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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52. Chapter 51

Having been happily married to Adele, and with no Erebus shaped block in his life, Johnathon began to settle down. He continued working with Richard, helping him with his other building projects for a fair pay. He built up a small fortune with his stolen and earned money combined. Unfortunately, not everyone’s lives were going as well as his. Just over 9 Years after the wedding, on the 17th of April 1986, Rebecca woke to find Kris on the floor beside their bed. He’d been late out drinking the night before, and had suffered a heart attack upon his return. With his father dead, a 21 year old Gael took over the role of leading the Wild Souls, and, as it tends to do, life just continued.

08/06/1986:

It had been many years since Johnathon had last been to the Wild Soul camp, eleven to be exact. At frequent points throughout those years small changes had been made, so when Johnathon and Adele entered the clearing, they were slightly taken aback. The gardens were smaller, and there were huts in the place of the flowers. The area had been crowded before, but it had become overpopulated, so much so that you could smell body odour in the air from every part of the open space. There were so many children climbing (and falling down) trees that you could barely see the brown bark. The sounds of the birds, and the whistling of the wind which used to soothe your ears were no longer audible through the clamour of voices. The once relaxing unorthodox camp had become a crowded small village.

“More guests,” a friendly teenager came up behind them, “Can I help you with your bags?” There was something about the boy’s appearance that rang a bell in Johnathon’s mind, the glint in his eye, the flush on his cheeks…

“We’re fine, don’t worry” Adele assured him, not wanting to make the child carry her overnight bag.

“Well at least let me show you to your room, if I don’t lend a hand somehow Gael might lock me in my room for the evening.” The boy insisted, his accent also sounded familiar to Johnathon.

“Alright then.” Adele agreed, smiling down at him.

The upstairs of the camp was also way more crowded that Johnathon remembered. People were napping in the corridor, just dozing on the floor without a care in the world. Others stood to the side, staring out into the distance with absent minds. The light bulbs flickered due to the massive demand for electricity, which didn’t do any favours for the dim atmosphere.

“Here’s your room.” the boy opened the door for them. The room itself wasn’t any worse that Johnathon was expecting. It was clean, tidy, and just for Adele and himself. “Unpack them come down and join us for dinner, I know Dad will want everyone there, and cousin Gael.” The boy went to leave, but Adele stopped him.

“Wait...Cousin Gael? Are you Leo?” Adele pieced the pieces together. The boy smiled, but in a slightly bashful way.

“That I am, have we met?” Leo nodded politely. Johnathon walked over, and tilted his head...yes, he could see hints of the young excited toddler he’d met before.

“A while ago, you were only around four or five back then.” Adele’s cheeks flushed as her mood warmed, she obviously felt a little nostalgic. “How old are you now?”

“Sixteen,” Leo straightened his back, “I turned sixteen in March.”

“Such a tall boy…” Adele trailed off. Leo bowed his head, and left them to unpack. Johnathon didn’t speak as he did so, because he saw no need to. His silence alarmed Adele, who tried to make conversation. “Everyone here is growing up so fast, don’t you think?”

“Hm.” Johnathon shrugged, “I suppose so, wait until you see Gael, he’s twenty-one now.”

“Gosh…” Adele paused, taking a moment, “Time flies.”

“Not unless you give it wings.” Johnathon argued, his tone telling Adele to pursue the matter no further. He didn’t want to talk about how quickly people grow old, because he knew he would never be blessed with that feature again. He’d remain forever frozen at thirty, whilst the love of his life aged a little more each day, until her heart stopped beating. What would he do then? Would he find another way to die? Or would he continue without her? Almost everyone around him would die eventually, leaving out others of his kind and Eloise. What sort of life was one filled with death? Immortality really was a curse…

“It will be nice to see everyone again, won’t it?” Adele drew Johnathon back from the cliff edge of his own thoughts.

“Hopefully this meeting will go better than the past ones I’ve experienced. It seems every time I’m around this wild family something goes wrong.” Johnathon didn’t mean to slam the door of the wardrobe, but he did.

“They weren’t that bad…”

“Let’s see shall we?” Johnathon cut her off, “In 1955 Tao, Erebus, and pretty much everyone in the room got into a heated argument about the hunters. In 1964 I found out that not only is Erebus afraid of needles, but that I’d stop aging at thirty...Oh, and there was that nasty business I overheard about Rebecca’s pregnancy. In 1970, I knocked out Felicity at Gael’s fifth birthday party. In 1973 I announced my undying love for you and you ended up in hospital. And finally, the last time I saw young Gael, in 1975, I got allocated the leadership and triggered a never ending quarrel with a man who was once my best friend.”

“Personally I think 1975 was your finest year,” Adele winked, “But in all seriousness, you need to stop worrying. Gael will be the perfect host, everyone will give their updates, and we’ll be gone by tomorrow afternoon.”

“Let’s hope so, 1975 is a tough act to follow.” Johnathon shook his head. They did the rest of their unpacking in silence, and as instructed, went back downstairs for dinner afterwards.

The camp looked slightly better in the evening, with no sunlight to illuminate the mess. The moon and stars lit up the edges of the spacing, making the decor glimmer and shimmer, there was a sense of glamour about it all. There was also electrical lighting, but it was dim and tinted, and didn’t impact the room much at all. Familiar faces were dotted all around the room. Felicity was discussing something humorous with a chuckling Andrew, Tao was advising a sweating Gael, and Eloise was walking around the room aimlessly, engaging in a new conversation every few minutes. Adele soon started socialising, leaving Johnathon in the company of his beer bottle. He sat at the bottom of the stairs, watching the fast room with his slow eyes. As the evening moved forward, he barely moved an inch, and by the time his bottle was empty, most of the pleasantries were out of the way.

“Hello everyone, and welcome, to this year's Annual Soul Negotiation Meeting. I would like to thank Gael Maines for agreeing to host this evening, and commemorate his wonderful efforts so far.” Eloise addressed the group, causing everyone to fall silent, “Most of you know how this will go, we will deliver updates and discuss anything that requires discussion, but most of all, we will enjoy ourselves. Before we can get back to enjoying the evening, we must first catch up. Shall we start with the newest? Andrew, up you come!” Andrew reluctantly made his way through the crowd. He wasn’t much of a public speaker, he was more of a behind-the-scenes kind of man, very tactical, but not very extroverted.

“Uh, well there isn’t really much to report. It’s been just over a decade since Knowlegde Souls were welcomed into this community, and over that time we’ve really come to terms with our gifts. Self-control has been difficult, but with practise, we can contain our urge to know everything. Over the next year our focus will not change, control is our aim.” Andrew kept it brief, leaving the spotlight as quickly as he arrived in it. Eloise signalled for Felicity to come forward, and she hurried up onto the stage.

“This year has been huge for the Songbirds, we’ve made quite the breakthrough. You are all aware that to hear a Songbird sing is to lose all your senses, but, like Andrew, this year I’ve tried to encourage training among my people. We’ve discovered that we can edit our impact on people, we can focus it on some rather than others, and chose which sense they lose, some of us have even figured out how to have this sort of ‘brainwashing’ effect on people. We hope to continue with our research over the next year, and who knows? Someday soon we might be able to do all sort of crazy things.” The excitement in Felicity's voice was slightly alarming, but not concerning.

“It’s remarkable Felicity,” Eloise subtly urged her back into the corner, “Johnathon?” People searched the room for Johnathon, who stood up slowly and walked forward. He hadn’t prepared a speech, and was only just wondering if he should have. As he turned to face the room, his throat went dry. Getting a hold of himself, he began to speak.

“Dark Souls aren’t the easiest people to lead, we tend to do as we please. I can’t stand up here today and announce a world-changing breakthrough, or any development for that matter. I’ve been living quietly in Dustwood, aiding all the Dark Souls who come my way. You see, if I were to try and dictate them, they would only rebel, I know that because it would be exactly how I would respond. Instead, I spread a message, ‘I’m here if you need me’, and it seems to have worked so far. Any Dark Soul who needs my assistance gets it, and the rest are free to what they want, within reason of course.” Johnathon gave his update, and the group seemed satisfied. Eloise gave him a light nudge, gesturing for him to leave the centre of the room. He found Adele, and they stood together for the final update, Gael’s.

“I would like to start off by thanking you all for coming tonight. It has only been a couple of months since my father died, and in that time a lot has happened. We grieved, of course, and the camp filled up with people coming to pay their respects. He was only fifty-six, but in those years he did so much. I can only dream of being the man he was. He was a friend, a father, and a leader. Over the next year I will continue in his footsteps, and maintain the camps across the country...I will do my best to make him proud.” A small round of applause gradually built up around the room, and Gael bowed his head. He looked a lot like his father, and he was definitely no longer a child. His hair was quite short, but it was still clearly wavy like Kris’, and it shared the same dark brown shade. His eyes too, had the same look about them. There were slightly squinted, and seemed to silently judge you. The green shade had amber hints that glinted in the lighting of whatever place you found yourself in, and gave an edge of mystery to Gael’s overall appearance. He stood with his posture hunched, and his tone was a little hushed, as if it pained him to speak of his father’s demise, but he still felt as though she had to make the effort to talk. Just as everyone got back to their conversations, someone else stood up and came forward.

“Would you mind if I added something on to that speech?” Leo asked, directing the question at Eloise, not Gael. Eloise took a step backwards, and Leo cleared his throat.

“Some of you may have noticed it is a little crowded in here tonight, and the reason for that is simple. Population growth. Each week around 7 or 8 new Wild Souls arrive at each camp we have around the country, and they grow more and more full every day. This is an issue myself add Gael are working on, with the help of our parents too. What my cousin forgot to add on was our solution. We plan to set up around six new camps, as well as expanding the additional ones, over the course of this year,” applause rose up around the room in response to this announcement, “This way every Wild Soul will have a safe bed to sleep in. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your evening.”

With the updates over, and no other problems to discuss, people continued to eat and drink into the late hours of the evening. Even Johnathon relaxed into the atmosphere, dancing with Adele briefly, and engaging in meaningless conversation at points. As Sunday turned into Monday, people began to disappear up the stairs, and the party drew to a close. Johnathon fell asleep to the sound of Adele’s heartbeat and the sensation of her warm breath on his chest. He was thankful that nothing had gone wrong
...yet.

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