Warnings: The usual ones apply: real people slash, sex between men, explicit language. In addition: stalking, and screaming boy-bander members.

Old news: As far as I remember, I didn't post this little piece on Nifty: Possessed. I may have put a reference to it in the head of an installment somewhere. Anyway, you may want to read it - it's an AJ/JC kind-of-thing, in parts it's running parallel to The Tail.

And you'll still find an overview of the chapters at my website as well.

What else - oh, yes: Research! For your information: it has now been experimentally proven that sanitary towels do work a lot better than newspapers when things have to be quiet. (My doctorate on this subject is just a matter of time.)

Oh, and I did research on the effects of creeps in the fridge, too. Now, that caused my name to be yelled out loudly and was followed by some explicit talking to - with me at the receiving end. Which probably means that it works. At least with the right kind of audience.

Lots of thanks to Kenovay for betaing. I did some editing after she returned the installment - so if you find grievous errors then they're all mine, I'm sure.

Hugs and zombie greetings to all of you.



The Tail of the Tiger, Chapter 20

Crazed and Vengeful Killer Zombie Alligator Babies

I was pressed against the door of the car. Chris sat next to me, making multi-limbed animals with my hand and his, tying our fingers into leggy knots. Busta was in on the game, slobbering all over the dangerous animals. On the other side of Chris sat Justin. Joey was driving and next to him JC was leafing through Joey's CDs and frowning at what he found. Or perhaps it was at what he did not find.

I blew air in Chris' ear. "Tell me what it looked like when the condom water bombs fell - Lance and I never saw it."

"Man, it was great-" Justin said with enthusiasm.

"I wanna tell it." Chris untied our fingers and put my hand on my thigh and patted it. Busta slobbered some more and I scratched her with fingers that felt like they were made of rubber. Chris had very determined in his knot-tying game.

Justin pouted. "No - let me. I wanna."

"No! I saw it coming before you did!"

Justin frowned, thinking hard about that argument. Chris used the moment to launch his tale. "It all began when Joey and I were looking for you guys. We couldn't find you-"

"We were upstairs," I said, just in case he wasn't aware of that fact.

"I know. Now, do you wanna hear it or-"

"Okay. I'll shut up now."

"Thank you. So - we went looking in the front yard and we found a whole committee there-"

Justin spotted my confusion. "JC, Diane and I had run into Lou. He was getting out of his car when we-"

Chris growled. The Growl! Justin smiled sweetly.

"So, Lou and Diane were talking and Justin and JC were goofing-"

Justin's indignation was too big for him to keep his mouth shut. "He'd tied knots on my shoelaces!"

JC snickered.

Chris ignored them. "Then, then I saw four blobs coming out of the bathroom window, and I was looking at those blobs, and they were, like, they were levitating, and I thought: "No, no, it's too good. It can't be true. I'm hallucinating or something!""

"I saw them, too," Justin told me. "JC didn't."

"I was trying to step on Justin's feet-"

Chris raised his voice a little. "Diane and Lou couldn't see the blobs; like, they were standing too close to the house. And the blobs kept going up, and I was thinking, "Yes! They are for real, man - they are for real!" And Joey sorta just kept saying hi, and talking-"

"Dude! You were staring at them blobs like you were seeing Jesus. I figured I better not be staring too, and keep the conversation going. Like, maybe they figured you'd reverted to your watch-out-low-flying-UFO period, and that they would not look at what you were staring at, since that was the thing to do back then. Especially if you were carrying a container with water."

"Shit, Joey...." Justin was staring at Joey with open admiration.

"I wanted to see Lou be had, just once - I wanted to see it!" He punched the steering wheel for emphasis.

JC had to caress Joey's shoulder and he looked at Joey with adoration - as if Joey was a superhuman hero.

Chris grinned and nodded. "So, Diane went like, "You guys are soaked." And Joey went like "Yeah, you wanna be wet too?""

"I didn't know what else to say, man."

"It was a good thing to say - I could have asked something like that."

"I know. I didn't know what to say. All I could think was, like, "What would Chris say if he wasn't looking at Jesus?" And that was it."

"Ha! Anyway, Joey was talking and I could just see the blobs coming faster and faster right toward Diane. And she said, "No, don't you dare or I'll have your hides." And Justin started yelling - everybody looked at Justin just when they would've seen the bombs if he'd kept his trap shut. Hey." Chris elbowed Justin. "Did I tell you that was a great touch, man? Fine timing, damned fine timing. And all that waving your arms and going totally spastic instead of pointing, a really neat touch."

Chris' voice held no irony at all. Justin grinned sharply. JC, still overflowing with adoration, turned in his seat to touch Justin's knee.

"Anyway, Justin finally pointed, and then everybody looked where he was pointing. Lou, Lou he took a step back like he was gonna run. His arm was going like a windmill with one wing, and he kept holding on to that stupid folder, like, his feet were stuck, and his ass just kept going and going and it came down, like, whump, like an earthquake. And Diane, Diane was just standing there watching the blobs hitting the ground right in front of her, like, "I don't believe this", splash-splash, "I still don't believe this", splash-splash-"

He stopped while we laughed; then, when we had quieted, he picked up again. "There was water and bits of rubber flying everywhere. One of them bits got her right on the forehead and it stuck! Man, it was good, it was so good. You should've seen her when she peeled it off, like, "What's this?" Oh, man, when she figured out what it was, I tell you - she could see you right through the walls, man, like x-ray vision, there was a smoking hole where the x-rays went in, and, well, you heard her call Lance down. She just dumped that piece of rubber, and Lance had like maybe three seconds to get down there, if he wanted to survive."

"Lou was madder," JC's face appeared between the two front seats, wide eyed and pale he re-lived those seconds of terror. "I thought he was gonna kill Lance or something."

"Did you see how stupid he looked when he was sitting on his ass all wet, mad and yelling?" Chris asked JC.

JC blinked, his lips slowly pulled back in a wide sunny smile that curled wickedly at the corners. He nodded. And snickered. And snickered some more.

"Uh, oh," chuckled Joey and held a cupped hand against his right ear.

"Fucking stupid. The fat in his face was going everywhere!" JC said and started howling like a hungry donkey. "He lo-o-ooked so f-fucking... stupid!"

"Lance crossed his fingers," I told them when we had quieted. "When he said that we wouldn't have done it if we had known Lou and Diane were there, he crossed his fingers behind his back."

"I love you guys, did I tell you that?" JC asked.

"Yes, JC," the choir went.

"Man, we love you, too," Justin rubbed JC's shoulder.

And next to me Chris got a little too quiet for my comfort. I caught Joey's eyes in the mirror, he'd been looking at Chris and was frowning; he looked away hurriedly.

I wanted to dunk Chris. "How far to the beach?"

"Twenty minutes," Joey said. "Justin, you sure Trace got the boat?"

"Yeah. I talked with him this morning. He'll be there. Did I tell you - his uncle got a new motor for it? A big one, now it's got two. Trace said they're two nasty motherfuckers."

"Can it pull two skiers?" JC wanted to know.

"Probably. Man, that would be fun-"

And they started reminiscing about water-skiing, or, more precisely, what happened when one suddenly stopped water-skiing mid-ski, to which I could contribute, too. Chris stopped being stupid and joined in; he was in a fine mood when we stopped rolled into the car park by the marina.

We got our gear out of the stuffed trunk, Chris leashed Busta and we all followed Justin through the marina toward one of the far jetties.

It was a polished and very clean marina - so clean that in glimpses I could imagine the whole setup placed indoors. The boats matched: sparkling white plastics and sails and polished chrome. The air was free of the residue smell of tar and rotten fish that has always meant harbor for me.

It was a good day for water-skiing - not too much wind and hardly any waves.

And - it was good to see the sea again. And smell it. I filled my lungs and they grew and they grew; until then I hadn't been aware that I had had difficulties breathing. The very best air is the air that has passed over expanses of sea.

Chris sent me a grin when I groaned. "Missed something?" he asked.

"Oh, yes." I matched smile with him. "It's like a drug."

He nodded and looked towards the horizon. "Yeah. I get what you mean. Copenhagen is by the sea, right?"

"Yes. At the farm we had the sea right at the end of the dirt road, it was just a couple of hundred meters."

"I never saw the sea until I got here. To Florida, I mean. Man, that was seeing Jesus." The hairs on his arms were standing up and he grinned up at me.

That glowing face set responding sparks off in me. "It's going to be great." I couldn't wait; my blood was rushing, demanding wind, water and speed. And Chris!

His ear tips reddened. "A man in withdrawal, huh."

"Yes!" Want Chris! Hng-hng-hng - on water-skis!

A guy of about Justin's age was waving to us from a half-open motor boat. When he spoke another older and heavily set man got up from a crouch and waved too.

The boat was obviously built for speed - and true enough, it had two "motherfuckers " attached to the stern. My gut melted at the sight. "Oh, look at that!"

"Next he'll be overdosing on sea air and coming in his pants," Chris said to the other guys.

"Did you ever come in your wetsuit?" Joey asked me.

"No. I don't think so. Did you in yours?"

"Yeah. Not to be recommended."

"Man, I hope that was after you lent it to me." Justin glared at him.

"Er.... That smell you complained about-"

"You fucker!"

Joey dumped what he was carrying and ran, Justin dumped his things as well and ran after Joey. Grumbling, the rest of us picked up what they had left behind. The heavyset man's voice reached us quite clearly: "No running on the boat!"

Joey and Justin braked, and Joey tiptoed on board. Safe behind the man, he stuck his tongue out at Justin in a very Chris-like way. Justin checked himself just before his hand had moved into full flip-off.

The man shook his head at them and greeted us. I was introduced to Trace and his uncle Chase, whose boat it was.

We got installed, and Chase started the motors. They had that deep, rumbling growl that resonates in the chest bones, a feeling much associated with powerful machines. Chase happily chatted about the specs as we sailed out of the marina at a sedate speed. And, yes, the boat could certainly take two skiers.

"Who first?" Trace asked.

I was not one to complain when Chris caught Joey's eyes and said, "Mikkel and Joey" before anybody else could say anything.

No, there was not a complaint from me, not when I got to feel the surge and anticipation when rising out of the water. There were no complaints about the exhilarating whip of the wind or about the uneven soft-hard water-ground rushing by under my feet. The skis dug in nicely when I swerved. No, the yells weren't complaints at all under that high sky where Joey wanted to play at switching sides, and the horizon was within arm's reach.

I was high on it and shaking from the effort when our turn was over and we climbed back in the boat. Joey was grinning as madly as I was.

Oddly enough, nobody wanted to borrow his wetsuit. Or mine - but then it hardly fit anyone but me.

Next went JC and Chris - that took a couple of tries before both were out of the water. I was sitting by Busta next to Chase and out of the wind.

Watch Chris go! Solid, a little unsteady - and laughing his heart out. Chris. On skis. Want!

"Was it good?" Chase asked me over the roar.


He grinned and patted his boat.

JC went down, Trace yelled, and Chase slowed down, looking over his shoulder. We lost Chris when we circled to get JC. I was glad Chase had insisted that we all wear life vests.

"Told you," Justin yelled over the wind and roar to Trace. "They should have gone one and one."

"Well, why didn't you tell them."

"Drop the rope whenever the other one goes down," I said to Chris and JC when they were getting in position for another go. "Try to stay together."

"How do you do that crossover thing?" Chris was fighting to get the skis in place, hampered by the orange vest.

Chris, wet Chris! Want Chris! Go!

"You don't!" said Joey.

"No?" JC said, eyes pleading for a different answer and Joey faltered.

"No," I said.

"Can we do another circle?" Chris asked. "That was frigging fun!"


"No," Trace laughed. "Just stay on your feet, man. And stay together! Okay, Chase, they're ready."

Had it been my decision to make then we would have been circling all day, just so that I could see that eagerness again. Chris didn't complain, though; and the grin was very much on again when he got up at the third try.

"You sure you don't want a go?" I asked Chase, when we were unpacking lunch and the motors were at a mere purr heading back towards the marina. "I can take the boat, no sweat."

"Nah. It's okay."

Trace looked at his uncle. "Aw, Chase, you never get to go. Promise, we'll be careful with the boat."

Chase hesitated, then shook his head.

"Mikkel knows about boats." Justin was still glowing and high from his own ride. "He used to do smuggle runs."

Things got kind of quiet.

For a second I considered throwing Justin over board but he looked so stricken that I couldn't make myself do it.

"I...." He swallowed, suddenly pale. "I'm sorry."

I nodded. "Don't you want a tomato with that sandwich?"

He looked at the sandwich. "Tomato?"

"Yes. Red, round things - in the blue box. Goes well with that kind of sandwich. Joey - you're sitting on the drinks."

"What? Yeah, sorry. What do you want?"

"Soda, please."

"Me too, please," Chase said and took a tomato, calmly.

I was very much inclined to hug him. Chris was thrumming, generating darkness, I gave him a nudge with a shoulder when I leaned over to get the soda from Joey. The nudge didn't make Chris stop thrumming but he kept quiet.

So things were a little subdued for a while after that, and Justin wouldn't quite look anybody in the eye. Chase did get his turn, though; and I got to run his beloved boat, not trying anything fancy other than to give him a steady, good ski-ride.

Eventually we got back to the marina and said our good-byes and thanks to Chase and Trace. We drove a short way to park behind some small café that lay right on the beach. JC was stretching his long neck as we walked past the café, scanning the crowd in the shade.

"Looking for anyone?" Joey asked.

"AJ. Sometimes he comes here."

Trying to be discreet about it, I scanned the crowd, too. No AJ. I wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed - he was good company but he would definitely have been a strain on my poor acting capabilities. JC shrugged, not quite disappointed, maybe feeling something akin to what I did but for different reasons.

"He's probably nursing his hangover." Joey, too, was scanning the crowd.

"You were with AJ last night?" I asked.

"Yeah. You know AJ?"

"We met when JC and I were out looking for Chris and Justin. I think we told you, we talked with him at a party." I bit my lip or my mouth would have kept running perilously close to the babble-edge. So AJ had been at last night's industry party; it fit what he had said over the phone. Joey, Chris and JC all had that post-party bruised look around their eyes.

Justin still wasn't looking at me and all communication was really awkward now Chase weren't around. Chris stayed right in the middle of his cloud of darkness, and once in a while he would glower at Justin.

The Scowl! Scowl me!

There was something very touching about the sinister guy walking along the sandy beach, carrying a pup in a belly sling.

We had to walk a while before we reached the spot that JC had promised would be there - a patch of thin grass by a lump of small, windblown trees providing shade for Busta.

"Will you two stop it?" I said to Justin and Chris when we stopped, blankets, a Busta cushion and bags dropped in piles around our feet. It was the first time since we got out of the car that I had both of them within reasonable hearing range at the same time.

JC picked up his little red plastic bucket with the plastic tools and pulled Joey with him towards the water.

Now Chris was scowling at me. Yes! No! Danger! It tickles! Danger! Oh, nice danger! Chris - with a scowl! I rolled my eyes at him and then rolled them once more at the budding disbelief in his eyes.

"Kinky bastard," he growled and the darkness began shattering. His gaze flicked downwards....

Looking at me! Get naked!

"What?" Justin finally looked me in the eye.

"Nothing. We are okay, Justin. Just - stop it, please? Things happen, and you're not going to do it again. End of story. Please? I want to enjoy this place; I haven't been near the sea for so long, I'm starving."

"You're not angry?"

"No. And Chris isn't either. Right? Chris?"

"Goddam kinky bastard."

"Chris!" Chris!

He grinned, the last shreds of dark cloud dissipated. "No, I'm not angry. Why would I be angry? What are you talking about? Wanna go for a swim?"


"Good. Justin can take care of camp and Busta." Chris lifted the pup out off the sling.

"What? Hey!" Justin glared at him.

"Your atonement, man. Be thankful for it."

"My what?" But he was smiling. "Meathead."

I pulled my T-shirt off, leaving me only wearing trunks. I was ready to get into the water.

"Mikkel, dude, you really want that swim a lot." Justin took the leash from Chris who shed his T-shirt baring nice hairy belly, dark nipples - and trunks with a bulge. Oooh! Partner is awake! "Oh, my, Chris too! Guys, towels? Decency?" Justin was smiling.

I didn't want to search the bags for appropriate towels; I just wanted Chris and the sea. I took hold of his wrist and pulled him with me, intent on making my two goals come together. For some reason Chris suddenly changed his mind, and I ended up having to wrestle a screeching and utterly lovable Chris across the wide, sandy beach and into the water. The world didn't come any better than that.

Or maybe it did: flinging a laughing and wet Chris into the air and watching him land with as big a splash as he could make. And it gained even another notch when his head came back up, his eyes sparkling - maybe he wasn't human but a water pixie that had enchanted me. He blew a spray of water at me before his mouth widened in a grin. "Again!"

Hey - I'm the richest man in the world!

Floating, regaining our breath - and secretly holding hands under water - we hadn't regained much breath before we started competing shooting the highest sprays of water while on our backs. The height of the sprays was a point of debate, and since none of us bothered to figure out a method of measurement, each of us was sure that he was winning. The water tended to come right back down on our faces.

"Better?" Chris asked at some point, meaning the world and everything.

"Yes. How many Jesuses are there?"

"Jesus is omnipotent, you barbarian. You just gotta look - open your eyes, there are Jesuses everywhere." He tickled the inside of my hand, rubbing it lightly with a sensuous finger. "Man, did I just say that?"

"You did."

"Mmm." He watched his toes wriggle. "Did the storm work out all right? How did Loke do?"

"Loke is, I think, installed and ready to hand over John Cleese the Server to me. I'll know once the server is up and running again. Would you believe it - Kurt has planted a spy on my computer, it's been feeding him every log I've made, and I think it's been there for months. The guy is pure bred fifth column, I tell you."

Chris grinned. "What are you gonna do about it?"

"Feed him false information. I'm trying to figure out something nice and nasty. And don't tell Tom. They still chat like teenage girls. I'll pay whatever, okay?"

"Anything? How can I say no to that?"

I couldn't give him an answer to that. He was probably considering what to ask of me while I contemplated possible tracks for my revenge over Kurt until my thoughts strayed and I was somewhere else entirely.


"Whatever it is - I'm sure I don't wanna talk about it."


"I knew it. What about him?"

"He didn't like Diane being there."

"Tell me something new, man."

So he had noticed. I still wasn't sure how much he had seen before interfering in the hall. "He may be thinking that JC and I are having sex and he isn't happy about it."

"Out in the hallway, that was what it was about? You were having sex?"

"Like horny monkeys. Also - I mean, when I initiate a contact to tell somebody that it's "just a routine" thing, and I'm about to mug around with their system on a week end, then there's usually a couple of words that would be a lot more descriptive of the situation."

"Yeah?" He was grinning.

"Yes. Like "fuck up" and "damage control". "Routine" is just easier on customer nerves."

He slipped under to fill his mouth for a good spray. That spray too hit him right in the face. "It was pretty routine. But - I don't think we got through everything that he wanted to get through. He left something out, maybe because Diane was there. Either that or he screwed us over so good with those signatures that he doesn't want the suits around to see and we don't even have a clue."

"You told the other guys that?"

"Nah. If I told them every speculation that I have then they would be fucking paranoid, man."

"You're walking a line there, right? I mean, you're going to cover each other's backs. That's difficult for them to do if they don't know what's going on."

"I know, stupid. We made that deal not to let any of us alone with Lou and we're gonna stick to that, that's what's important for now. The rest is just my mind talking paranoid bullshit about stuff I don't know."

He said it easily: us, we. He didn't feel entirely alone with the problem of Lou's management style anymore - and perhaps now the feeling had reached gut level.

"Why the interference in the hallway, Chris?"

"Just saw you about to tear out Lou's throat. Couldn't have you take out the money of the operation."

"I wouldn't. I mean, I don't want to interfere-"

Chris snorted to his wriggling toes. The toes, watch the Toes! They wriggle! "You bomb our manager, the crank and necessary evil of our career, you trip him, you dump our contracts in dirty water, and you drown his glasses. Man, if that's your non-interference then I'm frigging curious to know what your interference will be like."

Oh, you'll find out, you'll find out. "I didn't trip the crank."

"You mean, it wasn't on purpose? Ha! I saw you-"

"It was the doll."

Chris' toes stopped wriggling. "The doll."

"Too many coincidences."

"It's begun to work."


"It's begun to fucking work!" He bobbed under, then tried to stand and found the water just a trifle too deep.

I stood and held Chris by the elbow, the water was up to my neck. "Damned dangerous thing inviting Lou into your house, I say. He can end up dead."

He was grinning, his eyes were wide and glowing - glazed and slightly mad. "Not if you're not there. You're some kind of medium, you know that?"

"I - what?" What a thoroughly horrible thought. "No, no. Not that. Stop it. Make it go away!"

"I don't think it's a thing anybody can stop. You gotta learn to live with it - like, it's your lot in life."

"Like freckles?"

"Yup. Like freckles." Now very much present, his gaze roamed my face and he smiled almost sanely. "Exactly like freckles."

"How would you know about freckles?"

"Hey - I used to have freckles."


"Yeah. Lots of freckles, on my face, under my feet, in my ears, between my toes, in my navel: you get the picture, they were everywhere. A hell of a lot of freckles until I made them go away."

As soon as I got over hearing Chris talk about the Feet - the Ears - and the Navel! The cute Chris Navel!, I dunked him. He sprayed me. I dove, circled him and he tried to flee but I pulled him under just as he reached a spot where he could reach the bottom with his feet.

Hard hands entangled themselves in my hair, he pulled - still underwater, we kissed and we touched, a quick slide of cool skin and warm lips in cool water.

We surfaced face to face with appropriate distance. "Chris - spread your legs."

Slipping my body between his legs I didn't have to fight the buoyancy as hard. And I didn't have to fight Chris when I pulled his trunks down and lifted out Partner! And the nice ball sack! Lick and suck. Partner can float! A cool dick that quickly heated in my mouth and filled out. The taste of seawater and Chris was enough - air was an entirely overrated commodity. Frail hips snuggled into the cups of my hands; I could feel him twisting, maybe playing at looking for me, the water-muted screeches from above the water could have been his.

I was rather breathless when I rose behind him and muttered, "Buh!" in his ear.

"Waah!" He jumped and turned. "Man, where were you?" He was never going to make it as actor.

"Didn't see me?" I didn't think I was either.

He shook his head, all eyes and fake innocence. "Try me again?"

"Got to catch my breath first." My theory about the need for air being neutralized by a mouthful of Partner didn't appear to hold water.

He nodded and smiled cheekily, one arm moving under water...

He's touching Chris! Chris is touching Partner, look-watch-lick - now! Down, now! Down and look! Chris is being nice to Partner! Down! Watch!

"Shit, my dick." I had to pause for breath. "Is trying to get me killed."

"Shut up. You're wasting breath."

I sprayed him lightly. He grinned and took it full in the face, closing his eyes for protection. The water on his skin glittered, jeweled eyelashes rose quivering. The Blink! Beautiful, so beautiful.

Wet Chris! Down now! Eat and watch!

There - the World's spin wobbles again. Chris-magic.

Suck Partner!

I slipped under the water.

The fifth time I surfaced I was really out of air. Chris flung himself at me, clinging to my back, squeezing my hips between his knees. Yes! One rub, two rub, three rub, four-, a soft mewl and some less rhythmic rubs left a hotspot glowing on my lower back. Ooh! Me too! Now!

"You rabbit." I had air for that, and he laughed breathlessly in my ear before he slipped off of me.

The explanation of his hurry was on its way into the sea - Justin and Joey had made arrangements for Busta by JC's construction site, and came wading carrying a ball.

"Wanna play?" Joey asked, smiling. "Or are you.... Fuck, you didn't!" He was staring at Chris, recognizing the source of that sated look. When Chris smiled like a cat with a belly full of cream Joey began laughing.

"What?" Justin plucked the ball out of the air and looked at Chris and then at me. He grinned and shook his head. "That just makes it easier for us, Joey. Now Chris' got spaghetti arms."

"I what? Ha! You're wrong, infant. Gimme that ball."

Joey ignored Chris. "Yeah. And somebody else is pretty frustrated."

Me! Joey is talking about me!

"No humping the opponents, man," Justin earnestly said to me. It was a good thing that I had almost gotten my air back otherwise the laughter would have killed me off.

Chris, tired of waiting for the ball, charged Justin, berating me for not helping him out. I was too busy laughing and trying to get air.

Playing on the same team as Chris, I had to play several fronts at the same time - until the point when the other team was too many points ahead for his liking. One knew that the turning point had come when his eyes narrowed and his chin jutted.

Now we charge! Finally Chris started behaving like a proper team mate.

"Man, you guys are a dirty team," Joey said later when we were swimming lazily after Chris and Justin who were fighting over the ball on their way towards land.

"You're just saying that because you lost."

He chuckled and shook his head while blowing bubbles. He lifted his head and looked at me. "Smuggler, huh?"

"Yes. I got myself into some stupid things when I was young."

"When you were young," Joey mused. "So, you told Chris about it?"

"Yes. Justin overheard some of it - I'd meant to keep it private. I mean, it's an old story."

"Okay. We thought so." Meaning him and JC - and that apparently was all he wanted to know.

"Help me?" JC inquired when we walked past him.

"JC, man, later, okay?"

JC made those eyes and held out the bucket for Joey who, without another protest, took it and went to fetch water while I continued towards Chris and dry towels. Justin was huddled next to him and they were talking.

"Whaddaya mean monsters in the air condition?" Chris' voice floated to me on a stray breeze, and Justin hushed him mumbling something - all the wind would carry was "fucking creepy".

Chris shot me a sharp glance, I was sure he did, I could feel it. I'm not looking, no reason for looking at Chris, no not at all, no reason to look at him - see that sea gull? Very interesting sea gull, that. It's flying. In the air. Amazing, isn't it? Look at it, it's beautiful and it's flying. In the air.... I really wanted a towel to bury my face in.

"... maybe Steve and Joe." I was close enough to make out the last of what Justin was saying without needing the help of straying winds.

They fell silent and I walked the last couple of meters, intent on that towel. I know nothing, just stupid me here, wanting a towel, yes a towel. And a beer, yes a beer, something to do after mugging around with the towel. Get a beer, never mind that it's lukewarm by now.

I got the towel and buried my face in it for a moment, composing myself. Looking up I found Chris' eyes roaming my body. My dick was quiet, chilled to silence for a while yet, though if that gaze kept touching my skin, it wouldn't be quiet for long.

Chris lay down on his back, Busta, without arguing much with Chris' magic hand, settled on the cushion by his side under a construction of sticks and Justin's and Joey's caps. Chris reached out and wriggled his free hand at me when I opened the cooler, and I obediently served him and Justin as well as myself. It wasn't until I saw Justin's satisfied grin that I remembered about the outrageous age limit.

By the water Joey hadn't escaped JC's demand for water, and he was still running back and forth with the red plastic bucket. "That's the third trip, right?"

Chris took the wrapped bottle from his mouth and sighed in contentment. "Yeah. He'll go another three."

"More," said Justin. "Five. It's JC!"

They slapped hands - the bet was up.

Joey had bruised eyes and he would see that we had just gotten beers out... "Two," I said. The hand slapping was a bit complicated when it involved three hands.

I settled down to watch. My bumpy skin was hungrily drinking heat out of the sun's rays. Chris pulled impatiently at my ankle and I moved about so that he could make a pillow out of my thigh and still have Joey and JC in his sight. His ear was cold when he rubbed it against me.

"One," Justin counted.

Joey looked towards us and I lifted my beer, greeting him, he smiled and waved.

Chris hissed; the cobra rose in a blur and nabbed my side hard. I twisted his nose in retribution; he just laughed and let me, and didn't protest when I started arranging his braids neatly on my thigh, black snakes on almost white skin.


We waited in anticipation. I experimented with ESP, thinking See my beer, see my beer at Joey and augmenting the mystic transfer with demonstratively relished deep draughts.

The cobra napped me again. "Stop that!" Chris wasn't talking to the cobra but to me.

Joey looked down, perhaps for a place to drop the bucket.

"One more, man," whispered Chris.

JC said something and Joey laughed. They slapped hands and Joey went towards the water again - with the bucket.

"Yes!" This time it was Chris who exuded relish when he drank his beer. And, doing it while lying down, he went into a coughing fit before Joey could properly appreciate the demonstrative reminder. I saved Chris' beer. He was coughing so much that he didn't see me switch the bottles so that it was his beer that I was drinking.

Joey left on his fourth trip for water.

Chris growled - and coughed.

"Yes!" Justin was grinning to himself. "Ha! I knew it."

Of course, after that water run JC didn't need any more water and Joey left him, smiling happily as he walked towards us. It was my turn to crow.

Chris began laughing before the coughing fit was entirely over and got into another coughing fit.

"Fuck, JC!" Justin said. Perhaps a stray wind carried that to JC, he looked towards us, smiling widely, and he wriggled his fingers in hello.

Joey, humming to himself, opened the cooler and found a can of soda.

Chris coughed one last time, took his beer from me, frowned, then shook it, gauging how much was left. "Bastard."

Joey looked up calmly. "I thought we'd established that you're the bastard."

"Well, Mikkel's one, too."

"Oh. Okay." He popped the can open and gulped down soda. He burped comfortably afterwards and sat down.

Chris gradually dropped out of the conversation and finally took a plunge into sleep. Like that - his eyes just fell shut and he was asleep. I took the almost empty bottle out of his hand, emptied it and put it aside.

Beautiful. The sand on his belly glittered in the spots of sunlight and threw little specks of shadow. The dark lashes, resting feather light on pale skin, once again effortlessly made themselves the axis of the World's rotation. God, he's beautiful. His hand, the one that had held the beer, lay relaxed on his hip bone. Chris. He looked warmer now, the lips only held a tinge of blue. Perhaps the sun had gotten through the cold skin. I checked, stroking his arm. He was still cool in the shady places but no longer cold. Good. He's comfortable.

And that was enough for a long while, just looking at Chris and knowing he was comfortable. The crashes of the waves wrapped themselves around me, continuously washing any other intruding thought off my mind.

"Mikkel?" Justin quietly lifted the virtual sound blanket from my mind.

Things had changed while I looked at Chris - Joey was on his side, napping. His hand lay next to a tripped can that looked like it was sleeping too. JC was walking further up the beach, picking up things and putting them into the red bucket, little white things - probably seashells for decoration of the castle that he had finished building. Justin had been watching me watching Chris.


"Ask you something?"


"Do you believe in true love?" Justin's blue eyes suddenly seemed improbably innocent.

"In what? I'm not sure I understand." Talking about this in an alien language and context - I had better make sure I understood. The answer was obviously important to Justin.

"You know, finding the only one and being together until the end. Soulmates, man. Like, until forever."

"No." No? Yes: no!


"Well, I used to." And this time the realization struck deep, and I was suddenly giddy with knowing that this would withstand being uttered aloud, no matter how weird it sounded: "Until I met Chris."

"You believed in true love until you met Chris? Then you stopped?"

I nodded, giddy from the revelation.

Justin studied me, maybe looking for hints that I was pulling his leg. "Why would Chris make you lose faith in true love? I thought you two were, like, really good."

"That's... There was another one, my first boyfriend. We - it's a long story, but we got separated, not like divorce-separated, I mean, neither of us wanted to be separated, we weren't asked. And I thought it, the crazy thing, was used up or something, when Martin was gone and after a while I couldn't hold on to it."

Justin was listening, his eyes clinging to my face.

"Except he was still there, inside me and I'm never going to get rid of him." And I was suddenly very, very glad of that. It hurt but it was good. "It was stupid, I mean, that's what memories are, things that are gone but are still there. But - I believed there would only be one chance and that I lost it, lost that chance. You understand?"

"Oh." Justin frowned; thoughts were popping audibly in his head. "So what you have with Chris... it's the kinda thing you don't believe in?"

"I guess you can say that."

"Crazy thing?" Justin was smiling.

I nodded. "You asked what I believe in - and I believe it can happen again. When I'm ready, it can happen again. Maybe next time the circumstances will be different."

"You're just gonna let him go like that? Aren't you gonna fight for it?"

Fight? "Would you want Chris to leave?"

"Leave? No, of course not - he can't, I mean, he's...."

"He's as firmly set in his path as I am in mine, Justin. It's part of what makes us us."

"But. Still, man. You should fight for it. You could visit and - stuff."

"Not enough, it's not enough. Drag the pain out for how long?"

"That ad, man - you could make it here, you've got talent, you're not afraid of work."

"I've got a business, I've got people depending on me like you guys are depending on each other. There are things I just have to do."

He looked down, biting his lip. It wasn't difficult to sense what he was thinking. Gonna hurt Chris so bad. This is gonna hurt him so, so bad.

"I know."

"Yeah." Suddenly Justin looked a lot older. "I think you know better than he does, man."

Oh, gods.... What have I gone and done this time? And then I remembered Chris' reaction in the car, and Joey's, and perhaps Justin was wrong and Chris knew.

"Mikkel, what if he wants to fight for it?"

"He said that?" I quenched the stupid hope that Justin's question called forth, and there was the aching pain left. God, Chris, no, please! Sleeping peacefully with his head heavy on my thigh.

"Man, he won't fucking talk about you and him at all; well, yes, about the sex, but I don't wanna hear that. But what if? Would you do it?"

Chris talk about me! "I don't know." I don't? Look at me selfishly taking what I can get, and knowing, and yet not, what will happen to him after I leave - and I don't know what I'd say to that?

Justin tried to see inside my skull.

I shook my head. "It doesn't matter. He won't ask."

"I still think you guys should fight for it." Justin pouted.

Now, there is one who would not know when to quit.

"No. Pass me my bag, please." He did and I got the sunscreen out.

Justin didn't say anything, just took the bottle from me when I had finished rubbing the white goo into what skin I could reach, Chris' sleeping face included.

Justin opened the plastic bottle. "You know, that day when we met?"

"When you blew your fuses all over Joey's garden?"

"Yeah. Man, I really hated you. Like, really, really hated."

"How come? I mean, you didn't know who I was."

"You had oil on your hands and so had Chris, that was enough, man." He began rubbing sun blocker into the skin on my back.


"Chris used to call me when it was something with motors. I don't know shit about them, just what Chris has told me, but, like, we're really good at swearing at them together. And then there was this fucking dog, I really thought it was Chris', and a strange adult kind of guy with oil on his hands. It was like, fuck, Chris doesn't need me any more, I'm just a stupid kid." He paused to squeeze more lotion into his hand.

Did Chris know just how much he had undermined Justin's confidence?

"You know, I had just convinced Lance that maybe we should go over there and help Chris with the garden and see if we could talk, like we hadn't and maybe we could. Lance was feeling really shitty for having reamed Chris before we left. I felt like a fucking hero, like I was going to fix the peace. And then you were there and everything just changed and I didn't even figure in the picture. Man, I hated you for that."

I ached in sympathy. "How do you feel about things now?"

"Okay. Good. But sometimes.... He'd been bitchy for so long.... Not now, but, yeah, until he figured he could hook up with somebody like you, I guess. I mean, you being male and.... yeah. I'm fine with you, but I'm kind of pissed that you won't even try, man, that's... I dunno, you're not supposed to give up like that."

"You told him that? Not about being pissed at me, but that other stuff, why you hated me?" How he hurt you - the little punk.

"He knows, man. Chris always knows shit like that."

"But do you know what was going on? Like, the whys. Have you talked about that?"

"No. No, not yet. I'm pretty sure I know what it was."

"Sometimes wrong guesses can make big messes."

Justin thought it over then shook his head and suddenly looked very much older than his years. "So can truth, man. This one could backfire something fierce. I'm not in a hurry. Just dying several time a day from curiosity. I mean, I'm not sure. That's okay as long as he's back." He recapped the sun blocker and got up to check for food. There was only cake left. He didn't mind at all. He hid the leftovers and laughed later when Chris chased him all over the beach for having eaten it all.

Joey, JC and I had eaten most of it before Chris saw what we were doing.

"Really, you wanted cake?" Joey, hair pointing in all directions, blinked innocently at him. "I thought you'd rather play with Justin."

If Joey hadn't let go of his cake in a hurry, the fanged cake monster would have ground both cake and Joey-fingers with its strong jaws. Both JC and I had the dubious pleasure of having the ravenous beast eat out of our hands, as well.

Later, in the backseat of the car, the monster was downright beautiful while cuddling close and singing in mysterious patterns with the other three, its voice soaring. Mostly it was rowdy songs wrapped in beauty. I sat very quietly while goose bumps of pleasure spread all over my skin, a little afraid that they would notice me and stop singing.

I was melted butter on the floor when Joey started in a voice so full of grunty testosterone that it should have burst - "I'm driving in my car. I turn on the radio. I'm pulling you close. You just say no. You say you don't like it, but girl I know you'r a liar, 'cause when we kiss, huh, fire-" There was a lot of testosterone in the choir, too. Some of the sex sounds that JC made could have been borrowed from Chris.

It turned out that Joey hadn't forgotten that I was there - he remembered to drop me off at home entirely without prompting.

"Come over when you finish work," Chris suggested. "Lance is gonna bring videos, we're gonna be up until late."

"Sure." I was fighting to sound normal and thought I succeeded well. "If you've gone to bed I'll just throw dirt on your window. I doubt I'll be earlier than two."

He grinned; maybe he planned to have shoveled everybody into bed by the time I arrived, just to have me throw dirt on his window.

In order not to make myself a total liar, I did work for some hours. Mormor, Tom and Paul were watching some sports thing on TV.

Tom's ever-present phone rang and he got up while answering with the unimaginative "Yeah?". He frowned. "Who is this? ... No, this is his cousin. Just a sec, he's right here."

It could be Tommy. From LA. Oops - I forgot to erase Tommy's phone number.

"For you." Tom handed me the phone. "AJ."


Paul's head came up and his stare fixed on me as he waited for something very spectacular to happen to me as a result of a conversation with a member of the Backstreet Boys.

"Hi, Mikkel here." I got up and walked to the kitchen.

"Hi, this is AJ. Man, a report? Do you know what happened last night? Was he alone?"

"No, he wasn't; I went over to take a look around midnight while hiding in the garden. Now we swap. Why is Lance on your shit list?"

"That's mean, man...."

"Yeah? Don't tell me you didn't do what you could, keeping them partying so that Lance would go home alone. If it's something you can't say, just say so. I'm not that mean."

"Let's just say he had reason, man. I'd been a shit to one of his friends, like, really a shit. Then Lance stole my fucking clothes and I had to leave a party dressed in a nightgown with frills and woman's slippers. Let me tell you, it was a long wait for a cab by the curb."

"Lance did that? Lance Bass?"

"Yeah. Well, Kirkpatrick was around, but when you come right down to it then it was Lance. And he's been staring fucking murder at me since. It's getting really annoying. I mean, the nightgown was a good move, man, it was really funny, but, yeah, I mean, it's almost been a year and he's still on a fucked up crusade or something. The report, man."

"Right-" I gave it to him in as much detail as he wanted - which was a lot.

JC would want to tell him about the water bombing of Lou, so I kept my mouth shut about that. I was not in doubt as to which of Lance's friends AJ had been a shit to.

And whatever is between AJ and JC now I'm sure it would warrant some kind of shut-up document. Though perhaps not, they are pretty equal in what they have to lose.

"- they expect me at around two o'clock. I'll go earlier and spy a little and then return."

"Hey, you can't keep all the fun to yourself - I'm coming too."

It would be nice having company in the dark. "Dress for quiet and camouflage, okay?"

"Like 007, I know, man. I got a pocket light, too. You got lockpicks?"


There was a pause, then, "Is there anything you want me to bring?"

Why not? "If you have some little toys - plastic spiders and the like, maybe we could do something with those. Just little things, you don't want to lug too much around."

"Sure. You wanna go in?" There was a broad smile in his voice.

"If the opportunity is there, yes. Otherwise - glue them to the windows on the outside or something." The tree - I could get through a window on the first floor....

"Okay. Glue stuff?"

"I have both pads and glue. And string and a knife. But you might want your own."

"Right. Where do we meet?"

"You have a car?"


"There's an empty house with a 'for sale' sign in front-"

We made the arrangements and hung up.

It was a Sign - John Cleese had come up when I made a last check before wrapping up my work. I made brief contact with Loke 1.0, but didn't do anything other than to make sure that it was where I wanted it to be.

Right - now, what do I do for camouflage clothes? All my pants were bleached enough to glow in the dark. Except the dark green not-a-birthday present from Kamilla and Jane, so - leathers it was.

It was very odd to be wearing leather again. I hadn't worn leathers since Martin's old ones had fallen apart, and second-hand leather was in many ways a symbol of my youth. The last pair had lasted for a couple of years after the guys disappeared. These were very different - the length fit perfectly and the feeling of being magically protected by the former owner was missing.

About time I grew into my own ones. Still, it was not without a soft pang that I realized what was missing.

Kamilla had been kind enough to send stringy underwear as well. Make me nice for Chris!

I wasn't sure that he would pay all that much attention.

Take the pants off. Chris wants to see me!

Nope. My legs would have lit up the night like neon tubes.

I removed the sleeves of my jacket, emptied the pockets and refilled them again so that I would know where everything was. I hadn't brought gloves to Florida, those I had to do without. Mormor had a dark scarf, which would come in handy in case I needed face cover.

"That's my sweater," Tom immediately noticed when I came into the library to tell them that I was leaving.

Paul whistled - any piece of thread that belonged to Tom would make that boy happy.

"You mind?" It was the only close fitting, long sleeved, dark blouse I'd been able to find. Tom shook his head. "I'm borrowing your phone, too."

He frowned at that but didn't protest.

Mormor squinted at the scarf around my neck. Then her gaze got stuck on the tool belt. "Just what are you up to?"

"A bit of stalking, and probably some break and entry."

"Well, you take care, boy - my lawyer won't be in till the day after tomorrow. And save the Gaugin for me, I've always wanted one of those things. A van Gogh will do, too."

"Yeah, Ma Dalton."

She grinned briefly, then she lost interest in me when the audience on the TV went crazy. "That idiot!"

It was not long after midnight when I rolled into the driveway in front of the empty house.

AJ was already there. Dressed all in black and not a shiny ornament on him, he looked smaller and thinner than I remembered him. He had a small knapsack slung over his shoulder.

"Do we need a plan, man?" he asked.

"We can't. But there's a few things you should know - the staircases all creak."

"Oh, great."

"The one to the first floor, when going up - stay to the very far left for the first seven steps, then shift to the right on the eighth. There's a couple of steps you better skip-" I counted them out for him making sure he knew the count going both up and down. "I haven't checked the staircase to the basement properly - I forgot to do it that day we installed the show. Did you?"

"What? No... but I think the last steps were the noisiest. How's the layout of the garden?"

I sketched it for him, taking care to mention the sensors for the driveway light, and the dog fence since it in some places was difficult to see in the dark.

"Okay, man. I think I got it. Now, what did you bring?" We looked through the stuff we had brought. "One thing, though."


"I'm almost blind at night."

"Hold on to me then, I'll try to signal you if there's something to beware of. Also, I brought Tom's phone. Let's go."

We went, walking past the house and entering at the corner outside sensor range, AJ right at my heels. Like last time there was nobody in the kitchen despite the light being on. Those guys are wasting energy like there is no tomorrow.

We continued along the house towards the back, reaching the window to the living room. It was empty even though the TV was on showing some film with a clown in it. If they had told me that it was kid's movies that they were going to watch I would have had a harder time saying no.

"Perfect," whispered AJ, and followed me without hesitation when I walked as quietly as I could across the porch and pulled the screen door open.

Once I was inside, the TV trapped me for a horrifying moment when the clown turned monstrous. I grabbed the remote and turned the video off. Phew! My hands were shaking and my belly was in a knot. That had been three seconds of horror that I could have done without. It was my luck that the TV had been muted, otherwise I would have been trapped into watching the film.

"I hate horror films," I muttered to AJ who was fighting not to laugh out loud. "Lance chose it." I looked around.

"Told you he's tough. Where is everybody?"

"Downstairs, I think." I went over to the grille of the air condition. Somebody had left a screwdriver next to it. I listened by the grille and heard voices. I was about to nod to AJ to tell him that my guess was right when the crazed and vengeful killer zombie alligators started up, hitting a spot where an evil monster clown had just left its mark, sending me towards the ceiling, propelled by sheer fright.

When I next looked at AJ, he was chewing his knapsack to keep from laughing. I stuck my tongue out at him before going to work removing the grille, hands shaking a little only when the vengeful zombie monsters hit a painful pitch.

AJ had been looking through the videos on the shelf; he replaced the horror film with another video before coming over to me.

"I want to rig a spider with a string, so that it falls down when the grille is pulled out. I think one of your rubber spiders would be the best."

He nodded and found a horrific specimen from his wonder bag. I tied it on a piece of fishing line, pulled the line though a couple of loops that I had fastened on the inside of the pipe and attached a plastic ring to the line. When I let go the spider fell until the ring was caught by the loop.

"Heh," muttered AJ, totally unmoved by the shock effect of the spider's sudden appearance.

I held the grille as close to the hole as I could when AJ needed room for his fingers, and held the fishing line taut while AJ attached it to the inside of the grille with a piece of tape. The grille then was screwed back on before I cut the surplus end of fishing line. The tape would give before the loop, the sticky pad ought to win that one, and the spider would fall when the grille was removed.

"What did you put in the video player?"

"Orlando, Xmas 1997. Looked like it was the Fatones. What now?"

"Turn the volume up to max and hide the remote for the TV? Spiders hidden in the curtains? I'm still trying to figure a release system for the mechanical mice, like, maybe something that'll release when the door is pushed...."

"Right. I think we should put the doll's head in the fridge. That would kinda fit one of the scenes in the video that they were watching. Like, there's this-"

I was not up to hearing horror stories right then. "Great. Let's do that." I got the small doll out of my knapsack, pulled its head off and gave the head to him. "And let's do that one first, I'll stand guard by the basement door. Unlock the mud room door just in case. Maybe - smear the head with a bit of soy or something?"

He grinned his wicked grin and nodded.

I stopped by the basement door and opened it a little. Voices wafted up from below. AJ waited for my nod before he quietly slipped into the kitchen.

A well known screechy voice cut through the mumbles in the basement and tickled my balls: "I'm not letting you little amateur devils fuck with my mind, like I can't sort beard from snot, you dimwitted fuck-heads from Hell! Here's Chris Kirkpatrick coming to bash you good-for-nothing shit-demons to Tabasco!"


Busta was there, too - she was barking.

"Chris, wait!" That was Justin.

Chris was ranting on but it was hard to make out his words - perhaps he had walked into the storage room. This could be entertaining.

Something tittered in the living room.

Perhaps too entertaining.

Justin yelped and yelled something. Joey's "fuck!" came through clear and loud.

"Wha'dya mean, give you my cross?" Lance was protesting, he was definitely not in the storage room. "What've you found, Justin?"

I thought I heard the word undead in Justin's answer. It was highly possible - in the weak, yellow light there had definitely been a rather undead look to the patch-work construct of a teddy bear, a rubber mask and some of Mormor's old clothes. It had been decorated with dark silicone and dark brown paint with twigs and leaves stuck in it.

If the "zombie" was visible then somebody had pulled back the sheet, uncovering the thing.

And if the trip wire connected to the sheet hadn't been released yesterday then maybe right now pulleys were rolling, strings pulling and things moving....

Somebody was yelling, it sounded like Joey and Justin - and now they sounded really scared.

It worked?

There was a shrill scream from the living room. The critters were at it. Critters? What- That's not baby alligators - that's the critters from the other cupboard! I slammed the lid on my imagination. AJ had just managed making that sound by luck. Sheer luck. Nothing evil at play there. Right?

"Get outta there!" Lance was yelling too.

"Chris! Come on!" That was Joey, he was outside the storage room again.

Chris' voice was muted by distance, but he compensated by volume: "-not going fucking anywhere until I've bashed their stupid little brains to pulp! Stop hiding, you little demon cowards! Come out and fight!"

Chris! With fire eyes!

The staircase above my head creaked under quick feet. I recognized the distinct creak of the fourth and fifth step, counting from the top. There's somebody else in the house!

Instinct took over: The only way to stay out of sight was through the door that I had my nose in. I ran down a couple of steps; one of them creaked. Still going by spinal programming, I jumped over the banister skipping the last half and creakiest part of the staircase, landing as quietly as I could on my feet. Chris was still screeching insults at the spawns from Hell; the sound of him might or might not cover for me. I headed straight for the furnace and the small spot behind it. I knew that furnace well and knew that there was just enough room for one of me crouching.

Whaa! I had to bite my hand to keep from screaming - I had forgotten where I had hidden the stuffed baby alligator. Shit, shit, shit. I pushed it out of the way with a shaking hand.

"JC?" Lance called.

"Yeah?" JC yelled down the stairs.

I bit my lip, keeping back a groan of relief. It was just JC that I had heard.

"Was that you?"

"Was what me?" JC came down the stairs.

"On the stairs."

"Sure. What are you doing down here? What's Chris doing? Is he okay?"

"There's a zombie in there," Justin answered. "The African mask is possessed, it's shaking all over the place, and the chairs are running around. And Chris is hunting demons. With a baseball bat."

Chris with a baseball bat!

"Has he caught any?" JC wanted to know.

"Wait a minute - you just came down? What do you mean by that?" Joey asked.

"I was upstairs, then I walked downstairs and then I walked downstairs to here. Uhm. Yes. You know what I mean? I was on the stairs-"

"I know where you are you little fuckers! Ha! I'll get you- arrgh!" Chris' rant ended in a mighty crash.

"Chris?" Justin quipped. "Chris?"

"What's he doing?" Lance wasn't all calm about it either.

"Did you find them?" JC sounded eager, and I wondered what he intended to do with the demons.

"The fuckers - it was a trap! They trapped me! A fucking trip-wire!"

A trip-wire? Chris had just made a trap out of something that hadn't been intended as a trap.

"Do you need help?" Lance asked.

"No! You sissies just stay right where you are. Fuck, my ass, man."

Yes! Yes!

"When you were yelling - had you been on the staircase to the basement?" Joey's voice was tight and he wasn't letting it go.

"What? Oh." JC tuned back into Joey's inquisition. "You mean, like right before when I said yes? When I was standing at the top of the stairs?"

"Yeah, JC."


"Are you sure?"

"Man - of course I'm sure."

"Really sure?"


"That's it," Chris' voice, now outside the storage room, overrode the others'. There was a slam of a door. "The little motherfuckers have fled - we gotta fumigate the air conditioning."

I hoped AJ had left the kitchen.

"Why don't you just disconnect the speakers?" asked JC.

"What speakers?"


"Yeah, oh. Come on guys."

"Wait," Joey said but the others were already on their way, the first of them were running up the stairs sounding like two quick cannonballs defying gravity. More ammunition followed in a stampede up the stairs. The last of them closed the door to the back and heaved an exasperated sigh before following his friends. At the top of the stairs Justin was calling impatiently for Joey; the sighing guy must have been him.


The lights went out and I was left in total darkness. The door at the top of the stairs closed.


I had been locked in the basement.

In the echoing silence, I could clearly hear the faint screeches and chatter of the critters in the pipe system; my ear was just next to the pipe running from the furnace. Shaking, I bit my knuckle to hold back a scream for help. Next to me the alligator zombie was moving....

When an unexpected moment's sanity hit me, I got out from behind the furnace.

While monsters crowded in on me from all sides, I desperately searched the wall for the switch - but it was not there. There was no switch! It's gone! I'm monster meat!

Whimpering and with still growing desperation, I searched my pockets for the small light. The first monster had opened its jaws and was breathing down my neck, when I fumbling got the light out and turned it on with a shaking hand.

"Get away from me," I hissed. It didn't scare anybody, though - the monsters stayed right at the edge of weak light. Get the switch! There it is - right on the wall! Click.

Nothing happened. Damned dysfunctional system! Nothing would happen, not when the light was turned off by the switch by the top door. I collected all that was left of my courage walking through the laundry room. I got the last doll from my knapsack, a ragdoll that I had given silver stars stickers for eyes, and stuck it to the door to the back. Whimpering and singing to myself in a shaky voice I got the alligator baby zombie from behind the furnace. I nearly dropped it when it moved in my hand. Still whimpering and singing, I ran up the stairs, masses of monsters following me and the one in my hand was coming more and more to life.


Light! The alligator zombie immediately stiffened again. It worked! I'm saved!

The echo of my run up the stairs rang loudly in my memory. I put my ear to the door; there were voices coming from either the living room or the kitchen. When I tried to look through the keyhole, my sight was blocked. The key had been left in the door.

Since there was no way that I was going back down, I might as well act as if they had not heard me.

I even came prepared.

I dug into the proper pockets. With the lights on, I could almost remember what it felt like to be cocky.

It was just a simple in-house lock - probably most of all meant to keep children away from the steep staircase. It took a couple of breathing exercises before my hand was steady enough to handle the stiff wire that was hammered flat. After that, it was easy to turn the key enough to align it with the shape of the hole. Two extra thin sanitary towels got attached to one another by the wings. I listened - the voices on the other side of the door were still a way off. Go! I pushed the landing pad out under the door, sticky side up, and pushed the key out; it fell and landed on the sanitary towels, it stuck, and I pulled it all under the door. My key.

With my ear glued to the door, I quietly inserted the key. And froze as somebody walked past the basement door.

"Guys - why are you watching the Christmas video?" JC's voice followed the footsteps into the kitchen.

"It's It, dude. That's not Santa - it's a clown, one of the big guys from Hell." Chris!

"It's got Joey in it."

"Joey's not in It, man." A cupboard door slammed. "Don't we have any more beans?"

I slowly turned the key. This was why the key was much better than the wire - with a key this could be done quietly.

"Will a can of baked beans do?" Lance asked.

"Sure. What other cans do we have? Never mind, just take them all down, don't forget the ones in the back. The ones with green mold on them are the best."

There, the door was unlocked.

"I told you," JC was exasperatedly patient. "It's the Christmas video - the one that Steve took, you know, where you two dress up in Janine's bras-"

I inched the door open and peeked. The door to the kitchen was ajar and I couldn't see anybody. At a guess, they can't see me either.

Justin chuckled. "You switched the videos. We're not falling for that one, JC."

"I did not!"

Somebody had dumped a baseball bat next to the door. I placed it on the basement side of the door, next to the alligator on the landing pad, before I slipped into the hallway.

"Then somebody else switched it," Lance said. "You want canned sausages and peaches?"

"Who?" Joey asked.

"Sure, man."

I locked the door and left the key in the lock.

"Who switched it?" Joey repeated. "I didn't."

"Not me." Justin said.

As I hurried quietly through the living room, I picked up the remote for the TV and turned the volume to max while on my way out the door.

The video had been paused. The critters and baby zombies in the air condition were silent; they were between performances.

I threw the remote in the sofa. The bickering in the kitchen came to an abrupt halt when the door to the fridge was opened.

Five boybanders screamed.

Amazingly, the roof stayed on the house.

What did AJ do?

I closed the door. A dark figure waved to me from the corner of the house and, hunched so that I couldn't be seen from inside, I ran to it. Remembering what AJ had said about being blind I took his hand and pulled him with me into the shadows and towards the corner where we had entered the garden. By tacit agreement once outside the property we were on our way, at first running bent over using the bushes in front as our cover, once out of sight from the house we ran outright.

"Did you hear them scream?" I asked when were by the cars and gulping for air.

"Yeah, man...." His teeth glittered. "We're so dead if they catch us."

"We are. Hey, I could use a beer. What about you?"

He checked his watch. "I know a place. Just follow my car. And turn your phone on if we get separated." He pulled out his own phone and called somebody to tell them that he was leaving and that there would be two cars.

"Who was that?" I asked.

"My bodyguard."

I had no trouble following him, the traffic was thin and I was sticking close to that sexy little thing that AJ was driving. True enough, soon after we had left, there was a car, with a broad-shouldered fellow at the wheel, behind me.

Maybe it was time for me to follow AJ's example and hire somebody like that.


End of Chapter

© Morgenfryd 2003