Gilman watched the boy heft the last tubs of butter into the cart.
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“That’s enough, Andrew. Come here, boy.”
Andre was twelve. He was also no longer Andre. When the boys had crossed into Manderia, Andre had turned to his brother and stated that he would, from then on, be called Andrew. Saros accepted this as he accepted all things: With complete, yellow-eyed indifference. Once inside the city, the boys had learned some hard lessons. Manderia was not kind to homeless children. Within its myriad alleyways there lay a pecking order every bit as competitive as any within the High Council. Young urchins stood very near the bottom rung. Their first night in the city, the brothers were assaulted by a pack of vagrants, lean and hungry-looking creatures that walked like men. It was an unfair fight, of course. Between them, Andrew and Saros crippled four strong men (one of whom most surely died later, given the organ that had been mangled).
Word spread. For a time, they were left alone. It was not long, however, before the first sewer urchins came to them, seeking what protection the strange boys could give. Saros they shied away from, but Andrew found himself possessed of an unusual magnetism. Had he known what the word ‘charisma’, he would have been forced to admit he had the talent. Perhaps more than that: the children worshipped him.
Worship did not put food before them, however, and the thought of asking Saros to work was so alien as to have never occurred to Andrew at all. He set about looking for something to do, and was eventually taken in by Tobias Gilman, the old storage manager. It was backbreaking work, hauling goods in and out of merchant carts, but Andrew was strong; his farm life had sapped away any distaste for menial labor. He accepted the job, was given a set of clean clothes, and settled in to an abnormal but regular mode of living. During the day, he was a hardworking lad. When night came, he was a child messiah, leading the urchins on ever-bolder raiding missions. This method of life could not have continued for long; the children would eventually become disillusioned, he would eventually grow up, and he would be forced to face the bleakness of his own future. Perhaps things would have turned out differently if he had.
Andrew Rimilia strolled over to where Gilman sat. The old man reached into his purse.
“Here. Your pay.”
“Thank you. There’s one silver too many in this.”
“Nawp. There’s just as many as I intended to give yeh.”
“What is the extra for?”
“Well…come inside and I’ll explain.” Gilman opened the door to the shop and led Andrew through the aisles, into the crate room. He shut the door. “Andrew, boy, would ye say ye’ve got a good job here?”
“So yeh like working here?”
“It’s good I took yeh in, boy. The streets are deadly for a sprat such as yerself. You know that, boy?”
“Good. Yeh see, I think I can trust you, now. That means better pay, but it also means more responsibility. I like you, lad. It’s time you understood what goes along with the job.” As Gilman spoke, he had begun to advance on Andrew. With this proclamation, the old man’s hands went to his belt. He slipped it out of its’ notches, and drew his breeches down. Andrew saw the engorged, throbbing thing just barely hidden by the old man’s shirt, and began to back up.
“Nawp,” he said, stepping out of his pants. It’s yer duty now, boy. Ye’d best face up to it if ye’d ever be a man. Just stay right there. Don’t move.”
Andrew made for the door and the old man grabbed him by the shoulders. He fought free of the hands and opened the door. Before he could take more than a step through it, a hand snaked out and yanked viciously at his shirt, pulling him backward. Andrew pivoted, ripping his shirt collar, and kicked the old man in the groin. It was a good, solid kick, and Gilman sank to his knees, cursing and moaning. Andre sprinted for the front door, but the old man was faster than he would ever have guessed. Halfway there, a gnarled hand wrapped itself around his neck. Gilman heaved with all his might, and threw Andrew against the store window. The boy’s head cracked against the glass and it spiderwebbed, obscuring his view of the outside world. Hands, wrinkled and papery, wound around his neck and clutched, choking off his air. He flailed wildly, part of him still too dazed from the head wound to make any coherent decisions. Slowly, Andrew strangled. He watched, with clinical detachment, as a chunk of glass fell out of the window. It fell on the street side, and he waited for the –clink- that would mean it had hit cobblestone. There was no clink. Instead, an arm was reaching through the gap. The hand held a section of glass, an offering to him. He managed to glance out the window and met the cool yellow gaze of his brother. His brother was offering him glass.
Suddenly, he understood. He took the chunk of glass and with one sure, steady stroke, cut the living penis from Tobias Gilman’s body. The old man screamed, a high scream like a woman’s. Both hands went to his crotch, allowing Andrew to draw a thin, burning breath. It was enough. With a clinical detachment, he cut the old man’s throat and left him to die, lying next to his severed penis in a pool of blood.
When the job was done, he threw away the glass and joined Saros in the street.
“We have to leave again.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Where will we go?”
That night, they left Manderia.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.