Alex: Last week, on The Black Tapes, HOLY FUCKING SHIT I CANNOT FUCKING BELIEVE IT CORALEE IS ALIVE I MEAN I KIND OF KNEW SHE WAS BUT JESUS FUCKING CHRIST SHE PULLED UP IN A VAN AND SAID COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE LIKE SHE'S SOME KIND OF GODDAMNED BEEKEEPING TERMINATOR WHAT THE EVEN FUCK IS GOING ON ANYMORE, Amalia told us Keith Dabic's face was cut off by evil monks and stapled onto some homeless guy's head, Richard went into exhaustive detail about a fake Gospel nobody's ever read, and I tried to convince Nic to pay for a trip to the mythical landing site of Noah's arc. Spoilers, it turns out even shipping me with postage bought from Stamps.com was beyond our budget.
Alex: Coralee and her team of silent goons took us to a safe house they rented on Air B&B. I asked her repeatedly to explain herself, to explain why she disappeared, why she went to such strange lengths in her recent communications with Richard, and why she was reappearing now, after hiding for so long. But our budget for this episode didn't include another voice actor, and so Coralee refused to answer with anything but a stern look and a subtle shake of her head.
Richard was almost as eager to learn the secrets of Coralee's return as I was. As soon as we entered the safe house, Richard went went into the bedroom and Coralee followed after him silently. The door closed with an ominous click.
I stared at the door, willing it to become transparent, desperate to hear the words these two estranged lovers were exchanging, anxious to see their terrible reunion with my own eyes.
Eventually they emerged from the bedroom. I stared at them intently, searching them with my eyes and with my heart. But Coralee's hair as straight, her clothes unwrinkled. Richard's suit wasn't the lease bit disheveled, nor was his collar stained with his lost lover's lipstick.
Despite my fears, the reunion of Richard and Coralee Strand has been as passionless as the bitch that left him by the side of the road, and the hopes of Stragan fans everywhere remained alive.
Richard Strand: So thanks for almost getting kidnapped and murdered with me Alex, but I need to go off on a flannel-wearing depression bender for the next six months, and you probably don't want to be around to see it.
Alex: If it's any consolation, I think Coralee still loves you.
Richard Strand: Wait a second. It turns out that my so-called wife is actually an operative for a shadowy cabal run by Thomas Warren, and that my so-called marriage was nothing but a sham perpetrated upon me because a camarilla of end-times audiophiles believe that a secret code hidden in my family's DNA is the key to either unleashing or preventing the apocalypse, my child is possibly the target of a group of techno-exorcists simply because she had the bad luck of choosing me as her father, and I'm supposed to be comforted by the fact that Coralee looked back at me wistfully before she got into her black van and drove away with her band of mercenaries, returning to the secret base from which they have been monitoring me for the past thirty years?
Alex: You're right. There's only one thing that will help you get over the painful betrayal you have suffered ...
Richard Strand: Exposing all of my dark secrets and family mysteries to you, so that you can share them with the thousands of strangers who listen to this podcast?
Alex: Exposing all of your dark secrets and family mysteries so that I can share them with the thousands of strangers who listen to this podcast.
Richard Strand: Well, since I'm very bitter and mildly drunk, sure! Let's start with why I founded the Strand Institute!
Alex: You wanted to meet hot young interns in order to replace the void left in your heart by Coralee?
Richard Strand: Only partly. The real reason I founded the institute was to make amends for my greatest personal failure. You see, when Coralee disappeared, I went searching for her. For days I wandered through the woods, desperate and afraid. I'm an academic, not a woodsman, and I quickly became lost. As I wandered further and further into the wilderness, I became hungry and dehydrated. Soon, I lost all hope, and with it, my reason.
Alex: So you founded the Strand Institute to punish yourself for not finding Coralee?
Richard Strand: What? No, I founded the Strand Institute to punish myself for falling to my knees, drawing a pentagram in the dirt, cutting open my hand with a jagged rock, and pouring out my blood in an offering to Tall Paul, the demon who I allowed myself to believe had whispered the location of Bobby Maimes' body to me in my dreams. I offered him my very soul in exchange for the safe return of my beloved wife, but ... there was no reply.
Alex: Holy shit! you mean you really are a psychic and you actually believe in the supernatural? This is a huge twist that the audience has been waiting for since the very first episode! Why, this means that--
Richard Strand: No, Alex. I don't believe in the supernatural, and I'm not psychic. You see, when I was a child I had a flair for the dramatic and an unhealthy obsession with true crime. When Bobby Maims disappeared, I poured over maps and news reports, searching for the most likely place a killer would dispose of a body. One night I had a dream. My subconscious put all of the puzzle pieces and clues together, and I saw very clearly where the corpse would be found. Not because I was psychic, but because it was the only place the police had not yet looked. I wanted to impress my friends, and so I feigned a clairvoyant vision, but when I realized how people would react to the son of an occult expert leading the police to a body using preternatural senses, I recanted my story.
Alex: Oh. Well, are you willing to at least admit that the Black Tapes are all connected?
Richard Strand: I mean, sure, the five or six you've seen are probably connected, but I've got like a hundred of those things stacked up in the closet. There's no way they're all connected. Like this one. This one is about a kid who saw fairy lights dancing around the pond behind his house.
Alex: Do the fairies play world-ending music?
Richard Strand: No Alex.
Alex: Are their faces upside down?
Richard Strand: ...
Alex: The Black Tapes is brought to you by The Great Courses Plus, the single greatest source of knowledge in the world today. If you join now, fans of TBT can enjoy such exciting courses as Map Reading, Tracking, and Criminal Profiling, all of the tools you'll need to feign psychic abilities and ferret out the rotting corpse of an innocent boy who's kidnapping and death has thrown your small town into utter chaos.
Nic: And I just took a break from mixing the latest episode of Tanis to let you know that it is too in the same universe as TBT, and all of the haters who keep complaining about how my so-called "computer skills" just "mysteriously disappear" when I'm researching The Breach or laugh about how skeptical I am of the Unsound when I have vivid hallucinations of bloody crow-men who descend to consume my flesh and my soul and can kiss my ass because it's been really stressful, okay? You try launching a new podcast only to find that the inane scribblings in your high school journal actually lead to a massive conspiracy involving a secretive cult and a giant megacorp trying to tear apart the fabric of the universe using electromagnetic resonance thingamagiggers, all right? And just because I act like I don't know what a Google is doesn't mean I'm trying to get into Mere Katnip's pants, okay? I mean sure, she's cute and all, but come on, I'm a professional journalist, and--
Nic: Right, sorry. Anyway, TBT is also brought to you by Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories, which is a modern twist on old time radio dramas. Each episode covers a new mystery, like the Phantom Killer, the most famous cold case in Texas history, or the first murder in Hollywood. Subscribe now. Or whatever.
Alex: I stayed with Richard all night. We talked for long hours, sharing fond memories of the kidnappings that brought us together, laughing at some of our earlier conflicts, and sitting quietly while we remembered all of the fucking murders that have been following me around since I started this investigation. Seriously, so many people keep getting killed around me, it's a wonder I haven't been arrested. Like, a kid vanishes, and his nanny "hangs herself," except all of her blood has been drained and painted on the walls? And I'm the one that happens to find her? Sure, that's plausible. And then this kid that I interviewed winds up in Bulgeria or something, and his face gets ripped off, just like in one of the stories I broadcast, and I'm not even a little bit involved? Right.
Anyway, I stayed with Richard until morning, but my tender ministrations and liberal offerings of whiskey were unable to crack the protective shell he had formed around himself. Stupid Coralee.
Alex: Hi John Uvella, Eagle Scout, master tracker, and my guide to the secret cave art of New Mexico!
John Uvella: That's a strange way to greet someone.
Alex: It's because you haven't been on the podcast in a while, and I think pretty much everyone has forgotten you. Anyway, you know those ancient totems you told me about, the ones the Anasazi people set up in order to prevent a horde of demons from breaking into our reality and destroying the world?
John Uvella: Yeah?
Alex: Wanna do me a favor and make sure they're still standing? No reason, I'm just curious. Also, please hurry and take photos.
Richard Strand: I have decided that the only way to learn the truth about my marriage is to meet with Thomas Warren.
Alex: The same Thomas Warren that Coralee is running from, and that she warned you against seeing because of how badly he would murder you? Sexy James Bond Thomas Warren?
Thomas Warren: Hi guys! I just wanted to let you know that DevaCorp has opened a new public benefit division, and the only thing we're missing is Richard Strand and his sweet, sweet demon DNA! And if you join our evil conspiracy now, I'll even fund the Strand Institute for the rest of human history! All six months of it!
Alex: You won't corrupt Richard so easily, Mr. Bond! For one, he's rich enough to offer a $1 million prize for anyone that can offer proof of the supernatural!
Richard Strand: Yeah, actually the prize is a lie and I'm absolutely broke.
Thomas Warren: Also your father was murdered and he was working for me! Here's his journal, which I in no way fabricated! Give me a call when the lies contained herein convince you to set aside your morals and help me end the world! Tootles!
Nic: So I've been thinking ... most symphonies have four movements, but Percival Black exclusively composed symphonies with five. And we've played five sound files on this podcast: the Unsound, two sound files from Keith Davic, and two from
Richard Strand: Be that as it may, the Mysterium, if it were real, which it is not, needs to be played at the Axis Mundi, not the Podcast Broacasti.
Nic: Yeah, about that. So that secret code I found, which I thought corresponded to the top of Mt. Ararat? Well it turns out that it was also an IP address, and that IP address is the one we lease from XFinity, the Devil's Own ISP, and the Axis Mundi is actually our recording studio.
Richard Strand: Are you kidding me? You are seriously asking me to believe that --
Alex: Also, John Uvella called, and he said that there were originally five Demon Thwarting Totems, just like there are five movements to the Mysterium, and all of them have been toppled over.
Richard Strand: The fact that a piece of ancient artwork has been vandalized, while tragic, in no way indicates that the world is about to be rent asunder by a teeming mass of void creatures bent on the --
Nic: Also, we've used advanced image recognition software to determine that the cave paintings Alex found in New Mexico aren't of an army and its general, but a demonic choir and its conductor.
Richard Strand: They're stick figures. There's no way an algorithm would be able to --
Alex: My god, do you know what this means? We've played all five movements of the Mysterium, in order, from the Axis Mundi! We are personally responsible for the conflagration about to be unleashed! The end of the world is nigh, and we are not mere spectators, but the very agents of our own destruction!
Richard Strand: Alex, calm down. Even if all of this were true, which I repeat, it is not, you played those segments of music weeks, even months apart. There's no way the ritual is that loosely defined. If this were all true, and I again stress that this is nothing more than the fevered imaginations of two people who are much too fond of Washington's lax cannabis laws, I would only be worried if you had played those files one after the other.
Nic: You mean like this mixtape I created, called
end_of_the_world.aac? Let me play that right now!
Alex: It's happening! The end of the world is happening, and it's all our fault!
Richard Strand: Oh for fuck's sake.
Simon Reese: Hi there Alex! I just got done cutting off a bunch of people's faces, and I wanted to take a break and thank you for sewing the seeds of mankind's destruction! You see, by playing the completed Mysterium for all of your listeners, you have not only doomed the world, but damned your audience as well!
All of creation belongs to the Adversary, and through your hard work and lax ethical standards, you have assured his return and his reign. He is coming, and with him come chaos and madness and death. And probably a Trump presidency. I'm not real clear on that.
Anyway, your listeners are now a part of his kingdom. Evil follows in their wake. When the lights turn off, their darkness is a little deeper. When they peer into the shadows, they see a little further. When the time comes, they will be ushered into the kingdom of darkness, and the world shall be lost.
Oh, and I really like your new bedheets. Much better than the floral print you were using.
Goodbye, Alex ...
Alex: Wow, what a brainfuck!
Nic: I know, right?
Alex: I need a break, something to clear my mind an cleanse my soul. I know! I'm going to download the latest episode of Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories! This light and airy content will sure put my mind at ease!
Nic: That's a great idea! I'm going to go wander in circles in a haunted forest for a few months, but I'll put these on my iPod to keep me sane while the Rift tries to shove its tendrils into my soft and squishy think muscle!
Alex: The Black Tapes is a production of Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, recorded by Alex Reagan, mixed and produced by Nic Silver. Join us next season, when we'll expose you to even more soul-endangering music written by the Devil himself, and performed by a satanic faction of Benedictine murder-monks.