Scarlet leads Jasmine through sand dunes, and Jasmine makes an administrative decision.
(CWs: mention of torture, strong language)
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Cast, in order of appearance: Jesse Syratt, Em Carlson, Emily Kellogg, Shaun Pellington, Justin Hatch, William A. Wellman, Tatiana Gefter, Saph the Something, Taylor Michaels, and special guest Shannon Strucci.
Art by NerdVolKurisu
Written, scored, edited, and narrated by Rat Grimes.
Transcripts available in episode notes at somewhereohio.com
JASMINE: Scarlet, you there? Over.
SCARLET: I’m here, Control.
JASMINE: I just found the stairs leading to floor 24, but there’s…something weird. I opened the door just a crack, and sand poured into the stairwell. Why is there sand here?
SCARLET: You’re not…do you see any water?
JASMINE: No, just *whistle* lots of sand.
SCARLET: What color?
JASMINE: Uhh sand colored?
SCARLET: Come on, you can do better than that.
JASMINE: I don’t know how to describe it. Kind of orange-ish.
JASMINE: What? What is it?
SCARLET: I hope I’m wrong, but this may be a pretty dangerous floor. A few years back they did some testing with soundwaves and water. Trying to get the vibrations to make the water take different shapes. But for whatever reason, that wasn’t working for them, so they switched to sand. I think the sand worked a little too well, because they shut the whole thing down and quarantined the floor not long after that. It sounds like you just broke the quarantine.
JASMINE: Oh. Can I just–
JASMINE: Holy shit, what was that?
SCARLET: I’m not sure. Tread lightly, Control, and watch your step.
JASMINE: Looks like there’s a round door ahead. Like a hatch on a submarine.
SCARLET: If you want out, you’re gonna have to go through. There’ll probably be a–
*hiss, Jasmine surprised noise*
SCARLET: –hiss as the airlock opens.
JASMINE: Whoa. It’s like an operating room in here. All sterile white and green. And there’s a suit. Teal rubber or something?
SCARLET: Right. Close the seal behind you and let the decontamination start. It’ll suck up all the sand. Then you’re gonna wanna put on the suit and the little helmet, too. Sand is tricky: any place it can get in, it will get in. Make sure there aren’t any gaps in the suit, and the helmet’s sealed tight.
JASMINE: What if it doesn’t fit?
SCARLET: It’ll fit. Sterling designed it himself out of the…well, regardless, he may be a dork but he’s a great engineer. I’ll give him that.
*hiss, machine noises*
JASMINE: I feel like I’m about to do a space walk *laughs*
SCARLET: They’re called extravehicular activities. The EVAs are higher up.
JASMINE: …am…are we going into space?
SCARLET: *one big laugh* no, that’s above our paygrade, Control. You’re going into a room full of sand. Keep your head on straight and your expectations checked.
JASMINE: Okay, okay. There’s another airlock ahead.
SCARLET: Go on through. Keep your eyes peeled and tell me what you see.
JASMINE: Okay…I see some offices here on the right. There’s not much in them, and the tables have been worn down a bit. I think the finish is coming off.
SCARLET: Good. Reminds me, I’ve got a table I’ve been meaning to sandblast and repaint. White? Or a more natural finish, you think?
JASMINE: Ooh, natural. There’s little sand along the wall here. There are some closed doors ahead with narrow windows, too. I think they’re lab rooms. Beakers and pipettes and everything inside.
SCARLET: The stairs won’t be in there. Let’s move on.
JASMINE: Wait…a tiny pile of sand just blew off the table, but I don’t feel a breeze.
SCARLET: It moved? DO NOT go–
JASMINE: It’s swirling a bit near the door now.
SCARLET: Control, do not open that door. Over.
JASMINE: A few grains scratched against the window. This is wild. It’s blowing in a little cyclone.
SCARLET: Control, if you do not move on from that door, so help me god–
SCARLET: What do you mean “uh-oh”? What the hell is going on up there?
JASMINE: Uhh…Scarlet, we have a problem. It’s…it’s moving. On its own. No wind required.
SCARLET: Run. Now.
JASMINE: It looks like…fingers. Like a handprint in wet sand. The suit should protect me, right?
SCARLET: It’ll keep stray sand from getting in if it’s not damaged, if the sand isn’t FORMING A HAND to STRANGLE YOU, and if I don’t do it myself first.
JASMINE: I don’t think it’s doing that. It’s reaching out. But it keeps falling back. It can’t quite keep its shape.
SCARLET: If you don’t run right now, I’m coming up there and I’m going to carry your ass out like a rowdy cat.
JASMINE: Didn’t you say I’m the one with the Admin access?
SCARLET: Oh please, this isn’t about rank. It’s for your own safety.
JASMINE: Aww, you care about me. Ugh fine. I’ll just leave this incredible miracle of nature to find some stairs.
SCARLET: Jesus, finally. You’re gonna want–
SCARLET: Not again.
JASMINE: The hand wasn’t reaching for me. There were…are…others.
SCARLET: *long exhale*
JASMINE: Three of them. I think they were gathering behind me while I was distracted. They’re just…standing there.
JASMINE: Yeah, they’re…almost human. Upright and still with their…I guess their mouths open.
JASMINE: There’s some kind of low hum, too. I can barely hear it, but if I stand still…I can feel it in my feet. A pulsing hum.
SCARLET: Take a deep breath. I want you to slowly take a step away from them. Don’t make any sudden movements, and walk gently.
JASMINE: Okay, just one step–
JASMINE: Oh god, that sound…it somehow hit them. The people…they fell apart.
SCARLET: Great, now’s your chance. Go. Run!
JASMINE: Shit, shit. They’re coming back and…*heavy breathing* I think they’re following me. I can see their feet forming, the tops of their heads sliding along the floor. They’re putting themselves back together again. They’re following me.
SCARLET: Those are what we call Colloidals. You ever play d&d?
JASMINE: What? Dungeons and Dragons? No.
SCARLET: Huh, I took you for a nerd. Well they’re like earth elementals. Just sand riding waves of sound. I thought we got rid of them. They follow vibrations; they can’t really hear what you’re saying, but they sure as hell can feel those boots stomping along the floor. You’re gonna have to move quietly in between the booms so they can’t trace your steps. You can outrun them while they’re still reforming.
JASMINE: Oh jesus they’re almost back together.
SCARLET, quietly: Okay, pause. Don’t make any loud sounds and don’t…don’t vibrate.
SCARLET, hissing: You heard what I said.
*Sand slowly trickles, heavy breathing in the helmet*
JASMINE, quietly, shaky: They’re…still…coming toward me. But they’re slow. Their mouths are… oh god. Falling to the floor.
SCARLET: In through the nose, out through the mouth. Breathe slow. Get that heart rate down as soon as you can.
JASMINE: They can hear my fucking heartbeat?
SCARLET: It’s all just vibrations in the air. And that’s what they are too.
JASMINE: Can they hurt me?
SCARLET: I…I don’t know. Probably. Choking on sand doesn’t sound fun.
JASMINE: They’re so close…Their fingers are so close. I can feel them buzzing…like when you put your hand on a speaker.
SCARLET: Move, move!
*boom, run, sand, stop. Some heavy breathing noises needed*
JASMINE, out of breath: I can’t. Find the exit. Like this. There’s no way. I have no idea where it will be. With these things following me–
SCARLET: All right. Control. Don’t move. Let me think.
JASMINE: Okay, but please. Hurry.
SCARLET: You said those sounds are making them fall apart, right?
JASMINE: Yeah, they scatter every time.
SCARLET: You’re gonna have to find what’s causing those booms and see if you can get it to keep doing that. One long noise. That should disrupt their bodies, or at least the constant hammering should keep them from hearing you. Feeling you. Whatever they do.
JASMINE: How am I supposed to do that?
SCARLET: Act like they do: get in the mindset of a colloidal and follow the sound.
*booms among music*
JASMINE: Whoa, I think I found the source. There’s a double door with a broken window here. A door to a concert hall. There’s black geometric panels all over the walls. Totally symmetrical rows of black chairs along the floor. And the ceiling looks like wooden fractals. Square and triangle shards jutting and turning.
SCARLET: Sounds like Green Plot’s work.
JASMINE: I mean…it’s stunning. Incredible use of sound baffling and acoustic design. I’d love to see a symphony here. I bet it would be astounding. But it’s empty right now. Mostly dark, too.
SCARLET: Head on in.
JASMINE: Got it. *pause* There are a couple of spotlights on, aimed down at the lower level where the orchestra would be. There’s no one there, though. It’s just a colossal speaker cabinet, all sleek wood. It’s–
JASMINE: It’s making those sounds. God, it’s loud. I think I see some controls behind it. I can…wait. There’s something in front of the speaker.
SCARLET: What is it? Be careful.
JASMINE: I can’t quite–
JASMINE: I can’t quite tell. An empty glass box, maybe. About six feet high. A tall display case?
SCARLET: Forget the case, get to the controls.
SCARLET: You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Three times on one floor? What now?
JASMINE: The sand…it followed me in.
SCARLET: Well, that is an “uh-oh.”
JASMINE: It’s not following me anymore, though. It’s going toward the speaker.
SCARLET: Great news! Get that thing booming full time and they’ll never leave it.
JASMINE: Wait, no, not toward the speaker. It stopped just short. It’s gathering around the glass box. The sand is making a hand again, and pressing against the case. And–
JASMINE: It’s back in a pile. Hold on, the case isn’t empty. There’s sand inside, too. It’s struggling to make a hand just like the ones outside.
SCARLET: It’s trying to get to the source of the noise. Come on, now’s not the time to stall.
JASMINE: Oh my god. They’re putting their hands all over the glass. They’re pounding. I think…they know there’s sand in the case.
SCARLET: That can’t be. They’re attracted to sound, not more sand.
JASMINE: But that’s what they’re doing. They know there’s something in there and they’re trying to get it out. The sand in the glass…These things, colloidals, you called them. Are you sure they’re just sand and sound? Are they sentient? Can they…think?
SCARLET: How the hell would I know. I’m not a scientist, I’m an invigilator.
JASMINE: Jesus, someone trapped one inside. That’s what they did. Now it can’t get out, can’t be with the others. And the one inside keeps getting blasted by this noise. Every time it tries to come together, it gets torn apart again. It’s almost deafening for me, I can’t imagine what it’s like if you can literally feel it all along your body. Look, they’re trying to make hands again. They’re trying so hard…trying to connect…but the glass is in the way. And the sound…
SCARLET: I know it’s interesting, but it’s dangerous to hang around–
JASMINE: It’s not interesting. It’s barbaric. It’s torture. You people are torturing this thing.
SCARLET: Hey, you’re part of “you people” now too. You joined the Department, you deal with the guilt. We don’t even know if it’s actually alive, and if it is, how “alive” exactly it is. It’s more likely just a plant turning toward the sun.
JASMINE: No. Their hands are pressed together against the wall. They know. I can see the one inside forming a face. I think it’s–
JASMINE: It’s gone again. This is…this is unconscionable. I’m not going to let this continue.
SCARLET: Why do you think this floor was sealed off? You have no idea what kind of danger these things might pose if you interrupt.
JASMINE: If they’re dangerous, it’s because someone put one of their kind in a cage! I would be pretty dangerous, too, if an animal or–god forbid–another human got treated like this.
SCARLET: God damn it, Control, you have to focus on the mission. You need to–
JASMINE: I’m going to be sick. I can’t watch this. It’s a butterfly in a jar, suffocating over and over. Only it can’t actually die.
SCARLET: Why don’t we come back after the crisis and we can–
JASMINE: Fuck this, I’m getting it out.
SCARLET: Wait, Control, you can’t–
JASMINE: I have an Admin Protocol, whatever that means, and I’m making an administrative decision. Jasmine Control out.
NARRATOR: Jasmine moved slowly toward the clear glass container. The sand parted around her feet. With every devastating rumble, the beings of sand fell apart, and Jasmine was nearly knocked backward. But the creatures kept trying. Little yellow grains crept up the smooth exterior, splaying out in five lines like fingers, and a circle accumulated nearby, a face pressed against the glass. And on the inside, the sand began to mirror the form on the outside. Shallow outlines of eyes and mouths swirled on the floor. Then all faces turned toward Jasmine. She could almost hear their plaintive cries. Though they made no sound, she could sense the psychic anguish.
Nearby, she spotted a music stand, long empty. It would serve a new purpose. Jasmine always believed art was liberating, now that would be literal. She picked up the music stand and rolled it in her hands, feeling the weight. Then she raised the stand high and brought its legs down hard on the glass box. Once, twice, cracks formed. On the third impact, the walls shattered, and the sand rushed out of the case and onto the black floor. It mingled and swirled with the rest of the particles there. Soon, in one angry vortex, the sand funneled into the cone of the speaker, filling its every inch with seizing granules. With that, the uneven booming crackled and stopped, and the room fell quiet. So quiet Jasmine could hear her heartbeat in her throat.
Sand leaked out of the speaker cabinet again, slowly. It snaked a thin trail back up the rows of seats, out the door, and down a long corridor. Jasmine followed the line of sand through hallways, an abandoned lunchroom, and eventually found herself in front of another airlock. Sand pooled there in a small intentional spiral. Jasmine stood in front of the door for a yawning moment. Then she loosed the elastic strap at her neck, removed the helmet, and slipped off the teal suit. She crouched down close to the spiral’s level, and she reached out her hand.
The sand rose and swarmed, grains moving like fish in a school, individuals making a whole. It coalesced into a churning hand the same size as Jasmine’s. She extended her index finger, and the colloidal hand did the same. Inching closer, skin met sand, fingertip to fingertip, and Jasmine experienced a flash of intelligence. Of a single mind split into many, of emotions roiling and bodies undulating. A single mind expressing gratitude, and incredible grace. Just a flash. Then it was gone, and the granular legion fell to the floor in unison.
*airlock hiss, steps, watch beep*
SCARLET, snooty at first: I see someone’s alive. Well, that was rash, against protocol, downright dangerous, personally insulting…and the right fucking thing to do. You kind, kind fool. There may be something worth a damn in you yet. Hate to admit it, but you’re almost making me like you, Control. Did you find the exit?
JASMINE: No. They showed me the way.
SCARLET: No shit, huh? So…
JASMINE: Yes, shit. I think they wanted to thank me. I took off the suit and–
SCARLET: Excuse me? I’ll pretend that was a joke.
JASMINE: I took off the suit and we shook hands…kind of. Touched fingers.
SCARLET: Don’t go getting a god complex.
JASMINE: I’m not. It was humbling, if anything. You really didn’t know those…colloidals…could do that?
SCARLET, genuine: I…I didn’t, no.
JASMINE: Did anyone?
SCARLET: I hope not.
JASMINE: We’ll need to file a report about this, right? Make sure there aren’t any others trapped here.
SCARLET: Yeah…I didn’t know…
JASMINE: So how much do you actually know about this place then, Scarlet? How did you get started here at the Department?