Subject 91

A Shelter to Lie In


By Tict

Nine glanced through the glass and into the structure's interior. Faces peered at him from behind stacks of foods and liquids wrapped in packaging. He stepped away from the small room, the bathroom the old man had called it, and over to the place where the vehicles rested. Some of them were connected to pillars that shot out of the ground with dark colored tubes. The others stood alone. He knelt and peered into one of the vehicles, the Impala.

"Hey, fucker, get the fuck away from my fucking car!" came a voice.

Nine turned and watched as the man approached hesitantly. He only came to his chest. The man's face was red with... anger. Anger was what it was. Also, embarassment. Nine glanced at the people watching him and compared them to the man. The man was far larger. His shoulders were wide and his arms large. He was twice as large as any other person... save for him. Nine watched the man raise his voice, his body tense aggressively and looked on with all the interest of a beast having been roused from slumber by a rodent.

The man moved forward and tried to push him back, trying to exhert his dominance over Nine. Nine did not move.

This seemed to anger the man more and, instead of pushing, the man swung his fist towards his abdomen. There was pressure. Nine felt pressure, but little else. The large-but-small man fell to the ground in pain, cradling the hand he'd punched Nine with.

Nine felt a feeling wash over him. It coursed through his veins and set him aflame. This man was not dominant. It was he, Nine, who was larger. Stronger.

Nine reached down and placed a hand on the large man's chest. He rose his gaze to the man's eyes and the locked. Everything this man had was his. He was dominant. His will bore into the man's with all the delicacy of a runaway jackhammer in a porcelen shop. The man opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came.

"Where am I?" Nine said slowly.

"California," the man said softly, his voice barely above a whisper. The man wore a vacant expression as he stared up into Nine's eyes. "Just outside of San Francisco."

"Who am I?"

"I don't know."

Nine stared down at the man, assuring himself that he would not challenge him any longer, then stood. The sound of sirens caught his attention as he struggled to make things right in his head. There were answers there. He felt it. He knew it. And yet, when he sought them, they would not come. Now was the fear. The sirens. The lights.

Nine ran and was immediately aware of a loud boom that reverberated around him. He glanced back at the structure. The name came, Gas Station.

There was hard ground and there was soft ground. The hard ground had lines of two colors - White and Yellow. The soft ground did not. The hard ground provided a strong surface to run upon. The soft ground did not. The hard ground's name came to him several times - Road, Asphalt, Pavement. The soft ground was just... ground.

He ran along the hard ground, the road. He did not know where he was going, just that he had to get away from the lights.

Another light, two lights, that of a vehicle approached quickly. Then was gone.

He heard a... scream. It was not a loud scream, not like that of the old man's woman. Nor was it an angry scream like that of the large man. It was a scream that had little volume, little force, but spoke of a deep fear. It was no more than a grunt.

Nine stopped and the road beneath his feet exploded. He watched as the vehicle he passed arced in the air above him, carried by howling wind. He saw shards of glass and pieces of metal fragmenting off into the darkness of the night. Nine raised his brows and caught sight of the occupant. Their eyes met.

Nine rushed forward and grabbed the vehicle before it slammed into the road upside down. He carefully turned the vehicle and set it down so as not to jostle the occupant then moved over to the man's door.

"Are you hurt?" Nine said, his eyes never leaving the man's. The man winced but did not respond. The door was in the way. Nine removed it. A strap of troublesome material - seatbelt - gave easily and he pulled the man from the car. Nine placed a hand on the man's chest.

"Who... the are you?" the man coughed. Shards of glass fell from his dark brown hair as he struggled against Nine's immobile arm.

"Nine," he replied and stood, letting the man up. "Where is your shelter?"

"What the fuck was that?" The man asked and looked at his car that now had two massive hand prints on either side of the hood. "How did you do that? Why are you naked?" He looked back over at Nine as he got to his feet. He swayed. Nine placed a hand on his shoulder. "That's impossible."

"What is your name?" Nine asked, watching the man carefully.

"Ian Summers," the man said, flicking his green eyes up at Nine. Nine tilted his head slightly. This man was taller than the other large-but-small man at the Gas Station, yet he was not as... wide.

"Ian Summer," Nine replied, "Your... car" the word came to him "... sorry. Where is your shelter? I will carry you."

"You don't have to-" Ian began, but quieted as Nine picked him up in his arms. "Look, just set me down and I'll call someone to..."

"No. Where is your shelter?" Nine repeated.

Ian stared at Nine for a long moment before pointing. "A few miles that way, off the first turn. It's the se-"

A loud sound interrupted Ian and Nine turned. He immediately curled his body around Ian's, protecting him.

The eighteen wheeler buckled around Nine. Pressure pressed upon him from all sides and he felt his body tighten to resist the forces of the large vehicle. The noise was deafening and the heat near unbearable. Hot metal slid against his skin yet did not penetrate and flames licked at his flesh but did not scorch. Nine pressed himself between the flame and Ian. He felt his muscles flex beneath his skin as he gripped the still moving truck as the trailer jacknifed around. Veins snaked along his arms as he fought with the momentum of the vehicle. Finally, he gained leverage and lunged. The truck and its trailer hurtled into the darkness of the wilderness just off the road.

Nine turned to check on Ian. He lay on the ground.

Nine knelt next to him and frowned. His heart still beat. He would need to get to his shelter. With that resolution in mind, he scooped Ian into his arms and continued down the road. •

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