The Fallowing – Interlude II, Part I
by Steppen Sawicki
Or: Sawicki Gets Writer’s Block and Gives Faye a Cake
Novel: Occult Adventure
I balanced the box in one hand and knocked. Sam’s cautious voice sounded through the door.
“Same one as always,” I answered, taking hold of the box with both hands again.
He opened the door. He was dressed in an oversized sweater, with layers underneath.
“It is not that cold in here.” I brushed past him into his room. We were staying one more night in Scarsdale to recuperate. Me, I was fine; the knife wound was barely a scratch. But I thought Sam might still be a bit woozy.
“This isn’t exactly the Hilton,” he said, bolting the door. “The heating here leaves much to be desired.”
I looked for a place to set down the box and, finding none, set it on the edge of the bed. I took off my coat and likewise set it on the bed.
We watched each other for a moment.
“Well?” I prompted, waving a hand at the box.
Sam sighed heavily. “What’s in it?”
I opened up the box and reached in. “I found a cake shop.” I pulled out a cake with pink and white frosting. I didn’t know what flavor it was yet, but it had looked lovely in the display case.
“I don’t like cake,” Sam said.
“You don’t… what kind of person doesn’t like cake?”
“I don’t like sweet things.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well doesn’t that just fit. How am I going to eat an entire cake by myself?”
“How much did you spend on it?”
“Quite a bit, so you should eat some whether you like it or not.” I put the cake down on the bed and pulled out two forks I had retrieved from the pack in my room.
“You should ask before you make purchases like this. I thought we were pooling our resources.”
I crossed my arms and answered slowly “I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Sam let out a breath as if he had been holding it. “Fine. I’ll have some.” He snatched a fork from me.
I spread myself out on the bed and dug in. The cake turned out to be plain white, and dry and subpar. But I hadn’t been expecting anything spectacular, so I was more than a little pleased. From his place on the floor, Sam swallowed each bite with effort, but he ate.
“My friend Ericka,” I said around a bite, “when I was a kid, her brother could make a killer cake with just a pinch of sugar. Lots of milk though. It was a little weird and goopy, but so tasty.”
“And I bet you ate like a pig even when you were little.”
I used my fork to fling a chunk of cake at him. It hit his shoulder.
“How old are you now?” he complained. “Don’t waste your precious cake.”
“Wasn’t a waste,” I shot back. “I haven’t seen Ericka in years. Even before I left home she was gone. She joined – ” I laughed bitterly. “She joined the Reckoners.”
“The Reckoners? People still join them?”
“Oh sure, at age fourteen no less. And even before that she would go on about them. About the nukes being the instrument of the rapture. That those killed by them were worthy and were called up to Heaven. Those that died of exposure and starvation had been judged worthy by God and brought to Heaven afterwards. And the rest of us were deemed unworthy and are in a Hell on Earth.”
“About Jesus being reborn as the Antichrist? That was always my favorite part. I mean, all the rest at least made some sense.” He noticed my raised eyebrow and added “From a Biblical point of view.”
“Maybe it makes sense to you. It made sense to her anyway. Somehow. So she ran off to burn her flesh and sit naked in the snow and starve herself to atone for her sins.”
“For everyone’s sins.”
He swallowed a bite. He was actually tearing into the cake now. I realized he probably hadn’t had dinner. “They burn and starve and freeze to atone for all sins of all humanity. Sort of a sacrificial calf thing.”
I scoffed. “You a Reckoner and just never told me?”
He made a face. “Please, if anything I think they’re more ridiculous than you do. I just happen to listen when people speak.”
“I listen plenty. It’s not my fault Ericka would drone on. None of us listened to her.”
“Well maybe you should have. You can learn a lot even from the crazies.”
“Okay then. I’ll listen to you.” I stuck my fork in the cake so that it stood straight up. “Why can’t I remember the word you say when you stab these things?”
He gave a short laugh, covering his mouth again as if shocked he had done so. “Well, that’s surprisingly relevant to our current discussion.”
“Why? What’s the word?” I slinked closer to the edge of the bed, closer to him.
He looked into my eyes gravely, all trace of the laugh already gone. “It’s the name of God.”
I looked back at him even more gravely. “I say I’ll listen and then you fuck with me.”
He shrugged. “Your brain can’t handle it; it has too much power. Your mind just sort of… skims over it. To save itself.”
“And your brain can handle it?”
“It would have to. He sent me on this mission himself.”
“You are so full of bullshit.” I sighed as I rolled over onto my back. “I don’t know why you can’t ever just give a straight answer.”
He didn’t speak for a moment. Then, “What about you? What’s making you continue this adventure? We got the one that killed your father.”
He had already put me in a foul mood. I answered immediately. “Because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through. Not if I can help it.”
I was looking up at the ceiling, but I heard him shift and felt him lean his arms on the edge of the bed. My eyes unfocused softly as I began.