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chapter(the_fourth)

chapter(the_fourth)

Jesse Patrick Bohanan

...of Heaven is a Parallel Universe.

Lies are a difficult thing to judge due to the fact that they are, inherently, designed to simulate truth. When the true vision of an observer is fractured, distorted by such lies, the observer becomes ever more likely to fail in their key function: observation. So when Xartha told his mother that he was not, in fact, Xartha at all, Rebecca was quite unlikely to believe him.

And so Xartha he was, regardless of the truth hidden inside the child. Sophia would yet be born, but not in this parallel, dear readers, for she never in this particular realm was granted the freedom to explore herself. Xartha was himself, and Xartha he would remain.

Before even this event, however, Xartha's childhood was, as I stated before, complicated.

Rebecca raised Xartha as the stereotypical man-child, one who splashed in puddles and played with toy trains and trucks. Xartha was excited with all of this, insomuch as he was excited with anything—for his true realm was one of the mind, and the mind alone, a fantasy realm of infinite proportions.

He strolled through his castle garden, remarking to the other nobility on the in itself unremarkable foliage that year, at the same time making it seem all the more remarkable simply for him having remarked on it. He was the king of this fair realm, and none sought to oppose his reign, for he had a noble heart—a heart for the people of the realm. For this was his realm, and these were his people, his adopted family, his loyal subjects and advisers.

"Lord Gratius!"

The king's shout, stern and correcting, but not rude, startled Gratius out of his reverie. "Wha—? Ah, my liege! How wonderful the foliage this year has turned, eh? The golden-red hues of autumn are always some of my favorite sights in the kingdom."

"Indeed, Gratius! Indeed!" The king chortled a deep, throaty laugh. Gratius had not heard him say as much a moment earlier, having been otherwise preoccupied with his own thoughts. "Yes, I dare say the colors this year are greater even than those of the last. But down to business.

"You don't suppose I asked you here merely to admire the gardens do you? We have important business to attend to."

Gratius' face turned golden-red as the leaves. "My liege, of course, I would never—" Then he laughed as well, seeing the smile on Xartha's face.

"Come now, Gratius!" Xartha embraced Gratius in that embrace that only lovers share. "Business was the term I used, true, but it was a facetious term in my usage. Come! Come to my chambers! It has been too long since we last bed, my love."

Gratius' face turned golden-red yet again, but this time for an altogether different reason. He smiled, and offered his lips for a kiss.

"Xartha!" The not-quite-man, not-quite-boy was startled by the sound of his mother's voice. "You're going to miss the bus if you take any longer in there!"

"Coming, Mom!" Xartha shouted in return. He considered finishing his shower with self-stimulation, but then thought better of it given the time constraints. Gratius would have to wait.

As he was on his way out the door, his mother kissed him on the cheek and sent him on his way with a simple statement of, "I'll be praying for you."

Meanwhile, Xartha was praying that his mother had not noticed the growing erection he harbored beneath his chinos. But of course she hadn't. He had tried to explain his love for men to his mother before, but of course she hadn't comprehended that, either. Her harsh religious upbringing had shielded her from the realities and possibilities of having given birth to a homosexual son. There was a natural order to things—homosexuality was not part of that order, as far as she observed.

Xartha observed all this and was disheartened. But in the meantime, he had his senior year of high school to concern himself with, as well as planning for his upcoming studies at the University of Z. Things would improve, if he could just hold out for post-secondary education. He was sure of it. As he stepped onto the bus that would take him into the hellish atmosphere of High School 84, morning dawned on a new day in the multiverse.