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The Best of 2012
by Amanda Earl
The Graffiti Artist
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Sex With An Old Woman
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Nikki Didn't Like It
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It's Lovely. It's Horrible.
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At the Adult Bookstore
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Paying For It
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When The Angels Fall
"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."
On the other end of the vid line I heard a small sigh. The view screen showed nothing but the grille pattern signifying the confidentiality of the confessional call-in line. Even so, I knew who waited on the other end. Father Raphe.
Of course, Father Raphe knew who he was talking to as well. "Hello Daniel. How long has it been since your last confession? Two whole days, perhaps?"
"Not quite," I answered sheepishly. I settled back in my chair, relaxing as the older man's words floated to me through the speakers of the vid phone. The tone of his voice promised much needed admonition, and my cock twitched in anticipation. I clenched the arms of my chair tight, trying to keep from touching myself for a little while longer. I was already half undressed, my shirt unbuttoned and exposing my bare chest to the cool breeze blowing through the bedroom window. My pants and briefs lay in a rumpled heap around my ankles.
"I thought we'd agreed that you would only call me for confession once a week," Father Raphe went on. "During the day." His voice was mild, smooth with age, with only a hint of irritation to it.
"We did," I answered. "But this is sort of an emergency."
Another sigh from the vid phone speakers. I imagined Father Raphe sitting in his syntha-leather arm chair, rubbing at his temples. A real fire blazed in a brick hearth behind him, casting golden glints onto his wavy silvered hair. He would be wearing a nightgown, I surmised, something long and light that draped over his lean figure in fluid folds, with a robe over that to protect him from the chill spring night. Personally, I liked the cold. It made me feel even more naked as long icy fingers of night air plucked my nipples into hard little knots.
"What's the emergency this time?" Father Raphe finally asked.
I squirmed. This was the hard part of confessional, actually owning up to the crime. "It's my mother. She's dying."
"And when her lawyer called to tell me she wanted to see me one last time, I told him to go fuck himself."
I writhed beneath the gentle disappointment in his voice. It was both sweet and painful as hell.
"I couldn't help it," I went on. "I hate her. That bitch made my life miserable. You know what she did to me!"
"Yes I do, but I also know that you make yourself even more miserable by hating her and by acting in such a poisonous fashion. Daniel, your mother was a cruel woman, but at some point you have to let go of your hate in order to heal."
Like that's going to happen any time soon, I thought. Out loud I asked, "Will you pray for me, Father?"
"That depends. Where are your hands?"
I blushed. Even though he couldn't see it through the confessional screen, I knew he could sense it. "They're on the arms of my chair."
"And your clothing?"
"I'm dressed!" I protested. "I swear. Would I lie to you?"
"Not lie, no. But you have been known to bend the truth. Really Daniel, the purpose of confession is to relieve the burdens of the soul, not the genitals. Your propensity to masturbate while we pray is... distracting."
I grinned, though still embarrassed. "I'm wearing a shirt, pants, underwear and socks. I promise."
"All right then. As long as you don't remove any clothing, we'll pray, and then I'll give you your penance. But will you please promise me something Daniel?"
"Promise me the next time you feel the urge to call me in the middle of the night, you'll forgo the charade of confession and just admit to what it is you really want. It's not a sin to want to touch another person, you know. You've come so far these past few years. If only you could just take that last step..."
I sank back into my chair, really ashamed now. "I'd like to, Father Raphe. I really would. But I'm just not ready yet."
There was a pause and then, "Now that sounds like a true confession. At least we're accomplishing something tonight. Let us pray."
I imagined Father Raphe on his side of the vid line, on his knees, head bowed, hands clasped in prayer, robe and night gown gracefully spread on the floor around him. Holy words flowed from his full lips, spilling through the vid line to pour their blessings onto me. My dick swelled beneath the benediction and I prayed right along with him, holding tight to the arms of my chair until I thought I'd die if I didn't touch myself. Through ten rounds of 'Merciful Mary' and one 'Lord Jesus Who Loves Us All,' I ran my hands over my cock, just barely stroking it at first, then squeezing my balls with one hand as I pumped my shaft into the fist of the other. I prayed hard and I came hard, well before the final 'Amen,' and then I grew hard again, just in time for Father Raphe to give me my penance.
* * *
My rented hydro-car sailed along the highway at a good hundred fifty clicks. I was going a little fast, but it wasn't like anyone was going to pull me for speeding way out here. I was out in the middle of fucking nowhere, in Bible Land for Christ's sake. The place was nothing but an isolated stretch of rolling hills, dotted with only the occasional farm or fuel-cell station. Most of the hydro-cars I saw were at least fifty years old and they sat abandoned in weed-choked yards attached to run-down houses I could barely see through the dust kicked up by my speeding. The fine grit coated the hydro-car's plaz windows and turned everything outside a lifeless yellow-gray. It reminded me of corpses. It reminded me of my mom. I shuddered.
"God damn Father Raphe and his god damn penance," I muttered as the car droned along the empty road. The blasphemous words sent a wicked thrill that ran down my spine and straight into my cock. Still, it didn't help me shake the feeling of dread that had hung on me since the night before.
"I want you to go back to Bible Land," Father Raphe had instructed me after we were done praying. "I want you to see your mother."
I remember gaping at the vid screen with its impenetrable grille pattern. My hands and cock were still sticky with come. "You're kidding me!"
"No, I'm not. You need to see your mother."
"Why? So I can forgive her?"
"No," Father Raphe had replied. "I doubt she wants forgiveness, just as I doubt you're ready to give it, so what would be the point? But I think it's high time you realized that she no longer has any power over you, and the best way to do that is to go see her."
"I already know she doesn't have power over me anymore," I argued hotly. "That's why I'm not going. To prove that she can't force me to do something I don't want to do."
"No, the reason you're not going is because you're frightened." I could see him shaking his finger at me behind the darkened screen. "Even after all these years, you're afraid that the moment you see her, you'll become a helpless child again and be right back under her control. But that won't happen, Daniel. Oh, I expect she will say some things that will hurt you. Being rejected by one's parents is always hurtful because our parents are the people who should love us no matter what. But you're a grown man now. She can no longer control you unless you let her. It's time you realized that. It's time you faced her and took the reins of your life into your own hands."
Easier said than done, I thought. But penance was set, and Father Raphe refused to listen to any further arguments. I had asked for it, he said, and he was right. But I still wasn't happy about it.
"God damn it," I whispered, watching the yellow-gray world slip by.
My mother's house was set deep in the heart of Bible Land, at the top of an artificially built mountain. At one time, the place had been a church, the now infamous Sermon On The Mount, where the late great Reverend Robert Thorpe had tried unsuccessfully to convince two thousand people to leave behind a world of sin by ingesting cyanide pills. Poor Reverend Thorpe. He had been an old time Bible thumper, a former tent preacher wildly popular among the small but rabid Moral Minority, that exclusive club whose members believed that they and they alone would enter into God's Kingdom. Unfortunately for him, there was a limit to how far people would follow. Being a martyr was all well and good, but if they all died, who would be left to carry on the fight?
In the end, Reverend Thorpe bit the big one all by his lonesome while his congregation bravely stayed on to continue his work. My mother was a card carrying member of the Minority, said card having been handed down to her from her father, who had gotten it from his father. My great-grandfather had been the chief financial officer of Sermon On The Mount during Thorpe's reign and had prudently decided that since the good Reverend no longer needed his church, there was no reason why it should go to waste. So the old man set up house in the place and kept it running until the day he died, at which point it passed to his son and so on down the line. Thus Sermon On The Mount, along with all the hate-filled religious psycho-babble of the Minority, became my mother's birthright, and she had planned to pass it all on to me, except that I had turned out to be queer, which really fucked up her plans.
I hit the wipers to clear some of the dust off the windshield. Way, way off in the distance, I saw an ugly dark hump rise out of the hills like a big black boil on the ass of the world.
"Stop the car!" I ordered.
The hydro-car slowed to a halt. I popped the door and stepped out into a lazy swirl of dust. There it was, Sermon On The Mount. Just looking at the place made me want to puke. I was so going to get even with Father Raphe when I got back. I'd call his ass for confession every night for the next two months, and I didn't care if he knew I was jerking off when we prayed. I needed something to look forward to in order to make it through this road trip to Hell. Praying with Father Raphe was pretty much the best I could hope for.
* * *
"Hello? Anybody home? This is Daniel Cain. I'm here to see my mother, Althea!"
The vid screen stayed blank. I sat in the front seat, tapping the dash board. Minutes crawled by like ants over my skin. Maybe Mom didn't want to see me after all. Or maybe she was already gone. Maybe I'd made this trip for nothing. I should just tell the car to turn around and head home. I'd call Father Raphe up and tell him I did my best and nobody could ask for anything more than that. I'd—
The bronze gates squealed as they swung open. My head dropped to the dash.
"Drive," I muttered to the car. "Let's get this over with."
The hydro-car puttered up the mountain, moving slowly now. The road was filled with pot holes, its edges giving way to the steady encroachment of weeds and wild flowers. I opened the window and took a deep breath. The air was thick with the scent of honey suckle and wild strawberry. Mom had really let the place go.
The road circled around the mountain seven times before finally reaching the old church at the top. I got out and looked at the hulking structure. Like the rest of the place, everything here was overgrown and starting to decay. Wild ivy trailed up the walls, in some places completely covering the old stained plaz windows. Cracks riddled the faux-stone siding, where it could be seen, and the creeping flora took this as an invitation to invade the house of God. Only the stairs leading up to the huge, arching double doors were free of the entangling vines, but even these sagged with age. I was almost afraid to try the first step, for fear my foot might go straight through and wind up poking into the bowels of Hell, which I believed must surely reside beneath my mother's demesne.
"Nope, this doesn't look safe at all," I quipped to no one in particular. "I'll have to go back, tell Father Raphe I couldn't risk injuring myself going up those steps. He'll understand."
I sighed and climbed out of the car. I was about to test the steps when the church doors swung open and I saw a face that I hadn't expected to see again in a million years.
"Hello Daniel," a heavenly voice called to me.
I gawked. Standing in the doorway was a creature so divine it took my breath away. He was over two meters tall with long golden hair that fell in graceful waves to his broad shoulders. His face was long and lean, with full lips that immediately brought to mind Father Raphe. In fact, there was more than a passing resemblance between the two, if you put aside the fact that one was a priest in his late forties and the other was a robot-angel.
Gabriel held out his hands and smiled down at me benignly. "Your mother feared you would not come. But I had faith."
I scowled. "You can't have faith, Gabe. Faith is for humans. You're just a walking, talking piece of junk made up to look like an angel."
"I have faith," he insisted. "It is part of my programming."
"Programming be damned." Forgetting my earlier fear, I mounted the steps, taking them two at a time. I was moving fast now. I wanted to get this over with. Dealing with my mother was one thing, but dealing with Gabriel was something I was not prepared to do.
"Must you use profanity?" the robot-angel asked with a frown.
I stepped past him, heading through the door. "As a matter of fact, yeah. If you don't like it, stay the hell away from me."
"I cannot do that, Daniel. I am your guardian angel. Your mother set me to watch over you. I must do as she says."
"So she's still alive, I take it?"
"Yes, but you must hurry. God will soon gather her up into His arms."
Gabriel moved ahead of me and led the way through the church. I followed him up several flights of stairs. He hadn't changed a bit in the last nine years. He still wore the same flowing robes of blue and gold, the same rosewood crucifix belted around his waist. He didn't have wings like real angels were supposed to. Wings on a robot-angel wouldn't have made much sense. They weren't expected to fly, just to watch over people and make sure they behaved. Parents of the Moral Minority usually bought them to spy on the kids and to teach Bible lessons and stuff. Mom bought Gabe when I was twelve, shortly after the first time she caught me masturbating.
"This is Gabriel," she told me, introducing me to the impossibly tall, impossibly beautiful creature. I fell in love immediately. "Gabriel will make sure you don't do anything sinful, like touch yourself or say bad words."
Oh, if only I could have fallen out of love just as quick. Gabe was easy to look at, but hell to live with. There wasn't any place I could go on the mountain that he couldn't follow. Not even to the bathroom, especially after the second time I got caught jerking off.
"You should not touch yourself, Daniel," he said, gently pulling my hands away from my aching cock. The bathroom walls echoed with his admonitions. "God and your mother will not be pleased."
And that's pretty much all I heard for the next six years. Don't swear, Daniel, because God and your mother will not be pleased. Don't steal communion wine from the pantry, Daniel, because God and your mother will not be pleased. Don't draw pictures of naked men in your Bible, Daniel, because God and your mother will not be pleased. Oh, and don't stain the bed sheets at night while calling out my name, Daniel, because God and your mother will not be pleased.
That fucker Gabriel. He had to be so damned beautiful and yet still be such a complete prick. I wondered what he would think if I told him he was what finally made me realize I was gay? Not that I even knew the word gay meant anything other than 'happy,' but he was how I figured it out. A kid can only have so many wet dreams about another guy before he finally figures out that he's really not into girls the way God and his mother intended for him to be.
"What made you so sure I would come back?" I demanded as we climbed the stairs up to the top floor of the church. I was breathing pretty hard, trying to keep up with Gabe. The building was five stories tall, with the top story having been converted to living space for the family. The place was huge, a maze of empty rooms, and yet somehow Gabriel always knew where to find me whenever I tried to sneak off.
"I just knew," he said, smiling. "God and your mother will be pleased by your return."
Christ All Mighty.
The room he took me to was the largest one of all on the top floor, maybe twenty meters in length by ten meters wide. It was my mother's room, the sanctuary where she stayed closeted most of the time when she wasn't busy punishing me. The place was lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves filled with Bibles and prayer books and hymnals, collected by the family over several generations. There were no fiction books to be seen, unless you thought the pre-Egalitarian Bible was fiction, in which case there was nothing but fiction in the room. There were no magazines, no newspapers, no tech manuals, no history or science or math books; just old time Bibles and devotional literature, all of it approved by the Moral Minority. In the center of this vast antediluvian library was a narrow bed with a simple wrought iron frame. A crucifix was attached to the top of the headboard and beside the bed was a small table with yet another Bible resting on it. This was the family Bible. I recognized the frayed cover even from a distance. My mother used to preach to me from it at every meal.
Two men in non-descript gray suits stood on either side of the bed. I didn't recognize them. Gabriel walked toward them and announced, "He is here."
I traipsed over, ignoring the men. All my attention was focused on the figure lying beneath the white sheet—a frail bundle of bones wrapped in papery skin, with hair so pale and sparse it looked like spider's silk draped about the scalp.
"Mom?" I croaked.
Her eyes opened. They were just as blue as ever. "Daniel," she rasped. "Gabriel said you would come." She reached over to squeeze the robot's hand. He beamed. "Tell me, boy, are you married yet?" she demanded. "Are you a family man, and a man of God? Or have you strayed too far to ever truly come home?"
"But he has come home," Gabriel reassured. "He is not lost. No one is beyond redemption."
My mother nodded. "Gabriel has such faith. But tell me, Daniel, at least that you've settled down with a nice girl..."
Oh Christ, what the hell was I supposed to say? The truth? I choked back tears. "Sorry Mom. I just haven't found the right one, I guess."
"Ah, well. At least you came. Gabriel will straighten you out. You'll see..."
Her eyes closed. Her chest rose and fell, rose and fell. And then it stopped.
One of the strangers leaned over my mother. He put a hand to her throat and frowned. From a pocket he pulled out a stethoscope. Her doctor, I realized blearily. He put the scope to her chest and listened.
"I'm sorry," he said, straightening up. "She's gone."
Just like that. I traveled all the way out here on Father Raphe's say-so, and the most I got to do was tell my mother a little white lie. So much for closure.
The other man cleared his throat. "My condolences, Mr. Cain. I'm Stephen Probst, your mother's attorney. I'm the one who called you earlier."
"The guy I cursed out," I said dully. I glanced at him and noticed a conspicuous absence of religious symbols on his person. "You're not Minority."
"No. Your mother couldn't find a Minority lawyer so she had to look outside the community to handle her affairs."
"No lawyers?" I looked at the other man' clothes. "No doctors either, I guess?"
The physician nodded. "The Moral Minority is such a small community these days. I'm afraid it's dying out..." He paused, looked at my mother and bit his lip. "Sorry, I meant no offense."
"None taken," I whispered.
"Mr. Cain," the lawyer went on, "I realize this is a great loss for you, and you'll obviously want some time to mourn. I don't want to bother you now, but just so you know, your mother left everything to you—"
"Why?" I interrupted. "I thought she wrote me out of her will years ago."
"She, uh, did. But as Doctor Farrell just pointed out, the Minority community is very small these days."
"And aging," Farrell added.
"There was just no one else for her to leave it to," Probst finished.
"So I get it all by default."
"Well, it was either you or the government, and being Minority your mother certainly wasn't going to leave it to them." I nodded. Nice to know there was at least one thing Mom had despised more than me.
"Here's my card," Probst said. "When you're ready, call me. Gabriel has the number as well. Your mother has already made arrangements for her remains, so Doctor Farrell will be taking the body with him. She'll be buried in the family plot tomorrow. It's to be a Minority ceremony, so..."
"Only members of the Moral Minority allowed. I know." I looked up at him. "Don't worry. I wasn't planning on going anyway." Probst nodded and took his leave. Farrell pulled the sheet over my mother's face. I got one last glimpse of her before Gabriel took me by the arm and guided me out of the room.
"Come. We'll go to the chapel and pray."
* * *
"What is it?" he asked, head cocked to one side as he studied me.
"That guy, Probst. He said everything belongs to me now."
"Yes, Daniel. Including me."
"Good." I pulled my arm away from him. "Do me a favor, Gabe."
He stared at me. I could almost see the cogs in his computerized brain spinning as he tried to make sense of what I just said.
"I own you. Therefore you have to do what I say. And I say go... a... way. Get lost. Beat it. I don't want to be around you right now."
"Daniel, I am your guardian angel. Your mother set me to watch over you."
"My mother is dead. You do what I say now. So go."
Gabriel took a step back, frowning. "Go where?"
"To Hell, maybe? Anywhere. I don't care so long as you're not hanging around me."
"Are you going to the chapel to pray for your mother?"
"No, I'm not."
Another frown. "Very well then. I will go to the chapel. I will pray. For you and your mother. Perhaps you will join me later."
I spun on my heel and stalked off. I needed some time alone.
I needed time to confess.
* * *
I sat in an abandoned office on the first floor of the church, staring at the familiar grille pattern on an ancient vid screen.
"Where are you, Daniel?"
I swallowed hard. "Sermon On The Mount. I got here just in time to see my mom die."
"Oh Daniel." Father Raphe's voice reached out to me through the vid phone. It sounded warm and comforting. "I am so sorry. Did you even get a chance to speak to her?"
"Yeah, I had all of two seconds to tell her a little lie about how maybe I wasn't gay anymore."
"Is that why you called in to confess? Because you lied to her?"
"No." My shoulders started to shake. "I called... because... because... Oh fuck. I'm glad she's dead!"
I put my head in my hands and sobbed. Father Raphe waited on the other end of the line. When I was done crying, he spoke again.
"Daniel, you had a difficult, complicated relationship with your mother."
"I didn't have any relationship with my mother at all!"
"All right, I suppose that's true."
"All my life, that bitch kept me under lock and key. I couldn't go anywhere, do anything. Wouldn't have been so bad if I'd known that she at least cared about me. But she didn't! Not once did she ever reach out to me, ever try to hold me or even touch me. She treated me like I was some sort of sick freak!"
I was shrieking now, a real hysterical sound that climbed the office walls and threatened to shatter the windows.
"I know, Daniel, I know," Father Raphe soothed. "And I am sorry for that. You have lived a very lonely life, and you have every right to be angry at the way your mother treated you."
"Why does it hurt so much? She never hit me," I said between gasps of breath. "She couldn't even touch me to do that."
"Emotional abuse can hurt far more than physical," Father Raphe said. "The scars cannot be seen, but they run much deeper."
I cried for a while longer. Father Raphe waited. When I was done, I spoke.
"Will you give me penance Father, for the sin of hating my mother?"
"No," he said. "Because I don't think you hated her. I think you loved her a great deal. If you didn't, would you hurt so much?"
I had no answer for that.
* * *
"Still using that same old prayer, Gabe? You'd think that after all this time God might have heard you and done something about it. Maybe cured me of being gay."
Gabriel turned. "God does not interfere with free will. You choose to be what you are. You choose to stray from the path. Your mother set me to watch—"
"Yeah, yeah. Mom set you to watch over me and guide me, to keep me from sinning, and still I chose to be a fag. You know why I made that choice, Gabriel?"
He shook his head.
"I didn't," I said flatly. "It wasn't my choice at all. I was made this way. God made me gay. I just chose to accept that fact and moved on with my life."
"Your... sexuality is merely a trial God has given you. You still have free will. You could choose to be other than what you have become."
I walked over to the altar. Unlike the rest of the church, this place was well kept. The altar's surface was polished smooth, probably by Gabriel's hands. Imagine, a chapel lovingly tended by a robot; a robot who prayed no less.
"I could choose, huh? You mean I could find some girl, marry her and have sex with her, have a couple of kids, and go through my life pretending everything was okay?"
"You would not be pretending. Everything would be okay."
"Bull shit." I turned away from the altar. "Do you know, in the world outside this place, there are plenty of people out there just like me? Men who love other men, women who love other women. Some people even love both."
"Sinners abound," Gabriel replied. "They live their miserable lives and tempt others to join them."
"But they aren't miserable," I snapped. "They're happy because they can be themselves!"
"They do not know themselves; otherwise they would not live a lie."
"A lie? You think being queer is a lie?" I grabbed Gabriel by the collar of his robes and shook him. "Here's the lie, you fucked up piece of machinery! You and my mother tried to force me to be straight. You didn't watch over me, you hovered like a god damn vulture, waiting for me to stumble so you could come swooping in and tear me to pieces for it!"
"Your mother never laid a hand on you, nor did I. We never hurt you."
"Didn't you? Then what's this!" I shoved him back against the altar and yanked up my shirt sleeves. "Look at these scars. I ran away from home because I couldn't stand it anymore, and the first thing I did when I got free was take a razor blade to myself! I slit my wrists, Gabe, because you and Mom had me so fucking scared over what I was. I really believed that if you two didn't love me, then no one could, and what's the point in living in a world where nobody loves you?"
I shoved one of my wrists under Gabriel's nose, forcing him to look. The scars had faded over the years until they were nothing more than thin white lines, but they were still clearly visible on my arms.
"I don't understand," my guardian angel whispered. "Why did you hurt yourself? Your mother loved you, Daniel, and so do I."
"Oh yeah? Then prove it," I demanded, pressing up against him. "Kiss me."
I ground my hips against Gabe, enjoying the way my cock grew hard as I rubbed against him.
"I said kiss me. Come on, you say you love me? Then do it. Just kiss me. Christ kissed Mary Magdalene. You can kiss me."
"What do you mean you can't?" I laughed. I was taking no small amount of wicked joy in having Gabe at such a disadvantage. "Just pucker up. You don't even have to kiss me on the mouth. A quick, non-sexual peck on the cheek will do it."
"No. My programming forbids it!"
"And you can't change that programming, can you?" I said, finally backing away. "Well guess what? I can't change my programming either, no matter how badly you or anyone else might want me to. I'm gay. End of story."
Gabriel got to his feet, shaking, and stumbled out of the chapel. I think it was the only time in my life I ever watched him run away from me.
* * *
I lay on my childhood bed, staring at the ceiling as I spoke to the empty air. There was no vid phone in this room, no means for me to call Father Raphe. That was okay, though. I wasn't prepared to talk to him about this.
It was late afternoon. The house was quiet. Sometime earlier that day, a handful of my mother's Minority friends had come to the church for the funeral service. They buried her in the cemetery at the foot of the mountain. I didn't even bother to watch from the window. Father Raphe had been right about me needing to come home and settle my accounts here. But it wasn't my mother that I had needed to settle with.
It was Gabe.
Father Raphe wasn't usually wrong about these things, but then he didn't know about Gabe. I hadn't worked up the courage to tell him yet. It was one thing for me to admit I was gay, given my messed up family history. It was another thing entirely for me to confess that I still had sexual fantasies about one of the two people who had abused me.
Not that Gabe meant to abuse me. It was just the way he was programmed. Nothing he could do about it, the bastard.
I rolled onto my side, curling up into a fetal position. A chair stood next to the bed. Gabe's chair. He used to sit in it every night and watch me while I slept. If ever I cried out, if ever I grew aroused in my sleep, Gabe would wake me up and reprimand me.
"God and your mother will not be pleased," he'd say, pointing to the stained sheets.
It hadn't helped that Gabe was so beautiful. I couldn't escape his face even when I closed my eyes. It was no accident that I chose a confessor who looked just like him. I knew the first time I saw Father Raphe that I needed to be intimate with him, at least on an emotional level. I had fully expected him to reject me too, to tell me that I was filthy and disgusting for thinking about him the way I did. But he didn't. Hell, he didn't really even seem to mind when I jerked off during confession. It wasn't the point of confession, as he often pointed out, but I guess he understood how badly I needed the release.
"Sexuality is part of the human experience," he told me when I first confessed my arousal to him. "We are meant to touch and enjoy one another. That is the way God made us."
I wondered why his God had never set my mother's God straight on that particular point.
A knock at the door brought me back to the present.
"Yeah?" I called out.
Gabe entered, carrying a tray of food. "You should eat. Your mother would not want you to starve."
"Oh who the hell cares what she would've wanted," I muttered, but I took the tray from him anyway.
Gabe settled in his chair, watching me tear into the food. "I have missed looking after you."
I stuffed half a sandwich into my mouth. "Oh yeah? I didn't realize I was so entertaining. I guess you didn't have much to do after I left, huh?"
"I tried to take care of your mother, but she was a good Christian woman, secure in her beliefs. She did not need a guardian angel to watch over her."
"Why'd she keep you around then?"
"She hoped someday you would come back."
"Well, I did, but I don't need your services either, pal."
Gabe didn't respond. For a long time, he just sat there and watched me eat. Then finally, he said, "Did you really hurt yourself because of what your mother and I did... or tried to do?"
I nodded, finishing off an apple. "Yeah, pretty much. You two made me feel like I was the most vile, unlovable creature on earth."
"Because we tried to change your programming?"
"Yeah." I gave a bitter laugh. "You guys pretty much succeeded too."
"I can't touch anybody. Not even to shake hands. I've tried, but I get scared of what might happen." I settled back on the bed. "There's this guy I know, a priest of the New Catholic Church. He looks a lot like you, except older. I mean, he's aged, which you can't do, not like humans do at least. Anyway, I love this guy. He's been really good to me. He talks to me, helps me out when I have a problem, listens to me when I'm hurt or angry. I even dream about him at night, at least when I'm not dreaming about you. But I can't touch him. I can't even speak to him face to face. I have to call him on a vid phone, and even then, I use a privacy screen because I'm just too damned scared to look him in the eye."
"And does this cause you to hurt?"
I nodded. "All the time, Gabe. All the damn time."
He stirred on his chair, like a bird unsettled by a strange noise. "What do you dream about, when you dream of me?"
"What do you think?" I let my hands slide down to my groin. I was hard, just like I always was whenever Gabe was around. "Sometimes I dream that I'm hiding in the house, masturbating, and you find me just like you always used to. Only instead of pulling my hands away and telling me 'no,' you join in." My eyes closed as my mind and heart indulged in bitter-sweet reverie. "You pull on my cock, slow and steady, and sometimes I dream that you kiss me. It feels really good. But you never finish the job. Before I can come, you always take your hands away and tell me that I'm going go Hell, and all I can think is that I'm already there, and you're the one that brought me." Gabe's eyes followed my hands as he listened. I rubbed them over the growing bulge in my pants, not caring that he saw. Or maybe I did care. Maybe I wanted him to watch. It was like a ritual between us; me being bad, him watching me do it. I wasn't surprised when he reached for my hands and pulled them away. I had been counting on it. It was the only way I knew how to get him to touch me. But then he did something that wasn't part of our ritual. He pushed back one of my shirt sleeves and traced the scars on my wrist with his finger tips. I shuddered at the unexpected touch.
"I am a guardian angel," Gabe said. "I was meant to protect and guide, to watch over you and keep you safe from sin. It is against my programming to cause you harm, yet you say that is exactly what I've done."
"Not your fault," I said. The touch of his fingers on my wrist was maddening. I was going to come if he kept it up. "Mom set the parameters. You had to follow them. Like we discussed earlier, you can't change your programming."
"What if you changed it for me?"
Gabe looked up at me, his eyes glowing in the onset of evening. "Do you know how to reprogram me?"
"Maybe. I'd have to shut you down to do it." My heart lurched in my chest. "But why?"
Gabriel touched the scars again. "I have no purpose without you. If my current programming hurts you, you will abandon me and I will have to be reprogrammed to serve someone else anyway. But if you change my programming, then perhaps you will keep me with you." He gripped my hand tightly. "I could still watch over you. I could protect you from ever hurting yourself again. Let me be the angel you need—"
Before he could say any more, I grabbed his neck and pressed hard on a small round node at the base of his skull. Gabe collapsed. His head landed in my lap.
"Okay," I whispered. "You want it, you got it."
* * *
It took me less than an hour to remove the strictures from Gabe's code. Then I spent another hour just looking at him as he lay there on my bed. Was I doing the right thing? What would removing that code actually do to Gabe? On the surface, it seemed like a stupid question. He was a robot, for Christ's sake. People reprogrammed robots all the time. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I was doing something that could never be undone. Gabe would never be the same after this night, and neither would I. I didn't know if that was a good thing, or a bad one.
Somewhere deep in the bowels of the house, a grandfather clock tolled out the hour, 10:00 p.m.
"Time to wake up, Sleeping Beauty." I pressed the power node at the base of Gabe's skull to bring him back to life.
"—the angel you desire..." His head popped up, and he looked around, eyes wide. "You did it?"
"You don't feel any different?" I asked.
He sat up slowly, thought processes turned inward. "I am... not sure."
"Well, I guess there's only one way to find out."
I crawled onto the bed beside him, pushed him back against the pillows and brought my lips to his. He didn't protest. His mouth yielded to mine, allowing our lips to lock together. I settled my hard-on against his hip and slowly rocked back and forth. After a few moments, Gabe broke off.
"I am not prevented from continuing," he said, bemused. "But neither am I programmed for this."
"Meaning, you don't know how. You're a virgin."
"Are you not a virgin too?" he pointed out. "You have never touched anyone. How are we to proceed without programming to instruct us?"
"Why not start with what we already know?" I replied, rolling onto my back. I tugged at my fly, easing the zipper down over my throbbing cock. "I jerk off and you watch."
Gabe sat up on the bed, his eyes fixed on my groin. My face burned red hot as I eased my pants down past my hips. He had never looked at me so intently before. And to be honest, he wasn't even looking at me, but at my hands and my cock, as though he intended to study what I was about to do to myself. I felt ashamed, the naughty child caught in the act of doing something wicked, and yet I felt more aroused than ever by the thought of putting on a show for Gabe.
I started slowly, stroking my fingers along the insides of my thighs then cupping a hand around my balls. One thing I had learned from Father Raphe over the years was that it was okay to enjoy myself. If I couldn't touch anyone else, I could at least take pleasure in my own embrace. I massaged my balls gently, rolling them in my hand until they grew swollen and heavy. Meanwhile my free hand glided up the length of my rigid cock. The head was already leaking. I teased one fingertip through the wetness, spreading it around the slit. My touches were feather light. Anything more than that and I feared I'd come on the spot. Gabe's staring put me right at the edge of orgasm.
"In your dreams," he said, watching my hips rise and fall beneath my lingering hands, "you say I touch you. How? Like this?"
His hands came down over mine, following the movements exactly. I bit my lip.
"Yes, just like that!"
I guided Gabe for a bit, writhing beneath our combined caress before letting him take over entirely. Then I lay back on the bed and watched the angel of my dreams do what I had so desperately wanted for so many years. He stroked and fondled my cock and balls, played with the head and teased my weeping slit. And all the while he kept watching, studying my shame and desire. When his eyes finally moved from my groin to my face, I thought I might die.
"God and your mother would not be pleased," he whispered. The words sent a shiver through me, but his tone was one of fascination, not rebuke. His eyes stayed locked on mine and his hands continued stroking, touching.
"Is that so?" I managed to gasp. "Well now we're going to do something they really wouldn't like. Put my cock in your mouth, Gabe."
He arched an eyebrow at me and I squirmed, mortified by my own request. "Please," I whispered.
"You mean like a kiss?" he asked.
"Better than a kiss... you wrap your lips around my dick, and suck... oh God yes!"
I could touch myself, but I could never give myself head. I just wasn't that flexible. So I had no idea how good it would feel when Gabe's lips closed over my cock, enveloping me in wet heat. He sucked gently, his cheeks collapsing with each draw on my dick. I watched him, as fascinated with him as he had been when he watched me. His head moved up and down, synthetic saliva coating my shaft. I curled my fingers in his golden hair and urged him on. Countless memories flooded my brain—night after night of me touching myself, then Gabe gently forbidding and restraining my hands. Now his hands picked up where mine had been forced to leave off so many times. My guardian angel gripped my cock in his fist as he sucked on the head, fellating me on to holy rapture.
Then without warning, he stopped.
"What's wrong?" I demanded, suddenly cold. "Why did you stop?"
"I feel... strange," he replied.
I looked down and saw how his robes tented over his groin. The sight made me want to jump up and praise God. "You're aroused. That means you want it too. Come here."
I drew Gabe up to me and closed my mouth on his beautiful full lips. My hands pulled at his robes, which came open with surprising ease. Pretty soon, Gabe was naked and kissing me back. He was gorgeous, like an angel was supposed to be. His sculpted figure was hairless, even under his arms and between his legs. I reached for his smooth groin, cupping his balls and then fondling his cock. Gabe gasped and arched his back.
"Daniel, what is happening to me?"
I pulled the robes out from beneath him and tossed them to the floor. "The Second Coming?" I suggested, planting kisses on his neck and chest. "Or maybe the first for you, since you've never done this before."
Gabe grabbed my hand and placed it between his legs again, rubbing it hard against his swollen dick. I pulled it away and he groaned.
"Payback is hell, Gabe. You tortured me for years. Now I get to torture you. Not for too long though. I promise."
I kept kissing and exploring, moving as slowly as I could. Gabe writhed beneath me, a vision of torment and delight.
"Is this how it felt, all those years?" Tears gilded his eyes. "Is this the sin I strove to prevent? How could you bear it? How did you survive?"
His hips moved against mine, his fingers pulled at my nipples. I hissed and bit his neck. Long legs wrapped around mine and we twined, serpent-like, on the sheets of my childhood bed. I came first, spraying white hot ropes of semen all over his silky hairless body. Then I rolled Gabe onto his back and sucked on his cock so that he could experience the rapture too. His first orgasm made him cry out, and afterwards he curled against me until I grew hard again and started humping his leg once more. And so we went, back and forth, invoking Heaven on Earth for hours on end until the sun came up and exhausted, we finally fell into blessed sleep.
* * *
"Gabe, are you sure about this?"
We stood outside the entrance to Santa Luciana's Hospital, the place where I once stayed years ago after slitting my wrists. It sat just outside the borders of Bible Land, a haven beyond the reach of the Moral Minority. The sprawling hospital building gleamed pearl white in the afternoon light, with its emerald gardens stretching out in all directions. It was a peaceful place, a place of life and hope. It was where I first learned that maybe it was okay to feel want and desire. And it was where I first saw Father Raphe.
Gabe held my hands, his thumbs gently stroking the palms. "I am not sure of anything anymore, Daniel. Before last night, I was a guardian angel. I followed my programming, certain that I was doing God's will. Now that programming is gone, and all I have left are questions." He let go of my hands and sighed. "I want to do God's work the way it should be done. I want to watch over people and heal them, not drive them to harm. If this place helped you heal, then here is a good place to start."
"But you're my guardian angel!" I grabbed at his robes, tried to pull him back to me. As oft times before, Gabe gently pulled my hands away.
"No, Daniel. I am your abuser, the one who sinned against you. I do not have the proper programming yet to undo the harm I did to you, and if I stay with you I may hurt you even more."
My lower lip trembled. "So who's going to watch over me, if not you?"
"Why not your real guardian angel? Does he not already look after you?"
"You mean Father Raphe?" I covered my face with my hands. Slow heat crawled up my neck. How many times had I called out his name last night when I was in bed with Gabe? "He used to work here as a counselor," I confided at last, hugging myself. "He'd come by my room everyday to talk, but I always ran away and hid."
"Don't run away anymore. Go see him, face to face. Please?"
"Maybe. We'll see."
I reached for Gabe and stole one last kiss. When I was done, he said, "Your mother would be disappointed. But I am not, and neither is God I think. I will pray for you, Daniel."
"Okay. I'll pray for you too."
And that's exactly what I did all the way home. I chanted Gabe's name to God until I was too tired to masturbate anymore.
But that was three days ago. Today I'm standing on the steps of Santa Sophia cathedral in Old Los Angeles, watching the parishioners file in and out. Just beyond the doors I can see the old style confessional boxes lined up along the walls of the entrance hall, and I'm tempted to run inside and hide in one, but I force myself to wait. It seems like an eternity before the box I've been watching opens up and a priest steps out. He's tall and beautiful, with full lips and a touch of silver in his blond hair, and he reminds me of an angel I knew once, a long time ago. He heads outside, sees me on the steps and smiles. It's the polite smile one offers to people they don't know or recognize. I walk toward him, my heart in my throat.
"Father Raphe?" my voice cracks.
He stops abruptly, surprise clear on his face. It takes every ounce of will I have not to flee.
"Daniel? Is that you?"
I can't speak. I just stand there, shaking. What does he see as he looks at me? A sinner? A freak? Will he speak to me, or will he turn away?
Father Raphe smiles and holds out his hands. "It is you, isn't it? Come, I've waited so long to see you."
I can't do anything but collapse in his arms. "I love you," I manage to get out. It's the most frightening confession I've ever made.
"I know," he says, holding me. "I love you too, and I'm glad you're finally here. Why don't we go inside and I'll introduce you to Sister Anna. I think it's time we found you another confessor," he murmurs into my hair. "In light of the new relationship we're about to embrace. What do you say to that?"
I wrap my arms tight around his waist and laugh. "I think I say, 'Amen,' Father. Amen to that."
Copyright © 1996 and on, Erotica Readers Association, Inc.
By Nan Andrews
By Nick Nicholson
Grigore & Tatiana
Land of Smiles
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A Rathskeller Jar
The Dread That Stained Kalos
Maybe You Can Go...
I Am Not A Scorpion
Eat Your Veggies
What Would Aristippus Think
The Vow Part I
Fiend in Need Part II
Androids Behaving Badly
By Remittance Girl
The Central Registry
The River Mother
Things Bettter Left Unsaid
The Other Side
I Waited for You...
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The Girl with Two Lovers
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Ghosts of Christmas Past
Recalled to Life
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Brotherhood Of The ...
Coins For The Ferryman
Seeing Is Believing
A Weekend in Queens..
Close to Hand
Excess Of Light
They Need Me
The Dog Park
Smells Like Money
You Get What You Pay For
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Only When It Rains
The Principal of the Thing
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The Road Not Taken
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Debt of Honor
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Kiss Me And Then...
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The Puss Hater
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Page 12 - No. F
In The Name Of...
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