Brigitte kept me from noticing a lot of things.

Doc kept me there for a while longer, and then let me stand up. I was all for going to the church and finding that girl with the pony tail, but he said not to. He said that we had to wait around there that day.

“Why?” I asked.

Because you do not fit in, he said. I wondered about that, but he clarified then and said you need different clothing.

All of the women who’d gone by had been wearing really nice, pretty dresses. I had on raggedy dirty denim pants and a sweatshirt that we’d stolen someplace because it had gotten kind of chilly one night. I also was hungry again. Doc told me to loosen me up we’d go walking a bit. So I got up and followed him. He didn’t play music. He scooted ahead, puffing up and then down, tentacles buzzing and lifting. I thought he was looking for revenants. I didn’t need to know anything about them; Bob had told me more than enough about them on our trip together, and had also told me that none of them were nice like him.

“None of them?” I’d asked him.

“None but me,” Bob had answered.

“Why are you nice?” I wanted to know.

But Bob had never answered.

So we walked, that day, about a half-mile, to the outskirts of town, and Doc made me sit down again and said Keep quiet and I did. I leaned against a tree and watched Doc, who wafted about 10 feet up, and a small spot on the side of his head glowed green for a few moments, and then went dim.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

I am sampling frequencies, Doc said, which didn’t mean anything to me but he then buzzed lower and went dimmer and said very softly quiet and so I sat there.

There was a shuffling and rustling and I saw one of the revenants, or maybe a different revenant, stumbling along. It walked by, never looking towards the little woods we sat in, and mumbling to itself. This one looked a little more rotten than usual, and had, for some reason, a “Nixon 1972” shirt on. Usually, according to Bob, they favored old concert t-shirts. When I’d asked him why, he’d answered that:

“Because we like crowds,” he said.

“Why?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I like crowds, too. All revenants do. We like anything to do with crowds. Show us a group of people and it gets our blood racing. Concert t-shirts make us think of the crowds of people attending concerts so we try to find them and wear them.”

“Plus,” Bob had added, “They look good.”

The revenant that walked by now didn’t look “good” but it wasn’t his shirt. He looked hungry and bedraggled. He walked by and I was going to shift positions but Doc held up a tentacle so I stayed still. The revenant came back and walked across the field towards the church, which was now off to my left instead of off to my right because of our walk. The revenant stumbled a little, and walked aimlessly, but I was sure he was heading for the church, from which I could hear all the voices singing again.

It took him forever to get there, but he did, and when he did, he leaned up against the outside of it, pressing his head to the wall. Listening, I realized.

“What’s he doing, Doc?”

Doc floated up a little. A tentacle pointed towards the church. I wondered if Doc saw through those or what.

I do not know, he said, and kept the tentacle pointed towards the church. The revenant stayed there for a long time, and we stayed where we were, until finally what Doc said was the “service” let out. I watched, kneeling near a bush by my tree, as people came out. The pony-tailed girl, Brigitte, was one of the last to come out. There was a guy in a suit standing in front of the church shaking people’s hands and kissing the ladies on their foreheads and smiling, and he hugged Brigitte and I got jealous, but it was an uncle-ish kind of hug so I didn’t really need to be upset and I wasn’t a lot, but I wanted to be the one hugging her, and not like an uncle, either.

Eventually the church crowd faded away and it was early afternoon. I was starved and tired of sitting still.

“When can we go somewhere?” I asked Doc, but he wouldn’t let me move until it was almost dark. To pass the time he played music and snippets of news and things, and tried to teach me things. He told me the name of the town, for one thing, and I can’t remember it now at all, which is kind of embarrassing except that I don’t think I’m ever going back there, so what do I care?

I liked the music, though. I didn’t pay much attention to anything else and finally Doc said

We can go and I got up and started walking towards the church. Not that way, he said, and zipped over to my right. I was disappointed: The pony-tail girl had gone the other way and I said so. You need clothing, Doc said, and led me off to the outskirts of the town, about a half-mile away, where there were a few small houses near the side of the road. The third one, he told me, and I said:

“What about it?”

Go in there.

“Doc, I can’t go in someone’s house!”

It is empty. She is working.

“How do you know that?”

I have been listening.

“Listening? To what?”

We do not have much time, Doc said.

I only later realized that sometimes Doc didn’t answer my questions. Then, I didn’t think much of it. “If I go in there and get clothes, can we go find that girl?” I expected him to give me more chores to do and I don’t know why I kept doing them except that only Doc had answers for me, and I didn’t feel ready to talk to other people at that point.

When I’d first woken up, and dropped that tray in the diner thing in New York City, and walked out, and nobody had tried to stop me, I’d just been running automatically, sort of. I don’t know how to explain it. I just did what my body wanted to do, while my mind kept saying who am I what’s going on what’s that where am I and I didn’t know anything. I was standing on the subway in New York City, the one that runs on pneumatic air drives, whatever that is, according to Doc, and there were people, and there were some that looked like they might be nice people, and I wanted to talk to them, but what was I going to say to them? Excuse me, I just kind of woke up and I’m not sure who I am and I don’t know anything, and also I was just crawling out of a crevasse in Hell and I’m really really scared?

So while I thought, at times, about talking to someone, I never tried to do it and I didn’t really want to talk to anyone in particular; I wanted to get help, and find out what was going on, and stop being scared and confused, but there was nobody that I felt like going up to and saying Help me, and that left just Doc, who had offered to help me and whose advise always worked, so I’d been okay with Doc being my only friend here, and I’d stopped thinking of him as an Octopus. I just thought of him as “Doc,” which he said his name was.

Then I’d seen Brigitte and suddenly I wanted very much to talk to her, to go right up to her and just sit down and start talking and hold her hand and then rub her hand and then squeeze her hand and then rub my hand up her arm to her shoulder, and rub her shoulder, too, and then slowly pull up her shirt so that she wasn’t wearing it anymore…

… it was thoughts like that which I kept in my mind as I walked up to the only door in the small house, the third one, that Doc had said was empty, and under the cover of darkness, while I wondered what Brigitte’s tummy would look like underneath her dress – flat and smooth and soft, I guessed, and white like the sun didn’t hit it much, just like her back—I tried the door and it was open.

Doc hovered right in front of me. Go inside, quickly, he said. I pushed the door open and then shut it and looked around for a light. I couldn’t find a way to turn the lights on and wondered why they didn’t automatically go on like the lights in the apartment, which I guess was my apartment, had.

“Where do I go?” I asked Doc, but the house wasn’t that big. There were only three rooms and one turned out to be the bedroom and Doc glowed a little and we got a couple of dresses. I put one on and Doc had me fold up the other two and carry them and we got back out of there. I was nervous but we’d gotten away with it and he led me down the road towards the town, saying we had to find a place to stay.

“Why?” I asked.

Then I saw her – the pony-tail girl again, and I forgot all about the question I’d asked Doc.

Which I suppose is good because Doc never answered it, anyway.

I mean, I know now why he picked that town to stay in, but I didn’t notice then that he didn’t answer me. I was too enthralled with the sight of Brigitte through a window of a restaurant – she was a waitress! I thought. We have something in common! And I got excited. I don’t know why.

Come this way, Doc said.

But I put my foot down for the first time. I was about to go with him, figuring that I could always come back and find the pony-tailed girl, only I didn’t, because as I was about to turn and go with him, Brigitte looked up from pouring something into a glass for someone, and looked out the window and saw me and our eyes met.

She winked.

And I said: “No, Doc. I’m going in there.”

Doc didn’t protest.

I didn’t notice that, then, either. Brigitte kept me from noticing a lot of stuff I should have noticed.


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