• Quest Friends!

Ep. 34: Elee's Memory, Part 1

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

Elee Badge wasn't always violent. She didn't have to be.

Listen as she:

DEFENDS her husband's honor!

BEFRIENDS small children!

WAITS for the last time!

Content Warnings: Panic Attacks (38:22-41:10), References to Miscarriage (44:10-47:10)

TRANSCRIPT (Downloadable Version):

[Contemplative piano music begins to play with a violin eventually picking up the melody.]

Kyle

No memory exists in isolation.

To recall one moment of your life is to recall fifty others, following a road of thought connecting each moment in oftentimes superficial ways. A sound, a place, the fact that you usually tell one story right behind telling another one. Memories thrive in relationship to each other, only being truly lost when all inbound roads break down. And so, to understand someone's most important memory, you need to understand the rest as well.

[The melody slowly fades.]

Kyle (as an Octopus)

[Spoken as if he's speaking from underwater.] Humans and visitants, elderly and young, welcome to Octofest, the Beyond's yearly celebration of the first eight worlds!

[Upbeat festival music begins to play, featuring an accordion.]

Between stands peddling homemade goods and experimental foods based on the mythical former eight worlds, performers recreate the cultural traditions of civilizations long gone. In the distance, we can hear the yells of two warring armies as they recreate the Fifth Armageddon with wooden nuclear weapons. A few stalls away, families meander through living historical artifacts from the Planet of the Eighth, and on a stage right by a man wrapped in multiple layers of coats plays half a dozen instruments connected to him by cords.

His calloused hands beat red in rhythm to the instruments he keeps bumping into. And half the crowd seems to be ignoring his performance, but the scarves wrapped around his mouth smile anyway, because in the middle of this overwhelmingly dull and bored crowd, he can see a puff of excited frizzy red hair rise above the rest. And he knows that somewhere beneath that hair, squished between the meandering masses, a pair of loving eyes is watching him back.

Elee. What do those eyes see?

Emily

Well, you just described him. I'm confused.

Kyle

[Amused and exasperated.] Well, like what does he look like to you?

Emily

[Laughter.]

Kyle

Fuckin' hell. We just started.

Emily

Starting well, yeah.

Kyle

Okay.

Emily

I'm sorry. I was really nervous. No, I'm ready.

Kyle

Okay. Elee. Who do those eyes--who do those eyes see.

Emily

[Voice turns soft.] Those eyes see Karl.

[A soft, romantic tune played on a string instrument begins.]

Karl is a strange and happy young man, talented musically, or so Elee thinks. I'm not sure if he actually is, I don't know if we decided on that.

Kyle

[Laughing.] Fucking wow, just go at Karl!

Emily

And very sweet, and kind, and gentle, with calloused hands. They work hard, making music out of very strange things.

Kyle

But when you say all this, and when Elee says all this, c-cause you gotta, you know when someone asks, when you and Karl get together, you know what they're really asking, but it's always, every time, led by this preamble--this manifesto about who this man Karl is. But every time she gets the same response.

Kyle (as Annoyed Punk Boy)

[Annoyed, sneering.] Yeah, we get it. He's your husband. This band fucking sucks.

Emily

[Startled.] Did someone say this?

Kyle

You see a guy with like just...[Puffing noise.] Like hair that goes straight up in like, you know that block? You see this dude with that and a nose ring. He’s like,

Kyle (as Annoyed Rocker Boy)

Ugh, this band fucking sucks.

Emily

Elee whips around and her loving eyes are no longer focused on Karl, and they are no longer loving, and she decks this man.

Kyle

This fist comes out and hits the guy in the face, and he just, like, bats it away, annoyed.

[Rock guitar begins in the background.]

And we turn back, and now we get a full view of what Elee Badge, 20 years young looks like. And she is not the stocky, metal in her bones woman she was at older age. She's small, and squishy, and fragile, and her cheeks are both rosy and pale at the same time, and her hair is, like, frizzy; she has red-orange hair that just frizzy, is frizzy and curls in every which direction, and she has a fury in her eyes that I'm assuming doesn't leave.?

Emily

No.

Kyle

But that does not fill any fear in this man, in this boy. He's a boy. He's probably like fifteen.

Emily

[Laughter.] She's gonna try to hit him twice more, missing once.

[05:00]

Kyle (as Annoyed Rocker Boy)

Just stop. [Frustrated groan.] Stop it.

Emily (as Elee)

[Annoyed.] Stop brushing me away! I'm beating you up.

Kyle

[Incredulous laughter.]

Kyle

Alright, this lady leans next to him, and she's like, has a crop top and like a belly button ring, and she's like got a toothpick in her mouth. She's like,

Kyle (as Annoyed Rocker Woman)

[Sneering.] Yeah, no. You might not be hurting him, but you're killin’ me, girl. So pathetic.

Kyle

And she spits out the toothpick at your face.

Emily

Elee goes to bat it away. [Laughing.] I don't know if she does it successfully or not.

Kyle

[Amused.] You bad it away and it gets it gets stuck in your hair.

Emily

Elee turns her eyes towards the woman.

Emily (as Elee)

[Awkwardly.] Well...don't die yet, because...you're next. Why are you even here?

Kyle (as Annoyed Rocker Woman and Annoyed Rocker Boy)

I don't know!

Kyle

And as this little--it's not even a scuffle. As this is happening, it's kind of drowned out as we move back, and we see that this band that has been playing has finally wrapped up. And the man in front is so excited. He just sees that little puff of hair bouncing up and down and he's just like, oh, my wife is so excited that I'm, I'm, I'm performing. And he's like,

Kyle (as Karl)

[In a gravelly but warm voice.] All right everyone. Thank you so much. It's time now to say goodbye with the Goodbye Song.

[The accordion picks up with a jaunty tune as Karl sings.]

That was all we had today, and boy we had some fun. Now go make your own cabaret, 'cause singing's never done!

[The song ends.]

Emily

At the Goodbye Song, which she has heard time and time again, Elee will put up a finger to the boy and the woman and say,

Emily (as Elee)

I'll be back for you later.

Emily

And then hurry forward.

Kyle

You hurry forward, I'm assuming clapping very enthusiastically.

Emily

Yeah, probably like shoulder checking people--

Kyle

[Laughter.]

Emily

--to try to get through faster.

Kyle

[Laughing.] So there's very tepid clapping. In that, we see this like, fuzzy hair like, ferociously clapping coming from it. And then you see it just like jump and hit some of the crowd and then fall down and then get back up. And just like, “oh, excuse me,” starting to squeeze its way through again.

Kyle (as Karl)

And Karl is like,

Kyle (as Karl)

Ah, thank you! Thank you!

Kyle

And he's just very very excited. And then there's a crowd starts to leave, it gives way for the two rockers that you met to make eye contact with Karl.

Kyle (as Annoyed Rocker Boy)

[Mocking.] Hey encore, encore. Ugh, encore, that fucking sucked. My babe is here, I need a romantic song.

Kyle (as Annoyed Rocker Woman)

[Mockingly.] Yeah, we need a romantic song, not some of that fluffy elementary nonsense.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Confused.] Well, uh, we don't do encores? That was all the music I had.

Emily

Elee will launch herself at both of them.

Kyle

Elee, you turn around to launch, and they actually pick up some tomatoes from the second world, some two-matoes, and they start throwing it at Karl. And you hear the instruments, you hear it start banging against the drum and squishing in and like the instrument starts sounding all sticky and gross. And you just hear Karl say,

Kyle (as Karl)

Wait now, now just, just give me a moment. I think I can...

Kyle

He pulls out a guitar, and you start to hear like some really bad notes as he's trying to figure something out like...

Kyle (as Karl)

[The discordant strum of a guitar starts as Karl stammers.]

Love, love-love, love, romance?

[The discordant strumming stops.]

Kyle

And what do you do as he's trying to figure it out?

Emily

I want to look at this couple with just...hate.

Emily (as Elee)

You don't deserve to hear his music.

Kyle

[A softer, sweeter, more romantic tune finally begins to play.]

And before you're able to make a rebuttal, you feel something brush next to you. And you hear a melody come out from Karl's guitar, and you're not sure how to describe it. But it is...it is a love distilled into song, and you turn over, and you see that he is looking into your eyes. And then eventually he's out of notes to play and he just looks at you.

Emily

All the anger has left.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Sweetly.] Everyone deserves song, when it's got something so beautiful to say.

Emily (as Elee)

[Frustrated.] But...but they're mean. They're cruel. Why should they get to hear that?

Kyle

And he puts his hand on your cheek.

Kyle (as Karl)

Because you deserve to have the world know about you.

Kyle (as Annoyed Rocker Woman)

[Sneering.] Ugh, so sappy.

Emily (as Elee)

[Angry and stuttering.] I hope you go...fall in a ditch...and can't get out...because it's too deep! And there are...rocks at the bottom!

Kyle

And Karl--

Kyle (as Karl)

[Laughing.]

Kyle

--and Karl laughs a little bit at your attempts to be fearsome. He just says,

Kyle (as Karl)

Come on, let's, uh, let’s see the rest of the show.

Kyle

And so you two go off!

Emily

[Sweetly.] Hand in hand--

Kyle

Hand-in-hand.

Emily

--by the way.

Kyle

[Chuckles.] You two go off, hand in hand, and cymbal, and drum, and trombone, and he's just got a bunch of gear and he didn't have a place to put it, so he's just carrying it the whole time.

[An up-beat festival song begins again; no accordian this time.]

But you go through basically this Ren Faire, but this Ren Faire isn't just for the Renaissance, highly misinterpreted, it's for the former eight worlds, highly misinterpreted. Since your world you live in is one billion years in the future from today, eight apocalypses have happened.

[10:00]

And so you are now in the ninth world, and there are eight worlds before that, and people love to speculate what happened in them. And they love making pun names off of them, which I don't think they ever realize are puns. This is the Octofest, named in part because it's for the previous eight worlds, and also because it's run by the...Octopi, an intelligent species, which is the only one that has uh, records going back to all worlds. So yeah, you're basically at a Ren Faire for sci-fi stuff. What are you two gonna do?

Emily

I'm sorry, excuse me. Are you saying they have records of the first eight--are you saying that octopi are keeping records right now? [Laughter.]

Kyle

Yes, they're keeping track. [Dramatic pause.] And we're not scoring well.

Emily

[Laughing.] Elee is just getting distracted. Each new stall, there's something new to drag Karl to and stare at for a couple minutes and then get bored of, and go [Laughter.] look at something else.

Kyle

And every time...you can tell when he likes something, because Karl, half the reason he does music is he really likes to just take the things he sees and he observes in the world, and turn them into song. So you can tell you really likes things that he starts like picking at his guitar, or as his key--he has a keytar as well. He starts picking at a little keytar board.

And every time he starts fiddling with a few notes, you hear,

Kyle (as Karl)

Whoa!

Kyle

As you just drag him away to the next stall. Because while Elee at this point does not have the strength with which to pull him, she has the emotional pull. So to him, even the tiniest tug on his lapel feels like he's just being yanked off his feet. And in fact, that's his response every time Elee complains about like, “well, I'm not that strong.” He'll always say,

Kyle (as Karl)

Well, you swept me off my feet.

Emily

Elee likes to tell people, if that's ever brought up, that she really did.

Kyle

[Laughter.] And then finally after going from place to place, and Karl talking to--just making, making way too many friends, you finally get to “The Hat Stand.” And in front of it, you see a standing octopus doing a handstand while wearing multiple hats on their appendages.

Kyle (as Octopus Display)

[In the same blubbering, underwater-sounding voice.] And they just say, well this is degrading.

Kyle

But it catches your eye, like you're, Karl's very amused by it, and he kind of says,

Kyle (as Karl)

Well we gotta go back. But do you want to stop at this one last place first?

Emily (as Elee)

[Excited.] Yes!

Kyle

You walk in, and there are hats everywhere.

[An up-beat song plays; it sounds like something that would play in a fancy, snobby shop.]

Hats, masks. Karl comes out at one point and he's wearing like, this very ugly fedora.

Kyle (as Karl)

Well, I think it looks great.

Emily (as Elee)

[Reluctantly.] It...it's a look, sweetie.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Pleased.] That's what I was going for!

Kyle

And you meander, and meander, and eventually you're confronted by--wearing a pink floral hat, this octopus lady, with like really heavily put on mascara. Like, she's, she’s got like--

Emily

[Incredulous.] On what?

Kyle

On her octopus face!

[The music stops.]

Emily

Do you know what mascara is Kyle?

Kyle

Yeah, she's made fake eyelashes with her octopus. Don't question me.

[The music resumes.]

Emily

[Laughing.] With her octopus.

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

Um, and she's like, can I help you with anything, madame?

Emily (as Elee)

[With conviction.] May I see your biggest hat!

Kyle

And she looks you've down and she sees just your tiny little squishy thin body.

Emily

I put my hands on my hips and puff out my chest a little bit.

Kyle

Elee puffs out what chest she doesn't have, and she's like,

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

I think this is a bit in your fashion.

Kyle

And she pulls out this tiny little hat.

Emily (as Elee)

[Slowly, determined.] Your largest hat, please.

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

[Dismissively.] We adjust the hat for the wearer.

Emily (as Elee)

[Insistent.] Yeah, that's why I need the biggest!

Kyle (as Karl)

Hey, hey, hey, what's going on here?

Emily (as Elee)

[Plaintive.] She gave me a tiny hat, and and I asked for a big one, and she implied that I was small.

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

I only implied because I did not have the opportunity to say it in earnest! You are small.

[The music stops once more.]

Kyle (as Karl)

Well, I think that you should respect her ability to understand what she can handle. Your biggest hat, please.

Kyle

And he--you can see he's actually kind of fired up a little bit, but then he puts on a little, little bit of a smile and tries to be pleasant. And she's like,

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

[Frustrated groan.] Ugh. One second.

Emily (as Elee)

Elee has started beaming and grabs his hand, then like squeezes it a little like, thank you, good job. Deep breath dear. [Laughter.]

Kyle

And she comes back and she is holding an ugly as fuck, bright red, obnoxiously fancy, obnoxiously ornate Kentucky Derby hat. You feel like you could fit your fucking house in this thing it's so big. It is absurd.

Emily (as Elee)

[Pleased.] Just. My. Size.

Emily

And Elee's gonna hold out her hands and lean forward a tiny bit, waiting for it to be set on her head.

Kyle

The octopus…

[00:15:00]

I don't think octopi can roll their eyes, but you see a--

Emily

[Laughing.] You just said she was wearing mascara, Kyle!

Kyle

Yeah, but you see like a little glint of light like kind of flutter as the eyes probably were rolling, even though you couldn't tell.

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

[Annoyed.] Ugh.

Kyle

And she gently puts the hat on your head, and you struggle a little bit holding it up and like you almost shrink two inches as you're like, like not being able to stand it. But you keep your head held as as high as you can.

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

[Smug.] That will be seven hundred shins, please.

Emily (as Elee)

[Incredulous.] Seven hundred shins?!

Kyle (as Karl)

Seven hundred? But it says up there--

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

[Cutting Karl off.] We can charge whatever we want, for whatever customer. It's called capitalism. It's a second world thing.

Emily

Elee's going to kind of throw her head forward so that the hat flops off her head.

Emily (as Elee)

[Clearly disappointed.] Well...I didn't want it anyway. Yeah! Doing us a favor.

Kyle

And--

Emily

Grab Karl by the hand and start stomping out.

Kyle

You start stomping out and, and like tears are starting to fill your eyes.

Emily

[Grumpily and sheepish.] No they're not!

Kyle

And for the first time, when you pull him, Karl doesn't move.

Emily (as Elee)

[Confused.] Karl, come on.

Kyle (as Karl)

Well, no, I I'll see--I got fifty here, and then if I...

[Alow, romantic guitar music begins to play.]

Kyle

He starts, and pulls down like a metal appendage, a little metal arm that he used, a pull arm that he used to bang the drums. And since in the Beyond, where you live, currency is just whatever fancy thing you can make into currency, into things. He starts just like ripping off a piece by piece. He's like,

Kyle (as Karl)

All right, 41, 42, 43...

Emily (as Elee)

[Anxious.] Karl, Karl --

Kyle (as Karl)

No, no, I can...44, 45...

Emily (as Elee)

Karl, it's fine. It's fine.

Kyle (as Karl)

271, 272...

Emily (as Elee)

Stop...

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

Yes, please stop.

[The soft music fades out.]

Kyle

It has been three hours later, and Karl has disassembled most of his band stuff. And he's just reaching around, and he finally ends with,

Kyle (as Karl)

270...278 is all I've got. [Quietly, disappointed.] I'm sorry.

Emily (as Elee)

[Softly.] Karl you didn't...I, you didn't have to...Karl. [Distressed.] It's okay. I don't need it.

Kyle (as Octopus Saleswoman)

[Snidely.] She really doesn't, Karl.

Emily (as Elee)

[Firmly.] Ma'am. My husband has just disassembled his incredible collection of instruments to try to buy me a hat from one of the rudest people I have ever met in my entire life, and I hope all your hats fall into a ditch with--that's really deep, and has rocks at the bottom--

Emily

This is Elee's default wish for people.

Kyle

[Laughter.] So as you're saying this--”hope you, hope you go in a ditch and die”--

[The soft guitar music resumes.]

--nd as you're giving this rant, you start to hear another small song come out of the guitar. And Karl just looks up with these like, he tries to put on as much of a smolder as his little 20 year old, old man face can put muster.

Kyle (as Karl)

And he says, well, suppose you wouldn't pay the rest with the song?

Kyle

And then the next thing you see, the octopus lady has grabbed both of you with four of her eight considerable tentacles, throwing you out. Said, don't come back! And slammed the tent on you.

Emily

Elee kicks it.

Kyle

Take three points of might damage.

[Cheerful, small-town accordion music begins.]

Emily

The Beyond lies past the Steadfast, where well-settled cities and towns give way to small rough-and-tumble pockets of civilization peppered across an uncultivated land. This is where Karl and Elee lived, on the edge of a village so quiet that when the leaves rustled they could be heard from one end to the other. It was, appropriately, named Russel.

They hadn't built a house so much as enthusiastically hammered together a bunker-shaped pile of metal, wood, and dact tape. They'd realized too late that the metal stakes holding it steady poked straight through the walls and ceiling. Elee was lucky: most of them were too tall for her to catch on. Karl...learned to avoid them eventually.

Elee would claim that she'd always loved Karl, ever since she smacked him in the face on accident when they were six and made him cry. She’d apologized, he’d rubbed his cheek and smiled timidly, and she decided that they were going to get married.

Karl would claim that he'd always loved Elee, ever since he saw her try and fail to break a rock and chew on it in frustration when they were five. Before that, even, he loved music. He used it to express the things he couldn't quite say and process things he couldn't quite understand.

Elee loved how Karl would forget the day of the week, but never someone's favorite color, and how his own favorite color would change by the hour. How with his music, he could say the things there were no words for, and how beautiful that music was. She loved the silly, splotchy birds he painted next to her crooked blue flowers on the bedroom wall.

Karl loved how Elee got unreasonably excited every time he had a performance, how she told rambling stories and laughed at her own bad jokes, how only

[20:00]

he was allowed to know that she could knit. He loved dancing around the kitchen table with her until one of them inevitably tripped over the jutting door frame. It was about a 50/50 chance which one of them it would be on any given night. And Karl and Elee...were happy.

[Cheerful accordion music plays out and ends.]

Kyle

[Loud rooster crowing.] The deep, echoing sound of a Chyrannosaurus echoes through the cliffside. Um--

Emily

[Startled but amused.] Is that the sound a Chyrannosaurus makes?

Kyle

Um, yes, the Chyrannosaurus echoes through the cliffside. This Chyrannosaurus, which is a giant T-rex rooster with bony arms underneath normal-sized wings--well, giant wings--is the domesticated version of the Chyrannosaurus Flex. It's used by the town of Russel in order to detect any incoming threats, but it's also used to mark the beginning and the end of work. So because of that sound, you know immediately that Karl is about to come home from work. And what is your routine like when you know Karl's coming back?

Emily

Um, Elee just kind of drops whatever she's been doing. Sometimes she sets it down if it's something fragile, or that would spill a lot. If it spills a little, sometimes she'll just drop it. And hurry over to the window to wait for him.

[A cheerful, jaunty whistle begins.]

Kyle

Karl's just walking up the pathway. He's whistling to himself, and you can see like his hat do a little dance on the top of his head as he whistles. The scarf he has bundled around his throat just like, each side just tick tocks up and down along with rhythm, and his shoes are almost tapping of their own accord. And in his arms, you see that he has a box.

This is so exciting. It's a big box, and this has been the first time he has--besides his guitar he gave up all his instruments. He kept them broken, and he insists he wasn't going to get anything new. But you see this box, this big exciting box, and you're like, well, maybe, maybe this time, especially because he's feeling so musical, and he hasn't whistled in a bit of a while.

Emily

I'll throw the door open, but unlike the usual routine of then flinging herself at Karl, Elee will just run up to meet him.

[The whistling fades out.]

Emily (as Elee)

[Eagerly.] What's the box?

Emily (as Karl)

[Startled.] Oh!

Kyle

And he quickly hides it behind his back.

Emily (as Elee)

Do you want me to pretend I didn't see it?

Kyle (as Karl)

[Playfully.] Ah, maybe.

Emily

Elee is going to turn around and walk back into the house and close the door, and sit down in a chair and cross her legs, like in a bad show of pretending that she was waiting.

Kyle

[Chuckles.] All right, he's gonna open the door and you can see actually as the door opens, you can see that like the little scarf he had around opened it for him.

[The cheerful whistling begins again.]

And he continues to whistle, and it goes and it snakes up on the coat rack, and his coat kind of flutters off like wings, and it flies on. The hat just like does the same thing, because it's one of the ones that covers your ears. His shoes tip-tap off to the side, and like, two slippers slide onto his feet, just like, almost like excited dogs come and nuzzle on in his feet. And you see him motion, and it's kind of like, turn, turn, turn around. But he doesn't say it.

Emily

Okay. Is he motioning to turn her back to him?

Kyle

Yeah.

Emily

Okay, she'll turn her back to him and she'll like shuffle around and try to look even more casual.

Kyle

So you turn around, and then suddenly feel heat on your face as a big ugly homemade cake slams down in front of you with three bright candles on it. And it says, Happy 23rd Birthday. Then you hear a little...

[Kyle whistles.] A little ta-da whistle.

Emily (as Elee)

[Clearly delighted.] It's amazing. I love it! Karl.

Kyle (as Karl)

Happy birthday! I uh, I only spent a few hours on it. I could have used a few more practice cakes. But the last seven were kind of attracting the Chyrannosaurus.

Emily (as Elee)

It's perfect.

[The music stops.]

Emily (as Elee)

[Feigning surprise, clearly faking.] Also, when did you get home, honey? I didn't even know you were here.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Laughing.] All right, just, I got a lot for you, but just let's...

Kyle

And he opens the box and he starts digging into it.

Kyle (as Karl)

Just blow out the candles so we can dig into the cake.

Emily

Elee's gonna pop up before she blows out the candles and just give him a kiss on the cheek and go back.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Chuckles.] No peeking.

Emily (as Elee)

I'm not peeking!

Emily

And then she'll like move forward a little bit and be like...

Emily (as Elee)

This time I'm trying to peek.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Laughing.] Blow out the candles!

Emily (as Elee)

Okay, fine!

Emily

She'll blow them out.

Kyle

[Trying not to laugh.] They come back on.

[Playful, silly sort of music begins to play.]

Emily (as Elee)

What?

Emily

Blow them out again.

Kyle

They come back on.

Emily (as Elee)

[Pouting.] Karl?

Kyle

And you, you turn over and you see that his shoulders are kind of raising and lowering a little bit, and he's like,

Kyle (as Karl)

[Trying not to laugh.] Yeah?

Emily (as Elee)

Karl!

Kyle (as Karl)

[Encouragingly.] Blow out the candles!

Emily

She'll roll her eyes and blow them out.

Kyle

They go back on.

Emily (as Elee)

[Through laughter.] Karl Badge. Stop pretending that I need to blow them out!

Kyle (as Karl)

You blew out the...see look!

Kyle

And he waves his hand in front of one of the candles and blows it out, and it stays out.

Kyle

And he says,

Kyle (as Karl)

Well, I've done one of the three for you! Come on, I can't steal all the wishes!

Kyle

And goes--

Emily (as Elee)

[Curious and surprised.] How did you do that!

Kyle (as Karl)

I blew!

[25:00]

Emily (as Elee)

You did not blow.

Kyle (as Karl)

I blew, see?

Kyle

And he does the same thing to a second candle.

Kyle (as Karl)

Come on, there's one left. You've gotta have at least one wish.

Emily

I think this time Elee's gonna remember to make a wish, because she half has faith that they're actually gonna go out?

Kyle

You turn over, you blow, and the candle goes out. And it stays out.

[Playful music ends.]

And you see Karl's leaning above you with his hand raised, and he quickly puts it down to the side like, guilty.

Kyle (as Karl)

So, uh, what was your wish? No wait, don't tell me, don't tell me, not allowed to know.

Emily (as Elee)

Well, I was a little distracted anyway. How did you do it?

Kyle (as Karl)

I--

Emily (as Elee)

[Knowingly.] Karl, there was a trick.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Pleased.] Okay. Let me show you, let me show you. They're called everflames. So just one wave, and the candle goes on. It'll stay on until--

Kyle

And he waves his hand back.

Kyle (as Karl)

You wave your your hand back. But only the person who turns them on can put them off, so I don't know how you blew out that last one. Must be pretty magical.

Emily (as Elee)

[Fondly.] Must be.

Kyle (as Karl)

All right. Let's get your gifts!

Kyle

And Karl reaches into the box and he pulls out, just spills out, like seventy different presents. That night you open up 46 pearls on a thread, one locket, five copper coins, and two necklaces, as well as a whole bunch of of other stuff and when you're done and the flames are down on the side and the cake has been eaten, Karl picks up the cake and he starts walking towards the kitchen, being sure to duck underneath the dozens of protruding metal beams in this little bunker of a house.

Emily

As she does every time he ducks under it, Elee goes,

Emily (as Elee)

[Muttering.] Oh, I'll have to fix that.

Kyle

[Laughter.]

Kyle (as Karl)

He says so, uh, was this a good birthday?

Emily (as Elee)

Best birthday ever.

Kyle (as Karl)

I hope I got you everything you wanted.

Emily (as Elee)

Well, you don't need to buy me anything for that.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Chuckling.] Yeah, I know, I know. Thought is all that counts, but sometimes a few shins don't hurt either.

Kyle

As he says that he sits down, and he places the cake sheet in front of you.

[Sweet, happy piano music begins.]

And this cake is weird. It's big, and it's red, and it seems to be flattened out on all the edges. Then you realize this cake is also pretty ugly in a very fancy way ‘cause it's not a cake at all. It's the hat.

Emily

[Matter of fact.] It's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen.

Kyle

And Karl says,

Kyle (as Karl)

Yeah, I, uh, took some extra hours, but...like it?

Emily (as Elee)

[Softly.] I love it. It's...it's beautiful Karl. Thank you.

Kyle (as Karl)

I know, I can't get everything you want all the time. But uh..

Kyle

And he after a moment he sits and he picks up one of the candles and he sets it down. He says,

Kyle (as Karl)

I promise you that whatever I can get you, whatever I do, I will do it with you. From now and forever. We'll do it together. My love for you…

Kyle

And he waves his hand and the candle turns on

Kyle (as Karl)

...will never flame out. [Short pause.] ...I'm sorry. That was a really bad pun.

Emily (as Elee)

That was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. [Emphatically.] I love you so much.

Kyle

And he reaches in for a kiss.

Emily

She'll return it and she'll just kind of like curl up on him.

Kyle (as Karl)

Oh wait, wait, wait.

Kyle

And he waves out the candle.

Kyle (as Karl)

Fire hazard.

Kyle

Sets it down, and he goes in for a hug.

Emily (as Elee)

[Laughing.] Yeah, I would have started this place on fire.

Kyle

A few weeks later, you come into the main, the main lobby and you are wearing, I'm assuming you're wearing this hat. How are you making it so that you don't like, just break your neck wearing this hat? Like do you have like, anything to brace it on your head or...?

Emily

So, you know how you'll see like in movies, servers will carry the trays on both hands over their heads?

Kyle

Yeah.

Emily

It's kind of like that.

Kyle

How do you do--okay. I just need to know, because I know Elee wore this all the time. How do you do like random chores? Like the dishes? Is there just like, a little like, area of broken dishes underneath the, like, sink--

Emily

[Laughter.]

Kyle

--as you tried to use them with both elbows, but took time trying to figure out how to do it?

Emily

Well, more like she would like, squnch her neck down so her shoulders were up, and stick her elbows up to help with the hat brim while she used her hands to wash the dishes.

Kyle

[Sighs, exasperated but pleased.] Glad to know Elee Badge was always a human disaster.

Both

[Laughter.]

Emily

[Happily.] Always.

Kyle

So you walk down, and you, uh, you see Karl humming to himself as he’s, as he's playing that song on the guitar he played.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Soft humming.] Oh Elee, Elee, I know we gotta go quick but uh, I've been trying out some new lyrics for that, that song I played, and I want to know what you thought. All right. [He takes a deep breath and exhales.] One, two…

[Sings and plays the romantic song on the guitar again.]

Elee, Elee, Elee... Elee, El-lee, Elee...

[The song stops.]

You know that uh, I felt like it had a lot more there when I uh, first started writing.

Emily

[Laughter.]

Kyle (as Karl)

I dunno, I just, I...can't distill it into words.

Emily (as Elee)

[Flustered.] You're just being cheesy and romantic again.

[00:30:00]

Ah, uh, you did that on purpose.

Kyle (as Karl)

[Chuckles.] [Teasing.] Only a little bit.

Kyle

And he gets up and kisses you on the cheek.

Kyle (as Karl)

Let's get going.

Kyle

So you walk outside to the Chyrannosaurus' beautiful swooning yell.

[Kyle makes a sound like an owl hooting.]

Emily

[Laughing.] That is completely different--

Kyle

[Makes a grating, squawking sound more like a rooster crowing.]

Both

[Laughter.]

[Playful xylophone music begins to play.]

Kyle

And you, you go in the town. So you're heading into town. And what task are you going into town for?

Emily

[Hesitantly as she thinks.] Um, we are going in to pick up some...wood and some nails? There, uh, was a hat incident.

Kyle

[Laughter.]

Emily

[Sheepishly.] There's a little patching that needs to be done.

Both

[Laughter.]

Kyle

So, yes, you walk into town. In the distance you can see this large, scaly, feathery rooster, with a giant like wide beak and like, these big wings under which tiny little arms also flap alongside, and they almost look like bone they're so skinny. And-and you can see the Chyrannosaurus keeping watch out, and it looks on edge, but honestly, it always looks on edge.

Emily (as Elee)

Karl, I don't know why you think that thing is majestic.

Kyle

And he just turns around and shrugs.

Kyle (as Karl)

It's alive!

Kyle

And as he does, he walks into the first--it almost looks he walks into like a big bubble surrounding the city. It's about a dozen layers thick. And this bubble is used to protect the town against what's called the iIon Wind. It's like a wind that carries itself throughout the Beyond, but it's filled with numenera stuff like nano machines and stuff like that. And essentially, when it goes through, these nano machines can break everything down to there like molecular level and then reassemble them as they see fit.

It can be harmless, but considering all the possibilities of what you can turn yourself into...it's usually not. And you continue to make yourself to the uh, craft shop.

Emily

[Laughter.] Is that where you get wood and nails?

Kyle

Well...no.

[An upbeat almost commercial jingle-style tune begins.]

Let's do arts and crafts. Arts and crafts in the Beyond are very intense.

Emily

[Laughing.] Hobby Lobbies--

Kyle

[Laughter.]

Emily

--are, like, the weapons stores.

Kyle

[Laughter.] Yeah, you walk in and you see just like, this grizzled, jacked-up dude with like muscles, and he's just got like, a gun made out of...like it's a spud gun. Just a giant spud gun. And you're pretty s--those are outlawed in the Steadfast, but here in the Beyond where laws are a lot laxer, he's just got like five armored over himself. He looks a bit like [Imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent.] Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Both

[Laughter.]

Kyle

Arnie. You just got Arnie. Arnie's a good guy. Uh, he's a little bit...he's one of those guys, he's a nice guy, but he's one of those like, I'm gonna have all my guns when, like, the apocalypse happens guys, and he's convinced that when the Iron Wind comes he can just shoot it with potatoes until it dies.

[Jingle tune ends.]

Emily (as Elee)

Hey, Arnie.

Kyle (as Arnie)

[Grunts in greeting.]

Kyle

And you make your way in, and Karl...

Kyle (as Karl)

I have to grab a few things. I'll be back.

Kyle

And he goes and he heads off to a different department. And so you get your wood, you get your nails, and then you get in line. And after a moment, you can just feel eyes staring at you.

Emily

[Cautiously.] I'm gonna turn around.

Kyle

Nobody there except Arnie, and Arnie's admiring his spud gun.

Emily

I'm going to turn back around, and then I'm going to turn around again, like really fast. Like I was trying to fake ‘em out.

Kyle

You see Arnie, his lips are against the gun as if he was smooching it, and he just like looks at you wide-eyed.

Emily

[Laughter.]

Kyle (as Arnie)

[Grunts.]

Emily (as Elee)

I'll use the momentum that happened from whipping my hat and head around [Laughter.] to turn around again, just in case.

Kyle

Now, he's just looking--Arnie is very, looking very sheepish.

Emily (as Elee)

Sorry, Arnie go back...to what you were doing.

Emily

And she'll kind of like, not fully turn to look over her shoulder, but you know that kind of like, [Upset noise.] “ehhh. Something's weird.”

Kyle

So you look around, and then you hear back from right in front of where you were standing.

Kyle (as a child)

Your hat is big.

Emily (as Elee)

[Without hesitation.] Yep.

[A chipper child's song begins.]

Kyle

[Amused, laughing.] Do you look and see who you're saying that to?

Emily

I'm answering as I'm looking.

Kyle

Okay. You turn over, and you see beneath you, in a little pink dress with two pigtails, this just wide-eyed girl with like giant eyes and a little mouth.

Kyle (as a child)

My mom's isn't nearly that big. Can I, can I try it?

Emily (as Elee)

[Reluctantly.] Well, yeah, but maybe um, let me wait until my husband gets back over here. He can help me hold it up. It's pretty heavy.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Mm-kay. I'm--I’m Marcela.

Emily (as Elee)

Marcela?

Kyle (as Marcela)

Mm-hmm.

Emily (as Elee)

I'm Elee.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Hi Elee!

Kyle

And she starts like getting a little excited.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Well, like, we should get him!

Emily (as Elee)

Where is your mom?

Kyle (as Marcela)

My mom? Oh, um.

Kyle

And she looks at the woman--and she looks at the woman checking people out.

Kyle (as Marcela)

She's a little busy right now, but I just, I come by the say hi sometimes.

Emily (as Elee)

[Knowingly.] Ahh, I gotcha. Yeah. Well, I mean if she works here, she'll be right here when we come back, right? Actually. No, that's really sketchy. Don't follow me. I'm so sorry.

Kyle

[Laughter.]

Emily (as Elee)

What am I saying? I know you're impatient. But I think we should just wait

[35:00]

until Karl gets back.

Kyle (as Marcela)

But...all right, we can wait for when...when he gets back. One, two...okay, is he back? Is that him?

Kyle

And she points to Arnie behind you.

Emily (as Elee)

[Patiently.] No, that's Arnie. He likes guns.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Well, guns are heavy, could he hold up the hat?

Emily (as Elee)

I mean, I guess.

Emily

But Elee doesn't actually make a move to go over there.

Emily (as Elee)

My hat is really special.

Kyle (as Marcela)

No, I understand when things are pretty special.

Kyle

She shows a little like decorative flower that she has on her lapel.

Kyle (as Marcela)

My daddy got this for me. It's really special to me.

Emily (as Elee)

So you know how I feel.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Yeah, I guess I can wait.

Emily

...Is Karl...gonna come back?

Kyle

Yeah. [Laughing.]

Emily

Well, Elee's gonna, like, step out of line, maybe?

Kyle

Okay.

Emily

Kneel down next to her or something.

Kyle

Okay.

Emily

Since she's small.

Kyle

Yeah. Keep going, keep conversation going.

Emily (as Elee)

Have you ever seen the Iron Wind before?

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Nervous.] No, I haven't! I heard it was scary.

Emily (as Elee)

Oh it is. But sometimes I'll watch it.

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Impressed.] You will?

Emily (as Elee)

When I see it out in the distance.

Kyle (as Marcela)

At least the Chyrannosaurus watches out for it now.

Emily (as Elee)

Do you like the Chyrannosaurus?

Kyle (as Marcela)

It's a little scary, especially when it makes its--

Kyle

And suddenly you hear--

[The loud, distant squawking of the Chyrannosaurus repeats three times.]

Like a fucking tornado siren.

[A low, driving rock beat begins, swelling ominously as Kyle speaks.]

And you, Elee, look out. And it was a little bit of a fib. You've never actually looked at the Iron Wind before, so you can't know for sure that what is coming is the Iron Wind, but there's nothing else it could be.

[The music abruptly stops.]

One can't describe the Iron Wind. Unlike the scraping scattering cyclone of the Apocrita, the Iron Wind is not concrete. It is not reliable. This dust storm literally formed the Beyond. It's a roaming mass of technology that converts whatever crosses its path into something else, breaking its victims down into their simplest components and restructuring them as it sees fit, assuming it has...any intent at all.

And I, I don't say that you can't describe the Iron Wind out of laziness.

I say it because the wind is just possibility. It is change distilled into a force of nature. The Iron Wind can be anything and usually, it leaves its victims with nothing. The Iron Wind is silent.

[Panicked screaming begins.] But the Hobby Lobby craft store is not, as everyone lets out into just screams and panic. You see Arnie just tackle Marcela's mom and just kind of like, hide her, protect her under his big body, because he was in front of, he was in the front of the line. [The panicked screaming stops.]

Emily

[Confused.] Wait, but I thought we were in a bubble.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Yeah. We're in a bubble, right, though? Everything's gonna be okay?

[A slow, sad, unsettling piano melody begins as the Iron Wind descends.]

And as she says that you can actually see that the first layer of the bubble kind of ripples out and it turns into stone, and then it turns into gold, and then it turns into glass, and then it turns into sand, and the sand falls down to the ground.

And the Iron Wind starts making quick work of the second line of the bubble.

Emily (as Elee)

[Trying not to panic.] Yeah. We are safe. Um, actually...do you wanna go find Karl to try on a hat?

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Overwhelmed.] I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. [Panicked breathing.]

Emily (as Elee)

[Softly.] It's okay.

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Whimpering.]

Kyle

And she starts crying, and she runs off into one of the, the shelves, she runs off into one of the aisles. And Karl runs up to you, he's like,

Kyle (as Karl)

Oh, Elee! Thank goodness I found you. We need to bunker down quick. Is--are you alright?

Emily (as Elee)

[Voice strained with panic.] No! No, this...Marcela, she--she ran off!

Kyle (as Karl)

What?!

Emily (as Elee)

She's a little kid, her mom's the cashier. We have--

Emily

And Elee's gonna start running after her.

Emily (as Elee)

We gotta go find her.

Kyle (as Karl)

All right. Yeah. I'll get the mom, you go, you go run after.

Kyle

All right. So Elee, you start running through the aisles, and you over this deafening silence, you can just hear--the further away you get from somebody, you can just hear this like, soft sobbing. And you make your way through the aisles, and eventually you see that Marcela is just, um, hiding. She's hiding in between some of the boxes. She's sobbing to herself in the silence. And then you hear a scrape of a chalkboard as the second layer turns into chalk and is scraped into pieces and shudders.

Emily

I'm gonna...like, is there a better place for us to hide nearby?

Kyle

Uh if you tried to get her to move, she wouldn't.

Emily

[Uncertain.] Okay. I'm gonna drop to my knees next to her and scoot up really close, and try to like push back into the boxes a little bit more.

Kyle

All right.

Emily

And Elee leans her head down to the side, so that wherever the nearest windows are, are blocked by the brim of the hat.

Emily (as Elee)

It's not so scary.

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Panicked whimpering.]

Emily (as Elee)

I know you know my hat is big, but did you know that it's magic?

Kyle (as Marcela)

It's magic?

Emily (as Elee)

It's a really special kind of magic, but it's magic. See, the person I love the most in the whole world, he gave

[40:00]

me this hat, and that gives it special powers. Your dad, he gave you, he gave you that flower, right?

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Weakly.] Mm-hmm.

Emily (as Elee)

Then that's magic too! They protect us. So we're gonna be okay.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Okay, okay, okay.

Kyle

Then suddenly you uh, you hea--you feel something brush against you almost like, you know underneath you’re like, in the shadow of the hat. And you feel like something coarse hit you and like bump you, probably elbow you in the face, and a voice says, Sorry.

Kyle (as Karl)

She was uh, Arnie's got her safe. And there was no way I was moving that guy.

Emily (as Elee)

[Relieved.] Karl.

Kyle (as Karl)

Hey, oh, hey little friend.

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Panicked breathing.]

Emily (as Elee)

[Panicked.] This is Marcela, and--

Kyle (as Karl)

[Reassuring.] Hey, Marcela. Hey, hey, can, can you breathe with me?

Kyle (as Marcela)

What--what?

Kyle (as Karl)

Here, breathe with me, alright? Just, I'm gonna count, and we're gonna breathe in and breathe out.

Kyle (as Marcela)

Uh, I don't think, I don't think I--

Kyle (as Karl)

Let's try it out. Miss Elee will show you how to do it too, alright? In, two, three, out, two three. In, two, three, out, two, three.

Kyle

And Marcela continues to breathe. Eventually her quaky breathing--

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Gasp.]

Kyle

--starts to, starts to take a rhythm, and you can see that she's been grabbing onto this little cloth flower and she eventually loosens up a little bit. As she breathes, Karl says,

Kyle (as Karl)

What's, what's that Marcela?

Kyle

And she says,

Kyle (as Marcela)

The--uh, this is the flower. Um, um, Miss Elee says that ‘cause my daddy gave it to me, it's magic.

Kyle

And Karl says,

Kyle (as Karl)

Well, Miss Elee's right. Did you know that that means it can dance? You need to hold it out, and then you gotta sing to it.

Kyle (as Marcela)

But I don't know any song.

Kyle (as Karl)

Let's do the best song I know, okay?

[Karl begins to hum the song he wrote for Elee. Eventually, Marcela and Elee both join in. The song picks up on the guitar as their voices fade.]

Kyle

And as the three of you sing, you can see the flower. It starts to ripple out of the insides, and it just ripples in and out. And she's like,

Kyle (as Marcela)

[Thrilled] It's dance--it's dancing, it's dancing!

Kyle

And you and Karl just kind of smile.

[The guitar slows, and fades out.]

Emily

They'd never actually talked about kids before.

[A gentle, childish, cheerful song begins.]

It was Karl who brought it up over dinner a week after the Iron Wind, and it was Elee who immediately shut it down. That night, she paced and muttered to herself and occasionally chewed on her knuckles, and Karl listened, calm and soothing and kind as always, catching her hands in his before she could do any damage with her gnawing.

Two days later over breakfast, Elee told Karl that they'd have to make sure to pound all the nails flat on the walls for safety before the baby started crawling. It took a few more hours before she was ready to admit how much time she'd already spent pouring over patterns for baby socks.

Next month, they tacked on a room in the back, and Elee built a sturdy but very crooked crib. Karl painted it his favorite color, an almost offensively hideous yellow. Some afternoons he buried himself in scribbled up sheet music and pens almost out of ink, because who better to share the wonder of the world with than a child, and how could he not write a thousand songs for their daughter?

While Karl sang and his scarf danced lazily along on the coat rack, Elee strung together silk peonies one by one to hang over the nursery window and planned stories to tell in blanket forts, thought of how to explain loud thunder and finding handholds on climbing rocks, pictured patching up her girl’s first skinned knee, teaching her how to fix her first broken toy, watching her crawling turn to walking turn to running, hearing her start to speak and learn to sing, to sing like Karl. And to throw a punch, if the occasion arose.

Elee bragged to Karl that their daughter would say “mama” before “dada.” He nodded good-naturedly and told her that “dada” is easier for most children to say. She stuck out her tongue and kept knitting socks.

[Cheerful song ends.]

When Elee and Karl lost their daughter, the world...stopped.

[A pause.]

And then time, as time does, kept ticking forward, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. In the usual quiet of Russel, Karl kept moving as well as he could, because Elee didn’t. Elee...couldn’t.

Kyle

The Chyrannosaurus roars, the door creaks open, and unlike your birthday, Elee, you don't race to see Karl. And by this point he's realized that sometimes a little bit of space and little bit of quiet is what you need. So you hear his uh, scarf slowly slither off, the hat flutter onto the stand, the coat still has to like, struggle a little bit and, trying to be quiet, it kind of just flops its way up like an inchworm and he just walks over to you.

[45:00]

And where, where do you spend your days?

Emily

By the window, but not the window looking out over the path. Just leaning up against it.

Kyle

Karl comes in and he sets his hand on your shoulder, and he just kisses your cheek softly and gently and carefully. And he can't resist to make the one joke that he always makes, although he secretly hopes that there's an actual answer this time. And he says,

Kyle (as Karl)

See anything new today? You know, I was talking to that aeon priest again today. Blowhard like usual, but uh, he--he had a bit of an idea.

Emily

Elee...the corner of her mouth has pulled up a little bit at Karl's, um, calling someone a blowhard. But she'll look over at him for the first time.

Kyle

He uh, reaches over and you can see he's reaching into some of the cupboards, the one where you put all the things that you're never going to use again, never gonna touch. And stuff starts spilling out onto the ground, and eventually you see Karl pull out one of the three candles. He walks it over to you and he hands it. And he says,

Kyle (as Karl)

I uh, something he talked about today was something doesn't have to be that physical thing to be...

Kyle

He grabs your hand.

Kyle (as Karl)

There's no changing what physically happened, but...

Kyle

And he uh, he looks at you with his like, old young man face, and he kind of smirks and he almost like points to you as a reference. He says,

Kyle (as Karl)

Our bodies and our hearts aren't always in sync. We're never going to meet her, but that doesn't mean we have to forget her.

[Slow, sweet music begins to play.]

Kyle

And he grabs your hand. With your consent, will move it, and both of you will turn the candle on, with your hand closer to the flame. Then he says,

Kyle (as Karl)

[Gently.] That light will never fade...and so our kiddo won't either.

Emily

So Elee lit the first candle.

[Soft, tinkling music plays.]

There's a saying that time heals all wounds, but it doesn't. No one thing could heal that loss. But they made an altar, to start with. Karl would whisper little songs sometimes when he passed the painted sky next to the nursery door. He added his blotchy round birds among Elee's lopsided clouds. They sat together next to the strung peonies and tiny socks and crumpled sheet music.

One afternoon for the first time in a long time, Elee flung herself at Karl as he came down the path after work. And this time, when Karl brought up kids, Elee didn't need time to think. It wasn't hard to find children to adopt, but...meeting them for the first time, actually talking to them and playing and deciding if they might be happy in a home like Karl and Elee's, that part fell to Karl.

“You're the charming one,” she'd say. “I'd just scare them off before you can even get to know them.” He would tell her about his meetings, how the kids he met were wonderful, but they were never quite the right fit.

Elee knew this child was special because Karl was babbling about them even before he had flung open the door. His scarf practically launched itself onto the coat rack in excitement as he'd explained how well the visit had gone, how--

Kyle (as Karl)

They're only a few years old, but they don't seem like it.

Emily

--they were smart, sweet--

Kyle (as Karl)

They're passionate. They're curious, and Elee, they can sing. I've never seen anything like them.

Emily

--they were perfect.

Kyle (as Karl)

You're gonna be so excited. I just, I just know that you two will be best friends.

Emily

He finally paused for a breath.

Kyle (as Karl)

I was told we need to come back tomorrow if we wanted to adopt.

Emily

Elee told Karl he should go without her. She said she should clean up the house, knowing full well Karl was the one who was good at that. Should have some food ready in case they were hungry when they arrived. She'd do this or that, because Elee was terrified.

She was the protector, but he was the nurturing one. He was the one a kid would want to come home with. He was the one who could make a good first impression. They could meet Elee afterward, have time to get used to her clumsy, awkward, sometimes abrasive way of being. Karl left with a hum of reassurance and a kiss and a promise to be back in a few days with their child, and Elee let him go. She waited by the window for them.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

[Softly.] And waited.

Kyle

It's always quiet without Karl. I mean, it's, it's always quiet with him, but that quietness...felt warm, like the sunbeam on a summer afternoon. Karl didn't come back that night, or the night after that, or the night after that.

How long did Elee wait?

Emily

[Sadly, quietly.] Well, she waited too long.

Kyle

And then when she decided to go? When she decided to look? Why, and how, and where. I mean, you're a--you’re a squishy fragile bean in a small town protected by a giant rooster.

Emily

But...Karl always came back. And so when Karl didn't come back, Elee had to go to him, because Karl was just--

[Karl's soft, warm piano song begins again.]

--just waiting for her.

[50:00]

She just needed to check the path. Look out the window a little further. Maybe he was hiding to surprise her. Maybe...he had a box. Maybe...he was slowed down...traveling with two people.

Kyle

Maybe he was injured. Maybe he was kidnapped. Maybe he was d--nah. Nah, couldn't be.

Emily

No. Karl wasn't. ‘Cause he was Karl.

Kyle

He was gonna be in the next town. He was gonna--he was gonna be the mayor of a town. He was gonna be king. Maybe there was a music festival you never heard about, some random friend he made. He, he could be on the moon, anywhere but...

[The music stops.]

Kyle

Anywhere...but that ditch.

[A long pause.]

Emily (as Elee)

[Quietly, pained, close to tears.] Karl.

[Episode end -- 50:49]

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Numenera and its logo are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2017 Monte Cook Games, LLC. Read the full disclaimer here.​

Intro/Outro music by MiracleOfSound

Intro: "Friends" (YouTube, Bandcamp)

Outro: "Hitoshio" (YouTube, Bandcamp)