In my defense, I was drunk off my ass.
And I hardly think the blame for this whole mess can be pinned just on me.
Criminy. I screwed up so bad,
I can't even believe it. Holy balls.
But maybe I'd better explain, huh?
Let's go back to yesterday, when I was stuck in that damn hover-biker bar.
It was hard to see, and it smelled ripe.
And so did I, I'm sure. Amadan sweat, at full strength, has defeated every antiperspirant ever devised. I could still feel that Drogann guy's ass vibrating on my crotch, like a phantom limb or something. And there was this guy, givin' me the come-hither signal from across the bar. I could tell he was a looker: big muscular dude, around my height. His ruggedly handsome features were complimented by a shaved pate and a massive, white-streaked beard. As I made my way over to him, I became intoxicated by his scent. Beyond the sweat, and the rich aroma of pipe tobacco, there was something else. It was tangy. Like the inside of a gym bag. But in a good way. Without even saying a word, we started kissing, and groping each other. I ran my hands over his smooth scalp, and tried to brush the dopey-looking "dark beast ear" headband off of it. That's when I realized he wasn't wearing a headband. What I had taken for "ears" were actually fat, fleshy protuberances. It only intrigued me more.
We found a secluded spot for making love. I could tell he was used to being in charge, but my vast knowledge of pressure points and wrestling holds soon settled that.
The floorboards trembled. Because some ya-hoo had crashed a tunneling battle-tank (the kind with the big spinning drill on the front) right into the bar! Crazed Solstice rioters pushed their way through the hole, only to be met by angry, drunken hover-bikers. Back-to-back, my new lover and I battled our way through the mob and out into the streets.
Together, we braved untold hazards: collapsing buildings, rocket-car pile-ups, streets flooded with noxious chemicals, overflowing sewers. And we did it all while barreling through violent mobs and evading the searchlights of Lallor's draconian police forces. When we'd clobber a guy with a bottle of liquor in his hands, we'd nab it and drink it, ourselves. But the thrill of violence was far headier than any alcohol.
On the edges of the city, the dangers grew less frequent. We stopped to renew our passion on the floor of a (nearly) abandoned Infernal House of Pancakes, and then we climbed to the roof, to snuggle. Satellite debris was still streaking through Lallor's bruise-purple skies. The city's burning downtown district was spread out before us, like dazzle gems on the cloak of some barbarian emperor. We had been in the middle of it, and survived. I felt more alive than I had ever been. Triumphantly, I fired up my pipe, and saw that my lover was lighting a pipe of his own. A fellow pipe-smoker! Even better. I knew in my heart that this man wasn't going to be the "great love of my life," but we did seem to have forged a great bond, and I hoped to enjoy his company in the future. Frequently. We talked of many things, deep, philosophical, spiritual and profane. At last, my thoughts took on a gossamer quality, and floated right out of my head. Only a warm sense of belonging remained. The last thing I clearly remember is the pair of us strolling arm-in-arm into a tattoo parlor...
I awoke to find myself in a strange bed, in a very old house. The room was saturated with the peculiar odor, which had fascinated me in the hover-biker bar. Here, it was unleavened. It was a commanding smell. Overbearing. Merciless. But in a good way. I sniffed at the blankets. The scent had penetrated them. And not just the blankets. It had gotten into my beard, and my skin. I ran my tongue over my teeth. Within my mouth, the odor had transformed itself into a taste: something between vinegar and a burned steak. It was odd, but strangely pleasant.
I sat up and tried to figure out where I was. That's when I saw the tattoo that encircled my right bicep. It was a thick, purple line, in a crenelated pattern. I looked down, and saw a second tattoo over my left nipple. It was a large tower, silhouetted in purple, imitating the cut-out on my super-hero costume. I could hear the shower going in another part of the house. I slipped out of the bed, and pulled on my boxers. As quietly as I could, I padded about the room, investigating. Through the window I spied a neighborhood filled with tiny homes, all of them quite old, but in good shape. Next door, an elderly Bismollian cleared satellite debris from his lawn, by eating it. On a table, I found a small clay pot, bearing sigils that looked vaguely familiar. Likewise, the piles of blankets had patterns and colors that I'd seen before, someplace else, years earlier. I wandered into the hall. The running shower was behind a door at one end of it. Steam wafted through the keyhole, carrying with it a concentrated dose of my lover's aroma. At the hall's opposite end was a modest, tidy living room. Quaint wet-plate photographs dotted the walls of the hall, hanging from dainty ribbons. Each one featured humanoids from whose foreheads jutted knobby horns of varying lengths and girths. In some of the photographs, the horns were emitting pale wisps of smoke. And everyone in the photos had black hair, with a thick white streak running down the middle. Even the beards and mustaches had this solitary white streak. That's when it hit me: my soul mate was from the same world as Polecat! That's where I'd seen those design motifs before: in the ugly-ass clothes Polecat had sewn when we were in high school together!
It struck me as funny. I hated Polecat, mainly because he was a sniveling, acid-tongued little twink who stank like a cheese-fry fart. Not that I had even seen him since our school days. I remember he had vowed to take some kind of revenge on me. (Him and about a hundred other guys from that school. The Blockade Boy Revenge Squad! They even had their own page in the yearbook!) I wondered why Polecat smelled so differently from this mysterious man I had slept with. Maybe it was all the greasy foods he liked to eat, or, hell, just because he was a teenager and going through "that awkward age." And here I was, having just rolled out of bed with a guy from the same planet as a dude I utterly despised.
As I pondered this, I ambled back into the bedroom. My reverie was cut short when I stumbled over my own costume and crashed headlong onto the floor. A metallic squeal signaled the shower cutting off. My lover called to me from the bath, asking if I was awake. His voice was a gravelly baritone. Very butch, very hot.
I could hear the sink faucet run, briefly, along with the brusque scraping noises of a scalp razor. We had a good laugh over how he had mistaken me for a man of his own species. He asked me if his scent was going to be a problem, and I honestly told him that it wasn't. He said that the other guys he had dated couldn't wait to scour his aroma off of themselves, as soon as they were done in the sack. But that was all over, now. As far as he was concerned, I was The One. Supposedly, I had "ruined him for all other men." I didn't feel the same, but I hated to ruin the mood, so I fobbed him off by saying something sexy and vague. When he complimented me on my own
manly aroma, I suggested that we spend a lot of time together, working out and playing one-on-one moops ball, so I could work up a good sweat for him. What the heck, right? I thought I could let him down gently once we were face-to-face.
The faucet squeaked off, and the door opened. He strolled out, rubbing his face with a towel. That's when I saw that he had the same tattoos as myself. He lowered the towel from his head, and smiled, playfully, at my dumbstruck countenance. "Hey, don't blame me!"
he purred. "The matching tattoos were your
I replied, "Yeah, that sounds like something I'd do." But I was having trouble focusing on the tattoos, because I could finally see that this guy looked a lot like me.
Similar jawline, similar eyes (although his were a soft gray, while mine are green). And come to think of it, his voice was awfully similar to my own.
With an aw-shucks nod of his head, he proffered a furry hand to me, and said, "Gosh, I don't think we ever even told each other our names! I'm Rale Toran. Well, when I'm out super-heroing, my codename is 'Musk Ox.' But you
can just call me..."
"...Ox," I answered for him, as my guts threatened to heave up a river of alcohol. I held out my own hand, which was suddenly quite clammy, and very, very cold. "It's nice to finally make your acquaintance."
Storm Boy was right.
I really do