13 - fight or flight

ELAINE:

So. The world’s not over yet, which is nice. Good on AJ for catastrophizing. Like, yeah, we are maybe living in a force field and maybe CNN is 90% about us, right now, but the world’s not over, yet! Let’s be positive, y’know? I’ve been doing a lot of box breathing.

Oh. Yeah. Elaine here. In case you’re curious. I think we’re being listened in on, actually, should we use code names or aliases— ali-eye? - what’s the plural? —you get my point? Because I definitely call the hawk. That’s enigmatic. That’s badass. That’s completely antithetical of me. The three things absolutely vital to an alias. In case you’re curious. There’s an official guide, and I wrote it.

Anyway. The Hawk here.

Where was I? Oh. Yeah. How I’m coping with the, uh. The situation that’s at hand right now. You know how it is, in that it’s—it’s rough. It’s very rough.

Shall we recap?

Of course I’ll recap. What is it with me and rhetorical questions? Again!

So. We’ve been invaded. Turns out that that was a possibility, which is—

You know. A lot to deal with. But, again. Box breathing, staying in the house, my anxiety meds, cat petting, Buffy reruns. That’s how we’re dealing over here. Like you do. It’s very, very good. I would recommend this strategy, ten out of ten, five stars, A plus, one hundred percent, etcetera, etcetera. Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more alien invasion survival and anxiety reduction tutorials.

I feel like when we talk about reacting to crisis, we are reductive. We reduce it to fight or flight, bravery or cowardice, hero and victim, when really, there’s more to it than that. Everything contains nuance. That’s basic life. We all contain multitudes.

God, I hate Whitman. Fun to quote, though. Fun to quote.

I keep trying to wrap my head around the scenario we’ve found ourselves in, Encyclopedia Brown this whole situation where the world is ending. Is there a sci-fi Encyclopedia Brown?

I’ve never read Encyclopedia Brown. Veronica Mars it, but, like, good. I—In theory, I like detective stories, but in execution, less so. I always get to the point before the story does, and it kinda ruins it for me. I dunno if that’s, like, the thrill of it for some people, but it’s just too easy. Maybe I’m picky? Maybe I’m—it’s pretentious to say that I’m too smart, and I’m not too smart, I’m—no one can be too smart, but. I don’t know. This is a tangent, and it’s a hell of a bad one.

The world is ending. We are not running away from the end of the world, nor are we fighting it. And what does that mean about human nature? Did we assume wrong? Are our brains wired differently than we thought? I don’t know; I didn’t study neuroscience, I studied Public Policy.

But, hey, it’s strange that our impulse is to just ride this out, you know?

I don’t think it should be, but it is. My actions are different than my thoughts are different than my morals, and that kind of, uh. What’s the phrase. Fucking blows.

In every bad apocalypse B-movie that Rob has made me watch, there’s a, uh. A rallying. Of the people to save the world. I’m discluding the ones where it’s the government that does that, because there’s a bizarre lack of involvement there, but. The people, united, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

So. There’s, what, seven of us? Eight, if we include Mae, nine if we include other Teresa. Probably more. There’s probably such a thing as a nine person revolution. There has to have been; probability almost demands it. And, look, maybe not in such a sci-fi-y way, but—We can do this. We definitely can.

Is that inspiring enough? Is it, uh. Is it corny enough, does it fill you with a righteous fury about the power of my own words? Or how fake-deep they are? Because I can keep going. I can keep rambling on about the meaning of love and friendship and found family and, and, and. That’s—that’s how inspiring speeches go.

Okay, so. I think Rob’s tuned out by now. What with that whole spiel. She gets really sick of meta, when it’s overused, that’s why we stopped watching 30 Rock. Among, uh. Other reasons.

There’s something I need to tell the rest of you about. Please, uh. Please don’t share this.

It’s not, like. Relationship drama, or anything. Don’t worry. We’re—we’re deeply in love, you know this. It’s just that I’m worried.

After Robin recorded, when the static—well, it was sort of a physical manifestation this time. Because that was when the world started ending—when the static attacked her, like it was some noise-grain-broken-television ghost. She started saying things that were a bit—off.

Not, like, other Teresa’s level of off. Just—she’s quieter. More reserved. Keeps saying things about ceremony and, uh. Ritual. Which I thought was maybe the writing equivalent of method acting, or something? Because her new manuscript has witches in it, and, uh.

But, no, it’s not. The world is ending, and I think she knows how to fix it. She’s been sleepwalking. Uh. Building weird things. I’m—

I’m just worried. I’m not gonna let her—you know. She’s conscious. She’s herself, there’s just—there’s something more there, and I can’t bring myself anywhere close to understanding what that something more is. It’s not her fault. It’s not my fault. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do. When I bring it up, she seems—well. Confused.

Also, hey, universe, why do I have to deal with this scenario multiple times, wherein weird things happen to others and I have to help them out of it? Just curious. It’s not that I mind, it just that I—actually, I do mind. I really, genuinely do mind it. Sorry about that.

Well, not sorry. I’m. The world is ending, and I am tired, and I am worried about people that I love. I don’t—I don’t think that it’s—

[exhale, beat]

I don’t know how to handle this! I want to fight the end of the world! I want to—I want things to go back to normal, I want, I want, I wish—you know!

I don’t know how to do this whole thing anymore. I didn’t know in the first place, but, uh. I was able to roll with it, roll with the punches, roll with the weird stuff, just get through it, and now—now that it’s all piled up, I, uh. I just—

It’s like, when you’re worried, but you bury it down because you think that’ll work, and it does! So you keep on burying things down, and, bam, it’s Pandora’s box, it’s—zombies. Emerging from the graveyard, grabbing at your legs and pulling you down with them towards the half-broken coffins that house them, and you hit your head on a gravestone, and your worried, panicking, and—

We all know that feeling, right?

[forced laugh]

I’m gonna go outside. I’m gonna—I’m gonna find the source of this. I’m—I think Rob has a recorder in our room, back from when she had that internship for the Post in college, and, uh—okay. Okay, so. I’m going from neither fight nor flight to both—flighting to fight, you get me? Yeah, you do.

[CLICK]

[we hear the ocean. the idle chatter of a small town, but something’s off about it. some static.]

Okay! Update!

I am—I’m on the boardwalk, right now, and it’s pretty desolate, but there’s some semi-transparent blank-faced figures, which, uh, yeah, that’s cool to look at. Definitely, definitely—

God, it’s been a little bit since we had to worry about those folks, huh?

Um. They’re talking. Chatting. I don’t think they notice me. I’m talking at, like, normal tone, so. It’s not—

It’s strange.

I’m worried about Robin. She tends to get into things, so—it’s not that. I know how she falls into her own ideas, I—she’s just not herself, since the world started ending. I don’t know how people react to trauma, because it’s different for all of us, but—

I am so worried about her. She’s so, so, out of it. Bought a bunch of candles from Target while everyone else was getting the eggs, milk, and bread, and we had to wait in line for, like, four hours to buy seventeen candles and a box of chocolate chip pancake batter.

The pancake batter was me. We were there, so. Why not? Domestic bliss, y’know? That’s the dream.

The pancakes were subpar, by the way. Though our griddle did kinda bend. Which metal is doing in our house, lately—are the magnetic fields broken, or something? Is that what happens with dimensional travel? Because, uh, if so. Thanks for ruining my breakfast, villains, real cool of you.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I—I’m just on a bench.

I don’t know who I am, really. I thought that I’d know, once I became an adult—well, I more stumbled into adulthood than anything, but—

But I know a few things about myself, plastic as my identity may be, y’know? I know that I’m smart, that I’m a—a people pleaser, that I’m a realist, because pessimism and optimism lack nuance. I know that I like those livestreams of instrumental music, and I know that I’m smart.

But, see, I thought I knew a few things about Robin, too. Thought I knew her like I know anything. But—she’s off sometimes, but she’s never off like this, and just—I’m trying to solve it. Trying to crack it, to, to—

You know.

[sigh, beat]

More blank-faced people, less attention. It’s like I’m not here; I’m talking to myself and they just can’t notice me, and—

Well. This gives me an opportunity for reconnaissance, I think. Be right back.

[CLICK]

[we’re on a road. we’re driving!]

Okay, I’m—I’m heading back home, and I have a page full of observations, so—Let’s read ‘em, right? Let’s, uh—

It’s like they’re walking through me. I can feel it, like—it’s not like they’re ghosts, I can feel them walk through me, it’s just—I see them, they don’t see me, they say, uh.

Well, the one I heard, whose voice I still remember, said, uh.

“It’s good to be somewhere new. Pity it has to be like this, right, Angela?”

To be fair I know a few Angelas, though.

I didn’t see the person they were talking to. I didn’t even make out their face, I just—I heard it loud and clear, and, um.

I know I said I didn’t know much about myself. But I know my own voice, I know it loud and clear, and that was—that was it. Right there. And—I don’t know why I said somewhere new. I don’t know why I’m there, in that other place, I just—

I don’t get it. I don’t.

So I said, uh, I said, “What do you mean?” or something like that, I don’t—I didn’t transcribe the convo. Or. One-sided. And other me, she said, already a few yards ahead of me, “Did you just feel a—feel a shock, or something?”

And she—I—no, she—laughed. I never pay attention to my own laugh, but she laughed and it keeps ringing in my ears, like an earworm or a siren or a panic attack. It wasn’t malicious or anything, it was—it was normal.

Pity it has to be like this, she, I, she said. My hand keeps shaking—I’m recording this from the side of the road, I had to pull over because I can’t drive, and, uh, this car was kind of expensive and I don’t want to, uh. Make a grave error, financially speaking.

Why am I worried about paying off a car during the apocalypse? I have—my alternate universe self to worry about. God, Elaine, ugh.

[cut ambience2, suddenly]

What’s—uh, what’s that?

Shit.

There’s something on the horizon, a—I’m on the grass, just off the side of the road, I—

What the hell?

I’m, uh, I’m—So, the waves just stopped moving, like—like that, and—everything’s quiet, I can’t hear my own heartbeat, I’m, uh. This isn’t good, is it?

So, idea to fight is kinda being discarded right now, idea to flight being considered very strongly.

Or. I could just—

No. No, I have to get home.

I have to get home, that’s, uh, the priority; flight over fight over nothing at all.

But that feels wrong, something feels so wrong about all of this, and I can’t place my finger on what! Why can’t I figure it out? That’s what I do, I figure things out, and—

Oh.

[WE HEAR STATIC. FIN.]