Episode 4: Lyanna
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REBECCA VOICE OVER: Olga’s flipping out. Somewhere between Winona Ryder and angry mama bear. I’m flipping out. More on the lines of scattered and lost. My parents don’t know what to think. Dad’s still stuck in the detective pages and mom’s just giving more “It’s gonna be
OK honey’s” than I can stand. The cops are atrocious, except for that guy Warren. He’s the only one that’s been a help. Not that he’s on my side. Usually that would infuriate me, the indecision, but in this case neutral and open minded is more than I’m going to get from anyone else.
[Husk theme song]
NARRATOR: You’re listening to Husk.
REBECCA VOICE OVER: I grab my laptop and head to Sam’s Place. That’s the coffee shop on the corner of 12th and Hawthorne. Who knows who Sam really is but it’s a good place for quiet. A cafe filled with tables for two or more but each one is filled with a hipster working on a novel that will undoubtedly define our generation.
No. Headphones in. Reddit open. I don’t know where else to throw out feelers for this kind of thing. This is crazy. How do I do this and not sound crazy? I type: “Friend taken by aliens in forest.” No. Shit. This is ridiculous. “Mysterious disappearance near Estacada, OR.” Better. I put out a few other headlines. I submit to a few other subreddits in different directions to see what they bring in. I leave out the part about the mushrooms and the um… away team experience, which for all I know was just in my head. I bring my cursor to the search bar. “Extraterrestrial experiences in Oregon.” “Alien abduction in the Pacific Northwest.” I feel so hoaky.
Reddit’s search feature leaves something to be desired, so I just begin scanning any subreddit that could apply. R/aliens? “ Climate Change Killed Many Aliens Races and It Will Probably Kill Us Too, New Simulation Suggests ”, “ Is Putin an extraterrestrial? What evidence do we have on this matter ”, “ An alien sighting caught on video from Switzerland ”. I can’t take this seriously. There’s so much garbage to sift through. I decide to put out a call vs reading through all the trash. Waste of time.
Alert: A reply from Meanandgreen78. “You gotta talk to this lady, she’s rollin’ by you in a few days. She’s awesome, don’t know if it’s a help but it’s an experience.” Well, an experience is something.
The lead was Lyanna Bartell. There are stories about her. She’s kind of a traveling roadside attraction for the UFO enthusiasts. I keep digging on her. It's like a fan club. Apparently lives out of a 1960’s trailer she tows around the States in a junker. “Following the signs.” She’s got her own subreddit tracking her movements. The Cosmic Caravan Queen. That should be a bumper sticker. She’s got the subreddit: r/findlyanna. People, especially her followers, track her movements around the country. According to the National UFO Reporting Center, Washington State has the 3rd highest number of reported sightings after California and Florida. Lyanna spends her time bouncing around from state to state, but she’s got her favorites and the NUFORC’s list is one of the contributing factors. I find a picture of her and a couple of groupies from a few days ago from somewhere in Washington. She is red from the sun or drinking or both. 60 maybe. Hair done up, way up. Dressed for summer even though fall temperatures have set in. Her dog is tiny. Took me a second to see it in the picture. Pug, bug-eyed and nervous. I pack my stuff up from the cafe table. There are some other folks vulturing around waiting to pounce on it. I would have shared if anyone had the brains to ask. Lyanna’s supposed to be at a trailer park in Vancouver, Washington for the next couple days or so on her way to warmer weather in California.
I pull off I-5, not far. It’s one of those charming places they build right up against the freeway. Must be loud at night with the traffic. I don’t like it here. It just doesn’t feel like there’s any privacy between the plots, except for what people have built out of old lattice wood and soggy carpets. Cute. I drive past the resident trailers and a few mobile homes. I’ve got my eye out for a mint green Shasta trailer. She’s got a spot on the end where it looks like people are a little less settled. Parked in by a VW bus and a Honda Civic that’s seen better days and a decent looking hog of some kind. I park across the road where there's room in a vacant spot. I hear voices as I pass between cars toward the trailer and stumble into lunch. The awning is pulled out and held down with worn rope. Some burly fellow is tending a pot of what smells like good chili. I stop where I am as everyone drops the conversation and looks at me in silence, like I am supposed to say some secret password. “Uhhh…”
LYANNA : You must be new!
REBECCA : Hi.
[Lyanna laughs then coughs, like she smoked forever]
LYANNA : Come on, we’re just gettin’ started.
REBECCA : It’s a yappy little thing that keeps picking up its feet like it’s nervous to stay in one place too long. Shivering from excitement. Who bred these stupid things to be so neurotic? Tiny bodies, big nerves. Its spine pushes up at its back skin as its ears and tail wiggle from the twitching. Maybe the sweater just isn’t keeping it warm enough.
LYANNA : Bill’s on lunch today and there’s more than enough, go on grab a bowl or whatever you can find over there.
REBECCA : Bill holds up an old thermal mug. Plastic with some worn design on it. I’m dumbfounded and exhausted. “Actually, hi, yeah, thanks. Are you Lyanna?”
LYANNA : The one and only, as far as I know.
REBECCA : She throws a grin towards a young couple in lawn chairs under the awning. “Actually I was hoping we could talk a little bit about something that happened to me and a friend--”
LYANNA : Of course you were! Let’s go inside.
REBECCA : She grabs her bowl of chili in one hand and the rat dog in the other, spaghetti strap falling off her left shoulder. She maneuvers the trailer door open.
LYANNA : Just so’s ya know, these walls are thin. It’s a false sense of privacy you’ve got here.
REBECCA : Thanks.
LYANNA: Sure you don’t want some?
REBECCA : I’m good. Thanks.
LYANNA : Suit yourself.
REBECCA VO: Lyanna shuffles through the trailer over to the fridge and pulls out a couple of ginger ales. I look around at the walls covered in maps and photographs. The headquarters for her traveling mystery brigade. It’s complete with faded photos and a HAM radio set up. That explains at least one of the antennas outside. Maps with pins. Miniature stove and sink. She notices me taking things in.
LYANNA: I am a visual learner. I like the maps on the wall. I do know how to use a computer though. See that line there?
REBECCA: Uh, this one?
LYANNA: No the blue one. That’s where we are headed now. Out east to Wyoming. There are tons of anniversaries of old sightings coming up in the next few months and we need to be where it happened.
REBECCA: My friend is missing. I need to know how to find him.
LYANNA: Oh honey, if I had a nickel for every time someone came a traveling with me to find out where their relationships went wrong. It’s natural, I suppose, when in crisis, to take to the road but--
REBECCA: No, no, it’s not that. He was taken. We both were. But he didn’t come back. I know, I sound crazy. I feel like I am going crazy.
LYANNA: Well now, I don’t know if crazy is the right word.
REBECCA: Oh no, I didn’t mean to-- I’m sorry. I— didn’t…
LYANNA: Oh I’ve been called worse. Well I don't know, well I don’t know if what I know is what you need to know but we can give it a try. 9 years ago just after I’d gotten Francis here. We were driving down highway 93 in Nevada and I pulled off down some little side road to take a leak. I’d rather go in the middle of nowhere than in a shady rest stop with profanity scratched on the stalls and who knows who creeping around outside.
So I get out of the car, engine and lights off so I can hear for miles it feels like. Out. Way out where the stars pour a river through the sky and that's when I notice one is brighter, standing out against the rest. Coulda sworn it was pulsing and synced up with my own heart beat for a moment. So it’s getting brighter and I just think to myself, see that's a shooting star. “Make a wish, Francis!” I yell to him and as he’s sniffin’ around. He starts barking all over the place, and I think, oh shit, a coyote or some other damned night critters come to take off my tiny dog. I knew I should have kept him in the car. He goes quiet. I don’t see anything. And there I am. Weightless in some vast room without walls. Francis is nowhere to be seen, but he wasn’t an immediate concern considering my current surroundings. All I remember is weightlessness and dim light and a feeling. Like when it gets sunny out and the rain is evaporating off the asphalt. Kinda uplifting, cleansed in a sort of way.
This one time Frannie and I were driving out through Death Valley. You been out there? There’s something in the nothing if that makes any sense. I don’t know how else to say it. Like if you close your eyes and look out over the vast expanse. Staring out into a vacuum. It’s consuming and nourishing all at once. The perfect transference of energy. Like you’re experiencing the vastness experiencing you.
REBECCA: I am just nodding as she stares a hole through the wall of the Shasta out to somewhere only she can see. Though she paints a pretty good picture. Lyanna catches my nod and says:
LYANNA: Yeah like that. That’s what they’re like. An experience experiencing you experiencing them. Bill out there, he knows. He was in Wyoming at the Air Force base in 2010 when there were all those sightings and the nukes went offline all at the same time. Never been the same since. Even Francis here, he’s a changed pooch I’d say. Once you’ve seen ‘em, you can’t unsee. You know how it goes.
REBECCA: I try to redirect her back to my question. Say do you know anything about people actually being taken, and not coming back?
LYANNA: You seen it? The light before the light?
REBECCA: Oh my god. Yes? No? It doesn’t matter. My friend was taken and I need to know how to get him back! She stares in silence. Shakes her head. It feels like pity. I try to remain composed albeit deflated. Thanks for your time.
LYANNA: I know you’re disappointed. You can't make them come. They have to want to get to you. Doesn’t matter how much you want them to take you. We’ve all been there, sweetheart.
REBECCA: I can't take it. I think her and I are experiencing slightly different realities. Whatever magical entity she’s talking about they aren't the folks I’m looking for. The ones that had us sedated in a room overlooking a very real city. I decide it’s time to go.
I get into the car and glance at my phone quickly. I forgot about the Reddit post I had put up earlier. 2 new messages. I open the first one. First one, someone identifying herself as “Kristie” with a K and an i.e. She gabs about greyskins and big eyes. Great because this is the shit I have to sift through. I don’t know what I was expecting though. I mean, I’m pretty sure she has just rewritten some X-files episode. Probably a troll. But the second one. The second one is a bit more promising. It simply reads:
PAUL: Rebecca, my brother went missing six months ago. Your story sounds all too similar to mine. Please DM me as soon as possible to get my contact info so we can discuss further. Hurry. I don’t know how much time we have left.
REBECCA: I fumble through an awkward reply, trying to get one step closer to knowing what the hell is going on. He messages right back with a phone number. That’s it. I’m shaky and I start to dial.
I drop my phone. Shit. It’s a Portland number. Gotta be the police station again. They keep running me in circles. I feel like they are waiting for me to trip up on some part of the story. I have to answer. “Hi this is Rebecca.”
MORRSION: Hey there Rebecca. This is Officer Morrison. As you know, we are currently conducting an autopsy and needed to contact you to see if there is any information that you can add that might speed up the process. We need to confirm a tattoo the young man has on his right shoulder.
REBECCA: Does it have to be me?
MORRSION: Yes, I’m afraid so. We can’t get a hold of his mother at the moment.
REBECCA:] I… I'll have to call you later when I am back in town. I’m running some errands. I am just about to get on the freeway and I’ll call you in a couple of hours.
MORRSION: Ok, little lady. Be sure to do that.
REBECCA: It can’t be Dmitri. His body? I’m going to pull myself together and maybe it won’t be him. It can’t be him. Ok. One nervous call down. I take some breaths. Close my eyes. They burn a bit. Ok. Onto the next. I dial Paul’s number again. Hello?
REBECCA: Yeah, hi.
PAUL: This is Paul.
PAUL: I am glad you called. I don’t know how much help this will be, but maybe this will give us something to work with. Everything in your story is what happened to my brother, Tim. The crater, the smell. I saw all of it the night he went missing. We’d gone out camping when I left to get some water for the dishes. When I got back, the only sign of him was that small, smooth crater. The police decided that he must have wandered off and got attacked by an animal. Said that it was bear country and that it happens every year to hapless campers. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Bears? I know that’s a thing that happens but how the fuck do you look at everything there and just write that off as a bear attack?
REBECCA: What happened to him? Did he come back?
PAUL: That’s the weird part. He came back. A week after the police gave up, I got a call from the restaurant Tim worked at. He’d shown up out of the blue to clock in, serving customers like nothing had happened. And when I got there to talk to him, he didn’t remember anything. Where he’d been or what had happened. He didn’t even think we went camping
REBECCA: So he did come back. Memories wiped or like amnesia or something?
PAUL: The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with him aside from the memory gap. He said it was an anomaly. Some crap about a Fugue state and that I should just keep an eye on him. I feel like I’m the only one that sees that something’s not right here. Everyone else thinks that I’m crazy. Every time that I ask Tim, he just doesn’t think anything happened. I don’t know what to do, but something’s going on and obviously it didn’t just happen to him.
REBECCA: Memory wipe seems like a cop out but everything else adds up, I go with it. That’s something at least. We hang up. I’m still in the car in the trailer park. I gather myself and feel the eyes of Lyanna’s traveling band all wondering why I haven’t pulled out yet. I take the last sip of coffee out of a paper cup that is soaked through. I toss the empty cup into the garbage pile I keep hidden behind the passenger seat. Reverse. Gas. Break. 1st gear and I'm out of there. I decide to go down to the station on the way home just to get that crap over with. Warren greets me at the door. He escorts me to the morgue. I steel myself. I think of Olga. I rather it be me here than her. I wonder where she is.
MORRISON: Alright. Right over here, Rebecca. I know this is probably a little tough for you. I’ll… just let me cover part of this up. I just need you to verify this one part on his left shoulder. We need you to verify this tattoo. Can you do that for us?
REBECCA: I know the one he’s talking about. I nod. Unshakeable. The technician pulls back the cover but he won’t let me see the face. I give him this look for a moment, trying to pry the sheet out of his hands and he won’t budge. I look down. The pinecone tattoo, I was there when he got it. It’s there alright, but it’s on the wrong shoulder. This can’t be Dmitri.
WARREN: Hey, this is Warren. Thanks for listening to Husk. If you like what you heard, help keep us on the air. Rate and subscribe on iTunes because that’s where it matters. Well, we’ll be back in next week with a new mini episode . Until then – do you know where Dmitri is? Let us know at email@example.com.