It had been too long without a statement.
Jon knew this, of course. Initially, he’d hoped that the statement of Peter Lukas would be sufficient to last him at least a while, but the fear had been tainted by that sickly fog that had passed through everything in The Lonely. He had sensed that same lingering scent on Martin for a near week after they’d made their escape from there and The Institute.
But it faded, as the two found routine in the safehouse they now called home, together. And while it may have been awkward, initially, now they fell into a comfortable rhythm as a pair. They both knew how the other felt, and, while it may not have been a conventional relationship after all they’d been through, it was peaceful. And loving. And Jon prayed it would never end.
Yet. The fact remained. Jon was hungry. That was the closest approximation to the emptiness he felt as the days sped on. Light-headed and weak, he tried his best to hide it. He didn’t want to worry Martin any more than needed.
It's just a little dizziness, he reasoned. I’ve gone longer without.
Still, this time was different. He felt himself drifting. He needed something.
He brought it up to Martin, who’d promise to put a call through to Basira when he went to town to pick up groceries. This left Jon alone for the afternoon, as he sat in front of the fireplace, shivering despite the roaring flames inside.
His mind started to stray, as it often did when he stretched his time between statements. And as it often did when he was alone and tired, it turned to the past, his many preceding mistakes and unconquered fears.
Fears. My own fear. He felt the thought ring through his skull.
His pulse began to quicken and Jon felt a sudden nausea rise in his throat.
Use it. The words he was certain were not coming from him - not consciously, at least. And choking down bile and the urge to scream, Jon felt himself start to speak:
Jonathan Sims, The Archivist.
He is 12 years old. It is at this point Jon initially begins to suspect that there is something deeply broken within him.
He did not have many friends, bookish and quiet as he was in his childhood, but it was around this time he noticed an alarming change in those he had. The girl down the street he would sometimes talk with about the new books they each were reading stopped speaking with him after her friends joked and teased about how he was her “boyfriend.” His friend, Eric, who he would walk home with after school, spent hours describing to Jon which girls in their class he’d be willing to kiss. In a sleepover Jon had obligatorily been invited to, despite the birthday boy’s best wishes, he’d been pushed until he pulled the name of a female classmate from thin air as his “crush.”
He didn’t understand. It was as though everyone in the world had changed, but he remained exactly the same as he always was.
He wasn’t stupid. He’d read books and seen movies, and he knew that, when you reach a certain age, you are supposed to care about things like dating, and girls, and… other forms of closeness.
Maybe, he rationed. Maybe, I’m just running behind. I’ll get there, eventually.
And the fear in him grew larger.
He is 16. Jon is no longer a child. Or so he thinks, as he asks the girl who always looked at him from across the cafeteria on a date, egged on by his friends.
He still hadn’t felt that tug, that ache and interest the others had demonstrated. He’d hoped, foolishly, that he simply hadn’t given the idea enough thought. A relationship, he figured, would stir something, unlock that part that still eluded him.
The first date went great. She was similar to him, in many ways, and even laughed at his jokes, on occasion. He liked her. She was pleasant to be around and had a smile that gave him butterflies.
Was this it? Was this the feeling he’d read about and heard about and seen played out on the faces of his peers?
A few months later, his mistake is revealed. She kisses him. Hard. And Jon doesn’t mind - too much.
This is okay. This is normal.
But when she pushes him, asks him to go further, asks him to do more, he freezes. He panics. He can’t explain it, but he is filled with a terror so complete he nearly sees stars.
She stops. She breaks up with him a week later. Soon, the entire school knows the story. Someone starts a rumor that he’s gay. Jon knows this isn’t the case, but isn’t it the only explanation? What else would explain the dullness he felt, the sinking fear and dread he had experienced?
Jon wishes he was anyone but himself.
He is 19.
Jon has a boyfriend. He isn’t too friendly, but he asked Jon out. Jon wasn’t going to say no. He didn’t exactly have much to lose.
Jon smokes. A lot. He drinks. Too much. The relief it provides, from his doubts and uncertainties, is a comfort.
But he can’t truly find solace from the thoughts that plague him at night. Something is still off. He hates sex. He hates feeling like he's hiding something from his boyfriend - which, of course he is.
They break up. They say it's a mutual thing, but Jon knows this isn’t the case. Not fulfilling his needs, and all that. Jon begins to understand he is unlovable.
He is 21.
Jon has a girlfriend. Georgie isn’t like the others he’d dated.
She explains to Jon many things. Terminology and history of their shared community. There’s one identity he dwells on, reading definitions and documented experiences.
It fits. He knows this. And yet. It terrifies him. Another label, another false hope. Or a damning sentence, that will scare off anyone too close.
They can’t know. And he is petrified of being found out. Paralyzed with fear.
In the end, he breaks up with Georgie. He feels like a liar, and a fraud. She deserves better.
He is 30.
Jon has a boyfriend. Jon loves Martin, that much he is sure of. He loves him with a fierceness he hadn’t experienced before.
And yet, in that love, Jon has a sinking certainty. When Martin finds out what he is, he’ll leave him. Like the others. Jon’s leading him on, making him believe he is someone he is not, and that he can give something he can’t
He wonders, wouldn’t it be easier to push him away before he can hurt you?
And now that he is no longer human, his humanity fully stripped away, Jon looks back and wonders if he ever truly was human, or if, without that spark, he has only been a hollow shell.
Jon stops speaking, as suddenly as he started. As his vision sharpens, in front of his face, he sees Martin, mouthing something he doesn’t catch, as he falls into unconsciousness.
Jon wakes slowly, in the bed he shares with Martin. The room is empty only for a moment when Martin enters holding a mug of what Jon assumes to be tea, rushing to his side when he sees Jon is awake. And Jon is overwhelmed with shame.
“Thank goodness, Jon, you have no idea -” Jon cuts him off. “How much did you hear?”
“Most of it, I think,” Martin paused. “Jon, what was that?”
With a sigh, he answers. ”That was… cannibalism. The Eye… it was using my own fear as a substitute. And I suppose that particular feeling is quite up its alley. Fear of being known, and all that.”
“I know that there’s a lot here. The cannibalism… yeah. That sounds like an issue. But Jon, about what you were saying, I -”
“I understand if it's too much, if it's not what you want. If I’m not what you want. I know I’m not the easiest person in the world and on top of everything else this -”
“Jon, I’m not going to break up with you because you’re asexual -”
“I feel like I’ve been lying to you this entire time, Martin, and you deserve -”
“I’m ace too, Jon!” The confession hangs heavy in the air for a moment.
“Oh. Oh. ”
“For God’s Sake. If you’d let me finish my sentences, we wouldn’t have this issue,” Martin said.
“Well. I see. No issues then?”
“No issues. Now if you wouldn’t mind sharing the bed, I’ve had a long day caring for my comatose boyfriend and would like some sleep.” Jon obliged, “I think that can be arranged.”