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Episode Eighty Three

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Monstrous Agonies E83S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Eighty Three.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-I totally take your point-”, a voice saying “-men who have lots of stuff-” and a voice singing in Irish before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-god of blood and bone and gristle declined to comment.

If you've just tuned in, you're right on time for our advice segment.

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

The Presenter

You're listening to the Nightfolk Network, on 131.3FM.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's first letter is from a listener wondering how to help a stranger.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I can read minds. I try my best not to, of course. When I was a kid I’d just have a bunch of overlapping voices in my head all the time but nowadays, with a bit of practice, it’s really only the very loud minds I can’t tune out. And regardless, I have a blanket policy to ignore anything I overhear. It’s not mine to know. I... I know that.

But, uh... [sighs] Well. Late last year, I decided to try this café I’d never been to before. I don't know why I chose it, it- it just looked so inviting. So cosy and, and warm... [laughs and sighs] Anyway, I got my coffee and I sat down, and suddenly, this strange, wonderful world, full of colour, popped into my head.

I couldn’t block it out. I-I- Well, I didn’t want to. It was a story that someone was coming up with; vivid and complicated and, and full of life! I just sat there and listened. I know I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry, but... It was w-wonderful!

I’ve been going to the café almost every day for, um. Uh. Three months now. I’ve found the guy who's writing the story, he- he sits all the way at the back with his laptop, so it’s- it's really easy to miss him. I don't want to make him uncomfortable, so I’ve done my best to just keep my head down and stay inconspicuous.

I have looked up his story online though. It's fanfiction? I'd never actually read fanfic before. I don't know, I-I think I thought it was a bit, uh... silly? I've changed my mind now, though. This is incredible work in its own right, you could, uh... What's the phrase? “File the serial numbers off” and it'd be brilliant original fiction.

I've also got really into the show he's writing about. His interpretation is fantastic. The show itself is, uh... [thinking noises] Not good, exactly. But it's terribly good fun and the characters are so engaging, I can see how it's inspired him so much.

None of my friends watch it though, so I'm sort of just left sitting there with all these feelings and nothing to do but read more fic! [laughs] I've become a bit of a fiend for it, to be honest.

This guy's stuff is still my favourite, though. I read the whole story in one sitting – or what he's posted of it, anyway. Then I went to check out his older stuff, and it's brilliant too. And now I-I just sit in my seat and listen to his story whenever I get the chance. I know I shouldn’t, I know it’s a breach of privacy, but I... I just can’t bring myself to leave.

Then, a little over a month ago, he got stuck. The story stalled, and he started frowning, and then the story in his head suddenly jumped a few beats back to a scene he’d already done. He changed it, moved along for a while... And then hopped back again.

I watched him grow more and more agitated every time it happened, and I didn’t know what to do. I just assumed he’d work the problem out himself. Except he, um. Didn’t. He hasn’t.

He still comes to the café but he- he doesn’t really write. Just sits with his laptop and worries. He worries so much! About his readers, about the characters, if he’ll ever be able to write again, if he was ever even any good in the first place...

I- [sighs] I want to help. But I-I don't know how! I mean, how do you reassure someone who never confided in you in the first place? So I didn’t say anything.

And then the other day I was walking home, and I was suddenly struck by an idea of how he could get out of his plot hole. I-I think it could work! And I haven’t seen him come up with it yet, maybe he’s been too stressed out. I’ve reread his story, I-I really think my solution might work!

But, uh... [sighing] I don't know if I should try to mention it to him? Would that be even remotely OK? [laughs weakly] I hate seeing him so worked up about it. But I should never have started listening in the first place. What should I do, do I just leave? Or apologise? Though to do that, I'd- I'd have to confess first which, um. Mm. Please, do you have any advice?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Well listener, thank you for giving us a little variety on the programme. Usually I exhort people to tell the truth. However, there are occasions where the circumstances are such that honesty may not, in fact, be the best policy. And this is one of those occasions.

Please do not walk up to this man as a complete stranger and inform him you have been surreptitiously reading his mind for the last three months. You are quite right that this has been a breach of privacy, but making him aware of that breach with no further context will not help him.

You've been sitting in the same coffee shop as each other for months now. I think it's well past time to introduce yourself. Keep your, um... insights to yourself for the time being. Just get to know each other in the ordinary way. With any luck, you'll hit it off. You already have your love of this, uh, television programme to bond over.

If you don't get on, don't push it. Just chalk it up to something that would have been fun in another universe and let it go. You might even write your own fanfiction based on the ideas you've had – if that isn't breaching some kind of internet etiquette. That's, uh, not really my area of expertise.

If you do become friends though, do consider if, how and when you'll tell him about your powers. Nobody is entitled to information about your creature identity if you don't want to share it, and I certainly don't want to pressure you into revealing your identity if you're not comfortable.

At the same time, there would be a deception at the centre of your friendship – not in regards to who you are, but rather, how you came to be aware of him.

If you are open about your identity, I recommend you excise that small dishonesty sooner rather than later. You want to give yourselves the best possible chance at engaging with each other on an equal playing field.

In the meantime, and I hope I don't have to say this but on the off chance you haven't already: stop reading his thoughts!

I don't subscribe to the rather hysterical belief that any and all mind-reading is inherently an act of violence, and I don't believe you've done any actual harm in this particular situation. But it is very bad behaviour, and you really ought not.

If you can't control yourself, you need to find a new coffee shop. If, however, you're able to be in this man's presence without succumbing to the lure of his rich and magnificent inner world, then there's every chance you'll be able to strike up a conversation, get to know each other a little better, and help him as any friend might.

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

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's second letter is from a listener facing some enormous obstacles.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

Greetings to you, oh Voice of Giants. I humbly ask for your advice, as my kin and I are in great danger. I only hope you will able to help.

We are what you call “ants”, though that is not our name for ourselves. I cannot translate that name, please forgive me. We do not have an established community of creatures, per se, but I personally do fall somewhat beyond the limits of what is considered ordinary.

Among my kin, I am alone in my powers to hear and interpret the strange ethereal sounds that you call “radio”. These powers have allowed me to learn beautiful things, hilarious things, terrifying things about the giants – that is, the inhabitants of your sphere of existence.

While this power has shown me many wonders, I have learnt something terrible, too. The abandoned dwelling in which my colony is built will soon be demolished, and I do not know how to convince the others of my colony to leave before it is too late.

While the giants' idea of our colonies as monarchies is incorrect – it's closer to a direct democracy – our Mother still holds considerable sway in the community, considering her age and experience. And she does not believe me when I tell her of the dangers ahead.

She calls me “mad”, and claims that even if the threat were real, we could fight them off like we do with the rats that try to take our food. But I know we cannot. How do I convince Mother and thereby the whole colony to take this threat seriously? To take me seriously? Please help. Our future is at stake.

The Presenter (as themselves)

Well. It's always nice to hear from listeners in unexpected quarters. Thank you for getting in touch. I am a little wary of answering your question without having more knowledge of your culture. I'm afraid I'm not especially well-read in the field of myrmecology and I don't wish to overstep.

It does seem clear, however, that part of the solution here is getting other people on board – 'people' here being used in the broadest and most inclusive sense.

Try to bring some friends round first, and encourage them to spread the word with an emphasis on remaining calm while impressing upon others the urgency of the situation. Your mother may be more inclined to listen to several concerned voices than one.

I also encourage you to reach out to other, uh, “giants” if you can. You've managed to get this letter through to me, after all. Somehow... I suppose the postage can't have cost much – it is very small! [laughs, then clears throat] Excuse me. My point is, you have the means to communicate with the wider world, and I think you should use them.

Try to find a local creature advocacy group to get in touch with. I recognise this research might be difficult for you, but if you're able to tune a radio then you should be able to find a local station that might have some relevant information. Or you might try spelling out a message somewhere near your colony site.

However you choose to communicate, you want to cite the 1999 Protection of Isolated Genuses Act. I don't have time here to go into the details of the law, but in short, this is the piece of legislation which, as the name suggests, protects the rights of isolated genuses – that is, sentient non-sapios who are not in general contact with the sapio world.

I will say now, your colony may or may not meet the legal requirements for these protections to apply. The rest of your colony is, as I understand it, made up of ordinary ants, and therefore will likely be considered, legally speaking, to be... wildlife.

But crucially, as long as there is a question about the matter, the building your colony is housed in will be protected from demolition. You can use that time to impress upon your mother and your colony-mates the seriousness of the situation, and urge them to take action. Best of luck, listener. I do hope things work out for you all.

Up next tonight, it's time for another instalment of our history series. This week, we're venturing into the wilds of the Arctic as we explore liminality and creaturehood on the Franklin expedition...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through rap music, classical music, and a voice saying “-the guitarist's guitarist has died-” before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

Tonight's first letter was submitted by by Bug and inspired by a Tumblr post by Susiephone. The second letter was from Caw Mossworm, and this week's advert was submitted by Architeuthisducks. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Sarah! 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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