'I baptise you in water for repentance,
But the one who comes after me
is more powerful than I,
And I am not fit to carry his sandals,
He will baptise you with the Holy Spirt
His winnowing-fan is in his hand;
He will clear the threshing-floor
And gather his wheat into his barn,
But the chaff he will burn
In a fire that will never go out.'
The sound of a wooden match being struck drew his attention even before the flame. In the total darkness the flame burned with an orange and yellow appetite for more than the splinter of wood which birthed and fueled it. By the aurora Sebastian strained to recognize the faint facial features of the person holding the flame.
The flame grew larger, more brilliant and hotter forcing Sebastian to squint and try to shield his face with his raised forearm. He twisted his torso to the cooler darkness behind him. The person holding the match laughed at Sebastian's meager efforts to protect himself and threw the match at him. The flame landed at Sebastian's feet and encircled him in a ring of fire. The man laughed.
'You're not afraid of a little fire, Sebastian? After everything you went through and with your aggravating faith. Come to me, my love, and be sanctified. By the fire we are born again and given another chance to be happy. Come and see for yourself.'
'Sean? Are you there?'
'Yes, Sebastian. I am on the other side of the flames. My love for you is a fire which will never go out. We are forged together by a bond so strong Death cannot break the weld.'
'No, Sean. You're dead. I witnessed your death.'
'You of all people understand Death is not final, but a mere transition. Come, my love, and let us start over.'
A sudden alarm sounded. Not because of the fire, but something Sebastian couldn't quite recall. A coin hit the floor and rolled, stopping at Sebastian's feet. He picked up the coin and recognized a two-headed Kennedy half dollar. Sebastian kept such a coin on his nightstand as signal he is dreaming. As he raised the coin in front of his face like a priest holding the host, Sean screamed.
'No! Sebastian, what are you doing? Stop. You'll wake up and we'll be apart again. Stop! I might not be able to visit you again.'
'Sean, I don't belong in your world and you left mine. Under the circumstances death served as your best option.'
The flames encircling Sebastian roared as though someone opened a gas valve further.
'I won't let you go, Sebastian.'
Sebastian raised his coin with both hands over his head and woke.
Sunlight beaming through the bedroom window delivered Sebastian into wakefulness. He threw back the covers to get out of bed causing his two-headed fifty-cent piece to fail to the floor. He returned the coin to its usual place in the same smooth motion with which he turned off the alarm clock.
Sebastian stood, stretched and, as he scratched various parts of his naked body, paying unconscious special attention to what remained of his abs at thirty-something, stood in front of the window overlooking the rear garden. The trees filtered sunlight not yet sufficient to warm things up. This is New Orleans, however, so the atmosphere would soon be warm enough and humid enough to satisfy all those tourists who hoped to escape the winter for which they fled their homes.
Following his morning routine, Sebastian sat back down on the bed and pulled his journal and pen out of the nightstand drawer to write the details of his dream before the image faded with the morning dew.
He finished writing down everything he remembered, then wrote in big block letters THIS IS THE DAY and underlined the phrase. He meant this would be the day he purged every artifact and memory of his former lover Sean from his house, his mind, and his heart. He wanted no more dreams like the one he recorded now, or like any of the others he journaled in the weeks since his return from New York after Sean's death.
No point to postpone the inevitable any longer. After showering and getting dressed, he would go someplace to buy some cartons and pack up his lover's things, their things together, things doomed to be constant reminders of the man Sebastian loved, and -as he learned while assisting his friend Detective Cliff Nolte in the investigation of a pedophile ring of priests and teachers in Brooklyn -he never knew. The discovery of Sean's sexual abuse as a child and teenager by Father Finn broke Sebastian's heart. Finding out Sean later acted as a pimp for the priest, bringing in fresh recruits he helped groom went beyond devastating and to Sebastian's mind unforgivable.