by Rick Haydn Horst

 When an unusual man comes into the protection of Officer Liam Phillips, Liam doesn’t know what he’s in for. His world gets broadened and turned upside down in this adventure of love, sex, gods, a one-quarter centaur, and trip to Greece for a vacation he won’t soon forget.

Added: Nov 2021 16,402 words 1,641 views 5.0 stars (7 votes)


Henri Estalon could never have found the perfect location in Miami simply by looking. An inner voice told him to use the southernmost point of Key Biscayne. So, on that warm and windy summer solstice, he and Ronan would allow the transfer to happen there, accepting that events would unfold as they should.

Eight o’clock had sped toward them, but the sun had yet to touch the horizon in that so-called, golden hour—which would last 32 minutes—before the sunset at 8:14. So, they waited in nail-biting anticipation upon the concrete sea wall staring out over the water.

“The world is a far more complicated place than in my day,” said Henri. “To lose the personal memories from your past in 2016 is a frightening prospect. People can verify things these days; you can’t just make stuff up anymore. And not to deter you—as the decision is yours—but have you the will to become the man you envision? None of the others ever drew such attention, and you must endure the repercussions for a thousand years.”

“I’m sure,” said Ronan. “I don’t know that anything I do will change much, but I want to make a difference somehow.”

“You will bring something quite new to Chiron’s unique existence; you are a very different sort of man from myself and the others that came before you.”

“You mean because I identify as gay.”

“Well, yes, there’s that…but then, perhaps, it’s just because I came from an era so far removed from this one, and there’s only so much a man can do to stay current. At this stage, I do feel a bit too disconnected from modernity to function well here. I suppose that’s why Prometheus wisely insisted a change must occur every thousand years. In the end, Admissārius probably realized that too.”

“Are you afraid?” Ronan asked.

“No, and when your time comes, neither will you be.” He glanced down at Ronan’s lap, and he laughed a little at the skinny young man. “I don’t know that your plan with the oversized bathing suit will work. It won’t hurt to try, but Admissārius and I were both naked when the transfer happened, and…well…let’s just say one must experience it to understand why, but I will wear mine as an experiment, and we’ll see what happens.”

“You said I would pass out. I just thought it would be better if I weren’t naked when that happens.”

“You will be half Chiron and therefore one-quarter centaur, so Stallion by name, stallion by nature. An intellectual or not, Chiron would have dealt with a deplorable sense of inadequacy as a pure human, so you both have a say. You agreed to this though, so you’ll just have to live with it as the rest of us have.”

Turning his head, Ronan checked both directions of the bicycle path behind them. “You’re sure this is the spot?”

Henri nodded. “I believe we came here for more than just the view, only Prometheus knows why, but I feel deep within me the importance of your presence here. So, fear not, the stars will reach their position, and it will happen as it should.”

Ronan held Henri’s hand. “I have loved you like a father. I want you to know that.”

“I know. In 1046, I had one biological child, and I would have outlived them… and my grandchildren if they had any…and any great-grandchildren, and so on.”

“Can we have children? I got the impression that couldn’t happen.”

“Admissārius gave me that impression as well, but it happened, and it never happened again. It was not something I intended; due to the nature of this life, I couldn’t stay. And while we’re not expressly forbidden to tell anyone anything, the fewer the better. What would I have said to them? One day the child or any of the child’s progeny could turn eighty, and I would still be thirty. This life is not an easy one. It is full of so many incredible experiences that most people could never imagine, but they get balanced out by enough heartbreak to make you question if it’s even worth it. But then, I met you. You’re the only one that I’ve had the opportunity to love like a son, and I couldn’t be prouder of you. You have made the last thousand years worthwhile, and I love you very much.”

They watched the sun in the distance as it met the sea. It had begun, so they left the wall and moved to the middle of the pathway.

“I don’t want you to go,” said Ronan, hugging Henri tightly.

“I have no choice,” he said in sympathy, “and despite how you feel at this moment, you don’t need me anymore. It’s time for you to take my place.”

Ronan hesitated to ask, “Will this hurt?”

“You’ve been afraid to ask me that question.”


“For me,” he said, “I don’t know. For you, this will be quite painful for a few moments, but you’ll be unconscious for the worst of it. Fortunately, you won’t have to carry the memory of seeing me go, and I suspect that would hurt you more than anything else.

They stood there in one another’s arms, prepared for a painful parting, watching the beauty of the sinking sun with the roar of the ocean and the wind in their ears, a scene that on any other occasion would impart a sense of awe, and the mystery about the simple joys of being alive.

When the sun had only one half left, Henri said a little breathless, “I’m beginning to feel hot.” He pulled Ronan more tightly to him. “Not long now.” When the last moments came, wisps of a fiery glow emerged from Henri and swirled around him. He brought his mouth near Ronan’s ear. “Remember to keep the love in your heart and the image in your mind.”

Henri’s body began to shudder, and the moment the sun vanished, a brilliant, white-hot light passed between them, and a searing burn ripped through Ronan’s body. His mouth gaped in a silent scream, and his arms—spread as they were—no longer wrapped Henri in a loving embrace. Keeping their chests together, Henri held him aloft when Ronan’s legs left the ground. Every nerve blistering like he had become fire itself. The pain overwhelmed his senses, and he collapsed into unconsciousness.

His strength failing him, Henri used the last he had to lower Ronan’s naked body to the ground. He stood over him only for a moment and gazed upon the young man whom he had loved for many years. He had time for three words, “Goodbye, my son.” His feet no longer held him, and as he tipped away from Ronan, the wind caught bits of ash until he crashed upon the ground in a billowing plume carried by the breeze to the sea, and by morning, the remainder would lay indistinguishable from the inconsequential dust beneath any passing jogger’s feet.

Officer Liam Phillips would never procrastinate with the snooze button for an extra five minutes of sleep, nor would he set all his clocks ahead ten minutes to compensate for a lifetime of tardiness. In his perpetual best-foot-forward attitude, for five days of every week, when the alarm went off, his feet would hit the floor for his morning exercise in the gym up the street. Unlike a stereotypical cop, Officer Phillips stayed fit. He never knew when he needed any specific ability; not that his job on Key Biscayne consisted of the frequent pulling of victims from burning vehicles, but he could manage it with ease if the occasion should arise, and to him, that mattered most.

Five years earlier, he started work at the station on the key. At that time, he moved into his one-bedroom, South-Point apartment on Collins Avenue, but he never settled in. The apartment’s empty white walls lacked a personal touch, and a veritable Klotski of square boxes holding much of his past, all packed and taped with care, remained stacked against the dining room wall, a puzzle that needed solving for why he had yet to make a home there.

After a morning workout, he had a hearty breakfast of eggs, oatmeal, plain yogurt, fruit, and coffee while catching up on the news and weather report, followed by readying himself for work, singing along with whatever song suited his mood from the eclectic array of music on his smartphone.

He used the towel to defog the bathroom mirror to the metronomic beat of “I Love a Rainy Night” and lathered up for a quick shave of his sun-kissed skin. As a Florida Police Officer, they had regulations against facial hair, and that made grooming more complicated for him. His dark beard hair would blend into his chest hair if he let it, but with manscaping all the rage, he had a plethora of options for trimmers to fight the growth that sought to emerge from beneath his t-shirts, and he kept his trimmed to the collarbone.

He leaned in close to the mirror as he donned his contact lenses. His mother, grandmother, classmates, past boyfriends, and anyone who ever got close enough to his face would comment about his eyes. Strangers would often ask if they were natural, as most anyone else would have to fake the cornflower blue that garnered so much attention in his youth.

He parked his Jeep at the station, stared at the building, and smiled to himself. He enjoyed being a police officer on Key Biscayne. Some might say he enjoyed it a little too much.

Uniformed and ready, he sauntered into the department at 7:54 AM to check-in and get a cup of coffee, as everyone did.

“Good morning, short-timer,” said Rodriguez at the front desk.

“Hey! I figured you would get back out there today.”

“No. They removed the cast and said my arm was fine, but here I am for one last week of light-duty; the doctor insisted. I cover for you starting next week. And speaking of that, Sergeant Watkins told me you’ve not taken a vacation in 3 years, and they made you use it or lose it. What is wrong with you?”

Phillips laughed. “Isn’t every day a vacation when you love your job?”

“No,” flatly stated Sergeant Watkins who had walked up behind him, shaking his head at such a ridiculous idea. “And since this is your last day before you begin a prescribed 6 weeks of workaholic rehabilitation—and I know we’ll get so little out of you today—I’m going to offer it to you again, if you want to take a personal day and just go, no one will blame you.”

Phillips knew the sergeant was right, he had nearly turned into a 28-year-old workaholic. Every chance he could work, he did, but he knew he needed the time away from it. However, for the past three years and a reason he couldn’t explain, he never took any.

“That’s tempting,” he said. “Will you give me some time today to think about it?”

“Sure, and I have a crap job to help convince you. A call just came in. Bill Baggs just opened, and the first jogger of the day says there’s a naked drunk man passed out on the trail at the south tip. I want you to go assess the situation, and call an ambulance if it’s warranted, but text Rodriguez and let us know if he’s covered in puke. Right now, the puke pool set the odds at 20 to 1, and as I lost the last two times, this one better be puke-free; I need to recoup my losses.”

“No problem,” said Phillips. “Depending on his location, I might get stuck down there in a patrol car, so I’ll take my Jeep.” Phillips hurried out the door.

Key Biscayne would get the occasional passed out drunk. Sometimes it was an actual resident, but usually, someone from elsewhere would show up and be a poor reminder to rich residents of the realities of the world. Residents wouldn’t even bother to call 9-1-1 when they saw one, they had no desire to draw attention to unsightliness. The locals paid such high taxes they expected never to see drunks on the streets or anywhere else. So, they insisted that the police give them a surreptitious bum’s rush and take them off the key.

Phillips would find the location in question 7 minutes down Crandon Boulevard. The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, home of the decommissioned Cape Florida Lighthouse, presented an opportunity for birdwatching, jogging, family gatherings, and the like.

On arrival, three people hovered over what he could see was a man sprawled on the ground. He cautiously pulled past them to provide access to the cargo area and parked the Jeep. The naked man lay in an odd position, his legs partially tucked under him with his knees off to the side, and his arms straight out from his body. Three people hovered over the man, including the caller. She had found a red solo cup on the side of the pathway and placed it over the man’s genitals to keep people from gawking, a thoughtful, if not wholly sanitary idea.

“Thank you very much,” Phillips told them, and insisted they move along to let him do his job, and they left. He pulled on a pair of blue gloves from a pouch on his belt giving the man an assessment of his appearance. No doubt about it, the man was attractive. He had dark hair and a rectangular face with masculine features. If he were a drunk, his skin showed no sign of it. So, he wasn’t the usual drunk.

“Hey, buddy,” he tried to shake him a little to awaken him. “Can you hear me?”

The man was unconscious, but he had a regular pulse and was breathing fine. The pupils of his cognac-colored eyes responded normally with a flashlight. He opened his mouth to find beautiful, straight white teeth. He had no sign of alcohol on his breath, or anything up his nose. Overall, his skin looked healthy without discoloration and wasn’t cool to the touch.

He texted Rodriguez. [No puke. Not a drunk, but unconscious. No time for an ambulance. Taking him to Mercy.]

He received a text that only read [Acknowledged].

He opened the rear of his vehicle and lowered the seats to enlarge the cargo space. In his attempt to hoist him into the Jeep, he noticed the man had a bold, half-finished black tattoo across his back—shoulder to shoulder—that when complete, would read STALLION in a fancy but legible serif font. When he picked him up a bit more, the solo cup fell and out spilled the reason the woman bothered.

“Wow… You know what you are, don’t ya, big fella?” He struggled to get him into the vehicle, but he got him there. He covered him with the blanket he always kept there.

On the way, he called Mercy Hospital—hands-free of course. He had a number he could call for emergency use. He relayed what he could from his cursory observations. “I am Officer Liam Phillips from the Key Biscayne Police Department. I’m bringing to the emergency entrance a man about 27 years old, maybe 6-feet-tall. He’s fit, about 190 pounds. He is breathing. His pulse is good. His pupils respond normally, but he’s unconscious and unresponsive. He has no apparent drug use and may have been exposed to the elements all night, but his skin is warm to the touch.”

As it was still early, the hospital wasn’t too busy, so they took the man back immediately, and checked his vitals. His temperature was normal; his blood pressure was 117 over 78. The man’s nurse named Lidia Morales felt in his hair to find any bumps or contusions on his head.

“Where did you find him?” she asked Phillips.

“On the bike trail in the park on south Key Biscayne. I couldn’t tell how long he had been there. The ground around him was dry, so that probably helped.”

“I don’t feel or see any bumps, and no ticks; externally, he seems fine. We have a bed open, so we’ll take him back. The doctor will want a blood sample.”

Phillips followed the man on the gurney from triage into an examination room that had a bed that could weigh the patient. It read 193 pounds. “I guesstimated pretty well,” he said to himself. Once alone with him, he hovered over his face and gazed upon him in the stark fluorescent lighting. “Can you hear me?” he said to the guy. “You know, some guys get their surnames across their back like that. They usually have many other tattoos though. You look too clean-cut for that. So, are you Mr. Stallion or just known as a stallion? Hmm? I wish you would wake up. I have questions. Has someone assaulted you? Has someone injected you or something? What happened to you?”

After a few minutes, Dr. Cohen entered the room.

“Hello, officer, I heard you brought someone in. Let’s see what we have here.” He checked his pulse, pupils, mouth, nose, ears, rechecked his scalp, and gave his body a visual examination. “He certainly is healthy-looking for someone so unconscious,” said the doctor. “I have ordered some blood work, and we’ll see what information that gets us. May I ask your interest in this man?”

“I want to know if he’s been assaulted. If he suddenly wakes up, it would be nice to get a statement if that’s possible. So, I guess you could say that my interest is a professional one, and I’m the one who brought him.”

“If he should wake up, there’s no guarantee he’ll be in a position to answer any questions, but out of professional courtesy, I will agree for you to stay, so long as you don’t get in the way.”

“I appreciate that, thank you.”

The phlebotomist entered when the doctor left.

“Hey, I’m here to draw blood,” she said in obviousness.

Phillips watched closely as she laid her instruments on the metal tray table, including six vacuum tubes. She seated herself upon the stool and found his arm beneath the blanket, studied his veins for a moment, and proceeded to prepare for the draw. She gloved up and installed a needle on the vacutainer tube holder with practiced ease. She tied the rubber tourniquet around his upper arm and swabbed the area with alcohol. She held the needle for insertion and pushed. Nothing happened. She repositioned the needle and pushed. The needle wouldn’t pierce his skin. Phillips got closer and watched her try it again. It just wouldn’t go in. The phlebotomist was getting frustrated. She closed off the needle, set it aside, and prepared another from her pocket. She tried it again, and it wouldn’t go in. Turning a tad pale, she set everything down, said, “Excuse me,” and left the room.

Phillips immediately called Sergeant Watkins and not once could he take his eyes off the arm of the man on the hospital bed. “Hey, you were right all along,” he said in distraction. “I should take that personal day.” The sergeant said he would put it in the books and told him to enjoy his vacation.

Phillips found the man intriguing. Before him lay a handsome mystery, and he had no intention of leaving.

A few minutes later, Dr. Cohen entered, a little perturbed with the phlebotomist. Apparently, if you wanted something done right, you must do it yourself, but the instant he tried to push the needle into the man’s arm, it wouldn’t go in for him either, not even a little. He laid the vacutainer holder onto the metal tray and stepped back a little. He turned to the phlebotomist. “Could you leave the room, please?” Once she had, he spoke to the officer. “Where did you find this man?”

“A jogger found him naked and unconscious at the southern tip of Key Biscayne, I checked him over, he is now as he was then, and I brought him here.”

The doctor uncovered the man, and they could see his fully nude body. He picked up the needle and an alcohol pad. He swabbed the man’s right thigh and tried to push the needle into his leg. It wouldn’t pierce the skin. He raised his hand and slammed the needle into the man’s thigh. It didn’t penetrate and left not even a scratch.

“That’s… aah, that’s not normal,” said Phillips.

“No… it’s not…” The doctor laid the instrument onto the table again and began to check the man’s every nook and fold to find anything unusual. He recovered him with the blanket. He looked at the chart made by the staff when he arrived. “This says his weight is 193 pounds.”

“Yeah, that’s what it was when they brought him in, I saw it on the end of the bed when she wrote it down.”

“Then either this bed is suddenly reading wrong, or this man has gained a pound and a half since he’s been here.”

His brows drew together. “What? That’s impossible.” He looked for himself and it read 194.5 pounds.

The doctor sat on the bed for a moment to change the weight. When he left the bed, it went back down but now it read 194.6 pounds. The doctor stood there thinking.

“So, what’s wrong with him?” Phillips asked.

Dr. Cohen just stood there shaking his head. “I don’t know what this is, but he’s not human. He looks human, feels human, has a pulse like a human, breathes like a human, but no human has skin that a needle cannot pierce and gains weight like this. They could revoke my license for making this suggestion, but I’m not certain he needs medical attention or anything else. It’s like he’s in a state of dormancy, and that would explain why he’s unconscious. I would suggest that he could be a government experiment, but we don’t have that sort of medical technology. He’s gaining weight with no external input. That should be impossible.”

“An alien/human hybrid of some kind,” Phillips suggested.

The doctor shrugged. “Maybe. I just know there’s nothing a hospital can do for him. We can give him an X-ray to see what that reveals, but if I’m right, it will only create more evidence, and I think that’s a bad idea. What do you want to do with him?”


“You brought him here, so you’ve taken on a responsibility for him.” Dr. Cohen glanced down at the scale readout. “He’s gained another tenth of a pound. This, whatever this is, can’t stay here.”

“Oh, shit,” said Phillips. “Maybe, we should call the government.”

The doctor turned to him; his face scrunched into complete disbelief at the officer’s naivety. “Have you not seen any films?” he asked. “When the government gets involved in situations like this, things go catastrophically bad. At the very least, they would take him away and no one would ever see him again, just for existing. And I’m Jewish, so trust me on this, it’s not okay to take someone away for existing.”

“What if he’s dangerous?”

“You don’t know that he is. You’re a police officer. Human or not, what laws has he broken?”

“Indecent exposure at most, which may not have been of his own volition, and it looked like someone had dumped him in the park. What do you think I should do?”

“I think you should take him with you, protect him, and wait until he wakes up on his own. Once he does, find out who he is. He’s a fascinating case; I would love to do it myself, but my wife hates it when I bring work home.”

Phillips leaned close to the man’s face. And stared at him for a moment. His hair, his brow, his nose, and the tiny up-curl of his mouth, spoke to him like it had the moment he saw him on the ground. The man carried a certain celestiality about him. “He looks like an angel to me,” he said.

“At this point, I couldn’t discount that idea either. Will you take care of him?”

Phillips’s brows drew together and held his breath in a moment of decision. “Yeah.”

“Do you know of the employee side-entrance to the emergency room?”

“I think so.”

“Get your vehicle. I’ll have him waiting there. Do it quickly.”

It only took two seconds for Phillips to find himself leaving the room to get the Jeep. “The doctor is right,” he thought to himself, “the guy hasn’t done anything. There’s no legal reason not to help him, and I have the time, so I’m choosing to do this.”

Phillips had no idea how the doctor managed to get him out the door, but he waited for him when he pulled up, and the two men put him into the cargo space.

“I think you’re doing the right thing,” said Dr. Cohen.

“I hope so.”

Phillips got into the vehicle and buckled in. “Did you hear that, buddy? You’re staying at Chez-Phillips for a while. I just hope you’re not incubating an alien in your chest.”

Particularly pleased with herself, Mrs. Novak who lives in apartment 3, an octogenarian with a gray beehive and the uncanny ability to detect from inside her apartment when someone drops a lit cigarette end near her door, had the opportunity that morning to report to the super a drip in her shower; she chastised a passing dog walker for allowing her canines to crap in the coreopsis, piss on the pentas, and dig into the dianthus; and she noted that Mr. Frankenbush from apartment 6 had once again stayed overnight with Ms. Gibson in apartment 2 next door. Little escaped the eagle eyes of Ms. Novak, a fact well known to Officer Phillips who, on more than one occasion, endured the precise details about minor infractions made by his own neighbors of laws that never existed.

The unusual early return of the officer from work, backing into his parking space, caused her to meet him by his vehicle, and she barely allowed him to close his door.

“Hello, officer,” she said in her Jersey accent, “I just wanted to tell you that Mrs. Hinklemeyer in apartment 10 has killed a cockroach in her kitchen, so they will be making an emergency spray of the apartments this afternoon.”

He smiled. “Well…you have no idea how much I appreciate your letting me know that.”

She glanced into the back of his vehicle. “You have a body back there!”

He laughed and put his finger to his lips and began whispering. “No, it’s just a friend.” He nodded his head. “A drunk friend. Aah, he needs drying out. I’m helping him.”

“Oh! That’s so kind of you, dear,” she replied. “My first husband Mortie was just the same, it killed him in the end.”

“I seem to recall you mentioning that once or twice. Well, thank you for letting me know about the bug man, but I need to get on with this, so I can get him upstairs. I don’t want to embarrass him by drawing too much attention to him. I think that would be unhelpful. Don’t you agree?”

“Oh, I quite agree,” she whispered. “No sense in embarrassing anyone, after all, the inability to stay off the sauce is a disease, you know.”

“I’m so pleased you understand, Mrs. Novak.”

He locked the doors to the vehicle and sprinted up the staircase. In a first order of business, at the least, the guy needed a pair of shorts and a shirt. He dug through his chest of drawers, tossing aside the ones with too short an inseam. He found an extra-long pair of black and blue basketball shorts that he purchased at the end of that sad and oxymoronic “long shorts” era and found an orange, extra-large Miami Hurricanes t-shirt given to him during a particularly festive Dirty Santa one Christmas at the police station.

Having backed into his spot meant no one could see into the cargo area of the vehicle unless they descended the stairs, and that gave him time. He slipped the shorts over the man’s feet with no problem, but the farther up the leg they went the more he struggled.

“You’re not gonna help me at all, are you buddy? You know, I suddenly have a newfound respect for people who dress the dead in mortuaries. I had no idea of the difficulty in dressing someone who doesn’t help you. The problem is, you have a major bootie, and I can’t simultaneously pick you up and push.” He moved to the doorway on the side of the vehicle, reached in, grabbed the waistband, and with a great heaving pull, he got them over the hurdle. However, his uncut flaccid penis stubbornly refused to go into the shorts without assistance. “My apologies for this.” He picked up the waistband with one hand, the end of his penis with the other, and tossed it into the shorts. “There. Now, you’re presentable and street legal. After the shorts, though, I’m not even going to attempt the shirt.” He tossed it aside. “Now, it’s just a matter of carrying you upstairs, and you’ll be safe. At the rate you’re gaining weight, you’re probably four pounds more than in the park, but don’t worry, I’ve got you.”

He pulled him from the vehicle and stood him up behind it by locking his knees. “Wow, so this is you standing. I’m six feet, so you must be a couple of inches taller than that. Okay, here we go.” Phillips bent down a bit and allowed the man to drape over his shoulders with this right shoulder in the man’s groin area. “I hope that I’m not busting your balls.” He stood and could carry him well, but he needed to climb the stairs immediately. One foot in front of the other, he took each step carefully to maintain his balance. Navigating a flight of stairs with an unconscious body wasn’t something he wanted to try again.

Once he arrived at his door, he paused a moment, breathing like he had run a mile. He turned the knob, carried him into the living room, and lowered him into a low-backed slipcovered chair with less grace than he intended. “Sorry, if that was too hard, buddy. I’ll be right back.” He ran from the room and down the staircase. He shut the doors of his vehicle and locked it. Taking two steps at a time, he returned to his guest.

He closed the door behind him and locked it. “Ugh! Tired now. You would make an incredible piece of gym equipment, you know that?” The swiveling chair in which he sat faced away from the door, and Phillips noticed the tattoo across the man’s back. “Hey! Your tattoo has filled in more.” He smiled and laughed a little. “Oh wow, that’s so great! I’m actually encouraged by that.” He squatted in front of him. “It tells me that the doctor was probably right. You’re in some kind of dormancy, aren’t you? And you’ll most likely wake up when you’re finished becoming whoever you are. Maybe, I should start calling you Stallion. Would you like that? With the tattoo and all, I must assume you would. Well, Stallion, this is it,” he said turning the chair and looking around the living, dining, and kitchen combo. “Apartment Sweet Apartment.”

The guy said nothing.

Phillips sighed. “Yeah, it’s pretty underwhelming to me too. Let me get out of this, while I figure out what to do with you.”

First thing, he tapped the code into his gun safe at the top of his closet and locked away his weapon. He began changing clothes and spoke to him all the while.

“I know it sounds crazy for me to talk to you, but I’ve heard that some coma patients can hear everything going on around them. I don’t see why that might not apply to you, so I’m going with the assumption that you can hear me, even if you can’t respond right now. It only seems polite; I mean, I wouldn’t want to make the mistake of assuming you couldn’t and then give you the silent treatment. How rude would that be?”

He picked up a couple of washcloths and seven towels from the linen closet, along with mild soap from the bathroom, and returned to the living room.

“The bug man will be here this afternoon, so I should have at least an hour for this. You’ll have to take my word for it, but the overnight incident in the park, has left you filthy, and unfortunately, my dragging you on the ground to get you into the Jeep didn’t help. I don’t know how you might feel about this, but you need a bath, and since getting you into the tub by myself is just asking for trouble, I’ve laid towels on the floor, I will place you on them, and then I will clean you up. I am viewing this as a clinical necessity, so I will be wearing gloves and acting professionally. I am a policeman, after all, and I have too much integrity to take advantage of your incapacitation.”

He spread three towels onto the floor. Picking him up from the front wasn’t too complicated since he could lock Stallion’s knees. He pulled down his shorts until they lay at his feet. He moved him forward and laid him face down on the towels then removed the shorts altogether.

In the kitchen, he pulled a bucket from the laundry room and cleaned it out. He then filled it with very warm water. He carried it into the living room and sat next to him. He donned the gloves he said he would wear and began to clean him up.

“I don’t want to use too much soap. It would take forever to rinse it off you.

“You know, Stallion,” he said as he continued, “I’m fascinated by this process you’re going through. I hope you’re willing to tell me all about it when you wake up, but…I get the feeling that you’re someone important, and maybe you can’t take the time to talk to some cop from Key Biscayne. It’s not like you asked for my help, right? And perhaps you never needed any help to begin with. A needle can’t injure you, so maybe you’re impervious to far more and weren’t in danger no matter what anyone did. I don’t know, but you may have more important things to take care of when you wake up. I just want you to know, that’s okay, I will understand. However, in the absence of any evidence that that’s true, I will assume you need my help, and I’m going to give it to you.”

He shook his head and laughed. “You wanna hear something funny? I wasn’t sure about doing all this, but once I started and gained momentum, I now feel like I have an investment in seeing it through.

“I will be honest with you, though. If someone at the hospital says something to the right person, and I get a visit over your disappearance there, I’m not sure what I could do if they discover you’re here and wanted to take you. I can only hope that you’re awake by then if it ever comes to that.

“Well, that’s your back half done. I wish I could wash your hair; it’s full of sand and dirt. Let me think about how we might do that. Whatever we do, we need to take care of it before you become too heavy for me to maneuver. Providing, you ever get that far, of course.”

He laid three towels down beside him and rolled him onto them.

“I can tell, you’re definitely getting bigger, and probably taller too, but it seems unlikely to me though that you’ll get extremely large. Your rate of growth would mean you would have to remain dormant for an unreasonable amount of time, and I suspect, that wouldn’t necessarily be to your advantage. This water is too cold and dirty; let me refill it with fresh.

While at the sink, a knock came upon the door.

“Shit!” he said to himself. “One moment!” he yelled to the door. He ran into the living room, turned Stallion face down onto the carpet, and tossed the towels out of view. He covered Stallion’s lower half with a throw from the couch, placed his arms in a relaxed pose at his sides, and turned his head to the left before answering the door.

“Just pest control to spray your apartment,” said the man holding the tools of his trade.

“Yeah, come on in. I’ve been expecting you.” He returned to Stallion’s side and pretended to dig an elbow into Stallion’s back as though he were giving a massage. “I heard that Mrs. Hinklemeyer in apartment 10 found a roach in her kitchen. I appreciate you staying on top of the problem.”

“Well,” said the man spraying the kitchen, “where there’s one, there’s more, and our company makes guarantees, so here I am.”

“True, very true.” He began massaging Stallion’s shoulders.

Once the man completed spraying, he said, “I think that’s got you covered.”

“Thank you for that. If you would, please, just shut the door on your way out.”

“No problem. Have a good day.” And he left.

Phillips sighed. “I might have known if I counted on him not showing up, he would. Sorry about that.”

He locked the front door, returned Stallion to his original position, and used the bathtub to get the water, so he could avoid the wet spray in the kitchen.

Using a fresh washcloth, he cleaned Stallion’s face.

“I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but you are one handsome man, do you know that? Although, I think you would look even better with a beard. And speaking of beards, that reminds me. I’m going to grow mine out a bit. You may not realize this, but I’m on vacation for the next 6 weeks. It seems you have impeccable timing, or perhaps it’s fate or something. You need help, and I just happen to have the time and willingness to help you. But don’t think you’re taking up my vacation time. It would have been nice to go somewhere. I even have a passport and everything, but I had made no plans.”

Once he had reached the point of his lower abdominals, he discovered something. “I thought this was just dirt, but you’re developing another tattoo. This one is on your left external oblique. It’s too unfinished to say what it is, but I suppose that would mean you’ll be like this a while longer, wouldn’t it? I’m sure all this change was pre-planned in advance, but I don’t understand why someone left you on your own though, and in that odd position. Was that planned too? Things could have gone very badly, you know. Unless…was I supposed to find you? I’m probably on some celestial Candid Camera or something. I did say you looked like an angel, and on that opinion, I have not changed my mind.

“I have one part of you left to wash, and I have to admit, having reached your dangly bits, if you are angel, I had no idea you would be so well endowed.” He began washing his dick and spoke to him at the same speed he washed him to hurry it along. “You’re bigger now than this morning, and at this point, it wouldn’t matter what brand of toilet you sit on, you’re in the water; I hope you realize that. Of course, that assumes you need to eat and that sphincter in the back isn’t just there for fun. Hey, no judgment from you. I already feel uncomfortable just washing you, and I want it on official record with you, God, Santa Claus, or whoever else may be watching, that I’m on my best behavior. I’m just making light of this because this is so awkward. Okay, there; I’m done!”

He picked up a towel and dried him off.

“I don’t want to leave your hair unwashed, and I think I may have an idea.”

He folded a towel that he used and taped it to the edge of the counter along the front of the sink for padding. He put a clean pair of shorts on Stallion along with his rubber-soled house shoes for traction and wore his second pair. He gathered the shampoo, another towel, and readied everything he needed. He stood Stallion up, brought him into the kitchen, and leaned him over the edge into the sink. He held him balanced there with his hand gripping the waistband of the shorts in the back. He only had one hand available to do the washing, but it worked.

When he finished, he began removing Stallion’s shorts. “Sorry, pal, if you outgrow these, I’ll have to cut them off you, and you’re hanging out of them anyway. I just got this shampoo, so I’m going to leave your hair a little damp to evaluate the manufacturer’s wash and go claims. I hope you don’t mind being my test subject.” He struggled to get Stallion into the bedroom. “I’m going to put you to bed, so you’ll be comfortable.” Phillips’s strength was flagging, and Stallion started listing to the right when he entered the bedroom. “Woah…oh no, buddy, you can’t have that side of the bed. That’s my side, and yes, I’m sleeping in the same bed with you. There’s an entire king-size bed in here, and my couch isn’t fit to sleep on.” He dropped him onto the bed, and he began straightening him up. “Besides, if you should awaken in the middle of the night, I want to know it. And yes, I know that I don’t know you, so why would I trust sleeping in the bed with you, right?” He hovered over Stallion’s face. “I’ve given that some thought. Just because your skin has an apparent imperviousness that wouldn’t mean you have no other vulnerabilities. I can’t tell who, but someone has left you to the mercy of humanity and the kindness of strangers. But no matter the cause, there was an intention for someone to find you. If that weren’t the case, they could have picked many other places on this planet, so why there? I seriously doubt any randomness caused you to end up at the southern tip of Key Biscayne, of all places. I know that coincidences happen, but my situation fits with yours entirely too hand-in-glove to be a coincidence.” He brushed Stallion’s hair away from his eyes. “Before I leave to clean up the mess I made and get something to eat, I thought I would give you something to think about while I give your ears a rest. My last name is Phillips…that’s from the Greek word Philippos. It means Lover of horses…and I’ll tell ya…I’ve never met a horse I didn’t like.” He tucked Stallion’s feet under the covers and pulled them over him.

The businessman lived alone in a house that could hold three full families with little difficulty. He had dined with royalty and presidents and influenced the world around him for many years. But despite all this, he was secretly a miserable man. Having seen enough of it, the world bored him. He had no life within him, and the mental vitality he once felt had withered with time which would have surprised anyone who knew him as he only appeared to be in his late twenties.

He had always dressed in suits of the finest fabrics that both his gotten and ill-gotten gains could afford. While seldom found in his Manhattan office, at four o’clock the afternoon of June 21st, he had taken a jaunt there to catch up on financial matters. Wearing a coal-colored suit from his tailor on East 40th St, the man with reddish hair and a dour expression, stalked into the room like he owned the entire high-rise building, which, of course, he did. On arrival, he noted a dark-haired, curvy woman wearing a white skirt and low-cut blouse holding a tablet. She waited for him from the Corinthian-leather couch that dominated the outer office. The man never stopped and Carl, his administrative assistant, followed him to his antique mahogany desk that once belong to a former CEO of a major New York bank.

“You have an array of messages, sir. In order of those most imperative, the President wants to have another round of golf at Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard to have another important chat. The Paterson Brothers are advising you to dump your stock on Friday for the companies they list here. I’m unsure which they are, but said you would know, and there are several other messages of lesser urgency.”

“Who is the woman in the outer office?”

He cleared his throat. “She said that her friends call her Happiness, sir. She claims to have information you will want concerning the year 1046.”

The moment he heard the mention of the year, he had his complete attention. “How long has she been there?”

“About 15 minutes, sir.”

“Send her in and close the door on the way out.”

When Carl turned to go, they both could see the woman had already let herself in and waited halfway to the desk from the office entrance.

Once Carl closed the door, the woman began.

She tipped her head a little, and her blood-red lips always spoke with a slow, smooth, and slightly breathy quality. “Hello, Aquila.”

Aquila, a man known to most as Mr. Adrianus had amassed an incredible amount of hidden wealth in the form of precious metals, and visible wealth from his investments. It calculated to many lifetimes’ worth of riches, and he considered all of it, to the last penny, his compensation (a pittance in his eyes) for the many years he spent living in misery. He often compared his life to standing in the center of a clock face with the advancement of the ages passing around him while he alone remained untouched by the hands of time.

Over the years, Father Time had taken from him every friend, every lover, every wife, and everyone he had ever cared about. In the past, whenever it happened, he tried to get on with his life—as one does at such losses. He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and kept going, but with every loss, part of him died, until all he had left was a growing contempt for the world and everyone in it.

It had been hundreds of years since anyone called him Aquila.

“Who are you?”

“As I have said, I am Happiness, and I am here to help you.”

“Help me, how?”

“Your desire is known to me and can be achieved.” She eased behind the man, and she laid the tablet before him. The image depicted two men sitting on a sea wall, and as the video played, one mentioned the year 1046. Her voice was like honey, and she smelled of jasmine. “The man to the left is Henri Estalon. He was your father. He is now dead. The man to the right is Ronan Stallion, the man he chose as his replacement.” She slowly forwarded the video and paused it the moment the transfer occurred with a brilliant white light spilling from between the two men. “You are the son of a man who carried an eternal flame, and you are its product. So long as that flame burns, you cannot die.”

He couldn’t stop staring at the image before him. “How can I extinguish the flame?”

She leaned into his left ear and whispered to him. “The flame and the stallion are connected. To kill the flame, you must kill the stallion…with this.” Standing behind him she reached out and placed onto the desk a dagger made of an unusual metal that Adrianus had never seen. She moved to his other ear and spoke as if whispering sweet nothings in her slow sensuous whisper. “He is vulnerable, but you must find out how.”

“And then I’ll die…”

“When the stallion dies, you die.”

“But to kill someone…”

She whispered seductively into his ear. “You have already killed many times,” she said planting the seeds of her temptation. “You played both sides of wars throughout the last two centuries, and your lobbying kept people from the medicine and care they needed to survive. You have killed many, but you did so from a distance where the deaths were out of sight and out of mind. What would you find easier, continuing to do that for all eternity,”—she moved to his other ear—”or to kill this one man directly thereby ending your own misery?”

Unable to find a flaw in her argument, he asked her, “Where will I find this Ronan Stallion?”

“He is in Miami. I cannot guarantee he will remain there. He is…protected. You must catch him when and where he is most vulnerable.” She drew back from him and left his peripheral vision. “How can I find him?” He turned his chair to see her, but she had vanished, leaving him armed with only the dagger and the information on the tablet.

He used the intercom. “Carl, have them prepare the jet. I’m leaving for Miami.”

7:50 p.m., June 21st

The jet began to shudder and shake.

“Mr. Adrianus,” said the flight attendant, “we are experiencing some turbulence. May I stow your bag for you, sir?”

She stood over him, the only flight attendant on the private Lear jet, wearing her red uniform and pillbox hat, performing her job as anyone should expect. They had only an hour left of the flight, and the bag in question lay in the window seat beside him. He rested his hand upon it, knowing it contained the dagger given to him by the woman who called herself Happiness, so he felt protective and defensive of it. “This is the second time you have asked me during this flight,” he said, “so for the last time, no, and if you ask me once more, I will fire you.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I’m merely trying to keep you safe.”

Adrianus tilted his head looking up at her, he laughed a little and shook his head. Turning his gaze out the window at the sunlit clouds during that last hour before sunset, he recalled years earlier during one of the many times he killed himself off. While on a solo flight, he allowed himself to endure a plane crash, having left all his money to a nonexistent son whose identity he would assume, so he could eventually claim it. By her reflection in the window, he could see the flight attendant hadn’t left his side, he raised the crystal lowball glass in his hand to her. “Just pour me another.”

He had watched the 4K video on the tablet several times. What he found so ironic and galling is that Henri believed he outlived his child, and yet, hundreds of years later, there he sat on a private jet headed to Miami. Over time, he had evolved into the perfect model of a man both lonely and friendless, who had just outlived the father he never knew, while this Ronan person, who Henri knew only a few years, had received all the love and companionship that should have come to Adrianus by birth. He knew Ronan carried no fault for that, but he hated him for it anyway.

In the video, the fire passed from his father to Ronan, after which, Adrianus saw his father fall to ash and the skinny young man lying there for the entire night in that awkward position, undisturbed, unconscious, and unmoving. The next morning, as the sun began to rise and the light level increased enough to see, it showed that Ronan had never moved, but he appeared different from the man his father had placed onto the ground the previous evening. No longer skinny, his body had swollen with muscle, and he seemed taller.

A few minutes before eight that morning, a female jogger of about thirty, dressed in running tights and a t-shirt came upon the man.

She pulled the earbuds from her ears when she stopped. Sounding disgusted, she said, “Oh no, another drunk.” Bending over him a little, she gave his body a closer inspection. “My god, it’s the man from Nantucket.” She knocked at Ronan’s leg with her running shoe. “Hey, you can’t stay here. Get up and move along, will you?” He never moved, so she shook her head in dismay and called the police. She noticed something off-camera, retrieved it, and tried to cover the man’s genitals by scooping them up with the red solo cup she found, but it refused to stay put. With her hand, she pushed down on the cup and attempted to wedge it into place by moving him into an even more awkward position with her foot. A few minutes later two other people loomed over the man, and not long after that, a policeman arrived driving an olive-colored Jeep.

Adrianus noted the license plate, and given an opportune moment, the video had the officer at the perfect angle. He zoomed in and could easily read his name tag, L. Phillips, and his sleeve had a patch stitched with the words The Village of Key Biscayne. He concluded, by the officer’s concern that he most likely drove him to a hospital. He made an online search and based on the distance, Mercy Hospital seemed most likely, so Adrianus would start there when he could talk to the morning shift.

Thinking of killing the man on the video with his own hands, he thought, “I’m too wealthy to kill someone myself. That’s what money is for!” He couldn’t imagine any hitman agreeing to use the dagger when they probably had their preferred methods, and he wouldn’t know how to acquire a hitman anyway, not that that would present the greatest complication. He accepted what the woman had told him with relative ease because he had lived for hundreds of years. He couldn’t imagine how a mortal not already exposed to anything otherworldly would view the dagger given to him by the woman. He gazed into his glass and stared transfixed at the single transparent sphere of ice that chilled his drink and the light fog that had settled over his whisky.

After the woman had vanished from his office, he studied the dagger. The metal of its handle and scabbard he had never seen before, but the curiousness of it paled when he unsheathed it. He beheld a transparent blade whose subtle vaporous wisps from the sharpened edges and pointed tip vanished into the air around it, manifesting its ethereal nature.

Waking from his thoughts, he asked himself, “What sort of magic is this?” He lifted the drink the flight attendant had brought him to his mouth and downed it in one gulp, but the thirst of his anxiety remained parched, and he demanded another.

The aptly named lucky fox, Felix Raposo, worked as a bellhop at the luxury boutique hotel on Miami Beach called The Cerulean Sea Hotel and Spa. He had worked there for a year, and not once had anyone mentioned the little side-hustle he had going with the owner/night manager, Mr. Moreno, who covered for him.

The handsome nineteen-year-old of Puerto Rican descent took pride in his considerable abilities and the unblemished, sienna-skinned body that displayed the virile athleticism for which he was known. And by word of mouth alone, new clients gathered to him faster than he could ever have imagined. Monday through Thursday, he could count on having one client a night—two at most. However, from Friday at check-in through Monday morning at checkout, he could have a dozen clients, and many of them stayed at the hotel just for an experience that only Felix seemed capable of providing.

One such client, the math teacher from a local middle school, learned that his best friend, the teacher of English Literature, hadn’t exaggerated in his assessment of him, rewriting and repurposing a famous Shakespearean quote from Hamlet, “What a piece of work is Felix. How solicitous in spirit. How seductive in speech. In form and movement, how capable and confident. In action, how like a lord. And in pleasure, how like a god.”

With the math teacher both contented and fast asleep, Felix took a quick shower, redressed in his cream-colored uniform, pocketed the money left for him on the table by the television, and quietly closed the door behind him. In the elevator to the lobby, he counted the cash and tucked half of it into his wallet. The other half he held in his hand to slip to the owner who crammed it into his pocket before anyone noticed.

Mr. Moreno was not Felix’s pimp. They had a reciprocal arrangement. Mr. Moreno pretended to hire him as a bellhop, and that allowed Felix to hire Mr. Moreno to cover for him with other employees while taking care of a client rather than taking care of someone’s baggage.

Unlike some boutique hotels, The Cerulean Sea Hotel was not a Dadaist’s dream, nor one that, upon entry, screamed MIAMI in a pastel nightmare of neon capital lettering. The Cerulean Sea Hotel had a nature-based décor both stylish and timeless with a serene atmosphere. The lobby’s contemporary modern furniture, based on tried-and-true styles, sat atop mottled, latte-colored marble slabs for flooring. But the spectacle of the monolithic black granite check-in desk with its gravity-defying cantilevered design overshadowed all else.

Standing at the sandstone Bellhop wall that evening, Felix watched a limousine drive beneath the covered drop-off. He walked to the entrance and when the door attendant opened the car door, a late 20-something man wearing a coal-colored Armani suit exited the vehicle, and he shouldered the satchel he carried.

“May I take your bag, sir?”

The man gripped the strap more tightly. “Just the one in the back.”

The driver had opened the trunk and Felix reached to grab the handle. It was a piece built in an antique style with no wheels, so he knew he would carry it to the man’s room. He stood at a respectful distance while he checked in.

“My name is Elias Adrianus, and I have a reservation,” he said to the night manager.

“Ah, Mr. Adrianus, it’s good to have you with us,” said Moreno checking the computer. “I see you have the Terrace Suite which you will find at the top, on the 12th floor.” He fingered the credit card Adrianus dropped onto the polished granite counter for incidentals.

“What time does the bar close?”

“It closes at 2 a.m., sir.”

When Adrianus returned the credit card to his wallet he noticed a pale pink business card there he couldn’t remember acquiring and wasn’t there a moment ago. It read, “You don’t need a drink. Wink at the bellhop and let him take care of you” signed Happiness. His insides stiffened, and his hands shook in agitation as he slid it into the wallet alongside the credit card.

“Here are your key cards, sir,” said Moreno, “and if you like, Felix can take you in your suite.”

Adrianus blinked and looked at the night manager in astonishment. “What did you say?”

“I said, if you like, Felix can take you to your suite. Have a goodnight, sir.”

“Right… goodnight.”

He turned and raked his eyes over Felix, thinking how he certainly was a handsome young man—young being the operable term, especially compared to his 970 years. They entered the elevator and the moment the doors closed, Adrianus asked, “Is it true that if I wink at you, you’ll take care of me?” He gazed upon Felix awaiting his answer.

“Do you need taken-care-of, sir?”

“Someone believes that I do, apparently. I’ve never been taken-care-of by a man before.”

The lift doors opened to a short cream-wallpapered hallway. They walked to the back corner room. He held the key to the card reader, the door unlocked, and they stepped inside.

The 12th floor consisted of four duplicate terrace suites. A color palette of medium and light-colored earth tones filled the enormous room on every wall and surface. It had a kitchen, dining room, sitting room, and a king-sized bed sat before a wall of windows that one could pull back allowing the terrace—which overlooked the ocean—to blend into the living space.

Felix unfolded the suitcase stand from the closet and laid the case upon it. When he turned around, Adrianus stared at him.

“Who referred you to me?” asked Felix in a lovely Latin accent in his smooth masculine voice. “I have many clients, and they’re all referrals.”

“A woman named Happiness if you can believe it. Clients… So, you charge for your services?”

He removed his hat and tossed it on the table beside him and spoke in a slow, comfortable way that demonstrated his confidence. “Would you expect to enjoy the Bolshoi or Vienna’s philharmonic for free?” He stepped within a foot of him, and stared, without deviation, into the unblinking eyes of Adrianus. “They have dedicated themselves to their artistry, and that requires time and effort. What I do is as consuming and just as artistic, but the dance is far more intimate and the instrument much more beautiful.”

“And just what is the instrument?” asked Adrianus whispering. “Do you make a living playing people like a fiddle?”

He drew closer and Adrianus never backed away. Felix made a rapid glance to his lips, and another, as they came together. “If so, I would play you as one would a Stradivarius, and I assure you, you will want an encore.” Felix kissed him, and his innate sensuality had an alluring, forbidden, seductive power over Adrianus. In all his years, he had never met anyone like Felix.

Adrianus couldn’t imagine why he would allow himself to have sex with the man, but he didn’t care. Lost in the moment, he needed what Felix had to offer, and he had it in abundance. By the time they were on the bed naked, Felix had Adrianus’s cock in his mouth making love to it, and Adrianus had Felix’s in his face. At about 9-inches with a slight upward curve, soft skin, and perfectly hooded, it was the most elegant looking one he had ever seen. He tasted the clear liquid that flowed from the tip, and he enjoyed its unique flavor. He covered the entire end with his mouth and imitated the motions that Felix used to pleasure him. After about 15 minutes, Felix stopped, turned Adrianus onto his stomach, and lay atop him.

“I’ve never done this,” said Adrianus.

Kissing his ear, Felix rubbed his length along the cleft of his ass. “Shhh…,” he whispered into his ear and continued with the musical metaphor. “Your instrument is in the hands of a virtuoso. I will warm you before the bow touches your strings, and while you are only one instrument, when the music starts you will feel an entire symphony, and I promise, you will not want the concert to end.”

Felix enjoyed doing what he knew he did best, plucking a man’s cherry as he plucked his strings to pleasure him. After sliding down his back, he planted his tongue onto his tight pucker, and the more he ate his ass the more the man moaned, arched his back, and relaxed. Once he wet him well, he stopped.

“That was amazing,” said Adrianus.

“The music hasn’t even started. Just allow your body to relax and feel.” He moved upward and rubbed his wet, leaking knob against the opening. Felix kept an erection with no difficulty, and unlike some men with no patience who think pain is always involved the first time, he pushed and pulled at a slow incremental pace, taking many minutes to fully enter him, and the man felt no pain, just steady internal pressure. Once fully inside him, he knew he had leaked enough precum to wet him well, so he said, “And now we begin.” He pulled back slowly and began to thrust in longer and longer strokes. Adrianus had squirmed beneath him, moaning, and making sounds that told Felix he enjoyed it. Before long, he began long-stroking him, and then he varied the length of the stroke and the intensity. Along with a heavy breath, a series of mostly unintelligible words poured in a pleasure-filled stream from Adrianus’s mouth as he writhed under him for just over an hour, some of which he repeated. Oh. Felix. Yes. More. So good. Don’t stop. Oh my god. When Felix felt the tight squeeze of his cock in a series of rhythmic contractions, he knew the man had an orgasm. When it ended Felix slowed, slid himself deep inside the man, lay atop him, and brought his mouth to his ear. “I wrote that piece just for you. I hope you enjoyed it.” Every few seconds, Felix pulled back a little and slid into him again.

“It was beautiful.” Adrianus laughed, having almost forgotten what it was like to feel happy. “Felix, there is no other word for you; you are magnificent. I had no idea that could feel so incredible.” He turned his head and kissed him. “Can you stay with me tonight? I will understand if you can’t, but I would love for you to stay.”

“I can stay,” he said and kissed him.

“Will you play that song again?”

“I can play it as often as you like.” And once again, Felix began to saw his bow against the man’s Stradivarian strings, playing an exquisite melody that vibrated throughout the man’s body, but only Felix heard the music as the instrument vocalized his pleasure.

June 22nd

Phillips had kept an eye on Stallion the previous evening, watching him grow slow enough to find it on par with the speed at which paint dries. So, while he could have more interest in Stallion than drying paint, the passing hours caused the act of remaining conscious too heavy a burden. A foggy haze had drawn his mind ever deeper into a need for slumber with eyes that wouldn’t stay open or focused and just before he faded for the evening, he had laid his hand on Stallion’s arm, semiconsciously thinking that would be enough.

Having deactivated the alarm on his phone the previous evening, Phillips awoke the next morning at 8 o’clock, and the first thing he noticed was a muscular arm over him and the realization that Stallion was spooning him. He backed away a little as he turned over.

The color of the man’s slightly tousled midnight-brown hair began a theme for all the rest as Liam’s eyes took in what he could see of him. Thick, dark lashes surrounded the depth of his kind and fully awake, cognac-colored eyes. His prominent jaw held a well-kempt beard, and his pectorals, densely packed with an armor of muscle, had a hairy covering across their broadness and within the deep crevice between them which spilled down his abdominals and disappeared under the covers. Gauntlets of hair on his forearms faded at the elbow on their way to his cannonball biceps with their mountainous peaks leading to shoulders so thick and meaty, it looked like he could easily give Atlas a break for a long liquid lunch.

The godlike man gazed in benevolence and smiled upon Phillips for the first time. “Ah, that’s what you look like.”

“How long have you lain awake?” Phillips couldn’t recall a time when a man that beautiful ever shared his bed.

“I’m not sure, you don’t have a regular clock. Thank you for protecting me, cleaning me up, and not giving me the silent treatment.”

“Oh, so you could hear me, good. Just who and what are you?” he asked in apprehension.

“Since you’re my protector, I owe you an explanation, but apart from my name, all the rest is between you and me. Okay?


“My name is Ronan Stallion. I am Centaurian. To put it simply, I am part who I was and part life essence of Chiron the Centaur, bound by an eternal fire gifted by Prometheus.”

Phillips nodded. “Of course, and if given a few more waking hours, I could have figured that out all on my own.”

Ronan laughed a little. “I want you to know that I’m not here to harm anyone, but you intuitively know that; don’t you?”

“I don’t know how, but yes, somehow, I know that. Why are you here?”

“Zeus held Prometheus captive and horrifically tortured him. So, in an act of empathy, when a particular situation occurred with Chiron, he gave up his immortality to set him free. Prometheus, the prescient and skillful thief that he is, felt grateful and captured Chiron’s essence in an eternal flame, and then hid it from the Olympians inside the first of us, a Neo-Centaurian he named Epivítoras; that’s Greek for Stallion. After one thousand years Chiron and the fire must transfer to someone of the current Centaurian’s choosing. The millenniums passed and after Epivítoras came Hrb’eh (That is Hebrew for Stallion), then came Admissārius (that is Latin for Stallion), and then my friend Henri Estalon (Estalon is old French for Stallion), and now there’s me. I exist to give Chiron a kind of life that he would otherwise have lost. Prometheus saw that Chiron was too special to lose and his life too precious. However, what Prometheus did, no one had ever done, and he created something far more that has no name.”

“What is the more?”

“It had given us a power that the others were too afraid to tap into, and I can see why.” Ronan tipped his head in curiosity. “You’re taking all this rather easily.”

“After everything I’ve witnessed so far, you could have told me you were from a planet around Alpha Centauri, and I would have believed you. What have you done since you awoke?”

“Meditate and cuddle with you, which was lovely, by the way. So, should I call you Liam, Phillips, or would you want to keep it professional and have me call you Officer?”

“You steal cuddles, and now you ask whether I want to keep it professional?”

Ronan laughed. “Actually, you cuddled up to me in your sleep and held my dick in your hand most of the night, but you slept so soundly, I hadn’t wanted to awaken you.”

Liam laid back on the pillow, covered his face with his hands, and laughed. “I’m so sorry! That’s embarrassing, but I haven’t slept like that in a long time. That was kind of you to let me sleep. Please, call me Liam. You’re almost a stranger; why do I trust you so much?”

“I think you already know the answer to that.”

They sat there staring at one another for a long moment.

“Maybe,” whispered Liam. “So, do you know what you look like, or are you just as curious as me?”

“I’m pretty curious myself.”

Liam left the bed and opened his closet door which had a mirror on the back. Ronan moved to the side of the bed, and Phillips could see the hair trailing off at the bottom of an extraordinary eight-pack of abdominals, but when he pulled the covers away to stand, he could see that hair covered each proportionally muscular leg to a distinct line just beneath his iliac furrow and down the crevice between the leg and the groin area. He stood slowly to his full height and looked down at himself. He had no pubic hair or hair on his penis and scrotum at all. And the tattoo on his oblique had finished; it was of a centaur.

Ronan hefted the smooth, foot-long hunk of flaccid meat in his hand. “Henri told me it would be centaur-like, but I had no idea. And not being a full centaur, I can’t pull this back into my body.”

Liam stared at it in disbelief. “You may need my expertise as a snake wrangler.”

Ronan’s forehead furrowed. “Are you really a snake wrangler?”

“In my time as a police officer, I’ve caught and relocated quite a few snakes. Many of the guys won’t do it, so they tend to call me. I’m certainly not afraid of your python, and I can think of a few choice locations to put it.”

“Is it not too big?”

Liam slowly shook his head staring at it. “It’s perfect.”

“It doesn’t bother you that I’m part centaur?”

Liam shrugged. “What part of you is really centaur? You’re just the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”

“I appreciate your saying that. In this form, physiologically, I’m human in appearance, but I am half Chiron, and he was half horse. That makes me one-fourth horse, but just as a flame can change its shape, I can change form to a kind of bipedal centaur, like a satyr or faun.”

“I would love to see you change shape.”

“That’s part of the more that I talked about, and from the memories provided by Chiron, I know that the first time tapping into that power comes with a serious irreversible consequence. It was a line the others would not cross. I see now why Henri couldn’t tell me about it.”

“Why couldn’t he?”

“They could never tell because the knowledge of it could make agreeing to replace them too alluring for power-hungry people or make the idea of having access to such a power too aversive for most anyone good.”

“What kind of power is it?”

“A power too strong to contemplate and too terrifying to wield lightly. That’s all I can say.”

“I see. Hold on a sec…” He retrieved the scales from his bathroom and set them in front of the mirror.

“You want to guess?” asked Ronan.

He looked Ronan up and down. “Mmm…260.”

He stepped onto the scales and the readout read 265 pounds.

“I would have guessed it perfectly, but I forgot to take into account the 5 pounds of Centaurian appendage.”

“Well, it’s close enough without going over, right?” He stepped off the scales and slid them to the side. “I weigh about forty pounds more than I expected, so that’s Chiron’s doing. He hadn’t done that with the others, but I have no memory for why he would choose that on this occasion.”

As Ronan faced the mirror, Liam could see the completed STALLION tattoo, shoulder to shoulder, and the hairless skin of his wide back, but the thick dark hair covering his legs and buttocks began with a distinct line from the iliac furrow at his sides toward the sacrum at his spine. On anyone else, it would appear too perfect to be natural, but on Ronan, it must be.

“Did you intend your body hair to be like that? You have no pubic hair.

“It’s because I’m part centaur. From what I could tell, Henri was the same way. In the front, as a full centaur where my pubic hair would begin is a transition point where the horse part of me would have pectorals and the penis would be toward the back, so since I’m not fully centaur, it left off what would have been my pubic hair.” He looked himself in the mirror. “I like it. So, how tall do you think I am?”

“Umm… I would say you look about 19 and a half hands high.”

Ronan laughed to himself and did some quick math. “So, 6 feet 6 inches.” He turned to Liam. “I want you to know that I appreciate the help you’ve given me, and if you want to stop helping me at any point for any reason, it’s okay. I will understand.”

“I will help you for as long as your needs coincide with my ability.”

“That’s kind of you, thank you.”

“I need breakfast,” said Phillips. “Are you hungry?”


“You do eat, right?”

“I can, but I only look human. I don’t have to sleep, or eat, or drink, or go to the bathroom. I don’t even have to breathe or blink my eyes. Apparently, some habits are just too integrated to break, but I needed the ability to simulate breathing so I can speak like you do. Can you cope with that thought?”

“But you have a heartbeat, a readable blood pressure, and a normal body temperature.”

“Those are real but simulated, and they serve a purpose. Those things are for me, not for others. People don’t realize it because they’ve had it for a lifetime, but if suddenly you were alive without a relatively stable, normal body temperature, or had no sensation of a heartbeat and the ability to passively sense the blood coursing through you, you would not be able to tolerate the silence of your own body; it would be maddening. It would be like you were dead, but not dead.”

Liam placed his hand on his chest. “Am I sensing the blood coursing through me?”

“You may not realize you sense it, but if it suddenly stopped, you would recognize its absence immediately. So, can you cope with how I am?”

Ronan stood in silence for almost a minute while watching Liam scan his every feature and movement.

“Those things don’t matter to me. I just know that the opportunity to remain in your company would please me enormously. Let’s make your Centaurian appendage street-legal, we’ll drop by my favorite smoothie place, and then we’ll find you some clothing that actually fits.”

“I need to meet up with a friend. He has my money, identification, and other necessities.”

“Who? And how can you have identification? You just came into existence yesterday.”

“I met him through Prometheus. He’s quite adept at making identification, and whatever else I might need that isn’t quite on the up and up.”

“It’s illegal?”

“What do you expect, Liam? I can’t just trot off to the DMV and ask for a driver’s license.”

“I understand that, but I’m a police officer!”

“If I ever abuse it, you’re welcome to arrest me. I promise not to buy alcohol for anyone underage.”

“Did you have a driver’s license in your previous life?”

“I don’t know; I’m sure I did.”

“How can you not know?”

“Because those memories are gone now.”

“You have no memories of your life before? Why?”

“They would intrude and hinder my ability to accept who I am now. But don’t worry, if you ran the IDs, you would discover they’re completely legal.”

“How can that be?”

“Because Dolos is thorough.”

“So, they’re registered.” Liam walked into his closet. “This, I will have to see.” He brought out the navy and black pair of “long shorts” he had on him the day before. “I washed this yesterday afternoon along with everything else. They’re mediums, but the elastic is pretty forgiving.”

“What about underwear to rein in the Centaurian appendage?”

“I have nothing that would fit you. This will have to do until we get something more appropriate.”

“What will we do, go to a discount store?”

“We could, but I know of a store that’s perfect for your needs.”

Ronan had slipped a leg into the shorts. “It’s not some equestrian tack shop, is it? Because I’ll tell you right now, this stallion will not be broken.”

“No, smarty pants, it’s a proper clothing store. I’ve shopped there for myself many times.”

He had a tough time squeezing them over his hips and muscular ass, but once he had they slid right on.

“Those shorts aren’t supposed to fit tight, but they look fine that they do. I told you that you had a major bootie. If the store I have in mind doesn’t work, we’ll just go to a sporting goods store, but I want to avoid that if we can.”

“It would be a good place to buy a jockstrap.”

“You’ll never find one with a stallion-sized pouch. The store I have in mind sells underwear from the only company I know that caters to the undergirding needs of the…aah…supportively challenged. So, trust me on this, I know what I’m doing. Where will we meet this friend? Do you need to contact them and set up a time?”

“I just have to be outdoors, say his name, and he’ll show up.”


“Dolos is a god. He’ll hear me.”

“A god…like Zeus and Apollo.”

“Dolos isn’t one of the Olympians. He’s the son of a much older deity.”

“I see, so he’s Old Money. Well, whatever you decide, don’t call his name downstairs in the parking lot. Mrs. Novak in apartment 3 has a terminal case of Gladys Kravitz syndrome.” Liam dug into a drawer for an A-shirt and found a white one. “Here, try this on. It says it’s large, but it’s oversized on me, so it might fit, but no guarantees. I may have to cut it, and that’s fine; I have plenty.”

Slipping it over his head, Liam helped pull it down, but the seams around the neck and arms were too tight.

“Hold on, let me get the scissors.” He returned with a pair from the kitchen. Sliding the scissor blade between his pecs, he cut the middle of the collar several inches, and under each arm on the sides to split the seams. After that, it fit fine for the time being.

“I look like shit in this, don’t I?” Ronan asked.

“Are you kidding? You could make bin bags look sexy.”

He gave him the pair of house shoes to wear. They barely fit, but he could wear them for a while. Liam wore a pair of tan linen shorts with a sky-blue A-shirt beneath a white short-sleeve button-up left untucked and open.

The moment Ronan stood in the breezeway outside Liam’s door, he looked around and saw that no one could see. “Dolos,” he said, and down the staircase from above came a bearded and swarthy-looking man in his thirties wearing a white suit holding two 40-liter-sized traditional duffel bags in leather, one in black and one in brown. Ronan waved him into the apartment and closed the door behind him.

“Hello, Ronan,” said Dolos. “I’ve been wandering around Miami. I see why Henri wanted to live here.”

“Liam Phillips, please meet Dolos, the god of trickery and deception. Dolos, this is Liam, my friend and protector.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said Liam.

“Any friend of Ronan’s is a friend of mine,” said Dolos who squinted at Ronan looking him up and down. “What are you wearing?”

“We are making do with what we have.”

“Making do…” Dolos laughed and shook his head. “Here…” He gave Ronan the brown bag which had a Centaurian archer embossed into a leather tag stitched onto the side. “It has everything Henri asked me to hold for you, and it has everything you needed of me, including clothing. So, you can change out of that embarrassment before anyone else sees you. And Liam, although your attire is a marginal improvement, this is for you. It has everything you could want or need. Don’t thank me now, wait until you’ve browsed its contents and then thank me. I will hear you.

“You know, Ronan,” said Dolos, “Prometheus could easily forgive the others for not using their abilities because they came from a far less sophisticated era; you do not have that luxury, especially with Zeus sending Henri’s son after you. Zeus wants to know what you can do, and just how vulnerable you are…or aren’t.”

“So, Zeus had caused Henri to have the child. Henri believed he outlived him. I thought I could feel a presence here. He’s in Miami.”

He nodded. “His original name is Aquila, but he’s now known as Elias Adrianus, and your ability to feel his presence is because he carries a spark of the fire within you, and they’re connected. Prometheus told me that Zeus had Kakia visit Aquila yesterday, and that seductive goddess of immorality and all-around badness has convinced him of an easy means to get what he wants. He believes he needs to kill you so he can die, and she gave him a Chronosian blade for the job.”

“What’s that?” asked Ronan.

“You are bound by an eternal flame. Eternity is a temporal construct involving duration, so the blade will destroy the flame by removing its eternality; an instantaneous flame can have no real existence.”

“Wouldn’t that create a paradox?” asked Liam.

Dolos smiled. “It’s so refreshing to talk to you modern humans; I don’t have to explain so much or assume you wouldn’t understand. It would create a paradox if it removed its eternality from all time, but it doesn’t, it begins from the point the blade pierces Ronan’s skin by temporally snuffing it out.”

“Can it pierce my skin?”

“That’s a question I can’t answer, and neither can anyone else. No one even knows if what they’re attempting will work. As human scientists like to say, it’s a hypothesis; one that Zeus is putting to the test. But I’m not sure that Zeus wants you dead; I think he wants to create conditions so dire that it will force you to use the power within you. He wants to see what you can do.

“Why doesn’t Aquila just use the blade on himself?” Liam asked.

“Unlike everyone else, he is not independent. He owes his perpetual existence to the flame that binds Ronan and Chiron, and he can only die if he destroys Ronan’s flame. Apart from him though, it can destroy anyone whose skin it can pierce by turning their future into an instantaneous blip. That also includes yourself, Liam, so be on your guard.

“I know that Aquila stayed at the Cerulean Sea Hotel last night. I sent him a little pink card to distract him and signed it with Kakia’s preferred nickname. Zeus’s plan only works if Aquila wants to die. I figure, he’s been an unhappy man for a long time, I’m hoping a new experience will help to change things, and perhaps he might see that living isn’t such a terrible thing.”

“Just a spark has kept Aquila alive all these centuries?” asked Ronan.

“Yes, so imagine what you can do with the full flame.”

“But isn’t fire just a destructive force?” Liam asked.

“From a human perspective,” said Dolos, “fire destroys forests and things humans create, so it’s viewed as destructive, but there’s something more profound happening. Normal fire doesn’t destroy, it’s a conversion process. It mindlessly changes things from one form into another. Prometheus believes Ronan is an eternal flame given sentience, a fire that burns in such a unique way that it can willfully create by converting one thing into something else, and that’s just the beginning of what he believes Ronan may be capable.”

Liam turned to Ronan. “You said using the power just once would have a consequence; what is it?”

“Once he uses it,” said Dolos, “there will be no turning back. The eternal flame remains transferable only until a Centaurian uses it. At that point, it has found its permanent home. That’s why finding a good man for a replacement had been so crucial.

Liam asked Dolos. “If Ronan uses the power, what would he become? It sounds like he would be a god.”

“That’s how it sounds to me too, but no one knows, not even Prometheus in his prescience. Ronan doesn’t know what he is, what he can do, or whether he can control it if he uses it.

“In that case, Ronan,” said Liam, “you need me more than I thought. If Zeus wants to know what Ronan can do so badly, why doesn’t he just challenge him directly?”

“When royalty fears the food, they get servants to taste it first, only then will they decide if it’s a meal fit for a king.”

“Oh, I see,” said Liam. “Well, Ronan, if this Aquila person is in Miami, then we should leave.”

“I agree with the warrior,” said Dolos. “It may only delay the inevitable, but it gives you time to think about what to do. The last thing you need is for Aquila to show up while unprepared.”

“Won’t they just tell him where to find me?”

“Probably. So wherever you go, don’t stay too long, unless you lay in wait of him. You should abandon this location soon.”

“If we flew somewhere, wouldn’t Zeus just knock the plane from the sky?” asked Ronan.

“I can’t imagine why he would bother. You would only survive it, and it wouldn’t give him what he wants. He has no reason to lift any more fingers. He has a man willing to travel anywhere to find you, and he has the resources to do it.”

“Why does Aquila want to die so badly?” Liam asked.

“The difference between Ronan and Aquila is one of choice. Ronan chose this, but Aquila had immortality thrust upon him at birth, and for him—or anyone in his situation (even a god)—the price of forever is too high if you have no one with which to share it. Prometheus understands that, and that’s why the other stallions had only one thousand years, and Ronan has-”

“That’s enough beans being spilled for one day, I think,” Ronan interrupted.

Dolos paused staring at Ronan for a moment and gave a little smile. “Very well, I must go, anyway. This morning I have my first genuine Cuban coffee followed by my first genuine Cuban. Yesterday, I met an exquisitely handsome man named Eterio at the nude beach.”

“Oh…well, don’t let us keep you, Dolos,” said Ronan as he walked him to the door. “Thank you for your assistance. You are, as always, a deceptively bright spot in any friend’s day, and I hope you enjoy your Cuban!”

The moment the door closed behind Dolos, Liam asked, “And Ronan has…what?”

“Much to do. That’s what.”

Liam laid his bag on the dining room table. “If Dolos is the god of deception and trickery, how can we believe anything he says?”

“Oh, even he would admit that’s a fair question,” said Ronan as he set his bag beside Liam’s. “He and Prometheus are trickster gods, but they’re not bad. Prometheus made humanity and wants us to do well. He gave us fire, and that resulted in all the technology that came after it. Dolos is Prometheus’s apprentice. Together, they have been helpful to humanity and especially to those stallions who came before me. Besides, it gives Dolos opportunities to use his amazing imagination and abilities for a noble cause.” He pushed at the bag in front of Liam. “Here, open it.”

Liam took the bag and unzipped it from the left. “Hey! This is like the clothing from that store I wanted to take you to.” He pulled out a white, tailored Oxford shirt. The bag held an entire suit of clothes, jeans, socks, a pair of underwear, a belt, and a shoe bag containing a pair of coordinating shoes.

“Is that acceptable?” asked Ronan.

“It’s perfect.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like something different?”

“There’s nothing else in the bag.”

“Oh, really?” Ronan zippered the bag. “Look again.”

Liam opened the bag, and inside was an entirely different suit of clothing. “Oh wow! How is that possible?”

“The bag unzips from both directions.” Ronan tapped the pull from the opposite side of the same zipper.

Liam unzipped it from the right and inside was a white linen suit. Ronan zipped it back, turned the bag around, and got him to unzip it from the left. Inside was various and sundry bathroom items and other necessities. He zipped it back and unzipped it from the right and the bag was empty for whatever he wanted to bring. Ronan turned one end of the bag toward Liam. When he unzipped it, he found ten thousand dollars in American currency bundled in stacks of tens, twenties, and fifties. When he re-zipped it, he turned the bag to the opposite end and unzipped it again. It contained ten thousand euros in European currency divided into the same denominations, an Italian passport, and a wallet with an Italian driver’s license, and various other pieces of identification, all of which had his photo on them.

Liam appeared stupefied as though he had just witnessed an illusionist performing a particularly convincing bit of street magic. He stood there studying the Italian passport. “Is all this real?”

“Of course, it’s real,” said Ronan. “Let’s get changed, get a smoothie, and decide where we’re going. Whatever you need, be sure to bring it, like your US passport.”

“Okay, Dolos,” said Liam sifting through the Italian wallet. “I have no clue how you managed it, but you’re a genius. Thank you. I just hope we don’t get arrested while attempting to use any of it.”

Author’s Note

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