Chapter three Transcript
Intro chime plays
For most of us, the older we get, the less we want to change. Well, here at Namane, we might be twenty-years-old, but we love change. That’s why we’ve remixed our recipe almost every year since Namane began all those years ago – even keeping some of your favourites, like Namane Extra Strength. One thing we’ll never change? Our pure, de-radiated water, taken from the deepest depths of the earth, mixed with the freshest hops, wheat and grass, to give you the cleanest tasting drinkin’ in town. Namane beer: It’s purer than water.
This is Alicia August and you’re listening to Seeds.
Same intro music as always, but this time with indiscernible chanting.
Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane lives a few kilometers from the High Priest’s house, in a huge, immaculate structure that she faux-humbly calls a house. It looks like one of those tiny houses you might see at the Museo Magnifica.
I decided to take the long route from my place. I could have gotten there quicker, but that route would have taken me through the red dusts. I know, I know, many of you think the dust dunes are harmless, but, if that were truly true, why don’t more of you go to visit them? Because you know it means death.
So, paranoid superstition or not, I didn’t want to journey through the dust dunes, just to save twenty minutes or so.
As soon as you enter the gates – about a kilometer from her front door, it looms from atop an autumnal-red hill – we used to call it a burnt back hill, but that’s another story.
Below the house, about a hundred Multipliers pick wheat, hops and grass for the beer that makes the Namane’s living for them. Namane beer: the best beer in Silitra. Well, it’s the only beer in Silitra, so I guess it’s good?
An echo of the indiscernible chanting from the intro music quickly fades in and back out again.
As I stepped up to the door, I caught my reflection in an old shard of glass. It must have been humid, because my hair had frizzed up into an unruly puff of red fur. Not how I wanted to look for my interview with Silitra’s unanointed first lady.
I knocked. Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane is hard of hearing, so I guess she must have been waiting right next to the door, because before I got to my third knock, the door swung wide open.
You don’t get too many visitors out this far. Also, Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane was dressed in the finest clothes I’d ever seen outside of camera pictures: a purple, neckless, strapless, tube top, with pants made of that incredibly rare Lycra Matérial – the process for which we’ve lost.
Added to that, she wore a pair of vintage, mesh ballroom shoes, complete with the big tick detail that used to symbolise the social stature of the wearer. Tacky. My anxiety about my hair subsided when I saw that her own hair had peeled back at the seams, revealing that she was in fact wearing a wig. Maybe I should have said something, but nerves got the better of me.
I’d sent word ahead, to tell her I was on my way over, but I never said why.
A recording: outdoor sounds of rustling grass and insects.
Please make yourself at house in my home– I mean in my house, make it home… Come on in.
I’m so glad I caught that. You might think it’s paranoid, but I always leave at least one of my recorders on. You never know what you might catch when you listen back.
On the way to the kitchen, through the house’s long hallway, punctuated by door after door, leading to the various wings of the home, you’ll find pictures dotted along each wall. They tell a story about the happiest couple who ever lived – Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane and her husband, Bertrand.
The day they met, at a funfair, where they fell in love. A couple of holidays to far off places. Their wedding day. The day they broke ground on the building of this house. The day they moved in. Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s funeral. Bertrand’s funeral.
Of course, none of these things ever actually happened. No-one in our lifetimes has ever seen a real fun fair. No-one’s even sure exactly what they were, or what was so fun about them.
There are no holidays. There’s nowhere else to go.
Every one of these pictures was a fabrication. That’s all pictures are, anyway – a way to present your life to the world, in the way you wish people would see it. Seems pretty vain, but then, who am I to judge. I make a living by speaking about other people’s lives, as if I’m genuinely emotionally invested in them.
Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane led me past her wall of charades and into her kitchen, which had been built and set up to look almost like it was some kind of old farmhouse kitchen, with fresh cow’s milk and baked bread laid out – along with plenty of other pieces of long extinct fruits and vegetables. All of them, plastic.
A recording of Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s and Alicia’s conversation.
Is this gonna be on your pitchcast?
Do you listen to the show?
I’ll listen to this one, for sure.
Before we got started, Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane made us both a cup of nettle tea. She went to spoon some sugar into my tea, but missed, spilling it all over the table. She apologised for the error, but I wasn’t judging.
I’ll do your little show on one condition.
You gotta use my full name, everytime you say it. That’s the Namane brand. You ain’t gotta pay me, but I best get somethin’ out of it.
To be honest, I wasn’t going to pay Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane, anyway. But, I didn’t understand why that seemed so important to her. Especially since the Namanes run the only beer company in Silitra, so, in the world. She handed me a contract to the effect that if I didn’t use her full name every time I used her name at all, I would have to pay her.
She also offered to pay me for an advertising slot, which I wasn’t about to turn down, no matter what I thought of her.
Got one of them Multipliers, trying to compete. Gotta make sure people don’t go thinkin’ there might be competition now.
Oh, yeah? What are they called?
What? So’s you can blast it all over the pitchfork? And, don’t you dare go takin’ me out of context. I know what you’re like.
Anyway, I signed the contract, and also made a mental note to try out the competition. Maybe Namane beer wasn’t so great after all.
We started off with the same questions the prosecution asked at the trial: Where were you on the night in question…
Sitting right here in this very seat.
What did you see?
Mary Anne points out the window to the forest. It’s about 300 yards away from her house.
I saw that hundan piece of shit running straight past my house, down there. He ran into the forest, towards poor Maté's house, where he killed him.
Speculation. Although, I guess not.
Did you know Maté? Personally?
Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane took a piece of fruit from her bowl; some long, yellow thing. It didn’t look like it could ever have been tasty, but I guess it must have been. Otherwise, why would they make it into plastic.
Did my confessions and my recitations.
But, did you know him personally? Did you ever have dinner together? Play a board game?
Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane looked up to the roof -- thinking about what I’d just asked her. She waited a couple seconds then shook her head.
Would you like a piece of fruit?
I stared down at the bowl of plastic fruits. Some people like to pretend they’re eating a thing that doesn’t exist. They even masticate, like they can taste the taste of a thing they’ve never consumed. My imagination’s not good enough for that.
She handed me a green and red thing -- they used to call it an apple. I recognised it from a torn encyclopedia I saw once at the Museo Magnifica.
Have an orange.
Out of politeness I took the apple.
I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be an apple.
For just a second, her face flashed with anger at me -- kind of like when you prove a schoolteacher that they’re wrong -- but then, remembering her manners, her face became awash with polite indifference:
Oh sweetie, no.
Have you ever seen a piece of fruit before? No, I didn’t think so. Trust me sweetie, it’s an orange. Try it, it’s delicious.
Now she’d removed two pieces from the stack of other exotic fruits, you could see where she’d gnawed on it before. In the bowl, the rest of the fruit rolled around to fit into the gap left by the long, yellow thing and the apple that definitely wasn’t an orange, revealing the balled-up rag she’d used to make it seem like she had more than she really did.
I gnawed on a section of the apple that appeared unscathed.
Nothin’ better than a nice orange on a hot, Petrochin morning.
It’s delicious, thank you.
I tried to imagine what an apple would have tasted like, but then I could never know. This just tasted like plastic, nothing, and stale spit. I wanted this interview to be over before I got the chance to partake in any more of the Namanes’ symbols of wealth.
Okay, and what time was that at exactly? When you saw Ianderu?
Like I said. Ten o’ clock.
Are you sure it was ten o’ clock?
That’s what I told you.
Do you mind my asking, how did you know it was ten o’ clock? It’s just, I don’t see any clocks in this room.
Listen lady, don’t take the Namane name for granted. Everything we say and do is specific down to the millilitre, so it can taste as refreshin’ and pure as possible. And, if I say he was here at ten, I mean he was here at ten – on the button.
I couldn’t tell if that was an argument or an advertisement. Either way, I wasn’t about to push my luck.
Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane said she knew what time it was because of the clock in the hallway. I asked her if she would usually get up and go to see what time it was throughout the day.
I check that clock every hour, on the hour – checkin’ how long ‘til my perfect Bert gets home from workin’ with the Liars.
Liars. She means Multipliers – but then, actually, she does mean Liars. I’ve seen firsthand what “working with the Liars” really means.
I asked Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane if she wouldn’t mind me taking a look around the back, just to see if there was anything the militia might have missed. She gnawed a bit more on her long, yellow fruit, tugging at the end of it which hung on by a thick thread of plastic.
We've got nothin’ to hide…
I doubted that, very much. In this house, there was plenty hiding in plain sight, but you’d never know what it was.
When I first entered, I thought this place looked like a perfect little model – like those old toy houses. Quaint. I even felt that familiar little pang of jealousy. But, now that I’d been sitting there for a while, it all just felt a little… uncanny.
Almost everything you looked at was vintage, but new, including Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane.
The walls are covered in old flowery wallpaper, salvaged from the poisonous wrecks outside Silitra. But, that wallpaper is covered in thin coats of fresh paint -- if you look hard enough, you can see the degradation peering out from underneath.
From the hard oak lintels of the window frames, ants pour in, but you can only catch them in your peripherals. You’d never see them from this far away if you went looking for them.
The tablecloth on her perfectly laid oak slab is bright and floral, but it’s got tiny little pock-marked red stains, which someone has tried to clean, but the stains remain nonetheless. The polished silverware has clearly been polished. By that, I mean, violent streaks tarnish all of it, as if someone gave their all to try and polish it but gave up.
If it wasn’t for all this, I may not have noticed the most incongruous feature of Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s time-capsule...
The clock in the hallway. The one that Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane uses to tell the time. It said eleven thirty-three.
Why is that weird?
Well, according to the clock on my recorder, which I set every day from the pitchfork network, it was actually three-minutes-past-twelve... on the button.
At the door, Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane transformed – back to her learned manners. She thanked me for taking the time to visit her and gave me a bottle of Namane Extra Strength for my troubles. I pretended to be fooled and put the beer into my bag, making a mental note not to drink it, but knowing I probably would.
If Bryony is telling the truth and Ianderu left the house at ten – and if Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s clock was slow by thirty minutes – that would give Ianderu enough time to run from Bryony’s house and get to this spot in the woods in time to be seen by her.
I couldn’t imagine living in a world without the appropriate time, but I guess when you’re as rich as Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane, time is a luxury you can afford to waste.
That would mean that, even though Bryony lied the first time, that lie actually ended up being the truth because that lie was only created to prove the fact that Ianderu had the time to run between the two houses in the first place – which he did. But, why would the Deputy High Priest ask Bryony to lie, instead of telling the truth that Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s clock was wrong?
Giving The Deputy High Priest the benefit of the doubt, I can see why he might have asked Bryony to lie. There’s no way Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane would have told the truth – because that would mean her clock was wrong. I can’t see her admitting fault on anything. I casually asked her what it was like for the Multipliers to work for Namane beer. She saw right through me:
Those Liars are lucky to have a job. We feed them. We clothe them. We give them a place to live. On top of all that, we even pay them a little so they can get nice things. ‘Course they’re not happy. There’s nothing you or I could do that would make them happy. So don’t make it out like it’s my job to fix a Liar that’s broke. Stupid children: that’s all they are.
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Even if the hypothetical time-gods told her to change her clock, Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane would probably tell them they were in fact the ones who were wrong.
You would think the Deputy High Priest would have at least tried to convince her of the truth. I made a note to ask him about that when I finally confronted him.
Okay, so, assuming that Ianderu left Bryony’s house at ten, or just before, then ran towards Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s house and arrived at the woods by what she thought was ten as well – in which instance he actually arrived there at around ten-thirty – he can’t have arrived at the High Priest Maté’s house any earlier than ten forty-eight…assuming Ianderu was capable of running seven kilometers in thirty minutes in the first place.
The Militia Captain said he arrived at the house thirty minutes after the alarm bells rang. Samuel Frinka confirmed as much. But, again, Samuel Frinka never stated at what time he rang the alarm bells. The Priests just assumed a narrative and we all filled in the blanks.
Samuel Frinka was the last person I needed to speak to to find out the truth. Methodism teaches us it takes three points to make a pattern. The last two points I’d found didn’t align with the pattern uncovered by the Priests. If Samuel Frinka’s story aligned with what I’d found out, then we could be sure that Bryony was telling the truth.
There was no way she was in league with Samuel Frinka. He didn’t speak to anyone, ever.
That would mean that Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s clock was out by thirty minutes at the time she saw Ianderu – which is almost a certainty.
But, if Frinka’s story didn’t match up to this new timeline, then he was either lying or in a similar state of mistime as Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane. That, or Bryony was telling the truth before, and lying now, and Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane changed her clock to the wrong time for no reason, which was pretty unlikely.
I searched the area where Ianderu was spotted, on the edge of the woods. I thought, maybe, there would be something there – footsteps printed in the mud. But no. Nothing.
This struck me as a little strange though:
I could see the kitchen window from here, and Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane still pottering around inside. But, I could only tell it was her because I’d just been with her in the kitchen. If I had no idea who lived here, and I hadn’t just spent time with her – if she hadn’t been wearing such rare and fine clothing – would I have recognised her? I don’t think so, but then, who knows. At any rate, I have relatively good eyesight – not amazing, but pretty good – and it was clear to me that Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane did not.
When she missed putting the sugar in the tea, she tried to pass it off as absentmindedness, the excitement of having a visitor. But, then, she faffed around looking for a cloth to wipe it all up – but there was already a cloth on the table.
You couldn’t miss it: It was printed with an ancient, most likely lost, painting of some lady falling off a cliff. Beneath the painting was a sentence: “You may forget, but let me tell you this: someone in some future time will think of us.” Pretty striking… So strange that she couldn’t see it right in front of her.
Also, right next to a letter on the table, she had a large, old-style magnifying glass. The print wasn’t that small. I could read it from where I was sitting, on the other side of the table, even though the lettering was upside down to me.
Either way, even if she was lying about something, I’m pretty certain that she thought she was telling the truth at Ianderu’s trial, so there was little point in labouring on. I figured, if she was lying about something, I could come back later to ask some questions. I mean, that wouldn’t be possible if I pissed her off now.
I went back to searching the area, kind of half-knowing it was pointless.
A recording from the woods, insect sounds and rustling leaves.
It’s all been cleaned up…
That’s Bertrand Namane, Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s husband. While I was searching the woods, he popped out from behind a tree. Creepy.
When the militia came lookin’, they took pictures and all that, and then they ploughed the area. I think they was looking for something.
Did they find it? Whatever it was?
Dunno. Don’t think so.
Do you have any idea what they were looking for?
Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane – and trust me, I’m more sick of saying her name than you are of hearing it – told me that Bertrand worked from sunup to sun down. So what was hell doing here?
Yep. Sun’s up, I’m out -- mostly before it.
And, what brings you out this way?
The Liars are all havin’ noon-lunch, so I figured I’d come say hello.
I checked the clock on my recorder. It was already twelve forty-five, so there’s no way the Multipliers were having noon-lunch. But I had no interest in arguing about time here.
I thanked Bert for his input and we exchanged banal pleasantries. I was about to leave when he called back to me.
I’d appreciate if you could do me a favour.
Stay away from my wife. You people, you’re trouble. Now, I ain’t got issues with your kind doin’ what you do -- but we don’t need no more curious women snoopin’ around here, gettin’ my Mae all mixed up in stuff she ain’t gotta be mixed up in. Got it?
I told him I got it and left. But, that was a lie. I really didn’t get it, and if I needed to ask Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane any more questions, I definitely would. She was only too happy to be featured on the show, so why not?
And, what did he mean by more curious women? And, my kind? I’m a journalist -- self-described. As far as I know, I’m the only journalist. Unless he just meant curious women, generally? Maybe someone else came around to speak to Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane?
I don’t know. And honestly? I don’t care anymore. It’s probably not important anyway.
More than anything, I’m annoyed that he called her Mae. Sitting here, bleary-eyed, at three-thirty in the morning, it’s hard not to think it would have saved an hour of my time if I didn’t have to constantly say “Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane”.
I listened to my recordings over and over again.
I still didn’t have anything concrete I could use to corner the New High Priest, and I didn’t want to go to him unless I had something. The only place I would find that something was with Sam Frinka, the water distiller.
I decided to give myself the night to rest and think over what I had learned so far. I went to sleep with that woman’s name ringing in my ears over and over again like an earworm.
Maybe it seems petty, but I desperately want to find a way to swipe that smug off her face.