Strength of heart

Speakeasy #148

They say the human heart weighs between nine and eleven ounces, but how can that be when mine is too heavy to bear. A burden that roots me to this place.

If not for its strength I would have slipped away hours ago. Instead I’m weighted down by my need to bear witness.

It’s more than a symptom, or psychological force. It must be. It hurts too much. The intensity of it prevents me from moving. Though even if I could, I no longer have the ability to stand.

My back is as broken and twisted as the gnarled stump I’m laid against. The evening breeze drifting through the trees coats me in ice, burning my skin.

Everything aches; my eyes from seeing too much, my lungs from breathing in the bitter scent of blood, blood which covers the forest floor. My arms are sore and cramping from the effort to fight off so many, and yet, if I could, I would raise them again.

I tried so hard to protect him, gave it everything I had, but there were too many of them and I failed.

It’s silent now, and even the silence hurts.

My throat is raw, so painful I’m unable to swallow. I screamed at them to have mercy, screamed until my voice became a croak.

They saw only through a thick mask of fear and hatred, and heard nothing but the sound of their own frenzy.

The ringing in my ears does not drown out the pain. If I live through this I will never forget the sounds he made, and yet he did not defend himself. This knowledge fills my head so completely, I want to weep.

Everything is so damn heavy, and I cling to the darkness for a moment. It takes every last drop of willpower to open my eyes. I owe him that much.

No one could ever know what happened here. That’s what they’d said.

I know, and still I am alive.

I don’t know why.

My brain wants to deny the sight of his brutalised form on the ground. I won’t allow myself to look away, even though the tears are blurring my vision.

This is what hate does, and it makes me sick to the stomach. I can feel it, like acid in my throat and I allow my head to drop back; wondering if I will choke on my own vomit.

The stars above me are aglow with the burning hatred I witnessed. Judging the scene before them and all of mankind. It’s an odd thought, but one that overpowers me.

There was so many of them, each one a testament to my failure.

Still, it isn’t the worlds above me that make me feel small and insignificant. It’s this one. What happened here, in the clearing, made me realise how far apart we really were.

I have never felt more ashamed of my fellow man or the violence we are capable of.

It twists in my gut, the pain so much more potent than the knife wound leaking my life force onto the wet grass.

I’m growing weaker and I don’t care. I don’t even care when I hear movement in front of me. I have to be silenced. I’m surprised they haven’t finished it already.

I have never turned away from anything in my life, or given in to fear. It’s not who I am. So, despite the pain, I lift my head, if only to look them in the eye. I want them to know I would have fought with my dying breath to stop them.

Again my brain seeks to deny what is right in front of me. It isn’t them I see. It’s him. The one they’d beaten to death for nothing more than the fact he doesn’t belong.

The one I thought was dead.

He isn’t dead. He is unmarked by the violence he encountered.

He moves with an unearthly grace that humbles me. There is no malice in his face. No anger. Only compassion.

He is beside me in an instant and lifting me the next, with the care he might have lifted a child.

I realise something as he begins to walk across the clearing. I can no longer smell the blood, or feel the ringing in my ears. My body doesn’t hurt anymore, and my heart, my heart is so light I think it might float away as though it weighed nothing all.


745 words

Thanks for reading.


Why not visit the Speakeasy to read some of the other great posts. You will find the prompt for this flash fiction contest, which included an incorporation of the sentence, ‘no one could ever know what happened here.’

18 thoughts on “Strength of heart

  1. mbarkersimpson says:

    Thanks – I can see where you’re coming from. I purposely wrote it that way so people could make their own decisions and take from it what they will 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment. Mel

  2. Suzanne says:

    This is so raw and intense. I love the open-ended ending, though I would love to know more about who they are in your mind. And I like your well-crafted and subtle use of the prompts. 🙂

  3. mbarkersimpson says:

    Thanks, Susanne, I appreciate your comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I like to leave things open-ended. It gives readers the chance to make up their own mind, and that can be fun. As I was writing the piece, in my head the protagonist was a soldier who stumbled upon a hate crime. He was very clear. The victim, on the other hand, led me up the garden path a little and turned out to be a visitor from another world – hence his ability to heal himself and the only person who came to his defence. I hope that doesn’t take anything away from your own interpretation. Out of interest, what picture did the story paint in your head?

  4. Silverleaf says:

    Lovely story! Interesting to read about what you had in your head while writing it. I imagined it was a woman and her friend, the woman as the narrator. When her friend picked her up and she no longer was suffering, I thought they were both dead and so on a different plain.
    My story last week was quite different in my mind compared to what several readers saw. I love hearing others’ interpretations.

    1. mbarkersimpson says:

      I love it too. I like the picture in your head – it definitely works. Really the characters can be anyone, at any time, as long as the underlying message was received. That there was peace in the end (I’m a sucker for a happy ending!), and you got that. I really appreciate the comment. Thanks

  5. atrm61 says:

    Like Silverleaf above,I too thought that the protagonist is a woman-maybe because the character was so sensitive to everyone’s pain,I imagined her to be a peace keeper and thus she had to suffer.Loved the way her fear and apprehensions came through and how in the end she was carried away by a superior force-to me he was an angel of mercy and she had died. her soul finding eternal peace.Excellent writing Melissa!

  6. mbarkersimpson says:

    Thank you so much, for the lovely comments and for sharing your interpretation. I understand what you mean about the sensitivity to pain. In this particular situation, I wanted the character to show through words how intense the situation was. I like the angel of mercy idea, and a soul finding eternal peace – beautiful.

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