Chapter 32: There Is No, Has Never Been, and Never Will Be
The next day, a group of girls head towards the spot where Desperada went over the wall.
As Tookie exited the D, the feeling in the air was funereal, as if they'd all attended a burial ceremony for someone who had died much too young.
Isn't Desperada still alive? Granted, I doubt she has much life expectancy now, but she was still talking last chapter.
"I hear it's the BellaDonna's doing," Bibiana whispered as a clump of girls walked to class.
"I think she enjoys tormenting us," Chaste added. "Every time a Bella ages, I bet she gets a huge shivery thrill up her stony spine."
"There is something malicious surrounding Modelland!" said Kamalini.
Wow. Even the stoner girl has figured out something is severely wrong.
Already, girls had placed bouquets of flowers and trinkets at the base of the wall to honor Desperada's memory. A handmade sign read DESPERADA, FOREVER YOUNG TO US.
What is wrong
with these people? Desperada is still alive! What happened to her is horrible, but you shouldn't treat her like she's already dead! The only reason I can see for treating her as if she's dead is if every single person in Modelland is so narcissistic and focused on personal appearance that getting old is considered a fate worse than death.
Wait, that actually would make a lot of sense.
Why am I supposed to care about these people, again?
The wall has changed to show a before and after picture of Desperada, presumably as a warning to any other students who think they can escape.
A hologram of Guru Gunnero appears and says that there is an announcement from the BellaDonna at the M building.
Two columns of expressionless Mannecants guided the Bellas through the M building's doors and past a guard station heavily manned by Modelland security. Tookie looked at the hulking brutes standing guard and wondered how she had managed to sneak past them the day before.
Easy. It's called plot contrivance.
A nearby wall has a bunch of shapes shift through it before two eyes form and look at Tookie. Then the wall in front of them opens, and Persimmon comes out to introduce the BellaDonna. Gunnero takes the opportunity to sigh and mock Persimmon (and possibly the BellaDonna).
The eyes in the wall protruded until they were three-dimensional. They blinked once, then twice. But instead of being full of rage, these BellaDonna eyes were downturned and filled with tears.
Then the eyes grew lips for top and bottom eyelids and began to sing in a quavering but mellifluous voice.
"Modelland was once her home ... home ... home,
But foolish lust we don't condone ... done ... done,
Now a cursed and cracked
gemstone ... stone ... stone,
Modelland is not her home"
Then the BellaDonna demands that the students sing with her while Gunnero rolls his eyes and refuses to sing. The BellaDonna tells them that she's deeply sorry for what happened to Desperada, and hopes that no one else makes "the same imbecilic mistake."
Then the lights go out.
Dylan yells that someone's breathing on her ear. She briefly collapses onto Tookie's shoulder before waking up. (Was there a point to that?)
The girls are all panicking due to the "phantom breaths."
The BellaDonna then starts talking again, her voice seeming to come from the ceiling.
"In the civilian world, women are more valued for giving birth to babies than for giving birth to their dreams. Not here. Not now. Not ever."
"In the civilian world, it is acceptable for a woman to settle, to subvert, to dilute and diminish her dreams if it's to help, or to be with, a man. That's somehow noble. Not here. Not now. Not ever."
Yeah, in Modelland, anyone who helps a man is shot on sight!
Zarpessa protests this.
"But Madame BellaDonna . . . I don't think it's wrong to live for a man. Their intelligence is far greater than ours, and it is our duty to submit and love and —"
Ugh. There's less straw
on most farms.
"When we come to Modelland, we say goodbye to love. We commit to succeeding at any cost. We relinquish our ties to our families, our friends. We sacrifice our souls to be one of the 7Seven. There is no, has never been, and never will be room for love at Modelland. Ever."
So Modelland does
require celibacy for life. The fact that teenage girls spend their lives dreaming about becoming an Intoxibella suddenly makes no sense to me.
Naturally, the Bellas object to this stupidity, naming people that they care about.
Tookie thought of the only person she'd left behind whom she dearly, truly loved. "Lizzie," she whispered.
Wait, I thought we'd established that Tookie loves her sister. Guess not.
Shiraz then tells Tookie that she can see the BellaDonna even though it's pitch black. Because coming from a land of candles means that she's used to seeing in low light. I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way, but whatever.
There's a thump, and the BellaDonna tells Shiraz to keep her eyes shut. The BellaDonna leans in close enough for Tookie to smell her breath, which smells a bit like her father's breath after he'd been drinking. She then starts making vague threats to the Unicas. The best threat is the one she gives to Piper.
"A mind like yours is a terrible thing to waste . . . I'll make sure she sautées it and eats every last drop."
That is probably the
perfect threat to give Piper, given her fear of the LeGizzârds.
The BellaDonna comes to stand in front of Tookie.
. . . even though it was pitch-dark, Tookie could feel the BellaDonna's eyes on her, glaring, boring into her, hating her.
I'll admit to being curious why the BellaDonna would break the rules to get Tookie into Modelland if she hates her so much. And why would she hate Tookie, anyway? I'm pretty sure they've never met before. (Unless the BellaDonna is Lizzie, which seems unlikely.)
The BellaDonna then leaves without saying anything else.
They had to get out of this place.
You've been saying that for two chapters now. When are you going to actually do
something about it?
Maybe next chapter.
Let's find out!
Chapter 33: The Mutant Music Monster
Back on the mountain, the Pilgrims had crossed into the second level of the barrier.
Huh. So I guess we don't
get to see this chapter.
Who cares? The interesting people are back!
Oh, and spoiler: this chapter is actually fairly good. So far, all the chapters about the Pilgrims have had the best writing in the book. Even the title is great, in a "So Bad It's Good
B-Movie sort of way."
The Pilgrims aren't doing very well. They're exhausted and covered in bug bites and other injuries. They've all lost weight.
Creamy decides to make an announcement.
"After the many near tragedies at the hands of our drowsy, irresponsible leader, I am now assuming control of this group."
Kamata tries to argue with her, but everyone else in the group agrees that it's time for a change.
"Mr. Kamata, you're outnumbered. So you either march along with us or turn back to Metopia. Your choice," Creamy declared.
Kamata agrees, and then lets slip that he wants to finally see Modelland. You see, he's never actually made it all of the way. Can't say I'm surprised, especially after his "I'm not responsible if you live or die" speech when he first appeared.
"I knew you were a friggling phony loser the moment I met your pathetic wannabe-ridge-raiding ass!" Jessamine spat.
He's kept you all alive this far, so he's not all
talk. And I am astonished that "friggling" is an actual word.*
Lynne suggests that they take off before "you-know-who comes back." At that moment, Hunchy comes back, wiping blood from his mouth.
We get a description of zone two:
The air smelled of rotten eggs. And as they walked across the charred landscape, they came upon evidence of past Pilgrims: an old white sneaker, bitten in half. What looked like human bones, some eaten away by time, others relatively fresh. A leather jacket that seemed full. No one dared to check if there was a body inside.
"What in friggling hell happened here?" Jessamine yelled.
"They're dead," Myrracle replied innocently. Oblivious to the danger around her, she was still prancing as she walked. "They can't hear you."
That . . . is legitimately creepy. And if you're wondering if I'm referring to the bodies or Myrracle, the answer is yes.
Jessamine insults Myrracle, calling her a "dumb whirling-dervish dancing fool" and saying that she's never met someone who is more of an "idiotic dimwit." Myrracle ignores this, but Creamy glares at her.
Kamata tells the group that there's a watering hole nearby. The group decides to go there for something to drink and a chance to bathe. On the way, they go through an embankment.
. . . past claw marks around a burned-out campfire, soiled Pilgrim socks and underwear, and a human jawbone.
The group arrives at a lake. Lynne immediately strips and climbs in.
Hunchy paced, excitedly or perhaps nervously, around the edge, as if he had never seen water.
He lives in a jungle. He is alive
. I find it highly unlikely that he's never seen water before.
All the other women get in the water, except Myrracle and Creamy.
"Let them go first, Myrracle, dear. They've suffered more than we have."
Kamata then says that there's a legend that the center of the pool "is reserved for only the purest beauty." Creamy nods at this . . . for some reason.
Anyone else thinking that Creamy is the most three-dimensional character in the story? I'm really wanting some backstory on her.
Jessamine swims to the center, comparing Abigail and her mother to gorillas as she goes.
Myrracle asks if she can go in yet, and Creamy tells her not yet.
Creamy stared at Jessamine as she frolicked at the center of the pond. "Lights out, shining star," she murmured ominously.
The "ominously" was unnecessary.
The pond begins to bubble, and Jessamine is impressed because the pond is also a hot tub. In case you haven't figure it out, Jessamine isn't very bright.
Things began to rise to the surface. Skulls. Thousands of them. They bobbed on the water, forming a perfect circle around Jessamine.
Abigail and Harriet run to the shore. Hunchy climbs a tree.
Jessamine is trapped by the skulls. Her mother, Meena, tries to get her out, holding a tree branch to her. Something rises out of the water.
Its body was made of dozens and dozens of human arms, and its head was a mash of ancient musical instruments contorted into an evil, hungry-looking array of sharpening, sideways-turned cymbals for teeth, hollow eyes made of tuba bells, and a steaming nose made of organ pipes.
I want to see a horror movie starring this thing right now
. It’s like an evil orchestra and a Hecatonchires
had a baby. My theory is that it's the spirits of all the musical instruments that got destroyed to create the Modelland walls.
The thing grabs Jessamine and takes a huge bite out of her torso.
Meena attacks the creature with the tree branch, desperately trying to save her daughter, although it’s pretty obvious that it is way too late for that.
The monster then eats Jessamine's head and "thrashing legs," carefully avoiding eating her arms. Ooh! I bet that it adds the arms to its own body afterwards!
The monster then goes after Meena, and eats everything but her arms.
The monster carefully placed mother's and daughter's arms on its head and they suddenly came to life, skillfully playing a haunting melody on the monster's various instruments.
That is a wonderfully morbid image. (Also: called it.)
It then turns its sights on Myrracle, who is cowering behind her mother.
If Creamy was frightened of the music beast, she did not let on. She stared viciously at the creature, then spat out a five-word warning. "Touch. Myrracle. And. You. Die."
The best part? This works
. The monster stares at her before disappearing back into the pond.
"Well now," Creamy said, as if she had just taken a refreshing shower. "The clock is ticking and we have someplace to be. Shall we continue?"
If you had told me that Creamy
would be the most badass person in this book when I started, I would have called you a huge liar. But . . . wow
. Creamy is now my favorite character in this entire book.
And given her reaction, Creamy knew
that monster was there but said nothing because Jessamine had insulted her daughter earlier.
The moral of this chapter: Do not mess with Myrracle. Creamy will make sure you don't live to tell the tale.
: Creamy spent the chapter with her doll riding on the back of her backpack so Bellissima has the best possible view of the Divide.