Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Ch13

Story Summary

Long ago I sold my soul and doomed myself to an eternity in the Underworld. I was treated like a slave for centuries, but no more! I'll find a way out of this destiny or die trying!

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

For one short moment, I allowed myself to believe that I'd escaped the Soul Market. That I'd finally reached a place beyond even their limits.

I hadn't seen any sign of an agent in weeks, and there were no living beings in sight. I became too relaxed, too complacent, and thought I could stay in the same place for more than a day.

One morning I sat on a lone rock overlooking the mountains.

The scenery was breathtaking.

The intolerable blizzards of Hades Teeth had finally ended and there wasn't a cloud in sight. Several large mountains loomed before me, snow stretching as far as I could see. The ice sparkled in the morning sun, and everything was still and perfect like a painting on a wall.

I sat there for hours admiring the view. Allowing myself to be overcome with a feeling of peace that I'd never experienced as a soul slave.

I could do whatever I wanted, although there wasn't much to do. I could go wherever I wanted, as long as it was on that mountain. I was finally the free man that I always wanted to be. I could live out the rest of my existence in that beautiful desolate place.

"Oh, Ethan," laughed a voice from beside me. "You shouldn't lie to yourself. We all know you're lonely. You'll never survive for eternity like this."

I spun to my right to face the voice, only to find my old master Alistair sitting beside me.

He was dressed in a loose white shirt, dark cotton pants, and several gold bangles adorned his wrist. There was dark eyeliner smudged around his lashes and those cheeks were red like he'd been drinking. His hair was unaffected by the gentle breeze, and those bare feet didn't sink into the snow, so I knew that he couldn't be real.

"Not this again." I looked away and tried my best not to acknowledge him. The delusions usually went away if I ignored them for long enough.

"Hello! Ethan!" He waved his hand before my face. "Underworld to Ethan!"

"You're not there. You're never really there."

"But I am to you, aren't I?" he said with a mischievous grin. "And that's all that matters."

I looked at him critically. A part of me hoping that he was real. I almost tricked myself into believing that Alistair may have used magic to come back from the dead, but the real Alistair would have never been so comfortable on a freezing mountain in that outfit.

"I'm so cold, Ethan," said imaginary Alistair like he knew what I was thinking. Of course he did! He came out of my head. He slowly inched closer towards me. "Warm me up."

"What are you doing!" I cried and tried to move as far away as I could without falling off the rock, but he was relentless and kept coming closer until we were sitting shoulder to shoulder. "Get away from me!"

I was assaulted by a tidal wave of old memories that I'd forgotten for decades. Alistair flirting with everyone in sight. Dozens of men turning up on the mansion's doorstep claiming that he broke their hearts. My fellow souls trying to get rid of each other just to become his favorite. Getting close to that guy was dangerous.

Back when he was alive, and I was new, Alistair would follow me around the mansion singing "Ethan, Ethan, Ethan" as he skipped down the halls. I'd try to hide, but he'd forcefully latch onto my hand before I could flee.

"Why don't we play?" he'd say with that wicked smile he used when seducing the townspeople.

"I'm sorry, Master," I once quickly uttered and yanked my hand out of his grip. "I need to do chores."

"Nonsense, Ethan. I'm your master, and today you're free of all responsibilities." He showered me with purple glitter that magically appeared out of thin air. "Congratulations! You're a free soul!'

"I really must be going." I quickly walked away. "Mira will get mad."

"Ethan! Ethan!" he called as he chased me past Anya who was busy dusting ornaments. "Come back here, Ethan!"

"Thinking of old times, Ethan?" said imaginary Alistair on that snowy mountain. "Oh, the memories. Do you remember the time we played hide and seek for three days? I thought you'd never find me."

"You cheated."

"Only a little."

"You spent the whole time drinking in a bar."

"I never said that the town was off limits."

"You put up a magical barrier that allowed no one in or out of the mansion."

"You could have taken it down."

"We're souls! We can't use magic! Not back then anyway," I huffed and looked away. "I don't know why I bother arguing with you when you're not even there."

I returned my attention back to the notebook and pen in my hands. I'd been peacefully writing for hours until he appeared to interrupt me.

"What are you writing?" That playboy was suddenly behind me looking over my shoulder.

"Everything. The things that I can remember at least."

"You forgot to write about my impressive sense of style and impeccable nails."

"It's irrelevant. Nobody cares about those things."

"I do!"

"You're dead. Your feelings don't matter."

"You're so cold, Ethan!" he dramatically cried and buried his face in his hands, but I could tell that those tears were fake.

I ignored him and returned to the notebook. I'd almost finished writing about the day Anya and I fought in the factory basement. It was centuries ago, but the memories still stung.

Alistair dropped the act and wiped the tears from his face once he realized that I didn't care.

"What do you hope to achieve with that book, Ethan?" the idiot asked somewhat seriously.

"Something. To at least show others that the soul trade is wrong."

"Do you really think that one little notebook will really make a difference? I mean, who other than us is going to be interested in your sob story?"

"There has to be someone."

"Anya doesn't want to be my friend anymore," he mocked in a high pitched voice which I could tell was a bad impression of me. He flopped backwards onto the snow and lay there looking up at the sky. "I never did understand what you saw in that girl. I knew she was like that from the moment she walked through my door."

I felt a surge of anger and slammed my pen down on the page.

"You died! You left us all. We'd all still be together in that mansion, and this." I shoved the half finished page in his face. "Would have never happened if it weren't for you! It's all your fault!"

His mouth curved into a frown. I felt like I'd said too much.

"I'm sorry, Ethan," he said remorsefully. "I wasn't strong enough to come back alive. You have to understand that I never wanted any of you to suffer."

My master looked so sad that it was impossible to remain angry. It was unfair to blame him for things which were out of his control.

"I know," I muttered. "I know that you would have tried your best until the end. It's not your fault that you died."

"And you need to stop being so pessimistic about my death, Ethan. If I hadn't died, you would have never come this far."

"I suppose you're right."

"You would have never met that bossy cow either."

"Don't call her that."

"Never did get along, her and I," he said. Ignoring my words completely. "You know how the saying goes, all great minds can't stand each other."

"Isn't it supposed to be, all great minds think alike?"

"Perhaps." He shrugged. "But does it really matter when you're a runaway soul on a frozen icicle."

"Yes," I snapped, even though I didn't believe it myself.

"I'm just surprised that you have time to argue over such petty things, Ethan darling."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, you've given them more than ample time to find you."

It was then that I heard the faint sound of feet crunching through snow.

I dived behind the rock just in time to dodge a magical attack that zoomed over my head.

I huddled behind the rock as another spell crashed against it. Strong enough to leave a dent, but not powerful enough to break through.

How did they find me?

I traveled to the most remote and dangerous place I knew. Taking extra care to cover every trace of my existence, yet they still tracked me down like there was a magical force I couldn't escape.

The snow crunched under the feet of those bastards as they gradually moved closer. I pulled a knife from my back pocket and held it between trembling hands. Ready to throw it at their heads if I had to.

"I can do this, I can do this, I can do this," I muttered like a mantra.

I had to remain calm and focused.

I couldn't afford to let my thoughts run astray.

"Looks like you're cornered, Ethan darling." Imaginary Alistair casually leaned against my rock examining his nails. He didn't seem the slightest bit concerned about my grim situation.

"Shut up!" I hissed. "I don't have time for you right now!"

"Can't see how you're going to get yourself out of this one."

"Go away."

"Whatever you want." Alistair yawned and lethargically got to his feet. He took one step before I realized I could use him.

"Hey, wait!" I cried and my old master obediently froze. "How many are there?"

Alistair sighed like my request took immense effort, then looked towards the source of the attack. He curiously examined them for a moment before his mouth broke into a grin. "Why don't you take a look for yourself?"

I quickly glanced around the rock, only to narrowly dodge a large metal grappling hook attached to a rope. It landed in the snow near my feet, then quickly disappeared when the owner yanked it back.

I only saw them for a moment, but it was enough time to take in what I was up against.

There were two Soul Market agents. Both ankle deep in the snow, wearing large furry gray coats and boots to protect themselves from the cold.

One was a human man with a beard so large and bushy that I could barely see his face. He confidently swung the grappling hook like he'd used it countless times to capture disobedient souls.

The other guy was a tall blue demon with only one horn. A dark red scarf was wrapped around his neck, and I could tell from the way that he held his black gloved hands out before him, that he had to be the magic user.

"Give it up soul!" yelled the human. "You've got nowhere to run!"

"Never!" I cried. "I'm not going back!"

"You signed a contract!" He spat.

"Really? Then where is it?"

There were quiet whispers like the two of them were discussing something.

"If you come back with us now, then we'll show it to you!" the human cried.

I couldn't believe that they thought I'd fall for something so stupid.

"There's no way that I'll ever honor a contract that I can't even remember!" I yelled.

"It doesn't matter whether or not you remember, soul scum!" yelled the demon. "All that matters is that you signed it, so that makes you property of the Soul Market. Forever!"

I sighed in exasperation. I'd already endured those words a hundred times before, like the Soul Market drilled them into every one of their minions.

"He does have a point," said imaginary Alistair who was still chilling out in the snow. "Maybe it's best to go back with them. Perhaps whatever punishment they have planned for you might not be so bad. I'm sure it'll be over in a year or two. There may even be a half decent master willing to buy a cheap damaged soul such as yourself."

"Just shut up already!" I snapped.

"Screw you, soul!" yelled the demon. "As soon as I drag you out from behind that rock-"

"I didn't mean you!" I yelled. "I was talking to Alistair!"

There was silence for a moment, like the two of them had only just realized what sort of nut job they'd found.

The agents must have decided to give up on reasoning with me, because the demon chanted a spell, and then the next attack hit the rock so hard that it began to split down the middle. I looked to the spot where Alistair once stood, but he'd disappeared into thin air.

I almost missed him.

The cliff was obviously my best chance at escape. If I threw myself over the edge, their fragile mortal bodies would never be able to follow. It would take the agents days to climb down the steep mountain and by then I'd be long gone.

It was the perfect plan.

I pulled a roll of crumpled yellow paper from my pocket and unraveled it onto the ground, unveiling black painted lines and symbols like the spell I once drew in Alistair's study. My ghostly body will never channel magic, but after years of failed experiments, I'd developed other ways to pull off a few spells, as basic as they seemed.

I took a small red crystal from my pocket and placed it on the edge of the page. The painted symbols glowed, then several small balls of red light formed in the center of the paper. The balls of light quickly shot upwards into the sky, then plummeted to the ground. Landing in all directions. Sending snow flying. It wasn't enough to injure those bastards, but all I needed was a distraction.

The human cried in surprise.

That was my chance. I quickly shoved the crystal back into my pocket and dashed towards the cliff's edge. Running as fast as my legs could move. I almost made it...but then a tall wall of ice shot up before me, blocking my escape.

My body crashed straight into the frozen wall, knocking me onto my back.

"Damn the powers of Hell!" I swore before a grappling hook lodged itself into my shoulder and the human yanked me backwards.

That bastard dragged me towards him, then tossed a rope net over my body before I could pull my shoulder free.

"What did I say?" laughed the human to his comrade. "I knew those wankers back at headquarters had to be exaggerating! This stiff's a piece of cake."

"You'll never take me!" I cried and used the knife in my hand to furiously saw the grappling hook's rope until it broke with a snap. I came to a halt and attempted to free myself from the net, but the rope was more difficult to cut through.

"Come on, you stupid piece of shit," I hissed as I sawed through the net with all my might.

"It's over, soul!" said the demon victoriously as he smugly walked towards me with his hand outstretched. He chanted a spell, then two walls of ice sprung up beside me one by one. "You may have been sly enough to get past those other idiots, but this is as far as you're gonna get!"

A third wall sprang up behind me as he took another step forward, but then his body suddenly froze mid step, with his foot in the air and his mouth wide open. The demon's red eyes angrily fixed on me. I knew that behind those pupils he was cursing my existence.

With one final cut to the rope, I created a large enough hole to untangle myself from the net and pull my body through. I laughed in triumph, because like every agent before him, he'd underestimated my abilities and walked straight into my spell.

Very few magic users ever think to closely examine the ground by their feet, and he'd overlooked the faint glow of a large paper circle carefully hidden under the snow. I may have been stupid enough to let them sneak up on me, but all the weeks of running had made me paranoid enough to leave traps whenever I stopped to rest. This particular paper diagram was capable of freezing anything that it touched.

"Look who's finished now!" I cried while basking in my small victory, which only lasted for a second before I had to dodge another hook and chain that came flying towards me.

I drop rolled, then used the knife in my hand to deflect the human's next attack. He pulled a long thin sword from his belt and advanced. Jabbing it furiously like he could shove it through my body and pin me to the ground.

I hastily backed away while trying to lead him straight into the freezing spell, but he carefully moved around the outside like he'd noticed the faint insignias glowing amongst the snow.

"Just give up already!" the human growled as he chased me around the edge. His frozen comrade could only watch. "You'll never escape the Soul Market!"

"Really?" I taunted and did another lap around the circle just to wear him down. "Just watch me. I can keep this up for days, unlike you."

"It's pointless! We'll find you, no matter where you go in Hell!"

"How!" I yelled, but he ignored my request and picked up speed.

There was a growl from the demon like his vocal cords had begun working. The freezing spell was beginning to fade. He growled again long enough to grab the human's attention, then flicked his eyes down to the purple glow by his feet. It was the crystal I used to activate the spell.

The human stopped running like he'd understood the unsaid message, then turned and dashed towards the crystal.

"Shit!" I swore.

It was impossible to win against both of them, so I had to take him out.

I dived at the human and grabbed onto his torso, knocking him to the ground. The sword slipped from his hand and we tumbled in the snow, rolling once or twice before he landed on top of me and pinned my shoulders to the ground.

The human grinned like he'd won, but then I shoved a handful of snow into his eyes. Using my hands and legs to throw him off balance. Pushing him away.

I rolled to my feet, so did he, and we both stood there glaring at each other. Neither of us willing to give in.

The human screamed in rage, pulled a knife from his coat, then dashed towards me like he fully intended to rip me to pieces.

I fled towards the frozen wall along the cliff's edge. It was impossible to climb over, but there was another way through.

"I don't know why the Soul Market even gave you a job," I taunted to enrage him. Mess with his focus and increase his mistakes. "You can't even catch one weak little soul!"

"Screw you, sinner!" the human cried and sprinted after me.

I stopped before the wall of ice and unfolded a crumpled piece of paper from my back pocket. Unlike the carefully designed circle in the snow, it was a mess of angry lines like the ink had exploded on the page.

I placed the red crystal on the edge of the paper and the lines immediately began to glow a fiery crimson. I slammed the paper down onto the ground just as the human tackled me.

He pinned me to the wall of ice and pulled out a rope to bind my hands together, but that's when my paper spell exploded downwards through the cliff.

The ground shuddered. The cliff began to crack and splinter, then collapsed beneath us before the human had a chance to flee. We both plummeted hundreds of feet, then landed with a crash amongst the rocks at the base of the cliff.

I was slightly phased from the fall but completely unharmed. Easily dodging falling rocks to avoid them pinning me to the ground.

I'd won.

I laughed in glee, but then turned around. It was then that the laughter instantly died in my throat.

Crushed among the debris was the body of the human man.

The back of his head had smashed against the ground on impact, killing him instantly. Blood splattered the rocks and his legs had been crushed by falling stone, but the most disturbing thing was his face.

I hadn't paid much attention to his appearance when he was trying to catch me, so it was like I was seeing him clearly for the first time.

His young eyes were frozen wide open in terror, and he didn't look any older than eighteen. More like a frightened teenager than a deadly soul hunter. His coat was also worn and full of badly sewn patches. Like he never had the money to buy another.

He wasn't much different from me. A young man who'd been forced onto that mountain through poverty and bad luck.

I covered my mouth in horror and slowly backed away. Pulling my hood over my face. Trying my best to forget that man, but his image was already firmly burned into my mind.

Ready to haunt me at every hint of self-doubt.

I put one foot before the other and walked away as snow began to fall.

There was no time to stand around feeling regret.

As much as it pained me, I had to bury my remorse and keep going if I hoped to stay ahead of the Soul Market.

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