Kevin wants to take Dana out to dinner for her birthday, but she is afraid to leave the apartment. As she and Kevin eat dinner in the kitchen, she feels dizzy and gets whisked away.
Dana finds herself in a bedroom. A red-haired boy stands in front of burning drapes, holding a charred stick. Dana out puts the fire. The boy turns out to beRufus; he remembers almost drowning a few years earlier. He also remembers that before he went under, he saw Dana sitting in her apartment and unpacking books. Because she was wearing pants, Rufus thought Dana was a man. Rufus says he thinks Dana went back to the room with the books. He says his mother thought Dana was just a “strange nigger.” Dana bristles at the epithet, a reaction Rufus doesn’t understand. Dana asks him to call her a black woman instead.
Rufus says he set fire to the drapes because his father beat him. He shows her awful welts on his back, and she notices old scars underneath the fresh wounds. He tells her that they are in Maryland, and that it is the year 1815. He says his last name is Weylin and confirms that he has a young black friend, a free woman, named Alice Greenwood. When Dana hears these names, she realizes that Rufus is her ancestor. Rufus tells Dana that she would be safe at Alice’s house. He helps her sneak out of the house, and she helps him destroy the charred curtains.
Dana makes her way through the fields and woods. She has to duck out of sight to avoid encountering a patrol of several young white men on horses. She follows the men to a cabin in the woods. She watches as they drag a black man out of the cabin and tie him to a tree. The men whip the black man and speak rudely to his wife, who is standing in the yard with her young daughter. One of the patrollers takes the black man away. Another punches the woman’s face. After the white men leave, Dana calls out “Alice,” and the young girl looks in her direction.
Dana helps bring Alice’s mother to consciousness and then tells her that she is a free woman in need of help. Alice’s mother tells Dana that the beaten man, her husband, is a slave of Tom Weylin, Rufus’s father. Knowing that the idea of California would be confusing, since in 1815 it was a Spanish colony, Dana lies and says she is from New York, and that her husband is there. Dana goes to retrieve the blanket from outside, but a patrolman has returned. Mistaking Dana for the twin of Alice’s mother, he chases her into the woods, beats her savagely, and rips her clothes off as a preface to raping her. Dana hits him with a stick and loses consciousness.
Dana returns to her home, and Kevin is there. She refuses to tell him what happened until after she has slept.