HFTH - Episode 45 - Tombs


Content Warning: This episode may include themes of Abuse, Animal death, Suicide, Violence, Kidnapping and Abduction, Death and Injury, Blood, Mental illness, Sexism and Misogyny, Transphobia, Homophobia, Birds, Suffocation, Emotional Manipulation, Body Horror, Electrocution, Religious Violence, and Evangelism.


Intro - Valley of Kings

To think they dared to call you an amateur archaeologist. They would not be laughing if they could see what you have uncovered now. It is true, you first came to Cairo for your health, but what marvelous opportunities you see nestled beneath the Valley of Kings. You have always had a knack for taking things that do not belong to you.


You nod, and the men with the crowbars begin to pry away the stone door, breaking the seal to the inner chamber. You grin at the treasures around you; whatever is deeper within will be the best yet, and it will all look marvelous in the museums of London with your name on a tag beside each item. The door is open, and you walk through into the darkness.


In the torchlight you can see that there is nothing inside, just black dust hanging in the air, and it is burning in your lungs. You begin to shake, and little sprouts and flowers are blooming on the back of your hands, and in your head you hear a whisper saying ‘Hello From The Hallowoods’.


Theme.


Right now, I’m sitting next to many dogs. They’ve all coalesced together, like a swarm of fireflies that have avoided the hungry frogs of the spring. They know that I am here, but their immediate concern is for their master; she sits this evening in a house of death.


The theme of tonight’s episode is Tombs.



Story 1 - This Is Love

His eyes reminded her of the Rathbones, Clara had decided—somehow both critical and distant. Currently, he sat staring off past the fireplace, white hair stringy and damp from the rain, and his mouth hung open. He held his cracked glasses folded in his hands.


“Mister Instrumentalist?” Clara said cautiously. Dogsmell sat by her feet, wispy ears drifting upward, keeping between her and the old man. It growled quietly like far-away thunder, although the clouds outside had lifted. She leaned on her broom; every inch of it was intricately carved with birds, and the bristles were a deep black at the end as if dipped in blood.


“You’re not my daughter,” the Instrumentalist said, turning his eyes to her. There was a green reflection to them in the firelight, like an animal at night. She and Riot had been animals at night themselves; was this really the hunter they had run from in such terror?


“No, I suppose I’m not,” Clara said. Even with all their new claws and teeth, she preferred her own parents to this bent creature, the man who had almost certainly killed Riot. And yet, he seemed to change rapidly from one state to the next. He’d been dealing with Lady Ethel Mallory only a few hours ago—Clara had met Lady Ethel! She was unbelievable. Why was she so big? What was wrong with her face?


“I think I’ve lost them,” Solomon whispered, and his glasses fell out of his shaking hands.


“They’ll be back soon,” Clara offered. Her mother had gotten lost too, towards the end.


“Oh,” Solomon said, and reached down to pick up his glasses, and put them on. He patted his vest, and his eyes widened. “No, that’s not right. My wife is here. And my daughter, she was stolen. By Oliver… Olivier. That was it. And you know what?”


He grinned, an awkward, toothy smile like a hungry hound. Clara’s eyes widened as a woman appeared by his shoulder behind the chair; she glowed a ghastly pale color, and Clara felt a chill run down her back as the woman stared at her.


“It’s not going to matter soon,” Solomon said. “My organ is assembled. There is only one component left that I require; its power. When the Scoutpost fills its pipes, this forest will shake in the light of its music. No one hides from god, and soon no one will hide from me.”


“Your instruments anchor the ghosts,” Clara said. “Is that how it works?”


“So they do teach you something in that confounded library,” Solomon said. “Yes, but even my collection—nearly a hundred, I think?—pales in comparison to what this organ will be capable of. A wave of fire, a storm of destruction played by a single song. Hundreds of souls plucked from their degenerate lives and put to the lord’s purpose.”


“To your purpose,” Clara couldn’t help herself from saying. Her mind was racing. What if Riot was one of Solomon’s horde? What if she was here?


“You would think so low of me?” he said, and looked wounded. “Do you think I take pleasure in my work? Inflicting pain? I do not. But I am a craftsman, and this is required for my trade. I have no joy in using the rod, believe me, but these people have already fled the staff.”


“Killing people just doesn’t seem very loving,” Clara said. It was unwise to get into theology with him, she knew, but he had taken Riot from her. Why?


“Love?” Solomon said, and smiled wearily. “Who said anything about love? You have listened too much to the new preachers, their soft hearts, their accommodating religion. Perhaps it is the fault of your bible, which is missing several key texts. Removed to soften the truth. No.”


Solomon looked again to the hearth, his unkempt brows knit together.


“The lord is flame and righteous anger. A pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night. We do not serve him because of love. A god of love would not kill his children.


God is to be feared and worshipped and served. We sing his praises and thank him that he does not strike us down for our iniquities. So it always has been and will be. God is the end of days, Clara. God is a black eternity.


But we must serve, for to be with him in his infinite, empty heaven, is better than what the devil will do with us if we let him have the chance. Destroy your very soul, tear it apart, make it into weapons for his army. Suffering that never ends.


In the face of the cosmos, this is grace. This is the most loving thing I know—to save hundreds from that fire below our feet. I would not wish that fate even on the sinner, Clara. Not even on the Scoutpost and their degenerates. This is love.”


Clara said nothing, staring wide-eyed at the fire. Images flashed in her head; the forge, the flaming horns, and the kiss.


“Come,” Solomon said, standing up. “The hour is fast approaching for us to strike. You can see spirits, can you not? I do not know how you have anchored your hound, but it is formidable. I need you acquainted with my tools, my instruments. We will take live whoever we can, but we must be prepared to act quickly for those who give up their lives too soon.”


He stepped across the room with a disturbing amount of energy for his age, and opened a door in the hall, stepping down into shadow.


Clara paused nervously, but already she could hear dozens of voices whispering and groaning from somewhere beneath the house.


“Maybe you should stay up here,” she whispered to Dogsmell. The hound drifted in front of the basement door. She gave it a pat, disrupting the surface of its head for a moment, and followed Solomon into the darkness.


Immediately, she had no breath in her lungs, and her fists clenched around the weathered wood of her broom handle.


They were everywhere.


Every wall.


Dozens of spirits, hanging from wires or lurking in the depths of a cello, fingers creeping out from the flared end of a trumpet. A small boy with no skin sat on the workbench, and a man whose halves were held together by organs like strings glared at her from beside a large cabinet.


“Oh god,” she gasped. She had to gather it all, shut out the panic, force the lifeless air into her lungs.


They were people, she tried to reassure herself. They weren’t dangerous, they had been ripped from lives just like hers. They needed help. But that made it worse, because who was she helping but the man who had put them all here.


She noted, with a little relief, that Riot’s face was not among them, although that was no guarantee that she wasn’t buried in the flowerbeds outside.


The lights flickered on, and the ghosts became just afterimages, blurry halos around each of Solomon’s instruments. A shattered fiddle sat on the table, and behind it was Solomon, watching her with interest.


“What do you think of my collection?” he said.


“I don’t see an organ here,” she breathed, avoiding the question.


“A basement would be an ill place for an organ,” Solomon frowned. “Now, we have planning to do. A method of attack. I have drawn the Scoutpost out here,” he said, unrolling a scroll of paper across the table. Rings of walls and gates were sketched in intricate detail.


“Are there any other instruments besides these?” Clara said.


“That contain souls, you mean? No, this is the extent of my work. I had a grand piano. Beautifully carved. Bone slivers so delicately applied for the keys. It was destroyed, I think. And the harp that houses my daughter now has been stolen, as you saw. That we will recover.”


“Oh?” Clara said. “That was your daughter?”

“Yes,” Solomon sighed, examining the broken fiddle. “The harp was made for an old crow of a woman, I disremember her name. An angel fell out of that very cabinet and stole her away, I know not to what purpose. Either way, her soul rests now with the lord. At least my key was retrieved from the girl with the shaven head.”


“What happened to her?” Clara asked, looking up a little too suddenly. She tried not to breathe under his scrutinizing gaze. He picked up a piece of the fiddle, eyeing it.


“I suspect her to be dead,” he said. “Not that her life was of much consequence. Now. To war.”


“Right,” Clara said, and tried not to show how deep her heart had fallen in her chest. For a moment, she’d truly hoped, and it had been a mistake.


The ghosts shivered and moved away from Solomon as he stalked around the room, and as he tapped his fingers on the desk, the strings and keys of his orchestra echoed in the pale light. Best to wait for the right moment, Clara decided.


He reminded her of the Rathbones—a solemn patriarch, stooped and hateful. He would have one more thing in common with them soon, she hoped. He would be dead.



Interlude 1 - That Is Not Dead Which Is Napping

I find humans are often limited by their own general brevity. You are like mayflies, or spring beetles, awake for a week and gone into nothingness. This gives you tragically little perspective when dealing with things like me—things you are forced to call indescribable. You come across a vault of cosmic stone that has not been opened in a million years and immediately you think ‘tomb’. But that is the difference between us. Rarely do we die, but we love to sleep, and your entire civilization might rise and fall in the time it takes for a single dream. A cool, secure place to rest, with a heavy door to keep the noise out, is not a tomb but a bedroom.


Suffice it to say, if you come across a door that seems like it hasn’t been opened in centuries, give it some more time. That is not dead which is napping, and woe upon you if you wake something up from a sleep that has lasted strange aeons. Be wary even of doors in your own home that you haven’t gone through in a while. These things do change sometimes without warning. If you think they don’t, well. You haven’t been around long enough to notice.


We go now to a thing long dead, entombed in a leather jacket.




Story 2 - An Empty Jacket Pocket

Diggory sat in their room, back to the bed, staring at the charcoal pictures of badgers on the wall. Tomorrow. Just a little more waiting. And yet, every moment was torture, an empty agony that they bore without speaking. No needle could coax a sensation from their stitched skin, but the dread hunger beneath their ribs was excruciating.


If it was not tomorrow, just a few hours left really, then they would march up and confront Solomon on their own, and either win Percy back or be unmade entirely. Either fate would be better than this slow scraping of the hours.


They huddled in their jacket, itself a prison. The destiny bound to them by Irene Mend had never seemed so heavy as after meeting Leyland and the others. Was that really all they had been made for? A servant in the garden? Someone to dig a grave for an old woman, and left alone to drift?


And yet, that little embroidered tag held their name, and the spikes kept the outside world at bay, and it was comforting around their shoulders. It would have been all right with Percy’s familiar key in their pocket.


Tomorrow.


A sunset and a sunrise away.


Could they really follow Riot into battle? It was odd to think about, and they flexed their sharp fingers. They were always so controlled, but for Percy they would tear an army apart without flinching. That scared them.


There was a sound from outside that reverberated in the air and shook the marbled glass windows, and immediately Diggory stood. It was the thunder of the cloud person in flight. Solomon was here. It was too soon. Was he here for Riot or Zelda, Diggory thought as they dashed outside? Or to finish off Diggory, undo all the stitches Walt had been so careful to repair?


They emerged into the late sun, hands spread like knives and ready to kill.


It was them.


Blue hair, strange eyes, the intricately embroidered cape. It seemed to be missing some of its clouds. In their hands, they held a harp, and they set it down in the gravel beside the fire pit. Immediately, Bern was shouting with a crossbow aimed at the stranger, and Violet was screaming, and combat scouts with carved spears were pouring into the yard.


Bern struck the stranger in the back of the head with her crossbow, and they vanished beneath the crowd and were taken away, but Diggory had lost track of the noise, and had stopped completely.


Percy was standing in the Scoutpost courtyard, a few feet away, and flashes of light illuminated him as he looked up. There were new clothes in his form—a collared shirt and sweater to replace the old tattered dress.


Without thinking, Diggory threw their arms around him, and Percy was all too real, holding weight against Diggory’s hands, electric light crawling against their body, blazing in Diggory’s hands and against their lips.


“Are you alright?” Diggory asked, and Percy’s head was against their shoulder, tears smoldering in their jacket. They put a hand carefully into the boy’s hair, although they were not sure if you could cut a ghost, no matter how bright he burned.


“I am now,” Percy whispered.


The feeling in them made Diggory want to sit down, as if there was a beating heart beneath their stitches, as if all their bones were going to come apart. Percy was back. He was safe. He was in their arms. Beyond them, the blue-haired person was being taken into the dark room on the far side where Bern once had questioned them both.


“I have been writing many words for what I would say to you, if I saw you again,” Diggory said. “But I forget all of them just now.”


“I missed you,” Percy said, and looked up. “I’m in a harp now.”


“I noticed,” Diggory said, and although Percy was beginning to return into soft light, Diggory acted as if to carry them over to the harp, kneeling down beside it.


“Your father did not make another piano?” Diggory said. Small white fragments were set in delicate patterns across the top edge; Diggory realized this must be what was left of Percy’s piano key.


“If he was going to make an effort I think he would have started before now,” Percy said. Diggory nodded.


“We will get you free of this.”


“Obviously,” Percy said.


“Hey, what’s going on?” Riot called, and Diggory watched as she burst from her room by the infirmary and almost tripped down the ramp. She picked herself up, and ran up to Diggory. Percy shone like a flashlight, and she stared at him in wonder. “You’re back? You’re back! Well, back as in… here. Hi.”


“Olivier brought me here,” Percy said.


“Who’s Olivier?” Riot said.


“The blue-haired person, with the cape. The one that was kidnapping you when we met,” Diggory added.


“The one who literally cut you apart? The one who ruined our rescue mission? That one?” Riot said, her mood darkening instantly.


“Is Walt really gone?” Percy winced.


“You know who to thank,” Riot said. “Where are they now?”


“I think Bern is questioning them,” Diggory said.


“By the way,” Percy said, turning to Riot. “Your girlfriend… she was named Clara, wasn’t she?”


“Yeah,” Riot said, her eyes widening. “Did you… see her?”


“Kind of,” Percy said. “She’s not an instrument, don’t worry. But… it’s kind of worse? I think she works for my dad.”


“Oh,” Riot said. “That… that doesn’t make sense. Clara with the glasses?”


“And the ghost dog? Yeah.” Percy nodded. “Also, Olivier goes by she/her pronouns, but I think it changes. Maybe we’re supposed to ask.”


“Great,” Riot said. “They’ll look real nice on her tombstone.”


“We will let Bern question for a start,” Diggory said. “Perhaps Solomon has lost an ally?”


“She asked if I could put in a good word for her,” Percy said.


“What’s that doing here?” a voice shrieked from the infirmary balcony. Diggory had tried to avoid Zelda; she’d been in bed for most of her time at the Scoutpost, and Violet had said she needed a break before coming face-to-face with a walking corpse. Nevertheless, she wasn’t pointing at Diggory, but at the harp. Her frizzy hair blew in the wind.


“This is Percy,” Diggory called up.


“That’s a death harp,” Zelda called back. “For my bones, that’s what he said. Is Solomon back? I’ll get my shotgun.”


“No, he’s not back, Miss Duckworth,” Riot called up, and looked at Percy urgently. “Right?”


“Not yet,” Percy said. “Soon. He’s been working on an organ at an old church somewhere. He wants to wipe out the whole Scoutpost.”


“Not before we get to him,” Riot said. “Tomorrow morning I’m going out there, and the Scoutpost too, and… some of Walt’s old friends, I hope. Percy, I’m so sorry, and I don’t know you like that well, and this sounds really weird. But I’m going to try and kill your dad.”


Percy nodded quietly. “I know. I think he has to go. He does awful things to people and I don’t think there’s a way to make him stop. I’ve tried. I really have. So. Do what you have to do I guess.”


Riot nodded. “Okay.”


“Be careful of the instruments, though,” Percy said. “They’re like me. Even the scary ones. They’re like that because he hurt them. I think most of them would be happy if the whole place burned down, but I don’t know for sure.”


“Save instruments, maybe,” Riot said. “Gotcha.”


Bern came walking out from her makeshift interrogation shed, a grim look on her face. “Riot? I need to talk with you a moment.”


As they walked away, Diggory picked up the harp gently, brushed a pointed finger against its strings.


“Thank you for coming back for me, Diggory,” Percy said in their ear.


“Always,” Diggory said, and carried the harp into the afternoon.




Marketing - Let's Talk About Death

Lady Ethel Mallory: Welcome back to marketing with Lady Ethel Mallory. By this time in the course, there are only six of you left. Well done on making it this far.


Let’s talk about death for a moment. In several of her songs, 20’s singer Valerie Maidstone—and others, but she remains a prime example—would call our Dreaming Boxes coffins; compare us to tombs or mausoleums. This is the opposite of the brand image we need to present.


In a sense, they’re not wrong. Most Dreaming Pods are eight feet by three; the Dreaming Box silent even at full operation, and our ideal customers are born, live, and die here. But for a customer, their experience is anything but grave.


What they see is color and light, friends and family. They will never walk out of the Dreaming Box, but they’ll enjoy every moment for the rest of their long lives—and even if they didn’t ask for it, it’s what they want in the end, isn’t it? It’s more than you or I will ever be able to…




Story 2, Continued - An Empty Jacket Pocket

Enjoy your lights and stories and distractions, dreamers of the Botulus Corporation. You cannot hear my voice, but know that we who watch from outside see rows of boxes within boxes, and the last of your kind withering away as the stars leave their trails in the sky.


We return now to Diggory Graves.


“Are you ready?” Diggory said.


“Please,” Percy replied.


Diggory dragged their fingertips across the delicate carvings in the wood, flowers and scrolls and birds, and caught on the edge of the largest bone fragment. They exerted a little pressure, and the framing wood cracked, and the chip came loose. It was placed into an empty licorice tin donated by Bern.


There were many eyes watching them from around the fire—Bern and Violet, holding each other’s hands, Riot with her sword propped up in front of her, Zelda with her hair like smoke, and Olivier, taking small bites of a meat skewer. There was a blue shine in her eyes, and Zelda glared at Olivier suspiciously. Jonah and Hector stood by the bonfire, grilling dinner.


“You’re sure this piece is all you need?” Diggory said.


“Yeah,” Percy said, sitting on the edge of the fire, his head in the flames. “Burn the rest.”


Diggory nodded, and picked up the harp, placing it in the fire. The flames were slow to seize it, but soon the embers crawled along the delicate carvings, withering their images, and the strings buckled and warped in the heat. One by one, the threads of light streaming from Percy’s sleeves snapped and went dark.


“Does it hurt?” Diggory asked.


“No,” Percy said. “It feels good.”


Percy closed his eyes and leaned back into the fire, a shock rippling across him with every broken string. The harp was a charred skeleton, and finally broke into embers. Only one string remained, spilling into the tin resting on Diggory’s knee.


“I’m really glad you’re back, Percy,” Riot spoke up, twisting the point of her sword in the gravel. “Diggory’s been worried.”


“I have certainly been worried,” Diggory said.


“And tomorrow morning… it’s going to be different,” Riot continued. “I don’t know if anyone will show up. I don’t know the names of all Walt’s friends, or even if they could understand me. But I’m going to be there. And I think only me or Solomon will be walking away.”


“I’m going,” Percy said, opening his eyes and leaning out of the fire. “I might be able to… distract him, or something.”


“Are you sure?” Diggory said. “I am sure seeing him again will be unpleasant for you.”


Percy nodded sharply. “It is. But it might be the last time.”


“It’s rough, losing your dad,” Jonah said, depositing a plate of skewers on the edge of the fire pit. “Mine got lost in the forest out here. We weren’t super close towards the end, but I still miss him now and again.”


Zelda coughed, and cleared her throat. “We shouldn’t talk too much about what we’re doing. His little friend is sitting right there.” She pointed to Olivier.


Olivier raised a hand and a meat skewer defensively. “I’m not his friend. He’s been horrible to me too, though not quite as bad as to you, Zelda. I’m going to help us get rid of him.”


“You’re a liar,” muttered Zelda.


“She’s not lying,” Jonah said, and he and Zelda exchanged glances. Jonah’s eyes had a shine of their own.


“Okay,” Riot clenched her teeth. “Well, most of us will be rallying at the main entrance… I think. I should have clarified that in my speech. Olivier, whatever you can do to slow him down.”


Olivier nodded, and put her hands in her lap. “Thank you.”

Diggory examined their own hand; the stitches Walt had put across their palm to repair Olivier’s damage. Percy came floating out of the fire, reducing in brightness until he was just a twist of light in Diggory’s eyes.


“Diggory?” he said. “Will you carry me?”


“Of course,” Diggory said, and put the licorice tin in their pocket. The thread that fled from it was as thin as spiderweb, a loose string from Percy’s sweater sleeve.


“Thank you,” Percy said, and came to rest against Diggory’s chest, although Diggory could not feel it.


“Alright, everyone,” Riot said, standing up, both of her hands on the pommel of Walt’s sword. “So. Here’s my plan.”




Interlude 2 - A Funereal Bouquet

Why do we take it upon ourselves to build homes for the dead? They have no need of marble or star-struck obsidian, for sculptures or hieroglyphic histories. And yet, when we visit, we feel close—if not to the one we grieve, then to their memory. Maybe it’s not too much to ask to have a place for remembering a particular someone.


Better than acting like they never existed at all, like things have always been this quiet, smiling and waving at the gathering of the heavens as if there isn’t an empty chair. The Temple of the End is not much, for a god. I am no architect. But it is something, a reminder set in stone that he was here, and now only memory remains.


But then again, this world itself is a tomb, and perhaps in its own way, so too this hallowed forest, the last bloom of a funereal bouquet and a spring that will never return.


We go now to one who loves the spring.




Story 3 - What Manner of Angel

“Amen,” Solomon said, and let go of Persephone and Abigail’s hands as supper commenced. He smiled weakly. This was the point, wasn’t it? To make a family and raise them up, praise the lord with your days, and have supper.


He began to cut into his meat, but it refused to tear, and he looked down to find it was dripping a black oil that pooled on his plate.


“Abigail, you’ve undercooked this,” he said, but looked up to find that his wife and daughter were staring at him, silent and unblinking.


“Say something,” Solomon said, putting his knife down. “What’s wrong with you both?"


But he knew immediately what was wrong with them. Persephone’s lips were sewn shut, and the back of Abigail’s head was missing. Solomon shouted and stumbled back in his chair, and tipped over into infinite shadow, and knew that the darkness was holy.


Then he was a watcher on the hill, a wise man watching a green star, and there was a burning line of fire in the heavens that streaked across the firmament and set the Scoutpost ablaze.


“Yes lord,” Solomon said as the screams began. “Soon. Very soon.”


He turned, and there was a crack of thunder, and Irene Mend was inches away from his face, eyeless and hungry…


“Master Reed,” she said.


Solomon opened his eyes in the darkness of his chambers, and a flash of lightning lit up one of the servants standing over his bed, staring with wide white eyes.


“Master Reed,” it said.


Solomon rubbed at his eyes, and put on his glasses from the nightstand, and sat up. “It is early, and you are not supposed to be in my house. What is it?”


“There is a visitor,” it said, a stitched face pale in the next flash of lightning.


“Send them away,” Solomon said. “Or kill them. Why is this such a difficult task for you all to grasp?”


“We cannot,” it said. “He will not be sent away. He demands to speak with you.”


Solomon escaped the bed with some difficulty, pulling on decent clothes and his new coat. He felt for everything in his pockets; all as it should be. He tucked the conductor’s wand up his sleeve, and clicked the locket with the photographs of Abigail and Persephone around his neck.


“I said to kill intruders from now on,” Solomon grumbled, fixing his tie. “Scrambled, pointless brutes. For a long while I thought Irene had discovered some great secret, some genius of life to make you all. I see now her work was half-finished at best. Babylon the great, an old woman with an eye for evil and a tongue for deceit.”


“She saw through your lies,” it said, and Solomon turned to face it.


“What did you say?”


There was a cry from outside, then… someone shouting his name.


“Today is the day,” Solomon said, slipping on shoes and allowing his hair to spill down over his shoulders. “Today is the day I dismantle you all.”


He descended the stairs and opened the front door, and stepped onto the porch. The sun had not yet begun to rise, and he could barely see, but a tongue of lightning flashed high over the wall of trees and lit up the scene before him.


The rain fell all around, but the ground around Solomon’s house was perfectly dry. What caught Solomon’s attention the most was the figure standing in front of the tunnel mouth, standing bright against the wall of pines that enclosed his grounds.


“Solomon,” the figure called, and there was a flash of green light from its eyes, and Solomon recognized it instantly. He fell to lean against the porch rail, and the world beneath him seemed to tremble.


It was the angel; the ashen and terrible herald that had walked out of the heavens from his cabinet, and spirited Zelda away.


“Solomon,” the voice continued, “your day has come. It’s done. You can come out unarmed and this will be peaceful. If you don’t, we’ll drag you out of that house.”


“I do not understand,” Solomon called back, shielding his eyes from the green light. “I have much work left to do. In a dream not moments ago, the Darkness made his will known to me. It cannot be my time to die.”


“Come out with your hands up, Solomon.”


Solomon squinted through the sheet of rain, his breath fogging up his glasses. The man was wearing a yellow hat and boots, and Solomon remembered his truck had been stolen. What manner of angel had need of earthly transportation?


Solomon dug his nails into the porch rail. He had been deceived. Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, and leads astray the holy with his words.


“I know what you are,” Solomon shouted, whipping the conductor’s wand from his sleeve. “You shall deceive no more, servant of the fire.”


He flicked his wrist, and his orchestra stirred into glorious song, and ghosts poured out of the doorway of his house, racing through the air like hornets, leaving trails of light in the downpour.


The music in his mind soared, cellos and violins singing bright as the ghosts descended on the false angel, and he screamed as he was torn apart by their holy hands. The stranger fell to the ground, and the smoke in his flesh was quickly put out by the rain.


Solomon nodded, lowering his wand, and the spirits drifted back. “Truly the devil grows bold lately. My organ cannot be completed soon enough,” he said to the sky, and turned to go inside.


“Solomon,” a voice called, and Solomon whirled around.


The angel was there, eyes shining with light like a prophet, standing beside the fallen body. There were no rends in his yellow jacket, no tears in his flesh. He stepped over the corpse towards Solomon.


“Impossible,” Solomon said, and turned to the servant standing inside the door. “Send a message to the Vicar. Tell him I require his help urgently. Bring the box. Bring the whole congregation.”


He turned back to the risen stranger.


“You have no purchase here, devil. This is sacred ground,” he called, and jabbed his wand in the stranger’s direction. The ghosts whirled again, a storm of pale crows, and carried him into the air, twisting him apart like breaking bread. He fell over the remains of the first, and the rain began to wash his blood into the stones.


And yet, Solomon looked up, and again the angel stood with holy light burning in his eyes, peacefully over the remains of the first two.


“Like I said, Solomon,” the angel said, and as he did, he raised his hands, and his voice was thunder in the mountains, and the stars seemed to burn so bright they lit up the storm clouds above, shining down like the green light of heaven.


“This is the end. You’ve hurt my ma, my friends, too many good people to count over the years. This is not your forest. We do not want you here. Solomon, this is the end.”


The figure turned, and walked through the rain into the tunnel, vanishing into shadow. The torn corpses stared with empty eyes at Solomon from the drive. There was an explosion then, the whole world seared white as lightning connected with Solomon’s house, and he cried out and fell over the porch rail into the mud beyond. His vision spun with afterimages, and the windows of his bedroom had been shattered, a black crater in the roof that smoldered at the edges.


And then there was the sound of a trumpet, and then the very sky pealed with shouts as if a host of heaven rode into battle, and all the world had gathered together outside his walls. Then the storm truly began.



Outro - Tombs

Tombs. I’ve spent a great deal of time in them, but then again, we’ve all chosen tombs of our own making. In little boxes your kind works and lives and dies, and after a life spent sheltered from the sky, your body will spend the next few centuries just the same, and memory is quick to forget both.


Do not mourn me when I am gone, dreamers, although there are few listening to this broadcast that might outlive me. Do not let my memory be some thing in a box which you will visit once in an aeon. My remains are thoughts and feelings, a moment years from now when you remember a turn of phrase, a brief smile for a story you once heard.


Until only the echoes of my voice remain, I am your loyal host, Nikignik, waiting mortuarily for your return to the Hallowoods.





The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Hunting Time', 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!