Once upon a time…there was a little girl who fell in love with a manly man…isn’t that always the way? She looked up to him as he lay full out on the pedestal she built herself. She worshiped him. No others came before him. He held her hand, that ring on her finger, claiming her as his own, telling her she held his heart and that’s the way it would always be.
Oh, please. Men lie. Some men lie more than others. Sure, good men exist, but not in this story.
There were other women. There were other men. There were parties where he forced her to do things, things she fought to never acknowledge so she would not have to ever remember them. She closed her eyes to it, the nightmare that he became.
It took years. The lies he told took a toll. The actions he coerced her into left scars. The life that he stole from her, the things that he took from her, the abasement he heaped upon her…these are the things with which she built the path, those stairs, right up to his pedestal.
She watched him sleep that night. Him so calm, so peaceful, so like an innocent child. He had no worries, no concerns. He was the corrupt monarch taking all his due and everyone else’s as well. She knelt at his side, as for years before she had been wont to do, and she leaned in close. A small vial between her fingers dripped ever so slightly onto his robust lips. She watched, fascinated, as his pink tongue flicked out, much like a venomous snakes, testing the viscous matter. She carefully dribbled drop after drop into his mouth. He lapped every bit of it up. Once her vial emptied, she sat back on her heels and did nothing more than waited, counting her breaths and humming inside her own head.
She knew the moment the potion took hold of him. His eyes lit open. He gave a small choking noise. Then, nothing. He remained frozen, unmoving, not even able to breathe. She smiled, a sensuous smile that she had not been able to indulge in for such a long time. Her mouth curved up more on one side than the other, a quirky flirty little grin, showing no teeth. It spoke volumes about the girl she used to be, who always had that smile. It was that girl who had stepped forward to claim the moment.
As she pulled out her leather case and laid it out across his stomach, she spoke, softly, with a slight lisp and a quiet stutter, something brought on by his own tyranny over her time under his thumb. “You once told me that I hold your heart in my hands.” She dragged another larger bag nearer to her work station. He couldn’t see it. Not yet. “I plan to make sure you keep your promise that I alone shall hold your heart, forever and ever.” She stared into his left eye, intent, color burning in her cheeks, raising into her gaze like a contagion. “You said it would be me, always me, and no one else.” She patted his cheek, kindly. “I no longer want to be with you, but I will make you keep your promise.”
“Don’t worry.” Her smile widened. “You’re going to feel everything.”
She pulled up a filet knife and a hacksaw…and went to work. She worked diligently. She worked deliberately. She worked, blood spattering her clothes, sticking to her hair. She kept her mouth closed and her touch strong.
She wasn’t quite strong enough to break the chest plate on her own, so she pulled out a hammer. His hammer, the recoilless one that she had seen him used on animals when he thought no one else would notice. She bashed away at his chest until there was nothing left in her way. She set to work with the filet knife and soon held his quivering heart in her hand.
She held it up for him, so he could see it…the serum she’d given him would keep him alive and conscious and feeling every little twitch and spasm…and everything else as well… in minute detail…until she gave him the decoction that would release him from the first potion’s spell. Unless he died outright first. Given the strength of the brew she’d used on him, it would be a long long long time before he drew that last breath and fled his body.
As he watched, she dumped his heart into a small bowl. Something dark splashed thickly at the edge of the container. “It’s just a little preservative, dear.” She patted his arm with a bloody hand, leaving a gore trail behind as she caressed his arm. He emitted some sort of whistle as the goo into which his heart sank began to sizzle and smoke. She chuckled throatily. “Did I forget to mention that YOU will be remaining within your heart?” She shook her head to get her hair further away from her spattered face. “Once you leave that body, your essence will dive into your heart, where it will remain…” Here she shrugged. “You will stay there until eternity burns or I release you, whichever comes first.”
Once the smoke cleared and the sizzling came to an end, she dumped the bowl’s contents to the floor and plucked up the shriveled desiccated thing that was his heart. “Now it looks as it truly is.” She looked pointedly at him. “ As I have known you truly are for so long now.”
She wrapped the heart up in a rag and shoved it into the larger bag before sitting down beside him. She stared into his face, watching, memorizing, gloating. She sat as tears dripped haphazardly down his cheeks. She sat as blood bubbled from his nose and ears. She sat as his tongue swelled up and puffed out of his mouth. She sat as his body swelled with expanding gases. She sat as those gas blew holes in places no man should have holes in its rush to vacate his insides. She sat as his eyes metastasized and drooled out in thick blobs of gross. She sat until his body caved in upon itself. As his skin started to slough away, she leaned forward. “Are you still in there?” She threw her head back and laughed, with her whole heart, with her whole body. She dug another vial from the back pocket of her jeans and basically threw it onto what remained of his blackened tongue.
In an instant, his body was dust. No wind carried it away. Some things were too fetid even for Mother Nature to want to touch.
There came a large THUMP inside the bigger bag at her feet. He was in there now, inside his own heart. Without eyes. Without hands. Without mouth. A wilted unwanted thing.
She grabbed up her tools and her bags and walked back down again. She took the rag-wrapped heart and stuffed it into another bag, which she stuck in a silver box. She dumped black salt and white ash all over it, filling the box. She glued the lid on. Then, the box went into another box. Only then was she ready and willing to clean herself up.
She bathed. She ate. She walked through the house they had shared for nearly fifteen years. She decided to take nothing. Let it all burn. Except for him. She had plans for him.
It was mere days later when she cast off for the shore of the small island somewhere in the middle of the ocean, somewhere off the horse latitudes. She anchored her skiff securely and swam for shore, only a bag tied to her waist. She awaited the night, the winds, the rains…and then she dove deep. Using pieces of whatever she could find, she dug under the water, at the base of a neglected trench, in the side of the mountain. She dug as long as she had breath…then she dug more. Finally, she felt she had done all she could do…she dropped the well-sealed heart into the hole…and began the process of filling the hole.
As she swam to the surface, she offered up prayers. Prayers of peace. Prayers of gratitude. Prayers of release. The gods must have heard her for as she turned her boat away from that isle, a tumultuous noise surged up from below as the side of the mountain against which she had dug gave way, adding tons of rock, rhyme and reef to to cover her tracks, to seal her hole deeper. Even the gods blessed her in her freedom, knowing how well she had earned it.