B-Side 07: "Traveler" – The Sheridan Tapes
CONTENT WARNING: Paranoia, memory loss, and uncertain reality.
B-Side 07: An unexpected journey.
Starring Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey and Sam Taylor as the stranger, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written by Sam Taylor and produced by Virginia Spotts and Trevor Van Winkle, with dialogue editing by Robin Gabrielli. Directed by 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
CONTENT WARNING: Paranoia, memory loss, and uncertain reality.
[Cassette noises; static fades away gently]
[The sound of birds and steady footsteps]
This is detect-
[Pause, clears his throat]
This is Sam Bailey, daily log – October 25th, 2019. It’s been a few days since I last got out of the cabin. After my run in with that… whatever caused the fire, it’s been hard to want to go outside. Not that I’ve been able to get it out of my head by staying inside, either. I mean… what even was it? Is it something I need to be worried about running into out here? Did I stop it, send it away – is it even something I can stop?
I don’t know – I just finally got to feeling like I couldn’t stay cooped up inside any longer, so here I am. Maybe I’ll find it again, maybe I’ll find nothing. Hopefully it’s the latter – much as I want to figure this stuff out, I need a break from the supernatural for the time being – not that I’m helping matters by wandering around out here, looking for it.
I decided to take my recorder with me this time. If something does happen, I’d prefer to capture it as it’s happening instead of relying on my memory… or my ability as a storyteller. Not that an unnatural forest fire would read much better on tape but… well, it made more sense when I left the cabin. Still, it-
[He stops and pauses]
What… is that?
[He hesitates, then begins walking slowly again]
There seems to be a – well, some kind of stone arch in the clearing up ahead. I’ve… I’m sure I’ve been past this place before, and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s – old. Ancient. The stones look like they used to have some kind of writing or symbols carved into them, but it’s almost completely worn away. It honestly reminds me of pictures of Stonehenge or-
[He cuts off; the noises of the forest have begun to change, quieting down]
[A strange, quiet, droning white noise]
There’s uh… there’s something strange about this thing. I almost feel drawn to it – which is probably the best reason I could think of to leave it alone. Still…
[He takes a few curious steps around it]
Huh… it’s not just stone. I can see through some of the cracks in the rock, there’s some kind of metal… iron maybe? Whatever it is, it looks like it was made to look like vines and branches, winding around each other. It’s old and weathered but… not actually rusty. Funny… it really is beautiful – and maybe not as old as I thought.
[Crackling on the tape]
The stones are crumbling, but the structure seems as solid as-
[Sam touches the arch and a strong crackle of static rips through the air]
[Tape recorder switches back on, the gears of it sounding louder in the background]
[The sounds of a deeper, wilder, more lush forest]
[Sam sits up and groans]
Ugh… what happ-?
[He cuts himself off]
What the hell?
[He jumps to his feet and groans through a dizzy spell]
[He picks up his recorder on the ground]
Oh, I knew I brought you for a reason. Still recording? Good. Okay… uh…
Last thing I remember before – losing consciousness, apparently – was pushing on the arch to see how sturdy it was. Now I’m… somewhere else. A completely different forest – and I mean completely different. Everything here feels… off. Closer, older… more dangerous. I don’t know how I know, but I won’t be able to just close my eyes and wish it away like last time.
[He takes some steps forward, through heavy leaf cover]
I’m in some kind of clearing. The archway is here, but…
[He tentatively taps on the archway]
No, of course not. Maybe there’s a way to get back through the archway, or – maybe it would just take me somewhere else again.
There’s a small dirt path leading away from the arch and out of the clearing, so – I assume it was made by someone vaguely human. Maybe they can tell me what’s going on… or at least, I might be able to figure out where I am.
[He steps out of the leaves and onto a dirt path]
What the – there’s some kind of structure up ahead… maybe a house, but… honestly, it looks straight out of a fairytale. Wattle and daub walls, stone foundation, thatched roof… and a chimney. With smoke coming out. Someone’s home, at least. And the path does go straight up to the door, so…
[He takes a few more steps forward]
There’s a sign over the door, too – “The Inn of the Archway.” Huh. Maybe they’ll have some answers for me.
[He steps forward, pushing a heavy, creaking door open]
[A fire crackles in the hearth in the quiet interior]
[He pulls the door shut behind him and hesitantly steps forward, footsteps on stone]
Hello? Anyone home?
[Someone answers, muffled behind a wall]
Oh, welcome Traveler!
[The flutter of wings]
Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in, tend to get a bit [he emerges from another creaking door, voice gaining clarity] lost in my own thoughts back there-
[Sam cries out in alarm]
What? What the hell-
[The door creaks shut fully behind Grael]
Oh, come now – no reason for all that. I’m not going to hurt you… as long as you don’t give me a reason to.
This… I have to be dreaming. This can’t be happening.
[Sam pinches his own arm a little too hard, wincing]
Are you finished? I assure you – this is all quite real. Pinching yourself won’t change that.
But – this is – what-
[Grael drags a chair over to Sam]
You – sit. Stay.
[Grael flutters off, pulls a bottle off a shelf, uncorks it, and pours into a glasse]
Here – drink. I think you need it.
[Sam hesitates; Grael scoffs and drinks from the bottle; Sam takes a hesitant sip]
Now, isn’t that better?
[Sam coughs on the alcohol]
I – I guess.
My, but you do look awfully tired.
[Sam coughs again]
Have you traveled far?
No – I mean, yes – I mean… well, maybe?
I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure out how I got here. I knew where I was before – mostly. General area, at least. But then I saw the archway in the woods, and when I touched it… Suddenly, I’m in a forest I don’t recognize. This was the first place I saw, so I thought you might know-
Who are you?
I’m… Sam. Sam Bailey.
Sam… Bailey. Hmmm…
Is – is there a problem?
Why are you really here?
You put on a convincing act, Sam, Sam Bailey – but you don’t fool me.
I’m not – trying to…
They never remember where they come from – who they were. Yet you do. Remember name and place and past in full. So tell me Sam, Sam Bailey: why did you come here?
Were you sent to stop my plans? Or are you foolish enough to come of your own accord, knowing full well whose forests you entered?
Who do you mean by “they?”
Do not insult me, Sam Bailey. You already know of the countless others I’ve drawn to this inn: the hapless travelers pulled through that doorway. They wander in without memory of who they were, the worlds they came from, seeking answers I am only too happy to provide.
Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about! What’s going on – who are you?
[Grael laughs darkly]
I am not a force to be trifled with, Sam Bailey.
I didn’t come here to do anything, I swear! I just saw something strange in the woods, that’s all!
[Grael laughs bitterly]
There have been a lot of weird things happening around me, so I thought that your arch was just one of them. Maybe it got confused or/something-
It would take a magic great and terrible to confuse the archway, Sam Bailey. Stop playing games with me – what are you!?
I don’t know!
[Sam stands as he shouts; Grael flutters close]
Test me again, and you will see what happens to those who toy with beings beyond their understanding. You’re in over your head even further than you know, Bailey.
I’m serious – I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out… that’s why I was out in the forest in the first place. I swear, I’m not trying to mock you, I’m just here-
[A flash of power, Sam freezes in place, struggling against it]
That’s better. Now-
[The static has risen on the tape]
[Sam takes a step forward – rumbling picks up as Sam breaks Grael’s spell]
What is this? Stop! I said stop!
[Grael flutters backwards as Sam continues towards him]
[A sound like wind, like echoes, like waves, fills the inn]
[Grael freezes in place; static on the tape is heavy]
Now I think it’s time for you to answer some of my quest-
[Sam cuts off, the sound backs off in intensity as Grael takes over]
[Grael flutters to the shelves]
Whatever you are, you are powerful – I’ll not deny that.
[Grael pours a drink]
Powerful and ancient, that power you call upon… older than my world, and stronger than the seas.
[He sets down the bottle and flutters close]
But you made one very human mistake, Sam, Sam Bailey. You gave me your name. Now – STOP.
[Sam cries out in alarm as Grael immobilizes him again]
[Grael’s wings flutter]
I don’t know what you are or what you really want – but I don’t think you do, either. I could keep you here – torment you for the frustration you caused me for the next three-hundred years… but if you truly do not know what you are, then I can think of no better torture than to leave you in that ignorance and fear. And as for where you belong – your power and your lack of insight are a dangerous concoction… one that I will not allow in my Echowood. You would do well not to return. And if ever we meet again beneath these trees, I will not be so kind.
[The flutter of Grael’s wings]
Fare thee well, Sam Bailey. Now – GO!
[Grael’s final word echoes as a blast of power throws Sam backwards]
[He travels through something like a mighty wind that blows him through the opened door and trees]
[The tape cuts off]
[The tape starts again]
[The sounds of the forest are gentle]
[Sam awakens with a pained groan]
What the hell – what happened? Wasn’t I… I was hiking, and then – God, I can’t remember anything.
[He notices the recorder and picks it up]
Hold on… you’re recording? Well maybe you have some answers…
[He stops the recorder]
[A small fire crackles in the fireplace]
[Sam settles in to talk]
So… this is really strange. I can remember leaving for a hike this morning. I know I was recording… it’s on the tape. But then… nothing. I don’t remember anything until I woke up on the ground. It felt like I just woke up from a dream, like something had happened… but I can’t remember any of it. Just the barest echoes that fade away the more I try to remember.
That isn’t even the strangest part. The tape recorder was running when I woke up, but when I listened back…
It starts when I first began hiking. It goes on for a few minutes, but then I notice something ahead of me… and then the tape cuts to nearly an hour of total silence. It doesn’t start recording normally again until I woke up.
I’m not sure what happened to me out there. But it wasn’t nothing. There wouldn’t be an hour of silence on the tape if something hadn’t happened. It’s like whatever I ran into out there doesn’t want me to remember – like it erased the tape to make sure I wouldn’t.
But why? Where did I go… what did I run into? And how is all this even possible?
Really, Bailey? After everything you’ve seen, you’re still asking how?
[He leans over and stops the recorder]
BONUS ECHOWOOD PREVIEW, POST-CREDITS
[A forest: birds gently calling, wind through the treetops]
[The sound of fluttering wings]
[Someone lands on the ground softly]
Ash and oak and iron and thorn…
Stone and rune and land forlorn…
Last thin chance of vain hope born…
Heed thee now my call.
[A solid door creaks open]
[Grael’s wings flutter]
Oh, welcome traveler! Sorry I didn’t hear you come in. Tend to get a bit lost in my own thoughts back there.
[Bottle corks open]
It’s been an age since I’ve had a guest in my inn, and you look like you could do with getting off your feet for a spell.
[Footsteps and a stool being pulled out; someone sits]
It’s my job to teach those who come through everything they need to know about the Echowood. So if you’ll permit me, I have a proposition for you: I will tell you everything I know of the Echowood. Its history, its peoples, its secret depths and hidden heights, I will tell you of witches and ghosts and sea beasts, I will tell you of dragons and dwarves and the glittering stars above. I will illuminate the secret turnings of this world to you as best I can. And in the end, I will send you on to whatever fate awaits you. Do we have a deal?
Tales of the Echowood, a 10-part fantasy anthology from the creators of The Sheridan Tapes. All episodes now available on EchowoodPod.com and on all podcasting platforms.