This is a WIP that I completely forgot I had; I found the file this morning. It hasn’t been edited, so please excuse typos and the like. I just thought I’d put it up for the fun of it.
Newpost, Shizzuria Wasteland
Erastus raced through the streets of Newpost with a band of boys behind him. He hollered as they did, and the group barreled down the road. He turned a corner and slid on a patch of ice. His long legs tangled, and he landed on his butt to slide several feet before coming to a stop against a crate. Erastus winced and climbed to his feet. His trousers were damp from the ice, and he shivered.
“You okay, man?” One of the boys asked.
Erastus nodded. “Yeah. I only cut my finger. It’s no big deal.”
Erastus stared in fascination at the blood that oozed from the small cut. It formed a drop, round and shiny, then slid down the side of his finger. The droplet hung there, suspended, then it rose from his hand to hover before his eyes. Erastus’s mouth dropped open in shock as he simply gaped at this freak of nature.
“Hey, dude. What’s up with that?”
Erastus shook his head but didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He’d never seen anything like it before.
The other boys pulled away, fear written in every line of their bodies, and disappeared into the shadows without a word, while Erastus stood there. Another drop formed, bright red in the gloom of the day, to join its brother in front of the boy. Erastus moved his finger, and the blood drops followed. He shook his head to clear it of any hallucination, but the blood stayed where it was. He used his uninjured hand to wipe his crystal eyes, but that, too, proved futile. Erastus squeezed his injured finger and watched as the drops became a trickle. He watched with morbid enthrallment as the dribble of blood swirled upward instead of falling to the street.
Footsteps on the cobblestones penetrated the edge of Erastus’s hearing. He turned his head slightly, but never let his attention divert from the phenomenon before him. The swirls broke apart into separate drops then came back together into a ball. The ball elongated and twisted to form a small knife in the air before Erastus.
“What the hell are you doing? Cover that up.”
Erastus jumped at the sound of Dooby Hallowell’s voice. He turned to see his father coming toward him with hurried strides, his usually kind face red with fury.
“Did you hear me, boy? Cover it. Now.”
Erastus nodded once, but he couldn’t get his tongue to work. He wanted to ask his father what was happening, to get an explanation, but all he could do was stare wide-eyed at the man who’d raised him.
Dooby pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped Erastus’s finger. The swirling drops fell, staining the handkerchief with bright red.
“Put some pressure on it to stop the bleeding, and come on home.”
Erastus didn’t argue. Instead, he followed Dooby back through Newpost to their small cottage at the edge of town.
“What the hell did you think you were doing?” Dooby demanded again once they were inside.
Erastus still refused to answer. His mind swirled with confusion over what he had seen.
“Did you hear me?”
Erastus looked up at his father, his eyes wide and frightened. “What happened? What was that?”
Dooby’s face softened, and he motioned for the boy to follow him into the kitchen. It was a simple room with a coal stove, a Cold Box, and a sink. A scrubbed wood table sat in the center, and a small counter held fruits and vegetables.
“Sit down at the table, son, and let’s get that tended.”
“It’s only a little cut, Father,” Erastus replied. His voice was hollow, uninflected, while his mind remained trapped in its muddle.
Dooby brought a clean rag and a bandage and stood before Erastus. “For others, yes. For you, any wound could be a potential problem.” Dooby cleaned the cut and bandaged it, then he sat down in the chair opposite Erastus. “I suppose you have some questions.”
Dooby took a deep breath and blew it out. He looked at his son, then he nodded once and rose to his feet. Erastus watched, as it always seemed to take his father forever to reach his height. Dooby Hallowell wasn’t a small man, not by any means. Wide shoulders and over six feet of height filled whatever space he occupied. But Erastus didn’t want to think about that. He wanted answers, something to quell the fear that threatened to choke him.
Dooby pulled a bottle from the top shelf over the sink and poured himself some of the amber liquid. He returned to the table without speaking and lowered himself back into the chair. He took a long sip and sat the glass down, then he turned to his son and took another deep breath.
“All right. This is gonna take some telling, so don’t interrupt me once I get started, or I may not be able to go on.”
“It has to do with Mother, doesn’t it?” Erastus whispered. In all Erastus’s thirteen winters, he’d seldom heard Dooby Hallowell mention his deceased wife. When he was little Erastus had asked questions, but Dooby had always fallen into a sullen silence instead of answering.
Dooby nodded and drained his glass. He rose and refilled it before returning to the table and rubbing his face with his hands. “All right, son. You’ve asked about your mother your whole life, and I’ve never been able to talk about her.” Dooby paused to drink then looked over at his son with eyes swimming in tears. “You know she died just after you were born.”
“We had to get a wet nurse to feed you. She wasn’t even able to do that.”
Erastus hung his head. For years he’d lived with a secret guilt, one that told him again and again that his mother had died because of his birth. He’d never shared that with his father. Or anyone else. But it gnawed at him in the quiet hours of the night, kept him awake when he was at the pinnacle of exhaustion. “I’m sorry.”
Dooby looked up, comprehension dawning. He reached over and patted Erastus’s hand, a hesitant gesture. “No, son. It wasn’t your fault. Your mother was injured by another.”
Erastus’s head shot up, and anger flashed in his gut. “What?”
Dooby took another sip from his glass. “It wasn’t your birth what killed her. It was something else.” He looked at his son with admiration. “I’m just glad she was able to birth you before she died, or I would’ve lost you both.”
Erastus stared at his father. Confusion was a shadowy veil that blocked all thought. All these years. All those nights. And it hadn’t been his fault? “What happened?” he asked, his voice more demanding than he’d ever dared be with Dooby.
Dooby sighed and rubbed his face. His eyes teared, and the color drained from his ruddy skin. “All right, son.” He looked up at Erastus as if judging his age and maturity, his ability to handle what he was about to say. “It was like this….