The Space Between
By K. R. Morrighan
The music cut out for an eerie pause between songs. Synchronized with the silence, the movement of the crowd parted to reveal his face. From where Mason was standing, he looked ethereal. Bright lights shone down on him and reflected off his pale, golden hair. His dark suit was sloppy, the jacket unbuttoned as far as possible and the tie loose and undone. His features were sharp and delicate, like the blade of a skate slicing through the ice. Strobe lights flashed, and Mason watched the stranger stay still as the dead while pulsating bodies moved all around him. He only moved when he raised the glass full of amber drink to his lips. Sure, it was Halloween, but he still wasn’t the type you’d expect to find in a gay bar. Mason bit his lip, desperate to see those hips move to the music. He wanted to run his hands through the long blond hair.
Although he wasn’t as graceful on the dancefloor as he could have been if he was on skates, Mason was sober, and he figured that gave him a little big of appeal. At least, he hoped it would. Maybe the beautiful stranger was the kind who liked his boys pliant and loose and barely conscious. It would be a shame to see a wonderful man with such a disgusting preference.
Shouldn’t the stranger have noticed Mason by now? He was hardly inconspicuous in his fireman costume: spandex red shorts, suspenders, and heavy black boots. His hands came up over his head as he gyrated his hips to the music. He fixed the stranger with an unwavering gaze. Still, the other man simply stood and sampled his drink, keeping his gaze fixed at some random point in the distance. The crowd parted around him like a river around a rock, leaving him completely undisturbed even as he refused to move with the music.
Sweat trickled down Mason’s back. He craved the cold air of the rink, burning his lungs as he heaved for breath. A sweat drop trickled down his temple as a warm body pressed against his back. Mason leaned into it, though he didn’t take his eyes off the stranger. The desire seeping from the other body into his was needle-sharp and electric, and Mason could feel it through every one of his muscles. He went along with it, enjoying the gentle bites on his exposed flesh. Mason stretched out his neck to expose the soft skin, and the random dancer behind him sucked it up into his mouth.
Still, Mason watched the stranger. Perhaps he was waiting for someone. Perhaps he simply enjoyed watching others pair off and fade away into the dark corners of the room. Mason would never know. With a sigh, he had written off the reserved stranger as inaccessible, and was already trying to move on with his night. He wasn’t going to let his night be spoiled by a man he barely knew.
Since when was he the type of man to give up? He’d spent years perfecting and re-perfecting moves on the ice, and this should be no different. He wasn’t a man to watch and wait. He was a man of action. He brushed off the random guy who had moved in to grind on him and made his way across the floor. When he was only a few inches away, the mystery man finally looked at him and smiled. Turning, he offered Mason something pink in a margherita glass. Since when had he been holding two drinks? He smiled, and Mason could see plastic fangs covering the man’s regular teeth.
“Are you a dancer by trade?” The man asked, eyes flickering over Mason’s body. His voice was hard to define over the roar of the music, but it sounded smooth and low.
“No,” Mason smiled, though he continued to sway to the music. “Figure skater. You?”
The man smiled again, fake vampire fangs fully exposed, staring down into his drink.
“I’m a professor of Folklore at Redwood University.”
Mason raised his eyebrows. Very fancy. He took a sip of his drink, staring at the professor coyly for a moment before turning to press his back to the other’s front. They moved together to the thrum of the music, multi-colored lights playing over the fabric they wore and their skin. Mason felt a warm hand grip his hip and follow his rhythm. He could feel the other man’s cock through their pants.
One breathy question later, and they were making out in the back of an Uber. The professor’s plastic fangs had been lost to the floor of the backseat. The leather material of the seats squeaked under them as they moved and maneuvered. He leaned down to kiss Mason’s neck, and Mason found himself staring out of the car window.
“Why are we on a college campus?” Mason murmured.
“Professor, remember? My office is more impressive than my apartment. Trust me,” the words were whispered warmly against the soft skin where mason’s neck met his shoulder.
Mason glanced at the man’s left hand, checking again for a wedding ring. He’d never missed one before, but there was a first time for everything.
“There’s nobody at my apartment you can’t meet, unless you’re allergic to cats. It’s just farther away,” the man explained between soft pressed of his lips to Mason’s ear.
Mason blushed. They kissed again, losing themselves in the sensation of warmth until the car slowed and eventually stopped.
“What even is your name?” Mason asked as they approached a building with white pillars flanking large wooden doors. A sign out front marked it the Bates Building for Cultural Studies.
“Cedar,” he replied, swiping his ID through a card reader and opening the door to the building.
Mason nodded. The look of amusement must have been clear on his face, even in the dark.
“I know it isn’t a normal name,” Cedar replied with a chuckle.
Their footsteps echoed on the stairs as they made their way up in the dark. Mason reached his hand over to brush against Cedar’s in the darkness. He only caught a brief flash of white teeth in the dim light before the professor pushed him against the wall, their feet unsteady on the stairs as they pressed against each other. Mason bit into Cedar’s lips, feeling the brick scratch at his bare back.
Mason’s hands snuck forward and down, fingers working at the belt of Cedar’s suit pants. Making a sound of surprise, he gripped Mason’s wrists and took an uneven step backwards.
He laughed awkwardly, “Let’s wait until we get up into the room, okay? You never know who’s going to wander through these halls.”
“Embarrassed to be seen with me?” Mason teased, returning to climbing the stairs.
Hesitating behind him for a moment before quickly passing so he could lead the way up, Cedar remained silent. Mason glanced over at him, but he was staring blankly ahead of himself. He hadn’t denied that he didn’t want to be seen together.
Mason tried not to let that sting.
Finally, after climbing at least three flights of stairs (without any more exciting and arousing distractions), Cedar led them down a hallway. They stopped at a door with a gold plaque reading Professor C. Hale. Mason traced the letters lightly with his fingers as Cedar unlocked the door and pushed it open, flicking on the light.
Never really one for books, Mason spent a few moments looking at the impressive collection of novels lining the shelves before sitting on the desk, crossing his bare legs and rubbing one calf with the other foot.
“I want to show you something,” Cedar murmured, running his fingers along the spines of the books on one of the shelves. He pulled out a particularly dusty-looking one, brushing off the cover before bringing it over. The cover was a deep red, with golden letters that Mason couldn’t read.
“What language is that?” He asked. He reached out to brush his fingers over the cover, but Cedar yanked it away from him.
Frowning, Mason drew his hand back and stared up at the professor, reaching up to wrap his hand around the man’s nape instead and draw him in for a kiss. Cedar turned away, preventing his advance.
“What’s going on?” Mason asked, standing from the desk.
Cedar stood, facing the empty spot in the shelf where the book had sat.
“I’m sorry it had to be you,” he said as he turned around.
“I think I’m gonna go,” Mason made for the door, but Cedar moved to block him. Heart thundering in his chest, Mason tried to push the other man away. Mason was strong, but Cedar didn’t even stumble. As he was opening his mouth to yell, Mason cut off when he noticed the open book being shoved under his nose. After a glance up at Cedar, he gazed down into the pages. Although all of the words were in a foreign tongue, he couldn’t help but stare at the words and images. Moved by an instinct he didn’t understand, he raised a hand and slowly lowered it to the page.
As soon as his fingers brushed over the paper his mind swirled into a galaxy of shadows. He saw only varying shades of darkness, but he understood everything. Monsters he had only heard of in fairy tales took place in his mind as real, living things. He saw the weapons he had to use to kill them, the places where they liked to hide, all the knowledge that would equip him to stalk them and rid this earth of their vile presence. Certain people he’d known in the past were re-formed in his memory as human masks over terrible beings that wanted only to kill and destroy. Mysteries and crimes he’d heard about on television suddenly made sense in reference to their supernatural origins.
Mason thought his brain might burst with all the information that flooded it. He tried to rip his hand away from the page, but it felt glued to the paper. It wasn’t until the stream of information slowed and finally stopped altogether that he could remove his hand from the book.
“What…” he tried to ask, but his mouth felt full of cotton. The word seemed to echo around him only to reach his ears far after the sounds had left his mouth. He tried to move but his legs disobeyed him, causing his knees to buckle. He fell to the ground, and all went dark. His body tightened in panic as he prepared for another onslaught of visions, but the darkness was blissfully empty this time. He surrendered to it.
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