This week's challenge for Flash Fiction Friday was to write a story about seven days.
Prompt: Write a story about a character who has seven days. What your character needs to do within that period of time is up to you. Start something? Finish something? Obtain something? Get rid of something? Remember though, that good, bad, or indifferent, everything has consequences. Make sure you include what will happen if they try to stretch those seven days to eight.
I did mine as a scene for my NaNoWriMo novel. I needed my Fairy Tale Folk – currently unemployed - to be doing a story together. It's over the limit at 1430 words – oops..
“It’s time,” said Death.
Agnes stared at the dark figure. “No, it can’t be. The doctor’s are all saying I just need a few more treatments.”
“You pay them to keep you going,” said Death, “to spare no expense, to never say die. Well, that’s my job.”
“Please,” she said, “just a few more days, I need to say my goodbyes to everyone, I’ll do anything for it. Let’s make a deal.”
Death paused. “Anything? A few days?”
“A week,” she said.
“OK, Agnes. I can give you seven days, no more. You’ve always been one for deals, for risks, but I’m not sure you’ll like my conditions.”
“Go ahead,” said Agnes.
“You can have a day for every family member that visits you,” he said. “But it’s time that comes from their life.”
“A day for a day? Sure. Who’s going to miss that at the end of their life.”
“Well, it’s not quite an even deal I’m proposing. I’ll give you a day for a year from someone else.”
“A year? How about a month?”
“Nope, take it or leave it,” he said. “No extensions either, If you try for eight, then the rate doubles.”
She was surprised to see both Uncle Ray and Aunt Sarah show up that afternoon.
“Hi,” said Sarah. “We heard you were pretty bad. We know we were never that close but we wanted to come and say goodbye.”
“And make sure you were in the will?” said Agnes.
Ray looked shocked. “It’s not about money for everyone, Agnes. We’ve just a small pension, but it’s enough to get by, there are lots of people more in need than we are.”
Too bad for them, whoever they are, thought Agnes. She didn’t get to be queen of hostile takeovers by being nice. She was determined that her company carry on the same way after her death, snapping up weaker companies, trimming the inefficient work force, dumping unprofitable locations. She saw it as natural selection.
She half listened to her aunt and uncle talk, then announced she was too tired to visit, would they just go. As each leaned over to hug her, she saw faint glow around them. She reached out, touched their hands, and pulled it to her, feeling a rush each time. The disease had drained her already tiny frame, but now she smiled as they walked out, feeling rejuvenated already.
“Who’s there?” She looked into the shadows. “Death? Are you here for me?”
“Not yet,” he said. As he stepped into the hall she heard a moan, then a scream. She strained to look out the door - looked like Uncle Ray on the floor, surrounded by several nurses. Guess he didn’t have a year to spare, she thought.
Agnes spent the day on the phone, talking to the board of directors, as well as her lawyers. Under her direction, they would do their best to ensure the company got as much as possible, and her family next to nothing. Once she was dead there was no need to give them anything to ensure she got her way. She’d started with nothing, so she figured they could too.
Agnes had to make several calls before convinced her family to ignore the doctor's optimism and come in as soon as possible. She finally reached her daughter, and demanded she visit that evening, and bring the kids.
“Hi mom, I’m here,” said Red.
“Finally,” said Agnes. It was almost time for evening rounds, and she had suddenly started to feel weaker. “Where are the kids?”
“Rom is with them, helping them with a science project due tomorrow.”
“You’d think grandma would matter to them more. That’s your doing.”
“Grandma, whenever they visit you never listen to them, just give them presents and expect their eternal love and devotion.”
“Don’t sass me,” said Agnes. “Just tell that useless husband of yours to bring them in tomorrow night. Now come give me a hug.”
As her daughter bent over, Agnes stroked her hand and grabbed another day.
“Hi dad,” said Agnes.
“Hi Agnes,” he said. He sat down by the bed and wheezed, hand to his chest. He was a big man, red faced, and looked to be more out of breath every time she saw him.
“I really don’t like what you’re doing to our company,” he said. “It will become even more vicious when you're gone. Unfortunately I'm in a minority, the rest of the board just see their big bonuses.”
“My company, dad,” she said. “Mine to do with as I want, to make a mark in the history books.”
They argued for a while longer but she could tell his heart wasn’t in it.
“Don’t know where I went wrong,” he said. “I tried to be a good model for right and wrong.”
“You were always too soft,” she said. She touched his hand, pulled out some life, then turned to the wall. “Good bye.”
Agnes smiled at her doctor.
“So, what do you think? Cured?”
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It come and goes, you rally, then fade. I’m cancelling visiting hours tonight.”
They couldn’t do that, she needed to grab more strength - her dad hadn’t given her much. The twins were supposed to come, they would be just the thing she needed.
“You will not,” she said. “I’ll have visitors if I want. Remember that new clinic I’ve promised, don’t make me change my mind.”
That threat had been enough, she watched with a smile as Rom let in her daughter’s little twins, both so happy and full of life.
“Come and say hello to grandma,” she said. “Rom, bring them over.”
He led them, reluctantly, over to the bed. She touched them both, pulled, and smiled at the rush. “Thank you Rom,” she said.
He looked at her in surprise. She reached for his hand and pulled from him too.
“The twins have some drawings with them that they did at school,” said Rom.
“No, take them away,” she said. I’m tired.
“Thanks Dad, I owe you.” Agnes hung up the phone. She just needed another day, so she could sign the papers for the board, and do her new will. She wasn’t surprised that her daughter has refused to come back. Supposedly her little brats had complained that grandma wouldn’t look at their drawings - time they grew up and stopped whining, she thought.
Her Dad was late. The boost from the twins had faded, and she struggled to keep her eyes open, watching the door. Finally he slowly walked in, breathing heavily.
“Come here, dad.” She held out her hands, clasped his, and pulled. She barely felt the flow into her. Her father sighed, then fell back into the chair.
A tall figure stepped forward from the shadows, cloaked in black, face hidden by a hood.
“What are you doing here again,” she said. “It’s not my time. Dad’s given me one more day.”
“I don’t think he had much in him to draw on,” said Death. “You’ve pretty well emptied him. That little push likely won't even get you to dawn.”
Her dad turned. “Who are you? Why are you here?”
Death explained the deal, including the penalty after seven days.
“I needed the time,” said Agnes. “Tomorrow I sign all the papers and tidy this up. I heard the cousins are arriving too, so I might even do a few days more. One year or two, no difference to me.”
Her dad sat forward, glaring at Agnes. “Uncle Ray?” he said. “That was you? And the twins, you stole life from the twins? You truly are heartless.”
She struggled to sit up, then fell back.
“They’re young,” she said. “They have lots to give. That time will make no difference to them right now. Go away, old man, I need to rest.”
“I can’t let you do this,” he said. He looked at Death. “Give me a minute.”
Death smiled from the shadows of his hood. “I’ll just be outside - I’ll watch the door.”
Her father slowly got up from the chair, picked up a pillow, and walked over to the bed.
Agnes glared up at him. “I said go away.”
“I will, in a minute,” he said. “But you’re coming with me.” He placed the pillow over her face, and leaned on it. Agnes plucked weakly at his arms, hoping for enough strength to push her dad off, but she pulled only the merest of a wisp from him. She heard a final sigh, then a faint whisper as his weight crushed her beneath the pillow.
“It's OK, daddy's got you.”