The Book of Frick 5:13
There came a time when the American people began to forget God. They turned away from His churches and grew arrogant and stupid. God needed a Prophet, and He chose a man called Beaton Frick. Frick was pure of heart and mighty of resources; he lived in a kingdom called Florida. The angels appeared to Frick and said, “Build a Church in your name and tell America the good news: God loves them best and will welcome them into the kingdom of heaven when the time comes.”
Frick did as the angels instructed, but the American people did not listen. They fornicated and listened to rap music instead. God was made angry at this, and He Himself appeared to Frick, saying, “You have done as I asked and shall be rewarded, as will those who follow. But as America has turned from me, so I shall turn from them. Let the blessed be taken into heaven, and the rest suffer torment until the world finally ends.”
So God let America go. And temperatures rose and tornadoes ripped apart the heartlands. Terrorists flew planes into buildings, and young men walked into schools and shot children. The country was dragged into interminable wars. The people lost their jobs, their homes; they watched their children go hungry. They knew the end was nigh. They knew America could not be saved.
And Frick said, “Follow me, and be taken into heaven.”
And the people of America began to listen.
Just before midnight that night, I stand barefoot in the grass in a borrowed dress, drinking champagne out of a plastic cup and looking at the stars. There’s a party going on in the abandoned mansion behind me, organized by my best friend, the indefatigable Harp, the one who loaned me the dress and secured the champagne. It’s late March, and a little chilly. I can hear Harp shouting over the music inside, trying to get everybody to count down, like tomorrow is just the start of a new year. Ten, nine, eight. I know I should be celebrating too, but I don’t like the countdown. Seven, six, five. I think of my parents. I wonder if they’re counting down too. I picture them hand in hand in the middle of our street, waiting. Four, three, two. In this moment, the one they believe will be their last earthly moment, are they thinking at all of me?
Inside, there’s a whoop, then laughter. “Where’s Viv?” I hear Harp shout. I half turn to go in, to drink and dance with my best friend, both of us vindicated, still alive. But then something black flashes against the moon. It looks enough like a human body that I freeze. I think, This is it. In the three years since Pastor Beaton Frick first predicted that the Rapture was approaching, I’ve never once thought he was right. But in this moment, my eyes wide open, my body taut with worry, I know I’m doing what I thought I never would. I’m believing.
Then I see the thing again and recognize it to be a bat, darting and swooping in and out of my line of sight. And suddenly Harp’s at the front door, saying, “Vivian Apple, what the hell? Are you trying to ascend? In the middle of my party?” And I’m rushing toward her, my cup of champagne sloshing onto my legs, laughing harder than Harp’s quip warrants, because I’m trying not to feel the belief still shivering in my bones like a new, unshakable part of me.
I’ve lived next door to Harpreet Janda all my life, but she’d always seemed a little wild?—?this was the girl who at twelve pulled out a pack of cigarettes at the bus stop and hacked her way through four of them for no apparent reason while the rest of us looked on in awe. And anyway, I already had friends, good girls like me. But when I started high school, nationwide Rapture Watch began to hit its stride. Pastor Frick had already made the prediction?—?that in three years, the most devout Church of America congregants would be plucked into heaven, and following that would be six months of hell on earth for all who remained, ending in obliteration of the planet itself. It wasn’t until a series of catastrophic events in the weeks immediately preceding my freshman year?—?an earthquake in Chicago that killed hundreds, a massive bomb detonated at a Yankees game, the sudden and unnerving death of the entire American bee population?—?that people became convinced. My old friends turned Believer; they retreated to bunkers with their families. While I made SAT flash cards and waited for the weirdness to blow over, my old friends were getting married and having babies, populating the earth with more soldiers for Christ’s army. So by last year, Harp’s wildness suddenly resembled sanity more than anything else, and we became an inseparable team, a fiercely non-believing unit of two. Three months ago, when her parents finally converted, Harp packed a bag and walked the two miles to her brother Raj’s apartment in Lawrenceville, where he lives with his boyfriend, Dylan. She’s made no secret about wanting me to move in. It’ll be like a slumber party, Harp’s always saying, one where we have to pool our earnings from our minimum-wage jobs to pay the rent that seems to increase each month at the landlord’s whim.
At Harp’s apartment our main source of entertainment is reading out loud articles from the insipid Church of America magazines for girls sold now at every drugstore (“SPRING into the eternal kingdom in this sweet pale gold romper! Only $145 on the Church of America website!”). This is what we were doing two weeks ago when Harp had her idea.
“We should have a party on Rapture’s Eve,” she said.
“You think?” I said sarcastically. I’d seen this coming for weeks. In a lot of ways I’m still getting to know Harp?—?our friendship is less than a year old?—?but if I understand only one thing about her, it’s that this girl loves a party.
“Something classy,” Harp continued. “Wine. Music. I’m talking a Bacchanalian orgy.”
I laughed. “Well, that does sound classy.”
Harp grabbed a notepad from the table beside her bed and started jotting down ideas. “We’ll get Raj to buy the beer, and then, and then .?.?. we’ll break in to one of those abandoned mansions on Fifth Avenue, in Shadyside! You’ll have to scope them out for a few days, to see which ones look dead.”
“Just in case you’re not keeping track, your plan already involves the breaking of at least three laws,” I said. “And anyway, why Shadyside? Why not have it here?”
“It would be easier for you,” Harp shrugged. “You could walk there from your house.”
“If my parents let me go.”
“Vivian.” Harp frowned at me. “You know and I know that the world isn’t ending in six months. But let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that it is. And then let’s let that hypothetical guide our answer to the question ‘Will we be asking our fundie parents’ permission to attend an