Episode 2 - "Into the Dark" - Credits
Written by Sarah Shachat and Directed by Gabriel Urbina.
Script Editing by David K. Barnes.
Performance by Julian Silver as Anthony Greerson.
Original Music by Alan Rodi.
Sound Design by Zach Valenti.
Produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina,
along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay.
Episode 2 - "Into the Dark" - Transcript
[Unseen opening credits music plays]
Announcer: Long Story Short Productions presents... Unseen.
[Unseen theme continues playing]
Announcer: Episode Two. Into the Dark, by Sarah Shachat.
[Fade in on the sounds of a classroom, before the start of a lesson. Students mill about and talk softly.]
[A door opens with a bang. Students shush each other, and a silence falls over the classroom.]
[A set of footsteps as someone walks across the classroom. Various items are placed on a desk, including a teacup. Liquid is poured into it.]
Voice: Good morning.
[The teacup clatters as he picks it up. The man takes a sip, and gives a satisfied exhale.]
Voice: First thing's first: welcome. Welcome to the Alethia Academy. I should say that you should all be very proud of yourselves for being here. That only a very small handful of people ever sit where you're sitting right now. That the admission requirements are exacting, this institution is one of a kind, and... so on and so on... But I don't think you need me for that.
[There's some light laughter from the students around the speaker.]
Voice: My name is Anthony Greerson, and this is Fundamental Principles of Theurgical Sciences and the Caul. It is, I am very happy to say, the single mandatory class the academy requires you to take. Which means that I don't have to bother coming up with a sexy title to try and lure you in. We can just get down to the business of, you know, learning.
Greerson: "But wait!" you're thinking. "What is this class? What are we even doing here? I have questions!" Of course you do. So let's get you some answers to those questions. In order of importance... Yes, yes, yes, no, yes, no, no, possibly, yes, no, pass/fail, no, only if you're really convincing, yes, yes, and never.
[More light laughter from the audience.]
Greerson: See? I'm fun! We can have a good time!
[He picks up his teacup and takes another sip.]
Greerson: Now, to address the next matter on your mind... I'm sure by now you've heard stories about this class, and about the strange, scary man that teaches it. Oh yes. I know everything they say about me - that I'm very odd, and a little mad, and that I might turn you into a tadpole if you ever make me angry.
[A little more light laughter from the audience.]
Greerson: Well, let me assure you: It's all true. Every story, every anecdote, every syllable they say about me is true, and much, much worse. And what I want to impress upon you, as we begin our journey together, is this: No. One. Cares. No one cares! 'Cause in a few short years, all of you are going to be magicians! You'll be masters of Persuasion, or wonder-working, or... whatever the hell L'Enver calls that thing she teaches nowadays. You are going to have the power to bend the Universe to your will! But first, you're mine. And I will expect you to take this as seriously as I do. Which I know: is a lot to ask from a troop of wide-eyed freshman. But when you take your powers out into the Unseen World, a lot will be asked of you.
[A slight pause.]
Greerson: So consider this a preview of things to come: no one will ever be late to this class. No one will ever speak out of turn in this class. No one will ever, ever miss an assignment. If you do any of those things? You will no longer be part of this class... which means you will no longer be a student at this academy. You can figure out how to bypass the laws of thermodynamics on your own. No disrespect to the self-taught, of course. But... honestly. You are all ridiculously lucky to be here, at a School for the Magical Arts. So you are not just going to be proud. You are going to be grateful.
[He takes another sip of tea, making his cup clatter as he picks it up and puts it down.]
Greerson: Now, aside from colorful anecdotes about yours truly, the other thing you have heard about Fundamental Principles of Theurgical Sciences and the Caul is that... well, it's an unusual class. Most professors lecture in a fairly linear fashion. They start at point A and move steadily towards point B - which is, one assumes, a more enlightened place. Then there's that madman Greerson. He starts at Point A, begins an anecdote about getting to Point B, gets distracted with some questions about Point Z, starts an entirely unrelated story about Point 13, and then wraps it all up by saying how Point A was actually the right place to be all along. Once again, all absolutely true. Ladies and gentlemen, if that doesn't sound like a good way to teach? Let me remind you: no one cares! The Powers On High have entrusted me with shepherding you through the survey class. If you don't like how I do business? Well, tough. Your job is to keep your mouth shut and never let me catch you asleep in class. If you can do that much, we'll get along splendidly. Those of you who can do your thinking in a slightly less linear fashion? Well, your job is more or less the same. But... pay attention, and you might hear something useful every now and then.
[He unbuttons a coat, and tosses it aside.]
Greerson: Now, first order of business: before you can do magic, you need to understand why it's so goddamn hard for so many people to even notice it exists. So, let's dive right in and tackle the big questions: what is the Caul? Where did it come from? Why does it exist?
[A long silent beat.]
Greerson: I don't know.
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: I don't know!
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: Any questions?
[A shuffle from one of his students.]
Greerson: No, no. Put your hand down, that was rhetorical. Only I ask questions in this class.
[Greerson claps his hands together.]
Greerson: Lesson the first, children: there is a difference between a right answer and a correct answer. When it comes to the question of, "What is the Caul?" the right answer is that it's an unexplained phenomenon which makes it very, very hard for human beings to perceive magic. It only affects humans - so, to those of you here who aren't human, I apologize for the deficiencies of my species. And although the very nature of the phenomenon makes it hard to study or document, it's believed to have come into existence roughly eight-hundred years ago. That is the right answer. However, the correct answer to the question, "What is the Caul?" is...
[Greerson makes a mumbled "I dunno" noise.]
Greerson: The most important thing I have to teach you is that there is something to not knowing. And, as I hope you will discover during our time together, there is a correct way of not knowing.
[Greerson cracks his knuckles.]
Greerson: Today, though? Baby steps. This is supposed to be, after all, a class about the fundamentals of magic. Well, here is lesson the second, my dear impressionable minds: there are no fundamentals of magic. There's just you. And, I suppose, me. I'm going to try to explain what that means. And? If I do my job? At the end of today's lecture I'll ask you a question. And you will already know the correct answer. Won't that be fun for all of us?
[Greerson straightens out some papers on his desk.]
Greerson: Let's begin with an analogy, because I've found those can be helpful when talking about things that are very big. And very strange. Put your thinking caps on and try to picture something for me.
[Greerson takes a deep breath.]
Greerson: I want you to imagine a lake.
[Slowly, the atmosphere of a mountain setting starts to fade in...]
Greerson: It's a mountain lake. Very far away from the noise and the glare of the cities. So you can you see the stars.
[There's a bit of light twinkling.]
Greerson: Hell, you can see them so clearly, you suddenly get why people thought our fates were written in them.
[A small splash.]
Greerson: Now turn them off.
[The twinkling grows sharper, then disappears.]
Greerson: All of them. No stars in the sky tonight. The air is so cool, and the dark is so dark, that they feel alive around you. Your senses are sharper. You feel fuller... You feel more than you normally are. Have you got it? The lake? Good. Now picture standing on a bridge over it.
[A metallic groan goes through the air, followed by a dull thud.]
Greerson: No, wait. It's not a bridge. It's a train trestle, actually.
[A metallic squeaking goes out.]
Greerson: It hasn't been used in years, which is what makes it okay - well, maybe, okay; hopefully, okay -
[There's a metallic creaking and rattling sound.]
Greerson: - that you're standing right dead in the center of it, looking out over the water. And then, high above you and all around you... a voice.
[In the distance, a voice yells, echoing and distorted.]
Greerson: And, that's right, because, of course: you didn't come here alone. Who are you with? A friend? An it's-complicated? A they're-okay-but-mostly-I-feel-peer-pressured-to-be-here? I'm not going to tell you who you're with. That's between you and the trestle and the sky.
[Footsteps land on gravel.]
Greerson: Now imagine this person, whomever they may be, saying: "Let's jump!"
[The footsteps accelerate into a run, then a jump, followed by a splash.]
Greerson: Off the trestle, they mean. Into the dark. How willing would you be, right then and there, to take off your clothes and jump into the water? How drunk would you need to be? How infatuated? How desperate to skinny-dip with whoever you're with?
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: What is the point to this? The point... is that if you were sober, or a little tired, or the night was particularly cold, you probably wouldn't jump. Probably would seem like the last thing you'd want to do. Life is just one big train-trestle- mountain-lake leap into oblivion! Also hopefully water! Isn't that comforting, children?
[There's a water-y gurgle, and the mountain atmosphere disappears.]
Greerson: But let me reiterate: what is the point? Is the secret to magic being a horny teenager with poor impulse control? Yes. Absolutely. But... just in case you're not quite following me yet, let me explain it in a different way. Put your thinking caps on again, my little ducklings. Imagine that you are utterly lost... in a clown museum.
[Strange, twisted carnival music starts playing and continues under the following.]
Greerson: No, you heard me right. A clown museum.
[A clown horn honks.]
Greerson: Why you came here is your own business. I cannot account for your poor choices. But what matters is: you're here.
[A slide whistle slide whistles.]
Greerson: And you're regretting it.
[A clown horn goes off three times: honk, honk, honk...]
Greerson: I mean, seemed harmless at first. One of those side-of-the-highway, world's largest tiger-made-out-of- jelly-beans kind of attractions. But now that you're here? It's a lot. And there's no windows, oddly.
[A balloon squeaks.]
Greerson: And there aren't any clocks that don't look like a rainbow gone wrong, so you're a little disoriented.
[A clock ticks loudly and quickly.]
Greerson: And you only know that, apparently, when they send in the clowns, this is where they send them.
[A creepy yet goofy laugh rings out.]
Greerson: You start down one corridor of funny mirrors -
[There's a fast burst of many horn honks in quick succession.]
Greerson: - and somehow find yourself in a room full of giant shoes.
[Feet tap in a strange, arhythmic pattern.]
Greerson: You want to get out of here more than anything you've ever wanted. It feels like the walls are closing in around you -
[Concrete and plaster scrape against the floor.]
Greerson: - or, oh, hold on, maybe they are actually closing in! You try to make a break for it, but oh boy, you weren't ready for the room with all the pogo sticks.
[Springs bounce up and down, along with more creepy, goofy laughter.]
Greerson: And by the time you get past them, you're so worn down from stress and keyed up on adrenaline that the polka dots you're seeing could really be coming from anywhere.
[There's a fast series of bursting sounds and cartoony tweeting.]
Greerson: And in a way, the fact that it's clowns everywhere, clowns all the way down...
[A chorus of manic, sinister laughter rings out.]
Greerson: ... is freeing. And when you take that leap of faith over all the banana peels -
[Running steps, followed by a leap and feet landing on concrete.]
[The strange carnival music cuts out. In the distance, we hear the fading sound of horn honks.]
Greerson: - and suddenly, find yourself in the parking lot? You feel relief, of course. But you also feel a little bit invincible. I mean, it's the rush that comes from knowing no other experience, in your life, will be quite like the one you just had.
[The last remnants of the ambiance of the clown museum fade away.]
Greerson: Now, before you hurt yourselves - because I can just hear the gears in your heads turning... who are the clowns in this weirdly specific analogy? Are the clowns the Caul? Are they magic? Of course not. Don't be silly.
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: I'll give you one more. This one's a lot simpler.
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: Picture a young boy. And... as sometimes happens when a young boy looks funny to a group of other young boys... they've locked him into an equipment shed attached to the school gym.
[A metal door slams shut. We hear a young boy sobbing.]
Greerson: Now, because we live in an age of great privilege, this might well be the most traumatic event in many a young person's formative years. But then... a real emergency shows up.
[A fire alarm starts ringing in the distance. The young boy gasps, alarmed.]
Greerson: What happens when you think you're about to die?
[A siren rings out in the distance. There is desperate knocking against a closed door.]
Greerson: What happens when you're convinced you're about to die in a fire?
[We hear more sobbing. The knocking gets more desperate. The firetruck alarm gets louder.]
Greerson: What happens at the instant that you're sure - incredulous and sad and terrified but sure - that no one is going to save you?
[The alarm beeps and is shut off.]
Greerson: Even if it was only a fire drill, in the end. Even if the door opened in not out, as the teacher who came and found the little boy explained a few minutes later. Because of course they noticed he was missing. As laughably insignificant as we are in the universe, trust me: we are never as insignificant as other people can make us feel.
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: But still: it's interesting what happens when might becomes will. When one day becomes today becomes now. Your perspective shifts. Your heart beats in a different way.
[A heartbeat drums, fast and powerful.]
Greerson: Your lungs take in oxygen differently.
[A deep breath is taken.]
Greerson: Your muscles tense in ways you never knew they could. But it's not just your body. Your mind's eye brings something to the table as well.
[Digital processing sounds ring out, accompanied by the sound of a camera lens focusing. The heartbeat continues.]
Greerson: You look closely, really closely at the world. Because, in that moment? You take yourself out of the world.
[The heartbeat cuts out.]
Greerson: And when you take yourself out of the world... that's when you see it. You see the world as it truly is. With eyes unbridled from the self.
[We hear Greerson's footsteps as he walks across the classroom.]
[He picks up a piece of chalk, and writes something on the blackboard.]
Greerson: You're gonna hear that phrase a lot here: "Eyes unbridled from the self." Every professor at this school is going to - sooner or later - look you straight in the eye and say: (mock dramatic voice) "You have to see the world with eyes unbridled from the self."
[Greerson makes a dismissive scoffing sound.]
Greerson: It's all well and good... I suppose. But for my money? Questions are more useful than dictums. And the question you should be asking yourself is this: are you watching closely? The Caul is a lot of things, space cadets, but less important than what it is is how it acts. And how it acts is like an ego for the entire friggin' world. It makes you center your experience, your expectations, your mights and somedays and no-I-shouldn'ts... and it places them over what is real. And centering yourself makes sense! It's useful! It keeps you from jumping off bridges! Or getting killed by clowns! It gives you the wherewithal to unlatch a shed door. It helps our minds fill in the bits of the world that we just know are there, so they can have the space to focus on the important things.
[A small pause.]
Greerson: But important to whom? That's the question. Important to whom.
[A plate clatters as Greerson takes a sip of tea.]
[A few footsteps. Cloth rustles as Greerson adjusts his clothing.]
Greerson: That drastic shift in perspective? That moment of crisis? It gets us to realize we haven't been looking at the world closely. We haven't seen it at all. We've been too comfortable. Too sure about what we're going to see. That's what the Caul does. It's all it does, that's it. As a very wise man once said, it keeps you in the default setting.
[Greerson takes a deep breath.]
Greerson: Now, don't worry, my precious kittens: I'm not here to shame you. Ego... much like greed... is good! It's important to want things and to make plans and to see the world with you in it. But if you give your ego too long of a leash? You lose the thread. And you stop seeing what's really there.
[A silent beat. Greerson exhales.]
Greerson: Lesson the third: You want to do magic? Then get very comfortable with... ahh, I never know what to call it, it's the sense of... of grace, I suppose, that comes to you when you stop imposing meaning onto what you see. When you don't just realize, you actualize, the truth: The world does not revolve around you. It's not going to come looking for you. You need to look at it.
[Greerson claps his hands twice, then rubs them together.]
Greerson: And now... with that out of the way... let's talk about how to make the world revolve around you! Because, I mean, it's all well and good to be able to see the world as it really is. But to be able to change the world? That's why you're here, isn't it?
[A slight pause.]
Greerson: The basic theory is pretty simple: once you truly see something, you can understand it. As it really is. And once we've fitted you with the right prescription to see the universe... well, then maybe you can give it a nudge - assuming that you're convincing enough.
[A few footsteps. A thunk as he places an object down on the table. He pours some water into it.]
Greerson: Take this cup of tea, which has gone disappointingly cold in the time it's taken me to tell you to be more attentive and less self- centered. (mock voice) "But what if I want a hot cup of tea?!" Well, first thing's first. I need to understand what a hot cup of tea is. Water, right?
[A series of water drops begin to drip down.]
Greerson: But also leaves.
Greerson: And, because I'm not a heathen, a splash of milk.
[A cow moos.]
Greerson: But that's just the surface. It's the default setting. The devil is in the details because tea is all of those things and also none of them. It's bonds breaking -
[There's a sharp snapping sound.]
Greerson: - and matter changing states from liquid into gas -
[There's a hiss of air.]
Greerson: - spurred on by the application of heat to water.
[A flame flickers. We gradually hear water starting to boil over the following:]
Greerson: So what is tea? How do you understand tea? Not its composition, not its history, not even its chemistry, but its nature? What makes something water and leaves and milk and fire and air, and also none of those, but, oh, something else entirely? Is it a state of matter? A state of being? Yes, but it's more. It's something all of these component parts do when they're together; it's a little party they have because they enjoy each other's company so much. As much as anything, it's a state of mind.
[Water starts to bubble. Greerson chuckles slightly.]
Greerson: It's not a thing, it doesn't exist on its own. It's an event, it's an ongoing experience that bubbles and broils and changes. It's never constant. It is always cooling or warming or animating or enervating or turning into sweaty weed water because you let it sit too long! Ah...
[There's a rattling sound as the water boiling reaches its apex.]
[Greerson grabs his cup, and blows on it.]
Greerson: Which is why you should never be late to tea time.
[Greerson takes a sip of tea.]
Greerson: Ahhh. Much warmer. Much better.
[He puts the cup down, then laughs.]
Greerson: Oh, man... did you see that? No magic words. No wand-waving. No incantations. All of those things can help, they have their uses. But first you have to win the war of understanding. You think, you know, and therefore... you get to have hot, delicious tea.
[A short pause.]
Greerson: Ah, but that's not good enough for you, is it, kids? You want to know what I actually did to heat the water. Well, technically speaking, on an elemental level of pure will and energy, I suppose you could say I... mmm, asked really, really nicely. I knocked on the tea's door and asked if it could turn the volume on its music up. Everybody thinks of magic as an art of trickery and misdirection and sleight of hand. And that's accurate. That is correct. We're nothing but liars and cheats here. But all of those things, they're just ways of forcing a new perspective on another person. Magic is forcing your perspective on the world. And that's why we call it Persuasion with a big "P." We are convincing the universe to go along with us. To act like cold is hot and solid is light and void is full - at least for a moment. But, if you don't have your facts straight, you can't persuade anybody of anything. If you don't start from a place of truth, how can you ever tell a convincing lie?
[The plate clatters as Greerson picks up his cup. He takes a sip of tea.]
Greerson: And that's why I'm standing up here. Because I am supposed to teach you how to do that. Except - and here's the nasty little secret - I can't.
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: I'm not joking, people. I really can't teach that to you. What I can do... is tell you one more story.
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: Who here has ever been to a Waffle House?
[There's some scuffling from his audience. Greerson chuckles.]
Greerson: Good. Excellent. You lot are lightyears ahead of the rest. The secret to magic... is Waffle House. Write that down! Now, imagine a couple. They've been dating for a few years, gotten past the honeymoon phase. And one night, some lazy Thursday they're spending at home, apropos of nothing, they start talking about Waffle House. One of them tells the other they once had a fantastic catfish sandwich at Waffle House. The other says they can't have. You can't get fish at Waffle House. They only serve breakfast food. Cut to one hour later. Our couple is having a fight. I mean, biiiig, knock-down drag-out fight over the validity of certain menu items at Waffle House. And then over the validity of Waffle House as a concept.
[We begin to hear the ambiance of a street fading in.]
Greerson: And then over a few things that are really just their private business. But, aware of how worked-up they've gotten, our pair decides to take the only logical next step. They drive to the nearest Waffle House.
[A car chirps as it is unlocked. A car door opens and closes, a seatbelt clicks as it is fastened, a key turns in an ignition, and a car engine roars to life.]
[A door opens and we hear the electronic "ding-dong" of a digital doorbell.]
Greerson: When they get there, they march right up to cook. He hears them out, and he explains: Waffle House doesn't have any fish on its menu. It only serves breakfast food. But... well, he's a friendly guy. And they're the only people in the place. And they seem so gosh-darn invested. So he does the unthinkable: he offers to go out and get some catfish, and grill them up a sandwich if that's what they want.
[Greerson snaps his fingers.]
Greerson: Voila! Magic!
[Greerson laughs, then takes a deep breath.]
Greerson: Remember what I said earlier? About the difference between a right answer and a correct one? You tell me, kids: who would you rather be in that story? The person who was right? Or the person who was correct?
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: See, I can tell you that you can order catfish at Waffle House. But you are the ones who have to overcome all your reservations about doing it. You have to silence the voice in the back of your head telling you that you already know the answer and you're going to look like the world's biggest idiot for even asking. Then you need to find the nearest Waffle House, and you need to march in there and be charming enough that they'll cook you whatever the hell you want. I can hopefully get you the place where this very odd concept makes sense. But, there needs to be a moment where you see past what I'm saying and get to what's behind it. To the idea itself. If you can see the idea? If you can make it your own? Then believe me: you can work wonders with it. Which is why I can't just give you the answer. You need to meet me halfway. It's why, when we talk, I tell you stories that go from A to B to Z to 13 to A again. I don't do this for my own amusement. Or, well, not just for my own amusement. I do this because the longer I'm out on the road, the more chances we have of actually bumping into one another.
[A small pause.]
Greerson: I told you, back at the start of today, that I would ask you a question at the end of class and, if I'd done this right, you'd already know the answer.
[The mountain lake atmosphere from earlier in the episode fades back in.]
Greerson: Are you ready? Are you watching closely?
[Feet run on gravel, followed by a splash.]
Greerson: Picture a mountain lake. The one you saw before. In fact, you've never left that lake or that train trestle or that night sky.
[A silent beat.]
Greerson: A part of you has been here the entire time. Above you, below you, all around you: void. But you can hear voices.
[A distant, echoing voice.]
Greerson: Are you going to jump?
[The whistling of rushing wind. Then, a pair of hands clap together. The mountain lake atmosphere cuts off abruptly.]
Greerson: All right. That's it for today. Congratulations: you survived. I will see you all back here on Wednesday, ten AM sharp. Do not give me a reason to show you what happens when I stop being so friendly. And?
Greerson: Welcome to the Academy. We're proud to have you with us.
[He puts his cup down on the plate. The students start to file out, starting to chatter among themselves.]
Greerson: (lower) And we'll have you doing magic in no time.
[The students continue filing out of the classroom. Slowly, their sounds fade away and disappear.]
[Scene transitions to Unseen theme music.]
Announcer: This has been UNSEEN, by Long Story Short Productions, based on an original idea by Gabriel Urbina, with additional conceptual design work by Sarah Shachat. Today’s episode was written by Sarah Shachat and directed by Gabriel Urbina, with script editing by David K. Barnes. It starred Julian Silver in the role of Anthony Greerson. Original Music by Alan Rodi, and sound design by Zach Valenti. UNSEEN is produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina, along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay. For more information on the Unseen World, please visit Unseen.Show. Thank you for listening.
[Music fades out.]
End of Episode.