Episode 5: Into the void, AKA, Dean From ‘The Iron Giant’ Shouting ‘ART!’ For Twenty Minutes

Bee:

It’s The Beacon.

Music Selection: Intro Tunes.

Bee:

Hey there, everyone.  This is The Beacon, the podcast where I have powers and I am trying to find…more people with powers.  I’m Bee, like the insect.  And recently, I found Capybara, or Capy, and Newt, both of whom also have powers like me, only, we didn’t exactly see eye to eye on how to use them.  I think we should use them to deal with the monster roaming the campus grounds and attacking students, but they think…well, I’m not sure what exactly they think, but I guess I’m trying to find out today.

But first, a Fox update.  Iiiiit’s the Fox Box!

Or not.  If that’s dumb.  Either way, Fox is someone who contacted me online about having these powers too.  And then they completely disappeared off the internet for a little. But then they came back and we talked again so we’re cool now.

And I didn’t record during the actual chat that time because A—that’s not great audio content, just typing back and forth for an hour and B—I was pretty tired that day, and I didn’t want to keep talking.  You know, it’s funny—you never notice how tiring just talking can be until you actually have to do a lot of it.

But anyway, I’ve still got the transcript from what Fox and I talked about, so I’m going to go over a few parts of that to keep you guys updated on the situation, since Fox is basically the only friendly person I've found who I can be open about all this stuff with.  

First of all, after doing basically the chat equivalent of squealing and jumping up and down out of sheer joy to see them again, and lots of exclamations “I'm so happy you’re back!” I realized I needed to confirm that this actually was the Fox I talked to before and not just someone pretending to be them.  So I asked them to tell me their username from that forum where we talked. And of course they knew that immediately, so I think they’re the real deal.

So, after that, I asked Fox, “What happened to you last time?  Why did you disappear? Did I do something wrong? Is there some magic subculture etiquette I messed up on?”

Which, I get, is a lot of questions, and I know some people think it’s bad to double text or something, but, y’know, I did have a lot of questions, so, whatever.

So then Fox said, “No, you were fine.  I got nervous that you might be faking, then I got guilty that you might not be but I was still pushing you to show yourself, then I got anxious that you might try to push me too and I realized I might not be ready to share so I left and deleted so neither of us could try to do anything the other didn’t want to do.”

That took a long time for them to type, but it was such a relief to hear.  I’ve been worrying for weeks now that I did something to ruin it, so it was oddly reassuring to hear that it was all because Fox was somehow even more anxious than I was.

So, we apologized back and forth a bit after that, and then I told them again I was just happy they were back, and they apologized for upsetting me and said we didn’t have to prove our powers to each other, but we could at least talk about them if we wanted to.  They said it would be nice if we could actually have a conversation about them.

And, of course I agreed, because with things the way they are with Newt and Capy, I’m not sure how much I’ll actually be able to talk to them.  Plus, Fox just seems…nice.  I dunno.  It might just be because I met them online and I’ve always found it easier to talk to faceless, unpressuring strangers than to actual people in real life.  But I also think Fox may just be a nice person who’s been alone with a big secret for a long time and is now finally ready to reach out. And I’m happy to be here for her.

Oh, by the way!  Fox is a girl! She told me that.  Weirdly enough, that ended up being one of the most concrete answers I got from her.  Even though she wanted to answer my questions, it turns out Fox doesn’t actually know that much more about our magic than I do.  She also says I’m really the first person she’s met who has magic too.

And I admit, that was kind of a hard pill to swallow.  I was hoping that me and Newt and Capy were the outliers, being alone out here, like having these powers is supposed to come with its own secret community that you’re born into.  I kind of told Fox that and she said, “I kept hoping that was the case too when I was younger. Like, my Hogwarts letter would show up any day, like in those Harry Potter books.”

Fox says she’s a Slytherin, by the way.  Hufflepuff pride for me.

Oh, and she says she has water powers!  She says her powers were triggered when she was a little girl and she fell into a river and used water magic to float herself to safety.  Honestly, I really should have asked about that in our first meeting, but it didn’t really come up until I was telling her about Newt and Capy.  The now-previous episode wasn’t out yet when we talked, so I had a lot to tell her about those two. She’d heard I found them, but not that they had such different powers from us, so she was just as excited as me to hear about them.

She said, “This has to mean there’s a lot more of us.  There wouldn’t be just one of them and two of us. There’s got to be people with a lot of different powers out there!”

Then I said “I hope there’s at least more people like us with elemental powers.  Maybe I’ll get along better with them than I do with other sorts.”

And, y’know, I meant it mostly as a joke, but Fox said…well, she said, “You should really keep trying to get along with those two.”

And I said, “I know,” along with that sort of hyphen-underscore-hyphen “ugh” face.

And then Fox said, “You really are lucky to have found them.  Both of them. Even if you can’t work with them against the wolf-lizard, you should keep in touch.  You have each other now and you really should take advantage of that.”

And, well, I knew she was right.  I just wished I could be talking to her instead.  I asked her, “Do you think we can meet in real life sometime?”

And she said, “Someday, I hope.  But please, at least try to get along with other people where you are.”

Which…I agreed to.  We talked a little more after that, but, um, not really about magic.  Just stuff.

Anyway, it’s been a week since then and I am trying to live up to what I promised her, which is why I’m recording this in the hallway of the art building.  I am attempting to get to know Newt. I’ll get around to Capy eventually but I feel like I should start with Newt since we clicked a liiiittle better at the meeting.  Plus, I’ll be honest, large crowds of jocks scare me so I’m not even sure how I’m going to approach Capy again. But that’s for another episode.

Basically, I’ve spent the past few days trying to get a little extra info on Newt, see if there’s anything out there to help me slot into his life a little more easily.  Even though we got along better when we met, he still seems like fairly closed off person, and I figured I could use all the ammunition I could get. Here’s what I came up with.

First of all, he’s from a small town in one of those general Midwesty fly-over states with an “I” sound and an “O” sound.   So, take your pick.  Basically, he comes from a place where you’d expect him to wear plaid instead of the sheer amount of black he does.  There’s not much on him from middle school or earlier, but from sophomore year in high school on, he basically explodes onto the arts section of his local paper.

Like, based on the articles that mention his exploits, it seems like he started trying his hand at everything during this period—water colors, charcoals, graphic design,  photography, basket weaving—even poetry at one point.  And pretty soon, he’s cleaning up shop at local competitions with the stuff he’s made.  Blue ribbons and trophies galore for Mr. Newt. Pretty soon, the papers are reporting on how he’s competing at state and regional and even national levels.  Even in college, he’s been a frequent exhibitor in art shows. Apparently, he’s even been profiled in—well, I won’t say that. That might give away who he is.  But let’s just say, my eyes aren’t the only ones on him.

But even though he could have his own studio at this point, Newt is still an art major here.  A fifth year art major here, at my school.  Trust me, our art program is not that good.  He’s so beyond this, he even student teaches a class for non-majors on the weekend.  So I don’t totally get why he’s here?

Maybe it has to do with his power.  He said he got his months ago, so maybe he didn’t want to leave because of it?  Like, maybe it has something to do with this area, like he can only use it while on the school grounds!  Powers are supposed to have limits like that, right? Or maybe he doesn’t want to move on to the real world before he figures his powers out?

Oh, he’s also surprisingly active on social media?  Just based on all the black and the attitude, I expected him to be a little more anti-social, anti-establishment, but he posts a lot of photography on his Instagram and apparently spends a lot of time @ing other artists he likes on Twitter.  I guess I’m not in the best position to judge people based on how they use the internet, but still, this all just makes me even more uncertain about what to think about this guy.

Like, is he really that goth?  Is he really on social media that much to make art contacts?  Or is it all just a ruse to mess with people? And how does his magic play into all of it?

That’s what I’m here to find out.  See, like I said earlier, Newt student teaches an art class on the weekend—a class with open enrollment, if I might add.  Sooo, you know, I just figured—

Newt:

Bee?  What are you doing here?

Bee:

OH!  Um, hey, Newt.  Fancy meeting you here!

Newt:

Not too fancy, actually.  I teach here every weekend.

Bee:

Wh—oh—is this—is this your class?  Do you teach this class? I had no idea!  What a coincidence!  I just thought I might, um, try to take this art class!

Newt:

…Really?

Bee:

Um, yeah!  Totally! See, I’ve never been much of an art person, but I’ve always kind of wanted to be, and with all the self-improvement with the magic and stuff lately, I figure I’d finally try and give it a go!

Actor Sound: Newt sighs.

Newt:

You’re just here to see me again, aren’t you?

Bee:

What?  Nooo, no, I just wanted to take a class for self-improvement and—and yours was open!

Newt:

You know that if you want to talk about any of this at all on your show, I’ll be able to just listen and tell if you’re lying, right?

Bee:

…Okay, I’m just here to see you again.  But it’s just because that last meeting ended so badly and there’s so few of us and I just wanted to try to get along and-and…and, yeah…

Newt:

You could have just asked, you know.

Bee:

What?

Newt:

I don’t actively dislike you.  If you wanted to talk, you didn’t have to come up with this whole convoluted plan.  You could have just asked. You can still just ask.

Bee:

Oh.  Do you…wanna talk sometime?

Newt:

Yes.  Right after this class works for me.

Bee:

Phew!  Good to hear!  I’ll just leave you to it and—

Newt:

Or you’ll stay until class is finished.

Bee:

You…don’t want to kick me out of your class?

Newt:

Now, why would I want that?  I think everyone deserves the chance to learn about art.

Transition: Fade.

Setting Change: Art studio.

Newt:

Alright everyone, settle in, settle in.  I see we have some new faces here today, so let me introduce myself. My name is ██████ and I’m an art major here.  This is an introductory course hosted by the college on how to begin creating with various mediums.  Remember, we’re all learning here, all at different levels, so this is a judgment-free zone. If you want to offer harsh critiques to fellow students, feel free to enroll in art 201 for $500 a credit.

Actor Sound: Chorus of laughter, including from Bee.

Newt:

So, we’ll be working with charcoal today.

Distance/Volume: Newt’s voices fades to indistinct lecture.

Bee Voiceover:

Hi everyone, future Bee here to provide a little commentary.  I figured it might be both a little weird and a little rude to say all this during the lecture, so I’d cut my commentary in here.  

First of all, it turns out Newt was actually being serious when he said he thinks everyone deserves the chance to learn about art, and that wasn’t just some cryptic way of saying he was going to psychologically punish me for following him to his class.  He just let me sit in on his class and even gave me pointers when it was time to work on our pieces.

All this gave me kind of an unexpected look at Newt.  Weirdly enough, he’s actually kind of…nice when he’s teaching.  And like, that’s not to say that he’s super mean otherwise, but he can come off as a little…cold?  But when he teaches, he’s, sort of, warm and kind.  He walked around to everyone and told us what we were doing well and how to do it better and I actually got a half decent charcoal piece of an apple out of it.  He was just—so cool .  Almost to the point where I…I wish I hadn’t talked to him more after class…

Transition: Fade out all dialogue.

Newt:

Alright, I’ll see some of you next week.  We’re doing watercolors again, so bring clothes you aren’t afraid to get dirty.  Okay, bye now. Bye.

Sound Effect: Classroom door close.

Newt:

Well?  Was that a satisfactory glimpse into my life?

Bee:

Newt, that was—that was great!  You’re a great teacher!

Newt:

Well, that’s debatable.

Bee:

No, seriously.  If you can help someone like me make this, then you’re really on your game.  Like, look at this! This actually kind of looks like an apple!

Newt:

You should really get out of the habit of saying things like that, you know.

Bee:

That...it looks like an apple?  I mean, it is a little smudgy, but I thought it was okay otherwise.

Newt:

No, I meant that “someone like me” talk.  It really doesn’t do you or anyone else any good to talk about yourself so disparagingly.  I think there’s a lot of people who could do a lot more if they wanted to, but that “someone like me” attitude always seems to hold them back.  They give up before they even try.

Bee:

Oh, well...I’m not sure it’s really an attitude, it’s just...Hey, I got back in contact with Fox, y’know!

Newt:

Fox?  Your internet friend?

Bee:

Yeah!  She’s super nice and she says she’s got water powers!

Newt:

Hm.  Interesting.

Bee:

We’ve been chatting a whole lot, and the more I talk to her, the more certain I am she’s one of us.  Like, there’s a lot she hasn’t told me about herself yet, but she’s always so open when talking about her power and how it feels to use it, and it’s just so nice to finally hear that from someone else, y’know?

Newt:

Sure.  I get that.

Bee:

Speaking of which, can I see your power in action again?  Yours is so cool and unique.

Newt:

I’m not sure if “unique” is the right word for comparing my power with yours, given how few of us there appear to be.

Bee:

Either way, please?  I-I was actually really sad when your deer got destroyed.  I never even got to touch it, to see what it felt like.

Newt:

Alright, alright.  Pull up a stool right there and I’ll scratch something out.

Bee:

Thanks!

Sound Effect: Charcoal scratch on paper.

Bee:

So, um...do you mind if I ask you a few questions about your powers?

Newt:

I have a feeling that if I say ‘no,’ then you’ll probably just try to ask them again later.

Bee:

Uhm, probably.

Actor Sound: Bee laughs.

Newt:

Shoot, then.

Bee:

Can I ask—if you can answer this—how you got your powers?  I mean, not as like a literal how, because lord knows where any of this stuff came from, but it seems like for both me and Capy, us figuring out we could use our powers was triggered by sort of stressful or intense events, and I was wondering if that was the same for everyone.

Newt:

I supposed that’s a solid theory.  I wasn’t in any situation quite so dire as being attacked by a monster, but I was struggling with what was supposed to be the centerpiece for my senior exhibit.  I was having so much difficulty trying to convey my meaning to the canvas that I must have triggered my power. My subject walked right off the page, just as I’d nearly finished my work.

Bee:

Oh.  Oh, wow.  That must have been—Oh, wait, there wasn’t anyone around you then, right?

Newt:

No, you don’t need worry about that.  I had a solo studio reservation that night, as I usually do.  I did lose the piece I was working on, however. I always lose the image when it comes to life, and then again when it crumbles out here.

Bee:

So, what’s the longest something has—

Newt:

Sit still please.

Bee:

Sorry!  Didn’t mean to break your concentration.  I was just curious, how long can your creations live off the page?  Is there a limit?

Newt:

I’m not sure if there’s a hard limit, but they do all fall apart eventually, and it always seems proportional to the amount of time I spend on them.  That deer I sketched in a few minutes probably wouldn’t have lasted half an hour. Something I spent half an hour on might last for six. I’ve also never had one last past me going to sleep.

Bee:

That’s interesting.  So, uh, do you think those things are tied to your consciousness?  Can you control them once they’re off the page? Is there some kind of mental link?  Can you experience what they do?

Newt:

That’s a lot of questions at once, Bee.

Bee:

Oh...yeah.  Sorry.

Newt:

What do you actually want me to answer?

Bee:

Um...well...I guess, I would like to know about the logistics of your power, but, I guess I really wanna know...the other day, you said you’d had your powers for eight months now.  Is that right?

Newt:

Mm-hm.  That’s right.

Bee:

And you didn’t meet any other people like me or Capy in that time?

Newt:

Not to my knowledge, no.

Bee:

Well...um...can I ask then...did you even...look?

Silent beat.

Bee:

Sorry, I just mean, you didn’t seem as excited about meeting other people with powers and you seem kind of blah about your own powers and-and I don’t know, maybe I had really good luck finding you and Capy and Fox all at once, but eight months seems like a really long time to go without finding anyone, or even looking.

Silent beat.

Distance/Volume: Bee speaks quietly, timidly.

Bee:

So, did you look?

Newt:

No. I did not.

Bee:

But—why not?  How could you not?  Like, I couldn’t even go two weeks having these powers without having a full-blown breakdown thinking I was the only one like me and that I was doomed to be alone forever and ever!

Newt:

Well, that may just be a problem for you, Bee.  It never bothered me.

Bee:

But why?  Why does it not worry you?  How do you not seem worried about finding anyone else?  About being with other people like you? About—everything else going on?  With—all—this?

Newt:

Bee, was all this just about getting us together to fight that monster?

Bee:

No!  Not—not all of it.  But it still is important, Newt.  And maybe I can’t convince you to think otherwise.  But I would still like to understand why all of this doesn’t freak you out.

Newt:

Well, it…

Actor Sound: Newt sighs frustratedly as he struggles to explain.

Newt:

Well, what would it matter if it did?

Bee:

...What?

Newt:

What would it matter if I did what you’re doing—threw my time, energy, and safety into fighting monsters and looking for people that may not exist?

Bee:

Well...well, you wouldn’t be alone in what you were doing, for one.  And then you could work with other people and figure things out and then—

Newt:

And then all your problems would be magically solved?  I don’t think so. Your best plans could go awry and get you hurt.  You could expose your powers and become the subject of a worldwide inquisition.  You could find out one of your friends is an even bigger threat than that monster you were fighting.  All you’re doing is digging yourself deeper and deeper into unknown issues, and all in service of an unknown future.  No thank you. I have more important things to do with my time.

Bee:

What could possibly be more important than this?

Sound Effect: Charcoal snapped down on easel.

Bee:

Oh god.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to shout.

Newt:

...Bee, do you know why I became an artist?

Bee:

Um...no?

Newt:

Okay, do you know why most people become artists?

Bee:

Um, sorry, no.

Newt:

It’s what I’ve heard from almost every single one of my classmates and students and professors.  It’s because they need to create. It’s because they have an imagination beyond their control, always pestering them with ideas of something that needs to exist, and they take it upon themselves to learn the forms and techniques necessary for art because they need to be the one to bring that something into the world.  There are a million more accessible and readily gratifying careers out there, but they become artists because they need to breathe life into something. Understand?

Bee:

I...yes, I think so.  So, do you have that...need?

Newt:

No.  I never felt the need to create anything.

Bee:

Oh.

Newt:

But I was inspired by someone who did.  My mother loved to create.  My mother loved everything, but she had a special place in her heart for immortalizing that everything with whatever medium she could get her hands on.  She had a whole craft room full of supplies and the things she made from them. Watercolors of a cute bird she’d seen that day, a collage of her dream dress made from magazine clippings of the finest celebrity gowns, a miniature castle with copper towers and a silver drawbridge made of spare change she found on the street and between couch cushions...I never lost a single penny because I always wanted to be able to give her something for that castle.

Bee:

Newt…

Newt:

She wasn’t formally trained in anything.  She wasn’t an artist by trade. She was a nurse.  She dedicated her professional life to helping and bringing comfort to the injured and the sick.  Which was why it seemed even more…cruelly ironic when they found the brain tumor.

Bee:

Oh, Newt.

Newt:

She lost most of her mobility over the course of her illness and most of the time, she—she wasn’t herself entirely.  But when she was, she still wanted to work on whatever projects she could think of. I helped her with them when her hands weren’t steady.  She died just shy of one year after her diagnosis, just a little before my 13th birthday.

Bee:

Newt, I...I can’t even imagine how painful that must have been.  I am…so, so sorry.

Newt:

…Yes, well, you and everyone else in town.  You and everyone else for three months. Those first three months, it was always, “So sorry,” and “deepest condolences.”  After six months, it was, “How are you doing? Has it been difficult?” And then, after a year, after she’d been in the ground for just one year, everyone just…forgot.  They buried her in their memories and they expected me to do the same.  And in the end, it was just pure fucking luck that I wasn’t forced to as well.

Bee:

What happened then?

Newt:

Everyone wanted to forget her.  Even my father. A year after she died, he cleaned out all the spaces that had been hers.  Sold some of her things at a garage sale. Gave most of it away to charity or to relatives.  But then, he couldn’t think of what to do with all her art projects. They’re not exactly in need of amateur watercolors at Goodwill.  But he definitely wasn’t going to keep them. I think he was considering throwing them away until my aunt happened to mention the community center showcase for local artists that was coming up.  My father decided the art could at least live there until the show was over, and then the community center could decide what to do with it.

He took them in—hundreds of them, he couldn’t tell what was good enough to leave or bring so he just took everything—and the volunteer curator was kind enough to set up a wing with her pieces.  Or maybe she was just sorry for my father, showing up clueless with penny castles and collage dresses stuffed in his trunk. Clearly, he didn’t know what they were worth to him anymore.

But when the exhibit opened up and people came to see them, there was…there was something magical about their reactions.  They saw my mother’s birds and gowns and castles and all at once, they could all see the joy and wonder she had seen in the world.  And when they saw the picture of her beside them and her name beside all her works, they had no choice but to remember her, for all the pain it may still bring them.

My mother’s art became the most popular exhibit in the town’s history.  People came from states away just to see it. Journalists wrote about it as a local phenomenon.  It got to the point where the center agreed to make her art part of a permanent installation. Now, everyone who walks in there learns her name, and sees a little of the joy that she did.

Bee:

But…that all sounds wonderful.  I mean, of course, not the death or your trauma or any of that, but it seems like all of the rest of it worked out…okay in the end.

Newt:

If you define “okay” as “saved from the empty void of obscurity by mere happenstance,” then sure.  It all worked out for her. But not me. Bee, have you figured out yet why I want to be an artist?

Bee:

Be…cause…you…want to uphold your mother’s legacy as an artist?

Newt:

It’s because at age 12,  I learned that everyone dies, and at age 13, I learned that everyone gets tossed away and forgotten by those who claimed to love them.  They forget everything you were and all the things you did. In the end, it’s only the things you make that live on, and if you’re allowed to live on through them, then you’re one of the lucky ones.  If that fact doesn’t both terrify and motivate you more than the possibility of what a single monster could do to you, then I don’t know what else to tell you.

Bee:

Newt…what happened to you and your family was terrible, and I want to say that I understand why it makes you think like that, but honestly, I still don’t.  I think that what we’re doing—what we could be doing here matters.  I think we need to be there for each other to keep from being swept away by all our loneliness and confusion.  And I think we should be doing what we can to help keep people who aren’t part of our world safe from it. And if you don’t get that, then…then I just don’t understand you.

Newt:

You don’t have to understand me, Bee.  You just have to remember.

Bee:

I…don’t think I could forget you if I wanted.   This conversation has been…kind of disappointing, but thank you for having it with me.  I guess I’ll just…take off now.

Newt:

Hold on.  Would you at least like to see the finished piece?

Actor Sound: Bee sighs.

Bee:

Sure.

Newt:

Alright.  Finishing touches, and…

Sound Effect: Art crinkle tinkles.

Bee:

Oh, that’s…me.  You drew me?

Newt:

You were the most readily available subject.

Sound Effect: Moving art crunchy sounds.

Bee:

She’s…mirroring what I’m doing.  It’s…so strange.

Newt:

They do that sometimes when the subject is nearby.  I think it’s their coping mechanism to look more real.

Bee:

…She looks scared.

Newt:

Yeah.  She does.

Transition: Fade.

Setting Change: Dorm room.

Silent beat.

Sound Effect: Finger drumming.

Silent beat.

Bee:

“Hey Fox, are you up?”

Silent beat.

Sound Effect: Chat window bleep.

Bee:

Fox says hi.

Credits, read by Claudia Elvidge:

The Beacon is written and produced by Claudia Elvidge.  The voice of Newt is Robert Baulderstone. For more information, visit thebeaconpodcast.com or follow us on Twitter @thebeaconpod.

Like what we’re doing here?  Then consider leaving us a rating and review on iTunes or the platform of your choosing.  Doing so helps us get noticed, and also, makes us feel just a little better about ourselves.

You can also help us by setting up a monthly donation at our Patreon page, where you can get cool rewards like access to minisodes and other bonus content, and personalized voice messages from the cast.

Try The After Disaster Broadcast.  It’s a fresh and much needed take on the post-apocalyptic genre, featuring a very different perspective on what’s essential for survival.  We think you’ll like it.