Content warnings for this episode include: Al has no skin (as usual), Violence, Kidnapping and abduction, Death + Injury, Blood, Needles, Birds, Gun Mention, Strangulation/suffocation, Emotional Manipulation, Body horror, Werewolf related body dysphoria, House fires
Intro - A Kind of Collection
You always loved libraries. Perhaps it was the communal sense of quiet, the only place where the world silenced itself enough for you to hear your own thoughts. Perhaps it was for the knowledge on the shelves, your window into a world you had never experienced, the spying glass through which you might study far-off notions without fear of repercussion. Perhaps it was for the people that were a part of them.
From the day you first stepped foot across the mosaic threshold into those sunlit halls, you knew they would be a part of your life forever. But it is a different kind of library that draws your focus in your latter years. A specific kind of collection: the book and artifact that leaves chaos in its wake, but is invaluable to those who carry their curses beneath their skin, to help them understand themselves. A specific kind of purpose: to prevent the worst of your dreams from coming true.
You would not live to see it succeed; for it to dwell between black pines, to hear me whisper Hello From The Hallowoods.
It was a long time coming, dreamer. I know that. It is not the first time I have seen the great masterwork of a loved one become darkened by time, fail to become what they hoped it would be, after their end. Unsupervised visions, falling askew without the careful hands of their creators. And yet I do not wish to see it happen. This was a lifetime in the making for her, and she was gone too soon.
But I have a responsibility to you, as difficult as it is for me at times to see you through to the other side. You are not so attached as I. How could you be? You do not know the love that lived in this place before the darkness did.
The office is false, like everything in the Downing Hill Public Library, a fragile vision to keep up appearances in the wake of unbearable cosmic gravity. It is decorated with orange retro furniture and ugly wooden paneling. There is a suitcase open on the desk, full of magazines, and a man as much a phantom as the library itself, and a girl whose vengeance I cannot fault. The theme of tonight’s episode is Libraries.
Story 1 - A Present for the Professor
Friday dragged a knife along the wallpaper as she walked the familiar halls, leaving her mark in the shadow beneath it. She had been out in the real world for a summer and an autumn, and she could tell the difference now between real paper and false. The idea of paper was smooth, and perfect. But real paper held between the hands was coarse, rasped pleasingly against a fingertip, held friction and wrinkles and folded edges. This place had real things, certainly, but they were few and far between, like art in an exhibit, lost amidst a labyrinth of artifice, the thin veil that obscured what Downing Hill really was.
She did not knock when she opened the door to Professor O’Connor’s office. She never had. It was a game she played; seeing if it would be the one occasion she’d catch him off guard. But whatever was wrong with those peculiar colorless eyes of his, they saw through everyone and everything. He looked up to her with an expression she didn’t like very much. There was nothing she loathed like smugness.
“Come back to say goodbye, have you?” he said. He stood over a suitcase mostly full of his lurid paranormal magazines, weighed two in his hands as if deciding which would be the last to take along. He barely looked up at her, in fact, which cut her in a way she hadn’t anticipated.
She paused at that, held the knife in both hands thoughtfully. It was cold steel rather than soul-devouring onyx. It suited her better.
“Hardly,” she said, and glanced around. Something was wrong in the library, beyond O’Connor’s walls. It was dead and anxious like a plague city. “You stole me as a child. And a locket from my mother’s corpse.”
“Rescue, is the term I would have used,” O’Connor said, glancing over his magazine covers. He finally chose one, set it deliberately in the case, and closed it. “That’s what it’s called when you find a young child in the woods whose mother is being burned alive by the church.”
“I want to know why,” Friday said, and scraped her knife against the door frame, shaving off a curling flake of wood to reveal the nothingness beneath. She put the flake into the book bag hanging from her shoulder. “I’ve never known you to be generous. Or even kind to me. You went out of your way to punish me, in fact. Is that why you kept sending me back to the summer program? Is that how you showed your fatherly affection?”
“I’ve never regarded myself as your father,” O’Connor said, and glanced up to her briefly, colorlessly, before returning his gaze to the magazines he had decided not to pack, and his brows knit together with regret. “Mm. This one is a classic though. 'Ghost Car Haunts America's Highways'. I’m a bit fond of it. I might be able to cut one of the Mothman issues.”
Friday stabbed the knife into the door frame, sank it deep in the skin of the library. She glared at him. He sighed, and set the magazines down for a moment, leaned on his desk, and smiled at her patronizingly as if to say, fine. Here’s your attention. He waited for her to speak. He made her feel like everyone in this place did—an insect in a spider’s web, a fly at the end of a string.
“I’ll bite,” she said. “Why are you packing your trite little magazines?”
“Oh! You haven’t heard,” he said. “I’m retiring.”
“The radiation in here finally got to you, did it?” Friday mused.
“Nothing so fortunate,” said O’Connor, and put his hands in his waistcoat pockets, looked around his study. “Within the night, this Library’s fate will be decided. Either nothing happens, in which case, our mission is over and I have nothing left for me here. Or, Director Blackletter’s plan works, and the library moves, and she begins to usher in some kind of new world empire, which I have no great desire to administrate.”
“That was all you ever talked about,” she said. “Making us tough. Making us ready. You don’t want to see what’s on the other side of all your work?”
He swallowed, and looked down. Every dragon had its missing scale.
“I’ve never been kind to you,” he said. “Or to any of our students, for that matter. I’ve watched them die for their weakness. But it may surprise you, as much as it has surprised me, to know that I do have a heart. I believe in fairness, if nothing else. It wasn’t fair that a girl who had done nothing wrong, who was only a little unlucky, had to watch her mother burning alive in the forest. And it is not fair that your friend, Miss Martin, has been sent to play such a crucial role in the future of this library when she is so woefully underprepared. The Director does not make such distinctions, and so I think it is best that we part ways.”
A complex pang ran through Friday. A friendship that had been the lifeline she needed, for a time; stopped her from doing something like this so much sooner. The sourness of how it had ended, and watching Clara turn out to be everything she hated about this place. The knowledge that the mission Clara was on was not written for her, but for Olivier, and the reminder that Downing Hill had taken two friends from her now. Good, she thought. At least no small part of me has to worry about running into her here. About trying to make sure she survives.
“Is that why you came?” said O’Connor, and she looked up to find he had crossed the room, donned a smart brown coat and a brimmed hat. His prosthetic leg was a simple piece of wood, golden banding. Made from Downing Hill shelves or a stairway banister, perhaps. He walked with a matching cane, and lugged his suitcase with the other hand. “Just to ask about my intentions in saving your life? Answers never appetize as much as one would hope.”
“No,” Friday said, and plucked her knife from the doorway. “I came to give you a gift.”
He paused, a few paces from her, ready to exit, blocked by the girl in the black dress and the boots with the knife. She tightened her grip on it suddenly to see if he’d flinch. He did not; studied her like some scrupulous bird of prey.
“I’m afraid I can’t fit much more in my suitcase,” he said. “Will it fit in a pocket?”
“It’s quite light,” she said. “It’s this. A warning. A superfluous one, now. Get out of here. There’s not going to be a library at the end of the night. You saved my life once, I’ve saved yours now. That makes us even. I don’t owe you anything.”
“I don’t need to tell you what an undertaking it would be to do serious harm to this place,” he mused, and tapped his foot. Then he smiled. “But I suppose it’s not their lucky day, is it?”
He walked breezily past her, and whistled as he carried his bag down his hall, a tap of the leg, of the cane. She stared after him, and for a moment she was not sure what she wanted. A little more time. A last word. A goodbye.
But then she thought of the flames that crept across her mother’s skin, and the veil of gasoline-doused fabric that obscured her face, and year after year spent within the deep darkness of this lightless place, and the way it burned the goodness out of everyone who stepped through its doors, the way it had burned the goodness out of her. And she remembered what she wanted, then.
She stood alone in the doorway to O’Connor’s office, now. He’d left the lamp on; just like it always was, like he was going to come back from the meal hall any minute and ask what she thought she was doing in there. But he wasn’t coming back. And after this, neither was she.
She reached into the book bag, and pulled out her welding mask, and fit the strap over her treasure-full braids. And then she removed the flamethrower, and clicked the trigger. Wondered for a moment if it would work, ancient and empty as it was. Smiled as it did.
And the smile widened into a grin as the white-hot flame leapt from the metal cradled in her arms, and it sailed in arcs across the room, caught on the magazines left behind and the wall of books, and sprawled rapidly from there across the coat rack, the uncomfortable orange chairs, the timbers of the desk. She carried it outside, and backed down the hall, left a trail of sparking embers in her wake, and lit the wallpaper with searing flames. The air was immediately hot, stifling, smoke pouring out into the void beyond the walls. O’Connor’s office was an oven, books from a thousand philosophies turning into tinder.
If they were smart, of course, they’d be on her in an instant. The static-faced librarians, and the Director’s little living weapons that had never once pretended to be her friends, and maybe even little old Blackletter herself. But they’d have a hard time doing it, wouldn’t they? When the stairs led to quite the wrong places, when doors suddenly locked of their own accord, when they could only too late feel the smoke gathering in all the inaccessible places, the flame crawl on the inside of the walls of this hollow labyrinth.
She held nothing back; felt it pouring off of her skin, twenty years of bad luck finally unleashed. She walked down the hall, and then skipped, and then danced, and with each step, destruction followed in her wake. Today was going to be a very good day for Friday Rescher. Today was going to be a very bad day for the Downing Hill Public Library.
Interlude 1 - North or Nowhere
This is an announcement for those who live in the Northern Hallowoods and have a library card or books borrowed from the Downing Hill Public Library. The Library is closed for today due to scheduled renovation, relocation, and possible demolition. If you have a library card and intend to join the library in its new location, please attend it immediately, as its departure will be sudden. It is scheduled for sometime past midnight and before dawn, depending on when its agent in the North completes the ritual required to summon it. If you are unable to return your books before their due date, you may have less to worry about than before, as Downing Hill’s chief enforcer of overdue books has sought a new occupation.
Alternatively, the library might remain where it is, or cease to be at all. Alternatives to the Downing Hill Public Library include the revered collections of the Church of the Hallowed Name, if you can tolerate their dogma, or falling into the crystalline dimension beyond your own where thought itself becomes an object worthy of study, or the Grand Archives of Zelkryzelk, accessible through your nearest tear in space and time. Going forward the address of the library might be north, as far north as you can go, north until the ends of the earth. North, or nowhere.
We go now to one whose life has been the library.
Story 2 - The Wolf in the Library
“That’s what she said,” said the whisper of the ghostly boy. “That it’s going to move.”
“Move to where?” Victoria said, and tugged at her mustache in concern. They sat in a room that had unofficially become a safe haven for her and Harrow and what remained of Arnold, a Treatises On Divinity collection with a vaulted stone ceiling and books of dusty parchment that lined each wall. When you removed one, there was another row of books behind those; there was no telling how far back they went. Like many rooms in Downing Hill, it was not frequented often, and there were far fewer prying ears around here than they used to be. The doorway was through a cabinet which sat in one of the empty visitor wings.
“I don’t know,” said the ghost. Al hovered in the darkness, had no eyelids with which to blink, spoke with naked teeth outlined in transparent light. Like a rabbit skinned by a hunter. “I probably should of asked. She only said far away, so far that my grandma can’t visit anymore.”
“I know where it is,” Harrow said. The porcelain-skinned child held Al’s drum in zir lap, and the remaining hand of Arnold on top of that. The hand tapped a few rhythmic notes on the drum every so often. “She’s talked about it with me before. She didn’t mention it was coming so quickly. She’s taking the library to the north pole, and underwater. Clara’s out there trying to set up the location ahead of time.”
“We’re going to the north pole in time for Christmas?” said Al. “That’s where Santa Clause lives. Does he bring you presents here at the library? He didn’t bring me any while I was in the bad man’s basement. I think he forgot about me.”
“She can’t do that,” Victoria said, eyebrows raised. She ignored the topic of La Navidad for now, she’d much prefer to be home for the holidays. “How are my letters going to get out? How am I going to visit my family? They already hate that I’m this far away.”
“I don’t know,” offered Harrow.
“Is this what Clara’s been so busy with?” Victoria said, and crossed the arms of her renaissance shirt. “No wonder she started taking on Olivier’s attitude.”
“I hope she’s alright,” Harrow whispered. “I see bad things. Everywhere. But out there especially.”
“Well, whatever happens, it’s the path she chose. We did our best,” Victoria shrugged, and frowned at the ground. “How can you help someone when she thinks your help is beneath her?”
Harrow looked up to the wooden doors at the same moment that a sound caught Victoria’s ear; a rustle of wings, one that she had not heard in weeks. Months? How long had it been, come to think of it, since she’d seen the Omen fluttering around Downing Hill? Immediately a sense of fear shot through her, cold amidst the heated thoughts. Was she doing anything wrong? Was she going to be punished? The fluttering stopped, and there was a scrape against the wood as the Omen’s talons scratched the closed door, and from the other side she could hear its voice crowing.
“Leave!” the Omen cried. “Take what’s cherished! Leave or perish! There is a fire in the library!”
And then the flapping continued onward, and she rose to her feet, moved for the door. As she did, there was a crash from outside; a shudder of some great timber shattering.
“What was that about?” she said, as much to herself as to Harrow and Al. Harrow was standing too, and Al hovered nearby, a silver outline in the dusty shadows.
“I can feel it,” Harrow whispered, black eyes staring widely into the horizon beyond the door. “It’s like a wound. It’s opening for us.”
“You know I don’t get riddles,” Victoria said, and reached her hand for the handle; it was supposed to open, pull her into the darkness that would turn into the library beyond, but it did not. She rattled it, and then shoved her shoulder against the door; it would not budge.
“Let me see what’s going on,” Al said, and drifted past her, a corpse disappearing through the wooden beams of the door.
“The door is a cabinet on the other side, right?” said Harrow, and held Arnold’s hand close. “What if it’s fallen over? What if there is a fire?”
Victoria shoved the door again. It was not hot, but there was something else now; smoke pouring from beneath the door, making the air acrid and heavy. And she found herself in the rare position of not knowing what to do; of feeling the panic rise up in her chest, and all the terrible things that made up her soul with it. She closed her eyes, tried to breathe deeply to keep the smoke from constricting her, and stepped away from the door. Harrow tried the door after her; it did not shift for zir either.
“Please,” Harrow whispered, and looked over to her. “Victoria? Can you get us out of here?”
“I don’t know,” she said, the world of dark bookshelves spinning around her. “Not without… I can’t. I can’t risk hurting you again.”
“If there is a fire,” Harrow whispered, set the drum down for a moment, “it could be dangerous for everyone. We have to get out. We have to help.”
Victoria’s vision had become a tunnel, books stretching out in every direction, and in front of her the wooden doors, locked against the stone floor of a faraway lobby room, forgotten. Fear that turned into hair upon her arms and feet, sharpened her teeth, lengthened her fingers. Visions of Harrow cracked apart in her hands like a shattered doll, whatever dark ichor it was that kept zir alive bleeding out. Hating the feeling of coarser hair poking up through her skin, sharper teeth cracking through her gums, all the changes that came with her accursed body.
“I’m sorry,” she said, to herself and to Harrow, and as she spoke her voice grew deeper, raspier, a growl that shook in her chest. And she ran, with greater lungs and burning vision and outstretched claws, for the door.
Marketing - Page 768
Lady Ethel Mallory:
You know what they say, you can’t keep a good man down. I haven’t met any good men but I like to think if there were, they’d be almost as resilient as me. So I’ve resumed my journey. I don’t know why it’s so difficult now, when I’ve been through the worst of it. I think it’s the loneliness, really. I expected to meet more people on the road. Or for the people I have met to be more tolerable. I wonder if they’re avoiding me? Maybe they see me coming and think they’ve got to hide.
No matter. Can’t keep a good man down. I’ve stopped in at a little place, it’s full of books. I say full, the truth is it’s rather sparse. I’m sure the locals, wherever they are, decided to leave the best books behind and use the worst ones for kindling or toilet paper. Which is why there are so many copies of my book here.
I assume if you’re enough of a fan to keep dreaming about me in these messages, well, you’ve probably read my thrilling autobiography. And if you haven’t, well. I don’t know where you can get it except this bookstore. There’s a version in the Prime Dream, read by the author, of course. I’m going to take a copy with me, reread it. I’d be curious to find what’s changed.
A lot has changed. When I wrote this I was just beginning my career with the Botulus Corporation and I felt like I was on top of the world. Like all the pain and work to get there was just one treacherous set of stairs leading to my eventual success. I wrote it as if I was the end result of the story, at the time. But the years have brought a little perspective. I understand now that it’s still not over. It didn’t lead where I hoped it would.
But it might now.
Story 2, Continued - The Wolf in the Library
It’s not very good. It’s too long for what it is, and it’s terribly self-aggrandizing. Two out five stars. Stick to broadcasting.
We return now to Victoria Tepiani.
Her hands connected with the door, except they were not hands but claws, long and sharp, and her skin was blanketed with thick black fur, and she was taller by an order of magnitude than she had been before. Her vision had changed, and living things burned hot in her sight. The only living thing in here was Arnold. And soon, it would be none, if she did not tear them free of this place. She tried the door, first, feeling as desperate as a cornered beast in search of an exit, but her sharp claws could not splinter the wood, nor shake the timbers. Harrow gave a small shriek as she put two hundred pounds of force into it, and then three hundred, tearing at the surface. Finally, the door gave way, huge fragments of broken wood drawn suddenly into the darkness beyond. But the doorway beyond it was broken; a starless void, a whirling wind from which poured smoke and distant flame. Something was deeply wrong, not just with her but with the library. The doorway was missing, but the fire from somewhere distant was pouring through. She pulled back from the empty portal, and directed her ferocious momentum past Harrow into the bookshelves, thick claws tearing through the first wall of encyclopedias with ease.
She lunged out again, and again. It felt good, somehow, deep down. To sink her claws into something that wasn’t living. To test her strength. Power coursed through her like liquid gold; a sunlight she had almost forgotten. It warmed her blood, made her feel invincible. She roared as she tore through the shelf one titanic swipe at a time, peeled away layer after layer of books, but no matter how many more she slashed away, there were still more beyond that. A tunnel of leather spines and gilt leaf, of obscure titles and dead authors, enshrouding her like a cocoon.
And the room was thick with smoke now, gathering at the ceiling like a dark cloud. She heard Harrow’s voice calling behind her—her hearing was so much more sensitive, she could hear each grate of zir artificial skin, the squirm of Arnold’s perpetually moist fingers, the crackle of distant flame. This was going to be the oven in which they cooked.
“Victoria!” Harrow said, and approached her; she whirled around.
“Don’t come near me,” she growled, claws scraping the stone, teeth sharp and wet in her jaws. “Please.”
“I’m going to try something,” Harrow whispered, a fragile bird in a school uniform, the light of distant flame glinting on zir smooth skin. “Something I haven’t tried yet either. I’m going to try and find a door.”
Harrow reached out a glinting hand, and she gasped for air; her lungs were great engines and they filtered smoke without issue, yet she still felt choked.
“Trust me,” said Harrow. “And I’ll trust you.”
She reached out a paw, huge, dextrous, tipped with razor claws, a mockery of a hand. And Harrow’s hands closed around hers as the books high above them began to burn, collapsed from the shelves in a flurry of embers. She reached out to shelter them both with her back, huge and powerful, every muscle straining.
Harrow’s all-black eyes closed, and when Victoria blinked, they were not in the Library at all, but tumbled through a snow-encrusted clearing, slid to a stop in the moonlight.
“How did you do that?” Victoria growled, although she didn’t mean to.
“I’ve always been afraid of them,” Harrow whimpered, sitting up, holding Arnold’s hand close. “The doors. I don’t know where they lead. But if you can become a wolf again, I can do this.”
Ze smiled, and Victoria looked down to examine her claws. They were ugly, she thought. Things that killed. But it felt good, in its own way. To be.
She looked up to the library, just visible through the snow-touched pines, to find it in chaos; the front doors were open, and smoke poured from its windows on the upper floor, and people fled from the doors amidst a flurry of crowing ravens. A girl with a white dress stood between the great stone lions, and then began to run; others pushed past the fleeing occupants, screaming questions as they ran after her into the darkness. Victoria glanced over to Harrow, found that ze was staring at her with wide eyes.
“Victoria?” Harrow whispered, and turned around, patting the snow, looked up to her, mouth agape. Arnold’s hand wriggled in zir hands, but there was no blood-red drum. “I think I left Al in the library.”
Interlude 2 - Omniscient Minds
Libraries for you, dreamer, are for the most part safe places. Collections of your knowledge and stories, a slice of what your kind have learned about the world brought to your neighborhood. There are some libraries, of course, that are not so forgiving. The Downing Hill Public Library’s collections are ravenous and rarely fed. But there are few places that life indescribable may go to satisfy a hunger for knowledge.
The Grand Archives, but they are not without their threats, compiled and maintained by Zelkryzelk the Omniscient One, and omniscience comes at a terrible price. It is a price you may pay, if you linger too long in those collections. Oh, to sit for an eternity among crystalline shelves, with only the hum of the stars overhead for company, to let time slip by as you pull one story, one world, one age, one species, one particle, one law of the universe from the shelf, begin to reassemble the great complexity of the cosmos inside of your fragile mind until it is as complete within as without.
The omniscient mind is a universe, or a mirror of a universe, a reflection. And within the all-seeing, all-knowing mind, is not some part of you, venturing into a library for the first time to begin the cycle again and again in infinitely smaller frames forever?
It is there, in the archives, if ever I choose to become all-knowing. Perhaps I will, if I lose hope for all else, and can find no other way to bide my eternities. But for now, I only see all, and must learn from what I see like any other. I have gotten good at it by now.
We go now to to one who is well-read.
Story 3 - Proper Goodbyes
“Damn instrument’s not working,” said Mr. Writingdesk, and dashed after Mr. Raven through the library. It had white linoleum floors, and white fluorescent overhead lights, and tall grey metal shelves filled with books, not unlike the Institute back home. He thumbed at the little box with its small grey screen, too small in his hands.
“It’s calibrated to high sensitivity, but we’re surrounded by nonsense,” said Mr. Raven, charting a course that only he seemed to know. “Try upping the exclusion levels. We’re looking for spikes. The signatures are quite unique.”
“I don’t know what you two are talking about,” said Mrs. Cake, who managed to keep a quick pace after them, shotgun in her hands and hair abreeze. “I’ve been in here before now, it didn’t make any sense at all. Stop trying so hard and look for your girls. That was her in the white dress we saw run in here, wasn’t it? What are their names? We should be calling.”
Mr. Raven opened his mouth to speak, but Mr. Writingdesk made a point of beating him to it. “Penny,” he said. “One is Penny. The other is Friday.”
“Mine is named Al,” she said, and glared down a hallway that led off from the main library room. There was someone sitting motionless at a reception desk, Mr. Writingdesk noticed; he shuddered at what had been done to her head, but there was no time to stop. “Al? Penny? Friday?”
“Death,” cried a raven passing overhead; Mr. Writingdesk sheltered his face with his hands; he remembered its claws and flame from their last meeting. Friday was certainly here, then. “Death and flame! Death and flame! You’ll have nothing to your name!”
“Thank you,” Mr. Writingdesk muttered, and clicked the settings in on his device. It went from a frantic scattering of tones to a single high-pitched alert. Years ago, when he’d first joined, he would have been as excited as Mr. Raven was about a treasure trove of CPEs and related material to seize. But now, he had one mission, and one only.
“Al!” Mrs. Cake exclaimed, and lowered her gun as she went stumbling a few steps away from them. Mr. Writingdesk stared after her, unsure if she was seeing something he wasn’t, or if she was just a barn door free of hinges. Mr. Raven swung the white block of the spectrononocle over one eye, flashed its green lens, shot a look back to Mr. Writingdesk and a whisper.
“He’s dead,” said Mr. Raven. “Might be a class two specter. Either way he’s dead.”
“He doesn’t like that word,” said Mrs. Cake, and shot them both a sharp look, then went back to talking to the air. “Now Al, where are you? We’ll get your drum and we’ll get out of here. Your grandma’s not going to leave you again and that’s a promise.”
“Well, she seems capable of handling herself,” Mr. Raven sniffed. Mr. Writingdesk tapped him on the shoulder, and gestured with the other hand down the hallway ahead of them. Mr. Raven turned to look, and stopped in his tracks.
The end of a long hallway, stretching off into unknown depths of this minefield of paranormal entities, was on fire. And amidst the flames stood two girls, one in a black dress and one in white, holding hands. The girl in the black dress had a knife, and blood spattered her clothes.
“You broke your promise,” called Penny. “You said you’d stop following me.”
“She already gave you one chance more than you deserve,” Friday said, and let go of her sister’s hand, came stalking towards them both.
“You’re coming home this very night,” called Mr. Raven. “Both of you. It’s the end of this madness!”
Mr. Raven leveled a device, aglow with cyan lights and filled with obsidian needles, and prepared to fire, but Mr. Writingdesk laid a hand on his shoulder, grabbed it firmly.
“Wait,” he said, and Mr. Raven hesitated, even as the ghastly sister drew close.
“Penny,” Mr. Writingdesk said, and stepped in front of Mr. Raven a little, raised both hands. “I didn’t come to follow you.”
“Mr. Writingdesk, what are you doing?” Mr. Raven muttered, shaking with the gun in his hands. Friday was twenty-five feet from them, now, dragging her knife against the wall as she approached. Twenty. Fifteen.
“I came to say goodbye,” Mr. Writingdesk said. “I wanted to say things I couldn’t, when we was leaving last. That it’s been a pleasure to know you. That I hope this is what you want. A life up here. That it’s good.”
Friday stopped ten feet away, head tilted, face betraying no expression except for a fixed smile and a dead look in the eyes. And Mr. Writingdesk reached within his coat, to fetch his CPE Institute badge, and do what he would have liked to do for a long time, which was to pitch it into the fire.
But Friday tilted her head in response, before he could pull it free, and it was shocking to him how quickly every wound in his body reopened at once, the stitches and scars loosening all together. He gasped, and collapsed to the ground like a grand piano from a ten story building, and what he saw above him was a flash of light as Mr. Raven screamed and opened fire amidst the flying embers.
Outro - Libraries
Libraries. They say reading is dreaming with your eyes open. On the contrary. Dreaming is reading with your eyes shut. For within the abyssal depths of your subconscious thought lies a story about your fears, and hopes, and insecurities. Sometimes interrupted by marketing from your local predatory corporations. And always an open gateway into the starlit expanse above, from whence cats and the nameless travellers that dwell in dream may come. A pathway into the dream-city of distant Kazanth, if you know how to walk it. And somewhere, at the end of the last chapter, the final moment before waking, your loyal host Nikignik, waiting literately for your return to the Hallowoods.
The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Light a Fire' 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! Until next time, dreamers... butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high! Take a look, it’s in a book, the invocation to pull the mad crystal god Ilimnithar into our dimension! Eldritch rainbow!