QSFer Rick R. Reed has a new MM sci fi book out:
Although the main theme of Sky Full of Mysteries is enduring love, alien abduction is what the story turns on. Here, read about one of our love-struck heroes, Rory’s first encounter with the alien forces that will separate him from his new love some thirty years ago.
What if your first love was abducted and presumed dead—but returned twenty years later?
That’s the dilemma Cole Weston faces. Now happily married to Tommy D’Amico, he’s suddenly thrown into a surreal world when his first love, Rory Schneidmiller, unexpectedly reappears.
Where has Rory been all this time? What happened to him two decades ago, when a strange mass appeared in the night sky and lifted him into the heavens? Rory has no memory of those years. For him, it’s as though only a day or two has passed.
Rory still loves Cole with the passion unique to young first love. Cole has never forgotten Rory, yet Tommy has been his rock, by his side since Rory disappeared.
Cole is forced to choose between an idealized and passionate first love and the comfort of a long-term marriage. How can he decide? Who faces this kind of quandary, anyway? The answers might lie among the stars….
He raised his hands over his head and dove as a wave rolled in toward him. The world went silent as he went under, the murky depths of the water almost black. He held his breath as long as he could, swimming outward. His mother’s voice erupted in his head, scolding, telling him to go back to shore because it was late and there was no one around. What if he, God forbid, got a cramp?
Rory shushed his mother and continued to swim toward Michigan or whatever was directly opposite, hundreds of miles away. He swam until he felt his lungs would burst.
And then he surfaced, shaking the water from his hair. The first thing he noticed was how full immersion had done the trick—he wasn’t exactly warm, but the water temperature was at least bearable.
The second was the light on the water. It had changed to a strange pale radiance, a shifting, silvery opalescence that, in addition to his recent underwater swimming, left him nearly breathless.
He trod water and hazarded a glimpse up at the sky, expecting to see the moon and perhaps that bank of clouds that had managed to elude him earlier.
But the moon was gone. Or at least hidden.
Is this real?
Rory couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He actually slipped under for a helpless moment because both his arms and feet stopped moving. He came back up quickly, sputtering and spitting out lake water, gaze fixed on the sky.
“What the fuck?” he whispered.
Was what he saw natural? Like, as in a natural phenomenon? What was above him appeared like some membrane, formed from smoky gray clouds, but alive. It rose up, mountainous, into the night sky. As he peered closer at the form, it seemed to almost breathe, to expand in and out. And within the gray smoke or fog, figures seemed to be spinning. They were black and amorphous, like shadows brought to life. The fact that the cloud—or whatever it was—cast an otherworldly silvery light from below didn’t make the figures any more distinctive.
This can’t be real. I’m back at the apartment right now, sound asleep next to Cole. That pizza really did a number on me. Rory knew his notions were simply wishful thinking.
The membrane or cloud or whatever one wanted to call it was as real as the moon had been above him.
The black figures, spinning, began, one by one, to drop. They were too far distant for Rory to hear any splashes, but he could plainly see that some of them were disconnecting from the membrane or cloud or whatever one wanted to call it and plopping down into the placid surface of Lake Michigan.
Because of its immensity, Rory was unable to determine if the thing above him was close by or distant. It could have been hovering directly overhead. Or it might have been as far away as downtown or even the western edge of Indiana.
Perhaps it was some industrial disaster thrown up by the city of Gary?
Perhaps it was a military experiment, a new kind of aircraft?
And of course Rory, ever the science fiction geek, came to the last supposition almost reluctantly, because it terrified him—perhaps it was some sort of alien vessel, a UFO in everyday parlance. The kind of thing Rory had both dreaded and hoped to bear witness to almost all of his young life.
He stared at it in wonder, lost for a moment in time. He hoped he’d gain more clarity on what the thing was, but the longer he stared, the more confusing it became. Was it some freak of nature? Some hitherto unseen cloud formation? Was it really a spaceship beyond his or anyone’s wildest imagination?
Whatever it was, he was certain it was warming the water around him, which led him to the conclusion that it must have some powerful energy to heat up a body of water as large as Lake Michigan. What had been cold, now felt almost as warm as bathwater.
And that scared Rory just as much as this monstrously huge thing in the sky above him. What if the water continued to heat up? What if it reached the boiling point and he was poached alive in it?
What if the black, shadowy beings he witnessed spinning within the mist meant him harm as they dropped from the cloud? What if they were, right now, swimming toward him, all bulbous heads and soulless gray eyes?
He shuddered in spite of the warmth of the water around him. He leveled himself out, lowered his face to the water, and began the fastest crawl he could manage toward shore, which suddenly seemed impossibly far away.
And a new fear seized him as he paddled, panting, through the dark water—what if something as prosaic as drowning claimed him? Would they ever find him?
What would Cole do when he woke at last, to find himself in bed and alone? What would he do as the sun rose, lighting up their little love nest, and there was no Rory?
Rory didn’t want to see the thing anymore. Just looking at it induced in him a feeling of dread so powerful, it nauseated him. So he kept his face in the water, only turning his head to the side every few strokes to grab a breath of air, until he neared the shore. He squatted low, panting hard, in the shallows and at last hazarded a glance up at the sky.
It was empty.
Save for a muted orange glow from light pollution and the moon, now distant, there was nothing in the sky. Rory crawled from the water and plopped down on the damp sand at the lake’s edge.
Had it simply been a hallucination? Or maybe there had been a cloud bank, a thunderhead maybe, and his sci-fi geek’s mind had transformed it into something much more wondrous? And much more threatening?
He shivered and rubbed his hands up and down his bare arms to warm himself. After a while, when he felt he was ready, he stood on shaky legs, the comparison to a newly born colt not lost on him, and staggered over to where he’d left his T-shirt and glasses. He yanked the tee over his head and put the glasses—chunky horn-rims—onto his face. He’d been wearing glasses since he was five years old. It felt more natural with them on than without.
It crossed his mind for half a second that his blurry vision had been a contributor to what he’d seen—or not seen; he was already doubting himself—but even with the glasses restoring his vision to twenty-twenty, the view of the sky above remained placid, dark, unremarkable.
He scanned the horizon for a while, still looking for something he’d lost, but saw nothing new other than an industrial ship way out there, at the very edge of what Rory imagined was the world.
Perhaps the ship would topple off the edge and into the mouth of a waiting giant membrane that looked something like a cloud with lights and spinning figures inside?
Rory thought he should laugh at the notion but couldn’t quite bring himself to. He walked slowly across the sand. It wasn’t until he got halfway up the steps to the street that he realized he’d left his flip-flops on the beach.
He hurried back to claim them. As he was stooping over to grab them, he noticed a dog running toward him. It was a black Labrador, or something like it, because it appeared as if it was some kind of charging shadow.
It rushed by him without slowing to sniff or in any way regard him. “Hey!” Rory called after the animal, which ignored him. Rory looked around to see if there was a frazzled owner, leash in hand, running after the dog, but the beach was empty.
When he looked back, the dog was gone.
Could it have been one of the dark figures that dropped from the cloud?
Rory froze at the middle of the stairs. The thought chilled him. The whole idea of his sanity suddenly came into question.
He hurried up the rest of the stairs and headed back toward his apartment. He hoped Cole hadn’t awakened and gone looking for him.
Real Men. True Love.
Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love.
He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”
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