William’s body hung like a martyr propped against the playground jungle gym. He twisted his upper body with years of tumultuous rage and speed, despite the impending pounding in his head. Aiming ...
Went to find some work. If we’re going to start a band we’re going to need equipment and connections you know? That includes some dough too.
See ya tonight. Help yourself to anything you find in the room.
I doubt there’s much around, sorry.
A tiny smile tugged at the corners of Axl’s mouth as he laid it aside. Picking through the assortment of clothes and personal belongings, he found a half drunk bottle of vodka. Taking a swig, he immediately wished it was the good hard old Southern Whiskey or Bourbon he used to steal with…
Axl blinked. Last night was the first one he hadn’t dreamed of Jeff. The way the two had parted ways had bothered him greatly. Every night the dream was different. It was the same argument that led to him kicking Jeff out. Sometimes he tried to go after him. There was one time he had killed Jeff’s girlfriend. He swore he killed Jeff in one of them, but he wasn’t sure if he actually dreamed that. It didn’t; matter he always woke up before he could see Jeff’s reaction. It drove him crazy.
Pushing the haunting recollections from his mind he tied his Indiana sun streaked red hair back with a tattered black bandana. Abandoning the vodka to a pile of dirty clothes on the floor with a muted thud, he headed out the door.
He strutted along the pavement, looking around as he went trying to memorize his way back to Duff’s apartment. The air was warm and gentle, but large grey clouds loomed in the outskirts of the horizon. People seemed a little less stoned, maybe more sleepy, but more like an actual psychical embodiment of human beings rather than the corpses of the midnight hours.
Ought to get a job for the time being to make some money, he thought. He looked in the windows for help wanted signs. Alas, no one was hiring - not even a dishwasher job.
Axl eased his tight back against some bricks in the mouth of a chilly alley. Sighing softly, the cool air sliced through the dark tunnel burrowing under his skin. He knew that feeling. Rain was coming. He wondered if this rain would be like the frigid Indiana rain in late November or the sweltering rain in July. His eyelids flicked shut, remembering those dark nights with Jeff.
A cold hard barrel pressed into the back of his skull. Before he could lash out, he heard the soft metallic clink of a gun cocking. All the feeling in his body drained from him as if it were rain collapsing into a puddle beneath his feet. Slow hard heartbeats thundered in his chest. He felt paralyzed, unable to breathe. Hands seized his biceps, dragging him further into the vile gloom alley.
“Gimme your fucking wallet or you’re dead, fuck-ass.” A harsh voice laced with the accent of the streets growled into his ear. Axl’s limp hands shook as rage flared in his chest. His mouth worked before any other part of him could.
“Get the fuck off me you uncle fucking dick wipes!” He swiftly pivoted aiming a blow for the dark man’s gut. His aim was accurate, sending his attacker to the floor. Four more guys moved in on him at once. He kicked one in the shin slowing him down, but two others quickly snatched his arms, pulling them behind his back. A third slugged him in the head, once, twice, three times. He slackened in their grip, moaning and growling at the same time.
Flat on his back, pressed into the unforgiving asphalt, boots pummeled Axl’s ribs and stomach. He struggled to curl into a ball, but thick hands seized his wrists. Pushing them above his head, his first nefarious attacker leered over him. The hulking figure blocked out the fading sun. A grey-misted halo formed around the silhouetted face, giving him the look of a Renaissance religious painting.
Axl felt hands roaming his entire body. Hands. He’d experienced this feeling before - the tingling of a man’s firm touch. That had been when he felt fingertips of care and precise pleasure. This time wasn’t like the last or the first time. These hands hurt as they prodded his flesh and slipped beneath his clothes. Axl snarled around his mouthful of blood that he spat at his attacker. That earned him a slap.
“I ain’t going to fuck you, fairy. You’d enjoy it too much.” The gruff voice snarled with amusement. “So quit getting so damned excited and hold still.”
Thunder roared above the head of his glowing attacker. Clouds swarmed the tiny crevice of dull light that peaked between the concrete buildings, as the pious hands stilled.
“Out of the millions of fucks in this god forsaken city we had to pick the one fuck that’s got nothing on him!” The voice was a devil’s rumble. Seizing Axl’s jaw harshly, he tossed his limp rag doll body into the brick wall. He spat in Axl’s face. “This is for wasting our fucking time, bitch.”
Drawing his hand back, he swung the butt of the gun against Axl’s head, sending him to his knees. He collapsed onto the cold devilish bricks below. His hair fanned out beneath him, tangling with the red of his own blood. The group dispersed, leaving Axl to slip away to another time.
William’s body hung like a martyr propped against the playground jungle gym. He twisted his upper body with years of tumultuous rage and speed, despite the impending pounding in his head. Aiming a kick at his approaching attacker, the other boy caught it. Pushing it to the side, he spread William’s thighs apart. Straddling William’s other leg, he crudely rubbed his crotch against it. William gritted his teeth not wanting to give them the satisfaction of his scream.
“You like that fairy? You know God hates you. This whole town fucking hates you. I bet even your own mother hates you for what you are.”
“Get the hell off me!” William screamed thrashing again, but the boy caught his chin, biting his lip hard. Blood trickled from his lip as the boy drew away, letting William’s head slump forward.
“Don’t worry, we’re going to fix you.” Hands rested at William’s belt buckle. Crude fingers tickled along the hemline of his pants, slipping between the fabric and skin mockingly of what was to come. “Now just stay quiet and we won’t have to tell anybody what you really are. We’re going to cure you.”
A siren blared in the distance. The boys jumped away from William letting his limbs tangle into the iron bars of the jungle gym. His head hit the lower bar, but the pain didn’t even register with him.
“Shit. Let’s get out of here!” The boys took off. William barely moved despite his hatred of the self-righteous police force that stalked his hometown. They were always out to get him. His legs lay beneath him, unable to carry him away. The sirens faded as a dark shadow approached him.
William would fight whatever violation the police officer would slap him with. He shut his eyes waiting for the pompous voice, waiting for the fist on the end of the long arm of the law. Instead, a few gentle fingers touched his forehead, nudging his red blood streaked hair off his cheek and out of his eyes.
William opened his eyes, meeting a pair of concerned chestnut brown eyes. It was a boy about his age, with shaggy dark hair, long like his. His lips parted, ready to defend himself to his death. No sound came.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you.” The deep bluesy voice belonged to an angel. “Anything broken?”
“The cops.” William exhaled. The boy smiled pulling out a funny looking device. He wound it up. A loud police siren blared from it for a few seconds then died.
“Nicked the last time I was at the police station. Comes in handy from time to time. Can I help you home?”
“I’ll be fine.” William whispered in a muted snarl. He didn’t need help. Pulling himself up by the jungle gym, he took a step forward, only to stumble and fall.
“Where do you live?” The kid caught William before he fell. He draped William’s arm over his shoulder.
“I can’t go home like this.” William confessed.
“Okay. Walk with me then.” The boy’s voice was patient and kind as he slowly led William away from the jungle gym that now dripped with crimson memories. The pair found themselves in a secluded part of the dense forest by a small creak. Laying William down by a tree, the brunette walked quickly to the creek. Shaking his hair from the black bandana, he soaked it in the water. Gently he patted the cool damp cloth over his cuts and bruises. It stung but the reassuring hand on William’s shoulder kept him still as the gentle ministrations continued over his blemished skin.
As the pain eased, he began to look at the boy closer. He wore a holey long sleeve black Alice Cooper t-shirt with scuffed hand-me-down jeans that clung to his sleek hips. William’s eyes traversed every plane of the boy’s finely boned face that peeked out from behind his black-fringed mane. The boy had a soft amused smile, but it wasn’t mocking him. It was more of a cat like smirk to the world. He’d make for a good tease…William didn’t just think that.
“How many fingers do you see?” The boy held up his middle finger with a cheeky grin.
“Why are you helping me?”
“Because you’re hurt.”
“You don’t believe them then?”
“Believe what?” The boy frowned softly confused.
“That God hates me?”
“If someone hates you, anyone really, they don’t deserve you. You deserve to be with people who love you.”
“I can’t go home like this.”
“Come over to my house then. Nobody’s home and we can play guitars in the garage as loud as we want.”
“I don’t know how to play.”
“You can sing though.” William’s eyes shot open. The boy grinned shrugging lazily. “Yeah once in a while my mom succeeds in dragging me to church. You sing in the choir.”
“What’s your name?”
“Let’s go home, Will.”
“Axl!” A distant voice screamed over the thunder. Axl heard sloshing footsteps slapping quickly against the flooded concrete. Hands came over him again. He tensed although they weren’t hard or vicious, but warm and gentle. Not like the dexterous understanding ones from Indiana, but ones he felt he might be able to trust one day.
“Axl, speak to me.” Tender slaps fell against his cheek as raindrops pummeled his face. “Come on, open your eyes for me.” Axl cracked one open to see relief wash over the stupidly happy blonde. Is this guy always this fucking nice? Axl wondered.
“Duff.” He coughed slightly into a fading moan. Duff cocooned his body around him as a shield from the soft bullet like rain.
“Come on, we can talk later. Let’s go home.” Duff pulled Axl close to him, then up into his arms with a slight grunt. He carried Axl like he was his sleeping son walking home from the fair. Axl muttered his disgust, but Duff chuckled lightly, readjusting his hold on Axl’s butt.
“Yell at me when you have your voice back.” Duff mused. Axl finally laid his head against Duff’s sodden hair. “We’ll be home soon and then I can tell you about these crazy guys I met. I think you’ll like them. They’re in a band and they need a singer and a bass player. You’d be perfect to sing…”
Axl didn’t hear anything except the words going home. He remembered when Jeffrey said those words. When he took him home. This was like that time, but so vastly different. Silent tears spilled from his eyes, but no one could tell if they were his tears or the acid drops of a vicious L.A. rainstorm.
Back at the apartment, Duff laid Axl on a pile of unwashed clothes, the softest place in the apartment. Dark shadows churned at the corner of Axl’s emerald eyes. Duff wanted to know what happened, but thought it best not to press the topic. Slowly he tugged Axl’s shirt up his shivering belly. Axl hissed, batting Duff’s hands away with a fierce swat.
Duff sat back slightly stunned. “I’m sorry.” He spoke hushed and remorsefully. “I just didn’t want you to get sick. I don’t have money for medical bills.”
Axl cocked his chin dismissively. Trying to hide his discomfort he turned away cursing low as he tried to pull his shirt up. Muffled screams caused Duff’s eyes to widen. Axl’s body begged Duff for help, but his eyes glared defiantly. Duff waited. Finally Axl resigned with a pained hiss.
Cautiously, Duff moved forward, gingerly relieving Axl of his wet t-shirt. Axl sniffled, lying further back into the dirty clothes, seeking warmth, eyes closing. Duff bit his own wrist to hold back the shock as his eyes trailed over Axl’s pale body covered in bruises. He used an old t-shirt to clean the red cuts over his ribs. Axl’s body twitched and quivered, but the red head bit back his cries. Duff reached for the sopping wet black bandana.
“No.” Axl breathed as his hands weekly caught Duff’s fingertips at his forehead. Duff smiled reassuringly. He lied down beside Axl, curling around him. Drawing a blanket over both of them, Duff could hear Axl whisper, only catching certain words.
“Not…same…are you?...sorry…I kept it after all this time...”
A sleepy hand clumsily pushed the bandana toward Duff. Hesitantly he took the blood stained fabric looking at it, then at Axl. He smiled in his sleep, mumbling thank you. Thumbing the soiled faded, fabric Duff wondered at its significance, but didn’t pursue it. He smiled as Axl’s shivers subsided and he heard him breath steadily. Unbeknownst to Duff, his new roommate fell once again into his reoccurring dream.
“Jeff! Jeffrey! Wait, I saved it. Remember when we met you washed me with it. You took away the pain!” William was trying to run to his fading friend, but his legs wouldn’t work. “Jeffrey, I still have it!”
Axl’s eyes flew wide-awake. He had that dream again. He hated that dream. Sliding out of the comfortable warm embrace, he moved to a corner drawing his legs into his chest. He tore off a piece of old yellowed brittle newspaper, scribbling.
You’re one in a million…Maybe some day we'll see you…tried to reach you