carrington: Hello, my friends. I'm relieved to run across you again. Hello, [variable: one:dog-name].I see the hound is still following you. No better place than the road for a hound.
carrington: I'm afraid I've been unsuccessful in my search for a venue for my play. Have you found anything in your travels?
carrington: Ah, there's an idea. Not `in` the mine, surely — such a constrained space would have dreadfully oppressive acoustics. But at the surface of the mine. Just before sunrise.
carrington: The resonances and reverberations of an old mining tipple ... it's tragic even to think.
carrington: Ah, how desperate. How earnestly spiritual. Just to imagine a choir resonating and reverberating through a concrete storage facility ...
carrington: `Equus Oils`? By the interstate? It had never occurred to me ...
carrington: It does sound compellingly desolate: the roar of cars and trucks, resonating and reverberating through nearby overpasses.
carrington: Psychoacoustics is a field of perceptual study: how do we `perceive` sound? What does it do to our souls? How do sounds work through us? The play must `resonate` through my actors in their performance. And then it must `reverberate` out from them, and again `resonate` through the audience. Theater is mostly acoustic, you see.
carrington: Yes, I think the exterior of the mine will do wonderfully. Truly, I expect, a tragic vision.[if carrington-play-location=mine]
carrington: Yes, I think the self-storage facility will do wonderfully. A humble and intimate production in the belly of industry.[if carrington-play-location=storage]
carrington: Yes, I think Equus Oils will do wonderfully. I can already hear the desolate cry of the road.[if carrington-play-location=gasstation]
carrington: You've been immeasurably helpful. If you have time later this evening, I'd love to go over my production notes with you. Just meet me there in a few hours, if you like.
carrington: Many thanks.
shannon: I don't think the |Zero| operates like the roads we're used to. I don't understand it either.
shannon: So, what is this place?
shannon: Yeah, looks like they're still open. Must be the night shift. What do you think they do here?
shannon: When I got my electrician's license, I had to go to this government building in Frankfort. Kind of low to the ground, a bit older ... didn't really `look` like this place, I guess, but they all have that same feel. Bureaucracy in the air. Too much concrete.
shannon: Yeah, inside a cave, I guess. Just feels like it's still "outside," since it's not man-made ...
shannon: Yeah, outside any man-made structure, I guess. Just feels like it's still "inside," since we can't see the sky ...
shannon: OK, her office is down on the first floor.[if bureau-current-floor-goal=1]
shannon: Archives and records ... so, fourth floor.[if bureau-current-floor-goal=4]
shannon: She's on the fifth floor, right?[if bureau-current-floor-goal=5]
`(CONWAY scans a column of elevator buttons.)`
clerk böhm: Howdy. Here for an ingestion carda transient sheet? No problem.
`(He rummages through some papers on his desk.)`
clerk böhm: ... happy to help.
`(He opens a few folders and quickly closes them.)`
clerk böhm: Um. Looks like I'm out, but I know there are some back in the archive. You'll have to put in a special request with Clerk MacMillan. She's the documents czar.
clerk böhm: Straight back at the end of the office there, by the file cabinets.
Clerk Metzstein: Hi, how are you. Fine, thanks. I just need your ingestion card and a list of your last five permanent addresses.
Clerk Metzstein: Oh, no ingestion card. OK. That's OK. Just go talk to Clerk Böhm first, and he'll get you set up with one.
Clerk Metzstein: Oh ... my sheet has five address boxes, and it says to fill everything out ...
Clerk Metzstein: Maybe if you fill out a "transient" sub-sheet, we can still get it processed. Go talk to Clerk Böhm and he'll get you set up with one.
rick: Oh, no, she's much too busy. Let's get some of our junior clerks to sort your paperwork first, so we don't waste any of Ms. Chamberlain's time.
`(GREG is hard at work examining some diagrams, measuring angles with a plastic protractor and occasionally scribbling numbers in a small leather notebook.)`
greg: Can I help you? Don't answer that.
greg: Oh, no, I'm an interior spatial analyst. I can't help you with that.
greg: I think the ingestion clerks have all gone home for the night. Lula might be able to help you; she's pretty senior.
`(GREG is hard at work examining some diagrams, measuring angles with a plastic protractor and occasionally scribbling numbers in a small leather notebook.)`
greg: Can I help you? Don't answer that.
greg: I'm extremely busy with these charts. Maybe one of the clerks on the first floor can help you. They're probably just looking at cat pictures.
The television is playing an instructional video on elevator design. It is crucial to maintain proper lighting in an elevator. In the absence of sight, passengers' sense of motion is greatly enhanced. The passenger should never feel as though they are physically ascending or descending: the elevator should create the illusion that the building is flat. This is the mark of a successful elevator design.
shannon: Damn, this place is a mess. OK.
shannon: Hmm ... take a look through that logbook, I guess? Maybe there's some kind of system to all these boxes. I'll just start digging.
`(The small logbook has a smart leather cover. A few notes are scribbled on the inside covers. Most pages are just lists of titles, names, and dates.)`
note in logbook: Document staff: please do not transfer any more records from the storage unit until we get the new file cabinets in. We're up to F, and that will have to do for now.
note in logbook: Instruct clerks to focus on activities beginning with the letters A, B, C, D, E, or F — or activities most likely to involve research on subjects beginning with those letters. For example: "cars" is OK because it involves Automotive, Driving, Brakes, etc., but "air quality" is NOT OK because it relates to Health, Safety, Pollution, etc.
note in logbook: "Failing antique shops" folder missing? Listed checked in on pg. 63, but not present.
`(Several documents relating to sporting competition venues were quickly checked out and back in over a period of a few days: basketball courts, baseball fields, alleys, and parking lots.)`
`(A single set of documents relating to coal mining operations was checked out and back in by several different people within a few hours.)`
lula: Nothing? That's unfortunate. Well, they must still be in transit.
lula: You see, we've only moved into this new venue somewhat recently, and it's all a bit in-progress. This was a cathedral not so long ago, can you believe it?
lula: And then the Bureau reclaimed it. The old congregation has been directed to one of our storage facilities for their activity.
lula: That's where you'll find the street name records, I expect. At the church. Mary Ann at reception can give you directions. Just come back here when you have the files, and we'll begin the necessary paperwork to have the information analyzed.
lula: Oh, and while you're out on the road, you might want to stop and see Dr. Truman about your leg. He's a specialist regarding ailments of the joints and limbs, and I know he works at night. His home office is in a small neighborhood on the east edge of Bowling Green.
lula: Here's his card. Do stop and see him. That leg is a miserable sight.
lula: Take care of each other.
rick: Oh OK. Great. Really great. I mean, sorry, that's not what I meant ...
rick: Um. Did you get my note?
rick: Oh, yeah, that's — I didn't mean ... Hey, I'm probably not going anyway. Lots to do, you know. A lot of new drafts, so ...
rick: Oh, great, OK. I'll tell Diane. I think she was waiting on ... I don't know ...
rick: OK. Gotcha. Well.
rick: Hey, I'm not here to rush you.
rick: So ...
rick: So ... how did your application go? I was in the mail room and I saw you got a letter back ...
rick: Sorry, I don't mean to pry, I just ... saw.
lula: It's fine, Rick. I'm not going anywhere.
lula: How's your goldfish?
carrington: I doubt that. You do important work here now. Maybe it's not sublime art, but it's ... do you know the famous dramatist who visited Mexico and said, "here there is no art: things are made for use"? You've been to Mexico, you've seen the murals, you know about all that ...
carrington: Colorful. The death motif is so common in our speech at this age; we always seem to become morbid whenever we bring up work, home life, the weather ...
carrington: There's no shame in it. After all, speech is a kind of thought ... at our best, we think `before` speaking, but we rarely think `while` speaking, so where do our thoughts go then? It may be that they reverberate out into the room, dissipating in hallways or getting trapped in some resonant corner of ...
carrington: So, my own thoughts are wandering, clearly. I've got a lot on my mind. Clearly. Well. I'll come straight to it, then:
carrington: The clerk upstairs tells me you've been assigned to my proposal. I've heard nothing in weeks, and I assumed it had been swallowed up by some dragon of administration, but ...
carrington: Lula, my situation is desperate. I have hours. `Hours`. I must find a suitable venue for my play in time for its sunrise debut, or the last decade of my life will have been a vision within a dream. A fragment.
carrington: Of course.
carrington: I'm ... sorry to have bothered you, Lula. I'll go now.
carrington: I see. Of course, you're quite busy. I ... understand completely.
carrington: I'm sorry to have bothered you, Lula. I'll go now.
letter: ATTN: Lula Chamberlain, RE: Your application.
letter: Thank you for your application to the `Gaston Trust for Imagined Architecture`'s annual fellowship. We received a record number of applications this year — over 100 in total — and regrettably we can award only one fellowship position per year. As you know, our review process includes a multiphase blind committee analysis of portfolio submissions, as well as a careful review by a panel of subject matter experts on each applicant's notability and relevance in the field.
letter: We must be extremely selective in our process so as to maintain the standards we have established over our thirty-five years in operation. Our panel did not select your application.
letter: We encourage you to consider re-applying next year. Many young artists and architects re-apply for a few successive years before being accepted.
letter: Sincerely, Dr. Karl Stone-Norden, Architect, Gaston Trust for Imagined Architecture
`(Below the printed text is a hastily-handwritten note.)`
note: sorry for the condescending form letter. love your work. unfortunately, i just do the mail here.
note: - your obt. svt., robert
`(LULA sorts through documents, all printed on a fading letterhead reading "Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces.")`[if bureau-proposal-count-read=0]
proposal #1: SITE: Hospital. PROPOSED USE: Auto dealership.[if !bureau-proposal-1-read]
proposal #2: SITE: Distillery. PROPOSED USE: Graveyard.[if !bureau-proposal-2-read]
proposal #3: SITE: Basketball court. PROPOSED USE: Kennel.[if !bureau-proposal-3-read]
proposal #1: Hospital closed due to repeated sanitation violations. Auto Dealership sanitation requirements comparatively lax. Small operating rooms could be repurposed into offices. Large cubicle-style administrative offices could be repurposed into showrooms.
proposal #2: Distillery still active, but scaling down operation to less than half of site. Distillery built on top graveyard originally. Hybrid distillery/graveyard could share resources. Chapel once repurposed into bottling facility could be repurposed into chapel.
lula: Though it has been years since my name appeared in a gallery program, except as an occasional, dusty curiosity in a group show or as the impertinent subject of some misguided retrospective, I continue to ...
lula: ... something, something, gratitude ... yours in situ, Lula.
lula: Thank you for your most informative letter. I was ecstatic to hear of your record-breaking success in receiving over 100 applications. What a triumph.
lula: As you know, my application process includes several minutes of photocopying, undertaken on my lunch break. Regrettably, I must be extremely selective in my fellowship applications so as to leave enough time in which to eat my lunch, and in the successive years I will no longer be contributing to your illustrious submission count.
lula: Yours, etc., Lula Chamberlain, Artist, Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces.
lula: Good for you. It's a tedious pursuit, rewarded by an arsenal of useless skills and a touch of arthritis.
lula: Doctor Truman says my joints are eroding one another. They've been collaborating for decades; it's only natural they want to kill each other now.
lula: Well, enough about my hateful wrists and ankles.
lula: Just navigating, apropos of nothing? The |Zero| doesn't work like other roads. You can't just drive and expect to find yourself somewhere. You must be more deliberate than when driving on surface roads.
lula: And, in a way, much less deliberate ...
shannon: We're looking for Dogwood Drive.
lula: Hmm ... "Dogwood Drive" ... That's funny, do you know I used to live on a Dogwood Drive? This was years ago. A grimy old house ... basement full of insects, attic full of birds. I had a few roommates. We all worked at the university. I had a dog. I drank whiskey and beer, and made sculptures.
lula: But that Dogwood was a surface road. With a name like that, it would have to be. What are you doing on the |Zero|?
lula: Joseph and I used to work together. And we lived together ... we were friends.
lula: But that was a long time ago. We haven't spoken in years. Do you know why he's pointed you this way?
lula: It's because he's still in love with me, of course. And now he's implicated you, quite inconsiderately. And in your condition ... it's appalling.
lula: So, I'm very sorry for wasting your time, but I'm afraid you've been misled. Excuse me.
lula: She came through here as an intern. One of my old colleagues must have referred her ... do you know, I never asked?
lula: Anyway, there's not much challenging work here ... much less for a gifted mathematician. She helped translate some notes on architectural plans I picked up in Mexico. She was very bored. We used to sit on the steps by the river, on our lunch break, and talk about geometry.
lula: We used to exchange short emails, just these terse descriptions of things we saw throughout the day. It was sort of a joke between us ... but they stopped. I assumed she'd found something better to do with her time.
lula: I hope she wasn't in trouble. I lost touch with her so suddenly. I had recommended she go see some old friends of mine at the university about a new acoustic surveying venture. I often worry she became wrapped up in some tenured professor's quixotic research project. You know the type: gray-haired, intellectual, narcissistic ...
lula: Well, that is ...
lula: I guess she sent you here because she respected me — thought I could help. Weaver's a dear girl, but I'm afraid you've been misled. Excuse me.
`(LULA pauses, taken aback.)`
lula: Well. I guess that's fair. Alright, maybe I can help you. For JosephWeaver.
lula: The "Dogwood Drive" I lived on is now called "Pale Dogwood Drive." They've renamed all the streets, you see. Too many streets with the same names. It was never a problem before, but now we have these databases, and it's all too confusing for the computer.
lula: The computer has no sense of ambiguity, so it proclaims an error. "Name collisions," they call them.
lula: So my "Dogwood Drive," is "Pale Dogwood Drive," and another might be "Large-leafed Dogwood Drive," or "Himalayan Flowering Dogwood Drive," and so on. But one of them is still just "Dogwood Drive." Or so we might hope?
lula: It's really a matter of consulting records, of which we have an abundance here ...
lula: I expect we must. They'll be up in `archives and records`. Fourth floor.
lula: Computer? Oh, that's all handled off-site. We write up a formal request for analysis, provide the necessary data, and then send the whole thing out by courier.
lula: So, first you'll need the data. I expect you'll find the road name change log up in `archives and records`. Fourth floor.
mary ann: I'm afraid she left. In a big hurry, actually. Something happen with your meeting?
mary ann: I don't know who that is. But she did seem distressed.
mary ann: Well. Heading back to the interstate?
mary ann: I can process you whenever you're ready to go back. Just let me know.
mary ann: Just remember: it's a difficult transition, and never symmetrical. It could be tricky to get back.[if bureau-receptionist-mentioned-difficult-transition]
shannon: `(She hands the receptionist Lula's card.)` Can you tell us how to get to this address? We're looking for Dr. Truman.
mary ann: Of course. This is in a neighborhood just outside of Bowling Green.
mary ann: Get on sixty-five going southwest. Take a right just past the observatory, just before the river. If you continue north, you'll be there shortly.
mary ann: Happy to help.
mary ann: I wasn't here for that. But, yeah, I get where you're coming from. Still, I wouldn't judge until I'd seen everything. They've got a new church now, the Bureau set it up for them out of some of their old storage space. I'm sure it's very nice.
mary ann: Go see it for yourself.
mary ann: Oh, good. I thought you'd left. People can be so impatient; you never know.
mary ann: Well, I have you meeting with Lula Chamberlain. She's a senior clerk and doesn't usually handle the ingestion process, but she's the only one with room on her plate this evening. My schedule says she's on the fifth floor, reviewing some diagrams.
mary ann: The elevator is just back to the left there. Fifth floor.
mary ann: Well, here you are. Better late than never, I guess. Just unload the whiskey over there by the elevator. I'll figure something out.
mary ann: I'm actually pretty busy, but ... sure, what's up?
mary ann: You work, like me. I take care of the heating and cooling, and watch the front desk. You know, at first I thought you were here delivering whiskey for our little celebration. But you don't look like one of the boys from the distillery, either.
mary ann: Just a hobby, then. I get it. I take care of the heating and cooling here, and watch the front desk, but at home I do watercolors.
mary ann: We're supposed to have a little celebration here at the office, but the whiskey never showed up. I saw your truck and thought ... but you don't really look like one of the boys from the distillery, anyway.
mary ann: Oh, the less I understand the better. When I'm here, I keep the fans turning and the furnace hot, and listen for the bell. When I get home, I'm a different person; I don't have to think about it. I just paint.
mary ann: You've never seen the boys from `Hard Times`? Well, count your blessings. They cut a grim profile.
mary ann: You're going to need to talk to someone upstairs about that. One of the map clerks. But first we've got to get you in the system, so you'll need an appointment with one of the ingestion clerks. Now, let's see ...
mary ann: Rick is booked proofreading drafts all afternoon, and Wanda's out on a site ... Hmm ... Let me go make some calls and see if we have anyone free. There are some books over there in the waiting area. Or just take a look around.
mary ann: Have you seen our grotesques?
Three books are piled on the table: a service manual for a sewage pump, some architectural plans for a bungalow, and a slim collection of Japanese death haiku. An envelope is protruding from the bottom of the stack.[if !bureau-found-secret-tourism]
Three books are piled on the table: a service manual for a sewage pump, some architectural plans for a bungalow, and a slim collection of Japanese death haiku.[if bureau-found-secret-tourism]
A country church with a pitched roof and a three-story spire. A large LED display glows in the parking lot.
Behind the church are several dusty metal trash cans, a few of which are opened.[if one:overworld-visited-country-church]
Behind the church are several dusty metal trash cans, all closed.[if !one:overworld-visited-country-church]
Five people hurriedly carry large objects from an apartment building into a van. The larger two are hauling beige shapes nearly their height. The smaller three clutch brightly colored objects under their elbows. Most of the lights in the building are dark, the yards empty, the windows boarded shut.
A tiny gray figure walks along the side of the road, carrying what appears to be a guitar case. He is followed closely by a smaller shape. A dog?
He looks tired.[if one:overworld-visited-guitar-player]
He suddenly winks out of view, perhaps into the woods.[if !one:overworld-visited-guitar-player]
A chapel and graveyard, disconnected from any road, in the middle of a dark woods. Occasionally it seems that pale, glowing figures, difficult to track with the eye, appear. Sometimes they roll huge barrels in or out of the building. Sometimes they just loiter for a moment, then fade out of view.
ezra: Yep. It's easy to get lost. Especially out in the woods like this. I never really get lost though. I just look out for Julian. He's always around.
ezra: My folks had a really nice house, bigger than any of these houses. But it made them worried all the time. Then the bank took it back.
ezra: We had to sleep at the bus station, but I couldn't ever get to sleep. So I just went out to fly around every night with Julian. We flew really far, and we never got lost, but when we came back in the morning they were all gone.
ezra: I don't think so. All our stuff was still there. Maybe they got lost somewhere.
shannon: Retired. I can't imagine ... Well, I'd probably hate it anyway.
shannon: Oh yeah, you mentioned him. Your old boss. Fierce-tempered, hard-working, up-by-his-bootstraps kind of guy, right? Sounds pretty intense.
shannon: I guess I was always closest with Weaver. As close as someone can be with a girl like that. She was always on her own wavelength, but we were the same age growing up, and everyone else was so busy.
shannon: When she disappeared, I got pretty angry, and I guess I just stayed that way. I never really `understood` her, but I `knew` her. It's lonely without someone like that around.
shannon: Sorry, I'm ... you're a good listener.
shannon: The moonlight helps. Closer to the cities, you don't get moonlight like this. It all gets washed out — "light pollution," you know? I guess it's still there, you just can't see it.
shannon: How are you feeling?
shannon: We're almost there. We'll get you patched up and back in that truck. We can handle this.
shannon: We will. But we need to get this leg looked at first. Right now you're in no condition to haul anything out of that truck, even when we do find Dogwood Drive.
shannon: Why is ... why is this delivery so important to you?
shannon: Yeah, OK. I get that.
shannon: My dad used to say I was born with a soldering iron in my hand. It's just always been who I am.
shannon: OK. Well, who knows why we do anything, right?
shannon: Somehow it seems important to me, too. Maybe we'll figure it out when we get there.
dr. truman: ... and, yeah, I think during that exit interview is when I really realized how badly they had me. But how else can you pay for medical school? I have college friends with debts that ... you can't expect to pay that back unless you're planning to sell painkillers on the side or something. Or, you know, some kind of administrative thing?
dr. truman: I don't know. Having seen what arthritis did to my grandmother, and my best friend in high school destroy his wrists building synthesizers — I mean he was, like, seventeen ... ailments of the joints and limbs just seem `important` to me.
dr. truman: I hope that answers your question. Getting a scholarship with that pharmaceutical company had a lot of strings attached, but at least I have somewhere to practice, even if I have to follow their market trends a bit. And, hey, thanks to all those seminars I'm an expert on the medical uses of `Neurypnol TM`. It's not so bad.
dr. truman: So, how about that leg. What happened exactly?
dr. truman: Ah, stumbling around in the dark. Hey, you might have just twisted it on something, right? Let's take a look.
dr. truman: Grabbed? Like an animal? Or a piece of machinery? Hmm. That could be ugly. I've seen some joints twisted right out of ... never mind. Well, let's start the examination.
dr. truman: ... but it's nothing we can't handle. You might have a few things to look out for in the future: be a bit gentler with the leg or the way you walk. But you'll be OK, I've dealt with similar cases before.
dr. truman: So, the anaesthetic we'll use is called `Neurypnol TM`. It's pretty experimental, but it's more appropriate in cases like yours. The way it works is: I'll count backwards from FIVE, to start the process, and then we'll just have a normal conversation as the `Neurypnol TM` takes effect. Then I'll get started.
dr. truman: Here we go:
dr. truman: FIVE
dr. truman: FOUR
dr. truman: THREE
dr. truman: TWO
dr. truman: ONE
dr. truman: So, let's talk about billing for a moment. The pharmaceutical company I'm contracted with was recently acquired by an energy company that has some different standards for billing and revenue, so it's a bit complex now ...
ezra: Yeah. Everybody has it pretty rough right now. Even if you just want to go home, you'll have problems. Like it'll be too dark and you'll get scared.
The tunnels are described as "`a series of arterials, excavated by runoff from an underground river which long ago evaporated, now the tangled vessel of marooned echoes.`"
They're surprisingly large. A distant scratching sound catches Conway's attention from a tunnel leading downwards. Another tunnel runs into darkness to the left.
A small, ragged cat sits on a ledge carved into the wall. Seeing Conway and Shannon, it darts into another tunnel.
The brochure describes this place as a "`gallery of mislaid futures, abandoned on lonely highways as American industrial design shifted its gaze to the intangible.`"
It is a large warehouse, full of oddly-shaped vehicles. Blimp-like, rusted vessels, mostly painted in a dull green that has now faded toward brown. No path has been carved to navigate between them, and many have been damaged enough to leave menacing bits of metal running jaggedly through their small open spaces.
It's all a visitor can do to stand at the edge of the building, neck craned, trying to get a glimpse of something.
Someone stopped here, once, and built a humble camp site. The fire is still going, hundreds of years later. They must have used a bit of that strange cave moss the locals say can burn indefinitely.
Other evidence is scattered around the camp. A spiral shape re-drawn a few times on the walls in chalk — from memory? From a dream? A wooden pipe carved to look like a toad. A bag that may once have held dried fish, nuts, other food for a long journey.
Whatever this traveller was looking for, whether they found it here or not, this was the end of their journey. Their bones are piled neatly by the fire, arranged later by some unknown passerby.
The campfire burns on as the truck pulls away.
As described in the brochure, these mineral springs "`radiate with vigor`" and "`sweat youth from the pores of the cave walls, its sweet dampness evaporating and then recollecting on the ruddy faces of rejuvenated bathers`." The air does have a warmth and fragrance to it that seems to relax the nostrils.
Shannon encourages Conway to rest his leg in the water.
Conway closes his eyes and reflects on the day's work. He awoke at five. He moved some of Charlie's old books from the barn into Lysette's living room — she liked to look at them sometimes, and he knew this would be a difficult day. He fed the dog[variable: one:dog-name].
He made a few other small deliveries, picked up a package Lysette had waiting for her at the post office, and then drove out to look for the last address on his manifest.
Conway leans his head back, eyes closed. It still feels like night, down in the cave. Not just the darkness, but the lateness of it. Somewhere on the other side of this rock, the stars are still drifting along indifferently.
He remembers some of Charlie's homework, from when he first went to college. Charlie was home visiting Lysette and Ira for the weekend, and had some book about ... astronomy, or physics or something. Maybe math. Watching the relative speeds at which different stars pan across the sky, and using it to determine their distance.
The brochure for these mossy tunnels recommends taking them "`as a site for meditation ... an introspective labyrinth through which to walk one's concerns, slowly, like a breathing exercise.`"
shannon: Hey. You're looking kinda tired there, old man. Want me to take the wheel for a bit?[if underworld-nap-counter=1]
shannon: You almost went off the road for a second there. Can I take over?[if underworld-nap-counter=2]
shannon: Yeah, I saw you yawning. Here, let me drive.[if underworld-nap-counter=3]
shannon: We can probably get some coffee around ... never mind. I'll take over if you want?[if underworld-nap-counter=0]
What the brochure calls an "`epic laceration to the very heart of the world, certainly left by some great power — perhaps a casualty in a battle between god and dinosaur`" is more of a rocky valley separating the road from a sheer cliff-face.
It's difficult to see how deep it runs, as the rock slopes into shadow, but the few dozen lanterns strung across at an interval suggest its scale: larger than a basketball court, but smaller than a financial district.
shannon: I always feel kind of embarrassed when that happens. Like I'm in a play, but I don't know my lines.
shannon: Oh well.
shannon: I've got you. You're alright. Shit. Your leg is pinned. I'm going to pull you out; we have to get you out of here.
shannon: Shit. OK, I'm going to pull you out; we have to get you out of here.
shannon: Just try to stand up. Careful. I'm right here.
shannon: Damn! Don't worry, I've got you. That leg is in bad shape.
shannon: Here, let's get you onto the tram.
shannon: There you go. Now, let's see if this thing has power.
shannon: Hey. Old man. Look at me. Can you hear me?
brandon: What happened?
shannon: I don't know. He collapsed. I think he blacked out — he was mumbling about the old mine for a minute. The old mine where we met.
shannon: What the hell are you talking about? We're going to see that doctor the clerk recommended.
shannon: `(She hands BRANDON the doctor's card.)` How do we get to this address from here?
brandon: Um. I don't know. It's pretty tricky going back and forth between ... you know: `here` and `there`.
brandon: The Bureau's the only way I know. Some of those folks do it all the time. "Commuters."
brandon: Just go back the way you came. Find the crystal, and then turn around.
brandon: I guess this must look pretty strange: a church without a congregation. When they first moved in here, man, this place was packed. They had a mass every night, two on Sunday.
brandon: But it got a bit awkward to fit everyone in, and the numbers quickly dwindled. Once folks started to see it as a thing that was falling apart, they lost their center of gravity, and just started ... wobbling.
brandon: Then the preacher stopped coming too, but he left his old tapes. Same with the organist. And I found some old acetates in the Bureau archives, photos of people in churches. So I keep it running.
brandon: You do what you have to, right?
brandon: "Work is play for mortal stakes." That's the title of the evening's homily, in fact.
brandon: So I guess if you folks aren't here for the mass you must be looking for the old Bureau records. I moved them down to unit C315, to make room for the mass. It's down at the other end of the building. Same floor. I need to get the night mass started, but you can borrow my keys.
brandon: Oh, you're from the Bureau. I moved all those documents to unit C315, to make room for the mass. It's down at the other end of the building. Same floor. I need to get the night mass started, but you can borrow my keys.
shannon: I'll go. You wait here. Rest your leg, you're looking kind of pale.
brandon: Nice lady.
brandon: Well, I'd better get this running.
`(BRANDON presses "play" on an old tape machine.)`
preacher: ~There are many days on which we proclaim the value of labor, and celebrate the piety of the hard-working, through feast or abstinence, recognizing St. Joseph the worker, who was foster father to our lord Jesus, and who trained him in carpentry and in the merit of sweat. And this is one such day.~
preacher: ~On this day, we celebrate with the feast of St. Joseph the worker, and, on this day, other workers are also celebrating, workers who do not attend mass, or even one like it, even workers who do not attend a Church at all, but who toil with clarity, with dedication, with perspicacity, who do as we do here in our Church, inasmuch as they reflect the activity of God. As we do, they cultivate the earth, and, at sundown, they call the fruit of their labor "very good."~
preacher: ~Beyond the Church, this day is celebrated in remembrance of a violent protest in Chicago, and to honor the four martyrs who were unjustly persecuted in its wake, having not only pursued their vocation in their daily labor, but also having pursued their avocation in the form of protest, activism, community-building, radicalization, scholarship, and finally martyrdom. Their, and our, avocation being, as it should be for us all, as members of the Church or otherwise, to secure for our fellow workers the right to labor with dignity.~
preacher: ~So, just as there is no dignity without sacrifice, there is no vocation without avocation, just as the left eye perceives that which is to the left, and the right eye perceives that which is to the right, and these images are summed, differentiated, and incorporated, and we find in our minds eye an after-image of divine light, only where love and need are one, and the work is play for mortal stakes, is the deed ever really done, for Heaven, and the future's sakes.~
brandon: Oh, no. We're not religious. I just watched and listened while the congregation did all this stuff, and ... I probably don't understand as much of it as you might think. Anyway, I know how to run the overhead projector and the tape player. At least I know enough to keep it going, right?
brandon: It's OK. I don't really know what else I would do. I used to play a lot of card games, you know, in high school. Some of my friends went to college, but most of them just got jobs. Maybe in a few years we'll be hanging out in bars, playing darts or something. You're not allowed to play cards in the bar, because it looks like gambling.
brandon: I bet everyone's telling you to go see a doctor. Hey, I get it: too expensive. My dad cut his arm pretty bad on a job, but he stitched himself back up because we didn't have health insurance. But then his hand didn't work very well, and he got pretty depressed, and eventually he just sort of ...
brandon: Well, I guess I don't know what he should have done. Who knows, right?
brandon: If you asked me what my hobbies were, I'd say "card games, science fiction, and perspective geometry." But I run the slide show, and I play the tapes, and I don't get paid for it. I take it pretty seriously, but nobody's telling me I should. Is that a hobby? Seems like there ought to be a more serious word for it.
brandon: OK, that's it. Next, there are some rituals that you and I aren't allowed to participate in, I don't think. And I don't remember them anyway.
shannon: Hi. Got it.
Conway and Shannon push aside collapsed branches and spiderwebs. The material of the forest gives way to rusty, painted metal.
A roughly circular cluster of narrow radio towers sprout from a muddy field. A ragged chain-link fence strung up around the field would do very little to keep out vandals. Birds and other animals avoid the area. It is forcefully silent.
At the center of the circle, Conway notices a tremor in his vision. His left eyelid twitches. On the ground nearby, a few empty beer cans surround a circle of scorched earth, like candles.
Conway taps on a window, trying to get an older woman's attention. She snaps awake suddenly, but ignores him, focusing on a point just ahead on the highway.
shannon: Yeah, just sounds ... I don't know. This place kind of creeps me out. It's OK, I'll just get a coke on the road somewhere.
conway: Oh well. Next time you can say "I came out here once, driving around with an old friend."
conway: Maybe that'll be better.
conway: Yeah, these nights ... it's mostly kind of a haze for me now. Just smells and sounds.
conway: This is nice, though.
shannon: I think so ... not for a while, I guess.
shannon: But this isn't so bad.
Young man: Well, that's all very interesting, but my cousin works for a TV station and he says they drop about two, three satellites a week. They just fall out of the sky.
Old man: More like `government` satellites!
Young woman: All I know is it wasn't a bird. That's all I care to know ... let's go check the scanner.
Young man: Well I never heard of a bird so heavy or hot as that, no I don't think you're right about that one, I —
Old man: You haven't heard of much, I knew that already! I can tell you right now —
Young woman: You don't tell him a thing! If it was a bird how'd it burn up like that? My father-in-law —
Old woman: Not one of you know a `thing` about weird lights in the sky. But I'm gonna tell you anyway.
Old woman: About nine months back, I was out sorting the cans and bottles, and I saw three flashes that took up half the sky. They flashed in order, a few seconds apart: Red. Green. Blue.
Old woman: Then about a few months later, I was fixing my lawnmower and I saw them again, but faster: Red, Green, Blue. Now just a week ago, I was microwaving some steam-in-the-bag broccoli, and I looked up, and there it was out the window: RedGreenBlue.
Old woman: So don't tell `me` about burning birds, lights in the sky, flying saucers. I know already.
sadie: The moment I now recall most clearly from their short visit was the birdcage exhibit.
sadie: The old man stopped to rest — or maybe to think. The young woman had been anxious up to that point, but she stopped as well, and examined the birdcage more closely.
sadie: It seemed to elicit a tenderness from her. She ran one fingernail along the bars of the wire cage, marking out a tuneless scale, like a child's xylophone.
sadie: And then they moved on.
james: I guess they must have gone through some papers here. It was in some disarray and a few folders were pulled out and left on the table. I mean it wasn't `too` bad; I only notice cause Diane is such a stickler. She's real organized, I mean.
james: Yeah, uh ... mostly stuff about the building site, I guess. They had a list of all the homes we relocated here. A list of original residences before we leveled the neighborhood. I'd guess they were looking for one of the old residents.
james: They pulled out a list of the folks who didn't take the offer, folks who moved elsewhere, but they filed that back — out of order — so I guess they didn't find what they were looking for there.
james: Hey, uh, while I have you here ... work's kind of slowed down, and it seems like — I know you folks know what you're doing, but it seems like the residents are just kind of ... settling in?
james: Yeah, I get that. Just — how about that roof, huh? You just write us a check and we'll finish it right up! I know you've got this museum thing going on, but you don't want to be slumlords, now ...
ivy: No, they just looked at it for a bit. I don't know that I'd feel safe setting foot in there, personally. It always looks like it's about to ... take off.
ivy: Yeah, that one. "House of the future" sort of thing. I've always thought it looked more like a grain bin ...
ivy: Actually, I guess it's sort of romantic. Anyway, they seemed interested in it. Tired, huddling under their umbrellas, they still stopped to examine this strange building.[if museum-umbrella-is-open]
ivy: Actually, I guess it's sort of romantic. Anyway, they seemed interested in it. Tired, soaked from the rain, they still stopped to examine this strange building.[if !museum-umbrella-is-open]
ezra: I saw you folks drive up. I like your truck! What kind of truck is that?
ezra: Me and Julian move whole houses, every night! That's a lot bigger than a pool table.
ezra: Me and Julian move whole houses, every night! That's a lot bigger than a couple horses.
ezra: Oh yeah, with a truck you've got to keep it up. That's why me and Julian don't use a truck. We just carry the houses!
ezra: Yes, ma'am. He's out in the forest. Me and Julian took him out there a few nights ago and he didn't want to come back. He lives there all the time now.
ezra: This museum is an OK place to live in the daytime, but it's no good at night. Folks just can't sleep in a place like this; or when they do it gives them nightmares. So we take them out to the forest to sleep, and then bring them back in the morning.
shannon: He hurt his leg. We're looking for Dr. Truman to help him out. Is he out in the forest?[if !museum-heard-truman-is-in-forest]
shannon: He hurt his leg. We're looking for Dr. Truman to help him out.[if museum-heard-truman-is-in-forest]
ezra: Yes, ma'am. He's out in the forest. Me and Julian took him out there a few nights ago and he didn't want to come back. He lives there all the time now.[if !museum-heard-truman-is-in-forest]
ezra: Oh, no, they're ... I don't know where they are. Me and Julian were looking for them for a while, but ...
ezra: Anyway, we have a job to do here now, taking these people out to the forest at night so they can sleep. And maybe if the rest of them will be like Dr. Truman and want to stay out there, we'll get back to looking.
shannon: Can you tell us how to get to the forest?
ezra: You have to follow the Green river way out east, and then hop over Lake Cumberland! The roads don't go there.
ezra: But me and Julian can take you. We were just about to go anyway.
ezra: I've just got to call him over:
ezra: `(Yelling.)` KUK-*KUK*-KUK-*KUK* Hyyyyyyyyy-*aaaaaaa*!
flora: He's my age. He doesn't really live here. He's just passing through with his brother, Julian. First they're going to help us, but I can't say any more about that. We have a lot of secrets.
flora: The old man asked me about the cabin. He said it looked like another house he knew, and he wanted to know where it came from. I told him nobody lived there, so he went inside. He took a long time exploring. When he came back out he told me all about it.
flora: Yeah, I remember: he lived there with his mom. She was sick. She stayed in her room all the time.[if one:conway-family-illness=mother+one:conway-family-illness-quality=paranoid]
flora: Yeah, I remember: he lived there with his mom. She was sick. She was always sweeping, she said the dust was trying to smother them.[if one:conway-family-illness=mother+one:conway-family-illness-quality=obsessive]
flora: Yeah, I remember: he lived there with his mom. She was a painter. She only slept in the daytime.[if one:conway-family-illness=mother+one:conway-family-illness-quality=artist]
flora: Yeah, I remember: he lived there with his dad. His dad was sick. He stayed in his room and always kept the curtains drawn.[if one:conway-family-illness=father+one:conway-family-illness-quality=paranoid]
flora: Yeah, I remember: he lived there with his dad. His dad was sick. He collected things, and all the rooms were full of stuff.[if one:conway-family-illness=father+one:conway-family-illness-quality=obsessive]
flora: Yeah, I remember: he lived there with his dad. His dad was a writer. He wrote about sad stuff, and slept a lot in the daytime.[if one:conway-family-illness=father+one:conway-family-illness-quality=artist]
flora: Yeah, I remember: he lived there when he was my age. He was happy then, but now he's sad.[if one:conway-family-illness=none]
flora: Yeah, I remember: his friend lived there when they were younger. He moved away for a while and when he came back she was married and had a new house. He's still friends with her but it makes him sad.
flora: Yeah, I remember: he woke up there one morning and he didn't know where he was. He was alone. He waited all day for someone to come and tell him why he was there, but nobody did, so he left at sundown.
flora: He looked in some boxes. He looked out the window. He could see the museum better than when he was downstairs — he could tell how it was all put together. And the cabin, too, he could see the shape of it better from up there.
flora: He just stood still for a while. He said he likes kitchens. He feels safe in the kitchen.
flora: His name is Homer, and you can almost see his skeleton. It's pretty cool.[if one:dog-name=Homer]
flora: Her name is Blue, and I fed her some crackers. She drools a lot.[if one:dog-name=Blue]
flora: The lady said he just follows them around. I wish I had a dog that followed me around. I'd name him something really cool like `Vladimir` or `Estragon`.[if one:dog-nameless]
flora: Now, the part that is weird.
flora: He said he went into the basement.
museum staff: That cabin doesn't have a basement.
flora: So then he came back out of the cabin, and we said goodbye, and I didn't talk to them anymore.
fred: I just assumed they were from the power company. You know how they're always coming by unanounced and messing with this or that. I just shut myself up in my room to wait it out. No sense getting involved.
fred: Must have been one of the kids who left the front door unlocked. Something's got to be done, they run around like animals. You know that Flora left a can of soda on top of my shelter door and I almost killed myself slipping on that sticky mess the next morning?
fred: Something's got to be done.
thomas: Just small talk, you know, like you talk to your buddies or something. Like you talk to a dock worker. Just like: "damn, this is a lot of rain; I haven't seen rain like this since that storm a couple years back that took out Lysette's herb garden."
thomas: You didn't see the guy. Tall, kinda stooped over, limping bad. Looked like an old drunk if you ask me. I bet they were both drunks; breaking in here looking for a place to sleep it off.
flora: I don't care, I want warts: I think they're beautiful. Besides, that's not true anyway.
annie: Flora was playing down on the lower level, and we'd been having a glass of wine in the greenhouse. We ducked out of the way when he came in. After all, they were complete strangers.
george: We didn't know them.
george: No, nothing dangerous about them. But you just can't know, can you?
annie: How could you?
annie: Well, I heard the young woman ask her friend about his job. He's some kind of furniture collector or dealer, I think. It didn't sound like things were going well. Maybe they were here looking for a buyer?
george: Yes, definitely some kind of furniture collector or dealer. I heard him talking about antiques.
annie: Must have been looking for shelter; he was carrying an umbrella, but not using it.[if !museum-umbrella-is-open]
george: Odd that he wasn't using it.[if !museum-umbrella-is-open]
walker: Sure, I talked to them for a bit. Actually, we talked for quite a while. I wasn't busy. I was happy for the company. Can't sleep in a storm like that; I never could.
walker: Hey, doesn't bother me. I don't think it really bothers anyone: a locked door on your neighborhood is a pretty weird idea anyway. I'd like to see a bit more work done on that roof, though!
walker: Bad memories. Besides, it leaks back here! You have got to fix that roof.
walker: There was a steady stream running down the back wall and right through my, uh ... this little exhibit thing ... anyway it was just going like a river all night!
walker: It's a damn hazard; you've got wires everywhere! Don't you people have anyone to look at this stuff?
walker: I told him to put his umbrella away: I get great shelter right here.[if museum-umbrella-is-open]
walker: I had a bottle in my coat, and I could see the old guy looking at it, and his leg was hurt pretty bad so I offered him some. He got real awkward about it. I bet he's in a program.
walker: Anyway, they were asking about Dr. Truman. I remember him: he was here for a bit, and then he left.
walker: So that's what I told them.
hudson: She thought she recognized the model, just from the noise it was making! I didn't even know the model myself. She told me many old radios from the period had badly-designed tuning circuits that caused a kind of resonant feedback in certain spots on the dial. Easy to pick out, if you have the ear for it. Smart young woman, and I always love to chat with an artisan.
hudson: He asked the most inane questions about my boat. Whether I took it out fishing often ... nonsense like that. I tried to explain to him that I lived aboard, that I'd lived in a small apartment on this land before and been kindly offered an opportunity to live here in a sailboat when the neighborhood was razed, and so on ... difficult to communicate in a noisy storm like that. I think he may have been a bit hard of hearing, to boot.
hudson: Hard not to, up here. The strangers wanted to know how I coped with the exposure. I guess some people will never understand the appeal of life on a sailboat. It's tragic, I'd say.
ivy: They wouldn't come in. Just rushing around — you could tell they were worn, and it was late at night, but ... just rushing around.
ivy: Well, there was some urgency to the older man's injury, so it's understandable.
ivy: His leg. It was twisted or something. He held it while he walked, and made these painful little sounds in his throat.
ivy: Oh, `how`? I don't know. I didn't ask. It would have been rude, I think.
ivy: He ... left, of course. We've talked about it before. He left and we don't know how, or when, or what happened to his charming house.
sadie: Do you know, at first I thought it might be Hudson walking up to visit? I'd heard him working on his boat just a bit earlier, before the storm started.
sadie: But then I saw the stranger's limping gait, and the young woman with him, and I knew it couldn't be. I invited them in for a glass of bourbon, which they politely declined, so I just talked to them on the porch for a bit.
sadie: Oh, we talked a bit about the neighborhood. I told them about Hudson and his sailboat, and the nice young couple in the greenhouse, and the charming Dr. Truman who used to live here. They were very interested in him, but of course ... well, I don't know where he went.
sadie: He was in a bad way. He seemed confused. He was asking about a basketball game ... I thought he might be joking — after all, it's not the season. It made his friend uncomfortable, and she changed the subject. She asked about my house.
sadie: She was very sharp, and mechanically-minded. We talked a bit about the construction of my house. She was worried for her friend.
sadie: Do you know, I don't believe either of them had ever set foot on a houseboat before? I don't know that the older man had ever seen an ocean, in fact.
sadie: It has always been my fondest dream to retire on a houseboat. That's why I accepted your offer and moved in here. It isn't perfect, but what home ever is? I only wish the house would sway a bit — I find that it settles my nerves. Well, if we have another storm like that last one ...
sadie: In fact, he had his umbrella open indoors. It wasn't leaking `that` badly.[if museum-umbrella-is-open]
flora: Not anymore. Now I like jungle cats. You should get some real panthers in the stable.
burt: I didn't see or hear a thing all night. I was in the back doing inventory when they came by. I got thirty cases of candles in, and each one of those has got to be individually labeled, you know?
burt: But I heard from some of the other neighbors that they weren't up to any harm. Just passing through.
thomas: Yeah they came by and knocked on the window, and we had a bit of a talk through the glass. I would've come out, but, you know: shady characters.
thomas: I told them: he moved in here with the rest of us when you folks bought up the neighborhood, and then one day his house was gone. That's all I know about that. I don't want to talk about that anymore.
thomas: Oh sure, they were into everything. Walking around, looking at stuff, talking to people, talking to each other ... I guess that's just what it's gonna be like now. Living here.