#01 – Diamond Will! Eliza’s Night Goes BAD!
A shining red light emerged in the foggy mountains of Petropolis, the serra was covered in clouds and the radio antenna of Galacta Radio shone brightly above them. Only flying objects could see it from this distance.
If you got closer, you would get to see that the words Radio Galacta painted on the side of the building were fading and worn, likewise for the entire analog interior that filled its structure. Frank Wood was set on updating his equipment to the digital age, but it was to be done in phases, as he would describe in his own show. The current phase still allowed the use of his collection of vinyl records, gathered through his years as a radio promoter making side deals with labels. That was before Ipatinga and his unwitting contact with the unknown, but he rather not dwell on that. His wasn’t the only experience worth talking about in this strange world. He wanted to give voice to those similar cases. He would often think that, even in his efforts to bankroll his endeavors through merchandising, his cause was just and noble enough to be worth his dedication. Frank finally clicked the button to broadcast and introduced his signature song, a catchy disco tune to prepare his listeners for the thrills of open minded discussion.
“Good evening. It is twenty two hundred hours of July 25th, 2014. This is Frank Wood, starting up yet another edition of Midnight Mysteries.”
The theme song would go for a while as he reflected upon the events of the day: A meteor would be scraping Earth, a two headed donkey was born in Guatemala and there was a theory about portals hidden deep beneath the ground in key locations around the world. His guest was Dr. Luco Benitez, an authority in Distortion Theory.
“Time travel, alien abductions, lost cities, governmental conspiracies and supernatural powers. How much of this world exists beyond our simple feeble mortal eyes? We gaze upon the works of Egypt with no shred of real knowledge about it, even if some ancient part of our being knows. Some ancient part of our beings knows what that is. And the objective of this show is to elaborate on such subjects through you, dear listener. We will put our advanced phone lines to your benefit in a few seconds. Bring your haziest stories and together let us remove the blinds upon our faces. I am Frank Wood and now, Electronic System.”
As the song played its hypnotic tune, Frank closed his microphone off. A grayed man with strong complexion and ancient eyes, protected by wide round glasses that reflected the strong lights in the home studio. The walls of his house are packed with books on lost languages, runes, diagrams and alien encounters. Frank would often resort to these publications for new discussions on his show, often finding a new meaning to those ancient words. On another tab in his browser, you could see there was something about the meteor, a detail that has eluded astronomers so far: the rock was emitting a frequency of sorts. He lost his train of thought on that regard as he saw his granddaughter, Eliza.
Eliza was still regaining strength, both inner and outer, as he would see it. On her hands was a steaming cup of joe, the coffee he yearned for so much at the start of his activities.
“Thank you, my dear.”
“Are you firing up the crazy train, old man?”, scorned the short-haired woman, golden eyes still flaring from her broken soul. Eliza hasn’t lost her edge, but she should stop forcing such reminders on people. The old man motioned for the red phone, whose light wasn’t blinking yet.
“Soon. You shouldn’t call them crazy, Eliza. Most of them are hopeful that there are more truths hiding in plain sight than lies. None of them will give up trying to understand it.”
Eliza shrugged. “I guess everyone should have the freedom to waste their time in their own manner. Who am I to judge? You are the one who shouldn’t act like a trained psychologist.”
“It’s not what this is all about. Your grandmother…”
He wasn’t on the habit of reminding himself about her, but she was the reason for all of this. There was light, blood, grief and a baby left on his care. A distant star. Justice.
“What about her?”
“She was something else.” The strongest I’ve ever seen. She still left, though. And the world went to shit for a while.
“It doesn’t matter, old man… She is not coming back. Neither is Mom.”
That particular scar was still fresh. No use trying to touch on that subject. Maybe Victoria could…
The red light on the phone started blinking. He wondered if today was the day he would get a call about her.
“Anyway, I am going out on the town. Meet some friends.”
That would be good for Eliza, she hasn’t left the spare room in ages. Not since she showed up, one year ago, covered in bruises and regret. She should take extra care, just in case.
“Just try to get back before the morning. There are strange energies afoot.”, he said as he picked up the call on his headset, “Hello, you’ve just reached Midnight Mysteries…”
Eliza walked out the door and breathed in the night air. A beautiful full moon shone behind the passing curtain of clouds, paving way for the twinkling starlight that slowly spread through the clearing sky. That was nothing much, leaving the house again, she has already went to the bakery twice this week, it would be just as going out in the daytime, but with less light… She stared back at the front door, with a nervous chest pain and then, at her grandfather’s car, jangling keys in her pocket. She went to the car.
Besides, she could not leave Amanda hanging. She came all the way from Rio to see her. Inside the car, she turned on the radio. Crazy or not, her grandfather’s show was still soothing to her ears.
“Stars are aligning in an unprecedented manner. I’ve never seen anything like it”, said the worried voice, a caller from some unknown place.
“What do you mean ‘unprecedented’, my friend? To whom am I speaking with…?”, Frank’s voice was tranquil, but inquisitive.
“Marill Sands, I am an astronomer. They don’t believe in me, don’t recognize my papers, my wallet… They think I am insane.”, the voice cracked in defeat.
“Well, Dr. Sands, I don’t. Can you tell me more about this?”
“Earth is leaving its place.”
“Earth is always leaving its place. As an astronomer, you should definitely be aware of that.”
“Not like that! Don’t… Don’t ridicule me, sir.”
Eliza drove through the dirt road among wailing woods. The car glided in the night.
“Our show’s purpose is not ridicule, but elaboration. Let that job be for the so called mainstream media. Say your piece.”
“A voluntary movement! There is a secret brazilian experiment in Antar–”
The voice cut off to static.
“I am sorry, followers of the unknown, but the call was unexpectedly terminated from the other side.”
A ringtone emerged from somewhere in Eliza’s purse. She ruffled through her belongings, mostly self defense trinkets she gathered through the years, like maces, chains and gauntlets. Her heart raced at the thought of actually using them. Finally, she picked up her phone, holding Amanda’s call.
“Heya, beautiful.”, her melodic voice greeted Eliza.
“Hi, Amanda. I am making my way down the hills. Be there in twenty.”
“I’m getting a head start. Be quick.”
She stepped the foot on the gas pedal, drifting her way through the turns of the dirt road, touching down on the civilized asphalt of the city with a rubber screech.
“…an interesting proposition, but what would cloud servers get out of this?”, asked Frank Wood.
“Are you kidding me? Constant monitoring, information filtering, mind control!”
“Well, I am not the biggest connoisseur of the cybernetic arts, but that sounds awful. I remember a time when computers used to take up entire rooms and a team of analysts had to get their information out of thin slices of paper.”
“That was already scary enough.”
“Now, we have chips, microchips, nanochips that can calculate more than all those enormous machines combined at the palm of our hands.”
“But the enormous machines are still at large, Frank! The world governments are housing massive calculating power in their bases! What are they calculating now?”
“I guess we are too busy staring at our tiny screens to even bother thinking about it.”
Amanda’s index finger featured beautiful nails, that frantically tapped on the surface of her phone. She was glad to take time off Rio, even if for a few days. She’s been scouring the internet for days in research of her paper on facial coding for auto photographs. Her peers mocked her “paper on selfies”, the jealous ones, they would always be around anyway. It’s not like any of them could kill her vibe. She missed Eliza, though, even if her cynical attitude would often contrast with her own views, she felt balanced enough to be around. Of course, she would not want to talk about what happened, which Amanda was glad to ignore for the time being. Her presence was already a luxury in itself.
Amanda sipped her small cup and poured on more ice cold brew. Steam flowed from her breath, the air was as cold as her glass cup. That was something she was not used to. Anything other than the scorching heat of Rio de Janeiro was a positive change. She had a theory that the temperature reflected its denizens’ fiery disposition.
There was the job offer, as well. Councilman Towers was aiming for the federal deputy position and the bright minds at Welberson Branding Co. sent a few numbers down her way, in hopes to woo her communications expertise into politics. One year ago, she was struggling against the system and was now coming to terms with becoming a part of it herself. Not much else has changed other than that. She considered not telling this to Eliza for a while.
And then she arrived. Jet black hair, bleached out t-shirt bought at some random event and black jeans. The golden eyes. That was Eliza, all right, constantly mourning with a sullen expression. She seemed glad to see a friendly face, after so long. In her own way.
“You look nice.”, said Eliza, with as much gusto as she could possibly add. Amanda blushed. It’s been a while. She held on to Eliza for a while.
“I can barely believe I’ve got here. Rio is pure chaos right now. Nothing moves.”
“I can imagine.”, said Eliza, filling her empty cup with cold brew.
Amanda whipped out her phone to get a “selfie boomerang of the moment”, they clinked their classes for an awkward two or three times until she was satisfied with the results and finally drank the brews. It was icy, bitter and soothing with a caramel finish.
“Eliza, you are too retracted. You need to let yourself loose, smile!”
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
She showed Eliza the boomerang that she considered to be the best one. The animated picture didn’t look like it should be considered the best of anything.
“There is beauty in expressing joy. So is peace of mind. Back in the olden days, couples would gather in small photo booths to express their joy together, this isn’t that much different.”
Eliza cracked a half smile, as if she just thought of something clever to say.
“I get it. But, back in the olden days, we would definitely not be able to express our joy anywhere together, Amanda.”
“So, take it as a testament to how far we’ve come as a civilization.”
A middle aged man stumbled to their table, his expression was as slurred as his speech. His expression was menacing.
“Oh, hai ladiesh need someone to talk to? I gotchu…”
“You just had to say it, didn’t you, Amanda? Don’ t you know that every time you praise civilization–”
“Arr yuu lisheng? I’m talkin. iF youshlike cancmm to my house. yes, cmm in my house.”
Eliza gritted her teeth.
“Get out of here, tough guy. I’m warning you.”
“Warme? You bisches! Washyor probrelm!”, the drunken man screamed as he pulled out an old revolver from of his waist.
And shot Eliza in the chest.
It happened one year ago. During the massive protests that set Brazil on fire.
They put handcuffs on Eliza and threw her in the back of a police van.
The guardsmen laughed as they said they’ve wanted to treat her as equally as they could, so she was accompanied to the station by a group of uniformed women.
The policewomen were strong women. Not a single one had any shred of sympathy for her cause.
They made jokes while beating her. That would only make her more angry. She fought them back. Tore one’s nose off. Put two in the hospital. They’ve started beating her even more. She lost consciousness. Woke up in a cell with other strong women. Dangerous women.
Two other fights. She got stabbed in the arm. Broke the fellow prisoner’s arm in three places. A guard made a pass on her and she bit off his ear.
It was almost a relief to everyone in that jail when masked people invaded the place and broke her out.
She was in jail for three days.
Backstage negotiations ensued and they agreed not to charge her if she would agree to keep quiet about the whole brutality stuff. Her sister brought her back to Petropolis. Even the sight of her own sister would unsettle Eliza by now.
She nursed herself to health with the help of her grandfather and old videogames.
And on the FIRST FUCKING NIGHT I decide to get out of the house, this fucking happens?
Eliza got up, still gasping for air. She felt like she got punched in the stomach.
But she wasn’t punched, she was…? Eliza put her finger through a hole in her shirt. She was shot. The crushed bullet was lying on the floor. Now it looked more like a coin. What was this?
The drunken fool was still screaming his mind off trying to intimidate people, waving that old gun around. Eliza wasn’t too sure what happened, but he had his back turned to her. Threatening Amanda. Big mistake.
She pulled his hand away, twisted her grip and cracked his wrist, kicked off his knee and brought him down. The old revolver fell off his hand, from the ancient weapon exploded a stray bullet that ricocheted in a fire extinguisher back and ripped another patch of Eliza’s clothes. The extinguisher wooshed a cloud of CO2 from the bullet hole in its structure. Most people inside the restaurant ran away to the front of the store, phones in hand to record everything. Thankfully, the extinguisher smoke hid what happened inside.
She pressed his shoulder and he screamed in pain.
“Hey, asshole. You ruined my shirt. Right in the chest.”, she gritted her teeth.
“Whathehellishthish? Whadafuckarr youu?”
“I’m the one who is going to ruin your face.”
Eliza distributed a heavy flurry of punches that put the man out of commission for good. It wasn’t pretty.
She grabbed his unbroken wrist and threw him right through the main glass window. Then, she grabbed Amanda, who was still in shock.
They streaked off into the night as sirens rang in the distance while curious parties livestreamed their surprise to the world.
One Year Ago – The Disappearance of a Collector’s Item!
Ford looked up to the old building in the neighborhood of Botafogo, he really hated coming over there, as its architecture could say a lot about the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Barely touched by modern construction, filled with ancient structures that ran all the way from the 19th century, or imitating that awful style to blend in with the decadent landscape.
He was buzzed in by the doorman, an old skinny fella. His bony fingers held a spoon filled with peas from a can. He didn’t acknowledge Ford’s existence.
The old elevator arrived and he had to close the door, slide the manual scissor gate and press over a number 2 symbol faded out of color in the old button. The machine creaked in ascendance. He stared at the old rusted scissor gate, wondering what would happen if it folded back with his fingers caught up on it. Ford chased the silly thought out of his head. It was too early to face the abyss. He really needed some coffee.
When he reached Apartment 203, the door was already open. After hours of incessant traffic, he was finally at Ed Bush’s house. The walls were covered with old records. One of the biggest musicians of his time, Ed only left his house to go on tours with his big band, a cover for his real passion, irreverent collecting. He was a bald big man with a fuzzy beard and a gap teeth, that was usually smiling. This was an unusual case, however. This time he looked freaked the fuck out. At least he could tell by the smell that a fresh pot of coffee has arrived recently.
“Arthur Ford. At last.”
“Fine, Ed, you got me all the way here. I’m glad to see you are back from Europe in good health. So what was so important you couldn’t say on the phone?”
“Ford, listen! This is a very big deal. You are gonna need to pay attention.”
“Just give me some coffee before you throw a monologue at me, will you? And keep it simple.”
He filled his cup with the black steaming liquid.
“My Robert Johnson is missing. The first take. From 1936.”
“Wait, back up. Back up. You have an original Robert Johnson vinyl record?”
The Legendary Blues Man – Robert Johnson!
Once a young farmer playing the harmonica at his porch, he was entranced by the magical sound of the guitar and dropped everything else to learn how to play it. He was incredibly bad at it. The laughingstock of the local juke.
“Stick to the harmonica, boy!” Said many dissenting voices, taking instruments away from him, prodding him along back to a fruitless life!
Everything changed when young Robert walked by a crossroads cemetery after another failed gig, he was sent off running by a gang of evil bastards, spirit and mind shaken, body in pain. His rambling thoughts of frustration were interrupted by the haunting sound of guitar strings plucked amidst the cold silence of the tombs. Was it his imagination? No, he couldn’t imagine those gripping chord slides. It felt like a revelation. He looked further into the surroundings.
Sitting on top of a gravestone, tuning his oak guitar, was this mysterious man, eerily calm in the still of the night. Even though he was afraid to tread in the moonlit hallows of Hazlehurst cemetery, Robert approached the figure, introducing himself as R.L., for one never gives true names in these types of situations.
Two years later, Robert returned to his local juke, to jeers and sneers. He hopped on the stage and sat down on a wooden chair, facing the wall, looking away from the baffled audience.
Then he played this haunting song:
Faced with a hypnotic lament uncovering disillusion, despair, the unending life of the universe and finiteness of their own existence towards the unknown, the small crowd at the juke went silent. A young musician that was there, Johnny Shines, slowly realized that everyone was crying.
Ed Bush’s Apartment – 2013
Ford sipped his coffee with too much haste, slightly burning the tip of his tongue. Blues legends. Meh. He’d rather focus on enjoying the music itself than to sugarcoat it with mysticism or whatever it was. Not that he was a cynical man, Ford had the awful habit of believing in everything that came across his way. But that usually spelled trouble.
“I had an incredibly rare record supposedly recorded by Johnson in 1936 at a San Antonio hotel in Texas. I bought it for a pittance so I always thought it was fake.”
“Yet you kept it in a safe.”
“I wanted to verify it, especially after…”, Ed trailed off.
“Weirdness followed whenever I played this. You would see shadows that weren’t there. The guitar picks would bounce off the walls… It wasn’t normal.”
Ford gave another sip to his coffee. That was better.
“Not normal, how?”
” I can’t really explain it. It was a freaky feeling so I locked it away. And then I’ve started receiving these calls…”
“Calls? Like prank calls?”
“That’s what I thought. Some fan fucking around with me. It happens sometimes.”
“Probably. But you know the devil story is bullshit, right?”
“What do you mean?”
“On the graveyard, at the crossroads. That was Ike Zimmerman. The guy who taught him how to play. A real person. There are records of it.”
“Of course I know that, Ford. But where did Zimmerman himself learn how to play? And why a cemetery?”
“Because it was quiet. You know that better than anyone, you are obsessed with quiet yourself. Remember when–”
Ed wasn’t really a fan of noisy audiences. Most of his fans got it. Others were more enticed by his previous popular work rather than his best. And for someone obsessed with sound quality, that could get in the way sometimes.
“Don’t remind me. I’m over it, alright? Besides, maybe I lashed out because I was so stressed with this record, and the calls, and…”
“I’m not your manager, Ed. I don’t care about the ‘lashing out’. Tell me more about these calls.”
“At first it was a man’s voice. Then a crowd. Chanting.”
“What did they say?”
“I recorded the last one.”
Ed took out his phone and pressed a few buttons.
A distorted sound emanated from the phone, a chant… “Aperi Ianuam… Aperi Ianuam… Aperi Ianuam…”
“That’s… Latin? I guess? Why do they even bother with this dead language? To sound ominous?”
“I googled it. It means ‘open the door'”
A strange feeling went past Ford, as if he was supposed to remember something.
“Not ominous at all, huh?”, he snickered.
“I’m actually glad I went touring when I did. There was something heavy in the air. But when I came back it was gone.”
“Any sign of forced entry?”
“The door was untouched.”
“What about that creepy ass doorman? He saw anything?”
“What are you talking about? Severin is a great guy. He always helps me to carry vinyl boxes around.”
“Great or not, I’m gonna need to talk to him. Does he have a key?”
“Of course not. I am no fool.”
Ford looked around the house and didn’t really find anything conclusive. It would take weeks to sort everything out in Ed’s massive vinyl collection. Then he checked the windows. That’s where he found something interesting.
“Did anyone paint the building recently?”, he asked Ed.
“I’m not sure. Why?”
Ford popped his head out of the living room window to see if his instincts were correct.
“Well, you should see this.”
Ed’s head popped out in the window next to him.
“What? I don’t see anything”, asked Ed, turning his head as if looking for something.
The two men looked silly looking out to the amazing view of the wonderful city like talking heads. Ford briefly looked up to the Christ Redeemer statue standing on the hill of Corcovado, as if to acknowledge him, then pointed out to what looked to be a smudge between the windows in the building. He stretched his hand out and snapped a picture with his phone.
Ford closed the windows, assisted Ed in walking back to the couch and sat down. Ed was exhausted, he really should be living healthier, thought Ford. Musicians are always a strange lot.
Ford looked at the picture he just snapped and smiled. “There it is.”
He zoomed on the blurry picture, but it was clear enough in the white background. A mark.
“If there is something I’ve learned while chasing cults, is that they definitely love branding.”
It was a circle with a single eye and a mouth whose teeth were shaped like pyramids. Ed was horrified. As intellectual as he considered himself to be, he could be a very religious person when pressured. He made the sign of the cross by instinct.
“What does this mean, Ford?”, his booming voice quivered.
“That means all we need to do is find out who has painted the building.”
“All I need to do is speak to my manager.”, Ed started picking up vinyls, “Immediately”, piling them on the table, he screamed “And I’m getting the hell away from this house!“, when a flying arrow crashed through the window.
TO BE CONTINUED
Disclaimer: This is an ongoing adaptation/translation of a screenplay I wrote way back in 2014, Mistérios da Madrugada. I’ve been wanting to tell this story in English for quite some time, so here it is, the first chapter, for free in this particular form, which allows me to add some media to improve the experience. As this is an ongoing novella, there will be definitely some edits along the way, so bear with me. I am committed to making this as best as possible, so fire away with all the feedback you can muster. This is a work of fiction. Any similarities with real events or real people are either a coincidence or a tribute.