“Three on a Match” by Steve Berman from Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers (Lethe Press, 2014).
Contemporary yet timeless, this brief story lingered in my imagination in much the same way “Vespers” did in Trysts.
There are some outward similarities. The setting for both is college. Last time it was a frat house, this time it’s a dormitory. Also in both an older boy waits in his lair-like room for a younger one to pay a visit. And in each story there’s a longing for the supernatural to be real.
That’s where the similarities end. Ewan is no hapless victim. He wasn’t lured to Antony’s room; he paused in the open doorway and leaned on the frame. He spoke first. He’s actively playing the game. The case could be made that he holds the majority of the power.
Each of them tells a creepy tale—Antony’s is more show and tell—that heightens the story tension, but neither boy is exactly smooth. Each has moments where he succeeds in impressing the other and some where he shows his hand. Ultimately, they are drawn together by youth and hormones.