Justin F. Robinette
Mark Has Transcended
Mark died, but he thought: who would care about a gay guy? Soon everyone forgot and Mark transcended. If Mark were asked to pinpoint the impetus for his departure, it would be his former whatever-they-were, Dan. Dan didn’t choose Mark out of fear. Being with Mark, who was openly gay, would have outed Dan.
After Mark died, he was dispatched to an interstitial space. The other spirits mostly kept to themselves unless they had something they felt was very important to say. Usually, it was limited to who killed them, what they were doing at the time, any other significant circumstances of their deaths, and when the time came, the anniversaries. When you die before your time has come, you live in the interstices. They pronounced it like this: inter-stitchies. It wasn’t unlike Purgatory except there was a mother-consciousness in charge. The interstices were lonely. Mark was focused on only one thing. He was still in love with Dan.
“Can you ever go back?” Mark asked aloud, believing what he had to ask was very important to know.
“Mother-consciousness does let you go back,” one of the other spirits told him.
“I wish he chose me,” Mark said aloud, but nobody replied to that.
Mark frequently returned to the living. When he did, he spent most of his time stalking Dan. Dan recognized the figure of Mark except he was utterly see-through now.
“I think I’m being haunted,” Dan confided in a priest.
“Have you stopped dating men?” the priest asked him.
“I stopped having sex altogether,” Dan said.
The priest said, “What’s the harm with going on a date with a God-fearing woman?”
“My ex tries to kill them,” Dan said.
Dan only dated women after Mark, and when he did, Mark followed them around to frighten them, appearing out of nowhere, pretending to kill them, but really he was just trying to break them up. When Dan dated women, he was embarrassed that they would find out he had ever dated men. Now, whenever he would mention Mark, Dan made sure to switch the genders—that “crazy girl who killed herself” or “that crazy woman haunting me.” Mark frowned when he considered that, for Dan, it would be worse to have people know Mark was a guy, worse than if they found out he was dead.
Mark took it out on the newest woman Dan dated. Dan and his date were at a bar, a straight bar. Dan hadn’t been in a straight bar for a very long time. Mark laughed to himself, stalking them outside the restaurant. The hostess had just brought the bar menu when Mark appeared outside the window next to Dan and his date. He proceeded to snap the overhangs shut, through Mark’s semi-corporeal form, smashing the glass from the windows, and littering Dan and his date’s table with giant triangular shards. Both Dan and his date pitched themselves backward from the table in their chairs.
“Did it get you?” Dan said, alarmed. He had barely avoided a glass shard about as big as a hammer near his neck.
“I don’t think so,” his date said. They gathered their belongings and dashed out together and as they scrambled out, Mark tried to fling a large slice of glass, as large as one of the tables, sending it barreling across the bar.
“Get down,” Dan grabbed his date. She did just as the glass buzzed past her, then smashed against the opposite wall.
“I bet that was him,” Dan said without thinking.
“Who?” his date asked.
“Nobody,” was all that Dan quickly replied. Dead ex, he knew.
Mark mocked Dan’s date from the interstices. “My savior,” Mark whined when he remembered Dan’s date. Mark considered: why doesn’t he seem to care about me? How many valiant man-deeds would it take to make up for the fact that I died? No, he refused to think of himself as a victim because he knew he was the one who killed himself.
Another night, Dan took a different woman dancing, but Mark found them and ripped the nails right out of the dance floor. The floor started to sink under everyone’s weight as those inside ran for the only fire escape. They all barely got out the slender door alive so that Mark didn’t have the pleasure of watching someone fall through the floor that far up.
At a wedding, Dan brought a different woman. They were in a hot auditorium hall together. If he were alive, the only thing that would be different about this scene would be that Dan would be with Mark. Dan liked to be with men. Mark imagined it and became aroused, but above everything else, he was still angry.
So he possessed the body of the largest man in the wedding this time, practically a linebacker, then grabbed a steak knife, and tried to attack Dan’s date.
“Shit, I think that’s—” Dan grunted, but didn’t finish, lunging to shove his date to the hardwood floor where she fell to avoid the slash.
“You’re right, it is me,” the linebacker said, wielding the knife, looking back with his teeth glinting. Mark thought, it’s very true, some people wear a mask.
When Dan was with Mark, you couldn’t really call what they had a relationship, more like casual sex. Of course, they initially met on a gay sex app.
“Host?” Mark asked.
“Travel,” Dan said. “Are you gay?” he asked. To make sure of what?
“No,” Dan lied because you could be whoever you wanted to be on a gay sex app.
“Cool, where at?”
When Dan arrived, they hooked up. When Mark saw Dan place his phone upside-down on the table, Mark asked Dan if he was single. Dan said he wasn’t.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” Mark guessed.
“Yeah,” Dan lied. When Mark didn’t answer, Dan said, “But we can still meet up.”
While Mark was alive, he met up with Dan again sometimes for sex. Once, Mark did see Dan walking together with a guy in a park. And, on another occasion, he saw Dan and another guy, but never a girl, walking together in that same park. When Dan stopped responding to Mark on the app, it hurt so much finally Mark decided he would off himself.
After Mark died, another woman whom Dan dated and whom he haunted, Laura, had a family with a coven of witches in a previous generation who had passed down various folk traditions to Laura’s family. Some of them Laura revived. One night, on her own turf, she drew a pentagram circle in chalk on the floor, pulled out a book, and called on a series of ancient names to summon Mark’s ghost, but it wasn’t one of her family’s summoning rituals, it was contemporary feminist paganism.
“Dear mother consciousness, dear crone. All female ancestors, deities, spirits, and all other forms,” she closed her eyes and cooed to nothing but the air. “I am here to contact the force who is trying to kill me,” she breathed. Although she expected a female consciousness, Mark’s form clearly appeared. “Why are you trying to kill me?” Laura asked.
“You’re so naïve, you think you’re the only one?” Mark said.
“Well, why are you trying to kill us?” Laura asked.
“I love him,” Mark said.
“So kill him, not me,” Laura said.
Mark possessed Dan who leapt from the top of a high-rise apartment building, the exact same one Mark had jumped from before. Mark as Dan broke his way in and got all the way to the top-most story of the thirty-story building, which was under construction, so maybe they were going to build it higher. But, probably not much higher because there was a sign strung from about the middle of the building that said, “Leasing Now,” which Mark as Dan went past on the way down. When he hit the pavement, Dan’s eyes faded and he transcended. Mark dispatched himself back to the interstices. Mark would defend himself by saying being openly gay in the world was hard. “I’m here to say, expect it from me in return,” Mark said to the other spirits, something very important he wanted to say.
He had died before his time had come, so when Dan arrived in the interstices, at first he responded with his characteristic anger. Mark said to Dan, “Calm down. Let’s not hurt each other here.”
Dan yelled, “I’ll never forgive you.”
Mark said, “Baby, I know you’re angry.” Then, he tried to calm Dan down, “But, don’t be angry with me, it’s you and me, and you can’t kill me here.” In the interstices, their forms were such that they could kiss and even make love.
Justin F. Robinette is a graduate of Duke University. He has enjoyed publishing fiction in places like the Erotic Review magazine, Apocalypse Confidential, Datura Literary Journal, Horror Sleaze Trash, and now, DM. Work about which he's proud is forthcoming in Misery Tourism, The Winnow, Angel Rust, and HauntedMTL's upcoming horror anthology, Queer as Hell. Bienvenue au Danse, Justin.