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Something’s Always Wrong Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

Luggage & Fix Ups

 

Ken was hunched over the keyboard of his computer. His eyes were intent on the screen before him. He had spent most of the day at home working on spreadsheets and proposal forms for work, but he had decided to take a little Internet break and had found his way into the chat rooms on HOMO.COM. He had intended only to observe the other chatters, but the urge overtook him and he had made out his own profile and was smack dab in the middle of the San Fernando Valley room. There wasn’t much going on in the main chat, but Ken was juggling four separate instant messengers. All four were pretty much the same. They were all in their mid thirties, they all were professionals who enjoyed outdoor activities and dinners with close friends, or that special someone, at least that’s what their profiles said. Ken was just jumping from one conversation to the next. All four discussions were surrounding mundane topics such as weather and each chatters’ dislike for their work. Eventually, almost at the same time, the chat turned to more personal matters. First the question if Ken worked out was asked by all four chat mates. He had barely gone to his gym in the months following Greg’s departure, but Ken lied anyway and said that he worked out at least three times a week. This impressed his new cyber friends. Then came questions of his physical measurements. Ken again fudged a bit. He gave his height honestly, but he shaved a few pounds off his weight.

Then the final, most important, question was posted. Whether or not Ken had a picture to share. Ken felt a slight chill run down his back. He was beginning to feel a stir in his lap from his talking to the four online strangers and wasn’t looking forward to popping the bubble. He took a gulp of air and realized it was bound to happen at some point. He told them all yes, and transmitted his most recent picture to them all. Time passed. Beads of sweat began to form on Ken’s forehead. ‘They must be having trouble downloading it.  It was a pretty big file.’ Ken thought to himself. He asked if MANSTUD69 was having any trouble with the file. No answer. He then tried XXXBEERCAN, again, no reply. Ken’s fingers were starting to wiggle over the keys. He decided not to tempt fate with the other two and just let them simmer. Just as he was about to close out of the program, a new line of text popped up in MANSTUD69’s chat window. Ken’s heart began to race. He scanned the line of new text but then his heart sank a little. Apparently Ken wasn’t MANSTUD69’s type. A polite way of telling him he was repulsive. Ken quit out of his Internet browser without so much as an obligatory good bye. Ken knew in his head it was just on-line flirting. Nothing to be taken seriously, but in his heart, any rejection, however small, stung like a thousand knives.

He was still feeling vulnerable since Greg walked out on him, also with no good-bye or even explanation. Ken had been going into the chat rooms more and more frequently over the past few months. He was soon a veteran of the whole thing. He had the lingo and shorthand down pat. He knew the dance quite well. The only problem was he just wasn’t that good at it. Just as the onset of full force depression began to take hold of him, the front door of his Van Nuys apartment flew open and Mike came barging in.

“I have been trying to call you for over an hour! What the hell is wrong with your,” Mike stopped suddenly when he saw the computer was on and Ken had his head down. “Oh. Cruising the chat rooms again?” Ken slowly nodded his head.

“What are you doing here?” Ken asked as he picked himself up and took a deep breath.

“You said I could borrow your luggage, darling. Remember?”

“Oh. Right. I forgot. Sorry.”

“I didn’t want to barge in here like this, but Ivan and I are leaving on our trip in a couple days. I’ve got to start packing if I’m going to make that. Oh. Kenny, boy! Can you believe it? I’m going to Europe! I’m actually going! And not alone like some loser! I’m going with my boyfriend. My actual, ‘been together for a whole year’ boyfriend! I never thought I’d see the day.” Mike said in a breathy, happy tone.

“Neither did I.” Ken said brusquely as he pushed past Mike towards his bedroom to retrieve the luggage in question. Mike shot a hard sneer at Ken as he passed, but Ken would hardly have cared even if he had seen it.

“I don’t like the tone, missy.”

Ken opened his closet and up on the top shelf he saw his gold seal Samsonite leather cases. He had bought them years earlier at a time when he had been going on several extended trips for his firm. Ken had decided that a good set of luggage would be a good investment. After he bought them though, his trips had ceased and he was stuck with a set of luggage that nearly set him back a clear grand with no place to go. He had played with the idea of going to Europe himself. He had secretly wanted to go, although he never told anyone, due to the fact everyone simply assumed every gay man dreamed of going to Europe and he didn’t want to play into any stereotypes. He really wanted to go though, and that luggage was going to go with him, but that was a long time ago and the dust that was building on the luggage was becoming noticeable.

He reached up and pulled the largest case down. A cloud of soot drifted down with it. He grabbed the other two smaller bags and wiped off the dust. Ken then carried all three bags out to Mike who was waiting anxiously to take them in his hands.

“Oh wow! They look great! Like they’ve hardly been used.” Ken ignored his friend’s jab.

“Enjoy.”

“Look, I’m sorry okay? It’s not like I planned for my relationship to be going so good while yours, well, while yours crapped out.”

“It’s okay, Mike. Really. I don’t give a shit anyway. What good are boyfriends anyway? They just add this unwanted pressure into your life. Someone you always have to look good around. Someone you’re always self conscious around. Does he love me? Do I love him? Please. I’m much more comfortable just being single. The way God intended.”

“Wow. Someone’s been getting drunk on the bitter juice lately.”

“Not all of us can land a fashion mogul like you.”

“Are you implying that I’m only with Ivan because he’s rich?”

“Well?”

“I’ll have you know that I would be just as happy with Ivan if he were poor. The fact that he is rich is just the biggest, best surprise in the world.”

“Look, I’m sorry. I’m just still shook by Greg. I am happy for you and Ivan. I really am. Maybe even a little jealous.” Mike’s steel features softened and he lovingly took Ken in his arms and hugged him gently.

“Oh, honey.” Mike cooed. “Of course you are.”

Mike cradled Ken in his arms and then released his embrace and looked Ken straight in the eyes.

“Look, serious, okay? It really is killing me seeing you such a mess. How about I fix you up?”

“A fix up? I don’t know.”

“Why not? That’s how Ivan and I met.”

“No it’s not. You hooked up in a bath house.”

“I know. We’re just telling everyone it was fix up. It’s so much more romantic, don’t you think? So, how about it? A little fix up?”

“I don’t think so,” Ken said. “Oh come on! There’s this really cute guy at the restaurant who’s just as desperate and hard up as you.”

“Thanks.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, but since the cat is out of the bag.”

“Is he really cute?”

“Babe, he is hot! I mean if it weren’t for Ivan, I’d be camping out between his legs right now.” Mike said.

“What’s his name?”

“Ramone Del Cruz. He’s very sweet. A little shy since the divorce.”

“Divorce? From a woman? He was married to a woman? He is gay right?”

“Darling! Why do you think she dumped him? Don’t worry. He’s totally down with the man on man thing. When do you want to do it?”

“I didn’t agree to anything. Yet. I have to think about it.”

“Fine. Think.” Mike said as he handed Ken a piece of paper. He looked down at it. It had a phone number and the name Ramone scrawled across it. “I told him all about you, so he won’t be too surprised to hear from you.”

“You gave him my number too, didn’t you?”

“It may have found its way into his pocket.” Mike said impishly.

“I appreciate it. I really do.”

“I love you, you know that. We all do.”

“Love me as much as your luggage, right? Well, my luggage,” Ken said with a smile. “I know. I’ll be okay. You go on. Enjoy my luggage. Enjoy Europe!”

“I will. Thanks.” Mike then gave Ken a light kiss on the cheek and sauntered out.

Mike came driving up to Ivan’s house in Brentwood. It was a ranch style house hidden deep in a small glen of ivy and old oaks. It was one of the few very secluded, exclusive, neighborhoods in a city as large as Los Angeles. The lights were off which concerned Mike as Ivan had told him he’d be home all night.

He parked the car on a small patch of gravel. He got out and as he walked towards the front door, the lights inside came on. Mike ran over and opened the door. He stopped when he saw a platoon of packed bags sitting before him.

“What is all this?” Ivan popped out from behind one of the larger suit bags.

“Just a little surprise.”

“Did you pack for a vacation or are you moving?” Mike was trying to comprehend the amount of clothes that sat before him.

“It’s Europe! The weather over there can be crazy so you need to be prepared for anything. Plus, we’re going to a number of official events so I need a good selection of dressy clothes.”

“Is there anything left in your closet?”

“Just my underwear.” Ivan said with a sly grin as he slowly slid his arms around Mike’s waist.

“Well, you won’t be needing those, now will you?”

“Nope. So, let’s go.” Ivan whispered in Mike’s ear. Mike bolted up.

“What? Go?”

“Yes. I called and had our tickets upgraded. We leave in about forty five minutes.”

“I can’t go now! I haven’t even packed!”

“You don’t think all these clothes are mine, do you?”

“Huh?”

“The red bags are yours, the green ones are mine. I know your measurements and what you like so I took the liberty of packing for you. All originals. All French.”

“Oh my god. Ivan! It sounds so silly to say this but you shouldn’t have,” Ken’s luggage, which was still sitting in Mike’s car outside, was fading out of his mind. “Wait.” Mike said as a certain reality abruptly popped in his head. “My job. My vacation doesn’t start for two more days!”

“So? It’s just two days.”

“It must have been a while since you’ve been in the world of hourly wages, but normally employers don’t like it when you take off work days ahead of schedule.”

“I realize that, but I’m sure they’ll understand. Just call up your boss and explain the situation.”

“I’ll try.” Mike pulled out his cell phone and dialed Oscar Porter; the owner of the restaurant Mike was currently working at. It rang a few times. A thick, smoke scarred voice came on.

“Yeah?” Oscar blurted.

“Mr. Porter? It’s Mike.”

“Oh. Mike. What is it?”

“I was just calling to tell you that something’s come up and,” Mike wasn’t sure what to say. He knew that Oscar wasn’t one to give away free time too easily.

 “Hey, Mike, if you’re calling about your vacation time, you’re talking to the wrong guy.”

“I am?”

“Yeah, I haven’t told anyone yet, but I sold the place today.”

Mike felt his head spin briefly as he heard these words hit his ears.

“What?”

“I know. I was surprised too, but I just got a real good offer the other day and I figured I was about ready to retire. Don’t worry though. No one’s losing their job or anything. I was assured the business would stay open and be run as usual.”

Mike felt a bit of relief at that news but his more immediate concern was still hanging in the balance.

“Who do I talk to about my vacation then?” Oscar proceeded to give Mike a phone number. He thanked him and dialed the new number. He shot a confused look at Ivan as he waited for the sound of ringing. Then almost by coincidence, Ivan’s phone began to ring. He grabbed his phone and stepped away out of sight. Within a few seconds a familiar voice purred in Mike’s ear.

“Yes?” Mike could hear Ivan both over the phone and just a few feet away. Mike clicked off his phone and ran over to Ivan.

“You? You bought my restaurant?”

“Surprise!”

“Why?”

“I just thought it would make it easier for you to get out of there a couple days early.”

 “How did you do this? Buying a restaurant has got to take mountains of paperwork!”

“Fortunately, I’ve got mountains of money.”

“Are you telling me you bought an entire restaurant just so you could make sure I could leave with you two days early?”

“That’s about the shape of it, yes.”

“That is so crazy! You don’t even know how to run a restaurant!”

“I’ll hire someone for that. I look at it as an investment. I’ll worry about all the nuts and bolts when we get back. Now, get your bags. We’re leaving.”

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006LFPWCY

Demon Hunters Chpt 1

I’m changing things up this week. As I said, I would post the first few chapters of the book I offered for free the previous Friday for #freebookfriday but since I’ve offered this book so many times before, I think it may have become over saturated, so what I’m doing this week is putting up the first chapter of each part of the book. Just  trying this out. Enjoy!

Part 1
Chapter 1

 

My name is Jake Corba and I spent my twenty-fifth birthday baking away along Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California. I wasn’t homeless, as such, but it was a lot more pleasant for me to camp out along the street than be at home, which was nothing more than a glamorized roach motel which enjoyed frequent visits from bill collectors and repo men. My creditors had become aggressive in their attempts to squeeze the last bit of blood from my veins and I didn’t want to make their job easier by being a stationary target.

I sat along the street and begged for change when the mood struck me, but mostly I just sat there and thought. I tried to keep my thoughts away from the past. I realize many people reflect fondly on their histories, but I’ve never found any comfort in mine. I never could see any point in dredging up a painful life in order to figure out exactly where it all went wrong, when I already knew. I could pinpoint my first and biggest mistake to the day I was born.

I didn’t remember much about my parents, as they didn’t last very long. There was a fire in the church on the night of my baptism. A fire, I have come to understand, that I started after I was possessed by some otherworldly force. A demon to be exact.

 A demon had infiltrated my small, fragile body and I was filled with its power. I didn’t know what I was doing and I don’t recall much of the experience, but apparently I caused the death of my parents and nearly every single soul in that church. That’s about all I can remember from my childhood. I have flashes of growing up, being tossed from one foster home to another.  I didn’t have many good memories to hold onto so I never tried.

Over time, I learned to control the demon on my own. It became a part of me and I learned that I was a lot better off on my own than with any family. No one could possibly understand who I was or what I had become. The demon inside me gave me strength. It helped me to survive on the street.

I saw a wealthy looking woman approaching me on her way to one of the boutiques along the boulevard. I looked up and mumbled a request for some spare coins. I expected her to just walk by but to my surprise she stopped and dug out some coins from her purse. She dropped them into my backpack and hurried on her way. When I was sure she was out of earshot, I rifled through my bag and found the money; a couple quarters and a penny. I shoved the coins into my pocket to join the others I had collected that morning. I almost had enough for a small cup of coffee. Happy birthday to me.

The day dragged on. I sat and watched the usual parade of life pass by. I walked along the block and mingled with my fellow street people. Once you get past the crazy, they have some real interesting stories to share. As I was heading back to my usual spot, I stopped in my tracks. I could see him across the street.

There was a very weird looking dude who seemed to have gotten into the habit of stalking me. He was a big guy too. Built like a brick wall. I had seen him staring at me a couple times over the past few months. At first, I just thought he was a local. I’ve seen a lot of people more than once around here. It wasn’t that unusual, but when I realized every time I saw him, he was looking at me, I began to worry. His gaze was penetrating. It was as though he were expecting me to do a trick or something. I turned away from him. When I looked up, he was gone. I was rather surprised by my reaction. I’m not the kind of guy to scare easy. I wasn’t sure why this freak was making me feel so uneasy.

I decided then was as good a time to pack it in. I could feel my skin burning, but I didn’t mind. The demon inside of me helped to keep me healthy and well. Any wounds I suffered, it would heal. Any ailments I had, it would cure. The voices in my head were a small price to pay for that kind of coverage.

I could tell it was getting late. Nearly time to eat but I didn’t have enough to get anything. I went over to a nearby trashcan and did a quick scan of its contents in case someone had tossed some leftovers or a half full soda cup. Nothing, but I had a theory that I did have some stale potato chips in my pantry back at my dump. I grabbed my bag and threw it over my shoulder and headed down the street.

The next day I came out at my usual time and camped out as always. It was a bit cooler and I was able to stake a claim on some sidewalk that had some good shadow coverage. I sat just watching for a few minutes, but I got bored. I went to my bag and pulled out a pen and paper. I started to write. Nothing deep or profound. I would sometimes just write down what came into my head. I wasn’t always sure if it was coming from my head, of course, but that wasn’t the point.  It also helped to have something to focus on other than myself. It really helped pass the time.

I was tearing through the pages for what seemed like only a few minutes, but when I finally came up for air, I saw three hours had passed. I felt my stomach begin to rumble loudly. The potato chips from last night weren’t quite as filling as I had hoped they’d be. I set the paper down and considered my options. It wasn’t even noon yet, and the foot traffic was unbearably light, so I didn’t have much more than the money I had collected yesterday. I double-checked my bag in case I missed something. I then decided to drown my hunger in my writing. I grabbed the paper and went back to my words.

The shade I had been luxuriating in for most of the morning was fading and I could feel the heat spreading. My forehead was moist with sweat. As I was starting a new line on the paper, I thought about taking a break to find a new spot when suddenly, the shade returned. I looked up and the brick wall freak was standing right over me. He had never gotten so close before. I could smell something coming off of him. Either his cologne or soap. It was subtle at first but soon it was all I could smell. Some sort of mix of animal musk and Old Spice.

“Hello.” His voice was like thunder. I snagged my bag and tried to slide away as slowly as possible.

“Hi.” I said.

“Jake Corba?” I felt a shock come over me. It had been so long since I had heard someone say my name. It almost seemed like hearing a foreign language. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had made ducking creditors into an art form, but I wasn’t getting that kind of vibe from the guy.

“Yeah.” I said as I got to my feet. I began inching away, just in case.

“It is you, isn’t it?” He sounded relieved somehow. A smile, or what I thought was a smile, began to form on his lips.

“It’s me all right. Do I know you?”

“My name is Ivar.”

“Ivar? Ivar what?”

“For now, just Ivar. I have come a long way to meet you, sir.”

“Sir?”

“I am what some might call a student of the universe. I have traveled the world studying from the greatest religious and Philosophical minds on Earth. Holy men from every corner of the globe.”

“Okay, that’s great. Your passport’s full. Congrats. Can I go?”

“I’ve come here to study from you.” His tone was so sincere, I nearly believed him.

“From me? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a holy man. I don’t even go to church.”

“But you are a Corba.”

“Guilty.”

“The day you were to be baptized, you were taken by a demon that still dwells in your soul to this day.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have insight.”

“That’s great,” I had thought he was creepy when he was just looking at me, but hearing what he had to say raised his creep factor by a million. By the look in his eyes, I could tell he really believed it all. I knew I had to get out of there and fast. “This has been interesting, but I think I need to get home now. Bye.” I said and turned away.

I took the long way home but as I was walking, I could sense someone behind me. I turned and saw that Ivar was following me. He wasn’t chasing me, but keeping pace with me. Clearly asking him to leave me alone wasn’t going to work. I turned a corner onto a small street a few blocks from my apartment and spun around to face Ivar as he approached.

“What is your problem, man? I don’t want to talk to you! I don’t know how you know so much about my life, but it doesn’t impress me. Just leave me alone! I’ll go to the cops if I have to.”

“I realize how strange this may seem to you. I have come to learn from you because I feel my teachings have become limited. It doesn’t matter how many religious leaders and figures I speak with. They are just devices chosen to deliver a message, but you are as close to the very essence of the living energy of this universe as any living thing can get. You are not a representative of a higher spirituality. You are a part of it. You have experienced a higher plane of existence and became one with it. You have knowledge that I could never hope to attain. I want to know all I can learn from you. I want to know how you came to be and why and…”

“Hold on there, dude. You want to learn about me from when? When I was born?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, you know about as much as I do. After that church thing, it’s all a blank until my first day at my first foster family.”

“Surely, you have more information than that. Your soul is bonded to a demon. Your family has been hunted and persecuted by demons for centuries. You are a perfect example of the functionally cursed.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you know about your family?”

“No, I don’t. I never really cared to look into the whole family tree. Being stuck with the demon has been bad enough.”

“You don’t know the story?”

“Don’t know it. Don’t care to.”

“Come with me then. I will share with you what I have learned.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I never knew my family, and that’s been a fine arrangement so far. They seem to be too much trouble. Especially if they’re cursed. This has been freaky and disturbing and I think you need to go. Now.” I said and turned away from Ivar and continued on my way home.

“Don’t you even want to know why you live under this curse?” He barked at me as I got further from him.

“Not interested!”

“Even if I can help you cure yourself.” I stopped. The world stopped. His words echoed in my head. I had heard the word cure thrown around carelessly. Before I learned to control the demon, I tried to expel it. I talked to everyone I could about it. A few offered hope and promised they could save me, but they were all wrong. I decided it was better to just live with the damn thing and close the door on any hope of being cured. I wanted to turn back to Ivar and agree. I wanted him to show me some miraculous procedure or remedy that all the others had overlooked. The one silver bullet that would finally free me forever, but before I could utter a word, I remembered the disappointment I felt each time one of those saviors had let me down. I couldn’t do it again. I wouldn’t. I braced myself and continued on down the street without a word. I could hear Ivar behind me, begging me to come back, but I kept forward.