Last time on presumably contractually obligated book, there was nonsense, then threats.
Rhine heads back to the carnival, where Cecily has been having fun wearing dresses, because there is no reason why anyone would be bothered by their surroundings. After all, none of the actual people are being whored out, so why mind the set dressing?
Rhine thinks about how it’d be wrong to make her go back to the mansion, therefore she’ll promise to go with her because Rhine’s got such a long string of complete failures at protecting anyone she must be about to succeed! Also, anything that happens or has happened was really her fault. At least she doesn’t hold Cecily to a double victim-blaming standard.
But Rhine’s the main character, so it has to be the least her fault it can be for a girl, so Cecily is fine going back now.
I thought about it, and Linden and I talked it through, and we can’t go on like this—running away and leaving Bowen behind. The best thing for us to do is go home.”
Presumably this means it was Rapist-chan’s idea. Given his plan doesn’t seem to acknowledge the fact Rhine’s brother is already under Evil Mad Scientist’s thumb, it suggests he and his father weren’t actually working together. He must have been trying to get the upper hand somehow, not realizing his dad is impossibly prepared for anything via author fiat. When Rhine ditched them, his plan to get control of her brother was obviously a failure, so he needed to get back to Dad.
We’re alone, away from the possibility of being overheard or recorded, and it may be the only chance that I get to tell Cecily the truth about Gabriel and what I saw in Hawaii, the frightening, amazing reality that there’s more life out there than we were taught to believe.
I want to.
At this point, I don’t even need to tell you what she does, do I?
I’d expected it to take more convincing to get her to return to the mansion, but it seems that Linden talked her into it before I returned. Stubborn as she is, she’ll always be devoted to him.
See, even Rhine knows the guy is a manipulative fucker. Cecily spoke like it was her idea, but Rhine knows that’s how Rapist-chan always makes you think.
Rhine does not consider why this might be, though. Why did he talk her into it when he was the one who first suggested leaving, and when he’s the safest member of their group?
Then she finds Rapist-chan hanging out at one of the carnival attractions and decides that also Cecily could just be a dumb jealous girl wanting to get Rapist-chan away from his memories of Rose, despite the fact their whole house is his memories of Rose and in the first book Rhine could barely breathe without someone pointing out that Rose did that there.
Or maybe she’s willing to pretend his father isn’t what she knows him to be, because then at least Linden can still have a father at all.
Don’t be ridiculous, Rhine. She’s not you. You’ve claimed to be concerned for her wellbeing, but Cecily’s the one who was willing to actually act because she was worried about you, over and over again.
Rhine does not, incidentally, have any plan to tell Rapist-chan why she wants them to return, despite Rapist-chan being the only one with any power to actually make his father do things.
Cecily knows she’s being dismissed, and for once she goes without incident.
I don’t think I can remember going with incident since the first book, and then she was being dismissed for shitty reasons that deserved those incidents.
“I used to read about the twenty-first century when I was younger,” he says. “I wanted to know about things like cancer and muscular dystrophy and asthma. I wanted to know what could be so awful that we were so desperate to be rid of it. Did you know that the treatment for cancer was toxic? Parents would rather poison their children if it might save them than do nothing if it meant watching them die. I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve been thinking about what you said about that poem and how hundreds of years ago people still must have questioned why they were here. I think humans have always been desperate. I think it has always been about doing something awful if it might help, when the only other option is death.
Chemotherapy: basically playing russian roulette against cancer! Yes author that is totally science. Medicine is mostly doing stuff that may or may not kill you, and people always pick the may kill you option!
I wonder if the author really believes all that new age stuff about modern medicine being evil, but without believing crystals and stuff work to replace it.
I tell him I’ll be there soon. I know we won’t be coming back here, and there’s someone I need to see before we leave.
“You know,” Lilac says
Well, not even using her actual name, so no, doesn’t look like it’ll be ethics.
Grace wants to know why Rhine’s back and what’s with that husband.
“He wouldn’t have hurt me, but that’s not enough of a reason to stay where I’m not meant to be.”
For you, yes, yes it is. You left because you were afraid of being hurt, and even then you also needed the secondary motive of finding your brother.
“You didn’t want to be a pretty thing on a shelf,” Lilac says
But Rhine is a conversational chameleon, always on the side of whoever she’s talking to.
We learn Lilac was married rather than sold into prostitution, which Rhine is shocked by despite it being obvious last book. She explains she didn’t think she had any chance of escape, so she never ran, until she got pregnant with her daughter and they found out she wasn’t perfect and her husband decided to abort, although we’re still not using that word.
I want to suggest that Lilac leave here while Madame is showing some humanity, but I think better of it. Lilac gives no indication that she plans to leave. She’s rooted to that spot, dyeing cloths to set the atmosphere for Madame’s latest whim.
So unless someone makes it clear that’s what they already plan, Rhine won’t suggest it.
She does, finally, manage to spit out that she met Grace’s family and they still love her. Rhine thinks the virus-that-isn’t is already getting her, so obviously she won’t go home.
I think she will. She’s just not talking to Rhine about it because Rhine is a luck-sucking black hole shaped like a person, and your only chance of a decent ending is to avoid her. She’ll make her break for it later, perhaps with Jared’s help, and she’ll be able to see her family again, live out the time she has left, and say goodbye.
Rhine returns to see Madame and Cecily hanging out. Rapist-chan says they’re friends, and indeed, Madame sends her off with a pile of makeup.
Probably because the whole series has such a weird acceptance of rape and imprisonment, we’ve never really gotten the development Madame needs to make sense, especially with the idea she’d deny other women their stolen children and Rhine’s insistence that she just likes seeing suffering and misery and gets off on hearing about impotent men.
So here we go:
Madame runs the brothel because it’s the only thing that girls can do to earn money to feed and shelter themselves now – you can’t afford to maintain an armed guard for factory workers, and without that girls can’t work without being kidnapped sooner or later. We haven’t seen her buy girls from the gatherers and the backstories we get for the girls are that they stumbled in or were raised by her. The things Rhine points to as being to prevent escape are primarily to aimed at keeping men out or preventing those inside from hurting the girls and getting away with it. It’s actually pretty possible that Grace never mentioned she has a home to return to, but not necessary – Madame could feel that the girls are just better off staying here in relative safety over returning to the place that couldn’t protect them the first time.
This is still wrong, but it’s an understandable sort of wrong, especially when you look at the age structures in this society. Madame’s almost three times the age of the oldest girls, most of whom don’t even have an education. She’s watched the world fall apart, and she thinks at least she knows what to do to protect them.
With some tweaks, you could make this into a story about the different adults trying to each impose their own solution on the world, and how it fucks life up for the kids. There are the men who don’t care what happens to the rest of the world and view other people as disposable ornaments, and so they pay the gatherers without a thought. There are the pro-naturalists, so hurt from their children’s deaths they don’t see any point in anyone living when they’re just going to die. And there are people like Evil Mad Scientist, so caught up in the tragedy of the early deaths they don’t place any value on the lives the kids can still have, able to do any sort of horror to people for the sake of other, hypothetical people in the future who’d be perfect and worthy of life. Grace’s family is like the people running a no-kill shelter, giving the children a good life but only able to take a few, while Madame is the one willing to sacrifice quality of life if it means being able to take everyone.
Since there apparently must be a twist, a fitting one here would be that this all came about because of the American fear of the younger generation. There’s so many of them and they have such different values and they’re breeding more of themselves. Maybe the first-gen superbabies were what sent things over the edge, and as they grew up in an even more anxious time and came to hate the coming generation as they’d been taught, someone had the bright idea of the virus, one tailored to alter the gametes. There’s still a bunch of things about genetics we don’t know, and if the virus was on the cutting edge of one of the secondary systems for encoding information rather than the DNA itself, it could make a change people didn’t know how to reverse – you can extract the DNA from unaffected corpses, but the cells produced after the virus affects them have altered structure changing how the DNA is read, so it doesn’t matter how many times you swap in fresh DNA.
This has the benefit of making it the first gen’s fault, which fits with how they seem to be the source of all the current problems dealing with it.
But back to this story, they’re back in the car driving to get Bowen, and Rhine thinks about how she wants to tell Rapist-chan everything. Not the Gabriel stuff, but how awesome the other stuff Evil Mad Scientist showed her is. And because Rapist-chan is a boy, she actually tries to follow through with this and starts rambling about how I really am glad we were born. I can’t imagine anything more important than being alive.”
Uncle Perfect is also feeling pretty alive because the plane’s ready. That sure isn’t random or anything. He’s currently hacking apart the shed with an ax. They decide to take a flight. Rhine gets in when no one else will be and he says she can be copilot, but once Cecily badgers Rapist-chan into it, Rapist-chan takes the seat. They fly. Rhine tries to convince Rapist-chan that there’s a whole wide world out there. Evil Mad Scientist shows up so Uncle Perfect says flight’s over, they’ve got to land to get yelled at. Uncle Perfect does not know how to land but they get down well enough.
“Everyone alive?” Reed calls to us.
We’re stumbling as we all pour through the cockpit and out onto the grass. My shoulder is aching, but I’m otherwise intact. Cecily is inspecting her wrist that I’m guessing is sore from the way she braced herself in the last second.
Linden puts his hand to his temple, and it comes back bright with blood that’s trickling down the side of his face.
“Oh!” Cecily says. “You’re bleeding. Come here; let me see.”
He takes a step toward her.
Everything happens in slow motion after that. He raises his foot for the next step, and then he’s falling. I swear I can hear the sound of his bones hitting the dirt.
Blood is frothing in his mouth, and his eyes are closed and he’s having convulsions.
Rhine goes on about how awful this is and how the rapist is drowning in his own blood.
There’s a man who would drown for you, Annabelle the fortune-teller said but I never dared dream it would really happen! Also he didn’t actually drown for her, but who cares, he’s drowning in his own blood!
I know it’s over when I hear his sob, baritone and booming. I’ve never seen him cry; I didn’t think he could. It would have to take something greater than the end of the world to reduce Vaughn Ashby to tears.
Cecily, I’m sure you’re upset by this, so here’s more kitties.