Alice Isn’t Dead-Part 3, Chapter 10: “An Ending”

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In this, the final episode, Keisha and Alice finally get to go home.

We open with Keisha and Alice switching rather frequently as the narrator. Keisha notes that happy endings don’t exist because endings don’t: “There is always a next moment, even if we aren’t involved in it.”

Alice laments how many people have died during there struggle, as well as her and Keisha’s involvement in those deaths, before questioning if it was all worth. Keisha then adds that “there is no end to the story. But there is an end to our telling of it. And I think that end is come.”

The two muse a bit more on Sylvia and her current states, with Keisha noting that she chose to become what she is now, so Keisha “chose to be happy for her.”

And then, in silence the two drive off, and make their way back to their home.

The credits roll, and we hear the sound of a key turning in a lock and a door opening. Keisha says that it’s been a long time since they were there. Alice notes:

I didn’t recognize the smell. When I lived here, my brain had filtered out the house’s smell. Now it came on overwhelmingly. Not bad, but unfamiliar. This place belonged to other people. People who we were once, but no longer are.

Keisha takes over, mentioning that the two of them made pizza the night they came back, the same as they had on countless other nights before.

It all came back as though it had only been a few days. Flour on our hands, sauce on our hands, our hands on our hands. Something forgettable on the television. Leg upon leg. This is a life, Alice. This is what it’s made of. Hand upon hand upon leg upon heart upon couch upon a day we made bread together.

Alice then comes back on, noting with some amusement how much her wife enjoys baking. She adds that Keisha “finds meditation in it,” while she does the same with Keisha’s enjoyment of it. During this time, however, there are also news reports of terrible things, largely the same sorts of things that prompted Keisha to search for Alice. Alice responds by switching to another channel: “We didn’t need to concern ourselves with all of that. Not for a while.”

Back to Keisha, who notes that the two have settled back into their daily routine a lot quicker than she had anticipated.

Routine happened sooner than we thought possible. It’s only a couple weeks before we again think of it as our bed. Before I make the coffee, and she makes the smoothies, and that’s our morning done. We don’t even think about what’s next. We’ve earned the right to merely exist for a little bit. To exist for each other, for ourselves. To touch, and in touching, to love.

There is, however, one small disruption in this routine: one day, Alice suggests that they have omelettes for breakfast. This triggers a bit of a panic in Keisha, remembering the death of Earl from the first episode of this podcast. She tells Alice that she never wants to eat omelettes again, and not to ask her why.

Alice picks up again, mentioning that a year has gone by since they came home, and that during that time they hadn’t heard anything more about Thistle. The two of them get new jobs, and have reconnected with old friends. The two of them have settled back into their old lives. Alice muses a bit on the nature of love:

Love is the look she gives me when we both come home from work and we’re tired, but one of us has to figure out what dinner will be, so we both go into the kitchen, put our hands on our hips, furrow our brows at what’s in the fridge.

Love is each of use showering before bed, one after the other. We can’t shower at the same time because we like very different temperatures of water, and that’s love too. I brush my teeth and she pees. The fog on the mirror gives way to a portrait of the two of us, preparing to sleep. it’s a portrait of love, and we look at it every night.

Keisha then has her own additions to the definition of love:

Love is the way her neck smells. That’s where it’s strongest, the side of her neck. And I lean into it, and I breathe in, and I remember what it means to live with another person. Love is the hours we spend under a blanket on a couch, and love is also the hours we spend apart, earning a living so we can return to the couch, and once more lie down together.

Love is the beat of the heart, and the passage of air, and it’s the circulation of fluids, and it’s the equilibrium of all the functions that sustain us.

Alice picks up the thread again, noting that it’s also “the absence of all she could stay to me. It’s knowing that there is pain, and choosing to never activate it.” She adds that this isn’t just a choice made once, but a choice that Keisha is making every day. She then reiterates the point that has been made through multiple episodes about there being “terrible freedom,” adding that “love is wonderful captivity.”

Keisha takes over again, adding:

Love in the morning is a cup of coffee made just the way she likes it. And love at noon is the way the sun through her hair makes an imprint in my breathing. And love in the afternoon, when I nap alone but nap knowing she is pacing around the house somewhere, that her motion is near my stillness. And love in the evening, as a laying of hands and the stretching of limbs. And love in the quietest hour of night, when, in a moment of wakefulness between hours of dreaming, I hear the soft sighs of her sleeping and feel what birds must feel when nesting. We are nothing if not absurd. We are nothing.

Alice compares love to an activity and bodily function, and a series of decisions. Keisha adds that it’s the knowledge that she is with her wife, who would never leave again.

We skip two years ahead, and the two of them are on the couch again watching TV. Keisha thinks to herself that it’s like none of this ever happened, before adding that that’s not true, that they can never quite go back to the people that they were before. Though, she also says, that it’s similar enough to how it was before that she could be fooled, which she allows herself to be.

She adds that there’s no sense wondering how their lives could have gone if things were different, and that if they were different she’d “probably just fuck it up somehow.” Later in the evening, she starts crying, overwhelmed by everything, before noting that she didn’t even know then that she was pregnant.

Alice takes over as we fast-forward seven more years, and Keisha is trying to get their daughter ready for school, as it’s her turn. Alice says that they don’t have to take turns since she owes Keisha a debt for the pain she put her through, but Keisha absolutely will not let her act guilty. She notes that they never discussed it again after that, and that it was the only way for them to move forward.

Then she talks a bit about their daughter’s name:

We named her Sylvia, our daughter. We didn’t tell her everything that happened to her namesake, not when she was six, of course, and not later either. How would we have begun to explain? What words could we even use? I don’t think those words exist. But we made sure  that she knew she was named after a brave woman who had devoted her life to making the world a better place and she had done it. She had damn well done it! The world is better because of her. What do the details matter?

Sylvia then asks Keisha if she can have two cookies for her lunch, to which her mother answers no before finally herding her out the door.

Keisha picks up 12 years later, after Sylvia has grown up and moved out, noting that now they’re “empty nesters” and that the house is so much quieter without their daughter around. She says that she thinks they raised her well, or at least as well as they were able:  “Two damaged women who hardly knew how ot put themselves together, let alone how to construct someone else’s life.”

She looks out the window, and sees a person in a hoodie across the street. She thinks for a moment that it must be one of the neighborhood kids, and smiles and waves at them. the figure is gone when she looks up again.

Alice picks up again, sometime later, mentioning that Sylvia had moved to Portland and then Chicago after graduation, and that she now works as a graphic designer. Along the way, she was engaged, broke it off, got engaged again and eventually married. Alice and Keisha pick up new hobbies: history for Alice, and golf for Keisha (to Alice’s amusement). Keisha says the game is an excuse to walk around well-landscaped areas. Alice joins her one day, and then they start going together.

Alice notes that she has nightmares “almost every night about what we’ve seen. But I wake up each morning, every morning, next to my wife. And the moment I see her, I forget the nightmares and step with her into the day.”

Keisha picks up some indeterminate time later, noting that they’ve grown old.

I guess I never thought that would happen to us. It didn’t happen in the mirror, in the mirror it was always me and her, and we looked the same day after day. But it happened in retrospect, going through old photographs and realizing, oh, I don’t look like that anymore. That’s what I think I look like, but it’s not, is it? I look like an old person now.

She talks about Sylvia, and how they speak regularly on the phone and she comes to visit sometimes. She wishes that she could come to visit more often, but recognizes that’s difficult for her because she lives so far away from them. “And anyway, what had we done this for but so that she could live her own life, free from danger?”

Alice and Keisha live their lives for a while longer before eventually, as we all must, they die, having lived a full and normal life.

Now, you’d think that is a nice, happy end to the series. And it is, for Alice and Keisha anyway. However, that is not the end of the episode, because we hear one other familiar voice: the voice of the creature that stalked Keisha all throughout the second season:

I never thought much before about the moon. But I found myself looking at it and it was beautiful. What a strange assortment of factors led to this perfect gray and white circle or radiance. I could look at it for hours. Maybe I will. I’ve got time.

I’m sorry, you thought I was dead. I was, probably, I don’t really know how all this works. I woke up in a bush by a highway. I always wake up by roads, they’re where I belong. They’re the lifeblood of what I do. If I had a name, it would be Thistle. But I have no name.

Later, I would need to collect the car from some person who thought they were gonna see tomorrow. But there was time for that too, so I walked along the highway, enjoyed how cold the night was, and, for the first time, I took a long look at the moon. Beautiful. Eventually I got myself a car, and then a place to live. Everything’s there for the taking if you get the folks who used to own them out of the way.

After I had my situation settled, I rested. I don’t know how long it takes me to rest, but I guess years? Certainly the world always changes by the time I’m feeling strong enough again. It’s a gut feeling. I don’t look at a calendar, just whenever I feel that strength start to pulse back through me I know I’ll be heading out again, doing it all over

I start hanging out at truck stops and roadside bars. I meet a man whose views are a lot like mine, and I whisper a few suggestions in his ear. And that starts it. Soon enough he’ll come to me, his face made strange by the monstrous parts of his. But ultimately it’ll be his choice. All this always is.

Damn, that moon though. I love that it’s barren, and that it’s lifeless, and that it doesn’t even have its own light. It’s a rock. That’s all it is. A big rock with a location that came entirely by chance, but now it’s up there and it buns and defies simple ideas about that is alive, and what is dead.

There are highs, and there are lows. Right now, I’m on my way to a high. I don’t mind the lows, but there is something magical about those highs. I feel it as an itch in my palms. I feel it as a pressure behind my eyes.

It’s coming, that peak. And it’ll be worth that fall that comes after. I don’t hold anything against the cycle. The cycle is no more alive than the moon is, no more alive than I suppose I am, by certain definitions of the word “alive.” People can be so binary about those things.

She goes on from hear, noting that she keeps coming across the oracles, and that there’s one in particular that’s powerful enough to warrant her keeping an eye one. She states that while the oracles, like her, don’t have names, she knows the name of this one quite well.

Alice and Keisha, as she notes, never saw or heard from her again, so they got their happy ending. However, the cycle that governs her goes on, therefore there are no endings.

She then says, “Oh, Alice. I wanna start by saying…” She launches into raucous laughter before adding, “Shit,” closing out the epsiode.

The ending in particular is quite interesting to me. This is because, I think, Alice and Keisha’s happy ending would seem like the end of the series. However, as Keisha notes in the beginning of the episode, there are no happy endings because there are no endings. So, while Alice and Keisha basically live happily ever after, the cycle that caused what they fought against goes on.

And that’s the end of the podcast. The feed, however, is still active, as Joseph Fink has stated that they plan to release some bonus materials to it, and there’s a novelization of the first part coming out October 31. In fact, there’s an audiobook excerpt on the feed  read by Jasika Nicole (the voice of Keisha), that you can go and listen to right now.

In fact, someday I think I’ll re-listen to the story again, from the beginning.

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