Published April 28, 2018 by

Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Chapter 51

Story: 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.

"Great, isn't it!" Lucas proudly pointed to his second story brick home. One of the front windows was broken, and the roof looked as though it would collapse at any moment, but the young man still gazed up at that dump like it was a glorious mansion.

"It's...beautiful, Master," I dryly replied. My voice dripping with fake awe. "Never before have I seen... a home so wonderful."

"It looked a lot better before," he muttered. "Back when uncle was still alive. But then that old geezer had to go die on me without leaving any money for repairs."

"How terrible that must have been."

"You don't know the half of it," he muttered. "Come on. I'll show you inside."

Lucas placed a key into the rusty lock, then shoved the door open with his shoulder when it became stuck. "I've been living out here ever since my stingy parents kicked me out. Got all the money in the world, yet refuse to share it with their only son."

"How cruel of them, Young Master."

"I'd be out on the street right now if my uncle hadn't left me this place."

"Your stories of suffering and endurance bring tears to a soul's eyes."

"If that wasn't bad enough, I've been asking for a servant for years, but they still refuse to get me one. Like they honestly expect me to clean things myself."

"What monsters!"

Lucas wasn't joking about the cleaning, and he then led me through a kitchen with dishes piled high and a stained table littered with bread crumbs. There was a faint scratching in the walls which may have been rats.

We walked into a cluttered sitting room with dark red wall paper, gold plated lanterns, and antique furniture hidden beneath dirty clothing and trash. I doubted that he'd cleaned a thing in his life.

"Right, you can start here," huffed Lucas. "And then once you're finished, you can do the kitchen and bathroom. And make sure to get the area under the tub. My parent's lazy soul would always clean around it like he thought we were blind."

"It would be…. My pleasure, Young Master." I tried to suppress my own irritation. It would take days to fix that dump, and I was afraid of Soul Market bosses changing their minds. There was no time to waste on a spoilt kid. "I apologize for my own curiosity, but I faintly recall you mentioning a library. I can't help but wonder what sort of collection a brilliant man like yourself must possess."

"Oh, yeah, that." Lucas pointed to the far wall. "There it is."

I followed his gaze to see one bookshelf in the corner, only slightly taller than myself. It had an assortment of worn law textbooks crammed into any available space, but it wouldn't pass as a library.

"Great, isn't it?" Lucas grinned and led me over to take a closer look. I caught sight of several romance novels and a children's picture book. "I don't mean to brag, but I do have one of the largest collections on the street."

"It's…. Awe inspiring...Young Master."

It was a miracle that he didn't pick up on my sarcasm.

"I don't know why you're so interested in this sort of thing, Tulip. Everyone knows that souls have no use for books."

"I like to look at the pictures," I said with the enthusiasm of someone who'd rattled off that excuse too many times to count.

"The pictures?"

"They….. Make me happy."

"Oh," he said with surprise. "Well, to each his own, I suppose. You're free to take a browse once you've finish cleaning everything."

"Your generosity never ceases to amaze me, Young Master."

"I trust that you can get this all done by morning. Unless you are really useless. Then I suppose that I'll just hand you back to the Soul Market to get destroyed."

"Oh, there's no need to worry about that," I said with a brilliant smile. "I have no doubt that you'll find my work… satisfactory."

Lucas glanced at me, and I saw what could have been a brief flash of apprehension flicker within his eyes. I thought that I may have underestimated the young man, but then he quickly cast his doubts aside and chose to put his faith in the strange soul that he picked up off the street.

"I hope so," he muttered, then walked out of the room.

I actually made a show of cleaning up his crap in case Lucas returned. Neatly folding clothes and shoving the rubbish into one pile, but I dashed straight to the bookcase once I was certain that the young man had retired for the night.

I scanned every volume in search of anything I could use, but what few magic books he had were all basic and useless. Nothing more than easy chants for children and beginners.

But I didn't give up there.

I went through the rest of the house in search of some grand library that he could be hiding away, but all I uncovered were dusty spare rooms. Full of cobwebs and broken furniture which hadn't been used in decades. After an hour of searching, I found nothing in that dump which could help me reach my goal.

"Screw this crap," I muttered after taking one look at a moldy bathroom. I didn't fight for my freedom just to waste time waiting on another overindulged brat. It was better to take my chances back on the street.

I pulled back the bathroom curtains to formulate an escape route, but two Soul Market agents were already waiting outside. The moraless bastards were smoking on the side of the road while patiently waiting for my escape attempt. Rugged up in large coats while pacing back and forth to keep themselves warm. One of them gave me the finger when he saw me glancing through the window.

I clenched my fist and allowed the disintegrating curtain to fall back into place.

They had me trapped.

The old me would have been consumed by fear and soon given up...but I wasn't that soul anymore. If they wanted to play a waiting game, then they'd be the ones to lose. I may have been nothing, had nothing, trapped in a useless dump with a new shitty master, but that wouldn't stop me. I could still achieve the impossible. Even in those dismal circumstances, I'd show everyone what a soul named Ethan was capable of.

For the next few weeks I was the perfect soul. If anyone was watching. I cleaned that disgusting place and attended to Lucas' childish whims. Passively taking his shit while reassuring myself that he'd be the last person that I'd ever wait on.

"This is too bland," Lucas complained about a bread roll which would have pleased even the fussiest of masters. "My parent's soul did a better job."

"I'm sorry that it's not to your liking, Young Master," I politely said through clenched teeth while washing the dishes. I kept one eye outside to the Soul Market agents who were watching the house. They'd continued to stalk me in shifts, but my dull routine had them bored to tears.

"Florence's was much sweeter," Lucas continued. Completely oblivious to the agents outside. "And the texture was better, so make it like that."

"I'll try my best, Young Master." I obediently replied despite having no idea how to achieve his vague expectations.

"You better, or I might just have to go into town and have a talk with the Soul Market. They said that I can send you back there whenever I want. The manager even offered to let me watch as they erase your existence."

"I doubt that will be necessary, Young Master," I said for the third time that day. As thick as he was, Lucas had worked out that I didn't want to die. He'd taken to threatening me whenever he felt like it. Such a pathetic attempt to keep me in line.

"I also need my shirt washed and ironed, Tulip. I'll be attending a party at Anson's mansion this evening, so it has to be ready by six."

"How spectacular, Young Master," I said without thinking, but then realized that such information could be of use. "I have no doubt that a great man, such as yourself, must have many important friends."

"Well, I don't mean to brag." That's always what he said before the bragging started. "But I've personally met the sons of some of the most famous magical masters in town."

"And who would be the strongest magical master in town?"

"That would be Lord Bellerive. His father was an immortal who lived over three hundred years."

"And such a great master must surely reside in a large mansion, correct?"

"You'd think, but he sold it and moved into a dull house in the middle of town. Apparently because it's closer to the shops, or something."

"The shops on main street?"

"Yes, near the bank." He paused. "Why ever are you asking so many questions?"

"Oh." I rushed to think up any excuse I could use to distract him from my real goal. "I just love the sound of your voice, Young Master." I cringed at how stupid that sounded. "It's….. like a choir of birds on a pleasant spring day….. as though pure joy has taken the form of sound. Why, I could listen to you for hours without ever getting bored."

As long as you blab the locations of every useful man in town, I thought to myself.

Lucas suddenly choked on his food. "Tulip," he coughed. "I think that we need to have a conversation about boundaries."

"Whatever for, Young Master?"

"You should know that I'm not… that."

"Like that?"

"A man who...spends intimate time with other men."

Oh, so he thought that I was trying to hit on him.

"But Young Master," I said with a wicked grin that would have made Alistair proud. "Your dashing smile and glimmering locks are enough to stoke the fires of a dead man's heart. Your bright shining personality is like a beacon of hope in my miserable existence. How can I possibly control myself in your presence?" I took it one step further and latched onto his arm. Trying my best to play the part of a pathetic lovestruck soul.

Lucas jumped to his feet and shoved me away. I allowed my body to dramatically collapse onto the kitchen floor.

"T..T..Tulip!" he spluttered. "As lovely as my hair is, your behavior is unnerving me. I order you to compose yourself in my presence!"

"I'll try, Young Master," I pretended to sob while covering my face with my hands, but I only did it to conceal my laughter.

I glanced through a crack in my fingers to see the Soul Market agents shrug and leave. Obviously fed up with watching a pathetic soul and his ridiculous master. I knew that they wouldn't be gone forever and that other agents would be back, but it was the moment that I'd been waiting for.

The moment where they'd begun to underestimate me and drop their guard.

It was another few weeks before the agents stopped showing up in the evenings. I accompanied Lucas to parties held my his mediocre friends in their mediocre houses. There, I would patiently stand in the corner holing his coat like a piece of furniture. Passively watching on as my master showed me off.

"Look at this idiot," Lucas would point at me and laugh. "Does anything that I could possibly want, and I didn't pay a cent. Can you believe it?

"As expected of Lucas," his stupid friends would laugh back. "You really are the master of pulling pennies. No one else in this town could have done it for free."

Sometimes his friends, the crueler ones, would order me to perform tricks like a dog. A backflip, a cartwheel, an impression of a bird. No matter how stupid or demeaning it was, I'd smile and obey. Then once the wine really started flowing, and the party got going, they'd become too intoxicated to notice that I was even there. I'd listen in on the latest rumors flying around town. Who was dating who, who'd come into new money, who'd lost it all. The truly intoxicated guests would barely notice if a voice from the shadows slipped them a question or two.

Over time I could put names to faces, and faces to houses. Mapping out who had anything of value, and who wasn't worth my time. Storing all that information away for later as cogs began turning in my mind.

Those were small steps, but I was certain that they'd pay off in the end.