Doctor Reaper very much enjoyed his job until he came across the dead woman nailed to a wooden board in a basement. Although, when he saw her at first, he was delighted. She was the woman who wouldn’t die, and now, at last, she died.

His long white coat billowing around his legs, he took a step forward and examined her cause of death, which was quite obvious. There were nails imbedded in various parts of her body and she had bled out, leaving the wooden board she was propped up on caked in brown old blood. It stained her skin and plastered her short hair to her forehead. He was not fazed like most people would be at such a sight. He had seen much worse. He took another step forward, tapped a finger on her forehead, and her eyes sprung open, empty and grey like a rotting fish. She was still dead, but the doctor just woke her up. “It’s time to go,” he said briskly. He had many more patients to attend to. He always said that too, “time to go,” even though there was nowhere to “go” except under his white coat where more than 100 billion souls remain jumbling around, nipping at each other like rabid dogs. He could always feel their weight as he dragged them along with him, and some souls weighed more than others, depending on what they did in life. Personally, Doctor Reaper valued the heavier souls more. They were far more interesting.

The dead woman looked up at him, everything about her colorless and bloodless. The doctor could feel she had a very, very heavy soul. She had been here for a while, decaying now, and he had seen her many times before. She was the woman that would not die. But now she was dead, and it took all his power to reel back a toothy smile that would break his professional disposition. It seemed that she had been tortured here for years, always on the brink of death, and when she was close enough, the doctor’s pager would alert him and he would arrive, always disappointed that her heart was indeed still beating. What a waste of time, really, to try and take the soul of someone still alive. To be honest, to be taunted so much, he started to become envious of that heavy soul, the heaviest he had ever seen, and the one he did not have. “Come on then,” he said, hiding his eagerness.

The woman set her cloudy eyes on him and slowly shook her head back and forth. “No.” Her voice was hoarse from dehydration and the desiccation of death. “I don’t think so.”

Doctor Reaper crossed his arms. “I’m afraid you’re dead now. You don’t have a choice anymore. Your soul goes with the rest.” He opened one side of his coat to show an enormous cluster of small ruddy orbs knocking against each other. They were all the same color, a transparent brown, the color that resulted when saliva, tears, and blood were mixed together, the fluids that fueled humanity. They no longer knew where they were, or who they were, or anything. The world for them was now under Doctor Reaper’s coat.

“No,” the woman said again. “But I’ll make you a deal. I can sell it to you.”

The doctor furrowed his brows. He remembered the good old days when it was popular for people used to sell their souls for their own benefit. He had always enjoyed doing so because it really benefited him in the end. There was never any selling your soul to the devil, only to death. From his coat he pulled out a notebook and a pen. “What’s the price?”

“I want these nails out of my body, to get out of this basement,” she said. She sighed and looked at all her spilled blood on the floor, and the colorlessness of her empty veins in her limbs. “And I want my veins to be pumped with molten gold.”

With a pause, the doctor smiled without showing his crooked teeth. “You don’t want to regain your life a little longer?”

“No. I’ll take the sort of ‘living while dead’ state. You know, like you.”

The doctor wrote it down with a ballpoint pen. “There you are, then.” He dove his hand through her ribcage and crushed her heart in his fingers, ripping out a ruddy orb so heavy he had to hold it with both hands before dropping it into his coat. At that moment, the nails disintegrated from the woman’s body and the door to the old basement swung open, and as her veins became filled with molten gold, her skin glowed a gleaming yellow.

“Bye,” she said, without expression as she walked out the door.

Later on, Doctor Reaper sat in his home in the dark, in the single armchair watching black-and-white movies on the old TV, immensely pleased with himself. He had hung his white coat up on the coat rack, and he could faintly hear the billions of souls rattling around. He felt like he had just won the lottery. He finally had the heaviest soul out of everyone who had ever died. He didn’t care about whatever that dead woman was doing now. He’d take her back eventually. His deals could last quite a while, but never forever. He was forever, and nothing else. He wasn’t like the souls he collected, either too greedy or too proud. Death was pure, like water. But he supposed he didn’t see the harm in a little celebration. That dead woman was walking around made of gold, after all. He deserved at least something.

He gathered his heaviest souls and put them on his billiards table under the dull light outside the living room. He used the woman’s heaviest soul for the cue ball and played by himself for hours, delighted with how the cue ball never took a turn into the holes even if he seemed to be aiming for them. He had the best soul, the heaviest, most valuable soul, and it hardly cost him anything. Humans were often short-sighted, never seeing the full picture because they didn’t have a long enough lifespan to see so far. It seemed like a crime not to show off such a lovely soul. He polished the ruddy surface of the soul and put it up on the TV between the crooked antennas, and when he got bored of that, he poured the heaviest souls into the bathtub and soaked in them for a little while. It was a cold bath, but it wasn’t like he could feel it. The woman had been right. He was a living while dead situation. He put his feet up on the faucet and submerged his head under the orbs. What a delight. This was his equivalent of bathing in riches.

But then he couldn’t get out of the tub. He tried to sit up, but he couldn’t get his head above the souls. They were too heavy. He couldn’t move his arms or head, and while his feet were out of the tub, he couldn’t get enough leverage to pry himself out. He’d never suffocate, he’d just stay there forever if he couldn’t get out. And he could not stand for that. He was Doctor Reaper, accomplished and immortal and far too good to be trapped in a tub for eternity. He tried for days to get out of the tub to no avail, until someone grabbed him by the ankle and yanked him out.

He collapsed onto the cold porcelain floor and grabbed the towel that was thrown at him. He looked up and saw the woman who once had the heaviest soul. She still looked decayed, and she would always look like that because she would never live again… not that she wanted to anyway. She still glowed with a golden sheen, and while her eyes remained cloudy, they now seemed somehow… deeper. “Tired of your deal?” the doctor said coolly, wrapping the towel around himself.

“No,” she said, still without expression. “I want my soul back. And I want yours as well.”

The doctor scoffed and broke out laughing. “I bought your soul. It’s mine. And I have no soul of mine to give.”

“Oh,” she said, her eyes downcast, but only for a moment. She dove her hand into his ribcage and her fingers crushed shadows, and when she yanked her hand back, she held a black orb. “Then what’s this?”

Doctor Reaper fell to his knees in shock and sudden, unbearable weakness. He wasn’t supposed to have a soul, he wasn’t human. But his soul wasn’t ruddy like the others. He was not blood and breath and saliva and tears. “Give that back,” he said shakily.

“That’s mine.”

“Mine, mine, mine,” said the woman. “You’re much more possessive than I thought you would be. And what’s this, bathing in souls sort of thing? Kind of a human thing to do, if humans could get their hands on so many of those. An expression of power and greed and pride.”

Gritting his teeth, the doctor growled “I am pure.”

The woman shook her head calmly. “Not anymore. You’ve given yourself a soul, even if you didn’t want it, through the pride of taking mine.”

“You sold me your soul.”

“So I could have yours,” she said. She went to the other room and the doctor tried to crawl after her, but he was too weak. She came back with his white coat over her arm, and the air went cold. “You can’t do that,” said the doctor, wide-eyed. “You wanted your veins to be pumped full of molten gold; you’re more human than I’ll ever be.”

“I wished for that so you would feel like you had the leeway to celebrate your new heaviest soul. Clearly, I see it worked. But I really couldn’t care less about gold.” She peeled back a strip of rotten skin and molten gold poured out over the tile floor, black smoke rising.

Black veins bulged against the doctor’s neck. “You can’t kill me. I’m death, I’m eternal.”

The woman shook her head and rolled the black soul across her fingers. “Anything that has a soul can die. Anything that has a soul ends up under your coat.”

The doctor slammed his fist against the floor. “You still have a soul. You can die too.”

“No. I don’t have a soul. You have it.” She shrugged on the white coat and the doctor screamed. The ruddy souls in the bathtub flooded back into the coat, and the doctor’s figure deteriorated into dust as he was dragged back into his own black soul. The woman tied the coat up around her waist and breathed in the new weight that she carried as she walked. Still, she held the black soul a little longer, tossing it between her hands. “You’re not as heavy as I thought you would be.”