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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5. Chapter 4

There was something about the way Erebus introduced himself that pleased Johnathon. Most people took age as an excuse to talk down to him, but not Erebus. Most people would kneel down before him, and say ‘I’m Erebus’, but this person said ‘my name’s Erebus’. Not defining himself by a name, and thus not defining Johnathon by his. He knelt down before him, not to be patronising, but to be on the same level. He looked at Johnathon as if he were more important than the rest of his surroundings, as if, just for that moment, Johnathon was the centre of his universe. Johnathon liked the feeling this gave him, Johnathon liked Erebus.

“Well hello there Erebus, are you staying?” Johnathon had not noticed Adam and Peter returning from the farm, too encased in the new stranger he was still being introduced to.

“I’m afraid not sir, got the rest of my round to do” Erebus stopped crouching to speak to Adam.

“Shame. We were just about to head out to the centre, Sally wanted to go shopping” Adam sighed, taking his wellies off before stepping inside.

“Another time maybe” Erebus began to back away, but he didn’t forget to be polite.

“Yes, for certain” Adam grinned, shutting the door once Erebus was out of sight. After that he went over to the breadbin, taking out a slice and greedily scoffing it down. Peter did the same, though he didn’t seem half as tired.

“How was the farm Peter?” Penny asked him, beginning to pack up a few things.

“Great fun, awfully muddy though” Peter replied, washing his hands.

“The mud’s the best part!” Adam chuckled, doing the same.

“Right, let’s head out” Penny decided, herding the group out of the house.

The bus station stop wasn’t far, and a brisk walk actually felt quite nice, back in London Johnathon had spent most of his time cramped indoors. The bus was punctual too, which meant less awkward conversation between himself, Peter, and the Dews. Once on the bus, Johnathon made an effort to sit as far away as possible from them, and he managed to be two rows apart.

“Two days” Lenard grumbled, “That’s all it’s been. Two days. Only 48 hours since Hitler invaded Poland, and now we’re at war again. Is that our response to everything? Declare a huge fight, kill millions, and keep going for years, until one side backs out. Haven’t they ever heard of negotiation?” It was late evening on the 3rd of September 1939, and he and Margret were enjoying some quite time together while their son slept. Well, Margret was trying to enjoy some peaceful conversation, Lenard was more interested in discussing politics.

“I’m sure it will all blow over, it can’t be any worse than the last” she tried to draw an end to the debate.

“We’ve got more technology this time, it might be worse” Lenard argued, refusing to let the matter drop.

“Worse than the Great War? I don’t think so…We’ll have learnt from our mistakes” she reasoned with him, “Anyway, how was work?”

“Same old, same old” Lenard sighed, “Do you really think we’re so angelic to not fight in worse ways than we have fought in before?”

“Yes, I do” Margret tried to hint her tiredness of the topic within her tone, but Lenard was too caught up in his own thoughts to notice.

“That takes optimism to a how new level Margret, I’ve fought in the Great War, I know what man is capable off, it is capable of darkness. I’ve seen things, such dreadful things, and I’m one of the lucky ones! This war will be, at its best, equally as destructive as the last.” Lenard lectured his wife, who was now at a stage of simply ignoring him.

Margret got up, deciding to have an early night. When she got to the top of the steps, she startled. In the dim lighting of the hallway, her son’s exterior was even more frightening, his green eyes acting as colour tinted lightbulbs.

“Johnathon you scared me! What are you doing out of bed?” She picked him up and carried him back into the bedroom.

“What is a war?” He ignored her question, asking one of his own instead. Margret contemplated how to reply, struggling to think of a suitable reply.

“A war is bad” she stated simply, tucking him in tightly.

“Then why have war?” Johnathon sat up, ruining the tuck his mother had given him.

“Because someone has done something very naughty” Margret backed away towards the door, it was late, and she wasn’t about to go into a deep conversation with her two year old son.

“Like me” Johnathon muttered, his volume just loud enough for his mother to hear.

“Some people never grow up I guess” she shrugged, placing her hand on the doorknob.

“Did daddy?” Johnathon had one final question. Margret turned around, a single tear in the edge of her eye.

“I hope so”.

“We’re here” Penny announced, picking up Johnathon to help him get down from his seat. Johnathon looked out of the window. There were a few shops dotted around the centre, but nothing to the scale of the shopping streets in London.

They all got off the bus, and started to walk north down the lane. Sally took Peter’s hand, and Penny tried to take Johnathon’s, but he wriggled out of her grip, and she got the message.

The small clothing store was very bland and extremely traditional. Just looking at the many shades of beige, brown, and black made Johnathon feel nauseated. There was a sickly smell of butterscotch in the air, which made anyone who took too deep a breath cough uncontrollably. The fabrics he touched were either so fine your hand slid off them, or so thick he scratched your hand by touching them. He could hear the chatter of the shop assistants to the customers, as they half-heartedly complimented them on their buys. The steam from the irons crept through to the main shop from the back room, infiltrating his dry mouth and making it damp. The moment Johnathon stepped through the door, he wanted to leave.

“Let’s all have a good look around, we might be able to find a few bargains” Penny excitedly rushed off to look at a cardigan, leaving the others to scavenge for themselves. Sally went over to a rack full of tops, and Adam followed after her. Peter went towards the free candy to fill his boots. Johnathon just stood there, wanting more than anything to leave.

“How about you try this on?” Adam suggested to him, suddenly at his side holding an ugly garment. It was a brown tartan jacket, Johnathon itched just thinking about wearing it.

“Oh that’s lovely!” Penny exclaimed, throwing it into Johnathon’s hands, “Go on! Try it on.” Johnathon reluctantly swung it onto himself, standing tall and straight so not to rub the fabric against his skin. “Perfect” Penny smiled, “We simply must buy it for you. You look like a proper little gentleman in that”. So she took the hellish overlay to the till and payed for it in a jiffy, handing it back to Johnathon to wear home.

“Mum, Dad! Come look at this” Sally called them over to her, giving Johnathon a chance to escape.

He snuck out of the shop, and wandered alone through the streets, turning left into a deserted alleyway so he could strop alone. He punched the rock wall, causing a small crack to appear on the stone, and a tiny cut to form on each of his knuckles.

“Well, don’t you look a picture” Johnathon turned around to see who was speaking, and couldn’t help but grin slightly. Erebus was pacing towards him, a half empty beer bottle in his left hand.

“Hello Erebus” Johnathon stepped forward.

“Shh” Erebus hushed him, “Speak quieter, I’m not supposed to be drinking this” he gestured to the bottle he was drinking from.

“Are you being naughty?” Johnathon asked him, not to judge, but to learn.

“A little bit, yes” Erebus admitted.

“Naughty is bad” Johnathon reminded him.

“Do I look like I care?” Erebus grinned, taking another swing from the bottle.

“No” Johnathon answered him plainly.

“Does that bother you?” Erebus checked.

“No” Johnathon repeated himself. The edge of Erebus’s lips curved up, and he placed the newly empty bottle down on the floor.

“Good” he patted Johnathon on the back as he walked past him, “Nice coat by the way”.

At the mention of his jacket, Johnathon scowled. In the spur of the moment, he took the left sleeve in his right hand, and tore it straight off. Erebus turned around, surprised. Johnathon ripped the other sleeve of soon after, then sighed, his rage gone.

“There aren’t many two year old boys who can tear apart a fabric jacket” Erebus knelt down to speak to Johnathon, “Was that hard for you?”

“No” Johnathon shook his head, “It was too easy”. Erebus’s slight grin grew into a full on beaming smile, as he lightly began to chuckle.

“I’ll see you around Johnathon” Erebus promised as he got up and began to walk around, “I’ll be keeping a very close eye on you”.

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