The Boy Amongst the Feathers (part 2)

“You reek of pain.”

“What?” The Owl blinked at him through the steam rising from his mug. His sharp green eyes caught the Wolf like a gorgon’s gaze.

“That’s how I found you. I could sense your pain.”

“Oh.”

“I can still sense it.”

The Owl looked down into his tea. “I… lost something. Some one.” A wave of pain rocked them both.

“Me too,” whispered the Wolf.

“Can you get them back?” The Owl asked quietly.

“No.”

“Me neither.”

“Be thankful I found you then.” He raised his mug. “To misery, and good company.”

The Owl stared unblinking for a few moments and then lifted his mug and clinked.

“Now let me look at your arm.”

“Why are you helping me?”

The Owl’s voice tumbled into the dark, plaintive and forlorn, like pebbles into a pool of tears. He lay rigid with his back against the Wolf’s front. The Wolf knew the intimacy bothered the Owl, but he also knew the healing that could be had from being held, especially by someone like the Wolf.

“I told you, I sensed your pain. I could smell it. It buzzed in my head and my nose and my ears.”

“Still, you could’ve left me.”

“You know me well enough by now to know that’s not true.”

The Owl lay in silence for a while. The Wolf shuffled his legs closer to the other boy, and the Owl curled his toes around the Wolf’s.

“What happened to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You said you lost someone.”

“He… he died.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” The Wolf’s voice cracked. “You didn’t do it.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Thanks.”

The Owl took the Wolf’s hand and drew it over his own chest, tucking it into his armpit next to his heart. The Wolf buried his nose in the nape of the other boy’s neck and eventually slept.


The Boy Amongst the Feathers (part 1)

The Wolf shook his head rapidly from side to side as if trying to dislodge a dream stuck in his ears. When that didn’t work he laid on the ground and pawed at his head. Eventually he leapt to his feet, threw back his head and howled the invading pain that was clogging his nostrils and his mind. His feet were moving before he’d even finished, following his nose to the source of the pain, to the exposed roots of a large tree where he found an owl. A small, tawny owl with brown feathers with a hint of red. The Wolf couldn’t tell if it was blood or natural colouring. It lay on its back, tangled in the roots, one wing stretched out, broken and lifeless. The Wolf sniffed and licked the Owl, searching for wounds that did not exist. The Owl’s heartbeat was faint and limping.

The Wolf cocked his head to one side, turned in a circle, sat back down and became a boy.

“Shhh,” he cooed, gingerly picking the Owl out of the roots. “I’ve got you.”

The Wolf whispered songs of healing over the Owl all the way home.

The Wolf made a nest in the corner of his bedroom, set the Owl’s wing, slipped into wolf and licked the Owl clean again. Whenever he could the Wolf would lie with the Owl, offering his energy to aid the healing process. The miasma of pain clung to the Owl’s feathers like dandelion fluff.

The Wolf was putting away groceries when the Owl finally woke up. There was a faint hoot and a groan, and when the Wolf got to the bedroom he found not an owl but a boy with brown hair and a red beard on the floor, surrounded by reddish-brown feathers.

“Hello,” said the Wolf.

It took the Owl two tries. “Hi,” he finally managed. The wolf disappeared briefly and returned with a glass of water.

“Here.” He waited for the other boy to drink. “How do you feel?”

A look like a storm crossed the boy’s face that made the Wolf’s vision jump in time with his heartbeat and the air become thick to breathe.

“Okay,” was all he said. “My…” A cough. “My arm hurts… it feels… tender.”

“You broke it.”

The Owl looked up sharply. “How long have I been here?”

“Not long. Two days.”

“Oh.”

“Well, your wing was broken, anyway,” he says, staring at the boy.

The boy looked back at him sharply; his eyes narrowed. “My arm doesn’t feel broken.”

“It’s not. Not completely.”

“You just said it was.”

Was.”

“What? How is that even..?”

The Wolf smiled. “You’re not the only one who knows a little magic.”

“Oh,” The boy suddenly realized he was naked. Before the blood could creep up his cheeks the Wolf was holding out a dressing gown. “Help yourself,” he motioned to the wardrobe and the chest of drawers. “I’ll be in the kitchen. Are you hungry?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll make food.”

“No meat.”

The Wolf laughed. “A vegetarian Owl? Okay. No meat.”


Phantoms

So this is the story that appears in “The C Word”… 

 

Phantoms.

 

It’s cold. And wet. My feet are frozen, socks soaked through. The rain is relentless, howling winds hurling pellets of ice against my face.

 

I look up the narrow street, squinting to peer into the shadows at the top. I see a man ambling toward me, just stepping out of the gloaming. He’s wearing a dark jacket, just like the one he always wears with the white stripe going down either arm. My heart skips a beat and heat flushes my cheeks. I look down at the floor, huddle deeper into my coat, turn and walk back into the doorway of the pub. Don’t want to look too eager. Play it cool.

 

It’s not him, I tell myself. Of course it isn’t.

 

I have half a hope that he’ll turn up, with absolutely no reason for him to, yet at the same time I fight with myself to quell such aspirations. They’ll only lead to disappointment.

 

I glance up the alleyway again. Small, hide-away pubs flank its cobbled path.

 

There’s no one there.

 

Disappointment washes over me from my scalp to my empty gut. Whoever it was must have gone into one of the other bars. It doesn’t matter though, because it obviously wasn’t him.

 

Tonight is not the night to be standing on a street corner handing out flyers. The people that pass are too busy running to get out of the rain to stop for a poxy fucking flyer. I feel my misery etched on my face, and it’s no wonder people don’t want to stop for me. The thought makes me laugh sardonically. All I can think about is being in a warm bed. Okay, if I’m honest, all I can think about is being in a warm bed with him.

 

There are a group of people brave enough to test the elements huddled in a knot a few yards away, puffing on cigarettes, and I swear I see his short curls, the copper sheen on his brown hair. This time I do not look away, and the illusion is swiftly broken.

 

I go inside the pub to warm up and to speak to the barmaid. She makes me coffee to warm my hands, and soon I am heading back out into the cold. As I walk out through the door, I catch a snippet of his accent, and turn to the small group sat near the entrance. You’re being stupid, I berate myself. If he had come in you’d have seen him. But still I have to look.

 

Of course, it isn’t him. Not one of the people sounds the slightest bit like him. These phantoms keep haunting me; or rather this phantom keeps haunting me.

 

The frustration I feel is like an entity in its own right; it is like my dark half, consuming me, feeding from me until it is strong enough to break out. This pondering, this pining; it isn’t like me. If I knew, one way or the other, it wouldn’t be like this. Does he like me? It seems such a childish thing, even in my own mind, but it is still the case. He seems interested when we are together. But is he just being friendly? Or is this just my own insecurities raising their ugly heads? He’s not here for long, a year at most. He won’t be looking for a relationship, and neither am I to be honest, but I’d still like to see him in that capacity. Friends and lovers.

 

I check my phone for the umpteenth time, stamping my feet to try to get the blood pumping a bit more. Nothing. Not a text or a call, and not just from him, from anyone. Only an hour to go though. That’s something.

 

The windblown rain slices my cheeks as I turn up towards the top of the lane. Why am I here? There’s no one around, no point to me standing in the cold for hours on end. Maybe I should just go. But I need the money, at least for now.

 

Finally someone passes, two lads, but they don’t even offer me the courtesy of looking at me. I mutter under my breath about the state of human nature, about what arseholes people are.

 

I go inside the pub and ask Jo for some more coffee. She tells me to stay inside for a bit, so I do. My phone buzzes silently in my pocket, and my heart rate increases ever so slightly. Great, my own body betrays me.

 

Alas, it is just a text from a friend, not the friend I wanted it to be. I reply slowly with half-thawed fingers, shove my phone back in my pocket and make my way outside again.  

 

An hour goes by in pretty much the same way; my senses conspire against me, playing mean tricks with light and shadow, sound and scent. Yes, even in the rain I catch a waft of his heady smell. There is no way to describe it, but clean and fresh. Not soap, not aftershave, just the aroma of his skin.

 

The rain finally stops, but it doesn’t matter, I’m already drenched to the core. The moaning wind is my only companion, keeping other, more sensible people safely inside where it is warm and dry.

 

My eyes drop to the floor, and misery begins to creep through my consciousness like an uninvited guest. I watch the water run along the gutter, carrying with it dead leaves and cigarette butts. It is almost 12, the witching hour, and my time to turn into a pumpkin.

 

He’s not coming.

 

Don’t fool yourself; he never was going to come.

 

I heave a sigh, literally shaking myself out of my sorrow. A cig, I think. I fish in my pocket and take out a fag, light it with shaking fingers, struggling with the flame as it sputters in the wind. I finally get it to light, taking a deep drag and holding it for a while, letting the smoke slowly trickle from my mouth and nose.

 

Fuck it. I’ll see him tomorrow anyway.

 

My feet drag on the floor as I turn to go in. I hand the remaining flyers to Jo and collect my wages, making small talk before I have to go.

 

The door opens as I reach for it.

 

“Sorry,” I mumble, not even glancing up. It’s okay now, I don’t have to be cheery. I let dejection take me in its arms.

 

“Hey.”

 

A wave of red passes behind my eyes, pounds at my temples and at my neck. It takes my eyes an age to reach the man’s face, and when they do my pulse quickens even more. Moss green eyes, lips like a wet dream. My feet suddenly feel as if I have dipped them into the Mediterranean; the cold, the tight knot of anxiety tinged with slight despair that sits in my stomach, all of it is gone, stripped under the light of his smile. My pores open, soaking up his heat like a lizard basking on a rock. The wind dies down; Eros has stopped beating his wings for these few precious seconds. Or perhaps it is his wings that brush the inside of my stomach.

 

I feel a grin stretch across my face and can’t seem to help it.

 

“Hi.”


Getaway (The Wolf)

There’s a certain intimacy to driving at night, being locked in a moving box with two other people, sharing each breath, the journey, the dark. There’s silence but for the rain and the wet whir of the wheels on the road and the windscreen wipers’ slow intermittent swishing. That and the two other heartbeats and the soft whispering breath of my passengers. Brax’s heart beats faster than usual and Ferro’s is always going a million miles a minute, something to do with his physiology. The slight hitch in breath like a break in a gale was alert enough that the other wolf was about to speak.

“Where are we going?”

“Far away from here,” I said. The Witch muttered something about a museum in Wales. “I think we need to stop for the night.” I admonished quietly, bracing for the coming Witch-storm.

“We need to keep going -”

“He’s right,” Ferro interrupted before the Witch could unleash some of his crazy on me. “We should rest, plot over our next move. Y’know, maybe eat.”

A sigh. I shot a small smile at Ferro in the rearview then glanced at Brax. Whatever this guy was doing, it was taking its toll on our Witch. His eyes were bloodshot and his hair stuck up in black cobweb tufts around his pale face. He often joked that he had trapped a demon in his soul; there were times, like now, when his pupils dilated and the band of gold separating the green from black took on shades of red, and his eyes became two fire-lined craters leading into the abyss that, yes, did stare back, when I suspected that he was in fact telling the truth.

“Brax you’re running on fumes,” I said, turning back to the road. For a few seconds I could still see those eyes floating on the road ahead of me. I shivered and shook my head. “Let’s rest up,” I continued. “You’re no good to us half dead.”

“…Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah.” He folded his arms gently and turned to lean his forehead on the window. I could sense Ferro’s grin before I saw it in the rearview.

“Okay,” he said.


Treasure

Treasure.

I had a dream about you. We were at a wedding, but it wasn’t yours. Everyone was dressed in white. They were smiling and laughing. We were trying to find the hidden treasures. Tears ran from your eyes. Tears ran from the sky. I gave you my jacket to hide behind but the pearls fell off and the threads unraveled. The rain smelled like earth. Your hair was wet, your dress turned green. How beautiful, they said. The treasure stayed hidden.


“I’m straight acting, you be too.”

You are not “straight acting.” I hate to break it to you sweetie. What I think you’re trying to say is that you’re masculine. Which is a form of internalised homophobia and misogyny. Like having feminine qualities is a bad thing. Most of us, no matter how ‘butch’ or ‘femme’ we are, will have stereotypical masculine AND feminine qualities. Whether you want to admit it or not, it’s true. I was raised by a horde of women, with very few strong male presences to mimic, so a lot of my mannerisms and traits are quite typically feminine. Why is it a bad thing? It’s about gay men thinking they have to act like Straight White Male* idiots to be accepted by society and to be desirable to other men, and it’s fucking rubbish. Why would you want to be like those pricks? The ones who bullied you at school, who hit you and chased you in an angry mob like a fucking witch out of school and who spat on you and threw chewing gum in your hair? These idiots who oppress EVERYONE other than what they perceive as “right” and “normal” these bigots who you HATED growing up, who made growing up something to rush through, to run from, to overcome, and now you’ve BECOME them? What the fuck? This is damaging. Same goes for this fucking racism prevalent on many a gay man’s dating profile. “No fats, no femmes, no asians. I mean, I’m not racist or anything…” Yes, yes you fucking are. You narrow-minded bigoted PILLOCK.

And you know what else it is? About “passing” for straight. Why? Why the fuck do you care that anyone knows your gay or not? Why is it so SHAMEFUL for you? Well fuck that. You hide in your closet, but I am not about to allow anyone to try to make me feel ashamed of something I have absolutely no control over. Over love. Fuck you. No one, whatever their sexual orientation, has to or should have to fight to fit in to a heteronormative lifestyle. Remember Hitler people? Are gays now the new Neo-nazis? Fuck. That. Shit.

There is no proscribed way in which you should love, who or how you love or fuck is up to you and the people involved. You don’t have to accept everything you’re told to accept. Fucking think and feel and act for yourself.

  *I would like to point out that I actually have male friends who are both heterosexual and caucasian who are lovely and very open minded and are WILLING to be open minded, which I think is an important distinction. 


The Hanged Man.

As soon as the man stepped onto the stage the Wolf knew he was different. When he climbed the red silks and started louping and turning and twisting and knotting, the Wolf knew he was different in the same way he was. He couldn’t take his eyes off him.

“You serving or what?”

“Fuck off,” the Wolf said. The man had cropped silver hair on his head, dark hair on his face and a short fuzz of silver hair on his tattooed chest and arms. He held himself suspended upside-down by his arms with his legs pointed outwards to either side. He looped the silks around his feet and twisted and turned and somehow ended up right side up with the silks wrapped around his shoulders, arms spread wide like Jesus on the cross.

“Uh, mate…”

What?” The Wolf huffed. “Sorry.” He wrenched his gaze from the Hanged Man, to gaze at the hanging man in front of him. “What can I get you?”

“Vodka tonic, please. No ice.” The man was also bald, no hair on his jowls and a tuft of white hair poking out from his white shirt. But he was not the most entrancing creature that the Wolf had ever seen. His gaze drifted again and again to the tattooed man in the spotlight. Over the stink of beer and whisky and vodka and energy drinks, over the miasma of perfumes and sweat and piss and cigarette breath, over the shampoos and shower gels and leather and fabric softener and garbage and gum, came the scent of the Silver Wolf’s sweat. It hit the Wolf like a fist to the gut. The glass shattered in a pool of clear effervescence.

“Hey!”

The Silver man moved the silks around his torso and then spun down and down and down. The crowd gasped as he came to a sharp halt inches from the ground.

“Mate, my drink!”
The Wolf ignored him.

The aerialist came slowly to the ground, bowed and walked off stage amidst a thunder of applause. The Wolf was seconds behind him.

“Oh hey- ”

“What are you?” Without waiting for a response the Wolf darted in, faster than thought, and had the man’s arm raised and his nose in his pit. The Silver man had caught the Wolf by his throat but made no further move to stop him. The Wolf devoured his scent and whimpered.

“Hey, lil guy,” the Silver Wolf said, his hand relaxing around the younger Wolf’s throat, gently guiding his head back up to face level. He smiled. “You’re an odd one, aren’t you?” A flash of what looked like pain crossed the Wolf’s face, then the corner of his mouth lifted in a shy half smile.

“Sorry, I’ve just… I’ve never met another one before.”

The Silver Wolf smiled, blue eyes like twin hot springs. “What, another aerialist?”

“No.”

“Another man as dazzling as yourself?”

“No – yeah – no!” the Wolf laughed. “You know what I mean.”

The smile faded slowly like sunset on the older Wolf’s face, leaving vestiges of heat that the younger man wanted to curl up in.

“I know.” The older man rubbed his cheek along the younger Wolf’s jawline and buried his nose behind his ear, inhaling his scent as the younger wolf had taken his scent.

The Wolf shuddered and the nuzzled the Silver Wolf’s neck.

“Take me with you.”

The Silver Wolf laughed. “Okay.”