Beast of Burden

The back of his throat tasted bitter and his mouth was dry. His head throbbed. He rolled over and grabbed his last cigarette, an empty bottle from last night clinking as it rolled away.

The cigarette had been hidden behind his ear and was only slightly bent. Lighting the fragile roll of paper and cheap tobacco, he pulled hard on it and felt the nicotine awaken his body.

Either the cigarette made his throat taste better or it just made everything else taste equally as bad, either way, he felt a bit better.

Infinitely swirled above his bed, twinkling with the morning stars as the Sun slowly rose in the East. His back hurt and the cardboard had done little to soften the cold, hard cement he had slept on. His bones ached.

He paid no attention to any of this. Instead he was trying to forget or, at least, repress the dark, violent dreams that haunted him every night.

A car trundled by, growling softly as it vomited forth the carbon monoxide that perfumed nature with the metallic, ash scent of man.

He never noticed this either, as he slowly rose from where he lay and stepped into the beginning bustle of the city.

“Hey buddy,” his gravelly voice broke the urban reverie as a stranger walked by trying to ignore him, “Hey buddy, she wasn’t worth you. She really wasn’t. You’re better off without her.”

The man stopped dead, his eyes expanding and his mouth opening and clothing soundlessly like a fish out of water.

“Don’t worry, buddy,” he said, stepping forward, grabbing the man’s arm and squeezing reassuringly, “I’m a Sin Eater. That’s what I do. You were wrong. She was wrong. And that’s all fine. Now throw that gun away, and don’t hurt all those people. Just don’t. You’ll be fine and live a good life.”

The man’s mouth closed and he stumbled away like he was in a trance. Maybe he was? He’d never been subjected to his own power. He had no idea what it felt like.

All he knew was the rage and hurt that he now felt. He had taken it from the man and it burnt him inside with waves of cold hopelessness and fiery-hot murder. It swirled and mixed with all other toxic darkness already inside him from all the others that he had helped.

He needed a drink. Alcohol was the only thing that he found that helped him numb the poisonous feelings he took from people. Lots and lots of alcohol.

He drowned the darkness with oceans of the stuff, and spent most days drunk because of this.

But what else could he do?

“Not all heroes wear capes,” he muttered in his gravelly voice as he finished his last cigarette, “Some don’t even have homes.”