Click to Reveal Content Warnings
- Background sounds and music
- Panning effects (sounds will be different in right and left headphones)
- References to death and dying
- Mention of shivs
- Panic and anxiety (breathlessness, talking quickly)
- Mentions of fascism and neo-nazis, in the context of misappropriation of Elder Futhark
- Mentions of characters disappearing and dying
- General mild psychological horror
- Voice altering effects; reverberation and echo effects (used sparingly)
This is the beginning of the rest of your life, but take comfort in that. Tomorrow, it will be the beginning all over again, and the day after that, too. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello faithful listeners! I hope you’ve had a good week. My week has been pretty uneventful which is nice, actually. Anna dragged me along to go and look at wedding dresses today. It’s hard to know what she wants, really. In the morning she was talking about a suit, then by lunch she’d talked herself into getting some kind of sleek fishtail thing, and then she just got sidetracked looking at bridesmaid dresses instead. I told there there was no chance of her getting Kitty into a dress, so we’ve ordered her this nice grey suit, but to be honest we’ll probably have trouble getting her to wear anything that isn’t plaid or a pleather jacket. She has some law school friends she wants in bright purple, and then I realised she’d subconsciously picked out the colours of the Ace flag. The look on her face, honestly, it was so funny, this dawning realisation of ‘I KNEW I liked that combination for a reason’.
She started talking about flowers, then, instead of actually seriously looking at dresses. When I suggested she asked Oliver to do the arrangements for her I thought she might actually punch me. Honestly, the look she gave me was just violence distilled. You’d be thinking it was Anna who knows how to make a shiv, not Kitty, if you’d seen her. Maybe she does. I don’t know. It would be very bad to get on Anna’s bad side either way.
I’m actually a little worried about Anna. She used to talk about her fiance, whose name is… hang on, I wrote it down.
Anna Manford, hah.
When she talked about him she always seemed so content and sure and happy? Kitty used to say it was a relief. Anna’s had some pretty lousy partners in the past. Everything else in her life, she has lined up in neat little rows, except these utter trash bags she’d date. Not that Kitty has any leg to stand on in that argument, actually. Kitty has, as far as I know, never actually dated anyone. She brings people home, sure, more than once on occasion. Sometimes she would have women in her shed with her for days and we’d see nothing of either of them. But they’d leave afterwards, and Kitty would insist they weren’t dating. Kitty says she doesn’t have time to date. I guess she’s right, given she doesn’t seem to even have time to even call me at the moment. I’m sure she’ll send me an email soon. I’m sure she’s fine. She can look after herself.
So can Anna. I’m sure it’s just pre-wedding jitters. I mean, I hope it is. We just spent a lot of money on bridesmaids stuff, if not.
Well, anyway, not much else has happened to me this week.
I might’ve accidentally made the microwave explode after I put it on defrost by mistake and it didn’t cook my potato, but nobody was hurt. And I got a new one, Kitty, if you’re listening! But nothing interesting.
There’s been no progress on the origins of the forums front. We’re no further than ‘Madame Marie seems to have made the website’, and it’s changed a lot since then, coinciding with things changing with me, and things changing with the Impossible House, if we should even call it that, and the ghosts that were in the house, they’re connected with the forums now, and a lot of the ghosts…
[MAGIC BEGINS TO HUM, RISING AS SAM SPEAKS]
…the ones I’ve spoken to anyway, they’re connected with the forums, too, and they somehow belong to me, and I speak and will be heard, and there’s some people on there who are alive, I’m pretty certain—
[REVEL AND EGGROLL MEOW AND CHIRRUP]
[SAM BREATHES HEAVILY]
[SAM TAKES A DEEP, STEADYING BREATH]
SAM: I know, darling, I know.
SAM: Sit with me, a moment.
[REVEL BEGINS TO PURR]
SAM: I wonder what would be different if I could remember who I was, before. If I knew what Madame Marie had me do when she’d take me on those trips away, visiting hospitals. That one ghost, Mystery, they said that I had known them before, that it was some kind of trade, some kind of deal, and maybe it was like that with Beth, too, only it was her mother who made all of those calls. They died of something else. But Georgie and Emily? They went into the Impossible House and never came out.
If what Emily said was right, and the Impossible House is me then…
[SAM CLEARS THEIR THROAT]
SAM: Maybe I should ask the True Arcanist deck about the house but–
I. I’m scared of what it will say… gods, I don’t know. Whenever I try to read the True Arcanist cards, they’re either baffling and make no sense or, worse, they make the slightest bit of sense that I still can’t work out and that’s even more infuriating. I don’t know what they mean. And I find myself thinking about the deck more and more, and I…
[LOW, TREMBLING MAGIC HUM BEGINS TO RISE, JUST BARELY AUDIBLE]
I’m doing it now. I’m looking right at the box, with the deck and the seeing glass inside of it. The world is so beautiful, seen though that glass. Shimmering, trembling. Like all the life bound up in everything is on display.
[SAM BREATHES HEAVILY FOR A MOMENT]
[SAM MOVES THEIR CHAIR, LEGS SCRAPING. SOUNDS OF MOVEMENT. A BOX SLAMS ON THE TABLE AND A LATCH OPENS. THE SEEING GLASS CLINKS OPEN]
[A TREMBLING HUM RISES]
SAM: [HIS VOICE REVERBERATES] What is the Impossible House?
[SAM DRAWS A CARD]
[THE REVERBERATION ON SAM’S VOICE IS GONE]
SAM: The skull in a crown of flowers.
This card. This card, I swear… you know. It wasn’t here, it wasn’t in the deck the first time I went through it. All of the cards have a sort of weight to them. The backs are flocked, purple cut through with a fine web of silver. Some of them are more worn than others. The front of most of the cards is a smooth, almost buttery cardstock or very heavy paper. The illustrations on the cards is all in black ink, hand drawn on their creamy backgrounds. Each of them has a frame, two black lines, one thick, one thinner, even the blank cards when they appear. The metal cards, they have a line, two, but they’re etched into… I think it’s like, a gilded sheet of brass? It’s too dull to be proper gold. The images on those cards are pressed into the metal itself; you can feel them, when you run your finger over them. There are five metal cards, there always has been, but I swear when I first looked through the deck, the fifth was blank. Wasn’t it?
I’ve drawn this card before, too, when I asked the deck about the Impossible Children in M’s journals, and when I asked it about that Faithful Listener’s New Year’s question, too.
A skull in crown of flowers… they could be roses, I think, and I–
I’m going to find the Man in the Flat Cap! I am!
Nothing is happening, is it?
I suppose, I did get you lot to set up that bot thingy which just searches for him online constantly, didn’t I? I’m being silly.
Wait, wait. The grinning face, that’s what almost called him to me before. That’s his card.
[MAGIC HUM RISES A LITTLE]
So, what does this card represent?
[A LIGHTBULB EXPLODES]
Oh, no, not the bloody lamp again— oh.
[THE MAGIC, TREMBLING HUM FADES AWAY
Oh. My nose is bleeding, oh gods.
[TISSUES PULLED FROM A BOX]
Right, that’s it, I’m putting this bloody deck away.
[SAM GATHERS UP THE CARDS AND SLAMS THE BOX SHUT]
Quite enough of that, thank you, everything is fine.
I’ve been. Um. Studying, the sigil Madame Marie sent to Nagisa. It’s made up of intertwined Algiz, and the mark on my throat, it was the key, or the lynchpin, the seal on the sigil, binding me and… and what?
It’s looping, entwined, like homemade personal sigils sometimes look. There’s more to it than just an Algiz.
I’ve been trying to unpack it, what the Algiz could mean in this context. The thing is, it’s a symbol with a lot of history, and history collects, and it makes words and runes and marks more powerful through consistent use and reference. When it was first used, Algiz meant connections to a higher power, the forked end maybe representing the world tree ygdrasil, or perhaps intending to resemble the antlers of an elk, which the symbol can also mean. It depends on context. These old meanings are the ones evoked when Algiz is used in this context but, it’s not a rune without it’s corruption.
Algiz, like so many things, has had the grubby hands of white fascists all over it. The whole alphabet Algiz belongs to, the Elder Futhark, has been stolen, misused, misrepresented and misappropriated as a mark of hatred. These runes don’t belong to them. They belong to pagans and witches and those seeking connection to the world Elder Futhark represents. The ages and ages of use of Algiz to mean something deep and profound outshine it all. I won’t dignify the made up fantasies and fever dreams of neo-nazis looking to take something which is good and important by including their definitions for Algiz in my own interpretations of Madame Marie’s sigils. Fuck nazis.
What I’ve figured out, I think, is that the loops and curves of this design both build out of the Algiz and somehow contain it? There is not one single Algiz in this sigil left without a line struck through it. And there’s one, here, right in the centre, which Madame Marie has drawn an arrow coming from. I didn’t realise it until I looked really closely because the whole thing is hastily marked up in biro, but there’s an arrow, definitely there. I wrote to Nagisa about the what it might mean, but this is all they had to say:
I have lost track of the original letter with which the sigil arrived. I returned the sigil itself to Madame Marie with my letter on the back because there was a strange energy to it when I held it in my hands and I did not feel right or indeed equipped to deal with it myself. What you may not understand is that it was extremely out of the ordinary for Mme Marie to write to me seeking counsel. It’s unusual for ANY Arcanist to make such a request of a fellow Arcanist. To write to a witch or other practitioner of the arcane or occult, that is more commonplace, but to ask a consult of me, that was incredibly unusual.
This is to say nothing of my ‘friendship’ with Marie, as you refer to it. Yes, I knew your mother, but not well, and only as her worth as an Arcanist. A great amount of scepticism surrounded Madame Marie’s sudden rise on ‘the scene’, as it were. Arcanists are not known for making noise. Indeed we are better known for avoiding it. It was quietly said in some circles that I was the most skilled Arcanist in the northern hemisphere, before Madame Marie. Not that really means much. People make such claims now and then. But it doesn’t travel, not far. So when I heard…
You’ll know by now, too, that your mother actually took her grandmother’s name. That’s what first caught my attention. I’d heard she’d had a daughter, you see, supposed to be fairly skilled as an Arcanist, interested in witchcraft, set to take over the old Madame Marie’s Apothecary. I thought it would be her. But of course, your mother, she was far too young be the original Madame Marie’s daughter. Barely eighteen, when the rumours started. I paid it very little mind, until the rumours reached me again, by a different source.
By then some years had passed. She was pregnant, with a babe in arms already. Your sisters, I presume. And the other half of their parentage? Well, I won’t tell you things you might not have rights to know, but they were witches of renown in their own parts, and she seemed to have traveled to find them. That did pique my curiosity. If she was trying something. Well. I wanted to know what.
I knew of the Florist, Oliver Boleyn. I was alarmed at his youth as I’d known of him from my own youth and it didn’t seem to line up, but, an Arcanist. It is best not to pry, you understand. So I asked him what he knew of Madame Marie. His face darkened at mention of her. He seemed reluctant to talk, to a point where at some instances during our conversation he seemed to be in pain. What I gleaned was that she had shown no promise as either witch or Arcanist as a child but had come to blossom all at once.
There are rumours, as I’m sure you know, rumours of a man which crop up here and there, making deals. I asked Mr Boleyn if this fabled which was perhaps him, as he was embroiled in several long standing rumours of his own, it seemed. He laughed, but in an extremely bitter way, and told me that no, he wasn’t, and he’d say no more on the matter. As he spoke, I felt I chill which made me give up on that line of questions entirely.
It was not much to go on. I did my best to put it out of my mind but Madame Marie continued to make a stir. And then it became clear she was selling her services as an Arcanist to the public. It’s not unheard of for Arcanist who practice forms of the arcane arts to sell their services, but they will almost always do so under a different banner, as psychics or mediums or witches or fortune tellers or any number of other terms besides Arcanist because the first lesson of Arcanism is secrecy. Solitude in practice. Arcanists: We work alone.
Madame Marie, upon making my acquaintance, insisted on keeping not irregular correspondence with me. She did at least restrict this correspondence to personal inquiries and pleasantries for the most part. I rarely replied. I know she was building contacts. I know that when your sister, Kitty, came of age, that she was trying to build more contacts of her own, too.
That letter you read, intended for Marie, but received by you. She had been writing to me regularly, almost weekly, for some time. She had made reference to the sigil before and expressed concern about its longevity. I confess, though, I was replying out of concern for her person more than anything else. She seemed frantic, increasingly unhinged. Her letters often had missing words and half-finished sentences, as though they were written in a hurry. She was afraid, very afraid, and despite everything about the way Arcanism works I did my utmost to be of consolation to her in this state of what I interpreted as abject panic.
But it was a human kindness. Nothing more.
So, no, Samael. I will not tell you what I do. I will not discuss the contents of the texts in my possession because I came by them through inheritance from Arcanists before me who divulged as little of their origins as I will divulge of mine.
I will say to you what ought to have been said. What was said to me by my father when I was barely able to string together a sentence.
You will not read of my books nor beg of my wares. You will not ask of me questions for I will not bear an answer. The knowledge you seek will come only unsought.
Read those words and understand them.
Arcanism is not a community. We work alone.
Do not write to me again.
‘The knowledge you seek will come only unsought’. How do you seek without searching? I think I’m starting to understand how.
Madame Marie never said that to me but she did ban me from coming into the basement studio. She did try to stop me from listening to the radio. She locked up all her books down here and told me to stay away from magic and the arcane because it was dangerous for me. And she took my memories. This sigil. I still don’t really understand it but I think that’s what it’s trying to do. The old letter from Nagisa said it was about binding arcane power and I’ve no doubt that the power it was trying to bind was mine, but. I think the way it did that. The way it’s designed.
There’s a line, here. When I trace it with my finger. It feels like– there are these dreams I have sometimes of walking through an empty town. It feels like that. Like walking through down an empty street, one which should be bustling with life, but isn’t. I don’t know for sure but I think it was taking my knowledge of who I am and what I can do that made these bindings work. I don’t think she could have done it if she hadn’t made me forget.
So which bit of it, exactly, was she trying to get rid of? That I was the Man in the Flat Cap’s son, his Heir Apparent, meant to take his place so he can… ascend? Or whatever? Or is it the ghosts in the forums? Is that what she wanted gone, making them?
If Arcanism works like everyone says it does. If the Man in the Flat Cap comes when he’s searched for but not looked for directly. Then surely taking away what I knew of myself would have made it so that I was more vulnerable for him to find me?
You see? This. THIS. Is why I need to understand Scourge. He was there when I was born. He told M that she was asking the wrong questions, the same thing he said to me, too. So who are they? Why were they there, present at the birth of the Heir Apparent to this lurking power that stalks the fringes of all of these isolated Arcanists in every far flung corner of the world? And the thing they say to me, when I speak to them. The thing they say most of all? It’s ‘not yet’.
They don’t say I won’t ever know, that I’ll never find out. That’s it’s not my place to know. He says not yet.
Which makes me think there is a way things are done. There’s an order of play. And the chess piece. The chess piece I coughed up in the basement studio. A king.
I did some reading about chess as well, and you know what they say about the King? Don’t move him to a vulnerable position. It’s only in the endgame that it’s safe to move the king at all. I am just a piece in this game, but I’m an important one, only to be moved at the most opportune moment.
Except, I don’t know which side of the board I’m being played by. Is the Man in the Flat Cap even bad? All I really know is that he makes deals for people, and in exchange he, what, consumes souls? What does that even mean, exactly? Is it necessarily bad? I mean it does sound pretty awful, yeah, and sure, Oliver is unhappy with his deal, but what about the Inconvenient Sins!? they were so happy with the way things turned out that they were willing to kill to maintain the status quo.
I don’t even know if Madame Marie was working with or against the Man in the Flat Cap. Maybe she was as happy with hers as the Sinconveniences are with theirs. I just don’t know.
[SAM SITS IN QUIET CONTEMPLATION FOR A MOMENT]
But then why start Spirit Box Radio and the forums? Though I’m beginning to wonder how much choice she had in that at all, or if it was just something that… happened, the way things just happen to me. And the forums, always searching, always looking for answers. Help, cooperation. Community. The very name ‘Advice and Community Segment’ goes against everything everyone says about the way Arcanism works. The name I picked to replace it, ‘Enlightenment Segment’, that goes against the grain too.
Gods, I want to know. I want to understand. That’s all I want, is it really so much to ask!
I know Oliver was involved. Like Nagisa I wondered, before I met Oliver, if he was somehow the Man in the Flat Cap, but he’s not, and I know for sure because Anna asked him and he said he wasn’t and he wasn’t lying. But he knows things. Things he can’t tell me about.
[SAM MAKES A SAD SOUND, MUFFLED AS HE RESTS HIS FACE IN HIS HANDS]
Arcanists! Obsessed with bloody ineffability! ‘It can’t be known’,’ it won’t be known’. ‘Don’t ask questions’. ‘Study but don’t study’. It’s driving me mad!
And why, WHY.
[SAM BREATHES HEAVILY]
I wish this wasn’t happening. To me, or anyone.
I just want to go home but where even is that anymore? Did I ever know?
I– I’m going to sign off for the night, Faithful Listeners. Thank you for being here. For not making this the solitary endeavour it was apparently supposed to be.
Thank you. Goodnight.