Part 10:

That hallway was dim. I stared at Brigitte, who I could only see in kind-of-a-silhouette. She stared back at me.

“What does he mean, Brigitte?” I asked her in as steady of a voice as I could. I looked down at her stomach, just a little bulging. Was she really pregnant? “Are you?” I asked.

Brigitte looked confused for a moment. “Am I what?”

I pointed at her stomach. “Are you pregnant?”

“Yes, Rachel. Yes, I am. Very much so. And I’m in love with you.”

“Why’d he say that, then?”

“Because he’s a liar!” Brigitte looked angry and waved towards Samson. “Don’t listen to him. He’s just trying to tear us apart so you’ll help him and his stupid plans and God and you don’t want that. Do you remember when we first met?”

I did. I do. I wanted to believe her.

But I did remember when we first met.

I had been walking for a week, maybe, or so, sleeping outside, and stealing food, when I could, and being confused. I was more confused and more tired than I thought anyone could be, but I didn’t know whether that was the way things were or what. I didn’t know anything. From that moment when Doc had told me to walk South, I had begun learning about life, because when I woke up in that diner, I didn’t know much about nothing.

Doc had said Go south, and so I did. I didn’t even know why. It just sounded like a good idea to me. So I’d stood up and started walking. I’d walked out of New York City, entirely, just started walking from downtown where the buildings all had 200 stories or more, walking through the night with the lights that glowed very dimly. There were lights only about every five hundred yards or so, and not much light in between them. I wasn’t scared of the dark, not at all, and I just walked and walked and walked. Eventually the 200-story-tall buildings became 100-story tall buildings and then smaller and smaller until I was walking through a residential area and then, hours after I’d started out, I was walking through an area that wasn’t quite just nature, not just trees and grass, but was pretty close to it.

Doc had given me guidance, telling me which way to go, helping me to cross streets safely, and had gotten me onto a country back road. He beeped and whirred and floated along and played some music for me from time to time. I didn’t say much of anything that first night. I didn’t know what to say. Everytime I looked at my body I would shudder. Do you have any idea what it’s like to literally wake up in someone else’s body? Or more than one-someone-else’s body? I would look down and see my body, its mismatched feet, the various parts, and start crying, and Doc would play some soothing music and we kept walking.

I got hungry but we were in the middle of nowhere, and I finally got tired. The sun had been up for hours and I told Doc that I had to sit and rest for a moment. He led me to some bushes. That was the second time I remembered going to Hell.

I woke up from that, crying and shaking.

“Doc,” I said. “Doc.” It was all I could say for a while. Doc hovered near me and didn’t say much of anything. He played some music that I liked, a pretty-voiced singer. “Doc, I was in Hell,” I told him.

Doc hadn’t answered, maybe because I hadn’t asked him a question. I asked him, then, how I could get something to eat.

Steal it, Doc told me. So I did. We’d found a convenience store, a lot like the one that Samson’s HQ was behind. I’d gone in there, looking for all the world like someone who had every right to be considered a normal person. I wondered if the clerk there—it had been a woman, and I’d thought she was pretty but sort of underdressed—would notice that I had different body parts, would think it was weird. I just walked to the door. Doc said he would wait outside to avoid attention.

Octopi are somewhat rare, he said.

I didn’t think then: How do I have one?

I’d gone in and done what he told me to do, gone through the aisles looking for something small and easy to carry that wouldn’t spoil. I’d settled on a couple of packages of crackers and then, like Doc had said to do, I’d slipped them into the waistband of my dress and had walked to the other aisle and looked at some things, then had gone to the bathroom and used it and then come out and left. Doc had said:

That will make it look as though you only went in there to use the restroom but wanted them not to know that

And it worked. I left with my crackers and we walked all that day, stopping once at a little building, a library, to get a drink of water, in a small town.

When it came time to sleep that night, I was starved again. But I was also scared because of what I wanted to believe was a dream the night before, that trip to Hell, a dream that was a lot like the first time I’d gone to Hell. I sat down off in the grassy area Doc had picked out. He was playing some talking program, something with news on it that I wasn’t really listening to but I liked the background noise.

“Doc, am I going to go there again tonight when I sleep?” I asked him.

Yes, Doc said.

I hugged my knees to my chest and listened to the talking. I couldn’t follow it. Visions of Hell ran through my head, the sights and sounds and smells. That was what really made me realize it wasn’t a dream, that it was more than a dream, that I’d actually gone to Hell: The smells. Who has smells in a dream? And smells like that? I didn’t know then, and I don’t really know now, because I can’t remember life before I became this, but smells made it real. Like if you ever eat something really disgusting or weird, like when a few days later I tried beef, you always describe it first by telling someone how it smelled.

I did go to Hell that night. That was the night I met Bob. But I tried and tried and tried to not go to Hell. I tried and tried to listen to Doc’s little newscast, focusing on the words: someone had been kidnapped or something. Kidnapped. I couldn’t follow it. But someone famous. I just stared at Doc’s little orange glow as he bobbed up and down lightly and tried not to nod off. I talked to Doc, asked him questions, but I couldn’t really think of anything. Like I asked him:

“Where am I, Doc?” and he said:

Pennsylvania but that didn’t mean that much to me, so I said:

“Where’s that?” And he said

In the United States of America.

“What is that?” I asked. “A country?”

It is a country. Yes.

It wasn’t very interesting or helpful but it kept me awake a little longer. I couldn’t remember how I knew what countries were. I sat and tried to keep warm and tried not to think of how hungry I was and asked Doc to tell me about the United States and he told me about its government and the police forces and how its economy was primarily something or other based, I think he said entertainment it all made little sense to me and eventually he droned on and on and I couldn’t follow it and I woke up in Hell for the third time with Bob staring at me and leaning down over me and I screamed because I didn’t know what he was.


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