Getting worked up is only gettin’ ya hurt. And you hurtin’ hurts the rest of us.
Episode 77: Oubliette
[Hey guys. Quick plugs. I’ve been writing soundtracks and playing games on Sunday evenings on my twitch at twitch.tv/woebegonepod so check that out if that sounds fun to you. Very exciting Patreon news. That’s patreon.com/woe_begone. I just launched a $15 postcard tier where members will get monthly postcards from Oldbrush Valley. Definitely something to check out if you’re interested in getting some physical objects from the show. We also met a pledge goal and the Movies With Michael podcast is coming soon for $10 and up patrons. This is in addition to early access to episodes, instrumentals, soundtrack albums, Q&As, Director’s Commentaries and more. Special thanks to my 10 new patrons: Anna S, Jay Petrequin, Ollie, mysticarcanum, The Happy Zoologist, Regan, Varian, Ben, Wike Malters, and Amy Bill for supporting the show. Enjoy.]
[We hear a knock on the door, it opens.]
Mike: [mildly solemn] Mikey. You made it in one piece. [sigh] Welcome, come in, all that. This whole thing… just… I don’t know, man. It’s not fair… I’m sorry this is happening to you…[trailing off.]
Mikey: It’s all right. I’m a little overwhelmed, but I’m hanging in there.
[We hear the skittering of Bruno between their legs.]
Mike: Oh, there’s my shadow, come to cheer you up. He’s been attached at the hip ever since he got here.
Mikey: Hi Bruno. Hi puppy.
Mike: Boris is on a weekend trip so we’ve got him for 3 whole days.
Mikey: Are you gonna share the couch with me, Bruno?
Mike: You’re joking but he will. He loves to cuddle up with me when I’m feeling under the weather. He’ll sleep right on top of you on the couch if you let him, just don’t let him smother you to death. How are you feeling, by the way? Besides overwhelmed.
Mikey: Like shit. I’m so tired of arguing, Mike. Or, I thought I was tired of arguing until everyone decided that they’d rather not talk to me at all. They “decided to focus their efforts on the mission,” the details of which are “need to know” good lord how I hate “need to know” and since the messages concern me and only me, I’m not allowed to be involved. Now I miss arguing. Now I’m tired of the silent treatment. Mustardseed ruined everything.
Mike: I know, I know. No one’s being themselves right now. I think you made the right decision to get out of there for a little bit. Let everybody cool off. Everyone’s scared and angry and no one knows what’s coming next.
Mikey: I feel so betrayed. It’s like Mustardseed got to all of them and cast a spell on them. They treat me completely differently now and they won’t tell me what any of the messages say and every time I tried to talk to anyone I got more riled up than the previous time and of course because I talk to Edgar more than anyone else most of the fights are with him… and now I’m here. Because I can’t be there anymore. I feel ashamed and embarrassed and I don’t even know for sure what to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
Mike: There, there. It’s okay Mikey. Well, it’s not okay, I could feel you about to correct me and you’re not wrong, but we’re going to get through this. It’s still Base. It’s still Edgar. Nothing changed. There’s just a tiny little roadbump. Okay?
Mikey: I sure hope so. Aww, Bruno. You can tell I’m upset, can’t you? Before he gets in here: is Michael okay? I saw him when he came in to do the interview and he was acting strange. Wouldn’t say a word to me.
Mike: He’s been going off on his own. He thinks that I won’t know he’s been using the Calculator as long as he has his bedroom door closed but he always knocks something over in there when he gets back. I can’t tell how long he’s gone for. He isn’t letting me in on any of it. For instance: something happened maybe a week or two ago while I was out on a walk with Bruno here. I came back and he was really irritable and then the Mustardseed stuff starting getting worse and he shut me out even more. Wouldn’t even talk to me for a few days. I found a drop of blood in the carpet, too. And of course he won’t tell me what happened– he never does.
Mikey: Does he know something about Mustardseed that we don’t? Or the Elder Hunter situation?
Mike: I have no idea. He could know something or he could be acting that way for a thousand other different reasons. You know how he gets. Everything is a black box with him. What he’s reacting to might not have even happened yet. Watch this. He’s been sulking in his bedroom all morning but once he knows you’re here he’ll turn on the charm like nothing’s wrong. Michael! Mikey’s here! [quieter] Get ready to be “sheepdogged.”
Michael: Mikey! Glad you could make it. Bruno sure looks happy to see ya. How are ya holdin’ up?
Michael: Buck up, Mikey boy. ‘T’ain’t the worst fight you’re gonna have with Edgar. Time travel is a nasty business.
Mikey: It feels especially nasty right now.
Michael: That’s ‘cause you’re under attack. Base don’t see it that way yet, but they’ll come around. Base is under attack, too. Everyone just needs some time to cool off and realize there’s a reason Mustardseed is having this play out. Now that you’re here, they can get their minds off of you for a minute and focus.
Mike: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Mikey: The idea that everybody needs to forget about me for awhile to tolerate me again doesn’t make me feel any better.
Michael: Tough shit. It’s the truth. ‘Sides, we ain’t havin’ a slumber party. We’re the damn Satellite Base. We’re gonna get to the bottom of this Mustardseed stuff. This stuff affects us too, Mikey. You don’t get to sit and whine while we get the work done.
Mike: Has Mustardseed messaged you again yet, Mikey?
Mikey: Only the stuff that I’ve already showed you. I have alerts set up on that account that they told me not to delete so that I’ll see it the moment they reply to me again. Has Mustardseed tried to contact either of you?
Mike: Nothing on our end. I’ve kept an eye out for Mustardseed posts in the wild but haven’t found any yet. Now would be the perfect time to go quiet if they wanted to screw with us.
Mikey: It sure would be nice if we had a Base full of people to help us find traces of them…
Michael: Well we don’t, so no use thinkin’ about it now.
Mikey: What I don’t understand is what Mustardseed even wants. They say they’ve got info on Elder Hunter. They sent Matt audio of the night we completed the fourth challenge. I can only assume that what they sent to the rest of Base is equally bad. What’s the point?
Michael: Smoke out Mike Walters.
Mikey: Why? The rest of Base is still doing work without me. Mustardseed doesn’t think they can get me kicked out of Base, do they? …That’s not going to happen, is it?
Michael: No chance in hell.
Mike: Maybe you’re important to something or there’s a correction that they’re trying to prevent? Or a correction they’re trying to issue? They want you to do something or to not do something. Or they want Base to do something or not do something. Maybe.
Mikey: That’s really narrowed it down.
Mike: Well, people have interests and they act on them. Mustardseed is trying to get whatever it is they want, so the more we can observe their actions the more we can decipher why they are doing what they are doing.
Mikey: How much of my life are they going to destroy before we can figure that out? If Edgar already knows about the Pacific Ocean then it’s too late.
Michael: Edgar knows about the Pacific Ocean?
Mikey: I don’t know what he knows.
Michael: You shouldn’t go saying things like that if you don’t know.
Mike: I don’t think it’s a good idea to catastrophize something that we don’t know.
Mikey: I didn’t start catastrophizing because I thought that it was a good idea.
Mike: I’m saying don’t do it.
Mikey: Easy for you to say. It worked out for you. You’re engaged.
Mike: And it wasn’t pleasant for the entire journey there. Mikey, we went through it together. Edgar was killed alongside everyone else at the Base. In another iteration, he went through the Lost Year. He almost got us killed in Rugby. Sometimes neither of us do the dishes enough and we both get passive aggressive about it even though both of us are being lazy. Buckle up, Mikey. It’s a bumpy ride.
Michael: If I may? Mikey, you love Edgar. I don’t think that’s presumptuous to say. I’ve made it through a decade more of this than you have and livin’ got easier when I toughened up. You corrected the past. You protected him. That’s how you need to see it. You protect him and he protects you. Sheepdog ‘im a little. And get over things that never happened. Admit it to yourself and move on. Getting worked up is only getting you hurt. And you hurtin’ hurts the rest of us.
Mike: You never told your Edgar about the Pacific Ocean, Michael.
Michael: I made my own peace with it. It never happened.
Mike: I don’t believe that. I don’t think you do, either.
Michael: Most of my life never happened, pilgrim. It only feels like it did.
Michael: I don’t have to justify myself to you. That ain’t the point. The point is that dwelling will only pull you into the darkness and there’s nothin’ for ya there. Mike, you know that as well as anyone.
Mike: That’s true. No need to make it about us. Mikey needs to be somewhere that he ruminate and process what’s going on and that’s why he’s here. We’re like his little monastery.
Michael: Or oubliette, considering how small and dark it is.
Mike: Mikey, did that help any?
Mikey: I felt like you two worked through some of your stuff, but I still feel like shit.
Mike: You’ll come around. What do you say we take Bruno for a w-a-l-k, pick up some pelmeni for dinner and we’ll start making plans to deal with Mustardseed AND Elder Hunter in the morning? Michael?
Michael: You had me at pelmeni.
[There is an eerie scratching sound. It goes on for several seconds. Bruno whimpers and then starts growling. There is a sound like someone banging on the wall. The sound happens again. We hear the scrambling of paws as Bruno leaps off of the couch.]
Mikey: [blearily] …what the fuck? What the fuck was that?
[We hear Mike and Michael leave their bedrooms.]
Michael: [sternly] Bruno, sidet. HEY!
Mike: It’s me, Michael. Don’t point that at me. Mikey, what was that sound?
Mikey: I don’t know. I was asleep.
Michael: Get the lights.
[We hear a light switch flick.]
Mike: Did it come from in here, Mikey?
Mikey: I don’t know. I heard some scratching noises and then a couple loud bangs, like they came from the other side of the wall.
Michael: You didn’t see nothin’?
Mikey: Nothing, but it was dark in here.
Mike: Bruno’s sniffing the wall there. Did it sound like it came from there?
Mikey: I guess? I was in the middle of a dream. It was the dog dream. The one with Edgar.
Mike: I know the one.
Mikey: I guess because Bruno was lying on top of me. I thought the sounds were in the dream until Bruno jumped off the couch and woke me up.
Michael: Here, Mike. Take this. [sound of pistol racking.] Check all the rooms. If you find anyone other than the three of us, shoot ‘em. Even if it’s another Mikey.
Michael: Mikey, let me get a good look at ya for a second.
Mikey: Michael, what are you talking about? Let go of me.
Michael: Gotta make sure you ain’t an imposter.
Mike: Michael, what are you even talking about? He’s our Mikey from the Base. Leave him alone.
Michael: I got my reasons. It might be time for a story when we get to the bottom of this. Mike, double check the rooms. Tear the place apart. Don’t let any corner go unchecked, okay?
Mikey: Isn’t this… a lot? Couldn’t it have just been a neighbor?
Michael: We’re at the end of the hall and the neighbors moved out a month ago. Something is either in the wall or in the neighboring apartment. In fact: Mikey: here. [sound of keys.] Take these and go down to the lockbox on the first floor. This one [sound of keys] opens the box. Grab the spare for the neighbor’s apartment and check to make sure nothing’s in there. Should be easy enough with no one livin’ there.
Mike: You have the key to the spares?
Michael: I have the key to the lock box. To get into utility closets, in case we need anything for Bruno. Dog food, cleaning supplies, stuff like that.
Mikey: And what will you be doing while me and Mike are doing all of the heavy lifting, exactly?
Michael: Lookin’ for clues.
Mike: Clues? What do you think the sound was? A person?
Michael: We’re about to find out. Alright, enough standing around. Chop chop.
Mikey: I don’t want to wander the building alone. Can Bruno come with me?
Mikey: Alright, Bruno. Let’s go.
[We hear the sounds of Mikey and Bruno exiting the apartment, keys in hand.]
Mikey: It’s fuckin’ creepy in this apartment building this late at night. Bruno, you live here all the time? Don’t you get spooked at night?
[We hear the sounds of entering and exiting a stairwell.]
Mikey: You’re gonna protect me, right boy? From this… probably a raccoon or something trapped in the wall. Do they have raccoons here? Or a bat. We all might have to get our rabies shots after this if it’s a bat. Hopefully it’s not something that can fly. There was a bird that got into our house when I was a little kid and it took forever to get it out. It got stuck inside and was too stupid to know what a door or a window was.
[We hear a key in a lock and then a flimsy metal door open.]
Mikey: Alright, the key should be this one… So far so good. And I haven’t heard any gunshots, which is a good sign. I think we’d hear it through the walls.
[We return to the stairwell.]
Mikey: Of all of the nights to be shaken out of a dream, it was when I was dreaming about Edgar. Don’t tell the other Mikes all this, okay Bruno? I feel like my marriage is falling apart and I’m not even married yet. That’s a lot of pressure that I didn’t ask for, knowing that I’m going to marry Edgar before we’ve even talked about it to each other, like it’s a cosmic certainty that we are building up to. But then with Mustardseed, I feel myself closing back off to him again like before we had Base and it feels like I am failing to uphold my cosmic duties to him and the other Mikes. And I can’t confide in anyone except a fuckin’ dog. [Mikey kicks something in the stairwell.] [Grimace] Oh, too mean, too mean, you could tell I was mad. I’m not mad at you, Bruno. It’s okay. Good boy. Good boy.
[Keys in lock.]
Mikey: Welp, here goes nothing. Hopefully no one’s home. You ready Bruno?
[The door opens. Light switch.]
Mikey: Hello? Hello? [clears throat, assumes stern voice] If there is anyone in here, come out with your hands up. You are trespassing. Sniff ‘em out, Bruno.
[We hear Bruno skittering across the floors.]
Mikey: [sighs] We might be on a wild good chase after all. That’s good, I guess. Better than actually finding someone and confronting them to be sure.
Mikey: Find anyone, Bruno?
[Footsteps. We hear the ding of a phone notification.]
Mikey: What? Mustardseed? Now!? “I’ll try to be quieter next time.” It’s… Mustardseed? They… what?
Michael [muffled]: Right here. Right where Bruno sniffed it out.
[We hear the sound of an axe crashing through the drywall between the two apartments. Mikey yells out.]
Michael: Sorry Mikey. Didn’t know you was back upstairs yet. Found the bug. It was right where Bruno was sniffin’ at. Right here inside the wall. Not sayin’ there’s not more of ‘em somewhere.
Mikey: A bug? When did somebody bug the apartment? There’s no sign of anybody in this apartment, by the way. No people, no furniture, no sign of entry.
Michael: Well, Bruno didn’t sniff out just the metal and we all heard something.
Mike: You’re saying that… someone… was in the wall?
Michael: Someone that set this tiny listening device up inside the wall and then bumped around in here before he made his way back out. Thought he could get it planted while we were all asleep.
Mikey: It’s Mustardseed. I got a message from them when I walked in. “I’ll try to be quieter next time.” I don’t think that it was a coincidence that this happened the first night that I stayed over.
Mike: They were in our wall? Could they… fit in there?
Michael: Just barely, from the looks of things. Long enough to plant this bug and who knows how many others in the walls.
Mikey: I don’t see any way in or out. Except the big hole you made with the axe.
Michael: They didn’t need a way in or out. They’ve got a calculator or something like it.
Mike: Isn’t that extremely dangerous? Michael, didn’t you say that you had a travel that got intercepted by a wall because you cut it too close?
Michael: Got cut clean in half. However Mustardseed got here, they either have a safer means of transportation than the calculator or are completely reckless. Otherwise, we were just as likely to be cleaning their guts off the wall.
Mikey: I’m beginning to suspect that this isn’t the only place that they’ve done this. They had a recording from Matt’s house, too, remember. They could have bugged anything, anywhere in time and this might be the first time we’ve heard them bumping around and noticed it.
Mike: Holy shit, Michael. There was a person in our wall just now. What are we going to do?
Michael: We are going to remain calm and we are going to formulate a plan very carefully and we are not going to discuss that plan in this building. Bruno, you wanna go for a walk?
[Happy dog sounds.]
Michael: Heh, he loves that world. Alright, Bruno, let’s go for a WALK.
[Happy dog sounds.]