Chrome was born into a content little kingdom. The youngest of seven, his father had ruled in peace for most of their lives. Only the eldest brother, Rafa, even remembered talk of battle. The king was old, and had grown distracted from the coming and going of the court. He stayed in his study reading Olga Grushin, Andre Aciman, Teju Cole, and the journals of Lewis and Clark.
Chrome’s mother, in the interim, had become more concerned with bedding members of the court. She was bored. Many speculated that her newest son may have not even been a sire of the king.
But Chrome was raised down by the stables. Once used for hunts, now the horses sat around, unless they were taken out for exercise by the master horsemen—for exercise is only needed when peace leads to sloth. Chrome’s nanny would let him ride with the horseman, and he would laugh, and laugh. One day, the horse was spooked by a bang in the woods. The horse rose up, and Chrome fell off and landed on his head while the horseman was more focused on the horses. They were his prized possessions.
As the horseman got down to check on Chrome, a witch came out of the woods, having been playing with gunpowder.
“The boy had been marked by progress. He will have no home in the soil,” the witch said.
The horseman ordered the witch to leave, and he carried the unconscious boy back to the castle.
Chrome was unconscious for a week. In that time, the horseman was banished for his inattention, and the horses were set free, since they were no longer used and posed a danger.
While Chrome was asleep, two bumps began to form on the top of his head. Doctors assumed they are just lumps from the fall. When Chrome awoke, there was a celebration. The king attended, putting away his books for an evening. Afterward, he headed back to his study, and as he did he ruffled his son’s hair and felt the bumps. They were now hard ridges.
“The fall left you marked, deformed,” the king said. He left and did not speak to Chrome again.
Later, in the mirror, Chrome examined the top of his head. He found the two bumps had broken through the skin and looked like the beginning of antlers.
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