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One Last Crimson Heart

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Estimated reading time — 7 minutes

One last crimson heart. That’s all there was.

John stood in the storage closet-like room, barely breathing. The only light was a sliver from the hallway and a flickering incandescent bulb strung up in the center of the room. Directly under the fleeting yellow light sat a green box atop a withered one legged round table. Both were stained in blotches of red.

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John stared at the bloodied box, eyes wide and mouth watering. He was completely transfixed by the sight, while still remaining extremely aware of the smallish room. He trained his focus on the room as well as every sound and silence that echoed through the hallway beyond the door to his back, which he left open just a crack.

Surely he would be punished if he were discovered eating the last heart, but he just couldn’t help himself. The lid was still sealed so it wouldn’t have lost all of its freshness.

He had to have it. He would have it.

John took a carefully calculated step toward the box, then another. He had to stay focused on the hallway, but being so close to salvation, practically all he could hear was his breath, and the beating of his own crimson heart.

John inhaled deeply, and held it there.

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He took another step, then two more.

Should he run for it? He was so close, surely no one would hear him. He braced himself for speed, and froze completely.

The echo of a voice swam down the hall and struck him with a fierceness that stopped him in his tracks.

Crap.

Should he try to hide? There wasn’t much clutter in the room, but maybe enough for him to blend. He wasn’t very large, still just a boy in fact. Maybe he could-

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No. He would be discovered. Moving to a hiding place would cause too much noise.

He stood his ground, continuing to hold his breath. The voice was subsiding, but still he knew he was not safe.

The voice did not act alone, it had been speaking to someone at the other end of the hall. Though John heard the first voice leave, he could hear the second begin to walk. Begin to walk, to the end where the first voice was. Walk past the door behind John. They’d be passing the room, the room, where he most certainly was not meant to be. How long would it take the steps? Would he truly be discovered? How would he explain such a scenario? Would anybody believe his lies? He assumed he had enough time to resume breathing, at least for a moment. He let out a slow, silent breath. He did the same inward, and repeated this action at least three times before cutting it altogether once again.

The footsteps were getting closer and John’s heart pounded ever harder with every step. Every echoing, boom of a step.

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Like a call to death.

The steps stopped at the door just behind John. He could feel sweat falling from his brow. A salty stream fell into his eye, but he did not scream.

This pain he felt now would be nothing compared to what would follow if he were caught in this room. If they were to believe he was there to steal the last heart, he didn’t even want to think of the consequences.

“Hmm.” He heard the curious voice beyond the door. The door that he left open to better hear the hall. Oh god, what was he thinking?! His childish gluttony had gotten the better of him and it would no doubt cost him his life. Thousands of thoughts flushed through the boy’s mind in a second.

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He carefully turned his head toward the door, to watch it open even further. Fear gripped John with its icy clutches and violently shook him where he stood.

Surly his heart would explode inside his chest before they could get to him. Surely his lungs would fail and collapse.

Surely he would die.

But the door stopped opening. It didn’t move for what felt like an eternity.

The wielder of the knob swiftly shut the door, and continued down the hall.

John could feel tears pricking his eyes. His entire body shook with a heart beat and fear. His head began to throb and no matter how hard he swallowed, the lump in his throat was there to stay.

He nearly collapsed right then and there, but he simply couldn’t afford it.

He would have to send a prayer of his gratitude. But not now.

No, he had come too far not to see this thing through.

He wiped the tears from his eyes with a sweaty palm, which only made them burn more. Breathing as softly as he could,

John continued forward.

“Finally”, was all he could think.

Finally. Finally. Finally!

He stood before the box with the bloodstained bottom. Even the table on which it sat seemed to be stained with both distant and recent juices.

He reached out to the box, slowly, and removed the lid with more careful precision than he had ever applied to anything before in his short life.

He stared at the heart and felt as though he had a broken pipe. Saliva was pouring profusely and filling his mouth.

Nothing else mattered now.

He grabbed the heart, sunk his developing teeth into it with a wet cracking sound, and closed his eyes.

He’d never experienced anything nearly as euphoric as eating a human heart.

A wave of pure ecstasy washed over the boy as he stood alone, savoring every detail of this moment. The taste, the texture, the danger, everything was perfectly overwhelming.

It was funny for him to think that something so delicious could be living in his own chest.

He tore a chunk out of the heart and chewed it slowly. Blood splattered down toward the box with his bite, and he could feel it begin to soak his chin.

His shirt was wet and his hands stained red.

It still had a sense of warmth to it. Amazing, he thought.

He stood alone in the room, eyes shut, consuming this wonderfully forbidden treat for a long while. He savored every drop and every moment. It was so juicy, chewy and tender in all the right places.

While applying a soft squeeze, he even drank from one of the ventricles, before ripping it off and chewing it up.

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The ventricles were one of John’s favorite parts, and the most tender piece of the heart. He often liked them grilled, but nothing compared to eating one raw. Eating one fresh. Even less to the center of the heart. It was the most pompous part, the most full, like a candy gusher he had once, but bigger and worlds better. He ate the center with a squash, holding his mouth with both hands to keep it from overflowing.

When he was finished the heart, he licked his fingers clean, wiped the blood from his chin onto his hand, and licked that up too like a dog to his bone.

He removed his shirt, held it above his face, twisting the garment and rinsing the blood out into his open mouth. It splashed the sides of his face with red, but he took care of it. John wouldn’t dare waste a single drop of the long anticipated lifeblood he finally acquired. It was no easy task to get here, and the consequences would be unfathomable, so John savored every second. Like a dog liking his bowl, John made sure there was no blood or pieces of flesh anywhere in the room that could be consumed.

Finally his quest was complete and he could return to his room.

John placed the lid back onto the box and turned toward the door, feeling satisfied and ready to leave.

Again, he was frozen and gripped by an impossible force of fear.

“Bartimus!” He exclaimed to the slender body by the door, which stood closed behind it. The light in the room was very faint, illuminating only the box, and so its ray’s failed to completely reach Bartimus. He was hugged by shadow, perhaps this is how he entered without raising an alert, but how did John fail to hear him? He got careless.

Caught up in the ecstasy of the heart. His eyes adjusted, John could now see Bartimus had his arms crossed, and the little light that was on him showed he was wearing an expression that John couldn’t quite put his finger on.

“Bartimus! I-I,” he staggered, unsure of what to do or what to say, but Bartimus rose his hand and stopped John’s attempts.

Bartimus began to speak himself, in his cold, crypt of a voice.

“How many hearts were left John.” John felt the words pass through him like a ghost. “I-I” “How many?” Bartimus’ voice grew, he could feel the base in his chest, and John knew he would have to confess. “One.” He answered, the shame clear in his voice. He wanted to stare down at his feet, but he wouldn’t dare break Bartimus’ gaze.

“And how many are there now?”

“None.”

“How many?” His voice no longer sounded stern, but genuinely curious.

John’s voice however, was still full of guilt and shame. And fear.

“None.” John said again, a little louder this time.

Bartimus’ head perked up, the ends of his lips raising up to a smile.

“But oh my dear boy, you are sorely mistaken! There is still one last heart! Ripe, and ready for the taking.”

John was confused, maybe he wasn’t actually caught, after all, he didn’t know how long Bartimus had been standing there for.

But still, John knew he would have to confess, sure that his punishment would be worse if he were to lie.

“No Bartimus, the box is empty. I-I ate it..Without permission. I’m sorry…”

Bartimus began to laugh, a truly haunting sound it had been.

“Oh silly boy, I don’t mean in the box!” He chuckled, “I watched you scarf that down like a starved wolf! No…”

Bartimus cleared the gap between them in two steps only, whereas it took John at least six steps to get there. He towered over John, like a lanky giant.

He placed a cold hand on John’s shoulder, and bent closer to John’s level, but not quite all the way. John found himself still having to crane his neck to meet Bartimus’ dead eyes.

“I mean in you Johnathan.” His voice was almost a whisper now, “Nothing like a fresh young heart to get the cogs turning eh boy?”

John was shocked to his core, he couldn’t be serious.

“But,” John began a protest, but before he could utter anything else, a flash of silver reflected in the faint light above him, followed by a sharp crushing pain in his chest, missing his heart to the right by two inches.

Credit : D.Charles

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