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HFTH - Episode 119 - Winters

Content warnings for this episode include: Abuse, Ableism, Animal death (Dogsmell, Tulip as usual), Violence, Kidnapping and abduction, Death + Injury, Blood, Guns, Strangulation/suffocation, Emotional Manipulation, Drowning, Bugs, Body horror

Intro - The Frostwalker Is Gone

You cannot sleep. The accusations bleeding up from the floorboards keep you up again.

"If you had any interest in our girl’s life you would never have brought her up here. What, being ripped apart by the neighbors would have been so much better? At least they weren’t drinking from a rotting cistern, look at what’s happening to me, look at my skin…"

The guilt watches you from the ceiling. The water you drink is bottled. You leave the little bed and walk to the window. Hello, you write in the frost, and hope that a long-dead spirit will etch a reply in the other side. Hello, you write again when the frost reclaims your word, but you see no shadow in the drifting haze of the snowstorm outside. It figures. Even the dead, even the great spirits of the forest pass on in the end, but you will never escape this house. You sink to sit by the window, and watch the snow, and wait in vain for a Hello From The Hallowoods.


Right now, I hover in a haze of weather that refuses to decide whether it is rain or snow. Beneath the haze, drenched and frozen in alternating moments, is a field of tombstones like crooked grey teeth. A figure missing a head stands watch over the graves, as they do every night. A figure missing a hand kneels in the frost, and scrubs at a stone. The theme of tonight’s episode is Winters.

Story 1 - Two More Graves

You want me to do what? Rick had begun. That had lasted the first few days.

What the hell is the point? He’d muttered for almost two straight weeks, as the autumn leaves broke from their delicate wicker hands and were released to the wind.

His attention shifted in the third week from complaining to focusing on the task at hand, and so he had been a lot quieter after that. There was a rhythm, almost meditative, in dragging the brush across the surface of each grave marker, peeling away the layers of grime and moss to reveal smooth pale stone beneath. He had not in all his prayers spent so much time on his knees as he did now, and the falling sleet turned to droplets on the surface of the stone, cleansed away the loose dirt as he scrubbed, chilled him deep in his bones.

His vision had not improved; the world was hazy through one eye and dark entirely in the other, and at least when he was busy at work, he had no cause for stumbling. Always a dark spot in the near distance was Crane. That was the name embroidered on the jacket it wore, anyways. The person was dead, clearly. They had no head, and their decomposing legs seemed to have become one black surface with the sides of the horse they sat upon.

He was not sure how they saw anything, then; maybe through the pale white eyes of the mossy horse, maybe through other eyes he could not see. Regardless, they only responded to one means of communication, and he sat back from the last gravestone, glanced over a field of stones much whiter and straighter than when he had begun, and looked up to the dark rider.

“You, me,” he said, gesturing to each of them. He turned his palms to the rider. “Done? They’re all done.”

He heard the horse step forward a few paces, hooves pressing into frosted soil, until the head of the horse with its strands of lank hair and clouded eyes and the black-gloved hands of the rider were in his field of view. He did not recognize every symbol that Crane flashed, but he had come to interpret a double-handed point as go, leave.

“Good,” he muttered. “It’s freezing out here.”

He stood up, and stretched the fingers of his thorny left hand—it was not a hand, properly, hadn’t grown back correctly. It had too many fingers, and they trailed too far up the arm, like writhing roots. He pushed the collecting snow from his hair with his better hand, brushed soil from the unkempt beard that had begun to grow.

“That’s all,” he said, although he did not really have the signs to translate. “What will we…”

A sound caught his ear; a snap in the forest, the low chortle of voices, and the trample of boots. He turned to look across the field of frosted tombstones, and could make out a dark shape emerge from the far birch trees, others lurking behind him.

“What do we have here, boys?” a voice whistled from across the graveyard. “Coupla bone-biters lurkin’ around on our soil?”

“Howdy,” Rick called, and gave a little salute with his good hand. “Who goes there?”

“Would you look at that,” said the voice; he could hear others now, exchanging whispers. Crane’s horse took several steps backwards, but Rick stood his ground, put his thorn hand on the tombstone beside him. “This one still remembers how to talk. Enjoyin’ the weather, dead-head?”

“Yeah, having a nice day, worms-for-brains?” a second voice joined in.

“The name’s Rick Rounds,” Rick said, and frowned. “I’m doin’ just fine, thank you. Might I ask who the hell are ya?”

“Bosco. Frank Bosco,” the one who was doing the talking replied. Based on the way he held his arms, he was almost certainly armed with a rifle. “Listen Ricky, this forest’s property of Liberty City, and I don’t remember giving you passage here.”

“No, I’m new to the place,” said Rick. Crane stood behind him, unmoving, one more shadow amidst the tombs. “Nice to meet ya. Liberty City, where’s that?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” said Bosco. “It’s the last bastion of freedom, pride, and purity this side of the Hudson. We own this land now. And that-there zombie behind you gives us hell every time my boys come walkin’ in. Now we’re usually pretty efficient, aren’t we boys?”

“Very efficient,” said a voice on Bosco’s left.

“Like clockwork,” said one on his right.

“At cleaning up the rotten corpses come traipsing into our territory,” said Bosco. “But because you’re so polite, Ricky, I’m gonna give you a head start while we take care of the ranger here.”

“Hold on now,” Rick said, and raised both his palms peaceably. “I ain’t dead. I’m still human. I’m from a place called Fort Freedom, up north…”

“You looked down lately, Ricky? You got a god-dang tree for an arm,” said Bosco, and his hunting party cackled behind him. “You’re dead as hell. Humanity’s bleeding right outta ya. I can see it in your fucked up face. When you see an animal frothing up with rabies, puttin’ it down is a mercy. And lucky for you, I’m feeling kind.”

Rick dropped behind the tombstone, a moment before a spray of semi-automatic gunfire clamored against the stone and rang in his ears. Crane’s horse reared up with a high-pitched shriek that echoed across the graveyard, and he heard thunderous hooves go traipsing off into the woods, vanish into the distance.

“Crane?” he called. “Crane? Get me out of here!”

There was a crack as another firearm went off somewhere to his left, much closer through the maze of tombstones, and he rolled into the mud as he tried to get a handle on where his assailant was. He looked up, saw a tall dark shape, and roared as he charged up towards it, went for a full-body tackle.

It was, in fact, not a man with a rifle or a deer hunting jacket, but a stone angel tomb marker with her arms outstretched, and he collided with her full-force, reeled back into the muddy bank of a dark pool, blood leaking down his forehead.

“Ya know boys, I almost feel bad for him,” said Bosco, voice echoing through the grave stones somewhere beyond. He could hear their footsteps closing in now in all directions, but his head spun too much for him to rise to his feet. “Maybe we could take him home, see how he’d do in the rat pit. Think the missus would let me keep him?”

“She might like the show,” said Rightie, and Rick heard the clicking of a gun being reloaded.

“I don’t know boss,” said Leftie. Rick could hear a metal scrape; a piece of rebar or something being dragged against a tombstone. “You don’t wanna spend another night in the doghouse.”

“You know, you’re right about that,” said Bosco, who came to a stop maybe five feet back from where Rick lay. His world was still spinning, but at a slower rate. “Guess it ain’t worth the risk. Sorry Ricky. Not your lucky day. Tell the devil I said hi.”

Please, Rick thought. This hasn’t worked in so long, but if it’s ever going to, it needs to be now. He tilted his head back from the misty sky, half-frozen snow falling on his scarred cheek, and could see Bosco’s silhouette behind him.

“I’ve met the devil,” said Rick. “I don’t feel like seein’ him again just yet.”

He lashed out with his hand of many thorns and fingers, gave the living lasso a yank and pulled Bosco off his feet as the man pulled the trigger on his rifle again; a deafening belt of gunfire went off across the tombstones.

He suspected the second hit was going to be Rightie, but his gun was slower, and Rick lashed out with a drenched boot to kick a tombstone over into the man’s shin. Rightie screamed, his weapon fired wide to the left, and Rightie backed off enough to buy a few precious moments.

Leftie screamed as he swung with a weapon, and a sharp blade pierced through the center of Rick’s tangled vine arm, pinning it to the ground. Bosco had found a sharp implement of his own, a hunting knife in his boot maybe, and roared as he carved Rick’s new wooden fingers apart to free his feet.

Rick grunted as he pulled his vine arm against the weapon pinning it to the earth; could not pull it free, and he felt a boot plant directly into his solar plexus. Rightie had abandoned his pistol, it seemed, in favor of good old fashioned brutality.

Rick tried to double over, tore more vegetative ligaments in his arm of thorns as he did, and there was immediately a splash and a second set of boots kicking him; Leftie following suit. Not much one for originality. Rick screamed as Bosco sliced open the arm wrapped around his boots and stepped out, towered over Rick’s head.

“Spineless freak,” Bosco grunted, and leveled his rifle, seemed to shoulder it. “You say you’re human, huh? Let’s test that theory. Boys?”

Another sharp kick rolled him a few paces to the side, and he felt the dark pool of freezing water seep into his clothing, arm of thorns twisted several times from where it was pinned. He lifted his head to breathe, spit out the black mud, and immediately felt a boot plant into the back of his skull, drive him beneath the water again.

The water was freezing, and Rick had no wind in his lungs to begin with, could pull in no air, only rot-drenched sleet that was heavy in his lungs. He was eleven, sinking into dark water, while a trio of boys laughed and joked on the surface above, and the depths opened up to swallow him whole.

Then the darkness began to shake; rolling thunder like a freight train, and there was an impact somewhere in the world above.

Rick lifted up from the puddle, heaving water; there was soil in his eyes and in his ears, but even muffled he knew the sound of Crane’s hooves beating the earth, the cries of Rightie as he was carried off by the rider and dragged through the tombstones. Leftie and Bosco both were shouting, gunfire echoed across the mausoleums, and Rick clawed his way up from the depths.

He lunged past Bosco’s boots to seize the weapon pinning his arm to the ground—not a bar at all, but a fire axe, not unlike the one he had checked at the door of the Resting Place Hotel.

“Hey boss, he’s got my-” Leftie began to say, before the axe whipped at the end of Rick’s arm and through Leftie’s neck. The body hit the earth in two thuds as Rightie’s screams disappeared into the forest, and Rick stumbled to his feet, spitting black water as his arm of thorns retracted, pulled the axe into his grip.

“You ain’t human,” said Bosco, ten feet away, a rifle pointed at him. “You’re a monster.”

Bosco fired, and Rick stumbled back as the bullets tore through him in quick succession, ripping through the vegetation of his shoulder, burying deep in his overgrown ribs. Rick looked up, spit black into the earth. He wished he could see more of the man, but a hazy figure with a weapon pointed at him, green jacket, dark hair was all he could make out.

“Yeah,” Rick said. “Maybe I am.”

He lunged with the axe again, and his arm of thorns unravelled; the blade took Bosco’s rifle and several of his fingers with it, if the thud that hit the earth was anything to tell by. Bosco screamed, and dashed backwards, peeling away through the grave markers as he held his bleeding hand.

“Mark my words!” Bosco screamed. “You’ll regret the day you crossed Frank Bosco! You’ll regret it, Ricky, I’ll make you pay!”

Rick planted the axe in the dirt, and leaned against it, felt his insides curdle as the dark roots beneath his skin grew along the pathways that the bullets had torn, spit black blood and metal shrapnel out of the wounds. A growing clop of hooves told him that Crane had reappeared behind him, horse hissing clouds of wet breath in the falling snow.

“Thank you,” he said, and gestured as best he could.

Crane responded with a set of hand movements that he could not make out, vision clouded and spinning as it was, but he suspected he knew what they were saying anyway.

“I know, I know,” he sighed, and picked up his axe, went stalking across the marshy tombstones. “Two more graves to dig.”

Interlude 1 - Hibernation Meditations

Frequent now are the snows, falling like gentle ash upon the silent forest below, and the frost crawls over leaf and brush to wrap the trees in its mantle. When the spring comes, the soot-stained ice will melt, and the black water trapped within bleed into the forest floor. The toads and beetles and worms that nestle beneath the leaves will awake to find themselves different, changed by the black condensation they have seeped in for the long winter months.

And yet, it is a surprise for the residents of these woods, for they would have thought it would take longer for the winters to return. For so many years, it remained warm, and no ice formed, and the oceans remained high. When nature is given a chance to heal, it heals quickly, they suspect, and the mistakes of humanity’s great industries will be quickly blotted away. Already, again, it snows.

This is only half true. Nature heals on its own, but it heals much faster when supplanted with a greater and deadlier nature than yours.

We go now to one questioning her nature.

Story 2 - One More Step

Just one more step. That was all she needed. Truth be told, it seemed like there was always one more step she needed to take, one more test to prove she was worthy of the power and the resources and the secrets that she needed. Someday, she knew, she would leave, and all the sacrifices she’d made would be worth it, all the moral greys painted over with the value of the present.

She was just one step away, now, she was certain, actually just one step left, before she took all that she had gotten from this dark institution and flew like the wind. And she hoped that this moment, in which she sat on a long black leather bench that comprised the waiting room for the Director’s office, was not about to ruin her investment.

Past her was Harrow, holding the hand that remained of Arnold, and Victoria, and a freckled boy who looked on the verge of tears, and a mudstained girl who glared back at her, and a skinless ghost hovering to inspect the wall portraits at the end of the bench.

“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me first,” Clara said. “A ghost from the Scoutpost shows up and Victoria is the one you go to?”

“Gee, I wonder why,” Victoria muttered.

“He doesn’t like being called a ghost,” Russell piped up from further down the bench. “Oh shoot. Well, he’s just a kid.”

“A pretty dead looking kid,” muttered Johannah.

“Hey,” said Al. “I can hear you.”

Clara was not sure the rest of the group could hear him, and as Dogsmell nosed up at the ghastly boy in the air, she redirected her attention to Victoria.

“What?” Clara said. “I thought you’d still consider me a friend, Harrow.”

Harrow was quiet, and pulled the hand of Arnold closer.

“It’s because the first thing you’d do is turn around and tattle to the Director,” Victoria said quietly.

“Harrow is literally her kid,” Clara said. “How am I the security risk? Listen, if this is about the summer program, all I ever did was try to get everyone home safe…”

“I believe that,” Harrow said, speaking up for the first time since they’d entered the waiting room. “But when you got home from an awful test that killed our friends, my mother said you were the winner and you accepted it.”

Clara was speechless for a moment, took off her glasses, polished them in the hem of her skirt. “Friday is not dead,” she said. “And… apparently neither is Arnold. And you two are going to lecture me? We are all still here. Every one of us.”

“Unfortunately,” said Johannah from the end of the bench. “When’s the lady going to let us in?”

“Whatever you do,” Harrow said quietly, and turned zir face to the new arrivals. “If she asks you if you want to join the library, don’t do it.”

“Why not?” said Al, hovering down. The little ghost scanned the three of them, but it was her that he looked to. “You can see me. There’s so many people here that are weird, like me.”

“It wasn’t what we agreed on,” Russell piped up. “You were just going to take a look and go home. If I go back without you it’s kidnapping.”

“Doesn’t count when it’s all kids,” Johannah said.

“Some kind of napping,” Russell said. “Listen, Al, I like having you as a friend. Promise you’ll come back with me.”

“You could stay here with me,” Al said, and glanced around the waiting room. “I’m sure there’s lots of kids you could be friends with. Who wouldn’t bully you like Cole.”

“Invitations here are very exclusive,” Victoria said. “There has to be something really special about you to get in.”

“So Russell isn’t allowed,” Johannah said.

“Neither are you,” said Russell.

“I don’t know,” Clara said. “I think maybe…”

“Oh let me guess,” said Victoria, and rolled her eyes. “You think Downing Hill is a wonderful opportunity for youngsters who don’t mind being stuck in a dark box for years at a time learning about star math and indie contagions.”

“I think it’s a decision to weigh carefully, is all,” Clara said. Why did she have to play devil’s advocate? “When Olivier found me I was about to die. I was starving. I had nowhere to go. And even though yes, the tests are difficult…”

Here she glanced at Arnold’s green-lathered hand, and winced.

“The time I’ve spent here has been some of the best of my life. I feel like I’m going to do something important. I belong here.”

Victoria groaned, and rubbed at her mustache and cheeks in frustration.

“Thank you, lady,” Al said, and drifted away from her back to his friends.

Lady? She thought. I can’t have aged that much since the last time you saw me. Harrow reached out and tapped her arm with a cold finger.

“She’s going to summon you,” Harrow whispered. “Please help them get out. If you can. She likes you. She might listen.”

Clara nodded, and opened her mouth to speak, but found suddenly that she was falling, the dark shadows racing up from underneath the floor tiles to drown out the room, choke out all light.

Marketing - Eulogy for Oswald

Lady Ethel:

We gather here tonight in memorial for Oswald Biggs Botulus. Oswald, you were a friend and a companion to me, when no one else was. From the moment I first laid eyes on you I knew that we were going to have a long and beautiful history together. And that we did. We intimidated sycophants and corporate lower-downs. You feasted on interns I disliked. And you travelled many miles with me across an awful dead country.

I hope you enjoy it, being dead and famous. I’m told it’s wonderful, if you can manage to drop off before your name is ruined. And I’m more emotional than I thought I would be, when you passed. Because it wasn’t just business, was it? I always had someone to talk to. Someone who didn’t judge me for being the way I was. Someone who probably didn’t think very much at all, really. You lived longer than any fly could expect to. But I suppose the cold of this frigid winter starting was too much for you. So we hold this memorial.

I don’t understand. Pets are things. They’re not people. You own them as a sign of status, and maybe so they can eat people you dislike. And yet I feel so outraged. It was one of the only things I had, and I know it’s irrational but I feel like even if I found another gigantic awful insect, it wouldn’t be the same. I’d grown attached to them and their fuzzy little heads. The way they crawl all over you in the morning to try and get you to wake up and feed them.

But I suppose that’s it. That’s the last thing. A piece of Lady Ethel Mallory has died with you, Oswald, and here it shall be buried. In two inches of snow in Wyoming.

Anderson, I understand the wind carried you away but you really should have been here. Your absence was noted.

Story 2, Continued - One More Step

I hate her. I really do. There are very few beings that speak in dream, and I loathe that she is one of them. But I will permit her this one occasion in which I will not say anything rude. I cannot say I am sorry for your loss, Lady Ethel, but I at least understand it. We return now to Clara Martin.

When the world reformed, Clara sat in a studious little library office that would have been charming if it had any windows. Instead it had shelves of books, and a steaming tea kettle, bankers lamps casting warm light, a little fire crackling. The Director sat with her starlight hair and her half-moon glasses, hands folded on her desk. Dogsmell drifted behind Clara, kept a wide berth of the Director and the desk.

“How are we today, Clara?” the Director said.

“A little confused,” Clara said. “There seems to be a lot happening today.”

“There does indeed,” the Director said, and blinked with her all-black eyes, gestured towards the bowl. “Peppermint?”

Clara eyed what she previously thought to be a timeless institution in the glass dish on the desk. “I’ll take one for later,” she said, and took one glistening wrapper, stuck it in her pocket. “I’m very sorry if I’ve caused any inconvenience, what with the visitors.”

“I haven’t brought you here to talk about the visitors,” Director Blackletter said, and slid an envelope across the desk. Black, with white pen labeled ‘Martin’ across the front.

“What is this?” Clara said. The Director was watching her face for impressions. She tried to give away as little as possible.

“Open it,” said Director Blackletter. Clara did, and thumbed through the docket of papers within. Each of her course grades; Cosmic Economics and History of Spectronomy and Archival Certification.

“What am I looking for?” Clara said, glancing up to the Director. The black-eyed woman sighed and crossed her hands on the desk.

“Your grades have fallen in the last month,” the Director said. “Across the board.”

“I’m still getting good marks,” Clara said, although as she scanned over the papers, it was true.

“But not top marks,” the Director said. “And I expect the best from you.”

“I’ll try harder,” Clara said. “I’m sorry.”

“We both know it’s not about trying, Clara,” said the Director. “You’ve been devoting attention away from your studies to your… other research. Have you learned anything from the Compact?”

Clara wavered on the edge of a lie, but the Director’s cold gaze transfixed her, as if the woman could see through straight to her heart.

“I’m finished,” she said. “With the book. I think I’m ready to fix my parents.”

The Director’s eyes might have widened slightly behind the lenses of her spectacles. “That quickly? You understand that what you are delving into is not just a method to restore your family. If it is successful, it will be the first way ever discovered to undo the effects of the black water. That kind of power could be the key to restoring our species. You understand?”

“I do,” Clara said. “With your permission, I’m going to try today.”

“Wait,” said the Director, and raised her hand. “I was not expecting you to progress this quickly, Miss Martin. It would be very unwise to attempt this procedure alone. I will join you. Benefit from my experience. It will be safest that way for everyone involved.”

Clara looked down at her shoes. Dogsmell came to sit beside her, ears drifting like the steam from the kettle. “I assume your help comes with a condition.”

“The timeline has accelerated,” said Director Blackletter. “There is a point of no return that is approaching much more quickly now. I have been preparing you for a mission, and I think you are finally ready.”

“With respect,” Clara said, and glanced up to her. “I’d really like to make sure that my parents will be alright before I go out on a potentially life-threatening mission for the Library.”

“This is not a mission for the Library,” said the Director. “It is a mission for the world. The mission. And if it is not completed, there will be no world for your parents to return to.”

Clara sighed, and nodded. One more step.

“Alright,” she said. “I’ll do what you need me to do. Anything.”

“Good,” said the Director, and produced from her desk drawer a large folder, spilling with photographs—the wreckage of a ship, glacier mountains in a snow-scarred barren, the ocean labeled with coordinates and scrawling notes. “Have you ever heard of the Heart?”

There was a shudder from somewhere above, and the Director looked past her, gestured with a hand as two people dropped into the office, and the being of the room rippled around her.

“Alright, you frosty bitch,” said a woman with a frizzy curl of hair and a shotgun in her hands; a silver-haired older man with a javelin ready stood at her back. “What have you done with my grandson?”

Interlude 2 - Quiet Winters

There are no winters in space, or at least they are not external. When one corner of the universe quiets, another explodes with life, scattering from one world to the next like the boughs of spring. And yes, the winter will claim them, cold begin to chill their spry kingdoms and the frost consume their furthest buds, until it is silent again. But then, somewhere else, life blooms.

The winters that last the longest are the ones that I feel. At times, as when I first began speaking to you in dream, so young and full of life. But a winter came before, and I feel one will come again. A quiet in the soul, while I wait for new feeling to thaw.

And yet, in the waiting, there is a kind of tranquility. As though my blood has slowed and my heartbeat is so very still. Barely breathing. Just existing. Waiting for the sun to shine again someday, and quicken me back into being.

We go now to one who has experienced few winters.

Story 3 - Snow In Vegas

“For the last time, it will be alright,” said Moth. The blinds of the hotel room let in a trickle of angelic light from the golden world outside. “What we are going to do hurts no one. It is only a demonstration.”

“Though if it hurts a few people who cares,” said Frances. She dreamed herself in a black leather jacket today, heavy red eyeshadow, hair in blond wispy spikes.

“I care,” said Moth, and moth’s fluffy wings fluttered. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“I don’t know how to feel about this,” said Bill, and peered through the blinds. His head was always dissolving into the air like volcanic ash, and lit up in the sunlight. “I know this place is just a dream, but look at it. It’s the strip. Like it was in the old days. What I woulda given to be able to show you around this place, Moth, in its heyday.”

“If people are allowed to leave the Dreaming Box, it might have a heyday again,” Moth said, and crept over to the other side of the blinds, peeking out. The Las Vegas Strip was spread out beneath the hotel window in all its sun-baked, overpriced, electrifying glory. Palm trees waved, and luxury automobiles passed in an inconclusive haze. One of the dreamt-up models was cherry red, and reminded moth of Ray for a moment. Don’t worry, Ray, Moth thought. If you’re still out there, I’ll crawl back out to the surface and spread my wings.

“Do you feel that?” Frances said, and lifted up the blinds entirely so that all three could look out the window. “They’re here.”

Sure enough, in distant hotel windows, in the crowds that milled across the Vegas strip, rising from limousine skylights and manhole covers, there were Stonemaids. Moth remade moth’s appearance in an instant; was wrapped in leather and red facepaint and silver spikes and obscuring fog, as were the thousand dreamers below assembled for one cause. Moth flung open the window, and leaned out.

“What do we want?” a single voice called from a half-mile away.

“We want to wake up!” Moth screamed, as did Frances, as did Bill, as did a thousand voices alongside moth’s.

“When will we stop?” the voice called again, barely audible; a protestor standing on top of a luxury car skewed sideways in the street.

“We will never stop!” the crowd rejoined. Moth leaned back out of the window.

“Now’s the time,” Moth whispered.

“Still not quite sure how this is going to work,” Bill muttered.

“It’s something algorithms,” Frances said. “Just do your best.”

Moth smiled, and closed moth’s eyes. Moth’s mind was part of the Prime Dream, and most importantly, Moth had seen Las Vegas. Sand stricken and decrepit, yes, but still Vegas, and the Prime Dream fed off those memories, stole a glance of sunlight, a reflection on glass, a remembrance of an illustration on a restaurant sign.

And Moth tried moth’s hardest, now, to remember a Vegas that had never existed; one that had once been blanketed in snow, beautiful white flakes like cotton drifting down from a grey sky, burying the neon signs and the parking lots and the palms in banks four feet deep, choked up the roads, chilled the air, caused moth’s breath to form in frigid clouds.

I remember, Moth thought. I remember the day it snowed in Vegas.

Beside Moth, Bill and Frances tried their hardest to remember an equally fictitious snow day, but most importantly, so did a thousand dreaming minds spread across the city below. And when Moth opened moth’s eyes, a cold wind blasted through the open window, and Prime Dream Las Vegas was wreathed in white.

“It worked,” Moth said. “It worked!”

“They’re going to be on us soon,” Bill said, and drew back from the window, closed the blinds again. Moth caught a last glimpse of a thousand Stonemaids beginning to hide again, retreat back into the Prime Dream without a trace. “Time for us to vanish.”

“Who would have thought we would come into here just to run from the flies all over again,” Frances said, and abandoned her punk rock look for her favored roller rink waitress aesthetic.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way. Regroup at home in an hour,” said Bill, and with a wisp of ash, was gone, and Frances in tow. Moth smiled, and disappeared from the snowed-in hotel in Las Vegas, flew into the Prime Dream. One more voice in the crowd, was all moth was. And yet, together, they were going to tear down the Botulus Corporation.

Outro - Winters

Winters. Would that every season could be full of warmth and gifts, the sun blessing all that shines below it with new life. But all things in nature move in cycles. Planets are born and live and die, beneath suns doing the same. The races that live upon them rise and perish and rise again, different and made new each time.

And although the summer has long faded, and the last of the falling leaves give way to the hunger of the frost, the cycle will continue. What is barren and lifeless and frozen over with grief will eventually thaw again, and yield gentler lands just below the surface. Do not forget, in the depths of the winter, that the spring is coming.

Watching for the first warm day, I am your loyal host Nikignik, waiting hibernally for your return to the Hallowoods.

The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Bad Reception' 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!


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