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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6. Chapter 5

September ended and October whizzed by for Johnathon. Every day was pretty much the same. He woke up, ate, played, ate, played, ate, and then slept. It was a routine made to break a boy, the repetition was unbearable at points, but he kept on going, knowing he had to be a good boy for his mother.

31st October 1939:

Halloween could be many things for a child. It could be petrifying, all the ghost stories and goulash costumes & decorations could scare a small kid to pieces. It could also be exciting, getting dressed up as a pirate, being allowed to wear face paint, getting tons of free candy, for some it was the best day of the year. For Johnathon, it was pointless. As he watched the Dew family and Peter put up the decorations, carving the pumpkin, and worrying about how they looked in their costumes, he could only wonder why. Why go to all this trouble?

“Well, I think we’re all set for a spooky evening” Penny giggled excitedly, standing back to admire her handiwork. There were a few black ribbons and orange streamers dotted around, and a row of bunting too, but it was nothing too special. Penny was dressed in a simple black dress and a cheap ‘witches hat’, she wasn’t remotely scary, but she didn’t want to be, because apparently Halloween wasn’t about scaring people anymore.

“How about you two boys go and get ready?” Adam suggested, he was in normal clothing, but had a red ‘scars’ drawn on to his forehead and left cheek. Peter rushed up the stairs, and Johnathon followed after him.

“Oh isn’t it exciting? I get to be a scarecrow, Adam lent me some straw to use. What are you going to be?” Peter rambled on and on, fumbling around with his costume. Johnathon’s answer to his question was a simple shrug, as he sat down on his bed. “Well you could be a…a…a vampire! Yes, just use some of this red stuff to decorate around your lips” Peter chucked a small tin of red face paint to him. Johnathon took it, and lined the outside of his lips with it, creating another downwards line from the right corner of his mouth. “Wow, you look great” Peter grinned, racing back downstairs. Johnathon sighed, reluctantly going back down after him.

The Dews had each invited one person or family to their Halloween celebrations. Adam had invited the Smith family, they owned a plot of land not too far from the farm, but Penny competed with Mrs Smith over who had the best flowers outside their house, not that they ever argued about it openly. Penny invited Mr and Mrs Blake who ran the butchers shop, Adam felt slightly intimidated by Mr Blake’s big arms and strong muscles, but Penny only ever told him to ‘stop his worrying’. Sally had invited Erebus, no one said much about her invite.

“Oh Peter, go put this upstairs, you don’t want it to get smashed by accident when the guests arrive, do you?” Penny spotted a picture frame on the edge of the mantelpiece. It was a picture of Peter and his family back home that he had brought. He had kept in beside his bed at first, then brought it downstairs because he apparently ‘spent more time downstairs’ and so he ‘wanted to see it more often’. Johnathon thought it a bit over the top, he had brought a picture too, of his mother and father, but it lay crinkled in his pocket, and he never took it out to show it off. Peter took the photo from Penny, and sprinted up and down the stairs.

“Thank you Penny,” he smiled, “I don’t know what I’d do without that picture here with me.”

“Well you’ll be home soon enough, this war will be over before you know it” Penny patted his back, her optimism perfectly intact. Then the doorbell rang, and Sally rushed over to answer it. When she saw it was the Smith’s, her shoulders sank.

“Come on in” she forced a smile onto her lips.

“Oh Sally you look splendid” Mrs Smith complimented her. Sally was supposed to be a ghost, she had a white robe wrapped around her, and a homemade mask covering the top half of her face.

“Delilah! I’m glad you could make it” Penny came up to the door.

“How could I say no? Your flowers look lovely by the way, though your tulips are losing some colour…”

A few minutes after the Smiths arrived, the Blake family turned up. The ‘party’ of sorts got into full swing. People ate the small nibbles and the sickly candy, and even Johnathon helped himself to a boiled sweet from the bowl. The only person who didn’t seem to be having a good time was Sally, who sat on the bottom step of the stairs, staring off into space. Johnathon went over to her.

“You’ve been naughty” he guessed. She looked up, only just realising her was beside her.

“Oh, hello Johnathon. Um, no, I haven’t been sent to the naughty step, I’m here by choice” she tried to seem cheerful, but her eyes were tired.

“Why?” He asked, confused. Not even he liked the naughty step, so why was she there voluntarily?

“I’m waiting for my guest to arrive” she confessed.

“Erebus” Johnathon remembered.

“Yes, Erebus” she paused, her posture sunk even deeper, “I’m not sure if he’s coming if I’m honest”. Johnathon looked at her, debating what to do or say next. She seemed very sad, and a part of him wanted her very much to be happy. He decided to do what he’d seen other people do to one another, but he’d never done himself. He spread his arms out wide, and encased them round her body, resting his head on her shoulder. Hugging. That was what it was called. Johnathon was giving her a hug. He felt her relax in his hold, and he even felt a little better himself from cheering her up.

“Well, what do we have here?” Sally broke Johnathon’s hug at the sound of Erebus’s voice, “Thanks for keeping her ready for me,” he smiled at Johnathon, “Sorry I was late Sally”. Sally beamed, all was forgiven for her. Erebus and Sally went off to be alone, and Johnathon returned to the main group, hungry for more sugary foods.

“Well hello there” Mrs Blake stopped him in his tracks, “Who might you be?” She was a fairly large woman with an extremely fake smile, whether or not it was genuinely fake was unclear.

“Johnathon” Johnathon briefly replied, trying to get past her to reach the snacks.

“Are you a vampire this evening Johnathon? You make an adorable vampire” she grinned, kneeling down in front of him.

“It was my idea for him to be a vampire” Peter entered their conversation, “I’m Peter by the way, Peter Groper”.

“It’s nice to meet you Peter, are you by any chance a scarecrow?” She turned to him, still blocking Johnathon’s way to the table.

“Yes!” Peter was overjoyed to see people understood his costume, “Yes that’s exactly what I am”.

“Well I think you make a wonderful scarecr…” Mrs Blake was interrupted mid-sentence when Johnathon, tired of waiting, simply barged past her. “Why you little monster! What do you think you’re doing?” She snapped at him. The entire group was alerted to the issue by the volume and tone of her booming voice.

“He’s just strong like that, you get used to it after a while” Peter tried to justify Johnathon’s strength, but failed to explain his actions.

“I’ll ask how later, right now I’m more interested in why” Mrs Blake growled. Penny rushed over, desperate to avoid a dispute.

“Now what’s going on over here?” Penny kept her voice quiet and calm, but nerves leaked into her vowels.

“Your little scamp pushed past me whilst I was talking to Peter, I nearly got tossed over” Mrs Blake complained, glaring at Johnathon.

“Johnathon? What do you have to say about this?” Penny turned to him.

“She was being boring” Johnathon stated simply, his tone blank. From the back of the room, Erebus let out a blurt of laughter, then quickly placed his hand over his mouth, realising this was not an appropriate time for chuckling.

“Johnathon! That is not a good reason” Penny’s eyes widened.

“She was though” Johnathon only made it worse.

“He’s trouble Penny, you should throw him out before he causes any more drama” Mrs Blake muttered.

“He’s two years old!” Penny exclaimed, “He’s an evacuee for crying out loud. I won’t kick him out of my home, never in one million years,” she paused, regaining her peaceful state, “Johnathon, for you this party is over, go up to your room and have an early night, we’ll talk more in the morning”.

“But…”

“Go!” She ordered.

Johnathon gave in, heading upstairs and sitting back down on his bed. After all of that, he still hadn’t got any more candy. He slumped back, gazing at the ceiling. He wanted to go home. He wanted to be with the mum. His mum didn’t send him to his room, his mum sat him down and told him he had a choice when he was about to do bad things, and it was best to choose the good option. His mum never called him a bad boy, his mum knew how to love him. He wanted his mum. He took the picture out of his pocket, and traced the outline of his mother’s face with his finger.

“Mind if I join you?” Erebus came through the doorway, walking up beside Johnathon.  He noticed the picture in his hand, and a small grin curved his lips. “Are those your parents?” Johnathon nodded, a tear leaking through his eye, Erebus swiped it away for him. “It’s a nice photo, the way they’re holding each other, it seems…right.”

“They love each other” Johnathon spoke.

“I’m sure they do” Erebus agreed, “This picture proves it.” He got up moving over to the sofa, where Peter’s photo lay, “Not like this one. This one seems false…forced somehow. The way the family stand, it’s like they’re schoolboys. In yours, it seems more genuine, more true”. Johnathon nodded, getting up to stand beside Erebus. “Do you like Peter?” He asked him.

“Not really” Johnathon confessed.

“I figured as much,” Erebus sighed, “I’m not keen on him either. He’s a bit too proud, a bit of a show off. A bit fake, just like this photo.”

“Fake” Johnathon established. Then Erebus turned to look him in the eye, grinning.

“So…how about we do something about it? Let’s smash the picture” he suggested.

“Smash it?” Johnathon’s pitch rose, not just in shock, but in excitement.

“Yeah, go on” Erebus urged him. Johnathon looked at it, wanting badly to do what he was being told. He picked it up, beaming ear to ear, and threw it with all his strength across the room. It hit the wall, not only smashing to pieces, but also leaving a mark where it made contact. “Wow” Erebus murmured, “Do you feel bad Johnathon? About doing that? Because that picture meant a lot to Peter, we both know that.” Johnathon thought for a moment, then looked back up at Erebus.

“No” he admitted ecstatically, “Not at all”.

“Wow” Erebus repeated himself. Then, all of a sudden, they both heard footsteps coming up the stairs. In a flash Erebus was on the other side of the room, standing so he hid the smashed photo and frame. Johnathon’s mouth widened into an O shape at Erebus’s speed. Erebus placed his index finger to him lips as a sign of silence, and a millisecond later Adam entered the room.

“I heard a noise,” he told the two boys, “Did something break?”

“No,” Erebus lied, “I’ve just been talking to Johnathon here”.

“Oh” Adam’s brow creased, “Well, I’ll get back to the party”. Once he was gone, Johnathon rushed over to Erebus.

“How?” He begged him for an explanation.

“All in good time” he shook his head, making for the door, “Like I said, I’ll be keeping a very close eye on you”.

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