Content warnings for this episode include: Ableism, Animal death (Bert, Tulip), Death + Injury, Homophobia, Birds, Emotional Manipulation, Body horror, Smoking, Religious Violence
Intro - No Lines
You always forget your lines, and only when the scene is long past do you remember what you were supposed to say. Is it your fault, you wonder? You have hardly been given a script… but then again, those who stand on the stage beside you know theirs by heart, so natural in their delivery that you would think it was real.
But it is real, isn’t it? All of it. Your life is not supposed to be a performance, you know, and when they say ‘ are you excited’ or ‘comfort me’ or ‘I love you’, they are speaking from no script.
And yet, you do not know your lines, and you are left stuttering as the acts collapse, one by one, until every star and stage are gone. The world left behind the velvet curtains is gigantic, the trees darker than any matte painting. You cannot find the words to greet it, but the forest does not mind, and bids you in turn Hello From The Hallowoods.
Right now I’m standing on a scenic overlook. Rain and chill snow have crumbled the concrete, dissolved the roads, and yet here you may sit and enjoy the landscape—a forest of towering trees, the red of their bark darker with each passing year, and great mountains rising on all sides. It is on a road, here, where a shining red convertible comes finally to a stop. The theme of tonight’s episode is Lines.
Story 1 - End of the Line
Diggory Graves wondered if they had been steadily shrinking over the last day. From the flat white horizons of the desert, hills had risen into mountains that soared in each direction around their little van. The winding road they followed led through banks of gigantic trees, thicker and taller than those of the Hallowoods by orders of magnitude. From the edge of the road, it almost looked as though you could step into an ocean of leaves, and descend into a sea of dark foliage, mountains like distant islands. It all made Diggory feel quite small.
And yet, Ray had come to a stop ahead. Riot looked over to them, and unstrapped the sword from the back of her chair.
“Do you think we’re here?” she said.
“If not, we are at least close,” Diggory said. They caught a glimpse of Percy, hanging in the air outside, and they opened the door to the wind.
In the back, Olivier and Moth roused from sleeping on each other. It had been good to see Moth getting any sleep at all; although Diggory required none, for moth it seemed important.
“We’ve stopped?” Moth said from the back, as Olivier shook himself awake.
“Looks like it,” Riot said. “Let’s go see what’s out there.”
Diggory joined Riot in disembarking the RV, and the earth swam beneath their feet after so much driving. Cracked rock ledges rose up on one side of the road, and on the other, a viewing platform of broken concrete protruded over a canopy of black leaves that fell into ravines and valleys below.
“Ray? What’s up?” Riot called, fixing the sword around her shoulder as she walked with Diggory across the asphalt.
The automobile did not turn to face them, but gave a low rumble from his engine as they drew near.
“This is the end of the line,” he said. “I can’t see all that far, but you should be able to spot Box Andromeda from here.”
Riot glanced up to the horizon, and nodded. Sure enough, between two of the distant peaks, there was a silver glint over the forest.
“Is that really it?” Riot said. “Wow. The roads don’t get any closer?”
“Box Andromeda doesn’t have a road in,” the automobile said. “It’s in the middle of a national park. You kids sure you know what you’re doing?”
“No. Yeah. That makes sense. I mean, we know,” Riot said. Diggory was not sure she did. Their plan, then—the rush they had prepared for at Box Polaris—would be impossible.
Behind them, Olivier and Moth climbed out of the RV onto the road, stretching.
Moth had not filled them in entirely on the dispute with the scavengers in Vegas—old acquaintances, Diggory guessed. I hope the other Mendies never think of me that way, Diggory thought. Moth had been quite withdrawn since, though from the encounter or the bad dreams, Diggory was not sure. It seemed the sleeping medications at least made for better rest.
Olivier stretched, and glanced at the sky of curling clouds above.
“So this is the end of our journey,” Diggory said, looking to the others.
“Just the first half,” Riot said.
“It’s the end for me,” Ray said. “Moth, you wanna get your things together?”
Moth looked up in surprise, red glasses shining in the low sun.
“Oh—we’re not waiting for them?”
Ray did a three-point turn, coming to face them with his empty windshield.
“Listen,” Ray said. “It’s been dandy meeting you all. Especially you, Percy; I wish half the poltergeists I’d met were half as chipper. But you’re about to whack a hornet’s nest with a bat. Maybe you can outrun ‘em. I’ll have my metaphorical fingers crossed for ya. But when the hive comes crashing down, I don’t wanna be standing in your backyard.”
Moth glanced between Ray and the group, a series of troubled emotions crossing moth’s face.
“I understand,” Riot said. “Thank you for showing us the way. I don’t think we would have made it here without you.”
“I could…” Moth began to speak, and put a fist to moth’s mouth, trailing off again.
“Listen. Moth,” Ray said, pivoting a little towards the young wasteland survivor. “I can’t force you to come with me. Wouldn’t if I could. But I hope you will. I know Vegas ain’t home, and neither is Chicago, but you’re welcome to stay with me—my home’s the open road. If this is where we part ways, I understand. But once you make up your mind, it’s a sealed deal. I won’t be back this way anytime soon. Whaddya say? You wanna keep rolling with old Ray?”
“While we’re at it with the goodbyes,” Riot spoke up. The wind whispered through the forest below them, and she shivered. “Olivier, Diggory, Percy? Thank you for getting me this far. But it’s not going to be safe from here. I don’t know if I’ll come back. We could get lasered or shot up full of bad dreams or made to star in Botco commercials. So if you want to leave now, you should. And I’ll understand.”
“I mean, you don’t have any kind of chance without me,” Olivier said. “This is what I’m here for. I’m staying.”
Diggory looked over to Percy, who stood as a whisper of light beside Ray. Diggory did not speak, but they hoped the question in their expression was clear.
Are we prepared to do this?
At the risk of being torn apart, or burned to cinders, or caught in a labyrinth of metal halls, do we keep walking?
Percy gave a solemn nod, hair floating in curls around his head.
“Percy and I will stay,” Diggory said.
“Then I guess that’s it,” Moth said, coming out of the RV with moth’s bag of things over moth’s shoulder. “Thank you, everyone, for taking care of me these last weeks. I’m sorry about Vegas. You’ve been wonderful. I hope this goes well for you.”
“Are you going to be alright?” Diggory asked.
“The meds help. I’ll be fine,” Moth said, with a tired smile, and moth walked for Ray, and the passenger door popped open.
“Speaking of hornets,” Moth said. “There’s a moth here that almost looks like one—it’s a sequoia pitch moth. They almost look like a hornet, or a yellowjacket, but they’re a moth. It looks like I won’t get to see one. So keep an eye out for me.”
Goodbyes come in strange shapes, Diggory thought, as moth pulled the door shut, and Ray revved his engine.
“Safe travels, kids,” Ray crackled. “See you around the bend.”
The automobile rolled past them, and around the corner of the highway, and was gone, a little hum in the distance vanishing into the wind.
“Kitty? Get away from there,” Olivier said, looking back to find Nimbus poking his head out of the open door of the RV.
“I think it’s alright,” Percy said, raising a glowing hand. Olivier looked up at him, and Riot in turn. “We may not be back. We can’t leave him trapped in the RV.”
“But…” Olivier said.
“I believe Percy is correct,” Diggory said.
“You be good now,” Olivier sighed, kneeling down to pet the tabby as it padded onto the asphalt. “You can hang around if you like. We’ll be back.”
“Yeah,” Riot said, squatting to scratch between the cat’s ears a last time. “Definitely. See you around, stinky.”
Nimbus sniffed in disapproval, and walked out across the road with a solemn dignity, and slunk down into the forest beyond.
“It had no great love for me,” Diggory said. “Yet I am sad to see the cat go.”
“That’s normal,” Percy said, close by their ear. “Me too.”
“Well,” Riot said, and slapped the scarred metal of the RV. “Grab your stuff, folks. We’re going camping.”
Interlude 1 - Broken Borders
America is a country of broken lines. The highways that once led in tangled threads from one side to the other are cracked in the middle, and too often now do their ends leave off in broken expectation, final destinations swallowed by a different line—the rising ocean, steadily claiming more of the world above, drinking the blood of cities and coastal towns, sending their inhabitants inward to new beaches and shambling villages built from the wreck.
Broken is the border between countries—at least here, where the Botulus Corporation’s wings spread wide to encompass the continent, whose draining probosces bled dry what little resolve still remained in your rulers. What would your world look like, I wonder, if they had been as successful in other places?
We go now to one who stands at a broken line.
Story 2 - The Bones of Coney Island
“The Count said to wait for nightfall,” Yaretzi said. Beside her, Polly watched the water and ground the tip of his cane into the stone. Beyond them, Tulip and Crane stood headless—the moss-encrusted body of a park ranger sitting on a horse as verdant as a lake floor. The duo—or had they grown to become one?—had not moved in several minutes, and Yaretzi guessed that despite the ruin ahead of them, they had arrived.
A city, really, had been washed into the shoreline of mud and gravel, and formed a beach of junk and odd objects. In the distant water, the tips of a few skyscrapers still protruded from the black ocean, like lighthouses proclaiming sorrow to the sea. And, here on the beach, there were heaps of rusted carnival attractions and salvaged signage, a reclaimed ferris wheel on its side. The bones of Coney Island, laid to inglorious rest.
“This is amazing!” Mort yelled, stomping across the beach, bottles and briefcases and bowling pins cracking beneath his boots. Bert the seagull soared above him, squawking in the wind. There were other gulls here, too, clearing away in droves as Mort dashed towards them.
“Let me ask if this is even the right place,” Polly muttered, and stepped up to their headless guide. He made some words with his hands, and Crane responded in kind, stiff fingers speaking as the horse’s pale eye watched Yaretzi.
“So the real Coney Island is underwater,” Polly grumbled, returning after a moment. “This is the wreckage. The detritus. You know. All the bits that they hauled away for posterity. You didn’t give that Count anything, did you? Because his ‘secret information’ is rubbish.”
“He said to wait until nightfall,” Yaretzi repeated, and grew a little more like a wolf as she laid down on the beach, found a comfortable way to rest among the peeling taxi parts and newspaper pulp.
“You know what garbage transforms into at night? Garbage in the dark,” Polly huffed, and flicked a cigarette into his fingers with a rustle of sparks. He lit it with a fiery sigh, and began to pace over the beach.
“You should relax,” Yaretzi growled gently. “Do your yoga. We have a few hours left.”
“We’re idiots,” Polly breathed, a wisp of smoke escaping his lips as he looked to Yaretzi and the grim horse. “Don’t you get it? It was a joke. One big prank. Best case scenario, he’s wasting your time out of spite. Because otherwise, he’s waiting for night so he can ambush you. The darkness is his friend as much as the sun is yours.”
Yaretzi sighed deeply, and laid her head on her paws. Sleeping as a wolf felt as though she were wrapped in a fur blanket. An impervious, glorious blanket.
“You sat and filed audits in the underworld for centuries,” Yaretzi said. “I expect you can entertain yourself for an afternoon.”
Polly stopped pacing and sat down beside her. The fire in his breath was demon flame; sweet spice to her lungs.
“This was supposed to be it,” he whispered. “Our big thing. Our celebration. And it’s all ruined. I mean really, when you think about it, how many carnivals are there at all? Maybe this is all that’s left. Maybe it’s all just dead.”
“Mort is enjoying himself,” Yaretzi said. Mort meanwhile had found most of a carousel, and pushed against a cavalcade of ponies and hounds and long-necked birds. The entire parade spun, grinding along in a laborious circle.
“But there’s no lights,” Polly sniffed. “Or music or anything. For once I just… didn’t want to worry. You know? That’s what a carnival is for. To forget for a little while.”
“Are you sure this is just about a carnival?” Yaretzi said. Polly’s hat was in his lap, and his horns flickered brightly. He blew out another puff. In the distance, Mort leaped on to the carousel, whirring around several times before sliding off into a heap of garbage.
“I suppose it’s all just catching up with me,” he said. “The stress. Watching our backs all the time. And carnival or no carnival, I still have no idea what we’re doing here. What we’re doing with the rest of our lives, Yaretzi. I know how to walk, and complete business objectives, and do audits. I don’t know anything about… having cohorts.”
“Cohorts?” Yaretzi said.
“A family,” said Polly, and crossed his arms over his knees.
“I do,” Yaretzi said, and nudged the shoulder of his suit with her great nose. “And it is not always running, always chasing. There is no mission, except to enjoy the time you have together. It is not always easy or pleasant. Sometimes families annoy each other more than anyone else in the world. But when the rain comes, you find shelter. And when the sun shines, you lay on a stone and feel its warmth. Seasons bring plants and flowers and birds. You laugh together, and dance, and make art and music, and build a home to welcome others. This life can be whatever we make it, Apollyon.”
“I suppose so,” Polly said, and rubbed a smoldering tear from his face. “Whatever we make it.”
He looked down at the cane in his lap, and she started as he began to laugh, a chuckling peal that echoed across the beach. It did not quiet, but grew into a hysterical howl.
This is it, Yaretzi thought. I’ve broken him entirely. The dead horse shifted slightly, surprised by the sound. Polly’s laughter drew Mort away from his carousel, and he came shuffling towards them through the debris, red armor shining in the afternoon sun.
“I cannot tell if you are weeping or amused,” Yaretzi said.
“Whatever we want,” Polly choked out, and he got up to his feet, and lifted his cane in his hand. Embers seemed to flicker in the contours of its polished handle. “I’ve been carrying around a jolly old wellspring of power here. For what? We’ve been looking all this time for a carnival. Well. Let’s have a carnival.”
He gave the cane a twirl, and light and fire spun from its wooden surface, and all the beach was blanketed in rapturous light.
Marketing - Waiting Periods
Lady Ethel: It is easier than it has ever been to arrange for contact and entry to your local Dreaming Box. For first adopters, it was a much more challenging process! Despite our best efforts, we simply weren’t prepared for the demand as our first Dreaming Boxes nationwide opened doors. The onset of the Black Rains, the increasingly apparent effects of climate change, global conflicts, and public health emergencies made the Prime Dream a perfect product solution for its time.
To make matters even more difficult for us, some of our Dreaming Boxes have limited road access, ensuring scenic views and a safe distance away from local urban areas. On minimum, a clear half-mile allows for our box security to see any potential threats coming. This made for longer waiting periods as the first customers…
Story 2, Continued - The Bones of Coney Island
I do not begrudge those who have joined a Dreaming Box, dreamer. In many ways, they have done the most reasonable thing imaginable—laid aside their troubles for a little sleep. I have, at times, done the same. I am glad, however, that you have not joined their slumbering ranks just yet. You and I are both still awake to witness these last moments of your kind play out, and I hope we find beauty, terrifying, inevitable, thrilling awe in the end. You are braver than I, I think. For when it passes, I will still have my eyes open, and you will not.
We return now to Yaretzi.
Yaretzi rose in wonder, lights dancing in her eyes. Music caught in her ears, the clattering melodies of street organs and carousels, electric games and blaring announcements. Sideshows and games of chance, prizes and strongmen, striped tents and cotton candy machines blanketed the beach, and above all towered a ferris wheel, blinking with radiant patterns of rainbow color.
“Are you doing all of this?” Yaretzi whispered. Polly still stood beside her, although the detritus beneath their feet had become weathered wooden boards that stretched out to the sea. “How?”
“I’m burning a little fire,” Polly said; the head of his cane poured with flame, dissolving into the fantastic lights of the carnival as if carried by the wind. His eyes shone with embers, and his horns were bright and tall. “Just this once.”
Tulip and Crane turned from them, and the headless rider waved briefly as the horse trotted away from the uproar of lights, and vanished into the blackened trees, a duty complete. Polly waved goodbye, and Yaretzi did the same, although in truth she was happy to see the horse go.
“What’s going on?” Mort said, the boardwalk straining under his weight. “There’s so many lights!”
“This,” Polly grinned, rainbow lights in his burning eyes, “is a carnival. Come on, Mort. Let’s go have some fun.”
Polly walked for the carnival, and led Mort excitedly into the glowing attractions. Yaretzi followed for a while, following from one sparkling ride to the next. The carnival was full of shadows, ideas of people that ran attractions and games and sat on ride seats which they never disembarked. The spectacle was joyous, but a mote of caution still lurked in her heart—what did this cost? The boards beneath her feet, and the twirling rides that made the wind fly in her hair and her ears, and the melodies that echoed across the black ocean? Surely it was power like the gods themselves, and there was a frenzy in Polly’s burning eyes that frightened her.
The night fell, but the bones of Coney Island were buried beneath a brand new theater of wonder, a carnival the likes of which New York had not seen in decades. Had she really slept through the age of such beauty, the age of butter and popped corn and candy and sawdust, machine oil and perfume? She fell behind Polly and Mort after a while, and sought out some fresh air, eying the great wheel of thrones that spun over the carnival. After all, she had never been on a ferris wheel.
Excitement ran through her at the first lurch of the basket, rocking as she climbed aboard and pulled the safety bar to her waist. Apprehension and thrill ran in furry waves across her arms and back, but it was best to be small here—a wolf was a difficult thing to fit on a ferris wheel bench.
The breeze seized her, and as the wheel turned, she was lifted into the wind. Other indistinct echoes of passengers sat in the buckets above and below, and from here she could see the dazzling lights glinting on the dark ocean, on the skyscraper skeletons in the far horizon. Music like crowing birds echoed below as she rose, and the wind whipped around her with the exhilarating rush of the sea.
Below her, she could see Polly and Mort at a game—Mort hit a lever of some kind with his claw, and rung the bell at the top of a high-striker. The prize was a gigantic stuffed toy that resembled Bert. Polly gave her a wave, and she returned it, and laid back in her chair as it ascended into the night sky. She had rarely been quite so high up, and kept a hand firm on the guard rail, a scant assurance for the height.
When her chair reached the top of the wheel, the movement stopped, leaving her for a moment at the peak. The forest spread out on one side into marshy pools and clearings, and on the other, the ocean of lights. All the carnival’s glory was below her hanging feet, and above her, a field of stars.
“I am sorry,” she whispered to the heavens. “If you are still there. If you still listen. You asked me to slay the demons that plagued this earth. And I have. But one still remains, and if that means my duty is not complete, then so be it. I will not run in the light of all suns with you. I will run here, on the earth, for the days I have left. When I am done, I hope you will think brightly of me, and allow me to join your multitude. But if not, then I ask you only to remember me. That for a while, death had a name, and it was Yaretzi.”
“I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but it’s very touching,” a voice said by her side. Immediately a chill wind ran up her spine, and she was a wolf far too big for the ferris wheel bench. She held onto the rails with great clawed hands, and snarled at the black-cloaked figure squeezed against her.
“Why are you here?” Yaretzi growled, and the Countess frowned, trying to keep fur away from her face. “Has Barb come to run unwinnable games?”
“More or less,” the Countess said. There was an urgency in the woman’s eyes that gave Yaretzi pause, and she breathed deeply, tried to release the wolf again, shrink down enough to sit beside the Countess comfortably.
“Listen. Starwolf,” the Countess said. “I’m here to do you a favor. But no one can know I was here. If they do, I’ll find a way to make you regret it. Do you understand?”
Yaretzi examined the cold woman, nails and lips red as with the blood of wolves. You ask to trust me, she thought, when you are without trust entirely?
“Speak,” Yaretzi growled.
“Alright,” the Countess said, looking down for a moment. The collar of her cloak flexed nervously. “Someone is coming for you. They’ll be here any minute, I think.”
The information hit Yaretzi like a stone dropped from a great height.
“Who is it?” Yaretzi said. “Is it the Industry? Or the Count?”
“The Count?” the Countess said, glancing up. “No. One of them is Barb. Please. If you can help it, don’t kill him. I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing. The other one is a stranger to me, but his name is Rick Rounds.”
Yaretzi would have smiled at the name, but there was no humor in the Countesses’ face.
“Why have you told me this?” Yaretzi said.
“I didn’t,” the Countess said, and shot her a dark glance. “No one did. Remember that.”
With a twist of shadow, a fragment of the night unnatural amidst the glowing bulbs and neons, she was gone.
And then, suddenly, the lights flickered out, and the ferris wheel was no more, and Yaretzi was a hundred feet in the air over a pitch-black beach, and falling into the roaring wind as fire burst across the shore below.
Interlude 2 - Great Destroyers
They live in the burrowed craters of asteroids and scuttle across the starlit expanses, with blazing eyes like black holes and countless chitinous talons. Their carapaces are planetary mantles, their mandibles the reaping-scythes of moldering worlds. They are the astral doom, the dreadnoughts of deep space, and give pause even to those in the Council of Heavens, for these are Great Destroyers, and they are death indescribable.
However, in their younger aeons Great Destroyers are easier to work with, and more pleasant in temperament, and have found utility in various places across this universe. Several have been given shells of comfortable multi-tiered seating, and form the transport of the Heavenly Line, a slow but reliable way to travel through the ruinous stars. Another, almost still a larva, has been adopted by Mx. Morell to host the Museum of Broken Promises. Great Destroyers are friends of the Crown of Decay, for both harvest broken worlds at their end.
We go now to one who would have nightmares about this.
Story 3 - On Tarry Wings
Buck’s eyes stung from the light, but the air was fresh in his lungs, an escape from the stifling dust of the closet. He leaned against the doorframe for support; his joints were on fire and each of his bones held an individual ache.
“Thanks,” Buck said. Jacob made no reply beyond a quick nod, and nodded again to his mother as he left the room.
“I hope you understand why that was necessary, James,” Mrs. Wicker said, kneading bread on a countertop. Her greying hair was tied back, and the light of a stone oven glistened in her eyes.
Buck did not, in fact, understand why his day of discomfort had been necessary, and grit his teeth through the pain of standing.
“I’ve learned my lesson, Mrs. Wicker,” he said. She continued to roll out the dough, and looked up at him.
“And what lesson is that, James?”
Buck swallowed, and tried to hold himself upright.
“Not to go about questionin’ your authority.”
She looked at him, and his heart fell. She turned, and removed a utensil hanging on the wall—a long metal spatula for barbecue. With a fastidious calm, she set the end in the stone oven, and turned back to Buck.
“That isn’t quite right,” she said, and leaned on the counter. “Do you still not understand what you’ve done wrong? I thought the quiet would give you time to speak with god. But if your heart isn’t open, then I suppose it wouldn’t do any good.”
A surge of panic rose in Buck’s chest, although he did not dare let her see it. The spatula in the oven glinted in the ember light.
“Oh it did,” Buck said. “And I have been sinful, and I have been… complacent. But the lord talked to me, he said, listen here, James Buchanan Silver, you been doin’ all sorts of wrong. Mrs. Wicker’s been trying to help you, and all you’ve been doin’ is talkin’ back. You been tempted by a sinful life. But he said, he said to me, if you wanna be with me in heaven, you gotta respect the sacrifice I made for you. You gotta make sacrifices too. And I will, Mrs. Wicker. I’m humbled in my heart.”
Tears streamed down his face, mostly from the pain in his bones. Please, he hoped, let this be what you want to hear.
She stared at him with eyes like hailstones, and the furnace crackled. Finally, a smile stretched her face.
“I’m glad to hear that, James. I’m very glad. The lord humbles us all, in his time. It’s always best to accept it before you lose everything, like Job. I was proud before I lost my husband. But these painful lessons are always for a purpose. Go home, James. Get some rest.”
Buck nodded, and found his cane leaning against the wall, and made for the door.
“Thank you, Mrs. Wicker. Thank you.”
And then it was the blinding world beyond. Fort Freedom stirred around him, an uproar in the late morning. Stolid men gathered weapons and equipment, some of it Scoutpost goods. A convoy of trucks and four-wheelers and the great flatbed sat in front of the gateway, waiting to depart.
Go home, he thought? I will, Mrs. Wicker. I will.
He did not return to his hovel at the far side of the fort, but rather waited for an opening—a brief moment where backs were turned and no one stood around the back of the tarp-covered flatbed. He walked as quickly as he could, every joint a burning coal, and reached the side of the truck. The tarp was tied down here and there, concealing the massive form beneath, although he already knew what it was. With a mighty protestation, he pulled himself up over the edge, pulling his cane after him. It hurt more than anything, but then he was beneath the tarp, laying on his back, gasping quietly for air.
He was half-buried in oily black feathers, and he could feel the gigantic breaths of Frogsticker beside him, almost tucked beneath the gigantic heron’s huge clipped wing.
It croaked, a rumble so deep and terrible that he could feel it shake his body, but it did not twist its javelin beak towards him. Please don’t stick me, he thought. We’re in this together.
There was shouting from outside, then, and Mrs. Wicker’s voice echoing—words of instruction, and of praise, that Buck could barely hear. And then, with a cacophony of roars and hollers, the convoy lurched into motion. Buck wrapped his hands around one of the chains that kept the bird pinioned to the bed, and wept against the black omen as the world beyond the tarp flashed away in a thousand tiny points of light.
Goodbye, he thought. If I live through this, I’ll never go back.
Outro - Lines
Lines. Few things in nature are straight, dreamer. It is easy to imagine construct and boundary, methods of order that make sense of the world around you. Into danger, into forest, into new horizons. But every ill thing, every tree, every mountain is a thousand curves and complexities. A tree is a tree because you call it so, but it does not know itself as a tree—it simply feels, roots growing and stretching in the soil to speak with others, bark that becomes thick and sturdy with each winter, leaves and branches that lift to praise the light and dance in the wind.
If your life is not all that you planned it to be, if your experience has been more complex than the two-dimensional line you wanted, at least stop to feel all that you are feeling. In this moment, you are alive, and that is the only requirement to live. Until every line is broken, I am your loyal host, Nikignik, waiting non-linearly for your return to the Hallowoods.
The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Return Trip', 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!