Devon winced as he read his unique class ability. He was originally planning on killing himself the moment he respawned, so this kind of status was highly inconvenient.
Looking down, he saw that he was wearing some sort of light leather armor and had a sword strapped to his hip. He respawned on a hill overlooking a fantasy town of some sort, although it was not right to call it fantasy when this was the reality of his world now.
Normally, a person who suffered a lot in their last life would be overjoyed at the premise of starting over in a new world, but Devon was just worn down. He just felt tired, with a deep sadness that weighed down his soul from all the cumulative misfortune that slowly chipped away at him from his past life. It would be a misnomer to call it depression at this point–he was well past the point of depression when his mother passed away. At this point, it was apathy. Unfeelingness, a sort of numbness that took away the joy from the little things in life.
His class was an uncanny description of what he was right now. A dead man walking. A hollow shell of a person, being held up not by will or desire but by sheer happenstance itself. Feeling no joy from any of this new stimulation, Devon drew his sword and pointed it at his own heart, plunging it into his chest without any hesitation.
[You have been grievously wounded.]
[You will not die.]
Even as the blood spilled out from his chest, his heart still stubbornly beat on with a will of its own.
Devon sighed, realizing that the gods denied him that one last shred of agency he had over his miserable life thus far. Just one last spit in the face, as they threw him into this new world.
And then, the pain hit him.
“Ah… agh!!!!” Devon shouted, suddenly experiencing the brunt of the pain that somehow did not register in his brain until now. He had, after all, stabbed himself in the heart with a sword. The gaping injury that the self inflicted wound left was now causing his neurons to flare up in agony, and he sank to the ground and rolled around yelling.
A moment later, it was numb again, even as he stared at the crimson blood coating his hands.
Devon remembered reading something about this strange sensory phenomenon before. When prey animals were caught by a predator, like a zebra caught by a lion for example, they would initially feel pain as they were ripped apart and consumed alive. But after a certain point, pain was no longer necessary. Pain, after all, was just a guiding function to help an animal maintain their body’s health and integrity so that they could survive, reproduce and pass down their successful pain-algorithm DNA to the next generation. But when the inevitable already happened, and they were beyond the threshold of saving… pain no longer had a use.
And thus, the strange phenomenon was that the prey animal’s brain would no longer send those feelings of intense pain anymore, even though they were being eaten alive and having their intestines ripped out. In fact, the animal would feel peaceful, as if they were injected by a heavy dosage of morphine.
Devon had a feeling that something similar to this phenomenon was happening to him. The fact that he could not kill himself, or die at all for the matter, was making his brain misfire like crazy.
People rarely thought of emotions as a product of chemicals in the brain firing, but emotions really were just that. Depression caused certain neural pathways to function differently than before, making it so even tasks like eating good food that would originally give pleasure, no longer released as much serotonin as before.
And that was why some people just could not understand others with different reward circuitry. Someone could easily dismiss Devon as simply being overdramatic, trying to garner sympathy through displays of actions disconnected from reality, but the reality of the matter was that there were not many people with advanced enough empathy to understand that the circuitry in some people’s brains was drastically different from their own.
Devon spent a lot of time developing an understanding of the chemistry of sadness after his best friend Mike passed away in high school. Mike’s death hit him especially hard, and Devon visited the hill they played ball on every day for months after his passing. And when time passed, all Devon had to remember Mike was his old playstation. The same playstation that got stolen when his apartment was broken into last year.
Cursing under his breath, Devon got back up onto his feet and just started wandering, aimlessly towards the town up ahead. He saw a glimpse of an elf, and then a dwarf.