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Fiction

Toby wondered why, when he showed up on her doorstep drenched in a crimson liquid and shivering from the coldness of his own heart, what caused her to take him in. He hadn’t even said anything, scared of what would escape if he opened his mouth, maybe a scream he had been swallowing, it’s acidic taste burning the back of his throat. All he could do was stare. He was sure his eyes must have been black and cold, his mouth stuck in a permanent sickening sneer, his pale face reflecting the color of a corpse...but none of this compared to what he felt inside: 


Nothing, an ocean of emptiness, a field of desolation. 


Toby felt as if he was watching the life of someone else, someone he didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to. For that reason he hated the women for allowing him into the house, and he hated himself for walking through the door.


Toby had to stop wondering, and although a shower and a night of resting (he couldn’t sleep) could erase the physical marks of hardship clinging to him, nothing could erase the marks that hid just under his skin, those would stay with him forever. 


The tap of a china cup against the wooden table made Toby jump. The women that placed it there had stopped apologizing for she had gotten used to it, among other things. She had gotten used to his silence, his looks of distant hate and disgust when he looked at her, his episodes of jerking and screaming in his sleep, his moments where he looked so distant she feared he would never come back, and the moments when he did, vanishing for days at a time returning in the same state he arrived with on the first day. 


Sometimes she wondered why when he showed up on her doorstop, wet and shivering, what caused her to take him in, and what caused him to walk through the door. 


The women needed to stop wondering. Pushing the tea cup across the table with her most welcoming smile, she asked the one question that had been eating her up since his arrival. 


“What’s your name?” There it was again, the look of hate. She had never taken it personally because she was always able to see it was directed more at himself than her. He stared, and blinked a few times, the women wondered what he could possibly be thinking. No words had ever come from his mouth, only screams, and those didn’t even feel genuine as if they were just shadows of what demons lived inside of him-


“Morty,” 


His voice sounded as if it was once soft, once tender with the boyhood you could see in the dullness of his cheekbones, rounded face, and traces of it in the extinguished light in his eyes. But like his eyes, it was long gone, fading into a voice lacking life


“Hello, Morty,” The woman was shocked that he-that Morty had said anything at all and she found herself wondering once again what he could possibly be thinking. 


The woman needed to stop wondering.


Toby


Toby lied about his name, he didn’t feel like he was worthy of being Toby, not anymore. There was a brief hesitation before he lied when he crafted his new name.


Mortuus, ‘dead’ in Latin. He kept the ‘y’ off of Toby as a reminder of what was, and to add the childish innocence that ‘Toby’ had. He could be ‘Morty’, he had to be for he could never live up to being Toby again. 


Toby was of long summer days filled with sunshine and the tickle of grass on his skin. Toby was of happiness and warmth in all of its meanings. Toby was of dinners with his family, laughing and drinking and eating, hearing a knock on the door and answering it with a smile. Toby was of watching his father’s cup drop and shatter on the ground when his face flashed with recognition, the handle of the door clutched in his grasp. Toby was of hearing the words ‘He’s only fifteen!” And knowing exactly what was happening. Toby was of riding for long hours with a group of boys his age dreading the day when his feet would leave the horse's saddle and touch the ground. Toby was of knowing that the day they did, the day the battle cry rang from the mountains, the day Toby would have swung his legs over the side of his horse clutching a dagger, the only weapon his father could offer him, the moment his feet touched the ground and his head swiveled upward and saw what was right in front of him, that Morty would take over. 


Then, Toby was of Morty. 


Morty screamed in his sleep, plagued by warped versions of his memories that Morty never spoke of. Morty never said anything, he treasured silence taking it as the absence of what it could have been. Morty spent his days in a daze, feeling so distant from the world because he liked it better there, he wanted to leave. So sometimes Morty did, and after days of running and fighting and screaming he returned knowing this was the only ‘silence’ he could experience. 


This strange woman and her house was the absence of what could have been, of what once was:


War. 


“Goodnight Morty,” 


Morty jumped again, suddenly noticing the woman humming silently to herself, walking out of the kitchen. Morty watched her walk upstairs, a wide smile painted on her pale face. Then, her head suddenly snapped up as if she remembered something. 


“Sleep tight,” 


Morty did not. 


—-


Morty ducked, Morty dodged, Morty slashed, Morty hissed in laughter as another faceless enemy fell, his blood spraying over Morty. Their body hit the ground with a thud and Morty smiled.  


Morty stopped laughing as his face began to burn. Morty yelped as a feeling of acid spread like fire across his body. Morty clawed at his face, his fingertips coming back crimson with blood. The blood boiled in his hands, burning Morty like flames. 


Morty ran, tripping and falling and stumbling and screaming. 


And screaming, and screaming, and screaming, and-


Morty woke up, and he was still screaming. He could sense the distant presence of the woman upstairs in her room. He felt like he could hear her breathing, awakened by his screams. She had stopped coming to check on Morty, realizing there was nothing she could do.


Morty wondered if he felt bad. 


Within a minute he was out the door. The crisp night air filled his lungs and wrapped him in a cold embrace. He pulled his jacket tighter around him in his own hug, his shoes crunched on the gravel below his feet as he walked down the driveway, wincing at the noise. Morty slept downstairs on the floor, turning down the woman’s many offers of the spare bedroom upstairs and ignoring her pleas for him to at least sleep on the couch. He had his reasons, one of them was the floor's easy access to the front door for Morty was on the run. 


Being drafted for war at fifteen was not something that could be quit, and like the marks under his skin, it would stick with him forever. Every few days, Morty walked to the front of the small town and looked out into the distance. It wasn’t even as if he was checking, he was waiting. They would arrive one day, one day they would pour down the side of the mountain like the trail of blood they left behind. One day their flags flapping in the wind, drowned out by hundreds of footsteps of men and horses sounding like hail against a rooftop, they would come.


Morty dreaded that day. 


“T-Toby?” Tob-Morty whisked around wildly towards the voice that ripped him from his thoughts, his eyes wide with fear. His hand slipped into his jacket pocket and ripped out a blood-stained dagger. 


Where? Where? Where? 


Behind.


The once second glance that he got of the source of the voice saved their life. If the flap of their hood had not fallen from their face, and If To-Morty had not looked him in the eyes and recognized him he would have stabbed him and he would have died.


“Toby? Oh my God,” they collided, and T-Morty dropped the dagger. Tommy. The name rested on the tip of his tongue along with how?


True to his nature, Morty stayed silent. True to his nature, Morty did not move within the embrace. 


“I found you,” Tommy murmured into Morty’s shoulder. 


Found? Why was Tommy looking? If Tommy, carefree and childish Tommy found him, how hidden was he? Morty had never felt so exposed. 


Why did he drop the dagger? 


Morty spoke the word that was on his mind, “How?” Tommy released him and backed up as if to get a better look at him. Morty shifted uncomfortably, feeling Tommy’s blue eyes scan him. His eyes drifted along his body, catching on the rips in his stained clothes and his awkward stance before resting on Morty’s eyes. 


Morty’s coal black eyes. 


Looking into Tommy’s eyes brought back memories that Toby-Morty didn’t want to relive. He could see the same hardships reflected back within the pools of Tommy’s eyes, shocked that they were not black too. He saw Tommy’s widowed mother answer the door and scream, slamming it closed again. He saw the soldiers burst into the house and seize Tommy who raced to protect his mother. He saw Tommy riding on the horse next to him exiting their village, his golden hair bouncing in the sunlight, head held high. He saw himself, ‘Toby’, light brown eyes and messy brown hair smiling at him, smiling, from his horse and whispering two words, I’m sorry.


“You were quite hard to find I’ll give you that,” Tommy whispered, and Morty was one again yanked from his thoughts, “But I’m a tracker you must know that, you can’t hide forever,” 


Morty did know that, but he was simply reminded. He was reminded that Tommy, sweet innocent Tommy, was one of the most deadly people Morty knew. If someone needed to be found, Tommy would find them. 


It was no longer a question of how, it was why, for Morty did not need to be found. 


“Why did you look for me?” Morty knew the answer.


“They’re coming, Toby,” 


The annoyance he felt at the use of his old name was drowned out by his horror. He had said before that he knew, he knew they were coming, why did this hit him so hard?


The dagger called to him from the floor, screams and whispers of all the people it had killed rising from it in beckoning whisps. Morty picked it up numbly, turning it over in his hand, “How long,” until we die, until they come, until we run...


“A month,” 


Morty chuckled, and then exploded into a cackle. How? How? How did this happen? His dark laughter bounced off the empty plains surrounding him and Tommy. 


“Why are you laughing?” Tommy glanced at Toby, who was no longer the smiling boy who rode next to him, the coals of his eyes alight with old fire. 


“Isn’t it funny, just how fast the tides can change,” Morty quoted some distant memory that Tommy would never know. 


“They haven’t changed though, this is the same story from before,” Violence, blood, death. War. 


“I know,” 


Tommy had a feeling he did not know. 


But in a month's time he would. 


They all would know. 






To be continued

Maybe.

Depends. 

If I feel like it. 


June 05, 2021 02:06

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1 comment

Lee Doe
02:09 Jun 05, 2021

I might continue this one I’m not sure, I quite like the storyline I have planned. That reminds me, how do you guys plan your stories? Because I actually just don’t, I either just start writing or I think of things in my head. It’s ridiculous because at the bottom of my drafts I always have pages of writing for parts that didn’t make it into the story or that I didn’t end up liking. Ignoring my side rant, thanks for reading. I really appreciate it honestly. HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! PS: I spent so long trying to decide the name I just gave up ...

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