K. J. Pedersen

Copyright © 2012 by K. J. Pedersen

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Elisha Christian Bengtsen



IT STARTS WITH BRANDT LYNGDAL, the new kid, or new-ish kid, anyway, since it’s April now and he’d transferred in at the start of the school year. He’s tall, powerfully built, and handsome, with longish black hair, combed back smooth behind his ears, with never a hair out of place, and steely blue-gray eyes; his features, they’re perfect, all perfectly spaced and proportioned, all perfectly shaped, particularly his lips, and the very attractive way they curl up at the corners when he smiles. ( that even the proper word?) To be honest, he scares me a little.... His presence, his confidence and gait, somehow unsettling. I think he has that effect on a lot of people at Spring Creek High, because when he walks down the middle of the hall between classes, the other teens make way, splitting off right and left around him, like Moses and the Red Sea, you know? See...there’s something very intense about him, about his stare, something controlled, yet just barely, like he’s able to see right through you, through all your pretenses and the fears and all the insecurities that inspire them, and into the depths of your mind and soul, should he want to; there’s something about the way he speaks, with such eloquence and authority; something about the way he moves, like an arctic wolf, lissome and sinewy and frighteningly powerful, always hungry, always the hunter; in all, there’s something that makes him strangely very attractive to just about everyone, boys and girls alike, and it is not simply physical desire. Just about everyone likes him, wants to get to know him, to be seen in his company and to be his friend, but there are others, a small number, whom Brandt Lyngdal has precisely the opposite effect on—they dislike him, intensely. My twin brother, Elijah, and his best friend, Jason Brentwood, happen to be among them, especially Elijah. He doesn’t trust Brandt, thinks he’s “too smooth” and “too refined” to be for real.

I don’t know why exactly, but Brandt took a liking to me, and we quickly became friends. I was frequently a guest in the Lyngdal home, often invited to come over for dinner, or to play video games or billiards in the game room, or to do my homework. He’s intelligent, and so am I, and we help one another with assignments and reports a lot. In that, at least, we’re something of equals, whereas in almost every other respect he makes me feel...inadequate.

It’s after dinner (we tend to eat late) and I find myself on his front porch, ringing the bell, waiting. He’d sent me a text right as we were finishing desert, asking me to come over. And when Brandt sends a text, or calls, it’s a summons—you just drop what you’re doing and go. Brent’s mother, Margaret, meets me at the door and informs me Brandt’s in his room, waiting for me. She’s curt. Maybe she just doesn’t like me. Who knows?

Margaret is a refined woman, has refined tastes, and her preferences are made clear by the way their house is decorated, in all the best, from the marble tile and furnishings in their entrance hall to the crystalware she uses to set their table. She’s intelligent and stand-offish and very cold. I figure that explained a lot about Brandt’s behavior.

“Who’s that at the door, Margie?” That voice, calling from living room, I recognize as Mr. Lyngdal’s.

“The Bengtsen boy,” Margaret says, as if I don’t have my own name, and should be identified by clan. Like I said, she’s icy.

A moment later, Mr. Lyngdal appears in the entrance hall. “Hi, Elisha. Brandt’s upstairs, finishing his homework, I think.”

“Right. Upstairs.”

Brandt’s father looks like his son, very much so, but carries himself differently, with assuredness, yes, but without the almost cocksure pride his son displays.

“How’s your dad?” he asks.

“Doing okay.”

Brandt’s father, Harry (short for Henrik), is Professor of Northern European studies at the University of Utah, and has known my father, Thom Bengtsen, a professor of religion there, for several years. Just since autumn have the Lyngdals become our neighbors though, having moved to the Cottonwoods from the Avenues district of Salt Lake City.

“I’ll just go upstairs now,” I say, wanting to escape because I don’t like making small talk, and especially with the way Mrs. Lyngdal’s glaring at me through narrowed slits. I don’t know what her problem is, but I climb the stairs as quickly as I can to get away from her. Brandt’s room is at the end of the hall.

Right then, Brandt’s little brother, Harry, Jr., tears out of his room, nearly runs me over. “Hey!” I cry.

He grins at me. “Hey. Sorry, Elisha. Can’t talk. Gotta run, man.” Harry’s not like Brandt, at all. He’s super-friendly, silly, blond and brown-eyed, kind of goofy-looking, and cute. He’s fourteen. Brandt and Harry...they don’t get along.

Brandt’s bedroom door is half-way open. I push it open further, slip inside. His dog, who is sprawled out comfortably on the floor, lifts his tawny-colored head, and lets out a tired woof as I enter. The poor old beast has to be close to sixteen—what’s that in dog years, three paws in the grave? Anyway, I reach down and scratch the tan Lab’s head. “‘Woof’ to you too, Mr. Barks.”

“Elisha.” Brandt doesn’t even bother to look up, much less to get up from where he’s sitting on the bed, to greet me. He’s reading a thick volume bound in leather with a burgundy-colored spine, Norse Gods and Heros. “Think fast!”

He throws the book at me so suddenly I barely manage to catch it. “Shit!”

“Got to keep those reflexes sharp,” he says.

I sit next to him on the mattress. “So...what’s this all about, demanding I ‘get my ass over here’?”

He takes the book from me. “I want to show you something,” he says.


Brandt shakes his head, and offers that elusive, smirky smile, but doesn’t answer. “Not so fast, Bengtsen,” he says. Then he stands, walks over to the crowded bookshelf, and returns the book to its place.

Many of Brandt’s books deal with either Norse mythology or Northern European history, and he has quite a collection, some of the books being very old and very rare, a genuinely valuable relic here and there scattered among them. He’d developed an enthusiasm early for his father’s hobby, collecting old books. From time to time these last few months, I’d borrowed a few when I’d had reports to write. Many of the other books, on the bottom shelves, are horror novels. Those, too, I’d borrowed. But I’d quickly returned them after reading very far into any of them. They were all the same, a series of stabbings, disembowelings, decapitations, real “blood-and-guts porn.” The scenes of of the murders I’d read in a paperback was so horribly graphic, so explicit in its blood-letting, that I woke up several hours after going to bed in a cold sweat—the murder had re-played itself in my dream, with me as the victim—and, running to the bathroom, I’d thrown up dinner.

Brandt’s fascination with the macabre has to be the one aspect of his personality I truly find most disturbing (though I think it’s probably a pretense of his own, taken up to give him an air of danger).

“Here.” Brandt pulls a thin, square box down from the top shelf. It looks like the sort of box board games come in, though nondescript, a cardboard box with neither pictures nor words. He places the box on the bed and opens it. “See?”

Inside is a large wooden disk, and carved about an inch inward from its outer rim are symbols, a ring of them. The symbols are neither Greek nor Hebrew. Both of those I recognize. Secular-minded Dad’s a noted Bible scholar, known for his serious and critical approach to work, and I’d learned a little about the languages of the Old and New Testaments over the last few years.

“What is that?” I ask.

Again, Brandt smiles, but doesn’t answer. From the box, he picks up a small slate-gray stone, nearly triangular in shape. It looked something like a guitar pick, only a bit larger, and it has an arrow-like symbol carved on its rough flat surface. He holds it up for me to see, between his thumb and index finger, and spins it slowly. The other side of the stone is rounded, shiny and polished smooth.

As I study the symbols on the disk I realize the characters are from an alphabet used by the Norse, Angles, Saxons, and other Germanic tribes in pre-Christian times. “They’re runes,” I say.

Brandt nods, and the corners of his mouth come up again in that all too alluring way.

“Didn’t runic writing have something to do with magic?” I ask. “Didn’t the priests use runes in their religious ceremonies?”

“What should I say—the word rune means ‘a secret,’ Elisha.” Casually, he throws the stone up, catches it again.

“Drop the bullshit,” I tell him, “and just get to the point.”

He leans in closer to me. “Each rune symbolized something else, a concept, or even a tangible object.”

“So, what is that?” I say, referring to the disk.

“I’ll tell you in a minute.” He rubs the symbol carved on the stone with his thumb a moment. “See this?” He moves his thumb aside, showing me the rune again. “This arrow-shaped symbol is equivalent to our letter T. Its name is tiw, a word that means ‘god’ in many early Germanic languages. This stone is called the Tyr stone, since Tyr is the Norse form of Tiw, and this—” he lifts the disk from the box, “—is a Nordic artifact, one found at Rogaland, Norway.”

Tiw....” I think about it a moment as I watch Brandt place the disk on his bed. He picks up the Tyr stone once more. “Tiw sounds like deus, Latin for god,” I say. “Isn’t that right?”

“Both come from the same root word, yes.” Brandt rolls the stone between his palms. “But there’s more to it than just that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Tyr, who was called Tiw in pre-Christian England, was the god of war, of law, and of justice in the Germanic religions,” Brandt says.


Brandt places the Tyr stone in the center of the disk, and I am suddenly very uncomfortable. I can’t explain why, but whatever it is makes me shudder.

“Turn off the light,” Brandt says.

I stammer.

“Just do it. Okay?” Brandt’s calm, but his tone of voice is strong and authoritative.

So, I get up, and flip the light switch off. The only source of light in Brandt’s second-story bedroom now comes in through the window, from a street lamp, muted by the shades.

The disk is clearly visible despite the fact everything else in the room is concealed in shadow. Feeling nervous, and not understanding why, I don’t sit back down immediately. I fidget.

Seeing this, Brandt asks, “What’s wrong, Elisha?”

I shrug my shoulders, trying to act calm, but can’t shake the uneasy feeling that’s beginning to roil my guts.

“Sit.” Brandt follows me with his eyes. “Good. Now, put your fingers on the outside edge of the disk,” he instructs, then puts his fingers on the rim.

The second I place my own fingers on the disk, a blue flash arcs from the triangular stone to the rim, followed then by others, each striking the rim in several places around my fingers and around Brandt’s. As the sparks jump, Mr. Barks utters a sharp yelp, scrambles to his feet, and flees the bedroom.

I pull my hand back immediately. “Whoa!” I cry in surprise. “What the fu—?

“Don’t worry about it,” Brandt says quietly.

“Brandt—that shock! I felt it on my finger tips. The jolt flowed over my fingers like....” I struggle to come up with the right words to describe the sensation. “It felt cold water. Like my fingers had been plunged into a icy brook.”

“You’ll get used to it.” Brandt’s eyes are intense as he stares at the triangular stone that sits motionless in the center of the disk. Then he meets my eyes, his expression unreadable.

“I don’t think I want to get used to it,” I say.

“Put your fingers on the rim.”


“Both hands this time,” he says, his voice is so calm, so reassuring, yet so...firm. “It’ll be fine. Trust me, Elisha. It’s nothing to worry about.”

When we touch the disk again, the same blue sparks jumps, and the same icy, electrical jolt, with its fluidity of motion, runs over my finger tips. And again it scares me. But not as much as when the stone suddenly comes to stand on its rounded end, its face parallel to the ceiling above and the disk below, and darts to one side, coming to rest upon one of the runes. It remains upright—impossible!—on that rounded point, defiant.

What the hell?” I pull my hands away again.

Contact broken, the stone immediately rolls from off its rounded end.

“That’s what the stone does.”

“This is an Ouija board—?” I demand.

“Hardly.” Brandt laughs. “An Ouija board is a toy.”

I get to my feet in a hurry. “I’ve gotta go.”

“What for? It’s not even nine yet?”

“I have homework to finish.”

“It’s Friday night, Elisha. There’s no school tomorrow morning. You have nothing to do, and nowhere to be.” He’s toying with me, taunting me. Then, more taunts: “You’re not scared, are you?”

“No,” I say. “Toys don’t scare me.”

“I never said this was a toy,” he says.

“I’ve gotta go—”

He’s up so quick, I don’t even see him coming. He grabs me with both hands—his pale, handsome face smiling all the while in the darkness before me—and shoves me back against his bedroom wall. “You are scared.” His eyeteeth, so white, flash threateningly between those pink lips, so full, as he speaks. “You have nothing to be scared of, Elisha. Nothing at all.”

“I told you, I’m not scared.”

He presses his body against mine. His lips linger close to my own, his warm breath upon my mouth. “Liar,” he says.

I try to push him away; he won’t budge. I’m six-six, but skinny, where he’s only six-two, but muscular and athletic, and I can’t move him. His weight settles against me as I struggle. “You’re playing games with me!” I cry, pushing hard. “You’re trying to scare me! This is a joke.”

He grabs a handful of my hair with his right hand, tugging at it, gently, but firmly, and with his left, he holds my chin and jaw. “Yes. It is. A joke.”

“It isn’t funny.”

He laughs. “The look on your face is.”

“Let me go!”

He removes the weight of his body from off my own, releases that fistful of hair, and strokes the side of my face with the back of his hand and fingers, smirking all the while.

“I’m going home.”

Brandt points to the wooden disk. “Don’t you want to know what that is, how it works, why I’m sharing it with you?”

I shake my head vigorously. “No, no, and fuck no!”

That unreadable expression returns. “You will.”



I MAKE MY WAY SLOWLY through the wooded area between Brandt’s neighborhood and my own, startled, and hurt, running through my mind everything Brandt had shown me, had said, had done. I feel used, almost...dirty.

What the fuck was that all about? I wonder. Brandt, you asshole! You arrogant, fucking asshole!

I pick up my pace. For April, it’s cool, especially now that it’s after nine, and with that breeze becoming brisk. I’m wearing a short-sleeved knit shirt—not good—and shiver.

The wooded area, running along either side of Big Cottonwood Creek, is, at its widest, almost four city blocks across, nearly a half-mile. Of course, it’s at that point I cross, because from Brandt’s house, straight through, the woods let out on the T-junction of streets closest to where I lived.

With the clouds covering only a sliver of moon, I’m nearly blind in the dark, and I ease through the trees along the well-worn path. The footbridge crossing the creek is only three hundred or so feet ahead, around the bend. The tree trunks ahead loom black—that’s where....

A flash of white.

I stop.

That mischievous ghost, that pale streak, disappears behind a tree.


As I get closer, my boyfriend, Mattias Olavsson, jumps out from behind the tree, shouting, “Boo!” with his arms raised, and his fingers curled like claws. “Did I scare you?”


He places his hands on his hips, readjusting his weight to one side, and grins. He’s wearing khaki-colored cargo shorts, flip-flops, and a plain white T-shirt. “Guess not, huh? I was following you. I saw you. You were over at Brandt’s.”


“I ran ahead, thought I’d scare you.”

“Failed, buddy.”

He comes closer, still grinning, and we give each other a hug. “Aren’t you chilly, dressed like that?” I ask as we hold onto each other.

“Not as long as you’re holding me,” he jokes, and licks the side of my face.

Ew, yuk! Matty! So gross!” I protest.

He laughs. “Puppy kiss!”

The Olavssons live three houses down from the Lyngdals. I know Mattias is jealous of Brandt, afraid that I really, really like him. He has nothing to worry about: Brandt, I’m fairly certain, is straight. And even if he’s not, I’m in love with my Matty, my lanky skater boy.

“Hey! Are you shaking, Elisha?” he asks. “You’re not cold, are you?”

“No. Not cold. I’m okay.”

He doesn’t believe me, I can tell by the look on his face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Brandt was fucking with my mind, that’s all,” I say. “Some shit to do with runic magic and Ouija boards.”

“Brandt’s too intense,” Mattias says. “He’s kinda weird, man.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

With that said, Mattias leers at me, and such lust glows warm in those brown eyes. “I’d rather not talk at all.” He leans up, kisses me quickly on the mouth. Then he takes me by the hand and leads me off the path, deeper into the shaw, to stand in the shadows among the cottonwood trees.

We kiss, slowly at first, a test, then with rising passion, and I push him back, stumbling, both of us, until we come to rest against one of the cottonwoods. His hands wander down, from my waist, to my ass. I’m suddenly very hard. So’s he; I feel his slender eight inches poking at his shorts, wanting freedom. I cup his handsome face in my hands, close my eyes, kissing him deeper, pushing my tongue further into him, tangling it with his, until we’re both gasping for breath.

“Can’t get enough of you,” I say, breaking off.

“I love you,” he replies.

I run my hands back through his long, dark brown hair, look into his eyes. He meant what he said, every word. And then my lips are over his again. Being four inches taller than he is, and leaning down, keeping our lips together, I try to fit his body in against mine so we can grind. What I really want is to be free of my shirt and my jeans, my underwear, to be naked in the cool air. I want to lay him down in the wild grass and dirt, his naked body underneath mine, his cock against mine. I want him so badly.

“Feels good,” he whispers against my lips. Then his hands are between us and he struggles to open my belt buckle and the front of my jeans. He wants the same thing I do.

We separate only so we can open each other’s pants. The second I have his button free and his zipper down, his cargo shorts slip off his hips, and, with the weight of his cell phone, keys, wallet and whatever other junk he has in his pockets, they’re down off his flat, skinny little bum and around his ankles in less than a second.

He has my jeans down around my thighs, lifts the front of my shirt high, over the bottom edge of my ribs, and plunges his hand down under my jockey shorts, taking my cock in hand. Matty really knows what to do with his hands; it’s awesome. I want him to just keep going, to get me off. It’s been days since the last time I came.

I reach under his briefs, handle him, hoping I’m as skilled as he is, hoping I’m making him feel as good as he makes me feel.

“Elisha, that’s it,” he says. “Like that. Right there—at the tip—tug, like that—feel it, the way it’s getting all slick?”

Then he pushes my briefs down around my thighs, too, like my jeans. I know what he wants and push his underwear down too, all the way to his knees. I press my crotch in against his, start rubbing, grinding roughly.

My hands are on his ass, separating his buttocks. I touch him...there, run my index finger over the tight nub. He lets out a little snort, a giggle. “Stop it,” he says and then touches me in the same place.

Suddenly, fully aware once more of where we are, and of the stiff breeze and cold air on my bare ass, I say, “This really isn’t the place to be doing this.” I push him away, though just a little. “Are your parents home?”

“Of course.”


“No kidding,” he says. “You’ve got me so hot—I can’t stand it!”

I pull my underwear and jeans up. He tugs his underwear up and then bends over to take his shorts up from down around his ankles. His fixes the button and his shorts hang low on his hips, teasing me, just begging me to yank them down again.

“We’ve got to find a place where we can have sex,” I say. “It’s been too long.”

“Yeah,” he agrees and kisses me again. Then, “See you tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” I say, “tomorrow.”

I watch Matty disappear into the trees, back toward his house, my cock still aching with need, for him.



I STRIP OFF MY CLOTHES and get into bed in my underwear. The wind has picked up, no longer a steady breeze, but howling now savagely through the trees, battering the house and shutters. I wish Mattias were there beside me in bed, holding me. Whenever there’s a rainstorm or a fierce wind, I want to cuddle. It’s never happened. I’ve had sex with him a few times, but we’ve never had the opportunity to actually sleep together; there’s too little time and privacy for that.

Thinking about Matty, I find myself rigid again and slip my hand down under my briefs, to stroke it. The images come easily, of what we’d done in the shaw, and I remember his lips on mine, his hand wrapped around my shaft, tugging at it slowly...nice, long, firm strokes.

Footsteps. Then, from across the hall, I hear Elijah’s bedroom door open. There’s whispering—Elijah’s voice, and another, lower in pitch. The voices stop, the bedroom door closes again. My brother’s home from the party at Megan’s house. I figure he’s with Jason, who spends the night all the time, it seems. The two boys often stumble home so drunk weekends that they’ll just crash in Elijah’s bed, with Jason being too afraid to go home like that, too afraid to risk running into his strict parents.

The mood is lost and my cock’s soft again. I roll over onto my side and try to sleep, listening still to the windstorm, and wondering if I should have accepted Elijah’s invite and gone to Megan’s party after all. It couldn’t possibly have been even half as weird as what had happened at Brandt’s.




It has been, for the longest time, always out of sight. But I know it’s there; I hear it; I sense it, a predator.

Then it’s alongside me, matching my gait, stride for stride, running parallel, and closer, at the edge of my vision, folding into, and then out of, the fog. I catch a glimpse, but can’t see clearly what it is, this, my unwelcome companion in the frozen vapor.

Though it’s day, I’m unsure of the time, what with the sun shrouded in the clouds and the woods in fog, and I can’t see more than a few feet in any direction. The snow is deep, and I run, or try to, then trudge through it, slowing with every step, my legs growing heavy and weak. It keeps pace easily.

It growls—a dog has been let loose in the woods.

I stop dead, turn to look to my left.

It emerges from behind the trees, the fog parting as it approaches. It’s not a dog at all. A wolf, black and sleek, a male, fully grown, deadly, it comes.

My breath catches in my throat.

It growls again.

Then, from behind, another wolf emerges, only this wolf is...huge, three times the size of its companion from shoulder to shoulder. It lowers its massive head, its ears back, bearing its fangs, and I see the dark brown fur around its muzzle is scarlet with blood.

My chest constricts—I can’t breathe.

Then the wolves simply turn and slip back into the fog and trees.

The longest moment of my life passes before I finally regain control of my legs. I walk toward the spot where the wolves stood, staring at me. Two sets of footprints, one average-sized, the other so much greater, are set in the bloody snow.

And there, just beyond, I see it, a severed hand.



I AWAKEN SUDDENLY IN THE darkness, lurch forward, grasping my right wrist, and let loose a cry. The agony! My wrist—my hand! No...there is no pain, not now. I stare at my right hand, flex my fingers; I’m whole.

The alarm clock on the bedside table reads 3:17 A.M.

I settle back again, disturbed by the nightmare, and try my best to go back to sleep, to ignore the unrelenting wind.



“ELISHA, GET UP,” MY DAD calls, rapping on my bedroom door.

Without opening my eyes, I roll over in bed and slap the snooze bar. In its electronic monotone, the alarm clock informs me of the time, “Seven-four, A.M.” Too early to even have to think on a Saturday morning.

“Dad, it’s only seven. Lemme sleep,” I call back, sleepily.

Again, Dad knocks. “I know, kiddo. But you have to get up. There’s work you and your brother have to do.”

A second later Dad’s pounding on my brother’s door. “Elijah! Wake up!”

There’s no answer.

Dad pounds on the door, harder this time. “Get up, Elijah!”

Then Elijah mumbles something incomprehensible.

“Elijah, I’m running late as it is. I’ve got to be at the lecture hall in fifteen minutes. I don’t have time to waste trying to get you up,” my dad says, sounding annoyed. “Get up and get dressed. Now.”

It’s a simple command—one Elijah chooses to ignore.

The sound of my father’s footsteps grow faint as he descends the stairs into the living room. Then I hear the front door slam, perhaps a final statement: Get up, Elijah, you lazy little ass!

I yawn and open my eyes for the first time that morning. It’s a gray day, and the sun only partially lights the room through thick clouds. And it’s cold too for so close to the end of April. The gloom and chill remind me of the dream, and I pull the covers tighter around myself, trying to dispel the image of the forest in its fog-shroud and the wolves. The howl of wind is gone though, a good sign. All’s silent, not at all like the night before when the wind battered the house so violently. Definitely a good sign.

Pulling myself up out of bed, I stumble to the window and look out over the yard. It’s clear why we have to be up so early: The yard is a mess. There are broken tree branches all over the lawn, along with all sorts of other trash. The wind had knocked our garbage cans over, spilling their contents everywhere.

What a storm, I think, seeing one of the large trees across the street had been completely uprooted by the windstorm. I’m almost surprised none of our windows had been broken by flying debris.

I tug on the jeans and T-shirt I’d worn the day before, sit on the bed, still tired, and put on shoes and socks. Then I look at myself in the mirror above the dresser, comb my hair out so it isn’t so sleep rumpled, and walk out into the hall.

“Elijah,” I say, tapping on my brother’s bedroom door softly.

He doesn’t answer.

So, I open the door a crack, duck my head in, and see my brother still bundled up tight under the comforter. There is no way he’s getting up at seven in the morning on a Saturday, I know. Jason sleeps beside him, facing him on the king-sized mattress. So I was right, he had spent the night.

I pull the covers off them with a quick jerk and am immediately sorry. Seeing my brother naked, and his penis, especially rigid like that—not cool, definitely not cool. Jason’s naked and sporting an erection, too. They’d probably been going at it like a couple of otters when Dad came pounding at the door. Shit. I mean, yeah, I figured Elijah was gay, being my identical twin and all, but I hadn’t guessed that about Jason. He’s a strutting jock, always bragging about sticking his cock down this or that girl’s throat. Fuckin’ liar, I think, seeing him like that, his eyes wide with terror at having been caught.

“Jesus!” Jason grabs a pillow and covers himself.

Get the fuck out!” Elijah cries and sits up straight in bed, covering his boner with both hands.

I cross my arms over my chest. “ long have you two—?”

“Fuck you, Elisha,” Jason says, standing, looking for his discarded underwear.

“Nice ass,” I say now that Jase has his back to me. And it is nice—round and muscular, a jock’s ass.

“Fuck you,” he says again and tugs on a tight little pair of blue, gray, and black-striped boxer briefs, a pair of trunks that covers little more than briefs. “This isn’t what it looks like.”

Elijah pulls on a pair of white briefs. “What are you doing, just standing there? I told you to get the fuck out.”

Elijah and I are physically identical in every way, six-six and rangy, pale-skinned, pink nipples, with dark red hair and blue eyes, good looking, all thanks to the wild and promiscuous Danish and Norwegian seafarers we count among our ancestors. Where some twins, like the Jimenez boys, try to distinguish themselves physically with a different style, we don’t, there’s no point, and we both keep our stick-straight hair longish, to our shoulders, and parted just off center. I doesn’t matter if we’re impossible to tell apart by looking at us because we’re very much different in every other way. Elijah has a short fuze and an occasionally nasty sense of humor and temper. I’m more the live-and-let-live sort, you know? All in all, we get along okay, except when we don’t.

“We have work to do,” I tell him.

“Get out.”

It’s pointless talking to Elijah about anything serious. In the last year or so, since our junior year, he’s become impossible. Dad’s always on his case about everything, especially his ever-falling grade point average. That’s Elijah—rebellious, and too proud to change.

Jason has his jeans on, open still. “Not a word, Elisha. I mean it. This shit never happened. You hear me? Never happened.”

I roll my eyes.

He grabs me by the throat, pushes me backward. “This shit never happened!”

I’ve had enough of being grabbed and roughed up these last twelve hours and I push him away. “Drop dead, Jase.” I glare at him. “You think I’d really say anything about catching you ‘n’ Lije in bed together?”

“Better not.” He shoves me.

I shove back. In a fight, Jason would take me down, he’s stronger than I am, but he wouldn’t come away unscathed. He knows it, too, and backs off. Besides, we’re friends, have been since elementary school, longer even than he’s been friends with Elijah.

“Hey, Lije,” he says, turning away from me. “I’ve gotta get home, man, before my parents kill me.”


Jason zips and buttons his jeans, tugs on his T-shirt, and slips into his sandals. “See you later?”

My brother nods.

Then Jason’s gone, sneaking down the stairs and out of the front door.

I face Elijah. “Okay. Get dressed. We’ve got work to do. The wind storm last night brought down branches all over the yard. And the Henderson’s—they’ve got a huge mess to clean up. Their cottonwood, the big one out front, was ripped up altogether. It came down through the Madsen’s fence and is laying halfway into their yard, too” I say.

“So?” Elijah mutters.

“You’re hung over aren’t you?”

Elijah swears at me under his breath. “No. Leave me alone. I’m just tired.” He yawns, and returns to bed, pulling the pillow over his head. “Too bright in here. Too vivid. My head’s splitting. Get the fuck out.”

“Bright? It’s cloudy,” I say.


“Come on,” I say, pulling away the covers and messing my brother’s hair worse than it is already. “You can go back to bed after we’ve cleaned up the yard.”

Elijah groans. “Saturdays are my day. Nobody wakes me up for any reason on Saturday morning.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I throw a T-shirt off the floor to him. “Get dressed.”

Elijah stands again and pads slowly across his messy room toward the dresser. He pulls on the shirt I threw to him, then quickly pulls it back off. “Ugh—stinks. Beer.” He drops the shirt and looks for another. “You should’ve come to the party last night,” he says with devilish grin. “It was great. Some of the hottest girls I’ve ever seen were there.” He laughs. “Now that you know the truth—some of the hottest guys were there too.”

“How long have you and Jase been...?” I start.

“Longer than you and Olavsson,” he says. “Since last Christmas.”

We don’t say anything more about it. Like I said, I figured he was queer. And me and Mattias, boyfriends and all that...old news. I came our right after Matty and I hooked up last spring. Basically, people were cool about it, even my brother’s jock friends. Matty’s skater friends were, too, especially because he wasn’t the only skater out, and there were a lot of them too that said they were bisexual or were openly curious.

Elijah and I descend the stairs together to grab something to east. After we both down a glass of orange juice and a bowl of cold cereal, we go outside to see firsthand the damage caused by the storm.

I go for the rakes, and Elijah starts picking up tree branches. Soon the two of us are hard at work. Mom and Dad take a lot of pride in keeping up the appearance of our home, and that always keeps us busy Saturday afternoons.

But when Brandt comes over around eleven, Elijah stops working, won’t even acknowledge his presence. He climbs the stairs and goes inside again.

Watching him go, Brandt smirks. “Doesn’t like me much, does he?”

I lie. “Don’t know.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Brandt says, his voice low, “I don’t care much for him either.”


To be continued with Chapter Two....


* * *


Other Books by K. J. Pedersen:


Vestige is the story of Josiah Alaka‘i Halden, a golden boy, whose life is slowly coming apart. Athletic, handsome, and college bound, everyone thinks he has it made. But he is haunted by impossible visions of the night his parents were killed fifteen years before. As the visions intensify, he fears he is falling victim to the family curse that has claimed the sanity and lives of its male members for generations. And then there’s the black iron idol, the image of a spear-bearing Canaanite warrior-god, long in the family’s possession, which is central to his nightmares. His best friend believes the statue is ‘wrong’ and accuses Josiah of bringing a foreign god to the Hawaiian Islands. Neither suspect just how foreign it truly is.


(Vestige is available here: and at