In this episode, Keisha has a close call that she’s fully aware of this time.
We start off with Keisha talking about revisiting the apparently abandoned house from chapter 3:
There is more here than I understand. Which is, I guess, true of all people true at all times of their life. We never see the big picture, even when we think we do. We see a reconstruction of the big picture, from the bits and pieces we picked up and tried to put into the right order. And I have a lot of bits and pieces. Bay and Creek, a vast organization run and financed by – who? The Thistle Men? Which are what? And they’re allied with the US government somehow. And now this person in a hoodie. And over and over, this name: Praxis.
When the big picture gets too hazy, it’s time to return to the details you’re sure about. I’ve been to a Bay and Creek base. For some reason, they let me leave.
It’s time to go back. And this time, I am not leaving.
After the opening, Keisha is back at the farmhouse. She states that she’s moving quickly, trying to get to the house before anyone there can nab her. She realizes that waiting for night would be pointless, as there is no way that she would be able to sneak into the place: “I was going to face them directly and force them to deal with me, one way or another.”
However, when she actually gets into the farmhouse, things seem a little bit different. For one thing, the dial on the stove no longer causes the room to descend, and over the painted-on dust in the kitchen is a layer of real dust. The place looks like it’s been completely abandoned. She thinks about this for a moment, then decides that them abandoning an operation that large would be a ridiculous thing for them to do over one person, and comes to the conclusion that it’s more likely they sealed up this entrance and moved it somewhere where it would be impossible (or at least very difficult) for her to find.
She decides to move away from this thought, and thinks about a different oddity: considering the time and energy it would have taken to just seal up that entrance, it would have made a lot more sense for them to just kill her. Which then begs the question about why they didn’t.
There’s a break, and Keisha has some thoughts about the romance of travel:
There is an undeniable romance to travel. And there is a stranger, more specific romance to traveling constantly. Rootlessness can be attractive, it really can be. The map it creates in your head. When someone brings up Oklahoma City, or Boise or Chicago or Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine – and for each of those, you have a memory. Being able to think: oh yeah, I’ve been there. You remember how it felt in a personal way. How Oklahoma City was surprising, because it was more hip than I expected. How Chicago in the summer feels happy in a way many other cities don’t. The exact smell of an antique store in a small town in Texas.
Direct knowledge of the world is a fundamentally seductive thing to acquire.
Back in the farmhouse, Keisha sits on an extremely dusty (and hopefully not infested) couch to think. She continues her previous chain of thought, wondering why Bay & Creek left her alive. She thinks, at first, that they have some kind of moral stance against killing innocents, but decides that this doesn’t gel with what she knows about this operation, mostly the scope of it: “There is no way to hide a secret that large if you’re not willing to kill to keep it.”
Keisha’s second thought, and this is the one that she thinks is more likely, is that they wanted her to see the base. She ponders exactly why they would have wanted her to see it, and concludes that it would benefit them in their war in some way, and that she has some kind of role to play in the coming conflict. One that they know, and that she doesn’t.
And in order to guide me toward that role, they have allowed me to glimpse their operation and survive. Me, lonely me. Anxiety-ridden me. There’s no way I have a role in anything except my own sleeplessness.
Keisha goes on from this conclusion, saying that if she’s important to Bay & Creek, then she must be some kind of threat to the Thistle Men. She says that this would explain why she was targeted by them so early on, and that it’s extremely unlikely that they would give up just because they had failed to kill her once, and that she must still be a target. It is on the heels of this thought that she hears a car door outside of the farmhouse.
Another break, and Keisha continues her thoughts on travel:
There is the other side of constant travel, of course. This sense that you never belong anywhere. Or this forgetfulness about where you’ve been, or worse, where you are. The franchises amplify this, of course. I stopped for lunch in a Chili’s because it’s there, and there’s a lot of room to park my truck. And I look around and realize, I don’t even know what state I’m in. It’s a feeling of bottomlessness, like the floor has disappeared. Like a shitty magic trick. I’m falling, but also I’m not. I’m eating a chicken fajita salad in a plastic booth.
Beyond that, there is the gap that forms between you and other people. They all are going to be here tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. Me, I barely know where I’m going to be tomorrow. I have no idea where I’ll be next week. I couldn’t begin to guess my locations for the year, not even within a 300 mile radius. Romance and sadness have always gone hand in hand, of course, and the romance of travel never more so. The bloom of excitement is so quickly replaced by the quiet despair, and looking out another motel window at another motel parking lot, and the highway on the other side of the tall wire fence. And this knowledge that no matter where you go, it’s still you, standing in a room with yourself, looking through the same eyes, thinking the same thoughts.
Back to the farmhouse, and Keisha is now in a full-blown panic. She says that she knows that she should have gone any direction other than the one she did as she crawled to the front window. Through the window, she sees a police car, although she can’t make out very many details in the dim light. Someone gets out of the car, which causes the interior light go on, and she can see a police officer slumped in the front seat. The officer is quite clearly dead.
She sees someone come out of the car on the driver’s side, a woman in a mockery of an officer’s uniform: the Watcher:
“Keisha?” she shouted. “Keisha, you in there?”
She leaned on the hood. “I mean I know you are, so I guess that was a dumb question. My bad!”
She brushed off her hands in three quick slaps.
“I followed you here. You’re very easy to follow. I can smell you.”
She tapped her nose and laughed. “I can smell you from three states away. You smell really good. So I guess uh, take that as a compliment. OK, I’m gonna come in now!”
Keisha, obviously, scrambles back towards the kitchen as the Watcher enters the farmhouse. She makes it to what appears to be a child’s bedroom as her pursuer enters the house.
The Watcher asks her why she came back to the old farmhouse, and if there’s anything there to find. As she roots through various items, she says, “You don’t have to answer that. If there’s something to find, we’ll find it. When faced with a problem, we tear at it and keep tearing and tearing and tearing and eventually, everything gives.”
Keisha notices a broken window, which is unfortunately the only other exit in the room. Deciding that it’s preferable to what the Watcher has in mind for her, Keisha starts to wriggle through it, trying as hard as possible to keep from cutting herself on the glass.
“Keisha, it’s OK! This doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s time.”
Her voice was so close. My legs were caught in the frame and I pulled hard. The glass popped and I fell free, and as I did, she rounded the corner. Her eyes glinted in the darkness.
“There you are!” she said.
I was already rising to run, but she didn’t sound in any hurry.
“Hey listen! I have a job to do now. Here we go!”
And she leapt forward, her laid-back energy compressing and coiling out in a burst of violent movement, and she was at the window, and her hand as unyielding as a handcuff around my arm. And I took the chunk of glass that had come out with my exit, and I drove it through her chest.
This doesn’t really do much to the Watcher, although it does cause her hand to loosen so Keisha can wriggle free. She takes this opportunity to run to the front of the house. Unfortunately, since she had parked her truck a fair distance from the house to avoid attracting attention, there’s no way she would be able to make it there before the Watcher caught up to her. So she takes the only other vehicle available: the Watcher’s police car. Thankfully, the key is still in the ignition.
Trying her best to ignore the dead officer in the seat next to her, Keisha tears off. She sees the Watcher, glass still stuck in her chest, chasing behind her. To Keisha’s horror, she starts gaining on her, but the gear change kicks in and she leaves the Watcher in the dust.
After another break, Keisha finishes her thoughts on travel:
There’s a sense of family that I think forms between people who have to travel a lot for work, no matter what that work is. Corporate suits flying to sales meetings twice a week, a drummer who sits in the back of the van eight months out of the year. People like me, driving our trucks. You can recognize the look in the other’s eyes, this feeling of having seen too many miles in too short a time. You can compare stories about Cleveland, and about Ann Arbor and Birmingham and Fort Lauderdale. They know the romance and they know the despair, and so you don’t have to talk about either. You can just ask them how the Hampton Inn is in Madison, Wisconsin, and they’ll know exactly what you mean.
Keisha finishes up, saying that now knows why she’s being pursued, and the only way out is going forward:
And so my only way forward is to run. Which direction doesn’t matter. What matters is distance. What matters is speed.
I wish I could tell you where I am. But even if I could, then what? Alice, our paths are different now, I suppose. You were on your way to saving something bigger than us all. And me? I am only going to be able to save myself, and maybe not even that. Besides, by the time I told you where I was, I would be somewhere else.
Just never stop moving. Because she is coming. She is fast behind me. And I cannot even imagine what she would do if she caught up.
Bay and Creek wanted me to see what they are, and they wanted me to live to remember it. There is a role for me in defeating the Thistle Men. What that role is, I have no idea.
Maybe you knew, Alice. Maybe that was another secret that you kept from me.
I only know that I need to live long enough to figure out what my place is in this war.
More soon, Alice. I hope. Shit. I hope.
Here we have another encounter with the Watcher. We already know that she’s obviously not human, but this really cements that. We also get some more revelations regarding Bay & Creek, and what I think is the first message Keisha’s sent to Alice in a while.
We’re also coming to the end of part 2. In fact, if this part is keeping to part 1’s ten episode schedule, the next episode should be the penultimate one. Whether or not there will be a part 3 has yet to be seen. Personally, I hope that there will be a part 3.