The second half of this effort begins now with more goopy body horror elements. Also, I’m relatively sure that my sexual imagery is less subtext and just plan old text. I wonder what my therapist would say about this story?
As always, enjoy. Or be grossed out.
Flesh of My Flesh
“Is this one of those ‘War of the Worlds’-type things? It has to be, right?” Cal asked, fiddling with the antique radio.
“This?” Martin replied. “These fire-and-brimstone preachers have been on these AM stations since Marconi played the mamba.”
“Who did the what, now?”
“You are so young.”
“I’m not that much younger you. I’m just more cultured.”
“The devil walks among us, children,” the radio preacher’s twang sounded like an angry child talking through a tin-can phone.
“Grandpa used to play that shit all the time on this very radio. I wonder if he would find it ironic that it’s probably what made me gay.”
“We are at war!” the Preacher shouted. “The communists, the freedom-hating liberals-“
“Here it comes.”
“The gays and their homosexual agenda.”
“Nailed it!” Martin said.
“The only thing on my agenda,” Cal said, “Is to eat. Aren’t you supposed to be making dinner?”
“Crock-pot,” Martin said. “Been cooking for three hours.”
“Oh,” replied Calvin.
Martin kissed the top of Cal’s head. “You’re lucky you’re cute.”
Cal stood, listening to the radio preachers continue his diatribe on the gays and the atheists and Democrats. “How did you survive growing up here?”
Martin shrugged. “Deep closets.”
“Speaking of closets, where are we going to start?”
Martin scanned the living room of the ranch house. It was in remarkably good shape already on the outside, but too cluttered with kitsch and a hodge-podge of different eras of style. Martin also assumed that the details that were hidden in the walls would prove to be worse. Ancient pipes, bad wiring, thin insulation, and who knew what else waited for the tear-down. The storage company would be coming out in a few days to take the furniture away that they wanted to keep, the charity would come a few days after that everything else salvageable, and the waste management company would park a large bin outside for the refuse.
“The bathrooms can be cleaned out pretty easily, but I suspect that’s where we’re going to find the most problems.”
“Get the worst out of the way, then?”
“Yeah, I think that’s the best approach.”
“Okay,” Cal said, brushing off his hands. “You tend to that dinner and I’ll see what we’ve got in the master bathroom.”
Martin left the room.
“Temptation leads to damnation,” the radio preacher said. “When the merging comes, when the great Beast is birthed, the world be remade in its image of eternal Flesh.”
“No gays though, I imagine,” Cal said to the radio.
“All are welcome in the now world,” he said.
“Yeah, I bet,” Cal walked away.
“All, Calvin.” Cal froze.
“The change will not come in fire,” the preacher continued. “It will come in a rain of flesh and a changing of the body!” When the radio did not address Calvin again by name, he pressed his fingers to his temples. Convinced that he’d misheard, he continued on his way.
* * * *
Cal laughed over his half empty beer glass. “I can’t believe that he actually said that to you!”
“I know, right? Straight guys are so awkward when they try really hard to be accepting. I guess I’m his gay friend he can use to prove his liberal street cred.”
“We’re not exactly shattering the gay stereotype with all this catty talk, are we?”
Martin laughed. “I guess not.”
“Brothers and sisters, hallelujah!” a tinny voice said from the living room.
“Didn’t you turn that off,” Martin asked.
“I thought you did.”
“Praise be unto Him, for I come with good tidings.”
“I’ll get it,” Cal rose and headed to the living room, leaving Martin to take another sip of his Scotch.
“Children,” the preacher said with a patronizing concern, “I know that I often talk about who stands against us; who we oppose. But make no mistake… this is not about hate. We hate no one.”
“Sure,” hand on the dial.
“The gays and their illicit lovers, living in sin,” Cal turned the knob to the left, diminishing the hateful voice almost fast enough, but not quite.
“Fixing up the old farmhouse together. Making a ‘bed and breakfast’ to lure more of their kind to our good community. To pervert it. But we don’t hate them.”
“Martin,” Cal called.
“I think the radio preacher is talking about us.”
“Not ‘about,’ Calvin. To you,” the preacher said on a clearer signal.
“What did you say, Calvin?” Martin asked from the doorway. “Did you decide that you still wanted to listen to that?”
“Go ahead, Calvin. Turn it off. It won’t silence me.”
“Did you hear that?”
“Yeah, and if this guy is just going to repeat shit about the gay illuminati, he’s going to lose his followers to boredom.” Martin exaggerated a yawn.
“No, I mean-“
“Ugh,” Martin reached over and turned the radio off.
“There. You coming back to the table?”
“I told you,” the preacher said through the dead antique, still with a high-frequency hum. “You can hear the Word now, Calvin. You won’t be able to stop hearing it.” Calvin abruptly grasped the old power chord and yanked the plug from the wall. The action triggering a sharp pop and flash of a spark. Lights in the house flickered.
“The wiring is going to be a real bitch to fix,” Martin said.
“Yeah,” Calvin muttered.
“The Word is truth, Calvin,” the preacher continued. “The truth of the Flesh is next.”
Martin put a reassuring hand on Calvin’s shoulder. “Are you feeling okay? You look pale.”
“What?” Cal asked, and then, “No, yeah… yeah. I’m just… tired. Too much beer, maybe.”
“Don’t I know it,” Martin said. “Okay, we can get to work tomorrow.” He set his glass down on the top of the radio and planted a kiss on Cal’s lips. “Thank you,” he said.
“Filth,” the radio said.
“For helping with this.”
“Of course…” Cal tried to block out the voice in his head.
“C’mon,” Martin said, taking Cal’s hand and leading him toward the bedroom. “Let’s go to bed.”
“Sounds good,” Cal replied.
“This is not how the Flesh is joined,” the preacher said to Calvin as the two men left. “But you will know soon enough.”
* * * *
Calvin stood on a vast expanse of skin. Tumorous growths rose around him like termite mounds, mottled pink, black, and blue. Scabs partially covered oozing sores. A fetid wind blew and carried with it the smell of putrescence. The land under his feet swelled and sank at regular intervals. He knew it was a dream instantly, albeit, it was a dream with a different quality than he was used to.
“Calvin,” his father said, “I will not stand for this.”
“Dad,” he replied, “it’s not like it wasn’t obvious.”
“It wasn’t obvious to me!”
“I played catch, dad! I dated girls. I did everything you wanted.”
“And yet you still fuck other men!” His father’s features ran and melted, oozing like putty left in a hot sun.
The puddle that was once his father reformed. The waxy pink fluid ran backwards, like a video reversed. As it took shape, Calvin stood face-to-face with man of about his father’s age, wearing a robe that wasn’t quite like a preacher’s vestment, but close enough.
“Your father is with the Flesh, now. We all return to the Flesh. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust… flesh to flesh.” The preacher reached out and put a hand on Cal’s arm. Where his fingers touched Cal’s skin, cancerous masses, red and angry, erupted. Fire burned under his skin as his flesh twisted and his bones were broken, liquified, and reformed. Into what, he didn’t know, as the dream faded.
* * * *
“Slime mold,” Martin said, standing in front of the hole he had hammered into the bathroom’s drywall. Glistening, biological goop had glommed on to the wall studs. “I knew there would be something disgusting back here. We did get masks, right?” Martin waited. “Right, Calvin?”
“Uh… yeah,” Cal nodded.
“Good. If this is here, you can bet there’s black mold and we sure as shit don’t want to breath any of that in.”
“I’ll get them,” Calvin said, anxious to leave the room. In addition to grabbing a set of mases, he snagged the box of latex gloves, too. I’m not risking touching that.
Martin had started music on his phone. “Thank you!” he chirped, taking a mask and the box of gloves from Calvin. Martin slipped on the mask, pulled on the gloves and made a lewd gesture in Calvin’s direction. When Calvin didn’t laugh, Martin pulled the mask down.
“Are you sick, or hungover?”
“I didn’t sleep well. Nightmares.”
“Oh. Well, they’re just dreams, right? Can’t hurt you and all that?”
“Thanks dad… er… mom.” Calvin’s stomach churned with the memory of the dream.
“Mmmm-hmmm,” Martin replied. “Does princess Calvin need a nap? We’ve got work to do, and good music to keep us awake.” The current song—some EDM music that Calvin never got into—ended.
“Hello Calvin,” the preacher’s voice said from the phone.
Martin smiled, “That’s my jam!” He started to dance to an unheard beat.
“No,” Cal said. “No, no, no…”
“Yes, Calvin. You cannot escape the Word.”
Martin frowned. “I know this isn’t usually your music, but we can play your depressing rock songs later.”
“I don’t want to hear this.”
“Okay, Jesus.” Martin stopped the music. “What the hell got into you?”
“The Word is inescapable. The Flesh is inevitable.”
“Leave me alone!”
“Leave you alone? Calvin, you have to be sick.”
“Your father is here, Calvin,” the preacher said. “And he’s felt the change.”
“My father is dead!”
“Calvin?” Martin, concerned now, stopped the music. “What’s going on? Are you… do you need help?” He held Calvin’s face in his hand, turning to look into his eyes.
“Yes, let him take you in his arms. Be of the same sinful flesh. Your father understands, now, the pressing and melding and joining of flesh. He doesn’t hate you anymore.”
“Stop!” Calvin yelled, pushing Martin away.
“Stop what?” Martin replied.
“Why, you and your father could become close, Calvin. So much closer, if you just accept the Word and embrace the Flesh.”
* * * *
He ran into the countryside until his lungs burned and his legs gave out, where he finally collapsed. He tried to rise, to run more, but cramps rendered his legs inoperable. So he lay there, on the ground, and cried.
When he stopped, twilight had set in. He didn’t remember when he’d left the house or how long he had been out. He knew, at least, that there was no radio out here to talk to him. No phone to tell him lies. He took deep, hitching breaths, and tried to center himself.
Ahead of him, above a cluster of scrub brush, a radio tower loomed. The tower. Its blinking red lights glared down at him. Each a malevolent eye. From somewhere ahead, a speaker whined.
“Brothers and sisters our newest sheep has come to join the flock.” Calvin rose slowly to his feet. He trudged forward, toward the tower and the voice, not fully in control and too tired to fight it anymore. “He has heard the Word, the Word of the Flesh, and has come to us to find salvation.” As he pushed past the cluster of scrub, he saw the small steel shack with its single metal door. There had once been a chain-link fence around it, but it had long since fallen. Faded warning signs tried to turn him away, but he ignored them.
“He comes to be cleansed of his sin, the sin of impure Flesh. The sin of order.” Calvin pushed open the steel door, which screeched in protest on rusty hinges, but opened none-the-less.
The gurgling screams of his father welcomed him.
* * * *
When Calvin returned, Martin was pacing on the porch. He rushed down the stairs to him, wrapping him in an embrace.
“Oh thank God, Calvin. You scared me! Where did you go? I thought you were hurt or…”
“I had to take a walk,” Calvin said.
“A walk?” Martin pushed back. “You ran out like you were being chased!”
“I had to talk to my dad.”
“Your dad’s been dead for years. So, okay, new plan. We’re going to get in the car and go home. You need to get out of here. We can go to that brewery you like, and—“
“Home?” Calvin said. “I am home.”
“That was never the plan. You know that. Home is back in the city. We’re just fixing this up.”
“Home is here. Home is where the flesh is.”
Martin withdrew. “You need some rest, and we need to get you out of here. Let’s go inside and pack a few things.”
“Yes,” Calvin said as he followed Martin across the porch and into the living room. “We can listen to the radio.”
“That thing? I’ve had enough of that. It’s unplugged, anyway, remem-” The radio came to life, a soft glow behind the dials and display.
“…sins of the Flesh. These are the sins that our lord warned against. The sins that both corrupt us, and cleanse us.”
“What the Hell,” Martin said.
“Not Hell,” Calvin said. “The living Flesh is so much more than that.”
“Calvin, stop. Please. You’re freaking me out.”
“He’s right,” the preacher said.
“He’s the prophet,” Calvin replied.
“How did that nutcase know my name?”
“I know all about you, Martin, and your life here.”
“I don’t know what kind of bullshit you’re pulling Calvin, but this isn’t funny.”
“I know about your fumbling with the boy in the neighboring farm.”
“That’s… stop it.”
“He wasn’t even gay.” Calvin said.
“You can’t possibly know about that. Please stop.”
“He raped a girl to prove it to himself.”
Martin hit Calvin with a closed fist. “I said STOP!”
Calvin reached out, despite the discoloration already forming on his jaw. “It’s okay, Martin.”
“It is, Martin,” the preacher’s voice said calmly through the radio.
“You didn’t know.” Calvin continued.
Martin began to cry. “You… both of you… please stop.”
Calvin held out a hand. “You can be cleansed, Martin. When he comes… when flesh becomes flesh; when all is fused, we can be joined.”
“What are you saying,” Martin asked, desperation in his voice.
“We can be one in ways we never could have before.”
“Listen to him,” the radio said.
“Please, Martin,” Calvin continued. “Come with me.”
Martin took Calvin’s hand.
Calvin led Martin to the bathroom. Inside, in the hole Martin had bashed into the wall, the slime mold had grown. It had taken over the whole wall, spreading fleshy, throbbing tendrils. There was an opening, now; a vertical slit by angry red tissue and living tumors. Calvin stepped into it with one foot and turned back to Martin.
“The choice must be yours,” the preacher’s voice said from nowhere and everywhere. “Do you want to know the Word and the Truth? Do you want to be one with the Flesh?”
“Yes,” Martin said.
“Then follow. In your sin, you shall be remade clean and whole.”
Calvin fully penetrated the threshold, and Martin followed.
* * * *
A world of pain and cancer and fire awaited, yet to Martin, the pain was blissful. He was one with his husband. Their bodies merged, no longer in the figurative sense that had been part of their wedding vows. On the plane of skin and tissue, in the realm or tumors and yellow puss, the two men melted into each other, and in doing so, became one.
“Flesh of my flesh,” the voice of the preacher of the Living Flesh said, “blood of my blood.”
And so it was.
And so it would be.