Liah S Thorley - Writer

Time Thief

“Take it. All I’ve done is waste it.” She said calmly.
He blinked in astonishment. Never before had he encountered someone so willing.
“Honestly, you may as well have it, if you can do something with it.”
The woman looked as though she had been attractive in her youth, but now middle age had caught up with her and her features were hard and the brightness of her eyes had dulled. He looked her over for a moment. She still curved in all the right places but there were lumps and sags she had done nothing to delay, well not lately anyway.
“But you still have more than twenty years left on your clock,” he offered, shocked at his own reluctance. Normally he had to spend hours persuading people to hand over their time, presenting them with nasty and somewhat unlikely eventualities that ‘could’ befall them, should they continue on their path. The woman shrugged.
“If you can use it, it’s all yours.” Her voice was soft and for some reason reminded him of someone else, perhaps an old movie star he thought.
He bit his lip, fighting his instincts with rational thought and perhaps, yes, somewhere deep inside he was feeling pity.
“But why do you think you have wasted your life?”
The woman blinked and cocked her head to one side.
“Well look at me. My looks may have gone now but once I was pretty. Even then, when I was young, there was no one to appreciate them. I tried to be kind and help people but all I did was love someone else’s husband and wonder the planet searching for something I didn’t know how to find. I have a dead-end job and done nothing to make the world a better place. I no longer know what to do or where to go. If you can use the time I have left to do something of significance then take it.”
He felt a tug in his heart and near choked with the shock of his reaction. He had dealt with suicidal humans before but this one wasn’t like that, she was utterly rational and disturbingly pragmatic. Indeed the first thing she had said was she had no desire to die. He had no idea what to say next. He looked down at his feet and shifted his stance nervously.
“Well? She said, do you want it or not?”
He raised his eyes to meet her gaze. Her eyes were green like a pond and for a moment he felt like reaching in and touching her soul. He cleared his throat.
“Perhaps you should take a day to think about it. I’ll err, come back at the same time tomorrow.” He heard the rasp in his voice and shook his head. What the hell was he doing?
Just take it and go he told himself. But he didn’t move.
“I won’t change my mind,” she offered. Now she seemed to be taking pity on him. He looked at his watch, an ancient time piece that predated this woman by at least two hundred years. He tapped the glass. It was picking up her body clock well enough, 23 years left, two months, 42 minutes and … but the little hand was wavering about like a leaf in the breeze. Perhaps the quartz was losing its power. He wasn’t sure that was even possible but it was the only thing he could think of.
He sniffed in the cold air and caught the scent of her. She smelled of chocolate and strawberries. He looked at her small feet with scarlet polish on her toes. She didn’t seem fragile, in many ways she seemed strong more so than him even. When he raised his gaze back to her face he realised she was staring at him with a distinct look of impatience.
“Well?” she said with a slightly bored sigh. “If you’re not going to bother, I have other things I can be doing.”
He raised his hand towards her shoulder. All he needed to do was touch the side of her neck, right where the blood pulses to her brain and every second of life left in her would be drained in to him. But his hand was shaking and for some stupid reason he couldn’t fathom, he just couldn’t get his hand to reach her. He stepped back and shook his said.
“Sorry, I just…can’t seem to…”
A gentle smile crept over her generous lips and the expression in her eyes was the irritated sympathy of a woman in bed with an impotent man.
“It’s all right. Relax, we can try again in a minute.”
He sank his teeth into the inside of his cheek to stop himself screaming ‘damn you’ at her.
“Are you sure you haven’t done anything to make anyone’s life even a little bit better by your presence?”
She shook her head.
“Not in this life,” she replied.
He was about to suggest returning tomorrow again when her answer hit him like a slap to the face.
“What do you mean, this life? You only get one shot you know.” Over the years he had heard many a human make this claim in order to avoid his theft, especially in this part of the world.
“Really? I am quite sure you know that isn’t true,” she said, this time the smile was unmistakable. She clearly knew something he didn’t.
He took a further step back.
“Who the hell are you?”
She flicked her long dark curls over her shoulder and he realised her eyes weren’t dull at all, she was merely masking the age behind them, and he noticed for the first time just how pale she was. He tapped at his watch again with growing unease. The little hand was flickering violently now and he noticed that time timeline was completely out of sinc. Instead of reading this year, it had slipped back to show 1568. He felt a fingernail trace down the side of his neck, right on the jugular vein, just as he usually did. A shiver skittered up from the base of his spine into his hair. Her fingers were cold as a corpse and finally his mistake became clear. This woman could give him no life for she had none to give, but she had all the time in the world. She must have been about 40 when she was turned but she looked great considering this was her fifth century.
“Sorry,” she said with a gentle laugh. “I couldn’t resist.”
He gave a long sigh and smiled back at her.
“It’s all right, you’re not my first vampire,” he replied, “it’s just been a while is all.”