4. Sunny July Day
“Live like there’s no tomorrow, just don’t expect a spot in my bunker.”
A Few Hours or So Earlier…
It’s Monday. That I know for sure. There’s an extra heaviness in the air on Monday’s, along with a sour smell. Ask me what calendar day, what month, what season it is, and I’d answer, I truly don’t know. Little clues help. Tree leaves tinted with amber, mountain tops capped with snow. Must be fall, I guess, but when is it ever not fall?
The days blend like the paint strokes in an Impressionist field of grass. My limbs are heavy, my eyelids tired. I walk as though a ball and chain is looped around my ankle. Attempts to track time fail. X’s I etch in the bathroom stall disappear. Notes in my journal fade. Leaves fall from trees though inexplicably remain clinging to branches.
This can only mean one thing. I’m in the End of Time.
Don’t dismiss me like I’m crazy. Grow up in a “Survivalist Cult,” and no one will ever take you seriously. Truth is, I liked living in The Sacred Oasis Temple for the Children of Obviology. It’s a mouthful I know. Whatever. It doesn’t mean I’m crazy. The people I lived with were really so smart. You could learn from them. They were prepared.
Sheep like you brush off the Church of Obviology as a looney bin cult reserved for D-list celebrities, a place for washed-up reality stars desperate to revitalize their relevance in the world when their agents stop calling about even the lamest gigs like that show Foxtrotting with the Famous People You Still Kinda Recognize. The Church of Obviology is so much more than that. It can change your life. It can save you.
Reality check: you can’t believe everything you see on TV. I watched that documentary too. Obviology Exposed. It’s good for laugh, though none of it is true. If you want the real story, read on.
For starters, it’s simply false my mom met The Great O at a pet seance for our recently deceased Doodlicious, may she forever rest in peace. That whole scene where he leads her into his dark mansion, seats her in the golden room with the crystal ball and silver candlesticks then revives beloved Doodlicious as a ghost, barking louder and louder as The Great Vision enters his mind’s eye— that’s totally bogus. It’s cinematic, but it never happened.
The Great O’s beginnings were much humbler than that. Before he became the Prophet of Obviology, he was just another wannabe actor/model, sweeping floors at my mom’s pet salon in hopes of nabbing screen time on her reality TV show, Bitches of West Hollywood. Fun fact: Season 3, Episode 5, he’s in the background of a few frames, wiping Doodlicious piss from the tiles after I fought with my mom about the dog’s evening wear for the Puppy Pageant. It’s hard to miss him: his eyes glistening blue, his arms toned like a Ken doll.
As for The Great Vision? It came to The Great O as he showered. Simple as that. Why him? I don’t know. Though you couldn’t deny he was as handsome as any god.
I’d follow him forever.
Living in an underground bunker wasn’t too bad, either, though I missed the sun on my skin and the openness of the sky. We grew organic vegetables in aquaponic gardens powered by geothermal energy. We raised chickens for eggs and goats for milk. Everything we needed was stockpiled. Books lined our library. We could have survived down there for eighty-eight years. We could have ridden out Pig Flu. We could have survived.
That is, if my dad—Reginald Henry Day—hadn’t ruined it all.
My relationship with Reggie Day sucked, in that, it barely existed. He left us when I was five—four years before my mom joined Obviology—abandoning us for a project in Alaska of all places, never to be heard from again. I thought he was dead. My mom even held a funeral for him, albeit in our backyard on-camera for her show. It’s hard to grieve when a camera’s shooting up your nose. I didn’t shed a tear.
Maybe a polar bear ate him. Perhaps he fell through ice. Maybe he froze to death, his body temperature finally catching up with the iciness of his heart.
But we found a new family—with The Great O and the Church of Obviology. The outside world didn’t matter anymore. Only the Children of Obviology would survive.
Though Reggie Day had to mess that up, too—
First, I hear the chickens freaking out. Shrieking in high-pitched clucks. Banging about their cages. Then, the shattering of glass from the aquariums, and the sound of water gushing from their tanks. Hot smoke fills the room, stinging my eyes. “FBI! Surrender! Everyone on the ground, hands up!”
Outsiders breached the compound.
An Outsider in an FBI jacket grabs my arm, popping my shoulder. He binds my wrists with a zip tie and presses my face to the wet floor. Mere inches away, a tilapia frantically flaps around in vain for survival. The Outsider stabs my neck with a needle and suddenly, everything goes dark—
Turns out, Reginald Henry Day wasn’t dead—
I wake up in a sterile clinic, my arms bound to a hospital bed. I’m not alone. A man and a woman wearing lab coats huddle together, reviewing a clipboard. Through a hospital curtain to my right, I see the silhouette of a patient. She’s moaning. Her grunts turn into discernable calls. “Mom! Mom!”
The woman sighs, annoyed, then she sings in a sweet voice, “I’ll be right there, Riri!” Her features are petite and perfectly proportioned, like that of a china doll. She clicks her pen before tucking it in her lab coat pocket, above a nametag: Dr. M. Stinson. She looks at her watch and says to the man, in a lowered voice, “Where is that nurse? I paged her, what, fifteen minutes ago, already? I can’t stand putting her under myself.”
“I’ll follow up with her, Doc,” the man says.
Dr. Stinson disappears behind the curtain, while the man picks up a mint green rotary phone from a window ledge and dials a number.
I can see his profile from my hospital bed. That Herculean nose. Those dark, soulless eyes.
It’s my father.
“This is Reggie Day. Send Nurse Peters to the Youth Ward immediately. The patients are waking up. Don’t make Doc administer the sedatives herself. Frankly, she has better things to do.”
He hangs up.
I suck in air, loudly. He hears.
“Ah, my daughter,” he says, flatly, “Welcome to back to reality.”—
Before I know it, so much of my life’s changed. I’m in my father’s helicopter, paralyzed as I stare out the window. We fly over a mountain range. My ears pop due to the sudden change in elevation. Wisps of clouds obscure the view.
“Approaching our destination,” the pilot’s voice crackles in my headphone system, choppy with static.
I look down. Tiny rows and columns of cubes represent a village below, nestled in a snow-covered valley. I can make out homes, a church, a graveyard. No roads lead in or out of the village, though ant-sized cars putter on internal snaking roads. To the north of the village, cut off by a gushing river with a wood bridge, presides a grand, stone castle.
“Slug Brook Academy,” Reggie announces, proudly.
Reggie’s in a tailored suit, with a silk pocket square and silver cufflinks which blind my vision when they catch sunlight at the right angle. He clutches a Slug Academy brochure. I have one, too. I unfold it from my coat pocket.
The front of the brochure features four happy girls, arms linked, surrounded by fall trees. “Our distraction-free environment will propel your learning to new heights,” the brochure boasts.
Inside, it’s cheesier. It reads:
Retrain the brain to focus and absorb, with Slug Brook Academy’s no-electronics policy. Breathe in the crisp, mountain air. Dip your toes in the fresh, spring river water. Live and learn removed from the 5G network and electronic magnetic radiation. Charge yourself with your studies.
I crumple the brochure. I can’t believe I’m here. With Reginald Henry Day, the worst of the Outsiders. The Outsider who ruined it all.
“Slug Brook Academy’s safer than your mother’s doomsday cult. You’ll see,” Reggie says with a wink.
I cringe. I don’t believe him. I consider whether I can jump out of the helicopter and body roll to safety. Run back to the compound. I’ll die in this school. I know it.
But there’s no compound anymore. Reggie showed me the news clips. The FBI arrested The Great O, my mom, and thirty other adult Children of Obviology. The state took over the compound, marking it up with evidence tape, sending our goats and chickens to animal shelters, putting everything else in sealed evidence bags in contemplation of The Great O’s trial.
There’s no rational hope The Great O will save me now, though I still believe in my heart he’s my savior. There’s no stopping The Great Vision. No matter if The Great O is imprisoned. No matter what.
I see Slug Brook Academy as its own prison. I wonder what the food will be like—
Turns out, the food is fine. That’s another clue it’s Monday. On Mondays, breakfast is poached eggs and orange slices. I pick at an orange slice in the dining hall, while I read my Waiting for Godot playbook. Our second rehearsal is after lunch. I play Estragon, who’s a bit of dimwit, waiting around for this person who never shows up. I guess, kind of like me waiting for my dad to come back when I was a kid; kind of like me waiting for The Great O to save me from this hell, from the prison of Slug Brook Academy.
Morbidly, I understand Waiting for Godot. It’s about day after day of nothing happening, while waiting in vain for something to change.
Headmistress sits with a rigid, straight posture at the head table. She takes her spoon and cuts violently through the soft white of the egg. The yolk oozes out like pus from a popped pimple.
This school is drugging me. This is my latest theory. I spit out bits of chewed orange from my mouth into my napkin. That’s it. From now on, I won’t eat. Maybe that will help. I won’t protest. I’ll politely say, “I prefer not to,” when they serve me meals, like I’m Bartleby the Scrivener.
This place isn’t normal. This place is weird. It’s exists at the End of the Time. It’s not just a school. That much I know for sure.
What is this place? My theory is it’s a government facility. Have you heard of the Seed Vault? It’s this place in Norway where they’ve filed away all the world’s seeds in steel boxes in a building that looks like a computer processor. If the world is lit aflame, they think the Seed Vault will save them. Find the back-ups. Press reset.
Fools. Only The Great O can save you.
Consider this: Slug Brook Academy is a girls-only school. I bet there’s another boarding school, over a mountain top or two, like Slug Brook Academy but for teenage boys. They’ve separated the sexes. They’re keeping us holed up safe, like seeds in the Seed Vault. Should the human race get wiped out by Pig Flu, well, here we are, ready to go and make babies, repopulate the world.
It won’t work.
The Great Vision says Outsiders die, only those who follow The Great O live. Simple as that. Slug Brook Academy won’t keep us safe.
Go on to…Chapter Five