I came back from Rome with a thousand fic ideas, and decided to work on an old one. This has been sitting around stagnant as a poor little single paragraph for about a week, so I finished two chapters plus a short prologue! The parts of this fic are very, very short, the first barely clearing 1000 words.

Notes: Extensive, so they're at the end, but please read.

Warnings: Well, nothing really graphic or serious. Just reference to violence. Implied violence and violence in particular to children, which might turn a few stomachs, though I tried to soften it with the writing style. Death. Yaoi 1+2 later on, though it's going to be dark, let me warn you.

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me and I am making no money doing this. Suing me is no good, since the sum total of my posessions is a rather small anime and manga collection, one rather smelly little dog, and my beloved computer!

Call Me Ishmael
by LaMangust



“Nobody knows my story. I mean really knows it. They have guessed, assumed, and snatched up the bits I have let fall like hungry dogs, but they do not know. Well, I’m here now. I’m dying, and I know it. And I want someone to know. I want to die with the comfort that at least one person will understand me. Know me a little better than most. So I’m going to tell you. That is, of course, if you want. You don’t have to listen. I don’t want to. You can choose to hear or not. Nobody’s ever heard.

“No, that’s not true. There was someone once, someone who heard. Several someones, in fact. It’s just that they are all gone now. They all left me. I wonder if there’s a name for what I have. Whatever. I said I was going to tell you a story. What say I get on and tell it?

“The beginning is a very delicate time… Well, not really. Heard that in some old movie. But my beginning may or may not have been delicate, since I can’t remember much of it. There is one thing, though. A thing that has plagued me all my life just as it plagues my earliest memories. Blood. It must be part of who I am, in more than a physical sense. I remember blood. Sometimes people remember the faces of their parents, the smells of baking, and other nice pleasant components of everyday, normal, real life. I remember blood. The sight, the smell. The taste. Blood. No wonder I turned out like this. All my life is death.


Chapter 1 - Blood Like Water

“The first person I remember is a man, and I don’t remember him well. Not well at all. Just some flashes of the first kind word ever spoken to me, the first gentle touch, and then more blood. He died, too, just as my parents. That was the first time I felt alone. Funny thing about loneliness it, you can’t know it unless you know how it is to not be lonely. I wasn’t lonely when my parents dies or left or whatever they did. I wasn’t lonely until that man died. He had a name, but that is no longer important either. He was the embodiment of everything I ever wanted or needed as a child, and trying to place his name to that is like calling the oceans Lake Chipandipee just because they’re both made out of water. It doesn’t work that way.

“I was on the streets for a very long time after that man died. I haven’t told you where I was, because at that time, I didn’t know. I didn’t find that out until one day a strange man showed up and took me away. But that comes later. All I knew was that when I looked up, I saw the exact same things that were all around me. It was like there was a giant mirror above me at all times. Life then seemed very hard, because there was nothing to look forward to. I was one of a giant group of children, all fighting to survive in a world where, for all we knew, we had the best deal there was to have.

“But I was stronger than most of the other kids, so I got to be the leader when we went out on food-stealing missions and such. The struggle to live day to day was something I still can’t believe I survived. Food was the most precious thing to us. You know, I still can’t eat large meals without feeling guilty that there are people out there who are just like I once was. It feels unfair to me. Those little self-imposed missions were dangerous as well. If they caught you, you were dead. That was it. And I don’t mean dead like people use it to mean ‘in deep shit’ dead. I mean D-E-A-D dead. They would blow your head off, kid or not. Either that, or take you off to God-knew-where and nobody would ever see you again. That was the scarier part. At least dead was dead. The unknown was something altogether more frightening.

“Might I mention that at this time, there were only two groups of people in my child’s mind. There was ‘us’ and there was ‘them.’ Us were all the kids like me. We were a team, and that made us one united force against the powers of ‘them.’ I could tell this story from the point of view I have now, but that’s not the idea. I want this, my only legacy, to be as accurate as possible. But let me get back to what I was saying.

“The unknown. It became known to us, or me, rather suddenly one day. I must have been… well, somewhere between six and eight. I don’t really know. I don’t know when my birthday is or how old I am really. I use a fake name, a fake birthday, and fake just about everything else. So I tried to make up for it by being as real a person as possible. I wanted to stand out in sharp relief to the dark world of black and gray around me. I know how well that worked. My little band of ‘us’ became rather well known, even feared by some merchants, as the fastest and best and hardest to catch of any of the little street rats.

“I wouldn’t settle for anything less, you know. The weaker, the slower, they stayed behind, because they would have been caught. I didn’t want to lose anybody else to the blood that plagued me, that followed me. This attention was good, in a sense. If people feared us, they didn’t give us much trouble. Once, a man saw us coming and just threw food at us so we wouldn’t trash his cart. It was a strange, powerful feeling. One night, however, a few months after the fruit-throwing incident, that cockiness caught up with me, and the blood came back.


Chapter 2 – Longest Days

“We knew, I knew, of course, that there were certain gangs operating in the area. We just didn’t know how really powerful and influential they were. They snuck up on us one night, dropped sleeping gas into our little hideaway, and packed us up in burlap bags like kittens being taken to the well to be drowned. I only know about the bags cause when I woke up, I was still inside mine. They didn’t take me out. Too famous, I guess. Eventually, they put my head out, and tied the bag closed around my neck, so I could get a good look at what was going on, but was helpless to do anything. Bastards.

“They were a hard, well-organized gang. A ‘Mafia,’ they called it. They wanted us to work for them, begging in the streets. Begging. They talked for a long, long time about money we would have to collect each day in order to eat, and what would happen if we didn’t meet the requirement. Then he told the rest of my gang to get out and start working; that I had a special assignment. Well, since I was their leader and all, they looked at me. And I told them to stay right where they were. We were thieves, not beggars, and even suggesting such a thing was a terrible insult to my pride.

“Pride has always been important to me. I think it was what kept me going for so long. I was always proud, and that way I never lost hope. Anyway, I defied them, and got an immediate demonstration of the consequences of not meeting the quota. God, that bastard could kick. Then, because I don’t know when to stop, never have, as soon as I could breathe again, I made some sarcastic remark about not having been given time to collect any money, and got another, more thorough demonstration to supplement the first. They eventually knocked me out, I think, because I don’t remember much for a long time after that.

“When I woke, all my friends, my little band, were huddled in the corner together. I was still in the bag. They looked hungry and miserable, pretty much how I was feeling. One saw that I was awake and started crying, saying in his barely-understandable choked voice that we were locked in and wouldn’t be let out until we agreed to beg for them. Even though I was tied to the neck like a scarecrow in an itchy burlap bag, I was extremely proud of my guys. They didn’t give in. They stayed because I asked, well, told, them too.

“Those days haunt me. Because, I think, they were my fault. I was the leader. And what good is a leader if he cannot take responsibility? None, that’s what. So I stuck to my guns and lead those boys who were just like me into the hardest struggle of their lives. I don’t want to go into too many details. It’s too hard to talk about, even now. Let me just say that by the time I had the chance to do anything, things were drastically different in my mind.

“When we had been captured, we were twelve. Two weeks later, we were seven, our other five lost to hunger, beatings, and one who gave in and agreed to beg. Those were surely the longest days of my life. I never found out for sure what my ‘special’ task was to be, but judging from what I learned about those gangs later, I can guess. As it was, after two weeks of starvation in total darkness, I wasn’t much to look at anyway.

“When the lights finally came on, I couldn’t help but close my eyes. There was blood, so much blood. Mine, the others’. It was a nightmare come to life and it had hold of us. I hadn’t seen it because of the darkness, just like I hadn’t seen how my obstinacy had made life all the harder for those boys, who would have followed anyone, including the gangsters, but had chosen to follow me. The man had come that day to issue the ultimatum one more time. But it had changed slightly. This time, if we hadn’t agreed to work for them by that night, we would be killed, plain and simple. I made my decision, as I was beaten again, and we were left in darkness once more.

“It’s true that I got those boys out of there, by my usual tricks and with the usual flair. Actually, my poor bony body was just enough to ram out a loose board with no worse consequences than one dislocated shoulder and a bruise on the other. Not bad, in the street kid book of survival. We got out, and immediately went to get what they had denied us. Food. That and the light. We were glorying in the light, dancing just to be free of the darkness. We didn’t have to steal that time, actually. The old man on the corner who, because of his kind face and gentle voice, I had never, ever stolen from, gave us things to eat. I think he knew something strange and terrible had happened to us, and he took pity on us. I wish he hadn’t had to die that day.

“They followed us, you see. I should have been more careful, but the sheer adrenaline of getting out and the illusion of being free clouded my usually clear thinking. I should have predicted, and gotten us to some place where they wouldn’t find us. Instead, I lead them to that old man, and also led another good soul, one of the few who were kind to me, to his death. We ran, and when he tried to stop them following us, they crushed his skull.

“I saw him die, but didn’t have time to think about it until later. They ran after us, and eventually cornered us, a few hours later, after much ducking and running, in a warehouse. I was certain that we’d had it as they advanced slowly on us, intent on enjoying their victory. I swear, I could see their intentions in their eyes. It was that day, in fact, that I learned to tell who wanted to kill me and who wanted to help regardless of their words. It was just the look in the eyes.

“They came on us, and I was sure my life was over, when a miracle happened. Other men showed up, men with guns like the terrorists. They were police officers, by no means foreign to me, but for some reason I saw them in a whole new light. They were no longer the enemy, but took away the bad guys, and saved us. The chief looked us over with obvious disdain, and said, ‘Count yourselves lucky, brats. I really don’t understand it, but that church wants to take you in.’ The happiest words of my life.



Notes: I took the writing style, continuous speaking paragraphs, from Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire," just so everybody knows and, in case I'm accused of copying, I am! The stories of the Mafia used in chapter two are based on true newspaper reports about similar happenings in Milan only last year. Four Moroccan boys were found caged in a bug-infested room with no water, electricity, or anything else to keep them sane and the windows boarded up to keep them in darkess. When they were found by the Carabinieri, they had been in that horrible situation for almost 3 weeks and had eaten next to nothing, part of the Mafia's methods (along with regular beatings) to convince them to go out and beg or prostitute themselves. The saddest part about the situation is that these children are sent to Italy by their parents so that they can have a better life, and end up slave to the Mafia indefinitely.

So?? Comments?? It's my first multi-part. How do people like it? Should I continue??