“Dark Entries” by Michael C. Thompson from Queer Fish: An Eclectic Anthology of Gay Fiction (Volume One), Pink Narcissus Press (2011). Edited by Margarita Bezdomnya and Rose Mambert.

I was on board with this story right from the title, although I admit I thought the author could not possibly have been referring to the Bauhaus song, which, in fact, he was. Then he chose to title the first of the seven sections of the story “Iblis”, which is the name of the Devil according to Islam. Color me intrigued.

Perhaps I’m just weird, but I collect this sort of knowledge. I’ve never forgotten one book in particular of a series I devoured in the early eighties (Dark Forces, fifteen titles put out by Bantam, which for years I mistakenly recalled as being from Tor), in which the antagonist was revealed, in the 11th hour, to be a demon. The main character didn’t know that was who or what he was dealing with, of course, because his opponent was going by the Russian term for demon: Chort.

I never forgot it.

So here we have section one, Iblis. The Devil. The Deceiver. It opens with a lone figure on the beach, contemplating the whole of the universe and his place within it. This is an intelligent man, an educated man, a somewhat arrogant man. A man who, we realize after a time or two, is high as a kite. Not stoned off his gourd. No, he’s flying high on a dangerous combination of speed and vodka.

Another character appears, calling his name (Lawrence). We get more information about Lawrence from the thoughts which spring into his mind, triggered by the arrival of this second man, whose name is Jonathan. We gets that Lawrence is not only intelligent but arrogant and self-centered. He’s selfish and petulant. He’s young. Jonathan is older, and seemingly more mature. It’s his beach house they are in, he is the only one with a job, and he is successful at his profession. But he’s also just as seriously messed up as Lawrence, though his drug of choice is cocaine. We’re told he’s a comedian by profession, which tells us volumes. In all likelihood he’s frighteningly intelligent, quick, and it’s quite possible that he has erected defenses around a very broken, very vulnerable core. These two men tear through the beach house after nightfall, flinging verbal barbs at one another and, in Lawrence’s case at least, entertaining thoughts of murder. What could possibly go right?

Then a mysterious, beautiful young man appears, far out in the water. Unable to distinguish reality from dreams because of the drugs flooding his bloodstream, Lawrence pursues him, but the stranger stays always out of grasp. When he wakes the next morning Lawrence is tempted to write off the encounter as a figment of his imagination, but Jonathan saw them together—the pursued and the pursuer—and has flown into a jealous rage.

The language of this story is gorgeous and frightening. The narrative flows seamlessly from the hallucinatory, dream state into wakefulness and back again, all the while ratcheting up the stakes and deepening the mystery about the beautiful boy on the beach and how it all will end. I cannot wait to read more from this author.