Hi there! My name is Cece Sawyer. I am Tom’s girlfriend and I have a very strange tale to tell.
It all started back when we moved into the little apartment in Victoria, British Columbia a couple years ago. Tom was always working. Every single day it was a kiss goodbye before heading out to his office to do writing, heading out to do shows with the band or heading out to clean the big building up in Saanich. He’d send me little texts now and again to let me know how things were going, and after doing some housework I would keep myself occupied with coming up with ideas or meeting the neighbours. This would usually happen when I went downstairs to get the mail or do the laundry.
There were two strange things about the building. One was how the staircase on the front of the building lead to a big empty room with plants. We live on the top floor so this room is just one floor above us. I remember when I first went up there. The room was dark so I actually wondered for a moment if I was intruding on someone else’s space.
“Hello?” I said as I neared the dark room.
It was a bit silly as I found out, turning on the light to reveal a single room on the top of the building, filled with old furniture. It was like someone had gone to a second hand store and bought everything. Big leafy green plants were in every corner. There was an old record player with one of those metal horns that you only see pictures of. There were old couches that looked like the one my Grandma had in our house on the Beecher Bay Reservation where I was born.
And there were books. So many books and old copies of National Geographic that I also hadn’t seen since being at Grandma’s house. She had them in the basement and didn’t want to throw them out because they were Grandpa’s. I recognized one of the ones that were on the coffee table in the room. I was from the 1960’s and had a big pull out map of the moon. There were issues with that classic yellow border about Zimbabwe and Nepal and the first plays in Greece. I liked reading when Tom was away so at first I would just pop upstairs and go through the books. Some of them were kept in this one shelf with a glass case and they looked very old, like they had been rescued from a sunken sea chest. I had to be very careful as I open these books as the binding was very frail and the first couple pages had disappeared.
I did this until months ago when I asked our neighbour about the other room.
Down by the laundry room, and around the corner from the mailboxes was this room or apartment, or at least a door that had no number. Over the security viewing hole, like an apartment’s door, was the word “OOG.”
To this day I’m not entirely sure why it said that, even with what I know now. Or I think I have an idea.
Anyways, I noticed after a while that I had never seen anyone ever coming in our out of that door. I was sure I would bump into someone when I carried our big, round laundry basket downstairs but it never happened. I feel a little bad about this, but one time I even dared myself to listen closely. I never had the nerve to knock or go right up to it.
So, I ended up talking to our neighbour Wayne who had lived next to us on the top floor the whole time. He’s lived there for just years and he was always going upstairs to take care of the plants.
“Oh, that’s just storage. Yeah, no-one actually lives there,” he laughed as he went upstairs with his mail.
So that was that, but don’t worry because it gets way weirder.
It was when I was doing laundry downstairs, in the big white room next to the OOG door. I had just done the dry cycle and was putting clothes on the long table under the bulletin board. Everything was going normal as I was taking clothes from the white basket and organizing them when one of the socks fell off the table and went right behind the dryer. I was annoyed of course, but more relieved it missed the garbage with all the lint in it so I moved that out of the way and went down to reach behind the dryer. The sock had somehow gone into this little square opening on the back of a dryer which was sort of hard to get to. After moving the whole dryer a little and squeezing behind there I finally got it and was about to leave when a flash of something got my attention.
It was a key. Attached to the key was a little brown wooden tag that said, you guessed it, “OOG.”
Now I know what I really should have done. I should have popped it in the mail slot in the office since it was clearly property of the building and maybe they needed it to get into the storage room. But maybe they had another key. Surely they would have noticed if a key went missing. I sat there kneeling for a bit looking at the little copper colored key and its wooden tag for a moment. I heard the click of the front door of the building close and some people talking and at that moment the key slipped into my pocket.
I gathered up the rest of my laundry and went upstairs.
With the laundry put away and everything else done, my mind was immediately drawn back to the key. I seriously tried to not think about it. That was impossible. I mean, it couldn’t hurt to look inside the little room. I mean it was just a storage room and the building manager was only here for an hour in the morning. It was already the afternoon. As long as I closed the door behind me, no one would be the wiser.
And that’s exactly what I did, my heart just pounding the whole time until I closed the OOG door from the other side and found the light switch.
It was a storage room, alright. It wasn’t just boxes but tonnes of stuff that I couldn’t work out what they were for. The room had been a large bachelor suite on the lower front of the building and light from outside crept through the white curtains into the low light from the overhead, illuminating the dust and the hodge-podge of everything from long water pipes, to sinks to very old appliances. I walked along the wall just kind of having a look. I couldn’t see anything that was really that interesting as everything looked a bit old and I didn’t want to actually take anything from the room because that would be stealing.
After all, my rule was I was going to just look. So, I was just looking.
Then I got to the door. Not the same door that I had come from but one at the corner by the front window. It was interesting to me because there was a door in the laundry room, so I naturally supposed this was going to lead back into that. It was kind of funny as the door wouldn’t really need to be there. The laundry room was literally around the corner from the front door so why would this flat need a second door just for that? I opened it and came into a hallway.
That’s right, a hallway.
It was very short and went to another door that was locked from this side. I have no doubt in my mind now that the second door is the door to the laundry room. I’ve never gone through that way because that isn’t the interesting bit. Stepping into the hallway is when it got interesting.
This is when I discovered what I have just come to call The Grotto.
For you see, between the door back into OOG and the door into the white tiles of the laundry room was an intersection of a hallway that sloped sharply down towards a blue painted door that had been left slightly open. I could not resist this. I went down and, just like upstairs…
Going inside was a like a trip back into the nineteen sixties, not that I had ever been there. What I found below what I thought was the lowest floor of the building was a fully furnished and rather extravagantly laid out apartment. There was an old fridge that was thankfully empty (in no-one had been down here since the sixties…UGH!), big raised couches that curved around like something out of a magazine, doors of beads, paintings, more books and in one room there was even blankets hanging from the roof. There was a glass ball in water that when you turned it on would turn about and put out little clouds of white smoke. There were little eves in the wall that had shot glasses from all over the world and two pistols over the couch with mother of pearl grips. There was some very expensive looking wine and family photos in the kitchen. There was this one room that was locked and so help me, I couldn’t open that one.
And the photos! The place was obviously rented by a very handsome young man back in the day, because he seemed to be in every photo next to famous people from Freddy Mercury to the Dali Lama.
It took me a moment to realize…someone was still paying for this place. Someone was paying for it but no-one had been down here in decades. I looked to see if the television still worked, like the electricity.
And this is where things got really crazy.
(To be continued!)
Sam knew something was wrong. It was the first time they had ever separated, but the reason for it seemed perfectly legit.
“Ok man, can you just go ahead and we’ll meet you there. We’ve gotta sort shit out with Donna.”
That was the last thing Gav told him at the bus station in Vancouver. The gig that night didn’t happen because it never would have. The next one was a fall through as well for reasons of some kind of confusion between Donna and the venue which turned out to have way less money and naturally Gav wasn’t going to go for that. They could have played anyways but Gav was in a mood. Donna suggesting busking didn’t help. Nothing like being stuck in a rainy night in a hotel where everyone pretends the others aren’t there.
The next show would have been some place called Steamers in Victoria. There was a local funk band called Three Sixty that was going to open.
Sam sat on the wooden bench inside the old bus station, looking stupidly through the houses in a real estate magazine. It was the only thing you could count on to be free.
There were payphones but he didn’t know if they were on the ferry or even on that last leg that goes through all the farms and small communities in the Saanich Peninsula.
All he could do is wait. He looked inside his pack of cigarettes. Not many, but he wasn’t too bad. He looked around but the place still had those ashtrays on the metal stands so he lit up and blew smoke towards the stained plaster roof.
Sam almost dropped the smoke as he looked up to see a man looking at him from behind the sliding glass window of the bus station’s office.
“Sorry, man…I thought,” he said pointing towards the ashtray. Some places were becoming non-smoking but then, why would the ashtray still be out?
“No, no you got a phone call buddy.”
Sam butted the dart out and went over to the glass window, the next of his guitar bag hanging over his bag on the end of the long bench.
He picked up the phone.
And got the news.
The band was over. Donna and Gav had just this huge fight. Like, huge. Like cops were involved. They hoped he could somehow get back to Perry Sound. After that Sam didn’t really take in what they were saying. He just felt faint.
“Yeah, that’s fine. I understand. No it’s ok.”
Sam gazed off into space while the man in the back occasionally looked at the young man with the mess of dark hair whose face had just gone pale.
He put the plastic black phone back on it’s cradle and nodded to the man with the striped white shirt and grey balding hair.
“You ok, there?”
“Oh, uh thanks,” Sam stammered “Yeah.”
Sam went back to his stuff and just sat there. He picked the cigarette out of the ashtray and struggled to find his lighter. Then it wouldn’t light.
Nothing. It was out. He tried shaking it. Sometimes that stuff works. It didn’t
“Here,” said the older guy holding out a pack of matches.
“Oh, thanks man!” he said quickly getting them and sitting back down again. He lit up and looked at the matches that said Empress Taxi.
He had some money but only just enough to get back to Ontario. That’s what he should do,, he thought. Back to the group home where he was staying. Back to that tiny room in late October with the frozen air coming off Superior. He looked at the board and the next bus back to the big station across from Science World was coming up. He would have to buy a ticket soon. From there he could get a bus to Winnipeg and from there he could get that same route they took months ago, just heading east.
He sat with his smoke and looked out the window where the bus that brought him here was still lurking under the canopy out of the light rain.
(Ps I must add, my band is fine lol)
By Tom Pogson
“cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating
in the hidden realm of thought as in the world” – James Allen
He did not know when it began. The slightest sound inside the pod could overwhelm those first pops and clicks from his makeshift scanner with its three pin lights. When the frightened voice first spoke he was elsewhere, more than likely standing in the center beam room. Sam kept flawless records from the digital readouts below, the thick curved glass separating his face from the hum of the beam. Its radiance swelled and shone bright, showing the Captain’s age.
Every five hours he would do this. Sam still used the same tablet that the Kel had left for him a decade ago. Most pod miners could not even keep the same tablet running, let alone the rest of the work Sam did. He liked to keep busy. There was always something to do on the Howe Shelf, far away from the noise and the dust and the bars of the Central Commons.
How Nina could stand that place, Sam never knew. What kind of life was that for Eliot anyways?
The front room was his workshop, flanked by the mudroom on one side where he kept the tools for the hoverbike and the other the kitchen which was kept spotless. He did have one comfortable chair in the front room, next to where the scanner was chirping louder as the signal grew stronger. The chair was for reading. He had been studying the Kel language ever since his posting. Few things remained of years in the service. His uniform he long ago had incinerated.
Satisfied with his readings, he plugged the tablet into the port in the center tube. The beam itself would carry the signal far up to his exchanger and along the beam in the sky until it reached the Kel Station far in the northern mountains.
It was as the upload finished that he first heard the sound coming from the front room. He leaned over to peer towards the room, having to keep the tablet in place until the upload was finished.
Complete. Hit Send. Send.
In seconds he was kneeling down in front of the table, staring at the black metal console with the rounded ends and the green blinking lights.
The squawk of the noise and static grew with lashings of clear sound. Kel words were coming through the little speaker on the back. It was broken like a sun scraping through clouds. Sam placed his finger over the voice button. With his other hand he gently tried the dial on the side, looking at the tiny digital screen for the strongest signal he could find.
“Pod Miner 78-A listening, anyone out there?”
Silence. Then more noise but it was completely illusive. He moved the dial around more, squinting hard at the little screen.
“Come on,” said Sam “Where are you?”
Then dead silence. Only one light shone; the principal running light of the machine. This meant that there was no signal. Sam moved the dial more, half tempted to slap the side of the machine as if something had suddenly gone wrong with it. He put his hands up in frustration. He had done little tests on the scanner from the radio on his hoverbike, but other than that, the little machine had never been used. He connected it exactly the way he was trained in the W.A. Field Operations. It was flawless then, so what was the problem?
He got his answer.
The sound made him nearly jump out of his skin and reach for his thermal TR-90 in the corner. It was the sound of a ship, its engines crackling and burning hot, racing just over the beam exchanger above the white cluster of his pod. Sam burst out into the Velios night to see the dark grey craft roaring towards the southern canyons. The back of the ship was smouldering great pillows of smoke. Just then the radio scanner burst to life. Sam could only watch, following the ship’s path as a voice filled the front room.
“Going down! Going down! Please assist! We are going down into the Southern Canyons of Velios. Important cargo is ab-“
With the sound of a struggle, the voice cut off sharply. A moment later the ground shook from the impact. There was no explosion or fireball. Sam stayed motionless as the sound returned to the flat quiet as a slight breeze came across the water to where he stood on the edge of the peninsula. High above, the trail of smoke began to dissipate in the evening sky.
Coming to his senses, Sam raced inside. He grabbed the TR-90, his coat, his pack and soon was slicing just over the water’s edge on the curved steel of the hoverbike.
Sam followed the crest of the great falls, a seemingly endless line of froth from the world below as the sea of the Howe Shelf fell away into its roar. There were very few other Pod Miners on islands this far to the south, but he could still see the occasional pod as he flew towards the distant rise of hills and then wooded mountains of the west. No trees grew outside those higher elevations. On the islands of grasses and other meager growth, the nearest working pods were far away, but he could spot them by the thin white line of the energy they pulled from deep in the heart of Velios up to the hovering exchangers in the sky.
He didn’t wear a full rider’s helmet as he always hated those things. He wore that sort of stuff in the early part of the wars and could remember the screaming matches with General Casson when he would insist that all of Sam’s men should be wearing them too. Now he just wore a wireless over one ear.
With his eyes scanning the approaching westlands, he looked for anyone else that was going to swing around the edge of the falls and head south.
“Pod Miner 78-A here, en route to the crash. Anyone else see that?”
No response. The signal went back to the music that Sam had loaded into the bike’s computer. The music was electronic but from decades back. He was barely listening to it as he interrupted it again.
“Hey, Sam Krellor here. Seriously, did no-one see that?”
Somebody must have seen the ship go down, but he was a little concerned to find out whom. It was late on a Friday night and way too many of the other miners were more than likely at the Commons. It was not the kind of help he would want. It would take them far longer to get there and they would be more than likely intoxicated.
“Jesus, aren’t any of you sober?”
Just then, Sam reached the edge where the falls broke into three rivers that split into the southlands and the grassy westlands. He swung around and began the trek into the heart, the map display lighting up below the white wheel.
At least he would be able to secure the crash site before any of those guys showed up. Story of his life, he thought, dealing with a bunch of dumb kids.
He knew where that ship had probably landed, occasionally glancing down at the map. He pressed the spot with his finger quickly. The spot flashed red and blue symbols appeared over the map, detailing the elevation and deciding the best course.
“On board. Navigate lock.”
“Lock complete,” came the female voice response from the bike’s computer.
With the route laid out before him, he soon was able to find his way there. With the spray of the falls at his back, he swung the bike into the narrow slot canyon. The path was so tight that his knees could easily scrape the layers of earth that blurred passed, the spectrum of packed red soils falling away to a soft dirt plain. He began slowing as he passed over a hilltop and came down towards the crash site. There was no question that his work pod was due north of him and high up above the falls. There was no question as the red dot on his map display suddenly changed to an apple green. He was there.
The ship was not.
Around his white bike floating just off the surface of the soil, the southlands slept quietly. Just the slightest breath came from the north, and the slightest low roar of the great falls separating Sam from his home.
From the side of the bike he opened a hatch and pulled out his binoculars, scanning the horizon. Was it possible that it had crashed further to the south? The area was flat for miles in every direction with bluffs and hoodoos only breaking up the canyon-lands. He was certain of it. The ship should be here.
The bike whirred to silence as he stepped off onto the soil and began just walking around, feeling like a fool. As if not being on the bike would solve much of anything.
He kneeled down and looked at the soil beneath him. If something that big happened, there would be a trace of it.
Reluctantly, he got back on the bike and headed further south, ignoring his certainty about where the Kel ship went down. Maybe he was wrong. It was a Kel ship and having travelled on one Sam knew they are incredible machines, so perhaps it made it further than he considered.
But for the miles and miles that he scanned, climbing the bike up to the top of one of the gently sloping bluffs it became clear that there was no ship; just the soft evening wind, the scent of cherry that came from the undergrowth on Velios and the cloudless sky above.
Soon he was back on the whirring white hoverbike, flying past the falls and northeast. For a while it was just him, a single white dot sailing over the water and the low islands. Then he saw another pod, miles from his own. And then another. He knew he was getting closer as they began to pepper the surrounding landscape, and the voices of drunken Pod Miners occasional shouted out.
Ahead of him were the lights of the Commons, a round city stuffed onto the largest of the islands, its two story buildings clustered together like seagulls on a buoy. He swung around to the eastern entrance. There were other bikes and the guards in their grey armor suits watching them come and go. He was always worried that one day the guards would be off duty at the wrong time. He slowed the bike to a crawl as he approached the mouth of the east gate.
“Hey Captain,” said the taller of the two guards flanking the opening in the wall that ran around the noise and the cooking smells and dull orange light.
“Ryan,” Sam acknowledged as the young Pod Miners were coming out single file. Their bikes swayed but at least they had the ability to get the guys home, homing on each pod despite the state of the passenger.
“Captain Viking!” came a cheer from a couple bikes back in the line, a phrase that then rippled through the crowd as they were either familiar faces to Sam, or they just did not want to be left out of the fun.
Sam just waved his hand from the two horns of his white steering wheel as he cruised past the ever-increasing line. He didn’t want to ask these guys about the lights in the sky. He was absolutely certain on how painfully annoying the responses would be at that time of night. Very few girls worked as Pod Miners, with the exception of a handful that lived close.
“Well, this is an unexpected delight!” said Nina as she looked up from the autowasher which was always getting jammed with crap from the wide mouthed beer mugs.
“I’ve been here before.”
“Not frequently,” she smiled as she looked into the autowasher, “stupid thing. Hey, you’re a tough guy…want to help me with this?”
Sam walked behind the counter over to Nina who stepped back, pushing the long blonde hair behind her ear that managed to escape her black hair clip. Sam looked inside the orange glow of the machines single opening.
“Wow,” he said with his eyebrows raised.
“Oh, don’t give me that,” she laughed “You never think to clean the thing that does the cleaning.”
“Okay,” he said reaching in and then stopping to look at her.
“Thank you,” he said, grimacing as he inserted his arm inside the machine and began trying to clear away the hairs and food that circled the gears like lichen “Everyone behave tonight?”
“Thanks to the guards. People are accusing the food now of being the source of the problem and of course that’s yours truly. Still waiting for a re-shipment.”
“Like these guys would even want kids.”
“I don’t know, some might. Give Eliot someone to play with. He’s the only person under ten in the joint. Best excuse ever to skip school.”
Just then Sam pulled something out from between two large cogs that shook the whole machine. He reached down and plugged the autowasher back into the wall and the machine chugged at first until it began humming contentedly. He held up a small toy man, made of solid plastic that looked as though his spaceship had just taken a tumble.
“I told him not to go near this thing.”
“Go easy on him. He’s a good kid.”
“I know. You want a drink? I am sure the only thing it does is make you drunk.”
Finally Nina Staarsgard had a chance to sit down. She dropped with a plop into her favorite place next to what the Kel designers though must have constituted a normal fireplace, complete with the metal tools on a rotating rack, and the hearth, only with an oddly oval shaped mouth from which an actual fire relayed heat into the room and smoke up from the pub’s long chimney. Nina had a pink cocktail in a tall glass and her face was covered in the salt of her own sweat. She sat next to Sam on the single couch, looking at him with her large blue eyes as he looked into the fire.
“I don’t see you enough, you know.”
“How have you been sleeping?”
He had been sleeping a little better for the last few weeks. He was almost up to sleeping most nights of the week. Any sound would do it. Silence would do it. Dreams. Sometimes he would just turn over on his bunk and find himself shaking as the tears rolled over his cheeks.
“You didn’t hear about a Kel ship crash landing did you?”
Sam explained what he knew. He described the radio. The great shadow that passed above the pod, the falls and deep into the south. By her expression, and the fact that he had not met any of the boys on the way to the Commons, he guessed the answer.
“Oh, Sammy,” she said putting her hand on his knee.
“I’m worried about you.”
“I didn’t imagine it.”
“I know, but you know what job I did before I became this and you became a miner. This is a symptom.”
She could feel him tense up on the grey cloth and wicker couch. She looked at the big man who stared into the flames, unsure what to do beyond just be there.
“I know. But I saw the craft. I could describe it right down to its intake converters. It was there.”
“Until it wasn’t.”
The clock read 3 am as he switched on the front room lights. The air was still. He had been through the same steps as before, its rhythm soothing the fading shouts as he would duck his head between the rooms of the pod. He had the shower to wash away the sweat. His night robe was clean and soft, hanging in its place on the silver hook behind the door. The coffee had chugged away almost imperceptibly until he returned to kitchen barefoot under the bright halogen light. He reheated food in one of those little black bowls. He put both down next to the radio and turned its volume up just slightly.
He went out into the cool of the Velios night and looked out at the south where the sound of the falls softly rumbled below the canvas of starlight. The glow from the beam at night brushed the back of his greying brown hair.
Below was the soft green of the growth that seemed like grass but never grew. Little grew here or ever changed that he had seen. The breeze from the north hills was almost imperceptible. He had never been near the hills that climbed to the mountains, for the simple reason that he calculated only so much time between his regular reports. For a moment he mused that it was too bad his dreams didn’t fall in line with the quiet of the Howe Shelf. Some of the miners hated things in their new home, longing to be on some other planet where the other survivors must be having a great time. Sam almost preferred to stay here. Dani was here. His work was here. It was better than his dreams.
For the past few weeks, they began with the same strange story being played out before the usual barrage of gun fire and the scrambling of men. It was his home town, but desolate. That at least was like Velios. It was as if everyone had simply winked out of existence.
He would walk down Main Street, past the white tall trees and red swing sets of the park to the heart of town to find he was completely alone. He walked into the back of a bakery and up into the law offices that had always looked down from above. It was all there, every detail. Eventually he would run into the girl.
He never saw her face completely but she was young and had never seen her before. She always grabbed his hand to try and pull him away from where he was going. But where he was going was inevitable. It was a place where he shouted orders as he ran to the transport, its mouth open like a great bear trap. Fast forward to the crash. Then again to things that he could not even describe. Reports of the bombs falling. Blood of his troops on his face and his uniform. Bodies of civilians, or at least parts of them. He knew they were the lucky ones. It was all going to end soon. The reports continued. He was never as good at science in the academy but only a fool would not realize that there would soon be no place left to hide.
Then came the Kel. It wasn’t like any movie. It was done so fast that everyone in the ship surrounding him seemed to instantly arrive. Some were military like him. Some civilian. No one spoke. No one moved.
The ship left orbit, with the remnants of Earth visible below. There it was, inflamed and sick, its atmosphere soon worse than Venus or Jupiter.
No one moved.
Sam sighed out and turned around to go inside.
Sam stood in shock. It was her. He could absolutely swear it. It was that same girl from his dream. She looked like a young girl from earth in her mid teenage years somewhere, but it wasn’t quite right. Even though the shape was essentially the same, her skin had too much an overall blue tint. Her eyes were a shade of bright green that he had not seen before the time he would want to forget.
“Hello?” was all he could manage.
“There you are,” she smiled “I have been looking for you since the crash. We all have.”
His mind raced. She wasn’t human. He had never seen a Kel before. The rescuers of everyone had remained tucked away somewhere on the ship that no one could find them. Even here on the planet, they supposedly lived in the north mountains, but the kids that went up there never found anyone. The said it was like a tomb.
“I’m a representative. You may call me Baye.”
“You were on that ship!” he suddenly realized.
“Yes. And your action did you credit. It is but another reason we sought you out. Come. It is time.”
She took his hand this time and let him inside of the pod, passing the living room towards the beam room where she walked around the humming light to the one place the hatch could open.
“Time? For what? I’m sorry, Baye…I don’t follow you,” he stammered with his eyes widening as she opened the glass case that separated the room from the great beam. He had never opened the case before. The sound was excruciating.
Her grip on his hand tightened. She smiled at him like a mother smiles at her child as her other hand went into the beam. Sam did not have time to scream.
Sam awoke in a leather chair. The similarities to his chair in the pod were so close that he briefly thought it was a dream. As his eyes opened the reality became apparent.
Before him lay the world. The rays from the distant sun had begun to creep across the landscape. Through the round glass windows he saw a beam of white energy that slid from the Howe Shelf now far away, passing high above the Commons to just beneath where he sat. He was in the Kel sanctuary, a tower high above the rest of the building. It was near the converter where the ships would refuel. It was that place the kids had explored. They found nothing. That was years ago. On this day it was he and the one called Baye. The room was silent. It seemed peaceful despite the confusion he felt. He got up and turned around to face her in the round room.
She stood by the center of the room where the wooden floor boards intersected at something that resembled a podium. A single black switch rose from a square flat top.
He tried to formulate a first question. He opened his mouth to speak.
“We have been watching you for some time, Captain Krellor,” she said, motioning almost reluctantly then to the black switch “we knew that this task needed the right person from your people.”
“For what?” he asked “Task?”
Her smile had gone. She paused. She looked to her left as if she had been instructed to continue.
“The Kel have been given a sacred trust since the founding of the Great Council. We come to the aid of people that have fallen, we plea for their path to be changed through further research…and then, when that hope is lost…we complete our duty. It is our sacred trust.”
Sam felt himself go cold. He had not felt this way since the first moment in the Kel ship.
“What do you mean?”
She seemed to force herself to keep looking at him. She continued with her softly spoken words.
“It will be instant. There will be no pain. No suffering. All biological life on Velios will simply vanish.”
“But,” Sam said imploring to her “is this happening everywhere else? Why is this happening at all? Why am I not trying to break your neck right now?”
She did not back up at the last threat. Sam did step forward but something about her seemed more dangerous than she looked at first glance. He turned to find a door. There was nothing. The room had become smooth like the inside of an ostrich egg.
“I am but a vessel of the Kel people, so my ‘neck’ as it were is indestructible, as am I. To your other questions, your species suffered immediate sterilization during your planet’s final hours. We have been trying to fix this, but we have had no success. And the stories of your people being on other planets were admittedly a lie. All of this was, even your work. The ships that came were our own. We needed to keep your people calm and busy while we pleaded with the Council. We endeavoured to give you hope. That is our charge. And then…we knew we must find a person who would be appropriate…for the final task.”
“Final task,” he said.
Sam walked around to the front of the podium. It was a switch, lit blue that was clearly meant to be turned to the right. How the kids who came up to this room never found this escaped him. He looked from the switch to the world below. He thought of Dani and little Eliot.
“But this…” he tried “This can’t be it.”
He turned to his right to face her. She appeared on his left.
“Is any of this real?”
“It is your choice now, Captain Krellor,” the voice of the girl changing into that of a more masculine voice. A voice of soft authority “You could delay a little while. We could continue research, but… we have very few provisions left suitable to sustain the human species. We have hoped for more promising outcomes, but they never came. Our records indicate the health of the young boy…he will be first to perish.”
He stood there for a moment. He placed his hand on the podium. His knees felt almost weak.
“We are sorry. So many of your people made such incredible strides to avoid coming to this but…this is not the first time Velios has been used for its final task. We can only pray it is the last.”
“So that’s it,” Sam said, a tear coming down his cheek “that’s it.”
The rising light of the distant star crept into the room, warming his skin.
“This is the one word we left out of the Kel language you studied. Velios.”
“Hospice,” said Sam.
He placed his hand on the dial. Baye lowered her head. The dial turned.
There was a moment after Sam was gone, that the Kel stayed motionless. Baye stood with her head lowered, not looking up even as the podium lowered into the floor, disappearing with the softest click.
“New species en route. I will make preparations. Yes.”
I did not arrive at this plot or my publishing it lightly.
Whether it resonates or if there is a benevolent people like the Kel or a place like Velios I don’t know.
I do know that each and everyone of us, and not just people in power, can make that dial stay to the left or swing to the right.
Our world is our choices.
When we support hate, when we demonize, when we practice any form of discrimination, when we go on the attack instead of trying to learn and empathize we threaten the clockwise motion of the “Velios Dial.”
This story is my ghost of Christmas future for the world. It is the opposite of Ollie and Emma. Every cause has an effect. Some doors you can’t go back through.
We are one 7.5 billion member family. Our family comes from many different cultures with different views on the details of life. No one is the enemy. No one is wrong. We can learn from each other.
Our strength is communication. Our power is community. Our future can only occur united.
This was but a shadow of things not yet occured.
Interesting watching the building crumble across the road.
Hauled down by men with thick gloves, defiant to frost a foreman’s rough speech, the old
taskmaster. They break center first, cutting, smashing
breaking and then sweeping, clearing away what was there before.
They spread to the wings. It’s still going on now. You wonder if it will ever
ever end, but it will. And as it falls you know it will. That part of the city
is alien land. You see what’s it like when it’s cleared, when it’s fully cleared, before we.
ever set our devious plans.
One day the last stone will be swept
away. It’s just a memory. They’d have to convince you that you
drank coffee, bought that book on Vaudeville’s
fall. New memories will be shaped
on the place the stones became powder.
Trying to find a family event on the island this Christmas?
Get your tickets now for Cookeilidh – Making Spirits Bright
Saturday December 17th at 7:30 pm.
We will be playing a variety of celtic and festive songs of the season in this beautiful theater. We will also be joined on stage by the world class O’Brien Irish Dancers so get your tickets today and mark your calendar!
Tickets are available now at…
What makes this webseries different than all the other indie films and romantic comedies? Is it just because she’s First Nations and he is a white suburban guy like myself?
Well, there’s that.
But to me as one of the writers on the show, Ollie and Emma is something that needs to happen. We need to see cultures coming together and making connections. We need to see First Nations characters played by First Nations actors in day to day life. And while there is certainly very serious and sobering realities about Native culture that everyone should research, there is also laughter, love and friendship.
My working partnership with Saulteaux comedian Cheri Jacobs is an example of this. We started work together almost four years ago now on a previous project and the subject of her being of Indigenous heritage never really came up until we started the first initial sketches of Ollie and Emma. I didn’t inquire before that or think “How do I work with this person? Do I have to be careful how I talk here?” It was more like “let’s write something funny!”
Since Ollie and Emma, and with some of the other First Nations projects we started (some more serious in tone, some set in earlier times) I have been asking more, reading more and listening to Elders speak about culture and holy cow…I have been just overwhelmed by the diversity of history, language, complex social structure, traditions and folklore. It is such a steep learning curve that for anyone to think “I’m going to learn about Native culture”, I like to say it’s a little like saying “I’m going to learn everything there is to know about Europe, Africa or Asia.” Dude, they’re all huge! You’re going to need an absurd amount of Red Bull, and even then you won’t get through it in one lifetime!
So yeah, I’m mostly focused on Coast Salish culture now. And even then, I have stacks of books to plow through (and being mostly an oral history, books are more of a tip-of-the-iceberg starting place!)…(whew!)
Returning to my point thought, Cheri and I are an example of where we are right now and how we all could one day be, all over the world. We can all make connections like this. I grew up on shows like Robotech where the whole world pulled together to make the impossible possible.
But don’t get scared after my little(ish) rant! Ollie and Emma is fun. It’s non-political, get’s a bit meta and plays with stereotype. I am so lucky to have worked with not only such a kickass co-writer/co-producer but also such a hardworking and talented cast and crew and of course our production team of Less Bland Productions and Telus Optik. I still stand in wonder how they took us on (not that we’re not good, but wow!)
To me, I’m still Jim and Joan Pogson’s kid whose somewhere in the rumpus room, sitting crosslegged somewhere amongst the storage boxes in the old house we had in Langley, BC, reading books and making up random stuff.
Enjoy the show!
Just click the link below!
We are so excited to finally announce August 26th 2016 as the debut for Ollie and Emma – The Webseries. This has been such a huge endeavor and its still not over! Tom and Cheri would like to thank all our loyal Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers…keep liking and share with your friends!! Ollie and […]
Please check out the first Ollie and Emma webseries trailer! So excited to begin sharing this story I have been working on with Cheri Jacobs for over two years now.
The story to me is all about starting a conversation across divides, something that has to happen for everyone’s sake. This can happen when we are inclusive, and everyone can join the fun.
So click below and enjoy! Look for our show on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress to find out about this upcoming release!
Janice was the last person Samuel ever expected that afternoon. Outside the drowsy city moved on, the street cars, carriages and passersby oblivious to the moment she emerged into his store barely upsetting the chiming of the bell Samuel had nailed into the frame.
There was nothing to prepare him for the moment. That Thursday in mid September the morning sun glinted off the bottles on the west side of the room like they always did when he arrived to unlock the dispensery. Sun poured across the street between the buildings on Government street. The younger clerk arrived in a rush under the slight scowl of Samuel’s gaze, the key his was given lost somewhere in his coat pockets. Samuel waited for a moment, looking over the rim of his steel frames as the man outside continued to fumble, his movements jerky and his face occasionally looking up to stare contrite at the older man in the white coat behind the black cash register. Finally, pushing the latch to open the low swinging gate he came to the young man’s rescue, with the boy in the long coat and felt riding hat looking regretfully at the older face on the other side of the pristine, clear glass.
“Eight thirty, Joshua,” the older man said simply as he opened the door.
“I’m sorry sir, I mean…it’s not an excuse but the tram left early…I tried to run after it but…”
“Well, at least you’re here,” he said as they both went back behind the counter surrounded by vials and bottles, the disinfecting alchohol in the large teardrop shaped glass and the wall of pestal and mortars. The room smelled only slightly of lavender and the disinfectant that was used to clean everything in the white walled dispensary that sat near the corner of Broughton between the café and the grocery.
The young man scurried into the back quickly as Samuel continued to go over the notes he made the day before on Mrs. Wensten’s prescription for anti-fungal cream and her Humalog diabetic insulin supplements. He kept all his notes in perfect order, his handwriting as clean and clear as the Colonist’s printing press, with every necessary note organized within the confines of the single black leather book. The book remained in the same place of his low front shelf, it’s corner’s frayed and smooth like the skin of a well worn leather shoe.
Samuel had just finishing entering the journal notes when he realized they were getting closer to opening time. Exactly fifteen and half minutes away by the pocket watch which never left his favorite red waistcoat, the watch a gift from a friend of the St. Andrew’s and Caledonia Society which he met with on Wednesdays like so many others who had come from Scotland or, like in his case, had parents from the old country.
Soon, Joshua emerged from the back of the dispensery in his white coat, doing the regular cleaning that was his job first thing each morning, only the young man was trying to do the same cleaning at twice the pace, quickly rushing over the furthest corner with the store’s straw broom.
“Slow down there!” Samuel said firmly with his eyes never leaving the black book and his smaller notes ledger beside where he wrote down the specific notes for that day.
“I’m sorry Sir, it’s just…we open in just over ten minutes and I was late. That’s my fault.”
“I’m very aware of the time, Joshua. You can continue to clean after opening hours just this once. I can’t afford for anything to be damaged,” he explained.
“Now, can you please open the front door and clean our exterior walk? Mrs Amberson will be by early this morning to pick up her supply for the St. Joseph’s dispensary. I’ve already laid out the packages on this back table with the documentation. I hate to keep the lady waiting.”
“Hallie Amberson!” He replied suddenly with a desire to straighten his coat and tie, pushing his hair back, looking at the mirror that hung over the topical creams on the south wall “She is beautiful, isn’t she?”
“None of that, if you please,” Samuel said to the smirk of Joshua.
Soon the young nurse from the Fairfield hospital arrived to the smiles of Joshua who continued to sweep door the outside walk. Samuel felt back the urge to roll his eyes at him as the young man then came in to gather all the parcels for her to put in the large case that she had brought. She smiled back at him and he just stood there for a moment, mooning like a cat.
“Now you can sweep the back of the store, Joshua.”
The young man managed one more smile at the young lady before going to fetch his broom. Samuel could swear the young man was one step away from being better off as a coal miner like his brothers. It seemed if he wasn’t prattling on about this or that he was talking about his new accommodation over by the bird houses.
Samuel could only just remember those younger days in his life when he was still studying under Mr. Hainsbury. He now owned a small house down Moss Street which was perfectly situated near the Foul Bay streetcar line. Each morning he woke quite early in the quiet when the sun had not yet risen, having his breakfast in the front room that was shaded during the day by the two arbutus trees he had planted himself out front. After his morning routine was finished he would head out early, paper under his arm to the corner of Moss and May where he would meet Scott Cook driving the first street car run of the morning, a fellow member of the Scottish society and a recent arrival from Aberdeen. The red and white sided car would click and clack its way along the smooth rails towards Cook Street and the park before turning it’s way towards the heart of town.
Lunch was the small café just next door run by Annie and Nathanial Humphries, which had been a family business since the earliest days of Victoria. She was always happy to see Samuel and frequently insisted that she could offer him a discount for her famous coffee and sandwiches that always comprised his meal. This was due to Samuel looking into a diagnoses that he found didn’t square correctly with what she had been diagnosed before. Samuel had actually visited and discussed with the physician so the prescription was changed to medication that took her relentless migraine headaches away. Samuel appreciated the offer of the discount each time she brought it up, but respectfully declined, not out of a dismissal of charity (which he also did not approve of) but due to the fact that it was his job to do exactly that and that he would stop practicing the moment he ever cut corners.
Back in his shop, with Joshua over by the other side of the room cleaning the tables where the recent shipment had just arrived by train, the door chimed softly.
That was the moment when Samuel’s eyes went wide. He felt something inside his chest that he had not felt since he was the same age as the young man across the room. He set his pen down and walked slowly to the front of the counter as the two people entered, their presence in the room raising Joshua’s eyebrows as well. They rarely ever saw people from the Songhees inside their dispensary.
Behind Janice, whose brown eyes fixed on Samuel, stood her large framed brother, George Andrews Jr. She was dressed in a shawl and he was dressed in the clothes of a labourer. Samuel pushed his glasses back slightly.
“Good Afternoon…George…Janice,” he said trying to steady his voice. He could only hope that his voice didn’t sound wrong. Beneath the cotton white coat, waist coat and shirt, his heart thudded hard.
“Samuel,” George replied, with Janice just looking at him before averting her gaze to look around the room.
“Um…what can I do for you both?”
“Janice?” George asked his sister.
“Yes…sorry,” she said before looking at Samuel sorrowfully and then looking down into the pockets of her shawl and finding a written paper. She walked up to the counter and Samuel swallowed slightly as she came close, her shawl brushing the other side of the white wooden counter. She handed him the prescription, Samuel looking down at her soft slight brown hands covering the doctor’s scribbles. He looked up at her and then back to the paper which he took. Coughing, he studied the paper.
“I can…” he said before coughing again “set up an account for you with us, if you want so we can track…”
“That won’t be necessary,” George said firmly.
Joshua came over the side of his employer, looking at him with his head slightly tilted to one side.
“Can I get you something, Sir?”
Samuel just looked at the notes on the paper, his head focused on returning to his work immediately. People came to him because he was a professional. In truth, he was considered the best pharmacist in the finest run dispensary on the south island, but he always refused to accept this notion.
“It’s…it’s a prescription for Miss Janice Lynn Andrews for the following medication,” he said beginning to write a note for Joshua to follow in his usual precise handwriting so their could not, would not be a mistake. One was an expectorant…one 250 mg of Azithromycin…another special tropical cream that was less commonly used but otherwise benign. At least, he thought for a moment, it was nothing really bad. Most of these were for simple ailments.
“These are for yourself?” he asked.
“Yes,” she answered.
He cleared his throat and with his hand slightly shaking he wrote the note and passed it to Joshua who rushed off with a small bag to fill for her.
“How much this gonna be?” George asked, his voice firm.
“Shouldn’t be too much. These are fairly common medications and from what I understand the physician you met set a one-week trial dosage. If anything feels wrong, stop taking them immediately, but they should clear up things within one week,” he explained consulting the pricing book next to the register and entering the numbers.
She handed him the forty-two cents it cost for the bag of medication that Joshua produced. He fingers brushed his only slightly when she gave it to him which set a rush of fire through Samuel, something he felt in his legs so strong, he had to keep one hand flat on the counter. For a moment, all for of them stayed put like they were posing for a photograph.
“Come along, Janice.”
“Goodbye, Sam,” Janice said with her eyes locked on him. The rest of the world seemed to stop. The rest of the world seemed quiet.
“Take care,” Samuel replied. He could not move.
“Come along, Janice!” George said more firmly. It was firmly enough for Joshua to look at the taller Native man with concern.
As they left, the younger clerk looked at his employer who seemed dazed, staring out the door as they left.
“You alright, Sir?”
“Yes, perfectly fine. Let’s get back to work.”