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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61. Chapter 60

“What are we doing here Erebus?” Johnathon got to the point. He’d followed Erebus to a different room, one smaller so they could talk privately, but he still had no clue why he had.

“Talking.” Erebus stated simply, taking a seat and putting his feet up on a nearby table. After a few more seconds of silence, Johnathon spoke again.

“...no we’re not. We’re just silently waiting for the other to make the first move.” Johnathon corrected him, pointing out the awkward atmosphere and shooting the elephant in the room dead for good.

“But you just talked.” Erebus pointed out.

“Yeah, because you weren’t saying anything.” Johnathon argued.

“See. You did it again. One person speaking after the other, talking. We’re talking.”

“Barely.”

“See, you talked.”

“But-”

“Talking away…”

“Can you just-”

“You just can’t shut up, can you?”

Will you give me a chance to speak please!” Johnathon screeched, losing his temper and glaring at Erebus. He wasn’t in the mood for Erebus’s games, not that day. Erebus barely reacted, as if he’d been expecting the outburst. Johnathon turned around, banging his head shiftly once against the wall, sighing heavily. “What are we doing here Erebus?” He repeated the original question.

“Not we - you.” Erebus spoke slowly and calmly, juxtaposing Johnathon’s previous yell with an eery effect, “You could have told me to take a long walk of a short cliff when you saw me back then, but you didn’t. I mean, surely you’d rather be with all the other leaders right now? After all, you’re sort of a family...but you’re not with them, you’re with me.” Erebus took his feet off the table, and beaconed for Johnathon to sit down, he did as told, and Erebus leaned in to look him directly in the eye. “I’ve known you since you were two years old Johnathon Ignes. I’ve seen you at your best, and at your worst. I’ve been following you all your life, like a shadow. On your sunny days I’m there to remind you that I exist, and on the cold ones...well, you don’t need reminding then, do you? Is this a sunny day Johnathon? Am I here to remind you of the darkness whilst you celebrate your son’s birth? Or is this the freezing cold day that your wife left you? In which case, why are you here? If it’s a cold day, then why do you need me?” Johnathon let his words sink in, like lemon to an open cut, wondering if there was indeed any truth inside them. There was some logic in what he’d said, after all, why wasn’t he beside those he trusted most? Why, on possibly the worst day of his life, was he wallowing in his shadow?

“Because I want it to be colder.” Johnathon realised. “I want to make myself feel worse, I want to break every last piece of hope inside me...I want to suffer.” Johnathon looked up to the ceiling, “What is this?”

“Heartbreak.” Erebus stated, “Quite similar to guilt I’m told, but worse. Guilt is when you don’t want it to be your fault, because then the pain can go. Heartbreak is when you want it to be your fault, because you never want the pain to end, you never want to forget how much you’ve suffered.”

“So do your job.” Johnathon begged him, “Make me feel worse, make me feel worthless and weak and pathetic and cruel...destroy every spark of light inside my soul...destroy me.”

Erebus sat up from his seat and walked over to Johnathon, who also stood up, his posture firm and ready. He moved so close to him that Johnathon could feel his breaths against his cheek. He raised his arm up, extending it backwards, ready to hit.

Then, he released it.

His arm swung towards Johnathon at an impossible speed, sure to hit him with a great force...and then finally collided

...with his back.

Erebus’s arm forced Johnathon forward into a hug, wrapping around him firmly.

“Don’t tell me what to do.” He whispered in Johnathon’s ear, gently rubbing his back. Johnathon, surprised by the gesture, relaxed into his hold. He only realised that he was crying when he felt Erebus’ shirt go damp under his chin. “Listen to me Johnathon, because what I’m about to say is important, and something you may never hear me say again. I want to help you. I want to stand by your side again, you and me, an insanely strong pair. I want you to get over this, like you always seem to somehow do, and move on with your ridiculously dramatic life. I know it will be hard, and I know there’s a part of you that doesn’t even want to try, but I’m not going to let you give up until you succeed.”

You want to help me?” Johnathon checked, not quite believing what he had just heard. In all the years he’d known him, Johnathon couldn’t recall a single selfless act on Erebus’s behalf. He was easily the most self-absorbed, narcissistic, and selfish man he knew.

Erebus released Johnathon from the hug, and the two men stood apart staring at eachother.

“You’ve got a lot on those hands Johnny boy.” Erebus shrugged, “A dark past, a straining leadership, a newborn son, a dead wife...an annoying ex-friend who won’t leave you alone. I want to help you handle it all, you’ll certainly need help from now on, raising your son won’t be easy.”

“Why?” Johnathon suddenly thought, both concerned and confused over Erebus’s motive.

“Why isn’t important.” Erebus replied quickly, “I have something for you, well, for Dmitri really.” Johnathon looked up, interested. Erebus handed him a small piece of notepaper, covered in Adele’s handwriting. Johnathon unfolded it to reveal a note.

To my beautiful child,

I know you are probably reading this without me at your side, and it pains me to write that. I know that if you are anything like your father that your heart will swell over my death, and that you will probably blame yourself. If you have guilt, it will be your curse. This is my attempt to help you ease the pain. I would give anything for us both to survive this, but only one of us can, that is the cold hard truth, and I hope it is you who lives. I want you to have everything in life, immortal or not, go for what you want and chase your dreams, even if they don’t slow down at first, they will tire soon enough. I have always wanted to have a child with the man I love, and my wish has been granted with you. My goal in life has been scored, and though I would like to have a new one, at least this one is over and done with. I know Johnathon is going mental over the pain of losing one of us, and when you are old enough to understand why, I need you to help him, he may have a good heart, but he is still dark by nature and I fear what my death may do to him. Please don’t hate yourself for this, I have turned down abortion countless times, this is my choice.

Yours,

Mum x.

The words were so typically ‘Adele’ that, to Johnathon, it felt as though she was there in the room reciting them. He realised that, if he had been able to read Adele’s mind during the pregnancy, then this is what he would have found, and it struck a fine chord in his heart, causing his chest to ache heavily as he read this.

“How did you get this?” He murmured to Erebus.

“She gave it to me, told me to hand it over when the time was right’.” Erebus explained.

“Why you? Why not me?” He quizzed him, unsure of why Adele would trust Erebus over himself with such an important note.

“I suppose she thought you wouldn’t like it, the way she was accepting her death that is, not the note itself. I mean, you do have a tendency to throw tantrums sometimes, one slip over the edge and that letter could have ended up in the fireplace.” Erebus guessed, his tone casual, as if he were discussing what he had for lunch. Johnathon folded up the piece of paper and placed it in his pocket, deciding to store it in a safe place when he got home, and later hand it over to his son.

Just then, out of the blue, Erebus began to chuckle.

“What is it?” Johnathon asked, too tired for humour.

“I won.” Erebus announced, a small smile on hips lips but a lost look on in his eyes.

“Really? I’m not in the mood…” Johnathon trailed off. He knew Erebus had always felt rivaled by Adele, but at that point in time, he couldn’t care less who the victor was.

“Sorry” Erebus joked. A second or so later Johnathon gave in, and cried his heart out with his head in his hands, not knowing when or if he would stop. To his surprise, he felt a hand on his back push him gently towards the owner’s chest, and Erebus’s voice murmur comforts into his ear.

“It’s going to be okay, you’ll get through this, you’re a survivor, you’re a dad now…”

And the words didn’t stop, they kept on coming, until the tears fell no more.

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