Amory has her first encounter with “normal” life outside the CoS.
Last lines: The experience back at the bar makes her even more weary of wogs. Her only real option is to hit the button for the northbound crosswalk, so she returns to the familiar.
When Amory and Daisy were six years old, they were assigned to their first posts of missionaire. The Cadet Org would contract the children out as labor to The Church’s administrative offices, having them perform duties such as filing, cleaning, or handing out promotional materials. The Cadet Org would be paid by the offices, and the children were given a small salary of five dollars per week, which they usually spent on candy at the local liquor store.
The girls had been studying the alphabet in preparation for their jobs. They had to learn it forwards and backwards before they would be assigned this post. The girls practiced every day—forward, backwards, forward, backwards. They would rattle off the letters so quickly that they became nonsensical blurs of sounds. But they were right on target, every time, which is why they were selected for their positions.
One morning at school, they were told that they were ready for their posts, and they could not have been more excited. After dinner that day, a security officer, Robert, escorted the girls down the street to the office where they would work. His hair was thinning, and he had the look of a salty old man who had spent many years of his life manning the decks of large ships. Robert seemed ancient to the girls, but in reality he was only thirty-seven years old.
The three of them left the Cadet Org and began the four-block journey down the street to their post. The girls held hands and skipped down the street, ready for their new responsibility and happy to do important work for The Church.
They stopped at a street light to wait for the signal to change. Amory noticed the cars driving past them. She always looked at the cars, searching for her mother. All of the drivers seemed focused on their destinations as they sped by, not noticing the pedestrians on the side of the road. To Amory, the cars meant leaving. People always came and went in cars. Kids would be dropped off and picked up, always in a car or bus. Los Angeles was filled with cars—cars that could take their drivers wherever they wanted to go. Amory watched the cars drive past and imagined where they were going and where they were coming from. She wondered about the road that lead to her mother and when her mother was going to drive back down that street and take her and her sister away.
She tried not to think about her mother’s car leaving the day care, but the image would appear in her mind at inexplicable times with the rawness of the day the event occurred.
As the group walked across the street, Robert asked the girls if they wanted to hear a story. Upon their insistence, he began, “Just last night, I was lying in my bed in my apartment, just sleeping, minding my own business. Then all of a sudden, a fat Mexican wearing a wife-beater shirt and holding a knife entered my room and ran straight at me. He started stabbing me again and again as I was lying in my bed.”
The girls stood motionless in the middle of the crosswalk, enraptured by his story.
Robert pulled on their arms to get them safely across the intersection before continuing, “At that moment, I had to will my spirit out of my body, and I told his spirit, ‘I am not the man your wife was cheating on you with.’ You see, girls, this man, when he was alive, had a wife who cheated on him with another man, and he wanted to get revenge.”
The girls asked him what he did, and he continued, “Well, I had to help him realize that he was dead and what had happened. I told him, ‘You don’t have to keep repeating events. It’s time to move on. Come into present time. This is now. You’re reliving something that happened when you died, however many years ago that was. You’re just repeating that same moment. So move on! Go!’”
“Did he leave?” Amory asked, anticipation grabbing his words.
“With that he vanished. I hope I never see that spirit again. He was a scary one. One of the scariest I’ve ever seen.”
The group stopped outside their destination. The Church bought this old hospital years before, but had not spent much money renovating it, just the sweat of Sea Org members. Amory hesitated to enter the building. She knew that people died in hospitals, and that there were probably spirits stuck inside.
All of the files were kept in the basement of the building. Robert led the girls to the elevator and hit the button to call it. He continued with a new story. “Girls, you know,” he said, “I’ve been working in this building, on the night shift, for a couple of years now. Another scary thing happened to me as I stood in this very spot.”
He looked at the girls to see if they were watching. They were enthralled, again, by his words. “I was just standing here, minding my own business, just like we are now. When the elevator came and stopped, I heard a banging from the inside, like someone was trapped, and a young boy’s voice yelling ‘Let me out! Let me out!’”
They stood frozen, waiting for Robert to finish the story. He didn’t say another word, and the silence was broken by the elevator’s buzz.
The ride down to the basement was equally quiet. Amory was trying to make sense of what Robert was saying. She had heard ghost stories before and had always believed them. After all, she was a thetan, just like everyone else, and had lived many lifetimes. Of course there were ghosts. She had never seen one herself, but she knew they existed.
Robert’s voice broke the silence when he said, “To get to the filing room, you just walk right down this hall here, and it’s the only door on the left. You can’t miss it. I’ll be back at nine to walk you home.”
Robert had to practically push the girls out of the elevator. “Don’t worry girls,” he said, “no one’s gonna get you down here. You’re perfectly safe. I’ll see you soon.”
His words offered little comfort in the cold, unfamiliar basement. The light fixtures in the hallway were missing bulbs, so the only illumination came from the room at the other end, the office where the girls were supposed to work. In the dim glow, the girls could see the filth that covered the ground, the floor looking like it had not been mopped in years. The wall on the right was covered with old, leaky pipes that seemed as if their rusty seams would burst at any moment. A continual drip … drip … drip … and the hum of the fluorescent lights were the only noises. The hallway was only about four feet wide, and the wall on the left was the backside of an old freezer, where it was rumored that body parts were kept when it was a hospital.
Halfway down the hall, Amory suddenly stopped, petrified by a strange noise. Daisy bumped into her back. The girls listened. Coming from the freezer, they were convinced that they heard the faint cry of a little girl. “Grandpa … Grandpa …” Her voice sounded the same as theirs, except distant, faraway. A lost little soul, trapped here in this awful basement.
The girls took off in a sprint towards the light in the office. They ran in the room and slammed the door behind them, convincing themselves that ghosts don’t like light and couldn’t get them there.
Earlier in the day, the girls had been briefed on what they were supposed to do in the filing room. Every auditing session of every church member is recorded and transcribed, and the girls were hired to organize those transcriptions. They needed to alphabetize the papers by last name, and then put the auditing session transcription for each person in his or her file. Easy enough, the girls thought.
Now, looking at the stacks of boxes, they grew overwhelmed. The entire room was filled with towers taller than they were, and filing cabinet after filing cabinet lined all fours walls. The girls had no idea where to begin, and there were no adults to answer their questions.
The girls knew that they each needed to file one box per week to meet their stats. When Amory opened her first target, she couldn’t believe how many papers were in it—it seemed like hundreds and thousands of transcriptions.
After four hours of continuous work, the girls were startled by a noise in the hallway. They scampered behind a tall stack of boxes. When they recognized Robert’s voice calling to them, their fear eased. It was time to go home to the Cadet Org. Amory closed up her box, but realized that she was not even a quarter of the way through it. A new wave of fear pulsed through her body.
When Robert checked their work, Amory asked him how many days they had to meet their stats for the week. He reassured them that they were scheduled to work four days, but that he could always bring them down extra, or stay late, if they needed more time to finish their task.
Scenes from the Next:
Amory begins her task for the ethics project and meets a new ethics officer.