March 8th, 2021 | Vladislav Nenchev14 mins read
“Move on sweetheart!”, “Be quick, will you?!”, “There are others here, you know!”, constituted the nicest of the shouts. The queue outside the bond center grew at a steady pace. Agitation and abuse grew with it. The line of organs edged into the busy ow in Amygdala Square, like a scar branded by the late afternoon sun. Heat hammered away, boiling passions and roasting hopes.
Inside, the nose wrinkled so hard its glasses slipped even lower, “There’s nothing, I tell you.
” Check again! There must be something! A special programme…” urged the heart. The plea coursed through the small, ill-furnished office, reached the high desk, and broke against the Roman features and ruthless authority of the nose.
“There’s no point in checking, there wasn’t any the first time. None of our harmonization schemes apply to you. It’s…”
“Please! Please, you must…”
“Don’t be obstinate! That’s going on for far too long now, can’t you see what’s happening?!”, the nose frowned towards the crowd outside.
The door behind the heart gaped wide open, exposing it to the yells and yaps from the square. The heart turned to survey the restless horde gathered there. A ferocious throat spearheaded the queue, cutting the air with shrieks. Feet stomped, hands slammed, some with force in fists, some with finger-spread frustration. Perked ears and bristling hair gave volume to the crowd’s unrest.
I’ll be torn apart if this goes on like that. Snotty bill! Why is it not helping me? They do bond-matching for all types of organs. What’s the problem? !They can’t send me away! … Not here, as well…
Palpitations stressed through the heart in resonance with the rioting outside. The tremors surged, then subsided, then surged again. Apprehension began to amass within, weighing like lead.
“Look now. You clearly don’t understand the matter at hand,” grunted the nose. “This here is a coordination office of the Bureau for Bonding to the Ministry of Limbs and External Systems. We aid the bonding of organs in order to achieve the perfect bodies. Correct proportions between limbs and torso. Matching hair and skin and eye colour. You know, basic eugenics principles. We can’t let misshapen and ugly bodies cross over. None of our activities, however, concern internal organs like you. Such organs don’t matter when it comes to harmon…”
“This can’t be! There must be a way!” the heart burst into clamor, pulsing with escalating amplitude. The beats made the chair beneath creak like a rattle gun. “I am a HEART! I can help with harmonization. I can feel harmony. I can… I can…”
“Go away!” The nose gave it a sudden shove and the heart found itself on the ground. The nose stood high. “Stop wasting my time! You can’t get it, can you?! Hearts are disruptors of harmony, not makers. Just as you are now. All these emotions and moodiness, always the drama-flesh. Who needs you like that?! Can’t you just quietly pump?! Get lost! Make way for those who can be of real use!”
The heart slowly turned, dust and dirt fouling its epicardium. The earlier apprehension condensed to all-in panic that reached critical mass. It crammed into the chambers, drenched muscles and heart walls, and jammed the valves, threatening arrest.
The heart wanted to scream, but had no vocal cords to expel the emotion in full. The cut-throat, first in the line, spouted phlegm and mock instead of helping out.
The heart wanted to cry, but could not on its own. A cold eye further down the queue just gave it a sharp look rather than shedding a tear.
Get away from them! Away! The heart rushed into the square, past the raging queue. Get away! It spun and slammed against a palm. Ricocheted into a group of marching legs and struggled to get through, almost trampled.
At the other end of Amygdala Square, opposite the coordination office of the Bureau for Bonding to the Ministry of Limbs and External Systems, a maze of flats and side streets offered a refuge from the sun and the crowd. The buildings wove long shadows in the coming evening, flooding the space with a sea of welcoming darkness. The heart dived in it and sank.
It took two extra hours of indefinite length for the day to die. Its nightly corpse now spread over the world. Rigor mortis reigned, infusing everything with stillness.
Organs fled the streets and streamed to homes and locales in search of shelter. The heart still wandered aimless, pondering over its misfortunes. Display windows, notice boards, and postered walls maintained a heavy barrage of slogans and peer pressure.
“Corpora is waiting for you, time is not! Bond today!”
“The Ministry of Hematology and Circulatory Systems announces new regulations for the purity of blood…”
“Night club LOOSE FLESH! Groping is bonding!”
An endless cavalcade of ads, infomercials, and all types of hints, from subtle to brutal, reminded that bonding and crossing over to Corpora come first and foremost.
“Having trouble bonding? Call *0098 547 5268!”
I did. No one picked up.
Oh, why is this happening?! Why can’t I bond with anyone?! This can’t go on forever. Someone must want me. Should I just wait longer? Maybe it could happen any moment now, they could be round the corner?
Yet, organs passed by without any notice. Being an annoying exception, an insolent tongue pulled faces at the heart. It could only be expected of the highs.
A snide moniker, “highs” stood for the organs above the neck. Snooty and capricious, the lot of them, and the brains worst of all. The “lows”, those below the waist, usually made better company. A bit vulgar, true, but at least they knew their place. The heart twisted in spasms. Derogatory names like highs or lows spelled guilt and shame. Plenty of similar slights targeted the internal organs, hearts included. “Innards”, “offals”, worse…
A shoulder turned its back on the heart and went to the other side of the street. A couple of hands, fingers entwined, were making out in a dark alley. The heart peeked full of curiosity, but they didn’t pay any attention either. How was the heart supposed to connect with others if they always ignored it?
Bonding established the visceral link between organs, so that they can form composite systems and function together. Bond with eyes and you can see, with a tongue to taste. With a brain to get headaches. Add two shoulders, arms, a HEART, all the rest, the required parts to complete a body. A person! Only then could the body cross over from the Organa plane to the Corpora plane, where life begins.
Crossing over postulated the ultimate destiny of all organs, ever since they emerged from the womb. Their eternal debt.
Sometimes things went wrong. The body missed a part, or even had some extra. Rumors whispered about some very strange rituals in Siam, but the heart preferred to dismiss silly gossip.
Still, none of that explained why it kept misbonding. I don’t understand it. There must be a reason. Hearts are usually picked up very quickly. Some organs couldn’t join a body because they were… “phantoms”. The notion itself spawned deep chills within the heart. It was known, however, only for limbs to be able to be phantoms and never hearts. It can’t be this.
The air reached a degree of coldness that gave it the ability to penetrate everything, cardiac tissues in particular. Muscle stiffness compounded the sensation of being stuck. The heart needed a reprieve from the heavy rumination. Brisk light and zapping sounds, in the form of neon letters, offered one. “Necrosis” read the sign. Below it, a half opened door let slip muffled music and laughter, and the faint promise of trouble. The heart stood in hesitation until the rising wind forced a decision.
At the entrance of the pub the heart bumped into an ear, hairy, wrinkled, old.
“I’m sorry,” muttered the heart in a quiet voice.
“What?! I can’t hear you!” shouted the ear and leaned closer.
The heart jumped away, clenching chambers, hit the door case and slipped hastily inside. Gust of warmth greeted visitors, while a combination of dim light and heavy cigarette smoke contrasted the nocturnal bite outside. Good news ceased at that. The place had a disquieting vibe about it. The music boomed too loud, too obscene, the smell was repulsive. Thank womb I’m not a sensory organ!
At the bar, an obese belly ordered an Atrophy cocktail. The belly turned.
“Come here and I’ll gobble you up,” it bellowed with a greasy voice.
The heart repulsed in disgust and stumbled into a small lounge, where a group of highs sat, drinking. Eyes, a neck, a scalp, and a very loud and filthy mouth.
“Aaall riiiiight! Here it is!” roared the mouth. It stank of alcohol. “Here’s the heart and soul of the company. Come here! Put a back into it! Hey! Hey! A back! Do you get it?! A ba… Hey! I said put it, not turn it! Where are you going?! Come back here!”
It took the best of escapology and a hide-and-seek game with the beady eyes to break away from this bunch, all under a shower of profanities, dirty songs, and spit. An age of struggle came and went before the heart found a refuge. An isolated table, away from all the ruckus, almost unoccupied. A scarred gray-yellowish jelly sat there and snored quietly.
The heart took its place next to the mass and examined it. Bulges and folds, crossed by disfigurements, formed a chaotic pattern with bits and pieces missing all over. A brain?! What is it doing here? It was a rarity to see a brain in public, let alone in such a state of disintegration. The customary aura of immaculate intellect was completely replaced by a vapor of inanity.
The brain snapped out of its nap.
“Hick!… What? Who? Ahmm… Waiter, please, no more…”
The heart strained, then the initial wave of fright gave way to curiosity. A brief and messy conversation eased the revelation that this brain is rather mellow, not pompous at all. Its thoughts were even more shredded than its looks, and it constantly prattled strangely soothing nonsense. Sympathy built up within the heart for the only organ in the pub as miserable as it was.
“You don’t look well,” said the heart. “What happened to you? Couldn’t you find a body?”
“Weeell, hmmmmghick… oh, I did, I did. Looong time ago. In fact, I am a part of it still. Problem is that this body drinks too much and keeps destroying bits of its brain. Me! Those are the bits that you see in front of you. I kept and kept warning, but no body listens. It’s as useless as an appendices strike. Soon all of me will cross back here, a complete phantom. A phantom brain, can you imagine?! All the jerkies and troties will laugh like…”
Phantom?! The heart bristled. Hypotheses and suspicions brewed within its chambers.
“A phantom you say… What does it mean to be a phantom, do you know?”
“Phantoms are those of us that formed a body and crossed over, but then the bonds got severed. We get back to Organa to drift in lethargy. Since organs bond only once, we can’t join another body now, limbo is all that awaits us. Hick!”
“What do you mean getting back here? I thought that once you go to Corpora there’s no coming back.”
“Oh, yes. Those are rare and peculiar situations, I grant you, but you can. Life is not unidirectional. You can come back as a phantom. There are other ways, as well. And it’s not only organs, I’ve heard that whole bodies can cross briefly and act in this plane. They can steal organs! I don’t know how the Ministry of Transfusions and Transplantations allows this. It’s outrageous! They even leave things here in Organa, things made over there. Have you seen those horrific implants and prosthetics?! Synthetic monstrosities! Coming here and taking our…”
A flood of irritation and conspiracy theories downpoured from the brain for a while, interrupted by the occasional “Hick!”-thunder. The heart dwelt upon its doubt, and slowly gathered the frail courage to interject.
“I… I can’t bond. Could… aumm… could I be a phantom, as well?”
“Hah! Don’t you know?!” jolted the brain. The heart shook chambers.
“Then you aren’t. All phantoms remember their body very clearly. Do you remember it? Hick! The womb then?” The heart quivered again. “Odd… What do you remember?”
“A small box I found myself in,” replied the heart. “It was like waking, but I know it can’t be, since hearts never sleep. It was cool in there, tight, felt smooth, yet unnatural. Felt like a safe place, though, like I’m protected. I didn’t dare to leave for a long time. Is that the womb?” The brain wiggled indefinitely. “I don’t know what it was either. I don’t know anything any longer… Seems like forever. I can’t remember anything before it, and I’ve tried everything since… but I kept failing. I couldn’t bond with anyone. Not even…”
The heart quaked violently. Even though there was no source to fill its chambers, the deep convulsions squeezed uncoagulated droplets out of nothing. Red spots colored the table.
“You know what? There’s something you could try…”, the brain attempted to console the heart.
“What’s the bloody point?!” wailed the heart. “No body wants me!”
“There is always a point for a heart,” said the brain in soft return, its voice flowed surprisingly clear. “Let me tell you something that very few of us realize. It is a common knowledge that the amount of organs often exceeds the needs for composing a body. There are either too many hands, or too much lips, and don’t get me started on the breasts… Anyway, there are plenty of organs that never succeed. This, however, does not apply to the hearts. Yeees. Hearts, in fact, are a rare commodity. Some bodies don’t have one. Or they wish they didn’t. Some bodies are so miserable that their own hearts leave those cadavers and run away.”
The heart stood still in its little puddle and absorbed every word.
“Don’t give up. There might be one good bond left in you yet.”
“But I can’t. I tried so many times.”
“You can. All other organs may bond only once, but hearts are different. They can do it many times, and in different ways, even after crossing over. That is how bodies form connections between each other over there. It is way harder than what we do in this plane when composing a body. Hearts are the kings of bonding”, the brain concluded its tirade and resumed looslessness. “It is important, I think, to find out what happened to you and why you can’t bond. That might be a temporary condition. You should go back to that box. The answers are there.”
Silence spilled across the table and mixed with the cigarette fog. The noise of drinking rascals in the pub gradually downgraded from annoyance, to ambiance, and finally to insignificance.
Eternity passed. Twice.
“I’m scared,” said the heart quietly.
“I know. Go.”
Faint jingles commenced on the other side of the box wall and drew nearer and louder. The noise snapped the heart out of box-mundanity.
It got here days ago. Or was it a month? Hours? Time lost meaning as the box muted all sensations.
The box resembled a tiny rectangular coffin, one in a series of many, which ran in rows upon endless rows. The area was wasted and lifeless, with rare exceptions of stray organs that roamed around like apparitions. Instead of doing that, the heart chose to stay boxed, in fear of missing some important revelation. The wait stretched time to its full elasticity and spanned from now to forever.
The jingling stopped!
A loaded pause preceded the screech of metal scraping against other metal, which pierced the center of the wall. Tension crept through the box and intensified until the metal revolved, followed by the rapid clicks of pins and tumblers, the works of a lock mechanism. The wall hinged away and vanished, laying the box bare to the wastelands outside.
The heart froze. Its muscles drew and locked tight.
A murky silhouette overshadowed the opening. The heart barely had the time to acknowledge the complete, and well-proportioned, composition of head, torso, and limbs, before its chambers swelled back and kick-started the pulse.
The silhouette humped over and stretched voracious hands. Crooked fingers closed in and aimed at the heart. Its pulse scrambled, the pericardium barely kept up with the racing tempo. They are here to seal me! A body has crossed back to steal me! The fingers advanced further, now a hair away from their target.
The heart flipped, dashed away, and ran valves first into the opposing wall of the box. The searing pain cut down any ability of the muscles to operate in cohesion and left the heart sprawled helpless at the box floor. Heartbeats turned into death-gongs, composing a terminal crescendo.
The heart’s chambers braced for a final beat!
The hands made contact!
The fingers enveloped with care. The grip was steady, but tender like a hug, a blend of joy and impatience. The hands lifted the heart out of the box and took it up in rapture.
Suddenly, the heart was planted into a familiar niche. Blood vessels reattached and the usually empty chambers began to ll with liquid life. The heart’s contractions started processing the streams, gaining purpose at last.
The blood brought in a rainbow of sensations: sensory input, state of mind, self-awareness, and… memories. Visions of meeting up the other organs, bonding, crossing over, memories of the life they had, good and sad. We missed you, conveyed the sensations. We need you now. The heart pumped back emotions. It’s alright! I’m here! I’m back! The restored circulation ignited connections long forgotten, and the bonds with the other organs reanimated, one at a time.
The heart looked through its old eyes.
Together they screened the area. Colorful and clear, fully apparent, the world shined anew. Landscapes and features made sense now, including the long lines of boxes. The opened one in their feet begged recognition. “Safebox #1955A. Made to protect your dearest!” read the sign next to the lock and hanging keys.
Organa slowly faded, drifting organs and boxes alike, and the underlying sense of fragmentation, all faded. The space around developed corporeity. The body, whole again and full of heart, crossed from Organa to Corpora for the second time in their life.
Upon crossing, there was no chance to consider the entirety of the new plane. Straight on, their gaze was greeted by another pair of eyes. A special shade of sky blue, the eyes pinned down their attention. Stunning contrast to the dark hair sparked fervor and frenzy within the heart, even though it constituted a severe violation of the best eugenics principles of the Bureau for Bonding to the Ministry of Limbs and External Systems.
The heart touched through its old hands.
The wonder of physical awareness made feelings tangible again. The flow of air, the thumb stroking the forefinger, the gentle brush of small hairs decorating the skin. Their hands extended and received the hands of the stranger. The heart carefully adjusted the strength of the hold to convey affection. Magnetism owed between and galvanized the two bodies, converting strangeness into intimacy.
The heart sensed through its full body.
It came back just in time to perceive and to inspire. To feel their own being and the one of the stranger too, and to guide accordingly. Get closer! Hug them! The body followed the impulse and stepped in.
“… Hearts, in fact, are a rare commodity. Some bodies don’t have one,” flashed within the heart. The stark wisdom of its phantom companion from the pub shook it. Heart, and mind, and body looked forth in conjoint anticipation.
Joy! A heart was beating within the stranger, as well! They melted in embrace. The heart now belonged as much to the other person, as it was ever a part of its own body.
The heart had two bodies now.