Across the hall from the boudoir of the mistress of the house, lay the bedroom of the house’s master. He sat inside staring at the ceiling while a reality-tv show about the housewives of several semi-famous levellers played out on the screen that was projected up onto the wall.
Around him were various bottles and cans of drinks that were of the fizzy, sweet and decidedly bad-for-you persuasion. On the ground were books. Books and papers. Loads of papers. All of them spread out like leaves during the falls. Covered in Desmond’s untidy scrawl. Covered in thoughts and suggests and recollections that would all be swept and tossed into the dustbin by the time the night was over.
Could one have all of one’s own memories and still feel like an amnesiac? Desmond wasn’t sure. What he did know, was the for the last decade or so, approximately fifteen years, he’d spent his days living in a fog.
In either case he was just glad to be Desmond again, in all sorts of ways.
The unique nature of his consciousness had led to complications during his reincarnation. Desmond was a being that was made up of fragments of other beings. He was an existence closer to a hive mind, albeit one that was pretending to be a single person, than an actual person. Thus it was, that when he deposited within his new body, it took a longer period for his mind to adjust.
He had a hunch that if it weren’t for the added priority placed upon him by a certain blank faced individual, whose name he couldn’t recall, he might well have just stayed an idiot for the rest of his life.
He wasn’t sure what they were exactly but he knew that measures had been taken to help him along.
Even with those measure He still spent fifteen years in a near vegetative state. The better half was spent living like an undead from out in the wastes. Highly susceptible to command. His actions lead by vague instinct. The worst was thankfully unrecollectable.
He spent that time with his real-self locked inside his head, trapped within layer upon layer of nightmares. Escaping from the countless recollections of the other lives of the other minds that made up his core personality.
Sometimes he was a deity overlooking worshipers. Sometimes he was king condemning traitors to their deaths. Sometimes he was a soldier fighting an impossible, never ending war. Sometimes he was a rogue beast, mad with rage, his flesh pierced by the arrows and spears of his divine foes. Sometimes he was a scared child, tied to a bed while some hulking hairy monster crept up onto the creaking mattress.
Trapped as he was, he had no choice but to visit countless mental worlds and live countless illusory lives, before he could finally get back to his real one and become himself again.
At the end of it, all things considered he couldn’t hold his parent’s actions against them. Yes the Caldwells, were cold to him and yes they had all but thrown him away, but to some extent he understood their actions. To some extent he couldn’t help feeling grateful to them for all that they’d done so far.
He must have been such a disappointment. His archive had pulled the data from his birth and medical records. During his gestation his parents must have been ecstatic, according to the doctor’s reports, both before and after his birth, Desmond had shown signs of a near unprecedented magical potency.
Though this current world’s current incarnation seemed to no longer have a full menu, or a statistical display for an individual’s talent, they knew enough to know when individuals and children were born with potential. And Desmond was born with more than just potential.
The readings for his internal mana levels and magical affinities were such that had he been born normal, had everything gone as planned, his place in the upper echelons of Cyrillus’ imperial guard was as good as certain. His place in the upper Echelons in the Moon-fire Sect was as good as certain.
There were even signs that he was an immortal. Signs that he’d died in the womb and come back. He was born large for his age and would continue to grow large. His body built, broad, strapping and impressive as if he were a demon of the pride circle rather than the circle of lust. He should have been the star to bring his family up into nobility. Instead he was born broken. Empty.
It wasn’t even that he was born slightly simple, slightly slower. “That” could have been worked around. The problem was that, there’d been nothing there. For the young Desmond, whatever it was that made a person a person. He didn’t have it. “It” was a hundred billion worlds away fighting dragons and eating children like some kind of boogeyman knight.
Worse than not ever having been given hope at all, was being given hope and then having it fall through. Desmond knew this from multiple instances where the few good foster homes he’d been to looked like they’d become something at least semi-permanent, only for the caseworker to show up the very next week, asking if he’d packed. He knew this from having friends and girlfriends simply disappear shortly after he’d opened up to them. Not even rejecting him, just simply removing themselves from his life. Erasing themselves as if they were being chased by something.
Disappointment could be a very dreadful thing, just like greed, just like hate. Another poison for the heart.
Thus while Desmond couldn’t particularly say that their actions were entirely excusable, as far as he was concerned, he owed Caldwell’s a debt. For while they could have simply just thrown him out. Possibly having someone drive him somewhere distance and just have him get out. Possibly just having some of his other nursemaids that had come before the present one, smother him in his sleep. They didn’t.
Instead they waited, and they prayed. Instead they sank millions of dollars into him seeking answers and cures. Trying to see if he’d get better, to see if they could make him better.
They couldn’t though. And because they couldn’t fix him, they could only move on. Making sure he was taken care of while they focused on their other prospects the other hopes for the family’s future.
The next prospect would be Desmond’s young brother. A highly intelligent, moderately talented young man by the name of Alvis. Alvis would be the house’s future. Alvis would be the next head of the family. Alvis would be the one to bring the family to greatness.
The only thing in Alvis’s way were the empire’s laws of inheritance and near vegetative younger brother. And again Desmond, found himself feeling at least a little grateful to his family, or at least he felt grateful to his parents.
Despite the fact that it would have been cheaper and simpler to just arrange a timely downturn in his health, and a speedy demise, they didn’t. Though there were several senior members of the family telling them they should kill the boy, they didn’t.
They went through all the trouble of finding another family to take the boy in. Another family to take care of him.
Had he been born to the sorts of people he usually found himself with, he likely wouldn’t have found himself lying in a bed. Had he been born to a family that were as bad as Desmond knew families could be, he wouldn’t have woken up in a bed. He would have woken up in a gournay. Or in some cage.
He might well have woken up strapped some contraption that harvested his body fluids for their superbly high magical content.
They might not have been the most loving. They might have actually come to hate him a little. Resent him a little. But compared to narcissists who didn’t recognize that orgies and ritualistic human sacrifices were things that no child should either witness or be forced to take part in. Compared to angry, drug addicted, pedophiles who killed their wives and then made their sons take on the rest of the burden…His current family, the Caldwells were the very best family amongst those that Desmond had ever been born into.
And for that he felt he owed them a debt of gratitude.
Now here Desmond was, feeling both, like and unlike himself. His thoughts were different from his original self’s thoughts might have been, born from a fusion of countless other minds, but still patterned after his own mind. An amalgamate existence pretending to be singular entity.
Before him lay a new world. One that was both like and unlike the one he’d lost, the one that had been purged in nuclear fire.
He’d been back for quite some time, really. Three years to be exact. He’d spent the first year just adjusting. Convalescing and resting from his long journey through mental space and mental time.
Just lying in bed letting the archive fill him in on what was what. Then once he understood a little more about his new world and his new self, he continued to pretend. He drooled, and he smiled because he felt that he’d been enough of an inconvenience.
At first he’d considered immediately revealing that he was fine, that he was indeed as they wanted him to be and available to play the part of their son.
Then after some thought and a little research he realized that this would be the very worst thing he could do. He’d already broken his parents hearts. He’d already disappointed them. And so, they’d already moved on.
Just as they’d put money into trying to fix Desmond, they had now begun to put money into grooming Alvis. Plans and hopes were already fixed on Alvis. “Desmond” suddenly rising up and revealing himself would just be getting in the way. Just him acting for his own sake.
At the best he would cause a great amount of people a lot of trouble. His re-entrance into the family as a player and his status as eldest son possible causing a fracturing of the family over who would inherit.
At the worst the Caldwell’s would finally be forced to try and directly act against him to stop said chaos. Most likely resulting in their destruction as his current self was far from weak.
He couldn’t even just leave either as that would lead to the family trying to search for him.
Magical potent inpatients didn’t just disappear on their own, it would have looked like a kidnapping.
Which would be a blow to the Caldwell family’s reputation and call for the use of all their resources to enact a manhunt for either the boy or his kidnappers.
Resulting in something that would be both an inconvenience for Desmond and far too ingracious an act against the Caldwell’s who had more or less done right by him, for his preference.
Thus he’d continued to pretend. Playing sick till he saw a window in which it would be appropriate for him to disappear. A point in time when he could go missing and no would come looking for him.
It was beyond his expectations for that opportunity to come in the form of a marriage. One in which his disappearance would just be seen as a sign that his “purchasers” the Andras family, had decided to do a “return” on their purchase. Burying him in a shallow grave somewhere or just tossing them out since his presence in their daughter’s life was no longer needed.
Now here he was, escaped. And in another country. No longer a citizen of Cyrillus. No longer part of the Caldwell family. It no longer mattered if anyone found out about him, but he was still keeping low while he figured out his next move.
His only question now was whether he had any obligations to his spouse and whether it was appropriate for him to continue staying in the house, whilst being almost an entirely different person than the one she thought she was marrying. He didn’t quite know where else to go, or what to do with himself now that he was free and himself again.
There was a knock at Desmond’s door. He didn’t look away from the ceiling. Simply mumbling a response and absentmindedly opening the door with some telekinesis.
“Well, Come in then.”
The door opened and in walked a nine or ten year old girl, dressed in a dark blue gown and a white apron. Frail looking. Pale. Her skin looking like porcelain. Her dark hair unruly. Tied into an untidy bun in the back, with the bangs left to hang over her eyes like a curtain of black cobwebs.
She carried a tray that looked just slightly too large for a girl her size to be carrying but did so resolutely and steadily. Bringing it to Desmond’s desk and placing it a safe distance away from the stack of laptops that also shared the desk.
“Your dinner, Master.” said Jack. Jacqueline Weiss, the new Caldwell-Andrases family’s only full-time maid and Desmond’s current caretaker.
As she left the tray on the table and bowed, Desmond spared her a glance. Seeing her hair in the state it was and knowing that she’d likely end up bumping into something if neither of them did anything he sighed and called her over to him.
“Oi, come here before you hurt yourself again, you silly thing.” said Desmond. Shaking his head like a world-wearied mother hen.
“Yes, Master Desmond.”
The girl bowed a second time, before acquiescing. Her face still stony though a more attentive ear might have heard a bit of satisfaction in her voice. She pulled a chair over to sit down in, while the large man did her hair.