Hello everyone and a warm welcome to Entry PART 6) for my weekly: “Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021” Week #42.
Today I’m featuring a contribution by Patricia Furstenburg.
Last week I set the following Challenge:
Hello everyone and welcome to my new “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing. Maximum word count: 750 words.
Here is the image prompt and the contribution.
The Time Merchant (4)
Dangling above the abyss, at the end of a rope, the man felt thankful that it was not tied around his neck. He would have been dead by now. And angered, for he was tied up like a cocoon and could do nothing about it, except talk.
When the picture slid down the cord and slapped his face – why everything slapped him lately? – his first reaction was to protect his eyes so he twisted his head till it cracked. Due to the human skin’s elasticity, the neck should be twisted 360 degrees twice before it comes off completely, his mind offered. But that still won’t free me.
‘Remember her?’ words rolled over his head.
‘I can’t see the picture. It’s too close to my eyes. Can’t focus!’ He dangled himself, throwing his head further back, sweat building around his receding hairline, the cord sneaking tense overhead, creaking like the voice of death in his childhood’s fairy-tales… Yet the picture, secured by a carabiner, remained glued to his face.
Despite the freezing air a trickle of sweat rolled down his temple and itched. Scratch and die.
Not his nature. He angled his head the opposite way and used the photograph to scratch his itch. It envenomed it.
Lead negotiations with a clear mind. Fresh air all around, teased his brain.
The man dangling from the rope suspended from a hot air balloon by a woman wearing a caviar-beige Channel gown and perfume, a woman with whom he shared a passion for bird-watching, that man decided to take control over his situation.
He parted his lips and made a whooshing sound expelling the little air left in his lungs. Sealing his lips he inhaled slowly counting to four, held his breath, and exhaled taking double the time. Repeated twice will have to suffice loosen his anger, allowing him further decisions with a clear mind. Time was of the essence.
‘I want to remember her, but I must see her face. And I can’t, not tied up like this,’ he spoke up.
Only the wind whooshed around, slapping the picture against his cheek, slap-slap-slap. He made no attempt to protect himself. Was his voice strong enough to carry his words? His self-assurance?
The rope groaned overhead.
He lowered his tone to the pitch of a mellow cello, ‘I want to offer you answers. You deserve them. She deserves them. For the sake of the time we shared bird-watching -‘
‘Leave that out!’
He angled his approach.
‘How long ago have you lost her?’
‘Too long to count.’
‘Was she related to you?’
‘She was my baby sister and you took her away from me! Why her?’
So many reasons that didn’t make sense anymore…
‘Let’s work out a plan so I can see her face and offer you the answers you long for. You still want to know, don’t you?’
‘NO. I’ll give you her name.’
Too many names… complained his mind, but he kept that to himself.
‘Blanche-Rose,’ she said in an agonising whisper.
Had he heard it or his mind had groped for the rolling consonants? He remembered that name, and he remembered the sweet face framed by ringlets, and the earnest, hopeful look in her eyes when she had asked him for more time. Just a little bit more time.
Now it was his turn to ask for time.
‘It is a lengthy story. We need to sit for you to understand what happened,’ he called.
The sun was shining in his eyes by now and he began to feel like a pig on a spit. Above his head, the rope cried and cracked. How much longer will it support his weight? All that aged whiskey gone to waste…
‘There is nothing more for you to tell me! I was lost when she disappeared, confused and hopeless as if a part of myself had been torn… I blamed myself for not trying harder, I was angry at the world, I lost friends, I lost a life, my life, as I had lost hers… I prayed, and I vouched that I will not stop till I find the one, the one responsible for her disappearance. For her… death.
‘She is NOT dead! I don’t kill, I sell time. Time people need to fulfill that ONE dream. Time for THAT illicit love affair. Time to do with as THEY please. I am the Time Merchant. Now, do you know how to land this thing?’
‘What? NO, I don’t!’
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