Click for Content Warnings
- Background sounds and music
- Stereo audio (audio will sound different in right and left speakers/headphones)
- Mentions of nightmares
- Flirting with innuendos
- Discussions of serious injury and death
- Brief descriptiono of being burned by sulphuric acid
- Sounds of distress (gasps of alarm; tearful voices; crying)
- Negative self-talk
- Discussion of loss and grief of a partner
- Mentions of WW1: details of trenches, mentions of gunfire and getting shot, barbed wire, death by war (no sound effects)
- Description of the experience of being shot
- Description of explicit, hands-on violence and murder
He comes and goes, the one who walks here and there. So do I, apparently. Sorry I was gone, faithful listeners. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello, faithful listeners. Um. Long time, no speak. I’ve missed you. Did you miss me?
I’m sorry, I’ve been asleep. Whatever happened with Kitty, I… it took a lot from me. I knew it would. I don’t know how long it will be before I feel myself again. But it was worth it. For Kitty. She’s okay now, she’ll… she’ll be fine.
And me? I don’t know. These past few weeks, all I’ve done is dream. I didn’t realise I was dreaming at first. I thought– I thought something had gone horribly wrong, that somehow I’d—
It was the empty town. All the lights were on in the houses, but nobody was there and I–
[THE DOOR OPENS, AND CLOSES]
SAM: Oliver, is that you?
OLIVER: Sam. You’re awake.
SAM: Mmm. Just about.
OLIVER: You’re broadcasting.
SAM: [YAWNING] It’s witching hour.
OLIVER: Oh, of course. I forgot where we were in the week. I brought tea and towels, and I put out more food for the cats. There’s so many of them now. They just. Keep coming.
OLIVER: You don’t need to do this, you know. If you’re not ready.
SAM: As stupid as it sounds, Oliver, I feel like I need to. Before, Spirit Box Radio has kept me going. The Faithful Listeners kept me going. They hear me, Oliver. I know this sounds stupid but, so many things about Arcanism seem to be about belief and intent. How the Algiz was made, all of those things. We can’t figure out what Madame Marie was trying to do with Spirit Box Radio, but maybe that’s because. Well. It wasn’t meant for her. Maybe it was part of her deal, some how. She attended it relentlessly, just as relentlessly kept me away from it. What if it was for me, all along, and everything before it was—? I don’t know. It probably doesn’t work like that, does it?
OLIVER: Not for ordinary arcanists, no, but as we don’t know what you— what you can do—
SAM: It’s fine, love. You can say it. We don’t know what I am.
OLIVER: Magpie. I only meant that I understand the need for things you don’t necessarily understand. Hunger of a different kind.
SAM: [SAUCILY] Hmm. All kinds of hunger.
OLIVER: You’re incorrigible.
SAM: Yes. And? You love it. [GIGGLES]
OLIVER: I love you.
SAM: Come sit with me. I’m cold.
OLIVER: [SARCASTICALLY] Ah, how could I refuse an offer so tempting?
SAM: I don’t know, I can barely hear what you’re saying because you’re still way, way over there.
OLIVER: Alright, alright. I’ll sit with you. How’s this?
OLIVER: You look like you’re about to fall asleep.
SAM: Mmm, I’m rapt with interest. Tell me something.
SAM: I don’t know. Something I don’t know. Something the faithful listeners don’t know.
OLIVER: Like what?
SAM: Hmm. [LITTLE GASP]
SAM: The scar on your face, I… were you… burned?
OLIVER: How do you know that?
SAM: I– I don’t know. It happened the other day, too. When I touched your arm, just for a second, I felt— They’re all deaths, aren’t they, your scars. Killing blows.
OLIVER: [APPALLED] You can feel them all?
SAM: The other Major Arcana. They don’t have scars like these.
SAM: You… keep them. When your body renews, you keep them. By choice.
OLIVER: To remember.
SAM: Why do you keep trying to punish yourself, Oliver? What could you have done that could be this bad?
OLIVER: You know nothing about it.
SAM: You can talk to me.
SAM: This one is the first, isn’t it? It was… acid?
OLIVER: Sulphuric acid. Though back then they called it Oil of Vitriol.
SAM: Oh, love…
OLIVER: Don’t pity me, Sam. When they came for Jack and I. I was. I should have responded more quickly. or. I don’t know. When I called him to me, I should have been less selfish, less… Less vengeful. I should have asked him to save Jack, not me.
SAM: Is that what you asked? To be saved?
OLIVER: No. Not exactly. Please, Sam, don’t press this.
SAM: Who was Jack?
OLIVER: You’re not jealous of a man who has been dead for five hundred years, are you?
SAM: I was jealous when you said you were ‘quite the pet to the Duc D’Orleans’.
OLIVER: Well, that was a very different sort of situation. Philippe had dozens of other conquests.
SAM: And you?
OLIVER: I was young. Well, i– in a way I was young. I was bitter, still, then. I took comfort wherever I found it. I looked for it a lot in the silk sheets of many dukes and duchesses. Mostly because they had the best food.
SAM: You are highly motivated by sugar.
OLIVER: Hmm, I’m glad you’ve been paying attention.
SAM: But Jack was different.
[BEAT OF SILENCE]
OLIVER: Yes. Jack was different.
SAM: You don’t have to talk about him.
OLIVER: The sad thing is I don’t have a lot to say. I wasted so long being angry, looking for ways to avenge him, that I forgot to hold on to the pieces of what we had that I really wanted to.
Eventually the reasons I was angry melted away and I was just angry, and alone. That was when I realised I couldn’t remember why I loved him, or even what loving him was like. Only that it was gone. All I can really remember is the end, on the floor of the bakery. I think it was his. I think that I maybe lived there.
[OLIVER SHIFTS ON THE BED]
I can say, I remember blood on the straw strewn on the floor. A rat creeping in through under the door, lapping at it, in the last moments where I could see, before everything turned muted and blurred and, eventually, into distant, twinkling stars. I don’t even remember the pain, though it must have been significant, which I know as I’ve become reacquainted with sulphuric acid since.
Besides that, I remember almost nothing, except that I loved him, and he’s gone. He’s been gone a long time, magpie.
SAM: I’m sorry.
OLIVER: Whatever for?
SAM: I wish you didn’t hurt.
OLIVER: Everyone hurts, from time to time.
SAM: If I could take it from you I would—
OLIVER: Don’t say that. I don’t wish myself or anyone else any suffering, but I don’t want to forget. It’s a part of me. Would you want to forget the times you’ve been hurt?
Ah. My apologies. I wasn’t thinking.
SAM: It’s alright. You forgot.
OLIVER: I suppose I did.
OLIVER: Are you okay?
SAM: [BREATHLESSLY] Yeah, yeah, it’s fine, just– your shoulder— Oliver, were you burned at the stake?
OLIVER: Ah. That. You know, it was over surprisingly quickly. And it was extremely satisfying to walk away from the next day. The guy who did it, his face before I—
SAM: Before you what? [PAUSE] Oh. Right.
[SAM GASPS, MORE VIOLENTLY]
SAM: Oh, Oliver.
OLIVER: It’s fine, Magpie, don’t think about it.
[SAM’S VOICE CRACKS WITH EMOTION]
SAM: It’s not fine, it’s not fine, you were so alone, oh.
OLIVER: I’m here, I’m breathing. Would you like me to put on a jacket?
SAM: No– what if– every time I touch you, I–
OLIVER: Touch my face again.
SAM: It’s– I can still feel it but. It’s less. It’s less.
OLIVER: Good. It’s going to fine. It’s all fine. Come here– no, wait, let me.
OLIVER: There. Come here.
SAM: Thank you.
OLIVER: It’s alright. I’ve got you.
SAM: I’ve got you.
[FABRIC RUSTLES. THEY KISS.]
SAM: The one on your shoulder.
OLIVER: Ah. The blanket isn’t helping.
SAM: No, it is, a little. But. The one on your shoulder.
OLIVER: Yes. It’s an interesting story, actually, that one. I–
OLIVER: I can’t.
SAM: Why not?
OLIVER: It is to do with my, ah, duties, as a Major Arcana.
SAM: So you’re… forbidden?
OLIVER: Sort of. It’s… it’s a more light binding than other things. But it’s there.
SAM: Right. Well. Why don’t you just tell me? There’s so much where– just.
SAMTry? Please? If it’s not– there’s so much you can’t talk about at all. If this is, I don’t know. If it’s easier to say this than it is for any of that, then just tell me?
OLIVER: I can’t, I–
SAM: What if I– um. Just.
[SAM KISSES OLIVER]
SAM: Tell me, Oliver.
[MAGIC HUM RISES]
OLIVER: I was sent to challenge a young Arcanist in the trenches. I forget which side they were fighting on. It was a beautiful field in France, last time I had visited. I’m sure that’s why He sent me, in particular, not one of the others. I had ridden a horse through there with a countess. We’d lain amongst the long wild flowers.
It was all gone. Just mud and death.
Instead of wild flowers barbed wire grew in nasty coils, petals of torn fabric and flesh quivering in the wind. The air, which had been so fresh and thick with florals that you could have bottled it for perfume, was rank, putrid. Heavy with death and gun powder.
Dean men lay face down, reaching still towards the trenches across no man’s land, limbs ground to mulch. A vile thing. Engines juddering. Shouting across the noise of it all. The Arcanist I’d been sent to claim was no more than a boy, his face and hands dirty, but there was pluck to him, a mightiness. He would not be missed amidst the gunfire and hell but I hesitated to take him. There was something of a look about him. Something wily that I admired, that made me smile. I didn’t want to claim him for the arcane even though I knew that was my task, it was my duty, I was bound to it, and then.
I heard it like a flutter of wings, and then silence. In that place of mechanisms and grinding and screaming and groaning and whimpering in pain, it was remarkable. It all fell away. I even caught a whiff of the fresh, flowery breeze that had torn through my hair that day I had come with the countess. And there, upon the edge of a trench, a part in the grey clouds above him like a blue halo, stood Strife.
His face was twisted in a smile that was beautiful but also horrible to look at. Something jarring and lifeless about his eyes. The longer you look at him, at Scourge, at Scarcity, the more you begin to see that though at first they seem solid, their edges run off like ink bleeding into nothing. They are more and less solid than they should be. And nothing quiet touches them. Nothing. The dirt of war didn’t sully Strifes toes as he perched on the edge above me, but some ways down, beyond the boy’s shoulder.
He was only there an instant, basking in glorious sun. Of them I’d always like Strife best of the three of them. There is something direct about him, compared to the others. He looked at me, with his nothing eyes, and then he was gone, and the sound was back, and the breeze was replaced by a stinking wind, and the boy I’d come to claim shot me in the back.
I wonder what he thought of me, the boy, when he shot me, and before. I don’t recall what I was wearing but I’d been called out of bed, that I know. Silk, most likely. This strange, clean man dressed in silk had appeared before him in this sad dirty gouge in the earth. What else was he supposed to do but shoot me? I had my back to him so I never saw his expression, but as I fell to my knees I heard a little gasp.
It took a while for me to die.
The bullet went right through me. It tore my lung; I felt it collapse in my chest, that unmistakable animal panic that sets in when you cannot breathe enough.
I could feel the blood in my throat.
The boy crouched beside me in the filth. He pulled me into his lap. He spoke too fast for me to hear him, and too quietly.
He was still holding me when I reset. His eyes lit up when I spluttered awake. I supposed it must have seemed like a miracle to him. He released me at once, eyes filled with tears and wonder. He shuffled back to let me stand even though my head rose over the top of the trench.
He opened his mouth, I think to tell me to be careful.
He never said the words.
I stepped forward.
It’s easier than you’d think, to plunge your hand into someone’s chest. With that same fluid movement I pulled his heart free and held it there in my palm. His mouth was still open. His eyes still filled with wonder. He didn’t have time to feel fear, not until his knees gave out.
Did you know humans can live for six minutes after your rip their hearts right out of their chests?
[OLIVER INHALES SHARPLY]
I– I can’t believe I told you that, I shouldn’t have been able to tell you that, it was taboo. Do you realise what this means, Sam?
[A PAUSE WHERE SAM DOES NOT RESPOND]
Oh. You’re asleep.
I’m so sorry. I am a monstrous thing, Samael. More monstrous still, for loving you.
But there is something in you. Terrifying as it is, it’s there. It calls to me, and… I–it makes me believe I could be better. I could be more than this, in time.
Ah. The microphone.
Goodnight, Faithful Listeners of my Samael. Goodnight.