So I gave myself the week to try to process, as best I could. Now I'm full catch up mode. Part of that is the serial. While this episode is late, I want to be clear that the end of the month post will still be happening on schedule (so there will be a shorter wait for chapter 5!)
Here it is, chapter 4 of The One That Feels. I'll be posting chapters twice monthly, once in the middle of the month and once at the end. (note, only the first three paragraphs appear in blog view, you need to click "Read More" at the bottom right for the full text of the chapter)
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. I also encourage you to sign up for the email version of the newsletter.
The world was a featureless plain, pure black below with a sky of dusky gray above. So it was going to be like this. Had I known Jordan better, I would have had a better idea of which way to go. Instead, I studied each direction briefly, but the defenses of a drug addict were powerful things, and this featureless plain… I had to think that I knew what it represented. I just couldn’t focus. I felt so week, muddled. It was the drugs. The ones that had tortured him and the ones that they had pumped into him. I had absorbed too much of the toxins within his body to be completely rid of them, and then given of my own strength to make his body well.
What remained of his mind, that part that was tied to his body in the real, was laid out in the blank landscape. It couldn’t all be gone. I had to hope it wasn’t all gone, for if he had truly fled completely leaving only this, there would be no bringing him back. Lacking any waypoints, I picked a direction and walked, thankful for the fact that at least the emptiness upon which I walked was acting like solid ground, at least for the moment.
Brian loved this boy. I needed the reminder. There was very little else about Jordan for me to like. He was young, and beautiful, and stupid. No, that wasn’t fair. I just liked to think of him as stupid, because I resented losing Brian. He was hurt. He hadn’t started on drugs out of stupidity. He had done it because he was hurt. I had my suspicions as to why, but if I knew for certain I might fathom why he’d risk the one stability in his life, Brian, and overdose. Brian had said it was an accident, but Jordan had been a druggie for a long time, far longer than the five years they’d been together. What had Jordan seen? What had driven him to the brink of loss? Why would he give up Brian, who had long since committed to the relationship, to being with Jordan no matter what. They had dealt with scares before. Did Jordan really hate himself that much?
I kept walking as the sky gradually grew to a brilliant crimson with clouds like pools of blood in the darkness. The emptiness beneath had grown thick and oily and it didn’t take long before Jordan’s mind seized upon my impression and I became stuck in the tar like gunk. I looked up at the sky. “Why?” I shouted. His mind was here; I knew he could hear me. And then the rain of blood started, droplets, heavy, a steady stream of them, like tears from the sky.
I sighed. “He loves you!” I strangled out the words. I hated admitting it. That Brian loved Jordan more than he had loved me. A cackling echoed through the plain, and then I was on solid ground again: a checkerboard of white and black overlaid with a film of red from the onslaught of blood tears.
At least the ground was solid again. I kept walking. A checkerboard. Was life a game to him? Perhaps. Or maybe he envisioned a game, in which we were competitors. Competitors! Of course. For Brian.
“You already won!” I shouted into the emptiness, the blood drops staining my face. Again the cackling, but it wasn’t of the victorious, rather it was frantic—hysterical. I kept walking. I had to. I had to break through his defenses, search for a hole or a weak spot. At least I had in some fashion reached him. He was there, responding to me. Of course, that was also dangerous. This was his mind, not mine, and here he was a god. But did he know that? My footsteps left a trail of red boot prints, each shortly washed away by the tears, and my face and skin were covered with it, that thick, hot stickiness of gore. No, all I could do was walk. I had to find it, there had to be a hole, a path, a chink in his mental armor. There had to be.
When the rain finally stopped and the crimson that covered everything finally faded, the sky became white—completely white, and the ground one again the inky black of nothingness. Dammit. I was between. How was his mind so clear? I wasn’t there yet. I was still in his mind’s defenses. This was the projection, the little bit of organization, simplistic, so that it would be easier to maintain, that kept people from figuring out at once that he was a crazed druggie. How had he ever been more attractive to Brian than me? Again the cackling of his laughter filled the emptiness. I looked up at the pure white above, open, inviting. A trap. Then I looked down. The black was like India ink, deep and dark. Filled with despair. The sky was death, maybe that despair was a way in. So I leaped into the inky depths as though they were water.
Here, in that simplistic defense of his mind, my confidence was enough. I had found my chink. I swam through the empty night for a time, deeper and deeper, thankful that I still had mastery of myself enough to know that here I needn’t breathe and could keep going down. The progress was slow, the depths tinged with a level of despair that pulled at the heart. Sometimes I hated to be right.
With that thought I plunged through the darkness and fell into a cave, very small, and as I hit the floor the exit, a small circular hatch, was closed behind me. I could hear locks being fastened as the cackling grew louder. I was a reminder, being locked away in a corner of his mind so he didn’t have to remember. Locked away and forgotten.
I sat on the sandy floor of my prison and glanced up at the door. Too obvious, and he would have guarded it, I wouldn’t get out that way. I glanced down at the floor. A locket, gold, sat there. A tear started to well in my eye, and I picked it up. Small wonder I’d found this particular oubliette. I didn’t need to open the locket to know what it contained, or know where the real one was. It hung around Brian’s neck. His last reminder of me, the one he wouldn’t let go. Inside the locket was a picture of us, a miniature of the one that sat on the nightstand at the cabin. It had been a gift on our anniversary from me to him. He still wore it. In a moment of weakness, I had checked that he hadn’t changed the picture as he slept in the cabin. I bet that pissed Jordan off. No wonder he’d stuck me in this prison cell to forget about me.
But he’d also given me a way out. I was only sharing a cell, it was that he’d imprisoned, but it was not a picture of just me. It was of us. Brian and I together. He couldn’t fully imprison it without imprisoning Brian too. I looked at the hatch in the ceiling and discounted it. I took the locket and hung it around my neck. Then I grasped it tightly, thought as strongly as I could of the love I had for Brian, and walked directly into the rock wall. It felt strange as the rock slid through my body. The walls were thick, but I made it through them, stumbling at the end into a mass of deep purple fabric.
This new room was gaudy, walled with rich silks, decorated in gold, and centered around a bed covered in red velvet. Brian was there on the bed, or rather, an idealized version of him. Brian was fit, but he did not have the eight pack abs of this simulacrum, and his face had aged well, but it had aged with lines about the eyes and the hint—just a hint—of gray at the temple. This facsimile lacked any of those qualities. It was gorgeous and feral, clad only in a rather sword and sorceryesqe loincloth of purple silk. It leaned forward animalistic, moving like a cat on its hands and knees as it growled at me.
I wished I had ever thought to dress Bri in a loincloth. It was at once very funny and absolutely stunning. There were no exits that I could see. I reached to the locket against my chest. This was what Jordan thought of when he thought of Brian and I together. That somehow I was the key to Brian’s sexuality and passion. But what did succumbing to that passion mean? I walked over to him, this odd idealized Brian. He didn’t leave the bed, but he walked on all fours over to me, smooth and graceful, and rubbed his head against my stomach.
I gently tipped his head up to look at me. Those piercing blue eyes were empty. But what did it mean? The Brian facsimile reached up and seized my collar and there was a harsh tearing sound as he ripped the cloth, tearing a four inch strip of it from collar to shirt tails and leaving my shirt hanging open. Then the he began working on my nipple with his tongue. I groaned. I hadn’t prepared myself to resist Brian and for a moment I succumbed. Brian pulled me down onto the bed and rolled over, the feral creature holding down my arms.
I felt a tug at my pants and I screamed, “No!”
Brian stopped. The silk around the room started collapsing, panel by panel in a cascade. He looked at me, those empty eyes, and I shook my head, struggling against him. He rolled off me and shrank into a fetal ball, burying his face in between his knees. I pulled myself back up and looked at the ceiling, that white emptiness. “You cannot have this. Imagine what you want, but my time with Brian is my own. You cannot steal it away!”
The Brian facsimile turned sharply to look at me and spoke to me with a voice that was not his. “I cannot? You have stolen all my moments with Brian, forever!”
“Look at his eyes,” the facsimile growled. “Look at them!”
“Exactly,” it continued. Jordan’s voice. “Empty. Because his passion, his life, he is not with me when we have sex. He is still reliving life with you. He is never this beast with me, he is never filled with desire the way he is when someone makes the mistake of saying your name. He is still with you! You have stolen him from me!”
I looked at the creature with the face of my erstwhile lover. “You know that is not true. His desire for you, his passion for you—they are different than they were for me. I don’t doubt that. But you are begging to see a perfect chemistry between you. Not everyone gets that.”
“Because he still loves you!”
“That’s true,” I said, trying to dim the reverie that truth made me feel, “as much as I have discouraged it on your behalf. I have made myself absent, Jordan. I have ignored the phone calls and the frantic messages. I have blocked the emails. I let you have him, and believe me, I did not do it for me. I do still love him. I told him long ago, a true love never really dies.”
“You mistake me,” I continued. “Love is not finite. He loves you, more than he ever did me. Just because our love was true does not mean yours is not.”
He leaned back on his knees, propping himself up with one arm stretched behind his back, and ran the other up his torso. The voice spoke again, “This does nothing for you then?”
I could scarcely hide that it did, even fully clothed. “Of course it does. I already admitted that I still love him.”
“And how am I to live knowing that! I try to forget, I do things to—”
“Don’t. Bri he loves you, but he is not so blinded that he didn’t know you were a druggie. You were before you met him.”
“No. I will not take the blame for habits you started long before Brian came into your life, and I will not permit you to blame him for them either.”
“It stops the hurting.” It was a snarl.
“It would have to for you to take the risks you do.”
“If you would just let Brian go, I could, maybe stop.”
The movement of my head slow, but definitively negative. “No, I don’t think you could. Don’t think that I don’t know what pain is. Or what it’s like to stop the pain, and know, really know, that when you shoot up the pain is gone, at least for a time.”
“Is that why you came? To reform me?”
“No. That is something you have to want to do.”
“Because you died. And Brian could not live without you.”
“I wasn’t dead!”
“You fled. You didn’t leave enough of this to live.” I waved my head to indicate everything around me. “Already your mind frays around the edges. Your time draws short. A mind and a heart, they cannot live long away from the body. Soon this will be gone and all that your body will ever be able to be is a shell.”
“He would love me. You would never get him back.”
I laughed. “Oh, you’re right about that. I won’t have him back. And as much as I might wish to linger,” I said, climbing onto the bed and pulling the Brian replica to me, licking a long trail from just below his Adam’s apple up to his earlobe and whispering into it, “I cannot. I love him too, you see.” I looked into the lifeless eyes and I kissed the creature, deep and passionate.