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  • Writer's pictureH.R Owen

Episode Twenty

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Monstrous Agonies E20S01 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Twenty.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through static, singing, a voice saying “-between the cat, and the sourdough starter-”, and pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-the mad and golden eyes of a hare.

You're listening to the Nightfolk Network, the UK's only dedicated radio service for people the night.

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

The Presenter

Everywhere, every when, on 131.3FM.

[End background music]

The Presenter

It's almost two o'clock on Thursday morning, and time for our advice segment. Our first letter tonight is from a listener who feels their family don't respect their wishes.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

The first time I died caught everyone a bit off guard. I was still quite young, and hadn't made much in the way of post-mortem plans. I didn't even have a will! Left things in a bit of a shambles, I'm afraid. Fortunately, I was back in plenty of time to set things right, but I learnt my lesson.

The next time I died, everything went much more smoothly. All my paperwork was in order and if it had turned out to be permanent, everything would have gone off without a hitch. It's amazing how much bureaucracy there is in modern death, you'd never think it until you've gone through it yourself.

Anyway, I've died three more times since then – it's surprisingly easy, even when you think you're being careful! Though I admit, there is rather less urgency to things like looking both ways before you cross when you know you'll probably bounce back.

As I said, my first death took everyone a bit by surprise and I've never quite been happy with what they threw together for the funeral. It sounds fine, as far as it goes, but a bit one-size-fits-all. Mourning by numbers, if you like. When I redid my paperwork, I was sure to include very precise instructions for seeing me off, so this time around I was excited to see them in action.

My body was still at the morgue when I got back to it – a precaution after the first time. They'll hang on to me for up to two months after I 'vacate', just to be on the safe side. It's not the cheapest thing to have on retainer, but it's worth every penny. Clawing yourself out of your own grave is not nearly as glamourous as Buffy made it seem. I've even got my own drawer, with a nameplate and everything. It's really quite stylish.

So, I let myself out – gave the orderly on duty a bit of a fright, I'm afraid, don't think they mentioned me in her induction. And I check the date and realise, it's party day! And that if I got a wriggle on, I'd probably still miss the fireworks but I'd be right on time for the butterfly release.

Well. It didn't quite go as I expected. No butterflies. No fireworks. No photo montage. No choir. There were hardly even any guests – just my parents, my sister and her dopey boyfriend, and a couple of people I recognised from the office who I'm almost certain were only there to get the time off work. They didn't even look sad, like they were just going through the motions.

As it transpires, they haven't given me a proper funeral since the time before last. They even had the gall to bring money into it, as if there's a price limit on grief! How dare they? Quite apart from anything else, what if it had stuck that time, and I'd been ushered into the hereafter with nowt but a lacklustre sandwich spread and the faint strains of Candle In The Wind.

How can I impress upon my family the importance of respecting my funeral wishes, regardless of how permanent or otherwise my condition may prove to be?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I'm afraid you seem to be operating under a misapprehension as to the purpose of a funeral. Funerals are for the living, not the dead – not even the temporarily dead.

There is evidence of funerary rites dating back up to 65,000 years ago, when Neanderthals buried their loved ones curled as if to sleep, with flowers laid around them. Since then, practices have varied wildly across place and time, but always they come back to our deep and abiding need to say goodbye.

We hold funerals and perform our mourning rituals as a way of expressing the fact that our world – the world of those left behind – has been forever changed. We have lost something, and we cannot ever have it back.

I am reminded of the old Irish tradition of holding a wake for someone before they emigrated, because, to all intents and purposes, that person would be gone from your life as surely and as irrevocably as if they had died.

In your case, the opposite is true. Yes, you're dead. For a bit. But holding a funeral for you under these circumstances would be akin to throwing a leaving party every time you went on holiday. It's not practical, it's not necessary, and it's not fair for you to demand it – especially since your funeral wishes seem to be rather on the expensive side.

If you want to mark your transition from one life to another, I would encourage you to do so. Some people feel like their resurrections warrant a rite of passage, that they are stepping into a new self and wish to mark the event.

But that's something for you to take responsibility for, not your family. Just as, if your death were to prove final, it would be up to them to mark your passing in a way that felt appropriate and cathartic to them. If you just want a party, throw a party. Don't expect others to do it on your behalf.

On the subject of throwing parties, our next letter is from a listener concerned about etiquette at an upcoming event.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I feel a bit awkward asking you about this, but there's really nobody else with your... expertise? I'm a party planner by trade. God, as opposed to what, by birth? Sorry, I'm a bit nervous.

I've been hired to work on a... certain someone's spring equinox celebration. It's not the social event of the year, exactly – it's not up there with Hallowe'en, for example. But it's by far the biggest event I've ever worked on.

Both courts will be in attendance, not to mention dignitaries from all the noble houses, the yōkai confederacy, even a couple of people from Rarohenga, and heaps of cunning folk and liminal luminaries from all over. Everyone's going to be there! Well... Almost everyone, I mean. Sorry.

Anyway, my problem is this – with this many cultures and traditions represented, how do I make sure I don't accidentally offend someone? I've been sweating over the seating plan for months, terrified I'm going to sit someone in the wrong order of their hierarchy or put them at a table with their hereditary enemy or something. And that's not even allowing for differences of etiquette or eating habits, or even touching on entertainment.

I'm just afraid I've missed something. I can't afford to mess this up. God knows what could happen to me if I offend the wrong person here. Ruining my career doesn't even come into it – this could ruin my life. I'm so sorry to bring this to your door but I really do need your help. How am I ever going to pull this off?

The Presenter (as themselves)

First of all, listener, please don't worry about offending me. I'm more than

able to put aside my personal feelings and respond as a professional. Besides which, if you weren't in genuine need of my advice, I would be under no obligation to respond. Take this answer as reassurance that I appreciate the sincerity of your request.

Your employer should really have made herself available to answer these questions. But then again, being considerate of others has never been her strong suit. One happy side-effect of this tendency towards self-absorption is that, if there are members of this social milieu whom she suspects might prove difficult, she simply will not have invited them. No matter how seemingly petty the dispute. She wouldn't want to risk anything taking the attention away from her, after all.

What's more, most of the guests at this event have likely attended others like it, or are part of a cohort with those who have. There are members of the community – especially among its more aristocratic echelons – who are not interested in participating in events and activities beyond their own culture. Everyone at this party will be attending on the understanding that cultural difference is exactly what they've signed up for.

That said, there are a few practical things to bear in mind. I'm sure your plans already include your host making a statement to effect that food and drink offered bears no obligation of reciprocity. It is good practice these days to send this statement to guests in advance and have it available on the day in large print, audio, and etheric formats.

In terms of food, be aware that some people forget to note intolerances on their RSVPs when those intolerances are common to their entire genus. As cross-genus events become more common, that is improving, but it's best to err on the side of caution.

Talk to your caterer about the genuses you're expecting, as well as any individual allergies and dietary needs of which you have been made aware. And avoid coriander – it's not magical or anything, it just tastes like soap to some people, and I think we should all be more accommodating in that regard.

Since the seating plan will need to be approved by your employer anyway, I say leave the details of that to her. Do your best with the information you have, but trust that she'll know herself who ought not be sat near whom. She's always well-up on the latest gossip, after all.

You've already demonstrated an eye for detail that should steer you well clear of anything catastrophic. I wish you all the best, and hope the party goes well. For your sake. And no-one else's.

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

The Presenter

The Nighfolk Network, sponsored by The Black Dog of Newgate – artisanal leather goods for the animal in all of us. Black Dog – let desire off the leash.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Next tonight, with the combination cold weather and long nights, the start of the year can often seem to drag. We catch up with one listener who's been trapped in January 1977 for the last 44 years...

[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-the likes of God-”, static, a voice saying “-now I know what Oreos are-” and music before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

This episode's second letter was based on a submission by Treb. 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.

If you'd like to support the show, head over to You can also show your support by leaving us a review 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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