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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8. Chapter 7

After that day, everything changed for Johnathon. His eyes were opened to new talents he never knew he had, and though Erebus still kept some things from him, Johnathon was so caught up in the moment that he didn’t even care. Just over two years past, the war still infected within them. In that time Johnathon grew up under Erebus’s influence. Erebus went from the curious 13 year old that Johnathon had first met at the start of the war, to a confident 16 year old who spoke his mind. Johnathon grew up into a boy who almost forgot he ever had a birthfather.

11th January 1943:

“Happy Birthday Johnathon!” Everyone jeered as he entered through the doorway. He’d been down on the farm with Adam and Peter, now he was slightly older, he was allowed to lend a helping hand if he wanted to. Johnathon grinned, enjoying the attention. There was no cake, due to tough rationing, but there was some bunting and ribbon, left over from previous celebrations. He looked around the room, Sally, Penny, and Erebus were there, no-one else, besides Adam and Peter who were stood behind him. Erebus had become a big part of Johnathon’s life over the following two years after his dad’s death, and the Dews had noticed this. Sally loved it, she enjoyed Erebus’s company. Johnathon could still remember the day Erebus became his new role model as if it were yesterday, and not over two years ago.

“I was born on the 5th of August 1929” Erebus told Johnathon, they were walking back to the Dew household together after Johnathon had proven his speed, “Of completely normal parentage. My mother, Elizabeth, worked as a florist, and my father, Robert, was the town postman. I’d always felt a little different from everyone else, for one reason in particular, I never said sorry. Most boys would bump into someone, or trip someone up, or insult someone, and automatically apologise thereafter, yet I never did. I never felt sorry for these actions, I never felt regret, I never felt guilt. I’d always been stronger than other boys my age too, some people called a freak because of it, and just before I my forth birthday, I discovered I could run faster too. I was going for a walk to clear my head after being scolded by my parents for breaking some antique by accident, and I felt this urge to run. Like it would help relieve the stress or something. Anyway, I ran, I ran and ran and ran, for absolutely ages. When I stopped I realised I’d ran quite far in a small space of time, it seemed beyond human ability. I tested my theory, and I found I had this gift of super speed.” Erebus paused, as if re-living the memory, “We’re alike, you and I, we both have a supernatural speed, strength, and an inability to apologise”.

“But why?” Johnathon asked.

“I have no idea” Erebus answered honestly, “We’re just lucky I suppose”.

Lucky. Johnathon felt lucky. He had someone like him, someone who understood what it was like, someone who looked out for him, who stood by his side.

“Here, I made you a little something” Penny handed him over a parcel wrapped in brown paper and string. Johnathon tore away at it, eager to see what was inside. He saw a small bundle of wool, and lifted it up to discover it was a scarf, knitted with brown and black wool. He had to admit, it could’ve been a lot uglier… it was actually quite nice.

“Thank you” he smiled up at her.

“Well it’s not every day a boy turns six” she hugged him, “I still remember back when you first came to us, just two years old. A whole four years you’ve been here, time goes so fast…” She rambled on.

“I got you something too” Erebus announced, passing over an envelope. Johnathon ripped it open and read the message inside the card.

To Johnathon
Happy sixth birthday! Have a great year.
From Erebus

Johnathon gave him a small grin, though he was a little disappointed at the plain nature of the message. He looked up at Erebus to thank him, and Erebus’s eyes darted down, signalling for his to do the same. Johnathon’s grin grew when he saw the hidden note written on the inside of the envelope.

Want to have some fun tonight? Meet me outside the house at 6pm.

Johnathon gave Erebus a subtle nod, accepting his invitation. He went over and placed the card on the mantelpiece, slipping the envelope into his pocket.

“What a lovely card Erebus, thank you” Penny poured him a glass of water.

“Yes, it was awfully kind of you” Sally moved closer to him. Erebus walked over to Penny, collecting the glass and not moving back to where he’d previously stood. Sally’s shoulders slumped, and she went over to stand beside her father.

“Oh! This came for you in the post” Adam remembered, retrieving a letter from his pocket. Johnathon snatched it, curious. He slid open the envelope and read the letter encased inside, glad he had finally learn how to read.

To my dearest Johnathon,

It pains me that I haven’t been able to see you transition from baby to boy, and I hope you know just how much I miss you. Hopefully we shall see each other soon, this war cannot last forever after all. Happy sixth birthday my son! Maybe this time next year me and you will be together at last, celebrating your seventh? I certainly hope so…

Yours sincerely,

Your mother, Margret.

Johnathon felt a twang of sadness as he read his mother’s letter, because truth be told, he missed her too. He could barely remember what she looked like, yet he still felt lost without her guidance. He folded it neatly, and left it on the mantelpiece, beside Erebus’s card.

“I want to write a reply” he decided.

“Alright” Penny agreed, fetching him a piece of paper and a pen. Johnathon had learnt to read and write at school, and though his writing was not perfect, he knew enough to scribe a response.

To mum,

Thank you for your letter, I feel the same way. I will see you soon I hope. I have a nice family here, and a friend called Erebus who is very kind to me. I love you.

-Johnathon

It was short, but it was enough. Penny read it through and promised to post it the next morning.  Johnathon beamed, feeling like it really was his birthday for the first time that day.

“Alright Johnathon, and Peter for that matter, it’s nearly six o’clock, you should both go and change into your pyjamas, maybe even go to bed.” Penny urged them up the stairs. Just before Erebus became out of sight to Johnathon, he turned around and cast him a wink, Johnathon winked back, still smiling. 

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