Click for Content Warnings
- Background sounds and music
- Stereo audio (audio will sound different in right and left speakers/headphones)
- References to/implications of cannibalism
- Mentions of death and dying
- Emotional distress
- Descriptions of a person in supernatural life-threatening distress
- Child endangerment/neglect: mentions of and reference to
- Negative self-talk from a main character
- Manipulation, of a magical and mundane nature
- Loud sound effects
We’re all just ghosts waiting to happen. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello Faithful Listeners! It’s been a while, I know, and there are those of you who probably think that me broadcasting again at all is a terrible idea. If that’s you, then what are you doing tuning into the show? The off switch is available to you at any time. Hopefully. I know some people have had issues where they can’t turn the show off. That must’ve been particularly annoying, recently, what with it just putting out that flat static drone without skipping radio channels like it’s supposed to at all.
Sorry about that, folks. It’s like that for me, too. And yeah. I’ve not been able to get my radio to turn off for weeks. We’ve had to wrap it in blankets and put it in a box so we can’t hear it any more, and even then, in the dead of night when I’’m just about to drift off, I can here it, the rattling fuzz, a sound like a grey sky, just before a storm.
On the forums some of you Faithful Listeners have reported that the noise helps you fall asleep. Others complain of how it follows them from place to place, quietly blotting out the inane pop music played on the speakers in their favourite high street shops and ruining several club nights. Sorry about your birthday, Agate. I hope the lack of music in Club Tropicana didn’t dampen your spirits too much.
I’ve tried everything I can think of to make it stop. I sat down with the radio to try and talk it out, left it alone for a few days to give it some time to itself, turned it off and on again, splashed my microphone with some vegan alternative to the blood of the innocent. Nothing seems to have helped. Except. Well. This. Sitting down with the microphone, intending to broadcast.
The radio is quiet again when I turn it off, for the first time in weeks. And when I turn it back on, it’s happily skipping through the channels, doing exactly what it’s supposed to; being a cheaper alternative to a traditional Spirit Box.
SAM: Okay, yeah, that’s exaggeration. But to be fair it’s never worked right since I took over, has it? We just have to accept that it’s going to spit out weird stuff now and then which bears no relationship with anything anyone has been asking it.
SAM: Yeah, yeah, maybe I am making excuses, but it is what it is. I’m officially declaring the Spirit Box Services as being as back online as they’re ever likely to get, so if any of you Faithful Listeners out there are waiting to use them, remember to check in on the forums to make sure you’re not overlapping a commune with anyone else or you might get answers that make no sense.
To be fair you might get answers that make no sense anyway but that’s just the nature of arcanism, isn’t it?
Whilst I’ve been away, someone added a whole new section on the forums about the static. People have been hearing things in it. Two things, actually, the same two things. I heard them too. Like I said, the radio’s been hissing all hours. The same flat static and then, from nothing, it’s like the Spirit Box starts skipping again and in amongst the rapidly switching channels, but not like it’s a part of them, it says ‘nam quisque finis’ and ‘nos omnes infiniti sumus’, both Latin phrases. Esteemed forum user Karl the Cheesewitch managed to capture some of it. Listen:
[A FUZZ OF STATIC]
A VOICE: Nam quisque finis.
[A FUZZ OF STATIC]
SAM: And here’s another clip from later the same day.
[A FUZZ OF STATIC]
A VOICE: Nos omnes infiniti sumus.
[A FUZZ OF STATIC]
SAM: The first one means ‘to each an end’, which is pretty interesting because of course, everything ends eventually. Everyone dies and one day this whole planet we live on will be swallowed by the same sun that grows all our food. That’s just the way it is. Nam quisque finis.
And the second message, ‘nos omnes infiniti sumus’, that one means ‘we are all infinite’, which would seem to be a direct contradiction because if we’re all infinite then really, nothing ever ends. The atoms inside of you were once part of stars and the water you drink was once drunk by a dinosaur. Everything is a constant loop, and maybe when the universe stops expanding the pieces of it become parts of other universes, I don’t know. An end is a beginning, and a beginning is an end, and everything in between is what we make of it.
So, like. Everything dies, everything ends, but at the same time, we’re all infinite. Nos omnes infiniti sumus.
It’s a paradox. Or maybe a choice.
Nobody is really sure what it means.
Ugh. Look, okay, I’d been doing quite well, avoiding the forums. I decided it would be best to try and do as little as possible relating to the show, and the forums are connected to it, but they’re also connected to me, and so it was really hard. Some days I just sat in the window of our little flat, looking out at the street below. Oliver would come in with coffee for me from the place across the street, change out the flowers in the vase on the coffee table. Since I’ve stopped broadcasting, he’s stopped trying to keep the plants in our flat alive. It started to upset him, taking out pot after pot of crunchy brown twigs.
Now instead of potted plants, there are cats on the windowsill, but Oliver likes to keep a bouquet on the coffee table, even if he has to swap it out three times a day. ‘All the flowers in the shop are dead,’ he tells me, but they aren’t dead like these ones and he knows it.
Now and then I caved in, peeking at the forums. I didn’t say anything there; that felt like a step too far. We’d talked about it so much, Oliver and I, a– and my sister, and our friends. It was a bad idea to broadcast, and so it was a bad idea to go on the forums too. But I wanted to know you were alright, Faithful Listeners, and I’d been doing so well just checking the personal posts until a couple of weeks ago, when I saw the message about the spell that went wrong.
All in it wasn’t especially remarkable, really. There must have been hundreds of posts quite like it posted throughout the years, people bemoaning the mistakes that can happen when you practise the arcane arts. The thing is, with magic, is that if it goes wrong there are two possibilities for what comes next. The first one, the most common, is nothing happens at all. Your attempts to channel the arcane forces trembling in threads between all things fail with nothing more than a sputter and a spark, and then it’s gone. This is most people’s experience with magic; my friend Rhytidia the Bog Witch likes to say the arcane arts are like singing; almost anyone can do it, but few can do it well.
The other possibility is that the magic you tried to channel redirects itself in strange and unpredictable ways. This can range in severity, like the time my sister accidentally turned her eyebrow neon yellow or I accidentally made all the windows in the flat break because I put too much cayenne in our brownies. But it can also be a catastrophe. A hamster might curl up in your palms, still and unmoving. Your sister may come back from the dead different and strange, stronger than before but now bound to you eternally. Death might seep out of your pores and poison every plant within a hundred metres.
The Spirit Box Radio forums are place where people go to for advice so of course there’s loads of posts there about things going wrong, both arcanely and mundanely. You might have even posted something like that yourself, Faithful Listener.
But that post was different. I can’t put my finger on why, I don’t know what it is about it that drew me in, but it did. Here’s what it said.
Hello everyone, there’s been a bit of a Thing happening in my life which is why I haven’t been posting that often. As you know, in my free time I read tarot for people, I’m by no means an expert but I find it really soothing and I know a lot of people find it helpful to have someone else read the cards on their behalf, so I think it’s worthwhile as side-hustles go.
I don’t really do much other arcane practise, but a friend of mine who’s pretty new to the scene wanted some help with a project. I said I’d help out because she’s been reading a lot of forums stuff about arcanism in particular and really likes the idea of practising magic in a way that deliberately keeps what you’re doing a secret from others, and that feels weird to me because it feels like the whole point of the forums is to share and keep each other informed, but okay. (no shade to any of you who still hardcore identify as arcanists, by the way, I just find the whole idea of focusing your study on keeping the stuff you learn absolutely secret a really weird way of going about it, but my practise isn’t your practise and whatever you do it’s fine so long as you aren’t hurting other people, in my opinion)
Anyway she asks me to help her out with this one particular spell she wants to do. I wasn’t sure what it was but I helped her gather supplies and such like and went over to her house to be around to help in case she needed it. She lays out all the stuff and starts casting her circle, only instead of drawing a pentagram or other usual arcane shape to light her candles on, she starts doing this really weird loopy thing. Turns out it’s a sigil she’d designed herself and she was trying to combine it with this binding spell to lock in her intention even more deeply. I couldn’t find anything exactly wrong with that in principle but I told her maybe to leave it for now and try this complicated improv stuff for when she was a bit more experienced, but she got super upset and told me what she was trying to do with it all.
I’m not going to go into the gory details but basically what she said made me feel like if I didn’t help her she was just going to go right ahead and try it anyway as soon as I left, and that would have been even more unsafe, so I agreed to hang around and watch. She carries on casting her circle and lights five candles, starts chanting her intention, and everything is going fine and as usual until it got to the point where she was going to blow the candles out. She leaned over the circle to blow out her red candle first, but she knocked the purple one with the sleeve of her jacket, and it caught a little on the fabric. It was easy enough to put it out, but it did burn her wrist a little bit so I had to step in and blot out the other candles whilst she ran her arm under cold water.
Things started going weird as soon as I blew out the last flame. It was super quiet, but like, not like a normal kind of quite. My ears felt like they do when I’m in an airplane climbing altitude, like something was pressing the sides of my head together.
My friend was still over by the sink and she sort of twisted, like, this is not a shape any person should ever be in. Her mouth was open like she was screaming but I couldn’t hear anything coming out of her. Her legs were thrashing on the ground, but there was no pounding against the wood, just silence and that mounting pressure in my head, building and building, and it was so quiet my brain was trying super hard to find any sound at all, I could almost hear static.
I ran over to my friend. She was thrashing side to side, her hands over her face. I could she her chest moving so I knew she was screaming but there was no sound at all, nothing, just the hiss my head was inventing to fill the emptiness in the air. I tried to pull my friend’s hands from her face but she was holding on so tight it was impossible, and as I tugged at her wrists, one of her flailing legs caught me square in the throat and knocked me sideways. I was totally winded and fighting to get air back in my lungs and my friend was still thrashing and thrashing, and then, with no warning at all, she went completely still.
Her hands fell back from her face. Her chest didn’t rise or fall. She lay there, utterly motionless, as I gasped for breath.
I tried to crawl my way towards her, but as I reached to check her pulse, a small, white light rose from the circle she’d cast on the floor. It hovered a foot or so above the floorboards, bobbing slightly, like it was caught on a breeze. I couldn’t tear my gaze from it. The longer I looked, the brighter the light became. The buzzing in my ears got louder and louder like waves thrashing against a cliff, and the pressure on the sides of my head built and built. The white light grew and grew, first a thimble-size, then a football, then a car, until it filled the whole room, my eyes streaming tears as I could not blink, could not tear my gaze away from the fixed point where the light had begun.
And then it was gone.
Sound came rushing back so fast I was dizzy with it, and without the bright white light there was a second before my eyes adjusted where it seemed like I’d gone blind, but it was only for a second. My friend was still lying there. She was utterly, horrifically still.
I called an ambulance right away. She’s been in ICU since this happened and nobody can work out what’s wrong with her. This happened about three weeks ago. I’ve been visiting her most days.
I’ve looked back at the sigil she made but I can’t work out why it would do this to her. I know when magic goes wrong the consequences can be violent but I’ve never seen anything like this in years of practise.
Does anyone know of anything similar happening, and can anyone give me some advice for what I can do to help my friend, arcane or mundane?
And that’s the post. There are moments from my own life I could compare this to, like when my mother accidentally collapsed a house on me and I was in a coma for seven years and didn’t start remembering anything until still more years after that. I wanted to respond immediately even though plenty of other people on the forums know about what happened to me and were already replying in the comments, and what I have to say about it definitely doesn’t add to the conversation.
But I kept thinking about it. About the silence and the light, and the long sleep afterwards.
[A QUIVERING STATIC AND LOW HUM BEGIN TO RISE]
And that’s when the static on the Spirit Box Radio continuous broadcast began break, to whisper. Two weeks, and now I’m back.
SAM: Huh. You know, that hasn’t rung once the whole time the show has been off the air.
[PHONE CLATTERS AS SAM LIFTS IT FROM ITS CRADLE]
[A QUIVERING STATIC AND LOW HUM CUT OUT]
KITTY: Sam, are you broadcasting?
SAM: Hey Kitty, I’m fine thanks, how’re you?
KITTY: You are, aren’t you?
SAM: I’m so glad you’re doing well. It’s lovely to hear from you.
KITTY: I thought you said you were going to stop airing the show.
SAM: I changed my mind.
KITTY: Okay. Well, listen, Indi and I—
SAM: Gods, do you ever spend any time apart anymore?
KITTY: That’s none of your business. We spent the weekend in Salem, you know, the witch trials place?
SAM: I’m the embodiment of death or whatever, Kitty, I’ve heard about Salem, Massachusetts.
KITTY: Alright, no need to get all snarky with me, your highness.
SAM: Ugh, don’t you start with that.
KITTY: You were being a pillock so I thought I’d join in.
SAM: I miss you, when are you coming home?
KITTY: I don’t know. I need some time, I think. But that’s not why I’m calling.
SAM: Right, you went to the witchy capital of the world.
KITTY: Yes. We went because there tends to be a decent concentration of people who practice the arcane there, and I thought maybe we could learn something about what’s been going on with you.
SAM: Kitty. You don’t have to keep investigating things.
KITTY: You made me the Investigator, it’s sort of my job.
SAM: How many times do you need me to apologise?
KITTY: Before you brought me back from the dead as a freaky arcane being, you’d already done it. I mean. You’ve called me the Investigator since you were a kid, Sam. Don’t you remember?
SAM: No. You know I don’t.
SAM: Anyway, tell me about Salem.
KITTY: Oh, yeah. Well, I was pretty sure whatever we found out would be, you know, vague and difficult to parse. You know. Practitioners of the arcane aren’t always interested in arcanism as a study, and we all know–
SAM: Arcanists don’t share their secrets.
KITTY: Exactly, but. I thought it might be a good place to pick up a trail, even if nothing came of it right away.
SAM: So what did you find out?
KITTY: There’s a group of witches—
SAM: Oh, not again, how many weird little cults do I have to break up before people get the message that I am not letting anyone else try to start the bloody apocalypse!?
KITTY: Yeah. These ones don’t seem interested in ending the world.
SAM: What a delightful surprise. They’re up to something, though?
KITTY: Yes. And at least one of them is an arcanist.
SAM: Mmm. That’s probably a bad sign isn’t it?
KITTY: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: arcanists do not get together.
SAM: Except when they’re plotting world-ending events which may or may not involve turning people into soup.
KITTY: I said, I’m pretty certain they don’t want to end the world.
SAM: So what do they want?
KITTY: I don’t know yet.
SAM: Are you gonna find out?
KITTY: I’m the Investigator, aren’t I?
SAM: I guess.
KITTY: And you’re host of Spirit Box Radio.
SAM: Sure looks that way, doesn’t it?
KITTY: It’s alright, Sam. I know it’s been hard, recently.
SAM: Just recently?!
KITTY: You know what I mean.
SAM: Ugh. Yeah.
KITTY: Go do your show.
SAM: Go hunt your witches.
KITTY: Oof, too soon.
SAM: Too soon!?
KITTY: I’m still in Salem.
SAM: Bathsheba, Kitty, they died centuries ago! How can it be ‘too soon’?!
KITTY: I dunno, ask your immortal boyfriend.
[KITTY HANGS UP WITH A CLATTER]
SAM: [MOCKING] ‘Ask your immortal boyfriend.’
OLIVER: [DISTANTLY] Yes?
SAM: Is it too soon to joke about the Salem witch trials?
OLIVER: [DISTANTLY] Uhh. Maybe?
SAM: Damn it.
I wonder if Oliver has any books with stuff about Salem in them? That’s what M used to do when she sent Kitty off on Investigations; do all the reading. Or, well, do some of the reading and outsource a hefty portion of it to you, faithful listeners, but that’s what the forums are for, isn’t it? Community and collaboration. We’re in this together.
[A SMALL, TREMBLING HUM RISES AND FALLS]
Oh! Right there. ‘Burn the Witch’. That’s got to have something relevant, surely?
[SAM GETS UP, WALKS TO THE SHELF]
Oh, my. This is hand bound. Gorgeous.
[SAM WALKS BACK TO THE DESK]
[SPEAKING CLOSE AGAIN]
Let’s see. ‘Burn the Witch: A History of Persecution in Witchery, by… Oliver Boleyn!?’ Gods, he wrote a whole book? I don’t know why I’m surprised. He’s all smart and he’s had a lot of time on his hands. Hmm, let’s see.
Ah, here we go.
Of the witches in Salem it is unclear which of the accused was a serious practitioner of the arcane arts. This case becoming as famous as it has in the time since has clouded the records of those involved. It would seem little to no practice of true arcane arts was performed at the location…
This isn’t helpful at all, um, blah blah blah, Cotton Mathers, Proctor, they were all killed on the hill, none of them were set on fire, yes, yes… Oh!
Nonetheless the site has now become hallowed ground for practitioners who return to the site. Like many other locations claiming to be significant in the world of the arcane and occult, simple repetition of the phrase lends power to the ground, and it can be easier to successfully practice the arcane arts in Salem, as I found in other similarly revered locations.
So, basically, Salem has become a site of significance because people said it was a site of significance. I can see why Kitty wanted to check it out; the house where I was born collapsed on itself and then rebuilt out of thin air and started eating people, so maybe that’s a similar sort of deal.
Hmmm, well, probably not, I think if there were non existent houses eating people in Salem someone would have noticed… unless the houses are very good at covering their tracks?
Um! This isn’t the point, is it.
Kitty’s stumbled across a little group of witches there, but like, that seems pretty standard. It’s Salem, after all. It’s so famous that one of the most famous magical cats in all of literature is named after it.
SAM: No, not you dear. Of all the places you’d expect a group of witches to be, I’d put Salem pretty high on the list. It’s an unremarkable observation, isn’t it, really?
Hmm. Unless more than one of them is an Arcanist. Slippery buggars, arcanists. Their whole arcane practice is built on the concept of secrets. They don’t share notes, they don’t even talk to each other if they can help it. The only way to get hold of their writing is after they die, and even then you’re unlikely to see it unless they’ve specifically bequeathed it to you. From what people on the Spirit Box Radio forums say, even then it’s possible you won’t understand a word of it. It is unusual for them to get together. Not that it doesn’t happen, mind. The Spirit Box Radio forums are a testament to that, mocked by many as they may be. And we know they can be brought together to eat people soup and worship Immortal Children when gaslit. So there’s that.
Besides, if Kitty says it’s weird, then it’s weird. She is the Investigator, after all. If I’m going to go through the trouble of bringing my sister back to life then I’d best trust her instincts, I suppose, or what’s the point?
I mean, besides the fact I would be completely hopeless without her, that is.
My Faithful Listeners, would you mind asking around whether you’ve heard anything about any witchy gatherings in the Salem area? There’s bound to be one or two of you with some information we could use. I always appreciate your help.
Hmm. That’d be suspiciously fast.
[REVEL, A CAT, HISSES]
[THE PHONE RING SHIFTS AND DISTORTS]
SAM: Oh gods, Scourge, now, really?
SCOURGE: Hello, Little Bit. Back on the air, I see.
SAM: What do you want, Scourge?
SCOURGE: Just checking in. I’d say we were starting to get worried, you having been off the air so long, but of course, you know better than that, Samael.
SAM: Well, there you go. You’ve checked in. Now check out.
SCOURGE: Ohhoho, full of spice today, aren’t you?
SAM: I’m in the middle of a broadcast, Scourge, I do not want to be dealing with your disembodied arcane bullshit right now. I have better things to do.
SCOURGE: Is that so?
SAM: Yes. It is ‘so’. Now, get lost.
SCOURGE: Or what?
SAM: What do you mean ‘or what’?
SCOURGE: If I don’t leave, what will you do about it, Heir Apparent?
SAM: I swear to Bathsheba–
SCOURGE: No, no! Go on, tell me what you’re going to do if I don’t leave right now, this instant?
SAM: Scourge. Go.
SCOURGE: I’m far too interested to find out what the next stage of this is, I’m afraid. What’s it going to be? Are you going to try to vanquish me, like you did to Rowan? Scatter my soul on the wind?
SAM: You have no soul.
SCOURGE: No, Little Bit, a soul is all I have, disembodied arcane thing that I am, as you so rightly put it.
SAM: I didn’t say—
SCOURGE: There it is, that little desperation. We may look ‘human’ you and I Sam but we aren’t. We’re nothing like your ageless boyfriend, the sister you stuck back together, or any of the other humans forcibly made to live beyond their deaths that you hold so dear. We’re something else.
SAM: Something better, is that the argument you’re gonna make?
SCOURGE: No. Not better. Other.
SAM: Oh, right, of course. This again, you showing up here to spout a load of empty nonsense. That’s all you are, really. There’s nothing inside of you but hot air and bad vibes.
SCOURGE: Ah, but you and I, we are the same.
SAM: We aren’t the same. I was born, you weren’t. That’s an important distinction.
SCOURGE: Perhaps, but it only changes the function, not the form, don’t you think?
SAM: We’re nothing alike.
SCOURGE: I know you don’t think that, Sam.
SAM: Can you read minds now or something? Dear old dad decided to give you an upgrade? Pity he didn’t include a shred of redeemable quality along with the telepathy.
SCOURGE: I don’t need redemption, or telepathy. I know you don’t think that because you kept the crown.
SAM: I didn’t. I buried it.
SCOURGE: But you know where it is, don’t you, Heir Apparent.
SAM: What was I supposed to do, toss it into the ocean?!
SCOURGE: Given you went to a beach just moments before, I think that would have been quite convenient, but again, no. If you didn’t want it, you could have taken it apart. You’re strong enough now. But you didn’t destroy it. So you’re thinking about going back there and digging it up, putting it on and claiming your birth rite.
SAM: Maybe you do need telepathy, because I’m not, Scourge. I don’t want to hurt anyone.
SCOURGE: That’s why you’ll do it.
SAM: If I take that crown, I end the world to make a new one. That’s hurting people. It’s hurting everyone, in fact.
SCOURGE: It’s all a matter of perspective.
SAM: Right that’s it, get out.
SCOURGE: Ah, there it is. That power we’re all counting on.
SAM: GET. OUT.
[MAGIC HUM RISES]
SCOURGE: [ECHOING] I’m gone already. Sam.
[STATIC RISES AND GOES QUIET, LEAVING JUST THE HUM, AND SAM, BREATHING HEAVILY]
SAM: He’s wrong. Of course he’s wrong. I’m not thinking about ending the world. It’s not my birth rite it’s a fucking curse I’ve been saddled with. That’s not why I’m broadcasting again. I’m broadcasting because something is happening, changing, and I might be the only person who can help. Right? And if I can help that makes it my duty to do so, doesn’t it.
I should. I don’t know. I should check the crown is safe, so he can’t take it.
[A MAGIC HUM RISES]
[SAM KNOCKS SIX TIMES]
[A DOOR CLOSES]
White Door, take me to the crown.
[THE DOOR OPENS WITH A CREAK. A GUST OF WIND BLOWS IN. SAM STEPS FORWARD, FEET CRUNCHING THROUGH GRASS. HE STOPS.]
SAM: It’s still here.
[SAM WALKS BACK TO THE DOOR AND IT CREAKS OPEN AGAIN]
OLIVER: [DISTANT] Sam? What are you doing? How is there a draft coming from the office? It doesn’t have a window!
SAM: Uh? Coming! Sorry.
[THE DOOR CLOSES, CUTTING OFF THE SOUND IF WIND IN LEAVES]
Goodnight, faithful listeners. That’s all for now.