I froze at the sound of the voice coming from behind me. Slowly I turned around expecting to see someone with a gun pointed at me. Surprisingly this was not the case. I tightened my grip on the hammer in case I needed it as a weapon. I couldn’t see him clearly in the dark barn, but he wore an old cowboy hat and had on a long coat.
“You must be one of those two convicts they shot a while back and buried up near the road.”
What could I say? It was obvious that he recognized me. “Yessir, I am. I don’t mean you no harm, I just need to get this shackle off and then I’ll be on my way.”
He turned his head and spat juice at the floor and then nodded, “I think I can help you with that.”
“I appreciate it, but why would you help me? Obviously, I’m an Alty.”
“True, but I’m the type to live and let live. Also I had two kids become Alts and the State executed them. So, I’m not too fond of turning over Alties to the State. From what I can tell, you are the modern day equivalent of Lazarus I suppose.”
I nodded. The man turned to the corner of the barn and opened a cabinet I had missed in my search. He brought out a pair of heavy duty bolt cutters. I looked pointedly at him and then turned my head and stared at the door. He cocked his head for a second and then swiftly reached out and whipped open the door. A young boy stumbled inside.
“Boy! I told ya a hunnert times, do not come out of the house while it is light. Do you want the State to snatch you up and send you to the education camps?”
The boy stammered, “I… I … I just wanted to get a closer look at the Alty. Ever since I saw him come up out of the grave, I’ve been curious. Besides, I looked for patrols before I come out.”
The man shook his head, “That curiosity is what is going to get you skinned alive by the State. They’ll lock you up until you reach puberty to find out if you are one of the Altered and then kill you if you are. Let me get this gentleman’s shackles off and then we’ll sneak up to the house and have dinner. It’s the least I can do.”
I couldn’t believe my luck. It was almost unheard of for anybody to show sympathy to an Alty. The man cut my shackles off and then wrapped the boy under his long coat. He beckoned me to walk near him and we made our way to the house. Once inside, it definitely looked abandoned. Trash strewn everywhere and busted furniture laying here and there. The man led me to the kitchen and opened an old rusty refrigerator. The shelves inside had been busted out. He reached in and up to the corner and I heard a click. Like magic, the back of the refrigerator fell back revealing lighted steps. One by one, we went inside and down into what looked like a one room studio apartment. It had a kitchenette along one wall with a small open pantry. There was a small table with four chairs around it and a sofa along the other wall.
“Sit right down while I get the food ready.”
The boy sat with me and with a wondering look in his eyes asked, “Why does the State hate Alties?”
I paused and wondered what I could tell the boy. The man turned and said, “Go on ahead and tell him everything. I suppose getting it from the horse’s mouth so to speak would be better than the guesses I’ve given him. And speak up, I would like to hear the real history too.”
I cleared my throat and thought for a minute, then I told the story.
to be continued . . .
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