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The Soda of Choice
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The Soda of Choice

by Ryder Miller

In a mahogany meeting room on the South side of town, two men discussed the future of their company Pop-coke, the third largest soda company in the world.

"There are things that are strange and unordinary," said Mr. Clive Clyde to his assistant, John Jaspers, "We need to acknowledge their reality, we need to embrace them if we wish to succeed."

"But think about what you are doing," said Jaspers. "I'm not sure I believe this man, but look at the literary precedence."

"Jaspers, sir, do as your told. I considered these things and the board feels we need to go forward if we are going to succeed. This gentleman can help Pop-coke squeeze past the top two. The account in these darkened regions will expand. Imagine it Jaspers, when people choose a soft drink they will be choosing Pop-coke, it will be their only choice which is even better. There are more people dying, there will be more accounts."

"But sir," said Jaspers.

"Books Jaspers, a book that many think is very important but was not written by a journalist. There were no book reviewers allowed to give opinions. For all we know Mr. Lucifer lost, and to what? We don't know, who really knows? And who came down to offer us a franchise."

"I don't believe any of this but you are steering us into dangerous waters, sir," said Jaspers.

"Jaspers we can find someone else," warned Clyde.

Jaspers nodded sadly, slightly nervous.

Clyde continued, "Jones is our man. He can drive well and handle the job. If he has any objections we can say that he is missing a couple of cards upstairs. You understand what I mean."

Jaspers nodded.

"Am I to discuss his illness with him," said Jaspers.

"Yes, we are doing him a favor," said Clyde.

"But we are everyday sending him beyond the gates of..." said Jaspers uncontrollably.

"We are doing him a favor Jaspers, that is what he is to think. There are people who would die for this opportunity," said Clyde with a nasty smile, "Besides he prefers juice to Pop-coke."

"That bastard does, does he," said Jaspers angrily.

Clyde nodded and reached into a briefcase to pull out a map which he handed to Jaspers.

"Tell him that they haven't put the streets on the map and that he is suppose to only make the deliveries in the early morning. We don't want him figuring anything out. And if he does we will tell everybody he is crazy," said Clyde.

Clyde walked over to the window and looked into the foggy sky.

"Take a six of Pop-coke for your troubles on your way out Jaspers."


Mr. Jones did not know what to expect from this meeting. He had been delivering Pop-coke sodas diligently for the company for seven years, but he had yet to be called to meet Mr Jaspers. He was nervous, he had been acting strange lately and he was afraid someone would notice. He had been able to keep his disability and that he took medication for it a secret, but there were times when he thought people could see right through him. Worst comes to worse he would lose his job he thought, but all signs suggested that he had been doing well.

Jones had come ten minutes earlier than requested. He was happy to oblige, even though he had to come to the office on a day off.

Jones was let into the office by Sylvia, the receptionist who told him that he should wait until Mr. Jaspers arrived. Jones took a seat in the mahogany walled conference room, and looked at the imposing painting of Mr. Clive Clyde the company’s founder. Clyde had a mischievous smile on his face, his fingers closing in on a pointed goatee. Clyde was wearing a sharply tailored black suit with a burgundy shirt and bright red tie.

Jones heard the door turn and Mr Jaspers stepped into the door. Jaspers was in his early thirties. His pin striped suit had a reddish tinge.

Calling out to the secretary he said, "Sylvia, can we get a couple of Pop-cokes in here."

Jaspers waited in the door a minute until Sylvia brought the cans. With a mild thank you he made his way into the room with the cans and a folder under his arm.

Jones waited quietly while Jaspers took a seat in front of him. He put the sodas out for them to drink.

Jaspers smiled and said eloquently, "How are you today?"

"Oh fine sir," said Jones.

"Happy to hear it, and I have good news for you, but we have something to discuss first," said Jaspers.

Jaspers continued, "It has come to our attention that you have been struggling with a problem, is that true."

"No problem sir, just had a rough month is all," said Jones.

"I am sorry to say it but we checked up on you. We know," said Jaspers.

"You know. It is supposed to be confidential," said Jones.

"Pop-coke has its way of keeping an eye for its interests. This will turn out well I assure you," said Jaspers.

"Excuse me, how do you know? What do you think you know?" said Jones hurriedly.

"About your illness sir. We for a long time didn't take notice until you started acting funny lately," said Jaspers.

"Funny? What did I do?" said Jones.

"That is not the point Jones," Jaspers said showing annoyance. "I am here to tell you that we are going to give you a lighter load."

Jones was annoyed but he was afraid to continue with questions. He was lucky to have a job, especially if they knew that he took anti-depressants and some other things to keep him sane. It was the reason why he was a little drowsy and a little slow during the day.

Jaspers showed a sign of nervousness and then continued, "Being that you are disabled and all, we are still happy to keep you employed in our company. We are even going to lighten your load a bit, what do you have to say about that?"

"Great," said Mr. Jones, nervous.

Jaspers explained the route he was supposed to take and how he needed to do the work before sunlight. His shift would be cut in half but he would have to do his work late at night or early in the morning. Between dusk and dawn. But he would only have to deliver Pop-coke to the machines for four hours.

"This is a new account. We need to keep the man happy. Think of it Jones you will only have to work half the hours you normally do, but we expect you to do your best work," said Jaspers.

Jones didn't know what to say. He was happy that he still had a job, but the details seemed strange. He was supposed to fill 13 machines along a route that was not on the map. It didn't matter because he had a special map, but there was something very eerie about this assignment.


Jones couldn't shake off the strange feeling about all this. He never heard of this type of assignment at the company before. Neither had his friends.

Pauly said, "You lucky dog. You only have to work half a shift."

"Let me see that map," said Jack.

"I am not allowed to show it you," said Jones. "But what is weird is the hours."

"Only 13 stops, I have 42," said Pauly.

The territory was unusual. He would take the road to the gate. It was foggy there at night, every night actually. And there was a strange smell. He would drive down the long roads which usually had crowds of people walking along the streets. He was surprised to see them out walking at night. They seemed down, and some were injured. A lot of violence going down with the militias in the country thought Jones.

The trees all looked scraggly and the area was rocky and windswept. Occasionally a runty looking bird would fly through the sky. But there were the Pop-coke machines, a sign of civilization he said to himself.

He thought about going to check out this territory during the day but he didn't have his own car. He took public transportation to use the company vehicle.

His responsibilities involved keeping the machine full and collecting the cans from the garbage bins. They all needed to be filled up again each night. And usually there were cans found around the machines that were scrunched up tight. An angrier crowd than most Jones thought.

"Where is this place," Jones asked a man one evening.

"I don't know. I don't know what happened. I was driving down the street and I lost control of the wheel. Last thing I new I was heading for a tree. I hit the tree and here I am," the man said.

"You drove into a tree?" said Jones.

"Yes," said the man and he kept on walking down the road. Blood dripped down his chest.

Since getting the Lucifer & Co. account Jones was surprised to find himself a little more popular with the upper brass. Jaspers took an interest in him and was always curious to hear about the account. One day Jaspers even invited him for dinner.

"Why don't you come over for dinner one night. My wife has the greatest blender," were Jasper's words.

He felt like something funny was going on, something which he wasn't being told. Plus his night in this new area was kind of strange, he didn't know what to think, he didn't know what to believe.

And after a while he started to change. It was a quick change. He wasn't bathing as regularly, nor always wearing clean clothes. Approaching Halloween he was particular peculiar, spit at public spaces and on cars. He found curse coming to his lips easily. On the bus one day he said to the driver, "Why are you looking at me this way you shit bag, dick fucker, scum fuck shit head."

He walked to the back of the bus and eyeing some of the riders. 'They are looking at me like I am carrying a bag of shit' he thought. ”All I did was fart.”

"What’s your name," said Jones to a women with a baby on her lap.

She ignored him.

"What is your name?" he asked again.

She didn't answer.

"I bet you have some strange fucking name, I bet your name is Olla and your baby is ugly," said Jones.

A tall woman stood up and said, "Well my name is Tanya and if you don't get off the bus I am going to kick your ass. Better yet I'll get my honey to slice you up."

"Get off the bus or I'll fuck you up," repeated Tanya.

Jones looked at her in the eye and said, "I get off at the next stop you you you you, but I have to fart before I get off."

A taciturn man standing next to him smiled in relief.

Getting off the bus he said, "You all a bunch of shit lickin, dick fucking asshole suckers."

Tanya sighed in relief when he stepped of the bus.

Olla smiled at Tanya in a thank you.

Walking down the street Jones recognized angry thoughts in his head. He thought, "I am sick of delivering this fucking shit drip dew drink dammit and I don't pick my fucking god damm fucking nose while I am driving either. I like juice alright. Dig. I like juice, all kinds of juice, apple juice, orange juice, tomato juice, celery juice. I like juice dammit. Maybe I should work for a juice company. Maybe I can deliver juice. Maybe I can deliver orange juice and if not maybe apple juice or tomato juice. I need a blender dammit. I should go over to Mr. Jaspers house and tell his wife I am a travelling salesman who fixes pots and pans and that I want her blender."

Jaspers noticed Jones decline. Steadily he grew less concerned with his appearances and less communicative. There was a strange look in Jones eye. The last time he saw Jones, Jones said "How the fucking hell are you doing. I want to see your blender. I really really do."

Seeing Jones decline Jaspers grew disillusioned. It was alright if the company was number two or three he thought, better than being aligned with dark forces. Pop-coke was suppose to be a pillar in the community. He decided not to wait until Jones came over to talk with him and his wife.

Picking up the phone, he said to his secretary, "Get me in touch with Mrs. Tillie Gabrielson, and a private line please."

"Right oh!" said the secretary.

Mrs. Gabrielson said that she could talk later and a few minutes after five Jaspers phone rang.

"So we are agreed that we need to change this situation," said Jaspers.

"He shouldn't be making this decision for all of us," said Gabrielson.

"How do we set about doing this? Won't we be in danger," said Jaspers.

"Wasn't the fast life part of what you signed up for here at Pop-coke," said Gabrielson.

"Yes I know, but this is different," said Jaspers.

"The only thing to do is make it public. They are putting there children in danger," said Gabrielson.

"A party, I always like a good party, especially with the executives and their families, splendid idea. But what about the verisimilitude," said Jaspers.

"Their families probably know Jazz, but if it was said for the record the executives would be much less interested in keeping their families involved," said Gabrielson.

"You are brilliant, when this is over I will buy you dinner," said Jasper.

"Let's see how things go first," said Gabrielson.

The party plan was set for Halloween. Jaspers would dress like the Lord of Darkness and Ms. Gabrielson like an angel to bring attention to decisions that the company had made. They would stage an event for the company executives to see. Then they hoped to purge evil from the company.

Jaspers looked forward to the party but many were less enthusiastic. Like when he saw Yukio in the hall. Yukio was looking sulky and said he wasn't sure if he would be around for the party. What corporate life had done to him thought Jaspers. Shirley Johnson said she had a engagement the week before which would effect her plans afterwards. Bartleby said he would prefer not to go. Ray said the company parties were too crowded,

But many were excited. Raymond said he was looking forward to the party. Raymond was great at making arrangements for the food. He was going to make sure there was a five course meal. Elisa was happy to have an excuse to get out and Gregor who had been less popular as of late was going to be there trying to improve his image. He had a reputation for dancing on the ceilings. Old Oscar Cresswell would be there, he didn't have that many opportunities to drink at an open bar. June Star would join him. The Sonny's Blues Masters would be performing.

Mr Spallner was particularly odd about it.

"I tell you Jaspers there is something very funny going on in the company."

"Tell me about it," said Jaspers as he walked by him in the hall.

Spallner grabbed his arm, "I tell you something funny is going on here and I don't think Halloween is a good night for a party. Especially with all this stuff going on."

"It will be alright, go home get some rest," said Jaspers, "Come to the party, I think you will be happy to find out what the results would be. But now I have to go Spallner. Take some Pop-cokes if you need them."

On Halloween night Jones was making his way through the street not knowing which way he was going. He stopped to look at a sign. It was red and said "Stop". He said to the sign: "Get out of my way you fucking son of a bitch sign. Get out of my way sign. I don't have to listen to you dig, I don't have to listen to you. You know what I am going to do, You know what I am going to do, I am going to walk around you dig. Ha Ha I am going to walk around you."

Jones tipped around the sign and started saying, "You stupid ass shit fucking asshole shit fucking dick head sign. I'm moving on. I am getting me some juice. I don't know what kind. Maybe apple, maybe orange. I getting some juice, see you later sign. See you later."

Jones was then taken over by dark forces. Jones didn't know what over took him but he began to feel controlled. He started walking again, stood up straighter to improve his posture. He was smiling and thinking "I am going to get me some bubbly tonight. Some bubbly god dammit. Some carbonated juice drink."

Jaspers made his way through the crowd at the Halloween party. A couple of people smiled at him in his devil costume but some looked nervous sensing maybe something was amiss. Across the room he saw Gabrielson dressed as a angel, with wings and white garb.

Oscar Cresswell looked Jaspers up and down and said, "I am a betting man and I bet something funny is on tonight."

"Yes indeed Oscar, yes indeed," said Jaspers.

Many were assembled. Many of the executives and other characters at the company who had a role to play in the proceedings.

"You look lovely tonight," Jaspers said to Fran as he walked by.

Then June Star stopped him on his way across the room.

"I decided not to go for a ride with relatives to be here tonight, aren't you happy to see me," said June.

"Yes you look lovely tonight, but I must talk with Ms Gabrielson, "Will you excuse me."

"When am I going to get you down in the lab, I have a security guard friend and we want you to come down," said June.

Jaspers smiled and said, "I am busy tonight, maybe some other time."

"Okay I'll let you go this once, but you come back here now, You devil you," said June.

Fran was with Bud talking about literature.

"You know I just read this great book by world famous author Ryder Miller," said Fran.

"You mean the Halloween Child," said Bud.

"Kind of lays to rest the nature versus nurture issue," said Fran.

"How do you mean. I haven't read it," said Bud.

"Well it is about this sweet innocent child who is born on Halloween who is a good kid, a good clean cut kid, and due to bad circumstances, hard experiences, tricks and not enough treats he becomes a creepazoid," said Fran.

"But who isn't a creepazoid?" said Bud.

"That is the point Bud," said Fran.

"What is the point?" said Bud.

Meanwhile the Sonny's Blues masters were playing in fine form. They were playing their hit, "Your big brother is a pain in the ass."

They started singing the chorus:

"Your big brother is a pain in the ass

Your big brother don't let you smoke no grass"

June Star started dancing. Oscar Cresswell sauntered. Elisa was smiling and dancing by herself. Gregor Sansa stood on all eight legs alone on the ceiling. Mr. Spallner looked nervous.

By now Jaspers had reached Gabrielson at the other side of the room. They decided that they would dance together and start fighting on the dance floor. They were waiting for the break when they would have a chance to make an announcement.

Jaspers looked around for Clive Clyde who hadn't arrived yet.

"Have you seen Mr Jones lately," said Gabrielson.

"Yes, he is quite a bit off his rocker as of late," said Jaspers.

"He wasn't invited," said Gabrielson.

"You haven't been to these parties have you, we don't invite the truck drivers," said Jaspers.

"Jazz, I am going to enjoy hitting you," said Gabrielson.

"You have a speech don't you, that you are going to read," said Jaspers.

"Yes I do. It will become public knowledge. We have to wait for Mr. Clyde I am afraid," said Gabrielson.

Walking through the door Mr Clyde came in slowly walking with his wife Lucy. With him walked Mr. Graves, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Summers, and a few other of the executives.

Gabrielson walked towards them and Jaspers watched from the dance floor.

"I am going to change all this," Gabrielson said to Clyde.

"Change what?" said Clyde.

"Change the arrangement with the sulfuric one, you are endangering everyone in company. We are going to make it public," said Clyde.

Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers smiled darkly. Mr. Clyde looked at her angrily.

Mr. Clyde's wife Lucy said, "You should have your head examined Tillie. On Halloween Tillie, you should have stayed home and did the dishes."

"You will see," said Ms Gabrielson as she walked back to Jaspers.

Not knowing what took him there Jones was walking down the downtown streets. He was walking to the drummer he never knew before. He felt cold and dirty inside.

Eventually he arrived at 13 Oxnard Street, tipped the doorman and made his way upstairs to the party. I am here to see Jazz Prospero he thought as he made his way down the halls. I am going to get me some juice.

Jaspers saw Jones across the hall looking angry. His eyes were an unearthly orange, translucent in the dark. Jaspers shuddered not knowing what to do. Standing by the food tray he grabbed a large spoon.

Raymond said, "Hey I need the spoon god dammit."

Jones walked toward him drinking from a champaign bottle.

"Jaspers I am here to make you pay. There is a new order in this country, a new order," said Jones.

Jaspers started moving away.

Jones broke the bottle on the floor. Moving past Gabrielson he stopped to wipe his hands on her dress.

Gabrielson shocked didn't know what to do.

Jones continued forward toward Jaspers.

Jaspers started to run, and Jones followed after him. Running through the room Jaspers slipped and Jones was upon him. When Jones was finished he turned toward Spallner who ran over to help, and gutted him also. Jaspers and Spallner lied on the floor nearly dead.

"We got 4231 machines to fill but this company is sure not what it use to be. It is a shame I tell you. It is a shame," said Oscar Cresswell.

Spallner almost dead on the floor twisted around thinking to himself 'I shouldn't have come to the party. I knew something funny was going on.’

Jones now stood on the table, a ript apart Pineapple in his hand. It was now known who controlled the company.

Jones said, "It's OK to be a bunch of nose picking, shit bagging, bus farting crazy men. It will be free to do so in this country."

By now Tillie Gabrielson, her white dress stained with fruit juices stood alone outside of the crowd.

"Henbane and lighting upon you," Gabrielson said as the crowd came in upon her.

Copyright Ryder Miller 2005

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