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Title: A Face without a Heart
Author: Rick R Reed
Publisher: DSP Publications
Genre: Fantasy, Gay Fiction, Horror
Release Date: 01/31/2017
A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”
A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.
I open my eyes, and for a moment, everything seems unreal. It’s a dream. That’s all. A dream. I had, of course, seen myself on video. Who hasn’t? But this was different. This, this… piece has an otherworld quality, something so strange and magnificent that my eyes well with tears. There I am… captured forever in a faint pinkish glow. I had posed naked for Liam, knowing he was attracted by my body but that his real passion lay in his work.
And now it shows. I bite my lip, a strangled sob in my throat. Am I really that beautiful? Oh God, that sounds so vain! But you have to understand. What Liam has done seems too good to be true. He has taken everything good about me and elevated it somehow. That has to be it, of course. My image stands in the middle of the glass dome, as if I’m trapped inside and staring out. As I travel around its circumference, the image raises his arms, the muscles bunching and lengthening under the phosphorescent skin. There’s a perfectly flat stomach, the abdominals clearly defined. My hair, stubbly yet thick, almost begs to be touched.
God, will I ever be this young again? Will I look like this next year? The year after? I understand now what Narcissus felt when he gazed into the pool. I hate myself for being so vain… and try to ascribe the beauty of this portrait to Liam’s hands.
“God!” I gasp. “It’s really flattering.”
“No,” Liam says. “It’s not flattering. It’s you.”
My skin is touched with a faint veneer of sweat, making it shine, giving it a texture that makes you want to touch. My eyes seem to reach out, alive, from the hologram, to engage.
I feel almost sick. How dare I think so much of myself? But the hologram is stunning, breathtaking. It’s depressing, though, to think that, even if this is really what others see when they look at me, this beauty is nothing I can hold on to, nothing that won’t wither on the vine, darken, age…. This beauty is nothing like a quick wit or a keen intellect, qualities that can be improved by age and the acquisition of wisdom…. It’s temporal. And it frightens me to think that this could be the very best of me. What will I do when it’s gone?
“Damn,” Henrietta whispers, “you are one gorgeous man.”
I shake my head, staring at the strong form, the defined muscle, the face that looks carved from marble. Suddenly I feel sad. I think of how Henrietta and I talked of beauty on the rooftop, and I think how it isn’t fair that even now, this beauty is slipping away, moment by moment.
“What’s the matter, Gary?” Liam puts a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t you like it?”
“Oh, that’s not it. I… I love it.”
“It’s my masterpiece, you know. I know that sounds pretentious, but it’s the finest work I’ve ever done.”
“I do believe you’re right, Mr. Howard. Even better than me, and honey, that’s saying a lot.” Henrietta moves closer to me. “Look at you. A finer specimen has not been created.”
“And that’s just the problem,” I whisper, turning away from the portrait, tearing myself away, actually, because I think I could look at it all day. “You were right, Henrietta. Youth and beauty are more important than we give them credit for.”
“Anyone says different is just paying lip service.”
I shake my head slowly, returning my gaze to the portrait. “Damn. I’d give my soul to always look like that.” A short, humorless laugh escapes me, almost choked out by despair. “Why can’t it be me who will always look like that and the hologram that would age?” The flawless eyes stare back. “Sign me up, Devil. I’ll give you my soul….”
“Don’t talk like that!” Liam snaps.
About the Author
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.
He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.”
Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
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