3.2 – Options

Immunities Episode 3.2 – Options

LORNA (VO)

I have worked some crap-ass jobs in my time, but I’d somehow managed to avoid pouring out buckets of actual crap until this one. Even if there hadn’t been the kidnapped thing, the fear-for-my-life thing, or the danger-of-being-taken-over-by-aliens thing, emptying those buckets would have been enough to make this the new low point of my work-life.

Looking back, I’m a little surprised I did the work, rather that just sitting on the floor and refusing to move. Something Derek said must had stuck with me, or maybe it was the gun, or maybe when you walk into a room and there’s a girl wearing a fetish hood, showing a mouth but no eyes, who can’t do anything for herself unless someone loosens her straight jacket, there’s some kind a natural instinct to help her.

But the instinct had limits. At previous jobs, I could usually find one or two fun guys or funny girls to help me pass the time. Here all I had was…

MOLLY

*speaking like a particularly haughty Looker*

Whatever you are trying to do will fail. Unity will prevail. And the altered will remember everything that you do here. When you are one of us, everything you have done will reflect back on you. But I will love you as a sister and help you through it.

LORNA

Shut up! I’m just doing my job.

MOLLY
In our society, every position promotes the betterment of humankind. What does your job promote?

LORNA

IT PROMOTES CHANGING-

*cuts herself off, mid-sentence, not wanting to reveal secrets*

It’s important, take my word on that.

MOLLY
It appears that you have taken the word of Derek, on that. Tell me, does he seem trustworthy to you? Even most Unaltered do not have the stupidity and blindness necessary to reach that-

LORNA

Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Or I’ll dump this on your bed and let you sleep in your own piss.

LORNA (VO)

That did shut her up. For the moment. That was Molly, the longer-staying of our two guests. She really had my number, but I guess she knew me well enough to give it a rest when I was about to get physical with her.

CANDACE

Molly is more afraid of you, than you are of her.

LORNA (VO)

And then there was Candace, my nearer neighbor. The one I talked to when I first woke up. She acted nice. Nicer than anyone I’d worked with before. And that scared me a lot more than any of Molly’s threats. But, on the other hand, she was the only person I could have a conversation with.

LORNA

Why would she be afraid of me?

CANDACE

You have total power over her. And she is cut off from the Unity; she proclaims its virtues so loudly because she is forgetting what it is like to be in it.

MOLLY (next room)

I can speak for myself!

LORNA

*weary sigh*

Well, if she’s so afraid, she should be nicer to me.

CANDACE

It is not her nature to react to fear in that way. And by cutting us off from each other, Derek has made us individuals again, so our natures overrule our collective understanding. As was his plan, I am sure.

LORNA (VO)

I hadn’t asked Derek anything about how this experiment was supposed to work. Because “A”, he didn’t encourage it, and I was picking my battles with him. And “B”, I think I hoped that not thinking about anything would make those 90 days pass faster. As of day six, the jury was still out on that.

LORNA

So it’s in YOUR nature to explain things to me?

CANDACE

Well, I have not been here as long as Molly, so perhaps I am still able to act as if I am part of the Unity. The truce between the Altered and the Unaltered dictates that I do what I can to cooperate with you, and to keep you Unaltered, as long as these are congruent with the Greater Good.

LORNA
Wonderful.

CANDACE

I am sure that further isolation and exposure to Derek’s treatments will strip away my communitarian behaviors over time. I do not look forward to this process.

LORNA

So that’s your way of saying you want me to let you go, too.

CANDACE
You know that without me telling you. Despite what Molly said in her fear, you are an intelligent woman.

LORNA
See, now I know you’re snowing me. Let’s have some quiet for a while, all right?

LORNA (VO)

That shut her up for the moment, but of course she’d woke up my doubts. They were harder to keep in place than the girls were, and I didn’t even have any booze to help me. Nothing to distract myself with but a bunch of cheap paperbacks that looked like a yard sale from 20 years ago. But then, I got a surprising offer on that front.

DEREK

Hey, L!

LORNA

*weary*

Yeah, D.

DEREK

You’ve been doing a great job. Having you here has made a real difference. The place looks better, smells MUCH better, and I’ve been able to get a lot more of my work done. I’m going on a run tomorrow, so if you like, you can take a night off and sleep in the house. It’s not much, but it is a real house with real rooms. I’ll have to lock you in, but I’m sure you could use a break from this place. Plus I just put a sixer and a mini of vodka in the fridge, so you can unwind.

LORNA

Oh! That sounds amazing.

LORNA (VO)

Looking back, I’m surprised he could buy my gratitude so easily. But what surprised me more, at the time, was to hear myself say…

LORNA

But what about the girls?

DEREK

*not expecting this*

They’ve been on their own before, they’ll be all right until I get back. As you’ve seen, there’s a whole case of Depends in the supply closet. On your last round before you leave, tell them to put them on. They know the drill.

LORNA (VO)

The thought of that was gross. The way he said it was gross. The implications were gross. Plus of course, I was the one who would have to clean up whatever gross mess resulted from my time off. But the thought of kicking back on a couch and tasting that booze was overwhelming.

LORNA

All right, can do. When is this happening?

DEREK

Tomorrow night.

LORNA

Righteous.

LORNA (VO)

It was pretty clever on his part. 24 hours was just about the maximum time I could be enthused about the prospect of a night off, without getting distracted by it. And a week would probably have been the point where living in that barn would have seriously gotten to me. Derek was suspiciously good at this. Had he had practice? Something for my Unasked Questions Bag. They could all wait until I felt safe enough to get nosy, or desperate enough that I couldn’t wait any longer.

One thing I did keep track of was his driving. I could hear his truck every time it left; heck I learned the difference between it and his car, and I’d make note every time one came or went. If I was asleep, it woke me right up. But I hadn’t noticed any relation of his comings and goings to anything else, except sometimes he’d bring in supplies when he came back.

I couldn’t see asking him about any of this, but there was someone else I could. That morning, while I was clipping Candace’s wrists together so I could safely take the mittens off the arms of her straightjacket, I told her…

LORNA

*low voice, not wanting Molly to hear*

Later today I’m going to give you a depends, so I can have a night off.

CANDACE
*worried, in a muted way*

But, you will be back?

LORNA

Yes, Derek willing.

CANDACE

It has been…better, having you here.

LORNA
Was there anyone before me?

CANDACE

Not during my time.

LORNA

*even lower*

But what about…the others?

CANDACE

Molly says there was no other Unaltered, and the previous prisoner, Kelsey, told her the same, and that the prisoner before her, Tyra, who Molly never met, had also said the same. There was only ever Derek, before you.

LORNA

What…happened to Tyra and Kelsey?

CANDACE
They stayed here for a few weeks. Then Derek took them away.

LORNA
Took them away where?

CANDACE
We do not know.

LORNA

Yes you do.

CANDACE

I do not. As you can see, my sensory input is severely limited. I can make no intelligent hypothesis.

LORNA
His car, his truck…do you hear one of them when he brings a new girl in?

CANDACE

Yes.

LORNA
And when they leave?

CANDACE

No.

LORNA

*seething breath, then…*
Please don’t tell Molly about these questions.

CANDACE
May I ask why?

LORNA

I’m afraid of what she’ll say about it. Including to Derek.

CANDACE
She is my sister in the U-

LORNA

*whisper shouting*

Do you trust her?! To keep a secret?

CANDACE
*beat*

You have a point. She has shown signs of instability. I will keep what you asked to myself.

LORNA

*sighs, then returns to normal volume level*

Okay, good enough. There, that’s your hands free, do your business.

CANDACE

Thank you. I hope you enjoy your night off.

LORNA
Thank you.

CANDACE

And it is my hope that you DO come back.

LORNA

Can you try NOT being creepy?

CANDACE

In my experience, the harder one of us tries not to be creepy, the creepier unaltered people find us.

LORNA (VO)

And sometimes the creepiest thing about them is that they think about stuff like that. They’re not just zombie poop machines who exist to make my life hard. They’re some kind of twisted version of people.

So anyway Derek brought up the ladder and I climbed down.

DEREK

Now put this on.

LORNA

A blindfold? I swear to God I won’t tell anyone what your house looks like.

DEREK

It’s not for that. There might be a Looker out there somewhere. They don’t even have to really see you to change you. It can happen if they’re just faced in your direction.

LORNA

At night? From miles away?

DEREK

That first light in the sky was at night. And it could have been a trillion miles away. The main reason the Overlooked can stay Overlooked is that the Earth is round, so if you move far enough away there’s no line-of-sight.

LORNA

Shit. All right.

Door opens. Night noises diminish. Footsteps.

DEREK

Great. And here we go.

Door closes. Night noises cease.

DEREK

And here we…go.

LORNA

Okay, not bad. Maybe a little musty.

DEREK

There some fabreeze in the bathroom. Spray to your heart’s delight.

LORNA

Thanks. And now you’re leaving, right?

DEREK

*beat*

Yeah. Everything’s about where you’d think it is. Please don’t set fire to anything. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the morning.

LORNA

*impatient for him to be gone*

Okay.

Beat.

DEREK

All right. See you.

Door opens & closes, with accompanying sounds.

LORNA (VO)

I took my shoes off. The carpet was cheap, bristly, and shallow, but it was like some strange kind of heaven to step on it. I looked in the fridge. Various cheap, easy to eat stuff. Definitely a guy-fridge, but honestly better than what I had back home. Oh yuck, I hope the Resistance threw everything in mine away, or I’ll have a science project of my own when I get back.

And there was the booze he promised. I decided to take a beer and save the vodka for later. Then I put the can on a little table in the living room and threw myself onto the couch.

*pleasure noise*

Honestly the couch was NOT as good as the one back home, which is ugly but very comfortable. But at that moment it was bliss to stretch out and lie back like a person.

Sound of beer can opening.

I only got halfway through the beer when I fell asleep. Wow, one week and I’m a lightweight. Woke up maybe twenty minutes later and felt really good. There was a tv with a dvd player attached. The little shelf next to it was three-quarters empty, and what was there was dvds of romcoms and superhero movies. I wonder if Derek cleared the rest out that day, so I wouldn’t see his porn or torture porn or whatever. But I just shrugged and put on the wedding porn and finished my beer.

Metal tapping sound starts, almost imperceptibly, rising but still very quiet.

Night went on; I stopped the movie and cooked a grilled cheese on the stove. Again, bliss, considering the sack lunches I’d been eating. Finished the movie and felt ready for an early night. I went into the bathroom to take care of everything, and lingered for a bit. The toilet in the barn was much better than what the girls had to put up with, but it was still basically a closet with pipes. This was the real thing. Vanity. Medicine cabinet. Tissues. Liquid hand soap.

And just as I was having the time of my life on the can, I heard it.

The tapping has risen to the point where the pattern can be recognized.

Tapping. Something in the pipes. Three short. Three long. Three short. Three long.

Tapping continues.

Not just something in the pipes. It was someONE, sending a message. S.O.S. Emergency. Help me.

My dad had taught it to me. He wasn’t that into boats, but he had a thing about the Old West, and when I was nine he’d told me all about telegraphs. This was a couple years before he headed off to the Lone Prai-rie or wherever the fuck he thought he belonged. So anyway he’d taught me some morse, and S.O.S. was always the first bit you learned.

I looked around for something hard to tap the pipe with before I knew what I was doing. I had a scissors in my hand before any sensible questions occurred to me. What was my plan, and why? Who would be in trouble and why would they be tapping on my pipes? It wasn’t Derek. He’d been fine and headed for the open road a couple hours earlier. If he’d stayed behind, he was spying on me, not trapped somewhere.

So who else would it have been? A girl. A LOOKER girl, almost certainly. It occurred to me for a second that maybe it was another draftee like me. But no, if there had been one, none of the girls or the girls before them knew about her. No matter what I thought about Derek, why would he keep a human girl down there for months when he already had one, not to mention also having his hands overfull with Looker girls. No, odds were she was one of Them. Or Derek, playing a joke or testing me.

And if any of that was right, what percentage was there in answering the tapping? At best, I get a sob story from an alien. At worst I get in trouble with Derek, or the Lookers get loose, which gets him arrested and me zombified. No percentage at all. Ignore it. Drink that vodka. Watch another movie.

Sound of shower curtain being pulled back, followed by rapid, close, metal tapping.

But I’ll be fucked if I didn’t start tapping those scissors against the shower head. Something inside me just couldn’t ignore it. I gave the rapid tap, which technically meant “clear the line”, but I just wanted them to know someone was listening.

Both sets of tapping stop.

They stopped tapping, which is what you’re supposed to do if you get “clear the line”. But I had no idea what to do next. I’d forgotten all the rest, and just tapping randomly would confuse things. And while I waited, I began to hope that nothing happened. That whoever had been tapping got discouraged and kept quiet.

Tapping starts up again. Much more complex.

LORNA

Shit.

LORNA (VO)

I could tell right away that it wasn’t S.O.S. this time, but I had no idea what it was.

Tapping stops, starts again.

LORNA (VO)

But whatever it was, I could tell it was repeating. And once again, I started doing something before I decided what I was going to do.

Lorna leaves the bathroom, tapping gets very muted.

LORNA(VO)

I looked all over the house. Four rooms. Locked doors that might have been stairs or closets. And couldn’t hear the tapping anywhere else, except a little in the kitchen.

Lorna opens and closes drawers.

LORNA (VO)

I found a pen in the kitchen, and an old paper manual for a microwave.

Lorna re-enters the bathroom, tapping becomes clearer.

LORNA (VO)

I sat on the toilet and waited for the tapping to start again. When it did, I wrote on the back of the manual. Dots and dashes, just like Dad taught me. I didn’t remember the alphabet, but I guess the grammar stuck with me. I listened three times more, made corrections, and then I was pretty sure I had it down. Looked like maybe a sentence.

Lorna taps rapidly again. The tapping on the other side stops, then starts again, different.

LORNA (VO)

I didn’t know how to ask for more. But when it started again, it was different. So I transcribed another message, about as long as the first one. And then another. Pretty soon I only had to hear it twice before moving on. I ran out of blank space on the back of the manual and started filling up the inside, anywhere I could fit.

LORNA (VO)

I lost track of time. At some point, I filled up the first page of the manual. I poked my head into the living room to look for more paper, and noticed that it was starting to get light out.

LORNA

Shit.

LORNA (VO)

I had to get to bed. If it didn’t look slept in, Derek would get seriously suspicious. I tapped S.O.S., the only way I could think of to tell whoever it was that I was going away and they should stop. Then I took off my jeans, put the manual in the back pocket, and rolled them up so it would be as protected as possible. Then I climbed into bed in my t-shirt and underwear. I had looked forward to that bed so much, and now I had to force myself to try to sleep in it.

Beat.

DEREK

Good morning, sleepyhead.

LORNA (VO)

Apparently I managed it.

LORNA

*groggy*

Ahhh good morning Derek.

DEREK

Work time already. But I’ve got some stuff to unload outside, so you can spend a few minutes putting yourself together.

LORNA

Thanks.

LORNA (VO)

Pretending to be grateful was easy, because he was out the door before I really remembered what was happening. I looked around the place. In the sunlight it seemed smaller, and even more confined when I noticed the burglar bars on the windows. I hadn’t even checked the windows that night. Escape had been off my radar.

But then I was up and at ’em, taking advantage of the bathroom that had thrown a big curveball into my life, just when I didn’t need one.

Cheap doorbell chime.

LORNA

By the time Derek got back, I had my poker face on.

DEREK

You ready?

LORNA

Yeah.

DEREK

‘Kay. Follow me, and keep your eyes on the ground. A Looker might drive by, and it would look bad to have you walking around blindfolded.

LORNA
*shiver*

Right.

DEREK

Enjoy your night off?

LORNA

Hell yeah. Kind of tough to go back now.

DEREK

Yeah?

LORNA
Don’t worry, I’ve been facing the end of the weekend my whole life. I can handle it.

DEREK

Right. Well you made it through a week. Just stack one on top of another and you’ll reach the end of this.

LORNA (VO)

I nodded, walked into the barn, and climbed the ladder. I went back to my room, which looked even more basic and sad than before. But my mind wasn’t on that. It was on the old microwave manual folded up under my bra. I looked at the paperbacks on my shelf, and, no surprise, there was nothing about morse code, not even an encyclopedia or a dictionary. So I looked them over again and chose a copy of The Greek Treasure, because it was big and stood out. I pulled the paper out, stuck it in the middle of the book, and put it back on the shelf. Maybe I’d grow some sense and leave it there.

Then it was time to do the rounds with the girls. The grossness of this didn’t reach me this time. I was thinking about the message. Molly gave me the silent treatment, which was fine by me. Candace was a different story.

CANDACE

Welcome back.

LORNA

*grudging*

Thanks.

LORNA (VO)

It wasn’t just that she spoke. There was something about her whole…way of sitting that said she knew something had changed. I keep wanting to say there was something in her eyes, but of course I couldn’t see her eyes. And then…

CANDACE

How was your night at the house?

LORNA

It was fine.

CANDACE

If you do not mind me saying so…you seem different.

LORNA

Yeah? Well I guess it’s just weird being back here again.

CANDACE
That would make sense.

LORNA (VO)

And then she clammed up. Just when it seemed like she was on to something. Just when I kind of WANTED her to be on to something. I’d braced myself against any questions she might come up with, but not against that knowing silence.

I guess, to the extent I had a plan, it was to smuggle the notes back home when Derek took me back, decode them, and then maybe find someone to tell. But that was so far away. 83 days. 12 more weekends. Possibly with more messages, or the same one repeated. And who knows how many chances for Derek to catch on? Walking through all that without decoding the message would be torture.

But on the other hand…whoever sent the message knew morse. If they were a Looker, did that mean they all knew it?

LORNA

*speaking confidentially*

Candace.

CANDACE

Yes, Lorna?

LORNA
I’d like to ask you a question, but I need to know that you would never tell anyone about it, or about whatever comes out of it. As long as you live. No, wait, as long as I live. As long as we’re both stuck here. After that, I guess it wouldn’t matter. So say you won’t tell.

CANDACE

Of course I would not.

LORNA

*whisper shouting*

Fuck “of course”! There’s no “of course”. I hate you, and I hate everyone like you, and you want to escape, and it’s MY job to keep you here. But I’ll do my best for you as long as you do this for me.

CANDACE

You are already doing your best for us.

LORNA

*raises voice*

Ugh! Do you have to be like that?

CANDACE

Like what?

LORNA

Like…can’t you even say “you’re”?

CANDACE

I am completely capable of saying you’re. It simply does not occur to me to do so. It is contrary to the way my brain operates. Much as it would be to lie.

*lowers voice*

I am telling you the truth when I say, that I will keep your secret for as long as you wish me to. And though I cannot lie, I can withhold the truth.

LORNA
You have practice doing that?

CANDACE

Yes I do. Mostly from being held here.

LORNA

*lowering voice again*

Yeah, I can imagine. Okay. Well then…do you know morse code?

CANDACE

*normal voice*

Morse code???

LORNA
Shhh! Yes. You must know what it is.

CANDACE

Yes I do. I am sorry. Your question was…unexpected.

LORNA

Well do you know it?

CANDACE
Yes…I do. The patterns and procedures were transmitted to me via one of our Data Exchanges. I…must admit that I did not expect to ever use that knowledge.

LORNA

So, if I read you a message, in dots and dashes, you could translate it?

CANDACE

I could translate it letter-by-letter. I am not certain that I could retain an entire message while translating it.

LORNA

That’s fine. Wait here.

CANDACE

I…will.

LORNA walks out, returns.

LORNA

*low voice*

This is crazy.

CANDACE

I do not understand. Are you having me translate a message involving the Resistance?

LORNA

I don’t know. I won’t know until you tell me what it is.

CANDACE
This could get you into a great deal of trouble.

LORNA
You don’t have to tell ME.

Beat.

CANDACE

But, perhaps…you are in trouble already. Nearly as much as Molly and I are in.

LORNA

And I have to find out. Okay. I’ll give you a letter’s worth. You tell me the letter and I’ll write it down.

CANDACE

And where did this message come from?

LORNA
Never mind about that. Dash dot dot.

CANDACE

D

LORNA

Dash dash dash.

CANDACE

O

LORNA

Dash dot dash dash.

CANDACE

Y.

Translation continues in the background, mixed with original tapping sounds.

LORNA (VO)

And as we went along, it took shape on the paper, plain as day. Each message was a sentence:

Do you understand me?

I will continue anyway.

My name is Kelsie Habcek.

I am a prisoner in the basement.

Derek has done terrible things to me.

Please tell someone.

There were forty-seven messages. Forty-seven sentences. In one of those paperbacks on my shelf, it wouldn’t have filled two pages. But it was enough to make my cheeks feel hot, like my blood would burst from my face. When she said “terrible things”, she meant it. Stuff out of…holocaust shows, or a story about alien abduction. To her skin. To her insides. Done with tools, with chemicals, with gloves. With parts of his body.

I kept reading the codes off, and Candace kept answering. I wanted to stop. I had enough letters now that I could decode the rest without her. But I couldn’t just take it all into myself. I had to share it. Even if it meant that Candace learned the truth.

The truth? What was the truth? The Resistance would never order Derek to do this stuff, would they? Even to save the world? And how could they believe this would save it? Even if one of these things turned Kelsie Habcek normal again, how could it get us the planet back? Eight billion Lookers weren’t going to sit still while we tortured them.

Maybe they’d sent Derek, but they hadn’t realized everything he would do. Or maybe it was ALL a lie. The Lookers trying to turn me against him, and make me betray the Resistance. But the Lookers couldn’t know that I was here. They’d have shut this place down by now, if they knew about it. Wouldn’t they?

My whole world was turning into quicksand. Maybe Derek lied, and we were in the Overlook. If I let the girls go, they’d convert everyone I knew. I’d be a traitor, the new Carrie Kray. Only worse. She had the excuse of being an Alpha. I’d never really bought that stuff about how Alphas have no choice, but at least they have a reason. For me it would be…

Why? What was my reason? Because a Looker told me a story that made me mad?

CANDACE

Lorna?

LORNA

What?!

CANDACE

Was that…the last message?

LORNA

Oh. Yes, it was.

CANDACE

What…are you going to do?

LORNA

I’m going to think about this. About everything. And you’re going to keep your promise.

CANDACE

Indeed I will. I will keep this all secret, while we are here. No matter what.

LORNA

Thank you. That “no matter what” might get pretty intense.

CANDACE

I know.

MOLLY (from next room)

Well neither of you need to worry about that.

LORNA

*realizing she hasn’t been as quiet as she intended*

Oh shit.

CANDACE

Molly, you heard?

MOLLY

I heard enough.

CANDACE

Then YOU have to keep it secret as well.

MOLLY

I have to do no such thing. Lorna did not give me her trust, so I owe her no loyalty.

CANDACE

Molly, please. Do as she says. HmmMMMmmmm…

MOLLY

NO!!! Do not do that. I…I can not even understand it anymore. I am losing touch. Just like Kelsey did before Derek took her away. I have to get out of here.

CANDACE

Lorna is going to think about that.

MOLLY

Lorna hates us. Lorna just wants to get away from us. Stop thinking that she will think like us, about the greater good. She is one of Them. She will only think of herself.

CANDACE
I do not think that that is true.

MOLLY

Then you are not thinking, so I will think for both of us. I can hear Derek’s truck. When he gets here, I will tell him the truth. Telling the truth is always for the good. And it will set me free.

SILENCE

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