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 Category:  Horror and Thriller Fiction
  Posted: September 6, 2019      Views: 69

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 ABOUT
JAKE P. 
Husband, father, grandfather, retired middle school counselor, and beginning writer. One self-published middle grade novel on Amazon titled "Cat Through the Wormhole". Member of CyFair Writers group. Interested in joining NaNoWriMo in November.

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Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
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It can be a hard life in the streets.
"Food for the Needy" by Jake P.



Locking the car doors in covered parking, I walked the three blocks to New Hope Shelter hugging my five hundred dollar peacoat tight around me. The sidewalks were covered in ice and snow, and I felt dispirited men and women eyeing me as I walked past.

I have volunteered to serve soup in the shelter until the facility closes for the night. It's my first time to volunteer, and I felt like a pickle in a pastry shop. I've never felt so out of place.

The line of people waiting for the doors to open rounded the corner of the building far down the block. I knocked, and the door creaked open an inch. An eye peeked at me before swinging it open to let me in. The woman appeared to be in her sixties, and she smiled at me warmly. She wiped her hands on her apron and offered her hand to me.

"I appreciate your volunteering. You're Mr. Jenkins, is that right?"

"Yes ma'm."

I didn't know what to say. 'It's good to get out of the cold' would make it sound like she was ignoring all the people outside. 'I'm glad to be here' would stretch believability. So I waited for her to speak.

"I'm Sara Watson. You can hang your coat on a rack in the kitchen. Come with me."

We walked between rows of wooden tables and benches through double doors into a room ten degrees warmer than the dining hall. Large pots of steaming soup sat on four gas ovens, and I joined five others scurrying around preparing for the inevitable rush. Someone handed me a ladle, and positioned me behind the serving line.

I expected a mob when the doors were opened, but for such a large group, the people waited quietly in line for their turn. Most cradled the hot bowl of soup in trembling cold hands as they shuffled to the tables. Even after sitting, most continued to warm their hands around the bowl.

Mimicking the behavior of the other servers, I learned to smile and speak encouragingly to the patrons. I felt the tension slowly melt away. I belonged here. I was needed.

When the soup was gone, Sara closed the doors leaving many people walking away hungry. I felt my heart clench, but there was nothing more any of us could do.

When the dishes were cleaned and put away I prepared to leave. Stepping into the cold night air, Sara cautioned me.

"Be careful in this neighborhood."

People were crouching behind cardboard boxes to block the cold winds. The low-rent apartment buildings in the area had crumbling cement steps and large cracks in the brick walls. At the entrance to an alley, I saw a mother cuddling two young children wrapped in newspaper to keep them warm. She eyed me suspiciously as I unbuttoned my coat and handed it to her. She wrapped it around the three of them, and with their backs against the brick wall they sat close together. She seemed relieved when I walked away, and I knew she had been worried that I would expect something from her in return.

An old lady struggling with a box climbed the steps of an apartment building. She was watching me closely.

"That was very nice of you young man."

"Here, let me help you with that box."

She smiled.

"Thank you kindly. How about you come in out of the cold for a minute. For being so kind, I'll share some of the cheesecake I just made."

"That's not necessary."

I carried her box up three flights of stairs and into her apartment.

"I insist," she said as I sat the box on her kitchen counter. "It's not often we see such generosity on these streets. That coat will probably keep them alive. At least for tonight."

"I should really be leaving. It's late."

The warmth of the room was inviting, and my words lacked conviction.

"Don't be silly. You need to warm up before you go back outside. And I appreciate the company. Sit."

I sat. The table rocked when I placed my hand on it to lower myself into the chair. While she retrieved the cheesecake from the yellowing old refrigerator, I looked around the place. The single light hanging from the ceiling illuminated the stovetop coated with grease. It was an old one, and over the years it had accumulated layers of grime. I pictured a grease fire turning the whole kitchen into ash.

A lingering smell of cooked meat, onions, and the tart odor of sour wash cloths filled the room.

When she spoke, it startled me.

"I cook for my boys all the time. They're grown now, of course, but they visit me often."

She placed the dish before me and handed me a fork wrapped in a paper towel. Then she sat in a chair across from me.

"You're not having a piece?" I asked as she cupped her chin in her palm and rested her elbow on the table, her eyes watched me.

"I just had some before I went out a while ago. You enjoy. It's good to have someone to talk to."

I was uncomfortable under her stare as I took a bite of the cheesecake. It was good, but a vision of Hansel and Gretel baking in that oven flashed across my mind.

"You have two boys?"

"Yeah. They're the love of my life, and they love my cooking. Do you have a family?"

"Not yet. I'm concentrating on my career at the moment."

"What do you do?"

"I work for an advertising company here in the city."

"Nice. But you need a family. People can't live without someone to love them. Well, not for long anyway."

I ate more of the cake.

Soon my head felt like my brain was swirling inside a washing machine, and my balance became unsteady. She noticed and smiled.

"It's not poison. Just a sedative."

My heart thudded against the walls of my chest, but my legs collapsed when I tried to stand. I stared up from the floor and wondered what she planned to do with me.

"I like fresh meat now and then. But there's no shortage of food when we walk the alleys around here and find those frozen street people."

She bent over me and squeezed my arms, chest and legs.

"Tender. My mouth's already watering."

Suddenly I was aware that two policemen had entered the kitchen, and with relief I called to them for help, but the words left my lips in a whisper.

The old woman just laughed.

"George, Tony, take him to the slaughter room. We're going to eat well tonight."

My insides froze at the words. I felt four strong arms lift my body. They carried me into the next room, and placed me onto a butcher table.

As my sight dimmed, I saw a partially butchered body on the next table over. Tonight I will be feeding even more hungry people in this neighborhood.

A Mysterious Death writing prompt entry

Writing Prompt
Write a STORY in under 1,200 words that must mention a DEAD BODY, a GAS OVEN, a CHEESECAKE, and 2 POLICE OFFICERS.
The story genre can be horror, thriller, mystery, crime ? someone has to end up dead mysteriously, thrillingly, horrifically. But was it a crime? Possibly.
Pays one point and 2 member cents. Artwork by MKFlood at FanArtReview.com

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