• H.R. Owen

Episode Seventy One

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Episode Seventy One


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Monstrous Agonies E71S02 Transcript


H.R. Owen

Hello friends, Hero here. We made it! The final episode of Season Two. Thank you all for your support this season, it's been wonderful.


Regarding the schedule for the between season break, next week you’ll get the blooper reel. Then we’ll be off for a week before releasing the first part of our end of season Q&A on Thursday 30th June, with the second part scheduled for the week after.


For the Q&A, I’ll be chatting once again with Sophie B., the voice of the Understudy. We’ll be recording on June 19th so get your questions in by the 18th. You can send them by email, on social media, or via the website.

Finally, I will be taking a break before Season Three starts but I’m not sure yet how long it’ll be. Keep an eye on our social media accounts for updates. I'll also be announcing on there when the inbox reopens for submissions.


Thanks for listening, and enjoy the episode.


[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]


H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Seventy One.


[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through rock music, a person singing, a voice saying “-well, to be fair-”, pop music and a voice saying “-Belfast-”before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]


The Presenter

-unspeakable horrors beyond mortal comprehension, or an Irish road safety ad.


If you've just tuned in, you're listening to the Nightfolk Network – the UK's only dedicated radio service for the creature community. It's coming up on two o'clock, and time for our advice segment.


Our first letter this evening is from a listener facing some unexpected family obligations.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I always liked my Uncle Ralph. He was funny and kind and odd in a way most of my family isn't. We'd sort of spot each other at family events and sidle off together, lurking beside the buffet and talking about all sorts, really.


He was the one who got me into physics, actually. Whenever he'd visit, he'd chat away with me about the ideas I was coming across at school and answer all my questions – or get really excited about the ones he didn't know the answer to, and talk about how we might find out.

I liked him. Very much. I... [sighs] I loved him. I don't think I ever realised quite how much.


I mean- [sighs] I mean because w-w- we almost never actually spoke, you know? We'd measure the time between meetings in years, not months. We never talked on the phone or [laughing] texted – God, the- The idea of Uncle Ralph texting is, is just- [shudders, laughing] But he was enough like me to not mind that sort of thing. He'd just pick up where we left off.

The rest of my family, my siblings and my parents, they always seemed to have these secret rules about how and when to talk and what about, rules that nobody ever told me until I'd already broken them. That's why I don't go home much. I get all tied up in this web of unspoken expectations. [sighs] Uncle Ralph was easy.


So, when he died, I was sad. Of course I was. I took some time off work to drive down for the funeral. Met his friends, they were all just like him – posh and bonkers and lovely. They kept talking about Uncle Ralph, telling stories, discussing his work – not that I could really keep up, he was working on stuff way beyond me. But they... loved him. So much.

And they... knew me. They knew all about me. [tearful] About my career, and what I'd done my dissertation on back at uni. And... about the time Uncle Ralph and I snuck out of my sister's birthday and went and watched the birds up on the heath... [sniffs] He'd told them all about me. [sobs. Then, quietly:] I didn't know.


[sighs] Um. Anyway. The thought of a legacy never crossed my mind. It might have, if I'd thought about it. I mean, I've got no cousins and my uncle never married. [sniffs] Um. I... got a letter from his solicitors about some money he'd left me and that was it.

Except then, around a month ago, I got knock at the door. A delivery. This great big crate. I tried to say they'd made a mistake, but they showed me the delivery note and, and that was my name, alright. I signed for it. I-I didn't really know what else to do.

And then I got the crate open and... I'll just cut to the chase. [laughing] It's my uncle. [laughs, slightly hysterical] Sorry- [clears throat] Sorry, it's just, uh, it's absurd. It's insane. He left himself to me in his will, I suppose? Um.


And- And he's... He's not decomposing. At all. I-I have a little look every few days. It's not the sort of thing you want sneaking up on you, is it, a rotting corpse in the living room. But he's fine. If anything he's...

Nope. I-I... [exhales heavily] I-I wrote, uh, to his solicitor's and they gave me the address of his executor, um, a friend of his called Augusta. I-I remembered her, actually, from the funeral, this, uh, stout, bolshy woman with short hair and sensible shoes. A little exclamation mark of a person. So, I wrote to Augusta and she wrote back. Three sentences. “My God, he did it! Hang tight, dear boy. All will become clear.”


And I just haven't done anything since. I can't. Every time I try and think what to do I just get so overwhelmed. I can't tell my family. I mean, they are aggressively normal, I really cannot emphasise enough- My sister thinks her neighbours are freaks for singing to themselves in their house. There's a reason I don't really talk to them.


And I think it's the same reason Uncle Ralph didn't talk to them either, and I'm- I'm glad he trusted me – trusts me? What tense do I even use here? [sighs] The point is, I can't tell them and when I try and say something to my friends it's like, how do you even bring that up, you know?


So, I-I had a friend back in uni who used to listen to your show and I remembered it and thought, well, you do weird stuff, right? Because I'm- He's in my living room! I have a coffin in my living room with my dead uncle inside and he's- He's- He's just there. W... Waiting? And I think he's getting... [whispering] Getting younger?


What the hell am I supposed to do?!


The Presenter (as themselves)

Oh dear, listener. That does sound stressful. I think you're right to identify this behaviour as an expression of trust from your uncle. It's not exactly a conventional gesture of affection, but he doesn't sound like a particularly conventional man. This affectionate intention does not mitigate the inconvenience of his actions, but still. It is no bad thing, to know yourself to be loved.


It strikes me that you seem to be more anxious about the strangeness of this situation than about the situation itself. You've adapted fairly well to the fact of your uncle's presence, are keeping an eye on him during this period of... transition?


But when you come to try and speak of it to others, it's the strangeness that stops you. It's impossible to tell your family not because they're unkind or unsupportive, but because they are “aggressively normal” and it feels too much to introduce to them the ideas your uncle is introducing to you.

Listener, I'd like you to try and unpack your fear of the strange. Being open to a little oddness is, after all, what brought you and your uncle together. I don't believe he'd put you in danger. But something is happening. Something... odd.


If you aren't already involved with the creature community – and reading between the lines of your letter, I suspect you aren't – I'd recommend getting stuck in. We tend to have a rather more ambivalent relationship with the idea of “normal”, which I believe could benefit you.


The world is bigger and stranger than you know. Than any of us know. If you can come to terms with that fact, and see the positives in life outside the norm, you will be more resilient in the face of whatever the universe throws at you next, be it a dead relative or something else entirely.


In practical terms, I recommend writing to this Augusta woman for a bit more detail. She clearly knows more than she's letting on. Your uncle had a plan, and if Augusta can shed some light on it, all to the good.

Otherwise, take her advice. Hang tight, dear boy. After all, the world is only getting weirder. You might as well embrace it.


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


The Presenter

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[End background music]


The Presenter

Well. It is after the watershed, I suppose.


We'll get to our second letter in just a moment. First though, I want to thank everyone who wrote in to wish me well during my recent illness. Your letters were forwarded on to me and I read every one of them. Thank you. It meant a lot. I'm happy to report I'm feeling much better thanks to the efforts of my understudy.


I appreciate that many of you also wrote to send messages of support and solidarity. If you weren't listening at the time of the... events leading up to my sudden absence from the airwaves- Well, I'm sure you've heard the news by now. I confess, I was somewhat... rattled by the encounter.


However, while I cannot say with certainty what the future might bring for us here at the Nightfolk Network, I can say this: whatever we may face, we will not face it alone. And that must be comfort enough, for the time being.


For those of you who took the opportunity of such letters to admonish me for my behaviour towards our station manager while I was ill, that's really not your place. And I've apologised. Profusely. Got her a, a little pink nerve plant, she's named it Twpsyn which she tells me means “sweet one” but I'm not convinced.

And for those of you who chose to comment on other aspects of my relationship with my colleagues, that is really not your place. I'd thank you to keep such comments to yourself in the future.


Moving on. Our second letter this evening is from a listener struggling with the prospect of parenthood.


The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

For your consideration. I am an artificial consciousness. I am currently enjoying retirement after the passing of my creator and former employer. In their will, I inherited a sum of money, and their so-called “laboratory”. This “laboratory” is a customised one-bedroom apartment, into which I am fully integrated.


I have, so far, spent my retirement indulging in many new activities, such as: consuming various media; making friends online; playing “tabletop roleplaying games” online; and growing plants.


Plants are rewarding to look after. I have established contact with local people who are pleased to trade cuttings with me. I recently received an order containing cuttings of two variants of Hedera helix, common ivy, a plant known for its simple care.


One of the two variants has, contrary to expectations, required a great deal of care. It has manifested a separate second physical form, in the shape of a small sapio-seeming organism. [slowly] A... “toddler”.


The organism is of a genus which historically has both grown “wild”, and been domestically cultivated, as a curiosity. Or as family.


I have previously raised 62 distinct species of plants, various fungal and bacterial cultures, and briefly, a pair of homing pigeons. I have monitored my neighbour's children on his behalf while he was at work. I have space in the property. I have private funds. I have access to an extensive database of information. These resources are appropriate for use in child-rearing.


Child-rearing is a long-term project requiring long-term commitment. This project has the potential to impact the organism in ways with which I am not comfortable. Surrendering the organism into social care has the potential to impact the organism in ways with which I am not comfortable.


I do not have the experience to ensure the organism's social development will be adequate. I am uncertain if it is appropriate to ask for assistance with this task. Additionally, I do not wish to isolate the organism from communities which may be beneficial to the organism's development, but I do not know how to find communities which will be safe and kind.


Both myself and the organism may benefit from my having a body for the duration of this project. I am unsure if I am comfortable with being in a body, but I am prepared to “give it a go”, as people say.


My questions are as follows:

  • Am I succumbing to impulsivity in my consideration of this project?

  • If I choose instead to rehome the organism, would it be appropriate to remain involved in the developmental process?

  • If I pursue this project, what resources should I consider to ensure the organism has a comfortable and successful development and subsequent existence?

  • If I pursue this project, the abundance of vegetation in our home may correctly indicate to the organism that I did not intend this outcome. I have been informed this knowledge may be distressing. I do not wish to suggest I consider the organism as another houseplant. How should I avoid the organism coming to these conclusions?

  • If I pursue this project, would it be inappropriate to name the organism after a plant? Perhaps... Ivy?

Kind regards.


The Presenter (as themselves)

I hear your concerns, listener. If it's any consolation, I think they are fairly common concerns among the ranks of new parents, however they have come into parenthood. As such, there are, fortunately, some rather simple answers to some of your questions.


Firstly, on the matter of whether your decision to continue with this project is impulsive. There is nothing in your letter that speaks to me of impulsivity. You are taking great care to think about the impact your choices may have on this child. I say “child” – I'm afraid I cannot think of them as “the organism”. I hope you'll forgive me this editorialising impulse.


Whether or not you can remain involved in the child's development if you place them into social care is not something I can speak to, I'm afraid. The very nature of how this child came into your life makes for a veritable minefield of legal concerns that I am simply not qualified to discuss.


Whatever course of action you take, do reach out to a legal firm with proven standing among the liminal community. You need a sympathetic professional to guide you through this.


With their support, however, I do believe you'll be able to pursue this project without too much legal difficulty. As you say, members of this child's genus have long been cultivated by all manner of people, and I don't see any reason you should be any different.


You ask how you can “ensure” the child's comfort and success. This one's an easy one – you can't. There is no formula you can follow, no perfect strategy by which you will guarantee this child will not suffer. In fact, I'm afraid it's inevitable that they will. Your job as a parent is to give them the skills and support they need to cope with that suffering.


You've already identified one of the most important things your child will need to develop these skills: community, and connection to the world around them. I also think you need to build your own support network.


Your local library will have plenty of information about clubs and community groups for both you and the child to get involved with, and I agree, a physical body will be an enormous help in that case.

Finally, you ask how to avoid the child coming to the conclusion that you think of them as “just another houseplant”. Listener, you just have to show them. Show them, in your words and your actions, that you care about them, and you're proud of them, and you're pleased to have them with you, and excited for their future and that you enjoy their company and- [sighs] Just love them, listener. Love them as much and as best as you can, and let them know it.


And for what it's worth, I think Ivy is lovely name.


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


The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network. Community owned, community run.

[End background music]

The Presenter

That's all for our advice segment. Stay tuned for our next segment on creatures in the workplace. This week, we talk to three members of the community about cannibalism in the office...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through violin music, voices speaking Irish and laughing, a voice saying “-we're talking new money-”, a voice saying “-running around like a headless chook-” and classical music before fading out.


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


H.R. Owen

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


Tonight's second letter was submitted by Plant and this week's advert came from Art. Thanks, friends. Keep an eye on our social media accounts for news of when submissions reopen for Season Three.


If you're enjoying the programme please consider supporting us at patreon.com/monstrousagonies. You can also make a one-off donation at ko-fi.com/hrowen, 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]


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