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Issue number ten




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Help by Laura Cooper

The knock at the door did not sound threatening, especially since my next-door neighbor was still at work. She had criticized the placement of my tool shed and demanded that I remove my twenty-one-year-old spruce.

I opened the door to distant thunder and the last smile I ever trusted. There was one jeweled woman, one pale man, one tall man, and one stocky man balancing hefty boxes. They all looked down at me.

"May I help you?" I asked.

"Why no, dear, we are here to help you," the woman said as she pushed her way into my home with her walking cane. I saw that she wore a robe and riding boots.

"Hey, wait a minute. Who are you?" I glared at them but got no response.

The tall, thin man in the Chicago Bulls sweatshirt reminded me of a forklift. He physically picked me up and set me aside. The four bolted into my living room.

"Oh my, this is substandard. It must go," the woman said. Her white hair glistened like the gems that adorned her.

Glass crashed against the hardwood floor. Family heirlooms plummeted from their shelves. The bruised television squatted in the bottom of the closet.

"Stop! I'll call the cops."

All four turned toward me and laughed. "Go ahead," the deathly-pale man said in a whisper. I watched his nostrils and chest but never saw signs of breathing.

They shoved my furniture, rearranged my music collection and berated my paperbacks. One of them picked up my mother's family Bible. "This should go to the museum."

I looked at the front door, but I was too angry or too stubborn to leave. I ran to my room and grabbed a .22 rifle. I figured it would scare them outta my house.

I found them in my kitchen throwing out my food. They were replacing it with bags of brown gelatinous blocks filled with what looked like compressed bugs.

I couldn't believe it. "Leave--now."

"Dear, you just don't know any better. We will teach you."

I took aim above them and fired a warning shot. My head buzzed like a bee trapped in a toaster.

The stocky man, wearing a black cape, ripped the gun away from me. The tall man twisted a knife into the palm of my right hand.

I screamed and tried to stop the blood from spurting. "I need an ambulance."

One of them kicked a phone over to me. I picked up the receiver and expected to find that they had cut the cord, but there was a strong dial tone. I jabbed the numbers with my left hand and shielded the phone with my body. Finally, I reached the 911 Center.

I gave my address. "There are four strangers in my home."

"Yes. It is okay," a steady voice assured me.

"No. They're intruders. I've been stabbed. Send help."

"We did as soon as we detected a problem. Help is already there."

Click. Hummmm.

I knew I had to get out of there, so I ran for the door. The woman kicked me in the knee; I collapsed. The stocky man marched around the room throwing fliers into the air. One stuck in the ceiling fan. It wrapped around and got caught in the motor. The fan stopped and began to groan.

Whirrrr. Pop.

Smoke trickled from the ceiling. I tried to drag myself away, but I slipped on the fliers. One of them had a smiley face and said, "We are here to save you." Another read: "Help is here. Be grateful or we will kill you."

The pale guy blasted a fire extinguisher. Powder filled the air. I began to choke, and I needed help.

"Read this pamphlet, dear. You will feel better."

I looked up at the woman and tried to comprehend my situation.

"Poor thing. Can you see now that we are just trying to help?"

"No. To help means to assist. It isn't 'help' if the person getting it doesn't want it."

"Now, now. To help can mean to improve, to make better. Because we know better, we can help you even when you are unable to recognize it as such."

"Listen, lady, I …need…an ambulance. I don't …want…anything you've done. Give me the type of help I want or get outta my house."

The white-haired woman, the pale-faced man and the stocky, black-caped man closed their eyes and backed away. The tall man in the red sweatshirt drew a long sword.

"Wait! Whataya doin'? There...there has to be a way to work this out."

They already had a way prepared, of course. It involved signing papers and pledging allegiance on videotape. My knee swelled with unbearable pressure. I signed and swore, figuring none of it would hold up in court since I was definitely under duress.

"There, there. Isn't that better?"

I nodded and tried to keep my body from shaking. They tended to my wounds and gave me water. I had almost relaxed when I heard a knock at the door. My neighbor from next door paraded into my house like a fat, green and blue silk turkey, and the four intruders applauded.

The pale man's voice hushed everyone with the sound of dead leaves blowing in a diseased tree. "This is the new head of your household."

The woman patted me on the head. "Now isn't that better?"

They all laughed. My neighbor was loudest. Her cackle sounded like the scream of a peacock: "Yer-help, yer-help, yer-help."

Laura Cooper's stories have appeared in Issue #7 of The Cafe Irreal, Flashquake, and Weeds Corner.

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