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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7. Chapter 6

1939 came to an end, but the war raged on through it, and Johnathon stayed with the Dew family. He would often pester Erebus for answers and information, but Erebus would simply smile and say,

“All in good time”.

Johnathon celebrated his 3rd Birthday in January, and received letter from his mother along with a card. Rationing took its toll on greedy Johnathon, but he tried to keep a low profile, as word spread around the village about the strong little boy who lived with the Dews.

20th July 1940:

“Peter, Johnathon! Come and have your breakfast” Penny called up the stairs to them both. They took their time, they only got one piece of toast each anyway… it wasn’t like before, now everyone got equal portions.

Once downstairs, the two boys ate dismally. So did the Dews. No-one was particularly optimistic, with rationing and depressing gossip, people had little faith in the army. Not even Penny, who’d always woken up with a smile, seemed able to curve her lips.

“I’m going to do some work on the farm today, would you like to help Peter?” Adam offered, taking his plate to the sink.

“It’s raining” Peter sighed.

“Yeah…” Adam shook his head, “How about you Johnathon? You’ve always wanted to see the farm”.

“Not today” Johnathon declined.

“Just me then” Adam realised, shoving on his wellies. There was a knock at the door, and for once Sally didn’t rush to answer it, it was in fact Adam who addressed the caller.

“Morning sir” the postman handed over a couple of envelopes. Adam took them and shut the door, not bothering to make conversation. Adam sighed when he saw the first one, and just flung it onto the table. When he saw the second one, he bit his lip, and looked up, his eyes fixing on Johnathon.

“This one’s for you” Adam handed him the letter. Johnathon opened it.

“I can’t read” he admitted.

“Give it here” Penny offered, taking the letter from Johnathon. She unfolded it, and began to read. “To my dearest Johnathon, I hate to have to be the bearer of bad news in the midst of these dark times, but you have just as much a right as me to know. As you know, your father is a brave man, and has been fighting endlessly in this war, a couple of days ago, his bravery turned into a sacrifice. He was killed in the early stages of the Battle of Britain, and I am assured that his sacrifice will not be forgotten. He loved you Johnathon, even if at times it seemed he did not, he loved you with all the strength in his heart, and he was a good man. I pray you shall not forget him, and that the memories of your time together will stay with you always, because I know they shall always stay with me. I hope to see you again very soon, stay strong my son. Yours sincerely, your mother, Margret.” Penny kept her tone bland throughout reading the letter, but Johnathon could hear his mother’s voice breaking in the back of his mind, as though it were her, and not Penny, reciting the words.

Johnathon saw his father in his mind. The tall, well-built man with hair blacker than black, and a heart overflowing with emotions. He’d never seen much of this man, but when he had, he had only seen the good.

“Here Johnathon” Sally passed him a handkerchief. Johnathon hadn’t realised he had been crying, yet the cloth was damp when he was finished drying his cheeks. Johnathon stuffed it in his pocket for later.

“I’m gonna head down to the farm now” Adam backed away.

“I’ll do the dishes” Penny decided.

“I’ll help” Sally followed her.

“I have um, homework to, uh, do” Peter fumbled upstairs.

Johnathon used their awkward absences as an opportunity. He crept towards the door, scrunching up the letter and shoving it into his other pocket. He cast a glance back at his second family, and shut the door softly behind himself. He would come back later, but not until he was ready to face them.

With the cold morning breeze and icy droplets of rain attacking his skin, Johnathon felt free, powerful, but also…alone. He locked his eyes forward, and with nothing else to do, he ran. He ran faster than he’d ever run before, and he didn’t stop. He shut his eyes to stop the wind from drying them, and took deep breaths in and out as he sprinted along. It felt so right, as if all he was meant to do in life was run, and never stop running. He didn’t even care where he was going, as long as he was going there running. He did eventually stop, pausing to check where he’d run too, and he froze.

He was in the centre, he’d run a good eight miles in less than two minutes. Johnathon looked around, trying to figure out which part he was in. He walked with his head up to try and spot signposts, and not on his feet, which led to him tripping over a rock on the pavement. When he regained himself, he got another surprise.

“You lost Johnathon?” Erebus grinned, brushing off the gravel from his shirt.

“A little, yes” Johnathon confessed, glad to see a familiar face.

“Where’s the rest of the Dews?” Erebus asked, searching the streets for one of them.

“They’re not here, I came alone” Johnathon told him. Erebus looked at him, confused. “I ran” Johnathon added. Erebus’s frown turned into a massive grin, as he began to laugh. He didn’t stop for a while either, is glee was so obvious it was almost irritating.

“Oh my little Johnathon, you’re growing up, aren’t you?” He spoke between his chuckles.

“I don’t understand…” Johnathon trailed off.

“How old are you now? Three? Three and a half? That’s about the time I started too I suppose, it was a month or so before my forth birthday…Oh this is brilliant!” Erebus kept on gabbling. Johnathon took a step back, he’d never seen Erebus ramble on in such a way.

“What’s going on? What are you talking about?” Johnathon pestered him with questions. Erebus stopped laughing, and straightened his face, kneeling down to Johnathon’s level.

“Can you do something for me Johnathon? Can you shut your eyes, and run as fast as you can, but only for one second, just one second. Got it?” Erebus begged him.

“Yes” Johnathon agreed, turning straight. He shut his eyes, trusting Erebus, and ran. He counted ‘one’ in his head, then stopped. When he opened his eyes he was on the other side of the alleyway.

“Turn around” Erebus called over to him. Johnathon did so, and was taken aback. In that single second, he’d ran at least one kilometre. “Run back” Erebus instructed. Johnathon ran again, this time with his eyes open, and he ran in awe. As he ran at an impossible speed, the world around him did the same, except when he focused on a single object, in which case the object slowed down for him to examine, even if Johnathon’s pace didn’t slow. After one second, Johnathon was back besides Erebus.

“I can sprint like you can,” he looked up at him, “I’m fast like you are”.

“Yes you are” Erebus nodded, picking him up and spinning him around. Once back on the ground, Johnathon had a new thought.

“What are we Erebus?” He quizzed him, assuming he’d know the answer.

“We’re the same Johnathon, you and I, we’re the same” Erebus smiled. Johnathon was about to smile to, then he remembered the reason he’d left the house in the first place. He turned away from Erebus, retrieving the handkerchief to dry the tears before they even fell. “You alright?” Erebus checked, concerned.

“My dad…I found out today he died in the war” Johnathon confessed, still not turning to face him. Erebus was silent for a moment, before he spoke again.

“That’s okay Johnathon, I’ll be your new dad”.

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