Changehood

The Beginning: A Hated Father's Legacy

April 11th, 969

The earliest thing Patrick Leary can recall from his childhood is the towering face of his father saying quite blatantly, "Well, he doesn't look very smart, now does he?" Perhaps the comment had meant to be a passing remark or even a joke, but it somehow always haunted the child.

Why did his father interpret Patrick's expression of confusion as unintelligence? After all, he was only a small child of three, witnessing a most peculiar event. Naturally, this event was not unusual for anyone else present, so he should have been excused for his ignorance if not only for his age, but for his inexperience.

Patrick had uncontrollable brown curls, just like his father had. His mother's hair was stick straight, and she had always said the thing that attracted her most to his father was the curls and she was simply elated when her child was born with identical ones. She dared not try again out of fear that the child would not possess the same curls, forcing her to inadvertently have a bias towards Patrick. But Patrick didn't mind not having any siblings, though it would have been nice to have an older brother to turn to and ask what exactly was going on. Why were there flies circling the yard? Hundreds of flies circling the yard?

Not just flies, Patrick observed, but many other types of bugs. Even a few small animals. Though Patrick's father may have considered his son dim, he was far from it. Patrick was simply curious so he stuck his head silently in every situation. He would rather watch something happen and evaluate it in his own head rather than jump in and manipulate the desired outcome. That is something his father did, and perhaps his mother as well. Maybe he had developed these sorts of attributes out of spite from his father's disapproval and his mother's overbearing affection.

"Isn't it wonderful, Patrick?" his mother said, crouching next to him, bundling her arms under his and scooping him into her lap. He'd rather not be there, but squirming would only make her hold tighter. Besides, she did have a point; the sight was rather wonderful.

Patrick's father possessed abilities only very few people in the village possessed. He had the seeming magic power to make animals gather. Well, not so much animals per say: they were bugs and other creepy crawlies for the most part. He could make them come when he wanted them to, and then dismiss them when he no longer required their services. Though, Patrick hardly found a practical use for such an ability.

"My father had this ability!" Patrick's father announced proudly as if he had anything to do with his father's abilities. He took a swig of the drink that always remained by his side. Patrick's mother beamed and agreed, nodding her head vigorously. She was proud of have married a man as prestigious as he. The humming of the flies grew intensely, and Patrick would never have admitted it, but he did feel somewhat afraid. However, he had the inkling feeling that his father only summoned the creatures in order to "show off" the abilities he had.

"However," Patrick reasoned to himself later that night as he lied in bed, staring at the perfectly white washed ceiling. "Father is not so special. There are many people in the village who possess super abilities and don't go around flaunting it. Besides, bugs were so useless. What could one possibly do to utilize them?"

Of course, Patrick's inner monologue was not nearly as articulate as that, considering he was only three years old. Patrick might be a fairly attractive youth, but he was still too cute to tell. Yes, he was quite adorable with all those wild brown curls, but his skin was too pale, his mother always said. She wanted her son to go into the sun more often. She wanted to show him around the village and have the women oogle at his appearance, and tease their fingers through his precious locks. But Patrick was not particularly keen to these walks, and often found himself feigning stomachaches and feigning fussiness if she instructed him to put on his shoes and socks. His mother loved him so very much that she would have done anything for him; a fact Patrick could never really grasp, especially with his ever growing resentment toward his father who was often drunk and spending his time in the yard with his bugs.

His bugs. Patrick's father was supposed to be some kind of great super being with such an ability, but Patrick found himself ashamed. Zane Pratt, a teenage boy who lived only a few houses away, remarked on how his family had a long history of being able to produce and manipulate fire. That would have been quite an interesting power, Patrick thought jealously as he rolled over in his bed and stared at the wall. Couldn't fire simply consume all the bugs his father tried to summon? Patrick knew someday he would acquire an ability from either his mother or his father. His mother had never mentioned hers and he wondered if he had permission to ask, but whatever it was, it had to be better than what his father had to offer.

Patrick's mother woke him up every morning by kissing both his eyes, hugging him and squeezing him until he finally could not stand it anymore and had to get up in order to escape her. His father was rarely around during the day, since he had a very important job which Patrick , of course, did not understand and his mother would only chuckle when he asked, saying, "Patrick, love, there's no reason to wonder about that right now!" She would play with him around the house, unable to let him out of her sight because, as she would say, "You're so adorable, I don't want to live a moment without your cute little face!"

Other children would have adored the affection, but Patrick was often revolted. He would have liked to spend some time by himself once and a while, yet his mother persistently followed him around, attaching herself to him in quite the literal sense. He was old enough to walk and far too heavy to carry, but his mother scarcely put him down; he was always in her lap or in her arms and, though his disliked it, he knew it was useless to try and change it. It seemed the more he struggled against it, the tighter she clung to him.

On one of their mandatory strolls one morning, Patrick's mother was eagerly searching the village for someone to show Patrick off to. He knew many words now, but would often have to be coached to say them. In fact, Patrick knew a lot more words than his mother speculated but he chose not to speak. Patrick was not a shy child, he was just indignant even at his young age.

She spotted the Pratts, and would have liked to have another woman there to gossip with. "The Pratts," she would say. "Have the worst luck in the entire village! Mrs. Pratt, I'm ashamed of myself for forgetting her first name, has been pregnant almost eight times, yet she only has two children. I think that is certainly saying something, that she should stop trying. But that new baby certainly is awfully cute. Good morning Mrs. Pratt!"

Mrs. Pratt looked up from her garden. She wasn't currently doing any planting; only observing with her new child, pointing at each flower and telling him the names of them. Quentin Pratt could hardly stand up on his own and only stared vacantly in the direction he could hear his mother's voice. When his mother stood, his eyes followed her in silent observation. He was hardly over a year old so of course he was still tiny, but he was tinier than other children his age; frailer, sicklier and certainly more effort was put into loving him. That's what Patrick's mother would have said anyway.

"Good morning," said Mrs. Pratt as she watched the leaner woman approach her with her son's hand in her own. "You're certainly up early, aren't you?"

"No earlier than most mornings," Patrick's mother answered as she leaned over to pick up her darling little boy. Patrick frowned at her gesture but did not struggle because his mother had told him time and again that when they were in front of any woman, he must behave as though the Head Change was standing before him. Patrick didn't know much about the Head Change quite yet, but he knew he must be important, so he usually behaved. Patrick was a generally lucid child regardless, so this warning hardly seemed necessary. Patrick's mother continued the conversation without pausing for even a moment; "Your son there, Quentin, is that his name? My, he's so adorable. He looks just like his father, so he should thank you for marrying such a handsome man!"

Her intent was for Mrs. Pratt to return the compliment, but the older mother only looked lovingly upon her son. "Quentin is quite different from his father, I'm afraid," she reported in a manner that made her statement rather ambiguous as to whether she thought it was a positive thing. "And to add to that, he is a much easier baby than Zane was! Zane would always fuss and whine about everything, but Quentin doesn't seem to mind a single thing."

"Well, Zane is so much older than his younger brother," Patrick's mother remarked, though her comment was hardly relevant to what the other mother had said. In reality, Patrick's mother would have liked to dismiss the conversation away from anything to do with the Pratts and instead turn it around to make it all about little Patrick. However, she found her most recent comment was difficult to spin, so she simply made her intentions known by blurting out, "Patrick just turned three last month. Next year, when he is four, it will be his first birthday party! I didn't think it was necessary to celebrate birthdays earlier than that. All he needed was a shower of love and affection from his parents, to remind him how special he is."

"There aren't many children in the neighborhood."

"There will be soon!" Patrick's mother exclaimed because she was always savvy to the latest gossip. "My husband works with a man whose child is due in a few months, and then another who's due in October! No doubt there's going to be more. I think there will be a boom, and Patrick will be the oldest of the little ones. He will have to show everyone the important things, won't you Patrick? When our two sons are a bit older, Patrick will be much like an older brother to him, because I know they will be great friends."

Mrs. Pratt pursed her lips. She never particularly liked Mrs. Leary. She talked too much and often said the wrong thing. Though Quentin's mother tried her best to be polite, she only found able to respond with, "Well, Quentin already has a fine brother, though him sure if Patrick wants one so badly then you can do something about it."

Patrick's mother erupted in hysterical laughter that pierced Patrick's eardrums, making him wince slightly. "Oh no," she laughed, hardly able to contain herself. "Another child! What a notion! One is enough, I say! Any more than one and, I think, a mother cannot be fair in distributing her love fairly. To be fair, Mrs. Pratt, I did only say Patrick would be like an older brother."

Her last sentence included a sharp stare. Though Patrick's mother was thoughtless and overwhelming, she was not dumb and knew when she was being mocked. Still, they were neighbors and therefore that enforced pleasantries among them. Additionally, both of their husbands worked together and often spent nights after missions celebrating their victories. They had always been victories, and both women would like to keep it that way.

In response to Mrs. Leary's final comment, Mrs. Pratt allowed her eyes to wander as she hummed a bit, hoping to perhaps indicate her little tolerance for her neighbor.

"Well!" Patrick's mother exclaimed in an exasperated tone. "Patrick and I will be on our way, then. We have so much to do, after all. Standing around here for very much longer would be an utter waste of time."

Mrs. Pratt chose not to take the other woman's comment as significant or terribly offensive, and only watched her readjust the child in her arms and storm off in a huff. No one much liked Mrs. Leary. Most said she was too proud of herself and everything around her, and that was entirely true. Besides, she had come from another village when her last name had been Licanya. Mr. Leary was passing through on a mission and came across her and he (for some reason, the other women all muttered) became entirely smitten with her. Villagers didn't often take kindly to outsiders, since they usually were a warning of potential violence. There was certainly no physical violence with Mrs. Leary, but the verbal violence was at an all time high. After all, she was the fountain for most of the gossip, and even knew the latest rumors going on about herself. Yes, she was very much aware of her place in the village and how the others thought of her, but to care would be such a hassle. She was a mother who only had enough love for her husband, son and self so didn't mind if others had any to spare for her.

Patrick didn't know where his mother was taking him this day because his mother didn't usually tell him. Or, if she did, the explanation was lost within a jumble of useless words and sentences that Patrick couldn't possibly follow or understand. Instead of, "Let's go to the park," she would say something along the lines of, "It certainly is a lovely day to go outside and be in the sun, and I'm sure there will be plenty of people around so we should be social!" And so Patrick went to the park but, as Mrs. Pratt had said earlier, there weren't many children around the same age as him. Though his mother insisted he "be social," he usually spent most of the park hours on her lap, watching the older kids play ninja.

"That'll be you someday," Mrs. Leary said as she hugged her boy tight. She pointed at the children, none of them older than ten, all displaying basic knowledge of the abilities they had learned in school. "You will be exceptional, though, my Patrick. I know you'll make me proud and your father proud as well. The whole village will look to you one day and see you like I do."