SBR 2.24: Erstwhile

Click for Content Warnings

Background sounds and music
Stereo audio (audio will sound different in right and left speakers/headphones)
People discussing their imminent possible deaths without fear or apprehension, where they are ‘ready to die’
Discussions of death
References to Cannibalism
Implications of emotional manipulation typical within High Control Groups (cults)


When you walk without rhythm, you unsettle passers-by. Did you know that people falling into step with one another caused a footbridge in London to almost collapse? They had to build reinforcements! Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio!


Hello, Faithful Listeners, I hope you’ve all had a good week. Before I get into anything else, I’d like to reassure you all that Anna is alright. One Saturday, she and Kitty went back to her house, aiming to collect some of Anna’s stuff. I sent Indi, Bliss and Ingra, too, just to wait outside in case anything untoward happened. It didn’t.

Everything was fine, actually. Better than fine. The door was unlocked, and the house was… empty. I didn’t believe it at first. Oliver and I went around to check and it was all completely normal. No sign of Guy, or whatever the thing he’d become was.

We checked every inch of the house for anything arcane that might suggest Anna’s at risk, and we found nothing. I tried to insist that Anna come back to the Hatfield Karpos anyway, but she wouldn’t hear any of it. She said she just wanted to get back to normal. I suppose things have been pretty cramped, here, whilst she’s been saying. The flat is mostly one big room, really. Oliver’s bed is against the wall, the couch and the TV are in one corner. The kitchen is in little ‘L’ shaped space down the side of the bathroom, and next to that is the very tiny study, where Anna’s been staying. Kitty was in there before. I’m not sure where Kitty’s been staying since Anna came here, actually, but she’s not returned since Anna—–


Oh. Uh. Oliver’s down in the shop. He’s got a big wedding delivery tomorrow morning so. I should get that, shouldn’t I? Hang on, Faithful Listeners.



Oh, a package.



There was nobody there that I could see. How weird. And this package is addressed to me? Weird. Hmm. Okay.


What? There’s a bunch of CDs? No, they’re DVDs but they’re in like, CD cases, you know, the square clear ones. ‘Tiff’, ‘Newt’, ‘Ellie’, ‘Addi’, ‘Maria’. There’s a note, too.


Dear Sam, you might find these interesting.

Arlo, STTR

Arlo, STTR? That rings a bell. Does it ring one for you, Faithful Listeners? Hmm. I can’t think where I know the name from.


Well, it does have a disc. I wonder if I can play it in my laptop, hang on.


Ooo, promising!



Oh! Something’s happening!

SAM: It’s a video. There’s someone standing in a room with a sort of vaulted ceiling? I… Hmm.

Triangle is play, so…



TIFF: Hello! Um. Should I lift up the paper? Yeah? Okay. Um, my name is Tiff Burgess, this is today’s newspaper and I– um. This is my goodbye letter, I guess? I. I want you to know that I’m making this decision for myself, nobody is forcing me to decide this, and… I don’t know.

They said that it’s easier if you write to someone you now and who you want to say goodbye to, so that’s what I’m doing. This letter is for Julie, and. Yeah.

Hi, Julie. I know it’s been a while. I keep thinking about that day at the park and wondering if you ever think about it. It felt like we were best friends for the last time that day. I know what happened between us was my fault and I don’t want to shy away for my responsibility in that. I know. I know I’ve been cold and distant and unfeeling, and I know you needed a shoulder to cry on but all I had to offer was shoulders so cold they were frozen.

I think after everything, I… I just wanted a place to feel like home again, home the way things felt when it was just the two of us. I looked for it in all the wrong places and when you tried to help, I… I pushed you away. I know that wasn’t fair, but I wasn’t ready to be helped. It’s taken until now, this moment, to really understand what you were offering when you tried to help me, and I want to say thank you.

I want you to know that I want to believe that things can get better, and the world can be better, and that people are good. And I think we all deserve to really appreciate what we have, but. I think that maybe, I don’t know. I think that really, the only way to do that is if it’s gone? So, that’s what I’m doing, now, by going away like this. And it’s not because I don’t love you and it’s not because I don’t want you to love me, it’s because– it’s because I think that going away, this way, it’s important. And I’ll come back to you.

SAM: Huh. Um. Okay. Let’s try another one.


ELLIE: Ah, yeah, sure, today’s newspaper, here it is. I’m Ellie, and yes, I’m here voluntarily, that’s the point of these things, isn’t it? To prove nobody’s dragged us here against our will?

I don’t know why anyone would think that. Come on guys, where’s your sense of adventure? It’s all about connectivity, about engaging with people, about finding a place where you belong, isn’t it? That’s what life’s for. Yeah. Um. They said it would be easier to make one of these things if I wrote a letter to say goodbye to someone, so, that’s kind of what I’ve done? This letter is for my old Manager at Pizza Express, Sarah.

Screw you Sarah, you don’t appreciate the people you work with and you never appreciate me, you don’t understand how hard it is to show up to this ridiculous job every day and have to smile and wave at all the customers. You’ve got no idea what any of this is like because I know for a fact you were hired straight into management and you’ve got hardly any experience on the shop floor. You don’t even try to see any of this from anyone else’s perspective and like. Look, if something happens to me, which likely will, you should know that if you’d understood anything about how the world works, you’d know that yes, it’s your fault I’m here, but what you might not understand is that I’m actually grateful.

I’m grateful that I lost touch with all my friends one by one because I ran out of money to go places with them. I’m grateful that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night sweating, thinking about the order on table 36, and the way you looked at me like I’d killed a puppy when I sat down on the floor in the kitchen for two seconds near the end of my eight hour shift, running around after every little thing you could think to set me to do. I’m grateful for all of it. Now, because if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have found this place, these people. They love me. I love them. We care for each other, we support one another. You’ll never understand that, Sarah. You’ll never know what it feels like when someone offers you total surrender and sacrifice, because you don’t appreciate anyone enough to understand what it looks like if they tried. You’ll never appreciate it because you’d never lay yourself down for the good of others.

So yeah. That’s it. That’s why I’m here.

SAM: I know those ceilings. It’s the place where the Scarcemongers hang out in York. That’s why it looked so familiar. Both of these people, that’s where they’re recording these videos and… STTR! Subscribers to the Redistribution! Which means this ‘Arlo’ is from there. I. Hmm. Is this. Are they trying to recruit me? I don’t understand.


Let’s watch another one, I suppose.


NEWT: You want me to just, talk? Oh, the newspaper, right. This is today’s paper, and I’m Newt. That’s it?


Oh, right like a testimonial type thing? ‘Why you should be a Scarcemonger?’ Yeah, sure, um. Let me think. Right. Okay, so all my life I’ve felt like I was meant to be a part of something, and I think I’ve finally found what that something is.

More personal?

Oh, christ, okay, let me think a minute, um.

No, yeah I can see that you’d said to write a letter to someone you know but I don’t really know anyone? Not anyone who’s going to miss me, anyway. Like, the one person who actually cares about me is already here and he’s. Yeah. He’s going to be a part of this too. And like, I know one day maybe it’ll be my name that comes out of the bowl and it’ll be my turn to drink the tea and lay down on the table in the kitchen, and I know that maybe I’ll feel scared or whatever but that’s just a part of what being a Scarcemonger is. You can’t just, eat people and then. Like. I don’t know, it would be wrong, you know, if we were doing this but we weren’t all ready to lay ourselves down in that way?

Do you know what I mean?

Yeah, it’d be hypocritical, it would. So yeah, I’ll do it when the time comes because that’s what’s right, and I’m a part of this family, and that’s what you do to family. You sacrifice to help make them feel strong. You do. That’s the point, isn’t it, of family? It’s like, it’s about committing to people, caring for people, willing to put them first sometimes because in your heart you know that when the time comes they’d do exactly the same for you so if I said I wasn’t scared I’d be a liar but like, of course I’m read. If my name came out of that bowl tonight I’d go right to the kitchen and let them wash me in the broth, I’m ready for it. Yeah, because we’re all ready, here, that’s what we do. We care about each other. We love each other. I’ve never had that before, not ever. That’s why. Yeah. That’s why I’m here.

SAM: I think. I think I understand what these are. They’re like. Proof. Evidence that these people have joined voluntarily.


Let’s see the next one.

ADDI: Okay, I’m Addi Knight, here’s today’s newspaper and. I’m here to say goodbye, and this is something I’m doing for myself because— Well. I think it’s right. I don’t know, I think a lot of people are going to come to their own conclusions about what’s happening, and what we’re doing, here. But sometimes you just have to trust your gut. It’s important to remember that sometimes you need to step back to appreciate the picture, and the truth can be like that. It’s not a photograph, it’s– it’s impressionism, and I know it’s hard to see things from my perspective right now, but all you need to do to get what I’m talking about is take a few steps back. Yeah, it’s possible that some people are going to die.

No, scratch that, it’s certain some people are going to die.

But what birth or rebirth isn’t bathed in blood? Name one. You can’t can you? This is the road to the future and really, by denying that you’re just saying you don’t care about everyone who’s already gone, who’ve laid out their lives for this cause, you know? Like, this stuff is important isn’t it?

If you’re thinking about whether or not what’s happening is right or wrong, and wondering if there’s a way you could ever possibly find the answer, I want you to think about what I’m about to say. The answer is already inside you and you just have to listen. Just, look into yourself and see what you find, that’s all I’m saying, okay?

Maybe one of the people that’ll die is me. But if it happens, that’s what was meant to be, and in the end I’ll just be here, some part of the collage of reality, not gone, still, just, just… redistributed.

Goodbye, everyone. I love you all.

SAM: Okay I’m starting to freak out a little now. Um. Should we watch the last one, ‘Maria’? We should.



MARIA: Hi, my name is Maria Gillespie—


SAM: Maria Gillespie. Scourge mentioned her last week, didn’t they? And. Oh gods, that letter, from ages ago. She’s an Impossible Child! She’s in Madame Marie’s book! This is– they’ve. Oh gods, oh gods. I’ll just. I’ll start it again.


MARIA: Hi, my name is Maria Gillespie and I used to live in a closed facility just outside the Vatican but now I live in Yorkshire. Here’s a copy of today’s paper.


B: Tell us about yourself. Don’t be shy, now.


SAM: Oh my god, that’s B! The guy from the Scarcemongers, he’s there, with Maria. Sorry, I’ll. I’ll keep playing it.

MARIA: Um, I’m one hundred and three years old? But until this morning I looked like I was about seven or eight. I like painting pictures.

B: How did that happen, I wonder?)

MARIA: Oh! It’s easy, you just take the sacrament.

SAM: She doesn’t look seven or eight, here. She looks fifteen, sixteen, maybe. The sacrament. The Scarce Mongers, they talked about that. They said… they said there was a way for Impossible Children to age. That’s the end of the video, so– no, wait. It went black, but now it’s back again. It’s the same room, she’s still there, but she looks… different.

MARIA: Hi, my name is Maria Gillespie. Here’s a copy of today’s paper. I’m one hundred and four years old. For most of that time I believed I would never grow up. Frozen forever at seven or eight. But then I met B, and they taught me the way of Scarcity, and gave me the sacrament. Now I’m fully grown. Though I may not take the sacrament again. I don’t want to get wrinkles.

B: I’m sure you could pull it off.

MARIA: Thank you. But it won’t be long now until the Redistribution. I think I can stand to stay like this until then.

SAM: And that’s the end. For real, this time, I think. She said it, the Redistribution. When we saw the Scarce Mongers in person B said that they called themselves that to the public but in private they were Subscribers to the Redistribution. STTR. It’s some kind of… thing, Oliver said? Something to do with the end of the world, and union, or harmony, or something, between the Heir Apparent and something else, I don’t know.

Oliver knows but. Taboos, and. We can’t. He can’t. Ugh.

But he’s not the only one who can help. Right? Uh. Bliss? Bliss!


BLISS: What do you want? I thought you weren’t going to call on us like that.

SAM: I know, I know. But this is kind of an emergency.

BLISS: Right, whatever. What do you need?

SAM: I need you to go to the Scarce Mongers. DON’T approach them. Stay hidden, if you can, and find out what’s happening with Scarcity. It– I… I think it’s something to do with a girl, and Impossible Child, Maria Gillespie.

BLISS: You do realise the irony that you’re sending me, Ignorance, on a reconnaissance mission?

SAM: It’ll do you some good.

BLISS: You suck. Can I at least take Ingra?

SAM: Yeah, sure. You can take Indi too.

BLISS: No thanks.



SAM: Well. That was surprisingly easy. Maybe I’m not so bad at this whole ‘being in charge’ thing after all?


No, no, I really am very bad at it.

I— oh. I’ve got an email. Subject is ‘It’s Time’, and it’s from ‘JM’, I. Oh! ‘Next Thursday, 3AM, Leeds, Maple Court Apartments, Apartment 359’. Jay Magnum.

Jay. They rang last week, before the whole… uh. Thing. With Guy. I think this is is an invitation? Can’t hurt, I suppose. Though, this time, I probably won’t mention it to Anna beforehand. My last excursion to York did not go down well with her and she’s got a lot on her mind.


I think this thing, with the Scarcemongers. Besides the obvious stuff, what’s bothering me is… well. There are two communities of arcanists out there right now, they’re one of them, and the other is us, Faithful Listeners. All of these people were so committed to the cause, and B, is he the leader? He seems in charge, whether or not he likes it. He’s the one there, interviewing Maria Gillespie. I’m willing to bet he was in the room when the others were recording there tapes, too.

I don’t have followers, not like that. I have you, but, I’m not asking you to lay down your lives. I have the Sins, now, I have Major Arcana, and I– the cats, and the forum ghosts. That’s different, isn’t it? I didn’t recruit them, not like that. They just… showed up. That’s true for most of them, anyway. The Sins, the cats, even the ghosts in the Impossible House. But the ones before that? The ones I made when M was alive, where—



SAM: Bliss?


SAM: Is that… popcorn?

BLISS: Don’t know. It’s great though. Do you want some?

SAM: Sure. Thanks. Aren’t you supposed to be…?

BLISS: On a reconnaissance mission, yeah. Can you write it down?

SAM: Uh. Sure?

BLISS: Don’t want to forget. Which is interesting. I do love that, usually.

SAM: Yeah. I’ll write it down for you.


BLISS: What you doing?

SAM: Writing it down?

BLISS: No, I mean. Otherwise.

SAM: Oh, right! The Enlightenment Segment is airing.

BLISS: Huh. Neat.

SAM: Thanks?

BLISS: No problem.

SAM: Here; I’ve put ‘watch the Scarce Mongers, don’t let them see you, keep a special eye out for Maria Gillespie and listen carefully for any info about her’. That good?

BLISS: Blissful. Thanks.

SAM: Okay. Uh. You can go… now?

BLISS: I will.

SAM: Cool. Go on then.

BLISS: Nice seeing you.


SAM: Huh. Well. That was… weird. Okay, anyway, what was I saying?

Oh, yes. The forum ghosts from when Madame Marie was alive. They were all so intentional. None of them seemed to agree to it, not exactly, not to what ended up happening to them, anyway.

What sticks in my head, the think I keep coming back to. B. B sits there, lets these people make these statements, these declarations of, what, loyalty? I don’t know. He lets them commit themselves to the cause so wholly and fully and then…

Well. From what we know, from what everyone has said. Some of them will get eaten.

I just. I know that B seems to think this is all part of some great, expansive plan, but honestly? Even if I thought it was going to do something good in the end, I don’t think I could do that, gather people, assume responsibility for them in that way and then just—

Let them die.

Kill them.

However willing they seem to be that’s just. It’s not. I can’t. No.

All of those people. They trusted B. And he fails them.

That makes me so, so, angry.


Well. It’s getting late. Or, well. Later. Goodnight, Faithful Listeners. I’ll speak to you next week.