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HFTH - Episode 144 - Pigs

Content warnings for this episode include: Mention of dog stuck in bear trap, Chronic Illness, Violence, Death + Injury, Blood, Body horror, Consumption of Inedible Materials (Human hand), Smoking, Clowns, Dismemberment, Dead Animal (Pig)

The Interrogation - This Is Not A Conversation


Very well. What do you want to know?

The Auditor

Let me be very clear. This is not a conversation; this is a process. If you answer my questions truthfully and in full, it may be painless. It will be far worse for you if you do not. I have one purpose and that is to extract the truth from you. This will happen by the time I am finished.


I am still waiting for a question.

The Auditor

We want to know why you killed Marolmar, the Garden of the End.

Story 1 - Welcome to Liberty City

Why am I here?


Mister Silver emerged from the carriage, stepped down onto the packed earth. They were still on the outskirts of course; Liberty City was too dense to get through easily with a wagon, and besides, their chauffeur preferred to keep a low profile. He tossed an extra Scoutcoin to the Froglin in charge of the shuttle; it was going to be a long journey back north to Scout City. The Springbough Griffocaugh at the head of the carriage chittered and honked, trampled the earth with its metal-clad hooves, shook its twelve-foot flower-encrusted antlers.

“Much obliged to ya both,” said Mr. Silver, as his companions disembarked from the carriage. The esteemed Mr. Torres, who wore the kind of unassuming black jacket and vest that veiled a man good at fisticuffs, eyebrows and jaw chipped with the impacts of a hundred bad punches, and Ms. Williams, studying the filthy new world through a pair of long-dead crystal glasses. And then there was Hope, with an inherited lopsided smile and a plush night-gaunt in her hands, all of twelve years old, climbing from the back of the wagon. The Froglin hopped up from his seat at the front of the carriage, and began undoing the knots that tied their luggage to the top with lengthy, almost transparent green fingers. He slid them down one by one into the waiting arms of Mr. Torres.

“Careful,” said Ms. Williams. “Don’t want to break any of my instruments.”

“They’ve got a lot farther to go than off the carriage,” said Mr. Torres, although he was particularly gentle with the next few trunks. Mr. Silver picked up his small suitcase, which was all he could lift and all he needed anyway, and leaned on his nice cane, carved from Hallowood pine. “Have to decide what we’ll do with the day; we’ve got over twenty-four hours before the ship departs.”

“I’d like to find the docks,” said Ms. Williams.

“We have until tomorrow night,” said Mr. Torres, gathering the remaining luggage, a locker over his shoulder, a large briefcase at his side. “Hope, honey, grab your bag. There you go. But yeah, I’m in no rush.”

“As unnecessary as it may seem given our surplus of time, I would like to get the lay of the land as well,” said Mr. Silver. “Perhaps see if our ship is in port.”

Mr. Silver took in the sights ahead as the froglin porter took his reins and the griffocaugh stomped away, dragging the carriage to wherever the passengers were waiting for the return trip north. This left the four of them standing on the mud-cracked road into the city. Liberty City had been erected out of the bones of New York, hauled to higher ground to escape the waters that had drowned the old city. The ocean beyond its rusted towers of metal was a black that held no reflection of the sky, and even from the outskirts Mr. Silver could see the docks reaching out like a hand upon the water, fingers encrusted with ships.

What a far cry from the tiny tarpaulin sheds that he had been raised in. What a far cry from Fort Freedom. And yet, even here, a barrage of flags flew high over the tallest towers, symbols of an America dead thirty-five years. They descended, and the scale of the city made Mr. Silver feel like a forest weasel, ready to scurry into a burrow where the sky did not tower so high. But Hope was all wide eyes and awestruck stares, and that brought him some comfort. If only he could see it like she did, through a lens of eternal wonder instead of endless caution.

And it was wondrous; these towering silver buildings, leftovers of a bygone age, were each as tall as Scout City and fifty times as numerous. The city vibrated with life—the roar of reclaimed trains powered by dying solar cells, carriages drawn by horses and mules of strange and disproportioned breeds, and above all, people, bustl ing in crowds, winding in and out of storefronts, shouting about the sale of newspapers, people from a thousand places and bound for a thousand places. A mystery could thrive unnoticed for weeks in a place like this before it bloomed.

It was Miss Brooklyn Williams that directed them through the bustle to the docks, although he was sure she had not been to a place like this before.An air of officiality came over her when she was required to manage others, which Mr. Silver appreciated as part of their sort of working operation. And then, looming through the sloped alleyways of pipes and paving stones, there was the ship.

The ship was unmissable, a mountain of metal like a city on the water, laughably huge compared to the feeble docking ramps that stretched to reach its deck. It was not, he was surprised to note, a proper cruise ship, but rather a cargo hauler, a sort of cradle in which sat hundreds of great shipping containers, converted to quarters by elaborate scaffolds. 'The East Wind' was painted in chipped letters across its hull.

“Whoahhh,” said Hope. “That boat could carry like. Three Scout Cities.”

“Marco,” said Ms. Williams, turning to Mr. Torres. “Luxury cruise, you said. Great cruise liner, you said. Entirely safe, you said.”

Mr. Torres shrugged, and grinned crookedly, hefted the trunk on his shoulder. “Well. It’s probably two out of three of those things, guess we’ll see which ones. Not exactly a Botco transport carrier, but it’ll do.”

“I can’t say I’ve had the privilege of sailing before,” said Mr. Silver, and swallowed, “But I expect it will be a relatively safe voyage.”

“Wouldn’t count on it,” a voice said from behind them, and Mr. Silver turned to find a man, square jawed, dark haired, a trench coat and a fedora, puffing on a lit cigar. Immediately Mr. Torres bristled to put himself between the stranger and the group, but Mr. Silver raised a hand, tapped his cane on the ground with the other.

“Do elaborate, good sir,” said Mr. Silver.

“It happens every so often,” said the stranger, breathing out smoke, a glint of fire in his eyes. “Ships go. Try to cross the ocean to Europe. They don’t come back. And our captain… well. Let’s just say he’s got a bloody record. Every passenger that gets on that ship is a pig led to slaughter.”

“Do you just hang out at the docks, warning passengers?” said Ms. Williams, arms crossed.

“No,” said the stranger. “I’m a passenger too. Normally I wouldn’t bother. But I see you’ve got a kid here. You should know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” said Mr. Silver, setting down his suitcase to reach for a handshake. “Detective Buck Silver. These are my associates, Mr. Torres and Miss Williams.”

“Don’t forget me,” said Hope, and hid her plush toy behind her back, tried to look very serious. “How do you do.”

“We’re in the midst of starting a new life,” said Mr. Silver. “Might I inquire as to what brings you out on the ocean?”

“Dashiell Spade,” said the man, and shook Buck’s hand. “Detective, ey? I’m a bit of a gumshoe myself. I’m looking for my daughter.”

Story 2 - See What You Lose

Why am I here? It distracts from what happened, I think.


The rain was coming down hard, and the forest underbelly turned to mud beneath Clementine’s boots as they walked. Mist reached down into the tops of the pines, and smeared the line between dark forest and dark sky.

And in the gloom, Clementine walked, with her partner stalking silently behind her. Shelby was not unlike the woods—gloomy, foreboding, dangerous. Clementine wouldn’t have been able to love someone without those qualities, or maybe she had been loving Shelby so long that she had forgotten how else to do it. She loved a mystery, and at the heart of Shelby was one that she had never completely solved. Of course, there were thoughts of Danielle from time to time, but Clementine had a good sense for bad ideas and that was one of them.

That, and she liked having someone to watch her back. The beagle they had adopted bounced along through the rain on three legs, and she was not sure if it was heeding her muttered commands or just on a journey of its own that happened to be alongside them.

“We might be too late,” Shelby said. “The rain’s almost ruined any tracks that might be there.”

“We’ll see what we find,” Clementine said. “There must be something that Big Mikey hasn’t trampled.”

Indeed, the giant revenant’s footsteps were a convenient trail towards their destination, the underbrush flattened in five-foot patches. The hound darted ahead, baying against the thunder, and Clementine squeezed the rain from her fingerless gloves as she followed.

“Anything you hope to find?” Shelby said. The hound had come to a stop in a place ahead where the trees parted.

“I never hope to find anything,” Clementine grunted. “And yet.”

The titanic pines parted to reveal a wound in the forest. A large muddy path in the undergrowth, puddles spattered by the rainfall, gave way to a clearing. Big Mikey’s huge footsteps had pounded the area flat, but there were still traces of what had lain here, unidentifiable trails of gore not quite picked clean by the birds, turned black and then bleeding away with the rain. Footsteps ran in muddled circles, eroded pathways through the clearing, overwritten with giant feet and the paws of a dozen dogs. But there was the trap.

It was a bear trap, rusted and triggered closed, spattered black with the blood of the beagle that now sniffed to inspect it. Chains pinned down by wooden spikes kept it from shifting far.

“What do you make of this?” said Shelby, coming up beside her.

“I’m not sure yet,” Clementine said, descending to inspect the scene. The hound nosed at something in the mud, and she came over, found a glint in the lightning. She picked up the fragment of metal, brushed it clean on her damp trousers, and held it up to the meager light.

“Shelby?” she said. “I think this is a Scoutpost javelin.”

Shelby said nothing, in a different way than she usually said nothing. And Clementine looked back, as the lightning illuminated the storm, and found that she was alone.

The Tapes - Inflicting Violence

You’re going to have to develop a stomach for violence. Watching, receiving, inflicting. Inflicting is easy, but don’t make it a habit. I’m not sure that it’s ever solved more problems for me then it’s caused, but when you’re backed into a corner, you have to fight back. Receiving is important. You can’t let a hit slow you down, not when everything is depending on you. Get good at shaking it off. Get good at keeping on. Watching is the hardest. There isn’t much I can say about watching to make it better. Just, feel it. Feel that rage. Feel that hate. And bottle that all up and load it into the chamber and direct it at the bastard that did this. Make him pay. See step one, inflicting violence.

Story 2, Continued - See What You Lose

“Shelby?” Clementine called. She glanced down to the hound, which looked back at her with confused black eyes.

“Go find Shelby,” she said.

The hound wagged its tail but did nothing useful.

“Go. Shelby. Go find her,” Clementine said, waving her hand around.

The hound twirled in a circle and sat again. Clementine sighed, and moved hastily through the underbrush—the prints of Shelby’s non-slip working boots were heavy, flat things, studded with texture, and not as eroded by the rain as the tracks of whatever poor souls had been found near the trap by Big Mikey. She patted her pockets for a flashlight, but found them empty; Shelby always seemed to come prepared with those sorts of things. She continued as best she could in the darkness, thoroughly drenched by the patter of rain cascading from the high trees.

She stopped briefly to cough up something solid; a red mass that she let disappear into the leaves without looking at too closely. She preferred not to know what she was losing. What’s the matter, she thought, as the rain pelted her. Don’t I taste good enough for you? Why won’t you fix me the way you fix everything else?

She found what she was looking for as the wet beagle bolted ahead suddenly, barking something ferocious, and she followed it between two jagged pine trunks to find a steep muddy bank, a ten foot slide towards a cliff, grown with upturned roots. There was a steep drop into a great canyon in the forest, where gigantic fallen pines formed a pit of jumbled trunks disappearing into unknown darkness, jagged bark and root clusters jutting up from the earth. The barkbeetle infestation had wrought havoc on some parts of the woods beyond Scout City’s jurisdiction and these titanic logfalls were sometimes a reminder of that particular war against nature, but Clementine had never ventured to this one before.

The beagle was barking off the cliff edge, into the darkness, and twenty feet to her side, a dark round shape which was Shelby. Clementine hurried over, careful not to slip down into the spike-filled abyss, and slipped to her knees beside Shelby.

“What’s wrong?” Clementine said. “Are you okay?”

“I saw him,” Shelby said, and stared into the jagged abyss, rain flattening her normally wild mass of hair, eyes reflecting the lightning. “I’m going to kill him, Clem. I’m going to kill him.”

Story 3 - The Pig Will Die

Why am I here? It distracts from what happened, yes. And it distracts from the now. It is pleasant to glimpse a familiar place, in these idle moments between questions, between query and response and pain. But this is not about me, dreamer. This is about you.


You are small. That is what you remember. The world to you is tall and terrible, a thing that lashes out of the darkness, a thing that wounds. And it is your brother who is wounded, open red scars on his shoulder and back, torn right through his shirt, and you cluster together in the darkness and pray that it will not find you. Your own heartbeat, his muffled whimpers, your breathing are thunderous sounds, and you try to quiet them all so that no one can hear you. Finally, all the shouting and the screaming goes still, and then there is just the sound of the rain, pattering, for a while. Neither of you speak. Neither of you can hope yet for safety.

And then, you hear it again. The sound of those heavy footprints. And you almost sob. Not the sound of footsteps running to find you, not the sound of your parents calling your names. Only the monotonous march of the pig. You hear his boots, the jingle of the chains and hooks at his side, the slow rattle of his breaths drawn through curled teeth and the hiss of the breath expelled, and that curious grunting. And like a nightmare, you know that he is coming closer to the side door of the supply wagon, that he will throw it open and find you and you will have nowhere to run.

You hear him coming. Three steps away. Two steps. And you do something that you have never done before; you decide to beat the nightmare to the punch.

You tell your brother to run as soon as the coast is clear, and you throw open the supply door suddenly, roll to your feet in the muddy earth, and stand with your tiny fists ready to fight, shouting curses into the thunderous air.

He is there. Taller than anyone you have met, wet and blood-drenched and horrible. His shoes are too large, and his uniform is the sort of full-body white costume with tassels that clowns wear, and over it he wears an apron that says ‘kiss the chef’. He was spattered with blood before, and that blood was brown, but there is more now, cherry red. His head is that of a large pig, wrinkled nose, bent teeth, with blue stripes of facepaint across the empty black eyeholes. The rain falls on his greasy pink head and triangle ears and he breathes hot fog from his dead pig mouth.

He holds in one hand a large butcher’s knife in a white rubber glove. In the other hand is a foot and shin, probably your father’s over your mothers. It is a heavy, rubbery object, now that it has been severed from all its meaning. The rest of them lies in pieces across the muddy banks behind him, and the horses share that abyssal look in their eyes as they stoop their great heads to chew on one of the hands that has been left abandoned in the bloody puddles.

Everything is wrong.

Everything is wrong.

You could swear that he smiles, although like a mask, there is so little movement in the pig’s head itself.

And he reaches out for you.

He could so easily lunge and catch you in the neck, and open you like a can of cherries, and let your blood join the ruinous puddles of the muddy highway.

He does not.

He is offering you the cleaver.

You stare at it a moment, unsure of what it means, afraid of all that it means. Your brother watches from behind you. And the pig man waits, with his hand outstretched, offering you the handle. Offering you a gift.

You take the cleaver, and you hold it tightly in your hands. You hold it like a holy implement, like a crucifix, like the sword of Joan of Arc.

The pig is satisfied, and he turns, your father’s leg tucked under his arm like any cut of meat, and he walks into the rain, never altering the speed of his slow, endless, tireless march. And you would swear as the thunder rolls that the pig laughs, to himself at first, and then to the forest.

It would be over ten years before you would see him again, and you are not tiny anymore. You are bigger than most people would expect, and stronger, and the cleaver has never left your person. You beat your body into a pulp and let it heal back stronger. You do it so that the next time you meet, you will not be powerless. And yet, here you are. Paralyzed. Trembling. Kneeling in the mud, staring out in the lightning, but you cannot break the spell cast upon you.

He is out there, standing on one of the long broken pines at the top of the abyss, the greasy skin of his pig mask reflecting the light, pom poms and tassels obscene in the dark landscape of the forest. And he waves, and smiles, and is gone. But he is not gone, not anymore. He never truly left. Perhaps this is what you always feared; that he would be just out of your reach, on the periphery of your life, waiting at the border. Waiting to return.

And you know one thing, as the storm rages overhead, and one that you love comes climbing down the bank towards you.

Either you will die, or the pig will.

The Conversation - Let's Start Over


You knew. You knew this would happen.


Of course I knew.

I’m confused. You hardly seem happy to see me.


You did not tell me that you intended to cheat death. Why did you not tell me?


Nikignik, I have only been gone for a moment.


It has not felt like a moment to me.


I thought this would be fun.


I have mourned you! Each moment since your passing has dragged on like an eternity. All that I used to be has been hollowed out and emptied of its joy. I have missed you for what feels like aeons, and for you it was only fun?


There’s no need to get hysterical.

Let’s start over.

The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'File 3: The Cleaver', and is available on Because Hello From The Hallowoods is created without advertising or sponsors, we rely on patronage to make this show possible!


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