Published October 27, 2016 by

Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Chapter 11

Story Summary

Ethan is a soul in the Underworld with no memory of his life on Earth. He is bought and sold by various masters for centuries. Traveling from large industrial towns to scorching hot deserts. During his journey he picks up the skills, knowledge and magic to escape his enslavement. He runs with the intent of living a free life, but is pursued by agents until he's cornered on a remote mountain range. With little time left, Ethan begins to recount his life and masters in the hope of leaving a record of his existence. These are his memories.

A dungeon

After I'd lost all hope.

I found Alphonse decades later somewhere in between masters. Maybe it was after the crazy hag who'd scream at me if her house wasn't spotless, or perhaps just before an old man with a strange bread obsession, but it was a time when I'd become so used to this world that I no longer cried. No matter what anyone did to me I would just stand there and take it, because as Felix once advised, it's always easier to just do as they say.

One evening I was lying in a Soul Market dungeon somewhere in the east. I was trapped in that pit for days while waiting to be resold. Various customers seemed interested in my youthful face, but they quickly changed their minds after flipping through my thin record. And it didn't even contain the real horrifying stuff.

Those mortals obviously preferred fresh souls who were easily broken in, and nobody wanted used goods which may creep into their bedroom and slit their throat while they slept. Because as much as the soul trade tries to cover it up, it isn't a rare thing.

That underground basement was dark, damp, and the regular staff had already returned home taking the few lamps with them. I could faintly see the outline of the steel cage bars, and the other ghostly souls haphazardly shoved in around me. There must have been fifteen to twenty in each narrow cage, and I didn't even have enough space to stretch my legs. Every so often I would hear someone scream in their sleep, even though I thought it was impossible for dead people to dream.

"Ethan?" said a faint voice somewhere amongst the darkness.

I hadn't used that name in so long that it took me a moment to answer. I glanced over my shoulder to see a familiar soul staring at me through the bars of the cage next to my own.


I hadn't seen him since the day the Soul Market took us from Alistair's mansion, and I never expected to meet that guy again. When I woke up the next morning he was already gone, and I'm not sure if our meeting was real or just another delusion.

"It is you!" he said joyfully and his face lit up. I never thought that Alphonse would be happy to see me.

"I thought you ran away," I whispered.

"Got caught, they locked me up for days in a box. Couldn't tell up from down and the screaming was terrible." He paused like he was afraid to say more. "But I'm a good soul now. I don't try to run away."

"That's good Alphonse," I said kindly, but I noticed that there was something different about him. He seemed far more timid and anxious than the strong man who once used to threaten me.

I reached through the bars to hold his hand, and Alphonse happily twined his fingers around mine like a child. "What happened to you Alphonse?"

"You know, many things. Same shit that happens to everyone else. This is the Underworld." He nervously laughed. "I guess there aren't many masters out there like Alistair."

"Yes, I know." I recalled my own long list of terrible owners.

"I'm sorry about what happened to the master Ethan. I know how much you were into him."

"No, Alphonse, that was you."

"Really?" said Alphonse like he could no longer tell his own memories apart. "I do kind of wish that he hadn't died like that. Don't tell Mira, but sometimes I like to imagine that he's alive somewhere looking for us. It makes me happy for a moment, but then I remember the way things really are and how he's never coming back."

"I thought I saw Master once." I remembered the day in the desert when I chased after a delusion. "But of course it wasn't him."

"I saw Mira and Anya, or at least I think I did."

"Really Alphonse? Tell me more about them."

"Mira was working in a tavern where one of my old masters used to go. One day she got mad and smashed all the cups against the wall. I never saw her after that. And Anya..." He closed his mouth and his gaze fell to the floor. "Maybe I shouldn't tell you," he muttered.


"I don't want to make you sad Ethan."

"Tell me Alphonse," I demanded. "Please tell me what happened to Anya."

Alphonse locked up and tried to change the subject several times, but with some gentle persuasion he finally caved and told me everything.

It all happened ten years earlier in a similar Soul Market. For days Alphonse and another one hundred souls were left in storage to accumulate dust, until he heard voices from outside their prison.

"You have to be joking!" cried one of the mortal staff. "They want us to get rid of this many?"

"You know that we can't do shit about it," said another voice. "The market has been overstocked for months and the price of souls has hit rock bottom. It was only a matter of time."

"This was never in my contract!"

"Oh, it was there under clause twenty three. I can bring it down from the office now if you don't believe me Mr. Smith. I can read it out for you in front of everyone. I'm sure that they'd love to hear all the nitty gritty details of your very legitimate employment."

"Fine!" snapped Smith. "Have it your way. Let's just get this over already."

The door burst open and several men in gray suits filed in.

"Rise and shine dead guys," laughed one young man as he enthusiastically banged a steel pole against the cages to wake the souls up. "Today's gonna be somebody's lucky day."

"Which ones do you want?" asked Smith who was still hovering by the door.

"Let's just start with the most useless ones and then work our way up," answered another man.

"This girl talks to herself!"

"This old bastard is actually growing cobwebs!"

"This brat once bit me!"

"Bring them out!" ordered their boss.

One by one the staff began pulling souls out of their cages and leading them down the dark corridor. Alphonse curiously watched them walk past, when he noticed one familiar face in the crowd. She'd only been two cages away from his, but he never realised who the soul was until it was too late.

"Anya?" whispered a bewildered Alphonse.

She jumped in shock and then turned to face him. Her hair was a mess, she was covered in grime, and her clothes hadn't been changed in decades. Her eyes widened in surprise and she open to her mouth to answer, but no sound came out like she'd forgotten how to form words.

At last Anya croaked a very strained "Alphonse," before one guy shoved her forward towards an empty storage room at the end of the hall.

He stopped and examined Alphonse too. His fingers reached out for the cage door, but then muttered "suppose that's enough," before turning away.

They shoved all the souls into the end room and bolted the door shut. Alphonse wondered what they were doing, but he wasn't concerned about Anya's welfare, because there was no way that they could destroy her, or so he stupidly thought.

And then the screaming started.

There were high pitched cries of pain lasted for hours, along with bright flashes of light that leaked through the cracks in the door. The handle rattled once or twice like someone was desperately trying to escape, but eventually the screaming stopped and the Soul Market agents emerged. One man's shirt was ripped and another guy had scratches across his face like he was attacked by a wild animal.

"I didn't sign up for this," Smith angrily muttered as he stormed down the corridor.

"Look at the brightside, Smithy," hummed one young man who didn't look the slightest bit unnerved. "That's thirty less sinners that you have to look after."

"You should have joined the army Norris," said someone else. "You looked like you actually enjoyed doing that."

Norris maliciously grinned back. It's guys like that who make our existence so much more painful.

Alphonse looked into the room once they were gone, but it was empty and there was no sign of Anya.

Their disappearance mystified him for days, until the agent named Norris noticed his unusual fascination with the end room.

"I'll let you in on a secret big boy," Norris said with a grin while casually leaning against the cage.

The very moment that Alphonse walked closer, Norris grabbed his shirt and violently pulled him forward until he was pressed up against the bars.

"The guys who went through that door ain't ever coming back," he hissed into Alphonse's ear. "But I can take you down there if you like. Just the two of us. And I can show you what I did to your pretty little friend with the long hair."

Alphonse was too frightened to move and stood there frozen until Norris let go and strolled away with a laugh. After that incident my old friend was too afraid to leave the corner of his cage. Fortunately he was sold to a gentle old lady a few days later.

"Don't you see Ethan," said Alphonse on the night that I met him. "They keep preaching that we're trapped here for eternity, but they can actually destroy us whenever they feel like it."

"I don't know Alphonse." Until then I never knew that a soul could actually disappear. "Maybe they just put them into boxes or moved them out another door."

"But there was no other door! I don't know how they did it, but it was like they made them vanish into thin air. And it makes sense! How else can they continue to bring in hundreds of souls every day without us overrunning Hell."

I sat there quietly while pondering his words. His story seemed unbelievable, but I had seen enough of the Underworld to accept that such a thing could be true.

"So she's gone forever then?" I asked.

"I'm sorry Ethan, I know how close the two of you were."

"Don't be," I said with spite that hadn't existed in my voice a century earlier. "She deserved it. I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up somewhere even worse than Hell."

"How can you say that? I thought you were best friends."

"Friends? Even you should have worked out that there's no such thing as real friends in this place. There's only shitty people who use you to get what they want."

Alphonse sat their silently for a moment like he didn't know how to answer. "You use to be different Ethan, how did you turn out like this?"

"I don't expect you to understand," I said coldly and let go of his hand. "You ran away Alphonse. You never saw what happened to us."

01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 5051 ,52,53