Side Effects (2000)

Jan's Past Comes Haunting


Jan couldn't quite put his finger on it. It was pitch dark, but he could see the cabin outlined in the gloom. Somehow, there was something wrong with it. It wasn't exactly the way it looked, but...

'Mike, stop` he said.

`What is it?` Mike asked.

'shhh. Just shut up for a sec...` Jan said. He saw Mike looking at him, puzzled. Then he shrugged, and they both stood absolutely still.

They looked at each other, questioningly. Clearly heard over the slight breeze, was a strange scraping sound.

`It's coming from the roof` Mike whispered. He had an expression of utter stealth, as if he wanted to hide. Jan almost burst out laughing - first of all, there wasn't much of anything around that was big enought to hide Mike, and the idea that something could really hurt Mike was preposterous. Jan doubted even someone firing a cannon at him would do any real harm. Well, he wasn't sure, but Mike had told him about his hand healing in seconds. He gestured towards the cabin, and then towards Mike, and then gesticulated to Mike that he'll go around while Mike goes in through the door. They had already parted when the realisation hit him that it was almost pitch dark, but he could see Mike very clearly, and obviously Mike saw his gesticulating without a problem. 'side effects` Jan thought, followed by a mental equivalent of a chuckle.

He heard Mike open the door very slowly, nevertheless producing a soft squeak, and then a far louder one as he executed 'the maneuver`

to get himself in through the door. Jan cringed at the loud sound, there was no way whoever was in there wouldn't have heard that. In a few steps more, Jan was on the left side of the cabin, where the roof edge was low enough to barely reach his pecs. Just as he got there, he saw a figure slip through the roof window. At the same time, he saw Mike switch on the lights, shout a `What's going on here` and then there was a scream and a loud thud. Jan's first impulse was to follow the figure he saw but he soon stopped since just trying to lift himself onto the roof resulted in his hand splintering the edge of the roofing with a loud crack. It felt like he had cut his hand but then there was a strange warm feeling and his hand felt normal again. All that was happening while he was already running to the door, his feet making deep impressions in the ground. 'Mike, are you all right?` Jan shouted, before his mind caught up with how stupid that question really was, dashing for the door at amazing speed - a second later, he was in the room, and the doorframe had lost a big splinter off the top as a consequence. He should really have asked if whoever it was that intruded was all right - after all, you just had to look at Mike to know that any possible assailant would think of running rather than attacking him, that's after they had shit in their pants, most likely.

Mike was crouching in the middle of the room, right beneath one of the roof windows. He turned around, and said `Jan, I need help here!`. Jan got closer in a flash. The floor squeeked ominously but held itself in one piece.

On the floor, lying in a quickly growing puddle of his own blood, was a young man which Jan found strangely familiar. He had fallen down, hitting a chair Mike wanted to stand on while he was measuring how tall Jan was a while earlier, before he realized it wouldn't hold his weight. It had splintered and produced a huge gash in the youths thigh, obviously puncturing some major blood vessel because the blood was actually squirting out. Mike had torn the jeans the guy was wearing and held his finger firmly at a point above the wound and the blood flow stopped. The youth just barely turned towards Jan, his face turning from dread to almost gratefulness as his eyes rolled and he went unconscious. He just slumped on the floor. Jan noticed his forearm was bent at a very odd angle.

'my god Jan, he's hurt badly... what are we going to do?! We have to stop the bleeding...` Mike sounded just short of panicking. Jan realized he was scared to the bone.

`Jan, I know this guy, it was the one I played with while I waited for you before we went to the gym... my God, how the hell did he find us! We must get him to a hospital right now! He's loosing a lot of blood!`

Jan looked down. He had finally gotten a good look at the young man's face. The last time he had seen him he only had a second to look at it, and it looked more horrified than familiar, but still... he had dismissed it then, but now there was no doubt. 'now this is a serious problem` he thought. He touched the man's head, and suddenly there was this strange feeling, almost like a mild electric shock.

`What are you doing?` Mike asked, surprised. Then, they both gasped in surprise. The man's arm slowly twisted back to it's normal condition. The puddle of blood was getting visibly smaller, and then disappeared altogether, only a small discoloration left on the wooden floor. Mike looked at Jan with a start, and they removed their hands off the guy. The bleeding had stopped completely. There was no trace of a wound to be seen.

`Jan, we were both holding him. Jan, BOTH of us! Do you know what that means!?` Mike said, excitement rising in his voice.

The man was now obviously sleeping, completely out of it. What a perfect little stud you turned out to be, Jan thought.

`Yes... but we still have a problem. You see, I know this boy.` Jan said.

Jan saw that Mike didn't even hear his last remark. It was quite obvious that he had an acute case of intruding reality.

`Jan, how are we going to explain! I mean... I mean, look at us and he saw us and who knows what he's going to think or even worse tell!`

Mike was saying.

'Mike, didn't you hear me, I KNOW him!` Jan almost yelled.

`I know, I know, you saw me letting him drool all over me in your lobby, but Jan, he got here, how did he find us? And he'll have to leave some time, there will be stories! Jan, I don't want to go back to the way I was! I`ve been wanting for something like this all my life and...` Mike went on babbling and then suddenly he stopped.

Jan's words finally got through to Mike's brain. `What do you mean you know him?`

`Oh, it's not what you think, I mean he's not an ex or anything...`

Jan said.

'Mike, there is nothing really that mysterious! This boy here...` Jan looked down at the figure still sleeping, `...well, this man here, he's my... well, you could call him my step-nephew. He's name is David and I hadn't seen him ever since... well, in years. It's real easy to explain how he got here, he's been coming here since he was a kid, well, at least until several years ago when his family moved east`

== * ==

Mike looked at Jan. He looked down at the guy he now knew was David.

He noticed again that David was a very nice looking young man. To say the least. He was lying there peacefully, curled in a ball, his hands now under his head, one pant leg of his tight jeans torn right off by Mike's ministrations from earlier on. Mike noticed his T-shirt was torn in the back too. `Damn, Jan, at least let's get him off the floor`. This sounded funny even to Mike only a second after he said it. Jan just looked at him from his toes up to his face, and chuckled. Of course, there was really no need for both of them to do the job. He picked David up very carefully. To Mike he was light as a feather and he looked very fragile in Mike's now huge arms, held there almost like a baby. He noticed that his arms were so huge they competed favorably with the guys torso. Still, the eye accustomed to doing quick double-takes and sizing up other guys, Mike noticed that David wasn't fragile. Just as it looked the last time he saw him, he wasn't very big or anything, but even slumped in Mike's arms he actually had a pretty tight and hard body. Mike carefully laid him down on the collection of mattresses in one corner of the room, which Jan and Mike had agreed to call a bed after they dismantled the ancient wooden double-bed frames earlier this morning. He couldn't help notice that the guys pecs bulged a bit under his shirt, and his arms filled the sleeves quite nicely. David was a real turn-on, and seemed to be well aware that he was, even though his jeans were torn now, they were tight, showing off a very small waist, good legs, and probably agreat butt, which of course Mike couldn't see at the moment. There was also a tight T-shirt showing off the very nice form of his upper body. Mike knew now that David was a couple of years older than he first thought, but even with several days of stubble growth on his face, lying there he looked younger than his actual age. The kind of youthful look that made you think `young man` and not so much `boy`. He seemed to be almost smooth all over, which probably accented the effect, just a little black fuzz where his nicely muscled leg went out from his torn pantleg. Mike thought he could very well have walked out of a TV commercial. As if Jan was reading his mind, he said `He really is good looking. A real little stud.` Jan saw Mike giving him a look that was strange for a second.

Then Mike said: `OK, now tell me what the story is. We have to figure out how to handle this.`

== * ==

Jan thought about this for a moment. What is Davey, well, David going to think when he wakes up? It struck him kind of funny to remember what he used to call him when he was... what, 16? God, had so many years really passed?

`Well... Mike, some of this I'm guessing, but here are some facts. I have an older sister, and she married this older guy. David is his son from an earlier marriage. When I last saw him he was... 16 I guess, he's something like 6 years younger than me... they moved east not long after that`.

Jan sighed. This was one period of his life he didn't really like talking about. He looked at Mike, who obviously decided he`d let Jan tell the story without interruption. Damn, it wasn't easy talking about the biggest mistake he ever made. But then, if he couldn't talk about it with Mike... He sighed again.

`Jan, what is wrong?` Mike said. Jan was once again surprised, but only for a moment.

`You really can read me like a book, huh?` he said, with a sour chuckle. Not because of the question but because of the feeling of having to once again go over that part of his past.

`Oh, Mike...`

After a pause, Jan continued: `When I had turned 21 I came out to my family... at the time I thought I was in love, that I`ve found that special someone. It turned out he wasn't what I thought, later. But at the time, that infatuation made me feel like I could do no wrong. I guess I just served the truth to my parents, and only later it became apparent that it was a very hard blow for them` Jan said. If only I knew that was just the beginning, he thought.

`I didn't know about the other problem. A year before I came out, my sister and her husband to be, Terry, David's father, were still dating. She asked me not to tell our parents and I respected that. I spent almost two months at their place as vacation, at the invitation of my sister and enjoyed it immensely. A big part of that was getting to know David. I don't know exactly how, but... well, David and got to be real good friends. We spent a lot of time together that summer, I guess I became his big brother in a way, he was alone since early childhood. We talked about anything and everything. I saw them all next some months before my sister got married to Terry. And that was really the other problem.` Jan said. He thought about the past for a few seconds before continuing. `What I didn't know at the time was that my parents didn't approve of Terry. They liked David well enough, who wouldn't, but Terry... of course, my sister got married anyway. In the end they couldn't really do anything about it. And I guess that was the beggining of the end.`

Jan looked at Mike, who was looking back at him throughout the monologue.

`I guess Korina and I just left our parents no choice but acknowledge both of us, my sisters marriage and my being gay. It was all too fast, and neither of us was there to make it easyer on them. They sure didn't like either. It was acknowledgment, but certainly not acceptance. Of course, David knew nothing about me being gay. You must understand that to a certain extent David really idolized me, I guess. He wanted to be like me, he said on several occasions, like `his big uncle Jan` he used to say` Jan produced a rather sour laugh. Looking at David now he saw that that particular influence remained, and found it an incredible irony. He remembered David being all over Mike, and thought how David and himself ended up having things in common.

`At the time I had I guess, oh... three and a half years of weight training under my belt and he always said he wanted to have muscles like me and always took every opportunity to wrestle me or tackle me, or just plain ask me to 'make a muscle`. Well, I guess now we both know why he liked your little show in the loby` Jan siad, and immediately felt guilty about it, because he could see Mike revisiting his own, to Jan's mind, still misplaced, guilt. Jan decided not to comment on this at all - for him it never was a problem in the first place.

`I didn't really think anything of it at the time. I had sensed doubt in my sister and assured her that there would never be anything... I mean that I wouldn't, you know, try anything. I mean, the boy was like a kid brother I never had. It's not that he wasn't really cute even then, though`. Jan cut himself short remembering he might be making things worse for Mike.

`Anyway, we all got together a couple of months after the marriage at my parent's place for a weeks vacation, it was supposed to be a kind of kiss-and-make-up I guess. That's when I last saw David. I remember we went to the local gym together. Well, that's when it started. I...

well, I had broken up with my... boyfriend that I mentioned, and was very much disillusioned. The gym was my sanctuary, and it showed.

After that workout Davey... at the time I thought nothing of it, I mean, he did it before. He had talked me into a posing session for lack of a better word. He... well... it became pretty hot. He had made me flex and he had done it I guess dozens of times before, he did some touching, but this time it was feeling over, and he didn't stop at that. He got well into it before I realized what was going on. I stopped him. I... at the time I thought he didn't really know what he was doing. He was so distressed he started crying. He sobbed out... ah, well, somehow he had learned I was gay and I... at the time I didn't know what it was, I guessed he was just curious and wanted to play some kind of prank. He ran away.` Jan said. His whole soul was being gripped by a mixture of fear, guilt and remorse. He should have just listened!

'Mike... you must understand that I wasn't really myself then, coming from a failed relationship. The boy didn't have anyone he could turn to, and I pushed him away. And God knows what had come over me, then I made it even worse. I thought of all the people my sister accepted who I was. I told her...` Jan shook his head. His voice broke.

'that was when all hell broke loose, huh?` Mike said. He held Jan by the shoulder. "you don't have to go on` he finished. Jan burried his head in his hands and sighed. Suddenly there was this feeling of relief, now that he could share what he thought of as his darkest moment.

'Mike... I... no, this is important, and if there is someone I can share this with, then... it's you.` Jan looked up at Mike. Suddenly he felt so happy that he had Mike in his life.

`All hell broke loose, all right. I told Korina that Davey could be gay, I mean it dawned on me he was looking for someone he could trust with this and... telling was the most idiotic thing I could do. But I didn't want the guy to have a hard time over it as I did. I spoiled it all. It snowballed. She might have understood me, but Terry never did. When she told him, they screamed at each other so loud that the whole house shook. There were... words. Somehow, my parents got involved. Soon enough, there was talk of 'me seducing him`. They were screaming in the other room, and at some point David couldn't take it any more. After what I did, I guess he thought he couldn't come to me. He just cried and ran out of the house. They heard it. Then...`

Jan took a breath. `Well, there were more words. I... got angry. I don't know what got into me. Hearing all the bullshit they were screaming their heads off over, I got really mad. Ah... well, in the end Terry needed his teeth fixed, and I moved away for good. I guess I really burned my bridges there`.

`Oh, Jan...` Mike started. `Come on, you are acting as it was all your fault! You know it wasn't - I mean, maybe it was just too much too soon, for all of you. There is no way to predict these things.

Anyway, I'm sure they have cooled down in the meantime`

'that doesn't solve the immediate problem. I'm guessing, but the fact Davey... David was there in the lobby with you and... I don't think there could be better proof. But what really worries me is that he's hundreds of miles from home. If he recognized me in that lobby and heared what I said, who knows what he thought! This place here isn't that far away, I guess it was the only place he thought he could run away to. For all I know, he might have been looking for me, maybe not for the first time, either. We can't just leave him be! Mike, I owe him, big time. I owe him two now, this was the second time he came to me because he didn't have anyone else to turn to and I let him down again!`

Jan looked at the sleeping form again. He slowly turned him over.

`Look, he's not exactly clean. Who knows where he had been spending the days. Damned, he had probably run away, or even worse his stupid father had kicked him out of the house! And he must be hungry, too. I wonder how he got here, he sure as hell didn't get a ride, there's no one that would be going here. It doesn't look like he's on foot though.` Jan finished. `Well, maybe there's a car somewhere. I better go look, maybe I can find some of his stuff in it, and get rid of the torn jeans. And start some kind of dinner, I guess` Mike said.

Jan looked at him. He thought 'thank you, whoever you are, for giving him to me`. He only said `OK, you do that`. A few seconds later, he added: 'maybe I should wake him up. I don't think he could deal with both of us at the same time`, but half way through he heard the doorway squeak again and Mike was gone. He realized then that he had already decided somehow not to morph back to something approximating what he was the last time David had seen him. It was strange how he accepted the new body he now had so easily. Well, not really, he thought. It was after all what he wished for in the first place. It was the way he wanted to be. In a sense, it always was him. However things go, he didn't want to go back. All the others had better accept that. Even Davey... David. He chuckled remembering how this young man sleeping there on the bed wanted everyone to call him David, but he would let Jan call him Davey. Well, he's almost 25 now, and all grown up, so I better drop the kiddy nickname, Jan reminded himself.

== * ==

Sure enough, Mike managed to find an ancient Toyota hidden in the brush, right down the road from where their cars were parked, also hidden. The car itself looked so bad that having three wishes to use on it would have bee a complete waste of effort. It wasn't locked, in fact it seemed that it couldn't be anyway. He looked inside and then into the trunk, finding a worn out backpack with some clothes and a rotten sandwich in it. He threw the rotting food away and took the backpack with him. Even with his improved long step it took some time to get back to the cabin. Jan had wanted them both to park away from it so that in case someone intruded they wouldn't be easily detected, obviously they weren't the only ones with such ideas. He had no doubts that they would have had ample warning - he had no real problems seeing things quite clearly in complete darkness and his hearing seemed to be vastly improved. It got him thinking. How could he explain how both he and Jan looked? Will David recognize Jan, or Mike himself? How will they explain the almost instant healing? Mike wasn't even sure about that last thing. They had never tried anything on anything living, let alone people. Or had they, unknowingly? He really had problems grasping all the implications, but the well worn path of reasoning became active again. When overwhelmed by a problem, split it to smaller problems, and solve one by one. The immediate problem would be explaining the looks. He didn't know about the healing. He had considered changing back to how he looked the last time David saw him, but he realized he didn't really want that. He was pretty sure Jan didn't want it too. Maybe it would be best if they told the guy the truth, he was bound to find out anyway. After all, he was in a way family. And if Jan owes him, so do I, Mike thought. So much for fabricating stories. The time has come to interface with the real world again, Mike thought. The fairytale was good while it lasted, he thought, saddened. •

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