Alan's haunting novel of the AIDS epidemic, As If Death Summoned, was released on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2020, and has won the Foreword INDIES LGBT Book of the Year Award. Watch the book trailer here. Read the reviews here.

I didn't want it to end this way.

The lone figure stands out on the point, a dark silhouette against the ocean at dusk. I watch as a few white flakes come floating down, like cherry blossoms out of season. But it's the snow that's out of season, said the station master ("Too bad storm. Very 'rate snow.") A light dusting covers the muddy ground and our footprints, erasing any trace that we were ever here. Perhaps that's just as well, for this is where fate has brought us. This is where the tale ends.

I breathe in the sweet scent of pine and the salt-tanged taste of the sea, and remember: Matsu (pine) shima (island), that we are on a small island, somewhere off the coast of Japan. I look once more out to the point and think, No man is an island—yet some people just seem to be.

The light is draining from the world for the last time. Overhead, between the racing clouds, the stars shine and shimmer in their sublime indifference, as if reminding us how temporal and inconsequential are these brief, little lives of ours—fraught with all our passions and strivings and sufferings—against the grand sweep of time on their scale. I suppose I could be indifferent, too, if I were light years away from this small planet of sorrows.

"Your path will not be easy," said the old missionary the last time we parted, "but it is the right path for you."

I've always wanted to ask how he knew that, how he could be so certain that this was the right path. Or that we even have paths—that there is some purpose, some meaning to our lives. And now I'll never know.

In the failing light, the ocean's soft, sea-surge whispers as the waves build, rise, crest, and roll to shore.

No, I didn't want it to end this way, yet I guess I always knew that it would have to. The clues were there, like signposts, from the beginning (I'll meet you in Matsushima) and I wonder: Did we really have any choice in the matter? The ancients understood this better than we moderns. Those who will, they said, the Fates lead; those who won't, they drag. It seems we get there, where fate intended us, one way or another.

I look around me one last time. This seems to be as good a place as any. It has its own spare beauty. It is quiet. It will do. Farther out, I see the fogbank drifting toward us, obliterating the world as it approaches.

It's time.

The cold air has a bite to it and I turn up my collar. I know what's about to happen, and I don't want to shiver. I look to the stars for one last farewell...

Then the wind picks up, the ocean rises up, and one great wave, larger than the rest, grows out of the night sea. I watch it move steadily toward the point.

Very well, then. We will not be dragged. If we can't change our fate, let us embrace it. And I begin walking toward the figure out on the promontory.

No one should have to face death alone.