Intro - Fury of the Deep
You were not always like this—confined to such an insignificant form. Once you were as tall as a tidal wave, as wrathful as a hurricane. And now? Little more than a lurker in the mire. And yet, you suppose, it is not all bad. You have much less to worry about. You can paddle lazily up to the warmest patches of water, and brush beneath the lily flowers.
You enable the frogs and they keep you well-fed in return… they have until now. Your last meal was interrupted, and you are realizing now how far you have fallen. You are angry, and you feel the old fury of the deep in your soul again. Your followers chant your name, and you feel for the first time in years that it is time to take action. You rise to the surface and defy yourself, defy the scavengers that seek to tame this free wilderness, defy the voice saying Hello From The Hallowoods.
Right now, I’m sitting in a hole in the mud. It is not cozy. It is not comfortable. It’s disgusting, like everything else that She Who Lurks Beneath touches. That’s what you get for dealing with fish, I suppose. The theme of tonight’s episode is Waters.
Story 1 - Grug Goes To Work
Grug had liked it much better before, he decided. There was cold water and warm rocks; the queen gave birth to them, the world fed them, and life was simple.
She Who Lurks Beneath made things important, gave them jobs to do. And with expectations came failure. And failure, on account of the possibility of getting eaten, made Grug nervous. She’d been in a fowl mood ever since the pink ones escaped. Clouds blotted out the warm sun, the water boiled, and in her black pool she frothed near the surface, splashing them with water or snatching up those who came near, only to toss their uneaten bodies back onto the beach.
It was the worst tantrum in a while.
The fact that she had eaten the last Drown Priest did not help, and the hat of bones and mud would not stay stuck to Grug’s head. Somehow his head was always slippery, and his eyes were too close together for it to fit well. A sense of dread crawled in Grug’s stomach worse than any giant centipede. This was a lot of pressure for a frog.
Grug stepped out of the mud dome. A swarm of others were waiting outside, staring at him expectantly.
“Lolgmololg,” one whispered helpfully.
Grug lifted up the drown staff and tried to sound important. “Lolgmololg!”
“Lolgmololg!” the others cried in return. Beyond, the lake seemed smooth, but Grug could almost sense her displeasure, as strong as the current. On the shore lay the last few sacrifices, and a few others who had just stepped too close to the water. What a mess.
The others began to hum, and Grug shuffled forward slowly.
What was he supposed to do? He’d seen the Drown Priest for too many ceremonies to count, but now was drawing a blank on how the ritual was supposed to go. Grug raised the stick again apprehensively.
“Loglmololg!” Grug called.
“Lolgmololg!” The crowd roared supportively. Well, thought Grug, it’s now or never.
Then that huge black head reared beneath the surface of the water, as though the lake itself had come alive, and never seemed like the best option. Grug threw the staff and jumped thirty feet over the crowd.
Someone else could be Drown Priest and end up as lunch. Grug would run away! Play cards with the tall ones! Find a warm rock!
They brought Grug back minutes later, squirming and kicking.
They shoved him towards the lake’s edge where the staff lay, and Grug picked it up angrily. Beyond the shore, the water boiled, and She Who Lurks Beneath began to lurk a little too closely for comfort. The crowd backed away, and Grug’s toes slipped into the water as he raised the staff again.
The lake was rising then, a black void bubbling up out of the water’s surface and breaking in great waves against the stones of the beach. A smooth black head glistened, and her many green eyes glowed like stars, and her barbels flashed like whips. Grug stared with wide eyes, and suddenly Grug was not standing in the village.
The whole world stretched out beneath Grug’s webbed toes—the Froglin town no bigger than a pebble, the great forest only a hop across. She Who Lurks Beneath was behind him, but she was not a fish—or if she was, a fish that stood on a flowing trail of tentacles, writhing like earthworms, and she was even more frightening to look at than the queen. She smiled with wide rows of needle teeth, and Grug screamed. She bent to his level, reaching out a hand with thick webbed fingers. Grug thought for a moment she would crack his head like a clam shell, but she merely turned it to face the forest again.
Grug took a closer look at the world beneath them, and… there were frogs. Every village was a Froglin village. They teemed in the black trees, swarmed in hundreds of lakes. A paradise. A whole world of frogs. They just had to take it.
The world turned into stones beneath Grug’s feet, and when he looked up She Who Lurks Beneath was inches away, a gigantic fish against the side of the shore, massive eyes staring into his. He did not jump away.
“Lolgmololg,” he whispered, and she twisted and vanished in a flurry of huge waves that crashed against the beach.
The others crept towards him, terrified and curious. Grug turned to face them, took in their wide-eyed quizzical gazes.
Grug lifted the staff high above his head, and the cry he gave was a hunting cry. She had a plan for them all. They were special. All they had to do was follow. Her favor would come back as soon as they began to spread.
The singers were the first to return the cry, then the grabbers, then the entire village. As the storm clouds began to roll in across the woods, the Froglins made ready for war. Grug shook his head. It was a lot of pressure, but at least he knew now what to do.
Interlude 1 - Rising Oceans
Water levels are expected to be high this year, surprising no one. The amount of ice on Earth took a sharp downward turn in recent decades. Rising oceans devastated your coastal communities, wiped out your villages on the great lakes and across the world, and that quintessential human lack of preparedness really shone through.
You had a choice of sorts, you know. Fix the problem, or get paid to ignore it. Are you enjoying all those dollars still? I suppose you’ve changed them into Botcoin by now, one imaginary value for another.
Perhaps it is for the best that you never met any of the other worlds out there. You had advanced technology for two hundred years, and that was all it took for you to find a way to go extinct. It may come down to your size. You have trouble looking five years into the future, let alone five hundred. We go now to a victim of the ocean.
Story 2 - Vacancy in the Family
“Will you be my friend?” Mort whispered, a little frightened.
He could not see the ghost in the jukebox, but the lights all bubbled and flashed at once, and he hoped that meant 'yes'. He sat with his claw in his lap and tried not to get in anyone’s way—the rest of the room was overwhelming. There was a waiter whose skin was made of shiny rock that hurt to look at, and the music was new and strange and loud, and there were so many new friends here. Too many friends. Barb, and the Quilt, and dozens more that laughed and shoved and didn’t seem so friendly.
“Are you alright, Mort?” a small voice said beside him, and he found Yaretzi. She’d traded her baggy clothes for fancier black ones, but her gold jewelry remained the same.
“I’m fine,” Mort sighed. “It’s just loud.”
Yaretzi gave him a nod, and Mort followed her through the crowd to find an empty booth in the wall at the far side of the room. There was a shelf of little colorful games, but he decided he should probably not open them. He was very interested in the guests—they were all so different from each other. Some reminded him of the fish from his home.
It took a little effort for Mort to squeeze into the booth; it was made for smaller things. It was a little quieter back here, though, and the diamond person came over to pour them little glasses of water. Mort could not drink his, but it was comforting to look at.
“I still miss Polly,” Mort said.
“So do I,” said Yaretzi. “Even though for my whole life I would have said it was my duty to destroy him. Somewhere along the way I got lost. Or, not lost exactly. I think of you and Polly as a family. And I have not had a family in a long time.”
“I…” Mort tried to think. There were faces in his memory, but he could not remember who they belonged to. “Me too. Polly was my first friend. Maybe if I make more friends I won’t miss him so much?”
Yaretzi smiled sadly. “I don’t think that’s how it works.”
“Sure it is!” a voice like shattering dishware said, and Barb was sitting next to Mort all of a sudden. He put a hand on Mort’s shell and withdrew it immediately, shaking it to clear the smoke.
“Ya make friends and ya lose ‘em. Best case scenario, you get to keep their stuff. Real shame what happened to that umbrella… ah, to Apollyon. Hope the little guy’s finally at peace in that great big cubicle in the sky.”
“Don’t listen to him,” a woman said, and Mort looked up to find the Countess sitting next to Yaretzi. Yaretzi seemed surprised as well, and shifted uncomfortably.
“Losing a friend is a terrible thing. And it’s polite to attend a service for them at least,” the Countess said, and gave a pointed look at Barb.
“Hey, I never even knew the guy,” Barb waved his hand. “You mingle with the human rabble. I’ve got an upscale joint to run here.”
“Why did you start this hotel, Barbatos?” Yaretzi asked. Mort moved his glass around, admiring the trail of condensation it left on the table.
“It made more sense in Vegas,” the Countess said.
“Aw man, Vegas,” Barb sighed. “That was the life. Imagine you’re driving at night, just leaving town, you’re tired, when bam. Right by the side of the road. Resting Place. Stroll in there, get a cup of wine, see a pretty girl, but then the cards, they all start to spin wrong. And there I am, dealing out for the losers, bets are in cash at first but soon we’re playing for the good stuff: blood. Souls. Dreams. Yeah.”
“I thought it was your master that trades in souls,” Yaretzi said.
“Oh, I’m cut loose, hon, and the whole world with me. I’m free to wheel and deal.”
“You could conserve your energy a little more,” the Countess said, accepting a blood-red drink in a fancy glass from the diamond waiter. Barb took a brown liquid in a smaller one.
“What for?” Barb laughed. “Leave a little something for my grandkids? Newsflash, I stole all this for me, might as well enjoy it while I can. What’s the point of living if you don’t have whiskey and a good bath?”
“Tell us about you,” the Countess said, looking to Mort and Yaretzi. “Surprising that a demon would get a starwolf and a revenant on his side, hm?”
“Revenant?” Mort said. “Is that one me?”
“Yes, Mort,” Yaretzi said, and turned to the Countess. “It was not an agreeable arrangement at first. I was supposed to rip out his heart. He is the last true demon on this world—was the last.”
“Hurt my feelings, why don’t ya,” Barb said.
“Yaretzi and I had a fight. I won,” Mort piped up.
“Did you now?” Barb said. Mort liked the attention, he decided.
“Yeah. I’m very strong.”
“Well that’s just great. It just so happens I lost a dear employee of mine recently… I might have a job opening with your name on it,” Barb smiled. The Countess seemed to glare at him, but Mort couldn’t guess why. A job was exciting!
“We cannot stay for long,” Yaretzi smiled apologetically, teeth a little longer. “Just to plan our next steps.”
Barb shrugged. “The way I see it, Mort, your boss is gone. You’re free as a bird. What do you want to do now?”
“Barb,” the Countess said. She sounded mean.
“I want to look at the fish,” Mort said. “And… but… I also want to stay with Yaretzi.”
“Sounds, ah, real productive. Real aspirational,” Barb said. “But when you get a little older, you’ve got to stop asking what you can do for people, and start asking what they can do for you. And there’s a lot I can do for you, buddy.”
“We can leave this discussion for another time, Barb. They’ve been through enough,” the Countess said, glancing at Yaretzi. Everyone always looked at her, Mort realized. Yaretzi or Polly. Someone was always more important than Mort, but here Barb was, talking right to him.
“What can you do for me?” Mort asked.
“Good question,” Barb smiled, sipping on his drink. “I can give you a place to hang up your hat, metaphorically. A whole home right here in the hotel. Think about that. The music’s great, the guests are snazzy… Zorgelleck! Put that Froglin down!... heh. But most importantly, Mort,” Barb looked up at him, and put his hand on his own chest, “we’re a family here. All you have to do is a few little jobs here and there. Chores, like everyone in a family does. You’ll fit right in, I can already tell.”
“What about Yaretzi?” Mort said nervously. She was staring at the demon with her brows furrowed.
“I dunno,” Barb said, and sighed sadly. “She’s welcome to join us, of course she is. But she doesn’t seem too keen on that, do ya wolfie?”
“No,” Yaretzi said. “Mort, do not entertain offers from this jester. You know better than to make deals with demons.”
“You cut me to the quick, my dear, my furry friend, to my very core,” Barb said, and a flaming arrow appeared, as if piercing through the heart of his suit. It vanished just as quickly, and he looked up at Mort. “But Mort, that’s why it matters so much what you want. Wander the woods with the hound here? Never have a real home? Sure, you could. But why do that when you can have a life that’s all your own. Casa del Mort. You like fish? There’s plenty of fish in the lakes right outside. Someone’s gotta keep ‘em company, discourage the wrong kind of visitor from time to time. We’re one big buncha lovin’ friends, Mort, and you have a limited-time offer to become one of us too.”
Mort stared down at the little man. “I do?”
“Oh yeah,” Barb smiled, and a sheet of flaming paper appeared in his hand. “All you need to say is, ‘I swear’.”
Yaretzi seemed to rise a little, claws growing into the tabletop, and the Countess put a hand on her shoulder. Mort stared at the burning paper. He’d been wondering what to do next. He began to answer, and as he did there was a surge of flame, and white fire burned in Mort’s eyes, and he found his family.
Marketing - No Face to Claim
Lady Ethel Mallory: Hello, my lovely dreaming family. This is Lady Ethel Mallory with a special message from Botco. We are beginning to see the end of the Stonemaid threat. As Valerie and her daughter recover and prepare to rejoin the Prime Dream, the remaining Stonemaid rioters have nothing to hide behind, no face to claim as their icon, no song as their rallying cry.
You’ve had your fun, Stonemaids.
Did you get it out of your system?
Did it feel good to break so much of the beautiful dream we’ve built together?
Now it’s time to grow up. Rebuild. And in future, let’s deal with our problems with a little more humanity. This latest wave of rumors about contaminated water in our Dreaming Boxes is especially juvenile. All you have to do is look at our filtration system to know that it is impossible. I hope dreamers everywhere are learning an important lesson about...
Story 2, Continued - Vacancy in the Family
Dreamers, pay attention to language. Criminal and thug, rioter and vandal. People do not begin to riot because they are rioters. They riot because they are people who demand a change in the world. Language like this takes the responsibility away from the world and the causes at hand. I think it’s interesting.
We return now to Mort.
For a moment, the entire bar was completely quiet, staring. The flashings of fire sputtered back into the fluorescent light of the bar, and Mort looked across the room. Polly stood in the center of the game table, burning horns flickering in the air, charred poker cards fluttering in every direction.
He held an ornate cane in his hands, and his hair was messy, and his eyes shone like the sun through ocean water.
“Well,” Polly said, taking a bow to the card players. “Did you miss me?”
Mort wanted to leap up, flip the table, and go give Polly a hug, but Barb was still sitting next to him, and Mort couldn’t escape from his seat. So he sat and bounced happily.
“I missed you!” he called. The others had different expressions—Barb seemed to scowl for a moment, and his contract disappeared in a puff of smoke as he grinned at Polly. The Countess seemed confused, and Yaretzi stared in surprise before bolting up out of her seat, knocking over the Countess in the process. Her fur rippled and her stature grew as she dashed across the bar towards Polly, claws flashing in the neon lights. Barb and the Countess both flinched, and Yaretzi threw her arms around Polly, wrapping him in a hug that pulled his feet off the ground.
“Unhand me,” Polly laughed. “You’re ruining my grand entrance.”
Polly descended the table with a hop, and the players began to reconstruct their game. Polly swung a chair up to the end of Mort’s table, and draped himself over the back of it. The Countess shifted down a spot as Yaretzi sat again.
“We watched you die,” Yaretzi said. “You were gone.”
“I was,” Polly said. “I went back to the Industry. Had a nice little check-in with my superiors.”
“And?” Yaretzi said.
“I still have a job to do,” Polly nodded. “And Barb! Thank you for looking out for these two, I hope they haven’t been any trouble.”
“Not in the slightest,” Barb smiled. “We’ve had a jolly old time.”
“I was so worried you wouldn’t come back,” said Mort. “And Yaretzi and I would just be alone.”
“I’m so happy to find you both… alive,” Polly said. “How did you ever manage to escape those awful people?”
“Bert did all the fighting,” Mort said.
Polly looked surprised, and shrugged. “I suppose the bird wasn’t for nothing then.”
Barb stood up from the table, and tipped his hat. “I’m amazed and delighted to see you, Polly, I really am. We’ll have to chat at some point… catch up on, you know. Industry business. Any hirings or firings, new water cooler, that sort of thing. But here I am with guests that need schmoozing, and a crowd that needs boozing. Hey Dimes! Come get this poor fella a drink, ey? He just climbed outta hell for chrissakes.”
Barb clapped Polly on the shoulder, and walked into the crowd, which was beginning to resume its noise.
“It’s surprising,” the Countess said, sipping her drink. “Your work must be very valuable.”
“Oh yes, certainly.” Polly nodded, and winced. “I suppose the Emptiness is a bit more… spontaneous with her demands, is she not?”
The Countess smiled. “It’s been a while since she had need of me. She grows bored easily, I think. Always something new. But that’s alright. I’ve had fun on my own. Kissed girls, killed wolves, vice versa.”
Yaretzi had fallen back into her human features a little, and coughed.
“I’ll leave you all to it,” the Countess said with a sharp grin, and was gone into the shadows.
“She’s all over you,” Polly whispered to Yaretzi, and turned to the bartender, whose crystal skin shone like a disco ball. “What do you have that’s pink?”
“I appreciate subtlety,” Yaretzi growled. “A quality which no one at this hotel seems to have. I am glad to have you back, Apollyon.”
“It’s good to be back,” Polly said, stretching.
“What should we do now?” Mort asked, and they both turned to look at him. “I used to think I wanted to go to sleep again, and see all the fishes. But I like you two even more than fishes. So I wanna stay.”
“I… I think I do too,” Yaretzi said. “You will laugh at this, Apollyon, but I feel safe with you two. I trust you. Me, trusting a devil of all things. I think there is something good here, and it would be a great shame to lose this. But once you have your quarry, Apollyon, I know you will have to go.”
Polly nodded slightly for a moment. “Let’s worry about that when we get to it. For now, let’s drink, enjoy each other’s company against all odds, and be glad to be alive. In the morning I’ll have an existential crisis and a hangover, and after that we can go finish our work. There’s a man with an umbrella to pay for.”
Mort felt, as the night went on and his friends chattered, that even though the hotel was not his home, he was perfectly content. This was better than fish. He had a family.
Interlude 2 - Monolith in the Brine
It’s hard to sail anywhere on earth without running into a ‘kingdom beneath the tides’ this and ‘monolith in the brine’ that. Your world is mostly water. Of course that would be the popular destination.
You might think from the great number of temples carved in deep-sea trenches and little statues with lots of tentacle detail that there was a pantheon of horrific fish on earth, but for the most part it’s just the one.
You need to have patience, Lolgmololg. If you keep switching between projects, nothing will ever really get done. Look at me as an example—it will be a long time yet before my purposes become known. Sharing these images, these stories from the forests of earth, broadcast into nightmare across the universe—it is no small thing. Stay tuned, Lolgmololg. You might learn something.
We go now to one who sleeps with the fishes.
Story 3 - Two Good People
Ricou laughed, and it was one of the strangest, yet most sweet, sounds Nolan had ever heard. There was a whistling element that only whales could probably hear in full.
“That is a good prank,” Ricou said.
“No one ever found out,” Nolan continued. “They’d just curse at the wind as their hat blew away.”
“Did you ever return the hats?”
“No, I had a little collection after a while. But I guess you’re a bit of a collector too.”
Ricou shrugged; the cabin’s shelves had been filled with the trinkets they’d hauled up from the swamp hut.
“So shiny objects fascinate me,” Ricou said. “What is the harm in it?”
“Oh, no harm. For you, anyways,” Nolan picked up a pocketwatch. It must have appeared to float in the air. “A little more harm for, you know, all the people Barb had you stealing from.”
“Eh,” Ricou shrugged. “They do not matter. Not like you do.”
“I suppose not,” Nolan said, although it didn’t sit quite right with him.
There was a noise from the doorway then—a light thud and a quiet scraping. Immediately Nolan rolled out of bed and stalked towards the door warily. Ricou seemed to swim through the shadow as gracefully as the water, and readied his clawed fingers.
“I’ll open,” Nolan breathed.
“I’ll crush,” Ricou returned, and hissed through all the vents in his neck.
There was another scrape, this time from the window. A black form was batting against the frame.
“Open now,” Ricou growled, and Nolan yanked the door open suddenly. Immediately a flurry of ravens swept into the room, and in the heart of the swarm there was a beating pulse of fire, and a dark voice filled the air.
“Do not strike!” they cried. Ricou poised for a moment as the ravens flowed into a singular form, a deeper shadow than the night forest outside.
“Who are you?” Ricou said. “What do you want with my home?”
Nolan picked up a length of driftwood from by the door, and silently stepped towards the stranger.
“I did not realize this house had residents,” the birds cried.
“So you were also offered Walt’s hospitality?” Ricou grunted, a note of surprise on his finned face. Nolan froze. He was not sure he recognized the name.
“No,” the ravens said.
“Then you came to steal,” Ricou growled.
“The library will pay for his books,” the ravens said, raising hands formed of feather and claw.
“I cannot sell them to you. They belong to Walt,” Ricou said.
“Walter Pensive is dead,” the ravens cried. “He has no need of them now. The books are worth preserving.”
“Walt… is dead?” Ricou said. “How did this happen?”
“He went to fight the bone-carver!” the ravens said.
“I do not know what that is,” Ricou said.
“The Instrumentalist! He was not victorious. His apprentice goes to fight the bone-carver at dawn in three days. She too will fall.”
Ricou backed away a little, trouble washing over his face. The ravens continued shrieking, and their beady eyes seemed to scan the room as Nolan set the driftwood down quietly.
“His library is small, but valuable to us. A verbal agreement will do.” The pile of ravens took a step towards a small shelf in the corner; it contained a dozen or so old volumes in various conditions.
“No,” Ricou said, standing up, and sliding between the birds and the shelf. “I do not think he would want some strange bird to take his things. You cannot have them. You must go.”
“It is unwise to earn the ire of Downing Hill,” the ravens said, and the fire that burned within their form began to flicker brightly.
“Do not challenge me,” Ricou snarled, and lifted his hand towards a spear that rested by the door. Nolan picked it up and tossed it into Ricou’s hand, and the ravens looked around nervously, beginning to peel back and away through the door.
“And do not dare to return to this house,” Ricou said, “or you will suffer the wrath of Ricou, and all that Walter Pensive learned.”
Nolan nodded appreciatively; they had been working on bluffs, and this was a good one.
“Clearly, he did not learn enough,” the raven-person called, and burst into a wild frenzy of birds, scattering outside and into the night wind beyond the cabin.
“Are you alright?” Nolan said, closing the door.
“If there was anyone I might have counted as a friend besides you, it was Walt,” Ricou said. “Imagine the kindness required to look at one like me… a beast—”
“We’ve talked about the self-talk,” Nolan warned. Ricou frowned and continued.
“We met only two or three times, and not for several years now. He offered me a place to stay if ever I escaped from Barb’s contract. I am sad to hear that he is gone.”
“Of course,” Nolan said.
“To fight the Instrumentalist was foolish,” Ricou sputtered, and turned to lean against a small desk, staring out the marbled glass of the window.
“I don’t know much about it,” Nolan said. Ricou shook his head, the spines on his back rising and falling in agitation.
“It is a thing that breathes with the sound of an orchestra, and kills without warning or regret. Its prey is whatever it crosses. It was too much for Walt to take on. He was a little man.”
Ricou was silent for a moment, and turned to look at Nolan, eyes glowing in the night. “What?”
“Nothing. I’m sorry for your loss, Ricou.”
“I can practically hear you think. What is it?”
“It’s… nothing. Not a good thought,” Nolan sighed. “But I guess there were two, really.”
“Two people who were different. That mattered to you.”
Ricou was silent. “If this is one of your lessons I am not in the mood.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” Nolan said, coming over and putting his arms around Ricou’s frilled head.
“I used to think there was no one,” Nolan whispered. “No one who would… accept me. Trust me. Want to know me. Then I met you.”
“I felt the same,” Ricou said, turning around, putting a webbed hand on Nolan’s shoulder. “That is why I must keep you safe.”
“I appreciate that,” Nolan said, looking for a moment into the only eyes he had ever found that could see him, and kissed the side of Ricou’s face. “But I’m not the only one. Neither are you. There are other good people out there. Let’s remember that, okay?”
Ricou nodded, and leaned his head against Nolan’s, closing his eyes. “There is one less ‘good people’ tonight.”
Outro - Waters
Waters. The foundation of lesser life. It’s out there in the universe—on asteroids, on mars, on moons and in the rings of planets. It’s nice when it combines with a few other things and gets ‘alive’; makes the cosmos a little more interesting.
Water is the birthplace for your kind, I suppose. Maybe old Lolgs is on to something there. For you, it’s a complicated relationship, isn’t it? From the waters you rose, and the waters rise now to reclaim you, wash away your cities, render your maps useless. The ocean gives and takes away, and you who have boldly grown your feet must now walk to the end of your days.
Despite the rising floods, dreamers, despite the tides, I will see you through the end of this particular storm. Until your last rain falls, I am your loyal host Nikignik, waiting antediluvianally for your return to the Hallowoods.
The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Dimes', 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!