GPS: Some places are best left unmapped
GPS is an audio story that I started working on back in 2016. The idea for it came while a friend was giving me a lift to work. She would always use her phone’s GPS app — not because she didn’t know where she was going — but because she could get info about the fastest route.
As a passenger I had time to think, and it dawned on me that a GPS would be a great narrative device for an audio story. A GPS is something we listen to guiding us along, a voice with a degree of softness and comfort, designed for us to place our trust in it.
But what if that friendly voice led us astray? What if it led us to somewhere we didn’t want to go? That to me, is a perfect idea for a horror story!
So I decided to write a story about three friends driving around at night, set in the Western suburbs where I grew up. I first wrote GPS as a short story, and then re-wrote it as an audio script. It was actually the first thing I’d written where I saw a clear three-act structure materialize before my eyes while I was writing it — and I remember telling a friend about it with great glee that I’d reached a creative milestone.
I was also listening to synthwave music around this time which taps into the electronic music of eighties movies. Some of it has a slight ‘metal’ edge and I thought this would be perfect action music for the ‘soundtrack’.
I contacted a number of a different musicians over a two-year period, and managed to track down a good assortment of music, including Irving Force (Sweden), Machinegewehr + Gees Vorhees (Holland), Guy Tallo (Belgium) Europaweite Aussichten (Germany), Dance with the Dead and Deru (United States), Dynatron and Daniel Deluxe (Denmark).
The other major musical element came from my friends Shawn Parke and Kimberly Henninger of Henninger Parke Music. Each year they put together a Halloween mixtape of their own work.
I was completely stunned by their 2016 mix – hearing highly original and spooky sounds, like a weird wind climbing up a chromatic scale, as well as a lonely choir, and both I knew would work great for a number of scenes. They also rustled up a hip-hop track that the boys are blowing their car speakers out with at the beginning of the story.
Many of the background sounds have been recorded around the Western suburbs, where I live, near the M4 motorway, and the Clyde to Carlingford rail-line. This was once a major industrial area, with the Shell Oil Refinery and Commonwealth Engineering. But in recent years, the smoke stacks have been put out so the area can be redeveloped.
The final element of GPS is the artwork which is by Sydney artist Brett Anthony Moore. Originally a large acrylic painting, shown as part of an exhibition, I loved the bar of light falling across the driver’s anxious eyes, as well as the orange street lights in the background.
Little did I know, until after I got permission to use this image, that there is also a picture of a woman swimming over the character’s head, which I hadn’t noticed before (the digital copy had been much darker) — and a chill ran through me, as Barry, the main character of GPS, spends most of the story thinking about seeing a girl he has a crush on at a pool party, the whole reason the three boys are out in the first place.
Hopefully GPS has got a few scary moments in it 😱 . . . but the story is also about the importance of friendship during the teenage years. I once read a passage in an Indian philosophy book, that to cross the teenage years and come out unscathed, is like crossing an ocean. Now, a few decades on, I think that valuing your friendships, and looking after your friends, is how you reach that other side.
GPS is available now through Bandcamp.
Learn about other FOTW AUDIO STORIES HERE