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Gimme Shelter

by BP | Score: 6100

The doors slammed shut. Miles has intended to cause a scene. The doors looked sturdy--heavy lumber faded after years of use, hands upon hands crashing against them, brushing away the years--but they had exploded away from him as soon as his palm pressed against the rusted metal plate as if someone had pulled at the exact same moment.

Eyes were on him now. Staring. Five people, not included staff filled the dingy hall. An older man, a few stiff black hairs still holding out among a sea of gray in his beard, held his gaze as if he were inspecting him, judging.

A faint smile, a nod, as if Miles knew him. Why did he I do that, he wondered to himself. The man didn't respond, only continued to stare. His pants were dirty, Miles could see that even though they were already black. The bottoms were ragged and in need of a fresh hem. The knees looked ready to give. Stretched like dry taffy, ready to tear.

Miles nodded again then looked down. His hand went to the collar of his coat and held the two ends tight. The zipper broken, it was the best he could do to keep warm. Why is it so damn cold here, he thought, and his other hands went to his jacket, this time lower just above his belly button. 

Daring a look, he glanced up again. The old man had gone back to his food, but not all eyes were off him. Two men seated farther away were whispering to each other, when ever there was a break in the conversation the man with his back to Miles would peek over his shoulder, whispering something inaudible, look back at his companion. He did this three times, that Miles noticed.

Emerging from a door behind the seated men, another man--a priest--crossed the floor, his eyes on Miles as well, though he couldn't read the expression on his face. Concern? Fear? Surprise?

Concern for who, Miles wondered.

Miles suddenly became acutely aware that he was limping. Looking down he realized a shoe was missing from his right foot, but when he tried to right himself, to steady his walking, he couldn't. Heel, arch, ankle, they all stung whenever he placed pressure on it.

My god, he thought. I belong here. I belong here. The thought sickened him. Then, when he felt he couldn't bear that sickens anymore, the fact that it sickened him took over and a wave of guilt forced him down into a seat.

The room was simple, austere. Cafeteria style seating. Long gray tables; circular seats, faded red. He hadn't set at a table like this since high school.

High school. How long ago that felt now. Twenty-four and already he felt beaten down, humbled. A frightened dog trembling whenever a stranger put out a hand, unsure what it meant, what the gesture foretold.

A sneeze wracked his body, followed quickly by a fit of violent coughs. He brought his hand to his mouth, but it was an impotent gesture. Whatever he had everyone else here would catch, he thought, absently. What does it matter.

"Can I help you, my son?"

The priest. Miles hadn't notice him walk over. Hadn't even heard him. For a second his flinched, drawing away from the man's voice like it was a raised hand.

"No, uh, father." He heard himself say. My god, is that my voice. "This place isn't for me."

"Not for you?" The priest's eyebrows drew together. Bushy, blonde caterpillars reaching out, trying to make contact. The priest looked how Miles imagined an old Irish priest in Boston would look. Pale to the point of red splotches riddling his face like rash. Tall. Thin. He looked like he could've played played basketball for the Celtics in the 70s.

The thought made Miles laugh and again his body was wracked by heavy coughing.

The priest reached out, hovered his hand over Miles back. Miles didn't know if he was praying or considering comforting him with a gentle pat on the back. When the priest paused, thought it over, then placed his hand on the table, Miles realized that didn't answer his question either.

"This place is for everyone," the priest said with enough conviction Miles thought for a moment he would breakdown right there and cry his eyes out. Then, smiling. "Take your time. We'll be here when you're ready." Then he did pat Miles on the back, two gentle, lingering taps before walking away and talking to a woman who sat with her arm around a young child. A girl.

They're all going to die. The thought shot into Mile's mind, a cold, jagged dagger breaking through ice. They're all going to die and it'll be because of you.

Energy surged through him. But it was a lie. A false sort of energy, fool's gold, twinkling just enough that for a split second you belief you've found it, the thing that will make you whole, set you free. His foot gave out first. The one without the shoe. He tried compensating by holding onto the table, gripping it by the edge, but his fingers were cold--How are they still cold, he demanded--and they failed him. Out of desperation he hurled his body forward, slapping against the table to stabilize himself. You're making a fool yourself. A fucking fool. The embarrassment sent another surge of energy through him. He knew it wouldn't be enough, but he struggled to stand.

The priest. He had broken off his conversation with the woman, his head held high over her, the concern clear on his face.

Another man, a staff member, a volunteer. Miles didn't know but his sudden presence frightened him. You're going to die too, he wanted to shout. You're all going to die.

The man arrived first. He was older, fift 

Completed challenges

The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:

Begin Start typing to begin
Words Reach 50 words
Location A homeless shelter
Letter Use the letter H
Words Reach 100 words
Words Reach 200 words
Words Reach 300 words
Words Reach 400 words
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Words Reach 700 words
Words Reach 800 words
Words Reach 900 words
Sentence "Not for you."

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