Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Ch 4

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

The following year seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. We cleaned, we bickered, but I didn't dare attempt anymore experiments. Those quiet days were the closest my old self came to experiencing life without a master. We were all free to partake in any activity that we pleased, without having to worry about crazy mortals or consequences.

But such days of freedom can never last for a soul.

"Let's play a game," said Anya one sunny afternoon. She, Felix, Angela, Alphonse, and I were lifelessly lying around the sitting room killing time. It had become our daily habit since we no longer had a master and his guests to wait on.

"What sort of game?" asked Alphonse curiously as he lethargically laid back on a leather sofa.

"How about tag?" suggested Anya.

"Tag?" laughed Alphonse. "Isn't that what street children play?"

"Well, do you have any better ideas?" Anya snapped.

"I'll play," said Felix as he pulled himself to his feet.

He smiled at Anya who happily grinned back. The two of them had become unusually close, and just watching them together was enough to ignite a small blaze of jealousy in the pit of my stomach.

"I'll play too!" I said and slammed down the book I was reading.

"Well, I suppose I don't have anything better to do," sighed Alphonse.

"You'll play too, right Angela?" said Anya. "I heard that lots of kids love this game."

"Can the winner have their eyes scratched out?" asked Angela curiously. "I would like that."

Anya screwed her face up in horror before deciding to ignore that crazy girl.

"Who's gonna be it?" asked Felix.

"Ethan!" said Anya.

"What! Why me?" I protested.

"Because I say so, of course," Anya said with a mischievous grin.

"Fine." I crossed my arms. "But you'll be my first target."

"If you can catch me." Anya smiled.

"We can be a team." Felix put one hand on her shoulder. I tried my best not to let them see how uncomfortable that made me.

"How do you play this stupid game anyway?" asked Alphonse.

"Well," said Anya. "First, Ethan has to close his eyes and count to ten. Then we run away, and he chases after us as fast as his little legs can go."

"That's so lame," moaned Alphonse, but he didn't back down.

"I'm sure you'll enjoy it once we start." Anya nodded at me to begin.

I took one last look at Felix and Anya before covering my eyes with my hands.

"One, two, three," I counted as my fellow souls dashed away. "Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten."

I removed my hands and glanced around the room. Alphonse, Anya, and Felix were gone, but Angela happily sat on the sofa staring into space. Her small legs couldn't reach the floor, and she looked completely unaware that the game had even started.

"Angela, you're supposed to run away."

"Shhhh," she whispered. "I'm listening to them scream. Can't you hear them screaming, Ethan?"

I closed my eyes and listened, but there was nothing but the house creaking with age.

"Angela, I can't hear anything."

"I can," she said with a large smile. "They've been down there for so very long. Master Balthazar should really let them see the sun every once in a while."

"Angela, Alistair is your master now."

"I know, but Master Balthazar is still here. He talks to me all the time. Can't you see him over there?"

She pointed to an empty corner where there was nothing but dust. I sighed and gave up trying to talk to her. It was impossible to convince Angela that the delusions weren't real.

"If you want to play you should go hide now!" I yelled over my shoulder as I dashed out of the room. Having no idea that it was the last game that we'd ever play together.

I ran through the mansion searching for the other souls. Circling halls and climbing stairs, until I arrived at the guestrooms which used to host Alistair's friends. The white bed sheets were still perfectly ironed like some aristocrat would walk in at any moment. I glanced into every room to see if my fellow souls were hiding beneath the furniture, but everything was dull, uneventful, and unnaturally quiet.

I walked past the last room, to see pale lace curtains billowing in the breeze. I paused to watch them sway back and forth like waves, until I realized that none of the windows were meant to be open. I walked inside and pulled the window shut with a loud bang.

"What was that noise?" echoed Felix from down the hall.

"I'm sure it's just the mansion falling to bits," said Anya. "Just yesterday the dining room table collapsed. Master really needs to put more money towards fixing things instead of new party decorations."

"Do you think that Ethan could be hiding somewhere waiting for us?"

"Don't be silly," laughed Anya. "Ethan wouldn't ever think of something so smart. He's terrible at games. He once attempted to hide behind a curtain, but you could see his body poking out from behind it and everything. You should have been there Felix, it was hilarious."

I peered my head out the doorway to see the two of them strolling down the hall. Any idiot would have hid and waited for them to come closer, but the old me wasn't capable of such thoughts.

"Oh, crap! It's him!" Anya dramatically cried. She grabbed Felix's arm and the two of them dashed away.

I sprang out of the room and chased after them as quickly as possible. Our faint footsteps echoed throughout the mansion as we ran around corners and down wooden stairs.

Despite promising to catch Anya first, I found myself instinctively targeting Felix instead. Watching him slowly replace me as Anya's best friend was mortifying, and I don't understand what she saw in a guy like that. Perhaps he was more useful than I could have ever been.

I finally gained on them as we dashed through the empty ballroom. Curtains torn and floor covered in dust. The lavish parties of the past seemed like a forgotten dream.

I could almost reach out to touch Felix's shoulder, but then the two of them dived into the kitchen and slammed the door in my face.

My hand quickly lunged for the handle to push it open, but with the click of a lock, it refused to budge.

"No fair!" I slammed my palms against the door in frustration. The two of them giggled inside the room.

I shoved my body against the door once before deciding to give up and try a different route.

I dashed out a different exit and ran down the hall, hoping to cut them off, but I soon caught sight of Anya and Felix standing in the foyer. Frozen beneath a large crystal chandelier.

Felix looked uncomfortable and Anya was gazing at the door with her mouth wide open, completely oblivious to my presence like the game had been forgotten.

I joyfully rushed up to Felix and slapped him on the shoulder.

"You're it!" I said with a giant grin, so very proud of myself for finally catching him.

I jumped back to prevent him from tagging me straight away, but that guy just stood there frozen while staring at something over my shoulder.

"What's wrong?" I taunted with a smirk. "Is being it too much for you, flower boy?"

Felix's eyes made contact with mine. I could see fear that had never been there before.

"What's wrong with you?" His voice shook. "How can you keep playing?"

"Not again," sobbed Anya and she covered her face with her hands.

"Hey." Their weird behavior uneased me. "What's up with you two?"

They didn't have to say anything, because the answer spoke for them.

"One young woman with long curly hair," said a deep voice from behind me. "One young man of average height with short hair, and one teenage boy of average height with hair down to his shoulders. Looks like we still need to locate another three souls."

I spun to see three men in crumpled gray suits and large hats, standing in the open doorway like they owned the place. The speaker was a tall thin guy holding a clipboard overflowing with messy notes. He pulled an ink pen from his pocket, and began frantically scribbling away while muttering profanities under his breath.

Beside him stood a large green demon with blood red eyes and yellow teeth. Two horns protruded out from holes in his hat. I found myself mesmerized by his appearance, until the third man hobbled forward with the help of an oak walking stick.

The last mortal was a short middle aged man with dark hair and a neat moustache. His mouth shaped into what looked like a friendly smile, but he was probably just excited about our future suffering.

"What are you guys doing here!" yelled Felix. "We're the property of Master Alistair! You can't just walk in here like this!"

The demon growled. "Who do you think you are, soul? Didn't your shitty master teach you not to talk back at civil servants!"

"Obviously his master was one of those," sighed the man with the clipboard as he scribbled away.

"Now now, Florence," said the short one to the demon. "Allow me to handle this. Alistair was it?" His voice dripped with fake sympathy. "I'm afraid that your master had a little accident, and won't be returning for a while. A very long while. Forever in fact."

"Liar!" cried Anya. "Master Alistair is a genius who can do over a thousand magic spells, and he's immortal. There's no way that a great man like him could possibly die!"

"Die?" I whispered with disbelief. "What do you mean die?"

"Mathew," said the short one. "Where did you say this Alistair was last spotted?"

Clipboard guy quickly flipped through his notes before he landed on one page. "It says on the Eastern Front. In the fight against the New Province rebellion."

"Ah, yes," said the short one. "Now I remember. I'm sorry to say that your poor master has been blown to bits. Sneaky little bastards, those New Province people are. They've got a terrible habit of hiding their weaponry in the most difficult places, and your dear master just didn't see that one attack coming. All they managed to find was a hand, and that's already been shipped off to his remaining relatives on the other side of the Underworld."

"I don't believe you!" Anya's body began to shake with grief. "It isn't true!"

"But I'm afraid it is, little girl," said that short bastard. "And given his sudden demise and absence of a will, you will all be collected and resold at his Majesty's Soul Market."

I attempted to comprehend their words. I thought it was a misunderstanding, because I couldn't accept that we belonged to them.

"Property of the Soul Market?" I asked. "What does that even mean?"

"Exactly what he said," hissed Felix. "They're here to take us away and sell us onwards to new masters."

"They're going to what!" I cried in disbelief, and Anya began to sob harder.

I fearfully took a step back to put some distance between myself and those sad excuses of life. The green demon maliciously grinned back like he knew that escape was impossible.

"The truth hurts, doesn't it boy?" he growled, and he was right.

That was my first encounter with the Soul Market. The first one that I can remember anyway. I'm no expert on the detestable organization which enslaved me, but I know that the soul trade has existed ever since the Underworld discovered that they could utilize dead people. Their filthy agents roam Earth making deals with mortals in exchange for their enslavement in Hell. I've heard that they offer plenty of majestic things. Such as money, fame, or anything that a corrupt human being could possibly desire.

Fallen on hard times? They can turn you into a king. Want someone dead? They can probably fix that too. The Underworld tries to justify the soul trade by claiming that we willingly signed ourselves away, but I'm sure it's just crap they made up to make masters feel better about mistreating us. No matter how terrible my previous life was, I can't imagine agreeing to this.

Most of the Underworld's industry is supported by our free labour, and the soul trade has markets in most large towns. We'd soon find ourselves in one of those cesspits later that evening.

"So if you'd be so kind," said that short man. "We're on a tight schedule today and the clients are waiting."

He gracefully took off his worn top hat and gestured towards the front door. Everything he said seemed like a well rehearsed act, and I wish I could have ripped that fake smile from his face.

"Come on," said Felix grimly. He put one arm around Anya's shoulders and led her forward. "You heard what he said."

I thought Anya would struggle. I thought that someone who claimed to love Alistair so passionately would never leave, but to my surprise, she obediently walked forward without ceasing her crying.

I stood there bewildered, caught between following them or refusing to go.

"Ethan!" Felix called out. "It's a lot easier if you just do what they want."

"But-" I tried to protest, but he cut me off.

"Ethan it's over! Let's just go!"

My weight shifted to my back foot. I momentarily thought of running, but I knew nothing about the world outside the mansion. The green demon with his blood red eyes was also terrifying, so I hesitantly put one foot in front of the other and followed them outside.

There was already a horse and carriage waiting for us before the front doors. Unlike the expensive gold plated carriage that Master used to travel, this one looked more suitable for transporting live animals. It was beaten up and rusty. A large rotting wooden crate was attached to the back.

Clipboard guy pulled open a small door at the rear, and I climbed in after my friends. Another soul was already inside, but he nervously backed away into a dark corner as soon as we entered.

"Let me go you piece of shit! Don't you dare put me in that box!" bellowed Mira from outside.

I peered through a gap in the wooden cart to see the demon effortlessly carrying her over his shoulder. Mira kicked and screamed with all her strength, but that monster just kept walking like he was used to it.

I noticed Angela obediently following behind them like it was a stroll in the park. That girl didn't seem the least bit concerned about our terrible situation.

"Did you hear the great news," Angela laughed with glee. Pulling herself into the cart. "We're all moving house! I do hope that the new master has a decent torture pit."

"What's wrong with you!" cried Anya between sobs. Felix reached out and hugged her closer.

The demon casually tossed Mira into the cart and bolted the door behind her. Mira furiously pulled and scratched on the wood with all her might, but she eventually gave up and lifelessly collapsed against the door.

"It says here that there should be one more," muttered clipboard guy.

"Can't find him," growled the demon. "Must have done a runner."

"Did you even search the whole estate? Because by my calculations, that should have taken you a lot longer."

"Not to worry," said their boss. "I doubt that a soul will get far in this town. I'll send someone to collect him as soon as we get back."

"Yes, sir," said clipboard guy, but he angrily glared at the demon as soon as his boss walked away. "If we have to hire someone to track this one down, it's going to come out of your salary."

"You think you've got the guts to cut my pay, human," the demon growled back. He deliberately puffed out his chest and leaned over the other man to try and intimidate him.

"Well, that's for accounting to decide," clipboard guy quickly mumbled before rushing off to join his boss in the carriage passenger seat.

The demon climbed up onto the roof of our cage and the wood bent under his weight. Someone then whipped the horses and the cart rolled forwards.

"That idiot Alphonse," whispered Felix. "I can't believe that he tried to run."

"But there's a chance that he might get away, right?" I asked.

"Don't you know anything!" said Felix. "Even if you think you've escaped, they will always find you, eventually."

I found this hard to believe, so I looked towards the others, but they all sadly looked away like they knew it was true.

Everyone except for Angela who was grinning from ear to ear. "Do you think they'll put Alphonse in the-"

"Shut up Angela!" snapped Anya.

After that everyone stopped talking and the only noise was Anya's and Mira's sobs. Felix didn't break down, but he looked anxious like he knew what was coming.

I looked through the crack in our cage and watched the carriage move through the front gate. I hadn't seen the world outside our estate in over forty years.

It shocked me.

The houses around the mansion were well kept, but once we moved down the street, the reality of that town's living situation began to kick in. The buildings were black and grimy, the roads were filthy and littered with trash, and there were all sorts of destitute humans and demons begging for cash.

I caught sight of a soul like myself. Dressed only in a paper bag. Wearily dragging a cart full of garbage as his master screamed to go faster.

The gap between the rich and poor is huge, and people either live in mansions or out in the slums. The shitty king doesn't give a damn about helping anyone who isn't useful to him.

The cage grew dimmer as night fell. I leaned back against the grimy wooden wall. Glancing at the outline of Anya who'd fallen asleep against Felix's shoulder.

Everything changed that day.

Master Alistair was dead and I would never meet him again.

I was overcome by a profound feeling of sadness and my body began to shake.

I was thankful that it was dark enough for the others not to see me cry.

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