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Episode Fifty One

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Monstrous Agonies E51S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Fifty One.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through opera, dance music, a voice saying “-infection-”, a voice saying “-desperate need-”, a voice saying “-Christmas-” pop music and before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-a lot to be said for a fine set of mandibles.

It's time now for our weekly advice segment. First up, a listener trying to protect her son from unkind comments.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

Let me begin by saying that my son is perfect in every way and if anyone says otherwise I’ll [fiercely] burn them all to ash. But I am concerned about his hoard.

I feel like I should add for context that I am a single mother living near a mostly sapio village. My son and I are the only ones of our genus for miles – the others know better than to intrude upon my territory. The land around the village has plenty of prey – we never go hungry – and surprisingly adequate weather for Wales.

My son has befriended several sapios from the village and is quite close to them, which may have influenced his choice of hoard. It’s certainly an impressive collection, meticulously organised and lovingly curated.

But... he hoards stationery. Specifically pens. I have tried to nudge him towards more acceptable items to collect in the past, but to no avail. No avail, only pens.

Oh the sapios are very supportive, even gifting him a Welsh dragon-themed stationery set for his hatching day last year which is now proudly displayed on his bedroom wall. I’m not sure that they’re genuine, though.

They must think it’s a bit of a joke, their friend hoarding pens, of all things. Sure, they all seem nice, but they’re hardly going to say anything negative about my son to my face. Sapios are not always as stupid as they look.

And no, this is not me getting all worked up about a sapio’s opinion. I'm worried about what happens when he meets others of our genus. They’ll never take him seriously! I can’t bear to think about what they’ll say to him.

At least his sapios aren’t bold enough to call his hoard ridiculous to his face. Hatchlings his age are ruthless and I won’t be able to protect him when he’s old enough to leave and find his own territory.

He’s so proud of his hoard too, and I can’t find the heart to break it to him that one day, he's going to have to grow up and find something more respectable to collect. I’m just… so worried about him. I want to protect him and his future reputation but I also want him to be happy. I don’t know what to do.

The Presenter (as themselves)

I think you're focussing on the wrong question here, listener. The issue is not how to break the news to your son that he needs to hoard something more respectable. The issue is how you teach him the skills and resilience he'll need if the world proves less kind than you would hope it will be.

You are clearly protective of your son. I understand that you want to shield him from the various hurts and insults that come with being out of step with society's expectations.

But trying to pre-empt others' reactions, trying to mould his behaviour so that it avoids any potential insult before it arises, is fighting a losing battle. Besides, it teaches him precisely the wrong lesson.

Telling your son to hoard something more traditional tells him that, actually, yes, he does need to scrape and beg for the respect of others. It tells him that he isn't enough as he is. He can't command respect without sacrificing his own happiness, and he ought to put aside his own wishes and concerns and bend to the will of every hatchling who comes his way. Now, really. Does that sound like a son of yours?

There will always be people looking for reasons to put others down and make themselves feel powerful by comparison. Your son is going to encounter those people. You can't protect him from that.

What you can do is give him the emotional resources to make their behaviour... irrelevant. Why should he care if others in your genus think his hoard is silly or strange? If he knows his own worth, and can take pride in his hoard and find friends who love him and support his collection, what difference does it make to him whether some snotty hatchling doesn't like his pens?

And, as for his future, he will be far better served in life by a reputation for self-assurance and unassailable confidence than by being known as weak-willed, self-conscious pushover.

Your son's hoard impacts nobody. It insults nobody. It disrespects nobody. And it brings him joy. Concentrate your efforts on teaching your son resilience in the face of adversity, building a robust sense of self-esteem, and instilling him with the confidence you already have in him.

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

The Presenter

Did you accidentally cause a man to slip and fall from your roof on the evening of December 24th of last year? As Christmas approaches do you find yourself becoming more rotund? More blessed in the follicle department? Suddenly have an appetite for milk and cookies? You may have been entrapped by a little known section of the law called the Santa Clause. Kringle-based entrapment is on the rise, and our team at J. Bell, J. Bell, J. Bell and Rock are ready to help you say "ho ho HOLD IT" in court! Get in touch now for a no-fee consultation. Happy members... of the Apocacorp family.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Next tonight, a listener feeling isolated in the festive season.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I've been staring at this page for an hour now, trying to think how to start. A smorgasbord of salutations present themselves, and I can't decide between this one or this or another.

I think a lot about greetings. I imagine myself forming the words on my tongue, tracing the shape of them, buzz those cords, push the breath just so and say... Wha- What would I say? If I were to meet another person, what... What would I say?

Hello is nice, from Old German meaning "to fetch" of all things. Hello, fetch yourself, bring yourself to me. Good morning? What a lot of things we do use good morning for! Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won't be good until I move off! [laughs]

Funny how the- the time-based ones have their own feeling, isn't it? Good morning, bright and brisk and let's go! Good afternoon, sedate, correct. They'd say that to you in a-- a library I think or a-- a... A museum, it's always afternoon in museums. [Dracula impression] Good evening. Well, that one's irresistible!

I don't know when it'll be when you get this, I know you read them at [in an impression of the Presenter] two o'clock on Thursday morning [normal voice] but that's an hour that could go either way. Good morning, technically. But also very much the night.

Hail and well met. We are meeting well. We are good at meeting. We are doing it right. Welcome – you came here well. I like that best but it would only work if the person I'm meeting is coming into my territory, and I'm not sure--

Hm. I was going to say that I wouldn't be happy if they came here and we were two together with no way back to the rest, but two is a world away from one. Two, here, would be an entirely different proposition. If one could come to me and make me two I should feel entirely different.

I'm alone. I'm-- I'm all alone here. It seems like the world – the streets, the cars, the twinkling decorations. But I can't see who put them up? Whole houses draped in lights, who hung them? I'm alone here.

It started slowly. I was never outgoing, kept to myself, enjoyed my own company. Whole weekends inside. Then weeks. Then months.

Post was only ever junk mail to begin with. It stopped first. Nobody phones without warning but scammers, so I never answered the phone and then it stopped ringing. I tried to respond to those texts and emails that wriggled their way through the swamp of my solitude, but it-- It was hard. I was... tired. I didn't want to. So I didn't. And they stopped too.

It grew quiet. No traffic hum, no aeroplanes overhead. No slamming doors, no muffled conversations through the walls.

It was a dull sort of surprise when I came out and found the world empty. I didn't even mind for the longest time. I just... went back to bed.

But I'm-- I'm ready now! I'd like to come home. I'm not too far gone, I think? The decorations, I can see...! [sighs] I'm in the gap, I think, slipped between spaces? But I've learnt my lesson. I know, I know now. I understand. So, can I come back, please? Please? Please?

The Presenter (as themselves)

You're not alone in being alone, listener. You have found yourself in an existential slipstream as a result of your emotional connection – or lack thereof – to the reality that you are more used to. These things happen. What's important is how you deal with it.

My advice is threefold. Firstly, I encourage you to take care of your mental well-being during this period of isolation. You seem to be ruminating on the negatives, imagining how things would be different if you had company or begging to be allowed to return to your previous plane of reality.

Instead, take notice of the positives. I'd like you to try and find three things each day to be grateful for. You might even write them down and put them up around your house where you can see them in your lower moments and remember that, hard as life is right now, it's not all bad.

This isn't about denying your struggle or pretending that things aren't very difficult for you right now. But the way we talk about our situations, even just to ourselves, can have an enormous impact on how we feel.

If you wake up in the morning and say to yourself, "Today will be a horrible day because I am trapped in a hollow, emotionless otherwhere with no company and little hope of returning," well, you're very likely to find evidence for just such a horrible day. But if you wake up and say, "I am here, and I will make the most of it," you're setting yourself up for a quite different experience.

Secondly, consider what practical steps you might take to connect with people despite your challenging circumstances. Real time chat might not be possible but an online forum might provide the outlet you need.

Your letters clearly reach their destinations – why not reach out by post? Write to an old friend, or sign up for a pen pal service and make new ones. You could start with a note to your local library, asking for advice on groups in your area. Even a small connection will help mitigate against the isolation of your current reality.

I don't know the intricacies of your situation, whether it was brought about by a thaumaturgic stress response or perhaps inflicted upon you by some kind of vengeful deity. But it seems likely that, as you reconnect with the world, the world will reconnect with you, and you'll be back to your usual realm of existence sooner or later.

That brings me to my third piece of advice: laying down precautions so that this doesn't happen again. When you return, please, resist the urge to fall back into old habits.

Think of social contact as a kind of long-term medicine that you take to ward off the unhealthy isolating tendencies you've been prone to. If you feel better when taking your medicine, that doesn't mean you didn't need it to begin with. It means it's working. Stick with it. Keep active, connect with your community, and try to take as much notice as you can of the world around you – especially the positives.

You may lapse here and there, slipping into the soft embrace of the hollow space between realities where nothing hurts because nothing matters. But remember: that place is temporary, and your community is here with open arms for whenever you return.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network. Every where, every when, on 131.3FM.

[End background music]

The Presenter

That's all for our advice segment. Now, in the wake of this week's midwinter celebrations, our monthly book club is taking a break from its usual novels with The Shortest Day, a poem by Susan Cooper that celebrates...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through classical music, a voice saying “-new concept-”, pop music, a voice saying, “-Bach, Ed Sheeran, and Mozart-”, a voice saying “-particularly scary-” and choral music before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

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

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Evieebun125! If you'd like to support the show, you can pledge as little as £1 a month 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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