Scene 15: RPF

While Amory awaits her pending sec-check, Riley faces troubles of her own. Provided the eavesdropper does not file a knowledge report disclosing her pregnancy, Riley knows she has two options: wait until her secret is revealed in her next auditing sessions, or come forward with the information.

As she watches the ethics officers drag Amory away, she decides to seek out her superior and accept her fate. Riley jumps on the bus and heads to HCO, thinking about what to say the entire ride. She knows she must disclose her pregnancy, but the knot in her stomach reminds her that she may not be ready to do so.

Riley stops in the bathroom before heading up to her floor. Standing in front of the mirror, she tucks her uniform shirt back into her pants, and smoothes her hair with her fingertips. She splashes water on her face, trying to cleanse the tear streaks from her cheeks. When she is satisfied that her appearance is presentable, she lifts her chin to face the inevitable.

As she stops outside her boss David’s office, Riley’s stomach is so tight that it takes sheer willpower for her to stand up straight. She lifts her hand to knock, but her arm hesitates. She swallows the ball of saliva forming in her mouth, and forces her fist to make contact with the door before she changes her mind.

She is commanded to enter, and is greeted with, “Hello Riley, this is unexpected. How are you?” Her boss David does not look up from the paperwork on his desk as he addresses her.

“That’s actually why I’m here, Sir,” she says as she takes a seat. Riley makes sure to keep her posture straight and her eye contact consistent. She continues, “I need to tell you something, Sir.”

David throws his pen down in irritation and scolds, “What is it? As you can see, I have tons of work to do.”

Riley decides the best way forward is to just admit her secret. No use dragging out her anguish. She says, “Sir, I’m pregnant.”

David immediately stops looking at the papers on her desk. “You’re what!” he yells, more an accusation than a question. He picks up his phone and, without losing eye contact with her, says into the headset, “I’m going to need an ethics officer.” He puts the phone down and asks Riley, “You know what this means?”

“Yes, Sir.” She diverts her eyes to the ground, unable to return his intensity.

“And you understand the policy on children?”

Riley rubs her stomach. She understands, but is no longer sure she can accept, this policy. “I do,” she says without looking back up at him.

David sees her uncertainty. “You’re going to have to spend some time in the RPF while you think things over.” As if on cue, the ethic officer enters the room without knocking. “You’ll need to decide if you want to remain with the group, or leave and raise your baby. I hope you choose to stay.” With that, David turns his back to her as the ethics officer grabs her shoulder.

Riley has trouble rising from the chair, and when she is upright, she sees silver stars popping in and out of her vision. Her body begins to sway, and the ethics officer catches her just as her body crumples to the floor.

A moment later, she finds herself on the ground, completely disoriented. The ethics officer asks her to tell him her name and where she lives. She looks at him in confusion, and says “My name is Riley and I live with The Church.” He helps her climb to her feet.

“Get her out of here!” David yells. “I don’t want any pieces of shit in my office!”

Just outside the room, the ethics officer has her take a seat while her disorientation wanes. “What is happening?” she asks him.

“You were just sent to the RPF.”

The silver stars return and Riley buries her face in her hands. The RPF, or Rehabilitation Project Force, is The Church’s “voluntary” internal prison system. Rumors of the RPF’s egregious practices circulate around the Sea Org regularly, and everyone has some kind of experience with it, whether they or someone they know has served time.

Denial combs her mind, and she asks, “I was what?”

The ethics officer grows impatient and reprimands, “Is something wrong with your hearing? You are now in the RPF.” He grabs her arm and demands, “Let’s go. I need to get you to your new quarters.”

He pulls her to her feet, but Riley’s legs buckle under the weight. The blood has not fully returned to her head, and she is unable to support herself. As she trips after her new guard, she tries to comprehend what is happening, but understanding is beyond her grasp. Riley has seen many of her friends sent to the RPF, but she never thought she could be in their position. Since she was five years old, she has always been a star performer, a model of complete dedication to the group.

Riley follows her officer to the big blue Scientology dorm on Fountain Ave. and L. Ron Hubbard way, and they climb the eight levels to the top floor, a space meant for RPFers. Riley looks in horror at the filthy floors and battered cots. The ethics officer hands her a dirty black jumpsuit two sizes too big, and instructs her to change into her new uniform. The stench of the clothing makes her gag as she obeys the command.

“Make it quick,” he says, “You’ve got work to do.”

Riley knows better than to ask any questions. She pulls the soiled fabric into place and runs back over to him. Now that she is in the RPF she must run everywhere, an additional way to mark her as an outsider. Even though she has never been here herself, she knows the rules. Everyone in the Sea Org knows the rules.

“Your first task is to pull the weeds in front of the building.”

“Yes, Sir,” Riley replies as she follows him back down the stairs. Once outside, Riley looks at the landscaping but does not see many weeds. For a moment she is relieved. She asks her officer, “Where is my shovel?” As soon as she hears her words, she knows they were a mistake.

“You have fingers don’t you?” he says as he takes a seat on a bench nearby.

Riley steps into the planters that decorate the entrance to the building, and once she is close, she sees hundreds of baby weeds sprouting in the dirt. She drops to her knees and begins digging the roots out of the ground, but they are so fragile that the leaves break off at the base. Riley is an expert at pulling weeds.

Desperately trying to remove herself from her immediate reality, she remembers her days at the Ranch, the boarding school where she lived during her early teenage years, which was located in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains in CA. The children were tasked with maintaining the grounds of the facility. The weeds were fierce as only desert weeds can be. Hardened by the heat, ravenous for lack of water, they seemed to have some kind of genetic mutation that allowed them to proliferate in the worst conditions. And the roots! The roots seemed to drill straight down to hell endlessly searching for water. And if the children didn’t get the roots, the weeds would grow back with a vengeance. So they were given pickaxes for the job. Riley’s fingers work at a constant pace—dig pull, dig pull, dig pull. She lets the soothing rhythm pacify her mind.

After five hours of continuous work in the planters pulling weeds and trimming plants, Riley’s officer orders her to stop working as it is dinner time. Her body ceases moving and collapses to the ground. She lays flat on her back for a moment, giving her spine a moment to realign and fall back into place.

Her ethics officer kicks her in the leg. “Time to go, I said,” he says in disgust.

Riley lets a couple tears fall into the dirt before she stands back up. Her knees and hands are caked in mud. Her stomach groans for nourishment and she realizes how famished she is, not having eaten all day. She runs behind the ethics officer as he leads her to the mess hall.

The pair finds the room deserted, a stark contrast to the usual activity of the gathering place. Riley must now eat all of her meals in isolation. She notices her muddy fingernails and asks her watch, “Can I wash my hands?”

“No time for that. You have five minutes to eat.” He sits her down in front of a large, metal trough, cold beans and rice scattered across the bottom. Riley scrapes together the remaining morsels and dumps a pile the size of her palm onto her plate. The ethics officer stares at his watch, tracking her time down to the second.

Despite the disgusting food, her mouth salivates at the sight. Any kind of nourishment is welcomed. Not having any utensils, Riley digs her fingers into the food and shovels it into her mouth, filling it with each bite. Her fingers squish through the beans, and the rice sticks under her fingernails. Riley consumes mouthful after mouthful, not bothering to chew or wipe away the crumbs that hang on her lips. Her only concern is filling her hollow stomach. She needs all the strength she can get for her inevitable security check.

“Time to go,” he interrupts her mid-bite. Riley stops and looks down at her hands that are covered in food and dirt. She is disgusted with herself, and feels like the criminal they claim she is. She knows she must get out of the PRF, by any means possible.

Scene 14: Doubt Formula

They speed across town to HCO. The humid, late-summer air trapped in the van reeks of sweat and fear. Pressed between the two large officers, Amory’s lungs suffocate in the cramped space, and she must gasp for every breath.

They speed across town to HCO. The humid, late-summer air trapped in the van reeks of sweat and fear. Pressed between the two large officers, Amory’s lungs suffocate in the cramped space, and she must gasp for every breath. As they race around corners and through traffic lights, Amory remembers the day her mother left her at the day care. The heat is the same. The heat and the sweat gluing her skin to the plastic upholstery.

When the van stops at the curb, one of the officers grabs Amory’s arm to pull her out. She collects herself and tells him in a calm voice, “I can walk on my own.”

He releases her arm and she rips her legs from the seat. Amory lifts her head high as she enters the closest thing to a home that she has, but even she is disoriented in the familiar maze. She knows that if she ever wants to get out of this mess, she needs to convince the top brass that she is not a threat to the group.

They walk a few feet, then the hall bends, then another few feet and another bend. Everything is white—the tiles on the floor, the walls, the ceiling. And not a nice, cream white, but a stark white. A color that screams. The ceiling is low enough that it makes Amory, a five foot six inch tall girl, feel claustrophobic.

They stop at a closet of a room, with only a small desk and one metal chair inside. Amory has never seen this one. The walls feel as if they are collapsing down on her, crushing the air from her lungs. Her head pounds in pain.

On the table sits a huge stack, hundreds of pages, of LRH policy issues and directives, the same things she has been studying her entire life. Undoubtedly, she has many of these pages committed to memory, word for word. In Chinese school every morning at The Ranch, the boarding school she lived at from ages nine to fourteen, Cadets had to memorize LRH’s writings. It was called that because LRH travelled to China and admired the obedience of the children, so he modeled his school after their system. Directly after morning muster, two of the kids held up a piece of butcher paper with the LRH quote of the day written in large letters. One day, the quote was: “Backflashing. A backflash is when a Sea Org member or Scientologist gives an unnecessary response to an order. Anything besides ‘Yes Sir’ is a backflash.” One kid at the front yelled out the quote and then yelled “What is it?” The rest of the kids, eighty total, repeated the quotation in unison, loudly and clearly. They shouted it again and again until they no longer needed to look at the butcher paper and everyone said it perfectly, exactly how LRH would have wanted it.

Next to the stack of papers sits a small cassette player and multiple tapes—hours of recordings of LRH reading his policy issues. A piece of blank paper and a pen rests on the desk. Amory sees the materials and gags. She wants to sweep her arms across the desk and let everything tumble to the ground, but they are frozen at her sides.

“Before your sec-check, you need to write your Doubt formula,” one of the ethics officers tells her. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”

A few hours? Amory wants to protest, but she silences her reaction. The Doubt formula will only take her a few minutes. She knows that she is supposed to spend the rest of the time reading LRH’s writings. The last thing she needs is a reminder of how she is supposed to act, of what she is permitted to think. She knows that more intimately than she knows herself.

The word “Doubt” rings in her ears loudly. She is surprised that she only dropped down one level of existence, and is not considered to be an Enemy. This is the first time she has been in a lower condition and agreed with the assessment. For the past six weeks, she has been questioning realities she previously assumed to be truth. She smiles at the ethics officer as he leaves the room.

She carefully considers each command, deciding to use this exercise to explore her internal state. But even that must be guarded. Whatever she writes will be read immediately and added to her file. Amory rubs her temples, trying to clear the fog left by the pills. She reads the first command:

Inform oneself honestly of the actual intentions and activities of that group, project or organization, brushing aside all bias and rumor.

This question is easy for her, and she answers honestly. She writes: “The group, The Church of Scientology, has good intentions. It wants to save everyone on the planet and help people realize total freedom. These are important intentions, and I agree with them.” Even though she has been questioning her place in the group, she still believes in the ultimate mission of The Church.

Examine the statistics of the individual, group, project or organization.

She knows everyone’s stats by heart, so this question is also easy. She writes: “My stats are down, which is how I got here. They have been down for six weeks. I have been trying to bring them back up, but I have not been able to. For my project, the stats are down because mine are down. Overall, the group’s stats are up, but they would be higher if mine were up.” She is surprised by the guilt that burdens her heart as she writes those words. It is a guilt that is part of her skin, part of her breath, part of the blood that races through her veins. A guilt she may never be able to escape.

Decide on the basis of “the greatest good for the greatest number of people and areas of life” whether or not it should be attacked, harmed, suppressed or helped.

She writes words that are as familiar as her own fingers that cross the page: “Everyone should always help the greatest good for the greatest number of people and areas of life. This is the basis of all action.” As she sees those letters, those sentences, in her own handwriting, she feels a different kind of guilt. A betrayal of her own self. She remembers the loss of her own family, the countless small disloyalties of her friends. Her ignorance of herself. For a moment she sits paralyzed, staring blankly at the words before moving on to the next command.

Evaluate oneself or one’s own group, project or organization as to intentions and objective.

She writes: “The intentions and objectives of The Church are good. A world free from crime, war, and insanity. My own intentions are good, and they are exactly in line with the intentions of The Church.” Here, she is sure once again. She is starting to see that she agrees with aims, not the methods, of The Church.

Evaluate one’s own or one’s group, project or organization’s statistics.

Amory writes: “The organization’s statistics are good but my stats are bringing it down. I need to get my stats up so I can help The Church reach its intention.” This is what she must write to convince her superiors that she is still a loyal group member, even though her heart is conflicted. But she tries to draw the dividing line and think of herself as different than her stats, unweaving the complicated web of identities in which she is trapped.

Join or remain in or befriend the one which progresses toward the greatest good for the greatest number and announce the fact publicly to both sides.

She will have to do this step later, when the ethics officers return. For now, she writes words proclaiming that she wants to remain in the group. But they no longer feel like her own, as if she is reciting a string of letters from memory and no longer considers what they mean.

Do everything possible to improve the actions and statistics of the person, group, project or organization one has remained in or joined.

She remembers her most recent battle plan and writes: “I will stay every night until past midnight. I will be more aggressive in getting my people to finish their classes. I will do everything it takes to get my stats back up.” She has a hard time finishing the sentence, forcing herself to scratch out the last couple letters. She remembers Erika’s phrase taped to her office wall and parrots the message, knowing this is what she is expected to do.

Suffer on up through the conditions in the new group if one has changed sides or the conditions of the group one has remained in if wavering from it has lowered one’s status.

“By any means possible,” she writes, “I will get my stats back up.” She uses LRH’s favorite phrase in an attempt to convince her superiors of her continued loyalty. She hopes it will be enough.

Amory lets the pen slip from her hand, her heart more in doubt that before.

Looking over the paper, she sees “any means possible” in her own handwriting. She looks at the stack of writings left for her to review, and the first one she sees is LRH’s essay titled “Responsibilities of Leaders,” his essay about Power which details how people are supposed to behave towards their leaders. It is a review of the book The Four Seasons of Manuela, a biography of the South American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar and his mistress Manuela Saenz. Amory has read it many times. LRH concluded that Bolivar failed because he was not ruthless enough, and that Manuela was intelligent but not aggressive enough in reinforcing Bolivar’s power. A line jumps out at Amory: “It is a frightening level of bravery to use men you know can be cruel, vicious and incompetent.”

She has thought about that phrase—a frightening level of bravery—many times, but she has never been fully convinced about its truth, unable to understand how cruelty can be brave. Those actions are always framed as ways to improve the self, to improve The Church. But viciousness and cruelty have never made her feel powerful. In fact, they achieve the opposite effect. She knows, with absolute certainty, that she doesn’t want to make people feel bad. She wants to help them find freedom. The irony would be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying.

A uniform barging into the room releases her mind from its uncertainty. He grabs the Doubt formula from the desk and leads her down another small, winding hallway to the sec-check room, a space almost identical to the one she was just in. She sits down at the table, alone, still in her pajamas, her teeth not yet brushed and her hair uncombed. A portrait of LRH hangs across from her. He stares at her, his eyes throwing daggers and reminding her that she is outcast from the group she calls home. She wishes she had taken more pills and ended it all.

A few minutes later, the door opens and Daisy walks in the room.

Scene 13: Cornered

Amory totters down the hallway, like she has just awaken from a deep sleep and is not yet fully conscious. While Amory is out of sight, Riley finds the telephone in the room. From memory, she dials the number of her ethics division.

Amory totters down the hallway, like she has just awaken from a deep sleep and is not yet fully conscious.

While Amory is out of sight, Riley finds the telephone in the room. From memory, she dials the number of her ethics division. The phone rings twice before a familiar voice answers. Into the receiver, she says, “Hi, Sir, this is Riley … I need to report an incident …” As she speaks and verbalizes what has just happened, Riley’s anger builds. She is happy, of course, that her sister is alive, but as she explains the contact assist and Amory’s self-inflicted harm her sense of betrayal is undeniable. Amory put her own selfish needs over those of the group. Riley needs answers.

Amory enters the room and asks her sister, “Ready?”

“What?” Riley exclaims. “You were just on the brink of death. What happened?”

Amory’s face tilts in confusion. She asks, “I was? What do you mean?” Then, she remembers the pills from last night. Her eyes widen in horror. “What happened?”

This response is not acceptable. Riley presses further, “I brought you back to life with an assist.” Riley takes a deep breath and releases her emotional reaction. She continues, “I called the ethics officer. He’ll be here shortly.”

“You what!” Amory shouts.

“I had to. You almost died!” The tears she has been suppressing since she initially entered the apartment stream down her face. “I was worried.” She ignores the tears as if they do not exist and lets then run down her face and drop to the ground.

“You didn’t have to,” Amory says as she paces around the room. “What am I going to do? They’ll throw me in a sec-check for sure!” Amory counts her steps as she crosses back and forth across the room, nine in one direction and ten back, her pace increasing as she considers her limited options. She tries to calm herself down so she can think, but her rage is beyond containment.

“You would have done the same,” Riley reminds Amory. “You would have had to.”

Amory just breathes in and out, in and out. She narrows her gaze and shoots her sister a hit directly to the heart. Amory thinks about her sister’s words, and she isn’t sure. She does not know if she would have called the ethics officer if she found her sister in this situation, and she remembers that she did not file a knowledge report after her sister revealed her pregnancy.

Amory bolts for the door, but Riley cuts her off and places her body between Amory and the exit. “You can’t leave. That will just make it worse.”

“Stop trying to control me!” Amory shouts. She forces her way around Riley, but as she opens the door, she hears footsteps thundering down the hallway. It must be the ethics officers.

Amory leaps past her sister and finds the window that looks out to the liquor store. She opens the glass, trying to find an escape route. She is only on the second floor, but the drop to ground level seems greater than she can navigate. She feels her heart beating faster and faster as she looks for alternative exits. This is the only window, and the officers are approaching the single door. Amory stands with her back to the wall. Her eyes dart around the room, still searching for some alternative she could not see before. She has nowhere to run.

Two loud knocks pound on the door before it flies open. Riley steps aside to let two large uniforms into the apartment. Both men tower above six feet in height, and even though they are not particularly muscular, they give the immediate impression of great strength. Their militant conviction to the cause comes across as physical power. They eyes fix upon the two young women. One stays next to Riley, and the other grabs Amory by the arm.

“Someone called about an incident?”

“Yes, I did,” Riley answers. She points to her sister across the room. “She’s over there.”

Both men surround Amory, and any fantasy of escape is immediately extinguished like water on fire. One of the guards grabs her arm, and commands, “We’re here to take you to your security check. Come with us.” She tries to force her arm free, but with every pull his grip tightens.

“You’re hurting my arm!” She cries in pain. He grabs even harder and forces Amory to her knees. “Stop! Let me go!”

He lifts her up by the arm and begins to carry her out of the room. He bends slightly forward and whispers in her ear, “There’s no point in fighting. You’ll only make things worse. You should know that by now.”

When Amory hears his words, she realizes he speaks the truth. She lets her body go limp and surrenders to his force. She no longer fights back, but she will not walk of her own accord. She has become a tumbleweed, separated from the ground, but at the mercy of the wind to blow around wherever it likes. No agency, but no resistance.

As the officers drag her down the hallway, the imminent reality of a sec-check sends fear pulsing through Amory’s body. She has been doing them since she was six years old, so she knows exactly what she is getting into. The children’s security check, for kids aged six to twelve, only has eighty-five questions, as opposed to the adult sec-check which has hundreds of questions. The top brass require one before any major promotion in The Church, or if they suspect someone is engaged in criminal activity. Most recently, Amory did one when she was fourteen years old and officially joined the Sea Org, and again when she was sixteen years old and recruited for HCO International. But this one is different. This time, in the eyes of The Church at least, she has committed a great sin. They’ll be looking for specific overts and withholds, and she knows they’ll find them if they want to. The process ensures that.

The men, one on each arm, escort Amory to the curb where a van awaits.

Scene 12: Contact Assist

Early the next morning, Riley knocks on the door of Amory’s apartment so they can walk down the breakfast together. McKenna answers the door, and Riley asks her where Amory is.

Early the next morning, Riley knocks on the door of Amory’s apartment so they can walk down to breakfast together. McKenna answers the door, and Riley asks her where Amory is.

“She’s still sleeping,” the roommate says.

A look of bewilderment sweeps across Riley’s face, and she asks, “Sleeping? It’s time for breakfast.” She walks past McKenna and finds Amory resting peacefully in her bed. She brushes Amory’s hair and whispers, “Sissy, Wake up. You’re going to be late.”

But the body does not move. Riley rubs her arm, but Amory’s skin feels cold. Riley realizes something is wrong. She shakes Amory more forcefully and begins to shout, “Sis! Wake up!” But Amory remains motionless. She looks dead.

Riley shakes harder, trying to awaken her sister. “Sis! Sis!” she calls, but Amory does not respond. Riley’s pulse races and her heart jumps rapidly from her chest as she forces her brain to think practically and devise a reaction to the incomprehensible.

An idea pops into her head with the force and clarity reserved for moments of insight. A contact assist. She learned The Bring Back to Life assist in one of the many LRH films she studied, so she knows the tech. It’s a simple assist that works by restoring communication between the spirit and her body. The film promised that this process can save lives.

Riley breathes, trying to remain in control. She sits down on the mattress next to her sister, her back bolt upright. She finds the perfect intonation and commands loudly, “Amory! Get back here and bring this body to life!”

She waits a brief moment before touching Amory’s hand, but she only feels absence where there should be life. The assist has not worked. She puts Amory’s hand back and searches for an alternative approach, trying to remain logical and not be overwhelmed by her emotions. Riley changes plans and decides to use CCH1, a different assist.

Riley’s warm, sweaty hand, which shakes despite a desperate desire to remain clam, caresses Amory’s frigid skin. She orders the first command: “Give me that hand … Thank you.” She pauses to wait for a reaction, breathing deeply to control her own heartbeat. When Amory does not respond, she returns her sister’s hand to its former position.

After waiting two seconds, Riley picks up Amory’s hand and again repeats the command: “Give me that hand … Thank you.” After waiting a moment, she puts the hand back. Still no response—no muscle movement, no breath in her lungs, nothing at all. A wave of panic runs through Riley’s body, but she uses a lifetime of training to contain her feelings.

Riley picks up Amory’s hand, repeats the command, waits for a reaction, then returns the lifeless hand to the mattress. In the rhythm of a well-timed symphony, she repeats the process five, six, seven times, her voice growing shaky with each reiteration. Hopeful that the contact assist is beginning to work, she continues the process.

On the eighth reprise, Riley feels the slightest resistance in Amory’s hand, which faintly withdraws from hers. Still no conscious movements, but Riley believes that the contact assist is accomplishing its goal of bringing Amory back to life. She continues.

Riley’s heart has relaxed its pace. With a calm grip and confident voice, she gives her order again. Nine, ten, eleven, twelve commands, each time Riley taking Amory’s hand and putting it back, taking her hand and putting it back.

On the thirteenth command, Amory’s brow creases in anger and she mumbles sharp gibberish. This means she is moving up the Tone Scale—from body death, through apathy, covert hostility, and into anger, just as LRH explained. Riley continues.

Right when Riley is about to take Amory’s hand again, Amory grabs Riley antagonistically. Riley releases a breath of joy even as her fingers crumple in Amory’s grasp. “We have reached antagonism. Thank you Amory” she responds and continues the process.

Riley returns to the rhythm she has been using—give command, take hand, put back; give command, take hand, put back; give command, take hand, put back. Other than the movement of one arm, Amory lays on the bed silently.

On the twenty-second command, Amory anticipates the next move and gives Riley her hand, and then takes it back to the same beat Riley has been using.

Suddenly, Amory opens her eyes and sits up. “I need to use the restroom,” she says and walks out of the room.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Riley wants to smother her sister in a hug. But she pauses, allowing the tech to work fully. She declares, “End of Assist.”

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Scene 11: Long Day

At two o’clock in the morning after her long day at work, Amory stands paralyzed at the door to her apartment building. The first chill of fall gives her goosebumps.

At two o’clock in the morning after her long day at work, Amory stands paralyzed at the door to her apartment building. The first chill of fall gives her goosebumps. Her dorm is at the edge of the compound. It’s a 1930s, Hollywood-style complex with ornate trim that hasn’t been touched for decades. The wood has been eaten away by termites and the single paned windows do little to keep the elements out. The cream-colored paint desperately clings to the flaking wood. The building is three stories tall and used to be a hotel many years ago, which made it perfect for The Church. They didn’t need to add kitchens when they converted it to house Sea Org members since they eat all of their meals in the mess hall. They even took out the bathrooms, installing one communal bathroom per floor. It used to be a bright and happy building, the kind anyone would want to live in. Now it’s just sad, looking as if it hides the secrets of past tenants.

The key to the building hangs loosely in her fingers by her side. Seeing her motionless, John gets up from his desk stationed immediately inside. His post is to maintain the building, but, unofficially, he is also a security guard, keeping all wogs—all non-Scientologists—out. He is wearing a black t-shirt with the word FREEDOM written in bold, white letters across the front. The contrast is striking.

Amory winces as she reads his shirt.

John opens the door and gives her a much-too-friendly smile. “Good evening!” he says, quite enthusiastically given the time.

“Evening,” Amory forces herself to glance up and smile as she replies.

As she crosses the threshold of the building, a wave of nausea rolls through her body. Amory gags, and her mouth fills with vomit. John is still standing in front of her, waiting for more of a greeting.

“Erica kept you late again, I see.” Still smiling.

She forces the vomit back down her throat, trying not to cringe at the taste. She replies, “Yeah, another day. Hard to keep up with all the work.”

“You said it! Clearing the plant’s a big job!” Apparently satisfied with the interaction, he steps aside to let her pass.

The foyer of the apartment building is decorated sparsely, the only furniture being John’s small wooden desk and the obligatory portrait of L. Ron Hubbard. Amory walks across the room and forces herself to climb the stairs. Her legs move like they are weighted down with lead, and it takes every ounce of her strength to climb each stair. Thoughts swirl around in her head—her liability status, her cognition that she is her own person, her sister’s pregnancy—all screaming in a cacophony of noise she can’t understand.

She drifts down the hallway noticing nothing in particular. She stops at the wrong apartment, only realizing her mistake when the key won’t fit in the door. Her house is nothing special, but it doesn’t really matter because she’s never there anyway.

“McKenna?” Amory calls to the empty room.

Her roommate must not be home yet. The apartment is one space divided into a small living room with thread-bare furniture and a bedroom with a bunk bed. The carpet is ripped and stained, despite the numerous times they have scrubbed it. The florescent lights sing when you turn them on, the only noise in the otherwise empty home. It’s where they sleep at night—nothing more, nothing less.

Amory tries not to think about everything that has happened in the past few days as she heads straight to the bedroom area. A mirror hangs on the wall above the shared dresser so she can get partially ready in her room when the bathroom down the hall is full, which is most of the time. Her reflection stares at her as she crosses the space. She hardly recognizes herself—the dark circles under her eyes, the hollowness in her cheeks, even her hair seems dull. She leans in close to get a good look at this stranger confronting her.

“What have I become?” she says, out loud, to her reflection.

She plops down on the bottom bunk and thinks about her dilemma. She sees the liquor store across the street, its windows guarded with bars. It reminds her of a friend, years ago. Amory can’t remember her name now, but when they were young, ten or eleven, she was walking to this building from the Cadet Org down the street. It was late at night, and she was walking by herself, which the kids often did. She was raped by a homeless man in the neighborhood before she made it home. Amory thinks of her from time to time.

She stands up and peels her uniform from her tired skin. Even after a long day of wear, the creases in the sleeves and legs are still apparent. She slides the mirrored door to the side, revealing her half of the closet, and throws her clothes on the floor. Above the pile of dirties on the ground hang the rest of her perfectly-ironed uniforms stacked neatly like playing cards in a deck. All exactly the same, not an item out of place. Her ripped jeans hang there as well, but the rest of the items are uniforms.

As Amory stares at her clothes, she cannot silence Erika’s beratement and imagines her reaction, “What is wrong with you?” she hears Erika yell. “You can’t even iron correctly!”

Amory buries her head in the pillow to drown out the noise. But her realization repeats:

I am my own person.

The thought leads to a sting of questions she can no longer silence. If I truly am my own person, then why is Erica constantly demeaning me for not being good enough? Why do I have to slave away every day without a single day off? Why can’t I develop a single relationship? Why do I know nothing about anything except Scientology? And in auditing, how can there be “correct” realization I’m supposed to have? How can The Church say what my intentions were? How can I be humiliated for having the wrong intentions when I don’t even have the intentions they say I do? The questions echo in her mind on a constant track, like a haunting song on repeat that will never leave her in peace.

She feels her head spinning. She sees that she has stood at the edge of this cliff many times before, but in the past she closed her eyes because if she looked over, her entire world would unravel.

Amory drags herself down the hall to brush her teeth before bed. The female restroom is deserted. Trying to avoid her reflection in the mirror, she opens one of the medicine cabinets above the sinks so she is not confronted by her image in the glass. There, on the shelf, is a solitary bottle of pills. This catches her eye. The cabinets are always empty because any kind of medication, even Tylenol, is strictly prohibited in The Church. It’s strange that these pills are there, in the communal bathroom of all places. She has no idea whose they could be or why there are here. It feels like fate.

She grabs the bottle from the shelf. It feels full, as if it was left just for her. She scans the alien object, inspecting every detail. She reads the directions for use: “Take two pills every eight hours. Finish entire bottle. Take with food. Do not consume alcohol while taking.” Wog language sounds so strange. But also so liberating. This tiny bottle could solve all of her problems.

She’s not even strong enough to open the cap. With every turn, it just clicks and clicks but doesn’t come off. She’s about to throw the bottle on the floor in frustration before she finally looks down and sees the tiny print on the top: “Press down and turn.” Okay. She presses it down on the sink. It slips a couple times, but then turns right off. She wonders why wogs would make the bottle so difficult to open.

Will this make the noise stop? She wonders.

Amory fills her palm with the little oval pills, convinced that they will help her. She counts out two, four, six. No, I will need more than six, she thinks. Eight, nine pills fall in her palm. Will nine be enough? She counts out one more, ten. A good, round number. That should do it.

She looks down at her palm full of pills, closes her eyes, and pops them all in her mouth. She swallows as hard as she can. They stick in her throat, causing her to gag. She angles her mouth under the faucet and forces the pills down with water. This is it.

The possibility of just going to sleep and never waking up is a welcomed reality. She could finally rest—no post, no stats, no ethics, no questions.

And if she really is a thetan, she would just come back in another, hopefully better, life. Nothing would really end. She would just get a little rest, a much-needed break. After all, she did sign a contract for a billion years. Who knows how many she’s already lived and how many she has left. In the bigger picture, this life is just a small blip on the screen. And her life is insignificant anyway, one person working for the greater good.

She could use a little time to rest.

After choking down the pills, Amory stumbles to bed in a daze. As her head touches the pillow, she realizes that she’s never done anything like this before. Not the pills, although she’s never taken those, but acting of her own accord. She has never disobeyed The Church, even though Erica implies otherwise. Everything she has done since her mom dropped her off at day care sixteen years ago has been for the greater good. Taking a handful of pills is the first thing she’s done for herself.

Before she has time to second guess her decision and vomit them back up, a strong wave of numbness pulses through her body. She closes her eyes and surrenders to sleep.

Scene 10: First Attempt

The first time Amory attempted to leave The Church was about a year after her mother dropped her off at the day care. Amory knew what her mom told her—she could leave if she wanted to.

The first time Amory attempted to leave The Church was about a year after her mother dropped her off at the day care. Amory knew what her mom told her—she could leave if she wanted to. One day, Riley and Amory decided to tell a nanny that they were going to leave and live with their grandmother. She would want them and wouldn’t abandon them. The girls found one of the nannies, and told her the truth.

The nanny didn’t understand at first. She asked them how long they wanted to be gone. When her question was met with blank faces, she finally understood. They didn’t want to be gone for an hour or a day. They wanted to leave, leave. The nanny hurried off and returned moments later with Miles.

“What’s this I hear about you girls wanting to leave?” Miles asked them, surprised by the request. Amory and Riley were always so good and did everything they were asked. What had they done wrong? Where would they go? He thought that it must be a mistake, a passing phase the girls were going through. They couldn’t really want to leave The Church. He remained calm and tried to steer the girls back to their usual, obedient, selves.

The girls responded, “Our mom told us we can go if we want. We want to go now.”

“Well, why don’t you sleep on it tonight? We can talk about this again tomorrow.” Miles led the girls back to their rooms. It was before dinnertime, but he thought it was best to leave them in their rooms, alone, tonight. He didn’t want them talking to the other children in the state that they were in. They may encourage suppressive thoughts or actions in the others, and he couldn’t have that.

 

The next morning, as the girls were finishing breakfast, Miles pulled them into his office. He told them that someone was there to talk to them.

Amory and Riley followed Miles without hesitation. His office was always a safe place for them. They were lucky that Miles was their guardian. Whenever they would tease or taunt one of the other children, they could just run into Miles’ office and hide under his desk. The other children were not allowed to do that because he wasn’t their guardian. But Amory and Riley could. They were protected from anything in there.

As soon as they were seated, the biggest man they had ever seen entered the office. He seemed to fill the entire doorway as he walked through it. “Girls, this is James,” Miles told them. “He is from OSA. He wants to speak with you for a few minutes.” With that, Miles left the room. The girls stared in awe of this enormous man as he walked around the desk and took a seat in Miles’ chair.

“We heard that you would like to leave The Church,” he said, staring at them coldly. “That’s fine. But before you do, we’re going to need you to make a list of your overts and withholds against The Church so we know why. People only want to leave when they’ve done something bad.” He looked up and saw the girls sitting in confusion. He clarified, “These are the kinds of things that would be an overt—stealing change from your parents, killing cockroaches, those kinds of things.”

Amory stared at the blank page awaiting her list. She knew that an overt meant that you did something wrong. She searched and searched her brain, trying to think of all the evil things she had done, but she was having a hard time. She always tried to be good and do what Miles and the nannies told her to do.

“I stole some change from my parents,” Amory offered.

“When?” Riley asked. “When was the last time you even saw Mom and Dad?” She had a point. The girls had not seen either of their parents since their mother left them at the day care a year ago.

“I don’t know,” Amory responded, hanging her head.

“Ok, good … thank you.” In his notes, James wrote: Stole change from parents. He asked, “What else? Did you ever kill a cockroach?”

The girls thought about all of the cockroaches that crawled around the day care. They tried to kill them all the time. They even made a game of it with the other children. Riley piped up, “Of course I’ve killed cockroaches.”

“Me too! They’re everywhere!” Amory added. “Why is that bad?” she asked.

“Ok, good. That’s two.” James added to his list. “What else?”

Amory paused, trying to think of other things, but her mind was blank. She just stared at him in confusion.

James would not accept that as an answer. He persisted, “You must have more. You want to leave. You must have done something wrong.”

The girls insisted that they hadn’t done anything else wrong. Still, he was not satisfied. “Well, you have to come up with something.”

James pushed the paper over to the girls and stood up from his chair. Amory stared down at it. Her two overts were listed, just one big mess of indistinguishable letters. She didn’t know what any of it meant.

If she wanted to go, she must have done something wrong. James kept saying that there was no other reason. She also knew that from Miles and the nannies and everyone else in her life. But she had no idea what she had done. She always tried to be good so that her mother would come back and get her. It didn’t make sense to Amory. She wanted to leave because she just didn’t like being there, away from her family. But that wasn’t acceptable. They had taken her reasons away and left her with two overts, one of which she did not even commit.

“Well? What else have you done?” He said, now hovering behind them. His massive figure cast a dark shadow over the girls and caused them to tremble.

The girls protested, but he would not listen. “Well, then, you shouldn’t want to leave,” he insisted.

The girls had no choice but to give up since they could not answer his questions. “Okay, I want to stay,” Riley submitted.

Amory followed her sister’s lead. “Yeah, I’m good now.”

“Okay, you don’t have to write anymore.” James collected the paper and left the office.