You're going to reap just what you sow...
|“Is it more or less delicate than the real thing,” the antique dealer smiled, coyly as he lifted the crystal heart from the display case. “A bit of a riddle, that.”
The dealer’s name was Montrose. He was a small, portly man, exceedingly neat and well mannered, ambiguously effeminate, and had been wearing a dreamy, secretive little smile from the moment Carson Moss walked through the door of his shop.
Montrose, Carson turned the name over in his mind. Was there ever a more fitting name for an antique dealer? He wondered if it was the man’s first or last name. Reginald Montrose? Carson had a hard time imagining a Buck or Rory keeping such a tidy shop, with its rows upon shelves of immaculate antiquity and its faint odor of lilacs. Just Montrose, he decided and leaned forward to get a better look at the crystal.
“It’s Russian. Nearly two centuries old,” Montrose said as he laid it upon a square of red, crushed velvet.
It was magnificent. The crystal was clear, but it bathed in the color of the velvet, drank it, and pumped its shades into every gentle slope and intricacy. The Aorta was robust, vibrant red; the word proud, came unbidden to Carson’s lips. The right and left atriums were stoic in burgundy. They adorned the heart’s flanks like pauldrons on a suit of armor. Beneath them, the pulmonary veins splayed out on each side in pale pink. In the center of the crystal, he saw his reflection, slightly distorted by the curvature, but no less handsome.
“I want to buy it.”
“It’s very expensive…”
Carson’s eye twitched. The chubby little shop keeper would not have noticed the Mercedes parked outside. Nor would he expect Montrose to recognize his Burberry overcoat or Calvin Klein pullover- after all, modernity was not the man’s forte. But Carson felt fairly certain a luxury timepiece would be identifiable in any era, so he gently placed his right hand on the counter. It was a vulgar, petty gesture, but the comment about the price had pricked him.
Montrose noticed the Breitling immediately, its supple, leather band, platinum face, and crusting of diamonds, and the man’s smile widened.
“I want the heart,” he stated simply.
“Despite the price?”
“Because of it.” Carson brushed his fingers, ever so gently, across the rippled surface. It was smooth as a pride, and twice as cold. “It needs to be special.”
“And if I told you it was cursed?”
Carson looked up to meet Montrose’s stare. The antique dealer was no longer smiling. His face had grown stern, and somber. Something in the man’s jowls and half lidded eyes punctuated the effect, but Carson was undeterred.
“Then I would want it even more,” Carson replied, smiling.
All of the solemnity drained from Montrose’s face and his smile returned. “Then, you must have it.” A thin string was tied to the superior vena cava, with a tiny square of paper at the other end. Gingerly, the antique dealer flipped the paper to reveal the price. Even as small as they were written, the digits barely fit on the tag.
Carson could not help but feel as though he was being challenged. As if the man did not want to part with the crystal heart. Was Montrose attached to it? Had he grown fond of his treasure. Carson Moss meant to sever this little union, so he produced the most effective tool for the job, an instrument that could be both sharp and blunt: his American Express card.
“I am afraid we do not accept charge cards,” Montrose apologized in a theatrical mockery of regret. “We’re just not equipped.”
This guy is really pissing me off. It was everything. Not just the refusal of his Amex, or the jab about the cost. It was everything about him: the effete little smile, his faint British accent, (perhaps muted by a few decades in the States, but Carson thought it was most likely an affectation,) and most of all his general aurora of self satisfaction. Warnings about curses? Thanks for the tip asshole, now run my fucking card.
The irritation in Carson’s face must have shown. Montrose’s eyes widened and a sliver of genuine charity slipped into his own expression. “Of course we accept checks,” he said, before adding: “Just as long as it is drawn on one of the major financial institutions.”
You couldn’t just say bank? Carson might have slapped him, but by chance he did have his checkbook. It was stowed away inside his jacket pocket beside a gold rimmed Montblanc to fill it out.
With the method of payment decided, everything progressed quickly. A whisper of paper as Carson tore the check from the book. The wet scratching of the pen as he scrawled more zeros than he had originally intended upon entering the shop. Montrose’s offer to gift wrap, Carson’s acceptance, and in less than three minutes he was standing with his hand on the door latch, preparing to leave, the heart, wrapped and boxed, and tucked neatly beneath his arm.
Oddly, Carson felt more left to say than goodbye. Without much thought, he said: “Now I just need to figure out what to do with it.”
“Oh,” Montrose said, still smiling. “Just take it out of the box; the heart will do the rest.”
The comment didn’t mean much at the time, but by the time Carson truly understood what the antique dealer meant, the heart was doing everything.
The drive home was short. Just long enough to catch some updates about the Stock Market and a couple tracks from Transformer. By the time he pulled into the driveway, Lou Reed was just crooning his endorsement of drinking sangria in the park. Carson turned off the engine, plucked the small gift box from the leather passenger seat, and started up the walkway, singing.
“You just keeep me haaangin’ oooon…”
Carson kicked off his Versace’s in the foyer and headed for the spacious living room. He had his eye on the mantle over the fireplace, but was thrown off by the state of the living room. While the ladies from the previous night had the grace to be gone before he got home, they had down little to clean up after themselves. The coffee table was littered with half finished cocktails and the were cigarette butts in the ashtray; rims and filters stained with seductive shades of lipstick. Carson sighed as he brushed a residue of white powder from the smudged table top.
“You just keep mee ha-ang-in’ oooon”
Numerous mirrors and reflective surfaces adorned the living room, and so Carson decided that the heart would catch reflections of firelight if he placed above the fireplace. Opening the gift box, he removed the crystal and was again enraptured by it’s grace and delicacy as he placed it on the mantle. He set it down own its side and it balanced perfectly.
With the intention of getting a trash bag and some paper towels to clean up last night’s adventures, Carson started toward the kitchen, but no sooner had he taken three steps than he barked his shin, hard on the coffee table. He wasn’t looking where he was going. Carson could not take his eyes off of the heart.
The pain was aching up his shin, and he could feel a drop of blood running down his leg. Desperately, he wanted to get some ice from the freezer, a cool cloth and some antiseptic, but however great those desires, the need to be close to the heart eclipsed them. Limping, he started forward, towards the mantle. Each step sent a throb of pain up his leg, deep into the bundle of nerves in his groin, but he proceeded anyway. It was when he saw his hands out in front of him that he began to resist, or try to resist the heart. The Breitling glimmered beautifuly on his wrist as he reached for the crystal, and beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.
Carson stiffened his body, fighting to stop himself from reaching the heart. He had no inkling as to what he might do, or what might happen, should he reach it. But the feeling of possession was so strong, so determined, that his instinct compelled him to resist. He thrust his shoulders back, away from the mantle in an attempt to topple himself over. If I fell, maybe I would knock myself out, and this feeling would pass by the time I awoke. But he was unsuccessful, he remained upright and continued towards the heart.
Just take it out of the box, and the heart will do the rest, Montrose’s words echoed in his mind. Carson cursed the man. Imagined wrapping his hands around his jowly little throat and throttling him.
And if I told you it was cursed…
I want the heart…
Carson finally reached the mantle, his fingers brushed the gentle slope of the pulmonary trunk. Fear and revulsion filled him as his mind was flooded with an image of his fate. It was glass. And blood. And agony.
“I’ve need to destroy it.” Even speaking was a struggle. Carson knew he needed to wrestle back control of his body. Suddenly inspiration struck. Summoning all of his will, savagely, he kicked forward his injured shin. It connected with the grate surrounding the fireplace in a blinding flash of sheer agony. But the pain cleared his mind a for a half a heartbeat, Carson was in possession of himself again. He wasted no time. Carson grabbed the heart and threw it down, against the stones at the base of the fireplace.
The crystal shattered into a hundred pieces at his feet…
...and then Carson heard it speak.
Its voice came from everywhere and nowhere. It was in the walls and in his mind, a quavering, ringing, anti melody in the key of oblivion.
“Goooood,” it sang in a rainbow spectrum of tones. “Goooood.”
Any semblance of autonomy Carson had before disappeared amidst the cacophony of the heart’s voice. He was merely a spectator in his own body.
“Gather,” the voice commanded.
With a hand that was not his own, Carson took the iron broom from amidst the fireplace tools, and swept the broken glass into a neat pile.
This time Carson used the shovel and began kneading and crushing the glass. The ringing sound of crystal grew louder and deeper.
Carson obeyed, watching himself work diligently from the smallest corner of his mind afforded to him. By the time he was done, the crystal was ground down to soft white powder that twinkled like some sort of celestial treasure. Carson required no further instruction, had, in fact, no will with which to obey it. But the command was given anyway.
He ate. And just like the pain in his gums and throat, the taste of the blood was almost sweet.
Many people would be surprised at how little the government affords to the salary of a county coroner. So it was not uncommon for Dr. Molly Plaas to supplement her meager income with unorthodox business ventures. Sometimes that meant sharing a lock of a celebrities hair with an obsessed fan. And once, when she was on the verge of defaulting on her mortgage, she accepted ten thousand dollars to allow a man one hour with the body of his deceased sister. But the indiscretion requested by the portly little man in the waiting room, she thought , would way far less on her conscience. He was paying a large sum of money, and perhaps most conveniently, granting him his request would save her a mountain of paperwork. After all, how was she supposed to explain how the body of Carson Moss turned up with a glass heart in his chest, in place of an organic one.