• H.R. Owen

Episode Fifty Seven

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Episode Fifty Seven


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Monstrous Agonies E57S02 Transcript


[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]


H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Fifty Seven.


[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-oi!-”, more pop music, a voice saying “-seething-” and someone singing before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]


The Presenter

-not in utter nakedness but trailing clouds of glory.

It's almost two o'clock on Thursday morning, and time for a very special edition of our advice segment. Regular listeners will have heard plenty this week about our new business model, but in case you missed it: the Nightfolk Network is now a Community Benefit Society. That is, a social enterprise committed to serving you – our community.


To celebrate this – and to raise awareness of how listeners can invest in the station through community shares – tonight we're holding a special live call-in show. That's right; for the first time in several decades, I'll be taking listeners' questions live on the air.


Let's get started, shall we? Do we have someone lined up?


Mab

Standing by on line one.


The Presenter

Go ahead, caller. You’re on the air.


First Caller

...hello? Is that me?


The Presenter

It is indeed. How can I help?


First Caller

Right. Alright. So, first of all, I know this is a show for liminal Britain but I am neither British nor in Britain, to be clear. I hope that’s alright?


The Presenter

Of course! We have listeners all over the world and beyond. Fire away.


First Caller

Right. Okay. So I’m a leprechaun and I’m fierce proud of it. People in the modern day tend to think of fae as little animals, but we’re more like spirits. We used to be a really important part of Irish daily life, but of course there’s been a disconnect in the modern era. And many doubt my claim to such a thing, since leprechauns as fae aren’t as old in tradition as others, and besides which we’ve been traditionally reclusive anyhow.


Sapios tend to dismiss us, and even other fae tend to avoid us if they can help it, and on some level I understand because, like, it’s a bit cliché isn’t it? The Irish Leprechaun. Like, our image has been used so much to sell this country that we’re one of the first things a lot of people around the world think of when they think of Ireland.


And not even genuine leprechaun things, just the sorta cereal box imagery that’s gotten so popular. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t the wardrobe space for an absolutely massive green top hat.


The Presenter

[laughing] I certainly don’t.


Mab

I could probably make room for one...


The Presenter

Hush! Carry on, caller.


First Caller

Right. Well, that’s the problem, you see. My child doesn’t really want anything to do with authentic leprechaun things.


It wasn’t always like this. Like, when they were younger, they’d help me find good hiding places for the things other fae need protecting, and we’d come up with ways to trick people who tried to take it. But ever since they’ve started thinking about making their own way in the world and, let’s be real here, the more time they spend hanging around with clurichauns, the less interested they are in shoemaking, treasure hiding, and general mischief.


And y’know, like, childer should be allowed to be into whatever they’re into, like. I don’t want to be overbearing. But it matters to me. It really does. I don’t want my child to be embarrassed by our culture.


The Presenter

I understand, of course. Can I ask, what stage of life is your child at? Numerical age can mean very different things to different genuses, I’d just like to get an idea of their developmental stage.


First Caller

That time of life when we set off on our own. We're a lot more connected than we used to be yet still fairly solitary creatures all the same, y'know like.


The Presenter

I see. In that case, I think the thing to do is give your child some space. They are taking their first steps into independent life, trying to figure out who they are and how to stand on their own feet.


It can be hard not to see this behaviour as a rejection. But it has less to do with your child turning away from your culture, and more to do with them turning towards their own, unknown future. As their parent, it’s your job to provide a stable base for them to push off from.


It’s quite normal for young people to start their first forays into adulthood by distancing themselves from their families and their traditions – either symbolically, or physically. By doing so, they are creating space for themselves to explore and experiment – finding out who they are, who they might like to be in the future.


However, it’s also very normal for people to eventually circle back to their family heritage. After they’ve established who they are as an individual, they start seeking a broader cultural context within which to place themselves.

They return to their traditions with renewed appreciation, claiming them as part of their own identity - not an extension of their parents’. What’s more, this interest in later life is often far more in depth and more sustained than anything you could hope to encourage in a reluctant adolescent.


Concentrate for now on maintaining a good relationship with your child, and maintaining your own active interest and engagement in your culture. When they come home to visit, be sure to invite them to join you in cultural activities, but don’t force the issue.

Instead, let yourself stand as an example to them of a proud leprechaun – one who celebrates their culture and embraces the future. Show them they have nothing to be embarrassed about. Then, when they’re ready, they’ll know just who to ask when they want to learn more.


First Caller

Thanks, that’s--


The Presenter

Oh! S- Uh- Sorry--


First Caller

What- I, I just--


The Presenter

No, sorry, carry on. I’m just, uh. Not used to having someone respond to me. [laughs]


First Caller

I-it’s fine. I was just going to say, thanks. That helps.


The Presenter

You’re welcome. Thank you for calling. [beat] Are they... gone?


Mab

Yes, they’re gone. Effortless dismount, might I say.


The Presenter

You might not. We’ll take our next caller in just a moment. First though, this message about how you can support your favourite community radio station.


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

The Presenter

It takes a lot of things to run a radio station: microphones, computers, thaumaturgic current. But it also takes money. And that's where you come in.


For as little as £50, you can now buy community shares in the Nightfolk Network. As a share-holder, you'll have a say in decisions about how the station is run, and be able to advertise you creature-owned company to our global audience. The Nightfolk Network – where community comes first.


[End background music]


The Presenter

Time now for our second caller this evening. Line Two, you’re on the air. How can I help?


Drac

Hello, hello! Long-time listener, first-time caller.


The Presenter

Wait - Drac? Is that you?


Drac

In the flesh! Or, on the phone, actually. How’s it going?


The Presenter

I’m- [laughing] I’m very well, thank you! How lovely to hear from you. How are things?


Drac

Not great, honestly. Hence the phone call.


The Presenter

Right, of course. Uh, fire away.


Drac

So, here's the deal. For over five centuries, I was cruising along, living the life. I got some nice digs, got to know the locals, went on trips around the world, threw some truly legendary parties...


The Presenter

[laughing] Legendary is one word for them...


Drac

I’m taking that as a compliment. I mingled with the greatest minds - not just minds either, if you know what I mean.


[The Presenter laughs, clears their throat.]

Anyway. Once in a while I turned a sapio or two and kept them around for company until I got bored. Then, the internet happened. True crime, monster-hunting shows... I just knew I had to lay low for a while if I wanted to keep my head. I like my head, I get a lot of compliments on my head.


[The Presenter laughs]


Anyway, after a couple of decades, I understandably got bored. What's a big empty castle if you can't fill it with friends and victims, right? So, I got a solicitor and decided to move to England. Fresh start, fresh blood... Felt like the right move.


I got there, settled in, got to know a charming young woman... You know how these things go. But this is where it gets complicated. You see, not only did the scrawny little solicitor that I had left in my castle live to tell the tale, but he and the lady I'd been "seeing" happened to know each other. And to have some very annoying mutual friends!


Now there's a group of sapios more persistent than angry roaches coming after me, and I can't shake them. I kindly, graciously withdrew from their little country. You'd think that might be enough but no, now they're following me across Europe!


This has gone from amusing to seriously irritating. How do I get rid of them?


The Presenter

Gosh, that does sound infuriating. You’d think they’d have the decency to give it up after you left the country. I hate to ask this but just to clarify - did you, uh. The young woman you were seeing, whose friends these are. Did you...?


Drac

Kill her? No! I turned her, but they’re the ones who took objection to the fact. She was fine when I left her.


The Presenter

I see. Well, on the one hand, that does simplify things a little. You can’t be held responsible for the results of their prejudice, after all. If they’d rather have no friend than a turned friend, I’m inclined to feel they deserve whatever they get.


But it does mean they unfortunately pose a rather more serious threat than most sapios. They’ve destroyed one of your kind before. I realise you are significantly older and more powerful, but it wouldn’t do to rule out the possibility that they might be able to pull it off a second time.


Firstly, you need to up your security. Whatever you have now, double it. Guards, wards, hexes, there’s no such thing as too much protection. I also suspect you need to rethink your travel arrangements, because I’m willing to bet you’re still insisting on travelling first class, over sea or land, and toting a big box of dirt with you everywhere you go.


Drac

[huffs] So what if I like to make an entrance!


The Presenter

It’s conspicuous! It wouldn’t kill you to fly economy once in a while. And for pity’s sake, put your grave dirt in a sandwich bag like everybody else. You can keep it in your pocket!


Drac

In my-- Do you know how much my suits cost?

The Presenter

You’ll live. [beat] So to speak. All these are tactics for retreat, however. These seem like determined people. You’re going to have to confront them eventually. Do what you can to split them up before that happens. Try sending out some decoys, see if a few of them might peel off to go after the wrong Drac.


Or... Well, technically, I’m not supposed to encourage specific acts of violence, so I’ll just say that in a hypothetical situation bearing remarkable similarities to this one, I might recommend picking these people off one by one, either personally or preferably through the use of employees, thralls, mercenaries, et cetera. You’ve got a lot of money and a lot of power, Drac. Use it.


If it comes to a final confrontation, there’s not much I can say that you don’t know already. Except, please, consider wearing some protective gear. I know it’s not fashionable but even just a neck guard and a stab-vest would do you some good.


Drac

Ugh, fine. I’ll look into it. Maybe I can find some vintage chain mail.

The Presenter

I hear it’s very next season. Do be careful, Drac. I should hate to hear something happened to you. Goodbye.


Drac

Ciao. And, hey - good luck on the new business model.


The Presenter

Thank you. [beat] Next-- What?


Mab

And who's Drac when he's at home?


The Presenter

He's one of those friends you accuse me of not having.


Mab

[mockingly] Ooh, “legendary parties” [scoffs] Can't be that legendary if I've never heard of him.


The Presenter

Or perhaps you were just never invited. If you've just tuned in, we're about halfway through our special live call-in advice show, where we're raising funds for the station, now operating as a Community Benefit Society.


As a Community Benefit Society, we're committed to supporting the creature community through our broadcasting. Our advertising slots, previously open to the highest bidder, will now be reserved for community share-holders and independent, creature-owned businesses.


Now, back to the show. Line Three, hello. What seems to be the problem?


Third Caller

Good evening. Firstly, my sincerest apologies, I am not a person of the night. Unethical perhaps, but indubitably, horribly human. However, I do have a monstrous problem.


The Presenter

Caller, that kind of language--


Third Caller

Oh, I-- I don’t mean it like that. It’s not that the creature in question is a problem. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.


I am a creator of the scientifically improbable and the inconceivably occult. Abnormally this is no issue for me. I cultivate them up, catechize them to kill and then disenthrall them on the neighbourhood. This time… something has shifted.


My latest construction is the most labyrinthine I've ever created, she's more stable, more shrewd and more bloodthirsty than anything I've ever given life to. This is where the issue rears its ugly head. She's more than ready to be extricated and begin rampaging and murdering the townsfolk. But I can't bear to let her go.


When she stalks into the room on her protracted legs, I feel myself holding my breath not to escape her subsonic hearing but because I can't think. When she bares her needle-like teeth at me, all I can think is how much seeing her smile gives me palpitations. Now I know my neighbours feel!


I could listen to her talk for hours, and somehow, she's funny. She tells this hilarious joke about disembowelling the Pope, and it just makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. I've never felt like this before and honestly, I'm a little overwhelmed. I think of rattling around the empty lab without her and it just seems bloodless and empty. I fear I will pine interminably and it will distract me from further work! I'm already finding myself befuddled and confounded in her presence.


Now I know what you’re thinking – cloning! Make one for the interior, and one for exterior, pish posh no problem. But I can’t. She’s not a thing I can recreate, she’s a fully realised sentience with thoughts and feelings and immediately displays her venatic prowess and gormandizes any copies before they learn to howl.


You will notice how unvariegated and unacademic my language has become! Instead of tending to the killer plants, I dream about running my fingers through her dark hair. Instead of electrocuting my postgrad assistant, I keep staring into her black eyes. I think… I may be falling in love with my own creation.

Now, uh, whilst I delight in pushing the boundaries of science, it feels... weird. Improper? I'm not sure if I am only feeling such a vehemence of elation because I envisioned her to be the kind of spawn I most appreciate, programmed her to savour the hobbies – maiming – that I most relish. How can I know what I am feeling is real? And as her creator, how ethical is it to ask my creation to attend a small Italian restaurant with me?

The Presenter

Hm. It’s interesting that you ask how you know your feelings are real. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as unreal feelings. You are having the emotional response you’re having. That’s about as real as feelings get.


I agree that your creation is appealing to you because you’ve instilled her with the qualities you find most appealing. But if you cook yourself a meal and find it delicious, or sing a song and think it beautiful, you don’t reject those feelings simply because it was your work that prompted them.


You didn’t create her in order to fall in love with her. You created her, and also fell in love with her. It’s a small distinction, but a valuable one. It’s true that she has these qualities because you gave them to her, but that doesn’t negate the fact she has them. She really does share your passion for carnage and mayhem.


Put it another way. If you had met under different circumstances, and you introduced her to a hobby – bird-watching, let’s say. It wouldn’t then be disingenuous of you to be attracted to her because she shared your passion for bird-watching, just because you were the one who introduced her to it. I think you’re overthinking that side of thing.


Acting on your feelings, however, does require rather more consideration.


The issue with inviting your own creation out for dinner is largely to do with power dynamics. How able is she to refuse you, or to change her mind? She needs to be able to engage in the relationship – or not – as freely as any other potential partner of yours.


I recommend you set your feelings aside for the time being, and concentrate on helping her establish her independence. She needs relationships of her own, separate from you, so that she isn’t dependent on you for her entire support network. She needs to be able to come and go as she pleases, and make decisions about her life, her home, her behaviour. She needs... [sighs] She needs autonomy.


Think of yourself and your laboratory as a kind of scaffolding around her life. She has all the traits she needs to thrive – a strong personality, a sense of humour, sharp teeth and the will to use them. But she’s never had the opportunity to try. You need to dismantle that scaffolding, piece by piece, until she’s able to stand on her own horrific feet.


That isn’t to say you withdraw from her life completely, of course. But right now, she doesn’t need either a creator, or a lover. She needs a friend. Do you think you can do that?


Third Caller

Oh I would expect she would exenterate me immediately should she feel even the slightest discomfort! Once I served her a pekoe that was slightly too fervid for her liking and I had to replace the entire kitchen.


But I hear what you’re saying. Despite my 18 PhD's from Horrible University, I came here for advice. I think I shall provide succour and set her up her own torturous laboratory. Stock it with some of my most commutable post graduates, and perhaps in an annum we shall meet again – as colleagues. Scientific equals.


I am going to be quite... sad I think, when she goes. But [sighs] we built the death ray for times just like these. The neighbours will understand that I’m having an arduous time, I’m sure.


The Presenter

I’m sure they will. Thank you for calling. How are we for time?


Mab

Uh, fine. Should be able to fit another caller in, no problem.


The Presenter

Thank you.


Mab

You're welcome.


The Presenter

Right. Line Four, can you hear me? You’re on the air.


Fourth Caller

Hello! Hi. First time calling in on one of these shows. Do I, uh, just start, or...?


The Presenter

Yes, please, whenever you’re ready.

Fourth Caller

Right. Well. I’m a relative newcomer to the creature community. To be honest I didn’t know half of this stuff existed before. I feel like I see so much more now.


Eight months ago, everything was normal, more or less. I was a lifelong academic, living with my boyfriend of eight years, working on my thesis project. We have two cats named Samsa and Brundle. But then everything changed for me. Very quickly.


For my thesis I wanted, like any scientist, to do something no one had done before. So naturally, I began building an experimental gateway into the Shadow Dimension. Antimatter, ghosts, anti-ghosts, Doom Vestiges, the disappearing stars, all the submarines we’ve lost in the Bermuda Triangle.


The Presenter

Sounds fascinating.


Fourth Caller

Oh, it is – the answers that are in there could-- Well. Uh. Anyway, I thought that I had the math perfected when I tried to walk through for the first time. I was so hopeful in that moment. What I didn’t account for was some oversized bug thing trying to enter from the Shadow Dimension at the same time I was walking through.


My boyfriend managed to shut down the gateway – destroyed my research in the process. But when he looked down at me, clutching my head on the floor of our flat... He must have been really surprised. I’d become something else.


I had wings. And huge, shining eyes, and extra arms and quills and mandibles – I even got my hair back! And he freaked out at first, and tried to take care of me and make sure I was alright, and I was.

He was nervous around me for a few months, but eventually we got to this… conversation. He asked why I didn’t seem like I wanted to go back. To find a cure. He said that I could, if I put my mind to it. Find a way to warp out my fly parts and restore myself or something. And I know that I probably could. But the truth is, I don’t want to go back.


I like my wings. I can fly. I like my eyes. I can see so many more colours now, ones I don’t even have names for! And I was always the last kid picked at school sports, so I’m not complaining that I have an exoskeleton that can lift hundreds of pounds, right? And extra arms are a godsend around the lab!


But more than all that, I’ve started going to the local creature support circle in my neighbourhood. And I’ve realized that there’s a community out there, and they are so supportive and so kind. And I know I wasn’t exactly born into this, but now that I’m here, I like being a part of it. I don’t feel like a... monster when they see me. I feel beautiful.


[sighing]My boyfriend doesn’t… understand that. Because when we started dating I wasn’t a sort of terrifying human-insect hybrid. He looks at me and remembers that grey, normal little man, and wishes he was home again.


It’s beginning to affect our relationship. I worry that in some way he thinks I’m choosing to leave him, by staying this way. Or that I don’t love him like I used to. I do still love him. But does love go that far? Are you supposed to pull yourself apart for anyone else, cut off your armour and your wings and your eyes to make them happy? So that I can pretend for the rest of my life that I’m content that way – that I’m not still remembering what it was like to fly? I don’t know. [sighs]


So I guess what I’m asking is, is there any advice you have for our relationship? I don’t think I want to end things but I’m also having trouble seeing a way forward, even with my huge compound eyes. Thanks.


The Presenter

Oh, caller. This sounds very difficult. My heart goes out to you.


Fourth Caller

Thank you. I appreciate that.


The Presenter

Of course. And if I might concentrate on the positives for a moment, I’d like to start by saying, welcome. Welcome to the community. I’m glad you’re with us, and I’m glad you’ve found so much to love about your new physicality.

Fourth Caller

Thank you! It’s been a learning curve but exciting as well.


The Presenter

It’s a shame your partner doesn’t seem to be seeing things from that perspective. When you were talking here, I was struck by how beautiful you must feel, how powerful and engaged with your body in a way that doesn’t seem to have been true before. And I wonder, how much of that have you expressed to your boyfriend?


Fourth Caller

Not much. Not in detail. It’s a difficult topic to bring up. Whenever we start having a conversation about it, he’s so-- [sighs] Not negative, exactly, it's not like he'd come right out and say that he hates the way I look or something. But... guarded. And he makes it clear in little ways that he’s working from the assumption that I would rather be the way I was before. That it would be better that way. And it’s hard to counter that.


The Presenter

I see. Unfortunately, I think the only way forwards is to do just that – counter his assumptions, and share the delight and joy you have in your new body.


I’ve said it before in the programme but I think it bears repeating: the only constant in this world is change. Nothing now is as it was, and it will be different again. No relationship can survive without accounting for change. I’m sure your boyfriend isn’t the same person he was when you met, no matter how similar he might look.


Your transformation, however, was both very sudden and completely unexpected. Neither of you had time to prepare or discuss your different perspectives. You were simply, suddenly, different. You both had to hit the ground running in terms of processing the event, and it’s little wonder you’ve ended up at rather different speeds, shall we say?


You need to air this out together. Tell him what you’ve just told me. Emphasise the joy you feel, the strength and power and beauty you've found in your new body. Make it clear that wherever you go from here, it will not be backwards.


Fourth Caller

But what if he... doesn’t want me any more? Who I am now?


The Presenter

Well, let me ask you. You put it very well, earlier in the conversation. Is it right that you should tear yourself apart in order to fit into a space that is not meant for you?


Fourth Caller

[emotional] No... No. I-- I guess not.


The Presenter

You’ve already found a kind and supportive community who can celebrate you as you are. I hope your boyfriend can be a part of that. But if he can’t, please know, you’re not alone. You’re one of us now.


Fourth Caller

Thanks! I'm not used to that. Thank you so much for your advice. Wormhole paradoxes I can handle but [laughing] this is the hardest problem I've ever had to solve. I think I know, now, how to proceed. Thank you.


The Presenter

You’re welcome. And good luck. That's all we have time for tonight. Stay tuned for-- You're looking at me. Why are you looking at me?


Mab

[laughing] Nothing. Just... You're really very good, aren't you? At this, I mean.


The Presenter

Oh. Uh... Thank you.


Mab

Are you doing anything on Monday?


The Presenter

What? No. Why?


Mab

Would you like to get dinner with me?


The Presenter

With-- With you? No.


Mab

Alright.


The Presenter

I-- I've-- I've got... errands.


Mab

Of course you do.


The Presenter

Yes. I forgot. I-- When I said I was free, I forgot the, the... errands.

Mab

It's fine, darling. I understand completely. Well done tonight, by the way. We've sold some shares already, looks like we're well on our way.


The Presenter

Oh. Good. Good, that's-- that's good. Thank you for the idea.


Mab

You're welcome. But no rest for the wicked! If you're all set here, I've got things to be getting on with.


The Presenter

Oh you-- You don't have to--


[Mab leaves, letting the studio door close behind her.]


...go. [pause] Uh. Right. Um. Next on the Nightfolk Network, it's time for the news.


[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through choral singing, dance music, a voice saying “-run naked through fields of daffodils-”, a voice saying “-he will be loved-” and pop music before fading out.


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


H.R. Owen

Tonight's first caller was written and performed by Matty OK Smith, the creator of Neighbourly. Neighbourly is a single-voice horror podcast where each episode takes its listener behind the door of a different house in a perfectly ordinary street. Honest.

Tonight's second caller was written by May Toudic, and performed by Jonathan Tilley. May is the creator and writer of the Murray Mysteries, a queer modern retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with Jonathan playing the fabulous count himself.


Tonight's third caller was written and performed by Naomi Clarke, writer of the Secret of St Kilda, a supernatural podcast following charismatic con man Lockie MacGregor as he navigates life in a small island community that is definitely not a cult.


Tonight's fourth caller was written and performed by William A. Wellman, creator of Hello from the Hallowoods, a heartfelt horror show following a cast of LGBTQ+ survivors as they face the terrors of the forest at the end of the world.


You also heard the voices of Elizabeth Plant, voice actor extraordinaire, and H.R. Owen, who you really should know by now.

Huge thanks to everyone who made this episode possible. If you enjoyed it, please check out these wonderful artists' work – you won't be disappointed. There are links to their social media pages and websites in the show notes so go on – show them some love.


Thanks, too, to our latest supporters on Patreon, Alix and Eleanor Is Fine. Join them at patreon.com/monstrousagonies or make a one-off donation a www.ko-fi.com/hrowen.

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]


--END TRANSCRIPT--

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