© Mike Finn 2010
Declan had been in Kevin’s arms when the cavalryman found them. He and Kevin arranged to meet in the afternoon but it was early evening by the time Kevin got to the bothy. Things had not started well. Kevin had been delayed by an argument with his father and had arrived restless and angry and would not be soothed. He had picked a fight that started with words but moved on through pushing to rolling on the floor grabbing at each other.
Kevin was larger but Declan’s work in the fields had made him strong so they were evenly matched. The fight took on a life of its own, neither of them willing to submit. Finally, when he was almost at the end of his strength, Declan pinned Kevin beneath him and held him there until he saw the anger leave Kevin’s eyes.
“I don’t want to fight you,” Declan said.
“What do you want then?”
Declan had answered by sliding up Kevin’s chest, opening his fly and pulling out his erection.
“See what you do to me?”
“You’re poking it in my face, I can hardly miss it.”
Declan grinned and said, “Do you want me to take it away?”
The last of Kevin’s tension seemed to leave him. A smile like sunshine spread across his face.
“I can’t let it leave in that condition,” he said. ”Let go of my arms and I’ll see what I can do.”
“You don’t need your arms. Just use your head.”
“So you’re going to make me do all the work?”
“Would you like me to move your head for you?”
“Give it here. It’s obviously doing your thinking for you.”
Kevin had taken Declan into his mouth, working the tip with skill but torturous slowness. Declan rode it out, letting the pressure build, resisting the temptation to grab Kevin by the hair and increase the pace.
The release, when it came, was spectacular.
He rolled off Kevin, lay beside him and kissed his mouth in thanks.
That was when the applause started.
Kevin and Declan sprang apart like scalded cats.
Fear filled Declan’s throat. He had been certain that they were alone. They should never have stayed after dark. Now someone had discovered them. Everything was lost.
They scrambled to the door of the bothy, but someone was there before them. It was dark now and all they could see was a man silhouetted against the gibbous moon.
“Now, now boys. There’s no need to run. I’m of you’re persuasion as you might say. And very persuasive you both are. I was mightily impressed.”
“You spied on us?” Kevin sounded outraged
“Spying is an unkind description. I was taking a little rest at the back of the bothy and was woken from my sleep by the sound of young men doing what comes naturally and doing it very well. I was not so much spying as lost in admiration at the beauty of nature. Now let’s see if we can light this old lamp over here and have a proper look at one another.”
The man’s voice was soft, calm and pleasant on the ear even though his accent was English. The lamplight revealed him as a beautiful man, dressed in a cavalry uniform and with a sabre on his hip and a smile on his face.
The smile, in all its glory, was directed at Kevin. Kevin blossomed under that smile, opening up like a tightly folded bud meeting the sun for the first time.
Declan understood the attraction. He too was intrigued by the idea of a handsome grown man who admitted to being of “the same persuasion”. Yet, while he could see the appeal in principle, Declan did not take to the man. He put it down to jealousy. The man spoke only to Kevin and could not seem to look away from him.
Later, Declan would recall that coat was old, almost antique,and dirty, as if the man had just climbed out of the loose soil in the floor of the bothy. He would flail at himself for not noticing the uncanny ability to see in the dark and for not paying attention to the resemblance he saw to Father Boyle when he looked in the man’s eyes.
That evening neither Declan nor Kevin recognised the cavalryman for the ruthless predator that he was. He regaled Kevin with stories of faraway places and old wars. He taught him drinking songs. He ignored Declan completely. What hurt Declan, was that Kevin seemed not to notice that he was the sole focus of the cavalryman’s attention.
Time passed them by swiftly and Declan was surprised when the cavalryman said, “Dawn will be upon us in an hour and I have somewhere to be by then. We must bring things to an end.”
Declan knew that they would both be in trouble for staying out all night. He tried to drag Kevin towards the door. If they ran, they might make it to their own homes before dawn. But Kevin was too well mannered simply to leave. He offered the cavalryman his hand and bid him farewell.
The touch of Kevin’s flesh on his seemed to release something in the cavalryman. He snarled and pulled Kevin towards him, lifting him off his feet in a single motion. Then he bit into Kevin’s throat like a rabid dog and did not let go.
Declan stood frozen. Fear overwhelmed him. Piss ran down his leg. The cavalryman had become a beast and was killing his beloved but Declan could not make himself move.
After long minutes, the cavalryman lifted his head. Kevin’s blood covered his lower face. His mouth was open. He had fangs.
Kevin’s body had stopped twitching and was limp in the Cavalryman’s arms. Even though it was clear that the boy had died, the Cavalryman pressed his mouth against Kevin’s in an obscene travesty of a loving kiss that went on for several seconds.
Finally, he looked up at Declan and said, “Wonderful. The boy tasted as good as he looked.”
Declan, still rooted to the spot by his fear, started to sob. Kevin was dead. Kevin was dead. Kevin was dead.
Quicker than Declan could follow with his eyes, the cavalryman closed the distance between them.
He dropped Kevin at Declan’s feet.
“He died knowing that you failed him; that you are such a coward you didn’t even try to save your lover.”
The beast had not touched him but Declan felt as if a sword had just been twisted in his gut. Declan knew that he could not live with himself. His beloved was dead and he had just let it happen.
“Kill me too. Please.”
It came out as a snot-sodden whimper.
The cavalryman laughed.
“You’re not pretty enough to kill. Now take him home to his loving parents and get him buried.”
At the door the cavalryman paused.
“We’ll be meeting again”
The rest of that day was a blur. He had carried Kevin’s body to the big house and told a story of spending the night looking for him and then having found him slain by a beast.
Father Boyle had been called and had denied Kevin a Christian burial, claiming that the bite marks on Kevin’s neck were the Devil’s seal. When he claimed that Declan and Kevin had both consorted with the Devil, Kevin’s father had made the priest leave.
Declan helped Kevin’s father dig a pit in the home field, wrap Kevin in a shroud, bury him and mark the place in the old way, with a stone cairn.
Afterwards, he had gone back with the family to mourn Kevin with whiskey and tears deep into the night. At some point, Declan had fallen into a drunken sleep.
The cries of the dying roused him.
The cavalryman was in the house, slaughtering all around him with his sabre, singing one of his drinking songs as he worked and moving so fast, no one could stop him.
Every member of Kevin’s household died that night. The stone floors ran slick with blood. The air stank of death and corruption.
Again, Declan froze. He had stayed on the floor, arms wrapped around his legs, and waited for his turn to die.
Blood dripped from the blade of the cavalryman’s sabre onto Declan’s boots.
“Well, that was as bracing a start to the evening as I’ve had in many a year.”
Declan looked up at the cavalryman but did not move. The monster’s lower face was painted in gore. He had the relaxed stance of a glutton at the end of a too-large meal.
“’Course you’re lover tasted the best of any of ’em. His mother and father had passed their prime. His sisters came close, ‘specially the youngest, but they lacked that earthy male undertone that made the boy special.”
“His name,” Declan said, making himself climb to his feet, “was Kevin and he was a man. A beautiful man. A man I loved.”
The monster laughed.
“And yet you didn’t lift a hand to save your precious Kevin, did you boy?”
With a roar, Declan launched himself at the monster’s throat.
The cavalryman had simply stepped aside, as if Declan had been moving at a snail’s pace.
Declan landed on the blood-slickened floor and slid across it, bumping up against the broken body of Kevin’s father.
“You’re too slow to fight me, boy.”
Declan pushed himself up on his arms but before he could find his feet, the tip of the sabre has pricked the back of his neck.
“Stay on the floor, boy. Take a look at the man in front of you and ask yourself if you want to join him.”
Declan stared at the corpse that was inches from his face and he knew that dyeing was no longer what he wanted; there was something else he wanted much more.
“I am going to kill you.” Declan said.
The Cavalryman placed his foot on Declan’s arse and pressed down so hard, Declan thought his hip would break.
“You are alive because you know where the boy is buried,” the cavalryman said.
“Why do you care where he lies? Are you some kind of carrion crow wanting to feast on the eyes of the dead?”
“I can bring him back.”
The word’s made Declan’s heart stop.
“Well now, that depends on what you’re prepared to do to help me raise him.”
The cavalryman scooped Declan off the floor with one hand and held him a foot of the ground.
“I will do whatever is within my power, to bring Kevin back.”
The cavalryman grinned and lowered Declan to the floor.
“Take off your belt.”
“Don’t be shy, boy. I’ve already seen what you have in there and how you use it.”
Suddenly, the memory of Kevin laying beneath him flooded Declan’s brain. Loss grabbed hold of his guts and twisted. He handed the monster his belt, holding up his trousers with one hand.
The cavalry man moved rapidly, looping the belt around Declan’s neck and pulling it so tight that Declan started to choke. Instinctively he raised both hands to claw at the leather looped around his throat. His trousers slipped to his ankles. He was too busy fighting for breath to care.
The cavalryman laughed, loosened the belt around Declan’s neck enough to allow him to breathe but still kept the length of leather pulled tight. Declan fell to his knees, gasping for breath.
“So, pup,” the cavalryman said, tugging hard on Declan’s new leash, “Get to your feet, pull up your trousers and lead me to where you buried your lover.”