and if you’d like to support your friendly gay photographer/ author..you can find my sexy gay books here: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Skinner/e/B00J22KFSE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
and if you’d like to support your friendly gay photographer/ author..you can find my sexy gay books here: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Skinner/e/B00J22KFSE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
I knew how different I was. I was made aware of it every day that my dad asked me if I had a girlfriend yet. I’d made up a million responses to that question, but I was getting tired of it. More than that, I was getting tired of knowing that I would never have a response to it. To avoid the question I took to running during dinnertime, or booking a lawn job just so I didn’t have to sit at the table and be faced with devising another answer to the unanswerable query. The world just was not constructed for a person like me to fit in. I wasn’t bad-‐‑ looking. I had a nice face. Pleasant features. No acne. Blue eyes. Decent body. Surely someone out there had to be looking at me the way I looked at others. Somebody out there had to want me the way I desired others. Were they out there looking at me but going through what I was? Not being able to do anything about it? It was frustrating.
I heard my classmates talking about sex all the time and I felt left out. The only guy untouched by human hands. I sat on the sidelines as the football team practiced. Their field was in the middle of the track I ran. From the bleachers I’d watch this parade of masculinity, half in shirts, half skins as they ran and grappled each other to the ground in what looked like a sex dance to me. They’d get up, pat each other’s ass, and go back at it once again. All of it so seemingly normal to them. But to me, it was a personification of sexuality. My eyes viewed the world with a different perspective.
On one particular day there was a guy sitting on the bench I’d not seen before. A new face. He was just another one of those joes like me. Ordinary enough to pass by on the street without a glance. Short blond hair, a lithe but not consequential torso, but with the most extraordinary muscular legs. They looked disproportionate to his body. Thighs that looked impossible to squeeze into his training shorts.
I would watch part of the practice, but inevitably my gaze would drift back to him. He seemed uncomfortable; like he didn’t want to be there. Distracted enough to look almost everywhere but the field. He either wanted to be in the game very badly, or to not be there at all. I could only guess by his body language.
There was a scuffle among two of the players that brought the coach in to intercede. Macho yelling from all sides for a few moments before the shrill bleat of whistle pierced the noise and brought it all to quiet. The hoarse voice of the coach began the reprimand as I returned my attention to the guy on the bench. He stared at me. Straight at me. There was no one else around. I was the only person seated on the bleachers. His hand raised from his lap in a small wave. I made a small, indecisive wave back and then sat there in the strangeness of the moment. I had no clue what just happened or why.
Memorizing You By Dan Skinner: https://www.amazon.com/Memorizing-You-Dan-Skinner-ebook/dp/B00DUXS4Z2/
“You guys have a fun night!” his mom called after us as I followed him across the field.
“What kind of surprise?” I said, straining to see ahead in through the encroaching twilight. Just barely viewable halfway across, I made out a shape that looked like…a tent. A campsite. A ring of rocks with a small fire burning in it. A stack of wood next to it.
“What the hey?” I was amused by the idea. Reading scary stories by a campfire.
“I thought you’d like that,” he said, running ahead of me toward the tent.
I ran to catch up and was surprised that it was a good sized tent with a lantern, a stash of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate for s’mores, a couple of thermos of grape Kool-‐‑Aid, some pretzels, and chips.
The fire had been started earlier and had dwindled down. Ryan threw two more small logs on it to rekindle it.
“There’s gonna be a full moon tonight. That’ll make it even better.” The guy was something else. Who would have thought of turning a study time of Edgar Allan Poe into a campfire side story?
Darkness fell fast, and from where we were situated we couldn’t even see the lights of his house. Only our campsite and the canopy of stars in the cloudless night. We pulled the sleeping bags from the tent around the fire, and propped the lantern on the outside of the tent.
I started with The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. The story of a dying man being hypnotized and still able to communicate after he was dead. Ryan listened intently, only breaking the discourse when he didn’t understand the meaning of a word.
Next I read The Fall of The House of Usher, then, The Masque of Red Death, and finally, The Tell-‐‑Tale Heart.
Ryan looked at me after the last sentence and said, “Wow, that Poe was one sick puppy. He shoulda been in a home.”
“Yes, but he was probably a greater influence to the modern writers of horror and suspense than any other writer. He was more readable than the others. The terror was more realistic. That’s why he’s so important.”
In the flames of the fire I could see he was looking at me with what appeared, to my eyes, to be admiration.
“How do you know all of this stuff?” he asked. “Are you like some whiz-‐‑kid genius?”
“I just like to read,” I answered. “Never made a lot of friends; wasn’t good at sports much. So, I read.”
“Well, good for me,” he said. “I get a tutor and a running buddy all rolled into one.”
He made s’mores and we ate them watching the full moon rise high in the starry night. There was no doubt he was a true nature boy. He loved everything about being outdoors. He sat bow-‐‑legged in the semi-‐‑darkness listening to the sounds of the night like they were a song being sung for him.
I cannot lie. I was captivated by his raw beauty. His blue eyes shone in the lunar light. The curve of his head with its close-‐‑cropped blond hair made me think of an imposing Roman statue of a conquering hero. The masculine inclination of his nose from a square forehead, the slope of cheekbone to a strong block of chin, both alluring and majestic.
“Such a beautiful night,” he commented, his eyes still fixed on the moon. “People lose sight of how beautiful the world is that we live in by sitting in front of the boob tube every night.”
I stared at the curve of his back, the full bicep as he raised his s’more and ate. The blond hair on his legs gleamed in the duo of light.
He turned to look at me, orange embers catching his face again. “Where do you plan to go after high school? Which college?”
I explained to him how it was unlikely I’d be able to attend any college. Our family didn’t have the finances. That I’d probably decide on a trade and go to a school for that.
“You already have a trade that’s making money. Why not just build on that?”
“You mean, mowing lawns?” I’d never thought of it as anything but a school boy’s way of making cash. Not a lifetime profession.
“Why not? Everybody needs their lawns mowed. There’s apartment complexes and office buildings; all kinds of places that would probably pay regularly to have their lawns mowed. You just get more clients, hire more high school guys who want to make extra cash, and build the business up as big as you can.” He looked back up at the moon. “You make your own mulch, sell that service; do shrubbery trimming. There’s all kinds of ways to make money with that stuff.”
Looking back now on how easily someone’s words would end up shaping the course of my life, you’d wonder about things like providence. Retiring after forty years of a very successful lawn care business, made these moments shine like fate was a gold lamp lighting the way.
The moon was waning when we carried our sleeping bags back into the tent, turned off the lantern and listened to the sounds of the night. My mind raced with uncoordinated thoughts, lying so close to him. It was exciting and frightening. But I’d not make a fool of myself. I saw what it looked like to be on the other end of someone who doesn’t feel the same way. The image of Rosemary’s face was always there to remind me.
“So what was your first time like?” His voice came from the shadows, backlit by an expiring campfire. It was odd that he should ask that as I remembered the pained expression of the girl I rejected. “It’s not worth talking about,” I said after a long pause.
“That’s why you were running that first day I saw you, isn’t it? That’s why you were angry.”
I debated whether I wanted to answer it, and then gave in. Maybe I would learn courage from him. “Yeah. I hurt someone I didn’t mean to hurt.”
I heard him shift. His profile disappeared as he turned to look at me. He was in darkness. I couldn’t even see his eyes.
I tried to think of some way to answer that question that didn’t make me look worse than I felt I was. “I made someone believe I was interested in them when I wasn’t. I…was using them.”
“Why?” I didn’t want to explain it.
I didn’t want to touch the subject at all. “It’s complicated.”
His sigh was prolonged. “Ah. My most popular answer when my folks ask me why I’m not dating.”
So many moments passed I thought he’d fallen asleep. I could hear his breathing. The night sounds. The last crackles of the embers in the campfire.
“It’s hard to want to fit in and not be able to,” his voice came barely above a whisper. “They make us feel like it’s easier to lie than be truthful. Easier to hide than be seen. Make us feel like we did something wrong to not be like them. Like we made a conscious choice.”
It seemed I was breaking down inside. It wasn’t out of self-‐‑pity, but out of the realization of the helplessness of the situation. My throat was stifling me, but I found a voice. Small as it was. “I didn’t choose it,” I said. “It was just there one day.”
I couldn’t believe I’d made the admission to him. As the words came out of me, I felt anchors fall away. I could breathe again. I could sense coolness in the night air again.
I heard him laugh. “Sort of like Mozart when he could play the piano at seven?”
I could feel the smile curve my lips. “More like Rudolf having a red nose. How the hell did that get there?”
He snickered into his hands. “So true,” he snorted. “They think it’s like we chose a jacket to wear.”
It was astonishing how much freer I felt having admitted my secret to him. When we settled down from laughing at ourselves, the silence pressed on us again.
“You have to apologize to your friend,” he told me. “You can’t let her go on thinking it was something she did. She’ll carry that forever.”
I knew he was right. I hoped I got the opportunity to do that. It wasn’t something I wanted to carry with myself either. I lay there listening to his light snoring for an hour. I wanted to absorb every moment of this night. I knew it was special. I wanted to keep it locked away inside me forever just the way it was. When I closed my eyes to sleep, I thought of how he’d glowed like a jewel in the light of the campfire. The way the flames carved him against the darkness. The very shape of his head. The smudges of chocolate and marshmallows on his fingers and lips. How the hair on his legs looked like filaments of gold. When I was certain my heart had painted the canvas in my memory…I fell asleep.
Memorizing You By Dan Skinner : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DUXS4Z2
It was no surprise that by the age of nine Robert Lindell Seuthers had a large menagerie rivaling the best zoos. It functioned as a sanctuary on his mother’s sprawling almost 700-acre Maine estate—a veritable landlocked Noah’s Ark. There were videos online of the young boy overseeing the building of the facilities that would be home to over a hundred animals. There were dozens of clips of him giving tours to children from nearby hospitals. He’d established a love of nature at an early age. It wasn’t just a study to him; it was a part of his everyday life. By the time the mini-zoo was completed, Seuthers was thirteen.
In his restlessness, Geoff pulled up several web links on his phone to study his newfound hero. He lingered over the face of the fragile-looking nine-year-old boy with the highly inquisitive eyes. He wondered what it felt like to live inside the head of someone so brilliant. Was there ever a time when he had the real innocence of a child, or did his strange wisdom rob him of the simple joys in his formative years? Was he always a small body waiting to catch up with an adult mind?
Whatever the differences there may have been, it didn’t show on the young countenance surrounded by his animals. He not only delighted in their presence, he loved them all, and it showed. Thinking him someone who would have a zoo/sanctuary solely for entertainment was an underestimation of his intelligence. Seuthers studied everything.
Analyzing him was like following a trail of video breadcrumbs. His entire life: thoughts, accomplishments, amusements, and beliefs were a matter of public record. Video record. If Geoff had a question about him, it was simply a matter of finding the video that held the answer. There were hundreds of them. His fans had tried to organize and archive them by subject matter or age. But the undertaking wasn’t yet complete. His following was immense, comparable to that of a rock star. All one had to do to learn how people of all ages revered him was to scroll through the endless comments beneath each video. Geoff had never seen a genius fan club, but he could understand it with this particular man. He was fascinating.
He was intrigued by the sanctuary and began clicking through the videos archived under that label. He stumbled on one that didn’t just chronicle the animals or new building additions. It was the eighteen-year-old Seuthers conducting a tour of college-age biology students through the facility. They followed him with the starry-eyed look of true admirers. Here was one of their own —already a billionaire inventor. To broke, Ramen-eating college students, he was their rock star.
“It’s an absurd vanity for man to believe he is the capstone of evolution. We live in mere increments of some eighty years and assume that our vision encompasses the dead end of a process of adaptation that takes hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of years. Evolution is a slow and microscopic tinkerer. It’s not something we can witness in a short spectrum of observation. It’s pure, unadulterated arrogance to think that we’ve stopped evolving, that we cannot become something different or greater than what we are at present. We are constantly adapting.” He turned to look at the small gathering of students. “Does anyone know how we can prove that to be true on a small scale which we can see right this very instant?”
Heads turned, eyes all looking at each other, but no raise of hands.
He took a lip balm from his pocket, uncapped it, and smoothed it over his lips. “Chapped lips. We discovered that if we continually use a lip balm, our lips begin assuming they have enough moisture and thus, stop manufacturing it. We get addicted to lip balm because our lips have adapted to our use of it. The only way we can actually un-chap our lips is to quit using it.” He capped it and returned the lip balm to his pocket. “The same can be said of eye drops and nasal spray. The body is continuously in various stages of adaptation to our environment. We discovered that truth years ago with antibiotic use. If we take one particular antibiotic too often, our body acclimates itself to it and it is no longer effective. That’s how we learned to rotate antibiotics in serious illnesses. The truth is, in evolutionary terms, we’re an unfinished blueprint. We still have no idea where our DNA will take us over time, but this—” He made an exaggerated gesture encompassing his whole torso, “is not a finished product by any means.”
He walked them to the small wooded area where two gray wolves slept. “This is Romy and Abe. They are gray wolves. Most of you know wolves have a sense of smell one hundred times more sensitive than humans do. They can sniff out another animal from almost two miles away. It’s not only the way they locate prey, but their highly developed defense mechanism to detect predators.” He turned back to his audience. “Let’s just suppose some things for a moment, because I’m one of those weirdoes who likes to ponder the ‘what if’s in life. Let’s cast an eye on one of the rules of natural selection. The very heart of it, in fact: the survival of the species. Competition for survival is the same with all life in that the creatures with the most advantageous traits are more likely to survive. Each species, like our gray wolves with their highly evolved sense of smell, have their own unique defense mechanisms because of their position in the food chain. The species above and below them on this chain of dominance would all possess their own brand of defense, whether sight, claws, teeth, or size. These traits maintain what we know as a natural balance.” He held up a finger. “Now, we know our position in this food chain and why we’re there. Intelligence. We’ve been able to out-think and out-smart to secure our dominance by creating external defenses: guns, bows and arrows, traps, et cetera. But,” he smiled coyly. “What would happen if that balance were upset? What if there was a failure of technology and man was thrown back into the wild without his weapons and forced to rely on nothing but his wiles? Would evolution change the way we continued to develop? Give us the same mechanisms as other species to allow us to compete with nature and maintain our dominance? Could we possibly acquire the same sense of smell as these wolves? If so, how would that change us? A human with the capability to smell both predator and prey from two miles away?”
“It’d definitely be hard to sneak up on someone,” one of the students offered.
“Practically impossible,” Seuthers agreed. “Boggles the imagination to consider what mankind could be and do because of one sense evolving to a higher state. It changes almost everything. But let us take this game of evolutionary what if a few steps further. Each creature, as I said, has its own brand of defense mechanism: for example, the gazelle has its speed, the armadillo, its armor, the snake its venomous fangs, the chameleon can blend into its background, the seemingly innocuous opossum: the ability to see in the dark.” He walked them to a nearby gulley where two porcupines were munching on a discarded pumpkin. “The quills of the porcupine. Harmless little creature until you try to grab or bite the thing.”
The video panned the faces of the students. They were entranced by the young, now handsome genius and his mental challenges.
“What if man were in a position where he needed these protective devices? A skin like armor, immense speed, the ability to make ourselves unseen to the enemy, the ability to see in the dark? How different would our society be if man had any or all of these?”
“He’d be Batman!” one young man shouted out jokingly.
Seuthers smiled. “Batman is a human who uses weapons. That makes him ordinary. We’re talking Superman territory. Built-in or innate traits that elevate man to a higher degree of invincibility than the ordinary flesh and blood human.”
“A superhero!” “A superhuman. A hero is made so by his or her deeds. Humans are made by genes. The possibilities are infinite. The underlying question is this: if technology were to fail us, say an enormous sunspot were to erupt and EMP us into the dark ages, how would you fend for yourself? How would you shelter and protect yourself? How would you safeguard yourself when the civilized part of civilization was lost? That is a frightening question because mankind as a whole has become dependent on external means to maintain his superiority. We’re no longer creatures savvy to the wild. We’re weak and lazy, and for the most part very unintelligent in spite of ourselves. We have no survival skills. We depend on others to bring our food to us and put it in stores for us to buy and cook. We depend on automobiles and planes and trains to get us to our destinations. How many of us could walk on foot across the city we live in?”
“I don’t even like walking up the stairs to the museum,” a young female voice piped in. “Exactly,” Seuthers said. “The possibility that there could come a time when man would need to continue his evolutionary adaptation may be more real than any of us think. It’s time for us to quit believing that we are the crowning achievement of evolution and realize it would only take one cataclysmic disaster to throw us back onto the bottom rung in nature to start all over again. It wouldn’t take long for us to discover who could survive by adapting.”
At the end of the video, Geoff sat silently, contemplating what he’d just heard. He touched the hairs on his arm thoughtfully. Two words remained with him: “Unfinished blueprint.”
an excerpt from the novel XPERIMENT by Dan Skinner: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B019UUUTY2
He recognized the McHenrys’ truck by the particular chug-chug-clunk sound of its motor. His heart did a song and dance knowing what the sound of that vehicle meant. Either Rory or Dale or both of them had come to cool themselves off in the pond. Even the thought of the teenager brought the now welcome stiffness to his pajama pants.
He listened for a few minutes. The sound of only one truck door opening and slamming. He rose and knelt in front of his window to peer between the silo and the line of oaks that blocked the view of the road and field where the truck was parked. He could see the single darting beam of a flashlight making its way toward the pond. The figure was still too far away to tell who it was, and his heartbeat choked him in anticipation. Fireflies danced like miniature amber lanterns in the deep blue night. The singing insects of summer were alive with a new song, masking the crunch of footfalls on dry grass. Zac picked up the miniature binoculars and held them in front of his eyes, focusing until he found the dark figure moving toward the pond. At last he was beyond the trees moving toward the silo. He was tall. Long, light hair swayed at his shoulders beneath a cowboy hat. Rory. His breath caught.
Once he passed the silo Zac could see him clearly. He had the flashlight in one hand and a bottle of either beer or soda in the other. He paused at the edge of the pond and sat the two things he carried on the ground. He peeled himself out of his pullover T. He kicked off his shoes, removed his socks, rolled them in a ball and stuffed them inside one of the shoes. Zac’s pulse was thick in his throat as he watched him unsnap and unzip his jeans and slip out of them. His naked body glowed like blue marble in the warm moonlight. Even deep in shadow his stature was like a work of art. It was because of the sublime perfection of men like this that songs were written, legends born, dreams fulfilled or hearts broken. Beauty, not blood made princes of this sort.
Zac was breathing so heavily it fogged the lenses of the small binoculars. He looked down the edge of bushes that separated the pond from the Weston backyard. Sheets were still strung on a clothesline waving in the light breeze. Down there was where he needed to be. He pushed his feet into his soft slippers. In a hollow house he had to make as little noise as possible. He knew every floorboard that squeaked and once past his bedroom door, he tiptoed a hopscotch pattern over them to get to the stairs. He walked down these close to the wall where the boards were less worn, stronger and more quiet. At the bottom he listened. He was safe. His parents still slept soundly.
On the back porch the breeze caught his hair and billowed through his loose pajamas. The night was cool and pleasant. The moon was just bright enough to illuminate a path between the wind-tossed sheets to the cover of the bushes at the edge of the yard. He made his way to these, and then carefully, pulling back branches, found a spot of bare earth where he could sit and observe the pond unseen by anyone.
Rory was naked, seated on his discarded jeans, close enough to the pond to have his feet dangling in the water’s edge. Zac could see his toes wriggling upward, forming luminous ripples. He was leaning back sipping from the bottle. His silhouette was rimmed with pale light making his skin look like deep blue silk occasionally dotted with firefly glitter of perspiration. He was humming a tune that was familiar but unnamable. A hand skimmed down over his chest and abdomen and rested comfortably just below his navel in the nest of hair. Zac studied him like he was the sculpted work of a master on display in a museum. Every contour where light found a hollow was more beautiful than the previous.
He finished his drink, set the bottle down, rose and stretched wide and luxuriously, allowing the breeze to find its way over and around his naked flesh. His long hair whipped like a flag in one direction until he tucked it behind his ears and slowly waded into the pond. Then he dived in deep and the wave plumes showed that he aimed toward its center. A moment later he came up, wiping his wet hair backwards away from his face. It was in that precise moment, as he stood wet and gleaming in the light of the summer night, that Zac envisioned what he was to him. He was the embodiment of love. A real-life Cupid. A God of Desire. Not the fairy tale version of the chubby little boy with wings, but the slender, glorious young man. Clouds moved high behind him in the dark starlit sky giving him the appearance of having lustrous, ever-changing wings. The vision enthralled the younger boy.
He watched him for more than an hour doing nothing special, but making each second feel momentous to Zac. It was like his mind was preserving each movement as if it were a vital brushstroke on canvas. He had nothing to compare what he was feeling against. It was new and wild and filled him to the brim. He was possessed by it.
The Art of the Heart By Dan Skinner: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LBGT882
They rode in silence for a few moments, Geoff watching the low clouds in an overcast sky scud ahead of them.
“You don’t believe bad people can change their ways; do you?” Trying to read the man was difficult, but here and there, Geoff thought he was catching glimpses.
The anvil jaw clinched a bit. “We’re not talking about boys playing hooky or stealing cigarettes. It doesn’t take much thinking to do things like that. These are minds that lie awake at night plotting ways to destroy lives, circumvent people’s rights, harm the helpless, and make victims of all of us. There’s a difference between a crook and a psychotic. These people have diseased minds. You know what you do with a disease, a tumor, a cancer? You cut it out. You don’t let it fester and grow, allowing it to infect the whole body. They aren’t going to go away; the problems aren’t going to resolve themselves because they have some magnificent soul-cleansing epiphany. They believe they’ve already had their epiphany and it wasn’t a good one. We all have to learn that we can’t run away from a problem. It must be resolved.”
They parked a couple blocks away from the warehouse and approached it on foot. It was a long, low structure on the river, directly in front of the docks. There was nothing eye-catching about it. There were two garage doors at either end with loading docks butting up to them. There were only a few windows on the lower level. It looked reasonably well maintained but virtually abandoned like most of the buildings on the street.
The river moved swiftly beyond the building, wide and muddy, ice chunks in its flow.
They entered through a side door; the lock was easily jimmied. The interior smelled of disuse and the river. “Are you sure they use this building?” Geoff wondered as he looked around. It was empty.
“Middle room is where it meets the wharf dock and the unloading is done,” he said. “They use the south end door for loading because it’s hidden by the other buildings. There were fresh tire tracks frozen in the mud just outside it, which means something was delivered shortly before the snowfall.”
They trod softly on the unvarnished plank floor. Little illumination shone through the grimy windows, but Geoff could see DiMarco’s scowl. Something weighed heavily on his mind.
The central room was larger than the first two. A square of barred light from a skylight brightened the middle but cast deeper shadows at its fringes. The first thing Geoff noticed was a man on a chair in the square of light. His legs were tied to the chair, wrapped with coarse brown rope. His hands had been bound behind him. A brown burlap bag covered his face. His head was bowed as if asleep. His presence startled Geoff.
“What’s going on? I thought you said we weren’t going to do anything to do them for a while?”
Unflinching gold eyes fell on him. The seriousness etched on the planes of his face made him look fearsome. “It’s not one of them,” he replied icily.
Geoff didn’t want to belabor the point, but he could smell the man’s evil. He wasn’t certain what the detective’s motives were in denying that fact, but his own senses didn’t lie. Before he could address it, the detective pushed him into the shadows at the back of the room and held a finger in front of his lips silencing him.
Stepping forward, he announced himself loudly. “I’m back!”
The man’s head snapped up. There was mumbling from inside the sack. DiMarco snatched the cloth bag, revealing the man underneath it. He was blindfolded and gagged. Geoff found something inordinately familiar about the figure. He was overweight, the bulbous stretch of gut in the flannel shirt hanging low over the groin of the blue work pants. The sparse dark hair was greasy and salted with gray. His chin and drooping jowls were peppered with gray whiskers.
The detective stepped back into the darkness of the corner and removed his coat, tossing it to the floor with his cap and sunglasses. He strolled the perimeter just outside the square of light.
“I’ll bet you’re getting a bit cramped after sitting there all night?”
The head bobbed slowly.
Geoff recognized the smell: the sickly blend of alcohol, sweat, and filth. He’d never forget that combination of smells. The recognition alarmed him.
DiMarco met his eyes at that moment. Geoff’s mother’s boyfriend, his rapist, was tied to that chair. “Some things need to be resolved, you understand? They don’t go away with time; the violence doesn’t fade with age, the scars don’t smooth over. They just have to be dealt with,” he said, yanking the blindfold and gag from the man.
The ugly countenance that had haunted every one of his nightmares was revealed, fat, squalid, and red-eyed, squinting against the sudden light. He swallowed hard, looking confused and terrified.
“I… I don’t know what this is about, young man.” His voice shaking, breath visible in the frosty air. “I think you’ve made a mistake. You’ve got to be looking for someone else. I don’t know you and I don’t know what you want. I haven’t got any money.”
DiMarco continued skirting the shadows. He unbuttoned his shirt, tossed it to the floor while Geoff watched.
“In 1984, at the age of thirty, you were arrested for accosting a twelve-year-old boy, the son of your neighbor in Austin, Texas. The charges were dropped because the family suddenly moved out of town. You were suspected of threatening them… although nothing could be proven….”
The bugging eyes tried to follow the voice. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You have the wrong person. That wasn’t me.”
DiMarco kicked his shoes off into the corner with his second pass behind the man. “In 1986 two teenaged boys were sexually assaulted in a rest stop just outside Lawrenceville, Mississippi. They identified you as their attacker. One claimed you raped him. The charges were dropped when your attorney discovered they had misdemeanor arrests for drug possession and petty theft.”
Sweat beaded on the man’s forehead in spite of the chilly temperature in the room. “All circumstantial bullshit. Nothing anyone could prove. The kids were fucking punks, you know what I mean?”
“You do realize an innocent man just emphatically says he’s innocent, while a guilty one claims the evidence against him is circumstantial; don’t you?”
His laughter was nervous. “You’re just trying to trick me into saying something. I have nothing to say. What you’re doing is illegal. It’s harassment. I can sue you for this. I demand you let me go and we can solve this like gentlemen.”
The detective’s pants fell into the square of light just in front of the man in the chair. He looked at them with surprise and befuddlement.
“In 1990 you were living in Augusta, Georgia. Your neighbor had a ten-year-old son who was savagely raped. You were the only suspect, but nothing could be proved because the boy was beaten so badly he went into a coma. When he awakened, he couldn’t remember anything.” The circling continued.
Geoff had been so intent on watching his rapist’s face that he’d hardly noticed the striptease the detective was performing until a naked leg briefly stepped into the light. It was no longer human. It was long and curved, wolf-like, covered in sleek black fur. The foot now a wide paw with long ebony claws.
“It wasn’t me.” The predictable response.
“From 1991 until 2001 there’s a whole series of rapes of underage boys all along your delivery routes throughout three states. In fact, each incident corresponds exactly with a time you were in that location. Investigators have suspected you’re a serial rapist for a long time, but you’re very shrewd about staying one step ahead of their grasp. Most of the boys refused to press charges because they were afraid of being exposed as gay to their families. It seems you found a method to assure your victims’ silence.”
This time there was only a smirk; an impatient shaking of his head.
“In 2011 you moved in with a woman and her son, the Markham family, where you repeatedly raped and threatened the boy, who was also underage. There were whispers all through the town that something bad was going on in that house, but again, you got lucky when no one said a thing. You were able to continue assaulting this boy—”
“All lies!” he spat indignantly. “Everyone in that town knew that boy was trouble; not right in the head. Even his mother knew he was disturbed; didn’t know what to do with him. He was a liar, made things up. I never did one thing to that boy; I treated him like my own son.”
“You’re a liar!” The words had flown from Geoff’s mouth, brimming with more rage than he’d ever felt in a single moment.
The sound of the accusing voice shook the man. Color drained, eyes strained to find him beyond the light. Gradually, after repeatedly clearing his throat, he mustered a trembling voice. “Geoffy, is that you?”
He hated that he’d always called him that. He could see the malevolent slivers of the eyes of his colleague as he walked behind the man.
“I forgot to mention I brought a friend along,” DiMarco said, sounding strangely distorted. He never stopped pacing.
The man tried laughing. It sounded more like a croak. “That’s nice. Real nice. I’ve been worried about you, Geoffy. Your mom and I have been worried about you.”
“You raped him.” DiMarco didn’t mince words. Hearing them made Geoff flinch, but the effect on the man in the chair was far worse. He looked stricken.
His lips twitched. “No. No, I didn’t. That’s untrue. Tell him, Geoffy. You know I always took care of you. I mean, I was the guy who put food on your plate when your mom couldn’t. I was the one who paid the bills so you had a house to live in. I’m the guy who still takes care of your mother. She depends on me.”
Geoff seethed. He would have no more of these lies. “You know what you did!”
“Everyone has to answer for their deeds,” the detective’s peculiar voice announced, dragging nails along the wall. The sound was like the squall of a banshee. It had the desired effect on the bound man: he cringed.
“No. It wasn’t like that,” he protested, rocking in the chair. “He knew he was different. He was gay and he used that against me. He came after me. It was the other way around.”
It required all Geoff’s restraint to not violently pounce on him. He held his position. “You’re a lying sack of shit!”
The man would no longer look in his direction. He was seeking the man walking around him. “It’s not like what he told you. Trust me. He’s not right in the head. He-he seduced me. He’s nothing but an ugly little boy who no one else would pay attention to. It was all his doing. I didn’t want anything to do with it. You have to believe me.”
“You’re a pig.”
“He-he would lay there in his underwear trying to bait me. I tried not to look, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. He took baths in front of me; pissed in front of me. He did everything he could to get my attention. A man only has so much willpower.”
Geoff could feel a turning coming on, did what he had to do to curtail it: held his temper; stayed calm. “I wanted nothing to do with you. I couldn’t stand you. The sight of you made me sick. You forced yourself on me.”
“Listen to him. All that craft and artfulness. Trying to persuade you with his words. But look at him. He’s a pathetic, ugly ragged piece of bone even a dog wouldn’t want. All he could think of was getting a real man.”
Geoff stepped into the light, his shadow looming over the bound figure. Words stuck in the man’s throat. Mouth gaped; tongue fell paralyzed. He blinked like he believed his sight was betraying him.
“Geoffy, is that you?” He gulped hard. “You-you’re so different….”
“I used to lie awake at night thinking of ways I could kill you,” he spat the words. “But I didn’t want to trade one prison for another.” He could feel the hairs beginning to stand on his arms. He drew a breath to steady himself. “You stole the innocence of my childhood. That’s not something I can get back; nothing an ‘I’m sorry’ can remedy.”
He was looking around for the detective again, trying to find an ally. “See what I mean? This is what I was telling you. He’s unstable. Dangerous.”
“Shut the fuck up you worthless piece of garbage!” Geoff shouted over him. The sound shook the walls of the building; made the man in the chair fall back, silent.
Floorboards creaked under the weight of what was walking behind the man. Its silhouette towered taller than the dock doors.
“There was no one lower than you….”
The man found a sudden surge of indignant courage. “Fuck you. Fuck you, Geoff Markham. Eat me!”
Geoff could see the mouth open behind the man. Large white teeth shimmered beneath black lips.
He grinned. “I don’t have the stomach for you,” he said, looking at the repulsive memory tied to the chair one last time. “But he does….” He pointed to the thing stepping out of the darkness.
The thing which had been walking on hind legs dropped down onto all fours in the square of winter gray from the skylight. It was huge, primal-looking, covered in dark fur, spine arched high. Lungs puffed its ribcage, the noise coming from its snout in gusts. Saliva dripped from the rows of daggers in its mouth. Gold eyes fastened on the prey, stepping slowly closer.
The man jumped in the chair, pushing it back several inches as a parched scream greeted the thing moving toward him. “Jesus Fucking Christ!” Were his last words before half the meat of his throat was torn away and the air gasped from him in what would be his final scream.
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From the Science-Fiction/Thriller Novel, Xperiment By Dan Skinner
Geoff found another video online about the young founder of RLS Pharmaceuticals. It was also from 2010, and was titled The Politics of a Boy Genius. It had been recorded at a conference on global warming in Cancun, Mexico. Geoff watched it on his phone while soaking in the tub.
Standing at a podium in front of a crowd, Robert Lindell Seuthers was dressed less formally. Still wearing the white button-down and tie, he’d discarded the jacket. He looked larger, like he’d filled out more. His hair was a bit longer and he had a five o’clock shadow that added an attractive touch of maturity to his face.
“Man’s existence on this planet is enabled by a fragile correlation between him and the elements. We co-exist with every living thing on Earth: animal, vegetable and mineral. Each holds a unique and vital purpose in the preservation of life. It’s called balance. The planet gives us nourishment, clean air to breath and fresh water to drink. We’re nothing more than caretakers of a garden. For man to remain healthy, to survive, the garden must flourish.
“In recent years we’ve lost sight of the infinitely tenuous nature of this balance upon which our very survival depends. For instance, without the honeybee to pollenate the flowering plants, whole species of vegetation will die out. The vegetation which acts as our air purifier, keeping the planet’s atmosphere breathable; the vegetation which feeds us. We now know that the honeybee population is dying out, a calamity for which man is ultimately responsible. A direct link between the bees’ dwindling numbers and the pesticides we’re using has been established. You’ve read my articles outlining my own efforts to correct this. That knowledge does nothing to curb the way many corporations and certain political organizations are continuing to behave in the name of profit and in defiance of balance. They are, for lack of a better term, raping our planet; poisoning our precious food and water supply to inflate their bottom lines. Fighting them is like taking on the proverbial bogeyman.
“The crime is that in the name of greed, these corporations and their protective political entities are marching steadfastly in a hellish procession, purposefully destroying the planet for the sake of their quarterly revenue reports. They strip our forests, churn choking gases into the air, and dump poisonous chemicals into the water. As they destroy the world… they destroy us as well. It’s no different than lining us up in front of a firing squad.”
The impassioned look on Seuthers’ face was as gripping as his words. “How are they able to get away with this? By spending fortunes brainwashing the masses into believing that to question their motives is unpatriotic and that the scientists and scholars trying to warn the world are liars. The idea of global warming leaves a bad taste in their mouths because acknowledging it would hinder their self-serving objectives. Their solution to intellectual debate is to ridicule science and the underlying facts, calling them instruments of evil in a battle against some holy
design known only to their God. It has become a dangerous theater of the absurd. Real science versus their mythological burning bush.”
Seuthers walked out from behind the podium, hands in his pockets. It was clear he wasn’t speaking from notes, but from his heart. “We’ve reached a tipping point. We watch the polar ice caps melt, causing all manner of species to lose their homes; being forced to hang precariously on the precipice of extinction; without realizing that each one of these creatures, just like the honeybee, helps maintain the balance that allows us to survive. As we continue to wipe them out, as the food chain slowly disappears beneath us, the same extinction is most assuredly creeping up toward us. We cannot continue this devastation without eventually destroying ourselves. It is inevitable.”
There was something hypnotic about Seuthers’ eyes. Every time the camera moved in on him, Geoff experienced the feeling of being drawn into them.
“We’re not talking about one grandma forgetting to put a plastic bottle in the recycle bin. We’re pointing out the existence of a fully-armed, corporate-backed, pseudo-religious, political monster wilfully and without conscience destroying the planet and humanity itself.”
He pointed directly at the camera and it felt like he was aiming squarely at Geoff as he continued, “It’s time for you… and us, to prohibit this monster its free reign. If it comes at us with teeth to devour us, we must build a bigger monster with sharper teeth to take it down. It is an unnatural force that brings with it the power of death and destruction. It must not lie wounded; we must annihilate it to return stability to our planet.”
There were videos of similar speeches by Seuthers on a variety of his other causes: equality, nuclear regulation, and gun control. The one thing they all had in common was the summation. That a corporate-backed, pseudo-religious political entity was behind real evil in the world and it had to be slain.
What stuck in Geoff’s mind was Seuthers’ repeated reference to “the stench of evil.” It brought to mind the smell of the thugs chasing Danny, the offensive aroma of his former boss and the odor of the men who ran the gun shop across from Dollar Bills. Was it conceivable… the experiment made it possible to smell… evil?
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ICE CREAM FOR THE LADY