Casa do Diaño, the land of pernicious duality.
Where the sun was an artist who painted smiles onto the flowers and shimmering self-portraits onto the waters.
Life was much brighter whenever the sky was bright. The farmlands filled with countless crops humming their joyful harvest tune. In the big city, businesses boomed and people roamed safely in the daylight. However, the large star's fraternal sibling—Moon—always saw this and, in jealous rages, immediately got to sabotaging the hard work as soon as Sun went to sleep for the night. Plants suffered, animals were more likely to get run over by careless drivers, and people always got hurt—more often than not past the point of no recovery. Life was no longer bright and shiny; only dark and scary. The large star always woke up seething with anger upon realizing what Moon had done. But that was never enough to quit working—oh no. The Sun would just fix everything back to the way it was until the next time Moon was feeling jealous.
As needless as this rivalry appeared, it was only a reflection of how the humans down below handled life on a daily basis. Only two types of people lived in Casa do Diaño: the pure of heart, and the not-so-pure of heart. The people feared neutrality more than illness and death. Things had to be one way or another—never a combined effort from all sides. Black and white ruled the island—gray was far too rare for the average person to comprehend.
One of the few examples of gray in Casa do Diaño was Leroy Barris.
Oh no, not another introduction. I'm already here, you undead prick. You doan need to keep showin' me all this shit, you know!
It began when Leroy was four years old. He and his family lived in Bessemer, Alabama; all the way in the United States. The year was 1974, which meant that it had only been a few years since the end of the Civil Rights Movement. At least, that was what his mother had said to his father one day. His father then responded by yelling that he was sick and tired of the neighbors burning crosses in their front yard.
Annnnd they were approached by some freaky—
So the day came when they told little Leroy that they were leaving the country.
Oh. Oh wow. We're skippin' the invitation this time? Hallelujah!
He had no recollection of what his parents did for a living—hell, he didn't even remember their names. All he knew was that the three of them entered Casa do Diaño only for them to be ambushed by a group of white gangsters operating in Oeste District. Leroy was spared. The two of them, on the other hand, were not.
Shit. Tough break, kiddo.
Once Leroy's parents were dead, the long-haired gang leader had ordered his men to put their guns away. “Leave ze boy. E'll starve before anyone finds 'im,” he said with a thick French accent. And so they left the small child behind, leaving him to cry over the bodies of his mother and father. He shook his father's bloody corpse. “Papa?” He didn't get a response, so he then shook his mother. “Mama?!” Again, no response. “Mama! Papa! Please! Wake up!”
But it was no use.
Nothing the boy could say or do would bring his parents back to him.
However, the small child would soon learn that he wasn't the only witness to this heinous crime.
Lemme guess; Zombie Bastard? Tall naked lady with white hair?
From around the corner, Leroy had suddenly heard a noise. Granted, he wouldn't of called it a “strange” noise or even a “funny” one. Using those words would've implied that he'd never heard a noise like it before when, in fact, he had. It was a noise he heard frequently whenever his family visited his grandfather on his farm in Georgia.
Every time the boy went outside to help his Grandpappy out, the farmer's old gelding, River, would follow the two around, waiting to be fed fresh vegetables. River was a handsome Clydesdale that was said to have once been a racehorse in his youth. He eventually retired and enjoyed the easy life of mooching carrots off his best friend.
For a split second, Leroy had thought River had come to rescue him.
But the sight of the beautiful white mare slowly approaching him from out of an alleyway told him he was mistaken.
Or a horse. Horses work too, I guess.
Her white coat shimmered in the moonlight, hair sparkling like diamonds. Her whinny even had a somewhat melodic sound as compared to other horses. Like she was singing him a soothing tune to hush his tears. Once she stopped next to the boy, she looked down at him with heterochromatic eyes; left eye green, right eye blue.
What a lovely creature she was.
“H-Hi?” Leroy sniffled, forcing himself to stand up. The horse looked at him for a moment, blinking once or twice. The young child rubbed the blood of his life-givers all over his clothes—no doubt unintentionally. The mare ached for the boy, knowing he was at a severe disadvantage being all by himself in a such a dangerous place like Oeste District. She nickered softly, trying to coax him into touching her muzzle.
The child just stared at her, grief still taking over his face. That's when the realization came to the majestic mare. This child wasn't from Casa do Diaño. In fact, she'd be willing to guess that he just got there before this atrocity had occurred. After all, the Princess Moura usually docked on the city's shore unless the passengers made special requests.
Wait a minute, we could make “special requests” on that ship? To who, the giant snake?!
The mare nickered again, letting the child know she understood. Afterward, she lowered herself to the ground. Leroy watched as the horse bent her knees and laid down on her side. The sight was astonishing; he had never seen a horse lay down before. He just assumed they all slept standing up.
After yet another nicker, Leroy finally took the chance and approached the horse. He examined the white mare's face as she continued to watch him. Her green and blue eyes were radiant and youthful, but not quite on par with a foal's eyes. Her behavior alone was a tell-tale sign of maturity and wisdom. She reminded Leroy much of his mother.
He held his right hand out and touched her muzzle. The remnants of his parents' blood painted the spot just above her nose. “S-Sorry! I didn't mea—” Before he could properly apologize, the red faded into white. The boy's eyes widened, pulling his hand away.
How did she clean her nose without touching it?
Was she a magical horse?!
You got no clue, kid.
The mare sniffed his hand and snorted. Leroy rubbed his face against his shoulder. “C-Can you help me?” The mare nickered again, jerking her head back as if she were telling him to climb onto her back. Lost and alone in a new place, Little Leroy didn't know what else to do.
Mama was gone.
Papa was gone.
It was now just him.
So he nodded and hopped onto the mare's back.
She let out a loud whinny as a warning, telling him that he needed to hold on tightly.
Leroy was confused at first, but immediately caught on as soon as she started lifting herself to her feet.
He wrapped his arms tightly around her neck as she galloped through the streets of Oeste District.
The boy didn't know where she was taking him or what was in store for him.
But he trusted his new friend with his life.
She'd protect him from the scary people living on this island.
Within minutes, he fell asleep on her back, arms still holding onto her.
When Leroy woke up, he noticed that he was no longer in the city. In fact, it looked like he was in a completely different country altogether. Before the small child was a lush meadow, flowers ranging from azaleas to sunflowers living harmoniously amongst each other. A giant smile spread across his face and he jumped off his companion to join the flowers. The sun was bright and shiny, making the boy feel like he was finally safe. It was incredibly hard to believe that this beautiful, serene field shared the same land as that awful, violent city.
The mare was pleased with this location, and decided it was only fitting for the child to stay here—at least for a little while. She watched as the boy ran away in the flowery field, laughing like he didn't lose his mother and father just hours ago. This was good; it wasn't healthy to dwell on the past. As hurtful as it was to say, the child's parents were no more. He'd only be wasting valuable time grieving their deaths at such a young age. He was just a little boy, after all. He should be frolicking and playing—not crying!
You say this as you watch him, no doubt noticin' the blood stains still on his clothes. Stupid animal.
As night fell, it was time for the horse to leave the boy.
And you're leavin' him behind? Fuckin' useless horse!
Leroy hugged the horse's two front legs, crying loudly. “Don't go! Don't go!” The mare looked down at the child, melancholy filling her eyes like a cup. She didn't want to leave the child behind, but she knew she had to. Otherwise, he'd never grow stronger. He'd never learn how to be self-sufficient.
He needed to be independent.
It was the only way anyone can survive a place like Casa do Diaño.
However, this didn't mean that he had to be left completely empty-handed.
Here we go; I was wonderin' when the freaky powers were comin'.
The horse snorted, making the boy look up at her. He let go of her legs and got to his feet. “Please,” Leroy sobbed, “stay with me. I ain't got anyone else!” The mare nickered, nudging his face with her nose. Leroy touched her muzzle and closed his eyes.
That's when a voice entered his thoughts.
“I will always be with you. Even if I'm not there beside you.”
His eyes widened and he jumped back.
“You...you're a talking horse?!”
I expected much crazier things, to tell you the truth. Still am, really.
The horse nickered again. “Do not be afraid, child. I have brought you here so you could see Casa do Diaño's majesty rather than just it's atrocities.” The boy tilted his head, but didn't say anything. “You will be just fine, Little Leroy. Touch my muzzle.” Eyes still wide, he nodded and did as he was told.
That's when his hand began to glow a bright blue.
“This power will ensure that you're safe from evil. It is your duty, however, to use it wisely or unwisely.”
At that point, Leroy's entire body was swallowed by a sudden flood of water shooting from the blue light.
For a few minutes, the meadow was gone.
The flowers were no more.
His friend was gone, too.
The four-year old was underwater in an unknown body of water.
But he wasn't drowning.
In fact, breathing wasn't an issue at all.
The water had felt as natural to him as the open air did.
Yerp, about what I expected.
Once he realized this, the water drained and returned him to the flowery meadow.
However, the mare was still missing.
Lord knew when he'd see his friend again.
But he was going to look for her.
Regardless of how long it took him, he was going to find her.
He was going to prove to her that he was strong.
And so the boy began his life as the sole survivor of his family.
For the first month, Leroy couldn't bring himself to actually leave the meadow. He knew he had to if he wanted to find his friend again, but he just...couldn't. He was too afraid to leave what he largely considered his “happy place”. At first, this worked to his advantage. Upon searching the flowers in the field, he discovered a couple of crops mixed into the field. These crops provided him with plenty of potatoes, carrots, and grapes. He never liked the taste of carrots, but he knew he couldn't be too picky at a time like this. After all, it was better to be disgusted than hungry.
Otherwise, living was fairly easy. He ran around the field when he was bored, talked to the sunflowers when he was lonely, peed in the patch of grass away from the flowers, and slept with the lavenders at night. As for bathing, he waited for it to rain to take off his clothes and wash his skin. And with his new power, rain didn't harm him like it would a normal person. In fact, the water made him feel rejuvenated as if he were one of the flowers in the meadow!
Just try doin' that in the city. I dare you.
However the day came when the rain stopped coming.
The crops stopped providing him food.
And the flowers stopped talking to him.
This told Leroy that it was time to stop being scared.
If he wanted to survive, he had to be a big boy and return to the city.
It turned out that the mare hadn't actually taken him too terribly far away from the city—or at least it didn't seem like it was that far. It took the boy about two hours walking distance before he started seeing a road and signs written in a long list of different languages—English being the third from the top. As soon as he recognized the words “Oeste District”, the boy stopped dead in tracks.
The place where this all began.
What if he ran into those gangsters again?
Would they recognize him?
Would he end up dead like his parents?
Leroy shook his head and marched onward.
As soon as he reached the city, the little boy realized the city was much, much larger than he thought. Greeting him upon his arrival was a giant sign with what appeared to be a geographical map of Casa do Diaño. The first thing Leroy noticed was that the island was shaped like a giant heart—a human heart; not one of those curvy hearts that appeared in cartoons whenever somebody fell in love. The only reason the boy recognized this shape was because his father had once shown him a drawing he'd done for Leroy's mother.
Interesting gift for the missus, I suppose.
The next thing the boy noticed was the portion of the island that was labeled “Oeste District”. It was massive. Oeste District took up half of the island! Just below Oeste District—covering the entire southern portion of Casa do Diaño—was Sur District; which, if the arrow pointing towards the border was any indicator, appeared to be where Leroy had just come from. Just above Sur District—right in the middle of the island—was Centro District. There was a picture of a big building on it, like a Town Hall or something. But Leroy was more amused by the fact that the district looked like a large strip of bacon on the map. To the right of Centro District was Leste District. It was almost as long as Oeste District, but not quite there; though it looked a little thicker towards the top. On it were pictures of tanks and this odd flag that had a purple lightning bolt down the middle, separating portions of black and portions of white. And finally, crowning the entire island, was Norte District. This district had pictures of trees on it, so Leroy assumed it was the woodsy version of Sur District.
Topping off the sign was large text reading “BENVIDO AO DISTRITO OESTE!” with multiple captions underneath it, all in separate languages.
Like the road sign, “WELCOME TO OESTE DISTRICT!” was the third line of text from the top.
Yeah, I noticed this place has a thing for Spanish...or is it Portuguese? I ain't totally sure. Sure ain't English or Italian, that's for damn sure.
For the first two days in the city, Leroy encountered little to no troubles. Some of the city folk were a little rude, sure, but it never did any real harm to the child. The only time a comment hurt his feelings was when some guy shouted “Ay! Get back in the fire to finish that burn job, you goddamn ape!” at him from across the street. Still, words were only words. Otherwise, the city folk were friendly to the small child. Whenever he got hungry, the elderly owner of some small, humble bakery gave him a loaf of bread completely free of charge. The boy was sure to make the food last. Whenever he got tired, he slept in dirty alleyways for both nights—using some old newspapers as a blanket.
Then, on the third day, things took an unexpected turn for Leroy.
It was around two in the afternoon when the boy was relieving himself in an empty alleyway. He had tried to hold it until he got to a place with a public restroom, but young children aren't exactly known for having the strongest bladders. The falling rain around him did him no favors, either. So he ended up rushing into the space between two tall apartment complexes. His mother had always told him that it was rude to go pee-pee when other people were watching, so he made sure he was completely alone before pulling his pants down.
Unfortunately for the small child, somebody was there.
A familiar face, at that.
More specifically, a familiar face pointing a gun to the back of his head.
Oh boy, talk about déjà vu...
The Frenchman turned the safety off, butting the barrel against the dark-skinned child's head. “Well well. What do we 'ave 'ere?” Leroy stiffened in fear. He recognized the voice immediately. How couldn't he? This man had murdered his Mama and Papa.
“It's rude to desecrate public property, you know.” The boy then felt cold metal pressing up against his right butt-cheek. “And indecent exposure, too?” The gangster made some strange clicking noise with his tongue. “Ze nerve of filthy Americans! Even ze children!”
C'mon kid, you ain't like fuckin' Jacob Summers; you got superpowers. Take this French pussy out!
But this time not in fear.
“W...what's a “French pussy”?”
The gangster gritted his teeth, growling loudly.
Wait a minute—what?! You can hear me?!
The boy nodded.
C-Can you see me, kid?!
The boy shook his head.
“'ow dare you speak zat way to me, you vile pig!”
It's rainin', kid. Do somethin' fast or this cat will ice your ass!
Leroy didn't know where this strange voice was coming from, but it did have a very good point.
It was raining.
Leroy closed his eyes, focusing hard on anything and everything that was water.
Just as the gangster was about to pull the trigger, Leroy's urine stream suddenly lifted up over the boy's head and hit his attacker in the face.
Um. Well. I guess that works, too.
The blow stalled the Frenchman long enough for Leroy to zip up and retreat to the street.
As soon as the gangster saw where he'd gone, he ran after him.
The child closed his eyes again and held his arms out, feeling the raindrops pelt his palms.
“Time to die, you filthy—”
Before his attacker could finish that thought, the raindrops falling from the sky suddenly stopped mid-motion.
After a minute, they began forming into an army of water spikes.
Alright! Way to go, kid!
The gangster had no time to spare before the drops shot at him, stabbing him all over his body.
It didn't take long for the man to die in the open street.
Leroy stared at the body before him.
He'd done it.
He'd avenged his mother and father.
But now he had two objectives in Casa do Diaño.
Find the white mare and the man with the funny voice talking in his head.
Hey! Doan you be shittin' on my accent now. I saved your life, you know!
The boy smiled big.
Indeed, both of them had saved him now.
Now he had to repay the favor.
And so he was off, continuing his quest.
You know I'm right beside you, right? Hello?
Not long after the Frenchman's death, Leroy was found by two women strolling the park. One was a light-skinned Irish lass by the name of Karen. The other one was named Marian. She had dark skin, though not as dark as Leroy's. The two women owned their own cottage up north, in the heart of Norte District. They were young, in love, and willing to take the boy in as their own. Of course, he wasn't going to turn down an offer like that. After all, it got him away from the dreaded city. Thus Leroy became Leroy Barris.
His new parents didn't trust the school system very much in Casa do Diaño, so they opted to home-school him along with their other four adopted children: Nigel, Hugo, Liam, and Marie. Leroy did exceptionally well in his studies, though he struggled with Science. It wasn't that the subject matter was hard for him to understand—oh no. It was because it was painfully boring; especially when learning about physics.
As the years passed, Leroy eventually learned that the gangster he killed was a man by the name of Louis Couture. Louis, as his surname suggested, worked as a tailor in Caen before coming to Casa do Diaño. He had aspirations relating to politics, hoping to extort his way into some office and, ultimately, become the Supreme Ruler of the world. Considering that a little boy was the one who done him in, it was quite clear that his dreams were not meant to be.
It wasn't until he was ten years old when he started learning about the old Gods and Goddesses of various cultures. Sure, the Greek pantheon was fascinating enough and the Egyptians had some interesting Gods and Goddesses, as well. Marian had even told Leroy all about Wakan Tanka, aka The Great Spirit. Her people believed that every person, object, and animal had a spirit within it—a spirit worth respecting and nourishing. Karen, on the other hand, shared a very similar belief system to Marian. The only difference was that while Marian only believed in one great spirit, Karen believed in several.
This discussion led to Leroy learning all about the Great Mother, Danu.
Scholars didn't know much about her, though it was universally understood that she was the mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann, otherwise known as the other gods found in Irish mythology. The Celtics all believed her to be a kind, loving Goddess. She gave life to the gods and, in essence, gave life to the mere mortals on Earth, as well. They also believed that she sometimes walked amongst others in the land of the living.
Sometimes she was a seagull.
Other times she was a snake.
But her favorite form was that of a majestic, white mare.
Upon hearing this, Leroy's eyes lit up and a believer was born. From that point onward, he made it a point to spend one day out of every week alone in the forest by the cottage. During this time, he'd mediate, seeing if he could summon the Great White Mare. Sure enough, she always came, in all her glory. She offered him guidance, provided insight, and listened to him. Leroy was blessed to know that the Great Mother Goddess Danu had his back and he ferociously fought to defend her name any time somebody mocked the ways of nature.
With time, the fearful boy grew into a strong, yet gentle man.
Most women looked at him like he was good-looking.
Your face looks awfully familiar…
But he never approached any of them. It wasn't that he didn't like them, of course. He thought they were all pretty enough; he just didn't know how to approach them. What would he say to them? What if what he had to say wasn't interesting enough? What if it was too interesting and led to things he wasn't quite ready for yet?
Besides, Leroy harbored some rather controversial views on certain things. He never considered himself partial to many strong stances on issues. In Casa do Diaño, one was either very much for something or very much against. There was no such thing as indifferent.
Did Leroy think murder was evil? Sometimes, but it saved his life as a child...so he couldn't be entirely against it. Did Leroy think violence in general was bad? Yes, but it was sometimes necessary. Should the world run off of anarchy, or have one or more leaders calling the shots? Trick question; nobody would survive in a lawless world, but at the same time, nobody was ever satisfied with rules.
That was why Casa do Diaño was such a chaotic place to live. Her name roughly translated to “House of the Devil”—a fitting name, indeed. In the Devil's house, politicians existed, but could never quite figure out how to fix the problems plaguing the island. If they tried enforcing rules, rebellions broke out. If they did nothing, rebellions broke out. The reality of it all was that nobody was truly capable of compromise; it had to be their way or the highway. After all, this was where hopeless dreamers became ruthless players ready and eager to ante up in the bloodiest poker match of all time.
She was the universe's most voluptuous, yet venomous secret.
Also, most people in Casa do Diaño were practicing Christians while Leroy was not. And the reason for that was because, despite all of the years, he never forgot the two promises he had made to himself as a child. While he had managed to fulfill one, there was still one more that he hadn't. There was never a day where Leroy didn't think of the man who saved him fifteen years ago. Who was he? Why did he save him? Why hadn't Leroy been able to hear him since that day?
I'm just as confused as you are, buddy.
After enlightening himself on the inner workings of Casa do Diaño, Leroy had began to question whether or not this man was even on the island. After all, she was an exclusive island hidden so far away from the grasp of a rational reality that people often debated on whether it was an alternate dimension they were living in or another planet altogether. The vast majority of her citizens were foreigners who received a special invitation from some supernatural being.
So on that faithful day of December 18th, 1989, Leroy decided to consult his old friend, Danu.
She arrived before him as usual.
The man didn't have to say anything before the horse whinnied.
“The man you seek is closer than you think.”
Oh my fuckin'—
Then, just like that, a red portal materialized before the young man.
Are you serious right now?!
In the portal, he spotted a young couple.
The woman stared at Leroy with terrified eyes.
Leroy felt sorry for the man, as this portal had appeared to have formed from out of his own mouth.
He would promise to make it up to him later.
Okay, so I know why you want me to find you.
I get it.
But where am I gonna find you?
Where are you, Leroy Barris?