Podcast, Recaps, Reviews

Katie Hears Stuff: Alice Isn’t Dead, “Go Home Again”

alice

So, when I said in my last Alice post that that episode was the end of part one, it turns out I was wrong. The episode after this one is actually going to be the end of part one. The creators have stated that there will be a part two, but as they are also working on other projects and other jobs, they aren’t sure when it will be. However, you can click here to make a donation to the show if you so desire.

That out of the way, holy fucking shit.

Remember how I said that the last episode had a hell of an ending? That ending does not hold a candle to the ending of this one. I’ll get to that towards the end (of course).

We open with the narrator musing about the beauty of a bay that she’s crossing, as well as how it may be the last beautiful thing that she sees:

Cross the bay into Richmond. The water sparkles like it does in poems. I try to actively take in the expanse of water, the roll of the hills. Last beauty for a while.

If I’m lucky, for a while. Might be just the last beauty for me.

Haven’t I had enough for one life? Enough of everything, you know?

Turn away from the bay, past huge windmills churning power into the grid, and then on into the long flat of the highway. Still kind of pretty now. Not a “pretty” that you would go out of your way to see, but a far sight prettier than this road becomes.

She then talks about some billboards that she’s come across that have different pieces of faces on them. Eventually, those pieces coalesce into a face that appears to be smiling, but not really: “Or, no, not that. What’s like a smile, but angry? What’s like a face, but drifting?”

After the theme song, the narrator describes making it home and how she finds it odd that everything is as she left it, even though she’s been gone for months:

I know that doesn’t sound like it’s weird, it’s just what you’d expect from inanimate objects, but it actually happens. It’s weird.

You think about the you that left those things in those places, and everything that’s happened to you since, and it doesn’t track. It doesn’t feel possible, even though it’s not just possible, it’s unavoidable. You will always live in the remnants of the life you’ve led up until this point, making do with whatever you’ve left for yourself.

She also talks about how normally neighbors would be curious about what she was doing, or her friends may have been worried, but she doesn’t experience that because she’s pushed those neighbors and friends away, “and there was no one left to know or care.” Which is actually really, really sad. She goes on to how she tried to fall into a routine and go back to a normal life, but had failed.

The narrator spends a moment talking about how she feels like she’s always being watched and it doesn’t seem to her like she’s escaped anything. Then, about 3 weeks after she arrives home, she hears a very strange, slapping noise:

Like haphazard clapping, skin slapping skin arrhythmically. Adrenaline seized through me. I shook with it. But I crept through the dark hose toward the noise.

SLAP! SLAP!

SLAP! SLAP!

The narrator then has a brief interlude that I found fairly amusing where she passes a farm, and talks briefly about the way that they smell, and how you can smell one from a long ways off:

Oh, you start smelling that a long way out, don’t you? Our meat industry leads to a number of good smells, but it starts here with the smell of shit so strong it spreads out over miles, a half hour before you see the source. And then you see the fences, and the thousands –literally thousands – of cows. Just so many of them, in clumps and bunches, and the smell of shit singes your nostrils.

As someone who grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, I just would like to say that this is absolutely true, and that the turkey farms are actually worse than the dairy farms.

We then go back to the main story: the narrator continues to describe the noise she heard earlier, as well as an odd shape she can see reflected in her TV. She also smells “tilled earth. I smelled my own sweat, and it smelled like cleaning chemicals and gas stations.” The strange shape makes a whoop noise, and the narrator manages to get a better look at it:

It was one of the Thistle men. Not the one that had followed me, and not the one that had led me to their secret home, but another one still. He was bent horribly backwards, like his spine was broken, and he was loosely swinging his arms back and forth in a circle so that they slapped his chest and his back.

That is…alarming. Not only does she not feel safe, but one of the Thistle men has followed her home. She runs into her bedroom and locks the door, crying. The slapping/whooping noises stop, and the narrator sits and waits for the Thistle man to break down the door, but morning eventually arrives without that happening.

At this point, there’s another interlude where the narrator talks about stopping for lunch at a Subway, mostly because it had parking spaces that would accommodate her truck. She says that’s one way to find food, and

I feel like our ancestors had other ones – the color of the berry, the foraging habits of the prey – but here’s what I’ve got. Can they take my truck, and will it not be that much of a pain in the ass to drive out again?

She also talks for a moment about how trucks will eventually become self-driving, and that her job will become obsolete. She adds, “All of us will have to figure out how to define ourselves when we’re not defining ourselves by how we survive.”

We then hear what happened after the narrator’s encounter. She continues trying to go back to a normal life, and starts hunting for a job. She makes a comment about how odd her resume is, with several years as an office job, with a long stretch as a truck driver, followed by trying to get another office job.

“Was this, ah, about finding yourself?” job agencies would ask about the strange span in my work history.

“It was about finding someone, sure,” I said.

“Mmm…uh, well, we’ll call you.”

All the while, the feeling that’s she’s being watched never really goes away. It’s at this point that she sees another Thistle man smiling at her from a neighbor’s balcony, and wonders what’s happened to her neighbors.  She isn’t even sure if they’re still alive, but at the same time realizes that there wouldn’t be a whole lot they would have been able to do in this situation even if they were.

At one point, the narrator hears odd, dragging, off-kilter footsteps and starts to a see a car parked outside of her home that she’s never seen around before. Eventually, she has a strange experience while taking a shower:

And that time I misjudged the moment, because I could feel that there was something in there with me, in the shower. But I couldn’t see anything. That was the thing, there was nothing there!

But there was.

I could smell mowed grass and fertilizer, could hear between the crack of water on tub a “Yip! Yip! Yip!”

I turned off the shower. No sound. I looked all over the bathroom. No one, nothing was there. But something was there! I turned the shower back on, the smell was even stronger, and buried in the sound of the water: “Yip! Yip! Yip!”

My anxiety was becoming a monster of its own. Now that it had a focus, it was overpowering. I could feel myself shutting down, wanting to just do nothing at all, to not get out of bed, to wait for them to take me.

And what were they even trying to warn me away from? I had gone home! I had given up!

The narrator eventually comes to the conclusion that they’re not trying to warn her away from anything. They are going to kill her, but want to have a little fun with her before they do. She realizes that sitting and waiting for them to become bored is no longer an option, and she has to do something:

I thought about trying to disappear, vanishing off the map – or, more accurately, into the map – driving into the map of America so deep, and so far, that no one would ever find me again.

But there is a fine line between disappearing from view and disappearing altogether. How far could I run? How much could I change before there was nothing left of me to hide? Before all that was left was the disguise?

There was only one escape. I would have to be the one to come after them. I would have to go where they lived, and confront them there. Only then would this end, one way or the other.

She calls her former employer and tells them that she would like her job back, if that’s all right with them, and then states that she would have to plan carefully, as going against the Thistle men without a concrete plan would be suicide.

We have another brief interlude where the narrator is driving along, and she says that she’s glad that she doesn’t have to go along a mountain pass she’d been on before, especially not in her truck:

Ugh. I can’t imagine doing that pass in a truck like this. And yet people do it every day. Every day, people just like me swing the bulk of these things on the sharp mountain turns.

Not me. I have something far more dangerous in mind.

We go back to the main story, and the narrator points out that the Thistle men must be following some kind of pattern, and that she’ll survive this if she’s able to figure it out. We then get to hear what her plan actually is:

I would build a hidden lean-to on the hill above their town. I would disappear into it with food and water and…I don’t know, a bucket, you know? I mean, gross, but…it’s what I would have to do. This would have to be done carefully and slowly, or it would not be doable at all.

Of course, that plan gets thrown right out the window when the narrator hears a knock on the door. She looks out, but doesn’t see anyone at the door, just a piece of paper. A piece of paper with an address on it. Of a certain hotel.

The Thistle men have found Sylvia, and they want her to know it. She calls Sylvia (who thankfully answers) and tells her that she needs to get moving again. She then heads out on her own journey.

Later, the narrator is outside the gates of the Thistle town, and is about to enact her plan.

All right. I’m facing the gate now. The engine is running, the headlights are off.

Alice, I–

I wish I could have seen you again. I guess that’s what this always was, I just…I wish that I could have seen you again. Just that.

Okay. Okay.

I just would like to take a moment to point out how excellent a performer Jasika Nicole is. This is actually a very emotional scene, and it’s something that you really need to listen to in order to get the full effect.

At this point, the narrator hears someone open the door to her truck. Also, at this point, my jaw hit the fucking floor. See, the narrator asks who it is, then turns to look at the newcomer. Then, the last line of the episode: “Alice? Alice is that…”

And that’s where it ends.

And that’s when my brain went boom.

I have so many questions. What happens now? Is the person the narrator’s talking to at the end of the episode really Alice? Will I be able to wait 2 weeks to find out?

So. Many. Questions.

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