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Authors: Mark Wheaton

Tags: #General Fiction

Sunday Billy Sunday (10 page)

BOOK: Sunday Billy Sunday
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But then, there it was – a
single bar
.

“See!” he said, triumphantly.

“Amazing,” cried Father Billy.

The instant it appeared, George froze, holding his arm perfectly still, too scared to move it one way or another. It may have been the shortest bar of the four, but a win was a win. George grinned. They were saved.

“I’m afraid I might lose the signal if I move. Will you dial?” George asked Father Billy.

Father Billy replied by stabbing one of the long, iron nails from the wooden crucifix all the way through the counselor’s neck until the tip burst through the opposite side of his throat, the tip hanging a good three inches out over his shoulder, flecks of blood and skin hanging off of it.

Rather than pain, the first thing George felt was the spike’s leaden weight bearing down on his neck, as if he was suddenly being forced to wear a heavy, ungainly necklace. Then, he realized he couldn’t take a breath.


Gaaah!

He turned around quickly, looking back towards the group to see if they might have a solution for his predicament, but saw that all six of them were lying on the road in various poses, clearly dead.

Father Billy tapped the plastic bottle hanging off of George’s belt as the counselor staggered about.

“If you’d only taken a drink first, this could’ve gone a lot better for you,” Father Billy said as he helped George lower himself to the ground, blood pulsing out of the counselor’s neck like an overflowing bath. “But since you didn’t, we get to have a quick conversation, you and I.”

George’s eyes, lolling around in his head, were becoming unfocused, but he seemed to be cocking his head towards Father Billy, so the priest assumed, at least on some level, he could still understand his words.

“You need to deliver a message for me. I’ve been trying to do it myself, but it doesn’t seem to be going through. It’s very, very important and, hopefully, one day you’ll realize that I’m giving you the greatest gift you could ever receive from another human being in this life. Now, are you ready for the message?”

George gave a half-nod.

It hadn’t taken long for Maia and Faith to make tacos even with Cindy’s only intermittent help as they quickly got a system down. By one o’clock, the counselors were letting groups of twenty into the mess hall to eat lunch, grab a few snacks to take back to their cabins, but then be re-confined to quarters.

Once lunch was over and everyone had been served, Cindy offered to clean up the kitchen herself as a ‘thank you,’ but Faith and Maia, not particularly looking forward to more time isolated in Cabin 6, asked to stay and Cindy let them. With the iPod still going (and now turned up a few notches), they cleaned up not only the plates and cups, but also the pots, pans and steam trays used in the preparation of the meal. After that, they wiped down the tables, wiped down the counters, cleaned the stove top, swept the kitchen floor and then put away the clean dishes out of the sanitizer.

“I really appreciate you two helping out like this today,” Cindy said, when she came back in. “I know Father Billy will appreciate it when he gets back, too.”

“When did they leave again?” Maia asked, trying not to sound as apprehensive as she felt.

Cindy looked down, about the answer. “Just past noon.”

It was now half past three.

The anticipated return of Father Billy and the others was causing a lot of worry amongst the remaining campers and counselors, though everyone had a different version of the math. A good three hours to get to the highway, fifteen or twenty minutes to flag down a motorist or reach the police on the cell phones if they worked. Another fifteen minutes for the police to reach them and start the long trek back to the camp, that made their return imminent.

The only problem was that a number of the cell phone owners were claiming that they had gotten signals up to just a few miles before the camp and word had optimistically gone round that the police would “probably show up around one,” while everyone was eating. When the clocks reached two, Cindy, Whit and Judy tried to quell fears by explaining just how far away the highway was, but half an hour later, one of the girls, a high school junior, from Faith’s cabin became hysterical.

She started by screaming, then came with tears, then threats to run up and down the road after Father Billy, followed by accusations that Father Billy and the others had left them behind to die. This all led up to a series of gasping shrieks, as if she was trying to hyperventilate herself, but wasn’t being allowed to succeed.

Cindy had left the kitchen for the umpteenth time to deal with her as the girl’s panic attack was starting to freak out the other kids who began wondering if maybe they shouldn’t be freaking out a little more, too. When it was obvious she couldn’t be calmed, Judy had taken her into the counselor’s cabin and the cries had, more or less, ceased after awhile.

Back in the kitchen, Maia tried to put a brave face on the news.

“I’m sure they’re on their way back,” Maia told Cindy as she hung up her and Faith’s aprons. “If they couldn’t get help or if none of the phones worked, they would have just turned around to come back before it got dark, right?”

“Yeah, probably,” Cindy nodded, encouraging the thought. “You girls ready to go back to your cabin?”

Faith nodded, albeit reluctantly, and followed Maia and Cindy out.

Cindy hated lying to the girls, but didn’t want to give them anything more to worry about. Before they’d left, Father Billy had informed her that if they managed to get a signal or reached the police, he’d send a couple of the athletic boys back to let the campers know what was going on so they wouldn’t be so on edge. He knew that it would take all of them as a group some time to get to and from the highway, but a couple of runners could make it back in much less time if there was news.

Cindy had nervously checked in with Whit throughout the afternoon to see if anyone had come back, but so far – nothing. When it rolled around to four o’clock, Cindy went to go stand in the parking lot herself, staring out towards the dusty road.

At five o’clock, Judy started to panic a little as the first signs of dusk began to set in and Whit had to calm her down. The campers were getting antsy, too, and a fight broke out in Cabin 2 that resulted in a broken window. A few minutes later, Whit had the involved parties shaking hands.

At five-thirty, Cindy returned to Cabin 6 and recruited Faith and Maia again to make sandwiches in the kitchen that could be brought to each of the cabins, including a lot of extras in case anyone got hungry in the night. Together, they put together around 150 sandwiches – tuna salad, chicken salad, peanut butter and jelly, and ham and cheese – and then placed them in empty steam trays to deliver. They filled additional trays with bananas, oranges, apples and pears and divided those among the four inhabited cabins as well.

Drinks were a problem, but there were an assortment of containers and canteens around the kitchen that they filled with drinking water and distributed with the food.

By seven o’clock, everyone in the camp had something to eat, though more than a few were claiming to have lost their appetites. No one had come back from the road and everyone feared the worst. What had been a growing feeling of dread became an acceptance that they’d never see their friends again. On top of that, it meant with the one vehicle dead, no cell phones and no chance of getting the word out, they were officially alone in the woods against the Devil.

VI

Clang... clang... clang... clang...

Knowing full-well he was dreaming, Phil found himself at Camp Easley completely alone, his surroundings buried in thick fog. The one thing he could hear was the distant sound of the ringing firehouse bell on the administrator’s cabin, so he tried walking in that direction, but got nowhere fast. He had no idea who was doing the ringing, though it could’ve been the wind for all he knew as the tolling grew lazy as if on a ship tossed by waves.

The main problem was, any time he thought he was making progress, moving across the courtyard and nearing the administrator’s cabin, he found himself out on the dock. He turned around, walked back into the camp, passing the screened-in classroom, the mess hall and the first cabins, but just as he was about to climb onto the porch of the administrator’s cabin, again,
dock
, like being in a video game that constantly shifted him back for failing to complete a level.

Finally, he decided to take a seat at the edge and looked down into the water. That’s when he finally saw what the dream might have been trying to show him the entire time. In the water, just below the dock, was the floating and obviously very dead body of Faith. She was perfectly white, her face angelically turned skyward, her eyes closed. He couldn’t see her feet, but her arms were outstretched, as if she’d been treading water.

Again, though Phil knew he was dreaming, he could still feel his panic rising. He tried to rise, but couldn’t as every time he got to his feet, he began to tip forward as if to tumble into the water as well. Behind him, the bell continued to ring, but now Phil couldn’t turn around and get off the dock. He was trapped there, staring at the frozen image of his beloved, trapped just below the surface.

A few hours later when Phil awoke, the dream was fading, but he still remembered the images, but suddenly couldn’t remember if he’d actually heard the bell ringing or if it was just a feeling, a knowledge that it was doing so without needing to hear the sound. What he did know, however, was that he was hungry as all hell.

He climbed out of bed and made his way over to the steam tray by the door, which had been delivered by Faith the previous night, only he’d been in the latrine at the time and was now kicking himself for missing an opportunity at face time. When he pulled back the loose covering of aluminum foil, he found only three room temperature chicken salad sandwiches, all of which reeked. He replaced the foil, grabbed a pear from the second tray and was on his way back to his bunk when he happened to glance to the window and saw a haggard, bestubbled Father Billy staring back in at him.


FUCK!!!
” Phil screamed, dropping the pear and staggering backwards, tripping over the edge of a bunk where he landed on top of a sleeping camper.

“What the hell, douchebag?” the camper yelled, throwing Phil off the bunk, but then he, too, noticed Father Billy at the window and froze. “Holy shit...”

The look of feral intensity in Father Billy’s eyes suggested a man who had been absent from civilization for days and days instead of twenty-four hours. He had a day’s growth of beard on his face, something the campers had never seen on him before, which only added to the surreal sight. But it was the eyes – hungry, vacant, animal – that made the deepest impression on the boys in Cabin 2.

“It’s all right, guys,” Father Billy finally said, though his voice was thin and raspy. “I just wanted to make sure everybody was still locked in and okay.”

And with that, Father Billy managed a shadow of a smile, then turned and walked away.

A second after he’d gone, a flood of boys ran towards the front door and followed after him, leaving Phil still on the floor between a pair of bunks, wondering what he’d just seen. Once the other campers had exited, Mark got up from his bed, made a big show of stretching and then threw on his shorts before helping Phil to his feet.

“At least, we now know who killed Evan and Bobby,” Mark said, a grimace on his face.

It was with these words echoing in his mind that Phil listened, ten minutes later, as Father Billy told his story to the assembled campers. It was a vivid retelling, the priest recollecting how his group – George, Constance and the others — had made it about an hour and a half down the road, still getting nothing in the way of reception, but figured they were nearing the highway. How they’d then run into the man Becca had described seeing in the woods, wearing all black, his face obscured. Father Billy went on to suggest that the man’s face wasn’t just obscured, but seemed to have malleable features, ones that swirled in and out, his eyes subtly shifting color. When he looked over to Becca and asked if this sparked any new memories for her, she quickly nodded, saying that she’d forgotten that, but now remembered the eyes changing color as well.

“He wasn’t speaking any kind of language we recognized, but the words coming out of his mouth were different from the words we heard in our minds,” Father Billy continued. “He didn’t explain himself, but merely said that he was seeking out God’s Faithful on Earth, tearing them from this mortal coil. As long as we were here doing our good works, Earth could never completely fall away from God and into Darkness, which is his fondest dream. He knew that our deaths would be as Holy Martyrs, sent to the bosom of Our Lord by the hands of Satan, which guarantees our places in Heaven, but he felt it was more than worth it as
his
reward would come in the taking of the hundreds upon hundreds of non-believer souls whose lives would never be touched by faith without us to show them the light on this plane. This, I’m afraid, is what God needed me to prepare you for.”

Everyone went deathly quiet. Some obviously taking Father Billy’s account for the God’s honest truth – falling hook, line and sinker. But for others, it was nearly impossible to comprehend that the
Devil
had just murdered another seven people, not some crazy human being. Still, no one spoke up either way.

Finally, Whit, with the voice of a child, raised a question many had considered.

“How did you escape? And where are the bodies?”

Father Billy nodded, as if expecting this, but reluctant to explain.

“He took the bodies into the woods,” the priest replied. “I don’t expect to see them again. As for me, I was
allowed
to leave. I couldn’t have beaten the Devil if I tried. I believe he wanted me to spread terror, drive some of you to do things you normally would not, particularly, take your own lives in fear of what he plans to do with you. But I don’t have to tell you that that’s a trick. If you commit suicide, then he has you as certainly as any soul who takes another’s life. You are condemned to Hell for all eternity.”

For another long moment, the campers fell silent. None had even considered the idea of suicide, but introduced this way, it didn’t sound as unreasonable an option.

“So, what do we do?” asked Whit.

Father Billy looked across the faces that were in his charge, now missing eleven of their number.

“We must unite our voices in prayer, all of us,” Father Billy said. “God may not hear the prayer of one man, but how can He turn a deaf ear to so many of His children, crying out for his Divine Intervention?”

Mark had watched Father Billy like a hawk the entire time he was speaking, trying to remember every inflection, each nuance of the man’s speech. He imagined himself, one day, spilling all this out on CNN or something as one of the lone survivors of what he had mentally dubbed “The Father Billy Massacre” or “Camp of Carnage.”

Eleven murders and counting.

That was more than the Manson Family, more than the Zodiac, more than Jack the Ripper, more than almost any other killer he’d read about or, more accurately, seen a movie about. He figured they’d spend the rest of their lives giving interviews about this and he was starting to feel almost duty-bound to give as accurate a retelling as possible.

“He didn’t actually say the name of the language he thought the Devil had been speaking, did he?” Mark asked Phil as soon as Father Billy had finished his exhortation for the campers to pray. “Aramaic or Latin or something?”

Phil shook his head. “He didn’t say.”

“Okay, well, I’m going to go write some of this down, which should take about five minutes and then we have to get the fuck out of here,” Mark stated, hissing the last words through gritted teeth.

“What do you mean?” asked Phil. “Just take off? Like that?”

“I mean, fuck the rest of these idiots who think prayer will do a goddamn thing – ever heard of the Holocaust?” Mark said, leaning in close to Phil. “We take whatever we’re going to take, hit the road and get the hell out of here. Immediately.”

“What about Faith?” Phil asked, trying to shock some reality into Mark.

Mark hesitated, but then nodded. “She’ll slow us down, but see if she’ll come, too. I don’t think three’s too-too many.”

“And Maia?”

“Dude, what are you missing, here?” Mark exclaimed, incredulous. “We take too many people, we get noticed and Father Billy’s going to come after us and cut our heads off or whatever else he’s doing to campers out there in the woods for whatever fucked up reason. We have to work it so, by the time they notice we’re gone, we’re halfway to goddamn Oklahoma,
comprende?

Phil stopped short, staring at his wild-eyed friend, and dug in his heels.

“So, now you’re deciding who gets to live and who gets to die?” Phil asked.

“Anyone here with half a brain is making the same plan that I am,” Mark hissed. “It’s going to be like forty, maybe thirty, maybe twenty lemmings racing in the same direction and that’s good, because Father Billy can’t kill all of us – he’s one guy, not an army. But there will be plenty of retards who swallow his line of horseshit and pray for God to rescue them as the floodwaters start to rise. You know how you’re supposed to go while the going is good? That’s five minutes from now and it’s going to expire.”

Phil thought about this, but then shook his head.

“He just killed seven people out there on the road and we don’t know how he pulled that off,” he said. “You really don’t think he’s got this covered to the point if we even make a move, he’ll be three steps ahead?”

“They were following
his
plan — who came along, how far they went until the kill site, etcetera,” Mark said. “Heck, he might have been killing them one at a time, starting from the rear. We’ve got the element of surprise on our side.”

Mark hesitated, seeing that Phil didn’t look convinced.

“He probably figures he’s got until Thursday morning,” Mark continued. “That’s when the delivery truck shows up with next week’s food supplies. He can kill the driver, sure, but then there’s another vehicle in play and there’s no telling if someone could get behind the wheel and get out of here before he can stop them. And then, how long does the delivery company wait before sending another driver or calling the police when the guy doesn’t come back? He’s got to have an endgame that’s less than forty-eight hours away. I don’t know why he’s doing this, but I know he’s not going to stop. The guys who died already are the
first
, not the last. There’s probably going to be a lot more killing before he’s done with us.”

Phil nodded, knowing what he had to do.

As soon as Father Billy’s speech ended, Douglas Perry had begun organizing a group of campers to start an ongoing fast-and-prayer vigil in the screened-in classroom. He approached a number of kids, ranging in age, to come with him and many agreed, but when he went up to Faith, she was too frazzled to understand what he was asking.

“We’re going to lock ourselves in the classroom to fast and pray for Divine Intervention,” Douglas repeated. “It’s what Father Billy told us to do. You’re either in there with us or you’re out here with the rest of the sheep getting picked off. God will protect His chosen few.”

Faith stared at Douglas’s blank, blue eyes for a while and remembered that there was a time, early on, that he’d been the class scratching post back in elementary school. The gym class bullies were relentless in their anti-Douglas Perry campaign; hanging him from basketball hoops, stuffing him in trash cans, shoving him into the girls locker room (where the girls were just as cruel to him as the boys), antics that not only the coach, a man named Jim Rogers, seemed to turn a blind eye to, but actually found amusing. Faith wasn’t sure if it was because it seemed like Douglas either suffered from serious learning disabilities or was just plain stupid. Faith had heard one of her Sunday school teachers describe it, to the amusement of a couple of parents, as if he was “born without irony.”

Faith didn’t know precisely what this meant, but in general terms thought it meant that Douglas never really understood why anything was funny. Over the years, however, he’d finally found a place where he belonged – the church — and was now considered a solid-enough youth leader capable of handling all sorts of responsibilities.

“Um, thanks, Douglas, but I think Cindy’s going to need me to stay in the kitchen,” Faith offered. “I’ll bring you guys some food.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Douglas replied, the level of urgency increasing in his voice. “We’re going to lock the doors and fast while we pray. We’re only going to bring in bottles of water. No one’s coming in or out.”

“Oh, okay...,” Faith said, wondering how to best demur.

Douglas stared at her for a moment longer, but then nodded as if he ‘understood.’

“Have fun burning in Hell, Witch,” he said, almost as if making a joke. Then, he turned and walked away.


Finnegan
,” she muttered as she went looking for Maia, who she saw running towards a commotion in the kitchen. “Oh, shit...!”

They’d been working on breakfast when Father Billy showed up, but turned off the ovens, so she didn’t think there’d be anything that had to be thrown out. But when she reached the kitchen, she saw that campers were already carting out lots of food.

“What the fuck are you assholes doing?” Maia was screaming at David Boss and a couple of his friends as they raided the kitchen, filling up random bags with food. “We
need
that stuff.”

BOOK: Sunday Billy Sunday
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