Happy Thursday, everyone!
This week I’m trying to play catch-up after a weekend spent battling the cold from hell, so I thought what better story to post this week than “Soulmate From Hell,” a quirky little tale about a minion, a perky blonde, and a wish gone wrong — or did it? Enjoy!
Soulmate from Hell
Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press
Cover art Copyright © Dmitry Pshek/Dreamstime.com
“My name’s Paulette, and I want a soulmate.”
Reba raised a hairy eyebrow at the video of the young woman displayed on the heat-resistant monitor on her desk.
Why didn’t anyone just want a date anymore? Paulette was cute, in a vapid blonde sort of way. She had a dimple in her chin, pouty lips, and a nose that was a little too pert to be natural, which probably meant that other portions of her anatomy, out of camera range, would be a little too pert to be natural, too. Men seemed to go for those things. So why couldn’t Paulette be satisfied with a date?
Why had she requested a soulmate?
Reba sighed and flexed her wings. She really needed more of the moisturizer her shift supervisor had recommended, but she’d have to put in another four hundred sixty-six hours processing soulmate requests before she’d have the credits to buy anything other than a mid-shift snack. The thin skin between the spines of her wings dried out in the heat, as if that was anything new. If one more minion in the Be Careful What You Wish For division cracked a joke about how the heat down here wasn’t really all that bad because it was a dry heat, Reba was going to smack said minion straight to Level 42.
Nobody wanted to go to Level 42. Not even Reba.
Level 42 was home to things no self-respecting minion of Hell ever talked about, much less contemplated, and minions of Hell contemplated a lot considering that the mind-numbing tasks most minions performed didn’t take a lot in the way of brain power.
Reba punched a button on the soulmate machine that stood off to one side of her desk. The ancient thing resembled a lottery tumbler only on a much more massive and corroded scale. Instead of ping pong balls with numbers stenciled on them, the tumbler held tiny spheres filled with softly glowing souls. The souls came in all colors of the rainbow, from softest pink and palest blue, to darkest black and deep, bloody crimson.
She wasn’t quite sure why certain requests for a soulmate were funneled downstairs instead of up. The only one who knew was the Boss, and Reba, good little functionary that she was, never asked the Boss any questions. She just kept her massive, short-horned head down and did what she was told. She’d long since stopped wondering if never questioning the way things worked in life was the thing that landed her this particular job in the afterlife. After all, it could have been worse. She could have been assigned to Level 42.
What Reba did know was that whenever certain requests for soulmates showed up on her monitor in the form of a video or email or diary entry (how quaint), Reba pressed the button on the ancient machine, which sent the massive tumbler rolling with a screeching groan. The spheres full of souls churned around inside until the machine spit one out. Reba took note of the results, entered them in a database that had no beginning (and probably would never have an end), and then sent the soul on its way. Done and done, until the next request came through.
Next to her, the machine screeched and groaned, its rusted gears rasping against each other as the souls tumbled round inside. The thing smelled like it needed a good oiling, not that anyone from maintenance bothered with… well, maintenance. Reba tried not to reach around behind her back to scratch her wings while she waited. Her arms were long enough, but her talons were sharp. Last time she scratched her wings, she ended up in therapy for self-mutilation. While mutilation itself was a time-honored tradition in Hell, it was the “self” part that the Boss frowned on. Afterwards, Reba had vowed never to end up in therapy again. Trolls did not make good mental health counselors.
She was just about ready to do a major no-no – make a personal call at work to order that moisturizer, credits or no credits – when the machine quit its screeching and groaning, and spit out a sphere.
An empty one.
(Read the rest of the story here)