Have a Heart
by Christopher Blaine
It happened when she was chopping celery. Rocking rhythmically, the knife was slicing cleanly through the crisp green stalks, when Myrna Ramblok glanced up and spotted a man standing looking in at her from the garden. And then the man was gone and so was the tip of her left pinky finger. There was a bright, throbbing thrust of pain followed by blood spilling in earnest. Myrna grabbed a towel from a drawer and, wrapping her hand in it, ran upstairs to the bathroom to fetch the first aid kit.
The towel came away heavy with blood. She turned on the faucet. The exposure of the wound to air was like wind to a fire, which tightened and spiked through her when the cold water hit. After a few minutes of rinsing, she gripped a clean towel to the finger and when it was dry wrapped it with gauze and secured it with tape. Myrna was down the stairs again and almost to the kitchen to retrieve the fingertip to take with her to the ER when she heard a knock on the door.
Puzzled, she hesitated before answering.
When she opened the door she was struck by a pair of green eyes. A hungry, depraved green that deepened in color toward icy pupils. Light flashed on their glossy surfaces like lightning storms high above yawning chasms.
Grinning, the old man from whose skull the green eyes glared tipped his black bowler hat and said “I’d be delighted to take it off your hands, Miss.”
“Take…what…off my hands?” Myrna trembled, missing the joke.
“On the cutting board. Go and have a look” said the man, motioning her toward the kitchen, a patient smile on his lips.
A minute later Myrna came back with something small and heavy in her palm. She liked the weight of it. Suddenly the pain didn’t seem so bad.
“This is what you want?”
The man nodded. Tufts of downy white hair fluttered beneath the hat and over the collar of a long black coat. Fallen leaves scraped along the street behind him. “You give that to me, and I shall restore your finger exactly to what it was before.”
Myrna looked him in the eye. “How much is this worth?” she was not completely surprised to hear herself ask.
“Oh, not much, my dear. A few meals and a few nights good rest for an old man” he said with a dismissive gesture.
Myrnas gaze sharpened. He was not the best of actors. For one thing, the light in his eyes was flickering wildly. It was obvious to her how much he desired the gold. Her confusion coalesced into a smile, and her face was ghastly in the light of her new understanding. “Thanks, but I think I’ll keep it” she said, and slammed the door in his face.
Satisfied, the man made his way down to the sidewalk. From there he looked back once more at the house, nodded to himself, and walked away down the hill.
* * *
Two weeks later all of Myrnas toes were missing and she had to buy shoes one and a half sizes smaller than what she had worn formerly. Her wardrobe expanded exponentially, both in style and cost and quantity. Then her pinky fingers went missing, and the ring fingers too, and she had a new car. She liked to bring a new man home in it nearly every night.
* * *
Six months later the left arm from the elbow down had up and vanished and so had one foot, and in their place was a nice house hiding way in the depths of the Rockies with a woman in it who wore sunglasses inside and never went out.
Then, finally, Myrna Ramblok, or what remained of her, heard the knock she’d been waiting for.
“Give me your heart in gold and I will restore to you your former life” said the man immediately upon her opening the door.
Quicker than she would have supposed, Myrna nodded her head in acquiescence.
“You must cut it out yourself, though. If a heart is to be worth anything it must be freely given. Here” and he handed her from inside his coat a hammer, a chisel, and a thin silver knife.
With glee and great interest did the man watch as Myrna performed the grisly operation, savoring each expression, each whimper. What evil power animated her as she did it she could not tell, but the look of sudden understanding in her eyes when she handed him her heart was worth much more than its weight in gold to the man, who in fact had no use for gold. Myrna’s corpse, now of solid gold, thudded to the floor. Her warm heart beat weakly for a moment in the man’s palm, and was still. In the moment that he held its living warmth, he felt himself almost alive again, and the light in his eyes was not wicked but soft and knowing. Then the heart, too, turned to gold, and he let it fall, useless, to the floor.
A single tear from his eye ended the enchantment. Gold again became flesh, and so started the slow process of decay. Stepping out the door the man felt the first balmy touch of yet another spring.
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Christopher Blaine doesn’t believe that the biographical information of an author is necessary to the enjoyment of his or her stories.