Excerpt: The Fourth Act – coming soon


Cover Art: The Fourth Act Cover Artist: Rhys Ford

Excerpt:       The Fourth Act by LE Franks

His name was Semyon Borodin. And he had no words for me.

I learned this from the man in the folding chair.

I had been standing in the wings, hidden in the folds of the heavy black curtains, watching the man floating above the stage, when an utterance cut through my consciousness.

I turned. Another Russian.

A man sat, hands folded precisely across his rounded stomach, the metal creaking beneath his bulk. I’d barely glanced at him when he first spoke, my eyes quickly returning to fix on the twisting form of the man moving through space in front of me, but I’d seen enough to wonder what he was hiding. Despite the thermals rising off the stage lights, the man was cloaked in a heavy, gray overcoat.

“Semyon Borodin. He has no words for you.” The heavy accent came on a breath, thick with the smell of sauerkraut and onions, reminding me of Zabar’s on a Saturday. I could practically taste the marble rye.

“No words?” I was confused. Maybe the blond was mute, or the man’s English was just bad.

The “Da” was growled and I bit my lip to prevent myself from asking the follow-up question dancing on the tip of my tongue.

I’d seen his type before—my grandfather had made a point of steering me away from men like him all my life—men who seemed more comfortable in the shadows or standing at the shoulders of others.

I turned back to the stage.

The aerialist rose rapidly through space—hand over hand, twisting his body as he climbed the red fall, wrapping it around his naked torso—a slash as bright as fresh blood on snow.

Over and over the ribbon wound—his flexing muscles, his straining thighs drawing him higher until he reached his pinnacle and twisted, suspended in air nearly forty feet above the stage.

I held my breath. Even the muttering Russian behind me stilled.

We watched him, mesmerized by his iron strength and dancer’s delicacy as he told his story of an angel fascinated by the mortal below. Moving through his forms, his body was fluid and apparently weightless, until finally he hung anchored only by his feet in an inverted cross.

The spotlight pinning Borodin against a black backdrop, golden curls shining like a halo around his head, and I was close enough to see when the concentration and control he’d been maintaining morphed into a singular expression of utter peace.

He let go.

Releasing his foothold, he flung himself backwards through the darkness, through space, falling to earth in a twisting crescendo of unwrapping silk. The end of the ribbon wrapping around his forearm was the only thing halting his momentum, saving him from a hard impact with the stage. My imagination, however, couldn’t help but fulfill the plausibility: the angel twisting through air in a death spiral until colliding with earth, the impact violent rather than the artistically broken repose he currently held as the music faded.

Goluboi.” The Russian growled out the slur with such venom that I looked away from the man stretched out on stage.

The word stung.

I’d heard it used too many times by members of our community, and it was a painful reminder of the real reason, I hadn’t revealed a preference to my grandfather. Until I knew for sure I’d still be welcome in his home, I was frozen in place—neither in nor out—preferring a state of stasis to confrontation or confirmation.

I let the notion that my virginity was somehow pinned to my grandfather’s acceptance skitter away as the Russian stood, towering over me.

This close, the man’s florid features were clear—heavy brow over watery blue eyes, and the pitted, sallow skin of a man who’d spent too many days and nights in a bottle of vodka.

His overcoat had flopped open, and I could clearly see the bulge under his suit jacket as intended. The shoulder holster had been designed not to conceal but to intimidate. I’d been warned.

My emotions were all over the place.

In just the last hour, this theater and its occupants had sent me spinning out of my nice safe orbit, and I didn’t like it. I’d dealt with homophobic assholes before, but I hadn’t expected it here or from someone so objectively lethal.

The Russian gave one brief look behind me before shoving past to join the blond on stage.  – LE Franks







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