Published February 02, 2018 by

Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Chapter 45

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.

Despite her generosity, part of me still feared that Josephine would degrade into a cruel slave owner. I was convinced that the kindness she showed me was only a front, and that she would eventually drop the act and begin screaming abuse like the others. I was a soul and Josephine was my master, so I thought it was only natural that she would grow accustomed to her power and begin ordering me around.

But such a thing never happened.

Instead her personality remained mostly unchanged, and I continued to assist her in return for knowledge about magic. I was certain that she would tire of my presence and drop the lessons after a month, but Josephine showed no intention of backing down.

"Give up?" she said with bewilderment when I snapped and questioned her motivation. "Why would I ever give up if we made a deal?"

"Because isn't that what people do?" I replied.

"Ethan, if you think I'm that sort of person, then you really don't know me at all," she sighed and passed me a book on demonic languages.

It was the sort of dedication that I hadn't seen in years, and I found it difficult to understand. What did she have to gain by treating me well? Wouldn't it have been far easier just to drop the kind words and use me as she wished?

The only explanation I could accept was that Josephine was old and stuck in her ways. Her family considered themselves above owning souls, so she knew little of my world. Therefore ignorant about fully exploiting me for her own benefit.

I refused to accept that Josephine was kind because she actually cared. The idea of someone giving a damn about my existence was something I couldn't comprehend.

In the end, her generosity wore me down. I stopped constantly looking over my shoulder and analyzing her every word. I gradually let go of my own paranoia and allowed myself to relax. Fooling myself into thinking that I was something more than a slave.

Part of me even began to enjoy my new life. Assisting her was a distraction from my unpleasant past, and I'd found a life for myself where I didn't have to cheat, lie, or manipulate others just to protect myself.

And then one day everything changed.

I was helping Josephine uncover some of her old school textbooks from a dusty basement room. The damp cellar was full of cobwebs, crumbling boxes, stained furniture, and remnants of long deceased aristocrats.

"They should be around here somewhere," Josephine muttered as she rummaged through boxes containing old books and frayed towels. "Macy put all my old school things in here somewhere."

She pointed to a box in the corner that I began to sort through. I pulled out countless yellow notebooks, one which crumbled apart in my hands. My fingers flipped through another to discover pages upon pages of childish scribbles, all magical chants. Each one written over a hundred times in smudged black ink.

"Oh, I forgot about those." Josephine put down the box she was holding and walked over to take a closer look. She picked up a notebook from the box and began to idly flip through, occasionally laughing at her own mistakes. "My father was a real taskmaster and I was his only child. He was determined to turn me into some kind of protege from the moment I could hold a pen, but all I wanted to do was play. I was so jealous of my friends who got dolls and tea parties instead."

I had no childhood experience of my own to draw upon, so I wasn't sure how to reply. "I can imagine... that must have been hard.. for you."

The smile disappeared from Josephine's face like she was instantly reminded of what I was.

"I'm sorry Ethan," she said quickly. "It's insensitive of me to complain when you can't even re-"

"Don't worry, Mistress." I forced a smile. "I'm already used to it."

Josephine chewed her lower lip. She slammed the notebook closed and tossed it back into the box. "I know that it may not be easy, and there's no record of it being done before, but if we searched, then perhaps we could find out more-"

"There's no need for that," I snapped. I didn't even want to hear what she planned to say next. "I can never go back to who I was, so maybe it's better if I don't remember."

"I..." Josephine looked like she wanted to push the issue further, but then stopped herself. "If that's what you want, then I'll respect your decision."

"Thank you, Mistress," I replied, but her words did nothing to ease the curiosity clawing from inside. To be honest, I did want to know of my past. I wanted to know everything, but I was terrified of what I might find. "I've come to accept the way I am, but sometimes." I should have stopped, but the next sentence easily rolled off my tongue. "Sometimes I think it would be nice, if I could still remember something about that place."

And if there had been anyone who looked at me the way that she did, I didn't dare say.

Josephine's shoulders relaxed. "Of course I've never been to Earth myself, but Azazel's government strongly asserts that it's a place full of suffering and war. A barren wasteland where humans struggle for survival and happily sell their souls just to get away."

"So in other words, no different from here?"

"But it may not be true." She shook her head. "Perhaps it's just their way of dissuading people from trying to leave the Underworld."

"Maybe, one day I can see it again."

Josephine went quiet for a moment. Perhaps thinking of how it would be impossible for a soul to escape their enslavement and return, but she was too kind to voice such thoughts out loud.

"Just like you, I despise the Soul Market," she said, slow and deliberate like she was carefully choosing her words. "And I'm certain that what they're doing is wrong, but because of them, I could meet you. There are times…" She averted her gaze like she couldn't look me in the eyes. "There are times when I wonder what things could have been like, if we were both born into the same world."

If we were both born into the same world, echoed those words in my mind.

I wasn't sure what she meant. Did it mean that she was grateful to have me there? That a corrupt soul actually meant something to her? Or was she hinting that things would have been better if I was a real person like her? Perhaps she would have rather been with a living breathing man instead.

My mistress was right there before me, but I suddenly felt her slipping away.

It terrified me.

Without thinking, I lunged forward and embraced Josephine. Resting my head on her shoulder and digging my dust covered fingers into the back of her dress. Josephine's body went stiff, and I feared that I'd committed a terrible sin, but she then relaxed into my hold.

"Ethan," she breathed softly.

It was then that I realized that I wanted Josephine entirely to myself. I couldn't bare the idea of sharing her with anyone. Living or dead.

But what I did was wrong.

It was selfish of me to latch onto her like that. A proper soul would have encouraged her to find someone else instead of drawing her closer.

It's not our place to be together with real people. I should have only been an obedient servant in the background. Cleaning the house and fetching her bags as Josephine enjoyed a leisurely lunch with her mortal lover. A real person who could have made her happy in ways I could not.

A mere soul was insufficient for someone like her.

Josephine suddenly coughed so violently that her whole body shook. I let go and pulled away to see blood dripping from her mouth.

"Mistress?" was all I could say before she fell forward and her body went limp in my arms. "Mistress? What's wrong?"

Josephine's descent began slowly. At first she only experienced fits when she used magic, but then they became a daily occurrence. Josephine would barely have the energy to move, before her physician would visit and she'd return to her bright energetic self. Running back and forth across town, collecting donations, and teaching me magic all at the same time.

"You should rest, Mistress," I'd say in a voice laced with worry, but she'd only laugh and toss a new textbook at my face.

"Poverty and inequality don't rest, so why should I?" she'd say with a brilliant smile.

But only a few weeks would pass before the fits would start, the doctor would return, and the cycle would begin again. Over and over in a loop which didn't end.

Things continued that way for years, until her good periods grew shorter, and even that physician couldn't make them come back. My once lively and strong mistress became bedridden and entirely dependent on me.

"I'm so sorry, Ethan," she'd apologize while writing letters in bed. "I'll make it up to you later."

"It's fine, Mistress." I reached out and took Josephine's hand to reassure her. "Just get some rest and don't worry about a thing."

"Ethan, there's something I need to-" was all she said before the fits started again, and I had to go wash the blood from her sheets.

I abandoned my own studies and dedicated what free time I had to finding a cure. Spending hours pouring through books as the dust piled up around us.

All the magical diagrams I created lay forgotten on my desk. Beside them were piles of letters which I didn't dare show Josephine. The ones which described how selfish politicians were using her absence to reverse everything she'd done. One by one, they were slowly picking our hard work apart and I couldn't stop them.

It was all downhill from there.

"There's little more I can do," said the fat balding physician one morning after he emerged from Josephine's room. "Her body's reached the point where it won't respond to treatment. The most I can do now is to give you something to dull the pain."

"But what about this?" I shoved an open medical textbook in his face. "It says here that this treatment could work, and-"

"That book's over a century old," the man scowled. Looking down at me through small round spectacles. "That rubbish was already proved ineffective before I was born."

"But there has to be something." My voice became louder and more desperate. "Like some new technique or medicine that you haven't tried yet."

"I've already tried everything I can."

"Then try harder!"

"Listen kid!" he snapped back. "If it weren't for me, she would have died the day that she fucked up that spell!"

"But..." His anger caught me off guard. I didn't know what else to say, so my gaze fell to the floor.

The physician sighed. Perhaps he was a man capable of feeling the slightest hint of sympathy for someone like me. "Look, I know this may be difficult for you to accept," he said calmly. "But Miss Beaumont has been living on borrowed time for years. I'm amazed that she's managed to stay alive until now, but sometimes even immortals have to die. We all can't be like you."

I wanted to say that he was wrong, but deep down, part of me knew that there was nothing I could do.

I returned to Josephine's room to find her staring at the ceiling. She barely had the energy to write anymore. Her half finished letters lay scattered around the bed.

"What was that noise?" she asked weakly.

"It was nothing," I lied. "He tried to overcharge you, that's all."

"Ethan," she rasped. "There's something that I need to talk with you about."

"What is it?"

"When I die, I want you to-"

"Don't talk that way!" I snapped back. I reached for her hand and desperately gripped it as though she could disappear at any moment. "I'll find a cure! I promise you!"

Josephine looked like she had more to say, but instead weakly nodded and closed her eyes. I sat there and held her hand until she drifted off to sleep.

The medicine the physician gave me caused Josephine to sleep through most of the day, but left her delusional whenever she awoke. She would speak to people who weren't there, and call for Macy like we still lived together.

"Ethan!" she'd cry. "Where's Macy? I must speak to Macy!"

"She's gone shopping, Mistress," I'd gently console her. "She'll be back soon."

I didn't have the heart to tell Josephine that Macy had passed away the previous year. We attended the funeral together, but Josephine didn't seem to (or want to) remember.

There were times when she was lucid, and would talk to me like her old self, but then the pain would become unbearable and Josephine would cry for that damn medicine again.

I continued my search for any hope of a cure, but it was difficult to leave Josephine's side, and any doctor or hospital I visited refused to help.

"Come back with your master, soul," snapped one clinic secretary before she slammed the door in my face.

"We don't accept your sort in here," said another doctor before I was thrown out his door.

There was nothing I could do but read what books I had while Josephine slept. All the while convincing myself that there had to be something useful in the next textbook, or the one after that.

"Ethan," Josephine weakly whispered from her bed one evening.

I dropped the book in my hands and rushed to her side. "Yes, Mistress?"

"Ethan, I need you to promise me something." It was difficult to tell if she was lucid or not. "When I die-"

"Please, Mistress," I begged. "Don't talk that way."

"I want you to run."

I was taken back by her words, but didn't have the heart to tell my dying mistress to stop.

"You may think that I don't know, Ethan," she rasped like each syllable caused her pain. "But I could tell. The masters you must have had, the places you were. I remember how you were when we first met. So paranoid and guarded. All closed off and unwilling to talk about yourself. I suppose that hasn't changed." She said the last words with an uneasy laugh.

"Mistress, please don't worry about such things..." If I was capable of tears they would have poured down my face.

"Ethan, you shouldn't suffer alone like that again. I considered selling you to one of my friends. A kind man who'd treat you well. But I can't guarantee what will become of you once he's gone. There are so few kind immortals left these days."


"You're wasting time by staying here with me. You should leave while you still can."

"No... I won't leave you." My hands shook. "I'll find a cure!"

"There is no cure!" she snapped. "You need to stop worrying about an old woman and start thinking about yourself!"


"I want you to go! Please think of it as my last request."

Her face looked so desperate that I couldn't say no.

"Then tomorrow," I sighed after a moment of silence which felt like forever. "I'll leave tomorrow."

Fortunately Josephine seemed satisfied with my answer and the fight came to an end. She then peacefully slipped into slumber and I fell asleep on the bed beside her. My translucent fingers loosely wrapped around hers.

I promised her that I'd leave, but I couldn't make myself do it.

Every time she insisted that I go, I would lie through my teeth and tell her I'd do it the next day. Josephine often seemed exasperated by my excuses, screaming at me to go, but I couldn't imagine leaving her alone in that house to die.

Josephine told me little of her past, but I could tell that she'd spent much of her life alone, and I refused to add any more painful memories to the little time she had left.

I walked into her room one morning to feed her breakfast. Josephine's eyes were wide open and fixed on the ceiling. Perhaps once engrossed in the growing cobwebs.

"Mistress?" I called out, but she didn't answer.

I placed the bowl of porridge on the dresser beside her bed, then reached over to pull a blanket up around her shoulders.

"Mistress?" I said again, but there was no response.

It was then that I noticed something haunting about those eyes.

"No." I reached forward and shook her. Hoping to awaken Josephine from a frozen trance. It could have been the drugs or a magical spell. I'd use any excuse to distract myself from the truth. "Mistress!" I cried, but her body was still. Face pale, and lips unnaturally blue. "Josephine?" I pathetically tried one last time, like using her real name would somehow bring her back.

But the room was silent, and no matter how long I waited, Josephine didn't stir.

It felt like the whole world came crashing down around me.

My hands began to shake and I found myself sobbing. I was devastated that she was gone, enraged at myself for failing to find a cure, and terrified of what would come next.

I once told myself that I'd run once she passed on. That I would make a break for it without any regrets. I could have been hours away before the Soul Market came knocking, but I didn't budge. Even though her soul was long gone, I couldn't imagine leaving her to rot alone in that place.

But there was also another reason why I didn't leave.

It was fear.

I was so accustomed to doing whatever a master wanted, that I couldn't fathom the idea of having to live and survive on my own.

Where would I go? What would I do? Wouldn't it be much easier to be a good soul? whispered a terrified voice in my head.

I thought of myself as being above other souls, but existing as a slave was so ingrained into my mind, that I couldn't imagine any other life.

I collapsed into the armchair beside Josephine's bed, then gently reached out and took hold of her lifeless hand.

"You once asked me to talk about myself. Didn't you, Josephine?" I said slowly. "Well... I can tell you now. If you want to hear it." I paused to compose myself. "It all began centuries ago, in a large mansion. My first master, his name was Alistair, and he was so-" was all I could say before my mouth suddenly clamped up.

It was stupid of me to speak like she could somehow hear.

Josephine would never listen to my words again.

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