“Huwhat?” Sylus slowly sat up, wiping the sleep from his eyes, “Dan?”
“Hi, Dad,” his son waved to him from the top of the stairs.
“Hi, Dan,” he grogged in return.
Jeron groaned as he stretched without getting up from the couch.
“Nice tentacle,” Daniel repeated with a nod in Sylus’ general direction.
“Huh?” Sylus looked over his shoulder, “Oh… Oh shit… Right…”
The tendril that had been lying limply over his side came to life. It began drifting around touching everything it could. The couch, the wall, the blankets, the pillows… Jeron’s arm. Jeron chuckled.
“Feels like a snake,” he muttered, “Like it should be gross and slimy but it isn’t.”
“So where’d you get that?” Daniel motioned towards his father again.
“Ah, well, you know the voice in my head?”
“It gave you a tentacle?” Daniel was more confused than concerned.
“Did it hurt?”
“Did it hurt when it, like, grew out of your spine?” Daniel winced at the idea of something growing out of his back.
“I actually didn’t feel a thing,” Sylus smiled once more.
Daniel stood a moment processing this latest occurrence in the realm of the bizarre.
“Well okay then,” he shrugged as he began making his way downstairs.
“Where ya goin’?” his father called after him.
“Breakfast!” Daniel called from the bottom of the stairs, “You guys have Honeycrunch?”
“Honeycrunch?” Jeron turned to Sylus, puzzled.
“His favorite sugary cereal,” Sylus groaned.
“God no! We only have real food here!” Jeron yelled.
“Can we go get some?” Daniel came just far enough up the steps that they could see the begging in his eyes.
Sylus covered his face with his hands. Jeron kept looking between the two of them.
“I mean if it’s that important I can drive…” Jeron muttered, shoving Sylus lightly.
“Dan, can we go without Honeycrunch for the day?” Sylus knew the request was futile.
Daniel became a caricature of pondering. Every bit of the expression was exaggerated for effect. “Well let’s see… I thought I lost my dad TWICE yesterday… I think I’m a bit traumatized. Some comfort food would help.”
Jeron laughed, “That’s some grade-A manipulation right there.”
Sylus groaned. “Fine, but let me stop at home to put on something that isn’t work clothes… Been wearing these for way too long now…”
“Of course! Let me just check in on Pops real quick,” Jeron stood up, kissing Sylus on his forehead.
“So… What’s it like?” Daniel spoke up once Jeron had disappeared down the hall.
“Hm?” Sylus turned to his son, sleep still evident in his gaze.
“Well… What’s it like having a tentacle growing out of your back?”
“Oh, right, well…” Sylus cleared his throat as he sat upright, “I haven’t had it long, so I can’t really give it any fair criticism, but its somewhere between strange and, well, uh, not strange… Ugh…” He ran his hand down his face, “It’s like, uh… It’s just weird. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s just… Weird… Yeah…”
Daniel gave a small laugh as he shook his head, “It’s okay, Dad. I’m just wondering. I’m not bothered by it or anything, promise.”
Sylus smiled broadly.
“Alright well Pops is still asleep,” Jeron sighed as he returned to the living room, “Age must have hit the old man hard.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “He should be fine while we’re gone. It’s hard to tell day from night with the Mist so he should just wake up, wonder what year it is, and go open the Diner like he always does…”
“Jer…” Sylus stood up slowly, “I don’t want to get you into any trouble with your father.”
Jeron waved away Sylus’ concern, “Please. I never get out. This place is like a prison. He can bitch and piss all he wants, but I want to get out for a while and you’re the perfect excuse to do so.”
“You sure?” Sylus grinned.
A warm chuckle came from Jeron, “Let’s do it.”
Piling into the truck, they drove the short distance around the bend to the Synclaire’s house. It really was a good looking building, considering what the town was like before everything was torn to shreds in the crystalline rainfall. A crisp, clean front porch looked out onto the road and toward the now derelict buildings across the street. Sylus had done little to change the existing furniture which included a pair of high back, wood slat chairs and a lovers’ swing on the side that hung over the cliff face. If things had been different, this would have been a beautiful place to live.
Walking right into the living area you could see straight across the building into the kitchen. The only thing dividing them was a bar anchored to the exterior wall. Jeron always found it so quaint and cozy.
“Alright, Jer,” Sylus laughed as he headed up the short flight of stairs that lead to the hall along which the bedrooms were situated. “I’ll be right back.”
With a smile and a nod, Jeron began rummaging through Sylus’ poorly stocked kitchen. Much to his chagrin, it was in a barren state. Why, though? All he had to do was ask him or his father for food or a ride out to town… Then again, this was Sylus he was thinking about. Sylus never asked for anything from anyone.
Sylus stared into the bedroom closet. The Mist-stained grey of his work uniform was a majority of the clothing he owned. Except… For the suit. He spat at the idea of putting it on and embarrassing himself in front of Jeron. The damn thing didn’t even fit well. Shoulders were too wide, pants were too long… the shirt hung poorly over his scrawny frame. It looked exactly like what it was: someone trying to be something they weren’t. Glancing down the hall, he made sure Jeron was out of sight before he removed it from the closet.
“Goddammit,” he muttered as he began putting it on, holding his tie up gently in his mouth. The process always gave him a strange sense of strength that, while easily shattered, was enough to allow him to begin his day. Kicking off his work boots, he reached under the bed for a pair of barely worn sneakers. Business on the top, ergonomic comfort on the bottom. He stared at himself in the full-length mirror for far longer than he should have. Al the while he could feel his tendril squirming under his clothes.
“A mess,” he muttered to himself, “An utter mess and a joke, if I might add.”
It does not look as terrible as you think.
Sylus scoffed, “And what do you know…”
I know what you know. I see what you see. You know you do not look as awful as you think, yet you cannot allow yourself to indulge in the confidence such attire would afford you.
Sylus sighed heavily, “It really does look awful. It needs tailoring if I’m ever going to wear it looking like I do…”
Wear it anyway. Assert your dominance. You are not a fool nor are you inferior to anyone in any way. Assert your strength. Assert your presence. Walk with the authority the herald of a god deserves!
“Is that what I am now?” Sylus gave a wry laugh, “The herald of a god?”
“Everything okay in here?” Jeron stood in the hall, his back to the wall so he couldn’t see into the room.
Embarrassment immediately crept up. “Ah, well, um…” he cleared his throat, “Qaitax thinks I should wear this suit that doesn’t fit me,” a nervous laugh, “I think it’s a dumb idea…”
“Can I come in?”
Sylus sat on his bed, defeated. “Sure. Why not.”
Jeron stepped in slowly. Sylus was wringing his hands nervously. Standing up suddenly he did a quick spin. Jeron opened his mouth, but Sylus was quick to cut him off.
“Looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? Like I’m swimming in fabric…” Sylus tugged at his shirt.
“Hmm, mind if I give my honest opinion?” Jeron placed a finger on his chin. Feeling like a fool, Sylus nodded.
“So you’re not wrong, it is a bit big on you…” Sylus crossed his arms, trying not to look at Jeron, “But really? You look fine.”
Sylus laughed, “You mean that? Or are you just saying that because you like me?”
Jeron shook his head, “I mean it.” He sat down beside Sylus on the bed. Leaning over, he fixed his tie knot and cinched it a bit better. “Let’s go.” He patted him on the back. “What are you gonna do about that?” he muttered as he ran his hand down the length of the slowly writhing tendril buried beneath several layers of clothing.
“Well,” Sylus breathed, “If we’re going out in public, I can’t exactly have it flailing around, now, can I?”
“The most indecent of exposures,” Jeron chuckled.
“Think I can just get away with it being tucked under there?”
“Can you? Seems kind of uncomfortable…”
Sylus laughed, “Jeron, I used to do poor man’s binding. That kind of restriction hurts. This?” he chuckled, “I think I can handle this.”
“Well,” Jeron planted a small kiss on his forehead, “You asked me to trust your judgment, so I will.”
“Thank you, Jer,” the diminutive man blushed, “Just… Stay with me, okay?”
“You got it!” Jeron winked. “Now, let’s get going, shall we?”
Though he was still certain Jeron was just saying what he wanted to hear, Sylus couldn’t help but smile.
Caressing Sylus’ cheeks, Jeron kissed him gently on the lips. Sylus’ heart fluttered in his chest. Love… That’s what this was… Real, honest love… Not… Whatever he’d felt before… for her…
Standing up, Jeron took hold of his hands and brought him to his feet.
As they made their way down the hall, they found Daniel sitting at his desk doing something on his computer.
“We should come home tonight,” Sylus whispered, “This is Daniel’s home. Where his bed and all his games are,” he looked up to Jeron.
With a weak smile, he agreed, “It probably is for the best. Kid needs some stability, but I couldn’t help but notice…” Jeron turned to face him directly, “You have no food in this house. Like, at all.”
Once more, Sylus found himself flushing with embarrassment. “Work… Doesn’t let me get out. We eat primarily with you guys over at the Diner. I mean, I’d like to cook, but…” Sylus sighed, “Work is more important and work never lets me out with enough time to make it to the shops, so…”
“Well if you’re not using the money for food…” And then Jeron remembered, “Oh hell, Sy, you really are still paying her?”
With a force Jeron had never felt before, Sylus took hold of his wrist and dragged him into the living room.
“I have to, Jeron,” he spat in a hushed tone, “I have no choice. If I don’t, she’ll come after me or worse… send her brother. Jer… I don’t think I’d survive if I ever saw him again…” Sylus gripped his own arms, rubbing them to shake the chill that working its way out from his core. “If Vinny showed up, Jer… I-I have no idea what I’d do… And you know DAMN well if she comes after me, she’ll bring him, too…”
Jeron was well aware of this dread that constantly haunted Sylus, but he knew it’d be better to make light of it than feed into his paranoia. “Why not feed them to that dead god friend of yours?”
Sylus’ gaze snapped to him and locked on with a ferocity Jeron had never seen. “Maybe I will.”
Raising his eyebrows, Jeron snorted, “I’d like to see that.”
“I think you will,” Sylus cocked his head to one side, “Qaitax doesn’t seem to like people who treat me like shit. Maybe he’d like to meet my ex and her rapis- er her brother. Just her brother… Hi Dan!”
“Hey Dad,” Daniel was well aware of what he’d walked into, but he chose to ignore it for now, “You’re wearing your suit!” He came down the stairs grinning. “I’m so happy for you!” He wrapped his arms around his father, holding him tightly.
“Thank you, Dan,” Sylus breathed, “I promise I’ll try not to embarrass you…”
“You won’t, Dad, don’t worry. I see pics of dads going out in their underwear and stuff,” Daniel cringed, “You look great.”
Daniel’s ear-to-ear grin forced Sylus to wear one of his own. A soft smile crossed Jeron’s lips as he witnessed this wonderful moment first hand. Daniel was all Sylus really cared about. He knew that no matter what their relationship became, Daniel would always come first. And he loved that.
“Alright, you two, let’s head out,” Jeron chuckled as he headed for the door.
As Sylus moved to follow him, Daniel took his hand. “I’m not too old to do this, am I?”
Sylus froze in place, looking down at his son’s hand willingly entwined with his own. That increasingly familiar sense of warmth and peace washed over him once more.
Here he was at the center of two kinds of enduring love. Never in his life had he ever thought he’d find such a place for himself. Never could he ever believe that this kind of love would ever exist for him. Family. Sylus had truly found his family. It was all he ever wanted. In this moment, life was perfect. Tentacle or no, Sylus, and his life, were perfect.
“Too old to hold your old man’s hand?” Jeron glanced back, “Never.”
Like a mirror held before me
Large as the sky is wide
And the image is reflected
Back to the other side
Could it be that somebody else is
Looking into my mind
The Alan Parsons Project – Some Other Time
Some other place
Some other time