Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Ch7

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

Only Anya and I were purchased by the same owner after the Soul Market ripped us from Alistair's mansion. Felix and Mira were snatched up by an old man looking for gardeners, and Angela was left behind because she was too small and unstable. I didn't think that I'd care, but I was devastated to see them go. Like they too were a part of a life that I was reluctant to part with.

At least there was Anya.

I told myself that as long as she was there, then everything would be fine.

Or so I thought.

Our next home was a textiles factory in the industrial city of Azaelia. The climate was hot, dry, and the sky was orange from sand which blew in from a distant desert.

The factory was a large three story red building surrounded by gravel fields. Most of the inner walls had been torn down to create a large hall where hundreds of souls would work day and night. The crumbling stone floors and window panes hadn't been replaced in years, and dirt was so imbedded into the cracks that we couldn't get it out, no matter how hard we scrubbed.

That place was owned by three brothers, who at first appeared to be outstanding members of society, but only we knew their true selves.

The oldest brother, Malcolm, was a man in his mid-thirties with short brown hair streaked with gray. I never saw him wearing anything other than a black business suit, as though he had no life outside of work. He seemed polite and civil, but Malcolm was a methodical businessman who treated us like tools. He calculated exactly how much we could work before collapsing, and expected nothing less. Any second that we weren't slaving away was seen as a lost opportunity to make more profit, and he would quietly clench his fist in annoyance whenever production came to a halt.

The middle brother, Frederick, was a bulky man with red hair. He thought highly of himself and liked to pretend that he was pleasant and outgoing. He had plenty of vain mortal friends and considered himself popular, but that bastard became a different person whenever he drank.

The youngest brother, David, was a short pudgy man with long black hair and glasses. He was quiet and withdrawn, which I thought was a welcome relief, but I guess it's always the quiet ones that you need to worry about. David obediently did whatever his brothers wanted, but secretly had a dark side that even his shitty siblings refused to acknowledge.

But those three were the least of my worries. Because as stingy, mean, or sick as they were, they were nothing compared to the terrible souls who managed the workers. Perhaps they were rotten back when they lived, or maybe all the centuries of suffering under cruel masters had created beings who were experts in torment.

Their leader was a soul who everyone called Foreman. I don't know what he did to become number one, but I'm certain that he must have lied, manipulated, and cheated his way through the factory until the brothers put him in charge.

He was a tall man with short curly hair, a broad chest, and was almost as strong as a regular mortal. There were deep lines around his eyes which made him look older, but perhaps they were a manifestation of his cruel intentions. It was impossible to escape his malicious bad side, and he created his own inner circle of corrupt souls who followed him without question.

"Listen up sinners!" Foreman yelled as he paced back and forth before us on our first day.

Myself and several other souls were neatly lined up on the factory floor. Anya was standing beside me. Dressed in the cheap gray pants and shirt that they forced us to wear. The fabric was covered in stains, like the uniform had been passed from soul to soul without ever being washed.

"You may have enjoyed yourselves living like kings on Earth," Foreman continued. "But now it's time to pay up! We don't wanna hear you moan about how tough we are compared to whatever soft new age masters you had before. You're now property of the Lynch brothers, and you will work all day, every day, making this!" He picked up a roll of white cloth and shoved it in our faces. "For as long as you exist in this factory, you will be threading! In the morning you will thread! In the evening you will thread! And when you become so tired that your pathetic little fingers can't move anymore, you will stay at your workstation and keep going until we say you can stop!"

"What about break time?" asked one soul in the middle of the line. He didn't see Foreman's minion swing a plank of wood into the back of his head. His face instantly collided with the floor.

"I didn't say you could speak," said Foreman. He then walked over and shoved one foot on the soul to prevent him from getting up. "Those shitty brothers may own this place, but on the factory floor, I'm your king," he hissed. "Got it?"

The soul quickly nodded. Foreman stomped his foot down on the guy's head one last time before moving away.

I stood there frozen in disbelief. That petty power trip was mild in comparison to what he could do, but it was the first time I'd met anyone so cruel. I looked over at Anya and expected her to share my unease, but she just watched on like it was nothing.

After that they named us.

Unlike real living people, our names are just temporary labels that change with our masters. The first name I received may have been Ethan, but I've been called many things such as Maxwell, Snowflake, Napoleon, and Ghosty. I've had plenty of terrible names as well, just like the one that arsehole of a foreman soon gave me.

"Girly boy," he said as he looked at my face and said the first thing that sprang to his mind. Another soul behind him scribbled it down in a notebook like it was official.

I opened my mouth to protest, but Anya subtly stepped on my foot as a sign to shut up.

"Toilet Brush Hair," he said while pointing to Anya. "Horse Face," he called the next guy. "Rat Teeth."

"We already have one of those," interrupted the guy with the notebook.

"Crappy Teeth," Foreman said and kept walking, continuing to make up more terrible names as he moved down the line.

Eventually he got to the last girl. Her face was deformed for reasons I don't know.

"Oh, do I have a name for you," Foreman grinned like he'd hit the jackpot. He then gave her a name so terrible and cruel that I can't even write it.

"That's a good one, Foreman," snickered a guy by his side, and half the souls on the factory floor began to nervously laugh like they didn't have a choice.

"They can't do this!" I whispered to Anya as they led us to our new work stations. "There's no way that they can get away with treating us like this."

"You're so naive," Anya wearily replied. "We're just souls and they bought us, so we have to do whatever they want. It's the price we pay for selling ourselves back when we were alive. Everyone knows that."

My mouth slammed shut. I didn't know how to respond. All the other souls seemed to understand our new situation, but I refused to give in.

"Trust me," said Anya like she could sense my defiance. "I've had four masters, and this is just the way things are. To these guys we're just objects," she glanced at Malcolm who was silently watching from a balcony on the second floor. "They think we're below them."

"Wait, you never told me that you had masters before Alistair." I always thought that she was relatively new to Hell like me.

I wanted to ask more about her life before we met, but one of Foreman's minions shoved me in front of a large wooden loom and ordered me to start threading. I nervously picked up a roll of cotton and tried to copy the soul beside me. Her fingers moved with perfect precision, but her face was blank and lifeless like her mind had gone elsewhere. Most of the souls in the room were the same, as though their minds were the only way to escape.

"Don't worry," whispered the soul on my right. A thin young man with large eyes and a nervous twitch. I later found out that he was named Twitchy after his habit of convulsing every five seconds. "This place isn't so bad, once you get used to it."

I looked behind me to see Foreman grab a fist full of one girl's hair and yank her off a chair. He then proceeded to yell profanities at her until the young woman was sobbing.

I thought I'd seen the worst of the factory, but it was only the beginning.

I didn't know it back then, but that bleak factory would be my home for the next twenty years. Every day I would sit before a loom and make the same dull white cloth for hours without rest. Within months, my hands moved in a perfect rhythm without needing to think, and my mind soon entered its own fantasy world just to escape the excruciating repetition.

I had many different daydreams. Sometimes I'd imagine what things could have been like if I wasn't dead. If I'd been born into the Underworld instead of selling my soul, then perhaps I could have gone wherever I wanted, and never have to take orders from corrupt or sly masters. I would probably be poor, but even a short simple life would be better than being a soul.

On the other hand, if I belonged to a rich family, I could have lived in a luxurious mansion full of servants who'd wait on me night and day. They would all be mortal of course, because I didn't want any souls to suffer when I passed away. I could have gone to an expensive academy like my old master, and there I would have learned over a thousand magic spells. I'd perform fantastic incantations with a twist of my wrist, and no human or demon would dare mess with me.

Unlike my first master, whose lonely immortal life caused him to treat souls like real people, the Lynch brothers (like most beings in Hell) just utilized us as tools. We weren't human to them, and I became just another small cog in their production machine.

If I wasn't threading, I was cleaning. If I wasn't cleaning, I was packing. And if I wasn't packing, then I was probably being subjected to something that I don't want to remember.

Making that stupid cloth wasn't always easy. When I first got there, I had to deal with Foreman or his friends abusing me over the smallest mistakes.

"What's this shit, Girly Boy?" said Big Guy, Foreman's closest friend. He was the largest soul there, which was why Foreman recruited him to do most of the grunt work.

Big Guy ripped the half finished cloth from my loom and shoved it in my face. "Just look at these gaps! No one in Hell would buy this crap!"

My life would have been easier if I just sat there and took his abuse, but I didn't know the ways of the Underworld back then.

"You can't expect it to be perfect when I only just got here!" I snapped back in anger. "And my name's not Girly Boy, its Ethan!"

The room fell silent and all the souls around me abruptly stopped threading. Several of them turned and stared like they knew what would come next.

"What did you say?" hissed Big Guy, like he couldn't believe what I'd done.

"I said that my name is Ethan!"

I was proud of myself, but Twitchy frantically waved his arms behind Big Guy to warn me. I had no idea what he was freaking out about until Big Guy grabbed a handful of my hair, then shoved me face first into the loom.

"You inconsiderate piece of shit! How dare you talk back! You're lucky that I'm not in charge, because I'd give you a far shittier name than that!"

"What an idiot!" laughed Tomboy as she skipped over to bask in my anguish.

Tomboy was a tall girl with short hair, who was probably insane long before she even arrived in the Underworld. She carried a large plank of wood at all times, and took great pleasure in knocking souls off balconies and through open windows.

"You gotta check this one out, Foreman!" She grinned and beckoned him over. "It's so much fun playing with them when they still have a personality."

Foreman slowly strolled over and I could see the tips of his shoes through the gaps in my loom. He then leaned up against Twitchy's chair and left me hanging there until he decided to speak.

"I get that you're new here, Girly Boy. So maybe you don't quite understand how things work. Luckily for you I'm a pretty reasonable guy, so I'll explain everything nice and slow so that your pathetic little brain can understand."

"Oh, I do love this part," giggled Tomboy. She knocked the soul behind me off his chair and then sat back to watch.

"One day back in your shitty little life when you breathed," Foreman continued. "You decided to sell your soul for money, or fame, or the attention of some girl who couldn't stand your girly face. You then signed your name on a contract saying that you would do anything, that's right, anything, that you were ordered to do in Hell. That means doing whatever those shitty mortals upstairs want. Now those brothers are pretty busy counting their money, or going to parties, or doing whatever fucked up things that other one does, so they left me in charge. Can you guess what that means?"

He patiently waited for me to answer, but I remained silent.

"Answer the Foreman!" Big Guy yelled.

I nervously shook my head because I didn't know what to say.

"It means that I'm your master down here," said Foreman. "And you have to do whatever I say. Which includes answering to any name that you're lucky enough to get. Do you understand what I'm saying here, Girly Boy?"

He then started poking me in the face. I'm sure that he would have come up with plenty of other sick ways to mess with me, but his watchman, Spots, suddenly burst through the side door.

Spots was a middle aged man whose translucent face was covered in dark freckles. His only unique skill was that he could apparently remember his life back on Earth, but I'm certain that his amazing stories were just lies he made up to make himself look special.

"Frederick's coming, Foreman!" he yelled. "And he's got David with him too!"

"Drunk or sober?" asked Foreman.

"Looks pretty sober at the moment, Boss!"

Foreman quickly jumped to his feet and scanned the room. "You heard him!" he yelled, and every soul doubled their speed.

He gave me one last shove before patrolling the room to make sure that everything was perfect. Big Guy, Tomboy, and Spots all jumped before their looms which they only used when the brothers were watching.

In strolled our master Frederick with his brother David trailing behind him. Both dressed in expensive black suits and gleaming white shoes. Just another reminder of how they lived the high life off our pain.

Foreman turned to meet them with a smile, and it was like someone flipped a coin and a completely different personality emerged. Gone was the power hungry maniac who looked down on his masters and exploited their absence, and there was the perfect soul who could be trusted to do anything.

"Master Frederick, Master David." He graciously bowed before the brothers. "How kind of you to come down here."

"Long time no see, you old bastard," laughed Frederick as he gave Foreman a friendly punch in the arm. "How are the new stiffs going?"

"As you can see they're going wonderfully. They should be up to speed with the process within a week."

"Like that poor sod over there," Frederick pointed to me as I hopelessly struggled to untangle the knots in my cotton.

"That's just Girly Boy." Foreman glared at me as a hint to get my act together. "He still needs some breaking in, but he should be more obedient soon."

I must have looked like an embarrassment, because Tomboy quickly tried to draw our master's attention away.

"Good day, gracious Master Frederick!" she said with a giant smile. She was the only worker grinning on the factory floor (everyone else looked lifeless and grim) so I don't understand how Fredrick never saw through her act.

"Good day to you too, Smiley," Frederick replied. "Happy as always?"

"It's just another super duper wonderful day in Hell," she laughed. "I wake up every morning and bless the powers of the Underworld for bringing me to this fantastical factory."

"That's what I love about you Tomboy! You're always so bright and positive. Listen up souls!" Fredrick called out to the rest of us. "It wouldn't kill you to show a little more joy around this place."

"Kill you? When we're already dead?" laughed Tomboy. "That's a great one, Master Frederick. I've never met anyone funnier than you!"

All the souls around me forced their faces into strained smiles, and nervously laughed like they didn't know how to be happy.

"I need to warn you," Twitchy quietly whispered. "There are two types of souls in this place. Foreman's group, and then the rest of us. The brothers trust him completely, so they don't listen to anything we say. Anyone who crosses those guys gets punished or sent downstairs."

"What's downstairs?" I asked, but Big Guy was walking in our direction so Twitchy pretended to be immersed in his cloth.

Frederick took a quick walk around the factory floor and then excused himself, leaving only David behind.

The younger brother remained silent and motionless in the shadows as he eagerly examined us all. His eyes made contact with mine for just one short moment. I quickly looked down to escape his piercing stare.

When I glanced back he was quietly talking to Foreman.

Foreman nodded in agreement before walking up to one young looking girl who was threading nearby. She was short, thin, and had long straight hair that cascaded over her shoulders. She tried her best to pretend that Foreman wasn't there, but I could see her hands trembling.

"You're up, Skanky Legs." Foreman tilted his head towards David.

The girl suddenly collapsed against her loom and began to sob like he'd slapped her in the face.

"Please! Not again," she cried. "Can't he play with someone else this time?"

"It's not up to me," Foreman snapped. "You either go by yourself or Big Guy will carry you. And if you hate him so much, then you should stop crying. He probably gets off on shit like that."

With a nod, she slowly got out of her chair and hesitantly made her way over to David. Her shoulders slumped and her gaze never left the floor. My creepy master then put one arm around her shoulders and led her out of the room.

"Must be a pretty sad existence if a soul's the only one who'll come back to your room," said Spots who was standing behind me.

"If she doesn't want to go, then she shouldn't have to," I bitterly muttered.

"Ha! I didn't know that you were a comedian, Girly Boy," Spots laughed. He then shoved me into my loom and walked away. "Shouldn't have to? That's a good one."

I glanced over at Anya. She'd stopped threading and was anxiously watching David like he was a poisonous insect.

Souls can work longer than the living, so it wasn't uncommon for us to work days without rest. Sadly, our energy doesn't last forever, and we gradually slow down until we collapse from mental exhaustion.

But resting without permission was unforgivable in that factory. Foreman's group would soon berate us if we accidentally nodded off.

"Wakey Wakey!" Big Guy yelled and kicked Horse Face's chair out from underneath him.

Horse Face crashed to the floor, but quickly pulled himself to his feet. Mumbling a long stream of apologies. "Sorry Big Guy. I'll never do it again, man. I just closed my eyes for a second. Only a second I swear! You know that I'll never do it again, right? I respect all you guys, and I would never do anything to go against Fore-"

"Get back to work!"

"Yes, sir!" Horse Face cried before picking up his seat and working away in a frenzy.

Tomboy was no kinder, and would often whack us off our chairs if we were working too slowly. We had to constantly watch our backs, because you never knew when they would lash out and attack.

Foreman on the other hand, would lethargically lean back in a chair and take breaks whenever he felt like it. Watching him happily nap when we couldn't sleep, only increased my hatred towards that bastard. I'd never felt so angry and bitter towards anyone before. My daydreams were soon taken over by visions of Foreman suffering a terrible demise.

It was only when we became so tired that we could barely move, would they finally give us permission to sleep.

"Lights out!" Big Guy would cry before extinguishing the lamps and slamming the door behind him.

"Where are the beds?" I wearily asked Twitchy. I always had my own room at Alistair's mansion, but I couldn't see anywhere to sleep in the factory.

"You're looking at it," he said and pointed to the ground under my feet.

I thought he was joking, until I looked around to see our fellow souls tiredly collapse against their looms or the floor. I was horrified at first, but after days without rest, my wooden chair suddenly became an attractive pillow.

"Things weren't always like this," Twitchy whispered. "There used to be a few mortal guys in charge, who were only half as bad. Foreman was just another soul like the rest of us, but then he somehow managed to convince the brothers that it was better to place him in charge. Now he uses his power to control and mess with us the way that human masters do. He'll never leave you alone until you obey him without question."

"Why don't you guys do anything about it? There's so many of you and only a few of them."

"There were others like you," he said sadly before rolling over and curling up into a ball. "And they all failed."

Twitchy then pretended to be asleep, refusing to answer any more of my questions.

Not knowing what the next few days would bring made it impossible to relax. Big Guy and Tomboy became especially harsh since the day I talked back, and they took the smallest opportunity to hit or berate me. If that wasn't bad enough, the way that some souls would giggle or laugh (like they were trying to slowly work their way into Foreman's group) made it even worse.

The fear and anxiety was too much to take, so I stood up to find Anya amongst the sleeping bodies on the floor. Carefully tiptoeing around them until I found her curled up under her loom.

"Anya?" I quietly asked to see if she was awake.

"You should stop using that name," she wearily whispered back. "It's Toilet Brush Hair now."

"You can't be serious." It was hard to believe that my strong willed friend had begun following Foreman's deranged thinking. "That's a terrible name."

"Don't worry, it won't be forever."

"That doesn't matter!" I said more loudly than I intended and the soul beside her began to stir. I crept under her loom so that I could speak without raising my voice. "We should do something about them. It might be difficult with just the two of us, but if we can convince some of the other souls to join-"

"You shouldn't fight them, Eth-" Anya almost said my old name before catching herself. "This isn't our old home anymore. This is the way that souls usually live. We just have to take it and hope that the next master will be better."

"Like Foreman does?" That guy was the opposite of struggling through his terrible fate.

"It's because of people like Foreman! Fighting him will only make things harder."

"So you're on his side now? Just like the rest of them?" It upset me that she just sat there and did nothing while they yelled in my face.

"Can't you see?" she hissed. "There is no other side. I've been watching them for a while now, and I've discovered that they only pick on the ones who act up or argue back. They mostly ignore the quiet ones who don't talk. If we just copy them, then Foreman's group should leave us alone. The only problem is that one brother." I didn't have to ask to know that she was referring to David. "I still haven't worked out how he thinks, but I think I've figured out a way to protect myself from him."

I sighed in defeat. Anya was the stubbornest person I knew.

"I'm sorry, you're right," I said even though I despised those words. "I'll talk to you again next time."

"Wait up." She grabbed my wrist to stop me from leaving. "Please promise that you won't do anything stupid."

"I'll try," I lied and she slowly let go.

I crept back to my spot. After hours of thinking over her words, I fell into a deep slumber.

At first I thought that the screaming that awoke me was Big Guy telling us to get back to work. He would yell and kick us if we took too long, but the voices were too fearful to be Foreman or his shitty friends.

I opened my eyes to see the souls around me crying and fleeing into the corners. Some shoved themselves behind shelves, or dived under their looms and grabbed onto the legs like their lives depended on it.

I stood there stunned with no idea of the horror they were running from, until I caught sight of Master Frederick in the center of the room. Face bright red like he'd drunk far too much, and shirt discarded on the ground as though he'd ripped it off in rage.

"I own you! I own you all!" my master bellowed like a wild animal.

His large hands grabbed onto one girl who was still sleeping on the floor, then pulled on her arm like he was trying to rip it from its socket. The soul screamed in horror and struggled to get away, but it was too much stress on her limbs, so her body became transparent. Making it possible to slip from his grip and dash into a corner.

Fredrick growled in rage and punched another soul in the face. His fist went straight through the kid's head (which must have been a disappointment) because my master then shoved the boy to the ground and stomped on him like crushing a cockroach.

"I can do whatever I want! And none of you can stop me!"

Fredrick gripped onto another soul (who didn't bother to run) and flung them half way across the room into a brick wall. The soul's ghostly body slumped to the floor, and they sat there blankly like they'd long lost the will to fight back.

Fredrick continued his rampage throughout the factory floor. Souls went flying in all directions. I couldn't believe that it was the same friendly man who came down to greet us days earlier.

Laughter echoed throughout the room. I looked up to see Foreman and his group watching in amusement from a balcony on the second floor. There was Tomboy, Big Guy, Spots, as well as several other souls who shamelessly sucked up to those bastards.

"I wonder who's gonna get the window this time," laughed Tomboy as she leaned dangerously far over the railing to get a better view.

"My bet is on Fat Chick," said Big Guy.

"Nah, looks like she already dived under that pile of cloth," said Spots. "Flat Face on the other hand looks like he's got nowhere to run."

"Hey, hey," said Tomboy. "Wouldn't it be funny to see Bug Eyes go flying?"

"You and Bug Eyes," huffed Foreman. "That guy used to be fun until you crushed his spirit."

Spots pointed to somewhere across the room. "Looks like Toilet Brush may be today's lucky contender!"

I tore my gaze away from them to see Fredrick encroaching on my friend. There was no longer any room left in the corners, so she pressed herself against the far wall, but Frederick was right before her. She was certain to become his next victim unless somebody did something.

"Anya!" I sprinted across the room and launched myself at Frederick in an attempt to knock him down. My master stumbled for a moment, but of course my body was too weak to do anything.

"Look at that!" laughed Tomboy from above. "Girly Boy's trying to play hero!"

"Huh," huffed Foreman. "Too bad that he doesn't realize that it's fucking impossible."

As soon as those words reached my ears, Fredrick grabbed my arm and flung me far across the room. I watched the world fly past until I crashed into a group of souls huddled behind a pile of cloth.

"Anya!" I cried and quickly jumped to my feet, but the other souls grabbed onto my limbs and held me down. "What are you doing?" I cried as I frantically struggled against them. "We have to help her!"

"Don't do it!" one soul hissed into my ear.

"He's a master," said another.

"A master's will is absolute."

"We can't go against the master."

"Terrible things will happen."

"It's best to stay here and hope that he doesn't come."

"Yes! You should stay here with us."

I pulled and shoved, but as soon as I pried one dead man's fingers from my body, another hand took its place.

Anya was gone by the time Fredrick drunkenly stumbled back to his room. As soon as the souls released their grip, I dashed straight to where she was, but there was no sign of my friend. I could only hope that she found a safe place to hide.

I didn't see her until we resumed work the following morning. Anya lifelessly slumped in her chair and threaded like someone centuries older. She flinched and leaned away whenever someone walked past. I wondered if her jitterish behavior was caused by what happened the previous night.

I desperately wanted to rush to her side, but Foreman's crew made it impossible to leave our seats once work began.

"Cotton?" asked one soul circling the factory with a straw basket full of rolls. I took one out of habit, but then saw an opportunity to escape my work station.

"Here, let me help you!" I jumped to my feet and snatched the basket from his arms. I then dashed down the isle of looms before he could grab it back. "Cotton, cotton, cotton." My hands virtually flung the rolls at the souls between Anya and myself. I stopped before my friend and handed her a roll as slowly as possible. "Anya, about last ni-"

"Forget it," she said without taking her eyes off the loom. "I don't want to talk about it."

"I tried to-"

"I know," she snapped and pulled on a thread so hard that it broke. Anya then slumped in defeat and wearily tied the two ends back together. "Just let it go. Please. Let's just pretend that it never happened."

I stood there frozen. Caught between pressing the issue more or letting her be. Perhaps I was idle for a little too long, which was never a good idea.

"Hey! Girly Boy!" cried Tomboy from across the room. She virtually glided towards me like a magnet attracted to anything that wasn't moving. "That was some show you put on yesterday." She shoved one hand against my chest. "Not many bright souls have the guts to take on our dear Master Freddy."

"Yeah!" Spots jumped down from the second floor balcony to torment me as well. "Anyone would think that you actually want to be punished. You should thank your lucky stars that Master Frederick doesn't remember, and Foreman thought it was funny, otherwise you'd be begging for mercy right now."

"The last dumbass who upset Master Freddy got glued to the rafters," said Tomboy.

"It took days for him to fall down," said Spots.

"Then Foreman chained him to the bottom of the dye vat."

"And now he lives in there scraping down the sides."

"Ain't that right, Mr. Dye Vat Man!" she called out. There was a bang from a large metal tank in the corner, like someone did indeed live there.

I opened my mouth to try and explain myself, but Tomboy began violently shoving me backwards.

"I never said that I wanted your opinion, Girly Bits!" she snapped.

"Obviously your see through brain doesn't understand who's boss around here," said Spots.

"You should be threading, threading, threading, not chatting, chatting, chatting!"

"Now get back to work before Foreman sends you to join Dye Vat Man!"

I knew those weren't empty threats, so I cowardly backed away and resumed handing out cotton. Tomboy triumphantly grinned, but then she caught sight of Anya threading before her.

"Well, well." She casually leaned against Anya's loom. "If it isn't Toilet Brush Face? We saw you get lucky last night. Freddy doesn't just wave his junk at anyone, ya know."

"Some of us think that he may have taken a liking to you." Spots playfully shoved her. "Looks like you're well on your way to being his new favorite toy."

"Why the sad face, Toiley," laughed Tomboy in response to Anya's mortification. "He might even make you his girlfriend, if you're lucky."

The two of them broke into laughter like it was supposed to be funny. Their words shocked me, but half the souls in the factory soon joined in like they were hilarious.

"You guys have all the best ideas." Smiled one girl who would always flatter Foreman's henchmen.

Anya's face contorted in horror and she shook like she was going to cry. I was ready to drop my basket and rush to her side, but then she began laughing. It was strained at first, like she was forcing it through her misery, but it soon became loud and confident enough to impress those bastards.

All three of them laughed together like old friends, and I was amazed at how Anya could do that despite their cruel bullying.

"What's so funny?" said a frosty voice from across the room.

Foreman was there leaning back against the wall. His face was stone cold, and I could tell from his eyes that he was in one of his darker moods.

"N..n..nothing Foreman," stuttered Tomboy like even she knew that it was time to feel afraid. "Toilet Brush Hair was just working too slowly, that's all." She weakly whacked Anya over the head.

"I see," he said. "Just make sure that they do everything to the book. We may be a few days behind, but it'll be even longer if they screw up."

"Yes, sir!" Tomboy replied with a dramatic salute, but her hand was trembling.

Foreman then circled the factory floor and soon found a flaw in another soul's cloth. He kicked over her loom in rage, then screamed profanities at her until she cried.

"What's with him today?" hissed Spots.

"Must be Malcolm," whispered Tomboy. "He's not pleased about the complaints some customers made. He must have started laying the pressure on Foreman."

Foreman kicked the girl in the ribs like it could relieve stress. I nervously returned to my loom and made sure to thread especially well. I remembered Anya's advice about blending in and decided to trust my friend. I was certain that as long as I stayed quiet and worked, then Foreman would never trouble me again.

But it was impossible to avoid his craziness forever.

One thing I dreaded most was when the cotton ran out. Until we received a new shipment we couldn't make cloth, which meant that we had to find other ways to keep busy. At first we'd scrub floors and clean whatever we could, but we'd eventually run out of things to do.

You may think that we'd be overjoyed to get a break from our hellish work schedule, but Foreman and his friends were far more unpredictable when they were bored.

"Spots," said Foreman as he sat before an open window staring off into the distance. "Tell me one of your stories about life on Earth."

"Certainly, Foreman," Spots said with far more respect than he ever showed me. "Did I ever tell you about how it rains chickens?"


"The talking trees and rocks?"

"Several times."

"How people use magic to fly?"

"Heard it."

"The story of how I was a rich prince who was tragically forced to sell my soul to save my dying baby sister who was kidnapped by magical talking frogs?"

Foreman growled in irritation. "Crappy teeth," he snapped to a nearby soul. "Go punch Horse Face!"

Crappy Teeth pulled himself to his feet and slowly began walking towards Horse Face.

"Come on Foreman! Please man," begged Horse Face as he slowly backed away. "I've been good to you, right? I don't deserve this."

"Then fight back." Foreman grinned.

"No way! Crappy Teeth here ain't done nothin to me."

"Then I suppose the loser can tell it to the pit."

"No way! Anything but the pit, man."

Horse Face blocked Crappy Teeth's punch and then kicked him in the legs. The two of them started slapping each other like children, which amused Foreman for another ten minutes before he became bored.

"You guys!" he ordered to a group of souls in one corner. "Go jump off the third floor and impale yourselves on that pole over there!"

I thought it was a ridiculous request and they would all refuse, but everyone of them got up and did it without question.

"What's wrong, Flabby?" Foreman said to one soul who turned away. "Don't you wanna see the show I kindly arranged for you? Would you rather get up there and join them?"

Flabby nervously shook his head, then stared at the souls with so much concentration that I thought his eyes may pop out of their sockets. I was also forced to sit and watch in horror as all the souls jumped and landed on top of each other. One guy unfortunately missed the pole, so Foreman made several jabs at his appearance before making him get up and do it again.

It was just one of the sick games that Foreman would play for kicks. He would order us to get into ridiculous positions, or do terrible things to each other, just to see how far we'd go.

"Girly Boy," my tormentor snapped when it was finally my turn. "Go make out with Skanky Legs."

It took me a moment to process his words, and by that time Skanky Legs had already pulled herself to her feet and was walking towards me.

I looked around, searching for help, only to see most of the souls eagerly watching, like it wasn't just Foreman who wanted to see it. My eyes fell on Anya, but she quickly turned away like she couldn't look.

"No," I muttered and scrunched my hands into fists. "I won't do it."

"You shitty little bastard!" yelled Big Guy. " How dare you ignore a direct order from the Foreman!"

"Ha, ha! Somebody's gonna-" laughed Tomboy before Foreman raised one hand to silence her.

"Girly Boy." His eyes narrowed dangerously in both anger and excitement. "Do it!"

Everyone was watching. Even Skanky Legs stood there frozen and confused. A small part of myself considered following his orders, just to get him off my back, but when I imagined forcing myself to kiss that girl while everyone laughed, my body began to shake with rage.

Suddenly, I no longer cared about being punished. They could hit and insult me all they wanted, if it meant that I didn't have to be part of their sick entertainment.

"No, screw you Foreman!" I snapped, and there were gasps of horror from around the room. I knew I was done for, but instead of shutting up and accepting my punishment, I decided to keep going. "Making people do stuff like this is sick. We might be dead, but you can't just order us around for fun. It's cruel, and mean, and I'm sure that everyone else wants you to stop. Right guys?"

I looked around and expected at least one soul to back me up (like my words alone could have started a revolution) but everyone fell silent and backed away. I looked straight at Anya, in the hope that she'd do something, but she shook her head and slowly hid herself amongst the crowd. Twitchy also avoided my gaze. Turning away like he didn't want anyone to know we were friends.

"Poor, poor, Girly Boy," sang Tomboy. Voice dripping with fake sympathy. "All alone in Hell with no one to help him."

"Cruel am I?" said Foreman as he walked over. My terror grew with his every step, but I refused to show fear or back down. "That's not a nice thing to say. Considering how soft I've been on you until now."

"You're anything but soft!" I snapped back. "You're a crazy, power obsessed maniac who treats everyone terribly. Maybe they've all been too afraid to do anything, but that won't last forever. day," I stuttered as he finally got to me. "Those brothers will find out what you're really like, and... and get rid of you!"

"Oh, is that so, Girly Boy!" he laughed and grinned like he knew that his presence alone was enough to make most souls break. "And who's gonna tell them. You?"

"If I have to," I said through clenched teeth.

I couldn't have been more serious, but Foreman and his friends began to laugh harder.

"You're hilarious, Girly Boy," that bastard said between chuckles. "It's been so long since someone thought that they could fuck with me."

And with one firm shove to my chest, he sent me flying backwards through an open window.

I watched the world fly past as I plummeted backwards towards the ground. The open window moved further and further beyond my outstretched hands, then I smashed against hard gravel. My ghostly body slid and rolled twice, before I came to a complete stop in the field outside the factory.

I remained there on my back. Blankly staring up at the opaque orange sky, as my mind tried to understand what happened. One moment I was telling Foreman to go screw himself, and then I was staring up at the sun.

But I didn't have long to appreciate the scenery before Foreman made his next move.

"Look everyone!" Foreman yelled in fake surprise while leaning out the window. "Looks like someone's trying to do a runner!"

Of course it was a lie, but I didn't hear a single soul raise their voice to oppose him.

"Oh no, Foreman!" Big Guy joined in despite his shitty acting. "You better go do something about that before he gets away."

"By Hades, you're right my friend! I better go grab him before it's too late!" And with those words, Foreman jumped from the window and gracefully landed on the ground before me.

I didn't know what they were up to, but I knew that it couldn't be good. I quickly pulled myself to my feet and cautiously backed away, until I bumped into something blocking my escape. I glanced over my shoulder to discover the reason behind their ridiculous acting.

Behind me stood Master Malcolm.

He was accompanied by his younger brother David and several souls dragging large crates of cotton. Malcolm blinked in surprise. Looking down at me as though he couldn't understand why I wasn't in there making him money.

I was shocked at first, but then I saw my only opportunity to get rid of Foreman and his terrible friends. Out of those three brothers, Malcolm seemed to be the most reasonable and sane. I thought that he'd listen and take my side just like my old master Alistair had.

"Please!" I begged. I fell to my knees and desperately clung to his expensive jacket like a small child. "There's no way that I'd ever run away! He pushed me! Foreman pushed me! He's a terrible terrible person who takes breaks, insults you, and messes with us for fun. You have to help us! You have to get rid of him!"

I don't know what I thought would happen. Maybe I naively believed that he'd actually listen and send Foreman away. Perhaps I even had delusions of Malcolm caring enough to find a new Foreman who'd treat us kindly.

But such foolish thinking just made reality even harder to accept.

"Foreman," said Malcolm like he hadn't listened to a word. "What's this soul doing outside the factory?"

Those words were like a slap in the face.

"My humble apologies, Master Malcolm," said Foreman with a bow. "It seems like this disrespectful guy has trouble following rules. I guess he just doesn't appreciate the good deal you provide for him here."

"No! It's not true!" I cried and tugged on Malcolm's jacket. "He's trying to trick you! Don't listen to him, Master!"

"A real corrupt little sinner, isn't he?" said Foreman over my screams. "Guys like him only know how to cheat and steal. Unfortunately this one will say almost anything to manipulate you over to his side."

"I see," said Malcolm with a nod like he believed Foreman completely.

"No! He's lying! Don't listen to him!" I screamed, but I could tell that Malcolm didn't even view me as human. "Please! Please help-" were the last words I managed to get out before Foreman pried my fingers from Malcolm's jacket and clamped his hand over my mouth.

"I'm sorry that this one got out and troubled you today, Master" said Foreman. "I'll try and make sure it never happens again."

"Perhaps buying this one was a mistake," said Malcolm thoughtfully. "Maybe I should have him sent back."

"There's no need to worry about that, Master," said Foreman with a smile so pleasant that he could have fooled anyone. "I'll soon have him straightened out. He'll be one of your best workers before you know it."

"See to it then, I don't know how we'd ever control these disobedient souls without you, Foreman."

"Oh. I'm just pleased that I can be of service to you, Master. Now if you'd kindly excuse me," that liar said with one last bow. "I have a lot of work to do."

Shadows flickered on the dark stone walls as we descended into the depths of the factory. I never knew that the basement level even existed, until Foreman shoved me at Big Guy and ordered him to take me You Know Where.

Together, Big Guy and I traveled down a long spiral staircase with him leading the way. I was certain that the ancient rusty stairs would collapse beneath his large feet, but unfortunately for me they held for the whole journey down.

"Where are you taking me?" I asked.

"Shut up!" he growled, and I regretted saying anything.

We walked down a narrow passage with only the torch in his hand to light the way. Several steel doors existed on either side, and there were multiple corridors and turns like a maze. I obediently followed behind Big Guy like a good soul, and somehow deluded myself into thinking that whatever he planned couldn't be that bad.

BANG! Thundered a metal door on my right like something suddenly threw it's full weight against it. I jumped back in shock and fell against the opposite wall.

BANG! BANG! BANG! It continued like someone was desperately trying to get out.

"I always forget that sucker's here," Big Guy laughed as I scrambled to my feet. "Foreman forgot to take him out for a year, and now he's so far gone that there's no going back. They've been meaning to call the Soul Market to come collect him for years, but I guess those lazy arse brothers still haven't done it."

I tried my best to regain my composure, but I couldn't hide my fear.

"What's wrong, Girly Boy?" he said. "Did you just see your future?"

I almost answered, but then realized that he didn't care.

Big Guy smirked and continued walking forward. I nervously stood there, too afraid to move, but as soon as he turned a corner (and the darkness began creeping in) I rushed to keep up.

We soon emerged into a large open room full of broken looms and trash. I didn't take my eyes off the doorway, paranoid that he'd slam it shut behind me, but I should have paid more attention to the floor instead.

"In you go," Big Guy said, then shoved me into a dark narrow pit. Indistinguishable from the other shadows in the room.

I hit my head against one wall before crashing against the dark stone bottom. Unidentifiable garbage crunched under my weight. It was pitch black down there, and the only thing I could see was Big Guy leering at me from the top of the hole.

"Welcome to your new home, Girly Boy," that bastard laughed. "Foreman wants you to make yourself comfortable. He won't be coming back to get you in a hurry, and that's if he even remembers at all."

There was the sound of steel sliding against stone, and Big Guy began pushing a large metal plate across the top of the pit.

"Hey! Wait!" I called out and attempted to scramble up the walls to escape, but the hole was too deep, and the walls too slippery for me to get a decent grip.

He soon covered the entrance completely, blocking out any trace of light and hope of escape.

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