Upward Growth

“Thank you for coming in, Lisa,” Dana Sharp said. The pale woman in a white suit did not stand from behind her desk to greet Lisa. She simply nodded at the chair in front of her. Dana Sharp’s assistant, Melody, stood close by at attention, in a black suit.

“Th-thank you, Ms. Sharp,” Lisa nervously bowed her head as she took her seat. She had been working at Sharp Development for several years already and, it amazed her how enormous the company was. It spread across hundreds of universes and Lisa never expected to meet Ms. Sharp. When she walked into work that day, Lisa had a meeting waiting for her. She literally ran through several universes to get to Ms. Sharp’s main office.

Once Lisa sat down, she couldn’t help but notice the numbers above the heads of Ms. Sharp and her assistant. Thanks to working at the company, Lisa learned her ability was to determine someone’s self-esteem. She was thankful to them because it was something she never would have guessed on her own. The numbers began appearing after she got a tattoo. No one ever had the same number for more than a day. It fluctuated within a range, sometimes from hour to hour. That went for everyone except Dana Sharp and Melody.

The highest number she ever saw was 10. She’d seen people on good days slowly rise up to 10, she’d seen people fall to one from 10 because of a simple mistake. Melody fluctuated, but never in a range. Anytime Lisa saw her with Ms. Sharp, Melody was always at 10. The few times she spotted Melody without Ms. Sharp nearby, the number was always 3.

Ms. Sharp on the other hand, was a real puzzle for Lisa. She had no number floating above her head. Her first thought was that it meant she had no self-esteem. However, that seemed silly for the most powerful woman in hundreds of universes. She bought alternate Earths as easily as buying a pair of socks.

The only other explanation Lisa had was a rumor that was common amongst Sharp Development employees. She thought it was a silly rumor, but she could understand the logic. On her Earth, the only way to get to the top of a corporate hierarchy was to be cold and soul-less as possible. She wasn’t surprised to hear gossip around the office that Dana Sharp didn’t have a soul. If it were true, it might explain why she did not show a self-esteem number. But, Lisa refused to believe that. Ms. Sharp made frequent walk-throughs of all her branches. Despite never meeting her formally, Lisa always appreciated that Ms. Sharp had kind words for all the employees she spoke to.

“I hope you don’t mind if I rush through this,” Dana said. “I’m very busy, and you’re very smart. I know you can keep up.” Lisa felt warm inside and wondered how anyone could doubt Ms. Sharp had a soul. Lisa nodded and scooted to the edge of her chair to be more attentive.

“You have the ability to see someone’s self-esteem,” Ms. Sharp began. “While it’s not for me to decide if this is useful for you or not, I will say it’s not of any particular use to Sharp Development. That being said, we both know you’ve done great work in your role and that has nothing to do with your abilities. To avoid misunderstandings I need to be clear. Your current job is not in any jeopardy.” Ms. Sharp took a moment to smile at Lisa.

“If you’re content where you are, I am comfortable with letting you continue. Although, I do believe you could do more for the company. You could be more.”

“I want to,” Lisa replied without hesitation. It sounded like Ms. Sharp was offering her a promotion, and she was ready to take it. Dana gave a curt nod at Lisa’s eagerness but continued her explanation.

“I won’t accept that. You should know what you’re agreeing to first. This isn’t a promotion as much as it is an upgrade. A risky, medical procedure-like upgrade,” she clarified. Lisa’s eyes widened for a brief moment until she got her surprise under control. She did not work for the medical division, but she’d heard stories. But, like the rumor about Dana’s soul, she decided they were just embellished tales.

“What, exactly?” Lisa asked.

“Your excellent performance is what got you into this meeting,” Dana said. “However, it was not a very large pool of contenders. I am specifically looking for a low-tier plant soul because I believe I can upgrade you to a Mundo.”

Lisa sighed at the phrase ‘low-tier’. It was explained to her that she was Unique Soul #52, La Maceta. But, she was also a C-tier Unique. It helped explain why her ability wasn’t very useful. Mundos were Celestial Uniques, they didn’t even have a C-tier, B was the weakest they got. At the bare minimum, any Mundo could talk to everyone on an Earth mentally. Lisa knew something like that would be helpful for Sharp Development.

“I want to help you, Ms. Sharp,” Lisa said.

“Wonderful, Melody will get you sorted. We’re done here unless you have any last-minute questions?” As soon as Ms. Sharp suggested Melody would be helping her, Lisa noticed the number change above Melody’s head. Her self-esteem dropped to a 3 as if she was anticipating being out of Ms. Sharp’s presence. Lisa almost didn’t ask, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever have such a perfect opportunity again.

“Um, just one,” Lisa said. “It’s not about the job, but there’s something I’m curious about.”

“If there’s one thing we value at Sharp Development, it’s curiosity,” Ms. Sharp smiled and nodded.

“I can see everyone’s self-esteem, except yours. You don’t have a number above your head.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Dana replied.

“Self-esteem is what it sounds like. A person’s opinion of themselves,” she said. Lisa nodded because everyone knew that. “I don’t have an opinion of myself. I know exactly what I am, every second of the day. “

“Ohh,..” Lisa was in equal parts awe, and amusement. A giggle escaped her mouth and she felt obligated to explain it. “I asked others about it, but all I got was the rumor that you don’t have a soul,” she said with a broad smile. Dana Sharp returned the warm smile.

“I don’t, but that’s unrelated to your particular ability.”

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