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HFTH - Episode 147 - Violations

Content warnings for this episode include: Animal cruelty (dog in bear trap narrowly avoids becoming lunchmeat), Violence, finding a mutilated body in the woods, Death + Injury, brutal onscreen murder, Blood, Emotional Manipulation, Body horror, Consumption of Inedible Materials (eyeballs and Blithe’s leg), Therapy Sessions, Misgendering

The Interrogation - Built for Judgement

The Auditor

Start from the beginning. Describe a sequence of events.


How far back would you like me to begin?

The Auditor

Where you place the beginning is itself part of the test.


In the beginning, there was an orchard at the center of the universe…

The Auditor

The beginning of the incident.


Ah. Well. This one began with a murder.

Story 1 - Souls Still Bound

“Do they trouble you?” said Mr. Greenstreet. “The rumors?”

Ben Alder lay with his hands folded on his chest on Mr. Greenstreet’s chaise-lounge. But his attention dwelt somewhere far away and dark, through the decorative mirror, long beyond the wallpaper.

“I don’t know if they understand what it means,” he said. “How well do they remember the Instrumentalist, Mr. Greenstreet? The Scoutpost knew. Scout City doesn’t. Maybe it’s better to forget. I wish I could.”

He put his hands to his eyes, tried to ignore the burning behind his ears and in his forehead. It was childish, all of it. What, did he really need someone to listen?

“We’ve touched on this in our previous sessions,” said Mr. Greenstreet. “But you’ve never fully explained what you saw. It’s clear that it’s a burden you carry.”

“The hard part with describing what I saw is that I’m not sure how much was real,” said Ben, and looked up to the ceiling, would rather the rafters than Mr. Greenstreet’s professionally interested gaze. “After our mother died, things got… hazy. There was a piano.”

“You’ve mentioned the piano,” said Mr. Greenstreet.

“We found an abandoned moving truck, or so we thought,” said Ben. “Dad had us move a bunch of things from it into ours. Thought it was a real find, up here. But it all went wrong after that. There was a girl, with her mouth sewn shut. She’d hover over us at night. Burn messages into the walls. She hated us.”

“I believe they called him Percy,” said Mr. Greenstreet. “Violet, Bern, a few others would encounter him eventually.”

“I wish it wasn’t real,” said Ben. “It would be easier to… move on, if it had been some bad dream. But the truth is, we stole a piano, and after that, he was after us too. The Instrumentalist was always in the woods after that. You’d hear him passing, sometimes, music moving through the trees. We stayed inside at night after that. But it wasn’t enough. We started to find them.”

“Find what, Ben?” said Mr. Greenstreet, dipping a spoon into an open wound.

“Bodies,” said Ben. “This was back when the Scoutpost was young and nobody knew if it would survive. We were independent, salvagers, collectors. Sold at the Wet Market… it was the Dry Market at the time. I was a kid. I didn’t know what was going on.”

“Take your time,” said Mr. Greenstreet.

“We were playing hide and seek, once. Shouldn’t have been, what with the wildlife. Elena was counting and we were hiding, and she was great at finding us. And I wanted to hide somewhere she’d never see me, so I went further out than usual. Past our bounds. And there was a tent, out there, flapping in the wind, and I thought that’s perfect. So I ran, and closed the flap, and… that was when I turned around and realized I wasn’t alone in there.”

“Don’t push yourself,” said Mr. Greenstreet, probably hoping full well that he would.

“She was in a sleeping bag,” said Ben. “I’m not sure if she was killed there, or dropped here after he was done. Maybe I just found her before the animals did. She was… open. The symbols, the… the openings in a fiddle, were carved out of her. You could see the ribs beneath. Her mouth was a mess of wires, broken teeth… she had just been… shattered. Destroyed.”

“What did you do when you realized you’d found this dead person?” said Mr. Greenstreet.

“I couldn’t move,” said Ben. “I don’t know why but I saw her and I was her. I was like a corpse. Unable to speak. I was in there six hours before they found where I’d hidden. We buried her in a bed of purple lupine flowers. She wasn’t the last.”

“And now…” Mr. Greenstreet began, but Ben continued, words bubbling to the surface.

“The thing I couldn’t shake,” he said, “was the idea that she was out there still. Like the girl in the piano. Dancing in the woods to that lonely fiddle. Calling me somehow. That’s what I remember. Does Scout City? Do they know what it means when they whisper the word Instrumentalist? I don’t think they do. I’m not the only one. There are lots of us that remember.”

“Are there?” said Mr. Greenstreet, crossing his legs and putting his hand beneath his chin. “Have you found others to relate to your experience, then?”

“There’s a few,” said Ben, sitting up to study his self-appointed counselor. “And they feel like I do. That if it is him, we’re not going to let him get away with this again. We’ll tear him apart.”

“There’s a possibility that it isn’t him, a decent possibility I would say,” said Mr. Greenstreet. “Someone else, just, ah. Aping his style.”

“Then they should know better,” said Ben, and rose from the lounge, and cracked his scarred knuckles. “And the punishment is the same.”

Story 2 - The Dog's Dream

Clem sat cross-legged on the hardwood floor, as comfortable as she was going to get; Danielle lounged on a cushion across from her, holding her cigarette holder, in a way that Clem knew Danielle knew she would find alluring. She tried not to look. In the center of the floor was the old beagle, eyes closed and head resting on its good paw.

“It’s been a while since you and I did this,” said Danielle. “Do you remember how?”

“Yeah,” said Clem, and rubbed at her hand idly; the pinky that she had lost her nail on was oddly numb. She felt her eyelids drooping as she continued to breathe in the strawberry smoke that Danielle breathed out. That was the point of it, she supposed.

“You might see some things,” Clem said. “We’re witnessing a murder, after all.”

“I can handle a nightmare or two,” Danielle said, and pushed a lock of her hair back. She had grown older, pushing into her thirties while Clementine remained fixed in time. Not the reason they had split up, or the second, or the third, but probably had been best in the long run. And yet a smile was written on her face, the kind from someone who had gotten to know you deeply, everything that you were, before being cut out of your life entirely.

“It’s not going to work if you pollute the dreamscape with nostalgia,” said Danielle, coyly. “Save the daydreaming for later, huh?”

“I’m cool. I’m cool,” said Clem, and closed her eyes.

“Alright. Let’s see if sleeping dogs lie,” said Danielle, and before Clem could tell her that was purely terrible, she was gone.

They sat in a plane of shadow; the other side of sleep, where the lights of dreaming minds burned in white and silver throughout Scout City, an expanse that darkly mirrored the waking world. Clementine felt herself hovering over the silvered outline of her own body, studying the light that burned in herself and the hound and Danielle. Danielle was separated from the dim outline of her mortal form too, and glowed more brightly in dream, and reached a hand for Clementine’s.

“Hold onto me,” she said.

“I didn’t know you could do this,” Clem said. “With animals, anyway.”

“I haven’t really tried putting all the pieces together like this,” said Danielle. “But I’ve been practicing. Teaching myself. Don’t let go.”

Clementine held Danielle’s hand, two silver outlines intertwined until the border separating them became blurred, and then she was pulled towards the silver pin of light that was the hound, and Danielle reached out to touch it, and then they were dreaming.

She was bombarded at first by emotions, colors, sensations—fear, light, excitement. The cold shock of winds racing through the great forest and the thrill of meeting other dogs and the damp of rain caught in the fur between paw pads. It was a whirlwind of feeling in yellow and blue, without any clear organization or place.

“How are we going to find anything in here?” Clem thought.

“Well, if your story is right, then we’re looking for pain,” Danielle said. “Brace yourself.”

They passed through the storm quickly, then, a rush of wind and color, until pain found her swiftly and suddenly. It sparked through her arm, echoed through her body, and she could look down and find the huge metal teeth of the rusted trap buried in her red flesh, a leg that she herself had chewed but could not muster the strength to break, and there was a haze of light in the forest around her.

“I’m sorry,” Danielle said; Clementine was not sure where she was, was not even sure she could orient herself in three dimensions here. “Usually we’d be able to experience this more… out of body. With animals it’s much more subjective.”

“I can take it,” Clem said, with gritted teeth. Her arm felt like it was going to come off entirely. This was where the beagle had been caught in the trap, a week or two ago. And the passage of the sunlight above told her it had lasted a while, until the predators began to show up. There was a jab in her ribs, excruciating, a cut that opened up wide in the side of her. And voices that the hound had not understood, but she could. Faces that she recognized. There were four figures that she could make out, clustered over the trapped dog.

“How long do you think it’s been stuck?” said a man that Clementine recognized—one of the Wickers, although the dog’s vision was too hazy and the colors too different to tell if it was Joshua or Joel.

“I was hoping for something with more meat,” added a woman, stringy hair pulled back, eyes hawkish, a thinly patched Scout jacket in bright yellow.

“Dog meat’s better than no meat,” said a weasel-faced fellow named Blithe that Clementine had encountered once or twice as a hired hand for some of Scout City’s sketchier figures. He struck the dog with a silver-tipped javelin, and another flash of pain opened up. He would be the type to hunt beyond the Scoutpost’s borders to wrangle food beyond Scoutpost rations, she supposed.

There was a fourth man, a large one, with two big hands reaching down to the beagle. Clementine felt a rise of rage, bit back instinctively, ripped open the skin between his thumb and his index finger. The flash of red was a brief prelude to a solid kick to the skull, that sent the lights of the clearing spinning like dancing ghosts. “Mangy mutt. For that we’ll make it slow. Let’s have some fun.”

And then there was a presence. Clementine felt it as a sickly quiver in her stomach, first, and then the smell, delicious, sweating, rotting. And the crack of steady boots through the underbrush, drawing the attention from the four faces up towards the woods. Clementine turned to look, twisted against her trapped leg, and saw him too. Beyond the clearing, between two titanic trees, the man with the pig mask waved. And then he spoke.

The Tapes - Don't Trust Danielle

Don’t trust Danielle. Yes, she’s charming and she’s got the looks. And she had the hots for me back when I was a youngster. I guess I still am, kind of. But she can get into your dreams and see all your insecurities. And your secrets. Secrets are currency in this business, and if that’s true then she launders them like you wouldn't believe. Guard your heart. Guard your brain. And if you see her in your dreams, wake up.

Story 2, Continued - The Dog's Dream

“Hiya, kids,” said the pig. “What do you got there? A little dog?”

“Ain’t your feckin’ business what we’ve got,” said Blithe. “Why don’t you move along?”

“You think it’s funny? The way he yelps and squirms?” said the pig.

“He said to move on,” said the big man, and brandished a javelin of his own.

“I can show you something really funny,” said the pig, and raised his hands, huge and thinly gloved. “Nothing in my hands.”

“What’s he doing?” said the woman, and she inched forward, the others at her back. For a moment, all eyes were on the pig instead of on the dog, on Clementine.

“Nothing up my sleeves,” said the pig, rolling up the ruffled sleeves of his white clowning jumpsuit. His forearms were a deep grey-red, marbled and scarred like dried meat. And then he flicked his hand, and produced a small round object, held in the circle of his thumb and finger. “See what we have here?”

Consciously or not, the Scouts drew closer to inspect, although Clementine’s vision was a violent blur, and she could only guess that it was an eye. There were shared curses and screams among her captors as they put that together, a brandished javelin, but the pig man was not focused on them, but on the dog, on Clementine. The pig man tossed the eye to her, like a treat, and she ate it in a vicious snap, and it tasted of nothing. There was a scream of disgust from Blithe, and a grunt from the large scout as he waited no longer, sent his javelin sailing across the clearing towards the chest of the pig.

The pig caught it, effortlessly, and held the quivering lance of wood in the air for a moment with his meaty fist, and squeezed until the wood splintered into two pieces, which he took in each hand.

“Now that’s not very funny,” said the pig. “Try like this.”

He whipped the back half of the javelin through the air, and it twirled twice before punching a hole clean through the side of the large man’s skull, and he stumbled on his feet a moment, grinning stupidly, before falling backwards with the grace of a ballet dancer’s final curtsy. And the pig began to laugh, and the laughter was contagious, and Clementine, and the dog, laughed too. He whipped the front end of the javelin into the ground where it stood, sharp silver point up, like a deadly sapling.

“Get back!” shrieked the woman, and came rushing in using her javelin as a pike, trying to run the pig man through. He grabbed the head of it, diverted it past him, and her momentum carried her into his arms, where she stood poised for a moment, wrists caught in his hands, as if suspended in the middle of a ballroom dance.

“Don’t you touch her!” screamed Blithe, winding back. The pig man shrugged, and yanked her into the air by her arms, and she was for a moment free in the breeze of the twilit clearing, and then came hurtling back to earth, down onto the upright javelin, and was gone with a yelp. Only two were left, Blithe and the Wicker boy, and the pig man batted Blithe’s javelin aside, caught Blithe’s other hand which concealed a serrated hunting knife.

“Oh, you’re not going to cut anything with that,” said the pig man, and reached inside his jumpsuit, produced a sturdy black-spattered hatchet. “Let’s try this one on for size.”

Blithe dissolved one limb at a time, a mist of blood that filled the air like a spring rainshower, fell over Clementine. She licked her lips and drank of Blithe’s precious iron. It bought enough time for the last, the Wicker boy, to dart off into the woods, take refuge behind a tree where he thought he wouldn’t be seen.

The pig man looked up from the pieces of Blithe to watch the Wicker Boy run, and down to her for a moment. He took a step towards her, stopped, seemed to eye her condition, her bone and raw muscle intertwined with the rusted metal of the trap.

“That looks bad, little doggy,” he said. “I would try to fix it, but I’d only hurt you more, I think. Wait for the rain. It can fix you better.”

He tossed her a piece of Blithe, which landed wetly beside her, and tasted better than her own flesh had. And then he was marching off into the woods, and the screams told her that the Wicker boy had not hidden well at all.

Clementine woke up screaming, and found that Danielle was holding her. She hesitated a little too long, catching her breath, before pushing Danielle’s warm embrace away, getting to her feet.

“Don’t throw up in my office,” Danielle said.

“I’m not, I’m not, just give me a second,” said Clem, calming the runaway pace of her heart, which didn’t seem to know when to de-escalate too well. The beagle had sat up by now too, confusion in its black eyes.

“Clem?” said Danielle, when everything in her system had slowed down a little.

“Yeah,” Clem said, leaning on the back end of a sofa.

“Who was that? What was that? Are we in danger?”

“Who? I don’t know,” said Clem. “What? I suspect that’s my worst nightmare. And are we in danger?”

She sighed, laid her head against the end of the sofa. She was going to be sick after all. “Absolutely.”

Story 3 - Coming Home

Shelby returned to the green door at 116 Fisher Lane sans femur, which she had left in the care of Vincent at the morgue, as Clem did not like to let her keep gory souvenirs. She had stopped for a few hours at home to sleep, although Mulder had been gone. Darkness was falling again on Scout City, a purple and orange haze dimming into shadow specked with the occasional star. She entered and stomped up the stairs, and found that the door was cracked open at the top of the stairs.

“Clem?” she said, and waited only a moment before stepping inside. She was hit first by arms wrapping around her, and then a beagle attacking her boots tenderly.

“Clem?” she said again, softly; the boss clung to her tightly, head buried beneath her chin, and she put her hands on Clem’s shoulders. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” said the boss, muffled. “I’m… I’m not the one who should be… I saw him, Shells. I did something stupid and visited Danielle and went into the dog’s dreams and I saw him.”

“Saw who?” Shelby said, not quite following. The beagle had moved off of pouncing at her boot to sit, tail wagging, by the door.

“The pig guy,” Clem said, and rubbed at her nose, and sniffed. “I found a way to see what happened. In the clearing. I’ve got a list of names. He killed four people in front of me. Or in front of the dog, anyway. And…”

Here she got quiet again, and Shelby held her, and was held, and nudged the door shut with her foot, although it was unlikely the downstairs neighbors would ascend this far.

“You saw him,” Shelby said.

“Yeah,” Clem said. “You’ve… you’ve been carrying a lot. I knew that, but. I didn’t know.”

She felt Clementine’s hand brush the handle of the cleaver at her side.

“That’s too bad,” Shelby said. “I was hoping that he wasn’t. That maybe it was just me. Despite everything.”

“No, it’s not just you,” Clem said, and kissed her neck beneath the jaw. “You were right. Also he’s terrible. Also we very much have an active murderous pig man living a short hike north of Scout City.”

“Are you scared?” said Shelby.

“Only the usual,” said Clem. “I’m just… shaky, today.”

Shelby took her hand, and kissed it; the bones were more delicate than hers. She frowned.

“You’re missing a nail.”

“I know,” Clem shrugged. “Don’t know how it happened. I was just playing saxy and whoop. There it went.”

“You name everything,” Shelby observed, and let go of Clementine to root through her duffle bag, fetch a bandage and a makeshift disinfectant. “Have you named the dog?”

“Almost,” said Clem. “I can’t decide on a name for him so I wanted to get your opinion. I’m stuck between Nancy and Canny.”

“Canny?” said Shelby, tearing off a bit of bandage from the bundle with her teeth.

“Short for Cannibal,” Clem said. “This dog ate eyeballs, dude. But yeah, you’re right, Nancy is better.”

“I like Cannibal,” said Shelby, and returned to pull Clem onto the sofa by the fireplace, held her hand firmly while she cleaned the wound, and Clem winced, and then wrapped the finger in the bandage and tied it off. She held Clementine’s hand in hers long after she needed to, and they sat there in the dark office with the lights off.

“Vincent was able to tell me a few things,” she said. “Probably male. Probably middle aged. Lighter build.”

“It was Blithe Smithson, I think,” Clem said. “Wasn’t a fan. Didn’t taste good either.”

“You visited Danielle,” Shelby said. “How did it go?”

“I think she still likes me,” Clem frowned. “I can’t tell if she’s flirting or if that’s just her personality.”

“We could use her,” Shelby said.

“I’m not going to her any more than I have to,” Clem said, and poked her in the shoulder, and then grinned. “You’re the only one I want in my dreams, baby.”

Shelby smiled, to show that she received the dumb flirting well, and then sighed.

“I wish we could stay here,” Clem said, after a quiet moment. “Maybe just fall asleep together on the sofa. But.”

Here she rose, stepped away from Shelby’s arms, and cracked her back, and went to her desk and lit her lamp, illuminated the spread of papers and red string that branched across the wall behind her, and her pale face illuminated from beneath by the orange light, smiled grimly.

“But murder likes the night,” she said. “And we’ve got work to do.”

The Conversation - Fear of the Forge


We pick up where we left off?


I was thinking so. It’s much the same where the universe is concerned. I have more of these, ready to deploy. We dreamed once of setting the stars alight with green flame, of a universe where souls burned brightly without fear of the forge.


I am beginning to wonder whose dream that was.


Did we not share it?


I dreamed, I think, of a universe where you and I could be together without fear. I did not care what color the stars burned in it.

The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'File 19: Joshua Wicker', 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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