Team Unheard Echoes
Actor: Aaron Swartz
Sound Design: Aaron Swartz
Director: Aaron Swartz
Writer: Aaron Swartz
Producer: Aaron Swartz
[CLICK, TAPE FUZZ]
“Evidence Log for Case #9002172, 34th Precinct, Manhattan, New York. Missing persons case with potential gang violence ties. Missing person one Richard Folner, aged 54 years old at time of disappearance, last seen entering his office on October 9th, 1945, approximately midnight.
Current date October 16th, 1945, record made by Herbert Walters, detective with the 34th precinct. All items recovered from Folner’s office on October 13th, 1945, when officers attempted to locate Folner after an anonymous caller reported him missing.
Items in custody are as follows:
- (1) Newspaper, dated October 7th, 1945
- (1) Bottle of Single Malt Scotch, half empty
- (1) pocketwatch, broken. Watch hands stopped reading 3:34.
- (1) RCA Wire Recorder for personal dictation
- (3) Reels of Recording Tape. Two blank, one containing notes made by Folner. Recording of tape follows:”
“Got a new client in today. Woman by the name of Blake. Probably not her real name, but a lot of people who come to me don’t want their names involved, don’t hold it against her. She’s looking to get dirt on the man she’s seein’. Wants to know if he’s cheating, on anyone beside his wife, that is. I’m not gonna judge, I need the damn money. Told me he favors a jazz club, The Harlequin or something like that. I’ll pay it a visit tonight.”
Got back from the club about 20 minutes ago. Seedy place. Good scotch, I’ll give ‘em that. Mr. Daily’s got good taste as far as that’s concerned, don’t know about anything else. Didn’t see him tonight, didn’t expect to, apparently he’s usually in every Thursday. I’ll be dropping by in a few days to try and catch him, tonight I just wanted a chance to scope the place out. Not much to see. 30 odd people milling about in a fog of cheap cigars and broken dreams. Not a sober, sane, or happy person in that room. Myself included. Bouncer stopped me when I tried to dip backstage. Showed him my old badge, didn’t buy it. Gonna have to try the back way. Weirdest thing.”
[VERY FAINT EERIE MUSIC BEGINS PLAYING IN BACKGROUND]
“No band performed. I was there for three hours. Stage was up against the back, lit, ready. No one took it. Weird for a jazz club to not have any jazz playing. No one seemed to question it either. Just waiting and waiting, for a band that never came. Hm.”
[EERIE MUSIC ENDS]
“Seems Blake was right. Club was a lot emptier on a Thursday but her gentleman friend showed up right on time. He got a drink at the bar and headed right through the door backstage. Bouncer let him in no problem. I decided to step outside and invite myself in after him. Backdoor was nondescript, no handle from the outside, but I managed to jimmy it open. Wasn’t even locked. Poor choice. Backstage was pretty empty. No sign of Daily, or anyone else for that matter. Downright eerie.”
[EERIE MUSIC RETURNS, SLIGHTLY LOUDER]
(Folner’s voice becomes dreamy and unfocused) “Heard something down the end of the hall behind the green room doors, probably a band tuning up. Sounded… weird. Couldn’t tell what instruments they were playing. Honestly, I kind of lost track of time…” (Folner snaps out of it) “I heard the bouncer coming back and booked it back out the door. We’ll check in next week.”
“No new leads on the Blake case. Went back to the Harlequin last night and stepped in through the backdoor to try and catch Daily coming backstage. It worked, saw him head into one of the dressing rooms. Faded star on the door, no name. Faint sound of giggling from behind it. Open and shut case, all I needed to do was open the door, get a photo, payday.”
[ FAINT EERIE MUSIC BEGINS PLAYING IN BACKGROUND]
(confused) “I… I don’t know why I didn’t. (suddenly angry) Why didn’t I? What the hell was I thinking? It was right there, just down the hall from…”
[MUSIC SUDDENLY BECOMES LOUDER, THEN FADES]
(pause, calmer again) I heard the band again. (voice becomes unfocused, dreamy) I think it was a band. That strange… music. I went over to the door. Pressed my ear against it. Listened. Heard it…”
[MUSIC CUTS ABRUPTLY]
(snaps out of it) “Next thing I know, the bouncer is chucking me in the alley. Real gentleman like. I got back to the office and my watch says it’s 3 AM. I smashed the damn thing. It can’t be right. I left at 9… I can’t have been gone that long, can’t have been… listening. I’ve got to go back. Figure out… I’ve just gotta go back there.”
[MUSIC RETURNS QUIETLY IN THE BACKGROUND]
(slightly dazed and out of it, becomes more so as he talks) “Ms… Ms. what’s-her-name came back today. Said her gentleman friend never came home Thursday night. She hasn’t heard a word from him in days, wanted to know if I knew where he was. Or, I guess that’s what she wanted. That’s what the note says. I was back at The Harlequin when she came to visit. The place was almost empty. I saw one guy in the corner, curled up under a table asleep. Bouncer was gone. Stage was empty. They were still playing backstage. Playing? Singing? Talking? Breathing? I didn’t hesitate. Flung open that door. I had to know. Had to see them. Had to hear that music without a door between us, without something dampening the sound. Hear it pure.”
[MUSIC CUTS OUT]
“It was empty. Not even any furniture. Just a naked bulb hanging on the ceiling, a few reels of wire piled in a corner.”
[MUSIC RETURNS QUIETLY, SLOWLY BECOMES LOUDER]
I could still hear it though, in that room. All around me.
It’s… I dream it. I hear it in my sleep, but it’s not a memory. It’s not… I don’t think I’m hearing it with my ears. But I still hear it. I can’t stop hearing it. I don’t want to stop hearing it.”
[CLICK, MUSIC CONTINUES]
(slightly unprofessional, lack of concern) “She came back today. Demanded to come in, nearly broke the door down, made so much noise I eventually let her in. Couldn’t really hear what she was saying, the music was too loud. Something about a man, gone away, no money. I asked her if she could hear the music. She stood up, grabbed her bag and cursed me. Well, what she actually said was “you could have at least lied to me.” (drifting) I’m glad she left. Now I can hear it clearly. Feel it. It’s so clear. I- I can almost make it out. There’s something muffling it. In the way. If I could just…”
[CLICK, MUSIC CONTINUES, LOUDER]
(desperate, afraid, gasping for breath) “Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. I can feel it vibrating my ears, singing up my vertebrae. Humming in my mouth, up and down my… (cough, retching noise, sound of teeth falling onto tabletop) (toothless, crying) Oh god. Oh god. My teeth. Oh my god. What’s happening to me. I can feel it in my bones, they’re… What are they doing to me?! What are-” (dissolves into tears)
[CLICK, MUSIC CONTINUES]
(calm, reverent) “I understand. Not music, no. Not singing. Being. What joy, to be free of such heavy constraints, able to grow, spread. To hear without ears, without that loathsome intermediary. I can hear it now. I can hear you. I can hear myself.”
[NO CLICK, CLACKING NOISE OF THE END OF THE TAPE REEL, REPEATED UNTIL END]
“Case results: inconclusive. Never managed to find anything else on Daily, though I’m pretty sure I know what happened to him.”
[MUSIC RETURNS AND SLOWLY GROWS LOUDER]
Blake called the cops after she couldn’t get hold of me for a few days, though I couldn’t tell you if it was out of concern for my wellbeing or anger at my leaving her high and dry. Eh, doesn’t matter too much one way or the other, not like that answers your questions detective. Can I call you detective? That’s what it says on the badge anyway. Detective Walters, right? Say, you wanna know something interesting, one professional to another? Do you know why you’re not gonna find me? That’s cause there’s nothing left for you to find, not anymore, not even a body. Maybe you could find a few teeth if you looked nice and close in my office, but I doubt it. I cleaned those up pretty well before I lost the hands.
“Do you know what that sound is, detective? I’m not talking about the music, even though it isn’t actually music at all. No, I’m talking about the one you haven’t really been paying attention to. Clacking noise, intermittently coming now and again. You wanna know what that is? That’s the end of the tape. Ran out, minute or two ago?
Now, I wouldn’t recommend turning around. Don’t worry, I’m not behind you. I’m not any one place anymore. “
[MUSIC BECOMES MUCH LOUDER]
“Don’t worry, you’ll see what I mean soon.
Very, very soon.
“(amused) Hmmph. I told you not to turn around.”