Isaac reached the unlit stairs that descended twenty or thirty feet into a sullen orange dimness. Was the basement annexed to the sewers? Each step dipped in the center, worn by the passage of a million feet. How old was this building?
The hum of conversation faded the farther he went, echoing strangely in the dark stairwell. He took each uneven tread slowly, certain he’d stumble into someone else’s NC-17 craziness. At the very least, he hoped for a celebrity erection he could report to the other librarians, praying it wouldn’t be attached to Newt Gingrich.
At the bottom, more pitchfork globes lit a low-ceilinged hallway paneled with steel, tiled in granite, and so silent his ears rang.
This must be under Pitt Street. “Duh.” Isaac nodded. Right: Gehenna. Bottomless pit. He took another sour swallow of gimlet, wondering where he’d put the glass when he’d drained it.
Six double-width doors punctuated the corridor at twelve-foot intervals, and then one small entry at the far end, unlit and narrow as a utility closet. Well, in a sex lounge someone had to mop up the jizz, right?
A muffled cry. "Oh. Aggggh-oh!" The terrified male moan came from the middle door on the left. Could have been pleasure or anguish. "Augghhh. I'm gonna go. Gonna— Ohhhhhh." Pleasure? The vowel ended in a gasp, a gurgle, and then an uncanny silence that lifted the hair on his arms. None of the other doors offered even muffled smut. So much for voyeurism.
Without warning, the moaning middle door throbbed for a moment, and the metal walls vibrated in tandem. Subway. Old speakeasy, the tunnels must share a wall. Even so, he couldn't shake the feeling of wrongness as he stood watching the doorframes judder and fall still. Too nervous to try the handles, he stood in the passage under the smoldering owl-light.
Isaac waited on unsteady feet, his options murky. The subterranean quiet made his skin hum. The cubes rattled as he finished his drink, but there was nothing to look at and, already, he’d heard a little and seen more than enough.
He turned and went back to the base of the stairs, where the lounge chatter above hummed like a wasp nest. Happy birthday, dipshit.
At the moment he put his foot on the lowest step, he realized no subway ran underground here. He shivered. Not subway. He grasped the rail to make for the exit.
“Kholem.” The hissed word filled the metal hall, amplified. Isaac flinched and squeezed his glass tighter than he should have. At first he misheard the word as “Hole,” but then he heard it again, echoing around him. “Kholem.”
He knew the word from his bar mitzvah reading on Joseph the seer: “Dreamer.” Hearing the word made him feel anxious and homesick. Isaac had suffered through Hebrew school for a couple of years and worked in a rare manuscript room, but hearing it aloud erased nine years of his life so that he was thirteen and miserable on the day he figured out why he liked to wrestle his best friend so much. Dreamer.
His feet wouldn’t move. Goose bumps swept his arms. He took a step into the passage and then back.
Hebrew in a sex lounge. Maybe some kind of bizarre Israeli role play? Hasidic sex games? Kinky kabbalah? Isaac had visions of doddering rabbis being spanked while strict blondes forced them to eat sausage. Ick. No thanks.
A low, dry cough and the guttural scratch of the opening syllable. “Khol—”
The pitchfork globes flickered for a moment. The cinnamon light wavered and returned.
Hair standing on end, Isaac pivoted. He leaned close to the nearest door. Silent. The next three were the same. Silent as a meat locker and nearly as cold. So much for his whorehouse reverie.
The voice deepened. “Kholem.” A man’s rough, plaintive cry called to him from the little closet at the hallway’s end.
Each step a sticky squeak, Isaac passed under the pitchfork sconces to the dark end and the narrow door. He pressed his palm against the dull metal. Even in mid-July the steel felt frigid… so bitter arctic cold that the surface felt weirdly dry in the humidity of a New York summer, freezing the air. The doorknob burned his hand and wasn’t locked when he turned it.
“Hello?” He stooped to enter a bare brick room the size of a restaurant freezer.
Isaac dropped his glass and forgot to flinch. He heard and felt the burst of shards from far away.
In one corner, glaring like a leopard, a naked angel shivered.
He had a warrior’s body worn by a prince, all buttery bronze. Light down gilded his pectorals and belly. His gunmetal gaze was sloe-eyed and wide with relief. The tawny brows swept over his eyes like wings, and his hair was a loose tousle the color of burnt sugar. Even his powerful hands seemed carved by Michelangelo… thick, gentle fingers to bless a sinner or pull a baby into the world.
Isaac shook. He covered his mouth and, when he touched his face, realized he was crying.
No one should be in this terrible frozen cage. Every inch of Isaac rang with the wrongness of it. He had trespassed on something inhuman. A protective rage licked his bones at the thought of rescuing someone this helpless. His righteous certainty drove him another step closer to the anguished body.
Isaac’s hair just missed scraping the ceiling. The entire concrete chamber looked like a perfect six-foot cube. Was this poor creature a prostitute or a junkie? What was this frigid box? Who had built it and why?
“Dreamer.” The angel turned fully to him, the proud profile of a Persian king becoming a terrible, tender gaze. He struggled to straighten, then wiped his swollen lip. “You came.” He slurred the words, as though someone had drugged him, his accent lightly Arabic.
Isaac opened his mouth, then shut it. “I heard you,” he panted, his entire body slicked with sweat even in this icebox. The delicate musk of the radiant flesh crowded the tiny room, stunning him into servitude. Nothing seemed adequate. He wanted to kneel. He wanted to shout or beg.
“I called you and you came.” A radiant calm stole across the angel’s face. Again he tried to stand, wobbly as a newborn colt. His half-hard cock rolled, succulent, against his inner thigh, and the petal-thin foreskin slid back. His corded legs strained to bear the weight of standing; the brawny shoulders bunched with sinew. His shivers pained Isaac, and yet his golden skin was pinked with impossible health. “Without the Horn Gate.”
There was something else strange about the crouched nude figure, but Isaac was too stunned to puzzle it out. Another scuff closer.
Isaac started as the door swung shut behind him, blocking out the orange glow from the passage so that the only light shone from the strong body shivering in the corner.
“I am in your debt, Dreamer….” He smiled.
Under the weight of the tender bend, Isaac forgot to breathe. Musky sweetness flooded his senses. His swollen cock jogged sideways in his briefs.
The angel lifted eyes impish as a fairytale bandit’s. “And I thank you for hearing me.” The hungry gaze raked over Isaac’s spotty face and saggy form.
Isaac smiled back, his idiot’s grin an ugly echo of the impossible curve shining at him, for him, with him. “Thank you for calling me.”
The angel tipped his head to the side and closed his lids. He breathed raggedly, filling his powerful torso with effort. “Few hear.”
Then again, maybe he meant “Few here” since the long corridor was still empty and the music upstairs a low hum like the tide.
“A true dreamer.” The muscular throat swallowed. “Yet you brought with you so much…” The blissful smile again and a sigh of relief. “Pain and fear.”
“No! Really. I’m fine.” Isaac stared, his mouth agape. “I just wanted to watch. It’s my birthday and—” He fell silent. Every word tasted stupid in his mouth. “This place was my… present.”
The shaking angel tried to stand again, his perfect shaft hardening and his nipples pebbling as if he could smell Isaac’s lust, as though answering it. Kholem.
Isaac tried to ignore the plump erection that rose from the crisp nest of curls. His own balls drew up against the root of his boner, and the stiffness jerked with his pulse. Even the friction of his boxers against his knob felt amplified. He panted and licked his lips, trying to restrain himself. Again, something about the impossible torso struck him as odd, but he couldn’t focus long enough to make sense of it.
The angel’s tongue swept the firm bow of his upper lip. “Help me.” His taut nipples were carved from the same honey stone as his pectorals.
Isaac extended a hand in the hope he could control himself. His fingers twitched and shook. His nutsack knotted and throbbed. He had never wanted to touch another person, and suddenly the thirty-six inches of air between them burned and tickled like head-to-toe poison ivy.
“The Horn Gate.” The angelic flesh radiated scalding warmth, flushed and feverish, even while he shook with cold. The wall behind him buckled, no longer cinder blocks but woven out of branches, forked and spiraling. The boughs gaped where the angel touched them, giving the impression that his glowing skin loosened and bent them. The braided limbs strained to open to slithering shadows.
No, not branches….
Saliva pooled in Isaac’s mouth and his breath nearly stilled. Black orchids bloomed behind his eyelids as if he was about to faint. His pulse slammed in his skull, his rod painfully rigid since he touched the wintry door. His frantic arousal wrapped itself around him from his fundament to the top of his head like a fiery snake.
The angel slid his back up the wall to brace himself, the hypnotic flex and flux of his Michelangelo muscles were the Adriatic sun on the ocean at night and then, and then, and then…
“I am called Scratch.”
There was no navel on the flawless abdomen.
He wasn’t born.
The angel took his hand.
With a strangled yelp, Isaac’s body arched and ejaculated, scorching his stomach with semen; lightning chased his limbs and cold blackness blossomed behind his lids like ink in water.
The weaving walls gaped and a spiky portal of interlocking horns and antlers seemed to orbit Isaac for a moment. Scratch’s pewter eyes were the last thing he saw before he hit the floor, unconscious.
He saw them for a long while after.
Released 6 May 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
Copyright 2013. Damon Suede. All Rights Reserved.