The place wasn’t what Jack expected. It was just an old house in an unassuming neighborhood. There wasn’t a sign, but the address matched the card in his pocket.
A tall guy in a sweater answered when Jack knocked.
“Something I can do for you, pal?” the guy asked.
“I’m here for an extraction,” replied Jack, softly. Just in case this wasn’t the right place.
The guy threw the door wide and walked inside. “Have a seat. I’m Bob. I’ll be with you once I warm up the machine.”
His brusque manner surprised Jack, but then, why should it? Soul extraction was a shady, unregulated business. Maybe even illegal, though that was a gray area at the moment.
Jack sat on a sofa in a plainly decorated living room. A soap opera played on the TV. A woman, pale and shivering, sat on the other end of the sofa. She stared straight ahead, sucking in each breath noisily through clenched teeth.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She looked at him with empty green eyes and nodded.
“You had it done already?”
She rubbed her arms and grunted.
“Did it hurt?” he asked.
“Why’d you do it?”
“None of your goddamn business.” She left the room.
Bob called Jack into the kitchen a few minutes later.
“Says here that you had your soul implanted,” Bob said.
“Is that a problem?”
“No but it does require an adjustment for the procedure. Now, you are aware extraction isn’t without risk? Or that once your soul is removed, there’s no way to get one back. The process damages the metaphysical connective tissue, in layman’s terms.”
“Will it take away the memories?” asked Jack.
Bob didn’t inquire about which memories. Everyone had something they were trying to hide from.
“No, but it will make them easier to live with.”
That was enough. It would have to be. Jack signed a few forms, and was shown to a bedroom retrofitted into an extraction chamber. A rolling office chamber sat beneath a machine hanging from the ceiling. It didn’t look very different from the implantation device.
“What happens to the soul itself?” asked Jack.
Bob shrugged. “Who knows?”
Jack considered his soul, drifting unmoored throughout space and time, without him. Or maybe it simply evaporated, gone to the cosmic ether. Science had found the soul, but still didn’t have much of an idea what to do with it.
“Time is money, pal,” said Bob.
The thing about a soul was that it wasn’t a good or bad thing. It was just a thing. It was only good or bad depending on what you did with it. And Jack had filled his with ache and disappointment. He still missed her.
He’d always miss her.
Maybe that was the point.
He paid Bob for his trouble, but Jack didn’t get the extraction. He could always change his mind later.
The woman sat on the front steps, hugging herself tightly. Jack wanted to say something, but there was nothing to say. She’d given up a part of herself, and he wasn’t there to judge her for it. Everybody had their reasons.
She looked up at him. Her face were full of unknown pain. The why of it wasn’t important.
She said, “It’s colder than I remembered.”
He wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be okay.
So he did.