I'm well aware of how unusual my upbringing was. I had a big family, all living in our chapel, just outside the city walls. Our church began as a subsection of Quelsh many years ago, before Dad was even born, but we slowly split as our beliefs became more and more different. Dad was a preacher, and so was his father before him, and his father before him, and so on and so forth. I was born and raised as 'Antoinette Truthspeaker' in a litter of 5 with my other brothers and sisters. Mumma would brush our fur and sing us lullabies and teach us how to cook, Dad would tell us stories and hunt for food and teach us how chop wood for the fire. Every 10 days, Dad would hold a sermon, where he would spread the word to a crowd of people, and the 5 of us kids always had to help out.
As far as I know, they're all still there.
We believed that the city was doomed. We believed the six gods were liars and frauds, filling the world with sin and depravity, corrupting its inhabitants. We believed those who worshiped any one of them or followed their ideals to be tricked by false prophets. We believed that there used to be one TRUE god, and when he ruled, the world was pure and good, but he had left millennia ago, leaving the council and the six false gods to spread their sinful teachings. We believed that indulgence in any of the pleasures was harmful, and would keep us away from the one true god, with whom the only true pure joy could be found. We also believed that one day, the one true god would return, destroying the six false gods and cleansing the world of all the sinners, returning it to the paradise it was always meant to be.
"Bad things always happen in the city," I remember Dad telling me one night, "Notice how nothing bad ever happens to us out here in the chapel? That's because we're following the right path."
When the council announced a defecit in the conduit, and the reports of strange people known as 'outsiders' appearing in the city reached us, Dad believed it was a sign. The one true god was going to return SOON. He began using all the money we had raised from donations that were being saved for the upkeep of the chapel to purchase billboards in the city, warning of the iminent danger. He would go into the city with a megaphone and try to spread the word. He wanted to save as many people as he could. He tried to be strong and authoritative, but honestly, I saw that he was scared. In his mind, he knew for certain that in a month, thousands of people were going to die, he knew how to save their lives, and nobody was listening to him. It was a confusing, stressful, terrifying time, for all of us.
It was around this time that I really began questioning myself. I had never really been sure of myself throughout my life, but with the looming threat of the end of the world, it made me realise. I was possibly about to die, and I had NEVER lived as me. As my authentic self. My body was not my own. My name, didn't suit me. I started asking my siblings to call me a name I prefered instead, Starshot, and reffer to me more neutrally if they could. Deep down, I knew I was always meant to be a man, but I didn't want to add to the aditional stress on my family, so I didn't say anything. I'm still not sure if that was the right decision.
Dad believed he had predicted the exact date and time the one true god was supposed to return. Neverlight, Day XXX, Turn CDXLII, at 24;00. I will never forget that date, it was printed across billboards, posters, leaflets, flyers, anywhere he could. There was no sermon that day, Mumma and Dad wanted to spend as much time with the 5 of us as possible, just in case any of us weren't spared. We spent the night standing around the altar in a circle, wearing special gowns and holding candles. It's strange, it should have been a terrifying moment, I know everyone else was distressed, but I was a little excited. Ever since I was born, I was told this momentous event was going to happen, and now it was finally here. I felt guilty for this, of course, but I couldn't help it.
I watched the clock on the wall inch closer to the hour. Dad instructed us all to dip our paws in the bowl of water we had filled and placed on the altar, a symbolic gesture to cleanse any remaining sins from ourselves before the arrival of the one true god.
My pulse quickenned. This was it! Only 2 chimes left until the one true god would arrive! My sister Ophelia burst into tears, crying that she was worried she wasn't going to survive. Dad calmed her down by assuring her we would be safe inside the chapel, though I could tell he was unsure. We all were.
Any minute now. Any minute now. My whole life! I was ready.
There must be a mistake. Maybe he was just late. Maybe we got the date wrong.
But how could we have been wrong? Everything lined up. Dad did the maths. Today was supposed to be the day. We were supposed to meet the one true god. The world was supposed to be cleansed of evil.