In which we meet a hero
The Pain Killer was born for the second time when his family died.
Or more accurately, after he had watched his wife, children, parents and siblings rot to pieces in front of him. Their screams had been just another sound in the hell that had become their village. One after another, no matter the water poured between cracked lips, the bandages placed over festering flesh. There was nothing he could do.
And when his oldest child finally passed, and he looked down upon himself and saw the rot beginning to spread across his tanned torso, he began to laugh. He wrapped his shaking form around the stinking remains of his loved ones and he gave himself away to the void.
The void had sent him back.
He now wore a thick grey fur cloak, a long way from the thin woven clothes his wife had made for him when he had lived before. A continent away, centuries past, but the loss burned fresh within his body.
He had spent weeks journeying to this town. As he approached, a familiar wailing rose from inside the walls. The snow on the road was splattered with red.
He could see the pain even from this distance, a dark miasma in a frenzy above the buildings. Meaningless slaughter had released the pain that had been held in those bodies, leaving it to dart and swirl until it found a target amongst the living.
Though pain could be generated by humanity, it could not easily be removed from the world. It might transform into grief, or physical pain, or mental anguish, it might linger for weeks or decades, moving from host to host. But it would not naturally dissipate.
The Pain Killer was one of the only ones left with the knowledge of how to ground pain. He had met others at major catastrophes, their interactions limited to professional nods of acknowledgement. But there seemed to be more and more pain erupting across the world, and fewer and fewer of them left to face it.
A light-haired young man had his hands pressed to the rough stone of the town wall. His head was bent, back heaving with deep retches interposed with sobs. Pain roiled around him, an impossible amount attempting to burrow its way in.
The Pain Killer kept his distance. He inhaled, and began to draw the filaments away from the bent figure, bracing himself against the lashing anguish. He channelled the darkness into the ground below, trapping the writhing mass in depths warmed by the Earth’s core. As he worked, the figure of the young man unbent, still burdened by grief but no longer maddened by it.
The Pain Killer eyed the young man. There were so many here that could be born into another life. Into this life. He could taste rage, grief, blood in the air. And there was more and more pain in the world, spreading from man to man like pestilence.
And yet even for the sake of the world, he would not have another be born again as he had been. He would not cause another to ‘live’ as he lived.
This young man would heal.
He never could.