A muffled ding reached my ears and the silver doors opened before me exposing a long marble clad corridor with a double glass door at the end of it. The name Discover Inc. was engraved on the marble plaque above it. The glass was frosted, obscuring the view into the office but I saw light escaping through the air gaps between the glass and the polished marble floor. This was my destination.
I wrapped my right arm around the parcel making sure that it doesn’t topple off and knocked on the glass door with my left hand. Three loud and dry knocks echoed in the empty corridor. I waited for an answer but to no avail. I knocked again, this time louder and for longer. I waited for a minute or so, no answer.
For the next fourteen visits I was met with the same result, now we have six packages waiting to be picked up. The first couple of packages had the same senders, however the number was disconnected after we tried calling for the hundredth time. The next packages were from a new sender, we weren’t able to reach that one either. This is getting out of hand but I was too enamored by the packages and the mystery of the locked office to give up. Curiosity has taken over and visiting the office daily has become an obsession, somedays I would visit it twice, sometimes even in the weekend. But nothing changed, no one answered the door and the papers I slid under the door closed up the opening.
All this abnormal normalcy came to an end on my eighteenth visit. I knocked on the door, parcel in hand. The door moved with the force of my knock, it was unlocked! I held the door open and peeked in, the papers weren’t on the floor. Someone was inside.
“Hello?…. I have a shipment here… Hello?” No one answered my call. I decided to walk in, the vault is finally wide open before me, who would I be not to reap my rewards. The interior of the office was underwhelming to say the least. The polished marble floor stopped beyond the front wall obscuring the view into the rest of the office. Beyond that white wall with the company’s logo it was drab land. Worn out grey tile carpets, the walls were a sad shade of pewter and half of the florescent bulbs weren’t working. Some dead potted plants populated the otherwise empty space. There was no reception desk, no waiting areas and no doors. Just an empty square room with a dozen of planters, nothing less or nothing more.
“Is that a package for us?” A woman’s voice came from behind me, making me jump dropping the package on the floor. Sending a giant cloud of dust in the air, the woman sneezed. I still could not see her.
“Anyone there?” I didn’t know why I asked that, obviously someone was with me in the room, after all it was a woman that just sneezed. I didn’t have anything else to say so that would suffice.
“Yes yes… please this way.” The woman’s voice replied.
“Umm… excuse me Miss, I can’t see you. Which way am I supposed to go?”
“Oh so sorry. I forgot to make my self visible… one second, here I go…” From her jubilated tone I expected her to pop out of some sort of box, but there was no box in sight. Instead she walked out from behind one of the potter plants. Now that she stepped out I realized that there was no way I would’ve noticed her. She was small, small enough to be fully obscured by a mid-sized plant. Her extremely thin body looked almost two dimensional, like a paper cutout. Her hair thin, most of her scalp showing underneath the thin blonde coat. Her skeleton showing beneath the almost transparent screen that was her skin, she walked with slow short steps appearing to be hovering above the ground. Maybe she was transparent after all, a thin sheet of a human only appearing when she spoke.
“I’m so sorry… I saw all the papers you slipped under the door. Our office does not function like normal offices. We don’t open for public and rarely have any visitors, our original delivery man passed away last month. He understood our system, so we never had to deal with such issues before. I have to say… Mr.?”
“Call me Luke.” I spoke in almost a whisper, I felt if I spoke any louder I would somehow hurt her.
“I have to say Mr. Luke, you have put quite a dent in our delicate system. Our clients weren’t so happy when they found out we weren’t getting any of their packages. I did not know what to tell them. I only found out poor old James had died this morning, that is when I came out to the front of the office and saw all of your paper slips. So many papers… No no no, quite a dent you see.” She seemed annoyed with the papers I’ve sent.
“I’m sorry… But I was simply doing my job.”
“Yes… and I was trying to do my job. But I could not, I did not get the packages… All I got were these papers… What am I supposed to do with paper. I needed the packages, our clients expect us to receive their packages. Quite a dent you made… This way Mr. Luke. You must help me out… It is the least you can do, I’ve made so many of our clients angry… We must fix this.”
“Yes… Bring the package with you, we don’t have much time.” I followed the transparent woman down the corridor, it snaked and forked many times. None of the turns she took had a specific sequence it was as if she simply followed a path from memory. I guess I have no option but to follow her since I would definitely not find my way back out.
“How big is this office?” I shouted ahead as we ascended our second flight of stairs, “I mean there’s no way that all of this would fit in this building. I feel like we’ve walked three blocks.”
“Yes we did, three and a half to be exact. Our office extends beyond the footprint of this tower, that’s why I was never able to hear your knocks before. James would’ve never knocked, he knew the system. Quite a dent you made Mr. Luke, such a shame.”
“I’m sorry?” This was not meant to be a question. I honestly did not know what to tell her, this woman was crazy. The path extended further into this never ending labyrinth of grey carpets and pewter walls.
“We’re almost there, sorry I forgot to ask you… Is that package heavy?”
“No… It’s not” as if she would be any help, I would be surprised if she could carry anything bigger than a pencil.
She stopped in front of one of the two doors in this hallway. She went in and I followed. The room had the same carpets and colored walls. There were no lights in the ceiling just a large floor lamp next to a metal table.
“Please place the package there… Quick. We don’t have much time.” She gestured with her almost invisible hands towards the table, the transparent woman looked even smaller in this dimly lit room. I did as I was told.
“Yes… Just in time. It did not expire thank god.” She opened the box carefully removing a glass sphere from it. With the precision of a surgeon she removed the box and placed the sphere on a thick towel she took out of a drawer.
“What is this?”
“It’s a receptacle, our clients send them to us to fix” The transparent woman answered not looking away from the sphere. The glass receptacle was transparent, I could see some form of liquid inside it. It had a smoky thick texture, sloshing around almost in slow motion.
“We fix them and send them back to our clients. That’s why you have put such a dent in our system. We have lost six of our clients already. Our work is extremely delicate and time is extremely important. We deal with very sensitive information”
“Like what? Bank accounts and stuff like that” I wasn’t the smartest when it came to such things.
“No… we deal with souls.”
“Yes… our clients send us their broken souls and we fix it for them. It usually takes two to three days maximum to ship a soul to us, we take three to four days fixing it then two to three days shipping back. That is ten days in total, a body can survive without a soul for exactly eleven and a half days. Beyond that a soul can no longer re-enter its body.” The transparent woman was curiously examining the sphere.
“Wait… Wait… are you telling me the other six packages had souls in them? Even the heavy cylindrical one?”
“I don’t know what they looked like but if they were sent to our office then they had souls in them. Every package comes to our office with a soul in it. It doesn’t matter what form of receptacle is carrying the soul, it only matters that it reaches us intact.”
“So… you mean. There are six souls just hanging around in our back room? And some bodies out there are going about with no souls?”
“Yes… pretty much. Now you see why it is important for you to deliver the packages and for us to receive them in time. We do not have much time, I sometimes would spend days hauled up in the room. I would not leave unless the soul I have in hand is fixed. Once I fix one soul I would receive the next, not giving me any time to rest or go back home.” She opened the drawer again and retrieved a long syringe. The sharp metal needle penetrated the glass effortlessly, like a hot knife cutting a block of butter. She sucked out the smokey liquid and emptied the receptacle.
“I guess you will only fully understand what I mean once you see how we fix it. We don’t share our trade secrets but you are important to us, so you must cooperate with us. Unless you don’t want people to have their souls fixed?”
“Umm… I guess not.”
The transparent woman took out a microscope and examined a small amount of the liquid.
“We have to make sure the soul is not contaminated or else it’ll harm the host. That’s not good. It is like receiving spam email with a virus or malware, not good at all.” She squinted and adjusted the focus. “All clear.” She returned the microscope to the cardboard box she took it from. What she did next made my knees weak, I almost buckled under my own weight.
The transparent woman injected the back of her neck with the syringe, sending all of the liquid into her body… Her spine to be more accurate. She had done this without even flinching, obviously used to this process.
“Please follow me, and bring the box and the receptacle with you.” The transparent woman led the way, she followed a different route this time. We ended up in another similarly styled room but instead of the desk and chair there was a metal bed frame with a thin mattress on it.
“I’m sorry Mr. Luke, but you have to bare with me. I must sleep for exactly fifteen hours, or else I won’t be rested enough to fix the soul I just hosted. You may sleep too if you’re tired, but you must take the floor… The bed is for hosts only.” She climbed into the bed, virtually disappearing into the thin mattress.
The woman was nearly a mirage by the time the fifteenth hour came by. I watched as she returned to the world of the living, her semi-transparent skin turning back to what it was before.
“Now Mr. Luke, please bring the box and receptacle with you. Also bring the mattress I am sure you would need to sleep eventually.” The woman headed back the same route we took before, “I think this soul is easy to fix, I might finish it in a day.”
We returned to the first room with the boxes and metal desk. I placed the box and glass sphere on the table, the mattress next to the door. I sat on it and watched as the transparent woman collected dozens of glass bottles from the cardboard boxes. Each bottle had a different colored liquid, and each liquid had a different consistency and viscosity. She took out twenty seven syringes, each wrapped in plastic. Unlike the large syringe she used first, these were normal sized. She filled each syringe with varying amounts of liquid, and laid them out on the towel she had set beforehand.
Her thin fingers finally settled on a syringe, one filled with a pink substance. She removed the cap and inject herself, but this time she injected it into her forearm.
“These liquids mix with the soul I’m hosting, some will react to it and merge other would simply pass it out and my system will eventually flush them out. The only occupational hazard is the barrage of needles poking at you. I was never scared of injections before, so this isn’t a big deal. The pay is really good also, so who am I to complain”
“A while ago… You said this soul is easy to fix?” I asked.
“Yes. I can sense each soul’s need as it enters my body. I can instantly feel its needs and pain. This part is the worst, that is why the host must sleep right after receiving the soul. Also while we sleep, we dream vivid dreams and this is how I can go about selecting the liquids needed to fix a soul.” The paper thin woman picked up the next syringe, a blood red substance inside it. This time she injected her self right above her left eyebrow.
I sat on the mattress, watching as she injected one needle after the other. The places were she injected those needles became more and more absurd as she progressed. The buttocks, chest, between her fingers and toes. She did not even flinch once, I felt the ends of my hair stand watching the needle sink in between her toes. The more syringes she used the slower her movements became, as if she was moving underwater. Each movement she executed took longer than it should have.
Only two syringes were left on the table and both had a white liquid in them. I could hear her labored breathing, she picked up the first syringe. Her breathing stopped, eyes remained open, not blinking once. I saw as the needle came to contact with her left pupil, the needle stayed momentarily in place a hair away from her eye. In a matter of seconds the entire needle went in, and just as fast as it went in she pulled it out with one swift move pushing in all the white liquid in her left eye. I felt like throwing up, I gagged but thankfully nothing came up. I knew where the last needle would go, her right eye. I tried to look away, close my eyes, even get up and leave the room but I couldn’t move a single muscle. My entire body disobeyed me, it wanted to watch as the transparent woman pushed the needle into her eye.
“I must go back to sleep now, can you please follow me and bring the mattress with you… I sure hope you got enough sleep… How long has it been now?” She looked at her wrist watch. “Twenty hours since I started… I told you this will finish in a day!… Well I need to sleep for five hours for the chemicals to really mix with the soul, then my job will be done and your job will start.”
“My job?” I tried to hide my exasperation but failed, my voice a clear giveaway.
“Don’t worry, you’re not fit to be a host. All you have to do is deliver the receptacle and soul back to its owner. I am sure you can do that without any complications. Of course your service won’t go unrewarded. You will receive a salary from the office just like any other employee. You can have two jobs, while really doing the same thing. This time I made you watch, but from now on you don’t have to. All you have to do is deliver the parcels to us, of course you will have a key to the office so we will not lose any souls or clients any more. Keep at it and maybe you’ll get a percentage from each fixed soul. It all depends on your performance… Anyways.” She yawned, heading out of the room. I followed with the mattress in hand.
“Take this.” She handed me a paper after she awoke from her deep slumber. It had the soul’s owner address. Thankfully it wasn’t too far from where they were, at least to the skyscraper he entered originally. “You must take the parcel back within the upcoming twenty four hours. Please, I ask of you to insure that the soul is reunited with the body. One of our representatives is already on their way to the owner. They will administer the procedure, but you must make sure it happens. That is the duty of a delivery man after all, making sure the packages are delivered.” I nodded in agreement taking both the paper and the cardboard box.
“Now, do you know your way back out or should I show you?” I laughed, expecting this to be some sort of joke, she remained standing eyes inquisitive. She wasn’t kidding.
“No… Can you show me the way out. Please?”
“Welcome to Discover Inc. Luke.” The paper thin woman waved as the elevator doors closed.