nc-17 | graphic violence | gore | animal abuse | disturbing themes

It didn't last.

It stopped.

It was warm and beautiful and so much bigger than she thought it would be and all the blood felt nice on her hands. It felt like ketchup.

The heart felt like it did when she took her goldfishes out of the tank and held them in her hands. But it didn't last long enough. It stopped moving like the woman stopped moving and everything was quiet. She patted the woman's face again, even though it hadn't worked the first time.

Mom hadn't said it would stop. The ones from the animals had been so small and so hard to find. She never even tried to see if they had stopped.

It wasn't fair.

What good was it if it stopped?

She felt ... dizzy. And her mouth felt weird. Mira put the heart down in the hole in the lady's stomach and touched her face. Her lips were curled up and her cheeks felt fat.

Oh, a smile! Just like the lady had on her face. Just like her mom made sometimes. It was what the woman was talking about. Mira was smiling. She opened her lunch box and looked at herself in the inside of the shiny lid. She looked just like her mom did, but this time it looked right. She did it right! So this was why people smiled!

Now her face was sticky.

She didn't know exactly what to do now. She had dumped the sandwich her mom made her in the trash, eaten the chips, and drank the juice, so she put the heart in her lunch box. It fit nice. The blood was all over her school uniform, though. And her face. And her hands. This wasn't good. People might think she hurt herself. If people started looking at her, they might find out she had the lady's heart. They might take her heart away from her if they knew she had it. It wasn't fair.

Everyone else already had one. Mira needed one of her own.

But it was okay because there was a puddle, and she could wash off her hands and face there. She almost didn't want to - this blood was special. That lady was special. Her heart and her blood had done something to Mira. What if washing it off made that go away? She liked how she felt. She liked the kinda-dizzy feeling and the smile that was still on her face.

She had to get that heart home. The heart was the important thing.

The water from the puddle was muddy and tasted bad when she got some on her mouth, but she took off her school uniform and put on her gym clothes, and wiped off her face with the clean part of her skirt.

She ran home, holding her lunch box tight to her chest with one hand; her other hand held the knife she stole from the kitchen, hidden behind the box. She was ready if anyone tried to take her heart. But she walked through backyards and woods and stayed off the street, so nobody saw her.

Mira used her key to get in the back door. She started towards the stairs, but then she heard her mom singing in the kitchen.

What if her mom never saw a heart?

Her mom knew what a heart was but if everyone kept them hidden, she had probably never seen one.

She put the knife in her pocket so mom wouldn't see it. She wasn't allowed to play with the knives. The smile was back on her face. She could feel it.


She turned around and yelled something in surprise, dropping a tray of cookies on the floor. "Oh god, Mira! What are you ... oh my god, what happened to you?"

Mom came right over to her and fell to her knees. Mira opened her lunch box and held it out to her. She was still smiling, but her mom wasn't.

"Mira? What ... oh god, what did you do?"

She didn't understand. Her mom put her hand over her mouth so she couldn't tell if she was smiling. Why wouldn't she be? Did she do it wrong? Mira picked it up to make sure she didn't cut off any important parts. It looked just like the pictures she found on the internet, except for the part up top where Mira had messed up cutting. She'd do better next time, though. She knew where everything was now.

"Please tell me you found this somewhere. God, Mira, please tell me you found this!"

That ... that was the voice she used when Mira was doing something she wasn't supposed to do.

"I found it in the woman's chest. That's where you said it was. It was harder than it was with the dogs."

She started to cry. Mira had tried to cry once but couldn't get it to work. Mom looked like she did that time she dropped the can of tomato sauce on her foot.


"Okay," her mom said. "Okay, everything's going to be okay. Did anyone see you? Did anyone talk to you?"

"Just the lady. She said smiles look better on me. I did the smile right, mom. I see why people like to do it. It felt ... nice?"

Mom sat back against the wall, bending her legs and putting her arms around them. She rocked back and forth while she kept crying.

"I can get you one, if you want."

"No!" She reached out and grabbed Mira's arm. "You can never do this terrible thing again. Do you understand?"

"Ow! That hurts!"

Mom didn't let go. "Mira, you need to promise me."

"Stop it!" Mira pulled the knife out of her pocket and stabbed her mom in the arm. She screamed and finally let go. Mira grabbed the lunch box and ran up the stairs as fast as she could, locking the door to her room behind her. She sat on the floor, leaning against the door, and took the heart out of the box. It didn't feel as good as before.

Maybe she shouldn't have shown her mom. Maybe that ruined it.

"Mira." Her mom tried to open the door. "Mira, I know you didn't mean to do that."

"You ruined it, mom!" She threw the heart down on the floor. "It was perfect and you ruined it!"

"Honey ... please just come out here. We can talk. I'm not going to turn you in. You're my baby. I ... I won't even tell daddy, okay? You're sick, and ... we just need to get you a doctor. We'll get you some medicine."

She ignored her, going to her bed and pulling a pillow over her head.

Mira would just have to get a new one.

She wouldn't show anybody this time. She wouldn't let anyone ruin it.