Realms Podcast
Adams Apple: The Complete Story

Adams Apple: The Complete Story

Jordan's Story Parts I-III

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.

Adam’s Apple is special. It’s my first serialized story. This is the complete story, put together for your convenience.

Adam’s Apple is my first collaboration with another Substack. This story exists in the realm of The Blackwater Files, started by The Chronicler.

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 I









This first-hand report details the origins of the delivery agents used to transmit [REDACTED] directly into cell DNA via RNA manipulation. For details on the chemistry, please see INTERIOR LAB PUBLICATION 12.A. 

To be clear, this report exists only in Elysium’s archives. Officially, all FBI records during the Ohio Rebellion were destroyed. 



Geotag: [REDACTED]

Agent: Jordan Adhikary

Agent Supervisor: Lev [REDACTED]

Hey Lev, just checking in. I arrived at [REDACTED] around 6 p.m. My hotel is going to give me bedbugs, but that’s to be expected. I can’t imagine there’re more than two people running this place. Cleanliness isn’t a priority anymore. Just happy to be off the roads. St. Louis is a hellhole now, the roads shot to bits. No one got ahold of me, thank God. I’m happy to report that the WarHorse XC is a capable machine. (I’m writing this so you can tell your pals at the DOD. The military should buy a million of these things.) 

Nothing good to eat within a ten-mile radius here. Happy I brought hubby’s cooking. Don’t know the next time I’ll get food this good. I know I’m not supposed to include semantic details like this, but they’ll get cut out by the AI anyway. I guess I’m nervous. First solo mission. First mass murder case. Potentially a murder-suicide, based on the details.

Going to get some rest. I’ll be going into town tomorrow to meet the local sheriff, then see the murder site. 

Damn, these dumplings are good. I love you, honey.

Shit, not supposed to record that. 

I’m at a local diner that’s serving burgers and shakes and pies like it’s eighty years prior. Place looks brand new. Chrome everywhere. Real leather chairs. The black and white checkered tiles polished to an almost offensive shine. God, I hate these tiles. Here comes the sheriff. He’s in a khaki getup, leather belt, hard black revolver. No energy weapons or smart guns. This town hasn’t advanced to the twenty-first century… 

Hey, Sheriff! Over here.

Hi there. You can call me Kevin. You didn’t wait long, did ya?

No, no, of course not. I’m always too early for my appointments. Old habit. Anyway, I’m Special Agent Adhikary. And before we begin discussing the case, I have to inform you that our conversation is being recorded. FBI policy. Helps us keep track of everything. I don’t have to inform you, but I want to. 

I understand. I ain’t got nothing to hide…but some folk won’t like that at all. And, to tell you the truth, we really didn’t think anyone would take notice of what happened here, specially with the war on…

This sort of case is high on our priority list. Can’t have strange mass deaths like this going on within the United States. At least those states still with us. But enough about that…tell me about yourself.

Well…uh, I been sheriff here for bout twenty years. My daddy was sheriff, too. And, might I say, it’s mighty dangerous for a woman to be out cross-country solo. You come through St. Louis?

You’re sweet for asking. I did go through St. Louis. I did have some trouble. Actually, they had some trouble with me.

I’m sure they did. Your machine there sure looks like hell on two wheels. Well, I don’t want to waste time. This thing we got here is grisly. Worst thing I ever come across in my career. Here, watch the drone footage.

Wow, these are high-res. Police drone?

Yep. We don’t got fancy androids like you do, but we got a top-of-the-line drone.

I believe it. Okay, so what do we have here? An enormous apple grove. Lots of fruit on those trees, still, despite the season. Okay, here’s the crime scene. There you are, Kevin, with your deputies. And now the bodies. A ring of them lying with their feet around a deep excavation, where a tree once stood. They’re naked. Why? I see signs of being dead for some time. Bloating. Tissue decay. The smell must have been atrocious. They’re men and women, all adults, among the deceased. Their throats are cut. Can you zoom in there? Yes, every one of their throats had been hacked open as if with giant scissors, making a diamond shape from their chin to the nape of their neck. Almost like another mouth. Is that the cause of death, Kevin?

Overdose on sleeping pills, all of ‘em.

So the wounds…


I see. So these people have been poisoned or poisoned themselves, and had their throats opened up later. They died there, in a circle. This looks planned. Ritualistic. I’m sorry to say, but I gotta see it, Sheriff.

Sure thing, miss. I’ll have my partner take you out there.

Why not yourself?

I…can’t. My neighbor, Sherry, was—

I understand.

I really can’t believe they sent one of you out here. It’s…surprising. It’s really not necessary, I don’t think.

Kevin, can I be honest here? You look a little pale. Will there be a jurisdiction issue?

Not from me. Though…I’d just be careful round here. Small town, you know? Outsiders, Feds or no, ain’t usually welcome.

If it goes well, we’ll have this solved in no time and I’ll be back East. 

I’m recording live from the incident site. Sat uploads aren’t working now, so the timestamp will be incorrect. Sheriff’s deputy, Jameson, led me about ten miles out of town. The apple orchard is huge and tucked away, closer to [REDACTED] than [REDACTED]. This part of Indiana has [REDACTED], making it easy to hide anything from orchards to stills. I think they made moonshine around these parts. Probably do, to this day.

It’s quiet here. Something’s spooked the birds and critters. I’m noting this because I’m slightly freaked out. I don’t know why I was sent here without a partner agent. I get that a rebellion and budget discrepancies are more important than my life, that’s government jobs for you. It’s just…I’m a few shades darker than most folk around here, and that’s more than enough for people in these parts to get up to no good. 

I digress. We’re approaching the site the Sheriff showed me in the drone footage. The bodies are gone, which is something he left out. The deputy doesn’t seem surprised. He seems aloof. There’s the hole where the tree was dug out. Inspecting it, the tree was removed professionally. Recently. The earth is still wet. I’m seeing something shocking: bones, a skull, human remains. They look like they’ve been here awhile. 

Deputy! Can you explain this?

Sure. This orchard’s planted over a mass grave from ye olden times. Settlers and the like. Don’t know which one, but these are the bodies of a once-local tribe. 

How lovely. So, we’ve got a mass suicide. A mass grave. A missing tree. A sacred tree, of sorts. All signs point to organized and possibly religious behavior. I’ll have to dig up more history later. Thanks, Deputy. 

I think we got ourselves a C-word. Wish you were here for it, Lev. You always had the stomach for the grisly shit. My hubby’s not going to like this one when I can tell him about it.

Okay. Finally got sat reception. Wish I hadn’t checked the news. Rebels took Detroit today. They’re getting support from Canadians, of all people. 

A couple new people are staying at the motel. A couple of old gas Harley’s sitting in the parking lot. Do people still ride to Sturgis? Don’t know. Makes me curious. Possibly paranoid. Gotta trust that feeling, like you always say, Lev. 

Digging into this area, I’m finding out a lot of interesting things. One, there was a huge [REDACTED] plant, making [REDACTED], and it went under in the late Eighties. Our beloved federal government saved it and transferred production to make [REDACTED]. That plant was shut down when the groundwater was coming up highly radioactive. It was all hushed up, though. That orchard’s not one mile from the old plant. Maybe everyone here’s a bit loose in the head from it. Even from our records, no cancer cases were reported. Means it was way worse than anyone could have predicted. 

No records of extremist activity around here, religious or otherwise. Not even the KKK has a presence, which O-K-K-K with me. Ha! Sorry.

I’m not seeing reports of any other suicides or murders. A clean county, by all accounts. Some reports of drunkenness, and yes, moonshine. But nothing else. It’s going to be tough to crack this town open. I’m a fed to them. I need some sort of connection. Something that…huh. I got it. 

But first, I gotta find the spices hubby sent with me. They’ll make this totally real cheese hot pocket taste like something. I’m feeling a little homesick.

At least there’s Shrimp Crisps™ EXTRA SHRIMPY in the vending machine.

I went to church. 

Yes, actual white Jesus church. 

I got a lot out of it. For one, I got to hear how Adam and Eve represent the perfect relationship. Still not sure how the pastor got there, but whatever. Second, I got a huge bag of apples. A sort of welcome packet from the pastor himself. Third, I got a lot of strange looks and gringo pleasantries. Surprisingly, no one asked where I’m really from. Maybe this place is better than its reputation?

I learned several important things that concern me. Most concerning is that the bikers at the motel are definitely there to watch me. Not sure who they’re affiliated with. We did not exchange “biker formalities” in the parking lot, as expected. They were cold to me. Then, the pair of them, whom I’m calling Big and Hefty, proceeded to stare at me the entire service. It wasn’t until I slipped away to the bathroom and found a way to get a good look at them that I saw what was on their jackets.

A huge patch of a tree with skulls hanging from it instead of, I’m guessing, apples. Its roots are in the shape of a human body lying face up, its back arched. Strange, right? I asked Sheriff Kevin about them. He said they’re out-of-towners. I pointed out the apple patch. He paled, Lev, literally paled and suggested that maybe they’re fans of apples. It’s not the first time he’s paled in my presence.

The next important and concerning thing is that many next of kin of the deceased were at the church service. The pastor listed all ten names and those close to them stood to receive a prayer. I’d say about half of the congregation stood. Plenty of people to interview, yes? 

No. No one would speak to me except the Sheriff. I followed up with him about his dead neighbor and he started crying. Maybe I came on too strong about it, as you tell me I tend to do. There I was, with a bag of apples, the town sheriff—a pillar of the community—bawling his eyes out, everyone staring at me including Big and Hefty. I don’t know when I’d felt so unwelcome before like I was some foreign host injected into a body. In this case, the body of Christ. 

Sorry, couldn’t help it. 

I changed tactics. I lingered until most people mosey’d on to Sunday brunch or whatever. I spoke with the pastor. He was cordial and warm, but not forthcoming. I got the feeling he was protecting his people, but from what threat? My hubby warned me something like this could happen in a place like this.

I changed tactics again, though I knew it was liable to get me in trouble. I walked around town until I found the local park. I did the routine, pretending to look for my lost ten-dollar bill. Got a couple kids to speak with me. They told me two things:

1. Don’t eat the apples.

2. Get out.

How’s that for progress?

Adam’s Apple Part II

I’ve been up all night. How can I sleep? It’s too cold, and I think the bedbugs got to me because my head is itching like crazy. I guess I’m waiting to keel over or feel something in my chest and watch it explode or something gross like that. I’ve called in the SOS. Won’t know if anyone’s coming to my rescue for at least an hour. I’m betting not. At least the server sats are working. I’m uploading everything to the servers now, in case something happens. In case something happens…Ok please don’t delete this next part, Lev, this is for my husband. 

Please don’t hold it against me that we had a fight and I got an assignment and I didn’t stay. Please know I want to work it out. I will work it out. When I get out of here, alive and well. Yes, I’m being delusional as always. Yes, I have your favorite mortar and pestle and all the good spices. No, I’m not sorry about that. But everything else…? Consider this: I’m a BFI (big fucking idiot). But I’m your BFI. No one else’s. Forever yours. 

[Breathes, sobs.] 

Back to the job.

Okay I’m going in like Lois Lane here. Recorder is gonna be on the whole time, with that and the uplink on the WarHorse, my batteries are gonna drain fast.

First, I’m getting answers. I know two bikers that would love to talk to me. I’m going to be doing very illegal things on here, from now on. So, Lev, make sure you make it sound like I’m telling them jokes or tickling them instead of…what I’m actually going to do. I need to do it. I don’t think I have time for the long game. Here I go. Taser at the ready.

[Boots walking on pavement. Knocking on a door.]

Hi there, I’m having trouble with my bike. Can one of you guys help me?

[A door creaks open. There’s a grunt.]

Sorry, it must be the dynamo-spectrometer.

That’s not a real—

[Electrocution noises, a gasp, a crumpling sound.]

One down…


[Electrocution noises, a gasp, a crumpling sound.]

And the other.

Wow. For big, scary cultists, or whatever they are, they went down easy. Let’s get them talking. 


Where’s Gil?

He’s in the bathroom, enjoying a college-party-style view of the toilet. It’s the only place I could zip-tie him. 

[Muffled shouting.]

He’s fine.

The fuck do you think you’re doing? This isn’t your town. These aren’t your problems. Just leave.

One, I’m FBI. Two, this is my entire life. You think sane people do this job? I love solving murder cases, white-collar crimes, counterfeit organ schemes, crypto fraud, etc. Human nature provides endless job security. And a serious case of depressive nihilism, if you think about it too much. I just like solving the puzzles. 

This isn’t a puzzle. This is a trap. And you’re caught in it, little bear.

That’s almost a compliment! At least I’m not a deer or something.

[Muffled yelling.]

Shut up, Gil! Your turn is coming up. First, a snack. How about…an apple?

[A knife flicks out, there’s a crisp cutting of a fruit.]

No. I won’t. Ah!

[Muffled groaning and screaming. Then, a gasp.]

Hush. It’s good, isn’t it? Now we’re in this together. Apples to apples. Tell me, why are you two watching me? I’m going to double-check the answers, by the way.

[Muffled yelling] Don’t say nothing, Ned!

Gil! If you talk again, I’m going to hurt your buddy here.

I’ll take any pain for Adam and the Tree.

Ok, Ned. So you’re part of this cute little club I’ve been hearing about.

It’s very cute. I’ll be one of the ascended soon enough if that’s truly one of the Apples of Grace. Is it from the church?

Yes. Is that how you infect newcomers? Keep them quiet? 

Ha! Only the nosy ones. If you’re looking for compliments, you already figured out more than any agent, cop, or private investigator who came before. They din’t have your resources, though. 

So where did I cross the line? Digging up government records? 

Turning the Sheriff against us.

To quote my favorite Jedi, ‘You’ve done that yourself.’ Getting the Sheriff’s lover to kill herself was probably not the best way to keep him in the shade of your cult. That’s what it is, right? You have an enigmatic leader who espouses arcane, secret knowledge and a way to ‘ascend’ to a higher plane?

You don’t have long. Tell me, has the itching started? I saw you scratch your neck. It begins there in the base of the skull. It spreads to every surface of your skin. It’s the new body growing within you. From there…[sucks in a breath] it’s all pain and madness. That’s why we prefer the sons and daughters of Adam to be…half-baked. 

You’re talking about the ritual suicides? The apples? What does cutting their throats do for them?

Symbolic. Even though only men got ‘em, we let the women join in.

Oh my God. Is that the cult version of equality? Ok. You cut out the Adam’s Apple. And then what?

[Laughs.] Imma let you live it. Experience is the best teacher.

If you say more, I hurt you less. Fair trade?

Fair? Only Adam can say what’s fair. He will come for you, little bear caught in the trap.

You know what they call me at the office? Mad Dog Jordan. And you know what else is true? With all the chaos in the country, I’ve been endowed with legal power to mete out justice as I see fit. I’ve never used it before today. Probably means I’m on a power trip… Wait, that’s a good pun. I am on a work trip.

Any suffering I endure will gain me greater righteousness. This is my cross. This is my test!

[Recording deactivated.]

Sorry, Lev, didn’t want y’all to hear that after all. The itching’s definitely not from bed bugs, by the way. [Laughs.] I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to think that my badge, my presence meant something, that it would protect me.

Something’s wrong with this country. With our people. Makes you wonder if our nation was ever any different. Sickos hiding away their secrets. American greed taking over their minds. Not just for land and money. For control. For people. I’m rambling. I wrote a thesis on this, didn’t I? Ages ago. Back when we still had paper to write on. 

Ned was less than forthcoming with his information. I hurt him, bad. Worse than I’ve hurt anyone. I just got desperate when the itching started, right where they said it would. Like something light and invisible crawling down my neck. It’s morning now, Lev. I haven’t heard back from my SOS hail. Network must be down. Or something big is going on down East. 

I did get something out of Gil. Screaming tends to loosen the tongue. He mentioned a church within the church. A people within themselves. People in the ground, feeding the Tree. Feeding Adam and Eve, who dance in conjunction forever. Kinky. Hard to read between the lines, but these crazed people are mixing their metaphors and reality.

Time to buck up. I’m my own Superman-Lois Lane combo. Time to fight and find the truth. Not time to wrestle with the moral gray.

I’m so tired, though. My knuckles hurt. My soul hurts. 

Once they find Big & Hefty…I won’t be treated lightly anymore. Gun’s loaded, now. Not enough ammo for the whole town, but enough for a whole cult, I hope. 

I have time. A little. I need to track down the bodies. They went to the morgue. That’s how they got the toxicology report. And despite all the lies, it’s legit. They have no reason to fake that. And it shows that not the whole town is in the cult’s grip. Some people are still doing their jobs. 

My hunch is that the bodies aren’t there anymore. And that I can find out where they were buried. If there’s other dead, at the graveyard, I can connect the dots. Or I’ll end up somewhere else where these “Sons and Daughters of Adam” are ending up. Or I’m making logical leaps and bounds due to mad apple syndrome.

I can’t tell anymore…

Damn. Not two days ago I was here in this pleasant downtown, having the best goddamn pie of my life. Now I’m skulking around like a thief. Are they manufacturing this thick-ass fog? And where the hell is everyone? God, can’t these rural towns just be normal?

The morgue’s a three-for-one combo. Police station, morgue, funeral home. That’s America for you, more bang for your buck. Used to be anyway. Odd. Police station is dark. Doors chained up. Let’s see…the funeral home is open. 

[Muffled footsteps on carpet.]

No one’s here, at the desk. Or anywhere. Morgue’s gotta be this way.

[Quiet footsteps on tiles.]

It’s cold in here. Naturally. Two prerequisites for morgues: be too cold, be too creepy. There should be bodies in here, but…

[Air hisses, metal squeaks]

No. No body in this tray.

[Air hisses, metal squeaks]

Or this one…

[Air hisses, metal squeaks]

Shit! Shit! There’s nothing here. Except…wait. An apple. A single apple. How?

…just as I thought. No bodies. Shit, I’m getting itchy again, but worse, like poison ivy. That steroid I took is wearing off already. Lev, this is a really tight spot. Please, please, send somebody. I can’t keep it together.

Wait, what’s that? Someone’s calling my name. Who…

Cultists! Oh God. Oh God. Okay. Oh God. I’m cornered. Shit. Okay. JORDAN GET A GRIP!

Lev, I’m taking a stand. I’m using my firearm. Authorization ID ZA-93. 

[Feet pounding. Jordan’s name screamed.]

They’re coming closer. This was an ambush. A plan. Ok. I’m holding steady. FBI! I am armed and ready to fire!

[Doors burst open.]

Kevin? No. Stay there! I will fire! 

[Screaming. Gunshots.]

Man down. Oh, God. Sheriff… I think it’s clear….

Joooordan. Joooooooordan. Adam is waiting for you. 

Two assailants. Big & Hefty. How did they…doesn’t matter. Hands up! On your knees! I will shoot.

[Speaking in unison.]

The New Adam cannot die. We cannot die.

Don’t move! Don’t take a single step! 

[Shots fired. Screaming.]

They’re down, Lev. They were going to hurt me. Shit. The Sheriff. He’s…dead. And something else… [Heavy sigh.] Can this get any worse?

His eyes are  shot through with what looks like worms or a growth. His skin isn’t right. It’s tough. Like leather. I can feel something moving beneath. He must have eaten an apple. Or forced to eat one. Perhaps that’s why his mind was gone. 


Is this going to happen to me? Lev? Am I going to lose it all by myself? Here? In [REDACTED]? Oh God, and all for nothing. No answers. Nothing solved. 

There’s something here in the Sheriff’s pocket. Paper. Wow. A real Sticky note. Orchard, it says.

A final gift from Sheriff Kevin. Or something else. I do not relish going back to the crime scene.

I’m pulling up the map now. No way. I didn’t see it before, but that church isn’t even one klick away from the crime scene. Fresh apples, eh? 

Thinking about what Gil told me…The orchard must be part of their rituals, and there might be a ‘hallowed ground’ where they meet. Probably a place where these special apples come from. 

I’m thinking of the history. An orchard over a mass grave. Is that the people…feeding the tree? A people within themselves…are they burying more and more people? These cultists…are they only interested in a twisted version of death? 


Oh, God…there’s people outside. At least ten of them. Hold on, Lev. Gotta mad dog it.

Jordan Adhikary. You are chosen!

[A group of people chant.] Chosen! Chosen!

[Whispers] Also in the words of my favorite Jedi…Hello there! Might you all back away from the expensive government vehicle? I’m on FBI business. 

Tell us, Jordan. How did the Apple of Grace taste?

Top five in the apples of my life, to be honest. Damn good. Mind telling me what you’re doing out here? Having a service, Reverend?

We came to witness Kevin’s transfiguration. He was born again, was he not? 

I don’t know what you mean. He attacked me. He was out of his mind. Now, like I said, please back away. I am authorized to use force. 

Violence is necessary to pass from this world to the next. The Lord burns away the chaff through his justice! You are His justice! 

[Gunshots.] Last time I’ll fire into the air. WarHorse has its own defenses, too. That’s it. Back away. Slowly. Slowly. 

Chosen, Jordan. You have been chosen. You ate of the Apple on your own accord. 

Yeah, I know. 

[Motorcycle whirs. Tires screech.]

And I’m outta here!

Jesus, they’re just watching. Flashlights following. Lev, why hasn’t anyone responded to my SOS? Why? God. Kevin’s dead. Whatever happened to him…no. I can’t believe it. I’m going to make it home. I am…but I have to solve this thing. I have to. 

Can’t wait to see that old orchard again.

Adams 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. 


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