QSFer Thomas Grant Bruso has a new gay horror/paranormal book out: “Eye of the Beholder.”
In the middle of a psychic session with Madame Petri, David hears a ghostly voice calling his name. But he is not sure if it’s the elderly fortuneteller exaggerating the reading or bizarre grumblings coming from a mysterious old man in a painting hanging in the psychic’s foyer.
When Madame Petri disappears in a ball of flames, David rushes home, terrified. From that moment on, David and his policeman boyfriend, Zane, find themselves trying to solve the series of murders and mayhem that begin to haunt David.
Throwing the sheet off me, I got out of bed and walked out of the room, downstairs to the kitchen. I made myself a cup of chamomile tea and added a splash of brandy from Zane’s emergency stash collection in the cabinet in the den. I sat in the window seat and watched the rain falling through the foliage in the backyard.
Feeling the claustrophobia of anxiety fading from me with each small sip, I leaned back and closed my eyes, and listened to the hypnotic rhythm of rain smacking the ground and the leaves of the trees. The house settled around me with sounds of floorboards creaking, pipes rattling. The liquor warmed my throat and stomach as it went down slowly, and heat crawled in my face, relaxing me. I emptied the mug with one final gulp, and refilled it halfway with brandy.
I thought I heard footsteps on the stairs and stopped and listened, holding the mug close to my mouth. Maybe Zane had woken and noticed I wasn’t next to him, and he set out to look for me. I waited a heartbeat of a second before I called out his name.
There was no response.
I took a drink of the smooth liquor and curled both hands around the mug, setting it on my lap and staring back out the window into a world of raving madness. Needles of rain struck the glass as a wild wind tore through the flower beds and evergreen trees.
It was a moonless night, and the only glowing illumination on the street came from the ground solar lights of the half-dozen sconces I had planted around the edge of the rose bushes at the far end of the yard. I had described them to Zane as flickering supernatural lights. We were having dinner in the backyard one evening last week at the wrought-iron table and chairs Zane had pulled out of winter storage for summer. The night was quiet and perfect, the neighbors away on their annual cruise to the Bahamas.
Zane told me that I had watched too many episodes of The X-Files. I had driven him crazy with my overzealous interest in the show. He’d watch early episodes with me in bed, but I’d heard him grumble about the absurdity of the stories. I found his reactions amusing, but I’d always found a “reason to deliberate with him on the importance of the show’s core message: the government cover-up of the strange goings-on in the country was true, both on TV and in the real world.
“There are no such things as aliens,” Zane said.
“Maybe not the green types with long fingers and big black eyes,” I retorted, “but there are other life forms living among us.”
“You’re a strange man,” he had said at dinner, clicking my wine glass with the rim of his beer, and adding, “but I love you and wouldn’t want it any other way.”
I was Mulder to his Scully, always the believer that another existence was living among us. He was skeptical, ready to squash or debunk my groundless accusations.
That night in bed, I remembered his openmouthed and cocked eyebrow expression. I shook off the seriousness of his curt response—“It’s just a show, babe”—and finished watching the rest of the episode alone as he snored loudly next to me well into the night.
We had never fought hard or used violent language to hurt each other during our inevitable relationship quarrels. We’d disagree with each other on many occasions, but something had changed during that particular debate.
No drastic life changes, like the threat of separation or divorce, but I learned something new from my relationship with Zane in the last two years. He wasn’t the open-minded man I knew when I first met him. Maybe it was his job as a police officer, or his family’s religious upbringing. He was grounded in reality, as he’d say, unlike me who was a dreamer, a believer in psychics and tarot card readers and TV-scripted alien conspiracy shows.
And things that go bump in the dark.
Then suddenly, a high-pitched wail from somewhere outside jolted me from my silent musings.
I let out an involuntary gasp and turned to the dark backyard. The tall shrubbery next to the wooden fence thrashed in the wind. Rose bushes bent at a threatening angle. It looked like the evergreen trees were dancing with each other.
Then, I saw something moving behind the ten-foot tree in the corner, a face in the shadows. I leaned forward, pressing my own face against the cold glass to get a better look. I froze, chilled to the bone.
Staring back at me, the man was tall, wiry, with a sickly pallor in the glow of the solar lights.
An unyielding intensity crushed my chest. I swung my legs off the ledge of the window seat and walked to the doorway separating the den and kitchen. But the creaking sounds of bones breaking followed me.
I whirled around, sensing movement behind me. The air was dank and cool.
Something was in the house with me.
I called out Zane’s name, but fear swallowed my voice. My skin felt cold, sticky, clammy.
There are no such things as aliens, I heard Zane whisper to me in my head. It’s just a show.
It’s just the creaking sounds of an old house. “One. Two. Three. Four.
Five…” I inhaled, taking deep, slow breaths and lifting the glass of brandy to my lips, swallowing a mouthful, and emptying the mug.
I stopped at the doorway, hearing the sound of tiny footsteps, shuffling and stopping.
Where was it coming from?
My grip tightened around the ceramic handle, and my sweaty skin started itching.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Like a cane dragging the ground.
Rain drummed the roof.
A cold gust of air brushed my neck.
I turned and looked over my shoulder.
Thomas Grant Bruso knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer. He has been a voracious reader of genre fiction since he was a kid.
His literary inspirations are Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Ellen Hart, Jim Grimsley, Karin Fossum, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Connolly.
Bruso loves animals, book-reading, writing fiction, prefers Sudoku to crossword puzzles.
In another life, he was a freelance writer and wrote for magazines and newspapers. In college, he was a winner for the Hermon H. Doh Sonnet Competition. Now, he writes and publishes fiction, and reviews books for his hometown newspaper, The Press Republican.
He lives in upstate New York.