Half Price Souls
When Isa passed the souls in the supermarket, between personal hygiene and health products, she decided she'd not actually woken up that morning.
That would mean none of the day had happened; not the screaming argument and tiptoeing through verbal glass, not the flushed anger in Michael’s face, not the real glass shattered all over the living room floor, and not the new bruises throbbing up and down her arms and over her left ribs.
None of it would have happened, and Isa liked that very much.
She stopped in front of the souls. They came in boxes like condoms, with attractive men and women fading out on the front, and different options like Sensitive, Pure, and Innocent. She picked up a purple-toned Rough. All souls were half price at twenty dollars.
She dropped the box back. It wasn’t her soul that was the problem.
"Not buying one?" the man next to her asked. He looked far too real for Isa to be dreaming.
She wouldn’t hurt so much if she was dreaming.
"A joke, I guess," she said, but she couldn’t make her voice sound offhand and normal enough. If she couldn’t pretend everything was okay, she wouldn’t talk at all. She took a deep breath, ignored the pain in her body, and moved to sidle past him.
"Pretty cheap for a soul," the man commented.
Isa supposed it was. Michael wouldn’t be able to sell his soul for even a dollar. Maybe she should get him a new one – he'd understand quickly enough. And he'd get angry again.
Isa shuddered and tightened her grip on her shopping basket. She needed to buy food for lunch. The food Michael had told her to get while he cleaned up the mess – her mess – in the living room. He told her she was too lazy to manage it properly, and the house had to look perfect.
"Go on," the man encouraged. "Get him one."
Isa bit her lip. Her gaze danced back over the boxes almost unwillingly. Innocence and purity and that sort of thing would wither in Michael.
"Or it might make him different."
Isa slid the man a quick look, and he smiled in encouragement. She shook her head and clutched her basket. Maybe Michael wouldn’t be angry; maybe he'd think it was a joke and he'd forgive her. She grabbed a box – any box, she didn’t know what type – and rushed off. She didn’t remember the food for lunch. By the time she'd gotten out the supermarket, she'd forgotten about the man too.
Michael thought the soul was funny. She'd grabbed one called Brave, but he didn’t need to be brave. He always did exactly what he wanted.
He didn’t comment on her forgetting the food, but he hugged her on the left side, rough and hard while he smiled.
Isa sat on the lounge chair, and Michael opened the soul. It looked like a gossamer veil, a silver grey that she longed to touch. She probably needed a brave soul.
Michael played with an empty box. There'd been nothing in it. Isa frowned; she was sure there'd been something in it.
Michael glanced out the window and tensed. The dog from across the road scrabbled at the front lawn, which Michael mowed every weekend. The garden was perfect. Michael swore – the dog always got out the yard – then a strange grin flashed across his face. He jumped up, leapt through the window – the broken window, without the glass – and dashed across the front lawn yelling and screaming and chasing the dog.
Isa stumbled to her feet and followed him outside.
There was a truck on the road, and Michael was on the road.
Isa closed her eyes.
The screech of brakes, people yelling, and the smell of burned rubber wrapped around her.
"Half price," the man from the supermarket said. "Guess not such a good idea. Only gave him half a new soul. Reckless instead of brave. Still, it’s probably better this way, isn’t it, Isa?"
She opened her eyes, but she was alone. She shook her head, rubbed her battered arms, and didn’t look at the road.
Tamlyn Dreaver grew up in rural Western Australia and now lives in Melbourne. She's never had a secret basement or a dragon nesting in the backyard or anything nearly as interesting so she makes up stories about them instead.
She can be found on the web at www.tamlyndreaver.com, and also on Twitter at @tamlyn_dreaver.