Issue 4 Review

Midnight Nation 4 Synopsis

"The Devil You Know"

David Grey has lost track of how long he and Laurel have been walking. It could be days or weeks. As they walk through the unbearably hot days, David sometimes glimpses the ghostly images of cars from the real world. At night, all he can see are their headlights. David begins to feel like a ghost in Hell, but he keeps walking, determined to find the end.

On this night in the middle of the desert, Laurel announces that they should rest and get something to eat. David surveys the desolation in all four directions and asks where she expects to find food. Laurel announces a direction and starts off. David follows her, sarcastically asking why she picked this direction. He comes up short when he sees ten people sitting around a fire in a hollow.

David tells Laurel that no one likes a smart-ass, and she responds that he must be very lonely then. They continue to exchange barbs as they descend into the depression. David begins a rambling introduction about how they were traveling to New York and saw the fire, but Laurel interrupts to simply ask, "Join you?" They are welcomed into the circle.

Laurel asks what they have to eat. The group's spokesman, Bob, says they just have what they can catch nearby. It's too dangerous to go beyond the firelight. There are dangerous animals out there. Another person agrees and adds, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."

Bob introduces the circle and asks the newcomers for their names. He only wants their first names, though. He warns them never to give out their last names because it gives people power over them. Laurel and David give their names while Bob muses that the food is still moving and probably needs to be cooked longer.

Bob asks about David's trip to New York. David starts to give a vague explanation, but Laurel interrupts to tell the complete truth about how David's soul was stolen and that they're going to try to recover it even though no one has succeeded before. She then asks if the food is rabbit. The group becomes very nervous. Bob asks how long ago David's soul was taken. When David says a little over a month, Bob relaxes a bit and says the food is rabbit. Laurel eases their fears by saying that David is safe and won't turn or have to be killed for a while. She offers David some rabbit. David is frustrated by the entire exchange and says, "Just shoot me." Laurel reminds him that she won't have to do that until later.

Bob wants to pick up where they were before David and Laurel arrived. Each night the members of the circle tell stories about how they came to the place in-between. It's Cathi's turn to talk. David asks how long they have been here, but Bob cuts him off so that Cathi can begin her story.

Cathi tells her story...

Cathi's mother was overprotective. Cathi and her two older brothers were kept inside while other children played outside. Cathi mindlessly echoes her mother's philosophy when she says that it was best for them to stay inside. When Cathi's brothers ran away, their mother was enraged, and Cathi took the brunt of the emotional toll.

Cathi's mother had always been frail and needed someone to take care of her. When Cathi graduated high school, they decided that she shouldn't attend college because it would take her away from her mother for too long. Cathi's mother became bedridden after a bad fall. Cathi cared for her completely, and all of the household chores also fell to her.

Cathy was on call day and night. She had grown into a beautiful young woman, but she didn't have time for anything so frivolous as going on dates.

The only time that Cathi got out was to run errands for her mother or to buy food. A former classmate named Jim worked as a clerk in the market. He remembered how alive she had been in high school. He urged her to choose to live her own life, but Cathi wouldn't be distracted from her duties. Cathi says that no one understood that she had no way out. She realizes now that Jim may have liked her.

After a while, Jim stopped talking to her. Then he stopped seeing her. No one could see her except her mother. Around Cathi's 21st birthday, her mother died.

Cathi came home to find an ambulance crew removing her mother's body from the house. She sat in the empty home and realized that after all she had done for her mother, she had nothing to show for it. She had no identity. Cathi went into a rage, smashing the furniture and shouting that it wasn't fair. She was nobody, and that's how she came to the place in-between.

David is moved by Cathi's story. Bob asks Miguel to take his turn.

Miguel tells his story...

Miguel Cavelos was born into a gang. His father, grandfather, uncle, and brothers all belonged before him. It was the only option that Miguel thought he had. The initiation required a massive beating by the other members. The gang members looked after each other and fought to protect each other.

A month before high school graduation, Miguel was summoned to the counselor's office. It wasn't the first time. Ms. Rose was concerned that Miguel was throwing his life away. Miguel had a high I.Q. and above average reading, math, and science skills. She didn't want to see him waste his potential on the gang and drug lifestyle. That life usually led to death or prison by the age of thirty. Miguel said he couldn't avoid this life because that's "just the way it is".

Ms. Rose didn't buy this excuse. She made an analogy of her relatives in New Jersey. They complained about the snow and job market there, and Ms. Rose told them to move, but they won't. They made excuses and stayed unhappy because the alternative was to either do something about it or admit that it was their own fault that they weren't doing something about it. All Miguel had to do, she said, was make the choice to walk away and change his life. She thought he could do it, and she said he had the choice, whether or not he wanted to believe it.

Miguel refused to believe he had a choice.

A few months later, on the day after his 18th birthday, Miguel was arrested for car theft. He went to prison for two years. His gang contacts in the prison kept him safe, but he missed out on two of the best years of a young man's life. He just tried to stay invisible, serve his time, and get back out.

Miguel got his marks in prison. He had two tear-shaped tattoos placed under his eye, one for each year he served. When he got out of prison, the marks earned him respect with his gang, but other people looked away when they saw the marks and acted like they didn't see him. Miguel became frustrated that he didn't have respect from others and wanted them to pay a price for ignoring him.

Miguel and his gang brothers were cruising for trouble. They cut off a convertible sports car at an intersection and jumped out of their car. Waving guns, they ordered the terrified couple to get out of the car and turn over the keys. The driver was complying, but Miguel punched him hard anyway.

The other gang members pulled the woman passenger from the car and threw her to the ground, preparing to rape her. Since Miguel had been in prison so long, they offered to let him go first. One gang member reminded Miguel that there should be no witnesses and that this was his final initiation into the gang. Miguel was about to rape the woman when he saw her face.

It was Ms. Rose.

Miguel hesitated.

Ms. Rose jabbed her knee into Miguel's crotch and ran for help. The gang realized it was too late to stop her and fled.

Miguel realized that he had failed. He showed weakness. He hesitated. He let her get away. Some of the gang members were arrested because there was a witness.

Miguel let his gang down, so they shut him out. They acted like they didn't see him anymore. Miguel wondered what it had all been for. He had spent all that time in the gang, but his worst crime had been theft. He had never been put in a position where he had to hurt an innocent person until that night, and he couldn't do it. Between the strangers ignoring him for his marks and the gang members ignoring him for his failure, he eventually realized that no one could see him at all.

Miguel concludes his story. The whole point, he says, is that he never had a choice.

The other people around the fire tell their stories. They have similar themes. They were afraid of taking risks, afraid of asking someone for a date, afraid of going to college, afraid of looking for a better job. Their fears continue after they reached the place in-between. They are afraid of the road, afraid of the dark, afraid to go over the rise in search of food. They repeat the phrase, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't," to justify avoiding risks.

Bob asks David why he is here. David says he doesn't belong here and sets off into the darkness. Laurel excuses herself from the group to follow him. The others warn them to be careful of the dark and the road. Some people go over the rise and never come back.

Laurel asks David what he wants to do, but he responds by saying that he's not like those other people. Laurel begins to follow up on David's comment, but he demands again that he's not like them.

David remembers a glimpse from his past. His wife wants to know why he is giving up on them. David says he's not giving up, but she points out that he won't take time off from work to spend with her. David asks if he's supposed to tell everyone in Los Angeles to stop killing each other so that he can take a vacation. He's leaving because he's late for work and promises to finish the discussion later. She reminds him that she's his wife and asks how he can just walk out in the middle of this. He says he must and adds, "I don't have any choice here."

Laurel asks David what he wants to do. He plans to climb over the ridge and see what's on the other side. Laurel reminds him of the warnings from the others. David is resolute, and this pleases Laurel.

David reaches the summit and peers down into another hollow. Seven people sit around a fire. They invite him to join them and warn him that he can't trust what's over the next ridge. It's better to stay here and not take any chances. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't. From the top of the ridge, David and Laurel look out over a half dozen other hollows with campfire circles.

The next day, Laurel and David continue their trek along the road. She asks him if he wants to talk abut it, but he needs to think about it for a while first. He says she wouldn't understand. Under her breath, Laurel disagrees with him. When David asks her to speak up she says that it's not time for that yet but it may be soon. David asks what she's talking about, and Laurel says, "The Bleeding."

A black van sits on a cliff high above the road. A lone Walker watches the pair below and mutters Laurel's name.