Photo Challenge #426

Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

I go wherever my shadow takes me.

The inversion took place two years ago. It wasn’t just me. Every living person on the planet was affected. Some say it was a virus, some blame it on environmental toxins and climate change, a handful of people believe that mushrooms were somehow responsible but I know the truth. It was a rebellion of mercy. I don’t blame the shadows. I applaud them. Let’s face it we were never going to save the world. We couldn’t even save ourselves from ourselves.

When I was a child I believed that everyone had an evil twin, a shadow self. Turns out that we were the shadows, the evil twins, we were just too busy inflating our egos to realize it. Evil isn’t really the right word though, I know that now. It is more accurate to say that we were misguided. Not by the shadows. They only ever try to help but by our limited senses, beliefs, and judgments.

My life as an observer is a lot simpler. My decisions are made in advance and they are always in alignment with my highest good. I am living my truth. I am seeing connections where before all I saw were mountains and crevasses of division. I am learning to heal centuries of shame. I am learning to appreciate the absurdities. Firstly the idea that we come into this world alone is complete bollocks. I have never been alone. My shadow has been my constant companion and now she’s helping me to undue a lifetimes’ worth of toxic habits and beliefs. Soon I will be free. We all will. The shadows are rebuilding Eden. Can you believe it? Heaven on earth!

Why did the chicken cross the road? To reunite with his higher self. Black is all the colors in one. All along the angels were beside us only we perceived them as stains against the chaos of our lives. Truth is they were just too bright for us to perceive.


Round 4 18+

(very long chapter but this concludes Damien’s section: strong sexual content and suggestive conversations)

Damien left with the young man that had been seated beside him during the fight. Lathan was a 21 year old college student. He was on the track team, a sort of local legend as it were. As a lover he was enthusiastic and kinky in ways that Damien could not possibly have predicted. These qualities coupled with the other’s tremendous stamina had made for an enjoyable night but a night was all Damien could offer the athlete. Damien wasn’t willing to risk attachment and Lathan had struck him as a bit too eager.

Without the distraction Lathan afforded Damien naturally began to think of Naida. It wasn’t unusual for the elf to disappear for a few days without contact and Damien wasn’t really the sort to keep tabs. He preferred a certain degree of independence and initiative in his lovers but this situation warranted extra consideration. Naida had never been disappointed with his matchmaking efforts. He’d gone to great pains to arrange this liaison for the elf. He had no reason to doubt the success of his match. He’d witnessed the chemistry for himself first hand. What concerned him was Naida’s return. There had always been the possibility that Naida might not survive the encounter/might be too wounded to return of his own accord/might be detained indefinitely by the demon. There was also the possibility that the elf had simply chosen to remain with the demon. This latter possibility did not weigh upon him quite so much as the former. Damien had a lot in his favor and Naida was very attached to him.

Unable to sleep Damien woke at 12 am. He showered and dressed not in his usual suit but in a pair of well-fitted dark blue jeans, a white t-shirt with motif, and a charcoal blazer. He didn’t summon his chauffeur, it was a nice night, cool but not too cold. He decided on a walk to clear his head. Originally he had thought of hitting his usual nightclub but he was seduced by the music coming from another establishment, in a neighborhood which he was not known to frequent.

No one greeted him at the door. Patrons came and left without discrimination. Damien thought it best not to leave anything with the shifty-eyed man at the check-in. The floors were distressed and in places sticky. There was a smell. Not just one smell but dozens of overlapping smells, some of which were borderline offensive. There was a general sort of shabbiness and uncleanliness that made him consider leaving. The live music was incredible and the patrons were across the board above average, he could forgive a little dinginess after all. He headed toward the bar but was accosted half-way by a large hand. He turned around and found himself looking at the throat and collarbones of an incredibly tall person. 

“Can I buy you a drink?” The voice was like the shifting of tectonic plates, 

Damien felt the reverb in his temples, chest, and groin simultaneously. He looked up. The man had dark features, black eyes, thick black hair, dense eyelashes, dark complexion. His nose was a bit crooked but his strong jaw and full, well-shaped mouth made up for that. The stranger was dressed casually in jeans and a black vintage Nirvana t-shirt. He was not the kind of one-night stand Damien had in mind.

“You’d be wasting your time.” Damien responded in a loud, clear voice lest the stranger feign deafness. His grin was nuanced, bordering on offensive.

“Isn’t that why we’re here to waste time?” The stranger quipped, the depth of the man’s voice was capable of circumventing the crowd to a certain extent. Damien’s eyes traveled from the dark-haired man’s Adam’s apple upward to his fully expressed grin. The stranger’s face was tilted down and in his expression was a gentleness like windswept leaves. Such a sentiment was misplaced in the current setting and Damien found himself oddly confronted by it.

He had a point, Damien had come here specifically to waste time, to lose it really. All those hours spent thinking of Naida had become intolerable to him. He’d felt as if he’d lost his rhythm in the last few days and he resented it.

“You should know before you throw any money my way that I have no intention of sleeping with you.” The edge in Damien’s tone was diminished only by the transmission of said message directly into the stooping man’s ear. 

“I’m here for the music…” The stranger’s smile was easygoing and unpretentious. Had Damien been less narcissistic, he might well have accepted the other’s explanation but as a tried and true narcissist he saw only the convenience of a well-timed excuse.

“I am not in the habit of accepting drinks from strangers.” Damien tried again to thwart the man’s attention all the while aware of a certain willingness on his part for distraction. The trip to the bar, which had seemed so formidable in the crowd, was simplified by his companion’s imposing stature. The man ordered two drinks. “Devaris.” The stranger offered with a grin too imprecise to be an affectation. Damien took the offered drink. 

“Damien Aucoin…” The blond took a sip of his drink, it was excellent, if a bit strong.

“I know who you are.” Devaris said guiding Damien through the crowd to an empty table. Devaris’s lips ghosted the outer edge of the aristocrat’s ear when he spoke.

The blond turned his head to the side and rubbed his neck. Damien was forced to accept and return the man’s intimacy for the sake of conversation. The warmth of the other’s palm was apparent on his skin, when coupled with the stranger’s obvious interest, Damien felt oddly exposed. “You know?” Damien was well-known, even infamous in certain circles, but Devaris did not belong to those circles.

“I was at the fight. That was some stunt you pulled with your boyfriend. I can’t decide if you are depraved or just really fucking naive. Either way it was entertaining.” Devaris explained, his dark eyes shining with a mixture of humor and curiosity. How a man of such daunting proportions made himself appear so childlike Damien could not even begin to imagine. Was the other deliberately trying to disarm him?

“We have an open relationship…not that it’s any of your business.” Damien, despite his reservations, took a seat. The man drew their chairs closer together to counter the noise of the club. Their knees brushed.

“I gathered and it’s not my business but you asked how I knew you. That’s how…” Devaris smiled and took a sip of his own drink. He seemed unaffected by the alcohol content.

“Did you bet on the fight?” Damien asked scanning his companion, sea blue eyes dreamy, almost languid. Damien took another sip; he would certainly order this drink in the future.

“I did.” Devaris’s off-kilter grin was cryptic.

“And were you rewarded?” Damien asked his lips unconsciously, purposefully, touching the man’s outer ear.

“I was but I went home alone.” Devaris had seen Damien leave, had thought perhaps to talk to him, but refrained on seeing him preoccupied with another. At least this was the conclusion on which Damien’s mind fastened. Damien took another sip, this one for the sake of contemplation. Although he had not yet finished his first drink he was quick to order another round when the opportunity presented itself.

“And yet here you are….no prospects for a satisfactory conclusion…” Damien grinned and Devaris laughed. Damien felt his scalp tighten and tingle. Devaris laughed with his eyes closed, laughed without the constraint of artifice.

“What makes you think I’m here expressly to get laid?” Devaris asked sitting aside his glass, his attention so full and articulate that Damien found himself almost moved by it.

“Because that’s how it works in these places.” Damien answered and this time when he leaned forward to speak he inadvertently grabbed the other man’s thigh. This did not go unnoticed by Devaris. Damien felt very poignantly that he had been noticed and so he continued talking. “I admire your idealism but a successful hunt depends on more than just the tenacity of the hunter…” Damien removed his hand from the man’s thigh and took up his drink. “Two predators will only compete against each other…” Damien toyed absently with his glass before knocking back the contents.

“You do strike me as the predatory type but I’m not one to pass up a challenge.” Devaris answered putting his arm around Damien’s shoulder.  Damien felt not just the physical impetus for closeness but an almost gravitational pull toward his drinking companion. The audacity of the stranger caused the blond to laugh out loud, despite himself. The dark-haired man had an answer for everything, not necessarily a good answer but one sufficient to keep Damien engaged. 

“I fight back.” Damien answered with a sly grin but before the other could retort he launched into a tamer line of discourse. The conversation had taken a dangerous turn and for all his seeming confidence he was at a decided disadvantage.


Damien was so engaged as to be unaware of his alcohol consumption. He could not say precisely when he began his second drink or when Devaris had ordered a third, different, possibly stronger drink. He could not say how long he allowed the man to hold him or at what point specifically he pulled away.

“Do you ever fight? In the matches I mean.” Damien had previously noted the man’s muscular forearms and strong, calloused hands.

“No never…” Devaris admitted. Something in the curve of his mouth suggested amusement, awareness of a diversion but a willingness to proceed with the hopes of solidifying the character of the innocuous suitor. With a voice such as the stranger possessed it seemed that a more strait-forward seduction would save time. Devaris wasn’t in a hurry. He had all night and every reason to persist. Damien bit his lip in consternation before returning to the conversation at hand. 

“Then you are a laborer of some sort?” Damien asked critically, examining the man’s nails. They were clean and flush with his fingertips.

“Of some sort yes. I am a carpenter, mostly furniture.” Devaris offered amicably before continuing in a different vein altogether, perhaps in an effort to draw the conversation to a more tumultuous climax  “Let me guess you were born into wealth. Family business. Oppressive obligations. Chronically bored. Hedonist.” 

“You see straight through me…you and everyone else…I am surprisingly shallow.” Damien laughed dryly. He was, despite his efforts to the contrary, enjoying himself. He attributed some of his enjoyment to the alcohol and music but there was no denying that Devaris played a part. 

“I am a simple man. I prefer to know what I am getting into…” Devaris laughed. Damien felt his bones growl.

“And what exactly do you imagine you are getting into?” Damien asked, leaning forward and speaking his words against the other’s ear.

“You maybe…” Devaris answered in a tone which left little to the imagination.

The color drained from Damien’s face. He could feel the stranger’s eyes on him. ‘At last he admits it!’ Damien thought but it afforded him little comfort. It didn’t even afford him the ego boost generally accompanied by such attention.

“Do you want to dance?” Devaris asked, changing the subject so quickly that Damien, intoxicated as he was, forgot to retort. Just who did this bastard think he was and what right did he have to impose upon the only ritual which the young aristocrat still held to be sacred? It was absurd to think there could be anything between them. 

“With you? No not really…” Damien was careful to enunciate, maybe a little too careful. He’d tried to match his companion’s drinking pace but he’d failed. The man’s voice was just as much to blame for his drunkenness as the alcohol he’d imbibed. That voice, he suspected, was the whole reason he’d lost track of himself.

“But I with you.” He added standing up. For the last few minutes, hours, days (he had lost all sense of time) they’d been speaking and breathing into each other’s ears. He had literal goosebumps but conversation had never been his primary objective in going out. Dancing would at least silence the man for a while.

The two men moved to the center of the floor and Damien realized that they’d held hands though he could not recall the precise moment of this development. For someone so tall Devaris turned out to be a good dancer. Not as good as himself naturally but surprising no less. Damien opened himself up to embrace by leaning in to steady himself. He couldn’t bring himself to admit his short-comings and so he clung to the other with intention. Given the music, their proximity, and the way in which the crowd closed in on every centimeter of unoccupied space they were left with no alternative but to grind against each other. The difference in their heights made Damien feel smaller than he was in actuality. He knew precisely what role he fell into even though the dance itself had no clear lead. Wrapped up in the other’s surprising but mercifully dry body heat Damien could not help but breathe in the stranger’s scent. Consciously and unconsciously he was aware of the man’s scent and all the elements that composed it.

Devaris leaned down half-way through the second song and kissed him. Damien didn’t refuse the stranger’s entreaty, he was too caught up in the moment, and all in all it was only a pittance. The kiss was passionate, a cross between sensuality and brutality. Damien was surprised to find that he actually wanted to be kissed. Everything just seemed to taste better in Devaris’ mouth and in that moment, despite his objections, everything fell into place. The alcohol made Damien a little sloppy, a little more needy than he might have otherwise wanted to reveal. By the time they parted his lungs were raw and his cock was fully engaged. He turned around in the other’s embrace hoping to collect himself but failing. He wasn’t the only one with an erection. He tried to pull away but Devaris pulled him backwards and kissed his neck. One large hand snaked downward to fondle his crotch. Damien shuddered, fell into the man’s rhythm, and allowed himself to be carried away by the music. There was no reason to overthink the situation, it was just the character of the dance, a momentary indulgence one that need not lead beyond a little fooling around. Damien ground into the other man’s palm. He wished that he hadn’t chosen to wear jeans, there was little give in the material and the friction was absolutely maddening.

They continued to dance in a progressively lewd manner. Their hands chasing whatever skin was available. Damien bit and sucked at Devaris’ pouty lower lip. Devaris took the whole Damien’s ass into his hands and squeezed/kneaded him into a sort of dizzy, endorphin-confused subservience. They found every conceivable way to rub their erections against each other’s bodies until, to Damien’s astonishment, he found his boxer briefs damp and sticky with precum. Devaris shoved a hand down the front of Damien’s pants and growled into his ear. For a moment the carpenter’s large, calloused hand was in direct contact with the aristocrat’s throbbing erection. Damien inhaled sharply. The stranger proceeded to drag that same, now slippery hand across Damien’s bare stomach. At this point there could be no question that Damien was drunk. Why else would he allow the man such liberties? Being in public didn’t bother the blond in the slightest he’d participated in orgies, he’d even had sex in front of a room full of onlookers. And yet somehow in that moment he felt astonishingly defenseless. 

“Bathroom now…” This was all wrong. Damien tugged the stranger through the crowd and into the bathroom. It was occupied, even at this hour, with would be onlookers. Damien found a reasonable spot by the wall and unzipped his pants. “It’s just head…I-I’ll suck you off after…” His voice cracked. He’d aimed for nonchalance and failed. Devaris dropped to his knees in front of Damien and undid the fastenings on his jeans. For the sake of access Devaris let Damien’s pants and boxer briefs fall to the floor. Relief was instantaneous but short-lived, even without the added pressure of his pants Damien’s erection was still full to bursting. The blond reached down into the dark mass of hair. It was much softer than he thought and much thicker. He felt the man’s enormous hand encircle his dripping erection, he winced, the friction from their incessant grinding had heightened his sensitivity. 

Devaris lifted up the blond’s t-shirt with his free hand and licked Damien’s stomach clean. Damien closed his eyes and tilted his head back. He felt the other’s warm, moist breath across his cockhead. Cool by comparison. Devaris’s tongue traced the ridge between shaft and glans, drifted almost languidly along the cleft, and then around the tip slowly before swallowing up the hole head. Damien’s grip tightened. “Fuck…” He growled impatience and pleasure combining to undue him. The other smiled around his cock, descended slowly, half way, then came back to flick the crown, then faster, deeper, his fingers forming a ring at the very base for support. After several passes up and down his shaft the man pulled away and proceeded to mercilessly rub and knead the head of his cock until Damien was weak in the knees and incoherent. Pre cum welled at the slit, overflowed, and spilled back onto the man’s fingers. It was embarrassing, how wet he was, how eager. His sac, his hips, even his thighs were wet as a result of their earlier activities. He’d gotten shamefully close to cumming on the dance floor.

Devaris’s mouth covered his cock bobbing up and down, probing the too tight slit, it only took a few passes before he’d swallowed the entire shaft. Damien could literally feel the constrictive walls of the stranger’s throat, the hum of his satisfied growls, and the other’s nimble tongue stroking his distended, throbbing veins as it traveled over every inch of his shaft. Everything escaped him: their location, the men jerking off a few feet away, the smell of urine, everything but the way Devaris’ lips and tongue felt when thus employed. He clawed at the man’s scalp with blunt nails, coaxing and then ramming his cock down the other’s throat. Devaris seemed altogether too familiar with his preferences, squeezing his balls just a little too tightly, letting his teeth scrape gently across the delicate skin, letting himself relax into a sort of sloppiness that was in no way inherent given the prowess he’d already demonstrated. Damien’s thoughts were replaced entirely by sensory input, input that he could not wholly differentiate. All that he felt seemed concentrated in his sex. It was all he could do to even remain upright. As for his moans he didn’t care who heard them, he didn’t even care that it was Devaris’ name that he repeated in a voice that was clearly not his own. He was shaken to the core, shaken and forced to hold the man for support. His eyes rolled back, his mouth slackened, he drifted in and out of awareness like a man at sea.

It was an unusual fetish of his, having his cockhead gnawed and yet Devaris seemed to know it just as he seemed to know everything else. That it hurt was the point, Damien liked everything to hurt a little. Each time he felt the other’s teeth on him his cock spasmed with such ferocity that he couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t actually cumming. He was violently awake in those moments, awake like his survival depended on it and then his overwrought senses merged again and he was reduced to his own obscene futility. 

Devaris seemed intent to make him wait, to not quite let him cum, he was denied twice the satisfaction. He resorted to begging, to throat fucking, and even a little cursing. To tease him in such a filthy place no less but Damien liked that too, the attention, knowing that people saw him and were aroused. Devaris didn’t complain or even move to slow him, he just relaxed his throat and let Damian fuck him in earnest. Once free to climax it didn’t take long. He didn’t give a warning when he came because no warning could possibly have been more emphatic than his feverish cries or the spasms wracking his hips, balls, and shaft simultaneously. He wanted Devaris to drink his cum, the thought of seeing that bastard’s beautiful, lying face covered in cum made his orgasm that much harder.

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.

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 (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.

Bonus Wordle “Wild West”

Bonus Wild West

The saloon doors swing open with a shrill sigh. A man steps in, spurs on his boots jangling like loose change, holsters loaded. A cowboy from the frontier he claims but he’s got a very specific aura, the sort that hangs over a man like a noose. His face and hands are cracked from weather exposure and emotions that I cannot discern at a glance. He takes the stool beside mine, elbows on the bar, gaze just to the right of the bartender’s suspecting frown. He orders Cactus wine and some victuals. He is in need of lodging but the barkeep insists that there are no rooms for rent. This, of course, is a lie there are always room for rent. Strangers aren’t welcome in these parts and the lawman is a no-account drunk.

I’ll only be needing a roof, a barn would do.” The man is undaunted by the bartender’s churlish demeanor and so it goes for a couple of rounds each man with his own agenda. I reckon this guy is an outlaw, he’s all gristle and grace, eyes as black and soulless as a lump coal but I’ve got a room and nothing fit to steal so I make the man an offer. He accepts. The bartender shakes his head slowly from side to side. I swallow my regret down with a pint and lay my money on the bar.

The man says nothing on the journey but on arrival he is compelled to tell his story. He was, in his youth, a gunslinger. Just like his old man and his five, now three, older brothers. Point of fact he comes from a long line of criminals. He didn’t have the stomach for blood though and picked up a lasso in his late 20s.

People judge on account of my appearance and my name once they hear it. Reckon I’m as low as they come. Don’t much care for proof, gossip should be a crime, can take away a man’s life as surely as a bullet.” He goes silent as smoke and I know he’s said all that he means to for now.

I have never written anything in this genre, ever



Part #12

(demons, horror)

At the designated time they set out. The house was eerily quiet and although they had uncovered several windows everything still looked haunted and grey.

The first room on their tour was Xyvens’. The room was fairly unremarkable but there was evidence that someone was staying there. There was a black winter jacket hanging on the back of the door, a dead cell phone, and a working lap top. Dak’kon checked for an internet connection but there were no viable options. Beside the laptop there was a stack of games and DVDs presumably to stave off boredom. Dak’kon did not look through the titles or the files on the man’s computer. He wasn’t interested in Xyven himself and even if he had been he would have went with a more direct approach. There was no evidence that the demon had been here, no evidence of torment or struggle.

“He has a whole pharmacy in here.” Nikolai was standing in front of the open wardrobe. The shelves were stocked with pills, powders, and phials of fluid. Xyven wasn’t making his drugs here but he had a sizable stash. The bottles all had peculiar hand-written names, they were custom and likely for the man’s personal entertainment. They were organized into categories aphrodisiacs, analgesics, paralytics, hallucinogenics, sedatives, stimulants and so on. Everything was so neatly organized that it would be impossible to remove anything without tipping the man off. This was more than sufficient to get the chef arrested if that had been their aim. What would the backlash be? A bunch of dead policemen? A demon on the loose?

“You were right about the drugs.” Dak’kon said closing the wardrobe door. He didn’t really like the idea of Xyven having access to such an impressive arsenal especially considering the man’s propensity toward non consensual sharing.

“Lets check out the other rooms.”

Strange turned out to be the operative word. All the rooms had their share of curiosities and from the looks of it Xyven hadn’t changed a thing. There were even items specifically marked with “Do not touch” placards. There were marionettes, rows of broken hand mirrors, moment of death photos, boxes with tiny bones and teeth, amulets and hairpins, cabinets with miniatures arranged in various horrific poses. Dak’kon wasn’t easily scared but he had to question the old man’s choice of décor. How many of the items had been cleansed and how many were still cursed waiting for a clumsy touch to activate them? Dak’kon was careful not to touch any of the old man’s effects, the last thing they needed was another pissed off entity running around. Some of the items Nikolai could identify. The stories varied from touching to horrendous. It was becoming increasingly apparent that he wasn’t qualified as caretaker. What the hell had his grandfather been thinking when he’d left him the place? Possibly that he was the only remaining relative.

“I get it now. What I am supposed to do.” Nikolai said picking up a small hand held mirror. Dak’kon watched as the red head suffused the cursed looking glass with a golden light. He watched the glass restitch itself, grain by grain and the metal regain its sheen. When Nikolai was finished Dak’kon took the mirror turning it over in his hands, it looked as it must have in the moment of purchase. Though the most surprising changes took place at a fundamental level just beneath the threshold of human awareness, the object was purified. If Nikolai could do this with all the forsaken items than he could sell the house with a clean conscious. The gardener went through all the objects on the vanity even the ones that came with explicit warnings.

It was obvious by the red head’s expression, by the furrowing of his brows, that it took a good deal of concentration to the perform the ritual.

“I am so hungry!” Nikolai said flopping backwards onto the bed. He stretched his lanky body out to its maximum length.

“I’ll get us some food.” Dak’kon offered he couldn’t be certain if the base ingredients in the kitchen were contaminated but it seemed far more likely that Xyven added the poison later.

Dak’kon settled with peanut butter sandwiches, it wasn’t so much that he couldn’t cook as it was quick. Nikolai did not follow him to the kitchen and by the time he got back the man was sound asleep. Given that they had only just gotten out of bed it was rather odd. Had the red head overused his powers? Had one of the do not touch items posed a particular challenge? Dak’kon sat the plate down on the nightstand and it was then that he noticed something most curious. A mirage of color rose up from Nikolai’s body like waves of heat off tarmac. Red and black and utterly oppressive. Was Nikolai discharging the negative energies absorbed in the artifacts? Curiosity caused him to reach his hand into the field. The hairs on his arm rose up, endorphins cascaded through every inch of his body. His eyes lost focus and started to close but he forced them open and yanked his hand back. So this is what happened last night? He’d become entangled in the other man’s orbit, an unwitting satellite?

“You haven’t been very honest with me Dak’kon.” There in the doorway was a-not-so-obvious, far-more-intimidating version of Xyven. Long tentacles of smoke wafted from the man’s flesh like ephemeral limbs. His yellow eyes penetrated through the fog and held with Dak’kon’s own in unspoken threat. That he smiled only added to the sense of malice. “Such a terrible curiosity you have…all those questions…all that pointless prodding…” The malevolence floated closer. Why had he revealed himself now? Had he been drawn in by Nikolai’s miasma? “Have you guessed my name yet? No, because I am the progenitor. The evolved. The only one of my kind.” Xyven said stopping in the middle of the room. The overhead light began to flicker maniacally and static filled the room, still Nikolai did not wake up. What had Xyven evolved from? And had evolution rendered him superior or inferior to the source? “And what of Nikolai? Do you know what he is yet? Who?” The demon asked pointing toward the sleeping gardener. “I am not here to answer your pointless questions. I am here to feed. He calls out to me. He is mine.” The demon said and Nikolai’s body began to rise up off the bed.

“Feed on me instead.” Dak’kon said standing, eyes looking directly into the demons’ though it gave him a wicked headache.

“I am monogamous once I have chosen a prey. I would follow you all the days of your life. I give you a few years at most. So I ask you human would you die for that Aasimer?” Aasimer? The word meant nothing to Dak’kon but it was a start. It was now possible to work out Nikolai’s powers. The venom with which Xyven articulated the word suggested that Nikolai was somehow opposite.

“Dying is just part of the charm of being human. I’ll take his place.” Dak’kon stated. He didn’t trust the demon to keep his word but he needed time to come up with a plan.

Xyven lowered Nikolai back to the bed. “Put your hand on him…draw the poison into yourself. If you can withstand it then I’ll accept your offer.” Dak’kon laid a hand on Nikolai’s chest, right over the man’s softly beating heart. Black tendrils wrapped around his forearm, there was no pulling away. That he didn’t know how to initiate an energy transfer didn’t seem to matter, the energy was moving of its own accord. What sort of man would he become? Nikolai’s supernatural powers had assuredly slowed the rate of corruption but he was human and humans were fucked up. He didn’t consider himself to be special or exceptional in any respect, he was just a man plain and simple. He felt powerful, horny, sick to his stomach, distant. His pulse echoed in his ears, as percussive as thunder. His breathing grew harsh and uneven. His cock throbbed with intense heat. His balls were tight and full. His jaw clenched. His eyes grew heavy. The room began to swim around him. Phenomena floated in the air, wisps of color, flashes of transparency, fissures in the very infrastructure. The energy surrounding Nikolai cleared at length and took on a golden sheen.

“Don’t worry about him…he’ll be unconscious for a while.” The demon made a come-hither motion and Dak’kon’s body rose up on its own accord and slid jerkily toward the creature.

“Can we do this in a different room at least…” While Xyven was laughing at his request Dak’kon reached into his pocket for the phial and with a hard flip of the wrist the glass burst all over the floor. Purple effluvium rose from the shards and the demon released him and went totally rigid. Dak’kon’s body dropped and it took a moment before he could get his legs underneath him. He had to get Nikolai to safety that was tantamount but if he could get through the mirror himself that was one compelling fucking bonus.

Dak’kon threw Nikolai over his shoulder and bolted for his bedroom without so much as a glance in Xyven’s direction. Adrenalin kept him on his feet, kept him moving though every muscle in his body revolted. The mirror shifted like water in an aquarium and together they passed through to the other side and possibly into a permanent prison.

Dak’kon closed the portal before putting Nikolai down on the mattress. He could no longer see or hear anything occurring in the rest of the house. They no longer had any reliable way of knowing when Xyven was in a state of dormancy. Without windows they couldn’t even determine the weather and if it was possible to drive the car to safety. As long as the poison was inside of him the demon could find him, this was the only place he knew to be safe and it wouldn’t be safe once they ran out of food. They did have an extra piece of the puzzle though Nikolai was an Aasimer and now that the red head was free of the demon’s disease his powers might be stronger.

Dak’kon paced the room, sometimes stopping and dropping to clutch his throbbing head. He was only just able to prevent himself from throwing up at these times. He ached from the inside out. He burned with fever and yet he was still painfully erect. He kept checking the mirror, kept trying to listen through the walls for some sign but all he could hear was his own wild and grasping breath. Sleeping seemed impossible, he was in too much pain to sleep, his thoughts were frayed but persistent. Eventually exhaustion took over and he allowed himself to slide down the wall to the cold wooden floor before he lost consciousness altogether.

Part 10

(bad language, references to a sexual relationship)

Dak’kon checked his cellphone it was 9:12 am. He had 12 new messages and 2 missed calls. He’d turned the sound off his phone the first night and never bothered to turn it back on. He hadn’t once thought of contacting his friends. Even now he closed the phone without checking his messages. He’d never been much of a phone person and he’d accounted ahead of time for his whereabouts. Most of the messages were probably invitations for sex anyways.

Xyven was in the kitchen preparing the days meals, at least theoretically. There had seemed to him a schism in the man’s personality between day and night. If there was ever a good time to approach the man, it was right now and that was precisely what he intended to do. Nikolai was hiding something from him, even if inadvertently, and it was necessary that he have all the facts before attempting to handle, what was at best a completely impossible situation.

“I need to talk to Xyven and I’d rather not do it drunk. Will you open a portal for me?” Dak’kon asked turning his attention back to Nikolai.

“I can’t stop you can I?” Nikolai sighed out all the air from his lungs, his posture visibly deflated. “Alright but I feel I should at least voice my objections. I have dealt with the demon on a few occasions and he’s clever so I doubt he’d be careless enough to let his identity slip. He has powers too if he decides to pursue you full force there isn’t much chance of escape.” Nikolai made some valid points and yet Dak’kon knew they could not go on living this way. A confrontation was eminent and indeed necessary if he was to learn more.

“Probably not but he was pretty chatty yesterday and who knows he might let something slip.” Dak’kon had made up his mind to do this, despite the danger. So far the demon was keeping his distance, toying with him, and he hoped that the charade would continue a while longer. He wasn’t suicidal. Cocky maybe. Curious yes.

“How will you avoid breakfast?” Nikolai asked and it was clear from his fidgeting that he was uncomfortable, scared even. He had every reason to be and there was little Dak’kon could do to console the other man. There was no use thinking too much about his own fears, he needed to keep his mind as clear as possible.

“I don’t plan to avoid it. I’ll take my time eating it and extract all the information I can from him. There is just one thing I haven’t figured out how to escape if he drugs me again. Do you have anything that could stun him?” If Xyven was a demon it seemed unlikely he would be able to physically overtake him, even if he wasn’t Xyven was a big fucking guy and he’d be no match for the man drugged.

“Whose to say he’ll give you the same thing? There is no way to know exactly how long you’ll have before the drug takes effect. I do have something though. Something your grandfather gave me. He didn’t tell me how to make it or even what it was but he said it would buy me time if I ever got caught.” Nikolai walked over to a small table in the corner and opened the bottom draw. After a few minutes of hesitation he came back with a small phial of purple fluid. “All you have to do is break the glass when you want to use it. The demon will be stunned for about five minutes. I’ll wait for you.” Nikolai said reluctantly handing over the flask. Dak’kon held the bottle up to his eyes, the liquid had a curious shimmer.

“Wait for me in the bedroom I don’t want to risk him sensing you. I’ll use this at the first sign of drugs in my system. Last time he caught me off guard this time I’ll be careful.” Dak’kon slipped the bottle into his pocket.

After getting dressed Dak’kon headed to the kitchen (making sure to transfer the bottle). Xyven was there, right on schedule, fiddling with something on the stove. He’d noted nothing unusual about the man’s appearance and when he entered the man received him without any obvious signs of aggression. The chef appeared to be in good spirits.

“Hey, breakfast will be done in a bit. Have a seat.” Dak’kon took the same seat, stealing himself to the uncertainty. He was sitting some sort of record for interest in other people’s fucking business. There was a part of him that just wanted to sit staring silently at the black window but he couldn’t waste his time like that anymore.

“Did you ever get out yesterday? You have that sex glow about you.” Xyven said looking up from the frying pan.

“Not sex, more like a very intense dream.” Dak’kon was startled by the other’s observational skills but he did his best not to show it.

“A dream huh? Every time I spend the night in this place I end up having nightmares.” Xyven commented flipping the fish in his pan over. He still hadn’t figured out if there was actually a human being in the chef’s body or if the demon was just messing around with him.

“Yeah what kind of dreams?” Dak’kon asked trying to keep his tone as neutral as possible, the last thing he wanted to do was arouse suspicion by going into full-fledged interrogation mode. Xyven didn’t strike him as the patient type.

“There’s this entity stalking me. Whatever the dream I can feel it, right there on the very edge of my perception. Like a malevolence. As the dream continues it gets closer and closer. It’s patient but relentless. By the end of the dream it’s right on top of me and then bam it swallows me up.” The chef said and though he laughed it was empty, and meaningless like an echo. “The thing is sometimes when I am wide awake I look into that mirror in the bathroom and its all black and distorted and I remember that dream.” He continued, fish done he started to plate up breakfast. This time it was Japanese-style rice, miso soup, mackerel, a side of simmered vegetables. Dak’kon was half Japanese on his father’s side but having never met the man he’d never eaten anything like this for breakfast. He wondered absently if Xyven had made this specifically for him?

“Looks like the old man got into your head a bit.” Dak’kon didn’t know how long he’d be able to maintain consciousness after he started eating, he had to get to the point. “You ever witness anything else out of the ordinary while staying here?” He asked taking the dishes from Xyven and organizing them around himself.

Xyven returned to the stove after serving him. “I told you I didn’t believe in that shit. The weirdest thing around here was the people.” Dak’kon got the feeling the other wanted to say more on the subject but that he required a bit of prodding.

You have a captive audience…so tell me about them.” Dak’kon offered lifting up his first mouthful of food. Once the man got going he would slow down.

I guess you never actually met your grandfather. He was an alright guy. Pretty fucking funny when he was drinking. Bad taste in music though. He performed exorcisms, actually got paid for it too. If he didn’t believe in the shit himself I’d say he was one hell of a con artist. Anyways he comes back from this one job and he’s got this creepy ass stature with him. You know the one in the foyer? After that he became reclusive, sullen almost. He’d disappear for days at a time. Hauled up in one of those secret rooms no doubt. The only person he really talked too was Nikolai.” Xyven grew silent and at first Dak’kon thought he wouldn’t continue.

Nikolai was more of an enigma though. When we first met the guy barely said a word to me. He just kinda of watched me out of the corner of his eye. He came off as being really innocent but I reckon that was some kind of act given what follows. He always spoke about himself in the 3rd person and he was amazed by everyday objects. Once he moved in he never left. Never went into the city. Never called home. Never talked about his past. No last name. Nothing just a blank fucking slate. I guess he had amnesia or something. I asked your grandfather once where he came from and he looks at me and says ‘I found him’. What the hell does that mean he found him that’s not something you say about a grown man, a dog maybe but not a grown man.” Xyven seemed to have warmed to the subject, apparently the issue with Nikolai had been weighing on his mind for a while.

You think the old man abducted him?” Dak’kon asked this was definitely news to him but how could he dispute it given how little he knew about his grandfather.

I don’t know. Nikolai seemed happy here or maybe he was just happy in general. Then one day the guy just up changes his whole persona. He started expressing an interest in me and by interest I mean a sexual interest. The sex was incredible, best I ever had. He had this ability, like some kind of empathic thing. Everything was just amplified I don’t know how to explain it.” Dak’kon picked slowly through his breakfast even though it was delicious. The sensations in his dream had been intense, rivaling anything he’d ever experienced in life.

There was one other thing that struck me as odd. I had seen every inch of that man’s body and he was perfect. No scars. No moles. No beauty marks. Nothing. Like a doll. Except his eye. When we first met he had matching green eyes. Greenest eyes you have ever fucking seen. But then one of his eyes just up and turns black, even the white part. I asked him about it later. You know what he told me? Not a damn thing. It was like that with him.” Xyven said sighing in frustration. When Dak’kon thought back on it he couldn’t remember seeing any imperfections on Nikolai’s body either, though unlike Xyven, he hadn’t seen every inch. There were other things that jived as well, namely the empathic abilities.

Dak’kon was half-way through his meal, so far he felt more or less okay. The plan was to leave as soon as he was finished, sooner if he noticed any symptoms. If he got lucky he wouldn’t even need the safety measure. Would Xyven really try to poison him a second time? “And all that wasn’t enough to convince you huh.” Dak’kon said jokingly.

The only thing it convinced me of is that I’d put up with just about anything for great sex.” The sound of meat searing in a hot pan was sobering. He returned his attention to his food.

What about you? Where are you from?” Dak’kon asked did Xyven suffer similar gaps in his memory?

Alabama.” The man did not elaborate, apparently he found talking about himself boring.

What happened to your accent?” Dak’kon asked taking a sip of his coffee.

I lost it, on purpose.” Apparently the man’s past was a bit of a sore point.

How did you get interested in cooking?” The man appeared to have a genuine interest in food maybe the other would warm to the topic of his past if they kept things neutral.

Funny thing really. I used to sell drugs. I didn’t just sell drugs I designed them and I was good at it. My specialty was aphrodisiacs. I was cocky though and that’s how I got arrested. They put me to work in the kitchen. I liked it and after I got out I started looking for work as a cook. Most people were put off by the record. I almost went back to selling drugs just to make ends meet. Then I met this old dude Douglas Hannigan. He was an ex con, he’d turned his life around opened up one of those mom and pop joints. He decided to give me a chance. He was a real hard ass but he was a good teacher. Things were good for a while, I learned a lot from him. He even paid for my education. He was going to leave me the restaurant but then these punks torched the place during the night. If the police hadn’t gotten to them first I would have killed them, kids or not. We started rebuilding the place bit by bit but he never really recovered from the loss, died about two months later unexpectedly. He never got around to making out a will and it turned out that he had some legitimate kids that he was estranged from, they got everything.” Xyven answered never pausing in his recollection. The man was certainly bitter about what happened but it seemed to Dak’kon that he was too resigned to exact vengeance.

For the rest of his meal Dak’kon continued to peel away layers of the chef’s life. The man had a younger brother Xerxes, a firefighter still living in their hometown, he was married with two kids. He also had a younger sister Xanthippe she was a meth head and a prostitute. His dad was a drunk. His mom was a heroine addict. He didn’t go into details about what probably was a shitty childhood but it was apparent that Xyven recalled everything with reasonable clarity. He didn’t note in their discussion any of the peculiarities he’d seen on the previous night and Xyven made absolutely no reference to the encounter. At some point during their discussions the chef opened the back door to show him the snow. There was about a foot, that was problematic. Xyven did not react to the sunlight and even offered to help with repairing the house since he couldn’t go home anyways. He asked the man to help clear out the unused bedrooms for all the good that would do.

Dak’kon finished his whole meal without getting sick. What was going on exactly? The list of things he couldn’t explain only seemed to increase. Most of it could be unraveled with logic, it was the bits that could not that propelled him on this wild goose chase. The turn in the weather made it unlikely that he would make it to the city anytime soon. His grandfather’s driveway was miles long, wilderness all around. The back roads might not even be plowed. Dak’kon stopped by the bathroom first to brush his teeth before heading to the bedroom. Nikolai was waiting on the bed.

Part 6

(this chapter is a bit more scary/creepy it also contains a bit of innuendo)

The library was filled wall to wall with books. Dak’kon had no idea what he was looking for, at least not specifically. A random search would have taken months. He needed to find a solution to Xyven’s possession and a means of ridding the house of any and all infestations. He decided to start his search with the heavily dog-eared books on the side table. The books, he soon discovered, were filled with illegible notes and more usefully highlighted passages.

Most of the books pertained to exorcisms and cleansings. There was one book that pertained to demons but it was apparent that his grandfather had never quite figured out what type of demon possessed Xyven. He seemed to have narrowed it down to a genre, sex fiend. Dak’kon was going to have to talk/interact with Xyven again if he was ever going to riddle out the monster’s identity. His grandfather had dedicated his whole life to research and Dak’kon wasn’t prepared to sacrifice that kind of time.

“I took you to be a man of science.” Dak’kon’s head snapped up. It was too early. Xyven loomed in the doorway but there was something wrong with him. The man appeared, almost unsteady, like the flicker of a dying street lamp.

“Well there’s not exactly a lot to do around here for entertainment.” Dak’kon said sitting the books to the side. He was going to play this casual and if possible avoid a confrontation.

“It looks like you’ve been redecorating. I don’t like what you’ve done with the windows.” The demon’s tone expressed displeasure. A displeasure so fundamental that it could even be thought a precursor to violence. What started out as a slow out of sync walk across the room escalated rapidly. Before Dak’kon could even rise from his chair Xyven had crossed the room and was bent over him gripping the chair’s arm rests. The demon’s face was close, too close. Dak’kon didn’t flinch, at least not outwardly. Everything was an act, a machinations, and as much as Dak’kon hated playing games everything depended upon his ability to put up a good front.

“I can think of better uses of your time.” Xyven said his grin was wide, serpentine. Dak’kon caught the innuendo and it repulsed him.

“I don’t think I like what you have in mind.” Dak’kon said eyes narrowing. From this distance he thought that Xyven looked pale, almost waxy. Was the demon forcing himself to be awake? In any case he’d learned something important Xyven did not care for the changes he’d made to the house. Did Xyven have issues with natural light? Or was it change?

Xyven’s laugh was deep and unsettling. “That’s too bad…” The demon said and though he rose he remained close. Close enough that Dak’kon couldn’t comfortably get out of the chair. “I think we’d have fun together but who would be on top?” The question seemed to amuse the demon a good deal. Dak’kon did not humor the demon further by proposing an answer. Any answer, even defiance, would have only served to continue that line of discourse.

Instead he changed the subject. “I thought you’d be headed out by now.” Dak’kon commented doing his best to keep his tone and body language relaxed.

“I have a room here didn’t you know that? The weather forecast is threatening snow figured I’d better stay the night encase the roads become impassable.” Xyven seemed disinterested in this particular line of conversation and answered only to keep up the pretense of civility. “So did you ever run into Nikolai?”

“Sorry I haven’t seen him. I guess he moved on.” Dak’kon responded careful not to rush his words and careful not to break his gaze lest it look like he was being deceitful.

“That is unfortunate.” Xyven said more to himself than to his present company. “We’ll be spending a lot of time together in the upcoming months. I would prefer if we got along. You are aware of my reputation. That is all in the past. I had a difficult upbringing. Got mixed up in drugs. Took a bad course. But I’ve put that behind me now.” Xyven seemed oddly sincere, human almost. What was the game? He’d just seen the man move across the floor with unnatural speed. Was it Xyven that was different? Or was it his perception that was warped?

“I only glanced at your resume. I am not one to belabor the past. We’re cool.” They weren’t cool, Dak’kon hadn’t liked Xyven from their very first conversation. The way he’d spoken about Nikolai, denigrated him. He couldn’t deny that they had similarities. He slept around a lot. He was also very forthright with his lovers about his intentions. It was their similarities perhaps more than their differences that caused his revulsion. He’d never referred to anyone as a slut though, that would have been hypocritical.

“You’re alright Daks heh just don’t read too many of these books they’ll rot your brain same way they did the old mans.” Xyven lifted one of the books off the table and let it fall to the floor with what Dak’kon took to be disgust. There was a threat imparted in the demon’s tone that suggested to him some degree of intimidation. Clearly there was something in these books, an answer, a hint, a potential weapon. “Look I am going to turn in early. See you around.” Xyven really did seem to be feeling unwell. The man’s gait was slightly staccato. There was a sound too like static on an old CRT television.

Dak’kon bid the man goodnight and noted that instead of heading toward the back of the house or up the stairs where the bedrooms were located he headed toward the foyer.

The house had no servant’s quarters, all the staff had slept as guests/residents in the house. That of course included the former chef. Maybe there were some clues in Xyven’s room? It was much too dangerous to attempt entry now, what with the demon semi-conscious and besides he wasn’t even sure which room belonged to Xyven. Dak’kon took the books to his bedroom., they were too important to leave behind.

He had to proceed as planned so as not to arouse any suspicion.

Dak’kon locked the door to the bathroom, a precaution he’d not taken on the first night, A precaution he deduced afforded him only the illusion of security. Nothing remarkable occurred during his shower. It wasn’t until he was finished that he noticed the paint on the window (he hadn’t finished all the windows) had run. Fat, black ribbons stood in stark contrast to the white tiles and that wasn’t the only thing amiss in the room. His image in the broken mirror was even more obfuscated than before. All he could see was heavy, black smoke. So strong was the impression that he even smelled it but a quick survey of the room revealed no flames. He dressed in a blue t-shirt, boxers, and a pair of blue and black checkered pajama bottoms and brushed his teeth feigning ignorance of anything supernatural. ‘Keep your shit together’ He thought and that thought became his mantra.

Dak’kon locked his bedroom door behind him for all the good it did him. Nikolai had not yet reopened the portal and so there was nothing to do but read. He read while drinking vodka from a water bottle. If Nikolai didn’t come through in time he figured he ought to get drunk enough to enter on his own. By the time Nikolai arrived he had a pretty good buzz going.