Something Wrong with Heart

I didn’t push my face against the window. I didn’t want to. The glass was melting, a steady and deliberate dissolving which would cause my skin to burn, should I have touched it. The slow dissipation of the window caused me to suddenly remember being taught at school that glass was always melting, the faint scent of blancmange still present upon my clothes from the canteen. They told me that glass was liquid. The years would change its shape, alter its form, distort what lay behind it. Outside the sun was shining. For a moment my mind smiled, but my present image remained frozen at the window on the bleak, bleak day. The glass melted now because everything was wrong… not because of its matter, and not because of blancmange, but because the poison rain fell from the sky; from clouds blacker than the scorched bodies which had littered the streets in times past. Darker than night, and more terrifying than anything which had come before. The droplets would fall, dissolving the concrete architecture, ravaging skin. Magnificent flickers of a blue shimmer, leaving behind such fluorescent flowers, such ferocious and beautiful mutations- of pink, and green, and yellow- alive, and dead within minutes. Humanity personified in nature.

I stood in the pharmacy, watching the black clouds gather over the grey horizon. I would likely be here for some hours more, whilst the rain dissolved my surroundings, my city, my home. This pharmacy was not as pharmacies used to be- there were no cosmetics, or cheap toys, hot water bottles, cold drinks or tablet boxes for sale. There were no orderly stacks of medicines, waiting patiently to be consumed by the greedy and blind and ignorant masses. Medicated happiness at its greatest had come to an end and instead, the shell of the building protected empty and crumbling shelves, stickered with government warning posters which adorned every surface: ‘Protect Yourselves and Your Children’, and the later issued ‘Protect Yourselves’. People had stopped having children on the day of the ruin. Often by incapacity. Often by choice.

There was an old man sat on the floor by the window alongside me. His skin was devastated by the poison rain, and perhaps a lifetime of love and suffering. The silence of the building was punctuated only by the steady drum of the rain falling outside, and by the old man’s wheezing. I would have hated him if I had anything left inside me.

Painkillers in these times were difficult to come by, reserved only for those deemed worthy. They were mainly for those who worked in the factories, like myself, and those of age and build and relative health. ‘Relative’, for health today was an imagined concept- a forgotten ideal, lost in the ashes of a dead civilisation. In days gone by, people wished for beauty. Today they wished for painkillers and a tomorrow. I was stood in the pharmacy waiting for my own pills, to curtail the anguish of a rotten inside. The pills I waited for were small and yellow. I did not know what they contained, and I did not want to know. I needed them to take, to work, to live. Likely they were made simply of ash. Little else was available to fashion tablets from. I did not know why the old man was waiting. Perhaps he was waiting for someone to care, or to fall asleep, or to wake up. Perhaps he was waiting for the end.

Another man made his way down the colourless street and entered the pharmacy. He pulled down his hood as he entered, revealing a grey and swollen face, merged with the red marks of the rain’s impact. As he walked past me, his coat hissed with the fumes of the rain upon it. For a moment the scent made me dizzy, and dragged me backwards to the time of the ruin. I could smell the decay of the explosion itself- a heightened sense of falling, and of agonising sickness. They had called it the Russian Winter, although it had never been anything to do with the Russians. Blame had been placed with those now long departed, and in their place remained only suffering and torment. With the smell of his coat came the feelings of confusion; of a total loss of communication, information, contact; hordes of people screaming through their melted lips; clothes fused to skin… and the smell of the fires. The burning of thousands of corpses, their charred remains lining the streets, their obsolete smiles welcoming the prospect of death into the hearts of the living. Cities covered with ash, poison rain and eventually human apathy. We never heard from the scientists again. Lysenko would have made a Saint.

The man’s coat had turned my stomach as he passed, my brain itching to break itself from my skull. But now he was stood at the counter, and the smoke of the funeral pyres cleared from my mind, I was once again bought to the present day, amidst crumbling buildings and fragmented lives. The stranger was talking and I could hear him clearly. He was begging the pharmacist for painkillers, and he was refused. His skeletal grey hands were shaking as he asked the pharmacist again. ‘I need them,’ he said, ‘I need them.’

Calmly, the pharmacist placed his hands too upon the remnants of the counter, ‘Sir, we all need them, but regulation dictates…’

‘Fuck regulation! Fuck… regulation!’

An uneasy silence. The dissolving of the brick work outside, and the old man’s wheezing inside. After a few moments more, the pharmacist continued with his sentence with similar detachment but renewed odium.

‘Regulation dictates that only factory workers and worthy members of society may be permitted access to medicines’- the strangers nails clawed at the counter’s surface- ‘Those  who have been assessed to pose no threat to themselves, to not waste the drugs given to them to pursue a peaceful course to the end. These drugs are needed to rebuild the future, not to assist others in destroying their own.’

The stranger paused for a few moments, and then guffawed. His grey skin tightened around his throat. ‘I… wouldn’t. I just need them to…’ His mouth made motions that his voice had not the strength to match. His discomfort increased with every lie that he told. ‘I would not want to die, who… who would want to allow themselves to die? That isn’t what I need them for. That’s not… that’s not…’

The pharmacist’s answer came very quietly, his gaze upon the stranger’s eyes never faltering. He had said this many times before. ‘There are worse things than death, Sir.’

The man began to laugh and backed away. ‘You… you don’t know… you don’t know about it. At all. You don’t. You just don’t.’ He continued towards the door, laughing through the tears which poured down his face and cradled in the red scars from the rain. ‘You don’t know…’ He was so piteous and loathsome. He was reckless and beautiful. I could have slit his throat. I could have been kind. But I continued to stand by the dissolving glass.

I watched sincerely as the man marched out the door frame, and into the embrace of destruction, still laughing boorishly. His steps were confident; meaningful, at first, but soon faltered as the poison once more found his flesh. He grimaced and raised his hood, continuing into the distance, his laughter now stopped. There were things worse than death, afterall. I followed the stranger with my eyes until he had disappeared from my view. I tilted my head slightly to see if I could follow him further, a morbid fascination crushing my own fear and solemnity when suddenly the old man beside me touched my arm.

‘Something wrong with heart’, he said, ‘something wrong with heart.’

23 thoughts on “Something Wrong with Heart

  1. I totally agree with Val’s comment above.

    I would add that you offer me an emotional reality that makes me feel comfortable in these crazy scenes. It’s like you’re holding my hand… and it’s probably okay that you have a knife in the other and you need my fingers to feed to those freaky-ass pigeons.

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  2. Anna, I was listening to this song The Working Hour (Tears for Fears) and it made me think of you, so I looked up a Video for it to Post in the “What are you Listening to Right Now” Thread, and I came across this Video

    which not only has the song, but also has an Apocalyptic Visuals countered with Non Apocalyptic Visuals, that made me also think of your Apocalyptic Piece’s like “Something Wrong with Heart”.

    Check it out if you get a chance

    DarkJade-

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  3. Well, I disagree with others – your style and story are not like King (who I’ve read too much over the years!) – he goes on and on and on and you get to the point quickly and beautifully.

    All the way through this I was thinking – and still am – that you should be published and, if by some crazy chance, you can’t find a publisher, then you should self-publish via Lulu or one of the P.O.D. sites. I’m sure you’d sell. You’ll build up your readership in no time in your blog and then you’ll have fans.

    Have I ever told you I love your writing? Well, I do. :)

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  4. Pingback: Utopia | The Written Word

  5. My, aren’t you the deep pool of interesting. I’m enjoying studying your descriptive imagery choices. Lots.

    I think a bit like this story feels when I’ve had too little sleep, but it never occurred to me to write it down. There’s a strong dream quality to your stories. I can see why you would like Poe. King’s dark, but he concentrates very hard on plot. Many of his “horror” novels also read like detective fiction.

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    • And I’m enjoying the fact that you’re enjoying it, like a llama enjoys a good glass of ale. Or something like that, anyway.

      Thanks for the comment! :)

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  6. Just wonderful yet again!
    You transport the reader into your dark, bleak but mesmerising story with ease. I look forward too each one you publish and enjoy them more and more.
    Bravo Miss Anna!

    Ps. Great too see blancmange get a mention.

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  7. As a wannabe writer who writes humor to try to make a living, I am impressed. You had me hooked, as I read. This is a sign of a good writer. I can only hope to keep working hard, and someday produce quality writing like yours. Thanks for a good Monday morning read.

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  8. This was wonderful. I could feel the emotion in it.
    Hey, about King I have read his stuff and this is much better in my opinion.

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    • Like I say, I haven’t read much King either, but I do recall him being very descriptive in regards to body parts. As far as his actual writing, I am more of a Film Buff, and both “Stand By Me” and “Shawshank Redemption” were based on King Short Stories, an both Films were Exceptional. Detail oriented, Human, with a shade of Darkness.

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    • Thank you wastelandexplorer, that’s a huge compliment! I’m extremely glad you enjoyed this piece, and you are welcome back anytime :)

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  9. If there’s one thing I don’t look forward to it’s that feeling Sunday night that I have working in the morning, but then I get to work and I remember, “Anna’s posted today”. You make Mondays worth looking forward to.

    Awesome piece of writing, reading stuff like this makes me want to get back into writing creatively.

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    • That was such a lovely comment to read, thank you Pete :)

      Speaking of work, I should probably start getting ready to leave the house in a minute… the joys of screaming children and ignorant morons awaits. Huzzah!

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      • Children and ignorance?! At Asda?! Get out of town! Tell them off for not being at school/work if they annoy you. Unless they work there with you, then just roundhouse them!

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  10. Yikes, that is awesome… Immersly (<–New Word?) Dark "Magnificent flickers of a blue shimmer" I love that… Several things came to mind, though I am not as well read as many Writers most likely are. Definitely some Stephen King, but just a smidge… There was also this Animated Film called "Heavy Metal", maybe you've heard of it… Part of it was definitely Post Apocalyptic… Well worth seeing, never saw the second one. But I'd say this tale is a solid 95% All Anna. The man that came in was done very well… He is alive for me… For the moment anyway, lol… Doesn't sound too good for him out there. Your descriptions of the Glass were also very cool. It definitely had the Punch of a good Short Story. One that left you curious about more, but also satisfied with the burstly in, then out again by which the reader travels by. Overall, a Very Solid Piece. As I suspected, The Best is yet to Come.

    Well Done, I look forward to more Tale's of Anna

    DarkJade

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    • Thanks for the comment! I haven’t actually ever read anything of King’s, I’m more of a Poe and Vonnegut fan… I shall have to read some of his work someday though, and check that film out too!

      Thanks again for the comment :)

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      • I have not read much King either, but I know people that have. He often gives very Gruesome Descriptions of Body Parts, which is what reminded me of him. The overall Morbidity of it has a very stale/still feeling of the Undead. Something you might find in a Post Apocalyptic Zombie Flick. A Good one though. I haven’t read any Vonnegut, I’ll have to check it out. Here’s a link to one of the Ending Scenes in Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal is several Short Stories, set to extremely good music for the time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2_gOpU0eWU

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