It always began the same way with Tony, that odd tingling in the fingers and toes, the way his right leg trembled ever so slightly. As the words scrolled by on his screen, he leaned forward, tense, expectant. He was waiting to connect, in the only way he could. To reach out and release his own crying need into the electronic sea of desire that was such a big part of the Lambda Gate BBS.
Tony Mantanero was 19 years old. He lived at home, in his room up in the attic, a room without even a door he could close. It was his space, but it wasn't. His father's old audio tape collection was stacked in one corner. His mother insisted on cleaning and dusting, rearranging his things in spite of frequent requests not to. The only thing that was inviolate was the computer.
Uncle Sal had given him the computer when Tony started college. His parents were in awe of it. They were proud of Tony for knowing how to tame such a technological monster. He showed them how to log onto the library on the modem, check for books without even going out of the house, reserve them. He showed them how easily he could edit term papers for school. He showed them how to draw pictures and print them, how to talk to groups of people who were all separated from each other by hundreds of miles. He never showed them anything about the Lambda Gate..
That was his secret, his door into another world, where he could talk to people like himself, men who were attracted to other men and were not afraid to say so. Afraid? They were proud! They had their own secret language and codes, a whole series of short forms and affectionate phrases. They called each other Boytoy, Bear Cum and Boner, Jockstrap and Leatherboy and Topman. Every time he saw these names he felt a small shiver of delight, a thrill of recognition that validated his own secret identity. He felt embarrassed by his juvenile handle, but all the same, he didn't want to change it yet. He wasn't quite ready to send a more sophisticated message out onto the glowing boards. The Tigger handle made him feel safe, just a little longer.
He always logged on late at night, after his parents had gone to bed. He told himself he didn't feel guilty about what he was doing, but this was a lie. Every time the screen came up, he felt a strange thrill, made sweeter by the acid tinge of guilt. All those words -- gay--lesbian-- studs -- gifs -- loaded words, each one carrying its share of guilt and glitter of temptation, each one a part of another world he yearned to enter, but only dared to come to late at night.
He had discovered a new persona on the boards. Tigger was funny and sexy and playful. He was hunky and hung like a horse. He could talk for hours in the chat lounge, sending private messages loaded with innuendo and public messages of open invitation. He was more than a flirt. He was a downright slut! In the Wildside Game, where players gained points by collecting sexual favors from others, he was almost the board champion. But whenever someone took him seriously and gave out a phone number, he fled, sometimes ending up sitting in front of his computer in tears of frustration, overcome with guilt and remorse at how close he had come to direct contact.
Was there any way he would ever have the nerve to actually meet any of these men he cruised verbally, he wondered. Had the reputation he was fast acquiring for playing head games, spoiled his chances? Secretly he yearned for some man to be so insistent that he would have to respond, would be forced to finally take the chance and show himself in public as a gay man. Shit! It was only recently he had come out to himself, and sometimes, he still denied it.
>Where's the stud who's man enuf to take all 9 inches of prime meat?
>Are we talkin salami here?
>And is it kosher, that's what I want to know!
>It's kosher if it's cut! Is it cut?
>I'm drooling, guy! I'm on my knees, waiting for your hot pulsing rod! Ram my throat, baby!
When Tony first started logging on to the BBS, he would hear these voices in his sleep -- dark and seductive, light and suggestive; whispers, moans, invitations.... He'd hear the wet slurp of sweaty skin slapping against hot flesh. He'd wake up with a hard-on. Sometimes the sheets were wet and sticky and he got up in the night and rinsed them out in the toilet bowl so as not to have to run the water.
The voices had slowed down, sorted themselves out so that now each belonged to a particular handle with a picture he had made up in his head that corresponded to it.
Then he discovered gifs. He had noticed the word on the main menu when he first logged on, but it was merely one more technical term he didn't understand, and he didn't stop to worry about it. The term began to creep into the public posts, used in questions like, "Where can I get hold of Bare Bear's gif?" or "Is it true the Marky Mark gif showing the great hard-on is a fake?" Then one of the sysops explained that members could take a photo of themselves and scan it, then upload it for others to see. There were hundreds of gifs on the system, hundreds of pictures of hot men of all types, into all sorts of activities, baring it all and revelling in it. Tony was delighted. And tonight, having discovered how to hide files, he had finally got up the nerve to try to bring one of these pictures into his computer.
It was very late. The old house creaked around him, settling in the night air. Outside his dormer window, shadowed leaves waved gently, black and silver in the faint light from the moon. Tony watched the screen intently, the tingling in his fingers making him feel very alive as he read the labels that tried to capture the impact of the hidden image. "Leather stud unzips for his slave", "This leatherman struts his stuff", "Boy next door bares all for the neighbors", "Two bears at play". What did the words actually mean? How real would the image be?
At last he settled on one of the simpler gifs called "Jason alone". There was something wistful about the title that called to him. Jason alone. Tony alone. Put them together... He adjusted his glasses and keyed in the download sequence. To his delight, everything proceeded smoothly. The numbers clicked over, counting down the time till he could actually look at his new acquisition.
Two minutes later he logged off the BBS and went into his viewer program. After a tense wait, a compact young blond flashed into view, his nearly nude body stretched out lazily in bright sunlight. One arm was flung back, his hand cradling his blond head against the brick wall. His other hand explored under the waist band of his skimpy Speedo. It was obvious there was a lot going on under there.
Tony stared long and hard at the image, so lifelike, so real. Jason's eyes gazed dreamily over his right shoulder. They were deep blue. The blond hair on his arms and legs glistened gold, his long sun-bleached curls almost stirring in the unseen breeze. Tony shivered. His own shorts were clammy and with a furtive look in the direction of the stairs behind him, he pulled them off. When he sat down again, his naked ass squeaked slightly against the wooden chair. He thought about the feel of his buttocks flattened against the wood, the edge pressing into him, marking his skin, leaving its pattern on him, the way fingers would leave their imprint from kneading his ass cheeks in an agony of shared pleasure.
A small moan escaped him. He had never shared anything like that, only one fumbled hurried encounter in the darkness of the gym cupboard at school that showed him clearly what he really wanted from another male. What he had started to look for, at last.
He gazed at the image in front of him, caressing the screen with his eyes; that body, so compact, lithe, muscular without the bulk that he admired but found a little intimidating. He felt his own cock stiffen, hanging out in the naked air, reaching for contact. What did Jason's cock look like under that thin strip of red nylon?
He leaned closer, trying to see the tiny beads of sweat glistening on Jason's smooth chest. He could almost smell the salty tang of the damp blond hair, feel the heavy moist heat of it against the warm neck as he burrowed closer....
He blinked. The tree sighed outside his window and as he turned his head, he heard another sigh almost in his ear. He snapped his eyes back to the screen and at the same time, pushed his chair further away from his desk.
"Jesus," he murmured. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes. Something was wrong. He stood up abruptly and pulled on his shorts, feeling all of a sudden, as if we was no longer alone. "Moron," he breathed. He glanced again at the screen and froze. Was he losing his mind? Or was the image different? Jason's right hand had moved, pushing his speedo lower on his narrow hips, showing more of the dark blond pubic hair curling through the boy's fingers. And his face! Those green/blue eyes were looking right at him, smiling, mocking, tempting.... Tony stared back, mesmerized. It was like looking into water where you can see down all the way down through different levels of color. "This is crazy!" Tony hissed, but he shivered in the closeness of the attic room. His cock stirred again in his shorts.
Back on the screen, Jason winked at him. Maybe this is an electronic thing, Tony thought. He watched closely as Jason pulled out his cut cock and began to pump it slowly, slowly, the slit gleaming with pre-cum, while all the time, those eyes stared right at Tony. It's like my own personal porn flick right on my own computer, he thought. He'd heard of such things, but weren't they called something else? GRASP, or something like that? Not GIFS, were they?
Whatever they were or weren't, Jason didn't seem to care. He had turned over now, presenting his trim ass for Tony's enjoyment.
Tony went over and switched on his bedside table light. Too many shadows, he reasoned. When he turned back to the screen, there was nothing there at all! The screen glowed a blank silver in the darkness. Now what? A power surge? Disk crash? Would it cost a lot to fix? Oh, God! Would he be able to wipe off the evidence of his double life before anyone saw those tell-tale files?
All these thoughts raced through his mind as he stared at the blank monitor. Then he heard a soft ripple of laughter behind him, like the sigh of the breeze outside his window.
He froze. It wasn't outside. Not this time. Was someone playing tricks on him? He took a deep breath, then very slowly, he turned around.
Jason lay stretched out on his bed, one hand behind his head, the other teasingly pushing his cock back out of sight under the drawstring of the red Speedo. He grinned.
"Shit," muttered Tony. "I must be losing it."
Jason shook his blond head. "Finding it, you mean, don't you? And it's about time, too."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Tony shot back, stung by the retort.
That low intimate chuckle sounded again, almost as if inside his head. "Aw come on! You're not exactly a high scorer in this game, are you, sport?"
"I'm not playing games!"
"Sure you are." Jason grinned at him and ground his hips into the bed suggestively. "But you're too chicken to play out your hand."
"You're pretty cocky for a bunch of electronic dots." Tony sank onto the desk chair. It was either sit down or fall down at this point, and he didn't want to wake up his mother by crashing onto the floor.
Jason seemed to be considering his words. The impish grin had given way to a thoughtful look as he scratched his bare chest. Tony was seized with the sudden fear that he might disappear. He leaned forward, reaching out impulsively. At the last moment, he pulled back.
"What are you?" he whispered.
Jason shrugged. "The boy next door. Your first date. Whatever. Does it matter?"
"Of course it matters! Shit!"
"Don't be so uptight."
"Yeah, you're a great one to talk, porn star or whoever you are."
"Porn star? Me? Hah! I'm not big enough to do porn."
"You look pretty good to me," Tony admitted.
"I'm average, that's all." He shrugged. "You don't have to be hung like a horse to look good."
"Sure sounds that way, the way guys talk."
"Talk. Sure. Anyone can talk. You should know, right, guy?"
Tony flushed uncomfortably.
Suddenly the Speedo was off and Jason's beautiful cut cock sprang into view. Tony stared, all the banter and jokes and leering lines gone from his mind. There was no way he could talk now, no way he wanted to. He watched Jason twirl the swim suit around on one finger, a swirl of blurred color that suddenly went flying across the room and out of sight. Jason got to his feet and moved closer, his perfect compact body glowing with sun and sex and invitation.
Tony groaned. He felt week behind the knees and his breath came in short soft gasps as he leaned towards the boy, slowly, by imperceptible inches. It was like being pulled by an unseen cord. He was so close he could smell the sweaty hair, clinging in damp curls on Jason's forehead, his neck. Jason ran his tongue over his lips, slowly, looking into Tony's eyes. Tony's cock jumped against the thin cotton of his shorts, leaking precum. Without taking his eyes off the golden dream, Tony yanked his shorts down and kicked out of them.
"Yeah," breathed Jason.
The dark hair on Tony's chest stirred as Jason's hand hovered barely an inch above his skin. Suddenly, tears spilled out of his eyes, making the naked blond vision so close to him sparkle in the dim light. He had wanted this for so long, but his dreams had always been a hot, shifting kaleidoscope of anonymous cocks straining against tight swimsuits, cocks swelling the front of gym shorts, sturdy legs pumping up and down, ass checks clenching beneath brief track uniforms. There had never been a clear specific picture, one face, one body. Now, all the disjointed images coalesced into one likeness -- Jason, with the golden haze of hair on his arms and legs, the swirl of thick spicy curls clustered around the base of his cock. Tony closed his eyes, trying to cope with the naked desire shivering through him. His body was tense with lust, his cock rock hard, stabbing the air in front of him, hot for contact with Jason's luscious mouth. But he was afraid to move, afraid he might shatter this tenuous reality.
He felt a shift in the close stillness and his eyes sprang open. Jason was gone! A sigh coming up from below made him almost laugh out loud with relief. Jason was on his knees, his bright head poised above Tony's rigid cock. Slowly, his arm shaking with the strain of control, Tony lowered his hand. As his fingers touched the gleaming curls, a sharp tingle went through him, as if a mild electrical current crawled through his nerves, down his spine, jolting his cock into delicious spasms as Jason's hot mouth slid around the swollen tip.
"Ahhhh." The breath poured out of him in a long sigh, the sound hanging in the dense, hot air.
Jason's hands moved up the backs of his legs until the strong fingers molded themselves around the cheeks of his ass, lifting, separating, radiating heat like small suns. Tony was on fire, within, without, even his face dripped, sweat rolling down his sides, down his back. He could almost hear the sizzle as drops of perspiration hit Jason's searing flesh. His cock slid down the kneeling boy's yielding throat like magic. He could feel the caress of the strong muscles, undulating against his swelling shaft, until he began to shake, his whole body vibrating so much he was afraid he was going to lose his balance.
"I'm coming!" he growled between clenched teeth.
Jason pulled away, his face bright red, slicked with sweat, his eyes laughing. He rolled back on the bed, pulling Tony on top of him and put his ankles on Tony's shoulders.
"Fuck me," he whispered, making those two words one long alluring invitation.
Tony was beyond thought. He looked down and saw the boy's brown puckered hole winking at him from between the deep perfect globes of his ass. Steadying himself with one hand on the wall, he guided his aching cock past the tight circle of muscle that opened to him with a soft sucking noise. He gasped as his soul was pulled deep inside the hot velvet center of his dream Fuck. His body shuddered. He bucked against the charged flesh, his tight nuts hammering on Jason's muscled ass as suddenly his need burst out of him with a great crescendo and he shot his load with a strangled animal cry of triumph.
When he looked down again, he saw the strings of pearlized come gleaming on the boy's chest, dripping from the perfect mushroom head of his cock. Tony grinned down at his companion, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath.
"Tony? Are you okay?" His mother's voice.
For one terrified instant, Tony froze. Then he scrambled to his feet, crawled around on the floor in a desperate search for his crumpled shorts. "Under the bed." he hissed, not stopping to see if Jason understood his urgency. When he found the shorts, he yanked them on, realizing too late they were back to front.
"Tony? I thought I heard something up here. You okay or what?" His mother's unkept grey head appeared as she slowly made her way up the attic stairs.
Total helplessness rushed through Tony as he watched her pause at the top and reach for the light switch. He pushed both hands through his hair as if looking presentable were all that was necessary, when the smell of sex was heavy on the air and his lover lay naked, covered in come on the bed behind him.
Finding his voice at last, he stepped forward, trying to ward off this invasion of his privacy. "I'm okay, Mom. Really. You don't need to come up here just because you heard me talking to my computer!"
"You should be in bed at this time of night, not sitting up in front of that thing playing games." She waved at the computer.
"Look, Mom, I don't play games anymore. I'm not a kid. I have a life!"
"A life. Sure. What kind of a life when you're up all hours of the night?" She snapped on the light. "Let me fix your bed. It's all messed up."
"What's the matter with you? Heat stroke?"
"Nothing's wrong. You just ... startled me, okay? I'll go to bed now. Honest."
His mother looked at him for a long moment, her dark brown eyes unreadable. Then she shook her head, turned and made her way back down the stairs.
"Jesus Christ," muttered Tony. He looked towards the bed. It was empty. Thank God Jason had made himself scarce. "Okay. You can come out now. She's gone." Nothing. He looked under the bed, but even shining a flashlight under there revealed nothing but dust bunnies and an old sock. "Jason? Where are you?"
Tony stood in the middle of his attic room, looking around. There was no one in the cupboard, no one in the closet, no naked sweating body behind the dresser. he was alone. He turned back to the computer and looked at the softly glowing screen. Then he took a closer look. As he watched, the silver shimmer slowly tightened into a small blue/green eye in the very middle of the screen. Then with a wink, the eye vanished, leaving the screen blank.

"Amazing.Gif" is chapter 2 of the novel Fantasy Board, by Kyle Stone. It first appeared in a slightly different version in the magazine Fresh Men.