Chapter 1, Scene 1

Chapter 1, Scene 1

An Origin and Some Profanity

Three friends sat in chairs around a desk, preparing for an “incredible” story to be told. It wasn’t going to be much of a story, and the narrator knew it. But he couldn’t let that be without a touch of flair, right? With a mysterious tinge to his delivery that would pay off in a few minutes, the narrator began the tale of his rebirth as an ineffective god:

It was the middle of the night in Davranis Central, and a small crowd was shaking off the after-hypnosis haze of having been involuntarily made to do some necessary street repairs. The people, men and women of varying qualified ages, were chatting and milling about, doing their best to pretend like they hadn’t all basically been kidnapped from whatever they were doing. One man had a smudge of red, chunky sauce on an otherwise clean light-brown shirt - he may have been eating dinner nearby a few hours ago when he got roped in, spilling something on his way out.

A dark-skinned, wooly-headed, ten-year-old boy stood quietly next a closed sandwich shop, his form hidden in the shadows between two streetlights. He looked at the lingering crowd for a few minutes as they got their heads on straight. His heart sank when their delaying ended and everyone started walking away in different directions. The boy had been hoping someone would come get him, take him to where he belonged, call out his name, whatever it may be. The last handful of people left together, headed for the all-night bar down the street to drink away the actual and imagined stains of forced labor.

“No kidding,” said one of the listeners, oblivious of the fact that he was interrupting. “I was taken once, only once, and immediately got shit-faced.”

“A minute in and you’re already cutting in. Are you kidding me?” asked the narrator.

“What? I’m just commenting, being an excited audience member.”

A woman with a husky voice, the third person in the present-day room, piped in. “Audience members are typically quiet. So be quiet.”

“Fine, fine,” said the male listener, “I’ll zip it. Well? Go on.”

The narrator cleared his throat and got back to his story.

As a mild rain came down, the boy sat on the edge of the sidewalk, this time under the light of a lamp. He was far too young to be taken by the Social Cypher for anything at all, but here he was. His arms and legs ached, a stinging soreness in all his extremities from the work he was made to do. Worse, he couldn’t remember where to go now, who he was, who cared for him. He thought he recognized the names of streets on signs he could see, felt a familiarity with the arrangement of stores and short apartment buildings, but nothing else. So he didn’t go anywhere at all. The boy sat there and cried as his confusion circled around and around in his mind. When the rain began to fall heavier, he still didn’t move, and let his tears join the falling drops while his body shook from the cold and his sobs.

“Wow, that’s super sad…”

The woman sighed meaningfully, shuffled some paperwork, and the narrator tapped the table with an admonishing finger.

“Sorry, sorry.” An apologetic wave meant the story could continue.

The boy cried aloud until his throat was sore from it, then made himself sob quietly so it wouldn’t hurt so much. A little while after that, he couldn’t tell how long, he heard footsteps. The sound was growing in clarity, getting closer. It was a different noise than a sleeping city, rain hitting concrete, or his own misery. The steps made him finally open his eyes, which hurt like his throat by this point.

His tear-blurred vision registered three people across the street, not wearing rain gear or using umbrellas, their clothing casual and unremarkable. The three of them walked between two parked cars, both the exact same model, and strolled onto the street heading directly for him. When they were under a light near their side of the street, he saw their eyes, colored like bars of pure silver. He couldn’t remember any people important to him, anyone at all honestly, but he still knew things, had basic knowledge. Those incredible eyes belonged to Saints.

The constantly-interrupting jackass made a small noise under his breath that might have been an enthusiastic“yeaaaah.” The narrator ignored it so he could finish.

The three people - an older man, a middle-aged woman, and the middle-aged man leading them - walked until they were illuminated by the same streetlight that the boy sat under, and stayed a respectful distance away.

“Hello?” said the nervous boy after several seconds, the word cracking. Those two syllables sent needles into his throat from the pain. He didn’t recognize his own voice it as ruined as it was.

The man in the lead took the invitation and stepped forward.

“Hello, son. Are you alright?”

The boy couldn’t help it and sobbed openly again. The middle-aged man knelt on the rain slicked concrete. He put a hand on the boy’s shoulder, slowly, unsure if it would be shaken off.

“Clearly,” the man added, “you aren’t.”

“I don’t know… how to go home,” the boy said between sobs. “I don’t remember my parents.”

“Neither do I, not really. Glimpses here and there, the basic shape of a face, but nothing more. It’s terrifying, I understand. But you have a new life ahead of you, and we’ll do our best to make you part of our family.”

“I… what? Who are you?”

The middle-aged man laughed. It was bright and charming and real. “I’m a Saint. I’m sure you knew that. My name is Lonoj Ornadais.”

“What do you mean ‘I have a new life ahead?’”

“Well, you’re certainly doing better than me at this point,” Lonoj said after another, smaller laugh. “I distinctly remember throwing things. Thank you for not doing that. And by a new life, I mean a new life. Your old one has been taken from you. It’s not your fault, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.”

The boy was more confused now than earlier, and when he looked over at the other two Saints, they were calm, showing kind faces despite their strange eyes. They felt for the boy, for his situation, that was clear.

“I can’t go back?” the frightened ten-year-old asked.

Lonoj shook his head slowly, and got off his knee with a sigh. “I wished for a long time that I could, too. Many years. After becoming more and more of what I truly was, though, those feelings weren’t as strong.” He paused, scratched his head, wiped back his wet, thinning gray hair. “Ugh, I’m sorry. That was really bad wasn’t it? I had that planned in my head for an hour and it sounded terrible out loud. I’m supposed to comfort you, and I think maybe I’m screwing that up. Sorry, son.”

The older man behind Lonoj laughed, it was a throaty, delightful rumble that made the boy smile. Then the woman’s composure broke and she giggled.

“Let’s get to it,” Lonoj said through his own smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling until he got a hold of himself and made a straighter face. “I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that you’re not a normal person anymore, some kids fantasize about this, after all. Though not usually after their parents find out. From this point on, you are a Saint. There is no place for you in this world that will be truly safe on your own. Some people hate us, some worship us as gods, but in either case, you cannot learn to be what you are without help from others of your kind.”

Lonoj extended his hand, the movement gentle, and waited. The boy stared at the hand for too long of a moment. He didn’t have anything else, not anymore, and these kind people were here for him. They showed up when he was broken and were offering to put him back together as a new person. What choice did he have? If he remembered who he was, maybe he could leave them and go home? For now, he wanted to be anywhere else but this cold street, in the dark and rain.

The boy extended his own hand slowly, and took the offered one. Lonoj helped him to his feet and smiled again. “Your name will be Cosamian Dastou, and I certainly hope you’ll make it easy on me as I teach you to be the Saint you’ve been forced to become.”

Dastou sat still in the present day, waited, said nothing more. Then, he waited a little while longer, and smirked knowingly until he got what he wanted.

“Wait… There’s nothing else? Is that it?”

“No,” Dastou answered with cheeky joy. “And yes.”

Several seconds passed, and then the interrupter let his disappointment be known in the way he usually did.

“Oh, you goddamn son of a bitch!”

Next Chapter: Chapter 1, Scene 2