Episode 09: “These Dark Battlements”

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CONTENT WARNING: Some strong language, familial conflict, mental health, descriptions of gun violence, doppelgangers
 
Tape 0-0-1-3-5: Pursuing an evil she inadvertently released into the world, Anna Sheridan travels to the National Radio Quiet Zone with Kate, trying to reconcile with her sister while struggling with her own guilt.
 
Starring Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, Virginia Sports as Kate Sheridan, Jesse Steele as Bill Tyler, and Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written and produced by Trevor Van Winkle, and made possible by our supports at patreon.com/homesteadcorner
 
For more information and additional content, visit thesheridantapes.com
 
 

Script

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Outtake

Transcript

CONTENT WARNINGS: Some strong language, familial conflict, mental health, descriptions of gun violence, doppelgangers

Cold Open

[Phone ringing]

[The voices are compressed and crackling, coming from a phone]

Sam Bailey

Hello, you’ve reached Sam Bailey. Sorry I can’t take your call right now, but please leave a message, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

[Beep]

[The noise of a party]

Bill Tyler

Hey Sam, just wanted to make sure you’re on your way. Yeah I know, I know, I didn’t really want to call, but Robert asked me to make sure you’re coming, so… Yeah. Just… Give me a call if you’re running late, okay? Okay, bye.

[Beep. A moment of silence. Then the phone rings again]

Sam Bailey

Hello, you’ve reached Sam Bailey. Sorry I can’t take your call right now, but please leave a message, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

[Beep]

[Different music behind]

Bill Tyler

He-ey Sam, just… Calling again to check in. Guess you must have got caught up at the station, or something. Yeah.

Also, um… That bit about Robert asking me to call you? Yeah, that’s, um… I kind of made that up. I just wanted to — you know, you’re not exactly making it easy for the rest of us. I was kind of hoping that — we’re trying to meet you halfway here, so if you could…

Please, just… Call me back. Or text me, or something. I don’t care.

[Beep. Silence. Ringing]

Sam Bailey

Hello, you’ve reached Sam Bailey. Sorry I can’t take your call right now, but please leave a message, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

[Beep]

[Quieter now — Bill’s outside the bar]

Bill Tyler

Dammit Sam. Where are you? I’m just trying to help you, you know that, right? I don’t know what’s going on with you, but you’ve got to give the hardboiled loner act a rest.

Everyone’s worried about you and… I’m worried about you. This has got to…

[Beep. Someone picks up on the other end]

Sam? Sam, is that you?

[Beep. Dial tone]

[Cassette player motor whirs, stops]

[Click]

[Main Theme]

Recording Begins

[Beep]

[Rain plays lightly on the windows]

[A clock ticks quietly]

Sam Bailey

[Sighs]

A rainy Sunday evening. Perfect. Just what the doctor ordered. God, it’s enough to make you wish you’d gone out and done something yesterday. Almost.

[Sighs]

Look. Yesterday? Good day. Pretty good, at least. Better than most. Today? Not so much. Didn’t get to half the things I was supposed to do yesterday. I mean, most of them weren’t important at all, but I forgot the pharmacy’s closed on Sundays, because apparently Wilford’s still stuck in the 19 fucking 40’s, so…

[He breathes and out in deeply]

Doc said I might see increased anger if this happened, so I’ve just been sitting here all day, trying to stay calm. Landlord’s going to kill me if I put another hole in the wall. And trust me, the rain doesn’t help. It’s not exactly soothing after… You know.

[Sighs]

Maybe it’s not a good idea to be working right now either, but at least it’s something to take the edge off. Keep me distracted, I guess? Hell if I know.

[Sam picks up the tape in front of him]

Let’s see, we’ve got… ah. Number 0-0-1-3-5. God, even the tapes are running zeroes today.

[Feeds the tape into player]

[Click]

Tape 0-0-1-3-5

[Hiss of static, then fades]

[Someone shuffling around nervously]

Anna Sheridan

Okay… Looks like… Alright, yes. It’s recording. Great. Bit of a gamble, this old thing, but I figured it was worth a shot at least now that the old one’s gone, but… [she sighs] Geez Sheridan, calm down.

Alright, um — basics, I guess. This is Anna Sheridan, and it’s about 9 o’clock at night on April 15th, 2009. I’ve been camped outside Green Bank, West Virginia for the last ten days. Kate’s here too — my sister, Kate Sheridan, I mean. She just left the van to get some fresh air. I told her it might not be safe out in the dark, but she ignored me, as usual. God, we’re in dire straits when I’m the voice of reason.

Kate just got here this morning, and of course she brought that ridiculous RV her husband talked her into buying. Thankfully he’s not here with her… But I doubt she left him behind for my sake. More like she didn’t want to be embarrassed by her sister’s screw-up. Again.

[Footsteps]

Not that she was over the moon about why we’re actually here, either…

[Knock on the door]

Kate Sheridan

[Muffled, through the van’s window]

Hey Anna? You still in there?

Anna Sheridan

Where else would I be?

Kate Sheridan

I’m about to go to bed… Are you sure you don’t want to stay in the RV tonight?

Anna Sheridan

No, I’m fine in here, thanks. Don’t want to cut in on your space.

Kate Sheridan

It’s not a problem, you can just sleep on the foldout. I won’t even notice you’re there.

Anna Sheridan

When do you ever…

Kate Sheridan

Huh?

Anna Sheridan

I’ve still got some work to do out here… Probably be up all night.

Kate Sheridan

Anna, you need to get some sleep…

Anna Sheridan

I’ll get a nap when I can. Don’t worry about me.

Kate Sheridan

O-kay… um, I’ll just leave the door on the latch if you change your mind, yeah?

Anna Sheridan

Great. Thanks.

[Kate’s footsteps retreat from the van]

Anna Sheridan 

[Sighs]

She means well. She really does. Most of the time, at least. I mean, it’s annoying, but… She just doesn’t get that I don’t need it. I mean I do: I called her and said I needed help just… Not like that.

I don’t know why I called her in the first place, she doesn’t…

No. I do know. It’s because she might be the only person left who really knows me. Knows me well enough that if this all goes sideways…

We’re here because of a voice. That’s how this all started. A voice that began showing up on AM radios in Cody, Wyoming about a year ago. At first, it was a weak signal, only showing up occasionally in the static between the stations. Most of the people who heard it could only make out one or two words at a time, but they seemed to be cut out of a longer message. There were a few dozen recordings posted online by the time I found them: single words just barely audible through the static. “Help.” “Listen.” “Alone.”

Of course I couldn’t resist. It took a bit of stumbling around the backcountry with my scanner to figure out where the signals were coming from, but I eventually tracked them to Spirit Mountain Cave. It’s an old national monument that was abandoned back in the 50’s, so it’s gated off and managed by the BLM now. It took a little finagling, but I managed to get a permit to explore the cave on my own. The ranger who helped me get there, Kirk, stayed on the walkie talkie the entire time, but I didn’t mind… At least, not until the voice on the radio turned into one that sounded like his, but wasn’t.

I still don’t know what to call the entity I found. Normally I would call it a poltergeist: it was non-visible, non-corporeal, and able to physically interact with the world… Violently, if need be. But then it didn’t seem to have a voice or an identity of its own. If it was really the ghost of someone who’d died in that cave, then it wouldn’t need to steal voices to speak: it would have its own. It wasn’t a monster, creature, or any other supernatural entity based in biology. Most paranormal phenomena I’ve dealt with create some kind of electromagnetic interference… That’s why I have my scanner with me all the time.

But as far as I can tell, this entity didn’t create EM radiation… It was the radio waves I detected. An intelligence made up of indistinct, shifting energy fields, but somehow still able to influence and reshape physical matter.

When I found it, it was trapped in one of the lowest chambers of the cave system, but it seemed to escape with me when I climbed out. As far as I can tell, it’s able to infect any electronic device that receives a large enough amount of its signal pattern. It got into my walkie-talkie, left the cavern, and then — somehow — it created a body for itself.

Well, maybe “created” isn’t the right word. Copied? Xeroxed? Stole? Whatever it did, it walked out of the cave looking exactly like Ranger Kirk — with the real Kirk standing right there in front of me with a stunned expression on his face. He freaked out a little bit, and he had a gun on him so… Yeah. I’m guessing you can figure out the rest.

I just assumed that was it. The creature, ghost… whatever, was dead. Or at the very least stuck in that cave without a body. I left Cody the next day, feeling pretty good about myself. I found what I was looking for, fought it, survived it, and beat it… With a little help from Kirk. Tied that chapter off with a neat little bow. And that was the end of it, as far as I could tell.

But then I started checking the forums again. People were still posting recordings, and not just from Cody. They were picking up the same signals in remote areas of South Dakota, Nebraska, even a few areas around Kansas City. The voice was moving east, getting stronger and clearer the further it went.

That was disturbing enough. What made it even worse was the fact that the voice had changed. I thought that if the entity had survived, it would keep Kirk’s voice. That was one of my biggest miscalculations. I lost my old recorder somewhere in that cave, with years and years of old audio files stored in its memory. The Echo — that’s what I’ve decided to call it — stole Kirk’s face, voice, and body with nothing more than what it heard on the radio. How easy would it be for it to steal mine?

This is my fault. If I hadn’t ignored all the red flags and just stayed away, then it would probably still be trapped there. But no: I let this thing loose because I couldn’t leave it well enough alone. And I have to be the one to fix it.

The Green Bank Radio Telescope is a few miles up the road from here. When the sun’s out, you can see it clear as day towering over the trees. It’s taller than the Statue of Liberty at its highest point, and its collector dish is more than 300 feet across. The whole thing is just an enormous mechanical ear pointed at the sky, listening to the stars — and it’s enormously sensitive. It’s so sensitive it basically created the National Radio Quiet Zone… Well it, and the massive military listening station over at Sugar Grove. Hundreds of miles of federally regulated quiet right in the middle of the US. That’s not to say there are no radio signals at all… They’re just controlled and monitored. But the closer you get to the telescope, the more restrictions there are. In Green Bank itself, there’s no Wi-Fi, cell phones, or overhead cables. Even tiny electrical shorts get picked up by the telescope sometimes, and the observatory has to send out patrol cars to fix them. I turned my phone off a few miles back, but if I tried to drive the van any closer to the telescope, I couldn’t. They only allow diesel cars that close to the dish: the spark plugs in this thing would be enough to set off all kinds of alarms. Yeah: that’s how quiet it is out here.

[She picks up the scanner]

The scanner’s been running the whole time I’ve been talking. If I were anywhere else, it would be beeping almost constantly. We’re swimming in radio waves. Everyone wants to talk to everyone else all the time, and it takes a mind-numbingly huge number of transmitters and receivers to make that possible. But out here — that’s all gone. The world is quiet. Absolutely still.

So. If our friend the Echo decides to come calling, I’ll know right away. Any signal, any at all, and I’ll be able to track it to its source, find out how it’s spreading, and get rid of it once and for all. 

[Footsteps]

Make things right. Even if I have to stay here for months, I’ll find…

[Urgent knock on the van door]

Ah!

[Anna unlocks the door and opens it]

What the hell, Kate? I thought you were going to bed?

Kate Sheridan

Never could sleep very well in the RV. I made some tea instead, thought you might like a cup.

Anna Sheridan

Oh. Um… Thanks.

Kate Sheridan

Still recording?

Anna Sheridan

Oh, yeah… I’ll turn it off…

Kate Sheridan

No, I don’t mind. It’s kind of cool, by the way. Retro.

Anna Sheridan

I guess it kind of is, isn’t it?

Kate Sheridan

Thrift shop?

Anna Sheridan

Nah, Dad got it for me for a birthday… God, must have been 20 years ago now.

Kate Sheridan

And it’s still running?

Anna Sheridan

“They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore, do they?”

[They share a quiet laugh]

Kate Sheridan

So, um… Any change?

Anna Sheridan

What, you mean on the scanner? No, still nothing. But if it’s out there, I’ll find it.

Kate Sheridan

If.

Anna Sheridan

Ha. Yeah. Big if.

Kate Sheridan

And if not?

Anna Sheridan

Then I guess I keep looking.

Kate Sheridan

How long?

Anna Sheridan

As long as it takes.

Kate Sheridan

And if you never find it? I mean, when do you throw in the towel and…

Anna Sheridan

Not now, Kate.

Kate Sheridan

What do you mean, “not now?”

Anna Sheridan

That’s always the question with you, isn’t it? When?

Kate Sheridan

What the hell’s that supposed to mean?

Anna Sheridan

“When are you going to stop? When are you going to come home? When are you going to sit down and get your head on straight?”

Kate Sheridan

Well, when are you?

Anna Sheridan

That’s the point! You always think it’s when, not if!

Kate Sheridan

I was just saying that…

Anna Sheridan

You think everything just happens because you say so! You say you’re going to college, going to get married, going to get a boring, mind-numbing job and make a shit-ton of money, and then it just… Happens! The way you want it to, when you want it to!

Kate Sheridan

All I’m saying is you need to start taking life seriously and think…

Anna Sheridan

No, what you’re trying to do is tell me how my life works!

Kate Sheridan

You call this a life? You’re living in a dream world, Anna, and it’s high time you wake up.

Anna Sheridan

[Laughing bitterly]

Seriously? A dream? It’s a nightmare! I try to be like you, I try to make plans, and then all of a sudden wham! Shit like this happens, and I just have to deal with it.

Kate Sheridan

God, you’re insufferable.

Anna Sheridan

What?

Kate Sheridan

You really think you’re the only one who’s ever struggled? That nothing bad ever happens to me? Because let me tell you, it sure as hell hasn’t been… 

Anna Sheridan

No, no, no, you don’t get to tell me that I just need to pick myself up by my bootstraps and try harder, because every fucking day of my life is already hard enough without your voice in the back of my head. You have absolutely no idea what my life is like.

Kate Sheridan

And whose fault is that, huh? Did I decide to run away from all of my problems? Remind me, which one of us spends half the year camped out god-knows where, writing and smoking and freaking out over shadows and ghost stories and voices on the radio?

[The scanner beeps]

[Silence]

Kate Sheridan

Um… Anna… You told me there aren’t any signals out here.

Anna Sheridan

I know.

Kate Sheridan

And that this thing you’re hunting…

Anna Sheridan

I know.

[Anna picks up the scanner. It beeps faster]

Anna Sheridan

Weak radio signal, coming this way. 900 meters off.

Kate Sheridan

Is it… You know, your…

Anna Sheridan

700 meters. Closing fast.

Kate Sheridan

Come on Anna, we need to go…

Anna Sheridan

No. I need to fix this.

[Glove compartment opens]

[Pulls out pistol, loads, and cocks it]

Kate Sheridan

Jesus Anna! Why do you have a gun in here?

Anna Sheridan

Why do you think?

Kate Sheridan

Don’t you need a permit or something to…

[The scanner’s beeping speeds up]

Anna Sheridan

300 meters. 200. 100…

Kate Sheridan

Anna, we need to go, now!

Anna Sheridan

No! You want to see what my life is like, huh? Well this is it! This is my life! So help me or stay out of my way, but don’t…!

[Three knocks on the car’s window]]

Kate Sheridan

Um… Anna…

NRAO Patrol

[Voice muffled through the window]

Excuse me, miss? Could you uh, roll down your window, please?

Anna Sheridan

Oh… um, right…

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Sound of a car’s engine]

Anna Sheridan

Well… Shit.

That went — well, about as you’d expect, actually. Kate left as soon as the patrol did. It was just someone from the Observatory…

They were picking up interference from my van and decided to check it out. That blip on the scanner was just their scanners, interfering with mine. Thankfully they didn’t notice the gun, and we figured out what was wrong pretty quickly.

Apparently, using a tape recorder from the 80’s ten miles away from the world’s biggest radio telescope wasn’t my brightest idea. All it took was a few crossed wires, and a billion dollar telescope loses a night’s worth of research… And I lose my best shot at stopping the Echo.

[Sighs]

Sometimes that seems like all Kate and I have: crossed wires. Interference. Old faults. We try, but — I guess we’re just too different now. Or too similar. Or just… our own people.

It was a mistake asking her to come out here. Even if the Echo turned up — I doubt she’d be able to tell the difference between us anymore.

[Clack and clatter as tape ejects]

Tape Ends

Sam Bailey

[Sighs heavily]

Echoes. Ghosts. Mirrors. Caves. Hellhounds. Fire. Black Holes, snow demons, and evil wishing wells.

WHAT THE FUCK DOES IT MEAN?

[He stands, picks up his recorder, and throws it across the room] 

[The sound crashes to static as it hits the wall, then the floor]

What’s the point, huh? What’s the point of any of this? Just to screw with me? Make sure my life’s more of a goddamn nightmare than it already is? 

[Tape distortion increases]

Because I’m done, I’m do–ne, with this bullshit.

[Urgent knocking on his front door]

[Footsteps]

Oh for godssake — Piss off…!

[Sam opens door]

[He stops]

What the hell?

[The house phone rings]

[Sam growls, slams the door, and crosses heavily to pick it up]

Do you have any idea what time it is…!

What? Hello? I can barely hear… Who is this?

You… It can’t be… You’re…

[Static rising on the broken recorder]

Sheridan?

[The recording fails, turning into sharp edged digital distortion]

[Beep]

Recording Ends


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