Scene 9

Melody examined her new record closely. None of the timing clues had panned out, to her relief, or rather she could find no way to make sense of them. She read the last clue of the note again and again: “You need only but listen to the Rite of Spring at the reflection of sunset.” Reflection of sunset? She mulled this over and over in her mind. Did she need to listen to the album in the dark?

She shook her head. That sounded like something her father would say. Whatever the solution, it wasn't going to involve magic. Then a thought hit her. She turned out the light, then back on again. Definitely no carefully placed glow-in-the-dark paint.

Melody decided she would need to research what exactly records could do to hide a mystery.

“Dad,” she called out. “Can you bring me your copy of this album.”

There was a groan from the living room, and finally a shout out, “I don't know where it is.”

“I want to compare this album with another copy and see if there's any differences. Never mind, I guess we can go out any buy another one.”

Another groan. “I'll find it,” he said. “It's probably with the records in the basement.”

Bernie passed Melody, who was sitting at the dining room table. “I don't suppose your mother fixed the light yet, did she?”

Melody's eyes twinkled. “Well, if you trip over a body in the dark at the bottom of the stairs, then you know she didn't.”

“You're particularly ghoulish today,” he said, walking past her.

The girl gave him with a wry smile.

Once he departed, Melody’s mother, Lonnie, emerged from the bathroom drying her hair with a towel. “Any luck?”

“Not so far,” she said. “I kept expecting to find a hidden track, you know like when CDs have a long pause and then a secret song that no one ever hears because no one has any patience for that anymore?”

Lonnie picked up the album and inspected it closely. “That's a good idea. Records, however, are a little more sneaky than that. They can hide recordings in the track that normally signals the stylus to pick up and return to the carriage. I even had a kids record once that played random endings every time I played it.”

She handed the record back to Melody. “Unfortunately I don't know how to tell just by looking at it.”

Melody stared at the record with renewed excitement. “So it's possible that I could find something random by trying the needle at different locations.”

“It's possible,” Lonnie said. “But it could probably take a while. Especially if it’s disguised with the same intro.”

Bernie stomped into the room, and dropped his copy of the record on the table. To Melody's astonishment it was the same version as the one they purchased at the record store, although more dusty and delivered with a greater amount of angst.

“I think I broke my toe on something down there,” Bernie said. “So I hope it was worth it. Oh, also, I do have the Disney Fantasia version as well.”

Melody said nothing, but pulled both albums out of their protective sleeves for comparative analysis. “See anything different?”

“I'll go and find the magnifying glass,” Lonnie volunteered.

“There is one blaring difference staring you right in the face,” Bernie said, pointing to the label on his old copy. “See how mine is just black with the track names?”

Melody's eyes opened wide. How did she miss that? The new copy had an artistic sun logo printed above the center hole.

“No way,” she said.

“Way,” Bernie countered. “What was that phrase again?”

“Don't you patronize me, old man.”

“No, it was something about listening to the album with the lights off.”

Melody sighed. “Listen to the Rite of Spring at the reflection of sunset.”

Bernie waved his hands over the record as though he were presenting crystal goblets to a studio audience. “And there's your sunset.”

Melody closed her eyes and began to count backwards from ten.

Lonnie shoved herself between the two of them. “So, are we dropping the stylus at the bottom of the record, or just under the label?”

Melody placed the record on the machine, and placed the needle where she thought it most logical. “Since you can’t really place it under the label...”

The second side of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring began to play.

Melody grimaced.

Bernie picked up the needle and patted his daughter on the head. Once the record stopped, he flipped the disk over to side one. “The sunset,” he said, proudly, “is of course on the opposite side. He dropped the stylus and the beginning of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring began to play.

Bernie scratched his head.

Lonnie pushed both of them aside, and stopped the music. “You both are WAY off,” she said. She flipped the record over once again, and positioned it so that the label was facing toward her. “See,” she said. “Now that’s a sunset.”

She delicately placed the stylus down on edge of the disk, and it began to spin. What came out of the speaker this time was an unearthly sound, and for a moment Lonnie thought the needle might be digging into the grooves of the record. The sound was at first akin to a howling through a tunnel, and then it became deep, and pulsated like an alien voice. After a moment, a human female voice broke in. The quality was like that of an old tape recorder. Melody had often heard recordings of her father on her grandmother’s old reel-to-reel machine – those being distant, grainy, and slightly echoey as though recorded in a bathroom:

“The following was recorded through a radio telescope

on August twenty-seven, Nineteen-fifty-two, while the

telescope was pointed at the cluster of Sagittarius.

The anomalous message runs for seven minutes and

twelve seconds, is silent for roughly thirteen seconds

and then repeats. It did so for six months. This strange

message preceded a massive Solar flare which narrowly

missed our planet. Currently research is being

conducted to determine if the two events are related in

the hopes of discovering an early warning system for

such an event.

What follows is the message in its entirety...”

The eerie wind-tunnel sound started again, and Lonnie picked up the needle.

“What are doing, Mom?” Melody said, though with some relief in her voice.

“Sorry,” she said. “I just can’t take that sound anymore right now. It just sounds like something that shouldn’t be listened to.”

“It sounded like a creepy voice talking to me,” Bernie added.

“It’s just the background sounds of the Universe, Dad,” Melody said, trying to sound confident. “You heard the woman on the recording.”

“Right. And have you ever heard of this ‘early warning system’? And why all of the cloak and dagger? It’s like Dondra was in some sort of club that smuggled this recording out of some institute to keep it from being destroyed.

“Bernie,” Lonnie said shaking her head, although she didn’t add anything more.

Melody was also silent, having come to the same conclusion as her father. A message from space? A warning from an alien world? It didn't ring true.

“So, aliens were telling us ‘Watch it, Earthlings. Whoa, that was a close one, huh?”

“Maybe they did something to change the location of the flare?” Lonnie shrugged her shoulders.

“And maybe it was just a coincidence.”

“Maybe,” Bernie began. “Maybe because we didn’t respond correctly or quickly enough, they were using our own Sun as a weapon against us. Maybe it was a shot off the port bow.”

“Like the question was “Your money or your life?” Melody smirked.

Bernie shrugged. “It’s a theory.”

“It’s a hypothesis, actually,” Melody assured him. “And a terrible one at that. What could they possibly want from us that wouldn’t be destroyed by a killer flare?”

“Gold, diamonds...?”

Melody shook her head. “All of that stuff has inflated value. For example, if the distribution all of the world's diamonds weren’t controlled by one single company they would be valueless. Frankly, the only use I can see is for phonograph needles, and you know how in high demand those are. Same for gold. It was precious to primitive societies because is was pretty and rare. I’m sure that an alien race capable of controlling a sun at a distance should be able to transmute gold, or compress carbon atoms to a diamond form as needed, and not murder billions of people to get at them. Also, if they did that, they’d have to mine for it themselves. Nope, the thinking man’s alien would enslave humanity to do their bidding.”

“Well, clearly you haven’t thought this through,” Bernie said. “Humans require too much food to live as effective slaves. They would use robots, which would operate just fine with no food on a planet with no atmosphere.”

“Don’t be dumb. You know that slavery was a thing with humans before, right? You would just have some slaves devoted to farming, some to meal prep, some brainwashed to love our alien overlords to function as security, and the rest for mining or whatever. It’s completely workable.”


Melody and Bernie both looked at her blankly. “You act like we have something better to do.”

“Well,” she said, putting the record back into its sleeve. “We do. It's cleaning up this mess and forgetting we know anything about it.”

“We're in too deep now, mom,” Melody informed her. She knew her mother loved spooky things, and craved adventure, but when things started to look a little too serious she tended to want to run away and avoid it. “The mystery has begun. There's no stopping it now. We have a responsibility to Dondra, now.”

Lonnie began to bite on her fingernails, something she only did when she was especially nervous. “I...I mean, we never even met the woman.”

Bernie leaned closer to Melody's ear. “Can we scroll back to throw your mother's own comments back at her.”

Melody shook her head. “I'm not sure why there's this role reversal going on here. Dad, you're usually the one who wants to stay out of this stuff.”

Bernie shrugged. “I don't know. I guess it's kind of nice being included for once. It's like Dondra tagged me as one of her secret agents.”

“She was only using you to get to me, but whatever makes you feel better.”

“Melody,” Lonnie said, practically pleading with her. “This is major. Monsters from the void. Attacks on the Earth. Messages from Space.”

“That's all speculation,” Melody said. “And not even really good speculation.”

“Either way. What does this have to do with Madeline D'amite and the Bardo, and the devil beast and all of that.”

“Maybe nothing. Maybe we'll get to the bottom of it. I don't know. We'll see. It's a fun adventure. Yay!” She raised her arms in the air in a lackluster way.

“Fine. Far be it from me to want to protect my family.”

“Don't worry, mom. If we all get killed, I'll be sure to scratch a bloody message into the ground, letting everyone know that our deaths weren't due to bad parenting.”

“That's not funny,” Lonnie said. “I mean, it's kind of funny, but it's not funny.”

“I'm here all week.”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Message from Space

by BMB Johnson

Scene 9

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