JUDITH: It’s Saturday evening and I’m at work. I’m in the studio. Owen was supposed to be here like, 45 minutes ago? And I’m going to assume he’s trapped on the subway or something, because I have not heard from him. Uh, I guess… uhhh… ok, so we did a little bit of research into possible dates for any rituals and I referenced one listed in Ignis Malfarum with a translated version mentioned in this one history book, uhhh… this is easier when I have someone else to talk to. Anyway, I recorded a few passages but there’s no point in listening to that right now, but I know Owen was going to see if there was anything hidden in the audio from a few of the posts Claire had made recently, so let me see if he uploaded those… ok, just a couple here, I think I already heard those ones.Umm… ok, there’s a few in the shared folder and there is a new folder. Hey, Owen, when you listen to this, I just want you to know that I’m just relishing the fact that you left a folder named “New Folder,” Captain Label Everything Properly over here. Very sloppy. … Right, these have a different naming system. Numbers, which, again, Owen, you can’t harp on me for this and then leave stuff a mess. But yeah, numbers numbers… I swear, if these things start talking to me or try to devour my soul or whatever, I’m leaving. Owen can just… deal with it, or fight it off with sticks. So… this is from… this morning? O… k.
[SFX: beep. Big open, empty room.]
TABITHA: Hey Owen, if you hear this, I just want you to know that I’m really sorry about what we’re going to do.
MAN: No you’re not.
TABITHA: He’s right, I’m not. But you should at least know that it’ll be for a good cause. Don’t worry, you’ll be out soon enough. Or not, but that’s not up to me. If it were, I’d let you rot. But hey, count your blessings. Just… relax. Enjoy the downtime. This would be a good chance to take a few deep breaths and meditate and let all the stress of the day flow out of you. Feel free to use the recorder, by the way. You’ll need something to do to pass the time. See you soon.
[SFX: beep. Studio.]
JUDITH: Oh no, oh no no no no no.
[SFX: beep. Inside a box.]
OWEN: HEY! LET ME OUT OF HERE!
TABITHA: [on the other side] Hey, hey hey hey, be cool, don’t worry about it, just give it time. I know it’s a little cozy in there, but, y’know, you might want to get comfy. Could be awhile.
OWEN: LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT!
TABITHA: [on the other side] Show of hands? Should I let him out? Sorry, no one seems that interested. Oh well.
OWEN: You piece of shit! What do you want? LET ME OUT!
TABITHA: [on the other side] So RUDE. You know, if you keep banging like that, guess what will happen?
[SFX: the sound of dirt hitting the lid.]
TABITHA: [on the other side] Yeah, you’re a fast learner. Although, not fast enough.
OWEN: No no no no no no no! HEY! HEY!
TABITHA: Anyway, I’ve got some things to do. Oh, I have your phone, by the way, want me to text Judith? I met her recently, she seems nice, for a blood bag. Whatever, I’ll tell her you’re all laid up. [laughs] Have a nice time! Buh-bye!
OWEN: No, no no no, hey! HEY! [SFX: pounding on lid, panicking] oh my God. Oh my god, oh my god… hang on… [SFX: muffled sounds as he reaches down and picks up the recorder] What the… is this some sort of fucking JOKE?
[SFX: beep. Studio]
JUDITH: Oh god, oh god.
[SFX: beep. Box]
OWEN: Shit, shit, ok, ok, uh… I’m… I’m trapped. I’m stuck in a… box, or a coffin or… I don’t know what, but [SFX: bangs on lid] I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. God, please don’t be a coffin. Uh, ok… I… I don’t know if anyone will find this. I was out for a run when some kid’s dog ran by, she must’ve been… I don’t know, 16? 17? I’m bad at ages. She was young. I… I didn’t get a good look at her. She was… short, really short, thin, long light brown hair? Maybe… I don’t know! Ok, ok… she yells to me about her dog, how she can’t catch it, and I – like an idiot – start to run in the direction she’s pointing and like, it’s gone but she goes, “It ran in there!” and gestured to this storefront with an open door on… I was on some side street off Dundas. Glenlake maybe? It looked like… it looked like a regular convenience store I mean, doesn’t matter, because as soon as I poke my head in, I get grabbed and dragged into the back and out the back door and chucked into this… I’m going to call it a box, because if I call it a coffin again, I will freak out even more. We were… we were in a car. A van, probably. They drove… somewhere. Shit, I don’t know. I don’t know where I am! I don’t know what is going on, but… there was a lady, she knows Judith, so this clearly has something to do with the cult or Claire or whatever. There were others, but she was the only one talking. I don’t know how many, at least… 3? She… she said she’d be back but… I don’t know how long I’ve been in here. It can’t have been long but I don’t know, I don’t know! I… I’m in the ground, I don’t know how deep. It… can’t be that deep but… I’m not getting out of here anytime soon. They left me a recorder, very funny. Ha ha ha, they like their recorders so much I’m going to put one in his coffin.
Oh god. I’m going to die in here. Ok, ok [panicking]-
[SFX: beep. The box.]
OWEN: Ok, I took some time to get my breathing back to normal. Do I have limited oxygen in here? No, no, no I’m not thinking about that… I’m still… wherever I am. Uh… so… it sounded loud and echo-y when she was talking, so maybe… a basement? A garage? I’m worried I actually might be in a pit. I mean, other than the metaphorical one I’m currently sinking into … I doubt anyone is ever going to hear this. I don’t know where I am. Judith, I… don’t even know why I’m saying this, I guess I just need something to do to keep myself as calm as I could possibly be, and this is about it. I feel like I’m talking to you because I’m used to it… and you’re the only one who’s going to understand how I even ended up here. I don’t even know if you’re going to hear this and I have NOTHING to tell you and no reference points and… why did they give me a recorder? I guess they’re hoping I’ll just… tell it all my secrets? No, that’s stupid. There’s nothing either of us know that they don’t already know. We’re the ones digging around for information… I did look at it, there was one other recording already on here, that lady taunting me. This was all premeditated, but… why? What the hell do they want?! FUCK- [SFX: punches lid]
OWEN: My hand still hurts. That was fucking stupid.I guess I’ll just… I don’t know, do something to pass the time. That makes it sound like I’m getting out of here soon. But this thing is solid so… [deep breath] God, Jude, I hope you call someone or let one of your uncomfortable hunches get the better of you this time, that would help me a lot.
Umm… ok, just need to think of something to keep my mind off the situation… maybe… uh… I’ve been reading a lot lately, and yesterday I found this passage about bringing about the Age of Fire. The Blessing of the Master “demands the sacrifice of the devoted.” Whatever that means. I think… I think Claire has to make a sacrifice in order to gain the Blessing of the Master? But I don’t know, can it just be anyone? Devoted, that’s the word it used. I guess… maybe the sacrifice needs to be devoted to you, not the crazy-ass cult. So… a sacrifice of the devoted. Maybe… you have to give up the thing you care about the most, or the person? Someone whose death will change you. I’ve been thinking about it because, uh, well, not much else to do, and… yeah. It’s like, maybe the point is that you have to tear out a part of you with your sacrifice. That could mean a child, but it could also be any other sort of family member, or a partner. But that still doesn’t explain why I’m here. Are you going to slice my heart out? I hope not. But clearly there’s a reason why I’m here, or else I wouldn’t be stuck in a box. If they just wanted me dead, they could’ve… run me over or shot me. It’s not that hard. So, this… has a purpose. And I’m worried that it’ll mean something horrible for both of us. There’s too much in those books about the use of so much blood in these rituals, about how to crack open reality and access the kind of power that shouldn’t exist in the first place. I’m really, really afraid.
I hope you hear this. I hope someone does. Please, please, please, let someone be listening.
[SFX: beep. The box.]
OWEN: You know why I started helping you with this, Jude? I was bored and I owed you a favour. That was it. After Meera and I broke up I had way too much time on my hands. You don’t… realize how much space a partner takes up in your life until they’re gone, both physically and just in how they shape your time. Anyway, you’d helped me on a few projects at work, so I felt like I should pay you back. Worked both ways, right? I had a project to focus on and you needed help. And you were… stressed about Claire and, even though I didn’t know her that well and, to be honest, didn’t actually know you that well either, I thought, hey, why not? And at first it was fine, it was cool and spooky hanging out and listening to the tapes. I mean, most of the stuff you recorded with Claire was pretty dull… I’m sorry, that’s probably going to sound rude… but it was a lot of thumping and bumping and you guys hauling furniture around. [sigh] It’s not important. But… I mean, I got sucked into it. Guess we both did. And now we’re in too deep. Literally. This would be funny if it wasn’t an actual nightmare right now. But yeah, that was it. I needed something to do to get my mind off of how empty my apartment felt. And how much I just wanted my life to feel normal again. I wanted things to be ok, but I guess I got… the opposite of that. And then things got bad, and I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t walk away.
Jude, I know you hate camping, but I don’t. I’ve always loved being out in the woods. My family has this cottage up north, like, this old clapboard place, it’s a hunk of junk but it’s on this beautiful lake, and my brother and I spent way too much time out there, tooling around in my dad’s boat. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because… this whole situation, it’s kind of like being out on the lake, seeing how hard you can push the boat’s engine, how fast you can get it to go. At first… you’re just having fun and I’m hanging out and seeing where it goes but then I… I wanted to see what I could do. I wanted to feel some control, not just be along for the ride. I wanted to steer. And it’s just like that, you’re blowing across the lake, the wind on your face, you feel a little freaked out by it all but, goddamn, it’s invigorating. I wanted more. I wanted to find that limit. I didn’t want to be afraid. I wanted to feel like I could get this under control, somehow. But I can’t, neither of us can now, I think, and that’s the hardest part right now. Everything is spiraling out and I don’t know what to do, Jude.
This whole thing was… something else to do, something other than work and sitting at home playing video games and just being bored and honestly… more than a little lonely. And it started getting weird fast, but I can handle weird. I wasn’t… truly scared until that day that we listened to that recording in the basement. But I thought, hey man, it’s just a scary thing on an mp3. It can’t hurt you; it just wants to freak you out. But that day that we listened to that recording and it talked back…I… I never told you this, but after that, I went home… I wrote an email telling you that I couldn’t keep doing this. That I was done. That it was too upsetting and you should stop as well. I feel like a fucking coward now that I think about the fact that I wanted to email you a… resignation. But I never sent it. I mean, you know that part, because you never saw it, but I wrote it and I… deleted it, because I knew you wouldn’t stop, so I felt like I should just steel myself and keep going. Help steer the ship. But now… well, if we’re still going with the boat metaphor, I feel like we’re at the point where we can’t even bail out. We’re going too fast. I don’t know if you’ve ever hit the water when you’re at top speed but… I have. It’s like slamming onto concrete, except worse. It swallows you whole. Before you even know what’s happening, the water is all around you and the darkness presses in, and you’re struggling against it to find your way up. I think… I think I’ve hit the water, Jude. And I’m drowning.
[SFX: beep. The box.]
OWEN: Ok, it’s been… I don’t know, they took my phone. It was maybe… 10 AM when I got grabbed? It’s been a long time. My legs are killing me, it’s really tight in here. Also, I’m cold. It’s cold in here. I [getting stressed again]… I’m dressed for running and now I’m immobile in a box and… [gets breathing back under control] ok, panicking is not going to help. I could really go for a snack, though. If someone’s listening, please bring me like… a big sandwich. Or a pack of gummies. I really want those ones shaped like those little berries. I’m actually not even sure if they still even make those. Whatever.
Do you ever think Claire will be ok again? Sometimes I wonder if we’re just chasing the wind. Even if we do figure out what to do next, will… will Claire ever be herself again? Or Adam? … Will we? Over the last few months, I’ve experienced more than I ever really wanted to, in a lot of ways. … Are you holding up? I think I know the answer to that, because it’s the same answer I’d give. No, no I’m not. I mean, I’m REALLY not ok right now, but I wasn’t before, either. This… it’s just so much, Jude. And you’d think that fact would make communication even easier between us, but somehow it doesn’t. I think we’re just so worried about adding more to the other person’s mental load that we just… there are things I want to ask, I want to know, but I don’t know if I want to hear the answers. I want to feel like this will eventually be ok, that we’ll be ok, if we just keep plowing along and compartmentalizing everything, but I don’t know. I like to think that you’d tell me if something was really, really wrong, but maybe you wouldn’t. We’re so mired in it.
There is so much uncertainty with everything we find, and it just keeps getting worse.
You know, I honestly didn’t think I’d find you alive when I drove out towards Valerian. The whole time, I felt like my heart and lungs were going to crawl out through my mouth, I was… so stressed. And when I saw you on the side of the road… I was incredibly relieved but I also felt like I was going to explode,because I had never, ever felt something like that before. It was like every emotion in me bubbled over, and… god. Why am I telling you this, you were there. Or maybe you’ll never hear this. I hope you do. I hope you’re ok. That you’re doing better than me, at least at this moment. Please, don’t do anything stupid.
[SFX: beep. The box.]
OWEN: [beatboxing and drumming on the lid out of boredom]
[SFX: beep. The box.]
OWEN: [sigh] I know this is being uploaded to… somewhere. I was messing around with the recorder and there is a setting enabled to automatically upload this to a cloud storage drive and… I don’t know, maybe you’ll see it, Judith. I hope you do.
I think… I think this is it.
I’m… I’m afraid. I’m sorry, I feel like I should be stronger but… I’m not. I’m terrified. But… ok, I know you’re going to listen to this in the studio or whatever but please… don’t play this part for anyone else. Please? Jude-
[SFX: beep. Studio.]
JUDITH: I… I’ve been listening to the recordings trying to see if I can identify anything in them that might give me a clue as to where he is, and there were no good sounds or anything but, BUT, I checked the metadata and there is a location marker. But… the metadata on the recorder in that section would have to be added manually, which means… this is a trap. Shit. Shit shit shit SHIT. [deep breath] … Ok. I can’t… I can’t call for help. If someone else shows up there, I know they won’t hesitate to… they will kill Owen. I know that sounds panicky, but they will. And I don’t want him to burn. So, I’m going to go, I’m gonna go, trap or not. I can’t leave him there and there’s like, a non-zero chance that we will just both get killed but… [deep breath] I’m going. I am going. I have to go, and… I’m going to listen to that last recording on the way there.
[SFX: beep. The box.]
OWEN: [quietly singing to self]
Past the fields on the way out to Kingsville
There’s a harbour built of cedar
Where I sailed in circles and never set foot on the dock
Of any other shore
So I’ll find a new means of distraction
And I’ll find a new thing to destroy
While I try to translate sorrow into joy
And the path home is always grown over
But the barn door is always unlocked
When I come back to the places I have lost
[SFX: beep. The box.]
OWEN: Judith, please, please, please, please, if you’re listening to these, don’t come out here. I was poking around more on the recorder and there’s a location logging option in the settings. There’s a location marker in there and I didn’t put it in there. Fuck, please don’t have checked. It’s a trap, it has to be. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit-
[SFX: beep. The box.]
JUDITH: [muffled from outside] Owen? Owen? Can you hear me?
OWEN: Oh God. Judith! Jude, get out of here!
JUDITH: [outside] What? No, I’m getting you out of there.
OWEN: Jude, it’s a trap! It’s a trap!
JUDITH: [pauses, muffled swearing] Yeah, I assumed as much, but I’m not leaving you here. I’m going to try to get you out anyway and then we can deal with whatever comes next.
OWEN: Ok, ok… uh… shit. [panicking, fumbling with recorder, accidentally turns it off]
[SFX: beep. The lid of the box opens. Judith hauls him out.
JUDITH: Jesus Christ, are you ok?
OWEN: No, I am not ok, every muscle in my leg wants to give out, but… there’s no time for that. Jude, we have to go, right now.
JUDITH: Ok. Ok… I have this little crowbar if we need a weapon-
OWEN: Where did you even get that?
JUDITH: I mean, technically it’s a pry bar but that’s not important right now. Let’s start heading towards the back exit, I didn’t see anyone on the way in, but-
OWEN: [tries to move forward, his knees hurt] Where are we?
JUDITH: It’s an empty partially finished condo building. We’re down below, in what I assume would be the parking garage. No one’s on site, I think.
TABITHA: Yeah, they ran out of money. Took all those deposits and bailed. Too bad, so sad.
JUDITH: Oh fuck.
TABITHA: I’m glad you finally both made it. Honestly, Judith, I was a little worried you wouldn’t dig deep enough. But hey, you did. And now you’re here! And I’m ecstatic for what’s going to come next.
JUDITH: And what if I hadn’t?
TABITHA: Your little buddy would rot in the ground and you’d go to your grave knowing you left him to suffer and die alone.
JUDITH: Fuck off. Shouldn’t you be sweating in a sauna somewhere?
OWEN: What the fuck is your deal, lady?
TABITHA: I knew that we needed you – both of you – and, oh, I don’t know, grabbing you on the street felt so… boring. Claire, bless her, just wanted to lure you in gently, but that’s so… lacking in flair. I wanted you to be thick with the knowledge of what would happen to you. You needed to know that this is the end.
OWEN: Oh, so you just grab one of us, much better. What was the POINT?
TABITHA: I thought it would be entertaining. Not for you, obviously, but for me. And it was! Listening to you panic, watching you rush over in a tizzy, [mocking] “oooh, maybe if I just get there in time!”
JUDITH: You’re the worst, you know that?
TABITHA: Yes, but I’m having the best time. Do you like the hole we dug? The box fits perfectly!
OWEN: Can’t say I noticed from where I was. Ok, you know what? I’m fucking sick of this. I’ve been in there for hours–
TABITHA: 9 hours.
OWEN: Are you shitting me?? Oh my God. I’m sore, I’m hungry, and I’m ready to kick your teeth in, so-
JUDITH: Owen, OWEN.
JUDITH: She has a stun gun.
TABITHA: [laughs] Oh, you noticed! I had hoped you would.
OWEN: Shit. Shouldn’t you be using demon magic or something?
TABITHA: Like I said, I’m just here to have fun. Well, now that we have this all sorted out, I think you should come wi-
JUDITH: Ah, screw this [yells and tackles Tabitha, they start fighting] You may have some… stupid fire god… but you’re… still… human… you complete… asshole! She’s only- [SFX: both of them get tased]
TABITHA: [dusting herself off, furious] You IDIOTS, God, I can’t wait to watch you two bleed. UGH. Also, did you seriously think I came here alone?
JUDITH: You… are… literally the WORST.
TABITHA: Yes, but I’m not the one in a lot of pain right now, so one point to me.
CLAIRE: Oh Jude, Owen, I really, really hoped it wouldn’t be like this.
JUDITH: [still in pain] Claire?
OWEN: [in pain but also pissed off] I thought you didn’t approve of this!
CLAIRE: Oh, I don’t, but I mean, I have to give my acolytes some freedom to express themselves. Besides, I came along to make sure she didn’t do anything too cruel.
JUDITH: Oh, cool, thanks.
LYDIA: Tabitha’s always been a firecracker.
JUDITH: … Lydia? Oh god…
LYDIA: I thought I should probably tell you that I think our relationship has run its course, but hey, I’m back on my path again, thanks to you.
JUDITH: Did you fucking use me?
LYDIA: I mean, use sounds so negative. You were fun. The sex was good. But… I guess… yeah. Sorry about that.
CLAIRE: Aw, you guys, this is just so sad. Well, either way, I think it’s time we head out, no? Big night ahead of us. Oh, I’ll take this. [SFX: picks up recorder] This is Claire signing off for Yes! In My Backyard, thanks for listening. Show’s over, kids.
[SFX: beep, cut off by Claire crushing the recorder]