rebirth

“Do you have any food?”

Jin turned around and looked down. The child’s eyes were big, she had to be eight. There was simply something about her that was familiar. That familiarity was years gone – he couldn’t recall exactly what it was.

“As a man of the cloth, you believe I carry food on me?” he asked.

The girl shrugged. “Isn’t helping the needy a tenet or something?”

“Wrong religion, kid.”

She wasn’t technically wrong, but she wasn’t technically right. Fortunately, Jin wasn’t an average member of his establishment. He pulled out some coin. “Try to be careful with these. They’ll last you longer if you spend them wisely.”

Then she smiled. She might have said something, but Jin missed it. It was the smile that was so familiar.

She was soulless.

“Hey? Were you listening?”

He pushed away the confusion. “What?”

“What’s wisely? Food is food.”

Jin closed his hand around the coin. Sounds of protest nearly erupted from the girl’s lips, as her mouth opened and closed.

“We’re going to lunch.” That said, he turned and walked away. He didn’t have to look behind to know that the girl was following him.

A tale of souls

It was said that children of the earth had no souls. They were only made of the containers which housed them. A different race of beings that could be molded into any of the other more solid creatures of the world. For most, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the children of the earth and those they appeared to be.

“Why’s that?” Ling asked.

Jin shook his head. “Because they look the same. Weren’t you listening?”

“Then…” Ling rolled over on his bed and looked over at him. Jin didn’t look up from his book, but from his peripheral vision he could see the boy’s curiosity. His hair, messy from another botched haircut. His fatigue, from the work Jin had had him do today.

And, as Jin was one of the few mortals who could, he saw Ling’s absence of soul.

“What’s the point?” Ling finally stopped pondering to ask his question. “The only difference is not having a soul?”

“Some people would exclude those without everlasting souls as being real.”

Ling frowned. “Why?”

“They don’t ascend to Heaven. There is nothing after for them. They simply return to the earth.”

“Is there anything wrong with that?”

Ling tried to play that off, but Jin could hear the uncertainty in his wavering tone. Jin considered Ling’s death, his complete end. It disturbed him. “The sky encompasses all. The earth doesn’t take the soul. That’s all.”

Sitting up, Ling pulled his legs to his chest. His own concerns seemed to vanish as he thought. Jin didn’t know whether to envy him or not. “Would you sing an aubade for an earth child? When you finally get the cloth?”

“What would be the point?” Jin sighed, closing his point. “I suppose. If they asked me to in life. There isn’t much of a point for the song for those who’ve ascended either.” Ling smiled at him. “Now. Go to sleep already.”

There was no point in telling Ling what he was, if he didn’t already know. If he hadn’t caught on through this. Jin opened his book once again.

He was grateful to be older than Ling. Hopefully Jin wouldn’t have to worry about Ling’s afterlife if he died first.