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The Gray Line

The Gray Line

By G. Norman Lippert
Short fiction from the back roads of the beyond: Each fully voice-acted and scored episode is a journey into the unsettling and unexplained. Hold on tight: there are no seatbelts on this bus.
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Destination: Gainesville, FL -- "Whisper of the Undertow"
Today’s journey takes us to sunny Gainesville, Florida, a state renowned as a favorite retirement destination.  Fortunately, for your fellow traveler—that lanky gentleman with the prominent mustache—he won’t have far to go when his work is finally done.  For Robbie Howard, janitor at George Washington Middle School, that day is still a little ways off.  And he has a lot to do before it comes. Little does he know that his most important job won’t be waxing the gymnasium floor or keeping the vending machines stocked.  Robbie’s greatest task will be assigned to him by a nine year old girl.  It will take him decades to accomplish.  And he won’t get paid a dime for it. He will, however, find that he’s safeguarded a timeless mystery— one whose answers are less important than the connection they make between death, love, and the Gray Line.
22:28
May 30, 2020
Part 3: Destination: Augusta, GA -- "Blood Drive"
Part 3 of our 3-part layover in Augusta, Georgia, circa the summer  of 1986: a time before cell phones and the internet, when ancient myths  still commanded a tenuous alliance with the modern age. And there is no more modern man, by 1986 standards, than your fellow  passenger, that skinny, older man seated across the aisle.  His name is  Amos Perl, and you shouldn’t blame him for looking a bit furtive.  He’s  been videotaping things that no mortal eye was meant to see.   Unfortunately, unlike videotapes, there is no rewind on human memory.   And the late fees can only be paid in blood, at the eternal  night-drop... of the Gray Line.
41:42
February 12, 2020
Part 2: Destination: Augusta, GA -- "Blood Drive"
Part 2 of our 3-part layover in Augusta, Georgia, circa the summer  of 1986: a time before cell phones and the internet, when ancient myths  still commanded a tenuous alliance with the modern age. And there is no more modern man, by 1986 standards, than your fellow  passenger, that skinny, older man seated across the aisle.  His name is  Amos Perl, and you shouldn’t blame him for looking a bit furtive.  He’s  been videotaping things that no mortal eye was meant to see.   Unfortunately, unlike videotapes, there is no rewind on human memory.   And the late fees can only be paid in blood, at the eternal  night-drop... of the Gray Line.
25:16
February 12, 2020
Part 1: Destination: Augusta, GA -- "Blood Drive"
Part 1 of our 3-part layover in Augusta, Georgia, circa the summer of 1986: a time before cell phones and the internet, when ancient myths still commanded a tenuous alliance with the modern age. And there is no more modern man, by 1986 standards, than your fellow passenger, that skinny, older man seated across the aisle.  His name is Amos Perl, and you shouldn’t blame him for looking a bit furtive.  He’s been videotaping things that no mortal eye was meant to see.  Unfortunately, unlike videotapes, there is no rewind on human memory.  And the late fees can only be paid in blood, at the eternal night-drop... of the Gray Line.
39:19
February 12, 2020
Destination: New York City -- "X Equals Revenge"
Everybody knows that revenge is a dish best served cold.  But it takes a certain kind of mind to factor the exact degree centigrade below zero at which vengeance becomes its own dark delicacy indeed. The sort of mind that belongs to your fellow traveler, that dapper older man with the salt and pepper mustache and unassuming wireless spectacles.  A university professor and mathematician by trade, don’t let Dr. Wilhelm Bell’s mild-mannered appearance deceive you.  Where HIS journey ends, we may get a tiny glimpse at the triangulation that can occur between mind, spirit, and the Gray Line.
26:52
October 31, 2019
Destination: Shreveport, LA -- "Everybody Dies Without Something"
See that redhead teen girl seated in the back of the bus, her nose buried in a paperback book? She’s one of the approximately 1.1 percent of the population that remained behind. Where did everyone else go? And why? I’m afraid she knows little more than you do. Sometimes the truth is just the shape of the hole left when everything we know has gone away. A world-shaped void bounded only by the will to live, and the gray line.
30:34
October 21, 2019
Destination: Oxford, England -- "Apotheosis"
Meet your fellow traveller, Joel Dunham, a husband and father who's about to learn that sometimes existential questions don't wait to be asked.  Sometimes they come hurtling out of the dark like a sleepy lorry driver crossing the centerline, eleven miles out of Oxford, but directly en route... to the Gray Line. Find "Redeye" by G. Norman Lippert at Audible.com https://www.audible.com/pd/Redeye-Audiobook/B01I1W51KW
34:21
August 14, 2019
Destination: Erie, PA -- "Trick or Treat of the Dead"
See that girl a few seats back, her hair hiding her young face, her only luggage an antique clown's mask?  Her journey is only just beginning, despite having long since passed beyond the land of the living.   Her ticket was granted by the efforts of a much different woman-- older, widowed, still living, at least nominally.  Georgie is her name, and she had no idea that by talking to the cemetery behind her house, she might eventually wake the graves -- along with their buried, ghostly vengeances.
57:12
August 14, 2019
Destination: San Diego, the Not-So-Distant Future -- "Analog"
Today’s journey takes us to San Diego, California.  Date, the not-so-distant future.  A world where technology has made artificial intelligence perfect and cheap but humanoid robots are still imperfect and expensive.  What happens, then, when a human inevitably falls in love with an AI and the time comes for them to meet IRL?   That’s where companies like VirtuaMate create opportunity—cultivating a database of human analogs, willing participants, catalogued to match the digital appearance of your AI love... and temporarily channeling them for your date night.  The result? A love triangle… between desire, delusion… and the Gray Line.
36:18
August 14, 2019
Destination: Fremont, Ohio -- "The Center of the Universe"
Today’s journey takes us to what is commonly referred to as "the Heartland".  A charming euphemism, but the heart can be a fickle thing.  It can inspire joy—or fuel madness.  Such is the case for one of your fellow passengers.  Fortunately, he isn’t the focus of tonight’s tale.  That honor goes to a creature you may find rather surprising, despite her common appearance.  She is, in fact, the sort of creature that inhabits the event horizon between poisoned love… and the Gray Line.
22:28
August 14, 2019
Destination: Mnemba Atoll -- "Harp's Forfeit"
Dinosaurs, dimensional portals, science run amok...  Welcome to Project Pandora, a highly classified playground of the world’s top scientists fueled by unfettered ambition and funded by bottomless defense budgets.  When playing god is just part of the job description, the important question isn’t “will life find a way?” It's "how heavy are the emergency doors?" Because global catastrophe is statistically inevitable when the only thing separating two volatile experiments is ego… and the Gray Line.
44:20
August 14, 2019
Destination: Hollywood, CA -- "The Nobodies"
In this special two destination edition: Joe Barris is a 90s movie star seeking another chance in the limelight, regardless of the cost; and Australian charter boat captain Willy has a midnight appointment, seven miles off the coast, and a thousand feet over the uncharted waters... of the Gray Line.
28:03
August 14, 2019
Destination: 255 Miles Up -- "Death Lag"
For today's fellow passenger, loneliness is relative.  She can see every person who's ever lived simply by looking out her window, 255 miles above the spinning blue marble that the rest of us call home.  If only the comms hadn't gone out...  and her only companion hadn't died.  Now all she has left is Fin.  And Fin never lies.
22:00
August 14, 2019
Destination: Baltimore, MD -- "Pics or it Didn't Happen"
Today we head to sunny Baltimore, home of your fellow passenger, that middle-aged man seated near the door, his eyes looking but not seeing, constantly fidgeting with his phone. His cellphone addiction goes well beyond selfies and social media.  For him, the screen of his phone is less an escape from reality... and more a window into it.
26:33
August 14, 2019