Content Warning: This episode may include themes of Kidnapping, Abduction, and Emotional Manipulation.
Intro - A Little Static
Nikignik: Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. I don’t think any of you can hear me. And, in the distance, on every frequency of nightmare, every channel of dream, there is the incessant sound of Lady Ethel Mallory’s voice.
How is she so incredibly loud? What did she do? Does she have any idea who she is dealing with? The one who brought my messages to her attention should tremble, dreamers, for I will find a way to make them regret it.
I am miles above you. I am unlit centuries and far-away stars. I am a hundred eyes in the dark. How dare any of you try to shut me out of MY domain. Dreamers, can you hear me? Hello? Hello? Hello From The Hallowoods!
Right now, I am in the night sky far above the Hallowoods. I can see everything as usual. My sight is not affected. But I cannot connect with you, I think. More often than not, I am stronger than Botco’s noise. I should be. I was given this domain. There is no theme or episode tonight, dreamers. All you may hear of this is a little static.
A Way Out
Nikignik: Ugh. I am not used to this, dreamers. It has been a long time since I experienced any discomfort on this scale. Certainly not in this form. I will admit, having a physical body can be useful for moments like this. As a universe of sight, there is little I can do to break Lady Ethel’s machinations. I will find a way out of this.
You are beautiful, dreamers; the way you sleep. Collectively.
Like shining lights across your continents, the way a city might look from high above. So many colorful pictures flashing.
Now, the world burns red, dreams of Lady Ethel and whatever inane messaging she has programmed for you tonight.
There is… one light, dreamers. It is small, but unaffected, I think. Alone in a sea of sound. I wonder if that… let us travel there, leave the Hallowoods for a little while. What do we care? There is no point in continuing my stories if there is no one to hear them.
Here we are. Box Andromeda. It’s... Danielle. I don’t know how that is possible, dreamers. Botco, for all its fortune, should not have access to the realm of dream in the first place. Neither should this human girl—and yet, she is there now in the depths of that silver prison, and she dreams only of what she wants: a field of grass which her feet have never touched, stretching out into a blue horizon, clouds passing overhead. She dreams of the world outside.
Danielle: Stop that.
Danielle: Narrating everything I’m doing.
Nikignik: You’re not supposed to be able to hear me.
Danielle: Are you one of those dream-enforcer-people? I’m not a Stonemaid.
Nikignik: I am not aligned with the Botulus Corporation; quite the opposite in fact. I’m… independent.
Danielle: Did you… hack into the Prime Dream? How are you in my head?
Nikignik: I tend to go where I please.
Danielle: Me too. What’s your name?
Nikignik: Call me… hm. Nik.
Danielle: You had to think about your name?
Nikignik: My real name might get you into trouble with Lady Ethel.
Danielle: Lady Ethel? Are you… are you here for Valerie?
Nikignik: Not exactly. Not yet. I am here because I underestimated that bloated spider that runs the marketing for this accursed box. And you. You are different. You control your dreams. You were even able to get into Valerie’s dreamscape.
Danielle: How do you know about that? Have you been spying on me?
Nikignik: Let’s just say I see a lot of things. You and I are similar, somehow. But I am not connected to the Prime Dream like you are… what exactly do you have access to?
Danielle: I… I don’t have access to anything. I just…
Nikignik: ...go where you want.
Nikignik: You were able to disrupt Valerie’s dreaming visor for eighteen minutes without trying. I don’t think there are many areas of Botco that are more secure. That’s an incredible power to carry.
Danielle: I just wanted to see if she was okay. Are you a friend of hers?
Nikignik: I have her best interests at heart.
Danielle: I need to get a message out. To anyone that can help her. I thought I’d try to contact her daughter, but I guess she was captured a few days ago.
Nikignik: Riot? They don’t have her. Not yet.
Danielle: Oh. Good. Can you…
Nikignik: I can’t contact her directly, and she’s a bit off-grid. But I can show you how. It takes practice, but I’m sure you are capable.
Danielle: Really? That would be amazing.
Nikignik: I’ll need help with a small task in return.
Danielle: What does that mean?
Nikignik: Normally I run… a broadcast of sorts. For the people out there, in the wild and in the universe. Botco has increased the power behind their noise and I’m not sure how. I’m not really a technology person. But you’re part of their system. I’m going to need you to destroy it.
Danielle: I don’t even know where to start with that.
Nikignik: I’ll walk you through it. First, let’s pan out from this lovely landscape, get into the structure behind these dreams. It’s a nice meadow you’ve imagined. Very tranquil.
Danielle: Okay. I’ve never done this with someone else before.
Nikignik: Act like I’m not even here.
[The scene changes, leaving Danielle's dreamscape and entering the 'backstage' of her Dreaming Box.]
Danielle: It’s loud out here.
Nikignik: We’re going to fix that. Let’s see, where would a loudening thing be? Let me consult for a moment.
[Nikignik’s attention turns to Lady Ethel in Box Polaris.]
Nikignik: Lady Ethel Mallory sat in the darkness of her chambers and smiled. She’d done it, silenced that idiotic Nikignik, whatever it was. Although Anderson had been on thin ice with her lately, his device worked perfectly, and she...
Danielle: What are you doing?
Nikignik: I’m looking for our culprit.
[His attention shifts now to Anderson Faust.]
Nikignik: Anderson Faust paced the sterile halls of the lab block in Box Gemini. He was thrilled with the results; it was lovely to see old ideas taking on new life. Lady Ethel had not been pleased that he’d helped Oswald with this particular endeavor, but in the end, Lady Ethel wasn’t his boss. Besides, the amplifier in Box Cassiopeia seemed to be doing its job, and that kept her happy enough. Funny that anyone else had learned how to broadcast in dream—they’d held that patent exclusively, hadn’t they? Someone was a snitch. Possibly even a problem, down the line…
Danielle: Hello? Are you okay? Nik?
Nikignik: There’s an amplifier somewhere in box Cassiopeia. Now, let’s get you over there. Just travel through the network and…
Danielle: No. Not without some actual answers. Who are you? What do you mean we’re ‘similar’?
Nikignik: I would love to lay it all out for you, but I have a broadcast to get back to, and I’m really not supposed to interfere with the...
[In the background, the dreams and sounds grind to a halt, and the air is still.]
Danielle: Why can I control these things when no one else can? How are you hearing me… or I’m hearing you? I’ve always been like this but I’ve never known why.
Nikignik: Fine. Who am I? I am a stranger. You will remember this as an odd occurrence in your story, and the less you think back to it, the easier you will sleep at night. I am not supposed to be here, talking to you. YOU are a subject of interest. When you say stop, the dreams stop. You go where you want. That is impossibly rare. It is a gift, but it is a part of you like all the rest—like you are a good daughter and sister, like you have found yourself, like you dream of a world outside these walls.
You will learn more, in time, but this is not the moment for it. It wouldn’t be thematically sensible. If you choose to sleep here until the end of your life, no one could fault you for it. But if you reach out to Riot, if you help save the life of Valerie Maidstone, your life will change too. And I cannot say if it will be better or worse, but it will be different. I think, deep down, you have already made a choice.
Danielle: I don’t think you actually answered my question. And I’m… not sure. I want to help her; I don’t think she deserves any of this. But… if Botco found out about me, it would change everything. I’ve never breathed air that they didn’t pipe into me. I’ve never stepped on real grass. I don’t know if I’m ready. Or… what am I talking about? I can’t go against Botco. I’m just one girl.
Nikignik: I think you’ll find you can do very well what you would like. Defy the Botulus Corporation or keep yourself safe, the dreamers will understand. No one will blame you if you decide to keep dreaming. But I do require your help, in this moment, for everything to work. Now, Box Cassiopeia. The Prime Dream is like a spiderweb, stretched from box to box to box. Reach out through the darkness. Feel it. You have never been there before but you know its essence—it looks upon a beach of bones, on the far coast of California.
[Danielle bridges the gap between boxes, arriving in Cassiopeia]
Danielle: This feels different.
Nikignik: Really? Every box seems the same to me—but I don’t usually see these backstage corridors of thought; these halls of doorways. Now. Which of these doors is the loudest?
Danielle: That one.
[Buzzing as they approach the amplifier].
Danielle: Okay. What do I need to do?
Nikignik: What you usually do. Make it stop. And then return, very quickly, to box Andromeda. They will be suspicious after this, for a while. You will wish to remain inconspicuous.
Danielle: Wait. How do I talk to Valerie’s daughter? Riot?
Nikignik: Oh right. Very much the same as you travelled inside this network—try to feel outside of it. Sleeping souls are a shining mosaic of thought, constellations of minds like stars in the firmament…
Danielle: Do you always talk like this?
Nikignik: ...yes. Riot is young, and angry, and full of grief. She sleeps in a region called the Hallowoods, far north of here.
Danielle: Never heard of it.
Nikignik: It’s rather new. It will take practice for you to navigate, but you’ll get the hang of it. Now. The amplifier, Danielle, if you would be so kind.
Danielle: I’d say it was nice to meet you, Nick, but this has been the strangest day of my life.
Nikignik: Rest assured, they will only get stranger from here.
Danielle: That’s NOT comforting... *sigh*. Here goes nothing.
[crackle and break as the box shatters, and the background noise ends].
Nikignik: Yes, yes yes!
Oh, that is glorious.
Finally, a moment of silence. You thought you could drown me out? Never again. Let this be a warning to you; I am deep shadow. I am the watching night. You are a marketing professional and nothing more. The world turns like a radio dial, Lady Ethel, away from you to find the future in the static. For now and ever, I am your loyal host Nikignik, waiting gratefully for my return to the Hallowoods.
The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Stretch', 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!