Content warnings for this episode include: Animal cruelty or animal death (Heidi, The Beast as usual), Suicidal thoughts, Violence, Death + Injury, Blood, Character Death, Vampires Eating People, Gun Mention, Emotional Manipulation, Body horror, Child Sacrifice
Intro - Little Living Things
You had, until now, thought of yourself as a unit. One singular being of thought and action. No longer. You are betrayed by your own body, and each part of it has a mind of its own, stretching and breaking and growing in disconnected directions. You were never one being, but a multitude of little living things wrapped in one parcel of skin, tied together with veins and sinew. They are emancipated, and you are destroyed in their rebellion.
How ironic, now, as you gaze out on a black horizon, trees one with the starless sky, that you too are a part of the whole. What bleeds now in your veins is the same as what trickles in the trees and runs in webs across the leaves. You have become one small part of the new age, and each step you take of your own volition is a spreading of the change, and the spirit of the forest bids you speak Hello From The Hallowoods.
Right now, I nestle in a chandelier suspended high over the polished floors of a grand hotel lobby. I am not alone up here. A shadow curls across the patterns of the ceiling decor, watching like me as the hotel management waits with anticipation, and the rotating door yields one danger after the next, hands and claws and teeth stained with blood. The theme of tonight’s episode is Organs.
Story 1 - The Noise
The Countess could not complain about the noise. Truth be told, the Grand Crossroads Hotel was less prone to violence and scuffles and murder than the Resting Place had been, and its owners made less of a priority of sacrificing incoming customers for their souls. While that meant there was no freezer full of bodies anymore, she was willing to deal with the inconvenience if it meant a more civilized manner of living the rest of the time. And naturally, she was becoming attached to the current ownership, perhaps more than she’d be willing to admit.
Even the previous night’s uproar, with the spirit hunters ejected from the hotel bags in hand and the card room in disarray, had only been as much of a disturbance as the average Wednesday night at Barb’s old haunt. And the new quiet meant that she could spend her highs flirting about the hotel with Yaretzi, and the lows suspended in the darkness of her room for days at a time, and bide out her time as long as it lasted.
But tonight, it was loud, even by the old Resting Place standards. She watched from the shadow high above the delicate chandelier as the rev and roar of the motorcycle fleet outside died down to a low rumble, and the first of the cavalcade burst into the lobby, trading rowdy jokes and laughing. Polly in a suit of silver flowers and Yaretzi with her arms crossed stood at the reception desk.
“Whatever is he doing here?” Polly whispered. “I thought he had his residence down in New York. And it’s hardly the season for cycling.”
“I do not know,” Yaretzi growled beneath her breath. “Be polite until we know what he wants.”
The first marauder, a pale face and red goggles, wrapped in a tattered scarf, did not approach the desk but went to stand on one side of the lobby, twirling his keys. The second, with matted brown hair and a machete on both hips, went to stand on the other. The legion of black biking vests and grotesque patches and spiked helmets found their way into two waves split like the red sea, and all eyes turned to the glass revolving door as it yielded a final guest.
The Count was dark of hair and skin and eyes, and he wore a motorcycle jacket with red leather bats sewn down the sleeves. His wings rose from his hips to form a spined collar around his neck, and a leathery cloak that trailed behind as he walked. He pulled off his gloves as he strode across the lobby, and although his sharp grin was directed at the reception desk, in a thousand reflections of the chandelier’s crystal and mirrors it was also pointed at the Countess.
“Hello again, my friends,” he said. “I took your ‘vacancy’ sign outside as an invitation.”
“Just happened to be passing through, were you?” Polly said, and put his hands on the counter as if inspecting papers. “Were you thinking one night or two? And… rooms for all of you?”
A lamp on a side table dropped, splintered across the floor, and several of the Count’s acolytes stepped away to avoid being implicated. The Countess glared at the one who had bumped it. The Count did not look for the cause of the noise, although his ear twitched. His smile remained pleasant.
“Why the rush?” he said, and waved his hands. “It’s a beautiful season. The winter is finally here. I think we’d like to stay a while.”
“I knew your kind are cold,” Yaretzi said, brows furrowed. “But I did not picture you as a lover of the snow.”
“You’re one to make assumptions,” he said, eyes darting to the starwolf. “But I’m talking about a different winter. The season is changing for humanity. Cold revenge is coming back on a silver platter. And I’d like front row seats. Is that a problem?”
Polly flexed a hand, and the shards of the lamp tumbled back across the tiles, ebbed with orange light as they flew up onto the stand. The cracks healed, and the bulb flickered to life again.
“No problem at all,” Polly said through gritted teeth. “How many rooms do you need?”
“I have a problem,” the Countess said, peeling herself out of the shadow behind the reception cabinetry. She crossed her arms, flexed the fingers of her wings that formed the collar of her cloak. “He’s only here to cause trouble and spill bad blood. With me specifically.”
“What an accusation,” the Count said, and put a hand to his chest in mock offense. “And from my old mentor the Countess, no less. Rest assured, I have made friends of the starwolf and the handsome devil here. I know it’s hard to imagine a world where not everything revolves around you, but nevertheless. How have you been my dear? You look beautiful.”
“How do you two know each other exactly?” Polly said, resting his chin on his hands. “You have, ah, matching titles.”
“He stole mine,” the Countess said. “I was an actual Countess for a time. He’s never been to Europe.”
“Steal? Me? Never,” the Count said, and grew a fingernail into a long black talon, picked his teeth with it. “I only trade. I took a working name, and you took my humanity and my agency and the sweet release of death. It seems more than fair.”
“I should have bled you dry,” the Countess said. “It would have saved us both conversations like these.”
“Let’s not talk of blood,” the Count said, and smiled again. “You’re going to make me thirsty, and the present company is a scarce vintage.”
The Countess glared at him, and fur rippled across Yaretzi’s neck and arms.
“You said the season is changing for humanity,” Polly said. “What are you talking about? Front row seats to what exactly?”
“Oh? You don’t know yet? It’s going to be a wonderful surprise for you then,” the Count said, and put his hands on the cold stone of the reception desk. “I must say, you’ve chosen a poor place for a new hotel.”
“The forest is growing,” the Countess frowned. “We already know. It’s no secret.”
“Growing, yes,” the Count said. “Like green sprouts rising from garden soil. But when the winter is over, they’re going to bloom. What has been growing will awake to the sun and lay claim to all the earth with its seeds. The final note in the wonderful orchestra of the end.”
“You’ll, ah, make us immortal by then, ey boss?” said the biker with the goggles. The Count swiveled towards him instantly.
“Did I permit you to speak?” the Count said. “I am having a conversation with my friends. How dare you interrupt so rudely.”
“I’m sorry boss,” his toady began to say, but was cut off as the Count was on him in an instant, and his body shuddered as the Count rent it down the middle. Blood spattered against the marble pillars of the walls, blanketed the tiles, and the Count pressed his lips to the man’s shoulder hungrily for a moment before dropping the body, still warm and writhing.
“Help yourself,” he said to the Countess, and grinned at her as he wiped his mouth with a jacket sleeve. He turned to his hoard, who stood rigid and still in the wings, watching him in paralyzed fear.
“What is the one rule I ask when speaking with my honored guests?” he called, and raised a blood-drenched palm.
“Not to be interrupted!” saluted the woman with the machetes.
“What have I promised my faithful cavalcade?” he cried.
“We ride for life undying!” the crowd responded.
“There you have it,” the Count said, and turned back to the reception desk, smiled with blood in his teeth. “I apologize for making a mess of your lobby. But you understand, there’s a certain amount of discipline I need to enact to keep these lovely people in order. Now. About those rooms.”
The smell was tempting, but the Countess would sooner starve than accept the leftovers of that young renegade, or dine on any of his flea-bitten riders, for that matter.
“What are you really here for,” the Countess said. “Besides to make a mess of the place.”
“I have someone,” Polly said, and Yaretzi turned to look at him. “Going into the forest. North. He’s part of some silly hiking group or something. Is he going to be safe?”
“Oh dear,” the Count said, and frowned, dragged a bloody fingertip across the surface of the reception desk. “I hate to be the one to tell you this, friend, but that’s about the last place on earth anyone should be right now. If he’s going North, with what’s coming? He’s as good as gone.”
Interlude 1 - Body Become Canvas
If you live in the Hallowoods or one of the many hundreds of similarly affected areas, or live almost anywhere on the earth, you have ingested black water by now. There is no avoiding it, really. By this time, whether you can see it or not, the molecules of that ichorous contagion have bonded with every lake and ocean, every wellspring of groundwater and glacial trickle. It is forever a part of your food cycles and your body and your blood. Just like microplastics. And like those little particles, it is nothing to worry about. For now. If you are dreaming of this, and not of the endless void of the future, then I assume it has not affected you too badly yet.
There may be some small physical changes. If your hands should grow new fingers, or begin to change into talons or claws or wings, if new eyes should sprout anywhere upon your body, or your bones shift and crack into exciting new shapes, know that it is not personal. The black water is not a force of power or monstrosity. It is a force of art, of evolution, a brush trailing without thought, and your body has become a canvas. Whatever you are, whatever you will be, you are beautiful.
Perhaps I am biased. For you I know it is horrible to see these changes, sometimes, when they are so sudden. But when they are slow. When it grows over years, and you begin to wonder if it was ever different. When the spirit of change alters and transforms you into something new, I cannot help but find it fascinating. Because he is gone, and yet so much of him lives on in you.
I know it is selfish. I know this must end if you are to survive in any way. That if this black water continues to fill your world, one day there will be no more dreamers upon it to listen to me; only those who sleep and dream of the endless future, of a dim red sun going out.
And obviously, I do not wish that for you. Not anymore. And if anyone’s hand is to still this art, living long past its artist, it should be mine. Not Syrensyr, Reclaimer of Fire, as an act of quarantine and decontamination. I do not do this so that his Industry of Souls may survive.
I do it for you, dreamer. You alone.
We go now to one who is already a part of this forest.
Story 2 - Like All Prey Animals
Hector knew that Jonah was dead. He knew as soon as Heidi leapt through two bushes that glittered like stars, skeletal paws kicking up black earth as she ran. She would not have left Jonah behind, and the love of his life was… he did not want to imagine, but he had seen the Faceless King pull Jonah’s body into its underside of grasping arms before, tear him into pale pieces until he was gone completely. Those images, then, were the ones that flashed in his vision as he realized that Jonah was dead, and perhaps words. An apology of sorts that Jonah had once uttered. When I die next, I’m going to be gone a long time.
I hope that isn’t true, Hector thought. Don’t leave me alone here. Don’t make me climb this mountain by myself. But he had no time to grieve, and the trees behind Heidi bent and split, and a hill of flesh barrelled after her.
The skull was that of a bear, and white fur clung to its corpse in tufts, but the bear was larger than any he had ever seen, a size big enough to hunt young Night-Gaunts, and it awoke in him some prehistoric dread. This was not the creature he had planned to kill.
“Heidi!” he shouted. “Here girl!”
The dog came bounding towards him, and he waved a bark-encrusted hand to Olivier and Riot, waiting in the bushes fifty feet closer. “Now!”
The weather witch took ahold of Riot, whose silver sword trembled, and came flying through the trees towards Hector. The bear had green eyes, Hector noted, and they shone like Jonah’s did in the sunlight. The bear opened its maw of massive fangs, each as long as his forearm, and roared.
Are you the one, Hector thought? Are you the one who killed the man I love?
Hector stumbled out from the bushes as Riot and Olivier flew past him, and he waved his arms.
“Hey beastie!” he called. “Come finish the job!”
The bear snorted, dead breath echoing in its exposed ribs, and with one thunderous pound of its claws against the earth after another, flew towards him. Hector winced, and waited.
It was there in one minute, loping fifteen feet with every step, opening a craggy maw of teeth in a roar that put shivers in his hands.
The next, it had disappeared, and leaves and pine needles flew into the air as it fell into the trapping pit that Mort and Diggory had spent half a day creating, hacking through roots that dripped black water and regrew as you cut them. Hector could not see from where he stood, but he hoped, for a long, still moment, that the sharpened trunks they’d positioned were enough to bring the beast to a permanent halt.
“Is it gone?” Mort called, peering from the trees behind him. Olivier and Riot stood near him, watching.
“I’m not sure!” Hector called, and raised a wooden hand. “Stay back. I’ll take a look.”
He stepped over the forest underbrush, glanced up to the sky of emerald burning stars. A wisp of green light wove between them, a hint of the Aurora Borealis. If you’re out there, Jones, beneath identical stars, he thought. Don’t stay away too long.
He knelt at the edge. The pit was deep; deeper than he’d expected to get, but Diggory and Mort were stronger than he’d anticipated, and it was twenty feet down to the bed of sharpened tree trunks. He’d been expecting an antlered human centipede with no face, but they appeared to have done their job regardless. The bear was impaled in three places, and a green eye blazed, its teeth flashed as it chewed thoughtlessly on its own tongue.
“Thank god,” he muttered, and backed away from the pit, turned to face Riot and Olivier and Mort as he walked.
“I think we got it,” he said, and looked up to Heidi, who stood perfectly still, watching him. If I’ve learned one thing since the Fisher, he thought, it’s that you can never trust a blackwater beast to stay down. He looked over his shoulder to find the pit unchanged, the trees as dark as ever, the silent sky glistening overhead.
But there it was.
A solitary shape in the pines, tall and pale and wreathed in fungus and vine. It watched him without eyes, and reared up on a trail of spindly arms. It raised one of its countless hands towards the pit, and the slits in its neck peeled open, and the Faceless King screamed.
Hector clutched his ears, the sound was agony even with the earplugs in. He stumbled away from the pit, back towards the rest of the party, and screamed for them to run as the earth shook, and one huge paw leapt upwards from the pit, followed by a second, and the bear climbed free of the trap, splintering a wooden log in its side as it rose.
He looked up to his fellow explorers of the dead realm; the buzz cut girl and the sky witch, the big dead robot and the small one, the grave digger and the bodyguard and his long-dead dog. Would I join Jonah, he wondered? If I died here today?
He stopped running; he dropped to the forest floor, pressed his face against the earth. There was a flash of silver from three hundred feet away; the barrel of Cindy’s rifle flashed white, and so did his blurry vision as she pulled the trigger.
Marketing - Body Issues
I was thinking today that I hate myself.
But so does everybody, I thought, so I should be more specific. Why do I hate myself? I’m a national icon, and a beauty standard, and a very talented marketing professional.
But it’s hard not to feel like a fraud right now. Like every thing I thought was good about myself has disappeared in some way. I’m no longer a marketing professional. My status as a national icon is tarnished. And… I’ll be honest. I haven’t looked the way I do in dream in a long time.
But maybe body issues is part of it. It’s hard not to be insecure when there’s a perfect version of yourself on every billboard. When every little change is one step further from the ideal that is adored across the nations. But this is a time for self-discovery. And it’s a time for confronting the truth. Maybe in discussing my own condition I can impart some comfort to the affected in our audience on the outside.
I have been affected by the black rains since very early on. Perhaps it was all the time I spent with Oswald, trying to discern how this was going to affect the world. But I came to enjoy the rain after a while. I came to need it. What began as mild sores or dry skin got worse.
Makeup covered it up, for a time, and then the digital touchups could cover anything unsightly. And obviously, in the Prime Dream, I could look however I wanted. I could ignore as I got taller for the first time in my life, or as the wounds in my skin started to turn into divides, as I became full of holes and teeth and hunger.
Looking back on it now I’m amazed how much I’ve changed from that short little person with the weight and the health issues and the perfectly normal eyes, to this. But it happens slowly.
And this body I have, with all my hands and eyes and everything else, still belongs to Lady Ethel Mallory. And I may be stained with mud and rain and the blood of that Angie girl. But I am still here. I am still alive. And I am going to make it across this wasteland blackwater-affected and proud…
Story 2, Continued - Like All Prey Animals
All bodies are beautiful.
All souls are not.
We return now to Hector Mendoza.
The bullet was etched with silver patterns, and twisted in the air as it sailed, and missed him by only a few feet as he dropped to the ground. There was a shudder behind him, and a tremendous roar; he looked up to find that the great beast had half crawled out of the pit, two massive claws and a pale skull behind him, and it was pierced through with stakes like a martyr. One of its eyes shone green; the other was a blackened pit as Cindy’s round struck true.
The titanic bear shuddered on the edge of the pit, gnashed its skull against the ground in agony.
“Cindy!” he called, pushing himself to his feet as he backed away from the pit and the bear, limped along towards his friends. “It’s still kicking!”
Cindy said nothing, reloaded with mechanical precision, and the silver rifle flashed again, but as Hector glanced over his shoulder, she was not aiming for the bear. The Faceless King between the distant pines wavered, and padded uneasily on his many hands.
There was a black wound in his forehead.
The Faceless King collapsed into the underbrush, arms convulsing like a half-crushed centipede, and the bear turned back to give a mournful bellow at its fallen master.
Hector did not waste time on elation. He sprinted for the group, and caught up with them as his legs gave out, and he rolled through the dirt a few paces.
“You okay man?” Riot said, sword in her hands.
“I’m alright,” Hector said. “Cindy, will another shot take the bear down?”
“I can try,” the former agent sat back, and reloaded, and wiped her brow.
The bear was already turning back in their direction, Hector realized, and the sight beyond it caused the blood to drain from his face. The Faceless King still stood, unwounded, a crown of green flame blazing high over its head. Its myriad hands trampled over the body of the dead king, its own corpse still seething in the underbrush as it advanced. It’s like Jonah, he thought. It will always come back.
“Run,” Hector said. “Run. I’m going to try and draw off the bear. Buy you some time.”
“Olivier, what have you got?” Riot said, and looked up to her camping partner. “I’m not sure my sword will cut it here.”
“There’s no weather here,” Olivier whispered. “I can put on a lightshow, but I’m not sure it will help.”
“I can try and fight him!” Mort said.
“You can’t help with the mission if you’ve been torn to pieces. I’ll do it,” Diggory said, and readied their sharpened hands.
“Diggory, you were torn apart by icicles once,” Percy said. “Please don’t fight the giant bear.”
Hector blinked as Cindy fired a third round into the bear; caused it to stumble for a moment, seemed barely to leave a scratch against its armored skull.
“Missed!” she hissed.
“Everyone get out of here now!” Hector roared, and picked himself up, dusted himself off.
“How will we find you again?” Riot said, sheathed her sword.
“Just go north,” Hector said, and unbuckled one of his dredging lines, lashed it to a black pine tree as the bear stumbled into a run towards them. “We’ll all end up at the same place.”
“See you on the other side,” Cindy said with a nod, folding away her rifle into its backpack case and retreating with the others. Hector stood with Heidi at his side, twirled the hook end of his line in his hand as the bear bore down on him, opened its mouth in a blasting roar.
He tossed the hook, didn’t wait to see where it landed as he dove to the side, but heard the satisfying clank as it became tangled in the giant skull’s teeth. The bear flew past him like a runaway train, and the pine strained as the line became suddenly taut, and the bear flipped on its side, one end of the cable in its teeth, the other looped around the tree.
“Come on girl,” he said, and took out his machete, went sprinting away from the bear. As the bear twisted and pulled against the line, he waved, circled back towards the pit trap.
“Hey bear,” he called. “Nice tasty man for you here. Second time today, huh?”
The bear rose to its paws, and with a decisive twist of its head, yanked tight on the cable, and the tree splintered, one shard dragging behind it on the ground. The bear looked up at him with its one remaining eye, and let loose a low growl from beyond the grave. Heidi growled back with equal menace.
“Come on,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to lose here.”
The bear huffed from its empty nasal cavity, and turned away from Hector, and loped away from him and Heidi alike, bounded into the forest beyond.
“Crap,” he said. “Well girl, think we can go catch a bear?”
Heidi was not looking at him, or the bear, he realized, but behind him. He looked up to find the Faceless King towering over him, as silent and wicked as a birch tree.
Are you animal, he wondered? Do you devour all that you see? Do you hunt?
Or are you human? Do you kill because it pleases you?
“You killed Jonah,” Hector said.
The Faceless King said nothing.
“You’re going to kill me,” Hector said.
The Faceless King did not reply. It raised one emaciated hand, fingers with long yellow nails, down towards him, and it lowered on its bed of hands.
It was funny, Hector thought, how things change. How once he might have run from death, as he had all his life. Was he too tired to run, now? Was that the fate of all prey animals?
He opened his eyes to find a single long fingertip pressed against his chest, over his heart, where the bark had grown over his skin.
The Faceless King smiled, and rose like the wind into the trees, turned with a long trail of vertebrae and crawling arms and blanketing fungus in its wake, and slid again into the trees.
It left him alone beside the empty pit trap, and Heidi sat at his side. He gritted his teeth. One thing left to do, then.
“Heidi girl,” he said, and knelt down to her, rubbed the decrepit fur between her pale eyes. “Sometimes when Jonah comes back, he’s right there where he died. I need to go make sure that bear doesn’t kill our friends. I think I’m the only one who knows what I’m doing there. Please… stay. If Jonah comes back, bring him to us. Bring him to me. Alright?”
He stood up, and began to walk, and Heidi sat.
“Jonah,” Hector said. “Find Jonah.”
Heidi stared blankly at him a long moment.
“Go on girl,” he said. “You can do this.”
The German Shepherd closed its dripping maw, and bounded away from him, back in the direction of the Faceless King, through the unseeing pines. Hector turned, and began in the other direction. He did not know strictly which way he was headed, but then again, he knew, under green stars all paths lead North.
Interlude 2 - You and I
What are you? It’s a relatively simple question to answer, if you’re one of the dreamers who lives on Earth. You are a collection of cells formed into little parts formed into one big part. A mixture of chemicals makes your organs work together and form what you think of as a personality.
Think with your skull tubes, but let your chest muscle guide the way. And due to stewing long enough in the right circumstances, your brain tubes allow you to make art and ask vapid questions about the universe instead of joining your fellow animals in blissful ignorance. My condolences.
What am I is a more complicated matter. For I am one hundred eyes in the dark, but not eyes that have form or flesh or molecules. So what is that then? A thousand immaterial presences? But if I exist only as a being of thought, what does it mean when my thoughts have changed so? I once saw no good in the universe, but I do now.
I once thought life a meaningless algae bloom upon the surface of this pristine universe, but now I treasure its art and existence. And once I thought myself only fit for one simple post, but I have surprised myself with what I have become. Am I the same Nikignik, solely comprised of thought, if all my thoughts have changed? Perhaps we are never more than the sum of our components. Perhaps we always are.
We go now to one who too contemplates the nature of gods.
Story 3 - Bad Sacrifice
“Well, Indrid my dear, what have you found?” said the Vicar. He sat on the dais of the Old Chapel, where once he had spoken with Solomon Reed about a grand instrument. He stared at it now; the unused result of Solomon’s creation, a massive instrument with banks of keys and great brass pipes that took up the back wall of the Chapel.
“With the Lord’s guidance, I was able to locate Johannah,” said the gaunt woman in her robe. She spoke in a low, somewhat depressing tone, but that was usual for her. “She was not alone. Her path converged with others.”
“But you have not brought her back. I assume there is some complication,” the Vicar sighed.
“Yes,” said Indrid. “She has taken refuge in the Library.”
“That accursed place,” the Vicar sniffed.
“Did our Instrumentalist not have dealings with them?” Indrid said. “Perhaps we could leverage his relationship.”
“As did our Oracle, at one time,” the Vicar said. “Relationships I have always discouraged. They vie for much of what we have kept as precious information to the faithful. They wish to claim it in the name of science. Many of our artifacts they have pilfered over the years.”
“One of the Doors,” Indrid said. “One of the Keys.”
“Very good,” said the Vicar. “Still, if they have Mrs. Wicker’s child, then perhaps the time has come for us to take more immediate action.”
“Do you not wish to pray regarding this?” said Indrid. “Seek the Lord’s wisdom?”
“I will not say much good of Solomon Reed,” said the Vicar. “He tarnished the Sacrifice to the Spring by using your son’s flesh to retrieve his soul, thus negating the sacrifice.”
“An act which I did not ask him to do,” said Indrid. “You remember. I disavowed such a horror. Although I think he meant kindly by it.”
“That deplorable act falls on his shoulders alone,” the Vicar said. “And God has punished him for it. But I will say this for him, he was a man of action. That instrument is a testament to that. And one day, we will have a new Instrumentalist, and we will fill those pipes with souls, and salvation will come to this forest. We must be brave in taking action on behalf of the Church. And we will be rewarded for our battles.”
“Then our next battle is with Downing Hill?” said Indrid.
“Let it be so,” said the Vicar. “And may the Lord be on our side.”
Outro - Organs
Organs. What an odd thing to be filled with. Unfortunate that you are not some neat product of living silicate or crystal fractals or sentient fog. Life breaks down, in the end. I think that was why I begrudged it so, for a time. My kind break down too, but over aeons.
I could spend eternities dwelling in distant nebulas, reveling in all the glory of the universe, and still feel as though I had not gained anything worth living for. You find all of that in a span of years, in the taste of food, in a walk in the forest on a sunny day, in the song of the wind and the cold embrace of the rain, in each other. Love is in those details, I think. And a reason for staying.
Staying until your eyelids slide over the irises a last time, I am your loyal host Nikignik, waiting inorganically for your return to the Hallowoods.
The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Stay' and is available on the Hello From The Hallowoods Patreon. Consider joining for access to all the show's bonus stories, behind-the-scenes and more!