Consciousness taps on the inside of my skull, but something pulls me back into a dream that isn’t mine. I’m in a room, foreign yet familiar. I want to leave, but I can’t.
Dank air, ripe with mold, drifts across the room. Cobwebs droop from an ancient chandelier, a witness to countless travesties and transgressions. Faded wallpaper hangs in shreds clinging to a different era. A broken desk tilts, its top illuminated by light beams streaming through my legs. Hearts, engraved with a lover’s knife, litter the oaken top, a premonition of things to come. I can’t quite make out the letters, but I don’t need to. I know they belong to people who died in this room.
There is so much blood. Beautiful spatters cover the wall like a Jackson Pollack painting, some dark and dry, others bright and fresh. They haunt me, and I am drawn to their dance. A chaotic blend of memories storms inside me. Somehow I feel responsible, but I know that’s ridiculous.
A mirror leans against the far wall. I see legs. They must be mine. I hold a crowbar. It drips a thick liquid. I know what it is and who it belongs to.
A girl cowers beside the desk like a cornered mouse. She was beautiful once, I can tell. Her golden hair hangs in bloody strands over blackened eyes full of fear. Slashes crisscross her arms. Her clothes hang in blood-soaked ribbons.
“Please let me go. I won’t tell anyone.”
“Tell anyone what?” My words sound hollow and far away. What is this place? Where am I?
“I… I don’t understand.” Her doe-eyes drift over the darkening blood. “About… this.”
“Oh, I know you won’t, little girl. I’ll make sure of that.” My lips move, but it’s not my voice.
I claw through the mixture of memories but can’t put the pieces together. I want away from this gruesome scene. I want to wake up. Something’s not right.
The fierce hospital lighting pains my eyes.
“He’s waking up.” My wife’s words pull me the rest of the way toward the light.
I shouldn’t be alive, but the familiar ache in my chest is gone. I attempt to sit up, and the morphine soaked haze evaporates as the sutures pull at my skin.
They did it anyway, went ahead with the transplant. Damn them. I told them I would rather die than have a killer’s heart inside me.
I push the pain aside and reach for my wife. She’s the one I love, and the one who bore my children.
“Did you use his heart?”
“I had to save you, baby. I couldn’t let you die.”
They send me home with the new heart, the one that feels like a ticking time bomb in my chest. I spend my days trying to write, but the words don’t flow.
My wife brings me my afternoon tea.
“What the hell have you done to your desk? You’re never going to get that out!”
I drop the carving knife unable to recall picking it up. I trace the new etching with my finger. It’s a heart… with my wife’s initials inside it.