Laying Down the Guajava Petals

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Laying Down the Guajava Petals


Matthew Beccaria


Chapter 1: Slumped In An Armchair

Clyde sat slumped in his pasty green arm chair, eyes fixated on the television glass in the corner of his drab flat. Vice Republic Chair had taken center stage among the divided councilors—two opposing political parties—leading the inaugural ceremony and opening the floor to the nation's 399th leader. Premier Gracie, stood stoically awaiting her announcement in a black coarse wool suite, juxtaposed against the spectrum of velvet colored stripes and a white blossomed guajava flower hanging off the Great Hall's banner. With the Vice Republic Chair's introduction, Premier Gracie, elegantly took to the podium. As she spoke, the amalgamated ovation rose and fell in great reverberation, slowly dissipating in the hollow hall. “Councilors, Corporate Representatives, Benefactors and my fellow countrymen, I stand before you today, not just as newly elected Premier, but something far more emblematic, our nation's first elected nonpartisan candidate!” The ovation echoed in perfect acoustic clarity throughout the Great Hall, bounded in thunderous roars of tidal immensity. She continued, “dear friends, your voices have been duly answered, for I stand here today. I promise you, with enough committed diligence to our economy, we will uplift even the most burdensome obligations, resist foreign intimidation and procure the necessary manufacturing sites to strengthen our ties domestically and internationally. New tax limitations, while reinforcing our national programs, will ensure our future society's stability to transcend to a civilization of dominance and profitability. To the People of our great nation, I vow, as the 399th Premier of Psidium and her sister Provinces, we will overcome those who seek to terrorize us and not squander in the face of opposition. Our duty to nations suffering from primitive colloquial mandates will enable us to spread the individual republic ideals to each man, woman and child, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of their own societies!” The uproar that followed seemed to threaten the very scaffolding of the great hall, and for what seemed like added effect, the camera jerked violently; markedly clear that all attendees, cameramen included, must have stood to applaud in contagious fervor. After regaining focus, the camera appeared to re-calibrate. Composure was once again restored as the Councilors, Corporate Representatives and Benefactors calmly subdued their fervent applause, crawling back to the hovels that defined them.

Clyde had had enough. He briskly stood, jaunted toward the kitchen, and in contemplation about what to eat, decidedly entered chicken casserole on his replication oven dial pad. Satisfied, and somewhat perturbed that he had not conceived the idea earlier, replaced himself in his green arm chair, apathetically glancing at the television glass in dissatisfaction while he awaited his meal. It all seemed irrelevant to Clyde. He had never had a “friend” in his life. No siblings, no parents to comfort him, no children to raise and love or help convalesce him in his old age; he was alone, and alone he sat in his pasty green arm chair, sullen, yet somewhat vindicated in his reproach toward this new Premier Gracie who imprudently referred to him as “friend”.

Clyde's only real friends and affirmation to his sanity, which of late seemed more of an affirmation to his insanity, were his collection of dead moths and butterflies, preserved in a small glass container he kept atop the hearth. Each small insect represented a particular uniqueness to Clyde, some with stripes and dots, faded blues, even magenta or ruby colored wings, all of which formed various intricate patterns that the eye would interpret as faces or what appeared to be ghostly facial contortions. Clyde deduced that only nature's indifferent ingenuity could manifest such beautiful defense mechanisms, even in the tiniest of creatures. He pondered whether nature might have had some misgivings in its intention creating himself, but quickly pushed aside his usual trivial self degrading thoughts and resumed his work; recording, dating and writing short descriptions of each insect below the newly stored entries in his journal was his top priority. The television glass was on mute now, yet Premier Gracie seemed to resonate regardless of her volume limitation. Her long cruel jaw movements accompanied by beady eyes conveyed that her inaugural speech was far from over.


Chapter 2: Sour Pops

In a large village across the vast Green Sea, situated adjacent to the Jungle mines of Io-Yal, a young orphan boy by the name of John woke to the cacophony calls of roosters and goats in the orphanage courtyard. He rose early every morning to milk the animals, deliver eggs to the neighbors and perform other meticulous tasks that needed tending. By mid day, his main duty, like the other children, was to attend his delivery route, first on the north end of town and ending on the east side near Kapa market. Today he had 9 deliveries, starting with his classmate Brighton's house, whose father worked for the local government and ending at father Peter's holy sanctum. Each customer received roughly the same wares, 3-4 chicken egg cartons of which contained 10 eggs, a box of milk jugs and the occasional pack of Golden Teeth Cigarettes produced by Gold Bonds Incorporated. John did not care for cigarette smoke nor did he enjoy the commercial slogan “Get it right, dig the gold,” followed by the catchy melodic ear-worm designed to torment any cognitive mind within an audible range. He often found himself humming the tune repeatedly along his routes, “...just take a blow, say yes ma'am, the gold cigarettes are the best in hand!” Like all the orphan boys, John placed the daily commodities in a hand woven basket atop his head; and extending one arm for support, simultaneously balanced the burden while scrupulously maneuvering lawless street bikes and children maundering about in the filth ridden gutters. After visiting his customers he collected their payments in exchange for the received goods and upon returning home would deliver the collected money to the orphanage warden, Mr Hassidy. John's and the other orphans' compensation for their tireless efforts was daily rations. If the boys were lucky, they received a fried egg for breakfast and a soft doughy heap of mashed maize and cassava topped with fish stew for supper, but most days comprised of rice and chopped bits of yellow yam with the occasional brown banana.

Today, before returning the customers' payments to the warden, he planned to visit the town market to buy his well earned candy, something he had been saving for for nearly a month. Kapa Market was only a brisk 10 minute walk due east of Father Peter's sanctum, so by John's calculation it was unlikely Mr. Hassidy would notice his absence; regardless if he had noticed, most of the boys exercised lackadaisical habits, often playing games or chasing girls after their afternoon routes and not returning home until after supper. The only disadvantage in being late, was if you missed meal time, you missed the food.

Upon his arrival to Kapa, John saw the imposing Psidium soldiers standing unmolested at all entrances of the market place, the second largest in the country for trading goods. Their presence had once made him wary, but with the ever lengthening duration of Psidium's occupation, John only afforded them brief glances. Most Western citizens had felt such a long drawn out occupation was cumbersome on their economy, but the nation of Psidium insisted upon its occupation in what they referred to as “Disabled Economic Nations” or more commonly known as DENs. DENs, according to Psidium nationalists, desperately needed Republic ideals. Without civilized order, “DENs would be incapable” of extracting valuable minerals and other resources that would “benefit the global economy”. However, with their invasion and promised deliverance, western nations such as John's saw very little return to their communities and considered the occupation as invasive. John was only 12, so he had just begun to ponder the implications of what this all meant. Most of his time was invested in saving for candy, making his daily rounds and his recent interest in voluptuous older women.

As John reached the food retailers in Kapa, he quickly made his way to the sweet shop. An old woman sat crooked in a makeshift seat, her dome like back arched in contortion while her long curly gray hair draped against bronze oily skin. John could not help but notice the deep wrinkled crevices that ran parallel along her forehead. The woman, who took notice of his observations, smirked and being the forward woman she was, asked him “what 'he' might like?” John timidly replied “sour pops,” then presented the needed coin to procure the candy, thanked the old oily woman and was once again on his way.

Before retracing his steps back down the adjacent alley toward the orphanage, a sharp bang rose from the market entrance from which he had entered. A crowd of bystanders quickly gathered, and along with them, soldiers, who began rushing from their posts to restore order. Yet despite the madness, John stood frozen to the dirt path, enamored by the amassing chaos. The onlookers were being pushed aside by the rancorous guards and the old woman, whom he had just interacted with, suddenly appeared before the crowd with what appeared to be some kind of kit. As John observed her step toward the growing throng of peddlers, she quickly became absorbed by their coalescing mass. The soldiers, perceiving a growing insurrection, took the butt of their rifles and with what seemed like malign intent, began striking the members of the crowd. Their tactics quickly diffused the mass, leaving the remains of several injured men and women. Among them, lying face first in the muddy earth was the old woman. The blood, presumably weeping from the gash in her skull, spread across the dirt road like a gushing stream, running red and seeping out from under the feet of the onlookers and soldiers alike.

John was still frozen, so solidified was he from shock that he dropped the sour pops from his hand. Upon seeing the bodies, the crowd ensued its chaos and quickly re-consumed and hid the lifeless bodies, but as the tide of violence morphed into new shapes of resistance, John was able to glance a small velvet striped patch on the shoulder of the second lifeless body where the iconic white guajava flower was stitched to a fallen Psidium soldier's uniform.



Chapter 3: A Light Green Peppered Moth

Some weeks had past since Clyde had watched the inaugural speech, yet his life had remained loyally monotonous. To this effect, Clyde held little enthusiasm for anything. His job was mostly mundane and spineless, a shrewd sales associate for Baker and Sons, Real Property and Management Co. He sold electro-brochures door to door and marketed anti-gravity flats to whomever might lend an ear. Although dull, he had grown accustom to his routine drab redundancy, submitting to its dominance over him and in its pathetic existence, found satisfaction. Besides, he was grateful for the income, and did not mind the afternoon walks atop the sky city during his route to and from the First Class Sky Quadrant, especially at alternating and converging sunsets. The dancing waves of orange and red lights performed a splendid show of radiant convergence as dusk fell, then rose again within the hour until finally settling into an illuminating darkness. The walkways designed above the lower quadrants were beautiful to behold; trams carried cargo and passengers bustling by incessantly, while public shuttles scuttled about in varying directions that only the electronic air buoys seemed to comprehend. Although his job lacked special clearances and room for growth, he felt privileged enough to at least see the city from above.

After work, which was usually around 7:00pm, Clyde would check messages, order a meal on his replication oven and continue his work recording moth and butterfly species in his notebook on the transparent glass table situated in front of his chair. After careful analysis on the Light Green Peppered Moth, Clyde turned on his television glass and continued about his work, carefully placing the moth species on a cloth beside its preservation cube. The background noise felt comforting while he researched, yet he hardly ever listened, except for the occasional weather alert. But tonight, the only tempest winds being forecasted were politics. “Premier Gracie enacts 100 year old draft enlistment policy”. He was already 35 years old, so Clyde unassumingly continued about his studies, opening the day’s emails with his newly acquired moth species lied out before him. Draft policies were of no concern for a 35 year old. “Commander and General of armed Psidium forces died last night after being first shot and then surrounded by degenerate locals who prevented proper medical care”. Clyde, now completely oblivious to the news report, read his messages, mostly assailed by bills and collector notices, not even a single personal note among the bunch. Half way down, Clyde spotted URGENT. Attached on the upper portion of the notice was the seal of the Republic, a guajava flower against velvet colored stripes was photocopied to its crease. “The age for enlistment has risen up to 40 years of age. Reporter Joanna tells us that the spread of national pride across Psidium has swollen in the days following Premier Gracie's reenactment of antiquated draft policies. Clyde, enraptured by the bold letters on the notice and the now prodding question of what it meant, opened the letter in alarm. To his astonishment, printed in emboldened ink was his call number listed plainly beside his full name, along with a reporting location and time for role call. Flabbergasted, he swiftly stood to dial the number at the bottom of the notice as he was convinced there had been some mistake. “Premier Gracie’s benefaction support is proposing to fund 30 trillion units to lead the colonial expansion, with the ambition to re-incorporate western states’ mineral mines”. The shock had jolted him, “Lights of ternary!”

In a manic hysteria to reach his old dial phone on the counter behind him, Clyde’s left foot caught the protruding leg of the glass table, propelling him in a downwards spiral toward the ground; in great desperation, he carelessly reached out with his left hand to brace himself against the glass table, crushing his Light Green Peppered Moth in the process. The force of impact his head received from the ground triggered a pulse of sharp pain in his temples, discouraging him from regaining his feet too quickly. Dizzy from shock, he slowly regained his balance, sat himself in his pasty green arm chair and slumping a little further than usual, whether from the open gash or helplessness, cried himself to sleep.


Chapter 4: Hushed Voices

All hell had broken loose since that day in Kapa Market, and no one had been the better for it, not the DEN citizens nor soldiers who claimed they were there to protect and help rebuild. With the increased number of Psidium armed forces and the first wave of permanent colonial immigrants near the jungle’s mineral mines, developed nations’ intents were clear and set in motion; they had come to bring the DEN states into the fold. But John only understood that there were more foreigners, failing to connect the significant change his countrymen were being faced with. The orphanage of late had seen heavy traffic; wandering immigrant colonials residing among the adjacent jungle canopies would visit them from time to time trading their tobacco in exchange for seeds and other essentials. John and his friend Brighton would intermingle with them if Mr. Hassidy was away on business, which had recently been quite frequent, otherwise, they were told to keep away.

Regardless of the increasing violence and demonstrations, John continued his laborious task of deliveries. Today, Father Peter’s sanctum was his first stop. John picked up his daily deliveries from the warden’s office, gathering the harvested eggs, milk jugs and several Gold Bonds cigarette cartons into his basket. As Mr. Hassidy clumsily handed him the last carton of eggs, John fumbled, misjudging his release and allowing the carton to splatter egg yoke across the orphanage porch. Catching John’s attention, A familiar white blossom parachuted down into the spoiled yellow goop, but before he could register what it was Mr. Hassidy slapped John across the face with his large coarse hand, covered the white blossom with the sole of his brown boot and glared at John in overwrought agitation. With equal apprehension, the warden’s green eyes swiftly darted from left to right, presumably worried that an onlooker might have seen his violent disposition. But John’s attention quickly diverted from the now yoke stained blossom to the inexplicable sting that inflamed his cheek, the result appeasing his aggressor. The old man’s imposing philanthropic career had not long outlived him being a drunkard, yet John felt some amount of remorse for him, and took Mr. Hassidy’s anxiety to mean that he was aware of his shortcomings. The wounded man rotted inside from the loss of his family, whom had perished at the hands of two drunken soldiers two years prior at the beginning of Psidium occupation. His wife had been the real inspiration behind the orphanage, not this poor disheveled shell of a man she had unintentionally left behind to inherit it. “You damned brat, that’ll cost you your maize and fish stew for supper!” John sulked, and fell away shamefully, consciously recalling Mr. Hassidy’s youngest son he had once played with as to pity the man rather than resent him. Even if he had resisted he was only 12 and Mr. Hassidy far outweighed the common man at a hardy 220 pounds. Picking up the woven basket, John retreated from the warden’s wanton wrath and took off down the crooked path toward Father Peter’s sanctum.

Feeling his now tender cheek, John contemplated the incident as he made his way down the road toward the sanctum. Visiting Father Peter had always made him sad, the man was considered a recluse, living off holy wafers and pressed prune wine with seemingly few friends aside from the devout community followers that attended his mass. In actuality, Father Peter was quite content and considered an integral leader in the community and highly regarded for his wisdom. It just so happened that his reclusive nature was often misinterpreted for somber tones.

As John reached the sanctum, his thoughts gave way to that empty feeling the sanctum laid upon him every time he entered. The solemn halls were as lonely as they were hollow, so to comfort himself, John would often hum a tune, and when he could not recall anything special regretfully recalled Gold Bond’s catchy melodic ear-worm, “just take a blow, say yes ma'am, the gold cigarettes are the best in hand!”. When he was inside amongst the lofty stone spires and hand carved effigies a comforting tune somehow gave him a strange sense of chipperness and courage despite the context of his surroundings and in this instance the lack of depth in his chosen melody.

Every visit was a repetition of the last. John approached the heavy iron gate that led him down near the great arched doorway and after pulling and ringing the roped bell awaited Father Peter’s answer. The man opened the door in all black, accompanied by a heavy dark beard and a set of soft brown eyes that burned an unmistakable fortitude. “Good day John! How are you my boy? Please, come in, would you help me put these goods you’ve delivered in the pantry?” To John’s astonishment, the sanctum’s hall was filled with familiar faces, many of which were neighbors to the orphanage, including Brighton’s father, recent visitors he had witnessed coming to and from Mr. Hassidy’s office, and the many acquaintances he had come to know through his daily deliveries. The Father led him down the aisle, past the huddled groups formed in the rows of pews and into the sanctum’s pantry. John could not help but feel uneasy, he had never seen anyone in the Sanctum but Father Peter and the occasional visitor seeking counsel. “Just set the goods right over there my boy.” John placed the basket on the ground and began to unload the remaining egg cartons along the table. “I accidentally dropped one sir. The warden promises an extra upon my next delivery.” “No mind John, no mind at all, it is quite alright.” Father Peter eagerly lifted a milk jug out of the bag, as if some insatiable thirst had overcome him. John assumed he was only counting the jugs, which he thought odd as he had never known him to count the content of his deliveries. “Thank you John, I hope you will always be of good service to us.” “Yes sir.” Father Peter’s response vexed him, but not knowing how to appropriately respond, aside from a reciprocating grin, he resumed his business. After helping the Father place the items in their corresponding storage containers, John proceeded to the Sanctum’s entrance from which they had come. The people were still gathered within the hall, whispering in quiet hushed tones, as if trying to shelter John from some unknown peril. “Do come again my boy, I always enjoy our visits, it is times like these we need each other most.” Without further hesitation the Father closed the lofty arched door, leaving John in its casted shadow. Picking up the remaining daily deliveries, he retraced his steps down the path and proceed to his next stop.


Chapter 5: Meeting the Boy

“Do not shed your honor to save your tears, for I am certain you feel something! It is a simple truth that has brought you to us. Your Premier did not win her political appointment by your foolish party approvals or nominations, it was her benefactors’ support and crooked influence on the councilors and corporate representatives that led to her monumental victory against your old world party dominance. What was the primary instrument for such success? It is that which you people recognizes to be true, yet fail to rally justice against injustice, truth against deception, and why? Because by law, your blasphemous Psidium, who has forsaken the love and light of Ternary, is nothing more than a state of barbarity and bribery. Do not wait to act brothers and sisters, reclaim the abyss that was once home to your soul and celebrate the life that ternary has created! These sickly fiendish councilors, benefactors and corporate representatives are cancers; their donations pour in like swarms of peppered moths. They are noxious temptations that have rotted all benevolence. Compel yourself to recognize the incarceration of Western people’s homes,, I shall forego to say it as such, because it is not yours or mine to own, nor is it any one person’s. It is of Ternary. These large corporations which you worship, and love for their revenue are the very monsters that thrive off the dependence of mineral mines. It is these minerals that power the platinum and gold mining colonies along the Klaadeis Asteroid Rim and the Blue Sea Moon. It is these…” The old petitioning man’s voice was silenced by the approach of the Psidium cylinder cannons, nearly running the old man over and destroying the makeshift pulpit he had created out of garbage and debris along the market road. The petitioner, defeated and cantankerous, abdicated his position to the several ton engine’s dominance, knowing fair well that if he had not withdrawn, it would have unblinkingly buried him beneath its treads in the churned mud.

Clyde watched from a distance, near the corner of a small decaying cafe he had come to enjoy during his first several weeks among the Western States. Petitioners like the old man were a common sight near the market district, but were rarely seen twice after intervention. He had often heard that they were taken away to not be seen again, and if they were they had been processed. Clyde sat sipping his morning tea, scratching the ghost itches that lingered from the healed gash along his skull and reminisced about the peppered moth he had crushed in his fall back in his modest apartment, the same species the petitioner had just ironically mentioned in his radical speech. He did not doubt the man’s claims, for bribery and barbarism had undoubtedly anchored their roots deep within the soil of Psidium’s founding principles, but to what specifics, Clyde was unsure.

He had not wanted to leave the capitol, but what choice did he have, he had been a salesman for Baker and Sons Real Property and Management Co., held no capital investments, had no relatives, friends or family of his own, and worst of all, when the recruiters discovered this, reassured him that Premier Gracie was the closest friend he would ever need. They were bluntly lying, Clyde clearly had no friends; he only smirked and nodded as to appease their intended comforts, for if annoyed, Clyde feared a worse job assignment. Unexpectedly, his designation was Colonial Educator, responsible for interacting with locals; teaching them about Psidium technology that seemed so second nature to ordinary Psidium citizens, lecturing community leaders on how to be less savage and providing brochures on “New Psidium” - the newly pronounced campaign that was clearly intended to persuade and recruit favoritism for colonial development within the Western Provinces. The global agenda had changed quickly, whether for the better or worse, Clyde was incapable of knowing, he only knew that he was drafted into the colony because he was considered second class back home.

During the initial phase of the draft, any citizens who lacked fundamental education were the first to be assigned jobs as military footmen. Those like Clyde, who held a fundamental education were given jobs as educators, yet both were ranked under Ternary Citizen Status. Draftees more fortunate, who had either obtained extended education or had volunteered, were granted Secondary Citizen Status, and acted as arbiters between the locals and their communities. All other colonial citizens were ranked Primary Citizen Status, which included the elite investors and corporate business associates who developed the mining procedures and managed the extraction of goods back to the Psidium capital. Only the Primary Colonial Citizens enjoyed the rights and privileges of returning home or leaving the colony at their own discretion.

Despite his limitations, for Clyde, most days were simple, but from time to time he encountered radicals like the old petitioner he observed stirring up trouble near the market cafe. The military was responsible for keeping order, leaving Clyde and other Colonial Educators to focus on the more submissive locals. For today’s assignment, he was required to visit the local religious sanctuary where a man by the name of Father Peter was suppose to meet with him. Clyde took his time drinking his tea, and upon finishing, paid the furrowing cafe owner what he owed. Clyde resumed to open the door to leave when a scrawny boy carrying a basket atop his head crashed into him along the cafe steps, his basket toppling to the ground and spilling its contents in the mud. In great displeasure, the boy, who appeared to be between the age of 10 and 12, began scampering about in wild enthusiasm to save what unbroken commodities he could. Clyde knelt beside the basket to assist, but the boy retracted it, reluctant to allow interference from a stranger, especially one who was foreign. “Sorry there, it was an honest mistake, I can pay for that of course, take this, I believe it should be enough to replace the broken milk jugs and eggs you were carrying. You know I used to be a salesman myself of sorts, back in Psidium of course...I’m sorry, I forgot to even introduce myself, I’m Clyde, Clyde Berenger. do you have a name?” But the boy just stood in silence, staring at the unintelligible banter Clyde was jaunting from his tongue. “Oh I see...take this friend.” The boy reached out in acknowledgment, accepted the change in the palms of both hands, giving rise to a jubilant smile that stretched across the boys tanned face - it was more money than he had probably ever held. “Me friend” He nodded in appeasement, straightened his skinny arm like a medieval lance and pointed it straight at Clyde’s mid section with an open tilted palm. “Oh haha, you want to shake hands, of course.” Clyde reciprocated the gesture as if to joust in one of those ancient tourneys he had read about back home, then after a firm handshake, watched the boy turn and walk away.

Clyde leaned against the cafe’s flaking green wall, watched a pair of stray pups wrestle in the mud, and contemplated the new environment he had awoken to for the past several weeks. He shamefully realized that he was as much that boy’s friend as Premier Gracie had been to him. As one of the pups explored its surroundings, Clyde’s eyes amusingly followed it to a muddy puddle where the pup halted, and spotting a guajava blossom, curiously examined the fragrant aroma with its wet snout, careful to avoid the shards of milk jug glass that surrounded it. Realizing the time and his arranged appointment to meet Father Peter, Clyde lit a Gold Bond’s cigarette, his attention diverting from the playful pups to the unfolding transactions taking place in the Kapa Market. Taking a few puffs from the pasty paper roll, he exhaled a long deep sigh, reminiscing about his home far far away. By Ternary, he missed that pasty armchair.


Chapter 6: A Cowfish

John was rightfully paranoid, he had dropped and broken 6 milk jugs, and lost 2 cartons of eggs, Mr. Hassidy would surely be furious and flog him for it. He had brought the money the man had given him, but doubted any compensation would prevent the warden’s vengeance. He rounded the corner near the neighbors and approaching the stucco yellow walls of the orphanage, saw much to his disbelief Father Peter standing near the front door. “Oh what a savior indeed!” Anchoring the basket as tightly as his bony fingers were able, John sprinted in the direction of Mr. Hassidy and Father Peter standing alongside the Porch. Mr. Hassidy would surely think twice before striking John in the presence of Father Peter, and would therefore dodge an immediate flogging. “Sir, sir, such an unfortunate accident happened. I was delivering our goods to Kapa market when a foreigner bumped into me, causing me to drop 6 jugs and 2 cartons. I am terribly sorry sir. But here is the money to replace them, the kind man…” “Oh thank the suns John.” Father Peter held his arms out in welcoming embrace while Mr. Hassidy nodded in stern agreement, arms folded across his chest. “You are a lucky boy, such encounters lead only to peril in these times.” Mr. Hassidy’s words conveyed a similar warning, catching John off guard. “But sirs, he was quite friendly, he did not hurt me, aside from our accidental collision. He even gave me his money to replace the missing goods.” Mr. Hassidy glared suspiciously at the money before snatching it from John. Without further redress, the warden, along with Father Peter, departed from the orphanage porch and down the road. Before rounding the corner, Father Peter glanced back at John, forcing a departing smile. As they disappeared John could hear the warden’s distant unintelligible curses, not the kind that expressed wrath, but instead a deep worrisome sorrow. John was thankful for being spared the beating, had Father Peter not been present he would have surely received the standard 10 lashings.

For the rest of the day John played kickball with the other orphans and toward evening, after eating supper, made his way to a concealed fishing pond not far from Father Peter’s sanctum, the majority of it encompassed by 5 foot reed walls. The only available seating to fish or watch the isolated habitat was a conveniently placed rock jutting out several feet from the muddy bank. It was John’s secluded oasis, where he could escape from the other children, Mr. Hassidy, the Psidium guards and all other manner of noise and confusion, including his own thoughts. He sat poised on the rock staring at the groups of fish inside the placid water when a very large prickly spined Cowfish caught his eye. Catching those always proved a challenge. The trick was preventing the spiny dorsal fins from folding back against the palm, less you wanted deep pinpricks to harass you for a week. But today, John only admired from a distance as he had left his bamboo pole at the orphanage. He marveled at the fish’s ornate colors, glimmering reds and blues off its refracting scales. This particular fellow was quite bloated, most likely having recently finished a meal of crab or mino. But to John’s dismay, the bloated predator crept seamlessly toward a school of sunfish, poised for an attack. They were known to be aggressive, yet being already bloated, it seemed odd that it would hunt a sunfish. The stalked school, taking no notice of the nearby threat, pecked nibbles of algae and worm from the pond floor. One in particular floated slightly apart from the safety of its school where it appeared to have discovered a resourceful patch of algae among the sediment. Then, in a matter of alarming haste, the Cowfish positioned in shallower waters plunged toward the sunfish at diabolical speed, successfully isolating it from the safety of its group. Quite ignorant of any lurking peril and realizing only after the fact, the sunfish found itself clamped between the piercing jaws of its predator, helplessly twitching in agony as the last moments of its existence left consciousness. John could not help but cringe in helpless wonder.


Chapter 7: Armed and Unannounced

Clyde’s superiors assured him that his presence was necessary to keeping the peace while the guards made the arrest. To their credit, within the past week alone, violent outbreaks had popped up across all corporate provinces -- Premier Gracie having recently laid claim to all former western nations for the Glory of Psidium and the acquisition of new mining production colonies. After learning that several field officers had been kidnapped, flayed and displayed in Kapa market by means of crucifix, Clyde had been eager to return home. Unfortunately, Psidium law deemed him incapable of returning without the proper citizen status, which he could not receive as a Colonial Educator with a remaining service of 7.5 years. Regardless of the recent string of outbreaks, the thought of their provocative and conspicuous pronouncement at the Sanctum, accompanied by 2 fully armed guards, deeply bothered Clyde. Had he had such company in Psidium, he would have surely been acting Premier. Instead, he served at the lowest of citizen ranks, and in return for his service, he was ordered to read the rights and accusations against the local religious authority, the Ternary Father, Father Peter.

They were soon on their way to the Sanctum, trodding along the unpolished path. The guards paranoid without reason, suspiciously scanning the yard until they made their post beneath the arched framed doors. The lofty building stood in timeless architecture, its prominence assembled by the cracking stone cubes stacked atop one another, leaping in vertical columns and casting elongated shadows on the overgrown banana trees beside a crumbling wall of vegetation. Clyde pulled the call rope, glanced at the unflinching soldiers, and in annoyance, furrowed slightly in disapproval of their weaponry. His associates seemed unaware, or perhaps uninterested in Clyde’s opinions, only staring straight ahead at the arched doors’ cast iron embroidery, ready to do their duty.


Father Peter answered their call sluggishly, keeping Clyde in a suspended apprehension. When the door finally opened Clyde noticed Father Peter’s face was notably paler than usual, beads of sweat forming on the ridges of his bushy brows. “Ah, Mr. Clyde, I...I apologize...I was a bit preoccupied with a previous solicitor. “No matter Father. Regretfully, these men are here for your arrest and I have been ordered to read the accusations held against you.” The Father forced his acknowledgment despairingly, and even more grudgingly, opened the door to the heavily armor clad soldiers, who abrasively made their way into the empty inner sanctuary.

Within the stone walls, Clyde read the Father his rights. “Under the guiding stars of Ternary, the indomitable Psidium, our mother nation, who we serve to protect and honor, hereby accuse the local religious Sanctum Priest, Father Peter of the Ternary Light, of malicious intent and provocation for knowingly organizing, supporting and encouraging local natives to resist in outspoken rebellion and violence for the recent murders of Psidium colonial personnel; and will in due reciprocation, be aptly punished for such crimes as is held against him.” Clyde looked up at the white gaunt face of Father Peter, and in remorseful regret hoped the man would forgive him. The guards, however, did not hesitate; clasping the Father’s hands together, they forcibly applied the proper bondages and took him away, leaving Clyde standing inside the Sanctum’s now empty hollow shell, the last standing testament to a lost and dying faith.


Chapter 8: Death

The orphanage had been submerged in chaos for nearly 2 months since Father Peter’s arrest and Mr. Hassidy, having been incredulous to recent events, had casted aside any grievances regarding his involvement in the attempted rebellion. The warden had been quite aware of the charges laid against Father Peter, and understandably, unable to subdue the fright that had overwrought his once collected disposition, leaving his fear transparent to those around him. But his stubbornness to remain home eventually became his undoing, and like the others before him, was read his accusations, arrested and taken away to never be seen or heard from since. The orphans had taken over the duties of Mr. Hassidy, the older boys dividing the chores and maintaining that the younger boys, like John, continue their delivery routes; it was their only source of income and if they wanted to eat, they needed to continue delivering products they had exchanged with local markets.

Although John and the other orphans did not miss the warden’s beatings, they felt that the Psidium officials’ dogmatism was neither fair nor justified. John had realized it all too late. The curiously placed guajava flowers and the peculiarly behaving Father Peter. The poor man was not a warrior, only a servant, and now, just another demented lost soul in the clutches of Psidium governance, tucked away in some rank cell where he was most likely killed, or worse, processed. The fear had risen considerably among the sparse jungle villages since Father Peter’s absence, and without the Warden’s direction the boys were alone in their dealings with the colonists. Only the repetition of their tasks could save them, otherwise all was lost.

That evening the clouds had coalesced into an endless black, sending forth an onslaught of rain and wind to further erode the boys spirits during their deliveries. For John, his route took him past the Sanctum, and against all good judgment, was tempted to take refuge inside to escape the sharp gale encumbering his load. As he approached the aged gate, its latch already unfastened, John cautiously pushed against the creaky bars and quietly accepted the ostensible invitation into the courtyard of massing banana trees. The Sanctum’s coarse granite had become overgrown with hanging ivy; the vines festering themselves between the cracks of the Sanctum’s rudimentary stones, winding their way up like poison in a corrupted vein. It was almost beautiful. The arched wooden doors that John had so often stood before were splintered remnants of a past memory, tossed aside in heaps of discarded iron and wood. Inside the sanctuary, the pews stood unscathed, perfectly symmetrical in their parallel rows, just as he had remembered them. The rest of the room had been gutted, first by the Psidium soldiers and later vagabonds, petty criminals and eventually the horde of untreated diseased locals purposefully casted aside by the Psidium medical camps. A heavy sullen weight fell on John’s eyelids and he began to weep. His skinny knees buckled at the sight of the now malformed sanctuary. It had always made him sad, but now he had just cause for his sudden depression. Collapsing upon the cold broken marble, tears traced paths along his cheeks, forming in dangling droplets along the precipice of his chin. The release was a deep and unforgiving rancor, but before he had time to collect himself his attention was drawn to a corner of darkness along the adjacent wall. There, in a bundle of stained torn sheets a man with patchy gray hair and broken sole shoes crawled out from behind a pew moaning in a terrible agony. Upon recognizing John as an unannounced visitor, he murmured to the boy in an incoherent and nonsensical garble. John was startled, and began backing out the way he had entered. It seemed the sanctuary had become the home to those marked for death, and if he lingered he invited their appraisal of him. But before John could flee, the man in stained cloth coughed violently, trying to produce the needed collection of syllables to form intelligible words. “Is it you John?”. With his back to the entrance, and his body half frozen, John began to shutter. It was the Father, bloodied and notably tortured. “Food, please food…”


Chapter 9: Returning to the Pond

Clyde’s nightmares had increased since Father Peter’s arrest. The outbreaks had not ceased, and Psidium laws were further amended to support colonial achievements, ensuring mineral extraction from the mines. Clyde began to wonder what might happen when those mines ran dry, but his more pressing concern was addressing the terrors visiting his sleep. Clyde attempted to appease his tortured conscious by visiting the Sanctum each night since the arrest, but any forgiveness went untouched by both gods and men. He had been no friend to Father Peter, nor had he been a human being. He was aware of the preferred practice of retribution, guards chose prefered means of torture and expressed their vegenange in unspeakable forms deep within the abandoned mine shafts where bodies could be left to rot unnoticed - they commonly referred to it as processing.

This particular night had grown colder, but nevertheless, he left camp to beg for mercy at the sanctuary, where his venture of self pity and degradation exposed his naked guilt to unfortunate truths. The rain was still firing down upon the courtyard, and with the arched doors scattered in splinters and completely vacated from their original stone frame, the howling tempest winds funneled within the Sanctum’s opening, provoking Clyde’s fears to unspeakable heights. He stood still momentarily noticing the remnants of shoddy linen wraps stained with blood, something absent in his previous pilgrimages for forgiveness. Compelled by its presence, he followed the slithering smear around the pews and out the side entrance of the Sanctum.

Where the blood trail ended on marble slate, muddy footprints began in its succession. Clyde followed, slowly descending toward a lofty patch of eager green reeds. As he neared, it became apparent from the sounds of heavy rain drops that water lingered from within the overgrown wall of foliage, yet no entrance or window would grant him the needed visibility to discern the inevitable pool that lay in wait. Rounding the circular green wall two vague figures atop a large table-top rock embedded inside the gradual sloping bank caught his eye. He approached the large granite slab in grave apprehension as something distressing gripped his innards.

A small boy, no older than 14, was kneeling beside a scalded man with grey hair and torn bloody linen sheets. In his left hand he held a white guajava flower, presumably plucked from the nearby hanging guajava fruit. The boy had placed a second blossom on the man’s forehead and proceeded to shut his eyelids. As Clyde drew closer, the boy paid no attention to his presence. The features of the dead man’s face slowly welded together in Clyde’s mind, finally materializing their familiarity to recall. The linen-wrapped man was Father Peter and the child, had been the the young delivery boy outside the shoddy cafe. A deep lugubrious countenance replaced Clyde’s confusion and upon self admission to its truth, collapsed on his knees in the downpour atop the blood stained rock.

The rain had washed the boy’s tears away, and along with it, much of the Father’s blood. As the rain ceased its onslaught, Clyde peered over the Father’s body, settling a guilty glaze on his own green reflection in the subdued pond water. The expanding wall of reeds had given shelter to the pond’s perimeter, allowing the peppered brown moths to flutter about the guajava flowers blooming alongside their large sweet counterparts. The guajava fruit hung from the tree’s weighted branches, ostensibly casted just above the surface of the placid water. Underneath the surface swam schools of fish, some reflecting hints of gold and silver, along with crab and several small schools of cerulean blue minnows scurrying about their submerged abode. The most intriguing, a large glimmering persimmon colored fish with a spiny dorsal fin, surrounded by what appeared to be several of its offspring, glided within the cool green waters. The boy, John, stood solemn in silhouette, showered in the amber glint of Ternary while balancing on the innermost edge of the rock face, nearest the pond’s center. His posture emanated a thunderous glow of melancholic defeat, yet there was something stoic in his posture and appearance. As John’s vanquished spirit continued to erode in the growing dark, a cold stillness overcame the pond, casting shadows across the waters edges and concealing the inhabitants’ residing underneath its surface. Within grasp of a nearby hanging guajava fruit, Clyde plucked the blossom and carefully placed the contents of its petals atop the remains of Father Peter. The boy seemed unmoved by his gesture, and Clyde, unsure of how to act, stood poignantly. Clyde had never seen anything like it. Yet the boy, he seemed to have known these sights all his life.

Submitted: July 22, 2016

© Copyright 2022 Mathius Davidson. All rights reserved.

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