“Mr. Samuel Bowman?” Sam opened his front door to find a pair of men in white mechanic’s jumpsuits on his porch. As soon as he opened the door they asked his identity. He nodded, mostly out of curiosity, and caught sight of their name patches. The one that asked his name was Lenny; the other one Mike. They also sported a bright red scissor logo that looked vaguely familiar.
“That’s me,” Sam said. “What can I do for you gentlemen?”
“Did you take out a loan at Sharp Bank six months ago?” Lenny asked. The moment he mentioned the bank, Sam recognized their red logo. It was all over the paperwork he filled out.
“Great, thanks,” Lenny said. He smiled broadly, and Sam saw Mike move in his peripheral vision; he turned just in time to see Mike’s fist flying at him.
“What the hell?” Sam grumbled as he woke up. His head throbbed with pain, but he managed to look around and see he was on his couch in his living room; and, he wasn’t alone. A young red-headed woman in a white dress sat on his easy chair across the coffee table from him.
“Hello Mr. Bowman,” she said.
“What’s going on? What are you doing in my house?”
“Repossession, Mr. Bowman. Not only have you missed your loan payments six months in a row, they also happened to be the first six months of your loan. Sharp Bank has no choice but to assume you have no intention of making your payments.”
“Repossession? Wait a minute… my soul?!” Sam burst into laughter. “You can’t take my soul, I’m still using it!”
“The forms you signed say otherwise,” the woman said.
“No, no way.” Sam sat up straighter and tried to assess the situation. He didn’t see Lenny and Mike anywhere, but they could be outside waiting. He couldn’t just try to run away from her; but, if things got violent he could use her as a hostage. “It was a joke. I wasn’t serious, I didn’t think I’d get the loan.”
“Oh, of course. Well, if it was a joke, I’m sure you’re planning to give back the money. If you just give it to me, I’ll tear up your loan contract and we’ll call it even.”
“I.. I don’t have it,” Sam admitted. “But you can’t take my soul, it’ll kill me! That kind of technology doesn’t even exist! I was kidding! I’ll start making payments!”
“Mr. Bowman, I’d like to give you some advice. Going forward, it would be in your best interest not to assume the limits of others. Only offer things you’re willing to lose, no matter how unlikely it may seem.” Sam felt relief wash over him. ‘Going forward’ meant alive, and alive meant his soul would remain intact; it sounded like she was giving him a second chance.
“Just because you’re not aware of something existing does not mean it doesn’t exist,” she stood up, and Sam stood with her. It felt like the meeting was over and a part of him wondered if the technology actually existed. Maybe they were just trying to strongarm him into a payment.
“Yes, thank you. I appreciate it so much. I’ll make a payment next month as soon as I can,” he said. The woman tilted her head in confusion.
“Why?” she asked.
“For the loan, so you won’t take my soul. I thought you were giving me another chance,” Sam said. The redhead grinned.
“Why would you think that?” she asked.
“You gave me advice for ‘going forward’,” he said. All his hopes were instantly crushed. “There isn’t much ‘forward’ if I’m dead after you take my soul.” The woman giggled lightly.
“It’s amazing how much you didn’t listen to my advice,” she said. “Not only does the technology to extract souls exist, but we can also do it without killing you.”
“You.. you can do really do that?” Sam asked. The woman nodded.
“Well, do you think you’re dead?” she asked.
“Of course not, I’m here talking to you aren’t I?” he asked, then he saw her raise a single orange-red eyebrow in response. His hands flew to his chest and he started patting himself down as if looking for his wallet. “You took it already?!”
“Of course. It’s property of Sharp Bank now, after all.”
“That’s it?!” Sam didn’t feel any different than before Mike punched him out. If the procedure was already done and he was still standing, he started to feel hope again. If the loan was already paid for, it was one less thing to worry about. “Wow… So I don’t have to worry about my body falling apart without a soul or anything like that?”
“Your soul belongs to us, but your body is another matter. The most humane way to satisfy all parties involved is to give you a new life and a new body. I’m sure you still have questions, but unfortunately, I have other appointments to keep. However, the mannequin will answer any questions you have.”
“Mannequin? What mannequin?”
“This one,” she said. The moment she spoke her pale skin darkened. Her features blurred and in the blink of an eye, a black faceless mannequin stood in her place. It floated off the ground and looked at Sam.
“Welcome to the AlterNet!”