Released: October 12, 2015 Duration: 34:13 Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/limetown/episode-3-napoleon
APR journalist Lia Haddock speaks with the second known survivor from Limetown, inching closer to discovering what the true purpose of the infamous research facility was.
[footsteps, muffled speech]
Lia I was walking though in Wyoming at night towards an illuminated tent as I first heard the voice of the second surviving citizen of Limetown booming through a small PA system. I was late.
Man's Voice: [organ playing throughout] Hear me, my brothers and sisters. the divide between is insignificant. The divide is instant, and it's timing unknown. But on the other side of it, lies our true selves. Our true strength. Our true mission. Yet the divide cripples us with fear.
[Distant] Amen! [clapping] [singing]
Lia The second surviving citizen is, as he told me after the service...
Man: Well, I'm a traveling salesman of sorts.
Lia: Salesman? That seems...cynical.
M: Well, let's just say...I speak outside the purview of organized religions. The nomenclature can make people nervous. Create false power dynamics that just get in the way. I'm pitching a different sort of gospel anyway.
L: What sort is that?
M: Well, the gospel of Death.
Man Preaching: Give a name! Name your fear! Identify it in the dark, and invite it in for dinner! [congregation cheering] Ask about it's mamma! Strip it of all its mythology, of all its baggage, of all its noise. And see it for what it is. A doorway.
[choir singing, congregation clapping]
[I want to cross over....cross???]
[Limetown theme plays]
My name is Lia Haddock, and I am an investigative reporter with APR. This is Part 3 of our series on Limetown, and I'm going to do something now which I have not been able to do for quite some time. Which is to give facts.
The man I spoke to, who I will call "Reverend" during our conversation, a request made facetiously but still honored, was legally named Warren Chambers. He was Missing Male #127 in the Limetown Commission Report. We met at his revival tent outside of Rawlins, Wyoming, one of many stops along his tour. It was a Wednesday. The reason I can tell you all of these explicit details is because, tragically, before we were able to release this episode, Reverend Warren Chambers was struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking home from the drug store in town. He was 63 years old. There is no foul play suspected, and the driver is in police custody. It is irresponsible for me to speak any further on the nature of this event, but I do find the timing troubling, and consistent. With a looming threat hanging over this story. [gasps] Warren Chambers was warm and kind. And he has helped us learn more. Please, stay with us.
At the conclusion of his service, the Reverend stayed after to speak to anyone who wanted or needed to. It was difficult to ignore the makeup of his congregation. Many were in wheelchairs, several needed oxygen tanks. Others did what they could to hide the ill effects of their chemotherapy.
Warren: I attracted a specific crowd. They're close. I see it.
He spend the next hour or so meeting with everyone who stayed, making sure he was the last to leave the tent.
[footsteps, dog whining] W: Look out for my vicious watchdog. L: He's cute. What's his name?
W: Her name is Molly. Damn thing doesn't even bark. Get back! Hey, back! [door closes]
The inside of the Reverend's camper felt like an exaggerated bachelor's pad. Clothes strewn everywhere, food packaging and dishes left wherever their greater purpose had been served. There was, however, one particularly expensive item.
L: Is that a...a commercial refrigerator?
W: Yeah. It's where I store the blood.
W: Just a side business. Sorta hush-hush. It keeps the motor running. Uh, don't-don't work. It's perfectly safe. I have standards. [lights cigarette, exhales] Some places are desperate for it. Some are not. Blood stays good for around 21 days, so I collect as I go. Sell it where I can. Now I personally have an AB blood type, so everybody loves me. You can usually find a desperate administrator somewhere looking to undercut the Red Cross if you ask the right people. Oh, um, I'm sorry. Do you smoke?
L: No, but, I don't mind.
W: I'll crack a window. [window scrapes] How are ya?
L: I'm good. Thank you for asking. W: You've had a rather harrowing experience recently. L: Yes. Uh, but I'd rather not talk talk about myself. W: I bet you didn't know you had it in ya to back him down like that, huh? [exhales] Oh, my. Of course not. How could ya? Right? I'm glad it was you that talked to Winona too. I'm sorry to hear she's in so much pain. You Melville wrote about it. "What deadly voids and unbidden infidelities in the lines that seem to gnaw upon all faith and refuse resurrections to the beings who have placelessly perished without a grave." Lost at sea, Winona. All of them. I, uh, recognize the pain. I don't know it. I just hope she knows how important she is how her courage inspires. But none of this is why you're here. L: No. It's not.
W: Well, go ahead.
L: Okay. Who was the man you were all there for? What was the panic. Was Winona right about there being many people killed outside of Oscar Totem? And how and where did everyone go?
W: Yeah. [exhales] I didn't know the man. I knew of the man, or at least what people said about him. Well, I might have known him, without knowing I known him. You know? So, I don't know if lived or died, but that doesn't matter very much to what's happening now.
L: Why not?
W: That night was a destruction of form. Not soul.
L: Are you referring to The Panic?
W: Yes? But I can't say much about it. It was quiet for me. That was the worst part of it, the silence. And the the sudden cacophony of violence. I just waited for the sun to come up.
L: What caused it?
W: Don't know. I was turned off by then.
L: Turned off? What does that mean?
W: [sighs] I don't know why I'm supposed to talk to you. Or what this all is or why now. But, I have a feeling this is all part of something bigger, you know what I mean? I'm not the first, I'm not the last. Limetown was purposefully constructed to keep everyone in the dark. Divisions of labor. Physical proximity. Gobbledygook project names, work shifts, NDAs.
W: What I'm saying is, you'll get there when you get there. Wherever it is you're supposed to get. I know some things. I don't know other things.
L: So what was your role?
W: Ahhh! Roles. We have a role. And it is so important you ya-da ya-da.
W: Yeah. That was my role.
L: You...you cared for them?
W: Well, before Limetown, I was a large animal veterinarian in Pennsylvania.
L: So you do have a medical background of sorts?
W: Well, I know how to draw blood if that's what you're getting at.
L: So, what did the town need with a large animal veterinarian? Or pigs for that matter?
W: When you want to roll out a new piece of biomedical engineering, where do you start?
L: Wait, h-hold on. A new piece of biomedical engineer--
W: Animals. Exactly. You start your experiments on animals. And then, if and when they work, you go to human animals.
L: Can we just step back for a second--
W: Don't worry, I'll get there. So, I'm a large animal vet. I've done a lot of work for a man, a neuroscientist, obviously. Although I didn't know it until that conversation. He had a horse farm back in Pennsylvania, and he tells me they need someone with my skill set to oversee a medical testing program for animals. Just to make sure the animals are treated correctly. It lacked on specifics, but uh, the money didn't.
L: And so you agreed to do it without knowing exactly what it was you were doing.
W: I apologize if I've mentioned this before, I can't remember, but my wife had passed right that and I really didn't care what the hell I was doing as long as it was something else.
L: Right. I'm very sorry to hear that.
W: I was not a man of faith then.
L: Oh, so, you weren't always religious?
W: [laughs] No. No ma'am.
L: So, you were brought into Limetown to oversee the animal testing program.
W: Right, so, pigs. What are some characteristics of pigs that come to mind?
L: They're-they're smart, they're sensitive, they're...
L: [laughs] Yes.
W: They're slaughter animals.
W: No one bats an eye if you kill them. And on top of that, they also carry a great anatomical similarity with our species. It's a good loophole to exploit if you're building a private town in the middle of nothing and nowhere.
L: What-what you're saying is that the pigs were officially brought in for a purpose other than medical testing.
W: Exactly. Everybody loves bacon.
L: What were you testing?
W: Yeah. [exhales] Winona talked about a man talking to her without talking to her, right?
W: The basic principle being the transfer of thoughts between others without verbal communication.
L: You were trying to read the thoughts of pigs.
L: Through biomedical engineering.
W: I can't speak to that in detail. I know basically it involved planting something directly into the brain, and then regulating it through medication. As to what or how that worked...
L: So you were-you were testing a product o-or a combination of products to communicate non-verbally with animals.
L: Was that the purpose of Limetown?
W: Well, that was my purpose in Limetown. Like I said before, we worked within our own little vacuum sealed universes. As far as we were concerned, our work was the beginning, the middle, and the end, amen.
L: We all have a role.
W: And it's so important you don't know what the hell the left hand is doing.
L: So, so were you successful in communicating with the pigs?
W: Not in the beginning. Not at all. The implant process was a difficult thing to perfect. We lost a lot of stock upfront. And once that was sorted out and the dosage was assumed to be correct, it was time to move on to a human host.
L: To listen.
W: Right. The tree falling in the woods corollary.
L: So, who was the human host?
W: Well, it only made sense to use someone the animals were comfortable with.
L: The large veterinarian on staff.
W: I volunteered, to be clear. Animal comfortability was a point I just so happened to have in my favor.
L: You said it wasn't successful in the beginning. Was it ever?
L: So, you were able to read--
L: That's-that's amazing.
W: Yes, it was.
L: How has the public never heard of this?
W: [laughs] The public! Yeah.
L: It just seems like something that would have leaked or otherw--
W: I don't mean to be condescending here, but I feel like you should know better than that by now.
L: Okay. You're right.
W: [glass clinks] One of my members gave me some homemade muscadine moonshine. [unscrews jar] 160 proof. [pours moonshine]
L: No, thank you.
W: You sure?
W: More for me. [swallows] WHOO! Praise God and all things good. Hallelujah.
W: So, like I said [lights cigarette, exhales] We lost a lot of stock in the beginning, before figuring out the implanting procedure. And then from there, we had to tinker with the medication. The first iteration caused severe brain hemorrhaging in the subject, but we weren't sure if that that was due to the subject's chemical makeup or if it was the product. After another series of tests, it was determined to be the product. So, then it was refined until we got the fifth iteration. That's when I was implanted. From there, it was just a matter of determining the dosages for me and the subject until there was contact. It was a brutish process. [exhales] Pigs are finiky as hell. You can't work with them unless they trust you, and that just means talking to them, touching them, feeding them, letting them get comfortable on their own terms. You know, they fight like hell, but they don't like to be left by themselves. Also, and maybe most importantly, they don't speak. Or, not in any way we can hope to translate. Which is to say, there are a lot of factors working against us outside just the biotech bullshit.
L: R-right. How did you think you were going to communicate?
W: What was hypothesized was that what could be relayed between subjects was raw emotional data. It's not exactly hard to tell if a pig is scared or happy. But this is more just a baseline to see if anything could work.
L: How could you translate emotion?
W: Well, the hardware could interpret emotional changes in the brain, and translate them into simple, synthesized tones.
L: Ah, a-and that worked?
W: Not until Napoleon. Technically, he was LTS-54A, but I named him Napoleon after the pig villain in Animal Farm. I thought it was funny. You sure you don't want anything to drink?
L: Yes, I'm sure.
W: [pours drink] Napoleon had a really calm nature about him, so we used him to ease in any new stock brought in. He was very comfortable with me, so after a certain point along the way, it just made sense to involve him. First time I heard him, I heard calm. We knew the tones would work. Well, to be clear, that was what we had planned on working, if it did at all. What we didn't expect was the emotional transfer which is just exactly what it sounds like. I heard calm. And then I felt a wave of calm come over me. Animals are very nuanced in their emotions. Not like us. Whatever they feel, they feel purely, and uh, persuasively. That worked in the other direction too. When I heard calm, I got excited. And in turn, Napoleon got excited. [drinks] It's a good memory. [sniffs] You know, at first it only worked when I was in the facility. The hardware implant was still being worked on, so the distance was pretty limited. So, every day coming to work was exciting. On my walk, I could feel him being near. And then we would be together. It was like meditation. He was mostly calm, until he was hungry. [laughs] And that's about as cranky as he got, but then, you'd feed him, and all was well. I came to Limetown with a lot of baggage. But it was deep. It was...deep. Sitting there in that room with that damn pig was...therapy. Whatever I felt and brought into that room was like trying to stand against the ocean. Our brains are creative when it comes to building shadows and boogeymen and corners you can't see around. Napoleon had a simple, resolute clarity. There is food. There is shelter. There is companionship. And it can be okay if you just let it. Over a period of several weeks, inexplicably, I could hear him anywhere in town. At the diner, at my house, the school. He was there. The medication didn't change, the dosage didn't change. But I could. He slept a lot. Or was otherwise pretty thoughtless when we weren't together. Which sounded a lot like white noise. Sometimes it would fluctuate, sometimes I would fluctuate, but we always leveled the other off. That pig knew me better than anyone in my life ever could. It was the most powerful sensation I have ever experienced. [drinks] We shared a mind. But then there was the leak. We found out later it was all a big fuss over nothing, but I was reading a book, which Napoleon always seemed to enjoy. Mothernight. And one of the other various departments squirreled in the facility doing God know knows what, there was some kind of broken seal involving a gas they were...unsure of. It fed into the ducts, which filtered right into the room Napoleon and I were sitting in. And he was an important asset. [alarm sounds] Alarms sounded, lights started flashing, men in hazmat suits busted in, they ripped us out of there, taking us to separate rooms for medical examination. It happened fast. [alarm stops] Napoleon knew it was death. And the concentration of fear--[whinges] I was overwhelmed to the point of not being able to breathe. His fear became my fear and my fear became his fear and over and over and over. It was a fear that shook the foundation of my sanity. It was a glimpse at the fleeting nature of life. How meaningless, how pointless, how it could be taken from you so quickly and without your consent. [laughs] I kicked a hole through the wall and broke the doctor's leg before they sedated me. Napoleon was never the same after that. He could feel things other than fear, but, there was always this undercurrent. He didn't trust reality anymore. Sure, everything's fine right now, but. [laughs] As time went on, it-it got worse. I would try to calm him or explain what happened but, uh. Yeah. Got to the point where he couldn't sleep, which meant I didn't sleep. The fear was always there and I-I couldn't make it stop. We couldn't make it stop. They messed around with the medication, hoping to disrupt it, but that-that didn't work. Napoleon was broken. I was broken. And I knew how to fix it. [sniffs] He knew I was coming. He was afraid at first. But by the time I got into the facility, he was calm. Almost as calm as before. I walked into his pen with my sledgehammer and...it was serenity. I was angry and sad. Crying. But he was warm. He-he welcomed it. [inhales] He stared me right in the eyes and didn't move. I have become death. I killed him on the first blow. I had a glimpse of death. Void. Nothing forever and ever. And then it was quiet. I was alone in my mind for the first time in weeks. [inhales] It was exactly when I didn't need to be. But then, two, maybe three minutes later I heard. It was faint. But I heard the tone. I checked Napoleon but his body was surely dead. I, uh. Lost it. I don't remember much outside the rage, the confusion. The idea to destroy my brain. When I woke in the hospital, they had strapped me to the bed. And that was fair. The tone was gone. They took me off the medication and disabled the hardware. I had destroyed their property. [scoffs] I was allowed to stay in town, but I just worked at the movie theater. I knew how to thread a projector. And that's that.
L: That's awful.
L: What do you think it was you heard after he was killed?
W: My calling. The road to Damascus. L: Right. But, do you think it could have just have been a psychosomatic response to an extreme situation?
L: So, this-this could all be in your head.
L: So, why do you prefer the notion of an afterlife?
W: Because I'm already dead and I've heard the punchline. L: [gasps] What happened with the technology?
W: They advanced it to human trials.
L: Even after what happened?
W: The tech worked.
L: Did it work?
L: Do you-do you know any more about that?
W: No. Just that it led to that night. And I knew exactly why.
W: Have you been listening?
L: Yes. Of course. But. What happened after The Panic?
W: I won't speak to that.
L: Why not?
W: I'm afraid.
L: Who are you afraid of?
L: If you let them hide, if you don't expose them, if--
W: I'm sorry. I really am. You're not there yet. You're not there yet.
L: Why won't you help me?
Then the Reverend stood up, grabbed either side of my face, and kissed my forehead. He didn't speak another word, but, he didn't need to.
[footsteps] He held my hand and walked me back to my rental car, making sure I found my way in the dark. [car door closes] I watched the night absorb his silhouette as I drove away. I pulled over into a small gas station a few miles down the road and-and I cried. I can't explain why. Three days later, the Reverend, Dr. Warren Chambers, was dead. And beyond the sudden tragedy, there is a cold trail. I have no way of knowing where to go next.
If anything is clearer now, it is that our historical framing of Limetown is shifting, and the questions we once had are no longer the most important ones. Outside, of course, of where everyone went and what happened to force them to leave. Everything else we're just scratching the surface of now. What went on there. What was actually being developed. What the larger implications of that are is suddenly an issue for the present. And not just an academic examination of the past. Communication without speech, according to Dr. Chambers, was the technological success of Limetown. But how successful was it? To what end? And maybe, most significantly but easiest to disregard in matters of science: Why? I need to know. We need to know. But without a lead of any kind, my only option is to go back the way I came. I reached out to everyone who had helped me along the way. Reexamined old leads, and even followed others we knew to be false. This is how I ended up calling Terry Hilkins. Who, as you'll remember from our first episode, is a reporter from the Spartan Sentinel in Sparta, Tennessee, and someone who has been following this story since the beginning. However, it was not the call with Terry that ended up being significant. I should warn our listeners that what you are about to hear might be disturbing to a younger audience.
Terry: I'm sorry. I don't have anything for you. But it's been amazing following this.
Lia: It's been...yeah. I am glad it's happening, but it is a lot.
T: But you're the right person for it. I was sorta jealous at first, but I really don't think I'm cut out for this sort of thing.
L: I'm just in the right place at the right time.
T: I think you should give yourself more credit than that. I've got a lot of threats and calls from people for just walking you through the damn place. And it makes me just wanna quit and move to the woods. Can't imagine what you're dealing with.
L: I didn't mean for any of this to happen.
T: Yeah, you did. I mean, you knew it was possible, right? [call waiting beeps] We all did. [call waiting beeps]
L: Sorry, Terry. My mother is calling. Can you hold on for a second?
L: Hey, Mom. [creaking] Mom?
[Man's Voice, distorted]: Liiii-aaaaa. Lia Haaaadock.
L: Who is this?
Man: Lia Haddock.
L: Where is my mom?
M: Liii-aaa. Lia Haaaadock.
L: Put my mom on the phone right now!
M: Liaaaa. Lia Haddock.
M: So pretty, little Lia.
M: No two front teeth in your little school picture.
L: Get out of my house!
M: So pretty, little Lia.
L: Mom! Pick up the phone! [bleeped out] Mom! [labored breathing]
Woman's Voice: Hello?
Lia's Mom: Lia? I was just walking down the hall and the phone was off the hook--
L: Are you okay? Is Dad there?
LM: I'm fine. He's napping on the couch.
L: Get Dad and leave the house right now. A-and don't tell anyone where you're going.
L: You just have to listen to me. Get whatever you need as quickly as you can and leave.
LM: You can't just say something like that.
L: Mom! Just do it!
LM: Well, where do you want us to go?
L: I-I don't know, and you can't tell me.
LM: Is it happening?
L: Is what happening?
This is Lia again. I don't the next step right now. But I know you're pushing back because I'm getting closer and you're afraid. I will find the next step. How dare you involve my family.
One last thing from us at the Limetown Team. We love making this show for you, and we especially love keeping it as high quality as we possibly can. With that in mind, we'd like to, as tastefully as possible, ask for your donations. If you visit our site at Limetown.com/donate, you'll see it's a pretty straightforward process. Many of you have already donated to us unprompted, which is amazing, but if you haven't yet, and you love the podcast, and would love to see it continue, any help would be appreciated. Thank you for listening.