"Stop!" I shouted, trying to stand. But my legs refused to budge, paralyzed on the sides of the stool, "Stop! You were orphans! You were poor! I created a life for you here, where you were well fed, I mean, supposed to be well fed. And among friends."
"You took our freedom and our lives." Responded the smallest, "And reasoned it was ok because we were only orphans. Marcus here was supposed to become a priest. Jenny would have been a biologist. And I would have been a judge."
"You're already alive though. You're here, before my eyes."
"Not quite, Mr. Don. We live on borrowed time. Actually, we don't truly live at all. We're shadows of what we once were, confined to this island, and we're always hungry. We're ghosts of ourselves."
"There's nothing I can do. I'm not actually a god. The past is the past." I strained again, but his gaze alone held me to the stool. My muscles would tense, but they would not move.
"We're quite aware of that, Mr. Don," He said, folding his arms, "But you took our lives. The only eight years each of us had. And now, we want those years back. There's only one problem."
"That I can't actually give them back, you mean?"
"No, actually, that's not a problem at all. We've been to the *other* side and back, Mr. Don. Not many people are allowed back. Only those who have unfinished business on this earth. But when they *are* sent back, they're given the tools to make things right. The problem is that you simply don't have enough years for us to take. We require eighty, eight for each of us to be restored, and you only have twenty five before you're supposed to become sick and die. With your years, you can only save three of us, and seven of us will never live again." He said, frowning.
"My years? I only have twenty five left? And you want to take them from me?"
"We don't want to take them from you, we *are* going to take them from you. But we'll need another source. And considering your view on orphans, we'll use an orphan that's alive. We've found just the one."
"Just take all of them from the orphan then. Leave mine alone. I have money you can have- how's ten million each?"
"It's funny, Mr. Don, how money loses its value once everything is in perspective. Where you're going, I'm afraid it won't help you at all. Besides, the orphan we want only has fifty five years left. You see, the disease that will kill you is genetic."
"My son." I breathed. My seventeen year old son who was meant to go to college within the year, who I had left at my estate during my trip. "But he's not an orphan."
"Not yet," Grinned the smallest, "But if you remember, you killed his mother, your wife. You already did half the work. And now we only have to take care of the other half."
He walked towards me, hands outstretched, and placed his palms on my chest. He drew a deep breath, and as he did his muted colors became more pronounced, the tatters on his clothes mended themselves, and his palms grew warm.
I gasped, wheezing, as I felt my joints stiffen and my vision blur. Eight years passed in the span of eight seconds, leaving behind a collection of new grey hairs, wrinkles, and developing presbyopia.
"No," I whispered, my voice significantly coarser than it had been as the second orphan approached and repeated the actions of the smallest. Then the third came and left, and I coughed as I felt the frailty of my heart along with a new muffling over my ears.
"And now you are drained, we will proceed to the son." Said the smallest. And the seven other orphans approached, each drawing life from me, life that I had once given to my son but was now being drawn out from the source. I'll never know if they reached him thousands of miles away, but I felt *something* leaving my body, along that paternal connection. And I feared the worst.
"Now we give thanks," Said Marcus when they had finished, "To Mr. Don. For he taketh away, and he giveth life. Blessed be thy name."
He shook the dust from his shoes at my feet, and spat into the dirt. Each of the orphans followed suit except for the smallest, who stayed behind, silent and waiting.
"Are you here to finish me," I croaked, the words taking nearly all of my strength.
"No, Mr. Don. The debt is repaid. The scales are righted. We are satisfied."
In the distance, I heard the helicopter motor come to life, accompanied by a chorus of yells that no longer sounded like distant echoes but rather the whooping of real children. Alive children.
"I can fly you back to shore. Surely none of you can do that."
"We have *means*. And after that, we'll live our lives as they were meant to be."
He turned, and began walking towards the helicopter.
"We left you one year Mr. Don," He said, over his shoulder, "But starvation only takes a month."