Everybody wants a free ride these days, Hood said. Everybody wants something for nothing. But that’s never been how it works, not since ancient days. God told Abraham, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham did it, just what he was told, so great was his faith. He gave the thing he loved the most, out of faith, and God stayed his hand and made Abraham the most blessed patriarch in all history. And Isaac went willingly to the altar, like Jesus to the Cross. Now God is looking for a few more Isaacs. Do you hear him calling? He’s asking you to sacrifice, he’s asking you to give yourselves to this path. Because it requires sacrifice. There’s no getting around it. You want something for your family, you want to be filled with the ambrosia of righteousness, you have got to give it your all. Who’s ready? Who’s ready to be filled? I am, cried one old woman. I’m ready. I’m ready. Me too, Lord, I’m ready. And these several, these five, Hood took by the hand, limping, and led onstage. These are our Isaacs! We bless them, Lord! We anoint them with oil! Which he did, smearing it on their foreheads. Don’t be afraid! These few, these shall live forever in the resurrection! And they were led away, out of the tent, as the congregation sang: The crows cry accusations The sunshine weeps for blood The fields are thirsty cauldrons The locusts come to bud Where they going? Gillian whispered. I don’t know, Andrew whispered back. You got to offer a sacrifice! You have to give what is most precious. Hours passed and the sun shone its last, but somehow the tent was hot as ever, a testament to the bodies packed inside the canvas walls. Hood’s words batted at them like wings. He began to call for the Holy Spirit to lead them, to take control of his tongue, to shake him like a leaf. Having been standing without relent all evening, Andrew, Gillian and Nancy all stood with heads hung, sweat soaking their clothes. Only Dustin looked up, staring with an expression of unrelenting perplexity at Hood. Other voices were raised now, but not in any tongue someone could understand. An inchoate shouting from before the raising of Babel: Ga na hai ba graaas tillok nu! Ha na gai ba so killon tu! A young woman fainted and began muttering and spitting along with the shouter. Hood stretched out his hand and slapped a thickset man on the forehead who fell back poleaxed. These people are crazy, Andrew said. Dustin looked back at him angrily and Andrew was shocked. What’s being sane ever done for us? Hallelujah! Hunger unto Him! The whole tent seemed to be shouting now, sweat and spittle flying, folks rolling on the ground, straw in their clothes and hair. A man came on stage at Hood’s invitation and brought a rattlesnake out of a bag and started tossing it from hand to hand. The crowd chanted, Hunger unto Him, again and again, until the words began to lose cohesion, throbbing in their bellies and the veins of their foreheads. I can’t take this. Andrew grabbed Gillian’s hand and pressed to the door. The crowd shouted, Where you going? Don’t let the sin get you, No. 118 brother. Just need some air, he said. Some in the crowd were still singing loudly, and with a sudden surge their voices came together: Hunger unto Him! Hunger unto Him! Somewhere — he thought from the barn — someone rang a loud bell, and with that the congregation suddenly fell silent. In that silence Andrew became aware of an aroma that should have been tantalizing but actually made him feel sick to his stomach: roast pork. We are filled! cried Hood, and the tent flaps drew back. Servers stood there, men and women bearing platters of sliced pork and heaps of corn pones, which they served on corn husks, and suddenly the hall was full of laughter and joy as each took what they pleased from the bounty. Other flaps were pulled back so the tent was suddenly open to the night, the cool air refreshing all inside. But Andrew just brushed past the servers toward the exit. Where we going? asked Gillian. What about the food? I don’t want it. Then they were outside, and he was breathing heavily, trying to clear his head. We stood all that time and you don’t want to eat? Maybe later. I just need a breath of air. I don’t see what your problem is. When was the last time we ate a decent meal? A week? Let me go! You go on then. I’ll be all right. Gillian looked at him with anger on her face. Always had been a pretty girl. But she was too thin now. She hadn’t always been like that. You go on, he said again. I just need to walk a bit. You sure? Sure I’m sure. All right. I really am hungry. I know. The crows had not vanished, he saw, but had congregated on the roof of the barn. Curious, he slipped into the rows of corn when he thought no one was looking. Seemed like everyone was inside the tent now anyway, filling their faces. He made his way in the dark, stepping quietly as he could under the waning quarter moon, footsteps mingling with the rustling of the corn in the new breeze. The planks of the barn were rough and worn and had many knotholes. To one of these he pressed his eye. There was a lamp inside that let him see. It took him a moment to comprehend and then he jerked back — and jerked back again, seeing a tall figure now standing behind him. Curiosity was Eve’s sin too, Hood said. The original sin. You’re the Devil. You’re Satan. The Devil’s just God’s hunger. Don’t you know that? One and the same. Lord of the Void. Now listen: Don’t think these were victims. They offered themselves up. They’re holy saints now. You’re a butcher. Hood chuckled. I actually was a butcher. Don’t know if you know that about me. But it’s an honorable profession. Andrew ran. He didn’t get far though. Casually Hood threw the cleaver he’d been holding down low, threw it with unerring accuracy into the young man’s skull, where it did the work it was named for. Sometimes the sacrifice is unwilling, Hood said sadly, limping to stand over his fallen parishioner. But it’s still a sacrifice.

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