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
Before I say anything else, let me apologize for taking so long to release Chapter 3. A demanding class load, work, and a rogue lightning strike (!) have conspired to keep me otherwise occupied. To compensate for its lateness, I tried to incoporate some major events into Chapter 3 to make it worth the wait. A lot of people wrote to me and said that they enjoyed the dream sequence in Chapter 2, so I've decided to make it a recurring theme. But is there really a point to these dreams? Of course! There's a method to my madness, I swear! No one seems to have picked up on it yet, but it will all become clear soon enough. Not in this chapter though, unless you're a REALLY attentive reader. Sorry. =) Writing this chapter, especially the last one-third of it, has beeen a very intense experience, but the story is just beginning! Please forgive any mechanical errors - I'm the only person who's proofread the chapter in its final form (Jim, are you alive, buddy? <G>). Without further preamble, I give you Chapter 3 of 'God Child'.
I live for feedback of any kind! Email me, drop me an IM, whatever. I love talking to the readers. I read all stories sent to me, as well. Send comments/suggestions/critcism to RedRockerVH@aol.com.
Chapter 3 is dedicated to Jacob and Danielle, two souls far more courageous than me...
Since it's been a while since the last chapter...
What has gone before:
Jake Anthony, a "faith birth" or "God Child" and Tom Hobbes met on the bus on the way to Augusta Preparatory Academy, a private High School in Maine, and became friends. Tom accepted Jake in spite of the fact that he's a God Child. Such acceptance is rare - there is a social stigma against those who are not of "advantaged birth". Jake and Tom are rooming together, along with a mysterious person named Senjen whom Jake has only seen at a distance in an assembly on the first day at school. Jake finds Tom attractive, but feels drawn to Senjen, as well. He thought that he and Tom were going to have the same English teacher that they had last year, a teacher who made the year a living hell. Luckily, that teacher announced his transfer at the afformentioned assembly. Jake had a very odd dream that involved an enigmatic threatening stranger and his ex-girlfriend, Kara. He thinks he's made partial sense of the dream, but he might just be wrong... So, here we are at Chapter 3. Enjoy!
The Song Remains the Same
Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.
Charles William Dement
I had a dream - crazy dream
Anything I wanted to know
Any place I needed to go
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, "The Song Remains the Same"
I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they've gone through and through me like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.
The assembly finally ended, and we had the rest of the day off, allowing for late arrivals. I looked for Senjen amidst the swarm of students emptying the auditorium, but I couldn't find him. My fascination with him - almost purely platonic at the time - still gnawed at the peripherals of my consciousness. Why was I so smitten with him? Sure, he was fairly nice looking, but there was an abundance of nice looking guys here. Hell, I hadn't even talked to him yet, and, according to Tom, he wasn't the most personable sort. The enigmatic, nameless emotions that pervaded my being when I thought of him were so foreign to me as to be almost otherworldly. His glacial blue eyes especially frustrated me. They should have been one of his most endearing features, but they were just so hauntingly vacant, to the point that they looked unreal, almost glassine.
Using a considerable amount of will power, I banished my confused thoughts to the recesses of my mind, and turned to Tom as we wandered the grounds, headed in the general direction of our dorm.
"So," I said conversationally, "we've got the rest of the day to do whatever we want. Any ideas?" He glared at me, smirking evilly.
"How about we rustle up some high explosives, head up to the solar array, and put an indefinite end to the school term?" He winked at me conspiratorially, and I couldn't help but laugh a little. I did realize, though, what I wanted to do with the first part of my free afternoon. I wanted to write Kara. "But anyway," Tom pushed on, "I was thinking that maybe we could head down to the gym and work out for a little while."
"You go on, I forgot that I still need to write to Kara. I'll join you in a little while," I said.
"Yeah, it's fine. I'll be better off doing this alone, anyway. No one'll be around to see me burst out in tears on my datapad," I said in jest. It was my turn to wink and grin slyly at Tom, and his turn to laugh.
"Well, good luck, Jake. Hurry on down, though. I'll need a spotter before long, and if I get any of the other guys to do it, I'm guessing there'd be an 'accident' pretty quick, y'know?" He punched my arm lightly and turned towards the gym, upping his pace to a slow jog. I shook my head in wonder. I had a friend.
I sat propped up at an uncomfortable angle against the headboard of my bed for about thirty minutes before I was even able to begin to think about what exactly I would say to Kara. Once I finally had a basic idea of how the letter would go, I began to type. Just as I finished keying out the obligatory Dearest Kara, though, my stomach decided to rumble, reminding me that I had skipped lunch. Feeling reasonably certain that a slight snack break wouldn't impede the writing process too severely, I unfolded myself from the contorted position I had my body shoehorned into and headed out into the common living area between the two bedrooms. As I pulled an apple out of the cryofridge, my eyes wandered to the door to the other bedroom. It was closed, but I hadn't bothered to turn on the light in the common room, so I could see a sliver of illumination spilling out from the threshold. I left my untouched snack forgotten on the small counter and walked slowly over to the door only barely under my own power, as if I was being led there in a trance. Almost before I realized I had done it, I knocked on the door.
"Uhh, just a second," answered a muffled, timid voice. Simply hearing someone respond to my knock caused me to convulse mildly, my brain commanding my body to dump a small dose of adrenaline into my bloodstream. I heard a soft shuffling behind the door, and then it opened. There he was.
I don't know what else I should have expected, I mean it was his room after all, but for some reason, I wasn't anticipating that Senjen would actually be the one to answer the door. I stood there for a few awkward seconds, at a loss as to what to say.
"Umm, hi?" he half-said, half-asked. His voice was a perfect compliment to his entire person. It was smooth and mildly deep to suit his 6'2'' frame, but quiet and unassuming at the same time, seemingly tailor-made to belie his meek, gentle bearing. I fumbled for a couple of hellish seconds, but finally pulled myself together.
"Uh, hey, I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm Jake Anthony. I'm in the other bedroom." I offered my hand, and he took it hesitantly. I was surprised that his grip was as firm as it was, but it wasn't crushing. His hands were large, but soft and warm. Not clammy either, unlike many people's hands. Very pleasant hands. In stark contrast to the sureness of his handshake, he lowered his eyes further towards the floor as soon as I mentioned that I'd be in the other bedroom.
"I've been meaning to apologize to your roommate," he said sheepishly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "I was kinda rude when I met him the first night. I ate something that disagreed with me before I left home, and by the time I got here, I had you know stomach problems. I had to go straight to the bathroom."
"Oh, forget it! Things like that happen," I said offhandedly, secretly containing my relief over the fact that the person I found so physically unforgettable wasn't the jerk that he initially appeared to be. I stood there for a second, waiting for him to make the next move. I thought he was going to invite me into his room, but he stepped out into the small living area and shut the door behind him.
"I'm sorry," he apologized again in his humble tone, sitting down on the sofa, "I didn't even tell you my name. I'm Senjen Kristatos." I sat down on the other side of the couch and propped my feet up on the small end table. What a name that was.
"That's a pretty unique name," I commented, "what is it, Asian? Slavic?"
"Kristatos is Greek, actually," he explained. "My father is a full-blooded Greek. He owned a Mediterranean import/export corporation. He decided to sell it and retire early." So he was Greek. That accounted for the broad build and dark hair, but not the height, and it seemed like he should be a little darker if he had lived in the Mediterranean. "My mother was born a Czech, but she grew up in England. Senjen is an English name, as weird as it sounds. It's spelled like 'Saint John'," he finished. That explained the rest. Slavic height and complexion, Greek build and hair color. I noticed that he didn't have an accent, though, and told him as much.
"That's because I've lived here most of my life," he replied. "Once my father became successful enough, he moved the whole family from our home in Corfu, Greece to Maine. He ran the business from here. Said he was tired of the Mediterranean humidity."
"He must not have been too happy after his first Maine summer, then, huh?" I asked him, grinning. He smiled a little himself one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Even just that half-sliver of a smile illuminated his entire countenance so much that I literally had to restrain myself from staring at him in unabashed admiration.
"No," he answered, "he wasn't pleased with that, but he decided that we'd stay anyway."
"I don't remember seeing you here last year, did you go to a different school?" I guess it seemed to him like I was making polite conversation, but in reality, I just wanted to hear more of his voice. Something about it reached deep inside my chest and twisted it up tight.
"Yeah," he answered, seeming reluctant to go on, but he did anyhow. "I went to Hoyle last year. Augusta is farther from where we live, but it has a better academic reputation, so my parents decided to move me here." Something made me think he wasn't telling the truth, not all of it at any rate, but at that point I was too drunk on his voice to care. My wristwatch chirped quietly, marking the hour, and I suddenly realized how long I'd been up here in the suite. Tom must've been wondering what happened to me. I didn't want to leave, though - I was basking in the presence of extraordinary beauty. A simple solution occurred to me.
"Hey, I just remembered that I'm supposed to meet Tom, the guy you met last night, in the gym to work out for a little while. You wanna join us?" I tried not to look hopelessly imploring as I invited him to come, but I don't think I did a very good job of it, because he gave me that half-smile again.
"Sure," he said, "I've been meaning to go check it out, anyway. Lemme get changed and I'll be right out." He stood up from the couch and disappeared into his room. I took the opportunity to change quickly myself, shedding the track pants in favor of less restraining gym shorts. We both walked back into the living area at the same time, and headed for the gym. We talked about a lot without really talking about anything on the way down. I guess that maybe I contributed to that in a large part - I was so busy marveling at his beauty that I really didn't put much effort into meaningful conversation.
When we arrived at the gym, we found it practically empty. There was a group of older guys, all of them probably 17 or 18, on the rowing machines, and that was about it, aside from Tom. He was doing butterflies on a multi-exercise resistance machine that looked frighteningly similar to some sort of heinous medieval torture apparatus. We walked over to him, and I said hello. Senjen (or St. John, as I should write it if I want to be accurate) seemed to lag back a little, obviously still embarrassed about last night. Tom finished his set of reps, then stood up and grabbed a towel.
"Hey, you're the guy in the other room," he said while dabbing the sweat off his face, a bare hint of reproach in his voice. "Senjen, right?"
"Yeah, Senjen Kristatos" he answered sheepishly. "It's written like Saint John." Apparently that's how he told everyone his name. "Hey, um, I'm sorry about last night," he added, going on to explain about the rogue meal he had eaten before he left for the school yesterday and its subsequent ill effects on his digestive tract. Tom smiled at him and socked him playfully in the arm. That was his trademark, I'd learn later.
"Don't worry about it," he said with a forgiving grin. "I think I'll be able to find it in my heart to forgive you for completely snubbing me last night." The friendly sarcasm was evident behind that cute, lopsided Tom Hobbes grin. Cut that out, something inside me admonished. You want to keep him as a friend, so his grin is officially NOT cute. It didn't say anything about Senjen, though. I guess it was as in awe of him as my conscious self was. Senjen grinned back at him, but didn't say any more.
Over the next hour, Tom and I took turns spotting for each other on the bench, while Senjen ran the treadmill. I spent a dangerous amount of time watching Senjen's legs scissoring back and forth and didn't pay enough attention to my presses, but I don't think that either Senjen or Tom noticed. We made mindless conversation, but something good came out of it. Tom and I already knew that we shared three of our six classes, so we asked Senjen what his schedule was. My heart sounded a joyous three-alarm note when I realized that he had four of the same classes as me! That probably wouldn't be too good for my concentration, but as good 'ol Red would have put it, frankly, I didn't give a damn. I would relish any time we could possibly spend in any sort of close proximity to each other.
We finally got tired of the gym just as the dinner bell sounded, and decided that if we took the time to shower, we'd probably be too late to get anything but the scraps. So, having made up our minds to let people think (or smell) what they wanted, we walked out of the gym, past the rowing machines where the older guys we'd seen earlier were involved in some sort of heated argument. It occurred to me that the one that seemed to be drawing the wrath of all the others looked an awful lot like the son of the new English teacher what was the kid's name Marcus? If it was him, his opposition had him in age, but at his stature, I didn't think he'd have a great deal of trouble taking care of himself if it came down to it. The argument had completely slipped out of my mind by the time we reached the cafeteria.
I think I've mentioned before that Augusta Prep, despite its many shortcomings, did have some redeeming characteristics. Believe it or not, the food was one of them. I know you must be trapped in the throes of uncontrollable laughter - school food good? - but it really was. As a result, mealtime was extremely hectic, with all the people trying to get in and out of the cafeteria in time for the next class. Luckily, since there was no class today, we actually had time to sit down and enjoy the food without risking a thorough trampling in the stampede. The cooks were serving up a decent Mongolian Steak salad, so we all made our way through the line (without incident, I might add). We sat down at a picnic-style table in a far corner of the cafeteria. Tom sat beside me with Senjen across from us. Before I even realized it, I was staring at Senjen. I traced his beautiful face, devouring its fluid contours and delicate complexion and I caught myself stopping again at those damnably idiosyncratic cerulean eyes, which were pointed intently down at his tray, as if he were trying to decide between his salad, his roll, and his apple.
"Jake," I heard a disembodied voice say.
"Hmm?" I replied absently, stabbing my fork lazily at my salad.
"You okay? You look like you're about to fall asleep in your dinner." It was Tom. I exhaled slightly and did my level best to anchor myself back in reality.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired from the gym," I half-lied.
"I know the feeling," another voice I didn't recognize said. Tom, Senjen and I all looked up to see who was there. Standing (more correctly towering) above us was the guy from the gym, the son of the new English teacher. "Mind if I have a seat?" he asked. We stared at him for a second before I managed to stammer,
"Uhh, sure, go ahead. Sorry, you startled us." He took the seat beside Senjen and directly opposite Tom. Even while sitting down, he was a giant.
"No, I'm sorry," he apologized in a rich baritone. "I just recognized you from the gym and thought I'd try to meet some people from my own grade. I kinda struck out with the seniors this afternoon."
"Yeah, we saw. What was that, anyway?" Tom asked. "I'm Tom Hobbes by the way. This is Jake Anthony and the quiet one beside you is Senjen."
"Hey," Senjen lifted his head up and said in his timid voice, wearing a slight grin. I almost got trapped in his half-smile again, and I would have, if it hadn't disappeared as fast as it had come - a pair of invisible warm hands that caressed my face gently, teasingly, for a fleeting moment before retreating back into nothingness. I simply nodded my greetings at the newcomer, half-interested to hear the story of his confrontation with the upperclassmen in the gym. He nodded his greetings back to each of us.
"I'm Marcellous Page," he said, "but I go by Marc. As for what that was about " He paused a second and let loose a rueful sigh. "It's a long story." There was an uncomfortable silence. We were all interested to hear the story, but I guess none of us felt like we knew Marc well enough to really hound him for information. But damnit, he sat down at our table. I was going to hear this!
"C'mon," I finally urged, "we've got time." He leaned back in the cafeteria chair, which he dwarfed by the way, and screwed his eyes shut for half a second, as if bracing himself.
"You don't want to hear this," he said, straightening up. "You'll freak out." I could sense Tom suppressing a chuckle, and considering what he had learned about me yesterday, I didn't blame him. Marc's issue couldn't be nearly on the order of the condition of my birth, but still, I wasn't laughing. I knew all about crippling secrets. More than I ever wanted to know, and I didn't envy Marc his position.
"Sure we want to hear it," Tom said. "Believe me, we won't freak out," he finished, pressing home the attack. Marc relented, but as he did, it occurred to me that Senjen didn't know that I was a God Child. Why that thought bothered my so much I didn't know.
"Okay, okay, here's the deal," Marc began. "My dad is Dr. Page, the new English teacher, the one who's replacing Dr. Kuhn, who was also the Soccer coach." We all nodded. "Well, dad's taking on the coach position as well. I don't know what the best way to say this is but, okay, he - we - both of us are totally against selective birthing. Freaked out yet?" Whoa. I didn't see that coming. Tom and I smiled at each other knowingly. I stole a glance at Senjen, who had gone back to staring at his food. A bad sign?
"No, not at all, please go on," Tom bade Marc.
"Well, okay so dad was holding tryouts this afternoon, and all the players thought he'd just do what all coaches do and pick the team by GQ, but he didn't. Several guys who made it didn't have quite the GQ that the team is used to seeing, but they either had an innate talent that dad was able to pick out - he's good at that - or their attitudes were better. Either way, some guys who were on the team last year got bumped, and apparently I chose a few of them to work out with this afternoon. When it came up that I was the coach's son, things got nasty. It looked we were gonna to come to blows, but I decided that I didn't want to kill anyone my first day here, so I skipped out." He finished with a devilish grin that faded after a moment. "So it doesn't bother you that I don't believe in Genoism? To most people, that makes me a ladderlover or somethin'."
"No, it doesn't bother Tom or me, I'm sure," I said. Was I actually saying this? Me? The one who was petrified to let people know anything about me? Come to think of it, I'd been growing progressively more open in just the past two days. Flabbergasting myself still more, I continued. "Tom already knows, but Marc, you and Senjen should know, too. I'm a God Child." Yet again, I was aghast at myself. If I was becoming so comfortable talking about my birth status, what else might I start to open up about? I shivered involuntarily. What might Senjen think of me now?
"Whoa, I didn't expect that one," Marc replied, echoing my earlier sentiments. "My dad wanted me to be a Faith," he continued, "but mom wouldn't hear of it. They split up after I was born because of it." We all mumbled out embarrassed sympathies, but Marc glossed them over. "So how'd you get into the school?" he asked me. I went on to tell him about the whole luck of the draw thing, even using the same "right sperm, right egg, right time" line I'd used on Tom on the bus. I wasn't really paying attention to what I was saying though - I was too busy trying to read Senjen. He had looked up from his food and was staring at me. His eyes were wide and were glazed over with a dazed, surprised look that threw me off-guard. It was completely enigmatic. I couldn't tell whether he was shocked or disgusted or simply off-guard just like I was with him. I finally finished explaining my situation to Marc and Tom took over, telling him about his brother. I think after that, Tom and Marc started talking about the rooming situation, but I wasn't sure. I was too busy trying not to let Senjen catch me staring at him staring at me. The next thing I knew, Tom was saying,
"Unless Senjen has a problem with it."
"Huh?" Senjen stammered, breaking away from me and looking hazily at Tom.
"Geez, off in your own little world tonight, huh?" he asked playfully. "I asked if you'd mind sharing your room with Marc. He hasn't got a dorm yet."
"Oh." Senjen said quietly. "Yeah, no, I mean that's fine. No problem."
"Good, that's settled," Tom pushed on, totally oblivious to what was happening to the left of him. "Let's go get Marc moved in, then." So, with dinner finished, we did just that.
After all the moving was finished, the four of us crashed on the characteristically spartan sofa (more like a bench) and chairs in the common room. We talked for a while about our classes - Marc shared two classes with me and Senjen and three with Tom - and, before long, the conversation fell into a lull. Tom spoke up, valiantly attempting to give our dialogue a shot in the arm.
"Hey Jake, I forgot to ask you, how'd the letter to Kara turn out?"
"Oh shit " I stammered, blown away. I had completely forgotten about the letter after I'd met Senjen up here before the workout. "It totally slipped my mind," I explained. "I better go take care of that."
"Umm, I'm a little confused," Senjen said. "What letter? And who's Kara?" There was something odd about the way he asked it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Typical - my delusional mind playing tricks on me again.
"Yeah," Marc echoed, "I'm lost."
"Can you explain it to them, Tom? I really need to get this letter off my chest tonight, while it's still fresh on my mind," I said imploringly.
"Sure thing Jake, and I'll stay out here 'til you're done," he said. I saw genuine concern behind his dusky gray eyes. Cute, tolerant, and kind to boot I saw right then exactly how hard I was going to have to work to keep from falling for Tom in the worst way. The whole Senjen issue was screaming for my mind's full attention, too, but I had to banish all thoughts but those of Kara. As I closed the door to the bedroom behind me, the world fell away. The datapad was right where I had left it, sitting on the bed, the screen displaying a mail field that was blank, save for the words "Dearest Kara" glowing ominously at the top. I almost shied away, but some force from within forced me to continue. She was in Australia. She couldn't harm me, couldn't tell anyone. There was no risk. Beyond all that, I needed to tell her. As she had said in my dream, 'I really oughtta know'. I steeled myself, took the datapad in hand, and began to write. It took a full hour, several rewrites, and a great, countless number of silent tears, but I was finally satisfied with what I had written. Once more, I read it over.
I write to you tonight with a burdened heart. Before you read what I have to say, please know how unfathomably sorry I am that I am telling you all this. However, I must.
This previous summer, we shared something indescribably special. I will never forget a blissful moment of it. You are as much a part of my blood now as I am - I will never be the same because of the love you gave me. You have made me a better person; I will always cherish that and will always cherish you. I feel, though, that I have betrayed the trust that you so selflessly gave me along with your love. As much as you meant to me and will always mean to me, there is a place deep inside me that I so painfully regret that you can never touch.
You know that I am naturally conceived - a 'faith birth', or, as I have come to call it, a 'God child'. You accepted me despite that and made me feel, for a few fleeting months, like a true human being. But I have come to realize something else about myself that I must confront now, lest it slowly poison me for all my days.
I am gay.
Of this, I am more certain than anything else in my life, now or hence. I truly wish it weren't so, but it is. As I look back on my life, I realize that somewhere inside of me, I have always known it. Even when I was with you last summer, my burning passion for you was the breed of passion that one feels for the best of friends. Any romantic or sexual significance I ascribed to it to us was a figment of my last vestiges of denial. I am deeply sorry to have to word it as such, but it's the only way I can express the whole truth, which you so deserve.
I will not blame you in the slightest if you decide that you don't want to have anything further to do with me in the future. Though our former relationship may now seem totally pointless to you, I cannot stress emphatically enough that I will never, NEVER forget the love you gave me. I only regret that I could not return your love in the way that you would have wanted me to.
Kara Oetsvold, you are a part of me. I only hope and pray that you will allow me to remain a part of you. I am so very sorry.
Jacob Michael Anthony
As I hit the "Send" button, the tears began anew. It wasn't anything earth shattering - I've never been one to sob uncontrollably - but I trembled gently, rocking back and forth, my cheeks probably glinting slightly under the harsh lighting in the room. I finally managed to get up off the bed and stumble to the door, opening it tentatively. The common room was dark, an atmosphere of serene contentment hanging over it like a blanket. Tom was the only one left, lying sprawled out on the sofa asleep. A sad, grateful half-smile crossed my face for a moment before I walked over to wake the gentle soul breathing so evenly and peacefully before me. Sleeping on the beds was bad enough, but if he slept the night on this excuse for a couch, he'd be spending the rest of his life in traction. I laid my hand gently on his shoulder, and his eyes fluttered open. He smiled up at me.
"Finished?" he asked. He must not have been sleeping very deeply, because his raspy voice bore no hint of grogginess.
"More or less," I answered. He stood up and walked towards the bedroom, but I found that I couldn't move.
"Tom?" I asked hesitantly. He stopped and turned around in the doorway.
"Yeah?" His face was quizzical, but friendly, as always.
He asked, "For what?"
"For letting me do that alone. For rooming with me. For accepting me. For being " I hesitated "my friend." He came back over to where I was standing and laid a hand on my shoulder.
"Thank you, Jake," he said, "for writing your story, for listening to me on the bus, for being who you are, and," he hesitated as well, "for being my friend." Standing there, in the middle of the commons room, I hugged my friend, he hugged me, and I didn't once think about him as an object of sexual desire. He was simply my friend, my "blood brother" as he would later call it, and I was his.
It was late when we finally got into our beds, but neither of us seemed to be ready to sleep yet. I don't know what was keeping Tom awake, but I was getting the very odd feeling that not everything that needed to be said tonight had been said yet.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Tom said into the darkness. Somehow, I knew that he meant the letter to Kara.
"No, but thanks," I replied, and we returned to silence. I would have loved to be able to tell Tom everything - to confess it all and let things happen as they would. As I lay there, still unable to sleep, a niggling little thought kept echoing around in my head. Why not?
Why not?! Because it could get around! I'd be not only the school's pet faith birth, but the school's pet fag as well! Because something stopped me dead. This was Tom. He accepted me as a God child. Might that also mean that he'd accept whatever that entailed? But being gay wouldn't that threaten him? I was scaring myself. Just two days ago, I would never have even remotely considered telling anyone that I was faithborn, and now I was considering telling the person who might be my only true friend that I was gay. A part of my mind was screaming at me to get a hold of myself, but another part was screaming just as loud for me to tell him. So, I made a decision.
"Tom, are you still awake?" I knew he was.
"Yeah, I am," he answered.
"I changed my mind. I want to talk about it." That part of my brain that had been yelling at me to stop was now in full-tilt riot mode, doing its damndest to shut me down cold, but the boys on the other side, the ones encouraging me to tell all, managed to suppress it.
"Okay," Tom replied, sounding a little confused. "If you're sure."
"I don't think I'll ever be as sure as I am now," I answered him. I must have sounded very cryptic to him, but to myself, I just sounded tragic. He didn't say anything to that, so I pressed on. "I told you I needed to write to Kara to deal with some unresolved issues in our relationship. That's true, but I didn't tell you the extent of the issues. Tom you know that I'm a God child, and you accept me for that. But, I uh, shit "
"C'mon," Tom urged, "spit it out." If only it were that simple, I reflected to myself. But if I didn't spit it out, it would never come out, so I lay there for a second fighting my nervous trembling down to a minimum, silenced the protesting quarter of my mind, and doused the fire in my chest as best I could.
"Tom, there's no other way for me to say this than just to say it. I'm gay." A cold blanket of silence fell over the room, penetrated only by the horrible, frantic triphammer beat of my heart as it tried to shudder loose from the confines of my chest.
"Wow," Tom said. "That's not what I expected." This had sure been a day for people to say that, but it didn't make me feel any better. "But well I guess it doesn't really matter." THAT made me feel better. Oh, so much better.
"Really?" I managed to squeak, not sure whether my heart had calmed down or actually sped up.
"Yeah, sure," Tom said. "It doesn't seem like such a major thing. I like you for who you are, the whole package. If you're gay, so be it. You're still my friend, I hope, and besides, I've got a pretty decent feeling that you're not gonna try to rape me in the middle of the night or anything." I was still so dumbfounded that it was hard to parse a sentence.
"You you really mean it?" I stammered.
"Of course," he said. "It explains a lot, too," he said. I could hear the hint of mirth in his voice.
"Like what?" I asked, halfway afraid of his answer.
"Like why you couldn't take your eyes off of Senjen all afternoon!" And all this time I thought he'd been totally oblivious!
"Bastard," I joked, chucking my pillow at him. He tossed it back, laughing with expelled breath through his nose, as people are apt to do late at night when all around them are sleeping. My heart was flying.
"A bastard I may be, but an observant one. Now go to sleep. They want us up by 6:30," he said, rolling over. Just like that. He didn't care! It didn't bother him! My heart may have been flying, but my body wasn't. In fact, it was totally spent. Everything was right with the world in my eyes, so I finally allowed myself to drift off to sleep. When I opened my eyes again, I was back in the forest.
Once again, I am immersed in an earth-toned ocean. I am walking slowly through the dense forest, heedless of the clawing branches tearing at my body. Suddenly, I realize that I am naked, but it doesn't stop me. As before, I have no control over my body, yet now, unlike my first time here, I feel that I have a destination - I know without doubt that I am not simply wandering aimlessly in the woods. I recognize the babbling whisper of water somewhere off in the distance, and just as I place it as such, I look off to my left and see the same small brook I've visited before.
As I arrive in the clearing with the small parcel of beach, a wellspring of fear permeates my consciousness. Voluntary control of my body has been returned to me, but I am so paralyzed with fear that I can do nothing but drop to one knee and cast my gaze crazily back and forth, searching for what? I do not know what it is nor do I see it, but I get the sense that something is here - some large, foreboding presence. My nakedness doesn't help matters; a strong wind has developed, somehow penetrating the forest and stirring up the sand on the ground into an abrasive cloud scourging my bare flesh. And then it is upon me. Out from the trees surrounding the small clearing steps the figure, swathed in shadow and ominously imposing, just as before. It walks toward me slowly, almost cautiously, and as it draws close to me, it steps into the light
But it remains a shadow.
Around us, the clouds of sand continue to whip crazily about, but it is as if there is a protective barrier around the two of us that the wind dares not penetrate. We are in a pocket of dead calm. The figure reaches a hand out towards me, and a familiar sensation returns - my esophagus seems to fill from the inside with sand. I stagger backwards a few steps, fall to my knees, and cough from deep in my gut. The sand that pours from my throat is laced liberally with my blood. I stare at it on the sodden earth for a few moments, look back up at the figure whose hand is still outstretched ominously, and I run.
I have only run for what feels like maybe fifty feet into the woods before I break out into the open into the same clearing that I had just run from. I draw up short, heaving for breath and beginning to panic. The figure is standing there in the middle of the clearing beside a lone fruit-bearing tree that I don't remember from before, arm outstretched like Dickens' ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But this ghost speaks.
"Please," it moans in a deep, throaty voice that chills me to the very marrow of my bones. Again I run, and again, after only a short time, I find myself back in the clearing yet again. This time, the figure is not standing there with an arm eerily held out at me.
It he is sitting cross-legged on the earth amidst a patch of odd-looking plants.
"Please, Jake " it moans again, but somehow, this time, the voice is more imploring. Sadder. It knows my name.
Hemlock. The thicket of plants he is sitting in is hemlock. I have no idea how I know this, but I am absolutely certain of myself. I linger for a moment, digesting the situation, then shake my head in strange denial, and run again, more frantic than ever. This time, I do not return to the clearing. I run for a very long time and finally, my lungs give out and, instead of finding myself on the Augusta Soccer field as before, I am in some sort of dry gulch. It looks very much like the deserts of Arizona. There is a very sparse dusting of brown grass clinging tenuously to the rocky, barren soil, and in the distance, beautiful rock formations reach desperately for the heavens, backlit by a tremendous fervid sunset painted of burnt yellows and oranges that seem to melt into the reddish-brown rock on the horizon. The soft strains of music reach my ears, and I recognize the tune as the same one that had sounded so eerie on the Soccer field. This time, although the song remains the same, its tone its inflection I don't know something about it has changed. It is prettier, more enticing. I get up off my knees, look up to the horizon and turn full circle, taken aback by the stark beauty of this place. Once I have turned a whole rotation and returned my eyes earthward, I nearly jump out of my skin. Kara is standing there, right in front of me. She wears a kind smile on her face. I realize that I am still naked, but for some reason, the exposure doesn't bother me, and Kara doesn't seem to notice.
"Thank you. I needed to know," she says. Relief washes over me and I wrap her up in a crushing hug which she returns with equal force. We break our embrace after a long, sweet time, and she turns and walks away.
"Keep trying," she says over her shoulder as she leaves. "Keep trying, Jake. Don't let it end this way." I am confused, but I can do nothing but watch her meld with and disappear into the simmering heat waves rolling off the desert floor. I am suddenly overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. Grief and joy relief and foreboding they battle ceaselessly over my mood, and I cry. My arms and legs are scratched and bloody. There must be some way out of here.
I woke up just as violently as I had from the previous dream. My sheets ended up on the floor at the foot of the bed, and I was so wet with perspiration that I had actually left a sweat stain on the mattress. Strangest of all, just like last time, I was as hard as steel. I don't think my poor dick had ever known such pure swollen agony. It subsided rather quickly though, and I was left to lay there in utter overwhelmed quandary. This dream made even less sense than the last, a feat that I considered unattainable. I glanced at the clock beside the bed, cursing under my breath when I read the time. 5:07 - not even an hour and a half before I had to be up. There would be no more sleep for me, for certain, so I reached for my datapad and switched it on. Perhaps if I could write these dreams down, they would make more sense to me. I never got the chance to do it, though. I noticed that I had a new message in my inbox, so I switched over to Messaging mode and read the Identifier tag. It was from Kara! I could feel my pulse begin to throb in my head as I opened the message. Infinitely eager and fearful at the same time, I began to read.
Please do not contact me again. I have found someone here in Perth; someone who can give me the love I need. Please do yourself a favor and forget me. In the long run, you will save yourself heartache, because I must and will forget you.
I was cold as stone. None of it penetrated at first. I had to read the short, simple letter five or six times before I fully understood its implications. Once I finally did realize that I had just been cruelly and mercilessly shut out of Kara's life, I laid the datapad on the table, still switched on with her letter open. I laid on the bed facedown and screamed bloody murder into my pillow. As I heard Tom wake up in the other bed with a start, the tears began.
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