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Dark Angel

There he is, standing on the bridge, looking out over the water. The rain and fog make it hard to discern more than a general shape, but his intent is clear. He means to jump. Such despair in one so young. So little hope.


Approaching silently, I know I have time. His emotional state has drawn me like a beacon, but his resolve is unclear at this point. It will be several minutes, perhaps as much as an hour, before he finally summons the courage to step up onto the stone railing and out to meet his chosen fate. Time enough to do what I will.


Beneath my feet I feel the subtle shiftings of this magnificent marvel of the modern age. This bridge, the sentinel of San Francisco and the bay beyond, bends and sways in ways not often perceptible to humans, except perhaps during the occasional earthquake. But I am only part human. The product of blasphemy, sacrilege and an unholy union played out so very long ago. Even so, I am human enough to recognize beauty when I walk it.


He still has not sensed my approach, though I am near enough now to see him clearly. He could see me, as well, if he were only to turn his head. But he is too lost in his grief and self-loathing. He is so close to becoming damned. He’ll never know how close.


“Nice night for it,” I say conversationally.


He starts, turning his head to stare, wide-eyed in my direction. His gaze takes in my carefully constructed form; tall, raven-dark curls, ankle-length leather trench coat, black boots. He relaxes visibly, having discerned that I am not a cop, or a park ranger. 


“Yeah,” he says absently, turning back to look out into the noisy white nothingness beyond the stone wall. In the distance a fog horn cries mournfully.


“Bit cold.”


He nods, but does not turn back to me.


“Good night to jump, if one were so inclined.”


This time he does turn. Dark eyes narrow in his drawn face. He is perhaps 32 or 33, prematurely balding and going slightly to fat. Even so, he is a handsome specimen, with full lips, a straight, aquiline nose and clear skin. A smudge of stubble, only a few shades darker than the blonde of his rain-plastered hair, shadows his jowls and chin.


“What do you want?” he asks. “Did Jonathan send you?”


“No. I came of my own accord.”


“Nobody else knew I would be here. Damn!” he says, closing his eyes and fighting back tears of frustration. “I knew I should have left a note instead of a message on his answering machine. I thought he would be out all night and wouldn’t get it until morning...”


“...and by then, it would all be over.”


The man nods sorrowfully, turning away again. “Look, whoever you are, just leave me alone. You can’t talk me out of this. I have nothing more to live for. I’m just another lost soul in a city of lost souls.”


“Not yet.”


“You don’t know. Please, leave me alone.”


“What could be so horrible that you would give up that which is most precious?”


The man sighs, then turns angrily to make retort. I step closer and let my eyes come out of shadow and into his view. The old magic works as it always has. His voice catches, followed by a quick intake of breath, as his gaze falls into mine.


“Oh, God...” he says.


“No. He has forsaken you. I am Zeil. I am here to help you salvage your damaged soul, Benjamin Tate.”




“Because I choose to.”




The bar on Beach Street is crowded, despite the late hour. Tate is dryer now than he was when first we met. Clutched between his hands is a steaming mug of black coffee, liberally spiked with brandy. I study the golden hairs sweeping gracefully across the back of his large hands and under the cuffs of his damp blue dress shirt.


He watches me study him and a shy smile spreads across his face, though it doesn’t touch his eyes. “Thanks for the coffee,” he says again. Needlessly.


I nod and continue to study him, aware that my boldness is beginning to excite him. Tufts of hair curl around the unbuttoned collar of his shirt. The cleft of his collar bone, that most sensuous of erogenous zones, is clearly visible.  He swallows heavily and clears his throat, drawing my gaze back up to his eyes.


“You’re a nice guy,” he says, hesitantly, as though trying to find the words to express what he has yet to fathom. “And I’m really grateful to you for... well... for being there when you were. It’s not every day that a complete stranger comes up to me and starts talking. Not even in this city.”


“It was my pleasure. You’re a very attractive man. It would be a shame to see you waste that.”


Tate’s gaze drops down into his cup. “Yeah... that...” He clears his throat again.  “You know, sometimes things aren’t as...  things aren’t what they seem to be.”


“I am very aware of that.”


He nods, but doesn’t look up. “I know, everybody is, but...”


I reach across and pry one of his hands off of the cup, enfolding it with my fingers. 


“Uh... we really shouldn’t...” He looks around nervously. “This isn’t that kind of place...”


“Nobody is paying us any mind.”


“Um... yeah... okay. Look, I’m really kind of scattered right now. I have a lot on my mind and... to tell you the truth, I can’t really remember everything that’s happened in the last hour or so.” He lets go an embarrassed laugh. “I can’t even remember your name, much less how we got here.”


I smile comfortingly. All is as it should be now that the glamour is in place.   “That’s alright, you’ve been through a lot. It’s not every day that a person decides to take his own life. My name is Paul.”


“Paul?” He looks at me with a curious expression. “That was the name of my last boyfr...  my lover.”


“Is that a bad thing?”


“No,” he says quickly. “It’s not. I loved him very much. It’s actually kind of comforting, in a way. He... he died not too long ago. He was much stronger than I am. He was brave right up to the very end, unlike me. I’m a coward. I’m not even full-blown yet and I’m already contemplating... Look, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this...”


“Because you need someone to talk to, and I’m ready to listen.”


He studies me solemnly, then relaxes visibly. “You are, aren’t you. And, God, you’re so...” he smiles shyly. “You’re so beautiful. You have the most incredible eyes I’ve ever seen in my life. I feel like I could tell you anything and you’d accept it.”


I pause in my reply and smile reassuringly. “Who am I to pass judgement? Open your heart to me, Benjamin Tate, it’s what I’m here for.”


His eyes crinkle into a smile for the first time this evening, and I know I have won him. “It’s Ben. Just Ben. Only my mother and my queer friends call me Benjamin. I’ve always hated it.”


“Then, Ben it is.”



“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Ben says, nervously rattling his keys as he searches for the right one to open the door to his apartment. I take them from him gently, locate the right key and insert it into the door. He is so grateful he doesn’t seem to notice this discrepancy, though I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t anyway. That’s the way of the glamour.


“I haven’t brought anybody home with me in... a really long time. Paul and I were together for six years, this was his apartment before he met me, and after he... after he died, I couldn’t bring myself to... you know. The whole bar scene has become such a turn-off for me...”


“Ben, you’re babbling.”


He nods rapidly, taking two steps forward into the room, hesitating, then moving forward again with conviction. “Let me get you something to drink.  Would you like to listen to some music?”


“If you like.”


He disappears through a doorway, flipping switches as he goes, and I am left to study the cramped, but comfortable, quarters. Charming and well appointed, just as one would expect from an upscale San Francisco apartment. I have learned that Ben is a publicist for a large national public relations firm and Paul was one of his finds. A photographer, his work can be seen everywhere throughout this apartment.


I am suddenly privy to the knowledge that, in time, this dead man’s name will become well known, through Ben’s efforts. This man has much to live for.


“All I have is vodka, I’m afraid,” Ben says, emerging from the kitchen with two iced drink glasses in hand. He hands me one and throws back a large swallow of his own. I set mine on a table and step closer to him, staring deep into his eyes.


“Um...” he says, swallowing hard. “Are you sure this is okay? I mean, are you sure...”


I nod, taking his drink from him and setting it aside as well. “There’s no danger of your infecting me. I was damned a long time ago.”


He smiles. “That’s an interesting way of putting it.”


I cover his mouth with mine and he leans into me. His need is palpable. I feed off it, like the parasite that I am. My hands caress him lightly, slowly drawing his clothing away until he is naked against me. He appears surprised to find that I, too, am naked, but there is no apprehension in him, and he gives himself over to the moment. I zero in on that zone I had so admired earlier.


For this night, he is my world. This is the moment I was made to fulfill. In the ways of my kind, I give him his heart’s innermost desire, conforming to become the fantasy lover he has always wished for. I caress him, I hold him, I kiss him and I draw pleasure from his body in ways he has only dreamed of.


As we make love, I can feel the hope returning to him. I can feel the promise re-igniting. We feed off of each other, and I am once again vindicated for the role I have chosen to play. Tomorrow he will remember little of the encounter, except that he was seduced by a beautiful young man who was gone when he awoke. It will play out like a vividly remembered dream in his mind, but it will be enough to sustain him. For a while.


You see, men like Ben Tate are more than just playthings to me, they are my liberation. Despite all that has been written and all that has been said, I am not bound by the strictures of my supposed calling. My days of impregnating women in their sleep, and thus bringing about the birth of evil men to plague this world, are over. 


By preying on the anguished male souls of this material plane, I avoid the destiny visited upon me at my conception and defy the very powers of Hell by offering hope, rather than damnation. It’s an irony others of my ilk find deceitful, and that in itself is an irony. Unlike them, I am no lackey to the Arch-Demons who created us. I bring no nightmare in my wake. I am no sower of discord. 


I am Zeil.  I am Incubus.  I am salvation.

                                                                                                     *  *  *


© David Salcido, 1988. Registered with the Library of Congress and the Writers Guild of America, 2013. All rights reserved.

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