Listen to the episode

[Tape clicks on]

Statement of Amber Preston, regarding her missing partner and their possible return. Original statement given to the X-7 division of the NYPD from subject via writing on the 16th of December, 2019, recorded on the 26th of December, 2019. Recording by Juniper Powell, lead archivist of the Supernatural Preservation Order of New York.

Statement begins;

I have - had a partner. Their name was Sage Bukhari, and they were wonderful - we were in a queerplatonic relationship, you see, and we’d been living together for a couple years by then. We lived in a basement apartment in Brooklyn, West 1st Street. It was damp in the winter and we paid a fortune in electricity bills running dehumidifiers, but we painted the walls in rainbow colours and filled it with cats and crochet blankets, and made it home. We never had any problems in our relationship, we were always there for each other. We talked it through whenever anything was upsetting us - we didn’t keep any secrets from each other. There wasn’t anything that could have caused them to just… run off or something. We were happy. I know it sounds unhealthy for me to reminisce so heavily on the past right now, but you need to understand that what happened to me… to us, was so out of the blue and unexpected, that I still struggle to process it.

One September afternoon, Sage went missing. It wasn’t anything really sudden, I just thought they’d been held up at the doctor’s and went about business as usual. But we were supposed to go out for dinner and - when they weren’t back hours later, of course I got very worried.

Within the first day or so of them being gone I contacted the police and filed a missing persons report. I called them incessantly but got no reply. The last text they sent me was ‘At the Doctor’s, may take longer than usual. See you soon <3’.

Sage didn’t come back for weeks. No sign of them anywhere, nothing the police could find… it was like they’d just vanished off the face of the planet. When they first disappeared I used to jump every time my phone rang and rush to answer it, hoping it might be some news of Sage. Both I, and the police checked with their usual doctor but they hadn’t been that day. At first the medical receptionist wouldn’t help me - HIPAA, he said, but when he saw how distraught I was he told me Sage’s insurance had refused to cover some treatment their doctor had recommended for their eczema and their notes said they had found a low-cost alternative elsewhere. I looked through the pile of medical stuff in their room and found a consent form for some new skin treatment - I think they signed up for a trial? That’s what it seemed, but why didn’t they tell me?…

Desperate, I called anyone who knew them, their friends, their high school friends, their family who, if I’m being honest they weren’t very close to, anyone who might be able to guess what had happened to them - nothing but dead ends

I did my best to carry on - the rent wasn’t going to pay itself, after all, but it was hard. I felt worried, lost, confused. Sometimes I wondered if it had been something I’d done, but no - that couldn’t have been it. Again - we were happy! Sage wouldn’t have just run off like that, I know it. I know them.

And then… and then, they came back.

There was a knock on my door that afternoon. It had been raining, that hard, pounding sort of rain that you can’t really escape the sound of no matter what you do, and I’d spent the past hour putting together a shelf of drawers - I didn’t really need it, it was just another thing to distract myself, another thing to do that wasn’t thinking the same thoughts over and over again. I should have realised something was wrong - as soon as I heard that knock on the door, our…my cat, Frankie ran under the bed and refused to come out. She obviously knew something was very very wrong. I wish I’d paid attention to her.

When I opened the door of my apartment that day something stumbled through, and I stifled a scream of horror.

It was Sage, but it also… wasn’t. It was like someone had been told to put them together based on a few random parts and didn’t manage to do it right - they looked wrong, so wrong, a shape made of their flesh and bone but put together in all the wrong ways. I knew those eyes, that build, that olive skin and dark hair - or at least what was left of it. I’d run my fingers through it so many times while we were curled up on the couch together listening to their old jazz records from the 50s after a long day at work. But it wasn’t them - it was some twisted doll constructed to resemble them.

Their face was warped to the point of being almost unrecognizable. Huge chunks of skin seemed to be missing, along with an eye and part of their skull. Their limbs were mostly intact but they were twisted and moved jerkily, like a broken robot. I could see patches of muscle and bone like a model from high school science class and some stray veins were twisted on top of that mess. Honestly, it was a miracle that they were still standing, with all the ways they were jumbled. I swallowed dryly and tried not to breathe in the coppery, meaty miasma coming off them. I must have instinctively backed away because they followed me into the apartment in that twitchy puppet-like way.

Not knowing what else to do, I shut the door quickly and attempted to talk to Sage. It quickly became apparent that they were not able to speak, so I talked about who I was, where they were, showed them pictures, but not one thing lit a spark of recognition in that one remaining, bloodshot eye. The way their eyes crinkled up when they smiled, that little tilt to their head when they were listening attentively, all those small gestures that I barely noticed, but felt like home whenever I saw them, were gone. They were looking at me, though, and there was definitely something behind that face. It wasn’t them, I know it now. But it was something. It looked like pain.

I suppose it was all futile, looking back at it after some time and thinking about how their brain was quite literally scrambled and sticking out of their head, but they’d made it this far, and I had to try. I had to. I was fueled by pure desperation to hold onto my love, that I couldn’t allow myself to give up.

I don’t know how long I sat with them, trying to bring them back, but after a little while they started moving again. By that I mean they lunged at me without warning, jerkily swinging their arms, striking me hard across the face.

The blow came out of nowhere. I stumbled back in shock, scrambling for something to defend myself with, more out of instinct than anything else. My fingers closed around the handle of a hammer sitting on a nearby table - the one I’d been using on the new piece of furniture - and when I got backed into a corner it became apparent that Sage… whatever this was wasn’t backing off. So I swung, connecting with a sickening crunch that I winced at.

They just kept coming. I didn’t understand, I still don’t - they might have been made of human parts but there was nothing human about the way they lurched towards me, twitching, flailing, and a terrible strangled noise coming from what might have been a mouth. There was nothing left of my dear Sage in there - they would never have hurt me, I know they wouldn’t. I slammed the hammer into their head again, and again, and again, biting back a sob at their gurgling cry, until they collapsed into a broken mass of flesh on the ground.

I called the police. Of course I did, I - what else would I have done? Left them there? Stayed there with blood splattered on my hands and a flesh mound eerily similar to my missing partner on my floor?

I was rendered mute from my shock, unable to utter a word to the policewoman without breaking down. I’m still unable to talk much, I just feel so incredibly shaken from all this. The police eventually called in some sort of special team of cops to handle the case, and they interviewed me and helped me calm down, somewhat. I don’t know why the officers said to go to you, the police already know the story and just recalling everything makes me shake and weaken. If I have to write all this down for someone to read, they better do something with it.

Statement ends.

Juniper: The reports from X-7 do confirm Ms. Preston’s account. There was indeed a missing persons report filed for Mx. Bukhari, and she did call the police on the night in question. The body found in their apartment could not be conclusively identified as Ms. Bukhari though, as it’s hands had no discernible fingerprints. DNA analysis was performed using a hair sample provided by Ms. Preston from their apartment, but oddly, the result was only about a 95% match between the two.

According to the police report, Ms. Preston named the doctor their partner was going to; Dr. Clay Ambrose. The police did follow up with them, but Dr. Ambrose stated that Mx. Bukhari left after their appointment and had no idea where they went afterward. They are still trying to find a lead to what may have happened, but haven’t made much progress so far.

Ms. Preston was followed up about two weeks after the incident, and said she is still having difficulty discussing it, but that she has started going to therapy.

Juniper: Ambrose… [Thoughtful pause] Hey Marcus, could you come in here for a moment?

[Door opens]

Marcus: Yes? What’s up?

Juniper: You came to me about a zombie statement a couple of months ago, correct?

Marcus: I did, why?

Juniper: I think… I found another one. It also brings up a doctor in the follow-up research.

Marcus: Dr. Ambrose?

Juniper: Yes, the very same. But unlike the one you read, this statement describes the… creature, as somewhat sentient and aware. It was… the partner of the statement giver. Or rather, some malformed version of them.

Marcus: Oh… [Mournful pause] Well, it’s been a while between the two incidents. I hate to consider it, but maybe in that time they were… learning? Evolving? I’m not sure what they’re all about, but if these statements mean anything…

Juniper: [Sigh] I’ll be honest with you, Knight, when you first brought up that statement I dismissed it for being too far-fetched. But this secondary statement… A statement showcasing not only a pattern, but a progression of these creatures, shows that something’s going on. [Thoughtful pause]

It’s not top priority just yet, but we will start looking into it more seriously. I trust that I can put you in charge of this? Liaise with X-7 at the NYPD, they have the lab reports and original statement.

Marcus: Oh, yes ma’am! You can count on me! I’ll get to it right now! [Pause] …Uh …X-7?

Juniper: [quoting from memory] ‘Exemption 7 of the Freedom of Information Act protects from disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes’ – the cops use it to cover up the kind of cases that we have to deal with. They assign officers to a special unit to deal with them - X-7, which is a shorthand of Exemption 7. SPOONY has a liaison officer with them, ask my PA for her details.

Marcus: Oh, right. Will do!

[Door closes as Marcus exits the room]

Juniper: Well, at the very least, this will be a chance for Marcus to get out there and gain some more experience. He has lots of heart to give to the job, no doubt. But he does tend to let it overcome him sometimes. I’m hoping that this will be an opportunity for him to develop some thicker skin as well as figure out what it really takes to be an Archivist.

[scoff] For heaven’s sake, why am I talking to the tape recorder?

[tape recorder clicks off]

This episode of “For The Record” was written and produced by Shalhevet Ebner, Directed by Elena Truman, and edited by Jo mendacium, and starred Sivan Raz as “Juniper Powell” and Daniel Huras as “Marcus Knight”. It used sounds from freesound.org, under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. For full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement, or to get involved in production, you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpod, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod, or view our website at fortherecordpodcast.co.uk. Stay safe, take care, and keep all that is left close.