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Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.

Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!


Jesus Days

Jesus Days is an excerpt from my novel Angel Land, set late in the 21st Century—ravaged by the deadly Sept virus, the one time United States has disintegrated into The Fundamental Christian Territories, where Catholics, Baptists and Jews are registered as heretics, and gays are herded into walled ghettos, the Zones of Perversion. Aram is a territorial Elder, or administrative officer, in Angel Land, oldest of the territories. He has fallen in love with Harvey, and has arranged a meeting at the Jesus Days festival with the sister from whom Harvey was separated as a child, hoping to reconcile the siblings, and on his way to that meeting, stops to visit his brother’s fiancée.He is not aware that he has been followed there by Senior Elder Dorwin, Harvey’s lifelong nemesis.

(from a travel brochure)
Angel Land
The ultimate Family Value vacation!
Ride replicas of the legendary cable cars “halfway to the stars.”
See—close up—the Bridge of the Golden Gate, once crossed by motor cars*
See the actual ocean, in absolute safety—no bio-hazards
Visit an authentic restored “Frisco Watering Hole” of the Gay 90s
Religious services every hour, every day. Baptisms 24 hours
Plus—Tour free from unsightly perverts or homeless Angel Land—your paradise on earth!
Fundamental Christian Values strictly enforced!
No alcohol**, drugs or non-marital sexual activities
All Catholics, Jews and all other heretics must be properly registered.
All tattoos must be prominently displayed at all times.
*For safety reasons, viewing distance appr. 1.2 miles. Actual bridge cannot be entered.
**Holy Spirits, the FCT’s own beer, available at selected locations
Travel arrangements by Halo There, the official travel agency of the FCT.

Travel brochure printed by permission of the Council of Churches, ord. 3010a, petition on file

* * * * *
Even from blocks away one could hear the Babel of voices that filled the air:
“Bethlehem Babies, fresh out of the oven, Bethlehem Babies, over here.”
“St. Peter’s Fish on a Stick. St. Peter’s Fish, hot off the fire. Hot fish.”
“Baptisms here. Baptisms.”
There had been a time, Aram knew, when the China Basin Family Activity Center had been used as a sports arena. Sports that were unfamiliar to him, but he remembered as a child his father’s talking about them with nostalgic enthusiasm.
The football game was the one he remembered most: one man held a ball in his arms and ran down the field and the other players tried to catch him. There were countless variations too. They all sounded simple enough, though he supposed there were subtleties that hadn’t been communicated to the child he had been then.
Those sports had all been banned over time. Too violent, some of them, or perhaps too homoerotic, though the Council would never have put it that way. Not that today’s youth were without their sports: there were foot races and relays, often right here in the Center, and somersaults and Stone the Martyr, which had always seemed plenty violent to him.
For sheer spectacle, though, nothing compared to Jesus Days—or more correctly, The Christ in Jesus Family Circus Festival. It lasted a full week and people flocked from all over the territories. “The vacation you’ve been praying for!” the travel brochures proclaimed it.
Strolling the midway, Aram thought that it was certainly the most colorful event in the territorial calendar, with the clowns and the acrobats in their gaudy outfits and costumed Apostles mingling with the throngs.
The scents of frying fish and fresh baked cookies wafted by and thick slabs of sucking pig perfumed the air and left grease stains on shirtfronts. Children passed around Candy Camels and the Crackers of Galilee and in the dirt at their feet crows and pigeons argued over the crumbs.
People knelt by an enormous tub to bob for apples and an enthusiastic group cheered a heavily draped Samson to lift greater and greater weights. Wide eyed children rode swaying donkeys around a roped oval or squealed and cooed at Noah’s Ark with its bleating sheep and goats, even a llama; and of course piglets, new ones each morning, their predecessors having been spirited away the night before to the roasting tent.
Aram paused briefly to regard the inevitable sinners in the stocks (”See The Penance Of Selected Sinners, Every Day”) and, just as inevitable, the young men there to taunt them and, when the guards looked conveniently away, to pelt them with pebbles and clods of dirt. There was a woman of middle years, tears running down her cheeks, and two men, boys really, eyes downcast, faces stoically impassive. He wondered what their sins had been. That would be announced hourly until their penance was complete. Perhaps he had sentenced one or the other of them himself. He couldn’t recall. The sentences seemed to run together in a blur. Had he always been so cavalier? Hadn’t there been a time when he had taken each case seriously, considered individually each person brought before him? When had they turned into faceless numbers?
He found Andra, at the playground, watching the neat rows of children waiting their turns at the swings and slides.
“Is it my imagination or were we a rowdier bunch?” he asked her. “Always shoving and pummeling one another, if I remember, and certainly making more noise than this batch.”
“Mostly, you liked to pull my hair,” she said. “Both of you.”
“You found every excuse to step on our toes, as I recall.”
“And the fact that we were brats does not mean that every generation must follow our example,” she told him primly.
“You don’t think they might be over-indoctrinated?”
“You sound like Elam.” She flashed him an annoyed look. “He’s the one always faulting the church. You used to be so, oh, I don’t know, so orthodox.”
“I’m afraid I lost my orthodoxy with my innocence.” He glanced around. “Where is Elam, by the way?”
“He’s working.” Andra frowned briefly. “Have you seen him lately?”
“Not for a while.” He considered for a moment whether he should tell her that Elam was not at work. He had stopped by the laboratory briefly on his way here, filled with guilt that he had neglected his brother so badly of late, and at the laboratory they had told him Elam was here at the festival.
“I think he’s working too much,” Andra said. “He never has a minute for his painting anymore. Or…” She checked herself, about to say, “for me.”
“I wish you’d talk to him,” she said instead. “He thinks I’m a terrible shrew when I say anything.”
He laughed and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “He adores you. And as for the children, it’s no wonder they’re so well behaved. If I’d had such a pretty teacher I might not have been such a brat myself.”
“Now you’re patronizing me,” she said.
“Only a little.”
“The children know that I love them. They can sense that sort of thing, I believe. I’ve told Elam we must have half a dozen of our own, maybe a full dozen. Which you may be sure elicited great groans of protest.”
He chuckled. “That’s just Elam. He’ll be a wonderful father, you can be sure of it.” He glanced around again. “If he comes, tell him I was looking for him.”
She watched him go and was aware that others watched him too, young women stealing surreptitious glances after him. Such a handsome man. Broad shouldered and slim hipped, with the same cute little bottom as Elam, though it was probably sinful for her to take notice of that. And so masculine, too, it was still difficult for her to grasp that he was…was the way he was. She could not quite say the word even to herself.
She liked Harvey though. He had an infectious quality, a boyishness that was hard to resist. Certainly she could see that Aram couldn’t resist. Watching them together she had been convinced that whatever Aram felt for him was profound, so encompassing that it could not help but frighten her. Where could it lead? What possible happiness could the future hold for them? But even with Elam she kept these doubts to herself. Whatever was in store for the Aram and his friend, it would be quite difficult enough without the burden of her fears.
She was jolted from her reverie by a cry of pain. One of the children had fallen from a swing and she started toward him but before she could get there someone had hurried past her and scooped the child up.
“Elder Dorwin,” she said, surprised not just at seeing him there but too at how gentle and soothing he was with the child. She had always thought of the Senior Elder as such a dour man. It had never occurred to her that he might have a tender side.
He cuddled the youngster and murmured to him and in a moment the tears had stopped.
“You’re very good with children,” she said admiringly.
He handed the little boy to her. “Children are our treasures,” he said. “They are our future.”
She couldn’t have said it better herself. “What brings you here? Surely the Senior Elder isn’t indulging in frivolity?” she asked in a teasing voice. “I thought you never rested from your labors?”
“The war against sin is never ending,” he said, offering her no responding smile. “But it is not always conducted in the church.” He glanced over her shoulder. “Actually I thought this visit might be a learning experience.”
“Yes, I suppose it could be that,” she said, chastened.
He did smile at her then and nodded. “Good day, Sister Andra,” he said, and went on his way.
She was surprised that he knew her name.
At a distance, in a moment of watching, you could see the resemblance: behind the thick lenses of her glasses, Jenny Walton had the same sharp-eyed wariness as her brother. The determined set to her shoulders reminded him of Harvey too, though on her it looked more defiant and less convinced. She had been pretty not so long ago, before something—life itself, perhaps—had sucked the vitality, the fire from her.
For the moment, this was not a reunion in the works but a job interview. He had corresponded with her about an opening in Angel Land’s administrative offices and since she would be here this week with Eden’s library delegation, had suggested that they meet. The rest he would play by ear.
“Good afternoon, Elder.” Her mouth was wide like Harvey’s, but thin lipped. Her smile came and went quickly and when it had gone it left little trace of itself. “Would you like to make a donation to the Library Fund? Or perhaps I could give you a demonstration?”
The Library Project had been a subject of controversy since its inception a few years earlier: a planned network of sites where every citizen could go and call up information on almost any subject.
The pilot had gone to Eden and there it had languished. It’s opponents argued that too much information was a dangerous thing, though from what Aram had seen, the “information” wasn’t likely to cause any problems: “The United States: a collection of individual territories with a central government; infamous for crime and vice and licentiousness (this represented by a photograph of a sailor and a girl kissing in something called a Time Square). The country was split into the nine FCT.”
“I’ve already had a demonstration,” he said. “You’re Sister Walton?”
She frowned slightly. “Yes, and you are…? Oh, the Elder, of course, the one who wrote me.”
“Elder Johnson. Is this a convenient time? I thought perhaps an informal conversation, a chance to get acquainted….”
She glanced around anxiously, as if lines of people were waiting for her assistance, but there was no one at her booth and hadn’t been the entire time he had watched surreptitiously from across the midway.
“They’ve got fresh coffee just over there, I tried some earlier,” he said. “You can watch your booth from there. Or,” when she still hesitated, “I can come back later.”
“No, this is fine.” She took a moment to lock up her donation box, which was empty as near as he could tell, and to cover it and her literature with a fringed cloth. Out of the booth, falling into step beside him, she was smaller than he had realized. He supposed he had expected her to be tall like Harvey.
“I trust you’ve given the matter some thought,” he said. “Of course, this is all tentative. For now I only wanted to see how you would feel about moving to Angel Land.” He bought coffee in plastic cups and found them seats at one of the plastic tables.
“I can’t imagine anyone’s not wanting to be here. It’s such an exciting place. It’s like you can feel the Lord’s work going on all about you.” She set her coffee aside untasted and regarded him solemnly. “Only, I wondered, how on earth did you come up with my name? There must be no shortage of candidates right here?”
He gave her a smile meant to be reassuring. “Let’s just say there are people who have a high regard for you.”
She seemed vaguely puzzled by that comment. Her answering smile was tentative. “In Angel Land? I can’t imagine who,” she said.
He ignored the question in her voice. “It is a big step though,” he said. “Leaving behind everything familiar. Friends, family….” He hesitated invitingly.
“I have no family.” She said it curtly, quickly, without self-pity, a mere statement of fact.
“Ah. But surely your file says, let me think, a sister, wasn’t it? Or was it a brother?”
She took her time with this subject, pondering. “I’m surprised that’s still in my file,” she said finally. “I had a brother. We were parted years ago. He ran away.”
Aram nodded, expecting more, but she looked past him into some far distance, momentarily lost in thoughts of her own.
“Ran away? And you’ve heard nothing since?”
“That must prey on one. Wondering, not knowing. Family, after all. Hard to let go of those ties, isn’t it?”
She looked directly at him then, fixing him with a steady, unblinking stare. “He was a willful child, full of sin.”
He felt a chill up his spine. It was not exactly what he had hoped to hear. “But, only a child, didn’t you say? One wonders, I suppose, what he might have become. Model citizen perhaps. Church official even.” He hesitated and added, with a slight laugh, “Or perhaps a heretic.”
She took the suggestion seriously. “Catholic, you mean, or, but he couldn’t very well be Jewish could he, or Muslim? Baptist maybe.” She smiled grimly. “Heretics burn in hell, don’t they?”
“Surely Christ speaks of forgiveness.”
“That’s true, yes.” She considered that briefly. “If I knew that he had been saved, that he had come back to the Church in full repentance. Yes, I suppose then I would be glad to see him.”
Which, he thought, effectively answered the questions he had, but he could not resist a final probe. “Perhaps not Catholic, then. Perhaps,” he hesitated. “Perhaps gay?”
Again those eyes behind their distorting lenses seemed to bore into him. “What a funny topic for conversation, Elder. Why this interest in a brother I haven’t seen since we were children?”
He shrugged and looked away. “Curiosity. Family is important, isn’t it? If we were to hire you here and you were subsequently to find him there, well, it could change things, couldn’t it? It’s something that ought to be considered.”
He was wrong about her: she could be fiery. Her eyes glinted fiercely. “Gay, you said? That’s what they call themselves, isn’t it, the homosexuals? Not gay at all, in my opinion. As I see it, Hell is not soon enough for those people. If I had my way they would all be herded into the public squares and burned alive. They’ve no business dirtying the world with their evil ways, corrupting innocent children, poisoning the air with their very presence….” Her voice had gone up. A couple at the next table looked in their direction.
She noticed and paused for a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she said, calmer. She was wearing gloves and she took a moment to remove one and used it to wipe her brow, although the day was cool and rain threatened.
She rested her naked hand on the table. He saw that it was missing the little finger and a chill went through him. He began to understand. He had heard of that, of course. It was, on the books at least, a prescribed punishment for a wayward Born, though he had never heard of a Minister who had actually resorted to it: one finger for a serious offense, another for a second. He couldn’t recall if there was a limit to the mutilations. No more than ten, in any case.
He realized with a start that he was staring and looked up to find her smiling at him. “That was rude of me. I’m sorry,” he murmured, blushing.
“Don’t be,” she said. She held her hand up and regarded it as if she had noticed the missing finger for the first time. “I’m not ashamed. Proud actually. And grateful that my Minister was so firm in his duty. Not all are. It was a gift, you see….”
Oh, don’t, please, please, it hurts, it hurts….It’s meant to hurt. It’s meant to make you contemplate the pain you have caused me. The pain you have caused Jesus. Do you think your pain signifies at all in comparison to his, to the pain he suffered for you, ungrateful child? Pray on it. Share the pain. His pain. Share it and thank Jesus for it.
“…It was that glorious pain that finally brought me to see the light, praise be.”
Not too far distant a gospel quartet broke into song, their voices floating over the midway in sweet harmony: “Harvest time, it’s harvest time.”
He saw it then as clearly as if it were projected onto a screen in front of him. Harvey had run away and she had stayed. He had bartered his body to survive and somehow managed to keep his soul intact. She had been raped, not physically but spiritually. Her body, he suspected, was untouched, but her virgin soul had been deflowered, violated brutally, cruelly. And for the sake of what? Not God. No, certainly not God.
Others joined in with the singers, a few voices at first and then a growing chorus of festival goers: “…The grain is falling, the Savior’s calling….”
She held her mutilated hand before her and said, in little more than a whisper, “Hallelujah.” She stared hard at him and it occurred to him belatedly that she was waiting for him to reply in kind. He tried to say Amen but the word would not come. It turned to dust in his throat.
He stood up so abruptly that he spilled both their coffees, the liquid splashing across the table’s grimy surface and staining the front of his tights. A jay and a gull, squabbling nearby over a scrap of St. Peter’s fish, were startled into noisy flight.
“I’m sorry,” he said and knew that he was stammering. “Something has…I have to go….” He started away.
“…Oh, do not wait, it’s growing late….”
“Elder?” He stopped, but could not bring himself to look at her again. “You haven’t said, about the job?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll recommend you,” he said,
“Behold, the fields are white, it’s har-ar-ar-vest time.”
It began to rain as he walked. Overhead the retractable roof started to close and jammed halfway. People ran for shelter.

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