CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content, including domestic violence, that may not be suitable for some readers. Reader discretion is advised.
The Story of Ettouzar Terranathaniel.
The human boy, no more than six years old, black shaggy hair and curious brown eyes sat in the dusty grass that was his backyard. The only item in the yard aside from grass, dirt, and the boy, was a single pebble. Smooth and rounded, gray in color, and about 3.5 cm wide. He would flick it and roll it around, try to bounce it, and use it to roll words in the dirt.
His father, Ethouzar, would stand in the back doorway and holler at him to come in for dinner. He would pocket his pebble and go in, head hung low. At dinner, his father would shout and complain about the conditions for soldiers stationed in Yelnel, and the people he serves with, and his wife’s cooking. She wasn’t bad, he was just angry.
When Ettouzar or his mother Agnes would try to speak or comfort him in any way, he would get violent. Often throwing tankards, or pushing his family around. Ettouzar would retreat to his room, while his mother stayed to be berated.
Normally, Ettouzar would climb into bed and cry himself to sleep. However, this time he climbed under his sheet and sat up, holding his pebble in his hands.
“Hello.” He whispered softly to the stone. “I’m Ettouzar Nathaniel, and you’re my only friend. I wish father would stop yelling. He scares me, and he scares mother. Thank you for being my friend. Even if you can’t help.” He stayed up a short while longer until his father finally ceased his shouting, and then fell asleep.
This went on for some time. Agnes would not leave Ethouzar, and Ettouzar was too young to fully understand. He would retreat as soon as he could from his father’s episodic outbursts, and speak in secret to his pebble.
Good night Pebble. Tomorrow we’ll play outside, dad will be working.
Hello Pebble, it’s me Ettouzar again. I asked if we could take a walk and dad said no. He said someone would take me. I don’t know why someone would do that and he started to get mad. Mom is always protecting me. Can you help me protect mom pebble?
Father won’t let me play with the other children. He says I’ll get beat up because I’m weak. I’m not weak am I? (Ettouzar tries to break the pebble in half with his hands). I am weak. You’re strong. Can you show me how to get strong?
Mother doesn’t leave the house anymore. She has a black eye. I wish we could give dad a black eye. Can you make his eye black pebble?
Ten long years passed by for the Nathaniel family of Yelnel. Ettouzar never learned to have friends outside of his pebble. As a teenager he would often run errands for his mother, or take care of something for his father. Everywhere he went, he carried his pebble close. Anytime someone looked him in the eye, he would look down, at his pocket where he kept the pebble, and mutter to himself before looking at the person and completing his task.
Word of this habit got around the small town and Ethouzar would hear nothing of the strange comments about his son. Once home, he demanded Ettouzar turn out his pockets.
When Ettouzar produced the pebble, his father snatched it up, and said that he would dispose of it tomorrow. Ettouzar wept and begged for his pebble, for his friend, but his father denied him coldly and sent him to bed.
Ettouzar was awakened by his father slamming his door open, demanding to know where “that damned pebble went”. Ettouzar had not woken during the night, but a fretful glance around his room revealed the pebble sitting on his nightstand.
His father flew into a rage, throwing the door open allowing it to slam into the wall, cracking the wood. He took two long hasty steps to the side table, grabbed the stone, and flung it through the window, shattering the thin glass to the floor.
He didn’t stop there, he grabbed books from a stand and hurled them around the room. Picked up a chair and swung it at Ettouzar who leapt off his bed in time for the chair to splinter atop his sheets.
Ettouzar dashed for the door but his father caught him by the back of his shirt and threw him, back-down, onto the floor. Ettouzar’s vision flickered for a moment and the breath was knocked clear of his chest.
Dazed, he lay there on the ground beneath his father, enduring the screaming that was now inches from his face, casting spittle across his cheeks. From the door way, he could see his mother crying silently.
After fifteen minutes of shouting, the house was eerily quiet. His father had left, without notice of where he was going or when he would be back. His mother had gone into their room to hide her sorrow. He had been left on the floor of his now destroyed room.
The tears had stopped flowing. He wasn’t sad anymore. He wasn’t afraid either. He didn’t feel like much of anything until he let his head fall sideways, and there, inside, in the pile of shattered glass beneath the window, was the pebble.
He had no idea how, but he knew this pebble was magic, and that it wanted to be kept by him.
“I’ll keep you safe,” he told his pebble. “I won’t let you get taken.”
For a few hours, the home was silent. Ettouzar sat in his room, whispering to his pebble, and Agnes sat in her room, just trying to stay alive. The silence was broken by the door opening, and Ethouzar yelling for everyone to come out to the living room. When he didn’t hear everyone jump to their feet, he slammed his fist into both room doors and shouted “NOW!”
When Ettouzar slunk out of his room, he could smell alcohol wafting from his father, and could see that his mother had smelled him as well by the look on her face as she emerged from her own bedroom. His father took a sharp inhale, and spoke, although the tone and volume would have been not far from yelling anyway.
After a couple minutes, Agnes put her hand forward and began to speak when Ethouzar struck her across the cheek.
“That’s enough!” Ettouzar yelled, squeezing the pebble in his fist. “It’s time for you to stop!” He threw the pebble at his father’s face. The pebble seemed to glow orange as it sped through the air, and when it hit Ethouzar in the side of the head, there was a small shower of sparks. Ethouzar fell over nearly unconscious slumped against the wall, where he massaged his head for a moment, and just sat and blinked.
For a moment, Ettouzar’s world stopped turning. He couldn’t believe what he had done, and had not thought of the consequences. He was hardly thinking when two things brought him to be present. The first, was a tight feeling in his fist, whereupon clenching tighter revealed that the pebble had returned itself to his hand. The second was…
“Ettouzar! Run!” Agnes shouted, eyes wide looking at her abuser as he struggled to come to. He looked down to see his father sitting up, and starting to kneel, his face beginning to twist from surprise into madness. He looked at his mother, mirroring her astonished gaze. Their wide eyes met and locked for more than moment, cherishing the memory of one another before Ettouzar dashed out the door and ran as fast as his feet would take him.
After a half hour, he was well out of Yelnel, thoroughly out of breath, and out of any sense of what he was to do. He had ran away from the only home he had ever known, into a world he was unfamiliar with, and all he had with him were the clothes on his back, and a pebble.
He knew this was no ordinary pebble, but also regarded it as his closest, and only friend. As he sat, slumped against a tree trunk, he told his pebble, “Thank you. I knew you would help me someday. I promise, I’ll keep you safe forever.”
“I know.” The pebble said in response.