It had been a long time since the day when Seamus and Janice had returned to their own little world.
They had become accustomed to some things in that other world, but now that they were home, they were getting back to normal. In fact, with one exception, everything was exactly the same as it had been before the incident. The only difference was the soft music that, every evening, began to flow from the room in which Janice slept.
There was never any particular pattern to the music. It would be a classical concerto one night, classic rock the next. The neighbours were somewhat confused, but, Seamus mused, they hadn’t been there.
In that other world, time passed differently. Janice had vanished to there first, and although it seemed to Seamus that only a few days had passed before he went there to look for her, to Janice, it had been months.
In that world, Janice had had no heart.
To enter the other world, you had to give something up, as collateral. That world was not as kind as Earth. It did not want floods of people pouring over it. That world wouldn’t accept visitors unless they left something important behind at its gates, as a promise to return home eventually. In Seamus’s case, he had parted with a single bone— the one in his right index finger. Yes, this had made holding a sword rather difficult, but he had coped with it, and in the end had found Janice.
But Janice—Janice had given away her very heart and blood. When Seamus had found her, she was like a vampire, drained and empty.
After they left, they had to re-learn a number of things.
Seamus slowly remembered how to use his finger again, after the gatekeeper returned it. He remembered the fact that swords and butter knives are slightly different, and stopped confusing the two after one or two unfortunate incidents. He became reacquainted with modern technology. Before two months had passed, Seamus was back to normal.
Janice remembered that blood and pain mean injury, that it was not good for very sharp things to poke at her. She remembered that her body was sensitive to temperatures, and so it was a bad idea for her to submerge it in boiling water. She remembered the way that this world worked. And more than anything, she remembered her own heartbeat.
At first, it had been a relief to her, the sound of her own heart beating. For the first week or so after they returned, she would sometimes sit perfectly still, pressing her fingers to her wrist or throat or sternum, just to hear that comforting sound. At first, that sound meant that she was back to normal, that all was right with the world.
But then, well…
Seamus sat and watched TV, listening to the strains of piano music from the bedroom, and his expression turned grave as he remembered.
He remembered that one night, that one night when Janice had come into the television-lit living room, ignored what was on the screen, and had collapsed on the couch beside him, sobbing. She had cried for a long time, saying that her heart just kept beating, that it never stopped, that she couldn’t have a single moment of silence without it throbbing in her ears, that it was beginning to drive her insane by degrees, that she had just gotten his pistol and put it to her heart and had almost, almost, pulled the trigger, anything to stop that incessant noise. She had said that she had only barely managed to stop herself, only because she had remembered Seamus in the next room, and had lost her nerve after that. Seamus looked at his wife and knew that every word she had spoken was the truth.
It was a terrible feeling, Seamus was sure. To almost be killed because of the very thing keeping you alive. You couldn’t escape your heartbeat, the sound of your moving blood. It was something that filled your entire body. Something inside of you. You couldn’t escape it by plugging your ears, by doing anything. All you could do was hide from it, cover it up with something louder.
After that night, their house was always filled with the sound of the radio, the sound of the television, conversation. There was never a moment of silence, never a moment for Janice’s life to send her over the edge, beat by beat.
But just in case the music was too quiet, Seamus coughed a little, so Janice would remember he was there.
- Heart Beat
- Matthew Ellison
- Date Published
- Word Count
- Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0
- Slice of life
- After the adventure, Attempted suicide, Fantasy, Married couples, Undeath
- Source URL
- On returning to the normal routine.
Heart Beat by Matthew Ellison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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© 2011 Matthew Ellison. Some rights reserved.