Episode Sixty Eight
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Monstrous Agonies E68S02 Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies: Episode Sixty Eight.
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-and of course people here would find it difficult-”, classical music, a voice saying “-a special relationship-” and a voice saying “-so she would get sweet treats-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
-video of Kate Bush making tea.
The time is 1.42 on Thursday morning. Time for listener's letters on our advice segment. Um. Uh, first up, dealing with... uh... picky eaters, I think. And... family? Uh. Something about family. [winces] OK. [sighs]
The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)
I normally get on alright with my in-laws. They're not quite my kind of people – conservative with a little cuh, you know? Traditional, I suppose you would call them. But they're not usually offensive, per se. Just a bit... stuck in their ways.
Like, her mum will ask my wife and her sister-in-law to help with the washing up, but she wouldn't ask me or her brother. I mean, we help anyway, [laughing] you know, but it's clear we're not expected to do the, uh, “women's work”.
And sometimes they can be a bit stuck up. They were round visiting once, and her dad complimented our new bookcase – only to be absolutely horrified when we told him it was from IKEA. As if we should have saved up for an antique or something.
I can handle most of it. Says more about them than it does about me, as my old mum would say. But the other day, they managed to do something I never thought they would – they actually offended me.
They were round for dinner. They don't come over very often, usually we go to theirs, but we thought we'd change it up a bit. We really pushed the boat out – zhooshed up the dining room, candles and cloth napkins, got some fancy wine in special. My wife made these little bruschetta thingies for an appetiser? Went down a treat.
And then I brought out the main course – lovely fella, big lad, nice and tender. Picked him up at the market that afternoon. I popped him up on the table and we got stuck in.
You know how it is when everyone starts eating – all the conversation stops as everyone tucks in and starts enjoying themselves. [laughing] Not to mention having to have your wits about you while they're still wriggling, you know! But eventually they settle down, stop making such a bloody racket! The instincts ease off a little, and you're back in the room.
We started making small talk, and my wife's parents were very complimentary about the meal. And rightly so – he was delicious. But then her dad asked what he did for a living. I said I wasn't sure, thought it might have been something techy – social media consultant, some kind of wafty, made-up nonsense.
And her mum pulls this little face, and says, “Oh, yes, I thought I could taste something sedentary.” I said, “He was alright a minute ago, he hasn't gone off since then.” She said, “Nah, I'm just saying, I can taste it now you've said so. I'm not trying to be rude.” I said, “Well, you've got a real knack for it then, if that's how rude you are without even trying!”
My wife tried to step in at that point, change the subject, but then her dad pipes up, saying, “Well, it's a well-established fact that you can taste this sort of thing. That's why they charge more for professionals.” I said, “He was a professional. He was a professional consultant.” And he goes, “Oh, not a proper consultant, is it, social media. That's just telling people how to tweet. A proper consultant – finance or management – that'd cost you twice as much.”
[laughing bitterly] Well! I know when I'm being called cheap. I said, “If you don't like him, you don't have to eat him.” And they left. Not quietly either. But you don't get to come into my home and insult me. You just don't.
My wife's talked to them since then and I've said quite clearly that I'm happy to draw a line under it and move on – if they apologise. That was three weeks ago.
I don't want to make life difficult for my wife. That's my main concern here. It's my job to make her life better. And I know this is stressing her out. But I don't see any way of getting out of this with my dignity intact. Any ideas?
The Presenter (as themselves)
[wincing] Um. I, uh. I-I think you've done all you can, listener. You've made your boundaries clear and it's up to your in-laws to take the next step in this, uh, reconciliation, either by communicating their own needs or apologising.
In, uh. [groans] In terms of making life easier for your wife, it might help to clarify what kind of interactions you are and are not willing to have with her parents. For example, you might set a hard limit on having them round for dinner again without an apology, but agree to see them in other circumstances – going out for dinner, for example, or family gatherings.
As much as possible, make this a conversation, not a-a laying down of, um... Uh. [sighs] L-laying the law? Down? What's the phrase? Oh, whatever. Just talk to her. Um. [winces] She might have things that are very important to her that you don't care about and are willing to compromise on. And if you do disagree on what's appropriate, talk it through.
As to your in-laws' declaration that you can taste the difference between certain professions, it's, uh, well, nonsense, actually. It was made up whole cloth by a marketing firm in the 1920s, designed to manufacturer demand for so-called high-class professionals. There's actually something quite interesting in how different cultures perceive different professions as delicacies-
[They break off with a groan.]
But I-I... I think that will wait for another time. [wincing] Um. Talk to your wife, and, uh, listen to her, too. You, um. You'll be fine. Good luck. [sighs]
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
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[End background music]
Our second letter is from... a listener feeling... Um. [winces] Conflicted? Uh. Con-conflict... Conflict relating to community. Well that's... That's practically every letter we get. [scoffs] Alright. Let's, let's hear it! [weak laugh, then a sigh]
The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)
I am a necromancer and proud of it. Specifically, I am a spiritual necromancer, which means I exclusively work with marginalised corporealities.
It's not a branch of the profession many people are aware of, including within the creature community. All too often, when I tell people my profession, they expect me to be hobnobbing with demons and capering with ghouls, decked out in a hooded robe and brandishing a staff covered in eldritch runes.
That's not me. I prefer a smart pair of slacks and a sports coat to dark robes, and while I have met a few demons in my time, they're just professional acquaintances. I do count a number of ghouls among my close, personal friends, but I certainly don't caper with them. For one thing, I am a terrible dancer.
Nevertheless, the stereotypes persist. I've experienced plenty of prejudice relating to my work. I was once having a perfectly lovely conversation with a hermetic practitioner when, upon hearing tell of my profession, they remarked flatly, “Oh. You're one of those.” And left the coffee shop without another word. And that's just one of many such incidents.
I blame physical necromancers. I took the required courses in school, but the practices of that branch of the profession have never sat well with me. Some of this is simply aesthetic – I like the clean deployment of diagrams and incense, the sonorous chants, the tidy, predictable rites of evocation and invocation. Far more appealing than rooting around in graves and dealing with... [shuddering] viscera and all the various fluids apparently required by the whole “bring back to unholy life that which was lost” thing.
However, there is also the matter of consent. The deceased people with whom I work are all sentient and willing. Physical necromancers can't say the same. The standard line is that their enchanted skeletons and corpses are inanimate and have no consent to give. But I feel that, if they are unable to consent, we should err on the side of caution and leave them in peace. I just find the whole thing dreadfully distasteful, not to mention the theatrics of it all.
So, finally, the point. Recently, a physical necromancer set up shop in my town. She is fairly young, just out of school, I believe, and leans hard into all the tropes. She lives in a decommissioned mortuary, drives a hearse, goes about her business wearing the most outrageous get-ups.
She has been seen desecrating churchyards at all hours, and she has led her creations (and some of the younger, less level-headed local ghouls) in a series of noisy revels that have been the subject of much concern in the neighbourhood app.
She is, in short, the worst kind of necromancer: gaudy, attention seeking, riding the edge of professional standards, and, generally, making us all look bad. And she's just tacky!
At this rate, I'm afraid she's going to draw the attention of an exorcist or a witch hunter or a pitchfork-wielding mob, putting me and my clients at risk of their misguided fury.
But then I think, well. Isn't that what the other people say about me and my colleagues? I don't want to condone this woman's lifestyle – or her aesthetic – much less be her friend. But I've been hurt by rejection from the community; am I just doing the same to her? Please, help me sort this out.
The Presenter (as themselves)
[flinches, then takes a breath] Um. I think you just need to stay out of her way, to be honest. There's no reason you should be any closer than you already are. She doesn't sound like she's shown any interest in connecting with you as a fellow member of the necromantic profession, and you certainly have no interest in engaging with her, s-so, uh... [winces]
I- I do think it's worth saying that I think you're laying blame at entirely the wrong door here. If you and your clients are put at risk by the actions of a witch hunter or an exorcist, it is the fault of the witch hunter and the exorcist. Not your colleague who should be able to conduct her affairs without inviting the wrath of an angry mob. Yes, even if she's being a bit tacky.
[sighs] Physical necromancers are not to blame for the prejudice you have faced. It is prejudice against them, after all – albeit incorrectly aimed. By blaming other necromancers, you're just perpetuating that, um... Uh... Incorrect...ness. [frustrated] Urgh. You're getting angry at the wrong people, i-is what I mean. [sighs]
I suggest you seek out the voices of physical necromancers themselves, and try to see their practices from their perspective. It might help dampen your distaste for them, and help you aim your frustration where it belongs – with the people who are treating you badly, not the people they're trying to treat badly.
[sighs] That’s all for tonight. Next, uh... [winces] Uh, sorry, I... Next, we’ve got-
[The studio door opens and closes. The Presenter sighs.]
You look dreadful.
[groaning] I really don’t have the energy for-
[The sound of a mug being placed on the desk]
Ginger tea, for the nausea. With lime and honey, and extra hot, the way you like it. Don’t burn your tongue. And...
[The sound of a plastic bottle of pills being opened and pills shaken out]
Paracetamol for the headache. [sound of the bottle being closed] Did I mention, you look dreadful?
Repeatedly. I’m fine, I’m just a bit run down.
You’ve never been “run down” before in all the time I’ve known you, which is... practically forever, actually. I don’t think I’ve even seen you sneeze before. Can you sneeze?
I said I’m fine, can you please-
You are not fine, you shouldn’t be here at all. You’re setting a terrible example.
The station is my responsibility. I’m the station manager, aren’t I? Let me manage. [beat] You need to rest, darling.
What I need is for you to let me do my job and stop being si-
Oh, don’t! Don’t you dare, don’t you dare say I’m being silly! For one thing, you used to like my silliness, and I don’t appreciate being constantly reminded of just how far I’ve fallen in your esteem. For another, I hardly think it’s silly to want to look after the person you-- You... work with.
Wait, don’t, I didn’t mean-
If you’re sick, go home. If you’re not, stop complaining.
[She leaves, slamming the door.]
I wasn’t complaining! I was just trying to get on with it. [sighs, and sniffs] I’m sorry for the interruption, listeners. Please, don't worry about me. I'm fine. You don't need to make a fuss.
[They sigh. Then the scrape of a mug being moved over the desk. Then the Presenter sips their tea, wincing as it burns their tongue.]
Damn. [with a thud against the desk] Damn!
Next tonight! Goths and cultural appropriation. [sighs] While no one culture in the community has a clear claim to the invention of back-combing...
[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through Irish trad music, a voice speaking German, a voice saying “-is and extremely dangerous person-” and pop music before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Episode Sixty Eight of Monstrous Agonies was written by H.R. Owen and performed by H.R. Owen and Elizabeth Plant.
Tonight's second letter was based on a submission by Peter, and this week's advert came from Rockdog85. Thanks, friends. Submissions are now closed for this season, but will reopen ahead of Season Three.
If you're enjoying the show, please consider supporting us on Patreon at patreon.com/monstrousagonies or making a one-off donation at ko-fi.com/hrowen. 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]