The Five Dollar Soul

She had never really felt alone in her head, but it was not till she got her first eBay account that everything became clear.

It began innocently. She stuck to the few weird and rare items she could safely swear could only be found at an internet auction, or at least not in her suburban town. A Hello Kitty vibrator. A hundred-year-old purse made from an entire muskrat. A library of Welsh rap albums. But restricting herself to the unfindable and the outright bizarre became increasingly unhelpful as she spent more time sucking up eBay sales, and the day she dove into the [Bizarre] category, the last bit of her old life disappeared.

That was the day she found the five-dollar soul.

The seller claimed it was aŚll a joke, claimed they needed some cash for college, offered a framed certificate of authenticity and a ninety-day guarantee.

She could barely imagine what the guarantee might cover. Wear and tear? Failed bargaining with the devil? One get-out-of-hell-free card? A few snappy clicks and keystrokes, and she was on her way to finding out. Bid: $6.00. Maximum bid: $100.00.

She really wanted that certificate. It would be the ultimate conversation piece.

"What's this? I didn't know you had -- a SOUL?"

"Oh, that old thing! Yeah, I picked it up back when I was a missionary in Borneo. They let you keep one of the souls you save. It's a *great* deal - I can't tell you how handy it is to have a spare soul around the house."

When it arrived, the ripped the heavy cardboard envelope open, shearing packing tape and layers of labels off in her intensity. It was a fine, clean, neatly printed certificate, but she was oddly disappointed. Somehow she had expected to feel... different. She hung the "proof of soul" across from the front door, hoping its attention-grabbing position would rekindle her excitement, and went to bed.

"So I'll get right on Alice and see about those forms." She tuned in slowly to what Jeff was saying as he gave her a thumbs-up and took off down the hallway.

"Wait a minute... what forms? What were were just talking about?" She frowned. "Where am I going and what am I doing in this handbasket?" She stopped suddenly, realizing that she was half a building away from her desk and had no memory of why. Her watch told her that it was slightly after noon, but remained resolutely mute on all other subjects. Had she just sleepwalked through the morning? Her receptionist position was ordinarily pretty monotonous, but this was a new height for her.

She turned and quickly went to her desk, checking her outfit on the way., Everything seemed to be office-appropriate, although she was sure she had meant to wear something more casual today than nylons and heels. Her desk looked pretty standard too, despite the fact that she had no memory of the morning's tasks, the stack of xeroxes and phone messages says that work had clearly been done somehow.

An instant message was flashing on her computer screen, but she accidentally clicked to close it. "Damn!" she snapped, totally flustered. "Okay. Calm down. What was I on my way to do? Get lunch, probably. I'm starving. Okay. Everything's normal. Nothing to see here."

"Talking to yourself?" one of the sales guys joked as he strode by. She scowled at his back and headed downstairs to drown her confusion in double mocha lattes.

The guy who usually worked the counter was cute, in a struggling-artist-with-a-goatee kind of way, and she usually coupled her caffeine fix with a little heady flirtation. She glanced at her reflection on the way in and whisked an imaginary stray hair out of her eyes.

(to be continued)