Content warnings for this episode include: Abuse, Animal death (hit by vehicle), Self-harm and suicide (thoughts implied), Violence, Kidnapping and abduction, Death + Injury, Emotional Manipulation, Bugs, Body horror, Drug Use (sedatives), Electrocution, Needles, Diggory Graves is made of other people
Intro - A World That Still Remembers
The rains do nothing to put out the fire; if anything, they make it worse. You have tried for so long to be brave, to navigate uncertain times with grace, and to find a little happiness in the bleak face of reality. But it rained on your wedding day, and as the black storms roll, new terrors and questions and hate-fueled explanations surge across news networks, fill every channel of thought around you.
# blackrains # chemicalweapons # worldending
You have press conferences and cabinet meetings booked for days, although you hold no answers. They need to hear your voice, asking them to stay calm, not to do anything rash, that this is not the end. Even so, it is not for them, but for your new wife that you worry the most. It is for her that you promise to find the source and destroy it, so that you can live together in a world that still remembers itself.
It is a terrible promise, one that will take everything from you, force you to terrible bargains, lead you to a world that cries Hello From The Hallowoods.
Right now, I am sitting in a well-to-do house in a well-to-do neighborhood. It is almost a mansion, a prize in its own right, a signal of status to an envious world. But in the living room and the office and the empty playroom, black rain falls on the windows, and in the city beyond sirens and shouting voices wail. The theme of tonight’s episode is riots.
Story 1 - Another Grisly Scene
Booker was not prone to awe, or spectacle, or even surprise. The upheavals of life washed over him and left him standing like a rock on the shoreline. It was that even-tempered serenity that had first attracted his wife, and his teachers, and later the Pentagon, and it certainly helped when it came to raising his daughter.
And yet, in this moment, he held his hands together tightly and struggled to breathe.
“Zora,” he called. “Zora, do you have the news on?”
He could barely hear her response over the words crackling from the screen; a pundit in a grey jacket waged a war of words with others dressed in black.
“...don’t know yet if the rains are cause for panic,” he said. “The hyperbole I’ve been exposed to so far has come from this and a few other channels, all of which are owned by the Botulus Corporation. The mass migrations north may very well be an organized movement…”
“You’re saying you don’t believe in the catastrophic reports from eyewitnesses across the country? This is a direct product of our climate…”
“I’m sorry, gentlemen, we’re going to have to cut you off,” an anchor chimed in, “we’ve just received a report from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where another grisly scene related to the rains has played out. Viewers beware, the scene we’re about to show you is deeply disturbing. This, believe it or not, is not a weeks-old body but the remains of Gerald Hilston, who we believe fell into his home swimming pool this morning. Gerald went on a destructive rampage through the next six houses on his block, killing five and injuring four more, and was eventually stopped by local landscaper Walter Pensive. Walter, could you tell…”
“What’s going on?” Zora said from the doorway behind him, and brought him back to the grinding weight of the present.
“It’s happening,” he said. “Get the baby and we’ll…”
“She’s at kindergarten, also not a baby anymore,” Zora said. “What do you mean, ‘it’s happening?’ Which one? Are we at war, did we get nuked, what’s the scenario?”
“It’s chemical,” Booker said, hurrying over to the kitchen table, fishing his laptop from his briefcase. “A weapon or pollution or environmental, I’m not sure. I’ve been pushing action for six months. They haven’t listened. This is it.”
“Booker, you’re acting panicked, and I never see you panicked,” Zora said, and the light of the TV glinted in her round glasses. “Why are you scared of this?”
Booker glanced up; the dead eyes of the decapitated neighbor leered from the television.
“I’m not scared of it,” he said. “I’m scared of other people. That’s why we’re leaving. Now.”
“Leaving?” she said, staring as if trying to fathom a joke. “Leaving where? The house? DC? For my parent’s place or…”
“I have a house,” Booker said, flipping through arrangements; there was hardly a point in liquidating most of his assets, the stock market was in flames.
“And it seems like you’re about to leave it behind,” Zora said, crossing over to the table.
“Not this one, my dear. It’s a place up in Ontario. Off-grid. For emergencies.”
“You own a house you haven’t told me about?” Zora said, and he felt her hand on his chin; he looked up at her desperately.
“You’re being serious right now?” she whispered. “We’ve worked so hard for all this, Booker. You’re sure we need to do this?”
He paused, a click away from sending out the request to his pilot. He ran the numbers again in his head; a variable of doubt that only she could instill in his equations. What if it wasn’t the end? If they could still make it work from here?
“Let’s go get my daughter,” he sighed. “For a start.”
A phone rang, then, and Zora pulled hers from her pocket and picked up.
“Yes,” she said hurriedly, replying to the crackling voice on the other side. “Alright. We’ll be there soon.”
She hung up, and looked back to Booker.
“They’re closing school early today,” she said. “I’ll go while you get ready.”
“No,” Booker said, looking up suddenly. “No, I’m going with you.”
A raincoat did not feel like enough protection from the rain; the black patter outside made his skin crawl. Sirens and voices on megaphones clamored in the air; in the far distance he thought he could see fire and smoke, dampened by the downpour. In all his studies for the manifold ends that the world could come to, it was rarely the event that was the true danger—even with the climate change or an asteroid or a plague, the most dangerous element was the violence of other human beings. He thought about this as he drove, weaving through nightmarish traffic, wipers flinging away water with each swipe.
“We just got her into private school,” Zora whispered as they drove.
Booker took them away from the main throughways, away from the ambulances and first wrecks, and wound through back neighborhoods to get closer.
“And my promotion,” Zora continued. It was part of an argument, he knew, and his silence was the other half.
“I thought this was the point of your job,” she said. “To deal with things like this.”
The point of my job is to see these things coming, and I did, and they ignored me, and now we all pay the price. That was what he wanted to say, but to speak would have been to break the long-running custom of their arguments. The rain fell harder on the windshield of their SUV, and his headlights did little to illuminate the streets ahead of them; the storm was like shadow itself. He stepped on the gas, and as he did felt a heavy thud beneath the front fender. He squealed to a stop.
“Jesus Christ, Booker,” Zora said. “Was that a dog?”
Booker was barely listening; he stared instead at the rearview mirror, where a black shape was rising to its feet in the street behind them. Chills ran through his hands and feet as it stumbled closer, a dozen clawed hands spreading from its silhouette.
Zora was shouting as loud as she could, Booker realized, and his world hummed like a bell had been rung, and far away the sirens screamed, and something dark and sharp and terrible leaped for his vehicle.
“For the love of god, Booker, drive!”
Booker breathed, and put the car into reverse, and the rain flew backwards around them for a moment as he sailed full-speed into the shape. There was a second sickening thud, a quietness in the rain, and Booker threw the car into drive, and drove.
The rain streaked past him; the only sound as they cleared the last of the winding neighborhoods and pulled into the kindergarten’s parking lot. Emergency vehicles flew by, and cars pulled up rapidly to gather their children before the storm set in full. He went with Zora to the door; could not let her out of his sight for a moment. If he stayed in control long enough, kept everything together, then they could make it through this. The odds were slim, but not impossible.
Finally, all three members of their little family were huddled, shivering, in the SUV, and his daughter was crying and railing against the straps of her carseat.
“Clara, calm down,” he said. “Breathe. You remember that? Breathe. That’s better.”
“Alright,” said Zora, and she buckled her seatbelt, and wiped the rain and fog from her glasses. “When do we fly out?”
Interlude 1 - Coalitions of Dream
You who now dream look at the world as it is, and likely do not find the path that led you here a shocking one. For those born in a world before Dreaming Boxes, you have seen the Botulus Corporation rise one step at a time, out of obscurity and into totality, swallowing up all that you once fought for. It is not for me to say that you let it happen, dreamer. What could you do? You were one person.
And yet, each movement that shakes the foundations of your established norms, overturns cruel laws, breaks the systems you have built in order to rebuild them began with one person. You gathered behind figures like Ruth Esther Barnes and Valerie Maidstone as they railed against the end, against the corporation with its hands in all your governments, when your institutions were bought with blood and cryptocurrency.
You may look around, now, and be saddened that they won. That you live in a silent world full of sleeping people, and great silver boxes punctuate a lost landscape. But even now, although you cannot hear them, there are still rebellions and protests, riots of thought and coalitions of dream, fighting within sleep for a sliver of hope.
We go now to a notable figure in this revolution.
Story 2 - Evil Twin
“What the hell?” Riot screamed, and brought the RV to a screeching halt, and reached for her sword. The RV fishtailed across the battered highway out of Yosemite. In the rearview mirror, she could see a creature sitting in the back of the RV with Diggory—it had buzzed hair and blue-grey eyes and a stiff jawline like her, but the face was all wrong, backwards somehow. It didn’t move correctly; it was like a monster wearing her skin.
“Riot, what are you doing?” her mother screamed in response, clinging to the dashboard in the passenger seat, and she looked back to notice the Other Riot.
“Folks, you really can’t stop here,” Percy said, peeking his head through the ceiling, a voice that echoed in Riot’s head. “There’s like a million drones coming for us and I don’t know what they do.”
“Who the hell are you?” Riot called, ignoring Percy and unsheathing her sword. The thing in the back seemed to stumble away into the cabinetry of the RV.
“I’m Riot,” the other Riot said. “Riot Maidstone.”
“Get out of the RV,” Riot said.
“Danielle has stopped breathing,” Diggory said, and was between Riot and the not-quite-Riot then, dragging Danielle’s stiff, hairy body onto the floor of the RV.
“You know CPR?” Olivier said, as Diggory began chest compressions.
“Is that what this is?” Diggory said, driving their palms into Danielle’s chest with clockwork accuracy. There was a buzzing outside now that was not just the wind, and Riot could catch glimpses of Botco’s drones in the mirror like a swarm of flies.
“Olivier, can you deal with those?” Riot said; something with four rotor-wings flew past the window.
“I don’t know,” Olivier groaned, and clutched his burned arm. He looked once to her, and to the window. “I’ll try.”
He lifted a hand for the window, and gasped heavily; there was a rumble of thunder from above.
“Riot,” Percy said, close by to her ear. “You need to get them out of here.”
“There’s a friggin’ fake Riot in the car,” Riot said. “Is no one concerned about this?”
“Stay with me, Danielle,” Diggory said. “Breathe. You can breathe.”
“I can’t do it,” Olivier said, and tears rolled down his face as he collapsed back against the cushions. “I can’t.”
“This is a dream,” her mother was muttering, hands clutching her head. “A bad dream. It’ll be over soon. It’ll be over soon.”
“I wish,” Riot roared, and turned back to the wheel. “Fine. Hold on tight, folks!”
She kicked the RV into drive; it squealed on the road for a moment, scraping against the guard rails, and then sped across the hail-strewn highway.
“Percy, let me know how we’re looking,” Riot called, drifting around a bend in the road. There was a sound like a cracking whip, and she hoped it was from one of the drones behind them rather than something mechanical.
“One of them just lasered us,” Percy whispered, a reflection in her wing mirror. “They just keep coming!”
“I can’t go back,” her mother whispered, sudden panic in her eyes. “I don’t want to go back.”
“You’re not going back,” Riot said. “Olivier, I need you here!”
Olivier pulled himself up to the window, and screamed—in frustration or in pain, Riot was not sure. As he did, the world outside flashed perfect white, and lightning poured out of the sky in an all-consuming cloud, crackling from one shining black drone to the next, and the swarm fell away like flies into the dawn light behind them.
Olivier leaned against the window in the back, and did not open his eyes.
“Thank you,” Riot grunted as she swung around another long bend, and chased the night as the storm crashed behind them.
There were no more drones for a little while, and the next hour passed as the rain became a light drizzle, and the mountains of Yosemite descended into flatter country. No words were spoken, but she could hear the breathing of her friends behind her; Olivier in a much-needed sleep, and Danielle in long ragged gasps, and her mother’s sudden gasp every time she turned the wheel, and the other Riot in the back. Riot glared at her through the mirror every few minutes, but tried to keep her eyes on the road. A place to rest, she thought. A place to sort all this out. Riot spotted an empty garage building of some kind off the road, and pulled the RV in, taking shelter under the rusted roof and hoping the darkness would be enough to hide them from Botco’s prying eyes.
She pulled the RV to a stop, and put a hand on the pommel of her sword.
“Get out of the RV,” she said.
“Me?” the other Riot said.
“Of course you,” Riot said. She could use sleep too, but it appeared celebrations would have to wait; her day was just beginning. “What are you?”
“I’m… a girl, I think,” the other Riot said. “What are you?”
“When Danielle said there was another Riot I thought she meant a dream or something,” Riot said, leaning against the back of her chair. “Diggory, why did you let her in here?”
“I may have gotten you two confused. I did not know you had a sister,” Diggory said, looking smaller than usual in the back of the RV.
“She’s not anything. Not my sister. Not even my evil twin. She’s pretending to be me,” Riot said.
“I’m not pretending to be anyone,” the Other Riot said, and stared back at her without blinking. She was dressed in Riot’s old clothes, no less. “I am Riot. And you’d be the evil twin, with the death threats and the kidnapping. Why did you take my mom?”
“Because she’s my mom,” Riot said, and pulled her sword free of its sheath. Looking at the false Riot sent a chill through her body, raised the hairs on the back of her neck. Do I look anything like that, she wondered?
“Get out of the RV,” said Riot.
“No,” said the other.
“Then I’m going to have to kill you in here,” Riot said, and rolled out of her seat, prepared for a lunge. She felt a hand on her shoulder, then, and her mother had a fist raised, and was whispering in her ear.
“Don’t you dare hurt my daughter.”
Marketing - Employee Reminder
Lady Ethel: This is a Botco Employee Reminder. When you work for the Botulus Corporation, you have a responsibility to the company, which has a responsibility to the world. You must be loving. Understanding. People react with fear to new technology, new progress. It is just their nature. And as the world changes and transforms, they will realize there was nothing to be afraid of at all, and go from complaining to quiet support.
If I had listened when people took to the streets in protest of Botco’s early business developments, we would have not saved so many of their lives. Likewise, now, we have the Stonemaids sending their messages and making their complaints public. Listen, but remember that they would undermine you entirely if they could. For their own safety, for all of our safety, we must continue to make the hard decisions and show them the way to the future. Our psychological evaluation program has removed dozens of the Stonemaids’ ringleaders from circulation, and within the next…
Story 2, Continued - Evil Twin
Eternity does not seem that long to me, dreamer—it is to me what a lifetime is to you. And yet, when faced with the prospect of Lady Ethel Mallory’s monologues, even a few minutes seems very long indeed.
We return now to Riot Maidstone.
“Mom, I am your daughter,” Riot said, looking to her, eyes wide. “You can tell. You can tell, right?”
“I don’t know,” her mother said, looking between them. There were more lines in Valerie’s face than Riot remembered, her hands shook, and her hair had been cut short; Riot knew that Botco could not have treated her well. “I don’t know what’s going on. That thing is sewn together. That kid with the blue hair almost electrocuted me. Danielle is real, which is news to me, I thought I was hallucinating her… and I’m seeing two of you, Riot. One of you has been with me this whole time, and you… I thought things were better. You were sweet and you didn’t fight me all the time and the Botco stuff we could handle together. And now you’re also here with a sword and the RV that you stole from me the night you left. And holy crap, you’ve beaten the hell out of it. So stop screaming and nobody stab each other!”
The RV was still for a second; rain fell on the corrugated roof of the garage.
“Really?” Riot breathed, and shivered. “You have no idea what I have been through to get here. We drove here from Ontario. I’ve made friends and not all of them are here to see this, but they would have wanted to. But it was all to get you back. And this is the thanks I get? Because you like some stranger who doesn’t talk back as much as me?”
“Put the sword down,” the Other Riot said. “I don’t want to have to hurt you.”
“Is that a threat?” Riot said, and flashed the point of her blade; the Other Riot jumped. “I could run you through right here for that.”
“Riot,” Diggory said, leaning between the two. “I know this is very strange, and you feel threatened. But this violence is not the way we do things. This is not what Walt would want.”
Riot was silent for a moment; a storm boiled in her head, red behind her eyes, but she had nowhere to direct it. She bit the inside of her cheek and tasted rust.
“Sure,” she said. “Fine. Without me you won’t have any normal human beings to worry about.”
She kicked open the RV door and stepped out. The air was colder for the rain, and the grey drizzle fell on the distant mountains and poured off the roof of the garage.
The movements of the not-Riot made her uneasy. The other terrible things she’d encountered didn’t, but then again, none of them had her face. The rain was a chill shock on her neck and her head. There was a house in the nearby yard with its roof sunken in, a truck rusting without tires. Trees and underbrush surrounded the buildings on each side, and the road stretched off into the misty distance in either direction, and it struck her for the first time just how far they had to go in making it back home. It had been easy tailing Ray; she would have to consult the maps now, figure out where they were. But for what? What was the point? Her mother was barely awake, and didn’t even seem happy to see her.
And there was the Other Riot.
Was it a stranger they’d hired to impersonate her, someone who didn’t know when to quit?
Or was she something stranger? Something worse? Something not human at all, wearing her face like a carnival mask?
What did it want?
She found her way through the open door of the abandoned house—each room was a tangle of dissolved rafters and rotting floorboards, rain dripping in from the sky. She climbed up what was left of a staircase, felt the wood shift beneath her feet, and found a corner of what might once have been a fragment of roof; now it protected only a broken bed with dissolved sheets.
She sat down in the corner, sword in her lap, and watched the rain cascade like a waterfall in front of her.
“Riot?” a voice called from below; Diggory, searching for her no doubt. She ignored them, and listened for the buzz of Botco’s drones, and wished for all the world she still had her music.
“What would you do, Walt?” she groaned, rubbing at her head. She laid her head back against the wall; she could almost fall asleep. “Why can’t it ever go right? Why can’t it be easy?”
The rain did not answer her, and she stared at the sword in her lap; her own reflection in the tarnished silver blade. She had only ever seen herself in a mirror.
“I know what you’d do,” she whispered. “You’d say, ‘now Riot, sure you’re upset. But it’s all a great learning experience. Something’s gone and stolen your face. So let’s start with the questions’.”
She pulled his almanac from the small bag at her side, careful to keep it away from the falling rain. Only a few pages remained empty in the back; room for one last entry.
Riot pulled out her pen, and consulted the charts tucked in the back of the book.
“Title: Other Riot,” she muttered, and penned in the first lines—a self-portrait of sorts, the shapes of her head so much more awkward than she had thought.
“Dangerous…” she thought for a moment. “We’ll leave that blank for now.”
Turns your loved ones against you, Riot thought. Will give you nightmares for the rest of your life. And yet, she didn’t know what the other Riot wanted; what she could do, why she was here. And without that, the entry would remain incomplete.
“Riot?” the walkie-talkie in her pocket crackled, and Riot almost cut herself on the sword as she jumped. It was Diggory. “Are you alright? Please do not leave.”
“I’m not,” she said quietly. “Diggory, can you keep everyone out of trouble? I’ll be back soon.”
“Very well,” Diggory said. “This I can do.”
Riot sighed, and put the radio away, and laid against the floor. She had to rest a little while, and when she was done, she would get up as a groundskeeper, and finish her work.
Interlude 2 - Against The Universe
Rebel against the universe, dreamer. You owe it nothing. Without any request or acknowledgement from you it has raised you into sentience, coalesced carbon and water into the mind that hears these words as it sleeps. The universe never asked if you wanted to experience it; neither did it promise you a fair journey.
And here we find you still, on the surface of the earth, in distant cities and quiet villages, asleep. When you wake, dreamer, I hope that you will set fire to whatever disturbs you, and raze the world until you are content, and give the old and wrathful gods reason to fear your name. I hope you will take this life you have been burdened with and make something out of it worth living; something I would be proud to call a story. You are already halfway there.
We go now to one who has had many lives.
Story 3 - The Inescapable Past
Valerie Maidstone sat in the chair she had traveled across America in, and thought of death. It was an RV they had done their first tours in; spraypainted the sides at night in the parking lot of a box store. She and Evie had taken turns at the wheel while the rest of the band talked of how the last performance had gone and how they hoped the next one would go; the fast-food fries of a dozen franchises had been lost between the seat cushions. And when the Prime Minister had told her to take whatever she wanted on a plane so large it could carry an army, she had packed everything she owned in the vehicle and driven it aboard.
Now, though, her window looked out on a dark garage, and the world seemed to spin and tilt around her. The way she saw it, there were three options.
The first was that it had all been a lie, a cruel trick. And if this was true, she was not sure she could continue living. For weeks she had been tortured in Botco’s nightmares, fears pulled from her own memories, every part of her eaten away and pulled back together. Strangers supervised her pain; she suspected the one with a fly’s face was Oswald, although she had never been completely sure.
And then they came to say, we have your daughter; if you behave we will let you wake up, if you don’t we’ll do the same to her… and what could she do? I’ll own you, Lady Ethel had once promised, and now they did. But she had never been quite sure she had woken up, and the bizarre imagery in front of her only reinforced the suspicion.
Option two: they had her drugged out of her mind, and she was still in her hospital-style bed in her cold white room in Box Andromeda. The psychedelics she had done with Ralph had never produced anything as painful, though, and there was an awful stability to what she was seeing, even if her head was still heavy with their sedatives.
Which brought her to option three, the worst one: everything she was looking at was quite real, and some assumptions she had held about the world were wildly out of date.
“Okay,” she said, turning around in her chair, clinging to the headrest for support. “I need to ask you all some questions so I can try to understand what’s going on. Starting with you.”
She pointed to the kid with the blue hair, who seemed to be barely awake. “You. Little mister taser. Who are you. Why are you here? What is it with you and the lightning?”
“I’m Olivier Song,” said Olivier, and looked to the Riot who was left in the RV, and smiled, and then frowned. “I am… I used to be… a student. At a school, a special school. I’m here because Riot asked me to help break you out of Box Andromeda, and I kind of owed her. And the weather is just part of me. Or I’m part of it.”
“But not this Riot,” Valerie said, and waved her hand.
“No,” Olivier replied, staring at the Riot that sat in the back. “I don’t think so.”
“So what about you?” Valerie said. “I’d remember if I’d had twins. You told me you couldn’t remember your time in the bunker. And you met Ralph, and all this stuff. There’s a girl out there who… I don’t know. Has been surviving in the outside world this whole time. I don’t know what to think. Have you been lying to me from the start?”
“Everything I said was true,” the Other Riot said, holding her arms close to her chest. “Or I thought it was? But now I have no idea. I woke up in a bed at Box Andromeda. They said I was your daughter, and it was weird I couldn’t remember, and they told me about you. Our history. Showed me all my old things. I’ve been through all my journals. I thought it was real. But when the box went all emergency mode I knew… someone was here for you. And I didn’t want to be alone.”
“Thank you for that very rational response,” Valerie said. “But you came out of Box Andromeda with… who are you? With the stitches? And the…”
Valerie trailed off; for the first time she caught a good look at the seven-foot creature’s arm, a sleeve of tattoos in patchwork and blackened skin. Tattoos Valerie recognized immediately.
“My name is Diggory Graves,” said the figure, still kneeling over an unconscious Danielle. “I was made to dig graves, but also for a greater purpose of which I am still not entirely sure. I will find it once we have returned you safely to the Scoutpost.”
“Evie?” Valerie whispered, trying to find any familiarity in the shape of Diggory’s face, in their glazed white eyes. “Is that you?”
Diggory was silent for a moment, staring at her, and continued speaking. “In part, I came here because Riot is my friend, and I wanted to help her. In part, I came because my maker is dead, but Riot could still have hers. But there is one other reason, and it is selfish. I hoped that when I met you, I would remember more about my life. My past lives. A life when I was a woman named Evelyn Fry who played the keyboard in a band called Stonemaiden. And I do, in little moments. I wondered why this vehicle felt so familiar. I realize I spent a great many hours beside you in it.”
“What are you saying?” Valerie said, looking down. “You took her skin? Is that it? That’s…”
She looked again; in the face she could find traces of others, shapes that she recognized.
“Oh god,” Valerie said, and opened the RV door, her stomach churning. She fell to the cracked concrete outside, clutched at the earth so as not to fall off, and gasped for air.
They were all dead. Evie. Rizwana. All their friends. A journey that Valerie would have gone on, if she hadn’t been pregnant, forced to stay in safety by Riz. She had suspected she would never see them again; now she wished that had remained true. They were all part of that thing, sewn together with black thread. She thought she saw, for a moment, a ghostly boy sitting on the far side of the garage. She shook her head; tried to clear it of shadows. They really had her on some heavy stuff.
The door to the RV swung open, and the Other Riot came out, and sat carefully beside her, back against the rusted metal wall of the vehicle.
“What’s wrong?” Riot said. “I don’t totally get it. What is that in there? Do you know them?”
“It’s made out of her,” she said. “In some sick way. It’s not just Evie. It’s Riz. And the rest.”
“Who is Riz?” the Other Riot said.
“You’ve got to know that,” Valerie said, and waited. The Other Riot looked around, searching the decrepit garage for an answer with her eyes.
“I guess I’m… drawing a blank here.”
“We… Riot. Riz. Rizwana Mirza. She’s the one who gave us the bunker. She’s… we had a fight about her the night you stole the RV. The night you…”
Valerie blinked away stars, and pulled herself to her feet, leaning for a moment to catch her breath on the hood of the RV.
“I need to go find Riot,” she said, and stumbled out of the garage. The light was blinding after Botco’s darkness and tinted windows and fluorescent lights, and the rain caught in her hair and ran down her face. A ruined house, and gnarled forest, and a broken road stretched out before her.
“Riot?” she called. “Riot, wherever you are, please come back.”
There was a shifting in the building beside her, and a few moments later, a dirty, tearstained girl stood in the doorway, rubbing at her nose and cheeks blotchy and red.
Valerie said nothing, but stepped up to her daughter and held her tight, and several hours of emotions came loose at once, and she wept against Riot’s head.
“You did,” Valerie choked out. “You came so far. Thank you.”
Riot sniffed, and pulled away from her a little, and gave her the slightest smile. “No problem.”
“I don’t know what’s going on yet,” Valerie said. “Where on earth do we go?”
“Home,” Riot said, and tightened the strap on the sheath around her shoulder. “We’re going home.”
Outro - Riots
Riots. There is no progress without movement. We cry and raise our voices so that we may live in a world where this is no longer necessary. Everything that you revere, your laws and buildings and very society were built by those who are no longer here to witness their futures.
Those who lived before you, like ants, contributed small pieces to a whole that is ever-changing. Be not afraid to change the world further, for you are the one living in it. The bricks you throw may pave new roads, ones that will be traveled by others long after you are gone. They may even thank your memory, once in a while, for the weight you carried to ensure their safe passage.
Even now, as new life stirs in black water, as sleepers whisper of the end, as the stars blink out above us, I will lift my voice to speak, and hope that it will help in some small way. But I am one voice, dreamer; you are a hundred thousand. Until you speak as one, I am your loyal host Nikignik, waiting unrestfully for your return to the Hallowoods.
The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Riot Too', 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!