Welcome to the fifth edition of Leighgendary Shorts.
This week we will be discussing The Soul Collector: Borrowed Souls: Book 1.
The Soul Collector: Borrowed Souls: Book 1 is the part of a seven part serial. Paul B. Kohler has decided to releasae a new part of the serial every three weeks. This story was originally published in March of 2014 as Borrowed Souls and was just rereleased as The Soul Collector: Borrowed Souls: Book 1. Why rerelease it? Paul B. Kohler answered that by saying, “You see, shortly after writing Borrowed Souls, my mind would not shut off about the story. I continued to think about the ‘what if’s’ of Jack Duffy, the main character. I jotted a few notes down about my thoughts and moved on to something else. Then, I started getting reviews from readers, asking for more. I received a half dozen emails asking for the same. Then I knew that I needed to expand the story a bit.”
Jack Duffy is the exemplification of average. He lives a normal life with a less than desirable job. He’s a distracted husband, living in a ordinary apartment, and is married to an extraordinary wife. That’s how he would explain it. At the end of an unusually bad day, Jack’s life is turned upside down when he witnesses something truly harrowing. The only thing that can catch him from falling is the soul collector. His primary concern: Will he be allowed to keep his soul, or will he have to give it back?
I will admit it, I was one of those people that asked Paul B. Kohler if he was going to continue the story. If he wasn’t going to continue the story I was going to ask if I could. That is how much I like this story. I think this might be his best story. Below is what happens in the book. It is long, so if you have read the book you can skip to the bottom.
The story stars with Jack being woken up on a bus. The bus driver thinks that Jack is drunk and helps him off the bus and onto a park bench. Jack sits there for a few moments and tries to figure out which way home is. Once he thinks he figured it out he starts walking. As he walks he thinks about his wife Cyndi, but when he does he feels anger and he doesn’t know why. While walking, Jack realizes he is being followed. He starts to walk faster and looks behind him and the man quickens his pace as well. Jack turns the corner and then runs for the closest alley. He stays there waiting for the man to walk past…..he never does. Jack stands up to walk out of the alley when he hears, “Feeling a little lost, Mr. Duffy?” It’s the man who was following him. The man tells Jack that he is not there to harm him and then the man asks Jack what he remembers from the night. Jack has a hard time remembering. The man takes Jack to a bench and they sit. Jack asks who the man is. The man tells Jack that he knows who he is. The man tells Jack that sometimes it is best to start at the beginning of the day and hands Jack a coin and tells him to examine it and try to focus on the moment he woke up. Jack takes the coin and looks at it. As he flips the coin over the morning comes flooding back to him.
Suddenly, Jack is back in his bed and waking up two minutes before his alarm goes off. Cyndi, his wife, is next to him in bed and starts to stir. Jack asks her if she wants to have lunch together today. She lets him know that she can’t, she is volunteering at the Redevelopment Foundation. She then tells him that she should be home when he gets home from work. Jack then asks if she is ok because she fell the other week while rollerblading. She still hurts and is out of her medicine. Jack tells her to get the prescription refilled. She asks if he could pick it up and he says he will.
Jack opens his eyes and realizes that he is still sitting on the park bench with the guy and wants to know what just happened and what is going on. The man tells him that nothing is going on and that the coin is a type of hypnotic device that helps to clear the mind. Jack had dropped the coin and the man picks it up and hands it back to him. He didn’t even flip the coin all the way over before he is back at where he left off, in his apartment.
Jack has just finished his coffee and is heading out the door. He glances at the clock and realizes that he is going to be late. Jack lives in a huge building, over twenty four floors, and of course it seems the elevator stops at most of them. He finally gets to his car and merges into rush hour traffic. On his drive, there is a little old lady driving two cars ahead of him and she runs through a stop light and hits a car which then causes three other cars to collide. Yep he will be late. He finally arrives to work, one hour late.
All of a sudden Jack lurches forward gasping for air. The old man comments that it sounds like Jack had the makings of a bad day. The old man asks Jack if he is ready to continue but Jack isn’t quite ready yet. He asks the old man if he can call his wife to come and pick him up, it is a little weird talking to an old man he doesn’t even know on this park bench. The old man tells Jack that his name is Wilson Oliver. He asks Jack where would he tell his wife to come pick him up at and how would he explain his current condition? Wilson suggests he figure out what happened in the last twenty four hours first. Jack agrees and flips the coin.
Jack gets to his desk and has a few voicemail messages, all from his boss, Mr. Pearlman. By the time Jack is done listening to the last voice mail Mr. Pearlman’s assistant, Gwen, comes in and tells Jack that Mr. Pearlman wants to see him. Jack tells Gwen he needs to settle in and then he will be up. Jack buys some time by moving stuff on his desk, but after a few minutes of that he heads up to Mr. Pearlman’s office.
Mr. Pearlman asks Jack why he was late again this morning. Jack is about to answer when Mr. Pearlman goes into a lecture about how Jack is a substandard employee and Mr. Pearlman doesn’t know why his predecessor even hired him. He needs to be on time or find a new job. Jack doesn’t respond and decides that staying silent is his best bet. Mr. Pearlman then tells him to get out.
Jack goes back to his office and starts back on a project he has been working on. The morning goes by fast as he focuses on this project. As he works, Jack realizes that he is getting close to the final solution. He can see what he needs to do. Everything becomes really clear. RING!!! His phone goes off and Jack loses focus on what he is doing. The answer is gone.
Jack is back on the bench with Wilson. Jack wants to know why his memories seem foreign to him until he tells them out loud? He knows it is what happened to him but he can’t remember them until he tells them out loud. Wilson tells him that some critical event must have caused him to block them from his mind. He tells Jack they should continue.
Jack answers the phone and it is Gwen, again. Mr. Pearlman needs to see him again. Jack realizes he has lost track of time and has been working on the project for three hours. A break is what he needs, just not dealing with Pearlman again. Jack goes up to Pearlman’s office and is told that he needs to go and pick up Pearlman’s lunch. He gives Jack the order and tells him that if he doesn’t screw it up that he might be able to forget what happened that morning. Jack goes to his desk and writes down what Pearlman told him and grabs his keys to go get lunch.
Jack gets to the restaurant, parks out front, and places the order. Once he is back in his car, heading back to his office, he sees the parking ticket on his window. He knows the world is out to get him this day. It has taken Jack almost an hour to do the round trip. He puts the lunch on Pearlman’s desk repeating the order. Of course, Pearlman says it is wrong and tells Jack to head back to his office, his lunch break is up anyways.
Jack is back with Wilson. After talking briefly about what a horrible boss Pearlman is, Jack asks, “You are a peculiar man, Wilson. What gives?” Wilson tells Jack he has been doing this job for over sixty year. Jack says that Wilson doesn’t look over sixty five so how could he have done it for so long? Wilson tells him they don’t have time to discuss that right then. Jack quickly flips the coin back over.
As Jack is heading back to his office he stops at the vending machine to get some food. Alan, a coworker, stops to talk with Jack about Pearlman. They talk for a few minutes and then Jack heads back to his office. He starts working on this project again and he can see the solution again. He is working and getting closer and closer to it. He is about to get to the solution, RING!!! His phone, again, breaks his concentration. He has lost the solution again. Jack shuts down the computer and heads out. He tells Alan that he is taking the afternoon as PTO.
Jack gets down to his car and….it won’t start. He calls his roadside assistance number and the person tells him it should be no more than thirty minutes before someone is there. An hour later the tow-truck driver shows up. The tow-truck driver looks at some hoses and wires and starts to do something with them. After a few minutes the car starts right up. Unfortunately the tow-truck driver’s boss makes him charge for a jump, $95, even though it really wasn’t a jump. Jack tries to use his credit card but it gets declined. He decides that the company can pay for it. Finally, Jack is off to the pharmacy to get his wife’s prescription.
Of course the pharmacy is very busy and there is a line. A clerk finally opens up a new line and Jack finally gets up to the window. The clerk tells Jack that he can not give him the prescription because oxycodone with acetaminophen is a narcotic and he isn’t Cyndi. After some arguing, Jack finally gets the prescription and heads home. Jack thinks that he will be able to take a quick nap and then cook dinner for Cyndi.
Fifteen minutes later Jack is pulling into the parking garage. He heads up to their apartment. The living room lights are on. Cyndi normally turns them off, she is constantly trying to save energy. Jack heads to the kitchen to get a drink and sees Cyndi’s shoes in the middle of the floor and a few used plates left on the counter. Jack thinks that Cyndi’s back was proably bothering her so much that she just came home and is sleeping in bed. He doesn’t want to wake her, so he tiptoes down the hall towards the bedroom. That is when he hears the noises. He opens the bedroom door and there is Cyndi, having sex with another man.
Jack is back at the bench with the Wilson. He just relived catching his wife having an affair. Jack asks Wilson is this is what caused his memory block. Wilson tells him that it might have something to do with it, but there is still an hour that isn’t accounted for. Jack flips the coin.
Jack leaves the apartment, leaving the door open. He doesn’t care if Cyndi knows he caught her or not. He waits for the elevator. As the elevator opens up he hears a cry coming from their apartment. It is Cyndi standing in their doorway wearing a robe. Jack steps into the elevator and he can hear Cyndi running down the hallway. She stops in front of the elevator just as it closes.
Once Jack is downstairs he starts walking down a sidewalk. He ends up at a bistro. Jack sits outside and drinks a glass of water. He realizes that he has been carrying his briefcase with him this whole time. In the briefcase, Cyndi’s prescription. He empties a handful of pills on the table and stares at them. He contemplates his future. His wife doesn’t loves him, he has no kids, he has an awful boss, and both of his parents are dead. He has nothing to live for. He tries to think of a reason to live but can only think of his wife moving up and down in bed with another man.
Jack is back with Wilson, asking him if he took the pills. Wilson tells him that he has come this far, he might as well finish it. Jack flips the coin.
He sure does. He takes one pill, then two more, and then the whole pile of pills. Jack leaves the bistro and walks a few blocks and then sits at a bus stop. He wonders how long it will take for the pills to do something to him. He starts to think about what went wrong with his marriage. After some time, Jack notices his breathing has changed, his heart is beating fast and his hand start to twitch. He leans over the curb and pukes. A man asks if he is ok. Jack just nods. The bus then pulls up and Jack gets on. He moves to the back on the bus and goes in and out of consciousness for hours, until the bus driver wakes him.
Jack is with Wilson again. Wilson is a soul collector, he collects your soul once you die. Jack starts to rethink killing himself and wants to live. He doesn’t want to die now. Wilson tells him that it is too late. Once someone dies, a new soul is claimed and comes down. But there is another way that Jack can live. Wilson has been doing this so long and is ready to retire. Wilson holds out his hands and has a box with Jack’s name in one hand and a box with his own name on the other. The box is used to collect souls. Jack can become a soul collector and he can collect Wilson’s soul. Jack says he will do it. Wilson tells him that if he does he will not be able to talk with anyone from his previous life, he will only be able to talk to the dead or dying. Wilson tells him it is lonely life.
Jack takes the two boxes from Wilson, he will keep his own box until he is ready to retire. Jack asks how does he collect souls. Wilson laughs and tells him he asks too many questions, it will all become clear. Wilson tells Jack to hold the box with “Wilson” out in front of him and open it. Before he does, Jack asks if Wilson has any advice for him. Jack says, “Forgiveness is a virtue that needs to be nourished. Resentment only leads to disappointment. And listen to Hauser. He is wise well beyond his years.”
Wilson then tells Jack to open the box. Jack opens the box and turns the opening to face Wilson. Wilson closes his eyes and a smoke or fog starts to leave his mouth and goes into the box. Once it is fully in the box the lid closes on its own and vanishes. A new box takes its place with a new name on it, Cyndi Duffy.
I hope that you enjoyed this story. I love it and cannot wait to see where Paul B Kohler takes it. There are so many questions after book one, hopefully Kohler will answer them soon. Let me know your thoughts on these questions and if you have any questions of your own:
Who is Hauser?
How does Jack’s wife die?
What is her side of the story?
Will Jack forgive her?
There are six more stories left. Do you think anyone else we have met in Book 1 will die?
What other lessons might Jack learn?
In the story (I didn’t mention it) Wilson tells Jack that time will really slow down for him while he is a soul collector. Wilson tells Jack that he could do this until the twenty fourth century. Do you think Jack will do it that long or do you think he will retire early?
If you think he will retire early, what will cause him to do so?
Don’t forget you can still vote for the next Leighgendary Short. Voting is open until Thursday morning at 8:00 am (est). You can vote every twelve hours.
What should be the sixth Leighgendary Shorts?
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