Content warnings for this episode include: Animal death (implied several cats), a billboard that says ‘no’ repeatedly while being destroyed, Birds, Emotional Manipulation, Body horror
He lay awake at night. He did not sleep, but he was beyond the need for sleep. To rest was human. To escape was weakness. And although he dwelt on the ground, his thoughts were more and more in the stars. They sang, he thought. Odd melodies in the early hours.
Was it the smog that tinted them green? Or did he somehow stare through the tired atmosphere of Earth and into a universe beyond? A cosmos of sheer, cold, interstellar beauty? A world to which he would never fully belong without taking one first, one final step out his front door and into the sky?
I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel inspired, but I don’t know by what. What this book will look like when it’s finished. The good news is that I have a few pages done.
Things are hazy, lately. Like the sky. There are noises from outside, not just at night. Sometimes it sounds like howling, but I’ve never seen wolves in this neighborhood. Sometimes it sounds like song. I feel afraid, but I don’t know of what… The world beyond? Or myself?
I’ve lost track of Priscilla. She’s around here somewhere, I’m sure. She’s the most adventurous of them… she’ll disappear for a few days, and come back with a stranger’s collar or something. I’ll wait a few more days before I start to worry.
…although I forget how long it’s been already.
The quiet is driving me crazy. You don’t notice how much the hum of city traffic becomes part of your consciousness, and now it’s gone. The entire world feels heavy. Like the city can’t wake up. They might literally be sleeping though; all inside that big silver box. Maybe I should go. The billboard is halfway across the field, now. It says ‘Family’.
I want to believe it. But I have one actual family member left, and it’s mother, and they won’t let me talk to her. They say they’re moving her to the Dreaming Box. They’re shutting down the keep home entirely. Not enough staff.
I’ve tried calling the customer care at Box Libra, but they won’t let me talk to her either. They invited me to join. What am I going to do? Dream about a novel? I already do that, and it’s no good to anyone.
I wonder if my agent is still out there, or if she’s in one of those boxes too.
I’m still going to finish my book. For me. Even if no one reads it.
What am I saying? Of course they’ll read it. It’s not as bad as all that. What kind of a world would it be if people didn’t read books? Maybe I’ll be a bestseller.
I’ll be the only seller.
I’m turning this on because there’s something at the door. The back door. Scratching. It’s too big for the cat door, but it keeps trying to reach through… I saw a big hand or a claw or…
*furious scratching at the back door again*
I’m going to try and put a table in front of it, but it means getting closer… it’s reaching in again!
*thuds of moving furniture*
…it’s still scratching, but the door is barred now. Let’s hope it holds.
I… for a moment I thought I saw its face. Those little eyes... too many. It looked like Mrs. Whiskers, but I know it’s not. She isn’t that mean. She would never scratch me. And those hands… Maybe it’s a raccoon.
It’s just me and you, Shelly. It’s alright. We have each other.
I’m thirsty. I drink constantly, but it’s not enough. The water is thick. It drips out of the tap like tar.
I wish I could help myself. But for a moment, it tastes like inspiration. Like I can see the stars through the ceiling. Like I could write the novel of a generation. It’s been fueling me. I wake up and find that I’ve typed out pages all night. I’m not sure exactly what I’ve written. Let’s take a look here.
What is eternity without change? The changing of the stars and all living things and of the age that they inhabit?
Change is my gift to you, beloved. I will give you things to watch. I will give you stories to tell. I will give you a universe that never grows stagnant; always transformed.
An explosion of life, of creativity. Roots that break apart the gears of grinding machines. Antlers that carry stolen suns. Flames that destroy souls, burn in them brighter, make them rotted and verdant. I will lay ahold of the cycle of life and I will spin it like a wheel of fortune, and the stars will sing elegies of creation…
...I don’t know what any of that means, exactly, but I like the sound of it. I think that makes me a poet. Something in me is finding its way onto the page, anyway. Something I didn’t know was there.
I don’t recognize the world outside anymore. I’ve barred up all the windows and doors; to stop Mrs. Whiskers from getting in. I can still hear her scratching at the walls, at the roof. Shelly is still here though, aren’t you Shelly?
*a trilling not quite catlike*
I can see the yard from between the window boards. The fence is overgrown with vines. The leaves are darker than I remember. It should be getting into summer by now, but it still feels like spring. The flowers in the garden are beautiful, but I don’t remember planting them. They’ve almost grown to choke out the billboard; the one that’s right outside my back gate. It’s still blinking, desperate now. It says ‘Home’.
This is my home. This little attic. The rainwater has flooded the basement, but it’s kind of nice. Like a lake all to myself. I go downstairs and lie in there, sometimes. Think about what’s next for my novel.
It’s frightening, all of this!
I don’t know what’s happening, but… it’s REAL. I feel things again. I feel alive. And the book is coming along beautifully.
The phone lines are dead. That’s alright. I’ve been busy. My little attic is filled with papers. I’m still not done, but almost. I can feel it getting close to the end. It’s even better than the first one. I just need time to focus…
…but there’s that billboard outside, blinking. I keep trying to shut it out, but still little slivers of light get in, like needles. I’ve got to do something about it. I’m going to, I promise I will!
*an indistinct shifting of wood, an impact, a strange and shuddering sound*
It’s done! Haha! I did it!
I pulled the boards away from my attic window, and I climbed out onto the roof, face to face with that huge white sign. It said ‘Sleep’, but I can’t sleep, not anymore! I have to write, and write without distraction, and I threw a wooden board. It went right through! I never knew I was so strong!
The glass shattered, and the billboard said ‘stop’, and ‘stop’, and ‘stop’, but I kept throwing them like javelins, until it stopped blinking. The light is dead. Heh. Haha.
And the sun! The brightness of it. My eyes weren’t accustomed. It turns out it wasn’t Mrs. Whiskers scratching on the roof after all. It’s a bunch of ravens. They’re sitting up there, watching me. Waiting. But they’ll have to wait to read my book, just like everyone else. It’s nice to have fans!
I look out the window now and I see things moving in the field—frogs, I think, crawling out of the black river. Or people. I can’t tell. Maybe they’re both. They have green stars in their eyes. They smile at me, and I smile back. It feels good. To have a community. To have people like me. I’ll go out to meet them soon, but I have got to finish this book.
It’s done. At last. My novel. There’s nowhere to send it, of course. My computer ran out of battery months ago, and I think my agent has forgotten me. I don’t care. It’s done, and I’m celebrating that. I’ve taken all the important pages and bound them up. I’m calling it ‘The Changing Of The Age’. I don’t know what it is. Poetry. Science fiction. The best art is undefinable. Genres were only invented by the marketing people, after all. I’m going to take it, and these tapes, and I’ll put them all on the roof. The ravens can have them. I hope they like it.
I used to wonder, what’s the point in writing when the world is ending? In sending out words that no one will ever read? Is it a selfish need to be heard by the dying? Is it an act of rebellion, to pretend like any of it matters enough to write about? Is it to give others hope? Is it cruel to give them hope when it’s all crashing down around them anyway?
But I understand, now.
It’s not the end.
It’s the beginning.
The world is only changing. It’s all made new. The deadlines and the revisions and the wordcounts are all dead. There’s only the spring, the spring everlasting. There’s a brand new world out there. And it’s waiting for me. It’s waiting for all of us.
I’m lost. To time. To space. I don’t want to be found. They don’t matter anymore. It’s this present moment that matters. This beautiful instant, and in it I know that I am alive.
This is my last entry. Because after this, I’m going to take the boards down from my front door. And I’m going to step outside. And I’m going to walk, and live for the first time.
Thus ends the story of Horace Loveland.
Thus begins the story of Horace Loveland.
The bonus story that goes with this episode is called 'Cat's Cradle', 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!