After everything, Jacob still prayed.
His sunburnt skin peeled in strips every time he scratched, so he kept his yellow work gloves on even after his shift ended. His shirt collar was sandpaper against too-red shoulders. A nearby camper told him he was so ginger that his gingerness was taking over his body. Another camper asked him how he could work in a gospel camp if gingers didn’t have souls. Jacob forced a smile as they sniggered to themselves like baboon-hyena offspring.
He wondered if he was that insufferable when he was a camper like them. No, not like them. He wasn’t like them. So he walked away, and didn’t bother explaining that sunscreen never helped. It stank, it made his skin feel as pasty as it looked, and it didn’t work. He slathered himself in it every morning.
The cabin was only a couple minutes away on foot and he always took the same path. It took him past the camp chapel where he stopped for a moment, thinking that maybe if he prayed there instead of the cabin he would get another vision. But he couldn’t find solitude in the chapel anymore. Not with hell-spawned campers and sex-addicted counselors squatting in it. It was no longer God’s house. He kept walking.
When he entered his grandparents’ empty cabin he thought of his family. For a moment he felt like a child again, but when he was a child he was happy, always happy. The cabin and the lake and the camp made him want to play the old Super Nintendo and roast s’mores and watch Jurassic Park. But it also made his skin slip off and his best friend sleep with his girlfriend and his job involve cleaning maggoty fish guts. It was this place that did it all. It changed. He didn’t. Maybe that was the problem.
Cameron would be back any minute—from Jenny’s place, no doubt—so he had to hurry. He hoped today would be different. When he reached the bedroom he fell to his knees, wincing as the loose sand pebbles on the floorboards dug into his sunburned legs. He rested his elbows on the bottom bunk of the bed, clasped his gloved hands together, and silently asked for another vision.
He could recall the first one vividly, and he pictured it as he prayed. He remembered lying on the cold, uncomfortable chapel floor, the same ten years ago as it was today, and closing his eyes to pray with the other campers. The chanting of gospel was loud amidst the pleas for Christ. He couldn’t have fallen asleep like that. He couldn’t have. But somehow he went to another place.
A place where colours were not colours and the ethereal outlines of doors flanked him in an infinite hallway. He remembered being carried forward somehow, floating through the hall for a few moments before turning left and stopping. He stood before a door. It opened. Beyond was blackness and fireworks, like the lights that danced behind his eyelids after a camera flash. And a voice.
He remembered opening his eyes to see a fat boy looming over him, hands on his chest, screaming for the Lord to save him. From what? Jacob didn’t ask. He didn’t want to ask. He kept it to himself all these years and never questioned anyone about it—except God. A part of him felt like that boy kept him from seeing what he was meant to see. From going where he was meant to go. Remembering that vision was sometimes the only thing keeping him from becoming atheist, like Cameron. Sinful, charming Cameron, best friend and Judas and ex-fat boy.
The prayers never worked anymore. They were as useless as sunscreen. Neither his spirit nor his flesh could be protected here.
But he kept praying anyway.