We are now on episode 2 of Alice Isn’t Dead, and this week we get to hear some interesting background information as the narrator gets stuck in an odd little town called Charlatan.
We open with the narrator calling Alice out for letting her think she was dead. This is actually a running theme with this episode: the narrator is actually quite angry with Alice (and understandably so).
After this, she passes through the town of Charlatan, where things seem to be fairly normal at first. There’s a girl outside of a gas station filling up her truck, a mother and her teenage son talking outside of a motel, and an elderly man crossing the street. Since this is Alice Isn’t Dead, however, things are about to get much, much stranger.
The narrator then talks about a support group she started seeing after Alice vanished, leading to what is one of my favorite passages in the podcast so far:
That’s what we do now, right? As a civilization we sit in a circle and we describe the shape of the monster that is devouring us. We hope, like a talisman, that our description will provide some shelter against it. It won’t, though. We are helpless.
She then goes on to describe seeing Alice in the background of a news report.
The narrator then somehow ends up back in Charlatan, except things are quite a bit different now. Everything seems to be covered in mud and dirt, lawns are basically mud pits, and everyone that she’s seen before is turned away from her and has their face pressed into walls or other nearby objects. The narrator comments on this, obviously unsettled, and then moves on.
She then discusses having seen Alice in the background of multiple news reports, usually where something terrible has happened. These were reports from all around the country. She then talks about how she stopped going to her support group, quit her job, and started sorting through her wife’s belongings, looking for “clues to a story you failed to tell me.”
Then, the narrator ends up in Charlatan for a third time. She has now moved on from being unsettled to being abjectly terrified, and seems to think Alice has something to do with this strange loop. This time, everything in the town is on fire, including the people, but she doesn’t feel any heat coming from the flames. Then there is the below description of the old man she’d seen previously:
He is on fire. He is turning, and looking at me, and his face is hollow and burning, what is underneath exposed as his skin melts away. He opens his mouth and there is fire within; his insides burning.
She, understandably, hauls ass out of town as quickly as she can.
The narrator then goes on to describe what she found looking through Alice’s things. Notably, she found certain phrases written on various items: “The Cumberland Project,” “vector H,” and, most of all, “Bay & Creek Shipping.” This last phrase prompted her to get a job with Bay & Creek Shipping to try and follow Alice’s trail, which is how she became a truck driver.
Then, she ends up back in Charlatan for a fourth (and the final) time. This time, everything is much the same as it was before, except now everyone is crying. She stops at a light, and turns to find that the old man at the crosswalk (also crying) is now in the truck’s cab with her. She asks if she can help him, and he points to the road out of town. She starts moving forward, and the old man vanishes. Looking behind her, the narrator can see him back at the crosswalk.
The narrator then espouses on the nature of freedom:
There is a lot of different types of freedom. We talk about freedom the same way we talk about art. Like it was a statement of quality rather than a description. Art doesn’t mean good, or bad. Art just means art. It can be terrible and still be art. Freedom can be god or bad too. There can be terrible freedom. You freed me and I didn’t ask you to. I didn’t want you to. I am more free than I’ve ever been and I am spiraling. I’m spiraling across this country. Maybe you are too. I want our lines to cross, even one more time.
She then ends up in eastern Washington, implying that whatever was forcing her back to Charlatan has stopped. The narrator then states that Alice owes her an explanation, and she will make sure she gets one.
I actually liked this episode even more than the previous one. I found it to be considerably more unsettling, in no small part due to Jasika Nicole’s delivery, especially when she’s describing the version of the town that’s on fire. The narrator is meant to be scared by this, and it really comes through in her delivery. The passage describing the man on fire, as well as the passage about freedom, are two of my favorite parts of the series so far. I also really liked that we get a little bit more background information about the narrator this time, as well as what had prompted her search.
The next episode of Alice Isn’t Dead airs on April 5.