SBR EAK: Dear Magpie ’21 (Part 1)

[CAT SOUNDS]

Move over Revel.

[SHUFFLING LETTERS]

REVEL: mrrp.

SAM: Yes, darling, they’re letters. For me. I was a little alarmed that there were so many of them but then Oliver pointed out that it’s nearly my birthday so maybe it’s not actually that weird.

[ENVELOPE TEARS]

Ehem,

Dear Sam,

Happy Birthday! Please excuse the wax all over the envelope, I would have said something on the forums, but I rarely get the opportunity to send letters these days and I got a bit overzealous with the wax seal.
I’m writing to ask whether or not you’ve ever heard of ghosts haunting in a sort of….mathematical way? I know its a long shot, given that most of the arcane fuckery that seems to happen on this show is of a more illogical nature, but I thought I’d try anyway.
Almost two years ago, on New Year’s Eve, I was at a small party with my friends, as most people are during that sort of time. This was before I’d discovered the show, or Arcanism in any proper sense, so it was of great interest to me when one of my friends reached into his bag and pulled out a deck of tarot cards. In our various drunken states, we flitted between watching with rapt attention and hysteric laughter as my friend slurred through her explanations of the cards he’d drawn for each of us.
Then, it was my turn, and the laughter stopped. My friend seemed confused and concerned, staring with a sort of horror at the cards. I don’t remember what cards had been drawn, just his face, eyes wide and mouth ajar. Maybe if I could remember the cards, I’d be able to deal with this damned ghost myself.
We moved on from the tarot pretty quickly after that, not wanting to ruin the mood. That didn’t stop my friend sneaking me weird looks the rest of the night though.
The next morning, with my head pounding and worryingly delicate stomach, I made my way home. As I fumbled with my keys in the door, I noticed a large envelope tucked behind the plant pot outside my front door. It wasn’t uncommon for the post workers to leave parcels and the like there, as it was completely hidden unless you were right next to it. I brought the envelope in, opening it to find a calendar. It was fairly standard, with a picture of a little mouse for each month, sometimes sitting in a flower, or in some crisp snow. They were all quite sweet, really.
I hadn’t ordered the calendar, and there was no return address, so I just figured it was a late gift from a family member who’d forgotten to put a note in the envelope. I left it lying on top of the pile of stuff on my desk, and pretty much forgot about it. The rest of the day was normal, or as normal as dealing with a hangover can be.
It was when I woke up the next morning, on the second of January, that things began going downhill. I woke up to find the acrid scent of smoke in my nostrils. I lept out of bed and down to the kitchen, fearing the worst. Had I left the oven on last night, or had the toaster broken? Instead, I reached the kitchen only to find that instead of a blazing fire, there was a partially charred mouse on my countertop. The poor thing was definitely dead, but still burning quietly, tendrils of smoke rising from it and floating through the house. As I moved towards it, there were bright flickers of orange as the airflow fed the embers.
I was confused, sure, but I’ve got two cats and I’d dealt with far gorier mice corpses than this one. Hesitantly, I upturned a glass of water onto the poor thing and shuffled it into a Tupperware box. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it yet, so I put it on the side, out of the way, whilst I disinfected the countertop. I put a rather hefty cookbook on top of the Tupperware as a cat-deterrent, and continued with my day, intending to deal with the mouse later.
Except, being me, I entirely forgot. For two days. I only remembered the evening after, when I was already in bed. I wrote myself a note to get rid of the poor thing in the morning, but when I meandered into the kitchen, squinting my eyes as the morning light struggled through the cheap blinds, I realised that the mouse had disappeared.
The Tupperware hadn’t moved. The book was still in place. There was no trace of the mouse, not a flake of ash or soot remained in the box. I didn’t have time to investigate further, as I had work that day, but the disappearing mouse occupied my thoughts both during the day and well into the night.
I awoke on the morning of the fifth, only to find that the mouse was back. I say “the mouse”, but I’m pretty sure this was a slightly different one. It was still half black with soot and partially burnt, but not as badly as the first mouse. This time, I took it directly to the garden and buried it in the flower patch as quickly as I could. I debated just chucking over the hedge but it felt a bit rude. It had been a living creature at some point, it deserved a bit more dignity in its death than getting yeeted over a hedgerow.
A day passed, mouse-less, only for me to wake up once again with smoke in my nose. This one was in my bath, and also very much still on fire. For such a little thing, the flames were quite impressive. I doused it quickly with the shower, and it joined its friend a foot underground in the flower bed.
This pattern continued, every couple of days, though not consistently, a burnt or burning mouse would appear, like some kind of strange offering. It wasn’t until some point in mid-March when I finally got round to taking the Christmas decorations down and tidying the house, that I found that strange calendar again. I picked it up, intending to flip through it one last time before binning it. Opening it up, I found that half the days of the pages for January and February had burn marks. Like a cigarette burn, a small circular hole on certain days.
I sat down and stared at it. I knew for a fact that it hadn’t been burnt when I received it. I was quite honestly stumped. I briefly considered the possibility of someone entering my house repeatedly and burning my calendar, like some little anti-“passing-of-time” gremlin. And then I had to face the fact that that was a genuine thought I’d just had, and decided that I’d spent enough time looking at the calendar.
It wasn’t until I walked past it the next day, carrying yet another mouse to the rodent graveyard, that I saw a new burn mark. The square for the 17th of March was singed, red flickers eating away at the paper. I looked between the still burning paper and the mouse held in my gloved hand. The link between the mice and the burnt days became apparent to me, as did an overwhelming sense of embarrassment that I didn’t notice the connection yesterday during any of the four hours I spent staring at the calendar.
I decided at this point to search up the days marked with burns. They were the same dates each month, there had to be some kind of meaning or reason behind it. When I took to the internet, I found that all the marked days were prime numbers. I’d avoided maths with every fibre of my being at school, so the dawning realisation that I was being haunted by some sort of mathematical mice monster was not a pleasing one.
I tried a few things. Some spells I found online, even burning the whole calendar. It just appeared on the next prime number day, in the same semi-pristine condition it was before. I did this a few more times than I’d like to admit, to get my anger out more than anything. There’s something incredibly satisfying about watching the object of your torment crackle and disintegrate to nothingness. That satisfaction was temporary, given the resurrective powers of the calendar, but I think it helped me emotionally, you know?
The rest of the year passed in the same way. Burnt mice, burnt calendar. As the cold air of December approached, I had hoped that the whole ordeal would be over. There was a mouse on New Year’s Eve; I buried it with the others.
I went to bed that night, a weight lifted from my shoulders. It was over, finally!
That was until about 11 o’clock the next morning when there was a knock at my door. I answered, bleary-eyed and barely awake. No one was there, but on the mat was another large envelope. I picked it up, already knowing what was going to be inside.
I didn’t waste any time ignoring it this time. I hung it up straight away, marking the prime number days with a bright red sharpie. If it wasn’t going to stop, I could at least be prepared.
For better or worse, my life has changed quite a lot over this past year, and I really don’t want to wake up on New Year’s Day to find another bloody calendar. I’m not sure if it’s a case of a cursed object, or a ghost, or some demon hellcat with a penchant for prime numbers and offerings of mice. Maybe it’s all three.
Either way, it’s getting a little awkward trying to explain away the constant smell of burning to my partners. Not to mention the ever-growing number of mouse corpses in the garden. I’m this close to setting up an official cemetery with headstones to do them justice.
If you or anyone else has some advice, I’m all ears, honestly.
Thanks.
Pidge
(aka PigeonsHateMaths845 on the forums)

Oof, haunted calendars. We’ve all been there, haven’t we Revel? I’m not sure what to tell them when I write back. Things like this, I’d say it’s probably best to let it run its course? Otherwise maybe try to trace the origin point. It would take some complicated magic to achieve those results and magic leaves a trace if you know what to look for, so!

Okay, ooh, this one is on a postcard. I think. The front is blank but the back is like a postcard. Here’s what is says.

It stretches his spindly fragile fingers and tries to stay present, as a voice on the radio says the words that give meaning to its vague existence. Shapes and colors go past in a slow, crawling, fast, galloping ribbon of days and sun being hunted by Apophis.
The sheets are fresh and smell soothingly of cold water, silence and faintly of dust. They would stay fresh no matter how many days they will spend there, unable to leave the bed, unable to swallow nauseating taste of chemical cleanliness and coppery headache. Illness and exhaustion kept him silent and aching for so, so long, it stopped feeling time anymore. Walls here are vague blue, sealing is vague beige, carpet is vague green, the only solid thing are large black out curtains covering every last bit of sun that could have escaped thick layer of newspapers, brown craft paper and bricks over the only large window. Light of the day forgot this little room existed long ago, just as the house’s more noisy and solid inhabitants soon did. Squeaky door forgot its voice first, when it got bolted shut from outside, than everything got muted when it got chocked dead with new wallpaper, hidden with a bookshelf and, eventually, forgotten like an uncertain, honey-viscous summer nightmare.
There were new family living here now. They had a daughter, a dog, and four little rats. Rats escaped the cage at night and explored the house’s old bones and soggy mossy underbelly, disturbing old pains with pitter-patter of tiny feet in a soft cakey layer of dust. They were the only audience of the Concerts when the time came, and small radio came alive.
It was the color of oversaturated bruises and blood so fresh, it looked more like plastic, when the voice on the radio lit it like a candle and breathed ghost of a consciousness into its fragile hollow bones.
New family, a loud and happy couple and their daughter, always slept deep and peaceful enough to be blissfully unaware of the one that sings in the deep night. Radio stops its inaudible from outside conversation and clear, sunflower-bright voice lifts the ill from its non-existence and away from debilitating sickness. Its just for a little while, just enough for them to grasp their old stringless corpse of a guitar and croon weakly in his vague room, lifting the melody from the ghost of the strings with ghost of fingers, happy to pretend that black curtain is an endless black sky they read about, but never saw.
Its getting colder now. Days drown in the endless vials, and syringes, and pills, and bags for the iv drip left to gather dust, bought for someone too late for them to continue acknowledging them. And it stretches his fragile, mossy bones and croons to the dead and forgotten emptiness of the room:
“…oh my love, it’s a tired thing, gruesome thing
rotting away in the sweet summer soil…”

Oh. Okay. I’ll just send a thank you for that one, oddly beautiful as it was. I think this is one that I’ll ask Oliver about when I see him on Saturday. Or did he say he was coming over on Friday? I can’t remember. Either way, I’m sure he’ll find it interesting even if he can’t help me answer, don’t you think, Revel?

REVEL: Mrrreep!

SAM: Yes, I know, I know. Ehem, okay.

[LETTER TEARS]

Right, okay,

Hi Sam, happy birthday! I hope you’ve had a lovely afternoon, and you haven’t had to deal with anything, or anyone, too ominous or spooky on your special day.

As much as I hate to take the attention away from you on your birthday, I do have an ulterior motive for writing in today.

You see, I’ve been having… encounters? With birds recently? I’m not sure how else to put it. I’ve always liked birds, you see, but they’ve always avoided me like the plague. Whether it was a pigeon in the park, or the pet parrot of a family friend; birds just didn’t like me. So I always kept my distance, save for the hummingbird feeder in my back garden.

But the strangest thing happened about a month ago. I was walking through my neighborhood park, taking in the first cool day of autumn we had so far this year, and a crow flew down and landed in the middle of my path. I didn’t pay it any mind, just assumed it would fly away again as I walked past. But it didn’t. Slightly odd, but nothing unheard of, so I stepped off the path into the grass to go around it. But it followed my steps, mirroring me so I couldn’t walk past it.

Now, I know that crows and ravens and birds of the like can be omens, and if one was trying this hard to stop me going any further on the path, far be it for me to continue on my way. But when I turned around to walk the other way, there were three more birds blocking that path as well. One more crow, a pigeon, and a small blue bird. I didn’t quite know what to do at this point, so I just walked into the grass, completely off the pathway in the park.

They didn’t block my path anymore, but they seemed to follow me. Every time I glanced behind, it seemed the flock had grown a bit more. It started making me uneasy as I made my way back home.

Over the next week or so, I saw more birds than I think I ever had before. They were everywhere I went, crowding around me and watching. They are always watching.

It began to really creep me out, but my friends just told me to be happy I had broken my apparent “bird curse.” But in all honesty, I think I preferred when they avoided me.

I was fine to let this go on, to try to ignore them and go about my days, just watching where I walked a bit more carefully. But this morning, I woke up to a raven in my room. I don’t know how it got in; I don’t have a fireplace, and no windows or doors were open. The raven, it had a playing card in it’s beak, the eight of spades. Now, I was raised more on cartomancy than on tarot, and an eight of spades is a warning of danger.

I don’t know what could be dangerous, whether the birds are causing it or keeping it away, but I am afraid. Should I try to get rid of the birds that have been plaguing my every move for the last month, or are they the only thing keeping me safe? I don’t know where else to turn for advice on this. Anything you might be able to share would go a long way to helping.

Again, happy birthday Sam,

From Faithful Listener Georgie

Another Faithful Listener named Georgie! I wonder if Georgie from Dyserth heard that. I know the show’s not live but, you know. We can hope, we can dream, you know? I don’t know. Ah, hmm. Okay. What do you think, guys? The bird thing. It’s unusual. I could ask the tarot… or maybe consult the True Arcanist Tarot deck? Where did I put it. Oh, Cosmo, you great lump, you’re sitting on it. Why is it I put down any object with a flat surface you immediately find a way to sit on it? Never mind. Right, okay, um. I’ve drawn an echo card? I don’t know what that means. Why did I bother doing this? I’ll put this one in the ‘ask Oliver’ pile, too.

Next one!

[PAPER TEARS]

Ehem,

Dear Sam,

Firstly! Happy birthday! I think my letter might get to you a bit late, but I’ve included in the envelope some dried herbs from my garden as a kind of a birthday present.

I’ve been listening to your section on the spirit box radio for a while now, since right around the time Madame Marie first disappeared. I’m not really big on Arcana, but it’s comforting you know? I’ve got a little Altar set up in the hallway, and while I don’t often light the candles or anything, it’s nice to know it’s there. Makes me feel like I’m connected to something bigger, and listening to you is a nice way to fill the silence when I work late.

Anyway, I wanted to write you a letter about something I think I need your advice on, I’ve not really attempted many spells beyond a bit of basic protection, or a little cleansing sometimes. But I really think that’s what I’m going to need here.

In short, I think I have a ghost.

They aren’t like mean or anything. I don’t want to get rid of them. I just, I want to know more about them, to chat you know? I’ve tried using the spirit box radio, both by sitting with my altar and focusing, and by letting it run while I chat to myself and go about my day. I know if I wanted to get rid of them, I could call someone, or I could probably even find a spell to try myself. But this is their house too.

Or, at least. I think it’s their house too. They are definitely here, and it’s an old house. It’s been in my family for years, I ended up moving in when my great aunt died, but it’s even named after our family name. I never really knew too much of my extended family really, my mam had a big falling out with her dad when I was tiny, and I don’t even remember them. Mam was an only child, so once she stopped talking to my grandad, we just never saw any of her family. She would talk about this place sometimes, coming up to visit her aunt when she was little, and my aunt telling her stories about the ghosts that looked after her, all alone out here. My mam always made it sound like a grand adventure, going to visit the grand old haunted house in the carmarthenshire countryside.

It’s just a cottage really, with a little garden, and enough space that I’ve started planting vegetables and herbs out the front. But it suits me, I work from home, and I’ve got plenty of space for study in the second bedroom. And I love having such a beautiful view from my desk. I don’t really go into town much, but it’s not actually too far of a drive if I want to, and I have plenty of fields and woodland around me when I want to go out and stretch my legs.

Ever since I moved in, I felt like I was safe here, like the house was looking out for me. I started feeling like I wasn’t ever really alone, because the house was here with me. It’s a bit like having my family looking over my shoulder, even if I never really knew them. But, more recently it’s been more than just a feeling. Someone is definitely here with me.

It was little things at first, stuff I dismissed entirely for a little while, and I’m sure I didn’t even notice all of it. I’d go to fetch a drink, and find a candle that had been burning had gone out. I’d get distracted during a craft project, and come back to find the needle tucked neatly holding my stitch, or the lid put back on my paint water. Coming into the kitchen to find the oven at a lower temp than I thought I’d put it on, and my food close to burning.

Eventually these things started adding up, and even getting more noticeable. Now if I leave a room, the light turns out behind me, all my empty mugs and plates find their own way to the kitchen, I even found some carrots from the garden sitting in the sink for me; perfectly ripe. It’s never felt threatening, or even resentful, it’s like they live here too, and are just helping me out with the chores. That’s why I’d like to talk to them really, thank them for helping me, and just learn more about the person sharing my space.

My mam thinks I’m going crazy, I was on the phone to her when she saw the notes I’d left out on the table for them. I just wanted to know if the ghost had pronouns they’d like me to be using. I’d left a few different sets on post-it notes on the coffee table, and announced before I went to bed that night that they could move whichever ones they wanted to the front of the table. But they never responded, and it had been a few days, so I’d kinda forgotten they were there. But mam always likes me to put the camera on when we talk, so she spotted them and made me explain the whole saga.

I think she worries about me out here on my own. It’s always just been just the two of us really, and while I haven’t lived with her since I went to uni, I was always pretty close by. Not that it’s an insurmountable journey now, she’s only in Cardiff, so it’s about an hour and half on the M4. Still, she knows that I don’t get out often, and telling her I’m sure there’s a ghost helping with the housework has her convinced i’m losing my memory, or hallucinating or something. That’s part of why i’m writing this really, to get it all out to someone that I know will believe me. I know you’ve said you don’t have alot of experience with ghosts before, but I mean, I guess that’s not really true anymore. What with you being “the ghost maker” and all.

Anyway, my point is, do you have any advice about how I can persuade them to talk to me? Even if I can just get them to tell me their name, it feels so rude to keep calling someone that lives in my house “them” and “you”, you know? It’s nice having them here to look out for me, and I’d love to be able to communicate with them sometimes, and maybe even be able to look out for them too. I’m sure it can’t be much fun watching me potter about the house, or sit at my work laptop for hours at a time, maybe I could even get them something to do!

Thanks in advance!

Siân

Hmm, I do like a helpful ghost story! They’re very nice, aren’t they, Revel?

REVEL: Mmou

SAM: Yes they are. Are you beautiful?

REVEL: Mrr

SAM: Are you beautiful? Yes, you are, you’re beautiful!

[SIGH]

I don’t know what advice to give. The dead person I’ve most wanted to talk to in the last year has blatantly refused to talk to me, or worse.

[REVEL PURRING]

SAM: But I have some helpful presences, too. They’ll talk to you when the time is right, Sian. I’m sure they will. Ah. Well.

[SAM YAWNS]

Oh, goodness me.

Wait. Hang on. Has that been reco—

The letter about cursed calendars was by Kal Chapman (they/them). The story of being hunted by Apophis was by Sethame V Derat (any pronouns). The letter from Georgie, who isn’t Georgie from Dyserth, is by Foxglove (they/he). Sian’s letter about an unsociable Ghost is by Talfryn (he/they/she).

Content Warnings

  • Discussion and descriptions of burnt, dead mice (not gory or graphic)
  • Discussions of death and dying
  • References to terminal illness (vague, low detail, non-specific)
  • Description of birds
  • Very mild implied threat of ambiguous danger
  • Canon-typical greiving and mourning of a neglectful caregiver