It had always called to him-- the wall. He knew it was dangerous, and his mother would kill him if she knew he had gone near it. He couldn’t help himself, though, his body moved on its own until he was standing in front of the towering wall. His tiny hands reached out, imagining how the brick would feel under his hands.
He snapped out of his trance, whirling around to look at his older brother who was racing toward him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He took hold of Amias’s arm, a worried expression crumpling his face. “You’re lucky a guard didn’t see you,” He scolded as he dragged Amias back toward their house.
“I’m sorry, Cam, I was just curious.” Amias murmured, turning his head down toward his feet. “You won’t tell Mom, will you?”
Cameron stopped walking, turning to look at his brother. His expression had softened, and he let out a sigh. “I won’t tell Mom… just don’t do it, again, okay?”
As they walked home, Amias turned his head to take one last look at the wall. It had clearly been built to look intimidating. It was beyond tall and despite being older than Amias’s parents, there wasn’t any graffiti on the cold stone. It looked untouched… because it was. On the other side were monsters. That’s what his mom told him, anyway. Monsters lived on the other side, and monsters guarded the wall, ready to gobble up wandering children.
Amias wasn’t sure if it was true, adults made up stories like that all the time, but Cameron told him all about the monsters and how dangerous they were. Amias always just nodded his head, never really taking it to heart.
5 Years Later
“You can’t run forever, pansy!”
Amias pressed himself against the trunk of a tree, a hand over his mouth to muffle his breathing. He really didn’t mean to make the other boys angry. They were talking about boys kissing boys, making fun of it, and Amias asked what was wrong with it. And just like that, he had a target on his back.
“Got you, fag!” One of the boys, Nick, wrapped his hand around Amias’s arm. “Thought you could run?”
Ten is a young age to be introduced to homophobia. Ten is a young age to get the shit beat out of you just because you don’t have a passion for hating gay people. And Amias experienced both at ten.
Nick called his friends over, and Amias knew what was going to happen. He was thrown to the ground, the boys kicking at him, pulling at his hair. Tears streamed down his face as he cried out for help.
“Hey!” Someone shouted and the kicking stopped.
Amias peeked out, his eyes slowly opening. It was a woman. She was tall, towering over the groups of boys, her blonde hair was cut short at her chin, and she wore a fierce expression that promised pain to the bullies. She looked like she was glowing.
Nick and the other two boys fled, immediately, too young to not fear adults. Amias slowly sat up, his arms shaking as he held himself up.
“Are you okay, little one?” The woman crouched down in front of him and, with gentle hands, she cupped his face.
It was strange-- she was a complete stranger yet Amias felt so safe around her. No one had ever treated him so gentle, except for Cam.
“I’m okay,” He finally answered.
The woman frowned as her fingers grazed a bruise on his forehead. “What’s your name, little one?”
Amias didn’t think he was that little, but he supposed he was compared to her. It took him a moment to realize he never answered her question.
“Oh, I’m Amias.”
She smiled. “My name’s Esme.” She said softly. “Now, you need to get treated.”
“Amias!” Cameron jogged toward them. “Are you okay?”
Esme’s eyes followed Cameron as he knelt next to his brother, his eyes taking in every injury. Esme backed off when he got close, frowning slightly.
“A pack of boys attacked him. I scared them off.” She informed Cameron.
Cam looked up in surprise, seemingly just noticing her. “Oh! Thank you… who are you?”
“Esme! We have to go… now!” A man with strawberry blonde hair and sharp green eyes shouted at Esme.
She smiled at Amias. “I have to go, now. Good bye,”
Amias, now that he was alone with his brother, broke down crying. Cameron immediately brought the younger boy to his chest. He rubbed circles into the younger boy’s back, letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you.”
“They were beating me up because they thought I was gay.” Amias admitted.
Cameron tightened his grip on Amias. “Well, they’re just bigots, ignore them.” Amias didn’t know what “bigot” meant, but it sounded bad, so he just nodded.
The brothers sat there for a long while. When they did finally start walking home, Cameron refused to let go of Amias’s hand.
After that incident, Cameron refused to let Amias out of his sight. He walked him to school, and he was waiting for him when school got out. He was by his side until they were both safe at home. That was, until one day.
Amias walked out of school to find that Cameron wasn’t waiting for him. He shrugged it off, assuming he simply got stuck at school, and he walked home by himself without incident.
Cameron, however, hadn’t just gotten stuck at school. He was sprinting down the sidewalk, five kids around his age were following close behind. He had been spending his time worrying about Amias’s safety, but he hadn’t thought about his own.
“Shit, shit, shit.” Cameron’s lungs burned as he turned into an alleyway that looked mostly empty except for a big dumpster.
He crouched behind the dumpster, trying his best to look small and unnoticeable. He heard a crunch, someone stepping on glass, behind him, and he whirled around, thinking that the boys had caught him. But it wasn’t the bullies that had been chasing him, it was just one boy, a boy he didn’t recognize.
He looked to be about Cameron’s age, with shocking blonde hair that was cropped close to his head, and weirdly nice clothing for the neighborhood they were in. He could see what looked like tattoos peeking out from under his collar. It was strange. Fourteen-year-olds didn’t usually have tattoos.
“Are you okay?” The mystery boy asked.
Cameron opened his mouth to answer but paused when he heard the thumping, offbeat footsteps of numerous people running. He took the boy by the arm and tugged him down to his level. The boy’s eyes widened in surprise. “Wha-”
“Shush!” Cameron frowned at him, waiting until he heard the boys pass by the alley. He let out a sigh and pushed the boy away from him. “Sorry, they were chasing me.” He got to his feet, brushing the dirt away from his pants.
“Chasing you? What for?”
Cam froze, face turning white. “Oh… I don’t know, just bullies, y’know?” Desperate to change the topic, Cam suddenly asked, “What’s your name? I’m Cameron.”
The boy’s face broke into a smile, accepting the change of subject without question. “I’m Connelly. It’s nice to meet you.”
Connelly-- another thing strange about this kid. “I haven’t seen you around here before.” Cameron observed.
Connelly grinned widely. “Yeah, I’m new to town, I guess.”
“How about I show you around?” Cameron raised a brow, already walking toward the street, leaving the alley.
Connelly immediately followed after him. “Really? That sounds amazing!” He replied, enthusiastically.
Cameron showed the newcomer the entire neighborhood, beginning with the bakery that gave him their almost-stale donuts for free, before showing him the corner store. When the right cashier was working, Cameron could swipe the candy next to the cash register, while the cashier looked the other way. He showed Connelly all his little tricks before concluding the tour right on his block.
“And that’s my house.” Cameron pointed at the little yellow house.
“Cam!” Amias ran out of the house, worry painting his features. “Where were you? You were gone all day! I thought you were hurt!”
Connelly stared at Amias as the younger boy wrapped Cameron up in a hug. Cameron didn’t hesitate to hug him back. “I’m sorry, I got distracted.” He patted the back of Amias’s head, hoping to brush his worries away.
Connelly cleared his throat, looking much more uncomfortable now that Amias had arrived. “Who.. who’s this?” He attempted a laid-back smile.
Cam frowned at his shift in behavior. “This is my brother, Amias.”
Amias stared up at Connelly, still clinging onto Cameron. “Hello.”
“Well, Cam, I had a good time today. Thank you for showing me around.” He took a step back.
Cameron nodded slowly. “Me, too. I’ll see you later.” HE smiled at Connelly as the other boy turned away, looking troubled.
“That was kinda weird.” Cam said as the brothers walked into their house.
That night, Amias had a dream. He couldn’t remember much about it the next morning, but he woke up with terrible heartburn. Every night, he had that dream that was blurry in his memory the next morning, and, every night, he woke up with heartburn. However, after each night, he could remember a bit more of the dream, until, finally, the whole picture was clear in his mind.
The dream would begin when a man with wings would approach him. He had a bow and arrows slung over his back, and he had a strangely familiar face. “Amais.” The man would say, “It’s time to come home.”
“I am home.” Amias would reply.
“You do not belong with mortals.” The man would slowly take his bow into his hands, notching an arrow.
“Where do I belong?”
The man would let the arrow fly, right into Amias’s chest.
“With the gods.”
Connelly awoke to his family’s loud voices in the kitchen. He couldn’t make out any of the actual words, his senses muddled with sleep. He slowly pulled himself out of bed, creeping through the halls of the house on quiet steps. He didn’t want his family to hear him or else they would stop talking-- they didn’t tell the youngest their secrets, yet. He was constantly reminded that he was too young to comprehend what they were talking about.
“I’ve met him.” He heard his sister, Esme, say.
“You crossed over?!” That voice belonged to his father, and his anger was evident.
Connelly allowed a frown to wrinkle his features as he continued to listen. Cross over? The wall? Esme crossed over the wall?
Throughout his entire childhood, Connelly was reminded to never cross the wall, or even go near it, for that matter. It separated them from the lesser creatures, and it was dangerous to go near the mortals. For they were gods, and they were better than the monsters on the other side.
“You told us that Amias’s life on the other side was unhappy, but that other boy cares for him! The brother!” Esme continued on, the anger in her voice growing.
Connelly could imagine Esme’s fierce appearance, arms crossed over her chest and sneer on her face. Then, his father spoke, again. “How did you find him, then? Being coddled by mortals?”
There was no response for quite awhile. Finally, Lennan replied. “We found him being beaten up by a group of bullies.”
“Exactly!” Their father shouted, before being shushed by their mother.
“You will wake Connelly, we don’t want him to overhear us.” Connelly frowned deeply at that. Why did they never trust him to hear the family’s affairs? He knew he was young, but Lennan was allowed into the family meetings when he was twelve, and Connelly was already fourteen!
“I know you think it’s wrong to separate Amias from his mortal family, but he belongs with us. We don’t know when his powers may awaken, and he will be reaching puberty soon. He needs to understand himself before that happens.” His mother continued.
“Mom’s right.” He heard Lennan finally say.
“I’m still against it.” Caradoc said.
Caradoc, the second oldest of his siblings, was usually the calm voice in their conversations. Connelly had never once seen him lose his temper, but the anger in that one sentence was boiling. It scared Connelly. Who was Amias? Someone who could cause so much anger and disagreement among his family.
Although they could fight, his family usually stayed calm during their meetings-- Connelly had listened in more than once. This topic, this person, Amias, was different.
“We’ll continue this conversation later.” His father’s stern voice shook Connelly out of his thoughts.
He realized the meeting was ending, and he scrambled to hide, so they didn’t catch him listening in. He hid around the wall, watching, first his parents, and then the others trail out of the kitchen.
“I know you were listening.”
Connelly startled, turning his gaze on Esme. “Sorry,” He muttered.
Esme was the oldest of the siblings, and she was their rock. She was by far the strongest of them, being raised as a woman of war, like their mother. Their mother, Enyo, the goddess of war. She completely took over raising Esme, not allowing their father to have much influence. According to their father, she constantly told him, “Women have to fight harder to get the same opportunities as men, and I want Esme to be completely capable of fighting.”
And it worked, Esme was a fighter. A scary fighter.
“It’s okay.” She smiled at him. “I just don’t want you to get any ideas. I may have crossed the border, but you cannot. It’s dangerous. Mortals live in a different world than us.”
Connelly nodded slowly, but he didn’t take the warning to heart. “Got it!” He grinned.