Dear God


vf_kain3_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title Dear God
Synopsis One ghost reaches out to another in search of something like peace.
Date October 1, 2020


There are two views in Williamsburg residences that compete with one another: western views and eastern views.

There was a time when coastal Williamsburg would have been the highest priced properties in Brooklyn. But in the era of the Safe Zone, that simply isn't the case. Westernly-facing homes in Williamsburg have the ominous portent of looking out across the East River at the two hundred foot tall concrete walls of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone, at the slouching ruins of Manhattan beyond, at the eviscerated skyscrapers that are a constant reminder of war and turmoil.

Easterly-facing views, however, are far more uplifting. Eastern views are also known as brightening views, because they have looked out over the gradual brightening of the Safe Zone as reliable power is restored and buildings reconstructed. It is a view of hope that the horrors of the past can be reconstructed into something better for future generations.

It is perhaps no surprise then, that Peyton Whitney has an easterly-facing view.

Outside the Whitney Residence

October 1st
8:13 pm

A beer bottle clatters to the sidewalk and rolls along the concrete.

Fuck,” a man who looks and smells homeless mumbles as he stumbles forward for the bottle to pick it up. Instead he just winds up nudging it, chasing it across the sidewalk until it clink-bounces into the street and keeps rolling. That’s about when he gives up. “Fuck it,” he murmurs, turning to swagger up against a car parked on the side of the street, bleary blue eyes focused up at the lambent glow of brownstone windows.

The drunk on the sidewalk would know better than to be here, to be in this state, and to be carrying a small hand-stitched stuffed dog the way he is. But Kain Zarek has been drinking.


Off-and-on humming to himself, Kain swaggers up to the bushes beside the steps up to one of the brownstone residences facing the east side of the street. He climbs the small rod-iron fence, catching his pant leg in the post and tumbling ass-over-head into the shrubbery that brushes against the window. Kain grouses, parting the bushes and crawling up onto his knees, pawing at the glass and peering into the dining room of the Whitney family like he were Ebeneezer Scrooge and this were the Cratchit residence on Christmas Night.

But he isn’t, and it isn’t. It’s just dinnertime.

It’s a quiet night, with just Jonah and Peyton sitting down to whatever the housekeeper left to be reheated for the small family’s dinner. Tonight it’s a stew left in the crockpot, accompanied by crusty baguettes from Peyton’s favorite French bakery. A single-bowl meal makes for easy clean up, and no doubt the housekeeper has determined that best suits the homeowner’s busy schedule.

Peyton is at least capable of putting a couple of dishes in the dishwasher.

She’s ladling out the stew into the two bowls, her eyes not on the easterly view that might give her a glimpse of a certain southerly face.

Instead, it’s Jonah who looks up from his tablet to see Kain’s face peering it.

He doesn’t know that to his mother, Kain Zarek may as well be a ghost, but he certainly reacts as if he’s one.

Old-school Jamie Lee Curtis has nothing on the scream of an eight-year-old boy.

Peyton drops the ladle with a clatter into the pot. Seeing the wide-eyed look on Jonah’s face, she whirls around to the window, while pulling her cell phone from her pocket — or trying to. It’s not there.

Even through the glass, the scream is piercing. Kain falls backwards away from the window, landing in the bushes again, twisting to try and find purchase with hands on the grass even as he extricates his lower body out of the hedgerow. “Fuck,” he whisper-hisses to himself, scrambling through the dirt in a half-upright position like some kind of monkey.

By the time Kain’s gone fully upright, Peyton can clearly see him in the glow of the streetlights; a man with short blonde hair in a ratty denim jacket over a burgundy hoodie with the hood currently down. Even though he has sticks in his hair, even though he’s years older and the street lights highlight the silver that has made its way through his beard, she knows those sad eyes staring back at her through a window in time.

That’s a dead man. That’s the Ghost of Christmas Past. That’s Kain Zarek.

Peyton stares back, her dark eyes wide, the color draining from her face. The look on her face shifts from one of fear to one of startled recognition. The fear isn’t gone, but her expressions are the same as the Peyton he knew, no matter the color of her hair, no matter the affluent trappings she’s surrounded by, that he knows she knows him. Whoever Kain Zarek was here, he wasn’t a stranger to this version of Petyon Whitney.

“Jonah,” Peyton says very calmly, very softly, “I need you to go to the hiding spot. I think this is an old friend, but I want to be sure, okay? Lock the door and don’t open it for anyone but me, Brad, or Nicole.”

Jonah shakes his head, lower lip trembling. “I don’t want to.”

She moves to his chair and crouches down beside it, then casts a look to the window, and holds up a finger. One minute.

“You’re fine. You have toys in there and a phone. If I don’t send you an image in ten minutes, you can call 9-1-1 for help, okay?” Her eyes dart to the clock, then back to his face. “It’s 6:30 now. So at 6:40, if I haven’t shown you something I’m looking at, through here,” she taps his temple, “you can call for help. Don’t leave the hiding spot.”

Jonah sniffles once and nods, before standing up. He stares at Kain for a moment through narrowed eyes, and turns to leave the living room, casting a few glances over his shoulder before disappearing into the hallway.

With a shaky breath, Peyton turns toward the window, then points in the direction of the door to his right. She walks to her left, a fleeting thought that she should find her phone, that she should bring a knife. But while Kain had been a dangerous man, he hadn’t been unkind to her, and that was sadness in his eyes. Not anger.

At the door, she ensures the chain lock is on before cracking the door, her eyes wide as she peers outside to see if he’s on her stoop along with the trio of different color pumpkins, not yet wearing Jack-o-lantern grins.

But there’s nothing but ghosts.

There’s no sign of Kain when Peyton opens the door. There’s evidence that someone was in the hedgerow out front of her windows, for all that they’re trampled, but there’s no man. Instead, there’s a faded pink Hello Kitty backpack sitting squarely on the stoop between the pumpkins with a few pins, buttons, and keepsakes clipped on the strap. The backpack looks heavy with something, but it also looks like it’s been to hell and back.

The more Peyton looks at it the more she’s certain it’s been stained with blood, cut and patched, perforated by gunfire. The bag tells a story words can’t. It must have been left there, for her. But it isn’t always good things that come in small packages.

“Kain,” Peyton says quietly into the dark, looking first one way, and then the other before she looks down to see the strange gift sitting there.

She should be cautious, she knows. It could be a bomb — God knows there are plenty of people out in the world who hate her, either simply because of what she is or what she represents. And there are people Peyton believes should hate her.

Kain Zarek isn’t one of them, to the best of her knowledge.

She looks back over her shoulder, into the house and its safety, concentrating on what she sees — the mantle place with photos — to send to Jonah, to delay any phone calls to the police just yet.

The door still open, she crouches down to peer at the Hello Kitty backpack, brows drawn together in confusion as she touches the pin buttons and stains with light fingertips. Gingerly, she tugs at the zipper in slow, smooth strokes, until she has a large enough opening to peer in. The porchlight above her illuminates the gap and herself in its aura.

The backpack, for all that it’s been through, seems to have been kind on its contents. Much of it is bundled in fabric, a navy blue hoodie too small for a man of Kain’s height to wear. There’s a faded NYU logo on the front and parts of it are threadbare. Inside, there’s a handful of what look like personal effects: a half-used bottle of pumpkin orange nail polish, a battered CD-player walkman with a scratched copy of the Beatles White Album inside, and a broken pair of headphones. Along with that is an unaddressed envelope with a letter hastily stuffed inside.

Perplexed, she sits on the back of her heels, peering at the items and then off into the darkness of the street — there’s more shadows than light for the man to stand in, watching her.

Rising out of her crouch, she steps back into the house, locking the door behind her, before slowly walking to the sliding panel in the wall that hides Jonah’s spot.

“Jonah, open up. It’s okay, sweetie,” Peyton says softly, and there’s the scrape of metal on metal as he unlatches the lock within and crawls out of the small space, looking up with her with worried eyes.

“It’s okay,” she says, leaning to kiss his mop of curls. “Go ahead and go eat. He’s an old friend of mine. He won’t hurt you.”

She is ninety percent sure that’s the truth.

When Jonah sits, she sits across from him, dropping into her chair and opening the letter.

It’s sloppy handwriting, slanted unevenly across a blank sheet of paper.


This belongs to you, even if it never did. I’m not supposed to say anything, but fuck it. You saved my life, multiple times, whether you realize it or not. I don’t know what I was to you here, because I’m not the man you knew. I’m just a shadow on the wall cast by a light that’s gone out.

Everything in this bag is all I have left of the you I loved like a sister. She was family to me and I failed her. I failed every single one of you.

Don’t look for me, because I’m already gone. I just wanted you to know how strong you were, in case you ever had doubts. Because you were strong enough to face the end of the world and not break.

I never knew what family was before her, and deep down I hope there’s a part of you that has that strength.

- K-Mart

Peyton’s brows draw together, eyes tearing up as she reads the letter, then reads it again. She brings a hand to her mouth, pressing knuckles against her lips to keep from sobbing, trying not to alert Jonah to the fact that something’s wrong. But when she looks up, he’s watching her, his own dark eyes so much like her own wide with worry, his spoon paused mid-path to his mouth.

“It’s okay, baby,” she murmurs. “Just sentimental stuff. You know I’m a crybaby for letters and things,” she says quietly.

“Like you cry when I make you cards?” he asks, giving the letter in her hand a dubious look. It wasn’t from him or from Brad, so he’s not sure who else should be making her cry.

“Yeah, just like that. I’m okay, though, promise. Tell me what you learned at school today?”

As he chatters on, she listens, letting him distract her for a few minutes from the content of the letter, until he’s finished eating and asks to go play on his iPad. Once he’s out of the room, Peyton gets up and heads into the kitchen to find a notepad and pen.

She stares at the yellow legal pad for a few moments, considering what to write. Finally, she begins.


Thank you. I can’t imagine how you knew me in a different way than I knew you in “this” life. I’ve NEVER been strong here, except maybe after my son was born. I wish I was. I’ve made a lot of mistakes that a stronger person wouldn’t have made, so it’s nice to hear that you knew a better version of me somewhere, wherever that was. Thank you for that.

You say not to look for you, but you must know I will look at least once or twice to see if you’re OK. I’d like to help if you need it — Money or a job or something to help you through whatever you’re going through. I’m putting some money under the pumpkins on my porch for you if you want to come back today or tomorrow. You don’t have to talk to me. But if you want help, let me know. If she was family to you, then you are family to me. And family helps each other, right?


When it’s finished, Peyton stares at it, then concentrates on Kain, the Kain she saw outside her window, not the Kain she knew so long ago. She holds the letter in her vision for as long as she can stand it — 30 seconds — before her watering eyes sting and make her stop. She takes a breath, wiping her tears, then does it again, to be sure he has a chance to read through the entire note.

Close to burn out, she breaks that shared image to slip into his perspective, to see if she can find where he is. How he is.

A mile and a half away there is a Yamagato Industries public transport that heads southwest between these hours, full of people looking to cross the Safe Zone. As though through Peyton’s eyes, she sees the slowly scrolling marquee listing the next street, but it’s blurry. At first she isn’t sure why, until the bus passes by a street light and for just a moment Kain Zarek’s face becomes visible in the darkened window across from him. She had never seen her Kain cry. She wasn’t sure what it would look like, though now she knows.

As the vision clears and Peyton’s focus returns back to the world around her, the image of Kain’s face in shadow reflected in the window of the bus remains in the back of her mind. A man dead, and yet somehow alive. It may not yet be Halloween, but it would seem some of the ghosts have risen early.

And if they’re lucky, maybe they’ll find the peace they deserve.

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