He pressed his back against the corner of the one-and-a-half by five foot cage and screamed.
But when Frank’s mind began to birth itself back into consciousness he did not turn towards the light like a flower rooted into the soil, and he didn’t welcome it like a child fresh from the womb. He treated it like the light at the end of the tunnel; high beams of a car steered by a drunk driver. He tried to step out of the way but the light came close, seemed to envelope his whole head. Frank tried to open his mouth and engulf it, maybe even to taste it as it blew color through his eyeballs, but his mouth had been wiped off.
The light went away, pulling itself back into darkness as if someone had grabbed it by the legs and were dragging it away. He was stuck back in blackness and he tried to tear a hole where his mouth should have been with his tongue, but the muscle flapped around like an eel and wouldn’t puncture his skin. He imagined a million holes in his epidermis, oversized pores where fungus and maggots had gnawed away, and he tried to punch through them so he could speak.
There was a sound to his left like a pierced balloon breathing into the air.
“Oooohhhhh thank GODDD.”
The light came back, but this time it came from another place, as if it had been approaching him from around a corner. It grew large, beginning at the size of a marble and then swallowing him whole and painting him in a freezing yellow that he thought looked like the piss of someone who had drank too much water; then retreated back into nothingness like an animal returning back into its hole in the ground. The sounds came again and he felt like crying.
“Aw fu-…thankjesuss his pupilsss are dilating… I thought he fuckingoverdosed…”
The balloon-air-sound came again, like the sound of massive, heavy clouds releasing a gush of wind. Frank wanted to see the sound and wanted the helplessness of blindness to be lifted. He felt hands on the top and side of his head, nails on his hair and softness on his cheek. He imagined a mouth opening and massive, mountain-shaped teeth puncturing holes in his cheeks as he was devoured.
Frank tore the muscles of his jaw in the darkness, ripping open a massive hole where his mouth was supposed to be so an explosion of colorful sound burst forth into the air. He made a monstrous moan, like a heavy, rusted door being forced open, and air that tasted like dust flew inside him. The hands on his head flew off as if they’d been forced back.
“Aw man what theHELL.”
He coughed, sputtered and groaned, and the light came again. But this time he turned towards it; he reached for it with flexing fingers. Hands pressed on his chest, but not his hands. He sucked in the air and it seemed like every time he moved or breathed the light would grow; expanding from a slit to a beam to just an omnipresent thing that made shapes and colors.
“Calm down FuhFuhFuhFRANK. God- Calm-…’sokay. ‘Sokay…God, just BREATHE allrrrrrrready.”
Frank turned his head and someone was on his shoulder with their arms around his chest, behind his neck so the person’s fingers clasped together in a loop around his torso. Everything was languid, like he had been pulled out of hot water. He flailed, writhed, and moaned out LEGGO.
The grip tightened, changing suddenly from a rope-like looseness to a round beam of steel. “No.”
Against blankets, with silver light forcing him awake, Frank wriggled and sobbed. He felt snakes in his stomach. LEGGO PLEASE PLEEEEASE.
The hold became a vice, crushing the bones in his shoulders and chest. He could feel a mouth against the bare skin of his neck. As it opened, teeth grazed his nerves. “No.”
He whimpered. “It hurts.”
A tiny gust of released balloon-air breath was sighed against his cheek. Some tiny, sympathetic male voice whispered to him, “I know.”
Fingers pet his hair. He blinked slowly, eyelashes sticking together like spider webs. From the back of his scalp to the inside of his thighs he was covered in sweat and his nose was crusted over with mucus at the nostrils. His jeans felt tight and his shoes felt hot. He tried to kick them off but he had forgotten how to use his feet. The appendages wriggled at the end of his legs like nubs of nothing. From inside his throat, he released a tiny mewing sound. He spoke without thinking; spit bubbling on his lips and collecting in the corner of his mouth like half-dry Elmer’s glue.
The mouth moved to the shell of his ear and he shuddered, a horrible, violent shake that went from his neck to his groin, when a thick, hot tongue poked around the cartilage, so delicately tasting and disgustingly enjoying him. Against his tragus he could feel the lips move upward into a tiny smile, could feel them part, and for a horrible second he thought the teeth behind them might retract and snatch his whole ear right off.
“I’m here. I’m gonna take…care of you.”
Frank felt his toes curl and he breathed inward. “No, please…Leg’go I want to go…”
The lips relaxed back into a straight line and the hand on his hair continued to pet him. The man was holding him down on the bed, holding him like a captive confused with a lover. He felt so heavy. The youthful voice said in a sincerely regretful tone, “I wish I could…I wish I could…”
By the time he was no longer sluggish, Frank had forced himself to delve into unconsciousness.
He awoke, and yet he didn’t fully awake. The room smelled like his grandmother’s house. But his grandmother’s house during Easter. When Frank was small his parents always made him and his sister take a trip to his grandmother’s house during the Easter holidays. This was before his parents split up, since after that his father would have absolutely nothing to do with his wife’s side of the family. It smelled like lemon-scented floor cleaner and a little bit like the inside of a new car.
The inside of his grandmother’s house was always immaculate during the holiday months and it constantly smelled of cleansers. And Frank was so absolutely out of it that he would have considered it a possibility that he might have actually been there in her house if she hadn’t died when he was fifteen. As he lay there, finding himself breathing deeply through his nose, he was momentarily overwhelmed with nostalgia, then sadness. The back of his throat hurt when he swallowed and his eyes felt puffy.
Frank let out a tiny groan and rubbed his closed eye with the heel of his hand. Even through his closed eyelids he could see the light from a large, square window. A ceiling fan blew air around his head.
To his left he could hear the muffled sound of feet on carpet and he gave a startled twitch, sitting up and twisting himself away from the noise. The man in front of him held out his hands and gave a pseudo-surprised exclamation of, “Woah!” Frank clutched the blanket in between his fingers.
“What are you doing?” His words came out in a rush and he felt himself pull away from the other man, as if an imaginary fishing line had his hooked from the spine; he was being reeled backwards.
“Woah, dude, calm down,” he said. He stretched his fingers to make his hand more open, then relaxed them. Frank looked around rapidly.
“Where’m I?” he asked. Before the other man could answer, Frank added, “And why am I here? Who are you?”
The man scratched behind his head, his fingers itching in the black, chopped hair, and he looked around the room awkwardly. “One at a time, dude…” he muttered. He looked around the room, slower than Frank had, and gestured with his free hand to the space. “Well…’s my house.” He turned, facing the open doorway, and Frank could see into the kitchen.”Not too big or anything I guess…”
“And you?” Frank snapped. He felt a sudden pang of guilt for snapping and he tried to control his voice. “What’s your name?”
The man turned back to him and pulled his hand out of his hair, only to promptly start chewing on the nail of his index finger. Frank couldn’t tell if he was jittery or nervous or had the compulsion to play with his hands. “I’m Gerard,” the man said. “…I think we met last night?”
Frank suddenly felt that disturbed pang shoot through his body like an arrow. He remembered the wet muscle on his ear and the arms around his chest and the sensation of light burning holes in his skin. Something creeped inside his chest and told him to move away, but some part of him said that if he did, Gerard would know that he knew, that he remembered, and it would happen again. “What?”
Gerard looked down at him on the bed and furrowed his eyebrows a little, looking confused. “At the bar?”
Frank felt something tense inside him deflate but he still stammered out, “I…don’t remember.”
Swallowing, Gerard actually looked a little disappointed. “Oh.” There was a moment of silence between them in which Frank felt the muscles in his back relax. The other man looked a bit deflated and his eyes became a little dull as he chewed on his own nail. Frank studied Gerard; a bar didn’t seem like the type of place this guy would hang around at- he looked hardly old enough to drink. He was youthful and thin, of medium height, and pale; a bit more of a starving artist than a bar hopper. His face was boyish. The guy must get carded every bar he even thinks of going into, Frank thought.
Gerard suddenly blinked and looked up sharply. He clenched his eyes shut for a second then emitted, “Oh, sorry, I got kinda lost in my own head.” He smiled at Frank sheepishly and giggled; a high, sort of chirping laugh. “Um, anyway,” he continued, gathering himself and taking his nail out of his mouth. “Yeah, we met in a bar and had a couple a drinks.” He chuckled, a different sound this time. A lower one. “You got totally smashed.”
Frank forced himself to nervously laugh. “Yeah, I can tell.” He rubbed the back of his head. “My skull is killing me.”
All at once, Gerard’s eyes became wide. “Really?” he asked his voice becoming slightly higher and quicker. He leaned in slightly closer to Frank, as if he might reach out and touch him, and Frank felt his muscles lock up, his fingers clenching around the blankets. Gerard opened his mouth to say something else but seemed to catch himself. With an intake of breath and then a heavy swallow, he leaned back .
“I have some aspirin,” he offered. He motioned behind himself with this thumb, indicating to what Frank assumed must have been the bathroom. Frank sat there for a moment, just slightly astounded at the rapid changes in Gerard’s mannerisms, before nodding a little and clearing his throat to choke out a thick-sounding, “Yeah, please.” And when Gerard left the room, he couldn’t help but crane his neck to peek out the bedroom door to see if he could find a door to the outside. The window that he now had his back to revealed that he was on the ground level; not that he had any intention of leaving through the window, it just felt a little more secure to know where the exits were.
Frank pushed the blankets off of himself. He was still in the clothes he had been wearing the night before. He checked the pockets for his cell phone or his wallet, and even after digging his hands deep into his pockets he found that they were completely empty. Even the bits of loose change had been removed; all of the fifteen or so cents in miscellaneous coins floating around in there.
The nightstand next to the bed held a single drawer and Frank reached across the bed to pull it open. There was only a flashlight and a half-empty, rectangular box of tissues resting assumedly untouched in the bottom. There was literally no other furniture in the room; the nightstand and twin bed, with just enough room on both sides for someone to walk or stand by, taking up nearly the hole space. He patted down his back pocket for his belongings, as if he might have moved them there in his sleep. He hadn’t.
Frank pressed the heels of his hands against his forehead, tugging at his hair as if trying to pull the migraine out of his skull, and helplessly gasped the word shit to himself. The room turned as if on a ball. He could hear in the room to his left that Gerard had turned on a faucet. The sound of water on glass reached him and for whatever he didn’t like the idea of the other man being so close. For a fraction of a second he thought about getting up and leaving, but he kept himself rooted. Frank dropped his hands.
Gerard returned to the room with a glass of water in one hand and two red aspirin in the other.
“I think this should help,” he mused, glancing at the fisted hand that held the pills. His voice sounded thick, and Frank realized for the first time that it was because Gerard had an accent. Some of his Os sounded like Uhs when they shouldn’t have and his Es were more pronounced; he sounded like he might have been from central New Jersey. “You usually take, like, two, right?”
Frank sputtered, exasperated, and clenched his eyes shut for a moment.
“Where’s my wallet?” he interrupted, and he could ear his own impatience; his own rudeness. “And my car keys?” He made an open armed gesture around his seated middle as if to reference to his pockets.
Gerard cocked his head to the side a little and tugged on his bottom lip with his teeth. “I dunno,” he admitted with a light shrug. Frank felt the beginnings of panic start to drill holes in his middle. Gerard continued, his voice light, saying, “They’re probably in my car.”
Frank stared up at him and asked what.
Gerard moved over towards the side of the bed and set down the pills and water. “Yeah, they probably fell out. When I brought you back I just sorta…threw you in the back of my car.” He laughed a little, embarrassed. His face fell and he looked down at the bed, then around the room as if uncomfortable. For the second time, Gerard played with the hair on the back of his head, trying to occupy his hands. “I was wicked drunk, too, man. I think I got a little…” He shuffled his feet. “…“handsy” on you.” With his free hand he pantomimed a groping gesture, flexing his fingers.
Frank swung his legs over the side of the bed so he was facing Gerard. His mouth opened, closed. Like a fish gasping for breath. “Oh.” Gerard didn’t move. He just sort of stood there, squashed between this mostly-stranger and the awkward silence. Frank remembered the hands on his chest and with a pang of repulsion, the tongue on his ear.
Gerard backed up a little and shook his head. “Hey, I’m sorry, man.” He shook his hand in a no gesture. “I was smashed, I didn’t…” He paused and Frank felt a bit of the tension alleviate. Just enough so he didn’t feel uncomfortable. The other man added flatly, “I’m not like that.”
Frank was silent for a moment before he gave a tiny laugh and said, “Nah, you know what? It’s okay. I don’t…remember anything anyway.” Gerard let out a breath of air, obviously relieved and smiled back.
“Yeah, um, hey, how about I make you some breakfast or…” he paused to pull out his cell phone and look at the time. “…or lunch.” Frank started to protest but Gerard stopped him. “Nah, it’s the least I can do for molesting you.”
On the walk out from the bedroom Frank could see that across the hall and to the left, just out of the sight from his old position on the bed, was a second bedroom, slightly larger than the one he’d just been in. The curtains were closed. Across from that room was the bathroom. The short hall visible from Frank’s bedroom led directly into the kitchen. Gerard slid across the linoleum floor on his socks, making it a good three or four feet before grabbing onto the handles of the fridge to stop himself. There was a wooden island in the kitchen and Frank hopped himself up on the linoleum countertop. Gerard looked like the kind of person who wouldn’t mind.
He opened the fridge door. “So, what are you hungry for? You kind of slept through breakfast…”
Frank kicked his feet and shrugged. “Ah, I don’t really know.” He scratched his chin, staring at Gerard’s back. “Hey, Gerard.”
He didn’t turn around, just moved things around in the fridge. “Yeah?”
The words seemed a little stuck in Frank’s throat. He was almost nervous to say them. He forced out the block with a cough and said, “I was just wondering…I don’t remember anything about last night.”
Gerard’s back went rigid. “You…don’t?” He turned his head slightly as if to look behind him, in Frank’s direction. He held his position there for about a breath and then turned back, closing the fridge door. “Well, that’s weird. I remember…I mean, it’s blurry but I remember.”
“I know,” Frank continued. “I was just kind of wondering what happened.”
Gerard turned around and leaned his back against the refrigerator. “Well…” he began, the word coming out as a sigh. “I went into the bar- I don’t remember what it was called…Jason’s? Something like that- and you were sitting there so I sat next to you…We talked, we had a few too many drinks…and you nearly passed the hell out so I brought you back.” His voice had become sterner, almost irritated. He crossed his arms. “That’s about it.” He watched Frank intensely, as if he might disagree. Frank turned away and felt his blood begin to rush.
Frank hardly ever drank so much that he couldn’t drive, let alone enough for him to pass out and need to be carried to a stranger’s house. The last time he had gotten even remotely drunk, intoxicated to the point where he had trouble remembering certain events from the night before, was at his best friend’s bachelor party; and that had been over a year ago. He didn’t belong to a fraternity so he didn’t go partying every weekend; in fact, he had dropped out of college about six months prior to live on his own. He wasn’t into drugs and only one time ever had he slept with a stranger; and she wasn’t even a genuine stranger, more like a friend of a friend’s sister. So the chances that he had gotten completely wasted and passed out on a Thursday night were slimming down to none.
Gerard made a small advancement towards him, just a small step, and Frank tightened his fingers around the edge of the counter top. “I don’t know why you’re worrying so much,” he murmured. “It’s not like anything happened…”
Frank hopped off the counter and tried to shrug casually. “Hey, man, thanks for everything, but I think I gotta get going. My head’s clearing up though.” He took a small step backward as Gerard stepped closer. In that moment he could see that Gerard was taller than him by several inches- hell, everyone was taller than Frank. At a lousy five foot two, he intimidated no one.
“No,” Gerard said. It was not angry or cruel. It was firm. “I don’t think you should.”
“…Why not?” Frank asked. He took another step back and Gerard took a large step forward, herding him backwards. The space between them was closing, Gerard advancing two feet for every one Frank tried to make. Gerard’s tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth, peeking like a worm from beneath the Earth. He reached out and touched Frank’s hand and Frank recoiled as if his hand was poisonous.
“I can’t.” He shook his head, hair falling in his face, and he looked up through the shaggy locks with pained, sorrowful eyes. Lonely eyes. “You don’t know what it’s like…”
With a spasm of terror, Frank’s back hit the wall. His fingers groped at the flat surface, trying to force through its solidity. He pressed the backs of his feet against the surface as if he might be able to sink through it. “What are you doing?”
Gerard held his hands against Frank’s shoulders, pinning him to the wall behind him. He tried to claw at the man’s hands but he became sure that Gerard could feel no pain. All at once he felt Gerard’s hip bones pressing into his lower belly and he was outweighed, outfought. His arms flailed out, trying to reach for some place to gouge or scratch, nicking Gerard’s cheek just under his eye, but Gerard must have been made of strength and steel because he got Frank’s hands pinned above his head. He tried to kick, brought his knee up in an attempt to hit the other man in the fork of his legs, but Gerard got there first and Frank gasped and felt the wind leave him in an enormous gust.
Gerard pressed his cheek against Frank’s, his mouth against his ear, and Frank twisted and writhed beneath his body. He panted, arching his back and letting out a pathetic whimper, the movements horridly pseudo-sexual and erotic. The mouth parted and Frank didn’t want the tongue to touch him, didn’t want it poking at his openings. He jerked his head away, clenching his eyes shut.
“Let go of me, please,” he pleaded. He felt small and weak. “Gerard, stop.”
The lips moved from his ear and Gerard moved his face a few inches away from Frank’s. Black hair still covered his face, now sticking to the corners of his mouth where the hair had stuck to spit. Without speaking at all, he leaned it, pressing his nose into Frank’s cheek bone, his mouth pulled upward into a smile against the corner of Frank’s lips. Frank gasped and twitched and Gerard made a low Ssshhh… sound between his teeth.
“Gerard please, please, just let go,” Frank begged, his voice quivering. “Just stop, just stop, just let go.” He could feel the smile against his mouth and the idea of Gerard kissing him made his stomach churn. Frank wanted to say Don’t touch me, don’t touch me, please-oh-please-oh-please don’t rape me, Gerard but couldn’t get himself to make the sounds. The hands around his wrists were crushing his bones. The smell and taste of Gerard’s breath slipped into his mouth and he could taste old coffee. How long had he been awake- how long had he been waiting? His pants suddenly felt too tight.
The smile finally relaxed, dropping down Gerard’s face like a curtain on a stage. “I can’t. I want to let you go, Frank but I can’t…” Then the smile was back and this time it brought a bark-like laugh. “…No, I lied, I don’t want to let you go. I can’t do it, Frank.”
Frank’s breathing became shallow and he sputtered. “Okay, okay. Don’t let me go. Just please, please, Gerard, please don’t kill me. Please don’t hurt me.”
Gerard giggled against Frank’s skin. In a dreamy, almost sleepy voice, he said, “I’m not going to kill you.” He gently exhaled against Frank’s lips. “Unless you try to run away…Frank, you’re mine now. I want you. I’m going to keep you.”
Without thinking, Frank spat, “You’re fucking crazy. You’re completely insane.”
Gerard pressed himself tight against Frank. “I know.” He made a little sound that could have been a sob. Or a laugh. “I know, I’m really messed up. But that’s why you’re here. You’re gonna be messed up with me.”
For a quick moment he released his grip on Frank’s hands, only to twist him around and hold his hands together behind his back. Frank’s arms shook in Gerard’s grip. If they shook any harder they might have dislocated. He wished he had tried to struggle while they were free.
“We are gonna be so fucked up together!” He led Frank over to one of the counters and opened the drawer. In one seemingly slow movement he pulled out a thin knife and pressed the tip against Frank’s back. “Okay, so you’re gonna go where I tell you to go ooorrr…I’m going to knife you, kay?” Frank’s legs trembled and his knees knocked together. His bladder threatened to give out. The sharp point was pressing into the space between his shoulder blades and he imagined Gerard smashing the palm of his hand into the back of the knife.
“Come on, let’s go,” he commanded like an army officer. He poked Frank in the back of the head with his finger, leading him by pushing him in the direction he wanted him to go in. He was led around the wooden island, back down the grey hallway.
“It’s going to be okay,” Gerard said. He voice became soft suddenly. “I really am sorry about all this. I’m just…like you said, I’m crazy. I need help.”
“We…we can get you help,” Frank replied. Tears welled up in the corners of his eyes and started to swell over and obscure his vision. He was being led into Gerard’s bedroom and his heart threatened to burst. He’s going to rape me he’s going to rape me then he’s going to kill me somebody help me. “Gerard, Gerard, we can get you help.” Gerard pushed on the back of Frank’s head until he was standing in front of a wooden closet door. Keeping the knife at Frank’s back, he opened the door. The closet was completely empty.
“Not a chance.”
He shoved Frank in the closet. On his knees and in the darkness, Frank heard the door lock. He heard Gerard leave and the bedroom door close. He pressed his back against the corner of the one-and-a-half by five foot cage and screamed.