Once upon a time there were three children who wanted to save the world.
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The first, and the oldest of the three—and whose name was Flannery—knew this from the outset. It was as if she arrived upon this Earth a bundle of purpose: the world was in trouble, and she knew it. The Great War, still less than seven years past, had left the world in a darkness that for all the optimistic political rhetoric, and the noble aims of the League of Nations, never quite lifted and which was soon to return fully fledged to the world with a small mustache and renewed violence.
The second child, whose name was Heather, and who was the youngest of the three, arrived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in December of 1950, just a little over five years after the Second World War finally ended, and on the very day Flannery left Ridgefield for her painful and prolonged audience with death. When in her seventh year her Irish Catholic father beat her younger brother senseless with his fists, and then killed him by tossing the lifeless five-year-old boy down a set of stairs—deemed an accident by the local Irish Catholic investigator, and grandly forgiven by the local Irish Catholic priest—Heather knew she must find the root of evil in this world and help eradicate it. God was not doing a very good job.
The third child, Gabriel, who was born on the 9th of August, 1945, took his first breath the very instant that the bomb over Nagasaki, Japan, detonated. He was later to muse that his first lungful of air contained the souls of 40,000 Japanese children. He had no notion about his purpose on Earth until one summer morning, when at the age of fourteen, almost fifteen—it was a Saturday, the 23rd of July, 1960, a little after 10 in the morning—40,000 dust motes, shimmering in the slotted sunshine inside an abandoned attic, suddenly began to sing.
There was also the fourth child: Netoniel.