Biology professor Roman Janz was walking across campus and planning his next plant-collecting trip to Brazil, when something stung him on the neck. And now… now he’s wandering in the dark, in the blue, floating, disembodied, and confused. There has to be a good explanation, if he can just find someone, anyone, he can actually talk to about it.
Xavier Faulkner is intelligent, creative, and made millions when he sold his tech-security company. But all his wealth and skills couldn’t keep his sister Tam from being poisoned by food contamination. She lived, but her health was damaged, and her job as a cop is gone. In the antebellum house he moved them to, Xavier hopes to find both a distraction and maybe a purpose for their lives. But the old house seems to come with strange noises, and odd blue lights, and maybe― if Xavier isn’t just going crazy― a naked guy, walking away into the blue…
This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group's "Love’s Landscapes" event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.
I just moved into this old antebellum home I bought with the intentions of restoring. I often find myself awoken in the night by strange noises I cannot identify or hear during the day. At first, I think it’s just a dream… this seemingly phantom always walking away. Who is he and how can I get him to finally turn around and see me?
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Roman struggled, even though he knew it was hopeless. In the back of the swaying van, he did his best against two men he could see only as blurs. Both men outweighed him. They’d tackled him backwards onto the floor; his arms were pinned at his sides. One of them sat on his legs. The drug in the tranq dart was taking effect quickly. He was weaker every minute, reactions slowing, muscles going soft. He gasped for air, against the muffling thickness of the sedative, shaking his head as if that would clear it.READ MORE
He’d been a soldier. He’d fought truly desperate men in the desert, in the Water Wars of ’22, probably before these punks were out of diapers. He wasn’t going down easy. He wriggled in their hold as they bent over him, and slammed his head up hard against the closer man’s nose. He heard a crunch. Yes! He hoped he’d broken it. The guy swore loudly, and his grip on Roman’s wrist loosened.
“What the hell?” the driver of the van called from up front. “Aren’t you done yet?”
“Someone must’ve fucked up the dose!” the guy on his legs said, trying to ride his struggling thighs, reaching across him for something. “He’s not out yet.”
“Well, get the cognoburn into him already!” There was a chime as they turned onto some tollway, and the auto-drive system took over the van. “Here, I’ll come help.”
Roman froze, his gut turning to water at the words. Cognoburn was illegal, was tantamount to murder. If that was what was coming, it would be better to be dead.
His moment of panic gave the men time to renew their grip. With a third man moving toward him, there was no way to survive this. Maybe he could make them kill him. He tried to make it look like whatever had been in the dart was taking effect. It carried the familiar sweet rush of a narcotic, and he hoped that for once his old mistakes might give him just a little extra tolerance. He imagined his grandfather saying, “You’re the fox, not the wolf; be canny and clever.” He forced himself to go limp, letting his eyelids droop shut.
“There,” one man muttered. “Finally!”
He lay there, unmoving, feeling the onset of the sedative turn his body to blissed-out mush. He would have one last chance. Maybe. A narco dart would take him down fast, tolerance or not.
A tourniquet was placed on his arm, biting in tightly. He felt the poke of a needle in the bend of his elbow. Not yet. Not yet. He’d done his share of IVs. They would release the rubber tubing first, and then inject. Not yet.
The needle guy was clumsy as he crouched over Roman’s arm, poking around to hit the vein. It took him far longer than Roman would ever have needed, even doing it one-handed. He mentally urged the guy to go faster. It took all Roman had to lie still, breathing evenly, trying to hold out as his head spun deeper into muzzy darkness.
Then the man grunted, a satisfied sound, leaned off-balance over Roman’s legs, and loosened the tourniquet. Roman slammed one knee upward as hard as he could, right into the guy’s ’nads. The man yelped and fell away. A sharp pain ripped Roman’s arm. He desperately hoped it was the needle dragged out through flesh, and not the flush of the drug. He rolled sideways, not sure where he was aiming, kicking out violently as his vision faded.
A minute later he was pinned again. This time he had no resistance left. Through buzzing static, he heard the men cursing, as the cheerful voice of the auto-drive said, “Approaching on-ramp to Tollway Twenty-Four. Sharp left turn. Please hold on.”
Someone snarled, “Son of a bitch!” He was slammed by a hard blow to his side, even though he wasn’t moving any more.
He took some final, fading satisfaction in the high-pitched whine of that voice. He might be an effete college professor now, and fifteen years past his fighting days, but he’d landed that balls-shot hard and on target. A retaliatory kick in the ribs hardly registered over the bliss of the drugs.
“Did he get the cognoB?”
Roman strained to hear, to understand. The men’s voices were fading into the crackling background in his head.
“Yeah. I think. Most of it anyway.”
“You must’ve fouled up the tranq dart. No way he should have fought it like that.”
“Well it’s done. Yeah, look, the syringe is empty. He got it.”
“Okay. If there’s a problem I’m blaming you. The boss has a special
Roman Janz wondered, in his last coherent moment, what interest a guy called “boss” could have in a middle-aged academic. Especially if that interest didn’t involve his mind. Soon he wouldn’t have a mind. Cognoburn would wipe out his higher functions. He’d have been screaming, if the drugs hadn’t combined to sink him into a soft emotionless fog. He tried to cling to the puzzle, this inexplicable value he had, but he couldn’t hold the problem in his thoughts. And then he couldn’t hold thoughts. And then the world went away
Xavier Faulkner woke with a start, and sat up in bed. The room was dark and quiet, but he had the impression he’d just heard something. Not simply one of the creaks and clicks that this old house was prone to, but something purposeful. A human cry, short and full of emotion...