Episode 74: “Abyssus Abyssum Invocat”

Episode 74: "Abyssus Abyssum Invocat” The Sheridan Tapes

CONTENT WARNING: Brief depictions of a child drowning, strong elements of existential dread and terror, loud noises, and distorted audio01292020b: ApocalypseStarring Meredith Nudo as Amy Sterling, Virginia Spotts as Kate Sheridan, Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, and Sam Taylor as Ren Park, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written by Trevor Van Winkle 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/tst074Support 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: Brief depictions of a child drowning, strong elements of existential dread and terror, loud noises, and distorted audio

01292020b: Apocalypse

Starring Meredith Nudo as Amy Sterling, Virginia Spotts as Kate Sheridan, Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, and Sam Taylor as Ren Park, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written by Trevor Van Winkle 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: Brief depictions of a child drowning, strong elements of existential dread and terror, loud noises, and distorted audio

[Someone struggling in water, trying desperately to stay afloat]

[The sound of trickling water echoes in a narrow space]

Amy Sterling (10 years old, through coughs)

Anna…! Please… 

[A big splash, they gurgle as they’re pulled down]

[The noise is muffled, as if underwater]

[An air bubble floats]

[A voice speaks in the void]

Amy Sterling

I had a friend named Anna Sheridan. That much I know — that much is all I know for certain now. Her name burns through my every waking moment like a firebrand, like a ribbon of flame through the nightmare that is my existence in this place. Anna. Sheridan.

I remember a well, and a school, and a face — a face staring down at me from a circle of light far above me as I floundered and drowned… and that face was my own. And the face staring back up at me out of the black water as I stood in front of Anna on that sunlit morning in early summer… it was mine too. I knew it. I saw it. And I ran away in terror from a fate I could not possibly escape. Because I was already in that well… had always been in that well… had never walked in the sun beneath an open sky with a friend by my side. Because I was never born. Because I was never meant to exist.

And as I ran away from that gaping wound in reality masquerading as an old, abandoned well, someone else looked down into the waters as I struggled to stay afloat. My friend. Anna.

The person I was when I walked above the surface — the one who was and was always meant to be Anna’s faithful friend, her constant companion — did not remember the well. She did not see it before her eyes in the clear light of day, mocking her hateful half-existence as she carried on the empty, useless work of living. She did not remember the sight of her own face twisted in abject fear as she flailed in the oily waters that could not and did not exist at the bottom of that sealed-off well. She did not recall the terror she felt that day, except in frozen nightmares that faded with the sunrise and the brief rush of fear each time she glimpsed the well sitting in the corner of that disused field. She couldn’t know — the girl I was should never have seen that well… should never have felt that fear… should never have glimpsed her own face staring back at her from the dark.

But the well was open. I did see my own face staring back at me. I gazed into the abyss… and the abyss called to me.

That well remained open for as long as her hollow half-life carried on its pretense in the land of the living. For there was another story… one that was also meant to be, and was pressing itself into the skin of the world inch by inch until it suffocated all others. Where I was never born. Where I never grew up, never met Anna, never existed at all. Through some accident in time or twisting of the strands of fate… history changed.

Something in the past shifted, almost imperceptibly… and like a pebble knocked loose from the side of a hill, it grew into a landslide. I was just unlucky enough to get caught in its wake. My life was undone and unmade, after it had already begun.

I can feel it here… how that world I used to know, the one that felt so real and solid and everlasting was nothing but the shallow, shifting surface of the waters that consumed me. How the movements of the minds within this place changed past and present and future as easily and thoughtlessly as breathing… and most of the time, no one notices. Not that they try to change it — they are not the kinds of beings with wills and goals and motives… not the way humans think of it, at least. But it does happen. Occasionally.

But something else happened after I was pulled out of that world — after my timeline was plucked from the cloth of history and unraveled from its weave… something that shouldn’t be possible. Anna remembered me. As the well consumed my life day by day by day, stealing my past and future from a world that used to know me… Anna remembered those missing days. In a way I still cannot understand, her mind held both histories within its grasp. And that made the powers of this place shake with a fear they have never felt before.

Maybe it was because she chose to look down into that well at the moment I began to disappear. Maybe it was because her father carried that touch of the beyond with him from the day the veil tore open beneath the earth and passed it on to her. Maybe it was something else — some unknown, unknowable movement in the world behind the world. But whatever it was… Anna remembered, long past the point where all traces of my life had vanished. And because of that… I endured. In the waves and the dark, I endured — refusing to fade, refusing to despair… refusing to die.

Creatures more vast and powerful than the world I’d known came to destroy me: this blemish upon the unformed perfection of their cosmic chaos. They were driven by some instinct older than all universes and a fear deeper than any mortal has ever felt — but I was born across the veil, and in this place the influence of my mind was greater than that of the old gods. I turned back each and every attack with a force of will I never knew I possessed, each time fleeing deeper and deeper into the unknown regions of this dark and shifting underworld.

As my life above vanished completely and I realized I was trapped below, I caught glimpses of other places… other times. My own world, forever beyond my reach — but… other worlds too, feeding and fed by the sea of dark and swirling cosmic energies undergirding all. Pocket universes, born of the will of eldritch beings and grieving children. Worlds like my own where there was no Anna Sheridan, no Amy Sterling, no dark and terrible wells opening up into the infinite. Dimensions I could not bear to look at for the light that shone within… or the darkness that seeped from them like oil. I saw the last moments of ancient cosmos long gone dark and finally falling in on themselves… and I saw the birth of new universes, blazing into existence and life from a single point of light… a seed of existence, gifted by this place.

And eventually — though I could never say or know or guess how long — I found myself standing on the shore of a strange sea: black sands meeting black waves beneath a black sky without a moon. [the sound of waves] And there — beside a door which was not a door on a beach that was not a beach — stood my friend. Anna Sheridan.

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

[Main Theme]

Recording Begins

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

[Static fades]

[At Anna’s Lake Isabella home, the unnatural wind fills the room]

[Indistinguishable voices in the beyond fill the air around Amy; her voice echoes as she speaks]

[The occasional sound of waves]

Amy Sterling

…or were you expecting someone else?

Kate Sheridan

I was expecting my sister.

Amy Sterling

Well, Anna isn’t available at the moment. I guess you’ll just have to settle for her best friend.

Sam Bailey

Wait… you’re… you can’t be… 

Amy Sterling

Amelia Rae Sterling — at your service.

[brief pause]

Kate Sheridan

…who?

[brief pause]

Amy Sterling

So… you did forget me. Why am I not surprised?

Kate Sheridan

Sam — who is that?

[Sudden roaring of static, of wind, of waves]

Amy Sterling

Don’t you dare look away from me! He doesn’t know me — you did!

[Static increases on the tape]

Sam Bailey

Amy, please — just calm down—

Amy Sterling

How many summer evenings did I spend at your old home? How many times did Anna bring me for dinner with your family? How many times did your mother joke that I might as well be another daughter? You’ve known me since I was six years old, Kate — look me in the eyes, and tell me you don’t remember.

Kate Sheridan

I… don’t remember. I’m sorry.

[Windows and objects begin to rattle]

Amy Sterling

Not sorry enough.

Sam Bailey (distorted)

Amy, STOP.

[After a moment, the house stops shaking]

[The distortion quiets down]

[Amy chuckles to herself]

Amy Sterling

Sorry… didn’t mean to lash out like that. [she clears her throat]

So… you’re Bailey, huh? Have to say, I was expecting someone a bit more… 

Sam Bailey

How do you know my name?

Amy Sterling

How do you know mine?

Sam Bailey

I heard it from Anna… from one of her tapes. I thought you listened to that one?

Kate Sheridan

Which one?

Sam Bailey

The one about the well — it was all about Amy and what happened—

Amy Sterling

Don’t bother, Bailey — there’s no point. Chances are, she’ll forget about me as soon as we’re done here. I should have expected this — she can’t remember me, because I don’t exist.

The same way.

Sam Bailey

What?

Amy Sterling

You asked me how I knew your name? The same way you know mine. From Anna.

Kate Sheridan

From… Anna?

Amy Sterling

Yes Kate — from Anna.

Sam Bailey

You’ve seen her?

Amy Sterling

Just a few minutes ago, down at the shoreline. Well, I say shoreline… I say minutes. That’s what it felt like, at least. She was actually trying to reach out to you, Kate… not very effectively, but she was trying. Giving you hints. I guess it was enough to get you here. Barely.

Kate Sheridan

A few minutes ago? The night I saw Anna was nearly three months ago.

[Amy laughs, echoing and distorted]

Sam Bailey

What’s so funny?

Amy Sterling

Sorry… it’s just… after so long in the Source, I’m not used to jokes anymore.

Kate Sheridan

That wasn’t a… a joke.

Amy Sterling

I know, just — you people and your perspective on time! It’s like a toddler who thinks they can do calculus.

Sam Bailey

Enlighten us, then.

Amy Sterling

Fine. When did you last hear Anna’s voice calling you, Bailey? From your perspective.

Sam Bailey

It must have been… nine months ago? When I was running from the Echo — she sent one of her doppelgängers after me, and Anna… I guess she tried to warn me.

Amy Sterling

From my perspective, Anna just finished telling you to run.

Sam Bailey

What? Just — now?

Amy Sterling

It’s hard keeping track of the passage of time in the Source — if you can even say it passes at all. It’s all… intensely personal. Relative. But from her perspective… it probably feels like a few hours ago. Maybe even after she reached out to Kate. Difficult to say. Impossible, actually.

Kate Sheridan

You’ve seen her? She’s… in there with you?

Amy Sterling

Not on this clifftop, if that’s what you’re asking. And I’m not “in” anything — it’s more like I’m pushing a part of myself back into the world to talk to you — which is fucking painful by the way, so you’d better be thankful I did. 

But yes… she’s here — though where exactly, I can’t know. We crossed paths very briefly, but trying to follow her through the Source is pretty much impossible, even for me.

Sam Bailey

What’s that word you keep using? What’s “source?”

Amy Sterling

The Source. And you seriously don’t know?

Sam Bailey

I’m trying to figure it out. I’ve been trying to figure it out for most of a year, and all I’ve gotten is hints and riddles and breadcrumbs from things that can’t even explain it to me because they’re so lost in their own metaphors they—

Amy Sterling

No need to be petulant, Bailey… I’ll tell you. That’s why I’m here.

Sam Bailey

You’re… what?

Amy Sterling

I don’t know how much time I have — this projection isn’t as stable as I’d like. But I think… yes. I think it’s about time you got some answers. Can’t promise you’ll like them, but they’re true.

The Source is… complicated. We sometimes call it “the world behind the worlds,” but that makes it seem like just… another universe. Another reality. And I suppose it is, but… talking about it like that is mostly unhelpful. Gives you all kinds of wrong ideas about how it works, how it feels. Those of us who exist within it — those who are human enough to even use a language, I mean — we call it the Source.

I’ve been trapped here since 1993, ever since that well began to eat away at my life. I know this place better than nearly any human ever could… not that I’ve been too keen to share that knowledge, up to this point. I could’ve. I could’ve reached through the veil at any point and told someone what waited for them behind the dark… but I didn’t want to. The whole world forgot me, left me for dead in this place. If you ask me, they deserve their ignorance. Except for Anna of course, but… I couldn’t reach out to her.

Sam Bailey

Why not? Couldn’t she… I don’t know, try to help you?

Amy Sterling

The Source is not… kind to human beings — to things and people that fall through the veil, that are pulled into it from the worlds beyond. The laws of physics don’t quite… they just don’t. After a while, matter and energy just… dissolve. Like stones being worn away by the tide.

Sam Bailey

But you didn’t. Because Anna remembered you.

Amy Sterling

So you have been paying attention. Good. Human minds — any mind from outside the Source, really — exert an influence on it. And because Anna remembered me, she pushed that image through the veil, and I continued to exist, even if I… didn’t stay entirely the same. I tried to reach out to her a few times but… it was like staring at the sun, or trying to swim upstream.

My existence depended on her memory, so I couldn’t be in her presence without being destroyed… not until she was in the Source as well. Until we were both trapped in here.

Kate Sheridan

What do you mean, trapped in there? Can’t you just… walk out?

Amy Sterling

No, I can’t just “walk out.” I don’t exist in your world anymore, Kate — and if I tried to, I’d lose my connection to the one thing keeping me alive… Anna’s memory, pushing on the veil.

Sam Bailey

But Anna’s not here anymore.

Amy Sterling

I am — deeply — aware of that fact, Bailey. That’s why I’m here… to make sure you find her and bring her back before I stop existing altogether. So ask your questions, and ask them quickly… I’m guessing we have about ten minutes before this projection falls apart.

[brief pause]

Sam Bailey

Is there a… the Source, is it… Ned told me that it… no, no that doesn’t make sense… can you… 

Kate Sheridan

Is my sister okay?

Amy Sterling

No. She’s trapped in the nightmare I’ve been living my entire life, trying to find a way out and failing. But she is alive for the time being, and still herself… though I can’t say how long that will last. You can only hold onto your sanity for so long in this place.

Sam Bailey

Why didn’t you just bring her out through this door? If she can survive outside the Source, then she must be able to—

[Distortion spikes]

Amy Sterling

Finding Anna was a one-in-a-million chance, Bailey. The only reason it happened at all is because we’re connected the way we are. Trust me, it won’t happen again… at least, not before she escapes the Source, or she’s destroyed by it.

[Distortion fades

Besides, even if I could bring her here, she’d be the same half-there ghost Kate saw in her projection. She couldn’t walk out that door. It might even kill her to try.

Kate Sheridan

How long do we have before Anna… before she’s gone?

[Brief pause]

Right, right… time doesn’t work like that.

Amy Sterling

I could tell you how long it would feel to Anna, but that wouldn’t help… if anything, you’d either panic and rush into danger, or take too long and lose her. Anna couldn’t tell me much, but it sounds like you’ve got one chance to save her. Only one… and it’s coming. Soon. Very, very soon.

[Brief pause]

Sam Bailey

What is the Source?

Amy Sterling

Hell. The Source is hell. For me, for Anna, for any soul unlucky enough to be trapped inside — it’s hell. A shapeless, sleepless, lightless half-existence with no hope of escape where everything that makes you who you are is stripped away until you are nothing and no one… just energy and matter, reduced to their most basic forms. Then, only then, is your consciousness allowed to die. Occasionally, you can see the worlds beyond the veil — see those living beneath the light of a billion different suns go about their days with a peace you can never know again… but you can’t join them. Not once you’ve been inside long enough.

I was one of the lucky ones. I had a friend who remembered me, whose mind was powerful enough to hold onto that memory as history changed around her. Most people who are pulled through the veil are completely unwritten within a couple of months… all memory of their lives, gone. Like they were never even born… because they weren’t. The rest of the universe just shifts to compensate, and goes on like nothing ever happened.

Sam Bailey

But what… is it? A shadow-world, some kind of… reflection of the real world?

Amy Sterling

It is the real world, Bailey.

Sam Bailey

It’s… what?

Amy Sterling

The Source is not a reflection of this world — this world is a reflection of the Source: a false and hollow illusion that only feels real because you’re a part of it, like a dream before you wake up. This — this dark and roiling ocean of unformed pre-existence — is the true shape of reality. Endless chaos… infinite possibility… unknowable dangers.

Sam Bailey

I’m… going to need more than that.

Amy Sterling

Of course you will.

Before the first moment of time — before any world was born or any mind had its first thought — there was the Source. The ageless, endless, infinite potential of all universes, unmanifested and waiting. I don’t mean ageless to say it’s just very old… I mean ageless as in timeless, ageless as in eternal, ageless as in, having no beginning, no middle, and no end.

There were beings within it, but they were shapeless and inscrutable as the Source itself… or perhaps they were the Source. Are the Source. Maybe they were all one mind, seen from different angles and in different forms… or maybe not. There might have been a whole pantheon of old gods who ruled in the silence before the worlds… but I doubt it. The Source is not kind to things like identity… individuality… free choice. It wears them down, burns them out — makes them fade.

But eventually… that infinite potential had to pour out into something. So the Source began to waver, shifting in waves of probability like the wind across the surface of a lake. And when that wind grew into a gale and the waves crashed against the shore… universes were born. The Source poured out into the dimensions beyond itself, and worlds of time and space and matter began in their hundreds of billions. Some flickered in and out of being too quickly to be seen, some quirk of their physics not able to hold the weight of their existence. But some endured, growing out of the Source into their own realities… but they were still connected to the Source, influencing and influenced by the minds on the other side of the veil.

All of these worlds — every possible world — exists within the Source. Every point in space and time, every life, every choice… they’re all just ripples on the surface, a manifestation of probabilities and the chaos that birthed them… and all it takes is a little willpower, properly applied, to push through that illusion and change it. I’m guessing that’s what caused me to disappear in the first place… some supernatural power tearing through my timeline as it passed. The well was just there to clean up the mess. But it failed… because of Anna. And now, time itself is starting to come undone.

Sam Bailey

What do you mean?

Amy Sterling

You don’t know?

Sam Bailey

Know what?

Amy Sterling

I sent you the book… didn’t you read it? It’s all there.

Kate Sheridan

What’s there?

Amy Sterling

The answers! The one’s in Anna’s mind! I pressed them into ink and paper so you could understand and sent them to that agent… haven’t you read it?

Sam Bailey

He just got it a few hours ago… I don’t think he’s even read it.

[Distortion rises]

[Echoes from beyond return]

Amy Sterling

Ugh! You and your tiny perspectives of time are going to be the death of me!

Sam Bailey

Then just tell us — what’s happening?

Amy Sterling

The end. The end of everything, the one Anna dreamed about. It’s happening soon… it’s already started, and if you can’t—

[The rumbling grows to a crescendo, and Amy is yanked back into the Source]

[The bedroom door slams shut]

[All noises from beyond disappears]

Kate Sheridan

Amy!

[Kate rushes to open the door]

Sam Bailey

Kate, stop!

[Kate throws open the door to reveal…]

[A quiet bedroom]

[She turns to face Sam]

Kate Sheridan

Please tell me you got all of that on tape.

Sam Bailey

Yeah, yeah. I did. Do you think she’s—

[Sam’s phone buzzes]

Who’s calling me now…? [beep as he answers] Hello?

Ren Park (over phone)

Sam! Sam, where are you? I’ve been trying to reach you for hours.

Sam Bailey

Ren? We’re at Anna’s house… reception’s a little spotty out here.

Ren Park (over phone)

Is Kate there?

Sam Bailey

Yeah, she is… what’s going on?

Ren Park (over phone)

Something’s happening at Meriwether… something bad. I don’t know how long we have, but… we need you back here. Both of you. Now.

Sam Bailey

We’ll be there as soon as we can. [three beeps as Sam hangs up] We need to get back to Meriwether.

Kate Sheridan

That’s nearly fourteen hours away!

Sam Bailey

I’ll drive this time. Not like I’ll be able to sleep anyway, not after what Amy told us.

[brief pause]

Kate Sheridan

…who?

[He sighs and hands her the recorder]

Sam Bailey

Here… Listen to this. 

[Clack]

Recording Ends

End Theme & Credits


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