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the Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio

Author: Rat Grimes

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A series of weird horror podcasts set in the midwest.

The Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio is a horror-comedy fiction podcast set within one of the last remaining Dead Letter Offices in the country. Join Conway, Wren, and the rest as they archive strange, spooky, surreal pieces of lost mail.

A solo project by a nonbinary creator inspired by Kentucky Route Zero, Twin Peaks, Edgar Allen Poe, and more. Each episode features 2 short stories connected in some way, either narratively or thematically.

What begins as an anthology evolves into...something else. Content warnings are posted in the show notes, along with transcripts.

Written, performed, and scored by Rat Grimes (they/he)
Art by Nerdvolkurisu
27 Episodes
BONUS: Nine to Midnight

BONUS: Nine to Midnight


On the eve of Halloween, nine storytellers make their way to an abandoned asylum to share their terrifying truths about the darkness that exists around them. As the tales unfold, each more visceral than the last, the nine may just discover that it is not the waking world to fear, but the horrors that lay within.   Nine to Midnight is a collaborative storytelling event between nine podcasts:   Malevolent ( WOE.BEGONE ( Wake of Corrosion ( The Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio ( The Cellar Letters ( The Storage Papers ( The Town Whispers ( Nowhere, On Air ( Hell Gate City Companion ( CREDITS & CONTENT WARNINGS   CW: General horror, swearing throughout   Produced by Harlan Guthrie Master edit by Harlan Guthrie   'Nine to Midnight' written by Harlan Guthrie. Performed by Harlan Guthrie, Dylan Griggs, Shaun Pellington, Rat Grimes, Jamie Petronis, Jeremy Enfinger, Nathan Lunsford, Cole Weavers, Jess Syratt, and Kevin Berrey.    8:05 | 'Rare Book' written, performed, edited, and mixed by Harlan Guthrie of Malevolent.   16:50 | 'The Knocking' written, performed, edited, mixed, and music composed & performed by Dylan Griggs of WOE.BEGONE.    27:05 | 'The Broken Man' written, performed, edited, and mixed by Shaun Pellington of Wake of Corrosion. CW: Violence, injury   35:30 | 'The Pool' written, performed, edited, mixed, and music composed & performed by Rat Grimes of The Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio. CW: Death, drowning   44:42 | 'The 1 to 5 Minute Man' written, performed, edited, and mixed by Jamie Petronis of The Cellar Letters.   52:24 | 'Ridgefield Manor' written, edited, and mixed by Nathan Lunsford. Performed by Jeremy Enfinger and Nathan Lunsford of The Storage Papers. Additional sounds from Zapsplat ( CW: Discussion of murder and suicide   1:02:45 | 'Public Access' written, performed, edited, and mixed by Cole Weavers of The Town Whispers.   1:12:34 | 'The Shortcut' written, performed, edited, and mixed by Jess Syratt of Nowhere, On Air.    1:22:14 | 'Peepers Creepers' written, produced, performed, edited, and mixed by Kevin Berrey, Screaming Panda LLC of Hell Gate City Companion. Music composed by Cheska Navarro ( Sounds from Zapsplat ( Additional sounds and effects licensed under CC BY 3.0: by Garuda1982 by cbakos by trip_sound by Omar Alvarado by SLCBagpiper by GM180259



The first stand-alone semi-canon bonus episode, which going forward will be exclusive to patrons of any level. A podcast host learns about a strange solution to a common problem.  Inspired by an episode of Reply All. (CWs, mild spoilers: strong language, body horror, brief gore sounds)
Merch Update

Merch Update


Just a quick update about some merchandise available now and some coming in the near future. Check out the merch at:
On the Eve of Halloween, 14 storytellers make their way to the Darklight Carnival to share horrific tales of mystery and murder… but not all is as it seems. This October 30th, the feed you’re listening to now, along with all other participating shows, will post two episodes simultaneously for Nine II Midnight. One episode will feature tales that are based in reality with terrors that may be part of our waking life. The other episode will share the horror of the most esoteric and spiritual side of the dark and terrifying. NINE II MIDNIGHT is another collaborative storytelling event, and sequel to last year’s episode. Both episodes are comprised of stories written and produced by the Nine II Midnight participants: Hell Gate City Malevolent Nowhere, On Air Out of the Ashes Parkdale Haunt The Cellar Letters The Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio The Night Post The Storage Papers The Town Whispers Wake Of Corrosion WOE.BEGONE On October 30th, you get to choose which stories you want to enjoy first, then, make sure to listen to the other for the complete tale. See you then. The Prologue was written, produced & edited by Harlan Guthrie Guest starring Alexander Newall Series Art by Nathan Lunsford --------------------------------------- Content Warnings: Descriptions of Violent Death Starring: Harlan Guthrie Rat Grimes Jeremy Enfinger Nathan Lunsford Rae Lundberg Jess Syratt Shaun Pellington Kevin Berrey Dylan Griggs Vincent C. Davis Alex Nursall Emily Kellogg Jamie Petronis Cole Weavers
It seems like the terrors of the real world are most appealing to you and for good reason...  On the Eve of Halloween, a dozen storytellers sneak inside the abandoned Darklight Carnival grounds to share a chilling batch of stories in two varieties. This year they split up to uncover the fears that lurk within and horrors that walk among us. One group will head to the Ferris Wheel to tell tales of real-world terror. The other will venture into the Funhouse to spin yarns of the frightening spirit world. Which path will you embark on first? Nine II Midnight is a collaborative storytelling event between 12 podcasts: Hell Gate City Malevolent Nowhere, On Air Out of the Ashes Parkdale Haunt The Cellar Letters The Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio The Night Post The Storage Papers The Town Whispers Wake of Corrosion WOE.BEGONE CREDITS & CONTENT WARNINGS CW: General horror, swearing throughout Produced by Harlan Guthrie Master edit by Harlan Guthrie 'Nine II Midnight' written by Harlan Guthrie.   Performed by Harlan Guthrie, Dylan Griggs, Kevin Berrey, Shaun Pellington, Rae Lundberg, Vincent C. Davis, Jess Syratt, Alex Nursall, Rat Grimes, Jeremy Enfinger, Nathan Lunsford, Cole Weavers, and Jamie Petronis. Pick a path on October 30th at midnight, and keep your wits about you. 9️⃣🔪🔪🕛 TRANSCRIPTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE CREDITS:  MALEVOLENT “Scratching” was written, directed, performed, and edited by Harlan Guthrie.  CW: insects, gore Malevolent Website: _________________________ THE CELLAR LETTERS “Get Up” was written, edited, and performed by Jamie Petronis, and features Brandon Jones as the Newscaster CW: general horror, mouth noises, licking sounds Website: _________________________ WAKE OF CORROSION “The Quiet Corridor” was written, performed, edited and mixed by Shaun Pellington. CW: sounds of bone crunching/cracking, mild terror, explicit language Website: _________________________ THE DEAD LETTER OFFICE OF SOMEWHERE, OHIO “Voices in the Vents” was written, performed, and scored by Rat Grimes (they/them). CWs: fire, home invasion Website: _________________________ THE TOWN WHISPERS “Bella” was written, Directed, Editing by Cole Weavers CW: body horror, sleepwalking, nightmares, evil pets Website: _________________________ PARKDALE HAUNT “Who Goes?” was written by Alex Nursall and Emily Kellogg, with engineering and sound design by Alex Nursall. Performed by Emily Kellogg, Alex Nursall, Ian Boddy, and Harlan Guthrie. CW: ghosts/hauntings, home invasion Website:
It seems like the horrors of our dreams are most frightening to you...  On the Eve of Halloween, a dozen storytellers sneak inside the abandoned Darklight Carnival grounds to share a chilling batch of stories in two varieties. This year they split up to uncover the fears that lurk within and horrors that walk among us. One group will head to the Ferris Wheel to tell tales of real-world terror. The other will venture into the Funhouse to spin yarns of the frightening spirit world. Which path will you embark on first? Nine II Midnight is a collaborative storytelling event between 12 podcasts: Hell Gate City Malevolent Nowhere, On Air Out of the Ashes Parkdale Haunt The Cellar Letters The Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio The Night Post The Storage Papers The Town Whispers Wake of Corrosion WOE.BEGONE CREDITS & CONTENT WARNINGS CW: General horror, swearing throughout Produced by Harlan Guthrie Master edit by Harlan Guthrie 'Nine II Midnight' written by Harlan Guthrie. Performed by Harlan Guthrie, Dylan Griggs, Kevin Berrey, Shaun Pellington, Rae Lundberg, Vincent C. Davis, Jess Syratt, Alex Nursall, Rat Grimes, Jeremy Enfinger, Nathan Lunsford, Cole Weavers, and Jamie Petronis. Pick a path on October 30th at midnight, and keep your wits about you. 9️⃣🔪🔪🕛TRANSCRIPTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE CREDITS:  WOE.BEGONE "The Almanac Building" was written, directed, performed, and scored by Dylan Griggs.  CW: gore, animal death Website:  _________________________  OUT OF THE ASHES “Train Ride” was written, directed, and performed by Vincent Comegys-Davis. CW: hospitals/medical issues, death, blood, gore Website: _________________________  THE NIGHT POST "Dead Space" was written, performed, and produced by Rae Lundberg CW: animal peril, drowning Website:   _________________________  NOWHERE, ON AIR “A Dream” was written, performed, and edited by Jesse Syratt (credits for SFX available in the transcript) CW: brief graphic description of body horror and sounds. Website: _________________________  HELL GATE CITY “Shadow of the Eliminator” was written and performed by Kevin Berrey with music by Cheska Navarro. CW: hallucinations/visions, bodily fluids Website: _________________________  THE STORAGE PAPERS “Silly Billy” was written, edited, and mixed by Nathan Lunsford. Performed by Jeremy Enfinger (as Jeremy) and Nathan Lunsford (as Billy). Music credits available in the transcript. CW: profanity, child injury, brief gore (SFX) Website:  
A new series. New characters. New stories. Same Ohio. The Department of Variance of Somewhere, Ohio is a new sci-fi/horror audio drama by Rat Grimes, creator of the Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio.  The Department of Variance is a full-cast serial fiction podcast about a shady governmental group that experiences a containment breach at its main office. One new hire and one mid-level employee from the Bureau of Transnatural Resources–named Jasmine Control and Scarlet Jaunt–are stuck on different floors when a lockdown begins. The two must communicate and get to the bottom of the building however they can. Not all is as it seems in the department, however Beginning December 7th and airing weekly. Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or go to our website or patreon for more information.  The Department thanks you for your time.
Episode 1: New Employee Orientation. The Department of Variance, a clandestine government agency, experiences a crisis and the building goes into lockdown. Two employees–Jasmine Control and Scarlet Jaunt–are stuck on different floors as the emergency begins. The two must communicate and get to the bottom of the skyscraper however they can.  (CWs: voice modulation, implied death, strong language) Check out our website or carrd for all the links you need! Join our Patreon for early access! CREDITS: Cast, in order of appearance: Jesse Syratt, Em Carlson, Emily Kellogg, Shaun Pellington, Justin Hatch, William A. Wellman, Tatiana Gefter, Saph the Something, Taylor Michaels, and special guest Shannon Strucci. Art by NerdVolKurisu Written, scored, edited, and narrated by Rat Grimes. Transcript available on our website!
Conway archives two strange letters this week: one involves a bad neighbor, and the other relates a short story about a fad toy from the '90s.  Don't forget to subscribe if you like the show!   TRANSCRIPT: CONWAY: This is Conway, receiving clerk for the Dead Letter Office of ***** Ohio, processing the national dead mail backlog. We here at the DLO are no strangers to odd parcels and unusual letters, and these two here are certainly unusual. 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 letter 11501, postmarked October 19, 2009, was flagged by a carrier and sent to the Dead Letter Office for verification and processing. The letter has been subsequently opened and read per the state’s revised code. The letter reads as follows: WILLIAM, NARRATOR: Dear Terry at ***** realty, We’re a small college town, so there will be parties. I grew up here, I get it, I’ve lived it myself. Sometimes the people living above you are loud, and obnoxious. Not much to be done about that. But for the tenant above me, it seems that every night is a blowout. Most lights on our block go dim a few hours after sunset, of course other than the orange halos of the street lights and blue streams of tvs filtering through blinds. One night I’m watching reruns of Frasier or Jeopardy or whatever, the windows open to let the cool fall air in. But I can’t hear a damn thing over the commotion upstairs. Pounding music seeps through the ceiling like a burst pipe. I’d almost rather have a water leak, because maybe you’d do something about it for once. I try earplugs, I try the pillow over the head, I try it all. Eventually sunlight starts to creep through the window. And when the sun does come up, the music just stops. And then I have to go to work exhausted and frustrated.  One brisk evening, as splashes of red sunset coat our building, I slip a small note under his door. Something like “Please keep it down after 10 p.m. Some of us do work early!” Problem solved, I hope. But as the last rays of daylight fade and my grilled cheese is fully melted, the damn music starts again. Some kind of dance music, uncomfortably loud, constantly thrumming like a wicked heartbeat.  That night, I’m looking up at the ceiling, just seething over this guy. It’s past 12, and the music still bleats, a single voice interwoven throughout. So I get up, march out to the hallway, and stomp up the narrow stairs. I knock heavily on his door in three quick successions. The door opens just a crack, as bright multicolored light and hammering drums buzz through the frame. “Hey, my dude, what is the deal?” is all he has to say for himself. I’m squinting against the harsh lighting now as my eyes struggle to adjust. He looks like he’s in his late-thirties, a bit haggard. Wearing neon shutter shades and a few days of stubble. “Did you get my note?”  “What?” he leans in to hear me over the commotion. I clear my throat and ask again, louder this time, about the note. I don’t want a fight, I just want to sleep. “Note? No, my dude, there are no notes here,” he laughs to himself, but his voice is shaky. Eventually my eyes get used to the tacky backlight, and I can see a bit between the slats of his glasses. His eyes are huge, bloodshot, always moving. My gaze trails to the wrinkles creasing around the corners of his mouth and eyes. Scruffy, uneven hair held in place by a faded headband, slick with sweat and grease. The tip of a worn vape pen sticks out of the pocket of his baby blue polo shirt. And the man doesn’t blink. He doesn’t blink the entire conversation. “Well, could you keep it down at night? At least weeknights? I have to work and-- “No can do, my dude. ‘Party all day to keep the darkness away,’ know what I mean? Keep it from clawing its way inside,” I can’t tell if he’s joking or sick, but his red, staring eyes keep darting behind me to the shadowed stairwell. “Okay, well you can do whatever makes you happy during the day, that’s not the problem. It’s the nights that I take issue with.” I look past him and into his apartment, trying to make out any shapes in the room. I see a lot of lights, but no other people. If this was a party, it was a pretty bleak one. “This ain’t just for me bruh, gotta keep rockin’ all night to keep the dark--” he starts, or something to that effect, as he wipes moisture from his upper lip and chin. It’s chilly in the building, but he’s still glistening with beads of prickling sweat. I tell him I don’t have time for this, and that if he doesn’t knock it off, I’m calling the landlord. He says something about he's been here a while and no one's complained, but I turn as he trails off. I rub my temples, and go back downstairs to write you an email. I usually work in the morning, but that day a co-worker had gotten sick and I needed to cover her class. I didn’t finish grading until well into the night and then stopped for dinner. So when I got home around 11:30, of course the one-man-party upstairs was still going strong. On my way in, I passed by our outdoor breaker box and an idea crossed my mind. It may not have been my proudest moment, but I was at my limit. I popped open the breaker cover and switched off the upstairs power. The light from his room disappeared, and the music finally, thankfully, ceased. All was quiet in our building, all dark. I went inside and sat on the edge of my bed, relishing the silence and, admittedly, hoping to hear at least a grumble or complaint after what he'd put me through. I assumed he’d figure it out eventually and check the breaker. If he’s got that much lighting and music and who knows what else going all the time, it was bound to trip someday. But instead I heard a wailing. A despairing, guttural sound coming from upstairs. I could only make out a few words between the shrieks, some terrified gibberings about the light going out and the dark going in, going to him. It dawned on me that there could be some kind of medical equipment in there, some life support or insulin in the fridge, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to be responsible for accidentally killing an aging frat bro by shutting it down. I was slipping on my shoes when I heard a heavy thud from above, which seemed to end the raving, then a long, drawn out scratching along the floor, like the sound of dragging heavy furniture across hardwood. I’ll admit that gave me pause. But I left my apartment and stepped warily up the narrow stairs, straining to hear more. There were marks across the concrete floor and up the wooden stairs below my feet--long slashes and scuffs leading from his room, down the stairwell, and toward the vacant apartment below. You may want to check out the floor in his room, too. This is no fault of my own, so you don’t take it out of my deposit. His door was still partially open, and I could see a faint green glow from beyond the frame. I snuck closer, following the marks and peering in through the gap in the doorway. It was a complete mess. Hundreds of melted candles littered the room, dripping wax frozen in strands and pools on the tables, rugs, even right onto the twenty-or-so lighters and countless burned matches scattered around the floor. Towers of cassette tapes and CDs leaned precariously in the corner, while boomboxes and speakers were nested in coiled extension cords and power strips snaking along the ground. Tall, thin halogen lamps were plugged in at nearly every outlet and aimed at the center of the room, casting eerie shadows along the floor. They were off, but I could still feel the heat radiating from the bulbs. It was hot, stifling, even on this chilly evening. Strings of unlit Christmas lights webbed across the walls in meandering patterns like reaching ivy. Old portable televisions faintly hissed with static from the empty bedroom. I had started to regret flipping that breaker, but I needed to convince myself he was unharmed. So I inched my way farther in. The stench of sweaty shirts overflowing from laundry baskets and the smell of overheated electronics filled the muggy room. Whoever this person was, he seemed desperate to avoid any silence, any ounce of darkness. I trailed the gashes in the floor to the source of the green light: in the bathroom, a huge pile of bent old glow sticks--several hundred at least--filled the bathtub to the brim. Their glow had mostly run out, but a dim sick-green pall still clung to the basin from the few that remained active. The marks ended here, next to the tub. Or maybe they began here. Either way, the man was gone, the only trace of him left in the sty he lived in being a crumpled note by the tub. Finding no medical instruments or any evidence of injury, I left, closing his door on my way out. I was tired, confused, but overjoyed that it was finally quiet, so I went to bed.  That was two days ago, and of course a new problem has arisen: something reeks in the building, probably some food the man left behind in his fridge that’s gone rancid. And there’s the occasional scratching sound downstairs. It is vacant down there, right? You told me on the phone when I moved in not to worry about the basement apartment since nobody lived there. Perhaps some raccoons took up residence. Regardless, they are also not my problem, and the noises downstairs are getting louder. I tried sending you another email about all this, but it bounced back, saying the address was invalid. I know the rent is cheap so I shouldn’t complain, but you really ought to update the email address you give to tenants. I’ve been advised that I should hold my rent in escrow until the odor problem is sorted. I do have some rights, you know. Squatters rights and all that. Now I’m writing all this out by hand, along with the contents of the first email and the man’s note,
Conway archives two more odd letters this week. A struggling chef encounters a new customer with unusual tastes. A secret admirer reveals his game. Don't forget to subscribe if you like the show! (CWs: blood, food, stalking, 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 letter 12603 was found in a vacant building before demolition on July 22nd, 2011. It was addressed to the ****** Police Department, but was not postmarked or sent. There was no return address. It was forwarded to our office for verification and processing. The letter has been subsequently opened and read per the state’s revised code. The letter reads as follows:  NARRATOR: I’m not sure if what I’ve done--and what I’m about to do--is technically a crime. A sin, sure, one of the gravest, depending on your outlook. But you don’t deal with sinners, do you. This is a confession, regardless; I’ll leave it to you whether it’s religious or criminal. Let me start at the beginning. I’ve been in this neighborhood for over three decades. I built this place, and I’ve stuck it out through fires and floods and all kinds of hardships. I’ve seen this place rise and fall and get back up again. But things are different now. I used to know a lot of the people coming in. I could ask them about their kids or job or whatever. Even if the place wasn’t packed, it could stand on its own. But the old faces just don’t come here much anymore, and the new ones are not the same. It’s all young people in their jumpers and track pants and fancy watches with no numbers. They spend more, but their tips leave a little something to be desired.  The old businesses have vanished along with the old faces. The Fledermouse is gone, now it’s just a store for lampshades. Not lamps, mind you, just the shades. And across the street they’re done building some fancy studio apartments. Used to be a real workin man’s neighborhood, lotta immigrants, real good folk. Now it’s a sanctioned “arts district,” and with that comes “arts district” rent. This city’s too chickenshit for any kind of rent control, so I’m looking at shuttering my business and moving out within the year if things don’t pick up. Well one night we’re unexpectedly swamped, and I hear some chatter about a food writer for some internet website being here. Always looking for new experiences and all that. So I’m in the back sweating up a storm, trying to get these orders out to the good people. I’m dicing up chives for the garnish and I slip a little. No time for errors if I want to keep this place alive. I keep my head down, toss on the chives, and slide the bowl down the line to be taken out to the table. I take a breath, lean back against the counter, and wipe the sweat off my forehead with my greasy apron. Then I can feel my finger pulsing when I press it against my face. And that’s when I see it. The fresh, dark red on the apron, dripping from my finger. When I was chopping, I must have nicked it. I go to pick up a dry towel next to the cutting board, when I see it again. Those same red globs on the chives, on the knife. Holding the towel over my finger, I rush to the kitchen door and crane my neck, straining to see out the window. The guy’s lifting the spoon to his mouth and sipping it just as I peer out. Well, that’s it for me, I figure. I had a good run, time to pack it in and close shop. I take a seat and bandage my finger, thinking about the old times here. I’m stirred from my thoughts by one of the servers, she says the food guy called her “garcon” and says he wants to meet whoever was responsible for the soup. Well, time to face the music, folks. I slip my damp hat off, run a hand through my thinning hair, and amble to his table. I don’t hear much of what he’s saying, I’m looking past him and thinking about the fat fine the city’s gonna stick me with. That is until he holds out his hand for a shake. He says something about a genius reinvention or deconstruction or whatever. Says it was unlike any soup he’s ever had. I’m speechless for a minute, half-tempted to fess up right then and there. Instead, my self-preservation instinct kicks and I zip my fat lip and shake his hand. He says he feels reinvigorated and will be back next week for the same dish.  So next week rolls around and here he is, Mr. Food Blog himself, asking for the soup, exactly as before. I put in the same ingredients, prepared the same way (minus the finger incident of course) and send it out. Not two minutes later, he sends it back. He sends back my soup! Says it’s not the same as the first time, it’s boring, it's missing something. The only difference this time was...well I look around the kitchen for anything bloody I can squeeze into this soup, but nothing turns up.  Now, the first time was an accident. I don’t think that’s a crime, at least not one an attorney would waste their time on. Can’t imagine God getting too upset about a thing like that either. Here’s where it should have ended: he sends the soup back and I let the guy leave disappointed. But this was my business, my life, we’re talking about, on the brink of drowning, and here was a life jacket floating right by. How could I not grab it? Yeah, this second time, I knew what I was doing. Motive makes a difference, don't it? So it was my poor finger’s time to shine again. He loves it. Be back next week. With friends. Next time I’m prepared. It’s pretty easy to get your hands on some livestock blood. I can keep it in the kitchen without too much suspicion from the line cooks. Around dinner time the following week, he comes in, flanked by a few guys in nice shirts and sneakers and two girls with big hats. He orders the soup. Exactly the same as before, he says. For all of them. I finish preparing the soup and sneak a few drips of cow’s blood into each bowl. It's not too different from lard or meat, right? I don’t see any harm in it. I send out the bowls and await the praise. But instead, I’m met with 6 bowls of soup, sent back. “Exactly as it was before,” the guy scowled at my waitress, pointing to the bowl.  I can already see where this is going: he doesn’t just want any old blood, he wants my blood.  Well, what’s running a restaurant if not putting your blood, sweat, and tears into every dish? What’s a little blood if it means I can pay the hiked rent? The problem is, for six bowls, a little finger nick isn’t going to do it. I clear out the kitchen, under the pretenses I’m still upset about the food being sent back and need a minute. Next thing I know, knife meets palm and the customers are raving. Better than ever, he says, a total rejuvenation. The weeks pass by as more and more of my new neighbors stop by for the famed soup and the old customers slip away entirely. More and more bandages show up on my hands, arms. My employees think I’m getting slow, shaky, with my age. But I’m sharper than ever, and business is booming.  It all goes real smoothlike for months. I get some nicer ingredients, tweak the presentation, the whole shebang. None of it seems to make a difference to these people besides how much of uh myself I put in the dish. The more I lose, the more they pay. Sure I get woozy, need a break. Yeah, I’m looking a little pale these days, feel a little weaker. But if it means keeping this place open, keeping some small part of the old days intact, I’ll deal with it. The plan's working. Until last week, that is. Rent’s up again. They’re tryin to push me out for a high-tech gym, or some artisanal dog food joint or something. “Arts district” my ass, it’s just a shopping mall now. On top of this, Mr. Food Website is bored of my stuff. Says it’s stale, wants to move on to other places and take his crowd with him. Says the place could use shaking up. Something big, something truly impressive, truly enlivening.  So now you know what I’ve done. I’m guilty, absolutely. Guilty of caring, of passion, of doing what it took to stay afloat. If that’s a crime, I’ll gladly face my punishment.  He’s coming back tonight, though, the same day I’m writing this letter. If he doesn’t like the dish, he’s leaving and taking all my business with him. If this isn’t the best thing he’s ever, ever tasted, I’m shit out of luck. I’m done, gone. Demolished and forgotten after 30 years.  So this time, I’m leaving nothing behind. Oh, it’ll be big all right. A real shakeup, a total showstopper. I’m putting my everything into this last supper. I’m leaving all of myself on the table, roasted and served on a silver platter.  CONWAY: There were no names or addresses provided, and research into similar events in the area have come up inconclusive. The DLO has thus ruled this letter deliverable. One of our carriers will deliver a lightly redacted copy to the correct address, and the original letter will be stored in our vault. Dead Letter 07104, found cramped and crumbled at the bottom of a filing cabinet at the *****, Ohio police department. It had been opened and read previously, and one of our carriers intercepted it at the way to the dump. The letter reads as follows. SECRET ADMIRER: You were not supposed to see me. We were never meant to meet. You were not supposed to see me, but oh I saw you. I saw so much of you. Alone in the cafe, reading rejection letters from various institutions. You were a meandering, flat person, nothing special inside or out. I saw you in the cafe, and that’s when you invited me into your dull little life, Daniel. All you could have seen was a man in reflective shades and a scarf. It’s a stroke of luck that you did not see behind the shades, nor under the scarf. An unfortunate num
The Dead Letter Office receives a series of emails from a college student with recurring nightmares. Conway takes a trip to investigate a kitschy painting. Don't forget to rate, review, and subscribe if you like the show! (CWs: trypophobia, alcohol, finger damage, depictions of depression)   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 extremely felonious. Some names and places have been censored for the protection of the public.  Dead letter 13905. A series of emails were sent to the Environmental Protection Agency of Ohio over the course of many months in 2015. There was some concern among the higher-ups at the agency that these emails may be more pertinent to our work at the DLO rather than the EPA. They were intercepted and forwarded to us, and have been subsequently opened and read. The emails read as follows: KARA, NARRATOR: Dear Rick, I’m a senior at um **** ***** State University. I’ve been dreaming about holes--dark caves, coves along the shore, deep black as far in as I can see. This may not seem relevant at first, but I promise it'll come up, keep reading. I dream about sinkholes opening in a busy city street; gaps in clusters of coral growing from a sunken boat; a bloody bullet-wound in my leg; a honeycomb. This isn’t the first time I’ve dreamt about holes. There’s something I find revolting and unsettling about their emptiness. Maybe it’s ingrained in our lizard brains that holes are not good. Maybe that’s why aliens in our movies and comics always have those giant, endlessly black eyes. I dream more dreams about holes. I dream about trying to fill an infinite pool with a small garden hose. I dream about empty pomegranates. Others are deeply upsetting: confused imagery, lotus pod faces, choking revulsion, claustrophobia. I haven’t been sleeping well, and I can’t seem to focus on my schoolwork at all. My grades are starting to slip and I’m not sure how to proceed. I haven’t told anyone about the dreams yet. Talking about dreams to other people is pointless anyway; either they get it and nod along with you or they don’t get it at all and just nod along out of courtesy. It’s like having to explain why a joke is funny, it kills the whole prospect. After days of restless nights dreaming about holes, it’s hard to not notice them just...everywhere. Pupils are just holes in your eyes. Don’t look at close-up pictures of eyes. Empty spaces on bookshelves, open windows. Pores on peoples’ faces yawn wide. Cavities burrow into teeth, worms dig through soil. Anyway, I was doing some much-needed vacuuming on a Sunday morning and had to move the rug in the middle of my room to sweep under it. I pulled at the fabric, then paused. Two of the wooden planks underneath seemed a little farther apart than they should be. I tried to remember what the floor looked like last time I vacuumed. It had been a while, but I don't think they were that far apart. After all of these dreams about empty spaces, I figured I was just imagining things. I put the rug back over the boards and continued cleaning. Over the next few weeks or so, I didn’t really think about the space under the rug. I carried on with my dull work and repetitive life for a few weeks. That is, until a tube of chapstick fell off my coffee table and rolled strangely toward the center of the rug. Where it stopped, the slight weight of the tube made the rug sink. I hesitantly moved the table and reached out for the edge of the rug. The gap between the floorboards was definitely bigger this time. I started looking for answers online. Wood warping, leaky pipes, sinkholes, fracking quakes, ball lightning coming through electrical sockets; all manner of strange natural incidents can occur in your house, but none of this seemed to quite fit the symptoms. Anyway, now that the wordy preamble is out of the way, this is why I’m contacting you. I figure ODNR or the Ohio EPA should know something about this. It’s probably fine right? I think it’s just some kind of geological event or seismic oddity. My address and phone number are enclosed in case you think this sounds serious. Best, Kara KARA: Hello again Rick, Thanks for getting back to me. I don’t hear any water, but it has grown. In fact, one morning I stumbled blearily downstairs and nearly fainted. The hole had widened, and seemingly swallowed my area rug and coffee table. The edges were perfectly smooth, as if something terribly sharp cut through the floorboards and into the earth. I froze in a panic on the stairs and spent what felt like most of the morning paralyzed, numb, staring at the hole from the dark steps. Where did it come from? Where did it lead? Should I call 911? Eventually I got brave enough to leave the stairs and go near it. I strained to see in from a few feet away, but it was no use. I smelled for rotten eggs like you suggested, but I don’t think there’s any gas leaks. I leaned in and listened. Nothing. As I inched closer, the urge to stick my hand in was strong, but my survival instincts proved stronger. I haven’t told anyone else about this hole, either. Who would I call? My dad? The cops? What would I say? Now that I think about it, maybe I can take care of it myself. I’ve fixed a lock  and caulked a shower before, so maybe it won’t be too hard to replace some floorboards. Or maybe, if it’s some freak geological occurrence, it’ll just go away on its own, just as suddenly as it came. I’ll just be extra careful not to drop anything for the time being, and I’ll cover it up if anyone comes over. I’ll plan around it. No big. Sorry to bother you. Thanks anyway, Kara KARA: At first it was a pain. I was stunned anew every morning that I came down from the bedroom to see chasm in the floor before me. My heart raced as I tip-toed around it, trying not to look down. Soon I’d forget about it for a few minutes when I was busy. I wouldn’t notice it while I was watching entire seasons of show at once, or staring at the dishes that somehow keep piling up.  But it always nagged at me, gnawing at some part of my brain, conscious or otherwise. I’d go out with friends, and they’d notice me staring into space. They’d ask what’s wrong. Nothing, I’d say. And in a sense, it was true. Holes are just an absence, a lack. When I’d lay on the couch for days without moving, it was an absence, a lacking. It was nothing. I stopped going out with friends. I’d make and break little promises to myself that I would check my email and get back to you, that I’d talk to someone about it if it wasn’t gone tomorrow. Then next week. Then if it was still around next year. Eventually I got accustomed to its size, its edges, to the point where I could just side-step it by muscle memory. Avoiding it became an unconscious routine like anything else. I didn’t feel worried about it, and in fact didn’t feel much at all anymore. If I drank and slept enough, it was nothing. I trudged through all this and by some miracle graduated. I got a new job and moved out of town. Yeah, I just left the hole there for the landlord to deal with. It’s not like I was getting my deposit back anyway. The presence of the new city gave me a rush. There were new places to explore, new food to try. I was getting more rest, had more fulfilling work, better hobbies. Better relationships. My new partner moved in. But new things only stay new for so long, and bodies refuse to stay buried, so to speak. Just a small crack under the bed. Just a sliver at first. Probably shoddy flooring. I covered it with a storage tub and didn’t tell my partner. Why should they get roped into worrying about a tiny crack in the wood? It's ridiculous. My partner later found it, of course, and wanted to call the landlord. I convinced them not to. Said I’d seen something like that before, and that it's fine if we just ignore it. The crack got bigger. Its presence festered. My partner was shaken from their sleep one morning when the bedframe slipped and fell halfway into the hole. They insisted that we call someone, but I fought back again. My partner got irritated, told me off. Said they were tired of the waiting, the excuses, the growing gulf between us. Then they went quiet, and confided that they had heard something scratching and whispering in the hole when I wasn’t home. They thought it was their imagination running wild, paranoia, or just loneliness. But not anymore. They grabbed a flashlight out of the closet and tentatively peered over the edge of the silent void. They didn’t say a word the rest of the night. My partner moved out less than a week later. I like to look into the hole for long stretches. I think about the scratching. I blankly drop in something just to see if it hits any sort of bottom. I want to climb in and see how far it goes. I want to see if I can survive a head-on confrontation with the dark. When I’m sitting in my living room absently staring at my phone, in the dead drunk grey of winter, I swear I can hear something. Faint whispers from the other room, drawing me in, tempting me to slide inside. Then I hear the chatter, the dragging, and the sound of bone grating on rock.  I don’t leave the bedroom. I have to keep an eye on the hole to make sure nothing falls in...or comes out. It fills everything with nothing. I can’t move away, I can’t blink. Sometimes I think I can see a hand reach up, not more than a shadow, fingers ragged and bloody. I shakily crawl to the edge on my hands and knees and peek in, my hair dangling just past the edge. I reach in up to my elbow, feeling for something, anything. I hear the scratching again. I hear the whispers and the clawing at the walls and I feel wet, clammy flesh brush up against my arm. I recoil and pull my arm back. I don’
Valentine's Day comes early as a city in California replaces its old sodium-vapor streetlights with LEDs, and Conway receives a sign from above.  "My Prayer" originally composed by Georges Boulanger, Carlos Gomez Barrera, and Jimmy Kennedy, covered by the Platters, covered by me. (CWs: some strong language, brief phallic language, food/brief crunching, death)   TRANSCRIPTS: 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.  This case begins with a letter, Dead Letter 135707, and a recorded radio broadcast of unknown origin. Our research indicates that after a series of complaints regarding faulty streetlights in July 2016, a city in California formed a commission to replace their aging sodium-vapor lamps. City council partnered with a local tech company to quickly remove the old lights and install bright new LEDs. They sent out a notice of the planned change to all residents within city limits. This prompted the aforementioned letter in response. The letter and the radio broadcast were sent on different days, the broadcast recorded before the plan was even public, but arrived at the commission at exactly the same time. It...spiraled out from there.  A carrier noticed the mail buildup at the listed address of this supposed commission--a burned out church--and sent it our way to sort through. These are the collected letters, voicemails, emails, and other communications surrounding the days following in summer 2016.  MARY: Dear City Council, I’m a zoologist with the University of ******. I just heard about your proposal for our streetlight issue, and I have a few concerns. First, it should be noted that the views presented here are strictly my own, and do not reflect the opinions of the university or its administration. From what I’ve read about the commission’s plans, it seems that the city will be removing the low-pressure sodium bulbs we use now and replacing them with high-efficiency LED lights, funded partially by Thanatech. While I do think it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars to upgrade our city’s infrastructure, and efficiency is definitely desirable, my concern lies in the LEDs themselves. Our old sodium-vapor lamps may not be the brightest or most aesthetically pleasing, but these supposed deficiencies may be important. Inside low-pressure sodium bulbs, metal is heated, causing it to emit a yellowish light. This warm, relatively dim light sits around or below about 2200 kelvin, significantly warmer than natural sunlight. The LEDs you’re planning to use sit somewhere between 4000 and 6000k, the approximate color temperature of actual daylight.  So why does any of this matter, you may be thinking? Well, although these lamps aren’t great for helping us see at night, they may be better for our furry friends. It’s theorized that brighter, bluer light, like that provided by LEDs, can trick segments of the brain into thinking that it’s actually daytime. I worry that replacing our whole grid with these bulbs could have a negative effect on our local wildlife. If a bunch of birds, bats, raccoons, and skunks think it’s daytime when it’s really midnight, we could have more problems on our hands than flickering street lights. The wavelengths of light emitted by these LEDs could disrupt their behavior, and may throw off their circadian rhythms. Disrupted sleep can cause serious problems, from common irritability and sluggishness, which we often see in ourselves, to memory issues, paranoia, aggressive or impulsive behavior, lack of appetite, even hallucinations, and so on. While I think fixing our streets is a good idea, I don’t think it’s worth potentially upending our entire local ecosystems in the process. Surely we can come to some kind of middle-ground and just get new sodium lamps, right? That is, unless you’ve already paid for Thanatech’s LEDs with our tax dollars.  Either way, thank you for taking the time to consider my concerns. Best wishes, Dr. Mary ****, class of 2005 CONWAY: Postmarked July 11th, 2016, arrived July 12th 2016. The following radio broadcast was sent July 5th, 2016 and arrived July 12th, 2016. CRACKLING VOICE ON THE RADIO: Good evening, ladies and gentleman. I'm here to tell you there’s electricity in the margins on the page, an atom bomb’s worth. In the space between the words, there’s energy. The things we can’t see are made of that energy. They travel through the wires and hide in stoplights. We can’t see them because we are not meant to see them. They come out at night and ride on the electrons in the air. Ladies and gentleman, we are made of electrons. When that twilight is gone, and no songbirds sing, God comes through the lines and sits in the streetlights. He waves, but you can’t see it. Should we all be so lucky as to be touched by the waving man in the light. CONWAY: The following voicemail was sent to the commission on July 17th, 2016. MITCH ON THE PHONE: Hey mayor dipshit, these new lights are so bright they’re going straight through my curtains. How the hell is any of this even allowed? Who’s paying for this? I didn’t elect some CEO dillweed to be in charge of our city, I elected you. And let me guess, they were paid for by our tax dollars? If I wanted this kinda open corruption with big business, I woulda stayed there in West by god Virginia. I haven’t slept in two days, and since the new lights went up in this neighborhood, they’re driving me up a wall. And since when did this renovation deal mean more plainclothes cops? Were those paid for by us too? I’ve seen the same jerk hanging out around my street every night, but no cop car. I can’t get a good look at him, but he’s dressed dark and keeps moving around between lampposts. Seems like he’s patrolling. Maybe like law enforcement, or even a g-man. Can you PLEASE have a meeting with the commission to see if you can do anything about this decision? Name’s Mitch by the way, disgruntled taxpayer number who the hell even knows now. CONWAY: Email sent to To ******* on July 18th, 2016 at 9:15PM Pacific Standard. LIZ: God, I miss you, Priya. I haven’t been sleeping well, or I mean I guess worse than usual. I haven’t been this exhausted since high school track. I hear people moving around at ungodly hours every night. Though, to be fair, I’m sure they hear me up too. The city put in these super bright new street lights everyone hates them. People have been talking about like going to city hall to protest they're that bad. Everyone’s on edge. I came really close to losing it at this girl who cut in front of me at the self-checkout. She didn’t even see that I was there. I don’t know what came over me. While I was there, I heard someone tell the cashier a weird story about people loitering outside apartment buildings. I thought I saw something like that today, actually. Looked like a tall guy, but I mean I couldn’t make out any features or even like his clothes. He kinda shifted around and then went away. Just disappeared. I’m pretty sure it was just somebody’s shadow from the balcony, though. Like with the lights these bright, you can make some pretty sick shadows. You’d have freaked out. Hope Munich is treating you well now that you’re settled in. Call me in the morning. Morning my time or yours I guess, it's not like I’ll be asleep anyway.  <3 <3 xo Liz MITCH ON THE PHONE: Hey, Mary, it’s Mitch, I know you screen calls but you should recognize my number by n--Oh shit, I can hear the cops outside somewhere. Sirens going, maybe an ambulance. I guess it got ugly at city hall. Doesn’t surprise me given how everyone’s been acting. I’m gonna see if I can maybe like...I can kinda see somebody through the blinds. Not sure if it’s that cop, he’s just standing there. Can’t really make out...hold on...what the hell? It’s like I can’t really see him. Just all dark. Looks like a shadow or something. I keep thinking he’s moving closer, but Mary, he’s not moving. He’s just...rippling. No, no this can’t be real. Okay, I need to sleep but by God, it’s so bright. What’s he...okay he’s gone. Call me as soon as you get this. Stay safe down there, please don’t get arrested, and hurry on back now.  MARY: Christ Mitch, just got your message. Can’t call, too loud down here. Have to text. Ducked out of the crowd for a minute before some people in black showed up. Sounds like they’re down here, too. Not sure what they’re doing, just head-to-toe black standing under the streetlights. National Guard? FBI? Too far away to tell. Was getting a major headache, stepped out for some water and air. May head home soon. Not sure. Doesn’t seem like anyone’s listening to us anyway. Some sirens nearby. Have to go. CONWAY: To ******* sent on July 19th 2016. LIZ: Yeah, some people marched downtown today. I was gonna go but I had to work. It’s getting wild down there now, kinda glad I stayed home, actually. So Yeah I’m safe, but I think I’m losing my mind without you here. The power in the neighborhood just went out. Of course it didn’t take the street lights out with it. OF COURSE IT DIDN’T. One of the Thanatech bulbs was smashed a few buildings down, but it’s not enough, I still can’t sleep. On top of that, I keep seeing people in front of our building, dark figures gathered under the streetlights. I thought about ordering banh mi, but nah. Mac and cheese and the Sims for me tonight. I wish I could have come with you to Germany. I bet the mountains are just gorgeous, and I bet they don’t have street lights so bad people protest over it there. It just feels like one long day here that never, ever ends. Well, I took some melatonin and put up the new blackout curtains. They’re hideous, you'll probably h
Conway receives a water-logged manuscript from a midwestern monster hunter of questionable character.  (CWs: mild drug use--cannabis, fire,)   TRANSCRIPTS: 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 Letter 10609, a manuscript for some kook’s autobiography or memoir, sent to a less than reputable publishing company that shut its doors years back. It was flagged for inspection before it could be delivered due to some unknown fluid leaking from the package. Inside the package was the previously mention manuscript and a broken test tube. The most pertinent excerpts from what remains of the water-logged manuscript read as follows.  NARRATOR: It started, as so many terrible things do, in rural Ohio. You drive out deep into the flat midwest farmland, past the intersection of McCutcheon and 199, down narrow roads covered in gravel and framed by a split sea of cornstalks. You take the turn onto Holcomb road, and one way or another you’ll eventually hit Holcomb Woods--regardless of which way you’re going. Holcomb road cuts a straight line through the foliage. You can see one end from the other, given clear enough conditions. Every kid in the area’s heard of Holcomb woods. The legend varies from school to school, vivid details emerging when the tale’s in the hands of a particularly clever storyteller, but some commonalities emerge: a vehicle, an accident, a tree, and some ghostly headlights. Some say it was a bus full of kids and a mad driver, others whisper of intoxicated teens. No matter the details, the story ends with a warning--or dare, depending on who is listening--drive down Holcomb road at night and you’ll come upon the passage through the dense trees. Before you pass under the arced branches, you’ll see a pair of headlights coming at you from the opposite direction. You can try to swerve out of the way, but they’ll pass right through you, then disappear. Some say you can still see the driver’s face in one of the trunks if the moon’s angle is just right.  Growing up, I wanted to work with animals. I was fascinated with animal behavior, with their taxonomies and eccentricities. I planned to go to the nearby state university after high school, study biology, zoology, whatever it took to get my dream job. That was until three friends and I took a trip down Holcomb road. It was the final day of our last summer break before graduation. We were bumping along the rough country roads in an old Buick, blaring the kind of music specifically designed to make our parents wince. We slowed down when we saw the woods ahead, the black void in the center of the trees inviting us in. Of course, we’d all heard the stories before, each of us with our own personal vision of the fateful event that we would passionately defend. We stopped at the very edge of the trees and shut off the engine. Mosquitos tapped at the windows in the humid air. The only sign of our presence that remained was the gentle clinking of empty beer bottles rattling around in the backseat. We sat and waited. Somebody cracked wise about a ghost driver needing a ghost license. We were haughty and skeptical in the headstrong way that only teenagers--so sure of their own immortality--can be.  The driver was getting impatient, eager to return the rusty sedan to his parents before midnight and get inside in the central air. He reached for the keys, fixed to run the engine again, when two points of bright light emerged from the other end of the woods. We all went quiet, transfixed by the glow. The two points were close together, and smaller than headlights. They drew closer at a startling pace. The driver fumbled with the keys while the rest of us shouted at him to get it together. The keys hit the floor with a pathetic clink and we fell silent again. The lights were right in front of us now, standing about seven feet in the air. Each was about the size of a baseball, casting an eerie pall across our stunned faces. These lights were attached to something bigger: they looked like the eyes of some strange creature. The hulking beast stood on two thin legs, leading up to a wide body covered in dense fur. It took a step toward the driver-side window and tilted its oblong face. Two long feathery tendrils twitched atop its head. A hooked claw tapped at the door. I made eye contact with this thing from the passenger seat and felt a deep churn in my gut. Dread crept through my body. I could see every anxiety, every worst case scenario I’d ever imagined, play out in my head at once. The others burst into action simultaneously, all scrambling and reaching to find the keys under the seat. This entity seemed unsettled by our sudden movement and stepped back on its spindly legs. A huge pair of powdery wings spread out behind it. It flapped several times, then took off over the pale moonlit trees and disappeared. The driver snatched the keys from below the seat and we sped home. After what felt like a century of silence, somebody in the back made a joke about the fuzzy bird man, assuring ourselves that it was probably just an eagle or local crackpot in a costume. I didn’t say anything the whole way. I was replaying the horrible visions in my head over and over. Classes would start next week, our last year of mandatory schooling before we all went our own ways in the adult world. That Wednesday, the high school caught fire, taking the lives of the driver, the two passengers in the backseat, and several other students and teachers. From that moment, my interest in zoology vanished, and I became deeply fascinated by cryptozoology. I’ve been all over this great state searching for signs of the paranormal and the cryptozoological. I’ve taken a dive in Lake Erie looking for Bessie, the South Bay monster. Didn’t find much there apart from some sunken boats, a lot of trees, and a weird skeleton with a human skull and fish tail. I’ve journeyed into forests and nature preserves for sightings of the grassman, also known as the skunk ape or the woodland sasquatch. There are places here that are almost supernatural on their own. Small towns isolated in time, one-road-hamlets with ice cream stands across the street from stark white churches, 50s style diners and cash-only single pump stations. You’ll meet some of the friendliest, most earnest folk in the world in these towns. You may think you’ve finally died and gone to heaven. I’ve also come to know that a lot of places here in Ohio are about as close to hell as we humans will see. Little pockets of distilled hate, of insular folk hostile to anyone or anything different, rotting from the inside. Places that drain your spirit and crater your faith in humankind. Pretty towns full of mundane demons who would rather bleed their kids to death in plain view than acknowledge the world outside. Horrific poverty and destitution wrought by business and encouraged by politics with no fix in sight. Of course this isn’t isolated to any town or any state. It spreads and it festers across the midwest, through the rust belt, from coast to coast. With enough time on the road, you learn to keep mostly to yourself until you’re sure which you’re dealing with.  It was at one of these previously noted ice cream stands on one of the aforementioned grassman journeys that I overheard a possible sighting. It was early August, hot as all get out. I was about 15 minutes out from the largest nature preserve in the state. Sitting on a bench under a big plastic cone, I was trying my damndest to keep my chocolate vanilla twist from dripping onto my hand. Church was just letting out across the road. According to the sign out front, next week was chili week. A small family in dated formalwear trotted over for a post-worship treat. The kids squealed and ran off with their cones. Their parents sat on a bench not far from me. The father said he had a friend who went hiking yesterday and came across a strange clearing. It seemed to be a campsite, but there was no camping gear, no sign of a fire. The clearing was surrounded by odd broken branches, tangled and tied into dangling arcane symbols like wicked Christmas ornaments. Then there were the weird indentations in the dirt. Throughout the site was a sour, skunky smell. He didn’t give many clues as to where this site was, but given the description, I could narrow it down to a couple square miles of land. Besides, what other leads on the midwest bigfoot did I have? As any seasoned hunter knows, sasquatches, swamp apes, Ohio dog men, the Loveland Frog, and other paranormal phenomena are most active in the early morning. I loaded my camouflage, german-engineered tactical backpack full of the usual supplies: a 1978 Canon F1 with several lenses (which many experts attest is the best camera for capturing the paranormal), 6 rolls of monochromatic 35mm film, motion sensors, an EMF reader for when I’m feeling so inclined, a hiking pole adorned with bells, a compass, a first aid kit, and of course clean water and snacks.  I set out on the trail just before dawn, camera in hand, looking for the possible hideout of the grassman. After several hours of pleasant hiking in the estimated area, my eye stopped on a small trail running from the main path. Of course this could just be any random trail, but In my years of searching, I’ve learned to discard logic and follow my instincts. And my instincts said this trail was it. I screwed on the telephoto lens to my camera and crept forward through the tall grass and gnarled roots of towering hickory trees. I could hear something ahead, and through the first sluggish rays of hazy daylight saw snapped and hanging bran
The Dead Letter Office receives a series of postcards from a place that doesn't exist. Conway takes a trip to his local art museum after some pieces go missing. (CWs: beer, derealization)   TRANSCRIPTS: 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.  A series of postcards, collectively titled Dead Letter 6910, postmarked May 17th 1980. The post office that initially received these cards were unable to determine the intended address and no return address was provided. They were apparently left on top of a cabinet for a few decades until that office closed. Agents clearing out the remaining equipment flagged these and sent them our way.  The front of the cards feature a white lighthouse, somewhat faded from exposure to the sun. Small cursive handwriting covers the postcards back to front. I’ve been able to place them in what I believe is the correct order. The messages read as follows. LOST FISHERMAN, NARRATOR: It’s real easy to lose yourself fishing, to forget your troubles. It’s like a daydream. Now Lucy, I know fishing stories get exaggerated, but you’ve got to hear this one, sweetheart: it’s a real humdinger! Me and Ken were out on the boat, cruising for fish. We had talked about going out on Lake Erie to nab a few meaty walleye last winter. All season I kept having the same dream: we’d be out on the drink, passing the hours doing a whole lot of nothing. I’d be almost in a daze when I’d hear the plop of my bobber dipping. I’d anchor my foot against the side of the vessel and start slowly reeling in the line. I could feel something pulling on the other end. Something big. We’d fight over the wire for minutes, then I’d finally hoist it out. A big, glistening golden walleye, almost as big as, jeez, my whole torso, you could say. But then Ken would hold up this weird upside-down painting of a lighthouse. While I was distracted, the walleye would wriggle its huge body and slip into the lake, disappearing into the deep. I’d peek up at the sun above the scattered clouds, sigh, then check my watch. But no matter how hard I tried, no matter what angle I’d look at it, I just couldn’t make out the time. Then I’d wake up. Well since the weather’d warmed up, we figured it was about time. So me and Ken were out on the Erie sitting on opposite sides of our little watercraft. He had this big orange life preserver on, which I still think’s a little showoffy, and his nose was white with zinc. He was gazing out over the calm water before he cast his line. It was a cool late spring morning, a little bit of haze still resting above the surface before the sun comes up and cooks it away like fat on the griddle. I flicked my wrist and sent my hook out into the lake, then reclined in my seat. I stuck my hand into the blue cooler at my feet and felt around for some jerky. Ken was still just scanning the lake, as if he was trying to find something that wasn’t there. He got this weird expression like he’d been pricked, then finally also cast his line. We spent a while without a single bite. The morning bugs were starting to come out and swirl around the water’s surface. You know, in a way, fishing is kinda similar that new age meditation I saw on tv. You forget yourself and just be one with the fishing rod. Having a few brews handy helps with that, too. I reached into the cooler for a beer and cracked the bottle open with a satisfying fizz. Well that finally caught Ken’s attention. LOST FISHERMAN: “You want a cold one, buddy?” I offered. KEN: “What brand did you bring?” LOST FISHERMAN: “Well…” I turned around bottle in my hand, but the label was gone. It must have sweat off in the ice. “Something light. Don’t need to be getting sauced out on the lake in the middle of the day!” Ken shrugged and took the slippery bottle. I peered over the edge at my reflection in the lake. The rippling water around the edge of the vessel distorted my face. Then the slack on my line went taut and the reel started unspooling. I shook myself from my thoughts and picked up my rod. I clicked the handle forward and started reeling her in. The drag was fierce, this must have been some fish! I braced my legs against the side of the boat and anchored the butt of the rod under the lip. I pulled and reeled in succession, but the more I struggled, the harder this thing was to reel in. My arms were getting weak, my face turned beat-red and no doubt made that strained expression you always laugh at. Ken sat and watched in shock. KEN: “That must be some fish!” LOST FISHERMAN: He muttered, then rushed over to me, pulling my shoulders and helping me keep my balance. We waged war with this fish, tug of war, that is, back and forth for what could have been 20 seconds or 2 hours. Eventually the line slackened, and we figured we’d worn this monster out. I puffed out a sigh, straightened my hat, and prepared to haul her in. I thrust my arms up and the line snapped, splashing me with lake water and sending me careening for the port edge. I landed on my backside with a crash. I dabbed the moisture in my mustache and rubbed my dinged elbow. Ken laughed and fished around in the cooler, pulling out another drink for me. KEN: “Come on, I think you’ve earned it.” LOST FISHERMAN: We sat quietly again for a time, waiting for another bite or just enjoying the little peace away from home. The bugs mostly left us alone once the sun was high. The warm rays of the afternoon combined with the sedating nature of the suds made me liable to doze off. My eyelids grew heavy and sank, blurring the glinting sun on the water into a band of soft light. The rocking boat lulled me into a trance, and my head dipped.  Before I could actually catch some Zs, Ken spoke up, real gravely. He was in front of me, his hand on my shoulder. KEN: “Have you seen the duck yet?” LOST FISHERMAN:“Which duck?” I asked. He closed his eyes and sighed. KEN: “It’s rusting. Look this might sound boneheaded, How did we get out here again?" LOST FISHERMAN: I blinked hard and pushed up the brim of my hat to get a good look at him through my sleepy eyes. “What d’ya mean, Ken? We drove out to the dock then motored out here.” He turned his gaze out over the water and shook his head. He asked if I remembered actually doing that and, well, now that he mentioned it, no. I just remembered being on the ship. “It was early, Ken,” I reasoned, “we were barely awake. I just can’t think on it right now’s all.” He didn’t seem satisfied with that. He bent over the old cooler and rooted around to scoop out the rest of the bottles we had. He turned them my way. KEN: “Look, no labels. You think every single one rubbed off in the cooler? You really can’t remember which brand you bought?” LOST FISHERMAN: “C’mon Ken,” I said. “You’re acting funny. Not haha-funny either.” He took a step toward me. I was starting to get a little anxious. KEN: “What’s my last name?” LOST FISHERMAN: He asked. Lucy, I swear, I felt older than granddad. I knew what it was, but in that moment I couldn’t say. It was on the tip of my tongue, but nothing would come out. I felt prickling sweat running down the back of my neck. My hands were clammy and my mouth was bone dry. “Jeez Ken, w-what’s this all about? I thought we came out here to relax, not play ten thousand dollar pyramid together.” My stomach felt uneasy. Ken kneeled to my eye level and took off his hat. KEN: “What’s your name?” LOST FISHERMAN: What’s my name? What a damn silly question. He sounded serious though. What’d gotten into him? “I’m not playing around anymore, Ken.” I let out a bitter laugh. “Cut it out. You must be drunk, or seasick, or both. Yeah, that’s it. You know how you get off balance when we’re on the water. Here, lay flat on vinyl, it should cool your head down.” KEN: “I’m not seasick, and I’m not drunk. Quit avoiding the question.” LOST FISHERMAN: He had a queer kinda glint in his eye, and his mouth was screwed up in a grimace. KEN: “What is your name, Lost Fisherman?” LOST FISHERMAN: I wiped my sleeve across my upper lip to sop up the sweat that was beading under my mustache. I scratched at my neck with a shaky hand. I blinked hard a couple of times against the stinging sweat and sunlight. My poor gut was twisting itself up in knots. I was ready to go home and forget this ever happened. But Ken wasn’t about to let this go, not without me without answering his frankly asinine questions.  “Whatever’s gotten into you, Ken, I promise me saying my name’s not gonna help you. We have to get you to a doctor.” I got up on my wobbly feet and started toward the engine, fixing to speed us back to shore. KEN: “Your name!”  LOST FISHERMAN: I raised my index finger and opened my mouth to yell, but nothing came out. I shut my trap and sunk my head. The world was spinning around me, my thoughts were swimming like fish in the lake. I couldn’t even remember my own name. I started coughing, almost heaving. I looked up again at Ken, who was just watching me. I tried to ask him to tell me what the hell was going on, but the words wouldn’t come together. I couldn’t remember a damn thing from before we were on that damn boat. My eyes darted around in a panic for any sign of familiarity: but there was no shoreline, no other people on the horizon. The jerky I brought was in a blank plastic baggie, the beers just brown bottles. My heart stuttered and shook like mice were chewing through my wires. “ this a dream?” I asked Ken, almost accusing him of something, though not sure of what, exactly.  KEN: “If this were a dream, we’d be in that boat instead.” LOST FISHERMAN: He held out his hand, pointing starboard. I turned my head slowly, th
The office receives a grisly letter from the early 20th century about an experimental composer. Conway muses about his past and present. (CWs: blood, body horror, knuckles cracking, death) Music: Purcell - Rondeau From Abdelazer Vivaldi - Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor Saint-Saëns - Danse macabre, Op. 40     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.  Now this is an old one. I feel like if I’m not careful opening this, the whole thing’s gonna tear. Dead Letter 312. A letter addressed to a Mr. Markos. I’m not entirely sure how it made it into our backlog, given it’s about 100 years old, but there appears to be no address for this Mr. Markos. The letter reads as follows.  EDGAR, NARRATOR: "Malicious. Obscene. Substandard. Most disagreeable and indigestible. The proverbial Dickensian crumb of cheese splattered on the stage by an ill-tempered mind, one assuredly perverted by rhythm and reason hitherto unknown to polite society. A complete aesthetic and moral failure for Monsieur Edgar, and a black spot on all contemporary English works. Perhaps Edgar should have retained his study of internal medicine, whereby he could make messes of the human form as he sees fit, sans audience."  These “kind words” and more you levied at my first premiere in Paris one year ago, Monsieur Markos. Certainly your confidant Madame Stein has long ago heard the tale of my ballet’s misfortune and ensured all the other aesthetes gathered in her gilded salon from Apollinaire to Matisse know my shame. I can imagine you poring over this text now, after my second premiere, in a frenzied allegro--perhaps accompanied by the horns of bobbies--seeking any news of your daughter’s health, any drop of comfort for your troubled heart. Though my frame shudders with mirth at the mere thought, that revelation must come in due course, monsieur. First I should like to give you a thorough recounting of the creation of my latest, and final, piece. One evening the 25th of October, 1915. Deep in the trench of a gas-laden graveyard, a medic stood just outside the range of an artillery shell detonation. Three other medics within the radius were torn apart and died instantly, along with several soldiers a touch more slowly, leaving just this lone medic as the frantically bandaging witness. It was in these trenches that the medic saw the true barbarity of our race, the needless suffering we undergo and inflict for the benefit of our supposed betters. We, merely the chess pieces of our modern gods callously tossed off the board for a coin. He saw the very threshold of what man’s body can endure, and what Herr Freud might call the collective psyche of a nation can withstand--or bury. You, Monsieur, championed this war in your paper of record and seem determined to bury its atrocities.  At the time of my release from service, a friend apprised me of the goings-on at a salon in Zurich, of Mr. Hugo Ball and his associates at the Cabaret Voltaire. I was divinely inspired by their destruction and reconfiguration of the old modes into new ones, of the unseen grotesque discovered. The absurdity of our modern condition, in the twisted forms in a Braque, or a Duchamp, were not so dissimilar to the horrors of the Great War, to the bodies out of joint and out of space strewn across Europe. I spent the majority of my cached income to bring these radical new movements to the orchestra, to replicate the impossible bodies in dance, and to never let us forget what they have done to us, and what you and yours encouraged; the grinding of our bodies into dust in the gears of imperial war and industry. As for Stein and all: I hadn’t the slightest interest in their approval in any case. However, since my premiere, your words had rattled around my mind like a sharp stone in my shoe. I thought I’d be rid of it only to be sorely reminded of its presence by a prick in the heel. I did not seek your approval, yet your critique soured me on my own work. I was driven to rework the piece entirely, to transmogrify it into a ballet that would test the very limits of the form itself. The fruits of this labor you were witness to this very night.  I began the process many months ago. I would spend hours in my parlor with my mandolin, plucking out atonal melodies and discordant passages derived from sources both holy and profane. Dominant sevenths with no tonic, tritones without resolution. I found these enlightening, but not fully to my taste. There was a rhythmic certainty to even the most foul tonal combinations. My purpose then became to create rhythmic oddities. I tried playing in time with my metronome with the right hand and freely with the left, ensuring the notes were never fully in sync. This produced a most curious push and pull, a feeling of always being off balance and many missed notes. Yes, something akin to this might do well. Throughout the period of composition, I would snatch pieces of unrelated sound, the babbling of a river, the whistle of a shopkeep, and turn them into notes for my tone poem. The piece’s vacillations and rhythmic intricacies would demand top-tier performers. I scoured the city for musicians who could perform my work. After numerous failures and a handful of misunderstandings, I hired two of the finest players in our county and filled the rest of the cast with novices. With my orchestra assembled and my score as completed as necessary, it then came time to select my ballerina. I met the prospective mademoiselle for tea one hazy morning. Her demeanor was most agreeable, and we got on fabulously. I had little money left, but my enthusiasm for the work convinced her to join our motley group. I found in her initial routines that she wasn’t one of the many children of artistic figureheads given praise simply for a name, devoid of their progenitor’s talent: quite the opposite, in fact. I found her skill astounding regardless of her parentage, and she held none of the contempt or pretense so often found in the offspring of great men. I gathered them all together the following day for our first rehearsal. The mademoiselle moved beautifully to the arhythmic flow, but the musicians left something to be desired. The performers all played off tempo and off-key, but not in the intended manner. I tried to reign in the chaos, but the novices grew frustrated with my demands, leading to a swath of musicians walking out of my studio. I was left with only a violinist and pianist. The capital was gone, so this would have to do.  Oh, what accidents lady fortune brings us from time to time which illuminate the importance of a thing overlooked. With merely the two musicians and the mademoiselle--a truly sparse arrangement--the work came alive. The keys and strings battled and tangled, swaying in and out of time, leaving empty space in which the dancer could play her part. I watched her gyrations with keen interest, an interest I must admit grew beyond the professional. She was the fairest collaborator I had ever known. Not only could she aptly perform the steps I laid out, she absolutely understood them. The only apprehension she had was when I occasioned the rehearsals always to cease before the finale. Separately I worked with the players so that they may know their score, but never the mademoiselle. This, I told her, would shroud the final movements in mystery, even from the performers. Before we were ready to perform, however, it was inevitable that the finale be practiced. I took the mademoiselle through the steps slowly, half-tempo and half-intensity: I showed her the proper angles and bends, and she showed me her exquisite techniques. She found the choreography most unnatural and quite difficult even at such a speed, which I admit now is the intent, and I instructed that she not under any circumstances perform it at its full force before the premiere. To do so carelessly could be fatal: an imprecise leap, stumbled stretch, or ill-guided fold may land one in the grave rather than the headlines. Watching the Mademoiselle move recalled for me the impressive feats of which man’s body is capable with the proper care and training. My medical studies gave me a superior mechanical knowledge of man’s carriage, and I am also schooled in dance, yet her capabilities outstripped my own. As we practiced day by day, I was smitten first with her dance, then with the woman herself, though it was an affection that was largely kept hidden lest it destroy the very thing we on which we worked. I know not whether she felt the same, but it hardly matters; the yearning of a love unrequited is a literary gift all its own. After some weeks of rehearsal and revision, the piece was ready to be consumed by the public.  We were given a small space in a local hall. We began sending out invitations. Yours, Monsieur Markos, I trust found you well. And whom else should you find advertised on the bill that evening but one of the finest dancers in our fair city, Mademoiselle Alice Markos? Is it not fitting that the daughter of the preeminent critic and writer of our time should perform in the next historic ballet? Now that you have been made privy of the history of this piece, Monsieur, I would like to briefly prognosticate its future. It is the very morning of the premiere as I am writing, and if you and the  piping peelers would be so kind as to indulge my fantasy, I shall tell you how the performance no doubt went.  You entered the concert hall, dressed in your black finery and hat, cane in hand. You sat near the rear of the theater, the better to disguise your presence from myself lest I mistake your appearance



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
A freighter on Lake Erie experiences heavy storms. A salvage goes wrong. Conway reminisces about his past, and has a revelation about his present. (CWs: death, dead animal, brief gore, blood, body horror, insects, alcohol, derealization, deep water) Lyrics to "Farewell Song" originally published by Dick Burnett   TRANSCRIPT: CONWAY ON THE PHONE: Omens always come in threes. The dead rat on the porch should have been number one with a bullet. I put some water on the range for a pot of coffee yesterday morning. I was looking out the back window at the leftover frost glittering in the pink ribbons of early sunlight. I saw it lying there on the cement and couldn’t let it just decay. I went out the back door and looked over the scene. Pretty big thing. Probably lived a nice long life eating from my garbage, all things said and done. It had a serious bite on its leg and its stomach was uh...well you know how sometimes your imagination is worse than anything you actually see? This wasn’t one of those times. The kettle bubbled in the kitchen, letting off a trail of steam, and a fly buzzed around overhead. I fixed to move the poor deceased critter. Scooping it up with a shovel seemed awful undignified, though. I rummaged through the kitchen drawers and cabinets. I waffled between a paper bag and a shoe box. The kettle screeched and plumed on the stove behind me. I couldn’t just dump the little guy in the trash, so I grabbed my garden trowel and made a small hole in the backyard. I laid the box in the grave, then covered its fur in soft earth. In time, it’ll be earth itself once more, and plants will grow from its back that new rats eat. Needless to say, I’m out a pair of tongs and a shoebox now. Yeah, omens always come in threes, but not because of any natural or supernatural law. Humans are real good at pattern seeking, sometimes to our own detriment. It’s just that it takes three strokes of bad luck for us to really pay attention; one bad thing--well, it is what it is. Two bad things? That’s a coincidence. But three, and now you’ve a pattern. A chain of events. A story.  By then, Kenji’d been missing two weeks, and the angel was still in storage. It'd been a hell of a month. A missing person, an small town, mysterious letters and unexplained occurrences. It all felt a little...familiar. Almost cliche. But I’d been doing this gig for 6 years now and I wasn’t about to give up my healthcare over that. Besides they pay me to read, not to think. And so I did read, one last time, for the Dead Letter Office of Somewhere, Ohio. *New introduction music* 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 Letter 315, a weathered diary sent to the wife of a ship’s engineer. It details the fate of a lost cargo ship called the Oneiros, slated to make a quick trip across Lake Erie in 1913. The entries that contain no pertinent information will be excised from the record. The remaining relevant passages read as follows. NARRATOR: Morning November 6, 1913. Embarking on a short voyage across the Erie, carrying a heavy load of cargo. Some twenty of us boarded the steamer Oneiros, a handsome ship, one of the finest freighters I’ve seen on the Great Lakes. Most aboard are able-bodied seamen, seasoned hands for the weather ‘sides one of the young cargo loaders, a Patrick, or Phillipe I think. USDA weather bureau noted a brisk easterly front, spots of rain for the upper lakes, calmer waters south. Crew seems in fine spirits despite the chill, the 3000 some gross tonnes of cargo, presumably coal and timber, secured below deck. I’m to look after the engine and its various components. Captain Ludic’s a little daffy, assertively old-fashioned. Barking orders like he’s a pirate king and we’re his swabbies. Could have stepped right from the pages of Treasure Island, beard and all but for his soot black buttoned coat and hat. Seems no quack, though, and certainly knows his way round the ship. He’s very particular about his cargo, and ordered that none of us enter the cargo hold unless he gives us his explicit permission. Should be no longer than a day’s trip, then two days more before I see you again. It’s lonely out here, I can only imagine how dire it is stuck at home alone. I pray that upon my safe return, this log of my activities and thoughts of you more than makes for the time apart. And perhaps then we shall marry. I will be thinking of you fervently. Evening the 6th of November, 1913. I’ve settled into my berth for the night after we’ve supped. How I wish you could join me. Captain Ludic took his meal on the deck, and I saw fit to join him. Conversation wasn’t exactly enlightening. We took our meat and bread quietly, until a cold drizzle started pattering his old cap. He looked out at the overcast horizon, then he fixed his glazed eyes on me. His hard roll fell from his lap and bobbled across the deck unevenly for a yard before toppling. CAPTAIN LUDIC: “The Witch of Autumn, she’s coming for us, lad.” NARRATOR: He spoke softly, and his crooked mouth hung open long after his last syllable. A bit of chicken hung from his scruff. CAPTAIN LUDIC: “The boys in the papers said t'would be calmer southward, but these old bones feel it coming. When my knuckles swell, when my teeth ache, and the heavens themselves break open, the winds carrying droplets of death, the witch will crest the white waves. She’ll take us all if we’re not vigilant. You mark my words, boy: beware the Witch of the White Squall, and those who would invite her with their careless yearnings. I fear there’s one such man aboard now. You keep your heart hard and your eyes open, all 5 of 'em.” NARRATOR: He was panting after this warning. His lone gold incisor glittering among the row of stained teeth as his shoulders rose and fell. Then he burst out in laughter, a wheezing squeal that cut through the wind. He slapped me hard on the back. I spit out my whiskey at the impact and forced a chuckle. Needless to say I won’t be spending my dining hours with that walking stereotype again unless I’m yearning for a fairy tale. I figure myself lucky I’ll only be in his company for a short time. I can now hear the cold rain impacting the deck above my wool-wrapped womb. And something below in the cargo hold, though I can’t tell its origin or purpose. Creaking, maybe footsteps. Perhaps something’s come loose and Patrick or Phillipe is checking on it. I’ll try not to fret over it. Until I see you again in the flesh, Caroline, I will continue our rendezvous in my dreams. Morning 7th of November 1913. I took breakfast below deck with Phillipe. The rain’s still coming down and the wind blows cold, but Phillipe thinks it should clear by afternoon, and by then we’ll have gone ashore. Like a bad fever, he says. Just have to wait for the break. The boy’s from Montreal, took the rail down, then rode the canal before hauling lumber across the lake. He seems affable and handy enough. He’s as wary of the captain as I, and he had some troubling news about our cargo. He’s been loading lumber for about 10 months now, certainly not a master of his trade, but he says something was off about our freight. The tonnage is accurate, but one crate in particular severely outweighed the rest. Given the volume of the thing, he’s convinced it can’t be lumber, or even coal. He asked me if I knew any more about our voyage: who’s paying us, where the lumber’s going, but I had little to tell him. I’m not one for accounting. He seems concerned that we may be harboring something dangerous, and the captain won’t tell us. I’d be inclined to agree. Though I’m not entirely convinced Ludic even knows what's down there himself. Whatever the cargo, we should be seeing the beacon from the lighthouse cutting through the fog any moment now, and I’ll just be glad to be off this ship and in your arms. I do grow so melancholy on these trips without you. Evening the 7th of November 1913. We lost Terrence this afternoon. The storm has shown no signs of abating, despite the predictions of the men in the papers. Terry’d gone up top the pilothouse to help the captain navigate, as its windows were awash with rain. The lake was growing angry, waves breaking high as 10 feet. The boat was churning in the drip, swaying to and fro, threatening to take on water. Terrence was calling down directions to the captain when a wave suddenly rose double the height of the others. The ship lurched, and poor Terrence--with naught to hold onto--he was launched backward, slamming his head into the pole behind him. The crew rushed to the pilothouse but another swing of the freighter tossed him overboard. We scoured the waters for some time, until Captain Ludic ended the efforts and sent us to bed like a disappointed father.  Still no sign of land. We should have come ashore in Ohio by now, even at our slowed pace. At night, I imagine the two of us together once more, holding hands by the lake. It's only a drean, but...until then. Afternoon 8th of November 1913. CAPTAIN LUDIC: “I think we’ve got a rat problem aboard this vessel!” NARRATOR: The captain shouted over Neptune’s angry bluster. He’d gathered the 19 of us that remained on the darkened deck in the freezing downpour. CAPTAIN LUDIC: “I know one of you’s been below deck. Couple of the crates been pried open.” NARRATOR: He had us standing side by side, and walked the line up and down, hunched and frantic, his breath visible in large puffs. CAPTAIN LUDIC: “Who among ye disobeyed yer captain’s orders?”  NARRATOR: He narrowed his bright eyes. CAPTAIN LUDIC: “Or so bereft were you of a woman’s touch that you consorted with the witch?



Previously... Receiving Clerk Conway was asked to look into an angel statue and a missing mail carrier named Kenji on behalf of the Dead Letter Office. During the investigation, Conway encountered a strange lost fisherman and some odd postcards with unsettling connections to his past. After finding Kenji's body holding a phone, Conway called the phone number on one of the postcard and received some disturbing information: he couldn't recall his own last name, and realized he was being set up. And what did the lost fisherman mean when he said Conway isn't real? At least not yet? Now, a new face has arrived at the DLO to sort through the mess Conway left behind: claims adjuster Wren is on the case. On their first day at the office, karaoke night at a dive bar turns weird and Conway finds himself somewhere he shouldn't be. Some lyrics from Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads "Fool" originally by Frankie Cosmos (CWs--mild spoilers: birds, bugs, brief blood, alcohol, smoking, brief harassment, very mild body horror, some strong language, romance?) TRANSCRIPT:  CONWAY ON TAPE:...gonna pick up the phone and dial this number. WREN: Now you’ve heard everything I have. Conway’s vanished, leaving only a trail of disconnected audio memos for me to follow. His last known location was here, at the Dead Letter Office of ******* Ohio. He was supposedly asked to investigate a large package in some other post office, but the DLO has no record of this request, and no idea where he went. Hello, I’m--wait, am I supposed to introduce myself, or is this more of a formal...Okay. Then let’s start at the beginning, where I come in. I want to be as thorough as possible. No loose ends. I had just hung up a bird feeder on the front porch. I like watching all the little birds stop by. The robins, the jays, the sparrows, their colorful plumage and vibrant songs. They take turns plucking seeds out of the holes in the cylinder and sing their small hearts out.  It was an afternoon, still a little chilly. Summer hadn’t quite hit full swing. A couple of Carolina Finches were pecking at the small bugs and shells left by their brethren on the concrete. The birds weren’t aware of the hawk landing in the tree behind them. They’re not aware of the movements of empires, the fluctuations of markets that destroy their homes. They only see what’s in front of them: the sky to the ground, the egg to the dirt, is now. A moment later and the raptor descended on the surprised prey in a flurry of chirps and flaps. The small birds scattered in a panic, one slammed into the window then took off and the other found itself tangled in the freshly torn mesh on my screen door. Having missed its chance, the hawk turned, soaring far out over the houses down the block. None of these birds would be lunch that day. This was a relief. I didn’t want to see my visitors get eaten. I mean, I eat chicken already, it’s not all that different, but I still feel bad for the little birds. I figure if I were an animal, I’d be like them, picking at seeds and singing my little song. Noteworthy to those paying attention, but a background detail--a bit player in the grand scene--to others. Realistically, though, I could just as easily be a hawk. Hungry, waiting patiently on the sidelines for my chance, disliked by most. Reaching out and missing. Chronic bad luck.  I heard my phone buzz on the coffee table, but I had to get this finch out of my screen first. I opened the heavy door and found the thing flapping and screeching, its foot caught in the screen. I gently unwrapped the fabric from its leg, despite its vociferous protestations, and it burst free, tearing through the air to join its friends on the telephone wire. I went back in and answered the call. It was the DLO. I was being transferred to some nowhere post in Ohio. Supposedly a temporary assignment, though I guess they all are in the long run. There was a case there that needed an expert’s opinion. They always manage to have the worst timing.  Yes, if I were an animal, I’d probably be the scrappy songbird. Or maybe the hawk. Or maybe I’m just the beetle lodged in the finch’s beak, surrounded by a vast unknowable world, an ocean of interconnected things and events totally beyond my comprehension, then summarily devoured without a second thought. *Intro music* WREN: Hello, I’m Wren, claims adjuster for the Dead Letter Office. I’m here to determine if Conway disappeared on the job, and to judge if the DLO is required to make an insurance payout to his next of kin. I’ll be examining his audio memos and the dead mail backlog in his inbox for any clues as to his whereabouts.  The following audio recording will serve as evidence for his case. Public release of this or any other evidence is strictly prohibited. Some names and facts have been censored for the protection of the office.  Now in cases like this, it’s important to take in more than just the events. I need a feel for the atmosphere, the scene, the anxieties. I need to understand not only where Conway is but how he is. And how he got there. What was ahead of him in his work pile may have influenced what was in front of him: the past outlines the future, and the future colors the past. So with this simple understanding that what’s to come is sometimes the driver of what was in mind, let’s begin with the next piece in Conway’s backlog. Dead Letter 17216. This was found on a review website, written by a civilian named Mel. An unconventional entry to be sure, fitting for an unconventional case. She wrote the following: MEL: "And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself, "Well... how did I get here?" Friday night, dive bar on the north side of town. Easy to miss from the outside, unmistakable inside.  Like nearly every friday, I pushed through the swinging door and was enveloped in neon light and pulsating music. I was cleansed of my stress by giving in to song, to cheering along and dancing arm in arm, to reunions and meetups. Friday is karaoke night at the Song Bird, the premier queer dive and diy venue in town. Stickers for a thousand defunct bands with names like “Two Dog Folly” and “Slumgrinder” cover the walls and pillars. Even if all they did was play a couple house shows in the fall of 2013 before disbanding, their legacy will live on here, until it’s composted in the churn of revolving vinyl and covered by hopeful new names and faces sprouting forth from the paper loam. Local artists hang their weird paintings up for sale, and greasy food simmers in the kitchen in the back. On karaoke night at the Bird, I’m alive. It’s the one time each week I get to pretend there’s something more to my boring life, more to me, than the usual routine. To reach out for something, anything beyond ordinary. Or to drop the poetic language for a while, I like to blow off steam after work by singing really loud at strangers.  I came in that friday, and a woman I’d seen a few times before was sitting in the last booth. She had been coming to the Bird for a few weeks, but never met up with anyone, never sang, never even said hello as far as I could tell. She would quietly watch people sing and pick at the duct tape on the peeling plastic booth before leaving without a word. What was her deal? She had jet black hair, the kind that’s almost blue or green in this light or that. Big dark eyes. Always wearing a black choker with a little pendant on it. I assumed the whole mysterious silent thing was intentional, part of her vibe. So on this sweltering august evening, I was going to find out exactly what her deal was, and maybe finally have something interesting in my life. It was slow at the Song Bird that night despite the weather. The bar was only half-full by 11. I had just finished my second song, and saw the woman in black head out the back door where the smokers congregate to shoot shit and blow smoke. I stepped off stage and went out for a smoke, too. And there she was, looking up at the moon and taking in the hot summer air. Someone else was under the awning, letting out a plume of vapor into the sky. The woman in black turned my way. Her hair shimmered under the tangerine light as she moved. I locked eyes with her, but her gaze was intense, her eyes absorbing all light and thought. I hesitated. Her attention was almost too much. MEL: “Smoke?” I managed to spit out as I fished for the gold pack in my bag. She gently nodded.  I told her I’d seen her a few weeks in a row now, but I never heard her sing. She pursed her lips, and spoke softly.  AVERY: “I don’t really like being on stage like that. I’m just here to listen.” I had an eerie feeling I’d heard her voice before, but I couldn’t place it. Did I actually know her and I just couldn’t remember it? Because God, that would be embarrassing. MEL: “You sound so familiar. Do you know Jackie, maybe?”She said she gets that a lot, and the corner of her mouth inched upward into a slight smile. I finally grabbed hold of my pack. I pulled out a cigarette and lit it, inhaling deeply. I grabbed another and held it between my fingers, offering it out in her direction. A lock of her hair fell onto her cheek as she leaned forward. She swept the dark strand back behind her ear, where it hung just partway down her neck below dangling silver earrings. Her parted lips touched the cigarette. I was about to let go and offer the lighter when her teeth clamped down, snapping the cigarette neatly in half. She tilted her head back, half of the thing still in her mouth, her form illuminated by the incandescent glow above. She swallowed it, then looked back at me. The half-eaten cigarette fell from my limp hand. My mouth was hanging open, my own cigarette stuck to my lip and smouldering. I gawked at her for a moment, just totally stunned. The woman behind me tucked her vape into her pocket and hurried inside. A section of ash that had been building up fell, and I realized I’d been holding my breath. I let it all out a
A letter writer reminisces about his strange childhood pet. Conway explores the guts of an abandoned mall and finds someone he wasn't looking for. Wren gets chewed out for something they can't control. (CWs: body horror, brief mention of violence and death, alcohol, dead animal, whispering, some strong language) TRANSCRIPT: Hello, this is Wren, claims adjuster for the Dead Letter Office of *******, Ohio. The following audio recording will serve as evidence for Conway’s case. Public release of this or any other evidence is strictly prohibited. Some names and facts have been censored for the protection of the office.  As we’ve previously established, forward and backward are not necessarily stable concepts. So let’s begin today by looking at the next letter in Conway’s backlog, which may give me insight into what happened to him. Dead letter 14417, a long note written on several folded pieces of printer paper, sent by a Stephen ***** to his mother in late 2016. The letter reads as follows.  NARRATOR STEPHEN: Hey mom. Did I ever have a pet growing up? I know dad never wanted one and then Dave was allergic. It’s getting harder to remember if this actually happened or if it’s a vivid dream that’s stuck with me through the years. Before high school hit me like a semi truck, you’d let me bike up to the arcade at the Deerland Mall on the weekends.  LOUDSPEAKER: “WELCOME TO THE DEERLAND MALL, YOU’LL GO BUCK WILD FOR THESE DEALS! Our store hours are: 9am to 7pm” *slowly fades out* NARRATOR: I remember the huge globe of stale gumballs loitering in the foyer. I’d chew on them even though I knew they were rock hard and would probably cut my gums up. Sorry about the quarters missing from your purse. Then I’d stop by the candy store and get a big bag of sweaty gummies that had been sitting in the foggy display case for god knows how long and a tall cherry coke from the concession stand.  The light gun shooters and fighting game cabinets there were cool enough, but my favorite was the racing game. It had a whole mock driver’s seat that moved side to side as you steered. It was also more expensive to play than the others, so I’m sorry about the missing dollar bills. Whatever change I had leftover after a few laps of hairpin turns went into the vending machine full of capsule toys. Since I couldn’t get a dog, I was desperate for one of those new Tamagotchi toys. But where was I gonna get a whole twenty dollars? Coincidentally, the top prize advertised on the machine was a bright blue Tamagotchi. I was old enough to know there was probably only one in there, if any at all. I knew I’d probably end up spending more than twenty dollars trying to get it, yet here I was pouring money down the slot anyway instead of saving it up to buy one. On a particular lazy afternoon, the arcade was empty: not too uncommon for a summer weekday. I put two quarters in the slot on the capsule machine, twisted the tough old crank, and out dropped a peculiar toy. The capsule itself was identical to the others: a translucent plastic casing, a bubble with a colorful top that popped off. Almost like an acorn fallen from a petroleum tree. But what was inside the case gave me pause then, and still makes me uneasy today. I cracked it open under the flickering lights of the arcade. Inside wasn’t a Tamagotchi, but rather an egg: bigger than a robin’s egg but about the same color with a few white spots, and surprisingly heavy for a toy its size. What’s a thirteen-year-old boy want with a plastic egg? Waste of 50 cents, I thought. I put it in its case and set it on top of the claw machine so I could go play a game about shooting aliens in area 51. I was winding down a blocky corridor when I heard something behind me. I had thought I was the only one in there. I froze, and a bead of prickly sweat rolled down my neck. I turned my head to the entrance of the arcade. Nobody there. I scanned the stained carpet for anything out of place. Spilled on the ground near the rusty change machine was the capsule I’d just won, split up as a cracked egg. The toy that was inside sat upright among the wreckage. I took a step closer, still gripping the orange gun tethered to the cabinet. The egg on the ground shook. A tiny wobble. I shut my eyes hard for a few seconds, inducing those familiar mental fireworks, then looked again. Another teeter. I pointed the light gun at it and fired. Kid logic would state that if this toy came to life, it could similarly be brought down by a toy gun. By then my connection to kid logic was hanging on by a single synapse, constantly threatening to disappear from my thought patterns forever, on the precipice of the bigger, darker realizations that the adult world foists upon the unsuspecting teen. Well, sometimes kid logic doesn’t hold up to real world testing anyway. But now this blue egg had my interest: it was a curiosity, an oddity, and nothing sparks the young imagination quite like oddity. I picked it up gingerly and put it under my baseball cap. Under the blinding sun outside I hopped on my bike and rode home. Back at the house, I breezed past you and Dave without a word and stomped up the stairs. Looking at my prize in the familiar light of my room, it didn’t seem to be moving at all. Once again in the mundane, away from the caffeine surges and sugar crashes and flashing numbers, it was just a plastic egg. Maybe it had actually moved, or maybe I just really hoped it would. I set it on my bedside table and forgot about it for the rest of the day. I woke up in the middle of the night to something scurrying around my room. I didn’t see it at first. Too dark, too small, too quick. I only heard the chattering and scuffling. I stood up on the bed and surveyed my room. There was something moving in the pile of dirty laundry in the corner. I crept over to the clothes and peered into the moving sleeve of my sweater. Inside was a tiny, fleshy thing. No bigger than the palm of my hand, barely more than a tan blob with black eyes and a wide mouth. It had glommed onto a green army man I used to play with all the time, some years ago forgotten in the halting dust of my adolescent closet. It was gnawing on the soldier’s helmet, content with its prey. I reached in to gently pull the toy away, but it was hanging on with thin, fingerless limbs. Under its round body were small nubs planted firmly to the floor. When I managed to wrestle the toy away, it let out an odd chirp, like a strained baby bird. The little guy was probably hungry. If it sounded like a bird and came from an egg like a bird, maybe it would eat like a bird. So I gathered some seeds and nuts from the pantry and scattered them in front of it. The thing poked around a bit with its probing mouth, but it didn’t seem that interested. Then it hit me: momma birds chew up the food for them when they’re young. I mashed a handful of peanuts around in my mouth and leaned over the blob to spit. I’ll tell you it didn’t go well. I tiptoed to the darkened kitchen for some paper towels to clean the thing off. When I returned to the pile of dirty laundry, the creature had found another favorite childhood possession: a blue gameboy game. I’d spent dozens of hours playing it to collect all the monsters, but I hadn’t touched in a while. The creature had the corner of the plastic cartridge in its mouth. I figured it probably couldn’t do much to damage the game, seeing as it didn’t have any teeth, so I let it gum on for while. Big mistake. It closed its mouth around the cartridge, and I heard a muffled snap. It set down the game, the corner roughly broken off and missing. The creature swallowed the chunk and chittered with joy. Arcade bird eats arcade games. Made sense at the time. I brought it another game, a game I wouldn’t mind losing. The tiny blob ignored it and wandered over to my binder full of baseball cards. It ducked its head under the cover and started nibbling on the corner of my Ken Griffey Jr rookie card. I rushed over and pulled it away. Never have I been more thankful for a thin plastic sleeve. So what did this thing want if not games? Well, after an hour or so of testing its palette, I had some promising results. My favorite gameboy game? Yes. My pillowcase? No. Baseball card? Yes. The small tv in my room? No. My lucky hat? Yes.  I slowly put together over that early morning that this creature only wanted to eat things I had an attachment to. It could sense my emotional connection to certain objects, and sought those out. I let it finish the game cartridge it had started eating since it was functionally useless now anyway. It seemed satisfied, and passed out in the laundry basket. A few days went by. The creature wasn’t just a blob anymore: it had a bigger torso, longer front limbs, and extended legs. It looked more animal now and less like a ball of skin. I started calling it Creech, short for creature. Real original, right? Hey, I was thirteen, cut me some slack.  You remember the “imaginary friend” I would hang out with? That was Creech. We grew together for a time, though it much faster than me. It got taller, longer. Its head rounded out. Creech started standing mostly upright and used its fingerless arms to manipulate objects and simple tools. It would respond to my calls, and chatter back in a manner a parrot newly learning to speak might. As its body grew, so did its hunger. There were only so many old toys and games around my room that it would eat, and only a few left that I was willing to part with. I couldn’t buy it food or sneak scraps from the kitchen, it wouldn’t touch them. Lucky for us, late summer is garage sale season around here. So every muggy August morning, Creech and I hopped on my bike, the little guy barely concealed under my yellowing cap, and rode the neighborhoods searching for pieces of other people’s pasts. Yeah, you guessed it: sorry for the missing 20s. A faded picture of a deceased husband. A ratty teddy bear from a relationship gone stale. Worn kid’s shoes. Thes
Wren reads a letter about a man tormented by a song. Conway finds some answers, but they're about as useful as you might expect. Wren goes out.   (CWs, minor spoilers, seriously this one gets kind of gross: worms, snakes, ear trauma, body horror, space, paranoia, slime, blood, vomit, derealization)    Also, check out Wake of Corrosion at   Transcript available in the episode notes at
Comments (3)

R. Luna

queer, post-structural, anarchist. it is a wonderful audio experience if highly confusing. or maybe that's an upside.

Mar 4th

Beth Waugh

Very mysterious! So many bird references.... Looking forward to the next episode.

Jun 10th

Beth Waugh

This show is really well done! I am enjoying it even more since I grew up in Ohio.

Mar 14th
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