Over waffles that somehow taste much better now, our two rebels discuss how they plan to move forward. Harrison has already notified essentially everyone about his plan, so what remains is to determine meeting times and pass that along.
Since Sunday is a day of high activity here, they determine that it would be best to meet then, around the lunch rush.
So about ten figures in black make their way to the private room the next Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in a very long time, hope is in the air.
Everyone shifts around nervously, expecting every minute that officials will storm in and capture them. Harrison and Bess go to the front of the room and wait for everyone to settle in.
“Umm, he-hello everyone,” Harrison begins.
Bess adds, “I have no interest in saying any of this more than once, so you’d best listen.”
“Basically, we all want to get out of this awful place, so we need a plan,” Harrison continues.
“Every dictator has a weakness, so we need to find out what Satan’s is,” Bess informs everyone. “This gentleman will be going undercover as an intern, and reporting back to us every other week.”
“I’m hoping to have useful information fairly soon,” Harrison adds. “But for now, we just wanted an idea of who is committed to this resistance.”
“You think it’ll be that easy?” asks a person in the front row, clearly skeptical. “Just waltz in and they’ll give you secrets?”
“I have a plan to gain the trust of important people,” Harrison assures everyone. “And I did get information to bring this group together without you knowing.”
“If you don’t think we can run things, feel free to leave,” Bess steams. The person in the front row, whose name is Avery Liu, seems ready to kill Bess with a look.
“Ok,” Harrison interrupts. “I think that’s all we have for today. Please leave discreetly in small groups, and sign this paper on your way out.”
Back in the corner, I finish scribbling exactly what’s happened at this meeting.
Harrison and Bess are the last ones to leave. They whisper excitedly about how many people came to the meeting and how much they wish they didn’t have to wait to enact their plan.
They separate once they get back to the diner, because they don’t want to seem suspicious by spending too much time together.
Over the next two weeks, no matter how much people try to suppress it, the new feeling in the air is obvious even to the most airheaded of observers. But the important people watching the cameras notice nothing.
Harrison’s “internship” seems to start without any hitches, as he becomes friendly with officials left and right. He pretends to love the electric shocks, waterboarding, and knife cuts people are subjected to, and he fake laughs at the sadistic jokes of his bosses. Luckily, they never ask him to hurt anyone. But it’s a daily struggle to pretend he doesn’t feel sympathy for those in pain, and he begins to get disheartened at the lack of information he’s been able to get.
Until one day, a more senior staff member tells Harrison, “at the rate you’re going, you’ll be invited to the boss’s party in no time.”
“What do you mean?” Harrison asks in his most innocent tone.
“Oh, the amazing party at the office every Saturday night. Once someone has tortured their first prisoner, they get invited.”
“Oh, I can’t wait!” Harrison exclaims.
And he can’t wait… to crash this party with the resistance. Finally, the day for the second meeting comes.
As everyone makes their way one, two, or three at a time towards the private room, there’s complete silence. Everyone looks at each other nervously, trying not to expect much.
It doesn’t take long for Harrison and Bess to call this meeting to order.
“I have good news,” Harrison reports.
“We may be able to go forward with our plan sooner than we thought,” Bess continues.
“I’ve discovered that on Saturday nights, Satan and a select few whom he chooses to invite have a party at the office building,” Harrison informs everyone.
“Basically, it’s a perfect time to catch them off their guard. But we need your help,” Bess implores. “Those who are truly interested in fighting should speak to us privately about the rest of the plan.”
“This is not something to enter into lightly. So consider carefully. For now, that’s all we have. As always, leave in small groups and do not speak of this.”
On the way out, everyone chatters nervously, not having expected things to go this fast.
The diner carries on with business as usual for the next six days. Bess’s purse is now complete, and she’s started work on a sweater.
By Saturday morning, exactly eleven people have talked to Harrison or Bess, including Avery Liu (who decided to talk to Harrison). I, however, prefer Bess—she’s interesting and fiery. The party starts at seven, so they’ve decided to stake out a spot near Eternal Scream Enterprises’ building around five.
It’s not suspicious when the members of the resistance don’t finish lunch, because the food is really awful. Besides, the waitresses have had human emotion mostly wiped out.
Feeling that wonderful mix of thrilled and nervous, everyone begins the approved once a week walk at four thirty. The area has the look of a desert town during a scorching summer.
Once they are within sight of the Eternal Scream building, they slip off one by one to hide behind the dying shrubs across the way.
Since they have to be silent, they communicate with looks. Bess and Harrison crouch next to each other, constantly hoping they didn’t drag everyone else into a horrible trap.
At around six thirty, the group hears someone pass by their hiding place. They assume it’s just an early partygoer. But then, the footsteps stop.
“You can come out now,” says a familiar, slick, used-car-salesman voice.
With that, everyone turns to ice, their worst fears confirmed.
Shaking, everyone stands up and Harrison says “we’re not afraid of you.”
“Oh, I think maybe you are,” Satan laughs maliciously. “You know, I think it’s time you met a friend of mine. Don’t be shy, John.”
And I slowly step out from behind the shrubs to go join my boss. “Good work?” I grin.
“Acceptable, definitely,” is the reply.
I knew it would offend some readers’ delicate sensibilities to admit I was working for Satan this whole time, so can I be blamed for avoiding that little bit of information? My story is still exactly as true as I want it to be, I swear.
I want it understood that I sincerely don’t care what happens in the rest of this story, but I suppose I’ll tell it anyhow.
Satan says, “as for the rest of you, I’m going to have to take you in.”
People try to run, but there are guards stationed in alleys and in the shadows of buildings. Bess and Harrison still stand tall, staring at Satan defiantly. Hand shaking, Bess has a knitting needle pointed at him. But before they know it, both of them have been hit over the head and they black out.
When everyone wakes, they are each in a separate room of the Corrections building, clamped down to tables. Of course, it’s called the Center for Education.
Sitting in the room with Bess is a younger-looking man, maybe 25, who is clearly a member of Satan’s forces. Instruments of torture are hung all over the walls.
“Hello Bess,” he says, his voice dangerously quiet. “Feeling rebellious, are we?”
She doesn’t say anything, but her glare speaks volumes.
“Oh, now that won’t do, will it?” he chuckles. “We’ll see if we can change your mind.” With that, he stands and begins hooking her up to electrodes.
“Do anything you want,” Bess spits.
“I think I’ll take you up on that offer,” he grins.
With a flip of a switch, a searing electrical shock travels through Bess’s body. She convulses on the table, but she squeezes her eyes tight and pictures Hanna to get through the pain. When the first shock is over, Bess’s expression is as hard and defiant as ever.
“My, my, you will be a hard one to crack,” mutters the man. And he turns the voltage up.
That night, Bess is left in that holding cell. She’s been moved to a hard cot to sleep on. She turns away from the camera on the wall so nobody sees that there are tears in her eyes.
The next afternoon, the man asks Bess a question.
“Does Satan care about you?” he wants to know.
“Not a bit,” Bess replies through gritted teeth, earning her a fresh cut with the knife.
“You will learn how to talk about your superiors properly!” the man growls, poking the knife into her arm and twisting.
“Never!” she screams.
Even though she is physically and emotionally exhausted, Bess lays awake that night, desperately wishing to be anywhere else.
“I love you, Hanna,” she whispers into the cot.
Each day continues similarly to this until a month later, when Bess is told she’s leaving her cell. She doesn’t know why, but she knows it isn’t a good idea to ask questions. Somehow, she senses something sinister has been planned for her.
“Tell me where we’re going,” she demands, her voice weak and hoarse.
“Ah, but it’s a surprise,” says the woman leading her in a mock innocent tone.
After walking through hundreds of feet of labyrinthine hallways, they come to a heavy, metallic door. Nothing is around it, and it requires ID to open.
Bess has a sinking sensation she knows exactly which room—or rather, Room—this is.
“We try not to bring people here if we don’t have to,” the woman, still holding Bess’s wrists behind her back, explains. “But you’ve really been quite bad, my dear.”
The woman opens the door and pushes Bess through.
After a bit of a struggle, Bess is strapped to a chair with a screen in front of her. Three figures in suits (including yours truly) are setting up the screen to play a video.
With a click, a face appears. “Grammy!” a now about sixteen-year-old girl cries.
Bess gasps, and her eyes show fear for the first time since she’s been here. “Hanna, my baby, where are you?”
“They’ve got me, they’ve got me!” shrieks Hanna. Without warning, an arm shoots out and forcefully grabs Hanna’s shoulder. “Be quiet, silly girl,” a menacing voice commands. Hanna squeals and the hand slaps her full across the face.
Bess is sobbing uncontrollably now, and eventually screams, “I’ll do whatever you want! Please! I promise! Just don’t hurt her! Stop hurting her! STOP!”
“Now that,” says the slimy, sugared voice of the man who originally tortured Bess, “is what we like to hear.”
What he doesn’t say is that Hanna is nowhere near anyone from Hell, nor is she remotely aware of what’s happening here. Neat trick, isn’t it?
Bess is crying too much to speak now, but the look in her eyes as she turns her face up to this man clearly asks, “Why?”
“Now, I think you’re ready to answer my question,” he says. “Does Satan care about you?”
“Yes,” Bess answers quietly, in a defeated voice. “Satan cares about all of us.”
A week later, everyone is released, and escorted back to the diner.
Bess and Harrison see each other that night. Both look haggard and stare quietly ahead into space—a great improvement, really.
As everyone in the diner pokes at their food, a waitress in the break room draws on her notepad.
“The League of Ladies Kicking Satan’s Ass,” the caption reads. With a quick grin, she rips out this page and tucks it into her jeans pocket.
The artists are always the worst.