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I have always known that I was destined to become a king—even though I was not born in a royal family and I have never sat beside the queen or said hello to the prince or gave the princess’ hand a loving peck. I have never worn a diamond crown or stroked a golden scepter. All through my life, I have beheld hunger and letdowns and sorrows and thirst.
Every piece of garment which I have put on bragged numerous stitches and persistent stains. Ma (who is now gone) habitually spoke of my apparel’s blemishes: “I will never fail to identify you in a crowd of ten. Your clothes have unique birthmarks which I cannot put out of my mind.”
I was eleven when I owned my first pair of shoes. Ma (who was now a widow) did not invest a single coin in their purchase. A long-legged and sandy-haired woman handed them over to me on Christmas Day, if it was not Boxing Day. Hers was an exceedingly charming and receptive smile. She sang out nonsense the entire day, preaching about a man named Jesus—whom she regarded as God unveiled in our flesh and blood.
A multitude of questions were crawling inside my mind but I did not have the nerve to publicize them. If Jesus was truly God (which I still denied to this day), why did I tremble and weep each time that I sprawled on my bed? Why did ma have to go through a bad time just to be able to provide us with very little food and an uninviting shelter? If God is really alive, why is affliction and injustice hunting down every step that we make in our everyday lives?
A handful of my people believe in him and they laud him without uttering the tiniest bit of a complaint. They are a bunch of suckers and I despise them! How can you honor someone whom you have never seen or listened to? I would rather bow to the devil that I have always known than praise a deity who has never helped me out during my most challenging times.
Ma breathed her last so that I could remain alive. She is my very own Jesus. I don’t think that Jesus is an ‘Immortal Being.’ The one who dreamt up his name wanted to applaud all praiseworthy men and women who populate our communities. In my perspective, Jesus means: Loving and understanding; supportive and comforting; selfless and forgiving; trustworthy and disciplined.
Before I describe how my Jesus gave up her ghost, I am going to introduce myself and write about my race and our lifestyle.
I was born without a surname. Ma selected a gorgeous name for me before I had sucked in my very first breath. She knew that she was carrying a boy—only males are born in our tribe and it is an unbearable disgrace to have a female child. All feminine brats are either knifed to death or reduced to ashes so as to keep our society clean and reputable.
Our tradition safeguards our forefathers’ blood from all variety of pollutions. I am half human and partly eversoric. Ma’s blood is weaker than pa’s. Her DNA maintains my humanness while his genes secure my supernaturalism.
Because I am not fully human, I am not allowed to use my eyes. They are ghost white in appearance and they exist merely to beautify my face and to scare off my predators. Oh, how I wish that Mother Nature had not surrendered them to my possession! Whenever I am holding a knife, I become tempted to take them out.
My nostrils function in the exact way that your eyes do—they explore the world and they do it far much better than your eyes are capable of performing. I use my nose to sniff and through this sniffing, I am able to see things that surround me. I can see every single thing that has got a distinctive scent—be it a stone or a tree or a lizard or a cream doughnut.
Women have two objectives in my society: To satisfy our sexual appetites and to serve us with their undivided prowess. Those who violate these rules are slaughtered without mercy and their flesh and blood is slung to famished lions and greedy vultures.
The government of the human world does not influence us or handicap us in the slightest bit. We are superior to humans and we are not terrified by their worthless presence. It is true that they outstrip our tiny population but they will never ever reign over us! We are ‘The Invincible’ and ‘The Unnoticeable.’ A small number of them believe in our existence while their majority is deaf to our achievements and policies.
Unlike mankind, we are not scattered in every stretch of surviving land. Our domains are in Lovania and Slovakia and the Comoros—which are the only three countries in the world where eversors are found. If you are not an inhabitant of these nations you should not get in a tizzy because we do not have any expand-by-conquering plans.
There are two classes of eversors: The Krals and The Kovacs. I belong to the last-mentioned—even though my birth was neither immortalized by the king nor his attendants. Nobody was bothered by my mum’s deafening screams and irrepressible rotations. Everybody turned a deaf ear to her till she was left with no choice apart from impersonating the nurse and child-minder combined.
Each and every eversor who is a member of The Kovacs has genuine royal blood swirling in his veins. Since I am affiliated to this caste, I am automatically (and undoubtedly) a member of the royal family. I don’t know how I am precisely linked to the king and all his relations, yet I have never doubted that I am one of his kinsmen.
Ma snuffed it before she could clear up this misleading subject. I don’t know if she had an underground affair with him or one of his male relatives. The truth is lurking somewhere within the bounds of possibility.
What delights me the most about being a Kovac is that I am able to sniff emotions; I can identify anger and happiness and weariness and unhappiness. Your scent discloses two things concerning you: Your age and your emotions. Besides humans, I can smell the emotions of every breathing creature.
Ma did he best but she never prevailed to hide her feelings from my awareness. Her cheeriness made me burst with excitement and her sorrow caused me to break down in tears. Despair and uneasiness ate up nearly all of her days. She hardly ever smiled or rejoiced in a belly laugh.
Tears were the breath of her face; they munched her attractiveness and youth bit by bit till she could no longer tolerate the mirror or any slice of glass which spotlighted her crinkled cheeks and hideous eyes. In spite of everything, I never plucked the nerve to walk to her and ask her politely about what was bothering her. Life was not as uncomplicated and delicious as it oftentimes appeared to be. For some it was unquestionably enjoyable but for us it was extremely unpleasant.
“Yes, sweetie pie.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course, sweetie, you can ask me anything—anything that you want to know.”
“If I am really a Kral, why do I have the capabilities of a Kovac? I am able to see through breathing in, able to communicate with a Kovac by way of sniffing, able to smell everyone’s emotions, and I am able to change my skin color like I am a chameleon. How is this possible?”
A series of emotions that were rooted deep inside her soul were pinpointed and stripped naked by her wrinkled face. They ranged from aversion to bewilderment to doubtfulness to hesitancy. “Didn’t I tell you to hide your capabilities? Why did you communicate to a Kovac through breathing in? We will both be in grave danger if everyone discovers who you really are.”
Inescapable shock almost immobilized me. “Who am I, ma, who am I indeed?”
She smelled of angst and brutality. “You are a Kovac and you must never ever reveal this to anyone, do you hear me?”
I am the only Kovac in my family. I have two siblings who are now fully grown. They know who I genuinely am and they have always kept the truth under their hats. We have had our fair share of both merry and mournful days; we have crossed swords and shook hands; parted company and then hanged around with each other; teased innocent people and reproached ourselves thereafter. Before ma kicked it, she begged me to look after them with exceeding care and affection. I have ever more respected her last wish and I am not going to scoff it or turn my back on the vow which I made to her.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t suppress the truth for much longer. One Swahili proverb says that ‘hiding the truth is like sitting on a burning cedar log.’ You will conceal the fire but you will not neutralize it; it will afflict you until you either stand up or glow into consummate ash. The sooner you lay down arms, the safer you will be.
This proverb sneaked up on me on the spur of the moment. The truth was reducing me to ashes at an unhurried but assured pace. I became so afflicted and heartbroken in my efforts to camouflage it. I felt like I was a peacock butterfly which had been enmeshed in the jumping spider’s cobweb. I swung round and round, then up and down, yet I could not clutch the tiniest slice of peace or glimpse the tiniest shred of freedom.
Ma reached her old age before she had entered her fifties all thanks to her never-ending despair. Her skin crumpled faster than her hair was whitening. She had far-reaching golden strands which generally stroked her abdomen when gathered on her fore; its unchanging shagginess made it seem as if it was an abode of fleas and lice—this was all a result of bathing it once in a blue moon!
Her fortitude and vigor dwindled day after day until she became a downright imbecile. In my way of looking, she was not aggravating and worthless. But to the eversoric neighborhood out there, she was a piece of junk which had been to be flung away as soon as possible.
I have not forgotten the gloomy look that was cemented on her face inside the Court of Justice. The magistrate’s gavel battered his table with a deafening thud and the neatly-clad jailers begun to march to her. Stillness engulfed the crowded hall as the magistrate’s bass bounced from one corner to the other:
“I hereby sentence you to death through hewing. You will be hewn into two and your remains will be fed to wild beasts. Chapter 458 of our 1254 Criminal Offences Act declares that: Any woman (other than the queen) who is considered incompetent and unproductive due to either old age or an incurable illness or a remediless injury of whatsoever nature will be killed without hesitation in whichever manner His Honor deems befitting.”
At this point, I couldn’t tolerate further injustice. How could I just stand still and remain speechless when the only woman who meant the world to me was being criticized and laughed to scorn? Tears drenched my cheeks as I sucked in a deep and infinite breath. I was not oxygen-starved; I was sucking the breath of everyone who was in attendance (with the exclusion of ma, which was).
Gasping men and women collapsed and they collided head-to-toe as if they were maggots which were cornered inside a pit latrine. “Catch that Kovac…he is fleeing with our prisoner…catch him right now!” The magistrate’s voice pursued me as I deserted the chamber with ma’s hand latched on to mine. She didn’t speak any word or rejoice in my unbreakable cuddle. She just stared at me like a woman who had journeyed into the land of the perished. Her eyes neither blinked nor twinkled. At times I would assume that she was already gone and I wept every time I thought of this.
Sadly, we did not go as far as I desired us to. Military men nabbed us before we could escape our locality and they broke us apart and cast us in dungeons which were in need of both sunlight and absolute sanitation. Cockroaches and rats and mosquitoes and bedbugs welcomed me here. I spent innumerable days in their companionship—I can’t remember how long I precisely tolerated them but it was very, very long; my beard grew to my breast and my skin (which was a perfect bronze) evolved into the whitest of snow.
There was always very little to eat. A burnt scone and a cup of sugar deprived tea were a luxury which I seldom enjoyed. I nearly forgot the appearance of a blanket and I almost forgot how it felt to sit before a blazing fire and then warm myself up with my eyes closed. Coldness stung my blood vessels on a day-to-day basis. I shuddered nonstop and I contracted a flu which did not have a cessation.
Ma’s undying squeals tormented me all the time. She shrieked and shrieked but nobody seemed to give a damn. I did not know if she was losing her sanity or maybe she was being tortured for information. Her cell was positioned at the farthest end of the hallway. I struggled to shove my head through the barricade and then sneak a look at her but I was unsuccessful in my every attempt.
“Ma, can you hear me? I am Anton, your darling son. Can you hear me, ma?” I yelled and yelled till I had no strength remaining in me. I would scream and scream but there was no response to console me. My throat dried up and my voice ran away.
What had happened to her? Had they killed her or perhaps they had shifted her to some distant cell? My lack of knowledge gradually quaffed my self-possession.
I casted doubt on my eyes when I eventually saw her. She looked like a ghost to me and not an unhappy and companionless woman! Her eyes gleamed with excitement and her cheeks puffed out without stopping as if they were mold from latex balloons. She grinned from ear to ear as she approached me and she caressed my filthy hair with her affectionate hand.
I burst into tears. Was this actually happening? Was I having hallucinations or maybe I was dreaming?
“Ma, is that truly you?”
Her grin got wider and wider. “Of course, this is me, sweetie pie.”
“Have they not hurt you in any way?”
I didn’t hear her response. My ears, which were pricked up to the hilt, waited and waited but there was nothing apart from a spell of continual silence. I stared at the floor and I saw splashes of novel blood. My eyes opened out and my lips ploughed into each other. What had they exactly done to her?
“I am getting well and so you don’t have to worry.”
“What have they done to you, ma?”
She turned round and she unzipped her dress’s rear. My eyelids slammed in a moment and tears were squashed out. Her back was beyond recognition; its complexion was a combination of white and scarlet and her skin was nowhere to be eyed. My teeth clenched and my vision reddened. I wanted to kill someone and I wanted to do it right now!
“Stop crying, Anton. I am now far much better than I recently was.”
“I am going to make them pay for this, ma, I swear to you. I will make them pay with their lives.”
She looked depressed and miserable. “You don’t have to. God will avenge me in his own good time.”
“There is no God, ma, can’t you realize it? God does not exist; he exists only in your imagination!”
“I am not here to argue with you, darling. I want you to escape and never come back here. You must go and never return. I will take good care of myself and your brothers.”
Perplexity distorted my thoughts. “How is that possible, ma? I am locked up in here and I can’t even move my head through these barriers.”
Her tender smile expelled my lack of confidence. She took out an antique key and she unlatched the door there and then. “Run before they come here; run, sweetie pie.”
I thought twice: I was not sure if this was the best thing to do. It is true that I yearned for liberty but without her, that liberty meant absolutely nothing to me. “I am not going anywhere without you, ma. We will leave together, won’t we?”
She smiled again and again. “I am going to look after your brothers. Go now…what are you still doing here?” Her tone lost its politeness and indignation took up its place. I realized that she had sacrificed so much just to get hold of that key. I was not going to let her efforts go to no avail.
I took to my heels straight away: I had formerly been employed at this prison and I knew the routes that were frequently used as well as the ones that were almost never used. Before I entered an adjoining passageway, I snatched a glimpse at her and I saw her locking herself inside my dungeon. My inner self told me to go back to her, which I refused to accomplish. Instead of feeling gratified and triumphant, she was going to become annoyed and disappointed.
Little did I suspect that I was never going to see her again! She knew that the two of us were damned to die and she was determined to perish on her own. Before I had departed from her presence, she gave me a hooded robe to put on so that I could conceal my identity. She wore one as well, scheming to deceive every watchman who was on patrol.
Two days later, I stumbled on this letter in one of her robe’s abundant pockets:
I have hidden so many things from you and I am going to reveal them in this letter. I am aware that I have wronged you plenty of times and I am begging you to forgive me with all your heart and mind and soul.
Even though you don’t believe in God, I am going to speak about Him till the very end. He knows that I have tried to be the best mother that I could be to you and your siblings. I have done my damnedest to feed you, clothe you, and educate you. Sadly, there were numberless nights when I slept on an empty stomach so that you could have a mouthful of a cake.
I wanted you to have the finest education which is attainable in our country. I have never wanted you to become as impoverished and godforsaken as I am. The human world is far much civilized and advanced than our community. I want you to spend your life there and marry a woman whom you will bow to and embrace without exception. I don’t want you to treat her the way that I have been treated by your relatives and folks. I have been raped, punched, insulted, and additionally forced to live with a man whom I neither loved nor admired.
Your birthplace is not an environment which is beneficial and hygienic to women. If you should have any daughters, I don’t want you to kill them or enslave them—this is what your beloved friends and kinsmen habitually do here without a bit of shame or uneasiness! They are wicked and unrepentant! God will assuredly avenge my ordeals as well as the ordeals of all those who have been oppressed without mercy or fairness.
I am not embarrassed to be a woman. I am proud of my identity and gender and I don’t regret how I have spent my life. I wish that you were entirely human. You would not have been exposed to such fiendish rituals and lifestyles! I don’t want you to participate in any vice which your forefathers took up and promoted.
I am afraid that I will not be able to see you again. My conscious tells me that I will be gone by the time that you will come across this letter. I am sorry, sweetie pie: I have tricked you. If we had slipped away together, the watchmen would have discovered that sooner than later and we would not have escaped successfully.
I have let you escape on your own because I want you to survive. Do you remember that I was sentenced to death through hewing? Of course, you can never fail to recall such an unforgettable (and devastating) thing! This is how they are going to kill me: They are going to strip me naked and put me in a tree hollow and then saw me into two; yet I do not give a damn!
I am so excited to die on your behalf. My death will not be in vain, I promise. I can see a warrior in you. You are going to do the inconceivable and you will defeat nearly all of my enemies. Do not have pity on those who have destroyed me. They will always advance their devilish schemes and they will torment plenty of women if you leave them unharmed.
I am not a supporter of feminism but I believe that women should have equal rights with men. There are certain things which Mother Nature does not permit us to do, which feminism allows in any event. I have one petition to you: Loose every woman who is enslaved in our society and give her unconditional peace and liberty.
Free the suppressed and undo their suffering. You have a royal mark stamped on your left breast in the likeness of a star; you were born with it and you will perish with it. No one is able to erase it. I tried to rub it out when you were a babe but I failed to the utmost. I feared that the king was going to kill you once he would uncover this.
You are a king, sweetie pie. No one amongst the royal family members has been blessed with it. Tradition says that the one who possesses it will inherit the throne when the present king passes away. You are King Michal’s heir—yes, you and nobody else!
The entire royal family knows that they have not been chosen to take over his kingdom. They know that someone else is having that mark and they are hunting for him day and night. You are very fortunate because they have not suspected that you are the one whom they are looking for. They will not have mercy on you when they capture you; they are going to torment you until you are dead.
Do not place your reliance on anyone else apart from Jana Kovac; she is your biological mother; she loves you so much even though she has never taken you in her arms or kept you under her observation. Do not be quick to judge her for keeping you apart from her. You might be tempted to assume that she ditched you, which was not the case. Jana was married to the late Prince Marek and she lost him when she was just three months pregnant.
Prince Marek is your biological father. He was poisoned to death after it was prophesied that he had the blood of a king running in his veins. You are that king who was foreseen. The king did not suspect that Jana was pregnant and he has never found out that you are in existence. He is your worst enemy together with all those who stand behind him.
Do not pin your faith on anyone else apart from Jana! Go and find her. She will guide you to your destiny. There is a rainforest in Fajirik, where she has been silently taking cover. Nobody else will lend you a hand besides her. Give her a chance to narrate her side of the story. She could not look after you on her own because it was too risky to do so. If the king’s suspicions had been awakened, you would not have been alive today.