Published October 15, 2017 by

Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Chapter 38

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 Hotel

Thirty Years Later.

A young soul in an immaculate black suit dashed down a dark corridor. Eyes wide in terror, well greased hair quickly unraveling. He kept nervously glancing over his shoulder, like some terror would spring out to consume him, but there was nothing there but rusty pipes and crumbling stone walls.

He didn't slow down until he reached the boiler room.

Relief crossed his face for one moment (and the fool actually laughed) before his right leg suddenly froze like it was glued to the floor.

He lunged forward. Then quickly regained his balance before falling. Frantically tugging on his leg which refused to budge.

"And where do you think you're going?" I asked from the steel walkway above him.

His gaze shot upwards and his mouth dropped open in horror. Eyes flickering between my bored expression, and the other four souls laughing beside me.

That idiot made strange choking sounds (as though trying to form words) but his fear made it impossible for any sound to come out.

I leaped from the railing and landed on the ground before him without faltering. Then slowly and steadily strolled towards the soul. A long drawn out approach was the best way to increase their fear. "Somebody's been doing things they aren't supposed to," I sang. "Haven't they, Mr. Boilerman?"

"Please," he begged like he wasn't yet broken enough. "There must be some mistake!"

My hand hit him with just enough force to knock him onto his back. I then stepped onto his face to hold him down.

"A mistake, huh?" I laughed.

"Of course!" he cried and struggled against my foot.

"Then it's a shame that I was told that it was you who's been attempting to undermine me. That it was you who's been disrespecting orders. And that it was you who's been holding secret meetings behind my back."

"No, no, I'd never do that," Mr. Boilerman muttered into the stone floor like the spineless coward he was.

"Is that so?" I pointed to a bald toothless soul back on the railing. "Then why is it that Mr. Doorman up there seems to think otherwise? He told me that he saw you meet with the cleaning group on the roof yesterday evening. Except you weren't a cowering mess yesterday. You were….. How did you put it, Mr. Doorman?"

"Shooting his mouth off about becoming king of us all," replied my minion.

Mr. Boilerman stopped struggling under my foot and froze.

"I'm very hurt," I said with fake disappointment. "And after how generous I've been towards you."

"You're nothing but generous!" Mr. Boilerman angrily spat back. "You're a self-centered power hungry maniac who cares only for himself! After all my years in Hell, I've never met a soul as fucked up as you!"

His words stung more than I wanted to admit and my rage flared. Without stopping to think, I leaned down to grab his neck, but the movement was just to distract everyone from the small crystal which slipped from my sleeve. It landed upon the second chalk diagram that I'd drawn on the stone, and all of a sudden magical symbols began to glow gold.

I jumped back to avoid the small explosion, but it threw Mr. Boilerman into the air and set his clothing ablaze. He landed on the ground with a thud. Face frozen in shock even though his body was fine.

"Take him away!" I barked to the souls on the walkway.

They jumped down and took hold of his limbs.

Just like the rest of us, they'd been given ridiculous names such as Mr. Dishwasher, or Ms. Chambermaid. Everyone of them twisted pieces of shit who loved watching others suffer. There was no real love between us (some of them I even despised) and I only allowed them to stand beside me because of the power it created.

"Shove him into one of the water tanks!" I ordered. "It doesn't matter if it's full or empty. Let's see if that will make him reconsider ever stepping out of line again."

"Screw you!" Boilerman screamed at me followed by a long string of profanities. "One day someone's gonna destroy you for all the crap you inflicted on us."

"Really now. I highly doubt that." My voice was as cold as ice, despite my unease. "Maybe an extra week in that tank will help change your mind."

I stood there and laughed like it was nothing as they dragged him away. But as soon as everyone was gone, my mask of confidence crumbled, and I collapsed against the wall.

I was exhausted.

I never wanted to become like the bastards who once tormented me, but I knew no other way to protect myself. If I was in charge, then the other souls couldn't hurt me. If I had power over them, then they could be utilized to make my work easier. If I treated them like crap, then I could offload my own problems.

It was surprisingly easier than I expected.

After suffering at the hands of Foreman and several shitty masters, I had inevitably become an expert in mind games and torment. I inflicted the same pain that I'd been dealt in the past, and found myself repeating Foreman's old lines word for word. "That mortal may own you, but down here I'm your master," I would say to scared souls as they sobbed in the dark.

But no matter how hard I tried to forget my own morals and become an emotionless doll, my selfish actions ate away at me until I hated myself.

I was scum. A corrupted waste of existence that belonged in the Underworld.

"He deserved it," I said in an attempt to trick myself into feeling better, but it barely worked.

I composed myself, then picked up the two crystals on the floor. One for the explosion, and the other for the freezing charm. I slipped them into my pocket and scraped my shoe against the chalk circle. Trying my best to camouflage it amongst the other grime on the stone.

The few spells I knew helped to enforce my authority.

The other souls knew nothing of magic and were easily fooled by a few party tricks. To those idiots, the magic seemed to appear out of nowhere. Making them far too frightened to dare challenge me.

All except Mr. Boilerman.

I could tell from the look in his eyes that he knew something was amiss. I had no choice but to crush his fighting spirit before he destroyed everything.

There was one rusty steel door in the corner of the room. Scratched and bent from decades of neglect. Behind it lay a narrow service staircase. Submerged in darkness without a single lantern to light the way.

I climbed the rusty iron stairs several floors before stopping in front of another small door. I brushed down my black suit and fixed my hair before I quietly slipped through.

Outside was a hotel foyer which had seen better days. The once glimmering red tiles were scratched, the ivory paint was flaking from the walls, and dusty crystals chandeliers adorned a tall ceiling.

Several souls pushed carts overflowing with suitcases. Their black suits and skirts frayed and faded with age. They quickly looked away as soon as I entered. Several of them even went out of their way to avoid me like I was an infectious disease.

I lunged forward and grabbed the arm of one small soul who attempted to dash away. His childish face contorted in fear as I yanked him closer.

"What's with this wall?" I pointed to a crack as large as my hand. "I told you to repair it yesterday, yet it still looks like crap."

"B..But Mr. Fixit said-"

"I don't care what that idiot said! Is it your job to take orders from me or him?"

"Of...of's you...and….and...and," he stuttered.

"And who?" I snapped. "Out with it already!"

"I trust all is well," said a voice from behind me. I didn't even need to look to tell who it was.

It was our master. The hotel owner.

Our master was a large balding man with a small mustache. He viewed himself above walking, and instead sat in a wheelchair as two souls served him cheese and ham from silver platters. He refused to acknowledge that he'd grown several suit sizes over the last decade. Expensive shirt buttons so strained that they could pop at any moment.

My face twisted into a pleasant smile as I turned to face him. Transforming myself from a monstrous supervisor into the perfect soul who could be trusted to do anything.

Just another trick stolen from Foreman.

"Of course, sir," I said pleasantly with a bow. "This guy's been neglecting his chores, so I was just putting him in his place."

"Jolly work as always, Mr. Auditor." Our master coughed and took a handful of ham from the soul beside him. "But there's no need to be so hard on the lad. I'm sure he'll get round to it when he can."

"As you wish, sir." I let go of the soul's arm and he instantly dashed down the hall.

My master's behavior struck me as odd. The lazy bastard had never asked me to go easy on a soul before. Instead, often ordering me to punish them harder, or even throwing food at them himself.

Something was up.

"Now be a good lad Mr. Auditor and go play that piano," the master coughed. "Those merry tunes of yours really do bring some life to these decaying halls."

Of course I wanted to ask more. To find out why he was acting so odd, but it wasn't a soul's place to ever question their master.

"As you wish, sir." I bowed. "I do only exist to serve."

I graciously moved across the hallway to the hotel lounge, sending a glare at one soul who wasn't cleaning the floors fast enough. I arrived at a large open room full of brown leather couches and several white tables. If the guests looked up they'd find the ceiling decorated with a colorful glass mosaic. Depicting Azazel's victory over the Western demon clans.

A thin soul in a black maid uniform served tea and cakes to several smoking businessmen who didn't even acknowledge her. Another group of elderly women in tacky fur scarfs gossiped over wine. There were no demons because my master refused to let them through the door. As though their presence left a dark stain which couldn't be erased.

I sat before a large ivory white piano, then ran my fingers over the keys once before starting to play. My ghostly fingers moved on their own without any need for sheet music.

I only knew three songs.

That was three songs more than my fat master could play.

They were forced into my head years earlier by a crazy old mistress who'd scream if I hit the wrong key, but they were enough to impress that self-absorbed hotel owner.

"Azazel's Men go Marching! Nice choice," brightly smiled one old woman as she sipped her drink.

I politely bowed my head to thank her, but it was obvious that she couldn't see well enough to realize that I was a soul. Whenever elderly people began treating me kindly, it was a sign that their eyesight was failing.

She'd surely shun my existence if she knew what I was.

There was a cough from behind me. I glanced over my shoulder to find one of my own rotten minions, Ms. Cleanit. A small soul who appeared no older than ten. Although she seemed harmless and talked like a fool, her innocent face hid an expert in spying and deceit.

"How many times have I told you not to approach me where people can see." I kept my eyes forward. Trying my best to pretend that she wasn't there.

"I have news," she said.

"Can't it wait?"

"You'll probably want to hear it now."

"Then out with it."

She hesitated. That wasn't a good sign. "The master met with the bank this morning. In the tearoom. This years profits… fell into the red. He's decided to sell this place back to the bank to recover his losses. That includes all of us as well."

My fingers slipped and hit the wrong note.

I froze.

Again! What is wrong with you! You stupid useless dead piece of shit! screamed an old woman's voice in my head. But that mistress was long gone. Dead for years.

I composed myself and continued the song as though nothing was amiss. Trying my best not to let any real emotions show through.

"Well." I looked around at the souls who I'd manipulated, cheated, and worked so hard to bring under my control. "I always knew that a place like this wouldn't last."