In this installment of Alice Isn’t Dead, we get to hear the tale of the break in alluded to at the end of the last episode, and Sylvia basically becomes my favorite.
We begin with the narrator saying that she really should get some rest, “but every moment I spend sleeping is a moment I’m not driving. Hopefully,” which did get a bit of a chuckle out of me. She has a long drive ahead of her, but she says that’s OK because she has a story to tell.
First, however, the narrator takes a moment to describe a meal that she recently had in a town in Mississippi:
Stopped for lunch in Meridian, Mississippi. Fried things, cheesy things, sweet tea. Place had all these lunch boxes, old ones with blocky cartoons in action poses.
“Have fun with it,” the lunch boxes said. “And also, stuff yourself,” they said.
I’d been on the road for hours and I was so hungry, but then I realized my mistake as the mass of it started pulling at me. Ended up having to take a long nap, but then I woke up feeling so good that suddenly the whole mistake seemed like a great idea. For one thing, I wasn’t going to have to eat again, for maybe even a day. If you’re not looking to stop much, a meal like that is the perfect way to keep yourself going.
After talking briefly about stopping for a shower in a motel, the narrator finally gets into what actually happened when she and Sylvia broke into the police station in Savannah, Georgia. The narrator notes that this will not be easy, mostly because it’s a police station:
The front was a big glass window, fine. But the rest was cinder block blank. Barred windows, no back door…nothing that could be crawled through or into. It was a box with one opening, and that opening was right on the street. Even trying to case the place was hard. There were cops everywhere. Hanging out, chatting, and staring at us as we tried to casually walk by.
Sylvia asks if they could just dash in and dash out with the information that they’re looking for, but the narrator points out that wouldn’t really be possible because there’s only one entrance. The narrator does, however, come up with a plan, and tells Sylvia that she’s going to check out a nearby alley with a dumpster. She tells Sylvia to meet her at the other end of the alley, and then climbs the dumpster onto the roof, where there’s a skylight.
So, now they have a possible entrance, but if the narrator’s going to jump through, she needs a distraction. A distraction that Sylvia is more than happy to provide, saying, “I know just the thing.” The narrator doesn’t want to know what Sylvia’s planning, and tells her to just do it.
We then get another interlude, during which the narrator talks for a moment about Texas, and wonders why all the flags she’s seeing are so big:
There is something to be said, obviously, about insecurity. The wisdom is that the most performatively loud person at the party is the most insecure. And Texas is nothing if not performatively loud – their threats of secession, the bluster that permeates their politics, and of course, these huge flags.
And then you see the countryside of Texas, and…maybe you understand a bit. Because it is beautiful, sure, but a lot of it is empty. Empty in a way that feels heavy. Like the big cities in Texas are just fronts to hide that it’s mostly an empty state, with a population trying to be as loud as possible so no one will notice that all of them live tucked away in the east.
All hail West Texas, right?
I mean, most of this could be said about America as a whole, and probably should be, but I’m not in America right now. I’m in Texas.
Back to the main event: the narrator is now on the roof, waiting for Sylvia to provide the distraction that she promised. It’s been a few minutes, and she’s starting to get worried that Sylvia’s been caught. Then the distraction comes, and by god does Sylvia deliver:
Here’s what she had done. She had gone a few blocks, broke into a car, hot-wired it, pointed it at the glass front of the station, gave it a rev, and rolled out. It wasn’t going fast enough to hurt anyone – it didn’t do much more than make a loud noise as it took out the glass – but not something that you could stop, either.
Some of them ran after her, but she had planned out a route that got her into hiding before they could even turn the corner.
She’d been on the road by herself a long time. And a kid in a place this dangerous, the one thing they know more than any other thing is how not to be noticed.
When the car came through, everyone ran to it. I started stomping until the skylight gave. The sound was so loud, but the car hadn’t stopped moving. It was taking out desks now on its way to the receptions area’s wall.
Making good use of Sylvia’s stunt, the narrator proceeds to break the skylight, jumps down, and goes to Officer Campbell’s desk, grabbing everything off of it that she can find. However, she then realizes something that she hadn’t thought of previously: going down through the skylight was all well and good, but getting back up is going to be a problem.
There’s another brief interlude where the narrator talks about the cacti that she sees going through the desert, how they look like they came from a cartoon. Then she wonders about why we use Latin plurals for certain words, and muses on the nature of language as a whole: “Language is all jagged edge and mess. Let go of the old mess, embrace the new mess.” She wonders for a moment if she should stop in Sedona for some crystals, to find a vortex, or just for a cup of vending machine coffee, saying, “There are choices in life, and I take some of them.”
Back to the main story, where the narrator is still trying to find a way out of her predicament, and is running out of time:
I thought for a moment of hiding, waiting until everyone went away for the night. But first of all, it didn’t seem likely that that was a thing that happened at a police station. I mean, probably they had a night shift. And even if they didn’t, there was no way they were just going to leave the building unattended that was missing its entire front wall.
Every second I stayed, the probability of my getting caught ticked toward one. I tried jumping, but the skylight was way too high for that, and still rimmed with broken glass. I looked around for…what? What did I think I would find? I looked around for a miracle, I guess.
She then does the only thing she really can do in this situation: she gets back on one of the desks and leaps as high as she can for the skylight. She manages to grasp the edge of the roof, but thenshe realizes that there’s no possible way that she would not have been noticed:
Even with the excitement of the car, there was no way they weren’t going to notice a woman jumping off of a desk, and half landing up through a skylight. My chest was on fire, and my hands were rapidly sliding toward me, but I could hear the footsteps coming, I could hear the shouts, and I knew I was moments from a hand wrapped around my ankle.
I thought about that parking lot in Kansas. I thought about an arm on my throat. And through the numbness of shock, I pulled myself all the way up through the skylight and off the roof, and onto the ground with a brief awkward stop on the dumpster that didn’t so much slow my fall as roll my ankle.
She hears Sylvia shouting, “Hey assholes! How’s your front window?” as she leads three of the narrators pursuers away, while she manages to lose the rest. The two manage to make it to the narrator’s truck, and haul ass away.
We were about a half hour out of town on the highway when we started laughing. Every time we glanced at each other, another wave would come. I laughed until there was no sound, only shaking, and then I had hiccups for the next two hours.
The two stop in a parking lot to go through the information the narrator retrieved. At first they don’t find much; it’s mostly just a bunch of printed out emails related to Officer Campbell’s work, as well as his “opinions on Star Trek canon,” which got a chuckle out of me. Then Sylvia finds something: a list of cites written on the back of one of the printed emails.
Everett, Kingston, Waco….there was a bunch of them. Most of them had been crossed out, but it was what was written at the top of the paper that tore at me, brought out fresh grief I hadn’t known was there.
“Vector H,” it said at the top of the page. Just like you had written in your papers, Alice.
“Yeah,” I managed. “This is definitely something.”
Most of the town names were scribbled out, but one of them had been circled.
The narrator says that this is about as good a clue as any, and Sylvia notes that it looks like they have a long drive ahead of them. Sylvia asks her if she has an iPhone dock and laughs. The narrator, however, does not. She knows that what they’re doing now is dangerous, and what she needs to do.
Some time later, the narrator and Sylvia are talking about why Sylvia needs to leave. Sylvia, predictably, is not happy about it, going so far as to call the narrator a dick. The narrator tries again to impress on her how what they’re doing is dangerous, and they might not come back out of it alive:
“And…Sylvia, I am a foolish, foolish person. Because I’m going to go. No matter what, I am going to that place. But you are not a fool, Sylvia. Whatever it is we’re working against, they should be very afraid of you. Because I think you’re our best shot at stopping it.
“Of course, you won’t stop anything if you get killed poking around some town that may or may not have the answers, but that doesn’t have to happen. Because no matter what, I’m going to go there. Whether you go or stay, it is too late for me.
“I need you to be smarter than me. I need you to lay low, and keep trying to hear what you can hear, and I need you to grow, and get even smarter and more powerful than you are now.
“Let me be the fool. You be the one that lives.”
Sylvia relents at this point, and hugs the narrator while crying. The narrator then talks about how she booked a hotel room for Sylvia, but she won’t say where. She notes that she may have finally found a secret she needs to keep from Alice.
At this point, the narrator finally makes it to her destination: Victorville, California. She says that she’s not sure what she’ll find there, but supposes she’ll find out soon enough.
This is another episode that isn’t particularly scary, but it moves fairly quickly and a lot happens in it. The descriptions of the heist are fairly tense, and I did notice something that the other episodes didn’t really do: when the narrator describes Sylvia driving through the front of the police station, we actually hear the sound of glass breaking. Previous episodes didn’t really have sound effects (at least not for the past events the narrator is describing), so I found that kind of interesting.
Also, did I mention that I really, really like Sylvia? I think she’s pretty awesome.
The next episode of Alice Isn’t Dead airs on Jun 14, so we do have to wait a couple weeks to hear what happens next.