Santa Teresa, California
S01 E06
Today 5:45 PM
Look at these weirdos!!! 😭
Alix sends a pinned location.
The pin is labeled “Ol’ Pete”.
Hana stares at the blinking cursor on their computer screen, paralyzed with frustration.
Alix opens their mail app and swipes down to check for new mail. They look at the transcriptions of voicemails from their mom that they never bothered to open. Most of them are pocket dials. They launch Pilot only to find a blank white screen, then check their email again. They finally go back to their messages with Hana.
For a second, Alix stares at the Airbnb. Hana is only about 140 yards away. They sit down on the dried grass and stare up at the bright, blue sky. It’s night time in Japan, they think.
Hana searches “possum” and realizes that it’s not a rodent, it’s a marsupial.
A small lizard chases a bug into a hole beneath a cactus patch.
“Above the Sea of Fog”
Santa Teresa, California
Halloween Night
S01 E07

It’s October 31, a Wednesday night. Alix is wasted, performing a balancing act on a curb outside a bar on the outskirts of Santa Teresa. There’s no traffic in sight. It’s strangely warm. The only sound is the soft electric hum of a transformer. A loose baby feather from Alix’s homemade angel wings drifts slowly towards the ground. It lands on the toe of Alix’s shoe, which is covered in mud.

Alix looks up from their shoes. The warm glow of headlights appears on the horizon. Alix watches the truck drive closer and closer until it stops right in front of them. Dolly rolls down the passenger side window and throws Alix a compassionate smile.

“Thank you,” Alix says.

Dolly’s kitchen provides a calming escape from the outside world, and after a quiet, self reflective car ride home together, Alix begins to open up.

“All I wanted was for Hana to take a little break with me. It would have been five or ten minutes, tops,” Alix vents over a warm cup of chamomile tea.

“Five or ten minutes can be really precious when you’re trying to figure something out,” Dolly notes from across the kitchen.

“I guess,” Alix says, skeptically. “I just don’t know why they invited me on the trip, then.”

“I can’t really say for sure about that,” she admits.

“I just feel like we’re not even here together,” Alix blurts. “There’s so much to see if you just take a second to walk around. It’s mind-blowing.”

“It really is a special place,” Dolly agrees.

“Like,” Alix continues. “The other day I was down by the swamp and I saw this thing. I can’t explain it. It was like a thin ribbon, and it was pink. It wasn’t an animal. It was just a shape. It moved so fast, like it was being called somewhere.”

Alix notices Dolly turn to stare out the window above the sink, transfixed, just like when they were having prosecco together. Alix realizes that she’s staring in the direction of the swamp. For some reason, Alix is scared.

“Dolly,” Alix starts slowly. “Who is that woman with you in the photo hanging in the hall upstairs?”

To Alix’s surprise Dolly smiles, still gazing out the window.

“That’s Maggie,” Dolly says, proudly. “My partner.”

Alix perks up.

“That photo is from the day our house was completed,” Dolly continues. “We built this place together, a long time ago.”

Dolly finally turns around to face Alix.

“All of the art here is Maggie’s. It was her family’s, once, but she inherited it and took care of it. Now it’s mine, although I was never much of a collector.”

Dolly turns to wash her hands, which, as far as Alix can tell, are already clean.

“Not to be mistaken,” Dolly continues, shutting off the faucet and grabbing a towel to dry her hands. “We shared everything, and loved everything we shared. The house, the property, the furniture, our books, the sheep. Everything was about us, together. But the collection was a direct extension of Maggie. So when-”

Dolly’s hands tighten around the towel.

“When she passed away last year, this is what she left. All around me, around every corner. She’s everywhere.”

Dolly and Alix share a brief, respectful silence.

“Hana reminds me of her,” Dolly tells Alix. “Quite a bit, actually.”

“Um,” Alix squirms. “How?”

“They’re both infinitely curious. And a bit obsessive.” Dolly explains. “The other day Hana was telling me things about my art that I never knew.”

“I have this photo of Hana hanging on my fridge in New York,” Alix starts, and clears their throat. “They’re ten years old and on some vacation with their parents. It’s my favorite piece of art that I own.” Alix laughs, “Hana won’t even look at it when they come over. They never say anything, but I sort of love watching them avoid it at all costs.”

Dolly finally joins Alix at the table.

“I got the photo when Hana was moving and dug it up from some box,” Alix continues. “They didn’t want it anymore. They said they couldn’t remember why they had it in the first place. It’s not like they were ashamed of it. Just detached. Like, when I asked them to tell me about the photo, they basically recited their tour guide’s every word. But they told it like it was common knowledge, not like something they experienced back in 1998. It’s like they forgot they were there, or forgot they were the kid in the photo, or….”

Alix halts.

“I don’t know why I went there,” they shift. “Hana works a specific way. They needed to come here and focus and find some structure. I just…” Alix can’t find the words.

“You need something else,” Dolly suggests. She waits for Alix’s reaction, which is an eventual nod, and continues, “So why did you come here?”

Alix’s stares blankly at the table.

“Because I love them.”

“And they love you, very much.” Dolly assures Alix, and continues. “But that’s not why they’re here.”

Alix is frozen.

“I think Hana is just focused on the destination, not the journey. At least right now,” Dolly explains. “You’re going to be creative no matter where you apply it.”

Alix nods and then admits, “I think I want to go home.”

“You can,” Dolly assures them.

“But they’re not finished.”

Dolly takes a deep breath. “Alix, sweetie, love is not a destination.”

“Swamp Thing’s Gotta Give”
Santa Teresa, California
S01 E05

Hana got up early again, and Alix isn’t sure where they are. They left their laptop open on the kitchen table but are nowhere in sight. Alix tries not to look at the screen, but ultimately caves. In its current state, Hana’s magnum opus is hardly more than a blinking cursor.

Alix wriggles into some flip-flops and steps out into the heavy morning fog. They say hello to the neighbor’s horses, check Dolly’s garden, and start counting the lizards that scurry in and out of the holes all over the ranch.

Once Alix counts twenty or thirty lizards, they typically join Dolly for coffee. Today, however, Alix decides to retrace their steps back to the woods, keeping a safe distance from the sheep pen. Alix’s memory of the sheep chase is cloudy, leading them to question whether they made up details like the swamp, if not the entire scene.

Trekking through the woods, Alix checks the weather on their phone. It’s 59 degrees and foggy, illustrated by a grey, gloomy backdrop not too dissimilar from the actual environment. They swipe left in the app to review their other saved cities: 62 degrees and sunny in New York, 59 degrees and mostly cloudy in Tokyo. They watch the grey clouds animate across the screen, wondering if they’ll ever get to see them in person. Shortly after Alix and Hana became friends, they swore to visit Japan together once they had found their respective successes. The milestone always felt a little less concrete to Alix. Alix swipes up to close the app, comes down from the clouds of Japan and lands back in the fog of Santa Teresa.

It turns out Alix hadn’t made up the swamp. They approach the edge of the slimy, green surface, a hint of water peeking through the layer of algae and duckweed. Driven by god knows what reason, they crouch down, digging their heels deep into the mud on the bank and gather up a handful of wet earth. They begin shaping the mud into figures meant to resemble the carvings from Dolly’s art collection. The mud sculpture keeps running through Alix’s fingers, but as it dries, its shape begins to hold.

As they reach for another helping of mud, a small dash of fuschia darts across the swamp’s surface, causing Alix to jump. They follow its movement as it grazes over some lily pads,and disappears behind a fallen tree.

Alix stands up, ready to run, but find that they’re ankles-deep in the mud. They yank themselves out foot by foot, and take a few soggy steps back from the swamp. They hope that Hana packed an extra pair of shoes.

They instinctively look behind them to find the fog slowly creeping into the woods. An unusually chilly breeze hits the back of their neck. Turning around again to face the source of the breeze, they find that the swamp is now sparkling in sunlight. The bright light washes everything out, and Alix feels that the spooky fuschia thing has moved on. The temperature in Santa Teresa goes up 5 degrees.

Alix considers investigating further, and crazy possibilities run through their head. Maybe the fuschia thing was trying to lead them to the missing sheep. Maybe it was leading them to more trouble. They take in the energy and vibe of their surroundings. Sensing neither a threat nor an invitation, Alix makes a safe, intuitive judgement to head back.

As they emerge from the woods, they notice a white bird at the edge of the property that seems to be frozen in mid-air, flapping its wings but stuck in one precise spot. They watch the bird for a moment, waiting for it to break from its stationary position, but it continues to flap its wings without moving up, down or forward. It seems strangely caught on something, like a kite on a string, but it doesn’t appear to be struggling.

Alix rubs their eyes, finally ready for coffee. They realize that they left their mud sculpture in the woods.