In the future, you will be able to buy and sell time. For example, if you feel like going to bed early tonight, you can ‘sell’ the hours you don’t plan to use to someone not in your time zone. You just log on to an app called Spare Time and look for a buyer. You find many. Some of them are transparent about what they want to use the time for (I’m at a party and the action is so awesome!) and some of them try to finesse you with their superficial charm (Hey, do you have the time?)

Times buyers came in all forms

Then there will be that ostensibly boring person who will say something like, ‘I’m looking to extend midnight by two hours because that’s when I love to read! Thank you.’ This person appeals to you. So you sell this person your unused two hours. Later, you dream of this person in your sleep. You cannot get over the fact that they needed the extra time to read. So you call on this person later. ‘What’s up?’ the person says. ‘What did you read that night?’ you ask. The person says, ‘Oh, thanks to the two hours you sold me, I finished The Picture of Dorian Grey and it was wonderful.’ ‘Will you tell me the story over the phone like this?’ ‘Really? It’ll take a while.’ ‘Try me.’

So this person starts narrating the story to you and you fall in love with this person’s voice, just the voice, nothing more. But a voice can do so much. This person’s voice is majestic, kind, patient and swoops down on you with bits and pieces of the story like a big, mythical bird. You fall asleep to this person’s voice and you have wonderful dreams. You decide to sell all your unused hours only to this person so that the person can read and afterwards narrate the same to you. This person becomes your favourite person. You call the person – “The Reader”.

But, as with all wonderful things, there is a catch.

Each time you want to buy back time, you can only buy it from the people you sold your time to. Now when you buy back time from “The Reader”, he or she can only re-sell to you only the time they spent reading those books. But when that happens, your memory of having those stories read to you by the Reader disappears. Like a page torn out of a book.

Also Read: Short Story – The Abyss

Spare Time

‘I badly need time for my chemotherapy to work better,’ you tell The Reader as you lie in bed. You are now an emaciated ugly thing. Thank God your relationship with The Reader is online. ‘What are you waiting for? Buy the hours back from me!’ The Reader pleads. ‘Then I’ll forget the stories you read to me,’ you say. ‘So you would rather have stories instead of time?’ The Reader asks incredulously. You look at the lesions on your wrists and legs and you start connecting them with a pen, like they were points of a puzzle or a map. ‘Yes,’ you smile.

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