International Writers Magazine - Our 21st Year: Decisions
Right at Souldrop
Jeremy slammed on his brakes as he approached the disused petrol
station that stood by the side of the road on the left, narrowly
avoiding the crawling car in front. The seemingly eternal road works,
on the right side of the road opposite the petrol station, had backed
up the morning traffic as usual, with a filter lane through which
cars shuttled back and forth at the swivel of a stop-go sign operated
by a slightly bored looking fluorescent-jacket clad road worker.
The narrow miss
put a shiver down Jeremys spine. He must have lost his concentration
for a moment. He smoothed down his tie as he crept along to the bored
road worker, who swivelled the sign from a green go to a
red stop. Jeremy looked at the man with why me
exasperation, even as he tried to twist his jaw in an unnatural way.
There was a strange muted quality to the world, much like he had water
in his ears. When the sensation wouldnt disappear, he probed the
depths of an ear with his little finger. He froze in his efforts when
he noted an odd glint to the road workers eyes. At just the same
moment, the man flipped the sign and directed Jeremy quite emphatically
down a right turn hed never paid much attention to before. Confused,
he looked at the man one more time, saw his nod of ascension then turned
the car right.
He sped up along the road, the car jolting when it found the occasional
pothole and kicking up a good amount of dust. Either side of the road
stretched out in sandy flats as far as Jeremy could see and he had travelled
for about half a mile before he thought the man had directed him wrongly.
There was no other traffic on the road either in front of behind and
Jeremy didnt have a clue where the road led.
Just as he had decided to turn around however, he spotted a small gleam
of sunlight hitting metal. He squinted to make sure it was real, then
turned onto a dirt side road, heading for the light. He pulled up in
a rough car park outside an even rougher, dilapidated looking building.
The windows were boarded up, the doors chained and what looked like
a sign, faded now beyond recognition, sat sadly above what Jeremy guessed
to be the main entrance of an old club or bingo hall.
Jeremy got out of his car and stepped slowly towards the building. The
almost forgotten panic once more settled in his stomach, coupled with
an anxious curiosity that bred indecision. Before he could investigate
however, one of the main doors of the building screeched open to reveal
a white clad gentleman. The chain that had been thread through the handles
slid clinking to the ground, where the man picked them up and shook
them gently. They had not been padlocked.
Mr Jeremy Batteson? he asked, turning his attention to Jeremy.
Yes? Jeremy replied, confused.
Would you follow me, please?
Why? Jeremy called from his position by the car.
If you would just follow me Mr. Batteson, youll find out
Umm ... okay, I guess. After a moment, Jeremy left the safe
vicinity of his car and followed the white dressed man inside. Over
the threshold, he gaped in surprise. The condemned look on the outside
gave way to white corridors as crisp as the mans uniform with
other people similarly dressed leading men and women that looked as
bewildered as Jeremy himself felt.
Im sorry, he said to his guide after taking a left
onto a corridor that looked exactly the same as the previous one. But
where are we going?
To see Dr. Sanders, his guide replied.
Whos Dr. Sanders? They stopped outside one of the
doors that lined the corridor at even intervals.
Hes the one who will help you.
Before Jeremy could ask, the man pushed open a door and gestured Jeremy
inside. Feeling more than a little unsure, Jeremy stepped in and took
a seat. The room was as white as the corridors but with a warmer glow
of yellow lamp light. Soft jazz was playing over hidden speakers and
the chair Jeremy sat in sank comfortably. None of it quite got rid of
the nervous feeling in his stomach but the edge had fallen away to leave
room for more familiar feelings of inevitability.
Others were sitting in the waiting room with Jeremy all, sunk into their
own chairs a little further than the chairs themselves might have permitted.
The jazz music filtered in, lulling Jeremy into a half doze, much like
he often found himself in at work, so that he couldnt have said
how long he had been waiting before his name was called. The announcement
made him jump and he smoothed the ruffles out of his brown suit jacket
as he stood.
The lady that had called his name smiled and directed him from behind
a white counter exactly like a pharmacists, through a side door.
She had a youthful face, her black skin smooth and peaceful, but there
was something about the careful way she walked and her slight heaviness
that told Jeremy she was probably older than she looked.
Where are we going? he asked her as they walked down yet
To see Dr. Sanders, dear, the woman called over her shoulder.
Hes right down the corridor.
True to her word, a door appeared at the end of the corridor with "Dr.
Sanders" in black letters on the frosted glass pane. Beneath the
name read "Souldrop Senior Consultant". Jeremy had no idea
what that meant.
His new guide knocked twice and opened the door. Jeremy Batteson
for you, Dr. Sanders.
Of course, Lily, send him in.
The doctor will see you now, Mr Batteson, Lily smiled up
at him. She took his hand and gave it a slight squeeze. She had sadness
in her dark eyes and pity on her face. Jeremy recognised that all too
Umm ... thanks. Jeremy watched Lily walk away before going
through the door. Dr. Sanders was a grey haired man, with stylish glasses
and a white lab coat. He wore a light blue shirt with a lemon tie, much
like Jeremys own. His lined face looked very much like someones
favourite great uncle, patient and firm.
Hello, Mr. Batteson. Please ... take a seat. He gestured
with an open palm to a chair positioned in front of the heavy desk behind
which he was sitting. Jeremy sunk himself into a chair just as comfortable
but firmer than the waiting room chair. So, Dr. Sanders
said. How can I help you?
Jeremy sat silent for a stunned moment.
Umm, well, maybe you could tell me why Im here, Jeremy
said. Dr. Sanders strong features showed a brief moment of surprise
before mimicking the pity on Lilys.
Ah, Im sorry sir, usually the orderly would take that responsibility.
He must have been in a bit of a hurry to get you here.
hadnt been called sir in a long time. The doctor took
his glasses off and cleaned them on a handkerchief. He slipped them
back on and sighed a little, a small movement of his wide shoulders.
Well, he began, and then stopped again. You know,
Ive explained this place so many times and it never gets easier.
He leaned forwards, resting his forearms on his substantial desk and
lacing his fingers together.
The name of this place is Souldrop, he started again. We
are ... a business I suppose. A ... messenger perhaps. You see Jeremy,
can I call you Jeremy?
You see Jeremy, we are a collection service, you could say. Collection
Im sorry, Jeremy said. But I dont understand.
Dr. Sanders stood up and walked around behind Jeremys chair in
his office space. Jeremy turned to watch him. Please, allow me
to try and different explanation. You see, Jeremy, he said again.
We know quite a lot about you here. We know where you live, where
you work, indeed, what you had for dinner last night. Dr. Sanders
indicated a small file on his desk.
Jeremy frowned a bit. Have you been spying on me?
We spy on everybody, Jeremy.
Jeremys eyebrows shot up.
That road man, out there opposite the petrol station, works for
us. He was told to look out for you this morning. Dr. Sanders
turned to face Jeremy. Would I be right in saying that you found
it hard concentrating this morning? And that it felt like your ears
Well, the reason for that is ... is because you are in fact still
What? I dont understand.
You are still at home Jeremy. You never left for work this morning.
You are still sitting at your small kitchen table with your head in
A brief memory of a very despairing feeling fluttered in Jeremys
stomach and a flash of his old 1970s style kitchen before his
May I ask, Dr. Sanders continued, how would you describe
your life, Jeremy?
Jeremy looked at Dr. Sanders with confused anger. He opened his mouth
to tell the older man that his life was none of his business, but the
words died on his lips. The last fifteen years came to mind and Jeremy
was slightly ashamed at the fact that those fifteen years could be seen
I ... I dont know, Jeremy said.
I didnt mean to embarrass you, Dr. Sanders said, embarrassed
himself. But there is reason I ask. You see, these are desperate
times, Jeremy. Resources are running out and our job, which as always
been important, has become vitally so. Allow me to explain. Every human
is born with a level of potential. Some Jeremy, spend all the time living
up to theirs. Most of us dont use all of it, the busy nature of
life always giving us some reason or other to put off learning another
language or taking that art course.
What we do here, Jeremy, is deal with those who still have a lot
of potential left.
And thats me? Jeremy asked slowly.
Yes Jeremy. Today thats you.
What does that mean? Jeremy asked.
Dr. Sanders sat back down and looked through his glasses with such deep
It means, Jeremy, that you have a choice.
The doctor took a deep breath. We would offer you the chance to
go back and fulfil that potential. It comes at a price, Im afraid.
Using so much potential after having it long dormant is much like a
fast burning candle. Your life perhaps wouldnt last beyond a few
Whats the other choice? Jeremy asked after a few moments
of absorbing silence.
We ... take your potential and offer it to another. Dr.
Sanders pulled a second file from his desk drawer. We try to find
those who perhaps didnt get a lot to begin with and give it to
them, someone who with it, may be able to help. The next world leader,
a budding scientist who needs just a little push. The potential is what
makes up the soul, Jeremy, the soul is what fills the body. Its
why those who havent perhaps used so much feel a bit empty, a
bit lonely. We get very few people who choose to gift someone else with
their potential. We always try to unofficially of course
persuade people to go out and enjoy a few good years themselves. But
its always the ... sadder parts of life that get noticed. And
it is unfortunately the smallest part of our business here that has
given us our name.
So, youre saying that I now have to make this choice?
Jeremy questioned. His irritation had quietened and the resignation
was settling in again like a blanket on his shoulders. Im
sorry Dr. Sanders but this is a lot to understand.
We know Jeremy. Its so very hard to tell you all you need
to know. We try to offer you as much time as we can but you have to
understand also Jeremy that your body, back at home as it is, cant
survive very long on its own. I wish there was a way to give you more
time and more of an explanation, but as it always is Jeremy, the things
we need the most are the things we sadly lack. However, you do have
a small amount of time and I urge you to take it all.
Jeremy sat without a clue of what to say. He felt his mouth working
with no sound and his mind just as blank. Could, he managed
after a few minutes. Could I perhaps have a little alone time,
Of course, of course. Please make yourself comfortable here. I
can go and do my rounds. Ill be back later on.
Jeremy watched Dr. Sanders head out the door of his own office, leaving
Jeremy alone there. The information Dr. Sanders had given him was very
troubling and hard to digest. But instead of focusing on the decision
at hand, Jeremy found himself thinking about his life. He tried to think
of the good times he had had, the laughing ones that made the harder
ones tolerable. But Jeremy couldnt find any. Try as he might,
he couldnt locate the last time he had smiled, or the last time
he had gone for a drink after work with a close friend. There was only
one real memory for Jeremy, one that played out every night with him
arriving home from work to an empty house and spending an indefinable
time from waking to sleeping before heading to bed early so that he
could make it through work the next day.
Another slip of time had gone past him when Dr. Sanders returned to
the office. Jeremy had been staring at the second folder he had put
on his desk before hed left, not looking inside but trying to
guess at who might be in there.
Jeremy? Dr. Sanders said gently.
Jeremy looked up at the doctor who had managed in a smooth and unnoticed
way to slide his way back behind his desk. Jeremy looked back down at
the folders, the second one in particular.
Do you think
that there is something
more? The doctor looked at Jeremy with those sad, kind, uncle
Im sorry Jeremy, but I cant answer that. We are an
earth-based agency. Many people have faith. Faith comes from not knowing
something but believing it anyway. There are of course so many but they
do all have that in common.
Do you have faith, Doctor? Jeremy asked. Dr. Sanders smiled
at him, but said nothing more. Jeremy returned to the folders.
I think maybe, I have made my decision, Jeremy said. Dr.
Sanders sat down in his chair and laced his hands on top of the two
folders. He looked at Jeremy and nodded twice.
© Gareth Draper 2009
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