TO SEE, TO HEAR, TO TOUCH, TO KISS: PART II

By time.to.occur - time.to.occur@gmail.com
published November 2, 2020
4861 words
Summary

A young man discovers his feelings for another man while at university during WWI. When tragedy strikes, he must come to terms with it. A sad, romantic ghost story set from 1915-17 and 1927.

PART II

Locksley awoke in the cold morning dew still in the same position that he had fallen. All things considered, he felt rather fine. The slight aches that he experienced felt more like the echo of pain than the real McCoy. Perhaps he was still drunk. He rose to his feet and, for all that he had been passed out overnight on the ground, did not find his joints to be at all stiff. At the very least, he should have an awful headache and a possible concussion. He felt strangely light – perhaps this was what catharsis felt like. The riverbank was blanketed in fog, and he had the impression that the City of Fredericton was behind a sort of veil.

Going about his business, Locksley scarcely remembered the train ride back to Saint John and the carriage ride to the Somerville Estate. The staff – the butlers and maids, gardeners and groundskeepers, cooks and other employees that kept his mother’s home immaculate – knew not to bother him unless he called for them. He had been a melancholy sort these past ten years.

Lock reflected that he did regret having so few close friends, these days, but he could not easily grow close to others when he could not share the greatest part of him – the part that loved and mourned another man. Sawyer’s death had so marked him that the young man, ageless in death, seemed sometimes to be a constant presence. Those friends that he did have, he kept at arm’s length, as he had Sawyer, in those early days. But Sawyer had persisted, never pushing farther than Lock was willing to go, but widening his view on what seemed possible for him, little by little.


Locksley gritted his teeth as he walked along with Sawyer for the daily constitutional that Sawyer insisted upon after classes. True to his word, Sawyer had been a constant companion in the last few weeks, and hadn’t tried to suggest any… perversions …to Locksley. Sawyer, who had been walking alongside him, had gotten ahead, and now glanced back, concerned.

“Hmm, you really are struggling between those doses of laudanum, aren’t you, Lock? It’s hours yet before you can take more.”

Lock nodded reluctantly. Sawyer was an observant sort, it had to be acknowledged. “It does ache, yes. But you insist that it’s good for me to take these walks with you.”

Sawyer smiled, tilting his head. “Well, yes, I do think they’re good for you, but if the pain is that bad, I can take you back home and get you settled in bed.” He paused. “You know, I might know something that could help. It’s existed for hundreds of years, and American doctors used it in the Civil War, when there was a lack of painkillers available.”

Lock found himself focusing on Sawyer’s words, wondering what he could be talking about. “Why, what’s that?”

Sensing that he had found an effective way to distract Lock from the pain, Sawyer warmed to his subject. “Hypnosis. Now, not mesmerism – not that hokum. But actual, scientifically-rigorous and proven hypnosis.”

Lock scoffed at Sawyer lightly before realizing that the other young man was quite serious about his proposal. He worked his fingers gently in the cast, feeling the ache of his arm. “You’re serious?”

Sawyer nodded enthusiastically. “And how! The human brain is just amazing, Lock. I’ll tell you all about it on the way to your place.”

Lock shrugged. “I suppose that so long as you’re not manipulating my arm directly, there’s no harm in trying.”


Sawyer helped Locksley tuck a pillow under his cast to ensure that the arm was supported, and left to bring up a chair from the kitchen. All tucked in, Locksley felt vulnerable. He had never had anyone in his bedchambers at the cottage before, and what Sawyer was proposing had him rather nervous. Still, the pain was bad enough that Lock would have taken almost any proposed distraction. When he had asked questions about this hypnosis business along the way home, Sawyer had been forthcoming, but Locksley felt that there was still some aspect of it that Sawyer wasn’t telling him about.

As it turned out, Locksley was right that Sawyer was withholding something, but at that juncture, Sawyer probably never expected to use that particular kind of hypnosis with Lock. Lock had made it more than clear that he was uncomfortable with the sort of thing that Sawyer did with Lovelace. Instead of talking about sexual hypnosis games, as he might have, Sawyer explained that he had grown interested in the topic after attending a guest lecture. His local doctor in Montreal happened to know the technique, and had loaned him several books. It seemed that patients could be put in an altered state of mind and that this state could be used to dull certain sensations, such as pain. Patients with neuroses could also be calmed, their fears and panic greatly reduced through the work of a skilled hypnotist.

Sawyer made no claims as to his skill, but he said that he had practiced with other friends before, and knew what to look for in terms of adverse reactions. Ultimately, Lock decided that if nothing else, allowing Sawyer to try to dull the pain would pass the time until he was allowed his next dosage of laudanum.

Sawyer positioning the wooden chair close to the head of the bed. He smiled reassuringly at Lock. “If it all gets too queer at any point, Lock, you just tell me and we can stop. I only want to do this if you’re on-board, and I think you’ll find that even when you’re really hypnotized, you’ll be able to tell me if anything goes funny.”

Locksley nodded, and Sawyer began. His voice was soothing and calm, with a certain rhythmic quality. He lit the candle at Lock’s bedside with the wooden matches that were set out for that purpose. “Now then, Lock, I want you to choose a point on your fancy cottage ceiling to stare at for a while. Watch the light and shadows of the candle flicker across that point. In the meanwhile, I want you to take some slow, steady breaths, and focus on my words and my voice. You know that I want what’s good for you, and right now, what we both want to work toward is taking away your pain and helping you to relax.”

Locksley let himself be carried by Sawyer’s voice, watching the flickering light of the candle. Everything was lulling him into a restful state. As Sawyer guided him, he felt reassured by the way that the man asked after how he was feeling at every step.

“Very good, Lock, I love to see that relaxed expression on your face. Now then, on my count, I want you to open your eyes, and keep them open until I say to close them again…Attaboy, Lock. One, two, three, open…and close those eyes…”

This continued for some time, and soon Locksley felt a… growing problem. But he was too relaxed to care that his penis was increasingly erect, just from listening to Sawyer’s voice. Sawyer did not mention it, so it was easy for Lock to focus purely on what Sawyer was saying, on the calm, relaxed sensations in his body. On allowing his friend to hypnotize him. Sawyer did not do anything untoward, either. He explained to Lock the many telltale signs that he was in a trance, showing how cooperative his mind was being, and how it wanted to listen and do as Sawyer said.

“You’re doing so well. Now then, to make this all a little easier next time, I’m going to give you some words to remember. Nod for me if that’s all right with you. Very good. Good lad, Lock.”

Lock felt a smile come to his lips, unbidden, and Sawyer continued to murmur soothing affirmations about how pleased he was to see that, too.

“So, Lock, so long as it’s the right time for it, and you feel safe, whenever I say the words ‘Lock’s hypnotic laudanum’, you’ll find it so very easy to return to this relaxed mindset. Nod for me if you understand and agree.”

It felt like his entire body was floating in a warm bath. Lock nodded, and even with his eyes closed, he could tell that the movement was barely perceptible. But Sawyer was paying attention, and he saw and understood.

“It’s awfully nice to be so relaxed like this, isn’t it? Feels good to be hypnotized, knowing that I’m here to help,” Sawyer said. “Now, I want you to picture that broken arm of yours and all of the pain you’ve been carrying around these past few days. I want you to describe it for me, Lock.”

Lock was surprised to hear how distant and drowsy his own voice sounded, almost as hoarse as he had been in the days following his near-drowning at the river. He sounded muddled and slow as molasses. “…aches real deep…like a bruise…radiates like waves on the shore…stabs when I move it wrong. Always hurts…”

Sawyer repeated his words back to him. “Feels just like that – a real deep ache, like a bruise, but it hurts even worse if you move it wrong. That radiating pain never really seems to leave. Focus on that pain for just a moment – examine it, so you know what it feels like. I want you to try and figure out where the pain starts and ends. Picture it for me.”

Locksley did so, and found that naming and defining it was already helping him to contain it. He listened intently, his lips parted, as Sawyer continued.

“It is as though just how far the pain can radiate is shrinking down. It is almost as if the throbbing, dull ache of it – probably happens every time your heart beats, I bet – it’s as if that ache is lessening. You know that your arm is still broken, of course, but it’s as though the pain is fading. With every breath that you take, breathe in relaxation and calm, and breathe out pain and tension. You can still feel it enough to be cautious, but the tension of constantly holding that pain is melting like spring snow.”

For a wonder, Lock could picture the pain receding, and could simultaneously feel it doing so – a little bit. It was far from perfect, but, then again, this was the first time Sawyer was hypnotizing him. And Sawyer said it got easier over time.

“Picture the pain like strung-out telegraph lines. If there’s a break in the line, the message stops. I want you to picture the wires between the pain in your arm and the rest of your body. You snip those wires for me, Lock. And just like a telegraph operator, your arm will be able to holler some if it needs to, to try and get its message across. But you may find that you only feel the pain if you’re doing something that might injure your arm further. Otherwise, you can just let the pain fade from your awareness.”

Sawyer continued in that manner for some time, describing the receding pain and calming feelings of relaxation spreading throughout Locksley’s body. Locksley found Sawyer’s voice easy to listen to, and he found himself continually excited by the fact that the hypnosis was working. As deeply relaxed as he was, he found it equally easy to admit that he was enjoying letting Sawyer take over control of his mind for a while. He let out a soft moan as he once again became aware of how hard the whole experience was making his erection. He hoped that it was not visible under the duvet.

Eventually, Sawyer brought him back to full awareness, and the pain was still mostly gone, even while Lock was, as near as he could tell, fully awake. Sawyer was looking at him with an excited, expectant expression. “Well, how was that? You seemed very open to my words – did it work?”

Feeling rather grateful but not wanting to appear over-enthused, Locksley nodded. “The pain has faded a great deal. I think that will be a very useful tool for when the laudanum is wearing off in the future.”

Sawyer’s face lit up and he clasped his hands together. “I thought it would work! Boy, that’s just the ticket, isn’t it, Lock? You won’t have to worry about being stuck hurting between doses.”


Though Lock had dreaded the necessity, he eventually had to send word to his mother to explain why he had to cancel his regular monthly visit to Saint John. He had to reassure her that he was being well-cared for in order to avoid her descending upon his life in her overwhelming way, and in so doing, inadvertently let slip that Sawyer was his nursemaid and general helper. Naturally, his mother sent Sawyer an invitation to visit so that she could thank him in person for caring for her dear son. She asked Sawyer to accompany Locksley on his next visit home, as soon as his arm stopped being quite so aggravated by the jostling that the vibrations of a train ride would cause.

Good-natured Sawyer, for his part, was excited for a seaside visit, even if Autumn’s chill was already in the air. He tapped the envelope that contained the letter of invitation with the back of his hand. “Well, that’s awfully kind of your mother to extend the invitation, isn’t it, Lock?”

“It’s what etiquette demands, and if there’s one thing you can count on my mother for, it’s to be scrupulously observant of the proper etiquette. I suppose she had to look up the entry in Miss Hartley’s handbook. Do you reckon that there’s one for ‘my son’s classmate saved him from drowning and hypnotizes his pain away’?”

Lock had given up trying to get Sawyer to leave him alone, by then. Sawyer was, as it turned out, very patient, and a great deal of help to boot. There were many surprising things that Lock’s broken arm prevented him from doing, including having a proper wash and maneuvering a shirt onto both shoulders with any degree of ease, especially in the early days. As his arm healed and he gained independence, he nevertheless found himself looking forward to the time that they spent together each day.

They talked about anything and everything, from the scholarly to the mundane. Everything, that was, except for Sawyer’s condition. Sawyer and Lovelace’s condition. Locksley often found himself turning around the words that Sawyer had said to him. Sawyer did not seem to feel any shame about the things that he did with Lovelace – and possibly other young men too, for all Locksley knew. He had only seemed to care to the extent that it would be an inconvenience if others knew.

Locksley found that he did not understand it. Sawyer talked knowledgeably about all sorts of medical conditions both physical and mental, for example. Did he not understand that he himself had such a condition? Misplaced desires? Unnatural proclivities?

So, one day, he brought it up, as he was laying himself down in the cottage bed for Sawyer to hypnotize him, adjusting the pillows beneath him to cradle his arm. “Sawyer, you said that all sorts of ailments can be cured or bettered with hypnosis, right? Like the pain in my arm?”

Sawyer quirked his eyebrows. “Well, sure, Lock. What did you have in mind?”

Locksley flushed a little, but pressed on, pulling the covers over himself. “Well…you have a medical condition, don’t you? You’re inverted. You have abnormal desires for other men. Couldn’t you be hypnotized to just…put all of that to rights? Back the way it’s supposed to be?”

Throughout this, Sawyer had been growing increasingly flushed, lightly furrowing his brow. He swallowed hard, and Locksley saw him clench and release his fists. “Lock…”

This was the first time that Locksley had seen Sawyer in any sort of mood approaching anger. He froze, and waited for the other man to continue speaking, watching him carefully. Locksley’s own father was prone to bouts of sudden anger, and he knew better than to say anything that might make the situation worse. Finally, Sawyer shook his head a few times, and when he opened his mouth, he spoke in a low, measured tone, and Locksley thought that might be to stop himself from shouting.

“I know that you don’t understand why what you just said is so hurtful, Lock. Hell, I’ve been in your position before – thought about whether life would be easier if I were different. I need you to hear me now, Lock. I need you to hear me very clearly. I am not sick, and I don’t need a cure. If you ever suggest that to me again, well…”

Sawyer paused, raised his gaze and stared into Locksley’s eyes.

“…Well, I don’t think I can be your friend if you do that, Lock. If you have questions about it, you can ask me anything you like…except I won’t stand for you starting from the premise that what I am is broken. What I am is…is good, not evil. I like who I am plenty. It feels good. It’s people like you who think that I’m sick or going to hell that make it hard.”

Locksley felt stunned, but could not abide the silence that fell between them. Sawyer’s gaze was still steady on him. “I’m…I’m sorry, of course. Yes, I shouldn’t have said that, you’re right. Please forgive me.”

Sawyer nodded slowly, then smiled softly. “That’s all right. I said what I had to say. Now, then, do you still want to try the hypnosis?”

Locksley’s mind was brought back to the pain in his arm. “Oh…would you mind?”

Sawyer shook his head. “I don’t mind at all. I’ll do my best… Though, with my having just called you out on the carpet, I don’t know if that brain of yours will want to listen to me.”

Locksley settled back into the bed. “All we can both do is try our best.”

“Right…It’s time for ‘Lock’s hypnotic laudanum’, and you know what that means…your body is immediately settling into deep relaxation as you focus on my words and my voice, breathing slowly and deeply, and letting yourself let go of any worries that might be troubling you…”

No matter what had just happened, Lock’s body was habituated to those soothing tones that Sawyer used when it was time for their sessions together. He immediately found his body responding. Without thinking, he adjusted his position, splaying his limbs out and making sure that there were no bumps in the duvet to bother him as he listened and relaxed. The pain was already improving. It was something of a relief to know that neither his mind nor his body resented Sawyer’s chastisement enough to cause any problems here. It was nice to let Sawyer lead him away from the pain.

“Attaboy, Lock…there’s a good man…No pain…”


That dense Autumn fog seemed to have followed Locksley from Fredericton. That night, he did not go down for dinner. The cook would know to leave his portion in the warming drawer and that Locksley would get to it when he was ready. Locksley’s hand longed to hold a pen and write one of his habitual letters, but he intended to settle in with a good book and break that very habit. A Brontë novel would do nicely, he thought, peering out at the fog outside. He already felt halfway transported to a lonesome moor.

Locksley rose to get Wuthering Heights, chancing a glance out the window as he did so. It was nearing seven o’clock, and the grounds outside the main house were already quite dark – doubly so with the fog. But even so, Locksley thought he saw a figure in the fog. The figure seemed to be gazing back at him.

Surely the groundskeeper would have finished for the evening. Who could be out there? He tried to make out more details, but the figure departed. Raising a hand to his temple, Locksley wondered whether he had been rather more affected by last night’s fall than he had initially thought. He had read that a concussion could cause hallucinations.

Deeply unsettled, Locksley unlocked the window and raised it. He shouted out into the fog, his voice almost immediately swallowed up by it. “Groundskeeper! What’s kept you on this late?”

The wind whistled through the ornamental stonemasonry on the main house roof, and Locksley thought he heard the gate creaking in the distance. Whatever the groundskeeper had been doing, it seemed that he was done.

After the confusion with the figure in the fog, Locksley’s own thoughts suddenly seemed too loud in his head. Yes, he was beginning to suspect a head injury. The prevailing wisdom, as far as he recalled was to…

…Locksley awoke at his desk in the mid-morning sun, which had burned away most of the fog. He could see Sawyer’s monument in the distance. He had fallen asleep at his desk. As he stretched out, he found himself feeling rather faint and weak. Even lifting Wuthering Heights off the shelf in his study seemed an insurmountable effort. It seemed that in addition to a head injury, his night out on Forest Hill in Fredericton had earned him a bout of influenza. He felt lethargic and insubstantial, his limbs heavy. His thoughts, too, felt clouded, and touching a hand to his forehead, he found himself feeling rather warm.

Resigned, Locksley rang the bell at his bedside with as much fervour as he could muster. This would alert the household help that he required assistance. He then lay down on the bed, and closed his eyes.


Burnaby Lovelace accompanied Sawyer and Lock to the train station on the day of their departure for the Somerville Estate, that first time, so that Sawyer wouldn’t have to manage both of their luggage alone. Lovelace wished them both an excellent weekend and slung an arm around Sawyer’s shoulders briefly. The gesture was of course not out of place when wishing a friend a safe journey, but in light of what Lock knew about their activities together, it seemed daring indeed.

Lock didn’t mean to act the pervert himself, but he found himself increasingly fascinated by the topic of what people like Sawyer and Lovelace did together. He supposed it was the scholar in him – a thirst for knowledge and understanding of even the most unusual cultural practices. Lock would have been as interested, he reasoned, by the opportunity to glean anthropological knowledge about greeting practices in the Congolese jungle. He simply had an opportunity in front of him to learn, in the form of his friend Sawyer Mulholland.

Even so, he had yet to work up the courage to ask anything further after their last conversation. He was trying to find the right words to be respectful to his friend. It was these thoughts that occupied his mind as the train left the station, a thick pillow propping up Lock’s arm.

Sawyer nudged his shoulder gently. “You haven’t heard a word that I’ve said, have you, Lock?”

Startled, Lock turned his body a little and smiled. “Terribly sorry. You’ve caught me woolgathering.”

Sawyer smiled back. “That’s all right. I was asking if the pain was all right, what with the train’s motion and all. You were worried about the vibrations.”

Sawyer had helped him catch the pain with hypnosis so that he could delay his laudanum dose and have it be at its most effective during their time on the juddery rails. Lock nodded stoically. “The pain is manageable. Thank you for asking.”

“Boy, am I glad to hear that,” said Sawyer. “Do you think your mum will like me?”

“Does it matter? You’re coming to stay for a weekend, not trying to…” Locksley almost said ‘marry into the family’, but then thought better of it. “Not trying to get into her will. I suspect she’ll like you fine, though she may find your manners lacking. I would bet good money that she calls you ‘quaint and refreshing’ at least once, and possibly even in your earshot, Sawyer, my good fellow.”


“How refreshing!” gushed the Lady Eleanor Somerville, raising her teacup to her smiling lips.

They were having afternoon tea and Sawyer was explaining to Locksley’s mother that he had spent some time as a dock worker and later a ship’s hand in Montreal the previous summer, and had found the experience invigourating and exciting. He talked about the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and did impressions of the various sailors that he had met on the Great Lakes.

“Oh, the whole experience was simply marvelous, Mrs. Somerville,” said Sawyer, his grin wide. He had warmed to his subject, and Lock knew that he would be happy to go on for hours.

“That’s Lady Somerville, Sawyer,” said Locksley gently.

“Oh, please don’t fret about such formalities amongst the three of us, Sawyer,” said the Lady Eleanor, giving Locksley a disapproving look that was the kind only a mother could shoot her son in secret with a guest not three feet away.

“As you please, Mother,” said Locksley, knowing he would get an earful later.


“You have a lovely home,” said Sawyer after Lock gave him the tour of the main house. For the first time since Lock had known him, he seemed to be at sea, and maybe even a little ill-at-ease. “I hadn’t realized that your family was actually part of the British peerage.”

“Well, considering that we’re in the colonies, so to speak, it’s not surprising that it isn’t the first thought to come to mind. And honestly, it mostly means that my parents place far too much import on decorum,” said Lock, sprawled on the enormous back lawn with an old horse blanket underneath him and a cushion under his arm that was far too fancy for its role.

Sawyer had practically given his mother a dissertation on the importance of sunshine and fresh air for convalescing patients. His mother had asked one of the maids to fetch the blanket and cushion that Locksley sat upon. For a wonder, the autumn air was crisp and clear.

“If you say so,” said Sawyer. “Must be nice to live by the ocean like this. Your own private beach and all.”

“Water’s too cold through most of the year to swim,” said Locksley, hating the way that his thoughts seemed determined to continually undercut Sawyer’s attempts at niceties. Niceties weren’t like Sawyer – Sawyer talked about things of consequence and substance, about all the knowledge that the world had shown to him so far, and with an enthusiasm that Lock could not hope to match. These empty words were galling. “Except for five minutes in late July and August, when everyone’s away on holiday anyway.”

“I’d like to take a swim then,” said Sawyer. “I bet there’s a lot to see down there if you’ve got a good set of lungs on you, being that you’re so close to the harbour and all.”

Locksley found his chest tightening with a kind of panic at the mention of going below the water for any length of time. The blood drained from his face.

“Say…Lock, you look a little under the weather…” Sawyer said hesitantly, examining Lock’s face. “Oh, I’ve pulled a real boner haven’t I? I’m such a crumb…you’re thinking about when you fell in the river. Let’s talk about something else.”


That first visit, Locksley did not manage to work up the courage to ask Sawyer anything further about what it was like to be with another man. But seeing Sawyer in a context that he was not perfectly at ease with made Lock feel like more his equal. In Fredericton, Sawyer knew how things worked, and he was good at making everything go his way. At the Somerville Estate, the rules were different, not to mention that Lock had exclusive access to Sawyer, away from all of his many friends, and, of course, away from Burnaby Lovelace. Lock resolved to invite him back, and told himself that next time, he would ask his questions.

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