Authors: Mark Wheaton
Tags: #General Fiction
Cindy nodded and walked back to the counselor’s cabin only to find Whit sitting on the porch, a mug of coffee in his hand, but a look of smug satisfaction on his face.
“There’s a new pot of coffee,” Whit said, nodding over his shoulder. “And Humberto and Pamela didn’t come home last night.”
,” Cindy said, rolling her eyes in dismay at the fact that the fourteen year-old campers prepping breakfast were more reliable than two twenty-somethings. “Let’s just hope they make it back before Father Billy wakes up.”
“Don’t really see that happening,” Whit said, glancing over towards Father Billy’s cabin.
That’s when Cindy heard the sound of the administrative cabin’s washing machine tumbling over and over, the priest already up and doing a load of laundry.
“Oh, Jeez,” Cindy replied. “Where
Whit shrugged, then followed Cindy as she went into the cabin, finding Constance up and making herself a cup of coffee – almost jumping at the appearance of Cindy. Cindy eyed Constance, unsure if she was naturally that jittery or if she might have known in advance that Pamela and Humberto were planning to pull a fast one and felt guilty.
“Any sign of them?” Constance asked.
“Nothing,” replied Whit, shaking his head, but giving Constance the kind of look that made Cindy wonder if the two of
were sleeping together. She didn’t know Constance that well, only that she had a younger sister who didn’t come to church and that Constance had been a foreign exchange student in France for a year when she was in high school.
“Well, should we start looking for them?” Cindy asked, turning her mind back to the matter at hand. “Or just pretend nothing’s happened and hope they come back?”
“There’s a chance they got lost,” Whit suggested. “And maybe now that the sun’s coming up, they’ll be able to find their way back. If you get lost in the dark, you’re just supposed to stay put, right?”
Cindy nodded, and then walked over to the coffee maker to pour herself a cup. She tried to calculate what the cut-off time was before they’d have to tell Father Billy. Pamela didn’t have a class to teach that morning, but Humberto had his “St. Peter and St. Paul” class first thing at nine o’clock. That didn’t give them much time.
“We could probably buy them a couple of hours if we say they’re sick,” offered Judy, coming in from the bedroom, still working the sleep out of her eyes with her fists.
This would, of course, mean lying to a priest, but worse, lying to Father Billy who each of the counselors liked and respected immensely, despite his recent erratic behavior. It wasn’t anyone’s first choice.
“Let’s just play it by ear for now,” Cindy suggested. “We’ll see if they turn up in the next hour or so and go from there.”
Everyone agreed and started to get ready for the day, grabbing showers, getting dressed and prepping for their classes, all the while glancing from the cabin’s clock to the door, coming to attention any time it sounded like someone might be heading over in their direction.
But an hour later, there was still no sign of Pamela or Humberto.
” Cindy exclaimed when the clock reached seven. Frustrated, she looked around to the other counselors, which now included muscle-bound George – always the last to rise as he tended to stay up late working out in his room — and shook her head. “I’m going to do a circle of the camp, see if I can spot them in the woods or on the beach, but then go to Father Billy. If they’re
lost or worse, hurt or something, we can’t wait around worrying about how angry Father Billy’s going to be.”
Everyone agreed with Cindy, likely happy to have someone volunteer to be the sacrificial lamb who reported the counselors to Father Billy, and she headed out the door.
As she made her way across the campsite, she caught sight of one of the male campers coming back from the showers to Cabin 2 that she recognized as the Hardin High quarterback, David Boss. Still wet and wearing just a towel, the rising sun only served to cast him in a sort of golden glow that maximized his cut physique. That’s when he looked up and saw her looking at him.
She smiled and nodded a “good morning” and he replied by opening his towel, revealing his flaccid, yet still-lengthy penis flanked by appropriately chiseled quadriceps.
In the moment, Cindy knew she should be horrified, feel violated and full of indignant reproach resulting in her angrily reporting him to Father Billy (as she had counseled Judy to do with Humberto) and getting him kicked out of the camp with prejudice, but it was such a cheesy move – the kind of thing a skeevy fifty year-old pervert might do to get his jollies – she couldn’t help letting out a peal of hysterical laughter at the seventeen year-old’s exposed member.
A couple of David’s friends who had been standing just inside the cabin and cackled their approval when they’d seen what he’d done, now witnessed Cindy’s response and momentarily switched sides, laughing with her. Cindy knew the ensuing humiliation would probably keep David from ever attempting anything so gauche again, much more than a report to the camp’s administrator and she kept walking.
She had bigger fish to fry, this morning.
As she walked down to the beach, still seeing no sign of Humberto or Pamela, she saw that she wasn’t alone. An awkward girl who’d only seemed to get more awkward with each passing summer, stood by the dock staring out over the lake.
“Mornin,’ Dana,” Cindy nodded.
The girl, Dana, almost jumped a foot, so startled was she. Cindy felt the urge to apologize, but before she could, Dana began hurriedly walking away.
“Dana? What’s wrong?” Cindy asked, real concern in her voice. “Where are you going?”
The girl hesitated, as if wondering whether or not a few more steps might make Cindy forget all about her, but then she turned around.
“I’m not supposed to tell,” Dana sighed, balefully.
A moment later, Cindy burst back into the counselor’s cabin, Dana in tow.
“Turns out Humberto and Pamela aren’t the only ones missing...”
Whit and Cindy immediately went to Father Billy with the news about Evan and Bobby, which they also reported was already well-known to most of the camp, a mere accident, though, that they found out. The priest was appropriately exasperated, but also almost immediately forgiving. In a rehash of the counselor’s conversations about Pamela and Humberto, Father Billy suggested that they might have gotten lost, but then waited it out until morning to try and find the camp in the daylight.
“But we shouldn’t wait much longer to try and find them,” added Father Billy, only extending Cindy’s sense of déjà vu. “If they’re hurt, it’s important that we go after them.”
Cindy nodded and was about to head back out when Whit chimed in.
“Humberto and Pamela already went looking for them,” he lied. “They were worried about the same thing.”
“Oh, okay,” nodded Father Billy. “Humberto’s got the Peter and Paul class, right? If he’s not back before then, I’ll fill in myself.”
Cindy smiled and half-led, half-yanked Whit back out the front door. Once they were outside, she tore into him.
“You could just lie to Father Billy like that?!” she asked, perturbed.
“Where’s the harm?” Whit sniffed, unhappy to be put on the defensive. “And you don’t know that’s
the case. They
have seen those two stoners out there and gone after them.”
Cindy, now fully pissed, turned on her heel and stormed away from Whit, though part of her thought she was just mad for not coming up with the lie herself.
By the time the second and third rounds of campers had gone through the mess hall, everyone at camp knew about Evan and Bobby with a growing percentage having heard some variation of the Cindy-David Boss interchange, David’s penis being described as smaller with every retelling.
No one except the counselors knew the truth about what would easily be a great third scandal, the two missing counselors, and, for now, it appeared that it would stay that way.
At nine o’clock, the day’s activity schedule kicked in and the counselors all went to their assigned spots, Constance to teach swimming, George to teach “tricks of the trail” (which Judy joked should’ve been a required course
), Cindy to run inventory and do a cabin check, Whit to lecture on the differences between the Gospels in the outdoor amphitheater and Father Billy to take over Humberto’s Peter and Paul class, which took place in the screened-in classroom.
The class was mostly assembled when Father Billy walked in, carrying a pile of books.
“Fifteen!” Father Billy exclaimed after doing a quick head count. “That’s got to be some kind of record. Did you guys miss the fact that they’re doing a swimming class out there?”
Everybody in the room laughed, even Phil, Mark and a couple of others who also appeared to have been strong-armed into signing up by Humberto as well. Father Billy’s eyes fell on Douglas Perry sitting in the front row.
“Mr. Perry, big surprise, good to see you in here, though this is your third time, no?”
“Fourth, sir,” Douglas corrected.
“Well, welcome back. Should make for some hearty debates. Looks like a good group.”
Mark slumped back in his chair with an exasperated sigh purely for Phil’s benefit. Phil smirked and leaned forward.
Father Billy set down his stack of books, the title of each relating to either Peter or Paul or both. He stared at them for a moment and then turned to the class.
“Saint Peter and Saint Paul are two of the most important figures of the Catholic Church,” Father Billy began. “Saint Paul was originally Saul of Tarsus, a vicious, anti-Christian who was subsequently visited by Christ on the road to Damascus, saw the light and became Paul, one of Christ’s most devoted followers, sometimes referred to as the thirteenth apostle for the work he did spreading the Gospel until being martyred by the Romans.
Saint Peter, of the three denials of Christ, was no less conflicted in his life, but his conflicts come directly from his interactions with Christ. After the crucifixion, Peter and his followers believed the New Age would soon be upon them and that Judgment Day was just around the corner. The sick would be healed and angels from Heaven would descend to feed the poor. When this was proved wrong, disillusionment soon befell many early Christians. Paul wrote that he believed Christ would return in his lifetime, but began organizing the church for the long term regardless.
The men knew each other well and clashed mightily at the Council of Jerusalem and later in Antioch over the interpretation of the Gospels and the teachings of the man they both wholeheartedly believed was the Son of God, the
. This debate over the nature of Christ has continued for two millennia after His death and theirs and is why we consider the church to be a living, breathing thing. We still don’t know anything for certain. We still take things on faith. We still peer into the mystery looking for signs. We still wonder.
is the nature of God.”
Father Billy hesitated, his last words hitting close to the bone.
“What I’m trying to explain is that you can understand the frustration of Saint Peter, an incredibly complex historical figure,” Father Billy continued, trying not to falter. “He felt he’d been promised one thing and got another. His feeling of betrayal is, perhaps, something we have all felt and can relate to when it comes to the silence — the
of God. In the late 16
century, a Spanish priest named Juan de Yepes Alvarez was the first to refer to this as the ‘dark night of the soul.’ St. Paul of the Cross, an Italian priest of the eighteenth century, claimed to have felt the silence for forty-five year Even Mother Teresa wrote about it in letters to Father Benedict Groeschel, claiming her ‘dark night’ lasted almost fifty ye...”
That’s when Father Billy stopped talking, his mouth hanging open midway through a sentence as he stared out the screen window into the courtyard. His students began turning to see what he was looking at as well, most momentarily unsure of what they were even looking at, but then were no less shocked than the priest.
It was Becca Roy.
She was soaking wet, as if she’d just walked straight out of the lake, but upon closer inspection, it turned out that it wasn’t water saturating her skin and clothes, but sweat.
Only, it didn’t seem to be her own despite how overwhelmingly pale she was.
Over on the dock, Constance was one of the first to see her emerge from the woods and was now racing over to her, calling for the other counselors. Within minutes, Judy had joined her, followed by Cindy who brought a towel. By the time Father Billy and his students had emptied out of the classroom, Becca’s stunned silence had finally given way to a burst of inhuman, terrifying shrieks that echoed across the camp and throughout the nearby woods.
Cindy, the only one with real medical training, gave Becca a quick external inspection, found her unwounded, but went to retrieve the First Aid kit regardless, mainly to try and give herself a few minutes to shake off her own sense of shock. It was in the counselor’s cabin and she stopped to grab her cell phone, too, but couldn’t locate it and just ran back out. By the time she got back to the courtyard, Becca had been wrapped up in a blanket and was being guided towards the administrator’s cabin.
“What’s going on?” cried George as he and his hikers hurried back into the camp, having heard the screams from some ways away. But like everyone else, upon seeing the traumatized Becca, they now had more questions than before.
“Just... hold on a second, George,” said Father Billy, who was trying to keep everyone a little ways away from Becca. “We’re going to get to the bottom of this.”
Murmurs went through the assembled campers, the younger ones staring at her in confusion, the older ones wondering if she’d been in a diving accident. One of the older boys made a joke that she’d been raped and a few other boys laughed as no one managed to offer him the proper reproachful scowl.