Episode 33: “Priestly Altar, Saintly Grave”

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CONTENT WARNING: Descriptions of body horror, death, and implied cannibalistic behavior, cult activity, dread, strong language, deep rumbling sound effects, and depictions of police procedure including interrogation

10225019c: In the wake of a small cult’s collapse after a seemingly failed ritual, Bill Tyler and Ned Leroux interview two of the survivors, only to discover a disconcerting connection with far-reaching implications.

Starring Jesse Steele as Bill Tyler, Ezra J. Wayne as Ned Leroux, Alejandra Cejudo as Amanita, Tal Minear as Hyde, and Sam Taylor as Dr. Ren Park. Written by Virginia Spotts and produced by Trevor Van Winkle and Virginia Spotts, and made possible by our supporters at Patreon.com/homesteadcorner and ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner

For more information, additional content, and episode transcript, visit thesheridantapes.com

Script

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Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: Descriptions of body horror, death, and implied cannibalistic behavior, cult activity, dread, strong language, deep rumbling sound effects, and depictions of police procedure including interrogation

Cold Open

[Noisy sounds of an industrial facility]

[Sparks flying]

[A muffled voice on a loudspeaker, far away]

[The noise fades, as if beyond someone’s office walls]

[A clock is ticking]

REN PARK

Unfortunately… No. I haven’t. 

Well, I did – I left my number with them, but it’s been weeks, and I still haven’t heard anything.

Hmm.

[Sighs]

Yes. I understood that was a risk. But what are the chances the authorities can make any real connection to us? Much less one they can act on. It’s not like anyone outside the lab knew we…

Listen Doctor Caldwell, if I don’t act quickly we could lose any chance we have to –

I understand that. But – as previously stated – my work with Foribus Oraculi could be the key to defining our next steps. I would like to continue my research. Sir. Please, let me reach out to them and –

No, it’s not time to make contact. I’ve been keeping tabs on them like you asked, and trust me, they’re not ready. Half of them aren’t even in the same state, much less –

Understood. I’ll… Work on increasing my surveillance.

Right. Thank you, Doctor.

[Ren hangs up]

[Sighs]

Short-sighted idiot…

[Tapping at a keyboard]

[Cassette noises]

[Main Theme]

Recording Begins

[Cassette noises]

[Static fades away]

[Bill fiddles with a small recorder]

BILL TYLER 

Test one, test one, two, three… Okay, there we go.

NED LEROUX 

What are you doing over there, Tyler?

BILL TYLER

Huh? Oh, recording system’s broken in Interrogation 1… I need to use a portable recorder for this.

NED LEROUX 

It’s not broken in 2 as well, is it?

BILL TYLER

No, just… just 1. Has been since last May.

NED LEROUX

What happened in May?

BILL TYLER

Uh… Some – something got into the system. Screwed with the uh… The electronics.

NED LEROUX 

That’s got to be annoying. Well… Good luck in there, Tyler.

BILL TYLER

Yeah, thanks Ned. You have the other one in 2?

NED LEROUX 

Yup… “Jean Doe.” Only name they gave us is “Hydnellum.” What about you?

[Bill fiddles with a paper]

BILL TYLER 

“Amanita.”

NED LEROUX

We’ve got our work cut out for us on this one, don’t we?

BILL TYLER 

That’s for sure.

NED LEROUX

Wanna grab something to eat after this?

BILL TYLER 

Sounds like a plan to me.

[Ned exits the room, Bill pauses and then walks through the main office towards interrogation]

[A working police office–conversations, phones ringing, etc]

[Bill goes through a door]

[Office noise cuts out as the door closes]

[Footsteps in an echoing room]

[He pulls a chair out and sits]

BILL TYLER 

Lieutenant Bill Tyler, recording dated Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 6:31pm.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, we will be appointing one for you. If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop at any time.

Do you understand all that, Amanita?

[Silence]

[He flips through his papers]

Is Amanita the right name? I understand there was a lot of confusion at the scene, so I just want to make sure we didn’t get it mixed up with someone else’s.

[Silence]

I understand that you’ve been through a lot today. I know. And I know you’re tired. I’m only going to ask you these questions because they might help us understand what happened. The situation we found you and your… friend in, is… well, we’d like to make sure that everyone’s okay.

[Clears throat]

Could you tell me a little about how you first became involved with…

[looks through papers]

Uh, Templi Prophetam?

[Looks through papers again]

Umm… Amanita is a beautiful name! Did the church give it to you, or did you choose it for yourself?

[Silence]

[Shifting in chair]

What did you love most about Templi Prophetam?

AMANITA 

[One sad laugh]

The love of the Prophet was enough for us all. It was always enough.

BILL TYLER 

The, uh… The Prophet. Right. That was, uh… He…

AMANITA 

Not that kind of Prophet.

BILL TYLER

Sorry?

AMANITA

Not that kind of Prophet, Lieutenant Tyler. That’s the next state over. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

BILL TYLER

Tell me about that… Love. For the Prophet. Did you all feel the same way about h – about it?

AMANITA

We did. We feel, and reflect and sense, and share in that love. We all do. Behind and before us, within and without us, we share in the love of the Prophet, the love of Adam, and the love of God.

BILL TYLER 

What were the, uh… How would you describe your ceremonies, then?

[Silence]

Amanita, how did you… Share that love with one another?

[Her cuffs jingle as she moves]

AMANITA

That’s better… Though ceremony is the right word. Ceremony bound us together. Ritual. Do you know what the real power of a ritual is, Lieutenant?

BILL TYLER 

Um… Not really.

AMANITA

It’s the repetition. The unity of being it reinforces. Completing the same actions as your neighbor, saying the same words, honoring the rhythms of life in this way… It shaped me. It shapes all of us.

Did you know that even walking is a ritual, in its own way? Have you ever thought of that, Lieutenant?

BILL TYLER 

What do you mean?

AMANITA

As we grow, we learn to move in our own bodies. It’s slow and clumsy, but at a certain point – maybe when we’re very small, maybe when we’re fully grown – we settle into a pattern. We imitate the way our parents or older siblings walk, stand, gesture – translating it into our own bodies. And over time, you stop having to think about it. The fascia – the web of viscous, tensile tissue that connects the parts of our body together – binds to the place we tell it to without us even realizing it.

BILL TYLER 

I’m sorry Miss… Amanita. I’m not sure I understand what you’re –

AMANITA 

Fascia has no consciousness. At least, not that we know of. Yet it contains within it an expression of our consciousness. If we hunch because we’re used to being criticized at home, the fascia assists us.

It binds together the stronger tissues in your neck and shoulders – muscles, ligaments, tendons – and turns them to stiffness, knots, and curves. It makes sure that when we walk hunched, trying to make ourselves small and unseen, our skeleton doesn’t crumple beneath us like a cardboard tube. The web of tension it creates keeps us upright. It keeps us safe. And the longer the tension sits there, the longer you walk in this way, the more burdened you feel. You never asked for it, and you don’t know why it’s happening, but it’s only a physical expression of an emotional pain. One that exists because for years, you had to hide.

So walking becomes a ritual: one that you repeat every day. A form of yourself that you practice continually, until you either change the ritual… or the ritual changes you.

And the rituals of the Prophet are meant for the collective body. Not just our own.

[Bill shifts in his seat]

[He clears his throat]

BILL TYLER

Amanita, if we could change direction a little here – we’re trying to figure out what happened at the compound. Sometime during the night of Wednesday, October 23rd, David Nathan Robinson, the purported leader of Templi Prophetam, died in the presence of you and your… fellow worshippers. I’d really appreciate it if you could help me figure out why that happened.

AMANITA 

You mean Hericium?

BILL TYLER

Of course, Hericium. I’m sure his loss was… Difficult, for you.

AMANITA 

[She laughs]

[Her cuffs jangle]

Thank you for your concern Lieutenant, but he isn’t lost.

BILL TYLER 

What do you mean?

AMANITA 

[Her cuffs jingle]

As much as I like you… I cannot tell you that. You aren’t one of us.

BILL TYLER 

What can you tell me, then?

AMANITA

You asked about our ceremonies, yes? You want to know why we didn’t bother to call for help when he collapsed?

BILL TYLER

Yes, I… I would like to know.

AMANITA

We had our main ceremonies once a week, every Saturday night. Sundays were for contemplation. Mondays and Tuesdays were devoted to the needs of the community. And Wednesday was Preparation Night. A kind of… Lead-up for the big event on the weekends, if you will. Wednesday was my favorite day. It’s the first of the four Holy Days, each deeper than the last.

It may sound silly to say we had four holy days each week, but it wasn’t. Not to us.

After you break the barrier into the holy and forbidden, what else is there to do but return there as often as you can?

BILL TYLER

What does that have to do with –

And how would you do that? “Return” there, like you said?

AMANITA 

“To those without ears and those without eyes, hearing and sight are lies and delusion.”

The path forward cannot be seen or heard by outsiders. But I’ll try to explain it in a way you’ll understand.

We took part in the body of the Prophet. That was the first step.

BILL TYLER 

And when you say “the Prophet,” you mean the –

AMANITA

The being that appeared to you as a fruiting psilocybin mushroom body? Yes. Innocuous to the unenlightened eye. Called poisonous by those who do not believe. Yes. That is the Prophet. The first judgement between the righteous and unrighteous.

BILL TYLER 

And what would happen to you after you took part in the… Uh, the Prophet?

AMANITA

Unity in thought and body. Within and without oneself, in your

own body and in others – Unity. Seeing within and without as the constructed and unnecessary divisions that they are. Knowing the mind of your beloved as your own. There was movement like medicine, colors appearing as symphonies as you looked on the faces all around you. Heaven so plain that the dull illusion of the earth fades to nothing beneath it. The divine made flesh and flesh turned to –

[She gasps, stopping in surprise]

BILL TYLER 

Amanita, are you–are you okay?

AMANITA

I cannot speak these words.

BILL TYLER 

What about your full legal name. Can you tell me that?

[Silence]

BILL TYLER

I’m sure there are people who are worried about you. People who want to know you’re okay. Family? Friends? Partners? Anyone?

We can’t reach out to them if we don’t know your name. Or where you came from. Could you tell me that?

[He scoots his chair]

How about when you first joined Templi Prophetam? Can you at least tell me that?

AMANITA 

I joined three years ago this December. Just after the solstice.

BILL TYLER 

[He sighs]

Alright Amanita – I can see that you’re tired. I promise, once we’re done here, we’ll find you somewhere comfortable for you to rest.

I can see how much your faith meant to you. It must be – I know it’s really hard to have your life interrupted like this. I just need you to answer one more question, and then you can go. Please tell me – in your own words – what happened on the night of October 23rd.

AMANITA 

You have inquired rightly. I’m permitted to tell you this much.

Hericium was the Prophet’s mouthpiece. He was not our leader, as you call him in your ignorance. The Prophet’s words were in his mouth, but we obeyed only the Prophet, not him. But on that night, he rose in joy and said that the Prophet had finally marked him for rebirth. The day that we had been waiting and praying for had finally come to pass. The unity we had weeped and worked for all these long years would finally be here. Unity, meeting eternity. No longer limited to ceremony only in the Temple, but Unity, continuous, universal, never-ending.

In my weakness, I had feared this day. But I trusted his words, and the holy word of the Prophet. We all trusted. And we all watched as Hericium climbed the altar and partook of every part of the Prophet.

After an hour, Hericium began breathing heavily. Then he started chanting, leading us in invocation. I had never spoken the holy words in the Temple without the Prophet guiding me, and it was terrifying. Without his light, our voices sounded like… Like…

[Her cuffs jangle]

BILL TYLER

Hey, hey, it’s okay – you’re here now, you’re safe.

AMANITA 

Our voices sounded too… Large. Too loud. The reverberations in the Temple shook me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. Perhaps the building wasn’t actually shaking, but the spirit of the Prophet was making his home in Hericium. Heaven was coming down to Earth, and it was weighty, dark, and terrible.

I was ready to run from the room in terror when Hericium began to recite the Story. The familiar words caught my heart, and we all recited it together.

BILL TYLER 

What is… “The Story?”

AMANITA

You would call it – our gospel, I suppose. A Pearl of Great Price to us, and all who follow.

[Bill reacts to “A Pearl of Great Price,” sitting back in surprise]

BILL TYLER 

Amanita, have… Have we met somewhere before?

AMANITA

We recited The Story all through the night. Hericium’s voice faded, and our voices rose to fill the gap. His body turned swollen, purple and blue before finally… He collapsed. He laid in the midst of the congregation, unmoving and unbreathing. We surrounded him and continued to share the Story with one another. We weren’t afraid. We knew that it was only a matter of time until his return.

BILL TYLER 

Were you expecting him to… What, come back from the dead?

AMANITA 

[She laughs]

Oh my, no, not Hericium. He was gone beyond all help. We were waiting for the Prophet’s return.

BILL TYLER 

Waiting for its return… How, exactly?

AMANITA

In Hericium’s eyes. And mouth. And ears. And body. The Prophet would return through his perfect vessel, and we would all partake once more and achieve a final unity at last… Forever.

[Bill swallows hard]

[He scrapes back his chair]

BILL TYLER 

Excuse me for a moment.

[He leaves the room]

[Bill shuts the door behind him and exhales]

[The sounds of the busy police office return]

BILL TYLER

God, what the fuck is this…

[The opposite door opens]

NED LEROUX

Oh good, you’re still in here. God Bill, you would not believe the shell-shock coming off the witness in 2… I’ve barely been able to get three words out of them…

BILL TYLER 

Not a great time, Ned… I need to get some fresh air.

NED LEROUX

Oh geez, looks like you’ve got your hands full in there. What did she say? Anything we can use?

BILL TYLER 

Unfortunately yes.

NED LEROUX

That bad, huh? Hey, you know that Chinese place at the end of the block?

[Bill’s stomach churns]

I think they have happy hour tonight if that sounds good to…

BILL TYLER 

Excuse me, Ned.

[Bill fumbles with the recorder to turn it off]

[Silence]

[Recording starts again]

[The door opens–the office heard beyond–and then it shuts, cutting off the noise]

[The room echoes]

NED LEROUX

So… Hydnellum. Mind if I call you Hyde? Hydnellum’s a bit of a mouthful.

[Hyde groans]

NED LEROUX 

Alright then, Hyde. I’d like you to walk me through what happened the night of October 23rd. Why didn’t anyone stop the… [he flips through papers] The Prophet’s mouthpiece. Hericium, David Nathan Robinson – whatever you want to call him. You all let him go through with it. Why?

[Hyde moans again]

NED LEROUX 

I mean, you all just let him eat your Prophet. Eat the whole thing, right there in front of you. Why? You seem like an empathetic person. Why would you let Hericium put himself in that kind of danger? You must have known that mushroom body was poisonous in large doses, right?

[Silence]

[Ned sighs]

Listen, what will it take to…

HYDNELLUM 

It was as The Story foretold. H- Hericium made sure we all knew it, forwards and back. For the ceremonies. We had to make sure we repeated every word together, exactly the same. That’s w-where the link came from, how we linked our bodies and minds together. How we would communicate wordlessly with each other, and… And that was s-supposed to carry into time outside the ceremonies, after we… We…

[Ned scoots his chair]

NED LEROUX 

So what happened? Did he return? Did you end up ingesting the prophet after all?

HYDNELLUM

I… I was… It wasn’t…

NED LEROUX

I need you to understand, Hyde – I’m on your side here.

It might not seem like it now, but… I know what it’s like to be an outsider. To feel pressure to fit in. Wanting to belong, wanting to feel secure. That kind of pressure can get you wrapped up in all kinds of crazy things, so believe me… I understand.

And hey, if all of you did ingest the Prophet mushroom… Well, we’re going to find out either way. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get sick, or fess up, or let something slip. But if you tell me right now, you’re going to be the one who helped us solve this case, right? You get to be the hero this time.

So. How many of you… Partook?

HYDNELLUM 

[A low rumbling static builds]

It w-wasn’t… I was trying to – 

[Hyde speaks with strange gaps]

…She saw the… Eat and Adam, Standing… Bear the sting of… Unity, lest… 

NED LEROUX

What are you doing over–?

HYDNELLUM

…Tie, bind, joining yet still… 

NED LEROUX

Hyde…?

HYDNELLUM

Eve in their… Knew the mind of God… [cuffs jangle] The Earth… Word is spoken… Remember well… New home once more… The promise… 

[Ned scrapes his chair back and walks towards the door]

…Roots of Heaven… Not the union… Be at one… The Name of Time and…

[The static builds, lights buzzing audibly]

The Source of All that Was and Was Not and Will Be Again is Within Me and Without Me and Beyond Me and Below Me and Before Me

[cuffs jangle]

Forever and Ever –!

[They cut off as they slump over in their chair]

[Ned opens the door]

NED LEROUX 

Can I get some help in here?

[Recording cuts off]

[Recording starts again]

BILL TYLER

Bill Tyler. Friday, October 25th, 2019 at… [heavy sigh] 10:03pm. God… Another long day. And another weird one. It’s…

[The door suddenly opens]

Oh, hey… What? Oh, hey Ned.

NED LEROUX 

Hey yourself.

[He closes the door]

[Footsteps]

BILL TYLER

Any word from the hospital?

NED LEROUX

Yeah. Every member of this fucking cult

is in a coma… [he sits] Except our two friends from this afternoon.

BILL TYLER 

Wait, what?

NED LEROUX

Yeah. Some of them were just passed out before, but… Not anymore. And Amanita and Hyde are looking a little worse for wear themselves, turns out.

[Ned’s phone buzzes]

[He pulls it out]

[He groans] 

Scratch that. All members of Templi Prophetam, minus the man currently playing host to the world’s most aggressive mushroom colony, are in a coma. Motherfu –

BILL TYLER 

Goddamit, we were just getting somewhere.

NED LEROUX

We might still have enough to go on. Have you reviewed the recordings yet?

BILL TYLER 

Yeah, just finished. Though both of them seemed to hit the same wall before we got any actual answers.

NED LEROUX

Oh… Really? Yours also ended up…

BILL TYLER 

Yeah. Rambling some incoherent religious mantras? Yeah.

NED LEROUX

Interesting. Must have been the poison starting to set in. Maybe they both ingested more than they let on. 

I wish we knew what the symptoms of this thing are supposed to be. I mean, it definitely sounded like they were out of it, but Hyde had these weird little pauses when they were talking. They didn’t finish any of their sentences, and then they’d just start again in the middle of another one. Like they were being… I don’t know, muted or something, off and on.

BILL TYLER

Wait a second. I wonder if… No. It can’t be. But maybe… Hold on.

[Bill starts clicking around on the computer]

[Ned shifts]

NED LEROUX

What are you doing there, Bill?

BILL TYLER

I’m listening for something…

[Ned walks over]

[Bill continues working]

NED LEROUX 

[Nervous chuckle]

Gonna tell me what you’re looking for there, bud?

[Bill clicks his mouse one final time]

BILL TYLER

Here. Listen to this.

[Bill presses play. The layered audio tracks start up]

[Amanita & Hydnellum recite “The Story” between each other]

[Ned’s brief responses from earlier are also in the background]

AMANITA & HYDNELLUM

Eve, when she saw the fruit good to eat

And Adam, standing nearby

Could not bear the sting of separateness more 

Unity, lest they die

Tie, bind, joining yet still

Adam and Eve in their mirth

Knew the mind of God, the Father of God 

The Prophet of THE EARTH

When the Word is spoken to you, little children 

Remember well these words

That the Prophet will make a new home once more 

THE PROMISE of New Birth

Stand not against the roots of heaven 

Resist not the union of bliss

Be at One all the same

and remember THE NAME

Of Time and Creation’s Kiss

THE SOURCE OF ALL THAT WAS AND WAS NOT AND WILL BE AGAIN IS WITHIN ME AND WITHOUT ME AND BEYOND ME AND BELOW ME AND BEFORE ME FOREVER AND EVER. 

AMANITA

Amen.

[One final gasp]

[Amanita & Hyde are heard collapsing]

[Bill clicks to stop the audio tracks]

NED LEROUX 

Geez, how did you line that up so well?

BILL TYLER 

I didn’t. I just matched the timestamps on both files.

NED LEROUX

We have to show this to the chief.

BILL TYLER 

Uh… Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll… I’ll save this and send it over to…

NED LEROUX 

How the hell did they do that?

BILL TYLER

I don’t know. Not my department.

NED LEROUX

Oh come on, Tyler… You aren’t the least bit curious? You were with her when it happened, same as I was. If this is because of that mushroom, then the implications could be…

BILL TYLER 

The implication is that two poor loners were tricked by some wackjob’s cult and dosed up with enough hallucinogens to… I don’t know what, beside put them both in a fucking coma. And now we’ve got a hospital full of these people, all too comatose to give us any answers. It’s a dead end.

NED LEROUX

Calm down Bill, I’m only saying that…

BILL TYLER

What, this mean something else to you? Planning on going out and arresting a mushroom later? You trying to build a case against it? What?

NED LEROUX 

Hey hey, relax buddy. I know it’s late and you’re frustrated, and yeah… There isn’t much we can do no matter what. It’s just… I’m just saying it’s strange, is all. Just strange.

BILL TYLER 

[He sighs]

Yeah. Yeah, it sure is.

Recording Ends


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