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  • Writer's pictureH.R Owen

Episode Thirteen

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Monstrous Agonies E13S01 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Thirteen.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through static, a voice saying, “-in terms of our health-”, choral music, a voice saying “-it's sport!”, and a voice saying “-it's just a poor concept-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-navigating by smell alone.

Up next on the Nightfolk Network, I answer listener's questions on liminal living in our advice segment.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network – sponsored by Apep Energy Drink. Put Apep in your step!

[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's first letter is from a listener whose neighbour is going through a difficult time.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I've lived on this street since I was a girl. Most of my neighbours are old friends of mine. We grew up together. We've grown old together. It makes for a very close-knit community.

My next door neighbour, though, she's new to the area. I say new – she moved here from Ireland over a decade ago! She's really part of the fabric of things now. I think she's from Kerry originally. She's lost most of her accent, though it still comes out on those hard Rs.

We've grown very close over the years. She's a kind soul, and as my mobility has become increasingly limited, she's extended that kindness to me far beyond anything I could have hoped. She's been a source of joy and comfort, and I am deeply grateful to have her in my life.

Now. Please bear with me – the appropriate language has changed somewhat since I was young. There aren't many individuals in our area who are... [carefully] members of the creature community. At least who I know of. Unfortunately it hasn't always been the easiest place to be different. It is getting better, and my neighbour seems very happy here, very settled.

However, I confess, it is not my area of expertise. This is why I'm writing to you rather than approaching her directly. If I make a fool of myself on national radio, so be it. I'd rather that than cause offence to my friend.

The issue is this. About a week ago, I woke in the middle of the night and didn't know what had woken me. Not unusual. At my age you're grateful for the least bit of sleep you can get. But as I lay there, trying to decide whether I should get up or not, I realised I could hear her, through the wall.

I didn't recognise it initially. Thought it must have been the pipes or something. But as I listened, the sound resolved itself into a low, insistent sobbing. It was a sound of utter despair, as if nothing was right in the world, or ever could be right again.

I chalked it up to a one-off. We've all had nights where we needed a good cry. But the next night, I heard it again. And the next.

It got worse. It wasn't muffled sobs any more, but a high, plaintive wail. Sometimes I think I can hear words in it, though I don't understand them. There's a rhythm to it, it builds and builds, until it's fairly throbbing with pain and lamentation. And it makes me feel...

Well, I'd have thought it would make me sad. And it does, in a way, I feel terribly sorry for her, she's obviously hurting dreadfully. But at the same time, I feel a sort of peace come over me as I listen, like a letting go. And I always do listen, I can't bring myself to turn on the radio or anything of that nature. It feels very, very important somehow that she be heard. That her grief be heard.

She came round to see if I needed anything from the shops. She looked exhausted, poor thing, eyes rimmed red, the bags beneath them like smudges of ash. But before I could say anything, she was apologising for the noise. She said she couldn't help it, it was to do with her identity, that it wouldn't last too much longer, and that I wasn't to worry about her.

I said, well, she needn't tell me any more than she wants to, but I probably would go ahead and worry about her, actually, if it's all the same. That's what friends do, after all.

She's been round most days since. And every night, I hear her. Crying her

heart out. I talked the chap who has the house on the other side of her, but he says he can't hear anything. Probably something to do with the layout of the terrace.

But, this is my question for you. Is this something you're familiar with? And is there anything I can do to help? I don't want to make her uncomfortable. But I want her to be happy. She's my friend, and I love her. Even if you can't give me more information, I would appreciate some reassurance that she's alright. Or at least, going to be alright, in the long run. Can you help?

[long pause]

The Presenter (as themselves)

[quietly] Your friend will be fine.


She's going through a difficult time right now – I don't feel comfortable going into more detail, as it's clear she's set a boundary on what she wishes to share. But I assure you, I know her situation very well. It's... hard. It's very hard. But please, rest assured that she will come out the other side. It may be a difficult journey, but she'll make it through.

I'm afraid there isn't much you can do for her in a practical sense. The best thing you can do is spend time with her. Let her know that you love her, and are glad to have met her. This is a time for honesty and kindness. You've told me how much she means to you – make sure she knows, too.

One way you can help is to try not to push her feelings in one direction or another. You may feel the impulse to cheer her up, but right now your friend needs space to feel what she's feeling – the good, and the bad. Try to take her as she comes.

I'm sure there isn't anything I could say that would stop you worrying entirely. It may be a small comfort, but I hope it is a comfort nonetheless to know that I don't think this will last too much longer.

You've been a good friend to her, and she's lucky to have had you- To have you. There's nothing you can do now but continue to love her just as well as you always have. The rest will follow.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network: the voice of liminal Britain.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Next – what to do when a colleague isn't all they claim to be.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I work in a toy shop. It is not as fun as it sounds. It's minimum wage, terrible hours, and the kids are great but literally every parent who walks into the place is a complete nightmare.

We got a new hire at the end of the summer, Eddie. Turns out he's from a similar background to mine. Different genus, but it's always nice to have someone else from the community around.

My lot is part of the 'advanced longevity' crowd – most of us clock in a good few centuries before we really start to feel it. And please, don't ask how I've managed to be working for half a millennium and still earn minimum wage. I get enough of that from my mother. How was I to know sin-eating wasn't going to be a transferable skill?

Anyway. We had an all-staff training session about six weeks after Eddie started. The session began with an ice-breaker - tell us one interesting fact about yourself. We had all the usual suspects – [in different voices] I was born in a lift, I used to think badgers were mythical, I do sword-swallowing in my spare time.

And then it gets to Eddie. And he sits there and says, bold as brass: “I was one of the guards who arrested Guy Fawkes.” I'm sitting there thinking, [laughing] oh no you weren't, sunshine. Because I was, and I never forget a face.

Well, no, I forget faces all the time actually, but I remember those ones!

I was the only actual guardsman with them, the rest of the search party were all toffs on orders from the king. I reckon they only took me along for cannon fodder. My point is, I know who was with me down there that night, and it wasn't Toy Shop Ed.

I didn't say anything. It seemed sort of petty to bring it up. But then I heard him telling one of the girls that he sailed with Jack Rackham? I was in Nassau at the same time as Calico Jack – nothing exciting, I just worked in a pub. But I knew the men who served under him, and Eddie wasn't one of them. But alright, I thought, benefit of the doubt. Maybe he joined the crew later or something.

Except it seems like, whatever century you bring up, Ed was doing something historically significant. He once sat for Leonardo Da Vinci, he was at the opening of the Cave of the Golden Calf, he snogged Kit Marlowe at a party once. We all snogged Kit Marlowe at a party once!

If you believe him, which I don't, he's never had a dull decade in his life. Even if I didn't know for a fact he was lying about Guy Fawkes, it just doesn't work like that. I spent almost the entire 19th century working in a fishmonger, for crying out loud.

So. Do I confront him? One of the only things that makes this job bearable is getting on with the other people who work here. I don't want to cause trouble. But God it's irritating. What do you think?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I agree, it seems deeply unlikely that he was actually present for most of these events. Apart from Kit Marlowe, which as you say is nothing write home about.

Most long-lived members of the community are guilty of fudging their historical significance somewhat. Versailles is always popular. First performances of Shakespeare, public executions and resurrections – anything with a plausibly deniable crowd in which to lose oneself.

But most people limit themselves to one or two such embellishments, and they usually have at least a touch of truth about them. It sounds like your colleague is taking things to extremes.

I suspect these prevarications are the result of low self-esteem. He possibly doesn't believe he's interesting enough in his own right, and relies on these anecdotes to entice people to keep talking to him, or to think well of him. He may lack the social skills to realise that bragging is not an endearing trait.

That doesn't make his behaviour less annoying, I know, but it might help to see it as something to pity him for rather than being frustrated.

Challenging him would be a lot of energy and likely wouldn't be particularly effective. I'd save yourself the trouble. Concentrate instead on working on trying not to get riled up by him.

Now you know what he's like, you can prepare yourself for it. If someone brings up the 1850s, you know to brace for Eddie's claim that he was on the crew of the HMS Beagle, or that he “filled Dickens' inkwell”. You could make a game of it – what wild thing will he claim about himself next?

I advise against bringing this up with other colleagues. You risk sounding jealous or petty. Rise above, and know that this behaviour says far more about him than it does about anything else.

That's all we have time for this week. Next, we take another dive into the world of films and filming, and ask how Hollywood's portrayal of the creature community has helped or hindered cross-cultural relations. Our correspondent, Robin Bean, reports.

[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through inaudible speech, a voice saying “-the next few days-”, a voice saying “-emotional-” and static before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

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

Big thanks to our latest patron – JK Smith. Hello, friend, and happy new year!

If you'd like to support the programme, head over to, where you can pledge as little as £1 a month. You can also show your support by rating and reviewing us on iTunes, and sharing the programme with your friends and familiars.

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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