Writing Group: The Soul Industry

Hello, demons and debtors!

I’ve got a question for you. What is the worth of a soul? Can it be measured out? Because if the answer is yes, I’m already beginning to see all kinds of fun business opportunities. Apparently the rest of the community feels the same. That’s why…

This week’s prompt is:

 

The Soul Industry

 

RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!

This week we’ve got a very strange question to ask ourselves: how do you industrialize the soul?

Well, that depends on the nature of the soul. Is it an actual, physical item that can be manipulated in time and space? Can you extract it and put it in a bottle? Or is it transcendental, a collection of thoughts and memories within a person? 

In one case, you’ve got a commodity. A good, to be traded, sold, manufactured, hoarded. And then you’ve got to think of the commodity’s purpose. Why are people interested in it? Is it a luxury item? Are there demons out there buying bottled soul to get drunk on at parties? Is it a necessity? Do hollow holes in space pay some astral currency to be filled with the essence of life? 

In the other case, you’ve got a service. An effort to exert on someone else’s behalf. Is there a factory somewhere out there in the void where nether-beings are paid some meager living wage to assemble thoughts and feelings into the seeds of human souls? Do psychopomps make tips, like cab drivers, for driving you over to the next life?

However you slice it, we’re finding a way to reduce that animating force behind consciousness into something a little less abstract, and then finding a method of traffic. Not as grand a task as it might seem. Some examples of this already exist, in fact. War, for instance, you could think of as an industry of souls. People selling off their ethics and humanity, for the greater good, or nationalism, or protection, or money.

As long as you’re exploring what happens to souls when they become a thing within an infrastructure of handling and exchange, you’re on the right track.

Now, go make some ethically-compromised business decisions.

 

Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.

Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!

The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!

 

Rules and Guidelines

We read six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected from among the top ten most-liked of each post, so be sure to share your submissions on social media and with your friends!

  • English only.
  • Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
  • One submission per participant.
  • Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
  • Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
  • Submissions close at 4:00pm CST each Friday.
  • Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name).
  • Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
  • Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
  • Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or stories written for other purposes).
  • Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
  • Please format your submission as “Submission Title” by Author Name and be sure to separate paragraphs. (Example Submission)
  • No fan fiction without explicit permission from the source’s owner, and no spoilers for the source material if you are writing a fan fic.
  • Original art may be included in your submission, but is not guaranteed to be shown on stream. Only .jpeg format images shared via a direct link will be accepted. (Example Submission) (Information on “Direct Links”)
  • No additional formatting (such as italics or bold text) will be applied to the text of submissions. Symbols or instruction indicating such formatting may render your submission ineligible.
  • You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible, and your reviews must be at least 50 words long. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
  • Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.

Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.

 

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Squesh (hannah)
Squesh (hannah)
5 months ago

Looking for Part Time
by Squesh (Hannah)
A single Toothpick stood at the end of a dirt road and at their feet they set a shoe box. The contents of which won’t matter to us if this doesn’t work.
The lonely toothpick stepped back reflecting to a coffee stained notepad. Flipping between notes they spoke out to the tree line.
“I’d just like some of your time please.”
No one answered.
Clicking their pen restlessly in one hand, they cross out a line.
Turning their back to the trees they slowly begin to walk away,”I suppose I’ll keep these cards to myself then.”
“Well that’s a shame, I’m afraid I didn’t bring mine.”, a low hum answered from behind the box.
Toothpick whipped around scrambling a fistful of salt and lavender out of their pocket.
A dark figure crouched peering into the shoe box obscured by an almost comically wide black brimmed hat.
The figure stood up towering with the trees, the small box in hand. Behind the veil of his hat, Toothpick saw the bleached bone of his eyeless face framed surprisingly by what can only be assumed is supposed to be hair.
“Monday…” Death trailed off.
“It’s Thursday actually if I’m not mistaken.” They chimed in, less than confidant they had Death’s attention.
“Hmm?”, his neck creaked as he turned his face downwards to them,”my apologies, I’m afraid my understanding of linear time is lacking.You clearly know my name but what may I call you”
Toothpick thought for a moment,” everyone calls me a toothpick but I guess I’m Marley.”
“Are you called so because you’re sharp?”
“Actually because I’m brittle”
“Still sharp enough to call upon death although I’m afraid you called the wrong man for deals.” death turned towards the tree line which parted for him.
“Actually I’m asking for a job. You’ll find my resume at the bottom of the box.”
Death turned his head right backwards with a crack. White assumed to be hair wrapped around his neck like a scarf. He sighed through his teeth reaching out a willowy hand. “I meant you start Monday.”

Edrosoldier
Edrosoldier
5 months ago

The Bet, by Edrosoldier

“Because of that, every emotion and action grow or subtract pieces of your soul, got it?” said the Dead Arbiter.

“I think so,” I replied, “and the final worth of my soul determines my next life, right?”

I took another look at the reincarnation diagram behind the Arbiter. Over 330,000; Supreme Abode. Between 330,000 and 294,000; Heaven of Bliss. Between 294,000 and 258,000; Heaven of Joy. Between 258,000 and 222,000; Heaven of Abundance. Between 222,000 and 210,000; human. Between 210,000 and 156,000; animal. Between 156,000 and 120,000; World of Ghosts. Between 120,000 and 108,000; World of Demons. Under 108,000, Hell.

“And my wife…”

“Good! Now we’ll make the balance of your last life,” the Arbiter started typing. “You reincarnated as human with a 210,001 karmas worth soul. Minus 36,457 karmas from anger; minus 40,834 karmas from attachment; minus 2,053 from sadness; plus 78,342 from agape love; minus 1,988 from pride; plus 32,019 from kindness; minus 10,328 from revenge; plus 4,204 from laugh; plus 3,752 from penitence; making a total life balance of 26,657 karmas.”

“That plus 210,001 is over 222,000,” I thought, “then I go to Heaven. But what about Sarah?”

The Arbiter continued. “Plus your pre-life 210,001 karmas, minus the 150,000 karmas from your loan, minus the 100 from inter-life message tax, minus the 30 from Reaper tax; gives a final soul of 86,528 karmas. You will be reincarnated for 21,472 years in Hell nº 85, the Chamber of Scissors.”

“Wait! What loan!? What tax!?”

The Arbiter handed me a pale letter. “I told you it wasn’t a good idea.”

I recognize my handwriting.

“Hi Me. Did you enjoy your human life with her? You must have so many precious memories. I am sure it was worth giving up our wings. Reincarnation at the same time and town is expensive and we still had to pay her debt to the demons. Yet, if I know her and myself, you won’t regret it.”

“By your face I guess you don’t regret that loan,” said the Arbiter. “Guess I lost the bet. Here, 100 karmas.”

The Man Himself
The Man Himself
5 months ago

Ivan kicked some loose ash and felt something hard, but it wasn’t what they were looking for. It looked like an unexploded shell. Backing away slowly, he called over to the other man in the field, warning him to stay away before hurrying over to join him. Approaching the man he’d been informed would be his mentor, Ivan saw him hunched over on the ground, up to his gloved elbows in a mangled pile of scrap debris where a few of the many who’d fallen here had collided and settled in one heap. The older, darker man didn’t speak a word but held out a severed metal arm, it’s grip still curled as if holding a weapon. Ivan took it and held it as the older man straightened up with a satisfied sigh, with a different prize in his hands.
“He’s a strong one. You see how brightly he still burns?”
The teacher turned to his apprentice, holding out a circular glass vessel the size and shape of a basketball. Inside, a blue flame flickered across a simple loop of wire attached to the base of the globe. Other than a few superficial scratches, the large lightbulb-looking object was surprisingly intact. Ivan didn’t respond beyond a “Yessir.” He didn’t imagine engaging with the middle-aged, bald man would make this process any faster.
His mentor balanced the globe on one flat hand and rapped it with his knuckle. It was solid and the flame inside barely reacted, flickering for a half a second. Until a few days ago, the bulb had been attached to a makeshift mechanical body. A machine built to fulfil the simple role of a foot soldier. And it would again, once they got the piece back to their workshop and put it back to work.
Apparently unwilling to give in to Ivan’s sullenness, his teacher continued to talk.
“you know why they build the shell so strong boy? When the rest they make us piece together from scrap?” Several obvious, practical answers immediately came to mind but Ivan doubted the older man would allow for any sort of straightforward lesson.
“Because otherwise everyone would just go for the head?”
“Ooh, you’re on the this track boy, but no. All soldiers have safeguards against going for the head. you should know this. It is universal in our field.”
“It’s so they can be reused? like we’re doing now?”
“Very good! Both sides will have their mechanics in whatever areas they control, salvaging for souls.”
The older man shook the globe like a magic eight ball and chuckled as the flame inside whipped around, barely clinging to its base. Ivan looked away.
“Don’t worry boy. They’re just soldiers.”

Michael Case
Michael Case
5 months ago

The price one pays?
MDC

A scrawny older looking man walked into the room with a handful of papers. They looked like charts of some kind. He quietly motioned me to come with him to the work center.

Oh? Ok not so much a work center but rather a meat processing plant. “where’s the animals to be processed?” I asked before he pointed at the oranges hanging on meat hooks. “So this isn’t a meat processing plant, it’s a giant fruit processing plant?”

The old man slowly turned to me and spoke; “Quit asking some many questions. Pay attention, and I’ll tell you wants going on after the walk through.” The old man slowly walked away pointing to the processing of these large oranges.

First the oranges were taken out of a bin, placed on the hook, and then sent down the line to be processed. I noticed that great care was taken in the removal and handling of the seeds. In fact I think that the only reason they were even processing the oranges were to get the seeds. Seemed weird.

The old man told me that this was my price to pay. Apparently, I had sold my soul years ago, and this was my punishment. I had to spend half of my day processing up oranges for their seeds. If I had known this, I would have told others to sell their souls to. I mean this was hardly what church told me would happen.

A few days went by and I thought I would talk to one of the other workers.

“why are the seeds so important?”

the guy laughed at me and called me pot. I spotted the old man that gave the orientation.

“Hey, I wanted to ask, why are the seeds needed?”

With a slight smile the old man said, “we eat the seeds” why do you ask pot?

“What are … the seeds?”

“souls” the old man said, “the fruit was a dead soul, and we take the seeds. One goes to a new pot, and the others we eat.”

ApatheticDeity
ApatheticDeity
5 months ago

“The Trade of the Deep”
-ApatheticDeity

“A life is priceless…” or so they say. That you cannot buy one’s life. But then I ask you… what if the price of life, is life itself? Many come here begging for mercy. Others accept their fates. But some… some come to bargain. The trade is simple. Scour the land and graves in search of coins and we will extend your stay. Not just any coins though… soul coins. Tokens to one’s life, separated by their characteristics.

A coin of pure white is that of a pure soul. Beautiful in its simplicity with no marks nor dents. A smooth blank coin. The longer one’s life of purity is, the larger and smoother the coin. A child’s coin although pure… is nothing more than a crumb.

A coin of gold is a soul of greed. Glimmering in its prosperity and riches. Large in numbers, marked with their name so they may never lose it. A true bounty if you can find the right person, but be careful… they may not give it up willingly. Let’s just say, “One does not simply leave their treasure unguarded.”

A coin of gray is a soul of unsuccess. Maybe lost on his path in life and forgotten what it means to live. A truly bland coin, but still regains its values.

A coin of black… now that is a soul of bitter loss. A life unforgiving and brutal, of sadness and disgrace, of scratches and tarnish. But if lucky, that coin may change… and become a coin of blue.

A coin of blue is a soul of strength. Unwilling to let the tides of fate push them aside. Now that is a coin worthy for the plate. But none are as perfect as one of red…

The coin of red… is the soul of killers. The coin of you… Tainted by blood and the taste of death. A coin small in size, but only to the amount they have sacrificed. Coin oozing and craving for more. If you can obtain one of these coins… you are more than free to go. Get one substantial in size… and I might even consider letting you go completely.

Now all that is left is for you to search. Go and find these coins and bring them to me in ten days’ time. What if you fail? Heh… well, then I guess I will be seeing your soul on my dinner plate. So now, find them and bring them to me… I can’t wait for the bountiful feast.

NocteVesania
5 months ago

“Yearly Tradition”
by NocteVesania

I’ll never forget that sight. A multitude of wisps of pale light streaming out of that factory on the hill, rushing into the night sky as if longing to join the stars. I could only stare in awe, taken aback by the splendor. The anxiety in my heart slowly fades away as I feel warmth on my shoulder. I glance to my side and I see my elder brother there, his large, comforting hand resting on me. He looks at me with a warm smile.

“Everything’s going to be alright.”

This has been a tradition we’ve had for a while. Every year, on the 31st of October, we would go to the cemetery in the dead of night. We would climb the wall to our special spot, a perfect view of the dark hill and its enigmatic occupant. When the clock strikes midnight, the tip of the tallest smokestack would glow and small blobs of ghostly gleam would start to stream out, like a fountain of soft light. We would watch until the stream slowly dies down, then we would walk back home for breakfast, just chatting along the way as if not exhausted from having to stay up all night.

We never really found out what caused those lights. We never bothered to ask around and, frankly, I don’t think we really cared that much what they were. We were happy with our tradition. It gave us something to look forward to, something we could share, even for a single moment.

“Maybe they’re the souls of our loved ones,” he once told me. “Maybe they want to see us again.”

“Will you be there?” I asked.

He looked at me and gave me a smile. “Maybe.”

I’ll never forget that night. It’s been a while, but here I am now. The cold stone on which I’ve always sat is covered in vines, and the graves are lonelier now than back then, but the view is as majestic as I remember. I check my watch, 11:57PM.

“I can’t wait to see you again, big bro.”

C.B. Smith
C.B. Smith
5 months ago

“Back in my day…”
C.B. Smith

“It ain’t much but it’s honest work.” the horned half-man proudly declares over the cacophony of screaming tortured souls.He pulls the lever on the machine to his right and the screaming squelches out abruptly, followed by an electrical hum of newly generated energy being routed through the conduits.

A muffled question from off camera.

“What’s that?! Oh sure, name’s Ricazadron Zzandoniuz the indomitable undying flame, but my friends mostly call me Rick.” he says while inserting a faintly glowing blue orb into the machine. “PLEASE GOD SOMEBODY HE..” it emanates before Rick pulls the lever again.

Another question.

“What do we do here? Oh we mainly process errant contracts down here. Ya know your deals with the Devil gone wrong sorta thing.” he says while fondly patting the machine.

He reaches down for the next blue orb in the bin and tosses it into the machine.

The orb howls pitifully but Rick doesn’t seem to notice.

“I started at Soulpowered, ohh back in probably 1264 must’ve been. It was all we could do to keep up with the soul supply in those days. “I want my brother’s throne”, “I want more wealth”. “Make them love me” blah blah blah. Seemed to be everyone thought one little deal with a cloaked stranger made complete sense. Miss those barbaric times, great for business.” he grunts.

With practiced hands he pulls the lever and the screams abruptly stop.

“Course these days all that’s changed.” Rick grumbles.

“Most all the collectin’s done over at that new fangled social media department. They siphon em slow over there, all subtle like. Hiding behind them “Likes and followers” he says sarcastically. Ya get a lower but longer soul yield that way ya see. Most folks don’t even realize bits o’ their souls gone missing with all that attention seekin and whatnot.”

A muffled “Thank you for your time” can be heard off camera.

Rick nods his head, lets out a long sigh and mumbles “Just don’t seem right, not facin your demons proper.”.

King_Nix
King_Nix
5 months ago

“A Lesson in Psychomancy”
By King_Nix

‘Psychomancy; defined as the use of magick to manipulate the Arcane reservoirs of immortal souls and the souls themselves.

Applications:
1. The energy from the soul may be transferred to refuel an Arcane vessel; one soul’s energy often can fill several commonly attainable vessels.

2. A soul can, in its entirety, be transferred to an inanimate vessel, most often in the creation of Golems such as the Rhumnarian Custodian and the Wal’Shönic Trëant.

3. A soul can be manipulated by the withdrawal of magick contained within, and the introduction of a different variety; e.g.: the drawing out of the natural Luminous magick present in the soul of a Man, and the introduction of Daemonic Magick. NOTE: Should the subject of an attempted manipulation have a willpower strong enough, the introduced energy will conform to the will of the subject’s soul.

IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE THIRD COUNCIL OF RHUMA, ALL UNSANCTIONED INSTANCES OF PSYCHOMANCY ARE PUNISHABLE BY PUBLIC EXSANGUINATION AND BANISHMENT FROM THE ACADEMIA MAGORUM.’

So read the words of the Codex Magicus. In the bowels of the city of Áfondin, however, Severës performs his work, surrounded by gemstones glimmering with Arcane magick. Here, the truly enlightened can work in peace, shielded by sea and by Confederate bureaucracy from the small-minded moralism of the Academy. Here, the souls of the social parasites can be put to use for the greater good of their betters. For who laments the lack of the man begging for money in front of the tavern? Who bothers his landlord at the disappearance of the neighbor who did not pay his monthly rent? Who speaks out at the disappearance of the last man to ask such questions?

Indeed, here in the catacombs, surrounded by the wailing urchins from up above, the pinnacle of civilisation and true order has been found.

MysteryElement
MysteryElement
5 months ago

Death and Taxes
By MysteryElement

“The only two certainties in life…” as the saying goes. Without regard to circumstance, death and taxes are ever present. My final breath escapes me in the guise of a chuckle as I consider this, letting whatever pretense to an afterlife whisk me away as I close my eyes. When I open them again I am still in bed, a hooded figure sitting next to me with bony hands folded in his(their?) lap.

“That’s it then? I am dead?” My voice sounds stronger now than it had in the last few years of treatment.

“Not quite” the responding voice was feminine and raspy. “There is one final matter we must attend to, you and I.”

I sit up straighter as they reach inside their sleeve, my hands bracing without aches and my eyes clear. Their pale hands now held a scrap of paper and one of the hospital pens.

“No quill?”

“Is that what you would prefer?” With a deliberate turn of their wrist, the pen transforms, now a long white feather as I had seen in films. I shake my head, and the pen reappears.

“What is this?” I accept the paper and attempt to read it over.

“In short, my contract. In exchange for my services in taking your soul to the appropriate afterlife, I am entitled to a small percentage of the soul upon delivery.”

“A piece of my soul as payment?”

“More of a tax, really. Every experience in life has a tax on your soul, if you allow it, with the governing powers taking their share and recycling it to keep things running.” The figure shrugs. “Consider it an investment, if it helps. If you refuse to invest yourself, you are not really living are you?”

I stare down at the paper, considering it for a moment before raising the pen, another breathy chuckle escaping me as I look up at the figure.

“Death and Taxes?”

The figure leans forward, a thin smile barely illuminated under the fluorescent lights.

“Who do you think coined the phrase?”

Adam S.
5 months ago

Soul Hunter
Adam Michael Schmidt

“Come one! Come all! Step right up if you think your tough enough, to the greatest challenge for the most daring of Hunters!”
A shrill voice cried out to the bustling crowd of the city from a spindly figure hiding behind the box office of the arena. Hunters from far and wide lent an ear and listened as they heard his words.
“Just lay down five of your hard-earned souls and you could walk out of here with a fortune forged through bravery and valor. This is the toughest gladiator arena around! Step right up! Come and see the strongest Hunters the land has to offer.”
A line swiftly formed before the teller’s box office. Men and women, hunters from far and wide. Many came with sword, spear, shield, and gun to contend in the arena. Many were folks barely able to scrape by. Unable to catch bountiful prey, whether because they lacked skill, or luck. Others were seasoned hunters who faced many foul beasts who had devoured countless living souls. The spindly teller shined a toothy grin as he took in more souls than any beast could even hope for. The combat about to begin.

A sudden thumping of a canister on the counter awoke the teller from his trance of giddy glee. His eyes peered over to see a tall warrior in the window. He laid down a canister that glowed with a white light. The teller was speechless.
“I offer five hundred souls.”
The teller nearly fell from his seat in shock. Those behind this nameless Hunter whispered and murmured in the distance. He ignored all their curious mutterings and held his attention on the teller.
“Is that enough to challenge your strongest Hunter?”
“Wha- What!?”
The teller was overwhelmed. Occasionally, some Hunter would come through with one hundred souls at most. Maybe one hundred and fifty, but that was rare. Never in his life had he ever seen five hundred souls in a single canister. The Hunter smiled warmly, wishing to relax the teller. The teller printed the warrior’s ticket, and the Hunter entered the arena.

Mini_Reaper
Mini_Reaper
5 months ago

More of the Same by Mini_Reaper
Zeresh didn’t know what to do. Sat in his booth within the pearly gates, the young angel scratched at the sides of his head, trying to mumble his way through the problem that had just arrived before him. His boss was out to lunch, so he had to deal with things without being able to fall back on a more experienced haggler.
The problem, or rather problem child, was mid-way through her speech on how all the souls in her possession were at a reasonable price and organically farmed. He ran his hands down his face, dreading the inevitable question she would pose. She always asked, and always with the same plucky attitude, like a child that wanted their parents to guess what they were thinking.
“So… How many you want?~” She rocked back and forth on her heels, grinning at him through the window. It was never /if/ the workers wanted the souls, but rather the quantity.
“… How many innocents?” He sighed, knowing that he had no choice but to take this peddlers deal. Her grin widened in a way only a devils could.
“Oh let’s see, there should be three old ages, one wrongfully accused, two holy men and…” She started counting on her fingers, screwing up her eyes to do the mental math. “seventy instances of livestock? at ten a piece it’s a total bargain! For less fortunate ends we have eighteen cases of- “
“Alright, alright. I’ll take them all. You’re sure there’s no murderers or politicians in the bunch?”
“Mhm! Scouts honor!~” She drew an X over where her heart was, before sticking her tongue out and winking at him.
“Yeah, we both know that means next to nothing.” He muttered some choice words under his breath -mostly about how it would all come out of his check at the end- as he counted out her payment.

ClockworkPigeonz
ClockworkPigeonz
5 months ago

“A Dance with Life and Death”
By: ClockworkPigeonz

“Is it Time?”

“Not quite.” Azrael’s voice floats through oblivion’s murk unhindered.

The haze has wrapped itself around her like a warm blanket. She can make out the edge of his scythe gleaming in the not-light. Black robes bleeding into the ebony of the Void, stand in contrast to snow-pale skin.

“The others here?”

“No, just you.”

“Good.”

Ancient eyes that know all and yet reveal nothing inspect her.

“You are going back.” A statement- not a question.

“Pfffh- you think a little shock-gun’s going to end me, Az? For shame! Alistair would never let me live that one down!”

The stone-set lips move up into the barest smirk

“And Cobalt- Cobalt would kill me!”

“Hard to kill what’s already dead.” The smirk now a full bony, grin as the scythe slams into motion.

She dodges it easily- ethereal form freed from its mortal cage. Tattered edges of time-worn flame already bolting upwards towards the barest glint of real…true light.

Azrael catches hold of her tail- and tugs…

The Phoenix slams to the ice, cold floor glaring at him with eyes that have peered into the depths of forge fires and burning cathedrals alike.

And so the dance of Life and Death begins anew… a reflection of the timeless, infinite battle echoing through Creation’s halls.

When it is over she regards him wearily- if not unkindly…

From the shadows the ancestors and unborn predecessors murmur their blessings. Faceless forms flickering gently from the other side of the Veil, like distant campfires gleaming through the forests.

Death bows in submission

For now the Phoenix has earned the right to lace her soul within mortal flesh and bone once more.

Both are aware that it will not always be this way…that she will not be this fortunate forever. And when that day comes Azrael will miss her dearly. This wild woman from the Isle of Raven Rock. Bard of the Red Dawn. She Who Sings the Storms to Sleep.

But for now…

“Tea, Saturday?” one old friend asks.

“You’re buying.” taunts the other.

…It’s business as usual.

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Sewer Creature
Sewer Creature
5 months ago

Six Steps Down
By: Sewer Creature

The clock read 2:34. Micheal Faustus was up at this hour to finish a year-long project of his. A study on religion’s effect on the human mind, and how the thoughts related to the afterlife changed based on such factors. All it needed were a few finishing touches.

“It’s time for your part of the bargain..”

A man stood in the doorway, his large frame and massive flowing cape blocking most of the hallway’s dim light and casting a pitch black shadow over the room’s interior. His eyes were a glowing green hue, without any sense of humanity in them. Faustus knew him.

“I know of our deal, If he wants to speak with me about the payment, he should have come here himself in place of sending a goon such as yourself.” Micheal said, trying to hide the shaking in his voice.

The man’s eyes narrowed. “You’re still not getting it, are you?” He growled. Micheal could tell his patience was running thin.

“What am I supposedly missing, then?”

The man took a step further into the room. “He promised you wealth, fame, and power, all of which you have in abundance. All for one small thing.” He walked closer to Micheal, steadily blanketing the man in the unnatural blackness of his shadow.

“I-I know about t-the deal, The p-payment is coming, trust me!” Micheal wanted to move, but he was frozen in place. The man was mere feet away, and was closing distance at a steady rate.

“I didn’t come here to remind you.”

The man was now inches away from Michael. His eyes piercing through Micheal’s very soul. It was only now that Faustus understood.

“I came to collect.”

Then there was black.

Micheal was no longer in his office, yet standing on charred stone surrounded by infernal blackness. The silhouette of a massive horned beast towered over him, With an blood orange light radiating from the monster’s caprine eyes. The man then leaned over Micheal’s shoulder and said to him;

“The time for talk has passed. Malebolgia wants your soul..”

JoshRR00
JoshRR00
5 months ago

“The Soul Option” By JoshRR00 I glance below, and for a scant few seconds, I see them all. The long belts reaching as far east as the rising sun, and as far west as the setting one. Start to finish, an entire day’s worth of process, labor, morning past midnight, the end only coming with the moon’s silver shine. Sit down, chat a few hours, get back to work when the rooster crows. No sleep? The dead don’t need it. So much easier to manage. Wasn’t always like this, hauling weight, fixing gears, building the world of those honest souls who sit high above in their plush velvet boxes, voyeuring the hopeless struggle. Weren’t virtuous enough, the dots down below. Didn’t do enough good deeds in life, made one too many compromises for the angels’ tastes. Not entirely wicked either. Wouldn’t be fair to punish non-simmers simply for not being saints, right? So, why not a chance at redemption? A few good years slaving away in purgatorio, rolling rocks into monuments, bending steel into gambling houses, twisting the parts into their proper sockets. Basic things expected of any blue collar man…woman…wisp of cool, inflamed energy shaped like either/or. Just give them a few years of honest work, and then, finally…paradise. Weren’t always this way. Used to be, all you needed was a good heart and true forgiveness within it. There were no cities, no lights, no institutions. Just you, your fellow floating masses of incorporeal matter, and a bright white room that stretched unto the end of eternity in all four directions. The powers that be look down onto you, see all the acts you committed in life, and then weigh them against the contents of what lies within. Do you feel sorry for all the people you hurt? Do you truly wish you could’ve had more time, if only so you could heal the wounds you made? Congratulations. You’re going straight up to salvation. Took a look at everything and one around you and did your best to burn it all to ash for greed, lust, simple madness, take your pride? Look forward to damnation for the rest of your eternity. Life mattered, life was important, but that’s gone now. What’s done is done. New world, new start. Tabula rasa. But then came along a group of fine gentlemen (and women) and their shocking group epiphany: They were all going straight to hell. Didn’t matter what they did, no bargain could narrowly pull them from this judge’s crushing gavel. Every sentence here is final and absolute, the one court they couldn’t bribe. So, they decided, why try to face judgement. It was the soul’s choice to try and move on, so why choose the just…not? If they can’t see heaven, why not build their closest replica down here? So came the brownie points. Total saint? Straight up to heaven. Debased sinner? Straight down to hell. Not of any use to them. Their destinies were pre-arranged before they set foot… Read more »

Charles Funk
Charles Funk
5 months ago

Cost of Living
By Charles Funk

Aamon stood outside the ICU. Passerbys paid no mind to him nor did he. His head was glued to its doors. Entranced. Unblinking. The next hours felt like years than the actual decades he spent investing. Time aged his prize like fine wine and he longed to savor it.

The final hour struck when familiar footsteps approach him.

“Expected one of you to show up.” Aamon grinned. “Didn’t expect you, Donn.”

“Daemon,” Donn tipped his hat.

“We’re not strangers, Psychopomp. You can say my name. Not that you can use it. Hahaha!”

“Names implies respect. I have none for you. Lets get this over with.”

Donn made for the door but Aamon already opened it.

“After me then.” Aamon entered with a wink.

The two entered the room just as the doctors left and stopped before a dying bedridden man. He struggled to open his eyes but turned pale at the sight of them.

“Johann!” Aamon greeted. “Long time no?”

“Y-y-you!” Johann stuttered. His eyes saw Donn. “Who’s he?”

“A old friend.”

“We are not.” Donn corrected.

Aamon rolled his eyes before returning to his prey.

“So! You and me got business.”

“N-n-no!” Johann cried. “Not yet! Not now!”

“No backsies on a deal.” Aamon showed their contract. “’66 years I give. For wealth and fortune lived. When 66 years passed. Your soul’ll be mine at last!’ The fine print is there. No need to get your lawyer since you are one.”

“Death!” Johann pleaded to Donn. “Take me! Save me!”

“He cant do anything.” Aamon cackled. “His only business is death. Till then you’re mine. He’ll only get my leftovers.”

Aamon tore Johann’s soul and plucked memories from its stem. Sins. Pleasures. Lust. 66 years worth of memories were placed into mirrors Aamon produced from his pockets.

Johan’s soul was left as disheveled strands and Donn took them all without a word.

“Delicious.” Aamon savored one. “A fine price for back home.”

“What is it worth?” Donn asked. “Souls?”

“Everything. For we have nothing.” Aamon said. “Not sure about its worth to them.”

That said, the two parted ways.

Kitty Cipher
Kitty Cipher
5 months ago

Deceived by Kitty Cipher

She had awakened, and heard the sounds of whispering and cries around her. She was trapped in some strange spherical shape, cold and lonely. She couldn’t feel anything but her emotions, floating around her like clouds. She didn’t think it would be this way. She tried to break free from her new prison of transparent glass. “I was deceived,” she realized. “I never should’ve sold my Aura to that Collector. I thought he’d only take a small portion of it, but not my entire soul!”

Her insight wandered through her transparent cage, to find a room full of dolls, ornaments and jewelry, decorating the room. Finally, her sight landed on herself, laid out on a mattress. Her body was unconscious, her eyes locked shut as though she was in a peaceful coma. But she knew it wasn’t a coma. The Collector hadn’t just trapped her Aura, he trapped her soul, too.

But as her insight continued to explore the room, she found other bodies in the room. They were sprawled throughout the room, some on mattresses, and some on carpet and blankets. Some eyes were wide open, dull and lifeless. Some of the bodies’ eyes were closed, like they were dead, or dreaming. “Oh, god…so I’m not the only one here.” She regretted her insight wandering in the first place. She wished she was able to cry, but she knew she couldn’t. She wasn’t in her body anymore. She was on a shelf, probably on display.

The whispering continued around her, the other souls trapped in objects like her. Suddenly, everything grew silent as the door opened. Two figures enter the room.

“We have so much Aura! We’re going to be rich!” a male voice declared. “But what should we do about these corpses?”

“We remove them, of course. We don’t want these souls to escape their new vessels.” a female voice laughed.

She gasped, fear clouding her prison. “Corpses?” she wondered, as quietly as she could. And then, it hit her, harshly. She would remain in this crystal ball forever. She would never see her body again.

LaribHaven
LaribHaven
5 months ago

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Adam Ochs
Adam Ochs
5 months ago

A Short Ride by Adam J. Ochs

Jason stood staring at himself. He was lying in a hospital bed and, as of 20 minutes ago, very much dead. It hadn’t come unexpectedly. He was given the diagnosis months ago. It was definitely strange though, staring at your own lifeless body. What was even stranger was the honking that suddenly came from outside the window. Jason, after quickly recovering from the jarring sound, drifted to the window before looking down to see a short, stout man standing outside of a taxi cab waving him down. He stepped out of the window without thinking and promptly fell to the ground. He could now hear the man saying in a thick New York accent, “Hey pal, get on your feet. We gotta get outta here real quick. We’re already late, don’t need to be later!”

Jason got up off the ground and hovered over to the man yelling at him. “Who are you?” Jason asked. The man started to walk around to the driver’s side of the cab and said, “Get in the back, kid. I’ll explain on the way.” Jason was hesitant at first, but came to the conclusion he didn’t have anything to lose and got in the backseat of the cab.

“Who are you? Where are we going?” Jason asked his driver.

“One question at a time, kid. Name’s Sal, and I’m taking you to find a job.”

“I’m dead. Why would I need a job?”

“Because everyone needs a job, kid. This is my job and I’m dead.”

Jason hadn’t thought of that. He had figured that his driver was some sort of guiding angel.

The cab stopped. “We’re here,” said Sal.

“I don’t have any money to pay you,” said Jason apologetically.

“Don’t worry about it, the Big Man pays me. Good luck, kid. I’ll see you around.”

Jason stepped out of the car to see the most beautiful set of gates he had ever seen. A man at a podium was handing out stacks of paper to different people in a line. “Well,” thought Jason. “Time to do some paperwork.”

Nomadic_Djinn
Nomadic_Djinn
5 months ago

The Soul’s Journey
by A. T. Rainier

Ensho listened to the calls of birds in the distance and the rustle of leaves as he ascended the mountain. The binary suns were soon going to reach dusk. He was confident that he would reach the top before they disappeared. The city beyond the mountain shone on multicolor lights, but no sound of its hustle and bustle was heard.

The steps to the top turned so that Ensho could look down and see the silent monastery below. There his fellow monks sat in meditation. He, a rebel from birth, knew that the meditation hall would not be the place to die. The mountain top was. He felt it from the day he saw the temple lights peeking from behind the mountain. That was his home and soon his grave.

Ensho’s arms and legs shook as he finished the journey. His skin hung waved on his bones like flags. Wrinkles showed off his age like rings in a tree. Spots dotted his bald head like stars. Yet, he finished the walk without a groan or complaint.

A Buddha carved into a rock wall sat in meditation at the top. It was human. Ensho suspected it to be Sakyamuni Buddha himself but never voiced it allowed. “If you see the Buddha, kill the Buddha.” No idols here. Just emptiness. It was there with his back to the statue and face to the forest that he sat. His mind rested on the counting of breaths until they faded and were no more.

He awoke to ethereal forms around him. The knowledge of the multiverse whirled around his consciousness and he knew where he was. He–It–was complete. It, the soul of Ensho, Orthoc, Sarah, Zajonc, and so many more sentient beings, had been taught everything. Now It had reached the end of It’s journey. Not nirvana. Not heaven. The end of infinity? No. Just the end of It’s journey.

Michael Collins
5 months ago

Bitter Work
By Lakemoron (Mike Collins)

Sam sat at his table, staring into the amber liquid that was slowly killing him one sip at a time. He knew he had a problem, much like his father did. Sam wasn’t drunk yet, but the night was early, and it wouldn’t be too long before he was drinking straight from the bottle. It was six-thirty in the afternoon, and Sam had to be on stage in three hours.

“Selling your soul to an industry that doesn’t value you until you’re dead,” Sam said to no one in particular. “I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my time, but I won’t regret my music.”

A waitress stopped by Sam’s table. She slid the bottle away from Sam and put her hands on his as he grasped his glass.

She asked, “Mister Johnson, don’t you have to be on stage soon?”

Sam let go of his glass and stared off into the distance.

Sam said, “I haven’t played sober in so long I forgot how. I play from my heart, my soul.”

“Mister Johnson…… Sam, you know how to play, and all this is doing is stealing you from those of us that love…… your…… music,” the waitress said as she pulled his glass away.

Sam gently took hold of her wrist as she pulled the glass away.

He said, “The music industry sees men like me as a product. They sell our music, our souls like they are selling dishwashers or TVs. They’re in the business of selling souls, a soul industry.”

Sam pulled the glass back and took a sip. The whiskey burned a little less as it did its work. Hanging on the wall behind Sam were several gold records with the names of his songs. Most of the records were many years old.

Sam said, “It’s bitter work this living…… surviving; you keep going long after people stopped caring while others wait for you to die. They only profit when I’m gone, and they can memorialize me, the man they threw away.”

The waitress left Sam at his table, knowing he wasn’t going to play tonight.

William Keating
William Keating
5 months ago

“Company Training” by William Keating
If you are witnessing this, in what ever way shape and form befitting your species may I just say congratulations, you have been chosen as the newest employee of Forge-Corp, the Universal Company. What did you think the universe just ran by itself? We have atom builder and orbit planners, life designers and Armageddon engineers, after your six-month probation we shall determine which department best suits you.
Here at Forge-Corp we value are employees; you are the people who keep everything ticking by and we love you for it. Life is the universe’s greatest creation and commodity and we do are best to make existence fun from everyone.
We’ll get into species and racial policy later, as I imagine your now wondering what your payroll is, yes money is universal too, or rather the concept of money is a constant by-product of intelligence beings, and unfortunately some people like to think counting coopers is more important than life itself. Well we’ve fixed that.
People say “time is money” well here, we say Life is Money. The soul is the fuel of life, and the guide of the mind and body. Some beings subconsciously understand this and have thus sold there souls for wealth, never actually taking time to wonder, what happens to their soul after the initial transaction, you can end up in some unpleasant situations when your physical time runs out.
As for Forge-Corp, services are paid for with soul points, every employee starts with a base amount, usually a few trillion depending, and the more productive with good behaviour (the Beings and Cultures section will elaborate further, don’t worry) the more soul point to receive to spend.
Important to note: Just because you have so many points, does not mean you can spend them all. You do not want to know what happens if you run out.

zodiac36gold
5 months ago

“The contract” by zodiac36gold
Here I am, looking at my reflection. “Are you sure?” asks me a little voice in my head. It’s always there, always trying to make me act better. But now, for the first time, I ditch it away. I want this more than anything.
I look down at the little piece of paper and say the words. And look up. Here she is. She wears a victorian styled dress, has a little green fan in her left hand and little book in her right one. But what strikes the most are her eyes: yellow, predatory and, at the same time, gentle. She ups her gaze from the book flipping her hand and making it disappear. She smiles at me.
-So you’re sure?-
I nod and her smile brightens. -Don’t worry- she says -I will treat it well. Only the best buyer.-
It’s not really reassuring but still…
She walks toward my reflection and takes my left hand. On the other side I can feel her touch, so warm, so reassuring. So beauty really is humanity’s greatest curse becuase it hides the real monsters. Monster, such a strange word, it doesn’t sound right. After all she didn’t do anything wrong, it was me, I called her first and she obediently came. I offered her to make this deal, no, this contract, and she agreed to all my terms. So maybe I was the monster here.
Her fan has disappeared too and now she’s holding a piece of paper with writings in an unknown language. She lifts my hand and, with a claw, cuts my hand. Blood drips from both the reflection’s hand and my hand. In the end a single drop lands on the paper. Immediatly she releases my hand and she’s gone I feel empty.
____________
I look at my agenda and tick a name, the boy’s name. Near me is a little floating green orb. His soul. My buyer is in front of me.
-So?- he asks.
-Here it is.- I hand him the soul. He takes it and hides it in his pocket.
He leaves and I smile. An eternity at the service of someone else in exchange of success. “You’re so traditional.”

R J Chapman
R J Chapman
5 months ago

“The Sacrifice” by R J Chapman

He’s begging now. He’s on his knees, pleading to find a modicum of mercy from the guard. None is shown. The guard strikes the prisoner with the back of his hand. There’s an explosion of red on impact.

The crowd like that. They cheer. I look around at the faces surrounding me. There’s no hatred in their eyes. Simply, relief and desperation. Relief it isn’t them. Desperation that today’s sacrifice will keep us safe for another day. Our walls will not be breached. Our sanctuary remains untouched by The Waste.

He’s a dead weight now. The booing starts. The guard can’t lift him on his own and calls others to help him. He’s like a child refusing to go to bed and a parent too weak to carry him. It’s a ridiculous scene. I want to laugh. I don’t.

Four guards grab a limb each and carry him to the precipice. He starts struggling again but there is no escape. They begin to swing him to get some momentum going.

“A leg and a wing, to see the king…”

I remember my parents doing that when I was little.

“A one ba-bum…”

That feeling of exhilaration, waiting for the soft cushions and duvet to catch me.

“A two ba-bum…”

I smile at the memory.

“A threeeee…”

He slides down the ramp, unable to gain any purchase on anything to slow himself. He lands with a thump. He is motionless.

The gate opens.

I pray he is only unconscious because he still doesn’t move. The crowd is silent in anticipation.

It’s out of the gate.

By the time he realises what’s happening, it is already on top of him. His screams are unremarkable. It stops almost as soon as it begins.

Our sacrifice has been accepted.

The crowd roars. I roar. I roar harder than anyone. My lungs and throat shake with vibrato. I jump up and hug the people around me. They hug me back. We bounce in unison. Our souls are lost in elation.

No one notices I’m crying.

T.E.
T.E.
5 months ago

A Hollow Trade
By T.E.

Endless void extended indefinitely around the road of mirrors. Howard looked down, an empty shell of a man stared back.

He was nearing the end of his long journey, already he heard muffled voices haggling in the distance. The Bazaar, from what he’d heard one could buy anything there. If, prepared to pay the price. At the end of the road, he was met with bright lights and sprawling masses. The smell of perspiration hung unpleasantly in the air. Reptilian guards kept a close watch on all visitors.

Most who came here hid their faces. But not Howard, anyone could see he was soulless, no one would wonder about his errand. Looking for some kind of direction, he approached one of the guards. Talking was unnecessary, the creature understood by his appearance.

“You want to buy a soul?” it laughed. “You sure that’s a good idea, little husk? One tends not to think clearly enough without one.”

Nevertheless, he was handed a sheet with directions. Go up two sets of stairs, walk three hours to the left, then two days into the past.

He passed slavers, brothels, warlocks, and gods. But finally, he found himself at his destination. A neon sign flashed above the door, “Souls, Sold and Bought at Unbeatable Prices”.

In the darkness inside two glowing green eyes observed him. “Aah! a hollow,” a metallic voice expressed. “In need of a soul?”

Howard nodded, confident that the merchant would see him despite the darkness.

“Wait a minute.” The eyes disappeared for a few seconds and then reappeared with a jar containing a faint golden glow. “I’ll trade it in exchange for the one you love the most.”

Howard nodded.

“Excellent,” said the merchant, and a jagged smile joined the glowing eyes.

The jar was opened. The imprisoned soul quickly found its way into the hollow husk. Overwhelmed with emotion Howard stumbled out unto the busy street, procured a photograph of a woman from his pocket, and broke down crying.

Joseph Kharms
Joseph Kharms
5 months ago

The Red Curtains
By Joe Kharms

Few people know why I stormed out of my business partner’s office and never returned. It is today, knowing that now the business is days away from officially opening, I am coming forward to tell my story.
Souls can be exactly how we imagine them. When you drink from one, ecstasy can run through your body, you can see and feel barely explainable or understandable things. But on the day, I fled from the office, I drank from a soul that was not quite as delightful. I’ll try my hardest to explain what I felt:

The red curtains opened.
I watch flies buzz around me like I am already a rotting carcass; perhaps I am already dead. I see a figure; My Lover. The figure is a beautiful woman with a strangely two-dimensional quality to her, as if she was a poster. My Lover is crying and begging me to say something to her. I open my mouth, but an endless waterfall of beer cascades from my throat; stopping any words from escaping. I realise she is not real anyway; she is just a porn intoxicated apparition. I pick up a cigarette and start using it as a knife to attack my nemesis. But I’m the only one in the room? It feels good but I know it isn’t good. I love my friends, that’s why I hate them. You only truly live once then you go back to work. I am but a clone of someone else but much worse. Burning rope, burn away the pain; suspend me above the world itself. A towering mountain of cold enlightenment I stand on, until the rope no longer burns.
The red curtains closed.

Whoever once owned that soul lived a miserable life. And now I had lived it with them. Scarred and shaken, I stormed out of the office. And that’s why I left the soul industry.

Alex
Alex
5 months ago

A Traitor’s Soul
By Alex Nightingale

“Are these really necessary?” Cynthia asked, holding up her handcuffed hands.

“Just procedure.”

“I came to you for help”, she replied, the desperation in her voice obvious: “I have nowhere else to go. Please…”

“We’re here to help”, Officer Stan Thomas interrupted: “It’s what the police does.”

Cynthia averted her gaze. Stan clenched his fist. He had to compose himself. The smell of her most unusual soul was powerful. A wonderful piece of merchandise, especially given she was only fifteen. He needed her calm, to extract it.

“There is no reason to be scared”, Stan said: “The handcuffs are just procedure, I assure you. Now, if you could please relax, we can begin.”

“I don’t…”

“Just remain calm. We can help you. No need to worry.”

Cynthia shifted uncomfortably. She tried to edge away from Stan, but the handcuffs wouldn’t let her.

“Can I talk to someone else?”

“I’m afraid not”, his hand was wandering to a syringe in his pocket, just in case: “You’re stuck with me.”

Cynthia’s eyes went from the door to Stan and back again.

“Officer, please, I need your help. I saw something…”

“Saw something? What did you see?”

He didn’t care. He just needed her talking. His hand was closing on the syringe. He inched closer to her. Again, Cynthia tried to move away and again the handcuffs held her in place. He took out the syringe.

“What’s that”, Cynthia asked, fear in her voice: “The Syndicate…”

“Don’t worry. You’re not going to the Syndicate.”

He grabbed her hand and pushed the syringe into her arm.

Cynthia tore the handcuffs off and grabbed Stan with a clawed hand.

“The Syndicate doesn’t tolerate traitors.”

She plunged a claw into his temple. Stan was dead, before he hit the ground. The door opened and two people walked in. The thing that was wearing dead Cynthia’s skin indicated the body.

“Yuri will be very pleased”, she said, wiping the blood off her claw: “He does like traitorous souls. Let’s clean up, before an Armitage gets here.”

Philip C.
Philip C.
5 months ago

The Good (The Soul Industry)
By Philip Carrescia

“I don’t want to go. I’m scared.”

Daniel clung to me, quietly begging me not to take him through the door. Though I did not look down, I could imagine the tears that would be falling down his cheeks.

“Look, Daniel, I know how you feel. Going somewhere new is always scary. But I know that once you walk through those doors, you’ll be happier than you’ve ever been before.”

He did not let go, but he looked up at me, tears slowing, and cautiously asked, “Are you sure? They told me that when I was sent to the Falts, and they weren’t nice at all.”

I sighed. Poor kid. What happened to him there should never happen to any child. Unfortunately, it happened all over the world. “Yes, I’m sure. There are kids your age here, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun playing with them. I did. Still do, as a matter of fact.”

“What?” He looked at me in amazement, “You live here?”

“Yep, and I know plenty of good, friendly kids here who will help you get used to living here. I’ll introduce you. I play with them, when I have time, and we have tons of fun.”

He looked down at his feet, as if considering the proposal, his hand still clasping mine.

“Your sure…” He said at last, “Your sure that there aren’t any mean people in there?”

I smiled, and nodded my head, “I’m sure. I know everyone who lives here, and each and every one of them is as good a friend as you could wish for, even us older folks.” I ended this last part with a chuckle.

For the first time since I had picked him up, Daniel smiled, and, pulling on my hand as he walked forward towards the door, he said, “Okay! Let’s go!”

I laughed, starting to jog as he, seeing the other side of the gate, gave a whoop of joy and ran further in.

Helping a soul to get to Heaven was never easy. I was happy to see Daniel’s expression of wonder.

Madelyn
Madelyn
5 months ago

“The Aftermath of Quitting”
By Madelyn

Balthazar felt himself tense as Oboto plopped down next to him on the couch.

“Now that you’re out of the hospital,” she began. “What the hell did…he mean when you were ‘Fate’s executor?’”

Balthazar considered just not talking at all, but he knew Oboto would not take silence. “It…I was supposed to determine how a soul was supposed to live. I honestly don’t remember much.”

“Why did you leave? Sounds like an important job.”

Balthazar held his breath for a moment. “…Souls hold a lot of emotions, and I was almost always at their mercy. One day, those emotions finally got the better of me, and the rest is history.”

“And you’re sure you’re out of it?”

“You saw how Gabriel acted when he came to visit me.”

Oboto did not want to ask the question, but she had to know. “How long have you dealt with this, Balthazar?”

“…How old am I again?”

Oboto pulled Balthazar into a hug and felt him shake as he started crying. She could not stop herself from shedding her own tears at the sight of her friend in such a state. She hated how her voice trembled as she asked, “We should get you out of England for a bit.”

If Balthazar heard her, he made no effort to show it.

“Yeah,” Oboto reassured herself, “I have to go to France on a job—a colleague needs help with a magic thing.”

“No…No souls?”

“No souls. I hope it’s a dragon, though. That would be cool.”

Balthazar gave a weak laugh. “Who’s the guy?”

“Avi Debroux.”

“Isn’t he the guy who—?”

“I mistook for Jamila’s boyfriend? Yes.”

Balthazar moved back to look Oboto in the eyes. “You know what? I am getting sick of the rain here.”

“Excellent. We’ll swing by your place tomorrow to get you ready. Just focus on sleeping right now.”

Balthazar lied down and did just that. He was relieved that he did not see Oboto’s soul behind his eyelids.