Harvest My Heart
by Jeff Crook
There's nothing to do. It's like elementary school, our own titanic bodies for entertainment, see who can gross out the other guy, make the girls throw up. I got organs sticking out, special pajamas made from bed sheets to fit me. I'm as big as a house. I can't put my hands together. I get my nurse to hold books for me to read, and then I fart like a horse. She laughs, the sick Welsh bitch. I call her Nurse Cynnt.
Twice a day, I unzip my belly and take out my extra large intestine so the nurses can wash and measure it. With two stomachs and two large intestines, you could power all Cardiff with the methane that comes out of me. When you have another heart growing inside you and you feel that animal rush as it starts to beat on its own, a meaty Dionysus in your Olympian thigh, it takes three orderlies to get you back into your cell. With three kidneys, your blood is like pure mountain spring water and everything smells new. But an extra liver will give you breath like a hydra.
When the virus mutated a few lustrums ago and stopped responding to suppression drugs, they realized that we, the last uninfected people in the world, were too valuable a source of regenerated organs to risk infection through unregulated copulation. They collected us up, some at gunpoint, weeding us out from the poor and doomed to die. To keep us from going like bonobos at one another, they gave us an experimental drug meant to castrate us psychologically, a juicy hormonal cocktail to suppress our most natural and unnatural urges. Only it was experimental, and the experiment failed. Gonads dissolved. Ovaries hardened like pink and lavender Easter eggs.
Somebody lost his job over that one.
But they do feed us here, Lord Jesus yes. 4500 calories a day. Prenatal vitamins out the wazoo. This is the Atlas Ward, reads the little sign on the door. Disease-Free. Quarantine. No Admittance. We abide in the land of milk and honey, growing organs for all the rich fucks who can't grow their own because the buttload of hormones and immuno-suppressants it takes to grow a spare heart bungs up the old T-Cell count. I only wish they would connect my extra eyes, but they say the additional perspectives would drive me starkers. British pricks, I hate the way they talk. British prick doctors. Brill! Mind the nurses, Zagreus, and they'll let you dress yourself tomorrow.
Nurse Cynnt wants to have my baby but I tell her there isn't much call for babies since Christ returned. That's the joke around the ward. We laugh at crap like that because we live in a converted mosque. We call it the Mosque of the Red Death. It makes her cry. They say she has an excitable nature, hot Welsh blood and all that, and an Eve complex big enough to entertain the royal navy. She wants to be the mother of a new humanity. She wants to have my baby before she dies, a tragicomic Welsh martyr. Half the time I can't understand what the fuck she's saying. "Vowels, vowels!" I shout at her. "Here's $250. Buy an A from Pat!" She thinks I'm funny even as she wipes away a tear. She can't do the currency conversion in her head.
Every day when she bathes me, she checks my sack for nodules - such a foolish hope it is that she clings to. Each night she prays fervently at my bedside. She's very devout as she tries to illicit my arousal. Leave me out of your prayers, I tell her. I have no faith in man, God or fate. I want no miracles. Let the world die, I say. My faith dissolved with my testes. It shriveled when they took me away from my life and locked me up. They cut out my faith each time they cut out my heart.
The world is dying. Babies are born with the disease, and the poor ones die too young to keep the world limping along. Our organs help a few rich old fucks stay alive a few more years as the disease eats away at their own organs. I've been here so long, there must be seven or eight of me walking around by now, going to parties and pretending the world hasn't already ended.
One day, Nurse Cynnt got permission from the hospital to take me on a field trip. That's how much the population has declined. There's no longer any real danger of infection. They keep us locked up so we won't run away. There's still enough people in the world to make us valuable.
The streets of Cardiff were empty, the shops empty, not even a cop on the corner. They had turned off the traffic lights. There were weeds growing in the cracks of the streets. The last residents had drifted into the oldest part of the city around Cardiff Castle, Nurse Cynnt told me, and we stayed well away from there because there was no telling what they might do if they caught us. Strip the ambulance for parts, most likely, though cannibalism was a distinct possibility.
Nurse Cynnt drove the ambulance, siren screaming, from the military hospital all the way down to the seaside, me riding in the back in a Kevlar sling hung from the roof to support my weight. It was Bank Holiday. The tide had gone out and she drove the ambulance down onto the wet, hard sand. She opened the back door and I sat there, swinging, watching the waves retreat down the beach and smelling the rot coming off the bay. There were some kids there roasting a dog and some seaweed over a driftwood fire. Nurse Cynnt was afraid of them at first. They had the disease, all thin and wasted with great brown blotches on their skin, poor things. But when they got a load of me, they ran for it, leaving behind their dog. I wanted to try it, as I'd never eaten dog before, but Cyntt wouldn't fetch it for me even when I asked nicely, and I couldn't move from the back of the ambulance. I was helpless without her and only at that moment realized it. She could do anything. I wondered what would happen when the sea came in. Would it reach the ambulance?
The sun was near to setting. The sea was gray as a hospital sheet. Nurse Cynnt began to feel religious.
"It's like we're the last two people in the world," she said, speaking English for once. She removed her nurse's uniform and shoes and walked down to the surf. She didn't play or swim. She just sat there like a patient in a sitz tub, the cold, foamy sea lapping about her ribs. The wind blew in gusts up the beach, rocking the ambulance and swaying me in my sling. She removed her bra and panties and let the sea wash them away.
The sun finally set on that cold and miserable afternoon. Nurse Cynnt returned to the ambulance and stood outside, toweling off her black hair. Water streamed from her matted pubes. Her nipples contracted to tiny brown pencil erasers. Scabby sores cratered her back and hips. She tore a stick of cinnamon gum in half and shared it with me like a child.
"We're not people," I said.
She climbed into the back and pleasured herself on me. I couldn't stop her and didn't want to try. She swung on me like a jungle gym. Out on the dark beach, the dog began to burn.
"I wish I could be with you," I said to her in the midst of her throes.
It shattered her into tiny pieces. She thought I finally loved her, despite my handicap, but all I really wanted was to catch her disease and die.
Half of us are gone already. I'm the youngest and the strongest. I am a field to be plowed until the plowman dies. When I'm finally gone, the roaches will fashion a new world from my skull.
About the author:
Jeff Crook the author of four fabulous novels of speculative fiction which are miraculously still in print. He has never been published in Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler or Juggs, but not from lack of trying, God knows. However, he has been published at Pindeldyboz on two previous occassions. He is the editor of Southern Gothic Online