The Abandoned Chapter 1: The Decision
It was a cold morning. Delias sat by the window, looking out. Rain pelted against the glass, and outside, the winds howled. But even as the land shuddered and the heavens seethed, the city remained quiet. Not a soul roamed the walkways. The market had long since been packed up. The merchants. The warriors. None with a trade or service to sell.
Delias’s eyes shifted to the ceiling. The endless white canvas… No. Not entirely white. There were yellow blotches, indicating decay and age. Delias sighed. He remembered when he first moved into the place. He remembered how new it was. He could even smell the fresh paint. Now? Fourteen years have gone. And for more than fourteen years, Delias sat on the same bed and in the same room.
Delias closed his eyes. They hurt, but the pain grounded him. The feel of the cold cut grass in the park; the morning dew; the scent of a woman- his woman, or the cool air off the riverfront; all now but distant memories. Memories that waned. Distant. It had been a long time since he was able to enjoy the world, and now those short memories he had had become all too precious.
Bringing up the piece of paper in his hand, Delias read the message again. Mom’s dead.
Delias’s fist tightened, crumpling the paper.
Laying on the nearby stand was an envelope. On it, it was addressed from the Department of Veteran’s Health. His caretaker had come in late last morning to deliver it. Delias had not opened it yet. He did not need to. He knew what it said. The DVH provided funds for injured veterans to live for up to thirty years, fifteen if the veteran needed a caretaker. Now those fifteen years were almost up.
Delias glanced at his withered right hand; withered from long years in bed. He compared it to the stump of his left. That was something he occasionally did. It was an unconscious act. As if all this time, he still could not get his mind around his missing hand. He sighed. Delias never dared to lift his sheet and glance at the mangled things beneath them. When it was cool, the chill irritates them fiercely, better not trouble them now. At least that’s what he told himself. In truth, he just didn’t want to look at them. Did not want to see the things that once were his pride and joy, now…
Delias unfurled the message and read it again. Mom’s dead. Two words. The first two words his brother has said to him since he was injured, even if it was by message.
Delias roared. He threw the paper. It twisted and fell a foot away from him. He looked at how weak he was and a fury, a fury he had been holding back, holding back because he knew it would do no good, erupted forth.
He banged the bed, swiped the nearby desk clean of all its things, knick knacks and pictures falling on the carpeted floor. He grabbed a nearby cane. A cane that was a gift by the DVH when he first moved in. A cane that he could never use because his damn legs would never move, and smashed it into the window. He smashed it over and over until the glass shattered out, rain and wind bursting in through the broken pane. The curtains fluttered.
Delais roared till his throat was sore and then broke down in sobs. Sobs no one would hear in the drowning wind. He did not care for the pain of his injuries. Haunting wounds that would never go away no matter how long he rested. He cried and cried. I never even got to say goodbye. Delias could not appear at the funeral. He would never leave this room alive. He looked at his only good hand. It bled from a large gash on his palm. He did not even feel when he had cut it. He did not know how he cut it. But he did.
After a half hour, Delias stopped staring at his hand, at the blood rolling down his arm, and he reached over. Tucked beneath his pillow was a thin card. He took it out and stared at it. Grey spots blotted the black crystal-like surface. It was of a nice sheen when it was first given to him years ago. But now, like him, it withered.
Time passed. The cold grew. Delias closed his eyes again. He had thought long and hard. He knew the risks, but he was done hesitating.
Back then, Delias was fifteen when he was injured. He was scared and young, and not young and bold. He had believed- had faith -that one day he would get better. That one day, his doctors would come and say: “The department head had discovered a new medical procedure that would make you well.”
Of course that was just fantasy. But he truly believed things would get better, after all, looking at him, who could think they could get any worse? But as the years ebbed away like a roaring tide, and his front door seemed to only allow passage for a burly, old man, who tended to just his basic necessities, that fantasy, that hope, blew away like a dandelion bud in a storm.
Taking the black card, tight in his hands, Delias squeezed. He squeezed so hard that the sealing gash on his hand welled up again and blood ran over the card face. Delias did not care that his blood spotted his white sheets, nor did he care about the oncoming pain. He had to do this.
Moments passed, and soon, the blood absorbed into the card. The grey spots vanished, and the black card glowed a deep shade of red. As if the card was alive, veins bulged out and wiggled. They squirmed and wormed, pulsing intermittently… The card stilled. The veins subsided, leaving a smooth surface. The red glow dissipated.
If it weren’t for the fact that the card appeared as if new, Delias would have thought it was all but his imagination.
“So, you have finally decided.”
Delias bounced, his heart thrashing. It was not even seconds gone that a pain hit him like an oncoming wave. His sudden rush of movement was too painful, flaring up his old wounds. Delias turned his head to look, and standing beside him was that man. The same man he saw almost fourteen years ago. The man looked no different than he did then. A fresh green robe hung off him; and the smell of mint in the air, the edge of his face, that youth; and those eyes, those warped starry eyes, all made Delias’s scalp go numb.
Unlike then, this time there was a clear fierceness within those eyes. Like a starving predator with prey lying in wait right in front of him. Delias’s heart trembled. His palm was clammy, and his throat was dry. He coughed and looked at the man dead in the eye. Though Delias’s inner self was shaken, by the look of his face, he seemed placid. He refused to show weakness.
“I have.” Delias answered, though the man had not asked him a question. The man’s tone was more of a statement, an observation. It was if the man knew Delias would agree to his proposal. Right now, for Delias, once the aid was gone, he would end up dead in his apartment. It was do or die!
“Well?” The green-robed man prompted.
“Make me whole. Make me powerful. I want the glory that was taken for me. The future I lost. I want it all!” Delias shook. He coughed and hacked. It seemed the cold had affected his lungs.
“Maybe in the past you could have survived, but now? Do you believe you are strong enough? I don’t. I would just be wasting materials and my time..”
“Stop!” Delias was now breathing hard. The surprise, along with that sudden outburst of desire, left him drained. “You wouldn’t have come if you didn’t see any value in it. Before you said you could fix me in exchange for being a part of your experiment. I don’t know why you chose me all those years ago, but I have asked around, and you have not offered that deal of yours to anyone else of similar circumstance.”
The green-robed man just smiled. That same smile those long years ago that had not reached his eyes. And just when Delias thought the man was just going to remain silent, the man finally spoke, “Your value has diminished. I am not sure if you will survive. I give you a point one percent chance. Are you still willing now?
Delias’s gut flip-flopped. He was not a brave man. Even after the promised honors and rewards, he only joined the army after someone told him he would get placed in a division that was not in the front lines. To him, life was precious. But a life like the one he lived, the one he imagined would happen a month from now when they revoked his entitlements, including them taking away that burly old caretaker, scared Delias more than anything. And his unbridled rage at his inability to do what he needed to truly live or to not even be able see his mother before she died or to be capable of visiting her grave. It was too much.
He had lost much. His girlfriend, his early years, his family’s respect… His mother was the last straw. Delias was not going to go back.
“I am willing.” His voice was now no more than a whisper, but it was unwavering. Delias steadied himself and looked back out to the quiet city. The unceasing rains pooled below, the sewers drains not enough to cope with the onslaught from heaven. “So… stop stalling and get this over with.”
The green-robed man’s smile deepened. Now it truly touched those eyes of his. As if it were saying, ‘I know something you don’t, and I will enjoy every moment of it.’
Delias shivered, but remained undeterred. He steeled himself. He did not know what the green-robed man was going to do, but he did not care. He was letting go. Putting all his hopes and dreams of a better life in this one endeavor. Should it fail, at least…At least I can have the dignity to take a shit by myself in the afterlife.