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  • Writer's pictureH.R. Owen

Episode Ninety Two

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Monstrous Agonies E92S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Ninety Two.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-what you have to bear in mind is-”, piano and violin music, a voice saying “-I'd be so grateful-”, a voice saying “-no-” and pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-to the unconcealed annoyance of its clutch-mates.

Now, it's time again for our advice segment, where I answer your questions about life, love, and all things liminal. Our first letter this evening is from a listener feeling left behind.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

What's the phrase? Uh, long-time listener, first-time writer? And I mean, long-time listener. [laughs] I’ve been tuning in for- G-Gosh, longer than I care to remember!

I suppose that’s the reason I’ve finally written in. Your broadcasts have been a source of comfort and companionship for so long, it feels less like a radio station and more like an old friend.

Long life certainly has its benefits. I’ve read countless books, learned so much, traveled so far. I remember a friend once told me that traveling is like painting the sky, you could do it forever and never be done.

Everything changes so much, you see? You never visit the same city twice. The place you knew is gone, lost to time. Oh, you get used to it. [laughs] You learn to get very good at keeping diaries, that’s for sure. [laughs]

What most people get wrong about long life is that you don’t have to be there for all the big events to make it worthwhile. The best times I’ve had are the ones that history books don't mention. Little communities tucked away into the corner. The folk that don’t get written about. Those are my people.

But here’s my problem. About a century ago, I lost a friend who was very dear to me. Afterwards I withdrew rather. I slept for a few decades, and spent the rest of the century alone, pottering about in my home. I think it was the right choice, I... I think I needed it. Some space. Some time.

But now, I admit I’m a little stuck. I always thought I was good at adapting with the times, but I feel like I've been left completely in the dust. Everything is so new, and so loud, and so different.

I know, logically, that I should reach out to the community, find new people, reconnect, but it’s all so daunting. How can I get over this fear and reach out again?

The Presenter (as themselves)

You're quite right, listener, in thinking that community is the best thing for you right now. But I appreciate that the technological advances we've seen in the past century, especially in communication technology, are something of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it's never been easier to connect with people along all sorts of lines of commonality. If you want to find a group with which to discuss rare orchids or 18th century train timetables, you can do so at the click of a button.

At the same time, the sheer range of options available can be profoundly overwhelming, from messaging portals and online forums to shared astral spaces and blogging platforms, with each requiring its own learning curve to be able to be used effectively.

Besides which, I don't think these hyper-specific, interest-based communities are necessarily what you need right now. They can be wonderful spaces to explore particular topics, but they can also tend towards homogeneity and lack the colour and healthy challenge of less specialised groups.

Fortunately, there still remain plenty of more general, in-person spaces, such as community allotments or creature outreach groups, that will help give you that broader sense of connection. An inquiry at your local library should be enough to set you on the right path.

I appreciate that you feel some trepidation about venturing back into community life. But I think you will find that, while cities and cultures may have changed in your absence, people have not.

There is, in Tibet, a slab of travertine marble bearing the careful, intentional prints of two small children who took the time to press their little hands and feet into the soft silt where they were playing around 200,000 years ago. Walk by any river in any park on any sunny day, and you will find children making just such footprints in the mud.

You have nothing to fear, listener. People are as people always were: humming to themselves as they eat their favourite food, putting on voices to talk to their pets, brushing their children's hair, complaining about the weather, playing, quarrelling, loving, living. And you will find your place with them, just as you always have.

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

The Presenter

It's time again for the North Berwick annual Mega-Bee Show! Featuring everything from carpenters to neon cuckoos, this world-renowned competition promises the best of Anthophila from around the globe. It's sure to be a hive of activity!

Hold a millipede in the petting zoo, see live demonstrations of isopod herding, or check out the sporting events like jousting, the leafcutter competition, and a real American bumble-back rodeo!

Buy your tickets online or at the gate. International and interdimensional guests can attend via assisted astral projection, or come along in person with a printable gateway sigil. Please note, usual immigration laws do apply.

The North Berwick Mega-Bee Show! See what all the buzz is about. Proud sponsors of The Nightfolk Network.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's second letter is from a listener trying to connect with their neighbours.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

There is something very very wrong about my new apartment building. From my flat, I can hear footsteps – in the halls, on the stairs, in the room above me – sometime fast, sometimes slow. I can hear doors opening and closing, sometimes slamming, sometimes creaking.

From the outside of the building, I see the lights beyond the windows, but I never see anyone inside. And in the halls, I can hear faint voices from behind the closed doors of my neighbours, too softly for me to discern the words.

Someone in the flat by the staircase is always playing the most gorgeous, yearning, wistful, sage-green piano music. It stops when I get within a few feet of the door, but if I pause slightly along the corridor and wait, the music will start again, and I can listen for a while.

At first, I was self-conscious about standing there. I was worried one of my neighbours woud come out and see me and think I was up to no good. But I’ve since learnt that that will never be a problem.

My neighbors don’t leave their flats. The stairs are always abandoned. If it weren’t for the noises – and the clothes I occasionally have to remove from the dryer in the laundry room – I would almost believe myself completely alone in the building.

Of course, I knew the place was haunted when I signed the lease. But rent was affordable and my specific flat wasn’t haunted so I-I didn’t have to share. No problem! What I wasn’t prepared for was the folks doing the haunting – my neighbours – to be so unfriendly.

I know its not really the thing to know your neighbours here in the city. But I’d expected to at least get to recognise some people on sight, exchange a smile on the stairs or say good morning as we passed in the hall. But I haven’t so much as exchanged a word with any of them.

I don’t want to make assumptions, but is it possible I’m being discriminated against, as one of the living? This is a haunted apartment building, after all. The landlord didn’t seem to care that I’m not the haunting type, but perhaps the other tenants do?

Are they avoiding me because they wish I’d never moved in? Or is it perhaps a culture thing? Do I need to do something different to invite interaction – to make it clear I’m friendly?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I'm sorry you haven't found your new living situation as welcoming as you had hoped, listener. It sounds very frustrating. However, I would caution against using the language of discrimination to refer to your experiences.

Many landlords do not consider haunting a valid occupancy, a prejudice upheld, at least in England and Wales, by the law itself. Depending on the availability of hauntable housing, your neighbours might be protective of their space in the face of those, like yourself, who do not face such obstacles.

They might also see in you a representation of a world in which post-death vitality is often used to strip a person of their rights, especially for incorporeal individuals.

That's not to say that their treatment of you is fair or that you deserve it. But being wary of a person who belongs to a group that benefits from your systemic oppression is not the same as being prejudiced against a minority.

I also want to gently push back against your assumption that this response – or lack of response – to your presence is somehow cultural. Your neighbours will have all sorts of cultural backgrounds and experiences, quite as diverse as you would expect to find in any other city apartment building.

Please do not assume that their shared experiences of post-death vitality and incorporeality somehow erase all other differences between them. One identity does not supercede the others. In fact, I suspect their uniform reticence to engage is more to do with their identity as city-dwellers than anything else.

In practice, connecting with your neighbours in this building is no different than it would be anywhere else. Knocking on a few doors and introducing yourself is the most obvious strategy.

Alternatively, you might prefer to write to them. You could slip a note under the door of the resident pianist and tell them how much you enjoy hearing their efforts. Or you might prefer a bigger approach, and invite your neighbours to a house-warming party at your flat.

However, none of these efforts come with any guarantee they will be successful. I know you're keen to make yourself approachable. But you cannot prove yourself to be a good neighbour if they never give you the chance.

I sincerely hope they respond, and that you can build up some relationship with the people around you, however small. And if it proves that they are not interested in such a relationship, at least you'll know that you did your part and can do no more.

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

The Presenter

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

[End of background music]

The Presenter

The time is two o'clock on Thursday morning. Up next, as the days get longer, we explore how to stay healthy and well-rested with fewer and fewer hours of darkness in which to live, work and play...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through choral music, a voice saying “-the world's changed, hasn't it-”, unintelligible speech, a voice saying “-I've been there from the beginning-” and an orchestral fanfare before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Teethworm, the second letter was from Leslie, and this week's advert was a submission by A. P. Airie. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporters on Patreon, Avery, Jimmy, and kitewithfish! 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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