Chapter 2: The Grey Boy

I couldn’t tell you much about where the boy came from. It’s not that he came from nowhere, for indeed his place of childhood is a distinct one. But I’m not sure my words could do it any justice. This world was a neighboring realm to The Place, and as such, they were under perpetual attack of slithering shadows and grisly gargoyles. It was a realm whose name is lost on me, and even the natives; it was so old, no one knew what to call it anymore--so old that every time they tried to give it a name, they immediately forgot what word they had chosen. I myself have tried to adopt it a name for practicality, but each time, it slips away, like a dream.

It was a land ruled by beast—though not as you or I would know them. These were strange beasts of strange nature. If any of our realm were to cross over to theirs, they might think they’d found the mythical creatures that made up gods in so many of our cultures. They might say the beasts had magic, as we call it. Just as our beasts are malevolent or benevolent, these beasts were born either dark or light--good or evil, by nature. If one was born dark, they did evil things, using evil magics to terrorize and torture, to slaughter and destroy. If one was born light, they were perpetually kind and had the power to gift and bless others, to grant wishes, and to heal; all for the better of the light kind. This way of existence was the very same with certain beasts of the realm that we would most easily identify as people.

As with the beasts, when you were born, you were born light, or you were born dark. If you were born dark, you lived with the dark ones. If you were born light, you lived with the light ones. You did not copulate with one if you were the other. You did not talk to one if you were the other. The two peoples looked much alike, as I might look like you. The only thing that separated them was the color of their eyes. The ones born light glowed with blue irises, as deep as the ocean. The dark were like green fire—but their pupil was an olive to their iris, so dilated for the deprivation of light in its soul. For this reason it often appeared that they had black eyes—which is why the people came to know themselves as dark—or darklings. But though each people bred within their own kind, it did not dictate which side their child would be born. Indeed, a Light woman might give birth to a darkling, and a darkling woman might be pregnant with twins—identical, save for the nature of their soul. Neither race permitted an imposter among their kind, and so the Light Ones gave their dark children to the darklings, and any Light children the darklings had were killed upon birth. (This imbalance of practice made the darklings much larger in numbers than the Light—and thus they dominated them) This was the way of the strange, magic realm. But one boy disturbed this nature, and tested everything they knew. For, when he was passed from the womb of his Light mother, taken into the cotton cloth in the midwife’s arms, and the slippery mucus was wiped from his face, he opened his eyes—and it was the first and worst mistake he would ever make. For this boy was born with one eye sapphire blue, and one dreadfully black.

What to do with this boy? Surely he was an abomination to the Light village. Give him to the darklings? But, no—while he wasn’t light, he wasn’t quite dark either. Why he was—he was… Grey. When his mother saw his one dark eye, she was silent. She wasn’t sure what was wrong with her baby. He had one marvelous blue eye, but—well wasn’t the other black? Her words caught in her throat. The midwife put the little boy up to his mother’s breast, but he wouldn’t take to feed, and simply cried in frustration.

He had just latched on when his mother decided that this baby wouldn’t be hers. The tradition was to bring all dark children to the darklings, and so it would be with this one. She pulled the boy from her breast and held him to the midwife.

“He isn’t ours,” she said. “Take him to the woods, now.” The midwife said nothing, merely nodding and leaving the house into the sticky summer night with the child in her arms. He screamed hungrily. The woman crossed to the other side of the village, and by the time the village was but a sparkling speck against the black sky, she stood before a dark forest. Though there was moonlight, none penetrated this dark mass, leaving it as a hole in the land. She could see flickers of movement, but couldn’t make out the shapes. She didn’t need to—she knew they were the dark folk, but still her eyes strained. The baby’s cry had faded to an exhausted whimper. The woman looked to the trees, and down to the squirming bundle in her arms.

He’d been denied his mother, denied food and comfort. She denied him even now—she was only holding him to take him away. And even the small baby, young though his mind was, knew this wasn’t how it should be. He had expected to be with his mother after he left her womb. All that time of waiting, kicking and turning in anticipation of being birthed to the earth, and here he was in a stranger’s arms, hungry—hungry for far more than food. This wasn’t fair.

I couldn’t say what the woman’s thoughts were or where her heart was. But whatever her reasoning, whatever her heart, she turned away from the forest, and headed back to her village. She passed the child’s home, and went instead to hers. It was a small little box, but it was cozy and warm. Modest, for she had little money and even less need for material things. And it was quiet, lacking children or a husband. But the boy had stopped crying as soon as she closed the door behind her.

She sat in a rocking chair by the fireplace, and whispered a word that sent fire spitting into the pit. There she sat with the boy in her arms, humming a melody she did not know into the still room. And wouldn’t you know it, when she put the child to her breast—barren though she was, and never having nursed a baby a day in her life—milk came to the baby’s mouth. And so the boy had found himself a place to be, for a while.

The End

18 comments about this story Feed