Authors: S.J.D. Peterson
Riveted (short story)
Masters & Boyd
Tuck & Cover
5032 Capital Circle SW
Suite 2, PMB# 279
Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
© 2013 SJD Peterson.
© 2013 Paul Richmond.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-62798-189-7
Printed in the United States of America
To my big sister.
I wish I could have been there
to be your helping hand up.
I miss you every day.
, while a fictional story, deals with some very personal and hard subjects for me. I do not, nor would I ever, take the subjects of pain, loss, depression, or suicide lightly.
You see, my fifteen-year-old niece, after being bullied for her weight, developed an eating disorder. My sister did what any parent would do and took her to a therapist for help. My niece was put on Prozac, and three weeks later, my sister found her on the kitchen floor with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. She lived three more days. The guilt and heartbreak my sister experienced after her death sent her into severe depression. After four years, she simply couldn’t live with the pain anymore and ended her life as well.
If you know anyone who has experienced loss and heartbreak, who is experiencing depression or suicidal ideation, please, get them help. Be the helping hand they need to get them back on their feet again—or find someone who can. Never take any threat of suicide as a joke.
If you are in crisis or know someone who is, call the United States National Suicide & Crisis Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE.
have mercy on his soul.”
God? There was no God, and there sure as hell wouldn’t be any mercy bestowed on Charles Robert Jones. Mason wiped angrily at the tears on his cheeks with his sleeve and glared at the priest who had come to say a last prayer for the dearly departed.
Neither the pastor nor the prayer had been Mason’s idea, nor would Charles have wanted it. No one seemed to care what he or Charles wanted. To the few family members who were in attendance—two sisters, an aunt, and a couple of cousins—Mason Howard didn’t exist. He wasn’t allowed to sit amongst them, relegated to stand at the back and away from the casket—wouldn’t want to upset the
with his presence. In fact, Charles’s older sister Maria had even gone as far as to call Mason and say, “We think it’d be best if you not attend.”
Mason hadn’t even dignified her with an answer, just hit the end button on his phone and threw it across the room. He responded to the request by not only showing up at the funeral home each day—he had been the first to arrive at the cemetery, which was another thing Charles wouldn’t have wanted. Mason shouldn’t be here; none of them should. Charles had made it perfectly clear that he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered over the land he had lived on and loved with Mason and Gregory. Again, Mason hadn’t gotten a say in it and apparently neither had Charles; the black casket about to be lowered into the ground was proof.
Charles’s family had finally been able to contain him in a shiny box, the kind they could understand. The box, the setting, the words, none of it was who Charles Robert Jones was. Now some man—a messenger of a God long dead to Mason—was trying to redeem a soul condemned—possessed by sin.
Mason had tried to tell both Maria and Charles’s other sister Carol what Charles’s last wishes were, but they’d refused to listen to him. He’d fought as hard as he could for Charles, but he’d failed. He had no legal rights. He didn’t get any say in what happened to the man he knew better than all of them. It didn’t matter that he’d been the only person, present company included, who had shared the man’s life every single day for the last twelve years.
That wasn’t true. There had been one other person.
Mason tipped his head back, looking up at the changing sky with tear-filled eyes. His chest tightened so painfully it stole his breath.
Oh God, Gregory
, he cried silently.
Look what they are doing to him.
In the distance a bolt of lightning cracked, splitting the horizon. The clouds churned, gray swirling billows overtaking the robin’s-egg blue of an otherwise peaceful summer sky. As if even the heavens were manifesting Mason’s anger, bearing witness to Gregory’s defeat, and reflecting the sorrow of Charles’s soul trapped in that pine box.
At least Gregory had been cremated as had been his wish. His ashes sat on the kitchen table of their seaside home, waiting to be set free. Mason choked on a sob as it hit him in the center of his very being. He was putting one lover in the cold hard ground alone and abandoning the other to the winds, when their earthly remains should have been intermingled forever.
The creaking of a winch pulled Mason from his musings just in time to hear the priest say, “Unite us together again in one family, to sing your praise forever and ever. Amen.”
The choked sound of sobbing from Charles’s family inflamed Mason as much as the priest’s hollow words did. These people with their bullshit of
being together again in one family
, the fake tears, caused rage to claw at Mason’s chest, bile to rise up in his throat, and he trembled with the power of it. He wanted to scream at the injustice of it, to howl,
Me! I’m his family. Me, who loves him unconditionally for who and what he was. He’s mine! He belongs to me and Gregory.
Click. Click. Click.
Mason covered his ears, the agonized screaming in his head not enough to drown out the maddening sounds of the gears turning. Each click took Charles farther and farther away. Soon he’d be out of reach, gone forever.
Click. Click. Click.
Stop them. You fucking coward, stop them. Do it. Do it NOW!
Mason’s fingers curled in hair, setting off sparks of pain on each side of his skull, and he squeezed his eyes shut. His heart hammered in his chest, the adrenaline surged through his system, and he couldn’t breathe.
As the familiar signs of a panic attack coursed through him, Mason sank to the ground against his will, his knees giving out as he gasped for breath. The pain in his head, the screaming inside it, the shiny black casket, the click, click, click of the winch, Gregory, Charles, all of it pressed down on him, and his chest clenched, throat constricted, he couldn’t fucking breathe.
Somewhere in his haze-filled brain, he knew what he had to do. He had to relax, breathe, and focus. It would pass, and if it didn’t, if he couldn’t relax enough to get air into his lungs, his body would shut down and override his fucked-up head. Waking up from a panic-induced sleep sucked; the screaming headache would leave him dazed for hours. He’d lived through hundreds, thousands of these attacks throughout his life; he just needed to focus, listen for the soothing sound of Gregory’s voice, the calming touch of Charles’s hands, because without them to pull him back from the edge….
Mason tried to open his eyes to stop the haunting images that blinked in his head, flashing like a strobe light. Twisted wreckage— Mangled bodies— Blood.
They would come for him. Gregory would talk him down. Charles would touch him and soothe him, and the three of them would snuggle together afterward. Mason couldn’t do it without them.
They wouldn’t leave him.
They had promised him when they put the collar around his neck. He would forever belong to them, and Gregory and Charles had vowed they wouldn’t ever leave him.
Open your eyes, boy. Focus right here. Open your eyes and look at me.
At the sound of Gregory’s authoritative voice, Mason’s eyes flew open, the edges of his vision dark. Mason blinked, trying to do as he was told, but everything was blurry and his eyes closed of their own accord. “Sir,” he managed to wheeze out. “Help—”
Mason’s entire body trembled, and his oxygen-deficient lungs caused an agonizing burn to spread through him, but he wouldn’t fail his master. Mason pushed the pain down into the pit of his churning gut, rose above the misery. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for Gregory.
Mason’s eyes fluttered open, and before him stood a figure dressed all in black, its pale fingers curled into a fist. It all came rushing back in a flash, every agonizing detail—his pain, his loss, his new reality. Maria’s dark eyes bore into him accusingly as she opened her hand and let the dirt fall into the grave.