FEAR: “SOUL STEALERS” 1 Alright, I’ll admit it, I am a gimmick freak. If I am watching the old T.V. and an infomercial ...
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FEAR: “SOUL STEALERS” 1 Alright, I’ll admit it, I am a gimmick freak. If I am watching the old T.V. and an infomercial pops up and starts shouting at me, I can’t help but get wrapped up in it. No matter what it is, I have fallen for every ploy, scam and ruse ever envisioned. I realize this now because of the immense pain I am now tortured with. I am speaking about it now because I can’t just keep my story to myself. You might want to have a tissue ready. Or two. "Hon, time for supper!" was the yell that floated into the living room from the kitchen. I was licking my chops as I stared at my thirty inch plasma television screen hanging from the wall. I happened to be watching the Electronics Home shopping Network show. My mind and checkbook were enthralled with the items on display. My drooling was promptly interrupted a second time by another yelp. "Brian! Your food will be cold!" I was pretty hungry. My eyes had been fixated on the screen for quite some time now. "Coming!" I bellowed. I clicked on the poor television and heard it cracking and popping with sincere gratitude for the break. I stumbled over a recent TV listings magazine on the way to the dining room. "Looks good Angela." Angela is my wife, and I am Brian Whitacre of course. We have been living in our current house for about one year, and we have been married for about five months. Angela loves me, I think, but she knows I can get carried away with my spending. With other couples we know, it is the other way around. The woman of the house is the one doing the shopping. I, myself happen to like the home shopping networks, Internet shopping, and most importantly, pretty much any amazing gimmick that comes along. I sat down at the small four person dining table across from Angela and unfolded my napkin. I looked up at Angela as she wiped sweat from her brow. She worked too hard for me, cooking and all. I had bought several kinds of cooking tools off of the television, hoping they would help me learn to cook some things. Lets just say that they ended up being very sharp, and I turned out to be very uncoordinated. My fingers still hurt sometimes... "Baby, I wish you would let me help cook once and a while - I am sure you could teach me." I offered to Angela. She swallowed her bite of meatloaf and snickered. "Some people just don't have the gift." I laughed and pretended to get defensive, "Don't make me come over there!" "What do you think of the new macaroni mix I bought? It's a little cold isn't it?" Angela questioned me. I happened to think that it was just great. "Don't worry about it, if you think it doesn't taste good, it isn't your fault... it's Zataram's." She laughed and started to correct me, but decided to continue eating. "Angela, I know that you don't want to hear this, but I saw something that is coming up on The Electronics Home Network that could change our lives." Angela rolled her eyes, but listened to me anyway. "It is the 'Steal of the Day', and it is only going to be sold on TEHN. It is a personal air purifier, and supposedly, it can add years to your life." "Brian, we are already healthy people, you have bought every piece of exercise equipment known to man, we add years to our lives every day just by working out." I considered her argument for a moment before continuing. "Well, yeah, but so far we haven't bought anything that can help us breath better air. Now, I don't know all the details about this particular 'Steal of the Day', but we can watch it together after supper. Just watch it with me, please?" Angela took a sip of iced tea and sighed laboriously. "If it will make you happy, I'll watch. JUST watch."
2 So, the time finally came for me and Angela to see the wondrous object that every American just HAD to have. The 'Steal Of The Day" was the NATASYMO 1130 Personal air purifier. I snuggled up with Angela as the electronics show came on the screen. On the studio set, A man named Guy Rayford came running in waving to the cameras. "You are not gonna believe the STEAL I have for you today. This device is brand new, never before seen, and it just might add years to your life." Guy planted his hands down on a table with the very device nestled beside him in velvet material. The purifier was silver-plated, and nearly blinded me through the TV screen with all of the studio lights beaming down on it. "Why, you ask, do I need such a product? Well, let me ask you a question. Do you not want to live a long, happy, and healthy life? I'm assuming your answer is yes, and that is why you NEED the NATASYMO 1130 Silver Edition Personal Air Purifier." Guy paused to smile at the camera, and Angela pointed out to me that Guy's teeth were equally blinding! "Every day of your life, you breathe in harsh, harmful smoke, contaminates, floating debris, pollution, the works! Natasymo and TEHN offer you a device that will capture 99.9% of all possible foreign lung particles before they can even REACH your lungs!" Guy proceeded to pick up the necklaced product and placed it around his own neck. "The 100% nylon necklace tied to the Natasymo is what will keep you and your lungs happy. We place our trust in this product with a full Money-Back Guarantee, but we promise you that you'll want to keep the Natasymo for years to come. I personally have one myself, and I know that I wouldn't DARE leave my house without it every day." Guy held the shining object steady for a close-up and continued flaunting it. "Would you look at that. Scratch-Resistant finish, Water-Resistant finish, and two included replaceable filters." Guy pointed toward the bottom of the television screen at the rapidly changing number next to the 800 number. "This product speaks for itself, which is why that number is going crazy. That number means that THREE thousand of these have already been sold, and you know what? We only have FOUR thousand in stock. You don't have long to make a decision, but maybe you should keep a close eye on that number right there folks." Guy continued to talk as I looked over at my unconvinced wife. I gave a wide smile like Guy in hopes to sway her decision. She didn't crack in the least bit. "Angela, just consider this honey, we both work in very smelly, dangerous places. You work at a restaurant where customers are smoking all day long, and I can only imagine the other offensive odors there. And I work at a landfill for gosh sakes. This product really could change our lives! Imagine being able to breathe clean air all day!" I wiggled my eyebrows to emphasize my interest in getting purifiers for the both of us. She managed to crack a small smile. "There IS no arguing when it comes to things like this, Brian. You think we need it, you can buy it. I trust your decision." That was the straightest yes answer I had ever gotten from Angela. She must have really wanted one, and was just trying to hide her enthusiasm!
3 Just as planned, two brand new Japanese-made !NATASYMO! 1130's arrived on my door stop only four days later. To show my appreciation to Angela, I refused to even watch TEHN until after I received the purifiers in the mail. I fasted from spending... maybe I was getting a little out of hand with that. I carefully brought the cardboard shipping box in and set in on the couch. Angela walked in to the living room to see the great wonders inside. I slit the packaging tape with my multi-tool pocket knife and dove into the peanuts, sending them flying about, and sending my wife into a mild hissy-fit about the mess. Finally my hands felt cold plastic, and I latched on to it. I pulled the NATASYMO's out of the box and cut the packages open. Thankfully, they already had batteries in them and were ready to go. Angela and I both tried them on for size and pretended to model them. Unfortunately, we soon realized that they were quite bulky and they tended to beat on your breastbone as you walked. But, if they did the trick, they were worth it. Angela promised me that she would wear it the
next day at work, before retiring to bed. I wanted to stay up a little while longer to go over the instructions. I took the heavy hunk of metal off of my neck and set it aside. I planned to put it to plenty of use where I worked. The dump site I work at is a very fragrant place... but not in a good way. I proceeded to swipe the instruction booklet from the packaging. I read off the quick start list. (1) - Carefully remove all packaging material from your NATASYMO 1130 Personal Air Purifier. (2) - Check to see that all packaging material has been successfully removed from your NATASYMO 1130 Personal Air Purifier. "Ha, you can tell that this was made in Japan!" I marveled at the bad English translation. (3) - Make sure batteries are installed properly and are not leaking dangerous acid. (4) - Place the NATASYMO securely around your neck and center it on your chest. (5) - Make sure the NATASYMO is in line with your mouth and chest. (6) - Click the ON/OFF switch on your NATASYMO to the ON position. (7) - If you feel woozy, light-headed, ill, weak, or nauseous at any point during normal operating conditions, continue to leave your NATASYMO in the ON position and simply take a seat nearby until the normal side effects wear off.
4 'Side effects?' I thought to myself, that seems a little weird. Why would I get weak while wearing it? I was fairly tired that evening, so I decided to go ahead to sleep. I would try the NATASYMO tomorrow just to see how it worked, but if I got nauseous, I was definitely going to send the thing back. It's funny how GUY failed to mention the side effect part. The next morning I awoke to the beautiful scent of homemade pancakes. Angela was cooking up a storm in the kitchen, poor thing. I snuck up behind her and tickled her back. She nearly jumped through the ceiling. She then proceeded to kick me for scaring her. As we sat down to eat, I reminded her to try the purifier that day just to see if she could tell a big difference or not. "Brian, you saw the thing, I am going to look so stupid walking around with that Rapper's hunk of metal hanging from my neck!" I knew that it did look stupid, but so did braces, casts, pretty much anything that was good for you. So, I told Angela that, and she reconsidered wearing it. "But just this once. If it doesn't work, we are taking the full money-back. Got it?" I nodded at her, "Yep!". So, that day we both went shamelessly to work wearing the 2 pound metallic air purifiers around our necks. Before I left home I grabbed the manual and stuffed it in my pocket to read at work. I pulled up to the gate blocking entry to the landfill and realized that I was the first one there. Alan hadn't got there to unlock the gate yet. I Moved my pickup aside and checked the clock. 6:57. Alan was usually here by now. I remembered the manual in my pocket and decided to read up on what I was going to be using all day. I flipped past the odd start up guide I had read the night before and moved to the Filter replacement page. *Your NATASYMO has a replaceable filter cartridge pre-installed. Every three to four days, one of our company representatives will personally visit your household to retrieve the dirty cartridge and give you a new one. Each new cartridge costs between twenty and forty five dollars. You must pay for the new cartridge upon request. You may cancel
cartridge visits at any time AFTER your free trial period of thirty days from the date of purchase.* "Aw Geez," I mumbled. I really didn't want somebody coming to my house that often. All I was thinking after reading that was, Angela is going to really let loose on me. And this thing was saying that I couldn't even cancel it for thirty days. I rubbed my eyes trying to think how to get out of the situation. But then I stopped to look down at my NATASYMO for guidance. The metallic block sent a blinding light back into my eyes as an answer. I thought that maybe there was a chance that it would work as well as expected and that it would be worth it to be bothered by some representatives all the time. That was until I got to the next page. The Warnings, Cautions, and Side Effects page. I thought to myself, "What is all this talk about side effects? From an air PURIFIER? All I had to do was read. And so I did. WARNINGS FOR USE OF THE NATASYMO DEVICE (1) Avoid prolonged use of the Natasymo in any enclosed environment. Two hours is considered extended time. Take short breaks from using this device at regular intervals. (2) Extend the rope necklace to a length on your Natasymo that is at least three feet from your nose and mouth. Do not use the device at a distance of less than three feet from your nose and throat. POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS Nausea, Vomiting, Cramps, Shortness of Breath, Lisp, Dry Heaving, Hair Loss, Burning Of The Lungs, Temporary Blindness, Weakness, Intermittent Loss of Consciousness, Uncontrollable Coughing, Mood Swings, and in some rare cases Death.
5 "My God! What have I gotten myself into?" I sat there just re-reading the list over and over. These weren't really the average side effects you get from an aspirin. Not one of them sounded the least bit fun. "It's just an air purifier!" I didn't normally talk to myself this way, not counting the times I had sung along to Mariah Carey on the way to work, but I was fed up with NATASYMO and I hadn't even turned the thing on yet. Pills carry side effects, why in the world would purified air have such horrible risks? Sure enough the booklet provided its own answer to my question, even though it didn't make the least bit of sense to me. On the final page of the book before the back cover with the company contact information, was the reasoning behind all of the cautions. *'The NATASYMO personal air purifier is designed to help the consumer breath and live better. Many things that help us live better in our daily lives carry risks along with them, and the NATASYMO bears no difference. The NATASYMO contains radioactive material designed to counteract the many risks to our lung health. This, combined with fast-moving radio waves that this device also emits may have temporary or long-term side effects in other areas of our health. Experiments are constantly being conducted to further-' Halfway through reading this garbage I had a mental vision of Angela strapping on the big metal block just to please ME. I did not want her to use the radioactive crap, neither did I plan to use mine. I wanted to send the thing back immediately. At some point, while engrossed in the instruction manual's absurdities, the boss had already arrived and opened the gate. I started my truck and drove inside the yard. I quickly ran inside for the phone. If there was any chance Angela hadn't put the thing on yet, I HAD to stop her.
My boss man Alan's office door was shut, so he didn't see me running around like a madman. I grabbed the front desk's telephone and dialed the number to "Arcadian Restaurant" where my wife worked at the register. After an unusual number of rings (5, I was counting) a woman I did not know answered. "Arcadian Restaurant." Angela always answers the phone, I panicked. "Uh, this is Brian Whitacre, is Angela available?" There was a moderate pause at the other end of the line as the woman seemed to ponder my question thoroughly. "You're her husband right? Right, well... she wasn't feeling very well today, Larry decided to just send her home to rest. She was acting kind of strange, she had some huge metal thing hanging from her neck that was banging in to every thing this morning. Anyway, she should be getting home any minute now. Anything else Mr. Whitacre?" I dropped the phone back to the table.
6 I didn't bother telling Alan what was up. Somehow I found my way home in my panic. When I hit the garage door button from the inside of my truck I began to vaguely remember almost hitting several other vehicles in my rush home. When the door reached the ceiling of the garage I whimpered silently. She wasn't home yet. She always gets the space in the garage. I cut off the truck and walked to the front door. There was no reason for me to hurry anymore if she was somewhere in between her work-site and home. I walked into our entrance hall and plopped down in a chair next to the front door. I reached up to my forehead and noticed that I was sweating profusely. I twiddled my thumbs and kicked the chair leg repeatedly. I closed my eyes and tried hard not to fall asleep. I didn't think that I even could because the back of my eyelids were flashing red continuously. They were matching my heartbeat, and the vein throbbing in my forehead. Somehow I dozed off anyway and did not manage to dream a single thing. I am not sure how long I slept. I do know that it was dark when I awoke, and it had been light outside when I got home. It took me some time to realize that I was rocked out of my sleep by a thumping noise. My ears felt around for the direction of the sound, and I targeted the front door. "Oh God..." I suddenly knew that it was Angela. I tripped on the mud rug and stumbled into the wall, my legs refusing to work. I trotted in the direction of the front door and finally slung it open. Oh. Opening that door led me to see my wife in a way that I wouldn't wish on any husband. At first she kicked at the air where the door had been for a couple of seconds. I looked down at the painted wooden door and noticed the multiple black shoe-prints sprinkled along the bottom panel of the door. The doorbell surely works... but then again, I thought, I WAS asleep. "Angela, I - I've been worried sick about you... where have you -" I didn't finish the sentence because Angela's lifeless body slumped over in a heap onto me. I reached out quickly to grasp her arms before she could fall to the concrete steps. I had to drag my wife into the house by her arms. She had suddenly taken on the form of gelatin at the sight of me.
7 While I was tugging at my poor wife's body to try and get her to the nearest couch, I couldn't help but notice how bad her condition was. Her left foot was dragging on the floor, twisted in a very unnatural way. It was painful to just look at. She was dead weight in my arms, like a bag of sand. I tried to lay her down on the couch in a comfortable position, but it was impossible. The best I could do was one arm and one leg touching the fabric couch, the other two major body parts drooped to the floor. I knelt down beside her there and looked into her eyes. She was staring right in to my eyes, unblinking at that moment. Her eyes were glassy, they seemed to stare right through to the back of my head. It was very sad. I looked around and grabbed several odd shaped pillows from the surrounding furniture. I carefully lifted Angela's head and placed the pillows underneath her. “Angela, I need you to talk to me now. Just tell me what is wrong. I began crying softly when Angela did not respond. Through my blood-shot eyes I could see that her mouth was clenched shut,
emotionless. Something was missing from my beautiful wife. As I wiped my eye clear of water, I noticed that piece of junk Natasymo hanging from her neck. It was pulled around her back, which had to feel uncomfortable. “Oh no, I'm sorry honey.” I removed the hunk of metal from her and tossed it without looking, clear across the room. It of course hit the one lamp in the room and smashed it. For a moment, Angela seems to cringe at the sound. I could not help but laugh as I told her, "I- I'll buy a new one tomorrow honey." For the slightest moment I could have sworn that her lip raised in a smile. I suddenly fell silent as I realized that the situation was very grim. I turned to look at the broken lamp (I hated that lamp anyway) and the purifier laying in a pile of rubble on the carpet. I remembered reading the horrible text in that instruction manual. "In rare cases... could cause injury or death..." Sitting at Angela's side, I became furious with myself, furious at the company that sold the death trap to him. I knew what I had to ask Angela then. “Angela, if you cannot tell me anything else, just please try and tell me one thing... did THAT thing do this to you?” I pointed at the metal block in the corner of the room and studied Angela's face for any type of answer at all. I quickly moved out of her line of sight as her eyes finally moved slowly toward the device. She glared down at the object for a few moments before her eyes teared up. A single drop rolled down her cheek and she flinched at me, her first movement since returning home. That was all that I needed to see. I nodded at Angela, calmly. “I understand. Rest your gorgeous eyes while I figure this all out. I wiped the tears from her cheek with a tissue as she somehow managed to close her own eyelids.
8 Angela quietly slept like a baby that evening, but I could not go to sleep. Not while the love of my life laid on that couch in that condition. I tore through the manuals to the Natasymo's, searching for any help, even if I could just find a customer support line or anything. Nothing was to be found. The manuals were horribly written, as expected, and there was no such thing as customer service in Natasymo-land. My head throbbed painfully as I stared at the paper manual. Out of nowhere, at Seven Forty-Five that night, my doorbell rang. I immediately turned to look at Angela. Thankfully, see did not hear the bell. She needed to sleep, hopefully... God I hope... she would be better in the morning. I threw the papers down to the floor and walked to the front door. I peeped out of the window into the dark and flipped on the porch light. It didn't help. The person at the door was wearing dark clothing that told me nothing. I eyed the baseball bat that I had cleverly leaned up next to the doorway and moved it a little closer to the door. I cautiously opened the door halfway and looked out. A large man stood at the doorway. He had on a heavy robe with a hood over his head, and I could see nothing of him underneath the clothing. “Can I help you?” I questioned. “Good Evening, Sir. I from Natasymo Corporation. I here to collect dirty Natasymo filters and give you new ones. Do you have any dirty filters to provide me yet?” My blood was suddenly boiling inside of me. How dare he stand on my doorstep and ask for me to help him. Help HIM after what he had done to MY wife. I could barely get the words out without screaming them, but I was able to say one thing. “My wife is in horrible shape. She can't even speak to me. The Air Filter did this to her, didn't it?” The man at the front door stood motionless much like my wife as he considered the question. “I do not understand, Sir.” I stepped out on to the porch until I was inches from the man's face, and I closed the door behind me. “You know perfectly well what I mean, no matter how much English you can speak. You hurt her, and now you want my dirty air filters? Who the Hell do you think you are?” The cloaked man continued to stand still as he calmly answered my query. “I did not hurt your lady friend. Good Evening, Sir. I from Natasymo Corporation. I here to -” The man stopped talking abruptly when I grabbed his robe by the neck. His hood slipped back inches, so that I could only see his dark pupils through the shadows. “You listen to me PUNK. If you don't tell me what is wrong with my wife right now, I
will kick you all the way back to Japan. Now quit the Crap and do something. SHE IS NEARLY DEAD, don't you understand that?” “Please release my clothing, Sir.” I did, but my hands stayed clenched into fists. “Thank you, Sir. I am not from Japan. I am from the United States NATASYMO Headquarters. Your wife currently has no soul. That is the goal of our “Air filters”. We use them to remove souls from customers bodies, then we drop by their houses to pick up the Capture Cartridges. That is what is wrong with your wife, and that is what is about to be wrong with you, Sir.” I smirked at the man's stupid story and commented, “Yeah, right. Well, I didn't even use the stupid thing, so I guess I get to keep my soul, huh?” The cloaked man finally moved. Well, his head moved side to side at least. “Unfortunately, Sir, we haven't lost a paying customer yet, and we are not about to lose you.” The man suddenly moved in fast forward, reaching behind him, into a backpack that I had yet to notice. Before I could blink, I had a medical-grade oxygen mask covering my nose and mouth. The man pushed down so hard on my face that I could taste blood as my incisors dug into my cheeks. There was no oxygen in this mask The mask was sucking away my breath. In moments I felt as dead as George Washington. I literally felt like my slate was wiped clean, and I became the dumbest person alive instantly. I had no emotion, I felt no pain, I was soul-less. The mystery man standing on my doorstep had literally Stolen my Soul from my body with an oxygen mask connected to an empty air tank.
9 So, how did I manage to relay my story to someone who cared? It is true that I reverted back to age One. I had to learn how to read and write again. I had to try and remember everything and everyone that was involved in my life before my soul was taken from me. I still have no soul, no emotions. I can't love or hate. As for Angela, she could not be taught how to become a normal person again. I tried to help her, as did her closest friends and relatives, but she didn't take to the instruction. She lies in a bed all day long, every day because she can do nothing else. Natasymo cannot be stopped. It likens itself to any major corporation that has ever been under mafia-like control. The shady politicians of our government have control over every aspect of the corporation. The thing is, though, Natasymo changes its name every month. It has to do this to stay undercover. Their control of the world takes the form of whatever new fad rolls in each month. For me it was simply an air purifier. For you, it may be a portable music player, or a video game console. I could go on for several more pages, but I have to go now, because I think that I should lie down. Possibly close my eyes. I can't “Feel” sleepiness... I just create a schedule for things like sleeping and eating, even though I get absolutely no enjoyment or relief by doing either of these tasks. Keep my story near your heart, and learn from it. It is too late for me, but it is never too late for you.
This is the life of The Soulless.
THE END OF FEAR: "Soul Stealers” * READ THE ENTIRE 'FEAR' E-BOOK SERIES AT THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.fearbooks.com * THE FEAR SERIES: Soul Stealers, WRITTEN BY: MATTHEW WATTS & COVER BY: MATTHEW WATTS