Published September 22, 2017 by

Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Chapter 36

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.








The Front Lines

Once everyone was gone.

Just as Oscar predicted, Escape never returned. I found only one guy who claimed to have seen him on the day he disappeared.

"That lunatic was heading towards the front lines," shrugged a soul whose uniform had become more holes than cloth. "Ranting and screaming at people to let him through. But after that... nothing."

"So you saw him get destroyed?" I asked.

"Not exactly, but who can survive in a place like that," he laughed, then tossed another severed arm onto the bonfire.

I came to accept that perhaps Oscar was right and Escape had been destroyed. We were miles from civilization after all. There was nowhere to run.

Things had been almost tolerable when I had friends by my side, but without them, there was nothing to distract me from the horrors of war.



I gradually withdrew within myself (like I had so many times before) and became just another washed out ghost who roamed that depressing desert. Waiting for my end to come like it had to everyone else who I'd cared about.

"Hey, he's watching us again," hissed one young foot soldier to his friend. He subtly tilted his head in my direction as they continued to spar.

I was sitting in the sand by an open square. Knees drawn up to my chest. Lethargically watching on without bothering to be subtle.

The friend bit his lip, then quickly turned away like I also uneased him. "Don't let one creepy soul distract you," he snapped, then lunged at the other guy. "Whatever you do, don't take your eyes off the enemy!"

There were dozens of soldiers practicing around them. Most had arrived a day earlier. Awkwardly swinging their swords like they'd never entered a battle.

Almost all the recruits I saw when I first got there were dead. The ones who remained had lost all their optimism. Weeks earlier they'd laughed and bragged about how they were going to change the Underworld. But as time passed, their faces became grim and lifeless. Like they'd seen and done too much to ever go back.

Sometimes I found people I knew, in the faces of those mortals or souls. Like I was desperately searching for some hint of familiarity amongst all the strangers.

"Alphonse?" I said to one large soul who resembled my old friend. His size and hair were identical, but when he turned to face me...I was looking at a stranger.

"I'm sorry," I muttered with my head down and eyes fixed on the sand by his feet. "I thought that you were someone else."

"Again!" he cried. "How many times are you gonna keep doing that?"

"I'm sorry! It won't happen agai-"

"Creep," he spat and shoved me to the ground.

I just sat there. Feeling nothing but shame for my stupid mistakes, but it wouldn't be the last time.

My feelings were insignificant. Nobody cared. To the mortals in charge we were nothing more than a number. My tasks didn't change and I was sent to clean up the battlefield alone as the last remaining member of my group. It was tough on my own, and everything which used to seem easy suddenly took five times longer.

Then one day I found him.

The short commander who I thought would never lose.

My new idol was at the bottom of a small crater with his eyes wide open, several holes in his stomach, and limbs contorted at unnatural angles.

Surrounding him were the bodies of twenty Heavenly soldiers. He at least put of a decent fight before they ended his life.

I'd thought that he was different. That the commander could beat anyone and survive until the end, but he lay there defeated like everyone else who I'd ever believed in.

"Crap," I hissed and looked away. Trying my best to convince myself that he didn't matter.

I took hold of the closest body, a large demon twice my size. I fruitlessly pulled at his feet and attempted to shoulder his weight, but as much as I struggled, it was impossible to get him into the cart.

I screamed in frustration and let him fall to the ground. Kicking the body once before collapsing onto the bloody sand. Allowing myself to give into the despair that I'd tried so hard to fight away.

I was alone.

I was so bloody alone.

"Need help?" said a friendly voice and a ghostly hand took hold of the corpse's' legs.

I removed my hands from my face and looked up to examine the new arrival.

It was Spots.

He was covered in sand, wearing the same dusty uniform as myself, but there was no doubt that it was the soul who stood beside Foreman and helped berate me.

Without thinking, I jumped to my feet and violently shoved Spots to the ground. Furiously grabbing anything that I could get my hands on. Rocks, debris, body parts, and began throwing them at the bastard in a sad attempt to bury him.

"Wow, wow, wow." Spots quickly unburied himself and backed away. "There's no need for that." He grabbed hold of his shirt and pointed to the number stamped across it. "I'm not here to hurt you! I'm B147 now! We're both on the same side, right?"

I stared at him while wondering if it was all just a new mind game he'd created to hurt me, but there was no one else around and I needed his help.

The rock dropped from my hands. I then grabbed the body's shoulders and Spots grabbed the legs.

"Funny, right?" said Spots. "The two of us meeting again after all these years, and in a place like this. I never thought I'd see your sorry arse again Gir- I mean..A272," he said while reading the number painted across my chest. "What a story this will make."

With our combined strength we managed to pull the body into the cart, then moved to grab another.

"So, where you been all these years?" he asked, but I ignored him. "Don't want to talk then." He smiled. "I respect that. I mean, you never were a big talker back then. Unlike that friend of yours. Didn't she have a mouth that never stopped once it got started."

I let the body drop from my hands. "How could you do it!" I snapped. "How could you worship an arsehole like Foreman?"

Spots looked right at me. He was quiet for a moment, as though carefully crafting the right answer. "It wasn't like I... or any one of us... really wanted to be like that. Deep down anyway. But we didn't have a choice. It was either eat or be eaten in that place."

"What sort of crap is that! You all had a choice!"

"And end up as one of that guy's victims? Are you insane?"

"You never had to go that far! It was like you were all... enjoying yourselves!"

"Ah, perhaps, we did a little." He nervously scratched his head, then jumped when he noticed the rage in my eyes. "But only because the pain doesn't feel as bad when you're inflicting it on someone else."

"That's a weak excuse!"

"Maybe, but it's the only one I've got." He dragged the body back towards the cart. "You know that I never wanted things to end so badly for you, right? A milder punishment would have been enough, but Foreman was so insistent. He always loved obliterating anyone who tried to challenge him. He'd never stop until he'd crushed every ounce of your free will."

"And you did nothing to stop him."

"And what should I have done? If I got in his way, then it would have been me instead. That's how that place worked. Everyone knew that, including your friend. How come you're the only guy who refuses to get it?"

I bit my lip. I couldn't deny that he wasn't wrong, but I didn't want to admit it.

"That guy, Foreman," said Spots. He let out an exasperated sigh. "Wasn't so evil once you really got to know him."

"Whatever," I bitterly muttered.

"He was just like the rest of us, you know? He just wanted to be something more than a soul slave, but he couldn't, so he became something stuck between us and those brothers. Perhaps it changed him into that monster."

"I met him again." I had no intention of telling anyone of our meeting, but the words suddenly slipped out. "Years after the factory."

"Who?"

"Foreman."

"And?"

"He was broken."

"That's no surprise," Spots laughed without a hint of remorse.

"I thought he was your friend."

"I said that he wasn't so bad. That doesn't mean that I actually cared about his sorry arse."

Spots' eyes were so dead cold that I knew he couldn't be lying.

"Where did you go?" I picked up the body's shoulders and helped him lift it into the cart. "After they sold you."

"Became king of a small country and married thirty wives. Had a great time too, until I lost it all in a rigged game of cards. Now I'm working here to pay back my debts and exact my revenge."

"Really?"

"Of course not!" Spots scoffed. "What do you think happened to me?"

I thought of asking, but there was no need. His real story was no different from any other soul.

We worked together in silence and soon filled the cart with body parts. I should have returned to the bonfire, but I couldn't stand the place where Oscar was murdered. Instead I sat on the edge of the crater and watched the latest battle. Bright flashes of light and explosions lit up the sky in the distance. It would have been beautiful, if it didn't mean the death of thousands.

I expected Spots to soon disappear, but he sighed and sat down beside me. Occupying the same place not as enemies, but equals.

"Hey, Spots."

"What?"

"Can you tell me one of your stories about life on Earth?"

"Alright." Spots tapped his fingers against his knees. "There is one story that I've been dying to tell." He paused for a moment as though collecting his thoughts. "Once, long long ago, there was a mortal man who lived in a small village in a tiny hut. Inside that hut was also a beautiful woman and four small children."

"So they were a family?"

"Maybe, but they were too poor to care about such things. They had nothing, and then one day the food ran out. The children complained of their hunger, so the man set out to find something to eat. He walked for hours until he encountered a magician on the side of the road. A man in a gray suit who could make seeds sprout into flowers in the palm of his hand."

"Like magic?"

"Exactly like magic. Hungry my friend, that man said with a large smile. Fear not, because I can get you anything that you possibly desire. Just sign here on this dotted line and it will be yours. Does that sound familiar, soul number A272?"

"No."

"Well it should." Spots winked. "The man knew not to trust men who promised impossible things, but it was either make a deal with a devil or watch everyone around him starve." There was a hint of bitterness in his voice. "The man signed the contract, and in exchange the magician handed over a large bag of seeds. No different from any that he'd seen before, but they immediately turned into giant turnips once he returned home. How wonderful! The children cried. Now we can eat for weeks."

I laughed at the stupidity of his words, but Spots ignored me and continued.

"Their joy brought warmth to his heart, and the man went to bed that evening knowing that all was well. But once he fell asleep, he never woke up in that world again. And that, soul number A272." His eyes looked directly into mine. "Is the only memory I have that the Soul Market couldn't erase."

The laughter died in my throat. I silently sat there and tried to process his words. Searching his face for any hint of deception. I had long worked out that almost all of Spots' stories had been blatant lies, but I found myself wishing that at least that one was real.

"How about you?" Spots asked. "Do you remember anything from Earth?"

"No."

"Not even a little?"

"There's nothing."

"Do you ever want to know who you were back then?"

I wasn't sure how to answer, so I didn't. I'd spent decades wondering and imagining what sort of person I could have been, but I had to accept that my memories were all gone.

"Spots, do you know where we go after this world?"

"It depends who you ask." He shrugged. "Some believe that we simply disappear from existence, others believe that there are other worlds beyond this one. There are some people out there who think that you can even be reborn as someone else. As stupid as that sounds."

"Do you think I'll remember." I thought of the way Oscar screamed as he was destroyed. "When they erase me from this place?"

"Who knows," Spots laughed. "No souls ever come back to tell the story, do they?"

I stood up, brushed the dirt from my uniform, and combed my fingers through my hair. Gathering all my remaining courage. "Well, I think it's time to find out."






Chapter: 
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

 
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