A Year: all children, until their twenty-fifth birthday, are promised one year. A year that many parents would like to use… and in this world where the Time Keepers seem to have a blind eye to the poor. Why the hell not. Mentions of Infentcide.
Disclaimer: If only, if only, the plot bunny sings.
Image: My Heart in a Valise by Joaru
It is quiet a modest proposal.
There was a man in the district who never seemed to come out in the daylight and he was a smart man, but not a good man. He was Not a good man.
But he was a smart man.
A very terrible man, but in a way he was a good man.
There had been a joke once that men should be glad for their children, to treat their pregnant wives like prized cattle because a baby would make a wonderful roast.
She supposed this was much the same thing. Her and her husband had struggled for weeks to conceive and she had suffered weeks and weeks of morning sickness and had to spend a few more day's time on extra food for the little thing inside her.
It was a staggering experience but she and her husband knew that this child promised their future.
A child always brought hope.
Her husband reminded her of that when she was in labor of nearly eight hours, the two of them looking enviously at the year's time on the chubby little baby's arm.
She had wanted to give the baby girl a name before they left the hospital but he said if they did that… it would be that much harder. It would be harder to walk toward that backroom behind that old whore house.
She didn't know as she walked down the dark alley, the baby warm against her chest and bundled in a pink blanket with a hospital tag still on its wrist, if the people that were staring at her were envious, angry, or resentful. They all knew what she was up to. They all knew she was going to that intelligent and horrible man.
It didn't matter what they thought.
This child was her blood and tears. She deserved to reap the benefits.
She was sparing the child from a life of hardship, counted it dwindling minutes.
Her hand felt sweaty as she reached forward towards the handle and for a moment the new mother was sure her grip was going to slip, an omen to step back and head home.
She could work a few more hours. She could waste a few hours for a little joy.
Yet, the alley had ended and now she stood before the door. The door handle eased open with a slight squeak and a cool air swept over her senses, dull light within. For a moment she wondered if the smell that waffered out was death or evil itself.
Either way, she knew part of that smell because she knew the smell all too well. It was in the street every day.
Regardless, she pulled her baby closer as she stepped inside like a wary rabbit, the little babe whimpering which made her stall in fear. It wasn't this place that made her heart skip a beat. No, no. She had been in worse places to get a few extra minutes. She was afraid for the child. As the child's mother, she did not want the babe to wake. She did not want that small form to open its eyes in this place.
She could not have those ocean blues staring up at her with joy and wonder, looking at the woman to show her the world, yet … yet…
"Please, never wake little one," the trembling female whispered, rocking it slightly with a sad smile as she wandered forward in the dark. "Rest your eyes and never wake."
Her feet suddenly came to a stop before a plain green door with a light above it, the paint fading in the dark with the word "Broken Watches". She probably stood there an hour, a lifetime to some, before she knocked on the door, the green light on her arm suddenly reminding her of … her time.
She glanced at her arm for a moment before the door suddenly opened, bathing her in dull grey light as a pair of glasses stared at her with eye sockets overshadowed. For a moment, it felt like she was staring at Death with how lanky and thin and foreboding the male figure was.
His thin-lipped wiry smile causing her to go stiff in the spine.
His hidden eyes turned from her face down to the babe in her arms. His smile finally revealed his teeth, thin and so small like a child's teeth.
He was old.
Old enough that he probably had started to rot in some places. There was a frail smell of decay on him.
Waving an arm, the man signaled for her to follow, chuckling behind her back as she entered, "I haven't seen you before but I'm sure, soon, you will be by for a yearly checkup … like a gynecologist."
She almost took a step back in disgust but kept her ground as the male shut the door behind her, the mother's voice shivering, "Let's just get this over with."
Smiling, knowing that she was new, his voice was almost a husky whisper, "Put it on the table and let's… talk business."
"I take it… you know what the title on the door really means," he said, his bony finger pointed to the closed door as he led her towards a medical bed that had the rooms only light above it. "Put the treasured babe down."
She nodded, unable to speak.
"Then no need for formal introductions," he stated. "Put the child down on the table. Now, my price is fair for transference and disposal."
She placed the baby girl down, the child yawning but blissfully kept her little eyes closed.
"Disposal?" she whispered.
"Yes," he purred when one of those knobby hands rubbed the thin hair on the baby's small head. "Disposal. Can't have medical waste just … rotting anywhere."
Wrapping her hands around herself, she choked, "H-how much for your services?"
"Three months sounds like a Modest Proposal to me," he laughed, madness suddenly seeming to drip off him like sweat.
For a moment, confusion covered her face, feeling like she was missing some type of joke before the mad man stopped chuckling, waving his hand as he stated, "Nothing, nothing. That joke is a little bit before your … time. Well, pretty much everyone's time."
Closing her eyes, she took in a deep breath and rubbed her hand against the green light that bled forth from underneath the skin on her arm. She looked at it instinctively: less than three days.
Opening her eyes, which the mother knew mirrored the baby's own orbs; she knew she shouldn't feel ashamed.
Children were becoming a rare thing in this time sector after all despite the high birth rate.
What need was there for children when you could live forever?
None. Children had no worth in these hard streets. None at all.
Showing her wrist to the man, the seconds counting down like falling sand, her voice was hollow as she stated, "Unlock its time and take your three months… I need that time."
His now gloved hands reached forward with quick fingers and he pulled a chubby arm out of the hospital blanket, looking at the time almost lovingly, before he pulled out what looked like a time scanner. It seemed normal except it wasn't silver. It was a dark ebony, like a rusted nail, and when he scanned that chubby arm the light bled red. The baby actually whimpering as its time suddenly started counting down, seconds falling away.
She could only look at her baby's time in horror when the next words seemed to have crawled up from the underworld as the good doctor spoke, "I don't … take the time myself. In case of … legal issues."
She suddenly felt frozen, shivering, the time forgotten on her arm until she suddenly felt someone grab her arm, turning the green light upward as a reminder of her mortality, the man whispering, "Every second counts. It's not coming out of my payment."
Biting her lip, she still couldn't reach out towards the slowly waking babe. It wasn't until the child yawned that she hungrily reached her wrist forward, knowing that in a moment the baby would wake and open her eyes to see the world. With a quick flick of her wrist, she placed her flesh upon the babe's and grasped the two day olds thin arm.
And then it was all gone.
There was only a jerk and the new life was dead, a year now on her own wrist like a comforting warmth. A mother took back the life she had given and she could only sigh in relief. The corpse had almost opened her eyes.
She had speared the babe from ever looking down at her little wrists.
She had spared her baby so that she may live.
Turning her own wrist, the once-mother stared in awe at the year she now owned even when the wonderful-horrible man reached forward and placed his clammy flesh against hers, taking his three months.
Chuckling, he stated as he took the baby and threw it into what look like a laundry chute, his words speaking nothing but truth, "See you in a year or so."
She merely nodded thinking she better start tonight. She only had nine months before this borrowed time ran out.
Paw07: A quick thought on the premises that youths have a year they can't use until they hit twenty five, because you know some parents would defiantly take advantage of that. Not that the Time Police would really notice in the ghettos. I'm sure most of you get the Modest Proposal joke but for those who don't, it's by Jonathan Swift. Go read it.
(Revisions February 2014)