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HFTH - Episode 149 - Impacts

Content warnings for this episode include: Animal Death (Shank’s mask), Violence, Death + Injury, Blood, Autopsies, Mutilation, Eye Horror (Mention of Vincent’s eye), Static (including sfx), Emotional Manipulation, Body horror, Puppets

The Interrogation - Built for Judgement


Did Marolmar express why he wished to destroy Syrensyr, the Burning Forge?






I do not know if you would understand.




He saw the Reclaimer of Fire as a dangerous tyrant. A feasting dragon. He demanded what he saw as freedom from your master’s tyranny.


My employer. Did you sympathize with him on this issue?



Story 1 - The Abyss

Shelby tried not to breathe; she dangled beside Clementine, and listened to the sounds—the creak of the metal cable that they each clung to, the groan of the abyss of fallen pines overhead, and the hiss of the pig’s breath. She could not see much—with their lamps turned off, the only light in the cavern was from the dim fire that burned within the pig man’s house.

They hung on each end of a metal cable, wrapped around the single tree trunk that bridged the chasm, a desperate gamble to let the pig pass overhead without noticing them, return to his house from whatever dark errand he had been busy with, and give them a chance to escape.

And as they hung in the darkness, a shadowed nest of sharp pine trunks and unseen crevices twenty feet below their drifting feet, she could feel the pig’s heavy footsteps shaking the trunk above them as he walked, vibrations that shuddered through the cable. Just a scouting mission, Clem had said. Not here for a fight. And yet, the cleaver that the pig had given her hung in the sheath at her side, and she longed to climb up to him, swing it and hear the satisfying crunch as it separated his muscles and cracked his rotten bones. He had butchered her parents that way, once, and she had known since taking the gift that it would someday be returned.

Clementine had wrapped her end of the cable several times around her forearm, and accidentally shifted her weight, swinging a bit on the tether. There were metallic twangs as the cable above rolled against the bark. Shelby put out a hand to steady her, and Clementine pointed slowly up, and although she did not risk speaking, Shelby could interpret the words she mouthed.

“He’s stopped.”

From where they hung beneath the log, she could not make out any part of the pig man standing on top of it. But she could feel him, heavy, the way his stench made the air thicker and harder to breathe. He suspected something. And as much as Shelby wanted to face him—she was the closest she had been to him in years and yet still not close enough—her first priority was putting Clementine far out of his reach.

She reached for Bern’s crossbow, in its compact holster at her side, opposite the cleaver.

“What are you doing?” Clem whispered, and Shelby heard a shift in his boots above. He had picked up on her voice, that time. Shelby raised a finger to her lips—not to say, hush, but to say, trust me. And Clem did.

Shelby slid the crossbow from its holster; the silence was betrayed by the click of the buckle and the rasp of metal on metal. Another step from the pig man, a curious grunt. Shelby grit her teeth, and did not blink as she folded the crossbow out to its full size and loaded it, a silver-tipped bolt in its torqued grasp.

“I need you to push me,” Shelby said. Clem nodded, and planted her boots in Shelby’s stomach, and kicked. Shelby rocked away, closer, and then away again, leaning into her swing, trying to get just enough visibility to see the lone structure that sat at the end of the log bridge above—the wavering shack of rusty bricks with the sign that said ‘Shank’s Deli Cuts’.

And when she could see the light in the filthy glass of his windows, she fired. The bolt glanced off the window, splintering a pane, and as she swung back beneath the bridge, she could feel the pig’s footsteps as he marched to investigate his house for any sign of the intruders.

“You’re stronger than me,” Clem whispered, as soon as it seemed the pig’s attention had been diverted. “You go up first.”

Shelby reached arm over arm up the length of the cable, trying not to kick Clem as she climbed, until she could sink her hand into the damp bark of the log bridge above, and she pulled herself up to the surface.

Where the pig was waiting.

He had not gone for his house after all, it seemed. He sat on the bridge, face to face with her. The blue lines of paint over the eyes of his pig head mask had faded to smears. There were no eyes in his black sockets, and his white jumpsuit was spotted with deep black blood. He said nothing, but she might have sworn that there was a smile in the warped shape of his pig mouth.

There was an axe in his hand, red and rusted, and he raised it, and she moved too late as she realized what he was swinging for—the cable looped around the log that they both stood on, the one that Clementine hung at the end of. She tried to throw herself in the way, reached out an arm, but he was faster than she was, and there was a snap and buckle as his sharp axe sheared the cable, and a scream as Clementine felt the line give way.

The pig shifted from Shelby to peer over the edge, examine his handiwork, and Shelby was not full of rage, but instead full of a deadly calm as she planted the cleaver in his back, and an ichorous blood seeped up through the fabric of his jumpsuit, and she howled like a tempest, and tackled him with all her strength into the abyss.

Story 2 - Someone Close

In her dreams, Mayor Val did not dream of herself as a woman more than halfway through her life, with worry lines and greying hair and hands that shook when it got cold and damp out. When she dreamt, she was seventeen, which did not preclude Riot from being her daughter in those dreams. Somehow it never came up. She dreamt that she was back in California, with a family dissolving and the world being set on fire by a corporation whose only motive was greed, and she was struggling to compose a song.

But the song was Riot, and that was the challenge—like an elusive melody, Riot kept running away or breaking things or disappearing when she was needed. Which was not fair to Riot, she knew, because also like a song, Riot had returned when she was needed most. But it was a dream, and dreams are never fair, including the one you are listening to now, dreamer. She argued with Evelyn about the lyrics; she argued with Ralph about the tempo. And when she was finally presented with the finished melody, it was wrong. They told her it was just the same, exactly as she’d asked for, but she knew deep down it was not the song she had written. The song was not her Riot at all.

She lay for several still moments in her bed, staring at the dark ceiling. The moon cast light through the high branches of Scout City. The nightmare, really, was the one she’d woken to—she slept in a tree at the end of the world, and every bone in her body ached, and she was too tired to cling to anyone she loved as they slipped one by one through her fingers.

And then the second knock at the door came, and it was clear that she was going to have to get up out of bed after all. She found her way into a robe and trousers and stumbled down the wide wooden stairs to the front door; a sliver of the moon illuminated a silhouette on the other side of the glass.

It was, from the weary voice and shape of the cowboy hat, unmistakably Virgil Kane. And yet she had wondered, just for a moment, if maybe the new Instrumentalist had come for her next. That prompted a number of painful thoughts, such as relief that her responsibilities would finally be over, and shame at what Scout City had come to under her watch, and she filed all of them away for later thinking while she went to open the door.

“What’s happened?” she said, because Virgil would only be standing outside her door at god knows what time in the morning if something had indeed happened. Another deputy stood beside him; the big McGowan girl, Heather, who was like if two or three Riots had been mashed together. That, and Heather had long frizzy hair and a poised, serious face, one that did not reject femininity the way that Riot did. Largely Val’s own influence, she knew. She had never intended to raise Riot alone. She had never intended to be the only voice shaping her, scarring her. It was supposed to be collaborative, like a song. How had she wound up echoing the melody alone?

Virgil was talking, and Valerie shook her head apologetically, leaned in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, Virgil,” she said. “Again. Slower. What happened?”

“We’ve found a Scout City resident dead in the woods,” Virgil said, and Heather nodded. “He was murdered, tonight, we’re guessing. It was the Instrumentalist killer.”

“Which resident?” said Valerie, and closed her eyes.

“Yes,” said Virgil. “It was Mr. Greenstreet. He’s dead.”

“Oh god,” said Valerie. “Which one?”

The Tapes - The Accident

One of the questions you’re going to be asking is, why? Why did they do it? Why would anyone do this? Now, I’m no expert. Mostly because I taught myself by reading bad detective books. But I figure you’re going to run into three schools of thought. The first is the accident. Things got out of hand, and someone who you’d never suspect in a million years did something terrible. You’d expect these to be sloppy, but they’re not always. People can get real clever real quick when they need to hide who they were for thirty life-changing seconds.

Story 2, Continued - Someone Close

There were, after all, two Mr. Greenstreets, and there had been for as long as Valerie had lived at the Scoutpost, long before Scout City or becoming the mayor or any of that jazz. The Greenstreets were rarely found together, and did not even frequent the same circles; Raj Greenstreet was mostly to be found indoors, collecting fragile old age books and creating wines from bitter vines, while his husband Raoul Greenstreet worked as a counselor in his office, and outside of his office was known as the most prolific gossipist in the city. She had gotten along better with Raoul, and unfortunately, it appeared that Raoul was the one who had been hung up on rusted cables fifteen feet over the forest floor that night.

“So it’s not a stranger,” Valerie said, elbows on her dining room table, hands crossed. The backs of her hands held blue veins in a way they hadn’t in younger years. “It’s someone who knows us. Mister Walker, Blithe Smithson—these were people on the outskirts. Could have been anyone in the woods. But Mr. Greenstreet wouldn’t have been out of Scout City at night. He was seventy-two. This was personal. The killer knew what he meant to us. It’s someone familiar with Scout City.”

“My intuition would agree with you,” said Virgil, rubbing at his mustache.

“No one is safe anymore,” said Heather, staring listlessly at the surface of the table. “Mr. Greenstreet was one of us. We saw him in town every day. He was nice to me.”

“Virgil, how do we end this,” said Val. “This is the reason we have a sheriff in the first place, isn’t it? Back when we changed to Scout City, that was part of it. There’s thousands of people, we said. We need someone to step in if they start dying, we said.”

“We’re going to find who did this, Val,” said Virgil. “The whole force is working around the clock on this. Right now Cole and Ignatius are bringing the body to the morgue, Oswin is running forensics. There has to be evidence, somewhere. We’re on the verge of something big.”

“Is it time to bring back the curfew?” said Heather.

“Yes, probably,” said Virgil. “Panic is going to change the whole face of this city. But Mr. Greenstreet shouldn’t have been out after dark. The fewer people we have risking their necks without knowing it, the better.”

“I agree,” Valerie sighed. “It’ll be a press conference in the morning.”

She leaned back in her chair, rubbed at her temples. “How are Clem and Shelby? I know they were friendly to the Greenstreets. Finding this must have been hard for them.”

“Ah, they didn’t find this one,” said Virgil. “We did.”

Valerie opened her eyes, sat forward. “Oh? Where are they? I have to imagine they’re all over this. You know how she is with a case.”

Virgil looked to Heather, who shook her head.

“I’m sorry, missus Maidstone,” she said, “I don’t know if anyone’s seen them since yesterday afternoon, I think.”

“Virgil,” Val said, and stood from her chair, and went for her boots, a coat to wrap over her robe. “I know there’s a lot going on, but if something is going down, Clem is in the middle of it. I’m going to need you to help me find my daughter.”

Story 3 - The Sum of All the Years

“I’m growing weary of so many familiar faces gracing my table,” said Vincent. Sleep still hung on his eyelids, although he had changed from his nightgown to his undertaker’s suit and readied the morgue slab.

“Why’s that, Vincent?” said Voltaire. “I’d thought you’d be excited. Look at how messed up that guy is.”

“There anything else you need, Vince?” said Cole, hanging in the doorway. The witch from Downing Hill was standing behind, like a greasier version of Vincent in his young days.

“Nothing for the moment,” said Vincent, and sighed. “I will report back with any findings once I’ve removed the cables from his cadaver.”

“Don’t worry if you have to damage him further, the camocept is processing the last of the documentation for his current state,” said Ignatius, arms crossed.

“It’s fun to play with knives!” said Voltaire.

“Very well. Good evening, gentlemen,” said Vincent, and as the deputies departed his mortuary chamber, he closed the door, and turned his eyes to the corpse. Mr. Raoul Greenstreet wore no clothing, except for the black sheet that had been draped over his legs for decency. There was nothing decent about the manner of his death, which appeared as though holes had first been bored and then the cable threaded through. He resembled a marionette clipped of his strings, laying as he was with small lengths of jutting cable dangling off the table sides, ends melted by Ignatius’s flame.

Vincent did not begin his report, nor open his fungal eye, but came to sit beside Voltaire in the chairs at the side of the room, studied the tall bald man laid low by some unknown viciousness.

“You alright there Vincent?” said Voltaire.

“Yes, I suppose so,” said Vincent.

“You don’t seem alright.”

“Well, it’s just… I’m not even really sure what it is. Perhaps the weight of carrying one side of this conversation. Each body that comes in is a letter, but I haven’t the foggiest who is writing me. And then there’s the feeling that that could be me, Voltaire. On that table. Mr. Greenstreet is about my age. Equally withered by life. It could be out, in a flash. Or out over the course of several hours, in his case. Dead. What would I be, Voltaire? What would be the sum of all the years I’ve spent?”

“You’re a bit late for a midlife crisis,” said Voltaire.

“And you’re a bit of a sod for a puppet,” said Vincent. “I don’t know. It overwhelmed me, for a moment, was all. I would die, perfectly alone, and I don’t think I would be missed by anyone.”

“I’d miss you, Vincent,” said Voltaire.

“You know that’s a lie,” said Vincent.

There was a knock at the door, and Vincent stood, straighted his suit, and mended his frown. “I’m sorry, I’m currently in autopsy.”

“Oh very well,” said the voice on the other side, and a man entered. He was dark of skin and eyes, although his hair had begun to turn from the color of charcoal to smoke, and a scent of cinnamon and sandalwood clashed with the morgue’s motes of chemical brine and preservative vapors. He wore a tuxedo, with a red shirt beneath, collared and tied. Before Vincent could stop his approach, the door was open, and Mr. Greenstreet lay butchered on the table, fully in view of the stranger.

“How unfortunate,” said the man. “I always hoped he’d die in his sleep.”

“I apologize, I have not yet prepared him for visitation,” said Vincent. “I assume you are the other Mr. Greenstreet.”

“I am,” said Mr. Greenstreet, and reached for a handshake. Vincent accepted it; Mr. Greenstreet’s hands were hot to the touch, or maybe Vincent’s were cold. “Please, call me Raj.”

“Mister… ah, Raj. I am very sorry for your loss. Again, I have only just begun my autopsy, you were not supposed to see him in this state.”

Raj shrugged, and sighed. “It is alright; I have seen him in indecent states all of his life. Though this is by far the worst.”

The expression Vincent noted in Mr. Greenstreet was curious; a studied sadness, a melancholy somehow further than the immediate corpse of his late husband on the table.

“Again, I am quite sorry,” said Vincent, returning to the body. “In the olden times, I was a grief counselor, believe it or not. That is the occupation I learned, although an undertaker has been necessary for these years at Scout City. I am sure you have many questions.”

“Well, my main question is, how could he go without me?” said Raj, and moved over to the side of the table. “We were supposed to go together. But he has left me alone to fend in my old age. How selfish of him.”

“If you would like, I can fetch you a tea, you may wait in the lobby, and when I have conducted my services then he will be much more… presentable, for visiting hours,” said Vincent, hands clasped. He hoped that the man would not notice Voltaire, and shot the puppet a glare.

“No, it is alright,” said Raj, and moved over to the chairs, and pulled Voltaire from his perch, laid him with a clack on the side table, and sat down in his spot, crossed his legs. “You may proceed.”

Vincent gulped. “Proceed? It will be… an unsightly process. It may disturb you.”

“Vincent, my husband has been murdered,” said Raj, eyebrows raised. “How could anything disturb me more than that? You take him apart, and let us see what you find. And then, perhaps together, we can go after the poor bastard that has deprived me of the last few happy years of my marriage.”

Vincent coughed. Voltaire said nothing.

“Well, then,” Vincent said, with a half-smile, “if you can stomach it. Beginning the autopsy of Mr. Greenstreet.”

The Conversation - Redecorating


So what happens now?




In your resurrection. What is there left?


The moments of my slumber are growing rapidly to a close, and then I will burst out of this world. I will awaken in a new and glorious form, and complete the transformation of this world.




For a start. I think you’ll like what I do with the place.

The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'File 21: Valerie Maidstone', 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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