Episode 65: “Daughter of Envy”

Episode 65: "Daughter of Envy" The Sheridan Tapes

CONTENT WARNING: Body horror, backroom surgery, and the uncanny; discussions of body image and shame, colonialism, and loss; terror, and dread01022020: At an empty winter retreat in the Rockies, the Searchers listen to one of Anna's tapes about an old confrontation with a familiar foe.Starring Becca Scott as Dolores, Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, Amitola Lomas as Maria Sol, and Virginia Spotts as Kate Sheridan, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written and produced by Virginia Spotts, with dialogue editing and sound design by Trevor Van Winkle. This episode was made possible by our supporters at Patreon.com/homesteadcorner, ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner, and our backers on Seed&Spark.For more information, additional content, and episode transcript, visit homesteadonthecorner.com/tst065Support this show http://supporter.acast.com/sheridantapes. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/SheridanTapes. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

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CONTENT WARNING: Body horror, backroom surgery, and the uncanny; discussions of body image and shame, colonialism, and loss; terror, and dread

01022020: At an empty winter retreat in the Rockies, the Searchers listen to one of Anna’s tapes about an old confrontation with a familiar foe.

Starring Becca Scott as Dolores, Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, Amitola Lomas as Maria Sol, and Virginia Spotts as Kate Sheridan, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written and produced by Virginia Spotts, with dialogue editing and sound design by Trevor Van Winkle. This episode was made possible by our supporters at Patreon.com/homesteadcorner, ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner, and our backers on Seed&Spark.

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

Script

Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: Body horror, backroom surgery, and the uncanny; discussions of body image and shame, colonialism, and loss; terror, and dread

[A few dozen women, chatting quietly in an open-aired room]

[Some soft, distant footsteps are heard; the women stop speaking as a door is opened]

[A soft-footed figure walks a few paces and sits on a smooth wooden floor]

[The noise of distant birds can be heard in the quiet]

Dolores

Welcome to all.

[She strikes an oddly bright tone against a quartz bowl]

[It continues to ring, reverberating]

Close your eyes… observe the breath… let go… 

[We hear the sound of Anna Sheridan’s breathing, growing panicked in the calm environment]

[She strikes a different, oddly resonant tone against a different quartz bowl]

Dolores 

Shhh… 

[Anna’s breathing grows harsher, shallower]

[The tones rise louder, competing with Anna’s panic]

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

[A low, rumbling noise]

[Main Theme]

Recording Begins

[Cassette noises]

[Static fades away]

[Inside a warm, quiet cabin]

[A quiet wind whistles outside]

Sam Bailey

Samuel Isaac Bailey, recording for ISPHA internal records — daily log, January 2nd, 2020 at 1:15pm Mountain Standard Time. Happy belated New Year, I guess.

[he sighs]

Myself, Maria, Bill, and Kate arrived here a few days ago — an upscale cabin somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, between Aspen and Breckenridge. Despite what happened in NOLA, we’ve been sent here on our own, without Ren’s supervision… but that’s probably because we’re stuck in here with strict orders not to leave under any circumstances. Someone comes by every few days and drops off supplies. It’s like the murder shed all over again… except I’m not alone up here.

All told, it could be much worse. The living room has these massive windows overlooking… well, I’m not sure which peaks exactly, but they are impressive. I’m guessing this place is normally a hideaway for ISPHA leadership and corporate retreats, not supernatural stakeouts.

Even so, the mood on this mission has been a bit… off. Before we left, Caldwell took us aside and read us the riot act for going off the rails in New Orleans, when we were just getting used to the fact that Jerry was back in Oslow. We were all feeling… a bit off balance, I think. And then the other night, when I saw the… 

[Sam suddenly cuts off, realizing he shouldn’t mention Amanita on the official record]

[Clears his throat]

Uh, well… [he rises from his slightly creaking bed] might as well go see what the rest of them are up to. Maybe review one of the tapes if they’re not opposed.

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[His door opens into the main room of the cabin]

[His voice echoes slightly; it’s a larger, tiled room]

[A fire crackles in the background]

Sam Bailey

Uh… anything yet?

Maria Sol

Nope. Still no “Slide Rock Bolter.”

Sam Bailey

Where’s Bill?

Kate Sheridan

He went to take a nap a few minutes ago. Said he felt a headache coming on.

Sam Bailey

So no sign of it at all?

Maria Sol

No, there’s no sign of a blue whale-sized monster sliding down the mountains in a heavily trafficked area between two of the biggest ski resorts in North America. Seriously, does ISPHA really just expect us to find this thing just by sitting here and watching?

[Kate scoffs]

Kate Sheridan

Apparently. Did you see Ren’s text?

[Maria laughs]

Maria Sol

Wait, you still haven’t muted the group chat?

[Clicking as Kate opens her texts]

[She clears her throat]

Kate Sheridan

“Our researchers have determined that there is a 68% chance you’ll be able to spot the Slide Rock Bolter from the living room.”

[Sam scoffs]

Sam Bailey

That’s a made-up statistic if I’ve ever heard one.

Kate Sheridan

“Reports from the area indicate that several of the creatures make their home in these mountains, and you’re looking at some of the steepest. If they’re out there, you’ll see it. They like to anchor themselves with a spike at the base of their tail to the top of the peak, then quickly slide down, devouring anything in their path. You really can’t miss them.”

[She takes a deeper breath]

“We also have no choice but to limit your freedom of movement for the time being. Due to both the excursion in West Texas and the speed at which these creatures can reportedly move, allowing you to leave the cabin and explore on foot seems unwise to myself and Doctor Caldwell.”

[Sam and Maria sigh]

[Sam sits down]

Maria Sol

Gotta love the Caldwell addendum. 

So why do they want to know about these things, if they don’t want us to even get close to them? What does ISPHA get out of this?

[Kate scoffs]

Kate Sheridan

It’s anyone’s guess, honestly. [she sighs] Well… guess we have some time to kill.

[brief pause]

Maria Sol

Did you find anything interesting in the tapes, Sam? The ones about her dreams?

Sam Bailey

Not really. There’s… just a lot of them? I can’t listen to more than one or two a day, and they’re just so monotonous. The same dreams, over and over again, readings of body temperature and heart rate, sometimes a series of numbers that she saw in her dreams… a lot of that.

[He trails off, gazing out the windows]

Kate Sheridan

Uh… hello? Anyone home?

Sam Bailey

Sorry, just… nevermind. 

Well… I do actually have another tape I want to review, if you’re interested. One of the ones from Ren.

Kate Sheridan

Sure, go ahead.

[Sam pulls out the second tape player]

Sam Bailey

Ready? 

Maria Sol

Hit it.

[Sam inserts the cassette and it begins playing]

[Click]

[Static fades away]

[A quiet evening in Anna’s living room]

[Rain falls outside]

[Her fireplace crackles in the background]

Anna Sheridan

Image. Perfection. Manifestation. Thy name is Southern California. 

Since the mid-19th century, the glittering lie of perfection has haunted the region. Within two brief decades, the diseases and violence brought to the land by western settlers led to the deaths of countless Native peoples, the Gold Rush devastated countless ecosystems and settlements, and the United States waged war against Mexico to claim the territory as their own. Before that point, California had thousands of years of complex history, culture, and careful stewardship. Now it was all wiped away, reformed into the image of its European settlers, in service of an idol that was supposedly more deserving. Something golden, bought with blood.

This false god found its apotheosis in the birth of Old Hollywood. The advent of film was a shocking blow to the cultural psyche: for the first time, humanity began to see itself in full clarity. The concept of the self became external, open and available for public comment and critique like never before. Glamor and image had a powerful new tool, and those who were present at its birth still retained their visions of what the world could or should become — for better, and for worse.

This false god fed on the power of the silver screen: manifestation. If someone wanted to see their vision take root in the minds and hearts of others, all they had to do was deliver a pretty picture. It was all too easy to slip in ideas about the ideal body vs the reprehensible body, the ideal life vs the worthless life, respectable behavior and shameful behavior. And in time, even acceptable ideas vs ideas that could get you blacklisted. Or killed. As the 20th century wore on, the line between entertainment and propaganda became more blurred than ever, until many could no longer see the difference.

So who benefited from the existence of this perfectionist propaganda in the first place? The answer, I believe, is no one. For perfection is an addiction, and an addict is hardly benefited by seeking out another fix. But it does feed something — something that hates the addict and the addiction in equal measure, but depends on both for its survival. Something hungry. Something ruthless.

These are the underlying questions behind much of what I see online, no matter how much I try to stay off the internet. I see so much thought on the word “manifestation,” especially. In the right hands, manifestation is a positive tool — a symbol of personal growth, intentionality, belief in oneself, and trust in the universe. But many people try to control it for their own ends. Some think it means the ability to call forth anything you want out of life or from other people — and those same people often have more than they need already. I’ve even seen some people in this camp go even further: mentally divorcing themselves from the world around them to embrace their own vision of authenticity until it consumes them.

[brief pause]

I’m stalling. When I finish telling this story, maybe you’ll see why I wasn’t so eager to tell it. I do have a point to all this: that there’s something different about the rich and the famous, or those who want to be rich and famous, in Southern California. They’re a people who forever mix a pursuit of whatever is “natural” with an obsession with image and perfection. A toxic combination — an attempt to twist the language of trust and belief into an iron fist of manifestation. The kind that devolves into danger and manipulation faster than you can say “La La Land.” And there’s one particular group that I will never forget.

I can’t remember where or when I first learned about them, exactly. But one day, they were everywhere: the DOLLS. Otherwise known as the “Dynamic Open-Minded Ladies of Lively Starstuff,” a women’s yoga, coaching, and lifestyle association. If you were anywhere within driving distance of LA, it was impossible to miss their slick advertising — billboards and social media posts of sunset yoga, ayurvedic raw vegan brunches, interviews with rich, attractive spokeswomen, sponsored content on the benefits of alkaline water and multi-level marketing, and on and on and on… 

But despite the appearance and reach of their advertising, their base of operations appeared to be in one simple, shiny new yoga studio located in Beverly Hills. By the time I heard about them, they’d been in operation for only about 18 months. And from what I can tell, the group was entirely centered around the woman who started it all: Dolores Wakefield.

Now, I don’t know how else to say this, but — Dolores Wakefield strikes me as the kind of woman who grew up as a horse girl. Equal parts awkward, polished, aloof, and obsessive. Before she founded DOLLS, her work included several years as a med spa practitioner, yoga instructor, and women’s empowerment coach. She initially founded the group as a coaching MLM — basically, she recruited a number of impressionable but wealthy women into the group, all of whom would start paying dues almost immediately. Each of these members were expected to recruit others in order to keep their membership tier active and stay in the inner circle. This predatory dynamic was perhaps best summed up by one of their favorite sayings: “abundance begets abundance.”

Naturally, very few recruits had enough time or social connections to continually recruit, and so they would drop out after a few months, several thousand dollars poorer. Many times, bottom-tier recruits would just stop coming. But the group was growing steadily and rapidly by the time I caught wind of them, and I quickly learned they were preparing for something huge: their first year-round retreat center in the hills of Malibu.

But something in this supposedly perfect package still didn’t add up to me, beyond the normal unease I get around multi-level marketing scams. I began to see more and more comments online insinuating that the high-level members had almost completely cut their family and friends out of their lives. Their social media posts became less frequent, but more filtered… Though I don’t think filtered is even the right word. It’s more that, after a while, the things they posted began to teeter off the edge of the influencer uncanny valley. The photos members posted all seemed to have the same features — odd body angles, almost plastic-looking makeup, and visual effects that pushed the line between trendy and disturbing. Every sunset looked immaculate. Every inch of skin, smooth and flawless. Every outfit, brand new and on the cutting edge of trendiness. Every yoga pose, pushed to the limit and perfect down to the hair. But there was one photo in particular that stood out to me more than the others. And that’s because I recognized the face hidden beneath the layered makeup. Samantha Summers.

Samantha graduated high school one year ahead of me. Though she’d stayed in Iowa for a bit, she’d ended up divorcing her ex-quarterback husband and moving to LA to pursue her dream of dancing. I hadn’t talked to her since my memories of the well began resurfacing, but she’d also been Amy’s high school crush. So… I guess you could say we’d interacted enough that I felt some level of concern for her well-being. From looking back at her profile, I gathered that she’d only been a part of DOLLS for about six months. The influencer lifestyle shift formed an obvious dividing line in her photos.

After I looked through her profile, the Almighty Algorithm handed me something else that made me… deeply uneasy: a number of posts from her parents, pleading that anyone who knew Samantha or her whereabouts check in on her. “We want to know what’s happening to our Sammy.” “Please, Sammy, please reply to us.” I tried to look at the profiles the posts came from — but as I did, I encountered an error. Nothing loaded. I went back to where I first saw the photos with pleas from her family, and they had vanished.

This happened a couple more times across the next week. Every few hours I saw her family try to post again: “Our posts keep disappearing. We just want to know that our daughter is safe.” That, too, disappeared. They even tried to write in code or use burner profiles after that, but it didn’t work.

And then… Samantha Summers posted one last time. I happened to be online when it happened. It was three photos, laid out in her profile like a triptych. She was lounging in front of a pool, tanned skin shining like she was made of plastic, legs stretching longer than seemed right. And in her eyes… the faintest hint of a tear. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. There was something dark happening in the background of these photos, but everything looked fine on the surface. I knew I was missing something… but I didn’t find it. Not 20 seconds later, the photos disappeared. One minute later, her entire profile was gone.

[brief pause]

So, I did what any reasonable horror writer would do in my situation: I put on my newest, most yoga-like hiking clothes and marched into the DOLLS headquarters for my first meeting. Alone.

This… may not have been one of my better choices. But I was worried about Samantha. I had to see what was going on.

As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by a smiling hostess at the front door… and I realized I had no idea who to say invited me. With no better option, I blurted out Samantha’s name, saying we were old friends from high school. There was an ever-so-small pause in the hostess’ reaction, but she let me in without incident. The other visitors were already settled in the chairs around the lobby, trying to look relaxed and polished. After a few more minutes, the hostess greeted all of us again, this time with her arms full of tablets. Paperwork for us to sign, she said, before we were allowed in.

It goes without saying, but I really didn’t want to leave my real name on the intake form. That would’ve been sloppy, even for me. But I hadn’t thought of that before and didn’t do much better under pressure. I typed out “Kate Sheridan.” I figured my visit wasn’t likely to get traced back to her all the way in Iowa if things went wrong.

There was a lot more paperwork on that tablet. Usually, yoga studios like this make you sign some kind of blanket liability waiver on your first visit, but the forms I saw went way beyond that. I caught glimpses of the details as I scrolled through, though I had little time to read anything properly: I noted a strict Non-Disclosure Agreement, an offer for the special beginner’s rate of $777 a month for the first seven months, and a clause requiring members to leave any recording devices (or any devices capable of recording) with the receptionist outside the main room. There was also some stranger paperwork in there. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what it was supposed to mean, the words just… wouldn’t stick in my brain. I signed it, like all the others, with a muted scribble that I knew could never be mistaken for Kate’s actual signature.

After the tablets had all been collected, we were led into the massive yoga room at the center of the complex. The ceiling was open to the sky above, with a mesh net secured in its place to keep out bugs and birds. The walls were mirrored on three sides, with plush poufs and yoga mats arranged in a massive half-circle that faced the largest mirror. And in the middle of that mirror, there grew a living birch tree that the studio had been constructed around. 

I picked a mat and sat quietly, trying to observe and mimic the woman around me. I expected I would be left to stew in that anxious, uneasy room for a while, but far sooner than I anticipated, Dolores walked in, wearing a flowy, sheer satin robe over a strappy sports bra and white yoga pants. She looked every part the influential American yoga goddess I expected.

Taking a seat at the base of the tree, she leaned back against it. As I watched her, I caught sight of the women sitting closest to Dolores. As I looked around the room, I realized that the seating arrangement must be intentional: the closer you were to Dolores, the closer you got to sit, because looking at the ones right next to her… was a little difficult. I recognized a few of them from my investigation, and the uncanny valley quality of their photos was nothing compared to seeing them in person. For some of them, it was like their flesh barely gave in at the bends of their knees or hips. I saw the varying shades of decreasing “perfection” as the participants radiated out from that inner circle. And then there was me, sitting at the back with the new arrivals.

For a hard, brief moment, I caught my own eyes in the mirror, and instinctually looked down. It felt ridiculous judging myself in the presence of these other, unnervingly beautiful women. I knew there was something majorly wrong with all of them; and whatever was really happening, it went well beyond the realm of fitness, diet, and fashion. And I knew that the shame I felt didn’t belong to me. All the same… that knowledge did little to lessen the feeling.

The sound of Dolores’ voice snapped me out of my thoughts. Just a simple phrase: “Welcome to all,” in a clear, smiling voice that set my nerves on edge. And then, she struck a large quartz sound bowl in front of her, [the oddly clear sound from the cold open chimes again] dragging the crystalline mallet around the bowl slowly and methodically, allowing the light, clear sound to fill the whole room. Dolores instructed us to close our eyes, and observe our breath. So far, so normal. I did as she asked.

Then she struck the second bowl, [the second oddly resonant noise chimes] a different size and tone to the first. The harmony of the two buzzed inside my chest, and I began to feel very light and sleepy. I thought about opening my eyes to try and fight it off… but then, what if there was something awful happening in that room? Wouldn’t it be better to just let the sound wash over me, let it take my worries away? I did not recognize the voice that thought those words. Wherever it came from, it was not part of me. My eyes flew open. Some of the women farthest from me had disappeared from the room. I closed my eyes again, trying not to be noticed. My heart beat faster. Dolores remained silent. I tried to slow my breath as much as I could, then opened my eyes again. Dolores was already there to meet my gaze, her hair falling in perfect waves as her smile seemed to grow to inhuman size. She winked at me, then brought a single finger to her lips, and “Shhhh’d” me very gently. Half the participants who’d entered that room were now gone. Somehow, I could still hear both of the ringing crystal tones, even though Dolores was no longer touching either of the bowls.

I decided then it was time to leave. Something supernatural was clearly happening here, and now I’d seen it. I tried to get up. I really, really did. But… something in my brain held me to the yoga mat. My entire body screamed at me to MOVE, to run, to crawl out of that room if need be. I even tried screaming for real… but nothing happened. The tones just continued to grow in their intensity, ringing in my head as loud as train horns. And then… 

[the tones stop]

It stopped, and I was somewhere else. Somewhere dark. I tried to move, but it seemed like I was restrained in what felt like a dentist’s chair. As I struggled, Dolores’ voice drifted out of the dark: “Abundance begets abundance, Kate. Are you ready to be abundant?”

I definitely wasn’t, but I figured playing along was the safest option, at least until I figured out how to escape. Dolores answered: “Samantha Summers broke the chain. Which gives you the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Light exploded above me, shining down from the surgical lamps so intensely that I could barely keep my eyes open. Squinting and close to panicked, I asked what happened to Samantha. Dolores didn’t respond — instead, she undid the restraint on one of my wrists and handed me a small glass of something clear and silvery. “This will renew you on a cellular level,” she said — “Drink up.” She turned to grab something from a tray behind her, and I poured the solution out as quietly as I could behind my head. Because I didn’t have full freedom of movement, some of it splashed on the seat behind me… but it seemed to do the trick.

Dolores turned back, a small syringe in one hand and a gauze pad in the other. That same wide smile I saw spread across her face, but it did not reach her eyes. “How would you like to be reformed?” she asked. I didn’t know how to answer, so I stalled by asking what “cellular renewal” actually meant. Her smile fell, but she still answered: “Our flesh is not capable of bearing the light. But in time… with treatment… we become vessels fit for ascension.” I asked who decided whether we were worthy or not, and Dolores stifled a small, panicked giggle before promising that all of my questions would be answered… after the first round of treatment.

The words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them. “What will it feel like?” I asked. She told me that with the “proprietary hydration” I’d just taken in, the whole process wouldn’t be any more painful than regular dental work. She asked again: “How would you like to be reformed?”

My mind was racing. Should I attempt to break free? Dolores would surely stab that needle into me anyway. Whatever it was, I guessed I wouldn’t be in any state to run after that. Dolores tutted, shaking her head before leaning in closer: “You already know what’s standing in the way. You’ve looked at your body your whole life. Surely, you know what the first step is for you?”

I have to admit that stung. I knew I had bigger problems at that moment than my body image, but it still stung. I live an active life, and besides, I don’t have to prove that my body is fine and healthy the way it is. Yet here was this half-human influencer/surgeon standing over me with needle in hand, making me doubt everything about myself.

In my panic, I blurted something out — something that didn’t particularly matter to me, but at least answered her question. “I’d like to be taller.” Dolores raised an eyebrow. “I have a feeling that’s not the heart of it. But you’ll be back. It’s only our first session, after all. We have time.” She stood, undoing my restraints slightly and instructing me to sit up, so she could numb my lower back. I swung my legs over the side of the vinyl chair. This is where things started happening rather… quickly.

Dolores leaned in to position the needle, then stopped. I couldn’t see, but I knew she’d noticed the strange liquid pooled behind my seat in the glare of the surgical lights. I didn’t have time to think. I twisted around and cracked the empty glass over Dolores’ head with all my strength. It shattered with a violent crunch and blood began to flow from several deep cuts, quickly covering Dolores’ face. As her vision obscured, she jabbed the needle wildly into my back. I cried out and leapt away, yanking the syringe out before she could press the plunger down. In the harsh light of the makeshift operating theater, I could see that half of the solution had still made it into my bloodstream despite my best efforts, so I didn’t have any time to waste. On my way out the door, I grabbed a cruel-looking scalpel from the tray. Dolores clearly wasn’t working alone, and I felt better safe than sorry.

Through the heavy metal door, I found myself in the middle of a long, dimly lit hallway stretching off on either side. I picked a direction, and ran. As I passed another door just like the one I’d just left, I heard someone whimpering beyond it. On the wall outside, someone had mounted a Victorian-style doll with a frilly dress and bright red hair. For some reason I couldn’t quite place, the sight of it filled me with an even deeper dread.

I passed another closed door, with the awful sound of what I suspected to be a table saw behind it. There was another mounted doll. I kept running. The closed doors with unknown occupants continued. As did the dolls. But as I continued, I noticed something change. The dolls began to appear in groups. Then they were on every surface of the walls, several feet apart. And

then they began to grow denser. The noises too became louder and more frequent: power tools, cutting, scraping, sucking, whimpers and yelps that fully convinced me that each room played host to some horrific surgery. Finally, the dolls were so dense together that I couldn’t see the drywall beneath, and the hallway grew darker and darker as they began to cover the lights.

I stopped, trying desperately to catch my breath. My hips were starting to grow numb. Then, with a sudden certainty, I felt sure that I’d gone the wrong way. I hadn’t taken enough time to plan my escape, and as I turned around, something on the walls caught my eye. These dolls looked different from the ones I’d seen earlier. Almost all of them wore tiny versions of the yoga outfits I’d seen the other members wearing. But more than that… they had thin, elongated limbs… smooth, shiny skin… big, staring eyes. And all of them — every single one — had a face twisted in a silent scream of pain. And in the middle, unmistakable even in doll form, was a miniaturized effigy of Samantha Summers.

There was no time to scream. Down the hall, a door flung open. Dolores staggered out, face covered in blood that now pooled onto her white yoga outfit and sheer satin kimono. She was carrying another glass of glossy liquid in one hand and a full syringe in the other. “Kaaaate,” she called, “Stop running and take your medicine.” Her voice was gentle, but her steps were furious — hard, heavy, and quick. Her hands were slick on the glass, blood and silver liquid splashing on the floor beneath her. I saw this shambling nightmare moving towards me, and realized I had no other option. No other way out. So, I ran straight for her.

Dolores faltered when she saw how quick I was coming, but the blood running down into her eyes made it impossible for her to see clearly. I was only a few doors down. Then, several yards. Without stopping, I yanked one of the curly-haired Victorian dolls from the wall and flung it at her with all of the strength I had. I remember screaming something like, “Just play with your fucking dolls!” which… I know wasn’t a particularly good one-liner, but in the heat of the moment it just felt good to scream something.

Dolores wasn’t expecting this. The doll knocked the glass into Dolores’ face, causing even more damage and throwing the silvery liquid into her wounds. Dolores hit the ground, and the doll landed on top of her as she fell. I kept moving, and as I did, Dolores took one last swipe at my legs with the syringe… but she was unsteady, blinded and in pain. She ended up stabbing her own side with the strange needle.

I didn’t look back, but I heard an anguished, “Oh, NO!” come from Dolores as I ran. Up ahead, I saw a passageway turn off to the left and a set of stairs leading to what looked like an exterior door. My legs buckled as I tried to climb, the numbness growing with each step. But I made it. I threw the door open, and was greeted with the gentle late afternoon sunshine of Beverly Hills.

In an instant, I saw the two police officers parked across the street. I tossed the scalpel into a nearby drain before yelling for them to come quickly. The officers were surprised to see me emerging from that alley, but cautiously approached once they saw I wasn’t a danger. I told them as quickly as I could that there were people being tortured and killed in the basement I’d just escaped, and insisted that they needed to hurry. They immediately called for backup before descending the stairs, guns drawn.

I fled the scene as quickly as I could. I walked up one of the canyon roads, hobbling a little before I found a spot to rest between some tall bushes. My hands shook as I sat there, and I tried my best to slow down and gather myself. I felt the urge to cry then… not because of the horror of what had almost happened to me, but what I now knew had happened to Samantha. For all the distance between us, she used to be my friend — and now she was gone.

I made it home much, much later. I was able to sneak back to my van after a few hours, which I’d managed to park just outside the police cordon that had been erected around the DOLLS headquarters while I was gone. I didn’t stick around to answer any questions. News of that day and what the police found in those underground rooms spread quickly, and I watched obsessively for any announcement regarding Dolores Wakefield’s fate… but it never came. She must have escaped, somehow. I’m guessing she had a secret way of exiting the facility, or… maybe she was able to use those crystal bowls to teleport somewhere else. I assume that’s how all the people from the yoga room ended up underground in the first place.

There’s one more thing, though… something I’ve never spoken about, and something that still unsettles me. 

As I was running away from Dolores, I had the distinct impression that there was something else in her eyes. Something… simpler. Not the yoga medspa goddess, but… a child, seeing her worst fears come true. The utter terror I saw in her face when the liquid splashed all over her, and that old victorian doll clung to her… 

That’s an interesting word choice, isn’t it? Clung. But that’s what it looked like — like the doll was clinging to her. And then… it could have been the squeak of my feet on the tile, but I swear I heard a high-pitched giggle that definitely didn’t come from Dolores.

I wish I knew what the liquid in that glass was meant to do. What it was capable of. I did end up getting some of it on my skin, since most of it ended up on my chair and not the floor. The needle stabbed me in just about the same place, too. Maybe there was something in the combination of those elements — some supernatural power that manifested in both of them. Because last week… I woke up in the middle of the night with growing pains. I haven’t had those since I was a teenager. And this week — I measured — I’m taller by a full inch. Given what I saw there, I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve changed, even though I didn’t get the full dose.

Maria’s brought it up several times since she noticed, complaining that I “don’t need any more height,” but… I haven’t been able to tell her what happened. I don’t know if I should. The investigation into DOLLS is still ongoing, and I’m worried what will happen if word gets out that I was there when it all went down.

It was a horrible, parasitic place. Countless women suffered and died down there, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of. It was dark. It was dangerous. And Dolores is still out there somewhere, probably looking for a new place and new people to lure into whatever her fucked-up vision for the world is. Trying to find enough bodies to fuel her grand ascension. But I already took enough of a risk using my sister’s name. I don’t want Maria to know how close I got to losing myself. To dying. I have to protect her from this.

Of course, I do see the irony in holding back the truth from her. After all, isn’t that just another veil to add to my image? Keeping this to myself and allowing the rest of me to appear untouched. Not that Maria is under any delusion that I’m perfect, but… on some level, we all play the perfection game. We try our hardest to maintain control on the things we can, and hide the things we can’t. And the only way we stop ourselves from becoming monstrous is if we allow others to see through the deception, even a little bit.

[brief pause; she sighs]

I hope I’m brave enough to tell her. Someday.

[Click]

[Silence]

[The crackling fire of the Colorado cabin comes back]

[Kate, Maria, and Sam sit in stunned silence for a moment]

Maria Sol

Kate, was that the same Dolores you—

[Kate’s chair drags as she stands, pacing slightly]

Kate Sheridan 

Are you kidding me!? Anna and I both went up against Dolores Wakefield? I thought I felt some kind of connection to Anna in the Dollhouse, but… she created Eunice? That doll she threw at Dolores — did it somehow fuse some part of her to itself? And how dare she use my name like that! It doesn’t surprise me, but how dare she!

Maria Sol

Okay… uh… sorry I asked.

You know, this makes sense. I heard about what happened at DOLLS on the news, and I noticed she was being even more closed-off than usual around that time. But I wasn’t wrong about her getting taller, she really didn’t need that!

[Maria laughs]

[Sam picks up the tape, examining it]

Sam Bailey

Why did Ren have this tape? This was before Anna started working with ISPHA — why would he want this one?

Kate Sheridan

Maybe Anna didn’t want it with the rest of her tapes for some reason. Or she gave it to him for safekeeping, maybe?

Maria Sol

Another thing Anna kept from me. I’ll add it to the list.

[Sam turns the cassette over]

Sam Bailey

But why did ISPHA need this tape? 

[Clack]

Recording Ends

End Theme & Credits


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