You’ve often heard me rail and gnash my teeth around how poorly gay-for-you/out-for-you is done in romance, and how when it’s done well, it can be handled so well, with interior thoughts that admit to leanings (however slight) in a pan-, bi-, or demisexual way. Well, it turns out this freaking disturbing story from Alex Jeffers’s Not Here. Not Now. does exactly that, by dropping us in the head of Seb while he’s on a vacation with Duncan. Duncan is a physical marvel, and their friendship is as much a confusion to the two of them as it is to outsiders, with Seb being pale and hairy and near-sighted and gangly and having talents most related to a highly organized mind and a perfect ear for pitch. Duncan is outgoing, Seb is not. Duncan has no trouble finding willing partners, Seb… well, you get the idea.
But this vacation in Greece takes a turn for the odd when they meet a man and woman who bother Seb on a borderline intuitive level: he finds their voices dissonant, and while he does take Duncan’s advice to go on a minor detour with the sister (mostly so Duncan can have a “detour” with the brother), Seb finds himself on an impromptu tour of some really disturbing siren statuary hidden from public view, and their vacation starts to slide a little left of normalcy.
So, mythical beings trying to rend human flesh doesn’t really seem like a good place to have sexual awakenings, but when we’re talking about sirens, who can charm anyone with their song, and when we put that in the hands of Alex Jeffers? Well. The end result is a disturbing, borderline body-horror series of events, alongside some pretty erotic passages, which, hey, horror and sexuality are often bedfellows, no? “Seb and Duncan and the Sirens” stuck with me for a few days after reading, and I caught myself eyeing statues, wondering at every strange twist or shift in my own not-so-coherent skeletal structure, and shuddering. So, job well done.