1. Hautxoria Flies Home - Transcript
Note: This Transcript is a modified version of the Short Story that became the Echoed Locations Script. Notes on Sound Design have been added.
Content Warnings: Death, Grief, Alcohol, Tobacco
[Int. Train ambiance, a PA chime rings]
Hi Folks this is your Conductor Patrick, with a few notes before we depart for Caezarc. This episode is a pilot, our proof of concept presentation serving as a prologue to Chori's adventures. You might experience some bumps on the track and format compared to future episodes, but please stay tuned during the credits for more information on season one and our crowdfunding campaign beginning in early 2021. We know you have many options when it comes to your audio fiction, so on behalf of our entire Echoed Locations team we appreciate your listenership and trust to get you where you need to go. We are ready to depart, so please sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
[PA Chime ends announcement]
[Himalayan Singing Bowls ring out, birds chirp]
The belabored death of a joyful man is an ugly thing to witness. Raymond was a reformed troublemaker who stumbled into teaching; the type of parent who would not be disappointed to find alcohol on your breath, but that you weren't clever enough to chew mint before returning home like he did at your age. He was prepared for any situation, because in his 57 years of life he had seemingly encountered all of them. His favorite lesson to share with his class was the value of a waterproofed bag, as he quickly learned how expensive it is to replace your belongings when sailors toss you in the river after too much fun in the pub as a Freshman.
He was a hard man to pin down, that much stayed true until the bitter end. As his teaching assistant I gradually took over his classes in his declining health, and walking into his home to bring him assignments was like a new scavenger hunt everyday. breadcrumbs in the kitchen could equally indicate he made a sandwich to eat in bed, or wanted to feed the birds and was sitting on the gutter over the back patio. From the stories he told me his studies abroad were equally erratic, hopping from train to bike, desert to sea, kingdom to commune, piecemealing together an education out of various cultural and theoretical schools of thought.
It's what made his permanent burial in Gloucester feel all the less fitting.
By his definition of success a Gloucester burial is high marks. Raymond felt that a death as far away from your birthplace as possible was a sign of a life well lived. He held no animosity for his home town like many of the others that wander their way across the map, but considered travel to be as good an educator as any other Pinacle University.
Raymond was born in Caezarc, a city of 60,000 founded precariously at the summit of about as steep a mountain range as they come. A crater at the peak collected enough rainwater to make a lake, and the proto-Caezarcians decided a city that can't be sieged without climbing ropes was a pretty smart idea. Today, Caezarc is the remotest of destinations, offering hot sun, warm waters, and relaxation to those that can stomach the altitude. Raymond's memory got a little fuzzy in the last few weeks, but could recite his favorite moment in Caezarc as if reading it off the page of a well worn book.
Raymond's last trip to Caezarc came on the heels of a rough leg of travel, arriving ragged and penniless in the night without a place to stay. He staggered into a cafe, and chalk it up to sweet talking the barista or their pity on him, but he was given the last dregs of coffee and refuge on their patio until sunrise. He always described it as the best coffee he ever had; gritty and burned, but given freely when he needed it most. He liked to say Caezarc is closer to the stars, and the first city lucky enough to receive them. That night, alone on a closed cafe patio, he was the only one welcoming in the starlight on its many mile journey.
[Himalayan Singing Bowls begin to distort]
That part of the story always stayed the same, and it was equally comforting and worrying that his last words to me would be the ones I've heard dozens of times before. But on his last telling of the story, he grabbed my hand, placed a folded envelope and a few Caezarcian coins in my palm, and said "It's about time I paid someone back for that cup", as he drifted into a temporary, then permanent unconsciousness.
It took me a few days to build up the nerve to unseal that envelope, perhaps some need to preserve the forgone idea that there was still information he had to teach me. Inside was a single sheet of paper, and the weakly scribbled lines:
This July 23rd to come
Hautxoria flies home
[Int. Train ambiance]
It took about a week of jumping from train to train to reach the base of Caezarc mountain, an okay length of travel time on paper but dreadfully boring in practice. It also took a day longer than planned due to stormy Gloucester weather, meaning I would arrive on the 23rd without a day to spare. The trip seemed extra dull, as the lush green and blue of Gloucester slowly mutes day by day, drying out into the tan and brown rock of the arid desert landscape. I'm not one for travel, so my rattling train compartment doubled as my infirmary as I immediately became motion sick. I tried diving into my studies to take my mind off my stomach, but it only made matters worse. Raymond would have been tickled by my struggles, he knew I never strayed far from Gloucester and would rather read about the next town over than visit myself. He had taken to calling me Hautxoria (Howt-CHOR-ee-a), a Caezarcian word for "Baby Bird" and applied to those scared to leave their nests. I didn't mind since it started in jest but turned endearing, and wasn't a false characterization. It's what made us a good team, he was the field researcher and I was the bookworm. As the train lurched to a halt at our destination, I shook off the lingering nausea and stepped onto the platform, carrying both roles with me this time around.
[Train Whistle Blows]
[Ext. Industrial Cable Yard. Crowd ambiance, vendors shout, electrical buzzing, churning machinery]
The station at the base of Caezarc has all the charm of an industrial seaport and the invasiveness of a busy market. Sprawling into a ring that fully surrounds the mountain, tan arches made from locally sourced stone topped with the metallic shine of Sun Panels shade the visitors and locals perspiring underneath. The buzz of the sun panels drone out like cicadas, wires running along the arches into the ground, powering the humming machinery buried beneath us with subdued dissonance. Vendors greet you like long lost family and draw you into large shipping containers haphazardly turned into storefronts, draped in colorful silks and linens, trying to offset the enormous cost of pulling their goods up and down the mountain with discounted bobbles and frivolous luxuries, all priced by the pound.
It's easy to see the troubles of goods getting in and out of Caezarc, or if you will forgive me, the ups and downs of Caezarcian shipping. The profile of the mountain is pinstriped with thick, dense cables, like a carnival rock climbing wall enlarged to a massive scale. Each cable runs a multi ton car all 12,000 feet from base to peak, with generators churning below our feet, pulling, heaving, and lugging iron boxes into the heat of the sun above. The passenger cars up the mountain are more inviting, lined with glass windows to take in the dizzying height and the splendor of the distant mountains in the range slowly falling below your ascent. Of course, as with all things in life, the more pleasant the journey the more costly the admission. The passenger cars charge by the weight of your total combined contribution to the heft to take you and your belongings up to Caezarc. The mighty engines spinning you up the mountain can only take so much without releasing the car into free fall, and taking one portly lord and his several trunks of eveningwear means less passengers to share the ride. If you are a frugal traveler or can pass up the view until you reach the peak, it is simple enough to catch a ride on an ironside cargo car, for what is a few extra pounds when hauling 50 tons of food and supplies to the city above? As someone that is denser and poorer than I look, it didn't take a lot of convincing for me to climb into the dark industrial coffin with the beef and poultry being brought to the kitchens 2 miles above.
I spoke with a cableman more focused on packing his pipe with tobacco than the transaction he was making, and I slip up the ramp between burly Teamsters loading crates of meat.
[Int. Cargo Container, increasing vocal reverb]
I find a small bolted metal bench along the far wall by the light of the doorway, and the less than confidence-inspiring bungee cord tied to screws in the wall to make a budget seatbelt. Throwing it over my head as I sit, I can feel the elasticity has left this vessel years ago, as the thick fibers lay limp on my knees in more of a show of consideration than actual safety. The cablemen finish hauling the cargo, and with a shared thumbs up to make sure I was ready for the journey, they seal the door. As the latch clicks into place, I hear the immediately unsettling sound of laughter erupt on the other side of the door. There is not much I can do in response, as the suns only reminder of its presence in the darkness is the steady ticking up of the temperature inside the iron meat locker. The whir of the massive generator beneath me spins up to speed, and I feel the box lift into the air, inching upwards to the city.
[Int. Cargo Container, vocal reverb, mechanical squeals, wind rushing, elevator machinery]
In regard to the quality of this trip, its helpful to know that the two hour duration was spent comparing and contrasting being buried alive with my current situation with increasing preference to being underground. To be buried alive is to know the terms, that there is X amount of pounds of dirt above you, X amount of Oxygen Remaining, and X square feet to move within the coffin. Everything in the cargo crate was indefinite, which way the wind will spin you, how fast the wind will spin you, how long the wind will spin you, and other equally terrifying and unknowable factors. Somewhere in the darkness a crate crashes off its stack, leaving me paralyzed in place as to not be pinned under 500 pounds of splintering wood and now above room temperature lamb. The most harrowing aspect, as I'm sure you would all agree, is what I now know as "The Slips", in which a cable momentarily loses traction with the generator,
[Container drops, creaks, and swings]
and drops a few feet before the emergency brake catches and the generator picks up the slack. This is fine when there is nothing but inanimate cargo in the hold, but add a person terrified, dizzy, and overheating in the dark, it is a gamble if the break will stop your fall this time or you are about to Hurdle to the ground a mile below you. If I fall to my death, body mangled among the meat, would they notice a passenger in there, or would I be shoveled with the now "ground beef" onto the next cargo car to be served to someone rich enough to afford a safe trip up? Just some fun light thought experiments to keep from screaming in the dark at the aforementioned beef.
Two harrowing hours after being sealed inside, I hear the voices of teamsters shout out as they guide the cargo into the dock. The box finally sets down on solid ground, and I slump from exhaustion, realizing I've been tensing every muscle in my body since we started the ascent.
[Ext. Cable Yard, end of vocal reverb]
Blinding light floods into the car, and I explode out past the workers on wobbly legs and ultimately crash onto the ground in a sweaty pile. Cableman laughter now bookends my awful journey, as the crew takes a well deserved break at my expense and circle around me. One lifts me up to my feet and speaks quickly in the unfamiliar Caezarcian language, but his mocking baby tone made his message clear as I push through to the street: Poor little Hautxoria.
[Ext. Market, crowd ambiance, vendors shouting, wind jingling chimes]
I regain my bearings and a little dignity by sitting against the wall surrounding the cable yard, scanning the marketplace to people watch and pick up any social cues on how to not stand out as a tourist. I only had a small sample size of Caezarcian behavior through Raymond, and he made it hard to tell if his aggressively friendly and open demeanor was just Raymond being Raymond or a cultural holdover. In watching the crowd, it's clear that Raymond was a perfect model of the Caezarcian average. I can tell who are close friends or family members by the links of people chained together by an arm draped across shoulders, free hands gesturing wildly as they speak. I could see who was in a business relationship with their walking companion and who was the superior by the single hand on one shoulder, free hand hovering closer and pointed as they discuss serious matters. The ones walking alone slink through the crowd, hands holstered in their pockets, shoulders up to invite conversation or sunken to signal they'd rather stick to themselves.
The personal space of a Caezarcian is skin deep, as the thick mesh of the throng rubs up on stranger and friend alike as they move, occasionally hitting the back or arms of passersby with their gesticulating and receiving no recognition of any foul play. I laugh to myself seeing the strikes, recounting the time my sophomore year Raymond walked down a crowded hallway, arm hung around the back of my neck, and smacked another Professor dead in the throat without so much as twitching an eye away from me as he hammered his point home on my latest thesis.
[Distorted Himalayan Singing Bowls]
The small reminder of Raymond's distinct manner comforts me only for a moment, as I now see the reality that he was but one of many, like learning a treasured family heirloom was mass produced in a mold. Seeing how I apparently already had years of cultural training, I stand, drop my hands in my pockets and walk deeper into the city, shoulders slack and eyes to the ground.
[Distorted Himalayan Singing Bowls End]
I make my way north through the city to my lodgings, a small bunkhouse settled along the shore of the lake. It's safe to say most buildings can be considered small, with the cost of hauling materials up for dwellings you are considered the ultra elite if your home has more than 2 stories, commonly with two or three rooms per floor. Each facade of smooth stucco outlined over the stacked stone beneath is painted a cool pastel, a relaxing distraction of the 2 mile drop if you drift too far in any direction. The city was originally founded around the lake, and you can see the age of each building grow older and more patchworked the closer you get.
The bunkhouse was faded teal with red clay shingles sporadically lining the roof, a fine dust of the fallen shingles lining the street outside as pedestrians trample and crush the ancient mud back into the ground without a thought. I try to get a glimpse at the lake behind it, but the densely packed buildings lining its shore leave no gaps or wasted real estate. The only path being through, I push the curtain over the doorway to the side and step into the musty entrance.
[Int. Bunkhouse, pages turning, light snoring]
Im shown to my sleeping quarters, which come equipped with six bunk beds in a room that logistically should only fit 2 single beds. The gaps between the bunks are wide enough to fit through sliding sideways, pulling my backpack along behind me and disrupting my neighbor when it hits the book from his hands. He releases a short burst of guttural Caezarcan insults, I assume, and he goes back to the looping text on the page. My bed is in the back corner, and settling onto the thin mattress gives far less comfort than I would have hoped. But my body ached and I had nowhere to be until sunset, so that thin, supportless bed was all I had planned for the moment. I tried pulling out my book for a distraction, but my weary eyes drifted and crossed halfway down any paragraph. Instead I give in and settle on sleeping, figuring a nap was in order after today's ordeal.
[Bottle Uncorks, party cheers, faint singing, guitar, and tambourine, distorted himalayan singing bowls]
In the neighboring room the faint sound of some sort of party is getting underway, and a wine bottle uncorks to much fanfare. Their cheers fade as one man begins singing, and the rest quickly join in. Despite the muffling wall and their off key distortions, I knew the melody all too well. It was a Caezarcian folk song Raymond would turn to when his glass took away what few inhibitions he had left. A cableman favorite about traveling up and down the mountain to buy a sweetheart's affection with treasures from the market below, only to be sent back down for a more expensive gift at the end of each verse. I assumed every home between Raymond's and the pub knew it at this point, and he would sing it to the stars and laugh as I tried to muddle through with him phonetically. I finally learned the words in his last week, hoping the familiar lyrics would pull him from his sleep for a little while longer when he drifted too deep. It didn't. In this strange room, hurting and tired, I bury my face in the pillow and cry silently to sleep, as the party continues beyond.
I am roused by the sound of drunken laughter in the room that borders the wall I'm pressed against, and the post nap panic and disorientation makes me jump up and hit my head on the bunk above me. Now pained and panicked, I scramble to the foot of the bed where I have an angle on the window, and see the geometric boxes of pink sky glow above and between the surrounding buildings. The Sun was setting, and that meant I should have been across the city by now. I fumble with my shoes and shimmy through the bunks as quickly as my throbbing head allows, much to the continued displeasure of my reading roommate. His assumed cursing quickly becomes contained as I throw the doorway curtain passed me, and hit the red dusted sidewalk in a sprint.
[Ext. street, crowd ambiance]
The Caezarcian custom of chained shoulder contact among groups works because in a society where urgency is not a universal driving force, you are only expected to move as fast as those whose company you keep. And for those who need to get from point A to B as fast as possible, notably foreigners who oversleep, those ropes of persons stretching across streets and leisurely gaits are an infuriating obstacle that keep you moving as slowly as they are. I do my best to keep my hands and shoulders low, pushing through the chains of folks and keeping my instinct to run down to a stunted trot. The road grows steeper, and the crawl of the mass before me slows more and more with the extra resistance. The pink sky was darkening, and soon the cafe would close, hiding the secret Raymond had planned for me with his last days of life. The resentment I felt, watching hundreds of people displaying the instinctive social patterns of the man they were actively keeping me distant from, clung to my throat as I contained a scream. But then, a calm falls over me that I hadn't felt since before Raymond's illness. In the anger came clarity.
This frustration, this feeling of being out of place in a world that wasn't built with me in mind, that was how Raymond lived every day in Gloucester, being the one Cezarc kid with no shoulder to lean on. He loved telling his class the story of being dumped in the river because that was his wakeup call to the reality that the world you grew up in is not the world everyone lives in. If you push past an angry sailor in Gloucester it's a transgression worthy of a trip to the bridge, no matter how small a bump it would be considered in your homeland. He embraced that otherness, and strived to be the other wherever his travels took him, because like it or not, he always would be. And finally, even as I am surrounded by a sea of Caezarcians mimicking Raymond's every move, I felt closer to my teacher than these folks ever could. After all this worry about losing connection to Raymond, there is still more he has to teach me. With newfound Vigor and a darkening sky, my shoulders raise and my stunted trot develops into a run, as I dip and weave with much more reckless abandon than I have ever felt in my life.
At the peak of the hill, drenched in sweat and struggling to catch my breath, I see the cafe that I have been hearing about for all these years. Its smaller than I imagined, just a mom and pop shop with a two top table out front, and a weathered wood plank sign with what I assume translates to the name of one of the owners. I see the staff Inside dim the lights, and I throw myself to the door, pressing my face to the window in a desperate attempt to get their attention. It's obviously something they are used to, as a woman chants back a well rehearsed "sorry we're closed" in Caezarcian without looking up from the table she was wiping.
"Please", I said.
Responding in another language was enough to break her from her rhythm, and she looked up at me pressed on the glass. I guessed she was a little younger than me, with dark curly hair tucked safely under a foodworker's bandana. She opened the door a crack, just enough to be face to face but not to imply a welcome. Her green eyes looked weary and stern, an effective look to convey "I've had a long day and don't need this right now" to a tourist with a language barrier. But luckily for this tourist, she responded with the first native words that I've heard since my arrival.
"Cafe close" she said, with the curtness of speaking a second language rather than intentional rudeness.
"Please, I need just a minute of your time."
"Open tomorrow" she replied, and started to shut the door and get back to the duties I was keeping her from. Without thinking I put my elbow in the doorjamb, and she looks back to me with surprise and a hint of alarm.
"Its for a...friend".
On that last word, with a slight hesitation my voice cracked, and she knew what this was. It was the unmistakable sound universal in all languages. The guttural noise that implies death when the speaker is unable to say it. It's the break of emotional weight refusing to be ignored, revealing itself on the most painful word to say.
She loosened her grip on the door, and the weariness in her eyes brightened into curious concern. Knowing I now had a sympathetic audience, I made my plea.
"I dont need you to do any extra work, I just want to sit on your patio.You can close and leave, and I'll see myself out."
Her brow furrowed, trying to make sense of this strange request from a desperate foreigner. I reached into my pocket and pulled out some money.
"For your trouble."
She looks me up and down, apparently payment only added another piece to the strange puzzle that walked up to her door. She took a deep breath and sighed, waved her hands at the money, urging me to put it away. She points to the alley beside the building and places a guiding hand on my shoulder, ushering me into the gap. A solid wrought iron gate waits at the end of the alley, and she pushes it to the side as we step onto the cafe patio.
The patio is a cozy split level terrace overlooking the lake, with comfortable clay tile lining the ground and the stairs down to the ledge. A vine covered lattice enclosed the top level, leaving the lower space open to the darkened sky.
The barista gestures down the stairs, and seats me at a table along the edge of the lower terrace. Her hand lingers on my shoulder for a moment after sitting, and I look up at her. She glances over the edge of the terrace and looks back to me.
She left me alone on the edge of the night.
At our vantage point on the Terrace, all sense of scale and distance of the landscape below us blends into an intricate meld of land and sky, one piece formed by bodies miles apart. Two peaks further down the mountain range appear to stand side by side, their steep shapes forming a V of starry sky between them. Both moons full, hanging just above and behind these earthly spires, taking an ever so slight chip of brightness out of each. On the lake the reflections of the bonded stone and light shimmer in response, animating the stoic picture hanging just above.
And the stars, oh the stars.
Each star's luminance amplified even the darkness of the sky, settling the nothingness between each point in a rich purple. Qualifying the brilliance of starlight is a fools errand, but suffice to say here, two miles above the earth, each star looks...fuller. bigger. More...than I have ever seen a star to be.
Raymond loved to welcome the starlight into Caezarc, so much so that the memory of these illuminations guided him until his dying breath. In the eyes of a man who had witnessed all the beauty and hardship the world had to offer, no vision was more memorable than familiar pattern of light across a boundless field of black. Beneath these same stars, with the thin air that welcomed his first breath of life and filled his sails in his departure, his Hautxoria's wings were tried, and proven strong enough to stray alone. I'm glad I could share with him this moment, and return it to its rightful home.
[Crickets fade out, End of Episode]
Hi this is Patrick again, but for real this time! Hautxoria, or Chori, is played by Ry Chase. Ry is one of my favorite actors and I am beyond humbled that they were generous enough to record a short story in chunks during my lunch breaks in December 2019. This episode written and produced by me, Patrick Dugan, and our beautiful cover art was created by Fabian Klejewski.
This episode was created by two people, one performing and one behind the scenes, and that is why it took over a year for this project to come together. This is a series I care a lot about, and that is why I am doing the responsible thing and expanding the production team so we can release another episode before 2022. Season 1 is in production, but we need your help to make this a reality. Beginning in early 2021 we will be crowdfunding our first season on Indiegogo, and any support you are able to lend will make this world come to life. I'll be honest, with a tough year like 2020 I want to urge you to take care of yourself first, and only donate if you have the means. If during a pandemic the worst thing I personally have to experience is my pride being hurt over a pet project being under budget than I am extremely lucky. I am approaching funding for this project the way I was taught through my high school theater experience: it would be nice if we could get official funding, but as long as we put on a good show the director can eat some costs. So I am happy to have another episode to you by this time next year, but if you are able to donate we can turn this commuter rail timeline into a mag-lev speed machine. To stay up to date with our progress please follow us on social media, @echoedlocations on Twitter and instagram, and visit our website echoedlocations.com to learn more. If you have made it this far thank you thank you thank you, and we hope you will travel with us again here at Echoed Locations.