February 7th, 2011

Ric shooting from X-Factor 207

Samael, Chapter One, Pages One and Two

Michael Andrews had never been a particularly happy boy. Unusually serious and sensitive, he was usually the wallflower one can find at any party, the boy who seeks out the corner of any given room and does his best to blend in with the fading plaster of the wall behind him.

He would sink into stillness and solitude, watching the world go by him with huge brown eyes that seemed to record every detail around him. When people noticed him at all, they labeled him creepy. His clumsy attempts to begin conversation or strike up friendships did not help, for he did it so badly that the people around him sometimes couldn’t help but laugh.

Life must be lonely for such a boy, and for Michael things sometimes seemed so dismal that he felt like his misery had to be palpable to others. The city of Shiloh where he lived did nothing to dissuade him of this notion, for it was a gray and dismal place. The weather was wretched, constantly raining and overcast and it seemed like the buildings had been designed to match. Shiloh’s architecture resembled nothing so much as a painting of a large European city by someone who had never been there, complete with dark stone buildings and old fashioned street lamps.

Michael was sure sometimes that the city must have felt his unhappiness and developed to suit his mood. It was a self-involved thought, and when Michael became an adult he laughed at it. But as a child he believed.

Life might have been too much to bear, except that Michael had his family. They were unusually close, and Michael loved them and was grateful for their support.

His mother, Marsha Andrews, was a housewife. This was not her long-term goal, and she would have been happy to return to being a banker, except that trouble with alcohol had gotten her fired when Michael was seventeen. The family had come together in a meeting and talked, and Michael had never forgotten the way that his parents had spoken to him as an equal and let him have his say about what should be done.

Together, the family agreed that it might be stress that was driving Marsha to drink. Instead of going back to work, she went to a counselor and had been mostly dry ever since.

John Andrews was a chef for an Italian restaurant. It showed, because he had almost as much trouble with his weight as his wife did with her alcohol. Michael didn’t know if his father tried to diet or not but if he did there was no effect; he could always tell when John had gained weight again because he would be snappish and stand-offish, impossible to please. Michael knew his father would never hit him, but he still avoided him on those days. The cruel things he could say were capable of creating deep wounds.

Butch Andrews was Michael’s younger brother, and just how a family of brunettes had come up with a blond, cherub-like child was beyond him. Marsha explained that most of the people on her side of the family were blond, and since Michael had never met them he had to take her word for it. Butch was everything Michael wasn’t: popular, naturally social and easy to get along with. He attracted company to him without any effort at all, and so of course the two brothers hated each other in childhood. Butch didn’t know why he had to have an elder brother who embarrassed him with his awkwardness, while Michael was deeply envious of Butch’s effortless social grace.

They began to become friends when Butch suspected his mother’s problem with alcohol. For the first time it was he who was wrong footed while Michael, with his observation skills and patience, was together and composed. It was the first time Butch saw his brother as anything other than a failure; the first time Michael realized his brother was fallible and imperfect. Though it took years before they could call each other friends, they were at least unable to see each other as enemies any longer.

Michael’s family was, in other words, imperfect. But as his mother comforted him after he was turned down by yet another girl he liked; as his father spent all day cooking his favorite meal on his birthday; as Butch defended him from bullies; Michael realized that there was no family on earth better than his. He took comfort in their presences and believed them when they told him things would get better.

It did get better, and with their support Michael began to find things that he enjoyed. First there were model trains, the childhood hobby he never grew out of. They were his only joy as a boy: when receiving one he would light up as though he had been plugged into an electrical socket and sometimes even cry out with elation. There was something fascinating and beautiful about the powerful machines. It seemed that nothing could stand against their might; the early steam trains were especially imposing with their deep black finish and the smoke that they belched into the sky with enough noise to put thrash music to shame.

In college there was jujitsu. Michael had spent his life thinking until he paralyzed himself from action; in the dojo, he acted without a thought in his head, and the freedom was exhilarating. Every throw, twist and soft landing brought him closer to a mindless state where he could be without feeling eyes on his back or laughter following him around. The simple white building stood out against the drab background that Shiloh made, a beacon in the dark city that called Michael out.

After graduating with a degree in communications, Michael took a job at his local Thousand Pages Book Store. He stocked the shelves and did his best to connect with his co-workers while searching for his true calling. He was in no hurry. Naturally fastidious, Michael saved money well and planned to get his own small apartment within the next few months. From there he could look into the wide world outside of dismal Shiloh and find his place in it. Perhaps he would study more about trains, for what better place than a bookshop to find information? And friends and girlfriends would come as Michael learned about people and they learned about him.

It was about this time that his parents were murdered.