Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Featured Writer

The Soul Collector strode through the echoing streets of Sarvan, and found a cluster of people sheltering in the lee of the great reactor situated in the centre of the city. These people were the first that she’d seen in weeks. They watched her approach, her green robe swishing against the ground, a green lantern hanging from her hand, headdress framing her face, and a tall staff click-click-clicking on the ground.

“What do you want?” One man demanded of her, breaking away from the group and the fire that had been lit in the centre of their small huddle.

“To talk. I have a deal to make you.” She pitched her voice so as to sound more local, like him.

“We have no food,” he said, just as fiercely as before.

“I’m not hungry,” she replied smoothly, making it seem as if this should have been an obvious fact.

“Good.” He slunk back to the fire, exhaustion replacing the anger in his manner.

“What do you know of truth and beauty?” she asked the gathering as a whole.

“Nothing!” shouted one. “They’re both dead!” shouted another.

“Truth and beauty are admirable things to chase,” another man said quietly. He was quite close to the Soul Collector, “but they cannot be captured, nor may they be achieved.”

“Ah, philosophy. You’re right, though, Truth and Beauty do not exist in their absolutes, at least not in this world. In the next? Who knows.”

She walked around the group, pitching her voice higher, applying an edge of control to it.

“Death is an unknown. Beyond it may lie paradise or nothing. No one can know. But I can offer you something real. I can hold your soul in this world. I can keep you from the dark. I can hold your soul as insurance against the unknown. Is life meaningful? Or is it a hollow lie? I can’t tell you. But I do know that life can only truly hold meaning if it can be perpetuated beyond the grave. And that is what I offer. I can offer you a karmic loan on your next reincarnation. I can deduct time from purgatory. I can put off death’s call.”

She unhinged the top of her lantern. Wisps of green smoke drifted from it. One flurry began to form the shape of a human: she waved her hand through it, dissipating it.

“It’s painless, simple, and will feel like a dream of decades. Your mind will be free. This is a heaven of here and now. No need to eat or drink. Just the simplistic pleasure of being, forever more.”

Her vocal technique was proving effective, as they all listened with rapt attention.

Hours later, leaving the empty shadow of the reactor, staff again click-click-clicking on the ground, her lantern burned that much brighter.

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