You can catch up with the first installment of this piece here. It started as somewhat of an experiment. It seems to be taking the form of a supernatural thriller, set above and below the streets of Los Angeles.
The third day
Preston and Danny had stayed up all night watching everything they could find, and they even found one of Preston’s early scenes, which probably every young male actor in same-sex videos had done in their progression from solo to full-on fucking.
It was the classic scenario of the physical exam, which Preston’s character ostensibly had to take before joining the college swim team, and was shot on a very detailed set depicting a doctor’s office, with all of the real equipment and furniture.
The “doctor” was a very handsome 30-something man, and the whole thing played out like a normal exam — at first. Questions and answers, taking temperature, looking in the mouth, eyes, and ears, feeling the lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears, and so on.
They even took their time with the process of Preston getting undressed, the doctor testing his reflexes, palpating his abdomen, and so on, everything seeming normal until the prostate exam, when Preston let out a loud moan as the doctor probed.
“Do you like that?” he asked, and Preston nodded. “And are you having any problems with your male parts?” the doctor continued as Preston rolled over and laid on the table, now a bit aroused.
As was the case in every version of this scenario ever shot, the answer was yes, and the solution was for the doctor — wearing neoprene gloves and using KY — to administer a hand-job to his naked patient to “cure” the problem.
It covered a few fetishes and genres all at the same time. In addition to the medical doctor, and twink and young dad type angles, it featured what was called CMNM, aka “clothed man, naked man,” which was a thing.
Since Danny was mentally more focused on his days prior to Preston’s career, it always boggled his mind at how many very specific terms and descriptions there were for things, but he really understood why the internet’s Rule 34 was absolutely true.
Rule 34 in a nutshell: If you can imagine it, then there’s internet porn of it.
“There’s probably already gay ghost twincest porn out there somewhere,” Preston suggested one time.
“And we’re not looking for it,” Danny replied. “Or making it!”
Joshua still wasn’t up by noon, although that was understandable given his very late night/early morning, on top of what must have been a lot of depression over Simon. But at about twelve thirty, Danny and Preston suddenly turned and looked at each other.
They’d both felt the same thing, and just shared a smile and a nod.
“Want to do the best thing ever for someone?” Danny asked.
“I’m way ahead of you,” Preston replied. “We just have to wait until… you know.”
“I know,” Danny said.
It was about one o’clock when Joshua finally emerged from his room, hair a mess, dressed casually, shoeless. He wandered past them and said, “Good morning,” as he went into the kitchen and fired up the coffee.
“Good afternoon!” they called back in unison.
“Any big plans today?” Danny asked.
“Just figuring out how to shut down the machine. You guys?”
“We don’t have any ideas on that,” Preston said. “We’re no scientists. But we do know that, sometimes, it helps to get out, wander around, maybe visit a familiar place to help yourself think.”
“What are you boys up to?” Joshua asked.
“Up to helping you deal with things, man,” Danny explained. “That’s all. C’mon. We can see it. You’re not exactly the happiest camper in the world right now, and you won’t be until… you know.”
“Won’t be until…?” Joshua asked.
“Until Simon has come back,” Preston said. “But you know it takes time.”
“And sitting around here just reminds you of him. Obviously.”
“Why don’t we go hang around the NoHo Station?” Preston offered. “You like that place.”
“Oh. So go from one place that reminds me of Simon to another that does?” Joshua shot back.
“Baby steps?” Danny offered weakly.
“I know you two are up to something, but I’m going to play along,” Joshua told them. “I actually trust you.”
He opened his laptop, checked that it was fully charged, took the memo he’d printed, folded it up and pocketed it, then shut his laptop, threw it in the bag, and went to put on shoes and brush his hair.
Danny and Preston were looking at each other like a couple of giddy kids. They gave Joshua hearty good-byes as he left, then dematerialized and set off on their mission.
Joshua walked down to the NoHo Station, descended the escalators by the Orange Line platform and crossed the tunnel to the turnstiles, where he slapped his TAP card and then headed down another escalator to the platform.
As was their custom — his and Simon’s — he went all the way to the end near the tunnel where the incoming trains from Universal City would appear, sat on the last bench, then opened his laptop and got to work.
His thought was that somehow damaging the constraining structures on the machine would effectively shut it down as it would break the containment of the plasma field that was actually acting as a neutrally charged primary barrier to the tachyon stream within.
Cut off the outer magnetic field corralling the plasma, it would expand and cool, suddenly deionizing, which would give it a negative charge. While the tachyon stream itself would be neutrally charged, without the barrier, its tendency was to move in space in all dimensions, so a breach in the plasma would allow the stream to firehose out through the nearest crack, as it were.
The trick was figuring out how to cut off that magnetic field, and that was why Joshua was studying all of the blueprints for the machine, and every last physical spec, running each one of them through load-limit calculations.
He very quickly got quite lost in his work, and had no idea how much time had gone by.
Meanwhile, Preston and Danny had flown over to the cemetery and Simon’s grave, because they had sensed his return. Well, probably, Pearl had sensed it and “pinged” them in her own way, but now they had to find him, because he was probably wandering around the place, a little lost and confused and, sure enough, they finally did find him. Ironically, he wasn’t all that far from Preston’s grave.
“Hello, Simon,” Danny said as Preston gave a friendly wave. Simon looked at them oddly.
“Wait… I think I remember you,” he said.
“Of course you do, Simon,” Preston explained as they approached. “You know us quite well. So does your husband. Joshua?”
Simon seemed to search his memory for a moment, then brightened up. “Joshua. I remember the name.”
“It’s okay, buddy,” Danny said. “You’re newborn, so to speak, so things are kind of fuzzy right now. What do you remember?”
“Flying,” Simon said. “Well, it felt like flying, and then… pain. And then this crazy warm numbness, in and out flashes of bright lights and all kinds of beeping and hissing and voices, and then… more numbness and then I’m standing here in this cemetery. What’s going on?”
“You died,” Preston told him. “Actually, you were murdered, by a man named Ausmann. But thanks to a machine that he built a long time ago and that you know about, we’re all back. Only not quite in our human form.”
“And Joshua is waiting for you,” Danny added.
“Joshua,” Simon said, although it wasn’t clear whether it was a question or a statement.
“Your husband,” Preston reminded him.
“Where is he?” Simon asked.
“We can take you to him,” Danny replied.
“And we can teach you one of our favorite methods of travel.”
“All of us,” Danny said.
“You’re a Rêve now,” Preston told him. “Do you remember that word?”
“Oh yeah,” Simon replied, seeming to have a sudden realization, which was a good sign.
“Come on then,” Danny said, and he and Preston flanked Simon, each one taking an arm, as they lead him down into the ground and then onward until they intersected with the Metro line and followed the tunnels on up through the stations, finally coming out at NoHo.
Of course, Danny and Preston were able to be visible to Joshua immediately, but Simon was not, so he just appeared as a smoky shadow on the wall.
“How’s it going?” Danny asked.
“I think I’m getting close,” Joshua said.
“Great,” Preston replied. “We brought you a surprise.”
Joshua glanced where he was pointing and saw the obvious Rêve shadow on the wall. “Sorry,” he said. “Let it know I’m not trapping them anymore.”
“Who said you had to trap this one?” Danny told him.
“Just look,” Preston ordered.
Joshua sighed and looked at the shadow and then it drifted out of the wall as black smoke, coalesced, and Simon was standing there, dressed in full Rêve-hunter regalia, looking fifteen years younger, and smiling.
“Hi!” he said, giving a little wave. Joshua rushed over to hug him, arms not really connecting all that much, although he did feel some sort of physical resistance to indicate that something was there — just not much tangible, and with no warmth or smell.
“I missed you so much,” he told Simon.
“So did I,” Simon said. “So… now what?”
“I’m planning to destroy Ausmann and save the Rêves, including you,” Joshua explained.
“Oh, right. About that…”
“What?” Joshua asked.
“I think we just need to talk,” Simon told him.
“Shit,” Joshua exclaimed.
“Not like that talk,” Simon reassured him. “Obviously, things are a bit… different now.”
“Thank you, Captain obvious.”
“So, my place or yours?” Simon asked.
“How about ours?” Joshua countered.
“Is it, really?” Simon replied.
“Stop that!” Joshua told him, shutting and bagging his laptop. Let’s go.
Preston and Danny dematerialized, presumably heading home as Joshua and Simon started down the platform towards the escalators, Simon telling Joshua on the way, “Maybe I should fade out. What would the neighbors think if they saw me come home?”
“True,” Joshua agreed, and Simon vanished. When Joshua got home, he left the front door open and told Simon, “Re-appear once you’re inside.”
“Um…” Joshua turned to find Simon already standing behind him, Preston and Danny standing on either side.
“How long did you know he was back?” Joshua asked them.
“About a half hour before you got your lazy ass up,” Danny said.
“And you couldn’t have just brought him back here?”
“Please,” Preston said. “Where’s the drama and romance in that?”
“Well, thanks…” Joshua said. “But the two of us have some things to discuss, and we’d like to do it in private. Please?”
“All right,” they agreed.
“Go tell Ausmann he’ll be hearing from us soon, and then let Pearl and Anabel know that Simon is back.”
“Oh, we’ll tell Ausmann,” Preston said. “But we don’t have to tell Pearl. They already know.”
Seeing Joshua’s confused look, Danny added, “Who do you think told us?”
“How doe sh… Pearl know?” he asked.
“They’re everywhere, they know everything,” Preston explained. But we’ll leave you two for your reunion.”
Danny saluted, and they made their usual exit off the balcony.
“I wish they wouldn’t do that,” Simon mused.
“So, other than everything, what’s on your mind?” Joshua asked, sitting. Simon sat next to him.
“This has been a very weird experience,” he explained. “I mean, I feel like I’m a sentient being, and I have all my thoughts and most of my memories. And I’m talking to you.”
“Then doesn’t that make you a sentient being?”
“With no actual body, or nervous system, or brain? I don’t even think I have internal organs.”
“But here you are, talking to me, thinking thoughts. I’m not conjuring you up from my memories.”
“No, but we know that’s how the Rêves… exist,” Simon countered. “I’m a Class I because of you. But that’s just the thing,” he added. “I exist. I don’t live.”
“Sure, you’re living,” Joshua assured him. “It’s just a little different than it was before.”
“Organization, growth, reproduction, metabolism, homeostasis, response, and adaptation. Those are the seven criteria for biological life on Earth. We can probably strike reproduction right off that list, and growth. Metabolism?”
“Apparently, energy from the environment is what sustains the Rêves, so they do have a form of metabolism. And homeostasis — you’re maintaining your form, which means you have organization. That’s, what? Three out of seven. I’m guessing you’re also capable of response and adaptation.”
“But no growth, no reproduction,” Simon sighed.
“Do you feel alive?” Joshua asked him.
“Yes, and no,” Simon said. “Things don’t feel like they normally do. I mean, like physical senses. I’m kind of numb, and I don’t feel any kind of temperature. When I walk on hard surfaces, they feel squishy, like I could sink into them. And when I’m doing that shadow and smoke thing, the world looks and sounds really, really weird.”
“How are you doing emotionally?” Joshua asked him.
“Other than that I can never really touch you again? I am glad to see you again. At least we have that.”
“Same here. I suppose you’re as angry at Ausmann as I am.”
“I didn’t feel anything about him between the time I died and the time I found myself flying up out of the ground and wandering around the cemetery. I’m not sure I feel anything now.”
“I can’t say the same there,” Joshua replied.
“But they — the ‘they’ who say things — say that revenge is a dish best served cold, and I’m probably room temperature. So, what do you have in mind?”
Joshua quickly explained what he’d learned about how the machine could be used to destroy the Rêves, and how they were going to turn Ausmann 180 away from that. The best way to help the Rêves and win the war would be to shut the whole things down.
“Which is impossible,” Simon replied.
“Except in cases of containment breach.”
“Which can be suicidal.”
“It depends on how you do it,” Joshua explained, getting out his laptop and showing Simon his notes. “All we have to do is rupture the pipes carrying the magnetic field through a super-cooled super-conductor, the plasma containment goes, and the tachyon beam takes off. This breaks the connection with the other end, and the catastrophic shut-down mechanisms activate.”
“Great. So, how do we rupture the pipes?” Simon asked.
“You’re the materials and properties expert,” Joshua replied. “All of the specs are in that spreadsheet, so take a look and tell me.”
Simon went to the computer, surprised to find that the trackpad actually sensed his finger, and he could press the keys and click the buttons.
“Weird,” he said.
“You probably have some sort of electromagnetic field dancing around your edges,” Joshua said, “Same as human skin, so you’re repelling the electrons in whatever you touch, only maybe not as strongly.”
“Whatever works,” Simon said, continuing to study the specs and make calculations.
Joshua had printed out pictures and schematics of the chamber around the generator end of the machine, which was where they’d be targeting the attack. The generator itself was sealed and heavily fortified, the plasma beam escaping at the end of an eight-foot tube coming from the generator.
There was a catwalk high above this overlooking the first stretch of containment field and super-cooled pipes.
What had been most intriguing during this whole thing was that Joshua finally learned how they made tachyons, which were not a new particle at all. Instead, they were just ordinary photons that had been given that extra kick to go just over the speed of light in a vacuum, or c.
While it took an enormous amount of energy relative to each photon to kick it past the speed limit, it was not a huge amount of energy in absolute terms because each photon was so tiny. As soon as it was going faster than c, it would be fired into a material designed to slow it down, but here was the paradox of tachyons.
Once they’d exceeded the speed of light, that was when they started to travel backwards in time, and when you put the brakes on something go backwards in time, the apparent effect is that it starts to move away from you faster. Well, at least faster backwards in time, which is the same thing as slower going forwards.
The end result was that once the machine got going, the tachyons coming out of it emerged before they had been created inside of it — at least from our point of view.
Speaking of time, it had been over an hour, both of them deep in study, when Joshua noticed Danny and Preston on the balcony, Preston doing the helicopter to get his attention, then gesturing to ask if they could come in now.
Joshua waved and they entered.
“How’s Ausmann?” Joshua asked.
“I think he jizzed himself when we told him you had Lorre and it would be soon,” Preston explained.
“Dude has gone totally paranoid espionage hound up there,” Danny told him. “Racks of costumes, disguises, prosthetic make-up — the good, studio kind, not Halloween store shit. We didn’t even recognize him when we popped in.”
“So I guess it works,” Preston added.
“Well, when I finally send you to get him, don’t forget to let him know that once he arrives, the disguises come off.”
“Oh my god,” Simon suddenly exclaimed and Joshua hurried to him, Preston and Danny following.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Weak spot,” Simon replied, pointing at the yellow tubes that shepherded the magnetic field around. “These aren’t that strong, and especially not when they’re under the stress of the temperature differential between the outside and the inside. Hit them at a join, and they’ll pop apart.”
“How hard do we have to hit them?” Joshua asked.
“How far are we hitting from?”
Joshua pointed out the scaffolding above the pipes, Simon checked the measurements and did the calculations. “Wow,” he finally said. “We’d only need to drop about 80 kilos on there.”
“To take one out?” Joshua asked.
“To take out as many as it hit,” Simon corrected him.
“Yes!” Joshua cheered under his breath.
“So, now what?” Simon asked.
“Now, we have to come up with a plausible way to get Ausmann up there and convince him that he can destroy the Rêves.”
“He’s not going to wreck his own machine to do that,” Simon said.
“I wouldn’t put anything past him by this point,” Joshua replied. “But we can come up with some other fake thing he can do.”
“Unless he knows the science of the machine well enough.”
“I’m guessing he doesn’t,” Joshua told him, then thought for a moment before snapping his fingers. “Paradox!”
“We tell him that if he creates a paradox with the machine, it will destroy the Rêves. And in order to create a paradox, he has to drop matter with mass into the beam. It doesn’t even need to be that much. Maybe just a baseball-sized piece of something, which will fall between the pipes.
“It will accelerate into the past but break the laws of physics at the same time, and that is what will send the Rêves back to their graves. Ooh. Is that dramatic enough?” Joshua asked.
“Chilling,” Simon said.
“Imagine it in Peter Lorre’s voice. Speaking of which, I think it’s time to teach him his lines now,” Joshua added.
“You really have Peter Lorre?” Simon asked.
“Well, just the Class I version of him. Class II is wandering around, probably somewhere in Hollywood, living it up.”
“I suspect Drew’s handiwork,” Simon said.
“You suspect correctly. I suppose it’s time to train him, but let’s wait until tomorrow and get a fresh start. Right now, I just want to hang out with you.,” Joshua told him.
“Should we leave?” the boys asked.
“Nah,” Joshua said. “You both can stay. You feel like family now, anyway.”
Preston and Danny both “Awwed” in unison as the four of them settled in for another night of bingeing, although they all settled down early because tomorrow would probably be a busy day.
It began with Preston and Danny managing to prepare another breakfast, intended for Joshua and Simon but, of course, Simon didn’t need to eat, nor could he. After breakfast, Joshua stood and announced, “So, shall we decant the spirit and see what we can teach it?”
Simon nodded. “Yes, of course!”
Joshua retrieved the trap and placed it in their home containment box, letting Lorre out while keeping him sealed in.
He was surprisingly calm when he appeared in the cage, but that might have had something to do with three Rêves watching him along with one Vivant. He turned to them and smiled.
“Oh, hello,” he said, his accent not as strong as it was onscreen, but still noticeable. “Is Andy here?”
“No,” Joshua said. “He couldn’t come over, but we’re all good friends of his.”
“Ah, I see,” Lorre said. “And where is here?”
“North Hollywood,” Simon explained, to Lorre’s surprise. He turned and looked toward the balcony.
“High-rises in North Hollywood now?” he exclaimed. “I know I have been gone a long time, but now I have seen everything.”
“You haven’t been up here recently?” Joshua asked.
“I’ve only come back recently,” Lorre explained.
“I know exactly what you mean,” Danny said, kneeling in front of the cage. “The same thing happened to me as — ”
“Danny!” Joshua snapped, shooting him a warning look. Real Lorre hadn’t noticed he’d been split, and Joshua wanted to keep it that way.
“So what can I do for you gentlemen?” Lorre asked.
“We have a very important mission for you,” Joshua explained, going on to tell the story of Ausmann, his hatred of the Rêves, and his attempt to destroy them.
“And he tasked us with finding you in order to find out all of the Rêves’ weaknesses.”
“Why would I tell him that?” Lorre asked.
“Not you,” Joshua said. “The version of you from all of your movie roles. You did tend to play characters who were…”
“Don’t be kind,” Lorre said. “That was my specialty. Cowards, turncoats, murderers, and punks. I rather enjoyed it, actually.”
“Excellent,” Joshua said, “Because that’s what this guy is expecting, and you’re going to pretend to give it to him. Cower in fear, and then appear to sell out your own kind.”
“But I don’t?””
“Of course not. You’re going to give him bad information. I assume that you, like every other Rêve, knows about the machine, and how it could destroy you.”
“Oh, yes. Rev up the engine, and we are gone.”
“Exactly. So that’s not what you’re telling Ausmann.”
“I should think not,” Lorre replied.
“Here’s what you will be saying,” Joshua continued, and he and Simon explained the scenario and the words to Lorre, tossing the concept back and forth until it felt like he really got it.
“So it would be necessary to place some mass into the — plasma beam, you called it? — in order to disrupt the machinery and destroy us?” Lorre repeated. “That’s what I should tell him?”
“Pretty good. Yes,” Joshua explained.
“What if he asks me why?” Lorre wondered.
“You’re just an actor. Actually, you’re supposedly just the collective memories of all the characters you ever played, so you don’t know why. It’s just accepted wisdom among the Rêves.”
“Well, that makes my job easier, I suppose,” Lorre laughed. “Oh. But what if he asks why I would participate in my own destruction?”
“Tell him that as long as you’re down there behind the beam when it happens, you’ll be fine.”
“What if he doesn’t believe me?”
“Why would he not? Anyway, none of it matters if he doesn’t believe what you tell him about dropping mass into the beam, and he’ll only buy that if you pull off the role of the cowardly traitor, so that he thinks you are just your characters. You’re a good enough actor that I’m sure you can pull that off.”
“Why, thank you, young man.”
“Joshua,” he introduced himself.
“Peter,” Lorre said. “Oh. But I guess you knew that.”
“No I apologize, because I have to put you back in to the trap until we take you to Ausmann. It’s the only way he’d believe that I could bring you there.”
“I understand,” Lorre replied. “Here’s to our mission succeeding. See you on the other side!”
Joshua nodded and triggered the trap. Lorre vanished into it. The cage ejected the disk out the slot, and Joshua put it in the vault where it would be safe until they needed it.
“I think it’s going to work,” Simon told the others.
“I hope you’re right,” Joshua replied. “Now, can we get our minds off of this for a bit?”
“Binge and bang?” Simon asked.
“Well, we’re not going to get much bang, are we?” Joshua said.
“I was being metaphorical. At least I didn’t say ‘Netflix and chill.’”
“That’s because only old people say that anymore. “
They settled together on the sofa, Danny and Preston on the other side (after they’d asked if they could, of course), then went through the arduous process of deciding what to watch, finally settling on Dune — the 2021 version, not the 1984 David Lynch version or the 2000 television version.
Danny and Preston were thrilled to learn that it even existed. Meanwhile, even though Joshua and Simon had already seen it multiple times, they could always watch it again, and they couldn’t wait for Part 2 to come out, since the first film had stopped halfway through the book, leaving Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica, stranded in the desert of Arakis, after being betrayed by an intricate plot by a rival family.
And then they meet up with the Fremen. If you’re a Dune fan, you’ll know.
It was a long movie, but worth it, and the boys loved it. It also brought up some great memories for Simon and Joshua, and they were giving each other that look, Joshua finally sighing in frustration.
“You have no idea how much I wish we could… actually have sex right now,” he told Simon.
“So do I,” Simon said before looking at him for a long time, then glancing back at the boys, who gave him encouraging looks. “There is… one thing,” he finally said, very awkwardly.
“What’s that?” Joshua asked.
“I guess you’d call it… strength in numbers?”
“Okay, I’m not sure I like where this is going,” Joshua said, “And how would you know, anyway?”
“It’s just how this works, I guess,” Simon replies. “When you become a Rêve, you wind up with all of the knowledge. We’re all kind of interconnected. Only, sometimes, we can be very connected.”
“How, exactly, do you mean ‘connected?’” Joshua asked.
“Did you ever wonder how the Hadas could have caused that storm when every one of them was reduced to scattered ashes, and except for via Pearl, they can’t really manifest a human appearance like we can?”
“Um, no?” Joshua replied.
“That’s strength in numbers,” Danny said. “And three are enough to… do what you gotta do with your husband.”
“So… if I did agree to this, theoretically… how does it work?”
“Simple,” Preston said. “We just lend our energy to Simon so that he can become tangible enough to get freaky with you so you both can feel it.”
“It’s kind of a temporary merge thing, basically,” Danny said.
“Aren’t you two worried about mooshing back together and just becoming Preston?” Joshua asked.
“Too late for that,” Preston replied. “We are definitely distinct now.”
“It sounds interesting,” Joshua said, “But I don’t know.”
“Sounds like you need a sample,” Simon announced, gesturing. Danny and Preston walked up behind him and then seemed to vanish into him, Simon appearing more and more solid until he stepped forward, took Joshua in his arms and buried his face in a kiss.
It was warm and wet and real, with Simon’s arms wrapped around him, and it took Joshua back to the days and nights before Simon died. When they broke, they stared into each other’s eyes, and all of Joshua’s resistance was gone.
Well, almost all of it. “Are those two aware of… things during this?” he asked Simon.
“Full disclosure,” he heard Preston’s voice, “Yes.”
“But we have to stay in here. If we come out, then Simon can’t do this anymore,” Danny added.
Joshua wasn’t sure whether to think of it as an audience or a four-way, but he stared into Simon’s eyes again.
“So, you’re not going to break out with two extra dicks or sprout a stray asshole or mouth anywhere, right?” he asked.
“Nope,” Simon reassured him. “They’re going to stay where they are. They’re going to feel everything I fell, and I’m sure they’re going to enjoy it, but just forget they’re along for the ride, okay?”
“As long as they don’t start moaning or anything,” Joshua said.
“Sorry, dude. You two are hot. Hard to promise that,” Preston whispered.
Joshua looked at Simon again and gave him a quick kiss. “Fuck it,” he said. “You only live one… sorry.”
“So, fuck it?” Simon said.
“Fuck me,” Joshua replied. Simon picked him up — which surprised the hell out of him, and proceeded to do exactly that. Several times. Until way too late that night became too early the next morning.