She meekly walked up to the booth. “Excuse me? Do you sell time?”
His laugh was hearty. “Sell time? To you?”
“Please.” She was almost begging.
“And what would you do with it?” His eyes peered at her attempting to determine her character with a look.
“Take care of my ailing child. And work.”
There was silence as the two glared at each other. Finally the man rubbed his beard. “What is your child ailing of?”
“The new disease. The unnamed one.”
He frowned. No one that had it lived. “Selling time to you would be pointless.”
“I know,” she sighed. “But I have to try. I can’t miss any time with my baby before he goes.”
He looked over her torn clothes. He noticed the smudges on her cheeks, her gaunt look. “Fine,” he muttered. “But only this once.”
He turned to the teenage boy straightening the clothes on the table. “Atten? Can you watch the shop?”
The boy looked up with an eager smile. “Of course, sir.”
He pulled the frail woman into the back room after glancing around to make sure they weren’t being witnessed. “I had a son once. He too, succumbed to the illness. Here’s enough for what he most likely has left.”
Tears in her eyes, she nodded. “Thank you. And-” she sniffled, “I’m sorry about your son.”
He cleared his throat and wiped at his eyes. “It cost me my job, my wife, my entire family. Everything.”
She handed him as much cash as she could. “Is this enough?”
“I won’t take anything. You need it more than I do.”
“Thank you.” She turned to leave.
“Tell no one else.”
“I promise.” She gave him another teary smile before leaving.
She was far enough away that he wouldn’t hear before she pulled the phone out of her purse. It rang as she lifted it out. “Did you get all that?”
Her laugh was shrill. “He fell for it, hook, line and sinker.”
“Of course I have the goods. I’ll have to give them a test to let you know if they’re the real deal. Yes. Then you can close in and confiscate the rest of his supply. Yes, I’ll take one now. Stand-by.”
She took a swig of water from her bottle, and popped the silver pill into her mouth. She swished it around once, then twice before gulping it down.
She watched, somewhat fascinated as the merchant quickly packed up his tent. Her thoughts went fuzzy, and she found herself pondering her life’s choices up until this point. After several moments, she realized she was dizzy and the world was swaying around her. Her phone sat beside her on the bench, a constant “Hello?” coming through. She swayed along with the world. When the blood started dripping from her eyes, she wiped at it absentmindedly.
The men dressed in black came towards her, while others shrieked and ran away. She waved at them all. Then the wave of pain hit her at once, reverberating down through her body. She screamed, and everyone around her went still.
They let the disease run its course.