Episode 39: “Bitter Rue”

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CONTENT WARNING: Depictions of grief, loss, and depression, terror, strong language, and brief mentions of child death.

11022019b: On the high cliffs of Heceta Head, there stands a lighthouse, and beyond that lighthouse, a grave, and at that gravesite, a mystery that Anna was never able to solve… And the end of this chapter in Maria Sol’s journey.

Starring Amitola Lomas as Maria Sol, Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, and Jesse Steele as Bill Tyler, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written by Trevor Van Winkle and produced by Virginia Spotts and Trevor Van Winkle, 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

Sign up for our anniversary giveaway here: https://forms.gle/LoConqF692jsrVVk6

Script

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Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: Depictions of grief, loss, and depression, terror, strong language, and brief mentions of child death.

Cold Open

[An airplane taking off]

[A busy afternoon in an airport – conversation, movement, intermittent announcement dings]

[The crowd noise fades away]

[Maria sighs impatiently, making noise to herself]

MARIA SOL 

Where the hell are you Anna? Your plane landed half an hour ago.

[She taps on her phone]

Only two bars? Geez, I can’t even check tumblr with that.

[Maria angrily turns it off and pockets her phone, drumming slightly on the armrest]

Screw this. I’m gonna go get coffee.

[She stands, walking through the crowd. The scene grows louder as she goes, pushing past a few people]

Sorry – Excuse me, I just need to – Sorry – Thanks.

This would be so much easier if Anna were here.

[Footsteps]

My kingdom, my kingdom for a freaking Star – Oh, there it is!

[Maria turns towards it, when suddenly –]

[Silence. The sound of the crowd evaporates with a faint whoosh, like air filling the space left by the vanished travelers]

[Maria’s footsteps echo in the empty space]

What the hell?

[Whoosh. The sound of the crowd returns just as suddenly as it vanished, and someone bumps into Maria with a slight OOMF]

Sorry! I didn’t see you there.

[They scoff in response and walk off]

Okay… So either I’m going crazy, or something really weird is going on here. What the hell could make an entire airport just –?

[Whoosh. The crowd vanishes again]

Holy Shit…

[Maria pulls out her phone and begins to record as she walks back into the empty hall]

I don’t know how well you can see this, but – I’m in the middle of LAX right now. It was full of people a second ago, but now – It’s completely empty. I saw it happen. The people just – Vanished. No flash or smoke or anything, just – one second there, the next –

[Whoosh. The crowd reappears in front of Maria… Along with a baggage cart that slams into her]

Oooof! Owww…

[Maria falls, her phone clattering]

PASSENGER 

Oh god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you, I was… Miss? Miss?

[Maria pointedly ignores them, limping as fast as she can towards the lobby]

MARIA SOL 

I just need to get to the baggage claim – Anna will be there, I just need to –

[Whoosh. The crowd evaporates. Nothing but the sound of the empty baggage carousel, still turning]

Shit. Huh… Well that’s interesting. People’s luggage disappeared at the same time they did. Good to know. That probably means I’m not in the real LAX, just a… a copy of it. Thousands of people aren’t being pulled out of the real world – it’s just me.

Oh, come on, don’t tell me you’re going to stay like this now? After you hit me with a baggage cart back there?

[Silence – and then thunder. A low, booming rumble from somewhere outside that grows louder and louder rather than fading out]

What the fuck is that…

[The windows in the terminal begin to shake, the sound rattling the world]

Where are you, Anna?

ANNA SHERIDAN

Right here!

[Maria gasps, spins around, and the world snaps back to normal]

[The rumbling vanishes, replaced by the familiar sounds of LAX]

ANNA SHERIDAN 

Whoah! It’s just me, Maria! I know I look different with a tan, but can’t you –

Jesus Maria, are you okay?

MARIA SOL

I’m… I’m fine, it’s just –

ANNA SHERIDAN 

What happened? Do you need to get some air?

MARIA SOL 

I…

[Maria wraps Anna in a bear hug]

ANNA SHERIDAN 

He-ey, hey, it’s alright, you’re okay. You’re safe.

MARIA SOL 

Please don’t go away again. Please.

ANNA SHERIDAN 

I won’t. I’m right here. We’re okay.

[After a moment, Maria unwraps her arms from around Anna and steps back]

MARIA SOL 

[Sniffs]

Sorry.

ANNA SHERIDAN

It’s okay, Maria… I missed you too.

MARIA SOL

No, it’s not that, it’s – I mean it is, but… Not just that.

ANNA SHERIDAN 

What do you mean?

MARIA SOL 

I just… I think I just had another encounter.

ANNA SHERIDAN 

What, here?

MARIA SOL 

Yes, here. Look, I got a video of it when I –

[She pulls out her phone, then freezes. She clicks the side buttons on her phone]

MARIA SOL 

Son of a bitch…

ANNA SHERIDAN 

Did you drop it somewhere?

MARIA SOL

No, I hit it with a hammer when it didn’t update fast enough. Of course I dropped it!

ANNA SHERIDAN

Sorry – Still, it probably wouldn’t have worked anyways. Digital cameras never –

MARIA SOL

– Yeah, yeah, I know: they don’t do well with paradoxes. Still wanted to show you, though.

ANNA SHERIDAN 

Well, whatever it was… I think you handled it pretty well without me.

MARIA SOL 

No, I didn’t. And I really don’t want to do it again.

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

Main Theme

Recording Begins

[Cassette noises]

[Static fades away]

[Waves crashing far below and a light coastal wind]

ANNA SHERIDAN 

I’ve always thought of the Oregon coast as a special place – one of those rare and precious places where the noise and hurry of modern life falls away, and the veil between worlds is thin more often than not. A timeless place, where the past and present blur together and the shadows are rarely as empty as they seem. And while there are still dozens of places like that in the untouched corners of this planet, few, for my money, compare to Heceta Head.

Perhaps it’s the stark contrasts that make it so: the sharp spurs of solid earth jutting up from the crashing waves like rocky fangs, and the lighthouse towering higher still above them. The long, arcing bridge looming over the waves like an ancient aqueduct, linking this isolated place to the other pockets of civilization that cling to life on the edge of the sea. Even the light itself, shining out into the utter dark of the wild Pacific night like a lance of fire, cutting through the heavy fog all the way to the horizon, before disappearing behind the curve of the Earth itself.

Or maybe it’s just that it makes me want to wax poetic every time I see it. Whenever I find myself out here, I’m usually driving south on Highway 101 to somewhere else on the coast, and the hills and thick forests surrounding the lighthouse keep it out of sight until I’ve already missed the turn-off. Every time I spot it in the rearview mirror, I kick myself for passing it by again and swear I’ll visit next time. And then next time, I do the exact same thing. And the time after that. And the time after that.

It might have always been a “next time” destination if I didn’t take a moment to actually research the place after my last near-miss. I always thought it was dramatic enough to warrant a visit even without any supernatural phenomena. Imagine my delight when I learned that it’s also deeply, deeply haunted.

In 1888, soon after the land around the head was claimed by people who really had no right to claim it at all, this rocky spur was chosen as the site of a new, powerful lighthouse to keep ships off the treacherous cliffs surrounding it. Work didn’t really begin until 1892, however, and the construction process was notoriously slow, dangerous, and difficult. Heceta Head was and is right on the edge of a series of steep coastal hills, miles from the nearest town and all but swallowed up by the ancient forests that surround it. Supplies that came by boat had to contend with dangerous tides and waves, and bringing materials by wagon took nearly five hours of riding over muddy, axel-breaking terrain. Yet even with all that, the entire project only took a year to complete. When the light first shone out into the dark on March 30th, 1894, I’m sure that all assembled could agree that their efforts had been more than worth the result.

[The sound of distant seagulls]

Soon after, keepers moved in, assigned to watch over the kerosene lamp and keep it shining against the infinite dark. This, it turned out, was not as easy as they assumed. At least three sets of light keepers came and went within eight years, along with their families; driven off by the harsh weather, dangerous, unpleasant work, and above all, the isolation that wrapped itself around the lighthouse like a shroud. Only after Olaf Hansen took over did the constant turnover end, and he spent years turning this isolated spit of land into a place where people could actually live and thrive. He built a schoolhouse, a garden, and even a post office, all in an effort to make sure that whoever came after him wouldn’t feel nearly as isolated from the outside world as he and his predecessors had.

Across the years, people like Olaf worked tirelessly to ensure the light kept shining, to keep sailors safe in the dangerous waters below, and to maintain a small foothold of civilization far from the eyes of other human beings. And, like in so many other places where humanity lingered for too long alone in the dark – doors were opened. Something was drawn here: something that took up residence in the shadows of the trees, beneath the waves, and beyond the reach of the ever-burning lamp.

Of course, civilization eventually caught up with the rugged fantasy of this place. Less than 40 years after the light first started shining, Highway 101 and the Cape Creek bridge permanently and irreversibly tied this part of the world to the rest of modern society, and the light was electrified soon afterwards. It passed into the care of the US Coast Guard by the end of the 30’s, and they decided to sell off the head keeper’s house for lumber. By 1963, the lighthouse was fully automated, and the last of the lighthouse keepers left their posts for good.

It was only at this point, however, when the ghosts truly began to come out of the woodwork. While the head keeper’s house was long gone, the assistant keeper’s house still stood, as it does to this day. Throughout the mid-90’s, it was leased out to Lane Community College by the US Forest Service. One dark and stormy night, a group of students – probably driven by the same mix of isolation and boredom that made the lighthouse so difficult to staff in the first place – decided to break out a Ouija board and attempt to communicate with any spirits still lingering on the grounds. After the mood had been appropriately set, the students asked for a name. The planchette began to move across the board, and ever-so-slowly, it spelled out a three letter word: “R-U-E.” Hence, when a worker came face to face with a grey lady in a Victorian dress while cleaning the attic, she quickly became known as Rue.

For the most part, Rue seemed to be harmless – even friendly, if a little mischievous. After that same worker accidentally broke an attic window while cleaning the outside of the house, he refused to go back inside and pick up the glass, patching it up from the outside instead. Later that night, the caretakers heard a faint scraping sound through their ceiling, and when they checked the next morning, they found the broken glass swept up into a neat little pile on the floor. Years later, when the house had been converted into a Bed and Breakfast, guests began to describe feeling a comforting presence in their rooms when they were alone, and a few even said that someone had sat down on the bed next to them while they slept. But even with all of these encounters, it seems no one has ever been actively harmed by Rue – just occasionally spooked. And as a result, the time that would have otherwise been spent being afraid of her was dedicated to solving the mystery of who she really was.

By and large, it’s been worked out backwards, stitched together from rumor, hearsay, and speculation. You might think it would be relatively easy to figure out if anyone named Rue ever lived in the assistant keeper’s house – but you’d be wrong. The 19th century’s misogyny extended even to the paperwork of the Lighthouse Service, and only the names of the exclusively male keepers were recorded. Their wives and families were seen as extra cargo they brought along with them. But even without any solid records, theories abound. The most widely accepted tale is that Rue was the wife of one of the earliest keepers at Heceta Head. Whether by accident or through some horrifying act of malice, her daughter drowned, either in the estuary below the lighthouse or in the cistern, and was buried somewhere on the property. There’s supposedly a small, child-sized grave marker somewhere in the woods behind the lighthouse, though it’s notoriously difficult to find and I haven’t been able to locate any photos of it online. What happened afterwards, however, isn’t often discussed, and it isn’t clear whether the keeper’s wife also died on the property, or if she died elsewhere, only to return and haunt the site of her daughter’s passing. There’s even a theory that there are two ghosts: the child, who spelled out “Rue” on the Ouija board, and her mother, who the worker saw in the attic. But no one really knows for sure. I don’t think anyone really can.

Of course, I have my own theory, as usual. I see no reason to throw out most of the speculation – someone probably did die out here at some point, and drowning is the most likely cause. Whether a mother or a child, it doesn’t really matter: there’s no way to tell without finding the grave and exhuming the body… And despite what some people might think of me, I draw the line well above grave robbing. But the evidence we do have is enough, I think. Whatever or whoever haunts this place has taken the form of a grey lady: a common type of ghost somewhere between a non-corporeal apparition and a poltergeist. They’re able to influence the physical world in small ways, but aren’t possessed by a sense of anger or malice towards it. The grey lady here seems kind, almost caring – though I know there’s a serious danger in assigning human motives to someone who isn’t human… at least, not entirely. After all, I think that’s what those students with the Ouija board got wrong in the first place. When the ghost answered the question “What is your name?” with “R-U-E,” they simply assumed she was giving them the name she had in life. But I don’t think that’s what really happened. Rue isn’t a terribly common name… Not rare by any stretch of the imagination, but not common. But Rue has another meaning, and one I think the students missed. Regret. Dismay. A bitter longing to have done something different in a moment of crisis that can never be undone.

In my experience, strong emotions are what bind a soul to a place, even after death. Usually it’s anger of fear, but that kind of grief – the kind of grief that demands some impossible action – can be just as strong of an anchor. More so, sometimes. And when the ghost spelled “Rue,”, she wasn’t giving them her name – she was telling them her nature, her purpose, and her story all in one.

[She laughs]

Not bad for three letters. Maybe I could learn a thing or two about writing from her.

Of course, I can’t prove any of that. Especially not with the lighthouse closed and swarming with workers right now. These kinds of ghosts tend to be very shy, and they don’t like to

show themselves when more than one person can see them. Plus, I can’t even get up past the lighthouse to look for the gravesite – not without getting myself arrested in this state for a second time. The keeper’s house is still opened and I considered staying the night, but… Honestly, I don’t think there would be any use in trying right now. So once again, I’ll just have to say – Next time. Next time, I’ll finally get some answers.

[Click]

[The tape spits out]

[The waves break against the rocks outside]

[A small fire crackles]

[Maria sighs]

MARIA SOL 

I must have listened to this thing… What, three times tonight? Four? And god knows how many more on the drive up here. I was hoping I might be able to find some clue about this place that I’d missed – some way to draw Rue out or figure out who she was, but there’s nothing. Except for that she sounds kind of similar to the ghosts Anna saw in Kingstown and Tahoe – the ones connected to the voice Sam heard in Agate Shore. But even if she is, that’s not a lead. It’s barely a hunch, and honestly, I only say that because people assume she drowned here. I don’t even know that for sure. I’m hoping I can find something more substantial out in the woods tomorrow. I have to – this trip has used up all of my rainy day money, and I could only afford to stay here for three nights. I’m not really sure if it’s going to be worth it. So far I haven’t seen or felt anything strange… Though maybe I’m still just tired from the drive. Or – just tired, period.

To be honest, I stopped listening to the tape for details a long time ago. I don’t know how long ago, but probably before I started driving here. There isn’t much to it, not compared to some of Anna’s other tapes, but… maybe that’s why I was listening to it. I just wanted to hear her tell me a story one more time. To hear her voice again and… Uh…

[Maria cuts off, then makes a small, angry noise – almost like an audible frown at how sad that sounds]

I need to get out of here – get some fresh air. It’s getting way too depressing in this room.

[Maria stands and gathers herself together]

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[The crashing of the waves is still distant, but less muffled]

[The wind is louder as it hurries through the leafy canopy]

[Every few seconds, a low, deep whoosh indicates the lighthouse beam sweeping past]

[Maria walks across a field of low grass and wet leaves]

MARIA SOL 

Alright – just made it up the hill to the lighthouse. I didn’t think I would go this far. I only brought my recorder and flashlight so I wouldn’t have to carry too much stuff, but I probably didn’t need that last one: with all this fog, the beacon is lighting up the entire hill, even if it does get dark when it’s not shining this way. It’ll probably get darker once I’m into the trees, but I figured now is as good a time as any to look for Rue’s grave. If there is anything genuinely supernatural out here – well, this is my best chance of finding it. Or of it finding me, I guess. Either way works for me.

[She stops, noticing her own words]

No… It shouldn’t work for me. I should be scared. I should be terrified, honestly. Going out in the woods behind a lighthouse on a foggy night? If nothing else I should be scared of falling off the cliffs in the dark, but – I’m not. Hm. 

I didn’t really feel anything the whole time I was in Oslow, either. I was angry when I saw the Echo and scared for Alice, but – I didn’t really feel it, you know? It was more like I knew I should feel that way, so I – I kind of forced myself to. And between those moments? The times when I should have been scared or sad or even worried for Sam… There was nothing. I didn’t feel anything – not the way I should have. And it’s only gotten worse since then.

I’ve done all these things to try and make it up to Anna, to finish what she started, and – what? Make her proud of me? Even though I know that’s impossible. It’s more like… she was a part of me, and I don’t know how to feel about anything without her. Ever since we met, I kind of just – followed her lead. It was always hard when she was gone, even if it was just for a little bit. Even if I was the one who told her to go. Even when we weren’t together, half the work I did came from her. I know I technically worked for Poultice Press, but it was always kind of… awkward. We had a hard time feeling that out before either of us felt like we could make a move. And even then… Well, it’s a real mood killer to have your girlfriend remind you of a deadline in the middle of a date.

And now she’s gone. I tried to keep working, but without Poultice I just couldn’t pay my part of the rent. Not for very long, at least. Thankfully Alice didn’t want to stay in the apartment after what happened with the Echo either. She let me keep the safety deposit since she still had her job and didn’t need it. I’ve been able to keep going on that and my savings for a while now, but…

What the hell am I doing out here?

[A moment’s silence, before a faint static rises on the tape]

[Voices echo on the wind]

MARIA SOL (faint and distant)

Please don’t go away again. Please.

ANNA SHERIDAN (faint and distant)

I won’t. I’m right here. We’re okay.

MARIA SOL 

[Scoffs]

And now I’m hearing things. Great. 

[She suddenly stops]

Oh. There it is. Uh, I guess this is Rue’s grave. That was easier than I thought it would be.

[Maria walks towards the marker, examining it in the glow of the flashlight]

It’s about – Eighteen inches tall and eight wide. Unmarked as far as I can tell, and standing mostly upright over a small mound that looks –

[Whoosh. The light washes over the grave, and Maria freezes]

It’s… No. It can’t be, it has to be a trick of the light. It’s blank – I can see it’s blank when I –

[Whoosh. The light washes over it again, and a faint, almost inaudible voice whispers: MARIA…]

It’s – It’s my name. The grave has my name on it. How is that possible?

ANNA SHERIDAN (faint and distant)

There’s more on the line here than you know. Maybe even than I know. And I’m sorry, but… It’s better this way.

MARIA SOL (faint and distant)

Better for who?

MARIA SOL 

No, no, no – you don’t get to take that night! You don’t get to go there!

ANNA SHERIDAN (faint and distant)

Maria, come back here!

MARIA SOL (faint and distant)

If you’re not going to tell me why we’re here, then you can deal with whatever’s in there on your own for all I care!

MARIA SOL 

No, please not then… 

ANNA SHERIDAN (faint and distant)

Maria, stop pouting for once and help me! Maria? Maria!

[Maria scrambles through the overgrowth]

MARIA SOL (faint and distant)

I’m done with you treating me like this! Tell me the truth, or fuck off!

[Maria turns and bolts into the trees. The light washes over her, seeming to accelerate. Each new whoosh brings another image]

ANNA SHERIDAN (faint and distant)

Ethos Anthropos Daimon.

MARIA SOL (faint and distant)

Um… Gesundheit?

ANNA SHERIDAN (faint and distant)

“Character is fate.”

MARIA SOL (faint and distant)

But she just hugged me, right there in the middle of the edit bays, and whispered “thank you” in my ear. 

ANNA SHERIDAN (RECORDED) (faint and distant)

Neither of us are going to be here forever, Maria. And I’ve spent enough time dealing with ghosts to know that the marks of our passage last far longer than we do. I just want to make sure that I leave a good one.

MARIA SOL (faint and distant)

Ha! Well, sorry if I’m not weeping openly over my dearly departed love. Don’t mistake this with being okay.

MARIA SOL 

Shut UP!

[Maria breaks through the tree line, the sound of waves louder and closer and the whoosh of the light clearer. A light drizzle has begun to fall]

[The voices are gone, and Maria is left with the stark emptiness of the coastal night. She falls to her knees, crying softly]

I can’t do this, Anna. I can’t. I miss you, and I can’t do this alone.

[Silence – and then slowly, another voice appears]

ANNA SHERIDAN 

Yes, you can. I know you can. And so do you. But you don’t have to be alone.

MARIA SOL 

I’m not alone. I haven’t let you go. And I don’t think I can.

ANNA SHERIDAN

You don’t have to. Not completely. But you have to stop trying to live my life for me. You need to start living yours.

MARIA SOL 

I don’t even know what that means anymore.

ANNA SHERIDAN

Then maybe it’s time you found out.

MARIA SOL

How can I move on after what I did to –

ANNA SHERIDAN 

It wasn’t your fault.

MARIA SOL 

But if I just tried to –

ANNA SHERIDAN 

It wasn’t your fault. I chose to go in there. That was my choice. You couldn’t have stopped me, even if you’d tried. Stop killing yourself over something you can’t possibly change, and live.

MARIA SOL 

I’ll still miss you.

ANNA SHERIDAN 

I know. That’s okay.

MARIA SOL 

I love you.

ANNA SHERIDAN

[She laughs quietly]

You’d better.

[The voice fades away, and the world slowly returns to normal]

[The lighthouse whooshes twice]

[Maria sniffs back the last of her tears, then slowly stands and begins to make her way back down the hill]

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[The distant sound of waves]

[Back in her room, Maria is packing her suitcase as she records]

MARIA SOL

Okay, I guess it’s been about – an hour since I stopped recording. I’m doing a little better now – enough that I can talk for more than a few minutes without bursting into tears, at least. I spoke with the caretaker when I got back and said I needed to leave early. I guess she thought I saw something in the woods that scared me off. And I guess that’s kind of true, so I didn’t bother correcting her.

[She laughs]

You know the strangest thing? I actually think I can feel a presence in here now. I don’t know if it’s Rue or someone else or – maybe Anna. I don’t see how I could have actually been talking to her back there but… it felt like her. It’s… Comforting, in a way.

Honestly, I could probably stay for a few more days, but – I think it’s high time I go home. I need to call Alice and – Well, first I need to apologize, and then ask her if I can stay at her new place for a few days. Or at least park my van outside while I figure out what –

[BUZZ. BUZZ. Maria’s phone starts to vibrate on the nightstand]

MARIA SOL 

Who’s calling me now? It’s got to be midnight by –

759? That’s an Oslow number. Who’s – ?

[She answers]

MARIA SOL

Um… Hello?

BILL TYLER 

Maria? Is that you?

MARIA SOL 

Bill? Why are you calling me on your cell, I thought you said –

BILL TYLER

I know, I know it’s a risk, but – I didn’t know who else to call.

MARIA SOL 

What’s going on? Is it – uh, you know who?

BILL TYLER

What? Oh, no, he’s fine, but it’s… Well, I don’t know. He’s okay – but I don’t know. He might not be for much longer.

[Clack]

Recording Ends


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