Episode 6 --Power Over Men

Episode 6 —
Power Over Men

Episode 6:
Power Over Men

Once again I am seated completely naked inside a thick, translucent blue glass-enclosed chamber—a time machine. I call this device the Giant Blue Hockey Puck, or, abbreviate it as GBHP. Not everyone who works with me sees the resemblance to a hockey puck. Instead of having a puck’s familiar three-inch diameter and one-inch thickness, the time travel chambers are more than twenty-five times larger to enable a seated adult to fit inside on a glass bench. And the eerie blue color is highly significant.

The color comes from the rare element named Lunar Blue that was discovered deep beneath the surface of the moon in 2190. When we are kids in school, we all learn that time travel became possible after scientists in China combined Lunar Blue with liquid diamond and the gasses of two other Earth elements. My planetary history teacher would be very angry with me if she knew that today I couldn’t recall the exact recipe that became so infamous.

Because I don’t care at all about planetary politics, I never spend any time thinking about the historical fact that the moon initially was controlled by China dating back to the 22nd century. Yet, I realize that it is human beings from China who are directly responsible for me sitting here in the nude on a glass bench inside the GBHP waiting for my mission to start.

Nearly two centuries after all the other nations on Earth turned their backs on investing in the exploration of the moon, China could do whatever it wanted on the lunar surface. Nobody could see what the Chinese were doing, and, more importantly, nobody could stop them from doing whatever they wanted. It was that country’s explorers and scientists who dug deep into the lunar crust and discovered what we now call Lunar Blue.

We now know that the Chinese government perfected time travel shrouded in secrecy within a huge facility in and around the city of Nanchang. My teachers explained to me as a kid that as a nation, China experienced great pride when the worldwide announcement came in 2191 that the Chinese learned how to use time travel as a weapon. Later that same year, however, China fell into irreversible panic and chaos when over one and a half million people were killed in a nanosecond in Nanchang because of technical problems at that once-secret time travel facility. The well-known historical outcome of the mass casualty event called the Nanchang blue inferno or simply the blue inferno was the end of efforts by anyone ever again to attempt time travel.

Yet, here I sit in a working time machine deep inside the moon. The people of planet Earth were told after Nanchang that time travel technology could never function on our planet because the gravity is too strong. The conclusion most humans chose to make was that time travel had been rendered technically unfeasible by the lessons of Nanchang. That conclusion is completely wrong. Time travel is a reality, but it is only possible in the comparatively reduced gravity found on the moon.

The countdown has started as I wait for my mission to start. I have 30 seconds to sit here and squirm as I think about what I am about to experience. I truly hate how time travel starts because it physically hurts so much. Being naked is required by the science of this crazy device. A human body cannot travel in time if anything is touching the skin. I never get accustomed to sitting on chilly glass with no clothes on waiting for the familiar feeling of getting beaten up each time I start a new mission.

But, I love the work that I do. I became a time travel agent because a military consortium of nations, including leadership provided by the United States, Europe, Canada, Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil, pooled their financial and scientific resources to set up the top-secret base on the moon. Those clever scientists in Brasilia who discovered the solution that lunar gravity cannot interfere with time travel technology will never be known by the public. Time travel to repair the timelines of the past is the biggest secret ever kept from the people of planet Earth. This is the secret that I guard with my life on every mission.

I feel the thicker-than-water translucent white liquid rushing up from the floor of the chamber with the pressure of a fire hose. I have learned to cup my hands over my cock and balls as a safety precaution. And, of course, I know how long I will need to hold my breath inside the chamber as the chilly and pasty liquid engulfs me violently. The thickness of the muscles on my chest and back absorb most of the energy of the impact. But, no guy ever feels comfortable as he protects his manhood using only his hands. I know I should also worry about extreme physical pressure exerted by that disgusting white liquid as it ricochets off the curved blue glass walls of the GBHP and flushes me spinning downward like being inside a toilet bowl portal back to another time and space.

I am seated alone in small room. There is a conference table with three chairs. The recognizable style of the furniture suggests to me that I have arrived in the late 20th century. But, there are no windows in the drab room with insufficient lighting, so I feel disoriented. The floor is unusually reflective like a mirror. I feel anxious because I do not know for certain where I am.

The door opens to allow a muscular black man inside. The door quickly closes and I study him to determine what my possible choices of action will be here.

He is wearing vaguely military attire that emphasizes his large shoulders and arms. His body size instantly conveys a significant threat to my safely. I get to my feet as quickly as I can and think carefully about this threatening man who is standing across from me deliberately blocking my only way out of that room.

The door opens again. A Caucasian man with green eyes who is also wearing military attire enters with overtly machismo swagger.

Somehow, this second guy looks even more threatening to me than the first man who maintains an unrelenting gaze at me. Why are they are dressed like they are?

The man with green eyes sits down in one of the chairs and motions for me to be seated. Other than his greatly unfriendly expression, I cannot help but notice his thick shoulders and arms. So, I comply quickly.

“Mr. Avila,” Green Eyes says to me as he leans his face closer to mine. “Carlo Zarelli,” he says slowly. “He is your personal trainer here in Bullhead. Nicknamed ‘Carlo Zee’.”

“Yes,” I answer.

“You know where he is,” Green Eyes says slowly. Not a question.

I cannot answer. I remember that Carlo was killed in Mexico because of me. Because I chose to let him go into a pharmacy alone. Yet, I also have another memory. I also remember in a different timeline that I accompanied Carlo into that Mexican pharmacy and that he and I both escaped with our lives. Which timeline is Green Eyes referring to? How much trouble can I possibly be in?

“Very complicated,” I reply to Green Eyes as he stares at me. They must have some minimum standards for masculine appearance and demeanor that each agent must meet before being allowed to do field work. This agent exceeds those standards.  He is young, but successfully intense in how he establishes his commanding presence. I wonder how anyone could hope to lie to this man. What do I say to him?

Green Eyes turns to his partner and says quietly, “You should go on ahead. Finish off that other guy.”  The black man nods and quickly leaves the conference room just as I was beginning to choose which of the two was going to be the good cop and which would be the bad.

After what I heard Green Eyes say, all I can focus upon are the possibilities for what “finish off that other guy” might mean. How many others have these men brought here to their office in Bullhead? And, I can envision a wide range of persuasive interrogation techniques they may have used. Of course, I feel considerably  vulnerable as I sit here.

“Your personal trainer, Carlo Zarelli, is a person of interest.” Just ten words, but they convey intensely complex meaning to me.

“You’re a federal cop, right?” I ask.

Green Eyes leans closer to me as his threatening gaze morphs into a half smile.  How confident he must have been that he will allow himself to smile while maintaining strict control over himself and me. His large right hand reaches out and grabs my left wrist. I feel physically threatened, but also just a little aroused. I try to pull away, but he is very strong. I definitely can feel the pressure of my cock enlarging against my will inside my blue jeans.

So, I say one word to this man that I presume is a federal agent: “Drugs.”

He releases my wrist and I quickly get to my feet in that room.

“Don’t go,” he says to me as he motioned for me to sit back down in the chair next to him. Was that a request? Or a command?

“I am not under arrest, am I?” I ask him.

He shakes his head to indicate “no,” and points to the chair where I had been seated.  So, I sit back down like he wants me to do. I start to imagine what Agent Green Eyes would look like naked.

I am so distracted by my fantasy that when he asks me whether I am married, I quickly respond without planning what to say. “Divorced,” I tell him. Then I realize that I should not have said that to Agent Green Eyes.

“You look embarrassed,” he replies quickly.

I am stuck. What do I tell him? “Yeah, I am. Ashamed. Big mistake. Never should’ve walked down the aisle with that woman. Pretended to be straight.”

He sits down in the chair right next to me and makes direct eye contact with me. He is examining me, evaluating me. “Mr. Avila, you’ve changed the subject rather skillfully,” Agent Green Eyes says to me. “Tell me about your trip to Mexico,” he adds without smiling.

“You already know. I assume that’s why I’m sitting here today,” I admit.

He nods at me, but says nothing. What do I say next? Do I tell him Carlo died? Do I tell him Carlo lived? Which story is the truth for Agent Green Eyes in this timeline?

“Let me give you what I will call a hypothetical example,” I say to him. “Just bear with me, okay? I’ll tell you everything you want. I promise I will. So, let’s suppose that I tell you that, yes, I accompanied Carlo on a drive down to Mexico. Let’s further suppose that I tell you he and I walked across the international border.

Carlo goes into a Mexican pharmacy alone where he is overpowered by cruel and violent men from a drug gang. They rape Carlo and then brutally hack him to pieces with those bladed weapons that they love so much. They fuck the severed heads of the dead guys. Did you know that?”

Agent Green Eyes smiles at me. “Uh, no,” he replies. “That’s a wild story. You are just full of surprises, aren’t you?”

“You don’t like that?” I ask him, hoping that he will say something to let me know which of my competing memories is the correct one for this timeline. “It’s got all the elements you weren’t expecting. Power over men. Male rape. Castration. Beheading.”

Agent Green Eyes says: “Let me give you an alternate version. We know you crossed the international border with Carlo Zarelli. Little hint here. We know because we followed you. We do not have official jurisdiction to follow American suspects into Mexico, so we could not observe all you two did while you were there. I think the two of you purchased steroids there with the intent of bringing them back here to Bullhead to sell to your pals at the gym.”

“You had us under surveillance there at the gym?” I ask him, hoping to buy myself some addition time so I can determine how to answer him.

“I follow up on all leads,” Agent Green Eyes tells me. “That’s my job. I’m assigned to find out what’s going on at the gym. Wow, you are so good at deflecting. I’ll give you that.”

“I’m telling you: I did not buy illegal drugs in Mexico,” I respond confidently. “You should be asking Carlo these questions, not me.”

Agent Green Eyes stares at me with a puzzled look on his face. Is he surprised at my confidence? Is he wondering why I would be crazy enough to suggest that he question Carlo if Carlo were actually dead? I don’t wait for his response. I just stand up from the conference room table. I extend my right hand to him. He stands up and takes my hand as I expected he would do.

“I enjoyed meeting you,” I say to him as we shake hands. He will not release my hand. When I try to release his hand, he grabs mine tighter. He says nothing, but his grip communicates that he is gay. He releases my hand once he knows that I understand him.

“I know that you and Carlo Zarelli got sexually involved with one another,” he says in a matter-of-fact way. “While you two were in Mexico together. We know you went into a bar where men sell their bodies for sex with other men. Yeah, you and Carlo went in there. A gay bar on Callejóndieciséis de Septiembre. I don’t know or care whether they offer customers power over men or whatever fetish you think I’m into.”

“Carlo and I went into one particular gay sex bar in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico,” I say to him as I sit back down in the conference room chair. “Want me to give you all the details of what I did to him in there? It involves the use of a dirty wooden table in that bar.”

He sits down in the chair immediately to my right and says, “I don’t care about your sex life or what you and he may or may not have done in that Mexican bar. You like macho guys. So what? I do as well. Not that it’s relevant. I just have many questions about Carlo Zarelli and his actions.”

“I think you should be asking him these questions, not me,” I repeat to the agent.

“You’re right, but I have no idea where he is,” the agent finally admits to me. “We lost you guys in that border town. Yeah, we sent in one of our undercover agents. A guy born in Mexico. He fit right in. Not supposed to do that in a foreign country, but we did. Lost you anyway. Didn’t work out too well. You’re here to help me figure out where Carlo Zarelli has gone. Cannot find him anywhere around Bullhead.”

“I really don’t think I’ve been much help to you today,” I say to Agent Green Eyes. I am still not completely sure which of my memories about Carlo is true for this timeline.

“I’m good at observing, investigating,” Agent Green Eyes says to me. “Then, I make conclusions. We are both gay men. That’s not the issue here. You had sex with Carlo Zarelli. Not at all relevant. I need to focus on the drug laws of these United States that Carlo Zarelli may have broken.”

“You should keep observing and investigating,” I suggest. “I cannot provide any shortcuts for you. I honestly don’t have any answers for you.”

I get to my feet with considerable effort as my confusion about conflicting memories swirls in my brain. The agent stands up next to me. I look him directly in the eyes and hear myself saying aloud to him: “Thank you for being real with me. Didn’t expect this at all from you.”

“Yeah. Hope you’re smart enough to stay out of trouble,” Agent Green Eyes says as he reaches out to shake my hand again. I hesitate, but he insists. So, I reach out and we have a handshake of normal duration this time. I can feel the very strong warmth his hand gives off as he shakes mine. Under different circumstances, I would pursue this man for sex. But, right now, I am focused only on getting get out of there as quickly as I can.

As I walk down the street after my interrogation in Bullhead, I am expecting to be jerked upward into the sky as the start of my being brought back to base—a very familiar sensation for me. I am expecting that I will materialize naked inside the GBHP on the moon. I am expecting to be removed from 1991  and returned home to my own timeline. But, none of that happens.

I walk to the city park and sit down at one of the wooden picnic tables. It’s so hot today. Arizona weather can be unforgiving. I must have other things to accomplish on this mission in 1991. But, what are those things? I’m supposed to be resourceful. That’s what my training was for.

Sometimes, I get inserted very directly into a specific moment in the past. I find myself fully clothed appropriately for that point in time. I often must respond to someone in the middle of a sentence and I must make it all seem completely seamless to avoid calling attention to myself.

Other times, I materialize somewhere completely naked. That’s when the resourcefulness of a time travel agent gets tested. I have discovered many ways in which a naked man appearing in the past can find clothing and footwear. The agency just cannot tolerate time travelers who walk around in the past in the nude. Might attract too much unwanted attention!

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

When I originally landed here in 1991 in Bullhead for a previous mission, I do not remember meeting the federal agent with the green eyes. I did not know that Bullhead was big enough to have an office of the FBI or DEA or whatever agency he works for.

Am I suddenly in some alternate timeline? What is my mission here? This seems to me as if it is the wrong place and time. Are any of the people that I met here in Bullhead from my original mission who are still living here now? Is Carlo dead or alive? I remember the gay bar in Mexico that Carlo and I went to for a wild afternoon. So, I guess Agent Green Eyes has helped clarify which timeline I’m in. Where is my truck?

I reach down into the right pocket of my blue jeans. That is where I find a key ring. I recognize that this key ring contains what looks like keys to my Ford Explorer. I must have parked it somewhere around here. The sun has just set over the Newberry Mountains to the west of Bullhead, and I feel a sense of urgency to locate my truck before it gets too dark.

Then, I can see my truck parked way over on a side street on the opposite end of the city park. I walk over to where I parked my truck. I am pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the keys opens the driver’s door lock.

It feels comfortable to driving this truck once again. Since I am back in 1991, this old Ford Explorer is once again shiny and new and I very much enjoy driving it on the streets of Bullhead. I think about Agent Green Eyes. I wonder how happy he is living this century with its outmoded views on gay men. How does he manage to focus on doing his job enforcing laws and solving crimes? If that’s what he actually does.

There is so much violence in this world that seems so utterly pointless and unpredictable. Beheadings. Castrations. Hangings. Rituals of course and brutal men. Someone somewhere always finds a way to celebrate violence and homicide. Always. Agents like him would never accept the terrible truth that civilization on this planet is doomed to a chaotic end no matter what they do to stop it. Only guys like me who come here from the future to change timelines are making any difference at all in how life turns out for everyone here on Earth.

I easily locate the place that I called home when I was on my previous mission to this timeline. I remember that after returning from Mexico, Vincent chose to relocate to Las Vegas where he could make better money selling sex to other men there compared to sticking with the comparatively smaller Laughlin casinos.

After Vincent was gone, and after the gay bar experience in Mexico, I remember inviting Carlo to move in with me at no cost to him. It was a living space with no foundation. Literally. Nobody in that neighborhood in Bullhead at the corner of Zircon and Quartz had any foundation. We all lived in aging trailers that were very cheap to rent. The locals euphemistically called them modular homes.

Living inside what are little more than metal boxes in the desert is possible only because of swamp coolers mounted on the roof that keep the inside from turning into an oven and cooking you until you were dead meat. In the Arizona desert near the Colorado River and the Nevada state line, the nighttime lows in the summer hover around eighty degrees, so the swamp coolers must be kept running almost continuously as a life support system.

I easily locate the silver box I had rented on a month-to-month basis for some ridiculously low price. It’s an awful place that seems perfectly unsuitable for human inhabitants. But, I know I will be safe there if only I can get inside.

One of the keys on my key ring allows me entry. The swamp cooler is still running, providing a familiar scent of dusty desert air mixed with stale humidity. At least the interior air temperature inside is sufficiently below how hot it is outside that I know I will be able to sleep all through the long night.

As I step inside, I feel welcomed by the familiar sounds of the floor creaking like it is about to disintegrate beneath my feet. There are also comforting scents of unwashed clothing and desert sand throughout that old, beat up trailer.

How powerful it is that scents can conjure up memories! I instantly remember many nights I spent with Carlo in this aluminum box—nights of intense sexual adventures after we returned from Mexico about which we never told anyone else in Bullhead. He felt ashamed that he enjoyed getting fucked by me.

To make his life in the everyday world work for him, Carlo preferred to think of himself as straight and he chose to behave as such. I, of course, was personally familiar with how guys will choose that act. Carlo was, after all, a big, masculine guy who worked as a personal trainer for other men in a gym.

What could be more manly or more heterosexual than that particular profession! He faked it quite well. But, I knew Carlo had tried getting fucked by other men—young bodybuilders he met at The Bullhead Gym. He wanted to believe that nobody knew his secret.

I have come to accept that sexual orientation has nothing to do with what a man looks like physically or what he does for a living or whether he behaves in feminine ways or masculine ways. A macho federal agent can be attracted to men as sex partners. The same is true for a muscular personal trainer. So, too, is it true for time travel agents like me from the future.

When we were alone together in that trailer, Carlo was a submissive bottom: He would do sexually whatever I told him to. All I had to do was tell him what I wanted and he complied. He was completely mine.

I have a favorite memory: I persuaded Carlo into letting me fuck him late at night at the gym after he had locked the placed up after closing time. That drove him wild. His orgasms were always more intense in one particular corner of the Bullhead gym surrounded by mirrors.

I can only imagine other highly masculine men would get sexually aroused when you get them behind closed doors and surround them with reflections of themselves in gym mirrors.

Where is Carlo now? Is he dead? Or, is he going to walk in here at any second? Exhausted, I stretch out on the old sofa at the front of the mobile home just to rest my eyes for a few minutes.

When I awaken in the morning, I am still fully clothed and reclining on the dusty old sofa in that mobile home in 1991. I feel disappointed. I reason that if only I were to close my eyes tightly, I might materialize back inside my faithful blue time machine on the moon. Instead, I fall back to sleep on that sofa.

When I awaken the second time, I can see no light coming in from outside the windows of the mobile home. I must have slept the entire day!

I walk outside to my truck. When I look up at the night sky, I can recognize the stars and planets are all where they should be for someone who happens to be in North America in the late 20th century. What is happening to me? Why am I not being returned home to the moon? Am I stuck here permanently in the past?

I spend six days all by myself without having any interaction with another soul. I don’t want to see anybody. I don’t want anybody to see me or hear my voice. I don’t shave or shower. My body odors become unavoidably obvious to me, especially mixed with the scent of the swamp cooler.

Fortunately, there is canned food in the mobile home kitchen to keep me nourished. I cannot get used to the bitter, metallic taste of the water in this century. But, I need to learn to drink the local water here since I may be trapped in this timeline for a long while.

On the seventh day in isolation, I finally decide to shower and shave. I even find clean underwear and other essential clothing that fits me. I have realized, however, that there is no indication that two men have ever lived in this place. My memories tell me that Carlo has lived here with me. The physical evidence tells me that I have lived here all by myself. The disparities between my memories and my reality will certainly unravel me eventually. I feel certain of that.

On Day Eight, I load up several cardboard boxes of my personal belongings into my truck in that most perfect time in the desert just before sunrise when the skies are deliciously pink. I need to get out of Bullhead. I hate it here now. I feel that I may die here miserably and alone unless I leave immediately without looking back. I decide to stay in Arizona and restart my life in Phoenix.

I fill up my gas tank by the Bullhead airport on my way out of town. Getting from Bullhead to Phoenix requires passing through Kingman, which was given immortality in the lyrics of one of those ancient songs about Route 66. On the edge of Kingman on Interstate 40, I see a hotel that seems somehow familiar. Why would foggy memories of a hotel off the interstate in Kingman remain in my mind? Did I stay there? I cannot remember having stayed at any Kingman hotel.

On the three-hour drive from Kingman to Phoenix over the two-lane back roads of Highway 93, I have sufficient time alone to think about what is happening to me. Have I been abandoned here in the past? Did I do something wrong while on a mission? Is being stranded here in the 20th century my rightful punishment?

During the summer of 1991, I work in television news in Phoenix. I take on an assignment to cover the first Arizona casualty of the United States war against Iraq that began in 1990.

“His name was Michael Zuñiga. Age 19. From Bullhead,” my voiceover explains while on the screen his father, Juan, holds a color photograph of his handsome soldier son. In that photo, Michael Zuñiga was only 5 and he wore a white cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and carried a toy gun.

“He was a playful little boy,” the proud father’s voice explains as the image dissolves from that of a child cowboy with a toy gun to a muscular, masculine man of 19 with short-cropped hair posed for a photograph will seated on a motorcycle. “He grew up to be a good man who stood for what was right,” the father’s voice continues. “He loved his motorcycle. Rode it like a horse. Like he was a cowboy,” said Juan Zuñiga.

“He joined the United States Army,” my voiceover continues. “A spokesman from the Pentagon provided details about what killed Michael Zuñiga,” I say in my stand-up.

“He never got to fire a shot in Operation Desert Storm,” I say as the camera slowly zooms in on me. “Private Michael Zuñiga was crushed when the bunker he and others were building in the desert sand caved in on top of him. Others survived. Michael Zuñiga did not.”

An unofficial photograph of Private Michael Zuñiga released by his father shows the young man wearing sunglasses and standing shirtless in partial uniform with a completely shaved head. This powerful image fills my television screen in the cheap apartment that I call home in Apache Junction, Arizona. Michael Zuñiga look great on screen. Proudly youthful and so masculine. He is a young man filled with energies and hopes in a certain future that he knows stretches out in front of him indefinitely after he gets out of the Army.

My voice-over continues, “He is the first casualty of the Gulf War from the state of Arizona. We remember Michael Zuñiga for being a young, red-white-and-blue cowboy who rode an all-American Harley. He went to Iraq, where his life was taken from him. So, it is that today we salute you, Michael Zuñiga, by putting your brave face on television and praising you for your service. Your youthful spirit stormed that desert, bolstered by the patriotic duty you felt so strongly beating in your heart. We may someday forget the rationale rendered by politicians for why we went to war in Iraq in Nineteen Ninety. But, let us never forget your name, Michael Zuñiga. No matter what.”

The number of phone calls received by the regional news channel in response to my Michael Zuñiga tribute stuns the network brass. The video is replayed several times and is fed to CNN. I feel proud of my work, but I cannot distance myself from the emotions I brought upon myself.

While I am in my Apache Junction apartment after viewing another replay of the tribute on CNN, I finally manage to stop crying while crouched down on the bathroom floor with a fluffy white towel covering my head. I want to block out all sensation. All the young man wanted was to prove himself. He wanted to be a warrior. He wanted to serve his country. What a terrible waste of a man’s life.

So, while I lie on that bathroom floor with a white towel loosely wrapped around my head, I feel lost in my overwhelming grief. But, oh what a soft and reassuring white light! I feel enveloped by the apparent power of white light and I feel comforted. I start to believe that my own military service also has ended. I miss living at home on the moon. I long for the excitement of time-travel missions back in time.

But, I now must accept that I am Ted Avila, an Arizona television news reporter and producer with brain damage. The memories of being a time travel agent eventually fade like I expected they would happen. Perhaps the agency damaged my brain deliberately so that I would not be capable of remembering. Yet, I feel a sense of sweet revenge. If this was, indeed, a deliberate attempt to erase my memories with technology and medical science, the erasure certainly was not entirely successful.

In my exasperated emotional state following the broadcast of my tribute to Michael Zuñiga, I seek comfort at a gay bar in Phoenix that I had never visited before. Yet, as I walked inside, I felt like I knew the place very well.

I meet a young male of Mexican descent in that bar named Nicholas Cruz. He is short, muscular, and remains constantly very horny. That night when I take him home to my west side apartment, he shows me an insatiable sexual appetite. I remember how he insisted that I fuck while he maintains a submissive role facing away from me. His explanation was that he was dominant with other men, but wanted to switch to submissive with me for reasons he never explained.

After Nick and I settle into a regular sexual relationship, I begin to feel like I had met him before. “Do you believe in other lives?” I ask him in the middle of the night after sex.

“Reincarnation?” Nick asks.

“Yeah, whatever it’s called.”

“Not really,” Nick admits. “Raised Catholic and all. Not supposed to believe in that shit.”

“Me, too. But, I feel strongly as if I met you before,” I explain. “In another life. Not this one. We were here in Phoenix. We spent a lot of time together. Like we are tonight.”

“We only get one life,” Nick explains calmly.

“I’m not so sure about that,” I tell him.

“If this all feels familiar to you, then how do we turn out?” Nick asks.

“I don’t know,” I answer dishonestly. I certainly cannot tell him what I see in my memories about him: He is hoisted up by the neck while completely naked in a brutal hanging ritual.

“Nothing bad happens to me, right?” Nick asks.

“No, of course not,” I reply. “Don’t worry. We stay together. For a very long time. Lot of great sex. No hassles at all, man.”

Nick smiles with relief upon hearing my lies. He shows his gratitude to me in very persuasively physical ways. Nick and I remain together as a couple as the years pass. Slowly, my violent memories of Nick’s brutal death fade away and somehow I learn a new skill—how to live for now, in the present day without worrying about what might have been or what may or may not be on another day.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

In 1995, the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City by a domestic terrorist takes 168 lives. I receive a subpoena the following year to come to Washington, DC so that I can testify before a Senate subcommittee investigating a broad subject defined by two words—domestic terrorism—that were seldom used together before that violent era in United States history.

Law enforcement officials started connecting the dots about what they called “underground activity” in small towns in Arizona and Nevada in the early 19902 leading up to the destruction of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. Their leads point them to men, whom law enforcement people considered to be gun activists, living in Mohave County, Arizona and in Clark County, Nevada.

Federal agents uncover details about several men in Bullhead, Kingman and Las Vegas who were more than just a little dangerous to themselves and to society. Some were genuinely extreme right-wingers who fantasized about overthrowing the United States government with an armed militia.  Others were hapless and unemployed young men on various violent quests of the day under the leadership of aggressive alpha males who worked out at local gyms. My name shows up on a local report about gym members during that time period in Bullhead, so I presume that is why I am called to testify before United States Senators.

My first visit to the national capital region is memorable for reasons other than politics. I get caught up in what becomes known as the Blizzard of 1996. There had never before been this great of a sudden snowfall covering such a large part of the Eastern Time Zone. Not only is Washington, DC crippled by over a foot and a half of snow that falls overnight, the same is true for all the major cities along the eastern corridor of Interstate 95 up through Boston.

I am stuck in downtown DC, which is immobilized due to the unexpected arrival of heavy, wet snow. I cannot leave my hotel near the FBI headquarters on E Street. Being stuck in a hotel unexpectedly is both unpleasant and confining.

All I want is to get back home to Arizona and to Nick. But, there is no way anybody can travel around the DC area due to the extraordinary snowfall. The deep snow makes it necessary to shut down many businesses, schools, and even the federal government in the DC area. This sudden change in the weather means that the Senate subcommittee hearings on domestic terrorism are brought to an abrupt halt. Yet, I am unable to leave because the hearings will surely start up again in a few days.

I pass the time in the hotel gym working out and enjoying the sauna to ease the symptoms of cabin fever. On one of my visits to the basement gym in the hotel, I am just walking into the shower wearing only my gym shorts when I come face to face with a memory.

Standing there in that shower in front of me is the muscular man with green eyes that I met 3 years ago in Bullhead. Only after seeing this man wearing nothing more than a bright yellow towel around his waist do I realize who I am and that I have traveled back in time from the future. Memories that were previously unavailable to me suddenly become crystal clear.

He and I are the only ones in that gym shower room.  Seeing him in that towel coming out of a shower is a pure delight for me because it fuels the fantasies I had about him after he interrogated me in Bullhead. I quickly memorize every inch of this man before our eyes meet. I feel highly emotional because of having my memories restored. He probably thinks that my moist eyes are an indication of my emotional connection to him.

He stands there silently in front of me outside the shower stalls with a complete absence of modesty. I can tell by the way he chooses to stand there that he knows I am deliberately looking at his body and wondering what he looks like under that towel he is wearing. I also sense that he enjoys my attention.

“In Bullhead, we talked about you having a thing for macho guys,” he says directly and without hesitation while looking directly into my eyes.

“What a truly pathetic opening line,” I say to him.

Later when I am at his hotel room upstairs, he is wearing only bright white briefs as he opens the door to let me in. I feel overdressed in my cowboy boots, blue jeans and red tee shirt with the word “Phoenix” in bright yellow across my chest. He waves me with a gesture to invite me into his room.

“I was called here to DC for the subcommittee hearings,” he says right away.

“And I’m sure you’re the reason I got a subpoena from the United States Senate,” I reply as I walk over to one of the windows in his room. “Your room has a much better view of the blizzard than mine.” As I gaze down the four stories to the deep snow in the street below, I hear him close and lock the hotel room door.

“Stuck here,” he says to me as I keep looking out the windows in his room. “Never been in so much snow before.”

“Me neither,” I reply as I turn to look at him, watching him walk up to within a few inches of me at the windows.

“I like your tee shirt,” he says. “Still think back to Bullhead even though you left?”

I remove my shirt and hand it to him. “Forgetting Bullhead,” I hear myself say to him. “Just not possible for me to do. Somehow, I think it’s more accurate to say that Bullhead refuses to be forgotten.”

He gently tosses my shirt to a nearby chair and suddenly we are hugging each other like horny men will do. I want the feeling of our bare chests touching to last forever if only for the nipple stimulation. But, I know we must end our long hug if we want to experience other sensations.

I run both my hands down his muscled chest to the impressive bulge in his briefs. As I rub and caress him, he squints with pleasure. “You’re still there in Bullhead?” I ask him as I reach up and hug him. He nods and exhales, but keeps squinting and says nothing. As I pull his body closer to me, I can feel that he is getting erect. So, I move over to the chair where my tee shirt is draped. I pick up the shirt and toss it aside and gesture for him to sit in that chair.

Once he is seated, I work my fingers on his bulge to make him get thicker and harder. His green eyes are locked in an intense connection with mine. His pupils are enlarged. I delicately slip off his briefs over his erection but only take his underwear down his legs as far as his ankles. Then, I push my lower body closer to him to spread his legs so that his ankles will stretch his briefs apart. I grab his balls gently with both hands. By that point, he is breathing much faster—just like I expected would happen.

He tastes so intoxicatingly masculine inside my mouth. I pump and suck him until I cause the desired reaction. His entire body trembles with spasms like a major earthquake. He shouts out with intense pleasure as I just keep swallowing.

I step back to watch him sit in that chair as he recovers from his orgasm. I feel a strong sense of power and accomplishment while I look at him staring at me with those distinctive green eyes.

He exhales and says, “Wish you and I had connected back when you still lived in Bullhead.”

“Lost opportunity,” I reply.

“And you’re right,” he says. “You got a subpoena from the Senate subcommittee because I mentioned your name in my notes when I worked in Bullhead on the Carlo Zarelli angle,” he says as if to indicate that he is genuinely sorry.

“Apology accepted,” I reply. “I don’t know anything. Can’t see how I’m in a position to contribute anything meaningful to the subcommittee. You knew that three years ago. Or, you should have known that.”

“I am glad to see you again,” he says playfully.

“You could’ve tracked me down after I left Bullhead. I have a very visible job now. On television. Easy enough for someone like you to find. I did not require a subpoena for me to suck your cock. You just had to track me down in Phoenix.”

He exhales again as he gets up from the chair and pulls his briefs back on. “My loss,” he says to me as he walks up to be near me while I stand by his windows.

“So, you gonna tell me about Bullhead or what?” I ask.

“Never found any evidence that Carlo Zarelli was selling steroids in Bullhead,” he answers. “If that’s what you want to know.”

“We’re not getting out of this hotel because of the snow,” I tell him. “You and I are stuck here together. Millions of people across this entire region cannot go anywhere. You may as well tell me about Bullhead—what you found in your investigations. I don’t even know who you work for. Maybe I’ll work my magic on your cock until we get out of this damn hotel.”

I can see that he is getting hard again so quickly.

He motions for me to move to the king size bed in the room. I walk ahead of him and sit down on the bed to remove my cowboy boots and socks. Then, I stand up and remove my blue jeans so that I stand there by his bed completely naked for him.

He removes his briefs after standing next to me fully erect by his bed in that hotel room. Then, he pulls back the covers on the bed and gets in. I follow him into bed and he pulls the covers up over us to our chests. I reach down and grab onto him under the covers.

He has some difficulty talking because his breathing is erratic, but I hear him tell me: “Not FBI. Not DEA. Secret agency you never heard of. FBI concluded—.  Guys like Carlo Zarelli—.  Involved in guns and violence. In Arizona and Nevada.”

“Stop. I know what the FBI concluded. It was all published in Time magazine,” I say to him without mercy. “Who do you work for?” Then I let go of him and move my face close to his.

He seems surprised by my response and admits, “Cannot tell you that. But, I can tell you this: Carlo Zarelli and other bodybuilders that you met at that gym in Bullhead could have been connected with guys from Kingman and Yuma linked to the Oklahoma City bombing.”

“Well,” I say to him. “Was that so difficult to say out loud to me? Are federal agents going to break down your hotel door and shoot me dead?”

I feel him reach out and grab me with both hands under those covers. He has such strong hands! “Carlo Zarelli disappeared,” he says as his strong hands play with me, owning me. “We lost him. Gone without a trace. And you were no help at all,” he says to me. Then, he inserts two fingers from his right hand into my anus. He continues to talk while his fingers work inside me with great skill. “Some ex-Army guy,” he continues. “From New Orleans. Blond hair. Gun activist. Follower. Not a leader. Found shot in the head in the Nevada desert. All this talk about bodybuilders and violent neo-Nazi sympathizers with Mohawk haircuts has made me so want to fuck you right now, man!”

My eyes grow very wide and he stops fingering me. He removes his right hand. I say to him, “I don’t know anything about neo-Nazis or Mohawks.”

He frowns uncomfortably with a strongly obvious embarrassment and flips over onto his back next to me in his bed.

“Oh,” is all he can say. “Not supposed to talk about that.”

I reach over and grab his thick neck with both my hands and say to him, “Roll over on top of me, secret agent.”

He does what I tell him to do. I lift my legs up for him. He lubes me and himself quickly. Once he pushes into me slowly, he whispers to me as he begins to pound me harder, “Macho guys. Bodybuilders. Cowboys. In Bullhead. Losers, really. Guys with all muscle and no brains.”

“I love it when you talk dirty to me,” I say to him as he keeps thrusting into me.

He is having difficult talking as his breathing becomes more intense. But, he says, “They shot pictures. No shirts on. Losers. Macho guys. Out in the desert. We have all that in evidence. Posing with their fucking handguns.” Just as he says the word “fucking,” he starts to release into me. Perhaps thinking of handguns makes this agent ejaculate? He groans in a deep, masculine tone of voice as he begins shooting into me. His powerful body shudders so amazingly on top of me, adding to my pleasure. Soon, he exhales and just lies there as I continue to enjoy his full weight on me.

“I wanted you to fuck me that day you interrogated me,” I tell him.

He sighs and replies, “Yeah, well, you told me you had been pretending to be straight.”

“Regardless of what I said, if you concluded that I was gay, you should have acted upon that.”

He shrugs and says, “I guess you’re right. To be completely honest, I still have unfinished investigations to do. A few other leads to follow up on. There was this bodybuilder in Bullhead I need to check out when I get back there. Don’t know if you ever met him. Some Indian guy. Maybe a Navajo. Muscular guy. Moved to Las Vegas. I will have to track him down.”

I stare at the agent with green eyes. He has no idea that he’s just told me that Vincent Wauneka is in potential jeopardy in Las Vegas. What can I do to protect Vincent? Now I am growing angry as I think about the possible outcomes for Vincent. In my anger, I say to Agent Green Eyes, “I think in Bullhead you should not have let me go like you did.”

“My mistake,” he admits. “I did get the sense that you were interested in me sexually. I just left it at the fantasy level and didn’t act on it.”

“So, you’re saying you jerked off while thinking of me?” I ask him.

“Seriously?” he asks.

“I admit that I fantasized about you, yeah,” I reply. “Can’t you be honest, too? I shot my load more than a few times thinking of you. But, I guess some fantasies should be kept as fantasies. If we never got together sexually, we would always be able to fantasize about how great the sex might be. Now we’ve lost that.”

“Are you saying I’m no good in bed?” he asks as though he is genuinely upset.

“No,” I admit. “You turned out to be hotter in bed than I ever fantasized you would be.”

“Then, what’s the problem here?” he asks.

“I just wanted sex,” I admit. “With you in particular. I think this just destroyed my ability to fantasize about you, that’s all. Nothing left to my imagination.”

He sighs again. This time he is obviously frustrated by what I have said to him.

“Maybe you should’ve been more persistent in Bullhead,” I say to him with convincing anger. “Maybe that’s why you didn’t get promoted out of that shitty little town in the Mojave Desert on the edge of nowhere. Why didn’t you connect the dots in your investigations in Bullhead? All that intel. Evidence. Maybe you could have prevented the Oklahoma City bombing if you’d done a better job.”

He becomes defensive very quickly. “You’re wrong,” he replies. “You saw outside the hotel windows,” he says to me as he quickly gets out of bed and walks over the hotel window overlooking the street as if he wants to get away from me. “Snow down there is over three feet deep right now,” he says as he gestures with intensity. I watch his cock and balls swing from side to side. “Totally natural. Yet, impossible to cope with. Overwhelming. Millions of pieces of evidence were collected by local and federal investigations after Oklahoma City. Overwhelming. Impossible to cope with. Technology doesn’t help, either. Technology couldn’t help us connect the dots in Bullhead. It didn’t predict the impact of this blizzard on Washington, DC, either, did it?”

“Apparently not,” I answer.

He says, “Technology can’t keep the streets passable. Plows clear the way by noon. Wind blows most of the snow back. Buried again before sunset. Same with us. We were overwhelmed. Evidence is like this snow. Buries us deeper and deeper.”

“Okay, I get it,” I admit. “It’s not my line of work. What do I know?”

“I don’t mind telling you I’m a little hurt. You really mean you won’t be able to have sexual fantasies about me anymore?” he asks as if he is a vulnerable teenage boy.

“Look, I have a nickname for you,” I say to him without any attempt at making a smooth change of subject. “Inside my head, I call you ‘Agent Green Eyes.’ I don’t want to know your real name. Or who you really work for. Maybe this way I might continue fantasizing about you.”

I can see tears welling up in his green eyes. This was not the reaction that I was expecting from such a masculine guy with a very strong pretense of invulnerability.

“Okay, I have an idea to elevate the mood here,” I say to him. “Let me watch you in the shower jerking yourself off while you’re looking at me watching you. How about that?”

He seems stunned. “Will that help you to keep fantasizing about me?”

“Yeah, definitely,” I lie to him. “You think you’re able to get hard again today?”

He frowns at my insult and then flips me off. We walk into the hotel bathroom and he climbs into the tub. He turns on the shower while keeping the shower curtain open for me to watch him. He grabs the bar of bright yellow soap and lathers himself up. I am surprised at how quickly he brings himself to a full erection!

“Does this answer your question about my erections?” he asks.

I tell him, “I’m impressed, yes. I want you to hold out for as long a time as you can. Just keep jerking yourself with that soap. Keep looking at me. I love watching your sexy green eyes as you finish yourself off!”

He smiles and does what I told him. Just like I knew he would. Manipulating a young man with sex is so easy. I am very good at it. His breathing is much faster now. He will not be able to keep from ejaculating too much longer. I smile at him and nod in approval as I grab one of the fluffy yellow towels folded on top of the toilet. I imagine he thinks that I am going to hand him the towel when he’s finished.

Instead, I open up the towel and snap it quickly so that it cracks into his balls just as he begins to shoot. He doubles over in surprise, humiliation, and pain. I expected that would happen. What I did not expect, however, is that Agent Green Eyes loses his balance and slips in the soapy yellow suds in the tub.

When he falls, he smashes the side of his head onto the outside edge of the tub, making a horrible sound as his skull collides with solid porcelain. While his thick cock is covered with his own juices and remains erect, Agent Green Eyes certainly is dead.

I can tell by that vacant look on his face as his bloody head rests on the side of the tub. His muscular arm drapes over the tub and his beefy hand rests in the pool of his deep red blood from his head beginning to edge slowly across the yellow tile floor of the bathroom. I throw the yellow towel into the tub so that it would look like he had grabbed for it before he fell and then dropped it into the soapy water.

After one long, final look at his gloriously masculine body lying there dead in the tub, I walk out of the bathroom confident that I have succeeded in protecting Vincent Wauneka from this ambitious federal agent. I presume there will be nobody else within his agency who is sufficiently motivated to follow up on vague domestic terrorism leads surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing.

So, I turn my attention to Nick. He and I have never spent more than a day or so apart. When I phone him in Phoenix, the instant that I hear his voice I feel overwhelmed emotionally and cannot stop crying. This makes it impossible for us me to say anything to him. I can only listen to his reassurances that soon we will be together once again. If  I could speak to Nick, I would not dare tell him that I just killed a federal agent in a shower in our nation’s capital.

Even though I have returned many times to that hotel bathroom in Washington, DC to attempt to change the timeline, I have never found success. I have tortured myself with the moral implications of my behaviors. I still cannot shake the bitter guilt I have felt about my actions from the first time I traveled back to DC. But, the outcome always turns out the same no matter what I may try to change. I always end up killing that federal agent.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

When the hearings on Capitol Hill finally are restarted after the local weather conditions improve, I am required to maintain perfect attendance. I do not know if I will actually get called to the table to testify, but my written instructions are clear: I must be present each day of each session and be ready to answer all questions the Senators may ask of me. Somehow, though, I am preoccupied pondering how long the young agent’s impressive erection lasted after he smashed his skull on that bathtub.

The hearing room looks exactly like I have seen on CNN. The dark colors of the wood panels, the high ceilings with classic old-school lighting fixtures, and the thick carpeting that seem to date back to Abraham Lincoln’s era all contribute to a very intimidating environment. For me, it is an unpleasant experience to be required to attend the hearings because I feel so out of place.

I am seated off to the left of the main testimony table on the day when a witness named Matthew Lejeune is questioned. He looks very handsome in an angelic white sweater and dark trousers. He is in his early twenties and yet this man gives off a sense of confidence and strength. His muscular frame is hidden under the business attire that looks like a total mismatch for who he really is.

Matthew Lejeune is responding to a question that one of the Senators has asked him: “Yes, sir,” he says with apparent sincere deference. “My twin brother, Mark Lejeune, was found dead in the Nevada desert. Shot in the head.”

“You and your brother lived together in Arizona?” the Senator asks. “After you both moved there from New Orleans?”

“No, sir,” Matthew Lejeune replies. “I live in Sedona. Mark lived in Bullhead. We were identical twins, but beyond the physical resemblance, we were very different. Made very different choices in this life.”

“Your brother got involved with guns and radical ideologies,” the Senator says.

“That is correct, sir,” Matthew Lejeune replies. “I never understood why Mark liked guns. And all that neo-Nazi crap. But, he was not a bad man. He had a good heart.”

“Mr. Lejeune,” the Senator says, “We have seen the photographs of your twin brother. Lots of pictures. With other men who were also bodybuilders like him.”

“Yes, sir,” Matthew Lejeune answers. “Mark was a real gym rat. Took care of his body. Worked out like a fanatic.”

“Well, Mr. Lejeune,” the Senator says, “His fanaticism spilled over into what you call ‘all that neo-Nazi crap.’ We have photographs of your brother with other men out in the desert with all manner of guns and flags with swastikas.”

“Yes, sir,” Matthew Lejeune replies as he lowers his head in apparent shame. “I didn’t want to have a whole lot to do with Mark. I was bothered by the life he chose. I stayed away from Bullhead completely. Mark was especially into all the casino nightlife. And gambling, too. He had a real problem with gambling. I think that is what brought him down, sir.”

“What do you mean?” the Senator asks Matthew Lejeune.

“Mark owed a lot of money,” Matthew Lejeune answers. “He told me that. The other men at the gym pressured him. Gambling debts, sir. All that kept Mark pretty tight with those guys. I warned him. He just never really listened to me.” As Matthew Lejeune finishes his sentence, he turns his head slightly and comes into direct eye contact with me for the very first time at the hearings.

His blue eyes grow wider in response to seeing me. I frown at him because he seems to recognize me, but I do not remember ever seeing him before today. I watch him run his thick left hand through his short blond hair. It seems to be a gesture that he has perfected to draw attention to his good looks.

I cannot remember ever having felt so quickly attracted to any man. Matthew Lejeune is too perfect, too tempting. He has the look of a man who successfully left behind the innocence and immaturity of teenage life. Yet, he is not yet physically worn down or wounded by adulthood’s inevitably rough lessons. He and I are locked in eye contact.

When we both are walking outside the hearing room in the hallway far from the lights, cameras, and microphones, Matthew Lejeune says to me, “You don’t remember me. It’s so clear to me now. You don’t remember anything that happened.” I focus on the sound of his footsteps on the marble floor because I do not know how to answer him.

As we walk down the hallway to distance ourselves from that hearing room, I feel as though he is correct. Other people pass us in the hallway, yet my focus is entirely upon Matthew Lejeune as I walk to his right. I feel like I should remember something that obviously is hidden from my consciousness. “You’ve seen me on TV in Phoenix, right? I have a very visible job. Easy enough for you to have seen me.”

“No, sir,” he says as if he is still back there in the hearing room giving testimony to United States Senators. “That is not correct.”

“So mysterious,” I reply, trying to get him to open up with me as we keep walking down that hallway with marble floors in Washington, DC.

Matthew Lejeune stops walking. In response, I also stop. He and I again turn to face each other. We make eye contact that seems more intense that the eye contact strangers usually share. He frowns at me as if he is puzzled with me. After what seems like an eternity, he nods and smiles politely at me. “Can we go outside?” he asks me.

“There’s a lot of snow out there,” I reply. “Plus, it’s windy and cold.”

“True,” he says. “But, no microphones out there. No cameras. Nobody to see us or hear what we talk about.”

“What a mystery you are,” I say to him. “But, I will listen to what you have to say.”

Because we have come from Arizona, and we were not expecting so much snow, we do not have winter coats that are obligatory in DC. So, when we are outside the Congressional office buildings, our bodies are unprotected from the cold weather. Even though it has stopped snowing and the skies are bright blue, standing outside is unpleasant because of the wind speed and very low air temperatures. Matthew Lejeune points to a vertical metal structure that indicates a subway station is within walking distance. “You want us to take the Metro?” I ask him.

“It’s warmer and dry down there, underground,” Matthew Lejeune replies.

Once we are riding an Orange Line train together, our body temperatures start to return to normal. “What hotel are you staying at?” he asks me directly as we stand holding on to the overhead bar on the Metro train that helps us keep our balance as we speed far beneath the streets of Washington, DC.

I smile at his question as though he is coming on to me sexually. I reply, “If we get off at Federal Triangle station, we can walk to my hotel.”

Matthew Lejeune does not smile at me. His face looks very intense as though he is examining me from afar trying to determine whether I am friend or enemy. We ride together in silence until Federal Triangle station. “Let’s sit here for just a bit,” Matthew Lejeune says to me as we leave the Orange Line train with other people. He motions towards the granite benches that are positioned at intervals along the train platform.

“You want us to sit on those uncomfortable stone benches?” I ask him.

“For just a bit,” he repeats and then he walks ahead of me to the first granite bench that he reaches. He sits down at one side of the bench and puts his right hand on the bench to indicate that I should sit next to him.

As soon as I am seated to his right, a Blue Line train arrives at the station platform. Several people exit the train and walk past Matthew Lejeune and me at the bench. Once the train has moved on from the station, he says to me, “I’m not trying to freak you out. Just listen. You’ve had some kind of memory loss. We’ve met before, but you obviously do not remember.”

I look into his eyes and I know instinctively that Matthew Lejeune is absolutely correct. Yet, I do not remember him. “How do you know I have had memory loss?” I ask him.

“Well, for one thing,” he replies, “You told me when we first met that you figured out you had temporary amnesia.”

“When did this all happen?” I ask him.

“Five years ago,” Matthew Lejeune explains. “You said you’d had some heavy emotional trauma. Thought you had brain damage. Yet, you were strongly attracted to me.”

I look him directly in his eyes again, but I cannot find words to say to him.

“You don’t remember,” Matthew Lejeune explains.

“And I was just fantasizing if you happened to be gay,” I say to him with a chuckle.

He responds, “You seemed to be living in denial back then. When we met. You had been married to a woman before.”

“Not sure if that actually happened. It seems like just a bad dream.” I admit to him. “I am good at the work I do because I am gay. Only gay men get selected for this line of work.”

An Orange Line train arrives at the station. Once again, several people exit the train and walk past Matthew Lejeune and me at the bench. After the train has pulled away from the station, he says to me, “Maybe it’s not such a good idea for us to be here together like this.”

“In this Metro station?” I ask. “This bench is awfully uncomfortable.”

“Together,” he says, “As in you and me being here in Washington, DC.”

“I was just getting up the courage to ask you back to my hotel room,” I say to him. “Was it because I made that remark about how I’m good at my job because I’m gay?”

Matthew Lejeune says, “I think maybe your memory loss is preventing you from recalling those old cowboy songs about time travelers and mind readers.”

What a strange thing for him to say to me. I just sit there looking at him, trying to figure out what he meant. But, I say nothing. Matthew Lejeune also says nothing. He crosses his muscular arms to signal to me that we need to keep from having any physical contact. A Blue Line train arrives in front of us. When the doors nearest to Matthew Lejeune slide open, he quickly gets to his feet and walks purposefully into the train while I remain seated on that granite bench. He does not turn around as the doors slide close and the train pulls away from where I am seated in the Federal Triangle station, stunned.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I regain consciousness as I feel thicker-than-water translucent white liquid being pumped quickly downward through a grate in the floor of the blue glass chamber. I know that at long last I have returned to the Giant Blue Hockey Puck beneath the lunar surface. The smelly liquid dripping from the tip of my nose and chin makes me feel very annoyed.

Immediately after the rapid purging of the unpleasant liquid from the chamber, my lungs are joyful at the availability of sweet oxygen. A low-pitched whooshing sound accompanies the vertical splitting of the GBHP into two equal sections, enabling me to stand up and walk out completely naked into the launch center of the lunar base.

My frequent mission partner, Vincent Wauneka, walks up to me carrying the obligatory thick blue robe that we agents put on after returning from missions. Vincent always looks especially sexy whenever he wears the blue robe.

In truth, Vincent Wauneka is a man who looks sexy wearing anything or nothing. “Debrief,” I hear him tell me as I put on the robe. He points me from the blue glass chamber to a small booth of cylindrical glass nearby.

An invisible door to the glass booth slides open to let me step inside. Then, the door silently repositions itself so that I am alone wearing a fluffy blue robe inside a seamless cylinder of glass. The glass shifts from transparent to opaque and a green light over my head pops on. “Begin your debrief. Recording your voice now,” I hear the voice with a British accent say.

I begin my verbal account of my mission, knowing that my voice recording will be preserved somewhere in the archives. I cannot begin to guess who will actually listen to all that I am saying for the record. When I finish talking, a bright blue light shines down upon me inside the glass cylinder. Then, the cylinder reopens and I step out to see that Vincent Wauneka has waited for me.

“Help me get some food,” I say to Vincent. “I am starving.” He will never know that my killing of a federal agent with green eyes neutralized a possible fatal threat that Vincent would otherwise have had to face.

“Thought you might say that,” he replies as Vincent points towards an entrance to a corridor off to the side of the launch center. He motions for me to walk in front of him down the corridor. I know where I am going. I keep walking past two or three open corridors. Then, I arrive at a fourth open corridor that I recognize as the crew quarters. I can see other men—all around the same age as Vincent and me. Some are barefooted and wear blue robes like Vincent and me. Others are dressed in off-duty uniforms and black military boots.

Two round metal tables with built-in chairs are close to where Vincent and I are standing. So, I choose the left table and sit down in one of the four chairs. Vincent sits down directly across from me at that table. Then, he quickly stands up again. “Sorry,” he says. “Food for you.” Vincent eventually returns carrying a metal tray that he places on the table directly in front of me. “Two breakfast burritos and black coffee,” he announces as the tray touches the table and makes a clanking sound. The scent of the two burritos and the fresh, hot coffee reaches my nostrils quickly and I am elevated to a very joyful mood. Vincent watches me consume the burritos too quickly. “Coffee is hot,” he warns me.

I let the coffee cool down before I attempt to sip it. “Anything you can tell me about your sex worker career in Las Vegas?”

“Not a fucking thing,” he answers with a smile as he kicks me under the table. “Not supposed to talk about our cover stories or missions after we return here. You know that. You also know it was not merely a cover story. You are far savvier than everyone else around here. Hey, very important: You will get this on your screen when you get back to your rack,” Vincent says. “General Tagawa wants to see you.”

“What? He wants to see me?” I ask. “You know this how?”

Vincent explains: “Texted me. Very emphatic. Meet you in the time travel hall upon your return. So, I did. Make certain you go talk with him. That is all he wrote.”

“First I need a shower and to get into uniform,” I say to Vincent.

“Figured you would say that,” he replies.

When I reach the showers after checking the screen near my rack for inbox messages, I discover that Vincent and I are the only people in there. Vincent has turned on the water on all the showers, creating a steady whooshing sound that fills the air. This is all very familiar to me.

I locate the naked Vincent all the way in the back in shower stall number twelve. He motions for me to join him there under the warm water rushing downward from the overhead shower nozzle.

As soon as I reach him, Vincent pulls my face close to his and whispers to me, “They will never hear us whispering because of the sound of the showers.” I nod in response. He whispers quietly to me, “Plus, they know we are sexually involved, so that’s what they will think is going on in here.”

That makes me smile.

“What did they do to you, Ted?” Vincent whispers.

I lean very close to his handsome face and whisper, “They fucked with my memories. Took what I remember away from me. Added bogus stuff in. I’m concerned that they did the same with you. I couldn’t stand to see that happen,” I whisper very quietly.

Vincent says nothing, but drops to his knees and sucks my scrotum into his mouth where my balls are overtaken by his unmerciful tongue.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Episode 7 is next
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