All standard disclaimers apply. If you are below your local age of consent, or if material such as this is illegal where you live, don't say I didn't warn you
Thanks to everyone for all their kind comments regarding the first chapter of God Child! You've overwhelmed me with your support. To be honest, I didn't think the story would go over half as well as it has - I hope the second installment meets expectations. I held this Chapter back a couple of days to give myself a head start on Chapter 3, which is progressing rather nicely, I think! I don't know when it'll be done, though; I never release a chapter until I'm completely satisfied with it. Call me nitpicky if you want, but I hope that being that self-demanding makes for a more pleasant reading experience for all of you. =)
Without all the great people at Comicality's Shack Out Back, this story never would have happened, so this Chapter goes out to ALL of you!
Your feedback, positive OR negative, would be greatly appreciated! Send comments/suggestions/critcism to RedRockerVH@aol.com.
I guess it sounds like I overreacted a little. I mean, it was just one class out of six, but I don't think I properly conveyed how drastically Herbert Kuhn shaped my experience here last year. You see, aside from his near-pathological obsession with ruining my life (okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration), he was a well-liked teacher. He never assigned much outside work, and he was usually pretty generous as far as grades were concerned. But when he decided he didn't like you, he would make no bones about it. You could count on the fact that he'd tell everyone in all his classes about you, and you could also be sure that they would see things from his point of view. He just had that general air of persuasion about him.
Up to that point in my life, I had never really been a "dreamer". I don't mean the waking sort of dream- the tangential wanderings of the mind during periods of boredom- those I had plenty of. I mean the sort that you have at night and can never really seem to fully remember in the morning. I just didn't have many of them. Well, I guess I did, but I never remembered them. That night, things changed.
Despite the plentiful and earnest attempts of authors and artists throughout the ages, I don't think any of them have ever been quite able to capture in words or images the visceral surreality of dreams. Salvador Dali's clocks gone so soft that they drape across branches and rocks like undercooked pancakes; M.C. Escher's world of dimensionally skewed staircases; these come as close as I've seen. I do my art a disservice by even attempting to describe the nocturnal vision that I experienced that night, but I have to try. If I don't, as Dickens put it, nothing yet to come will seem as magical.
Trees. I'm awash in a deciduous sea of browns and greens that seem to yellow around the edges; a sepia-toned world devoid of the sort of definition that conveys detail, yet detail is there. The warble of a finch. The squirrel's telltale rustling in the underbrush. Ahead of me, the soft silken sound of water flowing over rocks worn smooth by years of gentle erosion. I am walking towards the water, without conscious control of my body. I'm oblivious to the dense foliage ahead of me. I simply walk through it, the branches and twigs clawing at my body without mercy. I don't know how long or how far I walk, but I know that I cannot stop. The sound of water is there with me the whole time like a tickling whisper in the back of my mind, urging me toward whatever lies ahead.
The thick underbrush begins to give way to more passable terrain. I'm still surrounded by trees, but I'm no longer undergoing the relentless assault of thorn-laden branches with every step. The sound of water hasn't gown any louder, but as I cast a totally involuntary glance to my side, I notice that I'm now walking alongside a shallow stream. I continue walking for a while until I come upon what I can only describe as a miniscule lick of beach. It looks as if one of the stream's many sandbars has developed an inflated sense of self-importance and has decided to encroach upon the land, expanding itself into the small clearing where I find that I've stopped. I turn to face the stream, staring intently at the infinitely diverse frothy ripples that break gently against a particularly large rock.
A twig snaps. I seem to have control of my body again. I find that at some point during my intense gaze I've squatted down. I stand bolt upright and turn around. There, standing partially obscured in the shadow cast by a particularly large pine, is a figure. I can't distinguish much about it, but I can tell that ' it' is probably a 'he'. Too tall and too broad to be a 'she'. Something about him causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. My skin feels like it's drawing tight against me. Gooseflesh. I don't know why he makes me nervous. Perhaps it's the casual indifference with which he's leaning against the tree, or the lazy, apathetic way his arms are crossed. He uncrosses his arms. In one of his hands is an apple. He lifts it to his mouth, and though I can't see it for the shadow, I hear the distinctive crunch as he takes a bite. I hear him chewing and then he swallows. I want to speak, but my throat feels like sandpaper. He speaks first.
"I crossed him," he says in a voice I can't describe.
"Who are you?" I manage to ask. I can't see his face, but I can somehow feel his eyes on me.
"I crossed him," he repeats. "I crossed him and now he has me."
"Who?" I ask, feeling a trickle of nervous sweat creep down my back. "Who has you?" I don't expect an answer.
"Montezuma," he says. "I crossed Montezuma and now he's getting his in return." He's not leaning against the tree anymore. He's standing up straight, and he's taking a step toward me. His face, though, is still cloaked in shadow. I want to run. I want to run as far away from this damned clearing as fast as I possibly can. My heart is a palpitating lump of molten lead in my chest. I want to run back to my dorm house, my room, my bed, any sort of sanctuary but I can't. It feels like iron bands have clamped down around my chest, and the sandpaper that was in my throat is now sand. I feel it choking me, backing up in my windpipe, playing fiery abrasive hell on my delicate tracheal membranes. I collapse to my knees and heave viciously. Yes, it's sand. It pours out of my mouth and nose for what feels like three eternities. I have never known such horrible agony.
Finally the heaving subsides and I can breathe again. With the first intake of precious oxygen, I feel sticky tendrils of warmth trickling down my windpipe. I cough, and suddenly my mouth is full of the acrid, ironlike taste of blood. I spit, and a wad of viscous reddish-black fluid spatters atop the heap of sand and stomach acid pooled in front of me. I look up. He's still standing there, his face still hidden, still leering at me, I can tell. He takes another step towards me, but this time instead of withering in breathless paralysis, I haul myself to my feet and RUN. My feet pound mercilessly against the forest floor. I'm running back in the direction I came from, and once again, branches are tearing at me. I don't see them this time, though, because my eyes are squeezed shut tighter than I thought was possible. I run blind for real, true hours until, finally, my body gives out and I fall to my knees again. I open my eyes and I'm not in the woods anymore. I'm at the foot of a hill, on the edge of a grassy field that looks oddly familiar. After a hazy few moments, I realize that it's the soccer field at Augusta Prep. Beyond the field, I see the school complex. It's nighttime now, and no lights are on, so the buildings seem to melt together in a black shapeless void.
I turn around again to clear my baffles. There's no sense in letting him catch me if he's been following me. All I see behind me are the hills at the edge of the soccer field. They mark the boundary of the school's property. Somewhere over the hills and far away, I hear a sound. Sounds, really. Like music, almost. No, not almost, it's definitely music. It sounds like a violin being played pizzicato, but with more of a twang, and more depth. The melody sounds like it should be calm and reassuring, but somehow, in this context, it's eerie. After a few seconds, the tune picks up more dimension, as if another identical instrument has joined the first in another key. It seems to be building to a gentle crescendo, and then it drops off suddenly, giving way to a sound more like clocks chiming, but the melody is the same. Atop the hill, I see the figure again. But it's not the figure. It's a figure, but not the figure. This one is smaller, more lithe, graceful familiar. It walks toward me, and I can see that it's a she. I'm still breathing and still on my feet. No sand exploding from my gullet. Unlike him, she steps into the light, and I see her lovely face. The eyes a misty blue, the skin so delicate and flawless, the nose turned up ever so slightly, the hair still the same raven black Kara. She's here, with me, in this place. I stand up and walk to her, intent on wrapping her up in a crushing embrace. But she simply stands there, aloof, staring at me. Her lips part.
"I can help," she says. Her voice sounds melodically poetic. Singsong, almost. "Let me in. Tell me. I got the love you need. Walk a while with me. I really oughtta know. You know I should."
And with that, she turns to leave. I've lost control of my body again. Were it in my power, I would run after her just as fast as I'd run away from the first figure. But I can't move a muscle. It's like my body is wrapped in a giant glass sleeve, preventing me from even waving my arms. Now she's over the hill and far away. Like the music. I squeeze my eyes shut intending to cry, but nothing comes, so I open them.
It's daylight again. I look down at myself. My arms and legs are covered in scratches. Some are just leaving small welts, but others are caked over with blood. I can't keep my eyes open any longer I just need to sleep I just want to leave
It was then that I woke up. Perhaps 'woke up' is too gentle a term. My eyes snapped open and I grabbed hold of my bedding in a crushing vise grip with both hands. I writhed uncontrollably, forcing myself into a sitting position as my legs flailed wildly, pushing the covers down in a heap at the foot of the bed. I was breathing like I had just run a marathon, and I felt like I must be sweating from every single pore in my body. It took me a full five minutes to quell the sense that I was nothing but a convulsing bundle of nerve endings. That's when I realized that I was hard. This wasn't just a garden-variety hard-on, though. This was a blue steel erection of the first order, the kind that makes you look like you've stuffed a hood ornament down your shorts. That was, in a way, the most bizarre part of the whole thing. Why the hell was I so aroused? Because of Kara? At the time, I thought that must have been it, but her appearance in the dream - can I call something so vivid a dream? - was so brief that it couldn't possibly have accounted for such a powerful physical reaction. The arousal faded on its own, thank God. The luminous green numbers on the bedside clock leered at me, reminding me with pitiless cruelty that it was half-past four. I knew with undeniable certainty that I wouldn't be sleeping anymore that night.
I remembered everything. Everything. Most dreams begin to fade within a few minutes after waking up. The more vivid ones can take a little longer. Some a few hours, some a few days, but this one would NEVER let go of me as long as I lived. I lay there in bed that night, running through the entire grisly experience again and again. Nothing about it made sense. The woods, the mysterious figure and his senseless ramblings, the music, Kara's appearance, her own strange words none of it. I got up to go relieve myself and, as I came back out to the bedroom, I heard Tom stirring in his bed. It scared the hell out of me. It was a good thing that I had just been in the bathroom, or I might well have voided myself right there. In the post-dream haze, I had completely forgotten that he even existed. In fact, for a few minutes there, my entire world had consisted solely of Kara, myself, and him. Who was he? I heard Tom groan.
"Who was who?" His bleary voice startled me worse than his stirring had just moments before.
"Wha-?" I sputtered, thrown for a loop.
He sat up in his bed. "You just said 'who was he'. Who was who?" I didn't realize that I had spoken out loud. If that isn't an indication of the tenuous mental state I was in after that dream, I don't know what is.
"I just had the most bizarre dream," I told him, sitting down on my bed. Neither of us slept anymore that night. I was too jumpy, and he was too busy listening to me recount the events of the dream nightmare I didn't know which I should have called it. Not then.
By the time 7:00 rolled around, I was already showered and dressed. Tom was in the bathroom showering. I half-sat, half-lounged on the sofa in the suite's common room nursing a glass of orange juice, alone with my thoughts. Most dreams seem to have a way of disturbing their owners in the middle of the night that loses its edge when exposed to daylight. This one, though, was like a festering wound. The more I dissected it, the more abstruse it became. What especially bothered me were Kara's words. 'I got the love you need,' she said. What love did I need? And 'I really oughtta know' what exactly did that mean? What did she want to know that I loved her? She heard me say that many times, and I was certain that she knew I meant it. Perhaps, considering current developments, my love for her wasn't quite the same breed of love that she had for me, but I loved her nonetheless. But if it wasn't my declaration of love that she wanted, what did she want me to tell her, that I was a Faith Birth? No, she knew that, and it didn't bother her. Then it struck me. Of course. She didn't know that I was gay. In that moment, a great burden of guilt fell on me. Had our entire relationship been a lie? Had I been merely using her as a tool of my desperate denial? In any case, I thought I had just figured out part of my dream. Kara's appearance had simply been my subconscious mind's way of dealing with my repressed guilt. As I look back now, I realize that at that instant I was closer to the truth than I would later think, but my reasoning was still fundamentally flawed.
I heard the door to our bedroom open and I heard Tom walk in, but I didn't immediately turn to look at him.
"You're still thinking about it, aren't you?" he asked, equal parts sympathy and reproach evident in his tone of voice. He walked into the kitchenette and opened the footlocker-sized cryofridge.
"Yeah, I am," I answered him, taking a sip of orange juice. "I think I've got part of it figured out. I think Kara was my mind's way of letting me know that there are still some issues I need to discuss with her." Not a lie at all, I told myself, just selective omission. He came over to the sofa carrying his own glass of OJ and sat down on the other end from me.
"I'm still telling you that the dark guy is Kuhn," he insisted. He had said the same thing last night, and I had only halfheartedly agreed with him.
"It makes sense," I said to satiate him, and it did make a psychiatrist's sort of sense, but then again, it didn't. For some reason, in the wake of the dream, despite everything I've said about Kuhn up to this point, English class seemed almost trivial. In fact, I felt a lot better about it than I thought I had any right to. I didn't have any idea why I felt that way but I did.
Augusta Prep, as with many schools, inaugurates each new school term with a terminally boring assembly in the auditorium on the first day after arrival. Surely you know the type - the members of school administration each get their turn to rattle on about classes and rules and activities and dorms and food and well, you understand. The auditorium, like the rest of the school, was stark and architecturally uninspiring. It seemed that the designers had been aiming for the clean modern look, but most of the school looked like the inside of a walk-in freezer - too much brushed stainless steel and not enough personality for my taste.
I sat next to Tom and we suffered through the first thirty minutes of the assembly in obedient silence (there were teachers strategically placed at the ends of every third row to maintain discipline), but it soon became too much. More out of a lack of anything better to say than true interest, I leaned over to Tom and asked him to point out this "Senjen" character; the one who, so far as we knew, was the sole occupant of the other room in our suite. Tom stretched up and scanned the faces in the auditorium for a minute, then shrunk back into his seat.
"I don't see him," he whispered, then shrugged resignedly. "I guess he slept in. Can't say as I blame him." An adult head turned around two rows in front of us, shooting us a "shut up or I'll take you both out of here" glare.
As the Head of the Science Department was up on stage rambling importantly about some prestigious grant the school won from one of the biotech megacorporations, I heard one of the massive double-doors at the back of the auditorium sigh as the pneumatic tensioners slowed its closing.
I think everyone has an experience like this at some point in his life. You see someone in passing - perhaps just walking across a room - and you find yourself utterly and inexplicably captivated by the sight of this complete stranger. At first you chalk it up to simple attraction, but you realize that it's stronger than that. You can't look away. Perhaps it's what some fancifully like to call "love at first sight", but I don't think so. You can't explain it to yourself, much less anyone else, but you know right then, right there, that the image of that person will live in your memory forever, and even as you grow old with the memory, it will never age. In fact, it doesn't even have to be a person, I suppose. Perhaps it can be nothing more than an object of childhood affection that your mind, or perhaps your heart, deems worthy of eternal recollection - Charles Foster Kane's 'Rosebud' - or perhaps it is more carnal - Mr. Bernstein's Woman in the White Dress. Either way, my moment came right there in the auditorium.
I turned around just as the door finished its inward arc. At first he looked like nothing more than one more student late for the assembly, others of whom had been filtering into the auditorium in a slow trickle ever since the drudgerous affair had been called to order, but something about him captivated me in the everlasting way that I've so poorly described above. He was tall, maybe 6'2'', and moderately broad, but as he walked down the center aisle, I could tell without doubt that he was also incredibly delicate. I think it was the way he carried himself. Despite his stature, his walk was more of a timid shuffle. His head seemed to be aimed slightly down at the ground, forcing him to look up almost through his eyebrows to see where he was going. His steps were small, especially for someone of his height. It was the posture of someone who doesn't want to be seen; making himself as unobtrusive as possible, trying desperately to make it to the next week, the next day, or just the next class without making eye contact with his merciless peers. I knew it all too well - it was the way I walked back then. That strange nervous heat rose up in my chest, and my extremities began to tingle.
His hair was dark brown, gelled into the "good little conformist" style that I saw on heads all around me, but it looked like the sort of hair that would be luxuriously bushy when washed and dried. He was looking back and forth slowly, searching for an unoccupied seat and affording me a view of his entire face at the same time. Oh, as long as I live, I'll never forget my first glimpse of that face. So round and beautiful not a single sharp angle from the gently curved forehead to the sloping cheekbones to the slightly upturned nose to the mildly cleft chin. And his lips oh, his lips easily the most beautiful I have ever seen on a human being. They were rounded, just like the rest of his face, and they were large. Not bulbous, but almost large enough to describe as 'plump'. Caught between the most pleasing shades of red and purple, they were lips that I would be afraid to touch with my own, lest I defile their perfection. His skin was smooth as polished marble, bearing the appetizingly soft texture and hue of a tan leather-upholstered cushion. Yes, this was a face that I would carry with me forever. Something about him puzzled me, though. His eyes, I think. Even partially obscured by his downward gaze, I could see that they were very large and very round, probably almost doe-like should he look at me dead on. But they were also somewhat disturbing. They bore the icy blue tint that is usually so intensely reflective and beautiful, yet on him the color seemed wrong, somehow. It looked almost as if they were vacant. Hollow, perhaps, is a better word. Yes, they looked hollow.
Before I could make sense of what I was seeing, he was past me, working his way across a row about six down from us towards a vacant seat.
"Hey, that was him, that was Senjen," Tom whispered beside me. I had been so caught up in myself that his voice startled me badly. I hid it as best I could, and Tom didn't seem to notice.
"Oh, okay," I replied flatly, unsure of what else I could say. Tom seemed satisfied with my response and returned to his bored catatonia. I pretended to do the same, but I was really staring at him. Well, the back of his head, at any rate. There was nothing that could wrench my eyes away from him-
" yield the floor to English Comp I and English Lit II teacher, Dr. Herbert Kuhn."
-except for that.
The head of the English department stepped away from the podium and Dr. Kuhn took her place. My muscles tensed, and Tom must have sensed my extreme unease, because he gripped my arm in a steadying manner. Just seeing that man made me seethe. I stared at him radiating unadulterated hate, trying not even to listen to his words, but what I did hear floored me.
" with great sadness that I must announce that I will be leaving Augusta Prep to take on a position in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts." There was no noticeable reaction from the crowd of students. Even if he was generally "well liked", that was only a lesser degree of contempt as far as teachers at Augusta were concerned. My entire consciousness, though, was flooded with giddy, childish glee. I looked over at Tom, and saw the same feeling of elation dancing across his countenance. Kuhn kept shooting off about how he would miss everyone here, but, again, I wasn't listening. I was too busy doing mental somersaults. He introduced his replacement as Dr. John Page. A massive, dignified looking black man stood up. As the two passed each other on the stage, I thought that I caught them trading resentful glances. Well, if this John Page fellow didn't like Kuhn, he had already won me over. He took the podium and cleared his throat. He only spent five minutes talking, but his deep, resonant voice was very captivating. He mentioned incorporating several new teaching methods into his classes. I didn't know what to think of that, nor did I particularly care. Kuhn wasn't going to be teaching my class, and that's all that mattered.
"I think I like this guy," Tom whispered. I simply shrugged in reply, wearing a stupid grin borne of both jubilation and relief. Up on stage, Dr. Page was introducing his son, Marcellous. Apparently he was 16 as well, and would probably share a lot of our classes. He beckoned his son to stand up, which he did briefly, then sat back down. He was way down front, but I could tell that he was just as statuesque as his father was, and maybe more so. He was definitely not the sort that you want on the other guy's side in a brawl.
Dr. Page relinquished the podium to the Athletic Director, who informed us all in his blunt, heavy-handed manner that we were all too weak and spoiled for our own good, and would have to participate in some sort of intramural athletic activity this year if we planned to get our Phys Ed credit. Not the best news, to be sure, considering what esteem my peers held me in, but I could handle it. I'd just pick an activity that not too many other people would choose.
A thought occurred to me as the assembly drew to a close. If Kuhn had been the dark man in my dream, and if my understanding of Kara's words was correct, perhaps everything that my mind had been trying to tell me was resolved and I could bury the entire affair. The night would prove me wrong.
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