“Sorry, pal,” the demon said. “Not interested.” The red-skinned demon in a navy blue suit waved his hand dismissively at William.
“What?! Why?” William shouted. “You buy souls and I’m ready to sell.” He’d known about the summoning ritual for years. He’d had a fairly rough life, but he swore he’d only sell his soul as a last resort. And now, it seemed it wasn’t even an option. The demon rolled his eyes, but sighed. He wasn’t in a hurry to get back to work and he could kill some extra time if he took time to explain. Plus, William looked like he needed a win.
“We do buy souls,” the demon replied. “The problem is, yours isn’t for sale.” William shot the demon a confused look.
“I’m telling you I’m ready to sell,” he said. The demon shook his head.
“Yeah, that’s not up to you,” he said. “It’s up to your soul.”
“Bull,” William said. “A good buddy of mine sold his soul a decade ago; he didn’t have any problems.” The demon nodded.
“He probably wasn’t a Unique Soul, like you.”
“What’s so special about my soul?” William asked.
“Well,.. uh..,” the demon hesitated for a moment as he looked for the right words. “Alright, I don’t want to deal with a whole lot of questions,” he said. “I’ll explain it to you, but just take everything I say as fact for now. If I have to go into every aspect, … well I don’t want to,” he said with a chuckle.
“Okay, sure,” William said. He already didn’t have anything left to lose when he summoned the demon.
“Alternate universes exist,” the demon said. William’s eyes shot wide, but he managed to hold his tongue. “Your buddy that sold his soul; he probably has a Zero-,” the demon noted a new look of confusion on William’s face.
“Zeros are his alternate universe doppelgangers,” he said. William seemed to accept that and he continued. “He probably has Zeros in other universes. Those Zeros exist because his soul is still fragmented. So, what your friend sold was only a small portion of his soul. Fragmentation is part of the whole process; your soul gets divided up and sent out into the universe to learn different lessons. Over time, as the Zeros die off, they get reconstituted into a single, Unique Soul; like you. There’s more nuance, but that’s the gist,” the demon said.
“So… why can’t you buy my soul? It seems like it would be a good thing for Hell to get a whole soul.”
“A few different reasons. The first is, as I mentioned, you don’t have the power to make that decision. Zero souls are only fragments so their body gets to call the shots. In your case, you’re a complete soul, so it’d be kind of silly to let your body decide things when you’re not even awake.”
“What do you mean?” William asked, then immediately clapped his hand over his mouth. “Sorry,” he squeaked out.” The demon nodded in understanding.
“Unique Souls have two phases. Slumbering, or Awakened. You’ll be Slumbering until you get your number, 52, etched on your skin. Tattoos are the most common. Though other things, like branding work too. Once you’re Awakened you get to unlock the full abilities of your soul.”
“Abilities? Like superpowers?” William asked. The demon shrugged.
“Some are like superpowers, like super strength or regeneration. Some are just handy abilities like talking to fish, or, in your case, talking to plants.” William burst into laughter.
“So, you’re telling me if I get a tattoo with the number 52 on it, I can talk to plants? How’d you know my favorite number?” The demon raised an eyebrow at William’s questions, but decided to answer.
“Yes, you’ll be able to talk to plants. And, your favorite number is your favorite number because that’s what your soul chose during the process. The easiest way to identify a Unique Soul is to ask them their favorite number. If they instantly answer a number between 1 and 54, without hesitation, they’re probably a Unique.”
“So I go get a tattoo and you can buy my soul?” William asked. Although, he was a bit less interested in selling it and instead started to wonder what he could do with the ability to talk to plants. The demon shook his head.
“Simply put, it’s against the rules for Hell to buy Unique Souls.”
“Oh c’mon. Hell’s following rules now? Whose?” The demon chuckled and simply pointed upward.
“I thought Hell’s whole thing was breaking rules.” The demon shrugged.
“Religious propaganda. Hell exists to serve a purpose, and we do it well, while following the rules.” William grew comfortable with the demon answering his questions.
“So what’s the purpose?” he asked.
“That’s going to be your last question,” the demon said. A sulfury, yellow plume enveloped the demon. It began to clear immediately and the demon was gone. But, William heard his voice one more time. “Have you ever tried playing chess by yourself?”