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The Exchange

A Story by Magenta Dynamite

Magenta Dynamite

There was a full moon on the night she witnessed the exchange, and she later recalled the buzz in the air, that strange heightened glow of a night on which streetlights are extraneous and the world expands. It was one of the first really warm evenings of spring, and she decided to walk the long way home from a late dinner with friends. She paused and closed her eyes to drink in the otherworldly hum of the peepers near the bike path, when the tiny hairs on her arms and the back of her neck began to prickle with an uncomfortable electricity. Her eyes flicked open, and the shapes emerged in front of her. It took a moment to make sense of them—a vignette framed by the low bright moon. Something about the figures made her stomach clench and she ducked into a shadowy space against the wall.

She recognized the first silhouette immediately—she knew her by the exaggerated swagger, the uniform, the nightstick and gun. The second figure took a moment—the balding head and beard, the glasses all relatively generic—but when he began to speak in the voice that she had heard pontificate so many times about “civility” and “trust” and “the business community,” her concern began to grow. What were these two doing out here on the bike path under the light of the moon? And what was this third shape? A sort of buggy-like contraption from another time, shimmering oddly in the moonlight, there-but-not-there, fading into materiality one minute and then dissipating the next.

“I’m glad you were able to come back,” Beard-and-Glasses was saying to the shape, or maybe to someone inside it. “Do you have the items we requisitioned?”

“I have them. Did you bring the cooler?” The voice from the buggy was low and smooth, but something about it made her shudder.

Beard-and-Glasses looked to Swagger, who reached into the shadows and lifted up a medium-sized plastic cooler, passing it to whoever was in the buggy. A bird screeched and fluttered in the nearby trees. The observer held her breath and ducked deeper into shadow.

The low, smooth voice spoke again. “As long as you can keep the funds coming in, I can keep the hearts coming in.”

Beard-and-Glasses nodded. “Shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve got that under control. And we will need more. A new round of recruits are joining the Force. Your supply is great—keeps their blood pumping, but otherwise they’re basically machines. Ready to do what we need them to do.”

The observer stood in the darkness and gulped, frozen with fear. There was a shifting sound—maybe ice?, several soft thumps, and the scraping of the cooler being closed. Then a flash, and the buggy was gone. Beard-and-Glasses and Swagger trudged down the path, not speaking, cooler in hand.

She let out a breath, but her hands were still shaking. The full moon above shone cold and unforgiving.

Written by Magenta Dynamite. Artwork by Miss Scarlet.

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