Chapter Two Transcript

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Alicia August (Narrating)

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

Intro music

Alicia (Narrating)

A few days after the trial, I was pretty happy with my work. I’d collated all the main pieces of information from Ianderu’s trial, and I was just about ready to publish it to the pitchfork. 

Then, I got a knock on my front door. Pretty strange considering, I’ve always been a bit of a recluse. Visitors don’t tend to come my way – too scared they’ll end up in one of my stories, I guess. They’re always happy to subject, never so happy to be the subjects. Not that I’m bitter or anything. 

I cranked open the corrugated iron I call a door to see Bryony Dixon, her hair plastered to her face – usually so pretty – now a mixture of red spots from wiping away her tears, and the drips of acid rain which had marked her face. 

I invited her in, but she hesitated at first – looked around, paranoid, as if some malicious force might be watching us. Of course, that would be impossible. My home sits in the middle of a 4-acre clearing in the woods, and there’s no-one else for at least a mile. 

When I finally convinced her to come inside, I grabbed her a towel and sat her down in a chair next to the fire, which snapped at her as she spoke, almost as if admonishing her for sending a man to his death. 

The sound of a small room, with a crackling fire in the background.

Alicia 

Do you mind if I record this? 

Bryony 

No, you can’t. 

Alicia 

If what you’re saying is true, we’ll need proof. 

 

Alicia (Narrating)

Bryony hesitated again – snapping her gaze around the flitting shadows cast by the crackling flames of my fire. She took a snifter of Namane Extra Strength. 

 

Back to the sounds of the small room.

Alicia 

Are you saying Ianderu didn’t kill the High Priest? 

Bryony 

No. I mean, yes, I mean, I think he did, but still… I lied. 

Alicia 

About what? 

Bryony 

A few days after the High Priest died, the Deputy High Priest came to see me. He said he knew Ianderu came to my house before the murder. He wanted to know what I knew. 

Alicia 

And you lied? 

Bryony 

Not at first. I told the truth. I’m not a liar. Not really. That night, Ianderu did come to my house. He was covered in sweat. And he was, he was furious. He said the man was back – that he was going to murder the–

THUMP, SMASH

Bryony yells out

Sound of scurrying feet and squeaking 

Alicia 

Shit. 

Bryony 

What the fuck was that?! 

Alicia (Narrating)

I probably should have warned her, but, to be honest, I try to forget they exist. Now and then, in my house, I see a couple of rats – huge things, the size of my arm – literally. The weird thing is, it seems to be a different couple of rats every time. You can tell, because they’ve got unique fur and mangled faces. There’s one in particular that I’ve seen recently. It’s white with a long brown stripe going from its inverted nose, going all the way down to the tip of its tail. Hey, it might be cute, if it wasn’t a giant rat. 

I guess that’s what would have happened to us too, if Frinka hadn’t figured out how to de-radiate the water. 

They only appear every now and then, so it’s never been so much of an issue. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. But, I’m pretty sure, deep down, I’m just scared to find out where they’re coming from. After all, it’s kind of my own fault for turning my clearing into a wildlife resort. 

If anyone knew how many pests lived on my property, they’d probably burn it to the ground on the off chance that Alicia August might start the next cholera outbreak. 

Once, when I was feeling particularly brave – drunk – I tried to find out where their nest was. I followed the smell of piss – but then, everywhere smells of piss – so I guess I went where the piss was strongest?

Anyway, the smell finally lured me to my toilet room. I’d always assumed the smell was just the kind you’d expect from a toilet, especially one with an overflowing cess tank. But, when I got down to sniff the floor, it was pretty overpowering. 

I thought about ripping up the floorboard, but then chickened out. What if there are hundreds of them down there? There are some truths I’d rather not know. Especially when it involves disease ridden, mutant rats living in my house. 

Back to the recording in the small room with the crackling fire. 

Bryony 

Was that a rat? 

Alicia 

No. Just a squirrel or something. 

Bryony 

(relieved) 

Oh. Okay. 

Alicia (Narrating)

After a couple more drinks, Bryony calmed down. She asked if she could use the bathroom – she’d had a few drinks at this point. We both had. Most people won’t allow guests to use their toilet, but I’m not like that. If I’m going to get sick, then screw it, I’ll get sick. 

The heavy rains had put out most of my fire. While Bryony was occupied, I tried to start a new one, but my flamer was dead. 

When Bryony flushed the toilet, my cess tank overflowed again. I know they stopped cleaning our tanks because of the outbreaks, but, come on, this is surely worse. 

Back to the small room with the crackling fire. 

Bryony 

Here, I brought this. 

Alicia (Narrating)

She handed me a huge, metal flamer. I used it to light the fire and then tried to hand it back to her. 

Bryony 

It’s yours anyway. 

Alicia 

No it’s not.

 

Bryony 

Yes it is. You lent it to me. Ages ago. 

Alicia 

I’ve never seen it. 

Bryony 

Just keep it then.

Alicia (Narrating)

Anyway, when she sat down, she told me what happened the night of the murder – start to finish: 

Ianderu came to her house at about nine in the evening trying to convince Bryony to believe in his original crazy story -- about the space clone who kidnapped his wife. Now, he thought the space clone was back and intended to murder the High Priest. 

Bryony 

I did ask him why. But, he wasn’t making any sense. He just kept saying – messages from God. Messages from God. I asked him where God was – why God chose him. He got up, really close to my face. He said: “It’s a secret.” I just– he was so close– and he– I just humoured him. 

Alicia (Narrating)

When Ianderu realised he could never convince her, he left at about ten o clock, maybe a little after: 

Alicia 

But, at the trial you said he left at nine thirty… 

Bryony 

Yes. 

Alicia 

Why? 

Bryony

The Deputy High Priest said he knew Ianderu had come to see me, and that I could help in the investigation to put him away. I told him what I knew, but he said that wouldn’t work. 

Alicia 

Why? 

Bryony 

He said, the murder happened at around ten-fifteen – Mrs. Namane saw him at ten. If Ianderu did murder the High Priest, then he must have left here earlier. He asked me if I could be confused about the time. 

Alicia 

Are you? Confused? 

Bryony 

No. Right after he left, I knelt down for my recitations. 

Alicia 

Did the Deputy High Priest ask you to lie? 

Bryony 

He asked me to tell the right truth. 

 

A church bell rings out a creepy tune.

 

Deputy High Priest Aarnol

Time for a public service announcement from the priests of the Aphist Order. It’s easy to get bogged down when life gets tough. When people treat you poorly. When you’ve got barely enough food to go round. Sometimes, even performing your recitations or slurping down a cool, refreshing Namane won’t lift your mood. We at the Aphist Order understand that, in these times, it’s easy to go astray and start believing in a higher power; praying to imaginary friends and wishing for life to get better. If you know of anyone suffering from metaphysical ideations you can report them directly to the Aphist Order without fear of retribution against you, your other friends or your partner. You can be certain they will be dealt with fairly, in a manner proportionate to the infectious danger of their disease. This has been a public service announcement from the Priests of the Aphist Order. Thank you.

 

The creepy bell plays again.

Back to the small room with the crackling fire. 

 

Bryony

He said that they already knew that Ianderu killed the High Priest. They didn’t know the particulars of it, but they needed incontrovertible proof that he’d done it. He said they had plenty of other witnesses who could corroborate his whereabouts, but that my testimony would be the nail in his coffin. 

Alicia 

Because you two had a relationship? 

Music break

Alicia (Narrating)

Bryony didn’t answer that directly, but we both knew the answer. 

I didn’t want to dig up old ground. I already knew the whole story between Ianderu and Bryony. I’d helped her deal with her guilt after Angela, Ianderu’s wife, passed away. 

Understandably, Bryony blamed herself – although I did, and still do, blame Ianderu. 

Ianderu was Bryony’s doctor and delivered her first two children. Over time, they got to know each other, and then, when Bryony’s husband died of cholera, Doctor McConnell comforted her – a little too much. 

Bryony and Ianderu’s affair lasted for the rest of the following year. When Angela found out, Ianderu stopped seeing Bryony on a personal level, but being the only fully-qualified doctor in Silitra at that time, he continued to treat her. 

Despite telling Angela that the affair was over, Bryony didn’t think Angela would believe her. And she was right. 

Angela petitioned the High Council to prosecute Bryony for seducing her husband – an otherwise happily married man. For some reason, the High Priests refused to prosecute. The grounds of that decision were never released. According to the book of High Law, adulterating seduction carries a minimum prison sentence and re-integration of three years. 

Back to the small room with the crackling fire. 

Alicia 

Do you think that’s why Angela killed herself? 

Bryony 

How could I not? It’s my fault. Mine and Yandy’s. She thought Keely was his. 

Alicia 

Keely’s Bryony’s third kid. He left for Prep early last year 

Bryony 

I couldn’t blame her for that. Of course she thought that. But Ianderu wasn’t the father – we stopped it all, way before Keely. 

Alicia 

Do you think that might have influenced Ianderu’s descent into madness? Maybe, on some level he blamed himself for Angela? 

Bryony 

I think he couldn’t deal with the stress of knowing that Angela’s death was his fault – our fault. So he made up a story that made someone else the villain. Everybody bitches about him. They say he’s lying. But, I think he believes that story. I think he has to. If he didn’t believe it then– then–

Bryony sounds like she's on the verge of crying.

Alicia (Narrating)

This is weird for me. I always knew Bryony as the outgoing girl who never cried. She was always a shoulder for other people to cry on. I remember, when we were about 11-years-old, my Dad got me my first ice-cream, straight from the Dairy Farm, down on Redemption Road. I licked that ice cream and then it fell and splattered all over the ground. Bryony gave me hers, instead. 

Another time, years later, she helped me to get my first interview. Back before I thought being nosey could make my living. She supported me. That’s Bryony. Not this crying wreck. It makes me think what she’s saying is true. But then, I thought what she said on the stand was true as well. 

This was like trying to unpack one of those old Nolan Fables. You know, those stories where you instinctively know there’s more here than meets the eye… You just can’t tell what… But then, sometimes, maybe you’re just filling in the gaps with your own imagination. 

I circled back to something she’d said earlier. Everyone in Silitra had always assumed that Keely was Ianderu’s son. And no-one really seemed to care. Not many people liked Angela, anyway. 

Back to the small room with the crackling fire. 

Bryony

There was no father. 

Alicia 

(laughs) 

A virgin birth then? 

Bryony 

I’m definitely not a virgin 

 

Alicia (Narrating)

That’s for sure 

 

Bryony 

–but it wasn’t Ianderu either. 

 

Alicia (Narrating)

At this point, Bryony’s hair is dry. The acid rain marks and her tears are basically gone. Now, I see she looks older than I remember. Crows feet seep in around the creases of her eyelids – her neck looks taughter – not old, just older. It reminds me to check my mirror to see how old I’ve gotten. In my head, we’re still a couple of kids, but at thirty-three, I guess I’m middle-aged. 

 

Back to the small room with the crackling fire. 

 

Bryony 

Stop laughing at me. 

Alicia (Narrating)

I wasn’t laughing. But, Bryony was distraught. I didn’t want to exacerbate her paranoia. 

Back to the small room with the crackling fire.

 

Alicia 

Sorry. So, there wasn’t a father... 

Bryony 

When I told Ianderu, he didn’t believe me either. But, he took pity on me. A young woman, ruined by some unknown man. He said that he would take responsibility for Keely. I tried to convince him not to, but he went off into one of his rants. He told me to think about the worst case scenario and ask myself if I was happy with it. 

Alicia 

What was the worst case scenario? 

Bryony 

I said that the high priests might not accept my version of the conception and then they would banish me from Silitra. They might even take the child from me and then put me in prison. 

“No,” he said, “The worst possible scenario is that High Priest Maté should pity me.” Women would assume I had given myself to the high priest and that he was now protecting his mistress – giving me favours for favours. He told me to say nothing. Allow the baby to be born and allow everyone to assume Keely’s conception for themselves. 

Screech of an owl in the distance.

Alicia (Narrating)

Outside the window, an owl dives for its prey – probably some little corn snake. They’ve been pretty much eradicated from everywhere else, but I like to give them a home. It’s comforting to see the circle of life play out outside my window. To remember what we came from -- and what we overcame. 

The owl continues to hoot and screech in the distance.

Alicia 

So, what really happened that night? 

Bryony 

I wish nothing happened. I wish I’d never told anyone anything. I wish…

 

Alicia (Narrating)

I remember my mother, telling me a story about this banker named Aladdin, who found a God. That God gave him three wishes. I think the moral was that he wasted his wishes on love when he could have saved the world or something. Plus, God’s not real. Stupid story. 

A glass smashes.

Alicia (Narrating)

So, maybe I shouldn’t have given Bryony that large glass of Namane – especially not the second. I thought it would help, but then beer doesn’t always help, especially when it always does. 

Bryony maintained that Ianderu killed High Priest Maté, but she needed to let the truth out. The New High Priest convinced her to lie about one half-hour segment in her life. It didn’t seem to matter at the time. Not when that little white lie could help catch a killer. 

But, then Bryony’s conscience weighed down on her. The New High Priest told her that Ianderu would be imprisoned – for life – but still, just prison. He said nothing of execution. 

Back to the fireplace recording.

Bryony 

Yandy was a kind man. He never did anything wrong to me, and I never saw him murder that man. I know they found him with the knife – and the blood – so, he did it. He must have. But, still. I know it’s irrational, but I feel… wrong. Bad. 

Alicia 

She’s right, right? 

Ianderu had to have murdered Maté -- nothing else makes any sense... But, then, that doesn’t make sense, either... 

 

If, as Mary-Anne-Elizabeth-Namane says, she saw Ianderu on her property at ten o'clock, then there is no way he could have left Bryony’s house at ten, or even nine forty-five. That would mean he ran seven kilometres in fifteen minutes.. That is categorically impossible.

Bryony said she knelt for her recitation just after he left – and I’m inclined to believe her. Bryony was always a pious cow. When we were kids, I don’t think she ever missed an evening recitation, whether we were exploring the woods, or in the middle of a calving; she’d drop to her knees and recite the method like clockwork. 

But, the Priests had this mountain of other evidence, right? 

Maybe Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane was off, but the Deputy High Priest did the right thing. He ensured Ianderu’s conviction – the man was found with the murder weapon and the corpse. Ianderu murdered Maté.

I listened back to my recordings from the trial… What did they have to go on? The entire case was based on two facts: 

 

One, the priest was dead. 

Two, Ianderu was found holding the knife, covered in blood. 

Those two salient facts, plus three witnesses. At least one of those witnesses lied – so, actually we’ve got two witnesses. 

So, provided that Bryony isn’t lying now – which she might be, out of guilt for causing the deaths of three people – then, Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s testimony can be discounted as false, too. 

And what about the third witness, Samuel Frinka? 

He testified that Ianderu broke into the house, clutching a knife, but he never specified a time. 

I checked the recordings of his testimony at trial. Despite the priests threading a narrative in which Ianderu left Bryony’s house then passed Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane’s house and was then spotted breaking into the High Priest’s house – Frinka, the water-distiller, never actually stated a time. No-one asked. 

Look, I get why they were so quick to convict Ianderu. It seems pretty obvious to me and to everyone else that Ianderu killed the High Priest. I don’t even doubt that now. Plus the fact that, since the founding of Silitra, fifteen years ago, we had never had a murder. 

In fact, we’d never had any kind of violent crime, at all. If we can infer anything from the ruins in which we now live, violence spreads – better to stamp it out wherever you see it, lest it infect the rest of us. 

But, why the lies? Why would the Deputy High Priest coerce Bryony to lie about such a small detail? 

Bryony’s visit left me with more questions than answers. Before she came, I had the whole thing pretty much wrapped up. But now, the whole narrative had fallen apart. 

I figured, if Bryony’s story had been so inconsistent, what would the other two witnesses say? Had they been coerced too? 

And if they were coerced, were they coerced by the Deputy High Priest? Or were they coerced by someone else within the order – which would, of course make this a conspiracy.

Of course, conspiracies are stupid. I’m not a purveyor of that kind of idiocy. 

But, if Ianderu was being framed, in some sort of cabalic conspiracy, then that cabal would have to comprise no less than seven people – probably more – including Blabbermouth Murphy, who just can’t help but talk about his hard work on the trial at his local Namane – and every other Namane that’ll accept bad credit. 

Not impossible, but so improbable it’s not even worth considering. 

So, that left me with the biggest question of all: Why would the Deputy High Priest coerce all these people into lying, into putting a potentially – but probably not – innocent man to death? 

Then I remembered my Methodism, the only decent remnant from the tombs of the old world. To most people of the ancient, destroyed world, speculations and conclusions might be a valid method of discovery. But that’s why they’re gone and we’re still here. 

No, if I wanted to figure out the truth, I would have to speak to Mary-Anne-Elizabeth Namane and Samuel Frinka. 

I would also need to speak to the New High Priest. The centre of all this confusion. 

That night, after Bryony left, I lay in bed, in that teetering moment between dreaming and wakefulness. I felt like I was falling and jolted upright. I hate that feeling. 

Anyway, something occurred to me. 

If the Deputy High Priest really had coerced all those people, he probably wouldn’t take too kindly to my snooping around. 

If I was going to confront him, I would need evidence of his lies. And I didn’t intend to just use flaky witness testimony. I wanted solid proof. 

If the New High Priest had concocted this, then our entire society was at risk of becoming just the same as the old, dead society. 

Dead. 

I fell back, and listened to the circle of life I’d created outside my own window.

The owl hoots again, closer now than it was in the recording.

Alicia (Narrating)

–completely unaware of just how arrogant I was in my own understanding of the truth. 

 

Outro music