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The Beacon Jar Podcast
30 minutes | Feb 14, 2019
The captain of a deep space freighter stumbles upon the salvage of several lifetimes. Credits: Narrated by Rebecca Gambino-Harris Written and produced by Doryen Chin ----more---- Music: "They Call It Nature" "Raise Your Hand If You Think Evil Is Increasing in This World" "I Used to Need the Violence" "Last Night I Dreamt I Saw True Love in Your Eyes" by Chris Zabriskie Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ "Awaiting Return" "Departure - Ghostpocalypse" "Echoes of Time v2" "Heartbeat of the Hood" "Lightless Dawn" "Magic Forest" "New Direction" "Thunder Dreams" "Tranquility" "With The Sea" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ "Sad Past" by Silent Partner https://soundcloud.com/silentpartnermusic Transcript: My name is Evelyn Parr. The date is December 29th, 1484. I've been an operator for T.K.I. for eight wake-years. For the last three, I've run internetwork shipping lanes through colonial systems. Primarily towing petroleum barges and the like. My operational record and qualifications aside, I've passed every single quarterly C.T. scan, amyloid screening, and telomere checkup with flying colors. So let there be no doubt whatsoever that I am of sound mind, regardless of what you may think after hearing this report. --- I was on a wake cycle returning from Chiron. I'd already checked all the Trident's operational systems. It was nearly time to go back on ice when we picked up the signal. By "we" I mean me... And my ship. Long-range scanners detected an A.S.O.S - automated distress beacon. Per Network contract, I was obligated to respond under penalty of forfeit. --- When you pick up any sort of distress call, the system is designed to make sure you know. They say it's because the company "values every human life," but we all know the odds of live rescue out here in the black. --- The alarm came out of nowhere. I was doing last-minute spot checks on my crasket -- cryogenic sleeping pod -- when all of a sudden there's this odd... rumbling sensation in my chest. The cabin goes black. Emergency lights come on. Klaxons ringing in my ears. And it startles me so bad I bust my head on a railing. I climb over to the nearest terminal. It's flashing an all-hands bulletin. "S.O.S. detected. Procedural intercept in progress." That rumbling I felt was the inertial dampers straining against the main engines. The Trident was already en-route to answer the call. --- When I got to the bridge, I disabled the alarm and checked the sit-rep. Depending how far off this thing was, I might've had to go back into cryo for several weeks before we even reached it. I couldn't believe it when I saw that we only had six hours until intercept. Six hours. Something that close would be well-inside visual range. Do you know what the odds are? Astronomical is... an understatement. --- The Trident had a periscope. I never used it. I forgot it was even there. But, apparently when the Salvage Protocols kick in, the periscope automatically deploys and orients straight to the source. I could barely make out the object, even at full zoom. A pale fleck drifting against the endless void. An escape pod. Not much more than a crasket. --- The rendezvous would be done by remote. A repair drone would deploy, fly out to the pod, then guide it straight into the Trident's path as we fly by. That way we don't waste any fuel trying to match its velocity. --- I consulted the Protocol Binder and refreshed myself on the recovery procedures. First, the recovered article -- in this case an escape pod -- must be checked for known contaminants. Radiation, toxic materials, and biological hazards. Then the interior of the pod would be slowly warmed up to room temperature. This allows any hidden or dormant biological contaminants to show themselves. If the pod is clear, recovery begins. If the pod is contaminated, we push it out to a safe distance and neutralize it with an asymmetric nuclear charge. --- A little after eighteen hundred hours, the repair drone successfully docked the pod to the Trident. --- I couldn't find any record of the pod's serial number in the T.K.I. database. But, there was a name painted on the side of the power-cell. "Rode Kruis." Whatever it as, it wasn't commercial. --- Dimensions of the pod were about 25 cubic meters. Most of the bulk was taken up by the power cell. Bio scans showed one living creature. A person. This meant the chances of a valuable recovery were slim. It also meant I'd be sharing my life support, water, and nutrients with another person for the foreseeable future. --- Halfway through the scan, the Trident detected a foreign biological substance on the pod. It appeared to be contained to a small area. Something no bigger than a suitcase. Just as I was about to turn the key to terminate the recovery, the system disabled my access. Locked me out. Apparently, it didn't see the foreign bio-mat as a threat. I was... Unimpressed with that assessment. --- The Trident's medical systems took over control of the pod and began a thorough checkup of its inhabitant. Whatever it was the sensors picked up on that pod, I didn't trust it, and I needed to ensure the safety of both myself and my cargo. --- Locked out of the recovery system, I could attempt to bypass it and force the Trident to undock the pod. But even if I succeeded, I could lose my license. However, as captain of the Trident, I had the power to arrest and interrogate any individuals which present a reasonable threat to myself, my crew, or company assets. Therefore, acting within my full rights as a contractor for T.K.I. under the laws and jurisdiction of the Colonial Alliance, I pursued the only course of action available to me. I woke them up. --- From the medical bay, I was able to access the crasket controls and perform an emergency override. A face appeared on the tiny monitor. A woman, barely in her twenties. As she came out of cryo-sleep, her breath began to fog the glass lid of the crasket. I switched on the intercom and went to pour myself some coffee while I waited for her to come to. --- As I returned, I could hear her voice, calling out for help. Coffee in hand, I pressed the talk button and told her it was alright, that she had been rescued. She breathed a sigh of relief and smiled into the camera. Then she asked if I could come let her out of the crasket. I told her that I'd do that as soon as I could, but I needed to clear some things up first. Standard procedure. She said she understood. I told her that while running safety scans, the Trident picked up an unidentified biological substance on her pod, and asked her if she knew anything about it. A look of panic washed over her face, and before she could answer my question, our conversation was interrupted by a red alert from the Trident -- just before the power cut out completely. --- The engineers say it was a solar flare, but there was nothing in the forecasts about any dangerous weather in the region. No other ships in nearby systems have reported any issues on or around that time. --- I waited patiently for the emergency systems to come online. But they never did. --- If the backups weren't coming on, that most likely meant that the fuses had popped from an overload. I'd have to manually reset them one by one. --- When you spend such a long time on a ship by yourself, its interior becomes as familiar to you as your childhood bedroom. --- I groped in the darkness of the medical bay and felt my way toward engineering without much difficulty. I quickly descended into the bowels of the Trident until finally I found what I was looking for. But when I checked the fuse controllers, I discovered that none of them had been tripped. The primary systems all remained firmly in the 'on' position. Same story with the backups. I knew that I must've been mistaken, so I fumbled around until I found an emergency torch. That's when I knew I was in trouble. Whatever killed the Trident, had apparently knocked out every single electronic circuit on board. Right down to the flashlights. --- It took me a little while to calm down from the panic. The Trident was a dead hulk. Floating through space at sub-relativistic speeds. Fourteen clicks from the nearest outpost. I couldn't even put up a distress beacon. My crasket had its own power supply, but if the torch was any indication, it was likely nonfunctional as well. --- I was right. --- Eventually, I remembered the girl in the escape pod. I thought about her, cold and alone, trapped in a dead crasket, not knowing what was going on. Rescued from cryo-sleep only to be entombed alive. I... I almost didn't... I thought, "what would be the point?" Even if I got her out of there, she'd still die. We both would. But... I couldn't let her die alone. --- I took my tool kit down to the docking bay and that's when I see a light. There was a light, shining through the hatch window on the docking port. Having become fully accustomed to total darkness, it stung my eyes to look at it. I could see the fog of my breath puffing out in front of me as I pulled myself along the handrails toward it. Up close it was plain to see. Somehow... Miraculously... The pod still had power. --- The pod hatch was so crusted with interstellar grime that my spanner nearly snapped cracking it open. The air inside was stale. Metallic. Vintage tech. Sunbleached and brittle. Back then they still used actual plastic. --- The pod's systems woke up on my approach. Little fans whirred to life, storage units chattering. But the crasket was dark. Its glass fogged by grime and condensation. I suddenly realized I had no idea how long it had been since the power went out. If the trident was still in control of the crasket when it did... --- I stared at it. Guilt dragging on my gut. My hands were shaking so bad I had a hard time popping the latch on the lid. But I didn't close my eyes. If my chickenshit behavior had
14 minutes | Dec 18, 2018
Snowed in and cutoff from the world, a trapper and his wife cling to hope while their son slowly succumbs to an unsettling ailment. Credits: Narrated by Soren Narnia Written and produced by Doryen Chin Sensitivity Reader: Katie Anna Ellis ----more---- "Magic Forest" "Medusa" "Long Note Two" "Unseen Horrors" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ [content warning: missing child, animal death, child death, mild gore, unreality] Transcript: Note: The audio you will hear is slightly altered from the text below, but the transcript is accurate for most purposes. EYES by Doryen Chin My name is Amos Mockbee. I do not know what is to become of my family. It has been five years since I took purchase of a homestead in the eastern reaches of the Coconino territories. The land came cheap due to its remote and wild nature. Being a trapper by trade, it suited us fine. In the Summer, I cut many pines to make our home and built it in the clearing where they stood. By Fall, we had taken residence there. The following Spring, my wife was delivered of a son, Lafayette. So named after his mother's father. God rest his soul. I have come to the opinion that the trouble began right about three months ago. The boy and his mother joined me in collecting what I feared might be the last traps of the season. Winter came quick and with little warning. A long, dry summer left us wanting for rain. In return for our thirst we were buried under six feet of snow fall in the second week of November. We scarcely made enough on trade to last our stores till Springtime. Eudora reminded me that the Lord keeps those who keep to His Word. And so we prayed. It is not the winter which troubles me now, though it is a growing burden. Despite my warnings about the cold and quickening night, my wife did not return with Lafayette until after sundown. The boy wandered while she was busied with a trap and, finding him, lost her way home in the wood. I swore in my anger, though it was mainly fear that burrowed in my heart. The boy ate little and slept long the following day. We made his bed by the fire. There came a break in the weather, and I was obliged to make use of the sun while it stayed. Many traps remained unchecked, and I had little hope of seeing them all. My wife watched over our son in my leave, and I promised to return home before the dark came. I was dismayed to find that most of the traps remained empty, and collected as many as I could so they would not rust in the snow. By midday I was forced to stop to eat and rest. I did so on a felled tree, where a gap in the canopy allowed the sun to come through. While I sat and ate, I saw in the distance what I took to be a queer branch or tree root. Its odd shape struck me so that, after a minute, I stood to see it better. But it made little difference. I was forced to approach the thing, which I was now certain was neither branch or root. When I got to near about four or five yards, its nature became obvious. A creature. Larger than a steer. I believe the northerners call it a caribou. I do not know. It was very large. The protrusions I saw were its antlers. It was dead. This I knew, for its eyes were open and its black tongue hanged from its muzzle. I found no trace of injury or disease on the beast. It was my best guess, due to how it lay and the condition of the carcass, that this poor creature had froze to death. Caught unawares in the cold snap. I wept, for our prayers had been answered. Then I fetched the saw. With the help of Eudora, I was able to carve the animal into pieces small enough to carry, and we filled up most of the cellar with the meat. The cold and the dark would preserve it well through the wintertime. That night we ate hearty, and had lively spirits for the first time in recent memory. Even the boy enjoyed some of the meat, and we stewed the bones for his supper. Eudora had taken to sleeping beside the boy on the lower floor by the fire. I did not begrudge her, but I preferred the comfort of our bed in the attic. That night, or very close to it, I was awakened from my slumber by the gentle prodding of Eudora's finger in my back. When I turned to face her, I found that she bore an expression of worry. She regarded me with wet eyes but would not speak. I asked her what the matter was, and still she gave only silence. Fearing the worst, I tore the blankets from the bed and clumb quickly down to Lafayette's side. But my fears were quieted by the sight of him fast asleep upon his cot. Nothing else among the room disturbed, I returned to our bed up the stairs and asked Eudora again to explain herself. Yet she would not. Only she would have me hold her until we both fell asleep again together. Ever after that night she refused to sleep aside him by the fire. The days got short, and still Lafayette spoke not a word. Yet his appetite grew and grew, which we firstly took as an encouraging sign. But the shadow which had overtook him did not pass. He slept through the day, but by night Eudora and I could hear his movements below while he thought us asleep. Further I pressed Eudora to tell the story of what she saw which made her awake me in the night. But she guarded her words close. I could not make her tell. It was thus that I did vow to sleep beside him one night. Would that I had done so sooner... After supper, I bade Eudora good night and took a buckskin for a blanket. She was wary to let me alone with the boy, and even then she would not tell why. I confess that I showed my anger then, much to my shame. I hold none about it now. I fell asleep with little effort, as was my habit. The boy in his cot and the fire beside. A cozy situation on any other day. While I slept I dreamed. I found myself lost in the wood. Cold. Hungry. I longed to see the faces of my mother and father. I heard my father's voice, and ran to him. But fell quickly to the ground with a stab of pain in my ankle. Looking down, I saw that my foot had found a trap hidden in the underbrush. I could not reach for the trap, so great was the pain. My father's voice came nearer, but as I cried out to him I felt the trap begin to tug. Pulling me. The trap disappeared into the dark earth, my foot with it. No matter how I clawed, I could not stop it. I screamed and cried, throwing my arms and body against the ground, but it made no difference. As my head sunk beneath the soil, I awoke. THE END.
26 minutes | Dec 9, 2018
A teenage girl is left alone and terrified after the sudden reappearance of her abusive mother. Narrated by Céline Guild Written and Produced by Doryen Chin ----more---- "Aftermath - Madness Paranoia" "Deep Noise" "Departure - Ghostpocalypse" "Echoes of Time V2" "Inner Sanctum" "Long Note Two" "Medusa" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ [content warning: parental abuse, drug abuse mention, police, hunger] Transcript: Note: The audio you will hear is slightly altered from the text below, but the transcript is accurate for most purposes. VACANCY written by Doryen Chin My name is Jeanette Vaughn. I was sixteen years old when I ran away from home. Almost sixteen. They say that addiction is a disease. But living with an addict isn't just living with a sick person. You're also living with the addiction. I had been living alone with my mother for several years. I think I was maybe, seven or eight when dad left. I know. Same old story. But as mad as I am at him for leaving, I can't say that I blame him. I just kinda wish he'd taken me with him. I'd run away a few times already, before the big last one. At first it was just to like, teach my mom a lesson. If she didn't get clean, if she didn't get better, she'd lose me. It didn't work, of course. I think she knew I was full of it. Even with all the junk in her brain, she could tell I wasn't serious. Until the last time. The last time was different. She'd just had a huge breakup. For months she was seeing this guy. All sunshine and rainbows. I even got to meet him a few times. And she never brought guys back to our place. I don't think she wanted them to know she had a kid. So whenever she was seeing a guy, she'd disappear. Sometimes for weeks. When they inevitably moved onto something better, she'd suddenly be home all the time. And we'd fight. The fights were always bad, but at least fighting was easy. When you're in a fight, you know what side you're on. It's the in-between times that are the hardest. They remind you there's a person in there. Behind the hateful face, behind the humiliation and constant belittlement. Sometimes I'd pick a fight just because I couldn't stand the silence. But this one was bad. I was doing my homework on the kitchen table after having spent the entire day cleaning the apartment. My mom's boyfriend was supposed to be coming over for dinner and she kept talking about how this was going to be the one. I think she really thought he was gonna propose to her. So she called my school and told them I was sick so she could make me stay home and clean up for her. I had a friend from school drop off my homework. Well not a friend-friend. Just a person from school I talked to sometimes. Sorry. It was getting late and my mom hadn't showed up yet. The company shut off her phone so I couldn't call or anything. So I just waited. It got dark. Eventually I was too tired and hungry to wait so I just heated up some leftovers and went to bed. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment. For all her faults, she let me have the bedroom and she slept on a foldout in the living room. That meant that when she came home in the middle of the night, I knew I'd find her there. Crashed out. But the next morning the couch was empty. It hadn't even been touched. When she wasn't home that night after school, I called the cops. Sheena didn't have a great relationship with the cops. She had a record. When I called and told them what happened, they went through the motions. Five foot seven. Long, curly black hair that goes down to her waist. Last seen getting high with some asshole behind a Circle K. It was pretty obvious that they weren't going to do anything. People like my mom go missing all the time and in most cases they're just off somewhere getting so high they forget to come home. They told me to follow up if I heard anything and said they'd be in touch. As much as I hated my mom, she was still my mom. So the next day I skipped school and decided to go pay Mister Perfect a visit. He lived in a pretty sketchy neighborhood, but during the day it was safe enough. When he opened the door he was surprised. He said I was the last person he expected to see. When I asked where my mom was, he said he hadn't seen her in a couple days. I told him I didn't believe him and threatened to call the cops unless he told me where she was. His attitude changed. He said that the last time he saw my mom, they'd broken up. He broke it off with her because apparently whenever she came over he'd find things missing. Eventually he confronted her about it and she flew off the handle and stormed out. He assumed she went home. Obviously she didn't. He thanked me for letting him know that she was missing, and told me he'd try to help find her. He even offered to call me a cab, but I said no. On my way home, I stopped by a few places where I knew my mom used to pickup, but no luck. I remember it was really cold that day, the sun didn't even come out. The wind was hurting my cheeks, so as much as I wanted to keep looking, I eventually gave up and went back to our apartment. The first thing I saw when I stepped off the elevator and into the hallway was that our front door, which was halfway down, looked like it was open. My immediate thought was we'd had a break-in. Wouldn't have been the first time. So I've got my phone in my hand, 9-1-1 ready to go, and when I get to my door, I'm expecting the worst. But when I turn the corner, it looks like everything is right where it should be. Still very paranoid, I go in further, through the kitchen and into the living room. And there, lying in the middle of the floor, is my mom. I rush over to her and see if she's okay. Her skin is ice cold and her jeans are covered in wet leaves and dirt. I try to get her to wake up but she's just out cold. I ended up calling 9-1-1 after all. The docs at the hospital said that she showed signs of exhaustion and dehydration. I told them that she was missing for two days. They examined her feet and found bruising on her heels and signs of extended blistering. Like she had been walking the entire time she was gone. She didn't regain consciousness until the following night. When she finally woke up, I was asleep in a chair next to her hospital bed. And the first thing I hear, I swear to god. she's cursing at me. Shouting. Asking why the hell she's in the hospital. The nurses come in to see what's going on and I'm crying and she's screaming, belligerent. We all explained to her what happened and she just starts like ranting about how she doesn't need any doctors and she's not going to be paying for any of this. She demands to be discharged immediately and storms out, practically yanking the I.V. out of her arm. I grabbed her hand to try and stop her and she looked at me, like right in my eyes, and. I let go. I had to. It was like I had just put my hand around a hot curling iron. Like not physically, but like, the feeling in your heart? That jab of pain and fear? That's what it felt like. I could barely keep up with her all the way home. I kept trying to get her to slow down, but she wasn't listening to me at all. She was nearly barefoot. She didn't have shoes or socks or anything. The docs had given her these like, paper hospital slippers but they weren't really meant to be worn outside. They'd practically fallen apart before we were even halfway home. She didn't seem to notice. Finally we make it back to our apartment and she just goes into the living room and stands there in the middle of the carpet. Staring out the windows. I ask her how she's feeling, if she needs to lie down or if she's hungry, and she doesn't seem to hear me, she's just blank. Like she's asleep or something. So, after standing there for a few minutes trying to think of what to do, I sort of gave her a poke. And she shouts and jumps like I'd startled her, and looks at me like she's scared and says, "Baby, where've you been?" It scared me because, it was like she had suddenly become like a kid. A child. And I was like, "What do you mean? I've been right here at home alone. Waiting for you. I've been looking for you all over the place. Don't you remember?" She didn't really answer, just sort of stared at me and then out of nowhere she says she's thirsty. And hungry. So hungry. So I have her sit down on the couch while I fix her something to eat. It was. it was a trip. I'd always like, taken care of her, but this was weird. It wasn't like taking care of someone who was a grownup that got sick. She really was like a little kid. Her eyes were big and for the first time in my life I realized that I was actually a little taller than she was. You know, physically. She finished her food before I had barely sat down to eat myself, and she chugged an entire pitcher of water straight from the pitcher. When she was done, she asked if there was any food left, and I told her that I didn't think she'd be so hungry so I only made enough for just the two of us. I don't remember what it was. Just that I gave her a little of what I had and she sort've sulked like she was still hungry. I guess it kinda made sense, right? I don't think she ate or drank anything the entire time she was gone. That night though. that was... I was sleeping in my room. And like, I don't know why I woke up. It was really late at night, maybe even early morning. And I'm lying there suddenly awake and I'm sort of dazed because I was sound asleep, like deep asleep, and it takes me a while to realize that I'm even awake. But when I do, I open my eyes to look at my clock, and I scream because I see a person. Standing right in my doorway. All the lights are off and I can just barely see the outline. I almost pull the lamp off my nightstand trying to turn it on, and I realize that it's my mom. Curly hair all disheveled, hanging down around her face. "What the hell?" I ask her. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" And even though she's staring straight at me, it's like she's frozen there. Like a statue. It's just
19 minutes | Oct 31, 2018
A late-night commuter witnesses a chilling event outside the window of their subway car, and becomes obsessed with solving the mystery which surrounds it. Credits: Written, Narrated, and Produced by Doryen Chin Sensitivity Reader: Auden Granger Transcript and Content Warnings under the cut: ----more---- Note: The audio you will hear is slightly altered from the text below, but the transcript is accurate for most purposes. [content warning: suicide mentioned, workplace sexual harassment] METRO by Doryen Chin My name is Tracy Urnwight. It's been almost a year since the last time I took the train. I'm moving upstate next week, because even the low-pitched rumble of the subway beneath the street makes me break into a cold sweat. It was the last week of October, and I was on my way home after working my second double in a row at a lounge in Soho and I was scheduled to open the next day. I needed the money. I think it must've been almost three in the morning. At that hour, there are fewer lines open. I had to go half an hour out of my way just to get home, but it was either that or walk all the way to the nearest direct route. At the time, walking those dim streets alone just wasn't worth the trouble. So there I was, sitting by myself in the last car on the train, my head against the window. My phone was dead, so I was forced to read all the cheesy ads plastered all over the car just to keep myself awake long enough not to miss my stop. Near the end of my commute, there's a long stretch of tracks that run above ground. As the train emerged from the tunnel, I glanced out the window to look at the skyline that was visible beyond an old warehouse district. Neon skyscrapers flashed between the rows and rows of passing warehouses and old mills. It was right about then that I caught a glimpse of something that made me sit up in my seat. You know that thing where the human eye finds faces in everyday objects? Para... Para-doll... whatever. Apparently it works that way for things that look like human bodies too. There's nothing quite like the shock of seeing a person where you don't expect there to be one. You can imagine then how it felt, as my train passed the last of the warehouses and I saw there, on the roof of the warehouse at the very end of the row, standing right on the ledge -- easily a hundred feet off the ground -- was a person. I stared as the train pulled away, and just before the warehouses winked out of sight, my stomach lurched as I saw them jump. Immediately I stood and craned my neck to get a better look. Unable to see anything, I ran to the back of the car and crammed my face against the window, my hands cupped around my eyes against the lights, but I saw only darkness, and the pale orange glow of the city against the sky. My phone still dead as it was an hour before, I ran ahead to the next few cars and found, that, the only other people on the train this far down the line were, an old Vietnamese couple and a junkie passed out on the bench seats. Funny how there's always a guard nearby whenever you lose your pass, but never one when you need any help. I don't think I got any sleep that night. I spent the next day with one eye glued to the news. Checking Twitter, local stations, anything I could think of. By the end of my shift, I had mostly convinced myself that I must have imagined the whole thing. I hadn't exactly been getting any actual real sleep lately, and it was entirely possible that I didn't see anything at all. But that night, as my train once again emerged from the tunnel, I held on white-knuckled to the seats in front of me as I found myself staring out at those old decrepit warehouses. I expected to see them dark and abandoned, like they always were. Of course they would be. They had to be. I should have been dead tired, but instead I found myself wide, painfully awake. Unlike when you're dreaming, when the world is slightly dulled, I could feel the absolute reality of the world around me. Felt the cold handrail against my palm. I heard every squeak and rattle of the car on its greasy old tracks. I heard even the soft whistle of wind outside my window. And I knew that in a few short moments, my mind would be totally clear of any suspicion or guilt over whatever it was I thought I saw the previous night. Maybe that's why, when the last warehouse swam toward me in the dark outside, I felt a stab of ice in my chest as, for the second night in a row, I saw a single person standing on the roof. Right on the ledge. I couldn't move. The ice in my chest dropped into my stomach and spread through every vein and bone and I was forced to watch, for the second time in as many nights, as a person leapt from the roof of a building at least a hundred feet tall and plummeted into darkness. By the time I snapped out of it, I had missed my stop by three stations and we had come to the end of the line. Walking home, on that cold, dark, moonless October night, I found myself flinching at every slight rustle of trash on the street, every distant barking hound. But I kept my head down. My eyes on my shoes. My hands in my pockets. And eventually found myself at home. I turned on every light in the apartment and closed every window and curtain. I was late to my shift the next day. When my boss confronted me, I just apologized and told him it wouldn't happen again. I must have been giving off some kind of aura because he looked at me and asked if something was wrong. I knew this routine. Everyone at the lounge did. I lied and made something up about being stalked by an ex-boyfriend and that I wasn't sleeping well because of it. It was easier than the truth. I knew what he would say next and, any other day I think I might have laughed it off like everyone else. But that night, at almost three in the morning, we sat together in the last car of the train back to my place. Unlike most nights, the rear car wasn't empty. A small gaggle of college-age girls in elaborate Halloween costumes huddled at the far end, taking selfies and challenging each other to see who could make the worst Halloween puns. This thankfully limited the scope of activities which my boss might've attempted to engage in, and I found their antics a welcome distraction. I was so distracted that I lost track of time and place. I was already glancing out the window before I realized where we were. Three nights in a row. The same time. The same place. The same human figure leaping into the darkness. My boss cried out in pain beside me and I realized I held his knee in a vice grip. Embarrassed, I turned to apologize but he had his mouth on mine before I got the words out. I pushed him away and stood up, overwhelmed and disoriented. As he cursed at me, I saw that the college girls were staring at the scene we were causing. I sat back down and apologized. The girls all got up and moved into the next car. He asked me if I was alright, if I still wanted this. I told him I was afraid. He said that he understood and wanted to help, and I felt his hand, hot and strong, sliding across my lap. When we got to my stop, I thanked him for riding home with me and left him at the station. I didn't bother going to work the next day. I knew I'd have to find another job, but that could wait. Instead, I slept in. By the time I woke up, the sky was the fiery orange of a sunset before rain. There was only one thing on my mind. Only one thing I wanted, needed, to do. I ate what little I could stomach and spent over an hour on Google Maps, and when I finally found what I was looking for, laced up my boots and walked down to the subway station. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to find it. I had to go a couple stops past my home station in order to access the road which led to the warehouse district. I thought it was unusual that such a large and prominent tract of land just sat there, unused and neglected in such a crowded city. It seemed like a waste. A tall, ten or thirteen foot fence wrapped around the entire property. Rusty chainlink topped with razor wire. The main gate was padlocked shut with a thick gauge chain, as I expected. I didn't know how to pick a lock and thought it might be better not to even try. At least, not until the sun had gone all the way down. Instead I pretended to be on a casual stroll, and walked the perimeter of the fence. The ground around the fence was littered with refuse. Along the way I counted at least two broken syringes and one used condom which appeared to be tied to the fence about eight feet off the ground. Up close, the warehouses and old mills were much taller and more massive than I thought they'd be. Almost none of the windows had any glass left in them, having long-since been vandalized or broken by inclement weather. Just black voids where glass should be. Why is it that windows always look like eyes? It wasn't until I found myself on the far western border of the industrial park, the side facing the river, that I spotted a potential way-in. A big tree had somehow grown on the rocky shore between the river and the warehouses, and its roots had gotten so large that it disrupted the land on which the fence sat. Because of the roots, there was a gap about two or three feet wide that ran under it. Having some time to kill before whatever was going to happen would happen, I decided not to cross the fence just yet. I grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby gas station and ate my food on a bus stop bench under a dark street lamp. And I waited. While I sat there, I saw a pair of drag queens walking arm in arm across the street. I thought I recognized one of them, but by the time I realized it wasn't who I thought it was they had caught me staring and quickened their pace. I looked down at my feet and pretended to tie my boot. When I finally made my way back to the gap under the fence it had been dark for several hours. To get through, I had to crawl on my hands and knees in the damp underbrush, and my shirt got ripped a little on the jagged fence wire. I didn't want to attract any dangerous attention to my activities, so I used my phone screen to light my way rather than the flashlight. I happened across a cement driveway that seemed to connect al
35 minutes | Oct 16, 2018
In terms of sheer hostility to human life, this remote and little-known range is second to none. One unlucky climber finds out why a third of all who summit The Mountain do not return to tell the tale. Credits: Narrated by Marissa Chin Written and produced by Doryen Chin Sensitivity Reader: Auden Granger "Deep Horrors" "Deep Noise" "Departure Ghostpocalypse" "Echoes of Time v2" "Medusa" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ "Spirit of the Dead" by Aakash Gandhi The Beacon Jar - Copyright 2018 Doryen Chin Transcript and Content Warnings under the cut: ----more---- [content warning: gaslighting, descriptions of corpses, descriptions of mental illness] Note: The audio you will hear is slightly altered from the text below, but the transcript is accurate for most purposes. MOUNTAIN Written by Doryen Chin My name is Agatha Bembridge, and it is by pure, dumb, terrible luck that I am alive. So that no one will go seeking to verify my account for themselves, I will keep the name of The Mountain a secret. Some of my peers may be able to guess its identity by deduction through any clues I unintentionally provide. But, it is my sincere hope that my reputation and this warning alone will be enough to give them pause. The two-week hike up to Base Camp was as slow and arduous as I'd heard, even after eighteen months of training and planning. I was traveling with a handful of guides who were native to the region, as well as a wealthy European couple making their second attempt at the summit. We had to stop several times along the way to visit various temples and villages, so that our guides could pray for safe passage into these barren lands. On the evening of the twelfth day, we arrived. Normally, the first night at Base Camp is spent in relatively good spirits. Just getting here is a small miracle in its own right, and it's rightly celebrated by most who make the trip in one piece. However on the night of our arrival, we were greeted by ashen, solemn faces. News from a party descending the summit had just come in. One of their climbers had died. The party leader, Helen Schwarzschild, had lost her son, William, shortly after they began their downward climb from the peak. We sat in relative silence, our dinners growing cold on our plates as the remaining survivors emerged from the darkness. The fact is, nearly a third of all climbers who reach the summit of The Mountain do not return. In terms of difficulty, there are several more challenging peaks in the world. But in terms of sheer hostility to human life, this remote and little-known range is second to none. The thing which makes the mountain so deadly is a subject of contention, however. You see, most deaths which occur on The Mountain aren't the result of a bad fall, or an avalanche, or an injury of any kind. Though, that does happen on occasion. No, most people who die on The Mountain, simply stop climbing, sit down, and never get back up again. They call it, “Mountain Sickness.” According to Captain Schwarzschild, the manner of her son's demise was congruous with the others. He was tied to her life line when he perished, and she had to cut him loose with her own knife. There's a saying, popular among many mountaineers and alpinists familiar with the perils of high-altitude climbing. “Those who die on The Mountain, stay on The Mountain.” Despite the best efforts of the local government, most who perish near the summit must remain there indefinitely. Too costly to find, or too inaccessible to reach. But, the attempt must be made. The European couple offered to cover the cost of the extra climbing and retrieval gear for the guides, as well as any incidentals incurred along the way. At first, the grieving mother was reluctant to accept their charity, insisting that the insurance would cover it. But it didn't. The only indignity it spared her that day was the “littering” fee imposed by the local government, for leaving the boy's corpse on the mountainside. In the morning, it was decided that our local guides would accompany us up the mountain to assess the possibility of retrieving the boy's body, and, if it was feasible, bring him back down. After a light breakfast, while the weight of the evening's tragedy still hung on our hearts, we were given the go by the Weather Team to set out on the first leg of our expedition. Due to the extreme altitude, we could not actually attempt to summit the peak for several more days. The first week of our climb would be spent between Camp One and Camp Two as our bodies acclimatized to the low oxygen environment. Like many of the world's highest peaks, Camp One on The Mountain lies nearly a thousand meters above Base Camp, on a narrow ledge accessible only by ascending a treacherous ice fall. For those who don't know, an ice fall is basically a river of solid ice, running down the mountain like a glacier at a rate of about six feet per day. It can calve without warning, sending boulders of ice the size of houses, weighing twelve-hundred tons each, crashing down on you. If you're lucky, you die instantly. We reached the ice fall as the sun was beginning to rise over the eastern range, and began our ascent once we had checked in with the Weather Team. There are no fixed ropes on the ice fall. It's a six-hundred-meter free-climb over ever-shifting terrain, across crevasses up to thirty feet wide and immeasurably deep. In order to cross, several steel ladders must be lashed together and laid over the chasm. Then a guide may carefully traverse this makeshift “bridge” and anchor a rope to the other side. Our guides had done it so many times, they simply walked across. The ladder jostled and creaked under their feet as they did so. Watching them, I could not help but imagine how easy it would be to slip into that crushing abyss. Unable to climb out again. Unable to be rescued. Sliding helplessly down razor sharp ice walls and disappearing into darkness. I actually don't remember crossing that first time. I know I must have. I just remember being afraid and then, around mid-afternoon, we arrived at Camp One. Memory is a strange thing. We don't get to choose what sticks. Forced to remember things we wish we could forget, yet somehow always forgetting where we put our keys. While the rest of the team prepared Camp One, the guides continued to climb to Camp Two to see if they could spot William's remains from that clearer vantage. Several hours later, just after the sun had disappeared below the western horizon, they returned. We had dinner waiting for them, and as they sat down to eat, one of the Europeans asked the question nobody else wanted to ask. Had they seen him? The head guide, who I'll call Tam (though that was not his name), shook his head and explained that high winds had ruined visibility on the upper mountain. They would have to continue up with us to Camp Three and then decide if it was worth it for them to carry the cumbersome rescue supplies any further. Under that pall of uncertainty, we tucked into our tents to sleep. I was awakened in the middle of the night by the sudden howling of frozen wind. Bewildered, I clicked on my flashlight and found myself staring out the open entry of my tent. The outer flap whipped around like a flag against the darkness. My sleep-dull mind struggled to comprehend what I was seeing until I realized, with mounting shock, someone had zipped open my tent while I was sleeping. My heart pounding, I scrambled to the front of my tent and reached outside to pull the flap closed again. Idiot. It was like dunking my hand in a freezing river. The bitter wind burned as I fumbled with the zipper. Once I had finally re-sealed the tent I collapsed, cradling it. I must have sat there for ages, replaying the evening over and over in my head. I knew that I had secured my tent. Someone must have opened it, either on purpose or by accident, and left the flap open, exposing me to hypothermia, frostbite, or worse. I got on the radio and demanded to know if anyone else was awake, if anyone else had heard anything. After a minute, one of the Europeans came on and asked if I needed help, if they should contact Base Camp. I told them what happened, and to their credit, they took the situation seriously. Within an hour, they had awakened the entire team, and the guides, and demanded an explanation. As we sat shivering in our own tents, huddled over our radios, some folks became understandably defensive. No one would admit to leaving their tents after dark, and all happened to have a credible witness to their whereabouts. Then the questions were turned on me. Was anything missing? Was I touched inappropriately? Was there any evidence that anyone had actually been in the tent? I explained that no, nothing was missing, the only thing that was violated was my privacy and safety from the cold. One of the other members of the team suggested that perhaps I hadn't properly secured my tent that night, and it was my fault that it came open. We didn't speak much after that. The following morning was tense and uncomfortable, our optimism dampened by interrupted sleep and accusations of impropriety. In light of... what happened later, I struggled over whether I should have apologized. In the end, I came to the conclusion that no matter the true perpetrator of the infraction, I was well justified in my actions and behavior. It's bad enough to be endangered in such a way, much less to have my own competency questioned rather than the intentions of others. I simply wish that the others gave my experience as much credit as they did their own professions of innocence. It was made clear, not in words but in actions and the silences, that I would from now on be treated only with kid gloves and polite tolerance. That is, except for the European couple, who seemed to genuinely sympathize, and offered to let me share their tent. I regret that I declined. Though if it might've done any good in the end, I really can't say. We spent the next week, climbing back and forth between Camps One and Two, until we were given the all-clear to proceed to
50 minutes | Oct 5, 2018
A solicitor tries to help a young widow sell her remote farmhouse, but begins to suspect that she carries a dark secret. Credits: Narrated by Rebecca Gambino-Harris Written and produced by Doryen Chin Sensitivity Reader: Auden Granger "Shadowlands 1 - Horizon" "Shadowlands 2 - Bridge" "Shadowlands 4 - Breath" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ Transcript and Content warnings under the cut: ----more---- [content warning: suicide mention, medical abuse, misogyny] WIDOW written by Doryen Chin My name is Jennie Greengold. The date is June 11th, 1914. This record is for the use of the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office in order to satisfy the subpoena served to my employer, Vandenberg Titles and Holdings. On April 8th our client, Sarah Hoffmoor, contacted us by post for the purpose of selling the estate in which she lived with her late husband, Alister. Built by Alister himself, the house stands on parched farmland in the far southeast of the county. Chosen, no doubt, for its isolation and bucolic landscape. Since his passing, Sarah survived there alone these eight long years with no neighbors and scant visitors to speak of. No matter what else is true, the bad business which ended Alister’s life cannot hold a candle to what came after. I left by train the following morning to appraise the property and finalize the contract. I inquired at the station for a driver and finally found one who was willing to make the two-hour trip. None with whom I spoke at the station or the driver pool had heard of the estate, and not many had the need to head out that way for the lack of steady clientele. We arrived at the estate at just past six in the evening when the sun had begun to set behind the hills which lie on the western edge of the property. The first sign that something was wrong was that the front gate of the property was absolutely overgrown with weeds. The bottom crossbeam was so thoroughly caked in dried mud that it was obvious no one had crossed its barrier in some months. With no other way around the long fence that bordered the property, I was forced, with the help of my driver, to mount the fence and pass my luggage along over the top once I was across. He declined to help me carry it to the house. Dragging my luggage along the neglected path toward the front porch, I had to bend down to avoid the branch of a large tree which hung ponderously in my way. It occurred to me that some time ago, a storm had likely wrenched the limb away from the trunk but had not finished the job. It would have to be cleared before the house could be viewed, that was for certain. Once I had navigated the limb and brambles I was at last able to take a clear look at the house. From previous examination of the architectural drafts kept in our offices, I had known roughly what to expect. The primary residence would be a two-story building with six bedrooms, a full kitchen, parlor, and study. Below ground, I expected to find some iron contrivance for the heating of water and what must by now be a nearly empty food cellar. However, upon my approach, it became obvious to me that at least a few changes had been made either during construction or afterward. I noted that in addition to a gardener, I should have to hire a carpenter to inspect the modifications. Wary from my long journey, I was perhaps too eager to notice much else was wrong. It is our policy to keep photographs of all of our clients on file in order to prevent fraud and provide peace of mind. It is because of that policy that I had an idea of Sarah Hoffmoor’s appearance despite never having met the woman. The portrait, which I believe may be the only one of her in existence, was taken at Sarah and Alister’s wedding. In it, Sarah sits in a small chair with her hands crossed upon her knee and Alister behind; his right hand holding her left shoulder. Neither of them is smiling. The face which appeared in the doorway after several minutes of knocking was only recognizable by the unusual angle at which her thin nose turned upward. The intervening years had obviously not been kind. Her cheeks once plump and lively had been hollowed, and a sharp crease had formed between her brows, giving her a permanently worried look. She seemed surprised to see me there on her doorstep. I told her that my office had received her letter and that I was sent to begin the process of preparing the house for sale. Puzzled, she told me she did not remember ever sending any letter. Her confusion turned to dismay as I produced the copy I had kept with her file, which she read several times while we stood there in the shadow of her doorway. Satisfied with its authenticity, she returned it to me and reluctantly stepped aside to allow me into her home. I waved to the driver, who was watching from the road as we had agreed, and he drove off. Passing through that portal, I felt a chill as her little eyes, sunken and watery, slid over me. Clutching my belongings close to my person, I was wary not to accidentally touch the woman. It was then that I first became aware that I was afraid. She sat me in the parlor then disappeared into the kitchen to fetch some tea. While I awaited my host’s return, I took out my notebook and began to make some general observations about the state of the home in an attempt to calm my nerves. What little decor there was seemed as if it had not been touched in ages. A thick blanket of dust muffled nearly every exposed surface. The mantle over the fireplace was blackened with soot, the remains of the last fire now cold and dusty like everything else in the room. My gaze fell at last upon a set of odd horizontal marks on the floor before the fireplace. They were so faint that had I not been so desperate for diversion, I might not have seen them. Barely visible on the wooden floorboards, they spanned across the short distance from the hearth to the area rug, seeming to continue underneath. My interest piqued, I got to my feet and took a poker from the rack. Using the hooked end, I carefully peeled back the rug from the floor. Due to the rug being pinned beneath the sofa and the edge of a heavy desk, I was unable to pull it back very far. However, in the brief glimpse that I was given, the markings did appear to continue for a ways further beyond what I could see. Just as I was contemplating the difficulty of moving the sofa myself, I was shocked by the sound of a terrible scream from another room nearby followed by a shattering crash. I froze where I stood, my face hot, ears prickling. I called out to Sarah, asking if she was hurt. There came no response. Feeling suddenly alone and very far from aid, I gripped the poker more firmly in my hand and stepped as quiet as I could toward the source of the disturbance. I entered the kitchen to find a glass sugar bowl shattered on the tiled floor, its contents spilled in a copious pile where it fell. Across the kitchen, the back door flapped in a gust of wind and I saw that it was unlatched. As I was gathering to call out again, the door was pulled open from the outside and Sarah entered cradling a heavy bag of sugar under her arm. She let out a yelp of surprise when she saw me standing there, which quickly turned to laughter as she set the sugar on the counter. While I helped her sweep up, she explained that the wind had blown the shutters against the side of the house and the clatter of it made her drop the sugar bowl. I thought it better not to mention that I do not normally take my tea with sugar in it. Once her nerves were settled, she apologized again and said that she did, in fact, send the letter, but did not expect such a quick response much less to find a stranger on her doorstep. Noting the volume of my luggage, she was concerned at how long the appraisals might take. Upon learning that my business here might last upwards of a month, she became visibly distressed and asked where had I found lodgings so near for such a duration. I was then forced to admit that it was my intention, if it were alright with her, to remain on the premises at least until the contract of sale was finalized. The blood somehow drained even further from the face of the pale wretch before me, but she did not faint or fade. It was more like she had become stone for the briefest moment and when she returned, her voice was flat and without emotion. She said that the house had not seen guests in many years, though there is plenty of room. She reiterated that last part. Plenty of room. Then asked, in that same flat tone, would I mind sleeping in one of the children’s rooms? “The ‘children’s’ rooms?” I asked, confused because as far as I knew, she and Alister had not had any before he passed. She nodded and asked me if I’d like to see them. At a loss for any reason I should say ‘no,’ I nodded back. She stood at once and stepped out of the kitchen without another word. I followed. Sarah led me up the narrow stair to the second floor, where the master bedroom and three others were. The chill of the lower floors was lesser here, as if all the warmth of the house collected and pooled at the top of the stairs. Sarah indicated to me that the room at the very far end of the hall belongs to her and Alister. “Belongs.” She said that. If she noticed my surprise at her use of the present tense, which I remember with spectacular clarity even now, she did not show it. She then led me to a neighboring door and opened it, allowing me to look inside. I don’t know what ghoulish scene I expected to find when I peered in, but there in that room, I found only a small bed and some meager child-sized furnishings. It became apparent to me right away that whatever this room was for, and I had my suspicions, that I would find no children living in the house. She asked me if this was adequate for my needs and I said that it would be more than enough. Then I foolishly joked that if I grew tired of it, I would just sample the other rooms until I found one I liked. She did not laugh. I quickly apologized and excused myself to retrieve my luggage from the parlor. By the time I had situated all my be
2 minutes | Sep 26, 2018
The Beacon Jar Podcast is a supernatural horror anthology written and produced by Doryen Chin. "Shadowlands 4 - Breath" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ Transcript under the cut. ----more---- There are certain types of stories which have always deeply affected me: stories of weird children and the odd friends they make; stories of soggy travelers seeking refuge in old neglected houses; and stories of estranged families forced to reconcile their innumerable sins. Whatever skeletons lie in my closet, they drive me to seek out these tales, or to otherwise invent them, regardless of what it is that I myself might want. Thankfully, it would seem that the interests of both my demons and myself are currently aligned, and so, for as long as this tenuous alliance can last, it is my sincere hope that it benefit you as well. I’m Doryen Chin and this is The Beacon Jar.
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