Guiltless

On the 11th of January 1937 Johnathon Ignes is born. He is a suitable weight, in good health...but different from all the other babies in the ward, because he is born immune to guilt. 2 years and 235 days later, worldwide war breaks out.
Sent away as an evacuee, Johnathon grows up away from his mother, and meets Erebus, a cheeky paperboy. Erebus too, has no guilt, and under his influence, Johnathon grows up into a monster.
This is the story of how that monster, became a leader.
- The prequel to 'Souls' (but will make sense if you haven't read it) -

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21. Chapter 20

Soon Johnathon and Erebus returned to Cantumville, and continued in their dark way, barely changed at all by their visit to Kris’s home. They kept in touch with Eloise, but did so reluctantly. The next time they met in person was Christmas that same year.

24th of December 1955:

“What does ASNM stand for again?” Erebus asked Johnathon, chucking their bags in the trunk of the car.

“Annual Soul Negotiation Meeting” Johnathon stated, getting in the passenger side.

“Annual? There’s going to be more than one? Oh no…” Erebus grumbled, sitting down in the driver’s seat. The two were on their way back to Kris’s little hide out for what Eloise had called an ‘ASNM’, in which they would ‘asses the different Soul types’ and talk about ‘how best to approach the future’. Neither Johnathon nor Erebus particularly wanted to go, but they did want to know as much as possible, so had agreed to attend.

The car journey was long and tedious, they did stop off for fuel along the way…and ended up murdering a few unfortunate victims. Aside from that, there was no entertainment, the roads were quiet due to the date so there wasn’t even a driver to annoy by fast breaking, or ignoring the right of way etc. At last, they came to the open field. Instead of parking the car like before, Erebus boldly drove right up to the entrance to the clearing, not bothered by the consequences of insulting Kris, who met them as soon as they came in.

“Hello again,” he greeted them, “I see you parked your car successfully”.

“Whatever” Erebus shrugged, walking away.

“What did you expect him to say? Sorry?” Johnathon chuckled, following after him. As he walked away he could have sworn he heard Kris growling. Bored, and not able to spot Erebus in the crowd, he decided to chat to someone else…Tao.

“We never got a proper chance to chat” Johnathon came up behind him.

“Maybe there was a reason for that” Tao’s tone was cold, he had the same accent as Kris, which was no surprise as they were brothers, but Tao’s articulation was better.

“Hm. You seem more hostile than your brother” Johnathon noted.

“Little tip, don’t compare me to him, there aren’t many things we have in common” Tao advised Johnathon, “And next time you visit, park further away. That car of yours is stinking up this whole place”.

“Tao,” a new voice intruded the conversation, “I thought I told you to play nice whilst I was gone”. Johnathon turned around and saw Rebecca, no, Hannah, one of the two, he didn’t really care which. Her tone and posture were firm and strict, but her eyes were loving and warm. She walked over, standing at his side and placing one hand on his shoulder.

“I am sorry my love, I was just pointing out that we don’t like cars around here” Tao made a pathetic excuse, but it was clear the two were a couple, so he was easily forgiven.

“You are too harsh,” the girl scolded him, her tone playful, “Like a rock. You need to let go a little, relax into the atmosphere”.

“You know I hate it here” Tao looked away.

“That I do, so why not leave? Run away with me! We can start our own pack if you like” the girl suggested, tugging at his arm as if it were possible for them to leave that very second.

“My sweet selfless Hannah, you know I could never do that to you, you love it here” Tao’s words were followed by a kiss. Johnathon leaned back, slightly uneased by the gesture of love.

“But…”

“No buts.” Tao commanded her, “Your happiness is important to me. Now go, socialise and have fun, because seeing a smile on your face at the end of the day makes living in this cramped camp worth it”.

Johnathon walked away after that, disturbed and alarmed by what he had witnessed. Love was an odd and currently alien thing to him. Tao without his Hannah was nasty and bitter, but if it was her he was talking to, he was a different person, all soft and kind. How could one person have two diverse personalities? Walking over to a window, he gazed out into the now dark sky, trying to ignore the screeching and laughter.

“I see you and Erebus arrived safely,” Eloise came up behind him, “And that you ignored the courtesy of parking away from the camp”.

“Why does everyone care so much about that stupid car? I’m not even the one who parked it!” Johnathon snapped, losing his temper.

“Someone’s angry” Eloise remarked, not impressed.

“If I were angry half of the people in this room would be dead,” Johnathon corrected her, “I’m not even lightly provoked”.

“What is it that has you so on edge Johnathon?” Eloise asked him, not that he understood the question.

“What do you mean?” Eloise sighed at his question.

“Don’t play that game with me. I know you’re anxious, I can see it” Eloise spoke as if she were disappointed. Johnathon placed his head in his hands, he hadn’t even realised this was true until Eloise had brought it up.

“This place reminds me of the farm I lived in as an evacuee,” Johnathon realised, a tad embarrassed by the fact, “I hated that place”.

“You spend a lot of your childhood there” Eloise nodded.

“Too much of it” Johnathon groaned, “If it were not for Erebus I probably would have gone insane. They were all so tame, so innocent, I felt like a fish in unknown waters”.

“Erebus is here now” she reminded him, using this as a source of comfort.

“That’s just the thing though” Johnathon bit his lip, “He’s doing fine, he doesn’t seem any different to when he’s at home”. Eloise was silent for a while after that, as if she didn’t know whether to speak or not. “If you have something to say just say it” Johnathon muttered, frustrated.

“Many things shape our Souls Johnathon, the most potent one being evolution and the nature of our birth, for instance being a Soul is passed down through generations, from parent to child. There are, however, other things too. One of these is our experiences, and that is the main aspect in differentiating between Souls of the same type. Erebus didn’t live in a farmhouse for six years, in fact, you might argue he had it worse…” Eloise trailed off.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Johnathon inquired, curious. Erebus never spoke of his past, neither of them did really, they both preferred to live in the present.

“Erebus never told you about his family?” Eloise seemed genuinely surprised.

“No. Why? Is there something important about them?” Johnathon was getting more and more nosey by the minute.

“Not about them specifically, but the way they interacted with him is quite key. You see, Erebus showed his parents his gifts the minute he realised he had them, not wanting to hide them from his parents. They shoved him into the basement, trying to hide their terror. As his grew up, he began to catch on to their true feelings. He wanted them to love him, but they only pushed him away. In the end, he let them, and became the Erebus we know today because of it. When I look deeply into someone’s Soul get a feel of its nature, and I also see an image to go with it. Do you know what I saw when I looked into Erebus’s Soul on your 18th Birthday in that damp alleyway?”

“What?”

“I saw a small child, with white blonde hair and electric blue eyes, and red damp cheeks. He was sat on a hard mattress in the basement of a cold home, crying. He sobbed and sobbed and wept for affection and attention, but no-one answered his cries.” Eloise described the dismal image, “The moments that shaped Erebus’s black hole of a Soul were the moments he spent alone with no love from his parents. I find that quite interesting…”

“What about me? What was my image?” Johnathon pestered her.

“The moment you met Erebus, no surprise there.” Eloise grumbled, as she walked away she turned back to say to Johnathon, “The image can change Johnathon, and I have a feeling yours will”.

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