2×03 Bottleneck (transcript)

May 17, 2022

Cold open:


N: So that time I tried hanging again. 

N: As far as methods of suicide go, hanging sucks, one star, do not recommend. I mean it works, but that’s about all I can say for it. 

N: This is a motel room, I’m probably not even the first person to try that here.

N: In classic me fashion, I have no idea what the fuck to do now. I mean there’s the radio, yeah, but in terms of goals, that seems ridiculously inadequate to the situation. And I’ve… I guess you’d say I slept through one reset, because I only came back after the one that just happened.

N: So if anything changed again, I missed it that time. Yeah, that was real fucking stupid.  Wasn’t… I wasn’t exactly thinking. That’s not an excuse, but.

N: It actually occurred to me, though. What if this… How whenever I kill myself, I come back at the next reset. What if that’s…

N: I dunno, it’s really unsettling to even contemplate. 

N: What if that’s one of the things that changes?

N: What if one of these times I do it and… it takes?


Scene 1

N: I had an inspiration. 

N: Okay, let’s rephrase that: I got my shit together and I figured something out. Maybe. We’ll have to see. 

N: I am… Guess where I am. Go on, you’ll never get it. 

N: I am sitting in a police station. I would say I broke into a police station, but I didn’t have to. Some places are locked and some aren’t, I haven’t figured that out and after a while I stopped trying because come on, does it actually matter? Anyway, turned out this place wasn’t locked, and I just walked on in. 

N: Because I got to thinking, okay, where’s a radio, like who actually has a radio? A real one, like one where you can send as well as receive, and I was driving past here, and it hit me. Sure, I mean, has to be worth a try, right? 

N: Except I realized when I sat down in front of it that, okay, two problems. One, I have no idea how to use it. None. I’ve seen it on TV and shit, that’s literally it. And two, there’s no power. Or at least I can’t get it to turn on. 

N: Yes, I did make sure it was plugged in. 

N: There’s no power—for now. Right? Because that’s another rule of this place that seems like it’s not as reliable as I thought it was. What I still don’t know is whether the power is coming on here… or whether it’s that I’m suddenly there and that’s why…

N: Or whether it’s something else completely. 

N: Trying to figure things out is a maladaptive coping mechanism, I’m probably never going to be able to do it. 

N: What matters is whether it works. 

N: So I’m holed up here until the next reset, and then we’ll see. 

N: That other place. World. Reality. Whatever. Something… Something pretty obviously happened there. Like something happened here. Only… different. Different in maybe the worst way. 

N: So is everyone dead there? I mean that’s the obvious next question. Right? The bodies I saw, in the cars, was that just that one spot? Was it like… a plague? Some kind of weapon? An act of… (laughs) God? 

N: The cars didn’t look like they crashed or anything. They were all just… stopped. Like it all happened in an instant, and everything froze where it was. 

N: Maybe if I can talk to whoever was on the other end, maybe they can tell me something. Maybe they know more than I do. 

N: There’s one other thing hanging around that I’m pretty goddamn sure knows more than I do, and they aren’t really forthcoming about any of it, so. 

N: Okay, I’ve got like… a few more hours. For lack of much else to do, I’m gonna try to get some sleep.


Scene 2

[sound of turning in bed]

N: First time I ever spent a night in jail. 

N: First time I ever spent any time in jail. I don’t think I’ve ever even been in a police station, like even once. 

N: I was always the good kid. In junior high, in high school. Never partied. Never snuck out. Never really did anything. I was online all the time. I was online, and I was… well. Figuring things out. The things that really got me in trouble, in the end. 

N: Maybe if I had been one of the bad kids, maybe that would have been easier. In some ways. 

N: So I was sleeping, but then I woke up, and I started thinking again, like in that half dreaming way you do, and I started thinking about… shadows. 

N: How they’re cast by something. How the sun moves, and they cycle. They start in one place and they end in the other, and then they… start all over again. And how what’s casting them changes, and they change, but it’s always… it’s reversed. It’s mirrored. 

N: And it’s crazy, it doesn’t make any fucking sense, but then again, what does, so like…

N: Maybe that’s what’s going on. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that other world is the real one, and this one is just…

N: I’m just in the shadow. 

N: If I’m in the shadow, what does that make me?


Scene 3

N: Few minutes to go. 

N: You know, I’m thinking about the first time this happened. The first reset, back before I even decided I wanted to call it that… because I didn’t know what else the fuck to call it, but you gotta call something like that something, don’t you? 

N: And I know I must have been scared, because the first time it was like my entire goddamn head got turned inside out. I mean it’s still like that, I’m just mostly used to it by now.  But yeah, I must have been freaking out. But I swear to God, I can’t remember it at all. 

N: There’s actually a lot I don’t remember about those first days. I’d go back and listen to the recordings, but I don’t have them. I left them behind. Even the ones from when I went to the… the facility or whatever. I lost those too somewhere along the way. Or I got rid of them. I don’t remember that either. 

N: I don’t remember a lot of things. 

N: That really hit me, just now. How much I don’t remember. How much is fuzzy, or fragmented, or it’s just not there at all. But what is there is… vivid. Like it just happened. 

N: I don’t know what happens during the reset. I don’t know what the process is, I don’t know what’s going on on the quantum level or whatever. I don’t think I’ll ever really know. But I do know that I can die and then I can come back, which means…

N: What if my brain is getting… what if it feels like my head is getting turned inside out because my head actually is getting turned inside out, and then afterward my brain somehow just… it reforms itself. But every time there’s a little less of it there. 

N: When this started, the world was getting darker and smaller. Then it got big again. Or that’s what it felt like. But I’m not so sure anymore. Because I’m thinking about games, too. Which… I seem to recall I used to make those. In some capacity. And I’m thinking about draw distance, and I’m thinking about how maps load, how they aren’t all there unless you’re there to see them. The world as it exists at any given moment is smaller than it looks like. 

N: I am not making any fucking sense right now. 

N: Except I keep feeling like I am. 

N: Space and time do not work the way they used to. None of the old laws hold up, none of them apply, at least not consistently. Time doesn’t feel like it’s anything like the way it was. I don’t know how long I’ve been out here. Like it’s not just how the hours and days used to run together when I was on vacation or when I had my head really deep in a project, I mean I don’t. Know. How long I’ve been out here. I have no sense of it. 

N: Maybe I just left. Maybe I’ve been out here for years. 

N: I don’t know when I last looked in a mirror. Or took a selfie. Do I look older? 

N: Would I be able to tell? 

N: I need to figure something out here. I need to find a way to make this stop. Because if I don’t, I don’t know how much longer there’s going to be anything left of me. 

[sound of reset cycling up]

N: Okay. Here we go. 

[reset happens, but it sounds different–subtly reversed. After the period of muffled jangling chimes, it cuts off automatically leaving the room in silence]

N: Well. So the power’s on again. 

N: It’s weird, though, like… it doesn’t look stable. It’s not flickering, it’s like it’s flaring, like there’s too much power. 

N: I’m wondering now whether the power is on in the, you know, traditional sense. 

N: Whatever. Right. Okay. I don’t know how long I have. Gotta get moving. (Sound of flicking the radio on, buttons) Uh… hello? Shit, I don’t know what the format is here. (Laughs nervously) Can anyone hear me? …The person I heard before, you there? Anyone? Anyone at all?

N: (sigh)


N: Uh… holy shit. 

N: There’s GPS. On the phone. I just accidentally pulled up maps, and… it knows where I am. I’m in… (laughs) I’m in Ohio. I’m not too far from Akron. I didn’t know that. I haven’t noticed any signs for whatever reason and I don’t know anything about Ohio, I didn’t…

N: If there’s GPS, that has to mean…

[sound of getting out of chair, footsteps, pause]

N: Someone’s sitting in a chair behind a desk here. They’re dead. 

N: They’ve been dead for a while. 

N: I don’t… I don’t want to go closer to look. I’ve never been close to a dead person. 

N: Why am I scared? 

N: What am I scared of? 

[movement, sound of door opening, breeze and birds]

N: It’s… (exhale) Oh my God, it’s so beautiful. The sun…

N: (whispers) Please don’t send me back. I don’t care what happened here, I don’t even care if I end up like them, I don’t give a fuck if I die for good, just please.

N: Please don’t send me back to the dark. 

[gradually rising whispers]

N: Who’s there?

N: Hello?

N: Under the awning. In the corner over there. I’ve seen them before. In my house. 

N: Shadows. 

[dark world snaps back in with the roar of the reset, silence descends]

N: (sigh) Great. Just fucking great. 

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