Soulless (part 1)
Posted by Jason on March 20, 2010
[So here's the beginning of a first-draft work in progress. If the beginning sounds familiar to you, it's because it was 50 First Lines #31. Of course, that line is still free for you to use however you wish, but this is my take on one way it could go. Let me know what you think!]
“You may feel a mild burning sensation as your soul is removed from your body,” said a pleasant voice. “Please try to relax.”
Daniel forced his fingers to stop tap-tap-tapping on the hard plastic arm of the chair and tried to slow his racing heart through sheer force of will. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe it wasn’t too late to back out. He was sure that they had people do that all the time. Sure, all he had to do was stand up, maybe make a joke about the chair being uncomfortable, and…
“Your soul has been successfully extracted,” the voice continued in its conversationally unemotional tone. “Thank you for your kind donation. If you are experiencing any dizziness, disorientation, or loss of memory, please remain seated. These should pass within one to two minutes. If such symptoms persist, please press the call button next to your…”
The voice continued its pre-recorded monologue, but Daniel just blinked. That was it? It was already over? He glanced around the small, featureless room, but nothing seemed to have changed. Not that there was anything to change: there were only the four clinical white walls, drop panel ceiling inset with florescent lights, and the red plastic chair. And himself, of course. But he hadn’t changed either, or at least he didn’t feel any different. He hadn’t felt anything at all. Wasn’t losing your soul supposed to feel… well, feel like something?
He wondered if this was some kind of trick. They must be playing some kind of joke on him, of course. Or maybe it was some sort of psych-out technique, get the donor to relax when they think it’s already over, then you zap ‘em. Or maybe the equipment was malfunctioning, or…
There were two quick taps at the door. Before Daniel could respond, the door swung open just enough for a young man to poke his head through, professional smile firmly in place. He said, “How are we feeling, Mr.” he glanced at the sticky note he must have just peeled off the outside of the door, “Wellington? Any discomfort during the procedure?” Oh God, it really had happened, then. Daniel put a hand to his chest, as if to feel for something missing, then silently cursed himself for a fool and shook his head. The attendant’s eyes softened a bit into a tolerant smile, the kind you’d give to someone else’s child who started to pick his nose in public. “Good to hear,” the young man said. “Feel free to take a moment to collect yourself. I’ll be waiting outside.”
Daniel shook his head again and stood, trying to look confident while hoping that his knees wouldn’t buckle. He cleared his throat. “I think I’m ready.”
“Right this way, then, Mr. Wellington.” The young man opened the door fully and stood aside for Daniel to exit.
“Thanks, uh…” Daniel glanced at the badge clipped to the man’s long white coat. Jim Pearsons, Lab Tech. Oh hell, they didn’t even send you a real doctor anymore. “Thanks, Jim,” Daniel finished, trying to keep the sudden disappointment out of his voice.
Jim closed the door and let Daniel down a series of corridors, past rows of doors identical to the one they had just passed through save for the pre-fab number decals affixed to them. The lab tech was young, and Daniel thought he couldn’t be much older than 20. That meant he’d most likely be a Recycle–no, Daniel chided himself, they don’t like to be called “Recycles” this year. Is Giftborn the PC term now, or is it back to Renaissants now? He used to be so good at keeping up with this sort of thing. When had the world gotten so hard to keep track of?
They reached the clinic’s checkout desk, and a pretty but bored-looking Asian girl helped Daniel sign the appropriate paperwork and answer the standard question battery. “Are you having any trouble walking, speaking, or performing motor functions?” “Do you have any significant gaps in your memory that you did not have when you entered?” “Are you currently experiencing any homicidal, antisocial, or misanthropic thoughts that were not present when you entered?” She handed him a glossy pamphlet on what to expect over the next few days, and a listing of support groups for recent donors, “Only if you feel you need them, of course.”
“I think I’ll be fine,” Daniel said, forcing a small smile. “But thank you.”
“Of course, Mr. Wellington. Please pay attention to the list of contraindications on the back of the pamphlet. If you experience any or all of these, contact your primary care physician immediately.” It sounded rehearsed, but at least she was polite about it. “Have a nice day.”
Daniel collected his jacket and stepped through the clinic’s sliding glass doors and into the warm sunlight. The world looked just the same as it had twenty minutes ago: the trees were just starting to bud, cars rumbled past pedestrians out for a stroll in the newly warm weather, the air carried a faint whiff of sugar and grains from the bakery down the street. The sound of children’s laughter drifted on the breeze from somewhere nearby. Daniel shivered.
It should have been different, but Daniel didn’t know how. Everything felt exactly the same as it did before. But why? Why wasn’t it different now that he had no soul?
He walked to the parking lot, started his car, and sat for a half hour before pulling out into traffic to make his way back home.