A work of serial fiction by Noah Sanders
Silas couldn’t open his eyes. He no longer had any. He no longer had anything. He no longer was anything. He had evaporated, had exploded into a million pieces, each of which had exploded into a million more. He, they, had spun up through the air, dissipating across and into the cloud that had absorbed him.
His body was gone. But his mind was not. He was communicating with something. He could not hear anything, but he could feel it. He could feel a presence. The red light was gone. Silas could not see. But its slow, pulsating rhythm was still there. He could feel it reaching out to him, surrounding him and passing through him. Then suddenly he stopped feeling. He began to understand. He was being asked questions. Someone or something was looking for answers. And they, it, had chosen Silas to provide them.
His world was the questions. Inside of them there was nothing else. There was no time, no feeling, no substance. There were only questions that appeared to him from nowhere and answers he willed and projected.
Then he was done. There were no more questions to be asked and no more answers for him to give. Slowly, something came into shape. A haze condensed into dots, dots turned into lines, lines connected in a plane. A toenail turned into a toe, a foot. Atom by atom, Silas came back into shape.
He opened his eyes. He found himself lying on his back in a cornfield, naked and staring up at a blue, cloudless sky. He was not confused. For the first time in his life, he knew exactly what he needed to do.
Farmer Wilson’s true and full name was Arthur Jacob Wilson. But nobody called him that, not at least for forty-three years, not since his father, Arthur Louis Wilson, had died in a tragic – but not all that uncommon – manure pumping accident and Farmer Wilson, then twenty-two, inherited the farm from his father, along with the responsibility of breadwinner and caretaker for a pair of twin sisters and the laziest bloodhound east of the Mississippi (as Arthur Louis Wilson begrudgingly – and lovingly – called him).
Losing their father was tough on both Farmer Wilson and his sisters, but the death of their mother seven years earlier had taught all three of them a thing or two about life after death. In fact, Farmer Wilson was viewed with a certain amount of respect by the other members of his community for the silence and speed with which he both accepted and stepped into his father’s role. It was because of that respect that the members of his community looked the other way – said, “Well, we all do odd things every now and then ourselves,” – when Farmer Wilson began to, as the members of his community later called it, crack.
For 43 years, Farmer Wilson and his two sisters-cum-daughters lived a good life. Farmer Wilson worked the land, growing just enough for them to eat and a little extra to sell on the side, and Angie and Harriet (his sisters-cum-daughters) cooked, cleaned, and kept him company. His father had taught him the importance of family, and Farmer Wilson was proud of the life he, Angie, and Harriet had built. He thought his father would be too.
Howe, Illinois, where Farmer Wilson, Angie, and Harriet lived (along with three of the laziest great-grand puppies of the laziest blood hound east of the Mississippi) was a relatively religious community. Although it only boasted a population of 1,287 (US Census, 2010), it somehow managed to support a whopping six churches: the Lutheran Church of Hope, the United Church of Christ, the First United Church of Christ, the Original United Church of Christ, the First Ukrainian Ascension Church, and, despite general confusion and many well organized, community-wide protests, the Church of Christ’s Sandals and Other Fine Leather Goods (which most are quick to point out is really more of a store than a church).
It was for this reason, the acceptance of a certain type of religious enthusiasm, that no one noticed when Farmer Wilson first hung a sheet from his house painted with the big red words: “GOD IS REAL.”
The next sheet, hung alongside the first, read: “HE IS A MAN.” This, too, no one paid attention to. It was somewhat out of character for Farmer Wilson to be so suddenly vocal about his convictions, but remember, he was a respected member of the community, and it was agreed upon by all, except perhaps the Sandalites (as they proudly called themselves), that what was written on the sheets was in fact true.
It was the last two sheets that caused the uproar and, eventually, prompted the article in the Howe County Star. Taken all together, the four sheets hanging from Farmer Wilson’s house, written in letters large enough for any car driving east on County Road 1750 to see from at least a football field away, stated the following:
“GOD IS REAL. HE IS A MAN. I FOUND HIM. NAKED IN MY FIELD.”
When asked by the Howe County Star about the start of his cult, Farmer Wilson described sitting on his porch watching a cloud appear in the sky:
“Clouds are either there or they’re not. But you never see them just turn up. That’s what this one did, and that’s why I was watching it. First the sky was blue, hot and blue, the type of blue that’s so bright and deep you wonder how it will ever turn black again come night. And then the cloud just sort of started appearing. It faded in slowly, like it was far away somewhere I couldn’t see and was floating closer and closer to me. And it didn’t stop. It just kept on coming, kept getting bigger and closer until it came all the way from the sky down to the ground. It sat there for a moment or two and then it just disappeared, same way it had come. So I stood up, yelled to the girls I’d be back in a little, and marched off to see what that had been all about. That’s where I found him. And it’s not a cult.”
Silas could not be reached for comment.
Four days before Farmer Wilson’s interview with the Howe County Star, Silas had packed up what little he owned – clothing and a toothbrush, all donated generously by Farmer Wilson, Angie, and Harriet – walked out to County Road 1750, and hopped in the first car willing to stop for him.
Since his discovery in the field, Farmer Wilson had been nothing but nice to Silas. He had fed Silas and housed him. He had even clothed him, despite Silas’s polite protestations, in his best overalls and a pair of brand new, steel-toed leather boots. In return, Silas put up for as long as he could with his hosts’ unfailing, unquestioning loyalty and praise. He put up with their sunrise worship sessions, their breakfast sing-alongs, and their hourly confessionals to, well, Silas. He put up with the sheets Farmer Wilson hung from his house and the daily re-creations of the moment Silas was found (re-creations that required Silas to play the lead role). He even put up with the fact that Farmer Wilson had started recording Silas whenever he could, had placed tape recorders around the house to help him write what he was calling the foundational text in his brand new and undeniably true religion (not a cult).
Silas put up with all of that for as long as he could. When it finally got to be too much, three days after his discovery in the field, Silas, clad in crisp new overalls and shiny leather boots, left Farmer Wilson, Angie, Harriet, and the rest of Howe, Illinois behind. Out of a not totally irrational fear that they would try to follow him, Silas didn’t even say goodbye to his gracious, devoted hosts, but slipped out, between after-lunch prayer and mid-day scripture discussion (the scripture being, at such an early point in the religion, just a recording of Silas’s voice). Silas, of course, knew exactly where he was going; he had known his destination since the moment he opened his eyes, naked in Farmer Wilson’s field.
To be continued…
DONATE Are you enjoying Somewhere Else? Please consider donating to help make ‘Fiction Friday’ a thing.