18: Disarticulate

How do you feel in the calm before the storm?
CONTENT WARNINGS: Cults, the paranormal, abusive relationships

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

CLAIRE: Hey Judith, it’s me, Claire. Wanted to call you to say that I’m so sorry if I’ve been a bit aggressive lately. There’s been a lot going on in my life. I’m sure you’d love to hear about it. Can we catch up? I certainly do miss having you around. Let’s be close again. Love you. Bye.

[SFX: beep. Outside of Claire’s house]


OWEN: Shhhh!

JUDITH: God, sneaking around is so hard when your body is more bruise than flesh.

OWEN: Who’s fault is that?

JUDITH: The cults.

OWEN: Correct.

JUDITH: At least she’s trimmed down the parsley hedge. Will this mic pick them up?

OWEN: We just have to try. Window’s open a little.

JUDITH: Ok. [SFX: places mic by the screen]

CLAIRE: [inside, slightly far away] My darlings, my sweet darlings. You’re strong. You trust me. And I trust you. We’re so close to our goal, and you, our newest family members, are finally ready. Come in close, let us all breath as one.

OWEN: [sniffs] What is that smell? It’s not bad.

JUDITH: It smells… like the last room I was in before I fled Valerian… but more floral? Ugh, it’s so strong. [SFX: stifles a yawn]

OWEN: The trick is to have allergies so your sense of smell is dampened.

CLAIRE: This is an act of trust. You’ve all faced people who have tried to push you down, hurt you, break you, but now, you can become better than them. Your best self. Your new self. With us. Deep breath in, and deep breath out. As we drink together, we become one, our spirits intertwined. [SFX: The window suddenly slams down, crushing the mic.]

OWEN: Fuck!

CLAIRE: My children, awake. [SFX: fumbling with the broken mic]

[SFX: beep. Walking outside. Everything is a little wonky sounding as Owen fiddles with the smashed lav]

JUDITH: Do you think anyone at work going to notice?

OWEN: Here’s to hoping that no one has been keeping up to date records of the gear. Maybe I can hide it in a desk or something.

JUDITH: I smelled that same scent at Valerian. Right before I took off, I got brought into that room, and… the whole memory is just in a haze, but I remember all these people, it was… smokey, that woman tried to get me to drink something and… I was so dizzy I could barely concentrate.

OWEN: Hmm. Do you know what it was?

JUDITH: I don’t, but it smelled vaguely… bitter? Plant-y? Like herbs or cedar, or something. It reminded me of my grandmother’s garden…

OWEN: Whatever it was, probably good that you didn’t drink it.

JUDITH: Yeah, you’re telling me.

OWEN: Have you heard from Claire at all since you got back?

JUDITH: I have, unfortunately.

OWEN: And…

JUDITH: I got a… couple missed calls. She left a message just before I left to come meet you.

CLAIRE: [on voicemail] Hi Judith. Heard you went by Valerian, Isn’t the breakfast buffet fantastic? Anyway, just wanted to reach out to talk to you about the fact that you bailed earlier than expected. I mean, maybe you have a good reason, but I have to say that I’m feeling quite hurt. If you left because you felt that my friends were being too pushy, we can talk about it. I need you to be honest with me. I just want the best for you, Judith. I want you to be a part of this with me. And I know you want what’s best for me as well. Do you want to talk? Give me a call, I’d love to hear your voice. Do you not like me anymore? Do you not care? Talk to me. I need you. I need you. Help me. Help me. HELP ME. HELP ME. Ok, Judith? Ok? OK     OK

OWEN: She sounds great.

JUDITH: I can’t listen to that again. I just needed you to hear it.

OWEN: Do you feel safe going home?

JUDITH: No, but… where else do I go? I don’t want to go to my parent’splace, Claire knows where they live anyway and I… can’t bring this to them. There’s no guarantee that they won’t get hurt too. And same with my sister, so… I don’t know.

OWEN: Do you want to come back to my place?

JUDITH: Yeah, for a bit, but I don’t think I’ll crash at yours this time. I’ll see how I feel. I’m trying to put up a brave front right now, I think.

OWEN: Why?

JUDITH: No idea. Once I said that aloud it felt incredibly stupid.

OWEN: Ok, remind me to get the spare sheets out when we get back.

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

CLAIRE: Hi Judith. You aren’t returning my calls. Are you mad at me? I hope you’re not. I just want the best for you. I want what’s best for us. I’m only doing this because this is the best for everyone. Missing you. Bye.

[SFX: beep. Owen’s living room]

JUDITH: Ahhhh, thank you for the ice pack. My… everything is still pretty sore.

OWEN: You fell off a cliff.

JUDITH: Yes, I was also there.

OWEN: Well, I did some research while you were off gallivanting around.

JUDITH: I would describe it more as “fleeing.”

OWEN: Touché. But, yeah, I went through one of the books, Malefarus. You’re right, that is some purple prose, but here, I marked this.

JUDITH: Which one?

OWEN: Here…

JUDITH: “Buy brown sugar.”

OWEN: Wait, what? No, not the post-it note. Underneath it.

Spill the sanguine fluid of the child

For they are the first key to The Master’s Blessing

Let us all bathe in the blood

Of the aneled innocent

And let no hesitation be just

For once it is started there shall be no end

And once the poniard has allowed the blood

Of the Devoted

To pour forth

The tearing of your own heart

And the shearing of the old bonds

The fire shall pour through

And cannot be stopped

JUDITH: When the master comes through

The gate shall be torn in twain

Air amaroidal and thick

And a power monolithic

Will be granted unto the one

Who’s will be strongest

And most meritorious in the eyes of MOLOCH

The Age of Fire has come.

Love this for us. Ugh, this book smells weird.

OWEN: Yeah, it reeks like burnt wood.

JUDITH: It didn’t smell like this when I had it.

OWEN: Wait, what?

JUDITH: It smelled fine. Just old. Have you been… burning things?

OWEN: No, not at all.

JUDITH: Ok, when did this start?

OWEN: When I grabbed it from your place, it smelled… like…

JUDITH: Like burning trees. When did you get this?

OWEN: I picked it up not long before you called me the final time.

JUDITH: When I was in that room, when I was trying to leave. Owen what the fu-[SFX: phone rings] Jesus Christ, ok. My nerves aren’t worth shit lately. And it’s Lydia. Here’s to hoping it’s about whatever help she can give us with freeing Claire and Adam. I’m sure either way it’s going to be weird.

OWEN: It can’t get any weirder.

JUDITH:Don’t jinx it![SFX: picks up phone] Hello?

LYDIA: [phone] Hey, you at home?


LYDIA: [phone] Are you alone?

JUDITH: [pause] Yeah, why?

LYDIA: [phone] I’ve got a plan.

JUDITH: Lydia, I don’t think-

LYDIA: [phone] I spoke to my mom and I was able to brew two vials of— you know what? Actually, it’s probably better that you don’t know what’s in them. All you need to know is that I think I’ve put together something that’ll work. You’ll be able to use the vials to cleanse the souls of Adam and Claire. I’ll drop them off at your place.

JUDITH: Hang on, what am I supposed to do with these vials once I have them? Can’t you or like… your mom or whatever do this? Clearly you can get access to the house.

LYDIA: [phone] The only way for this to work is if you can get close enough to Claire and Adam so that they are exposed to the liquid inside. Smashing, splashing, spilling, whatever, just get the liquid onto their bodies. And it’s … chaotic. It’ll be stronger coming from you. Just trust me.

JUDITH: I think we’re past that point and I don’t think this is a good idea.

LYDIA: It’ll be fine. You can do this.

JUDITH: Again, how are we going to do that? Claire and Adam are… real guarded recently. I can maybe get near her, but Adam as well? I don’t think a double date is in the cards anytime soon.

LYDIA: [phone] But they’ve let you near them in the past… For better or for worse, Claire still seems to want you nearby. We’ve just got to find a way to get you near her.

JUDITH: I don’t like our chances if they figure out what we’re really up to… and until I’m sure this will work, I don’t want to be alone with Claire. It’s just feeling too dangerous and she’s seeming… volatile lately.

LYDIA: [phone] Ok, let’s just keep thinking. But if you get the opportunity, if you get close enough — just smash the damn vials.

JUDITH: Ok, but then what?

LYDIA: [phone] Whatever is in them will be hostless.

JUDITH: So, unless it has another willing host it’ll just… disappear?

LYDIA: [phone] That’s the idea.

JUDITH: Ok. How much time do we have to do this?

LYDIA: [phone] Not a lot. They’re preparing for the ritual already.

JUDITH: Oh good! So good to hear.

LYDIA: [phone] Yeah, people want things to happen sooner rather than later.

JUDITH: Fuck. We’re screwed, aren’t we?

LYDIA: [phone] By “we” I assume you’re also including Owen.


LYDIA: [phone] Right.

JUDITH: Don’t get weird about this!

LYDIA: [phone] Is he there?

JUDITH: Does that matter?

LYDIA: [phone] I thought you said you were alone!

JUDITH: It’s just me on the phone, Owen’s… technically in the kitchen.

LYDIA: [phone] Fine. Whatever. You’ve obviously got your priorities.

JUDITH: We can’t keep having this conversation. It’s not Owen’s fault that things have been weird between us. Ok? So let’s just… you came to me because we both have people we love wrapped up in something really messed up. You asked me for help, Lydia, so here I am. I’m helping.

LYDIA: [phone] Whatever.

JUDITH: Yeah. Look, I’m sorry. I’m sore and tired and I’m going to go, ok?

LYDIA: [phone] Sure. I’m guessing you’re staying at Owen’s. Again.

JUDITH: Yes. Yes.

LYDIA: [phone] Ok.

JUDITH: We can talk more about this later, ok, if you want? It’s been a rough few days. Let me know if you hear anything about what’s coming up, if we need to move, if there’s something we can do. I’ve got some more research to do, maybe we’ll find something else that we can try, or something that’s easier or simpler or whatever. We’ll figure this out, Lydia. We’ll do what we can do.  

LYDIA: [phone] Fine. Bye.

JUDITH: [sigh] Fuck.

OWEN: … that sounded a little tense.

JUDITH: Yeah, just a little! [sigh] I just wanted something normal. I wanted something simple and normal and I wanted to just feel ok again. Even if I had to lie to myself. But apparently, I’ve been lying to myself too much, so… fuck.

OWEN: She’s too involved, Jude. This is bad news.

JUDITH: I know. I know. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

CLAIRE: Hi Judith. I’m growing tired of your silence. Call me back. Now. You need to. I don’t like not being listened too. Call me. Bye.

[SFX: beep. Home studio]

CLAIRE: Hey, it’s Claire and Adam.

ADAM: Heeeey.

CLAIRE: So this is episode 25 of our podcast, and did you ever think we’d make it this far?

ADAM: I mean, no one likes having to edit all this material, but we got it figured out.

CLAIRE: Best podcast pal! You inspire me.

ADAM: You inspire me.

CLAIRE: Anyway, we’ll get to the actual meat of the episode soon-

ADAM: Yeah, let’s talk about meat. We recently learned how to butcher a pig!

CLAIRE: Honestly, you can learn everything online, it’s fascinating.

ADAM: Oh, and we’ve got some patron-only things for you!

CLAIRE: A special message for my patrons: If you’re listening this, then I trust you. You’ve shown yourself to be someone who is willing to do what’s needed. You’re someone who understands sacrifice. Because that’s what needs to happen. You can’t do this without giving something up. We can’t make this world better together if we don’t shed that which holds us back. And I’m sure that will be difficult for you. But it’s ok. I’m here. I’ll help. Take a deep breath. Without this, without all of us, you can fall back into bad habits, frailty, vulnerability. But you can’t give up. Without you, all of this will fail.

We’ll make it better. We’ll make it real. It’ll be ok, you just have to listen.

And now, some comments from listeners. Here’s something from Rebecca: Love the show, and I’ve found such peace even just having it on in the background. I fall asleep to it sometimes when I’m having a rough day. Aww, that’s so sweet.

ADAM: And here’s one from Yoonah: Love the recipes, I’ve felt like a million dollars lately, can’t wait to try more! That’s great to hear, Yoonah!

CLAIRE: And here’s a message from Arthur: It’s time we move. The earth’s position has never been better for us, we must take action. You cannot delay this any longer. Ok Arthur, bit harsh, but if that’s how you feel then I accept that you feel that way, even if it’s a bit rude.

ADAM: One from Corrinne: This move to gain more followers is short-sighted. We are strong enough as is, we must move ahead and allow the blood to spill! Look, I see where you’re coming from, and thank you for the comment Corrinne, but there’s no need to be hasty.

CLAIRE: Oh good, another one! This one’s from Deidre: May the fire of Moloch rise up and allow the heat of our glory to split the skulls of those who stand in our way. We must act! Well, that’s just lovely and perfect, I very much want to hear your opinion, you pathetic cow. I have lived what amounts to a thousand lifetimes and you come here demanding we hurry up. We are more than ready! I’m more than ready to reduce your skull to ash you weak little-

ADAM: Now dear, it’s not time to become fired up.

CLAIRE: You know I still find puns tasteless.

ADAM: I apologize.

CLAIRE: But… we shall push ahead. We move, sooner rather than later.

ADAM: Are we ready?

CLAIRE: Is anyone ever? [sigh] I felt we’d have more time.

ADAM: Do you have cold feet?

CLAIRE: No, but… I’ve spent too much time in this form. I’m tired.

ADAM: It’s a common issue. But soon, this shall work! We’ll be free to recreate our kingdom in the way we envision.

CLAIRE: Yes. I need to remember the end goal.

ADAM: Think about the end. As the door opens, we will finally be free.

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

CLAIRE: Judith, you coward. Pick up your phone. I know you’re there. I can smell you. I know where to find you. Answer me.

[SFX: beep. Judith is surreptitiously recording on her phone. They are on the street outside where Judith and Owen work]

CLAIRE: -eel like you’re the one who’s avoiding me, and that seems so unlike you, Judith.

JUDITH: I don’t know you.

CLAIRE: Of course you do, it’s me! Aren’t we best friends anymore?

JUDITH: Look, just… [deep breath] I’m just going to work.

CLAIRE: Oh Judith, I understand. You know, you really should’ve stuck around at Valerian. I think it would’ve done wonders for you.

JUDITH: Pass. Is Adam skulking around?

CLAIRE: Silly, Adam is at the house. He’s doing meal prep! Please, Judith, you’re being so mean to me lately. It hurts. Let’s be pals again? I’m sorry, baby.

JUDITH: I have to go to work.

CLAIRE: I guess I’m just not important to you anymore, huh?

JUDITH: Enough. I’m going inside. [SFX: door opens, she goes in and starts to close it] Bye [SFX: Claire stops the door with her hand].

CLAIRE: Don’t you trust me, Judith?

JUDITH: Get out of here.

CLAIRE: You were always one of my most ardent supporters, what happened?

JUDITH: You are not Claire.

CLAIRE: I am! I’m who I was always meant to be. A queen.

JUDITH: Let her go.

CLAIRE: Oh, am I blocking your way? [SFX: the door slams shut] Oh, sorry, that could’ve been a disaster. I didn’t even realize your hand was there. I thought it was a lot closer.

JUDITH: STOP. [SFX: She pushes past]

CLAIRE: [laughing] Bye Judith! See you around!

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

CLAIRE: [SFX: Claire screaming]

[SFX: beep. Outside Judith’s apartment]

JUDITH: I feel like I should just be wearing a wire at all times.

OWEN: Hey, you’re the one who wants to record everything.

JUDITH: This is true.Ooh, package. And it’s from Lydia. Huh. Smells weird even through the glass. Why does it smell like… a musty pizza? Like, onions or something? What the fuck?

OWEN: Smells like a soup topped off with pond water.

JUDITH: Guess I’ll just… hang onto these. Keep them with me in case Adam and Claire show up and try to hug me or something. I’m guessing you haven’t found any better options for what we could do.

OWEN: Oddly no, turns out the internet doesn’t have a lot of reliable de-possession spells.

JUDITH: Yeah, I’ve been digging through books and there’s nothing of use. Just… nada. At least nothing that could be done by us. Ingredients that are impossible, obviously fake stuff, just… whatever. [sigh] Alright, idea: what if we skip going through the books and just watchgarbage reality TV?

OWEN: We can technically do both.

JUDITH: Sure.Let me grab the tomes of doom.

OWEN: This table wasn’t covered in nail polish before, was it? I’m not that unobservant, am I?

JUDITH: No, I was going to paint my nails last night but then my upstairs neighbour dropped something and I got startled and knocked it over, so now my coffee table is Blue Me Away now. [SFX: other room, stuff being moved around] Ok, problem. Owen, I can’t find them.

OWEN: The books?

JUDITH: Any of the texts from The Family of Fire or the scans of the diaries or ANYTHING, they’re all gone.

OWEN: They can’t be.

JUDITH: They are, I always put them back in the same spot, and they’re not there. It’s empty and my file folder is gone.

OWEN: Ok, but… nothing else is missing, just those?

JUDITH: Yeah, laptop, and I saw my jewelry, it’s all here, I don’t have anything else of interest so… I didn’t miss a robbery or something.

OWEN: Ok, but… how can they just be gone?

JUDITH: I don’t know, could… Claire have gotten in here?

OWEN: Wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility. Who has a key to your place?

JUDITH: Just me and you. And I don’t see you taking them and then playing dumb.

OWEN: Ok, uh… who’s been here?

JUDITH: Mostly just you. Claire that one day, but the books were still here after that, so she didn’t take them then. Uh… my sister came by a few weeks ago…

OWEN: Unlikely suspect.

JUDITH: Yeah, it’s not her, it doesn’t have to do with her honeymoon plans so she has no interest.

OWEN: Where’s she going again?

JUDITH: Patagonia.

OWEN: Nice.

JUDITH: Yeah, it sounds like a really nice trip. But… yeah, the only other people who’ve been here are like… a plumber about 3 weeks ago, and I was here the whole time, and Lydia’s been by, but I was here… except for when she dropped off the package…

OWEN: Could she have gotten in here? Do you think she took them?

JUDITH: I don’t know, why would she?

OWEN: She’s the only other person who knew about them.

JUDITH: I’ll just call her, ok?[SFX: calling, phone ringing, no answer]Come on Lydia, pick up.

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

CLAIRE: I see you. I see you and Owen. You’re both pathetic, you know that? There’s nothing you can do. You stupid children, you don’t even know how deep in you are. Don’t turn your back and don’t let your guard down, or else you will both burn. Love you.

[SFX: beep. Claire’s living room]

CLAIRE: Hey Judith, hope you’re well. I know I’ve said some things that I didn’t always mean. I’m sorry if that hurt you. I’m sure you’re under a lot of stress lately. Can we talk soon? Let’s talk. I need to see you. I need you. Can you help me? Thanks. I miss you.

TABITHA: She’s not going to respond.

CLAIRE: I know. This would be so much easier if she would, but she can be stubborn. I’ve tried being nice. I’ve tried being mean. How’s your leg doing, by the way?

TABITHA: It’s going to scar. I swear if I get my hands on her I’m going to sear her.

CLAIRE: I’m going to have to ask that you refrain.

TABITHA: Nonetheless, if you’re looking to get her attention, you might need to be more… hands on.

CLAIRE: Hmmm, possibly.

TABITHA: I might have an idea. I got a suggestion from a friend, and… built on it.

CLAIRE: I know your ideas, and they’re typically very violent.

TABITHA: What if I tone it down?

CLAIRE: If you can offer a concrete plan, then sure. Maybe we can get to the heart of the issue.

TABITHA: I think she needs a reason to come to you. You have to draw her out in a way she wouldn’t be expecting.

CLAIRE: Interesting.

TABITHA: My plan is… a little… extra, but…

CLAIRE: I’m all ears. Switch that off, will you?

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

VOICEMAIL: Please leave a message after the beep.

LYDIA: Hey Claire, it’s Lydia.I know things have been strained, but I have some information that might be of use to use. I understand why you did what you did to my father and I just… want to talk. Call me back. Bye.

[SFX: beep. Phone message]

CLAIRE: Hi babe! What are you up to on Sunday? Nothing important, I hope. Maybe we’ll see each other. Hoping to run into you. Bye!

[SFX: beep. Owen’s living room]

JUDITH: I’m liking the new couch.

OWEN: Yeah, this out actually pulls out into a queen.

JUDITH: My back thanks you.

OWEN: It was time to replace it.

JUDITH: You’ve got a Switch, right? [SFX: text tone] Was that you or me?

OWEN: Me, I think. Yep. I have a voicemail?

JUDITH: Weird, I didn’t hear it ring.

OWEN: Yeah.

OPERATOR: [on phone speaker] You have one new message, fiRST NEW MESSAGE

PHONE JUDITH: [phone speaker] Hey Owen, uh, I’m leaving you this message because… I’m sorry. I failed you, Owen.

OWEN: Uh, Jude?

JUDITH: That’s not me.

PHONE JUDITH: [phone speaker] I just want you to know that, whatever happens, it is too late. It is too late to run. It is too late to do anything.

JUDITH: Oh fuck. Owen, I swear-…

PHONE JUDITH: [phone speaker] Why did you get involved? This will only destroy you. It’s destroying me. I am sorry. It is too late now. It’s too late to run.

JUDITH: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

OWEN: Jude?


OWEN: I don’t trust whoever that was, but I trust you.

JUDITH: I don’t know why you do, but thanks. I trust you too. More than anyone else at this point. Even myself, I think.

OWEN: Yeah…

JUDITH: [pause] You want to know the worst thing, though? After hearing that?

OWEN: What?

JUDITH: It’s right, Owen. She’s right.

[SFX: beep. Claire’s bedroom]

CLAIRE: No, NO, STOP, ENOUGH, THIS HAS TO… STOP… [she drops onto the ground] GET OUT OF MY HEAD. [she lets out a horrible scream]

Hey Judith, I don’t know if you’ll hear this, but I really hope you do. I know things have been tough lately. I just want you to know that I understand how hard this must have been for you. So many changes, so many questions, and just so much uncertainty. But you’re really strong, Judith. That’s what I like about you, your tenacity. You just keep plugging away, even when it would be better for you to just stop. Owen too, it’s so good to see you two working together. What a nice team you make. I’m glad you both found that in each other, that you can do this as a partnership. Even if he’s struggling, and even if this is wearing on him. You know that, right? He’s so tired. But so are you. And you can’t just tell him to go, because then you’d be alone. You’re wearing thin, though. I can see it in your eyes, there’s a weariness there. But I’m sure you’re worried about the toll this is taking on Owen, right? You don’t want him to be hurt too. But… he’s too far in. Just like you are. And you won’t stop until there’s no other choice.

This has been so hard for you. And I just want you to know that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. 

See you soon, you two.

[SFX: beep]