Lions, Tigers and Bears. Oh My!
Usual disclaimers apply. The following contains male-to-male sex.
If you are under age or such reading is illegal in your country,
please go elsewhere. Otherwise, please enjoy.
Critiques are welcomed at Kindar11@Yahoo.ca
A Special thank you to Brett for his
January 28th, 2011
It had been ten years since I’d last laid eyes on the stone building. It hadn’t changed in that time, although it had changed a lot since it’s construction. By the time I returned here for the first time in 1912 they had added a wing to accommodate the members that had come. Archibald didn’t get to see it, I learned that he’d died in 1899. He’d led a happy life, loving God and the men under his care.
Before I left, they told me they were planning on excavating under the monastery to make room for the printing machines. They had gone from trying to make money with the goods they grew, to copying old texts for collectors.
When I returned ten years later they had expansive rooms where they did their work. Seeing them at it is when I decided to have them make copies of the journals I owned, so I could put them back in circulation. As important as they were to me, I couldn’t deprive the world of the work Sir Francis Burton had done.
With the advent of the zeppelin, and then the aircraft, which made trans-Atlantic flights more frequent, I made sure to visit every ten years or so. I even came back to help with repairs after the quake of 1923. They used that time to expand again.
* * * * *
I knocked on the door, using the knocker the lion head was holding. I might have helped build the place, but I thought it was only polite to announce my arrival like any other guest. While I waited, I looked at the brass lion bolted to the door and I wondered if Arsalan was okay. Part of me wanted to push the thought away, but I forced myself to think about him. Kody had been right, I could have handled that better.
When I’d made it back to their place, I told them how the meeting had gone. Brandon had been furious with me for how I’d treated Arsalan, and in return I blew up at him. The shouting match lasted until he walked out in mid shift. Kody’s only comment about the whole thing was that he thought I was older than that.
I screamed at him. I don’t remember what I said, but it couldn’t have been pretty. Through it all he kept his gaze on me, his calm and steady gaze, until I went from yelling to crying as what I’d done finally sank in.
He held me as I realized that I’d pushed away the one person who might understand what Lao had done to me. Kody said things to comfort me, but I didn’t hear them. All that registered was how utterly alone I was at this moment.
Brandon came back after dark to inform us that Arsalan had already left town. He’d taken a bus to Salt Lake City not long after my argument with him. I thought about borrowing Brandon’s car and driving there to meet him, but what was I going to say? What could I say to yet another person I’d hurt?
I spent the night agonizing over what I should do, and as the sun rose I’d decided I would go there and do my best to apologize; only for Kody to tell me he wasn’t there. He’d contacted a friend if his in the city to go catch Arsalan at the terminal, but the lion hadn’t been on the bus when it had arrived. One of the passengers told him that at one of the stops, Arsalan had just started walking and disappeared in the night.
* * * * *
My thoughts were interrupted by the door opening and a man in his early twenties looking at me.
“Yes?” he asked, looking around for an indication of how I had arrived. “Can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Simon,” I answered, while I tried to place him. He was wearing a shirt and dress pants. The robes had gone out of fashion here in the early 1900s. After a moment, I realized that he was too young to have been here the last time I dropped by.
“Hi,” he hesitated, “I’m William.”
I had expected my name to at least mean something to him. I found that I wasn’t quite sure how to go about explaining to him who I was.
“Simon?” yelled a burly man, who’d stopped at the intersection to look at us.
“Hey Richard,” I replied.
He quickly made his way to us, shouldering the younger man aside so he could try to crush my ribs with a hug. “Welcome back! How were your travels?”
I hugged him back. “My travels were . . . eventful.”
“You’ll have to tell me before you leave. Dear Lord, where are my manners? Simon, this is William,” he said, moving out of the way. “He joined us last year. His calligraphy is simply amazing. William, this is Simon. He’s responsible for this dear building’s existence.” Richard knew how old I was. Very few of the men at the monastery knew I was a werewolf, but they all knew I didn’t age — It was difficult to keep that part secret when I never changed over my visits.
William frowned as I extended my hand to him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” I said. He looked at it, as if trying to decipher what it was, before taking and shaking it.
Richard then put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me inside, telling me about what had changed since my last visit, who had left, what printing press had had to be replaced.
“What brought you here this time?” he asked when he finally ran out of things to say.
“I’m here to do some research and complete my collection.”
He looked at me, eyes wide. “You found it?” I nodded. “Can I see it?”
I took the journal out of my bag and held it out to him.
“Oh dear Lord,” he said, almost bringing himself to touch it. “I am so happy for you.” I could swear he had tears in his eyes. “What are you going to do now that you have it?”
“I’m going to read it. I’m hoping it contains information about something I’ve been looking for.”
“More like the quest that lead me to collecting the journals.” I put the journal away. “It was good to see you again and to catch up, but I hope you don’t mind if I go to my room and get to work.”
“No, no. Of course not. I’ll tell Abel to get the supplies ready to copy the journal once you’re done with it.”
“Thank you.” I left him and walked to the older part of the monastery. I hadn’t had my own room at first, I preferred hopping from room to room depending on whom I’d be spending the night with, but once I started collecting the journals and doing serious research on them I’d decided I needed a place of my own, if only to serve as an office.
I ran a hand over the old wood door. It was the original one. It had been repaired, but I had insisted they kept it.
“You can’t go in there,” William said. He’d been following me discreetly since I’d arrived.
“Really?” I replied. “And why’s that?”
“That room belongs to one of the founders of this monastery. No one’s allowed in there.”
“Which one?” I asked. William just stared at me. “Which one of the founders?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then how do you know this isn’t my room? You heard Richard, I’m responsible for the monastery existing.”
William rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right. You’d have to be over a hundred years old for that to be true. This place was built in the 1800s.”
“It was finished in 1859.”
“Whatever. Anyway, the door’s locked. So you can’t go in.” The lock had been added in the 30s, after some of the new arrivals were caught going through my stuff. They used a lock already a hundred years old because of my love of old things.
I took an old skeleton key out of my bag and put it in the lock, and turned it until I heard the lock open.
William grabbed my arm before I could pull the door open. “Where did you get that?”
“It was given to me after the lock was put in.”
“Yeah, right. Look, I don’t know what you’re doing here, but we’re not a tourist attraction. You don’t get to go in this room just because you somehow got your hands on the key.”
I kept smiling, but I was starting to find his attitude grating. “How about if I describe the room, which according to you I can’t have seen before. If I get that right, will you accept that it’s my room?”
“Sure,” he said, obviously not believing I’d know the contents.
“Against the left wall is a cot, thin mattress, red wool cover. On the right wall is a book case with original dissertations on various extinct civilizations, as well as Hamlet, the original in Shakespeare’s handwriting. Against the back wall is a writing desk. There’s an old oil lamp on it, no oil. It hasn’t been used since they got electricity here. There’s a lamp next to it. In front of that there’s an old fountain pen. Above the desk is a shelf with all of Sir Francis Burton’s journals as well as some other books of sentimental value to me.
“If I got all that right will you be satisfied? Or do you need me to go through the content of the desk’s drawer also?”
The young man eyed me, before nodding. I pulled the door open and let him look inside. Everything was as I had described it.
“How . . . How did you know how things were?”
“Because I’m the one who put them there.”
“That’s impossible. You must have met someone who had a relative here when this room was set up.”
This young boy was dense. “No one told you about me, have they?” I put my bag on the desk and searched through it for my pocket knife. He was going to need a demonstration. I opened the bottom drawer and took out a rag I kept there to clean up spilled ink.
“Is there a reason they should have?”
“There kind of is. I was born in the 1740s, I’m over two hundred and fifty years old.” Before he could comment, I sliced my palm open and showed him the wound. As he watched, I felt it close.
“That’s impossible,” he said after I wiped the blood off and showed him my healed hand. “It’s got to be a trick.”
“Am I going to have to get you to stab me, for you to understand I’m not quite normal?”
“What? No. I’m not going to stab you. It’s just that . . .. How is it even possible?”
“I don’t know,” I had no intention of going into details at this point, “I’ve been like this since I became an adult.”
“So, you’re really . . . old,” he said.
“Yeah, but I don’t feel it, or act it. If you want I can show you.”
I nodded to the bed. “I’m pretty sure I can outlast you.”
“Ahh, err, thanks, but I don’t know you. Maybe I should let you settle in.” He stepped outside the room.
“Is dinner still served at six?”
“Yes, but if you want to eat now, the kitchen’s open so you can make yourself something.”
“Thanks,” I said to William’s disappearing back. They must have a new cook if he lets others in his kitchen. I took a moment debating what I should do; eat, find someone to have sex with, or start reading the journal.
I sat at the desk and started reading.
* * * * *
Word quickly spread that I was back, and I spent the next two days reacquainting myself with friends. Unlike what many have thought of me over the years, I didn’t mean having sex with all of them. While we were all gay, with a healthy sex drive, the monastery was more a brotherhood than a house of the flesh — which would have pleased Archibald greatly. While I did spend my nights in someone’s bed, the days were spent catching up with the happenings and meeting the new members of our fraternity.
On the third day I finally sat down to read Sir Burton’s journal. I did a rapid read through it looking for any mention of werewolves, without luck. I then set to read it more in depth. Sir Francis had said the explorer he’d met had said something about them, and that he’d written it down. I had meticulously gone through all his other journals and not found anything even hinting of werewolves, so this had to be the one.
I had read about a quarter of it when someone knocked on my door to let me know lunch was being served. I debated going, but put down the journal. I wouldn’t be able to focus if I was hungry. Before leaving my gaze lingered on the spine of ‘The Secret History of Rome’, Martin’s book. I hadn’t read it in over a decade and promised myself I would before I left.
The dining hall was pretty much filled. Meals were about the only time where almost everyone was in the same room. Lunch was a hearty meal, and the new cook, a burly man named Henry, knew how to feed a hundred or so healthy men. I kept my choices on the lighter side — a soup, salads and some deli meats. I didn’t have to do any of the work outside, and I didn’t want to feel too heavy while I did my research. The soup went down well, but halfway through the salad I started having butterflies in my stomach, and the meat didn’t look all that appetizing anymore.
“Is there something wrong with the salad?” Peter asked. He’d joined over twenty years ago and we got along well when I visited.
“No, it’s fine. I think my appetite is being trumped by my nervousness.”
“What are you nervous about?” he asked before taking a bite of the large sandwich he’d made. He was going to be spending the afternoon cutting down wood.
“I think that, on some level, I’m worried that I won’t find what I’m looking for in the journal.”
“Why wouldn’t you?” Peter was also one of the few here who knew I was a werewolf. It had come out one night when he’d mentioned how much he loved body hair and I showed him how much I could have.
“I’m afraid to find out that I’ve wasted the last hundred years looking for something that doesn’t actually exist.”
He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and hugged me. “If it’s out there, you’re going to find it. I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s important to you, so you’ll manage it.”
“Thanks.” I looked at my food. I wasn’t in the habit of wasting it, but my appetite hadn’t come back in spite of Peter’s comforting words.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “I’ll finish your plate.”
“Thanks. I’m going to go back to my research.”
“Look me up tonight,” he said squeezing my leg, “if you want a distraction from all that reading.”
* * * * *
My stomach didn’t feel any better when I sat back at my desk. I tried to force it to calm down, but this was one time when the relaxation techniques I’d learned all those years ago didn’t seem to work. Instead I forced myself to ignore it and went back to reading.
Before I was half way through the first page, my eyes were misting up. I put the journal down and dried my eyes. I took a few deep breathes to try to get myself under control. This was ridiculous. I couldn’t be *that* worked up about the journal.
My eyes fell on Martin’s book and I decided that what I really needed was a break. I gingerly took it off the shelf and ran my hand over the cover. The rough fabric over the cardboard had been worn down to a soft velvet from all the times I’d held it. This was the original, published in 1962. Martin had taken his dissertation and expanded on it; exploring the ramification of some theories he’d only touched on in his original graduate work. It was a masterpiece.
The smell of the book brought memories of Martin to me. The times spent in the library — mostly researching. The times going over his dissertation and being amazed at what he was uncovering. The feeling of his body moving against me. The look of pain when I told him I was leaving.
By the time that memory surfaced, I was holding the book against my chest and crying. I wished I could go back and undo the pain I’d caused. Now that I knew what that felt like, I also knew that he should never have had to feel it. I wished I could at least tell him how sorry I was.
I straightened up.
I could tell him. My stomach settled.
Martin was still alive. I knew how to get in contact with him. Unlike with Arsalan, I wasn’t too late. I could call him and tell him, explain . . .. No, I couldn’t do something like that over the phone. I couldn’t go and tell him in person. He’d never believe me . . . Or worse he might. How would I explain to him that I had moved on after abandoning him?
It would have to be a letter!
I ran outside my room and grabbed the first person I saw, which turned out to be William. “Go tell Samuel that I need a few pages of letter paper that would have been commonly used in West Germany in the mid sixties.” I turned and then looked back at him. “ As well as ink for my fountain pen, from that same era.” I let go of him and headed back into my room, before poking my head back out. “Oh, and I’ll also need an envelope. Thanks.”
I closed the door, took out a notebook and started writing.
* * * * *
By the time Samuel brought me the supplies I’d asked for, I had ripped out half the pages of the book because of how horrible what I’d written was.
“You’re trying to hard,” he said.
“I’m obviously not trying hard enough,” I replied waving a hand over all the pages on the floor.
“What are you trying to say?”
“That I’m sorry.”
“Then write that.”
“I can’t just write that. ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t even begin to say just how deeply sorry I am for what I put him through.”
“At least start with that and see what else comes.”
I thanked him for the supplies and the advice, and he left me to my work.
Right, like I could put on the letter something a simplistic as ‘I’m sorry’. I began writing again.
After eighteen more pages ended up on the floor, I decided to try Samuel’s way.
My dearest Martin
Loving you always,
Please send Comments and Critiques to Kindar11@Yahoo.ca