Will you buy my soul?

One  night  when I  was broke  and desperate  and doing weed, I  decided to sell my  soul. I spread a sheet  in front of a most infamous  public house and sat my soul   down by my side and waited for prospective  buyers. It was a cold night and I had only a  shawl which was full of holes. My soul had nothing  and sat shivering, teeth chattering. It really broke my  heart to see her so miserable. I didn’t want to part from  her, but I had a belly which needed to be filled urgently. And  anyway, I thought she would be cosy and comfortable with some other  owner; something, that unfortunately I had never been able to give her. But  the key point remained: I needed to fill my belly, and fill it would I. 

People  passed, both  women and men, and  I tried to divert their  attention to my goods. They  looked at us in passing and  hurried on. Most of them had souls, similar  to mine, shrivelled, miserable, trailing after them. A  fat, drunk man came out of the public house and stood  swaying before us. He narrowed his eyes and exclaimed, 

‘What  is that  splendid thing  you have sitting  with you?’

‘Oh, a  soul, up  for sale’, I  said, a professional  to the bones. Though I  knew he could not pay the  price, and I did not want to  sell my soul to him anyway.  

‘Oh, splendid. Just  the thing I was looking  for. I should have given you  a bottle for her, if I still had  one.’ He sighed and set off. Then turned  back and shouted, 

‘I  shall  give away  my own soul  for a bottle just  now’, and chuckling, he  went lurching through the  dark, deserted road. My soul  had been holding her breath because  of the foul breath of the drunk, and  for fear she would get sold at his hands. 

My  soul  was not  very eager  to get parted  from me. In fact, she  was sad. Though not frightfully  fond of me, she was my soul and  I was her owner, and over the years  there had been moments when we had felt  in harmony with each other. 

An  old hag  came next, bent  doubled, cheeks hollowed  out. 

‘What  miserable  creature is  that you had  bound to you?’ she  peered through her glasses. 

‘This  is my soul, mother, a  very nice, good one. Circumstances  are forcing me to sell it, otherwise  I would not let it out of my sight.’ 

Strange  sounds escaped  her at it. I suspected  she was giggling as she  turned the corner. Next came  a pretty fourteen years old girl, swinging  a bag. She paused beside us. My soul brightened. 

‘What  are you  asking for  her?’ she asked. 

I  told  her a  price which  obviously she  could not pay. She  departed sadly. She didn’t  need the soul for herself, but  wanted to free her  from  me! The  cold was  eating into  my bones. I wanted  to get away into the  warm public house and therefore  had decided to sell my soul to the  first buyer who walked past next.

It  was then  a little boy  came bounding into  the road. He was healthy  and his clothes were decent. He  had a delightful face. He broke off  running and stood wonderstruck. My soul  smiled at him happily. I guessed she would  like to go with him. 

‘Oyi, oyi, monkey’, he  clapped his hands. 

‘This  is not  a monkey. She  is my soul. Will  you buy her?’ I said. 

‘Wow, wow’, he  again clapped his  hands. 

He  started  pulling out  objects from his  pockets; marbles, yoyo, colourful  stones, threads, coins, images, a lead  fish, a piece of cheese, and various odds  and ends. Then stood turning his pockets inside  out. He promised he would bring all his savings to  me tomorrow. I was sort of fed up and that piece of  cheese was pretty asking to be dined on. I signified to  my soul that she could go. We embraced and bid farewells and  wished each other well. 

I  really  felt happy  for my soul, because  she was often nostalgic  of our childhood which she  would exalt to a kind of heavenly  bliss and now she could get to experience  that all over again. If she was happy, I was  happy, for I really loved her. And not for money  alone had I come to sit here selling my soul, but  because I was suspicious she was rather fed up with  me. Hard to put up with a bad man like me could be for  such a good soul. Not that she was righteous and all. I knew  all the secrets of this soul inside out, but won’t slander her. 

The  next morning  I woke late as  usual and prepared  myself to be rebuked  by my soul, then sat down  jolted. The soul was gone. I  felt a big gap inside me. Last  night I had been too feverish. 

I  cheered  up by faking  relief at her absence. I  went out in the city, awash  with the liberation. I did everything  I had long wanted to do. I pinched things  from shops. I hit mugs I disliked. I drank myself  to incoherence and cursed loudly. I told a thing or  two to God which I thought He needed to hear. I saw  mankind’s degradation and wallowed in ecstasy. I saw small  children struggling under the burden of their lives, and I  could not wait to see them grow up and stuff all the juvenile  prisons where at least they would not have to worry for daily bread. 

I  kicked  beggars and  prostitutes. I  spat on the old  and the sick. 

Many  things  my soul  would not  ever let me  do, I did. And  had bigger plans  ahead. 

In  the evening  I found myself  in an overgrown park. I  lay down in the grass, cold  and tired. I touched my cheek  and it was wet. I looked up to  see if it was raining. I was crying. Then  I started crying consciously and it made me  feel better. 

I  dozed. 

Someone  touched me  on my nose and  I sat up startled. A  middle-aged lady sat on  a bench before me. Her eyes  were swollen with tears, but she  tried to smile at me. I could not  recognise her at first because of her  clean face and a new dress. Then with a  cry I got up and threw my arms around her. She  was my soul all right. 

‘I  am so  tired, I  could hardly  walk.’ She said  between sobs.

‘Why  did you  come back, you  poor soul?’ I asked, rubbing  her shoulders. 

‘He  made me  do such stupid  things all day. He  made me sing and dance  in front of his friends. They  had a birthday party. And they  didn’t even give me a morsel of  the cake to eat.’ She had started to  cry afresh. 

‘I  ran away  when they were  distracted.’

I  consoled  her, said I  was missing her  badly, that now we  won’t ever part.

For  a long  time we sat  hand in hand. I  had some stale bread  in my pocket which she  snatched greedily. 

‘Was  it not  wrong to  ditch the kid  like that? After  all, he paid for you.’ I  asked uneasily when we walked  to our filthy bedstead. 

‘Wrong? When  have you started  to think of right  and wrong?’ She flared  up. 

‘Since  when you… ‘ I  mumbled. I didn’t  want to aggravate her  anymore. Besides it had been  a long, painful day for both of  us. 

We  deserved  a break.   

Sobia Ali is a student of English Literature in India. Her work has been published in, among others, Atticus Review, The Indian Quarterly, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Another Chicago Magazine, The Aleph Review, Mekong Review, Gone Lawn, The Punch Magazine, Litro Magazine, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Bull, Manawaker Studio Flash Fiction Podcast, trampset, Lunate, Kitaab, Ombak Magazine, Close To The Bone, The Bilingual Window, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel.

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