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  • Writer's pictureH.R. Owen

Episode Eighty Four

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Monstrous Agonies E84S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Eighty Four.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through piano music, a voice saying “-grit on our bodies-”, a voice saying “-energy-”, a voice saying “-take it from Jim-”, a voice saying “-I can't possibly say-” and pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-the pop, crack, crunch of bones pushed into place.

It's almost two o'clock here on the Nightfolk Network and time once more for our advice segment. First tonight, a listener dealing with unkindness from strangers.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I hope it's alright for me to write in with this. It's not as specific as I know some people's problems can be. That's kind of why I'm struggling to be honest. If it was like, a particular person giving me grief, maybe I could handle it better.

The problem is, I never know when it's going to happen. Sometimes it'll be months, I'll forget that anyone has an issue with me – with my genus. And then suddenly I'll be in the Centra trying to buy my bread and ice cream and someone starts screaming!

It's mortifying. I try not to let it bother me, but sometimes that's easier said than done. If I'm feeling alright about myself, or if it's just one idiot trying make trouble, fine. But there's been times I haven't felt safe.

The worst of it is when I'm at work. Someone came over to me the last day, and started laying into me, saying “an omen of death” shouldn't be working in a hospital. I'm a receptionist for flip's sake! I'm not exactly stalking the halls looking for people to shove off the coil, like.

It just gets to me. The ignorance, especially. First of all, banshees announce death – we don't cause it. Second of all, I'm more than just a banshee. I'm a person with a life and a job and an existence outside my genus.

Please help me. I have no clue what to do. How do I stop being bothered by this and get on with my life?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I'm afraid I'm not sure there is a way to simply stop being bothered by this, listener. Instead, I recommend using the systems available to you to minimise the frequency or ferocity of these situations, and finding ways to process your emotions rather than trying to minimise them.

Let's start with your workplace. Your employer should have a policy on how to deal with bullying and harassment. This will include both formal and informal action that you can take, and who, specifically, you can go to for help.

You may also find it helpful to talk to your union rep about what support they can offer. There are systems in place here designed to keep you safe while you work. Use them.

Unfortunately, there's no simple answer for the public harassment that you're facing. Street harassment is a sad fact of life for many members of the community, and is the result of systemic inequality in the sapio-dominant society we live in.

As such, you as an individual can't really put a stop to it. Concentrate instead on building practices that help you cope with the situation, and taking care of yourself. You might feel you want to come up with some tactics to address the issue as it happens.

There are several organisations that work to empower marginalised people to stand up to street violence, from national groups like The Wildeblood Foundation to grass roots movements like Bite Back.

These organisations will be able to give you more specific advice, but in general, you want to be assertive but not aggressive, and concentrate on the behaviour you want to stop rather than attacking the abuser themselves.

One thing to note – while it may be tempting to correct their misapprehensions about your genus, this is not the time. The issue isn't that they misunderstand the nature of banshees' relationship with death. Their behaviour would be unacceptable regardless of the factual accuracy of their claims.

All this being said, if you feel that biting your tongue and ignoring the person is best for you, then please, do that. There's no wrong answer here, and you need to do what feels right for you. I'd only suggest finding a way to acknowledge and process the incident after the fact – telling a friend who can validate your feelings, for example.

This behaviour is not your fault. Stopping it is not your responsibility. However you decide to proceed, please understand that yours are the only feelings that matter here, and you are beholden to act in nobody's interests but your own.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Our second letter this evening is from a listener feeling tempted by an opportunity for escape.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

A few months ago, I was in the middle of clearing my parents' old house after my father sadly had to move into a nursing home. I came across what I thought was an old fur rug – until I picked it up and felt the connection. It was instant. Electric. I-I just... [sighs] I just knew.

It was a coat. It... It was my coat. I know that sound presumptuous – I had no idea we even had these genes in the family. But I knew it was mine by rights. My inheritance. It was calling to me. The- The ocean. Was calling me... home.

Here's the thing: I'm over fifty and I'm... [sighs] I'm not happy. I've known for a long time that my wife would have married someone else if it had it been legally possible in the 1980s. I've always been her... consolation prize, I suppose. We tried to make the best of it but we, uh. It's... Well, I-I think it's fair to say we can't stand the sight of each other now! [weak laugh, then sigh]

Both of our children have reached adulthood. The elder, with whom I get on quite well, has moved away for work, though we keep in touch as best as we can, of course.

The younger... I just don't understand her. She seems determined to be cynical about everything, responding to anything I say with negativity. My attempts to have any sort of meaningful conversation with her consistently fail. We have very little in common.

And to cap it all off, I've been working the same miserable office job for almost thirty years with very little to show for it and no sense of achievement or progress.

So of course I'm tempted to just take the coat down to the seaside and swim away from it all. I know nothing about the sea, or about my genus, or about the life that would await me there.

But despite all of that, it still seems a less daunting prospect than spending the rest of my life with a wife I can't stand and a daughter I can't understand. I feel such a longing inside me, the call of a simpler life in the waves. What do I do? Should I... heed that call?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Listener, I am reminded of something that noted ally of the community, Neil Gaiman, once wrote: “wherever you go, you take yourself with you”. Leaving your life behind to sink into the cold ocean waves may feel tempting, but it won't help you solve your emotional issues.

There is no amount of salt water you can put behind you that will keep your past at bay. You have been hurt, badly hurt, by the life you've lived thus far. But if you leave now, you will never be able to heal.

All of the problems you've mentioned here have solutions. They may feel like radical solutions, but all pale in comparison to running away to live in the ocean. What's more, while I would never advocate letting yourself suffer just to keep others comfortable, it is a simple matter of fact that you are not the only person affected by this decision.

Talk to your family. Tell your wife that you're unhappy, and you want a divorce. Give her the dignity of knowing what has happened to her husband, and ending the relationship in a way that can give you both closure. From the sounds of it, it doesn't seem like she'll object.

You also need to speak to your daughter. She sounds deeply unhappy, and will likely be further upset by the news of her parents' separation. I hope you will hear this with the kindness that it's meant, but I'm not convinced you have the skills or the emotional capacity to help her through this yourself.

What you can do is offer her a model for what healthy coping might look like. And, in case you haven't realised this, it doesn't look like abandoning your life for the numbing cold of deep water.

You need help, listener – professional help. Talk to a counsellor about your feelings of frustration and the difficulty you have communicating with your loved ones. Learn how to process your feelings instead of pushing them away.

In the meantime, you might like to connect with your genus. Reach out to your local selkie community and give yourself some broader context for this discovery, even if you aren't able to fill in the blanks of your family history. In short, connect with the reality of your heritage, rather than being swept away in the romantic fantasy it suggests.

If this seems like a lot, remember: there is nothing as patient as the ocean. It's not going anywhere. If, in time, you decide that you would rather put on your seal skin and slip into the salty quiet of the sea, never to return, I fully support you in that decision. I only want you to make the choice from a place of calm positivity rather than blind desperation. The ocean will still be there when you're ready.

Also, quit your job. I meant to say that earlier, sorry. Just leave. It- It sounds awful.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

Every where, every when, on 131.3FM.

[End background music]

The Presenter

That's all for our advice segment. Time now for the return Cookery Corner, as we explore that staple of Shadow Beast cuisine, the juice of the apostasy fruit...-

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-it's terrible, it's wrong-”, a voice saying “-it's only make believe-”, a voice saying “-well exact- that's it like, eh-” and Irish trad music before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Eighty Four of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Bresisntthere, the second letter was from Tobleronedeprived, and this week's advert came from Reggie Kim. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporters on Patreon, Darcy and Eldritch Moth Thing! Join them at, or make a one-off donation at You can also help us grow our audience by sharing with your friends and familiars, and following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence]


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