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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55. Chapter 54

Adele and Johnathon couldn’t have been closer after that day. The possibility of having a child with the woman he loved filled Johnathon with a powerful form of hope. With only one matter left to settle, Johnathon invited Eloise around, desperate for her blessing. Crossbreeds were a delicate subject, and Johnathon knew he’d have to tread carefully.

17/10/1999:

Just over four months had passed since Adele’s announced her pregnancy, and her stomach was officially huge. It still had some room left to expand, but no-one could doubt that she was carrying a fetus around with her. The time seemed to have whirled by, and the only important matters seemed to be about the baby. The gender had not yet been confirmed, but Adele’s anticipation was borderline obsessive, she’d already drafted up names, ordered enough toys to open a store, and was clearing out all the spare rooms on the houseboat trying to decide which would belong to their child. On the 17th of October however, Adele was forced to take a day off, and enjoy her baby shower. They’d invited Adele’s close family, and Johnathon’s close allies. It almost made Johnathon chuckle to think of Richard having a conversation with Eloise.

Johnathon had sent Adele out to spend the morning with her sister Bethany so he could set up the houseboat, not wanting her to lift a finger. He had, however, signed a contract he knew nothing about. Once the streamers hung and the balloons scattered he had no idea what to do next. He’d done everything Adele had told him to do, and yet, the living room didn’t look too different. Unsatisfied, but unable to think of any additions to make, he turned to Adele’s list of baby names. She’d been pestering him for his opinion for weeks. He was so lost in thought, he didn’t hear the door open. It was only when a shadow loomed over him that he looked up, and sighed.

“What are you doing here?” He groaned at Erebus.

“I heard there was a party,” he shrugged, “Though I was hoping for more flashing lights and less baby blue ribbons.”

“You came to Dustwood just for a baby shower?” Johnathon didn’t buy his reply. Erebus was the sort of person who’d buy a bungalow simply because he didn’t want to have to climb up stairs to reach his bed in the evenings.

“I didn’t know it was a baby shower, mainly because someone forgot to tell me his wife was pregnant.” Johnathon gulped. Truth be told, he’d kept quiet because he was worried about how Erebus would’ve reacted. Johnathon was the closest thing Erebus had to a family, and no-one could predict how he’d react to Johnathon starting a family of his own. “Then my invite somehow got lost in the post...ah well, I’m here now. Don’t worry though, I’ll be gone before the first guest arrives. I can see this isn’t going to be the raving extravaganza I expected.”

“You might as well leave now then” hope crawled into Johnathon’s tone, but Erebus simply folded his arms across his chest.

“We should catch up first, what are you up to?” He sat down beside him, staring at the list in his hand.

“Baby names, Adele wants my opinion” Johnathon cringed.

“Johnny junior?” Erebus suggested, chuckling as he did so.

“Not helping” Johnathon grumbled. Erebus leaned forward, suddenly taking a serious turn.

“Whatever you do choose a good one, one you won’t want to change” Erebus advised him.

“Who changes the name of their child?” Johnathon shook his head.

“…My parents did” Erebus shrugged. Johnathon turned to look at him, confused. His mind wandered back to 1955, when Eloise had informed him about Erebus’s parentage. Did it still bother Erebus? Had his image stayed the same? Was he still the neglected child angry at the world for shutting him away? He never spoke of his parents, but did that then mean he never thought of them?

“Eloise told me years ago, about your parents shoving you in the basement” Johnathon admitted him, slightly hesitant to bring the matter up. Erebus’s face darkened, but he didn’t yell or shout.

“That wasn’t her secret to tell,” Erebus scowled, “But I don’t really mind you knowing. Yes, my parents neglected me for my gifts. What did you think? That my mother gave birth and thought ‘Let's name him the Greek personification of darkness’, don’t be ridiculous! They changed my name a few weeks after they found out.”

“Why would they do such a thing?” Johnathon had only ever met compassion from his mother, or otherwise he couldn’t remember any different, and his father loved his imperfections alongside his qualities. He couldn’t get his head around parents not loving their children.

“I don’t know, do I?” Erebus snapped, getting agitated. A few seconds later he calmed down, speaking in a lower tone than before, “I remember sitting in the basement counting down the minutes until I was old enough to change it. But those minutes lead to hours, and those hours led to days, and those days lead to years, years that changed me. I learnt to take care of myself before others, I learnt how to be self-reliant, I learnt how to be alone. By the time the day came when I could at last change my name, I’d grown to like being known as Erebus. I still do.” Johnathon listened intensively, enjoying the explanation. Erebus rarely spoke of his childhood, and it was nice to get to know the man behind the monster.

“What was your first name?” Johnathon inquired, curious.

“Now that, I do mind you knowing” Erebus grinned, back to his usual self. He got up from his seat and looked at his watch, and let out a sarcastic whistle when he saw the time. “Your guests will be here soon, so long, Johnny boy!” And with that, he was gone. Johnathon sat back in his seat, silently lost in thought for a few moments, before getting back to Adele’s list of names.

True enough, it was only ten minutes later that Adele arrived back with Bethany, and by the time half an hour had passed, everyone had filled up the living room. Richard and Helen, Andrew, Eloise, Bethany, Leo, Felicity had even brought her young daughter Angelica along. Everyone got into socialising, and Johnathon managed to hide his amusement when Richard started boasting to Leo about the houseboat. The atmosphere was perfect.

Johnathon spotted Eloise sitting alone on the sofa, and decided to act upon the opportunity. He approached her slowly and casually, his movements appeared to lack purpose to any onlooker, yet he made no eye-contact, discouraging people from making conversation. Before Eloise could move away, he was sat next to her, his eyes assertive.

“We need to talk.” He got straight to the point. Eloise turn to meet his gaze, her shoulder’s sinking slightly.

“I suppose it was only a matter of time” she bit her lip, shifting her position so she was facing him. They both had a close posture, heeding others to steer clear of them for the next five minutes or so whilst they spoke. It was more relaxed and sociable than going to the study, and just as efficient. They looked at one another with the same expression, both expecting the other to make the first move.

“I know you probably have a few concerns over the pregnancy…” Johnathon began.

“More than a few.” Eloise cut him off, chuckling slightly, trying to add humour into the conversation. “Just look at what happened to Gael!”

“This won’t be like that, my child will always know and love who he is.” Johnathon argued, “Gael was kept in the dark for years, and he didn’t exactly find out in the nicest way possible.”

“Okay...well what about other issues? Souls are still a fairly new occurrence, we have no idea what the future will hold. We’re still waiting for the Poetic Soul to turn up, there are more and more of our kind being born each day, and hunters are a rising force, some people even see them as heroes...the last thing we need are crossbreeds complicating things for us.” Eloise came up with another reason, an annoyingly reasonable reason.

“One baby won’t make any huge impact.” Johnathon pointed out. He kept his tone relaxed and easygoing, trying to lessen the seriosity of the situation. Eloise let out a small chuckle, as though she was amused by his reply. She rolled her eyes and placed her hand in his, looking directly at him to make her point extra clear.

“I can’t make a special exception for you Johnathon. If I do, what will people think? Your child will lead to more and more people getting pregnant with crossbreeds, everyone will assume it’s allowed and acceptable. It will all end in chaos.” She tried to get her point across, but Johnathon’s desire to be a father seemed to deafen him.

“So you’re going to do what? Force Adele to get an abortion? That doesn’t sound like the right thing to do to me…”

“It’s not.” Eloise cut him off, “At least not in her case. I’ve already spoken to her about it tonight, I tried to persuade her to see my side, but like you, she’s stubborn.” Eloise’s eyes weren’t looking at anything in particular, it was almost like she was looking at her thoughts, and trying to piece everything together. She suddenly flung herself backwards so her back bounced against the soft sofa, her fingernail wedged between her teeth. Johnathon didn’t dare speak, or even move, Eloise clearly needed the room to be still for the time being. A few seconds, and a lot of nail biting later, she let out a deep exhausted sigh, leaning forwards. “You are surely the most annoying person on earth right now Johnathon Ignes.” She groaned, “But you are a fair one. You deserve this child, and even though it might bring the world to ruin, I am going to let you have it.” Johnathon smiled. It was the sort of smile he’d normally only do in private, but in that moment, he simply could not help himself. He was about to get up and go to tell Adele the good news, but Eloise grabbed his wrist before he could, not done talking just yet. She looked him dead in the eye, her expression solid and firm. “Don’t make me regret this” was all she said. After that, she released his wrist, and let him run off to find his wife.

Adele was nowhere to be seen among the party guests, and few seemed to know where she was. Getting anxious, Johnathon began to interrupt conversations to inquire about her whereabouts. It was, in the end, Richard who told him something useful.

“She went upstairs to the bathroom, she said she felt sick."

Hurrying up the steps, Johnathon found the bathroom door locked.

“Adele? Adele are you alright in there?” There was no reply from within. In fact, there was no sound at all. He couldn’t hear her vomiting or whimpering. “Adele?” He tried again, but still there was nothing. “Adele I’m coming in.” He decided, applying enough pressure on the door for it to swing open. The scene inside was horrific.

Adele’s unconscious body was slumped against the toilet, her arms lying across the seat and her head drooping just to the right. As he took a step closer he noticed the gruesome mixture of both vomit and blood staining the scene. He looked back to her face and noticed her lips too had a crimson tint on them.

“Adele? Adele can you hear me? Adele wake up!” His voice was a low whisper in her unhearing ears, his hands cautiously moved her into his lap as he scattered the sticky locks of her ginger hair from her face. She was out cold in his arms, unable to be awakened by his continuous cries. “Someone help!” He screamed out loud enough for those downstairs to hear him. Felicity was the first to arrive at the scene, her hand rose to her mouth the minute she did, but she swallowed all her nerves, and knelt down beside Johnathon, feeling for a pulse.

“She’s alive, but we need to get her to a hospital” she announced, already dialing the number. All the sounds Johnathon heard after that didn’t seem to matter to him. Adele was alive, she was safe, and he was going to do whatever it took to keep it that way.

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