Friday Flash: A Change of Heart

“Helen…”

It is only a whisper, but the room explodes into pandemonium. The word is a hurricane. It sweeps a nurse out the door, blows another out of the corner, clutching a chart and her chest.

He opens his eyes suddenly, memories caught between fog and pain.  There is a beep and a click in the sterilized space, the suddenly silent space…and then his mind explodes. Click BOOM!

He clutches his heart, his bearded mouth a cave full of unearthly groans and escalating screams. He watches them  in slow motion: Helen’s eyes crinkle at the corners as a mother-smile ignites, brightens her face. Emma bathes in the love; cooing, waving chubby fingers, bubbling at the world.

Rage bubbles now, builds, escapes from the cave and threatens to burst his eardrums. Beyond the nurses hands with straps and needles, he sees them. He sees Helen’s throat open up with the first bullet, then her chest. Crimson flowers bloom and splatter his shirt.  Her hand reaches for Emma as she falls backwards; falling, falling. “Emma!” Emma’s soft head blooms as he lifts himself from the chair, his heart shattering because he knows he is one second too late.

His next bout of awareness comes two days later. Men in suits and grim, sleep deprived faces file in to stare at him.

Questions begin slowly, carefully as if the words are probing his wounds. Do you know where you are? Do you remember anything from Friday, October 1st? Do you know your name?

His answer is a blank stare. His mind is simply white noise.

“That’s enough for now, Gentlemen,” a sympathetic voice breaks in.

“What is my name, please?”

The raspy voice startles the nurse checking his fluid bag. She trips backwards and then stoically pushes her fists into her pockets. “You don’t remember your name?”

“No.”

Sighing, she glances back at the door. “It’s David. David Farah.” Her arms now cross. “Ring a bell?”

“No.” He runs a shaky hand over the sore flesh under a thin gown. “What happened to me?”

“What happened to you?” Her eyes round, then blink at the ceiling. Her mouth tightens. “You were shot. The bullet damaged your cardiac valve and your heart wall. We had to do emergency surgery. You have a new heart, Mr. Farah.” She bows her head and leaves.  The men in suits file back in.

Now their eyes burn fiercely. Shock has crumbled under the weight of anger and injustice.

“So, names, Mr. Farah. We want names.” One of the angry men moves to stand over him. He smells like cloves and fear. “We know you weren’t acting alone in this. Thirty seven people died in that restaurant, you son of a bitch. Thirty seven people that included a…baby.” This last word is spit into his eye. Venom. He doesn’t blink because he is focusing on steadying the images and feelings rushing at him. An old fire, from another lifetime is nudging its way to the front. It is hate and faith and fear all rolled up into a singular, seething wound that is wearing the mask of a human soul. His silence is taken as being uncooperative. The angry man slams a hand down on his stitched up chest. The pain feeds the fire.

“They should have let you die. I would have let you die! The only reason they didn’t was because of god damned politics and lawsuits. They should have given you a pig’s heart you piece of shit.” One of the other suits pulls him away. Takes him outside.

“You mentioned the name Helen.” The third man’s jaw twitches.

“My wife, isn’t she my wife? She’s dead, isn’t she? Oh…and Emma.”

His eyes narrow. He pinches his nose between his eyes then motions for the others to follow him out.  He comes back in alone, with a folder.

“Helen Brennan, along with her husband, Michael and their baby Emma were victims in the attack.” He folds his arms. “How were you acquainted? Was this a targeted attack on them?”

“I don’t understand,” he stutters. The line between lifetimes is blurring. The space that separates souls is disappearing. They stand facing each other as one. One body, two lifetimes. Grief swirls as a black storm within and around them.

Nurses, doctors and agents share the view, peering at the man signing his confession through the window, struggling with their own grief and confusion.

“Maybe we should tell him,” a nurse glances at an agent.

“Tell him what?”

“That he has Michael Brennan’s heart.”

“What good would that do?”

“Most people don’t know that the heart sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Some people believe our soul is in our heart.”

David Farah turns to the window full of faces, lifts his hand in a thumbs-up salute and plunges the pen deep into his new heart.

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  1. #1 by CJ on January 22, 2010 - 3:42 pm

    OOOH Excellent! I was carried easily along and did not expect the end.
    How horrifying to wake up to that! Wow.

  2. #2 by Marisa Birns on January 22, 2010 - 3:44 pm

    This was masterful!

    An amazing story that captured my interest from the get-go.

    And the twist? Excellent!

  3. #3 by yearzerowriters on January 22, 2010 - 3:51 pm

    I’ve always wondered about the sentience that is passed along with organ transplants. A very well executed treatment of a fascinating theme.

    Marc Nash

  4. #4 by mazzz_in_Leeds on January 22, 2010 - 3:59 pm

    Another excellent one from you (I for one am glad for this habit of yours!)
    Absolutely dragged me in, brilliant!

  5. #5 by michael j. solender on January 22, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    YoW! Most definitely did not expect that. Cool piece.

  6. #6 by Laurita on January 22, 2010 - 4:09 pm

    Wow, that’s heavy. Excellent story. The idea that a victim’s heart went to save the attacker was quite a concept in itself, but then that it was sending out memories. Fantastic ending.

  7. #7 by soesposito on January 22, 2010 - 4:29 pm

    Thanks, guys! Yeah, the heart is an extremely fascinating organ.

  8. #8 by Dana on January 22, 2010 - 4:39 pm

    Well, really good Shannon!

    I thought, “The word is a hurricane. It sweeps a nurse out the door, blows another out of the corner, clutching a chart and her chest.” was a particularly great turn of phrase.

  9. #9 by Laura Eno on January 22, 2010 - 4:43 pm

    I’ve often wondered about that. Sometimes you read that people with transplants pick up mannerisms of the donor. Spooky story, Shannon!

  10. #10 by David G Shrock on January 22, 2010 - 5:20 pm

    Good storytelling. I didn’t see a twist, played through as expected–except for the pen plunging which adds fun. On this theme, this is one of the best ones I’ve read. The interrogation holds suspense while alluding to the transplant carrying information from the donor.

  11. #11 by Olivia Tejeda on January 22, 2010 - 8:43 pm

    You are such a wonderful story teller! Intricate plot, horrifying situation. I was riveted! Thank you. ~ Olivia

  12. #12 by G. on January 22, 2010 - 9:11 pm

    Good job, root baby. 😉

  13. #13 by Deanna Schrayer on January 22, 2010 - 9:21 pm

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I don’t know how much more I can add to what everyone else has said. Your stories are simply amazing Shannon. This is one of the best, yes, I know, I say that about every week – you just keep getting better and better.

  14. #14 by AJ Campos on January 22, 2010 - 9:34 pm

    Great work! I felt like I was submerged in every word.

  15. #15 by Skycycler on January 22, 2010 - 10:21 pm

    “He smells like cloves and fear.” A heady, hearty story Shannon. Brilliant (and I loved that line).
    ~Simon.

  16. #16 by G.P. Ching on January 23, 2010 - 9:16 pm

    Loved it!!!! Wouldn’t that be the ultimate punishment? Wow, so many deep and fascinating aspects to this story. Well written!

  17. #17 by PJ @doublelattemama on January 23, 2010 - 10:20 pm

    Terrific story, Shannon – very powerful. I love the concept of the heart bringing the soul along with it. Well done!

  18. #18 by ganymeder on January 24, 2010 - 6:12 am

    It’s amazing how you can write such a wonderful story!

  19. #19 by Deborah Bundy on January 24, 2010 - 3:25 pm

    I simply love this.
    DeborahB

  20. #20 by Carrie Clevenger on January 24, 2010 - 3:57 pm

    Another great story, your talent shines.

  21. #21 by Eric J. Krause on January 24, 2010 - 4:24 pm

    Very cool story. I guess that transplant didn’t go especially well for him…

  22. #22 by Mark Kerstetter on January 24, 2010 - 9:19 pm

    Oh Nooo!!! He kills Michael twice. I like this: “He clutches his heart, his bearded mouth a cave full of unearthly groans and escalating screams.”

    • #23 by soesposito on January 24, 2010 - 10:30 pm

      Well, actually my idea was Michael gets revenge and kills him. But, it’s all up for interpretation, that’s the fun part!

  23. #24 by katirra on January 24, 2010 - 10:40 pm

    Wow, an unexpected twist. I’ve heard stories about how transplant patients develop strange (for them) cravings or habits, like a non-smoker craving a cigarette but this was different. Loved it!

  24. #25 by Kim Batchelor on January 24, 2010 - 11:36 pm

    What a visceral story, Shannon. Tremendous descriptions and what a twist at the end. Great work.

  25. #26 by ~Tim on January 25, 2010 - 1:52 am

    I don’t believe a heart could bring memories with it, but in suspending that disbelief I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I was with you the whole way and loved the revenge at the end.

  26. #27 by karenfrommentor on January 25, 2010 - 12:06 pm

    Riveting!
    Shannon I loved it all but this section really grabbed me:
    “The space that separates souls is disappearing. They stand facing each other as one. One body, two lifetimes. Grief swirls as a black storm within and around them.

    wow.

    Karen :0)

  27. #28 by Cascade Lily on January 25, 2010 - 12:17 pm

    I read something about this recently – were you inspired by real-life events? Cool story and yes, the ultimate revenge, no matter which way you read it.

    • #29 by soesposito on January 25, 2010 - 2:46 pm

      Two things inspired this story. One being that I live in the small town where the 911 terrorists trained. It’s such a beautiful beach town with lovely people…we wonder daily how the terrorists could have lived here and still had so much hate in their hearts. And then I read that little bit about the heart being able to send signals back to the brain…and let it play out, how powerful the heart could be.

  28. #30 by Estrella Azul on January 27, 2010 - 5:40 pm

    I loved your idea, and the flash you wrote with this idea in mind is just wonderful!

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