When I first Saw Brigitte

I don’t like to think about that time, or any of the other times I’ve been to Hell. Even with Bob there, even with Bob helping me a little, I never ever have a good time and that time and the second time, the night before, I was in Hell for, like, weeks, while my body slept or whatever, and so I’d been in this life for only two days and three nights, if that first time climbing out of that crevasse was a night, and I think it was because it was after that I woke up in the diner… so I’d been in this life for two days, and three nights, and I’d spent weeks, if not months, of that life, in Hell and praying that it was only a dream but knowing that it wasn’t.

When I woke up that morning, after the third time, I was freezing cold and crying. My cheek was wet with tears running down it and I was shivering and my hands were blue. Well, my right hand was blue and kind of numb. The left hand wasn’t but it was maybe, I thought, the wrong color to turn blue when it got cold.

Are you okay? Doc asked me as I sat up and wiped away tears and sniffled.

“No, I’m not,” I told him. I stood up. “Which way?”

I wanted to walk and get warm and walk and forget that I was hungry and walk so that I could see trees and grass and living things and forget about what Bob and I had been up to in Hell, trying to survive and avoid demons and things. We started walking, Doc going a little ahead of me, and I touched everything that we walked by. I touched rocks to reassure myself that they were not hot and that they would not – as some do in Hell – open up eyes and giant mouths and come hopping after me and trying to eat me with the ground thudding at each hop/step. I touched leaves but did not pull them off the trees as I walked. I didn’t see any flowers but I saw green and wood and brown and yellow and all these colors that don’t appear in Hell and the sun was coming up and my clothes were drying off, the dew evaporating as my clothes warmed up, so I felt a little better except that I was really really hungry.

That’s how it went for the next two days: walk and touch living things and try not to think about Hell and listen to the music Doc played me, and sometimes he’d play news or stories and I tried to follow those, but mostly I didn’t think about anything at all because here’s how it’d go:

Doc would play some music and I’d ask a question, like “Hey, Doc, what’s that thing” pointing to a large mirrored-panel and Doc would start talking like this:

That is a solar panel. When private Nongovernmental use of petroleum was prohibited mass production of alternative energy sources helped drive efficient solar power collectors to harness the one free and readily available source of energy, production that was encouraged by the government prior to the remarketization …

… and I’d already be drifting off and thinking how the sun felt warm and bright and nice on the back of my neck and then I’d rub the back of my neck and then I’d put my hand down and then I’d get kind of scared because it didn’t really seem like my hand and then I’d remember how Hell didn’t even seem to have a sun at all and then I’d wonder where the light came from in Hell and then I’d look up at the sun and wonder how much daylight was left today and how long I’d be able to stay awake and then I’d wonder how long I’d be in Hell that night and then I’d wonder why six hours of sleep here didn’t just mean six hours in Hell, that didn’t seem fair, that I had to spend days and weeks in that horrid place when I only got a few hours a day here and then I’d start crying again and I’d finally say “Shut up, Doc, please and just play some music,” and he’d play some music that usually I kind of liked and it distracted me.

And we’d steal food because of course, I had no money.

So I was hungry and miserable and tired and bedraggled looking when we got, on day number 5, to the outskirts of a town. Doc had me stop.

We should wait a moment, he said, and I sat down in the long grass underneath a tree and leaned back against it, feeling the rough bark against my back and feeling my aching feet relax a little, and rubbing my knees and calves. I closed my eyes and then opened them again.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to be afraid to nap because if you do, you might spend your fifteen minute nap hiding beneath a rocky slab from the giant bats-with-frog-faces that are flying around you and which you think might eat you?

“What are we waiting for?” I asked.

The right moment, Doc said.

“What’s that mean?”

We should not just walk into this town yet, he said.

I could hear people singing, like a choir. It sounded nice. There was an organ, too. I stretched up a little and tried to see where it was coming from. I listened to the soft sounds and wanted to nap.

“Why? Isn’t it safe?”

It may not be, Doc said. He buzzed a little. One tentacle lifted up and glowed on the end. He spun, then reoriented. I wondered what he was doing. I wondered how smart he was. Was he alive, in a way? Was he just a really good computer? He’d explained to me a lot about octopi on the way down – he didn’t mind talking about himself any more than anyone minds talking about themselves, I guess—but I didn’t really understand a lot of it, it was a bunch of technical stuff that was over my head. Still, he was all I had to talk to, and I liked listening to him, plus all of his advice had been good so far and I hadn’t been captured or starved or shot or anything.

He drifted downward.

Quiet he said.

I hunched back down.

A few people walked by. They were really dressed up: suits and ties and dresses and hats and ribbons and belts and the like. Fancy. They never looked over by us. They didn’t walk fast, or slow. They just walked. Then a few more. A group, here and there, and some single people or couples. There were little kids, too, running sometimes and their parents were telling them to slow down and not get sweaty and messed up. They didn’t yell, though: they talked in careful, quiet tones, trying not to get too excited or angry, I thought.

It made me sadder than ever. Here and there I saw couples walking, a man with his arm on the arm of a woman, or on the small of her back. There was one couple that had a little boy and they each held his hand and once he tripped and they caught him without even thinking about it. Women walked and talked among themselves and laughed, quietly, putting their hands up to their mouths.

I watched where they walked to, and saw that it was a little white building near the outskirts of town, where other people were walking, too, from other directions, about 200 people, maybe, total, went in there and the choir music got louder and the organ music got louder and the people began singing.

“What is that, Doc?” I asked him.

It’s a church, he said.

A church. I didn’t really know what that was. But I couldn’t ask him to explain right away, because I heard footsteps coming down the path, then, louder and faster than the other ones, and someone breathing heavily, running along the path, and that’s when Brigitte ran by, holding her hat in one hand while she tried to button up her dress, which buttoned in the back, as she ran.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stood up, as she went by. My heart began beating superfast – I could actually hear it.

She was running along the path and then cut over to her left to take a shortcut across the grass and I saw her back, white and smooth and soft-looking, the color of cream mixed with clouds, as she held the hat now in her teeth and tried to run across the grass and do the buttons up on her dress. Her hair was done up in a ponytail kind of but fancier, and it bounced along with her running. Her hands worked at the buttons as she ran and I saw her bra strap and a little bit of her underwear, peeking up from the lower part of the zipper – the bra and the underwear were white and lacy and flimsy and I felt a little flushed at the sight of them.

She got the dress done up just before she reached the little church, and put her hat on, and paused at the door. Her chest was heaving up and down, and I could see the outlines of her breasts just pushing at the material of the dress, and I could almost-but-not-quite see little beads of sweat on her neck and shoulderblade, I probably imagined those. She put her hand on her chest, just outside the door of the church, and stood there, back straight, chest out, until her breathing slowed a little and the music got louder and then she pushed open the door and went inside.

“Doc, who was that?”

I do not know. Why?

“She’s beautiful,” I told him. I didn’t even think about what I was saying. “She’s beautiful and I’ve never seen anyone like her.”

I was kind of sweating, a little: my hands, my palms, were a little damp and my breath was coming kind of fast. I felt a little dizzy.

“Can we go out?” I asked.


I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to go into the church and find the ponytail girl and… I didn’t know what, right away. I had only been alive five days. But I wanted to find her and watch her button up her dress again, and look more closely at the outlines of her breasts, and find out what her panties felt like.

But Doc wouldn’t let me leave yet. He made me sit there, in the bushes, for a long time, time I spent remembering the bra strap and her back and her hands and her mouth biting on the hat brim, filling my head with the most pleasant thoughts I’d had yet, something I kept up until Doc floated up by me and said softly:

Don’t say or do anything and do not move.

I didn’t react. I knew enough to listen to Doc. One of Doc’s tentacles was held up just in front of my mouth. He kept it there while two revenants walked by, mumbling in that weird way they have and picking at their ratty t-shirts.

I wasn’t so eager to get out of the woods then.

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