GhosTV - PsyCop #6

Camp Hell, m/m Paranormal ThrillerJump to purchase options

Sunshine, fresh air and junk food. I told myself I could enjoy those things—or that’s the line I was feeding myself, anyway. This was the reality: my underwear was soaking wet and my head was ringing; I’d taken one too many Auracel and spun around a few too many times. If I was careful, really careful, the best I could hope for was keeping the chimichanga and the fried Snickers bar from making a reappearance.

I wasn’t obligated to talk to any dead people. I supposed that was something to be thankful for.

I did, however, feel somewhat obligated to talk to Jacob’s sister, Barbara. But only somewhat.

“…scored two goals during the first half of the game. You’d think the coach would have been proud, right? Instead, he said Clayton wasn’t a team player. That he didn’t pass the ball.”

“Must run in the family.”

Normal sounds, like screaming children, screaming adults, and the general wall of screaming humanity, continued on. But the conversation Barbara and I were diligently attempting to have fell down dead between us.

It belatedly occurred to me that I’d spoken aloud.

“I mean, uh, that’s what I like about Jacob. If he’s good at something, he doesn’t stand around waiting for someone else to take a turn at it. That’s fine for little-league soccer, maybe, but when it’s life or death, you want the best guy on your team to step up to the plate.” Okay, I was mixing baseball metaphors with my soccer, but I really didn’t know shit about soccer.

I risked a glance around the side of my cheap plastic sunglasses toward Barbara. She was watching me, which made me want to squirm—despite my damp underwear. Over at the Gut Scrambler, or whatever they were calling the latest ride that neither Barbara nor I were willing to be strapped into, Jacob and Clayton disembarked. They were quite the pair, all flushed cheeks and smiles. They stopped to peer at a bank of monitors that snapped shots of all the scream-laughing riders getting scrambled like a bunch of eggs.

“Aw, jees, he’s gonna talk Jacob into…” Barbara stood and cupped her hands around her mouth. “Clayton. You do not need a ten-dollar picture of yourself on that ride. I took plenty of pictures today with the phone.”

Clayton set his jaw, and holy shit, I hadn’t really seen it when I’d met him last November—but now that he was half a year older, I totally did. That was Jacob’s stubborn-look. In spades.

Genetics can be kinda creepy.

“Tell ’im he’ll wreck it on the log flume,” I muttered.

“You’ll get it wet on the log ride, and then what? You want to be stuck carrying that thing around all day?”

A tinge of bewilderment touched Clayton’s mulish expression. Jacob said something, maybe a promise to stand in line another half hour, ride again and get a photo on the way out. He probably didn’t want to be stuck carrying the thing around all day either—but he also had only one nephew, and as far as he was concerned, kids were made for spoiling.

Jacob and Clayton approached without the photo. One small success. Although I wouldn’t have minded being the photo carrier; it would’ve excused me from riding rides.

“I wanna go on King Chaos,” Clayton whined. He had exactly two modes of speech: whining, and bragging.

Our small group milled for position, and before I could drop to the rear, Jacob looped an arm through mine and pulled me against his side. “What do you say, Vic? You choose the next one after that.”

“I’ll, uh, keep my eyes open.” The list of rides I could actually stomach was pathetically small. Fast spinning and Auracel didn’t mix well. The act of getting strapped into anything and my own demons didn’t mix well, either. Even thoroughly potted on Auracel, I had no desire to ride through long, dark tunnels where God-knows-what might pop out. And my legs were too long for those teacup things. That left log rides. I tried to tell myself they were fun, but it seemed like every time my underwear finally dried off, I ended up sitting on one of those wet seats again—plus, as the tallest guy there, I was always the one to get nailed in the face with the funky, chemical-laced water. But at least it didn’t look like I was too wussy to ride anything.

The contraption Clayton was angling for was some mad scientist experiment that took a row of people and whipped them upside down like they were riding around inside a big bicycle pedal —though in addition to the “you must be this tall” sign, there was also a maximum height.

Yes.

“Gee, sorry,” I said. I was a good two inches taller than the sign, and even Jacob would need to seriously slouch to fake his way through it.

Clayton turned plaintive eyes toward his mother, who said, “Not in your wildest dreams.”

A train pulled up beside us with lots of fake steam and recorded clanging, and Jacob looked at it, and then at me, and raised his eyebrow.

Clayton whined, “I don’t wanna go on that stupid—”

Barbara said, “Give Uncle Jacob and Vic a break for ten minutes, okay? We’ll get some popcorn.”

“I dunno why they wanna go on that stupid….”

I climbed onto the emptiest train car, with only one other rider in it who was staring out at the amusement park and keeping to himself. “Thanks, Barb,” Jacob said. He gave his sister and nephew a little wave. Clayton gave me the evil eye in return. I hoped psychic ability didn’t run in Jacob’s family like stubbornness did.

Without much thinking about it, I sucked white light and put up a barrier between myself and Clayton’s scowling face. I didn’t really feel the power—not like I would have if I weren’t on antipsyactives—but psychically shielding myself was second nature to me by now, like blowing on my coffee to lessen the scald factor or positioning myself upwind of a rotting corpse.

Jacob eased an arm around me and said, “I’m really glad you came.”

I didn’t see why, but I did my best not to sigh or roll my eyes. I’d figured it wouldn’t kill me to sit there for a day and zone out on meds if this family time meant that much to him. “Long as you don’t mind me being a spectator.” I hadn’t realized the buckles and straps would trigger a restraint-reaction from me. I told myself it was just a seatbelt, but my subconscious didn’t buy it, and I ended up bowing out before the spiral flingy upside-down coaster got going.

It was easiest to say the Auracel wasn’t sitting right. In theory, sharing your burdens should make them lighter. But in practice, I hate watching it register on Jacob’s face when he catches me in a Camp Hell flashback.

The train chugged through some Mardi Gras section that looked like a cartoonist’s vision of pre-Katrina New Orleans, and then a stand of palm-looking trees that had absolutely no business growing in the suburbs of Chicago. Jacob pulled me closer and nuzzled my hair. “Next time we both get a day off at the same time, you pick. Anything you want to do.”

I leaned into him. It felt risky, like someone might pop out of the fake woodwork screaming for his autograph, the famous Jacob Marks, darling of the local media—and there he’d be, rubbing up against some guy. But people you see on TV look different in person. Over the airwaves, they’re taller, tanner, younger, and more coiffed. And people were accustomed to seeing Jacob in a suit instead of a sloppy, faded T-shirt and cargo shorts. He’d grown his hair out maybe an inch, and while it had started its day immaculately combed, the whirling and scrambling and whipping around and splashing had left it no better off than mine—and given the relative failure of my most recent haircut, that was saying a lot. For today, at least, Jacob was just a regular guy.

A hot as hell regular guy who was breathing in my ear, but a regular guy, nonetheless.

“You can be my slave for the day,” I suggested.

“Really?” he purred, directly into my ear. I’d been kidding—but maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. “What’ll that entail? Feeding you?” His breath was warm on my cheek. “Bathing you? With my tongue?”

“I don’t know yet. Gotta keep you on your toes.” No doubt about it—between Jacob and me, he’s got all the testosterone. And yet, maybe he really would get off on the idea of waiting on me hand and foot—and tongue—like that. Problem was, experimenting in bed was kind of like riding amusement park rides. Sure, they were fun, but sometimes you rued the day you ever got in that line.

A big-kid ride roared past us and the wall of scream trailed along in the wake of the metal cage full of freshly flung people. Jacob and I watched. Horror and delight, all mingled together.

I wondered if I would’ve liked rides—if my life hadn’t been…my life.

“So how’re you hanging in there—really?”

“It’s uh…I dunno. It’s fine.”

“You had a look.”

I shook my head. Sometimes I got really sick of myself. “I’ve always got a look. Never mind. I’m having fun.”

We chugged through a really artificial-looking garden, with flowers in colors you never see in nature planted in rows with military precision. Popcorn bags and paper cups drifted against the planter and mounded around the bases of the garbage cans that were set in every few feet, with yellowjackets swarming their swinging lids.

“It’s too bad about the Auracel. Remember those swings?” Jacob nodded at an older strip of rides with much shorter lines than the new, popular attractions. The swing riders were achieving liftoff as they spun in a big circle. “They had those back when we were kids.”

“Did they?”

“Sure. Those, and slides, and bumper cars, and wooden coasters.”

“And funhouses.” I couldn’t be sure if I actually remembered being in a funhouse or if I’d just seen one on TV. My patchwork brain likes to keep me guessing.

“Now it’s all how fast and how far you can fall.” Jacob pulled me against him tighter. “Don’t let me say that in front of Clayton. I probably sound as old as my dad.”

I gave his knee a squeeze. King Chaos loomed up ahead of us. Cripes. I was glad I was too tall to ride. It looked like a stiff neck with Valium written all over it, even from the ground. The train tooted and chugged and pulled up to the spot we’d first climbed on. Jacob turned to give me a hand down, and then didn’t bother letting go of my hand. This was unusual for him. He’s not really into public displays of affection. But he was having a sentimental kind of day.

Barbara and Clayton both stood and walked over. Clayton said, as if we were all talking about whether the clouds would turn to rain, or if we’d prefer pizza to burgers, “This kid Tyler at school says that faggots are perverts and they should all be put in jail.”

Barbara went white. I let go of Jacob’s hand not because I gave a rat’s ass what an eleven-year-old snotnosed punk thought of me touching his uncle, but because I wanted to attempt to catch his mother if she fainted.

“Clayton Joseph,” Barbara barked. She sounded like Jacob telling a crackhead to drop his weapon. “You apologize this very second.”

“But that’s what he said.” Clayton’s whine cut through my head like a dentist’s drill. “I’m not making it up.”

Barbara put her face directly in her kid’s. “You are old enough to know when you’re repeating something that will hurt somebody’s feelings.”

“Barb.” Jacob sounded…I couldn’t quite place it. Maybe he sounded like I did when things went south—not like I’d been expecting anything better, but maybe I’d held out a glimmer of hope that it didn’t necessarily need to be all that bad. He sounded weary. “Clayton’s going to hear things. I’d rather he heard them from me.”

He put his arm around Clayton, and what a relief, the kid didn’t flinch. I suspected he might not be at the point where he really got what sex was even about, not deep down in his balls.

I might’ve noticed other boys “that way” when I was his age, but come on. Back then Teen Beat was full of boy cheesecake, and I was assailed by images of smooth chests, long, feathered hair and limpid, dreamy-eyed smiles at the checkout line every time I grabbed a pack of gum. And maybe I was just ahead of the curve in that department—or maybe you’d have to be dead not to notice.

Jacob walked Clayton toward the snow cone stand while I jammed my hands in my pockets and wandered in a holding pattern, and Barbara dug around in her purse as if she might unearth the answer to all our problems there, if only she looked hard enough. Instead she found some clear lip gloss, the kind with the sponge tip applicator, which she applied with a vengeance.

“It’s not like it’s news to him that Jacob is gay,” she said. “We’ve always been upfront about it.”

My wet underwear clung to me like a trick who’d worn out his welcome. “Uh-huh.”

“I don’t know who this ‘Tyler at school’ person is.”

“Does it matter? I mean, if it’s not him, it’ll be someone else. Right?”

Barbara spotted a bench covered in cartoon characters and sat down hard. I hovered behind her. Ten yards away, Jacob handed Clayton a green snow cone. The kid took it and gave it a lick, all the while looking daggers at us. At me. The snow cone vendor handed Jacob another one. Red. Jacob caught my eye and pointed at his blindingly red snow cone as if to ask me if I wanted one. I shook my head.

“It’s nice of you to sit out all the rides so that Clayton can be with Jacob. He idolizes my brother, you know. It probably doesn’t seem like it, what with that outburst.”

“No, I um…” I perched on the back of the bench and my wet underwear rode up my ass. “He’s probably, uh, y’know.” Damn it. Words were so useless sometimes. I did my best to figure out a way to say he was just being especially bratty because some fag was monopolizing his uncle—without coming out and using those exact words. “He probably feels…things…more intensely. Because they’re so close.”

She gave me a sideways look, one of those zingers where I totally saw Jacob around the eyes, the type of look he’d give me when he knew I wasn’t being polygraph-level truthful with him. Then she sighed and re-settled her purse in her lap. “Yeah. Probably.”

“I’m not so big on rides anyway.”

Another Jacob-ish look, a notch or two more analytical. “Is there some medical reason…?”

“No, uh…not exactly.” Was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder medical? No doubt. But I’d been diagnosed by my backstabbing ex, and not a real doctor—although Stephan was technically a health care professional nowadays. The whole thing made me want to break out in a cold sweat. “Maybe.”

“Huh.” She found a pair of sunglasses in her purse, blew the lint off the lenses, and put them on. “I always pictured Jacob with someone a little more athletic.”

What was that supposed to mean?

Jacob and Clayton had taken the long way around the food court, and they approached the bench, Clayton with green-tinged lips, Jacob with a wicked red mouth. Jacob stopped a couple of steps back and Clayton shuffled forward. I’d figured he was going to ask his mother for something, but then I realized he was aimed, more or less, at me. Neither one of us cared to initiate eye contact.

“I’m sorry I said something rude about gay people,” he said. There was no inflection in the sentence, as if he’d read it, poorly, from a teleprompter.

“Yeah, uh…” what was I supposed to say? Apology accepted? You’re forgiven? How queer. “That’s okay.”

The tension was thick enough to cut with a spork, but then, as if nothing had just happened, Clayton suddenly brightened, turned to Jacob and said, “If we can’t go on King Chaos, can we ride the Scrambler again?”

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