November 1, 2036

The world will be eternally grateful for Dr. Victor Ross who, over the past year, worked really hard on manufacturing a vaccine for the Maikavirus which finally reached 235 million US citizens this week. And his accomplishments don’t end here. Over the past few years, he’s become perhaps the single biggest financial driving force behind shifting psychedelic drugs from the ashes and catapulting them into the medical mainstream by turning its main active ingredient, psilocybin, into a legal medicine to treat mental illnesses, particularly depression and other psychiatric disorders.

The biggest surprise? Patrick’s direct involvement in that imperative change. 

“I met Patrick in the Caribbean where he was sourcing magic mushrooms locally”, Victor stated in a TV interview during an announcement made by Werner & Croy (a multinational financial services corporations) that was broadcast on a gigantic digital screen in Times Square. “Having been sufficiently acquainted with them and their positive effect on the human psyche, I was immediately convinced by their importance after trying them myself. I believe in their potential, their tangible upside. ‘If these drugs do give me, a happy person, so much additional happiness, I could clearly see how they could help people truly in need.”

Beside bringing a stigmatized drug into the legal realm, Victor’s most ambitious mission and hard focus remains on the science behind longevity and what can be done to halt or even reverse the ageing process.

“My goal isn’t to achieve immortality— I don’t think anyone would want to live forever, but what if we could give people the choice to die after, let’s say, 150 or 200 years rather than getting killed by the aging disease?”

As various States start experiencing some sense of normalcy with stores opening back up and the mask mandate almost completely dropped, students and faculty members are officially back on university grounds. Sven called me the other day to finally apologize about his hostile behavior towards me after the whole drowning incident and invited me out for drinks at the West Village bar where Natalie works. A news report playing on one of the TV screens above our heads tackled the subject of pledge week and brutal hazing incidents, urging fraternities to distance themselves from such activities and for pledges to speak up against any type of questionable behavior and bullying by immediately reporting to faculty members.

I’ve always been interested in fraternities and the greek system in general. Upon my move to Iowa, I was really considering joining one during my education at the university, but quickly realized how unsavory some are, not just because of the boys occupying them, but due to how poorly they maintained them. I remember attending a study group session at one of the houses once. The inside was so dirty you could smell feces feet away from the bathroom door. The kitchen was covered in dirt and grime, and leftover food lied around on counters, uncovered and swarming with insects.

Sven shared some of the events he experienced back at his fraternity house as he was witness to some horrendous activities taking place during hell week. He said a senior once forced pledges to play football without a helmet, to jump in the air and land on their chest without using their hands which caused some of them to split their chin open in the process. The one incident he’ll never forget was of a young frail boy who was forced to swallow a liver without chewing it. The meat ended up lodged in his throat causing him to suffocate. The disturbing part is that one of the members made everyone take a vow of silence, but Sven and a few others broke it by speaking up when the burden of living with the guilt became too great.

“Everyone involved was forced to lawyer-up”, he told me.

Since hazing in the greek system dates back a long way and was never truly a secret, you’d think this sort of deplorable behavior would be easily exposed and prosecuted.

“The only reason hazing still exists despite laws criminalizing the behavior is because alumni wants fraternities to do it”, Sven explained. “They think it’s good for the pledges because it creates a strong bond between members of the fraternity—helps toughen them up to become real men. And if one of the freshmen refuses to go with the flow or tries to report any sort of abusive behavior, he’d risk being retaliated and ostracized by the brotherhood. And trust me, no one wants to be on their bad side.”

Even though he made it clear he’s against what goes on behind the closet doors of a frat house, he’s admitted to me in the past, and that’s probably due to unprocessed trauma, that witnessing or fantasizing about any type of aggression, from unconsenting sex to straight up violence often leads to intense arousal.

“I like to get beat up, quite honestly. Just don’t punch my face.”

“So, you’re okay getting punched anywhere else on the body?”

“Sure, I mean that’s what got me into boxing in the first place. The fucked up part, when you really think about it, is that despite the rules of the game, it’s a sport that allows you to hit another person which is pretty wild in and of itself.”

Delta Kappa Epsilon was the fraternity Matthew belonged to back in 2006 when he was studying Law at the University of Berkeley, and part of me wanted to figure out what kind of person he was during that period of time—not for any real particular reason, but solely because it would put him back at the center of my life. I can’t bare the thought of his memory fading away. Engulfing myself into yet another investigative journey would reinforce and strengthen his existence within me as much as it hurts.

I packed my bags and left for San Fransisco the day after Sven and Natalie’s swift move-in back into my apartment while they search for a new home. To look the part of a college student, I had brought with me some washed away jeans and a slightly oversized henley shirt. I also completely shaved and got myself a haircut.

I spent my first night in my motel room, studying the university campus and scheduling a tour at the fraternity house the following day. I was contacted back by a student named Tommy who confirmed an 11 AM tour. I was one of the first to arrive at the house. After waiting for all the scheduled newcomers to arrive, a tall guy with messy brown hair and an accentuated jawline walked out to greet us. Under his baggy white t-shirt, I could tell his body was well-sculpted. Soon, a blond-haired guy a bit thicker than him stepped out and joined us. I guessed it was Tommy.

“Hi there, I’m Jonathan, current president here at Delta Kappa Epsilon,” the brunet one started. “… and this is Tommy, recruiter and socialist.”

Upon entering, I quickly realized the house was in a transitional phase due to the lack of furniture, plastic sheets and paint buckets scattered around the floor in each room.

“We’re currently going through some renovations, but we’ll do our best to show you the entire house…” Jonathan continued.

We walked through the house starting with the living room followed by the lounge, kitchen, courtyard area and ended up in the private chapter room where private meetings are conducted, and finally in what they called the “legends room.”

“The sole purpose of this room is to pay respect to our Delta Kappa Epsilon alumni”, Jonathan explained before letting us explore the room a little bit. It was filled with trophies, clippings and a ritual manual resting on a pedestal between two windows. I scanned images from past fraternities as swiftly as I could until I found a picture from 2006 which is when Matthew graduated from the university. Featuring forty-two formal portraits of previous members in suits, Matthew’s was located on the right of the second lower row. I sneakily snapped a photo of it before spotting a few candid photos of that same fraternity taken during a lacrosse game. Matthew is seen cheerfully hugging one of his teammates. Before I could pull my phone out again, Jonathan came back into the room to check on me. Realizing he wanted me to stick with the group, I apologetically smiled and followed him outside. Back into the beer-drenched hallway, an older man in a black attire walked through one of the back doors. Tommy introduced him as Lucian, the housefather.

Once the tour came to an end, we stepped out with brochures as two guys approached the house carrying a beer keg. Being very well aware rush week was about to start, I knew they were gearing up for their hazing practices.

I went back to my hotel knowing I’d be back to the premises to see the events that were to take place that night. I also needed to confirm the identity of the man Matthew was hugging in the photo I saw. I lied in bed with my clustered thoughts and imagined the specific trajectory I’d take once inside the house. Having scoped out the location, I should be in and out fast.

I arrived on campus around dusk and walked over to the house. I stood across the street and watched one of the seniors drag what looked like a boar inside. Minutes later, Lucian came out through a side door and started smoking. Once the coast was clear, I sidled up to that side of the house and entered without him noticing me. Inside, the place was poorly lit. I tiptoed my way through the hallways, taking a quick look inside each room to make sure no one was there before rushing into the trophy room. I took my phone out and started video recording the entire wall before zoning in on the lacrosse picture. Before I could even realize, I heard someone hulking through the hallway outside. Startled, I dropped my phone and noticed the sound of footsteps abruptly stop once it hit the floor, before slowly squeaking towards the door. In one move, I grabbed my phone and shielded myself behind a brown leather couch as two seniors popped in and walked towards a varsity display shelf. I snuck my head forward to see who it was and saw a belligerently drunk Jonathan and another fellow member reach for a bayonet displayed inside a case.

I waited for them to walk out before following them down the hall and into a narrow storage room surrounded by metal shelves that led to a trap door. I made my way underground into a dark, loud and sweaty basement. I remained hidden at the top of the wooden stairs and peered through the bars. The first thing I witnessed was a line of five pledges, shirtless with their heads pushed down into a pool of mud while seniors yelled at the one begging for mercy. Others passed around and poured beer on the head of each one, sometimes kicking and assaulting them.

The weak kid was pulled out from the group when he started throwing up and was dragged inside an animal cage. Jonathan spat on him then four freshmen started to shake the cage aggressively. As I watched the events taking place right in front of me, I was eminently startled by the harsh shadowy outlines cast by overhead lighting. Faces seemed ghoulish and disfigured. The boy was eventually released from the cage and pushed towards the middle of the room. Jonathan came forward with the bayonet as Tommy dragged the boar by its leach. Pledges crawled away into the corners, scared of what was about to happen next. Jonathan aimed the handle of the knife towards the traumatically injured kid and ordered him to stab the animal. The kid gave a whimper and distanced himself, but before he could go any further he was pushed back in by two seniors. They slapped him and pointed at the knife, Jonathan relentlessly pushing him to do it. Once it became clear he wasn’t going to cooperate, Johnathan positioned himself behind him, forcibly put the knife in his hand, gripped his palm and together lunged at the boar for the first stab. The animal’s grunts and whines became greater as the stabs kept coming.

Had seen enough, I rushed back upstairs and dashed through the hallway leading to the house’s main entrance. Before I could make it outside I collided with Lucian who immediately turned around to face me as I regained balance. He stared deeply into my eyes and seemed to have recognized me from the tour earlier that day.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” he said with a frightening tone. Brownbeaten by the encounter, I ran outside without looking back.

Back at the hotel, I studied the video I recorded and matched the man from the lacrosse photo with his graduation portrait. His name is Richard Harrington.

And here I was again, ensnared in another web by my own choosing, tracking down another woven mystery, intricately linking me from one place—one person—to the other. Richard wasn’t hard to find once his complete name was revealed to me. Now a renowned private investor, he’s been recently promoted to principle at his firm in Seattle. 

I didn’t waste any time and made my way to the city and stopped by his place of work. I waited on a bench across the street for him to leave the building and followed him all the way to his apartment. He lived in a modern high-rise with a front desk and a decent amount of security cameras, so sneaking in was an impossibility. I needed to get close to him, but wasn’t sure how. 

The day after, I stopped outside his building at sunrise to acquaint myself with his routine. At 6 AM, I saw him step out of his building in black shorts and an oversized gray shirt. He stretched his legs along the pavement before starting his morning jog. I thought about running behind him, but the streets were completely empty that he would’ve noticed me immediately, so I waited until he finished. On the way back, I took out my phone and snapped a few shots of him, then returned to my hotel.

I transferred the pictures to my laptop and zoomed in to get a better look at him. A photo taken of his back struck me almost instantly. It read:

Crossfit Union

I opened my internet browser and put that title in the search box.

Crossfit Union

666 Union St, Seattle WA 98101

Next, the gym’s website. On the home page, an array of people, from crossfitters with average bodies to ones perfectly in shape, posed for a group photo. I scanned it horizontally until my eyes were finally set on him. Richard, standing on the far right, sweaty but still handsome. I checked the gym’s schedule and booked a trial session at 5PM that same day.

Haven’t packed for an appropriate attire, I stopped at a store and grabbed myself an outfit before making my way to the Central district. Upon my arrival at the facility, I was greeted by Jay and Ross, the co-owners. They ran me through their program before introducing me to Chris, the CrossFit coach leading the class I signed up for. When the class started, Richard was nowhere to be seen. I had to push myself so hard during the routine, so I don’t come off as a slacker and somehow made it through the entire workout. I haven’t worked out this hard in over a year. Not knowing what to do next, I sat on a bench in the locker room and pretended to distract myself scrolling through my phone. The door suddenly swung open and a figure rushed in behind me letting in an overwhelming wave of cold air. I turned around and saw him unlocking his locker and switching clothes. I tried not to stare and thought about how to strike up a conversation. Instead, he was the one who started talking to me.

“How was the class?” He asked almost completely out of breath.
“It was good”, I answered as I dried out my last bit of sweat leakage.
“My day was swarmed with work…”
“The workout is on the board, still.”
“I know, but I enjoy doing it with everybody else.”
“I could join you, if you’d like.”
“Seriously? You want to do the whole thing again?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Alright, Mr. Overachiever. Let’s do it.”

During the workout, we both kept to ourseveles, making brief interactions here and there. Halfway through, we were both drenched in sweat (me, twice at that point) that he felt the urge to take his tank top off. Of course he was ripped—not a single ounce of fat visible anywhere on his body. I kept my drippy shirt on, bathing in my own stinky sweat until we finished.

As he took a shower, I thought about how to approach him. When he stepped out, he was busy going through his phone that he completely ignored me. I felt like I was about to lose him. I untied and tied my shoes over and over again until he was fully dressed and ready to step out. I followed him down to the parking lot when I clearly had no vehicle, buying myself more time as I walked behind him. Once he made it to his car, the words jumped out of my mouth:

“You knew Matthew Eldon.”

He froze almost instantly and his pupils grew larger as if I’ve triggered a traumatic response.

An hour later, we were both sitting across from each other at a coffee bar. He had ordered a protein smoothie while I slowly sipped my water, knowing very well that any major information about Matthew could cause an abrupt panic attack. I took deep breaths, listened and asked questions. In my head, I had rehearsed the entire encounter.

“How long were you two together?”, Rick asked.

“I’d say a little over a year—on and off. The relationship was never clear.”
“That’s Matthew. Complicated and extremely secretive. I was never drawn to anyone the way I was drawn to him. I fell hard for him. The best fuck I’ve ever had. I miss him.”

“I know exactly how you feel.”
“I wonder if our times with him overlapped.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.”
“Yeah, after a lot came to light, I’d say we weren’t the only ones either.”
“I’m sure we weren’t. I wanted to believe I was special, but there were signs that proved otherwise. I tried to ignore them, but I knew I’d be letting myself be fooled, so I confronted him about his infidelities.”
“I bet that aggravated him.”
“Very much so. Did he make you feel like you were special too?”
“He did. And when he wouldn’t let me fool around, I thought it was because he really valued our relationship, but it was just because he wanted to control me. I almost changed my life for him. I thought I was that special.”
“Did you know he was married to a woman?”
“I did, but he said he was ambushed into it. You know, people’s expectations and him wanting to fit the norm. He told me he was going to leave her. I mean, I was married too, so I knew exactly what he was going through. I was considering ending mine so we could be together. Then he suddenly backed out and acted like I was crazy—as if me believing we were soulmates was all in my head. By the time he ended it I was so consumed I almost lost it. I was in over my head.”

By the end of our conversation, I could tell he was completely depleted. Even though he appreciated our exchange, I couldn’t help but notice how he struggled to come to grips with the fact his love affair with Matthew wasn’t unique after all. I felt the same, but I didn’t let that get to me—mainly because I was aware of Matthew’s nature and infidelities. That said, no matter how used someone is to rejection, it somehow still manages to get you. My anxiety disorder has become almost completely synonymous with the name of Matthew Eldon.

I hugged Rick goodbye and turned around to leave, but he stopped me. 

“Hey. Would you come home with me?”, he asked.

My eyes narrowed and I could feel my mouth slightly drop in confusion.

“Sure”, I replied and followed him to his car.

I’m overwhelmed by a compulsive desire to unravel the mystery of what this all means to me, why I remain fixated on excavating such deeply personal experiences with the people who knew Matthew. The obvious reason is that I’m desperately trying to figure him out; who he was at his core and where his roots originally came from. I’m not really sure about the level of satisfaction going through this ordeal would end up bringing me, though.

Rick’s apartment was white and metallic with dim warm lighting. The lack of furniture and hard surfaces caused loud resonant echoes that reverberated around us as we strolled through the hallway leading to his bedroom. Inside, a framed wedding photo discreetly stood on the dresser facing the king sized bed. He took off his clothes and hopped right in the middle. He pulled the sheet cover to the side and invited me to join him. I smiled awkwardly then made my way in between his legs, my face motioning upwards from his crotch to his face. My eyes avoided his as our lips met. He kissed me, his tongue wet and plunging deeper and deeper inside my throat. He turned me over and licked my ears before making his way down to my ass. He took off my underwear and buried his face between the cheeks, his tongue steadily and meticulously targeting the skin along the verge. He spat and got it as wet as he could for an easy penetration without any lube, something Matthew always went for.

Not only did Matt further corrupt our brains from the grave, his influence over our lives is undeniable, and the fact another person shared almost the same experience as mine made me think about how far he went to groom and condition us. Part of our sexual identity and the way we fucked was almost completely manufactured by him. He had succeeded in cutting us off from the rest of the world in the sense that we truly believed no other man could come close to his greatness. There wasn’t even room for comparison. We were drawn deeply into the orbit of an immensely vitalizing, manipulative and magnetic genius. He was simply on another level.

I peered into the dark bedroom, the white sheets reflecting a bright moonlight coming from the big window next to the bed. The corners were buried in contrasted shadows, making the center of it my main focus. It’s where the men lied. Behind me, writhing figures moved in the dark. I walked inside the room as things slowly shifted into focus. On the bed was the tormented boy from the frat house. He lied horizontally and completely still while Tommy, kneeling on the floor by the right edge of the bed, firmly held his forearms. In one of the corners stood Jonathan, unmoving, his face barely recognizable. A tall and ominous figure showed up from behind me. Like a black aura, it transitioned into a likeness of Matthew. The figure slowly creeped its way on the surface of the bed like a snake. It spread the boy’s legs and penetrated him. I moved over to catch a better glimpse at the individuals’ faces, but the closer I got, the blurrier their faces became. At the door frame now stood Rick. He had a knife in hand. I moved away and witnessed the horrifying scene that ensued. As Matthew fucked the boy, Rick stabbed the side of the kid’s abdomen. No one seemed to notice what was happening. It was like watching a simulated theatrical scene, some sort of installation piece. Nothing made sense. When the boy’s body stopped convulsing, Matthew tilted his head up and faced me. His obsidian eyes flickered once his gaze settled on mine. Soon, the room became filled with figures staring right at me. Sensing danger, I took a step back as a raging beam of light coming straight from behind me overexposed the entire room.

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