HFTH - Episode 88 - Broomsticks



Content warnings for this episode include: Abuse, Ableism, Animal death (Dogsmell as usual), Violence, Kidnapping and abduction, Death + Injury, Blood, Mental illness, Transphobia, Homophobia, Birds, Emotional Manipulation, Body horror, Religious Violence, Lengthy Prayers



Intro - Little Birds

Your anxieties are like little birds, fluttering beneath your ribs, pecking at your heart. You trap them in the wood as you carve, whittle each feather into form. It is healing, somehow, to put them outside, and with each one you add to the surface of your project you feel them leave your chest.


Still, when the entire length of the wooden bar is carved with a hundred birds, a murmuration in gnarled oak, it is not done. There are the bristles, thick straw meticulously arranged and cut, and stained black with blood. You have tried other methods, but this one still works best, helps when it comes to the final step.


You carry the broom outside, lay it in the long grass, turn your eyes to the darkness in the sky. You sing a prayer, and the weather sings back, harmonies in the wind. Let this vessel carry your power as I do, you ask. Lift its bearer up with adoration. There is a flash of blue fire in the heavens, and the thunder rumbles Hello From The Hallowoods.


Theme.


Right now, I am in a kind of nowhere space. It is born only of perception, a warped world presented to one mind by another. I can see the sky through the ceiling; I can see the horizon through the distant buildings, and the stars crackle and buzz like electric dials, a paradox in the rafters of this decrepit bar and its broken glasses and upturned tables and scattered supplies. The theme of tonight’s episode is Broomsticks.



Story 1 - Return Caller

“Welcome back, listeners. We have something rare for you tonight—a return caller. Diggory, when we last spoke you were weighing some heavy decisions. How has it gone for you since then? Was it everything you dreamed of?”


The worlds around Diggory were distorted—two visions overlaid, one on top of the other, realities slightly ajar. In one, the unlit bar around them was dark, and only a little light pierced the far door—a sliver of the horizon, of a distant radio tower blinking. But their other visions were worse—shadows that wept and bled around them where they hung, and the Phantom Station was huge, stared with dozens of red spotlight eyes, and in the air behind it trailed a hundred glowing spirits, strung in the sky like kites.


“You followed us?” said Diggory, although they could not move from where they were impaled against the wall; no sound escaped from their lips.


“You cannot run from the questions that live in you, Diggory Graves,” said the Phantom Station. “Take all the time you need. You are the last caller for the night.”


“I feel as though I am dying,” said Diggory, stared down at the silver spike through their chest; the one which pinned them to the wall off the ground. Their hands and feet would not respond to any urge. “I have not yet fulfilled my purpose, I think. I have not gone north. I still do not know why I was made.”


“To dig a grave? Isn’t that what they’ve told you?” said the Station.


“I must be here for more than that,” said Diggory. The station knew too much; crawled in their head like gnawing worms. “I can walk. I can hurt. I can comfort. I weep. And I have dreamed. I must be here for more than a simple task. I have so much to give.”


“You think that you are here to give?” said the Station—the ruined bar around them was lit only by the red glow of its many eyes, shining in the night sky above them, clustered throughout the shadows of its towering frame. “To parcel yourself out to others, one by one, until there is nothing left of you?”


“It is no burden to me,” said Diggory quietly. “I am very strong. They need me now. They need me now more than ever.”


“Look at yourself, Diggory,” said the Station. Diggory could not move their head, but they could catch a little of their reflection in an overturned silver dish—their ripped tank top, the tattoos of their shoulder, the stitches that ran across their chest. “You have done nothing but give. These others, they have taken from you. Because you are strong. Because they can use you. And this is where, at the end of your journey, it has brought you.”


“Why are you speaking to me?” said Diggory. “If I am dying, I am glad I am not alone, but… I find you unsettling. What is it you want?”


“I do not want anything from you, Diggory,” said the Station. “I want to give you something, for a change.”


The spirits that surrounded the station, trailed behind it like garlands, grew brighter.


“There is love within these tethered souls. There is community. There is wisdom. I think you should join our audience, Diggory. You can escape from all of this. Leave the burdens of your so-called friends behind. Live out the rest of your days in peace.”


“It does not last forever,” said Diggory.


“Nothing does,” said the Station. “But it will last as long as the Station does, and our program is old indeed. We will travel. We will speak with new callers. And we will narrate as long as there are souls left to join our audience. Rest assured, you will fade long before the end. You will not need to see it.”


“Fade?” said Diggory. “You consume them, do you not? This audience of yours. That is why you follow me. I am born of many souls.”


“Yes,” said the Station, eyes blinking in discordant rhythms. “It is for the best. The Station must have power. The final days of our audience are gentle, when the time comes. Like slipping into slumber as the radio plays. Falling into static. But if you wish for a next step, Diggory, that is what I offer. Is not another life in our listening community better than dying here, alone?”


The eyes of the Phantom Station cast the world around Diggory in crimson light, and they contemplated their myriad reflections in the scattered silver dishes. They had been through so much. Bleary days in a swamp-drenched wilderness, and the first person they had met—three times, now, that they had lost him.


Memories filled the red spotlights; a harp burning in a bonfire, and a silver bell pulled from a velvet pocket, a baby with a beetle’s head and a rattling cup of tea, a fire on a hillside overlooking the forest, and sitting on a beach with a woman who was their lips and thoughts and heart. Hands pierced full of needles, tucking them in to sleep. Lying on the floor, staring at a ghost on the ceiling. A little RV with the people they loved inside. And a road north, snow-swept, stretching away towards living mountains and forests darker than the winter sky.


“I have crossed more ground than I thought,” Diggory breathed, and the Station seemed to lean forward, an audience of specters on the edge of their seats. “I have made journeys. I have found friends. I have been loved. If this is where my wanderings end, it was worth the time I spent. All of it.”


“Yes,” said the Station, eyes flickering. “Are you ready to begin a new adventure?”


Diggory looked up to the station, and it seemed to fill the sky, within its lights a hundred souls waiting to welcome them.


“You may stop calling me,” Diggory said. “Percy is out there, and Riot, and Olivier and Danielle and so many others. I have a family in the north who are sewn of the same stuff as I am. There is a road that calls me. And I will not leave it all yet.”


“You will live, then,” said the Station, and shook as though in an earthquake, “to regret this.”


Diggory was aware, suddenly, of an impact striking their body—several quick taps from a bundle of plastic fibers.


“Sorry,” said Danielle. “I’m trying to get you down, I promise.”


She was below them, lying on her back, with a broom in her hands, and propped it behind them, rolled to get some leverage, and with a creak of splintered wood Diggory fell from the wall into a heap on the floor.


“Thank you,” said Diggory, feeling for the hole in their chest—stuffing and broken stitches. Something Stitchery might be able to fix, but they were half a continent away. They could, at least, speak. Danielle lay beside them, and dropped the broom, rested her hands on her chest.


“I’ll be honest,” said Danielle. “I was pretty sure you were dead.”


“I am dead,” said Diggory. “But I am not finished yet. Are you alright?”


“Mostly,” said Danielle. “Tired. Also everything hurts. Also I’m starving.”


Diggory could barely make out a sound—rotors, perhaps, and shouting in the distance, people calling out Danielle’s name.


“What is that?” they said.


“Oh,” Danielle said, and looked over to the door, the color draining from her face. “I. I didn’t know if it would work. I put out an S.O.S type of thing. A dream. I just hope those are the people that we want to find us...”



Interlude 1 - What Witch

There are not many who make a career out of studying things better left unknown and forgotten, but those who do are very particular about their terminology. A student at Downing Hill Public Library might call themselves a witch, but those in the independent covens would disagree. Witchcraft, they would say, is not something that can be taught in a cold classroom, cut away from the world.


And yet, although the subject matter studied at the Church of the Hallowed Name is often similar to that of the first two institutions, the Church would tell you that a witch is to be burned, her woeful children to be buried beneath the stones, that ill fortune follows any who allow such evil to live among their families.

Unless, of course, the practitioner is an ordained priest or other minister, and holds tenure within the Church.


All that sets a curse apart from a miracle is for whom it is convenient.


Needless to say, the witches are not great appreciators of this line of thought, and are almost as likely to set aflame the leaders of the Church. And yet, in the end, all of them lack a complete understanding of what they pursue—and good for it. The human mind only has room for so much universe. We go now to an aspiring witch.



Story 2 - The Busy Dead

“Do you think he knows who we are?” Clara whispered, watching the hand that sat in Harrow’s arms. Arnold’s former appendage bubbled green foam at the wrist, wet white flaps of growth, and it occasionally tried to writhe out of the fabric it was swaddled in, like a crab in search of the ocean.


“I like to think so,” said Harrow, holding the bundle like a baby. “I don’t know how it’s moving without a brain. Maybe he was all brains?”


“That doesn’t seem right for Arnold,” said Clara, sitting up. She whistled, and the scent of wet dog carried across the breeze, followed shortly by the ghostly hound itself.


“Dogsmell,” she said. “I want you to keep an eye on these two, alright? Keep an eye on our camp. And if I’m not back in a little while, lead them to me.”


“Does your dog bite?” said Harrow, glancing around the clearing with concern—Clara was not sure if they could see the hound or not with those void-black eyes.


“Only bites your enemies,” said Clara, and shouldered her quiver—the hound had managed to hunt down her glasses, and three arrows. “Remember, keep the fire going. I’m going to need the smoke to find you again, and if we’re lucky, Victoria or Friday might see it too. Are you going to be alright?”


“I don’t know,” Harrow said quietly, and glanced off to the trees. “Even if we get home, I don’t know if I’ll be alright. There are dark little doorways everywhere, into nowhere places, and the worm people, and the hungry deer. And I think… I think even if I go back, she’ll be disappointed in me.”


“Who? Your mom?” Clara said, going back on one knee by the fire. “I hate feeling like a disappointment too, you know. But when we get back, she’s going to be proud. And I’ll be proud of you too. All you need to do is stay here, and keep the embers burning—as long as you can. And if deer or anything else come along, you send them somewhere else.”


“I’m frightened,” Harrow whispered, and shivered.


“My dad taught me something to do when I’m scared,” Clara said, and reached out to touch Harrow’s cold hand, avoided touching Arnold’s. “You make a fist, like this. And you breathe, as still and slow as you can. And all that anxiety in your hand—you hold it tight, and you let it go, and you do what you need to do.”


Harrow nodded a little, and closed their midnight eyes, and trembled a few moments before breathing still.


“Alright,” Harrow said. “How long will you be gone?”


“If I’m lucky,” Clara said, and stood up, “I’ll be back before sunset.”


She waved a goodbye to Harrow by the fire, and to Arnold’s squirming hand, which might have waved back. Dogsmell started after her, and she raised a hand.


“Stay,” she said. “Stay with Harrow. I’ll be back soon.”


And then she turned for the forest, and stepped through the long black boughs of the pines, bow over her shoulder. She hoped it would be enough. A breeze whispered in the heights of the trees, gossip in the branches that enveloped her horizon.


If Friday or Victoria came back, Harrow would be there waiting. They wouldn’t be abandoned. And with luck, help would be on the way for all of them soon. She needed space; enough quiet to figure out the predicament they were in.


“It’s just a problem,” she said to herself, pushing through the trees. “And you’re good at solving problems. You’re Clara Martin. You’re lost in the woods. Your friends are still here, and you need to get all of them home. You have one bow and… three arrows. And no dead people in sight.”


As she picked her way through the bristling pines, she thought back to the last few weeks—Winona’s winding lectures and meditations and fortunes. Friday, who had abandoned her and, quite possibly, saved her life. Victoria, running blood-soaked and shining into the night.


“If I was a library card,” she said, “where would I point?”


She turned, but the trees around her seemed all the same—a floor of scattered needles rising into black boughs. The forest seemed intent, listening. She turned, and paused—there was something lighter in the distance. Anything, she hoped, that could tell her where she was.


The forest seemed to peel around her like knights in a throne room, as immense as the bookshelves of Downing hill. She was not sure, at first, that her vision was reliable as she drew closer, but polishing her glasses with her sleeve yielded the same image—a tree of rough black bark, twisted with a lattice of red knots, great branches rising into the air. Ominous, she thought, and unlike any she had seen growing in the woods before.


She could not shake the feeling that she was being watched, and glanced around the woods several times to make sure there were no spirits approaching unexpectedly. There was a crack of movement from somewhere beyond.


“Hello?” she called. “Friday? Victoria? Is that you?”


She stepped forward—still no ghosts, not even the bounding light of her hound. She looked up at the tree, and suddenly it was looking back, every one of its countless knots split open to reveal papery black eyes underneath.


She breathed, but did not scream, nor back away. Its roots were shifting, she realized, and its branches contorted like fingers in dance.


“Hello,” she said again. “My name is Clara.”


“We know who you are, Clara Martin,” said the tree, a voice deep within the bark, within the earth itself, growing through her consciousness like roots. “We have been watching you.”



Marketing - Daughters of Witches

Lady Ethel:

It has been a hard road to equality in our great nation, and even now there is still a long way to go. We are reminded of this every so often. Try as we might to leave the echoes of the past to fade out, they still find a way into our modern lives.


For instance, Botco leadership historically has always employed similar managers to its own founder—and there is no sign of change anytime soon, in finance, in operations, in sales, in science. But how much longer can we last? If there is to be change in Botco, we must have change-makers in charge.


I think I speak for all marginalized peoples when I say that we are the daughters of the witches you couldn’t burn, and we have fire of our own. Let’s use it to trailblaze our way into a better Botco and a brighter future for our Happy Dreaming Family…



Story 2, Continued - The Busy Dead

I’ve almost grown to expect it. The interruptions. I pause for them, hear the echoes in advance as her signal comes blaring on. Would I miss them, if they were gone? Would I still pause, waiting for some louder voice to talk over mine? Would I have a moment of remorse before I continued to speak?


No, I would not. I would not miss them at all.


We return now to Clara Martin.


“And who are you, if I can ask?” said Clara.


“We are a Watching Tree,” said the tree, eyes shifting beneath its bark, tracking with her steps.


“Is there a name you’d like me to call you?” said Clara. There was a part of her, a little girl who hid away from the window because of what might watch from the night beyond or write in the window-frost. But she was different now. She had seen the darkness, and knew it was not always unkind. And that sometimes to run was death.


The tree did not respond to her question, so she moved on, stared up at the eyes that dotted its trunk.


“Is there something you need?” she said, hands on her hips. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you.”


“Do you bear any news of Jude the Wanderer?” said the tree, glancing across the mire. “It has been a while since we heard from him. I fear the worst.”


“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know who that is.”


“A shame. But no matter,” said the tree, and its eyes flickered back to her. “Your journey has also been unpleasant. And long. What is it you seek?”


“I’m looking for a library,” she said, a surge of warm hope in her chest. “It’s called Downing Hill, do you know it?”


“We do know Downing Hill,” said the Watching Tree, and its eyes looked up to the sky as if searching—it lifted a single branch towards the forest beyond. “It is that way—many trees and many miles from here.”


“How far?” she said, looking up, trying to memorize the angle it directed her. “Ten miles? Twenty?”


“There is an entire forest between you,” said the tree. “It is hungry. Many days would pass ere you had walked it, and it grows almost as fast as your feet could travel. It reaches south, every day, a little further. It grows from the endless north. If you walk it, you walk to your death.”


Clara looked down, put her hands on her legs for support. Long, she thought. It’s a long way, is all it’s telling you. More than a day’s travel, at least. What she wouldn’t give for her broom now.


“It’s not fair,” she said. “I’ve worked so hard. I don’t know how to get them out of this. I don’t know how to get home.”


The tree stared, a myriad of papery eyes looking from on high.


“We do not know,” said the tree. “We are only a tree. We watch your path through the forest. Perhaps this is its end.”


“It won’t be,” Clara said, straightening up. “I have to keep going. Everyone is counting on me. I have parents, you know? Back at my old home, and they need me to find a cure. My friends need to get home safe. I have a dog to take care of. And who knows what Winona is planning to do. I have too much to do.”


She turned, and stared into the treetops—a little of her conversations with Friday came back to mind, talks of gifts not easily lost.


“Most who die are busy,” said the tree, but she closed her eyes, raised a palm to the treeline. I don’t have a choice, she thought. If I don’t save us, Arnold and Harrow die. Victoria might never make it home, and I might never get to make things right with Friday. Or learn about what and why I am, or graduate from Downing Hill. This is not where my story ends—and right now, I need to fly.


The air was still. No distant birds punctuated the silence; no frog songs or crickets. Clara kept her hand outstretched, felt against hope for anything distant and ancient and hers. Then there was a sound—a breeze at first, a faraway rustle of the pine needles, so quiet that it could have been just her imagination. And then it was loud, a rushing wind that tore through the clearing. With a final lurch, a broom burst through the pine boughs, intricately carved with black bristles on end.


Clara breathed a sigh of relief, stepped forward as the broom sailed towards her, came to rest at her hands like a ship returning to its home port. She could not waste time; this was it. She through a leg over it, and looked up to the Watching Tree.


“Goodbye, tree,” she said. “I’ll visit you again if I can.”


The tree blinked shut, eyes closing back into knots in the bark.


“We will see what end you meet, Clara Martin.”


She shuddered, and kicked at the ground, and the broom pulled her into the air—it had been a while since her last proper flight, and the balance was tricky, as was dealing with the rush of the breeze billowing in her jacket and her hair, but the forest was a blanket beneath her then, a black expanse of pines and shadowed lakes in every direction. Behind her, she could catch a glimpse of a thin pillar of smoke rising from the trees—Harrow’s signal, still burning. She followed vaguely in the direction the tree had pointed, flew faster than she had ever dared to before, and the forest flew beneath her feet and bled into the horizon.


If she slipped, the impact would kill her instantly, but the sun in the distant clouds was a taunt, a timer running out. And then, amidst the sea of shadows beneath her, there was a point of light and structure—two great stone lions, and a gleaming marble dome, brass doors.


She descended from the sky, touched down between the lions with a thud that jolted her bones, and ran for the door. Blood pounded in her ears, and she thought she could hear distant wind chimes as she rushed up the stairs and pushed open the library doors, stepped into the abyss.


It was a rushing shadow inside, a vortex that swallowed her whole, and when she at last reached the light, it was not the great entrance hall with its golden filigree and painted murals, nor were there hints of those great library shelves. Instead, she stood in a room she had visited before—a small office with books on hazy shelves, and tea in a steaming kettle, and curling ivies and a small dish of peppermints on the desk.


Behind the desk were two chairs. In one sat a woman in a white suit, cupping a full teacup in her pale hands. The Director’s eyes were smiling voids as she looked up to Clara. In the other chair, sipping from a cup, was Winona, wearing black robes and a purple hijab, and she waved with one hand as Clara came to rest in the dim light.


“Winona?” Clara said, freezing in place. “Director, please understand, she’s trying to…”


“Don’t be rude, Clara, come have some tea,” Winona said, and smiled at her.


“Well done, Miss Martin,” said the Director, and she set her cup aside, and smiled. “You have completed your test.”



Interlude 2 - Sufficiently Magical

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. This is because magic is also very impressive and dazzling and beautiful. I am everywhere in this universe at once. I see multitudes unfolding in each moment. I am beholden to the story of existence. I think this is magical. I think this is heavenly.


Could any mathematician ever hope to document the molecular processes that give Ephelzeph their endless thunder, or the dysfunction of light and sound and sense that allows Noptilnopt to walk unseen? Noptilnopt, I know we have never spoken, but if you hear this you are welcome to come visit. That is, if you are still alive or have ever existed.


And certainly our power, when the smallest fragments of it make their way into your earth or blood or water, may seem magical. Must seem impossible. But it is not sufficiently advanced technology—it is just that we are alive, existent beyond our own understanding, and incomprehensible to the calculating human mind.


We go now to one who believes in magic.



Story 3 - The Altar

Dear lord, I kneel before you as a humble servant. Many are my sins and transgressions, and I pray that you wash them away. Purify me, lord, and make me a holy vessel, worthy to be molded by your virtue and useful to your purpose.


Protect also my children, dear lord, from the workings of the devil, for the evils of the world follow us no matter where we go. Fill their hearts with fear and reverence, may I raise them to worship you in their hearts, to tell good from evil, to seek out your grace and put off the trappings and distractions of this world.


I pray most for Jacob. Anoint his head with blessings and wisdom, give him clear sight and a strong mind. Inspire in him courage and leadership, give him strength to overcome our enemies. Please lord, when this radio beside me speaks, let it be his voice, joyful and victorious, with the news that he is alive, and we have not lost many of our good men, and the battle is over and a new era for Fort Freedom is upon us.


I pray your forgiveness, lord, for our dealings with the Scoutpost. I am unclean, for I have practiced deceit, but I hope in your light that I may be redeemed. I could see ahead of me no other way through this desert, for we are surrounded by difficulties and beset by foes—about us are a plague of frogs, and the waters of a rising flood. Food and supplies are scarce, and few travelers come this way to transgress against us. Inside our walls, spirits of sin and temptation beset us—lead our good hearts astray with worldly wiles.


You led us to a new land, lord, a land of promise. Showed us people who reject you, who idolize obscenities and worship the devil. Enemies of god.


Forgive me, Lord, if to heal them was not your will—but it seemed so clear that to survive, we must not suffer evil in our presence. That all of our recent trials are a reminder, a guiding strike from your rod, that we must be vigilant against evil—that we cannot rest and become complacent. That we must burn out sin wherever we find it.


I hope the fires of this battle are a pleasing offering to you, Lord. A sign of our loyalty, our commitment to you. A promise that we will continue to root out your enemies, if you permit us in your grace to survive.


I pray for Jacob, lord. He is my firstborn, my eldest. I have set him upon the altar like Isaac. If in your kindness to Abraham you returned his son unscathed, spared the hand of sacrifice, I pray you will spare my son as well.


I pray for Buck, that you will show him your love, and guide him back from darkness. That you will not take away this man who is almost to me as one of my own sons. That you will purge his body and spirit of vileness and sinful lust, that you will bring him back to us unharmed so that we may help him find the path of righteousness again.


I pray for Rick, wherever he has gone—that if he still lives, you will make him a tool unto your purpose, and redeem his wrathful heart. Humble him, Lord, so that he may be an instrument for righteousness.


I pray for Bob. I know I have prayed many times for freedom from my sins towards him, Lord, but I still feel my soul burdened by that weight. I pray that you have taken his soul under your wings, that he understands why I did what I had to do, and that he is there with you in heaven.


I pray that he knows how beautiful each of his children is, that I have kept them well and disciplined them unto the lord… but not like him. Never like him. I pray that you no longer see his blood as a stain on my hands…


Mrs. Wicker jerked up as a sound broke through the buzz of static on the radio.


“Amen,” she breathed, and adjusted the dials, trying to get a better signal—a garbled voice echoed through the line.


“This is Fort Freedom,” she said. “Please repeat your message.”


“Ma?” the voice on the other side said, and her heart leapt within her chest. Jacob was alive. Her prayers were answered. “It’s Jacob.”


“Is it done?” she said, held the microphone close in the dim green light. “Was there a struggle?”


“Ma,” said Jacob, his voice a little clearer. “These people ain’t what we thought. Everything went so wrong, and…”


He was cut off, suddenly, and Mrs. Wicker frowned, adjusted the dials again.


“Jacob? Jacob, please say something…”


“He’s said all he needs to,” a voice said from the other side—a rasping that Mrs. Wicker recognized as Violet Keene. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from an outburst, tasted blood.


“What have you done with my son?” she said.


“Nothing he wasn’t planning to do to me,” said Violet through the static. “As you probably can guess, we’re calling to let you know your… invasion? It was a failure. How could you, Kellyanne. We invited you for dinner.”


“Invasion?” said Mrs. Wicker, reeling—she felt as though her world was slowly turning upside down, all the blood rushing to her head. “No, there must have been some kind of misunderstanding…”


“We understand perfectly,” crackled Violet. “Your people have told us everything. The ones that are left, anyway.”


“Those are good people,” said Mrs. Wicker, clutching the microphone in both hands so as not to shake. “Righteous people. With families. You have no right to hurt them.”


“We only hurt one or two,” said Violet. “But the forest took a lot more than that. It’s over, Kellyanne. You’ve lost.”


“Why have you called?” she said, tried to keep her breathing steady. “Are you going to kill my son? Jacob, the lord loves you, and these people will never…”


“I’m upset, Kellyanne, but I’m not a monster,” said Violet. “I want to arrange a ceasefire. Your son, and everyone we have left of your people will be returned safely. And in exchange, you will never step foot in our forest again.”


“You’re making a mistake,” said Mrs. Wicker. “We can help you fight. Help you survive against the forest. Everything we have tried to do… know that it came from a place of love.”


“You have no idea who you’re talking to,” said Violet. “At this point, we are the forest. Meet us tomorrow morning at the forest’s edge—the place where we had our first meeting. It’ll do for our last.”


The radio went silent, and Mrs. Wicker sat back, let the microphone fall from her hands. She breathed out, and closed her eyes, and folded her hands.


Please, lord, she prayed. We will not allow them to overcome your will. Give us strength for the battle ahead.



Outro - Broomsticks

Broomsticks.


I wonder from time to time, dreamer, if I have ordered everything well. If someone else was ever to step in to the parlor of my soul, would they find it inviting? Would they hang their coat without asking, find a place to sit by the fire? Would it feel like home to them?


I worry sometimes that they would not. That the door will creak as it opens, and the welcome mat be tracked with mud from those who came before, the surfaces cluttered with a million years of trifling memories and rotting feelings. That it is too dim, too full of dust, too desperate for light to ever entertain more than a moment’s visit.


But I have languished in the darkness for a while, dreamer, and it has not fixed itself. So I will pick up my broom and brush the worst of the webs away—and hope that when someone again peers into my life, they do not mind a little mess.


Doing a little spring cleaning, I am your loyal host Nikignik, waiting tidily for your return to the Hallowoods.




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