To dance between the First and the Second. To shift the balance of power within the Second. To protect the Passing and the Keeper of the Passing. To log all Passing. To protect that which is prior to May 7th, 1990. To be loyal to the Eldest One.
-- Omega-Alpha Credo
A room with a metal door rose up amidst a rectangular shaft. The shaft rose up through a rectangular building. And the building rose up among a rectangular city. Chillingly, a cold, wintry storm broke the order. It blew across the metropolis caressingly and unforgivingly.
Within the room, stood a woman and a man. Their adjacent hands were held firmly in one another. She carried a purse, while he had a styrofoam takeout box and a paper bag from the pharmacy.
Numbered lights and buttons were upon the wall before them. And the walls beside them had smudgy mirrors, and a metal rail. The light above the doorframe for number twelve blinked off, and number fourteen blinked on.
The doors opened, sliding into the wall. The couple stepped out of the elevator, leaving it empty. The parallel mirrors reflected a large, infinite patch of smudges.
Andrei was crouched in the laundry, in the hamper. It was comfortable enough, and he’d been reading by flashlight for an hour. It had kept him awake. The novel was complex. However, he found it predictable. The climax of the novel was over, and the protagonist was consummating his win.
Argh, the love just isn’t in this, fuck! Andrei closed the book. He was eager to witness something real. The paperback fell, discarded, into the depths of the wide hamper. Andrei was tangled in enough clothes that he didn’t want to look for it.
He could smell Alexei in these clothes. His scent. His sweat. It was like a counterpart to his own. And thus, he stayed there, biding his time. The tantalizing odors of his youth haunted his senses. I must not return! I have a life here…
Have I dug myself a hole with this? They tempted his thoughts not into reminiscence rather, into contemplation; however, they were one and the same. How long will it be before I return again to this dimension?
Andrei remembered the first time he’d taken the black pill.
Muffled by clothing, Andrei did not hear the turning of the lock, or the opening of the door.
The door to the apartment swung open. The couple entered, a smile meeting her dark lips. She ungloved her hands, and began to take off her coat. And, like a gentleman, he was at the closet pulling out a hanger for her.
“Ayana.” Her attention.
She handed him her coat. He hung it up. And he began to take off his own. The smile had not left Ayana’s lips. The closet door slid closed, the mirror unblemished. Alexei clapped his hands together. And as he clapped, the light in the entranceway went out, and a dim light lit the rest of the apartment. The stereo was triggered as well, and thus an ambient harp began to play. Ayana’s lips parted, and her pearly white teeth gleamed in the dim light. She sighed, and he could smell the teff upon her breath.
The apartment was painted in cooling colors, and carpeted with a deep red carpet with matching textiles. The walls were decorated with Eastern Russian folk art. The entranceway was overshadowed by a painting of a oil rig amidst a raging sea.
Andrei’s partner had confided in him about the black pill. He had thought him daft. However, Andrei had always been one for experimentation. He had been assured that when he returned to the world from which he had come, that time would not be altered. And when it washed over him, the warmth and nostalgia, he knew where he was. Within the Adriatic womb, with only dim awareness, he made a plan. Love was his for the taking. They slept side by side within their mother. However, Andrei made sure that the eldest twin was always on top.
Alexei was always on top. That was how Ayana liked it. They lay, fully clothed, upon the couch. His muscled body was supported, so that she was not crushed against the cushions. And they embraced, lovingly. Wine glasses lay upon a side table, nearly empty.
He brought his head up from her neck. His eyes opened, and his gaze met the shining silhouette of the wine glass. And his past haunted him. It had been half a year since he had matured, with great revelation. And now he felt only guilt and regret about the number of times he had dropped a pill into a drink.
Ayana was not like the others. She was not an object, to deceive and to scour for his own pleasure! What he shared with her was genuine love, and what he hoped would be a long-term relationship. I’ve been such a horrible person. Have I really, truly, changed?
She felt his hard, sculpted body against hers, and the warmth continued to overwhelm her. However, she sensed that something was amiss. And, through his jeans, his body betrayed his mind, and thus her intuition was confirmed.
“Is something wrong, Alexei?”
A tear fell upon her face, and then another, from the eyes of the man who lay upon her. Ayana wanted this night to be special, and now knew that it would take a bit of work. She shifted her position. Her legs folded up against her chest, and he moved back to sit across from her at the opposite end of the couch. She looked at him, with an analytical stare. However, the smile had returned.
This must be what she looks like at work, he thought. And his silence answered her question. There’s something very disconcerting about dating a therapist.
“Do you want to talk about it?” A calm, empathetic alto. Flawless English.
“Do you want to talk about it?” A calm, high tenor. A very mild, Irish accent.
Bed sheets had covered two naked, sweaty bodies. Andrei had woken up that night, not so long ago, and found that he was no longer in his crib. He was no longer an infant. Turning, he had seen the angular face beside him grin, and the red mane of hair toss back with a graceful movement.
“Is something wrong, Andrei?”
That is my name. And this is… his thoughts had parted, Shit.
The dark room had remained quiet. Andrei had still been taking things in, slowly. His mind had whirred chaotically, and the man beside him kept grinning sheepishly.
A smile. A kiss. And, another pill had gone down Andrei’s throat. And as his body went back to sleep, Andrei had been thrust back into his infancy and early childhood.
Then, the man in his bed had rolled over and, for the first time that night, went to sleep. And as he did so, between his legs, the bed sheets fell from their height. He’ll be out for the rest of the night. How long did he last? And how long will he stay this time?
Andrei remembered that encounter very clearly, as it was out of place amidst the chronology of his second childhood. Also, it was out of place amidst his feelings. My kisses to Gavin lost sincerity long before then.
“When did you lose your sincerity?” Ayana asked.
“I don’t know.” Alexei continued. That’s a lie.
I suspect that that is a lie. She maintained eye contact, and let the silence tell him what she thought.
“Andrei became a sexual object to me.”
Ayana’s jaw fell a few millimeters. Not the answer I expected.
“At some point, I came to realize that my attraction to men was only physical. My brother was distant from me, emotionally.” Alexei was not ashamed, for they had discussed his incestful history in the past. “When I began to seek his heart, I disdained what I saw. Gradually, I came to the conclusion that the minds of men were not to my liking. The exception, of course, was my own.”
A brief silence.
“And your bicuriosity got the better of you?”
“Yes. A fag hag in high school.” His dark, Adriatic features looked ponderous. “She got at my feelings easily, though I never got at hers. I was unaccustomed to relating to a woman, I guess.”
“Oh, the sex? Yeah, that’s what kept me. The romance lost meaning, and became one-sided. She became an object to me. And when she realized this, it was too late. I had lost hope, became hopelessly addicted.”
Ayana swirled the last of the wine around in her glass before drinking. She knew it had fixated his attention. Whenever he had lost focus during their conversation, it was there. Suddenly, it made sense to Ayana.
“Marijuana wasn’t your only high, was it?”
“No.” Alexei grimaced in shame. “I started dating in a very casual manner.”
“Yeah,” he admitted. Senior year of high school through ‘til last year. Eight years of love drugging… I was a monster.
“Wait – we’re talking date rape, right?”
There was nothing judgmental about her tone. She could read the regret and guilt upon his features. And for that, he was grateful. However, he was distant.
“I guess that’s what you could call it.” Mild resentment.
“Does Andrei know?”
“Hell, Andrei still does it!” She doesn’t even know about the marijuana.
“What!?” Ayana was startled. For some reason, she had not fathomed that date rape applied to homosexuals as well. “How do you know?”
“He took me along for protection, one night. He wanted to obtain some of the remnants of a batch of ‘black ecstasy’ that Gav stole from a rave. He tracked it to our old drug dealer, Azami.”
Gavin’s father is a pharmacist, she assured herself, “He’s clean, right?”
“Gav? Yeah, I think so.”
“Good, cause Andrei really needs someone with morals right now. And – Andrei has been cheating on him?”
“I can only imagine what he’s using the black ecstasy for. I reckon Gavin would know if he’d been drugged. So, I assume Andrei is either selling it or using it on others.” He took a drink of his own wine. “I can’t imagine Andrei would be foolish enough to take it himself.”
Ayana let her mind process it all. The implications washed over her. However, she was confident that this was all in Alexei’s past. Her analytical stare faded. She lay against his side, and he put his arm around her.
Damn it, I’ve ruined this perfect evening. The silence disconcerted him far more than her cold analysis, which she kept to herself. And as her head lay against his shoulder, he began to cry again. The numbing silence dragged on.
Ayana rolled over, onto him, and flashed her teeth. Her fingers danced towards his collar button with unnatural spontaneity. Three buttons quickly fell out, before she pulled off her blouse.
Alexei was shocked. His hands lay motionless, his jaw low as it met a tender kiss. Never before had it happened this way. Never before had he felt mutual, sincere affection.
The harpist playing, from the CD in the stereo, plucked each string, producing a graceful melody that brought them both to a serene place. And with the zing of each chord, a piece of clothing fell to the floor.
Never before was he not pulling the strings.
Ten months old, they said I had a seizure in the crib. He cried, and our parents came to check on us. The pediatrician was telling them I was in a coma, when I woke up after returning. I remembered the loss of control. It was easier to deal with on the playground during kindergarten. Andrei now had a vivid recollection of both his repeated childhood and the original. Nostalgia had breathed new life into those memories. I fought it, and it went away. I fell from the monkey bars of the playground. However, I remained there.
The jerking of the nerves, the fraying of the mind, he remembered. Thrice I fought it off, over the following years. It cost me a piano recital, damn it. Paralyzed at the keys for minutes, in front of an audience.
Why couldn’t I fend it off last time?
He had taken into account the original of the day. And it had assured him that they would be alone together. Their father’s homoerotic video stash. Duct tape. He had been in the middle of breaking his twin. They had been eleven, a year younger than with their original, first sexual encounter. And he had exceeded himself greatly, triggering a return.
And when he had returned, he had woken up once again, in the bedroom. Beside him, a slender man had lying beneath the sheets. Sunlight had fallen in the window, onto his freckled face.
The freckled face of a young man peeked slowly around the corner of the apartment’s hallway, into view of the living room. He could hear the sounds of lovemaking, with background music, and assumed someone was watching the television. There was a couch across from the television, and upon it was a tangle of naked flesh. The man quickly thrust his head back out of the room, Oh, dear me! I must not intrude.
Over a broad, toned shoulder, and between soft moans, Ayana saw a flicker of movement. She ignored it, however she committed it to memory. Andrei?
The freckle-faced man, his hair in a rich mane of mild curls, tip-toed down the hall with unnecessary fluidity. He’d been thirsty, however he could not make it to the kitchen without crossing through the living room. Thus, he walked into Andrei’s room near the end of the hall, picked up an empty glass that was not his, and went to the bathroom to fill it.
He returned, sat upon the opposite side of the bed from which the water glass was taken, and inserted ear plugs into his ears. No need to hear their lovemaking. He drank, set it upon the table, and went to sleep.
Andrei lay in the hamper, almost asleep. His mind whirred, through memory. He was torn between his plaything and his brother. He wanted to return. However, indecision met his mind in nostalgic reminiscence.
“Honestly, it was unfair. My sixth birthday was a week away, Gavin,” Andrei had lied. “I crossed over in the middle of a busy playground. I think I was on the monkey bars.”
“That’s rough.” Gavin had replied. He didn’t call me Cadaroc. He is using my middle name, like everyone else. What has changed?
“You made it to nine months, and then six and a half years?”
“Yes, Andrei,” he had said with a fleeting smile. “I know how much you’ve missed me, and I reckon that now you understand why I was after you so urgently yesterday.”
Andrei had frowned, for a second, His yesterday.
“Is something wrong?” Gavin had inquired, his voice thick with worry.
This is gonna be fun. Andrei had then put a hand on Gavin’s naked shoulder, and gently pushed him back against the pillow. And thus, the lovemaking had begun. Andrei had tried unsuccessfully to imitate the same flamboyant flair with which Gavin constantly moved about. There had always been something tender and soft about the way Gavin physically expressed his love. Andrei had preferred his own movements to be rough and fast, and thus his heart had not been in the act. Eventually, he had given up trying to be courteous. You’re gonna break, Cadaroc!
The sex, accompanied by hallucinations from coming off the pill, had whirled around his mind. Memory danced in his head, now, and flowed through his veins. It flowed down, and engorged there in lust. And then, it was interrupted. The bedroom door opened. Andrei’s eyes flung open, lashes thick with mascara, and he peered out the handle-hole in the side of the giant laundry hamper. The bedroom was dimly lit. Candles burned with a soothing rhythm, which spoke to the unconscious mind of eras past.