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Written on 8th March 2020

A SIGN OF THE TIMES

I slam my foot on the brake and the car skids to a halt. I check my rear-view mirror and try to steady my breath. I turn off the engine and the car lights, hoping I’ll disappear.

 

The moonlight is bright, but the long inky shadows of the surrounding trees provide the cover I need.

I grab my backpack off the passenger seat and get out of the car. I listen for the sound of vehicles coming up the road and sweat trickles down my back. Certain no one is watching, I dart into the park and weave between the towering trees that loom over me like giants that roam the land. I curse as branches break underfoot and the sound of bats overhead makes my skin crawl.

I arrive at the clearing but hang back and wait for the signal like I do every week. I check my phone—9:29 p.m.

When will this madness end?

I swipe at a mozzie that’s determined to get its feed.

When this is over, when things go back to normal, maybe I’ll laugh at how ridiculous this is. If I ever have kids, and they have kids, perhaps I’ll tell them it was something I had to do. There was no other choice.

On the other side of the park, past the children’s slide, a light blinks three times—this is it.

I look around and flash the light on my phone in response.

A dark hooded figure scurries across the damp overgrown lawn, and I flash my light once more.

The figure reaches me.

I step back into the trees and wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans.

As they pull back the hood of their sweatshirt, I let out a cry.

A hand is pushed against my mouth. Eyes glare at me, but the face is covered by a black ski mask. ‘Quiet Emily, it’s me!’ The hand over my mouth is removed, and they pull off their disguise.

‘Rachel?’

My dealer shakes out her short brown hair.

‘What’s with the ski mask? You scared me!’

‘I figured I just need to be more careful. I can’t afford to get caught.’

I pull out a fifty-dollar note from my jean pocket. ‘Have you got it?’

Rachel nods, takes the money, and opens the bag that’s slung across her shoulder. ‘I can’t meet next week, so I got you two.’ Rachel hands me the items and puts her ski mask back on.

‘Why can’t you meet next week?’

‘I have to go, I’ll be in touch, I promise.’ Rachel pulls up the hood of her sweatshirt and disappears across the lawn.

I sigh, pull off my backpack, and shove the toilet rolls inside.

The End

© Michelle Upton

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