Greg shut his eyes when he heard the brakes screeching. He felt a light impact on the door next to him and heard the crack of shattering glass. Then nothing; the world went silent. He waited for a moment for something, anything, to happen.
“Am I dead?” he asked aloud. He heard his own voice and reasoned that he likely wasn’t dead. He was about to open his eyes when another voice spoke unexpectedly.
“What would you sacrifice in order to live?” A woman’s voice asked.
“What?” Greg opened his eyes. His door bowed inward with a giant semi-trailer grill pushing it in from the outside waiting to demolish his car. Shattered glass hovered stuck in the air next to him. He looked around the intersection but the other cars and pedestrians remained halted in place. “What the hell?” he asked no one in particular.
“Do you want to live or not?” the woman’s voice asked. Greg heard a bit of impatience in her voice.
“YES!” He answered reflexively.
“What’s in it for me?” the unseen woman asked. Greg ran down a list in his mind to look for something he could offer in exchange for his life. At 55 he lived alone in an efficiency with no family or even a significant other to speak of. He got laid off a month ago and had been struggling to get himself back into the workforce. In another month he would be unable to afford his apartment. Greg began to question doubt that he wanted to live at all with the majority of his life behind him already.
“Nothing,” Greg chuckled at the realization. “I’m better off dead,” he replied.
“Nothing to live for, huh?” the mysterious voice asked with obvious amusement.
“Nothing comes to mind,” Greg replied.
“Work?” she asked. Greg gave a hard belly laugh.
“Even if I were employed, I can’t imagine anyone thinking a 40 hour week is worth living for.”
“Depends on the job. I love my job,” she said. “Maybe you would too.” Greg shook his head, though he wasn’t sure if the voice’s owner could see him.
“I’m an old dog now, too late to learn any new tricks,” he said.
“What if you weren’t?” she asked.
“And I suppose that’s something you can do?” he asked.
“I did stop time.”
“I guess you did,” Greg smiled to himself. He did not understand the situation but the fact that death was waiting to get in let him accept everything that was happening. He firmly believed that the unknown woman could save him and make him young again; but, he still had nothing to trade. “I appreciate the offer but I don’t have anything worth sacrificing.”
“How about some time? Work for me for a few years then we’ll be even.”
“How many is a few?”
“You’ve got a good 50 years left in you,” she said. “And I’ve got to collect interest somehow so we’ll call it 75 years.”
“I don’t have that many left.”
“I can make you, and keep you, young while you work for me. After 75 years I’ll make you as young as you want to be and you can go on your way.”
“What does this job entail?” Greg asked.
“Does it matter? You won’t die.”
“It matters,” Greg shrugged. “There’s no point in taking a job if I’m going to wish I was dead instead.”
“I’m in a hurry so I’ll keep it short. You’ll get to visit places and see things you’ve never imagined. I often need things picked up so that’s what you’ll do. You’ll be like an executive go’fer. I won’t pay you but the job comes with a place to live, food and entertainment. I need an answer within the next minute or the truck keeps driving through your car,” she said.
Greg decided the moment she said he’d get to visit new places. The moment he realized he was on the verge of death regrets began to fill the back of his mind. The biggest one was not seeing more of the world. The free room and board were icing on the cake.
“I’m in,” he said. “Where do I sign?”
“It’s good enough that you agreed. I’m coming in the car, don’t freak out,” she said.
“You stopped time,” he smiled. “There’s not much more that can freak-” Greg stopped talking when a black cat hopped through the open passenger-side window. It landed in the seat and looked up at Greg. He noticed a red patch of fur on its head that resembled a skull.
“You’re a talking cat that can stop time?” Greg asked. The cat’s head swiveled left to right as if she shook her head.
“My name’s Janet. I’m your boss now,” the cat said.