[atmospheric air noises of the space station]
[pneumatic door opening]
Oh! Oh, I just go back in here, do I? I-is there anything that happens… now? [brief pause] Oh, Board help me, I’m alive! [relieved sigh] Trexel saved me, in-in a way… [sigh, then under his breath:] Idiot… Oh! Oh, it’s a package! [tape being pulled from a box] M-maybe it’s a “well done, I’m not being recycled” present! M-maybe it’s a guide to getting out of here! [paper rustling] And… [stammering] Oh… it’s, um… it’s just some sort of… speaker box thingy…
[brief pause of hesitation]
[tape recorder button press]
[sounds of tape recorder playing, continuing in the background until recording ends]
TREXEL (TAPE RECORDING)
Woah now! What’s this doing? Why is the lighting so moody in here? Stop that! Stop that! You can’t fool me, you swirling-eyed demon! Take that! [sound of a hit from a blunt, wooden object on the tape recorder] And that! [hit] And how about one of these?! [hit, a slight scraping as the object is dropped].
[Trexel breathing heavily from exertion] You’re a tough old thing, aren’t you? Wh-what’s this now? A note. “Make your statement.” [paper rustling] Okay: I was never there, Your Honor! At the time of the offence I was committing another, more serious, far elsewhere on the station, so it could not possibly have been me! And anyway, you can’t prove a thing! And I should know because I broke into the prosecutor’s quarters and read their notes! I’m not corrupt! You’re corrupt! The defense rests! No further questions! Case: dismissed!
…Oh wait there-there’s more: [paper rustling] “Make your statement; face your fear.” Fear. Fear… [paper rustling] Well, I-I don’t have any fears! Nope! Not… not me! I’ve-I’ve never had a fear! Wh-what’s fear? That’s what I say! Old no-fear Geistman, that’s what, uh… [nervous swallowing] that’s what they call me.
[brief pause of hesitation]
Uh… Well there was one night… Uh, this was years ago, you understand, I was a young consultant, skin raw from the academic fluid of the private education tanks and just… so full of hopes and dreams for the future. I had it all back then: a freshly minted sales licence, a membership to all the executive clubs, and a liver you could bounce micro-asteroids off.
I was, well… I suppose you would say naive. Young and naive. Young, naive, and stupid, and drunk. I’d been celebrating my graduation–don’t judge me! Oh, and sleep-deprived–look, the point is that even then I-I wasn’t conforming to the web of rules and regulations and basic safety measures that society wanted to chain me down with.
But, despite all of that, I knew that sales is where I wanted to be. The rush of the pitch! The thrill of the deal! The glee of the double invoice! The ritual hunt of the client! And the retainers. Oh my Board, the retainers. But, as my mother always said, “Who are you and why are you in my office, you short idiot?!” Wait, sorry, not that one. She always said, “Nothing in this universe comes without a price, you short idiot.” And no matter how much taller I got that… never changed.
So, after I arrived at my new office that evening, it was late, far later than work hours, but I just wanted to see where it was all going to happen! Where my germination would begin!
[spooky background music, the same from The Magnus Archives]
The halls were dark. Just the dim lights of the instructional propaganda notice board glowing with the words “Don’t even think about it, buddy!” There was the door. In bold letters, “T. Geistman: Sales Consultant.” A tear crept to the eye. All mine! Finally, it’s all mine! I pressed my tongue to the fluid identification panel: the taste of success! I pressed my flesh onto the print reader: the touch of victory! And I whispered into the sonic identificator [whispers] “Geistman”: the sound of justice!
The door glid open– Glid, is that right? Glid-ed? Gload-ed? Gled– the door opened, and I stepped in, and it was dark, far darker than the vast, inky void outside showing through the viewport on the opposite wall that had stars picked out across its surface, like a sparse carpet of diamonds spilled by a careless debutante or a… clumsy jeweler.
And there… there on the desk, something… terrible. Something unimaginable. I tried to look at it closely, but my mind spiraled and refused to focus. My understanding slid over this… thing like a slimy clone across a steel floor. What was this, this hideous thing, warping the space around it with malevolent force? Was I mad? Had my sanity been ripped away from me that instant and cast out into that void? Had the end come? A promising life cut short without care?! Without reason?!? No! No… because I’m exaggerating.
But on that desk was… [pause] it was… [laboured breathing] a-a timetable! [throat catching at the mere thought followed by laboured breathing] Oh, jailer of time! Oh, cruel foreman of the clock! Segmentor of moments in the ever-changing now. Was this the end of my hopes, my dreams, trapped in a desolate future of turning up to things at the time I had previously stated that I would arrive!?
My vision was swimming; my chest, tight. I couldn’t breathe! I felt like I was being buried alive under a mountain of mild responsibility! I couldn’t stay there. The hunger for freedom overwhelmed me, and my legs worked automatically. I ran for… Board, I don’t know how long I ran for, or how far, but I ran and ran until my strength gave out. My ears ringing, a pounding in my chest, every part of me aching and burning. I looked about for anyone: friend, stranger, someone I could talk to, maybe persuade to buy me a drink. But there was no one! In that moment I felt so… lonely. Just me and my thoughts. It was like the education tanks all over again, except I wasn’t upside-down being flushed from Blame Shift-o-nomics to Introductory Arithmetricks.
I look back on that day now and think that maybe that was the first time things… maybe things weren’t going to be smooth sailing for Old Trexel Geistman. Old Geisterino. The Geistenator! [sigh] Things weren’t going to be as easy as I thought…
Well, story ends, or statement, or whatever. What happens now? Oh! A trophy! Or a nice side table for my living quarters. Something in dark wood. Board, I could slaughter a Flaxen Whisk right now–
[slow, heavy footsteps]
Wait… who is that? Who is there? Reveal yourself!
[slow, heavy footsteps continue]
Oh! David, is that you? Why are you looking at me like that? And what’s that in your hand? Is that my length of pipe? What are you doing with my length of pipe!?
[tape recorder clicks off]
Wh-wa-wait, me? With a– with a pipe? I-I’ve never approached anyone threateningly with a pipe! That’s not David! I’m David! Oh, ooh! It’s made me feel all tingly! Oh, I don’t like this audio whatsit at all! Maybe I should… Ooh! Ah! [sounds of David’s exertion to fight whatever compelling power this spooky speaker box has]
[spooky background music comically dips in pitch and volume]
Ooh! Ah! There we go! Right into the chair hole with you! Bye-bye spooky speaker box!