The Time Merchant, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 42

The Time Merchant follows the story-line of Ferris Wheel (1), Two of a Kind (2), and A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon (3), my contribution to fiction in a flash challenge week 42 based on the image prompt provided by Author Suzanne Burke.

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.

time merchant, fiction flash
Clock image by Marka Merka, Unsplash

‘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!’

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Hello everyone and welcome to the “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week Author Suzanne Burke will feature an image and invites everyone 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. Suzanne runs a great blog as well as authoring many exciting books. WECOME TO THE WORLD OF SUZANNE BURKE

18 Replies to “The Time Merchant, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 42”

  1. This storyline has been a marvelous read, Pat. You have interwoven each piece seamlessly. Bravo! I’ve just had the pleasure of sharing it on the challenge blog. Thanks so much for taking part again.

    1. Ah, thank you, Soooz! So glad to her it!
      With everything that happened this week, I still couldn’t let the time slip on this challenge 😉
      Thank you for such a versatile image prompt and for hosting me on the challenge blog again 😉

  2. So he’s not a hit man! Whew! 🙂 I kind of like him so this twist in the story is very much on my liking. Of course, now I want to know what happened to the sister. Obviously the Universe appointed the guy to buy more time for the woman “at the Ferris wheel, with the mask, maneuvering the balloon” (a name for her would have been useful 🙂 ) to find her sister. Looking forward to reading the next installment.

    1. Lovely! Glad you found the next installment, Jo.
      Yes, the man with the felt-hat surprised me too 🙂

      Not sure what will happen next…

      Thank you for visiting!

      1. You were surprised, too, huh? 😀 Good one!
        In any case it’s quite an adventure getting here. When I press your name from my blog I’m directed to a page which says this blog (yours) doesn’t exist. 🙁 I don’t even know what I did to get here this time. Pressed like 3 links or so. But if I found a way now, I would find it in the future as well. It’s just a bit frustrating. Looking forward to April 6th. Hopefully everything will get back to normal.

          1. Well, when you give my posts a like, a tiny picture of you appears in the like section. Some time ago when I pressed your tiny pic, I used to be directed to your blog. Not anymore. I’m directed to a blank page which says: No posts
            This site has not posted anything yet. Try back later.
            But meanwhile I’ve learned a way around it. As you can see I visit you. 🙂

            1. The Jetpack plugin has been updated, but I am not sure I want to activate it, Jo. The people from Jetpack / WordPress help desk deny any Jetpack issue. Based on what they say the problem lies with the the IPs range whitelisting and the geo-blocking – an explanation I don’t buy into because I, too, could not see the images in my browser.
              I am not ready to risk activating Jetpack only to see that my images are gone again.
              So no WordPress connection either. Sorry, Jo.

  3. Hi Patricia, loved reading your The Time Merchant fiction story, thank you for sharing!

    Let me use this chance to let you know that for the last few days and for whatever reason I am not able to like your posts. The like buttons don´t show anymore, neither on the WordPress Reader or on your blog. So weird… I never had this problem before with any of the blogs I follow. I will try to unfollow and follow you back to see if the problem gets solved.

    1. Hi Blanca,

      Thank you for your king comment. I am very happy that you enjoyed the 4th installment of this flash fiction series.

      I lost my connection with WordPress, that’s why you can’t like my blog there anymore. I was connected through the Jetpack plugin, but the plugin suddenly interfered with my images being displayed on my blog. Nothing else worked but deactivating Jetpack. Hence the changes.

      Sorry for the inconvenience, Blanca.

      I understand that I lost contact with most of the WordPress community, but I couldn’t see any other way out. I might try to reactivate the Jetpack plugin again. I’ll have to think carefully as it really messed lots of my images and on various posts and I don’t want to experience that again.

      Thank you so much for the heads-up and for your kindness 🙂

      Buona Pasqua, Blanca! 🙂

      Pat xx

  4. Oh, I see, I get it now. Well, I still receive a notification e-mail when you publish and a notification on the Reader also, so I´ll keep track of your posts even though I won´t be able to give you likes anymore. I have a bug affecting my posts on WordPress reader since last november and the technical support hasn´t been able to fix ityet. At least you managed to fix the problem deactivating Jetpack. Thank you for your Easter wishes, hope you have a lovely Easter too!

    1. Thank you so much, Blanca, for signing up for my email notifications.
      I also receive your notifications via email. 🙂

      I hope your WordPress bug gets sorted.

  5. I’m sorry you couldn’t fix the jetpack problem or whatever it was, but it’s OK. I miss “liking” your posts 🙂 , otherwise there isn’t much change. Looking forward to reading your new blog entries.

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