Chapter 1 can be found in an earlier entry if you have not yet started the story, and there is also a prelude to The One That Feels in the April 2016 issue of ARDOR.
Exhaustion rolled over me in waves as the drive neared completion. I’d driven all night and once we had reached the cabin, well, there was very little sleep. Continuing so immediately on to another lengthy drive had stressed my already low reserves. Also, I had this gorgeous man with puppy dog eyes staring at me the whole drive, and it was all I could do to keep from looking into those eyes and sinking into melancholy—I was going to lose him, probably forever this time, and I knew it. I think there might have been some relief there too, but I couldn’t be sure. I was very conflicted as it was.
I didn’t ask about Jordan’s parents, or about what Jordan had taken. I also stayed far away from questions about why Jordan still felt the need to fill his body with narcotics. Brian would get to those details when he was ready. Besides, for what he was asking me to do it scarcely mattered. Underneath the coma induced quiet, there would be something else. Something modern doctors couldn’t or wouldn’t sort out. Something that, worse, they would not even acknowledge.
The hospital campus was large and filled with modern looking glass buildings and construction, never ending construction, that made finding a parking space an exercise in frustration. Never-the-less, I found a spot and walked as calmly as I could into the building. It struck me just then that it would have been easier to do this in a suit, not that I kept suits at the cabin. Confidence didn’t come from clothes, that just prompted others to react appropriately. But the clothes would have helped, and… well, this was going to be difficult enough.
I asked her briefly for directions to the hospital room. She paled a little when I gave the room number, that too was very visible in the florescent lighting, but she dutifully pulled out a map and drew the route to it out in bold black marker. I thanked her and strode down the labyrinthine halls as though I owned them. Brian followed, a little nervously, but close behind.
The room was small, but amazingly private. A middle aged woman not much older than me sat by the bed. Her clothes were prim, proper, and very pink. At the window, facing away from the bed and careful never to look away from the window was a man of similar age, dressed in a suit and fidgety. His glances when they came were quick, directed to the woman that was surely his wife, and momentary, returning quickly to the glimpse of outside from the window.
The sunken shell of a man that occupied the bed, that was Jordan. In almost every way my opposite. I was tall and bald and bearded, massive by any estimation, both very tall and very broad—heavy set, to be sure, but projecting a sense of size, not fat. Scrawny did not sufficiently describe the drug addled emaciated body of Brian’s lover. There was no meat left at all on Jordan’s body, just tight muscle, and not a whole lot of even that. His skin stretched tight over his ribs, plainly and painfully visible. Deep black circles marred the skin beneath his eyes and high cheekbones only accentuated the sunken wells of his cheeks. His nose was fine and thin and straight, and his whole body had this odd almost translucent marble quality, like some twisted sculptor had set out to carve a caricature out of the twink boy that everyone wanted to be seen going home with.
With Brian behind me rather than at Jordan’s side, I could see other things. Glimpses into a reality that did not belong. Things about Jordan I’d suspected, made plain seeing him sitting next to his mother. Here in this place of death, Jordan’s reality was plain.
The woman looked up at me from her seat next to the bed, her fingers latched tightly onto a row of wooden beads which she rolled in her fingers, mumbling quietly under her breath. She glanced at the man for a moment, but he was too busy avoiding paying attention to the room to notice someone at the door. She glared at me for a moment, and when it became apparent I had no intention of leaving she stood and walked over to me.
“Excuse me,” she said, her voice soft and a little hoarse, coldly firm, “but this is a private room.”
Her voice was sufficient to shake the man from his fixed gaze out the window and he came over behind her and set an arm on her shoulder. “Look here,” he said, gruff, “you heard her, this is a private room.” He caught a glimpse of Brian behind me and glared at him. “We don’t need any of your sort here.”
“My sort. And what would that be?” I said evenly. I knew what he meant, but it would go easier with security if he said it. He didn’t keep me waiting long.
His face went from ruddy to bright red. “Look here, you get your fat ass out of my son’s room. It’s you folk that done did this to him. Never did drugs before that there faggot seduced him!” Looking squarely at Brian, his face was hatred.
“You are the ones who should be leaving. I will permit you stay, if you are quiet. Sometimes family does matter.” I strode past them as the man looked at me, his mouth agape. There was no choice for them, being big had certain inevitable privileges and people getting promptly out of your way was one of them.
“Hey!” The man’s face had actually gotten redder.
I looked down at Jordan and then to Brian, and then back to Jordan’s father. “Yes?”
“I told you to get out! I mean it!”
The woman pulled at his jacket. “Now sweetie, don’t go overboard.”
He’d spoken rather loudly and there was a nurse in the hall looking warily at us.
“These faggots did this to him, Janice. They… perverted bastards! They did it!”
The nurse ran down the hall. Brian had his head in his hand, and the woman was now frantically holding the man back and trying to quiet him.
“Fucking faggots ruining my boy!” he screamed. That got even more attention.
I squelched my urge to react, remaining quiet and composed, though behind my back I had pulled my hand into a tight fist.
Brian stood in the hall shaking his head. It was casual frustrated gesture. It seemed habitual, like this reaction was something he was used to, like he expected it. He glanced down the hall and mumbled a curse.
Security came into the room just as Jordan’s father, still being held back by the woman, Janice, thumped his forefinger into my chest. “You faggots messed him all up, twisted him into this!” He looked at the bed. “This is all your fault!” He turned his face away as the woman spoke to security. I didn’t pay attention to the words. I didn’t need to. I could guess what they would be.
The officer came up to me, “I need you to leave, sir.” In the hall I could see Brian lips pursed nervously.
“Ah, officer.” I smiled at him, unconcerned. “My name is Thommas, Thommas Ashforthe. Here are the necessary documents.” I pulled a properly endorsed copy of the legal paperwork from my pocket. I’d made Brian stop for it. I knew better than to show up without. “I have full authority to act in the best interests of young Jordan here. The documents clearly spell out that the authority supersedes his family’s wishes.” I looked at the dumbfounded parents. “I trust you’ll have them removed until they can act in a more civilized fashion.”
He looked at me very oddly for a moment and then scanned the documents. He looked them over again and looked a bit pale as he turned to Jordan’s parents. “Umm, I’m… I’m afraid he’s right. Mr. and Mrs. Blackmun, I have to ask you to leave.”
The man looked at me, his face now beet red. “You bastard!” He jumped at me, hands outstretched as though he sought to grasp me by the throat. His wife, thrown off balance, fell to her knees as the guard next to me dropped the documents and tried to restrain Jordan’s father. I stood, calmly, the fist still held tightly behind my back. The security guard strived desperately to pull him backward away from me as Jordan’s father tried to clasp his hands around my neck.
I glanced at Brian, who still stood in the hall, pale. Ignoring the hands still grasping at me, I turned my back on Jordan’s father. “You doubt, Mr. Blackmun, but you should not. I am not here for your benefit, nor for your boy, who started heroin at fourteen, I think you should know. Long before he began seeking out other boys for sex, so I’m afraid you have only him to blame for it. It was, however, his very great fortune to find a young man for whom I do care, very dearly.” I looked again over my shoulder to Brian and sighed very deeply as I caught his gaze in mine. “For Brian’s sake and only for his sake, I will save your boy if I can.”
Mr. Blackmun still strained against the security guard as I set my two forefingers against Jordan’s chest. I could feel the cold clamminess work its way up my fingers and into my hand and I steadied myself by gripping the metal guard on the side of the bed, my left hand clutching it so hard the knuckles turned white. I breathed deeply, my body shaking as the cold was drawn up into my arm. Then I glanced at Mr. Blackmun and said, very seriously, “You have to believe.” My body shook and a desperate pallor overtook me as the dreadful transparency and lack of color disappeared from Jordan’s body and instead flowed over my skin like a spreading curse.
My eyes rolled into the back of my head as I collapsed to my knees, but my fingers were fixed, digging into his chest. As my own body faded, colorless and pallid, his flesh became fuller, the muscles joined with fleshy substance and the flush of healthy color. My breath came short and quick and my head spun. My eyes fluttered open and my breath heaved as my left hand clutched still tightly to the metal frame and I struggled to focus on that fact to maintain my sense of balance.
“Brian!” I said, quickly. He rushed past the guard and the stunned parents and pulled my fingers from Jordan’s chest. Then he carefully pulled my arm behind his neck to his shoulder and helped lift me to my feet. I glared at him as I regained my footing, “Never ask me to do that again.” I pulled my arm from his shoulder and stumbled against the wall of the hospital room. I focused desperately on that length of wall as I breathed in and out slowly. There was darkness moving beneath my skin, midnight black seen hazy through flesh too pale, and I could feel it trying to take hold.
I stumbled into the bathroom as the darkness beneath my skin grew midnight black as though it were negative space and not a color at all. I reached the sink and skipped it, collapsing instead before the toilet and with all the force I could muster I retched violently into it. What came out of my body was not food. It struck the porcelain white surface of the toilet bowl, staining it black as gooey bits of it clung to my lips and my face. I shook again and forced myself to keep retching, filling until the bowl had more black spots than white upon it and my chin and beard were covered with it, that gunk. I took a slow deep breath, pulling somehow that gunk into my center, and wretched again, coughing blackness into the bowl until my skin was perhaps a bit more pale than it had been when I arrived, but bereft of the putrid gunk floating just beneath the surface.
I managed to stand, weak upon my feet, and I had to hold the sink to stay upright as I washed the substance from my face and lips and tongue. I wiped it from my beard and washed my hands again. When I walked out of the bathroom, my gait was scarcely more than a stumble. The security guard stood at the door calling frantically for a nurse. Mr. Blackmun and his wife stood crying over Jordan. Brian, to his credit, waited for me by the door of the bathroom, catching and holding me upright rather than returning to his lover’s side.
“Will he be alright?” Brian asked, his voice a whisper.
“I just don’t know, Bri,” I said very quietly. I sounded as if I had spent my voice from screaming. “I don’t know.”
Mrs. Blackmun turned to me. “What did you do?”
“I healed his body,” I croaked, “as best I could.”
“He’ll be alright?” She sounded hopeful.
My gaze stopped at each of them. “Bodies are easy to heal, Mrs. Blackmun,” I said, looking pointedly at her husband, “If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of yourself in the healing. But no, he’s not going to be alright. Not yet. His body is still weak, and now mine will also suffer. But it is not his body that needs to be saved. It is his mind and his heart.”
“What do you mean? He looks so much better,” she said.
“I know. But his body was the least in danger. His body was only injured. The death within it had not yet settled. His mind has already fled.”
“He can bring it back,” insisted Brian. “He can. I know it.”
I glared at him. “It’s not so easy, you know.”
“I have faith in you, Thommas.”
I shook my head and a wave of dizziness passed through me. I could see the boy’s true form as clearly as if he was no longer in this realm, even with Brian standing right there. “He’s not going to let me rest, Bri. I have to do it now.”
“You want him back? I have to do it now.”
I grasped the edge of Jordan’s bed and stood there looking at him for a moment.
“Thommas… are you going to…”
I shook my head and reached out to touch Jordan’s hand. My world spun and then, for a time, there was nothingness.