Scene 39: Voluntary Disconnection

Amory awakes early the next morning after her first Int Rundown, before the sun is up, feeling like she never really slept. She spent the entire night tossing and turning on her cot, her mind carried away by a wave of new thoughts and emotions. Her decision to leave The Church is too painful to contemplate, the enormity of the decision too overwhelming, that the only thing she can think about is her immediate escape plan.

Previously On:

The march routine at the Cadet Org.

Last Lines: The teacher yanked the girl up and reminded the rest of the cadets, “All right. Back at attention. Remember—the greatest good for the greatest number. Reset the clock!”

 

Amory awakes early the next morning after her first Int Rundown, before the sun is up, feeling like she never really slept. She spent the entire night tossing and turning on her cot, her mind carried away by a wave of new thoughts and emotions. Her decision to leave The Church is too painful to contemplate, the enormity of the decision too overwhelming, that the only thing she can think about is her immediate escape plan. She decides that her first step must be to disconnect from those around her, to sever all ties that hold her to her current life and strangle the personal agency she will need if she ever wants to leave.

She determines that she must route out properly—finish the Int Rundown, testify before the examiner that she is “rehabilitated,” and then still decide to leave. At that point, she would not be considered a threat and would be judged to be of sound mind when she left. She could walk out without being declared and still communicate with her loved ones.

But finishing the Int Rundown means playing by the rules of The Church and lying to do so. She would have to “realize” that the good people of The Church have done everything they can to help her, but that she is an insane criminal pervert for rejecting their goodwill and leaving the group. Since she is not very good at lying, she decides to practice the stories she will tell in session.

Amory finally accepts the fact that she won’t sleep any longer and grabs her book. She sits on her cot reading under the dim light of her lamp until daylight begins to shine through the bars on her window.

At what must be seven o’clock, she hears Adam’s voice calling, “rise and shine sleeping beauty.” The butterflies are back. She tries to stifle them, acting upon her recent decision to disconnect, but they remain in her stomach.

Rather than rushing into the hallway to see Adam like she truly wants, Amory forces herself to take her time getting dressed. When she pulls on her clothes, she can see how three weeks of heavy labor has changed her body. She must cinch her belt to the next tighter hole so her jeans stay around her hips. Her arms show the definition of every muscle, and her core is stronger that it has ever been. Amory spends an extra minute admiring her new physique in an uncharacteristic act of vanity, proud of how far she has already come.

She opens the door and runs past Adam, shouting “Back in five minutes” over her shoulder.

The bathroom is deserted, as always, since she’s one of the only people on this floor. She finds herself in the mirror and is startled by what she sees. There isn’t one in her room, so she doesn’t glimpse her face much these days. Despite her lack of sleep, her eyes are bright, sparking even, as they catch the light. Her cheeks have a healthy color, growing brown in the natural light of the job site. She brushes on some neutral eye shadow and waves some mascara on her lashes. She even dabs some tinted gloss on her lips. She feels silly putting on makeup before a day of hard labor, but she does it anyway.

Amory finds Adam sitting in the chair stationed outside her door. He’s whistling a tune she’s never heard.

“What took you so long?” she asks.

“We should get going.” He tries to act annoyed, but Amory see the left end of his lip curl up in a smile. “You might want to grab a sweater. It’s starting to get cold outside.”

Leaving the building, she feels a warm winter sun on her face, giving her hope that the months ahead won’t be so bad.

“Ready for another day in paradise?” He asks as they wait for the bus outside the HI. Adam places his hand on the small of her back.

At first Amory’s body tenses. He is close, too close. This is the first physical contact she’s had with anyone in months. Not even a handshake. As the tension lifts, she pauses for a moment longer than she should. Being so near to him sends a rush through her body. She turns and looks him in the eyes, a mere inches away. After a lingering moment, she turns her head so they’re cheek to cheek, then whispers in his ear, “Ready.” She can feel her warm breath bounce off his neck.

As soon as she hears herself, she cringes. This is exactly the behavior she resolved to avoid. She wipes the gloss from her lips and steps away from Adam.

Acts of flirtation are new for Amory. She has certainly never kissed anyone. Even close proximity to other people is a foreign sensation. It’s not that the The Church prohibits intimate relationships outright, it just makes them very difficult. Working over one hundred hours a week, Sea Org members don’t have time to develop relationships. Unofficial Church policy is to split up families because each Sea Org member’s ultimate loyalty needs to be to The Church—not to herself, not to her family, not to anyone else. Amory has not been close with many people, or anyone really, in her life. The sensation Adam gives her is strange and new.

The bus pulls up to the curb. Most of the seats are taken already. Amory walks down the aisle looking for an empty spot at the back, past all the eyes that look away as soon as they see her and her dirty gray scarf. She’s grown so accustomed to being shunned by everyone in a Sea Org uniform that she has stopped looking at them. If they’re going to avoid her, she will save them the hassle by not seeking their engagement.

But today, something strange happens. Halfway down the bus, she hears, “Hi. How’s it going?”

At first, the greeting doesn’t register. When Amory hears people speaking, other than Adam, she assumes it’s directed at someone else. Not looking up, she hears it again, a little louder this time. “Hi Amory.”

My name? Someone said my name? she thinks, confused. Amory looks up, surprised to see her old friend Kimberly directly addressing her. “Hi …” Amory says, startled by the act of kindness. “Thanks.”

Amory has worked with Kimberly for a few years and made her grovel more than once before signing off on her conditions formula. And now Kimberly is fraternizing with the downstat and putting herself in jeopardy. They catch each other’s eyes, and Kimberley looks back down, staring awkwardly at her feet. Amory does the same, embarrassed by her past behavior.

But she keeps smiling as she sits down in the last row. Amory rests comfortably for the first time in weeks. She is reminded about how deeply she is tied to these people, and if she will ever, really, be able to disconnect.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory installs ductwork at the Celebrity Center, and Daisy overhears a conversation.

Scene 38: Obedience Training

The California summer sun beat down on seven-year-old Amory’s head and seemed to intensify as it bounced off the concrete and radiated back up. The children in the Cadet Org had their recess on the roof of the parking garage The Church owned next door. There was a basketball court set up at one end, and the rest of the space was left open for the march routine, which is what the children spent most of their physical education time practicing.

Previously On:

Riley terminates her pregnancy.

Last Lines: She climbs the steps of the bus, and her only consolation is her conviction to the greater good, her confidence that The Church’s mission is more important than anything else.

Before

The California summer sun beat down on seven-year-old Amory’s head and seemed to intensify as it bounced off the concrete and radiated back up. The children in the Cadet Org had their recess on the roof of the parking garage The Church owned next door. There was a basketball court set up at one end, and the rest of the space was left open for the march routine, which is what the children spent most of their physical education time practicing.

The roof seemed huge to Amory, an enormous opening compared to the maze of little rooms and hallways of her home. She didn’t mind the space in the winter months when the sun was less intense, but there were no trees to provide shade from the summer heat that wilted their little bodies from heat, and sweat, and dread.

“Dress, right, dress! Left, right, dress!” The teacher at the Cadet Org cried out, loudly projecting her voice across the vast space.

The one hundred cadets fanned out across the concrete in perfect formation as they marched, their movements synchronized with the accuracy of an expertly trained fighting squad. From a distance, the children looked like carbon copies of each other—they all dressed the same, moved the same, acted the same. They silently followed the teacher’s orders, knowing that if they disobeyed in any way, their time spent in physical education would only grow longer.

“Attention!”

The word Amory feared. This meant standing still at dress right dress with their right arms held straight out in front of them at ninety degree angles, so that the tips of their fingers could almost touch the shoulder of the person in front of them, but not close enough to rest the weight of their arms. This was the dreaded position. Especially in the sun. Amory wondered how long they would have to stand at attention today. They were supposed to stand still for thirty minutes. However, it always lasted longer than that. If any one of the children moved at all, if anyone dropped her arm for even a brief second, the thirty-minute clock would restart for everyone.

Last week, on a day when the mercury reached one hundred and ten degrees, they stood at attention for three hours. Children kept fainting, but the teachers made them stand back up, restarting the clock each time. Amory didn’t collapse, but she wished she would have fallen down and not been able to get back up. Afraid of being the one to reset the clock, she held her arm straight out in front of her as commanded, despite her body’s desire to crumple to the ground.

The children stopped in their tracks and positioned their bodies directly behind the person in front of them. In unison, they raised their arms to attention. Any observer would have been impressed by the execution of orders.

Amory felt the sun’s rays burning her arm and hoped that everyone would keep their composure and not extend the time at attention beyond the minimum thirty minutes.

Like hawks, the teachers circled the children in formation, waiting for a moment of weakness from anyone. If an arm began to drop just a few degrees, a teacher would tap it back up to ninety degrees with a firm warning. They paced back and forth, up and down the rows, searching for disobedience.

Amory noticed Billy out of the corner of her eye. Last week, he was the first child to faint. The teachers were also keeping a close eye on him, anticipating an opportunity to reset the clock. He seemed to notice the extra attention and kept his arm a bit higher than usual. Even though other children fainted after him last week, he didn’t want the social stigma of being the first to reset the clock, again. Everyone remembered that poor soul.

Perhaps more than the heat and physical exertion of standing at attention, Amory dreaded the silence the most. No one spoke, no one moved. The teachers could walk around, but the children couldn’t, and the sound of the footsteps ringing across the concrete emphasized this reality. For Amory, the worst part of this exercise was the extreme boredom that seemed to prolong the agony of her body as the time crept by. Perhaps if she could talk to her friends next to her the time would progress a bit faster. But any talking would reset the clock. So, like her body, her lips remained still.

Ten minutes passed, and no one moved. Fifteen. Amory was beginning to grow hopeful. Usually by now, the clock had been reset at least once. Perhaps today they would make it. Twenty minutes. Amory counted the seconds in her head. It was the only way she knew to pass the time. She counted slower than actual seconds so that she would be surprised when time was up. So they were even past twenty. Then, the inevitable.

“Reset the clock!”

Amory’s heart sank at those words. Not wanting to move her entire head, she ran her eyes around the crowd. Being a little short, she was at the front of the group. Whoever dropped his arm or fainted must have been behind her because she could not see the culprit. She reset her own internal clock and started counting back at zero.

Amory noticed the wobbly knees in front of her, a sure sign that the girl was going to collapse. She wanted to break formation and help the girl, but she couldn’t. The girl wavered for a moment before crumpling to the ground like a rag doll. Amory reached out her arms to help, but then stood back at attention when she saw the teacher rushing over.

The teacher yanked the girl up and reminded the rest of the cadets, “All right. Back at attention. Remember—the greatest good for the greatest number. Reset the clock!”

Scenes from the Next:

Amory strategises her plan to leave The Church.

Scene 37: Coerced Termination

But Riley ignores the concerned voice. She stares straight ahead, disregarding everything but what is directly in front of her. She climbs the steps of the bus, and her only consolation is her conviction to the greater good, her confidence that The Church’s mission is more important than anything else.

Previously On:

Riley checks into the health clinic.

Riley sits quietly for an hour waiting for her name to be called. Finally, she hears the nurse calling, “Amy Brown … Amy Brown.”

Remembering that was the name she used to sign in, Riley jumps up and follows the nurse to the back room. She obediently steps on the scale for her weight and height to be measured. The nurse hands her a disposable hospital gown, and instructs her to change and wait for the doctor.

Once she is alone, Riley inspects the garment, trying to figure out how she should wear it. She puts it on over her clothes, wrapping it tight around her stomach, and waits nervously.

A few minutes later, the doctor enters the room. She looks up from the file she is holding and says, “Good afternoon … Amy,” She notices that Riley is wearing her clothes under the hospital gown.

“Yes Sir,” she says.

The doctor gives a quizzical smile and continues, “It says here … never mind … So you’re here for a pregnancy termination?”

Riley is surprised by the routine nature of the conversation. She expected wogs to be much more emotional and self-indulgent than this. She answers, “Yes, Sir.”

“It is a simple procedure. I will give you a shot to numb your pelvic area. You shouldn’t feel any pain, but you may feel some pressure in your uterus. Just try to relax, and everything will be fine. You will experience heavy bleeding anywhere between one and a few hours later, but that should be the only side effect. Just take it easy for the rest of the day, and try to stay off your feet as much as possible.”

Riley listens intently as the doctor speaks, trying to remember every word.

The doctor continues, “And you have someone to drive you home?”

Riley could never ask anyone, not even her husband, to take part in her action. The crime she committed falls solely on her shoulders, so she alone must do whatever she can to make amends. “No, I took the bus here,” she says confidently.

The doctor asks, “Is there anyone you can call for a ride?”

“No, Sir.” Riley has made up her mind. Nothing a wog could say will change that. She doesn’t know that the doctor is just concerned about her undergoing a difficult procedure by herself, about her being physically weak and emotionally drained, about her lacking any kind of support in an arduous time.

The doctor hears her conviction and continues, “Okay, then … Well, you should get home as quickly as possible.”

Riley nods in the affirmative. She knows she can take care of herself, no matter what state she is in.

“The nurse will be in here shortly to bring you to the operating room. I’ll see you in there.” The doctor places her hand gently on Riley’s shoulder. She continues, “And don’t worry about a thing.”

Riley nods again. She knows she must suppress her emotional reaction and weigh the costs and benefits of her current state. And for her, the benefits of terminating the pregnancy far outweigh the costs.

The doctor adds one more thing before leaving the room, “You need to take your clothes off before you put on the gown. It should open in the front.”

Riley blushes in embarrassment at the thought of wearing only a paper gown before wogs. Once she is alone in the room, she peels off her clothes, being careful not to reveal anything, and quickly covers herself as much as possible. Moments later, the nurse enters the room and gives her the local numbing shot before wheeling her away for her procedure.

Riley lies back on the flat table, and the doctor drapes a paper blanket over her midsection. She lifts her legs into the stirrups as instructed, but is horrified by the exposure of her most intimate parts. She tries to bend her knees in and hide at least some of her, but the effort is futile.

Sitting on a short stool, the doctor wheels herself to the foot of Riley’s table, between her legs. She lifts the blanket so Riley cannot see her, rests her hand on Riley’s foot, and reassures her, “Everything will be fine. Just open your legs … that’s good. I just need you to relax a little … better … this will only take a few minutes. Just remember to breathe.”

Riley lays back on the hard table and tries not to think about what is happening between her legs. She attempts to breathe the tension from her body, but it is difficult in a medical facility with a complete stranger’s hands and other instruments in her vagina. As the doctor said, she does not feel pain but pulling sensations in different directions. She hears a scraping sound that makes her skin crawl. Riley looks down, but only sees the light blue paper blanket screening the doctor’s work.

Every new sensation causes her to jump on the table, but a nurse’s hand resting on her leg holds her in place. Riley’s stomach grows more nauseous as every second passes. She stares up and counts ceiling tiles in a desperate attempt to occupy her mind with anything besides what is happening. Her eyes move left to right and she tries not to lose count as her stare jumps the thin, metal divider between the tiles.

She reaches thirty-two, but the nausea grows unbearable. Just when she thinks she can no longer sit passively, the doctor drops the screen and tells her it’s all finished. She finally releases the tension she’s holding in her body and allows herself to relax. Now, her life can go back to normal. Everything will be okay. The difficult part is over.

The nurse wheels her back to her changing room and gives her a thick maxi pad for her undergarments. As she dresses, the hollow pit in her stomach grows. She tries to ignore it, to push it down deeper, but it resists her efforts and refuses to be buried. Riley leaves the clinic room more alone than she entered and must use all of her strength to resist her intense urge to dissolve into a flood of sobs.

Instead of going back to her dorm as the doctor advised, Riley decides to remain at the clinic until the heavy bleeding passes. She doesn’t want to be home when that happens in case someone sees her or she has a public accident.

Back in the waiting room, she finds her seat and blends into the chaos, trying not to be noticed. She thumbs through a magazine, but not wanting to read anything not approved by The Church, she closes her eyes and lets her traumatized body rest while she can.

 

Later, she is abruptly awoken by a warm, wet sensation between her legs. She jumps up and runs to the bathroom, ripping her pants down as she fastens the lock on the door. A river of deep-maroon blood rushes from her uterus. It flows like it will continue to gush until her body is empty.

Unable to support her own weight, she leans her head on the metal stall divider. As she blankly stares at the cold linoleum floor, she cannot hold back a flood of tears that streams down her face. She lets the water and blood drain from her body in a complete release of emotion, and fear, and sadness—the only indulgence she allows herself. She cries every tear she will for a baby she will never know. For the love she will never receive and the family she will never have.

Once the blood stops, she wipes the tears away and flushes the toilet without looking in. She won’t let herself see the consequence of her decision to stay with The Church, afraid that it will haunt her for years to come. She clutches her abdomen as it is assaulted by vindictive pains. Riley stands up but her vision goes black and she falls to the ground, her head missing the metal trash can by mere inches.

A few moments later, she finds herself lying on the flood. Her body is unharmed but she sees that blood has soaked through her jeans. She removes them carefully and tries to clean them in the sink. She scrubs them thoroughly, washing away any trace of her action, and is relieved that most of the stain runs down the drain. She crawls back into her wet pants and exits the clinic with all of the courage she can muster.

On her way out, the doctor, passing in the hallway, calls out to her, “Riley? Can I …”

But Riley ignores the concerned voice. She stares straight ahead, disregarding everything but what is directly in front of her. She climbs the steps of the bus, and her only consolation is her conviction to the greater good, her confidence that The Church’s mission is more important than anything else.

Scenes from the Next:

A flashback of obedience training in the Cadet Org.

Scene 36: Health Clinic

A few days after the dumpster scrubbing incident, Riley pauses outside the clinic. She was given the name of this facility from a friend who was in the same situation she now faces. Having traveled to an unfamiliar part of town on a new bus line, Riley is a foreigner in a strange land. Her hands tremble as they pull the door open and she steps inside.

Previously On:

Amory completes her first Int Rundown session.

Last Lines: Her hands have finally stopped shaking. She takes a deep breath as she sits down on the cot. She exhales twice as slowly as she breathes in—trying to push all of the air from her lungs. She needs to let go. She needs a fresh start.

A few days after the dumpster scrubbing incident, Riley pauses outside the clinic. She was given the name of this facility from a friend who was in the same situation she now faces. Having traveled to an unfamiliar part of town on a new bus line, Riley is a foreigner in a strange land. Her hands tremble as they pull the door open and she steps inside.

The large waiting room is chaotic. About fifty chairs line the open, square space, and most of them are occupied with people of all ages, shapes, and colors. Riley scans the area, looking for some kind of direction. She sees a young woman sitting at a desk behind a glass screen and quickly rushes to her. The receptionist does not look up at Riley, so she stands there, staring, for a moment.

“Can I help you?” The receptionist asks while filing some paperwork.

“Yes Sir,” Riley mumbles, careful not to make eye contact. “I’m here to have a procedure.”

“Yes?” the receptionist looks up, but Riley stands silently. “And what procedure do you need, honey?”

“Oh,” Riley says, a little confused, not realizing the clinic did more than one thing. “I need to get an abortion.” The word feels sour passing through her lips. It is always the thing people do but never speak about. Saying it out loud, the word passing through her lips, makes her feel like an evil person.

The receptionist hands Riley a clipboard holding many papers and a pen and says, “Just fill these out and bring them back when you’re done.”

Riley is surprised by the nonchalance of the woman, who doesn’t seem to think anything of what she is about to do.

“And please sign your name on this sign-in sheet here.”

Riley looks down at the paper full of names. The top names are crossed out, but there are about twenty names before an open space. She doesn’t know if anyone would be able to trace her back to this clinic, so she decides to be careful and sign a fake name.

Clutching the clipboard to her chest, Riley hunts for an open seat. She walks past toddlers squirming in their seats and being scolded by their mothers, solitary women reading magazines, men waiting impatiently. No one notices, or no one cares, when she walks by. She finds a seat in the back corner and is thankful for the anonymity it affords.

After sitting down on the cold plastic, Riley looks through the paperwork and begins completing the top sheet. She fills in her name, but is quickly confused. She does not know her address. She knows where she lives, of course, but has never been asked for the address, The Church always taking care of official business for her. Leaving those spaces blank, she lists Amory and her pager number for the emergency contact information. She leaves the rest of the page empty. She flips through the following forms—medical history, health insurance. All of the directives seem to be written in another language, the letters and words familiar but the sentences incomprehensible. Embarrassed, but not knowing what else to do, she walks back across the strange room to the receptionist’s desk.

“Sir?” Riley says meekly to the woman behind the counter, who does not acknowledge the greeting. “I have your paperwork for you.”

The woman looks around, searching for someone who could be called “Sir,” and when she sees no one, takes the clipboard from Riley. She leafs through the pages and notices that most of the forms are still blank. “Uh, honey,” she says annoyed, “you need to fill these out, especially the health insurance information.”

“I don’t know what that is,” Riley says in a hushed voice.

“You don’t have health insurance?” she asks, not really hearing Riley’s comment.

“No Sir,” she says with downcast eyes.

The receptionist sees a scared young woman who must be in trouble. “Well, that’s okay dear,” she tries to reassure her. “How do you plan on paying for the pregnancy termination?”

Riley was warned by her friend that the procedure would cost money, so she came prepared. She pulls a stack of bills, her entire life savings, from her pocket. Unclear on how much to give her, Riley asks, “How much does it cost?”

“Four hundred dollars,” the woman answers factually.

Riley’s eyes grow wide at the impossible amount of money. She could never save that much, but she needs the termination if she wants to stay in the Sea Org. She looks at her humble savings without any idea of how she could afford such a great sum. She puts the money back in her pocket and turns away.

She only gets a few feet before the receptionist calls out to her, “Well, honey, how much do you have?”

“Not nearly four hundred dollars,” she says as she rifles through her stack of one and five dollar bills. She guesses that she has two hundred at the most.

The receptionist watches her count the worn cash. “Well, it’s not over yet,” she adds hopefully. “Four hundred is the total price. If you have insurance, they cover most of it. But for people who can’t pay, we have other options.”

Riley perks up at the new possibility. “You do?” she asks, surprised by the flexibility.

“Oh sure!” the receptionists answers, happy she can help the poor girl. “We have discounted rates for people with low incomes, and payment plan options as well. Don’t worry about paying, honey. Looks like you got enough to worry about. We’ll take care of you.” The woman gives Riley a reassuring smile, and she is immediately put at ease.

“Thank you,” Riley says. The thought of being taken care of is uncomfortable, but a welcomed relief.

“Just have a seat until your name is called, and I’ll finish up your paperwork.”

Scenes from the Next:

Riley has the procedure.

Scene 35: Int Rundown, Part 2

She tries to calm her emotional reaction and let her rational mind take control. If she really does want to leave and still have contact with her loved ones, she needs to route out properly, not storm out of her Int Rundown.

Previously On:

Amory’s Int Rundown began.

Last Lines: “Amory is sickened by the realization that she is a mere peon in the machinery of The Church. She finally sees that it is destroying her life and that she needs to get out. But this time, instead of taking the easy route of swallowing pills, she must walk away and build a new life. She must leave The Church.”

Before responding, Amory takes a moment to think. If she admits that she has intentions to leave the group, she will be declared an SP and permanently cut off from her family and friends. If they speak with her, they will also be declared. That’s how The Church deals with critics—make them enemies so that the faithful have someone to rally against. Amory is upset with her friends and family now, but she doesn’t want to lose them for good. They are all that she has. And she knows The Church can take them away if she’s not careful. Even more, she knows that she doesn’t want to treat people the way she has been treated—she wants to help them, as The Church says it does, not sacrifice them in the name of the greater good.

She tries to calm her emotional reaction and let her rational mind take control. If she really does want to leave and still have contact with her loved ones, she needs to route out properly, not storm out of her Int Rundown.

She also thinks practically. She has no money, no friends outside, nowhere to go. She is trapped. She tries to breathe and regain her composure. She needs time to think, after this session and away from Daisy.

She continues, “I’m sorry, I’ve just been under a lot of stress the past few weeks. The isolation is hard. The work is hard. The food is disgusting. It’s hard to admit, but I know I’m in a bad place. I do know this is best for me. I have to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about the best for The Church, the best for everyone else.” The words are lies, but they are familiar. They help her body relax so she can gain control of the situation and win herself some time to create a new battle plan. This time, one for herself.

“That’s the right attitude to have,” Daisy replies, disappointed at Amory’s change of tone. She thought she had her and could push her out quickly. It will take longer if Amory does not surrender right away, but she can be patient.

Everything is familiar again. Amory knows that she’s far from free, but she’s not in immediate danger as long as she limits her words to what The Church wants to hear. She doesn’t need to look at the meter to know the needle is floating.

Daisy confirms her intuition.

A wave of relief passes through her body as the session ends. Daisy walks out without saying goodbye. She knows this is only the beginning.

Amory leaves the room to find Adam waiting for her. She’s thankful it’s him. He pauses when he sees her, taken aback by the unfamiliar look on her face. “You okay?” He reaches forward, as if to grab her hand, but stops himself.

She smiles, “Yeah, never been better.” She is no longer shackled in fear of what they can do to her. She resolved to leave the group, and in doing so relinquished herself from much of the control they have over her.

He says, “You look like you’ve been hit by a truck.”

He asks her if she wants to go to the mess hall, but she declines. Rice and beans, or running into a uniform, would spoil her newfound relief.

They walk in silence back to the HI. Amory’s head swims in the possible outcomes she could face. She could route out fairly quickly, six months or less, and leave on good terms with the group. She could route out and still be declared a SP. She could be sent to the RPF. Anything could happen. But as each thought emerges, she tries to block it out and instead focus on the present.

As the cool breeze crashes against her face, she feels stronger than she’s even felt. The same breeze rattles the palms of the trees overhead. Amory thinks about them and how every storm makes their roots grow deeper, making them stronger and stronger each time. She imagines herself as a tree, her roots stretching far into the earth. Able to bear the worst nature has to offer and sway with the winds of change rather than breaking from rigidity. Able to emerge from each storm standing tall.

When they reach the building, Amory runs up the stairs two at a time. She approaches her room and shouts over her shoulder to Adam, “going to bed.” She doesn’t wait for his response before she enters her room and secures the door. Her hands have finally stopped shaking. She takes a deep breath as she sits down on the cot. She exhales twice as slowly as she breathes in—trying to push all of the air from her lungs. She needs to let go. She needs a fresh start.

Scenes from the Next:

Riley takes actions of her own.

Scene 34: Int Rundown, Part 1

There is no read on any of the first commands. Daisy sits patiently, with full confidence the needle will reveal at least one of Amory’s secrets. She keeps her eyes trained on the e-meter, hunting for the slightest indication of a read.

Previously On:

Amory learns that Daisy will handle her Int Rundown.

Last Lines: This dishonest reassurance makes her nauseous. She steps back from Daisy, now seeing that Daisy does not care about her or want to help her, that Daisy is trying to lull her into a false sense of security so that she can use her for her own gain. She suppresses her gag reflexes and swallows the saliva building in her mouth, needing to retain everything she can.

The session begins like every other one with Daisy asking, “Are you hungry?”

Amory knows that she must be cautious in what she reveals if she wants to get through the tech. She lies, “No.” She’s been malnourished for the past three weeks, but if she tells the truth, the session will be further delayed.  She just wants to get it over with.

“Good. Are you tired?”

“No.” Another falsehood. After working all day at the Celebrity Center she is exhausted.

“Have you had an Affinity, Reality, or Communication break?”

“No.” Again, she lies. How can she not be upset? Her entire life has deteriorated. She is upset with everyone—the auditor sitting across from her, all of her “friends” who won’t even look at her, the Church uniforms who are dictating every second of every day, her family, her mom, especially her mom. And now they’re saying she’s had a psychotic break. She fears the e-meter will read but hopes it doesn’t.

“Okay. Let’s get started.” Daisy goes through the Int commands: “Recall a time when you went in … Recall a time when you caused another to go in … Recall a time when others caused you to go in … Recall a time when you caused yourself to go in.” Amory sits silently and lets the e-meter speak for her.

There is no read on any of the first commands. Daisy sits patiently, with full confidence the needle will reveal at least one of Amory’s secrets. She keeps her eyes trained on the e-meter, hunting for the slightest indication of a read.

And then it happens. Daisy commands: “Recall a time when you were put in something.” The needle jumps across the screen. It’s almost a rock slam, a violent reaction of the needle that indicates evil intentions or someone wanting to harm L. Ron Hubbard. Rock slammers are taken immediately to the RPF. “There! There! What were you thinking about just now?” Daisy asks.

Amory is forced to speak. “I was thinking about a couple weeks ago when I was put in this ethics program.”

Daisy must push her to explain. She asks, “Did that upset you?”

Amory knows she needs to elaborate. She decides to be honest, to listen to herself for once and not say what they want to hear. “Yes it did.”

When Daisy asks her why, she explains, “Well, let me think … I am completely cut off from everyone I know and can’t talk to anyone. I’m living in a shit hole. I’m doing hard physical labor every day, all day. I can hardly eat anything. Is that enough?” Pointedly, she stares Daisy in the eyes, shooting a look of cold and steel.

“Can you see that the ethics program is for your own good?” Daisy asks in the familiar Church rhetoric.

Amory is tired of feeling scared and confused. She is sick of the work and the pressure of saving the world. Being in isolation has given her a taste of freedom, and she doesn’t know if she can go back to her old life. She sees her hands trembling. She wants to drop the cans, but she can’t. She replies in a whisper of a voice, “Yeah, The Church thinks it’s good for me, but I don’t know anymore.” A weight lifts immediately from her chest and her headache eases.

Daisy watches the needle jump back and forth. Amory sees her eyes following the movement. She hopes it’s not a rock slam. If it is, she’s in great danger.

Daisy can’t stop now. She continues to press Amory. “Can you explain?”

Amory thinks about how to voice her recent revelation. She knows she must be careful with her words. Admitting any intention to leave The Church is one of the biggest crimes a Sea Org member can commit. She knows she could be vindictively declared an SP—a suppressive person who has evil intentions against the group—and excommunicated entirely.

She continues, “I’m not sure. I’m still pretty confused about everything. I don’t think I want to be here anymore, and they say I’m in a condition of doubt. I didn’t think I was when I wrote the formula. But now, I think I may be.” The words surprise even her as she hears what she is saying. She has been having these thoughts but didn’t fully realize their implications until she said them and they became real.

Daisy is also surprised. She didn’t think it would be this easy to handle Amory. She wants Amory to elaborate, to say definitively that she wants to leave, so she asks, “Why do you feel this way? Don’t you know that The Church has all the answers?”

Every phrase from Daisy’s mouth sounds as if it is taken directly from a LRH directive and makes Amory’s skin crawl. “Of course. I know … I know. I’ve known my whole life,” she says in frustration.

Daisy asks the required follow-up question: “Can you think of an earlier, similar time?”

Amory can no longer hold back. The words that have been building spill from her mouth. “Yes and no. No, I’ve never been in doubt about wanting to be part of the group. That is new. But yes, about being put in. I’ve been put in dozens, hundreds of times. Let’s see … when I was put on my current post, when I was put in all the classes I’ve taken, when I was put in the Sea Org. Let me think, all the way back to when my mom put me in the day care. My whole life is a long series of being put in something.” Amory looks Daisy square in the eyes and says, “You, if anyone, should understand that.”

Even without seeing it, Amory knows the needle is jumping back and forth more violently than before. She can see it in Daisy’s reaction to the e-meter. She must be close to a rock slam, if she’s not there already. This is uncharted territory for her. She’s done thousands of auditing sessions, but she has never been close to this.

Her hands begin to tremble and she must concentrate to keep a firm grasp on the cans. Amory must control her truth and keep it guarded behind her lips, otherwise she will be here answering questions all night. Or worse. The top brass already think she’s dangerous, but this would make her situation heretical. She knows plenty of people who were sent to the RPF for years for far less egregious offenses. Breathe, she tells herself. Breathe and slow your heart rate.

Daisy’s excitement is hard to contain as she knows she almost has Amory admitting intentions to leave. She shouts, “There! There! What were you thinking of then?”

Daisy’s reaction to her possible demise makes Amory sick. Everything starts falling into place for her—the accusations in her sec-check, her horrid treatment for being depressed, her sister in the RPF, her mother’s abandonment. Her own guilt and fear and obedience. Her participation in the whole charade. The pieces all come together and paint a subversive picture of control and domination.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory has a realization as the Int Rundown session concludes.

Scene 33: New Auditor

The pair work side by side until dinner, and Adam waits until then to tell her the bad news. As they’re stepping off the bus, Amory asks him if she can run back to the dorm to get her book. “You won’t need that today,” he responds.

Previously On:

Adam grows closer to Amory.

Last Lines: In an effort to detach, he thinks about this wife. When that does not alleviate the knot in his stomach, he thinks about the greater good, the mission that brings them together. But Amory keeps pulling him back to the present.

 

The pair work side by side until dinner, and Adam waits until then to tell her the bad news. As they’re stepping off the bus, Amory asks him if she can run back to the dorm to get her book.

“You won’t need that today,” he responds. He sees the confusion on her face and continues, “I need to take you over to HCO for auditing.

Amory’s stomach sinks, and she pauses to process the information. She knew this was coming, she just didn’t know when. She has grown accustomed to just working, secretly hoping they would forget about her auditing. But The Church never forgets.

“You okay?” Adam asks.

“Yeah … fine,” she says. “When do we need to go?” She armors herself against the forces that refuse to relinquish control of her. She must construct an impenetrable barrier between herself and her auditing if she wants to gain any kind of true self awareness.

“Now … Sorry, I should have told you earlier, but it seemed like you were having a good day. I didn’t want to spoil it.” He tries to place his hand on her shoulder, but she pulls away.

“Yeah … Well, I guess it’s better just to get this over with.” She doesn’t know the exact tech she’ll get, but all of it serves the same purpose—to help Amory see why she needs to be in The Church.

They enter HCO and walk the maze of suffocating, white hallways to the auditing rooms in the back. With every bend in the hallway, the tension in her stomach tightens. She tries to convince herself that this is routine, that she has been through this before. But her anxiety builds with every step.

Amory’s mouth drops when she sees Daisy, again, as her auditor.

“Hello Amory,” Daisy greets her and smiles in her direction. “Nice to see you again.”

The knots in her stomach travel up and constrict her throat, and a curt “Sir” is all Amory can manage to say.

Daisy uses her most comforting voice to explain Amory’s situation to her. “From what I’ve been told, your diagnosis is Out-Int. We’re going to start an Int Rundown today.”

Amory stares blankly at her friend as shock pulses through her body. She knows what an Int Rundown is, but she is stunned that this is the tech she needs. She has never exteriorized, never had an out-of-body experience, let alone one that went badly. But that is her diagnosis the top brass arrived at without even speaking with her. None of it makes any sense.

In Daisy’s face, Amory no longer sees an ally but the embodiment of The Church. A memory from the Ranch flashes in her mind. It was a typical, hot summer day in the Los Angeles valley, east of the city. Amory and Daisy were weeding the grounds for fire control. After a few hours of work, the girls paused to take a five-minute break. They drank some cold water and took salt and potassium tablets in order to prevent dehydration. As the girls were walking back over to the weeds, they heard Jake yelling at them to start running. He was always giving them a hard time. Jake threatened to write a chit on them if he saw them walking again. That was the rule—they had to run everywhere. Chits were written demerits that went straight into a cadet’s ethics folder. In order to graduate from the Ranch, all cadets had to have great ethics, which meant a clean file. The demerits were rarely given by adults, and instead were given by other kids, who were taught that if they saw someone who was out-ethics they needed to speak up, otherwise they themselves would be an accessory to the crime and receive the same penalty. The children were trained to police themselves and spy on their friends.

Attached to the inside cover of Daisy’s folder, Amory sees the Int Rundown checklist, along with a deep stack of notes she knows Daisy has spent hours going through. Handling an Int Rundown is tricky. The tech itself is simple enough, but there can’t be any errors. The policy directive from L. Ron Hubbard explaining the process says so. Any mistakes would only compound the problem and lead to further introspection. This rundown is for a psychotic break, after all. Every precaution must be taken.

Amory’s face turns red. She shouldn’t have expected anything else, but being labeled as Out-Int hurts worse than any physical punishment could. She was at the lowest point in her life, and the top brass says it was her fault. That she alone caused her depression. Amory breathes deeply so the buildup of blood drains from her face, but it is replaced by an intense headache.

Daisy appears to comfort her, saying, “Don’t worry Amory. We’ll get through this together.”

This dishonest reassurance makes her nauseous. She steps back from Daisy, now seeing that Daisy does not care about her or want to help her, that Daisy is trying to lull her into a false sense of security so that she can use her for her own gain. She suppresses her gag reflexes and swallows the saliva building in her mouth, needing to retain everything she can.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory begins her Int Rundown auditing.