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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65. Chapter 64

Johnathon woke up with a purple neck.

The dramatic contrast that the deep plum colour posed to his bright white skin made it even more unbearable to look at. It was decorated distastefully with tiny black spheres, which scattered like freckles across his skin. It spread out into an ugly splodge shape, and merged with his paler skin across a pink horizon.

Looking in the mirror made Johnathon feel broken. The sight of the painful purple bruise made him want to fall to the ground. His eyes didn’t help either. Their jewel green colour glistened with the memory of the night before, reflecting back the defeat to Johnathon, piercing his confidence like a knife. He came to the dehumanizing realisation that he could have died the night before, and that had he done so, he would have died incomplete. Despite being given immortality, and having lived sixty-four years, he still hadn’t gotten around to sorting his life out.

The only thing that drove Johnathon away from the mirror was the fact that it was already mid-day, and he was yet to pick up Dmitri from Bethany’s house. So he got dressed into his unironed clothes, pulling the collar of his shirt up to hide his neck, and heading out to regain his son.

Bethany of course, was completely forgiving and made light of his lateness, claiming it was ‘no trouble whatsoever’. She even invited him in for a cup of tea, but he declined her kind offer, he wasn’t in the mood for chit chat that morning, not matter how warm and welcoming Bethany was towards him. So instead, he took Dmitri from her, placing him inside the baby stroller and wandering back off in the direction of home. He got around a quarter of the way there before he heard a firm cough behind him. He turned around slowly, expecting to see Erebus behind him, instead, he saw Eloise.

“Good morning.” She approached him, her tone upsettingly formal. Johnathon sighed, not awake enough for that conversation.

“Eloise, I-”

“I’m not angry Johnathon.” She cut him off. Johnathon froze, taken aback. How could she not be angry? She’d just found out that Johnathon had left Chloe to die...and yet, she acted as if nothing were wrong.

“If you’re not angry, then how do you feel?” Johnathon asked, curious as to Eloise’s true motives. Eloise’s shoulders sank, and she looked up at him with heavy and tired eyes.

“Upset.” She confessed, beginning to well up, “And disappointed and lost and exhausted,” she began to shake her head, her words merging as she began to cry, “Why? Why did you do it Johnathon? You and Chloe were friends...I-I thought you were anyway, she certainly thought you were too.”

“Why isn’t exactly easy to explain, and it’s not really a conversation to be had in the middle of a pavement.” Johnathon winced, “How about you come with me back to the houseboat?”

“No, no… not the houseboat,” Eloise shook her head, “How about the park? I’d like to show you something there.” Johnathon nodded, deciding to trust Eloise and let her take the lead. He directed her to the nearby park, he’d been there occasionally with Dmitri, but those visits were not common.

The park was fairly busy at that time of day, lots of people were out playing at picnicking. Little children ran around at Johnathon’s feet, their arms outstretched as they pretended to be airplanes zooming through the clouds, or their hands to the ground as they crawled like cunning lions. Adults chased after them in vain, unable to keep up with the imagination of youth, yelling about sun lotion and staying hydrated as if it wasn’t all just going in one ear and out the other. It was a typical scene, and yet, a beautiful one.

Eloise and Johnathon took a seat on a nearby bench, pausing for a moment to let the sunlight sink into their skin and the breeze cool their moods. Just for one second, the world stood still, before they had to press play again.

“Start talking.” Eloise instructed, done with waiting around.

“Well, I’m not really sure what to say.” Johnathon confessed, “I know nothing I could say will ever justify what I did in your eyes. The reason why I did it is simple though, I thought she’d hurt Adele. The morning you came to see us Erebus came up to my room and told me about the plan, I refused at first, but then he suggested it would be a good opportunity to question Chloe about the night she found Adele...he made it sound like she had something to hide, so I decided to come along so I could ask her. I did ask her, and she, of course, denied it. Then the hunters came out, we killed one, but one was crafty, he got a hold of her and-well, let’s just say I could have saved her, but I didn’t, because I thought she might have hurt Adele.” Johnathon stopped for a moment to let it all sink in, after all, it was a lot of information all at once, “Then it turned out that Erebus was the one who attacked her, and I could have come clean after that, but it had been a while since she’d died...and everyone had moved on, so I kept quiet.”

“Erebus manipulated you.” Eloise shook her head, with her voice shaking at a much faster pace.

“Essentially, yes. He cleared his name by accusing someone else.” Johnathon agreed.

“No, I don’t mean about being accused of attacking Adele, I highly doubt he really cared about that. What he really wanted, and what he still wants, is power. He wanted the leadership, and Chloe stood in his way. He used you to remove her, so that he could take over, but instead…”

“I took over.” Johnathon realised, everything suddenly becoming clear to him. “That’s what Erebus has wanted all along, my job, I just didn’t think that he wanted it before it was mine.”

“Last night was different though,” Eloise pointed out, “Last night he showed us a different side to himself...and so did you.” Johnathon sat up, his attention peaked. Eloise turned to look directly at him, her expression curious. “I’ve often wondered, what is it like to be guiltless?” Johnathon chuckled, amused by the question.

“You tell me.” He lounged back, treating the question like a joke.

“I don’t understand…”

“You can’t do anything wrong Eloise!” Johnathon exclaimed, “You know no more about guilt than I do. Neither one of us are ever going to experience it.”

“What do you mean? I have guilt.” Eloise reminded him.

“You may have it, but you’ll never feel it. How could you? Everything you do it right. That’s the thing about us Eloise, I was born without guilt, you were born with no need for it.” Johnathon explained, Eloise listened, and nodded as she did so, finally beginning to understand.

“Look around Johnathon, what do you see?” She changed the topic, leaning forward. Johnathon looked, but nothing in particular stood out to him.

“I see children playing, and adults running after them.” He stated simply. Eloise smiled in response, slightly amused.

“I don’t.” She grinned, “You see that boy over there, on the swing?” She pointed as she spoke, and Johnathon nodded, “He’s a songbird, and he wants to sing about everything he sees,” Eloise sighed, as if the sight of his Soul filled her with pride, “And the girl reading in the corner, she’s a Knowledge Soul. The twins over there on the climbing equipment are wild, and there’s even a young Dark Soul playing duck duck goose...don’t you see Johnathon? Don’t you see how magical it all is? I used to see barely anything, but now there’s so much more, and it’s just so beautiful!”

“You really care, don’t you?” Johnathon too, was no smiling.

“Of course I do. Seeing all of this makes me so proud, who knows what I’ll be seeing in years to come?” Eloise was getting excited, which was something she rarely did, and to see it made Johnathon’s smile grow even wider. “I don’t want to live in the past anymore Johnathon,” Eloise relaxed once more, leaning back in the bench, “I want to live in the present, and I want to live for the future.”

“Thank you.” Johnathon bowed his head, grateful for the gesture.

“I’m not doing this for you,” Eloise shook her head, “I’m doing it for everyone.” Johnathon nodded, understanding what she meant fully. He got up from the bench, and began to push the stroller back towards the houseboat, deciding to leave Eloise alone so she could spend more time dreaming of the future.

He arrived home, took Dmitri upstairs for a nap, and headed back down to enjoy some alone time himself. After all, he too needed to live in the present rather than the past. Unfortunately, when he got to the sofa, he found it already occupied.

“Finally,” Erebus sighed, “I had to let myself in. Now, let’s get this over with.”

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