to the inconvenient topic of the Inconvenient Sins, I suppose. Another source of many questions on the forums.
I don’t know what I did, except that I banished them. I don’t know what it means except that they’re gone. And I can feel that they’re out there, far away from me. It’s strange. I’m not aware of it, not exactly, in the same way you’re not aware you have toes unless you concentrate on them. It’s like. I don’t know. The act of banishing them, hat tied me to them somehow? Oliver says that’s what it’s like to hold an active spell over a living thing, though he hotly contests that the Sinconveniences are alive at all.
I say he’s alive, and if he’s alive, they must be too. But he insists they’re different. They don’t remember what it was like, before they were Major Arcana. I don’t know what that means. I think he was offering to say more, I think, but. I don’t know. I won’t press him, especially not as…
I don’t know.
I just don’t know how to explain it.
Since what happened in the house. People just. They do as I ask. I— I don’t have to intend it to happen, I just say something, and they do it. It’s not all the time. If I’m concentrating really hard on not doing it I can say an imperative without it being, you know. Not all the time. Not consistently. But it just sort of… does.
Something is different in me, now. I don’t know how to explain it, really. I think it’s always been there, this sort of, I don’t know. This feeling. But I can’t ignore it anymore and I don’t know how I ever managed it before. It must have been something to do with Madame Marie’s maze? I still don’t really understand what she did. As time goes on though I’m becoming more certain that, whatever it was, I’m never going to get the memories of being a child back. From what Anna says, that might not be such a terrible thing in the end.
At the Impossible House, once it… collapsed? Imploded? None of those are the right word for what happened. It sort of folded in on itself, like origami, edges appearing where edges should not be, and folding inwards again and again, until there was nothing. Underneath where the house was stood, a tangle of brambles and weeds criss-crossed a pile of rubble embedded in the dirt. It was the rubble Kitty, Anna and Madame Marie had searched through so many years before, looking for me, seven years old, asleep as I would be consistently for the next six years.
There’s a thing, with that. Something that’s not quite right. Because I remember almost nothing at all until I was almost eighteen, but I had been awake, apparently, for five years before then. On and off, at least. That was why Anna had felt justified in going off to university, why Kitty thought I should have remembered.
I should have been dead. Whilst I was asleep I needed nothing, no water, no sustenance, I just slept. Kitty said they took me to the hospital and Anna told me I was there for nine months, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, or why I didn’t die. My pulse was so slow it was barely detectable, but I was growing at a normal rate for a child of my age. It was the point at which one of the doctors suggested cutting into my skull ‘just to see’ that Madame Marie brought me home, which is something, I guess.
I don’t know.
Before we came home we did look in the rubble. I don’t know what I was looking for. We found a shoe that was Anna’s when she was small, bright red, the upper coming away from the sole. Kitty found a painting she’d done of the sky, filled with birds, though she tells me reliably the red splodge in the background was not meant to represent the sun but something exploding. There were some drawings of the White door, but there are always drawings of the White Door.
I don’t know what I was hoping for.
There was something else in the rubble. Dozens upon dozens of notebooks. A lot of them were rotten, pages turned practically to dirt. Others, though, a few layers down, were dirty but otherwise well preserved. There were 28 where we could still decipher words upon the pages. When Madame Marie’s office appeared underneath the basement studio, Anna and Kitty said there were rows and rows of journals there on the shelves. Some of them where there.
Some of the notebooks we found do seem like journals. Notes of places and times, moods and feelings. Some of them are written in neat, slanted cursive, others in Madame Marie’s more loopy, chaotic hand. There are pages of un-broken prose; ramblings, they seem like, which make little sense and at times are barely legible.
And there are… stories.
I don’t know what else to call them. Accounts? Statements? Records? None of them seem right. Story doesn’t either but it’s the closest I can think. These things come without citation, un-evidenced, sources usually unmarked. Stories will have to do.
There’s this one, in particular, and I’ll read it to you now.
Boy of small size, blue eyed.
He watched as I came up the garden path. A girl stood beside him, some years his senior, her hair in pigtails. When I rang the doorbell I heard the thunder of their feet on the cheap laminate floors.
The girl answered the door.
‘Have you come for a cat’, she said.
I nodded, though I had not.
The boy appeared beside her, holding a kitten no larger than my two cupped hands. I took it from him. Both children stared at me, until the girl darted forwards to catch another kitten as it darted out of the door in a bid for freedom.
A harried woman in a dressing gown and rollers thundered down the stairs. ‘I’m so sorry. You know kids. They get excited when you give them a job to do.’
I smiled and tried to look pleasant. The woman smiled back.
‘Oh, come in! I’ll make some tea and you can choose.’
‘Wonderful,’ I said. The kitten in my hands was squirming.
I followed the woman through the house, tailed by the girl and the small, slender boy. I sat at a small round table as the kettle boiled. Kittens sat on the counters and chairs. One peered at me from atop the microwave. On the windowsill, a small altar, with candles, bundled lavender burnt at one end from cleansing. The air was sweet with it, masking the musk of too many cats beneath.
The kitten in my hands twisted and jabbed its needle teeth into my thumb. In surprise I dropped it and it landed with a soft thud between my feet. It teetered unsteadily on its four paws a moment before leaping at another, rolling out of sight in a ball of fur and claws.
‘There’s so many,’ I said, without meaning to.
The small boy was standing in the doorway. He grinned.
‘Yeah,’ said the woman. ‘Can’t testify to how good they are. Not sure where they’ve come from. But everyone’s been happy.’
‘Yeah. Do you just want one?’
‘Sugar?’ I said.
The boy’s grin widened.
‘No. Cat,’ said the woman.
I blinked. ‘What?’
I looked away from the boy and at the woman.
She was looking at me with some wonder and then, glancing at the boy, her eyes widened. ‘You’re her.’
She glanced around, ushered the boy into the hall, and closed the door. ‘I’m so sorry. We mostly get people about the cats.’
‘You don’t know where they’ve come from?’
‘I wish I knew,’ said the woman, quietly.
‘The boy,’ I said. ‘Your brother.’
The woman looked me dead in the eye. ‘No. He’s my uncle. He’s been here since my grandparents… well. We don’t really know what happened to them.’
[THE DISTINCT SOUND OF OLIVER’S STATIC; A FIZZ, ELECTRICAL WITH A ARRHYTHMIC PERCUSSIVE ELEMENT]
SAM: Gods, Oliver! You made me jump. Can’t you manifest outside?!
OLIVER: My apologies, Magpie. I’m sorry for startling you. I’d intended for the garden, but you’re… well, I always end up a little closer to you than I intend.
SAM: Hmm. What’s that?
OLIVER: I heard you managed to get the broadcast going again. I thought I’d bring you a hot chocolate for when you were finished.
SAM: Oh! It’s hot!
OLIVER: Yes, it is in the name of the beverage, I’d have thought you could deduce that.
SAM: Alright, alright. Hmm.
OLIVER: I’m beginning to see why it infuriates you when I do that.
[OLIVER LEANS CLOSER, KISSING SAM ON THE CHEEK]
OLIVER: I’ll be outside, with my ice cream.
SAM: Okay. I’ll be done in a minute.
[OLIVER WALKS AWAY. THE DOOR TO THE SHED OPENS AND CLOSES]
SAM: Right, where was I?
SAM: Oh, that’s right. Thank you, Revel darling.
Yes, um. Well. The entry ends a few lines after where I stopped. The boy was the woman’s uncle, born about ten years before her. He looked about five, maybe six, always had. At the end there’s a line that just says ‘kittens – again’ and ‘confirmed Impossible Child’. I don’t know if you remember, Faithful Listeners, but many months ago when I’d not long taken over as host of the show, one of the forum users, Jinghua, disappeared, following an encounter with a boy who was far younger than he should have been. She was found weeks later with no memories of what at happened, or of her life before. There was a letter too, about a girl who had been seven years old for decades upon decades, painting masterpieces in some kind of… observation room.
I’m a little less weirded out by it all now that my boyfriend is immortal or whatever, but. It’s strange that these journals all seem to be accounts of them. I can’t tell if they’re rumours or facts. Oliver said that the Impossible Children aren’t Major Arcana like him, because you need to consent to a deal in order to strike one, and few actual children can do so with enough real intent to make it all work properly, or something. He’s very cagey about talking about it all. I’ll ask a question and he’ll go on and on about these tiny meaningless details for hours, until I fall asleep. Or he does. Twice, that’s happened, he’s bored himself to sleep with his own explanations. It’s a good thing he’s so good looking.
OLIVER: [VERY DISTANTLY] I can hear you.
SAM: I know, love.
Anyway. None of that really gets us anywhere. Except that Madame Marie was compiling these. And I think she was doing it for a reason? It has to be to do with me. But I grew and aged. I’ve seen a photograph of myself as a child. I was 22 three weeks ago and now I’m 23. Six months ago, my hair was not completely grey. Once I was small enough for Anna to hold me in her arms, not that she doesn’t threaten to carry me like a baby on a regular basis now. I…
You know. That night, after the Impossible House crumbled away. I felt alive. I felt– I felt—
I don’t know.
I thought it would keep growing. I thought that, because I know, you know, it would mean that I. Knowledge is power, isn’t it? So why don’t I feel powerful?
I don’t know. But I don’t feel powerful.
It has been good to speak with you. I feel— better. Connected, somehow. Though we’ve spoken on the forums a bit, I… There’s something about directly speaking, I think. It makes things. I don’t know. It makes me feel whole. I think I’ll sleep tonight better than I have in weeks. Thank you, Faithful Listeners, and goodnight.