Authors: Josh Aterovis
Blood covered everything in the small room, an incredible amount of blood. It splattered the walls, covered the floor and even dripped from the ceiling. The smell was nauseating, overwhelming the senses with its metallic bite. It was amazing to think that so much blood could come from one person, but there was only one body in evidence.
The body, it could no longer be called a person, all that had made it a person - the spark and soul that makes one alive - was gone. What was left was just an empty shell. This one more empty than most. The head had been nearly severed from the neck and that only after it had been hacked and chopped repeatedly. It lay now in a grotesque heap in the middle of the room.
It would have been easy and strangely satisfying to leave it like that for someone to find. And it wouldn't have been right away either. The person the body had once been was not the type of person anyone would miss, or if they did it would only be to appreciate the fact that he was absent. The idea of someone else witnessing his bloody and undignified end was very compelling but it was too much of a risk. As careful as one was, you just couldn't be sure what kind of evidence had been left behind. If even half of what they showed on TV was true then those forensic investigators could practically work magic. No, it was too big a risk.
Gasoline splashed across the floor, mingling with the blood and overpowering the smell of death.
There's a certain pleasure in that drowsy state that occurs somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. You know the sun is out because you can feel the warmth on your eyelids, but you have nowhere to be and nothing to do so you just lie there, not quite asleep, but not really awake either. It wasn't something I got to experience very often so I was enjoying the rare treat for all it was worth. At least I was until the phone started ringing.
I knew I was home alone so at first I decided to ignore it. After what must have been a dozen rings it stopped, much to my relief. But before I could sink back into oblivion it started up again. With a sign I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and staggered across the room to snatch up the offending object.
?” I mumbled sleepily. I was determined not to wake up entirely on the off chance it was just a long distance phone service salesman.
“Hey sexy,” a familiar voice purred. I suddenly found myself wide-awake and not in the least bit resentful.
“Hey yourself, beautiful,” I said, a smile warming my voice.
“Please tell me I didn't wake you up. You can't be sleeping away the first day of our lives as high school graduates!”
“Well I was, but I wasn't exactly asleep.”
He laughed, “But you weren't exactly awake either?”
We both laughed, “So what's up?” I asked.
“Nothing really, I just wanted to hear your voice.”
“You'll be hearing it all too often before too much longer.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, aren't we going to get a place together? I mean, I just assumed because you said you didn't want to live on campus and I don't want to drive all that way everyday…”
“Oh wow…I guess I hadn't really thought about it.
Excitement filled his voice.
“Waking up in your arms every morning!
Let's start looking today!”
But we have 3 months…”
“Not really, more like two, and besides, that's not even that long. We can stop and see Will while we're over there, too. I'm a little worried about him.”
“I…I guess so. I need to take a shower and stuff.”
“Ok, meet me at my house whenever you're ready.”
“Ok. See you later.”
“Later. Oh, and Killian? I love you.”
“I love you too, Ash.”
I hung up the phone and stood staring down at it for a moment or two. I had just assumed we would be living together and was surprised that the thought hadn't already crossed Asher's mind. If I had known that he wasn't already planning it I don't know if I would have brought it up. I wasn't at all sure I was ready for that step and had only said something because I had assumed it was already decided. Oh well, too late to back out now.
I grabbed a pair of clean boxers and started for the bathroom, my mind swirling as I went. Asher and I had been together now for a year and a half. We'd been friends since we were kids, growing up next door to each other and going to the same school. Things had changed in our junior year though, when a new boy had arrived at school. His name was Seth and he stirred things in me that I'd never felt before. I soon realized that I was gay. When Seth was murdered in what looked to be a hate crime, the police passed it off as a random mugging gone wrong. I couldn't accept that however, and I enlisted Asher's help in finding the real killer. Along the way, Asher told me he loved me and had loved me for years. By the time we figured out who the killer was we had almost become his latest victims.
Jump forward about one year later. My cousin, Aidan, and Asher's cousin, Will, become roommates and then lovers. Will's best friend was found dead in a swimming pool and it was ruled an accidental death But shortly after that, Will received a cryptic note in the mail saying that it wasn't an accident. He asked Asher and me, and a few of his other friends to help find out what really happened. I agreed to help, against Asher's wishes. It almost tore us apart. It turned out that Asher had been right. By the time it was all over, Aidan was dead. The shockwaves were far reaching and they had yet to really settle. I could understand why Asher was worried about Will.
Six months had passed since Aidan was shot and I knew that Will hadn't dealt with things very well. He had become very withdrawn, quit his job at the art gallery and moved back in with his mom. I knew he was seeing a counselor sporadically, but I couldn't see where he had let it help him all that much.
As I was dressing, my mind wandered back to Asher and I. Was moving in together the right move? Even though we had been together for a long time now, we had still never made love. We'd fooled around some, but we had never really gone all the way. Asher was ready, had been for some time, but for some reason I just wasn't. I know Asher tried to be understanding, but it was creating stress in our relationship. It was something I really needed to work on if I was as committed to us as I liked to think I was.
An hour later, Asher and I were on our way to Will's house.
“I was thinking about Will earlier,” I said as I drove.
I've been thinking about him a lot lately,”
said, “The baby will be coming soon and I just don't think he's ready.”
Before he had been killed, Will's friend had gotten a girl named Caitlin pregnant. Will had offered to help raise the baby, even signed papers that made it all legal and binding. And then it turned out that she was the killer. The baby was due any day now.
“What do you mean, not ready?” I asked, “He's obviously still depressed and all but that's to be expected, don't you think? I mean his dad died and then his lover was killed on their wedding night. You can't expect someone to get over something like that overnight. Maybe the baby will help bring him around.”
“Maybe, but what if it doesn't? He's barely left the house in the last sixth months. He isn't working, as far as I know he isn't even painting; I'm just worried about him.”
“So am I, Ash, but what can we do?”
He sighed, “I don't know. I wish there was something though.”
We drove the rest of the way in a slightly uncomfortable silence. This had been happening more and more lately. It used to be that we could talk about anything and nothing for hours on end, or simply enjoy a companionable silence, the kind when nothing needs to be said. Our silences seemed heavy these days.
I had been convinced from day one that Asher and I were meant to be together forever. I still wanted to believe that, but now I sometimes found myself wondering if that was realistic. We were still kids; who were we to know about forever? I looked over at him slouched down in the passenger seat and thought about how much he had changed in the last year. He was tall now, a little over six feet, but still thin. His curly black hair was a little longer than it used to be, I wondered if he was growing it out or if he'd just missed a haircut. Why didn't I know something like that? His face had lost some of that adolescent look and he was really starting to look like an adult now. His eyes were the only things that hadn't changed; they were still the same inscrutable silvery-gray.
I shifted my gaze to the rear-view mirror at my own reflection. I hadn't changed much. I've always looked younger than my age and I still did. I was average height, about five foot nine, and maybe slightly underweight. I had bright blue eyes and wavy blonde hair. All in all I could have easily passed for a tenth grader instead of a high school graduate, even if the graduation had only happened yesterday. I sighed.
“What are you thinking?” Asher asked.
“I look like a little kid. Who's ever going to take me serious when I look fifteen?”
“You're adorable!” he protested.
I'm adorable, like a little kid. You look all grown up, you look...sexy.”
“Gee thanks,” he giggled, “You make that sound like such a bad thing. But seriously, where is this coming from? I love the way you look. I love everything about you, you know that.”
I sighed again, “It's not that. I don't know, just forget it.”
“No, if it's really bothering you I don't want to just forget it.”
“Well I want you to, ok?”
, Killian, what is up with you?”
“I don't know. I'm sorry.”
Any further strained conversation was spared as we pulled into the driveway of Will's house. It was a modest, two story home with an attached garage. The white vinyl siding was looking a bit grungy, as if it needed a good power washing. The shrubs were slightly overgrown and had a scraggly look to them. It looked like what it was; a home whose primary caretaker had passed away not too long ago. It looked like neither Will nor his mom had found keeping up the outside of the house a high priority.
We climbed out of the car and walked up to the front door. Will
“Hi, did I know you were coming?” he said with a slightly confused expression.
I smiled. “Nope, you had no idea. We decided to surprise you.”
Asher added cheerfully.
Will gave us a ghost of a smile as he stepped back to allow us in. We all trooped into the living room, which unlike the outside of the house, was neat and comfortable looking. I looked Will over carefully as we sat down. At first glance, the resemblance between Will and Asher was striking. They both shared the same pale complexion that blushed so very easily and the same curly black hair. The similarities pretty much stopped there, though. Will's eyes were a deep blue and he lacked a good six inches of Asher's height. His rumpled clothing looked liked he slept in them and it looked as if he hadn't shaved today.