Episode 2: Agent Orange


The following recordings were recovered from a Tascam model DR07X handheld recorder. It was likely delivered by Mojave Logistics. I will only interject when appropriate, friends. I will see you round the bend. 



News cast:


Tonight we come to you with the devastating news out of Blythe California at our 6 pm hour. Where an unexplained and disastrous explosion has occurred in the downtown area destroying countless homes and businesses in the heart of small town america. So far, there have been 48 reported deaths while hundreds still search frantically for their loved ones. {trailing off} … this comes on the heels of our most recent mass shooting…


Preliminary case notes for missing individual redacted. Case number 526. Agent Russel orange. August 28 2021. 


Subject redacted. Age 33. Last seen pumping gasoline due north of Palo Verde 30-35 minutes after the explosion in downtown Blythe. Subject is believed to be alive. 


Family spoke with the delivery service the subject was employed by and the information they were able to gather was meager at best. At 7:46 PM subject confirmed pick up of the order he had been sent to retrieve. Less than 3 minutes later his GPS signal dropped. They had no other information to provide other than the package must have been delivered without incident as no complaints had been filed and the order was closed in their system.


Personal Note: Anytime I deal with one of those companies in the course of an investigation I am more and more convinced that people are less *employed* these days and more *loosely affiliated.* 


(Cigarette burning)


AOPI received a call requesting services from the subject's family two nights ago. Less than 48 hours after the explosion or whatever the hell happened in Blythe. 


Personal Note: I have seen quite a few disaster areas in my time, in both investigative capacities and in my freelance work in television and I’ve never seen anything like the early footage that came out of that demolished little village. Fucking bad scene there. Bad scene…




…the blast seems to have originated from an abandoned lot at The corner of Lazarus and Nod just west of Main Street. Sherif Varken of Riverside County will begin a press conference shortly. But first, let us take a moment to consider those who have been lost in this terrible tragedy in tonight’s moment of silence, brought to you by the caring folks over at Mojave Logistics. When you need that heat, trust Mojave… (soft music and names trail off…)


Subject has a history of mental illness and has been known to disappear suddenly in the past, only to call after three or four weeks for money to return home, which has always been provided. This scenario has not occurred for over a decade and subject now has two children, five and seven. His family does not believe he vanished again. Normally I would not waste my time with a 33 yo delivery driver who was probably just robbed and left in a ditch out in the desert, happens all the time, but subjects father is an old acquaintance to whom I owe quite a few favors so I agreed to take a cursory look.


Personal Note: A cursory look turned into sweating my balls off in this steaming ramen bowl of a motel room in the fucking desert. The kinda room where all the surfaces are either brown or orange and terribly checkered or houndstoothed, sometimes both. It smells like rotted mold. The walls are wet with condensation.


The camera footage from the service station is chaotic and frantic. People run in and out of the frame grabbing their hair and screaming, water bottles spill out in arced bursts and land in splashes on the hot concrete. Initially I thought this was because of the explosion but upon looking at the map I discovered that would have taken place too far away from the gas station to elicit that reaction from the patrons. But, this assumption relies on the size of the initial blast, which by all accounts, has yet to be determined. Further proof of this lies in the way the subject himself is acting in the video, which is calm, docile, and laser focused on completing his task. I have collected further security footage from the area which I have yet to view.


It should also be noted here that the subject’s entire vehicle was covered in dust, aside from the windshield, which was streaked with a thin layer of wiped mud, as though the subject sprayed washer fluid on it in a dust devil. This information leads me to assume that the subject had been in the radius of the initial event, which according to all reports could not be true, because as we have been told so far, there does not appear to be any survivors. The press conference is coming on, pause notes.


Sheriff press conference:


What we have witnessed here is unlike anything I have seen in all my years as an officer or prior to that in the military. The event appears to have originated from an empty lot on Lazarus lane. This lot has been empty for as long as anyone I have spoken to remembers. Currently, we are waiting on federal officials to send a hazmat team to the area to ensure it is safe to initiate search and rescue missions. We have received reports of sickness among the residents not immediately affected by the initial event. We ask that if you are in the area you stay clear and avoid downtown at all costs. Let us handle it. As always, me and my boys have your best interests at heart. 


In a partnership with Small Town Strong, a new Mojave Logistics initiative, we have been able to send these little robot camera things into the blast zone, cute little fellas I swear to ya, and they can read a license plate from 700 yards away so, talented too. Anyway, we regret to inform our community, based on those feeds, that if they had family in most of the locations downtown, it does not look good. I want to make sure I temper expectations here. IT DOES NOT LOOK GOOD. Whatever happened to our town was a terrible tragedy and we will TAKE DOWN whoever or whatever is responsible. If it was some unknown natural occurrence, I will hunt down god himself and put him under a jail.


You do not mess with my town, my people, my family.


I’ll take a few questions.


Sheriff Varken, sheriff Varken, Tom Waits WXPN news: is it true that after the event occurred, your deputies were seen fleeing from the area in swat team MRAPS, leaving the prisoners locked in cells and refusing to assist citizens begging for their help?


No more questions thank you.


Sheriff Varken (press room noise)


Personal Note: As ex law enforcement I can say this with certainty: no amount of money, tools or weapons will make a man brave or repair ruined morals. You cannot spend your way out of cowardice. 


So we know the subject was headed south out of the valley into the desert. The delivery service was kind enough to give me the address he was bound for after several rounds of phone calls and called in favors on my end. So, being as I am at a loss for data points I suppose the only thing to do is retrace the 


(knock at the door)


It’s about goddamn time.


Tape clicks off.



Personal Note: This place is undoubtedly fucked. I am as close as I can get to the downtown area. Driving along the far end of Main Street, not a cop or anyone else in sight. No officials or cordons, just a bombed out wasteland. On my right I am passing the burned remains of Golden Arches laying atop grey and yellow rubble, a bloated arm next to a shattered point of sale. What a fucking way to die, ringing up some entitled dipshit’s Big Mac no sauce and Sierra Mist. It’s silent outside. The air is thick. The energy is strange. Something unimaginable happened in this place.


Tape clicks off.



Orange: I know it was chaotic but do you remember seeing this man?


Person 1: I’m sorry I wasn’t here that night.


Orange: What about you sir? Do you recognize him? 


Person 2: No I’m good.


Orange: At least look at it? He had a family. A family that is paying me to find him so please just look at it?


Person 2: I don’t wanna talk about what happened, and if that picture is the man I think it is, then I DO NOT WANT TO LOOK AT HIM AGAIN.


Orange: What happened here that night? What was wrong with the people outside the store? I know the blast was too far to see, maybe not too far to hear but definitely too far to see. 


Person 2: (Angry) Get that fucking picture away from me. I never want to see that fucking face again. Get out of this store right now.


Orange: But—


Person 1: Please leave sir. There’s no police to call and we prefer it that way.


Metal clacks on the counter.


Orange: Okay, I get it, thank you gentlemen for your help.


Tape clicks off.



Radio plays, Orange sings along.


Tape clicks off.



Just located a vehicle. It’s burned badly and covered in graffiti, but it’s the same make and model the subject drove. I have marked the coordinates in GPS. It appears as though the car stopped abruptly and slid as there are tire marks nearly 30 feet in length from the middle of the blazing melty asphalt to the right shoulder. The glass from mirrors and windows gleam on the ground and follow along the tire marks at about the halfway point. So the windows must have broken during the time the car was sliding along the road to the edge. Only tiny drops of blood outside the driver side door, nosebleed maybe. Not heavily injured though, at least not here. The smell of burned foam and plastic sits heavy in the air the closer I get, as though a few things are still smoldering, but there’s no smoke. No heat except that of the waning late afternoon sun. If there was anything left after the car was set alight then it’s all been cleared out by the toy pool soaking meth head weirdos that live on the outskirts of every small desert town. Everything is flat dirt with desert scrub in every direction, creosote bushes and a few spiked torture devices masquerading as succulents. Way out to the west, in the direction of *home,* I can see a sand devil whipping itself up out of the primordial earth to begin a whirling and short lived dance on the horizon. If I were to break down here I would follow the road either back the way I came or continue on in the other direction hoping I ran into a town or store or… I just don’t understand why he did not use his phone? (Phone beeping in background) I have signal so I must be in the range of towers.


Why wouldn’t that attendant look at the picture?

(Gunshots in the distance.)

What was that?!?


Tape clicks off.



Orange screams off mic: Hey, don’t walk away! Please. (Footsteps running in the sand) I’m looking for someone, please! Wait! (Footsteps picking up speed.) 


Tape clicks off.



I swore I saw a man out here a few moments ago. I heard a strange clacking noise, like gunshots in the distance. I started heading in that direction looking for the source and I saw this shadow in the distance, the shape of a man miraged in steam and shifting shadows. But I could make him out. I know he was there. I’ve never been in a place that felt darker than this. The sun began to go down about 20 minutes ago.


Tape clicks off.



Orange sings the same song as earlier only this time you can hear the anxiety in his voice. Dirt and gravel crunches under slow footsteps. Orange breathes hard. LOUD SNAP. Other eerie noises in the background. NOISES BEGIN


Tape clicks off.



I do not know what is going on around here. This is a nightmare place. And to make things worse, My phone died a while back and I have completely lost my sense of direction. I have seen no further signs of the subject and was following a trail that was recently left by a couple sets of footprints but I lost that a while back too. It’s just so fucking dark out here.  I don't know if you can make it out but if you can… if you can hear that terrible noise in the background? Can you hear it? It’s following me. It comes in close range and then fades back but it’s everywhere. And it's been with me awhile. The screen won’t light up on this goddamn stupid smart watch and now I can’t even see what fucking time it is. 



I know something is close by. Whatever it is it’s stalking me and I just wanna find my car and get the fuck out of here and report back to his family that if he ended up here, he’s gone, that I’m not coming back out here to look for him. It seems like I have been wandering out here for hours but I feel like not even an hour ago the sun was still up. 




I guess I maybe just need to stay where I am until the sun comes back. But it feels like this place has never been touched by the sunrays, or any other light for that matter. It’s… HE TRIPS STUMBLES AND LANDS HARD ON THE GROUND AND AS HE DOES THE NOISE RUSHES IN TOWARDS HIM. 






Sherpa: Would you like some help?


Orange: What the– who is that? Am I just hearing this? Are you–


S: No Agent Orange, you are not just hearing this. I am real, this place is real. I am offering you a chance to walk away. Let me help you up and then you turn and leave immediately and never come back. I might even turn the sun back on for you if you ask nice and sweet like. 


O: Get the fuck back. Get away from me. What is happening here?


S: I *am* trying to get away from you. 


A woman whimpers in the distance… She screams for help.


S: I am trying to give you the chance to get away from yourself. This place, it’s a tiny hell. I love it but I am a man of a *particular constitution.* And I don’t imagine you faring very well here at all. So again, I am offering you a deal. It’s a one time only deal, taco tuesday, everything must go, and there are no negotiations. You leave, you live. Simple, cut, pasted and PDFed. Take it and go unaltered into the future. It’s the only outcome in which you maintain that last bit of life and love you have left in you. That small sliver of soul somewhere in there.


O: Who is crying and… and why do I know that voice? I know I uh I have heard that voice before.


S: Well Orange, you’d do well not to pay no mind to her. There ain’t nothing good there. Nothing that leads to a happy, well adjusted future, that is.  


O: But I…


S: Last time. Will you allow me to help you up so that you may leave? At a snail's pace or a scurry, don't matter too much as long as you get gone. 




S: You never know when to give up. Do ya, orange?




O: Is it Anarcha, it can't be Anarcha. 






O: Oh my god, what the fuck. What, what (he whispers horrified) what are you?




Tape clicks off.



Narrator: Now friends, I must interject here to describe what Mr. Orange sees before him cuz well, he can’t. And while that is unfortunate, this is important so listen up.




You see, well before any of us were here, way back in *time immemorial* you might say, this place was no more than a peaceful cage for the ancient heart of the universe. There existed no reason to consider danger might arise. As danger was not a concept. Cuz Concepts had yet to  be conceptualized. But slowly, and surely, all those horrific energies rose as energy tends to do and having no mechanism for control, no vent for dispersion, those energies solidified. Solidified and threatened to sit upon the throne of everything, bastard usurpers waiting and watching for the slip and fall, nothing more than fuzzy chaos in the peripheries, ever approaching. The closer this chaos came to organizing, to becoming something *more,* the deeper the heart yearned for security and protection. And so Nature being nature, defined and marked by evolution and survival, this animal standing before Mr. Orange became the answer to that yearning. A blessing, if you will. But blessings can be trade-offs if you're not careful and that is exactly what this being became. A real eye for an eye situation and we all know how that goes. But that friends is for later and we are losing momentum so: 


the creature flowing before Orange only had half a face, the other half of which could not be called a face by any conventional means of the word, but regardless, remained *a face.* As it had an eye, and more than a few mouths like infected sores with yellow curdled milk teeth frothing and contracting. A vile noise emanating from within as if a perpetually dying infant held residence there, wailing through the throes. The beast seemed to melt in place, a sickly wave coursing over the body from one side to the other like the way blood sloshes in a crab. It was smaller than he, and had it shown a few of its other faces, he might have even considered it adorable. Then again, if it showed him its real face then our Mr. Orange would be no more. Them’s the brakes. 


It seemed to roll across the desert floor, but left no disturbance in the places it moved. Almost like it was not really there but boy was it and when it moved toward him it sloshed and crashed like waves of an ocean littered with the detritus and decay of a thousand sunken ships.


It squealed at him, slamming down six feet from where he stood, the mouths biting at the air, trying to taste him. Tiny tongues lashing and whipping as it stretched itself above him as thin as a cord and slid upward, dangled there before him. 


The atmosphere around Mr. Orange went still and from the string a small crystal drop formed. Pale pink lightning broke the air around it, sizzling and crackling like a tesla coil. In the translucent droplet he saw the face of the man who had offered to help him, growing larger as the tear forming from the string grew. When the cord had filled the crystal, it fell to the ground with a magnificent spray of light–



S: I offered to let you leave. But Agent Orange just always has to be a hero, don’t he? Even when, hell almost especially when, there is no one left to save. I see you there all dumbfounded and awed and it reminds me of when I first came to the ranch, in this current form, anyhow. How I long for the good ole days when men were men and monsters were monsters and that twain had yet to meet. But the world is different now Agent Orange, for you anyhow. The life you knew, you won’t remember for long, as you my boy, are now a ward of the wireland and it is time for us to do our little ritual.


O: I knew that voice. I know it. I’ve heard it. Tell me who it was.


S: That’s right Agent Orange: latch onto a detail of the life you lived before now. Bring it back to the ranch with you for safekeeping and make it an altar for which to remember, if remembering suits you at all. Or you can shake that voice off now, never have to think of it again, molt on out of those traumas and leave them behind. For a host of new traumas await.




S: Yes, I wouldn’t expect you’d have too much to say right about now. But that’s okay, I’ll explain it to you: There are people who live on the west coast of Africa, there in Gabon, in the crook of the bend. They follow a system of beliefs there that some call a hodge podge religion of animal spirits and ancestor veneration but I myself call it elevated and elegant. See, they use a sort of enlightenment cheat code called tabernanthe iboga. Now I won’t go too far into detail on the experience but it basically shows you how fucked up you are and starts to heal those fucked up wounds. Like a soul bandaid I imagine. The ritual they perform is called breaking open the head. You see, the pull from reality associated with the root is so strong that you fare better, mentally speaking, waking up into it *rather* than just being jolted away to some foreign alien landscape. So after they take the substance, a Ng'ang'a–which by the way is one of the more fun varieties of shamans. They dress up scary and hold the local phone to the spirit world–anyway this guy grabs a stick and just whacks them in the head, knocking ‘em out so they can wake up on the spirit plane. 


O: I just wanna go now. Just let me go now. Please


S: Now there won’t be no soul healing here, no sir, and I think you just about figured that out by now, but it is a road that’s best traveled in the dark. And I do want you to know, Orange, this favor I’m about to do for you? Is the last goodwill you will ever know. And I know, It’s a real fucking bummer but don’t be born a tool if you aren’t up to the task: LOUD WOOD CRACKING SOUND




Tape click off.


Now about this time, friends, Mr. Orange was laying on the cool desert floor, blood forming a black pool for his swimming head to float in. His vision is blurry and wet but he could see the creature leering over him and from this angle it appeared the entire creature was made of the saliva dripping from those hundreds of mouths biting and licking at the air. The gaping holes with their jagged soft looking teeth just floating on the surface of this terrible and tiny ocean. It made him feel separate from himself, as if he were losing something vital just by bearing witness to this thing. But as he faded deep into the sweet void of a mind vacant of thought and reason, he chuckled to himself cuz he’d never seen such an ugly motherfucker. 


And then nothing.


The salivating monster formed an arm made of mouths that held the lid of a tincture bottle between two sets of teeth that somehow managed to be both sharp and fuzzy simultaneously. It moved with precision and grace, not the splish splash filth show it put on for Mr Orange.


The last thing he saw was a silver bead form on the dropper that fell slow motion into his eye like a mercurial spore planting the first signs of a mycorrhiza in his brain. But how long before the symbiote becomes a stranglehold? I dunno friends, I guess we find that out together. 


There is one last thing friends, before I let you go. I found one more recording that seems pertinent to our ends here, that is, fully understanding the scope of the thing we are dealing with, because we will never understand that thing *itself,* only the way that it hangs over us like an omen of ill repute baselessly tinkering with the lives of you, me, and everyone we know. Mr Orange mentioned he had collected further camera footage from the Palo Verde area around the time his subject, our driver, was seen pumping gas prior to falling through the earth. I will let this play us out friends, thank you for joining us at WIRELAND Ranch. We will talk to you again soon.