Quiddity Pro Quo

They call me a sin-eater, though that is not entirely correct.

A sin-eater is somebody who is hired to consume food (usually bread) and drink (usually wine or beer) that has absorbed the sins of the deceased. The belief has long been that, in so doing, the sin-eater ingests the sins of that person, so that his or her soul may be absolved and pass on to the paradise that awaits. That’s not exactly what I do. Sins give me heartburn.

No, my role is simply one of comfort. My presence in the final moments of a person’s life relieves them of all pain, regret and fear. Or so it appears. By laying hands upon the dying and easing them through their transition, I am seen as a benefactor – a soothing balm to the miseries of life. For a price, of course.

I do not, however, take on those miseries myself, though it may appear so to the family of the deceased, who view the beatific smile left on the corpse as a sign that they have been exculpated. That’s how faith works. In point of fact, they haven’t been exonerated at all. I’m not a priest, or even a shaman.

They’ve simply been relieved of a burden they no longer require. The smile is my own doing. A signature, if you will – one that I perfected long ago. The joy it brings to those left behind is merely a distraction. Smoke and mirrors. What magicians call prestidigitation or legerdemain.

I am currently four hundred and sixty-seven years old. My profession is also my liberation from the ravages of time. They call me a sin-eater, but that is not entirely correct. It isn’t sins I eat. It’s their souls, their life force, if you will. For over four hundred years, I have performed this ritual, leaving smiling corpses and relieved rubes in my wake.

And that, to me, is the most delicious prevarication of them all.


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