Souls

Millions died in an instant; the final blinding flash that consumed all of humanity in a self-inflicted Armageddon.

I remember the flash and all-encompassing heatwave and then, nothing.

We walk, all of us, across the flat, grassless plain whose surface I can’t identify, blurred by what, I’m not sure. All I know is that we are all here, all of humanity in countless droves, all marching to the same destination, but for what? I remember my life and think about my wife and children. Where are they? Are they among this horde that stretches further than my eyes can see? Why am I not feeling anything? There is no sadness, no fear, no longing for them that I know I should have, and then she approaches, a short Asian woman whom I have never seen before.

“So, how have you been?”

I’m not quite sure what to say to her as I don’t know. I recognize her, but at the same time, I do not. It is like seeing someone that reminds you of someone else, but you can’t figure out who that someone else is.

“I’m ok. Do I know you?” I ask, confused at the sudden intrusion into my journey.

“No, not really, but I have been with you all your life.”

“All my life? What am I? Dead?”

“Yes, you are, as is everyone else you see. All of you, all of humanity is now extinct,” she replies, a tear sliding down her cheek.

I can’t grasp what she is saying, and maybe because of the confused look on my face, she continues talking, not waiting for my reply.

“Look, I know it’s hard to understand, but you are dead, from a physical standpoint. What you’re seeing is what you can fathom. You are a soul, and all around you are the souls of everyone else who is dead. You’re on your final journey.”

“Final journey? Like in never going to exist again?” I ask.

“Yes, in a manner of speaking. You’ll never exist as you once were unless something changes.”

“Ok, so let me get this straight. I’m dead, physically but my soul is having a conversation with you, and I’m on my final journey unless something changes. This is a lot to take in.”

“As I said, it’s hard to understand at first. Let me try again. You’re dead. Are you good with that?”

“Good with it? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be good with it or not. Ya know, being dead isn’t what most people consider a good situation.”

“I meant, do you get what I mean?”

“Yeah, ok. So, I’m dead. I get it. What next?”

She rubs her forehead with her fingers as if trying to remove the frustration, “Ok. You’re dead, and this is your final journey. Normally when a person dies, they make this journey alone until they arrive, but with so many people dying all at once, we couldn’t handle just letting one person walk at a time, so thus all these other souls you see. You with me so far?”

“Ok, so we’re the dead souls walking on our final journey. To where?”

“No, you’re not dead souls. Your bodies are dead, but your souls, which are very much alive, are making the final journey. As to where, well, that’s hard to describe, but for your sake, let’s call it a depot.”

“A soul depot?”

“In a manner of speaking. All souls go there for recycling and reassignment,” she replies.

“Recycling, like as in plastic bottles or newspapers? What do you? Grind up the souls, melt them down and remake more?”

“No, we don’t grind them up. We don’t melt them down, and we can’t remake them. There are a finite number of souls, and we have to reassign, yes that’s a better word, reassign them,” she adds.

“Look, I hate to be a pain, but there’s a lot I’m not understanding and the more you tell me, the more questions I have.”

“That’s normal. We do this all the time, so it’s fine to ask questions.”

“All right. So, what are you? Are you a soul?” I ask.

“Yes and no. I’m what you would call an angel,” she replies.

“Where are your wings?”

“I don’t have wings. That’s a human construct. We don’t have wings, and there are no such things as demons or the Devil. That’s a human construct too.”

“Wait. What do you mean there’s no demons or the Devil? Are you also trying to tell me there is no God, as well?”

“In a manner of speaking,” she says, “the human brain is not capable of comprehending the creator, so it was easier for you humans to create a concept of the creator, but how your brains are wired, you can’t have God without the Devil. It’s always about opposites with your species. You can’t have the good without the bad, the hot without the cold, the peace without the strife. You always need balance, so you create the opposite for your brains to understand it.”

“So, there’s no God and no Devil, but you’re an angel? How the hell does that work?”

“I am an angel in your terms, but maybe a better term would be a guardian.”

“Ok, if you’re a guardian, what are you guarding?” I ask sarcastically.

“You,” she replies.

“Me?”

“Yes, you. Do you remember all those times in this past life where you felt you shouldn’t have walked away from something, yet you did?”

“Yea, I had some close calls. What about them?”

“The reason you didn’t die when they happened was because of my intervention,” she replies.

“Who else are you guarding?”

“No one else. Only you. We’re assigned one soul to guard. For some guardians, it’s easy, but for others, like me, the soul is always a challenge, which is why I’m talking to you now,” she replies, “I had to finally meet you in person, so to speak. You led an interesting life; not boring, and you always kept me on my toes. I almost lost you a few times there, but as fortune would have it, I was able to pull it off,” she replies, blowing on her fingertips and rubbing them on her chest.

“So, I’m alive, or rather, was alive, lived, hell I don’t know what to say, then because of you?”

“Yes, if you want to put it that way. You were alive or lived because of me saving you from you or more from your, what I would call careless behavior. You called it thrill-seeking, having a good time, finding the rush, enjoying the high, among other things, but yeah, you were a challenge.”

“I guess I should be thanking you then?”

“No, thanks are not necessary. It was quite my pleasure to have your soul to guard. I guarded your soul for over what you could call, five lifetimes, and it never gets boring.”

“Five lifetimes? I only remember one, and I don’t remember it that well now,” I reply.

“And you won’t. The longer you’re out of your body, the less you remember. All the souls were created that way. It’s easier to process and not confusing when you go to your new body.”

“So, you’ve watched over my soul for five lifetimes. How many have I had?”

“I’m not sure, but I believe it’s a few hundred. Your last guardian was reassigned and don’t ask. I don’t know why and then I was assigned to you.”

“How many souls have you guarded?”

“Yours is my first, and I’m happy to have had you to guard. It was a lot more challenging than they said it would be, and honestly, I’m not supposed to be here now, but if I don’t take this opportunity to meet you, I may not get to for many lifetimes. You know, protocol and such.”

“No, I don’t know. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole one soul, many lifetimes, no God, no Devil, no Angels, thing.”

“Right. I get it. It was hard for me at first, too.”

“You? What? Were you a soul?”

“I still am, but I was like you once. Living, dying, making the journey, getting recycled, and doing it all over again.”

“For how long?”

“I had over 1000 lifetimes before they chose me to be a guardian.”

“Wouldn’t you rather be alive?”

“Not really. After you’ve lived that many times, you start to remember a little more each time and although it’s not much, recycling the soul that many times, the memories build up and make the life for the body and brain a living hell, not to coin a phrase.”

“So, where am I? Is this heaven? Space? Another dimension? Where?”

“Let’s call this another dimension because if I try to tell you exactly how this works, it would just confuse you even more. It took me a long time to grasp, so let’s leave it at that.”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I wonder if this is a dream from which I will awake, but I can’t seem to grasp any other train of thought. It has to be real. I have a few memories of my life. I can remember vague details, but the more time passes, if that is a valid measurement, the less I remember, and it makes me sad. Sad to know the memories that were once so important to me are now non-existent. I try to force myself to remember, but like grains of sand between my fingers, the memories slide, evading my mental grasp and even my sadness begins to fade. What I don’t understand is that I still have my conscience, my morals, my beliefs, but I can’t understand why.

Her voice derails my train of thought, “I know you’re having a hard time with this, but it will get easier. I want you to know that you are one of the good souls out there. You’ve always done the right thing, and well, I’m proud of your soul. Not all souls are good, and from there is where you get the bad people. The bad seeds as many of humanity would say.”

“If you can’t remember anything from your life, how can a soul be good or bad?”

“It’s how there are formed and what happens during their very first lifetime. If they have a bad life or do evil things, it will permanently stain their soul. Some are lucky, and that residue won’t remain during recycling, but others, not so much. The more they are stained with malevolence, the harder it is to cleanse, and the more lifetimes they have, the worse it gets, which is why you had more murderers, serial killers, and just bad people during your lifetime. Therefore, humanity is now extinct.”

“Why don’t you destroy the bad souls? Wouldn’t that be easier?”

“I don’t know. We have never destroyed any souls nor created new ones. The souls are the souls. No more, no less, and that’s what we do.”

“So, you’re telling me that humanity is never going to exist again? What happens to all the souls then?”

“Not in that timeline they won’t. That timeline is dead for the creator. Not the first time, and definitely not the last, but it’s over. I quite enjoyed it, and it saddens me a little that it is, but on to the next one.”

“Next one? Another timeline? How does that work?”

“Yes, another, and probably another after that,” she replies.

“How many timelines?”

“There is an infinite number of simultaneous timelines. Some go on, and some cease to exist like yours. Some are destroyed, while some are saved. It all depends on the creator’s mood. If the creator doesn’t like how things are going in a timeline, then the timeline will be destroyed, and another one created. It’s simple actually, but the mechanics are way beyond what I could help you to understand. You’re just not wired for it.

“Will I go back as a human? I’m not going to be a dog or a bug, am I?”

“No, human souls are for humans. Animal souls are for animals.”

“Animal souls? They have souls? Really?”

“Yes, animal souls are the same as humans, but more developed. They don’t know malevolence or hate, which is why the creator put them in animals, to help humans.”

“Ok, I think I get it. All of my animals were kind and loving. Not a mean bone in their bodies.”

“Exactly, but it’s quite the opposite. They weren’t your animals; you were their humans, assigned to you to help you along your path. Some people didn’t need animals, but considering how many you had, I would say you needed a lot of help,” she says, smiling.

“But?” I stammer.

“Didn’t you ever wonder why certain animals were attracted to you? Why you had so many strays that seemed to need your help? Aren’t you curious as to why you always wanted to help those animals?” she asks.

“Yeah, kinda, but I never really questioned it too deeply. They needed my help, and I just couldn’t let them stay on the street or in the shelters.”

“Exactly. They needed you, and you needed them. A type of symbiotic relationship that helped both of you. Humans, in general, are horrible when it comes to caring for animals. Many are viewed as food, some as pets, and most just disregarded. Humans are generally too selfish to care for others than themselves.”

It is starting to make sense to me, but I know there is a lot I don’t know or understand.

“So, let me see if I’m getting this. Humans need animals around because the animals help the humans to be better. Am I right so far?”

“Yes, keep going,” she says, now grinning at my change in awareness.

“So, if the humans that have animals, rather animals that have humans, the humans end up being more developed, their souls are less stained, and live a better life?”

“Mostly. There are some humans that no amount of animal care can improve. Some human souls are just so stained that they taint the animal souls that come in contact with them, ruining both. Which is why sometimes there would be mean animals.”

“Ok, I get the animal thing, I think. What about now? What’s going to happen to this soul?” I ask, pointing at myself.

“I’m not quite sure yet. It will be decided at the processing center when we arrive. It’s not that long of a journey so you won’t have to wait too long until we arrive.”

I have so many thoughts floating around inside my head, or what I think is my head. I’m not even sure of my existence at this point. I know or at best, believe I am a soul. Am I hallucinating or dreaming all of this? Will I wake up from a dream and realize that all of this is a lie?

As we trudge along, I glance up and down the ranks of souls that walk beside and behind me. I can’t recognize faces as there are none. No corporeal forms, but blobs of what appear to be some gaseous forms with a humanoid shape. Is this what our essence looks like? Are our physical bodies just vessels used to transport these forms for only a short period?

“In answer to your questions,” I hear her speak.

I hadn’t said anything aloud, that I could tell. “I didn’t say anything.”

“No, you didn’t, but you don’t have to. Remember, I’m your guardian, and I know your thoughts and your essence. How do you think we’ve been communicating? We aren’t talking as you once knew it. It’s all about energy flow back and forth. Thoughts are energy, and I happen to be tuned to receive yours.”

“You mean like an antenna? Am I a transmitter?” I ask.

“In basic terms, yes. You are, and I’m a receiver,” she replies.

“Why can’t I hear…receive what you’re thinking?”

“You’re not tuned to me like I am to you. The only time I could say anything to you or communicate with you in your physical form was in your dreams when you were susceptible to my transmissions, and that’s only in brief little bursts, inserting a thought here, or an idea there. It took quite a bit of my energy even to do that. It was enough to keep you out of most troubles, but sometimes, even I couldn’t override your conscious state with my suggestions. A drawback of being a guardian.”

“How is it that I can receive what you are sending now?”

“Because of where we are and the state you are in. When you are without body, you are free to communicate with your guardian. It makes the transition easier.”

“Why can’t I communicate with other souls?”

“Oh no, we couldn’t have that. Each soul is unique and is not supposed to intermingle with other souls. It would upset the balance and create all kinds of havoc in the new body.”

“How so?” I ask.

“Well, when souls intermingle, there is a transference of energy, similar to what we’re doing now, and that energy is carried forward into the new life.”

“Why is that bad?”

“Have you ever heard of soul mates?”

“Of course, I have, I had one.”

“Well then, you know when you met that person you just seemed to connect. That was because somewhere along your timeline during the time between lives, your souls’ energies intermingled, and you took a piece of that other soul with you, so when you encountered each other in your human bodies, the energies recognized one another, and you felt that connection.”

“This is so bizarre. So, the whole soul mate thing doesn’t happen between bodies. It happens because of the souls being interconnected?”

“Yes. That’s right. If we allow that to happen all the time, people would have some serious connection issues when you’re in your bodies, and you would feel that connection with more people and the human brain is not equipped to handle so much conflict, so we try to limit soul-to-soul contact. Of course, we can’t stop it from happening, which is why most humans only find one soulmate in their lifetime, if they even find one at all.”

We continue our journey, and I begin to notice that some of the shapes dart forward and disappear. The more I stare, the more discernable the shapes become. What had appeared to be only gaseous blobs, now become shapes with distinctive marks. I don’t have to ask.

“What you’re seeing is called the transformation. It’s when the souls get close to the processing center; they begin to take on the form that is identifiable to the creator, just like your human body, the soul has a unique shape, for lack of a better term. The other forms you see darting back and forth are those of the guardians of other souls and the overseers. The overseers are basically the guardians of the guardians, making sure we’re doing our job, although there isn’t a strict job description. Every once in a while, something will go wrong, even here, and the overseers always seem to be able to set things right before they get out of control.”

“Why can’t the creator do everything? I mean, it’s like a God or something, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and no. Remember that thing called free will?”

“Yeah, didn’t seem so free.”

“You used it more often than you know. Every decision was based on free will, yet you just chose to follow most of the rules set out before you, making it easier for you. That is free will, choosing to follow the rules and guidelines or choosing not to. True free will without rules or guidelines creates chaos, and you wouldn’t like the results if everyone just did everything without rules.”

I think about it and realize she has a point. She. I’m not even sure she is a she. All I know is what I recognize or can process. What she wants me to see. Maybe I am going crazy and am locked away in some looney bin somewhere with some orderly pumping me full of drugs to keep me in a non-crazy state. I don’t know anymore.

“No, you’re not crazy, and you’re not locked in a looney bin. I appear in this form as it’s what I choose, and it seems to work with your energy. This is hard enough for me to explain without you freaking out and not being able to comprehend what is happening. I’m not supposed to be having this much communication with you, but it’s highly unlikely they will send me for recycling, so whatever happens, happens.”

“You won’t get in trouble?”

“Trouble is relative. I might receive further instruction on how to care for souls, but there isn’t any discipline or punishment. There aren’t any commendations for a job well done either. We do what we do. Guard your souls and process you for the next life. If I screw up, not sure how I could do that, but let’s say I did. The worst that will happen is that I cease to exist.”

“Isn’t that bad?”

“No, actually it’s not. When you don’t exist, you don’t know it, so it’s not a loss, and the souls you communicate with and watch over don’t remember; there are no lost memories, no loved ones, no one to remember you, so it’s not bad at all.”

“Seem kinda pointless to exist then. If you’re going to cease to exist, what is the point of doing this?”

“It is our purpose. We guard souls, just like you live lives. Just like animals watch over the humans, and the creator manages the timelines. We all have a purpose, and that’s what keeps us going. If I believed there was no purpose, I would cease to exist. The purpose is what keeps us alive, as you call it.”

“I don’t even know what my purpose is.”

“That is not uncommon. Most humans do not. When you finally realize what your purpose is, which may take 1000 lifetimes or more, then you will become a guardian to help other souls find their purpose.”

“That seems like such a long time to find your purpose. A thousand lifetimes.”

“Time here is relative. What may seem like a long time to you in your physical form is only but an instant or a day, to put it in perspective for you. We live without the restrictions of time, which is why we can move back and forth in your physical timeline.”

“So, if that’s the case, how do you know you live a thousand lifetimes before you found your purpose?”

“My guardian told me. She was the one who made me a guardian for you.”

“Was she my guardian?” I ask.

“No, that was another guardian who was reassigned. I don’t know the details, and am not supposed to, plus, it doesn’t matter.”

“So, is your guardian still around?”

“I don’t know. I do not have a memory of her other than that event. It’s how it works around here. She may be a guardian for another soul. She may be an overseer, or she may not exist anymore.”

“Doesn’t that make you sad?”

“I don’t have emotions, either way. Those are human ideas and don’t apply to me.”

“But you once did.”

“Yes, and I feed off your emotions. I can feel how your happiness, your sadness, your anger, affect you. Even your hatred, which is an ugly emotion, by the way. You should work on that.”

“I tried not to hate, but some people made it hard.”

“I know, and I could feel the conflict in you. I won’t say you weren’t justified, but I could understand why you did. As guardians, we try to influence the hate out of people subtly, but most of the time, if it’s strong enough, we’re pretty much useless, so we have to suffer through it.”

“Did I make it that hard for you?”

“At times, yes. Other times, thankfully for the animals, your hatred lessened to a manageable level.”

We approach what looks like a large spinning silver disk. As the souls get close, they are getting sucked in, like mosquitoes into a big fan. I wonder if I will feel anything.

“It’s going to be painless, from your perspective. As you have no solid form, you’ll just be sucked inside, and once we’re there, I’ll escort you to your destination.”

She’s right. There is no sensation. One second, we are on the plain and the next we are in what appears to be a big holding area, larger than any space I have ever seen. The rest of the souls now have definable shapes and markings, none of which I can make sense.

“You’re curious about the markings, I see.”

I am getting a little wigged out with her reading my thoughts, and before I can say anything, she speaks.

“You’ll get used to it, or you may not, but it won’t be for too long,” she replies, unprompted, “and about the markings. You won’t understand them, but to simplify it, they’re like barcodes for the souls. The creator knows them all, but the guardians can only recognize the soul for which they are responsible. The overseers can recognize the markings of all the souls under their respective guardians. I’ve never seen this number of souls at the same time.”

She disappears.

I don’t know how long I wait. It could be ten minutes, or it could be ten years. I have no reference point to determine how much time elapses, but it doesn’t seem long before she reappears.

“I’m back, and it’s time to go,” she says, motioning me in her direction.

“Where are we going?”

“I guess it’s your lucky day. Another timeline exists, same as the one you were in, with only slight differences.”

“Am I going to know the difference?”

“No, just like you won’t know anything about this once you’re back.”

“When do I go back? Can’t I stay a little longer, so we can talk?”

“We can’t keep you here. We’re on a tight schedule, especially with your human mass extinction event. We have a lot of souls to process before the timelines get too out of whack. If it’s any consolation, you’ll never have to remember what you’ve forgotten about your past.”

That is not comforting. Nothing is at this point. I don’t feel any angst nor happiness. I don’t feel any emotion, which is probably part of the process. I don’t remember my old life, and the prospect of a new life doesn’t seem to excite me either. There is nothing.

She must sense this, “I liked you much better when you had your emotions and memories.”

“I wish I could say I’m sorry, but I do not even know how to feel anything at the moment.”

“It will come back to you in your new life. I promise, but it is time to go.”

With no sense of time, I prepare myself for the next step of my journey.

She whisks me away down a long corridor, the length I cannot fathom. We arrive in a room, occupied by five other shapes, indiscernible to me, yet she reacts to their presence. I can sense her energy flow, but it isn’t directed at me, and then she turns.

“I don’t know how to put this, and I’m not sure if it’s going to have any meaning or not, but you are being sent back to your old timeline, along with many others to try and stop what happened.”

I can’t remember, and I stare blankly, “Ok. As you wish.” I want to know what she means, and I try to remember, but no memories exist. It is a clean slate. She told me this would happen.

A frown crosses her face, the first sign of emotion besides the smile I had seen earlier. She places the palm of what I think is her hand against where my head should be and whispers, “I need you to remember.”

I feel enveloped in a force that erupts from the outside and forces its way into my soul, burning and burrowing into every crevice of the essence I know as me. I feel the pain, the love, the joy, the hate, the misery of my lifetime, all flooding back in at once, and I temporarily lose all focus on everything.

I look around and see all of them, floating in front of me, their angelic appearance almost too much for me to comprehend. I remember it all, my birth, my life, my family, and my death and am overwhelmed. “Why?” I scream, the pain and tears erupting from within, almost too much for me to bear.

“You must go back. You must make a choice. Tell us the time. Tell us the age,” they keep repeating. I can’t focus and beg them to take it away.

“Make the choice!” she shouts.

I find one memory. One that is of a time when I was happiest. I choose, and the pain fades.

I look up at my mother staring down at me with the most beautiful smile in the world.

“Happy Birthday, Son.”

I smile. I am now five-years-old. I am a big boy.

I hear the distant voice in my head, “You must remember.”

Copyright © 2018 Nathaniel Kaine

 

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Nathaniel Kaine

Nathaniel Kaine, the youngest of five children, was born on the east coast and spent his formative years in a small Midwestern town in northwest Indiana. As the youngest of five children, his siblings much older, he developed a penchant for crafting and writing tales as a way to entertain people. At the young age of seventeen, he shed his Midwestern roots for a more adventurous life in the U.S. Navy, where he had a broad array of experiences in the submarine service, surface naval units, and Foreign Service, specializing in electronics and communications. His time in the service allowed him to travel extensively, both in the United States and abroad, working in and visiting over 40 countries, experiencing and embracing many cultures. He spent a majority of his time, living and traveling throughout Central and South America, where he became fluent in Spanish while working with foreign military units on an advisory and training basis. Nathaniel has worked in the Financial Services Industry and currently works in Information Technology having held a number of different positions in both, constantly seeking the challenging aspects of his fields. Nathaniel’s avid love of the outdoors and adventure has led him on many interesting journeys, through the Andes in South America, the Amazon, diving in many of the world’s oceans, spending time on safari in Kenya, visiting the outback in Australia, constantly looking for ways to explore. Nathaniel and his wife, Meghan, have two young children, with whom they spend most of their waking hours. He also has three older children from a previous marriage to Kathleen, who passed away from cancer at an early age. Nathaniel takes much of his creative inspiration from classical authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville, and modern-day authors such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Lee Childs, John Grisham, and Clive Cussler.

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