The Transaction: A Very Short Story

"I'm losing my patience," Ramon said in his soft lilt. He flicked the cigarette from his fingertips and spat onto the alley wall. "Did you bring it or not?"

Walter trembled so heavily, the locks on the briefcase clattered under his grasp. "I--I--I--"

Ramon slipped another cigarette between his lips and struck a match with his thumbnail. He glanced at Walter with a look that made it clear he wouldn't ask again.

"I--I did," Walter gulped. He mopped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his ill-fitting suit. "But--it's just--it's that--it's--"

"It's what?" Ramon asked, exhaling a slow stream of smoke.

Walter's heart thumped against his throat. His blood surged through his veins with the force of a jet. His vision started to twinkle black at the edges, and his mouth was suddenly filled with sand. 

Because Walter had opened the briefcase. Walter knew what was inside of it. Walter knew what they'd sent him in with.

With shaking hands, he popped the locks. The briefcase fell open. Nothing fell out. Because the briefcase was empty. "There's no money," he whispered through dry, clattering teeth.

Ramon sucked down his cigarette and stubbed it out in his palm. He reached forward and yanked the empty briefcase from Walter's hands. He set it on the ground and went to work scooping up air and dumping it inside. "It's invisible money," he said irritably. "And you've spilled it all over the alley."

Walter blinked. He cleared his throat. "Invisible money?" he asked.

"A million dollars is just a million dollars. Imaginary money is as much as you want it to be." He scooped up the rest of the invisible bills and slammed the briefcase shut, locking it tight. "There's eighty-seven billion dollars in this case," he hissed. "Tomorrow, there might even be three trillion." Then he turned and slid into his beat-up old Camry and puttered out of the alley, and out of Walter's life.