A special thanks to Amaryllis and the Twins (you guys know who you are) for helping with the simply massive amount of editing this story needed. I couldn't have done it without you guys <3
The dark compound loomed in front of us. The moon was half full, and wisps of cloud drifted over it; tall barbed wire fences surrounded the sprawling building. Leo muttered to himself "Illegal, this is illegal, we're going to bloody jail, stupid gay friends being in stupid, stupid love". Maybe if what we were doing wasn't illegal, I would've laughed at his just-loud-enough-to-hear rant. But, of course, it was illegal. I felt myself get angry. It should be that place that is illegal. It looked enormous from here. How were we going to find him? We would though. We had to. There was this one chance, and we knew the wing, so it couldn't be too hard.
We ghosted from one tree to the next, and luckily the trees went almost to the fence; it made me sick. As if this place wasn't already so much a prison already, it had this fence, just to put the frosting on the cake. We crept to the fence. I was almost surprised that there were no search lights scanning the yard. "Ok, here we go. No turning back after this" I pulled out some fold down bolt clippers from my back pack, and snipped a hole large enough for us to crawl through. We did, and rushed across the yard as fast as we could, in the darkest shadows. My heart was in my throat, beating like a jackhammer. A big sign was on the front of the building, reading "We Work The Good Work Of Our Lord Jesus" it made me want to puke. Just this entire place made me sick. Like how some people say that they feel uneasy in places where bad things have happened, this is how this place felt to me. We kept close to the walls, creeping low, below the bottom row of windows.
He was in wing four. I only knew that because I had snuck into his house and stolen the documents that they had given to his parents, and those had his wing number, but not his room number. That meant we'd have to enter wing two, go up one story to wing four, somehow find his room, get him back down, and out of the building.
We neared the entrance of wing two. The door was open the tiniest crack. His part of the plan was getting us in; he'd put the handle of a plastic spork, skinny way, between the door and its frame to keep it from closing. The instructions had been given to him; find a way to keep the door open a tiny amount, and the date, on a tiny note slipped to him through the fence by Leo one day. It had been insanely risky, but I couldn't think of any other way to get in. Even Leo wasn't good enough to pick the kind of locks they had on these doors. Lindsay had said we should bring some TNT to deal with the doors, and she was only half joking. I put my eye to the crack, looking down the long white hallway. Nothing. Perfect. We ducked in the door, making sure it didn't slam behind us, then went swiftly down the hallway, trying to make the least noise possible.
Suddenly I heard wheels rolling on tile at the end of the hallway, going down the hall perpendicular to us. If we could hide quickly enough, he would miss us. "Hide!" I whispered to them. Luckily, the doorway of each...well I'd call them cells, led about a foot back to the door, so we could each duck into a doorway and flatten ourselves against them, and (hopefully) be hidden. The other two hid on the opposite side of the hallway. I looked at them. Sweat trickled down my forehead. The sound of the wheels seemed deafening. If the janitor turned down this hallway, we were done and in jail. Lindsay had a look of intense concentration, on her slightly chubby face, like she was trying to make her breathing quieter. Her flame red hair was tucked down the back of her black t-shirt, so I could only see a flash of it behind her ears. Her eyes were green and fierce, and she was curling and uncurling her hands, like she was going to rip the head off the janitor if he walked around the corner and down the hallway. Leo couldn't have been more different. He was tall and slim, his dark skin looking soaked in sweat, and he looked terrified. His glasses reflected light from the buzzing lights in the ceiling, but under that I could see his eyes fearfully darting back and forth. For a second I doubted myself. Oh god, what had I got these guys into!? But then I remembered the look of him when he'd been dragged to this place, and I knew we had to save him. And these two, they were the best people I could think of to have with me.
The janitor passed, the sound of his cart's wheels fading as he went down another hallway. Leo and I let out a sigh, and Lindsay glared down the hall. "Let's go" Leo said softly, and we were off again. We ducked down hallway after hallway, when we finally came across the elevator. This part was dangerous. We had no way of knowing if someone was waiting on the second storey. We punched the button and waited tensely. The door slid open. No one inside. We entered. The doors closed and we were going up. An ironically pleasant song played on the speakers, something I remembered from my childhood. "Yes, Jesus loves me", I think. The kind of thing I'd expect from this sort of place. Sick. It all made me sick. The doors for the second floor opened...and there stood a janitor, looking very confused. Lindsay reached to her hip pocket and pulled her weapon to bear. A pink taser. He looked horrified. "Is that a gun!?"
"No, moron, it's a taser! You ever seen a pink gun? You want me to tase you? "
"Don't tase me!"
"I'm going to tase you!"
"I said don't tase me!"
"Then get on your knees!"
"Do you want me to tase you!?"
"No! I said, don't tase me! And I'm going, I'm going, see?"
Leo was hyperventilating." You brought a taser! What were you thinking! Why would we ever need a taser!?"
She glared at him. "You want me to tase you as well as him?"
The janitors' eyes got big. "So you ARE going to tase me! You liar!"
"I'm not gonna tase you! Be quiet! We're gonna lock you in a closet, k? "
Leo was freaking out. "You brought a taser and now were locking some guy in a closet? And why do you start threatening everyone who talks whenever you have a weapon?"
"shudup, Leo, I'm gonna tase you!"
I was shocked by the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. An old guy on his knees being held up by a teenage girl with a pink taser, arguing about whether or not she was going to tase him, while also arguing with her best friends about whether she would tase him as well, while in a straight camp at midnight, illegally, trying to save my gay lover. I snapped, "all of you shut up! You're not tasing anyone, Lindsay!"
She started to protest. "You want me to ta..."
"Shut up! We're here for a reason! Not to threaten some guy with a taser you shouldn't have brought in the first place, and you guys are screwing it all up! And we're not putting him in a closet, he'll never be found and he'll starve to death. But we are going to occupy him"
"Don't tase me!"
"Quiet, you!" I barked, "have you got any zip ties?"
"I dooooo!" Lindsay sang joyously, and pulled them out of one of the pockets on her cargo pants.
I took them. "God, you're liking this too much." I said to her with a half-hearted glare "I'm really sorry about this, but we just need to do this, ok? We'll leave you somewhere that you will get found." I zip tied his hands. "Come on"
"Are you going hurt anyone? You know, people threaten this place sometimes."
"No no no no, nothing like that. Now come on." He seemed oddly complainant. I took him down the hall to the restroom. Leo pulled his janitors cart with us. He went in, and flicked the lights on. I put another zip tie through the zip tie around his wrists, and attached him to the sink pipe. "Is that too tight?"
"No, its fine."
I got down very close to his face. "Please, I don't know you, but I need you to stay silent, ok? I just need you to do that for me ok? It's about 12 right now, so I'm sorry, you'll be here for six hours at least, but I just need you to, ok?"
He seemed to hesitate, like he wanted to say something, but then said "yeah, ok, I'll be quiet."
"Thank you so much. You don't know what that means to me." I pulled a snickers bar from my backpack. "Here. It isn't, you know, worth a fraction of what you're doing, but it's all I've got that you would want."
"I can't eat it right now"
I realized how stupid the gesture had been. "Four for patience then" I pulled out three more and laid them by his leg. Those were supposed to be what we ate once we were all out of this building. But oh well. Didn't matter. Leo pulled his cart into the restroom as well, so no one would happen across it in the hallway and think the rapture had happened or something. He started at the snickers bars "you're giving away our snickers bars?"
"Leo, we tied him to a sink with zip ties. I think he deserves something"
"Yeah!" the guy agreed
"Stay out of this! Anyway, I paid for them, why shouldn't I be allowed to give them to whoever I want?"
Leo looked at his feet and muttered under his breath"yeah, well you still owe me two bucks from second grade." I ignored him, but couldn't help but smile at the conversation.
We went back to the hallway. "Ok, so how are we going to find him? There's like over a hundred rooms up here!" Leo worried. It was true. I'd found out everything I could about this place, the Staff of God, from the internet. The Staff of God was a camp, or program, or whatever you wanted to call the bloody thing, that had the goal of making gay kids straight. I can't imagine what kind of sicko came up with that idea. But they had, and so places like the Staff of God were born. The Staff of God building has six wings, and is three stories tall. On the left side of the building you have wings one, three, and five, on the right wings two, four, and six. Each wing had about 100 rooms in it, but the center said it has about 1,000 kids, so some kids must share rooms. Wonder how they justify letting gay kids sleep in the same unattended rooms, since they are supposed to be trying to "fix" the gay bit and all? I don't know about you, but if I were in a small room all night, every night, for months with a guy, and I weren't taken, my mind wouldn't be on god, it would be a bit lower, if you know what I mean. In-between the two living areas was an area full of offices, "counseling" rooms, staff living, a chapel, group session areas, cafeteria, and a library.
I really hadn't thought of out how we would find his room. I figured there would be a list on a clipboard hanging from the wall, or I don't know, name plates by the doors, or just anything. But the doors were not labeled, just numbered, there was nothing hanging from the walls besides these stupid posters about how god wants what's best for you and how we all have free will to choose the right things. I leaned against the wall and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to think of a way. I felt panic start in me. What if this was all for nothing, and we couldn't get him out? All the time we watched this place, planned, to have even a chance at this. It could be gone.
I thought back to the events that had led up to this. It had been exactly six weeks and one day ago when I had learned that he was coming to this place. He'd gotten on the bus, looking like he hadn't slept at all.
He sat down next to me, and leaned onto my shoulder "I...have to leave tomorrow" I had a bad feeling in me.
I put my arm around him. "What do you mean by leave?"
He turned his sad eyes on me, and they looked like they had been crying all night. "My parents...they found out. About me. I have to go to this place called 'the Staff of God'. They're going to try and make me straight."
My heart had felt like it had turned black. "They...they can't make you go!"
He sniffled "yes they can. They have the law on their side." And that was that. He was going to be gone for six months. I would die if I couldn't see him for six months...
Leo spoke up,"hey, that looks like an office" my eyes snapped open, my mind back to the present, and I looked where he pointed. It did look like a small office, like one room with an old computer and one chair, and a little stack of papers. It looked so innocent. So... well, normal.
We went over to it. "Should I smash the window?" Lindsay asked. I shook my head "no, that would make too much noise. And these things could have alarms. Anyway, this is why we brought Leo."
I turned to him "can you get this" a grin stretched wide across his face, "yes! Obviously, I mean that's why I'm here, right?" not waiting for an answer, he went to work. He pulled a hidden bobby pin out of his thick curly hair. He went to work on the lock. Lindsay was outraged. "so I'm not supposed to bring a taser, but he's allowed to bring lock picks?"
He spoke without looking at her."A bobby pin never killed anyone"
"Tasers don't kill people!"
"They do if the person has heart issues"
I couldn't help but grin at how much banter they did, even in the grimmest of situations. "Have you got that lock yet?"
"Not..." the lock was defeated with a loud click. "Sure do "he grinned.
I grabbed the door handle and pushed inwards. The office was dark, and I flipped the lights on. If a list of names was anywhere, it was here. I flipped through the stack of papers on the desk beside the computer. Daily reports, an incident report, something about an inmate...er, student of the lord I mean, that's what the website calls them, freaking out and having a mental breakdown and trying to rip one of the guards'...er, counselors', hair out. I would have liked to see that. Maybe have helped too, if she had been justified in the attack. But none of them looked like a list. The only hope was the computer; I turned to Leo again. We had a plan for the computers, a special surprise for the Staff of God "You got the thing?"
He grinned again, looking excited and holding up a USB drive "I sure do. I hope it works" he sat down at the computer, and booted it up. It came to a password screen. He patted his pockets. He suddenly looked terrified, again, "I didn't bring the password breaker!"
My heart dropped. I thought of the elevator. "Let me try something" he leaned to the side, and I typed in "staff of god". Nothing. With seconds more thought, and mind wandering back to the elevator again, I tried "Jesus loves you". The computer let us in.
Leos jaw dropped "you're a fricken' genius"
"Hurry up and do the thing, we're burning time"
He whizzed through files, until he came to one. A list. "room 477" he said after scanning it briefly.
I smiled in relief. Thank goodness."Ok, do the thing"
He plugged in the USB, and put a program onto the computer. He activated it, and suddenly the computer screen flashed white, then black, then white again, and then black. Green blocky text was in the left-hand corner "error_//<jar.667-765>\ occurred. Critical system failure. All files lost." Leo was amazed. "It worked!" I had to admit, I wasn't too sure what it was, besides a virus. "What exactly did that thing do to this computer?"
He got that really serious I-know-everything-about-computers-and-I'm-gonna-impart-some-of-my-knowledge-to-you look. "Well, ok, so here's the process the virus goes through. You get the file onto the computer, and run it. The virus then replicates itself onto every file on the computer. Then the original virus program deletes every file besides one file on the computer, chosen by random."Lindsay did a hugely fake yawn to show how boring he was being. Well I thought it was cool at least. If he noticed her, he didn't stop speaking, "and since all the core programs that run the computer get deleted, the computers crash."
I stopped him. "Wait, computers? Like multiple?"
"That's the best part, this virus spread to all the computers on a network. So, assuming that all the computers in this building are on the same network, this happened to all of them! The reason for the one file that didn't get deleted is so if they like reinstall all the software to run the computer, or something, is that once they run the computer normally again and someone anywhere in the building opens that file that didn't get deleted, the virus will come back to life from that one file that didn't get deleted that it saved itself onto. Unless they have some very good virus scrub software that they install before anyone opens that one file or they get all new computers, they are sunk. I call it the genesis to revelation virus"
Lindsay was incredulous, "why'd you name it that?"
"Oh, this is why," he booted the computer that had now shut down completely. Blocky green text started to go across the screen. I looked closely at it "In the beginning, God..."
Then the text started to move up to reveal more text, very rapidly. "Is this the entire bible? "
"It certainly is. Once it reaches the bottom, it will start over again." He seemed to think for a second,"Oh, I hope I turned off the mailing feature."
That sounded bad. "The what?"
"Oh, it would cause the virus to get e-mailed to everyone in the computers address books. And since it would be doing it for an entire network, which would be a huge number of computers. Then all those computers would mail to all the addresses in them, and so on and so forth..."
It took me a second to grasp the magnitude of what he said"oh wait, oh wait! Are you saying you might have set off a worldwide computer virus, that would like break the internet or something? "
He looked deeply worried. "No no, of course not, it wouldn't break the internet....just all the computers of anyone who opened that email. And I'm sure I turned that part of it off. Like there's a one in..." he bit his lip"...oh I dunno, three chances that I forgot? But that's like a two thirds chance that I did remember to turn it off!"
I pressed my hands into my eyes "oh god, ok, forget it, we'll worry about maybe being international cyber criminals later, we know the room and that's all that matters right now."
Lindsay mumbled to herself as we moved out "yeah, I'm not supposed to bring a taser, but Leo can bring a computer virus that may have destroyed every computer in the world. That's just great." We ran down the hallways, trying to be as quiet as possible. Room 466. Room 470, room 476. Yes, there it was room 477. I felt my heart pounding. This was it; I was going to see him. It had been over 6 weeks since I'd seen him, and now I finally could. Lindsay said "so, lover boy, do we just knock or do we need computer man to pick the lock again?"
To be truthful, I had been about to just walk in. I decided to knock. My fist sounded loud against the creepy silence of the hallways. The door opened a crack. It was him. My heart felt like it would explode. I lunged forward, and at the same time he threw the door back. I grabbed him and pulled him close. "oh god, oh god, it's really you, oh my god Jason, it's really you!"
He sounded like he was about to cry "I can't believe it, I wasn't sure what was happening tonight!"
Behind us, Lindsay cleared her throat loudly," uhh Brandon, we have a bit of a situation."
I looked around, my eyes blurry, not letting go of Jason. My eyes fell on girl with brown hair and blue eyes. Jason looked around to "oh don't worry about her; she's my roommate, Anne Lee. She is on our side."
She spoke up with a Texan accent, "well hullo there, nice to meet you finally. Jason would never shut himself up about you. Constantly, Brandon this, Brandon that. It was frankly ridiculous." I liked her. She had a sense of humor. I looked into Jason's eyes "pack your things. Now. Were getting you out of here"
He looked amazing. I'd almost forgotten anything in the whole world could look as good as he did.
"What do you mean, getting me out of here? Like take me home?" his eyes grew sad. "I can't go home. You remember what my dad said he would do if I came home and I wasn't straight."
I smiled sadly. Yes, I did know what that man had said to his own son. It was messed up; I don't like to think about the things he said. "You're coming with me. With my parents. We have stuff that will convince the court that it's not safe for you to be with your family."
He smiled "I can't believe it. I'll pack my stuff." He walked past me and hugged Leo and Lindsay."Thank you guys so much, you're the best friends I could ever imagine." I looked around the small room. The walls were white. There were two beds, one to the left and one to the right. Also both white. There was a small note pad. It was like an asylum or something. There was a camera in the top corner of the room...oh god a camera! They would know it was us! I pointed to it! "A camera!"
Anne Lee laughed. "Oh, that old thing. First night I was in this room Jason and I were talking about how stupid this place is, and I got so pissed off that I smashed the thing off the wall. No one noticed. That was four weeks ago. I bet they don't even have tape in them."
I was a bit puzzled by her presence. "Why are you here anyway? I mean, why are they allowing co-ed rooming?"
"Oh that," Jason spoke up while shoving clothes into his suitcase. "All the roommates are co-ed. They think it will help us get ready for the future when we marry someone of the opposite gender." He snorted to himself.
Anne Lee spoke up "hey, you think I could...uh, sneak out with you guys. I have an aunt I can go live with."
I was struck by indecision. "They'll just send you back to your parents once they find you"
She smiled slyly, "oh, I have a bit of leverage over my dad. I bet he'd hate my mom and all the people at church to find out what he pays those nice ladies from Houston for. That's half the reason he sent me here, to keep my mouth shut about it. The other half was to make me straight of course."
If we took someone else it would increase our chances of getting caught...but I couldn't leave someone in this evil place. Jason gave me those eyes, you know the ones, the begging eyes. "Please Brandon, we can't leave her here."
I gave in "fine! We'll take her. But you'd better not slow us down or get us caught." I tried my best to sound stern, but she just bounced up and started shoving all her stuff into a suitcase of her own that she had under her bed
"Oh, thank you! I would've killed someone with a cafeteria tray if I had to stay here without Jason to keep me sane."
Jason had finished packing, and he was only moments behind. While he folded his things and put them in neatly, and orderly, she just shoved them in however. He finished and took me by the hand. "There's someone else we have to save."
I tried to resist his request, "we can't, and you know it. It's too dangerous"
He held my hand tighter. "No, this is serious, they are going to kill him"
My face grew hot. "When you say kill, babe..."
"I mean they are literally going to kill him, like with a rope. I know you; you've done your research on this place. You know that about 10 kids kill themselves in this building every year. But here's the screwed up thing. Some of them don't kill themselves."
I couldn't believe it. "Are you trying to say, that they literally will kill this kid? "
"Yes! He refuses to participate in the program, he stirs up the kids, and he openly states that he doesn't think there's anything the matter with us being gay. We're in a class together; we talk. And today, the priest told him that if he didn't conform to the program that there would be some eternal repercussions that he would be experiencing very soon. But he said it in the way that it was pretty obvious he wasn't talking about hell. There are whispers among some of the kids that don't want to be here that that kind of thing happens. If there's even a chance they will kill him, we can't let him stay here. He's really scared "
He looked desperate "you're...you're right of course. If he's in that kind of trouble, we can't let him stay here." I was shaken. This hadn't been planned. This was getting so dangerous now, that it wasn't funny. "Ok, where is this kid? "
"He's in wing one, room 134."
"Don't worry, we'll get him." I bit my lip in thought. This made the operation ten times more complicated, and dangerous. I knew these people were wrong, but I didn't know they were downright evil. We would have to go through the middle area, into wing three, go down a story to wing one, find this kid, and get all six of us out to our hole in the fence, and slip away before the staff started to wake up.
I turned to Leo and Lindsay "ok guys" "and gals!" Lindsay proclaimed.
I wasn't in the mood for it, so I just agreed "yeah, and gals. Change of plan. We're saving another kid. "
Leo protested. "Ok, come on, we're already one over what we thought we would be taking, and we may have broken modern life, and we almost tased an old guy. Something is going to go majorly wrong if we don't get out soon."
I understood his apprehension. "Just trust me. This kid needs us. Really bad. " Lindsay was in "well I vote yes!" Leo was outnumbered. "fine, whatever, let's just be quick about it. "
I turned to Jason, "babe, you know your way around this place better than me, you lead the way."
He nodded "ok, come on." We hurried down the opposite way we came. We went down another hallway, and came to double doors" the chapel" Anne Lee said . We entered. It was dark, of course, moonlight filtering through stained glass. The floor and walls were wood. It wasn't too big; maybe enough to seat a hundred people if they got closer together then what god would smile upon.
"It's mainly meant for counseling sessions or prayer groups" Jason told us as we moved through it. We walked down the center aisle, past the pulpit. A small wooden door, which I assumed led to a hallway and then the part of building holding wings one, three, and five stood in the back wall.
But before we went through it, someone threw the chapel doors open. The figure rushed at us. Lindsay fumbled for her taser, and Leo threw his flash drive at the guy, which, not surprisingly, did nothing. Lindsay finally got her taser out, only to have the guy smack it out of her hands.
"I said, I don't want you to tase me!" he said to me. "Gosh kid, you need to keep your homicidal friend under control!" It was the old janitor, and he was smiling hugely. I was amazed "I zip tied you! How did you get out?" he held up a box cutter. "If you're going to tie people up, check their pockets first. Are you trying to save these two kids?"
"None of your buisn...wait, did you say save?"
"I sure did. This place is wrong. I've been trying to bring it down for years. And I finally have enough evidence to shut it down forever. But I'm too old for a drawn out court battle. But you aren't! You can break this place."
"But why didn't you say something when we, you know, almost tased you? "
He looked bashful "I thought you might be terrorists or something, dressed in all black and threatening me and stuff. People have threatened to blow this place up before, because they hate gay people so much. That's why I burst in like that."
Lindsay piped up. "You were going to box cutter us to death?"
He looked at the box cutter, and slipped it back into his pocket "oh, well I would have if I'd had to. But then I saw you with these guys, and I knew Jason and Anne Lee didn't want to be here. I put two and two together."
I looked at my watch. "Listen, we've got to go, we have one more kid to save"
He looked at Jason. "Is it him?"
Jason nodded. "We can't let him stay here."
Lindsay spoke up, "Wait, Jason you know this guy?"
"Yeah, he's one of the few sane people on the staff."
The janitor nodded "ok, you guys, go. Jason, you're a good kid. You'll go somewhere with your life. Don't ever let anyone tell you you're not worth the same as them. "He lifted something off his neck. It was a necklace with a USB on it. "and you" he said, putting it over my head" this has everything on it you will need to run this place out of business." He picked something up off the ground, and tossed it to Leo "in the future, if some maniac is running at you with a box cutter, don't throw a flash drive at him as your first line of defense." And with that, he turned and left. I couldn't help but wonder what awful kinds of things were on this flash drive. The group continued out of the back door of the chapel. Instead of a hallway, like I had thought it would be, it was a pretty big room. A couple of couches, a shelf full of books, (books about Jesus, of course) a bunch of chairs, a couple board games (I never thought I'd see bible monopoly, but there it was), and an air hockey table.
Anne Lee explained what it was. "This is the rec room. Assuming you're good, you get a half hour in here before lights out. And by good, I mean you're a little bible drone who doesn't look at anyone, and prays all day, and tells the counselors that you can feel jeeesUs working your homosexuality out of you. If you're good all week, you get to see a movie. I've never seen a movie in here. I'm always bad, you know, telling the truth about me not feeling any different, besides being pissed off more than normal. Jason never gets in here either, always givin' people great big hugs. Cause everyone knows god hates hugs" Leo giggled. I didn't think I'd ever heard him giggle like that. I looked sharply at him. Oh god, yes, he thought she was cute!
I gave him a little shove and spoke softly "come on, man, you know that that couldn't work!"
"What? I'm allowed to look at art as long as I don't touch, right?"
I rolled my eyes, and Lindsay, who had been right next to us, started to hum here comes the bride. As we went out the other end of the rec room, we found ourselves back in the wings. We had to get down a story, and we'd be almost home free. We came to a bend in the hallway, and Jason glanced around the corner and whispered "there's a janitor by the elevators, mopping. Well have to take the stairs."
Lindsay patted her hip. "We could..."
I glared at her. "Don't even say it"
Jason smiled at me. It was so pretty, everything about him was wonderful.
"Ok, the stairs it is then." We rushed passed the place where the janitor could see us, to another door at the end of the hallway we had been in. We pushed open the door, and went into the stairwell...and there was two girls making out. They stared at us, and we stared at them, both groups shocked. I tried to talk. "Uh...uh good day, ladies, have fun!" and with that we scurried past them. One of them called after us "hey, I hope you're all getting out of here. And if you are, never come back! You deserve better than this!" Then, immediately started making out with her lover again like nothing had happened.
Both Leo and Anne Lee looked a bit bothered, if you know what I mean. Leo tried to laugh it off. "Wow this building is full of...surprises" Anne Lee agreed." Oh yeah, I wish I could have watched that for a while." We exited the stair well into wing one. We set off for room 134, and rounded the corner.
Five feet away, praying in front of room 134, stood a priest.
Jason, and Anne Lee, almost in sync, exclaimed. "Reverend Green!"
He looked up sharply. His face was long and narrow, sickly pale, his face holding a deep frown, his eyes sharp blue, his hair white. He sucked in air, whether to ask Jesus to hit us with lightning bolts or to call for security, I will never know. A half second before he yelled whatever was on his holy tongue, he was hit by 70,000 volts of electricity from Lindsay's taser. His body convulsed, and fell in a heap of robes. Lindsay's eyes were round. "Oh. My. God. I tased someone! I tased a priest! I'm going to hell!" I'm sure if the priest could have moved he would have confirmed what she said. I quickly covered his eyes with my hands, then a bandana I had in my backpack of cloth so that he couldn't recognize us.
Anne Lee laughed out loud. "If you go to hell for shocking that guy, then heaven's not where you want to go. This man is the reason for this hateful place. This guy has made more kids hate themselves then anyone I can think of. You got any zip ties? "Jason gleefully took some from Lindsay's pocket. He and Anne Lee, perhaps with too much vigor, zip tied his hands, and his feet, as he made gurgling noises, probably about how we were now on gods' hit list. Jason than turned, unlocked the door from the outside, pushed in, and flicked the lights on. The kid jumped from bed, wearing only boxers, and armed with a bible "I'll smash your heads befor...Jason?" he dropped the bible and grabbed onto Jason "are you here to save me, Jason? I'm so afraid!"
Jason looked amused. "Yeah, you looked sooo afraid, wielding that bible around like that. Yeah, were getting you out of here. We won't let them hurt you Bryce. Get dressed and pack up your stuff. This is Brandon, he'll tell you what's up"
I pointed to my head. "Missing something?" he touched his head, then sighed. "Oh, that. My hair was bright red when I got here, so they cut it all off and wouldn't let it grow back"
"I'm sorry. That's really awful. Don't worry; we're getting you out of here. And we have some stuff that will bring this place crashing down. All we're doing now is getting out, once you're done."
"You're Jason's boyfriend, right? He was right about you. You were coming for him" I glanced at Jason, deeply touched. "You thought I was coming to get you?" He smiled, and hugged me, "oh, I didn't think, I knew it. I knew you wouldn't let me rot in here for the next six months. "
I held him tight. "I love you so much." His body stiffened, and he pulled away from me a bit. "What's the matter?" tears came to his eyes "I...I...I can't say it. I just can't" he sat down on the cot, trying to suppress his tears. Anne Lee put her arm around me shoulder, and sat me down on the bed. "Now, don't get all upset. Let me explain something to you. When we all first get here, they try to identify the 'root' of our homosexuality. Once they have come up with some stupid reason they think 'turned' you gay, they take you into a little room and confront you 'bout it. For some kids it's a first kiss, for others playing games with the opposite sex when they were little, for some having a single parent. For me, they blamed the feminist movement combined with vegetarianism. For Jason, they said you were his root. He kept saying that you didn't turn him gay, and that he loved you. For hours, he kept telling them that. But every time he said he loved you they would throw freezing water in his face. Not like a sprinkle, an entire cup. And they did this for an entire week, hours a day, until he finally..."her voice sounded hoarse, like she could barley hold back her own tears "...until he stopped saying he loved you."
I immediately went and tried to hold onto Jason, who was all out crying now, Leo trying to calm him down. He pushed me away "I don't deserve you! Don't touch me, I don't deserve it. I stopped saying it. I stopped saying what I promised you I would never stop saying, I don't deserve everything you've done for me. I swear I still do, I just can't...I just can't say it out loud. "
"No, babe, no it's not like that. You didn't have a choice. Don't worry, I know you still do, you don't have to say it, I know you still do." Suddenly rage came up in me. I pounced onto the priest who was lying on the ground, now able to move again, if in a very restricted way.
Leo had covered his mouth with duct tape, and his eyes were still covered, but he could still hear. "You...you...I'm going to bring this whole place down on your head! Everyone will know what kind of sick monster you are, you hear me! I'll get you excommunicated, even if I have to go to Rome myself and yell at the pope every waking second about this whole sick place, about the things you did to people, about the kids you killed. How old is Bryce? 13? You think the pope would like to hear how you almost killed a 13 year old boy for being queer? I'll make sure you have nothing ever again after what you did to my boyfriend and every kid who has ever walked in here! And don't think I'm bluffing, I have proof." And with that I dragged him into the room, picked him up and threw him onto one of the beds, facedown.
By now Bryce was packed. Everyone was standing around staring at me. Everyone's face had a different expression, ranging from horror to admiration. But I only cared about Jason at that second. I grabbed him close to me "I'm sorry you had to hear that, I'm so sorry that this ever happened to you"
He buried his face in my neck "I...I...
"Shh, I know babe, I know you do. You don't need to say it, I already know"
Bryce seemed happy with the situation. "Oooh, you tied up old humpty dumpty?" Lindsay looked confused. "Why did you just call him humpty dumpty?"
Bryce laughed. "'Cause I've wanted to push him off a wall since the minute I met him."
We turned out the lights in the room, closed the door, and locked it behind us.
Exiting the building with no more issues, we started to sprint towards the fence, Leo and I taking the lead. We got to the fence, and they all started going through. Jason, then Anne Lee, then Lindsay, then Bryce, then Leo. I was waiting to be the last through. Leo was just bending down to go through, when a security guard started to shout at us and run. "Hey you! You kids! Get over here!" Leo crawled out and I started to follow. He was coming fast, but I thought I could make it. I had my shoulders through, when I felt him grab my feet. I tore the flash drive off my neck and threw it into Bryce's hands. I tried to kick the guy off, but he wasn't letting go.
I gritted my teeth. "Get OFF me"
He sounded like he was gritting his teeth too, "You wish, kid"
I dug my fingers into the wet dirt and tried to wrench myself away from him. He jerked back on my legs, and I was pulled back into the compound. Leo and Jason both lunged for my hands, but I was already gone. I tried to get away from the guy, to do anything, but he put his knee on the middle of my back, and I felt handcuffs dig into my wrists. Jason started trying to come back under to get me, and I shouted.
"Stop him Lindsay! Don't let him come back over here!" She grabbed Jason, and pulled him away. The guy pulled me to my feet and pushed me back towards the building. The sky was still dark; it was about 2:00 in the morning. Was this how Jason felt when they brought him here? I mean, he hadn't been covered in dirt, and handcuffed, but I imagine it's still the same general feeling. And at least I knew my parents weren't the ones forcing me to come here, just some thick-necked security guard who probably didn't know how to count above 100.
I remembered the night before he had been taken. I had snuck out of my house, and threw gravel at his window until he opened it. He stuck his head out and saw me, and threw down the makeshift shirt ladder he kept hidden in his room. I waited for a second while he tied his end of the ladder to the metal post of his bed. I climbed into his room. We stayed up all night, talking and, uh...well things that we couldn't talk during because our mouths were too occupied. As the sun started to come up, he told me I needed to go. I got dressed while he packed all his stuff. Before I climbed back down in the dawn sun, he held me close. I breathed in his wonderful scent. "I'll come for you; I won't let you stay in that place. I'll find a way."
He whispered in my ear "I love you. I'll always love you, no matter what. They will never change that, I promise." I kissed him one last time, and with tears in my eyes, I climbed back down and left. An hour later, at six, I had Leo and Lindsay out of bed (that wasn't fun, getting those two up) and saying we needed a rescue plan and we needed it now. It took six weeks of watching that place, hours of research, some minor lock picking, and a just in case computer virus if we came across a computer, one very dangerous note transfer, an endless list of things that could go wrong, and how to react if anything did go wrong, thought pretty much everything we didn't put on the list were the things that did go wrong.
The guy brought me in through the big wooden front doors. In the large entrance hall stood humpty dumpty. I liked the name for him. I wanted to push him off a wall as much as I imagined Bryce did. He looked angrily at the guard. "You only caught one of them?!"
The guard stared at his feet," sorry. There's only one of me. And they were all out of the fence besides this one when I got there. You're lucky I caught him"
"Well I should hope he has the supposed evidence with him, otherwise you will be out of a job again." Dumpty grabbed the back of my collar and slammed me down into a chair, proceeding to tie my already cuffed hands. I tried to squirm away from him. "You don't have any right!"
He smiled nastily. "You're on private property. I have every right, my child."
I glared at him. "Don't call me your child."
With surprising swiftness, he grabbed my shoulder hard, his finger digging into the spot beneath my collar bone, and brought his face very close to mine, his eyes burning. "I can call you anything I want, you filth, you scum of the earth!"
"You...you're a physco!" I stuttered.
He stepped away, and seemed to calm himself. He pulled something that looked like a gun from a pocket in his robes. Only it didn't look like a gun, it was a gun. He causally slid a clip into the pistol. "You know, this poor old world is so very bad. What has the world come to when a sodomite breaks into a place of God's work, with two unwilling cohorts, releases an illegal computer virus, kidnaps three children who want nothing more than to be free of sin, tasers an old priest, and then finally kills all his "friends" with an unlicensed firearm in the forest before breaking back into the front lobby of our building and killing himself too? I will have to give a sermon on Sunday about what this world has come to. My, I was so lucky to escape with my own life, even. Surely it was only because god was protecting me that I escaped." He smiled nastily.
This wasn't supposed to happen! This can't be happening! This was all a bad dream that I would wake up from, and be in bed next to my boyfriend! He leaned in close to my ear. "If you have any evidence like you said you did, and you give it to me now, I will let your little pervert boyfriend," he threw as much disgust and disrespect into the word as he could, like it was a dirty thing to say,"get away with his life, though a couple of knee caps fewer than what he has now. The poor boy will have had such a traumatic shock from seeing his friends killed and having been kidnapped by the sick boy who lured him into homosexuality, then being shot in such a mutilating way, that he will think I was to blame for the whole thing. Tragic that such a young mind would have to be so scarred and twisted by your selfishness."
The guard was snickering to himself as well now. They were going to kill me! And the others! I knew the others would be standing around in the forest trying to decide what to do. "I don't have the evidence anymore. I passed it off to them. But they are gone already, I told them to leave me behind. They will bring this place down. "
He smiled," someone who has listened to confessions his whole life knows when people are lying to him. They didn't leave, I know kids, they are too stupid to think that anything they do could really be that dangerous. I bet they are all out there just trying to come up with some stupid plan to save you. Well they won't ever save you"
I closed my eyes and thought of when I had first kissed Jason. I wanted one last good memory. We were both freshmen, early in the school year. We had been best friends for years, since his first day in fourth grade when one of the older kids accidently knocked him over on the playground, and he fell and scraped his knee. I was nearby, so I immediately ran over and gave him a band-aid. I used to have this thing where I would carry band-aids around with me everywhere, "just in case" I would always say when anyone asked me why.
So anyway, fast forward to freshman year. I was majorly crushing on Jason, but I was insanely afraid to tell him I was gay, and unbeknownst to me, he was in the same situation with me. One night I was over at his house. His parents were in bed while we were still up watching a movie.
Funny thing, I don't even remember what the movie was, because all I could think of at the time was how to get us both under the same blanket. He was wrapped up in his, and mine was in my bag, but I wanted to be in his, with him. I licked my lips, trying to get rid of the dryness in my mouth. "Hey, Jason, I um... I um forgot my blanket. Think I could get in yours with you? "
He hesitated slightly. "Yeah, of course you can." I climbed into the warm little space with him. I had promised myself that being close to him would be enough for me, that I would be content with that. I mean, I had been close to him before, but not like this. This was different; his heat, his scent, the sound of him breathing. I was intoxicated by proximity to him. I wasn't thinking right. I just needed to do what I had been aching to do for over two years. "Jason...I love you" I breathed, and he looked over wide eyed at me. I took my chance, and I kissed him. His lips were hot and soft and just perfect. Even as I did I was thinking of some way to play it off, to say it was a failed attempt to wrestle him, or just anything. But instead of him jerking back, he leaned into it, his breath going into my mouth. I pulled back, and he pushed forward, putting me onto my back...
CLICK! Nothing happened. Reverend Green looked at the gun and started fiddling with it. "Stupid faulty French guns. I knew I should have gotten something Russian."
Both he and the guard were facing me, with their backs to the front door. My eyes grew large as I saw the door handle silently turn, and the door soundlessly push in. Jason was creeping forward.
The guard was also messing with the gun now, trying to figure out what was wrong with it. "Oh! You forgot to turn off the safety!" With a big stupid grin on his face, he handed the gun back to the priest, who tried to play it off. "Stop grinning like an idiot! I knew that, I just wanted to make sure you knew how to use a firearm since you are supposed to be protecting this pla...ugh!" he was cut off as Jason jumped on his back, bringing him to the ground. The four others rushed in, and took a similar approach to the guard as Jason had taken to the priest.
Jason snarled at the priest "you evil, evil human being. If you even think of harming a hair on his head, you will have a lot more to worry about then excommunication! Oh, and by the way, your program didn't make me any less gay, though it did give me the feeling I shall vomit every time I try to enter a church."
The priest tried to wiggle away from him, but Jason just pressed Humpty's face into the floor boards. The priest tried to condemn him even as his hands were -once again- zip tied behind his back. "You ungrateful, wretched child! The lord Jesus will judge you harshly for what you have done! Nothing is good enough for you besides the fi... mpf mpf merf!" his last words, thankfully, were muffled out as duck tape was put over his mouth. Jason jumped up from the priest, and came and kissed me, slow and sweet. The priest flailed like a dying fish, probably burned by the huge display of 'sodomy'. Despite the fact my hands were bound, they were still shaking outside of my control. "You guys were supposed to stay out there! I told you to stay out..."
He kissed me again, and then pulled back. "You didn't leave me in here, so why would you think I would leave you?" he got up and went behind the chair, and started untying the ropes from my hands. I felt the knots loosen and slip away from my hands. Leo fished around in the guards pockets, until he produced a small key. He unlocked the cuffs, and they clattered to the floor, to the obvious rage of the priest. I flexed my hands to try and get some blood back into them, and glanced at Bryce, who seemed positively giddy. "Hey, you have the USB, right?"
"The...oh right, yeah, right here!" He fumbled in his pockets. He pulled the small silver device out and handed it to me. I squatted down in front of the priest, and held it only inches from his face "you see this? This is the evidence, enough to ruin this place and you. Before tonight, I just wanted to save my boyfriend, but now I'm going to save every one of the thousand kids in this building. "And with that, I got up, and we all left the building, and went back out the hole in the fence.
One year later.
You should have seen the look on my parents faces when I burst into the house at five in the morning, covered in mud, exhausted, with Jason, a girl they didn't know, a boy they didn't know who was bald, Leo looking worse for wear from all the frayed nerves, and Lindsay proclaiming that she was going to use our kitchen to make two hundred pancakes, one hundred of which she was going to eat herself. I knew I would be able to talk my way around bringing Jason home from that place, but because of Bryce, Anne Lee, and the evidence, I knew I would have to come out with the whole truth. Well not the whole truth, I did leave out the part about taseing the priest, almost getting shot, and releasing a crushing computer virus. But you know, minor details.
They were surprisingly good about it, though they told me if I ever did something like that again, I would never leave the house again until I was 40.
As for Anne Lee, after just three days at our house, after thanking my parents profusely, saying good bye to the rest of us, and promising to stay in touch, she set out for her aunt's house. She used her leverage over her dad to allow her to stay with her aunt, which he grudgingly agreed to.
Bryce stayed a little longer, two weeks. Apparently his parents had been very on the line about sending him to the Staff of God, and only did under heavy badgering from their pastor. He called his parents, told them how awful the program had been, and how it hadn't changed him. He gave them links to tons of sites that had to do with how to deal with your child being gay, and finally, after two weeks, they said that they had thought and prayed about it, and that they had overreacted at first, and he could come home and feel safe and accepted and loved. When he was leaving, he hugged both Jason and I, and said that if it weren't for us, he would be dead. He's a sweet kid, very on fire for gay rights. You should have seen his face when Jason and I took him to the pride parade in L.A. a few months ago.
Jason was granted to my parents for custody when the court decided his father was not safe for Jason to be around, and due to a lack of family willing to take him, and because my parents were already Jason's god parents, we didn't have to jump through too many hoops to get him.
We couldn't afford a lawyer to take the case against Staff of God, but we turned the evidence over to a large LGBT organization, and they quickly got the case into court. The evidence was crushing and undeniable. The place was closed within 6 months. Reverend Green and other staff from the Staff of God are still being tried, but their sentences look like they will be prosecuted with some very serious crimes. The reverend tried to sue me for breaking and entering, assault, and trespassing, but the all the buildings security cameras had their memory wiped by a mysterious computer virus. Bryce, Anne Lee, and Jason all said they had been released from the program and had had no choice but to come to my house to have a place to stay. The Staff of God had no computer files to prove otherwise, so the courts dropped the case for lack of evidence.
The building itself was purchased by the same LGBT organization that sued the Staff of God. This coming summer it will be open for the first time as a summer camp for queer kids, so that they can spend some time around kids like themselves and be taught how to love and accept themselves, which of course Jason, Bryce, Anne Lee, and I will be attending.
As it turns out, Leo did remember to turn off the mailing feature on the virus, so the world didn't get broken. What he did do, though, was send in his virus program to a virus protection company for a competition they were holding. He won the competition, and got a scholarship for two years of college at any school of his choice, and now the virus protection company knows how to protect the world from one more virus.
Lindsay is taking a course in proper firearm and taser use, as well as hand to hand defense. Says she wants to be a cop later on so she can yell at people, then taser them.
As for Jason and I?
We are by a lake, the sun is setting. We are in the countryside of Rome, where we just got done being part of the leaders of a massive protest in the Vatican of how the church defended the actions of reverend green and the Staff of God, and how they continue to show support to that kind of organization.
He leans his head on my shoulder. I smile at him "it's been a year, you know, a year from today since we got you out of that place." He smiles back at me, and kisses me. "I know."
We are silent for a moment, and then he quietly says "Brandon, I love you." It was the first time he had managed to say it since he had been at that place. I tried to hold back my tears of happiness. "I love you too, Jason." And I kissed him.
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