Realms Podcast
Adam's Apple Part III

Adam's Apple Part III

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Hello and welcome to Realms, a sci-fi and fantasy newsletter that lets you escape to new worlds every month, right from your inbox. 

My name is Zach and I’m the writer and reader of Realms. I am a game writer, fitness trainer, and novelist living in sunny Southern California.

Today’s story is special. It’s part III of III for my first serialized story. You can find part I here:

Read Adam's Apple Part I

And part II here:

Read Adam's Apple Part II

If you want to listen to parts I-III in one go, here’s the complete story:

Adam's Apple: The Complete Story

It’s also the first collaboration with another Substack. This story exists in the realm of The Blackwater Files, started by The Chronicler.

Explore this dark, brooding, and creepy universe and enjoy its many branching paths.

Welcome to the Blackwater project. The year is 2050, a near future, and a private pharmaceutical company is conducting an experiment to achieve immortality. They believe the key lies in the subconscious, the black waters of your mind.

Follow various characters as they navigate the darkest corners of their minds (the Undertow) through a pill administered by Elysium™. Each storyline is written by a different author—some with multiple episodes! Spend a little time with us, you will not be disappointed.

The Blackwater Files

Adam’s Apple Part III

I’m back at the ritual suicide site. I’m not seeing anything I haven’t looked at before. It’s been cleaned up, really well. Even the hole where the tree was taken is filled in too. The survey drone is circling, looking for anything. It’s foggy here. Cold up in these hills. I never did like winter in these parts. Too gray. Too cold.

Found something. Machine tracks leading away from the site. Motorcycle. ATV. Maybe a truck. Let me get the WarHorse and find out.

All right. Tracks are leading me out the other side of the orchard, toward a set of hills. Hope it’s not far. Night’s falling. Don’t want to be out here too long. Just checked my battery levels…And it’s not good. I could get stranded out here, but I don’t want to stop uploading. I need it all to be there. To matter. Maybe someone can finish the job if I—well—when, at this point. I’m not feeling myself. My skin’s on fire. My ears are ringing. When I touch my skin, I feel something roiling underneath. My joints hurt. It’s getting harder to focus. 

Either I’m suddenly ninety years old or that apple is changing me. Into what? A Daughter of Adam, one of them would say

If that wasn’t enough, my scintillator’s detecting high levels of neutron and gamma radiation. It’s getting stronger. Not quite deadly to me, but who knows? In the near distance, I can see the huge factory buildings that have long housed various facilities. 

Tracks are leading around a hill. Let’s see what it’s hiding. 

I’ve found a cave. Not just any cave. A man-made subterranean facility. Definitely federal-spec. Looks like Quantico. I’ve also found a sign: [REDACTED] Facility for the Treatment of [REDACTED]. A whole place just for treating ailments from the former federal facility? And now that it’s not theirs…does this belong to Elysium or the cultists? Or both? 

I’m not seeing any guards in the little surveillance booth. I’m checking for local networks. There’s nothing here, though. Shielded, probably, from my sensors. Once I get inside, I’ll have to be careful. Highly likely they already know I’m here. 

I’m taking the rifle, Lev, just FYI. If anyone comes looking for my body, you can trace the rifle signature. Going silent for a little bit.

There’s an old, broken road through the facility. I’ve been following it for awhile. Just goes deeper and deeper. Radiation’s staying steady. I see something up ahead. A sort of station building. No one around, though, thank God. Those cultists will be coming after me, I keep thinking. When they get here, will I already be like Sheriff Kevin? What’s the final stage of this…abomination I’m becoming?

Shit. Gotta stay focused, Jordan. 

In the office, now. Lots of file cabinets here. I’ll upload my scans. 

There’s some damning evidence here. Could ruin or make our careers, Lev. Your career, anyway. This is the site of a huge federal fuckup. Bigger than the Bay of Pigs or that Gonorrhea study or the Iranian Coup of ’28. [REDACTED] was nuclear contamination that killed ninety-nine percent of staff at the factory here. They set up this whole “Treatment Center” to hide what happened. And not to help these people. To experiment on them. They got such high levels of radiation that their DNA and I quote, “became like a potter’s clay, ready to be molded into new shapes.”


A thousand people were held here until they died. And then…Oh, Lev, this is serious. And this is just my devilishly good hunch. They kept hiding it all. Think of it: a thousand radioactive bodies need a lot of land to get rid of them. A mass grave. A mass grave that needs to be hidden. What better way to hide it in plain sight? A native burial ground. An orchard growing delicious, lovely, all-American apples. But the radiation wouldn’t go away…would it? What would happen to all those trees growing through all that mutated flesh?  What would it do to the apples?

Someone’s here. A vehicle’s coming. Setting up to defend myself. 

They kept driving. I’m following now. I’m seeing other roads every fifty meters leading to other stations and buildings. It’s big, but not sprawling. Like an underground hospital. I’ve passed a psych ward, a soccer field, a cafeteria, an oncology department, radiation testing, DNA lab, and patient quarters that look like the most miserable barracks of all time. 

The truck’s heading for the “Solarium” according to the signs. In the scope, I spied three people in the truck and ten people in the bed. A few I recognized from the church. I thought about taking fire on them, to be honest. Just to neutralize the threat. Maybe that’s the soldier in me. This whole thing has really brought out my bad side. I don’t want to be the mad dog. That’s why me and you…wait sorry. Not you. My husband. What’s his name again? What’s his name? Why can’t I remember…

Sorry. Had to stop recording. I’m losing my memory. Stuff is just gone. My husband’s name. The state I was born in. Who my first kiss was with. It’s not fuzzy, it’s erased. I can’t remember why…Who was I fighting with? Shit. Not you and me, Lev. Me and my hubby. Who loves me. Who cooks for me. Who puts up with my late-night comings and goings, with my long missions. He didn’t want to put up with the mad dog anymore.

Sorry to say, she’s all who’s going to be left soon.

Maybe I’m not sorry. Not at all. You didn’t love me for who I was. You never understood what I had to fucking do. I was the first and last defense of our country. Our people! Duty means something to me. You didn’t understand because you were born with everything. I came from the other side of things. Bowing, scraping, fighting, training, studying, killing myself just to edge out the competition. 

Here I am, again, protecting soft people like you from the dark side of life. 

Can’t keep thinking about you. I have a job to do. 

I think I lost my mind for a second. I feel like I just woke up from a nightmare just as I’m stepping into another. The truck is parked outside a large gate with a side door. It looks like a bulkhead on a spaceship. There’s no sign of the people. I’m opening the door. 

Who’s there?

FBI! Hands in the air!

You can’t be here! 


She’s down. She’s…dead. God. She’s so young. What’s wrong with this place? What’s wrong with me? I’m going deeper. 

You bastard, you wanted me to leave! You wanted me to die out here! You…

Oh, my head. I don’t know where I am. I just, sort of, woke up inside the solarium.  It’s an entire forest in a greenhouse structure that must be forty feet underground. It’s warm. There’s a lot of light. Too much foliage. It’s overgrown. I hear footsteps running toward the entrance. I’m hiding, I…

You’re all under arrest! You’re all criminals and traitors to this country! I pass judgment, here and now! Death!



What’s happening?

Followed their footprints deeper into the Solarium. Have to keep going. Have to get away from myself. But you can never get away from yourself or anyone or your mistakes. 

I hear singing, now. It’s quite beautiful. It’s soothing to the screaming in my ears. It used to be just ringing but now it’s screaming, Lev. Tell my husband the tinnitus was better than the screaming. 

There’re stacks of rotting cherry and oak trees piled up everywhere. They must’ve felled a hundred to make room for apple trees. New plantings, sprouts, saplings. Are these the trees that grow the cult fruit? What did they call them? Apples of Grace. The singing is closer. It’s haunting. It’s beautiful. It’s a hymn of some sort. There’s a lot of voices. They’re humming, too.

…in the harvests we are sharing,

God's will is done.

For the harvests of the Spirit,

thanks be to God;

for the good we all inherit,

thanks be to God;

for the wonders that astound us,

for the truths that still confound us,

most of all that the New Adam found us,

thanks be to God.

I can see them: about fifty people standing in concentric circles around a tree. They’re all raising their hands. Wait…now they’re collapsing. En masse. In ecstasy? From drugs? I can see one man in the middle. The reverend. He’s holding branch trimmers. The humming is still going.

He’s walking toward the nearest person…he’s…cutting their throat. Oh my God. He’s placing an apple there. I need to stop him, I need…

[Low groaning.]

Jesus! What? The tree just…oh my God. There’s a human face in the wood. It’s…it’s humming the melody of the hymn. It’s got no eyes in its sockets. It’s not a person. The apples…turn the people into trees? Somehow that’s not very terrifying. It’s kind of hilarious. I could make so many puns—

You always wanted me to set down roots. You always wanted me to branch out. You told me I was rotten to the core. You hated me you hated me you hated me you—

Get a grip, Jordan. The pastor’s killing people here.

Hey! FBI!

Daughter! Welcome. Welcome. You’re taking to the Grace well. I can see the bark growing. Do you feel God revealing truth to you? Is he speaking?

I’m going stark mad here, you prick. Your little fruit is destroying me. Don’t you know I have a life? People who care about me? 

Put the gun down. You’ve prematurely sent too many of the flock to God. He grants them greater mercies for their suffering…but you, he will judge with a finer eye. He is judging you now. Are you not in pain? Are your mortal memories slipping away?

Yes they are. But that’s beside the point. Put those cutters down. Tell me who you are and what this is about.

Is it not obvious? I exist to guide the Sons and Daughters of Adam into paradise. 

How long have you been at this, hm? How long have you been destroying people?

There is no destruction here, only resurrection. I’ve been serving the New Adam for a decade. Long has it taken to get here. I have you to thank, of course, for advancing our work. We would not have had so many converts if you had not arrived. I had foretold of a wolf among the flock for some time. 

Doesn’t take a prophet to predict the FBI showing up after a mass…What is that?

Ah! The New Adam has decided to bless you with a visitation. 

I don’t know what that means. What I’m seeing is a body breaking itself out of that tree behind you. Is that…is he?

The first Son who ate of the tree. Long ago, there were two trees. Man ate of one and knew death. Now, we eat of another and know life. 

You stay right there! Both of you! I— 


No! How could you! How dare you! I’ll kill you myself!


They’re down. The pastor. The thing from the tree. I’m walking through the field of bodies. 


You’re alive, reverend? Lucky. You are a lucky man. Let’s see this New Adam…

There’s a hollow in the tree where it came from. The thing itself is not human. Not anymore. It’s got arms and legs, but its skin is all bark. I shot it in the head and chest. There’s fluid leaking, like blood, but not the right color. It’s brown. Its head is all jagged bark and empty eye sockets. It’s still humming. Why is it humming? 

He will call them by their name and awaken them…

What’d you say?

Please, give me an apple. Let me join them!

Shut up! God! That humming!

Why are the trees humming? I—


Get away!

[Gun clicks.]

Shit! Get away! 

I’m not going to…they’re chasing…I…

End of transcript. 


Thank you for reading Adam’s Apple Part III. This was a really fun series to work on. Please share if you like this story!


Next month, we’ll be gearing up for a very special serialization: an entire novel. Yes. Realms is graduating to a new level of storytelling.

The Art of Human Joinery is one part Frankenstein retelling, one part steampunk, and one part romance that takes place in an alternate version of Portland, Oregon. Here’s the premise:

When her lover, Lilath, is found literally cut to pieces, Virginia's heart dies with her. But in a city where automatons roam and scientists build portals to the afterlife, anything is possible. Lilath will be her Lazarus.

Virginia makes unlikely and fast friends in her pursuit of the tools and miracles she needs to make this miracle happen: an old Japanese woman with a sacred art, a wealthy widow, and even Virginia’s anarchist ex-lover. She knows her illegal experiments put everyone's lives in the crosshairs of the brutal secret police, the PRB, but she's willing to be monstrous in the pursuit of love.

Virginia must navigate these dangerous waters while violent war between the anarchists and the oppressive government threatens to drench Portland in blood, requiring everyone to choose a side or escape. Virginia will weave her own path through the uprising, making herself useful to both sides until she can get what she needs. But when everyone's taken their pound of flesh, what will be left of her?

Virginia hopes there will be something left for whatever happens next, whether Lilath walks on this side of life or is lost to death forever.

Subscribe today to get the first chapter of The Art of Human Joinery in your inbox next month!

Until next time, Realm Walkers, I’m Zach and you’re reading Realms.

Realms Podcast
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