written by Eli Barraza
directed & produced by Mischa Stanton
[[SFX: Peri is dragged through the dirt. She coughs violently. Ann takes off her spacesuit's helmet.]]
ANN: Stupid girl, wh-what did you think you were doing?
PERI: I’m…. sorry... I thought you… you disappeared…. And I…
ANN: The path to hell is paved with good intentions and you decided to just waltz through the gates!
PERI: Don’t… understand…. The metaphor… Were we… just in…. Hell?
ANN: I think it’s Mars actually but here. Take my hand, I’ll get you to the house. I’ve got some tea and some oxygen that’ll make you feel right as rain.
[[SFX: Ann leads Peri back to her house.]]
[[SFX: Peri breathes with an oxygen mask. Ann adjusts the dial on the tank.]]
ANN: Full disclosure, I am not a doctor, but a little O2 after hopping over there without a suit should do the trick.
PERI: I am very much trying not to run away screaming.
ANN: Nah, you still got the shakes, nowhere you’re running far for at least an hour.
PERI: Do you know what time’s sunset?
ANN: What, are you going to turn into an ogre or something?
PERI: I have someplace to be.
ANN: It’s summer time so the sun won’t be saying goodbye for a while yet. You’ll get to where you need to go.
PERI: Thank you, for the tea and oxygen.
ANN: Keep telling myself to put up a sign but then a sign might bring tourists and people bothering me is the last thing I want.
PERI: I won’t tell anybody!
[[SFX: Peri takes off the mask.]]
ANN: That’s a nice thought dear but I’m none too keen on anybody I don’t know knowing about that place. Least of all someone that’s put my back out of sorts again.
PERI: Sorry again, for running into you. I didn’t mean to.
ANN: Intent and outcome: which matters more? My back tells me its the latter, in this case.
PERI: Is there anything I can do? To help?
ANN: Nope, you just sit there and suck in some extra oxygen if you need, I think you’ve done enough helping for one day.
PERI: I’m… sorry. Again. I’ll probably keep saying that a lot. And I really do mean it when I say I won’t tell anyone either. I don’t talk to many people anyway.
ANN: They’d probably call you crazy if you tried. I thought I was crazier than a kitten on catnip when I first stumbled into it!
PERI: Is it really another planet?
ANN: Near as I can tell, yes. Got the same constellations as us so probably in our neck of the woods. And the dirt’s pretty darn similar to what those rovers survey.
PERI: Have you seen a rover?
ANN: Look at you, take a couple puffs of the straight stuff and you’re all questions.
PERI: Questions make me feel better. I mean, when they lead to answers. Questions without answers make things worse. But I’m trying to be better about that since some questions don't have answers, only... perspectives.
ANN: I have a feeling you met that man in the hills, with the record player?
PERI: Oh, yes. Roger. You two chatted?
ANN: Directions led to reasons, but I think he was trying to convince himself more than me about why he wanted to wander into desolation. He offered me to go with him but he seemed he needed time alone and alas, fighting gravity isn't one of my strong suits. I’m an old woman who prefers the feeling of microgravity on her bones. My wife isn’t keen on my little adventures, she worries a handmade space suit might rupture. I tell her it’s surprising either of us are still alive so what’s a little adventure?
PERI: Has she been?
ANN: To the planet beyond the desert? She went a few times. Curiosity has a way of silencing fear from time to time but she still had to hold my hand. I didn’t mind, I’d had to hold hers whenever we met with the doctors. We make each other brave.
PERI: Where is she?
ANN: Visiting one of our children. He’s grown up and living in a sparkling city. He was the quiet one of the bunch but now he listens to people who have never felt heard before. Children’s therapist. They like him because he lets them talk and isn’t bossy. Apparently that’s what they say if his wife is to be believed. And I do believe her, nice woman. Makes the type of pottery too delicate to be useful but pretty to look at. Though she did make me a nice sturdy planting pot once. Had their kids paint it. Artwork for Gamgam. They gave Nanan folded birds that took flight if you didn’t keep an eye on them, the tricky things.
PERI: I got a little dizzy following all that–
ANN: Be happy my wife isn’t here. Our conversations would flow so fast we’d leave guests in the dust! Roadrunner mouths, fast and immune to logic in our conversational movements. That quick thinking saved my life more than once.
PERI: Like when you found Mars?
ANN: Yes! Exactly that. My mind took forceful control of my panicking body and threw myself backwards to Earth. Didn’t have the luxury of an O2 tank back then so my recovery was less than ideal but I lived. Bought some supplies, made my own suit and now I take trips there. Like I said, lower gravity is kind to arthritic bones.
PERI: You just... made a space suit?
ANN: Used to be in engineering and design. It’s not like the knowledge disappears when you retire. Make a lotta my own clothes now too. My back cracks but the hands are still more nimble than Jack jumping over a candle stick. My youngest, his name is Jack, he tried that. Nearly burnt the house down. Different house, we raised the kids amongst society, didn’t want them out in the boonies even if that’s what we preferred. Knowing how to interact with people is important.
[[SFX: Peri stands and approaches the window.]]
PERI: What does he look like?
ANN: Who, Jack? Oh he’s the sort of fellow you look at him and think, now there’s a guy who probably climbs rocks for a living. He doesn’t, he’s manager of a plastics factory but he’s known to haunt the occasional rockface or two in the springtime.
[[SFX: Outside the house, The Surveyor takes readings in the dirt with his tripod.]]
PERI: Was Jack the quiet one?
ANN: Oh no, that’s Liam. He does go with Jack to climb from time to time.
PERI: What does he look like?
ANN: Much softer than Jack but still solid underneath it all, the foundation of cozy cottage. Here, if you’re so curious about what my family looks like, let me get a photo for you-
PERI: Um, actually I was asking because there’s a man near the fence who does not match any of those descriptions and I was trying not to say anything in case he was a relation but... now I have, which means he’s a stranger and probably real.
[[SFX: Ann approaches the window and peels back the curtain.]]
ANN: Goddamnit! That surveyor is more persistent than a daisy in snow.
PERI: He’s just... standing there with his tripod thing. Taking notes. Eating what looks like a soggy sandwich. It’s weird.
ANN: Keeps trying to catch me in the act, well not this time bucko!
PERI: Want me to shoo him away?
[[SFX: Ann turns off the oxygen tank.]]
ANN: No offense dear but you do not exactly... ooze intimidation. Let him be. He usually gets bored before dark. No idea why they keep him on the pay if he’s just going to waste their time like that.
PERI: Looks like he’s picking up to leave anyway.
ANN: Good, let him bother some other landscape for a change. How are you feeling?
PERI: A lot better, thanks. See? No shakes.
ANN: Happy to hear that. Now, I don’t mean to rush you but I do have a brainteaser I have to finish before Julia gets back and it’s going to take a bit of welding to get right. Anniversary present I’m prepping early. You stay here a few more minutes to make sure he’s gone and then you can get back to wherever you need to be before sundown.
PERI: Oh gosh, yeah! Of course. Sorry if I delayed anything.
ANN: Not a problem but I am the forthcoming type and thought you ought to know I have my own plans.
PERI: Right, right. Yeah. Um, look, before I go, I've been meaning to ask….have you happened to meet a boy, well a man now really. A man named Horace? Or Ace?
[[SFX: Peri walks back across the desert plain towards the lighthouse.]]
PERI: I wonder if Roger got to see Mars... What if the lighthouse landed on Mars? Or another planet? Though it always drops me off in a place where I can breathe. Well, as much as I can breathe...
[[SFX: She bumps into the Surveyor, taking measurements with his equipment.]]
PERI: Oh! My, I beg your pardon.
SURVEYOR: Pardon’s given.
PERI: You’re the guy.
PERI: You’re the guy from Ms. Ann’s place.
SURVEYOR: Ann? Oh, you mean the old lady a few miles north? Got a house that looks like it’s squatting down low?
PERI: I guess?
SURVEYOR: That lady hates me. Stares daggers every time I’m out here on assignment.
PERI: She thinks you’re spying on her.
SURVEYOR: Ok, I have better things to do than spy on old ladies.
[[SFX: The Surveyor takes more measurements, and writes them down on his clipboard.]]
PERI: Then I have better things to do than talk to surveyors.
SURVEYOR: Carry on then. I’m not stopping you.
PERI: I will.
[[SFX: Peri takes a few steps away, then turns back. The Surveyor's stomach gurgles.]]
PERI: I’m sorry, that was really rude. It’s been a weird day.
SURVEYOR: No skin off my chin.
[[SFX: The Surveyor groans and clutches his stomach.]]
PERI: Woah, are you okay?
SURVEYOR: It feels like whirlpool in my stomach...
PERI: ...Like there’s really one in there or like a metaphorical whirlpool because I don’t think I’m equipped to deal with the former.
[[SFX: The Surveyor's stomach growls. He groans and doubles over in pain, falling to his knees.]]
PERI: Okay, okay! Um... Here! Let me help you up.
[[SFX: Peri helps him to his feet unsteadily.]]
SURVEYOR: Everything’s sideways...
PERI: Oh my, okay, I’m gonna grab your bag as well...
[[SFX: Peri sways over to the bag and picks it up.]]
SURVEYOR: My tripod…
PERI: Yeah, we gotta leave that I can’t carry that and support you.
SURVEYOR: It came from Mars!
PERI: I highly doubt that came from Ms. Ann’s place.
SURVEYOR: There was a great war... and it came down from the sky...
PERI: Okay, uh, delirium leads to radio play references! Noted. My place is kind of close but you’re gonna need to walk a little bit better if we’re gonna try to get there.
SURVEYOR: It was after the sun set.
PERI: Yes, the sun is setting– oh sugar, the sun is setting. Okay sir, let’s pick up the pace a bit shall we?
[[SFX: Peri and the Surveyor hurriedly stumble in the direction of the lighthouse.]]
SURVEYOR: Did you pick up my tripod?
PERI: Focus, man! I can barely hold you up and we’re tipping, we are tipping!
[[SFX: They tip, slipping on the rocks, but soon right themselves.]]
SURVEYOR: Haha, almost went cow tipping once.
PERI: That’s not very nice to cows.
SURVEYOR: You’re not nice to sick people.
PERI: Ya kind of just sprung this on me!
SURVEYOR: The sandwich, must’ve been… the sandwich.
PERI: You had a flip flopping sandwich and it never even occurred to you to question it?
[[SFX: The fog rolls in around them.]]
SURVEYOR: It’s so hazy...
PERI: That’s not haze it’s... oh dear. Oh gosh, oh dear, oh sugar!
SURVEYOR: There’s a lighthouse... there’s no water but there’s a lighthouse?
PERI: Let’s move faster to the lighthouse and find out why it’s there.
SURVEYOR: No light. It’s just a house.
PERI: Oh no, where’d it go, I can’t see it...
SURVEYOR: Ooh, I think I’m gonna--
PERI: Don’t you dare finish that sentence– OW!
[[SFX: Peri runs smack into the lighthouse door. She scrambles to unlock it, throws the both of them inside and slams the door shut against the oncoming fog. She leads him to the stairs. The Surveyor scrambles up them and into the bathroom.]]
PERI: Okay, up the stairs, c’mon let’s go. There’s a toilet... Okay, I am going to leave you here. If you need to… do anything I lifted up the toilet lid so you’re good to go. I am going to close the door and get some water and a towel for you as I have a feeling you’ll need that.
[[SFX: Peri leaves the Surveyor with his head in the toilet bowl dry-heaving. She heads downstairs to the kitchen and fills a glass of water.]]
PERI: Oh thank gosh I can’t hear anything down here... Peri, who was that strange guy you just dumped into our home? I dunno Mo! I dunno but I couldn’t just leave him out there in the middle of nowhere with what is probably food poisoning! Oh gosh, I really messed up, we’re gonna be somewhere different tomorrow and I don’t know where and I don’t even know his name oh gosh I don’t even know his name Mo! What did I do what did I do I was so stupid, stupid stupid!
[[SFX: Peri begins to cry, but is interrupted by a loud bang from upstairs. She takes a shaky breath.]]
PERI: You got this... You have to have this.
The Far Meridian
Created and written by Eli Barraza, directed and produced by Mischa Stanton.
Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri, Laura Bahr as Ann, and José Donado as The Surveyor. Music by The Album Leaf.
For more information and links to support the show, go to TheFarMeridian.com, or find us on social media @TheFarMeridian. You can also help support us on Patreon, Patreon.com/TheFarMeridian.
We’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, may you always find your way.