Authors: C.D. Breadner
By C.D. Breadner
Table of Contents
The Sin Eater let his boot hit the puddles of the road, water splashing on to the hem of his trousers. He didn’t worry that the water was probably more shit than rain. He’d been around humans so long their barbaric and primitive practices no longer shocked him. He accepted it. That’s why whenever he was in London his trousers were only worn once and discarded; left for a chamber maid or concierge to wear if they wished. After all, the fabric was fine and expensive, and if they could sell them it was as good as a tip.
He just didn’t want to wear pants with shit on them.
The hovel in his sights was a pathetic structure, listing to one side, lucky to be propped up between two stone structures with much stronger foundations. It looked as though a squatter had put a front door on someone’s garden and then stretched a thatched roof overhead. It just didn’t fit. And neither did the dying man inside.
The Sin Eater could smell the man’s fear from across the street. It never ceased to amaze him how people could suddenly find their God and faith at the exact moment they
got a whiff of the fact that they were not much longer for this world. For all their disgusting behaviours and rough manners, humans were delightfully hypocritical, hence his wealth and purpose in this life.
this all just a slow, meandering death? It was hard to tell. His employer, after all, took delight in not always sharing the whys and ways of the immortality He bestowed on souls. The contingencies were always an uncomfortable surprise.
When the Sin Eater reached the door of the shanty he knocked for outward appearances’ sake, then let himself in as though invited.
The room stank not only of death but also of sin; the mingling smell of moldy onion and rotten meat. Not everyone could smell it that way, but the Sin Eater could. He could sense many things strictly by smell. Anger, fear, sorrow, frustration, deceit … even evil. And over the smell of death, it was the smell of evil that brought him to this house.
A small man was wasting away on a straw mattress, mumbling “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …”
The Sin Eater shook his head, pulling a wooden stool across the floor loudly and sitting at the man’s bedside. That’s when the man noticed he was there, and as though sensing the load the Sin Eater carried, he shrunk away from him.
“Who … who art thou?”
“Worry yourself not about who I am. Worry about the
of what I am.”
The man clearly wasn’t up for riddles, and frowned, his hands forming feeble claws and pulling at the thin, filthy blanket covering him. “I have no wealth, no money, no gold. Take what you want, but I am dying and know that it is a
sin to steal.”
The Sin Eater barked a laugh at th
at. “Believe me, old man. I can tell you what is sin and what is not.”
The man looked back to the ceiling. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures …”
The Sin Eater shrugged, not caring if the man needed to know why he was here or not. It wasn’t necessary for his job. And no amount of praying could change what he was about to do anyway.
He closed his eyes, made a steeple of his fingers and rested his forefingers on his forehead. It wasn’t necessary, but he always did it for some reason. The … ritual of it made him feel one with these human animals.
With his mind he reached out to the man’s brain, his stream of consciousness touching at the man’s thoughts like phantom fingers. The man seemed to sense it and tried to physically pull back from it, but once the Sin Eater was in your head it was already too late.
through the useless blue sky and white clouds and golden gates drivel the man was concentrating on and reached deeper, through years of memories and back to the past; his terrible, terrible past.
Back when the man had been young, strong,
and handsome. Before disease had weakened him and addled his mind.
the Sin Eater recognized it immediately. There was always syphilis these days. Obviously, it was due to the whores.
But this man had done more than lay with them, and that was the other stench the Sin Eater co
uld recognize; the stench of garbage and sulfur. The smell of evil.
He found the episodes the man was trying to hide from him, now
that he wanted God as his savior and master and desired to arrive at St. Peter’s gate as innocent as the day he was born. But he wasn’t … he was just as drenched in as much filth as the Sin Eater. That’s what had brought the Sin Eater to his door, wasn’t it?
The Sin Eater
found the sins as sure as he’d put them there himself. He immersed in them up to his optic nerves, dipping his very being into the squalid depths of this man’s past depravity.
As far as
went, this man was pretty standard. Not the worst by a long shot.
The memories came back as fully-encompassing revelations, taking over the Sin Eater’s senses and putting him in the moment as though he had been in the man’s body. But of course he had no control over what that body was doing, b
ecause humans all had free will and this had all been in the past.
The man had paid whores to lay with him, and the whores hadn’t minded the looks of him, even though he never presented himself as wealthy. He had been strapping and comely, they had been pleased to service someone that wasn’t old, ugly, drunk or malodorous.
But when the man had them alone in an alley or back walkway he had slaughtered them. He kept a blade hidden in his sleeve, and it wasn’t very sharp either. It was startling how the man had been able to carve these women into macabre art exhibits of hatred without anyone noticing. It had taken time to skin their heads, shred their faces, and then fuck their dead bodies.
In all, he found thirteen slayings.
It was hard to be completely sure if that was all of them, since the man had lost his mind and the Sin Eater also picked up visions of the women as demons who wanted to consume his soul. The Sin Eater may have used the man’s point of view, but he could still recognize delusion over reality. The insanity sat like an uncomfortable coat, it brought distaste to the Sin Eater’s mouth. He hated the insanity. It was disorienting, like stumbling into someone else’s nightmare.
The man was weeping. That was another side effect of the Sin Eater’s ability. No matter how the man fought to keep the memory at bay, he saw exactly what the Sin Eater
saw and realized that because of it, he was
The Sin Eater laid his hand on the man’s chest, his own skin crawling at contact with that filthy flesh.
But this was the important part; this is what his employer paid him for.
The man drew a deep breath, and the Sin Eater sent him a warm, cleansing sensation that took the sin and replaced it with … nothing. The events were erased
The man calmed, he stopped scrabbling his hands against the blanket and his chest, and his face went slack … almost peaceful.
Then he fell into a deep sleep. Judging by how his various diseases had progressed, this would likely be his last rest. The Sin Eater had arrived just in time.
hen sins were admitted and divinely forgiven they vanished. Washed away by faith and purity. But when the Sin Eater worked, the sins were not gone. They were still here. They didn’t stay with the Sin Eater; they just stayed on the human plane to find another … host? Carrier? The more down here that was dark and evil, the more ground the good guys lost. Plus, it sure pissed off the guy upstairs when someone else was running around, removing sins; encroaching on His territory, so to speak.
se souls that the Sin Eater sought out were never admitted to heaven anyway. With or without their sins present, evil was evil and could not abide. It was the potential, not the deeds. Damned souls were damned. The sin was either wiped clear by the hand of ultimate power, or, after the Sin Eater’s visit, left to fester elsewhere.
As it was, a sinner would never reach everlasting life without forgiveness from righteousness. And that didn’t mean a priest, either. Any faith, even those with no faith, could earn redemption for what they had
done once they passed. It was a simple bequest once a soul passed over. Only true menace could not be “let in.” So the Sin Eater’s true purpose was just to make sure the potential evil was not only realized, but enhanced over time. He broke the chain of command from sinner,
evil, to absolution. But again, these sinners were not stealing bread to feed their families, and they weren’t eating meat on Friday. These sinners sought out to harm and inflict pain on others of their own kind. And what’s more … they
When he’d been sent to the human world to become a Sin Eater, he’d been annoyed by his human form
. As immortal as he may be, the constant maintenance and unreasonable reactions to stimuli were so bothersome. But once he grew to understand how their very make-up inevitably led to their sins, the whole ridiculous system seemed invariably … perfect. Genius, even.
The Sin Eater w
itnessed the man slip into deep unconsciousness, well on his way to passing into the hereafter. He found the deaths comforting, like his hard work finally coming full circle.
The last breath passed the man’s lips, and as the divine silence fell over his f
orm, the Sin Eater rose and returned the stool to its home at the small wooden table littered with bottles and old bread. He never knew the man’s name. It didn’t really matter. There was inevitably another one just like him right around the bend.
“So, what are the big plans for the weekend?” Jasper did a piss-poor job of hiding the fact that he was trying to steal a glance at some coy but breathtaking cleavage while his co-worker logged off her computer. When she pulled her purse from a bottom drawer in her desk, he had to give a sigh of defeat. The blouse stayed stubbornly put.
Iola Day rolled her eyes at his question but laughed anyway. “Yeah, Jasper, you know me. I’ve got big plans.
. You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you what I had in my social itinerary.”
He laughed too, then sat in the stool that had been abandoned in the corner of the bullpen, looking down at his hands. God, why was he nervous? At his age, asking someone out? “Come on. If you have no plans, why not let me take you out for dinner. Or just a drink.”
She shook her head. “Jasper, I appreciate that. And it’s flattering. But … you know that’s a bad idea. We work together.”
“Yeah. And we’re always here, working the same shifts, including nights and weekends when no one else is around.” He shrugged. “Who else could we possibly date?”
“It’s just … a bad idea. I’m sorry. But you have to stop asking me this.”
He shrugged. “I’m not going to stop trying. Until you call HR anyway. Get me fired.” That was weird levity. Make a joke about sexual harassment in the work place. Better move quick to cover up that moronic statement. “What are you working this weekend?” Even though he knew already. She was a DJ, she had set shifts. Since he was in news, his shifts were all over the place like a toddler with pudding.
“I work late Saturday and Sunday, off Monday and Tuesday. How about you?”
“I actually got the weekend off. I’m not sure what to do with myself. There’s nothing on TV during the weekends.” That just sounded sad. Why was he such a retard around this woman?
Because she was kind, that’s why. And to prove it, she helped him out of this awkwardness with a suggestion. “What about playoffs? All hockey all the time.”
He shrugged. “Even that’s only in the evenings. The days are confusing to me. Since we usually work nights.”
Iola stood, and he did too, ever the gentleman. If he’d had a tail, he’d be wagging it and hoping she’d pet him behind the ears for his troubles.
She smiled, wished him a good weekend, then made for the hallway out of the bullpen that led to the back door of the radio station. He followed as expected, then watched her from the window as she made her way to the subway platform. He always watched to make sure no one messed with her on her way to catch her train.
Funny, when he was in a room with her he was ever the gentleman, sitting on his hands and trying to impress her, all hearts and flowers. Like a total sap. He was the younger brother doing everything big brother wanted, all in the hopes that eventually his big brother would pass him the keys and let him take his car for a spin. Not that Jasper would compare Iola to a car.
He was a goddamn lap dog around her. But as he watched her through the window, he was clocking her ass and liking how it moved in the jeans she was wearing. Better than a car, that’s for sure.
When she’d first started at KLCD two years ago he couldn’t say he noticed her right off. They ended up working together a lot, and as time had passed he …
her. A lot. It wasn’t that she was knock ‘em over gorgeous. If she came into a room conversation didn’t grind to a stunned halt. But when he heard her voice on air for the first time … man. He was a goner. And now he’d moved on to notice other things about her.
Her clothing was modest over a body he always imagined was
perfect. That was nice, a woman that didn’t need to advertise the goods. It was getting rare. And her eyes … they were the oddest colour. A very pale but bright green, like the flesh of a lime. And those eyes were smart, too. He looked into them and became the pathetic goober he’d just been moments before; unable to say or even take action towards what he wanted.
He behaved like the
. And of course, he wanted so much more.
Iola Day used her transit pass to get on her train, and took a seat facing the centre aisle. In her experience, creepy people liked to trap you in the benches that faced forward, so if you
to take one of those seats, sit on the outside edge and don’t let anyone pen you in.
She held her bag tight to her side without looking like she was worried about anyone grabbing it. It’s not like she carried anything of real value, but replacing all the things she needed to carry would be such a pain in the ass. Plus, her ID had her address. The very thought that she was on the radio and people could find out where she lived made her skin crawl. So of course she was unlisted, on the advice of Jasper.
She had to smile at the thought of Jasper. He was so funny around her. The thought he was attracted to her made her … not uncomfortable, just … sorry because she didn’t see him that way, really. And dating a co-worker was a
idea. No matter how nice the guy seemed. So she really,
wanted to keep it “just friends.”
But to herself, she admitted that she liked the flirtation.
Iola studied the other subway patrons around her. It was a pretty dead time of the night, before the drunks and after the five o’clock work crowd, so her scrutiny didn’t take too long. A teenage boy in jeans, a hoodie and an iPod was off in his own world, tapping his toe in time with the music only he could hear. He was sitting right across from her, ignoring her since she was over the age of thirty and not interesting in the least.
Another man was slumped down on the bench to her left, as far from the iPod kid as he could get. He had a hand to his forehead, with his elbow propped up on the window ledge. He looked like he had a terrible headache. But he was handsome nonetheless. The man sitting to her right on the first of the forward-facing benches was reading his paper. Both men were dressed nicely in suits. That wasn’t incredibly strange for 3am, but it was a bit rare to see two suits out this late. She would have sworn that these three people were right out of central casting for “subway extras.” But another guy … he really stood out.
He was at the back, standing even though there were plenty of available seats. He was … twitchy. He kept scratching at one eye. His clothes were dirty, his face had many scabs, and his pale eyes … well, Iola had the sense that he really had seen bad things. And had maybe caused most of them.
Iola resolved to keep one eye on him for a little while anyway, since the sense of malice coming from him was almost like a taste in her mouth. God, he stunk. No one else seemed to notice, or they were all being polite like she was. After all, it couldn’t be an accident that they were all bunched up at the front of the car, as far away from him as they could get.
The movement of the train jolted each person in unison, and the motion was unfortunately soothing. It always made her drop her guard. So when she got off the train, she only noticed that the man with the headache rose to his feet as she did, and he let her go ahead of him out the front door of the car. She didn’t notice that the oddball at the back of the train used the other door to jump out to the platform as well.
She took the stairs to the street. Her apartment was a block down, on the third floor
above a bakery. She always associated the smell of bread and cinnamon buns with coming home. And in four years she had not once eaten anything from that bakery.
She picked up the pace as the wind blew. Even though it was spring, the air felt damp and it was sharp against her legs through her jeans. She got her keys ready, holding them weapon-like in her hand. There were scuffling footsteps behind her, and she didn’t look back, she just kept walking. Once she got to the pool of light at the foot of a lamp post she stopped and wheeled around quickly to face whoever was behind her.
The scruffy guy stopped, clearly startled by her sudden movement. He froze in his tracks, eyes wide.
“Can I help you?” She asked in a confident, authoritative voice.
He mumbled a few noises, shaking his head.
“You better turn around and walk the other way,” Iola suggested.
Then he looked angry. He took a step to her.
She wanted to cower and back up, but she held her ground. He seemed confused by that, too. He scratched his head, looking down at his feet. But he didn’t back off.
Iola looked around, but the corner was deserted. Just her and Scratchy …
Who didn’t smell any better out in the open air. She wrinkled her nose. He was positively
. How long could it have been since he’d had a shower?
Iola’s hands tightened around her keys. The biggest key she had, the one to the dead bolt on her door, was sticking out the inside of her fist. She was ready to swing it at him if he grabbed her. If he grabbed her bag, she’d let him take it.
Having a plan minimizes the panic.
“What are you waiting for? Get the hell out of here before I call the police.” A big bluff. Her cell phone was dead, in her bag, waiting to be charged once she got home.
she got home.
He seemed to get agitated when she mentioned the police, and she took a step backwards. Just a small one, hoping she didn’t appear to be giving up any ground.
Please, please just turn around and fuck off
, she thought, willing herself not to wince at the thought. She wanted to appear stronger than him, make him think twice about his choice of … victim? Okay, she wasn’t sure if he meant her harm, but who in their right mind follows a woman walking alone at night?
When he brought his eyes up to hers, she froze. She didn’t even blink. If eyes were the windows to the soul, then … he didn’t have one. They were blank, cold … if he hadn’t blinked she would have thought him an evil, malevolent mannequin.
Iola’s heart started to beat faster, and a sickly feeling spread through her chest. It was that feeling you got when you saw a two-year old with grape juice walking on a white rug.
Scratchy took a step towards her, and as she backed away her mind fired off two words that echoed in her head like she’d screamed them:
He froze r
ight where he was. He continued to stare at her in the same vacant way then after a screaming moment he turned and walked away.
When he was half a block down she finally exhaled, her breath punching out of her in one short jab. The unease in her chest dissolved and her knees almost gave out. The stink of him still lingered, however. She was still breathing in and out like she’d just run in an 80-yard touchdown, but she was calming down … gradually.
What the hell?
She’d been scared before, even had a drunk grab her once. But that … that man felt like the essence of danger. He definitely had bad intentions towards her.
She got her keys sorted out again in one hand while keeping her head up, and then made her way to the door of the stairwell that led upwards. She checked over both shoulders before opening the door, and then basically sprinted up the stairwell to the safety of her apartment.
The Sin Eater had followed her, caught her scent in the subway, and had stayed in the shadows.
. He followed the homicidal nut job that was following
out of the subway and up to the street. He had a boatload of sin strapped to his shoulders, and the Sin Eater felt completely compelled to follow.
Bullshit, he would have followed
anyway. She smelled … pure of heart, as lame as that might have sounded. She was beautiful. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say she was a brand new soul. He almost chuckled … she still had that “new soul” smell.
But this human following her had the stink of evil all over him, and the Sin Eater could all but taste his psychotic rage and violent lust for her. He’d never interjected to stop humans from doing what they wanted. After all, he was there to lap up their messes. But as the man’s frenzy of bloodlust was piqued and the Sin Eater found himself actually wanting to get involved and help a human female, something amazing happened.
This woman, this gorgeous creature, who looked as delicate as an orchid,
this scumbag. With her … mind? She may as well have reached out and shoved him. No one had made any movement, but suddenly the man had reeled back, turned on his heel and stalked away like it was his idea.
The Sin Eater froze in his tracks. He’d felt it, the force of her …
emanating outward like a fist. He felt the man retract the intentions he’d had, just pulled them back and tucked them away.
The Sin Eater had stopped breathing. How the hell had she done it?
could do that. He could reach into people’s minds and change their very personalities if he wanted. There was nothing he
do to someone when he had complete control of their mind.
But she wasn’t like him otherwise he would have recognized it when she sat down across from him on the subway. She was human but she was … a complete puzzle.