Round 3

(as before there is some sexual content)

Dread extracted a staff from his palm. It was plain save for a curved talon at the end. The crowd exhaled a collective sigh of amazement. Dread wielded the weapon blunt end extended. His first armed attack proved to be the last attack of the fight. The attack itself was a quick blow to the windpipe. Sammael collapsed gasping for breath. The referee unlocked the cage and waved in a healer before turning his attention back to the cheering audience. “Will the winner’s prize step forward?” Dread had never received a live prize. There was a collective gasp.

 

“Your lover awaits…” Damian said, helping Naida to his feet. He had every intention of escorting the elf to the stage. Reluctantly he let the young man’s hand slide from his lap. “Are you pleased my dear?” He asked, Naida smiled. “I am.” Naida answered, turning his attention to Damien’s erection. “Will you accompany me in such an indecent state?” He asked teasingly. The elf extended a hand to his lover. Damien took it and led the way to the stage.

 

Naida was dressed in an ankle-length sarong with slits up to the hip. The garment was made of blue silk and whenever the elf moved it billowed gracefully around his bare legs like a curtain. His upper body was bare save for the gold bangles on his arms. His hair was done in a single braid that fell midway down his back. The braid was held in place by a gold band encrusted with jewels. His eyes and hair were both sapphire. His skin smooth, supple, and sun-kissed. He was without comparison and yet for all his beauty he was not overtly feminine. His graceful curves were accentuated with muscle and those muscles spoke of athleticism. 

 

Damien was dressed in a black suit, complete with tails and a waistcoat. He carried a decorative cane with a silver cobra head and an ebony shaft. He was more pretty than handsome with long wavy blond hair, a full sensuous mouth, and a flawless porcelain complexion. His eyes were the color of the sea at rest. He was 26 but could pass for younger. Naida’s age was indiscernible but there was something in his eyes and in his manner that suggested a degree of maturity beyond that of his companion. Together the couple turned the heads of everyone in the room. 

 

Upon entering the cage Naida released his lover’s elbow and walked up to Dread. The demon was nearly a foot taller and significantly broader. From a distance the other had appeared thin, almost gangly but up close and by comparison it was not Dread but himself that looked fragile. Naida pressed an elegant hand to the other’s bare chest, the male’s skin was so hot that it nearly branded him. The crowd erupted with wolf whistles and vulgar exclamations. Their comments were ignored by the two men in favor of assessment but not entirely by Damien who stood some feet away. As mentioned previously, Damien was not and never had been a jealous man but in that moment he recognized something between his lover and the fighter that gave him a moment’s hesitation. This feeling was soon discarded in favor of pride. The crowd was enthralled by Naida’s beauty and Naida belonged to him and him alone.

 

The pulse beneath Naida’s fingertips was steady and strong, precise like the ticking of a clock. Even with a singularly beautiful man touching him his heart did not stir one solitary beat. The fight had not been particularly easy despite Dread’s obvious and ultimately overwhelming strength. His opponent had been formidable and yet outwardly he showed no signs of exertion. He was neither mechanical nor divine. His eye color did not denote a rank sufficient for his imperviousness so what then was he? Naida tore his attention briefly from the stranger and returned to Damien’s side for a lingering kiss goodbye. “You are pleased then?” The blond asked, holding his lover by the hips. “Immeasurably.” The elf’s smile was more mischievous than reassuring but Damien let that slide. “Good. I trust you will tell me everything when you return home?” Naida pecked him on the cheek lightly and walked off the stage with Dread’s arm around his waist.

(I have written the story in its entirety. Going forward it will contain a lot of graphic sexual content. Which man would you like to follow first? Naida or Damien? I should tell you that I explored Dread’s demon aspect so it will get pretty intense/freaky/disturbing.)

Close

She always slept naked with the duvet pulled up to her shoulders. It was uncomfortably warm but she was unwilling to part with the weight against her skin. Insubstantial though it was, the pressure was reminiscent of a hug. She liked being held from every angle simultaneously. Like a gift, thoughtful and enigmatic. Like a moment, finite and eternally precious. It was early, a little before six o’clock and she was alone in bed. She slept in the middle of the mattress, at a diagonal. The early morning light had managed to push its way through the cracks in the blinds. It reminded her of the weedy gardens that sprang up intermittently on public sidewalks. She kept her eyes closed tightly but she could not totally filter out the extraneous light. Light which in the early morning seemed to her both hot and cold. She slipped in and out of consciousness with a rapidity that left her incapable of distinguishing her daydreams from her actual dreams.

 

She rolled over onto her right side and found herself pressed up against something unexpectedly solid. Something human warm. She placed her hand on top of the object cautiously, without peeking. She wanted to see if she could guess the object’s identity from touch alone. There was a pulse. Pillows didn’t have heartbeats or skin. Mattresses didn’t have bones or blood-heat. There was a scent in the air that was not her own. A scent that was deliciously human. Sucking her lower lip she continued to run her hand experimentally along the plains of the visitor’s chest and stomach. She heard him, for the figure was assuredly male, murmur. He woke by degrees. She continued to touch him with her eyes closed. Afraid that if she opened them that the foreign body of warmth would vanish. Once awake he climbed on top of her. His weight, resting partially on her pelvis. He touched her face gingerly. He touched her mouth with his fingertips. She took hold of his wrist, not wanting him to pull away from consideration. She did not want him to be overly considerate. She wanted his vulgar curiosity, the justifications and liberties that such a curiosity would afford her in turn. Had he truly been a stranger then she would have felt fear, shame at her own growing arousal, but he was not a stranger. Though none but the two of them could possibly hope to understand the ways in which they were connected. She kissed, licked, and nibbled at the pads of his fingers playfully. When he did not pull away she took his index finger partially into her mouth, sucking it, sliding up and down its length suggestively. He had done the same to her in a dream. She could feel his uneven breath, cool against her burning skin. She felt his energy above her, his gravity tugging at her from all sides. She opened her eyes and found that another pair regarded her. Half-lidded. A familiar shade of green. She released his hand and he lowered it to her cheek. The tips of his fingers were cool and damp with her saliva. He kissed her on the mouth. Smiled against her lips slightly and then kissed her again with more passion on finding her substantial and receptive. 

 

Had this been a dream the edges would have softened at intervals. For a few seconds she would have been able to taste his mouth, distinct from her own. For a few seconds she would have felt his mouth filling in the seams of her lips. She would have felt his lips working against hers and their tongues sliding together like a Stradivarius and a bow. She would retain the knowledge of what they did, the potency of arousal, but her sense of corporeality never held for very long. The act of kissing would yield to insinuation. His weight would compress and decompress according to her lucidity, which was intermittent at best. She clung to his shoulders expecting him to retreat into the ether. The mattress now cradling their combined weights remained compressed. He did not relent. She wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him in, corset-close. “Don’t you dare wake up…” Her tone was teasing, a reprimand without the requisite bite.  She would never detain him against his will. Her lips brushed his lips when she spoke. He smiled against her. “I’m not asleep and neither are you.” He answered her. He spoke the words into her mouth, she felt them vibrate against her lips.

Didn’t plan to double post.

TBC?

Round 2

(this chapter is mostly fighting but there is some sexual content so be advised)

“Watch carefully dear Naida.” Damien whispered to his date. “One of these men will possess you before the night is over.” He squeezed his partner’s thigh affectionately. 

Both men had their charms but Naida had already chosen a favorite. “You’ve outdone yourself lover.” The elf responded by taking up Damien’s hand and kissing it.

“I had to pull some strings to get them in the ring together. I imagine this little stunt of mine pissed a lot of people off but in the end it will be worth it. Should either of them win I will not mind their hands upon you quite so much. Not all are worthy of you. Few indeed.” Damien was not a jealous man for he did not believe that Naida would leave him. He was handsome. He had status and wealth. He was a generous lover both financially and sexually. He kissed Naida’s hand in kind. The young man flanking him pouted. For all his recommendations Damien was a fickle man. He had lovers in the plural, never in the singular. His relationship with Naida was an open one.

“Do you have a favorite?” Damien turned his full attention to Naida now. The elf smiled enigmatically but said nothing. 

—————————

The referee called “fight” and the couple’s eyes returned to the stage in unison. 

Dread moved as if untethered by gravity with a fluidity and rhythm that proved difficult to track. Sammael lept boldly into the air, bridging the gap between them in an instant. For someone so large he was remarkably quick and agile. The direction of his blade changed at the last minute. The new trajectory brought the blade level with his opponent’s jugular. Dread deflected the shaft with his forearm. Had the hit landed it would have been fatal. Sammael didn’t care about the rules, only about winning the match. Before Sammael could fully regain his footing Dread roundhouse kicked him. The gladiator (for so he appeared) took a shin to his forearm. There was a sickening crack but this was missed by the noisy crowd. The fighters jumped apart. Sammael rotated the arm, it was fractured, but with all the adrenaline coursing through his veins he didn’t feel any pain. The referee issued a warning.

———————–

Damien loved only himself but he was particular about his possessions. Naida belonged to him and as such he had a vested interest in the outcome of the battle. He stole furtive glances at his date. He was certain of only one thing. Naida had a preference but which of the two combatants? Sammael was handsome, powerful and masculine, beautiful like a character from a Greek myth. The quality of his weapon suggested that he was the wealthier of the two. His interactions with the crowd suggested extroversion and charisma.  Dread carried no weapon. His clothing and manners were unrefined. He was clearly not a man of means. His possessions were likely meager and dictated solely by necessity. Damien shuddered to think of Naida being ravaged in a hovel or worse still in an alley. Yet for all his concerns he could admit that the demon possessed a certain sex appeal. His proportions were good. His muscles were clearly defined, forged as they were in utility. His hips, in particular, had caught the young aristocrat’s eyes. His attention drifted downward. Was Naida drawn to the prospect of a huge cock? Sammael’s garment proved more concealing.

———

At the conclusion of each round Damien examined the fighters. Dread showed no signs of fatigue. His face was without expression. His posture suggested neither effort nor encumbrance. He fought to win and yet seemed somehow indifferent to the outcome of the battle.  Sammael’s athleticism and endurance were no match for his opponents. His breathing became labored. Sweat watered down the blood of his various wounds. His will to fight increased with each round exponentially. The ferocity of his blows increased. He landed several attacks against his opponent and received just as many. Neither male buckled under the force. The crowd was wild, even Damien found himself unable to tear his eyes away. The young man at his side was beginning to explore his lap. Damien liked the other’s clumsy enthusiasm and made no move to impede his progress. 

——–

Midway through the fight the demon was consistently predicting and thwarting his opponent’s attacks (attacks which appeared to the young aristocrat as wholly spontaneous). As the fight wore on Naida’s choice became increasingly apparent. Damien had more than once followed the trajectory of his lover’s gaze to the demon. Despite his prettiness Damien preferred a dominant position. Suffice to say neither Dread nor Sammael appealed to his personal aesthetic but they did appeal to Naida. The thought of his partner being taken by such a powerful and dangerous lover aroused him. The fight had already exceeded the expected duration. The crowd was growing anxious for a conclusion. Damien was beginning to lose patience.

Round 1

Cage-fighting wasn’t a publicly sanctioned event; a fact which increased its popularity among certain demographics. As with all human enterprises there were rules. Fighters couldn’t leave the ring until the fight had reached a satisfactory conclusion. The referee’s ruling was absolute. Death matches were prohibited. Death was messy. Death meant corpses and corpses were bad for publicity. Corpses brought in law enforcement. The arena would have to relocate and that was expensive.

This particular establishment, which will remain nameless for reasons of security, was located somewhere in the warehouse district. There was nothing to distinguish it from the other buildings in the district. The upper level was filled with rubbish, broken glass, dated machinery, and homelessness. The lower level was an arena with an official capacity of 2,000 spectators. Headliners drew in significantly larger crowds. The floor had been stripped of concrete and filled with packed dirt. A wire cage 22 feet by 22 feet surrounded the combat area. Two bulky and nearly indistinguishable guards stood watch by the doors. They were equipped with armor and stun gun batons. Blood stained the ringside seats.

Damien sat in the first row. His thigh pressed against Naida’s smoothly shaven one and the trousered leg of an unknown male in his early 20s. In the beginning he’d been good to point out things to his uninitiated date but after the first fight he’d ceased commentary. His moods shifted notably from one moment to the next. At times he seemed disinterested in the whole affair. At times his brows knitted together with vexation. At times his attention was captivated by his dates’ shapely thighs. At times his attention drifted to the stranger crushed up against him. His date noted the manner in which he regarded the young man, the “accidental caresses”, the secretive smiles but he said nothing.

——————————–

The announcer called out two names “Dread and Sammael”. The uproar was immediate. This was to be the evening’s main event. Dread was a crowd favorite. 40 to 0. Dread was indifferent to the audience, to the guards, to the blood-soaked arena. He saw only his opponent. The crowd fell silent during Sammael’s introduction. An unknown fighter against the reigning champion? It was unprecedented. Sammael was built for war. A Greek statue manifested. Sammael was dressed in pteruges and high Roman sandals. He was a figure worthy of mythos. His thick, dark hair was free. His beard was held together by two bronze rings. His manner was confident, oppositional, vaguely animalistic. At 6’5 he tipped the scales at around 240 lbs, all muscle. His appearance suggested human, his presence hinted at something else. He wielded his 7ft long scythe with grotesque ease. The crowd twittered with speculation.

 

Dread was long, angular, and viciously defined. His torso was a skein of scars. He was dressed in a simple, animal skin loincloth. Much of his body was exposed from his hips to his flanks to the swelling of his genitalia. Unlike his opponent he wasn’t handsome in the traditional sense the one exception being his eyes which were the color of amethysts. His features were too narrow, too haunted, the scars scattered over his scarecrow-like body too deep. His black hair was wild.  Unlike Sammael who bore the natural arrogance of a proud fighter, Dread suffered neither insecurity nor inflation of ego, only an unnerving and unrelenting pureness of intent.  He carried no visible weapons.  Both fighters assumed a defensive stance several feet between them.  “May the best man win…”  Dread offered his voice was rich and deep but carried only so far as was required for his opponent’s benefit.  “And so he shall…”  Sammael answered smiling broadly. 

I believe I posted this before but not the original and not all that I had written. I will share it with you as it was first intended. There will be sex later between men. I am a little hesitant to share one of the sex scenes as it is very strange and very graphic haha

Wordle #188

Wordle 188

She watched him cross the street. Her eyes shimmered behind a veil of precipitation. Soi-disant jewels clung to the tips of her eyelashes. She didn’t bother to blink them away, afraid that if she closed her eyes he would disappear. He was beautiful in stillness but in motion he was the perfect combination of grace and carnality. The city emptied itself and then ceased altogether to imprint upon her senses. His presence was all that her mind could hold. The sunlight came down in streaks more silver than gold.

She had never managed to carry a thought to completion. Thoughts, she found, were tremendous breeders. A single thought could spawn a hundred more. She measured herself, not in moments, but in generations. She housed infinities. Her mind was full of soap, of delicate bubbles skidding and erupting endlessly. She was a muse, disguised as a poet. He was love without reservation. She stood before him stripped of all but instinct. He was the sort to pursue a dream with the full weight of his being.

He stopped in front of her, smiling. She felt his fingers wrap around her wrist gently. He pulled her close, his breath hovering against her ear. She saw that he stooped when he spoke and for a moment their faces were more or less the same height. His voice was deep and warm. It started her heart pumping again. Only now instead of one heart she seemed to have two on either side of her head and instead of an angel and a devil, she had two bumblebees muttering incoherently. She inhaled. Audibly. Shakily. The sound was both delicate and obscene. It was the sound of lace being torn away in a fit of passion. When it was clear that she would follow him, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and cradled her against his chest. She did not inquire about their destination. Wherever he went she would follow. She traced the lines of his palm absently with her thumb as they walked. He smiled at her from time to time out of the corner of his eye. He needed only to know that she was there.

Wordle #452

Wordle 452

She stood alone in front of the bathroom mirror. Her large, voyeuristic eyes were like keyholes. Intervals of darkness beyond which two separate, untenanted universes lurked. The sunlight spilled shyly across the wet floor and she thought rather abstractly that it looked like torn satin. She reached her fingers into the light and wiggled them around for a moment. That something so gentle, so ethereal should have the power to burn her only enhanced her sense of mourning. How many times had she had her own heart broken? Love, she thought, is rather like sunlight. She felt as if she could never love again. Not in the same way, not to the same degree. Yet, deep down she knew that she loved him still. That she would always love him, not just as she did now, but more with each passing day. He probably loved her too. Someday, she hoped, that he would end her suffering with a confession.

She could feel herself shrinking into her pink bathrobe. She was shocked by the weight of her bones, by their implacability, by the way they held her in place before her own volatile portrait. That I should carry a cage inside of my very own body! She thought laughing out loud. Sometimes she forced laughter when she was by herself. She bit the end of her thumb with a shudder but reality did not release her.

She unlocked the door. Each room in her house had a story, a fragment of truth that under scrutiny caused some aspect of her persona to unravel. She was not naturally a tidy person, at least, inwardly she knew herself to be a mess. She was not particularly fond of white walls. She had no use for tiny tea lights or candles of any sort. If she ever lit them she’d forget them and the whole building would go up in flames. It was for this reason that she never bothered lighting the fireplace.

When she passed by her roommate’s bedroom she did not lift her eyes but continued on to the kitchen in search of breakfast. In an hour or so her roommate would leave and she’d have the house all to herself. She had the whole day planned. Cry. Exercise. Cum. Sleep. Repeat. She would think of him when she came. She would call his name with all the fierceness of a prayer. She thought his name delicious but she’d never told him so. The waves of orgasm would inundate/erode her senses. Her silt-heavy head would empty itself of all extraneous stimuli. For a few precious moments it would be just the two of them.

(don’t write so many short stories)

Choose An Antique Con.

I turned to Arius once Zagan had left the room forgetting our closeness. That I should forget when he was still very much pressed against me was a testament to my inner turmoil. I now had a face to attach to the horrors of my childhood. Yet based on all that Zagan had said he was not the antagonist in my own story. The beast in the forest was my true adversary but such an abstraction I could not hope to fathom. Zagan was a villain that my lizard brain could more readily comprehend and yet he was, for me, just as insurmountable as the darkness. My revulsion did not extend to Arius who had proven, in every respect, his sibling’s opposite. If anything I respected him even more than before. My attention returned to my companion with a start, my silence, having prompted him to look that much more intently at my face. “He is really intense…” I said nervously getting up from my spot on the sofa and moving from foot to foot.

Your face is flushed…” Arius observed without understanding the finer points of my predicament. I took up my tea, which had grown tepid under the influence of the cool air, and downed it quickly.

Yeah I am just worked up is all. Hey are we really spending the night?” I asked hoping to dodge the issue of my embarrassment which was a conversation best reserved for another time. Taken in totality there was more overlap in our emotions than there was disparity and yet there was still so much I did not understand about my companion. Was he subject to anything like the human condition?

Perhaps a night’s rest will see him in a more favorable mood. I would like to continue our discussion if possible but only if you are in a agreement.” I was torn but in Arius’ resolve I was made steadfast. How would I wish to spend my last night? If the darkness should come as it would someday invariably what must I first accomplish? I could not presume to know what was best for those who remained with Zagan and as for the humans still being sacrificed what alternates were at my disposal to offer? For all I knew if Zagan stopped feeding the beast the entire universe would unravel with everyone in it.

“I would not recommend that you wonder around on your own.” Arius took up his tea again. I waited for him to finish before continuing.

I’d like to stay. I’ll be careful.” I said in a tone that fell somewhere between reassuring and uncertain. My emotions were seldom as discreet as I would have liked in such moments but of what use was bravado when it was only the two of us? I would have been a fool not to feel the gravity and danger of our current undertaking.

Do you think they’ll put me in the stables or something?” I asked, only half-joking. I might have understood Zagan’s prejudice simply as product of his superiority in the food chain but it didn’t mean that I had to agree with him.

Arius started to answer but Yuki’s sudden appearance silenced him. “I’ll see you to your room now.” He said casting me a withering gaze. I was certain of two things as I stood there, foot in mouth. First that Yuki had overheard me and second that he disliked me immensely.

The room was spacious, clean, and tastefully decorated in accordance with Victorian fashion. “Would this be room as in singular?” I inquired airing on the side of nonchalance. My fear of separation outweighed whatever inconveniences that close sleeping quarters might impose. I had no reason to believe that Zagan would adhere to the agreement and no way of knowing what, to his mind, constituted a violation.

If you are uncomfortable with the arrangements feel free to sleep on the floor.” Yuki was proving a rather difficult guy to like. I smiled ruefully in his general direction but thought it best to keep my mouth shut.I didn’t know what the guy’s deal was but it went without saying that his past contained a fair amount of trauma.

This is more than adequate thank you Yuki. If you don’t mind I would like to be alone with my lover now.” Arius said. Why he’d adopted the term lover I couldn’t say but it sufficed in hastening Yuki out of the room.

As soon as the servant had left Arius fell backwards onto the bed and sighed with relief. His hair fanned out across the red satin in a vivid contrast of color that I thought striking. I had spent countless hours recreating this man’s image in monochromes to no real purpose. I would have loved to paint him as he appeared then but it was hardly the time to indulge in my hobbies.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard you tell a lie before.” I commented with a smile. There was no use even attempting such a portrait in charcoal, it just wouldn’t have the right pop to it I concluded.

It’s only a little lie isn’t it? Anyhow I figured it would be easier for everyone to understand. My brother doesn’t exactly have any friends.” I indicated with a wave of the hand for him to move over which he did obligingly. I sat down on the edge of the bed with my tart. Friends wasn’t really the right word either I thought. What would you call someone that comprised your world in its entirety?

I am not really surprised.” I said turning to look down at my companion. Zagan didn’t seem the sort to socialize with his servants and if not his servants than who else was left? “Just a little one.” I held up my fingers to illustrate what I presumed to be the distance between our relationship and that of lovers and then laughed out right. I doubted either one of us had actually had sex. Well I knew that I hadn’t at least. Returning my attention to the tart I took a bite. Were it that I had words to describe it. Sweet, tart, sunshine, juicy, flaky, bliss, plump. Suffice to say I ate with enthusiasm and once finished I licked my fingers clean. When at last I came to my senses again Arius was sitting up his face inches from my own.

I should have chosen the tart.” He commented in a tone that was something between amused and matter-of-fact.

You’re too damn close…” I said pushing against his shoulder playfully but it was ultimately ineffectual he didn’t budge a bit. He just blinked at me owlishly.

Do you want me to move over?” He asked his sedate tone in complete contrast to my racing heart. I had more concerns about the guy then his personal space violations. I was rather resigned to believe that he was just innocent and if not innocent then not of the same sentiment. It was infuriating not just because I had no other alternative but because I would have chosen him regardless.

No…it’s fine.” I said after a moment thinking it best to distract myself with conversation. “Do you think Zagan was telling the truth about everything? About Oz too?” I asked eyes fixedly ahead. We have this exact same wallpaper only it’s not faded and peeling I thought.

I don’t know…but if you want a more intuitive answer I’d say he’s not telling us the whole truth.” Arius admitted and I saw that he played nervously with his fingers. In telling me his opinion he risked that I might endanger myself in pursuit of the truth.

We’ll just have to be clever about it. There’s no way he’s going to let me near any of the servants but what about you?” I asked turning to him momentarily.

Doubtful.” He answered. Arius’ words only solidified my assumptions. Although I suspected that Zagan did harbor something akin to family loyalty he did not strike me as being blind to his brother’s eccentricities. He would never believe that Arius wished to partake of any of the services that a servant might be obliged to provide because Arius was “too good for this world”. Besides the only servant we’d seen thus far was Yuki and there was no chance of his disobedience. Even if someone would talk to us could we really let them take a risk like that? It was hopeless. I tugged at the hair on my scalp with both hands in frustration.

You think we could take a look around?” I asked more for the sake of employment than for any projected reward. I doubted that Zagan would show us anything which he did not wish us to see and yet there was always a chance that fate would give us a crumb to follow.

We can try.” Arius rose offering me his hand which I took thinking he intended onto to pull me to my feet.

You’re very literal about sticking together…” I commented as I found myself coaxed toward the door, our fingers now laced together.

Choose An Antique Con (should think of a name)

That night I was unable to fall asleep.

The next morning Arius led me solemnly to the end of the world or at least the world as I had hitherto imagined it. Fractus was surrounded on all sides by invisible barriers through which I could not pass. I had often wondered what lurked beyond them and had long ago come to the conclusion that it was only vast open space. This world had always struck me as incomplete, as either dead or in the primordial stages of its development. For years I had seen no one other than my companion and by default he assumed many roles.

Fractus was not devoid of life but I could not distinguish a cow from a pheasant as every creature appeared to me faceless and misshapen. The meat they produced was flavorless and of a consistency between rubber and shredded paper. All the produce we consumed was mealy and bland. Eating was something we did strictly out of necessity and then only just. I say this now only that you might have some reference for comparison.

Once we’d walked as far west as we could Arius’ turned his inquiring eyes to me for confirmation of my resolve. I nodded feeling that my head might fall off my shoulders. I felt in a single word unhinged. Arius placed his fingers against the wall and a section sufficient for passage materialized without the fanfare that a miracle may be accustomed to provoke.

I shielded my eyes with my arm to block the sun’s rays and it was several moments before I could see well enough to distinguish shapes of any kind. This place was so unlike the 300 acres of wasteland to which we were confined. The fields were positively drenched in colors from the crisp green grass to the dainty blues and golds of blossoming flowers. The air was sweet and slightly musky, it must be Spring I mused. There were fences along the road and animals of discernible type in the fields. The old barn was bright red and standing ecstatic against the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky. In the distance I thought I saw the shapes of men stooped in the fields and my heart split in twine with a mix of joy and terror. I wondered if God would strike me down for my trespass into heaven. For it seemed to me then that I had been living in purgatory.

The house, though the same, appeared as it must have appeared mere moments after its construction. The yellow color recalled images of baby chicks and daffodils. I gasped hand nearly moving to cover my mouth. Arius turned to me with an apologetic gaze and I let my hand drop like a stone.

I stood behind Arius unable to satisfy my anxiety with any occupation. I held my breath when he knocked on the door. I held it until my lungs burned and the color fell from my face like a discarded peel. We were greeted by a 20 something man with black hair and eyes. It took me several moments to realize that he was a human like myself. “The master has been expecting you…” He spoke only to Arius and I felt that he was deliberately avoiding my eyes. “Will your servant be accompanying you?” I considered the man’s words and determined, with dismay, that they were in reference to me.

Servant?” Arius’ obvious confusion provided more confirmation of my position than even denial would have done.

The human…” The butler said trying to repress his astonishment/distaste at Arius’ ignorance.

My brother doesn’t keep servants…” Just then a face emerged from the darkness that was the house. The familial resemblance was apparent at a glance but I found no familiarity in mannerism or expression. Zagan’s horns and the tips of his hair were black. His features were slightly more angular and he stood perhaps a good couple of inches taller which was to say that he could not stand strait in the door frame. “I never imagined that you would bring your lover here…” He said turning his mocking gaze to me. For several moments he appraised me sparing no part of my anatomy and although I was dressed I felt that it was not so. “Yuki prepare our guests some refreshments…” He said his tone leaving no room for discussion or objection. Neither I nor Arius disputed the man’s assumptions. I, for one, could not be depended upon to say anything in that moment.

Zagan moved to the side to let us pass through. I crossed the thresh hold at Arius’ heels just the way a child might cling to his mother’s skirts in the presence of a stranger. Zagan led us into the sitting room. The layout was much like our own sitting room but the furnishings where new. I sat together with Arius on a sofa which was slightly too small for the two of us together. My right knee bumped his thigh and for a moment I considered moving to the chair but chickened out when Zagan sat down in front of us. “Are you so scared of me human?” I felt Zagan’s laughter through the entire length of my spine and for a moment I even mistook the sound for my own pulse. “Prudent choice…” He continued gaze darkening.

The butler entered then with a ornate silver trey on which there was a full service tea set and several delicate pastries. I was grateful for the interruption as it forced our host to break his gaze. Zagan plucked an apple turnover from the trey as it passed near him. The butler served us in order of our perceived status which was to say that he served me last. When it came time to pass out pastries he kept the trey deliberately out of my reach, a slight for which I felt too much pity to protest. “Don’t be rude Yuki…offer it a pastry…” Zagan scolded without heart. I was rankled by his use of it, instead of the appropriate pronoun but I knew deep down that this was not the worst he could do to me. Reluctantly the black suited man passed the trey in my direction. I took a fruit tart and placed it on a napkin. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had anything sweet. Arius took three small cookies of different configurations and placed them on his napkin. Zagan dismissed his servant as soon as the transactions were complete.

I acknowledge the loneliness of your position so if you’ve come to ask me to make an exception for your lover I have no objections so long as you don’t intend to procreate.” Zagan offered his tone moving seamlessly from nonchalance to disgust. The loneliness of your position invoked sympathy for I knew it must be so and yet I could not truly say that I felt alone when we were together. Procreate invoked an entirely different reaction. There were so many things wrong with that statement that I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it.

I’m not an it. I’m a he and I have a name it’s Daniel.” I stated firmly, my irritation providing, momentarily, what confidence had failed to produce.

Ho ho…so you are…my mistake…” Zagan did not strike me as particularly apologetic but I doubted he would suffer much more in the way of my insolence. “Well better that you are male…” He seemed relieved and I understood in a moment that his relief was a testament to his prejudice against human kind. I was too young to have adequately considered children but his words cemented the fact that I would never have any of my own. Not that I wanted to bring a child into what had become of my life.

I didn’t come here for that reason nor did I come here to listen to you insult my partner. As for your offer I will hold you to it.” Arius said sitting his napkin down on the side table, two of the cookies yet remained. As for my tart I hadn’t taken a bite, irritation had left my stomach somewhat unsettled. “I came here to ask you some questions….we came here to ask you some questions.” He said having no where to sit his hands he placed them in his lap.

Still afflicted with amnesia I see very well ask your questions…” Zagan took a sip of his own tea his eyes fixed on me as opposed to the speaker. What he thought about Arius’ reproach I could not say for he did not answer to it.

What are we?” I recognized the question at once. Only days ago I had asked the very same question of Arius but I knew the answer meant more to him than it did to me. For him it was a matter of identity but looking at Zagan I wondered if Arius might be better off with the buffer afforded him by his amnesia. I was sick from all the hope that my own childhood had afforded me and sometimes prayed to forget it that I might more readily adapt to my current circumstances.

What are we?!” Zagan laughed out loud. Startled by his brother’s question he turned his attention back to Arius and I felt myself shrink down a little further in my seat hoping next time he might not find my eyes. “You are more addled than I thought.” He sat his tea cup down and leaned his weight forward on his knees. “We are temptation…a lure.” He answered with a smile that seemed, to my eyes, deliberately cruel. “We bring food to the shadow and by we I mean I…you just can’t seem to part with your little pets.” He looked at me pointedly.

Daniel is not a pet. I regard us as equals and I like to think we have always lived as such.” Arius stated in a tone that was as kind as it was definitive. Zagan looked annoyed and for a moment I feared that he might really lash out in anger.

Equals? Hardly we are superior in every respect.” Zagan snorted indignantly. “We are immortals…I am immortal. You gave that up when you sided with our prey along with your portion of paradise.” He said and I thought, for a moment, that I detected sympathy in his gaze. Such a sacrifice I had never considered but it all made a certain kind of sense. “But don’t worry brother you have the entirety of your human lifespan to come to terms with your loss.” He said using smugness to cover up the fact that he was also affected by Arius’ circumstances.

Did I ever offer humans to the creature?” Arius’ voice shook a little when he spoke. I sat frozen in my seat, hips pressed on either side. All the things I should have been doing conspired to keep me inert.

You never…you have always been too good for this world.” Zagan phrased his last comment as something between an insult and an endearment. I am not sure how he achieved such nuance with his voice but as I had always found Arius’ voice richer and more versatile than my own I assumed it must be something with their vocal chords. I was relieved by Zagan’s words, relieved that Arius had never participated in the practice but simultaneously saddened at the knowledge that his life would always be a punishment. Arius let go of the breath he was holding and exhaled audibly.

“Besides Yuki are there other humans living here?” I asked trying to swallow a revived hoped that Oz might be alive.

“I keep several servants yes but if you’re hoping for a playmate I can’t help you.” My jaw tightened in response to his condescension but I said nothing. “If you are looking for one in particular I am afraid I have no memory for human faces.” He answered shrugging coldly.

I pulled a charcoal sketch from the folds of my robe and passed it to Zagan, it was a likeness of Oz. “Perhaps this will jog your memory.” He opened the paper and looked at the sketch for a several seconds.

“I’ve seen this sketch before my brother is nothing if not persistent.” He said holding the paper out for me and then pulling it back at the last minute. Zagan straightened himself and then called out for Yuki. The servants arrival was so swift I suspected that he must have been standing by the door. “Have you seen this child before?” He asked Yuki took the photo and studied it. I searched his face for recognition but he gave away nothing. The servant leaned down and whispered something into his master’s ear. “Oh really. Yes we have seen this child but he is no longer with us. It seems that he ran away three years ago.” Zagan returned the picture to me and waved Yuki out the door. My heart sank if Oz had left Zagan’s protection than his death was all but inevitable. “I am not one to offer false hopes.” He said by way of changing the subject. Arius clasped my hand and I could not tell if he was trying to comfort me or get my attention. Whatever the case the effect, I imagine, was very much the same on Zagan. He frowned deeply but said nothing.

Well then I believe that I have earned a turn.” Zagan said the left side of his mouth curling up without the right side’s consent.

Tell me about your encounters with darkness.” He said aiming his question at me. My heart leaped up in my throat. Was he referring to the curse? “Don’t look so surprised boy…I can see the price that your disloyalty has exacted.” His tone was sharp and accusatory. “My brother might over look your crimes but I do not think you will find me so forgiving.” His voice cut me to the core and I felt the hand in mine tighten.

It was 2 years ago. I thought that Arius might be using fear to limit my freedom. I have since realized my mistake.” I couldn’t bring myself to look at my companion but was relieved that he continued to hold my hand.

Your rebellion has cost me greatly.” Zagan bit back eyes narrowing to slits. “But enough of that for now…” He said irritability. I knew that for the time he would not permit us to question him further. “Since you are here you may as well spend the night. You will set off in the morning.” He said and it seemed as if matters had been settled. “I will have Yuki prepare a room for you.” He said rising, apple turnover in hand, he took his leave.

Choose An Antique Contined

Arius was washing dishes when I confronted him next. “Are you feeling any better? Are you ready to continue our discussion now?” He asked drying his hands. I saw that he meant to put aside his work and give me his undivided attention and I was simultaneously pleased and frightened. We sat down together at the table.

You said that Zagan’s objectives were in opposition to yours. Does that mean…” I looked down at my hands it seemed too terrible a thing to say out loud. “That he kills the children who come here?” I asked my voice buckling under the weight of my words.

Arius’ face fell, each word that passed my lips seemed to fall upon him like a physical assault. He wilted in his chair. “He feeds them to the creature in the woods or so I am given to believe. I have never actually seen him commit these atrocities.” His brows knitted together and I could see that there was a conflict at work behind his eyes.

Do you think that he can be made to understand the value of human life?” I asked trying to swallow my own revulsion and hatred lest my listener bare the brunt of that persecution. Whatever Arius and his brother were they were not human and so I could not reasonably expect them to share my values and yet Arius had demonstrated countless times his capacity for compassion. He was not like his brother and I refused to classify him as such. As for his brother I knew not wholly how to temper my feelings except in consideration for my audience.

I don’t know…” He admitted but something in his eyes said that he was exhausted and disheartened by his previous efforts. Something told me that he had spoken to his brother and then I recalled his long, unexplained absences. At the time I had assumed those absences were for the benefit of my privacy or his but now I wondered if their meaning might be deeper.

Can you overpower him?” I asked I had never known Arius to be a violent man and the idea seemed almost too ridiculous to propose. Even if it were so how could I ask Arius to attack his own brother, to kill him if need be? I would never ask this of him and yet my cause weighed so heavily upon me that I could not help but inquire about his power of which I knew so little. Arius did have powers of this there could be no doubt but he rarely used them and this I imagined he did for my benefit. I do not think he could live with himself if I ever came to fear him.

We are evenly matched…” He answered. His expression was pained and I saw that his fingers had flexed inwardly stopping just short of a fist. We had lived together as the only two people in the world for so long that I had memorized all of his expressions. When it was his own discomfort he took it in stride but this was not so for the things that brought me pain, those things he felt much more deeply.

So you have fought?” I asked gripping the front of my robe as if it might satisfy the twinge of guilt I felt then. The guilt persisted and my fingers tightened in response.

Mostly with words but yes physically as well…it always ends in a draw.” He answered his eyes focused weightily upon me. “What do you intend? I must advise that you do not to challenge him outright.” As much as I might have wished it I had seen evidence of Arius’ strength, stamina, and speed and I could not match him in any respect. How could I hope to defeat his equal, an equal not softened by morality?

I am not suicidal…” I rubbed the back of my head nervously. I knew very well my limitations and I had longed abandoned the idea of death as a solution. “Can I meet with him?” I asked knowing that I asked too much of my companion but banking on the fact that he would humor my selfishness.

You will hear his words for yourself…” He nodded solemnly and then after a period of consideration he looked at me again resignedly. “I will accompany you…” He said and on this point I knew that he would suffer no objections. I patted his hand in what I hoped was a reassuring manner and tried to smile at him but in the end I only managed a strait line. “We will set off tomorrow then.”

 

Choose An Antique Con.

For a long time I was too frightened to speak about the incident. I was frightened that the dreams would return and that my soul would submit to consumption. It pained my companion to see me thus afflicted and it pained me to impose an even greater burden than the one I inherently posed (not that Arius ever referred to me as such).

I was 18 when I finally went to Arius in search of answers.

We need to talk.” I said gravely. Arius was in the yard fixing the front wheel of his penny farthing. He sat down his tools and stood up. We were both adults now and although I was 6′ he towered over me. Though it can hardly be said that he was menacing. If were to describe him as he stood there then I would say that he looked like a willow ethereal, long-limbed, and placid.

The creature in the forest how did you…” I didn’t know what I wanted to say because I had been unconscious through the whole ordeal and had no memories on which to tether my thoughts. “What happened? How did you rescue me?” I asked guilty for having accosted him without a pacifying prelude. If there was a way of defeating or warding off the beast why was he keeping it from me? “How did you even know where to find me?” I asked doing my best to curtail my suspicions which were rising with each inquiry.

Opposites can repeal or attract…” He offered and what seemed so obvious to him left my head reeling. He read my confusion at once but seemed momentarily at a loss himself. “I am light…the creature is darkness…” To illustrate his point his body began to glow, white as sunlight spilling through an open door. I passed my fingers through the radiant aura cautiously and felt my flesh warm and tingle on contact. For a moment my other questions were forgotten. I had not seen the sun in years and could not but marvel at the miraculous luminescence.

Are you an angel?” I asked not knowing what other being could emit such a celestial light. It was a childish question but it was only afterwards that I felt the sting of embarrassment.

I doubt it.” He answered eyes widening. He was obviously bewildered by my suggestion and I felt my cheeks burn. For a moment I couldn’t even continue with my interview but I knew if I did not collect myself he’d mistake my red face for a fever. Arius was impossible to embarrass and rather oblivious when it came to the ways of man. Pushing my astonishment to the side I continued.

You doubt it? Are you telling me that you don’t know what you are?” How was that even possible? Even I remembered that I was or had been human.

So it would seem…I suppose I could ask my brother Zagan if you’d like…” He suggested though the idea did not seem to appeal to him in the slightest. His eyes seemed to beg for pity and ordinarily I would have given in rather than see my solitary companion suffer but there was too much at stake.

You have a brother?!”I took him by the shoulders and shook him a little too enthusiastically.

I have…” He answered blinking in surprise at my vigor. “But we don’t get along…” He continued as if that reason were enough to explain away years of omission.

Why not? Is there something wrong with him?” I asked hesitantly. Arius had never so much as raised his voice in all our time together, unless in laughter, so I had to assume it was the brother who was the bad guy.

I don’t know which of us is right or wrong only that our objectives are in opposition to one another.” He said and I thought it just like him that even his grievances were considerate.

What are your objectives?” I asked wondering if objectives were like dreams. I had my own dreams though they had morphed considerably over the years. Now that I knew I could never leave I had to think of ways to be happy in this world.

To save the children…to starve the beast…” He answered looking at me closely afraid perhaps that he’d miss some nuance of expression if he were not careful.

Are there other people living here?” I asked pointing to the house behind us, our house.

Yes of course…” He answered as if it had been obvious all along.

Then why haven’t I ever seen them!” I was angry and hurt now for as much as I loved Arius it seemed an unspeakably cruel thing to keep me from my own kind.

The house creates a life for each child according to their innermost wishes…most of them exist in illusions of their former home. You chose the truth.” It was all too much. I shook myself free when he moved to comfort me and ran into the house searching each room I came upon with violent fervor. Why couldn’t I find the others? Why had I chosen to live in this wasteland with Arius when I could have been living in paradise (false though it might have been)? Was my imagination that stunted that I had simply been unable to come up with anything on my own? I thought of Arius as he had appeared to me all those years ago, of the sadness I had perceived in his averted gaze. Had I stayed for him? Had I sensed his loneliness? His isolation? Was I bound here by empathy? By love? Or by my own cynical, rational mind?

I spent days wallowing in my self-pity and doubts. And everyday without fail Arius brought me food and water. Sometimes he even left me puzzle boxes with little items inside, items that he thought were treasures but I recognized as pebbles, feathers, and shells. Once he even brought me a cow bell on a silver platter and I was sure it was the best thing he could think of and I couldn’t help but laugh despite my frustration. Arius didn’t quite understand what it was that made humans tick. In the end I concluded that he had nothing to do with my choice to remain. In the end I concluded that he had everything to do with my choice to remain.

It was only after the veil of self-pity had lifted that I remembered Arius’ words “Our objectives are in opposition to one another.” Arius’ had confided his dream to me. He wanted to save the children and starve the beast. Did that mean that Zagan was doing the opposite? Was Zagan responsible for Oz’s death?