The Eightfold Path, Part VIII


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Scene Title The Eightfold Path, Part VIII
Synopsis The path begins and ends.
Date December 24, 1991

Flickering fluorescent light glimmers overhead and draws any notion of color out of dull, gray concrete walls. A black painted stripe down the hall divides the wall into two distinct halves, a lower black and a pale gray top. Every so often, the number 5 is prominently displayed.

“Come to gloat?”

Slouched in the back of his concrete cell, sitting on the floor beside his cot with his arms draped over his knees, Adam Monroe stares up at the glass wall that makes up part of his current containment. It's his ninth cell change.

“No, Adam.”

Walter Renautas isn't a gloating man. Standing on the other side of that reinforced glass, he listens to Adam’s voice crackle through the speaker beside the door. Even though it won't make a difference, he steps closer to the glass, hands in the pockets of his dark slacks, old brows furrowed and blue eyes cast to the floor.

“I came here to ask you a favor.”


Primatech Paper

The Bronx

December 24th


One blonde brow raising, Adam lays a hand on his cot and slowly pushes himself up to stand. He squints through the glass at Walter, then slowly advances toward the wall, smoothing his hands over his gray prisoner’s jumpsuit as if even here presentation mattered. When he reaches the glass partition, Adam looks up to the security camera monitoring the hall, then back to Walter.

“Do you think I'm stupid?” Adam says through the glass, tapping on it in the direction of the camera. “You want me to ask you for something in return? Get on my hands and knees so Arthur can get off to watching me beg for my freedom?”

Walter is unamused. “No Adam, I don't think you're stupid. Far from it, in fact. I think at times you're too intelligent for your own good,” then, lifting his own hand to point behind Adam, Walter says, “but sometimes you miss the forest for the trees.”

Adam turns to look behind himself, to the wall, to the clock. The second hand isn't moving. Adam squints again, then turns a blue-eyed look back to Walter incredulously.

“It seems as though they keep you in both the literal and figurative dark down here,” Walter says with a raise of his faint brows. “Otherwise you'd have heard that I retired some time ago.”

“You?” Adam’s incredulity grows. “Retired? Precisely what makes any of that believable?”

“Jon is dying, Adam.” Walter’s tone is plain, without gilding, as utilitarian as the concrete walls that surround them. Adam squints again, this time with a more inspecting look at Walter. “It's cancer. Advanced. He won't be going to Daniel for help, he doesn't have the stomach to owe him his life.”

For a time, Adam is silent, thoughtful. He looks down to the ground, then back over to the clock, and then finally back over to Walter. “Let me guess, you want m— ”

“I don't want your blood, Adam. I want you to listen.” It's rare that Walter raises his voice, and the stress he's under both being here and asking what he is under those circumstances evident. Adam’s posture relaxes, and he gestures across to Walter.

“The floor is yours.” Adam concedes.

It takes a moment more for Walter to compose his thoughts, gently brushing a hand over his mouth and down the wide of his neck. “Jon was never much for family. We had each other and we had my children and grandchildren. He wasn't interested in any of his own.” Biologically, at least.

“I know somewhere deep down that disappoints you.” Walter levels his own pale blue eyes on Adam’s, and his expression becomes softer, less accusing. “Jon loves our family with all his heart. He loves our son, our granddaughter…” Walter looks away, in a moment of rare vulnerability, then looks back to Adam. “He wants you to look after them.”

Reflexively, Adam scoffs at the notion. “Ah yes, I'll just be sure to pop in every week or two. I'm sure Arthur will be so delighted to see pictures of the little scamps.” Even as Adam is mocking Walter, the visibly older man’s expression shifts subtly to something less parental and more calculating. It's entirely in his eyes.

“On a long enough measure of time, you and I both know that you escape.” Walter’s admittance of that catches Adam off guard, and once more the immortal is forced to reconcile the man he's known for years in a new light. “When you do,” no ifs, “I want you to make sure they're safe. I know they're not your biological family, not your blood… but your son loves them dearly.”

“So?” Adam’s attempt at a rejoinder has no teeth. Walter can see through the poorly-painted mask of indifference. “Why did you think I'd agree to any of this. I should kill you all for locking me up in here.”

“I suppose you should,” Walter says with a raise of his brows, “but I'll be dead and gone long before that happens, I'd wager. I'm asking that you consider your son’s family, and what he wants. You know he loves you, and it pains him to not be able to say goodbye to you, after your only been together for…” Walter stops himself, growing uncomfortably silent.

“In return,” Walter recollects his thoughts, “I can make sure that your daughters are as safe as they can be. It's a dangerous time to be what they are… and Arthur is on the warpath.”

Adam’s squints turns into a sneer. “Firstly,” begins the vitriolic rant as Adam points an index finger at Walter, “I thought you were retired. What are you going to do, collect pension for them?” Then a second finger joins the first. “Secondly,” Adam hisses, “they aren't my daughters, they're just monsters made in my image!” He shouts so loud droplets of spittle spatter against the glass.

Walter grows silent, looking down to the floor and untucking his pocket watch. “Ah, yes, that…” he mumbles to himself, checking the watch. “You have time to think about how you feel on that…” Walter says distractedly, then looks up from the watch and snaps it closed, looking Adam dead in the eyes. “Maybe someday later you’ll feel differently…” he says with a distant look in his eyes, “and you’ll thank me.”

And Walter vanishes from sight.

Adam sucks in a sharp breath, stepping away from the glass and wiping the heel of his palm at one of his eyes. He paces wildly, like a frantic animal, and looks up to the clock. The second hand is moving again.

Walter was right about one thing.

He'd have plenty of time to think.

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