Spare Soul  (short story)

cubist portrait

Clara’s name needed nine letters to spell it correctly. For her eighteenth birthday her parents gifted her an official name change, an embossed letter of apology, and the family’s hand-me-down Opel Station wagon.

The name change didn’t have much effect. She’d been using the simple spelling since she was old enough to realize that nobody cared to enforce her spelling, outside the first day of third grade when the teacher insisted on using the full spelling. That only lasted a few days.

The freedom from the tyranny of her archaic spelling didn’t have the expected effect. Though it was nice to have her own car, even the least cool car ever built. However, there was still something wrong. Something she had always felt. Something she thought was part of her name.

It was still there. The “something” she carried was inside her and was nowhere. It wasn’t imagination. It wasn’t a tumor. She felt the weight of something with presence, but no mass or substance. Something that interfered with her being a normal human being.

She went to a string of doctors, physical and mental, but none offered any assistance. She slowly drifted from conventional to the spiritual. On a dare from her friend she went to see a native shaman. As she described her problem to him his smile grew.

She finally asked him what he was smiling at. He responded with a series of questions about things she’d seen and felt. He knew her answers before she could say them. He finally stopped the questions and told her that her problem was that she had one soul too many.

For the next hour the shaman was unable to answer any of Clara’s questions, mostly relating to where did this soul come from? He kept saying things like, “Where did the penny on the ground come from? Who put it there?” He finally, she thinks he was enjoying this game, told her that she was the only one who could identify the soul’s origin and purpose.

Clara had been so busy worrying about how, she hadn’t considered the why. Then all the questions flooded her head. Who, what, why, when and how. So basically, all the questions.

She waited a few days to let the weirdness sink in. At first she tried to deny it, but somehow she knew it was true. Later she realized that knowing made it easier to deal with. Accepting this she started working backwards and suspected that it must have happened sometime between conception to just after birth.

It took the length of Sunday dinner and a couple after dinner drinks to work up the courage to discuss her spare soul with her parents. They were surprisingly unsurprised. They knew nothing of the spare soul, but admitted that something happened just after her birth.

She was born a normal crying baby, but a couple hours later the crying suddenly stopped. Everyone told the parents they were lucky, but they were worried. The doctors said that Clara was perfectly healthy. As she grew, she progressed as normal. She just cried less than the other kids.

She still didn’t cry as much as other people. At least that’s what people tell her. Having only need her for her whole life she really had no other experience to go by. She always thought her friends to be the unstable ones. Perhaps the other soul comforts her.

Clara made the rounds again. Therapists, gurus, kooks and quacks. Nobody could help her. Most chose not to believe her. Finally, two years after the Shaman’s revelation she started looking for answers internally. Meditation did not come easy. Clearing her mind took several months to go from pretending, to trying, to achieving.

One day across the void of her empty consciousness came a voice. It startled her out of her trance. After that she went from meditating for an hour to meditating for hours. She took time off from work, told her family she was skipping Sunday dinner.

It was a tiny voice. Very far away, or rather, very deep inside. It said two words. Always the same. She started whispering what she thought the words might be. She assumed it was a name. She tried for a week till she whispered, “Paul Watson.” Her brain exploded like she was being electrocuted.

She woke up to her mother shaking her. Clara asked her who Paul Watson was. Her mother didn’t know. Her father did, or at least his friend who was a cop did. Paul was Clara’s age but was too crazy to go to school, so she never knew him. He finally killed a guy and was sentenced to the mental hospital.

Clara did not tell anyone her plans to visit Paul. She was sure that have her committed right alongside him if she did. It took some talking to get by the receptionist, but she was finally allowed to see Paul’s doctor. He was odd receptive so she figured she should be open with him. She told him the whole tale and when she was done he nodded hi head and said, “Fits.”

The doctor called and had Paul taken to a visiting room. On the walk down he explained that Paul, who insisted they call him Edgar, had always complained about his missing soul. Clara nearly fainted when he said that. The orderly at the door unlocked it and told the doctor that Edgar was calm today.

The man sitting at the table was calm, well dressed and almost handsome. Nothing like what Clara had expected. He greeted the doctor then smiled at Clara. He started to say something when he froze. Clara felt the need to flee. The tiny voice inside her was screaming for help.

(to be continued...)