1.14 The Seconds Between
written by Eli Barraza
directed & produced by Mischa Stanton
A quick warning: This episode contains stressful action and bodily harm. Listener discretion is advised.
[[SFX: Benny lights Mo, the Candle. He stands a moment before speaking.]]
Benny: When, ok, uh, so when I was a kid, uh, my siblings and I, we’d make these paper airplanes. Our dad was a pilot, see, and, and we all wanted to impress him with the best one. Susana, my oldest sister, she’s… she always won. Or at least I always thought so. She’d fold the paper ever so precisely, every angle perfectly thought out. My brother Hector and I, [laughs] we always had these grand schemes of making the best ones but we were... we looked too far ahead, thinking about how great ours would fly when we should have been focusing on folding the damn things in the first place. Looking back, our dad didn’t care. He was probably just amazed he had five kids who weren’t fighting all the time. I mean, we did fight sometimes but it was only like [whining] “Uh, why did you take all the red construction paper?”
Susana only used legal paper. I think that’s why hers almost floated across the air, the paper was so much lighter than the paper the rest of us used. Our mom wasn't too happy she stole from her stash though.
[[SFX: Benny slowly drums his fingers on the kitchen counter for moment.]]
BENNY: Did you know I wasn’t even really talking to my family, Mo? [snorts] Of course you didn’t. I never brought it up. It’s not like I was avoiding it or anything it’s just… we’re off doing our own thing, you know? And we all felt… comfortable? Doing that because we knew that no matter where any of us were, we’d have each other’s back. If we needed it.
[[SFX: A creak on the stair.]]
BENNY: But then I-I, but then I was in that maze and those whispers washed over me. And it-it really sunk in. I may never hear my mother’s voice again. Her real voice, anyway. You grow up wishing your parents would just leave you alone and then… you’re the one that leaves. And I know, I know that I’m lucky to have parents I can miss. I just, I feel… I feel like I’ve arrived somewhere and things are missing that I didn’t know I was expecting. We’re looking for Peri’s brother but… are Susana and Hector and… are they wondering where their brother went?
[[SFX: Another creak, louder. Benny turns.]]
BENNY: Oh-oh, hey.
PERI: I-I’m sorry, I-I didn’t mean to… I didn’t hear anything.
BENNY: Um, I was- just--
PERI: Talking to Mo. Yeah, I do that too.
[[SFX: Awkward silence.]]
PERI: The fog’s clearing. I thought. Um, do you wanna sit up top? Get the lay of the land?
BENNY: Yeah, sure, yeah, that sounds great.
PERI: Cool. Cool. I can… make hot coco? You go ahead and, um I’ll bring some up.
BENNY: Yeah, that’d be, um, that’d be good.
[[SFX: Benny walks by her.]]
BENNY: Um, yeah, yeah. Why not?
PERI: Cool. Cool, I’ll throw a few extra in. They’re the mini ones.
PERI: Right. I’ll meet you up there.
[[SFX: Benny heads up the stairs. Peri waits a moment.]]
PERI: Mo, I may have heard everything. And I also think we ran out of mallows two weeks ago.
[[SFX: Peri hums as she brings up hot coco, spoons clinking in the mugs. She joins Benny at the top as the sounds of forestlife permeate the air.]]
BENNY: Hey, so I think I see a town wayyy over there. May have a battery for the radio.
PERI: You don’t have to pretend, Benny.
BENNY: What are you talking about?
PERI: You know what I’m talking about.
[[SFX: A quiet moment.]]
PERI: It’s okay if you’re embarrassed or whatever… I know Mo is a good listener but I can be a good listener too. If you need one.
[[SFX: Benny takes a sip of coco.]]
BENNY: I guess… I know you’re dealing with your own stuff so I didn’t want to... add to it, y’know?
PERI: You listened to me… well kind of have a few meltdowns. This is what friends do. They listen to each other.
[[SFX: Birdcalls. They sip their coco.]]
PERI: Who was she?
PERI: You said you heard her. Who was the her? Was she...
BENNY: My mom. I thought I heard her voice in the maze.
PERI: You know, it’s… weird. To think of you as having a family.
BENNY: [laughs] I’ve mentioned my mom before.
PERI: I know but… I never thought about her in a corporeal sense I guess.
BENNY: Your brother’s like that for me. Not really a person, just an idea.
PERI: Yeah. What did she say?
BENNY: She asked where I was.
PERI: What did you say?
BENNY: I didn’t even know what was happening, if it was real… I guess I just didn’t know what to say.
PERI: You don’t have to talk about it.
BENNY: It’s fine, you heard me talking to Mo anyway. I just… I left and I didn’t think about them because I knew they’d be okay without me. They’ve been okay without me.
[[SFX: Benny sips his drink.]]
BENNY: My mom, she raised adventurers. One of my sisters is in politics, flies all around the world. Hector, my youngest brother, jumps out of airplanes for a living. My dad was a pilot so sometimes they’d go up together.
PERI: Do you ever talk?
BENNY: Time to time.
PERI: I haven't spoken to my parents in a long while.
[[SFX: Forest sounds fade into Peri’s voice.]]
PERI: I shouldn’t worry? What the heck is wrong with you Mom! Ace hasn’t come home for the past two weeks and you tell me not to worry? Something happened! He works on the water, maybe he fell in and drowned and it’s a cover up or someone took him at the gas station or he fell while on a hike and his body is rotting and covered in maggots as we speak and you won’t even be in the same state as your distressed daughter! Fine, fine go talk to dad, talk talk talk and do absolutely nothing.
[[SFX: She cries out as she slams the phone down.]]
BENNY: I think I’ll see if I can get in touch with them. Maybe send a postcard when we hit that town over there?
PERI: I don’t think I’m gonna go today.
BENNY: What? Why?
PERI: [getting worked up] I, um, I used to never go out. And then when this all started happening I kind of had to, um… force myself to go out and I got a lot better but... today… today the idea of walking outside my door… I can’t, I can’t do it.
BENNY: I mean, I’ll be right there with you. You won’t be alone.
PERI: Yeah, this whole…. Thing… it’s a lot more than just being nervous talking to people and getting frustrated and stuff. I used to never go out and… I thought I was better, I was doing better but now I’m not so sure.
[[SFX: Her spoon rattles in her mug.]]
PERI: Ha, look. Even just thinking about going out there gives me the shakes.
[[SFX: She takes a deep breather and the rattle calms.]]
BENNY: Did something happen at that place?
PERI: Maybe? I read… this sounds so silly now that I say it but I think I read the future. On those granite slabs, there were parts about me and it knew things that no one else knows and then it had all these places I’ve never been and things that haven’t happened yet and I… I almost found him. I almost found out where Ace was but then things were fading and you were yelling and… and I
BENNY: I am so sorry.
PERI: Yeah, me too.
BENNY: Well, you don’t have to go out today. Or tomorrow even. Take some time off.
PERI: But what if I never--
BENNY: If what you read is true then you’ll go out again, eventually. Give yourself a break. Can you do that?
PERI: Yeah, yeah I can do that.
[[SFX: Peri takes a deep breath. They’re quiet. Trees rustle in cool wind. Benny stretches.]]
BENNY: Well, I’m gonna head to town though. And maybe this time I’ll actually find a place with a battery for the radio. Also somewhere that can put the radio back together. Sorry about that, again.
[[SFX: Peri follows.]]
PERI: It’s okay. We were both a bit all over the place.
BENNY: Did you ever think about fixing this light?
PERI: Um I did when you first mentioned it,but not since then. Might be a good project for me to work on though.
BENNY: Do you have any technical experience?
PERI: I lived alone and I didn’t like people. You think I called a repairman?
BENNY: Well, you had a guy deliver your groceries, I figured, y’know…
PERI: If I was really out in the weeds I’d see if Jordan could take a look at stuff but I mostly fixed things myself.
[[SFX: Creak of opening the latch back into the lighthouse.]]
BENNY: I stand corrected.
[[SFX: Benny walks on the sidewalk, a slight wind brushing by. He tries to whistle. Fails.]]
BENNY: Why do I try?
[[SFX: He switches to humming. He walks then stops in front of a store and reads the sign.]]
BENNY: Auntie June’s Fine Pastries. Huh.
[[SFX: Benny continues onward then stops.]]
BENNY: Carl’s Oddly Useful Odds ‘n Ends. That sounds promising.
[[SFX: The bell of an opening door.]]
CARL: Psst. PSSSST.
BENNY: Oh, hi. Are you, are you Carl?
CARL: What are you doing outside?
CARL: Why on earth are you, nevermind, just get in here.
[[SFX: Carl yanks Benny inside the store and hits him upside the head.]]
BENNY: Ow! What the hell?
CARL: You wanna be outside when the storm really rolls in?
[[SFX: The door closes.]]
CARL: What kind of stupid are you? You new? You should’ve gotten a pamphlet when you moved here.
BENNY: I was just looking for someone who could fix my radio! Where is here?
[[SFX: Carl rummages through items in the shop.]]
CARL: Here is the lightning storm capital of the world. You visiting? This isn’t exactly a prime vacation spot this time of year. You’re not even wearing rubber boots? What did I do to cross paths with such an idiot? I keep telling them, pamphlets, pamphlets, pamphlets!
BENNY: Pamphlets? Wait, you said lightning storms.
[[SFX: Outside, sirens blare.]]
CARL: Oh, now they start the sirens, geez, ya could give people a little more warning! If my skin knows that something nasty is approaching, you’d think that fancy equipment would pick it up quicker!
BENNY: What about the lightning storms!
CARL: You’re more naive than all those scientist types put together! We got a big one headed right for us.
BENNY: I gotta get back to Peri.
CARL: What, you mean Paris? Eugh, buncha god-damn zoo animal eaters.
BENNY: No, she’s a person, She’s… she’s someone outside who doesn’t know about the storms.
CARL: Kid! You can’t go out there without any protection.
BENNY: I don’t have time for you to ring me up or whatever!
CARL: And I don’t have time to clean up your fried corpse on the street. Not gonna do your friend much good if you’re more well done than my son-in-laws steaks.
[[SFX: The sirens continue outside. Benny takes a few moments to think.]]
BENNY: Do you have parts for a radio as well?
CARL: [indignant] Do I have parts for a radio? I got everything from radios to transmitters to walkie-talkies, I got the whole kit ‘n caboodle. Never had a single person walk in here looking for something who hasn’t left with it.
[[SFX: The winds increase as Peri hums and fiddles with the closures and rubs the glass of the light lens.]]
PERI: Somewhere cold enough that breath fogs the air. Puts deserts out of the running though some deserts get really cold at night. But the lighthouse doesn’t stick around for nightfall, does it.
[[SFX: Small pieces clink as they fall]]
PERI: Oh sugar.
[[SFX: Peri sits back and sighs then continues to fiddle with the light and ehr tools.]]
PERI: I had the whole history of me, the whole future of me and the only clue I got was chilly air. I’m at the mercy of probability and she hasn’t exactly been kind to me, has she? She’s had her moments, letting me practice interacting with understanding strangers. Finding me a friend who I can help and who helps me. And yet. And yet and yet. The world is so much bigger than I thought and I feel so small. What? No answer for me, light? Nothing for your old friend, Hesperia? Mo’s much more talkative than you.
[[SFX: She lets out a quiet laugh.]]
PERI: If they could see me now. Sitting atop a lighthouse, trying to fix something of all too familiar complexity. This would be a whole lot easier with internet. Hm. Maybe Benny was onto something with the whole internet cafe idea.
CARL: Okay, all saddled up kid, threw in a couple walkie talkies for free, they’re ancient and frankly I just wanna be rid of ‘em.
BENNY: Um, thanks!
CARL: Thank me if you survive the storm, son.
[[SFX: [[SFX: Benny bursts out of Carl’s store and runs.]]
BENNY: Run, Benny, run, c’mon man.
[[SFX: Clang of a tool falling.]]
PERI: Ugh, I knew I should have grabbed the Phillips head. Now I have to go all the way back down.
[[SFX: Peri sighs and gets up.]]
[[SFX: Benny runs through the forest. Wind blowing. Benny trips and stumbles. He lets out a yell but keeps going. Thunder builds.]]
[[SFX: Peri rummages through a drawer.]]
PERI: We have a tool box for a reason, Benny. Ugh, where’d you put that thing? Aha!
[[SFX: Peri hums and climbs the stairs. She steps outside.]]
[[SFX: Thunder rolls.]]
[[SFX: Rain pounds the top of the car. Inside sit Ruth and Peri.]]
RUTH: I’ve missed this.
PERI: Me too.
RUTH: Hey, look, I’m sorry--
PERI: No, it’s fine. It is.
RUTH: I’m happy you let me pick you up.
[[SFX: Ruth sighs.]]
RUTH: Peri, I--
PERI: Do you… do you get a lot of thunderstorms at school?
RUTH: Not often.
PERI: There was this one storm? When I was a kid but before you moved here. It felt like it was gonna swallow the whole world. It made the light go out on top and I was scared it was after me too.
PERI: I’ve, um, I’ve been watching the storms lately. I’m not as scared of them anymore but. I guess I was thinking about the lightning. About how something happens far away but it takes a while for you to know. And sometimes... sometimes that silence stretches between the lightning and the thunder but it’s still so… that sound still strikes you to your core, when it arrives, even if it happens far away, y’know?
RUTH: I know.
PERI: [voice shaking]] And I guess I just… it feels like the thunder just got to me because the lightning was so far away
[[SFX: Soft music of the opening song plays.]]
PERI: And, um, I didn’t…[crying] I couldn't see it.
[[SFX: Peri sniffs.]]
RUTH: I’m sorry, Peri. -I’m so sorry.
PERI: No, just don’t
[[SFX: Peri gets out of the car, leaving the door open.]]
RUTH: Peri? PERI!
[[SFX: Peri stands on top of the lighthouse.]]
PERI: One, two, three, four, five, six, sev-
PERI: Little over six miles away. I should [gasp]. One, two, three, fou-
[[SFX: Benny sprints under the trees.]]
BENNY: Peri, what are you doing get off the roof! Oh shit, another flash. One, two, thr-
[[SFX: Thunder. Benny continues running. A flash and immediate thunder.]]
BENNY: Woah, okay!
[[SFX: Peri gasps as the wind picks up.]]
PERI: That was only a mile away.
[[SFX: Benny runs faster as he nears the lighthouse.]]
BENNY: PERI. GET DOWN, PERI, GET AWAY, PERI--
[[SFX: THUNDER AND LIGHTNING STRIKE.]]
BENNY: NO DON’T! PERI!
[[SFX: Benny runs as fast as he can as Peri falls, slowed by tree branches. She hits the ground. Benny reaches her.]]
BENNY: Nononono, Peri. Peri, Peri I got you, I got you, Peri. Please, please, Peri. You gotta be okay. Peri, you gotta be okay.
[[SFX: Sounds fade, leaving only the music.]]
[[SFX: The music fades. Beeps of hospital machinery. Stirring under sheets. Peri winces and gasps, sharp intakes of breath as she moves. She picks up a nearby phone and punches in a number.]]
PERI: Mom? Dad?
The Far Meridian
Created and written by Eli Barraza, directed and produced by Mischa Stanton.
Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri, Danielle Shemaiah as Ruth, José Donado as Benny, and Richard Malmos as Carl. Music by The Album Leaf.
Thank you for wandering with us during our first season. We'll be back with our second season in 2018. You can find more information and transcripts at TheFarMeridian.com and if you're looking for ways to support before we return, you can leave us a five star review on Apple Podcasts or find us on Patreon at patreon.com/thefarmeridian. You can also always find us on social media @TheFarMeridian.
The fog's rolling in. We'll be back next year. Until then, may you always find your way.