The four days alone past by quickly with his birthday passing alone and quietly Julius’ nerves grew as he anticipated his mother’s return at any moment. Julius expended all his energy putting in the transfer papers and making sure he had parries for his mothers’ typical rebuts. Rehearsing over and over again he tried to get the perfect hook, the perfect explanation, the perfect clincher to end the discussion. Julius had worked everything out when his mother came home on the evening of the fourth day, she was all smiles and joyfully frolicked through the front door. She seemed unfazed when she saw her son home early from school. Bounding up to him she embraced Julius tightly and eyes glowing, overflowing with joy she gently shook him by the shoulders,
“sweetie, I have great news!” she paused only to take a breath unconcerned with Julius’ response.
“I found a wonderful job that will pay really well! We can move to a better part of the city! We’ll have a roommate but it’s okay, he’s a really nice man, you’ll like him a lot!” her soft sweet voice was so soothing but the look in her eyes was telling Julius that there was a serious catch.
“mom, I can’t leave with you…” but his mom continued on with a lengthy explanation,
“he’s a nice guy! He likes children and really wants to meet you!”
“You two will completely get along I promise!”
“We’ll be working together a lot, so we can save money by commuting together and we’ll have another source of income to pay for a nice place to live and…” Red faced Julius held his breath before letting out his frustration.
“mother!” she starred at him blankly shocked that he would sound so angry with such good news. He starred back at her blank expression before continuing, with his plan in mind he opened his mouth to speak only to find himself at a loss for words,
“yes?” the ever-uncomfortable awkward silence filled the room resonating with Julius’ heightened pulse.
“if you have something to say out with it already!”
“I… can’t go with you, I enrolled at C.S.A.U. while you were gone!” both their faces went pale, his because he realized he had blurted out what was not supposed to be said yet.
“come again…” hissed and blinked a blank faced woman whose wrath slowly but surely had begun building into an inferno before Julius’ eyes.
“please, I have a good explanation it’s just that…” But the rage of his unstable mother was too great for words to sooth and with teeth bared like an angry badger she tore into her still stuttering son without mercy.
“you had better be joking mister! With everything I have done for you! All the sacrifices I have made for you! If you even knew half the things I have done to keep food on the table for you, you’d…” she shrieked like a banshee and in a blind rage she swung a wild hand through the air striking Julius across the face and knocking him to the ground with a thud. The floor shuttered and dishes in the kitchen cabinets rattled in the building silence.
“No! You’re nothing but a traitor, a snake! You little leach all you do is take and act like I do nothing for you! I am ashamed of what I have had to do for you! I work my hands to the bone and all I get in return is you running away from your duties to your mother!” She turned away from him in disgust crossing her arms as she fumed and stomped across the apartment.
“but… mom… I need help! I’m a freak and I don’t know what to do!” sobbed Julius desperate to get a word in. Sobbing and on his knees now his forehead pressed against the course grungy carpet with his long black hair gracefully sliding from his pony tail to hang over his red bruised face.
“you aren’t a freak sweetie, you just need to focus on being normal. Stay with me! You, me, and Drew can all live together like the big happy family we’ve always wanted, and we can help you work through this awkward phase like a real mommy and daddy!” The look in her eyes was sharp and accusatory as if to say, ‘take the deal or else!’
“no, I need training, this ‘phase’ isn’t going away! I am who I am, mom; I am an awakening mage! I just want to learn who I am, there is nothing wrong with that is there?” her eyes glazed with a jaded hate.
“You’re so selfish, all you think about is yourself! You never think about me or how this affects me! What will people think about me if they find out what you are? How do you even know that you’re an awakening mage anyway? Come live with Drew and I, you’ll outgrow this phase and we can all be a happy family, you’ll see!”
“What do I have to do to make you happy? What do I have to do to make you understand? What do I have to do to make you see reason mom?” there was a long pause, then she sighed and looked out the window as Julius continued to plead with her.
“I’ll still be able to see you weekends and holidays mom. It won’t be that bad! Honest! I won’t be a burden on you and drew and we can have those wonderful Holliday dinners together as a family just like you… we’ve always dreamed about!” Julius tried to smile but could only muster a grimace. Looking up from the floor at his mother Julius caught from the corner of his eye something move, a dark figure. Deep pitch of a moonless night, and cold crept throught the air for just a moment and was gone.
“sweetie, if you want to go that badly then…” she paused for just a moment before her shrieking ensued,
“Get out! I hate you, I never want to see you here again! Get out!” Julius was startled by how fast his mother was, he had looked away from her for just a moment to see the figure in the corner of his eye but saw nothing there.
When he looked back she was grabbing at his nice button up shirt digging her nails into his flesh. Dazed he stared at her confused as to why the sudden change in her demeanor. But was snapped out of his daze by a hard-open handed strike to his unbruised cheek. She pushed him to the door and thrust a small coin purse into his hand before pushing him backward out of the threshold. “get out! Stay out, and don’t ever come back! I tried my hardest, I really did. I loved you unconditionally! Now go!” tears streamed down her face as she slammed the door and locked it.
Julius stared blankly at the closed door and his stomach turned in on itself. ‘What in the hell just happened?’ He thought to himself. Only one thought remained now, it swirled through his mind, ‘the park, I’ll go to the park and cool down and this will all blow over. We can talk about this in the morning and things will all be okay.’ He gasped for air and fought back tears as he picked himself up. Neighbors of nearby complexes stood outside their doors looking at him with an eager enthusiasm, as if they were spectators watching a gladiatorial battle. Julius banged on the door again and again hearing the doorknob shift and rattle and his mother’s voice cried out from behind the barrier,
“No! Get out of here damn it! I hate you!” Julius finally gave up and took the long walk of shame down the stairs and out into the lonely night, broken and scared he went to the only place he knew for comfort. Eyes burned holes into the back of his head as he wandered, whispers trickled into Julius’ ears and cut at his already deep wounds.
“probably a gakqu junkies’ son, not a big deal”
“should we help him?”
“Why? The kids probably strung iut in that shit too, no point in wasting our time”
Hours passed at the park, and Julius mesmerized by the cold light of the distant stars flickering out far beyond the domed glass sky made him long for a better life. All he had ever wanted was for his mother to love and except him. Running away from his grandparents’ house in the surrounding farming communities to be in the city with his mother was his greatest regret now, he heard from the authorities that they had been killed shortly after that by a demon raid weeks after he left without saying goodbye. The thought still haunted him, he had been cruel to them when all they had ever done was tried to love him as their own son. He had never wanted to believe the horrible stories about his mother though, now they seemed all very clearly true. Hind sight really is a dreadful thing.
Julius longed to go back in time and tell his grandparents how much he loved and appreciated them. He longed to see their grim cranky faces and listen to his grandfather crack jokes at the neighbor’s expense. He wished he could trade in his mother’s faults to deal with theirs again. Where the truth was unembellished and untainted. Where he could live a repressed, sheltered life instead of a miserable exposed to all the evils of the world kind of life. Staring up at the stars all he could see was the faces of those two-loving people, grim, but people he could have truly called his parents.
Julius laughed as he thought about his grandfather’s jolly pot belly and white bushy eyebrows bent into a perpetual scowl. His glittering, mischievous eyes winking at him before he broke from a scowl to laugh deeply at a dirty joke or cynical remark. His dark, worn hands and skin spotted by the sun by his years of hard labor marked the man as a strong and stubborn old ox. A back bent and weary with age but knees unyielding to any man defined him. Once black hair turned snow white but thick as it was in his twenties, with his large beak like nose giving his hazel eyes the look of an old greying eagle still lively enough to hunt. His grandfather was a good man, a scarred veteran of a great war, not always pleasant, but the best man Julius could think of.
His grandmother was the truest human embodiment of a badger there could ever be. Kindly and cute on first impression, though when angered was capable of raining in even as devious and cranky of a man as his grandfather. Her hair remained the light brown it had always been and her eyes, grey rimmed, still held their luster when last, he had seen. She was a thin, tiny framed woman, a naive optimist by nature which infuriated Julius to no end! Julius who was truly a pessimist at heart often clashed with his grandmother but if he could go back he would end every argument ever had with a hug. He missed her gentle nature and her inability to grasp the dark side of life.
Thunder rumbled, and Julius stirred from his mournful reminiscing to see the sky aglow with anti-aircraft flack. Winged demons were doing another raid on the city and the ever-watchful warriors guarding the Consortium of United States were always placing themselves on deaths doorstep to defend all the people within their defenses. Julius marveled at the sight of a war going on above him while he sat and cried over personal problems. Those soldiers have families and problems of their own, all the while they stand watch and do their duty to protect and fight to the death for millions of other people to whom they own nothing to. Why do they fight? Julius wondered to himself and found himself dreaming of wearing a C.U.S. military uniform. There were some mages allowed in the military and those few accepted were renowned heroes who each managed to accomplish things a company of troops would struggle to do. Maybe, just maybe he could make his grandparents proud yet. If he could go to the Arcane University, he could learn to be a great mage and maybe he could clear the Amaranth name of the shame brought to it by his mother. Maybe, he could even make her proud of him… He could be a hero!
The thought of being a hero crossed his mind and a flicker of a nostalgic vision flooded his mind. An old dream he used to have as a child rushed into his conscious thoughts. A nightmare he would always wake from screaming and thrashing in terror. He could feel his mother’s arms holding him for just a moment, like she always did when he would have that awful dream. A dream of war, smoke, loss and pain. A dream of bloody tattered robes which had royal crests, stained with blood and unrecognizable after being burned and slashed to bits. He was always standing in the heart of a glorious city of marble and fruit baring, and flowering trees, a city of stone and crystal and a dragon’s rage. The city was always burning! Thunder and screaming, guts and children bleeding out in the streets. He gasped for air as the battle raging silently above him spiraled back into view leaving behind the nightmare turned waking thought.
She had always been there to comfort him when that nightmare would strike in the dead of night. He had to make things right! With his new-found spark of hope Julius leapt to his feet and began jogging back to the apartment. It had been a couple of hours now and he was certain the door would be open, and she would be calmed down and ready to talk. She had never thrown him out and kept the door locked past eleven o’clock. It was already midnight, so he was confident that she would be sitting at the breakfast nook with a bottle of cheap beer and a full ashtray from a night of chain-smoking. With dreams of greatness flickering through his mind and epic battles playing out in his minds eye he arrived at the complex quickly before he heard it… BANG!…
The sharp crack rang out and echoed through the area, a quick flash of light lit the dark windows of the apartment for a moment before fading to black again. All was eerily quiet, a heavy ominous presence hung in the air around the household. Julius gulped and ran up the stairs, a figure flashed from under him, but he paid no attention to it as it watched him with judgmental eyes. Scaling the flight of stairs in a few bounds his heart pounded and a knot in his throat tightened. The door was open, open to a black hallow house. Julius cried out,
“Mom?” but no answer sounded back. Stepping inside he slid low to the ground fearing that perhaps he would be shot at next. His pulse thundered, and his ears rang with a high pitch buzzing as he fought hard to not pass out from fear. No silence on earth could ever compare to what Julius was experiencing at this moment. A deathly quite devoid of all sound, light, and warmth. An emotional black hole! Only a strange sulfuric, metallic, musty smell emanated from the house.
“Mom!” shouted a quivering Julius who received no response. Darting through the dark entryway he took shelter behind a kitchen counter and hoped he wasn’t walking into a trap. Murder suicide was all that was running through his mind at that moment. Working up the last stretched fibers of his courage he darted into the dark empty living room. Keeping still in the blackness he looked around, he could make out an empty bottle laying near the nook, an empty pack of cigarettes with only one burnt bud placed in the tray. But no sign of anyone anywhere!
Julius crawled towards his mother’s bedroom door hoping to hear anything, the sound of breathing, snoring, crying, anything! But there was not a sound to be heard anywhere, except for the neighbors below screaming into a holo-tele-projector requesting immediate emergency response. A monotone humanoid voice responded to their cries with an insistence that help is on the way and requests for their patience and cooperation, a cold chill crept up Julius’ spine as he approached the open door. He could barely breath and his heart felt like it was ready to explode. His courage dwindling, he thought of those soldiers who faced demons for the sake of millions and charged in grabbing hold of the ceiling fans dangling pull chain and clicked the light on with a battle cry. He hit the ground with a thud and whimpered expecting to be shot, but with still no sound or movement he surveyed the room carefully holding his breath for what seemed like ages. Terrified of what he might find he got to his knees and looked towards his mother’s desk chair which was occupied.
There, slumped in the chair sat his mother, still and quiet, the air felt damp and tasted salty, sweet, coppery. Sticky sweat, a pink mist clung to his face and hair and the sickly-sweet smell filled his lungs: metal, sulfur, booze, her rose perfume, and something else. The bed behind her was painted crimson and the floor beneath her was black with glossy shadows. Her delicate and graceful little hands hung limp and pale at her sides. A gaping hole pierced the back of the chair, a flat black pistol still remained gripped in her delicate right hand.
“Mommy,” whimpered Julius”mommy…” he stepped closer to see her pale face staring back at him. Tear stained cheeks painted with running mascara were already ashen grey and cool to the touch as her life force drained from her to the last drop.
“no!… no, no, no, no!” Julius cried in an empty room. Pulling her from the chair he flung the gun from her hand to the floor and knelt beside her, the floor squished round his knees and he was in a thick pool of dark blood.
“NO!” Julius tugged at his hair and placed his hands over the gaping hole in her chest trying to stop the bleeding that, was no longer happening. “I don’t know what to do! Someone help me!” Julius cried as the cold, wet grip of death flooded his body and sent him into shivers. “mom, mom! Please talk to me! I’m so sorry!” his hands shook as he kept pressure on the chest wound. He looked around for anything to help but nothing looked right, he was in a foreign land that he did not recognize. The whole world around him was strange and different. Even though the light was on the room was so dark, so lonely, so empty.”this is all my fault! I’m so sorry mommy! I won’t leave you just please forgive me! I don’t want you to hate me! Please!” his voice shook, and his eyes went blurry, the world was underwater, he could not hear a thing, or see a thing. He just cried and tried to keep her warm, but she was so cold it gave him the shivers. An eternity passed, and he sat there with her in his arms, lost he gently set her down and closed her empty, greying eyes. Streaking her pale face with crimson he stood up screaming at the realization that he was covered in his mother’s blood. Standing bolt upright he knocked over a flower vase of dried roses which crashed to the floor. Flower petals and bloody water swirled all around the floor plastering red rose petals to his wet sticky shoes. His eyes slowly clearing he could make out his grotesque hands and the lit screen of his mother’s desktop holo-tele-projector. The words
‘an empty heart left out in the cold, grows hard and unmalleable. Hopeless and broken, it ceases to beat. Bleeding shame, secrets stain her virtue and blacken her soul. For bread and water, I begged and crumbs and tears I received. My baby boy hates me, I have no reason not to leave!’
Julius felt sick, hopeless, and dizzy. The whole world was spinning, he saw his grandfather and grandmother crying, his mother screaming at him. “I’m cursed! I’m a burden to everyone around me!” Julius spun round in a circle looking for anything to help him get a clue as to what to do next. There, he stopped as his eyes fixed on a black rose placed on the floor behind him. A rose he was certain had not been there before, a rose that when in contact with his flesh, crumbled to dust. The thought of the dark image from before came slamming back into the forefront of his thoughts once again.
A dark figure had passed him outside, it was him! Heart still racing it was now a burning hatred, fear, and the intent to kill whoever that figure was outside now fueling his life-force. His hand spasmed as the flowers fine black dust absorbed into his flesh and vanished. His eyes dilated and the world seemed to distort, his heart thundered and he felt a deep pit of emptiness well up within him. A husky voice cried out from the black doorway with gun drawn,
“Resolute City P.D.! Anyone here needs to come out slowly with their hands up where I can see them.” what Julius heard was,
“Boy, you’re next, I’m coming for you!” Julius screamed and darted for his mother’s gun, where she had gotten it he did not know but it was here now, and it was kill or be killed! He held it feebly and aimed for the door.
“who’s there? R.C.P.D.! identify yourself!” Julius again only heard
“Ready boy, I’m going to rip you apart and no one will help you!” Julius screamed “come and get me! I’m not afraid of you, you bastard!” a large figure in sleek black plastic body armor bolted through the door and headed for the bedroom door scoping out the dark house in a grid pattern while speaking into a glowing glass panel on his wrist.
“Birddog to hunter, requesting backup, possible hostile has been encountered over…” no response was audible to Julius, but he saw the shadow of something very big approaching the bedroom door. Holding his breath Julius squinted and placed his finger on the trigger. As the large figure stepped very gingerly through the door badge first. Julius gasped,
“easy, kid.” The husky voice rumbled as a humanoid bloodhound stepped into view. The dog man was thick and stumpy, he had large droopy eyelids and ears with great big jowls. His fingers were thick and pudgy, and his skin was a high glossy brown and white colored dog fur coat. Julius recognized the officer as one of the Straw Dog officers. A genetically altered, artificial life form created by the C.U.S. to help wage war on demons and dark mages known as War dogs or Rabid Dogs. When they retire from military service, they serve the rest of their lives as top-notch police officers because of their natural animal instincts and their near human intelligence and good nature towards humans. When they become police, they become the straw Dog. Julius dropped the gun, his body shaking fiercely,
“sir… please help me!” the officers tail wagged slightly, and he lowered his gun slightly.
“why don’t you step away from the gun and body and tell me what happened here kid?” The officers nose flared a bit and his hackles shot up along with his gun. His eyes narrowed on Julius who looked about ready to faint.
“You’re a mage aint you!” he glared at the boy for a brief moment before speaking into this arm panel again,
“Birddog to hunter, we have a young suspect of magic origins.” A blue light shot out and glanced over Julius’ body before he could react.
“Sending you his physical scan, try to match it with any data base we got.” Julius stood like a stone statue while the dog man glared at him. ‘you’re a magic user… they’re going to kill you… run! Say, Sweltra Fuezio Gleam, and make a triangle with your fingers framing the dog man in the line of your fingers. QUICKLY!’ Julius looked around startled by the voice though it sounded like his own voice in his head. And the Straw Dog had no reaction, so it had to be in his head. The hulking beast took a step towards him with his gun raised,
“put your hands up and get down on your knees! Nice and easy boy!” Julius staring down the barrel of a large energy weapon and did as instructed. Placing his hands in the air he touched fingers as he dropped to his knees and said the strange gibberish. Once spoken he felt something burning hot pulse through his veins and explode out from his hand with a great deal of pain. A bright triangular burst of light poured from his hands like a lazer and engulfed the Hound. Instantly the hound’s black plastic plate armor fused together as it super-heated and cooled instantly. The hound stood statuesque, unable to move in his solid plastic container.
‘Run! Run! I need to run!’ the voice sounded in his head and Julius so horrified ran faster than he had ever run before. With sirens blaring off in the distance he heard the officer call after him,
“Half breed! Stop you half breed scum!” the hound bade as only a bloodhound can and cursed Julius. His neighbors glared at Julius as he fled the scene drawn out of their homes by the ruckus caused. The Streets were empty as he ran, fearing the hounds that howled in the distance of the cityscape, he made a mad dash for the only safe place he could think of. A dark figure darted just out of sight. Julius could only see the movement and growled.
“It’s your fault isn’t it! You did this!” a laugh resonated in his head and throughout the alleyways. Julius ran down one, then another like a rat in a maze trap he fallowed the dark figure who always kept just out of reach until Julious tripped in a puddle of dirty grimy water.
Coming up from the shallow water he saw blue eyes flash from under a midnight blue cloak. The figures sleek, deep blue sapphire encrusted dress shoes glistened in the faint ambient lights as he hovered over the boy, crouched like a gargoyle standing guard. Julius didn’t even hear the man approach him! Yet moments before his footsteps had echoed like thunder in the alleys as Julius had chased him. Julius reached out attempting to remove the figures hood to see the shadow shrouded face of the man responsible for his mother’s death, only to have the figure disappeared without a trace right before his very eyes. Like smoke the man’s hood rolled out from the boys’ grasp and seemed to absorb into the shadows all around. Julius only caught a glimpse of a crest the man possessed but not his face. He heard the Straw Dogs howl and could see hover search vehicles with spot lights buzzing through alley after alley. Leaping to his feet the race was on to avoid being caught. There was nowhere to go nowhere to run, nowhere to hide except for the park!