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Episode Sixty Six

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Monstrous Agonies E66S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Sixty Six.

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

The Presenter

-actually not terribly good-looking without the blood.

Time now for our advice segment.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network, on 131.3FM. Don't touch that dial.

[End background music]

The Presenter

For anyone who's just tuned in, I'm, uh, well I'm afraid I'm not feeling particularly well tonight. Nothing serious – just a headache, really, comes and goes. But I may not be able to summon quite my usual energy for this evening's segment, and I want to thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

Anyway, onwards. [laughs weakly] Tonight's first letter is from a listener whose family are finding it hard to adjust to their new reality.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I like to think I'm a sociable person, alive or risen from the dead in a constant state of rigor mortis. [laughs] I've always liked talking to people, going to parties and so on. I've always enjoyed talking to my family the most though. They could go on for hours and hours about virtually anything and still hold such passion for the subject.

They have been nothing but supportive of me throughout my, uh, reanimation. Most of them have grown up surrounded by nightfolk, and some of them are even nightfolk themselves, although they tend to be from, uh, hereditary genuses rather than having acquired conditions like myself.

They helped me through my recovery and adapted to my new needs, and have gone out of their way to make me feel safe and acknowledged. And I cannot thank them enough for that.

It's just that in recent times, I've noticed something different in the way that they approach me. We aren't talking the way we used to. I've noticed that, when we meet, they always seem have some other appointment they have to get to that means they must leave early. Like they're... avoiding me.

If we do manage to talk, it always has to involve them bringing up the fact they are fully supportive of my rights. Which was fine when I was, uh, freshly risen, so to speak, and a, a little more insecure. But at this point I kind of thought we'd have moved past it.

Every conversation I have with them awkward at best and positively stifling at worst. I've tried talking to them about it, to see if I've done something to upset them, but they all insist that I've done nothing wrong and that everything is fine.

I hate it. I hate feeling like I'm some delicate subject that has to be tip-toed around. I thought that they would have grown used to my condition by now. Nothing really has changed, at least I think so. It's harder for me to grip things. My mobility isn't what it was and I don't eat anything at family gatherings, but in the grand scheme of things, that's- [sighs] really not that much!

I know for them it might seem like a big change, and maybe my concept of death is slightly twisted. But it's been a couple of years since my resurrection. I don't know if that's too little or too much time, but whenever I talk to them, I feel like I'm back to square one and all progress has been lost.

When I'm around them, I feel like they're never going to see me as “normal” again. In their eyes, I'll never be who they perceived me to be when I was alive again. Even though I, I am, I... [sighs] I'm still me.

Am I asking for too much from them? Either way, how can I help them when they won't tell me anything?

The Presenter (as themselves)

[ragged breathing] That's, uh. Uh. Yeah, that's a tricky one, yeah. Sorry, I- [winces, then sighs] As I was saying, that's certainly a difficult situation for you and you have my sympathy.

I think the best course of action here is to bring this matter out into the open. Sunlight is the best disinfectant – especially when it comes to fear. And I'm afraid fear is likely at the root of your family's change in attitude. Or rather their failure to change their attitude. Failure to, um. Uh... G-grow. I suppose. [winces]

It, uh, it sounds to me like your family is afraid of many things relating to your condition. They're afraid of letting you down, or of seeming unsupportive. But they're also afraid of your condition and what it tells them about the world.

You don't “deserve” rigor mortis. You didn't earn it or choose it. And there is nothing you can do to reverse it. And that, to people who have always been able to choose how their body behaves, is terrifying.

For your family, the body is an unproblematised site of cause and effect. If you eat healthily and exercise, your body will behave itself. If you don't wash your hands, you will get sick. If you do everything right, you will not get sick. But by contracting rigor mortis, your body has done something unexpected.

In reality, you are simply in a different place on the wide, wide spectrum of what a body might be. But to your family, your reanimated self is a challenge to their entire world view. If they look at you too long, they risk seeing the truth: that there is nothing they can do to prevent something like this happening to them.

So, they take refuge in silence. They are treating your rigor mortis – your body as a whole – as a taboo subject only to be mentioned in the most rigidly scripted manner, and only for a prescribed amount of time.

Back when you were first reanimated, those social scripts were effective because they met your need for reassurance and positivity. But your needs have changed as your relationship with your body has changed. Your family's relationship with your condition, however, is lagging behind.

The only way to destroy a taboo is to break it. You need to talk about this. Bring up your condition in casual conversation. If your family members say something you don't appreciate, tell them. It doesn't have to be an argument – just a simple correction that actually, you'd rather they... Well. Whatever you'd rather. That part is up to you.

You might need some support for this. It's hard work and it will take a while. Why not invite a friend the next time you attend a family event – someone who doesn't have the same hang-ups as your relatives, and can offer them a model for how you prefer to be treated.

I'd also recommend talking this through more fully with at least one family member, getting them alongside so they can do the work for you when you're either absent or simply don't have the energy to engage.

And above all, listener, remember: you deserve to ask for this. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with your body. It simply is. and it's time your family caught up with that fact.

Oh you can't be serious. [calling off] Really?! [beat] Oh don't pull that face at me, you know very well “what”. You booked the damn ad. [sighs] Do I have to?

[Beat. The Presenter groans, clears their throat and sighs. Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]]

The Presenter

Ever wondered how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Get transformed into a woodchuck and find out today at Chuck's Wood Chuckers! Located next to Sally's Seashore Sea Shell Store. Proud members of the Nightfolk Network. Warning: once transformed we cannot return you to your human state, please read the terms and conditions carefully.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Gods have mercy... Our second letter tonight is from a listener facing a moral challenge.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I'm afraid I can't give you too much detail about my current predicament. I'm worried that if I get too specific, I run the risk of losing one of the primary advantages of writing to you – my anonymity. Still, I hope you'll be able to offer some advice, even if the issue is a little vague.

The reason for the cloak and dagger routine is that I work for a politician. And he heads up a fairly important government department. I say important, it's not the bloody Home Office. [laughs] But it's not exactly the Food Standards Agency either, if you catch my drift.

I... Uh. Well. I suppose there’s no harm saying it here – between friends. I’m aiming for the big job. Eventually, you know. Right now, I'm just putting in the graft. Making the connections I'll need when I run for parliament myself. And being a member of the community, well, it’s a double-edged sword in this business.

On the one hand, it lends you an air of authenticity in certain circles. People like politicians who they think have struggled a bit, you know? But an awful lot of voters also... [thinking noises] Mm, what’s the best way of putting this... Uh. Oh, they hate us. [laughs] Yeah. Yeah, they, uh... They really hate us.

I’m not going to give anyone extra ammunition against me. Not now, not this early in my career. Wait till I’ve got a bit more to show for myself. So, nobody really knows about my identity. It’s easy enough to keep a lid on, my genus is sapio-passing and most of the areas in which we differ from sapios are internal.

I can see a few colours my sapio colleagues can’t, can hear a broader range of frequencies. [laughing] I’ve got the devil of a sense of smell. And I can tell when someone’s lying.

Alright, if you want to get specific, I can read emotional signifiers, especially in verbal communication. It works sort of like an aura, I think? Like I can see the colour of the feeling behind what’s being said. I can’t tell if someone is saying something untrue but that they believe is true, you know? But if you’re fibbing and you know it...? [laughs]

It's, uh, not a trait we tend to crow about. It puts the wind up people, makes them nervous – despite the fact we've got a pretty strong culture of keeping your mouth shut about such things. You'd have to, wouldn't you, or you'd never get anything done.

Anyway, that’s how I found him out. My boss. I'll not get into details but suffice to say, he’s been telling porkies. Nothing world-shaking but enough that if it got out... it would destroy him. [thoughtfully] Could damage the party too, but I, I think that depends on how they decide to play it...

And, look. I’m not some bleeding-heart idealist, alright? Don’t mistake me. I’m not for sticking my neck out in the name of [pompously] preserving the honour of British politics. If I take this to the papers and my name gets attached, I’m done for. Doesn’t matter if I’m in the right - nobody’s going to go to bat for a known whistleblower.

Besides, I don’t know how to tell anyone without mentioning my genus. I mean, that’s, that's how I know, right? But if I keep schtum, this man will keep lying, keep profiting from those lies, and keep making me complicit in his behaviour. And I... I don’t like that. I don’t like someone deciding that for me. What should I do?

The Presenter (as themselves)

[winces] Sorry, listeners. One moment, please. [quietly] Oh, my head...

Uh. On a, a practical level, listener, um... [pained] Well, I'm- I'm afraid you might be overestimating how credible other people will find your testimony.

[clears throat] There's no good reason for evidence gathered through liminal perception to be dismissed more easily than, say, eye-witness accounts. And yet, most sapios – and a shameful percentage of the creature population – simply do not give credence to accounts that rely on extended perception.

You might find an investigative journalist willing to take a tip on what sort of thing to investigate and in which department. Otherwise, I'm afraid most outlets would hear your story and dismiss it as having no tangible evidence and being likely to lead to no tangible outcome.

You could gather more evidence. Use the knowledge you have from your liminal perceptions to guide you towards more concrete facts. In that way, you would be no different than any sapio whistleblower, and could at least avoid mentioning your creature identity.

I can't tell you whether or not you should do this, listener. It's simply not my place. There is a more morally upstanding path here, it's true. But you and only you can decide whether the benefits of that action are worthwhile compensation for the serious personal risk involved.

Take your time, and consider your options carefully. You seem more than capable of imagining all possible outcomes. Just be sure not to get bogged down in imagining. You must make a decision either way. And it must be a decision you can live with, whatever the consequences.

You say you're aiming at the big job, and I wish you luck, for what it's worth. It's a nice idea, a creature in Number 10. But a creature with principles, and the wherewithal to stand by them? Now that, I really would like to see.

Next on the Nightfolk Network, um... Excuse me. Um. [winces] Next tonight. The importance of Britain's forests to its liminal population cannot be overstated. But in the face of sprawling urbanisation, how are sylvan communities coping with...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-aficionados say-”, pop music, a voice saying “-wear a mask-” and classical music before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

Tonight's first letter was from AAAHHH, the second is from Lew and tonight's advert came from Art. Thanks, friends! Submissions are now closed for this season but will reopen ahead of Season Three.

Big hello to our latest supporters on Patreon, Gwen, Dylan and Kiri. Join them at, make a one-off donation a, or show your support by sharing with your friends and familiars, and by 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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