FLASH FICTION Story prompt: their environment was safer 218 words.
"That's all I've got!"
The merchant shrugged and shoved the tank back into his bag.
"Wait!" I reached for him—and jammed my fingers into the invisible barrier between us. I cursed, shaking the smart out of my hand. The merchant flicked a glance at me.
Moving too quickly to track, he whirled and grasped my wrist, yanking me forward to hold my hand up to his face.
He didn't have to wear a breather. He was one of them and their environment was safer than ours.
He blew on my fingertips, and I closed my eyes against the shame. No one was to know. No one could know. But I'd had to barter my gloves away last week to get a tank for Cecy. She'd never learned to breathe light and shallow like the rest of us. Never learned to stretch every tiny air molecule till it was all used up. She breathed like the old ones did--long and deep and slow.
The merchant grinned the gold response to temperature change reflecting in their bright white surface. The gold of the aliens who had come to our world. The aliens whose bones were crushed beneath my feet, scattered the world over, coating everything with a thin layer of grit.
His grin widened as his fingers crushed my wrist. "Missed one."
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