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Episode Twenty Seven

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Monstrous Agonies E27S01 Transcript

H.R. Owen

Hello, friends, Hero here. Monstrous Agonies is going to be taking a short break for the next week. That means there'll be no episode next Thursday, April 22nd, but we'll be back with you the week after on April 29th. Have a lovely week, and see you on the other side!

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Twenty Seven.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-old age and death-”, rock music, and a voice saying “-face covering-” and static before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-shake, rattle and roll.

Up next, it's time for our advice segment, where I answer listeners' questions about life, love, and all things liminal.

[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

Starting us off tonight, a listener who asks what to do about the recent discovery of an old mistake.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

Ours is a family business. Well, business isn't quite the word. More a sort of vocation. My sisters and I have been at it for, oh, a few millennia at this point.

It's pretty well entirely automated nowadays. But, until about the 18th century, it was all done by hand. We each had our role to play – one of us to spin, one to measure, and one to cut. And I'm not trying to shift the blame here... But I would like to point out that none of this would have happened if my sister would have just measured it right the first time!

It must have been around the 5th century or so? Honestly, those little ones all just blur together. I mean what are you supposed to say, robes were in fashion? You still had to tie your underwear onto you, I remember that.

Anyway, we were packing up for the day and Clo's gathering up the strings and she picks one up and holds it aloft and says, "Who... did this?" Even after all this time, I can still remember the look on her face. Hell hath no fury like a big sister.

I'm afraid I think I laughed. It was about as wrong as it could possibly be. This long, wiggly bit of string. Most of them are a few inches, some longer. A depressing number much shorter. And then there's this one, at least a foot and half. I don't know what happened, we must have just not been paying attention or something.

Anyway, I already had my coat on, my scissors were in the bottom of my bag so I said look, give it here, tie a knot where it's supposed to be cut and I'll do it when I get home.


And then, last week... I was rummaging in the back of the drawer – you know the drawer, the one full of stuff that doesn't live anywhere else, I think I was looking for the Sticky Stuff Remover or Post-It notes or something. And, behold. Wrapped in a little bundle around itself to keep it tidy – the string. I must have put it somewhere for safekeeping and then...

Well, my question is – what now? Do I... cut it? I kind of want find them, see what they've been up to. They've had a bloody good innings, whoever they are. And I'm dying to know what happened when they got to the bit with the knot. Judging by the length of it, I'd say they've got another good three to five hundred years left on the clock. Seems a shame to cut it short now.

I, um. I haven't mentioned it to my sisters yet. Because, as bad as finding out you've made a mistake might be, it's nothing to admitting it. Is there any way of getting out of this without looking like an idiot?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I certainly don't think you should cut the thread now, listener. It wouldn't undo your mistake, after all. And really, after fifteen hundred years? A few hundred more can't hurt.

Also, I'm not sure if you were joking, but just in case – please don't try and track this individual down, however intrigued you might be. It would be a serious violation of their privacy and I can't imagine they'd take it well.

I appreciate that you feel some awkwardness about the mistake, but I don't think you need to feel too badly. It was easily done, and while it technically will have altered the face of the universe irrevocably, in ways at once too bold and too subtle to be known, well, the same might be said for almost anything.

Besides which, the very nature of your vocation makes me wonder if this wasn't somehow intended to happen. You and your sisters may spin and measure and cut... But there are other forces at work in the universe. Things that work with far stranger materials than scissors and string.

Take heart, listener. We are all of us entangled in the unfathomable web of fate – even you. Accept your mistake, and accept that you will never know the role you play in the grand scheme of things.

As for your sisters, I don't see any reason to mention it to them. What's done is done, and the results will fall where they will. And besides – you'd look like an idiot.

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

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Our second letter this evening is from a listener wondering how to approach sensitive subjects in the family.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I don't know how this usually works, if there's a way you pick which letters to read? Is it first come, first serve, or something else? It's just, this is sort of time sensitive, so I hope it's not rude to say but I could really do with an answer sooner rather than later.

I've got this family thing next week. It's an anniversary dinner and the whole family's going to be there, from Great Uncle Valentine to my second cousin Lettice. That's with an I, not a U.

I'm the baby of the family. After me, there's my sister, she's 26, and the next youngest cousin is 98. And the thing is, I think it's an age thing because whenever we all get together things get a bit... tense.

My parents are alright. We butt heads now and then but nothing beyond the ordinary, even if they are so much older than my friends' parents. But the rest of them have some pretty outdated views on the world.

And, I want to be someone who stands up for what they believe in and doesn't ignore prejudice and challenges people to be better and kinder and all that good stuff. But the thing is, they're completely bonkers!

At my 18th, I mentioned being excited about being able to vote, and accidentally started a huge row about the dangers of women's suffrage. I've got cousins who think novels are immoral, who think bicycles are the vehicles of sin. And there was that time my aunt tried to marry me off to the prince of a rival clan when I was 12. We laugh about it now but Auntie Grímhildr wasn't joking.

I hate biting my tongue around them, and I feel like I'm letting everyone down by letting this small-mindedness go without challenging it. Am I wrong, for wanting to just... not rock the boat?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I hope this answer reaches you in plenty of time, listener. To begin – no, you're not wrong, and you're not letting anybody down. These opinions are ones your relatives have clearly held for a long time. The world has outgrown them, but they have not.

There is nothing you can say, no argument you can make, that will convince your relatives to change their minds. What's more, and this is really the crucial point – it's not your job to change their minds.

It's perfectly appropriate for you to voice your objections when your relatives express such outdated views as, “women's suffrage was a mistake” and “it is appropriate for adults to use their younger relatives as pawns in their political intrigues.” But you must understand that if they aren't willing to listen, there's really no point having the conversation.

Draw a line around what you are and aren't willing to tolerate from them. You don't have to stop loving them or cut them out of your life, but you need to accept that they are who they are and it's not healthy for you to spend your time and energy trying to change them.

You're not obliged to maintain a relationship with people who distress you, be they parents or friends or elderly aunts. But if you do want to continue having a relationship with them, you need to accept that they are responsible for their beliefs – not you.

If your relatives grow curious about your beliefs, and if they sincerely wish to engage with you in a meaningful way, you can decide whether you feel comfortable having the conversation or not. But without that curiosity and genuine desire for dialogue, the best you can do is voice your disagreement and let the matter drop.

Live your life without apology. Stay true to your own ideals. Keep yourself safe, and save your energy for battles worth fighting.

That's all for our advice segment this week. Up next – we explore how one of the creature community's most famous musicians found success in the face of prejudice. When her breakthrough single, Nine Million Bicycles, was released in 2005...

[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through static, piano music, and inaudible speech before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

This episode's first letter was based on a submission by Sophie. 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.

You can support Monstrous Agonies by rating and reviewing us on iTunes, supporting us on Patreon at, and by 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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