by Juxian Tang

I know he will take me away from here; he told me he would. At night when the sleep abandons me, leaving me lonely to listen to the messy sounds that others make in their cells - I think about his words. I clench my fists on the blanket, looking in the blue shadows flitting on the ceiling and try to forget how long time ago I have taken the pills and that they probably don't work any more. There are dizzying, threatening waves covering me - of memories that seem so real and detailed: of the cold steel of the table under my belly and ruining thought of utter impossibility to repair what is happening.

But I know better - these memories are delusions. They just try to deceive me by coming at the moments when the barrier built with the medicines in my mind is crumbling. I know the truth: he loves me. And he will get me out of here.

There is nothing here to remind me about him any more - the cell he had occupied is taken by another loony a long time ago. No thing, no smell - no even special sharpness of reminiscence - days and months that had passed blunted and blurred everything in my not-so-resistant mind. But when I try very hard, I still can slip away - and see the unrelenting white light of the shower room - and feel his closeness, the presence of his long lithe body pressed to mine. I can feel again his long fingers, their tips so soft but their strength so undeniable, running over my face; caressing - but I know that it can grasp and crush, too. I recognize the danger that others sense coming from him - but I can't be afraid of it. He won't ever hurt me.

And his voice, through the annoying rustle of running water - a strange accent turning it into a strange primitive melody:

"I'll make it feel good, I'll take care of you."

And as I nod, dazzled and electrified with his touch, turning my face to catch his palm with my lips, he leans against me, as close as possible, as much as the wall behind me lets him. But it is not the hardness of the tiles I feel - it is the hardness of his chest, the unbearable silkiness of his dark skin - the straining shaft of his cock pressed against mine through the cloth of our pants.

His long arms envelop me - vises of muscles and bones - and his breath is scalding on my lips opened to accept his tongue, opened to breathe in his smell: bitter, warm musk that is stronger than the smell of soap and medicines. He chuckles:

"So, you do like how I smell?"

He kisses me; bliss of his mouth sucking on mine and pain of his fingers twisting my nipples. His bottom belly is hitting against mine, heavy, fast strokes - although his cock enters nothing, just rubs against mine that is so excruciatingly hard, too. For a moment the rhythm raises something in my mind, a terrifying image - but he holds me even harder - until heat and power of his body make it vanish.

"I will never let you go," he leaves my mouth to whisper it, his eyes of agate-black are dazed, the eyelashes not fluttering. Oh, I know he won't. He is my angel of black wings and a striking sword - the only one who could rescue me from nothingness - and who can send me back there.

As he freezes against me, his cock pressed to my belly and the little pulsing of it tells me that he has reached his peak, the door swings open. A hack with disdainful eyes pulls him away from me, dangling the stick.

"Adebisi, fuck you, what the hell are you doing? You are supposed to take a shower here, aren't you?"

Behind them I can see one of our idiots giggling and making faces. Bastard... ratted on us.

"Sorry, boss, it won't happen again," my beloved's face is an expressionless mask, arms hanging submissively - but as he is led out, he looks back and I see a flicker in his eyes, bright and fiery. They won't be able to watch us all the time, right?

He is gone now; others are here and the hacks are - but not him. They say he's got well - got back to normal - sane - people. They say I might get back there one day, too. If I admit what they call the truth but what really is another world, the one that is seeping in when I don't watch it properly. The world where my father is dead and where I know how much I had and how I lost it.

The bird-like tiny nun with ardent eyes tells me that I must accept it and live on with it - but she doesn't know anything. When I tried to accept it, it was killing me, tearing my mind apart between grey emptiness brought by the pills and sickening fear of clarity.

I can't try to do it any more.

When they brought him to the psych ward, everything changed. At first I just thought I had to know him - and it felt bad. Looking at his face, enraptured with what his unseeing eyes could see, I craved for another dose of the pills that would veil me away - that would let me forget about him in the next cell. And at night, when I could control myself worse than ever, the pseudo-memories crowded on me so hard, that I scraped my lips raw kissing my crucifix, praying until nothing but the muddle of familiar words stayed in my mind.

I didn't know he was what I prayed for.

One day he came to my cell - I was cleaning my teeth, sixth or seventh time this morning but one can never be too clean. I felt him at my side, turned to look at him - in a weird fit of panic thought it was too late, I let him trapped me. But he didn't do anything.

"Do you remember me?" he said.

The toothpaste tasted mint and salt of my blood as I said, not knowing if it was a lie:

"No, I don't."

He reached his hand to me - the back of it as if he was going to strike me - but just touched my lips. I willed myself into staying, not flinching away. There was no threat in his eyes, just sadness.

"What did they do to you, Peter? Don't you remember how you loved me? How we loved each other?"

It was not the truth... How could it be? But as I looked at him, so close, his thumb wiping the toothpaste off my lips, I suddenly thought that he might be right. If I knew him like this - then those sick, abominable visions I had were simply nightmares, were nothing. If I only could believe that I remembered his soft palm against my cheek - his beautiful eyes in those straight feathery eyelashes smiling to me - instead of the shiny surface of stainless steel and nauseating pain and Peter-the-family-is-embarrassed chant in my temples.

I saw smile passing from his eyes to his soft lips - and his voice became soft, too, caressing like the tips of his fingers on my cheekbone.

"Can you still love me?"

"Yes," I said, "yes."

He told me things - what a good time we'd had together - and how he'd missed me what I'd been taken away from him. He told me what I liked him to do to me: his hands on my body, his tongue or his cock in my mouth.

He didn't tell me how it happened that he wound up in the hellhole of the mental ward; but he said to me, his eyes aglow and laughing wildly:

"They will pay me for it. Every one of them."

And he told me that he would build his own world with no place for his enemies there - the world just for those who were on his side.

I knew he would have to leave some day: here was not the right place for him.

Once he returns from the meeting with Sister Pete all quietly radiating the triumph. He gathers his possessions and I stand at the bar of his cell; he turns to me - and one more time, before the hack splits us, his arms are around me, pulling me towards the unbearable heat of his strong body.

"I'll get you out of here," he says. "When I am ready."

And this day comes at last. Sister Pete looks at me with her kind, tired and indifferent eyes as she says:

"You can be moved to Em City again. It is the safest place in the prison now, the crime rate is lower than ever. Do you want to go back there?"

"Yes," my voice sounds so definite that tiredness in her eyes dissipates for a moment; but she doesn't need to wonder - it is the only thing that I know definitely - that I want to go back there. Back to him.

"Simon Adebisi will be there. You had troubles with him."

Yeah, a good way to put it.

"I think we got along pretty well in the psych ward," I interrupt her casually, leaning back in the chair, "no reason why we can't do it in Em City."

I don't feel ashamed with lying to her. We are even: what is her question if not a lie?

"You aren't going to do anything crazy, are you?" her voice is suspicious. She is smart. But I know she is too bone-weary, too wrapped into her own miseries to really care.

"Oh no, sister," I smile lazily. Am I doing a good job pretending to be my old self? "There is nothing to deal out between us any more."

Is it what she always wanted me to do - to accept? Just please, please don't let her make me repeat word by word what they want me to believe my beloved had done to me.

She doesn't. She just nods and makes some small notes in her papers. Maybe, writing that I am sane again - not delusional any more. She raises her head only to say:

"I am going to keep you on your medicine for a while longer."

Oh I won't mind. Maybe, the truth is that I am afraid to stay without it. At least for now. And when I stand with my things in front of the gate of Em City, I feel nicely cloudy. The bar moves open and I come in, meeting two men who are leaving the place - I don't know one but I recognize the other without surprise.

"Hi there, Chucky," I say. He raises his head as if spurred - looking at me for a few seconds as if not being able to recognize me - and then turns back, a glare of fury in his eyes.

"Fuck you, Adebisi, if you only..."

Come on, Chucky, do you want to say that you care?

I look over his shoulder and see him there - on the upper floor, his hands on the rails - and his bare long arms are spread like wings of night black. He grins with his eyes glow unkindly until he eye-fucks Pancamo into leaving.

Then he looks at me and I see a long slow smile appearing on his lips. I know what he doesn't have to say - he brought me here. Didn't he promise it?

He walks towards me, slowly, step by step downstairs - and I never look away from him - submerging. It is not that I don't hear the voices around me - but it doesn't matter. The thought of being marked for life, being - damaged - hovers somewhere in my mind - and I know I don't want to think what it means. I can forget it as long as I look at him.

And when he just glances at them and they hush, I understand that everything he told me is true. It is his world.

He takes me to the pod with white curtains on the glass walls. The smell of things comes over me there - clothes and booze and thin teasing blend of some incense. A small reedy kid is gathering his possessions quickly, trying not to look up and still seeming guilty. My beloved captures his neck, pulls him closer, locking his mouth on the kid's lips - a savage, possessive kiss that draws blood.

"You shouldda hurry, Shot."

The kid leaves, looking at me with a mixed expression of relief and resentment - and as the door is shut behind him:

"Whores. They all are whores. I want nothing about them."

And making a step towards me, his voice, his eyes changing to impossibly mellow, the softness and strength of his arms overwhelming as he puts them around me:

"You are not like them, are you? You are not a whore. You are clean."

Oh yes, I am, my hands hurt of using the cheap soap they gave in the loony bin - and they were not happy that I spent a piece of it per day. I raise my hands to show him - and he grasps them suddenly, his fingers so hard as if he is going to make the bones snap.

"Don't lie to me," he says, "don't you ever lie to me."

After the doors are locked he stands in front of the mirror, looking at his face - not doing anything, not washing, not cleaning his teeth. I can see the look in his eyes - wistful and sad - and then he turns to me and holds me, peering in my eyes but his look doesn't change. As if he stares at just another mirror.

Then he relents. The touches of his fingers on my face are so light - like feathers - and so urgent as if he is taking a mask of my face by touch, is going to model it.

"You are safe with me," he says. "I promise you."

Others think he topples me over on the bunk and fucks shit out of me - isn't it what he is supposed to do behind these curtains? They don't know nothing.

His skull is warm and round under my hands, his mouth burning against my groin - bringing me so high that I bite my palm to keep silent. Later he grabs me and shakes me hissing in my face:

"Don't you tell anyone about it."

He doesn't need to say it. He is the one who un-made me and made me whole again - can I do anything that can harm him? I stroke his temples lightly, I know it's here where pain and fear start. Until he goes quiet.

And in the morning he is as usual; he talks to me, tells me what he had done to get me in here, the games he played with Querns to make the man believe it was what he wanted... too many colored inmates in Em City? Well, why not to prove those who say it that they are full of shit - by bringing in a white inmate?

He stops me before I am going to leave the pod:

"Don't forget your pills."

Sister Pete calls for me.

"I heard, Peter..." not knowing how to come to that. "If you think I can do something..."

Do something? Nothing can ever be done.

"I am contented where I am."

"Is it true?"

She is a psychologist; surely she can see if I lie.

"I am. Do you know how long I hadn't felt like this? Since the moment when I'd understood that I was supposed to be as good as my father... that it was what everybody expected it from me. Nothing was the same since then."

"Because you were afraid to fail?"

"Because I knew I would fail, sooner or later, sister."

Now she must ask me if I know how exactly I failed. But she doesn't.

"Keep taking your medicine, Peter."

Of course, I do. The pills are the same good at keeping me where I want to be - in my own reality. The pills, his arms - and three showers per day, sixty times of washing hands. He says he wants me clean. Never again he will see me as he had seen me in the psych ward when he had to help me to wash my face.

The man comes up to me.

"They think you gave up, friend. But I know you are going to get even with him. You didn't deceive me."

"There is nothing to deceive you about, O'Reily."

They all are wrong; they don't know that I can't exist anywhere beyond his encompassing arms and absorbing eyes. That I am hardly anything now - but the mirror for him. To reflect him not as others can see him - but what he really is. Innocent.

But the world around - the world he had created - is not stable, not secure. And he is not secure, too. When he holds me in his arms, I can feel doubt coursing through him. That I am not who he wants me to be, I am not clean any more.

Through the glass of the shower room door I see him talking to Said, in front of the mirrors, see the slight sway of his body as he backs away from the touching, soothing hands. The words I hear when coming in, full of grim force and disappointment:

"You think you re-created the world?"

Said meets my eyes, a single moment when he really sees me, not an abomination I am for him. After he is gone, under the showers:

"Look at me," my beloved's hands capture me, slick on my wet arms and still clasping, pulling me closer. "Are you happy? You are one of - people around me. Does he need to worry about you?"

"Forget it, it doesn't matter," I say trying to calm him down; I am getting used to doing it recently. "You told me - we love each other."

He looks at me so long and strange that I feel pain start throbbing in my temples. And trying to fight it, to fight the sickness that always comes when I think at these moments, I reach my hand to his face. Doesn't he remember? Does he need me to remind him about it now?

My fingers slide over his eyebrows as he takes my wrist, squeezing it so tightly that I bite down a moan. But he can't scare me. I know he can't mean anything bad.

"I'll show him..." he whispers.

At night his kisses are so wild that I am afraid his fury will remind me too much. I know there will be the traces of his teeth on my collarbones later, purple and blue ones - but the heaviness of his head on my chest is what I am ready to pay for. His fingers entering me are long and bringing no pleasure - and then he gets up, yanking me up, too - and pulls the sheets on the door apart, pressing me to the glass, cold on my naked skin.

He thrusts into me sharply. His hand slides around me to my cock, rubbing it to life as the waves of nausea cover me.

I don't want to think. I won't.

He fucks me and strokes my cock and a part of me is pleasure, a part is terror - and a part realizing coldly that Said looks at us from his pod. I should've known - it's all done for him. To prove that I want what is going on.

Said's eyes look angry and dark and he doesn't watch to the end. My beloved doesn't see him turn away and disappear in the shadows - maybe, he sees nothing by the time when he is about to come and my cock twitches in his hand.

"You whore," he whispers against my hair and his fingers dig in my shoulder. "You are no better than all of them."

But later his hands are heat and silk against my chest - and I still think we can win some more days in the world that falls apart.

His kitchen clothes are impeccable white but his eyes are bloodshot and fierce. He is not completely lucid, has snorted too much - and he growls at the hack that runs his metal detector over him.

I hate the kitchen; it makes me feel sick to be here. But he wants me to be where he is, all the time. I am slicing paprika when he comes up to me. His gloved hand lays down on my shoulder. He says nothing. He takes me behind the shelves, to the deceptive privacy of the kitchen's appendix - and for a moment the intrusion of the other - frightening - reality gets so strong that suddenly I can't breathe. I gasp but no air comes in. He smiles, his teeth flicker white and his eyes shine black.

"So, you do remember it?"

He holds me so hard that it hurts but my head hurts worse as I try to shut down the gaps for the delusions to slip in. I grasp my head, pushing my fists into my temples, squeezing the memories out, in all their frightening resemblance of the truth.

"No, no, no," and it is not the answer to his question, it is what I say not to let myself believe - remember.

"And this?" he turns me around abruptly, pushing me against the steel table, face down. His presence behind me - his hands holding me down - the long scratch on the steel surface in front of my eyes. I almost remember. "I'm gonna get my honor back by the end of the day."

"Do you still want me to love you?" he asks and I feel his hand sliding along my thigh. Warm and heavy - so familiar.

The pain in my head gets worse - too hard a task to keep myself from being swept away - and I know for sure that soon I won't be able to do it any more, the faint smell of disinfectant from the table is just like then... like then when I had lost. He could've put me in the bodybag but he's spared me; could he do any worse?

I know what he will do now - the memory is deeper than in my brain, it's in my body: of his hands yanking down my pants, the coolness of the air on my backside, of his cock entering me. I thought I had forgotten it or had never been conscious enough to feel it.

I could lie to Lenny, could lie to anyone. But to myself?

He never does it. He yanks me up, turns me, squeezing my skull between his palms, staring in my eyes.

"Don't... don't, I won't do it... I am sorry..."

And looking at him I can breathe again - I can sob - with unbearable relief of the bad dream coming to the end - and catching his dark beautiful face in my hands, I whisper in the same accented monotone as he does:

"Why do you do it me? Please don't do it again."

At night, after our lovemaking, he doesn't fall asleep. He stands at the glass door with his arms braced wide. Not like wings - but like a crucified. He looks into the dim lights of Em City. He is so alone. And although he doesn't make me stand in front of him this time, his hands don't roam around my body - I know who he looks at. Said - who isn't asleep, who stands and looks at him, too.

"You think I don't know it," he talks and I know he doesn't talk to me. "You think you deceived me. I promised you the world if you agreed to serve me - and you agreed. But are you still the only one who speaks the truth to me? Do I need a conscience that can lie? A false prophet? A corrupted judge?"

I feel my breath halt at the sound of his mournful voice - and then he turns to me, his eyes glowing and full of pain:

"And you - I thought you were clean, not like any of them. But how can I still believe it when I made you my bitch? An angel can't be a whore. I need to clean you again. I need to return you where you belong. This world is not good for you. I am not good for you."

Before getting up into his bunk, he leans towards me and takes my hand, looks at the imprint the crucifix left in my palm. For a moment his face became empty - a soulless mask that can hide anything but, maybe, is hiding nothing because everything is burnt out behind it.

"Yeah, pray," he says.

Next day, in the shower room, he hits me and throws me down on the floor, my clothes wet and dirty at once - and makes a sign to his buddies. Their hands are on me, groping and handling, stripping me naked. But I don't fight.

Over the first cock pressed to my lips I look at him as he stands there with his arms folded - his eyes unblinking under the wing-like eyelashes. He never looks away from me, even when I can't be silent any more, when the memories merging with reality of piercing pain and of being filled again and again become too much for me. I am the one who stops looking at him. I look at the dirt from their boots and blood leaking out of me.

"Man, he's tight!"

It hurts - but nothing snaps in my mind. Once the same thing had shifted everything in mind - and it never got back right, I had never allowed it to get back because then I would have deal with it then. Being mad was safer.

Not safe enough, of course, taking into account their cocks slamming into me from both ends.

"Grab your ankles, be a good whore."

They take turns - and there is nothing I can clutch at, just water under my fingers, mixed with blood and my shit washed off of their cocks. I know I taste some of it when they push them in my mouth.

And no way to slip into nothingness.

I have never been so sane as when seeing Mondo Browne's face as he is fucking me through the floor in the shower room.

When they are done, I don't try to get up. I let them leave me and feel the water swirl around me. I am on my side, taking hitching breaths and bleeding from my torn mouth and torn anus.

He comes up to me. I can see his dark hand hovering over me - as if he doesn't know where to touch. I try to raise my head to see his face - and his hand lays down on my neck - hot and strong. He turns my face towards himself.

"I did this for you. I cleaned you."

Am I clean enough now? Lying in the pool of my blood and with streaks of shit on my thighs.

"I know what I do," he says. "You couldn't bear it when I raped you. You prefer to go mad... Go mad again - I've done worse to you now."

I can't fight a chuckle and some clots of blood come out of my mouth.

"You've done nothing to me," I say.

"Liar," he hits me. "Fuckin' stupid bastard. I killed your father and I'll kill you."

I can't fear him. I can't fear death. In fact, death is the best that can happen to me now. About twenty more years here, in Oz - and without nothingness to swallow me... that's what I fear.

But when he gets up, his face this hollow smiling mask again, I know he won't do anything.

"Coward," I say.

He leaves and I let myself slip into pain and unconsciousness at last.

The huge ward of the hospital is like deja vu - and peace is seeping into me through the needle to my vein carrying the pain away. An angered voice above me:

"I knew it would end up like this!" Sister Peter.

No, she doesn't know. No one knows. When he was doing it - he was doing it to himself, not to me. And he is going to do worse - with Said, his white angel, his Nemesis, his mirror and his judge, helping him eagerly.

But I won't be there to see it. I'll end up where I had been - in the loony bin - my body will heal and I already know how to make them believe that my mind hasn't healed. And there will be long nights - when I already know he's dead - as I will be lying in my bed, staring at the dancing shadows on the ceiling and running my tongue on my dry lips, feeling the small scar his last blow left me. I will try to believe that he is not dead - he is an angel, after all. He just flew away.

But I will be missing him.