Wealth of Soul

“Welcome!” the thin man said from behind the counter. He smiled at the two women that walked in, a tall pale woman wearing a white skirt suit and a shorter woman in a matching black suit. The shorter one carried a small white leather briefcase. “I don’t remember seeing you two lovely ladies in here before, do you know how the shop works?” Mr. Natas asked. The woman in white nodded.

“Yes, we’ve heard. I came to see what kind of powers you’re offering for 10 souls.” The two women reached the counter and waited for his answer.

“Oh you know, the usual stuff. Super strength, flight, elemental control and so on.” Again, the woman in white nodded, then she followed up with another question.

“And how do you collect the souls? Would I need to bring all 10 humans here?” Mr. Natas gave the woman a curious look. Her light blue eyes stared at him with an objective coldness, as if she were appraising him somehow. He nodded while stroking his long dark goatee.

“Of course. All transactions need to be voluntary. Can you find 10 people willing to sell their soul for you?” The shorter woman burst into laughter, but a stern look from the woman in white calmed her down.

“If it becomes necessary, that’s not a problem,” the tall woman replied. “And what do you do with the souls once they’re in your possession?” Mr. Natas’ eyes narrowed at her.

“Who are you?” The woman in white reached across the counter with an open hand.

“I apologize. I assumed a busy man like you would rather not waste time on pleasantries,” she said while they shook hands. “My name is Dana Sharp,” She gestured to the woman in black with her other hand. “This is my wife and business associate, Melody.” Melody gave him a small wave. “What do you do with the souls, Mr. Natas?”

“It’s private business,” he replied with a firm tone. Dana nodded.

“Very well, thank you for your time. Good luck.” She turned to move toward the door, but Mr. Natas stopped her.

“Wait! Don’t you want to sell me a soul or ten?” She stopped and turned to face him.

“Quite the opposite. I came to inspect your business,” she shrugged. “I was considering buying you out, but I can’t do that if I don’t know how you operate.” Mr. Natas doubled over with laughter.

“Buy me out?!!” He continued grinning at them. “I trade in souls, lady. What makes you think I’m interested in any amount of money?” Dana gave him a confused look and shrugged.

“Nothing. What makes you think I’m offering you money?” Mr. Natas stopped laughing.

“Alright, I’m curious enough. I send the souls to Hell,” he paused and looked at them for a reaction. They stared at him waiting for more. “If I send them enough souls, I get to quit and be my own demon.”

“What do they do with the souls?” Dana asked again. Mr. Natas shrugged.

“Different things. Some souls wander through hell for eternity, some get eaten, and some are recycled. I was lucky enough to get recycling duty. The quality of souls doesn’t matter all that much, so I opened this shop to help me get to the quota faster.” Dana smiled.

“That’s what I needed to know. If the quality doesn’t matter, I believe we can do business. How many more souls do you need to fill your quota?”

“A couple million,” he sighed.

“Okay. I’ll pay them out if you come work for me,” Dana replied with a straight face.

“Sure, that works. Come back in a few millennia when you’ve collected them all,” he waved at her dismissively.”

“Melody?” Dana called. The shorter woman placed the small white case on the counter and opened it for Mr. Natas. The interior was a red velvet surface with 10 nodes slotted into it vertically. Melody pulled out a playing-card-sized glass rectangle and handed it to Mr. Natas.

“Each of those contains 10 human souls. I have enough to make your payment, today if you agree to work for me.” Mr. Natas stared at the transparent rectangle. His fingertips glowed with red energy as he inspected it. He felt 10 distinct, whole human souls in it, and his eyes widened.

“What would I be doing for you?” He asked. He saw a way out of hell, but he wanted to make sure he wasn’t going into a different one.

“This, pretty much.” Dana gestured at the shop around them with wide arms. “I’ll need your help to recoup the souls I’m spending for you, but at the very least you won’t be an employee of Hell.”

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