Elwin waited for Erian to come out of his trance. It was not uncommon for him to go into these trances and Elwin was used to them. Rather nervous ticks, hallucinations, and trances seemed so common among the Delphorians it was simply accepted they were a degenerate people full of such defects. Elwin was used to Erian’s bizarre habit of going into a poetic trance that he knew confidently that in a few moments the thorn embedded in his right temple would start to sting and he would snap out of it.
“Agh!” cried Erian clutching his right temple. The thorn swelled up into a putrid black boil.
Elwin waited for Erian’s pain to subside and then he questioned him straight away on what he said about water washing away sins.
“Oh that was just something I heard some crazy fool in tech school muttering once. No one took him seriously. Although, I do wonder if that’s the key for removing these thorns.”
“Are you sure we won’t get the plague if we pull out all of these thorns?”
“Elwin, I am sure of it, we were not meant to live like this. We were meant to be rulers.”
“The Kelites say that when we were rulers that we were cruel and arrogant. Maybe we deserve these thorns. Maybe the thorns are justice for our people’s sins.”
Erian closed his eyes and put a hand over each temple. He was struggling with some internal demon, taunting him. He could hear a voice in his head sometimes telling him he was stupid, he was pathetic, that he deserved to be stepped on by better people than himself. Elwin knew he had better change the subject before Erian started to go into a rage.
“Do you ever still think about Fen and Kevin?”
Erian shook his head, “what? Our roommates from school? Sure, sometimes, why?”
“I just remember that time you made Kevin apologise to Fen.”
Erian scatched at this temple, “aye, I remember that, that was the day I got this thorn stuck in my head.”
Erian hated the thorns. He insisted that they were no good and did nothing but harm. He had to keep these thoughts to himself of course, speaking out against the goodness of the thorns was a punishable act of heresy. It was not uncommon for Erian to fly into a rage about how it did not matter what crimes their ancestors had committed, we are not guilty for the sins of our forefathers.
Elwin sensed Erian was dangerously close to one of his characteristic rages and quickly tried to change the subject again.
“Rebekah wants me to write a biography of my life. She thinks it would interest the Kelites to know what it is like growing up as a Delphorian.”
“Probably because they just want to gloat over how much they have harmed us,” murmured Erian.
“Rebekah has a book ab-“
“Be quiet,” interrupted Erian, “We can’t afford to be distracted.”
He motioned Elwin to be silent.
“We need to find out if removing the thorns under water really works. But we can’t risk either of our lives. So few of us are able to think of anything but food, sex, and getting attention. We are too important to risk this. I propose that we take Kylie outside the city to the canal, hold her under the water and see what happens to her if we pull out her thorns.”
“Kylie? Isn’t she the girl you want to sleep with?”
Erian grumbled menacingly, “Yeah, only she won’t sleep with me, she’ll sleep with everyone else here, including some of the groods even, but she won’t even give me a feel.”
Elwin shivered slightly, he recognised the tone in Erian’s voice. He was definitely edging close to having one of his rages. Elwin started to wonder if perhaps Erian was already drunk on moonshine again. Elwin wanted to leave the room but he considered that he only had Holda waiting for him back in his apartment.
“So why Kylie? Will she come with us willingly?”
Erian laughed eerily, “of course she won’t. We will have to tie her up and kidnap her.”
Elwin felt his skin grow cold and the blood was drawn away. He was starting to look like a statue; the only movements he had left were his faster than usual blinking.
“How are we going to do that?” he asked flatly.
Erian produced a large thick wooden plank, much like the one he had seen in his hallucination earlier with Rebekah. He brandished it with both hands and swung it forward through the air in a clubbing motion. He had a cold smile on his lips as he swung it a few more times to get the motion just right.
“A good hard hit on the back of her head should send her down.”
Elwin sat motionless for several minutes. Erian noticed his discomfort and put the plank down, slumped back into his chair, and waited for Elwin to speak. When it came Elwin’s voice sounded squeaky as he was choking as he uttered them.
“Erian, I don’t think we should harm Kylie. I don’t think it is right to hurt others.”
Erian shook his head, drawing himself up from his chair he paced the room back and forth making occasional strangling gestures with his hands. Elwin just stayed still bracing himself for the firestorm that was about to come.
“Is it right when Holda yells at you and steals you food? Is it right when Rebekah taunts you with her perfect Kelite figure but doesn’t even let you touch her? Is it right when the groods push you around and beat you sometimes just for the hell of it? It is right that we spend our entire lives from cradle to grave shackled to a debt that we can never pay off? Is this right, Elwin?
“Because this attitude of yours, this idea that it is wrong to use force, it is wrong to use violence, it is wrong to lie and trick people, it’s weak. It’s idiotic and stupid. It’s so miserable and pathetic I don’t understand how you can have the stomach to put up with yourself. You get pushed around all the time, but you don’t fight back. You just suffer and take it. You suck in your dignity and you let them walk all over you. You are just so pathetic I don’t know why I put up with you.
“You need to wake up to the fact that no one takes you seriously. You’re self-hating loser. We need violence. We need to hurt people. We need to break some skulls. That’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere. We need to get weapons and we need to attack and destroy everyone who gets in our way. You need to hurt someone Elwin, you need to get some blood on your hands too. It will be good for you. We can’t have any mercy. Mercy is rewarding people for bad behaviour. We can’t spare the time to stop and listen to other people. If people don’t do what we want… what we need them to do, then we must to beat them until they do it. The world says free will is a loser’s game. And you Elwin are a loser.
“Kylie is a whore. She sleeps around with anything with two legs. She doesn’t care if the men hit her. She doesn’t care if they’re idiots, losers, or jerks. She lets anyone have her. But what about me? She won’t let me near her body. But unlike them, I would appreciate her, I would show her what real love is. Yet do you know what she does? She walks straight past me like I don’t matter. Why? Because I am nice. Well I am fed up with being nice. I don’t want to be nice anymore. Being nice is weakness. Being violent, that is being strong. We need to hit back.
“I mean look at you Elwin, you’re just sitting there in that chair still as a statue. You have no power. No influence. Yet I am the one with the power, I have the passion, I have the plan, I have the means, I will be the one to save our people. You’re a nobody. You’re impotent and no one listens to you because you don’t even say anything to people who push you around.”
Erian finished his rant and collapsed into his chair again gasping for breath and clutching the thorn in his side. This one was lodged into his liver. Elwin did not move, did not stir. He just remained completely still and staring into space as though he wasn’t even listening to anything that Erian had just said. His left knee started to hurt and it started to shake. The thorn was giving him a lot of trouble there. But Elwin fought hard and brought the shaking knee back under his control. Once again he was a perfect statue, frozen in place.
After a few minutes Erian looked across at him, he didn’t look back, he continued to stare into space. Erian signed loudly and buried his face in his hands for a few minutes. Eventually, he did break the silence.
“Ok Elwin, we won’t kidnap Kylie. I will talk to her. Invite her to come. I will tell her we know a way of removing her thorns. It might take me a few days to convince her. In the meantime you had better write that biography that Rebekah wants. So far the books she has lent us have been invaluable. But go now, I don’t want your company anymore. I will let you know when I have convinced Kylie to come with us.”
With that Erian slumped forward in his chair with his eyes closed. Elwin slowly removed himself and trotted off home.
My first day of school was among the most exciting days of my life up until that point in time, despite the sting of the thorn in my face and that I was missing nursemaid Agatha. The three men lead me outside of the nursery and for the first time in my life I saw the world as it was. I remember walking up that last flight of stairs out of the building complex. There was a broad field of asphalt as far as I could see. There were trees, the first trees I had ever seen with my own eyes and little tufts of grass breaking out from the cracks on the concrete. What fascinated me the most was the tall lamp posts standing at spaced intervals throughout the asphalt field. They had long slender necks like swans. I thought they were some kind of metallic dinosaur at first. I had never seen one in a book or photo before so they were the most novel things I had seen.
The three men took me to a small bus and strapped me inside. Naturally, I had never been in a car before. I was too scared to lean out of my seat, so I looked out the window by moving my eyes inside their sockets only. I can’t remember how long the drive was, but I remember the bumpy pot holed road. Every time the bus hit one I thought the bus would break down. From the window I was seeing the fallen down houses all covered in vegetation.
As we were driving alone we stopped at a couple of other nurseries and picked up a few more children. Each with the same birthday was me. None of us said hello to each other. We seemed to all feel the same terror of being strapped into the bus and none of us dared move in our seats. When we eventually arrived at school I noticed that there were four other boys with me. It seems strange to me to recount how odd it was that none of us had ever seen a Delphorian man before that day, yet for the next seven years none of us would see a Delphorian woman.
The school was surrounded by a large black steel fence with pointed spikes along the top. On the other side was a line of thorn bushes which I thought at the time was intended to discourage us from going near the fence. Maybe it was actually to discourage people from breaking into the school? To keep the stray pigs and dogs out?
We were taken to a large building full of narrow dark corridors. A small room with six bunk beds crammed in tightly was indicated to us. I moved into this room along with the other four boys from the bus and another boy who had joined us sometime after arriving at the school. Our beds just had a sheet and two blankets. The metal creaked every time we moved on them. I got a top bunk near the window. The window pane had been broken a long time ago. There was a metal mesh riveted to the side of the building that prevented us from jumping out of that window and down three floors to the concrete belong. Over the years, I would often think about what it would be like to throw myself up against that mesh. Would it take my weight? Would I just tumble down? Whenever the wind blew it chilled me in my bed.
There were no lockers or shelves for us to put any clothes or belongings, not that it mattered, none of us were supposed to have any belongings. One of the other boys had a small chain with a locket on it. He thought he was safe to sneak a peek at it while laying on his bed. But it was noticed and the other boys demanded to see it. We all looked at the chain with wonder. It was mostly rusty but some parts of it still sparkled silver. The locket was completely rusted out, but it was shaped like a heart. I remember that three of the boys were like me; content to just admire the treasure he had smuggled out with him from the nursery he had come from. However, the other boy called Kevin was jealous. He demanded that the boy give him the locket and chain. When he refused Kevin stormed off and came back with a teacher.
The boy did not want to hand over the locket and chain so the teacher beat him over and over until the boy surrendered the chain and locket. After this the six of us boys lay silently on our bunks, all of us except the boy who lost the locket. His name was Fen. He sobbed into his dirty pillow for a good hour. Eventually one of the boys, Erian, got up and walked over to Kevin and gave him a nasty punch. There was an argument but Kevin eventually got up and apologised to Fen for calling the teacher on him.
We were called to supper. Here we sat in a large room and were all served a bowl of thick soup with toast. None of the bowls nor the cups for that matter seemed to match. It was as though everything had been scavenged from the ruins we had driven past on the way here. I don’t remember the conversation at the table. I just remember thinking that the meal tasted delicious. I hadn’t eaten so much food in one sitting for a long time. It seems ridiculous to be me now to think that soup was such a speciality meal.
Lying in bed that night I remember thinking just how big my bed was and that I had never tried to sleep in such a big bed. Fen was still crying in his sleep, but so were at least two other boys. That was my first day of school.