“Let me explain why the politicians who write laws against Equality are criminals. Because when they say that any of us are not equal they are setting themselves up as would-be masters with us as their slaves using the law as their whips. They are saying that human rights are only for them by declaring that everyone different is less than human. This was said before and history reminds us of the dictators whose policies to enforce this concept created death camps as a solution for difference. It is clear who is wrong here. It is clear who the criminals really are.”
Because there is nothing more beautiful…
EXCERPT FROM : A SUMMER OF GUILTLESS SEX
“I made something for you,” I said as I brought down the soft, black fleece hoodie I
customized with gold embroidered theatrical masks on the back. I held it in front of
him, opening it up. “It has a large sleeve on the inside for a script,” I explained.
His face ran the gamut of emotions from surprise to speechless. He examined it
inside out and then slipped it on. “Holy Fuck! I don’t know what to say.” His voice
bubbled as he suddenly grabbed me for a hug. “This has got to be the most awesome
thing ever!” He felt the material, zipped and unzipped it, and then hugged me again.
This time around, it was one of those bear hugs that knock the breath out of you.
When he let me go, I pulled the bottom open to show him an additional feature.
“Your name is also embroidered down here, in case someone thinks it’s too cool and
wants to steal it.”
His laugh was spontaneous, but he sounded next to tears. “I don’t know how to
thank you,” he said.
It was strange to see his face twist in that way with emotions that I couldn’t imagine.
His usually strong, smooth chin was dotted like a strawberry with quivering nerves.
“You already did,” I said firmly. “Your little speech last time brought me back from
the wilderness. It brought me back home.”
His eyes did a one-eighty across the crowded contents of the room. “You’ve really
been going at it?”
“Every night after work, and a little bit while I’m having coffee for breakfast.”
We drank another bottle of wine as I showed him more of my handiwork. A simple
wedding gown in shimmering silk with sleek, clean lines, a formal shirt tailored with a
comfortable collar, a ballet costume for the character of Peter Pan which had been one
of my sketches from years ago. It was the most elaborate of all the pieces.
“They’re all so beautiful,” he said, going through the old pieces I’d stored in the
closet. “I mean, seriously beautiful. Like these dresses and coats. I know it’ll sound
weird, but it’s a shame that only women can wear clothes like these. It makes me
I found that to be not only an amusing statement, but revelatory of his personality. It
appeared we shared another commonality.
I sat down at my desk and pushed the stool out from the sewing machine so he
could join me. “You realize that you touched on one of the strictures of conventional
fashion that I believe really doesn’t apply? The idea that there should be men’s fashion
and women’s fashion and never the twain shall meet?”
“What do you mean?”
On my computer screen, I pulled up a drawing of what was supposed to be typical
ancient Greece. I pointed to the men and women basically wearing the same thing. “In
ancient cultures, at the beginning of civilization, we all wore dresses. They were called
tunics. Your college buddies will call them togas. There was nothing feminine about a
man wearing one or vice versa for women.” Next, I pulled up a drawing of ancient
Japanese dress. “All cultures were pretty much the same. The Japanese traditional
dress was called a kimono for both male and female. Other societies across the globe
pretty much reflected this style of dress. Only the warrior class wore what we would
eventually call pants, because it made it easier for them to ride horses. Over time,
because most males were warriors and wore pants, they became designated as maleonly
apparel. But before war… good God, men had some beautiful gowns and dresses
His eyes studied the screen. “Wow, I love those kimonos. I wouldn’t mind having
one of those myself.”
“There’s absolutely no reason that fashion shouldn’t be interchangeable between
the sexes. Soldiers now have very specific uniforms. We should all be able to wear
what we want without particular gender assignments. It’s the same issue with makeup.”
I pulled up some archival pictures of statues and paintings from ancient Egypt.
“Twelve thousand years ago, Egyptian men used cosmetics; eyeliner and other things
to enhance their look. It was very popular.” I clicked until I found portraits from the
reign of Elizabeth I with men clearly and proudly wearing makeup. “It was considered
a part of masculine tradition and aristocracy to wear makeup. The fashion of dainty
silk outfits and wigs, face pastes and paints only began to change after the Napoleonic
Wars when the generals and soldiers became iconic heroes to emulate; people who
looked and dressed more roughly. The reason it’s regaining popularity, with spray on
tans and such, is because we’ve became a more instinctively visual global community
due to the proliferation of cameras and selfies. Even men realize they need a little
color after a night of drinking or too many hours in the office.”
His face was close to mine as he studied the computer screen. I could observe his
near-perfect skin up close, and he didn’t look like anyone who would ever need makeup
to enhance his looks, but being a man of the theater, he’d have many experiences
with the use of cosmetics. He was fascinated.
“So it’s not a feminine thing at all?” His eyes turned to mine for confirmation.
“Our perception of what’s masculine and feminine has always been fluid through
the ages. It changes when we alter who it is we admire… like when men began trying
to look like their rugged soldier heroes in the Napoleonic War. You’ll see it change
with the Olympics and movies and media manipulation, but I believe as we eventually
become a more liberal and accepting society, there will be less genderfication in
fashion. There will be dresses for both men and women; we’ll use more and more
makeup. The idea that there’s simply one ideal standard for men and a different one
for women cannot sustain itself in a society of strong personalities.”
He took another large sip of wine and looked back at the gowns in the closet. “That
would actually be neat.”
“That’s the actor in you speaking, because acting is a form of cosmetic. Putting on
another face.” I pulled up pictures of famous male ballerinos. “Our perception of what
is supposed to be masculine is gradually being redefined by theater as well. The idea
that all men must be large, muscular brutes who grunt and intimidate with their
virility is being tested by fine arts like ballet. An increasing number of people,
especially men, are finding they prefer to have the lean lines and aesthetics of a
dancer. You find more actors studying ballet because of the expressive gestures and
body language of the dancer that, at one time, were considered to be feminine. What
this is saying is that we’re learning that there is very little delineation between genders
in our own heads. We all have a bit of both inside us. Strong women are just as
appealing as an expressive man.”
“Hell, yeah,” he agreed. “I thought Ripley was hot in the Alien movie because she
was one tough chick.”
I laughed, because I remembered thinking that and I was a gay male. “Exactly. And
I prefer the beauty of a ballet dancer to that of something like… say Arnold
Schwarzenegger.” I pointed back to the screen at a male dancer in his tights and
elaborate costume. “I can imagine myself kissing this man so much easier and
enjoying a night with him than say… any guy in the UFC. But that’s only my
preference, because the artistry of a dancer evokes a certain sensitive fantasy in me.” I
shrugged. “But there is beauty in every type: the nerd, the geek, the athlete, the guy
with the ‘dad’ body. Masculinity is becoming less defined by stereotypes for all of us,
and I think that’s not only going to affect our fashion, but it’s also going to change
how we perceive who and what types we’re attracted to.”
“Do you think someone’s intelligence can make them attractive?” he asked.
I could see the wine had stained his full lips as dark as a Merlot lipstick. “Of course,
He turned to face me straight on. His eyes traveled from my eyes to my mouth.
“Because you’ve given me a raging hard-on and I’d really like to have sex with you
we all like our boys naked; right?
from A Summer Of Guiltless Sex By Dan Skinner – Now available at Amazon. com
“I can tell you what I think adventure is,” he announced in a voice that told me he
was going to make his case in spite of my protests. “It’s life.” His blue eyes held mine
for a number of seconds before he looked back down at the tickets in his hands. “It’s
not about closing the door and shutting the blinds and playing it safe. It’s not about
giving up or giving in. It certainly isn’t about not trying something because you
assume it’s not going to be to your tastes or liking. If I’d been afraid of the word gay
like some people are, I woulda walked away that first day when I met you and you
announced it like it was a warning to me. Like you were so different I should run in the
other direction. But I’m not afraid of the word or the experience, and if I’d turned
away, I would have missed out on a hell of a lot. A friend. A really fun guy. Someone I
like a lot.” His eyes were on me again and this time held something I couldn’t escape
—he was right. “Fear is temporary. Regret is permanent. Adventure is taking a chance
because it’s better than the question mark if you don’t.”
An EXCERPT from A SUMMER OF GUILTLESS SEX by Dan Skinner
I looked down and could see that his parachute had opened. In the next second ours
had as well, yanking us to what almost felt like a standstill. The rush to earth slowed to
a glide. The noise of the wind disappeared and all I could hear was this stunning,
reverent silence as we gradually eased closer to the ground. I could see Ted’s canopy
steering toward the west and recognized the field and the building that was our
destination: The Dropzone. From the air, I could see its empty field had been mowed
in a circular fashion like a bullseye. In the last six minutes of the gentle ride to earth,
my fear had transformed into exhilaration that coursed in undiluted thrill though my
bloodstream. By the time we’d landed and my instructor had unharnessed me, I’d
gone into a delirium of hyper-excitement. I wasn’t alone. I could hear Ted’s hoots and
hollers from the fifty-yard distance between us and as he ran it like a linebacker to
finally leap up into my arms with an ear-piercing whoop finale. He was a muscular,
heavy guy, but with my surge of adrenalin I spun him around like he was weightless,
joining in for a few whoops of my own.
“That was fucking awesome!” he shouted as he slid down from me and jumped in
the air clapping his hands. “Wasn’t that fucking awesome?”
I could only giggle at this point. My communication skills had abandoned me the
moment my brain registered the fact that I’d skydived out of a plane.
The instructors were shouting out the last of our instructions which were to meet
them inside for a certificates declaring our jump as Ted leaned in close to my ear to
whisper, “I don’t know about you, but that made me horny as hell!”
He wasn’t alone in that either. Beneath my baggy shorts and long windbreaker, I
was standing at full attention. My grin gave him all the information he needed on that.
“Meet you in the restroom after we get the certificate,” he said, before bounding off
for the building.
My eyes followed him, wondering if he’d been joking, but as he looked back at me,
he pointed at his watch, held up five fingers and pointed at the building.
By the time I’d helped my instructor carry everything back inside and gotten my
certificate signed verifying my adventure, Ted was nowhere in sight. I looked for the
restroom sign and found it pointing toward the entrance, past the souvenir shop. This
day seemed to have no end of surprises.
The room was a moderate space painted an odd green with matching floor tile. It
had one large oblong window that ran along the top, providing illumination in
addition to the weak ceiling lights. There were three urinals and sinks with mirrors
that lined under and adjacent to the window. Next to these were the toilet stalls filling
out the rest of the room and butting up to the back wall of the building. When I
entered, the room appeared empty. The door swished shut behind me. I wondered if
I’d misheard my friend when a hand appeared above the very last stall, waving and
then humorously pointing downward into the stall. I chuckled to myself. He was an
irrepressible rogue. I made my way to the end stall. The door opened, and his face
appeared in front of me wearing the smirk of the devil as he wiggled his eyebrows.
“I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “Do you happen to have the time?” And with that, he
grasped me by my forearm and pulled me into the tiny space with him, shutting and
locking the door.
“We can’t do this. It’s dangerous,” I said.
“If it’s good enough for our Republican Senators, it’s good enough for me,” he joked.
His eyes had that glazed, hungry look I recognized as being particular to a certain
appetite. He seemed hyper-agitated and it showed in the ruddy glow in his cheeks and
his nervous movements. It had been brought on by the rush of adrenalin. He had it
I felt it myself, but it wasn’t clouding my better judgment. “This can wait ‘til we get
back to the apartment,” I suggested.
With that, he grabbed my hand and pulled it against his chest. “No, it can’t. Feel my
It beat beneath my palm like a fierce jungle drum. The rhythm had already seized
his body. He pushed my hand down to his crotch. The hardness beneath the fly was
“I need this really bad.” He had pulled me closer as he unsnapped the pants and slid
my hand inside past the elastic of his underwear and directly onto his dick. It felt like a
rock hard, pulsing furnace. “You do me and I’ll do you.”
He’d already reached for my shorts and was fumbling with the button.
Most folks who know me know that I was born and raised and ran away from a family of radical Evangelicals. At every opportunity I have tried to warn people that this group of people are dangerous, vile, and terrorists. The ONE and ONLY thing they preach from their pulpits is hatred. I have heard them in their secret meetings when I was a child, even way back when, fantasize about the days they could freely kill people of color, of different religions and the homosexuals. They claimed it as a God-given right because they were “His Chosen”. For years I have seen their power grow, and in spite of a Constitution guaranteeing a separation of church and state they stuck their nasty fingers into politics and found their power with no checks. We now see the end result of that as the bigots and racists and homophobes now feel free to spew their hatred everywhere; and terrorize, bully and EVEN KILL anyone and everyone that does not subscribe to their brand of insanity. In all my years after escaping this I have been on a singular mission to tell it, shout it, and write about what they really are and what their agenda really is from my first hand experience of being raised in the midst of it.
A year and a half ago I decided to finally write the scifi novel I plotted out OVER 8 years ago about a despicable religious-political entity coming to power in our country… One that if you are listening to the news now…is happening… The villain in this book is that religious creature, an Evangelical pastor…and I made dead certain I included the exact type of rhetoric I once heard coming out of his mouth… Now is the time to be afraid… The MONSTERS are here…they are out to destroy everything with their hatred…and we need to recognize their speech…and ACT!!!
EXCERPT: From XPERIMENT BY DAN SKINNER
available at Amazon. com
Chris’ head cocked. “Someone’s coming.”
Before they heard the engine, the crowd had begun to cheer. Whomever they’d been awaiting was arriving. The group parted making way as a convertible military jeep drove to the center and parked. Applause echoed as a tall figure dressed in a dark suit stood in the back holding his arms high. He was a gaunt man with an emaciated face. Long dark hair had been pulled back in a ponytail that curled past his collar. When he smiled his teeth looked abnormally white and too big for his mouth like dentures. He had fierce, penetrating ebony eyes. The crowd chanted, “Reverend, Reverend!”
“Brethren, patriots, disciples…” he began, after a theatrical bow. More applause rolled through the crowd. “Welcome!”
It was the man with the oddly familiar southern drawl that had arrived by limousine at the repair shop. The man with the voice that haunted Geoff. Though thin and white as ash he had the empirical stance of a one certain of his position. His eyes possessed that feverish glassy stare of the single-minded zealot seeing a golden road where others saw gravel. His posture was rigid, his chin elevated as he spoke.
“There’s our guy,” DiMarco announced, moving in between them to peer over the crate.
“Do you know who he is?”
“No. But if we were Bond this would be our Blofeld.” He began typing more texts on the phone.
The applause died away as he began to speak. “I am so proud to be with you on this propitious occasion. A little over ten years ago I began this crusade of change as a proud American and a man of Faith. I had a vision to right the wrongs happening to our once great country… soon to be great again. Our founding fathers were great men who had a vision for this country. A vision built on faith. The Almighty spoke through them, and wrote through them when they penned our Constitution. But the faithless have been changing it. Destroying what was once our great nation by saying it’s a melting pot. You know what a melting pot is? It’s where the pure becomes polluted. We weren’t meant to be a melting pot back then, now nor ever.”
Another oceanic roar of approval rolled through the crowd. He waved them down. “I coined that phrase ten years ago: It’s time to take our country back. Only a patriot knows the true meaning behind those powerful words. Our country was founded by pure-of-heart, god-fearing men like us, our Founding Fathers – George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the rest. Slaves did not write our Constitution. Muslims did not write our Constitution. Queers did not write our Constitution. The Natives who were here did not make this country great. We brought them civilization. We made this country what it is and they’ve systematically torn it down around us. We build skyscrapers, they turn ‘em into ghettos. We raise religious gentlefolk, they give us diseased whores, hustlers, pimps and queers. We build nice homes to raise decent families and they brought drugs to the streets. We praise the Creator, and their scientists say we’re the product of ooze. We preach the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman and they’ll have the world believe that we’re unnatural because we will not approve their perversion. They have defiled everything that was once good; that made our country with no rival.”
DiMarco shook his head, veins in his temples rose like engorged streams. He was not enjoying the speech.
“I’ll tell you who did not build this country, did not make it great: the Muslims, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Africans, the atheists or the homosexuals. The blind, the poor; the disabled did not build this country. Women did not build this country. What does it mean when we say we’ll take our country back? It means we’ll take it back from those who do not belong here. We worked for our riches and they want to take them away and give it to the parasites: the poor, the homeless, the jobless, the immigrants. You know why we have taxes? To pay for the slackers in the homeless shelters, the indigent who sneak over our borders to feed on our wealth. Shelters are nothing more than homes for life-sucking leeches. We feed them with our blood and they want more. We’re being robbed by the very country we built. These are the people from whom we will take our country back.”
Geoff saw Chris flinch, his jaw flex. Touching his shoulder, he was rigid. He knew he was thinking of his friends who were now gone.
Listening, he couldn’t shake the feeling he’d encountered him before. He just couldn’t recall where. His effete gentlemanly mannerisms made him distinctive; not someone you’d be likely to forget.
“My father didn’t grow up in luxury in little Hawk Point Junction, Texas just eight miles of the Oklahoma border. He started as a near penniless newspaper owner. But he was a smart man and a hard worker and by the time I was born he was the co-owner of a multi-million dollar oil engineering firm.” He strode back and forth in the rear of his jeep platform as he spoke. “I remember when I was a tyke him telling me he wanted me to grow up knowing the true feeling of accomplishment. I wasn’t handed anything on a silver platter. He made me work. I was a paperboy. I washed dishes in restaurants. I mowed lawns for two dollars in the long, hot Texas summers. And when I was old enough I joined his company, not as a family member, but as an employee putting in sixteen hours a day. He made me earn my way into the offices. By the time he died, he’d lived to see me turn the business into a multi-billion dollar Goliath in over sixty countries.”
Their gruff, Italian colleague was still busy with his phone when he made a fist pump. “Got him,” he said, excitedly. “Braggart gave me just enough background history to figure out who he is. His name is Emerson Lakefield, the heir to the Lakefield oil fortune. One of twin brothers, Everette Lakefield, who went mysteriously missing in 1972 when they were seventeen. “
“Mysteriously?” It was Chris. “What does that mean?”
“It says by the time the boys were in their teens Emerson had become obsessed with religion. His brother was getting ready to go into college and favored scientific thinking. They both fought for their fathers favor, but Everette’s interest in theater, writing and science didn’t go down well with the old man. He thought it made him effeminate. By 1968 he only referred to having one son, Emerson. To toughen them up he sent them on a camping expedition in the wilds of Washington for a month giving them nothing but the clothes on their back. Two boys went on a camping trip together in the Washington woods. Two went in, one came out. They never found Everette. Emerson said the last he’d seen of his brother was when he walked into the woods to take a piss. It was listed as an open but unsolved case. Their father never mentioned Everette again and they never held a wake or funeral for him after he was declared dead. There never was any suspicion that it was anything but an unfortunate accident. I guess money can buy anything.”
“It’s odd he doesn’t even mention his brother growing up,” Chris observed. “He only talks about when he grew up.”
Lakefield was still speaking. “I learned two things when I took over my Pop’s business: The backbone of this country was built on industry and our faith in the Almighty. One cannot have prosperity without Faith, and that has been my message. I’ve put my money where my mouth is. I’ve backed good men in politics, helped build churches that have this country’s heart at its center. But there are those with equal resources and power that’ve fought me. They’ve tried to stop my businesses by saying I’m destroying the planet even though my companies gave thousands of people jobs. They’d have you believe my companies harm the ecological balance of the planet without telling you I’m also the man who puts the food on your plates. At every turn I’ve encountered resistance by these socialistic bleeding hearts, and do you know why?” he pointed at the crowd. “Godlessness. They use the myth of Science as a club to try to beat me down. I ask you, how can the small hands of man ruin the large work of a Creator? We cannot. Man doesn’t have the capacity to change creation, only the Creator does.”
There was a resounding chorus of “Amen’s” from the crowd. A strange combination, Geoff thought: men dressed in military uniforms behaving as if they were at a revival.
“All around us we’ve seen the godless handiwork tearing at the fabric of society. I knew I had to do something. And it came to me ten years ago when I took on the mantel as one of His ministers that I had the money to do it. That I had the power to make the change. That I had a voice and I would let the Almighty use it. Now my tongue is His tongue. He speaks through me to command the armies of earth to do His Will. And His Will is for us to take back this country.”
The dismal sewer walls resounded with more cheering and applause.
“God speaks through him? His tongue is God’s tongue?” Chris made a distasteful face. “That’s pretty…”
“Sociopathic,” DiMarco supplied the appropriate term.
The sinister man shook his fists, yelling the words like a drumbeat to stir the fervor of the crowd. “My Will is His Will! His Will is mine!”
The affirmations rose louder. Emerson’s eyes shown bright, his grin augmented with the adulation.
“In these ten years it’s become clear that their laws weren’t in harmony with the Almighty’s. That it was their intention to force their world of sin upon us. They thought we were too meek, would turn the other cheek, but that’s not the manner in which our Lord works. If they’re lawless, he drowns them with a flood; if they’re perverse he’s rains fire down upon them. If they didn’t harken to his commands, he gave them plagues.” The arc of too white teeth hardened into something malevolent. “The Almighty has never been a passive leader. He’s always been a decisive commander, and He’d expect nothing less of us… nothing less of me. Together, we’re now the arm of the Almighty. They’ll fear us.” He shook his finger. “But it will not be easy, and we must be strong because they’ve summoned the demons of Hell to help them. I witnessed this with my very eyes: Lucifer’s dark angel swooping down with death upon those whose allegiance was with us. I saw the winged demon tear them apart limb by limb. I barely escaped myself except by His grace.” His eyes blazed.” That was when I knew that ours will be a mighty fight; we must steel ourselves against what may come against us.”
Booming noises drummed above the tunnels. Lakefield made a grandiose sweeping gesture upward. “Like my Pop used to say, the world can change in three blinks of a gnat’s eye…”
Those words thunderstruck Geoff. They echoed back to him from another night in the middle of summer in Forest Park. He peered over the crate at the wiry figure with the ponytail he’d first seen in silhouette by the lake where gay men cruised.
By Dan Skinner
I recall the first time I saw you. We’d moved into the upstairs flat on the quiet brick street in the south of the city. I’d been afraid to move; I’d grown accustomed to my old home, the farm fields where I could hide within myself under the wide open skies and rolling flat lands. There I felt safe with my secrets; there I felt secure that my oddness was unseen. With the move I thought for certain I’d be forced deeper into myself to protect myself. And then I saw you… from the window of my bedroom, in my new home in a strange city.
I was fourteen, body rapidly changing as it does for a boy who has entered his teens. I’d had my growth spurt and stood with its awkwardness at five foot nine inches. It brought the newness of hair in…
View original post 3,503 more words
AN EXCERPT from XPERIMENT By DAN SKINNER
He felt heavy and enormous. Lifting his legs was an effort from the weight like he was hoisting boulders each time he took a step. The earth rocked beneath him as he plodded forward crushing strange colored, unfamiliar flowers that looked as beautiful as their thorns dangerous. The drone of pesky insects was everywhere, some moving in swarms like black clouds. Occasionally some would peck at the eyes he couldn’t reach and he’d blink them away. The world around was foreign, sweltering, wet from rainfall. It made the ground soft and thick beneath the wild overgrowth. Earthworms the size of serpents crawled around his feet. Every breath he took was an ocean of air in his lungs. Everywhere around him the vegetation blocked his view; he had no idea where he was or how long he’d been wandering. All he knew was he was hungry. It had been a long time since he’d eaten and he was tired.
He pushed easily through the trees, coming up on a swamp. The water was shallow, murky and steamy with the baking heat. There was nothing big enough for him to eat in its water but it could slake his parched t throat. As his tongue dipped into the water, before the rippling distortions, he could see the small opportunistic multi-colored lizards crawling over his large, scaled head. They ran through the sparse feathers and hair where bugs had hidden. The lizards knew where to find their dinner.
He could hear the calls and cries of all kinds of prey around him. Things that were more substantial to eat, but he was too big and slow to pursue those that ran on four legs. There were other predators more suited for the kill. He had to find the carcass just afterwards and move in to take it from them. His size and the ferocity of his roar was enough to scare them off, and then he’d have his food. He just had to keep moving.
The strategy was to watch the skies for the birds. They were scavengers like him. They could only feast at the food another provided. He walked deeper into the forest sniffing the air for fresh blood. Smaller things hid in the reeds fearfully eyeing his approach. They needn’t worry. He’d no interest in them.
As he moved closer to the edge of the forest he could see a long flat floodplain lay ahead. The forest surrounded it, but it was a miles long basin, wet and overgrown with brush. He caught his first whiff of blood and fresh meat. The circling birds with their leathery wings and angular, sharp-pointed beaks indicated it was only a short distance away. He needed to hurry before others like him would take their fill of the meat leaving only the bones to crush with his teeth for the soft marrow.
Then he saw it. It had been something large. Not nearly the size of him but perhaps half that, and not with his teeth; not a carnivore. It had been taken down by a sizable clowder of the large cats. They ripped and tore the hard brown skin away to get to the tender meat beneath it. They’d be nothing more than a nuisance to him. They liked to make a brave show with their low pacing, snarls and growls, but they knew one quick movement of his massive tail would end their boastful charade.
Picking up his pace he moved through the mud and rock and grass of the plain toward them. The earth quaked under his enormity catching their attention. The hair on their long necks bristled in a stiff trail down their backs. As expected there was a show of fearsome teeth. The noise was nothing in comparison to his roar as he whipped his tail widely behind himself. They turned and ran in separate directions dragging as much raw meat in their mouth as they could.
The carrion had already drawn a persistent flurry of flies. The cats had taken most of the beast’s legs and the tender meat of the neck and belly, but the bulk of the torso was still intact. It was dead but its nerves still had a few twitches and kicks left in it. Some of the more courageous birds had perched on nearby rocks, their dark beady eyes watching in anticipation for what they could snatch once he’d fed.
He ate, teeth ripping flesh away in large bloody chunks. He pulverized the bones with his powerful jaws. There was no attention to chewing. Others would smell the kill and be closing in. In this world one ate fast and warily. More of the large birds circled like beacons overhead. He’d torn through and eaten most of the creature’s back when the cats, realizing their numbers outranked his size, decided to attack. They jumped him from all sides.
With almost invisible speed one was on his back, teeth and claws tearing into his tough hide. Another had tried for his neck but he bucked his head tossing it back to the ground. Before it could turn back he stomped its head, crushing it beneath his massive three-toed foot. Another had gone for his leg trying to bite through a muscle to cripple him. He kicked the cat free catapulting him back into the wet grass.
The birds flapped their broad wings noisily. He turned from the carcass to see three more cats crouching low, moving through the reeds to him. He had his teeth and tail. Between the six of them there were enough claws and fangs to make it a bloody, painful fight. They sprung at once from all directions. Teeth bit his tail, more were on his legs, and one had jumped his back to sink all its defiance and anger into his neck…
The scream in his head awakened him. He clutched his throat still feeling the teeth that had torn into it. His fingers found it smooth, no scales or feathers or coarse hair. No wound. No blood. But the residual of pain still quaked through his body. He’d been sleeping on his side with his face to the back of the sofa, and even before he turned, he had that peculiar feeling of being watched; of the room being crowded with more than his roommate, himself and the furniture.
There were two of them. The white, smoke-like creatures stood over him, staring with their blank, iris-less, icy eyes. The apertures that should be their mouths wriggled back and forth between invisibility affording him only the briefest of glimpses of the long fangs hidden in them. Their wraithlike arms posed as if they conversed but all Geoff could hear was the humming noise vibrating like a toneless tuning fork in his skull.
He wasn’t asleep. He wasn’t dreaming. He could only suspect one of two things: either he was hallucinating …or, they were there.
The pain in his throat was slowly subsiding where he’d been bitten in the dream. It’d been a dream but it felt real. Could these phantoms have escaped his dream and only be playing with his vision? Were there hallucinatory properties to the new supplement making illusion seem more than that? He stared at them quietly observing the ebb and flow of their inconsistent form. Slowly, he reached forward to touch the one closest to him. That seemed to startle the two of them. They slid backward suddenly. Both of them appeared to face each other. The persistent buzzing grew louder as they quickly dissipated into sparkling molecular dust motes. Then the noise ceased abruptly. The vacuum of soundlessness was almost as disturbing as the noise had been.
He sat, the uneasiness clinging to him. Across the room his roommate slept undisturbed. Everything in the room was as it should be, but the nightmare feeling trapped inside his head wouldn’t shake itself free.
There wasn’t any question about it: the side effects from the new supplement were the worst yet. There was no other explanation for what he was experiencing. He didn’t like struggling to sleep, having dreams that bordered on waking nightmares and feeling restless and agitated most of the time.
He did what he always did when he felt like jumping out of his skin. Quietly he slipped into the bathroom and ran a full tub of cool water to relax. He perused the videos of his idol looking for something in them that would either give him some semblance of an explanation of what was happening to him, or solace knowing that all great things came with a price. The thing was… he’d no idea what he was looking for. It would take an act of providence for him to stumble on it. He was confused.
He was talking to himself. “Okay boy genius, gimme a clue here. Why am I seeing ghosts and dreaming I’m a goddamned, freaking dinosaur? I don’t like being dinner in motherfucking Jurassic Park, if you get my drift?”
“Pardon me?” It was Chris. He hadn’t heard the door open or his friend enter. Arms extended in front of him as he plodded barefoot into the room toward the toilet. “I don’t mean to interrupt you but I have to pee. I promise I won’t look.”
Geoff needed the levity. Like his music, Chris somehow always knew how to break the tension. He laughed, watching as the man made his way to the john and carefully lift the lid. Apparently he wasn’t modest. “No problem. Just talking to myself,” he said.
Chris nodded. “I hoped that was the case. It would be totally embarrassing for me to walk in and totally not see who you were talking to in the bath.”
Geoff shook his head. The jokes never ceased.
“Incidentally I should probably warn you that I pee sitting down,” he said as he dropped his boxers and parked himself comfortably on the toilet. “I’m as good at playing darts as I am peeing standing up.”
He chuckled again. He certainly had missed his calling as a comedian.
“If you don’t mind me asking, simply so my voice can cover the embarrassing sound of my bladder emptying, why did you call the conference with yourself?”
Geoff turned off the phone and sat it in the empty soap dish. He reclined in the water trying again to relax. “Nothing really. I had a bad dream. “
“I had one of those once myself. I was driving this car along this winding cliff road…”
That brought a belly laugh. “I should take you to the Improv and just let you get it out of your system; you know?”
“What was the bad dream?”
The question took him back to his dilemma. He considered the answer. He knew no other way to say it: “I dreamt I was a dinosaur.”
“How fucking cool!” His audience clapped with approval.
It wasn’t the reaction he expected. “Not really. I was killed in the dream.”
“How fucking uncool!” Chris amended his evaluation.
“Tell me about it. The thing is I could feel the dream. Everything in it like it was real. Like I was experiencing it, or I had experienced it. And when I woke up I could still feel the pain.”
“I know. I think that’s part of what’s bothering me about it. Mostly when I dream… I’m Me in the dream, and I see things as me in the dream. I shoulda been me seeing the dinosaur in the dream but I was the dinosaur. That’s never happened before.”
Chris flushed the toilet and rose, tugging his boxers up. He washed his hands. “I don’t know that dreams are supposed to follow any particular rules.”
He watched his roommate at the sink. In his boxers, the top of his legs were white and narrow. He had very little meat on his frame. He reminded Geoff of what he used to look like. It seemed like yesterday. Now he was a specimen of health and muscularity. A bad dream and a hallucination seemed a weak complaint for what he got in return. But the feeling of displacement nagged at him.
He dried his hands, turned and leaned against the sink facing Geoff. “I dreamt I could fly a few times. I believe someone told me that everyone has a dream of flying. No one has a clue why we all have the same dream about something we can’t do, unless of course, you believe in reincarnation?”
So close. But it wasn’t the answer he was looking for or trying to find in Seuther’s videos. “See that’s what I was trying to look up. But it’s not reincarnation. Nothing to do with any religion or myth. I was looking through the lectures of a scientist for some kind of logical explanation of how we could remember or seem to recall something from a time we didn’t live in. I mean… I was there!”
“What you’re talking about is called genetic memory,” Chris said it matter-of-factly
Geoff was quiet, stunned. Water dripped ostensibly from the faucet into the tub.
“PBS was my babysitter in the orphanage. I was terrible at Dodgeball during recess.” He felt his way to the tub and sat on the edge of it, sunglasses pointed toward Geoff. It was almost as if he could see. “It’s the theory of inherited memory. That somehow our genes pick up and store information from our predecessors. It’s pretty much how they explain genius and savants. They believe Mozart’s musical ability was a product of genetic memory.”
Geoff shook his head. “Yes. That’s what I was looking for. How can you explain seeing and knowing and feeling something that isn’t a memory because it’s like millions of years impossible?”
“There’s one small problem with that theory and your dream though. If you’re thinking your dream is a product of genetic memory, Homo sapiens evolved from primates. Not amphibians or reptiles. To dream you were a dinosaur would mean somehow someone injected you with the DNA of another species, like a crocodile, or lizard… or, even a bird which are hereditary descendants of the big boys from back then.”
The water in the tub felt colder as Geoff sat in silent thought, mind numbed with the million things wandering through his imagination. He barely noticed his friend had moved closer and bent toward him with his hands outstretched.
“Do you mind? Could I?” He was reaching for his face.
He looked up at the earnest, young face and then the delicate hands in front of him. Lifting himself up, he moved forward until the hands found him. Both palms pressed against the sides of his head. The thumbs found the length of his cheeks and measured their breadth. He closed his eyes as he touched those. Hands cupped his chin, traced his lips with both thumbs. It tickled, made him feel like he’d sneeze. Then he started with his fingers from his forehead, softly dragging them down the center for more tactile exploration. Finally he back away.
“Nope. I can positively say you don’t feel like a dinosaur,” he said.