Cardo Temous

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

Submitted: February 20, 2018

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Submitted: February 20, 2018

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Billy was a god. He was a dreamer, a creator, a seeker, an architect of beautiful moments.

But I’m ahead of myself. Actually, Billy died.

then again, he kind of... didn’t.

Look, it’s a long story. Perhaps I should start at the end. (Which is/was the beginning... of, really, everything)

 

***

 

The darkness sloughs off him like a satin sheet from a woman rising from bed. His time is nearing an end, so his meat does everything it can to hold on to every last picosecond of temporality as it slides past. The hopping absurdity of his situation keeps him entertained while the unstoppable “closing down sale” drives across his soul. Preparations are made, shutters are drawn, tickets are placed into the top pocket of his totality. Show’s over, folks.

 

(In utter defiance of the tradition of avoiding cliche that has become so common nowadays, Billy’s life starts flashing before his eyes.)

He is a young boy, maybe four or five. He is outside, in a garden. It is pleasantly warm in a way that only an English summer’s day can be - the temporary absence of dreary weather makes the nice feel even nicer. There is another reason to be happy. His father is with him, instead of locked away in his study with the funny-smelling bottle.

Although right now there’s an unease that’s turning to alarm. He doesn’t quite know what ‘hide-and-go-seek’ means, but if it means Daddy goes away, then he doesn’t want any part of it. Small eyes search, across grass and flowers and a shining white table-and-chairs. A moan escapes his lips that escalates into a wail, heading onwards towards a cry. Before it can get that far, strong hands grip his rib cage and he is lifted into the air. A moment of happy weightlessness as he is spun around, then those safe hands have him again and his face is buried in the soft, stubbly neck of his daddy.

“Oh, William, there-there. I was just hiding for a moment.”

His breath is coming in short gasps as the cry fades away.

 

Billy is astonished to find himself flying through the air, his body a mess of wounds and battle damage. He can’t feel anything as his brain has long ago (milliseconds) shut down the pain signals that were slicing around his nervous system, but he knows something is wrong. Especially when he sees his own leg go whizzing past his head. He knows it is his leg (not someone else’s) because the laces on the boots aren't tied in accordance with military regulation but are tied in the way his father had taught him, twelve years ago, before he died.

Who died?

Billy died. Or... is dying.

 

Six now, he knows because he can count that high without even needing to use his other hand. Daddy isn’t around much anymore, his study his refuge from the memories evoked by Billy’s young, round face. The servants - especially Nanny - are his friends and caretakers. Occasionally Chef and Nanny will take him to the village to visit the shopkeepers and once in a while he will spot a child his own age. Invariably these children will be accompanied by ladies, most of them much younger and thinner than Nanny. Billy remembers her strange face when he asked whether every child had their own nanny.

“No, young master, those are their mothers.” “What’s a mother?”
“Like a Nanny, but different.”

Billy could see the appeal of these ‘mothers’. Some of them would pick their children up, singing and kissing and laughing. Nanny was a good protector and guardian, but Billy couldn’t remember ever hearing her laugh. In fact, he couldn’t remember anyone in the big house on the hill actually laughing.

Another memory, this time a dark day where everyone seemed quite sad. Billy wasn’t sad since he had made some real, actual friends that day - people that Nanny introduced as his cousins had come to stay at the big house. They played in the garden, getting their nice clothes quite muddy and having a grand old time, while Billy watched from the safety of the patio. One of the children, Peter, had come over and practically dragged him into their game, and while his complete lack of experience had left him perpetually ‘it’, Billy eventually relaxed and even gotten quite muddy himself. This, of course, had evoked the wrath of Nanny, but even at that age Billy had noted a strangeness in the way she had pulled him upstairs and changed his clothes. Never one to get angry at anything, Nanny had been livid.

It’s a few hours later, and most of the people have left, including everyone on the household staff, except Nanny and Reginald. Billy lived in mortal fear of Reginald - six-year-olds and butlers are natural enemies - but even he had given Billy a solemn nod earlier in the day (That moment more than anything had cemented the day into Billy’s memory). A man and a woman - the mother and father of his delightful cousins - sit down on the couch next to Billy and tell him that he will be coming to stay with them. There is a strange feeling in his belly. He can hear Nanny crying in the corner of the room and she is being consoled by Reginald - a sudden insight that Nanny and Reginald are husband-and-wife. How had he never known that?

 

There is pain now, some small jabs of feeling shooting up what was once his lower body. A kaleidoscope of knowledge flowing into his cerebellum. A bone here, an artery there. Fingers; some gone, others still attached but reporting zero willingness to be involved in any further activities. There is a realisation that his vision is now monocular, one eye is MIA presumed KIA, which confirms his suspicion that there’s something nasty and untoward going on with the left side of his face. William Blake is still airborne, and his body has decided to die.

 

The house his aunt and uncle brought him to was quite a lot smaller than the one he had spent the majority of his life in. What it lacked in size, however, it more than made up for in love and laughter. Billy had been astonished to discover that they only had one common room, and it was both the kitchen and sitting room. He enjoyed the practicality of that - young boys’ lives tend to revolve around the kitchen and the tasty treats therein. Not that there were many treats; in fact, there wasn’t nearly the amount of food he was used to, especially since Chef had also disappeared in all of the change.

None of that mattered to Billy because now he had friends. Joyous, wonderful, frustrating, aggravating, fast friends. His cousins - three of them; Amy, Michael, Peter - took him into their wolf-pack and initiated him into their secret ways. This expansion of his world sparked something in young Billy - an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, for experience. What else had he missed all of his life?

No story is complete without the Love Interest, and Billy sure had a doozy. Marly. The young daughter of the next door neighbours and, with her brother, John, another member of the young terrors of the neighbourhood. Honestly, despite how it would elevate this little tale, I can’t tell you that it was Love at First Sight (TM). The children just mashed into the happy anarchy of a group of friends, and seven-year-old Billy went with the flow.

But... when, five years later, Marly shyly presented him with a daffodil she had found growing between the cobble stones of a rarely-used alleyway, then impulsively yet tenderly kissed him on the cheek, Billy discovered another wonderful - some might say ultimate - aspect of being human; Love.

 

The pain is all-encompassing, but thoughts of Marly stop its march through his nerve endings. Billy is upside down, his single eye confused at the sight of a topsy-turvy world. His brain struggles to adapt to the unusual sensory input, even as the overriding longing for Marly floods through Billy’s being. His soul cries out, in pain and longing and desperation.

And somewhere in the space between, under, and around our Universe... something stirs...

 

“Daffy” he calls her, not after an animated duck that wouldn’t be created for another 24 years, but after the flowers that have become her talisman. She is his and he is hers, this they know even at the age of 16. After opening up to each other in every way two people can (quietly doing what young people had been doing since the dawn of time - and thinking they’re getting away with it), they were joined. William Blake knew his place in the universe.

Yet... that insatiable call, the undeniable curiosity that had been a part of his being since he was a child, simmered beneath the surface. And when War loomed, the promise of adventure and travel was just too much to pass up. Micheal, Peter, John, and Billy listened avidly to the wireless, practically tore apart their parents’ newspapers, just waiting, hoping, that fateful declaration to arrive.

Peter, Billy’s first and closest friend, the other missing part of his soul next to Marly, wanted to join the army even before any announcement was made. Michael, always following his older brother, agreed. John and Billy counseled caution - no good joining with the intention of travel, only to wind up a supply officer in Hull!

th of July, 1914 the announcement came, and within hours all four boys were lying about their age and being handed a temporary uniform and a wooden plank that had been carved into the shape of a gun.

 

Billy can’t feel the pain any more. At least, not the pain in his body. His soul, however, crackles and burns with frustration and loss. He knows he’s about to die. He is livid at the thought. He cannot countenance it. There is so much left to see, to know, to feel, to do. If his heart had not just stopped beating, it would burst at the injustice of it all.

 

Old friends pass out of his life, pulled away by the uncaring stroke of a Division Sergeant’s pen. Through luck and providence, Peter and Billy make it through medicals, training, and assignment, together. Landing in a Section, tucked inside a Platoon within a Company which was part of a Battalion, just one of the pieces on the Field Marshall’s chess board, the two young men found themselves part of a new brotherhood.

Thus Billy’s world expanded once more, and the forge of training and the fire of battle hardened him and his fellow soldiers into a unified team of brothers.

Letters fly across the Channel like birds, a thin lifeline to home and hearth. Billy has his adventure, and his heart is filled with love and life and joy. There is pain, too - the news that Michael is KIA in Northern France. More brothers dying as the war moves along. Billy and Peter together huddled in trenches and burning ladders & bunker-bolstering scaffold in order to stay warm.

Then the Battalion is moved to Lille.

 

It’s not all sweetness and light though, is it? Billy sees as he watches the movie of his life. Somehow, rather than helping to convince him to let go, it motivates him to cling tighter. His whole being screams to stay, that aeons of the ups and downs of real life is preferable to the oblivion of death. No matter what the priests say is on the other side of the curtain, damn it, Billy is NOT DONE HERE!

 

By God, those Aussies could fight! Through the smoke and haze, Billy saw them advancing - in broad daylight no less - towards the ridge. No tactician himself, even Billy could see that attacking an enemy on higher ground during the day with limited artillery support wasn’t a good idea, but he had been given his orders, so he stood and ran with them.

It was a massacre. It would later be called The Battle of Fromelles. For Billy, it would be his last day as a mortal man.

Peter was beside him, as always. The shell announced itself with the high-pitched wail that even the greenest soldier could identify. A thousand times before, the sound had tapered into an explosion - some near, some far, yet always just far enough away. This time the sound just kept coming. Billy knew. Peter knew. They had a moment to lock eyes, before...

Billy had always been quick. His brain, his reflexes, were second to none. He was moving before he even knew why, or how. Peter was a small man, much smaller than Billy. The thing Billy knew before the shell destroyed him was the smell sweat from his best friend. A smell Billy had grown up with - sharing a bed as children, on the rugger field, after a hard day’s training.

It was a good last moment.

 

The turmoil in Billy’s being stills. His soul comes to rest. Mere moments after the last time he looks into his best friends’ eyes, while the smile of his darling Daffy still echoes in his mind, while his now-useless body is still floating through the air, Billy comes to a decision.

I will not die.

There is such an air of authority in that thought, that Death Herself pauses. William Blake has elected to stay on planet Earth, on the human, mortal, four-dimensional plane of existence.

But there are some... practicalities... to consider. His body is dead, so he must find another way. Like the dawn on the horizon, with the last vestiges of what was once his brain, Billy unlocks something old, as old as creation, something that was not intended to be unlocked in humanity for another million years. It is a beacon, a trigger, a seed, a spark.

And there is an Answering Call.

Billy sees it, takes hold of it, and with his body's last instant, spreads his consciousness out to encompass all that exists in the universe. He Becomes-

 

***

 

It is the 20th of July, 1916. Marly Smith walks down a busy street on the outskirts of London. She is dressed demurely, with a piece of black fabric wrapped around her upper arm. Her eyes are red.

A whisper on the wind. She stops in her tracks, attracting vague harrumph’s from the people who have to walk around her. She looks up.

Improbably, impossibly, gently and with pinpoint accuracy, a small flower wafts down towards her. A daffodil.

Sent by me.

Smile, my love. Everything is wonderful, wonderful... 


© Copyright 2019 Nathaniel Brown. All rights reserved.

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