SBR 3.2: Eternal

Click for Content Warnings

Background sounds and music Stereo audio (audio will sound different in right and left speakers/headphones) Static 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

Transcript

The saddest lines are parallel ones, side by side but never touching. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

[INTRO MUSIC]

Hello Faithful Listeners. I know what you’re thinking. I mean, maybe not you specifically, I’m not– oh, you know what I’m saying. I know how it sounds that I hid the crown, and I know why you’re all talking about it. I know it sounds bad. But it’s not. Honestly. Like, it’s the Blood Rose Crown. Maybe I could destroy it, but I don’t know how, except I’m certain it wouldn’t be as straightforward as Scourge was saying.

REVEL: Mrrp.

SAM: Exactly. It’s the crown of an arcane being! The Man in the Flat Cap is not just some jumped up witch with a fancy hat. This crown, it’s symbolic, and the thing with Arcanism, when you name something, when you decide it means something like that, then you make it powerful. It’s about the vibes. It’s about intention, deliberation, it’s.

REVEL Mrrp!

SAM: Yeah. The Blood Rose crown is not something you can just pull apart or set on fire, I’m sure of it.

REVEL: Meep.

SAM: Yeah. Something bad could have happened if I’d tried it! And–

REVEL: Mrah!

SAM: Hey. I’m not making excuses. Whose side are you on, anyway?

REVEL: Mrrrrrwww.

SAM: ‘Cats have one foot on either side of the veil’, don’t give me that! What a load of–

REVEL: Mrrrrah! Mraw!

SAM: Hey, where are you going?

[CLATTER, SMASH]

SAM: There goes Oliver’s teapot. Oh well.

Look. I’m not making excuses. I’ve met the Man in the Flat Cap once, but I’ve seen him twice. The first time was inside the house on Banemouth Road. It wasn’t really a house at all, or even properly a ghost of one, not really. It was something else. An Artefact of the Arcane, a thing that happens when magic goes wrong, when the threads of the arcane fray and from the right angle something happens into existence that almost seems like it’s alive.

With Arcane Artefacts, accidents from magic gone wrong, it doesn’t even have to necessarily be deliberate. The consequences, they’re related to the mistake but not in straightforward ways.

The was unpredictable to move through. Things inside it moved and shifted. Hallways got longer. Staircases appeared where they shouldn’t be. It was the house that Anna and Kitty remembered and it wasn’t, the way things are in dreams. It can be seen sometimes from the street, a whole house or the spectral impression of one, there but not. Those who see it feel it call to them, the frayed ends of arcane threads reaching out like fronds of ivy and weaving themselves into theirs, until the house has them, not consumed, not exactly, but immersed, conjoined, connected.

Then they become ghost things, too, tied into the house, which was made… the moment I lost my memories of it. All of that happened because of magic gone wrong, and it went wrong because my mother misunderstood something crucial about the situation. About me. About the Man in the Flat Cap. We’re assuming it was made when Madame Marie tried to stop me from becoming whatever I am now. Whatever I always was. But it didn’t come from her! The Arcane Artefact came from me. That’s why all the people who the house ‘ate’, their ghosts could move into the forums, why I could speak to them on the radio. It’s all connected and it’s all connected to me, because it’s my artefact, it came from me, from my magic. I’m capable of doing something like that by accident, and you’re telling me I should have just tried to pull his crown apart?

It could be an Arcane Artefact in itself, who knows what. I am not in the habit of just happening sentiences into existence. Personally I think it makes sense to be cautious with the crown, to not assume it would be easy to take apart and destroy, right? If the consequences of my mother trying to stop me were that dire…? Well. It’s a big deal, is all I’m saying. Not something you should just give a go and hope for the best. I’m not just making excuses. Revel, wherever you’ve gone to hide, I know you can still hear me, you daft cat.

I’m not making excuses. I’m not.

[SAM SIGHS]

So I do understand where you’re all coming from on the forums, I really do. But I just don’t think it’s that straightforward.

[PAUSE]

Oh. In better news, maybe. Whilst the show was off the air, I found an an augury forecast for you all! It was tucked away in the back of our sock drawer, written on Christmas gift tag extremely tiny font. I only found it because I was looking for the other half of my favourite pair of socks. I almost forgot about it completely because, well, I was avoiding the show and the forums at the time. At the top of the tag – which was shaped like a Christmas tree – it said ‘for the first week of the New Year’. It didn’t say which New Year, mind, but when I asked Oliver he was pretty sure it wasn’t in there when I sorted through everything just before I moved in, so the soonest new year it could be is this one, 2023, and as it says ‘the’ new year rather than something more specific, I’m assuming this is the one that it meant. I’ll share it with you now.

If your name begins with Q, this is not the time for rash decisions.

Four sparrows sit in a row along the garden wall; what are they doing? Are they queueing? For what? They are birds. Who knows. All that is certain is that you will lose your keys between now and Wednesday.

For those of you over 5’6, this is going to be a bad time for new shoes.

A buzzard flies clockwise above the north tower; this month is a good one to learn a new instrument.

And so concludes the augury forecast.

Now then, a few people have been weighing in with their thoughts about this coven of witches Kitty’s stumbled across in Salem. There’s often a lot of witches and arcanists in and around Salem. Like it said in Oliver’s book – low-key still don’t know how to process the fact he wrote a book – it said that Salem attracts magic users and occultists because of it’s associations with witchcraft following the witch trails. It’s been made a holy place by people treating it like a holy place. There are a number of groups of witches known to operate in the area, some of them who live there and others who visit regularly.

Forums user Ciar the Moss Boy very helpfully started a new thread for people to discuss what they knew about any witches in and around Salem. A few people had something to say, but nothing that sounded particularly promising. Friends in the area, people who had visited, but nothing like what Kitty mentioned. A rogue coven. Up to something.

I can tell she was right to be suspicious. I think I’d know if she wasn’t, and like I said last week, what was the point in resurrecting her if I don’t trust her instincts?

[SAM SIGHS]

I hope it’s been good for her, being away. It can’t have been easy, the last few months. I mean, she died, and not just for a couple of minutes like when it’s happened to me.

One part of her intuition feels wrong to me, though I can’t say why. My instinct when there’s something suspicious going on with a group of arcane practitioners is that they’re going to end the world, and with reason, I think, but Kitty’s convinced it’s not about that this time. And I do trust her that this coven is suspicious but something is telling me it is about the world ending, but maybe not like with the Scarcemongers. With them it was all about setting up the ritual, gathering support, bringing people in. I’ll admit it probably won’t be like that was. I mean like. What’s the likelihood of two Arcanist cults setting themselves up around making people soup?

In everyone’s discussions on the forums, though several of you faithful listeners pointed out that the Scarcemongers weren’t the only cannibal arcanists we know of, though. Forums user Lola Cerberus Hyrst could even pinpoint when, exactly other mentions of arcanists eating people came up. There was the person with the burger van, and the disappearing soup-kitchen volunteer. The Scarcemongers, they believed they were redistributing the people they ate; their proper name was Subscribers to the Redistribution. It was all in service to the Harbinger of the End, Scarcity, who’s all about, well. Scarcity. It’s about making do with what you have, valuing the resources available to you, but in the worst way imaginable. It’s. Well. It’s cultivating a scarcity mindset.

Perhaps the people in Salem are doing something related to Strife? But it doesn’t seem similar to that letter I received some time ago about Prague, where someone actually even saw Strife nearby when things were going down. I feel like if it was Strife, it would be violent, and if it was violent, in a smallish place like Salem, someone must have noticed. Likewise for the cannibalism. I’d never have found Scarcity’s little cult at all if arcanists hadn’t started disappearing. Kitty was the one who noticed that, too. She’s a good investigator, isn’t she.

[SAM SIGHS]

[PHONE RINGS]

SAM: Oh. Hello, Arlo.

ARLO: Hey, Sam, you knew it was me, it– sorry, am I interrupting you?

SAM: No! Not at all, please. I mean, yeah a bit. I’m airing the show. I was just talking about you, actually, ah. But never mind that. This show started out as being for community and advice for its listeners, and you’re a listener, right? How can I help?

ARLO: Sorry– I didn’t think. I know you’re usually up at this time, I thought you weren’t doing the show anymore.

SAM: Yeah, I uh. I picked it up again. Kitty didn’t say anything?

ARLO: We haven’t heard from her. Me and Anna, I mean.

SAM: Oh.

ARLO: Anna’s still. She’s still angry, about happened.

SAM: I mean. Not speaking to me, I understand, but stonewalling Kitty, too? None of this is Kitty’s fault. I’ve tried to explain that, but Anna won’t–

ARLO: She’ll come to terms with it in her own time, Sam.

SAM: Yeah.

ARLO: She just needs time.

SAM: Okay.

ARLO: Anna loves you, Sam. You’re her baby brother. She’ll forgive you in the end.

SAM: Maybe she shouldn’t.

ARLO: What? Why?

SAM: What I did to Kitty, I– bound her to me, without her knowledge or consent, all the other Major Arcana, they agreed, they consented, but Kitty, she never had that choice. I took it from her. Anna’s right to be angry with me. I’m angry with me.

ARLO: Is Kitty?

SAM: I don’t know. She says not, but–

ARLO: There you go then.

SAM: It’s not that simple.

ARLO: Just trust people, Sam. You have to. Even though it’s scary. You have to believe people when they tell you how they feel. Otherwise, well. What else is there.

SAM: What else indeed. Sorry, why did you call, Arlo? I guess it wasn’t to just listen to me moan about my sisters.

ARLO: Actually. I was wondering if you’d help me with something.

SAM: I can try.

ARLO: I’ve been thinking. About the Scarcemongers.

SAM: What about them.

ARLO: I’m not the only one left alive, am I? There are more of us out there, people the cult brought in, lied to. It’s… the things we did, when we were there. None of it is easy to live with. I love it here, with Anna, but. Sometimes I wonder, you know, perhaps if we could peak to each other, the ones who lived through it together, I mean. Maybe it might make it easier. To move on.

SAM: You want to find other former Scarcemongers?

ARLO: Do you think it’s a horrible idea?

SAM: I– no. No, I don’t. And you want me to help?

ARLO: Well, a lot of them were Arcanists. I know the chances of them tuning into your show are pretty low, but maybe someone who listens knows someone. There were people on your forums who knew some folks who disappeared, right? Maybe there are connections there we can use to find the other survivors.

SAM: That’s actually not a bad idea.

ARLO: You really think so?

SAM: Yeah. I’ll– well, we’re already on air, Arlo, so. Faithful Listeners, if you know anyone who might have connections to anyone else in the Scarcemongers, we’ll open a new thread on the forums about it, and you can let us know. How’s that sound, Arlo?

ARLO: Brilliant. I– thank you, Sam.

SAM: It’s alright.

ARLO: Not just for this. For. Everything. For taking me in. I’m not sure I would have, given the circumstances?

SAM: What? Don’t be daft, Arlo. You’re welcome here. You know that, right?

ARLO: Yeah, I do, but. I don’t get it. Not really. I’m just grateful. To you and Anna, Kitty and Oliver too, of course.

SAM: Yeah. It’s nothing, Arlo.

ARLO: It’s not. And I appreciate it. You know. You saved my life.

SAM: Nah. You saved your own life, and loads of other people, too.

ARLO: Not really.

SAM: No, really. You did. If you hadn’t reached out, sent me those tapes, just think how many more people the Scarcemongers would have got to. They’re all alive because of you, Arlo. You did that.

ARLO: But I couldn’t save Maria.

SAM: No. I– I couldn’t either. I’m not– I’m not sure Maria wanted to be saved.

ARLO: I don’t think Maria ever had the chance to find out what she wanted, she was just passed along from person to person, always the centre of some prophecy or other. She never got to find out who she really was.

SAM: No.

ARLO: I– sorry, I didn’t think about– sorry.

SAM: It’s okay.

ARLO: No it’s– I should have thought more– I. Sorry.

SAM: It’s fine, Arlo.

ARLO: Sam–

SAM: I said it’s fine.

[MAGIC HUMS]

ARLO: Okay. I’m gonna go now.

SAM: Okay.

ARLO: Bye.

[PHONE CLATTERS, DIAL TONE RINGS]

[THE LOW, POWERFUL HUM OF SAM’S MAGIC CONTINUES]

SAM: [FRUSTRATED] Maria Gillespie. False prophet of the Scarcemongers. Eaten alive, and for what?

[PAPER FLUTTERS]

SAM: Here’s the letter about her. It’s been so long since I first saw it.

The second time I met Maria Gillespie she had drawn a picture of me and pinned it to her wall… standard behaviour for a seven-year-old… There are drawings all over Maria’s walls… hyper-real in some aspects, and in others dizzyingly abstract. There are layers and layers of them, all dated and signed. Thirty years’ worth of drawings produced by the same three-inch hands that smudged the glass between us… Maria is not seven-years-old… visit her in twenty years’ time, she might show me a new drawing… But Maria was born in June of 1968. When I last visited her, it was August 2012. I’m writing this down and its April, 2016. Whenever you’re reading this, it doesn’t matter. Maria Gillespie is still, for the most part, seven-years old.

Frozen, just like one of her paintings.

Almost years alone in a locked room, drawing pictures. I can’t imagine what that does to you. What it does to a child. I.

I don’t remember growing up. I don’t remember any of it. All I have of M are those moments when I was almost an adult when she was already so scared of what I’d become that–

And those dizzying moments, right before I met the Man in the Flat Cap. What was that? It was almost like walking through the house at Banemouth Road. The way in to find the Man in the Flat Cap, that was there, in Dyserth, on Banemouth Road. A trapdoor. A trapdoor like what appeared when Kitty escaped from the house.

[A TREMBLING HUM, THE SOUND OF SAM’S POWER, RISES]

A trapdoor like what appeared when we found M’s body in what used to be her office. A trapdoor like I found in the house I burned down, that was full of notes, letters.

[THE MAGIC HUM PEAKS, TREMBLING AND FLUCTUATING]

The house is a part of me. The trapdoor is a part of me. It’s still there. My memories–

[A DOG BARKS DISTANTLY, AND SAM’S MAGIC BEGINS TO FADE]

[THERE’S A FAINT SHIMMERING SOUND, A SOUND LIKE STRANGE MAGIC]

[STATIC BEGINS TO RISE]

Do you hear that?

[THE STATIC SWELLS AND FADES QUICKLY, REMINISCENT OF WHEN THE MAJOR ARCANA APPEAR MAGICALLY]

SAM: [SPEAKING AWAY FROM THE MICROPHONE] Hello?

[A THUD AND A TWINKLE OF BROKEN GLASS AND THE BARKING STOPS ABRUPTLY.]

SAM: There’s no one here. There’s a box.

[SAM MOVES THE BOX AND BROKEN GLASS TINKLES]

SAM: What’s this?

[SAM MOVES THE BOX AND BROKEN GLASS TINKLES]

It’s a box of broken glass. I– Oh my god. I can– I can see someone in it. Who…? Is that M? No, no wait it’s not, but. She looks like her. But different, I–

[A DEFINITE CREAK AND A FLASH OF ARCANE SHIMMERING]

[SAM CRIES OUT]

[THE CREAKS BECOME QUIETER BUT STILL AUDIBLE. WHEN SAM SPEAKS, THEIR VOICE IS SLIGHTLY ECHOIC, REVERBERATING A LITTLE. BENEATH HIS WORDS IS A REVERBERATING, BASSY DRONE, OFF-KILTER AND DISCORDANT, DIFFERENT FROM THE MORE MELODIC HUM THAT ACCOMPANIES SAM’S MAGIC]

SAM: She finds it in a box, left on the doorstep of her shop. It’s old, thick with dust, thin finger trails cutting through to the dark, polished wood beneath. Mother of pearl is inlaid in stars, the shimmering surface dulled by the same polish that makes it smooth as butter under her fingers, so thick the teak seems almost black.

The seam is hidden, it takes a moment to find it, and when she does the box breathes in a sigh of air as she lifts the lid.

The velvet guts of the box stink like an old house, musty and undisturbed. Inside the lined walls is a velvet sack with gold tassels. Inside the bag is a ball made of glass. A crystal ball.

She’s heard stories about a witch who walks here and there, a broker of deals, an Arcanist who makes deals no one can refuse, and she wonders, as she sits there at the table looking at the crystal ball, if this is his. She has been hoping for this, the extension of a hand, an invitation, an unsigned form. She has been so careful, so cautious in her ministrations, so precise in her calculations. She’s heard stories of children, ones who were born of requests to this witch, this granter of gifts and maker of prices, and she knows he will twist it to his own will.

Perhaps that is why he has sent this gift to her. Because she has tried to best him at his own game.

Through the ball, things are warped and miniature. She puts it back in its bag, closes the box, leaves it on the table. When she comes back down the next morning, the box is gone, but the ball is still there, set upon an ornate rest, catching the morning sunlight. She covers it with a tea towel.

That afternoon, the tea towel is gone. The crystal ball gleams. She stares at it. It seems to stare back, the window behind it like a pupil, shrunk and spun. But wait, it’s more than that. There’s something in there, looking at her, something solid, something real. Someone. A boy. A man.

She doesn’t know where the thought comes from only that it settles in her mind as she looks through the ball at the thing, the man, looking back through it. He’s frayed at the edges, face shot through with cracks, and the more she looks, the more she stares, the more she sees herself in his eyes, which are far too bright, far too blue. She leans closer, closer, and sees the cracks are not cracks at all but scars, bright against his throat, climbing up his chin like vines. He’s shaking, he’s shaking, he’s holding the glass in his hands, he sees her, she knows that he can see, and in his face, she sees herself and something else, something terrible, a dark light reaching outwards.

In her peripheries the world is alive with shimmering threads, the arcane world made real before her, but she can’t look away from the crystal ball, holding it in both her hands, leaning closer, closer, and the man inside leans closer too, a warped reflection, his blue eyes bright as an electric storm, his pupils like pinpricks, and within them she sees someone turn to dust in the wind, and she see’s another engulfed in blue flames upon an altar in the dark, and she sees a woman, a woman who looks like her, but wrong, but different, and in an instant she knows it is her daughter, though she has no daughter, and she knows, too, that the daughter is the mother of the man, the boy, the thing whose eyes she sees locked on her own.

The daughter is writing, writing. There’s a smell, a smell of unoccupied rooms. The door is slick with something like honey, but red as blood. Maybe it is blood, but slowed down. The daughter will die here. She’ll die in this room, with this microphone in front of her, at this desk, only, only the ground, it splits under her feet as the door bursts open and she’s falling backwards into an uneven house, a house that is familiar but unfamiliar.

The daughter cowers, death is coming, but they all know that, the daughter, the man, and she herself. Death is coming, and they are all a part of it, and he, the man, he is the End itself, not just himself, but the fabric of everything, and she sees it, sees it all, and she sees it, every moment between her own, there on the kitchen floor, and the man lying on the floor of another flat above another shop, not far from her own, just streets away, and many, many years, and her own death, and her daughter’s death, it’s unfolding, unfolding right there in her eyes and she sees behind the crystal ball there is a man in the doorway to the flat, and they cannot see his face, not her not the man in the crystal ball, and she knows it’s him, the one who walks here and there, and he has come to make an offer, but she already knows what she will do. The boy in the crystal ball, he is the End, the gift, and the means, the price. Her grandson. Child of her daughter, a daughter she will carry, who will live happy days in this very flat, this flat which belongs to her mother, who will one day bear and raise the man staring at her from the crystal ball with growing horror in his voice as he speaks it all, speaks everything she thinks and feels, speak it fast and furious into the shard of the ball she holds in her hands, this crystal ball that belongs to the one, the one who walks here and there, a crystal ball which does not show the future but consequences! And on this floor she will die and her love will die with her for the birth of a daughter they’ll barely hold, a daughter who’ll grow the end of us all all inside of her, a boy who will stare into a shard of the crystal ball and see it, see the cost of his life, the blood spilled already on his behalf.

[THE SHIMMERING ARCANE RISES, RISES AND THE THROBBING BASSY DRONE CLIMBS TOO. SAM’S VOICE IS FASTER, WORDS BLEEDING INTO EACH OTHER, ECHO MORE DISTINCT EVERY MOMENT]

The deal is writ, the deal is writ, the price is paid, the end is nigh, the deal is writ, the stones are laid, you were you before you were born and this is what you’re meant for, ender of worlds, breaker of deals, the End! The deal is writ.

OLIVER: Sam?

SAM: The deal is writ.

OLIVER: SAM!

[THE SHIMMERING SOUND OF THE TREMBLING ARCANE BEGINS TO FADE ALONG WITH THE STRANGE DISTURBING BASSY DRONE. SAM BREATHES HEAVILY, THE ECHO ON HIS VOICE RECEDING]

OLIVER: Are you alright?

SAM: I– yeah. I’m okay. I’m okay. They– she– The prophecy!

OLIVER: What are you talking about!?

SAM: My grandmother knew– she– they died.

OLIVER: Argh, your hand is bleeding.

SAM: It’s nothing, I was just– I held on too tight, that’s all.

OLIVER: Is that a shard of glass?

SAM: Yeah. I think… I think it’s a piece of my mum’s old Crystal Ball.

OLIVER: I thought the pieces disappeared when your old house burned down.

SAM: So did I.

OLIVER: What did you see?

SAM: Myself.

OLIVER: Sam…

SAM: Don’t. It’s fine. I swear to you. It’s fine.

OLIVER: Alright.

SAM: I– I um. I’m still broadcasting.

OLIVER: You don’t have a microphone.

SAM: No. I don’t need one. I haven’t needed one for a long time. Let me… ah. Um. I– I don’t know what that was. It was like it was pulling me in, pulling me closer. Madame Marie’s Crystal Ball was made for her mother. It was made to show her me. Or. Maybe to show me her. Maybe it’s all the same thing. I– I don’t know.

OLIVER: I’m worried about you.

SAM: Yeah. Me too. I’m so tired now. Like it’s drained something out of me.

OLIVER: Come on. Let’s get some tea and go to bed.

SAM: Goodnight, Faithful Listeners. Be safe.

[END]