SBR 2.22: Tipping Point

Click for Content Warnings

Background sounds and music
Stereo audio (audio will sound different in right and left speakers/headphones)
Mentions of loss of autonomy (not Sam)
Discussions of serious injury and death
Description of being burned by sulphuric acid
Mentions of institutionalised homophobia
Mentions and brief descriptions of violence and murder
Angry, raised voices (not significantly louder than the rest of the dialogue but with angry tones)
Discussion of loss and grief of a partner

Transcript

If seeing is believing and faith is blind, faith and belief couldn’t coexist, and that just makes no sense at all, does it? Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

[INTRO MUSIC]

Hello, faithful listeners. It’s so good to be back. I’ve really missed you. I know I was around a bit last week but I was honestly still so wiped out after… yeah. I know a lot of people are curious about what happened, about what I did and how I did it… but I really don’t know what to say about it. brought Kitty back. I don’t really remember what happened and I don’t really remember anything that happened after. I just know it did and Kitty’s okay now.

I did notice after the segment aired last week I felt a bit perkier than I have been doing, and it was really good, except that. Hmm. How to put this without alarming anyone? Hmm. You know how thinks kept, ah, exploding? Well. That’s stopped. But. I said it was a little dark last night and the light just… got brighter. I didn’t do anything. Oliver just sort of… stared at me. And it’s not just lights, either. I walk up to doors and they open before I reach them. A happened to mention I fancied a bath and the water started just… running. It’s better than things exploding, I suppose. But it’s weird. Not bad, really. Very convenient, actually. But it is weird.

Which brings us to the other weird thing I guess. The Sins. I have Major Arcana, now!

REVEL: Mrr.

SAM: Sorry, darling. I have Major Arcana that are human, now. Or that were human or… I don’t know. But yeah. They’re mine now. That’s odd. I’m not sure I’m any good at being in charge, and honestly? I try my best to just not be, you know? I have tried to talk to them about all the stuff I need to understand, but honestly? Trying to talk to the Sins about anything has been difficult. They’re not the most forthcoming and, well. You remember what I said ages ago about how Revel and the other cats seem to just do what they like even though they’re my Major Arcana? Seems like it’s less to do with them being cats and more to do with me being bad at this, which figures, I guess. I don’t have any trouble getting them to tell me stuff if I ask directly; that’s easy. Problem is, if I don’t phrase the question exactly right, they don’t answer. It’s not even like they’re unwilling to cooperate with me, exactly. They actually seem pretty happy to do what I ask, it’s just. It’s weird. It’s like they can’t quite manage to talk freely about stuff. It is getting easier, and they all keep complaining that they feel weird. If you ask me, they seem a lot nicer, now, but that’s not hard. It’s easy to go above the bar when it’s buried in the dirt, as you know.

So far what I’ve managed to gather is that the Man in the Flat Cap’s whole thing is that, like, he’s amassing power, somehow, with the intent to… move beyond the mundane entirely? I know I’ve been in arcane spaces, and Scourge, he seems able to create them, so maybe he’s hoping to just… I don’t know? Live in the arcane? But isn’t that what the forum ghosts do? They describe what the place they’re in as very similar to what you can see when you look at the world through the seeing glass. I can do that by myself now, it’s… I can’t turn it on and off but it happens when I least expect, and suddenly I can see all the arcane threads of everything glimmering.

It’s hard to get a proper grasp on what the sins actually know to be honest. I can at least definitively say they’re mine now, or whatever. I can see the arcane threads which connect us. They’re my Major Arcana. And. Well. They call Scourge a Harbinger. Scarcity too. And the third on, Strife, the one from that letter about Prague, I think… beyond that, though, it’s like getting blood from a stone. I asked them ‘harbingers of what’ but they just sort of all concluded that that’s just ‘what they’re called’. Ugh. I hate magic knowledge and prophecies and taboos, it’s all very annoying. I can’t work out whether I’m coming or going.

But it’s fine. Right. Okay, so, lets do some Spirit Box Radio housekeeping things. As I’m now living in the Hatfield Karpos, things might be a little different. Oliver is asleep in the next room, but sometimes, when he’s got big deliveries and stuff, he has to work through the night, so he might drop in a little, which might be nice. It seems there have been a few problems with the forums whilst I was sleeping, too. Some days things weren’t working, and a couple of times it was completely offline, but the good news is it’s all live again now, and there seem to be a bunch of new features!

There’s a little ask box, where people can directly send me things anonymously, which is nice, and everyone has their own little icons now instead of just user names, even Beth and Emily and Mystery and the other ghosts. Which. Odd, isn’t it? Oh well, not worth worrying about I suppose. Everyone is in pretty universal agreement that everything works better now, and it’s easier to find stuff. The new tags which have appeared on threads are especially useful, even though nobody can figure out how this algorithm thing is so accurate in categorising everything. It has made everything so much more navigable, hasn’t it, so I can’t complain.

I have actually received a letter from a Faithful Listener named Morgan, which is pretty odd because I got it when I was asleep and the show wasn’t airing so nobody knew I was at the Hatfield Karpos, but, you know, it’s whatever. Here’s what Morgan has to say:

Dear Samael, Host of Spirit Box Radio,

When I was a child I spent many summers holidaying in the South of France. I consider it a great privilege; it was a truly beautiful spot and I have many fond memories of summers exploring the woods and fields around the caravan park where we used to stay. In particular, I remember forging fierce friendships with some of the local children. They barely spoke any English and I hardly any French, but it hardly mattered, and we found other ways to talk with one another. We’d trap frogs by the stream, build forts in the forest, and climb trees. It was all great fun. In particular I remember one of the children was a girl named Héloïse. I remember her best of all the children because we were almost exactly the same age; her birthday was just two days after mine, and would usually fall whilst I was staying there. Héloïse had a younger brother, Etienne, who I saw only a handful of times. He was shy, Héloïse told me, but there was something about the way she said that which unsettled me, even when I was a child.

I have treasured my memories of these golden days in the french countryside into my adulthood, and now I have two children of my own, my wife and I decided to try to recapture the charm of my youth for them. It just so happened that there was a gîte in the same village where my parents had kept their caravan. We booked it excitedly and went to stay there last summer.

I was prepared for it to not be everything I had remembered, but in fact, it was more wonderful than I had been imagining. There was a bakery selling fresh bread and pastries, and the village was just as settled into the hills surrounding it as I remembered. Much to my benefit now, I can speak fluent french, and both of my children are much better at picking up languages than I was as a child, so they had no trouble making friends with the local kids just as I had done.

On the last evening of our stay, my wife and I were sitting out at a table in front of the gîte, sharing a bottle of wine, when both our children came barreling into the yard from the woods nearby, several local children in tow. There were all talking loudly and animatedly in French, with a few English words spackled in for good measure, all except a boy at the back of the group. He was not speaking at all. He was apart from the others. With a jolt, I realised I recognised him.

One of the older boys saw me staring. He met my gaze and moved to stand in front of the smaller boy. The chatter amongst the local children petered out and my children stood looking slightly confused. The boy standing in front of the small one I’d recognised nodded at the others. He took the small boy’s hand and said ‘allons-y, Etienne’.

Etienne. And this boy, he looked exactly like my old friend’s shy brother, who shared the same name. I might have dismissed it; perhaps the name ran in the family. But I listen to your show. I’ve heard of the Impossible Children. And the way the others crowded this boy, it was just like Héloïse had been when I had asked her about her brother.

I am sure this boy is the same one as I had met as a child.

My wife thinks me mad, of course.

It felt important that I share this with you. That I have met one, seen one, come away alive.

I hope it is a consolation to you, perhaps? I don’t know.

All the best,

Morgan

Thanks for writing in, Morgan. It’s interesting to see someone talk about an Impossible Child like this, in a way that’s not like what happened with Jinghua, whose friend disappeared and who ended up disappearing herself, only to be found again with no memory of her life. Hang on, wasn’t one of the things Jinghua could say when she was found ‘beware the Heir Apparent’? And Ellen’s brother was an Impossible Child. That’s another link. It’s… hmm. Madame Marie’s notebooks were in what Kitty and Oliver brought over from the Shed, I haven’t had chance to dig them out yet but–

[A RISE OF A STRANGE HUM AND STATIC]

[SCOURGE’S VOICE BEGINS ECHOIC AND REVERBERATING, WHICH FADES OFF QUICKLY]

SCOURGE: [ALMOST SINGSONG] Oh Samael! [SINISTER] Knock knock.

SAM: Scourge.

SCOURGE: It’s me.

SAM: What do you want? Have I stepped out of line again? I’m sorry. I’ll try and be a good little progeny of the arcane and not stick my nose where it isn’t wanted.

SCOURGE: The timeline is shot, it’s true, but we want you on board. You know that. It’s just that these things take time.

SAM: Why? Are you testing me?

SCOURGE: All in time, little bit.

SAM: Are you waiting it out to see which of us comes out the best fit?

SCOURGE: Oh, interesting notion. You’ve found her, then. Maria Gillespie.

SAM: Maria Gillespie!?

SCOURGE: If you would just let yourself be, you could be done with all this much faster.

SAM: Let myself be? [MAGIC HUM RISES] Do you have any idea what I’m capable of? Do you?

[OBJECTS TREMBLE. THE MAGIC HUM PEAKS]

Huh. You don’t.

[MAGIC HUM FADES]

SCOURGE: They’re all lying to you. Even the ones who say they love you. It’s all a lie.

SAM: Don’t talk about them.

SCOURGE: I suppose it’s what you’re used to. You’ve been lied to your whole life. First your mother, and your sisters who were made compliant, even if only through ignorance. And now the love of your life.

[LIGHTS FIZZ, SAM’S MAGIC HUM RISES]

SAM: Don’t you dare speak about Oliver.

SCOURGE: Did he pour his heart out? Tell you about silly little Jack and their silly little shop? Wax lyrical about what he was meant to be? Did he tell you how it happened? How they were attacked? How when he called the One Who Walks Here and There he was thinking of vengeance and blood, but he should have considered poor old Jack, dead on the floor beside him? Did he cry, little bit? Did you hold him tenderly and tell him it would all be alright?

SAM: You know nothing about him.

SCOURGE: Oh, but I do. He is sustained by the Arcane and I’m a part of it, so I know him just as well as you do, only I’ve had long enough to figure it all out.

SAM: Shut up about Oliver.

SCOURGE: Did he tell you about his deal? About the terms? Did he say the words? Did he explain why he’s been so alone all these years, never once faltering from that path of isolation? I’ll tell you. If you like.

SAM: What’s the price.

SCOURGE: Oh, clever little bit! But this piece of knowledge is the price in itself. You can stop me, in a word. But you know he can’t speak these truths himself, don’t you? Not whilst he is the One’s Arcana. Only if you make him yours, truly yours, then you can hear it from him. But I don’t think that’s a choice you’re ready to make yet, is it, little bit? So this is the only way. And you want to know it. You do. I can taste it, the desire in you, making you queasy. You want to know, don’t you? You do. You want to know.

SAM: Just tell me.

SCOURGE: The One walked in and there he lay, the Unrelenting, still wheezing breaths as the acid bit through what was left of his cheek. Outside the street was bustling, shoes hanging on gates, men and women and all manner of pretty things trying to tempt people in out of the cold. And it was so cold, that night. So cold. It would have been the thing that killed him, in the end, the cold, not the acid itself. Oh, how he trembled, little bit, as the life began to crawl up from his fingers and back towards his heart. A cruel thing, I think. The body is built to make itself suffer longer. It’s an optimist, human flesh. It hopes that salvation will arrive. It cannot be told to give in, however much the mind wills it. Though, of course, that is not what the Unrelenting was wishing for. In that moment he would have done anything to get revenge, taken any deal that would let him see the dawn light on the faces of those who had slaughtered his Jack and burned the flesh from his bones.

The One knew this, of course. That was why he came. The call he listens for in the trembling, shimmering threads of the Arcane, across all things, the call. And so he went, and he sat beside the Unrelenting, and he laid a hand on his shoulder, because by this point the Unrelenting had sunk so deeply into the cold and the pain and the horror that he couldn’t sense that anyone had come to be beside him at all.

And he said, ‘what do you desire?’

And the Unrelenting replied, ‘I would last as long as it takes that the mechanisms of these great atrocities would be undone’.

And the One asked, ‘what will you do to see it done?’

And the Unrelenting said, ‘anything’

And the One laughed, and said ‘very well’.

In that moment it seemed to the Unrelenting that a personal act of cruelty had led to Jack’s death and his own suffering, that if the men who had perpetrated the crime could be caught and killed then the means of such horror could be undone. But of course it was not they themselves that had truly caused these things to happen. What then, if not the perpetrators of those awful crimes, were the mechanisms of the great atrocities that our fair Unrelenting that day condemned? Homophobia? Spite? Hatred, disambiguated? Societies of humankind as we knew them to that day? Such things cannot be undone in the killing of three men who stabbed a baker to death and threw acid on the face of his sleeping lover.

Funny as it all is, though, it was not the deal itself which would come to haunt the Unrelenting’s days for the rest of his sorry existence, nor was it truly the acts of malice and cruelty he performed at the One’s inescapable word. As soon as the deal was brokered, the One reached down into the Arcane knots and tangles of the Unrelenting’s self and plucked free a rose. He weighed it in his palm, and health rushed back, flesh knotted together, warmth spread into the Unrelenting’s fingers and toes.

The One said, ‘I will keep this for as long as our deal holds’.

The Unrelenting asked, ‘what is it?’

The One shook his head as he always does when asked this question, and then he left.

The Unrelenting sat on the floor a while longer, and he looked at what remained of Jack, and he wept and he held him, and when he had nothing left to cry, he got to his feet. He sought out the perpetrators of the crime, struck them down in turn. The first two went easily but the third put up a fight. At the end of it, a knife plunged straight into the Unrelenting’s gut. He stumbled through the streets, satisfied to die, but before he could was taken in by an old woman who had once been his teacher. She tended the wound to no avail, and he breathed a last rattling breath, and died. You know what came next; he drew another breath, gasping, and woke up healed.

The old woman sat in silent horror and–

SAM: She said she had heard a prophecy that a man will die and come back to life, and in that man’s heart is the doom of the world, and when he falls, the first stone in the path of the end will be laid.

SCOURGE: Yes, very good.

SAM: I– how did I know that? Wait. I know that prophecy. I heard it before, weeks ago. The Recording Machine found it and put it on a list in the forums, but it was supposed to be about me. But it’s not, it’s him. It’s Oliver, and. How did I know that’s what the old woman heard? And if the man who dies and comes back is Oliver, how can it be a prophecy about me? I don’t understand. Is it about both of us?

SCOURGE: And more, and less, and everything, and nothing at all.

SAM: What’s that supposed to mean?

SCOURGE: Whatever you like.

SAM: [DARKLY] I’ve never hated anyone before.

[SCOURGE LAUGHS]

SCOURGE: How is it?

[MAGIC HUMS. THUNDER GRUMBLES]

SAM: Empowering.

SCOURGE: Do you know the story of Mary in the Black and White Room? She lived in a black and white room and learned everything there was to know about colours. All her food was black and white, everything in her world, black and white, and she read books and watched shows all in black and white and learned all the facts there are to know about colours but then one day someone gave her a real life tomato, a red tomato. And the question is supposed to be if she learned anything new when she saw red for the first time.

SAM: Did she?

SCOURGE: That’s for you to decide. But do know, little bit, that there is a gulf between knowing and understanding, and it cannot be resolved by knowledge alone.

SAM: One day I’m going to kill you.

SCOURGE: That’s nice. Only, I’ve never actually been alive.

SAM: That doesn’t matter.

SCOURGE: Now you’re getting somewhere. Goodbye, Samael Apollo. For now.

[THE LAST WORDS ECHO AND FADE INTO NOTHING]

[A RISE OF A STRANGE HUM AND STATIC]

SAM: I hate him. I do, I hate him. I’m gonna. I don’t know. Ugh. UGH.

[THINGS TREMBLE]

I. I’m going to go and find Oliver and hold him and– do I tell him I know? I–

I just want to hold him. I just want him to know it’s all okay. I.

Thank you for this evening, Faithful Listeners. I’ll speak with you again next week. Goodnight.

[END]