The hangover was bad, and I needed coffee before the meeting. I got off the bus and looked around. There was a small kiosk I had never tried. Someone was walking away from it carrying a cardboard tray with four coffees, it smelled divine. I hurried over.
“Americano, strong, black, please.”
The strange hooded figure inside nodded, and said in a gravelly, inhuman voice, “One day.”
“One day?” I repeated, wondering what payment app this referred to.
“One day of your life. I’ll give you the coffee you crave, and you will die one day earlier than you would have.”
“What?! Who would trade...”
The vendor gestured for me to step aside with a wave of its... talons, as a woman hurried over.
Ignoring me, she addressed the vendor, “My car keys. Original, please, not the spare.”
She held her hand over a contactless reader until it beeped.
The vendor held out a small basket, from which she retrieved a set of car keys, nodded, and hurried off.
“Wait, the price is one day for whatever I want?”
“For whatever you need.”
“I need to pay my mortgage,” I tried.
“I don’t deal in money,” it said.
I tried to focus. I didn’t get hangovers so easily when I was younger. Hmmm...
“I’d like the health I used to have, before...” I paused, and the vendor waited.
“I’d like the health and constitution I had when I was 22,” I said decisively.
“That’s all? I’ll be as healthy as I was twenty years ago, and it’ll only mean I die one day sooner? No catch?”
It nodded, so I put my hand over the reader, and felt a slight jolt as the reader beeped. I felt vigorous, and my back pain was gone. The hangover was still there, but felt less threatening.
“Bargain,” I said.
“You’ll be back,” said the vendor.
“Never, life’s too short as it is. And youthful health is all I need to enjoy it.”
I began to walk away with a swagger, then stopped. I still really, really wanted some coffee.