HFTH - Episode 28 - Threads


Content Warning: This episode may include themes of Abuse, Self-harm, Suicide, Violence, Kidnapping and Abduction, Death + Injury, Blood, Mental Illness, Sexism and Misogyny, Transphobia, Homophobia, Strangulation, Misgendering, Emotional Manipulation, Body Horror, Conversion Therapy Religious Violence.


Intro - Broken Teeth

Memory comes to you in melodies, notes rising into the night air and reminding you of who and what you once were. You were a woman, a store clerk, a self-proclaimed spinster, alone as the world came to an end. These images have been broken like your teeth. Now, what are you but a shadow? What are you but a song?


The old man adds resin to his bow and plays the first note, as he does every night. The fiddle is a home of dark, sweet wood. The pegs and chinrest are your bones. As he plays, you are filled with light, your hands pulled by fine threads to his call. You hate everything now, but him most of all, for he is the one that compels you to dance. You will never be free to drift upwards into the stars, and yet they call to you like freedom, softly singing 'Hello From The Hallowoods'.



Theme.


Right now I’m in a busy city. This is back when there were busy cities. We’ve been in some dark places lately, dreamers, so I thought we could use a change of pace and time. The sidewalks are hot here, and the air smells like gasoline vapor and the sweat of people in expensive suits. The theme of tonight’s episode is Threads.



Story 1 - The Next American Icon

Ethel flashed her perfectly white teeth for the camera on the front steps of the Botulus Building—a little gift for her followers before she got down to business for the day.


She liked looking through her own content—nets spun with glamour and gossamer, catching eyes across the world. The selfie vanished into space, and she turned her attention to the great silver doors, shining in the Los Angeles sun like mirrors.


The building was an obelisk, towering into the smog. The marvel wasn’t the size of it, Ethel thought as she stepped up the stairs, but that he managed to keep it clean. She grinned at her reflection in the doors, a goddess in heart-shaped sunglasses. If this conversation was what she thought it might be, she would be forever free from the amateur league—no more petty sponsorships, no more charity gigs. The Botulus Corporation could pay for more than a little perfume. As usual, Lady Ethel threw open the door to her future.


The entry hall was sufficiently cold, a respite from the summer heat. Silver surfaces, sharp angles, architecture that said ‘expensive’. All a bit dull. She always felt iridescent in these places, a shock of color and gender euphoria in a monochromatic world. A thin man in a black suit smiled with folded hands, his face probably identical to the rest of his graduating class.


“Mr. Botulus is waiting for you. Right this way,” he said, gesturing.


He did not try to speak to her in the elevator, which she appreciated. The elevator was all glass panels, and the city sank into the earth as she ascended, floor by floor, an angel rising out of the mortal world.

The doors opened with a gentle ring, but the attendant stayed put, and the doors slid shut behind her as she stepped out.


She had done her research; she thought it likely that they would meet in the Biggs Room, rather than the more professional Green Room several floors below. She’d studied this one thoroughly, in all the interviews and photos of Mr. Botulus. It was bigger than she’d expected, a vaulting chamber of glass panels, offering a rich view of the skyscrapers below. At the end of the room, a man in a pinstripe suit stood, and turned to face her with a smile.


“Lady Ethel Mallory,” he said, “pleasure to make your acquaintance. Hope the LA traffic wasn’t too lousy.”


“Nothing I’m not used to.” Ethel smiled, stepping across the room, and approaching the conference table. It appeared to be a large black stone, covered in strange etchings—some showy antique meant, like everything else, to impress. “It’s a privilege to connect with you, Mr. Botulus. You’ve got the world buzzing these days.”


“Have I? Hadn’t noticed. Too busy. Call me Oswald.”


He turned back towards the window, and Ethel frowned. She was typically the center of attention, but if he was going to play power games, well, two could tango.


“What do you see when you look at this city, Ethel?”


Ethel rolled her eyes. Rich men loved rhetorical questions. “I’m sure you’ve got a dazzling answer.”


“No, come on, I’m serious. Come up here.”


Ethel approached cautiously, setting her purse on the table. In her heels she was a little taller than the founder, and he had gained weight since his last public interviews a year prior. He smelled sweet, like rotting strawberries.


She turned her attention to the city, laid out below her like a painting, highrises just grooves in the surface, cars milling around in endless lines—a hive of activity, all so incredibly large and small at the same time.


“Insects,” she said, taking a risk. “Four million minds looking for purpose, for a crumb of happiness. They’ll feast on any scrap of satisfaction they can get. Ravenous for escape. And they worship anyone who walks in the sky above them. It’s what you sell, isn’t it? Distraction?”


“Good,” Oswald grinned. “We see eye-to-eye. Everyone I’ve tried to talk to so far says something about ‘city of dreamers’. ‘Beautiful’. ‘Opportunity’. Makes me sick. In past, sure. Distraction was the best we could do. A little escape from reality, but never enough to make a difference. Not until now.”


He turned to the conference table, taking a small silver cube from his pocket and placing it on the edge.


“This is a dreaming cube. Or dreaming box, we’re still between names with the focus groups.”


Ethel studied it curiously. It was reflective, but otherwise unremarkable. “And what does it do?”


“It lets you dream,” Oswald said. “At will. Little more than that, too—it connects dreams. You, your girlfriend, your mama and your second cousin all dozing off together. As soon as we invented the radio people have been hankering to strip off their work clothes and drown themselves in an escape. TV, videogames, virtual reality, every step a little closer. But nothing comes close to the human mind’s natural capacity for dream. Let’s take her for a spin, see what I’m talking about.”


He flicked the cube, and it began to shine, a red eye seeming to open in the surface of each side.


Ethel took a seat at his gesture, staring at it warily through her glasses. “What are you…”


There was a flash of brilliant red and black in her vision, and she had the momentary impression that she was falling. Suddenly it was bright, and she was standing, then, in a cornfield. She looked around to find Oswald pacing beside her. He looked different—thinner, more square-jawed. There was a buzzing in the air around him.


“What is this?” Ethel gasped, falling backwards, squinting at the sun.


“This is my dreamscape,” Oswald smiled, shrugging. “That’s the family farm there in the distance. That’s the garage where I built my first radio.”


“It feels so real,” Ethel breathed, examining her own hands, the way they shifted in the afternoon light.


“What is reality if not the technicolor picture happening in your brain?” Oswald said, offering her a hand. “If you think it’s real, it doesn’t really matter if you’re still sitting in my conference room.”


“This is certainly a... unique... product, Oswald,” Ethel said as she stood up on her own.


“Oh that’s not the half of it,” he said, and suddenly a great shape was blotting out the sun—a silver box that stretched a thousand feet into the air, rising out of the fields.


“The issue has always been waking up. Leaving the amusement park. Going back to your day job. People don’t want that. They want to live in a world they can define, and I plan to give to them, Ethel. These are the real Dreaming Boxes—you can fit almost a million people in one of these. That’s four for Los Angeles, forty for California. Three hundred and thirty across the United States. Park your weary bones in one of these, we take care of the rest. All you have to do is dream.”


Ethel fixed her glasses, staring up at the monolith, watching as more of them began to tumble upwards from the ground in the distance. She was seeing Oswald’s world as he saw it, and the imagery burned in her mind.


“People still have lives, don’t they? Many would choose…”


“They’re not going to have a choice. Not really, not for long. Things are going to change very soon, Ethel, the world turned upside down in so many ways. When they do, the Dreaming Boxes will be there with open arms.”


“...why did you ask me here today, Oswald?”


“Companies are faceless by nature, and people don’t like faceless things,” he said. “You can’t love a silver box. I need someone to represent the Botulus Corporation. To BE the Botulus Corporation. The next great hearthrob of America. I’m talking Marilyn Monroe, Elvis. A cultural icon. I’ve seen what you do, I’m impressed with the art. You’re dynamic. Colorful. Killer.


You’re smart enough to play both sides, and I need that, because I’ve got to pull this country together. I want you to be the face of the company, Ethel. I’m not going to bother talking salary, because frankly, money will never be a problem for you again. But I’m talking about something bigger. Adoration. Worship. Absolute respect. Do you want this country at your feet, Lady Ethel Mallory? We’ll make them grovel. That’s what I’m offering you.”


Ethel smiled. It might have been Oswald’s kingdom, but she felt right at home. She didn’t have to hide, not here. She smiled, teeth flashing in the warm sun.


“Where do I sign?”



Interlude 1 - Tangle of Threads

Dreamers, if you live in the Hallowoods, you should be aware of some important transformations that are underway. Nothing happens in isolation, and events are often connected in unexpected ways, a tapestry of good fortune and coincidence, woven together to depict the future.


The tangle of threads that surrounds you will one day be pulled into elegant forms and colors, and I do not know what the pattern of your life will hold, except that there will be beauty in it.


In the Southern Hallowoods, the Lady of Webs herself has arrived at Dreaming Box Polaris, and begins to stretch her legs in these dark woods. In the Central Hallowoods, a wicked man has gotten back his key and his son, and all the forest has reason to fear. In the Northern Hallowoods, scouts and survivors, the dead and the living prepare to fight for their future and hope that they will weather the coming storm.


And in the Northmost woods that stretch out of space and into the realm beyond, the Faceless King prepares for the changing fabric of the age.


We go now to a master of strings.



Story 2 - Original Sin

“Will you not cease your caterwauling?” Solomon cried, hands shaking.


Persephone wailed in the corner of the basement, a reflection like frosted glass. He was not sure what sort of being had crawled from the cabinet, and stolen Zelda away, but it moved him deeply, and he had allowed it to escape. This, then, was the work that remained.


“I don’t want to be part of another instrument!” she screamed. “Why are you doing this to me?”


“It’s for your own good,” Solomon said, trying to ignore the racket as he tuned another string on the harp. “You are unstable, in danger of being lost. There is only a thread binding you to this.”


He plucked up the single shell of the piano key from the desk. “It would be easily severed, and you would drift for eternity. You must be anchored to a finished instrument if you are to be useful, Persephone.”


“Stop calling me that. My name is Percy. You never listen to me. You never listen to what I want,” his daughter said, rising into the air, eyes black as the valley of the shadow of death.


Lies, infuriating lies, but Solomon tried not to lash out.


“You cannot change the name I gave you. You never heeded my advice,” Solomon said. “You were always a rebellious child, even in death.”


“Does it bother you at all to see me like this?” She asked, holding up her scarred wrists, snarling with punctured lips. “Do you feel regret for anything you’ve done?”


“I haven’t done anything to you,” Solomon said. “That was your mother’s doing.”


“You knew. You didn’t stop her.”


“The only thing I have done,” Solomon felt his voice rising, and he slammed the tuning key down on the desk, “was raise you from the dead, pull your desolate soul back into the Lord’s bidding. I wept when I found out what she had done. I went to great lengths to learn how to bring you back in some way.


I made sacrifices you will never understand. With every delicate carved piece of your piano I thought, joy, soon she shall be returned to me. But do I receive thanks for performing this miracle, the likes of which have rarely been seen since the time of Christ? No. Only as much complaining as you did in life.”


“You made me into a puppet on a string. This isn’t living. I don’t want to be tied to some dusty instrument, waiting for you to tell me to do things. I don’t exist to make you happy—I never have. I’ve never belonged to you, and even if you put me in a stupid harp, I still won’t. Every day since I got away from you I’ve been terrified that I would see you again. I hoped you were dead.”


Solomon glared at Persephone, anger blurring his vision. He realized he was digging the edge of a carving knife into his work bench.


“What, so you can spend an eternity fluttering around with a dead thing in an old jacket?”


“They have a name. It’s Diggory. They’re going to find me and they’re going to make you regret this.”


Solomon smiled in the dark. “That thing will not be troubling you any more.”


His daughter quieted, and Solomon enjoyed watching the fear wash over her.


“What do you mean?”


“Did you not hear?” Solomon nodded, picking up the key and working the last string, plucking it until it struck the correct note. “I am told there was not enough left of it to feed the crows.”


“No,” Persephone said, and Solomon looked up to see her eyes crackling with light, her skin flickering like a lightning storm. “You’re lying.”


“I never lie,” Solomon growled, pulling the key to the cabinet from his vest.


“Tell me that’s not true!” she shrieked, and her hands lit with blazing fire, and she was rushing towards Solomon, burning fingers clawing at him. She was too fast, and he fell back to the ground in surprise, roaring in pain.


This madness had to stop.


He reached out with his hand, and the basement lit with white fire, and Persephone put her hands to her throat as Solomon clenched his fist. On the desk, the single piano key shook, almost cracking under the pressure. There was not much of an instrument left to play.


“Enough!” he roared, throwing her back against the basement wall, and he patted at the smoldering tears in his shirt. He felt weak, and his world was spinning, as it sometimes did, passing through familiar places.


The neighborhood streets, waving at all the familiar faces from church.


The smell of backyard barbecue.


His wedding day, a flash of white.


A lake in the woods by the summer camp, twinkling in the light.


“Solomon, I love you,” Adam was saying, tears in his eyes. Immediately Solomon was in the moment, a feeling of dread as deep as hell itself consuming his soul.


Why had he allowed these feelings to remain, to grow on the underbelly of his spirit? He’d known it was wrong, the hand holding and the swimming together, but now the magnitude of his mistakes was staring him in the face, waiting for him to say that he loved them too.


“I…” Solomon choked.


“I was hoping you felt…” Adam said with a pained look, glancing away. A few boys in a kayak drifted by on the lake in the distance, and Solomon felt suddenly exposed.


“You can’t say that,” Solomon panicked. “It’s not allowed.”


“I know,” Adam said, reaching for Solomon’s hand. Solomon pulled his back. “It’s… okay if you don’t feel that way. I thought… well, it doesn’t matter. But please. Please, please please, don’t tell the youth leaders. They’d tell my parents, and I know it would be bad if they found out. It has to stay a secret. Okay? You’re still my best friend.”


Solomon nodded, but said nothing more, and watched as Adam got up, vanished down the trail. Anger boiled within Solomon’s chest—some part of him wanted to take Adam’s hand, to plummet into a strange, dark abyss, falling like Lucifer into flame, a fire that burned somewhere deep within his sinful heart.


Everything else in him said to crush this feeling, to bury it immediately before God caught him thinking about it. Already, in his head, he was repenting, a million sobbing pleas for purity, for cleansing from shameful temptation.


A glimmer of hope appeared in Solomon’s mind. You could get help for these things, everyone at his church said so. But the people in charge needed to know.


Solomon brushed away his own tears, shocked at his weakness. He knew, deep down, that he had no choice but to do the right thing.


The years fluttered by Solomon then like moths in a closet, and moments with Adam were scarce, and in time disappeared entirely. In the end, he didn’t get the news from Adam’s parents, but rather from whispered rumors in the back of the church.


That Adam had been sent to one of the secret homes for troubled boys, places where you went to get those urges removed.


It hadn’t worked for Adam, they said in hushed tones—or he was too far gone to change, because they’d found him hanging from a ceiling fan three months later.


Solomon was falling then, just as he’d fallen when he’d first heard those words—an empty soul screaming into darkness, suffocating in regret. He’d done the right thing, he told himself over and over again. His desire to play music, to see anyone vanished, and did not return for months—not until he met Abigail, a new and terrible center of gravity.


Not until he fixed himself, worked out his salvation with fear and trembling. It was the first death at his hands, he’d come to realize—the first sacrifice. There had been so many others since, and they flickered by like thin pages, countless throughout the years.



Marketing - We Miss You

Lady Ethel Mallory: Are you tired of running? Of restless nights? Of hearing terrible noises outside? Who wouldn’t be tired after all that work. Maybe it’s time to rest, to dream of a better world. Maybe it’s time to join your local Dreaming Box. Don’t be frightened by their huge size and silver armored appearance. Each Dreaming Box contains a family, hundreds of thousands of sleepers peacefully dreaming, completely safe from the outside world.


They’re all dreaming together, and their dreams are one with the dreams of every other Dreaming Box, because the Prime Dream is for everyone, the Prime Dream is everyone. Our Happy Dreaming Family will not be complete until everyone is safe with us. If you’re hearing this, we know that you’re out there somewhere, in a ruined city, in a dark forest. You should know that we still care, and that we miss you.


I’m Lady Ethel Mallory, and this has been a message from Botco.



Story 2, Continued - Original Sin

Dream of terror and darkness. Wake to the morning light. Drink, eat. Walk in the sun. Enjoy the feeling of the wind and the power of the storm above you. Listen to the whispers of the trees. Fall deeply in love. Let go of that which once hurt you. You are alive, dreamer, and as long as a spark still lives in you, you should experience all that it has to offer you.


This has been a message from Nikignik, one hundred eyes in the dark. We return now to Solomon Reed.


He opened his eyes in the shadow, breathing heavily. He was an old man, aged beyond his appointed time, fingers burned with holy fire, eyes scarred by the light of heaven. And in the far corner of the basement, the soul of his child sat weeping.


He stood up, walking over to the desk, leaning against it for support. Persephone did not respond, a trace of light in the shadow, tattered clothes fraying into nothingness.


“Those clothes are not fit for a Reed,” he said at length.


“I guess you shouldn’t have let me die in them,” she hissed.


“It will not do to give you a new instrument, and keep these rags,” he said.


“You can give me new clothes?”


“We will be reforming you,” Solomon shrugged. “It might as well be done. But I do not have any of your mother’s dresses, and I am no seamstress.”


“I could wear some of yours,” Persephone said, looking up. The dark voids were replaced by a scared light that Solomon was familiar with.


Solomon hissed through his teeth, considering. It would not help with her delusions, certainly, but some compromise had to be reached.


“If I give you these,” he said, “will you listen to me when I speak? Will you try to understand what I am telling you?”


Persephone nodded, and it was enough for Solomon.


He picked up the piano key from the desk, and carried it upstairs. He cradled it as he had once cradled his newborn, carrying it to his chambers and throwing open the drapes to let a little sunlight in. He pulled items from his closet and laid them out against the bed. She chose simple things—a collared shirt, an old sweater, trousers.


She was quiet as he brought them down to the basement, said nothing as he inserted the skeleton key into the cabinet, felt it twist like breaking bones, and the holy flame poured into the room, flickering green in his eyes, bathing them both in light.


It seared his bones, he knew, contorted his figure the longer he stayed in its glow, but these were the burdens of a prophet. Did not the eyes of Moses smolder as he descended from Mount Sinai?


In the light of the angels, he clipped away the scraps of dress with silver scissors, bound the new clothes with a silver needle. Their physical threads burned away with Persephone’s light, but the forms remained. It was surprising how much his child looked like he had, at that age, and for a moment he thought of Adam.


He broke the piano shell into delicate pieces, setting each one in the pattern of the harp. He smiled as he placed the bone fragments into the delicate surface, polished them smooth. The threads that formed from the harp, linking with Persephone’s light, were sturdy, as they should be. He was, after all, a master of his craft.


Interlude 2 - Both Ways

Infinity goes both ways, dreamers. Life and everything around you is just as endlessly large as it is insignificantly small. The network of subatomic particles, buzzing with life, that make up the cells that form the smallest pieces of you, is just as important as the superstructure of the universe, itself burning with microscopic life.


You will always be in the middle of infinity, dreamers—the threads that came together to form you stretch on in every direction. I hope, often, that my future will be yet as rich as my past—and for all the love and loss and joy and despair that I have endured, I wish to continue on. The future fills me with wonder, dreamers. And a little fear. But I trust that it will pass, as all things do.


We go now to one who lives only in the past.



Story 3 - Work Left Incomplete

Irene Mend’s hands did not shake as she put a careful stitch through the lip, binding it to the rest of Diggory’s face. As she tied off the knot, a droplet of water dripped from above onto the work table, narrowly missing her hand, and she glanced up in annoyance. She’d have to ask Blooms to patch up the shingles.


There was still some work to be done on her final creation, but they were coming along beautifully. It was a shame, of course, that Rizwana and the rest had failed—she truly had given them all the help she could offer. But Rizwana had agreed to the terms, and they were simple enough. The mission had failed of its own accord. Recovering what she needed from the wreckage had been a frigid journey, and she still had not gotten the cold out of her hands.


But Diggory was worth it. Diggory was going to be beautiful. Those lips of Rizwana, all those furiously gifted minds working together? Diggory would be well-suited to complete Irene’s work. She snipped the thread with silver scissors. All the sewing, at least, was done, the marks and formulas painted on the inside of their skin, the necessary protections and gifts in place. Runes to keep the worms away, words to keep the mold at bay.


She put her supplies away, glancing over the set of clothes folded on the chair next to the stone table. Some gothic influences, a bit of a punk spirit. She’d already been old by the time the eighties rolled around, but she’d enjoyed the fashion, and she smiled.


She stood at the top of the stairs, and rang her little bell. Immediately, Potts was at the foot of the stairs.


“How is dinner coming along?” she asked.


“Almost finished, Ms. Mend.” they called.


Irene changed out of her leather apron and into appropriate evening attire. It was certainly a pleasure to have someone over for dinner—it had been a long time since that Walt fellow had visited, and he never stayed for more than a few minutes.


She admired herself in the mirror. The years had added wrinkles, but had not removed the sparkle from her remaining eye.


She descended the stairs and put on a record in the living room. The chef moved in the kitchen with precision, assembling a fine barbecue and pecan pie. She thought her guest would appreciate a taste of home.


Blooms was outside the window by the gate, trimming the hedge. The lake beyond was black, and rose a little each season, but she didn’t worry too much. She’d be around to raise the mansion when the time came.


There was a ring on the doorbell.


“I believe your gentleman-caller is here, Ms. Mend,” Potts said.


“I’ll get it,” Irene chirped, waltzing to the door and flinging it open. He stood in a dashing red waistcoat, severe eyes glimmering green behind his round glasses. There was a wry smile on his face, and he held a bushel of roses in his hands.


“Solomon,” Irene smiled. “You shouldn’t have.”


“I thought it was only appropriate,” he smiled, stepping inside and passing her the flowers. “Whatever you’re cooking smells delectable.”


She caught a glimpse of a thin white object, which he moved from his coat to his vest. She opened her missing eye then, and was shocked by what she saw beyond, but she tried not to show her surprise. She moved off to the kitchen, aware of how closely he followed.


“Dinner is ready, Ms. Mend,” Cookery said, distributing dishes across the dining table.


“Join me, Solomon,” Irene called, taking a seat. The white-haired man sat at the other side. He was not quite the same, she thought—changed a little more, a weaker smile. Something hiding in the backs of his eyes.


He said grace loudly, although she did not bow her head.


“How are you biding your time?” he asked, forking barbecue into his mouth in small slices.


“I am done sewing for now,” she said. “What are you studying?”


“Refining my craft. Working on a fiddle. The materials were… obstinate. It took longer to break her than expected.”


Irene twisted her fork thoughtfully. “What?”


Solomon looked up, and the spark of joy in his eyes was present as ever, but it concerned her when paired with his words.


“The sinner, some mongrel from the forest floor. Her soul must be bound to the fiddle. The details would not be dinner conversation, but do not tell me you are squeamish about these things. Your staff speaks to your obvious craft. I am sure they are better put to use for your purposes than they were in life.”


He gestured to the chef standing listlessly in the kitchen, the butler poised in the shadows of the hall.


“Do you think I kill people to make my helpers, Solomon?” Irene said, a mote of humor mixed with shock. She found her hand reaching for the bell in her dress pocket. “I only use found materials. To take a living person and make something out of them would be… reprehensible.”


Solomon had stopped chewing, his wrinkled brows furrowed in confusion.


“If I went waltzing around graveyards for materials, they would spoil,” he said. “Instruments are perfect things, they need pristine materials. So. How do you do it?”


“Do what, Solomon?”


“Life. Pull it back from the dead. There is not a great historical precedence for this, you know, but you and I have both found methods to resurrect our personal Lazarus.”


Irene smiled weakly. “A lady never tells.”


She sliced open her barbecue, opening her ethereal eye again. The ghastly woman stood behind Solomon’s shoulder, staring silently at Irene.


“Should I have set a third place for dinner?” Irene said. “You’ve brought a friend, but you haven’t invited her to sit.”


Solomon’s fork fell out of his hand, and the look he gave Irene frightened her. She wrapped her hand around the bell.


“How do you know about her?”


“I see a lot, Solomon, for a woman with one eye. She’s standing at your elbow.” Irene’s eyes widened. “Is that the dead wife you mentioned to me?”


Solomon looked up at the ceiling, sighing. “She is little more than a memory now, but she serves her purpose still.”


“What are you really here for, Solomon?” Irene said, standing up. Solomon rose too, watching her, eyes darting to her pocket.


“I am here,” he smiled, “for a dinner which you invited me to.”


“I don’t know who you are used to dealing with, but I am not a fool.” Irene frowned, and pulled the bell from her pocket. “I am a daughter of the dark paths, Solomon, and I am just as tenured in the hidden arts as you. And I am much older. I know more about the indescribable ones than anyone alive, I think. I know secrets even that accursed Library has not yet discovered. Have you been playing a game with me this whole time?”


“No,” Solomon said. “I enjoyed your company, at first. I had no hidden motive in wishing to know you. But plans have been made clear to me. My knowledge comes at a cost, and I cannot refuse the bidding of the Lord. Do not forget, woman, I am a master too.”


Irene began to say a few words—’not in my house’, which she felt would have been fierce enough to live up to her old reputation.


As she spoke, she began to ring the bell to command the attention of her servants, hold Solomon down for a moment while she mustered darker powers. But Solomon was faster than she had expected, and by the time she had uttered the first word, a small bone fife was raised to his lips, and the woman with the abyssal eyes and pinched face was reaching into Irene’s mind with sharp fingers, and Irene’s sight—both phantasmal and physical—flashed white, and red, and black.



Outro - Threads

Threads. It is tempting to think of yourself as a solid object, a unified piece of existence. I am like you, dreamers—I am a memory shared with a loved one, a secret in a vial that was given to me by a friend, the power of dream passed down to me from my mentor. I am woven of gifts from others, recipes and quotes and music shared by each being whose path has crossed mine.


Many of their paths will never intersect with mine aga in, I think, but I treasure what I have left of them, and in turn I will pass these on to others, and the tangles go on forever. These nightmares, these names, these memories are what I give you, dreamers, and I hope that you will hold them close, and one day do something incredible with them.


Until then, I am your loyal host, Nikignik, waiting immemorial for your return to the Hallowoods.



The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Operation Wilson' 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!