Click for Content Warnings
- Background sounds and music
- Panning effects (sounds will be different in right and left headphones)
- References to death and dying
- Implied cult/high control group (entirely fictional)
- References to instances of cannibalism
- Implied historical child neglect/endangerment
- Verbal manipulation (mild)
- Mention of blood (nosebleed)
- Abrupt sound effects (lightbulbs exploding)
- Negative self-talk
Up close, a painting is all brushstrokes, a gif is all pixels, and a cat is mass of vibrating fur. Sometimes you need to step back to appreciate what you’re looking at. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello faithful listeners!
Uh, I only just got back from New York a couple of hours ago, so, hang on, bear with me.
Um. Apologies for the rather abrupt ending to last week’s segment; there was a lot of chatter on the forums about it and I do feel quite bad for blowing you off to get pancakes. Sometimes Oliver is such a terrible influence.
And of course it was such a segment last week. Meeting B, learning about the Scarcemongers or the Subscribers to the Redistribution or whatever you want to call them, you know, it was a lot to take in. Those people who Kitty said had gone missing from York? Best case scenario is they’re living in those tunnels. It was hard to get a sense of the real scope of the place. It was dark and we were walking fast both on the way down and on the way out. There were a few people we saw all dressed in white, and I could hear more voices now and then, in the distance. I couldn’t tell how close or far away they were.
B, at least, seems to have been living down there. The room he brought us to, where the music was playing. There were chairs, the fold up kind, and a little table in the corner. There was a space heater and a huge amount of pots and pans. There was also a small bed pushed up against the wall, an uncomfortable looking thing made of metal, with nothing but a scratchy blanket on the mattress. Maybe loads of the Scarcemongers live down there. I don’t know.
What I do know is that they’re up to something. Or, well. They think that something is coming. The redistribution. Becoming ‘one with the one’. Oliver says it’s bullshit but I don’t know what to think about it, honestly.
For the first time in ages, I keep thinking ‘what would M do’. It’s not a particularly useful thought because I have no idea what she’d do but it does make me think, you know, about her lists of the Impossible Children. What it all means. Why she was tracking them down. Oliver says I’m not an Impossible Child but B said they could age and grow under the right circumstances, and now I’ve thought about it a little bit I’m pretty sure that what they meant was that. You know. If they ate people. Then they’d grow.
Like I said, I’ve been in New York with Oliver all week so I haven’t really had chance to do much, but I’ve got M’s notes about the Impossible Children here, so… Some of them have little notes at the end, like this one here, which just says ‘check book on arcane symbols’ and
this one here, which just says ‘Rhytidia thinks this one is fake’, which you know—
Rhytidia thinks this one is fake.
OH MY GOD SHE KNEW.
[SCRAMBLE OF MOVEMENT]
[SAM GRABS THE PHONE]
SAM: Rhytidia! Rhytidia Delphus! Speak to me!
RHYTIDIA: Mm, hello? What is this?
SAM: SPEAK TO ME, BOG WITCH
RHYTIDIA: Woah, there, Samael, someone’s clearly boiled your bog water, what can I—
SAM: I’m not interested in your insults and petty complaints, tell me what you know about the Impossible Children.
RHYTIDIA: I– the what– why are you asking me?
SAM: I don’t know, not yet, but you’re going to tell me.
RHYTIDIA: You found her journals.
SAM: They aren’t just hers.
RHYTIDIA: Some were your Great Grandmother’s.
SAM: Why? Why were they collecting information about the Impossible Children?
RHYTIDIA: My Marie? I could take a guess at, but her grandmother? No idea.
SAM: Tell me about M, then.
RHYTIDIA: She found her grandmother’s journals.
SAM: And what, she wanted to know more just from that?
RHYTIDIA: Well, no, not exactly. She didn’t find them until after her grandmother died. And didn’t take an interest until after… No. That’s not yours to know.
SAM: After what?
RHYTIDIA: The summer solstice in 1988. Why’d I tell you that? I didn’t want to tell you about that.
SAM: What’s important about that day?
RHYTIDIA: Lots of things! It was the solstice, for starters!
SAM: Rhytidia. What happened on the summer solstice in 1988.
RHYTIDIA: I don’t know why it’s so important.
SAM: What happened that day?
RHYTIDIA: I don’t see why it’s any of your business, Samael.
SAM: [HIS VOICE TREMBLES DANGEROUSLY] Rhytidia. Tell me what happened to Madame Marie on the summer solstice 1988!
RHYTIDIA: Alright, alright! She heard a prophecy.
SAM: What prophecy?
RHYTIDIA: That she would bear a child who could best the One Who Walks Here and There.
RHYTIDIA: You pester me that much and then don’t bother to even listen to my answer? You concrete cretin. You urbane ignoramus. You—
SAM: STOP IT. What happened after she heard that prophecy. Did she go to try and seek out the Man in the Flat Cap and Shell Suit?
RHYTIDIA: The who? Oh. The Man Who Walks Here and There. No. That was before.
SAM: So. What? What changed after she heard the prophecy that made her look for the Impossible Children?
RHYTIDIA: I think she thought it was a way out. She made her deal for power, though I didn’t find any of this out until many years later, when she was already pregnant with you. She could tell almost immediately something was off about the whole thing. Of course, if she had any sense she’d have known that before making the deal in the first place. Her crystal ball, he gave it to her, you know, but it didn’t work like any crystal ball I ever knew. Horrible thing, full of spite. She was powerful but. There were, uh, caveats to it. So as soon as she thought there might be a way out of it all she went out looking for the nearest witch with the means to facilitate.
SAM: And she had Anna in December 1989.
RHYTIDIA: And Ekaterina November 1990, I am aware.
SAM: But then she stopped?
RHYTIDIA: She preferred women, and women with means to facilitate a pregnancy are trickier to find if you’re in a hurry.
SAM: So she stopped after Anna and Kitty because she couldn’t be bothered? And what does any of this have to do with the Impossible Children? [PAUSE] Answer me, Rhytidia!
RHYTIDIA: No! Would you stop? I don’t like this… I don’t know. I can’t refuse you.
SAM: Ugh, I know, I’m sorry. I’m trying to keep it in check. But it’s a nightmare, and I’m angry. I know that’s not an excuse. I’m trying to keep a lid on this, I am, I swear it. Please, by your own willing consent, would you explain to me why Madame Marie stopped trying to have this prophetised child after she had Kitty?
RHYTIDIA: Bloody arcanists. I swear, I should have stayed miles away. As it is, just so happens that your great grandmother’s apothecary was the closest for me to access, and I did get fond of the little Marie, after a while.
Don’t think I’m telling you this because you have a right to know! You don’t. This was Marie’s private life. For all her broadcasting she was always pretty private. Sad, if you ask me, but that’s Arcanism all over. That’s why the show made her so unpopular with other arcanists, you know. Oh they’ll talk with each other, swap tips, trade ideas for categorisation, but they don’t make communities, they don’t talk to one another, not on a personal level. Arcanism says that all magic is about intent, and Arcanists, well. They want to keep you as in the dark as possible on whatever they might be intending. It’s part of the power, you know. The anticipation.
Now, with witches, you understand what you’re getting, to an extent. Hedge witches, they like flora. Garden witches too, but in a much more cultivated sense, and they’re more likely to bring up vegetables than clover. House witches, it’s all domesticity. Bog witches, we learn the song of the mud. And sure, some witches are arcanists too. Your Oliver Boleyn, but I’m fairly certain he’s a lot more than just an Arcanist and a witch, given I’ve known him forty five years and the little snake hasn’t aged a day, despite the new scars he keeps acquiring.
Arcanists, though. They’ll read five books about psychology rather than just asking how you are. That’s what they’re like. Unsavoury bunch, the lot of you.
SAM: So. You don’t know why Madame Marie was looking for the Impossible Children?
RHYTIDIA: I never said that.
SAM: Why didn’t you tell me, then?
RHYTIDIA: You got somewhere you need to be?
RHYTIDIA: Well then, zip it, nosy, and I’ll get there when I get there. Oy, I’ve never laid eyes on someone in such desperate need for context in my long life.
I suppose in it’s own contradictory way, starting the radio show did exactly what Madame Marie wanted. It made her a pariah amongst her Arcanist peers. Shrouded her in mystery. Creating the forums, unpopular precisely for its popularity, was a stroke of genius if her intention was to incite fear, disapproval, and simultaneously make everyone lean a little closer in to keep an eye on what she was doing.
SAM: So that they were always looking for the Man in the Flat Cap, even if they didn’t know it.
SAM: And what’s that got to do with stopping trying to have kids?
RHYTIDIA: You really can’t figure it out, can you?
RHYTIDIA: Logically speaking, if you were looking for his nemesis you’d go the opposite tact, wouldn’t you? You’d search everywhere you can and that’s how you’d find them. But something happened that made her figure you weren’t just his nemesis. You were more than that. Something else.
SAM: What? What changed? What made her think that?
RHYTIDIA: She met an Impossible Child. Oy. It wasn’t long after she’d had Kitty. He was young one, and not just in body. His name was Jonah. His parents were in their fifties, and he appeared to be about five years old but uh of course he was more like twenty-five. And when she found them, she talked to them and they told her a story.
SAM: They said they’d made a deal. With the Man in the Flat Cap.
RHYTIDIA: Yes. And he’d granted them a child, and told them it would be powerful in arcane ways. They agreed, desperate as they were, and actually pretty excited to have a gifted kid, Jonah was born. He seemed normal at first, but for a few oddities–
SAM: He knew latin? He could. Do things?
RHYTIDIA: Exactly. But then, one day, he just. Stopped. They didn’t noticed for a year or so, of course. They got concerned, they took him to the doctor and discovered–
SAM: His cells were adult. But wrong. They couldn’t work out how he was alive at all.
RHYTIDIA: And that’s when they knew something was wrong. And Marie knew, then, that she’d been looking for the wrong thing. She wasn’t looking for a nemesis.
SAM: She was looking for an heir. But. What was it about Jonah that made her think that? And if she’d already made a deal then, what does that mean about me?
RHYTIDIA: That’s the thing about Arcanism, you see? It fetishises its own unknowability, tries desperately to express it, but it– it can’t, and it just revels in that. But it’s all about believing. Not truth.
SAM: Why do you hate Arcanism so much?
RHYTIDIA: Ugh. Just bad vibes, Samael. Absolutely rancid vibes.
SAM: That’s all the arcane is–
RHYTIDIA: I know! I’m a witch! We might not always call it the arcane. We call it what we like, what we’ve learned, what we feel it to be. We connect with it. But Arcanism, in it’s inception, it was opposed to that. It didn’t want to embrace the unknown at all. It feared and admired it. Kept it at a cosy distance, all the while framing it in glitter and calling it profound. There are some things we’ll never know for certain, Samael. But that doesn’t make them powerful, not unless we let it. Not unless we feed it. Do you understand?
RHYTIDIA: You’re a lost cause.
SAM: Don’t say that.
RHYTIDIA: Why not?
SAM: Because! There’s a group of people who—
[PHONE DISCONNECTION SOUND]
THEY’RE EATING PEOPLE. And they know so much more about all this than I do. Madame Marie was looking for Impossible Children to find out more about what I was going to be, but what does that actually tell me about anything.
SAM: It really doesn’t say anything about whether I’m an impossible child or not, does it? She made a deal and ended up with me, like the others did. There was just a bit of a delay in the middle.
SAM: I know I kept growing and ageing during the years I was asleep but she could have been slipping me little bits of people soup the whole time and nobody would have known.
SAM: I hate this! I don’t understand how the pieces fit together. Rhytidia told me what happened after Madame Marie met an impossible child but it says nothing about why she first started to seek them out. Rhytidia even admitted she had no idea why M’s grandmother was looking for them, too, but she was! So, what? M’s grandmother was somehow involved, too? But how, when we know she was dead before M made her deal, and she’d made the deal before she had met an Impossible Child. But then that doesn’t necessarily mean she wasn’t already looking for them and. GODS. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!
[AS SAM SPOKE, OBJECTS BEGAN TO TREMBLE. THE LAST WORD ‘KNOW’ ECHOES AS A DOOR SEEMS TO CREAK OPEN AND A STRANGE WIND BLOWS. WHEN SAM SPEAKS AGAIN, HE SOUNDS AS THOUGH HE IS IN A VAST EMPTY SPACE. THE WIND CONTINUES TO BLOW. A MAGIC HUM REVERBERATES BELOW IT]
SAM: [AFRAID] Revel? Cosmo? Eggroll? Anybody!? Where are you? I can’t– I can’t see, it’s all dark I—
[SAM’S BREATHS ECHO]
SAM: Hello?[IN THE DISTANCE, MUFFLED THUDS, RHYTHMIC, EMERGE FROM THE HUM AND THE WIND. AS THEY GET CLOSER, IT IS CLEAR THEY ARE THE HOOFBEATS OF A HORSE]
[WHEN SAM SPEAKS, HIS VOICE IS SLIGHTLY SLOWED]
SAM: A pale horse.
[THE HORSE SNICKERS, COMING TO A HALT BESIDE SAM]
SAM: But, where is your rider?
[THE HORSE SNICKERS AGAIN, AND THEN MOVES]
SAM: [DAZED] Where are you going! Don’t leave me here.
[THE HOOFBEATS FADE FASTER THAN THEY SHOULD INTO THE WIND]
SAM: Hello? Oh. What’s this? One of the True Arcanist cards. Huh. The Unrelenting. Oliver’s card.
[THE WIND PICKS UP MORE STRONGLY]
SAM: What? It’s… no it’s the Skull in the Crown, but. Wait. Inside the skull. The heart from the Unrelenting card. I can just see it through the sockets. The chains are in the roses, what on earth…
[A VOICE ON THE WIND]
THE VOICE: Take him.
THE VOICE: Take. Him.
SAM: Who said that? What do you mean?
[THE WIND HOWLS LOUDER, OBJECTS SHAKE, THE MAGIC HUM RISES]
[SAM CRIES OUT]
[THEY RUN, FEET POUNDING ON THE GROUND]
[THERE IS A BRIGHT ‘THWACK’ AND THE WIND, THE HUM, THE TREMBLING OBJECTS; THEY FADE INTO NOTHING]
SAM: Oh, god, my nose. There’s blood everywhere, hang on, Revel.
[SAM FUMBLES, FINDS A BOX OF TISSUES, AND DABS THEM AT HIS FACE]
SAM: Take him… but. What does that mean?
SAM: As a Major Arcana? But. That’s not even possible, is it? Revel? Why are you looking at me like that?
SAM: Don’t be silly darling. You’re a cat.
SAM: I don’t understand what you’re saying.
SAM: Yes I know it’s unusual that I understand you at all but amidst everything else it’s hardly a surprise, is it!? Maybe I’m just very perceptive.
SAM: What do you mean that’d be out of character!?
SAM: I just put out food for you and the others, it’s not like I’m bargaining with you! You can leave any time.
SAM: Well, I’m glad you don’t want to.
SAM: I mean. I don’t know. You Cosmo and Eggroll were the first I let in. That’s all. I’d been feeding you before Madame Marie died, remember? Cans of tuna now and then. Madame Marie thought it was weird when I started asking for them from the shops, what with the whole mostly vegan thing, but I couldn’t just leave you out there to starve, could I? You kept coming… even before I was… feeding you…
SAM: Well when you put it like that… you are the most talkative. And Cosmo is the most thoughtful. And Eggroll rolls around and smells like egg, but he was named after the little pastries you get from Chinese take-out places, not a rolling egg. You’re not Major Arcana.
SAM: You didn’t die in the fire! You’re fine. That little girl was holding you!
REVEL: Meep. Mrreep.
SAM: Yes I know. But. I can’t. I can’t possibly.
SAM: Stop, stop! I can’t think about this right now. And. Why cats!? What’s the point of. Argh! Anyway even if what you’re saying is true, that doesn’t mean it’d work with people. Mystery straight up said I couldn’t do it before. They said! It didn’t work! They’re a weird detached forum ghost, and Beth, and Emily, and all those other ghosts, they’re just trapped in there, sort of detached, just… waiting. I can’t do it. Even if I can suspend a cat, which I don’t know that I can, I can’t do it to a human. I’ve proven that. And Oliver’s not just a human, anyway, he’s already a Major Arcana and—
Even if I could. If it was possible. If I could take his deal and make him my Major Arcana instead of the Man in the Flat Cap’s. I’d be in charge of his deal. I’d be. I could. It would be my fault he’s still here. And he. I think I make him happy. But do I make him happy enough that he wouldn’t ask me to let him go?
I can’t. I couldn’t. No. I won’t, I can’t.
And besides, how would it even be between us if his deal belonged to me? Would he be like Beth? ‘Meant’ to help me? Maybe… maybe it would break the taboos, all those things he can’t say, maybe he could say them, maybe it could all come pouring free and all those answers would be there, and those stones between us could be picked up and thrown aside, and I could know him, properly, the way he knows me, secrets and all. And I mean, sure, he’s a good follow but.
But he’d be bound to me, somehow, against his will, even if he did want me to do it, what if he changed his mind, what if he wanted to leave but he couldn’t. What if he couldn’t even think about changing his mind because there’s too much funky magic involved and he’s stuck and it’s not the me anymore that’s keeping him here it’s the magic and—
Aaaaand I’m exploding things, great. Okay. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s fine. It’s all fine. I’m fine; everything is fine.
It doesn’t even matter because there’s no way I could do it. I can’t. I couldn’t. There’s no way! I’m just– I’m just me, and that’s. And I’m the Heir Apparent but I’m still me. Whatever that means. But it means something? And maybe I’m not as useless as Madame Marie always said but I couldn’t do that, could I?! Could I? No. I couldn’t!
He talked me out of naming the other cats.
SAM: If what you say is true and naming you is part of it…
[A LITTLE SIGH]
That must mean he knew. What you were.
And– and he can see things the way the look through the spy glass whenever he likes, of course he knew. And– and names, they seem significant to the Major Arcana the Man in the Flat Cap has; Indifference, Ignorance and Ingratitude, they don’t have names beyond that, at least, not anymore. Oliver kept his name but he’s different from them, somehow. The others said he was special. He keeps his other name as part of this ‘punishment for his hubris’ thing. But he has another name, too. The name that matches the card, that matches the tattoo on his chest. The Unrelenting.
He said he thought it was a joke or something but I don’t understand what the joke is supposed to be. The others, they’re feelings, right? But ‘the Unrelenting’ isn’t. So. Begs the question. The Unrelenting what.
Oh gods. He listens to the show. He listens to the goddamn show.
[QUIETLY, SADLY] Oliver I’m sorry.
I’m going to call him.
I have to go, faithful listeners.