“A Convenient Exorcism”
by Aaron Emrys
The doorbell rang, summoning Ryan out from under his blanket. He peeked through the front window and smiled. He grabbed the smaller of the two baskets sitting on his coffee table before pulling open the door.
“Trick or treat!”
Ryan lowered the basket so a tiny witch and an even tinier dinosaur could grab some candy.
“Only one!” the witch whispered, and the dinosaur pouted.
“I have plenty,” Ryan laughed and got them to take a generous handful.
The kids and their costumes were always enjoyable, but they weren’t what he was waiting for. His real trick-or-treaters came after most of the kids had gone home.
The first knock came promptly at midnight. Ryan peered out the window again. It was good to be sure. He’d grabbed the wrong basket by mistake one year and ensured that the Smith’s would never trick-or-treat at his house again. He opened the door and smiled at the eerily beautiful woman who towered over him.
“You’re a vision as always, Maria.”
She quirked a delicate eyebrow at him and answered in her own tongue, the one that sounded like the rustle of dead leaves. Ryan had spent hours on the internet researching dead languages, but he still hadn’t found it.
Ryan reached into the basket and pulled out a few packets of ordinary-looking gushers. Maria raised both eyebrows at him this time, but sliced open a packet with her razor fingernails and popped one in her mouth. Her eyes flickered and she smiled at him with perfect white teeth, licking a trail of red from the corner of her lips.
Ryan’s skin prickled. With a silent bow — without even a rustle of cloth — Maria turned and vanished into the night.
As if her arrival were some sort of signal, Ryan didn’t have time to sit down properly for at least an hour.
Another one of Ryan’s regulars was next, David, a young man with slicked back hair who smelled like the sea and left damp footprints wherever he went. The nearest body of salt water was a thousand miles away, but Ryan kept his questions to himself.
“You better enjoy these, my house smelled like fish for a week.” Ryan handed the young man a tightly-tied cellophane bag full of white chocolate truffles.
“Ye spoil me,” David said with a wink and a kiss on the cheek.
Ryan managed to blush slightly less than the year before, for which he was very grateful.
The next was a mother with five rowdy kids who growled and snapped at each other till he made sure their portions of jerky were exactly equal. Then there were the ones who glistened in the porchlight, who never spoke but held the amber bracelets Ryan strung as if they were made of diamond. There were some newcomers that looked boney and misshapen, as if their skin zipped up at the back and they had only put it on out of respect to his human sensibilities. He wasn’t quite sure what to give them, so he held out the basket and let them each take what looked the most interesting.
Things quieted down by 1 AM, but Ryan had no intentions of going to bed before his final trick-or-treater arrived. He tucked himself back under the blanket to wait, suppressing a shiver of anticipation.
A log snapped in the fireplace, and Ryan jerked awake. He glanced at the clock and frowned. Benjamin was late. Benjamin was never late. They got to see each other little enough as it was. Ryan ran a hand through his hair, looking at the clock again in the vain hope that it would say something different.
“Damn it.” His voice sounded loud in that empty silence that only happens in the wee hours of the morning. Ryan grabbed his coat from its hook and stepped out onto the porch. He pulled the coat tighter around his shoulders against the chill, his heart sinking. “Where are you Benji?”
Ryan almost jumped at the heavy sigh from near his feet. He looked down and saw a familiar head of hair fading into view. Benjamin sat on the steps, his translucent shoulders hunched. Ryan smiled and dropped to sit next to him.
“I was worried you weren’t coming.” Ryan tried to pull Benjamin into a kiss, but Benjamin looked away.
“I almost didn’t. Couldn’t help myself I guess.”
“What’s wrong?” Ryan managed to get a peek at Benjamin’s face and frowned. “You look terrible.”
“Thanks.” Benjamin snorted. He finally met Ryan’s eyes. “I couldn’t decide if saying goodbye would make things easier or harder, but here I am.”
“Goodbye?” Ryan’s stomach dropped straight through the ground.
“That realtor’s suddenly extra motivated to sell my place, so he’s having exorcists over tonight. No, don’t look at me like that, I mean real exorcists.”
“Can’t you just haunt somewhere else?”
“It doesn’t work like that!” Benjamin snapped. “There has to be a connection, a strong emotional connection, or else my actual remains have to be present—anyway, stop arguing and tell me goodbye properly before we lose the chance.” He took Ryan’s face in his hands, kissing him gently in spite of his frustration. “It was going to happen eventually, I just wish we’d had more time.”
Benjamin’s lips were cool and soft, with only the slightest give in them to suggest that he might not be fully corporeal. Ryan didn’t answer, his mind whirling, and then something clicked into place so neatly he was shocked he hadn’t suggested it before.
“Move in with me.” The words were out of his mouth almost before he realized it.
“There’s nothing you can do, so just…what?” Benjamin’s brain caught up with what Ryan said, and he could only stare in complete confusion. Ryan turned beet red, but if he’d already come this far he might as well keep talking. Ryan curled his hand around the back of Benjamin’s neck, resting their foreheads together so he wouldn’t have to look Benjamin in the eye. He gathered his courage.
“Come haunt me. At least until we figure out what to do. Unless you’re ready to pass on? Or…um…” A horrible thought crossed Ryan’s mind. “If there isn’t enough of a connection…” He managed to look at Benjamin, unnerved by the silence.
“Are you serious?” Benjamin’s usually steady voice wavered. Ryan nodded.
“I don’t know if it’ll work, but I’d like to try,” he added when Benjamin still didn’t answer.
Benjamin laughed, sudden and joyful. He swung his leg over Ryan’s lap, pushing Ryan back against the steps.
“Of course I want to, idiot,” He grinned, and then they were kissing again. Benjamin traced Ryan’s bottom lip with his tongue before sliding it into Ryan’s mouth. Ryan groaned, arching against Benjamin’s body.
“Can we go inside?” Ryan murmured, breaking the kiss.
“Don’t want to scandalize the neighbors?”
“No, the stairs are digging into my back.”
Benjamin grinned and got to his feet, pulling Ryan to his feet and rushing through the door. Ryan managed to yank it shut behind them just as Benjamin turned and crowded him against the wall. Benjamin pressed their lips together again, his fingers fumbling with Ryan’s pants. Ryan smiled into the kiss, sliding his hands under Benjamin’s shirt and tracing his fingers over the skin of Benjamin’s hips and stomach.
Benjamin shivered at the caresses, pulling Ryan’s cock out of his underwear and rubbing his thumb over the head. He lowered his lips to Ryan’s neck. Ryan sighed with pleasure at each little bite and his length twitched in Benjamin’s hand. Benjamin held him tighter, stroking Ryan teasingly from base to tip until Ryan began to squirm.
“Benji, please, just a little harder-“
“Fuck,” Benjamin swore. He paused to unzip his own pants, freeing his cock. Benjamin wrapped his fingers around them both, biting his lip and flushing as he pumped their cocks with his fist, hard and fast. Ryan moaned and sagged against the wall. His mouth dropped open, crying out Benjamin’s name as he came.
Benjamin kissed him deeply, letting go of Ryan’s cock and clutching his own. Ryan tilted his head, kissing back with just as much passion as he wrapped his hand around Benjamin’s, both of them stroking Benjamin’s still-hard length.
“Come on, Benji,” Ryan whispered against Benjamin’s mouth. “I want to see you come.”
Benjamin gasped, tightening his grip. He thrust harder into their hands, his release shooting out over Ryan’s stomach.
Their kisses slowed, leaving both of them flushed and panting, until Ryan thought to grab some tissues from the hallway table to clean them up.
“How’s that for my first rent payment?” Benjamin whispered and nibbled Ryan’s ear.
“I don’t know,” Ryan laughed. “The cost of living is pretty high in this neighborhood.”
Too tired to make it upstairs to bed, Ryan tugged Benjamin to the couch.
“I’m sure I’ll think of something,” Benjamin said, wrapping his arm around Ryan’s waist, and together they fell asleep in front of the crackling fire.
Aaron Emrys lives in the Pacific Northwest where he wrangles computers for friends, family, and non-profits. He has loved writing short stories and poetry since he was young, and has published several poems in independent literary magazines. When he isn’t writing or working, he refuels his creativity with cheesy horror movies, physics articles, and the occasional tarot reading.