Caeden’s Story

I’ve been meaning to post this little excerpt up for a while now. Clearly, I haven’t. Hope you enjoy!

The young boy tottered out of the door to the small house, arms outstretched in front of him. His eyes were a pale, milky white, in stark contrast to his deep ebony skin. His motion had an off-kilter rhythm: step, step, step-step, pause, step, pause, step-step, shuffle-step, pause. He made his way to the edge of the porch, and took another cautious step out into space, feeling his way forward. He went down one step, and then another, but miscalculated on the third, and tumbled down into the hard, packed dirt underneath the porch. For a moment, everything was silent, and then a hoarse, keening wail rose from the young boy as the shock and pain registered in his brain.

A young, comely woman rushed out of the house and down the stairs to the boy, scooping him up in her arms. She rocked him back and forth, whispering into his ear, “Caeden, son, I’m here. Mother is here. Where does it hurt? Can you point to where it hurts?” Gradually, the young boy’s harsh wails quieted as his mother soothed him, covering his forehead in soft kisses. Finally Caeden stopped crying and wrapped his arms around his mother’s torso, clinging to her tightly, as she brushed a single, solitary tear from her cheek.

The boy’s mother and father fought in hushed whispers, not daring to speak louder for fear of waking up their son, who was fast asleep in his bed. The boy lay on his right side, because of the ugly, angry bruises covering his left leg, which had taken the brunt of the impact. He lay in bed, only a thin wooden wall separating him from his parents, and pretended to sleep, pretended to not hear the vicious, angry things his parents were saying to each other in harsh whispers.

“It was your job to watch him,” the boy’s mother said. “I can’t watch him at all hours of the day. When do you expect me to cook? What do you expect to eat?”

“By the Five Gods, woman, I stepped away from him for a few moments! When I came back, it was already too late! What do you expect from me?” The boy’s father was an older man with short grey hair covering his scalp. The hair contrasted his skin, but matched his milky eyes.

“Well, that should be obvious,” the boy’s mother responded. “Don’t take your gods-damned eyes off him when you’re watching him!” There was a brief moment of silence as the mother realized what she had said, and her dark skin flushed darker with shame and embarrassment.

Finally the boy’s father stood. “Perhaps, if I had eyes, it would be easier to keep them on the boy,” he snapped stonily. “Then again, if he had eyes, he wouldn’t need to be watched so closely.” The father strode angrily from the room, using his hands to feel his way along the wall.

A single, solitary tear dripped down the boy’s mother’s cheek. “I’m sorry…” she whispered. “I didn’t mean…”

“Mommy, why are some people Sightless and others are not?” Caeden asked one day while he was playing with a set of wooden blocks with different textures.

The boy’s mother paused from her cleaning. She looked at her son sadly, and said “Because that is Khezer’s will, Caeden. He rules the darkness, and allows only a few into his presence with him.”

“But why does Khezer use something bad to let people into his presence?”

“Hush, child! Do not speak ill of the gifts of Lord Khezer. Some, like you and your father, are set apart. You are able to serve Khezer in ways that I am not.”

“But why?” Caeden pressed. “If being Sightless is such a good thing, why can’t everyone be Sightless?”

The boy’s mother stood and gave a long sigh before responding. “I don’t know, my darling son. The Lord Khezer’s will is often mysterious and hard to understand.”

Caeden thought for a minute. “I wish you could be Sightless, too, Mommy,” he finally said before returning to play with his wooden blocks, humming to himself contentedly.

The boy’s mother stood abruptly and left the room, heading to the back of the house where she sat down heavily on her bed, a single solitary tear running down her face.

It was Caeden’s eighth birthday. It had been a nice party. His mother had made an almond spice cake, his favorite, and he’d spent the day playing joula with his father and learning to carve things from bits of scrap wood. But Caeden was scared. He had something to tell his parents, and he didn’t really know how they would respond. He’d been thinking about this for a long time: months, practically an eternity in a young boy’s mind.

When the idea had first come to him, he’d pushed it away as silly nonsense. He was only eight years old! Normal boys would stay with their parent for another ten years before going out into the world! But Caeden was not a normal boy.

Every few days, the idea had come back to him, and each time it was a little more persistent, a little harder to ignore. It had taken him a month before he finally decided that perhaps it was a good idea, perhaps an idea from God himself. It took him two more months to work up the courage to tell his parents. I’ll tell them next week, he would think to himself. But then next week came and went, and he remained silent.

But finally, he could wait no longer. The idea was so strong, so pressing, that he felt as though he could not go another day without telling someone. And who else to tell but his parents? He knew that they loved him. Surely they wouldn’t be mad. Would they?

So there Caeden sat as his mother cleaned up from his birthday dinner, and his father sat doing… well, doing something. Caeden wasn’t sure what.

“I want to go serve Khezer at the Cathedral,” Caeden announced in a small, fragile voice.

His parents both froze, and his mother looked at him. Neither said anything for a few moments. Finally his father spoke: “Well, then,” he said softly, inscrutably.

His mother said nothing, but a lone tear wound its way down her skin.

Things had moved swiftly after that. He knew his parents had argued about it, he could hear them through the thin wooden walls of his bedroom. His hearing had been growing steadily stronger: he could hear more things, he could hear things from longer distances. And he wasn’t sure, but he thought he’d been able to smell more things, as well. He could tell when their dog, Fera, had been in the room; he could smell her scent.

His mother had protested vigorously. “He’s only a boy!” she had said in her scared whisper. “What on earth can Khezer want with an eight-year-old boy?”

“Lord Khezer’s will is mysterious and difficult to comprehend,” his father had responded. “Who knows what role Khezer has alloted for him in this life?”

“But why?” His mother protested. “Why him? Why now?”

“I don’t know, my love. But there can be no denying: the Lord Khezer has laid this upon the boy’s heart. I have felt it, and I know you do too. Who can withstand his terrible might?”

So there Caeden stood, at the gates of the Cathedral of Reflection. One of the monks there had kindly brushed his hand up against the boy’s face, and asked Caeden his name. Caeden, scared, did not respond. “His name is Caeden,” his mother said, and the boy did not miss the catch in her voice.

A few minutes later, Caeden was tackled by another boy about his age. “I knew it! I knew it!” the other boy shouted triumphantly. “Khezer told me in a dream last night that I would have a playmate! I knew it!” The other dark-skinned boy let Caeden off the ground and reached out to touch Caeden’s face. “My name’s Jain,” he said cheerfully. “I’m a True Sightless, and you’re not, but that’s all right. We’re going to be friends!”

Hesitantly, Caeden reached out to feel Jain’s face in return. Then Jain grabbed Caeden by the hand, and they were off, laughing and playing.

“Wait,” Caeden said to Jain. “I need to say goodbye.” The young boy turned and ran back to his parents, his steps sure-footed over the unfamiliar terrain. He gave his mother a hug, wrapping his young arms around her body in a deep embrace. A single, solitary tear trickled down Caeden’s face, while his mother wept.

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