Chapter Four Transcript

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Futamatànain shara shikara pivo Namane má-ith. Eh, thauta-!-rifu tu shikatárapa, uathtá llimisipu? Eh, tu akipa. Nillá Sicrata Sause. Ipa shara nillà kruthú mâ-ith pivo akimá. Athsà pivo ikruthú futasha, shautì Priesa Afista shauti. Iparòstethìshasha grasa. Aki Secrata Sause, na-in multipaliarapa na-in kath shilara kai ashilara. Iath ushautì? Tha nillà. Secrata Sause: Garina Wecapa goshá.

 

Alicia (Narrating)

This is Alicia August, and you're listening to Seeds.

 

Intro music

 

Alicia (Narrating)

Okay, so that's a weird commercial, I know. When I went back to my house, someone had left it on top of my computer, along with three kilos, cash. They also left a note which said "Play this and there will be no more." So… well, you know. Money. Plus, it's not like the Namanes are going to stop paying me for advertising. Once this is all over and the Order stops trying to silence me, maybe I'll get to try that new beer. 

 

By the time I woke up, I realised I had learned exactly nothing. 

Since the previous morning, I'd only come to more questions – not conclusions. 

In fact, the only concrete conclusion I had was that someone was lying. Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane? Definitely, but about what and why, I may never know. The New High Priest? Definitely. But, again, maybe he was only lying because the Namanes’ obstinacy forced him to.

I set off to see Sam Frinka, hoping maybe he could answer some, if not all of my questions: 

- What was the exact time that you saw Ianderu McConnell that night?

- What exactly was he screaming through the door? 

- Why did you testify at the trial? 

- Did someone ask you? 

- Were you interrogated? 

- Why wasn’t Ianderu McConnell allowed to speak at his own trial? 

Sam Frinka’s house is about a forty minute walk from mine, so I decided to walk through the woods to get there. I have no intention of ever braving a journey through the dust dunes. 

Footsteps walking through a wood

Plus, there’s something about the ruins, hidden in the trees that makes me feel as if I’m part of some kind of delicate secret. What that secret is, I can never tell. But, it’s comforting all the same – to feel like someone, somewhere is in control of it all. Then, when I think deeper about it, the existential dread hits me. No one’s in control. You are alone. Just another meatsack, controlled by an organic computer, that you only have an illusory control over. 

A rat squeaks.

About a hundred metres in from the edge of my clearing, something squawked. A huge rat – dirty-white with a brown stripe – ripped into a bird’s belly, with its three-inch-long buck teeth. I guessed this was my current house guest – but, why was it out this far? Surely I would have seen it, running around in my clearing? 

Alicia stamps at the rat. 

Alicia (Narrating)

I stamped at the rat, but it didn’t move, so I kicked it. It ran away. The bird had managed to fight well enough, so I figured it would live. Not that it mattered. The rat would just find something else to eat. I couldn’t really blame it for that, either. Should I feel bad for taking away its food? Or should I feel good for saving a life? I opted not to feel anything at all. 

The rest of my journey to Frinka’s was pretty patchy. I followed a sound here, investigated a different route there. On some level, I think I thought a random path to Frinka’s place might cross with Ianderu McConnell’s on the night of the murder – and maybe, just maybe... 

Here’s the thing; Samuel Frinka was a notorious recluse. He was one of the original founders of Silitra. He got here long before I did – long before most people did. 

Samuel Frinka was the only person in the whole of Silitra who knew how to distil and purify water. If it wasn’t for him, none of us would have anything to drink except irradiated water and sub-standard beer – also irradiated. 

That’s why, as Samuel got older, unwiser and more belligerent, the town gave him some space. He didn’t want to be bothered by us, and we didn’t really care, so long as the water rations kept coming. 

You see, Samuel and the priests had never really seen eye to eye. They hated each other. The Priests maintained that Samuel was a detractor, and if it wasn’t for his skill in purifying water, he would have been exiled to the Shirklands years ago. According to the Priests, Frinka hated Silitra’s foundations of logic and rationale. He wanted a more free, open society, where people could discuss ideas that were, perhaps, illogical – even absurd. 

He once wrote a book, called “The Woman Who Sang”, which I definitely don’t have a copy of, and I’ve certainly never read. But someone I knew, who has since passed away, had read it: 

It’s basically about this woman who learns to sing in an old, forgotten language, then sings it so much that her throat rips open and she drowns in her own blood. 

Fun story. 

I didn’t, and still don’t, really get the point, but I guess there must have been more to it, because the Priests found every copy they could, and burned them. They said the book was incongruous, and thus, illogical, and thus, must be destroyed, for the good of the nation. 

Not much is known about the old world, but we do know incongruent ideas led to its destruction. We can’t afford anything of that sort in the new world. 

I think… I think they would have liked to punish Samuel Frinka, but Samuel Frinka holds all the cards here. Without water, there wouldn’t be any Aphist Priests at all. 

You can smell Sam Frinka’s house before you can see it. Whatever his secret process is, its acrid stench wafts for miles. Most people don’t even think twice about how it’s made – myself included. They just want to drink it. Just when the stench becomes too much to bear – burning through your eyes, even with the lids closed – you see the steeple of his house, rising up from behind a hill, between the mismatched oak and birch trees which guard his little clearing. 

Through the fumes, you have to flit your eyes open and closed, to balance the amount of pain you suffer, while still getting to see where you’re going. 

Inside a large oak tree, I noticed a family of squirrels, seemingly unperturbed by the smells emanating from Frinka’s plant. 

I felt a little squeak of joy to see two older squirrels playing with their baby squirrels, trying to break some hard object – though I couldn’t see what it was – living a life in which history didn’t exist. Though, I guess it doesn’t for us, either. 

Frinka’s house sits in a dip, behind a hill. It looks less like a clearing and more like a dump; old machinery, piles of rusted metal girders and rocks. There’s even a huge metal container, just lying on its side, at the eastern edge of the clearing. 

From the top of the hill, I could see the militia captain and a few of his subordinates, milling about, outside Frinka’s house. Well, what used to be Frinka’s house...

A couple of the militiamen dumped buckets of unpurified water all over the charred remains of what was once Silitra’s most important citizen’s abode. 

I asked one of the militiamen where their captain was. He pointed me to the rear of the house. 

 

A recording of Alicia's conversation with the Militia Captain. In the distance, milita shout to each other, dumping buckets of water. 

 

Alicia 

Excuse me, what’s happened here. 

Militia Captain 

Get out of here. 

Alicia 

I’m here to speak with Mr. Frinka. 

Militia Captain 

Good luck. 

Alicia (Narrating)

So, here’s the thing. Remember when I said Samuel Frinka was a notorious recluse? Well, was was the operative word there: 

When I arrived at the back of the house, the Militia Captain was dumping more water onto its charred remains. Except, they weren’t the remains of the house… 

The Captain stood in my way, so it was difficult to get a good look -- but, laying face down outside the back door, like a picture of a failed escape, a small, skinny, nervous corpse lay, burnt, in the blackened grass. 

Alicia 

Is that Mr Frinka? 

Alicia (Narrating)

The Captain nodded. I’m ashamed to say, my eyes started to well up. I tried to push the tears back, but the more I tried, the harder they pushed back. I didn’t weep, but the tears rolled, nonetheless. I never knew Samuel Frinka. No one did. I’d only seen him once, at Ianderu’s trial – yet, still, I couldn’t help it. Incongruous. Why cry for someone you never knew? 

Alicia 

How did it happen? 

Militia Captain 

The house was set on fire from the–

Deputy High Priest 

Mazin. I will deal with her. 

Alicia (Narrating)

Weird. I’d known the Militia Captain my whole life – only in passing – but it had never occured to me that he had an actual name. Mazin… Seems strange. Doesn’t fit for me. I guess, when you associate someone with a feeling, like the Militia Captain’s constant umbrage, you dissociate them from their humanity. 

High Priest Aarnol exited the burning building, his hands and face covered in soot. His face seemed polite enough, but you could tell those were just his manners. The face beneath his face screamed at me to leave. His hands shook. His body trembled. This upstart bitch was the last person he wanted to see right now. 

It was the perfect time to ask him some questions. 

Alicia 

What happened here? 

Deputy High Priest 

Nothing that concerns you. 

 

Public Service Announcement

A creepy bell plays an oddly familiar tune.

Time for a public service announcement from the priests of the Aphist Order. Prep. The end of childhood and the beginning of adventure. It’s hard to say goodbye when you’ve only just gotten to know your little ones. But, how great it will be to see them when they return, just a short 18 years later, grown, matured and built to build a better future for everyone in Silitra. When the Preppers come knocking, don’t be frightened or sad. That’s illogical, irrational and counter-productive. Instead, express sincere gratitude that your little ones are so much luckier than you were. If you know of any children between the ages of 5 and 15 who have not yet gone to Prep, alert the Aphist Order immediately. It’s for your safety and the safety of all our futures. This has been a public service announcement from the Priests of the Aphist Order. Thank you.

 

The creepy bell plays again.

Back to the recording outside Samuel Frinka's house.

 

Alicia 

What happened here? 

Deputy High Priest 

Nothing that concerns you. 

Alicia 

Water concerns me. I’m pretty sure it concerns everyone. 

Deputy High Priest 

There is no concern about the water. 

Alicia 

What do you mean? 

Deputy High Priest 

We found instructions. Mr. Frinka left it in a safe in the house. Presumably, he wanted us to find it. 

Alicia 

Yeah, that doesn’t sound like something Samuel Frinka would do… 
 

Deputy High Priest 

And how would you know that, Alicia August -- the useless girl who couldn't contribute? 

Alicia (Narrating)

That hurt. I know most of you have real jobs. I know most of you deliver water, or scavenge for parts, or design building, or build those buildings, or farm, or medicate, or do whatever you do to grow this nation. I know that most of you think I’m useless. But, if that were true, why are you still listening? 

Deputy High Priest 

Go home. Leech. 

 

Alicia 

I want to know what happened here. 

Deputy High Priest 

What? For your show? You leech. A man has committed suicide and here you are trying to suck out any morsel you can. I know what you’ve been doing. Poor Mary-Anne– 

Alicia (Narrating)

(Sigh) 

– Elizabeth Namane–

Deputy High Priest 

–walked all the way into town last night, to see me. Why are you asking questions about that man? 

Alicia 

It's my job. 

Deputy High Priest 

No! You don’t have a job. You make entertainment from the misery of others and leech off the rest of us. 

Alicia 

Why won’t you let Ianderu McConnell speak? 

Alicia (Narrating)

At that, the New High Priest directed the Militia Captain to escort me off the premises – but not before he searched me, thoroughly. He even checked in a few illogical places, though no one else seemed to mind. 

Alicia 

What are you looking for? 

Militia Captain 

For your own sake, be quiet. 

Alicia (Narrating)

Was it too convenient that Frinka died just as I was going to question him? Or was it just a coincidence? Sam Frinka was a lonely man. Maybe he’d just had enough of loneliness. 

 

And, what were they looking for? They’d obviously searched the house, looking for something. 

Even though Samuel Frinka’s corpse lay, stuck to the ground, halfway in and halfway out of his house, the New High Priest had managed to get all the way into the house, find Frinka’s safe, and collect the water purification procedure that Frinka had spent fifteen years hiding. 

But, that wasn’t what they were looking for? They searched me. 

The New High Priest surely knew that I was coming to see him, considering he knew so much else. What had Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane told him? 

More than anything, I wanted to talk to Ianderu McConnell to find out, from him, why he murdered the High Priest Maté. 

But that was never going to happen. With Samuel Frinka dead and Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane spooked, I had no more leads to go on. 

Sure, there were weird things that needed answers: 

- The Namanes’ clock 

- The skewed timeline of that night 

- The Deputy High Priest’s lies 

- And, now, Samuel Frinkas untimely- potentially convenient -- death 

 

But, 

- The Namanes were a no go 

- I couldn’t work out the timeline without Frinka 

- The Deputy High Priest would never speak to me without hard evidence

- And Frinka’s house had burnt down, probably along with everything inside. 

On that last point, I thought, maybe, in a few days, I’d go back to search Frinka’s house. Maybe the Militia and the New High Priest would miss something. Maybe I could find whatever they were looking for. 

As I walked through the forest, I told myself over and over again, like a mantra: “You’re not a leech. You’re not a leech.” But, I didn’t believe myself. 

I decided to go back the way I came – the long walk would clear my head. And besides, I wanted to see that family of squirrels again. Maybe they’d made more progress than I had. 

Then, I heard this: 

Forest noises. Wind rustles through the trees.

Voice 

(Unclear) 

Alicia. Alicia. Alicia. 

Alicia (Narrating)

Was that my name? 

Voice 

Alicia. Alicia. Alicia. 
 

Alicia (Narrating)

I followed the voice, and it led me straight back to that tree, where the squirrels had been playing. Except, when I got to their home-hole, they weren’t playing. 

All six of them, mom and dad, and the four babies stood to attention, their chins pointing upwards – except one, whose eyes followed me as I moved closer. 

Voice 

Alicia. Alicia. Alicia. 

Alicia (Narrating)

The squirrel spoke. It’s tiny arms outstretched, offering me whatever it was they had been playing with when I arrived. 

I thought, okay, maybe– maybe the fumes from Samuel Frinka’s plant, combined with the fire, had gone to my head. Maybe I was just really high. Dangerously high. 

I walked away from the squirrel, hoping the fresh air would reclaim my sanity, leaving my recorder on, so I could listen to this later, when the fumes wore off. 
 

Sounds of Alicia walking through the forest.

I don’t know why I snuck away. They were just a bunch of squirrels, then– 

RUSTLING of tiny feet, as the squirrels chase her.

I stopped – turned around. 

 

The talking squirrel stood behind me, back on its hind legs, offering me the small, black token. 

Voice 

Alicia. Alicia. Alicia.

 

Alicia (Narrating)

Tripping or not, I ran as fast as I could through the forest. I just wanted to get back home and chug Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s Namane Extra Strength – and a few more for good measure. 

Alicia runs through the forest.

Alicia (Narrating)

Through the trees, at that place, you can’t see anything except more trees, but I knew my house was about ten minutes away, at this pace, if I could keep it up. Bryony and I had played down here when we were kids. 

You could still see the marks in the trees, from when we’d played treasure hunters, hiding trinkets and then making maps and clues for each other to follow: 

Alicia stops running.

Alicia (Narrating)

I stopped running. The squirrel stood in front of me – it's upturned mouth looked like it was laughing at me. But that’s stupid – incongruous – squirrels don’t laugh. 

Voice 

Alicia. Alicia. Alicia. 

Alicia (Narrating)

All around me, on various branches, in small nooks, the other squirrels stared at me. They snarled.

Alicia 

What do you want? 

Alicia (Narrating)

It felt stupid, asking a bunch of squirrels what they wanted. But, they clearly wanted something. 

 

I approached the Papa squirrel – slowly, in case it – I don’t know, bit me? – to get a closer look at what he was holding. 

The little black object was an ancient USB Drive. From the old world. 

Did the squirrel want me to take it? 

 

As I reached out to take it, the squirrel leaned closer, as if to confirm my suspicions. I lifted it out of the squirrels arms and… the voice stopped.

Voice

Alicia. Ali–

Alicia (Narrating)

The squirrel shook its head, like it had just awoken from a strange dream. It looked up at me, tilted its head, then darted away, back into the depths of the forest. 

When I looked around again, the rest of the squirrels had disappeared, too. I got home. First, I knocked back a whole bottle of Namane. My nerves needed to settle. 

This story was never supposed to be about me – but somehow, I’d become an active participant. I didn’t know how or why. Maybe I’m just fucking crazy. Maybe those fumes messed with my head. Maybe there weren’t any squirrels. Maybe there were and I just projected a hallucination onto them. 

The only thing that was for certain was this: When my heart finally calmed down, and my head stopped squirming around, trying to make something logical out of what I’d just seen – it didn’t – I opened my left hand. 

Even if nothing else was real, that USB Drive was. It even left a white imprint in my hand, where I’d clutched it for the last three hours. 

I got one of my antique converters, plugged it into my computer and loaded up the drive. There was just one file: 

 

“Shauti?” “Sauti?” “Sooty?”

 

“#3111” 

I pressed play:

Recording

Ianderu… Audátaupa llistye gósha, faratága !uru. Nautaupa llimisishá. Naudátaupá akitè gósha. Aki fita, etàtama. Etátama. N shikarapa ushára, shikarapa llimisisháshá. 

Alicia (Narrating)

What the fuck? 

 

Outro music