EPISODE 3: PLAYTHINGS

Five children have dared to spend the night in Howling House and already this sleepover has become the stuff of their deepest, darkest nightmares. First, they encountered a strange cat that spoke a dire omen before it ran away. Then, they discovered a grotesque rat creature living in the walls - and it had a human face. But perhaps most shameful and disturbing of all - the truth came out that Tommy Northwood, proud Boy Scout, stole his scoutmaster’s knife. In the wake of that startling revelation, his sister, Chelsea, has left the side of her deceitful brother to follow the sound of the uncanny cat, yowling upstairs

Content Warning: Violence, gore, harsh language, child endangerment and abuse, bullying, smoking, self harm, injury to fingernails, ableist language, mention of death during a pandemic, and putrescence.

An illustration of a decrepit Victorian house with a light on inside and a cat sitting on the gate with the Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program logo above it, by Sarah DeLaine and Ashley Lanni

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Full Transcript Below

Original score composed and performed by Ryan and Mike McQuinn of Neon Dolphin Music Design

CREDITS:

Written & Performed by:
Luke Stram – The Keeper
Cat Blackard | Manda Bruno | Brandon Gerson | Chris LeBrane | Colin Peterson

Based on “The Dare” by Kevin Ross with revisions by Bret Kramer, published by Sentinel Hill Press

 

Sound Design: Colin Peterson

Editing and Mastering: Colin Peterson & Cat Blackard

Story Editing: Cat Blackard



Cast (In Order of Appearance):

Cat Blackard as The Narrator/The Announcer

Luke Stram as The Keeper
Manda Bruno as Chelsea Northwood
Cynthia Beckert as Grandma Northwood
Colin Peterson as Tommy "Woods" Northwood
Chris LeBrane as Joey Davenport
Cat Blackard as Roger Simmons
Brandon Gerson as Dirt
Cat Blackard as Dirt's Mother
Leeman Kessler as The Cat


Musical Spotlight: "A Walking Piicture" by Jordan Lehning

Original Score: Ryan McQuinn and Mike McQuinn

Neon Dolphin
- Bandcamp

Album Art by Sarah DeLaine and Ashley Lanni

Executive Producers: Colin Peterson & Cat Blackard

Producer: John Sebastian La Valle

Associate Producer: Jessica Mudd

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS:

TRANSCRIPT:

[Omniverse Audio Brand]
 
ANNOUNCER:
The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program is for mature audiences only. This episode contains violence, gore, harsh language, child endangerment and abuse, bullying, smoking, self harm, injury to fingernails, ableist language, mention of death during a pandemic, and putrescence.
 
Please listen at your own discretion.
 
If you find our stygian stories simply scintillating, unlock further secrets at Patreon.com/OmniverseMedia, and help us fund future series via our IndieGoGo campaign at CthulhuMystery.com/crowdfund.
 
[SFX: Radio static, the dial tunes until…]
 
[The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program intro plays—sinister]
 
GRUFF VOICE:
Do you hear that?
 
[SFX: Eerie wailing]
 
GRUFF VOICE:
In the cruel blackness of night, an unknowable evil from beyond time cries out! What dark deeds unfold on the streets of Arkham? And which unwitting souls, innocent or impure, will succumb to the maddening call? The Call…of Cthulhu!
 
[Music swells and fades]
 
ANNOUNCER:
Black Pharaoh Coffee brings you Part 3 of The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program: “Night at Howling House.” Tonight’s chilling chapter: “Playthings.”
 
CAT BLACKARD:
Hi, I’m The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program’s showrunner, Catherine Blackard. Recently, a listener all the way from Sweden by the name of Lillskank gave us a 5 star review on Apple Podcasts. They said that the cast of our show is “amazing,” that my “charm oozes through the aether” (that’s very nice of you to say), and that our horror and humor is a “perfect blend.”
 
An outstanding compliment, because I know from perfect blends. Like Nephren-Kafé: the new instant coffee blend from Black Pharaoh. Fruity, floral, and robust enough to wake the dead, Black Pharaoh’s Nephren-Kafé reigns supreme over other instant brands. They’ve harnessed the ancient art of mummification to resurrect beans—from dust to the perfect cup—before your very eyes. Why shamble through day like a withered husk? With Black Pharaoh’s Nephren-Kafé you’ll be emerging forth into the light in an instant.
 
Find Black Pharaoh’s Nephren-Kafé at finer grocers everywhere. Just look for the tin with the shining trapezohedron. Amidst the Crawling Chaos of daily strife, have a cup of Black Pharaoh Coffee and you’ll come back to life.
 
NARRATOR:
Five children have dared to spend the night in Howling House, and already this sleepover has become the stuff of their deepest, darkest nightmares. First, they encountered a strange cat that spoke a dire omen before it ran away. Then, they discovered a grotesque rat creature living in the walls—and it had a human face. But perhaps most shameful and disturbing of all, the truth came out that Tommy Northwood, proud Boy Scout, stole his scoutmaster’s knife. Tsk, tsk. In the wake of that startling revelation, his sister, Chelsea, has left the side of her deceitful brother to follow the sound of the uncanny cat, yowling upstairs.
 
[SFX: Determined footsteps]
 
CHELSEA:
[Breathing heavily]
 
KEEPER:
Chelsea, as you run up the stairs, each step creaks and moans.
 
[SFX: Creaking wood]
 
KEEPER:
With the storm raging outside it’s like the house is shifting and shuddering. In fact, there’s a sensation, almost like an inhalation—
 
[SFX: Breath swirling on the wind]
 
KEEPER:
—all around you. And then you hear that terrible—
 
[SFX: Eerie, echoey howl]
 
KEEPER:
—howling sound that house is named after. It is chilling.
 
CHELSEA:
I’m not afraid of the wind! I’m gonna catch that cat!
 
[SFX: Determined footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
Partway up the stairs, there’s a landing and an open door into a bathroom.
 
CHELSEA:
[Breathing heavily]
 
KEEPER:
Maybe the cat is in there.
 
CHELSEA:
I stomp right in.
 
KEEPER:
It’s a small bathroom and only has just enough room for a toilet, sink, and tub. It’s grimy and stinks like mildew.
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
Ew. Is the kitty in the tub?
 
KEEPER:
Maybe. It’s a claw-footed tub, stained with some kind of disgusting remnant of whatever was once inside. You look inside of it and the cat isn’t there or underneath it, but as you stand up to your full height again, something catches your eye in that medicine cabinet mirror. Make a Sanity check.
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
51 out of 71, so I passed.
 
KEEPER:
In that cracked mirror, you see your grandmother weeping, Chelsea.
 
[SFX: Dramatic stinger]
 
CHELSEA:
[Hushed]
Mema…
 
KEEPER:
She looks miserable, sorrowful. You can almost hear her saying,
 
KEEPER & “GRANDMA NORTHWOOD”:
My babies, my sweet babies—

“GRANDMA NORTHWOOD”:
—come home to me. Why did you have to die?
 
CHELSEA:
No, no, no! Mema!
 
KEEPER:
She plunges her fingers into her eye sockets—
 
[SFX: Meaty squelch]
 
GRANDMA NORTHWOOD:
[Anguished cries]
 
CHELSEA:
No, Mema!
 
KEEPER:
—blood oozing out.
 
[SFX: Blood spurting]
 
CHELSEA:
Mema, I’m here! Mema!
 
KEEPER:
And then your brother steps into view over your shoulder through the mirror.
 
[SFX: Hesitant footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
He looks worried. Your grandmother is nowhere to be seen.
 
WOODS:
Chelsea, what are you doing? Don’t go into this house anywhere alone.
 
CHELSEA:
Mema’s in the mirror! And she can’t get out!
 
WOODS:
What do you mean, “Mema’s in the mirror?”
 
CHELSEA:
Mema’s in the mirror! We have to get her out of the mirror!
 
[SFX: Footsteps]
 
JOEY:
What’re you guys doing in here?
 
WOODS:
Oh—
 
CHELSEA:
Mema’s in the mirror!
 
WOODS:
—Chelsea—
 
JOEY:
What’s she babbling about?
 
WOODS:
Chelsea, gosh, for the love of God, can you please just shut up? For once?
 
CHELSEA:
Mema’s in the mirror!
[Sobbing]
 
WOODS:
What do you mean, “Mema’s in the mirror?”
 
CHELSEA:
I point to the mirror and I’m still sniffling, and I’m like,
She’s in the mirror and she was pulling at her eyes. And I don’t know why. I want to go home!
 
WOODS:
I look in the mirror.
 
KEEPER:
You’re just looking at the cracked reflection of yourself—
 
[SFX: Footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
—and your little sister.
 
ROGER:
Ew! Look at that ugly mug!
 
[SFX: Confident footsteps]
 
JOEY:
Move out of the way! I wanna see if I look good!
 
WOODS:
I—I grab Chelsea and I back up—
 
JOEY:
Mm-hmm!
 
WOODS:
—leaving room for Joey.
 
JOEY;
[Laughs]
Casanova over here! Oh, man.
 
KEEPER:
So you guys back away from the bathroom and continue to make your way up the stairs?
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
Yeah. Let’s keep going upstairs.
 
KEEPER:
You make your way slowly up the stairs—
 
[SFX: Careful footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
—the boards creaking under each footstep. You hear the rain above—
 
[SFX: Heavy rain]
 
KEEPER:
—and water running over the house, maybe even though the walls. As you make it to the hot air of the second floor there’s a pungent scent that hits you in a wave. You recognize it instantly, Woods: that is bat guano.
 
[SFX: Dramatic stinger]
 
WOODS:
Alright, everybody be careful. There’s bats up here.
 
JOEY:
Heh. Baaaats!?
 
WOODS:
If a bat bites you, it very well could give you rabies, and rabies is a slow and painful death.
 
DIRT:
What are you talking about? I’ve had a bat in my pocket the whole time and he’s—
 
[SFX: Bat chirps]
 
WOODS:
What?! You’ve had a bat in your pocket?
 
JOEY:
You’ve had a bat in your pocket?
 
DIRT:
You guys saw it. It was from the gate. He was—
 
CHELSEA:
Can I see it?
 
JOEY:
No!
 
DIRT:
—he’s kind of attached to my inner thigh—
 
JOEY:
I’m about to kick you in the pocket.
 
CHELSEA:
Is it the one that was biting your neck?
 
DIRT:
[Groans]
Oh, gosh.
 
JOEY:
I’m gonna kick you in the pocket, Dirt!
 
DIRT:
I’m just saying, bats are okay.
 
KEEPER:
Dirt, for you, this smell is—uh, it’s unpleasant and kind of terrifying. It reminds you of the chicken coops—
 
DIRT:
[Groaning]
 
KEEPER:
—when they haven’t been cleaned for awhile. Looking up, there’s a trap door that probably leads up into an attic or something. This area up here up on the second floor, there’s a number of doors up here that lead off into different directions. There’s a door to your left and right and there’s a—kind of a main hall that follows the same access of the hallway down on the first floor.
 
CHELSEA:
I slowly let go of my brother’s hand—
 
[SFX: Footsteps]
 
CHELSEA:
—and wander off towards one of the nearby bedrooms.
 
WOODS:
What are you doing? We need—you always need to stick together. The buddy system!
 
CHELSEA:
I don’t know, you’re kind of acting like a scared, little rabbit. I just want to—I want to find the kitty and—
 
WOODS:
Am I the only person who has recognized what is happening in this house?
 
CHELSEA:
What is happening in this house?
 
WOODS:
There’s a cat who spoke to you and told you that we were all gonna die tonight. Dirt put a stick of dynamite in the hands of this little creature that has a head of a human being—
 
CHELSEA:
What? What?
 
WOODS:
—and then Roger is using it as a puppet and everybody’s thinking, “Oh, yeah, this is great. This is wonderful. Let’s keep going. Let’s open all the doors.”
 
CHELSEA:
You’re the one who wants to stay in the house!
 
WOODS:
“Let’s do it!”
 
DIRT:
Did someone shout, “Open all the doors?” Okay. I’ll do that.
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
 
JOEY [Out of Character]:
It’s pretty dark up here, any more of those candles around?
 
KEEPER:
In fact there are, Joey. They’re unlit, but they’re around. Clusters of them, glued to the banister by their own wax.
 
JOEY:
Nice, nice. I’m gonna hit some of those with my lighter—
 
[SFX: Flick of a lighter]
 
JOEY:
—and then I’m gonna light myself—
 
[SFX: Flick of a lighter]
 
JOEY:
—a cigarette off one.
 
[SFX: Flick of a lighter]
 
JOEY:
[Inhales deeply]
[Coughs]
Yeah.
 
ROGER:
How about a smoke, pal?
 
JOEY:
Mmhmm.
I light up Roger’s off of mine and I hand it to him.
 
ROGER:
[Smacks lips]
Mighty fine! Migh! Tee! Fine!
 
WOODS:
Oh, we’re smoking now. Oh, great.
 
CHELSEA:
Ignore them, Tommy.
 
WOODS:
Fine.
 
ROGER:
I start drawing a big jack-o-lantern—
 
[SFX: Knife slitting paper]
 
ROGER:
—face in the wallpaper with a knife.
 
JOEY:
[Laughs]
That’s a pretty good jack o’lantern, Roger.
 
ROGER:
Yeah, I know. Obviously.
 
CHELSEA
I open the bedroom door—
 
[SFX: Footsteps]
 
CHELSEA:
—I was heading towards.
 
[SFX: Heavy door opens]
 
WOODS:
And I follow her.
 
KEEPER:
With your flashlight, Woods, you see a broken bed frame and a battered chest of drawers. The walls have faint remnants of what was once bright paint. You guess it might have been a child’s room.
 
CHELSEA:
Sophie told me this is the room where they found all the bodies in.
 
WOODS:
Aw, man! We—okay. Let’s just go inside the room. Let’s go. Let’s embrace it. C’mon, Chelsea. Let’s go see what crazy shit’s inside this room.
 
CHELSEA:
Okay.
 
ROGER:
You’re a wuss, Woods!
 
JOEY:
He’s losing it!
 
KEEPER:
In the back of the room there’s a closet that’s half open.
 
[SFX: Cautious footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
Standing just a few feet away from it, you can smell the stink of bat guano, even stronger than out in the hallway.
 
WOODS:
I bet there’s something awesome inside the closet! Go open—open the closet, Chelsea.
 
CHELSEA:
Are you really telling me to open the closet.
 
WOODS:
Open the closet, Chelsea.
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
Can I just go on record—
 
WOODS:
Go and open the closet.
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
—that he told me to open the closet? Before anything bad happens to him. I’m going to open the closet.
 
KEEPER:
Okay, so Chelsea, you carefully walk over to the closet and open the door.
 
[SFX: Creaky door opens]
 
KEEPER:
Inside, there are old children’s toys and a heap of damp books, all of it covered in splotches of stinking bat guano. If you train your eyes upward, you see what looks like a hole going up into the attic.
 
CHELSEA:
I pick up a toy horse—
 
[SFX: Rustling noise]
 
CHELSEA:
—and I touch its nose to my nose before realizing that it’s covered in poop.
Ew! Yuck!
I drop it—
 
[SFX: Light thud]
 
CHELSEA:
—and wipe off my nose on my sleeve.
 
WOODS:
Are you okay?
 
CHELSEA:
I’m fine.
 
KEEPER:
You hear some squeaking up above. In that black chasm of the attic, you didn’t see them initially, but there are things
 
[SFX: Fluttering]
 
KEEPER:
—moving around on the ceiling. They look like bats.
 
CHELSEA:
I close the door.
 
[SFX: Creaky door swings shut]
 
[SFX: Plodding footsteps]
 
JOEY:
Hey, what was in that closet?
 
CHELSEA:
Oh! You should totally look.
 
WOODS:
Yeah, Joey. Go look in the closet!
 
JOEY:
Oh, you think I’m scared like you? “Ooooo, don’t look in the—!” Move out of the way!
 
WOODS:
I go and stand next to Chelsea as I watch Joey because I definitely want to see this.
 
JOEY:
I just nonchalantly—
 
[SFX: Confident footsteps]
 
JOEY:
—walk over and I open up the closet.
 
[SFX: Creaky door opens]
 
[SFX: Chirping of bats]
 
JOEY:
Holy shit, is that more bats?
 
KEEPER:
There’s only a few bats up here. But where the panel in the ceiling is missing, you can see what look like maybe some steamer trunks or something up there. Like a—looks like some kind of storage up in the attic.
 
JOEY:
Wonder what that is up there?
 
WOODS:
Up where?
 
JOEY:
Up there! Higher up!
 
WOODS:
There’s a hole?
 
JOEY:
Yeah!
 
WOODS:
Here, I’ll give you a boost, Joey!
 
JOEY:
Yeah, boost me up, man!
 
KEEPER:
Okay, Woods: you’re going to be doing the heavy lifting here, so give me a Gym Class roll.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
31. Made it.
 
KEEPER:
Okay, so you push with all your might and actually manage to get him up there enough to where he’s up and into the upper room.
 
JOEY:
Whoooaaaa!
 
[SFX: Heavy thud]
 
[SFX: Wood splintering]
 
WOODS:
[Shouting up]
What do you see up there?
 
KEEPER:
Looking around in this storage space you find some jumbled boxes and things like that. The stuff that’s stored in here—looks like they’re just old, rotted clothes. Not too much of use or interest, really. Anything that was in here seems to be rain-soaked and ruined.
 
JOEY:
Man, everything in here is just totally wet, and damp, and moldy, and—yuck! It’s gross up here.
 
WOODS:
That’s all you see?
 
JOEY:
That’s all I see. I don’t see anything else!
 
WOODS:
Here, take my flashlight.
 
JOEY:
Toss it up!
 
[SFX: Flick of a switch]
 
KEEPER:
Looking around with the flashlight, Joey, you catch something odd: it’s a little trail in the dust and grime in the boards in the attic. And the trail leads to a space tucked away behind some boxes. As you stoop down and peer into this little alcove you see a ball and some jacks. It’s like someone was actively playing a game in here.
 
[SFX: Dramatic stinger]
 
KEEPER:
And there’s no dust around it. But that’s impossible. All the way up here in the attic in a space that’s only big enough for a crawling toddler.
 
JOEY:
[Hushed]
What the fuck...?
 
KEEPER:
Make a Sanity check.
 
JOEY [Out of Character]:
I failed. I rolled an 84 but I have 59 Sanity.
 
KEEPER:
This is not right. This is not right at all. That thing that Dirt exploded…did it do this? Was it up here playing a game? Are there more of them? If the creatures in this house are playing jacks, who knows what else they might be doing?
 
JOEY:
What the fuck, man?!
 
WOODS:
Joey! What is it?
 
JOEY:
It’s like—everything is damp and dusty in here except for, like, one clean area.
 
WOODS:
What do you mean? What?
 
JOEY:
It’s an area with, like, jacks and the ball and everything! And it’s, like, something’s been up here! Like, something’s been up here before us.
 
WOODS:
Okay.  
 
JOEY:
I don’t—I don’t know!
 
WOODS:
Pick up—pick up the jacks.
 
JOEY:
I don’t want to pick up the jacks!
 
WOODS:
[Mocking]
What are you, some kind of a wuss, Joey? Pick up the jacks!
 
JOEY:
Let it be known that I have your flashlight and I’ll throw it at you, man.
 
WOODS:
Listen, the flashlight’s the only thing that’s giving you light up there in the dark. Why don’t you pick up the jacks, Joey?
 
JOEY:
Fine.
 
WOODS:
Pick up the jacks!
 
JOEY:
Fine! Fine!
 
WOODS:
I dare you!
 
JOEY:
I’m picking up the fucking jacks!
 
KEEPER:
Joey, you—you’re barely even able to reach your arm in there to get your hands on them, but you’re able to scoop up—
 
[SFX: Scooping of metal jacks]
 
KEEPER:
—the jacks and you’ve got them now.
 
JOEY:
Alright. I got them. I got them. Anything else? You want me to clean up the rest of this place?
 
WOODS:
Did you get the ball, too?
 
JOEY:
Yeah, I got it all, man. Got the whole game so you can play it all by yourself.
 
WOODS:
Excellent! Well, let’s come on down, then, and you can give me the jacks that you got from up there—if you did so get those jacks.
 
JOEY:
You gonna help me down or do I have to so some sort of like, dance move to get down here?
 
WOODS:
[Laughs]
I’d love to see it!
 
JOEY:
Ohhhhh I bet you would love to see it! I’ll do you an animal dance, man. Give you some of that horse trot, that chicken scratch, drop the damn grizzly bear on ya. Here I come!
 
[Cast laughs]
 
[SFX: Ominous roll of thunder]
 
KEEPER:
Dirt, you open the door—
 
[SFX: Creaky door opens]
 
KEEPER:
—and find yourself in another bathroom.
 
DIRT:
Great, another bathroom.
 
KEEPER:
A much bigger one. And you can tell right away that something foul is lurking in the toilet. A stink that’s been left there to fester.
 
DIRT:
I should be nice and try to flush the hideous stink away.
 
KEEPER:
Well, that’s very kind of you. You pull the chain—
 
[SFX: Chain rattles]
 
KEEPER:
—but the stopper rattles. There’s no water in the basin.
 
DIRT:
Oh…
 
KEEPER:
Just then, you hear one of your favorite sounds: the striking of a match.
 
[SFX: Strike of a match]
 
DIRT:
That is a good idea. It’ll make the smells go.
Hello?
 
KEEPER:
You look around the shadowy bathroom. The only light is the faint candlelight from the hallway. But just beyond that, in the dark, you can make out a mirror attached to an ornate vanity. And a warm, flame-like glow begins to blossom from that mirror like it was a window. And then…you hear a soft voice calling out to you.
 
DIRT’S “MOTHER”:
Baby! My sweet baby boy…
 
[SFX: Booming thunder]
 
KEEPER:
Make a Sanity check.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
It’s 14! I’m Sane, yay! I’m a Sane baby boy!
 
KEEPER:
Indeed! Even still, there is a light and that voice is your mother’s voice.
 
DIRT:
Mother?
 
DIRT’S “MOTHER”:
Yes, baby. Mommy’s here.
 
DIRT:
I walk towards the mirror.
 
[SFX: Shuffling footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
Standing before the mirror, you’re bathed in a soothing, golden light. And you see your mother: just the way she looks in the photos, just the way she’s always looked in your mind. Her arms are reaching out as if to hug you.
 
DIRT:
Oh, I set down the fire poker—
 
[SFX: Rod clatters]
 
DIRT:
—and I’m gonna climb into the mirror!
 
DIRT’S “MOTHER”:
Come to me, my sweet baby boy. Let Momma hold you.
 
DIRT:
I’m coming! I—
 
KEEPER:
Your head smacks the glass.
 
[SFX: Glass shatters]
 
KEEPER:
The glow is gone. Your mother is gone.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
I—but…I’m a Sane boy. I’m a Sane baby boy. I know I saw her. I did. I swear.
 
KEEPER:
All you see now is your reflection. But, what’s that? Your nose catches the scent of tobacco. And then you see it. In the corner of the reflection, suddenly something is there, silhouetted in the light of the doorway. It’s a cat—
 
[SFX: Dramatic stinger]
 
KEEPER:
—and the cat is smoking a pipe. How can that be? The embers turn red in the bowl—
 
THE CAT:
[Laughs ominously]
 
KEEPER:
—and a feeling of dread overcomes you.
 
DIRT:
Cat!
I chase after it.
 
KEEPER:
You turn away from the mirror and the cat is gone. In your haste you tumble off the vanity.
 
[SFX: Heavy thud]
 
DIRT:
Ugh!
I run to the hallway.
 
[SFX: Hurried footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
But nothing and no one is there. You hear Woods, Chelsea, and Joey in another room. You don’t see Roger anywhere. But you smell the pipe—you’re certain of it. It overpowers the guano stink.
 
DIRT:
I’m gonna open another door.
 
KEEPER:
You fling the next door open—
 
[SFX: Creaky door opens]
 
KEEPER:
—and a new scent hits you. It’s another very familiar scent: wood smoke and lamp oil.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
Is it dark?
 
KEEPER:
It’s pitch black. Except for where the candlelight hits from the doorway behind you.
 
DIRT:
I take out my matches and I light one of them.
 
[SFX: Skritch of a match]
 
KEEPER:
As you enter the room with your burning match, you can now make out what was probably a bedroom, but it’s been wrecked. Everything has been pushed into the corner of the room except for a few more of those homemade candles by your feet, melted together on the floor, unlit.
 
DIRT:
Well, that’s sad. I light them with my match.
 
KEEPER:
They glow happily and now you can see the pile in the corner better. It’s made up of smashed furniture and clothes. As you approach it, you notice charring and a slickness on the heap. Make a Play With Matches roll.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
Yeah! 55!
 
KEEPER:
You hold the match in front of you, staring at that beautiful, sensuous, loving flame. And your gaze drifts back to the pile. You realize that whoever did this in this room, they pushed all this stuff together, they covered the place in oil—they were probably planning to burn this house down!
 
[SFX: Dramatic stinger]
 
KEEPER:
This would’ve done it. You’re certain of that. You’ve started enough fires in your time.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
Ahhhh, like the Smythe Barn…
 
KEEPER:
Yes, precisely.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
[Hushed]
It was so beautiful, so warm. Just like I imagine heaven is.
 
KEEPER:
It’s awfully cold in here.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
You know what will help being cold? A nice, warm flame in that pile of oil-soaked rags.
 
KEEPER:
You’re going to toss your match onto it?
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
Of course!
 
[SFX: Roaring flames]
 
KEEPER:
Your match hits the oil-soaked detritus and ribbons of flame—
 
[SFX: Conflagration]
 
KEEPER:
—burst forth immediately.
 
DIRT:
[Giggles]
 
KEEPER:
The warmth is so nice and so comforting.
 
DIRT:
[Giddy laughter]
 
KEEPER:
It almost looks like the flame is smiling at you for a moment—
 
DIRT:
Mommy?
 
KEEPER:
—before it suddenly flares up, turning pink, and then abruptly goes out—
 
[SFX: Flames are extinguished]
 
KEEPER:
—leaving nothing but smoke.
 
DIRT:
Where did the fire go?
[Out of Character]:
Can I dig through the pile—pile of clothing?
 
KEEPER:
You certainly can. You root through the wadded up—
 
[SFX: Rummaging]
 
KEEPER:
—oil-soaked rags, and boards, and clothing.
 
[SFX: Ceramic shatters]
 
KEEPER:
You’re looking for some kind of explanation to this, making an absolute mess of yourself in the process. You don’t see anything out of the ordinary, though. Whoever did this used quite a lot of oil, and a fair bit of it is on you now. It just doesn’t make sense. This should not have stopped burning.
 
[SFX: Footsteps]
 
ROGER:
Living up to your name I see, Dirt!
[Sinister laugh]
 
DIRT:
Oh! Hi, Roger! I didn’t do anything—I mean, I did! I did do something! I tried.
 
CHELSEA:
I come in behind Roger.
Hey what’s goin’—Oh, what is that…?
 
ROGER:
Looks like Dirt here was gonna light us all a nice big fire. Just like the kind that killed his mommy!
[Laughs]
 
DIRT:
It didn’t work! It should have, but the oil…
 
CHELSEA:
Why are you all slippery?
 
DIRT:
I lick my hands and it tastes like magic!
 
CHELSEA:
I don’t think you should put that in your mouth.
 
DIRT:
This is wizard oil! It tastes burning but it won’t light! See?
I’m gonna put my hands in the candle just to see if this magical oil lights or not.
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
 
KEEPER:
Dirt goes to hold his hand over the candle’s flame.
 
DIRT:
I’m gonna do it!
 
ROGER:
Do it, then!
 
CHELSEA:
I grab hold of Roger’s pant leg.
 
ROGER:
What?
 
CHELSEA:
Roger, tell him not to do it!
 
ROGER:
No way! This is great!
 
DIRT:
It’ll go out in a second! You’ll see!
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
 
CHELSEA:
I hold tight onto Roger’s leg.
Roger, make him stop!
 
ROGER:
No! You watch!
 
KEEPER:
Roger’s clammy and strong hands hold you tight, Chelsea.
 
[SFX: Roiling flames]
 
KEEPER:
Dirt, you take 4 points of Damage—
 
CHELSEA:
[Sobbing]
 
KEEPER:
—as the flames crawl up your arm.
 
DIRT:
[Groaning]
 
KEEPER:
At first it feels tingly, then it hurts, then it HURTS A LOT. Then you are screaming—
 
DIRT:
[Wailing, screaming]
 
KEEPER:
—in pain.
 
DIRT:
I’m running at Roger!
Roger! Roger, please help!
 
ROGER:
[Malicious laughter]
I swiftly take my jacket and as he’s coming at me, just roll him up in it, just smother that fire out, just Be a real Pal to my good friend—
 
[SFX: Smothering]
 
ROGER:
—Dirt. He’s learned his lesson.
 
DIRT:
Oh, God. Thank you so much!
 
KEEPER:
You’re wrapped up in his jacket and pretty quickly the fire is put out. But your hand aches.
 
DIRT:
I’m gonna throw up again!
 
ROGER:
There, there, baby.
[Laughs]
 
DIRT:
Daddy warned me this would happen.
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
Fire burns! Didn’t they tell you that?
 
DIRT:
Uh, no.
 
ROGER:
They didn’t teach you nothing. You got a head full of rocks, Dirt!
 
JOEY:
Hey, hey, hey! What’s all the commotion?
 
WOODS:
Chelsea! Chelsea are you alright?!
 
CHELSEA:
I’m fine! It’s Dirt!
 
KEEPER:
You both arrive in time to see Roger lording over Dirt, taking his jacket away from him—
 
[SFX: Fabric rustling]
 
KEEPER:
—and putting it back on.
 
ROGER:
You stunk it up, Dirt! Bad form.
 
WOODS:
Dirt, what happened to you?
 
JOEY:
Oh-ho!
 
CHELSEA:
He set himself on fire!
 
WOODS:
He WHAT?
 
JOEY:
Look at his hand!
 
DIRT:
It was magic—it was magic oil!
 
JOEY:
Oh, Roger, you got to give me the lowdown on this one.
 
CHELSEA:
He walked up to—he walked—he was covered in something weird and he walked up to the candle and he held his hand out over the candle—
 
[SFX: Distant thunder rumbles]
 
CHELSEA:
—and the fire spread up his arm and it looked like it really hurt and I had to look away. But Roger wouldn’t let me look away. He held—
 
WOODS:
Dirt!
 
CHELSEA:
—my hand!
 
WOODS:
Dirt, why did you do that?
 
DIRT:
It was supposed to be magic! I lit a fire, and it went out immediately, and so I lit my hand because that’s the logical next step, and it didn’t go out.
 
[SFX: Heavy footsteps]
 
JOEY:
Hey, Dirt. Lift up that hand!
 
DIRT:
Ah it’s falling—it’s hurting—
 
[SFX: High-five]
 
JOEY:
Put ’er there, man!
 
DIRT:
Oh, jeez, that hurts—
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
 
DIRT:
—so much!
 
JOEY:
Oh, man!
 
ROGER:
Sick!
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
Can I roll to see—
 
JOEY:
Oh, life is good.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
—if I have a bandage? Can I roll to see if I have, like, bandages or anything?
 
KEEPER:
Roll Luck.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
I rolled a 7.
 
KEEPER:
A Scout is always prepared.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
Excellent. And then I’m gonna roll First Aid. 100.
[Laughs]
So I did not bandage him very well.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
Thank you for wrapping the wrong part of my hand. It feels much better. Fucking idiot!
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
I’m the fucking idiot?
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
The oil was magic!
 
KEEPER:
Woods, you don’t feel too good about what you’ve done. You go to re-bandage it, and when you try to take bandages—
 
[SFX: Gauze rips]
 
KEEPER:
—off to redo them, some of Dirt’s skin—
 
[SFX: Flesh sloughing off]
 
KEEPER:
—comes off with them. Dirt, you take another point of Damage!
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
Ugh, I’m down to 3 Health!
 
WOODS:
I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!
 
JOEY:
That looks gross!
 
WOODS:
I haven’t learned how to treat burns yet! I’m so sorry!
[Out of Character]:
I’m going to roll Notice Stuff and see if there’s something in this room clean enough that I can use to bandage him back up again.
 
KEEPER:
Go for it.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
Uh, I got a 43. I made it.
 
KEEPER:
Most of the stuff in here has been pushed into the pile, Woods, but there’s a big board near the closet, that’s been propped up against the wall. You push it aside—
 
[SFX: Lumber shifting]
 
KEEPER:
—looking around behind it. And you actually do find a couple of shirts—
 
[SFX: Rustle of fabric]
 
KEEPER:
—that are in relatively good condition. They could probably be used as bandages. But when you pick the shirts up and you stand up again, you notice the board was covering something carved into the wall.
 
WOODS:
“Roger was here?” What? What do you—Roger? What is this?
 
ROGER:
Well obviously I was here. I put out the candles.
 
DIRT:
Why didn’t you finish writing the word “here?”
 
ROGER:
I got bored!
 
DIRT:
Why does it trail off after the “e?” Like—like you were dragged away kicking and screaming?
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
 
JOEY:
That is strange, but Roger’s gotta have a reason. It’s Roger! C’mon!
 
ROGER:
You think there should be a method to my madness?
And I start slashing at the walls again—
 
[SFX: Vicious stabbing]
 
ROGER:
—with a knife.
I’m Roger Simmons—
 
[SFX: Stabbing]
 
ROGER:
—and I don't care about anything!
[Laughs]
 
[SFX: Stabbing]
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
Get in on this, Joey!
 
JOEY:
Ha, yeah! You’re going insane! Let’s do it, man!
 
[SFX: Breaking]
 
[SFX: Clattering]
 
[SFX: Clinking]
 
ROGER:
Shit!
 
JOEY:
Watch his face, man!
 
[SFX: Wood splinters]
 
[SFX: Ceramic shatters]
 
ROGER:
Fuck it up, Joey!
[Laughs]
 
DIRT:
I like it when you slash the walls, Roger.
 
ROGER:
And do you like it when I break stuff, Dirt?
 
DIRT:
Y-yes?
 
JOEY:
That’s what I’m talking about!
 
ROGER:
That’s right!
 
JOEY:
See it smash against that wall?
 
[SFX: Wood thuds heavily]  
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
Yes!
 
WOODS:
Okay. I just grab Chelsea’s hand and I take her off into the hallway.
 
JOEY:
Check this out: two at the same time!
 
CHELSEA:
[Whispers]
Where are we going?
 
WOODS:
[Whispers]
Far away from them.
 
[SFX: Cautious footsteps]
 
KEEPER:
Out in the hall, there’s still three unopened rooms to your right, encircling the far side of the banister.
 
WOODS:
We’re going to the farthest one. I squeeze Chelsea’s hand and we run down the hallway and into the room, and I slam the door behind us.
 
[SFX: Door swings shut]
 
KEEPER:
Just as you’ve slammed the door—
 
WOODS & CHELSEA:
[Breathing heavily]
 
KEEPER:
—the both of you are hit with this absolutely rancid stench.
 
WOODS & CHELSEA:
[Retching and gagging]
 
CHELSEA:
Ew!
 
KEEPER:
Make a Nature check, Woods.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
23 out of 80. It’s—
 
KEEPER:
It’s death, Woods.
 
[SFX: Ominous roll of thunder]
 
KEEPER:
That’s what it is.
 
WOODS:
Ughhh!
 
KEEPER:
Something has died in here. That animal stink has been burned into your brain from that time Kingsley showed you that rotting deer in the creek bed. But this? This is so much worse. Whatever it is has been dead for awhile and is just trapped, rotting in this room.
 
CHELSEA:
I hate this house! So much! I hate it!
 
WOODS:
This is insane. This is insane!
[Out of Character]:
Do I see what’s making this smell?
 
KEEPER:
This room actually has a couple of lit candles in it. At the center is the moldering remains of a queen-sized bed. It’s torn and stained, and shining your flashlight through the room you see in the back of the room, there’s also a closed closet door. A couple of flies buzz past your ear, and you see others—
 
[SFX: Flies buzzing]
 
KEEPER:
—gathered by that closet door.
 
CHELSEA:
That’s gonna be us.
 
WOODS:
What?
 
CHELSEA:
We’re gonna die here.
 
WOODS:
We are not gonna die! Chelsea! We are not gonna die here.
 
CHELSEA:
I don’t think that’s really Roger.
 
[SFX: Ominous thunder]
 
WOODS:
What do you mean you don’t think that’s really Roger?
 
CHELSEA:
I don’t know!
 
WOODS:
Let’s stay away from him. We have to keep our distance from—whoever it is. But it’s our job to keep people safe. We have to—we have to make sure that we are helpful, and friendly, and courteous, and kind to Joey and to Dirt. And to you and I! We have to stick together.
 
CHELSEA:
I don’t think you understand. I saw Mema in the mirror.
 
WOODS:
You couldn’t have seen Mema. And she’s not here! You couldn’t have seen her!
 
CHELSEA:
I don’t wanna be here anymore. I wanna make sure Mema’s okay.
 
WOODS:
I don’t want to be here either, Chelsea. But we have to—
[Sighs]
I have to get that knife back. My whole rest of my life is—I will regret stealing that knife for the rest of my life. If I don’t get that back I won’t be able to be the person that I want to be.  
 
CHELSEA:
There are things you will regret forever. But that’s just how it is.
 
WOODS:
Oh, what do you know?
 
CHELSEA:
I know that Mommy and Daddy are dead. They’re not coming back! I told Mommy I hated her for getting the flu! I said that! I don’t get to take that back, Tommy!
 
WOODS:
Chelsea! No…
 
CHELSEA:
You stole that knife, Tommy! But we could DIE!
 
[SFX: Banging on the door]
 
WOODS & CHELSEA:
[Gasp]
 
JOEY:
Let me in! What’s going on in here, guys?
 
[SFX: Door opens]
 
JOEY:
You guys scared of Roger? Did he freak you out? Come on!
 
[SFX: Ponderous footsteps]
 
JOEY:
It’s Roger! He’s messing with you!
 
KEEPER:
Joey, as you come into this room, it stinks in here. It’s a disgusting, nasty smell. It’s something terrible.
 
JOEY:
[Retches]
Holy shit! What is that smell?
 
WOODS:
I don’t—
 
JOEY:
Ugh!
 
WOODS:
It’s a dead animal!
 
JOEY:
[Coughing]
Did you take a shit in here?
 
WOODS:
No, man! It’s a dead animal, Joey.
 
JOEY:
Yeah?
 
WOODS:
There’s a dead animal in here.
 
JOEY:
Did the dead animal come out of your ass, Woods?
 
WOODS:
No, Joey, there’s a dead animal and it’s in that closet.
 
CHELSEA:
[Sobbing]
 
WOODS:
Do you see the files? Around the closet? It’s in the closet. If you want to go in another closet again, go for it, man.
 
JOEY:
She really likes the waterworks!
 
WOODS:
Well, she’s eight years old, Joey!
 
JOEY:
You know, I was eight once. That’s the end of that story! I’m going to the closet. We’ll see what’s what around here.
 
ROGER:
Get going, Dirt.
 
DIRT:
Okay, Roger, whatever you want.
 
ROGER:
Less talkin,’ more walkin’!
 
[SFX: Slow footsteps]
 
DIRT:
Oh! Putrid stink! Putrescence of hell!
 
ROGER:
[Laughs]
Oh ho, ho, ho, ho! Is that you, Dirt? You stinking little turd!
 
JOEY:
It’s something in this closet. I’m gonna check it out.
 
KEEPER:
So you grab onto the handle—
 
[SFX: Door handle rattles]
 
KEEPER:
—of the closet and you go to pull it open. And it’s locked.
 
JOEY:
Roger, you got any more keys?
 
ROGER:
Mm, not for a closet. Why don’t you bash it down? You’re so big and strong. Show me how strong you are, Joey.
 
JOEY:
Fine, fine, fine. Dirt, you still got that poker?
 
DIRT:
I—no, I dropped it a long time ago. Sorry.
 
JOEY:
What? You guys are good for noth— You know what?
 
DIRT:
I’ve got—wait, I’ve got firecrackers. I don’t—
 
JOEY:
How many do you have, Dirt?
 
DIRT:
One.
 
JOEY:
One?!
 
DIRT:
Yeah.
 
JOEY:
Give it up! Give it up!
 
DIRT:
Alright. Here you go.
 
JOEY:
Heh. Okay. Let’s bust this open.
 
KEEPER:
You kind of find a place to balance the firecracker in the space between the knob and the lip of the latch’s strike plate.
 
[SFX: Flick of a lighter]
 
[SFX: Fuse burns]
 
JOEY:
Okay. Get back. Get back!
 
KEEPER:
It pops!
 
[SFX: Small explosion]
 
KEEPER:
The knob is busted and the latch itself is clearly pretty banged up.
 
JOEY:
Then I’m gonna give it a few good kicks.
 
[SFX: Heavy banging]
 
[SFX: Wood splintering]
 
KEEPER:
The frame splinters—
 
[SFX: Creaking wood]
 
KEEPER:
—under your foot and the closet door slowly swings open. Joey, as the light pours into the closet, you can see a slick, red stain on the floor.
 
JOEY:
Ew? What is that?
I’m gonna throw the door open.
 
[SFX: Creaky door opens]
 
[SFX: Flies buzzing]
 
KEEPER:
There, for everyone to see, slumped against the back wall is a corpse! A mutilated body.
 
[SFX: Dramatic stinger]
 
CHELSEA:
Oh, my God!
 
ALL:
[Panicked screaming]
 
CHELSEA:
Oh, my God!
 
KEEPER:
It’s an older man wearing a heavy jacket and trousers. He has obviously been gnawed on by rats. His eyes and lips have mostly been chewed away, leaving a terrifying skeleton-like grin. There’s some kind of heavy cord wrapped around his neck and his left hand is missing from his body entirely. Everyone, roll Sanity.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
I rolled a 52. That’s not good...
 
JOEY [Out of Character]:
I rolled an 8. I’m okay.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
I rolled an 82, so I definitely failed.
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
I rolled a 69, so I just barely made it.
 
KEEPER:
Okay. Everybody who made it loses d4 Sanity. Everybody who failed loses 2d6.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
2d6? God. I just lost 10 points of Sanity!
[Laughs]
Shit!
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
Oh, boy. It’s about to get real.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
Oh, my God!
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
I only lost 1.
 
JOEY [Out of Character]:
That took me down 4 points.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
I lost 6. What are you at?
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
49!
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
I am at 27.
 
JOEY:
Alright, everybody calm down! Calm down!
 
CHELSEA:
[Sobbing and shrieking]
What’s wrong with his face?
 
JOEY:
What do you think’s wrong with his face?
 
CHELSEA:
Oh, my God!
 
JOEY:
Ah! That is ghastly. Nice coat, though.
 
KEEPER:
Dirt and Woods, both of you make an Intelligence check.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
I rolled a 22.
 
KEEPER:
Okay.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
Out of 55.
 
DIRT [Out of Character]:
43. Oh, wait, out of 50 so I’m fine.
 
KEEPER:
Oh, so you made them both. What that means is, you guys both grasp the gravity of your situation.
 
[Cast laughs]
 
JOEY [Out of Character]:
Yes!
 
KEEPER:
Dirt, you realize that they’ve brought you here to kill you. That’s the only thing that makes any sense about this.
 
DIRT:
[Deranged screaming]
You’re not my friends! You’re not my friends!
 
JOEY:
Hey! Just calm down.
 
DIRT:
[Screams]
You can’t do that to me! Stay back!
 
KEEPER:
The bats—the bats will be your friends!
 
DIRT:
The bats are my only friends. And all the things that live in the dirt!
 
KEEPER:
You back away from everyone else into the closet, stumbling over the body of the dead man—
 
DIRT:
[Panicked wailing]
 
KEEPER:
—and up above you, you see a hole in the ceiling that looks like it would lead up into the attic.
 
DIRT:
I’m gonna fly away. We’ll show you!
 
CHELSEA:
No, Dirt!
 
[SFX: Clambering]
 
DIRT:
My hand hurts really bad! This is hard with one hand. The skin is coming off! And every time I grab at the hole, another fingernail comes off. I didn’t know I had so many fingernails!
 
KEEPER:
Woods—
 
[Cast laughs]
 
KEEPER:
—obviously there’s no good reason for Joey to have opened that closet other than to intentionally terrify—
 
WOODS:
You…
 
KEEPER:
—your little sister.
 
WOODS:
YOU—! She’s just a little kid!
 
KEEPER:
You launch yourself in furious rage at Joey!
 
WOODS:
[Primal yelling]
 
[SFX: Fists cutting through air]
 
JOEY:
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
 
[SFX: Tussling]
 
WOODS:
You’re doing this to my sister?
 
[SFX: Punching]
 
JOEY:
Ow! I’m not doing anything to your sister!
 
WOODS:
[Yells]
 
JOEY:
Get off me, Woods!
 
[SFX: Scuffling]
 
JOEY:
I’m warning you!
 
WOODS:
I pull out my pocket knife and I just start tryin’ to JAM it into Joey. I just jam it into Joey—
 
[SFX: Heavy thud]
 
WOODS:
—and just try to stick him!
 
[SFX: Glass shatters]
 
JOEY:
I’m holding you by your wrists. I’m like,
Hey, let it be known that if you didn’t bring your sister here this would never have happened to her!
 
WOODS:
MY GRANDMA TOLD ME TO BRING HER!
 
JOEY:
“Oh, my grandma told me to bring her!” Whatever!
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
I just start—and I’m gonna roll to Fight him!
 
KEEPER:
Yeah, both of you make a Fight check.
 
WOODS [Out of Character]:
I rolled a 69. I failed.
 
JOEY [Out of Character]:
I got a seventy.
 
KEEPER:
That’s enough to make it, though.
 
JOEY [Out of Character]:
That’s enough!
 
WOODS:
[Enraged screams]
 
[SFX: Glass shatters]
 
KEEPER:
Woods, you hurl yourself—
 
[SFX: Heavy thud]
 
KEEPER:
—at Joey like a berserker, trying to knife his eyes—
 
[SFX: Tussling]
 
[SFX: Glass shatters]
 
KEEPER:
—clean out of his skull. But unfortunately for you, Joey’s a rough customer, and he’s taller than you. He’s able to push you away—
 
[SFX: Scuffling]
 
[SFX: Glass shatters]
 
KEEPER:
—and just keeps you at arm’s length until you kind of come to your senses and realize—this is not the Scout’s way.
 
JOEY:
Get off me, man! Ah, jeez!
 
WOODS:
[Breathing heavily]
 
JOEY:
You trying to take my eyes out with that thing!
 
[SFX: Thunder rolls distantly]
 
WOODS:
I’m sorry.
[Crying]
 
JOEY:
You don’t have to cry about it.
 
WOODS:
On my honor—
 
JOEY:
I should take your knife for that!
 
WOODS:
—I will do my best. I will—I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and obey the Scout’s law to help other people. In all times I keep myself physically strong—
 
JOEY:
Woods, you are flipping out on me, man.
 
WOODS:
—mentally awake, and morally straight. On my honor.
 
JOEY:
Woods, when this is all over, I’m gonna—
 
WOODS:
I will do my best—
 
JOEY:
—can I get you an egg cream when this is over?
 
WOODS:
—to God—
 
JOEY:
Want an egg cream?
 
WOODS:
—and to my country—
 
JOEY:
Buddy, want an egg cream?
 
WOODS:
—to obey the Scout’s law—
 
JOEY:
No? You just—he just…
 
WOODS:
—to help people—
 
JOEY:
Guys? He’s snapped!
 
WOODS:
—and to keep myself physically strong and—
 
CHELSEA:
I go over to where Tommy’s crouched—
 
[SFX: Slow footsteps]
 
CHELSEA:
—and I put my arms around him.
[Out of Character]: And I’m gonna attempt to Be a Pal. I roll a 10.
 
KEEPER:
Okay.
 
CHELSEA [Out of Character]:
16 is 1/5, so…
 
KEEPER:
Okay, so the calming touch of your little sister brings you to your senses.
 
WOODS:
[Heavy breathing]
I’m sorry, Joey. I’m sorry.
 
JOEY:
Yeah, I’m sorry, too. Look at you!
 
WOODS:
I’m sorry that I—what are we doing here? What is this place?
 
JOEY:
Look, look, look, look, look, look: if you want me to level with you, all I can say is that, look, Roger just wants to freak you out. Just deal with it; you should be fine. C’mon.
 
WOODS:
Just deal—this is a dead body, Joey. Did Roger—did you put this here? You said you put candles everywhere. Did you put a dead body in the closet?
 
KEEPER:
As you turn around, you realize Roger’s nowhere to be seen.
 
WOODS:
[Shouting]
Roger! Did you put this here?
 
JOEY:
Oh, I don’t think he’s gonna come to your whim every time you start whining. You’ve been whining since we got here.
 
WOODS:
What is he doing—why are you hanging out with him, Joey? There’s a dead body in the closet—
 
JOEY:
Hey, hey, hey, hey.
 
WOODS:
To be his “protege?”
 
JOEY:
Look—
 
WOODS:
What is wrong with you, Joey?
 
JOEY:
Hey, sometimes you gotta pay your dues, punch up to get beat down! I’m trying to climb my way to the top and not be worm food like you are. That’s what I’m doing, alright? I’m paying my dues working for Roger. One day, Roger’s gonna move on and then I’ll be Roger. Roger II. That’s gonna be me.
 
WOODS:
You wanna be Roger? You wanna be that crazy guy who’s writing things on a wall? You wanna be the person who’s brandishing a knife at—at—at other kids? You wanna be that guy?
 
JOEY:
Hey, he’s just having a good time. That’s all he’s doing. Look, if you want me to do it, I’ll find Roger for you. I’ll try and end this for you since you can’t handle it. You’re gonna have a heart attack and you’re only, like, what, twelve? Ugh. You sicken me, Woods. I’ll be back!
 
WOODS:
I just hold onto Chelsea and I just, like, just hug her close to me.
 
CHELSEA:
It’s okay, Tommy. It’s all gonna be okay…
 
WOODS:
Thanks, Chelsea.
 
[Tender piano music swells and fades]
 
[SFX: Ominous roll of thunder]
 
NARRATOR:
You know, I happened upon a dead body once. Of course, that was nothing like this and what these children are going through. And, well, that’s a story. But first thing’s first: what kind of friend of the audio theater would I be if I didn’t take a moment here at this critical juncture to remind you that this series would not exist were it not for listeners like yourselves becoming a patron of the arts and supporting this show?
 
If you head to Patreon.com/OmniverseMedia, you can become a part of the community of listeners receiving early releases, updates on production, and keeping our cast and crew in kerosene during these darkening days. That door is always open. But, friends, there’s a limited engagement underway: The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program’s next adventure, “The Case of the Penumbral Gate,” is being funded on IndieGoGo right now.
 
As an independent production we live and die by our funding, and folks, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the future of this program is entirely in your hands. Head to CthulhuMystery.com/Crowdfund and join us in cracking “The Case of the Penumbral Gate.” If you do, you get access to “The Black Market,” a menagerie of exclusive items and experiences, from fish coins, to roleplaying games run by our own Keeper, to honest to Hastur magic rituals conducted at your command. Toss us a copper to keep this Cthulhu kicking. Again, that’s CthulhuMystery.com/Crowdfund.
 
And I did promise you a story, so I will trust that you have followed my instructions, you are currently examining the crowdfunding campaign for yourself, and well, let me reward your diligence with my brush with someone else’s death. Folks, I am not ashamed to say that once upon a time, like many across this great nation, I was without a job and without a home. It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, riding the rails and taking what meager opportunities the road offers. One night I rolled into town late, and folks, I knew better but the light of a diner in the heart of town drew me in like a moth. Before I could get there, wouldn’t you know it but some police rolled up. They didn’t take too kindly to a rough looking gent like me walking their streets. So I booked it, and the sky opened up. I mean, it rained so hard it got my bones wet. But I disappeared into the downpour and as luck would have it, I found a basement window that was unlocked.
 
Soon as I slipped into the darkness below, I had the fright of my life. I tumbled directly onto the clammy carcass of a cadaver. He was laid out for some late night funerary preparations and of course my screams brought the mortician in from a smoke break. But back then my survival skills were honed sharp. Running on more instinct than sense, I grabbed the stiff off the table and when the lights flicked on, what should that poor mortician see than a pale figure rise from behind the operating table, propped up by yours truly. Ha! And I thought I made tracks!
 
Look, folks, I’m not proud of what I did there—well, maybe a little. But the fact is, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the deceased. His death gave me a new life. Because what should I find nearby but a crisp, clean suit, fit to be buried in, just my size.
 
So I stepped out into that brand new day, rinsed clean by the rain, freshly shaven thanks to the corpse-beautifying accoutrement, sharp-suited, and two bits richer. I’ll pay the ferryman double when I get to the river Styx. The point is, that very day, with an abundance of divine providence, this dapper Dan landed himself a job at a radio station.
 
So here’s to that dearly departed and here’s to these late, late hours where the mind weaves sinister tapestries that hang hauntingly in the heebie-jeebie half-light of our heads. To make this toast complete, I present to you with a tune cut from the same cloth as these spectral sheets, with two holes for eyes: an eerie audio emanation by Jordan Lehning, filled with fragmentary images to muddle in the mirror of your mind. Lehning is a songwriter and producer of a staggering sonic scope. He’s written records of popular music and classical strings, scored motion pictures like the Western, Old Henry or the zombie comedy, Make-Out with Violence, and his lyricism is the stuff of an Edward Burke treatise: sublime and beautiful, equal parts De Stijl and phantasmagoria. This song and the record it comes from is very much the latter. Lovely listeners, from the album Three-Colored Wall, behold the eerie beauty of: “A Walking Picture.”
 
Announcer:
Thanks for listening to The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program!
 
This series is recorded and produced in Central Florida and Nashville, Tennessee on lands stolen from their Indigenous people: the Timucua and Seminole, and Yuchi, Chickasaw, Shawnee, and Cherokee, respectively.
 
Acknowledgement of the first peoples of these lands, and the lasting repercussions of colonization is just the beginning of the restorative work that is necessary. Through awareness, we can prompt allyship, action, and ultimately decolonization. For links to aid Indigenous efforts and to learn more about the first nations of the land where you live: visit cthulhumystery.com/landback.
 
If you enjoy this podcast broadcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser and be sure to subscribe to our series via your favorite podcast player to get all the latest episodes.
 
Episode 3: “Playthings” was written and performed by Luke Stram, Cat Blackard, Chris LeBrane, Manda Bruno, Brandon Gerson, and Colin Peterson, with additional scripting and story editing by Cat Blackard and performances by Cynthia Beckert and Leeman Kessler.
 
Editing and mastering is by Executive Producers Colin Peterson and Cat Blackard. It’s Produced by John Sebastian La Valle and Jessica Mudd is Associate Producer.
 
Our original score is composed and performed by Ryan McQuinn and Mike McQuinn of Neon Dolphin: home for all your custom music needs and more. Neondolphinmusic.com.
 
The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program is proudly played using Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition. “Night at Howling House” is based on The Dare, a scenario by Kevin Ross with revisions by Bret Kramer, published by Sentinel Hill Press.
 
For full episode credits, transcripts, as well as character sheets and other supplemental material, visit CthulhuMystery.com.
 
This podcast would not be possible without the support of listeners like YOU and our incredible team of Patreon Producers: Joe “Tank” Ricciardelli, MjolnirMK86, Sean Hutchinson, Sean T. Redd, Josh King, and Patrick Webster - And our Executive Patreon producers: BigBadShadowMan, Marcus Larsson, Jaimeson LaLone, and Becky Scott Fairley.
 
Join the team at Patreon.com/OmniverseMedia!
 
All characters appearing are fictitious and any resemblances to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
 
This has been The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program. Goodnight!
 
[Music fades]
 
[Omniverse Audio Brand]