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  • Writer's pictureH.R Owen

Episode Seventeen

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Monstrous Agonies E17S01 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Seventeen.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music and static before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-an ordinary London street, save that all the crowd were weeping. The time is 1.43AM on Thursday morning. Up next, I answer listener's questions in our advice segment.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network, on 131.3FM.

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The Presenter

Our first letter this evening comes from a listener whose new in-laws are proving difficult to communicate with.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

So, I've been seeing this lad for about four months? It’s nice, he’s a nice boy. Man! Sorry. He hates being called a boy, he’s like, [deep voice] I am 108 years old, do not treat me like a child. I’m not complaining! He’s right. Just still trying to break the habit, you know.

So, yeah, four months. Nothing record breaking but it’s going well. I like him. He's really smart and doesn't take any nonsense from anyone. He's been opening up a bit more as things go on and, well. I think he's actually a bit of a softie at heart. And I'm pretty sure he likes me back. Tries to play it cool, like, but once you get to know him, you can tell. It's early doors but, yeah. Feels good.

We ended up doing the big family introduction a bit earlier than I might with other boy- mans. Men! It was just that, with both our families living local and being quite close, we ended up meeting each other's parents a bit sooner than I have with people I was dating in the past.

Maybe that’s the problem – maybe they're just not sure of me yet, don’t want to spend their energy on what might turn out to be just a fling. But like, when he comes to my mum’s for tea, Mum chats away to him no problem, asks about his work, what books is he reading. But when I’m at his parents they’ll make a bit of small talk and then just... zone out?

I thought they were just bored at first. But when I looked, they really had zoned out. Eyes glazed over, hardly even breathing. Turns out they've been slipping away to astral plane for a chat while we're having dinner.

My boy- ...that doesn't sound right. Well, he says it's important to them to keep the culture alive – not a lot of native astral speakers in Derbyshire, I suppose. And I’m all for culture. I go to the Buxton Festival every year, I'm mad for culture, me.

But they do all speak English as well, and they know I can't project, so it seems rude. They'll be over there for ages, having full-blown conversations with each other while I’m left sitting at the table with my... friend. Last time, his mum and dad “returned”, and his mum took one look at me and burst out laughing. I don't think I really want to know what they were saying about me but it's clear enough it wasn't exactly complimentary.

It’s so early in the relationship, I don't want to make things more difficult than they have to be. But it doesn’t feel like a particularly auspicious start. Is it even worth bringing up, or should I just leave it until I know how things are going to go between us?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Listener, there are a few ways for you to approach this issue. You will have to use your own personal experience of the situation to decide which is best for you.

Firstly, you could, as you say, ignore it for the time being. If their behaviour isn't causing you too much distress, I don't see that you need to spend your energy addressing it right now.

I suspect you're correct in your feeling that his parents are waiting for the relationship to take root before investing emotionally. When one is used to measuring one's life in centuries, it can be hard to give weight to something after only a matter of months.

That said, this is still incredibly rude behaviour. You might prefer to simply stop spending time with them until they deign to dignify you with their presence on this plane.

If you decide you'd rather not attend these family dinners any longer, you will need to talk it over with your... man-friend. Bring it up with him gently, and be clear about your feelings. You don't want to blow things out of proportion, but neither should you minimise your feelings to make him more comfortable. Be clear and calm, and let him know you're open to the possibility of changing your mind – provided they are open to changing their behaviour.

It also strikes me that astral is one of the easier non-verbal languages to learn. It has no vocabulary, after all, and once you get your head round the basics of transcendental grammar, it's simply a matter of practice to improve one's fluency. Your man-friend might know some community classes you could attend to learn the basics.

Do be careful though – you know far better than I how he might take such a show of interest. If you think it would come off too strong for this early stage of your relationship, hang back and wait until things are more stable between you. Then again, he might take it as a compliment – showing an interest in his cultural background. Use your judgement, and trust your gut.

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

The Presenter

Are your runes getting rusty? Looking to brush up on your Enochian? Or perhaps you want to learn a little Abyssal before an upcoming holiday. Lingua Phasma is a free, accessible language app for all levels of learner. Lingua Phasma – proud sponsors of the Nightfolk Network.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Our second listener is finding it hard to put themselves out there after a difficult period.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I’m afraid my problem is not a new one. You’ve spoken about it on your programme many times and I’ve tried to put your words into practice but I’m afraid there are some extenuating circumstances that make it feel impossible to do so properly.

I’m lonely. That’s the heart of it. I don’t have any friends. I work from home. I don’t go out.

All your advice about meeting people and making friends, it’s all about throwing yourself in and joining groups and I can’t do that. I can’t bring myself to do that.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to be very outgoing. I volunteered, I was an active member of my local temple, I went to a book club and a knitting group, all sorts of things.

And I used to enjoy being different. One of the things I volunteered for was a community outreach programme where myself and other people of the night would go into schools and talk to the kids about our conditions. They always loved my hair, I’d invite them up to touch it if they wanted, explaining that it was safe, it wouldn’t bite, but they needed to be gentle with it.

I’ll never forget the feel of those careful little hands, reaching out, so gentle in their curiosity. They just wanted to learn. I wasn't something for them to be afraid of. I wasn't a m... A mo...


It was an accident. Thank God I wasn't in a school at the time, the victim-

My victim was an adult but...

I had these masks, just sleep masks basically. I used to sew them myself, all these lovely patterns and colours, I’d coordinate them with my outfit. But I was out one day and the strap broke.

He was looking at me and suddenly I was looking at him and then...

He survived. Decalcification’s come a long way in the last few years. It'll take a lot of physio but he'll get full mobility back, they think.

But it knocked the wind right out of me. I couldn’t trust myself any more. I stopped going out. My friends, some of of them did what certain people do in a crisis and just disappeared. But even the good ones, even the ones who kept reaching out and trying to talk to me, eventually I drove them away too. There's only so many unanswered calls a person can take, I suppose.

I can't face going out there again, I just can’t. I can't even imagine meeting new people online, with this awful thing I did hanging over my head. And if this is just what life is for me now, I’m alright with that. I’d rather this than risk someone else getting hurt. But I figured, if there was another option, you’d know it. Can you help?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Listener. I don’t know if you’ll be able to believe this right now, but it's important you hear it all the same. What happened that day was not your fault.

Sometimes things go wrong and the consequences are awful and difficult. But that doesn’t mean you have to carry this burden of blame around with you forever. Please, try to forgive yourself.

You’re not alone in having a condition that makes it difficult to keep others safe. But difficult is not the same as impossible, and with recent advances in both protective technology and social norms around accommodating such conditions, the situation is improving. Learning more about how others have managed their conditions might help you along the way to feeling more confident in managing your own.

In the meantime, I’d like to address your fears of making friends with this incident hanging over your head. Nobody comes into our lives as a blank slate. We all carry our pasts with us, for good or ill, and anyone who wants to love you is going to have to love you with this in your past.

That said, not every friendship needs to be one of radical transparency. You’re not obliged to tell anyone about what happened if you don’t want to. I think it would be a good idea to try venturing into a new, online social space. You can control how much or how little you share about yourself, and need not worry about putting anyone in physical danger.

You’ve heard enough of my advice about how to make friends. What I want to tell you in particular is that you deserve to make friends. You deserve to have people in your life who love you and care about you. Loneliness is not your lot in life, and there is nothing in your past that makes you unworthy of love.

That's all for our advice segment. Now, I hope you've been brushing up on your trivia – it's time for our play-at-home pub quiz. Prizes tonight include a year's subscription to Tooth & Claw magazine, and a 2 litre bottle of fluids of your choice...

[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through country music, inaudible speech and static before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

This week's second letter is based on a submission from B. Thanks, friend!

To submit your own letters and suggestions, head over to our website at, email us at, or find us on Tumblr at Monstrous Agonies.

You can support the programme by rating and reviewing us on iTunes, sharing with your friends and familiars, or supporting us on Patreon. Head over to and sign up now.

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.

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