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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58. Chapter 57

The moment Johnathon heard those words, he knew his life was about to change for the worse. Torn between his wife and his unborn child, he was as much use to Adele as Eloise. In the end it was Adele who made the final call.

16/12/1999:

“Adele? Are you awake yet?” Johnathon called up the stairs. The couple were back home in Dustwood, the memories of the hospital lucid yet unspoken.

“I am now.” He heard her yawn. A few seconds later she emerged from the top of the stairs, gradually making her way down the steps.

Just the sight of her made Johnathon want to cry. He skin was wrinkled and pale, except for the reddish purple bags that hung under her eyes. She shaked slightly with every move she made, and always appeared to be shivering regardless of her body temperature. Her stomach was huge and rounded, carrying the very thing that was killing her.

She’d decided months back to keep the baby, refusing to have an abortion as soon as she heard the news. Peter had promised to help her out as much as he could, he even believed that he might be able to save them both. At first this confidence had been shared among them, but as Adele grew weaker, it started to seem as if neither would make it to labour. Still, she kept the foetus firmly inside her. Whenever Johnathon asked her why, she just smiled and told him he wouldn’t understand. She said ‘I’ve lived. Hopefully I’ll live a little longer, but if I don’t, then at least I’ll bring life with my death.’ She was right, Johnathon didn’t understand. She’d had bad days of course, breakdowns were becoming something of a frequent occurrence. One day Johnathon came home to find their bedroom a complete mess with Adele bawling in the corner. ‘I’m not like them, like Eloise, or Erebus...or you. I’m normal’ she’d cried out, Johnathon had helped her up, encased her in a hug and whispered five simple words in her ear, ‘but you’re special to me’.

“Are you going to be okay today?” He checked, already concerned over his plans to leave her alone for the day.

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry. I’ll sit down in front of the television for a day and rest.” Adele attempted to assure him.

“Do you have…?”

“Peter’s number, yes.” Adele cut him off, predicting his question with ease. When Johnathon still didn’t budge she sighed, “Go on, go. You can’t keep them all waiting.” Adele was under the impression that Johnathon was heading out for a Dark Soul conference, it was the best cover he could come up with. He was, in fact, on his way to London for a surprise visit to a very special lady.

Johnathon, with the help of a small shove from Adele, reluctantly headed towards the door. His hand found the doorknob and his feet stepped outside, but, inevitably, he turned around one last time.

“Are you sure?” He checked.

“I promise you I won’t lift a finger until you’re back home.” Adele sighed, waving her hand outwards as if to say ‘just go already’. Johnathon pulled himself together, standing upright and firm. He at last parted with the houseboat and go into his car, praying that the radio might distract him from his worries.

The journey to London from Dustwood was around three hours, but it felt like three decades to Johnathon. This was, he supposed, quite fair. He hadn’t been to London in over six decades, let alone three. It is odd how in times of need people automatically divert to their elders, even though as times become more modern they seem to know even less. Johnathon was no exception to this stereotype. She wouldn’t be able to understand his situation at all, and yet, he felt as if she must be able to somehow sympathise, simply because she was older.

London was louder than Dustwood. It was ten times more crowded, even more so than Cantumville...and you could smell it in the air. The suffocating stench of cigarettes invaded the oxygen, accompanied by body odour and petrol from the cars. Dustwood was the sort of place you’d go if you dreamt to recline at the bottom, with no smells at all. London on the other hand, was a place for people who dreamed of getting high enough up that you wouldn’t be able to smell the city anymore.

Johnathon took out an old envelope from his pocket, studying the address. He bought an overpriced map and went on his way, looking for the listed house. It was odd, for him, to walk along the streets. It was as if far far back in his mind he recognised the place, but it was too far back for him to remember it. In the end his sixth sense seemed to guide him more than his map.

London alone had felt weird to him, but this building took it to the next level. Walking up to the door caused a pit to grow and swirl around in his stomach, he felt as though he might be sick, but a desperate curiosity drove him to knock at the door.

The woman who answered was, well, she was the most provoking thing Johnathon had seen all day. Her wrinkled face caused images of her younger one to flash in his mind, surrounded by a golden halo-like glow.

“Hello?” She greeted him, her voice ringing yet more bells.

“Margret Ignes?” Johnathon began.

“Yes.” She looked up, faintly interested.

“I’m here to talk to you about your son.” Johnathon took it steady, his mother was well within her eighties by now, and the last thing he wanted was to give her a heart attack.

“What son?” Margret sighed.

“Your son,  Johnathon, born on the 11th of January 1937.” Johnathon clarified, wondering if she was simply confused.

“My son left home as an evacuee and never returned, he probably got bombed or something and they forgot to tell me. I have no son.” Margret argued.

“No, he ran away from home.” Johnathon corrected her, “But now...he’s tired of running.” Margret looked at Johnathon for the first time, she actually looked at him, and of course, she saw it. Her mouth widened and she took a small step back, unable to comprehend what was happening.

“Green eyes...your father’s colour.” She murmured, “No.” She snapped, “My son would be in his sixties by now, how old are you? Twenty?”

“I didn’t age much physically past thirty, but I am actually sixty-two.” Johnathon replied bluntly, not bothering to be clever about it. Margret stared at him a little longer, leaning in to examine him.

“Are you ill?” She asked suddenly.

“What?” Johnathon almost chuckled out his response, her question had taken him by a warm surprise.

“Well...it’s just, you’re awfully pale.” Margret stammered, trying not to offend him. Johnathon smiled, looking away for a moment, this was going to be more difficult than he thought.

“Do you believe in Souls?” He asked her, looking her dead in the eye. Margret’s face, which had previously been moulded into a shy smile, sunk.

“I think you’d better come inside.” She decided, parting from the doorway to let him through. Johnathon did as his mother told him, stepping into the house. He wandered towards the dining table, taking a seat. His eyes found and lingered on a piece of framed porcelain above the fireplace.

“What’s that?” He pointed up to it. Margret let out a small, yet happy, sigh.

“Just something I keep around so I don’t feel so lonely. It reminds me of your father...and of you. For some reason the memory of that day sticks with me…” She trailed off, sitting down in the seat in front of him. She turned to look at him once again, as if she still wasn’t sure whether or not she was hallucinating him beside her. “What happened to you?” She finally got the question out, her tone more confused than concerned. Johnathon sat up straight, wondering how best to put it.

“I met a paperboy,” he began, putting it as simply as possible, “He was cheeky, and enticing...and he shared my gifts. He taught me how to use them, in a way, he raised me. When I was finally able to go home, I decided I didn’t want to, I wanted to stay with him.” Margret’s eyes diverted briefly, moved by his words. “Anyway,” Johnathon moved the topic along, “I grew up with him, and had more than my fair share my share of dark days...then someone came along and decided to give me some good ones. She saw the redemption in me that no-one else could see, including myself. She taught my heart to beat. She gave me life, and now, she’s about to give someone else a life too.”

“She’s pregnant?” Margret guessed.

“Yes, she is.” Johnathon confirmed, nodding solemnly. Margret’s brow creased, she found his attitude peculiar.

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“Arguably, yes.” Johnathon nodded again, “You see, Adele...she’s not like me. She’s normal, very normal in fact, she’s so normal that her body can’t handle the presence of mutated genes in our foetus. She’s dying. The baby is killing her.”

“And that’s why you came today, for some good old fashioned motherly advice.” Margret pieced it all together.

“I’m torn.” Johnathon confessed, “I don’t want to lose either of them.” To his surprise, his mother smiled.

“It’s ironic,” she began, “how you never want to lose anybody, and yet you leave everyone behind...I suppose it’s a part of being immortal, still, it’s almost humorous.”

Humorous?” Johnathon leaned away, almost disgusted by his mother's choice of adjective.

“Yes, humorous.” Margret placed her hand on his knee, “Not only because of what I’ve just said, but also because of your incorrect belief that you might actually lose one of them.”

“She could die.” Johnathon reminded her, “If she dies then I lose her.” Margret shook her head.

“No, not at all. People die, Johnathon, it happens, but there are always things around to remind you of them, so they never really lose you. Their belongings, their impact... their life lives on in what they left behind. Even if you convince yourself that you’ll never see them again, you still see what they did to the world, and to you.” Margret looked up at the framed porcelain fragment, and Johnathon followed her gaze, “A peice of them stays with you, always.”

 
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