He felt like death.
He always did after an erasing job. It drained him completely, depleting any stores of energy or vitality he may have managed to rack up. His apartment was nearly black with the lack of light - but he preferred the darkness to the blistering illumination of the overhead lights. Especially when his head pounded as violently as it did then. He lay stretched out on the couch, his knees looped over the armrest, one arm draped over his face.
When he'd signed up for the life he found himself leading, they'd told him many things: that the misery - strangely close to death throes - would be short-lived and would lessen every time, that he'd be able to lead a largely normal life, that he would not be smothered with the guilt of the burden he was to bear.
Lies, each and every one of them.
The guilt came and went, at least. At first it seemed they gave him the jobs with the least amount of residual contrition - men and women with histories as thick as a dictionary, full of horrible acts and less-than-glowing intentions. At first, the job seemed fair.
They snuck in a case now and then that seemed less needed than the others, but it was the nature of the business. They rapidly ran out of noble jobs and soon he was erasing people that he couldn't find a large enough flaw in to dust off the iniquity with ease. It gathered on him like dust on a forgotten object, buried in the heart of a long-abandoned house.
He shut down his train of thought. It would do no good to dwell on the things he could not change; he mulled over these same thoughts after every erasing, as he lay on the couch beneath the weight of his malfeasance. With a groan, he pushed himself upright to find the remote for the lights.
Even though they were stunningly bright, he turned them on high and blinked away the blindness.
He needed to get out. To get some fresh air, to clear his head, to shake off the malaise that threatened to settle in his bones. Just as his vision returned, he glimpsed a woman's face.
He couldn't shake her from his mind and, worse yet, he could not figure out why.