by Lavie Tidhar
Paul is dead now.
I miss him, miss him, miss him.
- - -
Baptised: the wine fumes go up his nose and make him sniff, then giggle.
Baptised: the dark red liquid is a pool in the desert, a wide circular lake dug in Sisyphian sand, under the banner of two red moons, two lascivious rubies.
Baptised by the Baptist, he says and giggles again, and stares up at the moons and takes a deep breath. He lies flat on his back, holding in air, and his body becomes a dirigible floating on water; he is a Phoenician sailing ship, going to Ur, a merchant of wine and souls.
Baptised by the Baptist, he says. Isn't that right, John?
Yochanan doesn't answer; his hands, his head, his erection are buried underwater, and he swims towards him with an intensity that doesn't befit a hermit.
Play us a tune, he says.
The dark presence underwater unbalances him, pulls down his trousers; a calloused thumb rubs at his Johnny. He feels himself harden.
A good hymn... he whispers. An unseen mouth closes on him below, a man's lips, and he wants them, wants him, with an urgency that makes him breathe harder and tread water.
A good hymn for a baptism.
- - -
You need four to form a band of brothers, the dragon says. There were four brothers in the Hebrew Haggadah, it says, shaking its great golden head above the man lying down on the rocks below. The Wise, the Innocent, The Very Bad, and One Who Asked No Questions.
Three men in a boat, the man below says. Four, if you count the dog. What's your point?
Jerzy, the dragon says, and it shakes that great head until golden scales fall and the man below jumps and curses him. You are not the second, and you are not the last. Are you wise, or very bad?
Jerzy cocks his head and looks up at the dragon, his hands on his hips (in an oddly feminine gesture, the dragon thinks) and a secret smile at the corners of his mouth, which is wide and sensual (the dragon thinks, with a desire that sometimes overwhelms it).
I can be, the man says. He looks up into the dragon's eyes, spearing him with a look. I can be if you want me to.
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"Hello Goodbye" is roughly 1000 words.
Lavie Tidhar grew up on a kibbutz in Israel, lived in Israel and South Africa, travelled widely in Africa and Asia, and has lived in London for a number of years. He currently lives on a remote island in Vanuatu, the South Pacific. He is the winner of the 2003 Clarke-Bradbury Prize (awarded by the European Space Agency), was the editor of "Michael Marshall Smith: The Annotated Bibliography" (PS Publishing, 2004) and the anthology "A Dick & Jane Primer for Adults" (The British Fantasy Society, 2006), and is the author of the novella "An Occupation of Angels" (Pendragon Press, 2005). His stories appear in SciFiction, Strange Horizons, Chizine, Postscripts, Clarkesworld Magazine, Flurb and many others, and in translation in seven languages.