22 was traveling the interstate in a place the locals called Oceana. He had never heard of such a place but this was not a new experience for him. This job had started the same way every other job had started. He always woke up in a ring of mushrooms located deep in some forest he’d never seen before. Some random passerby always seemed to pick him up shortly after, or there might be an accessible means of vehicular transportation nearby or a conveniently located horse. It always seemed to work like magic and he tried to not think about it too much. Whoever it was that he heard in his head seemed to have the situation under control…most of the time. He had long forgotten who he was or what he was even doing. Everything was always the same, wake up someplace strange and listen carefully.

The images would start coming almost immediately after waking. Images of people and places he didn’t know but could feel someplace deep down inside. There would always be a magnetic pull that pointed in the direction he needed to go. An undefinable knowing which he had given up trying to understand a long time ago. He was more machine than man at this point. Lifetimes of trauma and regret had haunted him until something broke deep inside of him which left him feeling numb all the time. Most beings are fascinated by the idea of being able to read minds and see what other people are thinking. Little did they know, it was also a recipe for quickly receiving more trauma than you can possibly handle in one sitting. The things he’d seen had torn his mind apart repeatedly. More than a few hotel guests had been awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of his screaming.

Automobile accidents, plane crashes, shootings, unspeakable acts, abuse, physical violence, murder, genocide. Horrible crimes committed by humans against their own kind which usually led to absolute personal devastation. He briefly remembered a quote from a brilliant man called Albert Einstein about doing the same things over and over again. When he was reborn to this work his senses had been upgraded dramatically. Everything he experienced now was a cleansing fire of intensity that burned away everything inside him. Countless days had been spent curled up in a ball on the floor just trying to endure it. The images would come to break to him as the things he had to prevent came storming in with their unpreventable friends as if they had blown in from an open window. Pictures brought with them the unspeakable agony of traumas experienced with unblinking clarity. A cacophonous orchestra of hideous pain from which there was no hiding. Some days were better than others and those were usually the days when he passed out. His whole life felt like broadcasts from a random hell planet.

The constant stream of bad luck also wasn’t any fun. Traumatized people accumulate darkness around them and that darkness begins to pull in more monstrosities as the blackness begins to form itself into monsters. Towering black shapes, which reminded him of snakes, fastened themselves into the unbalanced energy system of their victims. Everyday occurrences became their grisly food as continually worsening events pull their hosts down into an increasingly deep hole where no one can hear them scream. The hole that opens around them becomes so large that nothing will fill it no matter how humungously horrible or how many times they throw something in. It begins to consume them and then the people around them. People think black holes are just in space and boy are they wrong.

The ceiling in his hotel room had blown out, someone had put a screw in the side of his tire, the windshield had exploded, the septic tank at the hotel had backed up and the septic tank pumping truck had malfunctioned spectacularly. He was currently without a place to get a good meal, the nosebleeds he had been getting were rather spectacular, and for about a week he could barely stand up. There was a brief period of pissing blood, sleep was impossible, and he constantly felt like he was being ripped in half by the universe. Eating someone else pain is a particularly nasty business and it really wasn’t going well this time. He’d never experienced levels of trauma like this and nothing could have prepared him for the things that had started going wrong. He wasn’t sure where the weird noises on the phone were coming from but he was relatively certain it was somehow related to the weird lights in the sky last night.

Demons, angels, faeries, shadow people, ghosts, interdimensional travelers, near-death experiencers, psychics, and alien abductees had been beating a path to his door since he showed up in town. He wasn’t quite sure how they all found him but he was aware that a component of his function automatically opened a sacred flow of synchronicity which guided his path. But his path had become so convoluted that he wasn’t sure what was real or what the hell was happening for that matter. Just horrible images and another person’s shared pain that burned like the sun. Some days the ache in his abdomen and forehead were almost too much to bear. He had begun having brief manic episodes once the trauma became too much to deal with. The only thing he could do was pace back and forth or curl up in a ball on the floor. Never was there anything as painful as this job had been. It broke him over and over again but no matter what he couldn’t stop. He had made the deal and now he had to honor it or be struck down, which at times almost sounded like a relief.

There were times recently when he had prayed for death to release him from this nightmare. His job was always hard but never like this. It had been the first time he had recognized the person he was saving and it haunted him. The pain didn’t belong to a stranger and he wasn’t quite sure what to do with that. All of a sudden the awful things that always happened now had a horrible new context. Worse yet, he had very little control of when the shared pain would be coming at him and he could only hope there was a counter nearby to hold onto when it did. Driving scared him now because he had an uncontrollable urge to drive into oncoming traffic every time he saw a large truck. It was a difficult impulse to control and not something he was used to. Self-destruction wasn’t something he’d ever considered before but it haunted him constantly. Now it was the monster that came for him in his sleep. He had to reach a resolution in the case before the men with butterfly nets came for him.

He was heading towards a music festival which he had become aware of when the flyer had blown onto his hotel room window followed by the dull thud of a bird crashing into it. There had been a lot of those recently. Almost every day now and sometimes more than one. The other night he had received a panicked phone call from someone he didn’t even know who had also woke up screaming. Alarm bells never stopped going off in his head now and every time an ambulance went by he worried that he was already too late. That the life he needed so desperately to save had already slipped by. He was at least grateful to be somewhat functional today. Some days all he could do was stare off into the distance absolutely shellshocked by the horror of it all. Nothing could have prepared him for what was happening now. He was so far outside the lines of what most people considered strange that there weren’t even any experts to call. The diner he passed was closed which had been a theme lately. Weight loss and nosebleeds were the only things he could count on besides insomnia.

The giant open field filled with people was off on his left and starting to swim into view when the tire on his car left the planet forever as a shower of sparks erupted under the car. He didn’t even look back when tossed a road flare into the seat of the car. Fuck this planet he thought. Maybe this was one thing that he couldn’t stop. Maybe all his time was wasted and would be better spent learning to swim with sharks. Did they have sharks in Oceana?