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HFTH - Episode 122 - Creeps

Content warnings for this episode include: Abuse, Animal cruelty (Omen is in a box), Violence, Kidnapping and abduction, Death + Injury, Blood, Birds, Gun Mention, Strangulation/suffocation, Emotional Manipulation, Drowning, Body horror, claustrophobia, face wounds, stabbing through shoulder, industrial ectoplasmic ray gun explosions

Intro - The Nameless Dark

You can feel their eyes on you. It is nothing new. But then, the threat of violence was abstract—something that happens to some people, sometimes, of course it does, but not here, never to me. The risk feels closer now, as though it has followed you from club to alley to lamplit sidewalk in the early morning, matching its walking pace to yours, growing ever nearer to your shoulder. It knows what you are, and it does not welcome you. If it touches you, and you cease to walk beneath these streetlights, there will be no national fanfare, no grief that can change the circumstance. The posts of your obituary filled with commentary that you are better off dead, and the nameless dark has done the world a service. The stranger on the sidewalk is two steps behind you, and then one step, and you can hear his labored breath, when he is interrupted by another sound—a thunder calling, a rapturous storm, a future that welcomes you with a Hello From The Hallowoods.


Right now, I am sharpening my nails on a chalkboard. It is covered in simple glyphs. Quantum mathematics and that sort of petty thing. An assortment of people stand in the classroom beyond it—a professor with a foot in two worlds, a hollow library director, a woman who loves flamingoes and a man who can name every Ontarian flower, a sniveling child, and a sniveling not-child, and a sniveling just the hand of a child, and a child too dead to snivel. They have not noticed yet which one is missing. The theme of tonight’s episode is Creeps.

Story 1 - Model Classroom

“And this is one of our typical classrooms,” the Director said with a gesture, and it did look grand. Al had visited here a little earlier, before he’d been accosted by the girl who saw ghosts, the professor with the colorless eyes. It was a picture-book kind of classroom, and Al did love picture-books. But it brought him no joy in the moment, because Grandma Zelda had found him, and as relieved as he was to see her, he remained invisible, safe from her baleful glare.

The man named Virgil Kane was there, but since he was Cole’s dad, and Cole was a notorious bully, Al had no affection for him. Nevertheless, Russell had barely left the man’s side since his arrival, as if their matching yellow Scoutpost jackets with all their patches would protect them.

The kid with the all-black eyes was Harrow, who hovered perpetually on the verge of saying something, and also by the elbow of zir mother.

“Professor O’Connor,” said the Director, “Why don’t you tell these inquisitive parents what it is you teach here?”

The Professor nodded to Al, who was supposed to be quite invisible, and to Zelda and Virgil, and put his hands on the edge of his desk.

“Of course,” said O’Connor. “Maths, fundamentally. For our advanced students, I also teach economics, and history to a degree.”

“Ain’t much in the way of an economy now, is there?” said Virgil.

“You barter with something at the Scoutpost,” said the professor. “What is it, Scoutcoin? Knowing how to manage your resources efficiently will be important as long as the human race persists.”

Al was not good at managing resources. He could barely hold on to anything. Zelda, on the other hand, held her shotgun tightly in one hand, and Al’s drum in the other.

“I’m sure you think your time is very valuable,” Zelda said, and squinted at both of the teachers. “So I don’t know why you’re wasting it dragging us through your model classrooms and greenhouses and petting zoos. I’m taking Al and we’re going home.”

Al had been torn once before between lives, and felt it most unpleasant. He felt it again as she spoke.

“Not that I’d put it so bluntly,” Virgil added, and put a hand on Russell’s shoulder, “but that’s about the shape of it. I’m not this boy’s father, and I think his mother’s plenty fine with keeping him in our classroom at the Scoutpost. If you think we’re disruptive here, you don’t want to see Mrs. McGowan when she’s irritable.”

The Director smiled with her almost porcelain face, but not like she meant it.

“With respect, Mr. Kane,” she said, “I am not interested in Russell as a student. I expect that he will continue his education at the Scoutpost, and have a perfectly mundane life as suits a perfectly average boy.”

“Thank you,” Russell said, although Al was not sure it was a compliment, or any kind of ment. Al found himself unconsciously hovering beside Zelda’s shoulder, and floated a few inches further away from her.

“At Downing Hill,” the Director continued, “we are committed to providing for the needs of students with peculiarities that may challenge them in the world outside. Our students generally reach us in a state of distress. They believe their abilities are an obstacle that they must overcome so that they can try to be like the Russell McGowans of the world. We teach them that their unique qualities are something to be proud of, embraced, and developed so that they can control them without fear. We believe our students are the ones who will shape this world in the decades to come, and keep humanity alive.”

“Yes, I remember the pamphlets,” Zelda sniffed. “It’s a very long way of saying you turn people into monsters. My husband Dexter—do you remember him? He worked for you for years. I watched all the goodness drain out of him day after day, and god knows there wasn’t much of it to begin with. You’ll ruin anyone you touch just like you ruined him.”

“Mrs. Duckworth, I would urge you not to make this about your own vendettas,” the Director said. “The question we are faced with today is about what is best for Al. Mr. Duckworth abandoned his position at Downing Hill without notice, and took company property with him. We could say more about the unfortunate circumstances of his disappearance, but it would not be relevant.”

“You lying…” Zelda began, but she trailed off, staring at Al. He realized he was glowing bright, but then again, he usually did when he felt he was about to cry.

“Al,” Zelda breathed, and hugged his drum to her chest. “I could feel you were around, but I’m so glad to see you alright.”

“Grandma Zelda, can we talk?” he said.

“Please excuse us for a minute,” Zelda said, and the Director crossed her arms. Zelda paced across the room with his drum, and sat him by a window, although the window did not look out on a snowy pine forest, but one that was rainy and full of alder trees.

“Al,” she said. “We need to get out of here. We need to go home. What were you thinking coming out here?”

“I’m not so sure the Scoutpost is my home,” Al whispered. A pang of anger crossed her face, and he felt sick for saying it, but if he did not speak for himself now, he felt he would never get the chance again.

“It is,” Zelda said. “Because I live there. I’m supposed to be your grandmother, Al, remember? It’s my job to take care of you.”

“Even if I go to school, you’ll always be my grandma,” he said, and drifted down a little to be at the same level, crouched on the bench by the window.

“This place isn’t safe,” Zelda sighed, and wiped a tear from her eye. Al had shed his last one a long time ago. “It’s a death trap.”

“I’m already dead,” Al whispered, and put his head in his hands. He burned so hotly that he could feel the surface of his own skull, smooth and encrusted with nerves. “I spend so much time afraid of that, Grandma. I try to pretend I’m not so that I fit in with other kids. But they’re always going to know. And I can't change it. But here, it’s okay if I’m like this. I don’t want to play pretend anymore.”

Zelda looked at him, and placed a hand on his shoulder. It was dry and wrinkly and real.

“Al,” she began, but the Director had loomed up like the moon on a starless night behind them, and looked to them both. “Mrs. Duckworth. I am afraid I am going to need a decision.”

“I want to go to school,” said Al, before Zelda could get a word out. “I want to stay.”

Zelda put her hands in her hair, and began to cry, but Al looked up and across the room as his best friend spoke.

“Uh, guys?” said Russell, glancing around the classroom. Harrow watched somberly with the hand named Arnold in zir hands, and Virgil Kane twitched as if waiting for a fight to start, and Henry O’Connor cleaned chalk dust from his blackboard. “Has anyone seen Johannah?”

Interlude 1 - Sorry to Intrude

It is a normal reaction to feel uneasy, when you are confronted by that which you cannot comprehend. To feel watched by what is unseen in the darkness of the woods or your bedroom. To walk in the winter wind and feel wayward spirits in the frost high above you, the momentary glimpse of something with glowing antlers between the twisted wicker trees.

Does it frighten you? Do you feel uncomfortable?

You should. I am older than your entire kind of being. I have watched in the silent void as suns were born and lights danced into being. I am abyssal and labyrinthine and alien to your world of flesh and bone and matter. And I, a gargantua, a colossus of thought whisper so delicately in your nightmares, my voice crawls the corridors of your mind and bids you dream of a forest.

I am sorry to intrude. I am sorry that I have to. But there is a forest, and beyond it, an ocean of ice and shadow, and things that you really should see.

We go now to one beyond the forest.

Story 2 - Beautiful Things

Diggory Graves had worried many times, in many visions, that they were destined to die. All the people of whom I am made had one thing in common, they thought; breaking ice and a shattered ship and pressure ripping bodies apart. And now, as the ice shudders and cracks with flumes of frost beneath a dead crypt sky, I live it again. This is how it ends for me. This is how it always ends.

They held Percy’s hand tightly, and watched themself as if from outside their own body. Percy was screaming, trying to drag them for safety, but there was no safety to be found—the frozen ice beneath their boots fragmented and shook in all directions, a broken mirror from underfoot all the way to the horizon.

They might have fainted, fallen back into their own past, but they knew it held nothing to save them.

“Die,” said the endless black words written beneath the ice.

Diggory looked to Percy; the silver boy stared at them, shuttered eyes aglow and joints crackling with light. Ahead of them sprinted Mort, scooping up Cindy with one giant claw as he ran from the spreading cracks in the ice, and Olivier mustered as much wind as they could in this barren atmosphere, spirited a frantic Riot across the frozen waste.

I am not ready yet, Diggory thought. Six are dead, yes. But six remain. Six I can still save.

They put an arm around Percy, and leapt as the transparent ice beneath them cracked. The landscape around them was transforming, turning from a plane of solid ice to a jagged, moving labyrinth as the dark ocean beneath it writhed and forced gigantic shards of ice to move.

“We need to catch up with them,” Percy said. Mort’s red armor, bounding from one crumbling angle to the next, vanished beyond an upturned wall. “We can’t get separated out here.”

“I will try,” Diggory said, and picked Percy up—he weighed so much less than they expected—and they leaped.

It was a mighty jump, and the ground they left behind splintered from the launch. They soared high through the frigid wind a moment, frost creeping over Percy’s silver shell, before they collided with a rising wall of ice. They sank the claws of one hand deep into the surface, and held on to Percy with the other. Hills and alleys and pillars of ice like glass seethed around them; from their vantage point Diggory could not spot any of their friends.

“Riot!” they called. “Mort!”

“Diggory, keep moving,” Percy said.

They looked down to find that the wall of ice on which they hung was collapsing into a surface beneath, dissolving into tunnels and gorges and deep black below them. As the wall crumbled and snow rattled around Diggory’s shoulders, they leapt for the safety of a larger, flat platform on the other side of the gorge.

They had a sixth sense, of course, for when something was about to go disastrously wrong. It was probably inherited from August and his chilling prophecies. But it did not strike them until halfway through the jump, their arm around Percy’s shell, stitches reflected in his silver face, that they were in danger, and ought to look up.

A sheet of ice collapsed from the wall overhead, cascaded like heavy stones around them, and drove them down into the ice gorge in a blinding moment of swirling snow, and then it was dark completely.

They became aware, eventually, that they were somewhere dark, and they could not move. Buried, most likely, at the bottom of a ravine in the ice. Their skin was frozen stiff, and they could scarcely get use from any muscle; they twitched their long sharp fingers, compressed the snow ever so slightly.

Is that, then, they thought, how it ends this time. Buried in a grave of my own making.

Percy’s voice echoed in their thoughts, and they tried to look around, although found they could not turn their head, could barely squeeze out breath.

“Percy?” they said. “Is that you? Your voice is faint.”

“I can’t do this,” Percy was saying. “Diggory I can’t move, I can’t move, I can’t be trapped again…”

“Percy, I cannot hear you clearly,” they said. “You can leave your suit behind.”

“The suit isn’t the point,” Percy said, and his voice grew louder; Diggory could almost make out a glow that filtered through the ice. “Because I am tied to a piece of bone inside of a necklace inside of that suit, and I can’t reach you, I can’t reach the surface. We’re buried down here and I can’t breathe and…”

Diggory thought about reminding Percy that he did not need to breathe, but felt it would be less than helpful. The ghost burned with hot white light, somewhere through a few feet of ice. Diggory watched a water droplet form on the ice over their eye.

“Try to stay calm,” Diggory said. “We will be alright.”

“How? How are we going to be alright?” Percy said, and the light in the ice around them glowed brighter. “We’re lost. Our friends are in danger. They could all be dead. Did you know what we were walking into? It’s everywhere, Diggory. It’s all alive.”

“We will find a way out of this,” Diggory said. “There is no need to panic.”

“It’s not like I can control how I feel, Diggory,” Percy said, and his light flickered frantically. “We’re not all built like that.”

Diggory frowned.

“I am just trying to navigate this situation,” they said.

“Just like you navigated us into this?” Percy said, and his light vanished, returned, as the ghost ran the length of his invisible wire. “We should never have come here, you know that? We should have stayed at the Scoutpost. We could have been happy there, no matter what happened.”

“If we do not stop the heart, then there will be no Scoutpost,” Diggory said. “No life for our friends.”

“But you and I would be fine,” said Percy. “And clearly we’re not stopping the heart either way. I…”

“Percy?” Diggory said, after a moment. The light burned dim. “Are you there?”

“Yeah,” Percy said.

“Percy, you spoke once of a choice,” Diggory said. “That first night that I met you, and saw you dancing in the flames of a burning piano. I walked away with a piano key in my pocket. I did not understand that you were still tied to it by one last wire. You said you thought about breaking it. The wire. About flying free. Do you think you still might be able to?”

Percy was quiet.


“I’m not going to do that,” Percy said. “I don’t know if I can handle it. Being untethered. And I can’t leave you.”

“I know it is difficult for you to leave me,” Diggory said. “I know you find my presence reassuring. But I believe you must. You could fly and find the others. Tell them where we have fallen.”

“You’re bringing this up now?” Percy said. “I can do things by myself just fine. I don’t need you. But I don’t want to leave you here. How will I find my way back? What if there are no others? What if I get sucked into the sky? And if I’m not tethered I’m going to vanish someday. You really just want me to disappear like that? I don’t think once I break that it goes back together.”

“I was not bringing up the possibility to be personal,” Diggory said. “I merely thought…’

“You didn’t think at all about how I’m feeling,” Percy said. “Because you’re on your journey of self-discovery or something and it doesn’t matter how many people around you get hurt.”

Diggory closed their eyes, and exhaled dust against the dark ice around them.

“Fine,” Percy said. “Have it your way.”

“Percy?” Diggory said, and opened their eyes, but it made no difference, for there was no light at all. “Percy? Are you still there?”

The darkness did not reply, and remained silent for a long while, until at last it began to move.

Marketing - Exploraganza

Lady Ethel:

Welcome back to Adventures with Lady Ethel Mallory.

Hm. Welcome back to the Lady Ethel Mallory Travelogue.

The Lady Ethel Exploraganza.

My Fun Wilderness Voyage National Tour.

I’m going to have to think on my new branding. But it’s difficult. When I was the chief marketing officer for the Botulus Corporation, I knew my audience. The various segments of the population that became our Happy Dreaming Family. What they feared, what they liked, which political points to capitalize on for each group, sorted by denomination and demographic so that we could get all of them dreaming the same American dream. Well, them and a few stragglers from the rest of the world. Tragic, really, but that’s what you get for not letting us buy out your government.

But I don’t know you. Whoever is listening to this. The ones in the Dreaming Box can’t hear outside transmissions. They’re probably drowning in Melanie’s inane bubbly babble as we speak. To them, I might be a little interference, like that Nikignik was. You’re someone who’s still out there. Beyond the Dreaming Box. Dreaming. Still listening. Who are you? What kind of freak didn’t take the safe way out of the end of the world?

Story 2, Continued - Beautiful Things

Whoever they are, Lady Ethel, I very much doubt they are interested in what you have to say. Why are you so loud in exile?

We return now to Diggory Graves.

Diggory could not move, felt ice all around them, but beyond the ice was a tremulous darkness.

“Hello?” they whispered. “Percy?”

“Hello,” a voice replied. It was not Percy’s, although it was almost familiar.

“My name is Diggory Graves,” they said. “What is yours?”

“I have so, so many names, Diggory Graves,” said the voice politely. “I’d hardly be able to pick just one.”

“Which is your favorite, then?” Diggory said.

“Creep,” the darkness whispered, after a quiet moment. “My favorite was Creep.”

“Hello, Creep,” Diggory said, tried to keep their voice from shaking. “What did you wish to speak about?”

“Speak?” said Creep.

“You could crush me within this ice, I think, but you have not,” Diggory said. “Instead I am trapped. You have grown, I think, since the last time we met, but I am sure you remember me as I remember you. If you have not killed me yet, then I assume you wish to speak.”

“I was curious about you,” said Creep. “I am made of many parts, many lives. And I have never found one who was like me before.”

“I am not like you,” Diggory said, and stared at the ice ceiling, brow furrowed. “You killed Rizwana and her friends. You are killing my friends now.”

“I am made of Rizwana and her friends, just the same as you,” said Creep. “This is so exciting. Mango!”

“What?” Diggory said.

“Mango,” said Creep. “Remember its sweet taste? Remember how she loved it?”

Diggory was silent a moment.

“I have never tasted mango,” they said. “I can neither taste nor eat.”

“But you have,” said Creep. “Or maybe Evelyn. Do you remember that glorious rush of the drums at the end of a song? The cheer of the crowd, and the way it made you rise? Such beautiful things we both are made of.”

“I only remember sometimes,” Diggory whispered. “I feel I can never make sense of all the pieces of me. How can they coexist in one body? Or will they grow in intensity until I am torn apart?”

“Yes,” said Creep. “Exactly. Thank god. I thought I was the only one, going mad with memories. Because… well.”

The darkness shifted.

“I am not a thing that will be able to ever taste mango for myself,” said Creep. “Or walk on the beach with just two legs, or smoke a cigarette with lungs, or stub one toe or feel hair raise on the back of my neck or feel the pain of my inner ear as I fly at high altitude. It’s impossible to remember those things and be able to experience none of them at the same time. To be so many different parts bleeding into one another.”

“If you remember Rizwana and the others so clearly,” Diggory said, “why do you wish us to die? We are here to complete her mission. My mission.”

“Why, do you not remember?” said Creep, one shadow to another. “I feel it in you. The blood! I was a drop of blood myself, spilled upon the ice. I might be a little more saturated than you, but even still, don’t you hear the music? Don’t you hear what it’s telling you?”

“The black water,” Diggory said. “There is a little in me. It got in through the roof and fell into my eye. I shed tears that others of my kind do not. But I do not hear any music.”

“Here,” said Creep. “Let me help you hear.”

Diggory felt the pressure around their chamber of ice shift, but they could not move, could not fight back as they felt something like liquid seep in through a crevice by their feet, but it moved like it was alive, crept along their ankle, seeped in through their stitches.

“Do not touch me,” Diggory said. “Let me go!”

There was a sound like a shrill cry, a scream in tones almost too high for them to hear, and the thing that touched their leg retracted immediately.

“What is wrong with you?” Creep hissed, and the darkness was alive around them, bubbling and crackling beyond the veil of the ice. “You burn. No one burns. I… I apologize for my reaction. I did not mean to scare you. Usually when I touch someone, I become them, and they become me, and then we all remember the taste of mango and all the rest of it. Together. We all hear the music. But you… there are words written on the inside of your skin. They burn awfully.”

“I suppose I was made by someone who wanted you to stay out of her work,” Diggory growled, and tried again to shift the ice; could not more than twitch their fingers, extend the toe of a boot.

“Yes, well, I suppose we’ll have lots of time to think about how to fix that,” said Creep. “I’ll begin with the rest of your group. The music is quite clear in that it needs to continue, and I really cannot let you interfere with it now. But I’m content with that. If there’s one person I’m interested in talking to before we become each other, it’s you. So it’s best that I save you for last. If you feel like sharing how exactly to undo those nasty little runes in you, let me know. I won’t be far.”

“I beg of you,” Diggory said. “Let them go on their way. Do not hurt them. It is for the best, it is for everyone. Please. They matter more to me than anything in the world.”

“I’m afraid,” said Creep, and the shadow rumbled and shifted as the focus of the great ocean of shadow beneath the ice began to move, “It’s already too late for that.”

Interlude 2 - Fear Issues

There is not much that frightens me, dreamers. I am, after all, in all places at once, and watching through all eyes, and I see all the horrors that the universe has to offer each day. I am the feeling of being watched when you are completely alone. I am the voice whispering about your life to a distant audience. I am the all-sight and the sentinel night.

But I do fear a few things. I fear the Outsiders, for they are incomprehensible and vast, beyond my sphere of vision, peering in at me the same way that I peer in at you. Ugh.

I fear Noptilnopt, Who Walks Unseen. I have never heard a whisper from him and I worry he could be around anywhere, watching me. That is my jurisdiction.

I fear Urnundurn, the Black Eternity, because in it I see nothing at all. And I have been told that I fear intimacy and commitment, but I have solved this by being intimate or committed with no one.

We go now to one who should know fear better.

Story 3 - Two Ravens

Mr. Raven watched the bird flutter in its cage, feathers from his own namesake spinning as the raven in the box crowed and flapped. It would at times attempt to scatter, break into a hundred ravens, vibrate with flame before reforming into its single shape. But despite the flame and the ferocity within, the thin black glass of the Null Unit held firm.

“It is great folly to cage a demon,” the bird croaked. Its tiny heart sputtered with light beneath the feathers. “Flame and fire, flame and fire. All will burn on his great pyre. Release me!”

“You will be released soon enough, my feathery little friend,” said Mr. Raven. He consulted his para-meter again; they were approaching the dead zone at a pleasant walking speed, although the scenery around them was anything but. Ash-stained snow alighted on twisted black branches, and towering pines kept their path uneven with tangled roots.

Beside him, Mr. Writingdesk carried the crate with the demon bird inside of it, and gave it a comforting pat.

“Don’t hurt yourself now,” he said. “That box will keep your powers on the inside, where they belong. You’ll go free right as rain, so long as your friends are open to some diplomacy.”

Mr. Raven raised a luxurious eyebrow. After all, once they had CPE-13 in their possession, there was nothing stopping them from bringing home a few extra specimens to the Institute. But like the raven flickering in the cage, a boundless fire on the verge of existence, so too did a doubt hover between his eyebrows. What was the point, truly? Of containing their careful glass of water, when all around them was the ocean? Each twisted human that crossed their path, the affected trees, the impossible hotel and all the aberrant things within it—his instruments were alight with the paranormal every waking hour that they had traveled outside of the compound. What good did it do them to keep a sliver of that improbably large field of disasters at bay, when the very world was undone by them?

He fiddled with the dials on his neutralization cannon until the thought vanished. There it was, that old sense of duty. There was a group of very dangerous individuals to track down first, yes. But presently, it was time to get their property back.

“This is as close as we go without crossing,” said Mr. Writingdesk. The broad-shouldered beast pointed up to the expanse of wintry trees ahead of them. “The wind ain’t moving in those ones.”

Mr. Raven nodded, and examined the para-meter again. They stood at the edge of the dead zone, where CPE-13’s signature radiated on the screen, a field that encompassed them and a little area around.

“Excellent,” said Mr. Raven. “We are within her field of probability, which should make this quite easy. Luck is on our side, so to speak.”

“Right,” said Mr. Writingdesk, and hefted the crate with the vile flaming familiar in it, and stepped towards the invisible wall, raised his voice. “Penny? Listen my dear. I know you can hear us in there. It was a nice little stunt at the hotel, but it’s time to come back now, alright? These strangers can’t take care of you. You know where you belong. We’ve got a job to do and then we’re going home. All of us.”

“And to Penny-ah!-CPE-13’s captors, if our property is not returned, we will immolate this familiar bird of yours with the push of a button,” Mr. Raven crowed. He felt the threat element had gone rather underrepresented in Mr. Writingdesk’s speech.

“Do no such thing!” squawked the bird that called itself Omen. “I am disposable! A happy life I have lived! Sacrifice nought for a bad bird! Fly for your freedom!”

“Clock is ticking I’m afraid,” said Mr. Writingdesk. Mr. Raven shouldered his neutralization cannon, and pointed it at the invisible wall in the forest. “I’m going to count from ten. Nine. Eight.”

Something happened at seven; there was a thump by Mr. Raven’s feet, and he swung his cannon around to investigate. Looking down, it was only his para-meter; it had fallen from the plastic clip on his belt. But his motion was enough to draw Mr. Writingdesk’s interest, and the big man also whirled towards him.

“What’s the matter?” said Mr. Writingdesk.

“Nothing,” said Mr. Raven, and stood up again, tried to untangle the wire for the para-meter from the one that powered his neutralization cannon, shoved the device back onto his belt as he raised a hand. “Would you please keep your attention on the…”

The cannon went off; the trigger had caught on the para-meter cable, and a beam of black shadow burned the air and collided with one of the winter trees, sent tree limbs blistering off and a great heap of snow cascading to the ground from newly freed branches.

The tree wavered, and Mr. Writingdesk rubbed his temples from beyond.

“From now on, I carry the cannon,” he said. “I told you this would happen.”

“But I like the cannon,” said Mr. Raven. “It’s not usually a…”

He paused as the tree bark squeaked and splintered, and the tree toppled, a forty-foot pillar of death crashing down into the forest. Mr. Raven leaped for cover, and evaded the great spiked branches they came rushing down. The impact sent a shudder through the forest floor, and shook fresh snow from the treeline around, branches bouncing as they cascaded snowflakes.

“Something is wrong,” Mr. Writingdesk said, looking up and around. “This doesn’t feel right.”

“Oh please,” said Mr. Raven, sitting up and dusting his coat off. “You make one mistake and you…”

There was a rumbling from beneath the earth, and he watched the dirt around Mr. Writingdesk’s feet sink as something stirred to life under their feet. And then Mr. Writingdesk was tossed off the ground as the soil exploded, and a huge black shape rose from the tangle of roots—a pointed nose frilled with writhing feelers, a sleek eyeless head, matted black hair, gigantic feet riddled with too many claws.

The gigantic mole swung its proboscis around towards where Mr. Writingdesk had fallen; the crate with the Omen in it rolled across the dirt. It peeled back bristle-lined lips to reveal long incisors champing together.

“You eyeless pest, over this way!” Mr. Raven cried, and pointed his neutralization cannon at it, and pulled the lever to set it to full charge. At his cry, the huge nose twitched back in his direction, and suddenly those yellow teeth like shovel blades were shining so close he could see his own reflection. He raised the cannon to pull the trigger, but it clamped down on the weapon, and Mr. Writingdesk was running up to help him, and what happened next was very loud and very violent.

His world beeped and whistled, as though he was sitting alone listening to the monitors, and the world was blindingly fluorescent. Gradually it came to him that he was bleeding from the face, an agonizing scar that ran through his eyebrow and cheek, and there were slivers of metal in his hands, and his uniform was tattered and it was freezing, and that Mr. Writingdesk was sheltering his body with his own. There was a squeal and a cry from the mole as it thundered away through the earth, sent flumes of soil flying up in its wake; the neutralization cannon exploding had been enough to drive it off from its former den.

“Mr. Writingdesk?” Mr. Raven said, and put his hand up to Mr. Writingdesk’s shoulder for a moment, as if to push him away, found that there was a shard of metal almost entirely through the man. “I don’t understand. We’re in her field. We’re supposed to be… for lack of a better word, lucky.”

“Believe me,” a voice echoed, and Mr. Raven scrambled up to see two girls standing in front of the windless wood, one wearing all black, one wearing all white. Penny held a parasol in her hands, as if to keep the meager sunlight at bay, and the one in black held the box with the Omen in her hands.

“Right now, you are lucky,” the one in black continued, and smiled. “Because you’re still alive. Enjoy it, while it lasts for… another thirty seconds.”

She pulled the levers in the null box, then, and the glass separated, and ravens and flame poured forth into the winter sky.

“Death!” the Omen screamed, and the fiery unkindness descended. “Death is upon you!”

Outro - Creeps

Creeps. When you walk through the forest in the silent afternoon, and the wind dies, and the trees seem to breathe in all directions around you, and you know within your animal heart that there are eyes watching you from afar, it is just me. Do not be afraid. It is more considerate than the alternative, for if you knew what watched, the scale of life that might be unleashed upon your mind, you would beg to back to ignorance. It is better for a rush in the wind, an uncomfortable silence to mask our footsteps. To walk unseen and follow your trail without notice.

When the wind passes, and the hairs on your arms return to their natural state, and the goosebumps fade, I will still be watching. But rest assured, I do not watch because I mean you harm. I watch because I am curious where you think your steps will take you, and to the distances, through this forest and beyond, that you will go.

Until no one is left to walk or watch, I am your loyal host Nikignik, waiting creepily for your return to the Hallowoods.

The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Forgotten Child' 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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