Today, the V Mafia family members received an email--with an excerpt from THE COLLECTOR attached!
I know, it is very exciting! *sigh* Would you like to read it? Yes? I knew it!
Apparently, Charlie Cooper doesn’t have a car. But don’t worry, she tells me, we can walk to school from here.
It’ll only take a few lifetimes, what with her mad limp and all.
Charlie carries a brown lunch bag in one hand, and every few minutes she digs Skittles out of her pocket and pops them into her mouth. I have no idea how this girl survives high school. She’s a disaster. It’s kind of tragic. Why is she still alive while I’m a walking corpse?
I can’t stop staring at her mouth. It’s the only part of her that’s passable yet it never stops moving.
“Don’t you think?” she asks.
I meet her eyes. “What?”
She nudges me with her shoulder like we’re long lost pals. “Someone’s been daydreaming. Want some sugar?” Her open palm is a stained Skittle mess.
“I’ll pass,” I answer. I’m not sure how this chick stays so tiny. She eats like a hippopotamus. Deep in my pocket, I rub circles over my lucky penny. I’m trying to figure out how to corrupt this girl, and she keeps asking me questions.
I narrow my eyes and do what I’m trained to do. At first, her body is exactly the same, short and skinny, like a weed that needs plucking. But then it changes. The familiar warm yellow light crawls over her skin and flickers.
Ah, soul light. If I could drink it, I would. The color of a human soul is the same for everyone. It’s the seals that make the difference. I count how many she has, then clench my hands into fists. There are twelve seals on her soul. Only twelve. And they’re not even big. Great. I’ve come to collect Mother Teresa.
Still, the fact that she has even twelve seals means Boss Man has probably had Charlie watched for some time, or at least the Peachville area. Looking at her, his reasons are lost to me. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve got to collect her either way. If I don’t and she dies, she’ll go to Judgment Day, and Boss Man obviously doesn’t want to take chances.
Inspecting her soul closer, I notice some of Charlie’s seals are dark blue, others green or orange or whatnot. Every collector can place seals, and you can tell who sealed a soul by the color. Most of hers are green. That’d be Patrick’s work. Naturally, I was the one to train him.
Her soul is clear of any of my red seals. But that won’t last for long cause Papa’s come to play. “How much further?” I ask.
“Just on the other side of this hill,” she chirps. “Like I was saying, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to enroll this late in the semester, but at least you can see the school and stuff.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Charlie glances at me, and her eyes crinkle at the corners. “I think you’re nice, Dante.”
“That’s cause I am nice.”
She looks ahead and walks in silence for almost a full minute. It suddenly feels strange to be near her and not hear her speak. The massive trees hang in a canopy over the road, stretching to greet one another. Their leaves are dead.
Toothy Jack O’ Lanterns sit on porches and watch us pass. One looks like it’s mocking me, so I flip it off. Charlie sees me. She throws her head back and laughs long and hard. The sound startles me.
I wonder what it would feel like to laugh like that—with complete abandonment.
. . . . . .