Episode 5 – A.W.O.L. Transcript

October 1. 07:10.

Finally got the intel I needed. It’s taken time. A lotta time. Time I didn’t really have. But it paid off. Big time. No free rides. You gotta earn it. I went AWOL at 04:22. Hiked the fence. Waited in the bushes for any signs. No one saw me. I turned tail and headed for the hills. Figured I had anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of leeway. I didn’t take my time. I kept a pace any drill instructor woulda been proud of. I had one fall. Banged my knee up pretty bad. But didn’t think. Didn’t react. Just ran. When I reached my resting point I’d take inventory. The darkness worked to my advantage. Keeping me hidden. But it was also a hindrance. These eyes don’t work well in the black. I got a flashlight. Didn’t want to risk it. There were a few dead ends. A few walls I couldn’t get over. It happens. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I made it to an abandoned cabin by 07:00 and made myself at home. Plan to make the next audio report in vicinity of the target.

October 1. 18:35

I’m here. It weren’t no easy ride. Lotta grinding and beating the dirt. Plenty of sweat shed. Probably lost a few. Will be great for my figure. Even though I’m 100% pure muscle and look fuckin’ awesome. I got to the bivouac point at 17:00 and reconnoitered. Okay, I’ve had it with the jargon. Nobody cares. I certainly fuckin’ don’t. So I’m going to can it. Though a fubar or two may show up. So don’t be surprised.

I approached the town from the northwest. I had a feeling I was getting close when things started to change. I was already deep in the middle of nowhere, so no people, no vehicles, nothing to write home about. But the trees kept getting denser. It felt like they were starting to move. Getting closer together. Closing off my routes. Doing some wicked Ent shit. I didn’t like it one bit. So I clawed my way through. Scratching myself up royally. Probably have poison ivy making itself known when I bed down tonight.

Then the wildlife just disappeared. The birds stop chirping. The crickets stopped making that racket. Soon it was just the sound of me and my own. My breathing. My movements. The sandpapery sounds of my clothes brushing the foliage. It was eerie. Fuck it. It was downright scary. Then I broke through. I was relieved. But seeing that stone wall . . . I got scared in a whole new way. It was domineering. It was solid. It was impending.

It was . . . Real.

Ostium.

After all that watching and waiting. All that time. To finally be here.

I was trying not to lose it.

There was no point of visible ingress from where I was standing. I headed east, following the wall, until I got to a corner. The wall continued south. I headed back the way I’d come. The wall took me west for a while, then another corner, and more south wall. I followed it in that direction for over a mile. I found another corner and turned east. The light was starting to fade. I didn’t have much time. I already knew I was going to be spending tonight outside, under the stars and with nature. I found the gate next. It was all rusty and old. There was a shiny padlock on it. That didn’t make sense. It also looked weird. Hexagonal. I’d never seen anything like it.

Getting in was tomorrow’s problem. I made myself scarce in the foliage. Found a good spot to bed down. Grabbed some grub. More delicious and nutritious MREs.

Time for some shut-eye.

October 2. 11:21.

My goal with these recordings was to keep as much of me out of them as possible, and just record the events. I know when I made that promise it wouldn’t be long before I broke it.

This is me. Breaking it.

I am someone who needs to be in control. Always. It’s who I am. It’s my makeup and my DNA. So when I got up at 0600 this morning and approached the gate, seeing that padlock gone was . . . Kinda destroying. More so than the lack of the sounds of fauna or anything else that’s happened to me so far. It was just so fucking wrong. Someone or something higher up had played a hand. Was in control. And at the moment there was nothing I could do about it.

I would go inside Ostium and perhaps play into that very hand.

So that’s what I did, opening the rusty gates and entering the place that more than a year ago I thought was something reserved for stories about Atlantis and Avalon.

You may have noticed I’m a little more . . . Loquacious in this particular report. Well, let me say that breaking that first promise was a significant break in the dam of my stringent and restrictive training. I want these reports to be useful and informative. Not just terse, step-by-step operations that are dry and lifeless. Whether it’s me listening to them or someone else, I’m going to make them something of substance.

The satellite imagery was correct. If there’s one thing you can’t fault for being wrong, it’s those eyes in the sky; those little blinking lights traveling overhead at night, watching you 24/7. A grid-work of simple streets with individual one-story buildings streaming along like the epitome of suburbia: everything looking just like the other. On each door was a number. There was no apparent sequence or connection between the buildings and the numbers.

Using some basic logic, I seek out the building that’s not like the others, with a nice broken clock at its apex. I checked my watch to be sure. I opened the door with full confidence and found a cozy pad inside. The kitchen was stocked with canned goods. The bathroom had toilet paper. Charmin soft. There was even a goddamn bottle of Head & Shoulders in the shower stall. For smooth and silky hair. Steve got it all organized the way he wanted.

The first thing I’d been told by the covert cell of the secret group of the clandestine wing of the United States government about Ostium was that nothing was known about it. It was a complete mystery. There were two pervading theories: either it was something from a parallel world. Or it was something created by aliens.

October 2. 19:43.

I’ve just gotten back from conducting a thorough search of the limits of Ostium. There are doors everywhere and in every sense of that word. I mean every sense. Doors on buildings; doors in underground passageways; doors literally just flat on the ground; multiple doors in the walls bordering the town; doors hovering off the ground; doors lying horizontally in the air, four feet off the ground; doors just standing there like silent sentinels; one door at the top of a ladder under the water tower. There are doors fucking everywhere here. Behind a few of them there were moans. I shit you not. Fucking creepy, man.

Fortunately, while every door had a number on it, I didn’t need to record them all and where they were in relation to each other. Whoever or whatever created this place left a handy dandy wooden table with a handy dandy map carved into it. With this sucker, I can’t get lost. At least not physically. Mentally? That’s a whole different can of fish to fry.

Okay, I might be having a little too much fun with this, but what the hell.

There appears to be absolutely not one fucking iota of logic with the numbering of the doors. So tomorrow at the crack of dawn I’m going to pay door number two a visit and see if it grants me access.

For now, I’m going to have me some delicious canned tomato soup and enjoy the confines of my new home.

I sure hope there’s hot water in the morning.

October 3. 15:44.

So the parallel dimension mumbo jumbo dealio wasn’t too far off. But first off, there was plenty of glorious, scalding hot water. It was one of the best showers I’ve had in a long time. The shampoo was okay, and thank god it was the two-in-one kind with conditioner. Here’s a fun personal fact: I can get through anything; anything, so long as there’s running hot water.

The door opened and I went through. Somehow I was in Roanoke, Virginia in the sixteenth century. It was incredible. I took my time. Looked through all the houses and cabins. There wasn’t another soul there. Just like the legend said. The details were almost unbelievable. Breathtaking. The smell of it all. The sights. The sounds. It all felt so real.

Was it real?

I don’t know. Is it possible to have a door lead to a pocket in time? According to some of the rumors going around the base, sure.

I got a kick out of it.

I decided I didn’t want to spend too long here, just in case I had issues getting back. But I wasn’t going to leave without a keepsake.

In one of the old wooden houses I found a carved wooden figurine and headed back double-time.

The doorway was there, waiting for me and I zipped through.

On the other side I headed home. Swaggered in like I’d been living there for years. Once I got settled and opened up a can of cocktail weenies and some minestrone, I took a look at my trinket.

It was a woman. Carved from some wood. A cross between a Venus of Willendorf and a heavyset nun. The detail was simple but powerful. The statuette was worn smooth. Not from carving, but from a palm: four fingers and a thumb. Endlessly rubbing it. Was it a talisman for someone? A religious keepsake? Something greater?

I took the rest of the day off. Decided I’d earned myself some rack time. I was my own boss now, anyway. Settled down that night, after a nutritious meal of pot roast. The meat was bland, but the potatoes were pretty tasty. Whenever I get done here, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to look at a canned good again without puking my guts out. I kept the figurine beside me, and went to sleep snug as bug in a sleeping bag.

October 4. 03:32.

I just had a really fucked up dream. It was one of those ones where you know you’re in a dream but there’s nothing you can do about it and just have to ride it through. It was trippin’ balls. A Clockwork Orange meets Ziggy Stardust hanging out with Tommy. Maybe passing through that door scrambled my circuits in some way. Traveling across dimensions to another time can’t be good for the noggin’, right? I was all floaty, flying around like I didn’t have a leg to stand on. I don’t think I ever touched the ground. I kept switching back between Ostium and Roanoke. Dream versions that is. Everything was a little tweaked and blurry. It all looked off. Different. Like it does in dreams, but you know where it is even so. I think I only passed through . . . Well, flew through the door to Roanoke once and then I was just flipping back and forth. There were doors flying around me, turning and revolving like a Pink Floyd music video, but they never touched me. They were all crazy colors, bright pinks and yellows and oranges and blues. And there was all these numbers spinning in between them, really fast, but I could still tell what numbers they were. Single digit. Double digit. Even a few triple digit. My stomach was churning and I was hoping I’d be waking up soon before I puked. Is a puke dream like a wet dream? What happens on the inside happens on the outside too? I didn’t want to find out. And then this giant wooden Venus of Willendorf appeared, frowning, looking down at me. Real pissed for some reason. Like all this was my fault. And then she had the map table in her hands. I didn’t even blink. It was just there, all giant like. She started shaking it and moaning at me. All the numbers on all the little houses spilled off like cookies being dumped out of a cookie jar. It made me feel terrible. Sad. Like suicidal. I ran to them but was stuck in my tracks, dredging through molasses. I couldn’t move. I felt tears hitting my cheeks as the numbers plummeted to the ground. They exploded into millions of pieces and it felt like my parents had died and everything good in my life was gone.

That’s when I woke up. I wasn’t covered in puke. A good thing. I instantly remembered my parents were both dead, but it’s not so bad since they’ve been gone for a long time. Then I felt that same dread from the dream. Like my heart was falling down a black hole.

My arm shot out and snagged the little wooden figurine. The feeling instantly melted away and I felt right better. I clutched it to my chest, between my breasts, like a favorite childhood doll. It felt warm. I don’t know if it was giving off the heat or if it was from my hands, but I didn’t care. I just felt so happy to have it. To have it held against me. I remembered the dream. I saw all those numbers in my head. It made me think. I looked at the doll. I turned it over. On the base was the number two.

It couldn’t be a coinkydink.

 

October 4 11:14.

So I’ve been up for a number of hours. Had an MRE with some canned peaches. Not too bad. Though canned food aside, the MREs are starting to taste like ass. Good job I don’t have many left. I found a box of sealed Tetley teabags. Boiled some water in a pot, no-kettle-ghetto-style, and had a great cup of strong tea. I feel like I can tackle anything, even after last night’s weird ass dream.

I kept my little carved effigy with me the whole time. As I was eating, I kept looking at the number two. It was downright significant. I knew it.  Once I’d cleaned up I went to the map table and put the little figurine on top it. It matched the style. The table and the little woman looked like they belonged together. And then the damn thing started to glow white. Holy shit! I wondered what the hell this could mean. Two. That was it. I grabbed it and put it on top of the number two on the map. It got brighter. I could feel heat coming off it now. The glow expanded until it was all white. I shielded my eyes. Then it all disappeared. The figurine was gone. The number had turned from black to gold. I touched it. It was warm.

I spent the last couple hours going over this place in detail. Made a complete mental inventory. So I know what I’m working with here. Turns out if you look hard enough, life gets better. It’s not just canned goods, but found some pasta and rice, even some animal crackers. Pretty good supply in fact. So things are certainly looking up. Thanks Steve. And I think I’ve made the call: this morning was my last MRE. Hopefully ever. Barring a starving emergency situation or someone making off with all the cans. Yeah, like I’d ever let that happen. No one’s touching my canned peaches!

What the hell is that? Is someone coming?

Shit! He’s coming this way. I gotta get outta this room.

I’m hiding out in the bedroom. If he comes in here, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I . . .

Okay. Sounds like he’s gone. Who is he? Why is he here? How the hell did he find Ostium? I gotta follow him.

October 4. 17:22.

I followed him like a motherfucker. I was trained for this. And with all the buildings and streets, it was like walking through the easy level training grounds. I may have deliberately made some noise. A few times. To freak the guy out a little. He kept looking back, and I was gone around a corner or behind a wall. It was damn fun. Who was this guy coming into my house, checking out my stuff? What was he here for anyway?

The guy knew where he was going. He was locked in and determined. I started to wonder what was up and then got it once I recognized myself. I was peaking around a corner when he stopped in front of door number 2. It shouldn’t have taken me that long, but this place is one big maze. Pretty spacey. That made me think of my dream, which I wanted to keep outta my head for the time being.

Then he knocked.

He goddamn knocked on the fucking door.

I gagged myself stopping a laugh.

The guy had a sense of humor.

Or maybe when he didn’t get an answer he was just going to walk away?

It gave me a chance to look at the guy. Look at his features. He was around six feet. Broad shoulders. Short black hair. Kind of messy. Large dark eyes. Full lips. His skin tone wasn’t a pasty white, but no tan or golden either. Sort of in between. The guy did go out and get some sun. Sometimes. His build was toned but not overly. He probably hit the gym a couple times a week, but wasn’t ripped.

Overall he wasn’t a bad package. He was cute.

Damn cute actually.

Then he opened the door to blackness on the other side. I’d had my first taste of this yesterday. It was still pretty shit-your-pants scary. The guy got this deer-in-the-headlights look and just stared at it. I could tell inside his head a war of choice and decision was raging.

He actually started shaking. Poor guy. I figured he’d turn chicken and get the hell out of dodge. But he surprised me.

“Fuck it,” he said quietly to himself and stepped through.

I’m not gonna lie. I was pretty fucking impressed.

The guy had balls.

So now what?

It was kinda cool seeing what it looked like.  That rectangle of blackness just staying there, not giving anything out or taking anything in. It was kinda hypnotizing. I had to stop myself from walking to it.

That’s crazy.

I made the call: I was gonna wait it out.

It was just shy of a half hour later when the guy blasted through the doorway, slamming the door behind him. He was on his knees, laughing hysterically. Like a guy losing his mind. Or someone who’s just experienced the biggest fright of his life.

I knew how he felt.

But his laughing echoes were fucking creepy.

Once he got his shit together again, he headed back to where I was calling home these days.

I followed and waited outside.

He hesitated at the door. Like he wasn’t sure it was gonna open for him.

He went in.

I was still able to see him though the doorway. He stared at the map table for a few moments, then came to a decision.

I ducked back as he shot out, shutting the door behind him.

I kept up and watched him close the gate and get in his old German junker.

He drove away.

I closed the gate and relaxed.

But I knew he’d be back.

You can’t stay away from Ostium.

The town won’t let you.

October 5. 12:03

Shit got real today.

For breakfast I had me a can of pork and beans. That’s right. I’m an adult. I can have what the fuck I want for breakfast.

Using the propane I heated it up in a pot and it tasted goddamned delicious. I washed everything up and even found a towel to dry things up all nice like.

I checked the map and then legged it to mystery door number three. Let’s see what this fucked up place has in store for me today.

I pushed the door open, whispered “hello darkness, my old friend,” and stepped through.

On the other side I was surrounded by wood and creaking. Plus I was seesawing side to side. I’m on a fucking boat. The song plays in my head and I start singing along.

With the movement of the boat, the door behind me slams shut.

Shit.

I yell a whole dumpster-load of cussing at the closed door. This is it. I’m fucking stuck on a boat in who knows what year of our lord.

I slowly wrap my fingers around the handle, lift my eyes to the ceiling, and utter my first prayer since I was a kid and really wanted that Janet Jackson CD for my birthday.

I never got the CD, which is why I gave up on the whole praying for shit deal.

The handle turns. I take a breath . . . And pull.

The door opens and I see Ostium on the other side.

The tears hit my cheeks in seconds and I let out my breath.

Goddamn am I relieved.

I wipe my face. Close the door and open. Still there. I do it a few more times. Ostium greets me each time.

I let the door close. I’m gonna leave it like that. My stomach is still a little squirmy. So I check one last time. Yep, still there.

I see above the door is a wooden sign saying OSTIUM. Pretty cool. Now I won’t get lost.

I go from room to room, angling myself with the way the boat’s moving. Some of it’s fancy and all done up nice. Some looks old and disused. The room with the dining table is real nice. Everything laid out just so. Ready for a fancy ass meal. ‘Cept there’s no one here to enjoy it. Just like on Roanoke.

I’m all alone on a boat probably in the middle of nowhere, and I’m kinda not surprised.

I find the stairs leading up. Up on deck I go. As I get both feet on the stairs I hear a low moan from somewhere. It scares the shit out of me.

I get up on deck and look around me.

It’s gorgeous.

I hear another moan. I shiver.

Then I hear . . . Someone walking on the fucking stairs I was just on?

I dart over and behind the mast, watching and waiting.

The cute guy pops up on deck.

What the fuck is he doing . . . here?!

I knew he’d be back, just not that quick. And now he’s on the same damn boat as me.

He starts walking around. I keep watching. Moving around to keep hidden. He’s acting like he’s all alone, so I don’t worry too much.

He starts staring out to sea. Like he’s seen something. I follow his gaze and don’t see anything. He keeps staring, so I do the same thing. Then I see a blackness. My eyes follow it around on the horizon.

It’s all around us.

And there’s a weird crackling. Like seed husks being crushed. It’s getting louder.

I watch the guy go back downstairs, looking pretty freaked. I wait a bit then go to the edge and peak down. He’s nowhere in sight. I step down each step silently, using my training.

I can see into the next room with the dining table.  He’s in there looking around, like he’s searching for something.

What?

The moaning is back. Sounds like it’s getting louder. And the crunchiness. It’s getting real crazy in here.

I want to get moving, but not to be seen.

I get down to the bottom of the stairs and watch as he takes something out of one of the glasses. Then I think he sorta sees me, but he doesn’t turn to me. He starts running away.

With the moans and crazy sounds, I don’t blame him. I’d be right behind him if I didn’t mind him finding out about me.

But I do follow him. He’s got his full freak on, so I kick it up a notch, not worrying that he’s going to see me. He’s acting like he’s got a Balrog chasing his ass.

He gets to the door which I can see is tied open and dives through. He grabs the door on his way, ripping the string and slamming it behind him.

Great.

Let’s hope that didn’t break the inter-dimensional connection or unbalance the ethereal or . . . Disrupt the space-time continuum.

I make it to the door and grab the handle, but don’t turn it. He’s probably flat on his face in Ostium on the other side. Catching his breath.

I have to wait.

But the moaning and crackling makes me want to get the fuck outta here.

I look around and see something. Something whitish. A sort of glowing, floaty thing a few yards away from me. It looks like something . . . Materializing.

It lets out a moan.

Then I can see a sort of face. It’s a skull.

Fuck it.

I whip open the door and fall through, slamming it behind me.

On the other side I’m lying on the ground. I wait. If he’s nearby, he’s seen me. He’s gonna say something.

But there’s just silence.

He’s already gone.

I double back to the main building, but hide nearby, waiting for him.

It doesn’t take long. He’s bolting through the door, a backpack slung over one shoulder. He’s got a nasty cut on his forehead. His face still a little bloody.

Poor guy.

He’s headed back to the gate and his car.

I head inside and crash in my rack.

I’m wiped.

October 6. 13:14.

I went through the fourth door prepared for that guy to show up again. He must know there was someone else in Ostium. I could tell a few things were slightly off. He’d checked out the place. He knew he wasn’t alone. I’d decided when I woke up that this was the day we were going to meet. On my terms.

I was taken from Ostium to another planet. It was all red and shit, so Mars I was thinking. I took my time looking around at stuff. There were rockets and launch pads outside. Lots of futuristic looking stuff inside. I focused on taking in the details, while inside my mind was going batshit crazy. I was on another fucking planet for crying out loud.

Ostium could take you anywhere.

It was kinda . . . awesome. I was mainly waiting for the guy to show up, as I knew he would. So it gave me a chance to just hang in station, checking out the Martian scenery. Wondering what happened to everyone. Wondering what the point of all this was. Wondering if that black band was going to show up again. I hadn’t seen anything like it on Roanoke.

I was pretty far from the door, but situated so I could see it clearly. I was looking at the window when the guy showed up. I knew he’d arrived because that spooky blackness on the horizon just appeared.

So whatever it was it was tied to that guy somehow.

O-kay.

I kept hidden and secretly followed him as he checked out the place. He geeked out more than I did. I’d kept my shit together; he didn’t. Typical fucking guy. He kept touching and grabbing stuff. He didn’t know what it was. Didn’t he know it could maybe hurt him? The guy wasn’t cautious at all. I sure hoped he didn’t find the goddamn armory. If this place had one.

I decided the time was at hand. That blackness was getting closer. The clock was ticking. And we didn’t have very long. I snuck on ahead, made some noise, and showed myself a few times, letting him chase me, and then hung out at the door, waiting for him.

Finally he made his entrance. What the hell took him so long? He saw me right away. That look on his face was priceless. His mouth actually hung open. I took it as a compliment. If I was going to be stuck in Ostium with one other person, maybe it wasn’t so bad it was this guy.

I gave him a wink and stepped through and closed the door.

I knew his oh-shit-o-meter would be going through the roof and just waited on the other side.

That blackness had been coming on fast.

I started to wonder if it had got him. Consumed him. And that moment in time of nothingness was gone.

The the door opened and he flew through.

He crashed to the ground headfirst.

I grabbed the door to close it. I looked through at the blackness that was reaching for the open doorway. Tendrils breaking off of it, wanting to get through. Midnight fingers. Trying to get across. I saw that ghostly skull again. A white in the blackness.

I slammed the door closed.

The guy was out cold.

No surprise there. As usual, it’s up to the woman to do all the heavy lifting.

I picked him up, grunted, threw him over my shoulder and headed back to my pad.

I dropped him on my bed. Made him snug. Found his blanket. Thought for half a second of taking his pants off . . . To make him comfortable. Of course. But thought better.

And when the young prince finally gets enough beauty sleep, we’ll see what he has to say and what he thinks of yours truly.

[End Credit Music]

 

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