Author Topic: PC277 / 710: A Hollow Play  (Read 18194 times)

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Reply #25 on: October 16, 2013, 02:11:37 PM
The story had some good elements.  I like the details of the nature of the magic door, especially, and the dynamic that the attempted sacrifices created when some members of the relationships sacrificed their love to try to make it through and ultimately failed.  In a large part that reminded me of the core element of Catch-22 in which the only way to get out of the service is if you file some kind of paperwork asking to be declared insane, but only sane people would fill out the paperwork so it's a self-defeating system.

I didn't really care for the main character.  In particular, I found the scene where she writes in her journal about all of her friends to be overly long and uninteresting--the one where she is explaining all their variations of trans--to me at least, the tone of that seemed like she was infatuated with the mystique of the lifestyle of her newfound friends and couldn't stop talking about it.  Which is a totally valid and real perspective that I'm sure happens all the time.  But I found it very dull to listen to at length.  Your friends are trans, polyamorous, etc, good for you and good for them:  can we get to the story please?  That scene just served to remind me that we hadn't really gotten to any story to speak of.  I didn't really see any motivation for it until the point when the stakes of the portal are explained which  I think was about halfway through.

Does anyone else have an interpretation for what the title means?  My interpretation is that her "sacrifice" was the hollow play, a bluff.  And it really annoyed me that her sacrifice worked.  The magic as described should only work if you are giving up something that you can't bear to part with.  But the fact that she is giving up her friend to find said friend means that her attempt at sacrifice is a hollow one, and it should never have worked.  I was gratified, at least, that she didn't magically become besties with her disappeared friend again, that at least she didn't get what she aimed at with the hollow sacrifice.  But even if you take into consideration that she didn't really get her friend back, from that perspective she gave up her unfulfilled longing and got closure in return, also a hollow sacrifice. 

I wonder what the author meant by that title because every time I see the title, it does draw the story to mind, but only because I felt that her sacrifice was hollow, and so the title seems to confirm what I thought was a weak turning point.



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Reply #26 on: October 20, 2013, 03:39:53 PM
So, I'm catching up on my podcastle backlog, which is far larger than I like, and I've finally listened to this story. On the negative, I did notice the audible humn in the background that definitely made the physical listening process less pleasant. On the plus side, I absolutely adored this story. I haven't been as lucky as Emily - the one time I abruptly lost a friend it was because they were very much not ok - but I've had two occasions in my life when I packed up and crossed an ocean to live somewhere new, and in both cases, both maintaining existing friendships and starting new ones was a challenge, and that really spoke to me here.

I see that some people don't quite believe that Emily's sacrifice was meaningful, and I see where that interpretation comes from, but for me, thinking back on the people who are no longer in my life because either they left me behind or I left them, the price is always real, even if it isn't always difficult to pay it.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 08:36:30 PM by eytanz »



amalmohtar

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Reply #27 on: October 20, 2013, 08:19:29 PM
Hello everyone! Thank you so much for your responses, and most especially to Tina for reading this out.

Quote
I wonder what the author meant by that title

Multimedia time!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZIODI3yhfw

"A Hollow Play" is a lyric taken from "My Body is a Cage" by The Arcade Fire -- the song Lynette sings at the end during the ritual. The full line is "It's a hollow play, but they'll clap anyway."

The song itself is kind of obviously thematic, but perhaps less obviously, it's relevant to everyone in the story in one way or another, depending on how far you want to stretch the interpretation.

(I'm totally happy to answer any other questions anyone has, by the way, but don't want to intrude further on what's your discussion as listeners without express invitation. Cheers!)



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Reply #28 on: October 20, 2013, 10:15:10 PM
...don't want to intrude further on what's your discussion as listeners without express invitation. Cheers!

By no means do I presume to speak for everyone, but I always love it when the author joins in the discussion.



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Reply #29 on: October 21, 2013, 03:12:24 PM
This one had me at "McKillip," who does not get referenced nearly as often as she deserves.

While I had quibbles with some of the story, both the climax and last scene worked so well for me that I put the quibbles out for the night and locked the door behind them.



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Reply #30 on: October 21, 2013, 06:58:29 PM
I loved this. It might be because all my friends keep moving away, but I could really identify with Emily... I'm sure I'd be just as lonely if I moved to another country. In my opinion all the fairy and LGBT stuff was secondary to the story of Emily trying to fit in, and that part was very well written. I thought the end was great too, both happy and sad. Sometimes you need to let go of old friendships to get new ones, but that doesn't mean it won't hurt...

P.S. This story wouldn't have been so good without a kickass narration!



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Reply #31 on: October 23, 2013, 01:48:00 PM
but for me, thinking back on the people who are no longer in my life because either they left me behind or I left them, the price is always real, even if it isn't always difficult to pay it.

Giving up a valued friend would certainly be a major price.  But that had already happened before the story began--to me the end was like she was trying to give up something she didn't have anymore and pretend it's a sacrifice.



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Reply #32 on: October 23, 2013, 07:08:46 PM
She was giving up her illusions, which is always painful.



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Reply #33 on: October 23, 2013, 07:39:03 PM
She was giving up her illusions, which is always painful.

Ah, I see what you're saying.

I still think it's a hollow sacrifice, FWIW, and shouldn't have been accepted.  Like saying "I will give up my alcoholism!"  A sacrifice being painful doesn't mean you're giving up something valuable, and the way I understood the magic was described was about the value not the pain.



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Reply #34 on: October 23, 2013, 10:39:22 PM
She was giving up her illusions, which is always painful.

Yes, her illusions and hope. She gave up the hope of ever having her best friend in her life again. She loved Paige and she gave her up.  Before the ritual, she hadn't yet really done that since she was writing in the letter-journal.



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Reply #35 on: October 24, 2013, 01:54:53 AM
Yes, her illusions and hope. She gave up the hope of ever having her best friend in her life again. She loved Paige and she gave her up.  Before the ritual, she hadn't yet really done that since she was writing in the letter-journal.

But all her hope was doing was tearing her apart with anxiety.  What's the value in that?  Now she can grieve the friendship and try to move on--the "sacrifice" has let her reach a better place and have an opportunity to heal and move on.   



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Reply #36 on: October 24, 2013, 05:40:05 AM
Doesn't mean that she enjoyed it or that she wanted it to happen.  Illusions can be very comforting, and by sacrificing her friendship, she has foresworn any attempts to approach Paige and try to resume where they left off. 

As in the story, when the spirit-girl offers to bring her to Paige; she could have gone then and not made the sacrifice.  Instead, she's - perhaps wisely - leaving Paige to her own devices and moving on to other realms.  Even if that's what would be best for her from our dispassionate viewpoint doesn't mean that it's not a cost on her part, and the fact that her opportunity to rekindle the friendship and perhaps win Paige's heart was illusory doesn't mean she won't also feel the pain of loss when that chance is blocked forever.



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Reply #37 on: October 24, 2013, 06:53:55 AM
Yes, her illusions and hope. She gave up the hope of ever having her best friend in her life again. She loved Paige and she gave her up.  Before the ritual, she hadn't yet really done that since she was writing in the letter-journal.

But all her hope was doing was tearing her apart with anxiety.  What's the value in that?  Now she can grieve the friendship and try to move on--the "sacrifice" has let her reach a better place and have an opportunity to heal and move on.   


Is there a rule that says that sacrifices can't be ultimately good for you? The rule was that you had to give up some core aspect of your identity, which she did - she went from thinking of herself primarily in terms of her friendship to Paige, to having to think of herself in independent terms. That's a big, traumatic change for her. The fact that the new person she is becoming will probably be a happier person doesn't mean she didn't give something up to become her.

I have a friend who had started smoking at a young age, and when he was in his mid thirties, had realized that it was really hurting him - he was often out of breath, and he was giving up other things financially to afford the cigarettes. But it took him several months before he was able to quit, because for him, smoking was a strong part of his identity. He just never pictured himself without a cigarette in his hand. To me, as a lifelong non-smoker, the equation seemed very simple. Smoking had actual, objective, negative consequences, and no positive consequences I could see. And indeed, a few months after he had quit, his breathing problems had stopped, he had more money for other activities, and he claimed to no longer miss it at all. But the struggle he went through to decide to quit was real, and just because it was clear to me what the right decision for him was, doesn't mean that from his point of view, he hadn't made a real sacrifice, giving up what for him was a strong connection to his past.



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Reply #38 on: October 24, 2013, 01:41:14 PM
Even if that's what would be best for her from our dispassionate viewpoint doesn't mean that it's not a cost on her part, and the fact that her opportunity to rekindle the friendship and perhaps win Paige's heart was illusory doesn't mean she won't also feel the pain of loss when that chance is blocked forever.

I get where you guys are coming from.  At the same time, I don't agree.  Everything that the character's did was in-character, but the fact that the magic door actually opened for this particular sacrifice bugs me.  And I think that's not going to change.  *shrug*

Is there a rule that says that sacrifices can't be ultimately good for you?

Maybe not.  But to me, it is implied.



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Reply #39 on: October 24, 2013, 10:58:59 PM
Just thought I'd share two bits from the story's text to add to this facet of the discussion, since I know things fly by fast in audio:

"...What is the cost?"

Lynette considered her for a moment longer before answering. "It is... An elaboration of the usual shedding of a form. For us, to open the way, we must give up a whole person. A sacrifice, if you will."

Emily stared at her. "What, you mean—you have to kill someone?"

Lynette shook her head. "Not kill. Give up. Relinquish. But it only works if the person is precious, beloved. For me—if I were to cut out my tongue, I might be able to open the way back. I would be giving up who I have become here, my art. Once on the other side I might easily choose a different form, one with a tongue, perhaps one with a more beautiful voice—but I would lose Lynette Byrd, whom I have come to love, and I would never have her again. That is IF the sacrifice is deemed sufficient. ...The magic must be cruel, to work. It must feel like the tearing of a page."


(Oho, see what I did there, punning on -- um, nevermind.)

Then, from Emily's perspective, writing to Paige:

So this is the last I'm writing to you in here. I'm giving you up—sort of—to find you. It may not work. It may not be enough. But I told Lynette that I'm giving up years of myself in here, too—the me who is best friends with Paige, who is happy and secure and confident, who can see friendships come and go because at her core is this one, this unshakeable soul-twin sister-friend who'll never leave her.

So long as I've been writing in here I've felt like I could still be that person, because by writing to you I am conjuring you, I am keeping you in existence, and if you exist, so do I. And maybe if I find you—if Lynette can find you—she said Peri magics include carrying people through the air, so—if you're in trouble, if you're hurt—I can't even think about that but I have to trust to something, that this will be okay, somehow. That I can still be some kind of me even without you.

I love you. I'm giving you up.


Destroying the journal is a symbolic act, but one with really profound resonance for her. She has poured YEARS of herself into it, and giving it up -- the correspondence with Paige which requires her to be friends with Paige -- qualifies as giving up a self. Not only because she's functionally ending a period of her life where she had this certainty informing it, but also because the things she wrote will never inhabit another person; in never having reached Paige, all the things she's lived and observed and articulated in that journal are gone for good. She doesn't get to keep them herself, and she doesn't get to give them to anyone but the river and the Peri Border Agency.

Also, FWIW, the way I imagined the sacrifice in question working for Emily is that glimpsing Paige is part of it. While this isn't stated outright, my thought was that if Emily DID ask Lynette to bring Paige over, the gate would shut, Kel would still be stuck in one form in this dimension (though that form might be somewhat altered), and Emily wouldn't have her journal. It was an Orpheus-not-turning-back moment, and she didn't turn back. She THOUGHT she was giving Paige up in order to find her, but in fact she was giving her up in order to have the chance to KNOWINGLY give her up. Coz that's how this magic works.

I'd also point out that Emily's sobbing and shattered by the end of this, so, y'know, any notion that this sacrifice is good for her rather than excruciatingly painful is kind of a false dichotomy. She's gained absolutely nothing from this transaction; in fact, from her perspective she's lost even more, considering the terms on which she and Anna part right before the ritual. By the end of the story she doesn't even get to know yet that Anna's writing to her in a tiny journal.

That's how I meant it to be, anyway. :) Obviously reception varies and has nothing to do with intentions!



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Reply #40 on: October 25, 2013, 02:07:25 PM
Destroying the journal is a symbolic act, but one with really profound resonance for her. She has poured YEARS of herself into it, and giving it up -- the correspondence with Paige which requires her to be friends with Paige -- qualifies as giving up a self. Not only because she's functionally ending a period of her life where she had this certainty informing it, but also because the things she wrote will never inhabit another person; in never having reached Paige, all the things she's lived and observed and articulated in that journal are gone for good. She doesn't get to keep them herself, and she doesn't get to give them to anyone but the river and the Peri Border Agency.

I get where you were going with that, and other people seem to be okay with it, it just seemed false to me.

For me the title just keeps reminding me of this as well, even though that's not what you intended by the title.  I see the title "Hollow Play", and I think "Oh yeah, that's the story about the bluff sacrifice that somehow works".  It's possible that if I hadn't already had that association in the title that I wouldn't be reminded me of my interpretation of it every time I come back to this story thread.

Also, FWIW, the way I imagined the sacrifice in question working for Emily is that glimpsing Paige is part of it. While this isn't stated outright, my thought was that if Emily DID ask Lynette to bring Paige over, the gate would shut, Kel would still be stuck in one form in this dimension (though that form might be somewhat altered), and Emily wouldn't have her journal. It was an Orpheus-not-turning-back moment, and she didn't turn back. She THOUGHT she was giving Paige up in order to find her, but in fact she was giving her up in order to have the chance to KNOWINGLY give her up. Coz that's how this magic works.

Now THAT, I dig.  Part of the issue I'd had with it from the beginning (whether I articulated this well or not) is that although she does end up losing her friend in the end, at the time of the sacrifice she doesn't KNOW that she's cutting ties forever--she's trying to cheat the sacrifice and apparently there is the opportunity for this cheat to work.  

As I was listening to the story, though, I didn't think that was a possibility.  As far as I could discern, once the door is open the door is open.  Sort of a no-takebacks kind of situation, you know?  It would've helped me get into the ending, a lot, if it were clear that the door COULD shut after it opens if she went back on the sacrifice--maybe by mentioning a time where such a thing had happened before or something.  Anyway, I like the story more with your comment in mind, though taking the story in the wild as it were, I wouldn't have heard that.

I'd also point out that Emily's sobbing and shattered by the end of this, so, y'know, any notion that this sacrifice is good for her rather than excruciatingly painful is kind of a false dichotomy.

I don't think I made that dichotomy, though maybe you're referring to someone else.  Grieving sucks.  There's no two ways about it. And grieving the loss of a friend who hasn't actually died is not so different in many ways from grieving a death. But grieving is, in the long run, a beneficial process that allows you to heal.  So, yes, it is both painful and beneficial.  If I said anything that contradicted this statement previously, I didn't intend to.  

She's gained absolutely nothing from this transaction;

I disagree.  She thinks at the time of the transaction that she has gained nothing, sure, I can buy that.  But she has been living in constant anxiety and denial and dull but constant emotional pain for quite some time, wondering why her friend has made herself unreachable.  Without the intrusion of magic in her life, I get the impression she could go on with this indefinitely, maybe ruining future romantic relationships, overshadowing everything in her life.  With the magic she has gotten rid of the ongoing and indefinite poisonous anxiety and doubt, and traded it for a period of intense but healthy grieving.  Of course she'll remember her friend for the rest of her life, but I feel that she can reach a healthy equilibrium in regards to the severed connection, allowed the wound to heal rather than picking at the festering cut on a daily basis.  And I think that even if you ignore the inclusion of the letter from Anna which she knows nothing about yet, but which supports the idea that her life will go on and she can find happy times and new relationships in the absence of the old ones.

So, I'd say she's gained everything from this transaction.  She's gained an entire open future, rather than a claustrophobic and doubt-ridden kennel she'd penned herself in.



amalmohtar

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Reply #41 on: October 25, 2013, 09:49:11 PM
Quote
As far as I could discern, once the door is open the door is open.  Sort of a no-takebacks kind of situation, you know?

Ahh, I see what you're saying. Yeah -- my comparison of it to visa applications was meant to reflect the Admit One nature of each sacrifice but didn't really go into the specifics as much as it could have (blast that wordcount limit!).

I guess another way to look at it, though, is a deterministic one: the door opened because the fact that Emily would knowingly make the sacrifice was already known to the magics.

Quote
I'd say she's gained everything from this transaction.  She's gained an entire open future, rather than a claustrophobic and doubt-ridden kennel she'd penned herself in.

That's such a positive interpretation! And yet she has no closure. She doesn't know why her best friend of 10 years has dropped her, and she no longer has the reasons of her friend being depressed or in trouble. Paige is happy and has severed ties without a word of explanation -- Emily's chosen to accept that, but I can't imagine she won't still wonder and question and beat herself up about whether she was at fault or could have done something differently, etc. Ultimately she gained knowledge that led to questions she's given up the right to ask of Paige, but she'll keep asking them of herself. And she's also gained the knowledge that even the most solid bedrock of friendship can be eroded, which will make it that much harder to trust new friendships.

Man, I kind of prefer your interpretation, actually!




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Reply #42 on: October 25, 2013, 10:44:14 PM
I guess another way to look at it, though, is a deterministic one: the door opened because the fact that Emily would knowingly make the sacrifice was already known to the magics.

That makes some sense too, but that honestly just didn't occur to me as I was listening.

And yet she has no closure. She doesn't know why her best friend of 10 years has dropped her, and she no longer has the reasons of her friend being depressed or in trouble. Paige is happy and has severed ties without a word of explanation -- Emily's chosen to accept that, but I can't imagine she won't still wonder and question and beat herself up about whether she was at fault or could have done something differently, etc. Ultimately she gained knowledge that led to questions she's given up the right to ask of Paige, but she'll keep asking them of herself. And she's also gained the knowledge that even the most solid bedrock of friendship can be eroded, which will make it that much harder to trust new friendships.

I'd say she has SOME closure, though certainly not a complete closure.  She knows that Paige isn't dead.  She knows that Paige chose to leave of her own volition (barring an amnesia scenario, but that's unlikely enough that I don't consider it a major possibility).  She knows that, whether or not Paige had a good reason for wanting to cut ties, Paige did not do her the respect of talking to her about it.  I think it's likely that they were just growing apart and Paige was the first to recognize it, or Paige had some kind of philosophical conflict with her friend that made her feel they couldn't coexist anymore apparently in some way.  Regardless, though, it's clear that the rend is irreperable, and it is out of her control, and she has no evidence that it was her fault. 

I've had best friends that just kind of drifted away when I was still more into the relationship while they were.  I've had best friends that the relationship ended with a major conflict.  It hurt.  It still hurts when I dwell on it.  But in the end I have my happy memories of the times that we had together and those are still worthwhile.  I have new friends now and a new community, and my life is not broken without them.  Mine were obviously not the exact circumstances as this story, and perhaps not to the same degree--she will probably take longer to heal than I did, but I believe she will heal now that the cut is clean.

Maybe I've been around enough people in 12 Step Programs, but I guess I take to heart the serenity prayer "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."  I'm not what you would call a religious person, but that is a sound philosophy, to me.  In this, she cannot change the loss of that friendship, so all she can do is accept it.



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Reply #43 on: October 30, 2013, 10:26:29 PM
omg - the whining, THE WHINING!  :P (and I'm not referring to the audio quality)

I think one of the reason I like Psuedopod and Escapepod is that whiny characters like this usually have their heads explode, get eaten or both.

I'm seeing a new genre' here ... "grim-whine" ("whine-dark"?)



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Reply #44 on: November 19, 2013, 08:41:20 PM
Wow...love, love LOVE this one!

I didn't see the main character as whiny...just full of feels that she could only convey through a journal. And I looooooved the Caberet scene. I'm pretty sure I would not have gotten the John Cage reference either, so I felt the MC's awkwardness. And Tina did an awesome reading, even though there was that weird tiney sounds.

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Reply #45 on: November 25, 2013, 12:50:21 AM
I now that I am extremely late to the party here.  I also saw that this episode has been discussed extensively, including the LGBT issues involved.  So, I'm going to keep my comments just to my own reactions.  I did, after all, register for the first time because I loved this story.  It hit a lot of things that really resonated personally with me.

I listened to this episode a few days ago while driving.  I quickly squealed in delight!  In "Recognizing Gabe", while I understood where the story was going, I was horribly frustrated with how all of the verbiage was the author, not the people in the story, dancing around the fact that we were dealing with a transgendered character.  Lots of needless drama.  In this story, the fact of the trans, poly, and queer aspects of the family were introduced, piece by piece, without any frustrating hinting and dancing around of the issue.  It was normal and simply part of life.  Additionally, what they had, including with the disfunctions, is very similar to what I would like in a family myself.  Except for the whole "returning to Faerie and leaving me behind" part.  I'd rather my own family not do that.  Though I can actually understand abandoning people in order to pursue a dear dream.

Paige abandoned her friendship with Emily, which felt like a gut punch.  I've been there, though only with lovers, not with a best friend.  I began crying, though (as much as is safe while driving in a construction zone), with the way Anna reached out to re-establish her relationship with Emily through the journal.  This is a mode of communication that she hates, yet she paid enough attention to understand that this would touch Emily deeply.  And there was also enough time to allow both of them some healing for their wounds.

Two days after listening to this, I met a new friend who understood poly and trans* identities well enough to almost instantly read me.  I did not meet him at a cabaret, merely a geek convention... where we are less obviously exotic, but possibly just as strange as the people at the Spangled Cabaret.



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Reply #46 on: January 23, 2014, 05:46:10 PM
I really liked the characters here, as they felt real. I didn't love the story as much as And Their Lips Rang with the Sun or the Honey Month, but I'm glad it ran here. I also love the emotion Tina poured into the narration.


I'd also point out that Emily's sobbing and shattered by the end of this, so, y'know, any notion that this sacrifice is good for her rather than excruciatingly painful is kind of a false dichotomy. She's gained absolutely nothing from this transaction; in fact, from her perspective she's lost even more, considering the terms on which she and Anna part right before the ritual. By the end of the story she doesn't even get to know yet that Anna's writing to her in a tiny journal.


Thanks for explaining the last epistolary scene. On the page, this probably would have been clearer, but in audio I was a bit confused by the right turn it took by shifting to a new journalist. I rewound to the beginning of the letter and wasn't any better off, but it hooks back two scenes before so my rewinding didn't help with that. This said, I'm still not sure what this scene brings to the overall story.

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amalmohtar

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Reply #47 on: February 06, 2014, 08:52:02 AM
If anyone would like to give the story a read as opposed to a listen, as of yesterday it's now available online for free: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/2014/02/free-fiction-from-apex-a-hollow-play-by-amal-el-mohtar/



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Reply #48 on: December 14, 2021, 09:01:05 PM
This story has been re-run as PodCastle 710: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – A Hollow Play