Genre: YA dark fantasy (Reaper's Novice)
A soft microwave-like sound dings in my head, and Grim’s instructions flash like a neon sign in my mind’s eye.
Assignment: Soul Collection
Hermannweg, 7th district, Vienna
Age: Thirty-two years
Soul Colour: grey
I groan as the soul colour dances tauntingly in my head.
Grey, really? Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Or land on the wrong foot? A shudder racks my body at the thought of this collection. I sigh. Better get it over and done with.
Grabbing my music player from the barred window sill, I turn off the music and drop it inside my trench coat pocket. Pushing of the cool wall surface, I climb to my feet and walk away from the Cathedral’s barred lookout window at the same time summoning the Concealment Spell. Between one step and the next, I feel the light as air veil caress me as it settles around me.
I descend down the spiral stairs of the Cathedral. The click click of my heels on the stone floor shatter the silence, the effect comforting. No one is around. The opening hours ended half an hour ago. About forty metres to the ground, I stop at one of the barred windows, and peep out, measuring the distance. Yes. This will do.
Taking a deep breath, I ghost – walk through walls as I call it - through the stone cold wall and leap forward my hands extended at either side of my body, and I’m flying. My blood sings as I soar in the air. Before hitting the stones, I flip in the air and gracefully land on my feet in a crouch.
Coolness. I grin, and straighten to my full height.
There’s nothing as mind-blowing as this, even though the possibility of twisting an ankle or worse is there. Been there, done that, and broke a leg. Almost died in pain, but I healed. I always heal, thanks to Grim.
The midsummer heat blasts on my face. I pause, suck in hot air while glancing around St. Stephen’s square. The sidewalk cafes are brimming with visitors. A woman pushing a baby stroller grazes my arm as she hurries of towards the U-bahn station. Up ahead a couple pose beside a ‘living statue’. A group of aged Japanese tourists crowd around their tour leader in their faces rapturous in attention. Flashes and clicks from cameras fill the square. Laughter peals through the air, mingling with the sounds of metal wheels on cobble stones from horse ridden coaches echo through the square. My heart squeezes on itself rendering me breathless. I miss this. I miss this life.
Shoving the thoughts aside, I project the collection destination in my mind. I ghost, glided through a wall and exit on the other side of it. As I cross the tram rails, an oncoming tram misses hitting me by a hair. I smile. I can’t be hit. In my current form things just pass right through me. Even when I’m not concealed I can’t die. I’ve tested this theory several times and I just keep coming back. My soul is under lock and key, and my body indestructible, thanks to Grim.
Moments later, I emerge at Hermannsweg, and I frown, People are scattered all over the place. Some are hugging one another and weeping. Others are starring in horrified expressions in front of them. I skirt around a group huddled together, and I freeze. My heart drops to the bottom of my stomach and I stare at the sight before me. A sour taste fills my mouth as I take in the scene. Sounds of someone weeping and another calling for help fade. It’s just me and the metal wreckage which was once a car, now lying flattened in the middle of the road. A white truck semi eclipses the whole mess. I catch a glimpse of what I think is a body under the truck. Sirens soak the air. A sudden flash of long buried memory resurfaces in my head. Pain slashes through my stomach and I bend over and vomit until I feel there’s nothing else left.
Straightening, I dig inside my pocket, pull a paper tissue and wipe my mouth, at the same time block the memories fighting for supremacy inside my head. Clenching my hands, I take deep breaths, calming my trotting pulse. I lift my head and glance around for the soul. It should be somewhere here. By the looks of the smoke snaking form in between the truck and car, the accident did happen long ago.
The temperature drops suddenly, sending a shiver over my body. The fine hairs on my neck curl. I scan the area, my breath in sharp busts of hot breath. They are here. They never miss a chance to snatch a soul.
My eyes zoom in on the black moving mass above the immobile body. My heart stops, then starts at a full gallop, adrenaline kicking in my veins.
Soul snatchers. The opposite of what I am. Just like there name, they capture the soul and sell it to the highest bidder, people who enslave souls to work for them.
My eyes dart around for the grey soul. Where is it? Dipping my hand in my well padded trench coat, I carefully pluck a soul vial, still scanning the area around me.
There it is, fluttering up and down.
Did it have to be a grey soul? And on such a day as today?
Grim’s words laced with boredom flash in me mind: Lesson number one - Souls are souls, whether naughty, cheery, stubborn, or dangerous.
Ugh! This one screams stubborn and naughty. And if it falls in the smoky hands of the catchers, who knows what they’ll do with it.
I sprint forward at the same time snap open the cap on the soul vial with my thumb and index finger. From the corner of my eye, the Soul Snatchers float and writhe towards it. Kicking off my heels, I infuse power in my protesting legs and hurl my body forward. Almost there.
I extend my hand holding the vial, ready to scoop it. Just as I’m about to capture the soul, it dissipates and spreads in a thousand wisps of grey. I hit the tarmac ungracefully on my hip. Pain shoots from my hip and spreads like a wild bushfire. Man, how I want to scream.
Stupid, stubborn soul! It reassembles itself, and glides away. The Soul Snatchers amass to one dark cloud of evil, then descend upon the soul.
Damn! I didn’t even know it’s name. In my business, knowing a soul’s name is my highest priority. And I’m not going to lose it to some evil cloud.
Taking a deep breath, I snatch a soul knife from it’s sheath around my waist, crouch and leap upwards. As I get closer to the cloud, I swing my hands, cutting and dispersing the black cloud. A snake-like hiss permeates the air around me. Grey snowflakes rain along my arms, and on the ground below. Ignoring them, I concentrate on the grey soul which seems to be in the process of suffocation. The snatchers must have gotten to it. Quickly before gravity pulls me back down, I lunge and scoop it inside the glass. Too weak to protest, it settles inside the confines of the bottle. I snap the cap back, and then I’m falling. I flip once in the air, and land effortlessly on the tarma. I wince as a sharp pain cuts through my hip.
I glance over my shoulder, and my heart slams in my chest. The soul snatchers are regrouping, hissing and more angry than ever. Thing is, I am the only who can see and hear them. Time to sprint. With my fingers wrapped tightly around the soul knife, I ghost through walls, my breath scorching my throat. The muggy Summer air does nothing to alleviate my problem. The snatchers are close. I feel their cold essence spreading like acid, and I know they are close. Thank God, they can’t ghost.
Automatically, I find my portal to After World of Shadow and Light in a Chinese restaurant located on Kartner street. Here they cannot touch me. Here I am protected. Next time I might not be so lucky. Shuffling my aching, heel-less feet, I limp inside the wooden double doors of Grim’s castle, and hurry for the soul chamber.