Howdy gang! Welcome to this week's chapter of Vision Quest. This one's all mine. I hope you enjoy!
"Well, now," Blaze said, slowly. "That was interesting."
"Oh, we're going to need another round," Blaze said to the blonde girl buzzing by their table to check on her only customers.
"Coming right up!" The girl beamed at Blaze, cast a slightly worried glance at Arik, who was still seasick pale, and then she skipped away.
"Thanks," Arik said, sipping his beer and moving his fries around in their basket as though he wanted to build a fort out of them, not eat them.
After "the incident," as Arik was calling it, at Mini Golf Insanity Land, Blaze had driven them to the closest place that sold alcohol, which turned out to be a sports bar that had tiny TVs at every table and waitresses in green-checkered plaid shirts and solid black mini shorts. The hardest thing they served was a malt beer, and Blaze had ordered two of them and a couple baskets of fried foods to fend off Arik's shakes. Whenever Blaze had an "incident" that powerful, he usually got a drop in blood sugar that could leave him flattened on the ground. And Blaze was absolutely sure that Arik had experienced an "incident" the likes of which were very familiar to Blaze. The kiss they'd shared had been fraught with sizzle and spark, and Blaze had been halfway to the moon, high on the rare and cherished connection sensation, when Arik had staggered away, yelled loudly enough to make the wee humans cry, and stared at Blaze in a weird mixture of accusation and fast-dying hope. It'd been like he had expected Blaze to have seen whatever it was that Arik had seen or understand whatever it was that Arik now knew, or, at the very least, had a glimmer of insight leading toward the knowing.
Unfortunately, the only thing Blaze had experienced was an interlacing of metaphysics that had gotten him hard so fast he had thought the kiss alone might have gotten him off right there on the goat's grinning face. And even more unfortunate than the sudden change of game plan that went from hot to horrible in less than point-oh-oh-six seconds, was that Blaze was having little to no luck getting Arik to talk about what had happened.
"I'm sorry," Arik said again.
"That's eight," Blaze said.
"Times." Blaze sighed. "That you've apologized. Arik, you don't need to say you're sorry."
"Feels like I do," Arik muttered.
Blaze reached across the table and carefully touched Arik's rolled shirtsleeve. "I understand what happened."
The unbridled desperation almost made Blaze hesitate, but he carried on: "Sure. You're used to being on the other side of an ass beating."
Blaze got a weak chuckle for his efforts. "You were doing pretty well."
"Winning. You were winning." Arik drank deeply of his beer, nodded to the girl when she set down another one, and Blaze ignored the girl's judging gaze about men who drank before noon on Thursdays.
"Yeah, until you got a good look at the goat, it was all going my way."
Arik blanched, drank again, and Blaze locked on target. "Did it remind you of something?"
"The goat?" Arik scoffed. "No."
The derision was real enough. Blaze changed tactics. "Did you see something?"
Arik's eyes ticked to Blaze's. "What?"
"See something," Blaze repeated. "Or smell, maybe, or--"
"It's a migraine," Arik said, nostrils flaring and fist forming on the table. "Like I said. I get them, you know? And they're sudden, and--"
"And cured by beer and fried foods?"
"I just said I thought we should leave," Arik said, bordering on angry, now. "You were the one who suggested the food."
"And you didn't argue with me, tell me your treatment plan, or ask to go to the hotel to sleep in
the darkness with a cold cloth, medication, and silence."
Arik's mouth opened and closed like a fish, and he frowned. "No, I... No, I didn't."
"Have you ever actually had a migraine?" Blaze asked.
"No, but I’m getting a real pain in my ass right about now." Arik's eyes flashed dangerously, but it was the beer bottle that got the dirty look, not Blaze. "This was a mistake," Arik said softly.
"Please," Arik said in a perfectly awful placating, tired tone. He waved one hand, shaking off Blaze's touch. "I'll get the drinks, drive you back, and... we'll just forget it ever--"
"My bunică was a vrăjitoare," Blaze interrupted.
The foreign tongue had its uses. Catching the attention of distraught, pretty men who were the current object of Blaze's Quests was one of them. "Your what was a what?" Arik asked.
"My granmamere, my granny, was a witch. Well, actually, I'm thinking of my great-great granny, but the other female descendants were witches, too."
"You're kidding?" Arik asked, but this time the derision was not only unreal, it was scarce on the ground.
"I am not." Blaze tipped his beer toward Arik, drank, and smacked his lips. It was terrible beer, but strong. "And all of them saw things."
"What kinds of things?"
"The future, the past, ghosts, demons, the devil within..." Blaze shrugged. "All sorts of things. I grew up with a huge family, most of whom could dance in fire, charm snakes, and read cards, and if I could count the number of times I've seen one or more of them react to some horrible shit they could see but nobody else could, it'd be an even bigger figure than the number of times you apologize when it's not your fault. So gadjo..." Blaze nudged Arik's beer closer to its drinker. "What did you see?"
"I..." Arik was white as a sheet, but leaning toward Blaze, not away, and when he bit his lip and started to draw into himself, Blaze made a soft, tender sound and covered Arik's hand with Blaze's own. The spark was instantly there, humming between them, and Arik gasped, arm going stiff.
"It's okay," Blaze murmured, petting Arik's thumb with his own.
"No, not so much. Last time, definitely not so."
"In my experience, this kind of charge has less to do with visions and more to do with one set of esoteric chemistry that really, really likes another set."
"Esoteric..." Arik's frown became a concentration scowl. "You mean you... do you see...?"
"I did just tell you I was related to a bunch of crazy women, didn't I?" Blaze said dryly, which was both an answer and not an answer, but it worked to satisfy Arik for right now.
"I'm really not sure what happened," Arik said, steadier but still ashen and fixated on their joined hands. "I... what the fuck?"
Oh God, not again, Blaze thought, but Arik didn't scream or curse. He slapped the controls on the flatscreen in their booth. They'd turned it off when they had sat down, and now Arik cranked the volume.
It was a news station, and a woman in a pencil skirt and dour expression stood next to a cold crime scene with tape marking where it had been originally set up near some train tracks, a train service station, and a whole lot of forest. The bold tag across the bottom of the screen said, BODY FOUND.
"...ongoing hunt for their son, Craig Hammersfeld, who was reported missing a month ago by his partner, Christopher Edwards. Elizabeth Sewell is standing on the site where police recovered a mutilated body last week. Elizabeth, has it been confirmed that the body was, in fact, Craig Hammersfeld?"
"Hi Jack, and yes, it has been confirmed with a positive ID just this morning. A mere five days ago, police found a blue, plastic barrel that had been stuffed with a contorted, crushed, and nearly liquidated human body. This monstrous crime horrified the surrounding community, causing a major outcry for a manhunt to find the perpetrators, and police have two suspects in custody who, it is said, have confessed to this atrocity as part of a dare fulfilled while under the influence of a variety of illegal substances. They admit to abducting Craig after he finished his shift at a local mini golf course. He was in his car and had dropped his keys on the gravel, and was forced away from the vehicle and into an unmarked van at gunpoint. Craig sustained many injuries and endured hours of torture before being--"
Blaze shut off the television, unable to take any more, but before he could ask a question or speak a single word, Arik was out of the booth and running toward the men's room. Blaze ripped out his wallet, slammed a bill down between the unfinished beers, and grabbed his bag from under the table. He swung his entire life across his shoulders as he gave chase, worry and dread speeding his heart and his feet.
Until next time!
Tune in next week for more.
Author Note: Sadly, the bit about the body found in the barrel is not fiction (though I changed the specifics). It wasn't a gay man, but a couple -- man and woman -- who were abducted, tortured, raped, killed, stuffed in a trash can, and set on fire. Article for gruesome details is here, if you feel like your nightmares need an infusion.
There is a fine line that separates us from barbarianism, and it is still crossed far too often. Its victims span all colors, genders, races, and walks of life. Love one another, kids. Be good and kind, and remember it takes guts and courage to do so. Kindness and generosity are not easy, but they a powerful way to fight the darkness.
Now then... TAG Henley. You're it.
Much love to you and yours,
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