He drifted through a pine forest, bare feet a few inches from the brown pine-needle carpet below. It was night, but there was a light up ahead sending shafts, laser-like, between the trees. Figures interrupted the beams every now and again, swaying to and fro between him and the incandescent light source. He drew nearer and the figures ceased their dance and turned to him calling out his name.
Close now, he could see that like him the figures floated above ground. But at least he had legs and feet; these ghostlike creatures became smoky and ill defined below waist level. They beckoned him into a clearing where burned a fire of unnatural brightness before which two human forms slept. As he looked they defined themselves into people he recognized: Scott Favor and Kate. They were more than asleep; not dead but as if awaiting the spark that would make them fully viable. They were both naked and lay with their feet pointing to Mike so that together their bodies formed a V-shape on lush, wet grass that was their bed.
One of the smoke creatures hovered between their heads as it sprouted true legs and took on human form. As the last wisps drew away, a red skinned woman stood, heavy limbed and round bellied and dressed not in clothes but in mosses, bracken and leaves. Her eyes bored holes into Mike's soul and her words implanted themselves into his head.
'Choose!' she said, her lips all the while immobile.
Mike looked at Johnny, who but an instant before had been Scott. His eyes ran down from forehead past sharp-handsome features to strong chest, from flat belly to his sex, and trailed down smooth almost hairless legs to well shaped feet. Then from Kate's feet - except now she had transfigured into Nancy MacAlister - up the slender calves and silken thighs, the wide hips and tapering waist past the generous, well rounded breasts to her elfin face framed with soft yellow hair.
'Choose!' urged the spirit-woman. Mike looked from Johnny to Kate and then back to Scott and back again to Nancy. Why couldn't one of them help him decide? He wanted them both but he knew without asking this would not be allowed. If one of them would only show that they wanted him, that's who he'd choose.
The spirit-woman shouted, now angry and clapped her hands: Scott/Johnny and Kate/Nancy vanished and at the same instant objects appeared in the woman's hands.
'Bring them back!' pleaded Mike. 'I want them both!' he shouted, his voice falling away as his feet at last touched the ground. Now he was naked, and the woman stood before him holding out the objects in her hand. 'I want them both,' he whispered to the earth. 'I want her for sex and him for love.'
The woman struck him - he felt the pain - and shook the objects. 'CHOOSE!' this time menacing. In her right hand she held a bow and arrows, in her left a beaded leather knapsack. Mike grabbed for the bow but before his hand made contact, the woman crossed arms. Mike recoiled from the knapsack, and tried again. Once more the woman crossed over and once again Mike pulled up short. Suddenly he was angry - more angry than afraid. The spirit-woman receded, her legs once more becoming smoke-like, but Mike surged forward in his fury and snatched both bow and knapsack.
The spirit-woman screamed and the others of smoke returned flying around and at and through Mike. He fell under the assault holding the trophies close to his body as the noise around him climbed to within a decibel of bursting his ears. Then - all was silent.
He was no longer naked, but dressed in worn-out jeans and his old, fringed suede coat. His ears throbbed rhythmically as he rocked the objects - but they were no longer objects. His arms were around a body, a body warm and smelling of leather and tobacco. The throbbing became a drumbeat, accompanied by the chanting of Native Americans - far off but distinct. A campfire warmed his back.
'You all right Mikey?' asked Scott, holding Mike a little closer. Mike smiled: this was his favorite dream; under the desert sky, just him and Scott. No sex - that would spoil it all, diminish it. He wanted Scott to hold him, to be his Dad, and his brother, and his best friend. He wanted to be accepted, totally and to the point of sex without sex actually happening. Yes, this was Mike's favorite dream, and all the more treasured because once, it had actually happened.
Once in four months, if he was lucky, he would enjoy this dream all the while knowing that reality would soon burst in. This time it came with a vengeance: it struck him through the ribs like a knife, the pain taking his breath away.