JAKE: Come in. Hi.
MONICA: Hi. Did you get enough sleep?
JAKE: Er . . . Yeah. I think so. What time is it?
MONICA: It’s Sunday, October 7th. Ten-twenty hours.
MONICA: Oh, sorry. Slipped into my military speak there. It’s twenty after ten. You’ve been asleep for over 21 hours.
JAKE: Holy shit?! Really?
MONICA: Yep. Guess you needed some shut-eye.
JAKE: Ahh, yeah. It’s been a . . . Tough couple of days.
MONICA: I’m Monica.
JAKE: Good to meet you. I’m Jake. Hey, how do you know about this place? About . . . Ostium?
MONICA: Look. Jake. Here’s what I think we should do. Why don’t you take some time to get fully awake. I’ve made voice recording entries for the last six days on everything that’s happened to me. From where I was before to here. Ostium. You give that a listen and I’ll round up some grub and strong hot tea. How would that treat ya?
JAKE: That sounds . . . amazing. I . . . I also keep a voice recording thingy. I use my phone. Actually, in the interests of full disclosure: I’m recording our conversation right now with said phone. But it might be easier just to get it from my iPad. I’ve uploaded everything online. We get wifi here, you know?
MONICA: Yeah, I noticed. The good old Ostium network, always dependable. Better than Comcast.
JAKE: Yeah. Plus, you’ll help my hit count.
JAKE: Er . . . It was a joke. I meant the number of people listening to my voice posts. It’s called a hit count. Here’s my iPad.
MONICA: Okay. You start listening. I’ll work on our sustenance and give your site a listen.
MONICA: Tea and grub is up. I haven’t heard my yakking in a while, so I figure you’re done. Or maybe it put you to sleep? Let’s eat in the main room. There’s more floor space.
MONICA: You gonna record us eating too?
JAKE: Oh. Heh. No. Sorry.
~ ~ ~
JAKE: Wow, that was good. A meal fit for a king.
MONICA: Don’t get used to it, buster. I’m not the stay at home wife type.
JAKE: Er . . . Yeah. I didn’t mean. You see . . . It was really good. I feel a lot better now. And I’m not much of a tea drinker, but this brew is really hitting the spot. Hot and strong, with a good dose of caffeine. I’ve been on intravenous coffee for the last few days, in vast amounts. It’s a . . . Welcome change.
MONICA: Good. So that was pretty smart. How you discovered Ostium.
JAKE: Thanks. It was kind of an accident. But once I saw it . . . It was like it wouldn’t let go. Like someone had cast a fishing line and the hook had sunk in deep. Fortunately it was a metaphorical hook.
JAKE: Sorry. I was just being a little weird. I was just being . . . Me.
MONICA: O-kay. So anyway, you’ve seen a lot. Experienced a lot. Gone through a lot.
JAKE: Yeah . . . It’s been overwhelming, to say the least. I’m still processing it all. I think if I were to go back home right now and just slot back into my normal life for a week, I still wouldn’t be able to process anything.
MONICA: So you’re thinking of leaving Ostium?
JAKE: What? No! Absolutely not. Remember the fishing hook? I can’t leave. I won’t leave. I don’t want to leave. There’s so much here. I’ve seen so much, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I know there’s so much more.
MONICA: There sure is. So what did you think of my side of the story?
JAKE: So . . . You really think I’m cute?
JAKE: Why are you laughing?
MONICA: You’re such a fucking typical guy. Homo erectus right there.
JAKE: Wait. What?
MONICA: You discover a secret, hidden, abandoned town that has doors that transport you to different points in time. Then you find another person who knows about the town and has been going through the same thing. And you hear my story. And the point you fixate on is the one time I mentioned your cute.
JAKE: Huh. Yeah. Well . . . I’ve been very much on my own the last few days. And you suddenly show up and you’re . . . Well, you’re beautiful. And you did say I was “damn cute.”. And . . . I’m not really helping myself here, am I?
MONICA: Oh no. You go on. Dig yourself deeper. Confirm what every girl thinks every guy commenter online is really thinking.
JAKE: Er . . . I’m sorry. I’ve been alone. Inside my head for too long. How about we start this over.
MONICA: Sounds good. What did you think of my story?
JAKE: It was fascinating.
MONICA: Much better.
JAKE: You’re really military?
MONICA: Ex-military now.
JAKE: Oh yeah. With the whole AWOL thing.
MONICA: Yeah. Thanks for rubbing it in.
JAKE: Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean . . .
MONICA: I’m just fucking with ya, Jake. I’m done with that place. Moving on to bigger and better things, right?
JAKE: I feel like I only got part of your story. With your voice recordings. You covered the last few days. But you only really hinted at how you found out about Ostium. What led you here? How did you discover Ostium?
MONICA: Very astute Jake. I’m impressed. My estimation of your intelligence is going up.
JAKE: Thank you. I try.
MONICA: How are you for tea? This is going to be a longish story. You want some more?
JAKE: I’m okay for now. How about you get started and then we’ll take a break when we need one.
MONICA: Sounds like a plan. Look at that. We’re already working together so well.
JAKE: I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
JAKE: It’s . . . It’s a quote from . . .
MONICA: I got it Jake. I’m just fucking with you again. You’re going to have to keep an eye out for it. It’s kinda my schtick. People have hated me for it.
JAKE: Okay. I’ll . . . I’ll be on my guard.
MONICA: Now you’re getting it. So . . . I guess I’ll start at the beginning. The beginning for Ostium. My beginning you’ll have to hear about another day. And I’ll want to hear about your turbulent history then too.
JAKE: Yeah. We’ll do that. I’ll talk about all the skeletons in my closet.
MONICA: Ooooh. Intriguing. So Ostium began for me about six months ago.
MONICA: Ostium first got picked up on a satellite image. According to the records, this very spot had been photographed a couple of times since the satellites up there started looking at us down here. It was just some random imaging. Nothing specifically being searched for. I was just scanning through them. It was sorta part of my assignment, and sorta me just messing around. Eating up work time until it was the next guy’s turn.
JAKE: Where was this? On a base? A secret compound?
MONICA: I’m sorry Jake. That’s classified.
JAKE: But you said you were done . . . Wait. Is this you fucking with me again?
MONICA: You’re catching on real fast, Jake. I like that. It’s a base. Kinda secret. Not a lot of people know it’s there. I could give you the coordinates, but I don’t think that would do much for you?
JAKE: No. Not really.
MONICA: So let’s just say it’s kinda in the middle of Mendocino County. Kinda far from here, but not too much. A decent distance so that say someone leaving that base could make it here in time before they totally lost their fucking mind.
MONICA: So up to this point the imaging was just showing lots of forest. Trees as far as the eye could see. Inland Southern California is all deserts and flatlands. Inland Northern California is all trees and hills. And then I saw Ostium. Just like you did. It was during an overnight shift. Like one or two in the AM. I stopped on an image and saw this entire town. And I was like: what the fuck? I tagged it and put it aside, and moved on. Looking at other images. But there was only the one that had Ostium on it. It was an aerial view, overlooking the entire town. I could tell right away it was different. And that wall.
MONICA: It goes all around in one big circle.
JAKE: Like a medieval fortified village.
MONICA: Yessiree, Bob.
JAKE: Name’s Jake.
JAKE: So what was so different about it?
MONICA: It looked so planned. Like someone picked this spot for a town, drew up the design, along with the high wall, and then built the fucking thing. The streets. The buildings. The space in the northern half of the town. It all looks set up. Unnatural. No sense of the fluid growth of a town.
JAKE: Like it was strategically orchestrated for a specific purpose.
MONICA: Yep. The question is had this place always been deadsville or is that a more recent event?
MONICA: Population. Zero.
JAKE: Oh. Right.
MONICA: It has the feel of one of those factory towns. Or commuter towns. There for one job. An exact population to serve whatever industry is nearby.
JAKE: But there’s nothing near here. It’s the middle of nowhere.
MONICA: Exactly. Which is why I think we’re the first two residents of Ostium.
JAKE: But then who stocked the kitchen with all those canned goods.
MONICA: Oh that. I can explain that. Let me get back to my story. But first I need a refill on my tea.
MONICA: I gave my superior a full report on what I’d discovered. I put the request in for a series of images over a number of days. That way we could tell if there was any activity going on down there or here, rather. As I’m sure you know, there wasn’t a sign of anything. My boss had a lot on his plate – like he always does – and decided on some initial aerial reconnaissance and then one person dispatched to check it out.
JAKE: I bet you really wanted to be that person.
MONICA: You betcha. But my boss is a boss. Which means he’s an asshole. Especially when it comes to women in the military. Add to that his dislike for anyone who’s skin color is different from his. You kinda get the picture. He ordered me to keep my eyes glued to the screen. And keep my delectable hiney in the chair. So I got to watch everything happening. Aerial reconnaissance picked up some fancier photos. More details. High-res. Lots of glossy color. But that was about it. Nothing really useful. I sure did enjoy poring over them though. Got a pretty damn good mental map of the town now. My memory’s sharp . . . Not as good as you’re photographic one.
MONICA: So I got to watch the whole game from the sidelines. The lucky man got dropped within five miles of Ostium. He was picked up three days later from the same L-Z. He gave his report to my boss. And I got no trickle-down info. Fortunately, we’re good friends – he’s cute too, you know – and gave me the lowdown. For those three days he never set foot in Ostium. It was all about checking the scene from the outside. Observing. Noting any activity.
JAKE: Of which there was none.
MONICA: Bingo. He said he was pretty fucking bored. Especially since the gate was unlocked and just waiting for someone to come in. He made it clear that as dullsville as the place seemed, he needed to go into Ostium just to be sure. He planned to go for another three days and then get back in contact after that and assess. When I said goodbye to him before he left, it was the last time I ever saw him.
JAKE: What was his name?
MONICA: Steve. We all started getting real busy with other projects. But since nothing had happened in Ostium yet, and Steve hadn’t seen a thing to be concerned about, everything just went along normally. I got moved onto other things and had to get my info third and fourth hand. He’d gotten in touch after three days, said he found something, wasn’t sure what but needed more time. He also put in an order for a specific list of supplies. Whoever was overseeing Steve’s project gave the okay without a second thought. His mind must’ve been on other projects. And because Steve hadn’t said anything was going south, no one batted an eye. I didn’t find this out until after the fact. But he got his supplies in a few days.
JAKE: The canned goods? All the stuff in the kitchen?
MONICA: You have Steve to thank for that.
JAKE: And I bet his hair was smooth and silky?
MONICA: I don’t know about that. But I know he cared about his dandruff, which is why it had to be Head & Shoulders.
JAKE: It all makes sense now.
MONICA: No! It doesn’t.
JAKE: What do you mean?
MONICA: Let me finish the story.
MONICA: After getting the supplies, he was due to check in a week later. The supplies were obviously for much longer, but it was expected after that week, unless he found out something worth investigating, he’d be brought back and that’d be the end of it. Well, that day came and went. There was no further communication with Steve. Days passed and still nothing. My boss heard about it all and finally decided to pay attention. He sent a team of five out there to investigate. The rumors were that he’d gone AWOL. I really wanted to be part of that team, but once again my boss wanted to keep my boots at the base and nowhere near Ostium. I did get put in charge of helping facilitate the planned rescue mission and handled all the communications. Like Steve, the team was dropped a few miles from Ostium. Early in the AM. They spent the day first doing reconnaissance, then the rest of the day inside the town. They didn’t find a single sign of Steve or any sign of anything going on in Ostium. That night the team was pulled out and brought back. In the debriefing when each member was asked what they thought had happened to Steve, they all said he went AWOL. But I didn’t believe it for a second.
JAKE: He wasn’t the running away type?
MONICA: He went inside Ostium. And then he ran away? How much sense do you think that makes?
MONICA: He obviously found this place and stocked everything. He had the map table to work with. But we each made one of those numbers turn gold by bringing something back from those times. But he didn’t. Still. He was a smart guy. He must’ve worked it out. Maybe something happened when he went through that door to Roanoke?
JAKE: Maybe . . . Maybe that blackness came and he didn’t make it back in time. It got him.
MONICA: Well I’m not going to sleep tonight. Thanks for that. I need more tea.
MONICA: So they dropped it. Kind of forgot about him, which really pissed me off. They notified a bunch of people to be on the lookout for him. But as far as they were concerned he was out of sight, out of mind. Moving on now.
JAKE: You cared a lot about him. Didn’t you?
MONICA: I did. I didn’t realize how much until he was gone. But we hung out a lot and got along really well. If we hadn’t met on base, but somewhere else, we mighta had something. I was now somewhere I didn’t want to be. And I had somewhere I needed to be. I made my plan. Looked for the right moment. Got a few supplies. Snuck off base. And made my way here.
JAKE: And you found it pretty easily?
MONICA: Negative. It did take me a while. My recordings offer a shortened version. But I’d been studying the location since they put me on the project and finding shit in the middle of nowhere is part of my training.
JAKE: Do you think he’s here. Somewhere in Ostium?
MONICA: I don’t know. Where else can he be?
JAKE: Your boss is probably looking for you too, huh?
MONICA: By my estimate, they could be coming through the gate at any moment. I’ve been comforting myself that they’re thinking I’m following in Steve’s footsteps. Which I am, but if I’m AWOL too, I could be anywhere. So it’s going to require searching a lot of areas. Ostium is definitely going to be one of them.
JAKE: Okay. That means we need to be prepared.
MONICA: And other than keeping our eyes peeled, keeping a constant watch, what’re you thinking?
JAKE: Wait a second. If I was sleeping on your bed for all those hours, where were you sleeping?
MONICA: I have this uncanny, superhero ability to be able to sleep on anything. Even if it’s the hard cold floor. Doesn’t bother me.
JAKE: You slept on the floor . . . All night?
MONICA: Nah. I caught a few hours of shut-eye. But I was walking around. Reconning. Bivouacking. Circumventing. Military shit like that. I’ve been waiting for the sound of marching boots coming through the gate since yesterday. I’m a little on edge. Hence all that damn tea.
JAKE: Cheers. I need to stretch my legs. And think. Did it freak you out when you put the figurine on the map table?
MONICA: Kinda. It also felt right. And that was immediately comforting, so I wasn’t that affected by it. Like things were lining up like they’re supposed to. I’ve felt that way since I set foot in this place. Like it’s a place I was always destined to reach. And now I’m here and it all feels right.
JAKE: Oooh, mystical.
MONICA: Fuck you.
JAKE: No, I’m sorry. I know exactly what you mean. It’s felt the same for me too. It’s why I keep coming back. It’s got this magnetic pull. Because we’re supposed to be here . . .
MONICA: Now who’s being mystical? You’re even talking all new-agey.
JAKE: Number one. Door number one.
MONICA: What about it?
JAKE: It’s black on the map.
MONICA. Yes . . . All the numbers on the map are black.
JAKE: Except two and three. Because of what we did.
MONICA: Spit it out braniac.
JAKE: We each brought something back from Roanoke and the Mary Celeste. So we still need to do something for number one to turn it gold like the other two.
MONICA: Oh shit.
MONICA: So what the hell do we do?
JAKE: Fuck if I know.
MONICA: We could try coins? Each put a coin on the number.
JAKE: I don’t think so. It’s not right.
JAKE: Because that’s something from the outside. This needs to be from us in here. From Ostium. How do we do that?
MONICA: Well . . . Why don’t we just touch it. Together. At the same time.
JAKE: Sounds good to me.
JAKE: You know, I don’t think it’s . . . Wait.
MONICA: Holy shit.
JAKE: It’s working. I can feel it. And I can see . . . Oh my god.
MONICA: The number’s gold now. I think we can take our fingers off it.
JAKE: Yeah. Okay. Did . . . Did you see something. In your head.
JAKE: It was Ostium. Wasn’t it.
JAKE: I saw it all. There was so much detail. Like watching an HD movie. Ultra HD. And I could zoom in and see the doors and the numbers. Like an awesome computer game.
MONICA: Did you zoom in to the gates?
JAKE: No. I didn’t.
MONICA: Do it.
MONICA: Do it now. You still have the ability.
JAKE: I do? I do! What is that.
MONICA: That my friend is the cavalry. They’ve arrived. And they’re coming in.
[End Credit Music]