Peeping Tom
rating: +11+x

Soul collectors seem to exist on the fringes of reality. Invisible, silent, almost undetectable beings if one doesn’t have a keen eye. Stubborn souls take up a majority of our usage, powerful mages, demigods, interdimensional thieves, and the like. Those who refuse to let death take them for whatever reason.

Perhaps that was why I was so surprised to find my assigned souls to be nothing but an elderly couple.

The less sympathetic part of me found them pathetic. They both appeared exceedingly feeble, with once unblemished skin now peppered with time’s scars, wrinkled and puckered almost beyond any recognition. They both hunched over and walked with slow, careful steps, occasionally supporting each other through more difficult tasks.

I should have reaped their souls then.

But I didn’t.

There was something about them, something that doesn’t translate into any human tongue, something that stayed my hand.

I watched them for a few moons, studying them. I wanted to understand what exactly about them intrigued me. At first, there was absolutely nothing. The couple continued their mundane existence, none the wiser to my intrusion. However, upon the third moon, I found it again.

The weaker of the two had difficulty maintaining and washing her hair, which was still quite curly and thick despite her age. Her partner often washed it for her, however she rarely spoke during the process. The woman commonly grimaced and winced in discomfort whenever her partner’s gentle hands met her scalp, more out of the shame of her immobility than any legitimate pain the process may have caused her.

The man was always sure to use gentle strokes when brushing her thick mane of hair, pausing to soothe any affected skin or rub his lover’s forehead reassuringly. He would murmur to himself all the while, whispering to the woman whenever she winced or flinched.

The man came across a patch of particularly difficult tangles in the back of the woman’s head. He stroked her hair softly before speaking.

“This’s gonna hurt a bit darling. Bear with me for a little, promise I’ll be quick.”

The woman turned to smile weakly at him, covering his hand in her hair with her own and squeezing gently.

“I trust you.”

I felt the next breath I drew in. I could feel my feet solid against the floor, my chest rising and falling in rapid succession, the beat of my heart, and the faint tingling in my fingers. All the physical sensations I had long since stored in my subconscious suddenly flooded my mind, along with a gnawing ache in my chest.

Most of all, I felt wrong. As if I was some sort of ill-intentioned spectator allowing my own turmoil to seep into this moment, permanently tainting its image.

An intruder.

A month.

I watched them for a month.

I indulged that throbbing pain in my chest and drank in every moment like one dying of thirst. Every quirk, every detail, every word that passed their lips was seared into my mind. Sending that same buzzing down my spine, solidifying me.

I watched them prepare to sleep every night, the man helping the woman tie her hair into a neat bun before embracing her. They would exchange a few words, ending off with tired “I love you’s” as their frail bodies sunk into a plush mattress.

After watching them for so long, I was no longer disgusted by their weak bodies or waning minds.

I envied them.

They were pathetic, weak creatures, slowly decaying in both body and mind, yet somehow they stubbornly clung to both their lives, their love, their joy. All things I am denied.

Perhaps I should be ashamed of my inability to act. Of my mind's betrayal of logic.

In truth, I find the experience bittersweet. My weak mind takes the slightest bit of solace in the fact that even when their bodies grew cold, finally failing them, they were found in death as they were so often in life.

In a lovers embrace.

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