Hole (short fiction)

“I need it out,” Jack said.

“Are you dissatisfied?” asked the consultant. Like everyone at the company, she wasn’t quite human. Her grooming was too precise. Her features, too perfect.

“Yes. No. Yes.” Jack closed his eyes. “At first it was great. I felt more alive than I had since . . . well . . . maybe ever. Food tasted better. The world was sharper. It was like all my life I’d been experiencing things under a heavy blanket.”

“Euphoria is the most common side effect of soul implantation, but it usually goes away within a month as the subject adjusts. It says here you’ve had your soul for two years. Are you continuing to experience amplification.”

“No, it’s not that. I had the euphoria. Just like they warned me I would. And it settled down, just like they said it would. I got used to it. I kind of even forgot it was there until something came along to remind me of it. A great piece of music. A good book. A conversation with friends. Some cruelty I would’ve walked by without noticing before.”

“You did sign a waiver saying you understood the nature of the procedure, sir.”

Jack chuckled. “How the hell do you understand something like that? You can’t describe it. You can only experience it. It’s like poetry. It used to bore me.”

“And now you enjoy it,” said the consultant. “Quite common.”

“No, I don’t enjoy it. Not all of it anyway. Not most of it. I used to not give a shit about poetry. Now I have opinions about it.”

“And this upsets you?”

“Of course it upsets me. I don’t need to have opinions on poetry. It’s useless stuff clogging up my brain. All because my soul cares enough to force me to think about it.”

“In our experience,” said the consultant, “when someone is upset about something inconsequential, it is usually a byproduct of other issues. You’ve only had your soul for two years. It can take as long as five for some people to adjust.”

“I don’t want to adjust!” He stood, kicked the desk. “I want it out. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I don’t want to think about her anymore.”

The consultant raised an eyebrow. “Is this a romantic difficulty, sir?”

He sat. He didn’t want to talk about this. She wasn’t the first person to leave him. She was just the first he couldn’t stop thinking about. Before his soul, he had memories, but they were distant, almost clinical things.
He could drown them in beer and sorrow, and while they were never gone, they were easy to ignore. Easier.

Now, he didn’t just remember. He felt. An ache in his gut. A pain. A fucking hole, worse than the absence of his soul.

He willed himself not to cry, forced himself not to think of the stupid poems she’d read to him that he’d never understood, even with his soul, but loved anyway because she loved them.

“I just need it out.”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” she said. “Implantation is a permanent process.”

“How long does a soul last?” he asked, already knowing her answer.

“Why, forever, sir.”

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