11: Reach

The warm weather is here and so much has happened: Claire has returned! Judith is going on a date! Owen is back from vacation! These are all good things, right? … Right?
CONTENT WARNINGS: the occult, hauntings/the paranormal

[SFX: beep, music plays]

CLAIRE: Hey everyone! So, it’s our anniversary and I’m prepping a big surprise dinner for Adam, don’t tell him! I know I’ve talked a lot about how the keto diet has completely changed us as people, but it’s more than that, honestly. It’s… spiritual. I got this amazing tomahawk steak from Branston Organic Butchers. Hashtag not an ad. But yes, Branston Organic Butchers are truly pure, and all their products are raised without hormones or antibiotics. Like, I was always told even a butcher can help wash the world clean, and remember the law of attraction? We are who we surround ourselves with. We are what we eat. Purity begets purity. Anyway, I’m going to season everything with this spice mixture from Kensington Market’s All Seasons Seasoning, I’m obsessed with it. Again, organic-

[SFX: beep, quiet cafe noises]

OWEN: So… this is what she’s been up to.

JUDITH: Yep. She’s been making inspirational lifestyle vlogs and “building engagement” and… she’s posting like… I don’t know, lots of photos of her and Adam doing activities around the city, and… poetry, personal missives, a surprising amount of TikToks even though I think technically she’s too old for TikTok, more poetry… just a lot of poetry and – accoring to this post – “divine gratefulness for the true being of the inner world and it’s effervescent endurance” which… I think that’s just word salad, but what do I know.

OWEN: And hanging out at this café a lot, by the looks of it.

JUDITH: I’m hoping we’ll run into them and you can see what I’ve been dealing with in the flesh. But, out of all these things, I feel like the inspirational hoopla and florid poetry is… so wildly out of character. Claire’s more of a modern fantasy novelist.

OWEN: Really?

JUDITH: Yeah, don’t tell her I told you this, but she’s been working for about two years now on a novel about three young women who travel to the Arctic circle to harness the power of the Aurora.

OWEN: I would read that.

JUDITH: She sent me a couple chapters, it’s really good. But yeah, not a poet as far as I know… it.

OWEN: Well, whatever she’s doing is working, because she has like, 20,000 followers? Damn. “A Lambent Life”… don’t know if I’m feeling the rebrand.

JUDITH: She must’ve bought some of them. But that’s been life here. Some of us haven’t been on vacation and have instead been following the tale of bizarro Claire.

OWEN: In my defense, I booked that trip long before things got hairy. Besides, now I’m back and ready to do some… I don’t want to nitpick, but isn’t this basically stalking?

JUDITH: I mean ”stalking” is a strong word. I prefer “reconnaissance.”

OWEN: Fancy stalking.

JUDITH: … Yes. How was Iceland, anyway?

OWEN: Oh, uh, chilly? I mean, it was pretty sweet. Went to the Blue Lagoon, saw some horses, and ate those hot dogs people keep mentioning on travel forums. Spoiler alert: they tasted like hot dogs.

JUDITH: I’m guessing it’s a good thing that you did not go with Meera.

OWEN: Have you ever tried travelling with your ex?

JUDITH: Does it count if we broke up during the trip and had a really tense flight back?

OWEN: Not really.

JUDITH: Then no.

OWEN: It was nice to go with my brother, though. He’s fun, for a forensic accountant.

JUDITH: That job sounds cooler than I think it actually is.

OWEN: Yeah, he talked about numbers while I drank beers that cost $15 a pint.

JUDITH: Well, glad you’re back. I’ve been here, trying to keep tabs on New Claire! New and Improved Claire! With her shiny hair and grandiloquent writing and… random sponsors.

OWEN: Yeah, lemme see. … Ok, we’ve got sponsored posts involving… essential oils, a different organic butcher, uh… some food delivery box, face cream… another food delivery box. Did they give her a stand mixer?

JUDITH: Yep. Although she’s mostly been using the meat grinder attachment. It’s like hell ASMR.

OWEN: Doesn’t seem like too bad of a deal…

JUDITH: You’d sell your soul for a stand mixer?

OWEN: … what colour is it?


OWEN: I like to bake!

JUDITH: Oh, hang on, I see Adam. Hey! Hey, Adam, how’s it going?

ADAM: Oh, hey Judith, Owen. I’m fantastic! How’re you? You’re looking… good.

JUDITH: I’m fine. Care to talk for a second?

ADAM: Sure, I’m just waiting for Claire to join, she had to take a phone call. We’re getting coffee and then heading out to a new organic grocery in Liberty Village to pick up a few things for dinner. Making our own tartare tonight. Oh, have you two ever tried CBD-infused mustard?

OWEN: That’s a thing?

JUDITH: Yeah, what? No, I just… how’s it going? I haven’t gotten the chance to hang out with Claire that much since she got back and she’s seemed… a little different lately? It’s not bad! It’s just… not… what I’m used to.

ADAM: Well, she’s definitely had a bit of a cosmic shift, if you get my drift. But I think she’s doing better than ever! All she needed was a change for her true self to take form.

JUDITH: Uh, yeah.

ADAM: You’re her friend, and I know you want things to stay the same, but it’s time that Claire… sheds all that negative energy and really becomes the woman she was always meant to be. Strong. Effervescent. Illuminating. She’s really inspiring, and I hope she inspires you to find that change in yourself.

JUDITH: Look, I just feel like it all happened… too fast. I worry something happened that night at the house and it like… broke her brain a bit.

ADAM: To be blunt, I think it kind of fixed her. It gave her clarity. She’s better than ever. All that dead weight sloughed off.

OWEN: Don’t say “sloughed.”

JUDITH: Nothing about Claire was “dead weight.”

ADAM: Well, maybe you didn’t know her as well as you thought you did.

JUDITH: Ok, look, Adam, I know we haven’t always gotten along but-

ADAM: Haven’t we? Oh, well hopefully that will change. I’d love to get to know you better. And Owen, how’s it going, bud? How’s work been?

OWEN: Oh, um, it’s been fi-

ADAM: So glad to hear. We should do brunch sometime! If the ladies are friends nothing’s saying we shouldn’t be as well!

OWEN: Uh… sur-

ADAM: Great. Do me a solid and send me a message sometime, we’ll set something up. Speak of the devil.

CLAIRE: Hello my love! Oh, hey Judith, Owen, how are you?

ADAM: Well, Judith’s been a little bit [little noncommittal noise] about your recent personal overhaul.

JUDITH: Look, it’s just-

CLAIRE: Oh, Judith, honey, it’s ok! Things are different! It’s great. Look, I’m really busy for the next while but-… God, yeah, I am just booked right up, I’m going to have to get an assistant or something! Listen, let me know about possible dates and we can go get a green juice, ok? I’m so swamped lately and have been kind of distant, but I want to keep you close.

ADAM: And your man closer.

CLAIRE: You sir, are a cad.

ADAM: You love it.

CLAIRE: Also turns out I’ve got to head back to the house to get on a call with Bridgette about a possible big-name sponsor, so I really should run. Coffee will have to wait. So sorry, we’ll catch up soon. Ciao!


OWEN: That was…

JUDITH: Weird?

OWEN: Yeah. Aside from the very small chance that she was replaced by an incredibly realistic android, her general vibe right now is deeply unnerving.

JUDITH: I mean, the mindfulness, the meditation, it’s fine in isolation, but because it’s coming from her it feels… off. Thanks for joining me on this outing, it’s so goddamn hard to even track her down these days…

OWEN: I got a croissant AND I got to witness weird new Claire with my own eyes. It’s win-win. Or win-lose. I’m not sure which.

JUDITH: Every time I can feel a little bit of doubt creeping in, she does something else out of character and my need to know what happened is renewed, because she’s NOT Claire anymore, and Adam is not Adam.

OWEN: Yeah. I’ve got questions. Do you think her parents have noticed?

JUDITH: Honestly, knowing them, I feel like they’re probably just rolling with it. ‘Oh, Claire has a new hobby! She seems so happy! How nice!’ Her parents aren’t idiots but they aren’t exactly super tuned into her life.

OWEN: And she’s not at work anymore…

JUDITH: And she’s hanging out with an entirely new group of people according to her IG feed.I mean… ok, this is going to sound a bit outlandish.

OWEN: Oh no, everything has been so normal up until now.

JUDITH: She’s really, really…

OWEN: Unsettling?

JUDITH: [sigh] When I talk to her, the couple of times I’ve seen her, she’s… receptive, she’s nice, but it’s all wrong. Like, she’s listening, but I don’t think she cares, she’s almost… blank. And she talks, I mean, she talks a lot, more than ever, but she doesn’t actually seem to be saying anything. Or at least, the things she’s saying don’t mean anything. Her face is… hollow, I don’t know how else to describe it. In a weird way, I almost kind of wish that she was just like, a huge asshole now or something, or some sort of ghoul. Something tangibly terrible. It’s almost worse seeing her like this. Plus… this is going to sound so petty.

OWEN: I could go for some good pettiness.

JUDITH: [sigh] She’s been posting a bunch of stuff with new friends, like brunches and spa days and healing crystal circles and… I don’t know. I don’t know these people. They all look normal and are probably very nice but I’m not a part of it. I’m freaked out by her massive personality change, and yet I STILL feel like a 12-year-old who’s salty over not getting invited to a birthday party.

OWEN: So, wait, who’s she hanging out with?

JUDITH: I don’t know, other patrons of that spooky retreat she was at? Exciting internet people? I don’t recognize them. They’re all way cooler and more stylish than me, though. … What? It’s true.

OWEN: So… she’s acting like a different person, her smile doesn’t reach her eyes, half of the time when she’s talking it’s just buzzwords about spirituality or clean foods, and all of this started after she smashed that jar and everything went to hell.

JUDITH: Look, I’m pretty sure we’re thinking the same thing.

OWEN: Do you want to say it?

JUDITH: No, because even after everything that’s happened, it still feels too unbelievable.

OWEN: … yeah.

JUDITH: How about… we say what we’re thinking at the same time, then we can both just get it out of our system and feel ridiculous together?

OWEN: Alright, ok.

JUDITH: I’ll count to three, and then we’ll both say our theories.

JUDITH AND OWEN: OK, one… two… three.

OWEN: I think Claire is possessed. … You didn’t say anything!

JUDITH: I know, I thought it would be funny. What? It was! But… yeah. Something happened in that basement and now Claire has changed. I just feel so weird saying she’s possessed. Makes it sound like she should be crawling backwards up the stairs and saying upsetting things in ancient languages. But… the spirits that she was so intent on releasing… it seems like she actually released them and they… claimed her and Adam somehow.

OWEN: I hate to bring this up, but she was already saying upsetting things in weird languages. The sleep-talking incident still creeps me the eff out.

JUDITH: Hmmm, yeah. So many things I justified in the worst way, because ooh, it’s fine, she’ll be fine, it’s nothing big, a recording can’t hurt me. Anyway, bad example. But yeah, “possessed” feels… wrong. She feels…taken over.

OWEN: This feels like splitting hairs.

JUDITH: That’s the best way I can describe it. Like I don’t know what to think or what percentage of her is still Claire. It’s weird. But maybe… something else is in there as well. Adam too, he’s a different person and it’s somehow even worse. Never thought I’d be saying that I miss damp slice of toast Adam, and yet here we are.

OWEN: Hmm, yeah. What do you think it is?

JUDITH: I don’t know, I mean… her grandparents? She wanted to free them, right?

OWEN: If her grandparents’ spirits are somehow controlling them, I mean… this all sounds completely implausible, but… first things first, how are they so good with social media?

JUDITH: I mean, they were clearly doing their research. But she’s got a lot of new friends now, so at least one of them probably works in marketing. And they probably also perform blood rituals in their condo in midtown.

OWEN: Look, whatever’s up, I think we should be careful with any interaction involving Claire or Adam going forward. I, for one, haven’t forgotten that she stabbed you. 

JUDITH: I know, and I’m not letting her get near you either with anything sharper than a spoon anytime soon, but… yeah. [sigh] This is all just so bizarre. I just know that… that’s not Claire and that’s not Adam.

OWEN: Yeah, he was plain oatmeal and now he’s riding a badass motorcycle.

JUDITH: And subtweeting me to my face. …I look ok, right?

OWEN: You look fine.

JUDITH: Thanks. I haven’t been sleeping well. I feel like I’ve been having weird dreams for weeks now and I don’t need Adam making me feel worse.

OWEN: Yeah, same here, at least since I got back. I thought it was jet lag but I doubt it.

[SFX: beep. Claire’s home studio]

CLAIRE: Hey everyone, it’s Claire. I’m so glad you could join. It means so much to me that we can connect in this way — that we can be spiritually intimate on this journey, even if we’re physically far apart. I know it sounds a little bit silly, but I can honestly feel your energies of warmth and support and your readiness to take charge and truly explore the realms of your spiritual clarity, and I am so proud of you.

I’ve recently been thinking about how manifesting the world you want begins with your truest desires, and to truly find those you have to be brave and delve into the deepest and darkest parts of your mind and listen with radical honesty and acceptance. What do you think that voice has to say?

I know, my darlings. That voice can be scary sometimes. That dark part of our brain is where we keep our anxiety, our grief, and our pain. It’s the part of ourselves we don’t want to face, the part that sneaks up on us during sleepless nights, and in the silence that comes when you’re alone, listening as if someone else is on the other line. But that voice? That fear? It’s also the part of us that will help us actualize our potential and guide us to manifesting a better world. We’ve all been through pain, but that’s ok. I’ve been there. But because you’re here, just because you’re here with me, I know that you’re so much stronger and braver than anyone who’s tried to put you down.

During this course, we’re going to connect with that pain, that authentic pain. There is so much to be learned from the dark, my darlings. This isn’t the time to hide. Even in darkness, we can see the writing on the wall. We’re going to get real. It’s going to get scary. But let me tell you, no one has ever found spiritual fulfillment in their comfort zones. No one has ever found transcendent clarity while sitting on their couch and watching The Bachelor — as much as I honestly love The Bachelor!

Oh my God, you guys, you have no idea, but I am just so excited for you. This is where your journey begins! Over the next seven days, we’re going to go to some strange, and yes, some scary, places, but when you emerge, oh, I promise you, you won’t even recognize yourself.

Are you with me? Do you trust me? [SFX: static pop] If so, make sure to subscribe below and follow the link to sign up for my Patreon — because you’ll get exclusive access to my “Five Days to Manifesting a Better World” online course.

[SFX: Beep. Studio]

OWEN: -he threw a slice of toast at him.

JUDITH: What?!

OWEN: He did! The whole room went silent and everyone is staring at the poor accounts guy who’d finally snapped and chucked a piece of very buttery toast at that rude creative.

JUDITH: Ok, like, where do you go from there?

OWEN: Accounts guy runs out of the room, and the CD starts sputtering about how his shirt was now ruined and it was a very nice shirt. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to throw your breakfast at someone, I just wasn’t feeling a lot of sympathy for the guy in that moment.

JUDITH: Well, he did call the copywriter a…

OWEN: An empty bucket of a human with less brains than toes.

JUDITH: Not even sure what that means.

OWEN: Same, but I wouldn’t want to be called that. Anyway, I don’t think they’re coming back, at least not with that agency.

JUDITH: I never thought I’d hear the day where a commercial for a bakery goes THAT off the rails but there’s a first for everything. Also, now I really want toast.

OWEN: Same.

JUDITH: So, what’s this track?

OWEN: Yeah, so Claire uploaded this track for people to listen to while meditating onto her social media and announced some multi-day course for Patreon subscribers or something? And, well, knowing how these things have been working, I was a bit concerned. Thought I would check it out, see if there was anything sinister going on. I’ll pull it up. [SFX: music starts] It’s… ambient.

JUDITH: Yeah. I guess I expected it to be like… haunted or something. Filled with hidden voices. Spookier.

OWEN: I get where you’re coming from, but if she’s trying to extend her reach, then backmasking will not help, unless she’s trying to attract the “Paul is dead” crowd. It’s not outwardly evil sounding, but I’ll see if there’s anything off about it. Or if it does anything terrifying, like threaten to eat my eyeballs or throw buttery toast at me.

JUDITH: I don’t know, something feels… off. Am I just being paranoid?

OWEN: Probably not, with our track record.

JUDITH: I don’t know, maybe there’s nothing here. What time is it?

OWEN: Oooh, you got plans?

JUDITH: Yeah, uh, I actually have a date?

OWEN: Like a date-date?

JUDITH: Yes, like a date-date. I… so I was at some coffee shop with Claire while you were away and it was going poorly because she was being New Claire, and after she left, I was sulking at the table, and this woman approached me and asked if I was ok, because it looked like things with my friend hadn’t gone well, because… correct. Long story short, we talked for a bit, she asked me out, and we’ve seen each other a few times since then.

OWEN: Now you must tell me more. How was it?

JUDITH: It was fun just being… normal. I got to pretend like I was a regular mess of a human rather than one plagued by supernatural irregularities. Although she’s… I don’t know, enthusiastic? She’s SO intense about her hobbies, like do not ask her about her plants unless you want the full rundown of their growth cycles. Do you know what henbane is?

OWEN: Absolutely not.

JUDITH: Well neither did I until now. Anyway, I like her, but she’s…  intense. Sometimes I feel like I’m at a job interview when I’m talking to her. She also kept asking me about Claire and my relationship with her, but I assume that’s because she might have thought we were exes.

OWEN: Well, have fun with that. My last date was with my brother’s coworker and she told me she was only doing this to see if it would make her forget her ex.

JUDITH: And? Did it work?

OWEN: No, she cried through dessert.

JUDITH: Her and my ex-boyfriend should meet, they could be the king of queen of unresolved old relationship emotions. I told you about Rob, right?

OWEN: Uh, yeah, hard to forget the guy who tried to win you back by serenading you with “Hey Soul Sister.” Ugh. Anyway, please go be average and un-tormented on my behalf.

JUDITH: Will do. I should go pack up my stuff. See you tomorrow?

OWEN: Yeah, have a good one.

[SFX: beep. Owen is at home, baking]

OWEN: Ok, recording this while I attempt this tarte tatin, ignore the sounds. Then I can just send this over and you can listen and make your notes and send me 60 texts in a row. If you’re listening and you’re not Judith, here’s a fact about her you might not know: rather than send one long text, she will break it up into many, many, many short texts, so if she’s got a lot on her mind be sure to turn the vibration off on your phone or else it’s going to buzz itself straight off the table. I know because that happened to me once. It’s strangely endearing, up until when your phone screen cracks.

Anyway, it’s fine. I was getting a new phone later that month. No big deal.

But yeah, I’ve been digging through Claire’s social media presence and pretty wild actually taking stock of the shift in tone. The freaky thing is that if we didn’t know “before” Claire, nothing would really seem weird in isolation. There’s not a lot in there that would tip off anyone who wasn’t close to her prior to this, unless you’re really sensitive to new age-y self-help tips but… it’s not like she’s doing something harmful. Well, obviously harmful. She hasn’t told anyone to like… inject essential oils or anything. Yet. Jude, I really worry about either of us being alone with her. After what happened in the basement and the fact that she’s gone all… Goop-ified, I don’t trust what she’s become. There’s something else motivating her, or… whoever… whatever is possessing her, and I bet the answer lies in that house. That damn house. So… let’s keep seeing what we can find. There are some things that have been bothering me. I’ve still got a lot of questions about the Family. And… I don’t know, is there… anything we can do to help get Claire and Adam back to normal? And those jars! I want to know what was in there. I mean, other than glass and blood. You know what? I hope whatever we start digging up involves less blood. I really hope it doesn’t involve mine. Or yours, for that matter. Uhok, my dough is sufficiently rested. … Looking good! Alright, I’m looking forward to 48 texts in response. I’ll see you later.

[SFX: beep, outside, Judith’s doorstep, slightly muffled because it’s in Judith’s bag]

LYDIA: -anything big coming up this week?

JUDITH: Not a lot. Just… work stuff. Couple of meetings. Client presentation. A lot of mundane things.

LYDIA: Y’know, if I could go back in time and tell teenage me that this is what my 30s would be like, I would’ve partied way harder in my 20s. I was so afraid of doing anything that could rock the boat, but now I’m old and two beers give me a hangover.

JUDITH: Hah! Yeah, same.

LYDIA: Anyway, I’m going to get going. Thanks for tonight, I had a really nice time.

JUDITH: Yeah, me too.

LYDIA: I’ll let you know when I’m home. Hopefully the rest of your week won’t be too boring.

JUDITH: You know, I think I’d be ok with that.Oh, for crying out lou-

[SFX: beep. Studio]

OWEN: So, I took a look at that track that Claire uploaded and…

I think it’s just… a boring song. That’s it. There’s nothing in the file that seems off, nothing weird during playback, it’s just… ambient music. [SFX: song starts playing in the background] Uhh, yeah, so… it’s just a song. Nothing special. Sorry, Jude.

[SFX: beep. Juice bar]

JUDITH: -hanks for meeting me.

CLAIRE: No worries, babe! How’ve you been? Also, can I just say that I love what you’ve done with your hair?

JUDITH: Oh, uh, thanks! I haven’t really done much other than let it air dry it lately rather than blow dry. It’s super lazy but it saves time in the morning.

CLAIRE: And it looks lovely. If you do want a blow dryer recco though, there’s a great one that I’ve been using along with my boar bristle brush. It has made my hair so smooth.

JUDITH: Oh, yeah. Um… I think I’m ok. I just wanted to hang out, so… how’s it going?

CLAIRE: I’ve been SO all over the place. But like, meeting Annabelle and Tabitha while I was at the retreat up north gave me such an incredible kick in the keister. I feel in touch with myself. I feel in touch with my art and my work and my physical and spiritual needs for the first time in forever. It’s like I finally have the clarity to just let the words flow out of me, unobstructed.

JUDITH: Yeah, I noticed you’ve written a few things. They’re interesting!

CLAIRE: I know, right? The women at Valerian, so inspiring! We were sitting around one night after a session and they started talking about how to best create a social media feed that would reach a lot of people and show them the benefits of the teachings they provide there, and before you know it, we were coming up with a full-on plan to expand outreach!

JUDITH: Huh, wow.

CLAIRE: I know, right? I’ve learned so much from them. And I think they’ve gotten a lot from me as well. I mean, they didn’t just kickstart this whole thing as much as they did rocket it into space.

JUDITH: Yeah, I’ve been meaning to mention, I can’t believe how popular your account is already. There’s like… 30k followers now.

CLAIRE: Yeah, I mean, Bridgette has been working in marketing and social media forever, so she’s been handling a lot of that. Then it’s just some creative promotion, making sure we’ve got pitch packages that really make us stand out, and then, y’know, taking a few liberties with follower numbers…

JUDITH: You bought followers.

CLAIRE: Turns out you need to have the algorithm work for you rather than working for it. A little padding can’t hurt. And besides, the more people who learn about our teachings, the better. You can’t have too many followers. I think that we need to use all the tools at our disposal to bring our vision forward, don’t you?

JUDITH: I just… I’m still… surprised that you got into all this stuff so quickly. I never took you for a…

CLAIRE: Social media savant? Spiritual guide?

JUDITH: Sure. Why this?

CLAIRE: Does it matter what I do? Shouldn’t you be happy for me?

JUDITH: I’m not saying-

CLAIRE: I was struggling before. It was difficult. But now that my head has cleared, I can try to bring that clarity to others. I can make a difference in other people’s lives. I can change people. You need to relax. I’m still Claire.

JUDITH: It’s just… you’ve changed.

CLAIRE: We’ve all changed.

JUDITH: Look, can we finally talk about that night in the basement? You’ve ignored every text I’ve sent about that and dodged every question.

CLAIRE: It’s… difficult to talk about. It was a scary situation, I admit, but we did the right thing, and I know you’re skeptical, but you weren’t in the room with us, Judith, not at the end. You didn’t feel them being released. You don’t know that feeling of them regaining freedom.


CLAIRE: The spirits trapped in that house. Listen, I find it difficult to talk to you about this because of your negative outlook. [sighs] You’re so guarded — and frankly, you’re being kind of closed-minded. I wish you could believe me. I wish that you would let yourself open up, Judith.I thought you would trust me.

JUDITH: It’s not that I don’t… you’ve just… haven’t been yourself since that night, and it’s really concerning for me.

CLAIRE: I finally allowed myself to shed my worries and no longer be defined by them.

JUDITH: I don’t think that’s how this works.

CLAIRE: Well, that’s how it worked for me. Are you really denying my lived experience? Again?

JUDITH: I’m not, it’s just-

CLAIRE: Look, I think you have some issues with how things happened, and I understand that. That’s how you feel and that’s your truth. But it’s over, and it’s done. And I have no regrets. Now I can only move forward into a brighter future now. If you can’t believe me or support me, I would at least ask that you respect my boundaries, Judith. You should be able to do that as my closest friend.

JUDITH: I do, it’s just… the poetry and the keto and all this stuff that you were never into before-

CLAIRE: Oh, well, y’know, these things kind of slip by you. I know you’ve had a lot on your plate, I understand. You’ve been focused on yourself, and I respect that.

JUDITH: Ok, ouch, uh… I’m glad you’re figuring yourself out and engaging in your… side hustle.

CLAIRE: And I hope you find something that gives you validation like this too. I really mean that. Oh, how’s Owen doing?

JUDITH: He’s fine, same old.

CLAIRE: That’s nice. [SFX: phone ringing] Oh, I have to grab this, it’s Adam. Hi sweetie! Yeah, I have time to chat, what’s up?

[SFX: beep. Judith’s kitchen]

OWEN: -nd I think The House on Haunted Hill and Hell House are basically the same book.

JUDITH: Are you comparing Shirley Jackson to a book about an evil sex ghost that kills someone by dropping a Jesus statue with a boner on them?

OWEN: Hear me out: four people go to a house that’s known to be haunted. There’s the smart one, the psychic one, the woman in denial, and the guy who’s also there. Together they have to deal with forces that want them gone. Richard Matheson just went the route where the house is actually haunted, rather than a story focusing on exploring loneliness and loss of self.

JUDITH: Ok, but a big part of the horror for Jackson comes from this need for Nell to find some sort of… normalcy. Of domesticity. She longs for it. She’s unmoored. But you can’t force it, you can’t just follow Theo home, you’ll always remain mired in it. What about the Belasco house? How does that compare?

OWEN: That stands for… uh… hmmm… oh, ok, the Belasco house is what happens when domesticity is rejected in favour of giving in to all pleasures, especially carnal. With no restraint or ability to moderate, it devolves into chaos. Just as Nell did.

JUDITH: Yeah, but Nell wasn’t looking for an orgy.

OWEN: I’m sure someone’s written fanfic about that.

JUDITH: No. No. You’re going to eat those words. Well, there’s not much, but it certainly exists. God, this is cursed.

OWEN: Told you.

JUDITH: Still though, I kind of agree with your assessment but also think that there’s something about Jackson that’s so… it makes me feel trapped. Like you’re stuck in there with the characters. I didn’t feel that way with Hell House. I felt like I wanted to tell all of them to leave because the money isn’t worth it if you’re going to be torn to bits by rotting ghouls from the inside out.

OWEN: No, I get that. In Hell House, the house is a conduit for Belasco, while in Hill House, it’s another character. How alive it is, is dependent on the reader.

JUDITH: It feels too alive to me these days.

OWEN: Yeah…

JUDITH: Ok, so… can’t keep avoiding this, what do we got?

OWEN: Right, I know we’ve both been thinking a bit-

JUDITH: A lot.

OWEN: A lot about what happened. I tried to play back the recording from the last night in the house again but now it’s just a weird clicking noise, so that’s great, but here’s what I remember: Claire starts doing a spell, we hear a voice, everything starts to go haywire, there’s some light stabbing, she smashes the jars, we run, and then…whatever happened in that room.We don’t have recordings, we don’t have Claire or Adam, we just have… us. And our notes and memories. So, we need to figure out what we want to do next.

JUDITH: Here’s what I’m thinking: I went back and found this note I wrote down after listening to one of Claire’s recordings, she mentioned a place called the Kenna Centre and how they had ties to the Family. There’s not a ton of info on it, but I found some old newspaper event listings about meetings there, it was a “spiritual community hub for those focused on the growth of the soul of the earth.” They also had a really ugly mural out front.

OWEN: Right. I assume you want to go there.

JUDITH: Yeah, it doesn’t actually exist anymore. It closed down in the early 90s. I have the original address, so we could at least… drive by? Maybe something was left? Can’t hurt. It’s north though, so we’d have to make an afternoon of it.

OWEN: Right. I guess we can take a second or third or eleventh pass at whatever bits of information we already have. We’ve got a couple of the notebooks, some useless recordings, and all the memories we made along the way.

JUDITH: Hmm. Do you think it would be worth checking out that Valerian retreat that she keeps going to?

OWEN: What, like going there?


OWEN: No, that sounds like a bad idea. I would rather not go to the place where the chance of something horrible happening is, if not a given, at least elevated. Let’s just keep looking into it from a distance for now.

JUDITH: I guess. But yeah, I’ve been trying to search for any info on things I remember her saying, uh… anything scary that goes in jars. God, I thought I was done spending my evenings doing fruitless research after I graduated university, but noooo.

OWEN: I keep expecting Claire to… do… something, and instead she’s just posting on social media and acting eerily well-adjusted.

JUDITH: We just need to keep digging and making notes and recording everything so we have a trail in case… [sigh] I’ll keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, probably straight onto my face.

OWEN: Well, while you’re doing that, I’m going to get more chips.

[SFX: beep. Judith’s room. It’s late at night]

JUDITH: [waking up, but startled] Claire? Claire what the FUCK-

CLAIRE: Give it back.

JUDITH: What the HELL are you talking about? What are you doing here?

CLAIRE: Give back what is mine.

JUDITH: What the fuck?

CLAIRE: I will not let you take what belongs with me.

JUDITH: What the everloving- … Claire? Hello? [SFX: walks around a bit, cautiously searches the apartment, comes back into room] Jesus H Murphy what kind of… lucid dream shit was that? [SFX: her phone rings, startling her] Oh. [answers the phone] Owen? Are you ok?

OWEN: [on phone] Hey, uh, I know this is going to sound nuts, but… uh…

JUDITH: Claire was there.

OWEN: … yeah.

JUDITH: She was here too, in the hall. Or… she wasn’t, because she can’t be in two places at once, but she was…

OWEN: Something was here.

JUDITH: Mmhmm. God, I feel so freaked out it’s making me want to barf. That was not something I wanted to experience at 3 AM.

OWEN: I threw a glass at her in a panic but then the door slammed and smashed all over that.

JUDITH: Yeah. Yeah… did she say anything to you?

OWEN: No, she was standing here and then I freaked out and chucked the glass, then she disappeared. Normally I’d think it was a dream but… the recorder on my phone was on.

JUDITH: Yeah, mine is too. She said give back what is mine. What did we take?

OWEN: I don’t know. Do you have anything of hers?

JUDITH: No, at least nothing that she’d be appearing here in the night for. I don’t think she wants her old sweatshirt back that badly.

OWEN: Judith?


OWEN: Just… for a few seconds, hold your breath and say nothing.


OWEN: Just do it.

[SFX: they sit there in silence, but they realize that there is someone else breathing on the line. It’s getting heavier and more ragged.]

OWEN: Fuck-

[SFX: Beep. Outside Claire’s house]

JUDITH: Hello? Claire? Hey, it’s Jude and Owen, we need to talk to you. [SFX: the door opens] You think this is funny?

[SFX: there is a pause, the door creaks open, wider]

JUDITH: Claire, I’m not coming in. Not right now.If you’re here, I need you to come outside and talk to us, face to face.

OWEN: Judith.

JUDITH: What? I’m annoyed.

OWEN: If anyone’s in there, come out. We have some questions.

[SFX: from inside, the sounds of slamming doors starts up, the doors are slamming through the house, from back to front]

OWEN: I guess this is how we do this, huh?

[SFX: the front door opens slowly and then SLAM SLAM SLAM SLAM]

JUDITH: Enough!

[SFX: the door stops]

OWEN: Let’s go. [pause] Judith! Come on.

JUDITH: Yeah. Yeah, fine.

[SFX: the door slams]

JUDITH: God, I hate this place.

[SFX: A quiet, sinister laugh is heard from inside. Beep]