Scene 44: A Stranger

Once Daisy is gone, Amory stumbles out of the room, struggling to keep her eyes open. She has two hours to rest before she must report to work at the Celebrity Center. As she leaves the auditing room, the hallways are deserted, even her watch having abandoned her.

Previously On:

Amory continues her Int Rundown with Daisy.

Last Lines: As the sun begins to ascend the horizon, Daisy says, “Thank you, your needle is floating.” With that, Daisy stands up and leaves the room without another word.

Once Daisy is gone, Amory stumbles out of the room, struggling to keep her eyes open. She has two hours to rest before she must report to work at the Celebrity Center. As she leaves the auditing room, the hallways are deserted, even her watch having abandoned her. Without waiting, she exits the building and begins the familiar walk back to the HI so she can have at least an hour of sleep before another long day of manual labor. She resolves to push through her exhaustion, determined to turn their weapons into her source of strength.

The cold air outside makes her shiver and slaps life back into her skin, giving her the motivation she needs to complete the walk. It is that fleeting, early dawn moment when the night crowd has vanished but the early risers are not yet on the street. Amory savors the quiet, relieved no one is barking commands at her.

Her illusion of isolation is shattered when she gets the menacing feeling that someone is following her. She stops suddenly to look back, but sees no one. Thinking it must be her tired mind playing tricks on her, she continues up the street. But five steps later, she distinctly hears footsteps far behind her. This time, she does not turn back. With each pace, the steps grow louder, closer. It is five blocks to the HI. The pace of her steps builds with every street corner as if she is being slowly chased.

When she reaches her building, she looks up to see a camera lens pointed straight at her. The Hollywood Wax Museum is only a few buildings down, so there are tourists hanging around, taking pictures, all the time. But not at this hour. The middle-aged man who looks like a typical tourist turns when she notices him. He pauses for a moment, and then trains his lens on something across the street.

Amory darts inside the building, away from his scope. She can’t tell if she is delirious or if he was really snapping pictures of her. The stress of the past months must be clouding her rationality.  Amory can’t shake the thought from her mind as she tries to steal some rest before starting the cycle all over again. If only she weren’t so tired.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory gets a new friend in her ethics project.

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 28: Celebrity Center

After what seems like hours, even though it has only been about ten minutes, the bus stops in front of the Celebrity Center. Amory sits in silence as everyone descends the staircase.

Previously On:

Amory meets her new ethics officer.

Last lines: She fixes her eyes on the emergency exit at the end of the bus and takes a seat in the very last row. In order to keep the rage from building, she stares out the window, trying to clear her mind of all thoughts by breathing out every idea as it emerges.

After what seems like hours, even though it has only been about ten minutes, the bus stops in front of the Celebrity Center. Amory sits in silence as everyone descends the staircase. “Time to go,” the ethics officer barks at her. When she does not budge, he softens his tone and says, “Name’s Adam, by the way.”

Amory looks up at him and smiles, surprised by the unexpected effort of connection.

The Celebrity Center is bustling with activity. Uniforms cover the job site like ants, marching here and there, carrying materials and equipment. The Church is completing improvements of the building, an enormous Gothic-style edifice nestled among palm trees on Franklin Ave, across town from HCO. Its spiked towers reach up to the sky, piercing the clouds. The entire building looks like a maze of nooks and crannies, hidden hallways and steep staircases that seem to bury the secrets of tenants past and present. Everything is ornate and decadent, the polar opposite of the building where Amory is currently living. And here she is to help with improvements. She wonders when the HI last saw a construction crew, especially one this size. But that’s the marketing strategy of The Church—appeal to celebrities, cultural icons, and the rest will follow. And the rich and famous need buildings, retreats as they call them, worthy of their presence.

Amory knows that she is there to help develop the property for The Church, but she hopes that she can construct something of her own in the process.

She sticks close to Adam as he seems to be her only connection to reality. He also knows what she’s supposed to be doing, which is more than she does. As soon as he steps foot in the Celebrity Center, his speed doubles. He wants to get her to her post, fast. She runs, once again, to keep up with his stride.

“Come this way, over here,” Adam motions for Amory. “They’ve got you on drywall in the new ball room. Ever done it before?”

Amory thinks back through her years of MEST work, but drywall is one of the few items not on her list. She nods her head no.

He cracks a smile, his first today, and responds, “Ok then. You’re lucky I’m your watch today. It’s back-breaking work.”

Lucky? she thinks, not feeling very lucky.

After hustling through the service entrance at the back of the building, Amory enters a huge, open room, everything removed but the studs. Stripped bare and ready to be rebuilt. They are surrounded by uniforms, working on everything from electrical and plumbing to hanging drywall and muddrywading. With a crew this size, even an enormous room like this will be finished in a few weeks. Everyone has his little part. Amory wonders what the finished product will look like, how much different it will be than the original. She has seen buildings transform before. Unrecognizable sometimes.

Adam’s well-trained eyes scan the room. He quickly finds the site manager and heads straight to her. “Hi, Sir,” he says. “I have Amory Baldwin reporting for duty.”

She looks down at her clipboard. Her eyes stop, and she looks up, startled. She makes eye contact with Amory. Her look says: Don’t even think about messing with me. She then fixes her gaze on Adam. “Thank you,” she says. “Your criminal here is on drywall. Have her get the sheets, carry them over to the south wall, and get to work.”

“Yes, Sir,” Adam obeys.

As the site manager turns her attention to other matters, Adam finds the pile of drywall standing about five feet high, sheet lying on top of sheet. He then looks at Amory and warns her, “This stuff is real heavy, especially for a girl your size. Do the best you can. I’ll help.”

Amory tries to lift the top sheet of drywall but almost collapses under the weight. She looks down at her arms and is embarrassed by her lack of muscle.

“Nice arms, Popeye,” he jokes.

His sincere looking eyes touch her heart. She forgets where she is for a moment. When his joke finally registers, she is confused by the reference. “What?” she asks.

“You know, spinach? … The cartoon?” Adam did not grow up in The Church like Amory, only joining the Sea Org as an adult.

“Never seen it,” Amory says brushing off her ignorance. She missed nearly two decades of cultural references, thanks to The Church’s strict policies that limit contact with the outside world.

“Oh, right … never mind,” he says, remembering her upbringing. “Here, I’ll lift … You measure.”

They find the others who have begun hanging the drywall. The ceilings are at least thirty feet high, so Amory is nervous about how they are going to cover the walls all the way up to the roof. The expanse is too great and the sheets are too heavy. She asks him with a timid voice, “How are we going to do this?”

He puts his hand on her shoulder and says with confidence, “One sheet at a time.”

Adam lifts the first sheet up to Amory, and she sees the veins swell under his skin. His muscles flex but easily support the weight of the drywall. Maybe I am lucky that Adam is helping me, she thinks. Any other ethics officer would be sitting to the side, watching her fail and not bothering to help. “Not my job,” he would probably say. And he would be correct—his job is to guard the downstat, make sure she doesn’t get into trouble or try to leave. Maybe Adam is different, she thinks.

For a moment, Amory tries to forget that she’s being punished and that Adam is her ethics officer. She is thankful she’s there, doing MEST work, and not on her usual post. She doesn’t have to worry about a project or listen to Erica yell. She asks Adam, “How many sheets are we supposed to hang?”

“Not sure,” he says. “There’s no stats on ethics project.”

She can’t comprehend the ambiguity of her new post. She needs order. “Well, how about we try for twenty?” she asks.

“Twenty sheets?” Adam asks. “Well … we should be able to get that pretty easy.”

She continues, “Okay then, we’ll do thirty.”

Adam shakes his head in bewilderment. “Thirty huh?” he asks. “And they got you on ethics project? Go figure.”

Adam leans down to lift another sheet, but Amory jumps in front of him, revitalized by her new goal. She says, “Here, I can do this.”

He finds her naiveté endearing. “Oh you can?” he taunts.

“Check out these muscles,” she says. She flexes her arms, pretending to look bigger than she really is. She attempts to lift one sheet but buckles under the weight. Climbing the ladder while carrying drywall suddenly seems like a Herculean task.

Adam sees her struggle and asks, “Why don’t you leave the heavy lifting to me? You can screw them in once they’re up there.”

Amory is embarrassed she can’t complete the task herself, but is thankful for the help. She accepts his offer of kindness and climbs the steps.

“You’ll need this,” he says as he hands her the screwdriver. Their eyes catch for a moment. His look is inquisitive. The stare itself is harsh, but his brow wrinkles in curiosity.

Amory’s cheeks grow red in a blush as she averts her eyes. She grabs the screwdriver out of his hand and climbs the ladder, trying not to lose her footing. Once they begin working, they quickly fall into a groove—Adam lifts a sheet and holds it in place, Amory screws it to the studs. Soon enough, they’ve hung five, ten sheets. Looking up at what they’ve done, Amory feels proud of the work, especially considering this is her first time hanging drywall. The lines are a little wavy, but overall it looks good for a novice.

They labor side by side the entire day, taking only a short break for her lunch of leftover rice and beans. By the time eight o’clock rolls around, Amory is exhausted. She’s filthy, completely covered in drywall dust, sweat, and grime. She can see trails of dried sweat in the dirt on her arms, which are so sore she can’t even hold them upright. If she pulled the rubber band out of her hair, it would stand together on its own. She sits down on the pile of remaining drywall to give her back a rest.

Adam brings her back to reality. “No time to rest yet,” he says. “Bus’s about to leave.” He holds out his hand to help her up.

“Alright already.” She pretends to protest, but after a coy moment happily accepts his hand.

“Well, did you meet your stats?” he asks.

Her eyes shine as she remembers her target. “Oh, I don’t know,” she says. “Forgot to count.” Gathering every ounce of strength she has left, Amory runs back to the room and counts the sheets they hung.

She shouts, “Thirty-three!” Hearing her own words, she is embarrassed by her childish excitement.

“Wow!” He can’t help but smile, infected by her energy. “Too bad you don’t need to be upstat anymore.”

The light disappears from her eyes immediately, and her face grows serious. “I do,” she says, “but this time for me.”

Adam puts his hands on her shoulder, in a gesture more intimate than one permitted between ethics officers and those on guard. “Let’s get to the bus. Can’t miss out on dinner.”

She is grateful for the change of subject. “Yeah,” she says, “wouldn’t want to be late and miss my gourmet meal.”

As she walks back to the bus, Amory feels tired, proud, satisfied, but mostly relieved that the first day of hard work is over. If this is any indication of how the next few months will proceed, Amory thinks she’ll be just fine.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory sees her sister Riley doing MEST work of her own.

Scene 27: New Ethics Officer

The next morning, Amory is again startled awake by a loud pounding on her door. Her groggy head tells her that she’s still recovering from last night’s excursion. As she dresses in her new uniform—jeans, a t-shirt, and the dirty gray scarf—and combs her hair back into a low ponytail, she feels the pangs of her isolation.

Previously on:

Flashback scene to Amory’s first job, or “post,” in the Cadet Org

Last lines: 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.

The next morning, Amory is again startled awake by a loud pounding on her door. Her groggy head tells her that she’s still recovering from last night’s excursion. As she dresses in her new uniform—jeans, a t-shirt, and the dirty gray scarf—and combs her hair back into a low ponytail, she feels the pangs of her isolation. She wants to tell someone, anyone, about the new thoughts racing through her mind, but she has no one to talk to.

A new ethics officer sits in the chair outside her door. He catches her by surprise. She has the uncanny feeling that she’s seen him before but can’t place him. He’s clearly older than she is, probably in his early thirties, and much taller. The muscles of his arms and chest stretch his shirt across his body. When he stands, she feels his presence, his strength, filling the void in the room.

Without even a glance in Amory’s direction, he says, “They’ve got a project for you today, pretty much what you’ll be doing for the next few months at least.” He turns and sits back down on the chair.

Even though he treats her coldly, like a typical ethics officer, Amory feels her pulse race as she works up the courage to say something. “Okay … I’m Amory, by the way.” She surprises herself with her confidence. Her desperation for human interaction must be stronger than she thought.

He gives her a quick once over and responds, “Yeah, I know. They’ve got you doing construction work at the Celebrity Center. And we better hustle. Need to be there by seven.” Whatever initial attraction she feels is obviously not shared.

Out on the street, the ethics officer has such giant strides that Amory has to run to keep up with him. She wants to shout at him to slow down, but he doesn’t seem like the type to disobey orders, even for a moment.

They reach the bus stop outside HCO, and Amory bends forward trying to catch her breath. There is a row of uniforms waiting. They obediently form into a single-file line, even when they don’t need to at a bus stop. The pair unconsciously continue the procession.

As they stand shoulder to shoulder, the officer asks Amory, “You ever done construction before?”

She looks up, surprised by his small talk. “Just the typical Sunday work,” she says. After cleaning and doing laundry on Sunday mornings, Sea Org members usually spend the afternoon doing mandatory construction work. The Church always seems to be buying old buildings that need work, and instead of hiring people to renovate them, they have Sea Org members do it. They paint, knock down walls, lay irrigation, everything. Amory has plenty of on-the-job training for construction work.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, Amory asks, “Do I know you?” still trying to place why he seems so familiar.

“I don’t think so,” he says, keeping his eyes trained forward.

The bus labors to a stop, and the line of people climbs the steps, joining the other Sea Org members already on board. They pack the seats with uniforms. Sea Org members don’t make enough money to buy or maintain cars, so people like Amory who grew up in The Church don’t even learn how to drive. Most people ride the bus when they need to go farther than a few blocks.

As Amory climbs the stairs, she sees people she has known for years, her only friends. But now, when they catch her glance, they immediately look away, pretending not to notice. Everyone who wants to stay in good standing, who wants to remain a good person, can’t be caught fraternizing with a downstat. She is familiar with the behavior and has engaged in it herself countless times before. She has a new perspective, though, now that she’s the exile. As she walks past the first couple rows, the people she passes turn their heads and look out the windows. Each diverted glance feels like a shot to her heart. These are the people that share her values, her mission, yet they cast her away at the first sign of trouble.

The anger she felt while doing the exec’s laundry yesterday builds with every step. She fixes her eyes on the emergency exit at the end of the bus and takes a seat in the very last row. In order to keep the rage from building, she stares out the window, trying to clear her mind of all thoughts by breathing out every idea as it emerges.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory begins her work at the Celebrity Center.

Scene 22: New Home

Back at HCO, Amory has not yet written the Enemy formula, even though she has been alone in the room for two hours. She has no idea what to write and knows that she will never find out who she truly is while sitting in this tiny, windowless room.

Previously on:

Daisy reports to her commanding officers.

Last lines: “The Comm Ev gives her hope in the process established by The Church. As she walks down the hallway, she forces herself to think rationally and decide on a plan of action. She will need to collect any evidence she can if justice will prevail. Those who show disloyalty, or selfish tendencies, must be punished. By any means possible.”

Back at HCO, Amory has not yet written the Enemy formula, even though she has been alone in the room for two hours. She has no idea what to write and knows that she will never find out who she truly is while sitting in this tiny, windowless room.

She is startled by a new uniform barging through the door. He motions for her to follow him, and she runs to keep up as they find the exit.

As they leave the HCO building, the cool fall air is refreshing to Amory’s lungs. She can tell it’s late in the afternoon because the sun is sinking into the horizon, turning the sky into liquid amber. The thought of night and sleep is a welcomed relief. Her stomach is growling, but her complete exhaustion overrides her hunger. Dreams of rest give her the motivation she needs to keep up with the ethics officer’s fast pace. Amory feels disoriented from being interrogated in a closet all day, but not enough to realize they aren’t going back to her dorm.

“Umh … Sir?” she asks. “Shouldn’t we be going in the other direction?”

“No.”

She follows, knowing it’s best not to ask questions. They head north on Hollywood Blvd., and Amory quickly realizes he’s taking her to the HI, or Hollywood Inn—another old, converted hotel owned by The Church. The building is located at 6523 Hollywood Blvd, just down the street from Hollywood and Highland, right in the heart of the city. For The Church, it’s the perfect place for Amory while she’s on ethics project. She will be isolated from her friends back at the compound but only a short walk to HCO, where she will be spending most of her time.

Amory is relieved at the thought of isolation. It is meant to be a punishment, but she is thankful for the break it will afford her. There will be no expectation to be happy all the time, no pointless small talk, no encounters with people she would rather avoid. Finally an opportunity to be alone with herself.

As they walk down the street, Amory and the ethics officer pass through crowd after crowd of wogs, some gathered outside restaurants, others aimlessly wandering down the blocks as tourists. Amory has walked to the HI from HCO many times before on Church business, but she never paid much attention to the people and businesses along the street. “Keep your head down,” she was always told by her superiors. “Wogs are evil people and you don’t want to interact with them.” So she did. She believed that the sex shops and bars were the manifestations of evil in the outside world. That they, the Scientologists, were better than that. They were saving wogs from their own filth and depravity.

Now, she pays attention. A car cuts over to the sidewalk, trying to squeeze his way around another car. She instinctually jumps away, remembering the many times wogs threw rotten eggs at her and her friends as they walked down the street in their uniforms. She takes a deep breath when she realizes he hasn’t even seen her, too wrapped up in his tiny little world. Horns screech as cars race from one signal to the next. Flashing lights seduce her eyes from one location to another. They walk by a group of high-heeled girls smoking outside a bar. They don’t notice her either. She is still wearing her uniform, but it doesn’t seem to mark her as it once did. This invisibility amongst the chaos of public life gives her a welcomed sense of comfort, and she gazes in childlike wonder at the endless possibilities just beyond her reach.

Her tired legs can’t keep up with the ethics officer, and a short distance grows between them. Her mind wanders, and she begins to imagine a new chapter of her life, now that everything has changed—no post, no dorm, no contact with friends and family. She knows she’ll be doing MEST work, Matter, Energy, Space, Time. Any kind of physical work, as opposed to the spiritual work thetans must focus on, meant to reconnect the spirit and the body. Essentially, it is a fancy term for manual labor. She wonders what they’ll have her do. A few years ago, someone she knew wanted to leave The Church. They made him scrub a dumpster and clean the kitchen grease traps with a toothbrush. Amory doesn’t mind hard work, but that is revolting. Regardless, she won’t have Erika screaming down her throat, a reality that gives her more freedom than she has ever known.

Before long, they arrive at the HI. It blends in well with the other buildings on the street, an eight-story brick building with white trim. The only thing that marks it is the giant, vertical “SCIENTOLOGY” sign hanging on the front of the building, a billboard advertising services of The Church. The top floor is one location used for the downstats from HCO, so the dormitory is not kept up very well. People in lower conditions do not deserve much in the eyes of The Church. They are the untouchables.

Amory skips up the stairs to the top floor, excited for this new phase in her life. But as soon as she leaves the stairwell, the harsh reality of her new existence hits her with the force of a steel door slammed in her face.

The hallway has exposed concrete floors and walls, the ceiling showing the pipes that service the building. It is cold, dark, and wet. As they walk down the hall to her room, Amory hears the incessant drip … drip … drip … of a leaky pipe overhead. Shallow puddles of water have formed on the ground, and the walls and floor are saturated with years of plumbing leaks and mold. With every step her unease grows. The ethics officer stops at a room about half way down the floor. A chair has been placed outside the door for him to sit watch.

As Amory opens the door, she hears rats scurrying across the ground. She pauses before looking in. Be strong, she tells herself. You can do this. She sees carcasses of dead cockroaches on the ground. A sad cot sits against one wall and a small metal dresser against another. There is one tiny window with bars guarding the outside. She wonders if they’re meant to keep people out or her in.

This is her new house for an indefinite amount of time—it could be months or years, she has no idea. After her initial disgust of the filth, rats, and cockroaches wears off, she tries to imagine the room as her new home. Aside from the ethics office on watch outside, she has the place to herself, which is new. She opens one of the dresser drawers and sees her civvies folded and neatly stored. The clothes remind her that she doesn’t have to wear her uniform now that she’s on ethics project. It is meant to be a punishment, a rejection from the group, but she has always liked her civvies better than her uniform. Whoever packed her things must be a friend, because with her clothes is the book she’s been reading. The familiar items bring a smile to her face.

Officially, she’s now in isolation, banned from having contact with anyone other than her ethics officers, and once she begins auditing, her auditor. She will be living alone, eating alone, working alone, and spending all of her free time alone. Sitting on her cot, though, Amory does not feel like she’s being punished. She savors the freedom of quietness. She picks up her book and begins to read, trying to loose herself in a different reality.

There is no clock in the room, so she has no idea how much time has passed. The night sky and her finished book tell her it’s been hours. She peeks her head into the hallway.

“I need to use the restroom,” she tells the ethics officer, someone new. The previous officer’s shift ended and he has been replaced.

“It’s at the end of the hallway,” he says without even looking up.

As she walks down the hallway, she notices he’s following her. She says, “I can go to the bathroom by myself.” He feels closer than he needs to be, an unwanted shadow she cannot make disappear.

“Not anymore.”

Amory finds the lone toilet for the floor of twenty-five rooms. “Is this it?” She asks, looking around for more alternatives.

“What were you expecting?”

“How many people use this toilet?”

“Depending on how many are here … between fifty and one fifty.”

“People?”

He turns his back and takes a few steps away, apparently trying to give her some privacy. The bathroom looks the same as the rest of the floor. Wet, filthy concrete. A bare light bulb hangs from the middle of the ceiling. With all the Sea Org members, probably close to two thousand in Hollywood alone, they could have at least stuck some linoleum on the floor. But she guesses that’s the point. Treat people like the scum The Church says they are.

Amory hovers over the toilet seat, trying not to touch anything she doesn’t absolutely have to. She tries to look past the superficial filth and think about her higher calling. She has been conditioned to believe that these policies are for the greater good, that they enable The Church to reach its noble goals. However, she can’t understand how forcing loyal soldiers to endure these offensive conditions is for the greater good.

The ethics officer shadows her a little too closely, staying one pace behind her on the way back to the room. The critical time is at the beginning of someone’s isolation. But the last thing she’s thinking about is running. If she could, she would take more pills and end everything, but there is no possibility of that now.

She lies back down on her cot and begins her book again until unconsciousness sweeps her spirit away.

Scenes from the Next:

A flashback to the bed time routine at the Cadet Org.