Click for Content Warnings
- Grief and references to past trauma
- Stereo audio (audio which sounds different in each headphone)
- Sounds of falling objects (banging, thudding etc)
- Mentions of violence and murder
- Emotional distress (heavy breathing)
- Sounds of mild physical pain (moaning etc)
- Implied nausea
What is a song of sixpence if not a pocket full of rye? Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.
Hello, faithful listeners. Thanks for all of your thoughts and concern about me after last week. It’s been… rough. I didn’t sleep for three days, it was. Difficult. Luckily, Oliver was super busy with work so I didn’t have to explain too much to him, even though he definitely knows something is up. But like how the hell am I supposed to explain? ‘I absorbed an arcane library sort of and now it’s kind of attached to the forums but also not and no I have no idea how that works’? It feels pretty unsatisfactory as an explanation.
And yes I know it’s a bit pot kettle, given the amount I’ve been trying to get him to talk to me about stuff, but also like. He’s clearly having a hard time processing what’s happening and I just keep throwing stuff on the pyre and. Well. I don’t know. I worry that at some point there’s just going to be too much, you know? I don’t want to find out what happens when we get to that point.
So yeah. It’s my problem.
A couple of you who are, um, less than corporeal, you found your way around to where the library is, ah, attached to the forums. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to cross from one place to the other, more like the whole library is lodged in the centre of the forums like a big rock in the bed of a stream. Whilst it doesn’t necessarily look like a library anymore, and it doesn’t necessarily have physical things like windows or lights, what those of you who got close enough to have a peer at it said was that it gave a sense of having the lights shining out through the windows even though there weren’t any windows or lights actually present. Which. Is good to know? I guess?
Um. Let’s have a look at the forums, shall we? See what’s happening there now.
More people looking at the library and not knowing what’s going on there, yeah, thanks folks! For now I’d say just. Just stay away from it, if you can. Don’t even look at it if you can help it. Is looking the right word? I’m not sure. Anyway, just leave it well enough alone, okay? We’ll deal with it eventually. But for now it’s fine. Yeah.
Ah yes, people noting stuff about Scarcemongers, that’s great! I’ll let Arlo know about that. Oh, no it seems like they’re already in here! Great work, Arlo. Keep it up.
Oh. Wait. Arlo’s banned from listening to the show like everyone else now. Never mind. I’ll call them and tell them later.
Oh, I’ve been tagged in something. Let’s have a look.
I recently moved to a new area, and I’ve been trying to get the lay of the land. It’s a quite suburb of a fairly large city, with loads of pedestrian access and plenty of shortcuts and alleyways you could spend hours mapping if you wanted to. The great thing about this area is that it was constructed just before railways became popular, so there are lots of cul-de-sacs and dead end roads which seem like they should join up with others but simply don’t as a large railway has been constructed in the middle of them, leaving only these little alleys and paths behind. There are several local parks, connected through these bee-line back streets which take you almost through people’s back gardens, that’s how close and quiet they are. Seeking these new routes out is a truly fabulous way to spend an afternoon.
The other day, I decided I was going to explore a little further afield. I know there’s a pretty large victorian water park – you know, kind with a big pond and fountains, not the kind with slides and a lazy river – and I thought there had to be a more interesting path than simply trundling up the main road by all the traffic, so I set out on the hunt for short cuts, or at least, little paths and alleys that might make the walk more interesting even if they are more meandering.
I started out by turning off the main road down into a little residential area which I figured would eventually hit the river, which pretty much guarantees a secret path or walkway of some kind. Sure enough I found one between two houses. It was a street of semis, the space between each two-house building linked by a small path. All but one of these paths was blocked up with a gate. The open pathway was wider than the rest by a good foot or so, and the driveways, which connected in front of all the other properties, were bisected by a metre wide gravel path. Sure enough, when I peered down the gap, I saw a little sign indicating pedestrian access, and walked on my way, expected I’d soon find my way to the riverside, which I could then stroll along for a mile or so until I hit where the waterpark ought to be.
Past the bottom of the gardens, however, the path took a sharp right turn. As I was still headed in the right sort of direction, I didn’t mind too much so I kept walking. I could hear the river nearby, and wondered when this path would converge with it, but I walked and walked for twenty, thirty, forty minutes, one side flanked by unruly, thorny hedge, the other with the back panels of people’s gardens. And then I hit what appeared to be an abandoned allotment.
It was a fairly small space, only twelve feet by twelve or so, and it seemed to have been notched out of the back garden of the house it was squeezed behind. There was a dilapidated garden shed, the front door missing and exposing a set of rusted roots covered in snaky fronds of ivy and bindweed. Next to it, the remains of a small greenhouse. What was left of the glass was green with algae or mould, and the whole thing was blooming with with a plethora of weeds out of the open panels. The biggest plant of all, though, was a climbing plant I didn’t recognise. It was growing directly out of the redbrick wall that separated the little allotment from the gardens around it. It’s leaves were small and shaped like miniature hearts, each one a dark green with edges fringed in deep, rich blue. The vines looked woody and robust, dark red in colour, and it seemed to be growing outwards from a central cluster, the vines reaching out like bony fingers, clasping the bricks.
I got closer to have a look as I didn’t recognise it and I tried to use that app that identifies plants for you, but it had no idea what it was looking at, and told me three different things when I scanned three different parts of it. As I was closely inspecting, I saw that there was a mass of vines tangled around something near the base of the cluster at the plants’ centre. Peering closer, I saw scraps of orange fur. I leaned closer still, steadying myself on the wall, and saw between the tightly wrapped vines the tag of a collar that read ‘Gingersnap’.
There was a horrible creaking crack, and I jumped back in alarm, only to discover my hand, which had been resting on the wall, was covered in a frond of the plant. It tore my jacket sleeve as I pulled away.
I couldn’t tell if it was the whole of a cat in there, but as I hurried back down the pathway and onto the cul-de-sac it connected to, I saw a poster sellotaped to a lamppost. There was a picture of a cat on it. The name printed underneath was ‘Gingersnap’.
It’s been a couple of days of looking this up online and I can’t seem to find any plants like the one I described mentioned anywhere. I was wondering if you could maybe pass this query on to your Oliver Boleyn, to see what he thinks of it all.
SAM: Well. Okay, sure! Let’s go down to the shop to bother Oli about it. He’s prepping for a wedding tomorrow, but he won’t mind us dropping in, right? He likes plants and stuff. This is the kind of thing he thinks is fun.
[SPIRIT BOX STATIC]
[SOFT PIANO MUSIC, THE SOUND OF PLANT LIFE AND BIRDS]
SAM: Oliver? You busy?
OLIVER: Just finishing up. Are you already done for the night? That’s a short broadcast.
SAM: No, actually I have a question. Someone’s written in about some weird plants, and, well. You know about plants both weird and ordinary, so here I am.
OLIVER: Oh. I see. What’s the question?
SAM: So they’ve been going on these walks and have noticed a couple of unfamiliar vines and flowers. They seem to move much faster than ordinary plants and she thinks it might have eaten a cat. Maybe.
OLIVER: Fascinating. Do you have the letter to hand?
OLIVER: Let’s see… red brick alleyway, green leaves, heart shaped, tipped with blue? Very interesting. Coiling fronds that reach out to you when you’re not looking, and it’s carnivorous. Ah! It’s a blue-fingered haze.
SAM: A what?
OLIVER: They were bred in the sixties by this rather interesting chap, Simon Fellowes. He was an Arcanist and a botanist, hoping to breed a plant that could be used as a more potent substitute for willow in spell-making. I have his field notes somewhere.
OLIVER: Ah! Here we are!
[PAGES FLICK THROUGH]
OLIVER: There are no photographs, unfortunately, but Simon was a dab hand at illustration, you see?
SAM: Oh! It’s just like they described!
OLIVER: Yes, and here’s an interesting feature.
OLIVER: Simon had been hoping to create a plant who was inert in its natural state but obviously that wasn’t the case. He’d witnessed it consuming small birds. It doesn’t trap food like most carnivorous plants, though; it winds around its prey like a constrictor snake and slowly dissolves them. If you look closely at the vines, they’ll look like they’re covered in small, white hairs, but those are actually miniscule barbs. They secrete a paralytic and a digestive enzyme which renders their prey immobile and slowly dissolves them whilst they’re still alive. The nutrients then soak into the substrate to be absorbed.
SAM: Oh, right. So it is dangerous?
OLIVER: Possibly. If this one has been allowed to grow large enough to consume something as large as a cat, it could probably paralyse a human limb or two, or maybe even eat a whole human child.
SAM: So how do they get rid of it?
OLIVER: Same as any other plant. Cut it back. They aren’t aggressive growers, it’s probably been there for a decade or so to get that large. The one I have has never grown past the point where it can consume small mice.
SAM: You’ve got one of these?
OLIVER: In the backroom, yes! Would you like to see?
SAM: Wait. Actually.
OLIVER: What is it?
SAM: There’s a lot of living plants in there. I’m probably pushing it just by being around the dead ones.
OLIVER: What on earth do you… Oh. Of course.
SAM: You love those plants, I don’t want to hurt them.
OLIVER: Thank you, magpie.
SAM: Interesting book, though. What are these?
OLIVER: Poison hawthorn. Like ordinary hawthorn, but the berries produce enough cyanide to kill a small horse.
SAM: Oh, neat.
OLIVER: Simon had some in his collection when I– when I found it, but unfortunately they didn’t survive long after I re-homed them. They didn’t like the soil I’d planted them in. A shame, really.
SAM: Is that… blood? On this page?
SAM: There’s nothing written after that.
OLIVER: No. There isn’t.
SAM: What happened to Simon Fellowes?
[OLIVER TAKES A DEEP BREATH]
OLIVER: To make the blue fingered haze, Simon made a deal. With the One Who Walks Here and There.
OLIVER: Yes. It was. I tried to make it. Quick. I’d known him, you see. A little. I’d heard of his work, admired it from afar. I think he knew that. Knew I admired the work. Before I– took his life. I promised him I’d do what I could to watch over his work, make sure his plants were well cared for you know. I’m not sure it eased his suffering but he did thank me for it, right before.
SAM: Are you okay?
OLIVER: Yes. Yes, I’m fine. It’s been a long time, magpie, and I didn’t know him, not really. I do not grieve for Simon Fellowes.
SAM: Okay. That’s not really what I meant though. Grieving wasn’t really what I was asking about.
OLIVER: If you want to know if I regret killing him, of course I do. I’d never– of the many lives taken by my hand there are only three I don’t regret.
SAM: The people that killed Jack.
SAM: If you had the chance, would you do it again?
SAM: Kill them. Make your deal.
OLIVER: I– I don’t know how to answer that.
SAM: I know you don’t want to forget about it but if you could unpick the those threads, you know, if you could make it so it had not happened, would you do it?
OLIVER: It cannot be done, Sam.
SAM: But if it could?
OLIVER: I don’t understand why you’re asking me this.
SAM: If you could undo all that, is that where it ends? Would you want to have loved Jack?
OLIVER: Yes, yes I would, but Sam. I don’t know what’s going on, here.
SAM: I’m just asking.
OLIVER: What you’re talking about is rewriting history, changing the past, but it can’t be done. It’s impossible. The past is immutable.
SAM: I know, I’m just–
OLIVER: You’re just asking, I know. What I don’t understand is why.
SAM: There’s just a lot we don’t talk about, you know.
OLIVER: You want me to talk about killing people!? It’s. I don’t know where. How could I even begin?!
SAM: No, not that, I mean. I don’t know anything about you and Jack, really.
OLIVER: He’s been dead for centuries.
SAM: I know that! But. You loved him. He’s the only other person you loved like this, you said.
OLIVER: I don’t love you the same as I loved him, it’s different. A wholly different thing.
OLIVER: Bathsheba grant me patience, Sam, that is not what I meant.
SAM: What isn’t?
OLIVER: I didn’t mean to imply that my love for you is lesser. It’s different because you are different, because I am different now than I was then. Back then I was a practically a child, naive, unworldly, I didn’t know what I was getting into.
SAM: What were you getting into?
OLIVER: Love, and all it’s violent passion. With Jack, it was all new, unfamiliar. It was sweet as honey. We were secret, of course, and I knew there were risks. We both knew that. But it was soft, uncomplicated, and I didn’t realise that there was a darker side of it at all until that was all there was left. When Jack died, it killed a part of me with him, the part that loved without fear or regret, that threw himself into love without hesitation. I loved him fiercely. I wanted things that didn’t make sense for who we were, how we had to live. I had been on the run all my life and secrets were second nature; we could masquerade as brothers, never mind that we looked nothing alike, if not brothers, then cousins, and we could move to a cottage on the hillside, surrounded by flowers whose blossoms filled the air with sweet, fresh nectar, we could keep bees and store the honey to eat all year round, we could raise children there, how we’d have got them I don’t know, but we would have. Somewhere out in the wilds where there was nobody but us, nobody to judge or hate. It all felt so pure and wonderful, like stepping into a warm ocean on a quiet evening beneath twinkling skies. But then there was the riptide of losing him, and I was drowning, and the deep waters were cool and dark, and nothing mattered anymore.
SAM: You. Planned a whole future. With him.
OLIVER: We were young and in love. I doubt it would have ever happened. It was a flight of fancy.
SAM: Yes, but it was yours.
OLIVER: It was. And it was lovely to dream.
SAM: We don’t do that.
SAM: We don’t dream about the future together. Hells, Oliver, we barely even plan beyond next week.
[OBJECTS FAINTLY BEGIN TO RATTLE AND THE HUM OF SAM’S MAGIC BEGINS TO RISE]
OLIVER: Things are rather fraught.
SAM: No more fraught than they were for you and your secret boyfriend in the dark ages who was literally hate crimed to death in front of you.
OLIVER: Are you hurt that I loved him? Because that’s really not fair.
SAM: No I just. I don’t know! Why don’t we plan for the future? Why don’t we do any of that stuff? We really could live in a cottage in the middle of nowhere and have bees and kids if that’s what you want? Is it?
[OBJECTS RATTLE, SAM’S MAGIC HUMS LOW AND POWERFUL]
OLIVER: I– I don’t know. Sam. The ground is shaking.
SAM: Mmmm. Sorry. Sorry. I just. I’m processing.
[SAM BREATHES SLOW AND DELIBERATE]
[THE RATTLING AND THE HUM OF MAGIC GET A LITTLE EASIER]
SAM:It’s fine. I’m. I didn’t mean to. Sorry.
OLIVER: It’s alright.
SAM: It’s not is it.
OLIVER: No. Not really.
SAM: I want to fix it.
OLIVER: Fix what?
SAM: I don’t know really. But something feels wrong.
OLIVER: You’re going to be fine.
SAM: Yeah. I, uh. I’m going to finish up the rest of the show. I’ll let you finish packing the flowers.
OLIVER: Alright. Just. You’ll come back down, when you’re finished? Help me with the place cards?
SAM: It won’t make the flowers wilt?
OLIVER: I don’t care about the damn flowers, I just want you here. Is that okay?
SAM: Of course. I’ll be back in a little while, promise.
OLIVER: Thank you.
[SPIRIT BOX STATIC]
[OBJECTS RATTLE, SAM’S MAGIC HUMS LOW AND POWERFUL]
[THE RATTLING AND THE HUM OF MAGIC GET A LITTLE EASIER]
SAM: It’s fine it’s– mmmmppfff.
[SAM EXHALES SLOWLY]
[THE RATTLING AND THE HUM OF MAGIC GET A LITTLE EASIER]
SAM: I’m sweating, I’m sweating. Ugh.
[THE RATTLING AND THE HUM OF MAGIC GET A LITTLE EASIER]
[A DOOR CREAKS OPEN]
SAM: White door, what do you want?
[SAM STUMBLES FORWARDS]
[A WIND IS BLOWING]
SAM: Mmf. What. It’s Banemouth Road, the Impossible House, but, this. It’s M’s office, like the one that appeared under the floor in the old studio. But it isn’t. There’s too many books here.
[OBJECTS THUD AND FALL ALL AROUND]
SAM: Ah! My head.
SAM: No, no.
[MORE BOOKS FALL, THINGS TREMBLE]
SAM: Mmmnn, ugh, no stop, stop, please.
[BOOKS FALL, PAGES RUFFLING ALL AROUND]
[A DEEP, RUMBLING SOUND RISES AND RISES TO A PEAK AND THEN—]
[EVERYTHING STOPS, EXCEPT THE HUM OF SAM’S MAGIC]
[SAM BREATHES SHAKILY, MAKING SMALL SOUNDS OF PAIN AND EFFORT]
SAM: Thank you.
[KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK]
[THE KNOCKING CONTINUES]
There’s something under there.
[SAM BEGINS TO SHIFT BOOKS]
[THE KNOCKING TURNS TO SCRABBLING HANDS]
[THE HANDLE RATTLES, THE TRAPDOOR CREAKS OPEN, AND THE SCRABBLING STOPS]
[A THIN WIND WHISTLES, WITH A SHIMMER OF THE ARCANE. FAINTLY A VOICE WHISPERS ‘SAMAEL’]
[SAM’S VOICE ECHOES IN THE VOID BEYOND THE TRAPDOOR]
SAM: Oh yeah, there is a note here. It’s Rhytidia’s prophecy about M. She will bear a child who could best the One Who Walks Here and There.
This trapdoor. I swear it acts of its own accord. It moves around, shows up where it wants to. It had all M’s letters about me inside it, the way to the arcane spaces that belong to the Harbingers, once it even had Kitty inside of it, what is this thing? What are you?
[TRAPDOOR SLAMS SHUT]
Oh, so now you’re disappearing, how convenient.
[WHITE DOOR CREAKS]
Oh don’t you start, I drew pictures of you for bloody years and what are you? The ghost of a door to a house I nearly died in? A house I really died in at least once! You just, you just show up and you act like it’s all okay and normal to be appearing out of thin air or in random floorboards but it’s not, you know! It’s not what doors and trapdoors are supposed to do and I am not supposed to have a whole library inside of me, and gods know what else.
I don’t know why I pushed him like that it wasn’t fair and then what did he do, he just. He just asked me to come and help him like. Like it’s fine that I.
But it’s not fine is it. It’s not fine none of this is fine.
[GUST OF WIND. PAPERS FLUTTER]
Oh, for god’s sake, you didn’t disappear just to move six inches to the right did you?
[PAPERS AND BOOKS SHIFT]
No. You didn’t. It’s my name in. In the floorboards. Samael Apollo Enfield. M scratched this in the floor, when the Inconvenient Sins came for her.
You know it’s never occurred to me before. I guess I thought she was leaving me a message but you know, actually, it’s just as likely she was trying to tell Indi, Ingra and Bliss that I was the one they were supposed to be killing, isn’t it?
Did she want me dead.
Cut me off from everything, stop me from doing anything, that night, here in the Impossible House before it was the Impossible House, what was it she was trying to do? Siphon the power back? Was that to kill me to? Was that what she was doing, I-–
Anna and Kitty, they don’t know, they didn’t see what was happening until it started going wrong, just glimpsed it as they were running out of a house collapsing, a house that collapsed onto me, and she didn’t talk to them about it, didn’t even really discuss it with Oliver, no, he made that pretty clear when he went over everything with me after I took his deal.
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK]
Back are you?
[TRAPDOOR HINGES CREAK]
Great, great, same note as before, spectacular.
Rhytidia. She made this prediction. She did this, she— UGH.
[SPIRIT BOX SOUNDS]
[KNOCKS ON DOOR]
RHYTIDIA: I had a feeling you’d come here tonight.
SAM: Did your dirt tell you I was coming?
RHYTIDIA: Something like that.
SAM: M. She. You loved her.
SAM: But when she moved to Dyserth—
RHYTIDIA: No, I didn’t follow her there.
RHYTIDIA: I have a life here. I have a connection to the earth that I stand on and– and beach clay isn’t the same as mud clay no matter how much you try! And. I knew one day she’d come back here. Only took a few years for me to be right.
SAM: Did the mud tell you that as well?
RHYTIDIA: What if it did?
SAM: It’s like tarot, isn’t it? The mud. You listen, you can read the songs a bunch of ways. Different song in different combinations, they can mean different things in different contexts, just like tarot cards.
RHYTIDIA: That’s uncharacteristically insightful.
SAM: Would you— [SAM DRAW’S A BREATH FOR PATIENCE] Why do you hate arcanism so much?
RHYTIDIA: It deals in absolutes. Everything you just said about tarot cards and the mud, arcanists, they don’t really care about that. About listening and feeling and intuition–
SAM: They do. That’s the whole thing! Vibes! That’s all it is.
RHYTIDIA: But that’s true of all the occult. Arcanist, they’re looking for answers they’re sure they won’t find. That’s different than accepting that there are things you’ll never fully understand.
SAM: How? How is it different?
RHYTIDIA: Because. If you learn to accept that there are things outside of your control, if you understand yourself as a small part of a whole which you’ll never fully comprehend, you let go, and understand that all knowledge, to some extent, is subjective. Even science, which you concrete cretins adore, is rewritten every generation.
SAM: But. Arcanists aren’t sharing facts or declaring absolute truths–
RHYTIDIA: No, because they can’t. Because the arcane isn’t like that.
SAM: I’ve seen it. You don’t need to tell me what it’s like.
RHYTIDIA: So you understand that it’s not static. Fate isn’t a noose around your neck. It’s a path in a forest you’ll either walk along or you won’t. Maybe it forks in places, maybe you’ll walk across the undergrowth. Maybe you’ll lie on your back and not walk at all.
SAM: They aren’t trying to know the future, though.
RHYTIDIA: No, they’re not. They want to know the present. And they can’t do that.
SAM: I– I don’t understand.
RHYTIDIA: That’s why secrecy is so important to them. Because if they share their answers, they’ll see they’ve all come up with something different, and even the ones that get to the same conclusions, they get there a thousand different ways.
SAM: So what?
RHYTIDIA: They can’t let go. They can’t see themselves as part of a bigger picture. They’re individuals, desperately striving to fence in their own individual patch of knowledge, like reality has borders that can be defended, like human beings don’t make giant leaps into the terrifying realm of utterly unpredictable every single day. People die from coconuts falling on their heads. People just randomly die in their sleep. The weave of our threads can look purposeful and intricate but it’s random, patternless.
SAM: So why do you hate them?
RHYTIDIA: I don’t hate them. I pity them. And find them profoundly irritating.
SAM: But M was an Arcanist.
RHYTIDIA: She was and she wasn’t. She made her deal her bid for power, and what was put inside of her, the magic she was given. It was like a bit of unknown got lodged in her brain and she couldn’t escape it anymore. She was obsessed with the idea that every Arcanist was both right and wrong about what they understood of the Arcane. She was massively powerful, she understood the song of the mud more keenly than anyone I knew, even though she couldn’t hear it. I saw her draw a dozen different divinations of the future from one set of cards and take it in her stride without pause.
Yeah, it also drove her mad.
I didn’t understand any of it, and I still don’t now. But I knew that power was borrowed, and Marie knew it too. Soon as she was born, a lot of it left her. When you weren’t around, she couldn’t even read tarot beyond a basic interpretation. That magic that had made her famous, it was gone. She was hollow.
SAM: I didn’t mean for that to happen.
RHYTIDIA: I know you didn’t, kid. But that’s how it was. And she was terrified of you. We all were.
RHYTIDIA: Usually power feels like light coming off someone. You can get a sense, if you’ve learned out to do it, of how connected they are to their own arcane threads, or however you want to phrase it. In touch with their aura. It doesn’t matter. But you. It was like a chasm. People around you, they could sense it, it made them scared, but it was like you couldn’t resist stepping closer, looking deeper, just trying to peek into the darkness.
RHYTIDIA: I’m sorry if this isn’t what you came for, kid.
SAM: I don’t know what I came for.
RHYTIDIA: Well. If there’s one thing I do know, is that something’s changing. And I need you to know I want no part in it.
RHYTIDIA: Whatever little scheme you’re cooking up, keep it to yourself. I’ve no interest in striking a deal with you, baby broker, mark my words.
RHYTIDIA: You should go.
[STATIC AND SPIRIT BOX SOUNDS]
[HEAVY BREATHING, THE HUM OF MAGIC, THE TREMBLING OF OBJECTS]
Okay. I’m going to uh. I’m going to go and help Oliver. Yeah.
Okay faithful listeners, goodnight.