Hollow Moon Part 3
- Hollow Moon Part 1
- Hollow Moon Part 2
- Hollow Moon Part 3
- Hollow Moon Part 4
- Hollow Moon Part 5
- Hollow Moon Part 6
- Hollow Moon Part 7
- Hollow Moon Part 8
- Hollow Moon Part 9
- Hollow Moon Part 10
- Hollow Moon Part 11
- Hollow Moon Part 12
- Hollow Moon Part 13
- Hollow Moon Part 14
- Hollow Moon Part 15
- Hollow Moon Part 16
- Hollow Moon Part 17
- Hollow Moon Part 18
- Hollow Moon Part 19
- Hollow Moon Part 20
- Hollow Moon Part 21
- Hollow Moon Part 22
- Hollow Moon Part 23
- Hollow Moon Part 24
- Hollow Moon Part 25
- Hollow Moon Part 26
- Hollow Moon Part 27
- Hollow Moon Part 28
- Hollow Moon Part 29
- Hollow Moon Part 30
- Hollow Moon Part 31
- Hollow Moon Part 32
- Hollow Moon Part 33
- Hollow Moon Part 34
Sam awoke with sunlight streaming through the cabin window. He had left the window open but did not remember doing so. Edging himself up onto one elbow in his bed, he realized that he had a splitting headache and the pit of his stomach ached for food. Empty beer bottles surrounded his feet when he swung his legs out of bed toward the floor. He did not remember much—maybe that was for the better. Sam pulled on a pair of dirty indigo jeans and headed out to the living room to see if Esk was there. Esk was snoring peacefully away in his recliner.
Esk’s olfactory senses were stimulated by an intriguing combination of smells that woke him. The first smell that he recognized was smoke. He leaped out of the recliner, yelling Sam’s name, using his echolocation senses to locate his friend in the kitchen. The beeping smoke alarm went silent behind him. Esk turned to find Sam holding a nine-volt battery, smiling. “Happens ev’ry time I cook fried eggs n’ toast. I should just leave the battery out a’ the thing, I guess, but I put it back in when I’m done cookin’ in case somethin’ real bad happens in here. Yer breakfast is on the table, there.” Sam pointed, and Esk again wondered if he could assimilate this planet’s food. He decided to try.
Esk sat down at the table and wondered what the folded white cloth was next to the oddly shaped tools that humans used to eat with. He had no idea how to go about “eating” like a human, then waited for Sam to finish his own breakfast preparations. When Sam sat down across from him, Esk asked, “How does one eat such a thing?”
“What? Ain’t you ever had dippin’ eggs b’fore? Lord, I tell you what, Esk, it seems like you was raised by wolves sometimes. Here, lemme show ya’.” Sam poked the egg yolk with the tine of his fork, sending the dark yellow fluid oozing out. He then stuck a piece of buttered toast in the amber goo and made sure he rubbed it around in it before slurping up a bite. “See, Esk? This here is how ya’ eat ‘em. Ya’ just smother the toast in the yolk and then use the fork t’cut up the egg white and eat it after ya’ get done with yer toast and yolk. Or you could make a sandwich a’the whole thing if ya’ want. Either way is good, but my momma always fixed ‘em this way, an’ I sure do love me some skillet-fried eggs sunny-side up.”
Esk picked up the tool that Sam had used to puncture the skin of the egg yolk with, proceeding to rub a piece of toast in the slime. A drop of sweat formed on his brow as he raised it to his oral cavity and inserted it. He turned the food around in his mouth, not sure what to do. Esk had seen Sam work his jaw up and down and decided to imitate the movement. The experiment worked, and the food began to dissolve in his enzyme-infested mouth. The next task was to swallow. Sweat was rolling off Esk’s forehead now as he worked up the courage to take the next step. He swallowed hard with a gulp. Now it was time to wait. It would be only a short time before he would know whether or not the assimilation of human food was possible for his system.
A half an hour later, Esk felt no ill effects from the food he had consumed and decided that he could indeed assimilate at least one variety of human food. Pleased with the knowledge he now possessed, he asked Sam how often they would have “breakfast.” Sam said with a chuckle, “Why, Esk, you can have breakfast all day every day if ya’ want to. Here, I’ll show ya’ how t’cook up some eggs like we had. Ya’ liked ‘em the way my momma cooked ‘em, huh? Well, I’m glad. Folks down at the diner look at me funny when I order ‘em and then eat ‘em like I do, but now we can go to the diner, and both a’ us can eat ‘em that way.” Sam walked Esk through the steps of cracking the eggs, heating up the iron skillet, cooking the eggs just right, and toasting the bread. Esk watched his every movement and committed the process to memory. He would tell the Council how to make dippin’ eggs and toast in his next report, along with the knowledge that this meal could be assimilated by their kind.
The Gossips gathered at the church a few nights later—Wednesday evening—to discuss their business during their Bible study. The head Gossip, who did happen to be the Reverend’s wife, presented the devotional as business discussions continued in hushed tones and whispers amongst the other Gossips.
“Ahem,” the head Gossip cleared her throat, “are y’all finished so that we can do a proper study o’ the Good Book, now? What ‘er ya’ll jabberin’ ‘bout, anyways?”
The Gossips looked sheepishly at her from dark eyes sunken behind years of stress, turmoil, age, and, yes, wrinkles. They all squirmed uncomfortably as if worms were crawling beneath their seats that they were trying to avoid. Eventually, one of them would speak if Jean Bandersnatch waited long enough in silence. One of them always confessed.
“Oh, Miss Jean, it’s just that, well, we all feel real bad ‘bout what happened with poor Sam Wilkins the other day at church. We think he might’a overheard some of what we was sayin’ about him bein’ a girly-man and such, an’ maybe the poor boy ain’t never comin’ back t’church. Why maybe he’s even gonna go to hellfire and brimstone fer all eternity ‘cause of us!” whined Mrs. Brimhoff.
Jean Bandersnatch, wife of the honorable Reverend Bandersnatch, would have none of it. “Now ya’ll listen here. What Sam Wilkins does before the Lord is his business, but when he brings it to church with ‘im, then it becomes my business, and all o’ yours, too. Ya’ hear me? We gotta protect the Lord’s House from desecration, no matter who’s a’bringin’ it in. Amen?”
A collective and lively response of “Amen!” was heard amongst the women, who then continued their Bible study without further talk about Sam, his friend, or anyone else for that matter. The head Gossip had gotten her way again. She was highly satisfied in having done so. The hypocrite knew she had to keep iron control over the rest of the women of the congregation, or they would wander into the arms of Satan himself. Only she could save them from such a fate—of this, she was sure, and she made simple work of it.
“Sam, who is the Chief?”
“Chief of what?” Sam had a puzzled look on his face.
“The Chief Gossip, who poisoned you last night and made you sorry that you took me to ‘church service.’ Tell me who the Gossips’ leader is, and I will punish them.”
“Esk, there ain’t no Chief Gossip. They all take turns. If there’s a leader, I told ya’ last night that it’s the preacher’s wife.”
“Then she must pay.”
“Pay? Fer what? Sayin’ some things ‘bout me that ain’t so an’ holdin’ me up at the back o’ the church while I was tryin’ t’leave?”
“Yes. Where do I find this Preacher’s-Wife Chief Gossip, Sam? Please tell me so that I can protect you.”
Sam tried to explain to Esk that the Gossips were just a bunch of old church ladies and a few men who were bored and had nothing better to do than talk about the affairs of others. He told Esk that there was no reason to believe anything that they said. He added that ignoring them was the best thing they could do to stop them. Esk would not have it.
“What’re ya’ gonna do when ya’ find this ‘Chief Gossip,’ Esk?” asked Sam, his shoulders and arms dropping limp to his sides.
“I am going to train her to tell the truth and not to attempt to harm you anymore, Sam.”
“And just how d’ya’ figure yer gonna get that done? Torture?”
“Perhaps,” Esk said coolly, turning toward the door. “I will return to my recliner tonight, Sam. Do not worry.” The cabin door creaked shut behind him, leaving Sam to wonder what on earth just happened…or was going to happen.
Reverend Bandersnatch’s wife was almost finished with Bible study for the evening when Deacon Pritchard snuck in the back chapel door. With a wink, he stole into the pastor’s office and shut the door ever so discreetly as not to alert anyone to his presence. Jean simply curled her lips into a sly grin, and no one was the wiser. Old Mrs. Fink gave the final prayer over the matter. The ladies were adjourned for the evening to go back home to their “gentlemen husbands” who were partaking of a liquor of some sort by this time for sure. Once the last lady bade farewell to Mrs. Bandersnatch, she carefully closed and locked the church doors. Turning on her heel, as she was known to do, she ran into Deacon Pritchard, falling sideways into his chest.
“Jean, I thought I’d surprise you with these,” the church officer said, producing a bouquet of a dozen red roses from behind his back.
“Oh, Lawrence, they’re beautiful! However, did ya’ get ‘em in here without me noticin’?” she asked, looking up into his deeply set hazel eyes. They embraced intimately and awkwardly. They made their way to the Reverend’s office, stepping over discarded clothing items every few feet. A surprise awaited both of them in the darkness of the preacher’s den, though—one that they would never forget.
The next thing that Jean Bandersnatch and Deacon Pritchard knew, they were strapped naked, side-by-side, to cold slabs of a naturally pale metal. Deacon Pritchard yanked helplessly at the straps holding him to the crude flat table. Meanwhile, the good Reverend’s wife began screaming and crying hysterically, her makeup running in black rivulets down her cheeks. Several men marched through the door of the otherwise unfurnished room. They wore white scrub suits and appeared to be clones of one another. Jean pleaded with them to let her go, swearing by Almighty God that it was all Deacon Pritchard’s fault. She claimed that he had seduced her and that she had no choice but to continue the relationship despite her husband’s supposed ignorance. Deacon Pritchard stopped struggling and gave Mrs. Bandersnatch an incredulous look. This was followed by staring at the clones with wide eyes and mouth agape. He could not offer a retort. There would be, the couple would soon find out, no need for either of them to offer one.
Image by Chouaib Saoud via Pixabay