The Cabin at the End of the World(11)

From outside: “Hey, hello. My name is Leonard. I’m here with some friends of mine. Hello, in there?” His voice is muffled by the front door but clear.

Andrew whispers to Eric, “Tell him to go away nicely. Probably just some religious freaks, right? Saving the world one pamphlet at a time.”

Eric whispers back, “Probably. Probably. But Wen said they were carrying weird tools, something like . . . scythes, right?” He looks back at Wen and she nods her head.

“Christ . . .” Andrew pulls his cell phone out of his pocket, turns it on, and then puts it back in his pocket.

Wen wants to remind him cell phones don’t work out here and didn’t work when he tried to look up scythes yesterday. Her dads chose this place because there would be no Wi-Fi or cell reception so they could unplug and it would just be the three of them hanging out, swimming, talking, playing cards or board games without any digital distractions. Andrew said that it would be almost like camping, with a cabin instead of a tent. Wen wasn’t convinced of the merits of being unplugged, but she pretended to be excited about cabin-camping. Her phone is stashed in one of the wooden drawers beneath her bunk bed. She snapped pictures of the lake, the wooden ceiling beams she’d give anything to climb on/walk across, and her bunk bed when they arrived, but she hasn’t taken out her phone since. She isn’t sure why Daddy Andrew has his with him and so readily available in his pocket. Has he been using it when he wasn’t supposed to be? Were they lying about no Wi-Fi or cell service?

Andrew sneaks up to one of the front windows on the left of the door, peels back a corner of the curtain, and looks outside. He reaches up and gently shuts the window and latches it. He whispers, “The guy on the front stairs is frigging huge.”

Eric is practically spinning in place in front of the door. He finally says, “Hello. Hi, Leonard. We—”

Leonard interrupts. “Are you Daddy Andrew or Daddy Eric? I met your delightful daughter, Wen, already. She’s so smart, thoughtful, kind. You should be very proud.”

Andrew pulls his phone out again, checks it, swears, and stuffs it back in his pocket like he’s mad at it. He crouches, his face almost touching the window glass in the lower right corner. He says, “There are more people on his left, I think. Can’t really get a good look at them.”

Eric, still in front of the door, is turned so he’s facing Andrew. He has his arms down by his side and he leans to his right until his ear is only inches from the door. “This is Eric. Is there something we can help you with? We weren’t expecting any visitors. I don’t want to sound rude, but we’d rather be left alone.”

Leonard says, “I know, and I am sorry to intrude on your vacation. Such a beautiful spot, too. Never been to this lake before. Believe me, up until a few days ago, the four of us, we never thought we’d be here at this lake. The four of us never thought we’d be here to talk to you nice people. But we do need to talk with you, Eric, and with Andrew, and Wen, too. It’s vital that we talk. I cannot stress that enough. I know you have no reason to, but you must trust me. I’m pretty sure Wen trusts me. I get the sense she’s a very good judge of character.”

Eric looks back at Wen and his expression is blank, unreadable, but she wonders if he’s blaming her for all this somehow. Maybe this, whatever this is going to be, is her fault because instead of running inside as soon as Leonard and his big friendly smile showed up, she stayed and talked to him. She talked to a stranger when she wasn’t supposed to and anything that happens after that is because of her.

Eric says, “We’re talking now, Leonard, and we’re listening. What do you want?”

Andrew, his face still in the window, scuttles over to Eric and whisper-talks some more, but Wen thinks he’s plenty loud enough for Leonard to hear through the door. “There’s a woman carrying something; looks like a hoe and shovel mixed together. Why the fuck is she carrying that?”

Eric asks through the door, “Who else is out there with you?”

Leonard says, “My friends Sabrina, Adriane, and Redmond. The four of us are here because we’re trying to help save—save a whole bunch of people. But we need your help to do that. Help isn’t even the right word. We can’t do anything to help anyone without you. Please believe me. Would you mind letting us in? We just want to talk, tell you more, explain, and speaking through the door is making a difficult conversation near impossible—”

As Leonard continues his filibuster, Eric slinks from the front door to the window on its right. He peels back a dusty lace curtain with two fingers, opening enough space for sunlight to shine on his forehead. After a brief look, he hisses and jumps back and away from the window. “What are they carrying? What are those things?”

Andrew swaps windows for the new view. Eric returns to the front door, facing it, staring at the wood. His hands are on the top of his head as though he’s trying to keep it from flying away from his body.

Andrew is past being subtle with his peering out the window. He throws the curtain over his head. He leaks a terrified groan, a sound that turns Wen’s knees into rubber bands and shakes the foundation of her once permanent state of belief that she is safe whenever she is with her dads.

Wen says, “I’m sorry . . .” under her breath. She can’t explain why she is sorry, but she is.

Andrew slams the window shut, locks it, then staggers behind Eric and looks around the cabin with eyes as wide and deep as wells.

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