"...which brings us to the close of another excellent question and answer session! Remember, your questions are important to me, even if I was not able to answer yours in today's session. You may even find an answer in a previous session, so do not despair! It may take some time to track down your answer, so I recommend you obtain the help of some close friends. If they are not already listeners of Woman Purified, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce them. Is that not right, Xue Mei?"
"Yes, it is."
"And now it is time for a very special segment: the hat of the month!"
Divvo struggled to keep his mind from wandering. The 'hat of the month' segment always seemed like one of the most pointless parts of this whole affair, by his reckoning. Did anyone really care to hear Kim Riggs describe a hat and share her opinion of it in great detail? Apparently yes, because she continued doing it every month. Regardless of his level of interest, he was responsible for the sound quality, so he had to pay careful attention to the composition process to ensure nothing went wrong. Once it was done, he would have to listen through the completed product for what he dearly hoped was the final time. He had already heard every part of it several times as he had chosen and arranged all the parts together perfectly. The bulk of his work was done, but he still had to stay awake and alert just a little longer while the machine did its work.
The intricate contraption before Divvo whirred delicately, raising and lowering the reading needles at the exact moments he had previously specified by punching holes in the long reel of tape which was now being spooled through the innards of the machine. The holes corresponded to the times he had recorded for the start and end of each segment, down to the fraction of the second. Encoding the numbers as holes in the tape was a tedious process, but it was necessary because machines were unable to read written numbers.
"...simply fetching with autumn tones, is it not?"
"That is exactly what I was thinking!"
"Quite a strong endorsement there, Xue Mei. I hope everyone enjoyed that hat review, and remember that the photographs are included for everyone who is on the six silver per month support tier or higher. And as a preview for what you will be seeing next week, I can say that our autumn theme is growing even stronger as the season continues. Yes, you guessed it, we are severely blessed to have a standout autumn makeup tutorial from a standout woman of purity, my great friend Dory-Anne!"
"Really! So make sure your subscription is up to date and at six silver or higher, or you might miss seeing a fabulous look! How fabulous would you say Dory-Anne is, Xue Mei?"
"And that is understating it. But there are even more great blessings coming up, so do not forget to share this recording with your friends and tell them how they can sign up to receive their very own copy! Make sure they include your name in the subscription form, because every friend you refer gets you one more entry into the four year anniversary prize draw! That is only four weeks away, so time is running out. What do you think, little sister?"
"It certainly is. This year's grand prize is your very own carved wooden model personality mapping system! Now you can map out the personalities of your friends and family and see how they relate and how they fit together, in style! My husband tells me the shape of the personality system model is a 'rhombic triacontrahedron' but I have no idea what that means. If you do, I recommend you seek the guidance of the clerics on how to atone for having gained knowledge that falls far outside your sphere of womanly responsibility. What I can tell you is that it is a very pretty shape with a lot of triangles, and the carved lettering is of excellent workmanship. It will look simply gorgeous on your dresser or mantelpiece. Do you not wish you could enter the draw, Xue Mei?"
"Well it is too bad for you but we have to keep it fair for the listeners. The winner of this grand prize will for certain be one of you blessed ladies! Remember, one friend referral equals one more chance to win, even if she only signs up for one month! I think that wraps up the show, so remember to mail in your questions and comments, even if you simply wish to say you liked it. Make sure your own subscription is up to date, and ask your deliveryman to ring your doorbell to make sure you can start listening the moment the next episode arrives on your doorstep. This has been Woman Purified, episode four hundred and thirteen. As always, I am Kim Riggs and this is my sist..."
Divvo was startled out of the flow of the ending by a sound, which was decidedly out of place. It was a distant rumble, one which was heard quite often in Forrester's Crossing, and easily ignored. But such vibrations were not meant to occur during the night which was why Divvo performed his resin editing at such a Maker-forsaken hour of the night. Immediately upon realising what he had heard, Divvo's mind was filled with two separate worries. His immediate concern was for the recording, which may have been affected by the sound. The vibration protection provided by the room and the equipment was very good, but it could not keep out everything. A far more alarming fear was attached to the wrongness of the late arrival. No one should be operating a train in the dark. Either someone was up to no good, or they were operating under extreme urgency.
The editing machine clicked as all its components swung back into resting positions. The transcription process was complete, so Divvo's next task was to check the newly cut master copy for problems. Once that was complete, copies would be made which would be sent to every city, where they would be reproduced and delivered to subscribers. Divvo knew that the sooner he started listening, the sooner he would finally be free to sleep, but his fear over the train had not abated. He wondered whether he ought to do something. Should he check whether anyone else had heard the sound? Were any of the patrol even awake so late? For all he knew, he might be the only person alert enough to have noticed.
On the other hand, he might be worrying over nothing. There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. Perhaps some very urgent but not especially dire news had to be delivered. Maybe if he got involved he would just be getting in the way. Or it might be the case that the patrol were already dealing with the situation, and he might needlessly imperil himself if he left the building.
Divvo had never expected that resin editing would put him in the position to make such significant decisions. Yes, editing was a constant stream of decisions, but usually the choice was obvious. Anything especially significant was out of his hands, as Kim Riggs would have expressed a strong opinion on the matter in writing.
Actually, that was not entirely true, perhaps not at all true, and he was kidding himself to think otherwise. Twice every week he edited this show, and twice every week he had to make the decision not to think too hard about what he was hearing. He told himself that it was not his place, that he was not paid to critique the content, that he was not qualified to comment. He told himself that his only concerns were sound quality and making sure that Kim Riggs' good image was maintained. He told himself that he didn't need to agree, so he didn't need to consider whether or not he agreed.
But all that was pretence. He knew that a lot of what Kim Riggs said bothered him. Not just what she said, but how she presented herself. How she treated her sister. How she pretended Xue Mei was even a significant part of the show. Did the girl even know what she was agreeing with or sounding enthusiastic about? Kim obviously did not care, not about her sister or about her listeners. Was someone who did not really care about other people qualified to give them life advice? When he was honest with himself, Divvo thought not. He was not honest with himself very often though. Ignoring the voices in his head was an important skill, given his lonely, late nights. The only voices that mattered were the voices piped in through his ear-shells by the editing machine.
Had he ignored the voices for too long? Were there voices he should have heeded, warning him all this time? Had he forgotten what his own thoughts sounded like? Whose voice was this? Was he still listening to a recording, or were these his own thoughts? Was there a disaster in the making that only he could prevent? Or was that a flight of fancy, luring him to destruction like the dark call of magic in the night, offering easy power? Kim had often warned her followers of such things. If her concern was manufactured, was the warning even real? What was real, in the darkness? Since Woman Purified was edited in darkness, could it really be of the light?
Divvo's thoughts were going nowhere, and they were going there faster than any train, around and around like the wheels, but the wheels were on ice, not rails. He was so thankful for the interruption that he was halfway down the stairs before he realised that he was answering the door because someone had knocked on the studio door in the middle of the night. That could not be right. No one should be visiting him. No one should be visiting anyone, not now. He gripped the wooden railing and paused with his feet on different stairs. He could answer the door, or he could ignore it, hope the visitor went away, and go back to editing Kim Rigg's tiresome show, hoping that life continued on as normal and nothing he did ever really mattered.
Ultimately, he decided that if he cared so little that he was willing to return to listening to the show, he might as well open the door.
Regardless of how much he cared about anything, Divvo was not an utter fool. He dutifully retrieved a mushroom lantern from atop a cupboard, and made sure the front door was securely chained before unbolting it. He used the dim natural glow to peek outside, but took care to keep his face a safe distance from the gap.
The shape beyond the door seemed human enough, with nothing obviously strange about it. "Who is there?" Divvo asked softly, remaining alert. He glanced over his shoulder, worried that someone might try sneaking up on him while he was occupied with the person at the door, even though he was sure every other entry point was locked securely.
"Am I addressing Divakar Pebsen?"
Divvo did not recognise the voice, and attempted not to panic over the stranger knowing his name. Hardly anyone called him by his given name. Sometimes he wondered whether his parents even remembered it. "Who's asking?"
"You do not know me, and I am only here because she told me you might still be up."
"Someone close to Kim Riggs."
"Is this about the show? Wait, is this to do with that woman from Lenston? I don't know anything about any of that!"
The man moved closer to the door, pushing it against the chain. Divvo could see part of his face in the pale mushroom light. "What woman? No, none of that matters. I have grave news from Deepbloom." His eyes stared into Divvo's and he seemed to see far better and deeper than they had any right to.
"Deepbloom? That was you in the train? You better not have ruined my recording," Divvo babbled. He knew he was making himself upset over something he had stopped caring about, but his other option was freaking out about what he was hearing.
The stranger evidently knew better than to get into a meaningless argument. "Call me Diegan. We need to prepare the city for a demon attack."
Either this man was a lunatic — given his eyes, that was more than possible — or Divvo was in the middle of a whole mess of trouble. This was not what he had signed up for, but if he was honest with himself for another moment, he could understand how he deserved it. His days of avoiding decisions and ignoring warning voices had come to a screeching halt.