2 June 2005
Good morning all,
I hope you've been enjoying the story to this point. This is the
third and final chapter. If you have any comments, I try to
respond to emails as quickly as possible.
Take care, enjoy, and have an excellent weekend.
This story is a work of fiction.
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
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.
Short Story by Michael Garrison
Greg switched off the radio.
He wanted to be alone with his thoughts as he drove home.
He wanted nothing but the sound of the wind,
the smell of the salt air. On his way
home, he stopped at the One-Hour to pick up the few photos from his
“The roll was empty except for three frames,” the boy
the counter said. “Seems like a
film…especially these days. I’ve
some digital models you might like.”
Film was harder to come by due to the diversion of supplies
and resources to Defense.
Greg smirked at the quick sales pitch. “Yeah,”
he quipped. “I thought I’d
used it all….sorry,” he said,
as if he felt he owed Photo-boy an explanation.
He quickly flipped through them.
Where there should have been a close-up of Bryan with his impish smile, there
was only a
whitish colored ball of light. Glare, he
thought, or a drop of water on the lens.
Where there should have been Bryan
play-acting like a body-builder,
looking very sleek in his diveskin, there was only the whitish colored
Where there should have been a shot of Bryan lying on his side, propping his
on his arm there was only the whitish colored ball of light again.
Greg pursed his lips, sighing through his
“That’ll be twenty-two-fifty,” Photo-boy said.
“Twenty-two-fifty!” he fumed.
“For three pictures? Are you
“Hey, don’t blame me, buddy,” the kid said, holding
hands in submission, “Blame the war; everything’s gone up!
You been livin’ in a cave or
Greg smirked at him again, fished for his wallet and started to pull
out his American Express.
“Sorry, buddy; new rules.
Cash or check only. No credit cards.
The boss says their fees are out past Pluto.”
Greg snarled at him and the boy stepped back. He
fished around in his pockets and found
some crumpled bills, which he threw on the counter.
“Between you and the damn gas stations, we’ll all be
bankrupt by the end of the year! And
not your buddy!”
He was afraid to ask if he wanted a receipt;
he knew the response he’d get.
Greg didn’t give him the chance to ask. He
snatched up the photos and stormed out of
The night was still and clear. Greg
decided to open up the house to get some
fresh air moving through. It wasn’t
warm and the air conditioning was far too expensive to run.
The war and the resulting skyrocketing cost
of utilities had seen to it that things once considered
basics were now listed as luxuries by the Bureau of Resource
everyone lovingly referred to as the ‘Energy Nazis’.
Only the elderly and the sick got a break on
their allotment; everyone else got steep fines for going over.
Even cooking had to be carefully monitored.
These days, he’d taken to doing all of his cooking on
Sundays, freezing ahead for the week and microwaving as needed.
Greg’s ears perked up at the sound of the beeping
microwave. He pulled his shredded pork
out, grabbed a fork and a napkin and headed back to the small bedroom
into a home office. He picked at the hot
food, setting it aside to cool for a moment while he checked his
He deleted everything that didn’t have an address book icon
next to it or whose name he didn’t immediately recognize and
through the ample remaining posts.
“There you are. Finally!”
he muttered, sipping at his ice tea with one hand and clicking on the
Greg picked up the three photos again that lay on top of his
scanner, studying them again while his computer decided whether it was
be nice and open the email or lock up on him like it did a lot lately.
There was too much traffic these days,
civilian and otherwise. He cursed at the
machine constantly but couldn’t live without it.
He still couldn’t figure out what the balls of light were
and what bothered him more was the fact that Bryan should have been in the photos,
light or no ball of light. Shortly after
he’d returned from the photo shop, Greg scanned the images and
sent them to a
friend on the mainland who was sensitive to what he suspected but
The computer finally opened his email, but at a snail’s pace.
He fixed his eyes on the screen, reading it
almost as the machine displayed each line.
to hear from you again...been to long. Everything
cool out your way? Messy here...cant go
into details... Thought Police
might be watching. LOL <sigh>
your pix...very cool…definitely spirit orbs...I mentioned
those before...if it was a dirty lens or something the orb would be in
same spot in each pic but its not...see?
You say there was definitely supposed to be a guy in these? Very weird...tell me more... Was he hot?
Enquiring minds want to know! <wink> LOL
Greg stopped picking at his food and set it aside.
He wanted to dash off a quick, wise-ass reply
but couldn’t think of a good one; he’d sleep on it and get
him back in the
He read his reply again and again. Spirit
If anyone knew what they were, Archangel
did. He fondled the photos again,
studying each one in turn, then picked up the portrait Bryan’s
father had given him and held it in his
Greg smiled as he stared at him, thinking how wonderful he
looked in his crisp, white uniform, remembering him from the other day,
touch, his scent.
He turned off the lights in his small office and sat staring
out of the window towards the water. In
the darkness, he clutched Bryan’s
photo, wondering what had actually happened to him.
He felt a warmth wash over him that was
Greg knew he was in love.
He cried openly, not caring if any of the neighbors heard him
or some passerby on the street below. He
was in love with Bryan Gobell and a knife cut through his very being,
that it would be unrequited. He was
gone, now and forever.
Greg felt a familiar knot growing in his stomach as his mind
battled with his heart.
couldn’t be gone. He’d seen
him in the
flesh and touched him. They’d shared
themselves with each other and it was a memory he would never let go.
Ghost, spirit, entity, orb, whatever anyone
wanted to call him, Bryan was as real to him as the framed portrait he
and Greg was determined to see him again.
It came to him in a flashing moment of clarity.
He wiped his eyes again and sniffled; he knew what he would
This was his favorite time of day.
The sun was lighting up the eastern horizon. It
was a dazzling display of reds and pinks
and yellows that Greg always loved. He
liked getting a very early start, before the rest of the world woke up
started disturbing his peace and quiet. He
stared at it and smiled.
He killed the motor on his small boat, gliding back into the
familiar cove, and quietly dropped the anchor, as if fearful that he
up nature itself.
Greg stripped off his clothes and pulled on his diveskin and
equipment, all the while telling himself that this had to be the
dumbest thing he’d
ever done in his life. It made no sense,
but he thought that maybe it was time to throw sense out of the window.
He grabbed his dive bag, rolled over the side
into the dark water, switched on his light and headed for the narrow
for his secret place.
He picked his way through the tunnel. It
was as black as a squid’s ink. Greg
had been through here dozens of time but
he felt himself shaking as his light cut a short path ahead, barely
pierce the darkness.
Somewhere, maybe halfway through, he jumped, startled by a
sudden snag as though someone had grabbed him by the waist.
His heart felt like it would explode as he
flung the light around, relaxing when he saw that his dive bag had
snagged on a
rock. Greg told himself to calm down and
pulled it free and started back again.
He thought he heard something behind him, almost like the
sound of metal hitting rock, and turned his light around again.
There was nothing but the darkness and the
silver reflections of his own bubbles on the roof of the tunnel.
He couldn’t make out the entrance to the
tunnel anymore, nor could he see the exit.
This transit always unnerved him, but he pressed ahead.
There was no other choice about it in his
He couldn’t see it in the darkness, but Greg knew by the
reflections of the sounds of his own breathing that he was through the
was finally in his safe place where the world couldn’t touch him.
He spat out his regulator and pulled himself up on the rock
ledge. Looking up at the oculus, he saw
the sky lightening; dawn was breaking quickly outside.
Greg stripped off his gear and winced when he checked his
air. He cursed himself for not getting
the tank refilled the other day. It was
dangerously low and he hoped he had enough to get back out, but that
matter to him now. He shined his light
in every corner of the cavern. He was
There was nobody else and no place where anyone could hide.
His suit was warm. Greg
unzipped it down to his waist and felt the air cool his skin.
“Oh, God; that feels good,” he mumbled to himself as he sat
down and rummaged around in his dive bag.
He took out the ziplocked fruit and bit into the apple,
holding it in his mouth while he unsealed his journal from its triple
bagging. He had left the pen in the middle
opened naturally to the page where Bryan
had scrawled his address. Greg let his
hand glide over the page as if it were Bryan’s face and sighed,
looking up to
survey the cavern again, hoping that by some magic he would reappear.
There was nothing but the sound of a few drops of
condensation hitting the water from the curving walls above.
Satisfied, but disappointed, Greg set the
light beside him, casting enough of a glow for his to write.
He flipped to the next blank page.
began, pausing, not knowing whether he really wanted to write what was
“…I can’t believe what
I’m doing. I’ve done a lot of
things in my life but this one takes the cake.
Two days ago I met Bryan Gobell here and he was just incredible.
Then he disappears and I go looking for him
and find out that he was….”
Greg stopped. He felt
a childish embarrassment. He could
barely see and wiped away tears that clouded his eyes.
He couldn’t do this anymore, not right now.
The memories were too fresh, too painful, and
he snapped the book shut.
“This is crazy,” he thought, wiping his eyes again.
He didn’t care.
Greg knew that all the evidence, the pictures, his
conversation with his father, Archangel’s assessment, all told
him that Bryan
was dead, that the person he’d made love with that sunny
afternoon in his
private place was just not there.
But he’d felt so real, he was there, right
before his eyes. He’d felt his hands
his body; he’d smelled and tasted him and shared himself with him.
Greg fought off years of rational schooling
and decided that he didn’t care about the evidence.
He wanted Bryan
and if coming back here was the only
way to find him, then that’s what he had to do.
His family could have him committed later for all he cared.
He looked around to the spot a few feet away where they’d
made love, almost seeing himself there, entwined with Bryan and a
washed over his again.
He glanced around the cavern again to make certain he was
alone. Greg jumped up and stripped off his diveskin, making a bedding
of it as
they’d done before, and lay down. He
cupped his hands beneath his head, closed his eyes and waited,
Anxiety took its toll and put him to sleep. A
bright beam of sunlight shining through the
oculus crept over his face and Greg awoke with a violent sneeze.
He was groggy and ran his hands over his face, rubbing the
tickle away from his nose. It must have
been later than he thought and he snapped wide awake, fearful that
he cried out, hearing only his own voice echoing in response.
He turned, looking everywhere. There was
no one there; nothing had
changed. Greg was still alone.
He snatched up his journal and flipped to the
last written page, hoping that maybe he’d at least come and left
message. There was nothing there.
He fanned the pages with his thumb, hoping
that something would jump out. Nothing
did; the rest of the book was blank, just as he’d left it.
Greg sighed and tossed the book on top of his bag.
He felt like a fool and chided himself for
acting like one. Maybe none of it had
been real. Maybe he had imagined the whole
thing. He knew he hadn’t but maybe,
maybe he could convince himself that it was all in his mind so that his
half could still live in the same brain as his emotional half.
He decided it was time to stop acting like a
mentally unbalanced, smitten school girl and get back to the real
however unsettling that might be.
It was time to go.
Greg packed his journal and uneaten fruit and stowed it in his
bag. He checked his air again, mindful
that he’d better go easy on it. Ready
now, he set his face mask in place and was ready to enter the water
stopped himself and sat back for a moment, thinking.
He pulled the bag from behind him and brought out his journal.
Undoing the triple bagging, he held the book
in his hand, studying it and then flung it as hard as he could to the
of the cavern. He saw the reflection of
the splash from the sunlight and saw it floating there.
Greg heaved a sigh, set his gear in place and
rolled forward into the water.
It was nearing noon on a bright day outside but the tunnel
back to his boat was still as dark as pitch.
Greg carefully picked his way back trying to exert as little
possible. He still had a long way to
go. Halfway through, he thought he heard
that sound again, like metal against stone that he’d heard on the
way in and
turned quickly, so quickly that he didn’t pay attention and hit
against the rock wall.
He was in total darkness.
Greg toggled the switch with his thumb. There
was no response. He banged the side of it
with his hand, but
it was no use. He realized now that he
shouldn’t have left it on while he tried to write, the battery
was too weak now
and the impact must have finished it off.
He screamed into his regulator, looking back and forth in
the dark water, unable to see his hand in front of his face, unable to
bearings. Greg panicked and set off in
direction he thought he’d been heading, towards the cove, towards
He kicked his fins as hard as his muscles would allow,
clawing his way through the narrow tunnel, trying to pull himself
along, when he
felt it. That last hard pull from his
tank, that last breath, letting his know that he was about to join
He pressed himself, kicking harder, as fast as the last
breath in his lungs would allow, hoping, praying, that it was enough,
he’d see the light at the other end. But
his limbs felt heavy, his legs tightened.
Greg felt like he was swimming in lead instead of water and a
fogged his brain.
The path ahead was still dark. He couldn’t see his hands in
front of him trying to pull him along. He
couldn’t see the dark veil closing over his eyes as his arms and
In the distance, Greg again heard the crack of metal against
stone and awoke with a gasp, sneezing from the sunlight waking him from
He trembled like a leaf and sat on the edge of his bed,
gasping for breath and rubbing his head, hoping that his heart would
He heard the sound again, but this time it was different;
more like metal against metal, followed by the sound of water and a
“Great; what now?” he thought, rising and going to the open
window to see a street crew three floors down.
One man was cursing at a fellow holding a pick axe.
They were being drenched by a geyser of water
coming from a buried pipe. Greg turned
and leaned against the windowsill.
“Thank God,” he laughed, running his hand over his
forehead. “Jesus; what a
He went to the refrigerator and fished out his water bottle
from amidst the boxes of half-eaten take-out food and downed half of it
gulp, taking the rest of it with him to check emails.
Maybe one of his chat buddies was
Greg was just getting into his account when he heard the
door buzzer. He pursed his lips and
sighed, “Why is it that something always happens just when
settled?” he cursed under his breath. It
was probably some Mormons or some nosy energy inspector.
That’s who it always was.
The few people he called friends didn’t come
by without calling first.
He was pissed and still a little shaken from the dream and he
pitied whoever was pushing that buzzer.
“I’m coming, okay?!
Give it a rest already!” he said to himself.
Greg opened the door and was about to lay into the uninvited
visitor but froze. He saw the young man’s expression go
from relaxed to
puzzled when he saw Greg’s reaction.
“I’m…..sorry,” he fumbled, waving a couple of
letters in the
air. “I hope I haven’t
anything,” the visitor said.
“NO…no, I…,” Greg said, catching his breath,
studying the blond
young man dressed in a tee shirt and blue and gold swim trunks.
“I’m sorry,” he continued,
“I thought you
were someone else; I’m sorry,” he repeated,
“Oh…I, uh….,” he fumbled again.
“The, uh, mailman stuck a couple of your
letters in my box,” he said, offering the envelopes in his hand.
“I just thought I’d bring them
you!” Greg said, running a hand
hair. “I’m sorry for staring.
You remind me of someone I...,” he
off. “Have we met before?”
“No, sir; I don’t think so,” he said, “I just
moved in. Only been here a week or so; I
too much time to get to know anyone.”
“Transferred in?” Greg asked, judging him to be military by
“Yeah, I’m in the Navy….just moved in,” he
for anything to say. “I’m a
so I guess I was lucky to finally get stationed here.”
Greg studied him for a second. It
couldn’t be. Someone, somewhere was
giving him this chance
and he knew he had to take it, somehow make it different, better.
“Hey,” he said, smiling as he tapped the letters against
young man’s arm, “Interested in some iced tea?
Just made it this morning.”
“Sure,” he smiled back, relaxing. “Is
“I hope so,” Greg said.
The young man smiled at his reply but still looked puzzled.
Greg stood aside and ushered him into his
“I’m Greg Kashihara,” he said, offering his hand.