Published October 02, 2016 by

Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Chapter 10

Summary: Ethan is a soul doomed to spend eternity as a slave in Hell for reasons he can't remember. After centuries of torment he finally snaps and goes on the run from those who enslaved him. Can he escape and become more than a regular soul, or is he doomed to spend an eternity in The Underworld? 

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A desert

Somewhere between the beginning and now.

Even after he died, I thought I saw Alistair several times over the years. I would often see him amongst a crowd of strangers, only to walk closer and discover a different man with a similar face. I suppose that a small part of me didn't want to admit that he wasn't coming back.

The last time I did that to myself was when I was traveling through an oasis in the south. There the days were bright, and the locals dwelled in ancient buildings made from sand and mud.

In those days, I belonged to a traveling merchant whose name I can't remember. He won me in a game of cards and then lost me again soon afterwards. All I can recall is a hairy man who tossed me his old shawl and asked me to take care of his horse. He wasn't bad for a master, so it's a shame that we parted ways so quickly.

Once, we stopped in a bazaar where he gambled and drank the days away. I found a crumbling well on the outskirts of town and filled a rusty metal bucket with water to give to his horse.

The trip back was difficult and the full bucket was almost too much for my weak arms. I slowly lugged it through the desert while desperately gripping on with both hands. My bare feet continuously slipped through the fine sand. I almost tumbled several times, sloshing water over the dunes, until I made it back to the center of town.

The narrow alleys were crammed with wooden stalls selling gold trinkets and silk. The streets were crowded with living people sweating profusely under the scorching sun. Rich men and women looked down at me with disdain, not to mention the thieves patiently waiting in the shadows for any chance to rob them.

I wrapped the second hand shawl around my head to hide my translucent skin. There are plenty of rural arseholes who get a kick out of tormenting souls. I didn't have time to play kick the dead guy.

There was a group of young soldiers loitering before a jewelry store. Their magenta uniforms stood out amongst the dull desert wear, and they seemed too bright and lively to have experienced any real fighting. Those kids were probably on their way to the Great Southern Front. Most of them would be ripped apart by demons in the upcoming days.

Some of them deserved it.

"Watch this," whispered one guy to his comrades. He closed his eyes and began to chant a mantra which was obviously magic. I never lost my interest in spells, so I crept a little closer to see what he would do.

A nearby table of gold trinkets violently shook, and several necklaces fell to the ground. The storekeeper seemed startled, but shrugged it off and picked them up like they'd been blown over by the wind.

The moment the storekeeper's back was turned, the young soldier leaned forward and snatched a gold pendant from a different display. No one seemed to notice the young man smugly deposit it into his pocket, and his friends turned away and did a terrible job of suppressing their cruel laughter.

Maybe if I had been kinder, or stupider, I would have told the storekeeper about their sneaky trick, but I doubted he would stop to listen to a soul. Instead, I found myself wondering what my old master Alistair would have thought about magic scholars using their talents for warfare and theft. A pacifist like him would have never approved, and he'd have done something to stop them instead of just standing there with a rusty water bucket.

And then I saw him.

Alistair was standing at the end of the alley watching them too. Dressed in a white shirt and dark pants like he once used to wear, with a thin shawl draped over his head to protect his pale skin.

I only saw his face for a moment, but it was grim and expressionless like the days when he spent hours staring out windows.

As quickly as I saw him he turned and disappeared into the crowd like a ghost. There was nothing to prove that he'd been there at all. Perhaps it was an illusion created by my broken mind, but I instantly let go of the bucket and dashed after him.

I frantically shoved my way through the crowd and ignored the cries from the shoppers I splashed. All I could think of was finally meeting my master again.

For years I imagined that his death was a lie.

Those Soul Market agents made a mistake, and Alistair was actually alive somewhere fighting for the king. No matter how strong or ruthless the opponent, he'd somehow pull through with his invincible magic skills. There was nothing that could kill him and my master would live forever.

Alistair was just too busy to find us, that's all, but suddenly he was in that bazaar and together we could find Mira, Alphonse, Anya, and Felix. We'd happily go back to the mansion and live together for the rest of eternity. Everything could be like it was before, and all the terrible things that happened could be forgotten.

I caught flashes of his long blonde hair in the distance. I ran as fast as I could, but the gap between us grew wider and wider until he vanished amongst the living.

That didn't stop me from running. I dashed through that town past palaces and slums. I scrambled over walls and crashed into small children playing on the street.

It was the closest I'd been to seeing him in decades and I refused to let go. I was determined to search every inch of that desert until the Soul Market dragged me back to be punished.

Eventually I reached and ancient stone bridge leading out of town, full of merchants and soldiers traveling back and forth. I climbed the crumbling stone bridge post and examined every face, but my kind old master was nowhere to be seen.

And then the truth hit me like a punch in the face.

I'm such a fool, were the words that revolved around in my head for hours. Even after so much time had passed, I couldn't believe that I'd gone chasing after delusions again.

Crazed laughter burst from my mouth, and if souls could shed tears they would have spilled down my face.

What did I think was going to happen? Even if the guy I saw had been real, I would have cornered him only to discover another lookalike. Master Alistair was dead and never coming back.

I collapsed against the stone wall and quietly sobbed into my shawl. Watching the living people walk past until I mustered the will to go back for more water. I had a new master to serve, and plenty more after that, until I'd one day find a master who would change everything.

I never saw the real Alistair again. As the years past I gradually began to accept that he was gone.

But Alphonse was different.

I met him once more.

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