Flash Friday 21/12/2012: Charitable Soul
Paul gave a heavy sigh as he walked down the high street. All he wanted was to get home.
His negative attitude was worse than usual; working as tech support in a company, whether or not a day was going to suck depended on how well the computers themselves behaved. Today, Julie (who Paul was certain was too old to be working, let alone use a computer) was the instigator. She was usually fine, taking an unusual stance with the computers as if they were living, breathing things. She would always put finished pictures and documents in the Recycle Bin ‘because it saves trees’. Today, her word processor locked up and stopped responding, to which she responded as if someone was giving her the silent treatment. It took a reboot and a fake apology letter from the software itself for her to get back into the mood of working.
He was so engrossed in his eternal hate for today, he didn’t notice the man in the reflective jacket giving an enthusiastic wave until it was too late. Great, another charity worker. I wonder what new social techniques they’ll use to guilt-trip me?
“Hello!” the man called in a voice far too happy for a man standing in a street to give. “Sir, hello there!”
“Not interested,” Paul said, walking past.
“Perhaps if you here me out for a second,” the man said, blocking Paul off with both a clipboard and a sickening smile, “you’ll come to see things my way.”
Paul never escalated situations. He kept silent, let things blow over, make it through the day without any kind of conflict. Something about a man who was determined to stop Paul getting home to his beer fridge and flatscreen TV, with a fake smile plastered over his face and an attitude to boot, caused him to escalate the situation to ‘personal’.
“Alright,” Paul said, shooting a stare. “Give me a good reason why I shouldn’t just shove you out of the way and keep going.”
“Very good! Name’s Peter, by the way.” Peter tapped a peeling nametag on his coat. “And you are?”
“Paul? Good, excellent. I knew a Paul once, really good guy. You wouldn’t be him, would you?”
“Cut to the chase.”
“Right.” Peter cleared his throat. “Paul, do you have any kids?”
“Have you ever looked after kids?”
“Do you have friends who have kids?”
“Well, uh…” Peter scratched his head. “Perhaps you like kids. You look like the father kind of guy.”
“I hate people,” Paul said, moving forward past Peter. “Let alone brats.”
“Now hold on, hold on, hold on.” Peter backed up, bringing Paul to a halt again. “See, there are many kids in distress these days. Living in sub-par conditions day by day. They really need help, you know.”
“And how much of my already-meagre paycheck do you want?”
“Paycheck? Oh no no no, we don’t want money. All we want is for you to sign up to donate one soul per month.” He gave a shrug. “Not much, really. I could settle for any spare souls you have tucked away, too.”
Paul chewed the words over in his mind again. “Sorry, what?” he said, still making no sense of the request.
“You heard me. Every day, an evil overlord and harvester of souls doesn’t have the spirits to give to children. They grow up, not knowing the child-like, warmth-bringing joy of torturing a soul of its essence. They grow into adults, not knowing the sounds of the screaming dead, something that necromancers everywhere just…take for granted.”
“And…I’m expected to donate a soul every month?” Paul said. The conversation had driven past ‘personal’, and had veered off wildly into the petrol station of morbid curiosity.
“I know it sounds a lot, but think of this way; every month, just give up one rite of summoning of a hellbeast from the Realms of Fire and Pain, and you’d have enough to donate to the cause. Or dig around the attic, open all the dusty old boxes. Look under the couch. Bound to be a few spare souls there.”
“I…don’t think I’ll have any souls in my house. How else would I acquire them?”
“Well…” Peter suddenly flashed a sinister grin. “You always have your own family and friends.”
“…no, I don’t think they’ll have any souls, either.”
“Oh.” The grin evaporated. “I was going down another train of thought, but whatever. Regardless, all you have to do for now is sign this contract that states that the first murder, soul steal, or other means of acquiring spirits will have Garrgalan, Lord of Eternity as the recipient of said spirit. Garrgalan would like to let it be known that if someone doesn’t acquire a soul by the end of the month, then he is ntitled to ‘forcefully claim what he is owed to compensate for your failing’. I never quite knew what he meant by that.” Peter gave a shrug. “Bailiffs, maybe.”
“Right.” Paul rubbed the spot he thought his soul would be located at. “Well, I’m currently…unemployed in the soul-gathering business, so I’ll take your offer into consideration for a later date.” He then filed the offer into the area of his brain where he put mildly traumatic events, where it made good friends.
“Oh. Shame that, really. Well, thanks for talking, anyway.” Peter held out a hand. “Have a lovely day.”
“You too,” Paul said, taking the hand and making the quickest handshake known to man before speed-walking in the direction of home. Suddenly, elderly people using computers was the least of his worries.