Oh, Jesus. What the fuck happened? Ohh. One minute it was all normal. I was talking to Jake. I was going to tell Jake . . . I was going to tell Jake . . . And then there was a blinding red light, and . . . What? He’s . . . He’s gone. He’s fucking gone now. Just like that. Not even a goddamn goodbye? What the hell Ostium. You’ve really done it this time. To me. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how it happened.
What the fuck is even going on here?
Okay, okay. Monica. Let’s calm down here. Time to take a chill pill. Another colloquial saying. Okay. Breathe. Deep breaths.
[A couple of deep breaths] In . . . And out . . . In . . . And out . . . In . . . And out.
Okay. That’s better. Let’s get that heart rate down a little. Collect those thoughts. Focus. Right here. Right now.
Alright then. So . . . As I was trying to tell Jake . . . he was playing with something. What was he fucking about with? The artifact! The fucking eyeball. From that guy. Don’t know which one. One of them. The eyeball that wasn’t really an eyeball. But a key. To the table. Okay. Got it. And he . . . He dropped it! That’s it. He dropped the damn thing on the map table. It wasn’t on the number right away. And I was telling him . . . I was trying to tell him about what I know. About Ostium. To convince him. About Steve. [Slowly, softly]: My son. Then the fucking red light show started. That goddamn fake eyeball must’ve rolled onto the number. Started the Pink Floyd laser bonanza. Jake had been saying something. Something about how the doors were following a pattern with him. A couple doors from the past. One from the future. And then his trip down memory lane. And that’s what the last door had been. The one to that house he’d stayed in . . . Fort Bragg. Wasn’t it? Yeah.
God. All those bodies. That was . . . That was really hard getting through. I thought I was gonna lose it. Just break down. Collapse. What the fuck happened there? Who could do that . . . To them? Was it a who? A what? I don’t know. Don’t ever want to fucking find out either.
And then we came back.
So, let’s apply the Jake-patented paradigm here . . .
Last time we went down memory lane . . . Catalina . . . We had some serious tectonic activity. Everything got all shook up. Scared the crap out of me. And at the end of it there was this big ass crack across the entire town. Out of fucking nowhere. How does shit like that even happen? I know this is Ostium. But still. And after we found the secret door and did what needed to be done. After Jake had his state of the union with himself. Man that was a trip. Goddamn clones. We came back. I . . . Gave him a required nap and put things back together.
More on that later.
This time it’s different. Yeah. I know. It’s different every time. But this time he got sucked into it. He got sucked into Ostium and made part of the whole shebang and I’m here all by my lonesome. I got left behind. Don’t think it was Jake’s choice. Or that he was involved in anyway. But after the bright red lights . . . He’s gone . . . And I’m not.
So where the fuck did he go . . .
[Growing realization] Oh . . .
[Exploding, shocking realization] Oh . . .
[Monica & Jake V.O.]
“But what . . What if I changed things in my time. Told the other you about what I know. Tried to change the way things turn out . . .”
“No! No. You can never do that. It needs to continue along as it already has. You need to be you and say nothing, so we get to this moment again. Changing a little thing could have a catastrophic knock-on effect.”
“Yes. And we’re completely out of time. Go now, while you still have the chance.”
That was the reset. Or Jake crossing the timelines. Crossing the streams. Some shit. Ostium put him back . . . Within itself. Within events that already happened. I wonder if he went through all the doors we already went through? Did he watch us enter that old cave? Pay us a visit in the distant future on the spaceship? Or did he gawp while we did the horizontal nasty on Easter Island? Fuck knows. All I know for sure is that he was there at the end. On the Dyson sphere.
And then he wasn’t. Anymore. He was gone. The blackness . . . Absorbed him. Atomized the motherfucker and left nothing but energy and dust to dissipate into the cosmos of Ostium. Goddamn. I fucking sound like him saying shit like that.
But still. He’s no more. And that’s fucked up. Really fucked up. Even for Ostium.
[Yelling] What the hell man? What did you do, Ostium? I thought there was more to you. I thought you and Jake were special. Best buds. BFFs. You guys had fucking history . . . Literally! Connections. Fate. Like it was meant to be. And then you just fucking let him die?
No. No . . . Not right. I couldn’t do anything. Jake wouldn’t fucking let me do anything.
[Jake V.O.] “No! No. You can never do that.”
And I listened to him. I didn’t want to. No fucking way. And I tried . . . I tried a couple times. Before we got to that fucked up house with all the dead people. But he kept stopping me. Like he knew. I know. He couldn’t. It was fucking impossible. Time only goes one way. So he didn’t know yet. He couldn’t know. Unless Ostium told . . . No. No fucking way. Not going down that road. Jake may like to introspect about that shit, but not me. No way Jose. But he said he’d listen, as soon as we saw . . . All those fucking bodies. Yeah. That shut me up well and good.
You know: I have seen Back to the Future. Maybe I should’ve left him a letter? Written him a fucking note. Slipped it in his pocket when he wasn’t looking. He might’ve found it later.
Before everything went to shit.
[Solemn] Man, Jake would’ve totally gone apeshit for that . . . Nerd factor eleven . . . One louder.
But he’s gone. Gone for good. Gone from my life. And gone from Ostium. I never wanted it to happen. Never. But it did. It’s over now.
Time to move on.
Oh . . . Man. This tea is really helping. I knew it would. But sometimes you think it’s gonna help and it does jack shit. But this. Oh, baby. This is doing it for me. Okay. Things are starting to look a little better. So . . .
Wow, I never thought I’d say this . . .
So . . . Let’s . . . Let’s explore the concept of . . . What would Jake do?
I know, I know. But . . . I need to look at my options. See what paths are open to me. Introspect a little. You know? And who did that best? Who’s the guy we’re not gonna forget? Who’s the guy we can’t seem to stop talking about?
I obviously don’t have a lot of options open for me right now.
And in case you don’t remember . . . I seem to have a certain case of . . . Banshee-itis when it comes to doors in Ostium. That is when there’s no Jake to clear the path. It’s like as soon as he steps foot through that door he becomes a different person. I guess . . . Became a different person. Need to start talking in the past tense about him. Gotta start accepting that. Okay. But Ostium just seemed to bow down . . . No. That’s not right. Ostium . . . Would accept Jake when he went through one of those doors. He never seemed scared. I know there were plenty of moments when we were both terrified. That time on Catalina with the blackness coming right for us. That really sticks with me. But going through the doors. He was always so excited. So vibrant. So ready for whatever was on the other side.
As for myself. From the beginning I’ve had . . . [Exasperated breath] Issues with the doors. Getting through the doors. You remember me trying to get through door four by myself? When we had to go back. Back to the future. On Mars. To get the artifact, because we forgot . . . No. Because Jake forgot the time before. I couldn’t get the artifact by myself . . . Oh goddamn. This is all fucked up. All the stories and thoughts are mish-mashing together. I’ve been double-speaking for too long. Watching what I say around Jake, and now I’ve lost my goddamn way with these recordings. These personal recordings. My recordings. Don’t need a filter here. Can tell it like it is. Call it like I see it. Hide nothing.
Okay. That’s what I’m going to do from now on.
But first I have to be absolutely goddamn sure I can’t get the fuck outta this damn town.
I’ve never been to Disneyland. And how things are going, I probably never will. Of course, given my background, I’ve never really expected to visit the “happiest place on Earth.” And . . . Whoever ends up listening to this . . . Well, you’ll find out why. Eventually.
You know, I thought I was doing these recordings for me. For myself. A personal . . . Venting. To bounce my thoughts off my brain cavity. And to talk about things I couldn’t and didn’t want to talk about with Jake. I needed that personal space. And now . . . He’s not here. He’s gone. And that ain’t gonna change. So my original reason for doing these recordings is no longer relevant. Obsolete. So why am I talking into this recording device that totally looks like a twenty-first century cellphone and totally isn’t. I’ll get to that too. Eventually.
It’s gotta be because I’m not just doing this for myself. What would be the point in recording it? So is it for my protection? My support? For when I do eventually get out of this town. Back to where I’m from. To prove to them what happened? To defend myself? Possibly. I don’t know if I’m going to need to, though.
But first that means I have to find a way out. And the only way to do that is to try the way in. Again. Didn’t work last time.
I know I sound like him. Like Jake. The way I’m asking and trying to answer these hard questions. The way I’m parsing stuff out . . . The goddamn way I’m using words like “parsing.” But let me tell you: it’s really hard not to talk like him. When you’re talking to yourself. Like this. So . . . Deal with it.
Whoever you might be.
Getting back to Disneyland. It was one infinitesimal part of the vast amount of stuff I learned before I arrived in Ostium. I’m sure you’ve got many, many questions. And you’re going to get answers. Eventually. There’s that word. Again. It’s going to take me time. To tell you everything that happened. To me. And everything that happened. In general.
Maybe I’m talking to Jake’s people. The ones he was doing those recordings for. Sort of posterity. But also sorta the outside world. If they could find it. Maybe these recordings are doing the same thing. Somehow. Getting out online.
Ostium. This Ostium was a mistake. A screwup. We didn’t know that until we got in. Until it was too late. For me. And for my son. Steve. He was first.
And I’ll get to all that.
But first. I’m here. Where I need to be. At Disneyland right as you come in there’s the Hall of Presidents. Not many people go there. I can sort of understand that. It’s kinda boring. I think it’s interesting. But then, I’m not everyone. When there’s so much other cool stuff to go check out. And ride. I get it. It’s a bottom of the list type of thing. And by the time you get to the bottom of that list, you’re totally wiped. Done. And you just want to get to your hotel and crash on that soft bed.
Well, when we were in the designing stage of this Ostium, a lot of discussion and thinking went into it. Oh yeah. There’s that bombshell. Ostium was designed. Yep. Every door and building. Every nook and cranny. Every grain of dirt and blade of grass. From top to bottom and everything in between. I was part of that crew. And when it came to deciding where to put that “front door,” my idea was the one we went with. Obviously there’s the main gate to and from Ostium, but that’s where you go to get to Earth . . . Er, in this time. Which wasn’t what we expected to happen. It’s what you use to get into Ostium. And out of. It was supposed to be the main doorway, the main entrance and exit to get us back and forth. Only something went wrong. Really wrong. Don’t know how. Don’t know why. It just did. Still trying to figure it all out. I demanded we put in a backup. A failsafe. A literal back door just in case the main one failed in some way.
And that’s where I am now. The geographical equivalent of the Hall of Presidents in Disneyland . . . in Ostium. Right in front. Because I knew that if anyone got into Ostium who shouldn’t be there, they weren’t going to try that door at the front and off a little to the right. There’s way cooler stuff going on up the street. That’s where they’re going to go. So I knew it’d be ignored. So that’s where we put it. A door that will take me back to where I’m originally from.
Except I tried it. When I had a moment. After Ostium got untethered and I knew walking through the front gate wasn’t an option. In any fucking way. And the door opened. Just fine. And I saw that blackness and . . . Well. Let’s give it a try and see what happens this time.
I’m pretty sure it’s going to be exactly the same fucking thing.
[Strange sounds . . . Screams . . . Ghosts]
Yep. Banshee madness still. Just like last time.
I’m never getting out of this fucking town.
Okay. You’ve waited long enough. And you’ve been pretty patient. Lets get back to the Clock Tower and I’ll tell you a little bit about myself.
My real self.
After some hot tea.
Oh man, that’s better. Okay. Confession time. What did you want to know? What’s that? Everything? Sure thing. Sit back. Get comfortable. And prepare to have your idea of everything Ostium fucking shattered . . .
Let’s start with something small. A tiny tale. A short story. A mini moment. Damn. Sometimes the versatility and sheer stretchiness of the English language just blows my fucking mind.
Tea. I like it. A lot. I drink it. A lot. I made Jake drink it. I think he might’ve, kinda hated tea before he met me. Or maybe just didn’t drink it that much. Like never. I branded him as much more of a coffee guy. But once he got stuck in Ostium. With me. He didn’t have a fucking choice. You may have noticed how I never seem to run out of it. We’ve been on a couple . . . Fuck. Listen to me. Talking like Jake’s still around. Like he might come waltzing through that door at any second. Is that a sign it hasn’t really sunk in yet? That my brain hasn’t acknowledged what it’s supposed to. The guy’s gone, but I’m still hopeful. Just like with Steve?
No. Steve is still out there. Somewhere. Jake is different. Gone. I watched it coming for him. There’s no way he got away from the blackness. No way he survived. He’s only out was following right behind me. He chose not to. His choice. His wrong fucking choice. But still. His choice. So he’s definitely gone.
Steve could be gone too. I know this. I accept this. I know. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but trust me. I fucking do. The blackness may have got him. Or any number of other terrible things in Ostium. But still . . . Maybe he did survive. Somehow. Maybe he kept going. Somehow. And maybe he’s still looking for me. Just like I am looking for him. My baby.
So I’m going to try to talk like Jake’s gone. Emphasis on try. It’s fucking hard.
So. Tea. I never needed to stock up on it because we have a metric shit-ton. Probably more. It was a requirement. I made it a fucking requirement. In the early days of Ostium, when it was this hallowed place. This uncharted territory. This place to boldly go where no one has gone before. Because this ain’t your ordinary brand of tea. Sure, it’s black tea. Sure, you can take it with milk or sugar. Sure, it’s Tetley’s, a known popular type of tea. But you see, here at the Ostium Network, we do things a little differently. We’re our own special Oz with our own special toys and foods and what have you. The Tetley’s tea has been . . Enhanced. The leaves cultured with a special blend: a cocktail of chemicals. And why have we done this? To protect us. Inoculate us. To keep us fucking alive against any of the diseases or viruses or bacteria or sheer smoggy, shitty air from the various times of Earth’s history. The concoction added to the tea made it a safeguard. Drink lots of tea and you’re going to be protected from whatever these old, infective worlds have to throw at you. And that way you won’t get sick. Plus, there’s the future to think about. Who knows what manner of baddies and beasties there are in the years and centuries and millennia to come? Who knows what a time traveler passing through the doors of Ostium might face? Much better to shield oneself with the Ostium Network blend of Tetley’s tea. Trademarked bitch!
No. I’m just kidding about that last part. Tetley’s or whichever company makes that particular tea has no fucking clue what we’ve done to enhance it.
Don’t know how they did it. Those crazy scientists at the Ostium Network. Oh, and get used to that name. The Ostium Network. You’re going to be hearing it a lot. But they sign our paychecks . . . When we eventually get paid. Sort of. Er . . . You’ll find out. Anyway. We only gave them six months, and they got it done. Beat the damn deadline by three days. The tea tastes just like usual, even if you add milk or sugar or honey or whatever the hell you like to poison it with.
And Jake had no fucking clue, not that it helped him. Didn’t save his ass at all at the end. But . . . You know what. Maybe it did. When he went to Roanoke. The Mary Celeste. Fucking Mars. Easter Island. The land of the Anasazi. Could’ve been any manner of bug or virus waiting for him. A local version of the smallpox waiting to infect. But he was protected.
All because he drank that tea with me.
Amazing stuff. Plus it tastes fucking amazing! You know, those scientists actually told me why they chose tea to put that protective cocktail in. They’ve could’ve put it in a snack bar, or orange juice, or even a damn bottle of water. But they chose the teabag because it takes up very little space, doesn’t weigh much, was easy to add to the tea leaves, and tastes exactly the same. I guess when they tested it with OJ it gave it a bitter taste. Sure fucking helps that I already luuuve my tea. Imagine if I’d hated the stuff. We’d’ve had a problem.
And that’s the answer to that mystery that’s been biting ya. Shocker huh.
Oh, you want more? Lemme get some more tea first. Oh, and I’m emphatically winking when I say that.
I name dropped The Ostium Network a couple times earlier. You’re probably wondering what the fuck that is and how it relates to Ostium. Well, obviously, it is related. But I’m not ready to spill all the beans on that whole . . . Er . . . Chapter of my life. Yet. Don’t worry. I will get there. Eventually. I know. I know. I keep saying these things. Repeating them over and over. Promising. But I gotta tell this my way. Or I’m not fucking telling it all.
Because . . .
Because . . .
Because . . . This is how Jake would’ve wanted it.
So for now just think of the Ostium Network as the umbrella corporation of the future that I work for . . . Yeah, I guess I “technically” do still work for them, until THEY say otherwise . . . They being the big corporation overseeing Ostium.
Enough of that.
It’s getting late, so I’ll end this with the story of my first arrival in Ostium.
It was unplanned. Undocumented. Unwanted. Un-whatever word you want to add. All I knew was that they’d sent Steve – my fucking son! – through without a fucking clue what it might do to him. It also turned out they didn’t know how to bring him back either. Motherfuckers. He wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. THEY weren’t ready. We needed longer. Probably a lot longer. But they wanted to hit that deadline. Make the guys upstairs . . . the ones at the very top of the rock happy. No matter what it took.
Once I found out what they’d done. That Steve was gone. Man. I fucking lost it. I cursed and cussed out every single person I fucking found. I ran. Ran as fast as I could to the Inception Chamber. It was pretty quiet. They were elsewhere. Another room. Another building. With all the screens and monitors and quantum computers, trying to find out what the fuck had happened, whether Steve was still alive, and what could be done. Point was they’d abandoned ground zero. Or rather the place that gets you to ground zero. Maybe they thought I wouldn’t find out till later. Or they thought I’d react differently. Be more professional. Follow the codes and regulations. Keep my shit together.
Well . . . I fucking didn’t.
When I found out my own flesh and blood had just been sent into a goddamn black hole. Basically. I wasn’t gonna stay calm and collected. Oh sure, Steve had volunteered for the mission. He was so excited he was bouncing off the fucking walls. And I was sort of okay with it . . . As much as a mother can be . . . At first. Before there was a specific date. Before the deadline was set. He’d go when everyone – including himself and yours truly – all agreed unanimously and unequivocally that it was ready, and he was ready, and we were ready. Not until everything was ready.
It didn’t go down that way. That’s why I ran. Like a fucking bat out of hell . . . Like a . . . Like a goddamn banshee! [Choked laugh] When I got to the Inception Chamber there was of course a guard outside. But while I’d been running and cussing, I’d also been thinking and planning. I made sure when I came face to face with that guard I was walking slowly, calmly, and focused. Professional you my say.
So I was fucking ready. I started talking at that guard before he could take a breath.
“Private. I need to get into the Inception Chamber immediately. I’ve just come straight from the Reviewing Center. That whole bunch of idiots sent me over here with express orders to pick up the concatonator. They said they forgot to grab it before they headed out for the Reviewing Center. Since I’m lowest on the food chain, I’m the lucky gal who gets sent to pick it up. So I need to get inside and get it before they started calling up and wondering where the fuck I am.”
I say my spiel with a smirk on my face. I watch the guard’s – Okafor, that’s his name – stalwart gaze melt away and the tight-lipped line of his mouth grow and curve like a blossoming flower into a smile. I know if I keep going I’ll have him laughing in deep rich sounds at me. But I don’t have the fucking time to butter him up.
He gives me a solid nod and that’s all I need.
I’m through the front door, letting it close by itself behind me, then passing through a few more doors, jogging to the Inception Chamber. Little do I know how big of a fucking deal doors are about to be in my life. Right? I pass through that last door and find one person there. Lee. She’s not doing much. Just running checks. Like I said. All the viewing and instrumentation is done at the Reviewing Center. If I’d arrived later, she probably would’ve been gone. But she’s here. And I’m not fucking around. I’m pissed and I want my goddamn son back. And I only know one way to do this.
I’ve got the little gun in my hand before Lee can blink. I point it at her and her mouth drops open. She’s young. Early twenties. She’s also very fucking smart and keeps her mouth shut.
“I need you to open it.”
She stares at me. Her eyes widen. Her mouth opens, like she’s about to say something. “Open what” is my guess, but again, she’s smart, she keeps quiet.
“Do it. Do it right now, or I fucking zap you.”
The gun is small and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It packs a helluva wallop. This is the future. Remember? And The Ostium Network. Very deep pockets. Very good R&D. One shot would end her. Lee knows this.
She swallows audibly, then turns to the console and starts pushing buttons, toggling switches, and doing what needs to be done. It won’t take long for someone at the Reviewing Center to notice what’s going on. But they won’t have time to get someone down here. Even if they get hold of Okafor, he won’t be able to reach me in time.
I wait until the moment is close. The way Lee’s doing her thing makes me think she knows what they did. What they made her do. In sending Steve through. She has an inkling of how I must feel. What I want to do. Maybe it’s a woman thing. This actually caring fuck knows. She looks at me, giving me the signal. I don’t need to be told twice.
I’m inside the chamber, sealing the door. Following protocol. I don’t think. I don’t wonder if I should be bringing anything with me. If I need to bring anything. I’ve got the clothes I’m wearing and the weapon. I put the gun away, knowing I no longer need it. Lee is on my side.
There’s a humming. A heavy clunk. Then I hear Lee’s voice letting me know everything’s ready. I look at her. I can see her through the big window. I give her a salute and mouth “thank you.” Then I walk up to the ordinary looking door made of metal, turn the handle and pull it open. There’s blackness on the other side, but also motes of light. Like fireflies. I don’t stall, stepping through and closing the door behind me.
I’m in Ostium. Standing just a few yards inside of the gate. I turn around and see it’s different. On the other side of the gate is a road and trees and shrubberies and not a darkness or something that tells me this is the way back to where I just came from. I immediately panic. I’m shit scared. What about the fail safe door? The backup?
And I spend the next three hours looking around the entire fucking town for him, starting with the clock tower. And he’s nowhere to be fucking found. A heavy sadness settles in me. Doubt begins to make itself known and I start to wonder if this has all fucking been for nothing.
I go to that failsafe door and open it. There are screams and wails all telling me to get the fuck away. I slam it closed and finally realize I have no way to get back now.
I’m trapped here.
Just like I am.