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Episode Fifty

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Monstrous Agonies E50S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Fifty.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-I want to be a politician-”, static, violin music and a voice saying “-great style, but to little effect-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-the brush of fern-like fronds against your skin.

Next tonight, it's time once more for our advice segment, where I answer listener's questions on life, love, and all things liminal. Our first letter tonight comes from someone disheartened in the face of other people's expectations.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I'm pretty used to people making assumptions about me. Mostly it's because people misunderstand both the nature of my work, and the nature of my abilities.

I don't seduce people. First of all, they're already paying me. There wouldn't be any point. Secondly, there aren't enough pheromones in the world to get someone to go against their own will. It just doesn't work like that.

What I actually do varies from client to client, but generally speaking, I use my powers to lower their inhibitions a little. Clients compare it to having a glass of wine or two – it just melts away those last, niggling concerns about how they look or what they'll sound like if they ask for what they really want.

People also tend to think that I'm a sex worker because of my genus. Which is, uh. Yeah, no, it's-- it's just plain old offensive! Historically and culturally, we've always been very accepting of sex work as a career, for pretty understandable reasons. But just because we feed on sexual energy and sexual connection doesn't mean we have to have sex to survive.

I think that's where people get confused. I mean, a dance-floor in full swing on a Saturday night? All those hot bodies gyrating against each other, all that sexual potential? That's enough to keep me fed for a week, I don't have to take anybody home for that.

I don't do this work because I have to, either because of my circumstances or because of my genus . I do it because I want to. It suits me. I keep my own hours, I set my own rates, I'm my own boss. And I like the work. I'd certainly rather being doing it than sitting in an office for eight hours a day, moving numbers about on a screen for no reason.

I don't actually really care about sex that much, though. In my personal life, I mean. I kind of compare it to spreadsheets. I love a good spreadsheet. I use them for my business, for my personal accounts, for my Christmas card list. They're a great way of organising information. But when I don't have any information to organise, I don't get a hankering to make a spreadsheet just for fun.

For me, sex is a great way to earn a living doing something I like well enough and that I genuinely think can really help people, even if it's just to blow off steam. But it's not something I really want to do for fun.

And I don't know how to explain that to people. To people I might want to... date.

I love having a partner, I love being intimate and close with someone, with-- With one, special someone. Someone to hold your hand and stroke your hair and love you in that different sort of way.

But people have expectations of that kind of relationship. They have expectations of me. And those expectations are only compounded when they learn about my genus.

It just seem impossible to explain to someone. Yes, I feed on sexual energy; yes, I have sex for a living; yes, I enjoy sex. And no, I don't want to have sex with you, my romantic partner. Or, I mean, uh, some is OK, but I'm talking like, once in a blue moon, when the stars align kind of thing. Generally, I'm just not interested.

I just can't believe anyone would understand that, let alone be alright with it. I wouldn't even know where to begin, it's not exactly first date conversation.

I'd like to find someone. But, I don't know. It seems so hopeless. Is there even any point looking?

The Presenter (as themselves)

My dear listener, this is not an insurmountable problem. I hear your frustrations and your doubts, but I assure you – there are people out there who can not only understand your position, but who will be able to celebrate it as part of your relationship with them.

I agree, people will have their misconceptions. But you've made your feelings very clear. You obviously know how to express your needs, desires and expectations in a relationship.

For some people, those needs simply won't mesh with their own. You can't be compatible with everyone, nor should you expect to be.

Others will prefer to persist in their ignorance, regardless of what you say to them or how well you say it. These people are beneath contempt. Don't waste your energy on them.

But there will be others who will resonate with what you're saying. They'll understand that your work, your genus, and your own sexual interest are not, in fact, identical concepts. From there, you can start working out whether a romantic relationship together is something you'll both be able to enjoy and find fulfilment in.

I can't tell you how or when to share details of your identity or your work with a potential partner. You know your own situation best, and will have to use your judgement.

But when you do, please don't undersell yourself. You don't just deserve someone who understands you. You deserve someone who loves you, in that different way, and who can meet you where you are and delight in everything wonderful you have to bring to your relationship.

It will take some time and error. For you, it may take a little more time and error than others. You're not asking the impossible – or the unreasonable – but you are asking the slightly-more-complicated-than-most. There's no need to rush. The right person will still be right whenever you get to them.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network – broadcasting all the time, for all time.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Next tonight – dealing with some determined distractions.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I work in the main research library of a prestigious English university. I'll give you two guesses which one. [laughs] I'm part of the conservation team. The collection here includes manuscripts and text fragments that date back over a millennium, so you can imagine the importance of preserving and maintaining these fragile materials.

Specifically, I work in book conservation. I know that might sound obvious, for a library, but a huge quantity of the collection isn't books. It's parchment fragments or papyrus scrolls, manuscripts, maps, anything paper, paperish, papery, pot pourri. [laughs] That's a joke. We-- We don't have any pot pourri.

What we do have is a fairly new acquisition of a collection of incunabula – a slightly silly word for actually a really rather specific type of document. That is, books printed with movable type, in Europe, up to the end of 1500. 1501? No dice. Handwritten? Nope, that's a manuscript. You see? Specific.

Anyway, we just received a fair old whack of them as a gift from a private collector. I'd have to look up the exact provenance but it's been around the block. Not individual pieces, I mean – the whole collection.

That's not normal. Usually when a private owner dies, the collection ends up dispersed to other collectors, unless it's willed in its entirety to an institution like ours.

But this is an entire private collection that has been passed around from pillar to post, hardly spending more than a few months with one owner before they hawk it on the next fellow. It's been going on for years!

There was a decent amount of conservation work that needed to be done to a number of items in the collection, and that's my job so I got stuck in. I was curious, though. Why had this particular bunch of books been so strangely treated?

Well. It didn't take me very long to find out.

It's haunted. The whole collection. The whole thing is haunted by this one ghost. He's the original collector, and he won't let it be split up. And he's very distracting.

He talks all the time. Stories about how he got the collection, or advice on the conservation. Whatever I do, he's got an opinion – a method I might use or a material I might not have thought of, despite it being my job to think of these things.

Even if he doesn't have anything to say about the books, that doesn't stop him. He just whiffles on, making jokes I don't get, referencing things I've never heard of, or just making up stories about when he was alive.

And they are made up, believe me. The things he tells me, I don't know who he thinks he's kidding. Apparently he was a lord and a spy and detective, and a spectacular lover and spoke five languages, three of them dead, and he could play eight pianos at once with his eyes closed and dance a waltz backwards in heels and do a double somersault from standing and land on a horse, and then the horse would do a somersault and-- [breaks off with a laughing sigh]

I mean, he obviously enjoys telling me, even when I don't believe a word of it. And they are quite fun stories, I suppose.

Besides, after talking to the previous owner I should really be grateful. Apparently he was downright rude to her. He'd always wanted his collection to be left to the university, and wasn't going to keep quiet until it was. Except now, it has. And he is anything but quiet!

At least, until the other day. I was doing a tricky bit of work on a very fragile binding, and he started humming. I lost my temper a bit. Shouted at him. I didn't mean to, I was-- I was trying to concentrate!

He's been really quiet ever since. I can tell he's still there but he's just sort of... moping about. And I... Well I-- I miss him, I suppose. It was quite nice, really, having the company.

I'd like to make amends. But I'd also like him to, you know. Shut up. A bit. How do I make things right?

The Presenter (as themselves)

You could start with an apology. However distracting he might be, you can do better than losing your temper. Be clear about the behaviour you're apologising for, tell him why you're sorry, acknowledge his hurt, and don't try and explain or justify yourself.

If he accepts your apology – and I think it very likely he will – you can start finding ways to share your workspace more... effectively.

It might help to consider what his motivations are in keeping you company in this way. Life after death is rarely as exciting as books and movies make it seem.

For the less corporeal among us, the usual monotony of extended existence is exacerbated by a lack of those regular rhythms that break up corporeal life – eating and sleeping, and so on – and by limited mobility – being tied to one place, or to one great heaping pile of antique books, for example.

He wants to talk to you. He still cares about his books and how they're treated. He wants to engage, and tell you about his life, however tall those tales may be. In fact, that creativity suggests an active mind hungry for stimulation.

Once the dust has settled on your current row, try asking him if there's anything he'd like to do while you're working. Preferably quietly.

Most of the people you spend time with have an entire toolbox of things they can do when they're bored and lonely and looking for some attention. He doesn't. Give him that toolbox – give him options.

Depending on his level of corporeality, he may not be able to hold a pen to do a crossword or turn the pages of a book, for example. But many tablets and e-readers are non-corporeally compatible these days. He'll need you to set them up for him, but from there he'll be able to read or write or draw or any number of things infinitely more interesting than hanging around humming to himself while you try and get some work done.

And, when you don't need to concentrate quite so closely, I see no harm in a bit of chat. Pop some music on in the background, and get to know him. If nothing else, developing something like a friendship will help mitigate against the possibility of your feeling like his... Oh, what was the term again? Uh... Yes! Enrichment pumpkin.

Set aside your previous irritation and try to start fresh. And do try to have some sympathy – the poor chap sounds bored out of his tree.

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

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Uh-- Uh, next tonight, the relationship between host and brain slug is often a complicated one. We talk to three people whose brains...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “spread, shake, pour-”, a voice saying “-spreading fast-”, choral music, a voice saying “-and we'll move on-” and static before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

Tonight's first letter was based on a submission by Esther, the second letter came from a prompt by Treb, and this week's advert came from Leslie. Thanks, friends. See the show-notes for how you can submit your own letters, suggestions and ads.

If you'd like to support the show, you can pledge as little as £1 a month at You can also make a one-off donation at, and 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. Then:


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[Murray Mysteries theme music begins.]


I’m Mina Murray.


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Poor, hot Quincy.


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I know what I saw. It wasn’t human.

Van Helsing

Did you see those marks on her neck?


Yeah, did her teeth look longer to you?


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If someone hears this, if anyone-- [sobs] We’re all doomed. He can’t be stopped. Run for your lives, or-- Oh no. Please, oh God!

[Music ends.]


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