Long Story Short Productions
Long Story Short Productions
Midsummer Special - "Midsummer, Highland Falls" - Credits
Written by Emily VanDerWerff & Libby Hill.
Directed by Zach Valenti.
Script Editing by Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina.
Performance by Libby Woodbridge as Janie Lynnwood.
Featuring Mark Pagan as Tom Lynnwood.
Original Music by Alan Rodi.
Featuring the song "Oval Window" by Yehezkel Raz.
Sound Design by Zach Valenti.
Produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina,
along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay.
Midsummer Special - "Midsummer, Highland Falls" - Transcript
Announcer: The following episode contains depictions of fantasy violence and gore, discussions of child abuse, and mentions of miscarriage. Listener discretion is advised.
[Unseen opening credits music plays.]
Announcer: Long Story Short Productions presents... Unseen.
[Unseen Theme continues playing.]
Announcer: Midsummer Special. Midsummer, Highland Falls. By Emily VanDerWerff and Libby Hill.
[The sound of radio static, as if someone was trying to tune into a specific frequency but not quite getting it. Beyond it, outside, we hear cicadas and the wind blowing.]
[After a moment, the radio static gives way to a grainy transmission of a gentle piano melody.]
Janie: You’re sure you want to hear my story? It’s a bit of a fairy tale.
Voice: [somewhat ethereal and distorted] Oh, Janie. I love fairy tales. Let us hear it. Please?
Janie: Well... All right. If you insist.
[Janie takes a deep breath. There is a wooshing, transportive sound, and all other sounds cut off.]
[Over the silence:]
Part One: Janie.
[The sounds of an outdoor party fade in. Prominent among them are people chattering and kids playing.]
Janie: I didn’t want to go to Highland Falls. That was Alice’s idea. Alice was an ideas person. She introduced herself to me as such. “I’m Alice. I’m an ideas person.” So Highland Falls was Alice’s idea. But Highland Falls held my destiny. I just didn’t know it then. That was six years ago. I was twenty-seven, and I was increasingly embarrassed when I said the words, “I’m Janie, and I’m a dancer” at parties. Tom once said, “Failure is the shadow cast by embarrassment.” The shame always comes first, and then, bit by bit, you’ve failed.
[Abruptly, all sound cuts off.]
[Delicate, sentimental piano music starts playing.]
Janie: He said that to me our first Christmas. The house was drafty as hell and snow blew in through the cracks. But he lit a big fire in the back room and pushed all the furniture to the side, so I could do the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I remembered every step from when I first did it at fourteen. He cheered, and... I...
[The sounds of the party rush back in. The music continues.]
Janie: Where was I? Oh - right. Alice is from Highland Falls. It’s just outside New York. Barely even a town. Her family has a big party on the summer solstice every year. Her mom calls it “reverse Christmas,” because you were just about as far as you could get from the holidays in either direction. It turned out Alice had a reason to go home. She wanted to tell her parents she had gotten the lead in the gender-flipped Paul Bunyan musical. Yep. She’s that Alice. She was my roommate. Wild, huh?
Janie: She hadn’t told me she had gotten the part. She knew how mad I’d be. And yeah, when I found out, I was that mad. But I was so happy for her, too.
loved her! Which pissed me off more. So I left the party.
[Footsteps on grass as Janie walks away from the party. Over her, there's the sounds of tree branches moving.]
Janie: And that’s when I met him. Tom Lynnwood, standing in a tree. He waved at me, like he knew I knew I was coming. Like he’d meet his future wife standing in a tree.
[There's more rustling of the tree branches.]
Janie: He reached into the branches and pulled out a kite. There were kids below him. He tossed the kite down, and they ran off with it.
[Children's footsteps dart off.]
Janie: But he stayed in the tree. “Shouldn’t you get down?” I said, and he replied, “Wanted to see if I could find anything else up here.” “Any luck?” I said. “As a matter of fact... yes.” He smiled at me. And I knew.
[An apartment door opens as Janie enters. As she makes herself at home, we hear her send off and receive text messages.]
Janie: We talked on the phone every day when I got back to New York. He asked me lots of questions about my life and told me about his life in as few words as possible. He wouldn’t come and stay with me. Said he’d feel cooped up. I got it. I lived in a cruddy apartment in Queens. I felt trapped too. That was when I realized he was scared of someone. Or something. That was when I started thinking about taking him to Summerwind.
[The music concludes.]
[The sounds of a dance class, in progress, fade in.]
Janie: Summerwind was this mansion in northern Wisconsin I inherited after my grandfather died. It was a wreck. Grandpa had meant to fix it up but never had the time. You’d swear it was haunted. In his will, he said, “To Janie, I give Summerwind. May she have space for her dreams.” My family is like that. Minnesotan to a fault -- realizing I needed space for my dreams but assuming a crappy haunted house would do. When I told Tom about Summerwind, he wanted to fix it up. He said he felt safest with woods all around him and water at his back. And since Summerwind was right up against a lake, well... And I was ready to leave New York, too. Twenty-seven isn’t too old to be a dancer, but it’s too old to hope you’ll suddenly become a much better dancer. And I had fallen hard for Tom.
[For a moment, we just hear the sounds of the dance class.]
Voice: That’s when you started seeing me?
[A door opens. A figure walks into the space. Gradually, we begin to hear strange, distorted tones in the air around Janie. The class continues, seemingly unperturbed.]
Janie: Yes. That’s when I started... Seeing her. The Queen. I first saw her at rehearsal, my last July in the city. She was standing against the far wall, wearing a dark blue cloak, and she had a hood up around her face. And I... I just knew she was watching me.
[The sounds of the class fade out, leaving us with just the strange, unnerving tones.]
Janie: I saw her at rehearsal. I saw her on the subway. At a hot dog cart. In the middle of Times Square. Nobody else seemed to see her, but they knew how to move around her all the same. She was always looking at me. I knew that. I should have told Tom. But how do you say you think you’ve invented a mystery woman?
Voice: You’re a mystery, too, Janie.
[Suddenly, the distorted tones fade out, and the sounds of the dance class fade back in.]
Janie: So I moved to Summerwind.
[An airplane takes off and flies off, and the sounds of the dance studio are replaced with the ambiance of the front garden of a beautiful, isolate mansion. In the distance, we hear the waves from a nearby lake lapping against the shore.]
Janie: What happened to Tom is a matter of debate, but everyone agrees on one thing: It happened at Summerwind.
[A pair of big, wooden doors swing open.]
Janie: We moved in at the end of that summer. It took a while, but it started to feel like a home. We got married there a year after we moved in.
[Church bells ring.]
Janie: Just us and Reverend Wendy and some friends from town. But we lived there for nearly five years and never quite made it a home. When I say it started to feel like one, I mean it started to feel familiar. We got used to the rotting floorboards on the third floor, the trash that piled up, and the draft we could never find the source of in the basement. Some railroad tycoon built it back in the 1890s. Summerwind. It has turrets and everything. When I was little, I loved exploring it, because I half expected to open a door and tumble through into another world. When I lived there... I started to fear that. I started to fear I’d open a door, and poof, magic. I’d be back in my life before, but emptier somehow. I had a vague sense it was all too good to be true.
Voice: And it was.
Janie: It was. It was too good to be true.
[A woosh. We are transported to the shore of the lake. A woman cries out in the distance.]
Janie: There are only three known facts about Tom’s disappearance. Fact one: On June 21 one year ago, Tom and Janie Lynnwood rowed to the middle of West Bay Lake for unexplained reasons. When morning came, only Janie returned to shore.
[Police sirens blare in the background. Police dogs bark.]
Fact two: The dogs found evidence someone else had been there. Who that someone was, no one could say. Fact three: All that anyone found of Tom was his arm. Detached right at the shoulder. It washed up on the shore later that morning. And I know what you’re thinking. I was on the boat. I should know. But I don’t. I have no idea.
[The sounds of the lake fade out. We hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. There's a storm approaching.]
Janie: Both stories I’m about to tell you are true. Neither story I’m about to tell is true. There’s only one thing that’s certain: One moment Tom was there. The next, he wasn’t.
[She takes a deep breath. The thunder gets louder.]
Janie: Story one.
[There's a blast of thunder, and then silence.]
Announcer: Part Two: The U.F.O.
[The creaky sounds of a basement fade in.]
Janie: If anywhere in Summerwind is haunted, it’s the basement. The furnace was down there. Big, old, scary-looking thing. When I visited my grandfather as a girl, we would look into the furnace, see it glowing orange. He would sneak away, and I would pretend not to notice, and then he would switch off the lights and ask me if I saw any monsters in the fire. I did. Who wouldn’t?
[There's a series of metal clanking sounds.]
Janie: Tom’s lab was down there. He spent weeks working on a machine. An advance detection system, he said. I sometimes kept him company while he worked. We talked about my past, about our plans, about the kids we wanted to have. We talked about everything but what he was working on.
[A burst of flame and steam from the furnace.]
Janie: I would catch myself looking at the furnace sometimes, trying to find monsters. Reality would go fuzzy, like I wasn’t quite inside my body anymore, and then I’d hear Tom’s voice. “Eyes on me, Janey-Jane,” he’d say with a smile. I’d be right back. God, that smile.
Janie: Not every day at Summerwind was good. That last year, especially, was hard. I stopped leaving, and then he stopped leaving, and I worried we were haunting the house. Wherever you live, you have to leave space for what’s broken inside of you. In a studio apartment, there’s very little room for those broken things. In a house like Summerwind, though...
[A bigger burst of fire from the furnace.]
[Upstairs, Janie sweeps and cleans. Soft introspective music begins playing.]
Janie: So you build a place for those broken things to stay, and you find someone broken in some compatible way. I had the place, and I had the person. I just had to make them feel like my own. So I cooked, and I cleaned, and I tried to brute force that crumbling house into a home. Tom and I found ways to go on dates, even as our radius grew ever smaller. A weekend in Green Bay became too much for me, so instead we’d have dinner at the bar in town.
[The sounds of crickets and nature around Tom and Janie as they stargaze.]
Janie: And when that was too much, we’d lay in the backyard and look at stars. We made love almost every night, and even though we didn’t talk about it much, we both knew we were trying to get pregnant. We wanted a child so badly, because then Summerwind would be our baby’s first home, instead of a wreck two messed-up people were trying to will into somewhere livable. It would be where someone grew up and took their first steps, where Tom and Janie Lynnwood made something better than what they were given.
[A burst of thunder. Rain pours. The music abruptly cuts off.]
Janie: We didn’t get pregnant. It was silly, but I started to resent the machine. Like that was Tom’s real child somehow. Silly, right?
Voice: I don’t think it’s silly.
Janie: Oh of course it’s silly. I was jealous of a piece of junk.
[Another blast of thunder. The sounds of the storm fade, replaced by the whirring hum of a machine.]
Janie: The machine was just a car hubcap he had burnished until it shined. He had attached electronic sensors to it, as well as a thermometer and a barometer. Solar panels lined the sides, and it stored enough energy to turn of its own volition twenty-four-seven. He put it on a pole and pointed it to the sky. He said it was an alarm, a warning for when the people who raised him returned.
[The sound of the machine fades out. We hear cutting as Janie prepares a meal in the kitchen.]
Janie: He'd never told me about the people who raised him. Just offhand mentions here and there. So one night at dinner, I tried to get him to tell me.
[A plate is dropped.]
Janie: He looked at me for a long time, then finally said, “If you hear the alarm, I want you to run. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” I said, “I didn’t ask you about the alarm. I asked you who your family is.” He didn’t answer that time either. “The alarm is an old music box,” he said. “I hooked it up to play really loud.” I shook my head. “Who’s coming, Tom?” He stared at me a long time. “Who’s coming, Tom? Who?” “Are you watching closely? You’ll see,” he said.
Janie: He was right. I did.
[Silverware clatters as Janie picks up after dinner.]
Janie: I was tempted to stop the machine as it rotated. I felt a little like it was mocking me. “I’m built to go in circles, lady. What’s your excuse?” But I never did. And then one night, it went off.
[The machine activates. It beeps, clatters, and makes a series of alarming mechanical noises.]
Janie: I didn’t know what I was hearing. The machine went nuts. Every sensor beeped and clattered and clanged. Tom ran upstairs and started herding me toward the front door.
[A music box melody begins playing.]
Janie: “I love you so much,” he said. “But we’re out of time.” I planted my feet and said, “We have time.” He pointed to the door and told me to run. “WE HAVE TIME!” He looked at me, looked at the door, looked at the machine, which was somehow even louder. And then he said the craziest thing.
[The sounds of the machine cut out. Footsteps and panting as Tom and Janie run through the woods.]
Janie: He said he had escaped. From space aliens. He was born in 1765 outside New York City. One night when he was little, the sky opened up and dragged him back into its mouth.
[Tom groans as he pushes a boat out onto the water. He starts rowing.]
Janie: Tom didn’t lie. About anything. It was honestly annoying. Who doesn’t lie? So I believed him, even though most people might not have. Besides, something was making the machine go nuts like that. So I said, “I’m not letting you go without a fight.” He started to say something, but I cut him off. “The boat. We’ll take it across the lake and hide in the woods.” He frowned, saying it was worth a shot. That was his first lie.
[Dark, foreboding music starts playing.]
Janie: On the boat, he told me the rest. The aliens were unearthly tall beings, with what looked like long cloaks covering their bodies. He called one of them -
Voice: The Queen.
Janie: ... yeah. That. At some point he slipped onto a ship traveling back to Earth. It was nearly 250 years since his disappearance, and everything was different. He climbed into a tree to get his bearings and saw... me.
[The rowing stops. Tom pants, exhausted.]
Janie: Imagine that. You get back to Earth, and the first person you see is me. That has to be kind of a disappointment, huh?
Voice: I wouldn’t say that.
Janie: Thanks. That’s what he said, too. That the second he saw me, it was love at first sight. They’d have to drag him back off this planet, kicking and screaming. Which, of course, they did. He stopped rowing in the middle of the lake. “We’re too late,” he said. I took the oars but he stopped me, and pointed up. At it.
[There's a low hum.]
Janie: I expected lights or a shadow, like you’d see in a movie. But what I saw was like a lazy mirror spread across the sky. It was reflecting what was below, but... also... not?
[Air wooshes and rushes all around them.]
Janie: What was right above us when I looked up was... Summerwind. Seen from above, like the house had followed us somehow. And even though I had the sense that whatever it was had stopped directly above us, the reflection across its bottom slowly continued to move, past Summerwind, through the yard, over the machine, out over the water, like a single strip of the Earth suddenly started rotating more slowly.
[There's a mechanical hissing sound.]
Janie: Something in the underbelly of the reflection slid open, and there was this awful noise. I screamed.
[Tom makes harried effort noises as he tries to hold onto the boat. A humming, probing sound begins to move around them, getting louder and more pronounced with each iteration.]
Janie: When I looked back up, Tom was clinging to the boat with both hands, his legs floating up into the air. He was frantic, eyes bulging, sweat pouring. The light didn’t touch me. It didn’t care about me. It only cared about him, and I knew if I grabbed for him, that light might start to care about me, too. Then Tom lost his grip. He shook his head, trying to stop me grabbing for him. But I didn’t see that. I saw a boy in a tree, producing a kite like a rabbit out of a hat. I saw a girl too scared to try but also too scared to give up. I saw him, and I saw me, and I saw what I had to lose. So I jumped.
[Janie grunts with effort as she lunges after Tom.]
Janie: And I caught him. He laughed. “Eyes on me, Janey-Jane.” So we stared into each other’s eyes. The pull from the ship was so strong, but I wasn’t going to let him go. They couldn’t take him just because they wanted him. He looked down and saw my feet slipping clear of the boat. He shook his head, and he whispered to me. And even though I couldn’t hear anything else over the endless noise of that endless ship, I heard this: “I ran across a whole galaxy to find you once. I can do it again.” And he pulled away.
[Tom cries out as there is a fleshy ripping sound.]
Janie: His whole arm came loose. He pinwheeled away from me, streaming blood.I crashed back onto the boat and hit my head.
[All sound cuts out.]
Janie: I passed out.
[A woosh, and the sound returns. The lake is peaceful now.]
Janie: When I woke up, he was gone. His arm was laying next to me, so I pushed it into the lake.
Janie: When I got back to shore, it was too quiet. The birds were gone, the insects. The machine was stock still. I was deeply offended by how it had abandoned me. I sat down, and I stared at it, waiting for it to call him back.
[A blare from a police siren, followed by a crash of thunder. We return to the storm.]
Janie: I was still staring when the police arrived to ask their questions.
[A bit of chatter from a police radio.]
Janie: Of course... that’s just one way it might have happened. There’s a whole other story.
[Another blast of thunder, and all the sound fades away.]
Announcer: Part Three: The Wild Hunt.
[The familiar sounds of the basement. Tom grunts as he works on something.]
Janie: The morning he vanished, Tom woke up before the sun.
[Objects clatter as Tom moves them around.]
Janie: He woke me up, too. Our bedroom was on the second floor, and he was in the basement, but I heard him cursing up a storm in my sleep. When I got to his lab, he was covered in dirt, shoving around the stuff down there.
Voice: Wait. I thought it was empty.
Janie: Right. You’re right. It was. It was empty. I just mean that my family stored some junk down there. That was what Tom was shoving around. Old boxes full of crap nobody had looked at in years.
[Footsteps as Janie enters. A soft meow.]
Janie: “Look what the cat dragged in,” he said. There was a kitten on his workbench, pitch black, purring happily next to a little saucer. Tom tried to move an old piano aside. I went to help him, and he waved me off, said I shouldn’t. I asked why he was up so early, he pointed at the kitten. “She got in somehow,” he said. “She was just sitting on my workbench.” I asked him how she managed to wake him but he went back to moving the piano.
[The piano groans as Tom tries to move it.]
Janie: And then he figured it out. After he moved the family piano aside, he opened up just enough of a gap to see behind the furnace. “There’s a space back here,” he said. “She must have gotten in that way” He wedged his arm in, up to his shoulder, and... I don’t really remember what he found. It must not be important.
[Ominous music begins playing. The hum of the machine fades in.]
Janie: He was going to try to cover up the hole until our handyman Dorothy could help with a permanent fix. He didn’t want my help, so I did my chores, hung the laundry. It was a gorgeous day. I had half a mind to go for a swim, when I saw the machine. It seemed it was spinning more quickly than usual. How I knew that, I couldn’t have told you. It creeped me out.
[Footsteps as Tom moves to the machine.]
Janie: Suddenly Tom was there, moving the machine, pointing it in another direction. The kitten followed him, pouncing on something in the grass. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that if they could get in through the tunnels - and they could - then he had always been looking in the wrong place. What the hell? He shook his head and said I wouldn’t understand. “I want to understand,” I said. He just went back to working on the machine. He wasn’t listening.
[A clap of thunder. Rain falls.]
Janie: That last year at Summerwind, I would be talking to my mom and she would say, “Janie girl, are you okay?” “Of course I am,” I said. When I was in college, my troupe went on a tour of Europe. We stopped in Amsterdam, and I went to this old church to explore. An artist had shattered a bunch of mirrors and laid them on the floor. They looked up at the ceiling in bits and pieces, like there was another world where everything was built of jagged edges. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve hated mirrors. I don’t like the person I see there. She feels like an impostor. The real me has always been elsewhere. But when I looked in those mirrors, I felt like I finally saw myself - split into pieces and not in a hurry to come back together.
Janie: That was what I couldn’t tell my mom that last year in Summerwind. I knew things were coming apart, but it made sense that they were. I felt like I was finally back inside that mirror, waiting for someone to sweep up my pieces so no one would stab themselves on me.
[The rain fades away. The machine starts to make the alarm sounds.]
Janie: Everything else I told you was true. Tom wouldn’t tell me who was coming. The machine started going off. He tried to get me to go. I didn’t want to go. And then he told me the craziest thing. He said the cat was a spy.
[Distant and distorted, we hear another meow from the kitten.]
Janie: He was a mess, and the alarm kept blaring, so I suggested the lake. Going across to the forest. I scooped up the kitten, because whatever was about to happen shouldn’t happen to her. But he put her in the bathroom and closed the door. Her little paw poked out from underneath. “ She’s watching us for her.” he said. “Who’s her?” I said. And he said, “The Queen.”
[A hunting horn rings out.]
Janie: “The Queen of what, Tom?” I barely hear him when he says “The Queen of the Fairies.” Yup. The queen of the fairies. He said he was her most trusted knight. She had fallen in love with him, and it wasn’t mutual. She was married to the king anyway. Real Lancelot and Guinevere B.S. He would escape, and she would use her wild hunt to track him down and take him back.
[Another blast from the hunting horn.]
Janie: But then... enter Janie. He said he loved me. That he could only stay bound to the human world through the bonds of true love. So I was his escape. I said that was an awful thing to say about the woman carrying his child - yes, I was pregnant at the time, it’s not relevant - he said when he saw me from that tree, he knew I was his true love. That’s a lot to put on a girl, you know?“ “You are the one and only person who can save me.” Flattering maybe, but I don’t like anybody who tries to make me anything more than Janie Lynnwood. I’m just... me.
[Two more blasts of the hunting horns, now sounding much closer. There's the sounds of hooves and of a whinnying horse.]
He saw I was lost in that thought, so he said, “Eyes on me, Janey- Jane.” It was like I saw him for the first time. He glowed a little in the moonlight, and I remembered that first night in Highland Falls. We went for ice cream. On the way out of the shop, I dropped mine. A lot of guys would have bought me more or given me their cone, but Tom... dropped his too. “Now we’re equally unhappy,” he said. For some reason, I liked that. And just as I’m remembering that, I see the look of terror in his eyes.
[There's a delicate tinkling sound.]
Janie: I turned to look, and the kitten was standing on the shore of the lake. At least until she... unfurled.
[Bones snap and flesh rips as the kitten changes shape.]
Janie: That’s the only word for it. She began to open up toward the sky, like a plant. And from her emerged a woman, tall and regal and dressed in a cloak. And I knew her at once for who she was. She was The Queen, and she had come to take him back. And I wasn’t going to let her. The Queen raised her hands and brought them together.
Janie: They rolled like thunder. Tom clutched at his skin. Short, bristly hairs were sprouting from it.
[A growing, shuddering sound.]
Janie: He said, “Hold me tight, for I may change.” So I did. I put my arms around him, and I held him tight as he changed.
[Tom makes incoherent, delirious noises. His clothes rip.]
Janie: I didn’t have a great line of sight, but The Queen seemed like she was rocking back and forth and humming to herself, and Tom began to unfurl too.
[A bear growls.]
Janie: First, he became a bear, and he raged against me to let him go, but I held on.
[A mountain lion snarls. The music ends.]
Janie: Then a mountain lion, snarling and biting. But I redoubled my efforts. I could see how furious The Queen was getting. But I had held him as he changed, time and again. That’s all a marriage is, really.
[A wolf howl.]
Janie: Then he turned into a wolf, and he kicked right at my abdomen, and I...
[A striking, discordant chord. The sounds of the lake fade away. The rain returns.]
Voice: And you lost the baby.
Janie: In some version others... no. I have no baby in my arms, but maybe she's sleeping upstairs. The next morning, I returned to shore and saw the tracks of a large dog disappearing into the nearby woods. He had gone with The Queen... with you... back home.
The Queen: I was not the one who took him.
Janie: I don’t see anybody else who’s six feet tall and dressed in a cloak.
The Queen: There must be several women who match that description.
Janie: You’d be surprised.
The Queen: You’ve told me two stories now, both of which contradict each other, but both of which address one of the mysterious facts of your husband’s disappearance. He lost his arm when the aliens took him. A woman like me was the mysterious presence on the shore.
Janie: Both stories are true. Neither of them is.
The Queen: I see. Quite the puzzle. Okay then. What didn’t happen?
Janie: You know, you’re the first person that’s asked.
[A clap of thunder. The sounds around them fade out.]
Announcer: Part Four: What Didn’t Happen.
[The sounds of the basement again.]
Janie: Grandpa called the furnace in the basement of Summerwind an “octopus.” It had arms reaching up to different vents, spreading heat throughout the whole house. It wasn’t scary, but I was scared of it. I don’t know why I’m saying this. It’s not relevant. It’s -
The Queen: We’re talking about what didn’t happen. Tell me about the furnace.
Janie: There was a room behind it. No. That’s crazy. No, I’d know about a whole room behind the furnace!
The Queen: This didn’t happen. You’re making it all up. So tell me about the room. Tell me, Janie.
[Melancholic music begins playing.]
Janie: Tom squeezed behind the furnace to find the source of the draft. He found a door, open a tiny crack. Tiny cat paw tracks moved through the soot. Tom threw his shoulder into the door to open it more.
[Grunts of effort as Tom tries to open the door. It gives way. Tom steps into the room beyond it.]
Janie: It was a small, square room with a twin bed and a writing desk. A rusty bucket in the corner laid tipped over, and the closet door stood open. There were clothes inside. I could have sworn I wore the dress with the red flowers on it in my first grade picture. Someone had boarded over the windows, but a storm the night before had jarred one just loose enough that the kitten had squeezed her way in and found her way to us.
The Queen: Go on.
Janie: Tom found a stack of drawings on the desk. Done in crayon. A little girl in a dress covered in red flowers was in all of them. As was a woman. A tall woman in a long cloak, with regal bearing. Almost a queen. Sometimes they held hands. Sometimes the queen chased the girl. Sometimes she cradled her. But the two of them - only the two of them - were in the drawings.
The Queen: Had someone signed the drawings?
Janie: I had. I mean, my younger self had. But I don’t remember making those drawings. I don’t remember being in that room. I don’t remember...
The Queen: I remember being in that room.
Janie: You do?
The Queen: Yes. I told Tom all about it. It was a beautiful night, and the kitten followed us outdoors.
[The kitten meows. The machine's hum fades in.]
Janie: I picked her up, and I told him how when you were a little girl, your grandfather had... we’ll call it a religious awakening. He became convinced magic was real and that if he could speak the right words, open the right door, it would make itself known to him. He spent his waning years on this. He failed. Until his granddaughter started telling him about a woman she had met out in the woods. A queen. Who would protect her from monsters.
Janie: Wait. Wait, wait, wait -
The Queen: He would have this little girl - we’ll call her Janie - stare into the fire until she saw the monsters hiding there, until she said the queen had arrived to protect her. Then he would close her in the room with paper, so she might draw this queen and with her the secret knowledge that would hold the doors of magic open for him. He sometimes left Janie in there for days.
Janie: That was supposed to be a secret.
The Queen: Why?
Janie: It was safer that way.
The Queen: He boarded the room up. He left the house to his granddaughter. Out of guilt, I assume. I’ve never much understood what and why humans do.
Janie: So you told all of that to Tom? What did he say?
The Queen: He took your hand, he hugged you, and he told you his story. Would you like to hear it?
[A long pause.]
[There's a sharp wipping sound, and the sounds of a forest on a summer's day appear around us.]
Tom: When she was twenty-five and living in Chicago, my mother saw a miracle.
[Tom's voice is the same as the announcer's.]
Tom: She was walking out on Navy Pier when she happened to look down into the water. And she saw... she saw a woman swimming there, just beneath the surface of Lake Michigan, never coming up for air. My mother leaned down to look more closely, and the woman shook her finger - naughty, naughty - then disappeared into the depths. Of course, my mother thought. Some people live underwater. How did I forget about that? A switch had flipped. She would never see the world the same way again. She would see more. So she said. My whole childhood - I don’t know if I can do this. Sorry.
The Queen: Hey. Eyes on me. I love you, Tom. You don’t have to carry this alone.
Tom: Okay. My whole childhood, she would see things. A fairy or a dragon or, I don’t know, a balrog, and none of us kids would see it, and she would drag us off further into the middle of nowhere, because magic, would you believe it, congregates in cities? Who’d have thunk! My dad had enough when I was eleven and split. Well, if you believe her, my dad was a fairy prince who seduced her in the Krasberg rose garden, then left her with a kid. So obviously I’m a special prince.
Tom: I’m not a special prince. She was lying. She was a dangerously unstable woman, who was terrified of magical creatures but also trying to get them to accept her as one of them, living with six kids out in the woods, in a house that was cold, cramped, and dirty. I was the oldest, so I had to protect the others from her. When... when my sister died -
Tom: When Robin died, mom made me go dig a grave for her out among the trees. It was winter, and there I was, 13 years old, digging a grave. I don’t remember where Robin’s buried. Upstate somewhere.
The Queen: That’s awful.
[Tom laughs ruefully.]
Tom: Yeah. My mom left one day and never came back. A few weeks later, she mailed me the schematics for a machine that was supposed to detect magical beings. She said when I got settled, to build one and wait for her to come calling. Which implies she got what she wanted, and traded us in for that. Good for her? Joke’s on her. If that thing goes off, I’m not sticking around to find out who’s come calling. I’ll kill her before I let her near you.
The Queen: This stuff breaks people, Tom. They turn into beasts out in the woods. They chase and they chase and they chase, and they never get any closer to it. It was magic for your mom and my grandpa, but it could be money or God or love or having a baby or anything. People will give themselves away if they think something will solve them. [gradually starts sounding more like Janie] But look at what they tried to do to us, and we survived. We lived, Tom. We goddamn lived. And we found each other.
Janie: That’s the miracle. The odds were against us, but we -
[She takes a deep breath.]
Janie: I'm pregnant.
Tom: Wait. Really?
[They both laugh, very happy.]
Tom: Oh my God, Janie!
[The alarm from the machine starts going off.]
[The lake. Tom grunts with effort as he rows the boat.]
Janie: He tried to get me to go. He said I still had a shot at escaping before she arrived. but I wouldn’t go. I said we should take the boat. Out in the middle of the lake, he just stopped and stood up, looking back toward the shore.
[The rowing stops. Waves crash agains the boat.]
Janie: I didn’t see anything when I turned to look. “Eyes on me, Janey-Jane,” he said. He looked scared. Sweaty. He looked small. I could see the parts of him that would make a good dad and the parts that wouldn’t. I could see the parts of him that would keep us together forever and the parts that would make me leave. Then he took my head and turned it to look back to shore. He pointed exactly where I was supposed to look, and he said, “Do you see her?” He started yelling at her, telling her to come and get him. I wanted to see something. I tried to see something. I strained so hard I made the air go fuzzy. But I never saw anything. The shore was empty.
Janie: He was broken. He was always broken, but I was broken, too. I thought it was enough. It should...
[A blast of thunder.]
The Queen: Go on.
Janie: He backed away from me suddenly, clearly terrified. He very nearly tripped over the edge of the boat, but I caught him in time. His grip felt loose in my hand, like some part of him was already going away. “Stay away from us,” he said, and “I told you never to talk to me again,” and “If you think you’ll get to see our baby...” I was watching him change. Before my very eyes. Into someone I could no longer hold onto.
[Melancholic music begins playing.]
Janie: And then he shook off my hand, and he shouted, “I see it too!” He dove into the water, swimming away from the boat as fast as he could. I thought about following. I did. But it suddenly got very dark, like something was in the sky, blocking out the moon and stars. So I thought I should stay with the boat. I heard him splashing further and further away from the boat. And then I heard nothing at all. Just the wind on the water and the barking of a dog in the distance.
The Queen: You don’t have to finish the story, Janie. I know how it ends.
Janie: A half-hour later, I heard him again. “Janie, I don’t know where I am.” I called to him, trying to guide him. But I had no light to shine, and West Bay Lake is huge. They never found a body. Just an arm. I heard him one last time, that night out on the boat. “Janie. I’ve found us a home at the bottom of the lake. It’s so beautiful.” And then he was silent. I half thought I hallucinated those last words. But I think he might be there, in the lake, waiting for me to move in.
Janie: Wherever he went, I couldn’t follow. And then you showed up in the boat, urging me to keep going, for the baby, if nothing else. I rowed back to shore. I stopped the alarm. I waited for him to come back. Three whole days. Your standard miracle unit. When he didn’t, I finally left Summerwind.
[The sounds of the lake fade away.]
Janie: Alice said I could move into her family’s house in Highland Falls. I needed to be away from all magic real or imaginary, and Highland Falls fit that bill. The last morning I was there, the landline phone I kept forgetting we had rang abruptly. I felt such dread, but I picked up anyway. “Where’s Tom?” said a voice I’d never heard. “Where’s my son?” I hung up immediately, and I got in my car, and I’m never going back.
[The music ends. All sounds fade away.]
Announcer: Part Five: The Queen.
[The ambiance from the start of the episode returns. The rain has stopped.]
Janie: Can I ask you a question?
The Queen: Of course.
Janie: Why are you here? I mean, I can guess. Maybe I’m losing it, and I hallucinated someone to talk to. Or maybe you’re some sort of supernatural something I’m able to see for some reason. Maybe you’re like a brain worm that Tom or my grandfather or someone passed on. Maybe I’m just making you up.
The Queen: Janie. I only ever show up for one reason. I was never chasing Tom. I was never chasing you either. I was trying to protect you. To warn you. You do this, Janie. You take things you don’t want to think about and build stories on top of them. You have since you were a small girl. It’s a gift. It’s part of why I love you so fiercely and why I will protect you until the ends of the earth. But it’s also keeping you from seeing things as they are.
[In another room, a baby starts to cry.]
Janie: If you’re here to protect me, you can go. I’m safe in Highland Falls. Blessed solstice to you. Please leave.
The Queen: Your husband disappeared one year ago and here you sit, staring out the window as though you expect him to arrive imminently.
Janie: Maybe he will! If he comes back, he will tonight.
The Queen: Do you believe that?
Janie: He’s dead. Whatever magic there is in the world, it’s not bringing him back. And that I turned to you, my oldest companion, to keep vigil with me doesn’t bode well, huh?
The Queen: I wouldn’t say that. I was never trying to warn you about him. I was trying to tell you that sometimes, two people who have each suffered greatly are drawn together for reasons they don’t quite understand. That bond can feel more powerful than life or death. But it is a house built upon a rotten foundation. Secrets eat away at the wood until everything you’ve built splinters. I worried about you returning to the heart of your secrets. I wasn’t protecting you from each other. I was protecting you both from the past. This is a fairy tale, after all. The monsters in it are real.
Janie: I know this story. I wrote it.
[The baby cries again.]
The Queen: Go. I’ll keep the watch.
Janie: If you see him...
The Queen: I will call.
[Footsteps as Janie goes into another room.]
[The baby cries. Janie picks him up.]
Janie: Hey, hey, hey... shh, shh, it’s okay. It’s okay. Mommy’s here, my love. Eyes on me. Eyes on me.
[Slowly, the sounds of the crying child fade out and transition to the Unseen Credits music.]
Announcer: This has been UNSEEN, by Long Story Short Productions, based on an original idea by Gabriel Urbina, with additional conceptual design work by Sarah Shachat. Today’s episode was written by Emily VanDerWerff and Libby Hill and directed by Zach Valenti, with script editing by Gabriel Urbina and Sarah Shachat. It starred Libby Woodbridge in the role of Janie Lynnwood. It also featured Mark Pagán as Tom Lynnwood. Original Music by Alan Rodi. This episode also features Oval Window by Yehezkel Raz. Sound design by Zach Valenti. UNSEEN is produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina, along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay. For more information on the Unseen World, please visit Unseen.Show. Thank you for listening.
[Music fades out.]
End of Episode.
© Long Story Short Productions 2021