The Soul Consortium

Free The Soul Consortium by Simon West-Bulford

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Authors: Simon West-Bulford
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction
files.”
    “Impossible.” I stride away from the center of the sphere, watching as one of the tiny lights is sucked inside the wall ready to be distributed back into the sphere from which it was plucked. “Everyone who’s ever existed has a file created after they’ve died. I’m the last man—” A shock runs through me, and I stop to glance around the sphere, hoping not to find evidence of a second empty slot. “Could he … could he still be alive?”
    “No. Only one slot remains, and that one is reserved for you. Keitus Vieta cannot exist.”
    “But he does. I met him. Orson Roth met him.” I resume my pacing. “Can you at least run a search algorithm through the other souls for someone matching his description?”
    “The Codex protocols don’t allow me to pry into the lives of these souls. I am only permitted access to the summary description of each life, which, I’m sorry to say, is precious little revelation.”
    “Then search for him again. His soul is in there. It has to be.”
    “There is no record of Keitus Vieta in the Consortium files,” Qod insists.
    “Stop saying that. His life
has
to be somewhere amongst all these spheres.”
    “Then Keitus Vieta must not have been his real name,” she says.
    For a moment I relent, seeing the sense in her suggestion. “That makes sense. A fake identity would mean Orson would have had a difficult time trying to find him or betray him to the authorities if he turned against him. But there was something about Vieta, something … I don’t believe he was lying about his name.”
    “But it is the simplest explanation.”
    “Yes, but assuming that it
is
his real name, could there be another reason for his absence from the Consortium files? Could his file have been erased?”
    “No. I would know if that happened.”
    “Then what? You’re almost omniscient. Don’t you have an answer?”
    She says nothing, and as I tap my fingers thoughtfully against my lips, I can almost hear her thinking the same thing
—There is no record of Keitus Vieta in the Consortium files.
    “What if … what if Vieta
has
no soul?” I ask.
    “The soul is a metaphysical concept originally cultivated by those who had no understanding of the true human condition. If Keitus Vieta was a real person who walked, talked, and thought, he had what could be crudely identified as a soul … and you know that.”
    “At least I’m coming up with some theories. This must have something to do with the aberrations. You said the aberrations weren’t caused by data corruption, but if you can’t find a record of this man, perhaps you were wrong.”
    “I am never wrong.”
    A single memory flashes through my mind: one sentence scrawled by the hand of a man who lost his mind when investigating Keitus Vieta.
HEISNOWHERE.
Yes, I met Vieta, but I also remember how Orson Roth felt—the irreconcilable impression that this man should not exist. There was something about him that was wrong, completely wrong.
    “We need more information to understand what’s happening. I’m going back to the Aberration Sphere. Cross-reference all the aberrations with my previous request for people who have had an unusual connection with death.”
    “How would you like them sorted?”
    “Same as before—I want the lives that have been affected most greatly by the aberrations. And this time, tell me which sphere they were from originally.”

SIX
     
    I am amongst the aberrations again, standing at the entrance to the sphere, staring at the WOOM suspended at its center. The thought of making another mistake like Orson Roth unnerves me, but I have to go again, if only to set some distance from those ugly memories.
    “Have you made your choice?” Qod says.
    “I have. Select subject 2.11317E+29, Dominique Mancini.”
    “The medium? Any particular reason?”
    “You said she belonged in one of the mundane spheres before you moved her to the aberrations, yes?”
    “Correct.”
    “So that must be because she was

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