A Friend in Need

March 5, 2017

James slammed into the door one final time with all of his might, and the lock shattered and the door flung open, taking him with it. As he fell onto the floor of the abandoned house, he was both relieved and annoyed. He was out of the rain, but his jacket’s sleeve had ripped and his arm had a long, thin cut on it. He untied the bandana from his neck and wrapped up his shoulder, effectively stopping the bleeding. He got back to his feet, and shined the flashlight around the room. It was a nice house, or at least was at one point. Well furnished living room, granite topped kitchen, and it all had a cozy vibe to it. Rather, it would have a cozy vibe to it, were it not also full of decay, rotting walls, and an ashy substance that coated all the surfaces which were exposed fully. James took a seat in a old chair, and placed his bag on the ground. He felt something on his face, an oily substance. He reached over and picked up a shard of glass from the ground, and looked at his face. His previously clean-shaven face had sprouted a short beard, and his hair had changed from the dirty-blonde it was to a light brown. His hair was longer than he liked, and swept to the side slightly to keep it out of his face. James was old, too old he thought to be running around on the streets. He was forty-seven, going on forty-eight.

James was an odd combination of things. He was homeless, but also an aspiring journalist. He was tenuously employed by a publication as a photographer, being provided a camera as long as he worked there. Since he lived on the street, he was usually at the scene first and able to report back with remarkable speed. If he still had his bike he would be even faster, but a job is a job. He was only recently made homeless after he could no longer afford the rent in his hometown, Chicago. He had been on the street maybe a month, and was quickly adapting from coasting through life to surviving it. He had replaced every piece of cotton clothing he owned with wool, and had invested in a nice rain jacket since he no longer had to pay rent. The same jacket that he had just ripped on the door and likely ruined. James looked into the glass again, and tried to discern the color of his eyes. He couldn’t make them out in the darkness of the house, so he turned the camera to himself and snapped a picture with the flash. He was confused when he looked at the picture. Not only were his eyes no longer the deep blue they once were, turning instead to a silvery grey, but he found he was not alone in the house. There, hidden in the back of the picture, was a young girl. He turned around to find her, and heard something smash upstairs. James slung his bag over his shoulder, and slowly began to walk towards the stairwell.

“Hello?” James called out into the darkness, hearing only the heavy rain falling on the roof as a reply. “Is someone in here? It’s okay, I don’t live here I was just taking a rest”. James paused, and when he received no reply he started walking towards the shattered front door. He stopped just before stepping outside, his curiosity getting the better of him. He turned again to the stairwell, and began to walk up into the upper floors of the house. It was almost pitch black upstairs, save for the dark blue light coming in from the windows. He walked slowly between each room, finally reaching the last door on the top floor. He knocked once, twice, three times. “Hey... hey are you in here? I just want to make sure you’re alright”. He didn’t get an answer, so he slowly turned and knob and walked into. He shone the light to every corner of the room, only finding the young woman in the last corner. She was huddled over, clutching her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth slightly. James paused for a moment before walking over to her, getting a closer look. She hadn’t acknowledged his presence in the room, only kept staring at the wall opposite her. James touched her shoulder and she recoiled into the wall, lowering her arms and letting James get a better look at her. She was maybe twenty-nine, very skinny and looked malnourished. She had short black hair pulled into a ponytail, and was wearing what looked like a military fatigue jacket. “Whoa hey, it’s okay. What’s your name? Can you tell me your name?” She looked terrified, as if James was going to kill her on the spot. He looked at her shoulder, where she had a deep cut that looked on the verge of infection. He tried to reach out to her shoulder to get a closer view, but she began failing at him when he tried. “Calm down! Calm down I’m trying to help you!” They struggled there for a bit, until she eventually passed out from exhaustion. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in days, maybe a week. James carried her downstairs and looked for something to disinfect the cut.

* * *

When she came to again, she and James were already at the hospital. She was in a bed with an IV in her arm, and James was asleep in the chair next to her. The nurse walked in a few minutes later and began talking with her. James began to wake up as the nurse left the room. He looked around confused, as if he had forgotten where he was, before looking at the bed. “Oh hey, you’re awake. Hope you don’t mind I brought you here, you didn’t look healthy and I didn’t have anything for your cut. She looked down at the bed, then back up to James, then finally to the cut on her arm. “Yeah it looks pretty bad I know, but the doc told me you’ll be alright after a few days.” She looked at him again, and he thought he could almost see a smile on her face.

At that moment the doctor walked in. “Hello. James, right? I appreciate you bringing the girl here, you may have saved her life. Unfortunately you are gonna have to leave, she is being transferred to psychiatric care”. James recoiled a little bit in surprise. “What? Why? There’s nothing wrong with her.” The doctor looked at him a spoke softly, “She won’t speak to us, she won’t give us her name, the only information we have about her is from you. We need to get her help”. James nodded slowly and looked over to her one last time before leaving. She looked up at him, and raised one hand to wave goodbye. James waved, then stepped out of the room. When he got back to the house, he wondered how long she had been there. He wondered how long she had been homeless for. He wondered if that could be him one day, and he wondered if anyone would be there to help him. He thought for what felt like a long time, before picking up his bag, and walking out the door.

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