As there was a multi-way tie for first place in this contest I elected to choose an outright winner as per the FAQ for these contests. This decision was based on adherence and approach to the theme and word limit, SPaG and overall appeal. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- nastyjman - Pancakes for Breakfast Fag. Homo. Queer. The words were heavy; they dragged Quincy's soul deep into depression. He struggled against them, but they were too painful and too hateful to shake off. Mud and blood speckled his shirt. Blood had crusted beneath his nostrils, and a bruise shaded the pale of his cheek. Tears fell from his eyes like a storm, forming beads on his chin, then falling to his shirt. The sniffs and sobs, vibrating within the dry air, echoed off the bathroom tiles. Quincy sat on top of the toilet with the lid closed. The light, which hung loose from the ceiling, threw a sallow hue against the pallid room. A bottle of vodka stood nearby, looming by the edge of the sink. He turned to it and found his reflection warped, skewed and broken. Quincy, who was too young to drink, grabbed the bottle and took a careful shot. It tasted like fire, burning down his throat and engulfing his stomach in a swirl of heat. Yet the taste was liberating, soothing. And disgusting. The uncontrollable sobs and the flow of tears slowed down – probably the reason why adults drank such nasty stuff. Quincy turned to his right hand, holding a bottle of pills, unlabeled. It contained the answer to his pain and to the hate he had endured all his life. The fag, the queer and the homo would finally be silenced. "We're going to be okay," a voice whispered in his head. The voice belonged to Kaiser, his best-friend (and his crush.) But amidst the roiling thunder of self-hatred, Kaiser's voice was dim. "I'm sorry Kaiser. I'm sorry mom," Quincy whispered. Quincy emptied the bottle on his hand. He took a deep breath and took the ashen pills in his mouth. He took a sip, then a gulp, then a full drink of vodka. The pills, along with the liquor, clogged in his throat. He drank more just to force it down. He stared at his broken reflection against the bottle. He felt his body react to the cocktail. His eyes fluttered, his heart slowed, his legs and his arms sagged. He took his last breath and felt the rush of air fill his skull. Quincy dropped the bottle from his hand. The bottle made a tink against the bathroom floor, landing on its side and bleeding its contents. Everything blurred. The edges of his vision darkened. He felt his body float, drifting in the air while everything melted around him. Quincy fell forward and saw the floor beneath him turn into muck. Before he could reach the floor, his world had already ended. # “Daddy daddy daddy daddy!” a voice echoed through the dark. It belonged to a child. Quincy opened his eyes and found the source of the voice. A little girl, wearing pink pajamas, was standing next to him. She sported a smile as bright as the morning, and she hopped lightly on her bare heels. “Come on daddy! Papa made pancakes for breakfast!” said the little girl. Quincy sat up from the bed. The blanket, which was soft and silky, hung from his shoulders and covered his chest. Quincy picked the blanket from its edge and checked himself underneath: hair had covered his chest, and a bulge poked against his boxers. He scratched his chin and discovered a beard covering his chin and jawline. His eyes widened. The little girl noticed his surprise. Quincy scanned the room for a mirror. He found one next to the armoire against the adjacent wall. He stared at himself. If he would've guessed, Quincy would say he was forty – or more. “Daddy? You still sleepy?” asked the little girl, now with her hands behind her and her brimming eagerness aside. Quincy turned to her; he didn't know who she was and what her name was. The last thing Quincy remembered was the bathroom, the vodka and the pills. But while Quincy looked at the girl, her name flew by like a stray cloud on a clear afternoon. Her name formed in his head. "Megan?" Quincy asked softly. Megan resumed her hopping and returned to her smiling. She took Quincy's hand and tugged at it, believing that she could pull Quincy off the bed. Her touch brought joy to Quincy; he didn't know why. He could see a sliver of memory, that could explain this joy, wedged deep inside his mind. He couldn't see it, but the emotion was undeniable. “Come on come on come on! Papa is waiting,” yelped Megan. Quincy – light as the dust floating against the sun's ray – obliged. # Megan raced Quincy, unaware there was a race. Quincy passed through the doorway which lead to the kitchen. Quincy stopped at the archway, leaned against its side and rapped his hand against it. It made a solid knock. He wondered if this was real and doubted if this was a dream. He entertained the idea that he was dead and that all of this was a pre-death dream. Quincy took a deep breath and savored the aroma of pancakes. The aroma made Quincy tear up – this was real. He turned to the cook standing in front of the stove. The cook turned around to Quincy. He was clean-shaven, smooth-faced and good-looking. Quincy recognized him, but struggled to pin a name on him. He took another whiff of the pancakes and found his name. "Kaiser," said Quincy. “Good morning honey!” said Kaiser. He lifted the pan off the stove and laid it down on the counter. "You okay? You look a little lost this morning." "No, I'm fine. Still sleepy I guess," said Quincy, rubbing the morning off his eyes. Kaiser lifted the pan and emptied the pancakes on a nearby plate. The plate was already stacked high with pancakes. Kaiser took the plate, then tilted his head towards the table. "Come on. Let's eat." Quincy ambled towards the table. Before he could sit down next to Megan, Kaiser gave him a kiss on his cheek. "Happy anniversary honey." Kaiser stepped back, noticed the tears on Quincy's eyes. "Are you crying?" asked Kaiser, both concerned and innocent. Quincy shook his head. He didn't know what he was feeling: was it pain, hate, confusion, joy, elation. Happiness? His attempt to end his life seemed distant now. And this moment, this reality, was as real as the kiss, still damp on his cheek. "Nothing," said Quincy, "I love you, Kaiser." Quincy returned Kaiser's kiss. "Sit down, honey, and let's eat," said Kaiser. Quincy sat down next to Megan. She looked up at him; her eyes sparkled from the sunlight. Quincy gave her a kiss on the forehead. Father and daughter both smiled at each other. Quincy tasted vodka in his tongue. The world around him blurred. He felt his body float in space and felt the air push back against him. He fell backwards from his chair. Screams and shrieks, all coming from Kaiser and Megan, bounced inside his skull. As soon as he hit the floor, the silence and the darkness consumed him. # “Quincy. Quincy. Quincy!” a voice echoed in the darkness. Quincy opened his eyes and found Kaiser lying in bed next to him. He was still clean-shaven, still good-looking. Yet he was younger. Kaiser moved his face towards Quincy's and stole a kiss from his lips. "Come on honey. I made pancakes for breakfast," said Kaiser. He reached for his chin and stroked the growing stubble on it. The pain of hopelessness draped over him like a thick veil. But the dream he just had gave him strength to get up and enjoy the pancakes waiting for him. The dream was fleeting, but Quincy tried to hold the images down in his mind. "I had the weirdest dream," said Quincy. "I dreamt that we were married and that we had a kid. A girl." Kaiser gave him another kiss and began stroking Quincy's hair. "You have lots of dreams honey. They're never weird," Kaiser said. "They're always happy. Hopeful. Beautiful." And there were more dreams. The dreams came up to his mind like memories: some distant, some near and some vivid. Quincy struggled to understand if they were really dreams, memories or both. Kaiser noticed Quincy's eyes widening. “Am I still dreaming?” asked Quincy, “Can you wake me up? Please?” Kaiser giggled. He crawled out from the bed, took Quincy's hand and tugged him. "Of course it is. The best you ever had." Quincy, unsure of Kaiser's sarcasm, rose up from the bed. # The only thing that was certain and tangible in this dream (or this memory, or this reality) were the pancakes. They swam in maple syrup and had some bits of blueberries in them. Quincy took a bite and felt his body tingle from the sweetness. After Quincy was finished, Kaiser got up from his chair, took his plate and placed them in the sink. Kaiser reached over the cabinet and took out a green bottle of pills. Quincy stared at the bottle like an enemy, not trusting what it contained. “What is that?” asked Quincy with his brows furrowed. Kaiser, his smile fading, took two pills out from the bottle. Kaiser took a glass from the rack and filled it with water. “Your medication. Please take it,” said Kaiser, placing the pills and the glass in front of Quincy. “Please Quincy, do it for me and your mom.” Quincy wanted to swat the pills away from him. He lifted his hand, then curled his fingers, hesitating to pick them up. Kaiser noticed Quincy's hand was shaking. He reached for it and held him. "Please," said Kaiser. Quincy dropped his hand near the pills. He caressed them with his fingertips. He was afraid of them; he didn't know why. He felt a heavy cloud – the memories, the dreams – thundering, persuading him not to take the pills. Before Quincy could place the pills on his palms, a loud horn, blaring and bursting, streamed through the open window nearby. The beeps and the horns created a symphony, overwhelming the city, the streets, the apartments, the ears. Kaiser turned to the window; Quincy followed. “What the?” said Kaiser. Quincy, grabbing the opportunity to ignore the pills, got up from the table and started towards the window. Kaiser followed, also forgetting the pills. Three stories down and on the streets, a mob had formed, waving rainbow flags, cheering their lungs out, crying with their lovers and partners and their friends and families. “Excuse me!” yelled Kaiser to a couple. “What's going on?” “It's finally here!” cheered the couple. “Same-sex marriage is finally legal!” Kaiser, with his eyes and mouth drawn wide, turned to Quincy. Kaiser returned inside and walked towards the couch where The TV remote sat. He picked it up and turned the TV on. He flipped through the channels until he reached CNN. “. . . if you're just joining us, President Hillary Clinton has signed the Respect for Marriage Act into full effect, granting same-sex couples . . .” “I don't believe it. We need to record this!” said Kaiser and pressed 'Record.' Quincy, still watching the crowd on the street, stood by the window. He looked at a lesbian couple, who were in their 50s, waving a small rainbow flag and pushing a baby-cart together. Next to them was their other child, skipping and waving the same flag. The couple wore sunglasses, but Quincy knew they were crying beneath the specks. The couple held a victorious smile, something that was long overdue. Quincy smiled and teared. The taste of vodka returned to his tongue. Kaiser heard a loud thud nearby. He turned and saw Quincy lying on the floor. Kaiser yelled for him, ran to him, turned him around, slapped Quincy on his cheek. Kaiser's voice echoed: “Quincy, hold on. Fight it if you can. Please Quincy, fight it . . .” Quincy stared at the ceiling, focusing his attention to a small crevice. Everything blurred on the edges, but he held on to this moment, this dream, this reality. Then he saw himself with Kaiser and their child Megan. They were walking down the same street, waving their rainbow flags. While the darkness consumed him, Quincy felt his lips curl into a smile. # Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. The beat echoed in the dark. Quincy opened his eyes, then squinted as the sunlight blazed through the window. Quincy espied a tube hooked to the side of his mouth. He followed the tube, saw it attached to a glass cylinder that contained a pump. It expanded as he exhaled, deflated as he inhaled. Next to the mechanical lung was a heart monitor, rising up and down with the motion of his heartbeat. Against the wall was his mother, sleeping on a chair, her head against her shoulder. Quincy opened his mouth and attempted to cry "mom." His voice cracked, grating the side of his throat, sending out a weak and dry call. His heart beat fast, in sync with the rising and falling of the machine attached to him. "Mom," Quincy said, enough to ruffle his mother's eye lids. She stared at him with dreamy eyes. Noticing that her son was finally awake, she flew up from her chair and hugged him; her head pressed against his hair. Tears fell from her eyes and into Quincy's dry hair. "Quincy, Quincy. My baby." Quincy said he was sorry, but it was too soft to be heard. He wasn't sure if she had heard him. His mother gave him a kiss on the forehead. "I love you Quincy. I love you." Quincy cried. # That night, Quincy dreamt a thousand dreams, all vivid, beautiful, hopeful – and weird. Some of them involved pancakes. The next morning, Kaiser came in to visit. Quincy felt relief and comfort from the sight of him. And most of his dreams, though they were fleeting and unclear, involved Kaiser. When Kaiser was near Quincy's cot, Quincy reached out for him. Kaiser took his hand and held him firmly. Quincy was certain they weren't friends anymore. They were more than that now. Kaiser wiped the tears forming beneath his eyes. "Why, Quincy?" asked Kaiser hiding his tears, and hiding his anger and fear. Quincy knew why, and he also knew that it was stupid. All the pain and all the hate could easily blur the things that mattered – the people who loves you and the people who cares. Deep inside, Quincy knew this was a dream, a memory, a fragment of reality. He knew the past, the present and the future very well. “Did you bring pancakes?” asked Quincy. “Yes. How did you know?” said Kaiser, his brows furrowing and his lips pursing. Quincy knew he will taste the vodka soon. But he was ready. He got used to it.