The Soulless Swordsman: A Meditation on the Student of Prague.

By Balduin

Word Count: 603

Rating: PG

Summary: A short story inspired by “The Student of Prague”.

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Image Credit: Sokol-Film/Public Domain

‘The Student of Prague’ is a retelling of the Faust Legend, except that the soul the protagonist sells is his own mirror reflection, which then leaves the mirror and lives out his dark fantasies, becoming the Hyde to his Jekyll.


What does it mean to be soulless? I tried to ignore that question when I exchanged my soul for a ton of gold. I distracted myself from it while I was enjoying the good life with the gold I’d won. It was the payback for the years I spent in debt as a starving student on the streets of Prague. I’d waited long enough; I deserved it. When I found out I was immortal, it just seemed like an extra bonus. I dueled more fiercely than ever, growing careless because I couldn’t be killed. I could endure grievous wounds and still fence; it seemed like a fighter’s dream. I performed mad, suicidal feats, for money or just because I could.

But I was soulless; at first, the only thing that brought that to mind was my lack of a reflection in a mirror, something I could hide. I began to feel it when I tried to requite my passion for Countess Margaret; I went blindly into the deal for the purpose of making myself worthy of her love. I still longed for her, but could feel nothing in my heart. Oftentimes I wondered if I still had a heart. But she faded, as did everything else I felt for.   

The woman, the money, the liquor, it all spun around like a mad carousel for the first few years. During that time, I discovered the true meaning of soullessness. It’s when you lie back to fall asleep and you feel an emptiness inside, the unshakable feeling that you have no purpose. It’s recognition that you have no real desires, only an endless hunger to consume, but it eats a hole inside you that no pleasure will fill. Having no reflection wasn’t the only physical manifestation of it; I leave no steam on glass when I breathe on it, and I cast no shadow in the firelight. I can perform any unspeakable act and feel nothing, as if my conscious has been forever numbed and deadened. Soulless is being empty, cut off, incomplete, inhuman.

So I lived by the sword as a wanderer, a pariah, never feeling attachment but always searching for it. My sword, my honor, and my hunger — when I had bartered away everything else, these were all I had left. I tried not to think of how pitiful an existence it was, but after three years I couldn’t ignore it any longer. My youth had ebbed away with any interest in living. Now that it was gone, I resolved to find a way to end it all.

But my immortality had another curse; my soul was detached and wandering off on its own. It haunts me and seeks revenge since I bartered it away for wealth. As long as I am alive, it will stalk me and keep me from finding any means of escape. I have not known peace, since it is never far from me. It is the shadow that was once at my back, the shadow I still see flit around corners in silent streets, watching everything I do. He is there to whistle to the police when I grab money; he snatches my checks to the students I tried to help in Prague. I am caught in a cruel prison and my jailor is myself.


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