Authors: Nancy Springer
By Nancy Springer
Copyright 2013 by Nancy Springer
Cover Copyright 2013 by Ginny Glass
and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
Previously published in print, 2003.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Other Fantasy Stories by Nancy Springer and Untreed Reads Publishing
The Boy Who Called God “She”
The Boy Who Plaited Manes
The Scent of an Angel
“I’ve lost my soul?” Aimee repeated, almost losing her usual perfect control.
The doctor nodded. “I think so. Probably in early adolescence. It happens more commonly than you might think.” The doctor was a W.D., a Warlock Doctor, a.k.a. Warloctor. Very professional, she betrayed impatience only by adjusting her turban. Aimee could not decide whether the big, craggy woman was black or Lebanese or perhaps Hindu, but it didn’t matter. Nothing seemed to matter. Not even dieting. It was this apathy that had landed Aimee here, in this office with pink cabbage roses growing down from the ceiling.
“Let’s have a look,” the Warloctor suggested gently. “If you’ll stand up, please, and face the mirror.”
Aimee stood, automatically checking her appearance in the full-length mirror: flawless, as usual. Hair in the latest style, makeup worthy of a fashion model, silk blouse, Lauren suit accessorized to perfection, and most important of all, the sparkling diamond on her finger. Colin had bought her the biggest one she could possibly wear in good taste. Colin had promised her a trip to the Polynesian Islands on their honeymoon. Aimee knew herself to be a privileged young woman, in full possession of a highly desirable fiancé, a diploma from Vassar, a BMW convertible, a Fortune 500 career, designer clothing, a personal trainer to help her stay fashionably thin, and on top of all that, a symmetrical, perfectly corrected face. Why, then, did she awaken every morning to a sense of profound, aching emptiness?
“Blessed be that the days of invasive procedures are over,” the Warlock practitioner was saying. “No need to undress.” Murmuring, with her dark, liquid eyes out of focus, the older woman made a few passes with her unadorned hands.
Despite having been briefed on Warlock Doctor procedure when her internist had referred her, Aimee gasped. Just like that, she saw her mirror image change. On her reflected self, all her expensive, expertly applied makeup was gone. Hair color, gone. Breast enhancement, gone. Cantilevered lingerie, carefully assembled clothing and accessories, every artifice by which Aimee maintained an attractive feminine image was stripped away. Only nakedness remained—
No. Staring, her eyes widening but her symmetrical face disciplined into a beautiful mask, Aimee saw that what remained in the mirror was not a naked, unadorned body. Rather, it was a pale silhouette of a body, without substance, depth, or core. The edges seemed solid enough, but toward what should have been the center, it looked translucent, spectral.
It appeared to have no heart.
And no face.
“Yes, you’ve lost your soul,” said the W.D. comfortably. “Please, sit down.” She twitched a tree-of-life Indian-print curtain over to cover the mirror.
Amy sat in a white wicker chair, staring at her own hands layered on her knee. They seemed to be all there, complete with diamond ring and French manicure. But she felt hot bewilderment stinging at the backs of her eyes.
“It happens most commonly to fully socialized young women such as you.” The Warloctor sat behind her desk, upon which stood a statuette of a Minoan goddess, bare-bosomed, lifting a serpent in each hand. “Aimee, when did you stop dreaming at night?”
“I, um…” Aimee glanced up, wondering.
“The soul is responsible for dreams,” the Warloctor explained. “As you sleep, it flies wild and free, but tethered to your heart with a thread of silver so that it will come back to you. Something must have happened to compromise the thread. Were you abused as a child?”
“No. Not at all.”
“Some other traumatic event in your childhood?”
“To return to my original question, how long has it been since you dreamt?”
Aimee had never given the matter of her dreams much thought. “Um, I think…about ten years.”
The W.D. nodded. “You were thirteen or thereabouts, then? At puberty, were you subjected to peer pressure?”
Aimee blinked at her. “Isn’t everyone?”
“To some extent, yes. But did it change you? Did you forget about things you enjoyed? Did you focus exclusively on being attractive, restraining your intelligence to an acceptable level, and pleasing boys?”
The Warloctor nodded, and under the turban, her dark face betrayed some sadness.
Aimee bristled. “Are you saying it’s my fault?”
“Goddess, no, dear. You were a child. Someone should have been guiding you and looking out for you.”
“Wait.” A new thought erased Aimee’s irritation. “Are you sure it happened then? Why didn’t I notice sooner?”
“It doesn’t usually manifest until adulthood. Many teenage girls lose their souls, and no one notices until years later.” The Warloctor sighed for some reason, then asked patiently enough, “What was your soul like, do you know?”
Somewhat recovered now, Aimee gave her the bright, edgy smile of a stressed young executive woman. “How would I know?”
“Well, as a child, perhaps sometime when you were half awake, did you ever happen to see it? Perhaps as a butterfly, or a moth, or a tiny white dove, or a honeybee?”
Aimee shook her head, feeling her mouth beginning to thin, to lose its full-lipped charm. She wanted out of this weird office. She wanted time to absorb the diagnosis. And above all she wanted a treatment. She demanded, “What do I do now?”
“Well, there are prosthetic souls available. A specialist could fabricate one for you out of your choice of poetry, music, art and so on. And the implant procedure is noninvasive.” The Warloctor recited all of this without hesitation or enthusiasm. “But it’s impossible to match the quality of a real, original soul.” The W.D. sighed again. “Do you still have access to the place, by which I mean the physical location, where you lived when you were pubescent?”
“Yes,” said Aimee. “Yes, I do.”
“Then I would go back there, if I were you, and have a look for your soul.”
Aimee hadn’t been back in years. She hated going back. The house, like her mother, was too ice-cream-and-ruffled-curtains dowdy, and the town was too small, and it hadn’t developed at all. Back yards still ended in country. There was nowhere to shop, not even a dinky strip mall. There were no night clubs. There was nobody worth trying to impress. In short, there was nothing to do. Aimee hadn’t been home since her father’s funeral.
Her mother was delighted to see her, of course, and seemed to think that the unexpected visit had something to do with wedding plans. “I know Colin is a very
young man,” Mom said the morning after Aimee’s arrival, over a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and homemade strawberry jam, “and he’s very well to-do and so forth, but is he—will he—” Mother faltered, evidently attempting a kind of delicacy for which her lack of sophistication gave her no experience. “Is he good to you?” she blurted.
“He has a penthouse, Mom.”
“I know, but—”
“And he’s great in bed.”
Aimee said this to shock, and succeeded. Her mother gasped and blushed. “Heavens, Aimee, that’s not what I meant at all.”
“What do you mean, then?”
“Well, is he—will he—does he love you?”
The question seemed meaningless. Aimee brushed it aside and got down to business. “Mom, I seem to have misplaced my soul. Before I order one, I was wondering, do you happen to know where it got to?”
Her mother sat straight up and gazed at her with transparent, moist-eyed pride. “Aimee, I always knew you were precocious.”
“Look at you, wanting your soul back already. I didn’t start missing mine till I hit menopause.” Mom turned and hollered, “Mama! Mother! Have you seen Aimee’s soul?”
The creaky old woman, Aimee’s grandmother, shuffled into the kitchen. Mom was dowdy, but Grandma was a disaster. Mom wore polyester; Grandma wore thrift shop housedresses held together by safety pins. Mom wore WalMart sneakers; Grandma wore Dollar Saver plastic slippers. Mom skipped makeup; Grandma skipped moisturizing and shaving. Above nylons rolled around her ankles, her bare hairy legs rose sturdily, their skin the texture of potato chips. Contemplating her family, Aimee suppressed a shudder. If she maintained enough steady pressure, she could probably render Mom and Grandma presentable for the wedding, but no way could she ever bring her fiancé into this house.
Grandma barked like an angry robin, “What? Have I seen
“Aimee’s soul! She’s lost her soul. Have you seen it anywhere around here?”
“No…no, I haven’t.” Grandma’s voice softened to a sparrow peep. “But I ain’t rightly looked yet.”
“Mom found mine,” Aimee’s mother explained to her, “years ago.”
“Laying right in plain sight on the carpet, it was.” Grandma shuffled over and sat down at the kitchen table. “Like it had dropped out of her while she was heading for the door. It looked kind of like a damselfly or a lacewing. Real pretty. I picked it up gentle in the palm of my hand and tried to think how I could keep it safe for her. I knew it was no use to give it back to her then. She’d just lose it again.”
“I was just starting to date,” Mom explained.
“Sweet sixteen, never been kissed, and not a thought in her pretty head except how to get herself a two-piece swimsuit and permission to paint her face.”
Aimee sat silent, trying very hard to follow.
“It just so happened I was canning preserves that day,” Grandma chirped on, “so I put it in a jelly jar with juneberry syrup, and I put a nice thick layer of paraffin on top, and wrote your mother’s name on a tape on the lid, and stuck it up in the cellar rafters. And there it stayed.”
“I found it,” Mom explained, “when I was helping her clean out the house after Grandpa died.”
“It was like childbirth,” Grandma said. “I did it and then I forgot about it as quick as I could.”
Mom nodded. “Some of the most routine things in life are like that,” she agreed, serene. “Like funerals. You just got to forget about them afterward so you can go on.”
Aimee listened with increasing annoyance.
“Like your daughter out there running around without a soul,” Grandma grumbled. “They didn’t do that in my day.”
“Some don’t still,” Mom said. “You can tell. Missy Hartzel’s daughter, I don’t believe she lost her soul until she went into law enforcement.”
By this time Aimee felt an urge to curse, which she suppressed. She demanded, “Mom, did you find mine and stick it somewhere and forget about it?”
“Now, how would I know, sweetie, unless I happen to remember? We’d better have a look around.”
By noon of the next day, the hunt had turned up nothing. The button box had been emptied and its contents gone through; ditto the sewing basket and the junk drawers of the old claw-footed dining room buffet. The jars on the spice rack had been examined, and the preserves in the pantry. Even the springhouse and root cellar had been investigated. And the attic…Aimee could not face the attic. She needed to get away somewhere by herself before she took a blunt object and whacked both Mother and Grandmother. But there was nowhere to go. No foreign films, no club, no mall.