Face stark crazed, she hurried him inside.
Fingers dug into his arms. Behind him, the door slammed; a rush of damp air scurried across his neck. Standing in the cramped foyer, he listened as she manhandled the security chains of the door. She squeezed past, breathless.
“Autumn employs a particularly nasty bite this evening, does it not?” He spoke softly, removing the knit cap from his head, the trench coat from his wiry frame.
Window to window she bounded, balling drapes into shaking fists, drawing them shut. He noted her white, swollen knuckles. Candlelight flickered from atop a mantle, yet a state of melancholic gloom smothered the parlor. “Excuse me. Your appearance is other than what one might expect.”
“I am a mere man, nothing more. For some, perhaps, much less,” he draped the coat over his arm.
“You are a Sin Eater.”
He hoped his client would find relief in the plastic twist of his lips. “I am at that. May I?”
“Of course,” she nodded an invitation into the parlor.
The house frowned upon his presence; bare floorboards protested each of his steps. From the fireplace, a draft moaned. “Forgive my nerves,” her lips twitched. “We require our privacy. If the Church were to ever—”
“If this were the nineteenth century then surely we would have need to conceal our identities. Execution would no doubt be favored if my practice was to be learned and as for you…things would be difficult indeed. Be thankful the Church no longer functions in such barbaric fashion.”
“Yet privacy must still be maintained.” Her posture remained stiff. Orange light remolded her face.
He bowed slightly. “Privacy? Or secrecy? I said the Church no longer functions in such a way. Their belief, however, is another matter entirely. Per our contract, your identity shall remain guarded. As will mine.”
Murmurs drifted through the house. She followed the shift of his intense though starry gaze. “The deceased is in the bedroom.”
She led him down a hallway; leering faces stared out from faded, crooked photographs. Dust littered the floor. A sour pungency wafted under his nose; death’s perfume, so unmistakable. She paused before an open door. Nodding politely, he stepped through.
Surrounding the bed, three men lifted their gazes as one, faces waxed yellow beneath an uncovered bulb. He ignored them, attention focused upon the deceased. Lips parted in a last, eternal gasp, the corpse waited. Clots of sheets remained within its stiffened fingers. “He suffered until the very end,” the Sin Eater said matter-of-factly.
“What difference does it make?” Across the bed leaned a man with a bulbous skull; his jowls quivered as he spoke: “My brother didn’t suffer enough.”
The Sin Eater looked upon him. “Are you responsible for contacting me?”
“Yes,” again spoke Bulbous Skull.
“So who are the others?”
“Also my brothers.”
“You said you would be alone in your house, save your wife.”
“Listen, they all stay. And shame on you if you think this hell hole is my house. Remember the money I’m paying you!”
The Sin Eater turned away, mindful his eyes churned a stormier grey when agitated. “As you wish.”
“Hurry it up. I need to call the coroner when you’re done.”
He touched a blue tinged arm. Practiced fingers slid upward, stroking the corpse’s neck, then face, like an affectionate lover. The Sin Eater froze. “You lied to me.”
Bulbous Skull stole a nervous glance at his brothers. “I don’t know what—”
“You told me he raped four women, and still you and your family harbored him from the law. Yet more remains untold. You will tell me the truth.” The brothers saw his eyes now, witnessed their wrathful leadenness.
Sweat beaded across Bulbous Skull’s brow, appearing like droplets of piss under the light. “Three. Three kids…” his voice faded.
The Sin Eater understood the implication at once. He straightened himself beside the corpse. “Extra sins…extra compensation.”
“Extra sins, extra compensation. It is quite simple. You have breached our agreement, not the other way around.”
“Ten thousand. If you argue, I walk away. Be mindful that your brother’s sins will never be absolved from you then. Nor your families. You all have children of your own, do you not?”
Bulbous Skull’s mouth opened in argument; eventually his lips sealed. His shoulders slumped. “Ten thousand.”
“Excellent. A new agreement. A better understanding,” the Sin Eater smiled. “I have done this long enough to realize my clients will never admit all sins the first time around. Likewise, if you are in position to afford my services, then surely you will be in position to hold an abundance of cash.”
From under the deceased’s bed, Bulbous Skull pulled a briefcase and popped it open. He promptly passed two wrapped bundles of hundred dollar bills. “You’re a prick.”
“Yes. I know.” The Sin Eater took the bundle, nestled it into the folds of his trench coat. Then placed it atop an empty chair in the corner of the room, his hat as well. “Shall I begin?”
Bulbous Skull called to his wife. She appeared in the doorway, chipped platter in hands. Trembling, she stared intently upon its holdings—a heaping of salt, loaf of thickly crusted bread. A smudged pint of ale. Once the Sin Eater retrieved her burden, she fled back down the hall.
He placed the platter atop the floor, knelt beside the bed. Immediately, he pinched the salt, sprinkled it liberally across the corpse’s chest. “Thy burden, I offer thee salt.” He bowed his head in supplication. Retrieved the loaf from the floor, placed it atop the salt. Several minutes ticked away.
The Sin Eater rose, loomed over the corpse. “Thy burden, I devour thee.” He snatched the loaf like some bird of prey, delivered it to his lips, but the crusted bread seemed impossibly large to accept. Eyes rolling, the Sin Eater opened his mouth.
The brothers jerked in their chairs; the Sin Eater’s jaw dropped to an unnatural depth, skin along his cheek yielding like some thin sheet of cellophane. Lower and lower—saliva breached his lips, lids fluttering atop the whites of his eyes. Lower and lower—the jaw hung slack, swaying like a pendulum. Into that black yawning cavern, the Sin Eater pushed the loaf, upper teeth digging into the crust while his lower mandible shifted side to side. Inch by inch—the loaf disappeared, throat, neck bulging grotesquely, laden with its pardoned meal. Finally, the jaw retracted; his skin drew back to form. With a single finger, the Sin Eater flicked the loaf’s last crumb from his lip. He bent, took his ale, gulped until only froth clung to the bottom of the glass.
“Lord fucking Christ,” Bulbous Skull gasped. “You can’t be human.”
The Sin Eater smirked. “Our business is done.” He returned the pint alongside the platter, retrieved his trench and hat.
He strode back down the listless hallway, into the pool of trembling light. He found his client’s wife waiting in the foyer, door ajar. “God gave him his cancer,” she spat. “We were right to shelter him, no matter his sins. We knew God would provide the balance, sooner or later. And He did.”
“I am not your confessional booth, dear lady.” He dressed in silence, felt the bulge of cash against his ribs. Then in the shimmering candlelight, he took her into his arms, his sudden kiss upon her lips a long but gentle one. She yielded in surprise. When bits of bread clotted her mouth, however, her knees buckled and she shoved him away.
“For your peace, I pawn my own soul,” the Sin Eater grinned from the corner of his mouth. Eventually, this family would contact him again. Extra sins, extra compensation. He slipped out the door, back into the angry gnash of autumn’s bite.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2014 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
33 thoughts on “Sin Eater”
You had me hooked like a helpless fish on a line until the very end. I love the pure evil depicted so well here. A great last read before bed lol I had to say “one more for real” this time. This is inspiring though. It makes me want to figure out a way to write more so I can get around to making a story for the one evil character I’ve only begun to develop. Great work and thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Danielle! Thank you for the kind words! 🙂
As a writer, there is always a never ending struggle to find time; make the most of what you do have! And don’t push your character into something he/she isn’t; let them develop as they on their own 🙂
Thank you again, and be sure to find inspiration in all the Damned writers! 🙂
Well, the thing that takes up all of my time is that I’m aggressively working on the very real non-excuse type thing that makes it so I can’t work on writing and music full-time and it’s not an employer or money, so it’s worth prioritizing over the things I want, if that makes sense. I have the luxury of trying things right now when I can and if I can return to “work” I will have some time to try on “writer” as my occupation and then it shouldn’t be too hard to find the time. If I go into another field, I’ll have to find time around that. For now, I wish and I hope and that’s what keeps me working on it. So I will keep wishing and try to think of it as a positive thing that the desire remains during adversity…
Thanks for the advice on my character. I have one blog post because I had an idea where to start with her. I put what I already know about her into that post and will have to get to know her from there. Fortunately, I have another character to join her now or maybe unfortunately and no story for either. I probably won’t start a post about him anytime soon but I know in my heart they were meant to be together. I don’t know whether they will love or hate each other but I want to lock them in a room together and see what happens and I can do that in writing and get to know them through their interactions with each other. Based on your advice, I think reality is merely a springboard and these characters will grow into something very different as I get to know them.
My current story is an exploration of self and likely has no ending and chooses its own plot and wanders and there aren’t any serious antagonists yet but that’s about to change as I develop some of the characters that have just been a group causing frustration for what turned into my main character unexpectedly. None will reach the level of wickedness of these other two though. I know they don’t fit and don’t want to taint the characters and especially my current story so your advice goes right along with that. They can wait. They don’t belong.
Playing like this where I don’t care if one post is all that cohesive with the others in the story has been interesting. Just letting myself wander with different goals has taught me a lot and I learn interesting things like in a book, I couldn’t go back to the very first character, “me.” I started in first person but went where “me” isn’t allowed and followed another in the third person. My main character cares a lot about “me” who has no name and is just some human special to him and he will return to “me” and now I have a problem of consistency. But this blog was meant to fool around and learn and I’d rather learn that way where I can just continue the story and ignore the problem and not care that it exists but be happy to learn the lesson.
Your writing shows me where I am going. I’m far from it. But I have time.
I’m following you here and Pen of the Damned on twitter but I’m not sure I’m following any of the others. I only look at either sporadically. Can you make some recommendations? I truly enjoy the writing and I’m missing a lot of it I’m sure…
Danielle, all you need to do is click on our ‘categories’ box on the main page of our Pen of the Damned website, and you’ll find a list of all our authors. Trust me, take your time and read the contributions from each of our members – you won’t be sorry! 🙂
Another wonderfully spun tale from the Damned Master. I was all in from the beginning until the very last bite. “Extra sins, extra compensation” indeed. Well done, my deviant brother.
Thanks, Craig! This tale got me to thinking: what exactly else has the Sin Eater absolved?…
Reblogged this on From Bright Minds Come Dark Things and commented:
A wonderfully spun tale from the Damned Master. Sin Eater by Joseph Pinto and Pen of the Damned.
Joseph an excellent and very original piece. Believable and ghastly. Awaiting the Sin Eater’s return. Love the crumbs and the growing bread as visuals of sin.
As per their old practice, the Sin Eater needs something to absorb sins…and maybe even some good gravy…with – why not some crusty bread? lol
Thank you for the kind words, Leslie 🙂
What good is a skill if no one requires it? Savy businessman, this Sin Eater! I love the gloomy exorcism feel. Well done, Tale Weaver!
The Sin Eater is most definitely book smart and street savvy, Tyr! I do wonder who…or what…initially trained him on his skills. Thank you for your support!
A fabulous tale Joe, skillfully written and very entertaining. I love the characters you come up with, they are always creepy yet so charming!..
Thank you, Magenta! I appreciate your support!
To be honest, I think it’s more a matter of the characters seeking me out rather than me channeling them. A bit creepy when you think about it… lol
What a super concept, Joe! This is fresh indeed. No stale monsters in this baby. My favorite part of this was:
From under the deceased’s bed, Bulbous Skull pulled a briefcase and popped it open. He promptly passed two wrapped bundles of hundred dollar bills. “You’re a prick.”
“Yes. I know.”
Too cool. 🙂 The very acknowledgement was over the top fantastic. We need to see more of this evil entity.
Hi Blaze! Thank you kindly 🙂
The Sin Eater left my mind as mysteriously as he arrived – but that door is always left open 😉
Open doors are a good thing, Joe. 🙂
Brilliant writing, Joe, and a really creative concept. I loved the image of the Sin Eater’s jaw dislocating as he drew the pardoned meal past his lips. My favourite line: ‘The brothers saw his eyes now, witnessed their wrathful leadenness’.
Thank you very much, Thom! The imagery of the Sin Eater’s jaw dislocating came quite unexpectedly, but I’m glad it did – it was a fun scene to write! I always appreciate your feedback 🙂
Excellent story Mr. Pinto! The Sin Eater’s a great character and one of the things I enjoyed about the story was that there’s a timelessness associated with it. It could take place today or even 100 years ago. There’s nothing that keeps it grounded in one time period which allows the reader’s imagination to take it where it will! Great job, buddy!
Hey Jon! It was important to me to keep ‘Sin Eater’ from sounding dated, so I am very happy to hear your thoughts. I have always found the custom of ‘sin eating’ a fascinating one, and I hope I did justice to the custom through my own interpretation. Thank you for your support, Jon!
I love this one, Joe! It climbs up onto the reader out of the dark, bitter night, and leaves the same way – quietly, yet pointedly. The sin eater himself is written superbly; more flare and he would have been over-the-top, less and he would have lacked impact. A very strong character, a terrific read – extremely impactful, drawn from days gone by, and so creepily effective that I felt fully nourished myself when done! A great story from a perfectly twisted mind. And I agree with Thomas – the description of the jaw deepening and moving from side to side to almost mechanically ingest the ‘sin’ was wicked-awesome! A very calm smooth piece, with a delightfully gooey center! Seriously – this is incredibly creative and completely out of left field; love, love, love it! Someday I’ll figure out how you come up with such delightfully deviant ideas! Massive kudos!! 😀
Thank you for your kind words, Nina! 🙂 But please don’t try too hard to figure out where my ideas come from – you might inadvertently put the whammy on me lol I appreciate all your support! 🙂
I loved this especially the sparse language and descriptions. The Sin Eater is a fabulous character. I really hope we see him again. That final kiss – scary!! Very dark indeed. I found myself thinking “omg I wouldn’t want him to kiss me” followed by “I hope he’d want to though.” Grim. Thanks very much, Jeannie x
Hi Jeannie! 🙂 Thank you very much! I believe your reaction to the Sin Eater’s kiss might be stranger than my story itself lol But that’s a good thing!! It means that I got you wrapped up in my tale. I appreciate your support!
THIS is why I love reading. Thank you!
And THAT’s why I love writing! Thank you for your support, Aniko! Much appreciated! 🙂
a keeper, joe 🙂 …would love to see the creature in films… tv is too small a venue for something this spectacular… bravo! [ah, just recalled… there ARE massive screen sized TVs these days… i take it back] …since you talk of compensation in “coin of the realm”, so to speak, it must be “human”, at least in part 😉
Hello Tony! Thank you for taking the time to read Sin Eater; I’m thrilled you enjoyed it! And to answer as to whether our dear Mr. Sin Eater is human or not – “I am a mere man, nothing more. For some, perhaps, much less…” 😉 Thank you for supporting the Damned!
Awesomeness! As always!
Hey John! Thank you for your support! Happy you enjoyed! 🙂