If you happen to know a Christian book editor…
Copyright Eric L Gardner © 2021
Aretherra Vol I – Chapter Aerosus Preamble
Updated: 08.10.2018 : 4280
New Revision: 11.09.18
Kid Aero reads by the light of Lhunoz, as she shines through the skylight over his bed. By day, Aero dreams of finally venturing beyond his backyard, following his bright and aimless vision, yearning to experience Aretherra with his own eyes. By night, his imagination conjures vivid dreams, stoking his burning desires, hidden deep within his young restless heart. Aero captures the finest details of his dreams. Each handwritten and bursting the from the pages of the journal that his mother gave him. Aero is unaware of an imminent danger, coiled in the darkness of his future days. A venomous peril lying in wait, to slither out of the shadows of the unknown. Soon his life will change, like a thief in the night, fate will strike without warning. Aero will walk down a road filled with loss, love, power, and destiny.
On a warm summer evening, a boy sat in his room reading a book. In the middle of this small room, his bed was perfectly centered, aligned precisely in the middle of the southern wall and directly under his prized possession. On this night, like most others, he was distracted and uncomfortable. Aside from books, his only escape came from above, where his precious skylight watched over him. This was his own portal to beyond and even further through his imagination. After every few paragraphs, he looked up from the page to the wonders of the night sky. He adored the night. In the dark of his room, he watched the stars and the phases of Lhunoz go by. During thunderstorms, lightning bolts traced across the sky. The crack bang of blinding light filled his room and made him smile. Everything was better at night.
The light from his lamp reflected himself on the glass, an image of a boy who had dreamed more than he had lived seemed to float among an infinity of stars. He could never see the stars in all of their glory while his reading lamp was on. But he had a couple more chapters to go in his book and he wanted to finish it before going to sleep. Again and again, he tried. He would read a little and then close his eyes and rub his neck. Just under the base of his skull is where it hurt the worst and where it hurt almost all of the time. He wanted to go out and explore his world. Like so many others it was the end of another uneventful day. He could hear the ticking of the second hand making its way across the face of the antique grandfather clock at the bottom of the stairs. With every page turn, he glanced up through the skylight above his bed and imagined what it might be like to walk among the stars, to break free from the bonds of gravity. In the dark and silence of early mornings, when his parents and the house were still sleeping, he would lay awake, listening to the sound of the long hand of time echoing relentlessly from the great clock. With his door cracked open at night, the tick-tock reverberated through the house, striking off the countless finite moments of his life. Even in the dawn of his existence, he could feel the constraints of time, marching on, an unceasing parade of hours, minutes and seconds, disappearing at the horizon. He could sense the limitations of space, the cold reality of confinement, the loss of a freedom from which there was no liberation. Children are not able to think this way, let alone comprehend the complex concepts he pondered every day, but he was like no other child.
The other twelve-year-olds he met once were all consumed by their youthful pride and revealed in their temporary and limited sense of immortality. Unthankful, ignorant and boastful they were on their best days, but in the end, they were forgivable. Because in the end, they were only children, raised by older, adult children that acted and lived the same way. One day he realized and came to the conclusion, with a little help from his parents, that they didn’t know better and simply were not capable of anything better. This conclusion should have shocked the boy, but it didn’t. Learning this about these children and their parents helped place another piece into the puzzle that would become his worldview. With each passing day, another piece fell into place and his puzzle would soon reveal an image, a view to behold, his view of the world.
There was so much of his life for which he was grateful, but because of this, he felt ashamed. Why did he want more, expect more? He expected more of himself, to rise above the lunacy he knew to exist in the outside world. Why should he feel outcast and burdened by his lot? Due to his physical conditions and by extension, the limitations placed upon him, both personal and political, he had been confined to his home for the last several seasons. In the name of protection and safety, his parents made every effort to ease his confinement. While many would rebel and resist being confined, he instead learned to love being sequestered away from the world. He escaped into his books and stories during the day. At night he explored his own mind and would fly, explore and set sail in his dreams. After his mother brought him a dream journal, he had faithfully notated his nocturnal explorations in writing, and since had filled three entire books with his experiences.
So why was he feel so unhappy? Not that he was depressed, or actually unhappy, but there was a feeling inside of him that he could not fully understand. It felt like unhappiness or at least a deep sense of discontent, but he could not comprehend why he could feel this way. How could he not be content? Others his age, who had and lived with much less, would trade anything for his life. He had two parents, a warm home, ample food and a life filled with love and support. Although he could not fully conceptualize his these feelings, he felt ashamed for having them.
Recently, since he could remember, he was only truly happy while he slept, off in another land, another place and time, exploring dreaming world. But while awake, he felt trapped on the inside of an invisible shell, a cell constraining him, keeping him away from an intangible reality he wanted, wished and needed more than he knew. He was sure that it went beyond the obvious and dismissed his physical confinement at home as the reason for his unhappiness. He was sure of only one thing, the reason for his discontent and the only answer he had so far. It was a question poised and placed upon him the day he was born: why had his body betrayed him so badly?
As he came to the end of a story he had read many times before, he closed the book and looked into the dark blue sky above. One star had shown its heavenly light amid the darkening sky so far, the same one he saw every evening around this time. This time he gained a deeper understanding from the words in the story, having read it several times before, this excited him very much. His mind was spinning a new web of thoughts inspired by this latest read of the story. These thoughts were laid out like a constellation of insights and questions, networking and weaving across his fertile young mind. He was unaware that an imminent moment would change his life completely, grabbed by the cold unflinching hands of fate. Yet in that same moment, in the single tick of the hand of time, his real life would finally begin.
(Remove? -> A new and uncharted future was waiting for him and only time held the map. Mere hours away he would be forced to face an inescapable destiny. He would set out and face the unknown, alone. Far beyond the comfort and safety of the simple comforts that he took for granted, a universe away from the promised and provided a life that a boy at his age should live, one that he had and deserved. His life would be forever altered, pressed down by the darkness, and forever changed. Everything and everyone he had ever known would soon end, leaving him exposed, afraid and alone.<-Remove?)
Three rapid knocks sounded on the other side of his closed bedroom door. Still holding the closed book and deep in thought, the door opened, revealing his mother. She opened the door just enough to pop her head into his room and looked across to where he sat, propped up against his carefully constructed stack of pillows. The largest one formed the base of the stacked pyramid, which lay upon the surface of his mattress and then three more were added, one on top of another, each one smaller than the next. Through the years he had chosen these pillows for their shape and form, as much as for their ability to work with the others. To his mother this was the norm, she had been part of his struggle with chronic pain since he was a young boy. Now as a teenager, having years to deal with his condition, he had many rituals and necessities to help cope with the daily pain throughout his spine. The pain that plagued him the worst was in his neck and head, which required proper support whenever he sat, laid down or slept.
Everything was a challenge, everything needed special care and adjustment, so he could continue dealing with his ongoing pain and discomfort. One of the ways was to get as much rest as possible and with rest, he would read as often as possible. His mother greeted him with a smile but failed to get his attention at first. She knew that she would find him sitting in bed reading or often just gazing through the window at the sky above. He was always reading, it seemed, this was nothing new and this fact continued to make her proud of her son. She continued smiling at him, wondering when he would look over and notice her standing in his doorway. However, on this occasion, her joy was only seen in her smile. The rest of her face, especially her eyes, betrayed something else, the dark and serious thoughts that were plaguing her mind.
“Going to bed soon Aero?” his mother finally asked in a high and happy tone. Knowing that he would look her way, she forced her cheerful smile onto the rest of her face, always hiding from her son any sadness that might be beneath the surface. “We have much to do tomorrow.” She squinted and took a step into his room, the door creaked as it opened a little wider. “What are you reading these days?” She pointed to the closed book in his lap. Aerosus turned to face her and she could tell he was consumed by something, his serious thoughts plainly written in his expression. The irony was not lost on her, as she hid her true feelings at that moment, Aero always laid the truth of his emotions out for the world to see.
“I, um…” His finger ran across the back cover of the book. “I was reading this book of stories that you and Dad used to read to me before bed. I just finished the one about the Eagle.” She was surprised to hear this and she walked across the room and stopped at the foot of his bed. She stood beneath the skylight, which ran along the ceiling, tracing the same angle as the roof above.
“I remember it well. That book, more than any other back then, made you so curious. Or you were already curious, but it sparked something in you as if you understood each and every nuance in those stories. You know, to most kids your age back then, those were just stories about animals and strange creatures and fanciful worlds. But to you, they were something more. And yet, I still don’t believe you understood the underlying meaning of the Eagle and the Feather. I barely could comprehend some of the philosophy in those words.” She laughed and sat on the end of his bed to look at him.
“Mom, where do you think we go when we die?” Aero asked in all seriousness. She couldn’t contain her short burst of laughter.
“And the questions, so many questions. You would keep your Dad and me talking for an hour or more and still, we swore you continued asking deep, probing questions after you finally fell asleep. You were a smart little guy!” She shook her head and continued to chuckle to herself. Aero was not smiling. He knew his mom either misunderstood him, or she was intentionally deflecting, both were aggravating; because he was quite serious and she was laughing her way down memory lane.
“Mom, I’m not thinking about back then. I’m serious. Where do you think we go when we die?” Aero asked again, just as serious and looked his mother straight in the eye, pleading with his own for her to give him a serious answer.
She stopped and cleared her throat while using the time to collect her thoughts. She knew that Aero was attempting to speak to her about a topic that was very important to him. She knew that he wasn’t joking, or attempting to relive the past through conversation and the story. No, Aero was very serious, he was forever serious, a trait she feared was passed too easily from her own personality to his. Aero continued to wait, watching her, waiting for her to reply. “If I may? Why do you ask?”
Aerosus squinted and considered the question for a moment. He could tell her everything that he has been pondering of late, the thoughts and feelings consuming him during his waking hours and haunting his dreams while he slept. But he wasn’t ready for that conversation, those things were locked away in the deepest, safest place of his mind and were his and his alone for now. In the near future perhaps, he might share with his mother, but for now, he would give a wholly different response. “I’ve been reading and it got me thinking. So I wanted to know what you thought.” Aero offered.
His mother smiled. Of course, she knew his question came from something he had been reading because usually, it did. However she knew him, she knew that his inquisitive mind was churning far deeper thoughts, pondering far greater questions beyond the pages of an old book of stories.
“I was reading about these people who believe that when they die, only their bodies die, their soul, their essence, who they are, doesn’t. Do you believe that this is what happens?” Aero asked his mother.
“Let me put it this way, there is so much more to this existence of ours than we can see and touch. I believe that there are realities beyond our physical world, places that exist that are beyond imagining and outside of our ability to grasp and understand.” His mother struggled with her words, hesitating as if she was reaching for an explanation. Although the reason for this was not what Aero assumed. Aero’s mother knew that she must wait a little longer before giving him the true answer to the secret of his reality, it was for his own good.
“You and Dad have never talked about this. I’d like to believe this is true. That there is more than we know, here and now. That there is something waiting beyond our lives and beyond our world. Because if there isn’t, then isn’t all of this rather pointless? If this is all there is, this life, this world, then there is no goal, there is nothing to strive for. There has to be something more, something greater. At least that’s what makes sense to me.” Aero away from his mother, to the skylight, which at the moment, partly reflected the room below, yet the almost black sky above was there too. Like a blended image of Aero and his mother sitting among the stars was being projected onto a ceiling mounted screen. He wished he could see more of the stars right now, instead of their partial reflection.
“Is there another reason you’re asking me this? Something beyond the stories you’ve been reading?” She knew her son well and knew that something was bothering him. Even more than usual, he had been distant of late, his mind clearly consumed by thoughts that concerned him. She noticed a shift in his demeanor and temperament, although she couldn’t specify the exact reason for this, he was often sad and tended to be on edge. Aero’s father thought it was his ongoing dealings with his pain, but she knew better and hoped to draw this out of him one way or another. She wanted so badly to help make Aero happy again.
“The stories are most of what got me thinking about this, but yeah, there are other reasons. I’ve been thinking a lot about what the meaning of all of this is and could be. I’ve often wondered about the meaning of our lives, my life for example. What is my purpose? Do I even have a purpose? Why am I different? Why must I be stuck in this body? Why do I have to hurt all of the time? Why can’t I sprout wings and fly my soul away from my broken body? Or just trade mine for a better, less broken body.” Aero glanced down at his mom for a moment but had to look away again as tears were welling up in his eyes. Because he wasn’t looking at her, he didn’t notice the tears that were running down his mother’s face.
One part of her wished that she hadn’t pressed Aero for more, with regard to learning what he’s been thinking lately. He still hadn’t told her the totality of his troubled thoughts, but she didn’t know this and assumed that he had just confessed everything. Aero’s mom wiped the tears from her face and attempted to answer.
“I believe we are so more than this crude flesh and blood, the stuff you can touch, see and feel. My precious Aero, we are “luminous” beings. We are made of light and energy and stuff that is eternal. You’re right Aero, yes, we are so much more than what you and I can see here in this room. There is a world beyond this world, one that you can not see with your eyes. You can’t see or hear or enter this world except through death. But in that world life is eternal, unlike our fragile existence here.”
She scooted a little closer to him on his bed and put her hand upon his leg. Aero slowly turned and their eyes met.
“So in that world, would I have this body?” Aero wondered.
“As I understand it, no, not exactly. Only spiritual beings exist there. Not your physical body.” His mother answered.
“It sounds wonderful, better than here,” Aero said, breaking into a weak smile.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because in our world, I have to live in this body. I have to live in pain all of the time. So that place sounds amazing! Or better yet, go there and then come back in a different body” Aero responded cheerfully, half joking, as his mother tried to smile as she continued to look upon her son.
“Mom, don’t you agree?” Aero noticed the turn of emotion, plainly expressed by her face and body language. As Aero diverted his eyes elsewhere, away from his mother, she wanted to look away and avoid her own pain, her empathy for her son’s physical pain burned inside her heart and mind.
Unbeknownst to anyone, she would often fall asleep after crying into the darkness, her pillow wet with fresh tears. Time and time again, after waking from dark dreams, she whispered a sort of prayer into the darkness of the night for her son’s relief, that he wouldn’t have to suffer from his pain anymore. The occasion of this conversation had reopened her unhealed emotional wounds. Once again she was forced to confront her ongoing empathetic turmoil in front of her son, for whom she loved more than anything, more than her own life.
“Could there be another reason beyond your physical suffering, that you would want so badly to escape our world for another? A reason you wish there was a way to trade your body for a different one?” The instant she asked him these questions, she wished she could take them back. She knew he would catch onto what she meant, to the larger meaning and subtext and she felt bad. She had broken an unspoken rule in their family, to never treat Aero differently because he was different.
“No, it’s all about the pain, not because I’m not like the other kids my age. Besides, I will know who I am and what I am meant to be when the time is right. It just hasn’t been my time yet. That’s what you and Dad have always said, right?” Aero was not upset at his mother in the slightest, but responded matter factly and happily, full of confidence.
She couldn’t believe that these thoughts, these mature and passionate thoughts, were coming from her little boy. Aero’s mom smiled, but her joy was tempered by a twinge of sadness. She felt exhilarated thinking about how fast he was growing up and how she would someday get to see him, know him as an adult. What a fine man he would be someday, this filled her with a pride and a sense of peace, greater than she had ever felt before. For the first time in his young life, she looked at her son and saw a young man. His tempered optimism grounded him and his trials and pain have whittled away much of frivolity that surrounds most young people. While she knew only some of the glorious destiny that awaited Aero, she hoped that he would still become a decent and strong, intelligent adult. She knew that one-day Aerosus would do and accomplish amazing things and that it will be a great honor to know him, to be his mother.
“I am so very proud of you Aerosus. Your father and I are both very proud of who you are and the man you will become one day. Isn’t that right?” Aero’s mom asked, her head turned toward the silhouette in the doorway, where Aero’s dad had been standing.
“That’s right.” Aero’s dad said as he walked over and sat on the bed, across from Aero and his wife.
“Aero we both believe that you will not only become something amazing, but you will also do extraordinary things some day. As long as you remember who you are and where you came from. If you are selfless and give everything you have to your goals, your loved ones, and your life, you will change the world.” His father winked at him and smiled. He then leaned over to Aero’s mom and kissed her on the cheek.
Just then, the sound of breaking glass and a loud thud reverberated from downstairs. All three of them turned to Aero’s open door and then to each other.
“Honey?!” Aero’s mom exclaimed to his father.
“You two stay here. If I give the signal, you know what to do.” Aero’s dad ran from the room, down the hallway into his study. Seconds later he emerged in the hallway again with an ancient sword in hand. Aero and his mother, now standing near his door, watched as his father crept down the stairs, holding the sword at a ready position. Aero was shaken and confused, not only from the unfolding events but at the sight of his father holding the sword like a weapon. Ever since he could remember, that sword was displayed over the fireplace in his father’s study and he was told it was only a ceremonial weapon, for display purposes only and that it was never used before. Aero was always told that it was a gift to his father from King Sveinn on the day his father retired from the palace guard. Clearly, there was much more story to tell, about the sword and his father.
Aero and his mom stood out of sight at the edge of the hallway and could hear a commotion happening in the living room. There were several thudding and banging sounds, more glass breaking and then the one sound he and his mother never wanted to hear.
“Go!” Aero’s father yelled out from somewhere below, followed immediately by a deafening silence.
Aero’s mother grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into his father’s study. She lifted a hollow paperweight on the desk and pressed a black triangle button hidden underneath. A false wall behind the desk slid open to reveal a cavity behind, a narrow, but long hidden room, on the other side of the study wall. She practically threw Aero inside and then slid the false wall back into place, sealing him inside. From the outside Aero’s secret hiding place was completely undetectable, the edges of the false wall practically seamless. Aero pressed his ear to his side of the wall, as he had done since he was four years of age, waiting for his mother to say I love you, as she had always done when he had to hide from people who might want to steal him away. But this time his mother said something different this time.
“Whatever you see, whatever you hear, stay hidden, stay safe and don’t say a word. If we tell you to run, you run. If you have to fight, you fight and then you run. I love you Aerosus. Your father loves you.” His mother quickly whispered into the wall, to his waiting ear and then she ran from the study and downstairs to be at his father’s side.