“More or less,” Howie responded. “It’s kind of complicated.”
“How can you even do that anyway?” Eight asked. How could any human create a ball of energy that they can shoot at others rendering them unconscious or worse?
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Howie sighed. “I really don’t want to talk about it.” Howie added as he walked a bit faster to get ahead of Eight.
Eight wouldn’t take that for an answer. He caught back up with Howie. “You can’t steal my line,” he let a small chuckle escape as the other man looked at him and smiled slightly. “How long have you been able to do that?”
Howie shrugged as he walked. “There is a good chunk of my life that is missing. I remember growing up with my parents, I remember their deaths. Then I have a huge chunk of memory missing until about three months before I was captured and imprisoned. I don’t remember being able to create the energy as a child and then I could.” Howie looked sad as he talked about the past he could remember.
“Maybe it’s for the better you can’t remember all that time. I can remember all of my past and it’s not really something I want to remember, I’d rather have a black hole where they should be.” Eight caught a sidelong look at Howie expecting him to say something about continuing, something about his past.
“If you had a hole in your memory you wouldn’t be saying that, you are only saying that because you do remember. If you couldn’t remember you’d want to find out what happened during all of that time too.” Howie stopped and looked ahead of them at the town they had finally reached. “Is this it?”
Eight stopped and looked at the fence that was supposed to keep the out the outside world. His eyes traveled the length looking for the hole he knew existed. He hoped no one had actually gotten around to patching the fence like they always talked about. His eyes fell on the opening and he let his face smile. “Yes, this is it.” He said as he started to walk towards the opening.
Howie looked around at the run down houses that looked as if they needed to be destroyed and completely rebuilt on the other side of the fence and was apprehensive to start walking towards the edge. “Are you sure there is a safe house here?”
Eight turned and looked at the other man. “Welcome to my home,” Eight motioned towards the houses on the other side of the fence. “You wanted to know something of my past? This is where I grew up, we will be safe.” He said ‘we’ to get the other man to come forward. He knew Howie would be safe but he wasn’t so sure he would be welcome or particularly safe after everything he’d done.
Howie must have accepted the answer as he started to walk towards the opening. Eight could see the look of disgust on Howie’s face though he was sure the other man was likely trying to hide it. “Not what you are used to?” He asked the other man.
Howie shook his head. “Not that I can remember,” He shrugged. “With my parents we lived in a house with five rooms and three bathrooms, lots of room even with all my brothers and sisters. Then, the place I stayed before I was hauled off to prison was rundown but still nicer than these.” Howie ducked through the hole in the fence and stepped over a river of fluid running through the street, he didn’t want to look closer as he was pretty sure the residents did not have indoor plumbing and likely dumped buckets out onto the street and it was evident by the smell. He tried hard not to scrunch his nose in disgust but the smell was too strong and it wasn’t long before he brought is arm up to cover his nose in an attempt to block the smell.
Eight chuckled behind the other man at his reaction. “You’ll get used to it.” Eight said turning from the hole in the fence in the direction of the safe house.
“But do I really want to?” Howie mumbled as he turned to follow the other man.
They walked through the streets. Eight ignored the staring faces, he knew many of them still recognized him and were wondering what he was doing there. Thankfully, the stranger he was walking with garnered more stares and whispers and their attention quickly shifted from him to Howie. Some of the children started to trail behind them despite their mothers calling after them. Eight could hear Howie telling the children to go back to their mothers but none of the children were listening.
Eight shook his head and turned down the next alley that would lead them to the safe house. Their destination was at the end of the road and by the time they reached the door the children had all run off. Eight knew why, this was a place that all mothers had taught their children to avoid. Only the most daring of kids would actually try to prove their bravery by coming near. It wasn’t an evil place, but it was a place that caused a few problems for the town already. The building stood alone at the end of the alley, it was easily the largest building in the town but it was just as run down as all the others. Eight had always been amazed that this house had remained standing. It was one of the original buildings for this area though the glass of the windows was long gone, replaced by boards with gaps large enough to put a barrel of a gun through. Eight eyed the guards peeking through the windows and he knew there were some outside the house guarding the perimeter.
Eight held his hands up showing they were empty and looked towards Howie who followed suit. They approached the building and knocked on the door.
“Safe…house?” Howie questioned as he saw a guard come around the front porch pointing a gun in their direction.
“You don’t feel safe?” Eight asked with a smirk before turning his attention back to the door that was creaking open.
“What are you doing here, I told you never to return,” The man standing behind the door stood glaring at Eight. They stood like that for several more minutes, both refusing to be the first man to drop his gaze.
Howie looked between the two men as they stood staring at each other. The distant bark of a dog caused him to jump.
“Um, hello,” he spoke up and stuck his hand out towards the man who opened the door. “I’m Howie,” He smiled at the other man hoping to ease some of the tension he felt coming off both of the other two men. “I was told that I would be able to get a meal and a roof over my head to rest here.” He continued to hold out his hand to the other man waiting to get greeted.
The other man dropped his gaze from Eight and looked down at Howie’s hand. He did not move his hands from where they were crossed against his chest but he did speak.
“Come in,” He sighed and let the men enter. “Would you prefer to eat or sleep first?”
“Sleep,” Howie sighed exhausted since he had not slept since before he escaped from the prison.
“This way,” the dark haired man led him away from the entrance where Eight was still entering.
Eight felt a sense of pride at beating the caretaker at the staring contest they were having. He ignored the fact that it was his duty to help and Howie was asking for help, he’d beaten the other man. He watched as the caretaker took Howie up the stairs to the sleeping rooms and then glanced around the first floor. Much of it remained the same from the last time he was there though he did see a few new pieces of furniture in the main gathering room. Dust did not cover everything like it had before and Eight wondered where they’d found the schmuck they could convince to clean the place.
He grinned remembering the meetings that he’d attended in that room, the plans that had been made. Eight shook his head remembering the last meeting in that room, the one in which he’d been kicked out. It was the actions he’d done that got him kicked out that had led him down the path in which he ended up prisoner 438 up until a couple of days ago.
He turned from the memories and made his way to the kitchen. He opened several cabinets and found what he was looking for. He opened the box of crackers he found then pulled open the cold chest and grabbed a beer, smiling that they still stocked the chest full of beer, it was a big draw to get some of the men of the town involved in their cause, give them beer. Eight sat down with his crackers and beer and tried to only remember the good times he had at this place. His happy memories didn’t last long; the caretaker was soon standing in his line of sight.
“I should kick you out right now,” the other man started.
“Then why don’t you,” Eight challenged.
“Alex, you always did like to play the martyr,” the caretaker continued.
“It’s Eight, Alex died the day you kicked me out of here,” Eight glared at the older man.
“Don’t think I don’t know where you two came from. A wire was sent over the band about four prisoners that escaped and the numbers on your clothes make it apparent.” The man pointed to Eight’s chest where the patch with 438 was sewed on, partially falling off after their exploits today.
“You can stay the night,” the caretaker said as he turned. “Then I want you out in the morning.”
“Kevin,” Eight called after the older man who was still walking away. “Keep Howie protected, the Regime should not have access to him and who knows he might join your cause.”
Kevin turned and looked back at Eight with a confused look.
“I can’t tell you, you’ll have to ask Howie, just one last favor for me, for the Alex you used to know.” Eight hated to plead like he was now but Howie got him out of the prison and Kevin was a good man, even if he’d deny that if actually asked, that would protect him.
Eight looked down at the beer in front of him and back up to Kevin who was starting up the stairs. “I never meant to involve her. I will make it right,” He called out after the older man who simply shrugged his shoulders and continued on up the stairs.