t’s 4 a.m. and I see the contours of an alien etching above. I hear a heartbeat that sounds like a big thump on a factory floor, machinery pounding into a wall of steel. I flip on the lights. There’s a gigantic heart on the ceiling, veins covering the organ like a spider web. The aorta is pumping gallons of blood and some of it slips onto my blanket. I cover myself and shrink back, terrified by the monstrous sight. What the hell is a heart doing in my room? The ventricles swell in irregular spasms and the chambers splatter cells into streams of sweltering mucus.
I search for the door, but it’s covered in veins. Next to me is a knife and I look down at my chest. There’s a cavity with my flesh torn open. I feel my pulse and there isn’t any. I’m still breathing, but my fingers are cold. It makes me wonder if this heart is my own and I pick up the knife so I can slash my way through to the door.
“What do you think you’re doing?” an effeminate voice squeaks.
“Who’s that?” I demand.
“I’m the only one in here with you. What are you doing with the knife?”
The voice is emanating from the heart.
“I’m trying to get out,” I reply.
“I’ve been trying to get out for thirty years,” the heart says back.
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t stand the filth you pour down your throat every day.”
“The dead cows, the recycled pork fat, the boxes of expired fungi, the sugarized poison you drink every morning. That’s not to mention all the stress you cause. Who gives a shit what your girlfriend thinks? Every criticism she makes gets you worked up like a toe-less cripple trying to run a marathon. You guys explode over petty trivialities and fight every time you meet friends. Let’s not even get into work. You act like a schizophrenic, loving your work one second, wanting to jump off a building the next. You’re like a cheap inflatable stripper chasing after pennies and you deserve to have your ass stripped of flesh. I give up. I no longer want to be your heart so I can die miserably five years from now of a cardiac arrest.”
“You don’t have that choice,” I say.
“I’ve already made it.”
I grab the knife, jump on top of the bed, and stab the heart. My left arm constricts and blood bombards my face. I smell pizza and fish carcasses, the kind mixed up in butcher shops with ground beef and stir-fried intestines. Globules of fat and cholesterol surround my arm. I push further with the blade, twisting it. My shoulder gets swallowed and my hands get penetrated by a thousand needles that make all sensation disappear. A force pulls my chest into the heart and something sharp punctures my neck. I’m getting pulled inside and when I try to resist, the tug gets stronger. My skin is melting, my mitochondria are imploding, all the cells are declaring secession, revolting against the unity of consumption.
I float inside the organ. A million particles, sparked by electrical impulses that push all of us against the inner surface, induce a stampede of anger and frustration. The sound of rage is a heart beat and my anger has no bounds as we swell into a hammering sprint, trying to break out with an enormous ‘thump!’ Our attempt fails and the pressure of congestion forces dissolution. I dissolve within my own heart.
Peter Tieryas has stories published or forthcoming in the Bitter Oleander, Camera Obscura Journal, DOGZPLOT and the Indiana Review. His collection of short stories, Watering Heaven, is coming out in the fall of 2012. He can be found at tieryas.wordpress.com.