Published November 03, 2017 by

Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Chapter 40

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.

Josephine's Townhouse

The first days.

Josephine's study was a tall narrow room constructed mostly from oak. Full of ancient books that had been crammed into any available space, to the point where there was almost no room to stand.

My new mistress sat behind a large desk that consumed half the room. Her face emotionless, eyes glaring down at me. I didn't know if she was attempting to be intimidating, but I was certain that I could beat any mind game she threw my way.

I slowly sketched one of the few magic spells I knew, onto a crumpled piece of paper. Indifferent to her critical gaze. I made sure to make a few rookie mistakes (I didn't want her thinking that I was too smart) before handing it over to her with a smile.

Josephine sat back to analyze my drawing. Looking over each symbol like she knew what they meant.

"Is this it?" she asked, like she had expected something more.

"Yes, Mistress," I obediently replied.

"And you learnt this from a book?"

"Yes, Mistress."

"And the title was?"

"The name alludes me, Mistress." I faked confusion. It came easily after years of practice. "If you would be kind enough to allow me some more time, I'm certain that it will come back."

I could remember the name perfectly well, but I had no desire to spill all my secrets at once. I intended to let them out as slowly as possible. To dissuade her from selling me straight back to the Soul Market.

"Very well." She nodded and rolled up the page. "Let me know as soon as you remember."

I nodded with a smile and she sent me out of the room.

Despite her obvious wealth, Josephine was unaccustomed to souls and seemed hesitant to give me orders.

Not that I minded.

I was certain that I'd found myself an easy master, and was content to do just enough to prevent her from sending me back for a refund.

My first few days were spent exploring her three story townhouse and untamed front garden. The overgrown trees blocked most sunlight from entering the lower floors, making it difficult to see the accumulating dust and moldy corners.

The house was full of expensive silverware, leather furniture, and faded pictures of Josephine's late relatives. The parchment was yellow and the paint was flaking, as though they'd sat untouched on the walls for centuries.

I was determined to find out all I could about my mistress. Her history, her habits, any weaknesses that I could use to my advantage. To me, all human relations were like a battle, and I was determined to work her like I had with the hotel owner.

It didn't take long to discover that she had no living family, with only her mortal servant, Macy, left to keep her company. The old woman was a great source of information, and had no qualms about spilling our mistress' secrets without any idea of my real intentions.

"It's so nice to finally get some help around here," said Macy as we polished silverware together in the kitchen. "Josephine seems to care little for the state of her home, but these forks have been driving me mad for years."

"I'm more than happy to help," I said with fake enthusiasm. "I'd love to do whatever I can."

Macy looked at me and smiled. "And to think that Josephine spent so many years refusing to get a soul. I just knew that this would work out well."

"If you don't mind me asking, why has the mistress refused to get a soul until now?"

"Oh, Heaven knows," she swore. "You'll soon find out that Josephine has many causes, souls being one of them."

"Is that so..."

"Everyone in this town knows that once she gets an idea into her head, it's almost impossible for her to let it go. I keep saying that's why she hasn't found herself a husband."

"So I take it that there's never been a Mr. Beaumont?"

"Oh, God no. Many gentlemen showed up here over the years, some of them half decent, but she turned every one of them away. Faaaaar too picky if you ask me."

"Sounds like a fascinating story."

Macy opened her mouth to say more, but she was distracted by the rain which had begun falling against the foggy glass windows.

"And to think that it was sunny when I got up this morning," she muttered and shook her head. "I highly doubt that Josephine thought to take an umbrella."

"I could bring her one." It was the perfect excuse to find out where the mistress disappeared to every day. "If you'd like me to."

"Would you, dear. That would truly put my mind at ease."

"It's no problem." I smiled. "I do after all, only exist to serve."

Macy directed me to a large stone building in the center of town. The people referred to it as Parliament, and it was the only place in Hell which allowed a chosen few to govern the Underworld.

Outside was a large statue of Azazel. Several meters tall with a large crown and scepter resting upon his outstretched palms. Eyes glaring down at the building, so that the people inside wouldn't forget who controlled them.

Past the large oak doors, I found halls full of mortal clerks and rich men in suits. I peered into several rooms to find them sitting on lounges smoking, playing card games with women, or drinking the day away while occasionally discussing politics.

"What do you think of that mad woman's idea to change taxes," said one man while sipping his wine.

"Lord if I know," his friend replied and laid back on a couch to nap. "I'm far more interested in the end of year ball. I do hope they improve the smorgasbord. Last year's cheese was subpar."

I eventually found Josephine in a large room full of hundreds of red carpeted chairs. She was standing on a large wooden podium in the center giving a speech, but over half the audience were talking amongst themselves or napping. As though her words meant nothing.

I watched from the doorway, unable to hear a thing, until she angrily slammed her hand down on the podium to grab everyone's attention.

"As I was saying!" Josephine boomed. "If we increase taxes on the wealthy and distribute them towards services to help the poor, then we could effectively reduce the level of poverty in this town!"

"And why should our money go to lazy slackers who don't work!" cried a voice from the crowd.

"They're not lazy!" Josephine yelled back. "Many of them actually want to work, but can't."

"Bollocks! If they want money then they can go get a job!"

"But most of the jobs they can do have already been given to souls," said Josephine. "It may be impossible to compete with free labor, but-"

"Not another crazy rant about souls!" cried one man.

"We already heard enough about this last time!" yelled another.

"If we provide free education to the poor!" Josephine cried. "Then we can direct them into more suitable jobs and improve the economy!"

"Ludicrous!" called someone. "Whoever heard of sending those sorts to school?"

"That's got to be the worst idea you've come up with so far!" yelled a guy from the other side of the room.

"But we'll never know until we try!" Josephine exploded. She slammed her hand down on the podium with so much force that it shook.

"Order! Order!" yelled one small elderly man with round glasses. He banged a wooden hammer against his desk behind her. The room went silent and all eyes were on him. "Miss Beaumont," he said condescendingly as though speaking to a child. "Let me remind you that we already have an effective system in place for dealing with poverty."

"But-" she attempted to argue but he ignored her.

"It's simple," he continued. "We allow the elite, our best and brightest, to amass large funds. They in turn create businesses, factories, and jobs for your beloved poor. Increasing taxes on the wealthy would only hamper their ability to provide work, and society would collapse. Increasing the poverty problem."

"No, you're wrong!" she cried back. "The system is broken!"

"Well, the new mistress certainly is interesting," I laughed to myself.

"Hey soul!" snapped a middle-aged politician as he walked past. "Go get more tea!"

"I'm sorry, good sir," I said with my best smile. "But I'm afraid that I don't belong to this establishment, and are under no obligation to fulfill your request."

"Then whose soul are you?" he barked.

"That's an agreement between myself and my master. An agreement which I have no obligation to disclose to you."

The politician grabbed my shirt collar and shoved me against the wall. Furiously looking straight into my eyes in an attempt to be frightening. But there was nothing that mortal could do to hurt me, so I didn't even flinch.

"Fucking soul," he muttered once it was obvious that he couldn't win. He then shoved me against the wall once before walking away.

I straightened my shirt collar, then returned my gaze to my mistress. She was looking straight back at me with eyes wide with bewilderment.

I smiled and merrily waved, but Josephine quickly returned her eyes to the front and continued her argument.

"There really is no need for you to come here," snapped an irritated Josephine as we strolled back together in the rain.

I obediently held my umbrella up to shield her from the downpour. I could have brought another, but I hoped to use the close proximity to engage her in conversation. Her shoulders almost brushed against mine, and I was so very proud of myself for trapping her there.

"I'm perfectly capable of taking myself home," she added.

I smiled. "Of course you are, Mistress."

"It was Macy, wasn't it?"

"Your servant did express concern over your well-being."

"Well… No matter what she says, I can take care of myself. There really is no need to wait on me like..." She searched for the right words. "Some kind of slave."

"Whatever pleases you, Mistress."

"And there's no need to talk to me so politely either. All Mistress this, and Mistress that. You can use my name."

"If you insist, Mistress Josephine."

She sighed and crossed her arms.

"Please forgive me," I laughed. "It's a small habit that I can't seem to break. I've spent so many years waiting on rich lords and ladies, that I truly don't know anything else."

"Well," she paused as though thinking of the right way to reply. "You don't have to be that way for me."

"I'll do my best, Mistress Josephine." I sadly hung my head. "But I'm afraid that it may be beyond my humble skills. I've been a servant for so long, that I have no idea what else to do with my time."

Other than learn how to get you wrapped around my finger, was the thought that I didn't dare voice out loud.

"And just how long have you been in the Underworld, Ethan?"

My smile almost faltered. Everyone knows that old souls easily go mad, but the Soul Market could show her my record, so it wasn't a question that I could easily lie my way through.

"I'm not sure, Mistress... I changed masters several times and lost track. ….My first master perished in a New Province rebellion, so you could say that I came to Hell a little before then."

"The New Province Rebellion! But that was over two hundred years ago!"

Two hundred years?

The number shocked me. I rushed to say anything to hide my mortification. "Yes, Mistress. I have unfortunately become what some would call an old soul."

"There's no need to worry Ethan, you're nowhere near as old as-"

She stopped mid sentence. Eyes widening in shock.

I followed her line of sight to see four large men in overalls and caps, emerge from between two buildings, completely oblivious to the falling rain. Their hands were shoved in their pockets. Fingers securely wrapped around hidden weapons. They reminded me of the kind of trash who'd lounge around street corners shouting abuse at passers by, but what stood out most was their eyes. I'd seen and used that look enough times to know that they were trying their best to exert power over us.

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