by Jose Pablo Iriarte
You pieced it together decades ago; so far back that you don't remember not knowing. The way it works is this: you see the pain in people's hearts, the way somebody else might notice a rend in fabric or a run in a pair of stockings. And just like one might repair and reweave damaged cloth, you repair the pain, by removing it and connecting the threads of life that surround the damage.
But there are rules. They have to be willing. Some people are so attached to their pain that they cling to it and can't let go. The pain is all they have, and if you were to remove it there would be nothing left. You can't help those.
And the repair is not without cost. Each pain you remove stays with you, becomes one of your memories. Over the course of a long life, you have experienced every heartbreak known to humanity. You've been abandoned. Betrayed. Abused. Beaten. Disappointed. Unappreciated. Widowed by war and crime and once even by spaceflight. You know the sheen and strength of each type of pain, like a master weaver knows yarn.
But there's something about other people's heartache that makes it easier to bear than your own. And you feel as though you have been sent into people's lives to ease their burdens. Who would turn down a mandate like that?