Wind blows the snow into a swirling mist of pain as he shuffles along the sidewalk. Through ragged shoes Mother Nature assaults his swollen and blistered feet. Three toes were black the last time he checked. He supposes they are rotting even now as he stumbles along, he doesn’t care. He can no longer feel them.

There would be a cop ahead. He’s always there. He needs him to be there, to help get back what he’s lost. He prays for strength, to a god he no longer believes in. All he has to do is make it three blocks.

The last time he ate was three days ago, but he can’t remember, not for sure. He knows what he ate, a half-eaten burger someone had thrown away. He found it in an alley, still in the Mickey D’s wrapper and partially frozen. The meat covered in congealed grease, thick and phlegmy, had been his saving bestowment. His mouth waters at the thought of it, and he’s filled with disgust.

Discarded clothing and rags cover his wasting body. Newspaper stuffed into his jacket and pants do little to cut the knife blades of wind that assault every step. Numbness covers most of his body. He walks on ever diligent.

Few people pass him huddled in their overstuffed coats. They rarely see him and almost never make eye contact. Ignorance is bliss. If they don’t see it it’s not really happening. He doesn’t blame them. He hasn’t looked at himself in a long time, and wouldn’t recognize his own reflection if he did.

Crossing streets he barely avoids being hit by cars. Drivers honk their horns, gesture, and shout. He doesn’t respond. He no longer hears them.

The banks display flashes -3 degrees as he passes it. He’s watched it plummet daily from 10 to 5 to todays -3. With the wind chill it’s even colder but it doesn’t matter anymore, it will all be over soon.

He won’t survive another night on the street. He can no longer go on living this existence. His days and nights blur into one. Starving and half frozen, he’ll fall asleep, and never wake up. Death, like the plummeting temperature will come slowly by degrees, his body will simply shut down.

Small crowds of people go about their day. He’s worked this corner and recognizes some faces. Most are indifferent and pass without a glance. He’s not really a person to them; he’s a thing, an object, a blemish best hidden. A few are kind, offering bits of change when they have it. Some are mean spirited and a few are cruel. He sees the cop, standing just ahead.

When everything is taken from you, what’s left? His only true possessions were carried in a tenuous grasp, and they’ve slip from his fingers, lost. Dignity and respect.

He searches the crowd. Staggering more than walking he moves slowly. Weary of what will happen when it’s done, and terrified of what will happen if he doesn’t do it. For a moment he hesitates unsure. Looking at the crowds of people going about their day, the wind gusts sending more pain throughout his entire being, and it’s decided.

‘The lord helps those who help themselves’ a mantra preached at one of the local shelters. It’s time to help himself.

The knuckles of his right hand creak and pop painfully as he grips the knife in his coat pocket. The knot in his stomach tightens. A man wearing a blue top coat passes in front of him, one of the cruel.

Using all the strength he has left in his wasted body he thrusts himself forward. The knife plunges easily into the man’s scarf covered throat. Blood quickly blossoms on the scarf staunching the fountain pumping from the severed artery.

The cop is on him before the man’s body hits the ground. His face scrapes the pavement. A rib cracks from the weight of the officer slamming down on him. The pain is extreme but welcome, and he smiles. It’s not the smile of a man who is happy but a small pitiful smile of one who knows he’ll live another day and sleep some place warm for a very long time. Someplace where his final desperate action will give him back what he’s lost.

~ fin ~

Don Glass lives and writes in Central PA, Altoona. He's had stories published in The Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle and Yellow Mama. He writes mostly crime and horror but will write anything if the urge strikes. he's currently working on "a lot of stuff".