SBR 2.36: Vitriol

Click for Content Warnings

Background sounds and music
Stereo audio (audio will sound different in right and left speakers/headphones)
Static
Mentions of death and dying
Emotional distress
References to cannibalism
References to alcohol and being drunk
A tipsy character (slightly slurred speech, lowered inhibitions)
Mentions of death and dying

Transcript

It is a great privilege to lie beneath the stars and try to count them. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

[INTRO MUSIC]

[SOUNDS OF OUTSIDE, AND WALKING THROUGH GRASS]

Hello, Faithful Listeners. Welcome back to the show. We’re on a little stroll tonight. Oliver was sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake him. He’s been finding it difficult to sleep, since what happened. He says it was worse before, when he was trapped in the Karpos. The place is a bit of a state, to be honest, but that’s pretty understandable I think. He’s been through a lot. Can’t expect him to keep on top of tidying and the dishes, too.

So. Here we are. On a little walk.

It’s a beautiful night here, Faithful Listeners. So clear and quiet. Oddly warm, too, like the ground is holding on from the sunshine of the day. Late summer isn’t it? Or early autumn I suppose. It’s a really beautiful time, isn’t it?

Hmm.

Well.

A lot happened last week.

Understatement, I know, but you can forgive me that, can’t you, faithful listeners?

So. I hold Oli’s deal now. Which is. Yeah. Not really what we wanted out of this, to be honest, but.

Maria Gillespie’s dead. And that means I’m out of options. Or, not options. Other possibilities. It’s funny. I didn’t realise how much I’d been holding onto the idea that maybe it wasn’t me, that in spite of it all, maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t be me. I wasn’t chosen. Or I was but I wasn’t the only one and someone else would be the one who actually had to…

You know.

Do something about it.

[SAM MAKES A SMALL SAD SOUND]

I am not the sort of person you want to try to stop the apocalypse. I mean, seriously, look at what happened last week?! They ate Maria Gillespie before I even showed up! Sure, nothing happened, but that’s because the parties involved were being blindsided and the actual problem is coming from somewhere else. I did nothing of use. Nothing at all. I just showed up and accidentally took ownership of my boyfriend’s fucking soul. Disaster, all round.

He keeps telling me it’s fine. He says it’s different. I don’t know. Ingra, Bliss and Indi, they’re different, but it’s. It’s him, he’s the love of my life, I can’t go about commanding him and keeping him alive against his will! But then, what else am I supposed to do, exactly? Let him die? It’s a non-starter.

He told me something else, too. He thinks his name, the Unrelenting, is about grief. About Jack. I mean, it would be another reason Scourge was so desperate to tell me how Oliver was made Major Arcana in the first place, but like. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right to me, somehow. His main evidence for it is that he’d heard that prophecy that it was grief that would lay the first stone in the path towards the end, and given his ‘in his heart is the doom of the world’ thing, well. I suppose I can see how he’d draw that conclusion, but—

[RUSTLE IN THE LEAVES]

SAM: Hello?

GHOST: You can see me?

SAM: Oh, I’m sorry. Aren’t you used to being seen?

[WIND RUSTLES THE TREES]

[GHOST’S VOICE ECHOES AND REVERBERATES, DRIFTING, ALMOST]

GHOST: It’s never happened before.

SAM: I’m Sam.

GHOST: Yes, I know. We all know who you are.

SAM: Who’s we?

GHOST: I don’t know.

SAM: What’s your name?

GHOST: I don’t know.

SAM: Funny name, that. [PAUSE] Um. Anyway.

GHOST: Do you want to walk with me?

SAM: Yeah, okay.

[SAM WALKS]

SAM: Where are we going?

GHOST: To the garden.

SAM: Okay. Is it your garden?

GHOST: No. Not really.

SAM: You just like it there?

GHOST: It’s where I go.

SAM: Oh, alright. That’s nice.

GHOST: It just is.

SAM: Okay then.

[THEY WALK TOGETHER IN SILENCE FOR A WHILE, THEN STOP]

SAM: Is this the garden?

GHOST: Yes.

SAM: It’s lovely.

GHOST: It used to be lovelier. Once, this bed was filled with tulips and peonies. There were polished pebbles at the edge of a raised wooden walk. Ladies would walk here with their parasols. I was one of them, I think, but I don’t remember now.

SAM: But you remember the flowers?

GHOST: From early spring and right through the summer the garden was beautiful. On a sunny day you could walk here and smell the nectar in the flowers as you walked. But my favourite time to come was at night. I’d meet someone here, I think. The trees were younger then, but the fronds of the willow were thick enough that we couldn’t be seen. Hidden there, in the flowers, we would kiss. This place was our place.

SAM: That’s lovely. Who were they?

GHOST: All I remember is the garden and the secret kisses. Once there was more but now that is all that remains.

SAM: How do you remember those things? Did you choose them to hold onto?

GHOST: They are the ones that hold onto me. The memories, they hold me, I do not hold them. One day the stories about the garden won’t be told and I will go. What is left of me will go out like a sigh in the night. I will not be missed. It has been a long time since anyone who could miss me lived.

SAM: Do you want to go?

GHOST: I want for nothing.

SAM: Oh. I suppose that’s nice.

GHOST: It’s neither nice or unpleasant. It simply is.

SAM: Hmm. I have a ghost like that, you know. They don’t know their name either. Mystery, we call them.

GHOST: So they do know their name.

SAM: No, that’s just what we call them.

GHOST: It’s the name you have given. Names are strange things. They can be misleading. They can change, fade away, wear out with age. But they can be powerful things. What you call someone can give them themselves or take it away from them.

SAM: What about you, then? People must call you something, if they’re still telling your story.

GHOST: They say ‘your great, great grandmother had a secret lover, and they used to meet in the gardens’.

SAM: So, that’s how you know how to come here?

GHOST: I have always come here, and I always will, until I won’t. Time is not a flat circle. Things end.

SAM: I know.

GHOST: Better than most.

SAM: Yeah.

GHOST: Now they will call me the ghost who met with Sam in the gardens.

SAM: Who will?

GHOST: The listeners.

SAM: Is that okay? Do you want to be forgotten?

GHOST: Nobody wants to be forgotten, but in time, we all will be, but only by stories. We are made up of pieces of the world, and pieces of the beyond. When we are gone those pieces remain, whether we tell stories about them or not. Everywhere is haunted. Everyone is haunted. It’s just that the ghosts are so small we don’t see them. They are a part of us. They are us. Do you understand?

SAM: I don’t know.

GHOST: Then you do understand.

SAM: Um, okay.

GHOST: Your past is just a story you have told about yourself about where you are and what has changed from before. What pieces you can tell can show you where you’re going.

SAM: I don’t have a story.

GHOST: Because you don’t remember?

SAM: Exactly.

GHOST: But that’s a story in itself, isn’t it? Your past is–

SAM: Arcane. It’s arcane.

GHOST: Yes.

SAM: Are you leaving?

GHOST: Yes. I go back, now.

SAM: Go back where?

GHOST: Into everything.

SAM: What’s that like?

GHOST: Anything. Everything. Nothing at all.

SAM: That’s… yeah. Okay. That figures I guess.

GHOST: Goodbye, Heir Apparent. You will remember this.

SAM: I will.

[A THIN WIND RISES AND STOPS]

[SAM SIGHS]

SAM: She’s gone.

Well, that was… nice? Interesting? Hmm. Memorable, certainly.

I sometimes feel like. I don’t know. Like we all live a million different lives at once. Like we are the person we think we are in our own heads, but at the same time, we’re something else to the people we pass on the street. It’s that saying, isn’t it, you’re only really dead after the last time someone says your name, but even then, it’s not like all of you is ever gone. The atoms of you become the atoms of other things. People have the same tastes and preferences as you. Your mannerisms, picked up by the people closest to you, then picked up by the people closest to them, and on and on. We’re more than our memories and we’re more than other people’s memories of us. We’re pieces of thousands of people and things that came before us, and when we’re done with those pieces, they go on to reform again and again, until the end of everything. And then who knows? Maybe then all of the pieces that make up all the universe get redistributed too, and become other universes.

Who knows.

It’s a privilege, I guess, to know as many people who have died as I do.

Maybe it lets me see things how other people can’t. Maybe it makes it all feel less big and terrifying. I hope that it makes it less big and terrifying to you. Not just dying, but living, too, you know? It’s all the same, really, all part of the other, threads tangled impossibly. Existing. The whole thing. It’s a mess. But that’s okay. We’re okay, aren’t we.

[SAM’S FOOTSTEPS CHANGE FROM CRUNCHING ON LEAVES AND TWIGS TO WALKING ON PAVEMENT. THE WIND IN THE LEAVES GROWS QUIETER. CARS STREAK PAST NOW AND THEN]

Every now and then I have these… moments. Where for a second I can see the me that exists for someone else. Sometimes, it’s with Anna, where I can see myself as this little brother who she’s always had to protect, something small and vulnerable. It happens with Kitty, too, though less often. I think she takes a lot of care to try not to let the way she sees me colour things. She’s good like that. Good at keeping herself at a distance from her ideas about things. It’s what makes her a good Investigator, how she managed to work for M for all of those years in spite of everything.

It happens with Oliver sometimes, too. There’ll be a moment where for a second he’s looking at me and I can see myself as he sees me, and it’s ridiculous. Suppose he’d say the same if he could see the way I look at him.

In those moments, though, it’s like worlds colliding. I– I can so clearly see how the way I see myself is not the way they see me, and for those moments I really do exist twice, the me I experience and the one they observe, and… I don’t know.

It makes me think about other worlds. In those big, grand stories about the other side as a place that magic leaks out of. People have been looking for explanations for the strange, awful and wonderful for as long as people have existed, and it’s funny how it’s only really recently that the horrible and the beautiful have been sort made into opposites. Old stories about mermaids, they were beautiful but deadly. To keep bad things at bay, the stories aren’t about fighting them, they’re about entreating them, coming to agreements so baffling that to the people making them, they make no sense at all.

It’s like how you’re not supposed to give your name to fairies, you know? Now, I’ve never met a fairy, but what with the way my life is I’m not a hundred per cent willing to write off the possibility they exist. And I mean actual magical fae beings like, not like… well. Oliver.

[SAM CHUCKLES]

In a way he is a magical fae being, actually, isn’t he? No. I bet the Tylwyth Teg don’t have morning breath and wouldn’t cry at the end of Pixar movies.

[SAM SIGHS]

Anyway, the point is, you’re not supposed to tell a fairy your name because in doing so you give them your name, like the turn of phrase, to give a name, you know? But turned on it’s head? It’s all a kind of wordplay, a sort of conversational sleight of hand.

The magical creatures in those stories, they seem to exist on a different set of rules to us. It’s not even that different, like if you squint at it, it makes sense. The Wild Hunt is a big one. It’s in so many stories, from so many places. A great chase between the worlds, led by some ghostly figure. A horseman, usually. It’s funny, isn’t it, how so often in folklore horsemen are used to herald something, like they lead the charge bringing worlds together, for a moment. There are many variations, of course. The Welsh story is about this guy, Gwyn ap Nudd. In some stories he’s the king of the underworld, the Annwn, but not always. But he leads this hunt, anyway, followed by and following these great dogs from the other side.

[SAM STOPS WALKING]

Here we are. Home. The Karpos.

[KEYS JANGLE AND TURN IN A LOCK. A DOOR OPENS]

[SAM STEPS INSIDE]

OLIVER: [DISTANTLY] Sam?

[FOOTSTEPS]

OLIVER: [CLOSER]Where were you? I woke up and you were gone.

SAM: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m still airing the show, but you can come and sit with me, if you like?

OLIVER: I appreciate how careful you’re being with the commands, but it’s alright. You can just talk. It’s fine. I don’t mind it.

SAM: Sorry.

OLIVER: If you apologise one more time, I’m going to break something.

SAM: S– sss— kay.

[OLIVER SIGHS]

OLIVER: Would you like some wine?

SAM: What?

OLIVER: [SLURRING SLIGHTLY] There’s some left, uh, in the kitchen.

SAM: Maybe when I’m done. Love, are you drunk?

OLIVER: Maybe a little.

[SAM CHUCKLES]

OLIVER: Shh, don’t laugh. It’s a very serious matter.

[SAM CHUCKLES]

SAM: Of course it is.

OLIVER: [SLURRING MORE PRONOUNCED] Do you need anything?

SAM: [QUICKLY] No.

OLIVER: You’re broadcasting?

SAM: Oh, yep. You can say hi, if you like. They like you.

OLIVER: Is that so? Hello, faithful listeners.

[SAM CHUCKLES]

[RUSTLING AND MOVEMENT]

SAM: What are you doing?

OLIVER: Sitting down. I’m tired.

SAM: There’s a chair, why are you sitting on the floor?

[OLIVER SIGHS]

SAM: Oh, okay we’re napping with your head on my lap now, are we?

OLIVER: Yes.

SAM: Okay?

OLIVER: Keep talking.

SAM: Uh. Okay?

OLIVER: No, no, do the radio talking thing. I like it. Helps me sleep.

SAM: Okay. Um.

[SAM CLEARS THEIR THROAT]

REVEL: Mrrree!

OLIVER: No, go away. My turn. My lap. Go away.

REVEL: Mrrrrp.

SAM: Sorry, Revel, darling. I don’t know what’s going on either.

OLIVER: I thought you left.

SAM: No, love, why would I do that?

OLIVER: I deserve it.

SAM: We are not doing this again.

[SAM SIGHS]

[FABRIC RUSTLES]

OLIVER: Are you sure you’re okay?

SAM: Yes. No. I don’t know, do you ever think about things, if they’d… you know…

OLIVER: I know many things, magpie, which things specifically are you referring to?

[SAM CHUCKLES]

SAM: So modest. I mean, you know, what happened to you years ago. Do you ever wonder what things would be like if you hadn’t been attacked that day? What if you never became the Unrelenting and you were just… with Jack. Forever.

OLIVER: Of course I’ve thought about that. For a long time I thought about little else. But, magpie, we make the choices we make in the moments we make them, not centuries after. I am so heavy with regret. But I don’t wish for it over what I have now, if that’s what you’re asking.

SAM: I didn’t mean regret or whether you’d swap us out, I mean, like, if you were born here and now, and you were just some Florist, and I was just some guy, not some weird… well, whatever I am…

OLIVER: [IN A MOCKING TONE] Hmm, let me see. I probably wouldn’t have hesitated to jump your bones immediately if it wasn’t for the general sense of impending doom.

[SAM LAUGHS]

SAM: Oliver! That’s not what I meant. If we were normal people, doing normal things, would you still love me?

OLIVER: [MORE SERIOUS, BUT STILL SOFT] I don’t understand the point of this game.

SAM: It’s not a game. Well, I suppose it is, really. But it’s just. I was thinking, if this is all a part of whatever was planned? What if we’re together just because of fate or destiny or some great plan that doesn’t really have anything to do with either of us. It’s not our own story we’re telling in some ways, is it? Like, I chose you, didn’t I, but there’s an extent, from what you said. We’re meant to be not in that big, spooky, arcane sense, but in the sense that we were deliberately meant to be together. By someone else. Isn’t that, I don’t know. Somehow worse?

OLIVER: There is no way to know how much of our free will is an illusion.

SAM: Mm, no, but. Without the One Who Walks Here and There meddling with things. Without the Arcane tying us together. Would you have loved me?

OLIVER: For the purposes of this exercise, yes.

SAM: But you don’t know.

OLIVER: No. Of course I don’t. We only have the lives we are living. There are infinite possibilities, a million possible worlds, so many we cannot possibly imagine them. I love you here and now, is that not enough?

SAM: It’s more than enough. Of the million things I could say about that, I think just ‘enough’ would be stopping criminally short. I just wonder, thats all. If things could be different, if you could choose, if you could know, which version of you, of the millions upon millions of possible versions, is the happiest–?

OLIVER: The one sat here with you, who is just now realising he has once again been caught in an extremely tender moment during a live broadcast.

SAM: I— sorry. I– I don’t mean to do it. I just feel more. I don’t know. In tune. When the show is live. I can say things that are difficult much better.

OLIVER: I know. I’m not angry.

SAM: You’re not?

OLIVER: It’s part of who you are. And if I’ve not made that abundantly clear already, I like you.

[PAUSE]

SAM: It’s just something I’ve been thinking about.

OLIVER: I feel like there are things you aren’t telling me.

SAM: There’s so much happening. I don’t know how much of myself I can trust. What’s real, what’s not. There’s so many things I seem to just know. Without having learned them. Nothing is ever straightforward for me, is it?

OLIVER: On the contrary, how I feel about you is the least complicated thing in the world. If I’ve doubts, they’re not about my feelings. You can trust me about that.

SAM: I want to, I do but– I don’t know, everything is so… it all curls and shifts and folds back on itself. I just feel like I have to do so much, and I don’t know how, or even what, it is, or what it means.. I have to be brave, but I’m not. I’m scared and I’m worried and I don’t know what to do.

OLIVER: You’re already brave.

SAM: Don’t joke, Oliver, I’m being serious.

OLIVER: You love fearlessly, recklessly, unapologetically, in a world that gives you every reason not to. I can think of nothing braver.

SAM: Ugh, the way you talk about me is ridiculous. [SIGH] I’m going to wrap up the show. And then we’ll go to bed.

OLIVER: Alright.

SAM: Thank you for tonight, Faithful Listeners. Thank you for every night. Thank you for listening. Goodnight.

[END]