25 May 2005

Good morning all,

I hope you're enjoying the story so far.  This is the second of three parts.  Part three will be out next week, so let me wish you a happy and safe Memorial Day now.  If there are any Servicemen and women reading this, I'd like to thank you for what you're doing for the country and wish you a quick and safe return.  Keep your heads down and your eyes open and always listen for and to that little voice inside that tells you when something is not as it should be...it may save your life sometime.

As always, any helpful comments are welcome.  I generally try to reply as time permits.

Michael Garrison

This story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.  This story also deals with love and consensual sexual activities between men.  If you are not of legal age, reside in an area where viewing such material is illegal, or are offended by such themes, do not read further and leave this site now. The author retains all rights to this story.  Reproductions or links to other sites are not allowed without the permission of the author.

The  Cavern

A Short Story by Michael Garrison

Part Two

Greg shared his assortment of fruit with Bryan.  They spent the better part of the morning eating, sitting and talking.  They traded stories about Eric, about their jobs, Bryan couldn’t say much for security reasons, about the tense state of affairs around the world.  Unbeknownst to each other until now, the small cavern was a place they shared, a place where they could get away for a while.
Bryan clowned for him while he took a few snapshots and Greg told him about how he loved to come here just to do nothing and write in his journal and be alone with his thoughts.  To him, it was a fortress that kept out the increasing insanity of everyday life.
He listened attentively while Bryan talked about coming here on leave, which wasn’t frequently these days, and just stare at the world going by the oculus, meditating and decompressing from the pressures of life.  Greg smiled as he talked, at his words, at him.  He felt comfortable with Bryan, more so than with anyone he’d ever known and he wasn’t eager for this time to end.
A cloud passed across the oculus.  The storm was catching up with them.
Bryan glanced at his watch.
“I should get going,” Bryan said.  “I don’t want to mess up your quiet time,” he continued, “…and I should probably be reporting back.”
Greg knew that he had to take a chance, one that he’d always been afraid to do before.  He had always been terrified of rejection, afraid of making a mistake and outing himself to the wrong person.  If he guessed wrong, Bryan might tear him apart, he was taller and more muscular and Greg was sure he could do it; but he knew if he didn’t do something right now, he knew he would lose him forever.
Swallowing the rising knot in his throat, Greg slipped his hand onto Bryan’s thigh as he started to rise from their rock ledge.  He looked surprised; knowing, but unsure.  Greg loved the puppy-dog look on his face as he stared at his hand, a look that told him, gorgeous as he was, Bryan had little experience of such things.  That quizzical, innocent look enthralled him and he wanted badly to run his fingers through the blond hair matted to his head, and he felt his own stirrings deep within him, pressing against him.  
Bryan stopped and settled on his knees.  The fabric of his diveskin brushed against Greg’s, making a slight brushing sound that thrilled him all the more.  He saw Bryan swallow, his mouth hanging slightly open, not knowing quite what to say.
“You don't have to leave,” Greg said, rubbing his thigh gently.  “There’s plenty of room.”
“But…I thought you…,” Bryan stammered, trying to let his waving hands do his talking.
“Shhhhhhhhhhh,” Greg said, pulling himself up to meet him, kneeling together.  “We can share,” he whispered, letting his hand drop to Bryan’s, pushing the mask from his hand as he stared up into soft eyes that reminded him of a baby blue comforter he had as a child.
Bryan’s free hand moved, in slow fits and starts.  Greg knew Bryan was unsure and guided his hand around his waist and moved a little closer into him as he stared back into his own glistening dark eyes.  He felt the flood of emotions coming from the eyes, fear, anxiety, curious hunger, need.  If, as he’d heard all his life, the eyes were windows into the soul, then he was sure he was looking into one of the purest God had ever seen fit to put on Earth.  He felt more than comfortable with him, he felt at peace, a peace like he hadn’t felt in a long time.
Bryan was trembling.  Greg placed a steadying hand on his shoulder, tight muscle beneath the sheer fabric, and he felt his stirrings again.  He looked back up into worried eyes and smiled, silently letting him know that everything was all right.  He smiled back, faintly, nervously.  He followed with his other hand and Bryan took him in; pulling him quickly into a hug with the eager, ready strength of youth and he heard him sigh as their chests pressed together, as their hands ran over one another with a desperation of the sort born of the thought that their paths might never again cross.  He kissed the side of Bryan’s neck and, with a free hand, turned his head towards him.
As if in a hypnotic spell, Bryan turned his face lazily, and their open mouths found each other.  They moaned with the pleasure of their joining, each enjoying the moist feel, the taste of the other, the sound of their breathing filling the small cavern as their hands continued their ballet.
Greg reached up and began to unzip Bryan’s diveskin.  He felt it and pulled away.
“Whoa, wait a minute!  What’re we doing here?”  he said, his lower lip trembling; he wasn’t sure if from fear or the cold.
“I’m sorry,” Greg said, startled by his surprise.  “I shouldn’t have been so…” he trailed off, sheepish about his actions.  He knew Bryan would be furious.  “I just wanted to…,” he started again, having trouble collecting his thoughts through the fog of his passions.  “… I’m sorry,” he apologized again in frustration, “I don’t even know what I’m trying to say!”
Bryan felt bad about pulling away so quickly, about taking such an accusatory tone with him.  He looked down at Greg as he turned away from him and seated himself at the ledge overlooking the dark water, wrapping his arms around his knees; and he heard a sigh echo through the chamber.
“I always seem to be apologizing to you,” Greg whispered.  “I’m really sorry if I…I just thought you might be…,” he heard Greg’s whisper trail off.  Quiet as it was, it felt to him as though it was coming from all around him, like an other-worldly voice imparting a truth, a desire to him and him alone.  He felt ashamed for being so callous.
For what seemed like an eternity, he stared at Greg, sitting motionless at the edge of the water, listening to him sniffle now and then and thinking how insensitive he’d been.  He looked at the beautiful, dark hair that shimmered like a raven’s wing in the light coming through the oculus, at his sleek form curled into a ball and thought to himself, deciding that he could no longer deny himself.
Mustering his courage, Bryan unzipped his diveskin and pulled his arms free.  Pushing it down around his waist, he slowly padded over to Greg and curled himself into a ball behind him.  He rested his hands gently on his shoulders, afraid that too sudden of a move would ruin the moment, and massaged his tight neck.
“No!” he jumped.  “I didn’t mean…”
“Shhhhhhhhhh,” Bryan interrupted.  “It’s all my fault” he whispered.
Greg felt Bryan slowly threading his arms under his, pulling him back to his chest.   He relaxed and sighed again, his hands clutching Bryan’s, never wanting them to let go.

The world grew more insane every day.  Lives had been made a wreck by the war, by the economy.  Nothing made sense anymore and they felt it on the street every day.  There was a perpetual tension that had come upon the world drip by drip, like an itch that couldn’t be reached and slowly drove people mad.  There was an intolerance for everything in the air that was impalpable. But one constant, one refuge, even if it was in diminishing supply, was love.
It was like an oasis in the desert, rare but refreshing and invigorating to one’s spirit, to one’s senses if it could be found.  The light of such love surrounded them, imparting a glow that almost lighted their small cavern, their hideaway from the insanity of the world outside.
They knelt on the impromptu bed they’d fashioned from their diveskins, not staring but gazing deeply into each others eyes, and smiled as they slowly caressed each other’s naked bodies; genuine smiles, for the first time in as long as either could remember.
Bryan caressed Greg’s chest with the back of his hands and felt Greg’s hands glide down his sides.  They unleashed brilliant smiles and laughed like school kids, for no other reason than the joy of being together with nothing to disturb them.  They had only just met, entirely by accident, barely a couple of hours ago, but it was like two halves of the same amulet finally finding one another after many years, as if they’d know each other before.  There was no sense between them that they had to get to know each other, they already did, somehow, and they both knew it.
He no longer sensed Bryan’s fears as he pulled his tight body close to Greg’s and took his mouth as if driven by hunger, letting their tongues play together, slowly, sensuously.  Greg felt strong hands massage his back, his small buttocks.  He murmured his approval and let himself fall backwards onto their bedding in slow motion, pulling Bryan along.  Bryan pulled away slightly, drawing breath.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” he said, his eyes darting between Greg’s eyes and mouth.
“What, babe?” Greg asked, fearing the worst.
“I…,” Bryan stammered.  “I’ve never…uh…”
Greg beamed at him, his smiling eyes glistened.  His voice choked in his throat, but he understood.
“You’ll be fine, baby,” he whispered.   “Just go slow.”
Greg craned his neck forward and drew their mouths together again.  He pulled Bryan on top of him, like a living blanket, and stroked the side of his face with the back of his fingers.  He stared up into his soft eyes and felt him buck slightly as he tenderly gripped him and wrapped his legs around his lean waist. 
Greg waited, looking into Bryan, asking an unspoken question.  Bryan stared back at him, unblinking.  A drop of perspiration hit Greg’s nose as he nodded, as Greg guided him in. 
Bryan wrapped his arms around his back and Greg winced at his passage.  He felt a quick tremor go through his body and he half sighed, half gasped a staccato pronouncement of his new found pleasure at their joining.  Greg sighed deeply, gripping broad shoulders tightly as he felt Bryan slide into him, feeling the tightness of his body pressing against his from the inside as well as from out, and he felt his body shake from deep within at his presence.
Bryan held himself still for a moment and Greg massaged the back of his thighs with his heels.  They were as one person now and nothing else mattered.  He tensed his muscles and gripped Bryan tightly, holding him inside, then relaxing as he felt him stir, as he felt the muscles in his buttocks begin to flex, as he felt him move inside of him, and move him.
He gasped as Bryan moved, slowly, driving him insane and Bryan felt fingers dig at his back.  He almost melted as Greg sighed his name.
There was no world; there was only the two of them.  Making love.  Becoming love.  All the tensions and aggravations of the outside didn’t exist for them, at least not for now, not so long as they were together.  So long as they were joined, they were their own fortress against the madness that gripped everything else.  They drifted together on an ethereal sea of their own making that stretched from horizon to horizon on which the sun now dawned and which neither wanted to end.
Greg felt it first; the stirrings deep within him, slowly at first, the electrical tingling as Bryan continued his rhythmic pounding.  He knew Bryan was close, he felt his grip tighten around him, almost crushing him like a walnut against the hard tightness of his frame.  He felt the almost unbearably wonderful surge of energy wash over him and cried out as he came, gripping his shoulders hard and locking his ankles around Bryan’s waist.  It was enough for Bryan.  He felt Greg tighten around him, the warmth of his body pressing tightly against him, sealing him in, holding him fast, and he gasped as he felt his body pulsing, sharing the essence of himself.  Incomparable warmth flooded over them both, filling them with a heady giddiness, a sense of completion, the feeling of belonging to one another in a way no other two people could experience or know.
They rested.  Greg listened to the wonderful labored sound of Bryan’s breathing as he nestled his head next to his, as he massaged the back of his thighs again.  He lifted himself to his elbows and they smiled at one another.  Sweat from his face dripped into his and he reached up to brush the hair from his forehead.
“Thank you,” Bryan whispered.
“Thank you,” Greg beamed back at him.  “You were wonderful.”
Bryan smiled broadly and took his into his arms, their mouths joining deeply as their bodies entwined in their glow.

Greg rubbed his eyes with the butt of his palms and stretched.  He yawned and smiled, squinting up at the fading daylight from the oculus above.  He had fallen asleep with Bryan spooning behind him.  They must have slept longer than they thought and he glanced at his dive watch.  It was late in the afternoon and he thought they’d better get going while they still had light.
He didn’t want to move, though, and rested his head on his extended arm.  Greg felt more relaxed, more at peace after being with Bryan than ever before.  Then it dawned on him that he didn’t feel Bryan’s warmth anymore, the touch of his body and turned over quickly, pushing himself up on his arms.
Bryan was gone.
His diveskin was gone, his gear was gone, all that was left was his faint scent, the memory of him, of them together. 
Bryan?” Greg called out.
BRYAN?!” He called again as he searched around the cavern in the fading light. 
There was no place for him to hide, he could see that.  He looked down at the water.  There wasn’t so much as a ripple on the surface; he knew he couldn’t have just missed him.
He’d been asleep, badly needed sleep, for hours, but the least he could have done was woken him long enough to say goodbye, he thought as his anger welled.  He suddenly felt used and betrayed, like some rag Bryan wiped his hands on, only to be thrown away after he was done. 
As much as he disagreed with his mother, he now conceded that she was right about men.  After what he and Bryan had shared, he could have at least said goodbye, anything.  Instead, he stood in his private, empty cavern, his naked body shivering, alone with only his memory. Greg’s hands balled into trembling fists and he sat down on the ledge and fumed.
A cloud passed across the sun high overhead and darkened the cavern, reminding him that he should get going before he lost the light.  Greg wiped his wet eyes with his arm and pushed himself up, reaching for his diveskin, and he froze.
In his anger, he hadn’t seen that his journal, so carefully triple-packed in waterproof bags, was lying next to his air tank, his pen marking a page.
He felt his heart skip, thinking that, maybe, Bryan had left him a message, and he rushed for it, opening the book to where the pen lay.  There was only a scrawled address:  14150 Ala Leie Street.
“That’s it?” he thought, snapping his journal shut.  “You want me to chase YOU?!”
Greg was infuriated and snatched on his diveskin and gear and repacked his journal, securing it in his dive bag along with the partially eaten fruit that he’d shared with Bryan, his rescuer.  He sniffed at the idea now.
“Gee, Greg,” he mimicked scornfully under his breath, “I hate to fuck and run, but, you know how it is.”
He tested his airflow and switched on his light.
“Yeah, sure! Hey, I know how it is, no problem!” he murmured to himself.  “You better hope your balls are impact resistant, you bastard!”
Greg dove into the darkening water and headed back to the world.

The day was clear and perfect for a drive, even if it did eat into his fuel allotment.
Greg had given himself the evening and another day to try to cool down.  There had to be some other reason, he kept telling himself, for Bryan just leaving like that.
He wasn’t having much luck convincing himself of that, though.
Again he imagined the sound of his fist jarring loose every filling in Bryan’s head as he guided his Audi off of Ala Napunani onto Ala Leie, slowing to get a bearing on the house numbers.
It was a quiet neighborhood, beautiful and well-kept, not far from the Honolulu Country Club.  Greg’s eyes narrowed to slits as he seethed.  Some young rich boy who’d had his fun, satisfied his curiosity and just wanted to play games.
He smiled again, imagining Bryan falling to the floor, gripping his manhood in agony…probably dressed in some cute little tennis outfit with a sweater tied around his neck.  He’d just leave him writhing there as he stormed off, cackling at his torment.
There it was.  14150.
It was a beautiful home.  A single story with a red-tiled roof set amidst an abundance of sculpted and carefully pruned bushes and trees.  He pulled to a stop and turned off the car.
All bullshit and daydreaming aside, Greg really didn’t know what he’d say when, if, he opened the door.  His heart beat faster and he felt a lump rising in his throat. 
He noticed the ‘For Sale’ sign next to the entry path and was confused.  Was he even here?  Why would he leave this address if he’s not here?  A hundred other questions flashed through his mind, none of them with answers.
Mustering his courage, Greg got out and walked to the front door; carefully, as if he was an intruder, almost not wanting to be noticed.  He loved the fragrant smell of the flora but it did little to settle the clawing feeling in his stomach as he rang the bell.
“May I help you?” a middle-aged man asked as he opened the door.  Greg guessed he was around fifty or so. 
He took a half step back, almost deciding to turn and run.  The man had to be Bryan’s father.  Same hair, though thinner.  Same build, though broader through the middle.  Same eyes.  It took him a second to find his voice as he swallowed the lump.  He was sure the man thought he was not right in the head.
“Uh, hi…sir,” Greg stumbled, trying to find the words.  “My name is Greg.  I was wondering if Bryan was around?”
The man looked at his with an eye that was used to studying people, sizing them up.  His face betrayed little except for the faintest rise of an eyebrow.  Greg felt like he should definitely just run while he still had the chance.
“Are you a friend of Bryan’s?” he asked.
“Uh, yes sir,” he said.  “We were kind of close and he left me this address to look him up.”
The man’s steely façade seemed to slump slightly.  He hesitated as if, Greg thought, he did not know what to say.
“Why don’t you come in?” he asked, stepping aside.  “I can’t afford to cool down the whole island,” he said, letting a faint smile crack through his veneer.
Greg followed him inside, past an array of packing boxes.  It was a beautiful home with a fine little atrium.  He imagined it was a good place to entertain.
“I hope you’ll excuse the clutter.  My wife and I are moving back to be near family on the mainland.  Have a seat,” he said offering a place on a sofa that wasn’t taken by books and boxes and assorted memories of a lifetime.  “Can I get you something to drink?”
“Oh, no thank you, sir; I’m good,” Greg said.  He had started to sit down when he spied a picture sitting alone on a bookshelf that drew him.
It was portrait of Bryan, dressed in the uniform of a Navy Ensign, his handsome face smiling back at him from underneath his peaked cap.
“I couldn’t bring myself to pack that just yet,” Greg heard Mr. Gobell say behind him.  He noted the trace of melancholy in his otherwise steady voice.
“What do you mean?”
Bryan’s father looked at his quizzically.
“You haven’t seen Bryan in a while, have you?” he asked.
Greg’s hands began to shake.  He sensed something was coming that he didn’t really want to hear and kept his answer intentionally vague, “No, sir; it feels like it’s been ages.  Is something wrong?”
He drew in a breath, trying to steady himself.
“Well, there’s no easy way to say this, but Bryan was killed in action about three months ago,” he said, his voice cracking.  He tried subtly wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.
Greg’s knees felt as if they were turning to rubber and hobbled for the edge of the sofa before they did.  He couldn’t speak.  He listened, his mouth and eyes wide with astonishment as Bryan’s father tried to continue.
“He was with a SEAL team,” he began, trying to drag the words out of his own mouth.  “The official telegram said it was an underwater demolition training accident, that’s why they said there was nothing to bury,” he continued, choking back a sob.  “But I know goddamn well he was mixed up in that mess in Taiwan!  Pardon my French.”
Greg’s head turned up at his choice of apologies but he stayed quiet and listened intently, not realizing that he was stroking the side of Bryan’s portrait as his father spoke.  He watched as the man pawed at his nose.
“After the memorial service, my wife and I decided to go home; without Bryan, there’s nothing left for us here, so I sold my business and said to hell with it!”
“Mr. Gobell,” Greg began, almost on the verge of tears himself as he watched this man struggle to maintain his bearing.  “I….”
“Would you believe they wouldn’t even fire a salute at his service?  Afraid people’d think it was another terrorist act or something!”
Greg was speechless.
For a fleeting moment, he thought that maybe, just maybe he’d dreamt it all.  But he couldn’t have. 
It was Bryan who’d rescued him when he’d panicked in that cloud of silt in the passage, he was sure of it.
It was Bryan he’d shared his fruit with as they chit-chatted in their private cavern.
It was Bryan with whom he’d made love.
He stared at his portrait as his father continued his laments, pouring out his thoughts.  He didn’t hear him anymore.  He only gazed into the bright eyes looking out from the photograph and tried to hold back his own tears.
Greg felt the man’s touch on his shoulder.  How like his son’s it was.  He couldn’t have dreamed it.
“I’m sorry you had to find out this way,” he said, trying to soothe his as much as himself.  Bryan never mentioned you.  I have to apologize,” he continued.
Greg fought back sniffles as he tried to get his voice back, “We didn’t know each other for very long, but he helped me out when….”  He couldn’t finish his sentence.  He looked up at his father, seeing him, seeing Bryan, hoping he’d understand what he meant.
He smiled back.
“Look,” he began, “I can get another copy made; if you’d like, why don’t you keep that photo?”
“Oh, thank you, but I…”
“I insist.  It’d be one less thing I have to worry about packing,” he said.  It was a poor attempt at humor, he knew how he felt.
“Thank you,” Greg whispered, extending his hand in thanks.  “I should get out of your way,” he said. 
Bryan’s father walked him to the door.  “We’re only going to be around for another week while we finish things up, but since you’re a friend of Bryan’s, please let me know if you need anything.  I don’t know what I could do, but you never know.”
“Thank you,” he said, choking back his voice.
They wished each other good luck and Greg went back to his car.  For a long time he sat and just stared at Bryan’s portrait, wiping tears from his eyes, wondering just what had happened in the cavern the day before.  He had never been given to believing in ghosts, his schooling allowed no room for it, but now…

To Be Continued