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Emerald Mountain [MultiFormat]
eBook by Victor J. Banis

eBook Category: Gay Fiction/Erotica
eBook Description: What price would you pay for the life of someone you love? A homophobic, hate spewing evangelist. A gay messiah, who brings people back from the dead, and whose own past is shrouded in mystery. An empty asylum in the Ohio farmland. And the Emerald Mountain, the legendary haven for lost souls. A burned out reporter tries to unravel the threads. "We are all hearts in exile," he writes, "stumbling alone in the dark..." Hailed as a modern classic.

eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2011


3 Reader Ratings:
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Rain becomes San Francisco. The purples and pinks and oranges of the Victorians are softened to dainty pastels in the rain's mist, the leaves that are gray with dry summer's dust turn green again, and the sidewalks are washed clean of the dog droppings that in the dry season tax the unwary pedestrian.

I wasn't there on that particular day, when Simon came up from the underground station, but I have imagined it so often, have dreamed it so vividly, both awake and sleeping, that I have only to close my eyes to see the scene as clearly as if it were fixed in my memory, and not a product of my imagination.

In my dream, I see him pause at the curb, waiting for the traffic signal, enjoying the brush of the soft rain upon his upturned face. People, passersby and those waiting with him, would look at him, quick sideways glances. The wind tossed his fair hair like a lover's fingers, and rouged those marble cheeks. No doubt he smiled. He liked to smile, and when he did it lit up his face in a magical way.

Yes, no question of it, people looked...

* * * *

Castro Street was a kaleidoscope of wet hues. On the far corner, in the brightly lit windows of the Twin Peaks, the young men watched the passersby, and the older men watched the young. A lone pedestrian, too impatient for the light, darted into the street, skirting cars and their spray. A chorus of horns scolded his audacity.

The Walk sign flashed. Simon crossed, playing Dodge 'Em with a multicolored sea of umbrellas, and paused outside the bar. He felt a twinge of expectation, that peculiar sense of something special impending that sometimes seizes one, for no discernable reason.

The rain began to come down harder just then, as if to convince him to take shelter. Like a ghostly hand at his back, a gust of wind nudged him forward and, without consciously making a decision, he stepped through the open door.

Inside, the overheated room smelled of damp clothes, of sweat and beer and too many, too different, colognes. Glasses clinked, and a chorus of male voices competed with one another. He made his way to an unoccupied table by the window.

At least, he would have sworn there was no one there when he sat down, until a voice said, almost in his ear, "I was afraid you wouldn't get here in time."

Simon started and turned, and found himself looking into the face of a stranger, a craggy face, tawny in color, with a majestic nose and deeply cleft chin--and electric green eyes, the eyes of a hawk, fastened directly on his own, compelling attention.

"I'm so sorry," Simon stammered, and half rose to his feet. "I thought the table was empty."

"No, please. I insist." The stranger laughed and spread his long fingers. "The table is large and my drink is small."

Simon paused to glance around the room. All the other tables were full and men stood two and three deep at the bar. Really, what could he have been thinking? It would have been a miracle to find an empty table on a day like this. It was share this one with a stranger, or fight his way to the bar.

"Well, if you don't mind." He smiled and sat, and looked out the window, to discourage conversation. Outside, a queue of passengers jostled at the curb to board a steaming Muni bus. A Latina woman with a crying baby in her arms pressed back against the bar's window in a vain effort to shelter from the rain.

"I've been waiting for you," the stranger said.

Which, as pick up lines went, was not very original, Simon thought. Maybe, after all, the bar would be the better choice. He sighed and was half out of his chair, when a young man with a tray balanced on his hip came up and asked, "You want a drink?"

"Yes, only..."

"The way you've been bobbing up and down, I wasn't sure."

Hawk eyes said, "Order a drink. And do sit down, please. People are staring."

"Look, I don't even know you. I'm sure," Simon said. Or did he? Something familiar...but, surely he would have remembered those eyes; they might have been glittering emeralds, the brows above them like gray-brown caterpillars.

The waiter shifted his weight and tapped his tray with a cerise fingernail. "Most customers don't need an introduction before they order," he said. "But you can call me Mary if it makes you feel better."

"I meant him," Simon said.

The young man cast a quick, bored glance around the crowded room. "There's a roomful of guys, honey, and I don't do introductions. If you're interested in somebody, send him a drink. Or blow a kiss, it's cheaper. What'll you have?"

"I'm Michael," the stranger said, and added, "he can't see me."

Simon asked, "What do you mean, he can't see you?"

The waiter took a nervous step backward. "On second thought, sweetheart, I don't think you need another drink," he said. "How about some coffee? Fresh brewed. No charge. My treat."

Simon's senses felt oddly heightened. He knew the people on either side of them were watching, he seemed to see them without looking. The music was louder than before and from the bar snippets of conversations swirled about him like aural confetti.

"Is this some kind of a joke you guys cooked up?" Simon asked.

The waiter took another step back and cast a nervous glance in the bartender's direction. "Honey, we don't like trouble here. Maybe you should try another place. How about The Cove, it's just across the street. You could get a bite to eat while you're there."

Even before it happened, Simon had stood, turned to look outside, as if he knew the Latina woman on the other side of the glass was going to scream, as neatly as if they had rehearsed it. She held her baby at arm's length and shook him.

"My baby," she shrieked, "he's stopped breathing." She looked around frantically, and suddenly stared through the window, directly, beseechingly, into Simon's eyes. "Gran Dios. Save him, save my baby."

People moved toward the door, not a stampede, exactly, but enough that Simon was swept along with them. Without knowing exactly how he got there, he was outside, part of the crowd collecting around the sobbing woman. She was on her knees now, kneeling. The baby lay on the sidewalk before her, crimson faced, not breathing. Surely, Simon thought at a glance, the child was dead.

Thunder rumbled distantly. Simon shivered. It reminded him of--of what? The thought was gone as quickly as it had come. It was just a rainstorm. Just thunder. His hands felt cold and numb. He had no consciousness of moving them and yet, when he looked down at them he saw them stretch, as if of their own volition, in the direction of the infant. He seemed to be watching from some place outside: he saw himself lean over the child, and asked himself, what is he doing, he's not a doctor?

The lightning struck right where he was standing. He thought, it's supposed to come before the thunder. It exploded inside his head, a blinding blue-white light. Electricity crackled along his arms and out his fingertips. His senses, preternaturally heightened an instant before, shut down completely.

The same as before...the blackness...the rain...lightning...

It might have been seconds or hours before he became conscious of himself again. He felt as if a tornado had lifted him up and carried him a great distance, like Dorothy in that movie. Where was he? Was he dead? Didn't people die from lightning strikes?

But no, he was just where he had been, outside the Twin Peaks. The rain still fell. A frenzy of Saturday afternoon traffic rushed up and down on Castro Street. Everything was as it had been.

Except, a baby was crying and--he realized this more slowly--people were staring, staring wide-eyed at him, mouths agape. He looked down. It was that baby, the one who had surely been dead a moment before, howling lustily and kicking his feet.

"You saved my baby." The mother scooted around clumsily on her knees and fell against Simon's legs, seizing them so violently she nearly knocked him over. "He brought my baby back to life!" Her voice rose to a shout.

Simon shook his head in confusion and struggled to break away from her embrace. "What happened?" he asked of no one in particular.

Someone tugged at his sleeve and a voice at his ear said, "We'd better get out of here."

It was Michael, the stranger from the bar. "What's going on?" Simon demanded. "Is this some kind of dream?"

Michael leaned so close that Simon thought he meant to kiss him. "In a moment," he whispered, his eyes gleaming with demonic light, "they're going to collect their wits and all hell will break loose."

He tugged at Simon's sleeve. Bewildered, Simon let himself be led. As if under a spell, the onlookers stepped aside, the woman surrendered her hold on Simon's legs, and in a moment, Simon and his companion were around the corner, on Seventeenth Street.

"What the hell is this?" Simon demanded, coming to an abrupt stop. "What happened back there?"

"Her baby died," Michael said, in a voice so matter-of-fact he might have been describing the weather. "You put your hands on him, and he came back to life."

"You're...are you crazy? Dead? I never touched that baby. I never laid a hand on him."

"You did. You put both hands on his forehead. I saw you. They saw you. What do you think they...?"

From the corner behind them, someone shouted, "Hey, you there, wait a sec."

"They're awake," Michael said. "We'd better run for it."

He began to run and Simon ran with him, with no idea what he was frightened of, what he was running from, or to. He fled across the street, up another, until he couldn't run any further. Side aching, he staggered against a tree.

"Listen, if you think..." he panted, and turned toward Michael--but there was no Michael, only a middle-aged man walking a spaniel on a leash, twenty feet away, who reversed himself and walked briskly in the opposite direction.


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