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6. Leaf Peepers
Episode 66th November 2022 • October's Children • ArcanaCast
00:00:00 00:47:09

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CW: Violence, Loud noises, Guns, Descriptions of gore, Smoking and alcohol, Bugs

Ashley interviews various locals about strange goings on and receives a series of interspliced stories: Getting lost in spaces that shouldn't exist, getting abducted by alien bugs, the legend of "the skull-sucker of Wolfbrook" as well as conflicting tales about Mrs. Castellanos's father

Mentioned in this episode:

Hello, my name is Alfie and I’m not quite dead.

I’m Alfie and if you’re listening to this tape I’m probably dead or... Not quite dead, but in a different kind of way, and. Jesus this all sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Not Quite Dead is a new podcast from Pippin Eira Major, creator of Spirit Box Radio and Clockwork Bird, launching Halloween 2022, previewing in the Spirit Box Radio feed on 27th November 2022.

Transcripts

October’s Children

Episode

,:

FADE IN:

Int. of one of the Union Monitor’s spartan interview rooms.

1. Computer beep and recording fuzz.

ASHLEY

Hello! Thank you so much for agreeing to do this one-on-one interview with me. I really appreciate your time. Alright, so, one more time, my name is Ashley Slake—

ASHLEY (CONT’D)

Ashley Slake—

ASHLEY (CONT’D)

Ashley Slake—

ASHLEY (CONT’D)

Ashley Slake—

ASHLEY (CONT’D)

Ashley Slake, and, just for the record, you know you’re being recorded, aaand could you please state your name?

JACK MCKAY, a masculine Scottish tourist in his early twenties.

JACK

Um, sure. Jack Murray.

SOPHIA

Sophia Castellanos.

CONSTANCE SHREWD, feminine, in her early thirties, no particular accent.

CONSTANCE

Constance Shrewd.

EL “SKIP” MAYHEW, a college student.

EL

El Mayhew, but you can call me Skip.

JOHN

John Walters the Third.

ASHLEY

Great! Thank you. Okay, so you’re here because you’re responding to my message about your report. You saw something strange, right?

JACK

Yeah, that’s right.

SOPHIA

I have seen many strange things, dear.

CONSTANCE

Yes, I did.

EL

I mean… more heard about than saw, but yeah, I guess. If you count the dead guy.

JOHN

That’s correct.

ASHLEY

I know what your report to the Union Monitor said, but I’m sure we only have some of the story, and some of the details probably got lost. Could you start from the beginning and tell me the whole story?

JACK

Uh, yeah, okay. Sure. I mean, the short version is: I got lost.

SOPHIA

Very well. I do not know what other people may have seen, or why they never said anything, but to me, I have always thought something was very wrong with the Men in Plaid.

CONSTANCE

You won’t believe me. No one does. Because it sounds insane when I say it, even to me. But…

I was abducted by alien bugs.

EL

I mean, sure, but… look, the first thing to understand is that really there were two dead guys. You never hear about the second one.

JOHN

Technically it was not my report, rather the incident was reported by my father to the police. Family history and civic duty being what they are, however, I am willing to share what I know of the underlying facts of the matter. Lamentable as they may be.

Theme Song and Title Credits, start SECTION 1: JACK

JACK

Normally I have a pretty good sense of direction. That’s not a boast, by the way. Just how it is. North is that way.

2. The rustle of a polyester windbreaker sleeve.

JACK (CONT’D)

The car I’ve rented is two blocks that way—

3. The rustle of a polyester windbreaker sleeve.

JACK (CONT’D)

by the coffee shop. And if you go about five miles that way—

1. The rustle of a polyester windbreaker sleeve.

JACK (CONT’D)

—you’ll hit the empty field where this whole nightmare started.

JACK (CONT’D)

An empty field may not sound like much. And obviously, most of the time, it isn’t. Aren’t that many of them around here, though, are there? Just… trees. Rolling hills, trees, and those stone walls. Someone told me that those were made from the stones taken from the fields, back when this was farming country. More than it is now, I mean. Anyway, I guess they built the walls to mark property boundaries.

JACK (CONT’D)

Makes a lot of sense, you look at it like that. Boundaries. Borders. What are they called… “Liminal Spaces.” Somewhere that’s not quite here, not quite there.

2. The rustle of a polyester windbreaker, the creak as someone leans back in their office chair.

JACK (CONT’D)

See, there was this barn. Shabby old thing, missing boards, barely a lick of paint left

JACK (CONT’D)

on it. I saw it across the field while I was driving by. And the field itself…

It was old. No trees growing in it yet. Not proper ones anyway. But the grass was high. Yellow. This was near sunset, right? So I stop the car when I see this run down barn across the field. Thought it might make a great lead in to an opinion piece. “The Decline of Rural America,” or some such rot. Came across the spot at golden hour, how could I not check it out?

1. The rustle of a polyester windbreaker, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

JACK (CONT’D)

So I pick my way across the field, hoping the layers of insect repellent will keep the ticks off of me. The shadows from the trees that border the field getting longer and longer as the sun slides beneath the horizon. It felt like it took… longer than it should have… to reach the barn.

JACK (CONT’D)

I took out my camera to grab a few shots, and while I was finding the focus for the first picture I saw something half buried in the ground, inside the barn. Can’t really call it a floor, it was mostly dirt and dead weeds. I thought it might have been a baseball.

JACK (CONT’D)

A baseball from a dead American barn. The perfect souvenir.

1. The rustle of a polyester windbreaker, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

JACK (CONT’D)

Except it wasn’t. When I pried it out of the ground, rubbed the dirt off it…

JACK (CONT’D)

It was a skull.

JACK (CONT’D)

A small one.

JACK (CONT’D)

When I figured out what it was, I… panicked, I guess. Dropped the skull and backed away. Stumbled over something, went right through the wall of the barn, rotten boards coming down around me. And that’s…

JACK (CONT’D)

That’s when things started to really get strange.

JACK (CONT’D)

See. Um. I couldn’t find my car? It had gotten dark, fast. It was like the night had just… swallowed the field. Overhead, I remember… I remember I had never seen so many stars in my life. No moon at all, but so many stars. They weren’t our stars,

JACK (CONT’D)

though, if that makes any sense. I couldn’t see a single constellation I knew.

1. The rustle of a polyester windbreaker, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

JACK (CONT’D)

So yeah. I, uh, went looking for my car. And it wasn’t there. Bloody hell, the road wasn’t there. Just… trees. I swear, I must have spent an hour trying to find that fucking car, and there was nothing. The barn was just a shadow, right, a sulking wreck in the dark. And I felt like it… watched me. The whole time.

JACK (CONT’D)

I used it like a landmark. Circled it, walking the tree line, looking for the road. There were… things. In the trees. Up high, staring down at me. I never got a good look at them, but the eyes were… red. Red the color of bloody meat. Wide as saucers. I think. Size was hard to gauge. Anyway. The barn, right? On my third or fourth trip around the field, surrounded by nothing but trees, I looked back at the barn and for just an instant I saw a glimmer of silvery light.

JACK (CONT’D)

Every part of my being was screaming at me to turn and run. Like… down to my bones I wanted to be anywhere else as that building loomed over me under that strange, awful sky. But that light… It was

JACK (CONT’D)

moonlight. Some part of me recognized the one familiar thing in that damn place. So I went closer. Step by step. God, it felt like it took years to get back to the barn. I could feel the things in the trees staring, could feel them jumping on my back, ripping at me with claws like butcher knives, or strangling me with fingers like wires or… I could just feel them.

JACK (CONT’D)

I figured out that I could see the moon, but only if I looked through the hole in the wall I’d made and out the doorway. Literally any other angle, and there were just more of those damn stars, but through that hole… I could smell the musty rot of the place. Had to force myself not to gag as I brushed up against the broken boards. Couldn’t bear to even try to find the skull. Once I was back through the hole in the wall, I heard… wings, maybe. Something from the treeline, anyway. I bolted. I bolted out the door, and across the field, and there, right where it was supposed to be, was the car.

JACK (CONT’D)

I got a speeding ticket driving away. Had me spend the night in jail to “sleep it off” when I told them my story. The next morning I decided to stick with a more plausible version, so, uh. Yeah. Not sure if you heard about a bear attacking a drunk, but that was me, and that’s the actual story of what happened. Can I… uh… is there a… can I just go now? I’d like to

JACK (CONT’D)

get where I’m going before dark. I hate driving at night, now.

SECTION 2: SOPHIA, Beginning with a Recording Transfer Noise

SOPHIA

As you may know, my family moved to Wolfbrook when I was just a little girl. For my father’s work, you see.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

My father… he was a brilliant man. A genius, they said. He had ways of looking at the world that simply… conversations with him were like conversations with no one else. I could talk to him about anything. And I did! And he would settle me on his knee, or on a chair next to him, and light up his pipe, and then stare off, at something I could never… quite see…

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

And then he would start talking. Whatever we were talking about—science, nature, art, music, history—whatever it was would… would blossom, like a flower. Dozens of layers slowly opening, hidden meanings and inner complexities I would never have thought to ask about.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

But that is not what you want to hear about. You… you want to hear about the Men in Plaid.

1. The rustle of a cotton dress, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

This was back during the Cold War, you must remember. I was used to seeing men in suits at the house at all hours, day or night, talking to my father about this, or that, or the other. And sometimes… often… the men in suits had guns, or traveled with soldiers who did. So for me, even when I was young, I was accustomed to such things. Men in suits, the Red Menace, how to duck and cover, all of that… was just how life was, you know? Or maybe… maybe you don’t. You look maybe too young to know.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

One day, though. One day, I still remember, as though it happened yesterday. Or no, as though it is still happening today, and I have simply left the room where it is going on. Yes. More like that.

1. The rustle of a cotton dress, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

My mother had passed on by then, of course, so I was left to myself much of the time. I was alone in my room upstairs, and the sun was coming in through the window. I remember, because I was playing with a doll, making her fly through the dust motes hanging in the air. Star dust, I thought it was. And then I heard the front door.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

I knew what it sounded like when my father returned home, of course. And this sounded…

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

Wrong, somehow. I crept out of my room, and looked down, through the hallway railing. My father was downstairs, pacing back and forth frantically. Like a fish, I thought, when it knows that nets are closing in. I watched him scurry over towards his desk and out of sight. I heard papers thrown everywhere, my father cursing all the while. He ran into the kitchen, then the living room, each time ranting and throwing things, and then… Then I heard a car door slam closed, outside. My father and I both froze.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

I felt someone walk over my grave. You know this saying? That is what I felt. I… knew. I knew that somewhere, sometime, I was laying dead, and that whatever was coming up the walk to the house had something to do with it. The front door opened, then, without a sound. I remember thinking how strange that was. The door had always had a shriek to it, a squeal my father said over and over again he would fix, but he never quite did. Not that time. The Men in Plaid came in without a sound. The door was silent when it opened, their shiny shoes were silent on the linoleum floor—even the birds outside had stopped singing. Total silence, utter and complete. The silence of trauma. The silence of loss.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

You know, I call them men, but only because they were dressed as such. Their smiles

were too wide, with too many teeth. Their bodies, inside their plaid suits, were androgynous. Their eyes were hidden under wide brimmed hats and behind glasses I could not see through. I swear, I never saw them breathe. If I am honest—I am not sure they were human at all, let alone men.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

They approached my father, silent as shadows, and he backed away. Slowly, oh so slowly. I thought my heart would burst in my chest. And yet, somehow, in no time at all they had moved underneath the hall, and I could see them no longer. Not the Men in Plaid. And not my father.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

From somewhere under me, the silence was finally broken, and I heard a wailing howl, a raging torrent of sound. Anger, and hatred, and vicious glee all warped together. An alien sound, and cruel. And I heard my father shouting back, though to this day I do not know what he said.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

I ran. Breath rasping in my throat, I ran to the end of the hall, and down the stairs. I almost broke my neck, falling the last few steps. But I ran on. And then… Then there was a… tone. A note. Like the strings of the largest bass in creation, a

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

thrumming I felt in my bones. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it before it hit me. A wave of force. Or compressed air perhaps? A rippling in the world, like someone had grabbed up the fabric of reality and snapped, like you would a sheet or a dirty rug. The wave caught me up and threw me out the door and into the yard, windows shattering all around, glass flashing by me. I still have the scars.

1. The rustle of a cotton dress, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

You see here? And here?

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

I woke up when a field medic was looking me over. Army men in green, like so many toy soldiers. They swarmed over the place. It was almost a week before I saw my father again.

2. The rustle of a cotton dress, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

SOPHIA (CONT’D)

But that is another story. For a different time.

SECTION 3: CONSTANCE, Beginning with a Recording Transfer Noise

ASHLEY

I’m sorry, what?

CONSTANCE

See? I told you. As soon as you say “I was abducted by alien bugs” people think you’re… “unwell.”

ASHLEY

No, no, I didn’t mean to say that, I was just… surprised, that’s all. Go on. Please.

CONSTANCE

so this was awhile back, now.:

1. The rustle of a leather jacket, tapping of a cigarette box, a lighter flicking. The quiet crackle of a lit cigarette.

ASHLEY

Um, sorry, I don’t think you’re supposed to smoke (in here)—

CONSTANCE

Listen, do you want me to talk to you about the worst fucking thing that’s ever happened to me or not? Because I’m just as happy to leave and get a coffee.

ASHLEY

Er, right, um. Sorry. I’m just going to, ah, crack the window.

1. Chair rattles as it moves, footsteps, window opening.

2. Footsteps, chair rattles.

ASHLEY (CONT’D)

Please, continue.

CONSTANCE

Right, so I’m wandering the woods looking for what ought to be nothing more than a couple of crumbling stone chimneys and maybe half a collapsed foundation. A handful of gravestones, if I was lucky. But you know what I find?

ASHLEY

Um… not… those… things?

CONSTANCE

An entire community. But, like, an entire inhabited community. Looked like a post-apocalyptic nightmare hellscape out of the late sixties. Rusted out teardrop trailers, RVs done up with armor plating made out of scrap, chicken wire everywhere. There was this weird green fog rolling in, and then I spotted people in rags and gasmasks peering at me from windows. Finding this too fucking creepy for words, I headed back into the woods, and that is when I found the hive.

ASHLEY

Of alien bugs?

CONSTANCE

Damn skippy of alien bugs. The hive itself looked… I mean, I could only see the very tip of it from the outside.

1. Takes a drag on the cigarette.

CONSTANCE (CONT’D)

As much a cave as anything else, but it sort of felt like a termite mound or something? Anyway, I’m trying to get away from the green fog and the hill folk in gas masks because, you know, I don’t want to be eaten, and this thing jumps out of the entrance of the hive. It’s… the size of a linebacker, maybe, but it looks like a cross between a beetle and one of those things in the movies with Sigourney Weaver? Yeah. Like that.

2. The rustle of a leather jacket, a drag on the cigarette.

CONSTANCE (CONT’D)

So I start screaming bloody murder, and this thing just picks me up by my leg like I’m a doll. It spews this webbing or goo or some shit all over me, then starts dragging me into the hive, and I can see dozens of tunnels branching off into the dark. I figure ‘Well, guess this is how I die, done up like a fucking halfing by a giant spider.’ And then there is the sound. This fucking sound.

3. Takes a drag on the cigarette.

CONSTANCE (CONT’D)

Lemme tell you, you never forget your first minigun.

ASHLEY

I’m sorry, what?

CONSTANCE

Yep. One second I’m hanging by my ankle about to be bugfood or worse, next second the bug gets blown apart. I mean, like, shattered by a hail of bullets, acid blood spraying everywhere, and I look over and there is this absolute bear of a man standing there with a fucking minigun. Barrels still spinning. Dude was like, six eight, six nine, built like a tank and wearing PMC armor and colors.

ASHLEY

PMC?

CONSTANCE

Private Military Contractor. Mercenaries. Anyway, this stone cold motherfucker looks at me, and I can see him doing the math. Like… I’m watching the gears turn in his brain, “No witnesses,” “Murder Isn’t Cool,” etc. Back and forth. Eventually he just shakes his head, like I should get out of there before he changes his mind. So I fuckin’ do, believe you me. I bolt, tearing off my jacket while I do (I mean, the thing was covered in acid blood and smoking, you know?) And just when I’m about out of earshot, the dude says “Watch out for the Reptilians. They called in this op.”

ASHLEY

Reptilians.

1. The rustle of a leather jacket, a drag on the cigarette.

CONSTANCE

Yeah, but that’s a different story. Hey, do you have anything alcoholic around here?

SECTION 4: EL, Beginning with a Recording Transfer Noise

EL

So like I said, mostly I heard about this. I mean until I saw it. Sorry, that might be confusing.

1. The rustle of clothes, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

EL

Every college has their traditions, right? Well, one of Wolfbrook Community’s for incoming students is a night in the state park. And, like all good community building expeditions that vaguely border on slasher movie material, part of the trip is telling scary stories around a campfire late at night. You ever hear about… the Skullsucker?

ASHLEY

I… can’t say that I have.

EL

Right. No reason you should have. It’s a ridiculous story made up to scare first years, passed down through the ranks of a community college in Nowhere, New Hampshire. There are two things that set it apart from every other story like it: one, it’s been around for at least fifty years, near as I can tell, and two, it’s true.

ASHLEY (Noncommittally)

Okay.

EL

Yeah, that’s what I said. The story goes like this, more or less: there’s a monster. Or a mad scientist. Or a demon, whatever, depends on who’s telling it. So this monster or whatever skulks around the

EL (CONT’D)

skirts of Wolfbrook, right? Sometimes it looks like person, sometimes a bit like a giant mosquito, sometimes it’s an alien, so where exactly it lives and how it avoids detection is anybody’s guess. Anyway.

1. The rustle of clothes, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

EL (CONT’D)

The bottom line is this: there is something in Wolfbrook that cracks open people’s skulls and eats their brains.

ASHLEY (Noncommittally)

And it’s been doing this for fifty years.

EL

At least, yes.

ASHLEY (Mildly Curious)

And you saw it?

EL

No. But… Autumn of my second year, right? I’d pretty much forgotten about the story like everybody else. A friend and I were walking along the river at night and we see somebody sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree. Dunno if you’ve ever been here in the late fall, but it can get cold. Like “die of hypothermia a lot faster than you might think” cold, especially if you're drunk and alone, which, you know, welcome to small towns with shitty infrastructure and nothing to do. So my friend and I go to check on this person. They were just sitting there, and I remember getting worried. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized—I couldn’t see their breath.

1. The rustle of clothes, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

EL (CONT’D)

We start kinda freaking out at that point. We’re yelling at the person, “Hey, buddy, you ok?” and all that kinda stuff. I go over, and I shake them on the shoulder, see if I can wake’em up. And…

EL (CONT’D)

And their head flopped down, away from the tree. It, like… peeled away, leaving these stringers of blood and brain dangling on the bark on the trunk. Where the back of their skull shoulda been? A hole, maybe an inch across.

2. The rustle of clothes, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

EL (CONT’D)

So that’s about the time when we started screaming. Like, really screaming. My friend’s wondering about CPR and stuff, and I’m yelling about how they had no fucking brain, and, you know, normal stuff. And then there’s this light. We just about shit our respective pants. Pantses? We were very surprised. Because there’s this flashlight, right? Shining at us, directly in the eyes.

3. The rustle of clothes, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

EL (CONT’D)

That shut us up pretty quick, actually. Turned out, flashlight guy had been doing some repair work on a drainage tunnel by the river or something, I dunno. That’s what he

EL (CONT’D)

said, anyway. He looked kinda like a construction worker, but like… not a real construction worker. Like a construction worker from a pin up calendar or something? Handsome and immaculately clean, but in coveralls and stuff. Once he got us calmed down, he asked what was wrong, and we just kind of… gestured. I mean, then we started babbling in terror, but you get the idea. So did he. He nodded and told us to go to the closest academic building and call the police while he stuck around to see if there was anything he could do.

1. The rustle of clothes, the creak as someone shifts in their office chair.

EL (CONT’D)

I’ve always sort of wondered about that. Why we left, I mean. We could have called from the spot, but the construction guy just seemed to know what he was doing. Like, he wasn’t freaked out at all. So we went. Called the cops. Of course, they never found anything. No body, no blood and brains stuck to a tree. No construction worker. It wasn’t until the third or fourth round of questioning by the police, when they had the K-9 unit brought in and we were supposed to be leading them to the spot that I realized…I hadn’t been able to see the construction worker’s breath either.

SECTION 5: JOHN, Beginning with a Recording Transfer Noise

JOHN

Are you acquainted with Mrs. Sophia Castellanos?

ASHLEY

Yes. Yes, I am. She’s very nice.

JOHN

She is, at that. You are also aware of her… condition?

ASHLEY

I mean… I know she gets confused sometimes?

JOHN

Confused. Yes. That is perhaps as good a term as any. What you may not be aware of are the circumstances leading up to her… confusion.

ASHLEY

It’s not… organic?

JOHN

I cannot hazard a guess as to an official diagnosis. I am not a doctor. However, what I can tell you is that, according to my father, Mrs. Castellanos’s circumstances were not always as they are now, and, rather, were the result of a specific event which has yet to be fully investigated.

ASHLEY

Do you mean fully ‘explained?’

JOHN

I do not.

ASHLEY

Right.

JOHN

Tell me: do you know much about Sophia’s father?

ASHLEY

Not a lot. Some kind of government scientist, I think. Sounds like he was a good father?

JOHN

That could very well be true. I believe it is also true that he murdered his wife, and that the erosion of Sophia’s faculties is a direct result of her witnessing the crime.

ASHLEY

Oh my god!

JOHN

Quite.

ASHLEY

She’s never said anything like that!

JOHN

It is entirely possible she does not remember. As I said, it was my father’s belief that she never fully recovered after the incident. In fact, it is possible she does not know.

ASHLEY

But…how? And why wouldn’t anyone have told her? Heck, why hasn’t anyone told me before now?

JOHN

Remember: it is my position that the murder was never properly investigated. You mentioned that Sophia’s father was a scientist that worked for the government. That much is at least partially true, as my father attested to me.

ASHLEY

So, wait—why would your dad know about any of this, anyway?

JOHN

He was also a witness.

ASHLEY

What?!

JOHN

Late in life—I would not call it a death bed confession, though it was a near enough thing—my father explained that when he was a younger man he had seen Sophia’s father kill her mother. My father had reported this to the police, but from what he could tell, no investigation was ever officially undertaken. Though he did see members of the armed forces stop in at the Castellanos house from time to time. To me, this sounds to be some sort of cover up, though I am loath to bandy about such terms. I own a car dealership, I am not some sort of spy from a tawdry novel.

ASHLEY

This is… a lot. Uh. Thank you for telling me.

JOHN

It seemed proper to inform an inquisitive journalist with a fresh perspective. Perhaps you will be able to shine a light on the subject after all these years.

ASHLEY

Yeah. Wow. This could be a really big deal. Like, make my career big… I mean, it’s not as weird as some of the things I’ve heard today, but…wow.

JOHN

I do happen to know one story of the outré.

ASHLEY

But that’s a story for another time?

JOHN

No. I could tell you now, if you would like.

ASHLEY

Oh! Yeah, sure! That’d be great.

JOHN

Very well. My grandfather, my father’s father, was a soldier who served in the Second World War. At one point, as the war ground on, he was stationed in a very old city in western Europe. It came to pass that he and his unit were cut off from the rest of the army, and they were in the very unfortunate position of having to defend themselves and the local population against both attacks by enemy soldiers and sabotage by collaborators and turncoats.

ASHLEY

That sounds awful!

JOHN

One would assume. Nonetheless, one can grow accustomed to anything, or so my grandfather said. He and his men patrolled the city each night, and for a few days, it seemed that they were in a relatively stable position. One night, however, one of the patrols failed to return from their rounds. My grandfather took a handful of volunteers to look for them and found their remains. They had been crushed. Not shot, or stabbed, or hit by an explosion. Crushed. As though they had been assaulted

JOHN (CONT’D)

with sledgehammers, or mauls.

ASHLEY

Sledgehammers plural?

JOHN

Yes. My grandfather described coming across a scene of devastation in a dark alleyway. Bones pulverized by immense force. Flesh reduced to jelly and smeared across the stones of the old city. Heads pulped.

ASHLEY

That’s horrible.

JOHN

The attacks continued on a nightly basis. At dusk, the patrols would head out. At dawn, my grandfather would find that one patrol had been utterly, silently, destroyed. He did find a pattern to the attacks, however.

ASHLEY

A skill I have yet to master.

JOHN

What?

ASHLEY

Nothing, sorry, go on.

JOHN

Eventually, my grandfather triangulated the attacks to a dilapidated, squalid quarter, old even by the standards of the city. He led a patrol there himself, assisted only by a pair of locals. The three of them spent the night hunting for the mysterious assailant and were, eventually, successful.

ASHLEY

What did they find?

JOHN

A monster. There is no other word for it. Hulking and brutish, with fists that could rend steel. My grandfather said it had skin that was sometimes like stone, sometimes like mud. Either way, it waded through gunfire unharmed, and shrugged away terrible blows from knives and axes. An abominable fury lurked in the pits of its eyes. It was by luck as much as skill that my grandfather was able to use an excavator to take the top of the thing’s head clean off. It seems even monsters need their heads to live, as my grandfather said the thing turned to dust after that.

ASHLEY

Wow. That is… that is a heck of a story.

JOHN

It appears to be true and accurate, from what research I have been able to conduct.

ASHLEY

I would love to take a look at your research.

JOHN

Perhaps another time. Obviously I do not carry such things with me.

ASHLEY

Of course. Well, um. On behalf of grateful citizens everywhere, I’d like to thank your grandfather for his service.

JOHN

Ah. I think, perhaps, there has been a misunderstanding. My grandfather was a ranking officer in the Wehrmacht.

1. The rustle of a nice suit.

JOHN (CONT’D)

Goodness, look at the time. I am afraid I must leave. There is an appointment that requires my attention at the dealership. I hope I have been able to help in some small way. Good luck with your investigations. I will see myself out.

2. Chair moves, person stands up. Footsteps. Office door opens, office door closes.

ASHLEY

I think I’m going to be sick.