Aug. 26, 2021

Part 14 "The Desert"

Part 14 "The Desert"

An arid wasteland, an impassable void, a haunting visage...


Malevolent follows Arkham Investigator Arthur Lester as he unravels the mysterious circumstances that have befallen him. In the Fourteenth chapter of our saga Arthur encounters the hot, dry deserts of the Dreamlands. Though the way before him is filled with purpose, staying on a straight path seems impossible as obstacles both natural and otherworldly stand between him and his way forward. Despite being alone on this journey, others have quickly taken notice and seem to want more than Arthur is willing to give...   If you are enjoying this Podcast, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter to receive all Chapters as they are completed as well as the choices that you, the listener, get to make. Find out more here: https://www.patreon.com/TheINVICTUSStream


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Transcript

PART FOURTEEN - THE DESERT

Original transcript by: Croik and Jack! Reviewed by: Jack

 

(BEGIN Part 14.)

(Arthur walks along the sand. He breathes in exertion.)

ARTHUR: Still nothing?

JOHN: In every direction.

ARTHUR: How long have we been walking?

JOHN: Not as long as it seems. The heat draws out each moment. The truth is we’ve barely entered.

ARTHUR: Is it too late to head back?

JOHN: Even if we wanted to, which we don’t, the woods left us in the desert, not at the edge of it. It had wandered this way before receding.

ARTHUR: Meaning?

JOHN: Meaning even if we managed to get back where we started, we still could be a fair distance from the lake.

ARTHUR: Damn. Let’s just take a moment.

(He sits down on the sand.)

JOHN: Sure.

(Arthur grunts in exertion as he sits. Flies buzz by.)

ARTHUR (huffing): I can feel the sun burning my skin. It feels so much closer than on Earth. Whatever this place is... we don’t actually know if every part of it is survivable.

JOHN: Then we shouldn’t waste time.

ARTHUR: Just… a moment, alright? You may be able to feel parts of me, but I’m still the one who’s spending the energy. For now.

JOHN: Alright.

ARTHUR (getting himself comfortable): We should really take this time, in truth, to figure out what the fuck we’re going to do. We landed here and it’s been a slog ever since, but now…

JOHN: Now we have a moment to figure things out.

ARTHUR: As much as we can, at least. (Eerie piano music starts to play.) So the King said that he would hunt us here.

JOHN: Essentially.

ARTHUR: So that he could reclaim you, the part of him that was left behind. He must at least be happy that I brought you here?

JOHN (warning): Arthur.

ARTHUR: Just, levity, John. Right, so besides the obvious of avoiding him, I see our goal as singular.

JOHN: Find a way to leave this place.

ARTHUR: Correct.

JOHN: We know very little about the Dreamlands.

ARTHUR: No, but we do know it’s possible to leave. Let’s remember what Kellin said on that recording in the basement of the hotel. He said that people travel to and from the Dreamlands, though he did say that only the King could let them leave.

JOHN: Which I find hard to believe.

ARTHUR: Yes?

JOHN: As powerful as… (Pointedly.) He is, he doesn’t own this domain. Otherwise.

ARTHUR: Otherwise he’d have found us and we’d be dead.

JOHN: Exactly.

ARTHUR: Okay, so disregarding Kellin’s interpretation, that means there are ways to travel back. Either a person, or a place, or an object would hold that power.

JOHN: So a noun.

ARTHUR (fondly): Idiot. (Normal.) No, we’re narrowing our choices. If it were an object that allowed travel, it would require a great number of them. Possible but... unlikely.

JOHN: If it were a person...

ARTHUR: Similarly, you’d need a number of people. I wouldn’t rule this out because we’ve seen the King travel between the worlds.

JOHN: Have we, though? Remember the King severed himself, leaving me behind, after using a portal. One that was opened by someone else.

ARTHUR: Right, right. So it seems easier for those from Earth, I suppose, to travel here than the other way around?

JOHN: I don’t know, but if we’re narrowing our choices, people being the only way is less likely.

ARTHUR: Yes, so not ruling that out, but saying it's unlikely, leaves us with... a place.

JOHN: A set place within the Dreamlands that would allow us to travel back.

ARTHUR (fidgeting): Yes, but also unlikely, because if that’s the case…

JOHN: Why didn’t we come out of said portal?

ARTHUR: Exactly.

(Faroe’s Song starts to play.)

JOHN: Well, the King drew us in, with the help of his cultists. Obviously something went wrong – maybe something we did threw off the course.

ARTHUR: Or someone helping from a different place.

JOHN: Help is what we need.

ARTHUR (weary): Yeah. Shame that trader was so useless. Though he did say he was not a cana.

JOHN: Whatever that is.

ARTHUR: Well, if we asked for help and he was not a cana, doesn’t that imply that whatever a cana is, could help? Or at least, that’s its function.

JOHN: But what is a cana?

ARTHUR: I don’t know. It doesn’t sound like a place. I suppose a person, right?

JOHN: Yes.

ARTHUR: Okay, so… we seek a cana. Our ultimate goal is to get home, in whatever way we can. If a cana can help... we seek them first. (Convincing himself.) Yes, I–I think that makes sense.

JOHN: Don’t forget the glass he gave us.

ARTHUR: Right! I nearly forgot! (He fiddles with the glass.) Oh, I–I didn’t even consider it when we were...

JOHN: It’s smooth, Arthur, it wouldn’t have cut anything.

ARTHUR: How is our hand?

JOHN: It feels fine. The wood is thinner and darker than our skin. It looks as if the flesh has been stripped off of our pinky and the bone is wood. The dark roots that lay under the surface of our hand is off-putting, but not uncomfortable.

ARTHUR: Alright.

(He stands in the sand, grunting.)

ARTHUR: Let’s look through the glass. He said “use it as you would” and that’s the only way I would use glass.

JOHN: Alright.

(A high-pitched sound, like a theremin, plays. Gentle piano music starts to play.)

JOHN: I see a red stone bluff, high above. It’s cutting across the sky. It sits far above a red, sand-filled desert.

ARTHUR: Like this one?

JOHN: Similar, but not flat. Large dunes populate the edge of this desert. Before the cliff stands a tall stone obelisk, the color of sandstone: a pale yellow. I think there may be carvings on it... but I can’t tell.

ARTHUR: Anything else?

JOHN: I don’t think so. There may be a hole in the side of the canyon wall.

ARTHUR: Hm. The sky, does it look like the sky above us now, or does it look like the color of one of the other stars?

JOHN: It looks the same as the one above us now.

ARTHUR: I wonder if this thing is current. We should check again when the sky changes.

JOHN: Good thinking.

(Arthur puts the glass away in his bag.)

ARTHUR: Well, that didn’t help, but it also didn’t hurt. For whatever reason, this seems to be revealing a location. There’s not enough we understand in this world to even make an educated guess at what that means, but. I do think if we can find it then it would be worthwhile to investigate.

JOHN: If for no other reason then to understand what this glass shows us.

ARTHUR: Exactly. Alright. Break’s over, I suppose.

(He starts to walk in the sand. The wind blows softly.)

JOHN: It looks like we’ll be losing our light soon anyway. I’m not sure what’s next… what hue the stars have in mind. I’m sure it’s a pattern that is repeatable. Would be useful to know when it will be dark again.

ARTHUR: If we do get back, what’s our plan, then?

JOHN: Hm?

ARTHUR: What will we do? How will we…?

JOHN: I suppose… I don’t know. For now, let’s just eat an elephant.

ARTHUR: What? (He stops.) How do you eat an elephant?

JOHN: One bite at a time.

ARTHUR (taken aback, chuckling): How? I–I don’t… man, I.

JOHN: What?

ARTHUR: I just – it baffles me to think about what that means.

(A mysterious piano tune plays.)

JOHN: It’s a joke, a way of –

ARTHUR: N-No, I mean to say, is that something that you knew as the King, or is that something that I knew and forgot? The question, it – it boggles my mind.

JOHN: I don’t know.

ARTHUR: You said, like the religion, there are some things that you’ve picked up from me, and – and something I have to wonder is what aspects of me are you just reflecting, that I’ve forgotten... and which are the King?

JOHN: The mind is a tricky thing, friend.

ARTHUR (world-weary): You aren’t lying. (He starts to walk.) I remember one time having a vivid dream about cleaning my gun. I could see it, and feel it, it was real – in a manner of speaking. I examined the chambers. I knew they were empty and yet... when I turned the gun towards my face, it – it went off! I woke up instantly, panicked that I had just shot myself... but, of course.

JOHN: It’s not uncommon to wake yourself in a dream.

ARTHUR (enthusiastic): No, but the question that kept me up after was: how was I surprised? It was my dream, right? So I must have known in some way that I could’ve shot myself. There must have been some synapses giving the order to have the gun go off, and yet! Despite it being my decision, I was so startled that I was awakened.

JOHN: I don’t know. I suppose your brain made it seem like it wasn’t planned.

ARTHUR: Maybe. Maybe not. I-I don’t know. (He sighs.) All I know is when you say things like that, I genuinely need to question if it is you in there, or just a reflection of myself in a carnival mirror.

JOHN: Whatever the case, I have good news. It looks like there is something coming up before us.

ARTHUR: Oh?

JOHN: Perhaps water, but I can’t be certain.

(He walks further in silence.)

JOHN: Well, I was wrong.

ARTHUR: No?

JOHN: It seems instead this is a divide in the earth – a large canyon that seems to head pretty far down.

ARTHUR: A crack?

JOHN: Yes, it’s much too far to jump across – if we’re planning on heading the same way, that is.

ARTHUR: Yes, of course. Damn. I suppose we should skirt it to find a place that's thin enough to pass over.

JOHN: The red, rock walls are reminiscent of the place we saw through the glass, but this isn’t it.

ARTHUR: Well, it seems like this environment at least.

JOHN: Right or left?

ARTHUR: Right, why not.

JOHN: I knew you’d say that.

ARTHUR: Pfft.

(He continues to walk.)

JOHN: Anyway yes, it’s a lot to think about, but going back to what I said: I think we just need to handle things as they come. Small bites, as it were.

ARTHUR: Fair enough.

JOHN: And on that note, it seems like we have an interesting revelation before us.

ARTHUR: Which is?

JOHN: The ground here slopes to enter the canyon.

ARTHUR: Really?

JOHN: We could continue skirting the edge of the canyon, staying on this level, looking for a way to cross... or we could head down into the crevasse. The path is narrow but could yield a way up on the other side. Or at the very least break us from the sun. What do you think?

ARTHUR: I guess a break would be smart. Even in the last few minutes, it feels like it’s gotten hotter.

JOHN: Fair enough. As I said, it slopes down gradually at the edge of this canyon. It heads down sharply to the right of us.

ARTHUR: Okay.

(Arthur moves forward along the sand.)

JOHN: Move forward to the edge, and then right. (Encouraging.) It’ll be fine, just go slow.

(Arthur makes a noise of shock.)

JOHN: Careful! (Some pebbles fall.) Right here.

(Arthur gulps in fear and continues to walk. Occasionally, more pebbles fall.)

ARTHUR: I can feel it already.

JOHN: The change in temperature.

ARTHUR: Yes, it’s not night and day, but comparatively… I guess I didn’t realize how much of a difference it would make.

JOHN: I suppose the sun hasn’t really been out that long, so. Perhaps much of what lay beneath us is cool.

ARTHUR: So what are we looking at?

JOHN: The canyon wall to our right is growing higher, or rather staying the same height as we descend. To our left, the canyon drops straight down.

ARTHUR: Fuck. (He stops walking.) How far down? Can you see the bottom? (He shifts, as if to peer over.)

JOHN: Nothingness as far as the eye can see.

ARTHUR (inhaling sharply): Well, not seeing it helps. Look, I’m just going to keep my one hand on the wall.

JOHN: I think that’s a good idea. (Arthur pats the wall.) We’re going to have to be very careful here. Take our time. Thankfully, the path is rather large.

ARTHUR: Still.

(He continues to walk.)

ARTHUR (sighing): Okay, okay. I can get used to this – this is fine. Does it look like it crosses anywhere? Any place for us to scale up the other side? I don’t want to lose too much of our original heading If we can help it.

JOHN: The canyon turns, so I’m not entirely sure if there’s a way to cross yet, but... we’ll follow the wall and see what happens.

(More rocks tumble.)

ARTHUR: Dare I say it feels cool down here.

JOHN: Who knows what lay at the bottom of that pit? Perhaps it’s ice.

ARTHUR: That would be strange, wouldn’t it.

JOHN: The walls here are red stone, textured in an odd way. (Arthur slides his hand across the wall.) Almost jagged in places, as if the canyons were... torn apart.

ARTHUR: Seems not too off. The canyon would be the split earth. Er – ground.

JOHN: Yes, but the breaks seem smaller and numerous, as if… no.

ARTHUR: What?

(He stops walking.)

JOHN: Nothing, I’m letting my mind make assumptions based on ideas not facts.

ARTHUR (teasing, chuckling, fond): Well, well, listen to you! Absorbing more than just my feelings about the world?

JOHN: That one, I learned.

ARTHUR: From me. You enjoy being my protégé?

JOHN (long-suffering): Let’s not do that.

ARTHUR: Hell, with the task before us, we’ll need all the outside the box thinking we can get. Glad you’re playing like an investigator now, at least.

JOHN: Well. If I’m choosing who I want to be now, might as well choose someone useful.

ARTHUR: Choosing?

(A tender piano melody starts.)

JOHN: I don’t know. I guess... there are parts of me I’ll be trying to rewrite.

ARTHUR: To be more of an investigator?

JOHN: Two heads and all that.

ARTHUR (scoffing): John, the goal is still to separate us. Once we leave this place, that’ll be the top priority.

JOHN: Of course.

ARTHUR: I… appreciate that we’re on the same page, truly. (Rocks tumble.) But let’s not forget this is all still a temporary situation.

JOHN: There are holes up ahead.

ARTHUR: John, you hear me, right?

JOHN: Yes, Arthur, I agree, but listen – there are large holes in the canyon walls up ahead.

ARTHUR: Okay.

JOHN: Carved holes.

ARTHUR: How can you tell?

JOHN: The markings on the walls. The ones I thought were caused by the breaking of the canyon when it was formed. I was thinking they may have been claw marks. These holes bear the same pattern.

ARTHUR: You’re sure?

JOHN: If you could see what I see, you’d understand. Long, thin grooves are carved into the openings of the holes ahead, shaping the rounded top and bottom. They’re large but in the sense that we could climb into one – not park an automobile.

(Suspenseful string music rises.)

ARTHUR: Right. Is there anything moving?

JOHN: We’re on a sharp angle. I can’t get a look inside.

ARTHUR (curious): Throw a stone.

JOHN: Where?

ARTHUR: To… just before the hole. Draw whatever is in out, or at least cause it to stir.

JOHN: Okay.

(They rummage on the ground. The stone hits rock.)

ARTHUR (quieter): I didn’t hear anything.

JOHN: Me neither.

ARTHUR: Shall we look?

JOHN: Okay.

(He steps closer.)

ARTHUR: Here?

JOHN: Yes. Arthur. This is a large hole dug into the side of this canyon. It moves fairly deep and turns abruptly, heading down. A cold air is flowing out.

ARTHUR: I can feel it.

(Arthur moves with a grunt and exhales.)

JOHN: Well?

ARTHUR: I don’t know. It moves the opposite direction we want to go. Back into the canyon wall from the side we came from. Who knows – It could also drop straight down!

JOHN: We don’t need to poke our heads into every hole we find.

ARTHUR (nagged): I know, I know.

JOHN: Look, you said it yourself: we need to be singularly focused here. The King is after us.

ARTHUR: No, you’re right. Let’s keep moving.

(He pushes himself up and keeps walking.)

JOHN: The canyon is turning. We’ll find a way up the other side.

ARTHUR: I’ll miss the cool breeze.

JOHN: Wait! (Arthur continues to walk.) I think… Arthur, I see a way across. A thin bridge, and on the other side there’s another hole, about the same size, and empty.

ARTHUR: Oh, excellent.

JOHN: Right here.

(A wind whistles around the canyon.)

JOHN: We need to be very careful across here. It’s a few feet wide, but still… one wrong step.

ARTHUR (cautious): Right. Okay.

JOHN: How do you want to do this?

ARTHUR: Just… give me a second to wrap my head around this. (He takes several deep breaths.) Okay. Okay, okay, um… Wide, you said. It’s a few feet wide?

JOHN: Yes, maybe three feet.

ARTHUR: Okay. Let’s just take this one step at a time.

JOHN: Okay.

ARTHUR: And you still can’t see the bottom, can you?

JOHN: No.

ARTHUR: Okay, okay.

(Some rocks tumble into the abyss.)

ARTHUR: Uh! Let’s be... extra cautious.

JOHN: How about, you lift your foot and hold it over where you’re going to set it down. (Encouraging.) I’ll tell you yes or no, okay? We’ll take it slow.

ARTHUR: Right.

(A suspenseful music rises.)

JOHN: Little more. There. (He steps. Some pebbles fall.) Okay. Good. There. (He steps. More pebbles fall.) No, no, stop. To the right. A little more. There! (Steps, pebbles fall.) Only a few more steps. Perfect, there. (Step, pebble fall.) Okay, left... left... left... stop! There. (Arthur grunts and steps.) And finally…

(Arthur steps and stumbles, more rocks falling into the abyss.)

JOHN: Arthur, fucking hell!

ARTHUR (high pitched in fear): Jesus! You said –

JOHN: I said finally, not done.

ARTHUR: You said – Jesus. What?

(John starts to laugh.)

ARTHUR: You – ! (Arthur starts to chuckle, himself.)

JOHN: Alright, let’s look for a way up.

ARTHUR (brushing his hands clean): Actually, the hole that was on this side…?

JOHN (we don’t have time for this): Arthur.

ARTHUR: Let’s just see.

(He steps closer.)

JOHN: Right here. It’s much more shallow than the other. In fact… it looks like a…

ARTHUR: A what?

JOHN: I don’t know. A nest, maybe.

ARTHUR: Nest?

JOHN: Yes, but empty. There’s an odd growth on the wall, dried… husk-like as if the remains of a cocoon.

ARTHUR (whispering): Fuck. Big or small?

JOHN: Big.

ARTHUR: Okay. Is there anything else?

JOHN: Some things are scattered on the floor. I can’t see from here.

ARTHUR: We’re sure it’s empty?

JOHN: As sure as I can tell.

(He gets closer.)

JOHN: There are some rotted... creatures here. They look like they may have once been part of a large insect in their infancy.

ARTHUR: Oh god.

JOHN: Like large maggots.

ARTHUR (disgusted, slightly whiny): Fuck, John.

JOHN: There are also bones here, Arthur.

(He stops walking.)

ARTHUR: Human?

JOHN: Human-like. This skull is far too big. At least twice the size of yours.

ARTHUR: Okay, I’ve learned enough.

JOHN: Arthur, this seems to be a very simple creature. A hatched cocoon, food to eat – it’s gone.

ARTHUR (quickly): Wonderful, let’s leave.

(He continues to walk again.)

JOHN: Watch the edge.

(Some pebbles fall.)

ARTHUR: Alright, now I’m keen to leave this place.

JOHN: The canyon continues to turn around this bend.

ARTHUR: Okay.

JOHN: We haven’t met all that many creatures of this world yet.

ARTHUR: But the ones we have, have been less than interested in conversation. This one seems especially basic.

JOHN: It may not be the conversational type, no.

ARTHUR: Let’s just get back up.

JOHN (in horror): Oh, Arthur.

ARTHUR: What?

JOHN: There are more.

ARTHUR: More?

(Suspenseful music starts to rise.)

JOHN: Oh, yes.

ARTHUR: How many more?

JOHN: There are dozens of holes in the walls here.

ARTHUR (walking forward): They must be drawn to the cold, like us.

JOHN: They’re not here now.

ARTHUR: No? So maybe they’re drawn to the heat? I don’t know. Let’s move – quickly.

(He continues, faster, hands against the wall.)

JOHN: There are a few holes to our left coming up.

ARTHUR: I don’t care anymore! Let’s just find a way. Can we climb up?

JOHN: No, it’s too sheer a cliff, but I do think there is a way up around this next bend. I can see a path up…

ARTHUR (relieved): Oh, thank God.

JOHN: Though it’s steep. A little further.

ARTHUR: This was a bad idea, we should’ve...

JOHN: Stop!

(Arthur stops. Some pebbles fall.)

ARTHUR: What?

JOHN: Arthur, there is a cocoon right in front of us. A half-formed hole is blocking part of the pathway up.

ARTHUR: Okay, so?

JOHN: This one hasn’t hatched yet.

ARTHUR (shaky): Oh, fuck. Can we move it, or… can we move over it?

JOHN: You need to step on it to climb up.

ARTHUR: Are you – are you fucking kidding me? I’m not –

JOHN (barking): Arthur! I am telling you. This is a thin path. It climbs steeply to the canyon surface. This fucking thing is right at the bottom of the path.

ARTHUR: Okay! Okay. (With feeling.) Fuck! Alright.

(He starts to step. The cocoon squishes slightly.)

ARTHUR (whispering): Fuck.

JOHN: Alright. Almost.

(A squishy, organic crack. The suspenseful music reaches a crescendo.)

JOHN: Jesus!

ARTHUR: Oh god!

JOHN: Arthur – !

ARTHUR (heaving for air): Oh my god.

JOHN: Your foot broke through!

ARTHUR (frustrated): I fucking know it did!

(An insect starts to crawl out of the cocoon.)

JOHN: Oh god, Arthur. It’s emerging!

ARTHUR (panicked): No no no no –

JOHN: I can see its translucent skin. (The insect starts to chitter.) Its mouth is ringed with needle-like teeth.

(The husk cracks further.)

ARTHUR: No no no no –

JOHN: Arthur, there’s a rock next to you. Grab it and kill it! Now!

ARTHUR: I’m just going to fucking run.

JOHN (demanding): Arthur, KILL IT!

(The insect chitters at Arthur.)

ARTHUR: No! Let’s just go.

JOHN (disapproving): Arthur!

ARTHUR: I’m running.

(Arthur makes a break for it. Rocks tumble around him as he runs along the dirt.)

JOHN: Move!

(The insect chitters. Arthur pants heavily in exertion.)

JOHN: Keep your left hand on the wall and you’ll reach the top.

(The sounds of the creature fade.)

ARTHUR (panting hard): Okay… is it …?

JOHN: Nothing behind us.

ARTHUR (sighing): Okay. We need to get distance between us and whatever that is.

JOHN: Agreed. You’re almost at the top. This incline is long and much more gradual than the other.

(Arthur continues to climb amidst falling pebbles.)

JOHN: We’ve reached the top.

ARTHUR: Okay.

(The sound of wind roaring across the dunes, again.)

JOHN: We’re on the other side of the gap, though I can’t see where we originally went down. The wind has picked up slightly and the sand makes it difficult to see.

ARTHUR: That’s okay. (He grunts.) Best guess for the direction we were heading?

JOHN: This way, I suppose.

ARTHUR: Okay.

(Arthur starts to walk.)

ARTHUR (sighing): That was… nerve wracking. Is it strange that part of me feels bad?

JOHN: You should’ve killed it.

ARTHUR (disgruntled): Well, that’s not the answer for every problem, John.

JOHN: You think that was my desire?

ARTHUR: I don’t think anything. I’m just saying that isn’t always the way I want to handle things.

JOHN (insistent): I didn’t want to kill it, Arthur.

ARTHUR (giving in): Okay.

JOHN: I’m not some bloodthirsty monster.

ARTHUR (curt): Fine.

(John growls angrily. Arthur continues to walk.)

ARTHUR: It was a baby, John.

JOHN: And what of its parent? What if it had been nearby and had been alerted?

ARTHUR: Well, it didn’t do anything, did it?

JOHN: What’s gotten into you?

ARTHUR (kicking the sand, furious): I’m hot, frustrated, lost…! (Angry string music starts to rise.) In a different fucking plane of reality. John. Your plane of reality.

JOHN: That’s it, isn’t it.

ARTHUR: That’s what?

JOHN: That’s what you really feel.

ARTHUR (steely): I feel about as much as you let me feel.

JOHN: What does that mean?

ARTHUR: I mean have you forgotten that you’re literally taking over my fucking body?

JOHN (after a pause): No.

ARTHUR (gradually more passionate): No? Good. Don’t you get it? This is still “losing” for me. All of this! John, I… get that you want to pretend that nothing's happened, that things are progressing, but I don’t get to feel this hand, or, or–or see this horizon. I am still a prisoner. Your prisoner. (Quiet.) I’m lost.

(He starts to walk.)

JOHN: You still think I’m the King.

ARTHUR: You are the King. (Faroe’s Song starts.) You don’t get to deny that because you’re choosing to change. Own it. Grow, change, be better, but own your mistakes.

JOHN: Alright.

ARTHUR (sighing): I-I’m sorry. Look. Just… forget I said anything. I’m just… I’m tired and I’m sweaty and I’m sick of this fucking sand already. (He kicks the sand again.)

JOHN: Speaking of, it’s changed slightly. We came from cracked, hard sandstone – like a river bed. However, here, on this side of the crevasse, it seems to be forming dunes.

ARTHUR (angry): Great.

JOHN: It doesn’t look easy. Large mounds of red sand sit tall against the sky. The wind is making it difficult to see, but... they seem to go on for a long time.

ARTHUR: Okay.

(He continues walking.)

JOHN: You’re right, by the way.

ARTHUR (exhale): John, I–I didn’t –

JOHN: No, you are. I’ve been keen to push forward and leave the revelation of my past behind us. But that’s unfair to the realities we’ve uncovered. I need to own that.

ARTHUR: Look, I’m just pissed off, and there’s literally no one else here I can take it out on. Okay? Let’s just… drop it.

JOHN: There is someone.

(He stops walking.)

ARTHUR: What?

JOHN: There is someone looking at us.

(An intense, sudden tune starts. It’s threatening.)

ARTHUR: How? From where?

JOHN: To our right… standing atop a dune.

ARTHUR: Oh. Who? Wh–what do they look like?

JOHN: Humanoid, standing up straight, I think.

ARTHUR: What are they doing?

JOHN: Just standing.

ARTHUR: I… okay?

JOHN: They’re wearing a dark hood. I can’t see their face, and a flowing, long coat which is torn at the bottom, as if it's been ripped.

ARTHUR: Is it… him?

JOHN: No. (A pause, more certain.) No, this is never a form he would take. What do we do?

ARTHUR: They see us, so. (Calling loudly.) Hello there! (More quietly, to John.) Hey, maybe they know the way. (Calling again.) Do you know the way forward!? (More quietly, to John.) Anything?

JOHN: Nothing.

ARTHUR: Uh. Maybe a wave would... (He grunts.) Let them know.

JOHN: They’re not stirring.

ARTHUR: Okay, right, well... they don’t have a weapon on us or anything, right?

JOHN: None that I can see.

ARTHUR: Okay. Let’s just... keep moving, then.

(Arthur walks forward.)

ARTHUR: What were we talking about?

JOHN (alarmed): He’s still watching us.

ARTHUR: Let’s just ignore them.

JOHN: We’re about to head up a dune.

ARTHUR: Right. (He grunts.)

JOHN: We were talking about my past.

ARTHUR: Right, let’s drop that. Tell me about something else, please.

JOHN: What?

ARTHUR: I don’t know, just keep my mind busy for a moment.

JOHN: Uh. The sky is growing darker. I don’t think it’s going complete black yet, but the violet hue seems to be rising from our left.

ARTHUR (exerting as he climbs across the dune): Great.

JOHN: The wind seems to be rising in small sprints, but overall it seems to have calmed down a bit. You’re at the top.

ARTHUR (panting): Good. Damn. The easy part, now.

(He walks downhill.)

ARTHUR (sighing): I always loved walking downhill. When I was a kid, I used to roll down the sand mounds at Perry’s Cove. (He chuckles.) I even took…

JOHN: Faroe?

ARTHUR: Yeah.

JOHN: Arthur?

ARTHUR: No.

JOHN (gentle): Okay.

ARTHUR: Feels like the bottom now. Can we still see our friend?

JOHN: Arthur, it’s standing on the top of the dune we just passed over.

(Suspenseful music rises.)

ARTHUR: It’s following us?

JOHN (certain): Yes.

ARTHUR: Okay, okay. Is it, uh...?

JOHN: It is unmoving.

ARTHUR: How? You didn’t see it –

JOHN: I didn’t see it move at all, but it is standing there, watching us.

ARTHUR: Right. Let’s just pick up the pace.

JOHN: Right.

(He starts to move faster.)

ARTHUR: Anyway, yes, I used to roll down hills and such.

JOHN (whimsical): You’ve lost your child-like innocence.

ARTHUR: Amongst other things. More permanent things, yes. Are they...?

JOHN: Still standing there, yes.

ARTHUR: Okay, maybe we can – ?

JOHN: Fuck! Arthur.

(He stops walking. Suspenseful music still present.)

ARTHUR: What?

JOHN: There’s another one standing on the dune to our left.

ARTHUR: Another?

JOHN: Yes.

ARTHUR: Alright, we need a plan.

JOHN: What kind of plan do you propose?

ARTHUR: I don’t know. The one that’s behind us...?

JOHN (scared): It’s at the bottom of the dune, now.

ARTHUR: Closer?

JOHN: Very much so.

ARTHUR: Jesus Christ, John.

JOHN: Yes.

ARTHUR: We can’t break eyesight with them. They only move when we look away.

JOHN: Well, that will be very difficult if you want to keep moving forward.

ARTHUR: Just move! Let’s go, quickly!

(He makes a break for it, panting hard.)

JOHN: They haven’t moved while I’ve been looking at them.

ARTHUR: Okay, quickly look to where the next dune is.

JOHN: Jesus, Arthur! (Arthur skids to a stop.) There’s another one on the dune that we’re headed toward.

ARTHUR: Fuck!

JOHN: The ones behind us are closer now.

ARTHUR: What are they?

JOHN: I can’t see their faces. They’re all wearing the same long coats, which are torn at the bottom, all casually flapping in the wind. Their arms are out on either side, their faces covered with hoods. They are unmoving, perfectly still, save for the movement of the coats in the wind.

ARTHUR: Can we see all of them now?

JOHN: I need distance.

(Arthur moves, breathing hard. He skids to a stop in the sand.)

ARTHUR: Better?

JOHN: Yes, but they’re even closer now. It’s difficult to keep my eyes on all of them – we need to do something.

ARTHUR: Run?

JOHN: Arthur, they’re moving in the blink of an eye!

ARTHUR: Then what do you propose?

JOHN: Approach one. We have no idea if they’re even hostile. For all we know they could be just curious.

ARTHUR (ominous): Or... are they angry that we broke one of their eggs?

JOHN: I... either way, Arthur, it doesn’t look like we can outrun them.

ARTHUR: Okay! Okay. Fuck.

(Sliding on the dune, Arthur approaches.)

JOHN: The wind is picking up. Its long jacket flapping wildly against the wind. The sky is darkening, Arthur.

ARTHUR: Is it moving?

JOHN: No – it’s there. Watching. It… it has no lower half.

ARTHUR (confused): What?

JOHN: Nothing attaches it to the sand, only the ends of the long coat, cut into thin strands. They seem to move about like they’re alive in the blowing wind.

(The wind is much louder. Suspenseful music rises.)

ARTHUR (louder): Are we there?

JOHN: A few more feet. I can’t see its face still, it’s just darkness beneath the hood.

ARTHUR (calling out): What the fuck do you want?

JOHN: It’s unmoving.

ARTHUR (calling again, grasping the creature by its cloak): I said, what the fuck do you want?

JOHN: Arthur. Its hood has fallen… They are nothing.

ARTHUR (speaking loudly, above the wind): Nothing? What do you mean?

JOHN: These aren’t people at all, they’re just empty vessels.

ARTHUR: Why? For what purpose?

JOHN: I don’t know.

ARTHUR: How are they being controlled?

JOHN (gasping in shock): Arthur, the other two are directly behind you now.

ARTHUR: Jesus. Leave us alone!

JOHN: Their coats are different; one is much more tattered. I can see clean through to the emptiness within the hood. The other is slightly larger and faded red.

ARTHUR: We’re leaving.

JOHN: Arthur, they’re just going to follow –

ARTHUR: Then let them fucking follow!

JOHN (angry): Arthur!

ARTHUR: Let them count every one of our godforsaken steps in this endless void of a desert! Come on, then.

JOHN: They don’t seem hostile.

ARTHUR (shouting): Then what the fuck do they want! (He sighs.) Jesus Christ. (He skids on a dune.)

JOHN (concerned): Arthur.

ARTHUR: I know.

JOHN: Perhaps we just can’t see them.

ARTHUR: Perhaps. (Calmer.) Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time, would it? Remember the paper at the hotel.

JOHN: Yes, we needed to see through the mask.

ARTHUR: I don’t know if it was specific to the mask, but. It revealed something you couldn’t see otherwise. It’s… it’s worth a shot, no?

JOHN: Of course.

ARTHUR: Give us a moment.

(He reaches through his things and pulls out the mask. Objects rattle around in his bag.)

JOHN: The sky is almost completely dark again, Arthur. Move quickly.

ARTHUR: Are they still there?

JOHN: Standing ever still, save the movement of their coats in the dying wind.

ARTHUR: Alright. (He pulls on the mask and speaks in a muffled voice.) Do you see them now?

(Whispers arise, unintelligible.)

JOHN (shocked): Oh. I see all three of them. They are standing before us.

ARTHUR: Oh, wow.

JOHN: Arthur! Three armor clad soldiers stand before us in the sand. Their bodies desiccated with time. An eerie gray mist lingers at their feet. Their flesh, dark and leathery, as if hundreds of years old.

ARTHUR: Soldiers, you mean?

JOHN: From an era long past. Their armor is rusted, worn, well beaten. Moss seems to sprout from them in various places, their tattered cloaks still moving listlessly in the wind.

ARTHUR (exhale): Go on.

JOHN: The one in the center is of medium build. In his scabbard, a long, rusted sword hangs. His flesh has drawn back over various parts of his face, revealing the faded white of bone. His eyes are gone, along with his nose... his face more skeleton than man. The one to our right is slightly larger, well built. His armor is full plate with a heavy shield. His face is fleshier but his... broken teeth are exposed. The final one stands to our left, but… he seems partially wrapped in cloth. His armor is thin and is, maybe, leather. His eyes are covered in torn wrappings that blow in the wind. He looks… punished.

ARTHUR: Who are you?

(Something squeaks. Like cracking leather, one turns to face Arthur.)

JOHN: The middle one hears you... but only turns his head slightly between them. I don’t think they can speak.

ARTHUR: Okay. Are you here to hurt us?

JOHN: He’s shaking his head slowly. No.

ARTHUR: Oh, okay. Are you here to help?

(The soldier’s armor creaks.)

JOHN: He’s nodding, yes.

ARTHUR: Do you know the way we are meant to go?

(Robe flapping in the wind, the armor creaks.)

JOHN: He’s nodding again, Arthur.

ARTHUR: Can you take us there?

(Armor creaking and fabric rustling, the soldiers begin to walk.)

JOHN: He’s starting walking, Arthur, along with the other two.

ARTHUR (concerned): Okay, okay.

JOHN: Are you okay?

ARTHUR: Yes, this is… I can’t… I don’t understand, but –

JOHN: Let’s just follow. They’ve headed right over a sand dune.

ARTHUR: The other two, are – are they answering?

JOHN: No, it seems to be just the one in the center. He’s up ahead.

(They both walk.)

ARTHUR: What do I ask? We must ask something.

JOHN: Are we entirely sure they’re trying to help us?

ARTHUR: No. I-I don’t know. I suppose we’ll see where we’re being led.

JOHN: Right.

ARTHUR: Are you… (Louder.) Were you from Earth?

JOHN: He’s nodding yes.

ARTHUR: Oh, wow. How, I... I want to ask why they’re helping.

(They stop walking.)

JOHN: He’s stopped.

ARTHUR: What?

JOHN: He’s standing before us – pointing towards our bag!

ARTHUR: Our bag? Oh.

(Arthur rummages through.)

ARTHUR: What is… the glass?

JOHN: He’s shaking his head no.

(He continues to rummage through his things.)

ARTHUR: The lighter? The book?

JOHN: Yes.

ARTHUR: The –

JOHN: Arthur, he’s nodding yes.

ARTHUR: The book? Which…? We have two books. One with the symbol from the book you were in, and the other?

JOHN: The Yellow Sign.

(Mysterious piano melody starts up.)

ARTHUR: The Yellow Sign?

JOHN: Yes. It’s his… it’s my symbol.

ARTHUR: That’s why Amanda wrote it on the bottom of the letter. This book has information about you. We need to read it.

JOHN: Except he’s pointing at the other book.

ARTHUR: The other one?

(A more somber piece starts.)

JOHN: Yes. The one with the symbol of Shub-Niggurath.

ARTHUR: That’s why they’re helping?

JOHN: I suppose so.

(They start to walk again.)

JOHN: He’s started walking again.

ARTHUR: Where are they leading us?

JOHN: I’m not sure, but the sky is dark. Not absolute black like when those things came down, but... dark enough to feel alien. And alone. (A pause, only the sound of footsteps.) The wind has died and the dunes catch what little light there is. Dark shadows are cast amongst the sands as the three soldiers lead us forward.

ARTHUR (loudly): Is there a way for us to get home?

(The armor creaks.)

JOHN: He’s nodded yes.

ARTHUR: How?

(They stop walking.)

JOHN: He’s stopped, and he’s pointing.

ARTHUR: Where?

JOHN: To the direction we’re heading... to… a large flat…. (Shocked.) A-A building!

ARTHUR: What?

JOHN: I nearly missed it. We would’ve missed it entirely. It’s barely noticeable, tucked beneath the sands between two large dunes. The roof looks almost hidden.

ARTHUR: I guess that’s where we have to go.

(The armor creaks again.)

JOHN: He’s nodded again. I think this is as far as they’ll take us.

ARTHUR: Wait – is that all? We’re lost – we need help! If you’re here because of this book… Please, there must be something else you can do.

JOHN: They’re standing still.

(Whispers rise again.)

ARTHUR (earnest): Please.

JOHN: The large one approaches. He’s moved towards us. (The whispers rise in volume, unintelligible, closer to moaning.) He’s… he’s drawn something from his pocket. It’s a coin.

ARTHUR: A coin?

(The armor creaks.)

JOHN: He’s handing it to us. It’s an odd looking coin with script on it from long ago. It looks ancient.

ARTHUR: Thank you. Thank you – all of you.

JOHN: He’s nodded curtly. They’re leaving.

(They all walk away. The whispers fade to nothing. Arthur removes his mask.)

ARTHUR (sighing): Well.

JOHN: It’s dark now. The sky is black, yet. There’s an odd light, faint as it is, around us.

ARTHUR: Do we enter the house? What does it look like?

JOHN: There’s an odd feeling I get while looking at it. As if we’re being watched. It’s your call, obviously. They led us here for a reason, but the motives of these beings are unknown. We could just move on.

ARTHUR: No, let’s head in. I want to know what waits for us inside.

JOHN: Okay.

(He walks forward.)

JOHN: Alright, we’re out front.

ARTHUR: Well? Exactly what is it?

JOHN: It’s small. Smaller than I thought. It’s definitely a building.

ARTHUR: Like the one we found near the shore when we first woke up here?

JOHN: No, this one looks... less alien.

ARTHUR: How so?

JOHN: The walls are plaster, or at least appear to be. It sits lopsided slightly in the desert, half sunken into the red sand. It covers the roof and about a foot of the door which is made of plain wood.

ARTHUR: Wood? There isn’t a forest for miles.

JOHN: Unless you count the moving one.

ARTHUR: Can we enter?

JOHN: We’d have to move some sand first.

ARTHUR: Right, well.

(Arthur starts to dig.)

JOHN: I don’t understand why they aided us.

(An eerie piano tune starts up.)

ARTHUR: Me neither, but they knew we had that book. I wish I had asked more questions.

JOHN: You can only do so much with something that only answers with nodding and pointing.

ARTHUR (grunting with exertion): I suppose so.

JOHN: Regardless, they helped us at least escape the darkness of the desert. Who knows what other creatures come out at night in this area. The bottom of the door is almost clear.

ARTHUR (panting): Okay.

JOHN: I wonder why they offered that coin.

ARTHUR: I don’t know. Perhaps it was just a kindness. It – it did seem like an afterthought.

JOHN: Yes. The door is clear.

ARTHUR: Okay.

(Arthur stops digging.)

ARTHUR: Alright. Ready?

JOHN: Unrelentingly. (ARTHUR: Unh.)

(Arthur opens the door.)

ARTHUR: Well?

JOHN (in shock): It’s… an apartment.

ARTHUR: An apartment? In what way?

JOHN: Every way. There’s a bed in the corner large enough for two, a table, chairs, kitchen. It’s all covered in sand, but... this looks like it could be an apartment overlooking any street in Arkham.

ARTHUR: Arkham? What?

(Arthur steps in and shuts the door behind him.)

JOHN: The windows, the floor, the tablecloth… even the radio which sits broken and on its side in the far corner of the room. The icebox is open. The cabinets are falling off the wall, but this looks like any apartment that could have existed.

ARTHUR: I… I don’t understand. Why? How?

(Arthur steps onto linoleum.)

JOHN: The table is covered in sand – the bed, too. There are windows here… but they look out to nothing.

(He moves further in.)

ARTHUR: Is there anything to tell us who lived in this apartment?

JOHN: Nothing immediately jumps out.

ARTHUR: The radio?

JOHN: It looks similar to the one in Ackerman’s bookstore. A very large, heavy cabinet type that’s fallen over.

ARTHUR: Huh. Well, there must be something here. They sent us here.

JOHN: For reasons that are starting to at least make sense.

ARTHUR: But what are we meant to find? Is there anything out of sorts?

JOHN: No, besides the general mess.

ARTHUR: Check under the bed. Where is, uh…?

JOHN: To your right.

ARTHUR: Ah.

JOHN: Here.

(He kneels to search under the bed.)

JOHN: Sand, and… (Dice rolls.) A suitcase!

(Arthur drags the suitcase out and unzips it.)

JOHN: No name. It looks like a change of clothes.

ARTHUR: Well, that would be helpful. We’re still wearing the ones from the city beneath the hotel. Jesus. Nothing hidden within?

JOHN: I don’t think so, no.

(Arthur continues to rifle through the suitcase.)

ARTHUR: Hm. Where’s the table?

JOHN: Right in front of you.

(He walks forward.)

ARTHUR: This?

JOHN: The chair.

ARTHUR: Right.

(The chair squeaks as Arthur sits down, letting out a grunt.)

JOHN: This chair is pointed at the door.

ARTHUR: Just looking at the door, as if…?

JOHN: Waiting.

ARTHUR: For what, I wonder.

JOHN: I don’t know.

ARTHUR: Nothing jumps out while sitting here?

JOHN: There’s a crack on the door from stress, though it looks old. I don’t know, Arthur. The table is covered in sand.

ARTHUR: Anything beneath it?

(Arthur brushes the sand off.)

JOHN: Oh! There’s something sticking out.

ARTHUR: What?

(Something rolls across the wooden table.)

JOHN: A small toy train. Like a model.

ARTHUR: A model train?

JOHN: Yes. (With enthusiasm) And underneath it, a letter!

ARTHUR (matching enthusiasm): A letter? To whom? From whom?

JOHN: Let’s see.

(Arthur rustles the paper.)

JOHN: It looks like it was held down by the train. It’s not very long.

(Reading.) “I’m not entirely sure who I’m writing this for. Maybe myself, maybe you, my friend. Perhaps no one. All I know is that what happened to us, to me, changed me… I never left the Dreamlands.”

ARTHUR: What do they mean ‘I never left’? Others have been stranded here? (The chair squeaks.)

JOHN: I’m not sure. It goes on.

ARTHUR: Read.

(Faroe’s Song starts.)

JOHN (reading.): “I must’ve stared at that crack for weeks before I realized she wasn’t coming back. My wife is dead, just as she was in the real world. Just as you knew. Obviously, this place has a way of manipulating you – tricking you. Those who hold power here, who know how to control it… they drain your mind, play with what you believe is real, just like Antoine did.”

ARTHUR (aghast): Antoine? From… from the island?

JOHN (eager): Yes.

ARTHUR: Jesus Christ.

JOHN (reading): “I went outside when I felt the world begin to crumble to find a desert. I honestly don’t know how long I believed I was home… but there was no hallway, no sounds of the Arkham traffic outside my window – just endless red sand. How could I have been so blind? For a while I thought of staying put, giving up… but then I remembered the promise I made to you. A promise that I have to try and keep.

If you are lost here too and you’re reading this, I am keeping that promise. I will find and protect her. I will not let them hurt your daughter, Emily. I will find us a way home again.”

ARTHUR (confused): Emily? What?

JOHN (reading): “I have nothing on myself but my clothes and my diary, but I’m leaving. In the light of the blue sun which comes every two hours or so, the wind tends to die down. I do not know why. There I can see a cliff on the horizon. It is far away, but tomorrow I will be heading out.

Good luck, Henry. I hope to see you again.”

(The paper rustles.)

ARTHUR: No, there must be more!

JOHN: That’s it, Arthur.

ARTHUR (frustrated): That’s… I… who signed it?

JOHN: Frank Underhill.

ARTHUR: So… the letter mentions Henry, Frank…

JOHN: Emily, and Antoine.

ARTHUR: Well, Antoine, we know. He was the man who was instrumental to the cult on the island with the lighthouse, the one who worshipped Shub Niggurath.

JOHN: Yes. But we’ve not encountered a Frank yet.

ARTHUR: No… no, Frank, I don’t know who that is. Henry, either…

JOHN: Emily…

ARTHUR: Emily MacFarland was the missing girl case that my partner and I took on. We searched for her at the house where we found the cavern, that’s where I saw your symbol. Which means Henry is her father: Henry MacFarland. All of this. It’s all connected, John.

JOHN: This Frank – he may be able to help us.

ARTHUR: If he’s alive, yes! Not only would he know this place, but he knew what happened.

JOHN: Alright.

ARTHUR: Yes?

JOHN (determined): Yes.

ARTHUR: Right, so we wait for the blue light and then we move. (He grunts.)

JOHN: Are you sure? Arthur, you haven’t slept in over a day.

ARTHUR (exhale, walking around): Right, right. No, no, no, maybe you have a point. Who knows when the next time I’ll be able to rest properly will be. Plus, a change of clothes.

JOHN (slightly patronizing): I understand this is all very exciting, but we need to be smart. If we’re going to seek out a man who was lost here, we need to have the energy to do so.

ARTHUR: Okay, yes, yes. I’ll rest and then we’ll wake up, and, and, and seek out…

JOHN: Okay.

ARTHUR: Right. (He grunts. The bed squeaks. The blanket rustles.) I wonder what it all means.

JOHN: What do you mean?

(A soft, slightly eerie tune begins.)

ARTHUR: All of it: The three soldiers that led us here, Antoine who trapped them here, Frank said he promised to protect Henry’s daughter.

JOHN: Except… we know he failed.

ARTHUR: Right. Which means…

JOHN: Which means he never escaped.

ARTHUR (exhale): That won’t be us.

JOHN (tender): Goodnight, Arthur.

ARTHUR: Night, John.

DISTORTED VOICE: ANNA STANCZYK.

(END Part 14.)