Part 3: Bargaining
Omega and I left the funeral parlour, squinting at the bright fall afternoon sun. I had a sinking sense of guilt, like signing that paper had meant that I agreed with her not being alive anymore. The anger was still there, broiling away at my stomach, causing a large amount of nausea. Denial had retreated deep into the recesses of my brain, timid of the reality that had so soundly beaten it. A new feeling was dawning on me, that of a loss of direction. She had been my north star, my reason for moving forward. My life had been built around the routine with her, and without it I had no real concept of what forward was.
“So what now?” My question didn’t even know what it was doing once it escaped my mouth, hanging in the air awkwardly.
“Now you do what everyone else is doing… well most of them anyway. You live. Wake up each morning, fill your time with events that bring you some modicum of joy or money, possibly both at the same time if possible. Go to sleep at night feeling like the day was used in a worthy way.” Omega shrugged the bag off his shoulder and tossed it with the scythe into the back seat as we climbed into the car. He seemed tense, despite the off hand way he was talking. “Eventually, I come for you, we have a chat and then I take you from this place into the next. Cycle of life, stuff like that. C’mon, let’s start with going back to your house.”
I pulled onto the road, the afternoon traffic heavier than it had been on the way to the funeral parlour. Checking my car’s clock, I realized it was rush hour. We had spent nearly 4 hours inside, between choosing the coffin and sorting out payments. Omega began tapping his foot rapidly, still giving off a strangely tense vibe. Trying to ignore him, I put on some music and turned it up. Rolling down the windows and letting fresh air wash over me was nearly rejuvenating and a small smile danced over my lips. I felt human for a moment again. Until I heard the scream.
Down the street, about a half a block away, someone had been struck by a pipe that fell from a construction site. There was already a sizeable crowd growing as we approached and it was hard to see what was happening. With the size of the group, I figured there wasn’t any need for me to stop and help, so I didn’t make any more to pull over. Omega had other idea’s however, grabbing my steering wheel and pushing me into the side lane. I was forced to slam on the brakes to stop myself from hitting other vehicles.
“What the fuck Omega?” He wasn’t listening to me, already out of the vehicle as soon as we stopped. He took the bag and the scythe from the back of the car, started at a jog towards the crowd. I put the car in park before getting out and following him. Somehow, he flowed through the crowd effortlessly. Well not ‘somehow’, he was probably still a delusion I was having, not real at all.
I pushed my way through the crowd, coming upon a young boy, maybe six at the oldest. His mother was beside him, the heart of a hurricane. Her face was as calm as possible, though her eyes betrayed the panic she felt, wide and moving rapidly around the scene for options. He was laying face down in a rapidly growing pool of blood, a large eight or nine in diameter pipe embedded through the back of his chest. He was trying to get up feebly, crying as loud as he could. He couldn’t stand due to the pipe also being driven into the cement below him.
Omega leaned over him with his scythe, his bag on the ground behind him. Like a hot knife through butter, he sunk the scythe into the child’s body on the flank near the abdomen. Once the scythe was firmly embedded into the boy, Omega leaned close and whispered something in his ear. The boy stopped crying, and became entirely still. He turned his head, looking for his mother. She sat beside him, terror washing over her face as he stopped fighting and relaxed. Omega pulled the scythe from his back, a blue luminous orb, awash with stars, came out with it. As he did, the kid went entirely limp. Her scream began anew, this time it was that of absolute loss. As Omega stood, he gently pulled the orb from the tip of his scythe.
He opened the duffel bag he carried everywhere with him one handed, whispering to the starry orb as he placed it into the bag with the other hand. Before he zipped the bag back up, I noticed that there were dozens and dozens of others of orbs in the bag, different sizes and color. It was a bag of souls. Omega kept his head hung low as he walked back through the crowd, bag in one hand and scythe in the other.
“Let’s go.” His voice was heavy with emotion. Without a word, I turned and followed. Silence sat between us on the way back. I didn’t want to break it, but my mind was churning with questions. One rose to the top consistently, demanding to be asked. Was she still in there? I needed to know. However, Omega sat turned away from me, his face out the window the entire drive. His tapping foot had ceased and he remained almost entirely motionless. If it wasn’t for the occasional deep breath, I wouldn’t be able to tell at all if he had become a statue.
Upon reaching the house, Omega retreated to his room with a bottle of scotch. I started the routine of cleaning the house, putting away the copious amounts of trash that littered the house from my three day binge. It was well past a normal time to eat when I had finished, but my stomach was finally feeling trustworthy, so I started a chicken breast and some quinoa. Without thinking, I made enough for two people, prepping one just the way she liked it.
“Well well, made something for me? Delightful! I’m fucking starving.” Omega appeared from his room, vapours of strong alcohol pouring forth from him with every word he spoke. I still didn’t know what to say to him after what I had seen, so I wordlessly offered him the second dish and poured myself a drink. “Hey, sorry about having to stop for work back there. You know how it is, eternal position, always have to work at the most inopportune times. Such a bummer.” I nodded my understanding.
He flopped onto the couch, obviously trying to act happier than he felt. Producing a forty of scotch, he proceeded to chug from the bottle as he ate. The bottle was emptied as soon as his bowl of food was finished and he sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at the ceiling. It wasn’t until he began to snore, that I realized he had completely passed out. I knew that I had an opportunity to see if she was still in the bag.
Stealing down the hall to where he had been sleeping, I nervously kept peeking over my shoulder to ensure that he wasn’t going to be waking up. His door opened with a creak, causing him to move slightly in his sleep but he didn’t stop snoring. Taking a deep breath I prepared to take a look at a soul Death had already taken from it’s body.
His room was extremely dark, the blackout curtains that we had hung were drawn and made shadows drape the room in unfamiliar angles. It turned a room I knew well in one of uncertainty and chance. The bag was at the other end of the room, laying on the floor beside a pile of black robes. I crossed the room quickly, realizing that I didn’t know when he would wake and I needed every second possible.
Surprisingly, the bag was extremely light, almost seeming to spring to my hand as I lifted it onto the bed. Slowly I pulled the zipper open and a soft glow emanated from the bag, causing a rainbow of colours to be cast dancing across the wall. A soft whispering also filled the room, dozens of voices, so faint that you might have been imagining them.
Carefully, I pulled the first soul out. It was that of the little boy from earlier today. Light as a feather and pulsing a blue glow, the stars in it twinkled as I placed it on the bed. The next one was small, and felt heavier for its size. Jet black, it pulsed in my hand and I quickly placed it on the bed. Definitely wasn’t that one. I turned back to the bag, putting my hands deeper into the bag, sorting through the souls as quickly and gently as possible. There was a rainbow one that was constantly changing color, smelling like strawberries. Another was as tiny as a ball bearing and had the same consistency as overcooked pasta. So many souls, numbering in the fifties as a conservative guess. Then I saw her. I knew it had to be hers. Golden, it emanated a dull yellow light. Light as a feather in my hand, it put out a gentle warmth. It represented exactly how I pictured her in my mind.
Quickly I placed the rest back into the bag, grimacing when one emitted a foul odour as it came back to its resting place. The bag went back to where I found it and I snuck across the hall to my room. Before I closed the door to my room, I snuck a peek down the hall, confirming that Omega was still out on the couch. Satisfied I climbed into bed, hugging the soul close as I cried myself to sleep.
I was jolted awake by a hand lifting me by my throat. Omega was the owner of the hand, easily removed me from my bed, pinning me against the wall.The other hand held the soul, still glowing a dull yellow. His presence was thunderously angry, to the point where it was almost a physical manifestation in itself.
“WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” Omega’s voice was deeper than it had been before, carrying the weight of crashing waves, slamming me verbally further into the wall. “TO GO THROUGH MY PROPERTY, AND TAKE SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU AT ALL.” He paused and tilted his head aggressively, and I realized that it was an indication to speak.
“I just thought…” I stopped as the hand squeezed tighter, rendering me unable to talk.
“THAT YOU WOULD HOLD HER FOR ONE MORE NIGHT, THAT DOING IT COULD GIVE YOU SOME FORM OF CLOSURE? YOU FUCKING PUNY MORTAL SACK OF SHIT AND FUTILE DREAMS.” He threw me across the room, bouncing me off the bed into the opposite wall. It was hard enough that the wall gave beneath my momentum and I began to bleed from somewhere above my eye. I was too stunned to do anything but watch half my vision turn to red.
“Look, I just need to be able to say a real goodbye. What life gave me wasn’t enough. Even if it’s just her soul, I need this. Please, I will give you anything you want. My life, my money, my soul. Whatever you want. I know you can do this, I know that’s her.” Weakly, I pointed at the soul he held in his hand. He looked at the soul, as if for the first time and cocked his head in confusion. He took a deep breath and held a robed hand up towards me in a ‘wait a moment’ motion. After a moment of contemplative silence he shook his head in disappointment.
“You’re a fucking moron. Do you think that the rules of the afterlife follow some random association that a mortal could piece together? This isn’t even her soul.” A low chuckle escaped his hood and he shook his head in resignation. “I don’t believe this. You went to sleep with the soul of a serial killer. God, I’m starting to think humans are a step back on the evolutionary chain. At least the Neanderthals could reason, none of that abstract thought.”
“What? That’s not her? But… she was… golden, light. I thought…” I tried to get up, but the ground decided to turn into a roller coaster and I collapsed back onto the ground.
“This,” he tossed the soul into the air and caught it in the other hand, “belongs to a killer I picked up a few towns over. It’s golden because he was so self delusional that he thought he was God’s golden boy, light because he thought he was absolving himself and those he killed of all sins. It glows because he saw himself as a light in the darkness. A soul’s exterior is heavily influenced by how a person sees themselves, it’s not until you open them up that you get to see who they really are.”
Gently, he took the soul in two hands and began to pull it apart. It was as if the soul was two interlocking pieces and he had unclasped them. As the soul came apart, a rotten stench filled the room. Inside was swarming with worms and what appeared to be rotting flesh. Deftly, he put the pieces back together, hiding them beneath his robe. Without a word, he left the room, coming back with the smaller black soul.
“This is her. You can’t touch it, but trust me.”
“But, it’s so unremarkable. She was my world, did she really think she was that plain? She was amazing. And it was heavy, why was that?” I stared dumbfounded at the small black orb he held. Omega moved his head in what I assumed was an exaggerated eye roll, the hood obscuring his face.
“Again, stop thinking in some simple symbolism. Remember, the outside is merely a reflection of how a person sees themselves. It’s black because she saw the bad things in the world that hurt the people around her she loved. She took that in, and refused to let it go, so it wouldn’t hurt them anymore. Wanting so badly to not let bad things out there hurt you, she felt she had to keep it inside, keep you safe. The weight, well that’s because her soul is concentrated. She knew exactly why she was here, she cared about the people she helped. Her passion was her work, her soul didn’t hold a lot of fluff, didn’t fill up with simple unnecessary things. It vibrated with her passion for life, I’m sure you felt it pulse when you touched it.” He kneeled in front of me and began to twist open my wife’s soul.
Brilliant streaks of light began to escape the black soul as he opened it. It lit the room completely once he had separated the two parts. At the heart of the orb lay a diamond set on a golden base. The diamond was rough, uncut, but the sheer beauty of it shone through still. I couldn’t say anything, tears filling my eyes at her inner beauty. Sitting in silence, I realized the true depth of the wonder that I had lost.
“Fuck, she’s a good one. Sorry, was.” Omega stumbled over his words for a moment as he put the pieces back together. “Look, this isn’t something people get to see. It’s going to make it harder, knowing the true extent of what you lost. Better than a heart of gold, a soul of diamond. You were a lucky man.”
“Yeah, ‘were’.” I snorted sarcastically, “I’m such a fucking moron. I knew she was amazing, I saw her as my world… but damn I was lucky. I wish I could’ve given her better. I still want to.” My voice strengthened and I looked Omega in the eyes as best I could. “Please, let me hold her for one more night. I’m begging. Anything. I’ll boil you hundreds of hard boiled eggs if that’s what it takes.” He didn’t respond to me for a moment, then shook his head slowly, sadly.
“No, look, this isn’t how any of this works. No mortal’s ever seen the souls once they’re harvested from the body, let alone touch them. I have a duty, and there are rules that accompany it. The bag is getting locked up, you won’t see me working anymore. I’m glad you’ve gotten to bargaining, but you have nothing now but your memories. Honor them the best you can with the life you live. Don’t live amongst them, that’s obviously not what she would want. Treasure what you just saw.”
With that, he rose and left the room. I sat in my indent in the wall, small pieces of drywall falling whenever I took too deep of a breath. I rolled my thoughts around what felt like a massive ocean of sorrow inside my head. It swelled and ebbed, threatening to drown me like the intoxication on the first night. The light of the diamond was a lighthouse, keeping me afloat, clinging to the joy that I had touched her once more, even if I hadn’t realized it at the time.