Down a wrong path

The thought that she should feel just sick, not sickly fascinated, crossed Bea's mind. Maybe it was just too odd. She tried to form cogent questions as she turned to Miriam, who smiled and fidgeted, watching her. Nervous, but enthusiastic, hoping a friend was as excited about something as she was?

"So. How did you arrive at this idea?" Bea asked.

"It it all about souls, you see? I decided that the best way to get into that field of research was through shadows. Demons, soulless by nature, have no shadows, humans turned vampires lose theirs along with their souls, and the ghosts of the dead are nothing but shadows in this world - clearly there is a link."

Bea nodded; the idea was not exactly new.

"Unfortunately I couldn't find a cooperative demon, vampire, or ghost to examine, and neither do I have the means to catch and restrain an uncoorperative one. The solution to that dilemma would be removing the soul of a human to monitor the changes this causes, and possibly examine the soul directly. Since the shadow is lost when the soul is, it is only logical that if you remove the shadow, so is the soul." Having gotten out some of her thoughts, Miriam was obviously calmer. She also gave Bea some time to digest this.

Bea could follow the logic, even if something was missing there. Without quite willing to, she turned to look at the closest flabby shape hung on the wall. "Those aren't shadows, though."

"Well, no. After some false starts and much thinking, my reasoning was that the shadow must be fixed in some way to the body. The point of affixion is fluid, of course, but if the surface it attaches to is removed, it should be separated from the body."

"So you started skinning people." As soon as she said it, Bea wondered if that plain statement hadn't been too much of a provocation.

"Yes." Miriam smiled a bit wider, encouraged because her friend followed her ideas, but started frowning immediately after. "I need to refine the process, though. It kills the test subjects too quickly, and naturally the soul flees, making examination impossible."

Bea nodded thoughtfully. "You did consider that, too, though, didn't you?"

"The soul flees the body upon death, so removing the soul from the body causes death. It is the same logic you applied to vampirism."

Miriam fell silent, gradually looking more and more distressed. "That would be a disaster. Years of work for nothing. But you're right, I need to consider that carefully before proceeding."

"Maybe you could seek contact with someone researching vampirism? How their losing their soul is different from normal death?"

"Yes, yes, maybe..." Miriam finally ushered Bea out of the room, very distracted by that new thought. Back in the more mundane part of the house, she pulled herself together. "Thank you for your help. Even if this might shoot my work down, I'm glad I let you in on this. Get too caught up in details..."

Bea smiled. "I think I should leave you to think it over for a while. We can meet again in a few days, if you'd like." She would have liked to asked who those people had been before they became test subjects. She would have liked to tell her old friend that she'd gone mad. But with that in mind, she kept quiet. Her next stop would have to be the authorities.