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The Helper

The Helper
by Jace Daniel (b. 1969)

Please. Help me. It doesn’t matter who I am. It doesn’t matter what I did. All that matters is they’re coming. They want my blood. I am the hunted.

I’ve lost them for now. But surely not for long. They’ve spread out. They travel quietly. They could be around any corner, hiding in any crevice. Every moment of silence hits me like a drop of water to the forehead, driving me insane. I am running through an asphalt land mine. I wish I could fly.

The alley looks like all the others. Bolted garage doors. Locked vans. Concrete car ports. A dog curses at me through a chained fence. They’ll hear it. Should I hide in a dumpster? No. Too obvious.

It won’t be dark for hours. I’m assaulted by a perilous window of time, hanging out to dry by the unforgiving vulnerability of daylight. I need to hide. Refuge. I need a coincidence. Now.

Please. Help me.

I hear their footsteps, echoing through the ceilingless corridors of this urban landscape. I am like a rat trapped in a maze, vainly fleeing the unlocalized hiss of the exterminator’s monster. It gets louder. It comes from all angles. A sonic cloud of doom, creeping, pushing. I am its magnet. I don’t even know which way to run. Stuck.

A door. Here in front of me. I knock. I have no choice but to believe.

She answers. A small kitchen, lit by the late afternoon sunshine filtering through the drawn curtains on the opposite side of the room. A table, holding a spread of options. Items beckoning, competing, each quietly pitching their sale. Razor blades. A bottle of pills. A revolver. And an oven, its door yawning open, a gagging appliance holding a bedroom pillow on its tongue. I smell gas.

“Please,” she says. “Help me.”

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