Sparrow

Countless people have died by his hands, an assassin once regarded as a hero but now one of the most hated people to face trial for his crimes; Genocide. The man behind the cowl? A royal heir to a large monarchy overseeing the largest empire of the world. A huge undertaking and privilege for Jonathan Sarkoen to have, but it is quickly thrown upon him unexpectedly as his father is assassinated right in front of him and the rest of the family. This huge responsibility is thrown away as John takes it upon himself to seek revenge on those who killed his beloved father... But things don't go to plan as John finds himself in a strange world stuck between his family and the people of his country. This isn't made any easier what with his harsh battle over his insanity and mental state. Is John prepared for what awaits him in the shadows of mystery? Or will it overcome him and his ambitions to find the glory which once shone over his people and its lands?

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3. Chapter 2: Into the Deep End

Nothing is permanent, even celestial bodies die... Therefore, no one can truly be sure of anything

 

-26nd of June 2033-

 

I barely slept; I couldn’t stop thinking about the firing squad pelting me with rifle rounds and my flesh shredding off of me like I had done so to others. I never got much sleep anyways; all I usually hear at night are the screams of helpless victims, being both mine and others. I tried to think of something else; to help me focus on getting some sleep. But all I’ve done for the past few years or so was hop from place to place killing those who wronged society... I kept a small book with me; it was a leather bound journal with a tally of everyone I’ve ever killed... Nineteen million four hundred and thirty two thousand six hundred and eight. 18 million of them I scratched after Angel City... in jail, the rest; about a million something I killed between leaving home and blowing the city up. I used to pride myself on how many evil people I’ve killed... now when I count the number of people I’ve saved; barely any in comparison... enough to fit on a single page.

 

I heard a sharp knocking on the door from the front door of the hotel; I got up out of bed and walked across the hotel room to the door and opened it to see Mitch staring back at me.

“Hey John, I’m here to continue our...” Mitch said dangling his laptop case as a gesture. I nodded before he continued and let him into the small hotel room I called home. It was about 9am; late for me to wake up but the only signs of it were my tired red eyes, my clothes were the same from yesterday because I didn’t bother changing last night. Mitch started pulling everything out of his case while I started making myself breakfast; a plate of toast...

“So what happened after the terrorist attack at the Memorial?” Mitch said looking at his notes. I looked at Mitch who was in his own world. I looked over to the door which was left a little open, and no one seemed to be guarding it...

“John?” Mitch said grabbing my attention.

“Sorry, just got a little distracted.” I said throwing my attention back at him.

“Just tell me what happened John...” Mitch said looking at me like he was seeing into my mind.

I ignored it and simply went on to tell the story...

 

-30th of July 2021-

 

I was at home with Malcolm and Heather; we were all outside playing hide and seek... Heather was counting while I helped Malcolm up onto the balcony to the house on the second floor.

“Quick John, get up she’s nearly done...” Malcolm said looking down at me from in between the white stone pillars of the balcony’s fencing. I climbed up the post quickly with the wall of the house as support. I swung one leg over then the other...

“No she isn’t, she’s still in the twenties...” I said looking at the window ledges that ran around the house. Heather was still counting but I knew I could make it onto the roof before she could count to fifty, “...Nah, she’ll never find us up here.” It had been a while since we had played hide and seek; mostly because Heather and I grew out of it, but it’s fun to be a kid sometimes...

“Forty one! Forty two!” Heather yelled out across the expanse of the backyard. I laid down on my stomach next to Malcolm who was trying not to giggle out loud. Everything was sort of boring and usual until I thought I saw someone pop their head over the stone wall that fenced the entire land the house sat on. I kept my eyes on the spot so I could catch the head if it popped up again, and sure enough it did but with a friend; both were just boys checking Heather out...

“Fifty!” She took her hands off her eyes and started to look for us in the garden near the pool. I got up and went inside to get something...

“John?” Malcolm whispered looking back at me grabbing a small object off mum and dad’s bed. I walked out onto the balcony and held the deodorant can behind my head ready to hurl it. Then with a great throw it spun through the air as it flew in an arc until it finally knocked one of the boys in the forehead and sending him off the wall. The other looked down at what would now be his friend starting bruise or possibly bleed. We caught eyes and I pointed at him suggesting he’d be next.

But to be honest they were lucky; we have security guards with fully automatic sub-machine guns patrolling that wall. I was amazed they actually found a window in the patrols... Until I found out how there was a window in the first place; they were all dead.

 

I heard mum scream from inside the house.

“Mum!?” I feared her demise; but it wasn’t hers... I ran into the hallway overlooking the living room where mum stood looking into the kitchen shocked and shaking. I ran down the stairs quickly and saw in the reflection of the microwave door dad’s face with a gun held against it.

“Any last words David?” It was the same sort of deep muffled voice the terrorist at the Memorial had. I quickly snuck into the small hallway that led to the back door out to the backyard. This hallway also had a door into the kitchen to my right; which I slowly opened revealing the massive coat that shrugged over the assailant. He had a mask like all the rest had; white metal with dark blue markings across it. I moved the door quickly but softly so the door wouldn’t creak at the hinges and wouldn’t bang against the counter. I ducked down to the counter and quickly moved over to the ovens which sat in a long row with the big sink in the middle.

“Why are you doing this?” Mum screamed.

“Don’t you fucking move you bitch!” He yelled violently holding his gun at her; mum didn’t flinch. She hadn’t tried anything because she was too afraid to lose dad... I wish I had the same idea; instead I slowly slipped a knife from the chopping block on the counter against the back wall. As the metal slipped from the wood tablet it managed to slip out of my grasp and clang against the floor... I froze the moment the knife fell and slammed into the concrete tiles.

“Who’s there!?” He turned around and held the gun at the counter I sat behind, “Show yourself now or I’m going fucking blow this one’s head fucking off!” I heard my father start to hold his breath...

I slowly got up from the counter with my hands above my head nearly touching the overhead utensil holders; which were holding pots, pans and ladles alike.

“You aren’t one of the security guards...” The masked man said while he held my father in a head lock, “...You must be one of his children... I guess it would be nice for you to watch your father die...” He said waving his gun around in front of me and away from dad.

“Not if I can’t help it!” I yelled throwing the large butcher’s knife from the utensil holder overhead.

“Don’t!” Mum said from the living room; but it was too late...

 

 The man quickly backed up as the knife slammed into the wooden frame of the kitchen pane-less window looking into the living room. Dad quickly threw a sharp elbow into his gut and grabbed hold of the gun slipping out of his grasp. I grabbed the knife off the ground and ran over to the two of them struggling for the weapon. Dad wasn’t a fighter; he was no match for the masked man who seemed to be pretty proficient with murder.

He kicked dad off of the gun’s grip and readied himself for me; I threw the knife across slashing his left hand which managed to grab the blade. He pulled the gun up at me as he held the knife away from me. I quickly slammed the gun with my other hand, pressing it against his arm as it fired breaking through the fridge door across the room. I put my foot behind his leg and ducked around his head butt and slammed my shoulder into his head. He grunted as his head swung back from the force and as he did so I pulled my foot back tripping him over into the counter. Dad backed off as the fight became more and more dangerous to be near; the knife was freed from his grasp and so was the gun. He aimed it at me as I leaned over him as fast as his hands could move. I swayed out the way and stabbed him in the hand as the gun fired into the ceiling. He screamed through his teeth making a sort of half-grunt, half held back scream. Then I slammed the right hand with the knife into the counter pinning it there, but his left hook I didn’t see coming. It knocked me back but not off my feet as I stepped a few paces back to regain focus. Quick as I may have been; he was faster and he managed to pull the knife out and walk the paces to me. I saw the shining silvers of the handgun and the knife but his eyeless stare was not fixed on me.

I grabbed his arm as he swung the knife for my stomach; it stopped just short of it. He ignored me up until the second later when I punched him in the stomach with the other hand. He hunched over losing strength in the arm as the pain hit him. I swung my right leg over his head and clenched his neck with the back of my knee. He recovered at about the same time I pulled the knife arm back and closer to where his neck was starting to pressure his shoulder joints severely. I quickly grabbed the other arm with my other leg; wrapping it under and keeping him from firing his gun. He was now holding me up as letting me drop would break his arm right across the shoulder and down to the elbow. And just as I was about to break his arm he turned me over and managed to slip his arm out of the hold. He ducked under my leg as it became useless and stepped back as I grabbed his arm pulling his gun down but not out of the way. He fired as I pulled it down and as noise shook me and froze me solid. The bullet ate into my lower stomach as it dug in striking a huge burning, stabbing and scarring pain, blood spewing onto the kitchen tiles below. The sting didn’t send me down like it would to most people; I stood against the pain but he was holding a semi-automatic...

 

He fired again and then it really started to hurt as it dug in right next to the last and sprayed blood once again onto the tiles below us. I held my screams back as the next bullet discharged blowing another hole into my lower stomach and more blood shedding across our lower bodies and floor. I started losing my breath as it seemed each bullet took the air out of my lungs... But he didn’t fire again as he was pre-occupied with Dad who swung a frying pan at him. He caught it easily with his knife which blocked it like a sword clashing against another sword. Dad pushed hard against him but he didn’t seem to budge. I tried to move but I could only hold my wounds and shake as the pain rattled through me. I looked up to see my father be kicked and punched down to the ground onto his hands and knees. Dad looked at me starting to cry and mouthing the words; ‘I love you.’ Then his sorrow face exploded as the bullet blew through his skull and out everywhere onto the tiles and across my chest.

“Dad!” Pain seemed to leave me as I yelled out trying to hold my father from falling over. His forehead bled out from the bullet wound over his dead and inanimate face. All at once I started to feel numb, shocked and devastated staring into his cold dead eyes...

“I admire your loyalty, throwing your own life for your father’s... But you can’t stop fate... you can only prolong it kid.” He kneeled down to me as I sat there on my knees holding my bloodied and dead father in my arms, “...Just be thankful this last bullet isn’t entering your skull. You’ve still got promise on the reigns kid, don’t spoil it... This is your last warning...” He got up and started to walk out when he saw Heather stop at the door in front of him. She saw him holding the bloody weapon and the pool of blood dad and I were in. Mum was crying in the living room unable to accept fate; she loved dad the most out of all of us... Without dad she was kind of empty, less of herself... Without her ‘better half’, half a woman, half a mother... half alive. The man walked past her and out the front door like nothing happened and Heather stood there crying calling out for dad who never responded.

 

“That... must’ve been rough...” Mitch said starting to cry, “...I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, it’s not like you could’ve done anything.” I said coldly back at him.
“Right.” Mitch said in a strange brief way, “...So was that what made you run away from home?”
“Yes...” I said with a curious tone, mostly due to his good guess, “...Not immediately; I spent about four months in hospital recovering from the gun wounds. But I was supposed to be there for six...”
“You ran from there?” Mitch said noticing my tone, “I thought it was...”
“Nope.” I said continuing...

-14th of November 2021-

It was a few minutes to midnight; I had been thinking about it ever since I got into that place... All I wanted to do was to find that man again; track him down and kill him. And ever since I attended dad’s funeral, I couldn’t stand being in a hospital bed... I couldn’t stand either; the bullets had damaged my stomach and back muscles to the point that moving them was near impossible.

But after recovering for a few months a bit of therapy I seemed to be fine but the doctors wanted me to stay a little longer just in case. Mum didn’t want me to go; she wanted me to stay home so we could all get over this together... I knew every time I saw them; there was this odd look in their eyes, all three of them as if they were hiding something from me. I found out what it was last time they visited me... in July, yes they stopped visiting me in July. I was alone for the three months after that. Why’d they stop? Well they had enough of me.

“ME! Can you fucking believe their nerves?” I shouted getting up out of the chair and frighting Mitch for a moment, “I was shot trying to save dad and they thought if I wasn’t so reckless dad might still be alive today!” I shook my head as I paced around the room, “Heather said it to me as they were leaving; ‘If you’d just stopped and thought for a moment then dad might still be alive today.’ They blamed me for his death!”
“Is that the real reason why you ran away to stop this man; to prove that you weren’t the one to blame?” Mitch said awfully like a psychiatrist.
“No...” I thought about how childish it sounded coming out of his mind, but so was my reasoning at the time, “...It wasn’t just that but for...”
“...Revenge for your father?” Mitch said with a very blunt bored tone.
“Anyways back to the story...” I said.

It bothered me a lot that they resented me for something I didn’t do, but what could I do to prove them wrong? I was stuck in a hospital bed and only got up to go to the bathroom or do partake in therapy. I was becoming restless as more and more the attacks became frequent; at first it was my father’s assassination, then there was Queen Dalia, then King Lucas and more and more royal regents were being assassinated. All of them connected to this one group and they were no longer just a personal grudge but it was my job to kill him.

“But you didn’t did you?” Mitch said smiling, “I’m sorry that was un-called for.” I shrugged it off with a tear; which I turned away to wipe off.

And after two months I was rearing to go; I knew who’d be next because they didn’t manage to kill him the first time: Harley Birchenson; CEO of Birchenson Shipping Company in Piötervik.

Yes, I wasn’t stupid; Piötervik was at least ten thousand something kilometres from the hospital (6,213 miles). And walking that distance would be both stupid and longer than time my grandfather had left... Those precious months I would much rather be doing nearly anything else... nearly, probably trade what I have right now for it.

So my most obvious move would take some form of transport that got me from here to there and not have to hand over passports, because I’d have to explain myself... Which I wasn’t really planning on doing. So I was going to take a train to Leschtershire; a small farming town on the border of Letersvik and Evergreen. And from there I’d sneak (or really walk across the border where no one was looking and catch the train in Brunwich to Piötervik).

It sounded like an easy plan but almost everything is hard when you do it on your own; that was a lesson I’m just starting to truly understand. Anyway, it was half past midnight; the hospital was still at work in the wing I was left while the room I was in had its lights out expecting me to be asleep. Of course getting up and walking out was both stupid and practically impossible I liked the other option; even though it was snowing outside.

I slowly and quietly slid the window open when I heard a set of high heeled footsteps walking toward the door. I stepped back into the bed before the nurse walked in with a tray that held a card and tinsel wrapped box. Tomorrow was my birthday; and I planned on spending it alone and seeking revenge... I kept my eyes close pretending to sleep but I couldn’t help let off a tear; and not because they got me something, because I know my family wouldn’t be visiting tomorrow.

“It’s depressing when you think about.” The nurse said looking down at me while I slept.
“What’s that now Leann?” A male voice said from somewhere beside her.
“The kid’s dad was killed right in front of him while he tried to save him...” She took a deep breath before continuing, “...And if that wasn’t enough he’s got the entire country watching and waiting for him to take the throne and all of its responsibilities.”
“But what about his mother?” The man said shocked by the news.
“By royal law she’s only allowed to act as regent while her first born isn’t able to lead the country, and he’s not ready for that yet...” She stopped again now but to sigh, “...Even so with that there’s also a good chance he may not become king at all.
“Really?” The man was just as out of touch as me.
“Yeah, why do you think his family isn’t visiting tomorrow...” She stopped to do something; probably leaning closer to whisper as she did, “...They’re going to disown him!?” I heard it and barely managed to keep my eyes shut from the shock.
“Why would they do that?” The man didn’t believe her by the sound in his voice.
“Because they’ve been putting up with his reckless actions for too long and they were going to hand him down to the Ollesian family.” She said with a slight smugness about her voice.
“Poor kid... at least he’ll be with people who still love him.” The man said with a fair amount of empathy.
“Think again, the kid must have bad luck because he’s not being taken by the Ollesian family; they won’t take him and none of the others will.” She said putting salt and vinegar over the deep emotional wound, “...He’s too old for a foster home and he’s got a bad reputation that’ll make it hard for him to get a job. He’s probably going to be homeless, a real shame too... I was hoping he’d become king; he’s what this country needs but this country’s not going to get him... And his sister a Queen sounds ridiculous...”
“...She’s studying for a degree in Physics at University right?” The man seemed unsure of one thing, but he was right and she was top her class too.
“I think so, the monarchy’s really starting to heat up now about the whole situation, because if the whole family agrees to it then John will no longer have a family...” The woman said now starting to cry, “...It’s horrible what they’re doing to him; and he doesn’t even know... It’s not fair!” She started cry uncontrollably, but unlike her I managed to keep most of it in.
“Come on now Leann; we’ve still got a job to do...” The man said escorting her out.

After that I didn’t waste a single moment; I rushed out the window and scaled across the building to a nearby rooftop and ran from roof to roof. I had to stop when the tears started to make my eyes sting and my cheeks burn. I wiped them away and grunted at myself and slapped myself to pull myself together. I was still coming to terms with what was going on; I wasn’t going to be Jonathan Sarkoen; I was becoming Jonathan. Heather wouldn’t be my sister, Malcolm my brother or Mum, my mum. It was just me and that was how it was going to be... Just me...

I managed to dress myself in clothes other than the hospital gown, I found a clothing store and out the back where old sweaters, pants, shirts, everything... Although all of them were dirty, greasy and scratchy they were better than literally nothing in that freezing weather. I wore thick clothes and wore a heavy scarf over my lower face to conceal my identity. From here on it was my journey... and there was no turning back.

 

-15th of November 2021-

 

The sun was far from rising this early in the morning, but the city never loses its life just like its nickname; ‘the city of forever’. Even though it was three in the morning people walked the streets, shops were still open with their lights on and doors open. I was nearing the massive walls that surrounded the large downtown districts of the city. The walls stood over five storeys tall and shadowed over the slightly smaller apartment buildings it surrounded. The walls were built over a thousand years ago and have undergone quite a few repairs throughout the many sieges it’s been through. I was on the Golden Road; the big 16 lane highway that travelled from the big Eastern Gate and straight to the centre of town where the old castle (which is now a museum to the family) stands.

I was just passing the massive gardens that stood in front of the gate and were only interrupted by the massive highway going through the middle. Bridges stretched across the highway to get to the other side of the gardens; each one about a few hundred metres away from the other. I was heading to the last train station in the city; which was in the residential areas outside of the walls. They weren’t like all the apartments and penthouses in the city; they were normal houses and it was in these residential areas my old family mansion stood. But it was on the Southern side of the city where all the other rich homes were.

“I’m sorry but your family didn’t abandon you right then and there, so why did you act like they had?” Mitch said stopping me at the hotel room table.
“I had the idea in the back of my head for a while after I heard less and less from the families and hearing it as a rumour pretty much validated it for me.” I said trying to get back on track, but I don’t know why I was so eager to finish the very thing keeping me alive.
“Seems a little, drastic don’t you think?” Mitch said starting to think I was lying to him.
“I thought that too...” I said to Mitch with a strange sort of empathy, “Pretty harsh right?” Mitch just nodded in silence as I continued...

It was strange no one noticing who I was, not caring about my presence; it was like I was... invisible... I loved this feeling. I was out of the city just like that and not even one person noticed me or even cared about me. I headed to the train station and bought a ticket to Leschtershire and got there at about 10 minutes to six o’clock...

There wasn’t a lot of people left heading this far out of the city this early but there was three other people; a man and his two kids. They met up with their mother who was overcome with tears of joy seeing them. I lurked away and into the main street of town which was dead except for the car the family left in. The sun was going to come up soon and I was in no rush to head across the border...

Ten minutes later and I was sitting on a grassy hill watching the horizon as the sun started to peer over it filling the land with overwhelming warmth and beauty. The beautiful reds, purples and blues shone across the flower fields; each one unfurled and blooming with the radiant light of the sun. I just stared and right then and there I felt... happy; everything that had just happened seemed to be behind me and all my worries, the anxiety of being sought after, the horrors that prowled about my mind... gone, blank and all that remained was that sight. Only I was there to witness this and I had no one to share it with; the shape my journey would take... But, despite realising this I saw the... Silver Lining the good side to it all; what a fucking idiot I was.

“Inspiration can be as misguiding as the pride it gives you...” I said to Mitch, “...Don’t make the same mistakes I made Mitchell, you’ll have a life full of regret.”
“Usually the older people have lessons to be learnt from their life stories.” Mitch said seemingly oblivious to the serious tone I was giving him; but he was right he was at least twelve years older than me.
“I guess I’ve lived a lot of life in what little I’ve had...” Mitch looked back at me and realised the message I was giving him, “...What I’m saying is don’t make your life a short one, you might want it back one day.”
“Maybe that was a sign from the blessed above?” Mitch said with a strange smirk.
“Yeah... sure...” I said getting out of the chair and walking over to the window that over looked the city streets below, “...What’s it like?”
“What’s what like?” Mitch said getting up out of the chair and walking over to me.
“Out there...” I said nodding toward the world out of the small hotel room, “...What’s the world like now?” The street was empty and dull gray; as if without any traces of life at all nor did the clouds show signs of the sun.
“You should watch your back John.” A sharp woman’s voice whispered to me from behind. I shrugged it off and kept my eyes on the world outside the hotel room.
“It’s...” Mitch stopped before he continued, “...A real mess to be honest, and it’s not looking like it’ll be getting any better.”
“Did I miss something or am I right in saying it’s my recent execution sentence?” I said turning back to Mitch who was trying to not keep eye contact.
“Well; you’re wrong...” Mitch said nervously.
“So, what happened?” I said getting suspicious of his strange attitude.
“...Still bad news for people... they still haven’t forgotten about...” Mitch said not hearing me.
“Mitch!” I yelled at him to get his attention.
“Sorry, I just went off track a bit...” He took a deep breath in and exhaled, “...Well your sister is going to take power soon, but y...” Mitch stopped realising I wasn’t legally known as her sister, “...I mean Heather is going to take power soon but her mother’s left the monarchy in shambles.” He shook his head and snapped his head back up at me with this strange determination in his eyes. “Wait a minute!” Mitch said pacing toward me.
“What?” I said looking at him with a passive amount of curiosity.
“You!” He grabbed me and shook me back and forth with this glee in his face, “...You can fix all of this!”
“Fix what?” I said looking back at the cloudy and muggy city that I once knew as a paradise where the sun shined and the people smiled.
“All of this... the economy, the people, the...” Mitch started pacing about the room, “...everything!” I sighed as he paced around with this strange amount of childish enthusiasm.
“You want me to be the monarch right?” I said looking from under my hand which grasped my forehead in disappointment.
“But that’s just it... What’s stopping you?” Mitch really didn’t seem to get it.

“You realise that I can’t become king because I’m not in the royal family.” I said sitting back down in the chair facing away from him and into the small kitchen the hotel room was attached to.
“No...” He said walking into my eyesight in front of the kitchen, “...You only have to be of royal blood.”
“Yes, and first born of the ruling family.” I said still unable to get his strange enthusiasm in a lost cause.
“I thought you were John and I’ve read the law; nothing in it says you have to be part of the family.” He said still not getting it.
“Very good; except the part where it says: “The passing of power must be accompanied by the future ruler’s guardian whom retained the title before their child. From memory I’m pretty sure I don’t actually have a mother who rules the country and Heather can only pass power onto me if she dies or emancipates herself from the family...” Mitch was about to speak but I cut him off before he could begin, “...Even if I could get back into the family and make Heather give me the throne I would still have to make sure Malcolm would accept and... so would Lynda.” Mitch stopped and realised the tone I had used to say mum’s name.
“What about a coup?” Mitch said with a strange amount of determination it was almost creepy.
“Wait, are you a loyalist?” I said looking at him which seemed to already answer the question.
“Who isn’t in this city; you and many others think you should be in power... Or at least they thought you should be.” Mitch said awkwardly.
“Why do you still think I belong in power?” I said looking at Mitch who was getting closer now starting to lean over me.
“You don’t know what he’s thinking.” The sharp whispers came again which I ignored once more.
“Who else should rule the country? Who better? The person who was taught by his father, one of the greatest rulers ever known and his first born who he prepared for this very scenario...” Mitch said making some big speech about it, “...you John. No one could do it better. The banners haven’t been flying for a long time and no one’s been happy with the monarchy for a long time.”
“Do you think they’ll ever forgive me?” I said looking down at the empty glass cup.
“Who?” Mitch said from beside me.
“My old family.” I said starting to remember the best parts of my old life.
“Yes, and I know that...” Mitch said getting back to his chair, “...They’ve been waiting for you to turn up but they thought you were dead.”
“Technically I am.” I said to Mitch from across the table.

“About a week ago they thought they’d killed you by neglecting you and forcing you out of their lives...” Mitch said, “...So, I guess it’s you who should be forgiving them, or not. I mean they did disown you and the last few years of your life are pretty much their fault.” That sounded like a scapegoat that a coward would take to me.

“No, I ran away and it was my own two feet that took me from the hospital. My fault I ran away; not theirs and like I said; I probably would’ve disowned myself after they found out what they did.” I said stopping Mitch and walking toward the door, “And I think that we should call it a day and leave it there.” I said as I swung the door open showing the two armed guards in the hallway with their backs turned.

“You sure? It’s not even twelve.” Mitch said gesturing at the digital clock on the end table next to the bed which read: 11:08AM.

“Might as well have company for the rest of the day...” I said as I walked back to the table, “...I’ll continue off from the hill...”

 

-15th of November 2021-

 

“Happy Birthday me...” Getting up in a cheery verging on depressed mood I spoke to myself. The border between the countries was guarded at roads and not anywhere else; mostly because the countries had good standings with one another and still do actually. Honestly all I had to do was just walk through a valley and that was it I was across the border and civilisation wasn’t too far away; just another hours walk.

 

“The town of Harrisburg; population 382...” I said reading off the town sign on the side of the highway, “...I wonder if the railway system here can take me to Piötervik.”

“From what I hear it can.” Startled, I jumped hearing the man’s voice, turning back to see him “Sorry there did I spook you?” The man laughed holding his gut as he did so.

“Yeah a bit...” Holding my own gut but only to make my lungs keep breathing.

“The name’s Gus.” The friendly man held his hand out at me. He was a poorly shaven man with a furry moustache and a fair amount of head hair. All of his hair was a dark brown like a sturdy wood or wet mud. He was a bit overweight and flabby in build; but he was charming nevertheless. He was wearing shorts and a light shirt that seemed appropriate for the warm weather here, but his leg hairs definitely weren’t. He was also carrying a large camping backpack and sporting a fine trilby atop his thick wavy hair.

“Nice to meet you Gus, I’m...” Hesitating for a moment to think of a name, “...Smith.”

“Well nice to meet you Smith...” He said not noticing my awkward pause, but rather noticed the scarf more that covered my face, “...Cold huh?” At first I didn’t know what he was talking about, giving a tilt of the head and a confused stare, but quickly got onto it without a word uttered. Only after I went with it;

“Oh, yeah...” I said crossing my arms as if it were cold... But it was indeed a sunny day.

“You from here?” Gus said holding onto the straps on his backpack.

“No, I’m hitchhiking too.” I said looking around at the open scenery. I turned around and looked back at the small town just down the road.

“That’s good...” Gus said in a strange voice behind me, “... Want to have a beer in town?” Seemed as though the strange tone was a slip of the tongue or something...

“Sure..” Turning back to him I smile as we walk into town...

We found ourselves walking into a quiet bar in town; a few men sipping away at some liquor... Not much of a scene; the place was ancient almost like the people there... The wood was all dusted and old, the place was just made of wood but it had a charm to it. Not a good charm, but a charm nonetheless...

 

“Come on Smith... Pull up a seat” Gus sat down gesturing to the stool beside him... Looking at the seat I felt like there was some great power on it that dared me to sit,
“Smith?” Gus said looking up at my eyes as they continued to stare...

 

For a few moments I continued to stare before taking up the seat...
“Yeah I’m here...” I sat next to him looking up at the television already broadcasting the morning news
“So Smith, which way you travelling?” Gus turned to me as the bartender walked up to us;
“What’ll it be?” Cocking one side of his mouth up in a poor attempt to force a smile unlike Gus’ bright genuine smile he gave the man replying to him with;
“Good sir I’ll have some whisky... Black Dodger if you have it, the bottle me and my friend here will be drink so get two glasses please...” He was making a funny accent; some poor impersonation of a noble posh royal that just made me smile and laugh a little. Odd because it was my first genuine smile for a while...
“Yeah... Let’s drink!” Smiling I take the glass with my left hand as it was set down and the bottle was fetched.
“Ha, let’s...” As he began pouring our drinks he asked me the question once again, “So, where are you headed anyways?”

“Oh, well...” It was like classified information so I just stretched the awkward hold turning to look at the TV;

“Last night Jonathan Sarkoen went missing from his hospital room in the state hospital in downtown Crestfall... His whereabouts are unknown but it is believed tha-”

“Smith?” Gus said grabbing my attention again...
“Oh yeah sorry about that... Just got distracted is all”
“Don’t worry about it, just drink up!” He said shortly after downing the whole shot glass shaking his head and pouring himself another glass...
Although when I took the drink I cringed at the funny taste swallowing it down still. The taste like a sour vinegar solution that ran coarse down my throat...
“Ugh what is that stuff?”
“Black Dodger... It tastes funny when you start but it gets better the next time you take it, trust me” He smiled brightly pouring me another glass...
“Well alright” Taking the glass and downing it and genuinely surprised; it now seemed to taste sour, bitter and with a strong sense of barley...
“Wow!” Looking back into the empty glass swirling the last amount of liquid at the bottom of the glass before looking back to Gus who was smirking and nodding...

The evening ran past me; we talked, we drank and we had fun... It was so odd, it’d been a while since I smiled like this or had fun like this. The night was a swirl of laughter, bar games, cheer, joy and more drinks.

 

Waking up in a startle that shifted the sheets and the bedside table next to me, a pain coming to my hand suddenly realising I hit my hand against the small wooden shelving unit.
“Ugh... Ow...” In some garbled voice I woke up with getting out of a poorly made bed; the sheets strewn about as if a madman set it; a bed seeming to have...
“What is that blood?” Staring at the spots on the bed but they were a darker shade, like a black-ish red; I’d seen blood before... I saw my dad again; the bullets tearing through him... Then me... The pain, the torture, with a heavy yet hollow thud I hit the floorboards as I collapsed clutching my head.
“Agh!!!” It was clear that I was experiencing a hangover... My first hangover.

 

“Smith?” That voice was familiar... At the time my head couldn’t tell who it was; except that it was coming from the bathroom.
“Who’s there?” Dazedly and clumsily I managed to haul myself up by the bedside table knocking the lampshade over unable to catch it due to my late reactions of alcohol induced idiocy.
“Hello?” It was a sharp woman’s voice whispering from behind me in the corner of the room. Turning around sharply falling to my feet as I see... No one, the corner only an arm’s reach away is empty.
“What’s wrong John?” The woman spoke with a sharp whisper again behind me as if she was on the bed.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!” Shouting out at the room I was beginning to realise I was hearing voices...
 

“Voices? In the back of your head?” Mitch said, shocked to hear so.

“Yes, something that was a shock to me as well at first.” It was like empathy but more just mutual feelings we had at that time together; like we were connecting on a level more than just conversationally.

“Interesting...” Mitch said waiting for me to continue.

“Right, well back to the story then...” Leading onto the story once again;

 

The voice had me looking around and searching; it was coming from everywhere but where I was looking.
“Why should I show myself?” The whispers sharp and feminine coming from the closet. Rushing over and opening it to reveal the small collection of clothes Gus was keeping.
“Stop playing games with me!” Shouting now I seemed to forget where I was only until...
“Smith?! What’s wrong?” Gus walked out of the bathroom with a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. Looking back at him; his ugly man hairs stretching out of his unbuttoned shirt and his flabby hairy legs sticking out of his underwear turned my morning hangover into intense nausea. That or it was the alcohol setting, either way I rushed into the bathroom hurling into the toilet bowl; the gross fluids hurling in chunks out of my stomach.
“Shit... Smith you alright?” Gus came over patting my back as threw up still brushing his teeth.
“Yeah I’m good...” Leaning back to catch my breath from the foul stench, Gus gurgled and spat in the bowl, flushing it away as I rinsed my mouth off in the sink.

 

“Well that’s a relief... I should tell you now that this shit isn’t over... You’ll probably vomit a few more times today.” Gus frowned as he patted my back leaving me in the bathroom. “First time?”
“No actually... This is weird I don’t usually get this sick...”
“That is weird...” He called out from the room as he got dressed.
“Yeah...” With a final note now clutching the sides of the bathroom counter looking up at the mirror and seeing dull gray eyes; my eyes. The look I gave myself was serious; my family betrayed me, somehow they blame me for dad’s murder... Somehow that constitutes them to disown me and strip me of my rights to the throne, my rights to a family... I was no longer a man; I was a cold shell needing purpose. Dad’s killer, would get his justice...

It was about a week later; Gus had been helping me out along my hike to Piotervik and had been a real nice friend to me as well, this whole world I was in was so different; not on the top, none of those formalities with friends I didn’t like. But she was still on my mind; Amy... She never got a goodbye from me; she’d now be completely heartbroken by all of this. Me and Gus were walking down a country road; the sun wasn’t too high, the wind was a nice cool breeze and the day itself was lovely. The grass wafted against our knees as the wind brushed it; a large plain of grass is where this road cut through. Not much more to the place than the grass; nothing was on the horizon making it a pretty remarkable place. The place felt like it was a small plane of existence on its own; nothing around us; nothing about us...

 

The two of us were laughing as we walked along; the distance seemed like nothing to us as we stepped one after the other. As the laughter died down the two of us met eyes; each of us smiling at one another;

“Been a long trip huh Gus?” Smiling at him as the sun gleamed off the grass and his chubby but charming face; an honest man’s face.
“Yeah it has Smith, but a good one.” He chuckled lightly but after hearing Smith it grew discomforting; I was lying to him and he deserved to know the truth... Ushering a few laughs before I spoke, “Hey uh Gus...” Prompting him he soon followed quickly noticing my pensive tone. “Yeah Smith?” His smiled died down with his tone to meet mine; this was going to be a serious talk and ‘m glad the two of us good sync up like we did.
“The name Smith...” Hesitating for a moment but Gus’ small smile made me push on; “...It isn’t my real name...”

He gave me a strange look; not disappointed or angry but intrigued and confused...
“Then what is your real name if you don’t mind me asking?” He was very understanding, he didn’t make me explain why I didn’t tell him in the first place; like a real friend he was just listening to me. In turn I smiled back; like our faces glowed with the warmth of the sun that hit this empty valley so to do the news...
“My name is John... Jonathan Sarkoen.” Pushing it out of my lips was a fair challenge but it was made easy when the only ears to hear it we’re Gus’.
“Wait what? Like the royal heir to the throne?” Gus was shocked; and rightfully so there was a lot of talk about me...
“Yeah that one...” Awkwardly and anxiously I spoke but Gus contained his excitement to support me;

“Hey I heard about it all, that must be rough...” Gus seemed to be pretty grim about it; more so than I thought anyone would.
“Well it’s not that bad.” Emphasizing on ‘that’ I was trying to make note to Gus that I was fine, but he brought something up...

“Well I mean; you know the whole deal with your dad... They...” Gus was hesitating now, he knew I hadn’t heard this yet; it intrigued me greatly...
“They what?” Pressing for him to continue suddenly finding us both stopping at the side of the road as a car goes past...
“They framed you for it... Killing your dad...” Gus seemed to say it with heavy conviction but it didn’t seem like something they would do, surely.
“What? That’s impossible how could they?” Hard to believe such a thing, but how could I just dismiss it without hearing him out;
 

“John...” Gus looked around quickly as if watching for someone in a massive empty plane inhabited by tall grass and possible any number of small animals hiding in it all.
“...Don’t you know that you have a bounty on your head?” Gus said whispering quietly to me, which probably wasn’t necessary at the time.
“What?!” Exasperated yet for some reason I whispered along with him.
“Look, John... They don’t want you to rule the monarchy; they do...” His eyes were pressing and alert; like we were in a sinking ship and bullets were flying over us. Confusion was all I could feel; but I was starting to feel some weight in his words.
“Who’s they?”
“John, who else would it be?” He said it as though I knew the answer, even so I let go of him realising it before he said it: “Your family John, they framed you.” His words hard and powerful; like a sledgehammer striking a wall it had all begun to collapse around me.
“But they...” My refusal was useless and cut off to by Gus who seemed already know what I was going to say before I said it...
“Yeah but they didn’t want you leading them! They wanted your sister to rule...”
Heather, it had been a long time since I’d seen her; so long I’d almost forgotten about what she looked like. Sighing in a fair disappointment, I looked back at Gus after finding my eyes had strayed to the gravel aside the road.

“John...” Hesitating before continuing only to step back and look at me boldly before continuing; “...You know, the monarchy’s just a corrupt board full of cheats, liars and tyrants... Like your father was...” Shocked to hear such a thing I struck him across the face hard sending him stumbling back into the gravel grunting as his face collided with the ground; skidding and cutting his cheek. Now I was far more shocked by what I’d done...
“Ahh fuck... I know that was kind of...” Gus groaned as the gravel shifted under him; his minute adjustments to get onto hands and knees. The gravel stuck to fresh blood across his cheek from skidding along the ground and in those sharp rocks.
“Shit I’m sorry, I just...” Stepping over to brush off his face he waved it away as he did so himself.
“John, it’s alright...” He stopped for a moment to brush himself off; the blood not pouring out it seemed fairly minor, “...You loved your father and that was a really low swing from me.”
“He was a good man Gus.” With a strong belief in the words I spoke it was however in the glint of my eye that some of the things he spoke could indeed be true...

“...At first he was, but people change John; like he had...” Gus looked back at the gravel where his body had made its impressions on the grey scattered stone... We stared into the stone as he spoke on;

Your father was at first a very good person who led with an odd compassion like you hope to achieve; but he wasn’t able to maintain this. Public opinions and people may have loved him but it was soon that foreign agenda caught up with him. The other empires; Morseli and Thane started discrepancies in the lands; riots were coming out of nowhere and anarchists started to rise up. These were spies implanting ideas and propaganda against the monarchies of Sarkoen and their underlying families. And when his benevolence failed, instead of turning on the people in power he turned on the people; he started to have his men burn propaganda and had them engage in pre-emptive strikes against traitors and terrorists. But the rampage and fire only continued to fuel the mass hysteria that followed and pretty soon it was rebels and anarchists protests and riots all over the place. It was mayhem and all the violence seemed to have turned him cold... remember “Ashes Day”?

 

Nodding back at him I chose not to speak; lest I interrupt the flow of the conversation.

Well the riots that occurred over the execution of an innocent family was quite a massive disgrace to the family... Which I can only imagine you didn’t take so well. It was David who gave the order to open fire as the protesters wouldn’t give up and instead of trying to control the fires like he promised he would... He only fuelled the fire that was violence with his own...


“Look John; I know you don’t think it’s true but you never would’ve seen it the way we have down here. Up there everything’s so far away it can be easy to lose sight of what’s really happening...” Gus spoke in a very sympathetic way, and he was kind of right...
“No, I kinda get it now; there’s always been questions in my head before about some things my father did... I guess I was just giving him the benefit of the doubt.” My eyes went wide at the shock; it was so sudden and sickening that someone I loved dearly was such a monster.
“Hey John... You ok?” I felt the warmth of his hand grasp my shoulder; I looked back into his eyes with a small blush. Awkwardly I nodded back to him, it was a very comforting feeling to have a friend like him; someone I could joke with when I was in the mood and someone I could also turn to when times got tough. He smiled back at me and patted my shoulder; his mark still there but it didn’t matter anymore... the two of us just walked off on our way down the road.

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