Released: September 11, 2015
Synopsis: American Public Radio journalist Lia Haddock shares the first interview in recorded history with a survivor from Limetown.
American Public Radio journalist Lia Haddock shares the first interview in recorded history with a survivor from Limetown.
Transcription by /u/IcarusI Edit
Voicemail recording]: Hey, this is Lia. I’m sorry I missed your call, but please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you.
[Woman's voice]: At the tone, please record your message BEEP.
Woman’s Voice: Hello, Lia. I’m sorry for calling so late I just…I wanted to let you know that tomorrow I will be wearing a green hat and I will be sitting at the picnic table to the right of the baseball field. You can call me Winona. Winona isn’t my name, but [sighs] ten year of silence was not a mistake. It… it was a choice. So when you ask yourself, “Why would someone would hide from the world for so long?” imagine an answer. Any answer, and try to image the cost. Again. Green hat. Picnic table right of the baseball field. I apologize for the hour.
Hangs up phone
My name is Lia Haddock, and I’m an investigative reporter with APR. The following interaction is the first documented conversation with a survivor, or citizen, as Winona calls herself, of the Limetown tragedy, the known details of which we covered in Part 1 of the series. If you missed Part 1, I would recommend going back to it now, because Winona’s words take us into the unknown and urge new questioning.
Since the release of part 1, I have been working with Winona through a series of frustratingly circular interactions. Something you’ll get a sense of very quickly, which eventually lead to me driving halfway across the country, alone, to a small hotel that seemed very surprised anyone actually wanted to stay there. I received that voicemail from Winona at 3:51 am on the same day I was to meet her.
Car motor noises.
Lia: Okay. So I’m driving up to the park now. I…don’t see her.
Keys rattle. Car door opens
I sat at the park bench for over an hour, and there were no signs of Winona. This is not unusual with subjects who are sharing information they deem personal or perhaps even incriminating. If you’re not careful, it’s exactly when a story can fall apart. So, I gave her a call.
Lia: Hi. Is this Winona?
W: Who is this?
L: Oh, of course, I’m sorry, this is Lia Haddock. We were supposed to meet at BLEEP Park around an hour ago.
W: Why did you call me Winona?
L: That’s…the name you gave me?
W: We’ve spoken before?
L: Yes. Yes, many times, but we spoke three days ago and ...
After several minutes of talking through our recent history, Winona finally seemed at least open to the idea that we had spoken before.
W: I have to write things down. I don’t know where my notes are right now. Is this your number? The one I have on my phone?
W: Okay. I will call you back.
Two hours later, Winona called me back. She apologized profusely, and then gave me an address for a motel a few miles away.
Knocking. Door opens
L: Hi, Winona? Lia Haddock.
W: Yes. You can come in and close the door.
L: Oh, yes. Sorry. So, I have to say what an honor this is for…
W: I have to write things down. I think I said that before, but, it’s the only way for me to remember things sometimes. The problem being sometimes I forget where I put things, and I couldn’t find my notes before.
L: Really, it’s okay…
W: Anyway, I…I found them, and I have to say this before we continue. Please. Sit.
Chair scrapes floor
W: There are several conditions that need to be agreed to prior to this conversation.
W: I can only speak within a very specific set of parameters. You cannot ask what the parameters are, I just won’t speak to them. I am to give you the information I can give and no more. I will speak to no one else. Ever. This is my final message associated with this matter. Once my information is given, and the conditions have been met, I will give you what you need to speak to the next citizen.
L: The next… citizen? Of Limetown?
L: There are more?
W: Of course. Do you agree to these conditions?
L: Who wrote the conditions?
W: Do you agree to these conditions?
L: [pauses] Yes. I have to.
After much internal debate, we have decided that we are withholding Winona’s legal name and the location of our interview, despite pressure from the FBI and the rest of the world. I can say that we did verify her identity against the publicly available fingerprint manifest released by the Limetown Commission Report. She is, in fact, a survivor. I can also say that where we met is several hundred miles from where she currently resides. Beyond her status as a survivor, her account cannot be fact-checked. The need for this statement will soon become clear.
W: Sorry, would you like any tea?
L: No, thank you.
W: I brought my own kettle and tea cups. For some reason, it was the only thing I grabbed from my house there.
L: Your house in Limetown?
W: Yes. I lived in house 27 with a man and a small girl. I was there because of the man.
L: So he was your husband?
L: And the little girl ... ?
L: Do you know where they are now?
L: I'm sorry.
W: I worked at the diner and then would do some clean up at the facility at nights. It was demeaning.
L: What did you do before?
W: It was not working at a diner scrubbing toilets.
L: Okay. Can you be more specific?
L: Why did you do work you found demeaning?
W: It was my role. We all have a role and it's so important you play your role for the good of us all. That was the slogan.
L: God, that's awful.
W: [Chuckle] I didn't like my jobs, but I loved living in Limetown.
W: I don't know what that place is now, I only know then. It was beautiful. The green surrounds you and the air was ... there was nothing around for miles. You could walk to everything in town and everything in town was part of the compensation. No money was exchanged, there was no money at all, anywhere. I liked Tuesdays because they played older films at the theater. The Little Foxes, City Lights, Double Indemnity. The business day coincided with school so we could all walk our kids home in the evenings. We didn't lock our doors.
L: I noticed the doors didn't have locks.
W: It was freedom.
L: But you didn't have the choice.
W: We didn't need the choice.
L: Was there any representative of law enforcement?
W: There was a city manager. He had many workers.
L: So they acted as police?
W: Is that important to you?
L: I'm just curious about rules and regulations --
W: That cannot be what's important to you.
L: To be frank, I don't know what I can or can't talk about.
W: I said I won't answer questions, but that doesn't mean that you can't ask them.
L: Okay. What happened to everyone in Limetown? How many survivors are there?
W: Those aren't the right questions. [Scoff] Ten years, and you don't even know the right questions.
L: Can you answer them, though?
W: No! Those answers are simple and satisfying and totally beyond the point. Money moves the world, why would this be different, huh? That's not why you're here.
L: Why am I here, then?
Without a word, Winona began to make tea for herself. As she waited for the water to boil, she massaged her forehead with her fingertips. She seemed to be in pain. I asked her,
L: Are you okay?
She held a single finger to her lips and the anger in that moment was -- among many things -- very uncomfortable. She returned to watching the pot boil and massaging her forehead.
We sat in silence for several minutes as she finished making her tea. As she sat back down, she went through her notes again. Her lips moving with the words, mumbling softly. She closed her eyes, squeezing them tight. Her lips continuing on. Then, her eyes opened.
W: Two men, in two different rooms, on opposite ends of a floor. Can you see it?
L: Uh, okay? Sure.
W: It's night. Not that there are any windows here, but most of the lights are out. People are home. I am not home. I am here. The only lights are in the two different rooms with the two different men on opposite ends of a floor. Can you see?
W: This is the first day I see. I am emptying trashcans at the desks. They don't notice me, or they don't care. As I watch, the man in the room on the right end furiously draws something on a large sheet of paper pinned to the wall. I can't see what he's drawing. ... The man in the room on the left end sits in a chair. I'm close enough to know it's him, the one my husband and his friends are all here for. I stand here in the middle of the room in the dark for ten minutes. The man on one end draws and the other doesn't move. I leave. The next night I am here again. The man drawing is different. It's a woman, in fact, but everything else is the same. I try to stay longer this time but nothing changes. The next night, it is the same. Different person drawing, same man sitting. It's happened several times. And then ... there was that night. I'm here, there's a different person drawing and the man who sits is not sitting, he is now drawing too. This is not the only odd thing, though. It takes me a few minutes to notice, but then I realized their movements are the same. There is fifty feet of difference between the men, but I can see them both from where I stand. I can't get closer. I shouldn't even be here. I'll come back later at the end of my shift. I stand in the room where The Man We're All Here For was drawing. His drawing is here on the wall. It's a still life of a bowl of fruit. It's drawn in black. I am now standing in the room where the other man was drawing. His drawing is here on the wall. It's a still life of a bowl of fruit. It's drawn in blue, but everything else between the two drawings is exactly the same. I go back and forth between the rooms. Finally, I remove the paper from the wall and I place one drawing on top of the other. They're identical in every single way, including the mistakes. I do not believe this. I placed the drawing back on the wall and I leave. I returned every night for the next ten days. The person drawing changes. The results are the same. I searched the rooms for any possible connection between the two: cameras, secret openings, anything. The rooms are four walls and a doorway. I cannot explain what is happening, so I talk to the man who lives in the house with me. He gets quiet. His face flushes. He tells me I can't work there anymore. He'll see that I am given another job. We fight about this. I ask him, "What makes The Man They're All Here For so special?" I need to hear him say it. He does not say it. I could tell he is afraid, but this only makes me angrier. The next night when I return to desks in the drawing rooms, the only light comes from the room where the man sits. I watch him from a distance in the dark. Then he turns his gaze to me. He sees me. I wanna hide, but I can't. I can't move. Then he speaks to me. I am watching as he speaks to me, but he -- he does not open his mouth. I am at least thirty feet from him, but I hear his voice like he is standing next to me. He speaks the name of the young girl in my house. He says, "I need to take care of her now. That I have seen what I need to see." Thanks me, I leave. I run. I hold the girl in her bed as she sleeps and as I hold her, calm grows over me. I understand. ... You have what you need to understand.
LH: I'm not sure that I do.
W: I'm sure.
LH: So you're not going to explain any further?
LH: Can you tell me more about your husband's work?
LH: Did you have the same problems with your memory prior to living in Limetown?
W (whispering): Lia. Come closer. Her name was Sylvia. She was seven. I don't know if she's still alive. So many are not.
LH: So many are not ... alive? There are others who've died?
W: So many others.
LH: What happened?
W (whispering): Before the panic started, I left the town. I walked right out. I don't know why. We were sleeping, then I was not sleeping. Then I was walking away. The next day was The Panic. He kept me safe and I don't know why. I haven't been able to find anyone since. I try to listen, but it's so quiet.
LH: Why did you reach out to me?
W (whispering): Because we all have a role and yours is to tell our story. And it's so important that you play your role for the good of us all.
LH: My role? What do I have to do with this?
W (whispering): You're not a mistake.
LH: You said "he" earlier. "He kept you safe." Was that your husband? Or was it The Man That You Were All There For? Was that man Oscar Totem?
W: I think we should end this.
L: I'm sorry. We can talk about something else. You mentioned a movie theater.
W: That padded envelope on the bedstand has a cell phone in it. Take it. The next citizen will contact you in a few days. I really think you should leave now.
L: Winona, I'm sorry, but this is very important. You said I need to tell your story --
W: Please stop.
L: -- and I've travelled a long way to be here and I really think that --
L: -- you're not being fair with me --
W: Lia, stop.
L: -- and I am sorry, --
L: -- but I have to address Oscar Totem.
Sound of a dish being smashed.
L: Okay. Thank you for all this. I apologize if I upset you. I hope you find Sylvia.
L: Thank you.
Walking outdoors. Keys rattling.
When you spend so long focusing on questions and only imagining the possibilities, it is something like a shock when you are given even a taste of an answer. That is what I was experiencing in my car outside Winona's motel room. Shock ... and not from the content or the sudden ferocity of the conversation. No. The reason my hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't get the keys into the ignition was because I had sat across from a survivor of Limetown and she had told me something no one else in the world, besides the citizens of Limetown, knew. In my car, in that moment, I had a secret. It was mine. Finally I had something to grow. It was not fear shaking my hands, it was exhilaration. The Man They Were All There For. That was what Winona had to tell me. They, everyone in Limetown, were there for the talent of a single man that she did not understand. And Oscar Totem's role in all this seems to be more mysterious than anyone had imagined. Was he this man? And, if so, is that why he was killed? And if others were also killed, as Winona claimed, what happened? Where are their remains? I didn't know what to expect going in, but now I have a cell phone and on the other end of it... more. There is much more here. If this my role, as Winona said, then I accept it ... and all that comes with it.
Banging and screaming.
Man's voice [screaming]: Liaaa! Liaaa! Liaaa!
Banging and screaming continues.
Lia [panting and whispering]: It is 2:37 in the morning.
Man's voice [screaming]: Liaaa! Liaaa Haddock!
L [panting and whispering]: I am in my hotel room and I woke up to someone banging on the door and shouting my name and I am recording this in case something happens. I can see through my window what appears to be a man in his forties ... slamming his head into my door.
Banging and screaming continues.
L [panting and whispering]: Blood is running over his face. I am running to the door now.
Banging and screaming continues.
M [screaming]: Liaaa!
L [shouting]: What do you want from me? ... I see you. ... What do you want from me? ... I see you. ... What do you want?
M [screaming]: This is your warning, Lia Haddock!
L: My warning?
Banging speeds up and increases in volume.
L [shouting]: You can't! You can't scare me! Do you hear me?
Banging becomes louder and more rapid.
L [shouting]: Don't! Don't! Don't ... !
Banging increases speed and volume.
M [shouting]: This ... is your warning.
Door opens. Crickets chirping. Dog barking in distance.