15: Reflux

There’s nothing like an old friend coming around for an unexpected visit, especially when all the doors are locked, and you’re not at home. Can’t say it’s something that Judith and Owen appreciate much, but maybe that’s just them. Meanwhile, Judith can feel another relationship starting to spiral out of control.
CONTENT WARNINGS: cults, the paranormal, the occult

[SFX: beep. Silence, then a door opens. Owen is going into his apartment]

ADAM: Hi Owen.

OWEN: HOLY SH- ADAM? What the HELL are you doing in here?

ADAM: You would be amazed what you can learn online! But that’s not important right now, don’t want to take up too much of your precious time, we all know how short it is. I’m here to talk business.

OWEN: What, do you want me to sponsor one of Claire’s posts? Because unless you’re interested in learning how to make focaccia, there’s not a lot else I can offer.

ADAM: Hah! That’s why I like you, Owen, you’re so… silly.

OWEN: Thanks.

ADAM: You’re such a friendly guy, so easy to be around. Always willing to help out. That’s very noble. It’s something you should be proud of.

OWEN: Get to the point.

ADAM: [doesn’t feel like getting to the point] You know, we never really got to know each other that well in the few times we hung out. You were just Claire’s “work friend.”

OWEN: Where are you going with this?

ADAM: I think it’s time that we get to know each other a little better, don’t you think?

OWEN: I-… I want you to leave.

ADAM: Nah. I’m good.

OWEN: Seriously, get out of here.

ADAM: That’s not very friendly of you. I thought you were nice. Is it me? Am I giving off hostile vibes?

OWEN: You want to schedule a meeting, then call ahead next time, maybe I’ll find a gap in my day planner. Or I’ll just keep an eye out for some sort of crow omen of death.

ADAM: Owen-

OWEN: Don’t come any closer.

ADAM: Hmmm. I think it’s time we have a little heart to heart. Is that cool?

OWEN: [nervous breathing, uncomfortable, you know when you’re stressed and it feels like someone is pushing on your chest? That feeling]

ADAM: Good! So, here’s a few things about me. I’m a Capricorn, I have a scar on my knee that’s shaped like Italy if you squint at it, I like honey in my tea, and, in three words, I would describe myself as driven, intelligent, and maybe even a little goofy. I love to laugh! And I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me and my dearest partner. Here’s what I know about you! You’re 35. You like Thai food. You wish you had a backyard with a big garden and a koi pond. You walk the same route to work every day because you’re a touch superstitious about it.

OWEN: Whoa, hang on.

ADAM: You wake up around 7:20 AM each morning, even on weekends. You prefer soy milk over almond for the mouth feel. Your mother’s name is Maureen and she last called you on Tuesday night.

OWEN: Stop.

ADAM: Lately, you’ve been waking up in the night, afraid of any sound you hear in the silence. You don’t listen to the radio anymore, because you afraid of what you might hear, it could be anything these days.

OWEN: How the hell do you know that?

ADAM: We are resourceful!

OWEN: What, are you or your followers stalking me or something?

ADAM: Oh, I do what I need to do to get things done. But whatever, I’m lucky enough to have a lot of friends these days that I can count on. I just thought I’d extend the invitation. Maybe if you’d be open to it, that might help some others… relax a bit, maybe listen to what Claire has to say.

OWEN: Whatever. Leave.

ADAM: And here’s me thinking this would be so much more fun.

OWEN: You broke into my apartment so you could menace me with… facts about my life? Look, if you’re going to try and fight me or set me on fire, just get it over with, or get out, now.

ADAM: So feisty! I like that. But, like I said, in the end I am here to talk business. Namely, you sticking your nose in ours.

OWEN: Yeah, well, I haven’t done anything to get in the way of your social media cult of personality.

ADAM: Oh, yes you have, you’ve been helping our mutual pal Judith pry into our… private dealings, and I’m finding that, overall, it’s bad for our personal brand.

OWEN: That sounds like a you problem.

ADAM: I just think that any reason to stop should probably first come from you. I could really use a friend like you to help me out.

OWEN: I’m not your friend.

ADAM: Well, maybe it’s time we build on that. Seems like Claire and Judith’s relationship has been pretty strained as of late, it’s really hurting Claire’s feelings. Judith’s not returning calls, she’s saying that Claire isn’t Claire! Can you believe that? It’s very distressing. She’s so combative, and it’s a negative vibe that we really just do not need in our lives. I don’t know why she’s being like this. We haven’t done anything to her, but I’m worried that you might be… feeding her information. Stressing her out. Riling her up. You seem pretty stressed yourself. Want to come by the house with me? I have a lovely assortment of tonics available.

OWEN: No thank you.

ADAM: I came to you because Judith isn’t going to listen to me. Her opinion of me has always been quite low, I don’t know why. I feel like I’ve been misjudged. But this is her “righteous quest.” And I get that! As it happens, I’m on my very own righteous quest right now. But she’s on her own self-serving path to bring back the Claire she wants, blind to the fact that she has become the one who is meant to be a queen. So, talk to Judith. Maybe she’ll listen to you. If you can make her understand what’s at stake…

OWEN: And that is?

ADAM: Do you need to ask?

OWEN: What do you want?

ADAM: This is as close to an olive branch as I can give you. I am here to politely ask you to stop. Stop poking around. Stop the inquiries. And tell Judith the same. Or else you will both be stuck like the feral pigs you are. Besides, she’s put a lot of faith in you, of all people. I bet she’s real scared of you getting hurt. She’s lost a lot, lately.

OWEN: Shut up.

ADAM: Did I hit a nerve? You two can both be quite sensitive. Tell her to stop, Owen. If she does, we can offer protection, or at the very least a refining of her personal brand. But if not, well, we don’t take lightly to friends who betray us.

OWEN: I’m not your friend.

ADAM: Yeah, but you could be.

OWEN: Get the hell out of here.

ADAM: Alright, fine. Such attitude for someone who seems like they’d normally be a great host. [pause] Tell me, did you and Judith have fun recently, skipping the research and just hanging out? I bet she appreciated that you picked up that nacho cheese popcorn seasoning. She loves that stuff. It was so nice to see you two relaxing like that. Very satisfying.

OWEN: GET OUT.

ADAM: See you around, Owen.

OWEN: Jesus.

[SFX: beep. Judith’s living room]

JUDITH: I can’t believe he was just in your apartment. That is literal nightmare fuel.

OWEN: Yeah, and I don’t need any help in that department.

JUDITH: I’m sorry, I can’t believe he went to you to threaten you to stop. I mean, I can, but whatever.

OWEN: To threaten both of us to stop.

JUDITH: But why? And why did he record it?

OWEN: So you could hear it in full, I assume.

JUDITH: Great. I’m still wondering why he went to yours first.

OWEN: [deep breath] I don’t know, I guess whatever’s controlling them – scary grandparents, hitherto unnamed demonic presences – is trying to figure out the best way to stop us from interfering with their… nefarious plans, whatever those are.

JUDITH: [deep sigh] And he’s right.

OWEN: About what?

JUDITH: About how I’m… worried that you’re going to get hurt in this dumb crusade. Maybe you should stop, just back out of this mess, because I don’t want you ruin your life because of this… “righteous quest” of mine or whatever he called it.

OWEN: That’s my decision to make. If I want out, I’ll say so, but for now, I’m not giving in to their threats.

JUDITH: I don’t know. It’s a shot across the bow, in any case.

OWEN: Yeah. I would say that I need to get my door re-keyed, but the lock didn’t stop him in the first place, so… fuck. Either way, here.

JUDITH: You made me a key?

OWEN: Well, you’re here enough. You definitely sleep on my couch more than anyone else, including me, and I do enjoy a good nap.

JUDITH: Thanks. And, yeah, being alone these days makes me quite nervous.

OWEN: Uh, you and me both. Turns out I’m not even safe in my own apartment.

JUDITH: Safety in numbers.

OWEN: Well, two, anyway.

JUDITH: Yeah… [pause] Uh, I’ve been reading that book that Debbie loaned me.

OWEN: Did you ever hear if she survived?

JUDITH: I didn’t, I… didn’t see anything in the news about it. I went by the house but it’s… just a husk now. There was no one around I could ask and I don’t know how to find her or her family or anything, but… I hope she is. [deep breath] But uh… yeah, the book. [sigh] When I started the year saying I wanted to read more, this is not what I meant. I thought I would just attempt the Dune series or something.

OWEN: Only read the first one, don’t bother with the rest.

JUDITH: I’ll keep that in mind.

OWEN: Yeah. You think Claire was behind the fire?

JUDITH: I think Evil Claire at least has something to do with it, not that I have any proof. But… the timing was just too close to when I was there.

OWEN: I’m just glad you were gone by then.

JUDITH: To be honest, I don’t think she would’ve done it if I was in the house. She’s had so many chances to hurt me if she wanted, but… aside from a few weird instances, she hasn’t done anything, but… I don’t know, there’s something about that that feels disconcerting somehow. They’re clearly not thrilled that we’re still snooping around, and I worry that as time goes on that they’ll be less and less reticent about taking actual action against us if we get in their way.

OWEN: We need to figure out what her endgame is sooner rather than later. We know that she seems to be targeting young women. We know that she’s feeding them weird sermons about like “manifesting reality,” and “divine sacrifice,” but what does that actually mean?

JUDITH: Well, that’s what I’m here to talk about, because I’ve got some new insights thanks to Debbie’s book.

OWEN: Oh, I knew I should’ve made popcorn.

JUDITH: You should’ve, because this is buttery. So, there are some things in here that look to be spells, but a good chunk of it is just boring foundational texts, blood magic for the blood god, tear the entrails out of the non-believers, the world is shitty, Moloch is good, yay Moloch, we got that. You know what’s kind of annoying?

OWEN: How poorly written these books are?

JUDITH: YES, it all reads like mediocre death metal. It is BAD. Why do people even get involved with this?

OWEN: Honestly, I doubt this is what’s pulling them in. If this was the kind of stuff you approached people with, no one would join a cult. You have to… start with the personal and rational sounding stuff first. Love-bomb them, then tell them you can help them and fix them and make them better, then slowly corrupt them until they can’t or won’t leave.

JUDITH: Yeah… there’s a passage about the entry of Moloch into this world. The furor of the conduit shall be the first to push the door open, the bleeding heart of the world shall split and great torrents of the fire shall ooze forth into the slacken maw of the weakened earth. Upon the sacrifice of the first devoted, the door shall split, and the MOTHER, THE BURNER OF CORPSES shall come forth. Unto them, is she. Upon the spilling of the blood of those at the hands of the believers, the snuffing of a hundred hearts, the earth shall become anew, and the carrier shall bring forth the true power of MOLOCH, its final ruler. There’s a non-zero chance that this is what they’re going for.

OWEN: That is… bad. That sounds really bad! Shit. I was hoping for something more Black Mirror-like, like maybe she was starting a new social network for demons. The cave filled with blood, the Mother, the sacrifice… But, hold up, dude… are they actually going to sacrifice people?

JUDITH: Maybe? I don’t know how she’s even going to convince people to do that. That’s a big step, from spiritual awakening to murder.

OWEN: Even so, if anything starts to get weird, we have to… we gotta do something. Punch some people, burn the house down, whatever. She’s up to 100,000 followers on Instagram somehow, so people are actually listening to her.

JUDITH: I’ll keep reading and I guess researching? I don’t know, there’s so little out there. I just want to find something that tells me how to make her better, but I can’t find that, but maybe there’s more in here. But reading these fucking books gives me a headache. And a lot of paper cuts, it’s like they’re fighting back. Did you look into that retreat she went to near Black Lake?

OWEN: Yeah yeah, Valerian, right?

JUDITH: Yeah.

OWEN: Not much out there on it. A few puff pieces. It’s a getaway and event space, and I’m guessing a part-time cult headquarters. Outside of that, they host weddings, corporate retreats, that kind of thing. And now, possibly sacrifices.

JUDITH: I still think we should check it out.

OWEN: After what we just read? I feel even less confident about charging blindly into the frickin’ woods with no idea about what we’re up against.

JUDITH: I mean, what we’re up against is probably a couple expensive weddings and the exorbitant cost for room service.

OWEN: Barf.

JUDITH: But… I want to see it. Maybe that’s the piece of the puzzle we’re missing.

OWEN: Alright. I mean, they did have a “social media influencers” conference awhile back which is probably where Claire met her Instagram friends. Check out the website.

JUDITH: [reading] Discover Valerian: The ultimate in relaxation and rejuvenation. Perched on Black Lake, Valerian offers a variety of treatments and spa options guaranteed to meet your needs. Let our relaxation and wellness centre help you to find serenity through the latest in thermotherapy and multisensory experiences. We can’t wait to help you find the new you. [SFX: Judith’s phone rings] One second.Hey Lydia.

LYDIA: [phone] Judith, hi. Look, I know things are weird right now, but I really need to talk to you.

JUDITH: [sighs] Sure, I guess, what’s up?

LYDIA: [phone] Can you meet me at Mezzrows at 8? I’ll buy you those gross Coney Fries.

JUDITH: They’re not gross, they’re delicious.

LYDIA: [phone] Please. It’s important.

JUDITH: Lydia, look, if this is about us, I don’t think-

LYDIA: [phone] It’s about Claire.

JUDITH: Actually?

LYDIA: [phone] Yes. Now will you come meet me?

JUDITH: [sigh] Yeah, yeah, ok.

LYDIA: [phone] And come alone.

JUDITH: Well, I was gonna, but fine, now I’ll just be extra alone. 8 o’clock?

LYDIA: [phone] Sounds good.

JUDITH: I’ll see you then. Bye.

LYDIA: [phone] Bye. [SFX: hangs up]

OWEN: What was that?

JUDITH: Oh, you know, the usual.

[SFX: beep. Restaurant. Judith is fumbling with the recorder but trying to hide it]

LYDIA: You look great.

JUDITH: Thanks, you as well.

LYDIA: Have you changed your hair?

JUDITH: No, it’s the same. So… yeah, might as well get straight to it. What’s up?

LYDIA: Like I said, it’s about Claire. Look, Judith, I know you two were close and things have been kind of intense lately, but I’ve got my own concerns about her and the things she’s doing. There are… she’s dabbling with things that are bigger than I think she truly understands.

JUDITH: Ok, uh… I want you to clarify.

LYDIA: Remember how I said my parents are a part of a spiritual and meditation group and Claire’s involved in it as well?

JUDITH: [sighs] Lydia, what is the group, exactly?

LYDIA: This will probably sound kind of messed up to you, but it’s called the Family of Fire.

JUDITH: … right. I have so many questions. Tell me everything, please. I need you to tell me what you know.

LYDIA: Wow, haven’t seen you this enthused… maybe ever.

JUDITH: Look, it’s a long story, but Owen and I have been looking into the Family for a while now. Something happened to Claire a few months ago and she’s become, like I said, a different person, and we think they are involved somehow. We’ve been trying to figure out any way to get her back to normal.

LYDIA: I mean, it’s great that you already know about them, and since you know Claire so well, I’m not… that shocked. I had an inkling, but didn’t think it was… relevant. But… ah, you probably still won’t believe me.

JUDITH: Lydia, at this point, I will basically believe anything.

LYDIA: Well… ok, like I said I grew up in this… group. It was kind of like a church — we would gather once a week with other members, say some weird affirmations in Latin, and then the kids would be sent off to read dull books full of spiritual teachings and study dead languages while waiting for our parents to finish up doing whatever it was that they did in the basement. I’ve talked to other people who grew up in religious households, and it didn’t seem that different? Sure, there was chanting, and sometimes robes, and it definitely was NOT communion wine we had to drink, but… there were also potlucks and trips to camp, which were fun. It was good, for a time. I grew up thinking I had a place with them before I was… disillusioned.

Anyway, one of the major teachings was that once my generation came of age there would be a ritual wherein an individual would be selected as the “Ustor” and they would be chosen to wield the Blessing of the Master.

JUDITH: God, so overwrought but still so creepy.

LYDIA: Yeah, like any other belief system is any less messed up when you start digging through the texts. This ritual would be the first step towards ushering in what they called the Age of Fire. I know it sounds so bizarre when I say it out loud. For so long it just seemed harmless and vague. Now Claire’s pushing for this ritual to take place as soon as possible. I thought at first that it was all ridiculous, but they’re taking it so seriously. And things are happening to people. Those who disagree with Claire’s plans are disappearing. Something’s already happened with my dad. I know he confronted her and it did not go well.

JUDITH: Wait, is your dad ok?

LYDIA: I don’t know. Judith, I went to talk to her and I thought I could get their complaints heard, speak on his behalf, but she just brushed me off. I thought she was just some weird interloper but she’s… cruel. And selfish. And because of how she’s treating my family, I have to admit Jude, I hate her. She needs to be stopped before she goes any further. From what I know, her plans are foolish and poorly thought out. I know you want to bring your friend back, but I want to find a way to end her reign before it’s too late. [sighs] Sorry, this is hard to talk about.

JUDITH: No, no, it’s ok. I mean… thank you for trusting me with this.

LYDIA: And I know when we talked on the phone the other day, I was being insecure and jealous, And I’m sorry. I was stressed out, and I took it out on you. But this is me putting all of my cards on the table. I know that you care about Claire. I care about my parents. We can’t let this ritual happen. You’re smart, Jude, you’re resourceful. Despite what’s going on with us, I know you’re someone who can help me.

JUDITH: I hate to ask this, but do you remember anything else? If Claire is going to name herself “Ustor” or whatever and the Blessing is going to be passed onto her in this ritual… like, what does that mean? What is this Blessing? And what does the ritual actually entail?

LYDIA: There’s a lot I don’t know. But the Blessing of the Master… it’s this incredible power bestowed onto someone that could be used for anything. From there, they can control people, they… would have all the power you’d ever want. With that, they can begin the Opening of the Doors and from there, you could destroy the earth. Which, like, I’m sure most of Millennial Twitter would be cool with in theory, but the reality of a god of flame and destruction walking the earth is another thing altogether…

JUDITH: Moloch. You’re talking about Moloch?

LYDIA: Wow, you have been doing your reading. Listen, I don’t know the details. But do I know is that this ritual is the first step.

JUDITH: Cool. That’s super terrifying, love it. Here’s my problem, I have no idea what to do with this. Like, can’t I just hit her with a pan or something and hope amnesia kicks in and we can all laugh this off?

LYDIA: No, there are unfortunately very few things you can do that can actually stop her at this point. You could try to kill her and Adam…

JUDITH: Uh, I’d like to not do that if possible. I’m trying to help Claire. That’s off the table.

LYDIA: Makes sense. The only other thing that I think could even come close to being possible is this one counter ritual my mom told me about. I did talk to her before I came to meet up with you. I may be able to put together a…

JUDITH: You can say spell, I’m past the point of disbelief by now.

LYDIA: Fine, a spell, substance, whatever, which could be used to cleanse the souls of both Claire and Adam. If we could do that, then we could disrupt the ritual.

JUDITH: You think something like that could free Claire?

LYDIA: Yes, I’ll need to talk to my mom because she’s the one who better understands this stuff, but it will take me time, and I’m not sure how much we have.

JUDITH: What can I do to help?

LYDIA: Keep Claire distracted, and see if you can find out anything more about their plans. We need to know how close she is to pulling off this ritual… don’t lose sight of her.

JUDITH: Right. How does your family even know this?

LYDIA: It’s just things you learn through time. [big sigh] God, I don’t want any of this. I hate this. I hate her.… Thanks for coming out to talk to me, I know you’ve been under a lot of stress.

JUDITH: Yeah, no problem.

LYDIA: I know this is weird, but this whole thing has really made me feel out of sorts. Would you mind… coming by my place for a bit? I just need some company tonight, I think, and it’s so comforting being around you. You’re the only person I can talk to about this right now.

JUDITH: Yeah… yeah, I’ll come by for a bit. And I’ll see what I can do and we can… figure this out. I want to make this work. 

LYDIA: I know you will, that’s why I keep you around.

[SFX: beep. Lydia’s bedroom. Judith is sitting by an open window. There is a drunk guy in the background]

JUDITH: This fuckin’ city, I swear.[SFX: gets onto the bed] Lydia, hey. You awake? Did you hear that?

LYDIA: Do you want to join me

JUDITH: … what?

LYDIA: Do this for me

JUDITH: Ok, you’re talking in your sleep.

LYDIA: You’re next.

JUDITH: What the fuck-

LYDIA: I could stop this all now. I could ruin all her plans. All I would need to do is get rid of you.

JUDITH: What the FUCK

LYDIA: Hey, what’s wrong?

JUDITH: What do you mean “why am I up?” Do you not remember what you just said?

LYDIA: What? I didn’t say anything.

JUDITH: Yes, you did! What was that?

LYDIA: I swear, I was asleep, I must’ve just been talking in my sleep.

JUDITH: No, no no no, ok, here, ok no, just listen to this. [SFX: she goes to play the recording, but there’s nothing on it] Ok, no, no, I’m not dealing with this, I’m not doing this.

LYDIA: I swear, I was asleep. It’s fine!

JUDITH: No! No, just… no.

LYDIA: Judith, come on.

JUDITH: No! [takes a deep breath] I have been down this road… it’s… almost 5 in the morning, and I’m just going to go home. I’m sorry, I know it’s weird, but I… have to go.

LYDIA: Just come back to bed. You need to relax.

JUDITH: No! … no. I’m sorry, I have to go.

[SFX: beep. Owen’s living room]

OWEN: “Get rid of you?” That’s… horribly threatening.

JUDITH: Yeah, she seemed sincerely confused by the whole thing but… I was not sticking around. … Ok,with the new mic set up, I feel like I’m being interviewed on the CBC. Is this the teaser for your new show? Your podcast?

OWEN: Nah, you’re more of a host type than me. You’re the one who looks good in a blazer.

JUDITH: Does that matter in an audio medium?

OWEN: Yes. Ok, ok, I’m the host. I’m the host! I’m the fancy one now.

JUDITH: Yes, and I’m from… uh…

OWEN: Espanola.

JUDITH: Espanola smells weird.

OWEN: Fine, uhh… Tobermory.

JUDITH: Better.

OWEN: So, miss…

JUDITH: Doctor.

OWEN: Doctor Judith.

JUDITH: Senator Owen.

OWEN: Hell yeah, I’m going to make so many weird laws and I won’t be removed from office until I die. At least I think that’s what Senators do… right?  Anyway, Dr. Judith, what do you think the root cause of the recent uptick in possessions could be? Should the general public be wary? Should we be bathing in holy water as a precaution? Are we soon going to be facing off against an even more powerful evil Claire? Is the Family of Fire going to somehow summon the literal god of fire and destruction?

JUDITH: I can’t deny the possibility just yet.

OWEN: This will cause panic in the streets, and by in the streets, I mean “here, at this table.”[pause] What was the word Lydia used again?

JUDITH: Ustor.

OWEN: Right… you know that in Latin that means corpse-burner, right?

JUDITH: Yeah, I spent a few years at Harvard just learning Latin, and Ustor was was my nickname.

OWEN: You went to Guelph, and from what you’ve told me, your nickname was “Our Lady of Jello Shots.”

JUDITH: Ha ha, I should have never told you that. Ok, I’m just trying to tease this out in my head, stick with me.The Family has a plan to summon Moloch and bring about the Age of Fire, we knew that. The plan has been ongoing for years, clearly, so the first step is to name an Ustor. And it looks like that’s going to be Claire. So Claire will then then conduct a ritual to get the Blessing of the Master, which is this incredible power. So, the Ustor is… clearly someone important. I’ve been just like… thinking about this since I spoke to Lydia and I think that Claire’s grandmother always wanted this, like not just the ritual but the power, like the Blessing of the Master for herself, but for some reason she wasn’t able to pull it off in her lifetime. So, she figured out a way to preserve her spirit until she could find a new vessel…

OWEN: But did the new vessel need to be a biological relative? I’m pretty sure Adam isn’t related to Hugh. Oh, God, this is sounding incest-y, isn’t it.

JUDITH: I don’t think the new vessel had to be biologically related, but I do think that Minnie wanted to continue her legacy somehow. And Claire was… available. And she was open to talking to them, so they I guess decided to… groom her? Like, lure her in. Maybe they were both dying, or age was catching up with them, or whatever, but they clearly wanted to get to this stage. I don’t know, it kind of sounds like a pride thing.

OWEN: Claire Sterback, heiress of the royal line of fucked up cultists.

JUDITH: And instead of a crown you get a haunted-ass house and terrifying supernatural powers. You know what’s keeping me up at night?

OWEN: Fear of death, fear of this whole thing failing, fear of one of us losing a hand or something, work stress, family stress, my upstairs neighbours, heartburn-

JUDITH: Yes to all of those. But… before, I assumed the cult was gone. That it was dead or at least so severely weakened that it wasn’t something we had to worry about.

OWEN: Yeah, turns out it never went away. It was just… like…  hibernating.

JUDITH: And here we are, trying to avoid being kindling.

OWEN: So, with Minnie back at the helm of the Family of Fire… she’s got another shot at getting the power she’s always wanted.

JUDITH: And that’s… really bad news for the rest of us.

OWEN: [pause] Want to go to the patio and have a beer?

JUDITH: Yeah…

[SFX: beep, Judith’s living room]

JUDITH: Ok, recorder’s on, uhhh… ok, so I found this letter from 1907, it’s got a few interesting lines in it, uh…

CLAIRE: Yeah, but I doubt they’ll be of any use.

JUDITH: Sweet fuck jesus christ-… CLAIRE, WHAT THE HELL?

CLAIRE: Oh, you know, thought I’d drop by.

JUDITH: Sweet, how’s life been? Find any new brands to partner with?

CLAIRE: I know you don’t actually care about that, but… yes. I’ve got a multi-post deal with a major shoe company queued up that I really think will be a hit. Adam and I also did this adorable shoot on Centre Island. But I’m not here to talk about shoes. Unless you want to! Can’t hurt for us to reconnect like old chums.

JUDITH: Yeah, it can. Because Claire wouldn’t be showing up here unannounced telling me about her latest sponsorship. 

CLAIRE: But she is. In the flesh. And I need you, Judith.Claire needs her Judith.

JUDITH: You’re sick, you know that?

CLAIRE: I’m better than ever! I feel great. You, on the other hand, look run a little ragged. Too many late nights? Waking up randomly, nervous about something you can’t place?

JUDITH: Shut up.

CLAIRE: Now that is no way to act around your bestie. Do you talk to Owen like that?

JUDITH: Keep his name out of your mouth. Don’t you or Adam dare go popping around his place again, ok? You want to focus your creepy fuckin’ energy anywhere, focus it here.

CLAIRE: You’ve got some pent-up rage there, Judith. That can build up a toxic energy inside of you. It can make you ruddy. Besides, Adam already had a heart to heart with Owen, I think it’s time that we had one.

JUDITH: [uncomfortable gasp, like something is gripping her lung]

CLAIRE: Oh, if that hurts, just let me know.

JUDITH: What is your deal?

CLAIRE: You have to stop. I need you to stop. If you want to save your friends, or Owen, or yourself if you’re so inclined, you must end this now. Give up, Judith. Stop digging around. Stop trying to save me. I never asked you to do that. Or, you could come join me. Judith, come be by my side. Help me make things better. Let’s hang out! We can be best friends again! I miss you.

JUDITH: [audibly uncomfortable] This isn’t winning me over.

CLAIRE: Listen, I don’t need your interference getting in the way of things bigger than you, bigger than any of us! If you keep this up, you will be bled.

JUDITH: [still really uncomfortable] Let Claire GO.

CLAIRE: Oh, sweet darling baby girl, you don’t want me for who I am? Your silence lately has hurt me so much. You want to know what it feels like? [SFX: Judith lets out a pained yell] You’re breaking my HEART, Judith! This is what it feels like when the person you love HURTS YOU, turns their BACK ON YOU when you NEED THEM THE MOST.

JUDITH: You’re… not… Claire!

CLAIRE: You’re too stubborn to know when to say “enough.” Well, if that’s how you want to play, I guess we can play by your rules [SFX: Judith gasps in relief]. You know, I thought that avoiding you would be the best course of action, but maybe it’s time to focus on the importance of our relationship. I’ll be seeing you around, Judith.

JUDITH: [coughing] Claire! Please, you have to fight this.

CLAIRE: Fighting only makes it worse! Besides, anger gives you cellulite.

JUDITH: That’s not how that works! Oh, God.

[SFX: beep]