Jasmine looks for help from maintenance to get down to the next floor. Scarlet gets vulnerable.
(CWs: drug mentions--weed, lsd--, insects, 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.
JASMINE: Scarlet, come in. Over. Can you hear me? Over.
SCARLET: Got you, Control. What’s up? We don’t actually need to do the call signs every time. It’s fine.
JASMINE: Oh, okay. While we’re at it, why “Control?” Just call me Jasmine.
SCARLET: A bit personal, don’t you think? We are co-workers, and you’re the one with the Admin code. Maybe I should call you “Miss Control.” Is there a “Mister Control?”
JASMINE: I still don’t even know what that means. I’m in editing. I was just supposed to proofread documents and send emails.
SCARLET: Well, if you hadn’t noticed, our names mean something. We get a color, and an action. So I’m Scarlet Jaunt. Not sure about the “Scarlet” part–hair, maybe?--but I’m usually out in the field dealing with problems the park rangers can’t handle. So like out on a little jaunt.
JASMINE: And “Control” because…I’m supposed to have authority over the final drafts of documents. I get it. Optics or something. Why weren’t you on a jaunt today?
SCARLET: There was supposed to be some kind of meeting. Real shit timing, right. Bet that’s canceled. Hard to know what the Primaries are planning at any given time.
JASMINE: Primaries? As in primary colors?
SCARLET: Wow, you really were pulled out right away. Yeah, our bosses. Red, Yellow, and Blue, heads of the whole Department. Since we’re in the Bureau of Transnatural Resources, Grey Authority is our direct boss. You’re in comms, so Yellow Access is above them.
JASMINE: Oh, I talked with Yellow Access. I think. Didn’t you call someone “Green,” too? What about orange and purple?
SCARLET: Green’s…gone. I never met Purple, and I think Orange is head of the Blank Commission
JASMINE:(straining) Hhhhgg…Shit! It’s stuck.
SCARLET: What is? Describe it.
JASMINE: This floor was pretty easy. I found the emergency exit without much trouble, but the door won’t open. I don’t think they could put a lock on a fire escape, so it must be blocked or sealed.
SCARLET: Can you kick it in?
JASMINE: I’ve got an emails job. I specifically took this position to avoid kicking.
SCARLET: Come on, try anyway. It’s good for you. Unless you want to be stuck here forever.
SCARLET: What’s that? I think I hear a Lark on your end, Control. Sounds like it’s getting close!
JASMINE: All right, I get it, jesus. *muttered* Asshole.
*Hup, effort sound*
*Jasmine tries to kick the door in*
JASMINE: Okay, it…whoa.
SCARLET: “Whoa” what? You gotta tell me these things.
JASMINE: Sorry, I’m still not used to narrating my entire life. The door opened just a bit. I can see through, and something’s blocking it. It’s uhh…the stairs.
SCARLET: What? That kick must have left you light-headed.
JASMINE: Seriously. They’re all gnarled and curled up in front of the door. Was there some blast or impact? I’m not going to be able to get down this way. Am I screwed?
SCARLET: Damn it. No, we can make this work. Is it safe to get to the elevators?
JASMINE: Yeah, this floor’s been quiet.
SCARLET: Good. Head there and tell me what you see. I want you to be my eyes, Control.
JASMINE: What runs the elevators here? Is it as fantastical as everything else?
SCARLET: Yeah, giant caterpillars inch up and down the shafts and push the elevators. And when they get hungry, we have to feed them giant leaves we get imported from Europe.
SCARLET: And you’re the one who went to college. No! They’re the same as everywhere else.
JASMINE: Hey, you said there were giant sloths and space worms. How am I supposed to know what’s fake and what’s “fake”. You can’t see it but I’m doing air quotes.
SCARLET: Sorry, I’ll try to be less funny and cool from now on.
JASMINE: The elevators look fine. Not running, obviously, but there’s no clear damage. Doors are shut tight.
SCARLET: That’s what I was afraid of. You’re gonna have to find a maintenance tech. Or whatever’s left of one. They’ve got tools to open the doors. Looks like a little metal cylinder. A round key.
JASMINE: Then what?
SCARLET: You’re gonna open the doors and slide down the suspension like a firefighter. Don’t forget to wrap something around your hands. That friction burns.
JASMINE: You’re kidding.
SCARLET: Oooh, that Lark’s getting close again, Control. Getting real close now.
JASMINE: Fuck off, “Jaunt.”
*click, Jasmine hangs up*
JASMINE: This floor’s quiet. I’ve been running through this building for a while now, and I’m all…oily. I could use a break. Some cold water on the face couldn’t hurt, too. There’s a restroom right there, nice.
*door opens, chair moves*
GABE: WHOA, hey, occupied! Don’t take another step.
JASMINE: Holy sh– who…is that a desk?
GABE, panicked: Why is a raven like a writing desk?
GABE, more intense: Why. Is a raven. Like. A FUCKING. Writing desk. So HELP ME GOD, lady!
*knife flicks out*
JASMINE, confused, scared: W-why do you have a knife? Okay, umm they both have legs? Edgar Allan Poe? I know Carroll said something but I can’t remember with a KNIFE pointed at me.
GABE: *deep sigh* That was a close one, man. Come on in.
JASMINE: What the hell was that about?
GABE: Just testing to see if you’re still human.
JASMINE: Great. Well, I am. Who are you? You’re the first person I’ve actually seen since the alarm went off. I gotta say, it’s not a great first impression.
GABE: Sorry about all that. I’m Gabe West, janitor around here. You?
JASMINE: Jasmine Control, editor. What’s with the desk?
GABE: Well Jasmine you gave me a hell of a scare. Thought you were gonna turn into one of those huge fuckers with the Pink Floyd laser show coming out of their heads. Or worse. I know it looks weird, but check it out: no windows, plus this is the only room on the floor with a deadbolt.
GABE: The only good thing to come out of all the bullshit security theater in this place. Safest spot in the whole damn building, I’d bet.
JASMINE: So you didn’t get assigned a name? Or is Gabe a…color?
GABE: Nah, they don’t give a shit about us contract workers. We’re out here raw-dogging this place. Saw the Mothman in here once and didn’t know if it was real or if I’d been huffing sewage fumes. Turns out it was both.
JASMINE: Wait, the Mothman is real?
GABE: Yeah, guy looked like a dead heron with googly eyes glued on. Smelled like the fucking Mystery Machine, too. All wet dog, cold cuts, and ditch weed. Pretty fun at office parties though, I’ve heard.
JASMINE: He works here?
GABE: Not a clue. Again, they don’t tell us jack. I just put on my headphones and zen out on Closer to the Edge. Then it’s 6pm and I feel like I’ve been hit by a freighter.
JASMINE: How’d you end up here?
GABE: The office, or the 22nd floor men’s bathroom?
JASMINE: The office.
GABE: Well, used to be we worked for the state like you all. To save money, they fired us all. Janitors, maintenance, sanitation. All gone, bye bye insurance. They rehired half of us through a third-party agency to do the same work. They pay us less, give us worse hours and shittier benefits, and we’re non-union. Welcome to twenty-first century capitalism.
JASMINE: Why work here specifically? Do they look for…I think she called it “variance” in your past, too?
GABE: Oh, yeah. One time I was at the park, and I stared at a bird so long we switched minds. I flew around the city shitting on everyone I saw. I strutted around the rooftops and picked some fights with other pigeons. When I got back to my real body, I had an empty wonderbread bag in my hand and the worst stomach ache of my life. Did I mention I was on acid and it was 1999? I was and it was.
JASMINE: Hmm. I suppose that would count.
GABE: I saw a UFO once, too. People call ‘em flying saucers but this one looked an awful lot like the Weinermobile. Everybody likes hot dogs, man.
JASMINE: So…You said you’re janitorial staff. You wouldn’t happen to have an elevator key, would you?
GABE: Like hell they’d give me that. The building maintenance guys have those. They’re in-house like we used to be. Haven’t seen one in a grip, though. I’ll see what I got.
GABE: A pocket knife, mop, crowbar, and pamphlet. Crowbar might work.
JASMINE: Let’s try. Hey, is that an old iPod?
GABE: Zune. First gen, baby. Loaded up with more psychedelic licks than Canterbury 1969.
JASMINE: Cool. What does that mean?
GABE: Psychedelic rock, progressive rock, krautrock. King Crimson, Yes, Can, Syd Barrett, the Zombies.
JASMINE: Cool, cool. Well, I hate to ask, but could you come out and help me? I know it’s like…weird because I’m technically higher up and I’m like asking you to do labor, but I don’t think I can pry the elevator doors open myself.
GABE: You ever scrubbed your boss’ shit off a toilet rim?
JASMINE: Can’t say I have, Gabe.
GABE: That’s labor. Sitting in a call center until your legs go blue from clots, that’s labor too. Unless you own this place–and you sure as shit don’t–you’re exploited just the same. This is just helping somebody out. No need to get neurotic about it.
JASMINE: Sorry, I’m still new here.
GABE: Forget about it. The world’s falling apart and the bosses are tightening the reins to make sure we don’t go free. We gotta do what we can for each other.
NARRATOR: Jasmine took the crowbar, Gabe took the Zune and dangling headphones, and they went to the elevator bay. The reception area was still, and the lights overhead dimmed at uneven intervals.
JASMINE: How are we going to do this?
GABE: We’re gonna jam the bar in between the doors and pry it open. Easy peasy.
GABE: Damn if it isn’t tough. You don’t have a security badge on you, right? That’d make this a hell of a lot easier.
JASMINE: Nope. First day.
GABE: No shit. Welcome to the team, Jasmine. All I can say is, if anybody gets got, I hope it isn’t one of us.
*straining, door opens*
GABE: There you go, rookie. Looks like there’s an elevator about two floors down. You should be able to open it from the top and climb in. Did a lift surf or two in the olden days. Take the crowbar, too. You’ll need it to open the doors when you’re in. Can you climb?
JASMINE: I don’t think I have much choice. Are you coming?
GABE: Nah, I think I’m gonna wait the whole thing out behind the deadbolt. I don’t trust my chances. Seven floors to the exit? Maybe. 20? Not enough luck in the world, fucko.
JASMINE, anxious: Whew, two floors down, huh. Looks a lot farther. Which one’s–
NARRATOR: Jasmine leaned her head into the shaft and looked up for where she started, floor 26. Instead, she saw a massive cocoon. A huge white chrysalis, easily her size, was attached to the wall about 15 feet up. She turned back toward Gabe with a finger to her lips. There’s always a catch.
JASMINE, quiet: There’s something up there. A cocoon.
GABE, also lowering voice: Oh shit, sounds like we have Mothman or Mothmen on the premises. If we stay quiet, it shouldn’t–
SCARLET, full volume: Hey, Control, you get those elevators open yet? If you can get down to 18, you can grab my–
*frantic beeps as Jasmine tries to turn off the watch*
JASMINE, hissing: shit, shit, shit.
*light cracking sound*
NARRATOR: Jasmine and Gabe leaned into the shaft and tilted their heads up. They caught sight of a towering, vibrant wing unfurling from the chrysalis. With each twitch, it sent a shower of prismatic dust down toward the pair of onlookers. Another wing emerged, then a long scaly body. Torn shreds of a gray business suit still clung wet to its distended body. The creature stretched its six hooked legs and turned a humanoid face toward Jasmine. Round black eyes met hers, and a cry rang out through the corridor.
GABE: That’s no Mothman, that’s the fucking Butterfly Boy!
JASMINE, trying to stay calm: Okay, okay, back to the bathroom.
NARRATOR: Jasmine and Gabe took off down a narrow corridor. They sped by empty offices and trashed cubicles. They could hear the insect clawing its way down the hall behind them, legs piercing the wall and pulling it further along. They made it to the end of a path that split left and right. The butterfly was bearing down on them from the center.
JASMINE: Which way?
GABE: Wait, what do you mean? I thought you were leading us!
JASMINE: Why would I know how to get back there?
GABE: I don’t know, this isn’t my floor! I don’t have the damn layout memorized.
JASMINE: And this isn’t even my fucking building. Guess it is now. We’ll need to pick one and hope whatever god’s watching doesn’t have a sense of humor.
GABE: I’ve got a better idea. If this thing’s like the rest of them, it loves electronic stuff. I’ve got the Zune. I could blast some tunes and lure it around the bend, and then you get back to the elevator and be on your way.
JASMINE: That’s insane, what if you–
GABE: Better get moving!
*music, creature noises, footsteps*
GABE: Come get me, bourgeois scum. Fuckin middle-manager-ass bug, couldn’t even drop the tie. A specter’s haunting your ass, and his name’s Robert Fripp.
*music trails off*
*beeps from watch*
JASMINE, flustered, running: What!?
SCARLET: Hey, jackass, why’d you hang up on me? I was trying to look out for you. This is how it’s gonna be?
JASMINE, sarcastic: I’m sorry, I was busy talking to the giant butterfly man. Everything is normal here, just rainbows and fairies and socialist janitors.
SCARLET, genuine: Wait, what?
JASMINE: Nevermind! I’m almost at the elevator.
SCARLET: Good! Get down quick.
JASMINE: Hoooly shit. All right. I just need to jump on and slide. It’s easy.
JASMINE: RIP, jacket.
SCARLET: We’ll get you a new one.
JASMINE: Thank god Gabe was here to help.
SCARLET: Who? Gabe? Gabe West was there?
JASMINE: Yeah. Tall, thin, communist manifesto in their pocket. Know them?
SCARLET: Kind of. We run in the same…political circles. Wink. I just don’t yell at people online about it. But you managed to get the elevators open?
SCARLET: Didn’t need an elevator key?
JASMINE: We used a crowbar. Why?
SCARLET: Just you and Gabe?
JASMINE: Yeah. Again, why?
SCARLET: I just didn’t know they…how many people were stuck here. I’m sorry, Jasmine.
JASMINE: It’s okay. We’re in a life or death situation here, we’re all stressed. And thank you, Scarlet.
SCARLET: For what?
JASMINE: For not calling me “Control.”
SCARLET: Well don’t get used to it. It was a…moment of vulnerability in a time of crisis. Won’t happen again.
JASMINE: Ohhh my god.
SCARLET: Don’t make fun.
JASMINE: No, not you.
SCARLET: What then? What are you seeing? Be my eyes and ears. Tell me everything. Like I’m in your head.
JASMINE: The walls…they’re all. Bright. Painted in neon swirls. Nothing like the others.
SCARLET: Like a freshman stoner’s dorm room?
JASMINE: Kind of, actually. Yeah.
SCARLET: Shit. This one’s gonna be rough.
JASMINE: Why, where am I now?
SCARLET: You’re in the Psychedelics Lab, Control. You heard of Project Bluebird?
GABE: Nah, man. Check this out.
GABE: Real brain tickler, eh? 1971, believe it or not.
*butterfly questioning sound*
GABE: Hell yeah, man. Way ahead of their time. Oh, you’re gonna love this next one. You watch anime?
GABE: DBZ, One Piece, sure. This track’s in this one show. It rips.
GABE: All right, but don’t tell anyone. They drug test us “essential workers” sometimes. Here.