She told him not to. Her exact words were, "I have no room. Look elsewhere." But the boy did not listen and, with crowbar in hand, broke into her heart. He entered through the left subclavian artery, the back door normally used for exits. The artery tore, a few strips of tissue pulling away with his crowbar, but not enough for her to notice. It took months before she realized that her heart was no longer vacant.

By this time, he'd already made himself at home: hanging his coat on the aorta arch, leaving his shoes in the left atrium, using the right atrium for a study, the right ventricle for a bedroom, and the left for a living room. At present, he didn't mind the raspberry red wallpaper, nor the fridge filled with cookie dough. He carried about his daily routine: dusting and cleaning cobwebs from every corner.

She asked him what he was doing in there. Hadn't she told him to go somewhere else?

"You did," he replied, stepping from his muddy shoes. "I've never taken no for an answer."

"I see," she said, then spooned a heap of chocolate chip dough into her mouth.

"By the by, you shouldn't eat so much of that. It might make you...well, you know."

As if she were pulling her own teeth, she removed the spoon and stared at the glob of dough. "Not even a small bite?"

The boy shook his head.

"I see."

He nodded his approval and turned his attention back to the miniature television. He watched her life play out on the screen, each day flashing by with all of her comings and goings and interactions with others. Every now and again, he'd pipe up and give his two cents about her latest decision, then return to the counter with a scrub brush and bleach. Lately, that's all he seemed to do. Scrub, scrub, scrub. The chairs, the refrigerator, the ceiling, the walls: everything but the muddy boots he traipsed around in. Soon the smell of baked cookies and vanilla surrendered to the nose tingling bleach.

"You'll get used to it," he said, noticing her crinkled nose. He continued to scrub. He scrubbed until the walls faded from red to pink to white. Bright white.

"Your eyes will adjust," he said, noticing her squint.

Once everything bleached, and only the smell of sterility remained, he stopped scrubbing. He never bothered to clean the mud he trekked throughout the house though, the big blops of brown marring the too white world.

"Don't you think it's a little, I don't know, lifeless?" she said.

"Nonsense." He knuckled his brow. "It's perfect."

"But I could buy a picture--"

"It's perfect."

"I see."

Instead of cleaning, he watched her television all day and tramped his muddy boots throughout both ventricles and atria.

One day, he told her that he intended to tour the rest of her, assess her from head to toe. With his coat over his shoulder, he kissed her goodbye and exited through the very artery he'd entered. The house stilled without him. The white walls glared at her. The bleach pummeled her nostrils.

After a few hours, she could stand the absence no longer. So she decided to surprise the boy and renovate the place. For the next two days she worked endlessly, wiping and scraping the mud from the floor, picking out a nice burgundy for the walls, velvet green chairs, hooks and wire for the pictures she'd bought. It took from the moment he left until the second he knocked on the right pulmonary vein, but she'd finished. It even smelled faintly of cinnamon and cider.

She smiled as she opened the door. He stood, coat in hand, muddy boots on his feet.

"I'm home."

She stepped aside.

He stopped in the middle of the left ventricle, eyeing the colored walls and fuzzy seats. "What the hell did you do?"

Her hands folded one over the other. "Don't you like it?"

"What the hell did you do?" He threw his coat to the floor.

"I thought--"

"This isn't how I left it."

"I hoped--"

"Why's it red again?"

"It looked--"

"Where's my mud?"

"I cleaned--"

"What's that stench?"

"I put--"

"Everything I've done for you and this is how you repay me?"

She stood, silent, listening to the walls pump faster and faster.

"I can't live like this." And with that, he began to tear the chairs apart, slamming them into the walls, shattering them into splinters and scraps. He stomped through the house, splattering mud with each step as he ripped the pictures off the wall and ate the hooks and wire like spaghetti and meatballs. He smeared the fresh paint. He huffed, puffed.

She didn't want to cry; she told herself there was no need. But she didn't listen.

"I don't know why I ever came here in the first place," he said, then broke the window in her inferior vena cava and dove through.

She picked up the coat he'd left behind and draped it over the television, then crumbled to the floor. She sat amongst the rubble, watching herself on the screen go about her daily life in a daze.

A breeze slipped a shiver down her spine, and she remembered the broken window. She stood, went to the store and bought a new window, new latches for the other windows, deadbolts and chains and locks for both doors.

So many pieces of so many things lay strewn across the floors, and she wondered how many days it would take to discern the individual bits, and how much glue and tape it would take to put them all back together, and how many bottles of bleach she'd need to scrub and scrub and scrub until the walls, ceilings, floors and rooms bleached back to white.

About the author:

When he can pry himself from watching films, playing video games, and creating cardboard monsters, Chris Smith attempts to write. He currently lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife and three cats. In the little spare time he can find, he writes reviews and provides a webcomic for the site under the pseudonym Malliw William. He is hard at work on his first novel and a "coming soon" webcomic called "Click-Track Heart." This is his first publication.