[SFX: beep, Claire’s living room, the sound of the recorder being slapped on, a phone rings incessantly]
JUDITH: [groans] Claire. Claire! Jesus, my head feels like someone tried to crush it with a brick.
CLAIRE: [murmurs something indistinguishable]
JUDITH: [whisper] Is that a yes or a no on answering your phone?
CLAIRE: [snoring resumes]
JUDITH: Ok… [SFX: beep of phone being picked up] Hello? … Oh, hi Adam. … I’m good, feeling great. Uh, yeah, she’s asleep right now. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know if this is the best time to talk. … Why not? Uh… I mean, it’s pretty soon after the breakup … No, as far as I know you definitely broke up. No, I’m not trying to create my own truth here, this isn’t The Secret. … Ok, I am too hungover to be having this conversation. … No, she didn’t mix acetaminophen with alcohol, we only damaged our livers with booze, so obviously that was much safer. … I am not a bad influence. No, YOU’RE the bad influence… sorry, I just have a huge headache … Adam, Adam! Adam, just stop talking, I’ll get her to call you back. No, I’m not telling her that. Yeah, ok, I will get her to eat breakfast, but it will be something greasy. We’re at the house. ADAM, I’M NOT IN THE MOOD TO GET HER YOGHURT, HER GUT FLORA WILL BE FINE. OH MY GOD, SHE’LL CALL YOU. OK? OK. BYE bye bye. [SFX: phone beep]
CLAIRE: [yawns] Um, am I dreaming or are you having a heated conversation with my ex?
JUDITH: Less heated and more vaguely clammy. But hang on – you did
actually break up with him, right?
JUDITH: He said that you’d just disappeared and hadn’t responded to any of his texts or calls in like, 48 hours.
CLAIRE: Can we discuss this over brunch?
JUDITH: I don’t think so.
CLAIRE: [weakly] … Can we get McMuffins?
JUDITH: Oh my God, Claire, I don’t care how boring or overbearing or whatever Adam is, you can’t just ghost him!
CLAIRE: Can’t I? It’s been working so far.
JUDITH: It’s weird at best and incredibly rude in general and like… come on man, you’re better than this.
CLAIRE: Ok, fine. Don’t give me that look! I just, I don’t like confrontation. Well, the other day he was all like, “Have you thought about the future” and I was all like “no, that’s terrifying” and he goes, “Well, we’re both getting older and you’ve always wanted kids…” and I said “yeah, but not like, right this minute” and then the conversation got kind of heated from there, and I panicked and eventually I told him that I don’t think I would even ever want kids and… especially not with him.
CLAIRE: Yeah, not what he wanted to hear, I think. He didn’t even like, yell or anything, he just got real quiet and sad and I sort of… lost my nerve… and then he had to go to work, so he was like “we’ll finish this later” and I really didn’t want to finish it later… so I um, just… um… packed a suitcase and bailed.
JUDITH: Wow. OK. This whole thing is a lot more of a mess than I originally thought.
CLAIRE: I know, but it’s just so complicated and…
[SFX: Knocking at the door.]
CLAIRE: … god, what now?
JUDITH: Does Adam have this address?
CLAIRE: No, I… definitely didn’t give him the address so he could get his dad to do a “safety” check of the wiring? Except… Yeah. I guess I did that.
JUDITH: You know what? This is a good thing. Or, well, a thing, anyway. You need to end it properly, not by just disappearing into the night like a bad date. [SFX: more knocking]
CLAIRE: Judith, wait! Can’t I just ignore my problems? It’s been working so far, sort of!
JUDITH: Look, you just need to figure this out or else you’ll always be running. Or hiding in this house, I guess.
[SFX: She walks over and the door opens]
JUDITH: Hi, Adam.
ADAM: Hey. How’re things? Can I speak to Claire? Oh, I brought Greek yoghurt!-
JUDITH: [sighed] Ok.
ADAM: Oh, also – Judith, did you not notice the rot on this porch column? I don’t know if it’s load-bearing, but you shouldn’t take that chance. It’s cool, I can fix it. I just need to run to the hardware store to get some supplies to make a temporary support post and then-
JUDITH: [exasperated] Adam! Why don’t you come inside? Claire’s in the kitchen.
ADAM: Honestly, I think we really need to take care of this porch issue sooner rather than later. I can’t believe the two of you really slept here. I mean, someone could get impaled.
JUDITH: Hey Claire, Adam’s here and I think it’s time you two have a talk.
CLAIRE: [fake cheery] Heeeeey, Adam! How’s it goin-
JUDITH: I’m uh… [SFX: grabs purse] going out to get us some food and coffee. You two… figure this out. I’ll be back in a bit.
[SFX: door closing]
ADAM: Claire, what’s going on? Why are you here? Why haven’t you returned my calls? And… here, eat some yoghurt.
CLAIRE: [sighs] Thanks.
ADAM: [softer] So… what’s going on? I know things have been difficult lately, but can’t we just talk about it? Let’s go home and figure this out.
CLAIRE: I’m really sorry, Adam. But… I don’t think I want to come home. Not right now.
ADAM: What? Why not? Is it this place? You said you were going to sell and invest the money? I don’t know, I mean I guess if you really want to live here we can sublet the condo, but the property taxes alone-
CLAIRE: No, you said I should sell the place and invest the money. And no, it’s not the condo. It’s me. I don’t want to be in a relationship… with you. I don’t know.
ADAM: You don’t want to be in a relationship with me.
CLAIRE: It’s not you, it’s me?
CLAIRE: It’s too much, ok? It’s the future and the past and it’s all a big mess and I don’t know what to do, but being around you is stressing me out more and I can’t handle it.
ADAM: You’re not making sense, Claire. Everything was fine a few weeks ago. And I understand, it got kind of weird after the whole long-lost family thing, and the house thing, and yeah, I probably should’ve had a better segue into a discussion about our possible future progeny. But freezing eggs is expensive… and have you been taking your anxiety medication? I brought the rest just in case.
CLAIRE: Seriously, Adam? Not that it has to do with anything, but yes, I have been taking my meds.
ADAM: Well then why are you being like this? Are you sure that I can’t call Dr. Ranger or something?
CLAIRE: It’s not… you can’t just call my therapist because I’m breaking up with you. I have an anxiety disorder, it’s not like I’m pretending like vaccines are evil. I’m not illogical. Besides, what is this? 1952? I’m not Betty Draper. And you’re definitely not Don.
ADAM: Don – who? Is that from that Gossip show thing you like?
CLAIRE: Are you talking about Gossip Girl? No. Jesus, Adam. Don Draper… Jon Hamm… Mad Men…
CLAIRE: Do you even listen to me when I talk… You know what? It doesn’t matter.
ADAM: Claire, of course I listen. I know you like raspberries in your oatmeal. And uh… Oh! I know you wanted to go see that one pop star who’s been really popular on Instagram.
CLAIRE: Do you really still not know who Beyonce is?
ADAM: I just need you to be rational.
CLAIRE: I am being rational! Why wouldn’t I be rational?
ADAM: Oh, I don’t know, maybe because you’re babbling about Gossip… Gals?, and you just randomly ran away to move into a stranger’s house with a rotting porch. Also, this place is freezing, which means there’s probably a draft, I’ll look in a bit. It could be a problem with the insulation-
CLAIRE: Stop! Just stop it.
ADAM: I don’t want you to do this.
CLAIRE: Do what, Adam? Because I don’t need your permission to do anything.
ADAM: Ok [sigh], if that’s what you want, I’ll go. But… could you at least let me take you to Home Depot.
CLAIRE: No. No. I’m an adult. I can go by myself. I can get porch thingies. I can fix old planks. What I do need is for you to leave.
ADAM: Come on, Claire, you don’t even like hanging up pictures. Besides, have you ever even used any tools before?
CLAIRE: I don’t want to talk about tools right now, I want you to leave.
ADAM: OK, I can see that you’re upset. I wish you would let me help. But if it’s what you really want, I can give you some space. And when you’re ready to come home-
Claire: Adam. I’m not coming home. This is my home now. I guess.
Adam: Fine. Well, just… Fix the damn beams if you’re going to stay here. I’ll email you instructions.
CLAIRE: Whatever. [SFX: footsteps, door slams, and a long silence. Beep]
[SFX: beep. Judith enters the living room]
JUDITH: Ok, I got breakfast. It’s very greasy and there are probably a lot of things that will turn your gut flora into a scorched field but… Are you OK? What happened?
CLAIRE: I’m fine. I mean, I’m not fine. This just sucks. It really, really, really sucks.
JUDITH: Hey, come on lady, breakups are always hard.
CLAIRE: That wasn’t how I wanted to do this.
JUDITH: Well… how did you want to do it?
CLAIRE: I don’t know, just… not like that? I guess I just hoped the whole thing would peter out and then I could walk away and no one would get hurt. I don’t know, a person can dream, I guess.
JUDITH: I’m sorry. I know you’ve been going through a lot lately, it’s just… you can’t just leave and not tell your partner where you’re going. That’s a little extra and not in a fun way.
CLAIRE: I guess.
JUDITH: Here, you’ve earned this. [SFX: wrapper] I’m going to go take a shower.
[SFX: beep. Studio]
OWEN: [talkback] And we’re recording.
JUDITH: So, that was the rough audio from the first few nights that Claire took over the house. Today is January 29, 2019. Here’s where we stand: Almost three weeks ago, Claire became unreachable. Because of the radio silence, I reached out to her parents about my concerns, and they claim that she’s at a yoga retreat somewhere in the Muskokas. But… I’m not buying that. A yoga retreat? In late January? Claire has never really been a yoga person. I mean, she went with me to a couple classes, but only because I told her that I would go camping with her if she did.
OWEN: [talkback] I can’t picture you camping.
JUDITH: It combines all my least favourite things – bugs, sleeping on the ground, unfamiliar noises, uh… bears. I guess she spoke to our boss about taking off for a while so she could… downward dog in some off-season faux new age bougie cabin in the woods. But that doesn’t scan. And, God, the last time I saw her… she looked like she was about to break… I’m getting a little desperate. I asked Owen to see if he could track down Adam.
OWEN: [talkback] He responded to a text. It just said that he was fine and that he had heard from Claire and that she was fine, and they were all fine, which only made all of that sound very far away from “fine”.
JUDITH: And I know I can’t go to the police, there’s no way they’d believe me. Oh no, a 30-year-old woman had a breakdown and went on a yoga retreat? Ha ha, just kidding! There’s a solid chance she’s actually been affected by some kind of… supernatural force. [long pause] God, that sounds just… sometimes I’m worried I’m losing my mind as well, lately.
OWEN: [talkback] If you are, then I’m not far behind at this point.
JUDITH: Did… you ever end up listening to that messed up recording from last week?
OWEN: [talkback] Yeah, it doesn’t even play at all. I guess I could try to recover it, but…
JUDITH: It’s not important.
OWEN: [talkback] Yeah.
JUDITH: Uh, so there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s… I got desperate and I started reading Claire’s journal, which I feel like the worst for doing, but… I went into her desk at the office and found it jammed at the back. I didn’t even know she kept one, but it’s definitely her handwriting. I know it’s an invasion of her privacy but I just… like, listen to this:
“I can hear someone crying at night. She’s trapped here. She needs my help. That sounds crazy. I might be going crazy. But I hear her. Maybe I should run, but I can’t. I don’t think I want to. It’s a dream. I’m terrified, but my feet won’t move. I’m sinking into this place. It’s like I’m held in place by something I can’t see. I’m being smothered. I don’t remember the last time I slept through the night. I keep waking up to the sound of a woman weeping. I’m so tired. But she’s so loud.”
This doesn’t sound like something a yoga retreat is going to fix.
OWEN: [talkback] No, it sounds like something maybe an exorcist could fix.
JUDITH: … Am I missing something? This could just be something actually serious and I’m out here running around treating it like I’m a goddamn Ghostbuster.
OWEN: [talkback] I mean, either way, it’s bad. Like, real bad. It feels bigger than just a breakdown, though. That whole house feels wrong.
JUDITH: Yeah. [sigh] Ok, let’s pull up some more of the recordings, What else do we have?
OWEN: [talkback] Um, alright, here’s… one of Claire’s from early September.
[SFX: beep. Judith’s living room]
CLAIRE: Uh… ok, how does this work? Testing. Testing. I guess I’ll just… channel Judith. [perky] Hi everyone! No… that feels weird. How does she do this? [pause] Let’s try this again. Hi everyone who’s listening, all… probably still only 6 of you. Claire here. I have a few updates on the house. It’s Saturday, September 8. I officially took possession of the house a week ago, but I’m squatting on Judith’s couch for now. Anyway, Judith and I are doing an unspeakably courageous thing. We woke up at 9 AM to go to Home Depot and IKEA in the suburbs on a goddamn Saturday. If that wasn’t enough, all the university students are returning. If she wasn’t my closest friend, I would suspect that she is actually trying to lure me into hell or something. We’re planning to buy wallpaper removing supplies, so some primer, paint rollers, some caulking guns, uh… I don’t know, Swedish meatballs? And hey, screw you, Adam. I can be handy. I can do anything that I want to do because YouTube tutorials exist. Anyway, so Judith and I are going to defeat a bunch of hideous wallpaper in my… I don’t know, possibly haunted house. [pause] I really didn’t think this is where I’d be at this point in my life. It’s too early for an existential meltdown. I should make coffee or something.
JUDITH: Hey, are you recording?
CLAIRE: Gotta update the fan. Where’s your coffee maker?
JUDITH: Oh, I broke my french press and then never replaced it. I really only drink tea at home anyway.
CLAIRE: Oh, well, I can’t live here then, because tea is not going to cut it. Ok I’m gonna do a coffee run, you want anything?
JUDITH: Soy chai latte?
JUDITH: You’re gross.
CLAIRE: Ok, so I’m being demoted to intern. Well, goodbye everyone! Time for me to go fetch coffee and pick up Judith’s dry cleaning. [yells] And I’m buying you a new french press!
[SFX: beep. Claire’s place, wallpaper scraping noises]
CLAIRE: I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but wallpaper is the worst thing in the entire world.
JUDITH: I guess it’s a good arm workout? … Nah. What were people thinking when they wallpapered everything?
CLAIRE: Right? Also, you say that about everything. You’d probably say that if you got buried in an avalanche, oh well, at least my arms are getting nice and toned!
JUDITH: I’m a glass half-full kind of person, although I’m a little worried that the glass is half-full of spit. Anyway, hi, and welcome to Yes! In My Backyard! Today we’re looking at how you remove wallpaper from walls. Layers and layers of it. Every time I think we’re at the actual wall, there’s more paper.
CLAIRE: This might actually be hell.
JUDITH: Yeah, but we survived Home Depot.
JUDITH: Claire and I have been scraping for a few hours and once you get past the onion-like layers of ugly floral paper there is an awful lot of creepy graffiti underneath here. And… apparently, a door?
CLAIRE: Turns out there was a door wallpapered over in that room in the attic that definitely isn’t haunted by a ghost that’s going to come out of there and murder us all later.
JUDITH: It’s probably just a closet.
CLAIRE: We tried the knob, but it was locked. I have a bunch of random keys from the lawyer, so we can try them later, but we’re going to wait until we get the feeling back in our arms. This is a little too Flowers in the Attic for me.
JUDITH: Yeah, we’re definitely going to do some investigating about the history of the house.
CLAIRE: So, in sum, this house has a weird attic and a spooky basement. I really hit the jackpot, didn’t I?
JUDITH: Yeah, you got something that’s creepy from top to bottom. But hey, we haven’t even really been in the basement yet. Maybe once you get past all the spiderwebs there’s an awesome games room or a wet bar or something.
CLAIRE: That just sounds like a prototypical man cave. If I inherited a man cave, I think I’ll have to start wearing hockey jerseys and drinking Labatt 50 and talking about winter tires-
JUDITH: Serious question, Claire: have you ever met a man before?
CLAIRE: Eh. Anyway, we snapped a bunch of pictures of the graffiti for reference and we’re planning to plug in the words to Google translate. I want to know what this means before we start painting over it.
JUDITH: Is there an option to translate Latin scripture from hell into English?
CLAIRE: I mean, if you have a better idea.
JUDITH: You could just leave it up. The witchy aesthetic thing is very in. We’ll paint your nails black and call it a day.
CLAIRE: Ooo, perfect. I’ve always wanted my home to have a real “hi, I’m a serial killer!” vibe.
Judith: Well in that case let’s get you another Live, Laugh, Love wall decal. That’s just as scary.
CLAIRE: My mom bought me that. I don’t know why. Changing subjects… I’m gonna plug that big one into Google. Whaddya know, there’s a Latin option! Where was this when I was making up terrible MSN screen names…
JUDITH: They could’ve been so much deeper.
CLAIRE: Hah. [SFX: Typing and reading slowly] Uh, ok… so according to this it says…
Et per ignem In unum Deum Cum pura nomina
Abstulit et consurget Producam ignem
Fieri unum cum MOLOCH
JUDITH: [at same time, slight delay] And a fire In one God
With pure names Will rise
I will produce a fire one possible
Ok, I have one question and it’s what the hell does that mean?
[SFX: door slams somewhere in the house]
CLAIRE: What was that?
JUDITH: Sounds like something fell.
CLAIRE: [nervous but trying to hide it] Huh. OK. I’m going to make us some tea or something.
[SFX: Walking, goes down to kitchen, creaking wood, water running]
CLAIRE: Ew, stupid house centipede. [SFX: thump of hand on counter]
[SFX: Water pipes start making choking noises]
CLAIRE: Stupid old plumbing. Oh my God, what IS that? [Screams] Holy sh-… Get off. GET OFF. GET OFF!
[SFX: Creepy skittering bug noises. Constant water running noise in background]
CLAIRE: [Sounds of loud stomping] WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE COMING FROM?
[SFX: Running footsteps]
JUDITH: Claire! Claire, holy shit, are you ok- what the hell? Oh MY GOD WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE?
CLAIRE: [still stomping and slightly out of breath] JUST… GET SOME RAID OR BLEACH OR A FLAMETHROWER OR WHATEVER – CHECK ON TOP OF THE FRIDGE. QUICK!
JUDITH: Oh my god, I hate this. That is so many goddamn house centipedes.
CLAIRE: WHY DO THEY HAVE SO MANY LEGS. NOTHING NEEDS THAT MANY LEGS.
[SFX: Sounds of aerosol can spraying. Creepy bug dying noises]
CLAIRE: OK. OK. The sink! Pour bleach down the drain!
[SFX: Running water noise stops. Spraying continues. Heavy breathing.]
JUDITH: I’ve never seen that many centipedes, that’s the creepiest thing I think I’ve ever witnessed. Did… did they come out of the kitchen sink?
CLAIRE: Are they all off of me? Can you check?
JUDITH: Yeah. You’re good. Holy crap, there are so many of them. How did they even FIT in the pipes?
CLAIRE: I think we’re out of bug spray.
JUDITH: Maybe we just… won’t use that sink for a bit. I think I need a glass of wine. Or the entire bottle.
CLAIRE: [Long pause] Yeah. That is a good idea.
[SFX: loud thud from somewhere else]
CLAIRE: Did something else fall?
JUDITH: Where is that coming from?
CLAIRE: Did you close that window?
JUDITH: I couldn’t find an open one-
[SFX: Thudding intensifies.]
CLAIRE: [whispers] It sounds like it’s coming from the door. What do I do?
JUDITH: Let’s go check it out…
CLAIRE: It’s like you’ve NEVER seen a horror movie in your life.
JUDITH: I’ve seen at least one.
CLAIRE: [SFX: Knife being taken out of a block] Take this.
JUDITH: Claire. I am not waving around a butcher knife like some kind of lunatic.
CLAIRE: Fine. Then I will.
[SFX: quiet footsteps]
JUDITH: [quietly] There’s someone out there. He has a hoodie on… Oh my God, I think he has a bat… or, wait, is that a piece of wood? Claire wa-…
CLAIRE: [SFX: Slams open door] GET OUT OF HERE YOU BASTARD, I HAVE A KNIFE!
ADAM: [SFX: thump] CLAIRE, WHAT THE HELL?
CLAIRE: ADAM? Jesus, what do you think you’re DOING out here?
ADAM: I just want to fix the porch! It’s very dangerous! And you weren’t starting on it. Even though I recommended it quite strongly. So I brought my tools over-…
CLAIRE: OK, you have NO RIGHT to be out here trying to fix MY porch.
JUDITH: Come on man, give us time, jeez. We’ll get to the damn porch eventually. [quietly] Hey, uh, Claire, can I just remind you that you’re still waving a knife around? In public?
CLAIRE: Oh. Right. Sorry. I guess I got a little carried away. I’m a little frazzled after getting attacked by a million stupid gross house centipedes.
ADAM: I’m sorry, what attacked you?
CLAIRE: House centipedes! Tons of them! They were in the drain and then they… just spilled out everywhere and I can still feel them.
JUDITH: Adam, this is not a good time. So, first, let’s all put down our POTENTIALLY FATAL WEAPONS because both of you are in weird headspaces and you don’t need to be holding hammers or knives or anything.
CLAIRE & ADAM: Fine. [SFX: thump]
JUDITH: Second, what are you doing? Why are you fixing the porch? Did you think we wouldn’t notice? You can’t just come over here and start hammering away and hoping that you can fix your relationship by putting down new floorboards or something.
ADAM: Actually, it’s the main support post, but that’s fine. I’m just going to do a few things and then I’ll…
JUDITH: Come on, man.
ADAM: Fine! Fine. I’m sorry. But seriously, Claire, I don’t think you’re ok.
CLAIRE: I’m fine.
ADAM: No, your anxiety is making you act irrational and you were just attacked by bugs, apparently. Are you sure you don’t want to come home now?
CLAIRE: Nope. I’m good. I will deal with this porch on my own and the insects and all the other shit that comes up.
ADAM: I wish you would just come home.
CLAIRE: Don’t. Don’t start.
JUDITH: This is not the time. She needs space. You need space. Everyone needs like a whole galaxy’s worth of space.
ADAM: Can I at least come in and take a look around? I mean, if the porch is like this, then don’t get me started on what the state of the joists must be. And the baseboards! Have you checked the baseboards for rot? What if there’s mould? That can become airborne and before you know it’s in your lungs and-
JUDITH: Come on, man.
CLAIRE: You know what? Fine. It’s fine. It’s fine! Just come in. I am too tired and too stressed to deal with this right now. There’s wine inside and I am going to drink it. And you can ogle the baseboards and make sure all the windows are locked or whatever. And if you see any bugs, kill them. After that, you’re going home. By yourself.
ADAM: Ok, ok, I’ll take it. [pause] Is the wine organic?
CLAIRE: Don’t push it.
JUDITH: Look, let’s just get inside before someone calls the cops on the angry people with makeshift weapons. Which is both of you. [sarcastic] Welcome to the neighbourhood, Adam.
[SFX: beep. Studio]
OWEN: [talkback] I’m shocked you didn’t burn the place down after that.
JUDITH: What, Adam trying to replace beams in secret or the house centipede flood? Would’ve saved us trouble either way. Listen, it’s getting late. I think we should wrap up.
OWEN: [talkback] Yeah.
JUDITH: Hey, uh, have you been able to get that last file working? The one from the night we were all at Claire’s place.
OWEN: [talkback, a little nervous] No, I… took a look, but… … I’ll try again. I’ll see if I can recover anything.
JUDITH: Cool. That’s it for now.