REBECCA (VOICE OVER): When a volcano erupts, it affects the world around it. The ash from the eruption changes the surrounding plant life. Tree rings are thicker and thinner for each year of growth depending on the environment. And these trees, they keep a log of what the world was like every year they were alive. So, scientists have been able to look back at the tree rings from before modern records  and are able to estimate the date and magnitude of volcanic eruptions. Yeah.

The Pacific Northwest is known for the large scale eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. But this wasn’t the first eruption. No. The tree rings in that forest weave a story of disturbances through history. The trees endure. Plants emerge from the ash. Those that survived the eruption keep these memories. A written record of the past and what is certain to happen again.

I wonder what the tree rings will look like on the day that Dmitri was taken.

[Intro music]

NARRATOR: You’re listening to Husk.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): Pine trees and loamy earth flood my lungs as I pull deep, big breaths. I look right, sit up straight. Electric. Any sense of warm is gone and replaced with confused and foggy terror. I’m sitting in a bowl of wet dirt like it was scooped out by a backhoe. A divot in the ground the size of a kiddie pool. I touch the ground where the pine needles and decay of the forest floor had been sliced away. The trees groan. I crawl over to where he should be. Where he was moments ago. Shivers run down my back, but I keep moving. I have to find Dmitri.


REBECCA (VOICE OVER): My voice echoes off the lake, but there’s nobody there to answer my calls. I collapse to the ground. In the corner of my vision there’s a black scrap of fabric. I move towards it. Dmitri’s hoodie. Worn and black, the same one that he’s worn ever since he purchased it at Seaside on one blustery Oregon Coast day.


REBECCA: Hey! How are you?

DMITRI: I’m good, how are you?

REBECCA: Good! Ah, come on in!

DMITRI: Thank you.


DMITRI: Always so polite.

REBECCA: Always. That’s me. Polite Rebecca. Doing her thing.

We hadn’t caught up in a couple of weeks. We were the types of friends who were always in each other’s business - even when we were far away at school. We were just going to take a few peanut butter and mushroom sandwiches to this place out past Estacada, catch up on the latest developments in each other’s lives before just relaxing into a nice trip. We packed up and left from my house early in the morning.

DMITRI : Yo Rebecca, you got everything? Water? Sunscreen? Sandos?

REBECCA: Don’t call them sandos, and yeah, they’re in my bag.

DMITRI: How long is the drive again?

REBECCA: Just an hour or so, but it’ll be worth it.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): He gave me this big grin. He always had the easiest smile even when we were really young and we would spend the days being watched by my mother, he always had this big infectious smile on his face.

Getting home from college and figuring out what to do with his life had been hard on him. We’d both been struggling with adulthood. Trying to figure out what our next steps were.

He was a philosophy major trying to make his mark on the world, I was struggling to get a job St. Helens monitoring station. Meanwhile, I was giving tours of the area to people visiting the region. Not exactly what I’d planned to be doing at 23.

But now, we were finally back together in one place. We quickly reinstated our annual joint birthday parties. We’d had these parties together more times than we’d had them apart. My parents, his mom Olga, my Aunt Debbie, everyone from the neighborhood. Still, that was only one day out of the year but it was a great day.

Dmitri and I piled into the White Russian. He rolled down the window and stuck his hand outside in the warm September air.

DMITRI: When are you getting a new car? I mean or at least patch this hole, it’s getting mildew-y in here.

REBECCA: Come on, you’re always complaining about the car. I have an air freshener. Is that not good enough for you? I think we can survive for a bit longer.

DMITRI: It’s true. Pine Fresh.

REBECCA: So much sass.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): We got to Fardaday Lake and parked in the visitor’s parking lot. Portlanders in hiking boots and yoga pants walked around in the trails. Their rescue mutts tugging on their leashes expectantly hoping to push their owners to move a little faster. Every few paces, the dogs would turn their heads to one side to look at their owners and to make sure that they were still there.

DMITRI: Wow, you were right. This place is good. Where do you wanna settle in?

REBECCA: What about that small clearing over there? We can watch all the joggers sweat out their toxins while we chow down.

DMITRI: Now the real test… pass me a sandwich? [Eating sandwich] Mmm…


REBECCA: [Mouth full of peanut butter] The trick is to not mess up the peanut butter to bread ration.

DMITRI: Whatever you say.

REBECCA: I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. Just know that you’re missing out on some serious peanut butter-y goodness. Mhm, mhm.

REBECCA: Hey... you’re a little out of it today. What’s up?

DMITRI: Oh, nothing. I… Just looking at the scenery. We haven’t had a sunny day like this in a month.

REBECCA:  Come on, you grew up here, is the shitty weather still a surprise?

DMITRI: Nah, it’s not that. It just seems like these sunny days take things out of focus, like we’re so disoriented from all the vitamin D or something. I don’t know how to put it.

REBECCA: No, no, it’s fine. I totally get it. Just wanted to check. You’d tell me though if something was wrong, right? Like something real?

DMITRI: Yeah, of course.

REBECCA VO: We sat in silence and waited for a long time. The ducks got used to us and came over. That’s when you know you’re part of the in-crowd. Slowly, the high began to reveal itself. The world became fluid. But suddenly it wasn’t just a high. Then the forest was gone.

 Blurry. Veiled figures. Light and shapes. [Scream] My scream.

DISTANT VOICES OF REBECCA AND DMITRI: Six bodies stand tall over Dmitri with a new device they wheeled in. Solid metal and polished. They take great care to roll Dom on his side and wheel the machine up next to him. It buzzes low frequency. Whirring. The monitor stabilizes and my mouth gapes like a fish as my thoughts swim around trying to make words.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): Then I’m back here in the forest lying down right where they took me. Everything is same, except the sun is setting and the ducks have moved on. I get to my 1989 white volvo.. A car with absolutely no need for speed. It’s a wonder that this thing is even able to make it to the lake without breaking down. I fumble with the keys and try to get in. The locks are always stubborn.

Come on, come on. Just one more ride in you. Start for me. God, it always does this. [The car starts] Thank you.

What am I going to tell his mom? Olga. Oh god, she’s gonna flip. He’s all she’s got.

I drive down the road. I know it’s useless, but my eyes are darting from side to side as I drive in hopes that Dmitri will emerge from the bushes and wave me down. He doesn’t.

I pull into the driveway. The breaks squeal as I ride to a full stop . My neighbor, Mort is sitting on his porch, like he does every night, smoking a cigar and staring at the asphalt. He’s done this ever since I’ve lived there. I got out of the car slowly, wiping my eyes and trying to breathe deeply. We lock eyes and he nods at me. We don’t break eye contact for what seems like an eternity. I wait for him to break the silence.

MORT: Evening Rebecca. A little late for partying, isn’t it?

REBECCA: No partying tonight, sir.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): Finally, I turn around and go into my house, with him staring holes into my back. It is almost as if he know that something terrible has happened in the forest and is waiting for me to reveal it to him.

Martin: Rebecca, is that you?

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): My dad, Martin, was sitting in his easy chair in the living room reading one of his detective novels. Ever since he retired, he’s been going through three or four of them a week. He always jokes that they’re utter trash, but he still buys them.

REBECCA: Hi Dad. Ooph. I am exhausted. See you in the morning.

MARTIN: Alright, honey. Goodnight.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): Luckily he was so engrossed in his book that he didn’t even notice the panicked expression on my face. Thank god for trashy detective novels and their power over that man. My mother goes to bed early every night and falls asleep to the home shopping network. The animated voices of tv announcers and infomercial actors selling useless products are an intoxicating combination. I get up to my room and struggle to keep my eyes open. Outside my window, Mort was staring at me from his porch with the same sour expression he wore earlier. The last thing I remember as I fall asleep are his eyes watching me unblinkingly.

[Music fades to a phone call]

MORT: Hello. Yeah, this is Mort Robinson. I live over on 12th and Edgemore Drive. I got a neighbor lady. Rebecca Dale. She pulled in late, like she always does. She’s doing something suspicious. I think you people should look into it.

[Knock on the door]

MARTIN: Uh, hello, can I help you?

MORRISON: Is Rebecca Dale home?

MARTIN: I, uh… she’s

MORRISON: Are you her father?

MARTIN: Yeah, I’m Martin Dale. You mind telling me what this is all about?

MORRISON: We have reports of a missing person that Ms. Dale might be connected to. We need to ask her a few questions down at the station.

MARTIN: Rebecca? Rebecca! Get down here a second, the police are standing at the door asking for you.

I’m not even sure why you’re here, but I’m sure this is a misunderstanding. My daughter isn’t the type of person that gets in trouble with the law. She’s going to be a volcanologist one day.

MORRISON: Sir, we’d prefer to just chat with Rebecca. If you could just step aside.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): I hesitate to come downstairs. I mean, I knew the police would be coming. They had to come eventually and ask something. But, I wanted to believe that it was all just a bad dream. That maybe Dmitri would come back and he’d be in his bed and everything would be fine.  

I came to the door. A lump formed in my throat and wouldn’t dislodge. Two officers stood in the doorway peering inside our house. One stern with dark eyes and a sour expression like someone had stolen the last doughnut. The other had a kind look on his face, although he was clearly trying to look authoritative as he stood there.

REBECCA: C-can I help you officers.

MORRISON: Are you Rebecca?


MORRISON: We’d like to ask you a few questions.


MORRISON: It’d be better if you just came with us down to the station.

REBECCA: I… just let me grab my purse.

[In the police station]

MORRISON: Hey go ahead and have a seat. Officer Warren’s out on a call right now, but he’ll be back any minute now. I’ve gotta get back to work. Gina, can you, uh, get her paperwork started?

GINA: Sure thing. You the girl with the runaway friend?

REBECCA: I’m the girl with the friend who was taken.

GINA: Just got a few things for you to fill out while you wait. Yeah, just name and info here on the clipboard. I’ll be needing that pen back though. You’d think the things grow legs and waltz off.

WARREN: Ms. Dale??


WARREN: I’m Officer Warren. I’m investigating the… disappearance. Right this way. Sorry for the mess, we are re-arranging a bit.

REBECCA: I follow him through a maze of desks and out of place filing cabinets that look like they got lost on the way to wherever they are going. He pulls up an extra chair to his beige metal desk in the corner by the hall. That other awful man is griping about something in the office next door.

WARREN: Alright so I just wanna go over a few things, on the record, if you don’t mind the recorder.

REBECCA: That’s fine.

WARREN: We got a call from a Mrs. Olga Ivanovic early this morning. Now, I am sorry, please know that, but I’ve gotta ask these questions.

REBECCA: I get it, sure.

REBECCA (VOICE OVER): I don’t tell him about the 4 missed calls from Olga on my phone.

WARREN: How long have you and the missing person known each other?

REBECCA: Dmitri. His name is Dmitri and I’ve known him since I was a kid.

WARREN: Yes, I’m sorry. Dmitri. I did not mean to be insensitive. And after knowing him so long, how did he seem these days, in the last couple weeks or so?

REBECCA: Fine, you know the usual. Just normal him I guess.

WARREN: And you two went out to the lake why?

REBECCA: To go to the lake. To get out, out of the city a bit, you know? We had some catching up to do.

WARREN: Okay, no that sounds like a nice time. Ms. Rebecca, I am sorry your friend is missing and I am just trying to get all the information I can so we can help get him back to you. Did you interact with anyone on your way home?

REBECCA:  Just my neighbor, Mort.

WARREN: Mort called in this morning as well. Reported you pulling in late at night and acting oddly.

REBECCA: He doesn’t like me much. I’m sure you have a record somewhere about how many times he’s called in. Why even ask if anyone saw me if you already knew?

WARREN: Just standard procedure.


WARREN: And Dmitri… do you have any idea where he is? Anything that could help at this point. If you know anything, please be a good friend and tell us. ‘Cause we all want the same thing. We all want Dmitri back.

REBECCA: Officer Warren. I know he’s out there but I don’t know where. He was taken. I don’t know what they want, but you’re gonna have to believe me. I had nothing to do with his disappearance. He was there and then he wasn’t.

WARREN: Okay well. Can I get you a glass of water? I’ll be right back.

REBECCA: Thanks.

WARREN: Yeah, we’ll be in touch if we find anything and would appreciate it if you do the same.

REBECCA: Yeah, of course.

WARREN: And, please, make sure you sign out with Gina on your way out.

REBECCA: Okay, yeah. I’ll talk to her.

I walk out the door. Get in my car and break down. I couldn’t mention that we were both taken or that Dmitri was hooked up to a machine floating godknowswhere. Sure, that’s a one way ticket to charges being filed and a lawyer pushing you to plead insanity as they continue to search for the body. No, god, it finally sunk in: I’m totally and completely alone.

[Theme song]

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 next week info@huskpodcast.com .