April 5, 2021

Episode 8: HUNTED/HAUNTED

Episode 8: HUNTED/HAUNTED

Conway sorts through some old--and possibly haunted--video games. The office receives a letter from someone with a peculiar ghost problem.

Happy (late) April Fools! I certainly hope no major video game publishers listen to this show!

(CWs: alcohol, brief blood, implied death)


Conway sorts through some old--and possibly haunted--video games. The office receives a letter from someone with a peculiar ghost problem.

Happy (late) April Fools! I certainly hope no major video game publishers listen to this show!

(CWs: alcohol, brief blood, implied death)

TRANSCRIPT:

CONWAY: This is Conway, receiving clerk for the Dead Letter Office of ***** Ohio, processing the national dead mail backlog. The following audio recording will serve as an internal memo strictly for archival purposes and should be considered confidential. Need I remind anyone: public release of this or any confidential material from the DLO is a felony. Some names and places have been censored for the protection of the public. 

Dead Object 2513, a box of old video game cartridges. Let’s see what we’ve got. The label appears to have been weathered off on this first one, and someone’s written a name on the front in permanent marker. The games arrived with some other belongings, the leftovers from an estate sale that just couldn’t find a buyer. I’ve got an old system set up, paid for out of pocket of course, just on a lark. The interior of this cartridge looks pretty corroded, so I guess we'll see if it even plays.

All right, looks like the logo’s coming up. There's the title. Select a file. We’ve got one file with a person’s name, probably the old owner, and another file. Let’s choose that second one.

Okay, on the screen we’ve got the main character, all in green, lying all twisted up in some kind of dark atmosphere. I can’t move him, and can't really do much else on this screen. There’s an eerie looking gentleman with a large backpack nearby smiling at me. Seems he’s got some masks on his bag. Oh, we’ve got some text coming up at the bottom now. It reads as follows: “You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?”

Nah, I’ve seen this one before. Not interested. 

Let’s try this one.

OLD-FASHIONED NARRATOR: You are about to travel to another place, a place not only of truth but of allegory. Beyond this title screen, you will see a nightmare, a reflection, a fiction more real than any photograph. 

You’re looking at a nondescript bar in the middle of a town in the heart of America. The exact location of this town is not important, for it’s not the place you must consider, but its people. A people in dire need of change to stave off collapse. Unfortunately for the people of this place, there will be no drastic change from those at the top, only distraction, diversion, entertainment.

STORYTELLER: Condensation covers the windows as heat from the patrons inside cools on the chilly glass. A tall man in a green hat sits by himself at the bar, looking forlorn over his thick mustache into his nearly-empty glass. The noises of the night--murmurs, clinking glasses, cars passing outside--melt into a gauzy hum behind him. He drains the remainder and wipes his mouth with a white-gloved hand. He fishes into his pocket for his wallet and gives a sharp sniff to stop his bulbous nose from running. He’s out of cash. He puts the glass down in front of him, wobbles in his stool for a moment, and then wraps his knuckles on the counter for another drink. The bartender turns to face him.

The man behind the bar tips back his green hat and tugs on his suspenders as he looks the patron over. The bartender shakes his head and twists his mouth up under his full twirled mustache. The man at the bar doesn’t like this answer. His eyebrows furrow and his mustache twitches. He slams his hand on the counter. This catches the attention of the rest of the patrons sitting at tables around the bar. They all turn toward him. Everyone’s on edge tonight. Despite the chilly weather, the patrons are similarly dressed in blue overalls with brass buttons, green shirts, green lettered caps, and white gloves. All tall, all mustaches. A football game plays on the television in the background, lines of mustaches in shoulder pads facing off. The angry patron at the bar, feeling the eyes of the others, hangs his head. He shrugs and makes a remorseful gesture with his hands. He slides his hat off his head and holds it to his chest as he slinks out of the bar’s side door. 

Outside, gentle snowflakes drift and fall onto the chartreuse hats of two figures kissing in the alley beside the bar. A cart darts by in the road, a blur of emerald as its roar cuts the still winter air. The drunk man from the bar stumbles through the side door into the alley, and the two lovebirds freeze and look anxiously his way. After he passes them by, they embrace again, giggling. One shushes the other playfully with a gloved white finger to his lips through visible breath. 

Then another noise disrupts the alley pair, this time deeper in the freezing darkness ahead. Something is rustling in the dumpster. They nervously peer ahead, with shortened breaths puffing and disappearing, goosebumps pricking on their skin. Something wholly different suddenly bursts from the cans, someone clad in purple with a ruddy nose and thin pointed mustache. His dark eyes dart wildly below the brim of his indigo cap. One of the men in green points and gasps, his blue eyes wide in shock. The other screams to alert the patrons of the bar.

From among the ripe trash and fetid wastewater the lithe purple man rises. He scans his surroundings, trying to figure out where, exactly, he is. One man in green takes a step forward, putting himself in between this sudden antagonist and his sweetheart. He doesn’t see the fear in the purple man’s expression: he sees only the beady eyes, the gangly form, the difference. One of the pair rushes to the mouth of the alley and peeks into the street, looking around for any help. Sensing the cruel intent of these olive adversaries, the man in purple takes this moment to flee from the trash cans. He bursts upright, taller than any other, and sprints past the lovers. He knocks over a few trash cans in the city and disappears into an adjacent alley, discarded food and wrappers flying in his wake. The two in green outside the bar open the front door and call to the others. The patrons rise and murmur excitedly. Several take out phones to make calls or record the event for posterity. The television in the empty bar interrupts the game to announce the breaking news: the purple man is loose. The hunt begins.

This lone stranger, this shadow of man, is propelled by nervous, nauseous adrenaline. He’s not sure if it’s the cold or the fear making his teeth chatter. The streetlights cast the snowy sidewalks in a sickly pallor. He sprints through the empty streets, taking to the darkness when he can, peering around building corners to spot trouble before it spots him. He passes stores, ads, billboards, all green, all alike but him. He slows his pace for just a moment as he takes in the situation. The purple man pauses in front of a display window for a clothing store. He stands in front of a pale mustachioed mannequin, his reflection mismatched against its form. He compares his dark overalls to the ones in the window. He presses his hand gloved against the cold glass. He himself is a reflection. He is shaken from this contemplation by a pine line forming across the street in hot pursuit.

The purple man alights again, pushing through occasional pockets of green that eventually join the growing crowd following him. He cuts through alleys and across an empty campus. The bright lamp posts illuminate the sidewalks but also cast deep shadows on his path. There are flyers that he doesn’t understand attached to poles around the school grounds. He tries the doors of several buildings--a dining hall, a large auditorium--but they’re locked. Near the edge of campus, he frantically tries another door. It begins to give, but a mustache appears from the shadows inside and slams the door shut. There will be no help for him here on the night of the hunt.

Past campus, the man in purple sneaks into a quiet residential area of the city. He uses his long limbs to clamber up a fire escape near an empty playground. This time he is in luck: the door at the top of the stairs swings open as he pushes the bar. He sneaks into the apartment building, quietly walking through the halls, looking for a stairwell or closet to hide in for the night. 

Then he hears a sharp *psst* behind him. One of the handlebar-ed men has a door propped open. He lets the purple man into the apartment, his eyes roving nervously for trouble and then closing the door. The smell of simmering vegetables fills the air as two children play on the floor with toys that look just like their father, who’s wearing a white t-shirt and sweatpants. The man with the inverted letter sits down on crossed legs. The kids are excited to have company this time. The television flashes with color and noise, a cartoon of two men in green battle suits fighting a giant purple monster.

The father brings out a steaming bowl of soup and breaks off a piece of bread for the man in purple. He’s so excited for real food he starts shoveling the soup into his mouth. The father moves to caution him, but it’s too late. The soup is too hot. The purple man lets out a pained “WA!” and then covers his mouth, spilling soup all over the carpet and the father’s shoes. All are tense and silent, staring at him. 

Next door, a large television is playing a dramatic report about the purple man and what danger he poses. A phone number streaks on the screen: a reward for any reports of the man in purple. The man in overalls watching sits its up in his recliner when he hears the shout from across the hall. He doffs his green cap, picks up his phone, and starts dialing the number on the television.

The thin man with the pointed mustache grabs a cloth from the counter and wets it. He kneels down and begins wiping the soup off of the floor, and cleaning the father’s shoes. The father peers out the window behind his guest and sees the green tide coming, gathered with flashlights outside the playground. He darts to the room farthest from the park and quietly slides up the window. He motions for his guest to come into the room. The purple man looks down--it’s a bit of a drop, but he doesn’t have much choice. The front door of the building bursts open as light and sound pour in like a hull breach. The father looks back one more time to the odd man in odd colors and heads to the door. The purple man jumps out the window and lands awkwardly on his leg, his ankle twisting. He grimaces and muffles his pained groan with his white glove to his mouth. A few eager figures in the mob reach the helpful man’s door. They kick it down and filter in uninvited, searching the apartment and overturning furniture. One happens to notice the open window. They knock down the father and back rush outside. The cartoon glows silently on the television as their silhouettes exit, and children cry in the bedroom. 

Only half-running now, pain coming in waves as he puffs with each cold step, the purple man tips over trash cans behind him to slow the wave of blue overalls. He must keep going. The green contingency continues to grow as bystanders join the group.

The man in purple lumbers toward the only haven available to him: the stadium downtown. He ducks around the corner, seemingly far enough ahead of the pack, and enters a side door. The man in purple is even slower now, wading into the pitch-dark building and dragging his broken ankle behind his good one. He sighs as he hears the voices and footsteps rush past the side door he entered. He tilts back his hat and wipes the anxious sweat from his forehead.

Then blinding light explodes into view from above, flooding the arena. The man in purple is standing in the middle of a basketball court, and the seats are half full of men in green hats, more filing in every second. Lime lines of mustachioed men stretch out to block the door that he came in from. In a panic, he lunges for the main entrance, barely able to breathe through the stress and pain. The scoreboard is alight with platitudes about sportsmanship. He takes a step, but crumbles from the agony in his ankle. 

Television cameras set up around the court zoom in, broadcasting his pain live. Screens in homes, bars, shops, phones glow with video. Some channels have identical men in green L hats discussing the merits of the hunt. They ultimately decide: who can say? Who can say something’s bad when it’s so good for business? Who can say there’s another way? Who can say what violence hides in the hearts of others? Some viewers sadly shake their heads from their couches, some cheer. But the hunt goes on.

The green cloud of men in the stadium move on the man in purple, carrying bats, chairs, chains. He raises his hands to protect his face from these implements of violence. The crowd cheers as his blood spills into the cracks in the wood. The scoreboard blares the national anthem. It is still and silent outside of the stadium. Tiny pools of light glow in the trees as fireflies circle the leaves in the dark. The purple man replays these events in his head, a repeating nightmare. His last nightmare.

OLD-FASHIONED NARRATOR: It is near dusk again, a month after the preceding incident. In a metropark in a town in the heart of this nation, two older gentlemen in slouching green hats are playing chess. One takes a pawn, the other considers his next move. A purple hat drops down from the tree behind them. The two in overalls lock eyes and stand up slowly with grins under their mustaches. They’ve forgotten life before all this. That better things are possible. Who has the time anymore? Besides, he’s not like them. The game is afoot.

CONWAY: Now that’s a bit more interesting. I suppose in my spare time I’ll go through a few more of these cartridges and see what all this box has in store. For now though, Dead Object 2513 will be stores safely in our vault.

CONWAY: Dead letter 14114, a letter addressed to...well let’s just dive in and you’ll see how it plays out.

ANTONY, NARRATOR: I need help and I figured you’d be the one to ask. For the last year, I’ve been haunted by a mischievous spirit. I’ll be sitting in bed and hear a crash downstairs. I go down there and there’s dishes broken all over the floor. I see his spectral body float through the window and he goes,

“Did I do that?”

You see I’m haunted by the ghost of Steve Urkel. Not the actor, he’s still alive. It’s Urkel. It’s Urkel! It's Urkel. Or I go to the bathroom and hear him shout “whoa mama!” then there’s green slime all over my friggin walls! And it’s not just him either, he’s just the worst of it. Sometimes Frasier drinks my booze when I’m out. It's not cheap hooch, either. When I put my car in reverse in the garage, the Toolman grunts and steps on the accelerator.

Now, I already talked to a psychic, but she thought I was pulling a prank. She said they’re not real, they’re just fictional characters. But I sure sure as hell see a lot of them for not being real. If they ain’t real, how come they’re on tv, on t-shirts? How come I can buy a poster, or a dvd? Why do we talk about em if they ain’t real?

Now this may sound a little funny, but I tried binding them with a circle of their dvds of their shows, but it’s no use. Maybe I need the blu-ray or the 4k steelbook. These retired characters have made my house hell on earth, but I’m the one being punished. It’s taken everything I've got not to scream and burn it down. You've got to do something about this. Get an exorcist, get the army--hell, get a producer friend of yours to get their show started again, just get them the hell out of here. They’re going to put me in an early grave. 

Thank you for your time, Mr. President.

A loyal voter,

Antony ******

CONWAY: Well, considering that the president addressed in the letter is no longer in office, I think the DLO will hold onto this one. Dead Letter 14114 is therefore deemed undeliverable and will be stored in our vault.

For the Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio, this is Conway, signing o--

*Outro music interrupts him*

*Ahem* This is Conway, signing--

*Outro music interrupts him again*

What the hell is this? Is this another postcard? This is the lighthouse again...and I know that number...

*Real outro plays*