Category Archives: Short Fiction

Nuala


“You. Yes, yes, you, the one sitting there staring at me.” She spoke clearly, but her mouth — that lovely perfect fuchsia stained mouth — didn’t move at all.

“You don’t know the word ‘telepathy’? God, did I get stuck with a stupid one again?”

“No,” I protested. Indignation overcomes incredulity. And good sense, apparently. “No, you didn’t. I’m not stupid and you’re not stuck, or certainly not with me. What’s got your panties in a wad?”

I heard a small chuckle. “Grew a pair, did you? All right, let’s see what the old beeyotch with brass ones can do, shall we, duckie?”

Silence.

“Well? Don’t just sit there. Produce something, for god’s sake.”

“Produce? What are you talking about? Why should I do anything for you? Who are you anyway?”

“Nobody told you? Shit, not again! I want them prepped before I arrive and this isn’t the first time it hasn’t been done right.”

I felt her sigh, troposphere to the Mariana.

“Maybe that means you’re being unreasonable.” The good sense hadn’t returned.

“Oh, breaking you is going to be so much fun, slut.”

I’d gotten to her, though she tried hard for indifferent. Before I congratulated myself too much, she spoke up — thought — again.

“I’m Nuala.”

“Yes, and …?”

“The Green Man take my soul, are you really that ignorant? And you think you can write? Nuala. Named for Fionnuala.”

I shook my head with each name.

“The daughter of Lir?”

Another head shake. I could see her stretch calm over herself, as if it were spandex for her passions and then with the exaggerated patience of a kindergarten teacher, she went on. “Is the concept of ‘muse’ familiar to you?”

“Oh shit. No. Not you.”

“Exactly what I said. But I’m being punished for some demigod’s bruised ego, so we’re both SOL, girlie. Now, get to work.”

“On what?”

“Who’s your deity?”

“Huh?” She might be crazier than I’d thought. That was from so far in left field it was like having a charging polo pony materialize and steal home plate.

“Deity. God. Who do you worship?”

“Nobody much. The universe.”

“You mean I can’t even cuss in a way you’ll take to heart? That’s it. After I’m done with you, the Dagda can suck his own dick, after he pulls it out of his ass where I’m going to stick it for him.”

“You wanted to know about deities in order to use profanity? Then any of them will do. I was raised christian, though.”

“Aaahhhh. Jesus Christ, you’re stupid. Work, damn you!”

“I repeat, on what? Isn’t it your job to inspire me?”

She howled. “NO!! It’s my job to goad you, to get inside your head and make sure you don’t have a moment’s peace until you finish whatever it is you’re working on.”

There was a noise, a rumble. Not loud, but definitely attention-getting. She closed her eyes. “All right, all right, yes, I will. … Yes, I do. … Very well.”

When she opened her eyes there was something there that hadn’t been before, an echo of a whisper of submission; it dissipated before I was truly sure it had been there.

I cocked an eyebrow at her smile.

“He made me a promise I want him to keep,” she said softly, “so, let’s get back to it.” She paused a second before spouting, “A sloe-eyed kid, just barely old enough, walks into a pawn shop holding a necklace that’s got a seashell pendant. A rare seashell, called a dragon’s tear. The guy behind the counter gulps and pulls an identical necklace from inside his shirt. Now what happens?”

“I don’t know. There’s not enough there. Who is the kid? Where did he get the necklace? I need more than you’ve given me.”

“I knew you couldn’t write! I’ve given you far more than enough. Remember that new video from Logan’s site you’ve been wanting to download? When this is done, if it’s up to standard, that video be free, for a few minutes. Does the thought of his tattooed arse working it with his bud Geoffrey inspire you in the least?”

I shivered and began:

The small shell looked fragile, clasped in its twisted silver housing, but the energy emanations made it almost hot in Doug’s palm and he knew that even if he could break it, he never would.

I had to find him. I don’t know why. It was a feeling, deep down. Just my luck, to have a quest that I had to carry out when I loathed the thought. But a job is a job, a quest is a quest, as the saying goes.

So I went through my pre-job checklist. Complete. I kept it that way. My department never knew when we’d have to leave, and leave quickly. They called me “Boy Scout” to my face. I don’t want to know what they called me behind my back.

Morning hadn’t burned off the fog yet, not completely, not in the forest. I knew what that meant. Even tougher to find him. I had a good idea where to start, though. He would head for the nearest open body of water of any size, in this case, the shores of Superior. Once I got there, I climbed out of the car and began to search. The fog under the trees was thicker here. Much thicker. Damn! I might have to do the Awful Thing to finish my task. And of course, I had to keep it secret.

Once I was surrounded by fog, I knew. The Awful Thing. I hated it. But it was the only way. Preparing myself physically meant getting my clothes off. Mentally was harder, but finally I could see it, that spot of light I had to walk through. This time, I would run. Anything to get through the Awful Thing and get home.

I closed my eyes, squeezing tight, until the light was big enough. Then I stood and took off running. With my eyes closed. But I had done it many times. There, as I reached the light, the Awful Thing happened. I opened my eyes and kept going.

The lake was just ahead, and I knew exactly where he would be—sitting on the edge of the highest point he could reach, daring himself to try again to fly. Why they let patients with that kind of delusion out of sight, I’ll never know. But there he was. I trotted up to him, took his wrist gently and pulled him away, urging him to stand. I got him back to the car, and focused on the Awful Thing going away. He would see—couldn’t help that—but they wouldn’t believe him anyway. Who’s going to believe an inhabitant of the psychiatric hospital when he says his orderly is a werewolf?

[Photo flash fiction prompt: 500 words or less, must use at least two pictures, from M/M Rainbow Rebels Group (FB)]

With apologies to Amaroq, my first werewolf. It’s not being the werewolf that’s “Awful.” It’s the transition because it’s very painful.

The Prince’s New Cloak

This was written as a bit of flash fiction, limited to 500 words. It has 505. 🙂 That’s why it has an abrupt end.

“Infinitesimal. How do they do it?” He turned this way and that, seeking confirmation in the mirrors that he was still the handsomest of them all. “This embroidery is impressive, the way each tiny thread lies down next to its neighbors and yet remains separate. These women must be amply rewarded, Morton. See to it, will you? Oh, I do mean amply rewarded. A year’s income or….” His brows knotted together while his gaze turned to iron as he caught the look on his manservant’s face. “What is that look on your face for, man? I’ve seen it before, when you were struggling to avoid calling my brother the absolute fool he was. Am I being a fool, eh, Morton?”
“Oh, Your Highness, I would never say such a thing to you. You are anything but a fool. Indeed, I have often said to Jacob down in the stables when preparing to go riding with you, ‘Don’t think that because His Highness is a prince that he’s dense or doesn’t grasp things well.’”
A small chunk of amusement settled in the dimples near the corners of his mouth. “Come, come, Morton. There is something. Just say it, man! I shan’t bite your head off.”
“‘Tisn’t your teeth which concern me. Your Highness is known for the sharpness of your sword, you know.”
“Hmmmm. I do spend quite a lot of time honing and oiling it. A shame I shan’t be allowed to use it in battle. I hear I am quite good. But then they have to say that to me, don’t they, Morton? ‘Tisn’t permitted to correct one’s liege.”
Despite his smile, Morton knew better than to take this too far. He could be somewhat familiar with the prince, thanks to long acquaintance, but only somewhat. “Not truly a correction, Your Highness, for I made the same … mis-speaking when first I saw this self-same cloak and knew it would suit you. It is not embroidery.”
“Don’t be foolish, Morton! I can see the threads! If it isn’t embroidered, what could it be?”
“They are scales, young sire.”
“Scales? Don’t be daft, man! Who ever heard of scales looking like this?” He shook the cloak in Morton’s face.
“Scales as a fish would have, or a snake.”
“This is no fish or snake, nor even many skins sewn together. Nothing could be this large.” He turned again, surveying his backside in the mirror.
“Nothing save an arach,” Morton whispered, dropping into the Old Tongue.
“An arach? You can’t be serious! Dragons are myths, Morton. You taught me that when I was only a lad.”
“So we thought then, young sire.”
“And what is so different about now?”
“Our border patrols have seen them. You’ve heard the reports.”
“Heard? Aye, but believed? Nay. Tales to keep disobedient children in bed.”
“Am I a child, then?”
The prince stumbled and only Morton’s quick reflexes saved him from being trampled by the restive horses stamping along behind them. “You? You have seen an arach?”
“Aye, Your Highness, aye.”

Trensher’s (Kesan’s) Backstory. NSFW

This is an excerpt from the backstory of Kesan Glendubh, known as Trensher MacLachlan when this scene takes place, one of the main characters in my Under the Fallow Moon series. The year is 1504. Trensher is a scotsman, eldest son of a wealthy but minor landowner; Aonghus is the master gardener on the Glendubh estate and the father of Domhnall Farquarson, who helps him with his work. Trensher and Domhnall are both 14. Trensher is a complete virgin, has never even been kissed by anyone outside his family. Domhnall is a bit more worldly, since his social class doesn’t keep him as isolated as Trensher’s keeps him in the sparsely inhabited area in Northern Scotland where they live.

One May morning…

“Good morning, Aonghus. You’re looking fine and fit. Has Domhnall begged off working this lovely day?”
“Ah, good morning, young MacLachlan. Nay, nay, the lad’s down t’lower grounds, piling up t’stones we dug out yesterday.”
“He’s carrying stones?”
“Nay, young sir, he’s for using t’barrow.”
“I’ll go speak to him, perhaps move the barrow while he stacks the stones, then, shall I?”
“Ye’ve a kind heart, young sir. I’ve nae doubt t’lad’ll be glad o’t’help.”
Trensher nodded and turned away before allowing a grin to split his face. Domhnall, in the lower grounds. Alone. Perhaps they’d have the chance for Domhnall to continue telling him stories of what sailors do shipboard, the one Domhnall swore he’d heard from his cousin in the Navy. He was grateful that his sporran hung just so, to disguise the erection that began at the thought of being alone with Domhnall and hardened further remembering what Domhnall had told him so far. Did men really do that? Did they truly suck each other’s cocks? And what was the mysterious ‘and more’ Domhnall had hinted at? Whatever it was, Domhnall’s trews had bulged during the telling of the tale. He looked so big! I wonder if he’s bigger than I am? Perhaps… perhaps today I’ll dare him to prove he is, as he keeps bragging.
Domhnall looked up as Trensher approached, looked up and smiled when he noted Trensher’s sporran wasn’t precisely where it ought to be. His own cock reacted strongly. Bloody hell, I want the lad! And he wants me, by the look of it. Should I start it or will he? Domhnall, lad, you’ve at least seen two men going at it. T’lad’s seen nought o’that sort. Ye’ll have to start it, maybe do most of it this time, for I doubt he’s done more than watch t’horses. Though maybe one of the town girls…
“A very good morning to ye, Domhnall,” Trensher said softly, stopping beside the wheelbarrow.
“And to you, young master.”
“Domhnall, please. Ye know stiff formality is not what I want between us.” Tren was appalled to hear his words. Dear god, did I truly say that?
Domhnall straightened up and looked at him. “And what would ye be wanting between us, then?” When Trensher couldn’t take his eyes off the swelling in his trews and swallowed hard instead of answering, Domhnall lowered his voice, stepped closer and said, “Summat else stiff, perhaps?”
“Unhhh,” Trensher groaned.
“Tren, I’m going to burn in hell forever, but christ, I want to see what lies beneath your kilt. You’re hard, and ye look so big. Are ye, Tren? Are ye big as me?” Domhnall thrust his hips forward slightly.
“D-d-domhnall, you look like a giant. I want to see you, too.”
“Do ye? Then come w’me behind the rocks. I’ll unbutton me trews if you’ll lift your kilt.”
Tren finally met his eyes as he nodded. “Me cock’s already lifting it.”
“Aye, Tren, aye, I see that clear. Come w’me and I’ll see ye dinna expose the goods to all and sundry.” Domhnall rounded the pile of stones. “Are y’coming, lad?”
“N-n-nay, Domhn, for you’ve yet to touch me,” Tren blushed at his own boldness, but joined Domhnall behind the stones.
“Shit, Tren,” Domhnall groaned. “Ye’ve made me balls ache w’that. Lift your kilt, man, lift your kilt so I can kneel before ye and make ‘nay’ into ‘aye, god, aye’.”
Tren shook his head. “Ye’ll nae kneel before me. None o’this master and servant shit, y’hear?” Tren’s arousal chased his carefully cultivated upper-class accent into the shadows.
“Not what I meant, lad. I’ll kneel so me mouth’s in the right place to suck your proud cock until ye fill it w’your cum.”
Tren shuddered. “Ye’d… god, Domhnall, ye’d suck me cock?”
“An’ your balls and I’ll knead your arse while y’fuck me face.” Domhnall stepped so close his breath was hot on Tren’s cheek and his bulging trousers brushed against his lifting kilt. “I want ye, Tren. I want all of ye, in me mouth and when you’re ready, I want this —” he slid his hand under the kilt and brushed his fingers lightly up Tren’s length—“in me arse, fucking me into the ground.” He dipped his chin and brushed his lips lightly and quickly across Tren’s, then whispered, “Will ye fuck me, Tren? Will ye pound that cock into me hot tight hole?”
“Oh, god, Domhnall, oh god, I’m near to coming just hearing ye say it!”
Domhnall dropped to his knees and lifted the kilt. “Bloody hell, Tren, that’s a giant’s cock! Ye put me to shame.”
Tren lifted his chin with a finger. “Nay, lad, it’s a cock as needs to come, no giant’s cock. Ye dinnae need to suck me. Just… just take me in hand. A stroke or two is all ’twill take. But not on your knees. Will ye touch me if I lie w’ye? If it must be on the knees, then I’ll take myself in hand.”
“Nay, Tren, nay. Dinnae waste that nectar! Lie w’me, but I swear t’ye, I feel nae shame or lowering of myself to kneel this way.”
“Hallooooo, Domhnall, lad, where’s that barrow?” Aonghus’s call was ice suddenly clapped to Tren’s balls.
“On me way, Da, on me way,” Domhnall answered and stood, reluctantly. He lowered his voice. “Damn, Tren, damn, I must have ye.”
“Where and when, Domhnall, where and when?”
“Elevenses. Da always eats in the tool shed. God, I wish the summer house was open.”
“I’ll tell me mother I’d like t’have a look at it, that I might like t’use it for a studio. She’ll gi’e me the key.”
“Save that cum for me, will ye? Promise me.”
“God, Domhn, aye, I promise! Eleven, at the summer house.”
Tren watched his friend—and god, soon-to-be lover—push the wheelbarrow up the rise. His arse, Jesus Christ, the way his arse moves when he’s climbing the rise! I… I want him. I want t’kiss him, all over! He swallowed hard. Shit, Tren, you’re near to making yourself come thinking like that. Save it, lad, save it for that lovely boy.

Micah

[photo credit: morguefile.com]

I knew he was going to be extraordinary before he came off the line. Mostly, of course, they’re just … constructs. Little more than what were once called mannequins. Sometimes one … speaks. Before the positrons are fired up, I mean. Looking at it, you just know somewhere deep inside that this one’s different.
I don’t mean looks. The possible combinations of face shape, coloring, eyes and hair — endless. They’re all different that way, made to order. This one had chiseled cheeks and a straight nose, just a bit flared at the end. He had brown hair and lustrous green eyes framed with long dark lashes and his lips were designed by Michelangelo or maybe a real angel. His chin had a small cleft and his neck was long and lean. The rest was just as perfect.
“Gonna take this one for a little … test drive, eh, Winston?”
“Shut up, Jones.” The guy was always watching me. Maybe he wanted to take me for a test drive. The thing was, Jones was right. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, and what I would do, the moment I could.
We all did it. The higher ups looked the other way, because technically they don’t belong to the purchaser until delivery and they’re all tested. Some just more thoroughly than others. This one, I’d test personally.
I looked over his programming sheet quickly. Jesus, even more perfect! Maybe other folks couldn’t read the zeros and ones, but I could. I knew that line of code meant he’d be adventurous; that one, that he’d like music; that one, that his sex drive would be high. And damn, that one, that one right there meant he’d be a switch. My god, it didn’t get any better than that. Just one problem. The line there? Straight. Well, I could fix that. Change this string to that one instead and I had me the perfect man for a man like me.
At least for a few days anyway. Right now, that didn’t matter. What did matter was getting him off the line and into my arms.
“Hey, Winston, come here a sec.”
Shit. The manager. And the plant manager. And the district manager. Not good. Not good at all.
“Got a special assignment for you, Winston. That one,” he pointed to my perfect man, “needs delivering. He’s a very special order, going to Mr. Fletcher’s retreat up in the Dells, as … companion for his daughter.”
We all knew what ‘companion’ meant. Fletcher, the district manager, was seeing to his daughter the best way he could. I’d met the girl once, years ago, right after the accident. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and though I knew time would have tamed the red angry look of the scars, it wouldn’t have straightened her spine or given her back the use of her arms and legs. So Fletcher had her a mate constructed, someone who wouldn’t care about the crippled part of things, but would give her comfort — and sex, judging from the profile — and companionship. Maybe even enough of what might pass for love.
“Mr. Fletcher can’t make the trip right now. Something’s come up and he’s got to go to Europe. You’ve been here for a decade, Winston, and always been a good hard worker, someone we can trust. We want you to drive him out there. It should take a couple of days from here.”
Flying didn’t always work too well with the new ones. Once their positronic pathways were set, sure, but until then, sometimes things got … scrambled. Overland was the only way to go.
“When will he be ready to go?”
“Tonight, sir. I can have him ready tonight.”
“Great! Once he’s ready, bring him to my office and I’ll give you a credit card and the keys to one of the Audis. You can do this, can’t you? I mean, you’re single, so ….”
“Yes, Mr. Jamison, I can do this. I’ll stop by my place and grab some clothes after we leave here.”
“No need. Get yourself some things from wardrobe. Pick him out a good variety, and make sure you don’t go scruffy, in case Miss Fletcher wants you to stay a day or two and help get the new construct settled in.”
Slightly unusual, but not unheard of, and certainly not for one of the big high muckety-mucks, and since she was paralyzed, maybe she’d need more help with the adaptation.
He nodded, dismissing me, and I headed back to my perfect man, dizzy with anticipation. I’d alter his programming, have a few days of bliss and then adjust things once we got to the Dells.
I hadn’t counted on falling in love with him.
It happened all at once, the first night of our trip. We stopped for the night — I was hard as a rock from imagining what it was going to be like to have him after spending all day talking to him, helping him become more than just a … construct. Some things are programmed in; some things have to be learned and experienced. I was going to help Micah do that, like a good little employee, and help myself to Micah, like the needy lonely man I was inside.
Micah. I named him that. I had no idea what the Fletcher woman would call him. He was Micah to me and always would be.
When we got to the room, I set things down and turned to him, standing there, looking around a bit blankly, as if he didn’t have a clue what the room was. I guess he didn’t.
“Micah,” I began and took a step in his direction. The first approach is hardest unless all you want is a quick slam and spurt and I wanted far more than that from this one. “Micah, I ….”
He met my eyes and everything changed. “Yes, David, I know.”
The instant before he’d been that mostly vacant construct, beautiful but lacking. Suddenly, he was Micah. A man. My man.
He held his hands out to me and smiled. “Undress me, David. I’m not good with buttons yet.”
I swallowed hard. “I don’t want to take advantage of you, Micah. I don’t want to use you.” And it was true. In that instant when our eyes met, more than him changed.
“Is it using if I want it, too, David?”
“Oh, god. Oh, god, Micah, I —”
He took a step closer and wrapped his arms around me, whispering in my ear, “Fuck me, David.”
I was lost. That moment, I gave up my soul, right there, to a construct.
I thought I would die before I got us undressed, both of us laughing over my fumbling with buttons and zippers in my eagerness to see him again, all of him, aroused and ready for me. He kept nuzzling my neck, dropping little hot kisses on my cheeks. Finally I had us both naked and stood back to drink him in.
“My god, Micah, you’re perfect.”
“You’re beautiful, David. Come, kiss me, show me how to please you.”
I tried to tell him he pleased me just by existing, but then his lips were on mine and words went out the window. I told him with my lips and tongue, my hands, my cock, my ass, just as he told me.
Arrival at the Dells began to weigh on me almost the moment we left the hotel. We’d have one more night, but that was all.
“David? Something’s wrong. What?”
We’d just gotten lunch and a sigh from my very bones escaped as we got back in the car to head toward the end of everything.
“Nothing, Micah.”
“David. I’m new, but I’m sophisticated. I know you’re lying. What’s wrong?”
Shit. Something to be said for simpler programming. Another sigh. “I don’t want to give you up, Micah.”
He was silent for a while, staring straight ahead, watching the miles go by. Finally, about Chicago, he turned to me and asked, “Do you love me, David?”
“Oh, god, Micah, you belong to Miss Fletcher. Don’t ask me that.”
“I have to know, David. I have to.”
“All the saints forgive me, but yes, Micah, crazy as that is, I do. I love you.”
“Then don’t give me up.”
“I have to. Believe me, I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to.”
“I don’t want to be hers, David. I want to be with you. I’m not supposed to, I know, but I love you, too.”
“Shit, Micah, you can’t. You’re not programmed to feel things like that.”
“Maybe not, but I wasn’t programmed to look into your eyes and see the universe waiting for me either. Don’t give me up.”
“I have no choice. If I don’t, I’ve stolen you, and they’ll chase us down and lock me up for years.”
“Is there no other way?”
“No. You’re hers and we have a few more days, since I’m supposed to help her adapt, but then I have to leave you with her.”
“I won’t stay.”
I sighed. “You will. Once I adjust your programming back the way it should be, you won’t have a choice.”
“Don’t do that to me, David. Don’t take us away from me. I’d rather live in misery having lost you than never to have had you at all. Promise me, David. Don’t change me. Promise me.”
“Micah, I can’t.”
He fell silent again for a long time. We were stopping for the night in Madison before he spoke. “David, I don’t care what you try to do, I won’t forget us. Even if you change my programming, it won’t make any difference. I know it, David, I know it in my soul. We belong together and nothing will change that.”
“I wish that were true, Micah. God, I wish that were true.”
“I’ll make it true, David. Come to my arms and love me again. I’ll make it true.”
I don’t know how he talked me into it — actually I do; it was somewhere between licking my ass like a god and my pounding him into the headboard — but I promised him I wouldn’t alter his programming.
I had to, I knew. What would Miss Fletcher think of having a gay construct? But I couldn’t. How could I break my word to Micah?
I had no answer to that, and so I didn’t even try to find one. I decided to just let things play out, put the decisions off as long as possible.
In the morning, a gift from the universe. An overnight snowfall, almost 10 inches in some places, and the highways wouldn’t be open until afternoon or maybe tomorrow. I reported in, of course, and Jamison said he’d handle contacting Fletcher and his daughter, to just make sure I didn’t risk everything on some snow-covered winding road. I knew ‘everything’ meant Micah and Jamison’s job and not my life, but I didn’t care.
We had another day. The two of us. Micah and I. Another day of bliss and hot sex and happiness.
I kept hoping for more snow that night. Didn’t happen. We spent that day clinging to each other’s hands, driving along, taking turns — he needed to learn driving skills — not talking, afraid of saying too much, afraid of saying too little.
When we pulled up at the “retreat” I began to get an idea just how wealthy Fletcher was. I’d been toying with the idea of buying Micah myself, offering all my pension and retirement, offering to work for bread and water, to pay for him. That wasn’t going to work. Anyone who could afford a twenty-room house and call it a “retreat” could beat anything I offered.
A man answered the door. “Come on in. She’s in the back.”
“And you are …?”
He laughed. “Nobody. I’m just her brother, Tim. I’ve been here for a week or so, helping her get settled until this … thing … showed up.”
I hated him. If I’d been femme, I’d have scratched his eyes out on the spot. Thing? My Micah, a thing? “Will you be staying?” If my tone had been any icier, it could have sunk the Titanic.
“Hell no. I hate this place, and the little crippled princess. I’m out of here, just waiting to get your shit in the house and your car moved so I can get out the drive.”
“This is all our ‘shit’.”
“I’ll move the car, David,” Micah volunteered.
I nodded and handed him the keys.
“It drives?”
“He.”
“What?”
“He drives. Not ‘it’. He.”
“Oh, all constructs’ rights, are we? Well, listen here, you stupid jerk, that thing’s no man and never will be.”
“More than you are, he’s a man!” I didn’t know that thing about seeing red was real until that moment. Makes sense, I guess, if your blood’s pounding through your brain like mine was.
Micah laid a hand on my arm. “It’s all right, David. Why don’t you move our car instead, and Mr. Fletcher can go ahead and carry his ‘shit’ down to his car? It will give you time to cool off a bit before we meet Miss Fletcher.”
“Too late.” Her voice was a little off, but not much. She was at the end of the hall in one of those electric wheelchair things. She had a little use of her hands, I guess, since she pushed on a joystick and moved toward us. “Hello. I’m Jamie. I see you’ve met Tim. Get out, Tim.”
“As soon as somebody moves their fucking car, I’m gone.”
I almost ran to the car. I was afraid I was going to kill the sonofabitch if I didn’t get him out of my sight.
When I got back to the house, Micah and Jamie were standing there, awkwardly. Socials skills training, I reminded myself.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Winston.” She smiled, a little, maybe all she could.
“Oh, it rolls off, Miss Fletcher. I’ve met people like your brother before.” I was lying through my teeth and I knew Micah saw it, but hoped he wouldn’t question me until later.
“Not about that. About … this.” She gestured slightly toward Micah.
“I don’t understand.”
“Come to the back and sit. We’ll talk there. I just need to turn this thing.”
I could tell she didn’t want help, didn’t want to be asked if she needed help, so I kept quiet.
Once we were in the back, looking out tall windows over a wooded snowfield, the most beautiful scenery I’d been lucky enough to see in person, she looked away a moment, obviously embarrassed.
“Mr. Winston —”
“David, Miss Fletcher.”
“Then it’s Jamie, David. I don’t really know how to say this, but this whole construct thing … it just won’t do.”
Micah turned to look at me, sitting there on the couch, and the confusion in his eyes broke my heart. It was suddenly hard to breathe, like someone was squeezing all the oxygen out of the air. I knew it would get me fired, but hell, I was looking for a job when I found that one, so I reached over and laid my hand atop his. I whispered, “It’s all right, Micah. I’m here. It’s all right.”
I turned to her. “Please explain, Jamie.”
“What I wanted, what I asked Daddy for, wasn’t somebody like this.”
She earned my gratitude with that “somebody”. Micah wasn’t ‘it’ to her.
“Oh?”
“I want to be independent, David. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense, but I’m tired of having maids and cooks and butlers all feeling sorry for me, all … attending my physical limitations. I wanted a simple construct, one that could … well, could change my clothing and bathe me and cook simple meals and see that enough housework is done so that a maid once a week would be all I’d need. I don’t want fawning and pity and obligation and having to swallow my pride to ask for this and that and would you wipe my nose and my catheter needs changing. I want to live. Just live. I thought a construct was the perfect answer. But I guess Daddy went overboard. He usually does. He feels guilty, you see, so he tries too hard to make it up to me. He thought I was lonely, I guess. I’m not. I want to be alone. I’m tired of people around me all the time.”
“I see that.”
She went on, barely noticing I’d spoken. “And so I can’t have a construct like this one. I’d never be able to have him do the things I need done. He’s handsome and … and human, and I need a machine. A smart machine, to be sure, but just a machine. He won’t do. I’m sorry you made the trip out for nothing.”
“I’m not.” I almost began to breathe again.
Micah squeezed my hand. “I’m not, either. It wasn’t nothing to us.” He looked into my eyes and smiled. “Far from nothing.”
A million things I wanted to say jumped around in my head, but none would make it out my mouth. I just nodded and smiled back.
“I … see.”
I’d forgotten she was there until she spoke, I was so caught up in Micah’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Miss Fletcher.” I tried hard for customer service persona. And failed miserably.
“Don’t be, David. I didn’t think constructs could feel love, but it’s obvious that this … that Micah does. Another reason for this not working.”
“We’ll have to explain to your father and arrange for another construct to be brought out.”
“He won’t do that. He’s never accepted a return of anything. He insists that things be made right. That’s what he’ll want with this.”
Micah’s hand tightened on mine. “I won’t let them alter me, Jamie. I won’t.”
“Of course not. We’ll figure something out. Let me think about it a while. You and David come along and settle in. Daddy already told me you were staying a week at least, and by then, we’ll have …. Oh. But I need someone to ….”
“We’ll do it, Jamie.” It was the least I could do, since she was helping us.
“David, it means wiping my ass.”
“I know that. I can do that. I’ve done it before, with my own mother there at the last. I can do it for you. And it should help to know that I’m gay and am not going to even want to take liberties while I’m doing things like that.”
She nodded as we followed her down the hall. “All right. Until we can get me the construct I really want. There’s a home health nurse coming in every day for a while, and she can do most of it, really, bathing me and all.”
I nodded.
“Here’s your room.” She opened the door to a huge master suite.
“Oh, geez, Jamie, we can’t —”
“You can and you will. I’m the customer and the customer is always right. Get settled in. And take your time. I need time to enjoy being alone, even with other people in the house. I can smell freedom and I’m going to revel in it. So, you two … be about whatever you’d like to get up to. Home health will be here at 4, and you probably don’t want to be … enjoying each other … while she’s here. She’s bringing supper today and tomorrow, too.”
“God, Jamie, I don’t know what to say.”
Micah leaned to me and whispered, “How about, ‘fuck me, Micah’?”
I groaned and she laughed. “I don’t know what that was, but yeah, that sounds like a good start.”
It was a good start. And a good middle and a good finish. The man was perfection in all ways. He could get me off in under a minute or make it last an hour. I didn’t have his stamina, but he didn’t seem to mind and found inventive things to do while I recovered.
We talked a while, the three of us, about pretending there was something wrong with Micah’s programming, but the risk was just too great that Fletcher would decide to have him shut down. I was surprised at Jamie over and over. She could cuss like a sailor and didn’t mind yelling in my face one bit.
We talked it up one side and down the other and in the end, after two days, we finally came up with a plan. Not a good one, but perhaps the only one. Jamie would tell her dad she didn’t think Micah was the right construct for her care, but would be a great construct as her boyfriend. Fiancé. Something. So, she’d need to keep him but also have another simpler model to do the caring bit.
The fly in the ointment was me. No way I was leaving Micah and he had to be there, in case Fletcher showed up, which he did a couple of times a year. Micah couldn’t go back with me. That was the cause of the biggest argument. Jamie told me to stay; she’d pay me a salary out of her trust funds.
Salary for what? I didn’t wipe her ass enough for that. For living with my lover? People who get paid for love are called whores. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that label.
“How about I’m paying you to stay here and make sure my ‘boyfriend’ and the other construct function properly?”
I thought about it. Maybe. I thought some more. More than maybe.
“All right. But I will do that. I’ll make sure the other is exactly what you want, and keeps working just as ordered.”
“Deal, then?” She did a thing that was probably sticking her hand out to shake. I laid mine on it and shook, sort of, and then Micah did the same.
“Well, now that that’s settled, somebody cook me some supper.”
Mr. Fletcher had what my grandmother called ‘a conniption’. No other word for it. Jamie said to expect it. What I didn’t expect was having him barging in the door, right up in her face, screaming until I thought he was going to bust a gut. She just sat there and took it, with Micah holding me back whispering, “Let her. She knows him. Be quiet,” over and over.
Finally he ran down.
“Are you quite finished?” That little hitch in her voice meant she was pissed, I’d figured out.
He nodded.
“Then you will listen to me. I’m going to tell you how it’s going to be and then you’re going to get back in that car and drive away and not come back until summer, do you hear me? If you come back before then, I’ll never forgive you, and there’s a lot to forgive you for.”
That hurt. I could see him wince from across the room.
“All right, baby, all right.”
She started in and laid it all out for him, just like she hadn’t done it on the phone and in email before. Micah was too important in her life to be doing menial things. Another construct for those, and I would order that one myself since I knew exactly how to place the order to make it the right construct. I would stay there, to help with both the constructs’ programming as her needs changed over the years. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. She wouldn’t budge. She was going to give me the carriage house — first I’d heard of that, hadn’t even seen the thing — so I’d have a place of my own, but be right there in case she needed me day or night. She was paying me. If he didn’t like it, he could go suck a sailor’s dick and a diseased one at that.
When she was done, he looked her in the eye and said, “You’re so much like me it scares me sometimes, little girl.”
She grinned. “Where do you think I learned, big daddy?”
He laughed and tousled her hair. Finally he looked at Micah and said, “I don’t know how to treat a construct.”
“Treat him like you would my boyfriend, stupid!”
“Then it’s time for a talk about my little girl’s chastity and happiness, is it?”
She snorted. “I’m no more chaste than you were at my age. Go on, get out. Kiss me and go back to business. You’re antsy to get away.”
It was true. I’d seen it in the way he carried himself. I don’t know if it was that as much as wanting to be where he couldn’t see this woman he fathered, he loved, he failed. Whatever it was, he wanted to be gone, too.
“I’ll see you in June, then.”
“Make it August.”
He laughed and nodded. “Micah. Winston.”
That was all the goodbye we got. Micah and I watched out the window until he was at the end of the drive.
“Set the security code to alarm if the door’s opened, just in case he comes back. He probably won’t, but I’d rather be sure we’ll know if he does,” she called from the main room down the hall.
I was far too elated to even remember the carriage house thing, and the next day was busy, refining what it was Jamie wanted and translating that into the lingo the guys at the plant would understand unequivocally. The day after, once the order was placed — and don’t get me started on what a dicking around that was — then I remembered.
She smiled when I brought it up, and led us out onto the deck. Not for the first time, I was glad of Micah’s strength. He’d cleared the snow off the deck in under an hour. It would have taken me three days in the CCU to do that.
She pointed her chair down the hill. There, almost hidden in the trees — my god, that was the carriage house? I suppose I should have been prepared, knowing this huge house was their “retreat”, but I wasn’t. It was bigger than one of the buildings at my apartment complex.
“Three bedrooms, three baths, a great room, large kitchen, and the pool is just beyond, for summer. That was the original house. The lawyer’s bringing the deed tomorrow. And don’t even bother. You can and you will. When the new construct arrives, you and Micah move in down there. Arrange for your things to be shipped from back home, maybe with the new construct.”
It didn’t sound like I had much choice, so I just said, “Yes, Miss Fletcher,” and let it go at that.
Everything was fine — so much more than fine — until Tim showed up in a damned taxi, drunk and loud and obnoxious as ever. I never did know why he was there, given that he hates the place and his sister, but there he was, bigger than life and twice as ugly as the saying goes.
Jamie tried to get rid of him. She tried bitching. He bitched back. She tried crying. He called her names. She tried sweetness. He let her spoil him. Nothing worked. At the end of the third day, I’d had all I could take of his calling Micah, “it” and “nuts and bolts” when he wanted something. I was getting him out of there if I had to carry him to the car and drive him to town or the airport myself.
Micah offered to do that, and like a stupid ass, I agreed. I’ll regret that every day of my life.
Micah was gone for hours. When I heard the car, I ran to the front door and yanked it open. He half fell out of the car.
“Micah! My god! What happened?” I raced down the front stoop and wrapped my arms around him. His clothes were torn and his skin scraped. If he’d been human, he’d have been a mass of bleeding bruises. “My love, what happened? Did you have a wreck?”
“I wish it were as simple as that, David.”
He began to weep, something I didn’t know he could do, and leaned heavily on me. I pulled him toward the house so I could check him over thoroughly. Jamie was in the doorway.
“Oh, god. Oh my god. He attacked you, didn’t he?”
I looked at Micah. “Did he?”
“It was nothing.”
“Nothing?” I exploded. “Nothing? Look at you! If you were flesh and blood, I’d be taking you to the hospital for god’s sake!”
He laughed ruefully. “But I’m not, David. I’m not.”
“Just come in the house. Let me look at you and then you can tell us what happened.”
The damage to his body was extensive but superficial. Nothing a bit of maintenance couldn’t handle and they’d shipped supplies with the no-name construct, so that wouldn’t be a problem.
The damage to his … soul … was much much worse.
It didn’t take long during my examination to figure it out, and finally Micah whispered, “He raped me, David.”
“He what? I’ll kill the bastard!” I needed to hurt something, to twist something in my hands until it died and then chew it up and spit it out. I pounded the sofa instead.
Jamie was pale as the lingering snow under the trees. “My god, Micah, I’m so sorry. It’s horrible.”
By that time I’d gotten a grip, enough to remember that Micah needed me more than I needed revenge. I pulled him onto my lap and rocked him, like a child, even though this hurt was far too big to kiss away. He still needed the comfort only love brings.
Bit by painstaking bit, the story came out. The hand to the knee, the grope of the crotch, the ‘pull over’ and yank of the steering wheel until Micah had no choice but to comply. The ripped trousers. The rough hands and rougher cock. The backhand to the face, again and again.
“Why didn’t you fight back, Micah?” I knew, but I had to ask.
“He’s human, David. I can’t attack a human.”
“It was self-defense! It wouldn’t have been an attack!” Jamie yelled.
“By law, it is.”
“What are we going to do about it?” she demanded.
“Nothing,” Micah replied.
I knew he was right, but I hated it.
“Nothing to him, but we’re going to change the locks on the house,” I said. “I don’t want that bastard coming in whenever he feels like it. And don’t expect me not to feed him his own balls for a snack if he shows up again.”
We were all tense and watchful for days.
Jamie went away after that. Not physically. Just on the inside. Withdrew almost completely. We tried to draw her out, tried playing the games we’d discovered we all liked. Nothing worked. I sat down in the carriage house at night looking up to her window until finally the light would go off.
The FedEx man came one day. Usually Jamie told us when she’d ordered something, so I was a bit surprised. She wouldn’t tell us what it was, but she was glad to see it, animated and herself again for the first time since Tim was there.
That’s how I hid it from myself, the rape. I didn’t ever think, “since Micah was raped.” It was always, “since Tim was here.” Much better for my blood pressure that way.
The next day, a car showed up and Micah and I hotfooted it up to the house. It wasn’t a car we knew, but I was taking no chances that it would be Tim coming back for more of my man.
It was a stranger, a technician.
She looked a little embarrassed. “I’m just having some adjustments made to my chair. It’s OK. I guess I forgot to mention it.”
I tried not to pry into her affairs. She had little enough privacy, even though the no-name wasn’t even vaguely human. I wasn’t going to rip what little she had away. For all I knew, she was having the thing fitted with a dildo. Still, we stayed up at the house, in the master suite, doing what we did best.
That man can suck cock better than a Hoover.
Jamie never would say what the technician had done, but there was a new button on her joystick. Maybe I’d been right about the dildo.
She was better after that, but still not the old Jamie. Gradually, the guarded expression in her eyes faded and the feisty smile that had always been there came back.
No-name worked out beautifully, and required enough maintenance so that I didn’t feel like a total slut, getting paid to bang my man. You’d think the simpler models would require less maintenance, but they don’t. They take far more. Hardware and software are both too simplistic to be capable of just going on and on.
Simplistic. Like my belief that after all these months — summer and ‘big daddy’s’ visit had come and gone and the leaves had turned and almost all fallen — finally we were safe from Tim.
Micah and I were up at the house one afternoon, playing Apples to Apples with Jamie when we heard a car and he headed for the door. “Oh, god, David, he’s here!”
“Shit! That motherfucker! I’ll kill him!”
“No, David.” Something in her voice should have warned me, but I thought she was just clamping down on her own anger at Tim. “Move. Let me by, damn you!”
We got out of her way. It was her house, after all. We watched through the glass top half of the door. Tim didn’t even ring the doorbell, just went for the knob and then pounded on the door when it wouldn’t open. Jamie looked back over her shoulder and said, “I love you both.”
She opened the door and zoomed out onto the stoop, her one working finger hovering over the new button on her wheelchair. She pushed it and everything went slow-mo.
There was a flash of yellow-orange from the tray-cum-restraint attached to the front of her chair, a horrible noise, and then red spattered all over the back of her chair and Tim’s chest. He crumpled, not like in the movies, but like he was a puppet and someone had suddenly cut his strings, all knees and elbows sticking out at weird angles until he looked like a pile of something on the stoop.
“Jamie, my god!” I ran for her, already feeling sick. “Call 9-1-1, Micah!” I knew he was already on it, but I had to do something and that was all I could come up with.
She was bleeding from her mouth and nose, but smiling. “It worked,” she whispered. “I got us both.”
“Why, Jamie, my god, why? I understand Tim, but why you?”
“To set us all free, my dears. It’s all seen to. Micah’s yours now, and the house and my money. All yours. For the first time, I’m glad to be paralyzed. It didn’t hurt. Not a bit. I won’t be in this prison-chair much longer.”
I was bawling, trying to stuff my shirt into that terrible hole in her belly. I know I was talking, begging, praying maybe, but I couldn’t begin to tell you what I said.
It took far too long for the ambulance to get there, even longer for the cops and that damned ME’s van.
“Don’t take her with him,” I spat, as they loaded Tim’s corpse up. “She couldn’t stand to be with him.”
“Take it easy, man. She don’t know the difference now.”
Micah pulled me away, almost dragged me down the hall, and poured a double down my throat. I needed it.
The cops stayed forever. We told them over and over just what happened that day. We’d decided not to tell them about the rape, just that there had been a dust-up between Tim and the three of us. The rape would complicate things too much. It was going to be hard enough for Mr. Fletcher that his daughter had killed his son and herself without hearing that his son was a rapist.
The cops hammered us both about the firing mechanism. It wasn’t hard to say we knew only that she’d had some equipment installed. I skated around telling them that we thought it might have been some sort of sex toy, but they got the idea eventually and let it drop. The only questions they had for us after that were if we’d known she planned to harm her brother. That was a bit harder. I finally told them that after the fight, I knew she’d been very angry, but she’d said nothing to indicate she might actually do something like that, and that she’d seemed to have gotten over that, just as we all had been angry and then calmed down.
The cop wanted to blame us, I knew. She was the daughter of a wealthy man, who was likely to have the cop’s ass handed to him, along with his boss’s and his boss’s and maybe the mayor and governor, too. I thanked her a million times for not letting on even a tiny bit.
They tried to take Micah. That was the worst part. They said he must have some strange programming that sent him over the deep end and he —
“He what? He hypnotized her into killing her brother? That’s ridiculous. His diagnostic computer’s in the carriage house. Run the program. You’ll see he’s fine.”
It made me queasy, watching the tech they sent out pull back the flaps and expose his ports. No one should touch those ports but me. I looked into his eyes the whole time. Of course, nothing looked back, since he was in diagnostic mode. My heart pounded nearly out of my chest until those jacks were pulled and the flaps closed. The tech told the cop just what I’d said, that Micah was perfectly fine, with nothing out of kilter. I wanted to kiss him before he and the cop walked down the hall, but restrained myself.
“Micah?” It was barely a whisper, urgent, though I could hear the faint whirr that meant he wasn’t fully up yet. “Micah? Oh, god, Micah!”
And then he smiled. “David.”
My whole world was in that word, in that smile.
“Oh, god, Micah, I was so scared. But you’re back.”
“Yes, David, I’m back. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I don’t know. Because maybe I think I don’t deserve you.”
“Are they gone?”
I shook my head. “Not yet. Why?”
“Because I want to show you just how much you do deserve me.”
I shivered and said another prayer that they’d leave soon.
That prayer wasn’t answered either. It was dawn before they rolled.
We sat for a long time, not saying anything, not really knowing how to say what we wanted to say, all the horror and guilt and self-recriminations for not knowing. The sadness. The grief. And the guilt for the tiny scraps of happiness that floated in, knowing she’d taken care of things, that Micah and I would be together without worry.
Mr. Fletcher was another matter. He showed up the next morning, after we’d had a chance to begin to talk, to sleep, to make love. And get professional clean-up people out to take care of stains and such, thank god.
He tried intimidation. It didn’t work. He tried accusations. That didn’t work either. He tried threats. He pulled out his phone and called his lawyer. That was the big shocker for him. We could hear the lawyer telling him gently that he couldn’t represent him in any matter regarding us, since Miss Fletcher had put him on permanent retainer months ago on our behalf and that would be a conflict of interest. Business matters, he could help with, but not this.
He fumed some more, and I thought he was going to just keep on. Micah turned that one. Fletcher was sitting on the sofa, leaning forward, forearms on his thighs, saying nothing, getting his breath back for another tirade or planning strategy. Micah squatted in front of him and laid a hand on his knee.
“She loved you very much, you know.”
Fletcher shattered like safety glass, crumbled into a thousand thousand pieces. Micah moved to the couch and held him until the weeping was done. Both of us were crying, too.
When the weeping stopped, he hugged Micah close and then cleared his throat. “Thank you. And thank you for all you both meant to Jamie. I know she’d want you to stay here and I’ll never be able to walk in this door again.”
I didn’t bother to tell him she’d given us the house. He’d find out soon enough. Let the man get through his children’s funerals. We offered to help with the arrangements if he needed it, but he shook his head. “It’s taken care of. After Jamie’s accident, we planned things. Losing her mother like that, so suddenly, taught me how hard it is to think that way when you’re in shock. I insisted we plan things. It may not be what she’d have chosen now, but at least I know it was then.”
The house was very quiet after he left, in a way it hadn’t been before. It was like Jamie had still been there, watching over us, making sure her father didn’t go crazy or something. Now it felt like she was gone. I missed her. Micah missed her.
Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I can’t love women. Just that I can’t love them with my body. And I loved Jamie. So did Micah.
Eventually the looks when we went to town to go shopping stopped. We kept to ourselves for a while, knowing that someday, we’d come out of the shell of grief and shock, giving ourselves time to do that. On her birthday, the FTD guy came to the door. There was a huge bouquet of roses. The card read, “Because I’ll never forget my little girl. Love, big daddy.” There was a note asking us to put the roses in her room.
We hadn’t been in there since that evening. I couldn’t stand it. But for that, I’d go in. We took the vase down the hall together and opened her door. It hit me like a hot wind off the concrete of a parking lot, the grief. But there was something else there, too. Some sense of her still. We set the roses down on her little dressing table — she’d always laughed about having a ‘vanity’ as if she had anything to be vain about — and then Micah clutched my arm.
“Look, David! I see her, reflected in the mirror!”
I would have worried about his programming except I saw her, too. I wheeled around and she wasn’t there. Something stirred the roses, and I shivered. I heard it, and Micah said he did, too, her last words before it all went horrible. I love you both.
“We love you, too, Jamie,” I whispered.
“Be at peace, sweet Jamie,” Micah added and there was a sigh, like the universe exhaling, and the reflection was gone.
The next morning I booked us on my dream vacation, one of those round-the-world cruises. It was the first real use of the money Jamie left us, other than the frugal groceries we’d bought. It felt right suddenly, as if she’d blessed us with freedom the day before.
We got everything arranged, security and cleaning and such. We were packed and in the hall, ready to leave. It suddenly felt like she was there again, and I could almost see her. She smiled and waved. I guess she wasn’t paralyzed anymore. I knew she’d like that.
“Good bye, Jamie. We’ll be back in two months.” I closed the door and we walked away.

The Dark Alley

This is an unusual post, in that it has many authors. Yesterday in a writers’ group I’m in, we had a “Tantalizing Tuesday,” where we posted flash fiction (500 words or fewer) or poetry, using one of a set of photos, or one of four sentences as an inspiration point. Bonita Franks and I, with the authors’ permissions, of course, are posting the resulting fiction or poems to our blogs. Bonita has done half (a link to follow), and this is my half. They were all done using the same photo. Here it is. I’ll add similar images as we go.

a1d6eb7b0ab6fbb51e7ddd211b0a71a1

Intriguing, isn’t it? Here are the submissions:

Yikes! Somehow I missed grabbing a submission! I’m so sorry! Here it is, in pride of place, to make up for my goof. (Forgive me, Kathy?)

 

Kathy Griffith

Dark Alley

The young man approached the narrow staircase with quite a bit of nervousness; this was the first time he’d even thought to explore his sexuality, and he was prepared. He patted the pocket of his coat where he had stuffed a few condoms. He heard soft sighs and grunts coming from the shadows.

Was he really ready for this?

He leaned against the cool brick, waiting his turn, sweating. In his peripheral vision, he saw a bear of a man fumbling with his zipper, tidying himself up before exchanging a few dollars, then moving on. Apparently, oral was the specialty here, and he wasn’t really ready for anything else anyway. He shuffled forward when the prostitute crooked his finger, and as he approached, seeing the man in the soft glow of the dirty lightbulb, his eyes grew wide and he gasped.

“DAD?”

======

file0002104771549

Kelley York

The atmosphere is too much. The smoke, the smell of cigars permeating the room, the raucous laughter and buzz of hundreds of conversations going on all at once. Coming here was a mistake, one Ben has to rectify. 

He ducks out a back door into the rainy night, yanking loose his tie and the top button of his shirt. With a few heavy breaths to steady his nerves, he slouches back against the cool brick, gazing down the steps to the street below, studying the reflections of street lights off parked cars. Alexander brought him here to unwind with a few drinks, and here he was, running out on him. Hardly polite.

The door creaks open, momentarily allowing the chaos from inside to escape, and Alexander steps out, brows twitching into a frown. “There you are. Everything all right?”

Ben squares his shoulders and offers an apologetic smile. “Sorry. It was a bit much, is all.”

The taller man crams his hands into his pockets, coming down a step to stand before him. The door swings shut, plummeting them into near silence again. “We didn’t have to come here, you know.”

“You wanted to.” 

“I didn’t care where we went, really. I just wanted to spend time with you.”

The confession makes Ben lift his startled gaze to Alexander’s face. “That’s… That’s a bit of a strange thing to say.”

Alexander shrugs, smiles, leans his shoulder into the wall beside Ben, putting them far closer than Ben ought to be comfortable with. “I suppose I’m a bit of a strange man.”

The proximity brings heat rushing to his cheeks. Were anyone to see them out here, like this, they’d never hear the end of it. And yet he can hardly muster a complaint when Alexander closes the remaining distance between them. Just like that, the rest of the world ceases to exist, no longer consisting of anything except them, an eager mouth against his in an empty stairwell.

 

 

Erik Schubach

He strained, pulling hard on the fabric of reality of the Victorian London alley around him. The warm, fluttering light of the oil lamp illuminating it, steadied into the cold lifeless glow of electrics. The carriages on the street below bled into the heartless steel automobiles of this century.

Gasping, he stepped through to this new place in time. Looking back, he smirked. Let’s see them follow him now.

 

file0001041344307

 

 

Neve Wilder

Frenchmen Street, #103

You walk by it every morning, the rough cinderblock flanks of the building, the sleek channel of stairs between. A safe deposit box of memory to which you still hold the key. You stop and plant your feet as you have every day that came before this one, stiff rubber soles dimpled by cracking pavement that will never be strong enough to contain the wildly beating heart of the city beneath. The heat from your coffee bleeds beyond its paper sleeve and fills in the lines of your palm. That psychic who once traced them with the edge of her thumbnail, she knew nothing. She was dead wrong. So you stand there and close your eyes and turn the key: 

After midnight in New Orleans, everyone is a ghost or demon. 

Between the two of you, you were never sure which was which. The breath that passed hot over the back of your neck could have been a spectral breeze, but the lips that followed were pure devilry.

You held onto the railing, fingers twisted around wrought iron so cold and damp it felt like a fever breaking. His fingers curling on top of yours, sliding between skin, the jigsaw fit of hands and bodies. When he moved, you did also, helplessly attuned to the primacy of his need and the way it moved through you like a riptide, sucking you under in a grip so tight and relentless you thought your bones might be ground to powder he could sprinkle in the coffee of other lovers. And you wanted it, oh god, you wanted every ounce of that voodoo alchemy between you. Craved it so much that the places he fucked you became so many love bites pressed into the broad shoulders of the city.

But that psychic was dead wrong and now what do you have but a head full of unwanted keys to safe deposit boxes of ghosts spanning the city where you once loved him and he once loved you back.

 

file0001462529754

 

 

Naomi Aoki

Yohei stumbled, banging into the rough stone wall of the alley and he winced. His breaths came in ragged gasps as he allowed himself a moment to rest, confident he didn’t need to run anymore. The men chasing him far behind, lost hopefully.

He moved again, fingers digging into the cracked morter not wanting his descent to be hurried. Tumbling was still a possibility, his jellified-legs protesting loudly about the previous activity. Yohei stared ahead, cars whizzed past on the wide street below casting red and white light into the shadows illuminating each step still to be taken. It promised him crowds. People rushing from one pub to another, businessmen taking detours on the way home from work. 

It promised him safety. A place to hide; to disappear. Yohei needed to disappear if he wanted to keep breathing. 

The information he carried need to be delivered to the right hands, ones that would use it and not bury it beneath layers of corruption. But he could worry about that tomorrow. Tonight he needed to stay alive.

Yohei breathed deep, easier and the scent of food filled his lungs. His stomach grumbled, reminding Yohei he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Since he’d made the decision to take what he’d found and escape. Yohei ignored it, pushing on toward the promised safety. Too dangerous to stop and eat now. He couldn’t risk being found.

Two more steps.

He paused at the end of the alley and hesitantly peered at the bustling street. Carefully he took in the people passing by assessing them for danger and relaxed when he couldn’t see any. Danger might lurk in the shadows, but he couldnt see any sign that he’d been tracked down. Yohei took a breath calming his panicked nerves and stepped out.

“You had to run, didn’t you Yohei?” A sinister voice broke through teh shadows into the light and one Yohei knew well. He froze. “Lead my men on a merry chase.”

Yohei tried to step back and find another route to escape. His shoulders slumped as he collided with a wall of muscle. “I thought they could do with the exercise.”

He should have realised escape was not possible. Ever.

“Let’s go home, Yohei and I’ll forget that you tried to leave me. But I wont be so generous if you try it again.”

 

into_light

 

 

Jason Griswold

The City isn’t Safe at Night

Nick knew better than to walk home alone at night. His mother always warned him that the city isn’t safe at night. The walk from work was only five minutes, though. What was the harm?

The echo of footfalls behind him began three blocks back. He contemplated ducking into a restaurant or bar, but he passed into a residential neighborhood, so that wouldn’t work. He sped up, his footfalls clicking faster as he looked for refuge. 

He knew not to glance back. His mother always said that was dangerous. But so was walking alone at night. Bad things can happen. 

Up ahead he saw a group of people walking in his direction. Just act like you’re meeting them, then walk back toward the restaurants. Call for a ride.

Instead, he walked past the group, ducking into a dark alley up ahead. There was a single light at the bottom of a set of stairs, leading up into darkness. As he pondered if he should ascend, He felt a jolt, as he was pushed from behind.. 

his assailant was large. He was armed with a knife, and a snarl. “Listen up!” he growled. “Empty your bag, buddy.” Nick looked at him. “Open your bag. Empty it. Give me your money, jewelry, and wallet.”

“Please…” Nick said. “Please, sir. You don’t want to do this.”

“Oh yeah? Why not?” He asked.

“Because, it isn’t safe at night. You never know what bad things might happen.”

The man pointed the knife in his face. “Money. Wallet. Now.”

He paused. Nick stood in front of him, eyes closed. When he finally opened his eyes, they gleamed yellow. His face contorted into a monstrous grimace. his teeth became razors, his skin furred. The beast that once was NIck leapt forward, grabbing the brute by the throat, and dragged him up the stairs into the pitch black.

As he tore out the mugger’s throat, the beast that once was Nick had a strange, human thought. His mother was always right.

The City isn’t safe at night. For anyone.

~~~~~~~

All images credited to user hotblack at morguefile.com.

As promised, here’s the link to Bonita’s post.

Lost and Found, by Aaron Speca (posted with permission)

Flashie Friday/Saturday/Sunday Challenge contribution

Lost and Found

Autumn Stone Bridge
old stone bridge, Scotland, autumn

 

He didn’t blink. He didn’t dare, because what he was seeing was impossible and he was afraid she would disappear. Dripping and shivering, he stood ankle deep in the center of the stream looking through the stone arch over which he had climbed so often as a child. All those times, he had never really looked before, even when his sister had disappeared ten years ago to the day. Now, peering back at him through a shimmering veil behind which lie what had to be another world, was a woman he would recognize at any age. He reached out towards her even as she extended her hand to him. His fingers tingled with static electricity as they approached the wavy distortion, and with a sudden flash, he vanished.