Alice Isn’t Dead, Part 3 Episode 2: Surroundings

In this episode, Keisha and Alice go in search of an oracle.

We open with Keisha explaining that they’ve made their way to an Airstream trailer in the middle of the Texas desert. Alice then cuts in, saying that the trailer is far enough out from the highway that “whoever, whatver, lives in there wouldn’t get hassled so much by the jackboots,” adding that no one would go to this area unless they were extremely lost “or looking to get that way.”

Keisha picks up the narration again: “West Texas doesn’t fool around when it comes to concepts like ‘arid’ and ‘hot’ and ‘lonely.’ This is land that is overtly hostile to the living.”

Alice then touches on the Airstream again, saing that whatever they’re looking for should be inside. Keisha says, “Because there are oracles on these roads,” to which Alice adds, “We hope.”

After the opening credits, we get a brief snippet of Alice and Keisha laughing as they sing along to Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” There’s a short break, and we get more narration from Alice stating that they’ve both frquently encountered the word “praxis” throughout their respective journeys, and that they decided to try and find out more about it: google doesn’t bear any results, so they decide instead to go to a libarian. Said librarian (Mercy from Tulsa) does manage to locate some mentions of Praxis and Thistle in a number of historical documents. However, the information doesn’t really tell them how to find Praxis or what they are.

Keisha takes over, and explains that she took Alice to the Praxis factory in Florida that she visted back in Part 1. The only thing is, the factory is now gone. In fact, there are no signs that a factory had ever existed in the area. Keisha wonders briefly if there was any way that they could “scoop up a factory and disappear,” before coming to the conclusion that they clearly could. She says that she double-checked how they got there, and then says that based on the geography of the area, there’s no way the factory could have been built there. Except, of course, for the fact that she clearly remembers going to the factory.

There’s another pause, and Keisha cuts back in to ruminate for a while on the nature of long road trips:

Being good at long distance travel means turning yourself as much as possible into cargo. The more you can become like, say, a cardboard box, the better you are at withstanding the miles. A cardboard box doesn’t need to pee. A cardboard box doesn’t need to stretch its legs. A cardboard box only sits and is transported. And that’s how a person becomes good at long road trips. They sit and and are transported. They take the world as it comes. A road trip is often seen as an exercise in freedom, but the effect it has on a person is a placating stillness.

Alice, however, has a much more optimistic view about road trips:

I love long road trips. It takes you out of yourself. There’s this saying, right? “Wherever you go, there you are.” And it’s true. There’s no destination far enough that your own faults won’t follow. But what I think the saying misses is that other cliche: “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Because while it’s you who leaves a place, and you who arrives at a place, right? It isn’t necessarily you in between. The you that sits on the road is a different you, one with far less responsibilities. One whose choices have been narrowed down to which exit to stop at, what music to listen to for the next hundred miles. It’s freeing, being taken out of yourself and replaced by this road version. And yes, it’s tiring when you arrive and your worn out, stressed self has to step back into her place, but those moments between? Those are worth it. Those road hours are the one bit of freedom we get, and the reason we feel like that is because they take away most of our freedom. Sometimes the less options we have, the more free we feel.

Keisha says that the hours spent on the road have somewhat altered her perception of time. Basically, before she started her search for Alice, an hour and a half long trip seemed to be like an ordeal that she would have to prepare for. But now, four or five hour longs trips seem to just zip by: “I’ve learned that all it takes is sitting and existing. Exist long enough and anything will be over.”

Alice cuts in again, saying that they’ve heard about the oracles (the people with hoodies that have popped up in previous episodes) in a number of roadside bars. She adds that said oracles have a tendency to appear in areas where Praxis has been active, and that they may be connected to each other somehow. So, they put it out on the “whisper network or weirdos, freaks, and outsiders like us that we’re looking for an oracle.”

Back to Keisha, who says that she and Alice backtracked through the areas where Keisha and Sylvia encountered the burger restaurant run by Donna and Ramon. They found that all of them have remained vacant since the last time they were there, which Keisha finds strange since she thinks other businesses would have moved into the vacant spaces by now. She runs her hand over the glass of one of them, and can still feel the imprint of “Praxis” where it was stuck to the window.

Alice takes over again: “We still haven’t talked about why I left. Not really. I don’t know how to tell her the story without reopening the hurt. So we talk about other matters. And often, we don’t talk at all.”

With a touch of bitterness, Keisha says that she knows Alice will tell her the story when she’s ready to, and anyway she has enough on her plate right now: “I love her, but I only have so much I can worry about at once. It’s like when we used to make bread together. You can’t force a dough to rise. You leave it and it rises. You can’t speed that up.”

Alice then chimes in again, saying that they’ve made some headway on their oracle hunt. A fellow trucker, although he can’t make any promises about the source, has given information that they believe may have come from Sylvia. Sylvia, if you recall, had gone missing on her own search for the oracles. The other trucker gives them the information, but then warns them to be careful if they’re going down the same path as Sylvia. Alice can’t make any promises, but tellss him that they’ll try before they say goodbye to each other.

They then make their way to Texas, and Alice comments that while it’s only 200 miles between Dallas and Austin, it’s all taken up by road construction. She’s a bit frustrated by this, since it stretched out what should have been about a two hour trip to over half a day.. “We go in the middle of the night, and even then our phones have to take us on an exciting tour of residential streets and frontage roads, trying to find our away around the complete closures of the only highway.”

Keisha then comments on how she used to wonder about the various derelict roadside bars and nearly empty businesses, basically about the types of people who would go to them or how they were doing.

Now, though, you can look up reviews online of literally anything. See pictures of thnnnnnnne food. Turns out the abandoned-looking barbeque joint, tucked into a temporary-looking structure on a gravel lot by the highway, is some legendary place people drive hours to eat. What hides in abandoned places and all that. Outside of Dallas, we drive by this huge and breathtakingly seedy sex store. I’ve talked before about how, for a country so prudish, we are remarkably prudent about our sex stores. But because it’s now, I can check out the internet reviews of the seedy sex warehouse on the outskirts of Dallas. Turns out people feel like they charge too much for their weekly swingers’ night. Well, tehy won’t stay open for long with reviews like that.

And back to Alice, now gushing a bit about Buc-ees, “the truck stop that other truck stops dream of.” She talks about how they make their own snacks and sodas, as well as the absolute giganticness of the place itself. She chuckles a bit about how billboards advertise that they have “the cleanest bathrooms in America” and, since she hasn’t been in all of the bathrooms in America, she’ll have to take their word for it. She does note, however, that all the stalls have their own hand sanitizer dispensers, just in case the patrons are in too much of a hurry to wash their hands: “American convenience in the ultimate of all convenience stores.”

She veers away from the subject a bit to say that Keisha’s gone outside to talk to Tamara, their contact at the LA Times. Apparently she’s checked in with them regularly and, although she’s skeptical about what they’ve told her, since some of the information they’ve provided has checked out she’s happy to continue staying in contact with them. Alice hopes that all f this will be worth it, “because Keisha has penned our whole salvation on the truth setting us free.”

The episode comes full circle, and we’re back at the Airstream. Alice says that it seems odd to her that an oracle would live in a trailer like this, but can’t think of anywhere more appropriate.

Keisha notes that they had to leave the truck behind. She had suggested that they walk, but Alice had rightly pointed out that while it’s cool before dawn, when the sun comes up it’s going to get really hot real quick. So they decide to get a rental car to complete their trip.

Either way, they make it to the trailer and are about to leave the car, but Alice stops Keisha before she heads out: “Some part of me said I couldn’t even do one more risky act without telling her. And so I just spilled it. I told her the enire story of my leaving, why I did it, why I couldn’t come home.”

Whatever Alice told her, Keisha does not take it well. She gets out of the car, slamming the door behind her, and storms off towards the trailer. Alice calls after her; Keisha ignores her.

Alice gets out of the car and follows, stepping in front of Keisha in order to get to the door before her. Alice says that while Keisha has certainly earned the right to be the first to reach the oracle, she doesn’t want to risk putting Keisha in any further danger. Keisha takes this rather poorly as well: “That really pisses me off! She pushes past me like I didn’t take care of myself for years! If she had wanted to protect me, she is many highway months too late.”

At any rate, the two enter the Airstream, with Alice noting the record player and records sitting by the doorway. She notices that the records are severely warped, and wonders for a moment how they got wet in such a dry place. Keisha goes to the sink and tries it, but no water comes out. She wonders for a bit what she expected, since there’s no water lines to hook the sink up to.

Keisha then notices a figure in a hoodie sitting on the bed as Alice notices the light in the trailer dim, thinking it’s due to a passing cloud. Keisha tells the oracle that they’ve gone a long way to find them: “They say nothing back. Anxiety is working my gut. But it does the same when I’m ordering pancakes at a truck stop, when I’m getting up to pee in the middle of the night.”

Alice then realizes that there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and Keisha addresses the oracle again. Still not getting a response, she reaches out to touch the oracle. The oracle slumps over, and Keisha realizes that they’re dead.

At the same moment, Alice hears a familiar wet huffing sound coming from outside the trailer, and the two of them realize that they’re surrounded by Thistle Men.

And that’s where the episode ends.

So, the first thing I want to comment on is that the divide between Keisha and Alice seems to be growing. This is evident not just in their argument towards the end, but earlier, when the two are talking about their opinions on road trips. These seem to indicate that the two aren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye anymore.

Also, good lord, that cliffhanger at the end. Can you imagine what it would be like if the series had just ended there? People would either be lauding Joseph Fink as a genius, or calling for his head.

Maybe both.

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