Helping the Needy

by Megan Auffart

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This is version 2 of Helping the Needy. I'm submitting it to be published, but until it's accepted, I'll keep it posted here. This is a completed story in two chapters. BE HONEST in your reviews. If you think something sucks, please please please tell me so I can be a better writer. And also, REVIEW. S'il vous plait, por favor! Thank you and enjoy.

Mommy had chained the man up corner of the basement so that he didn't wake me up when he screamed at night.

There was a plastic bowl on the floor under his arm to catch the blood that dripped from the cut on his wrist. It was my favorite bowl. It was decorated with flowers all along the sides. "Mustn't waste a drop," Mommy used to tell me, and then she'd smear some of the blood on my lips so that I'd get used to the taste. She didn't do that so much anymore, but I didn't mind. I knew she still loved me.

I watched as Mommy opened the door and took the knife out of her handbag. It was one of the niftier ones where you pressed the button and suddenly a blade popped out. Mommy had a lot of knives. Most of them were down in the basement where they were easy to reach, but she had a couple of the nicer ones hanging on the walls upstairs. They were the ones that had blades with figures shaped into the metal. Some of them were really pretty. The one with my favorite design hung over the fireplace. It was this big sword with a really wide blade that had metal vines crawling all over it. Mommy said that she had taken it from a Turkish warlord after sucking him dry. She always looked happy when she talked about it.

"Sylvia? What are you doing down here?" Mommy walked down the stairs, tucking the knife back into the handbag that matched her purple dress. It was my favorite dress, the one that Mommy sometimes would let me play dress-up in. Mommy always looked beautiful when she was out on a hunt.

"Hi, Mommy."

"Why are you standing in the dark, sweetheart?" she asked me as she reached the bottom of the stairway.

I looked down at the man in the corner. I could see him pretty well, even though none of the lights were on. I was used to being in the dark.

The man's skin was really white, and it clung to his face like the cellophane Mommy wrapped my sandwiches in for my lunchbox. He wasn't breathing very well and sounded like me like when I had a bad cold. The blood had stopped dripping from his wrist a while ago. The bowl was almost empty.

"My teacher says that hurting people is bad."

Mommy snorted and walked over to me, placing her hands on my shoulders. Her nails were really long, but she was always careful not to cut me. Mommy had scratched me once a long time ago and then she'd felt so bad about it that she had to run away from me and lock herself in her room. I had put the bandage on myself. Mommy had been so proud of me.

But now Mommy looked annoyed. "Ms. Nicholson is an idealistic idiot." She knelt down before me and looked me in the eye, ignoring how her dress was getting all dirty from the basement floor. Mommy told me before that the only reason she didn't get a real floor put in when we first moved here was because she needed someplace to put the men when she was done with them. I had never seen her bury any women, though. Mommy never seemed to bring them home.

"Sweetheart, we've had this talk before," Mommy said as she brushed my hair with her fingers, "and you said that you understood."

"I do understand, Mommy!"

She shushed me so that the only sound was the man's breathing, scratchy and horrible in the air. I imagined he felt very sad right now. I would be too, if I were him. I hugged myself from the sudden shivers I got after thinking that, wondering how bad it must feel to watch your own blood drain away.

Mommy picked up the bowl on the floor, frowning when she saw how full it was. She dipped one of her fingers in it, pad first so she wouldn't get blood under her manicured nails, and then slipped it into her mouth. She made a face and then set the bowl down again beside me while the man breathed and breathed.

"You know I have this condition, Sylvia," Mommy said, "And you know that the only thing in the world that will make me better is human blood. Nothing else, not even kitty blood or bunny blood. It has to be human."

I looked down at my feet, feeling ashamed. "I know, Mommy."

"Don't think I don't realize how uncomfortable it must be for the men I bring here, sweetheart. I feel just as bad for them as you do. Worse, even. But if I let them go, they'll tell on me and take you away."

"Into a bad home filled with rats and beatings and no food at all," I recited with her and then giggled at the end. Mommy and me used to say this every night, at bedtime, before Mommy went out to work. She made a game of it, clawing her hand at "rats," lightly tapping me on head with "beatings" and then covering her mouth at "no food at all". I did all the hand motions when I said it this time, but Mommy just stood there and watched me, trailing off before the end.

"I can make the bad feelings stop for them at the end. And I do, as soon as they can't help me anymore. Then they feel better. No more pain for them, none at all. Not even the littlest pinch!" she said and pinched me on my cheek for emphasis.

"Mommy!" I laughed and pulled away from her, feeling better again. "So Ms. Nicholson was wrong?"

Mommy shook her head. "No, she wasn't wrong about everything. Just in special cases, like mine, it's okay."

She dipped her finger into the bowl again and then wiped some blood onto my lips, smiling down at me while she did so. I licked it off and made a face. The blood was too sweet, the way it always was when all the good stuff was drained away.

"He's all used up, isn't he?" I asked her as she tilted the bowl to her lips and drained the rest, even though it was nasty and too thick to taste good. I liked it better when it was new.

Mommy set down the bowl and nodded, wiping her mouth at the corner to get rid of a little trail of blood. "I'm going out tonight to get a new one."

I thought for a minute as I watched the man. He looked really bad and he must have felt even worse. Mommy always tried to make the men eat after she'd caught them in the beginning, but after a while they stopped taking food. They didn't even fight it at the end. They just stopped doing everything except breathing. And then they stopped doing that.

The man needed help. And Ms. Nicholson taught us to always offer help when it was needed. She even showed us a video.

"Mommy?" I asked and she looked up from brushing the dirt off her skirt.

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"Can I help him? Please? Will you let me make him stop hurting?"

Mommy smiled at me and she looked really beautiful, especially in the dark where I couldn't see her teeth very well. They always got pointy after she drank. That was part of her condition. I wished she would get better.

"Are you sure, Sylvia? Sometimes it's hard work."

I nodded, and my braid flopped against the back of my neck.

Mommy laughed, loudly and clearly, like the bells at Christmas. "You are a wonderful daughter. Come on, then, sweetheart. I'll let you use your favorite sword."

I gasped in amazement. Mommy never even let me touch that sword! Not even on my birthday!

"Thank you!" I cried and then ran after her up the stairs. Ms. Nicholson would be so proud of me! I bet that none of the other kids in my class were doing anything this good.

...To be concluded in chapter 2...