Alice Isn’t Dead: Part 2, Chapter 6, “Badwater”

AID

This episode is weird. Well, all of the episodes are weird; it’s basically if David Lynch directed a road trip movie. What I mean is that the format is weird. It’s a back and forth between Keisha and Roberta Colindrez’s character; not like a conversation, more the POV shifts between the two.

I would like to note that, because Roberta Colindrez’s character doesn’t have a name, I will be adopting the name this Tumblr page has given her: the Watcher. Mostly to avoid having to type out “Roberta Colindrez’s character” a billions times.

Anyway, on to the episode!

We begin, as usual, with Keisha describing her situation. Basically, she has to pee and there are no towns nearby. Luckily, the stretch of highway that she’s currently on is also deserted. The Watcher, who appears to be following her, cuts in with, “The absolute silence of miles and miles. Here there are no lights, no one to watch me watching.”

Back to Keisha, who says that it’s currently dusk, with a cropping of dark clouds, and she can see the road to the horizon. The Watcher points out that she can turn her lights off and render herself practically invisible as Keisha, noting that there’s no one around, pulls to the side of the road to relieve herself. The Watcher says that she could just kill Keisha right there, and there wouldn’t be anyone to try and stop her.

Keisha says, “It’s truly strange, standing by the highway and looking for miles into the distance and seeing no one. I’m alone as can be here. I squat, and enjoy the silence. The absolute silence of distance.”

The Watcher, following up on her previous thought, points out how humiliating it would be for Keisha to be killed whilst peeing. “But I’m patient, and now is not the time. I don’t wanna cut anything short. I lay back on the hood of my car, enjoying its warmth and look up into the sky, gray and black as sleet.”

Keisha adds, “A sky about to erupt into violence,” and the two say, in unison, “I close my eyes, and I wait.”

After the intro, we go back to Keisha, who can see a a valley from a plateau, saying, “There has been no change in my elevation, but the change in perspective is astonishing.” The Watcher cuts back in, saying that she’s going to miss “this” when it’s done, and remarks that nothing lasts forever. She adds, “To take a few uncertain years from someone’s life. Is that so much of a crime?”

Keisha says that she believed that she was on solid ground, when she was high up in the air:

There is no metaphor there, no reason to relate this to my life. It’s just a drive, just a plateau, just a valley. Just a moment of dizziness so intense it was almost pleasure.

The Watcher continues in the same vein as before, wondering what Keisha’s remaining years would be like, or if she would even get them. She posits that it would be better for her to die “in such a purposeful, clear way” than it would be to die of something like cancer.

Keisha then describes a light in the sky, something that’s not the moon or stars or an airplane. She takes her eyes of the road to look at it as the truck keeps moving forward:

I focus on the light and watch it move until my tire hits the shoulder and I am jolted back to my driving. And when I look again, it is gone.

Back to the Watcher, who has some thoughts on her own necessity:

Past the larger towns are the mining towns. A few houses and a school attached to a quarry and a processing plant. It’s dusk and the plants are still churning. Busy workers for now, until their jobs go to. Everyone’s jobs are expendable, except for mine. I could sleep a thousand years and wake up to a world that needed me.

Keisha describes the road dipping, and then rising again for miles, and the Watcher talks about a man who had stopped to take a picture of the view. She says that she can see why. Keisha notices something that looks like a ridge but doesn’t seem natural; the Watcher cuts in to say that the view is “truly breathtaking.”

Eventually, Keisha realizes that what she’s seeing is not a ridge, but is actually an extremely long freight train, “one that would take ten minutes to cross an intersection.” And, as she’s musing is, the Watcher stops to kill the man taking the picture and steal his car.

Keisha, who doesn’t know any of this is happening, says that she’s far enough to see the whole train. The Watcher cuts in again, and says, “truly breathtaking” again as she drives off. The two, in unison again, say, “The rain comes, finally.”

A bit later, Keisha comes across a sign warning about flash floods. Against her better judgement, she takes the route anyway, hoping that flash floods aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. The Watcher adds that she wants to “see the water and feel it under my car,” and that she wants to “stand on my hood while the waters rise above me. I wanna be hit by lightning. I wanna see whatever you see when the electricity enters your brain.”

In unison, they say, “Lakes form suddenly in the desert. Soon, all of the land on on either side is water, waves lapping at an asphalt shore.”

Keisha asdds, “Get me safely through this,” and the Watcher says, “Drown me, wash me away.”

After a while, Keisha begins to have some second thoughts as the rain starts pouring down. Unfortunately, there isn’t really anywhere for her to turn around, so “the only way out is through.” The watcher notes again that there isn’t anyone else around, “no witnesses, no one to help.”

There’s a pause for a few seconds, and Keisha comes back on.  As she’s taking a turn, she hears a banging noise and something scraping on the bottom of her cab. It turns out that she’s run over a large rock and it’s gotten stuck. She stops to remedy the situation, hoping that keeping her lights on will keep people from slamming into her. Keisha and the Watcher then both say, “There’s nowhere to move on a road this narrow.”

The Watcher adds, “Take my hand. Take my hand and walk with me to where the highway is no longer visible.”

Keisha gets down on the ground to try and dislodge the rock. While there, she’s thinking (and the Watcher echoes), “OK, this is how I/you die.”

Unfortunately, the rock proves to be stubborn, and Keisha is having some trouble removing it. A car swerves to avoid her truck, and she looks up to see a pair of legs. She gets up from under the truck, banging her head on the way, and asks if they’re there to help. However, by the time she’s back up, whoever was there is gone.

The Watcher, implied to be the owner of the aforementioned legs, says, “Almost Keisha. That was almost it.”

Understandably freaked out about her current situation, Keisha decides to move along, rock be damned. Eventually, with a loud ripping noise, the rock calls away from the truck and everything seems to be all right. She stops at a motel for the night, smelling something like burning rubber, and thinks that there was something wrong with her truck after all. The next morning, she realizes that the smell was coming from mesquite trees, and her truck is fine.

The Watcher, along the road, sees the same light that Keisha had seen before:

A light in the sky, zig-zagging. I know most things. There are few secrets kept from me. But that little light moving through the dusk I don’t know. It is a stranger, and so I greet it as a stranger, with my hand raised and  a smile on my face. See, I am polite to strangers, at least until the moment where I understand what it is I need from them, how to best leverage their existence. But maybe this light is not usable by me. It doesn’t seem to fly so much as float past our world. If it is beyond my use, then it is not worth bothering with. I nod to it and move on.

Keisha moves on as well, and notes that it’s still pouring, but not quite as cold as it could be. She comes across a somewhat miserable looking Korean couple, waiting near a ranger station for the rain to stop so they can take wedding photos in the desert: “Later, I will see them posing upon a sand dune that the rain has made hard as concrete, leaning damply into each other and feeling the grit in their formal wear shoes.”

Back to the Watcher, who says, “In the distance, an object in the road. I taste bitter on the top of my tongue and I try to hold it there. I try to make the bitter taste linger.” Keisha once again remarks on the emptiness of the road. She sees a light in the sky, “turning sharp corners on itself.”

The object that the Watcher has seen turns out to be a coyote, which appears to have been waiting for her. As the Watcher notes this Keisha, for reasons she doesn’t quite understand, turns her lights off:

And now I’m in the dark and I can’t even feel the speed. It’s so calm, the grumble of the engine like the hum of my own body, and this light moving around and in front of me.

The Watcher cuts in, and talks some more about the coyote:

I hold her brown eyes with mine, and we understand each other. Low creatures, taking blood where we can. As natural as the salt flats, as natural as a rock face.

Keisha says that she feels like she can reach out and touch the light, and, though she realizes that it’s not the smartest thing for her to do, steps on the gas.

I’m going faster, and I can’t see the road at all, and the light is like an idea of peace that I’ll never have. It’s a world where none of this happened to me. And then I panic.

The Watcher and the coyote look at each other for a few minutes, the Watcher enjoying the company of a fellow predator, and preferring it to “the cowards that drive around this country as if it belongs to them.”

Keisha, now beginning to freak out, wonders what the hell she’s doing, and if she’s trying to get herself killed. At this point, the Watcher winks as she tells her new friend that she needs to get back to her prey and starts to drive away, the coyote watching her leave.

Keisha then turns her lights back back on, noting that she’s still on the road and the light is now gone.

A bit later, the Watcher says that “most of the buildings in Death Valley are still ruins.” Keisha starts telling the story of Marta Becket, a ballet dancer who came across an abandoned borax mining town in 1967 and started dancing at an old theater there. The Watcher stops in an abandoned building to hunker down for the night, and Keisha does the same at a hotel attached to Marta’s theater.

I stay at the attached hotel, with musty carpet and Marta’s paintings on the wall. There’s a cafe that’s only open a couple of days a week, but is surprisingly good, in a hipster Brooklyn kind of way. I don’t know how they make money with a restaurant like that, two days a week in the middle of nowhere. But as I eat at their counter, I feel grateful for people who come to places like this, and do things like this. Dance and make artisinal avocado toast.

I’m not going to lie, the first thought that came to me when I heard the words “avocado toast” where, “But then you’ll never afford a house!”

Anyway, at this point we go back to the Watcher’s POV. At this point, she decides that it’s time for her to switch cars, so she kills a couple who went to the see the ballet dancer and then steals her car. She then echoes Keisha’s thoughts from earlier, about being thankful for people who come to these sorts of places.

There’s a long pause, then she says that the wind is starting to kick up dust from the nearby fields. Keisha describes it as “like something from a story. A wall of dust, the height of a small skyscraper, billowing from the fields. It’ll be on the road in moments.”

The Watcher adds, “And then it’ll be invisible, then it will happen.”

Keisha then enters the dust cloud. She says that she can only see a few feet in front of her, and considers slowing down, but doesn’t for fear that anyone behind her won’t know to slow down as well. She then notices headlights, and thinks that maybe a car is trying to pass her.

The Watcher then says, “Now, Keisha, it happens now. It’s OK. I’m right here with you.”

Keisha sees that her windshield is now covered in grit, and notes how quiet it is in the dust cloud. At this point, as the Watcher is about to strike, the light that they had both seen earlier puts in another appearance. They both then wonder what it is:

Keisha: The light lowers It’s just in front of me, through the glass. I can see nothing, but I keep driving  until they entire cab is enveloped in light. I don’t feel heat.

Both: I don’t feel anything.

K: I don’t care that I don’t know where I’m going. I speed into the light.

Keisha makes it through the dust cloud unharmed. There aren’t any other cars in front of or near her that she can see, and the light has disappeared.

The episode ends with the Watcher saying that Keisha may have a few more days or weeks, but hasn’t escaped.

This episode is interesting. There’s certainly a lot of suspense her, as Keisha has no idea how close she came to dying here. This is also one of the few episodes where we hear a voice other than Keisha’s, and where that person is not having a conversation with her. Instead, it constantly switches between each person’s point of view. I though that was a pretty cool way to structure the episode.

Although it did make this post a little harder to write.

 

 

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