reassignment

“One of these days, I’m going to find the will in me to retire.” Only the glass jars resting inside the divots in the walls were privy to the senior demon’s grumblings as he readjusted the baseball cap on his head. The job requirements were that he stay in human-like form while perusing the warehouse with the new arrivals, but a slender pair of horns peeked out through crudely cut holes in the cap. He cleared his throat before calling out, “Lenny? Where are you?”

“I’m over here, Robert.” One of the glass jars shrieked at the touch of a pair of claws. A crass smile crossed Lenny’s face as he peered out from behind a nest of jars and tubes. His uniform reflected the carefree attitude of his smile- several of his buttons were undone, revealing the cartoon shirt underneath. “What do you need?”

Robert turned his back to his young assistant- one of those who had taken advantage of the row of openings at the reassignment center that had popped up recently- and tapped a fingernail to the wall-mounted funnel in front of him. Wedged in the funnelpiece was a glowing splotch, beating crimson against the silky white liquids surrounding it. “Never in my entire career have I seen a new arrival this stained.”

The dim lighting accentuated Lenny’s frazzled eyebrows as he slipped to Robert’s side and detached a syringe from his belt. The foam dot nearest the splotch wavered in its position as a stopper as the needle pierced it and sucked out the ballooning contaminant. “Who do you suppose it is?”

“I wouldn’t know.” Robert shrugged his shoulders as Lenny attached a soul identifier capsule to his phone and injected the liquid inside. “Ever since I turned eighteen and could pick any job that I wanted, I’ve lived out my life in these warehouse caverns. Heck, I even helped dig out some of the packaging rooms before you were born and my bones started crumbling.”

“So of course you wouldn’t get very much in the way of news.” Lenny’s lips twitched as he averted his attention to the screen in his hands. His vision blurred at the sight of the victim’s name, and he had to shake his head a few times to Robert’s confusion before he was able to make out the rest of the words on the data page. “It’s that Anders Shew guy. Bes must have really screwed up his mind if he’s dead already. And he died a week ago- why’s he only showing up in the system now?”

“Bes was always mentally unstable. I’m not surprised that he managed to kill his personal fixation.” Robert clasped his hands together and returned away from Lenny to face the warehouse doors, just barely visible behind yet another mounted jumble of jars and tubes allowing the fluids to meld together. “I hear that he’s gone missing. That’s one of the only pieces of news that’s managed to permeate these rocky walls.”

“The walls are insulated military-grade bunker style, sir.” Lenny’s eyes wandered to the rows of mixing chambers behind him. The warehouse was large enough to fit a normal suburban classroom inside four times over and then some, but the equipment littering the racks shrunk his perception of the room. “Not to mention all the wall tiles are made out of the same polycarbonate as Earthen police riot shields.”

“And yet they can’t stop rumor and hearsay.” Robert released an exhalation, closing his eyes, and turned back to Lenny. “I don’t know for the life of me why that soul is as scarlet as sin, but I wouldn’t risk it mixing with the others. Encapsulate it in a marble and send someone licensed to go to Earth to deliver it to someone important to him.”

“But then he won’t reincarnate.” Lenny raised an eyebrow. “And you forgot to answer my question.”

“Sometimes one life is enough for a tortured soul such as that, Lenny.” The senior’s wrinkled eyes pled with the teenager, who backed away a few feet and returned the syringe to his belt. “Just let that soul rest. God knows it’s stumbled through heaven and landed in hell at last.”

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