In Black Sheep I, as Robert, introduce this new fantasitcal world. (word count: 3777)
|A re-write of this story can be found at this link:http://royalroadl.com/fiction/4945
THE BLACK SHEEP
I find myself in the darkness, a blank void. Is this death? If it is, then I plead with you all to value your lives, for what awaits you is oblivion. First, death takes your ability to perceive the world. Each second becomes a chore as even your mind's eye grows blind. Then, your memories begin to fade; your very identity slowly disappears. My world has so many holes in it. But I persisted. I rebuilt my world, life, friends and family; weaving shadows in the blackness together. Above all else their sentiment would be maintained. I may have been incomplete, but I continued. Like in life, Father Time was the greatest foe. Time took more and more of me, I couldn’t even cry out but I persisted.
Eventually a chorus of voices broke the age of silence. “Welcome mortal,” it sang, “as per our arrangement, we will give you new life,” I wanted to question this voice and proceeded to dissect its every word, surely only God could reach me now. And yet it had said we, were there many gods, or perhaps this was only the agent of a single true God. And what is this “arrangement” I have with it. This was the first new thing and I had every intention of exploring its every implication. Then something curious occurred, before me appeared a white speck. Then the speck grew, like a white diamond against the ebony of oblivion this speck shone with incredible brilliance, spiralling out as it grew. I, being so deprived of sensation, soaked up the sprawling lights as they grew bigger and brighter.
Eventually the spiral had consumed my entire view; it appeared like a disk, with countless gas like arms flowing from its white hot core. I found my body-less self being plunged into one of these gaseous appendages. Under closer inspection the gas was made up of millions- no- trillions of insanely bright dots with incalculable scale.
Zeroing in on one such ‘speck’ where a number of worlds orbited it, one such world appeared as a blue marble. The chorus asserted “Your new life await,” the world edged closer to me “As you are no doubt aware, in this world there are many sentient species,” the appearance of eighteen men and women materialised before me, they were naked and blank, like manikins. The first pair or rather the pair furthest to the right were more or less what I expected, humans- I assume I was once human- the pair beside them appeared marginally taller with oddly long ears. The other pairs were even more dissimilar some with scales, fur, feathers or an exoskeleton. After beholding each species in turn the chorus continued “this time you may decide upon your next form,”
It wanted me to choose from a total of nine races. It would seem that even a mix of breeds was possible. In the end I made my choice and promptly found myself opening my eyelids for the first time in an age. A world of weight and temperature, bright lights and sounds became my reality. Life is truly is the greatest blessing, a miracle. I wept.
Year 1663 Month 02 Week 3 Day 08
My lungs filled with raw air, my chest ached with a level of precedence that demanded attention and my currently low tolerance for pain resulted in me screaming for it to stop. A woman, with brown flowing hair and bright green eyes, those eyes would be the first thing these eyes of mine would see. The world immediately felt too bright, too warm and too cold all at once. Voice rang and boomed around me as loudly and incoherently as thunders while my eyes was too dazed to take in any more information than they already had.
My first day of living was largely a blur, every sensation felt new to me and my new body so unaccustomed to -well- feeling that I was completely unequipped to register anything noteworthy. Though one word was repeated often enough for even my ears to pick up, "Robert".
Year 1664 Month 04 Week 5 Day 10
Today everything began to become clearer, it was actually quite exciting. I could walk and talk with a high level of success. As baby Robert and an aspiring toddler, the world has been a rather deranged mess of shapes and colours. My grey fingers where plushy sausages that seemed incapable of any menial task while my legs seemed too short and stubby to be of any real use. It would probably be a nightmare if I wasn't constantly forgetting myself, however it's in these episodes of clarity that make me feel happy to be alive.
Of course you might be wondering about that, it would seem that I have lived before however my memories of my previous life are rarely available. I would get snippets, of another life, another world. In this other world my cot was white, plastic, and varied in size -mostly depending on exactly how old I was then. Here it is wooden and instead of a sturdy and supporting mattress my only defence against the hard wood is a thick soft blanket. I have lived through one winter as of yet (at least the seasons are roughly the same) but I had never felt a winter quite like these ones. It chilled me to the bone in ways I had assumed I could be sheltered from. Then there's the smell, or rather there was the stench. Thankfully living an entire life (however short) in the stench of open waste allowed me to become accustomed; if I didn't know any better, I’d say this house was held together with shit.
Today, following my regular routine, I screamed early in the morning for the attention of my mother. As a child, I had a child's' imagination and often lacked the rationale of the adult I had once been. The dark scared me, her voice comforts me, that was all there was too it.
Later that day, after breakfast, a man- my doctor, came for a visit. Initially he had seemed to avoid me, averting his eyes as if I made him uncomfortable, however he would always visit, at least weekly. He noticed me watching him and ushered mother into the other room,
"How has it been?" the doctor asked, he always started with that question,
"ROBERT -has been fine Pastor", mother retorted, sometimes I forget pastor and doctor are one in the same in this world,
"Has -Robert- done anything to betray his better half?" the doctor's' words became mumbled and difficult to make out. They continued to converse for what I guessed to be an hour.
The Pastor came in to see me, whispering words under his breath as he approached. The prayer seemed to make him visibly sterner, stronger even. He examined me intently and I gave him a defiant look in return, then he proceeded to catch my hands staring into them like his life depended on whatever inference he could decipher, he reminded me of cliché fortune tellers, he even began to mumble again as if probing my mind for something.
Satisfied he declared himself finished and that he would return next week, mother let out a sigh when he left. Mother had been a hermit before I was born, a recluse creature by nature she had a terrible aversion to the pastor and other villagers. From what I could gather I was rather unique and this frightened the poor Pastor. He simply didn't know how to handle me. Naturally this was by my own design, but I had never intended for this to be the outcome.
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 01 Day 01
Today couldn't come sooner. I leapt out of bed and assaulted the worn out woman who slept on the other side of the room. I finished getting ready by putting on my shoes (my only pair) was a pair of blank clogs with a worn down point was on the verge of bursting but I dared not tell her, it was a birthday present and to part with them so soon was a shame.
It was still early in the morning when the pastor came, as always he knocked on the door lightly. I answered and he immediately seemed alarmed by my sudden appearance. To his credit he composed himself without a word, then with of the strength his face could muster he smiled, "Are we ready to go to school?" he asked.
"Yes, Pastor Gerald" I returned the smile, it seemed to relax him. Mother skulked into view behind him, and seeing my line of sight he glanced back to find her there. The poor man almost jumped out of his skin. With that he leads us into the village and then towards its centre, the pastor would receive the occasional nod and smile, as did mother, but not nearly as much. From what I understood mother was a hermit by choice, however realizing the villagers would need her services she moved closer for convenience, she was something of an herbalist and alchemist who had saved the village from outbreak in the past. The pastor probably wouldn't have put up with my presence if not for the village’s respect for her (being deathly afraid of her helped). That being said, having an uneducated child in their midst was deplorable and while mother was against me going to school at first - well -here we are.
The school of a complex of wooden buildings, larger than mothers shack, in fact, larger than any of the shops at the market. Being a rather small town there were, at most, four hundred students and the size of the school reflected that. Mother left me with the pastor, supposedly she has a history with a certain teacher, and he brought me to a man standing by the entrance. He gulped after seeing me and for a moment held eye contact with The Pastor, his eyes begged for mercy and I tried really hard not to be offended.
"Hello Robert," the man eventually said as if he were talking to a young man as opposed to a young boy. The tall teacher was thin, with sunken ears and a shaky voice. His jawline seemed to sink in towards his neck and his thick hair was well combed and trimmed short, revealing what seemed to be hilariously large ears (though not pointy in the slightest). He introduced himself as "Mr Safere", and he would be teaching my class.
I didn’t really pay attention to the goings on of that first day of school. At one point Mr Safere asked the class a question I all but missed and called upon a young girl to answer it.
"Laura, what event occurred at Year Zero?" he said, the girl was small, fair skinned with dull blond hair and a tiny button like noise. She clearly struggled to answer and after a moment passed and a number of answers were whispered amongst the class the whole situation felt pitifully embarrassing. Mr Safere, seeing that Laura could not answer first incited a mock scowl, clearly trying to scare the girl into remembering. It did not work. I almost wish I could help her but as a new student there were unavoidable gaps in my knowledge. Mr Safere opened up the question to the whole class and John was the first to raise his hand.
"The alliance -against the monsters." the boy said glancing at me as he said so, he was tall -compared to most- with bronze skin and dull black eyes and brown hair. The girl behind him, a brute of a child kicked his chair from behind, while Mr Safere didn't seem to notice as prepared to punish Laura for being a "dunce".
Laura received three lashings as class concluded then we were released for lunch. The others gave me a wide berth, despite my attempts to befriend them. Even John who really had no right to be picky rejected my company. So I reluctantly sat alone, ate the bread and butter that made up my packed lunch and drank the glass of milk provided by the school.
The older children attempted to bully me, at first they started with names, "grey-skin" they would call me, "half-monster" others would say. Eventually they had egged each other on enough to attack me. There were seven in all, surrounding me. The first to attack was a tall, bronze skinned boy. He leapt forward and lashed his fist at me with the force of a raging goat. His hand met my face, and my face pushed his hand back. I leaned in towards the boy, planting my foot into the ground and pushing upwards with it; my momentum drove my fist into the boy’s armpit. He fell to the ground wailing but my other assailants gathered together as if seeking strength in numbers.
“Pity, you could have beaten me if you stayed separate and attacked from all sides,” I wasn’t a child anymore, I was a predator and they were my prey. I pounced into the group, arms spread out intentionally hooking on to their collar bone and pinching their necks. The six children tripped over themselves shrieking before they had even reached the ground with me on top of the heap. I stood up ready to meet the first boy again. But several teachers had arrived.
I was promptly kicked out of the school, the Headmaster Mr Devos took great pleasure in pinching my ear, calling Mr Safere as he did so, and dragged me into the school building, through the wooden corridors and through the two largest double doors, save for the entrances. There we stood in his study.
“Hold him there,” Mr Devos roared and Mr Safere jumped to comply, he sat down on his high chair and motioned for Mr Safere to bend me over his knee. I did not make this an easy task. Successful, Mr Devos exposed my bare ass, readied his cane and proceeded to beat my rear cheeks. He grunted, constantly shifting his weight to provide better leverage with each strike, he attacked me relentlessly until his hand was too tired to hold the weapon. I was sent to wait outside, my first assailant and victim stepped into the study in my place. The noises I heard was consistent to the same treatment I was given, though not for nearly as long.
I would leave the school before the day was complete. Henry was also dismissed early holding his arm and wincing with each step, and while he gave me a positively hateful look, he seemed to know better than to strike me again. John’s appearance was an unexpected one, he seemed intent on watching the taller Henry leave, of course -the two were brothers- the resemblance was uncanny. My path quickly diverged from Henrys’ as he headed towards the farmers’ fields, between the confidence in his strength and his tanned skin it wouldn’t surprise me if he had been used to manual labour. I tried imagining the punishment his father would concoct, but in all honesty I didn’t much care for the scornful prick.
Of the nine races I have picked a mixture of the strongest, the troll, and one of the smartest, humans (I felt attached to the human race in either case). Now the result has been a being with many of the benefits of both my potential is supposedly threatening to contemplate. Nevertheless a by-product of this is that I am an outcast and a monster, Mother's reputation as an herbalist and a miracle worker protects me, but she cannot make them accept me completely.
I contemplated this as I went home, the beaten path guarded by the greenery of shrubs and bushes on either side. I was lead out of the village and to our cottage, wooden and quaint with a complex of herbs before it. I opened the door to meet my mother. Mother, already knowing my woes, hugged me on sight.
“It's alright” she said, I was awfully tired.
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 01 Day 02
I was awoken by Mother. This morning my ass was far sorer than yesterday. Up until now I had dreaded the morning as it could only remind me of the misplaced excitement I held yesterday. In another world, I’d of had friends by now, however much to my surprise Mother had taken it upon herself to educate me beyond maths and literacy.
Her undivided attention on me made for a very productive lesson. By midday she had resumed the lessons in history Mr Safere had begun, lessons on the first World Conquest.
She would read from an old book, “The High King Gilgamesh- that's the man in the grand armour carrying a flag and a spear,” she’d interject references to the many illustrations of the most amazingly garnished warrior, “was the human responsible for uniting the dwarfs and the elves against the monsters of the world”, now pointing to a map of the world, the first world map I’ve ever seen, “he was the only person to ever successfully conquer all of the world.”. Curiously the map didn’t seem complete. Only the northern hemisphere was shown, where the northernmost parts were large clusters of small islands (each less than a day's sail away from each other). On the other hand large portions of the map, nearer its centre, seemed to feed into a much larger body of land that stretched along the bottom. Then the map stops, just prior to what I’d assume was the equator. It goes without saying that at the very north was capped with an expansive frozen dessert. Supposedly our village was on the border of a human kingdom called Eshnunna and the wastelands.
Mother noticed my odd expression after revealing the map and asked “What is the matter?” looking at the map herself and then back at me with a quizzical eye. So I tested her:
“Is that a map of the whole world?” I asked, it would be stupid to assume so,
“Yes, why?” she looked back at the map as if to check nothing was missing, satisfied she turned back at me confused.
I gestured towards the southernmost part of the map, “shouldn’t there be something beyond there?” my question puzzled mother, I suppose there were limits to even her understanding.
“Perhaps there is,” she said carefully, “Alas that there” pointing at the large body of land all others fed into, “is the waste lands, the most dangerous of all remaining monster infested territories,”
Interestingly enough there was more, mother ran her fingers along the bottom edge of the map, “here, is the great storm,” she asserted,
“The great storm?” I echoed.
“Yes, it rages on to some degree at all times of the year, right up until the end, then it dies during the colder parts of winter before being reborn the next year with new vigour.” she nodded at her description, as it pleased she had recalled it all. Then she continued “There might be more south.” she was humouring me, “But no man can pass through that storm and with only a few short weeks between its death and rebirth, there really isn’t enough time to traverse the waste lands, discover new lands and return to publish said findings.” for now, I would accept what she had to say as fact. Maybe one day I could find out for myself.
Later that night, I heard noises from the village, it was already dark out and I was bound for bed soon. Yet the shouts attracted my attention. The cries compelled me to act and I even got up to do so, when mother grabbed me and pulled me down “there are fights you can’t win -my boy, and these aren’t like the villains in the stories. If they catch you, they will take you away and if you fight them, they will kill you.” she whispered into my ears the candles were out and she was breathing heavily, hugging me tightly, I could feel her heart race as muffled footsteps became audible to us. There were at least two. Wasting no time they barged into the door, the blow against the cottage shook the place to its foundations. She kissed my face as tears trickled down her own.
Then they entered, two pairs of heavy boots tapped against the wooden floor boards. Her fear was starting to truly worry me; she was actively suppressing her heavy gulps for air. Even now she was trying to be strong for me. The footsteps were rushed and soon one of the men had made contact with the second door, nearly bringing both it and the doorframe down as he penetrated the second room. The other one was pillaging the front room. Its’ eyes fell upon us. It was a man, dressed mostly in leather with a large knife in hand and red fox fur covering his face. There was a sword strapped to his back but he didn’t feel the need to use it.
“What do we have here?” he chuckled. Breaking free of Mothers grip, I lunged forward. This rogue would not better me, and I aimed for his knees. Unfortunately this left me open; he struck my temple with the butt of his knife. The man was experienced and skilled; his knee was pressed into my chest before I had even hit the floor, holding me down while instilling a great deal of discomfort.
“Wonder how much you’ll be worth on the slave market” he remarked, still chuckling, at my savage attempts of escape. I was scratching and pinching at his thick leather trousers. Mother sprinted at him, trying to free me and felicitate my escape. He had previously readied himself for the attack, but nowhere near enough. He had underestimated the woman, my Mother. His companion entered the room to find the first man being strangled to death by a woman with a knife logged in her gut I tried to defend her but he kicked me square in the chest.
Dumbfounded as I landed on my ass I watched as he pried Mother off other the first man. She bellowed “RUN AWAY.” spit and tears gushed from her face as the two men lift her off her feet and with tears swelling in my eyes: I did.
I ran away from the village where only death would await me. So I ran into the forests, to the forests of beasts.