"A Dirty Soul"

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
What if we could consume human souls like alcohol? What if people could sell there souls for money. This short story explores the ideas of what if...

Submitted: October 23, 2011

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Submitted: October 23, 2011

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"A Dirty Soul"

… I tell the bartender as I sit down at the counter. My hands rummage through the lining of my pockets and spill its contents out onto the tabletop; three crumpled dollar bills, two dimes, a nickel, four pennies, three quarters, and some lint. She swipes it all off the counter, even the lint, and counted to see if it was enough. Inside one of the crumpled dollars, she picks out a wallet-sized picture of a boy and a girl on a swing set and tosses it back towards me.

“Your kids?” she asked.

“No just a picture of an old friend.” I reply. My eyes trace the frozen smile of the little girl back to better times. It’s funny how beautiful the past seems when you’re older, back in those days when I couldn’t wait to grow up and leave it all behind. I can still hear her soft giggles in my ears as we sat on those swings and kicked our legs as high as we could go, pushing ourselves into the air. But no matter how hard I tried she was always just a little higher than me. Then when we were at our highest we would jump off and come crashing down.

The bartender pours the dark soul into a shot glass. I give her a smile and she spits into the glass in reply, and then pushes it towards me. A white smear of mucus floats on the surface swirling around itself. In the dim light, my reflection is trapped on the clear cut surface. They said this city was supposed to be the future; they even called it a man-made heaven on earth. Maybe at one time it was, but now it’s just a rotten corpse of its former self.

Ten years ago, they said they discovered a new source of fuel, one that burned cleaner and hotter than any fossilized dinosaur ever could. It could power a whole city for a days, or run a car for a year, and the best part of all, it was cheap and abundant. Then we learned the truth that the new miracle fuel, actually consisted of a human soul. We were disturbed at first, but in the face of ever rising prices for food, gas, and power, we succumbed to our weaker selves.

Eventually the soul became something more than just a fuel source. It became a drug, something that could momentarily grant a person’s deepest desire within themselves, as if choosing the perfect dream to live in. And who could deny such a dream, especially in a world like this.

The warm edge of the glass touches my lips and down it went. It feels like acid burning down my throat, then once its inside I can feel it fighting its way back up like bad meat. But I keep it in, and little by little, I begin to slip away, not caring about the trivialities of the world and all its endless problems.

I allowed myself to be swallowed in the life I wish that could be. We are both sitting on a lonely bench after school, hand in hand, her head on my shoulder as we watch the world pass us by. We would talk about little things, complaining about how boring things were at home, and then we would move on to bigger things, like what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. It was the perfect world with just her and I, but eventually the dream began to slip away.

Bits of reality began to break through my perfect little world. We began to slowly drift apart, till she was at one end of the bench and I sat on the other. I wanted to get up and walk back towards her and hold her hand, but a fear gripped my chest and the words slipped from my mind. I wanted so much to sit beside her once more, but I can’t, and all I can do is steal little glances of her, blushing when I caught her looking back at me. Then a blue SUV would drive into the school parking lot, and I would watch as she stood up to leave. I wanted to call out her name, I wanted to wave goodbye, but all I could do was watch as she got into her car and slowly drive away. Back then there was always a tomorrow to try again. I never thought those days would run out.

Someone’s hand touches my shoulder. “May I need to remind you? Time is running out.” He sits down next to me in his flaming red tie and smooth black suit. “A defiled virgin on the rocks,” He tells the bartender, who nods her head in reply. Then he glances down at his gold wrist watch. “Six hours, six minutes, and…” he pauses for a moment, “six seconds left.” He says with a satisfied grin.

The bartender puts a blood red drink in front of him. He picks it up and takes a sip. “Now that’s a good drink. Still got some of that fight in her, just the way I like it,” he says, and then turns to face me. “I’m sure I don’t have to ask, but you do have my money, don’t you?”

My palms begin to sweat. “Not yet, I just need a little more time.”

“Don’t we all.” He says swirling his glass with an amused look. “But there are other ways to pay back your debt.” His eyes work their way down my body then slowly back up. I shiver and little bumps begin to prickle up my skin. “Oh don’t worry; I’m not into physical things.” But then he began to swirl the liquid in his cup as if playing with the idea.

“Instead, how about a new deal, something better than money,” a red tinged smile forms at the corner of his lips, “a soul for a soul.” I stare at residue of the liquefied soul at the bottom of my cup. “All you have to do is bring the poor soul to me and I’ll…. fill out the paper work.” The sweat drips down his glass, leaving a small dotted streak. “Oh and one more thing, they must go with you willingly. Forcing people tends to leave a slight bitterness. Don’t know why, but that last bit of them always seems to ruin the taste. Well…” he takes another sip “for some at least.”

He pushes his drink in front of me. “I’ll leave the rest for you, but I wouldn’t take too long,” he says as he taps his watch and walks away. The red drink touches my lips and I feel her terror and pain well up within me, I can’t hold it in, and then the liquid soul pours out onto the floor.

When I wake, remnants of regurgitated souls drip from my face as the damp walls of the alleyway guide me home. Blue light leaks through the bottom of my apartment door. On the couch in the middle of the dark room she sits there washed in the light of the TV. She doesn’t notice me enter. My weight falls next to her pulling her close. Her head falls on my shoulder, but I know she doesn’t mean it.

On the screen, an animated coyote riding a rocket chases after a bird with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other licking his lips. He watches as he passes by it and then looks back, and then slams into a wall ahead. The bird catches up and stops in front of the outline in the wall sticks out his tongue, “beep, beep,” then runs away.

About a year ago, curiosity and desperation got the best of me as I strolled through the red light district with those lost moments of her on my mind. The pink neon lights beckoned me into one of the smoke filled brothels that promised cheap and easy sex. The old Asian lady at the door gave me one glance and already knew it was my first time. She handed me a menu with rows of little faces and their prices underneath, and said “pick one.” Of course I picked the one that looked the most like the girl I used to know.

The old lady guided me through the make shift stalls where hollow moans and the rhythmic squeaking of bedsprings shrieked from behind stained curtains. A heavy odor of sweat and piss filled the air. I hated myself with every step I took, and twice I almost convinced myself to turn around and run for the door, but still I still my desire lead on.

In the last stall at the back of the room, behind the curtain I saw her there on the stained mattress on the floor. She looked like a dirty doll; her soulless body was still dripping from the last man that used her. The light was gone from her eyes. “Poor thing, sold her soul to pay off her boyfriend’s debt then left here to rot. Well, have fun.” The old lady said then closed the curtains behind me. Her footsteps faded in the shadows and were replaced by the sound of my lustful heart.

At first I did nothing, unsure of what to do next. The desire swelled up within me and my body began to move. My hand glided over her sticky sweat covered body, she really did look like her only a bit older and with a few more scars, then my hands stopped as it traced over a familiar little birthmark on her elbow. It looked exactly the same as the one she used to have. I rolled her on her back and wiped the tangled hair that covered her face. It was her. For a moment I thought this was just another dream or nightmare. I wanted to look away, I wanted to do something, anything to help her, but in the end I still couldn’t help myself.

After that night, I promised I would save her from that place. But like everything else, it always came down to money. With nowhere else to turn I had no choice but to go to the bank, the only place in a city where a person could go to get money, in exchange for mortgaging their soul.

Now, I guide her to the bedroom like so many times before and gently lay her on the bed. Her head is turned still facing the TV through the open doorway. She feels dry inside, but the hunger inside of me keeps me going. I want her eyes to see me, I want to hear her voice call out my name, I want to feel her arms around me, embracing me, letting me know that everything is going to be ok. I turn her head towards me so I can see my reflection in her eyes. But nothing’s there, only an empty gaze like a doll staring out from a dusty shelf. Her face is blank, there is no pain, no tears, no smile, no sign of sadness or joy, there is just nothing, nothing at all. I finish inside of her and the guilt starts sinking in.

I lay beside her, my heavy panting fills the air. My arms try to wrap around her as I whisper her name in her ear. But there is no reply. I squeeze her in my arms and I can feel the warmth from my body slipping away. It’s my fault that she ended up this way. If only I had spoken to her back then, maybe things could’ve been different. I close my eyes and in the darkness I can still see her tear stricken face as she sat alone on the bench after school way back then.

Her arms were tucked against herself and her hands tightly gripped her elbows. I sat on the other end of the bench like I had always done, but that day more than anything I wanted to walk up to her and comfort her in any way I could. But every time I tempted myself to move from that spot, my legs wouldn’t budge as if they had grown roots and firmly planted themselves against the ground. It took me while to finally build up the courage to rip myself from my spot and walk towards her. As I stood from my spot and approached her I could see her deep brown eyes watch my every stubborn step as I got closer and closer. But when I was almost there, someone else came and sat next to her, putting his arm around her shoulder. Something inside of me snapped, but I could still see her eyes watching me, but all I could see was that other guy, and I lost the words to say. I kept on walking, right pass her and then continued walking as far away from her as I could go. That was the last time I saw her, but the way she looked at me with those deep brown eyes had always stayed with me, forever etched into my mind.

I put back on my clothes and guide her back to the couch. My lips press against her forehead and I say “everything is going to be ok,” and then I make my way out the door.

The rusted metal chains jingle as the flat rubber seat bends under my weight. The ground softly rocks back and forth beneath my feet. I close my eyes and listen as the metal squeaks above me as the man’s words echo in my mind that time is running out.

A hollow sound of rubber bounces towards me. I open my eyes and see a red ball roll to my feet. I look up and see a little girl running towards me. For a moment I think it’s some distant memory of her, but I realize she is someone else.

I tap the ball with my foot and it rolls towards her. She smiles at me and says “thank you.” Then the ball passes her and she laughs as she turns around to chase after it. My mind returns to forgotten memories as my eyes stare out at the tall buildings of golden glass standing like pillars of light towards the sky surrounded in a sea of decaying buildings of the past.

A red ball rolls to my feet once more; she is standing a little ways away with a big smile on her face. I look around to see where her parents are, but no one is here, only dried up patches of grass rippling in the wind. I toss the ball back to her, it bounces on the ground in front of her, but this time she catches it. A victorious smile appears on her face.

“Where are you parents?” I ask

She sways a little as she hugs the ball and says, “Mommy’s at home.”

“So, why are you here?”

“Someone came to the door, and momma told me to go play outside.”

My feet rock against the earth as I gently swing back and forth. She puts the ball down and sits on the swing next to me. She shakily sways back and forth, pushing her feet off the ground whenever they reach. The chains rattle above her. I chuckle to myself. “Try this.” I say, as push off the ground and point my legs in the direction my body is moving. She copies me and has big smile on her face. I feel happy for the first time in a long time.

Someone waves from a bench on the hill above us; I squint my eyes trying to get a better look then I realize it’s him, the man from the bar in his red tie and black suit and now cool sunglasses. I make my way towards him, the sound of chains squeaking behind me.

“I didn’t really think you would do it,” he says

“What?” I reply. He nods his head towards the swing set.

“A soul for a soul,” he says again with a smile.

“No, not her, she has nothing to do with this.”

“Well do you have my money then?”

I stare at a candy wrapper stuck in a brown patch of grass on the ground and say “no.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“I just need a little more time.”

“Please, I could give you another year and you still wouldn’t have it.” The grass nods in the wind. “But what I really want right now is her,” he says pointing with his eyes at the little girl.

“Why don’t you go and do it yourself then?” I ask

He shows me his hand, back and front. “See clean, unlike yours, Bank policy, they have to come to me, I can’t go to them. But you on the other hand are not part of the system… yet.”

“No, I won’t do it.”

“Hmm” he says “let’s see if you change your mind.” He pulls out a small bottle filled with white smoke from his jacket. Something feels as if it fell out of my chest. He sees the look on my face. “I thought you would recognize her, the little soul of the poor girl you have cooped up in your apartment, tsk such a waste. I was planning to show you this from keeping you from running away at the last minute, but this seems as good a time as any. How about this then, both you and your girlfriend are free and clear, all you have to do is get that little girl down there to sign this form.” He pulls out an electronic tablet from his pocket with a digital form on top. I give him a look. He smiles, “What can I say, fortune favors the prepared.”

A part of me wants to run away as fast as I can. But all I can think about is her, still sitting on the couch in front of the TV, probably with a streak of drool sliding down her chin. Then I imagine her smile, whispering my name in my ear, holding me in her arms as I hold her, the soft sound of her laugher as we roll in bed together. I don’t notice the little girl jump off the swing walking towards us.

“Mister, I can’t do it by myself, can you push me, pwetty pwease.” She says giving me a puppy eyed look. The man in the suit smiles and opens his coat just enough for me to see the bottle tucked away in his pocket.

I hate myself as I say “sure, but would you like to play a fast little game with me first?” She gives me a curious look. “You’re going to be my business partner and we’re going to finish a business deal.” The man in the suit hands her the electronic pad and an inkless pen.

“Just sign here” he says to her with a grin, tapping his long pale finger on the line by the x. Then she looks up at me, as if asking if it’s ok. I nod slowly, and then her little hand fumbles with the pen. The plastic tip touches the screen and a little black dot appears underneath. Images begin to flash in my mind; the little girl’s big proud smile as she catches the ball, her soft laughter as she sat on the swing next to me. Then images of the brothel appear in my head and at the end of the room behind the curtain I can see the little girl lying on the stained mattress on the floor. The light is gone from her eyes.

“Stop.” I hear myself yell. They both look up at me with surprise. The grin is slipping from his face.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” he says

I nod, “I know”

“Very well then,” he says with a touch of anger in his voice. He takes the electronic pad and pen from her hands. “Sorry, maybe in a few more years,” and gives her a wink.

She looks up at me with a confused look. “Don’t worry about it,” I say. “How about I push you on the swing now?”

Her face lit up into a smile. “OK” She holds my hand as we walk down the hill. I can hear him tapping his watch with his finger as we walk away. My hand gives hers a little squeeze, then she squeezes back in reply, then looks up at me with a smile.

I push her towards the setting sun as she clings tightly to the metal chains. She laughs as she yells “higher, higher.” I want to push her with all my might, I want her to touch the sky, I want her to fly away from all of this towards a better life. But a part of me is afraid she might fall, so I hold myself back just a little. But still I can hear her laugh as she yells “higher, higher.”

We both sit on the swings side by side breathing heavily while rocking back and forth, her legs dangling off the seat towards the ground. Somewhere a woman calls out “GIRL WHERE YOU AT?” The little girl freezes for a moment, and then starts kicking her feet.

“Maybe we can play again tomorrow.” She says staring at the ground.

“Sure, I’ll like that.” I say

“Ok,” she says with a smile and slides off the flat rubber seat. The chains rattle as the empty piece of rubber bounces around in the air. I watch her as she skips towards one of the buildings with the sludge marked scars and big sagging hips. She waves from the doorway then disappears inside.

The rattling of the chains stop as the man in the suit takes her spot. He has an amused look on his face as he gently sways back and forth over the ground.

“You know, she’s not going to remember you,” he says.

“Maybe, maybe not, it doesn’t matter.”

“You can’t save everyone.”

“But I can try, can’t I?”

“Not everyone wants to be saved.”

I glance at the bottle in his jacket. “If I go with you willingly, will you give her back her soul?”

“I suppose I will have to, won’t I?”

“Why?”

“Like I told you before, that last bit of a person can make all the difference, and a redeemed soul beats a dirty soul any day.”

We watch the city burn in streaks of hazy golden light. “Do you think there is a heaven?” I ask.

He shrugs his shoulders and says with a tired smile, “I don’t know, the only heaven I’ve ever known is in a bottle, and hells right at the bottom of it.” The sun sinks behind one of the once golden skyscrapers, but now a cold dark tower stabbing into the sky, engulfing us in its shadow. His watch begins to beep, beep, beep…

“I guess it’s time?”

“I guess it is.”

In a dimly lit room, she wakes up drowning in the blue light of the TV. Something heavy is clinging on top of her. She moves and his arm falls off her shoulder. She looks at him and his eyes are glazed over in the TV’s light. She stands up and doesn’t notice a piece of paper fall to the floor as she walks towards the door and leaves.

The letter read:

I don’t know if you remember me, but I have remembered you. For years I’ve wondered if things could have been different, if only I had talked to you back then. But I guess we will never know. All I can do now is wish that wherever you are, wherever you go, you are living a safe, happy, and fulfilling life. And maybe one day, I hope you might remember me, like I have remembered you.

-A Dirty Soul


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