HEART COLLECTOR

A4F2FA40-6782-42C2-8E5E-36CA01DC5701Ravenous rain tore up the dirt road that led to the house at the end of Highgrove street. The mud seemed to have ripples in it and hidden beneath the water were puddles leading to esoteric holes that went straight to the depths of Hell. The tires to my run down Chevy found them often, and the rain had lasted days. It was the beginning of February and felt like spring.  

I had watched the house across from me on Highgrove Street for months now out of mere curiosity. I moved here in April of last year after a nasty divorce from my wife, Hitler, as I called her because she was merciless. That woman took me for everything except my belly button fuzz. My ex-wife, Sarah, who I met in college, was a superior sculptor and a bit of an artistic genius. I was a landscape architect, and I thought we were forever until she met someone new. Sarah no longer had room for me in her heart, a heart that was now frozen to the core, and she grew hateful towards me and I towards her. 

I had to face my own reality; I was never enough for her. I was too skinny, too old, too boring, and needed to dye my hair from gray to brown. I’d look younger if I’d just shave my long bushy beard, and so during the divorce, I put up a good fight only to piss her off. I made it difficult for her because I wanted the house that was in my name, and I wanted the old collection of baseball cards her father had given me. My ex-wife wanted me to be without everything, and I was having none of it. I may have gone too far on a couple of occasions.

We were still sharing the house in shifts because I worked nights, and then one day, when she was at work, I had all the locks changed. Yeah, it was a dick move, I but wouldn’t let her in the house until she gave me back my concert t-shirts that she claimed she tossed out by accident. Sarah took them on purpose and stored them in her new boyfriend’s basement. She had done it on purpose to get back at me for telling her she looked like she had put on weight since she met her new boyfriend. I asked her if she was pregnant. I know it was petty shit and all, but I was angry. She got pissed off, and the next thing I knew, half of my stuff was missing. 

According to Hitler, I had done other things to her, which were all made up. I thought it was funny. The accusations were outlandish. Not once did she mention all of the things she had done to me. Sarah put on an excellent performance for the judge that granted the restraining order.  

Sarah claimed I stalked her, showing up in places that she was going to be (untrue) and that I poisoned her cat, Charles. I had done no such thing, old Charlie was on his last leg long before she had decided she wanted no part of me or my “limp dick” as she put it so nicely. The so-called porn charges on her credit card in the thousands of dollars, also untrue. Besides, I had a soft spot for old Charles, the cat. He had to live with her.

 Well, he wasn’t living anymore. I guess now was he? A blessing for old Charles.  

Everything could have been explained away, like the porn charges. Hitler lost her wallet a month before on the subway. Someone probably stole her credit card, but it had to be me, right? There were other more random things like a missing flower pot she had sculpted on her front porch, (neighborhood kids playing pranks at Halloween) or the knives in the kitchen. Now I will confess, I took the knives because I PAID FOR THEM, but her new boyfriend was a cop. 

Convenient, wasn’t it? 

My curiosity about the old man across the street kept me from going completely insane and on a murderous rampage, especially when the latest in her list of complaints. Recently there came a notice from Hitler’s lawyer asking me to return her family photos that I had apparently stolen immediately.  

If I had stolen them, what makes that bitch think I was going to give them back to her anyhow? I had so much as caught her in bed with the cop. That was my fault, too, I suppose. I couldn’t give her children, so she claims she fell out of love with me because I could no longer give her the life she had always dreamt of. She was probably already knocked up by her cop boyfriend. Too bad that she can’t marry him. If she marries him, she stops getting that alimony. Something my lawyer wasn’t complete shit about doing on my behalf. Most lawyers are shit, though. Greedy sons of bitches that would sacrifice their own mothers to Hell if it meant winning a crucial case, especially if money was involved. 

To say I was hateful, was an understatement. I hated everyone that ever lived, and I hated everything that ever existed. 

Except for the old man across the street, now there was a fascinating fellow. He kept to himself and didn’t gossip or interfere, unlike my previous neighbors who liked to call the cops if they even remotely thought I was raising my voice to Hitler. 

So, to pass the time, I spent my free time watching him. He was a peculiar old fellow, and he never left except on Thursdays. I worked from home, so I saw everything. He had deliveries made to his house and took things in by a little wheel barrel. I wondered what on earth he could be building in there. The items he brought in were all things you might find at a doctor’s office. Empty glass jars, beakers, pieces of cloth, other things like a balance, a run-down mini-refrigerator, boxes, and boxes of rubber gloves.  

It was always interesting seeing what he would bring in. I was watching him out my window when I realized I was running late for my Dr. Appointment. I was now required to attend court-ordered therapy with a psychologist by the name of Doctor Burns. This would be our very first chat since the restraining order, which Hitler said she would have stopped if I would see a professional, and of course, my dip shit attorney agreed with her attorney.  

So, I found myself sitting in this waiting room with one other guy that looked like he was a potential serial killer. I tried not to look at him, but he was staring at me wide-eyed unwaveringly. I tried to take my mind off the fact I was here and the fact that the guy was so transfixed on me. 

So that is when I got the bright idea that maybe I should call my ex-wife to set the record straight about her family photos. It had really been bothering me. I thought it would be a good idea to let her know I was at my court-ordered therapy. 

I was shocked when she answered.   

“What on earth could you possibly want David? You have a restraining order, and yet that doesn’t seem to stop you from bothering me. Do I need to call the cops?”

“I wanted to tell you I’m at a therapist’s office.”

“So?”

“I thought you’d like to know I’m being agreeable with you and to let you know I didn’t take your family photos. Why on earth would I do that anyhow, Sarah?” 

“I am glad you are seeing a therapist. I also know that you are only there because of the restraining order. Which, by the way, is for your own good.”

“My own good? You’re the one that was fucking that cop behind my back what did you expect me to be cordial?”

She sighed, “I’m not allowed to talk to you. I have to go, David.”

“No! Why do you think I did all those things? You know I’m not like that!” I found myself raising my voice again. Louder this time.

“Why do you do anything that you have done in the last year? To torture me! Let’s be honest, you don’t play with a full deck anymore because you’re sick, David. You need to get some help and move on with your life.”

“Pretty convenient, you have your life now, and I’m the one sitting here gettin’ therapy, but you’re the crazy bitch that told all those lies about me!”

“I’m hanging up now. Please never call me again.”

“Sarah, you know I didn’t do those things!”

 

“I know you have those photos. I saw you put the box in your car when you broke in and stole them. I have a security camera set up in my family room for this very reason. Watch yourself because I’d hate to see you go to jail. Then what would your life be like?”

“Oh, well, so that cop boyfriend is helping you. You didn’t see shit, Sarah! You didn’t see shit!” I realized I was screaming into the phone when my doctor came into the hallway to see what the commotion was.

She had hung up in the middle of my tirade.

“David Simmons?” I saw Dr. Burns standing there looking at me. 

 She was an older woman with soft gray hair pulled back in a bun. I took a deep breath looking around the room, feeling the eyes of everyone watching me. I lowered my head and nodded at her. 

“I’m sorry,” I said sheepishly.

“Please come in.” 

I followed her into her office so she could trick me into telling her all of my deep dark secrets, but I was smarter than she was I wouldn’t be telling her anything.

“Do you want to start by discussing what that little outburst was in the waiting room?”

“No,” I said, “Look, I’m really sorry about that. I didn’t mean to upset anyone. Just having a bad day, I guess.”

“Do you have a lot of bad days?”

“Nah, not really.”

“Deep breath then.” Dr. Burns smiled at me. “I’d appreciate it in the future if you’d hold off on those types of outbursts when you are in my office. I have colleagues with other patients.” 

Dr. Burns’ tone was tender and empathetic. I didn’t dislike her, and I found myself talking to her even though I didn’t want to. I guess it was nice to speak to a woman that wasn’t Hitler. Someone that didn’t put me down and make me feel like shit like I was some kind of loser.

“So, you like to garden?” I asked her, looking at all the plants and plant-related books in her office.

She smiled warmly at me. “It is a hobby of mine. Do you have any hobbies?”

“No, not really.”

“Well, what sort of things do you like to do?”

“I watch people.”

She took a deep breath and looked at me, puzzled. “How do you mean?”

“I’m not weird. I bet you get a shit ton of weirdos- like that guy in the waiting room. I bet he molests kids. Real freak that guy. He stared at me the whole time I was out there waiting on you.”

“I’m not saying you’re weird. Everyone can be weird sometimes, maybe the man in the waiting room was staring at you because you were screaming.”

“Maybe.” She made sense, I thought.

“So, you like to watch people. How do you watch people?”

“Well, not stalk- not like Hitler- I mean my wife, my ex-wife says I do. I mean to -like, I dunno to learn from them. You know, like there’s this fella that lives across the street from me, and I find him really interesting.”

“Why do you find him interesting?”

“He keeps to himself, and he’s always tinkering around his place. Building shit. He’s a little fella, but he gets around if you know what I mean?”

“Have you ever tried talking to him?”

“Nah, I don’t think he would really have much to say.”

“Perhaps you could talk to him about what he’s building. Tell him you admire people like that. Start off with a compliment and go from there.”

“Okay, that feels weird like I’m trying to ask him on a date.”

“That doesn’t mean you are asking him out on a date. Any time you meet someone new, there’s going to be a brief period of trying to get to know them. It takes practice.” Dr. Burns smiled at me.

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Well, David, our time is up for today, but by our next appointment in two weeks, I would like you to reach out to him to say hello or ask him over for a beer. Rebuilding positive human interactions is crucial to healing. You have been through a lot.

“You mean the divorce and the restraining order.”

“All change causes grief. Just start small. Say hello and see where that takes you.” 

The hour went by so quickly, and I left feeling better than I had in a long time. Dr. Burns sure had a funny way to make you feel like she wasn’t a therapist at all. She was more like a friend. Maybe that was the point of a therapist. They could be your imaginary friend so that you had someone to talk to. I mean, you paid them to speak to you, or in my case, the court paid for it.

When I got home, I cracked open a beer and sat down in my recliner. I turned on my television and tried to zone out. 

I was half in a rerun of some old episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents when there was a loud bang. I thought I heard someone screaming. Sitting up in my chair, I put my beer down. I looked out the window, and there seemed to be a flashing light coming from the old man’s house.  

I went outside, and I heard it again. Someone was in distress. I walked over towards the old man’s driveway, and I heard moaning. A flashlight was rolling in a circle, and the old man appeared to have fallen. There was glass everywhere, and it was covered in a green liquid.  

I stepped over the glass and went to help the old man up. Did this count as an official meet and greet? I laughed to myself, thinking about what Dr. Burns might say in her relaxing voice, “A meeting is still a meeting.” I imagined her saying to me.

“Hey, looks like you took a nasty fall, let me help you.”

The old man was still moaning, and he seemed tired and out of breath. Once I helped him stand, he seemed alright enough to walk into his house. His door was still wide open, and so I helped him to an old Victorian sofa.   

He took an audible breath and pointed towards a small table. I looked up and saw a cup, grabbed it, and handed it to him.

He smacked his lips together. “Thank you.”

“Oh, it was nothing. It’s a good thing I was here. Looks like you took a smack to your head.”

“I’ll be okay. I am more concerned with the mess in the driveway.”

“I can get that for you. It’s no problem at all.”

“No, I’ll tend to it later.”

“Really, I have a broom and a bucket.”

“NO.” He was stern, and his word was final.  

For a small man, he had a presence about him. He required to respect. To which I provided it willingly.

“Okay, do you need anything else? I’m Dave, by the way.”

“Thank you, Dave. I’m Boris.”

I grinned wide, thinking how Dr. Burns would be so proud of me when I told her that I did exactly what she wanted. Maybe I’d get the restraining order stopped sooner than later. Possibly someday I’d be able to repair the relationship with Sarah. I tried to make it right.

“Real pleasure Boris,” I said, sitting down across from him in an old chair. It didn’t occur to me that it might be bad manners.

I looked around the room, and there were strange collections of things. On his mantel was a giant fish skeleton, he had a lamp made of finger bones, and on the coffee table was a bowl filled with a coiled snake skeleton. There were insects in frames all over his walls, and taxidermist materials scattered throughout. It was not cluttered or messy, and everything had its place inside of his home.  

The stuffed crows that were lined up his tall wall created a murder frozen in mid-flight. Their eyes seemed to be alive as they watched me from their black metallic gaze. I forgot myself staring at his collection of odd things. It wasn’t until he coughed that I remembered my place.

“My hobbies of oddities,” Boris said in a raspy voice.

“How long have you been a collector of oddities?” I asked him, unable to take my eyes away from all of the little quirks. There was something oddly beautiful about them. There was a love in them that made it hard to be weirded out by the dead things.

“As long as humans have existed.”

I chuckled at his “elder humor” and awkwardly and could tell my time was up. It wasn’t anything that was said, but I got a strange feeling my presence was no longer welcome. I stood and bid goodbye to Boris with plans to check on his well being the next day.

I entered my home after my visit with the elderly gentleman whose name I now knew was Boris. I felt strangely tired, and for the first time, at peace.

I slept for the first time in ages, and I even had pleasant dreams. I was living with Sarah again. We were so happy, and we had a newborn baby. I was pushing our baby in a stroller, and I had leaned in to see our child when I woke to the sound of birds before I could see my child’s face in my dream. I showered, and when I looked at the old man in the mirror, I decided I didn’t want to adapt to the Grizzly Adams look anymore. It took me nearly thirty minutes, but I managed to find my electric razor. I trimmed my long beard to crop it against my face, and then I shaved the hair on my head off into a crew cut. I looked at myself quite satisfied with my new, improved look. I had cut most of the gray hair off my face, and underneath, it was mostly the reddish-brown color that defined me as a man of 39.

I showered and dressed like someone that could rejoin polite society. I made a cup of coffee for myself, I made a second one added a splash of cream to both cups, and made my way over to the home of my new friend Boris.

I knocked on the front door, and it took the old man a few minutes, but he finally answered.  

He opened the door, saying nothing just and waved me in. 

“For me?” he asked, grinning at the second cup of coffee.

“I wasn’t sure if you like cream. If you want more, I have some at home.”

“Not necessary. Thank you. I suppose you are here to check on me.”

“Yeah,” I laughed “You took a big hit to your head. How are you feeling?”

“Like new after a comfy night’s sleep.” He slurped the coffee I handed him, and he sat on his couch.

I stood awkwardly, trying to think of something intelligent to say when he began to speak again.

“I like the new look. Shave and haircut. Better suited to it. Look a bit younger too.”

“Thanks,” I said, feeling comfortable enough now to sit across from him.

“You are curious as to why I have so many weird things. I can tell by the look on your face.”

“I guess. I mean, it isn’t every day you meet someone with such eclectic tastes.”

“Everything in this world has its place. I’m one of those men that appreciates all of it. Life, death, tragedy, blossoming, and disgust. Even the dead eyes of a crow, I find soothing. I have always been a collector of such finery.”

“I never was much of a collector, but my dad liked to collect baseball cards.”

“Is that so?” Boris laughed lightly.

“I guess I never saw the point.”

“There’s a power in owning a piece of history or someone’s memories.”

I nodded and continued looking around the room. 

“I had the collection of baseball cards, but my ex-wife took them. Nasty divorce that never seems to end.”

“You were married for a long time?”

“No,” I said, feeling like I was under a microscope. It felt uncomfortable, and it was the first time someone other than a court-appointed physician showed any interest in me. “We were only married for five years.”

“Why did you divorce?”

“My ex said I changed. Sarah was the one that changed. She was suddenly some famous sculptor and always had some sort of event. Sarah stopped being home as much. She got a new set of fancy friends, and started sleeping with some cop.”

There was a bitterness in my tone, and I could feel my eyes growing black, thinking about her. I wished I could incinerate her and that cop.

“I see. By any chance is your ex-wife, the one who sculpted that exhibit downtown of Pele?”

“Yeah, two years ago in April. I believe that’s when things started changing.”

He smiled and nodded.  

“You mind helping me with something?” Boris asked, standing.

“No, not at all.”

“I have some boxes that need to be moved from my trunk. I made it home last night, but as you know, that didn’t go as planned. You look sturdy enough.” 

I helped him carry the first box, although I wasn’t sure why he needed my help. There were only three smaller boxes, and neither weighed very much. 

I carried them inside, and he had me follow him to the basement. The basement wasn’t as tidy as the other parts of the house. It seemed cluttered with utensils that looked scientific in nature.  

I looked around and saw there was another room off the side of the room we had entered the basement.

There was a light illuminating out of it and beckoning to me. 

I stacked the boxes on a work table, and Boris began to move some items from them. He wasn’t paying any attention to me as he seemed to be enjoying the contents he was pulling from the packages.

“Ahh, I have waited for these for some time.” He muttered to himself.

I found myself walking towards the room, and when I opened the door, which didn’t even make so much as a creak. 

What I saw nearly made me ill, but there was something that gave me that feeling of utter amazement.  

On display shelves with track lighting were beautiful glass jars. Inside them, all was a green liquid that seemed to make them glow. Inside each one of them was a glowing flame-red heart.

My mouth was dropped open, and I was looking around the room. There were hundreds of them. Below each was a name and what looked like a job title. I was confused and then remembering myself, I turned to look back at Boris. 

“You found me out.” Boris chuckled.

“Are these pig hearts?” I asked, showing my immediate stupidity.

“Human.”

“How? Why? Don’t doctors need these for donations? How would you get them? So many of them.”

“Each one is actually quite special to me. Not illegal, at least where I come from.”

“Why?”

“Each one is a genius of different talent, profession, most never recognized by the world.”

Boris walked me over to a wall with an enlarged heart, pointing to the description under it. I looked at it.

“It’s so big. He was a giant?” I didn’t believe what my eyes were showing me. Boris had to have been conned by some dark websites selling them on the black market. There was no way these were real.

“His name was Marco Gervani. He lived in Sicily and died at 19. By the registers, he was ten feet tall. He weighed nearly three hundred pounds. This overgrown heart is actually what would have killed him if I had not found him and saved him from a fate worse than death.”

I stood unmoved, in awe. Boris watched me as I looked around the room, and my eyes settled on another name.

“That is Esmerelda Anchorman. She was a world-famous cellist. Next to her was Raymond Woolworth. He invented an instrument that saved the entire world when no one was looking. Next to him is a famous Olympian.”

I looked at the names and the years because some of them were from 152 B.C. The name of the person’s heart said Leonidas of Rhodes.  

“He was a famous sprinter that had more successful victories than anyone in modern times. He died, and I ensured I procured his heart immediately upon his death.”

I laughed old Boris was off his rocker.

“I’m serious.” His eyes grew cold.

“Okay, okay, if you say so.”

“I don’t think you understand, young man. I have been collecting these since the beginning of time.” 

I smiled and backed away from him, turning towards the door. It shut on me before I could exit. I felt an eerie sensation, and I saw a glow of light appear before my eyes. In it, I began to see a movie playing out of the light. It was of a naked man sprinting past other men. The next scene was of a man dreaming of the world exploding from an asteroid in space. He woke an immediately began working on a secret weapon to keep asteroids from hitting the earth. The calendar on his wall said 1901. 

More images came through as if each heart spoke to me independently of one another. There was another image, the last.  

It was of Boris, who was sitting across from a man at a table. He looked as though he had too much to drink and was crying. Boris smiled, holding out his hand. The man took Boris’s hand. “Are you sure?” Boris was asking him.

“My life is over.” The man was saying.

Boris then reached out to the man as an orb of light erupted from his chest. It was alien in appearance as it left his chest and into Boris’s greedy eyes. As he took the heart, he smelled it. There was an element of electricity that entered his nostrils and went down into his chest, settling inside of where his own heart would be.  

Boris stood up in my vision and straightened up. He looked a bit younger, too walking out of the bar leaving the dead man there.

The room went dark, and the living picture shows Boris and the people were now gone.  

My eyes were wet, and I felt hot and sweaty. I felt a soft hand touch me gently on the shoulder.

“It is true.” Boris sighed.

“Why do they do it?”

“Each one had a life of tragedy. The combination is not ideal, but the source of their sorrow feeds me. I take away their pain. I do not ask if they will give their lives to me. All of them do so willingly.”

“All of them?”

“Every man and woman has at one time a death wish. It’s my job to grant it.”

“You said they are the hearts of geniuses, are all geniuses predisposed to suicidal tendencies?”

“There are times when it can be too much. Knowing so much, accomplishing so much, having so much responsibility. The better you are at something, the more is expected of you.”

I thought about it, and it made sense. My new friend had gifts, of which he now trusted me with a very dark secret. Boris was an angel of death.  

The door opened, and the fresh air refreshed me.  

“Are you hungry?” Boris asked me.

I nodded. I was starving, actually.

“There’s a great place in town called Denny’s.” He laughed

I laughed too. It was funny that someone like Boris could enjoy a chain restaurant like Denny’s.  

We sat in a booth waiting for our orders. I was so hungry I would have ordered the entire menu if I could afford it.

“So, tell me more about your relationship with your ex-wife.” He asked, sipping on tea.

“She wanted children. We tried everything. It never worked out.”

“Just as well. Not everyone is meant to carry such a burden.”

“It’s the main reason she didn’t want to be with me.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, young man, but I think she sounds like a rather selfish person. Most geniuses are.”

I eyed old Boris he called Sarah a genius. I called her Adolph Hitler. Her cruelty knew no bounds when it came to me. It infuriated me every time I thought about it.  

“I think she’s an evil bitch.”

“That’s the jury speaking. You still love Sarah. You wish she still loved you.”

Boris chuckled again.

“Love? What I feel right now isn’t love.”

“There’s an old saying that there’s a thin line between love and hate. Maybe you’re confusing your emotions.”

“I’m not confused. I want to forget I ever met her crazy ass.” I looked around for our waitress, who finally brought us our food. I devoured it quickly and didn’t speak or acknowledge Boris for another fifteen minutes.  

Boris ate toast and eggs quietly and serenely.  

“When is the last time you had sex with a woman that wasn’t your wife?”

I nearly choked on my food.

“What’s that, grandpa?” I joked red-faced.

“The way you lusted after that food is a tell. You need to get your appetite satisfied, or you’re going to get fat, and no woman will want a fat, miserable man still pining after his ex-wife.” Again the old man had a hearty laugh at my expense.

I was embarrassed at his suggestion. Honestly, the thought had not crossed my mind. Maybe Boris was on to something as I eyed the waitress from across the room.

“You like her, why don’t you wipe the mayo off your face and go get her phone number. She will give it to you.” 

I don’t know why I did it, but I did exactly that.  

She had dark hair and a curvy body. She was young but old enough. I tapped her on the shoulder to which she turned and smiled. She wasn’t beautiful, but there was something about her green eyes.  

“I’m very sorry if this comes off offensive, but I was wondering if you might like to have dinner with me.” I was in awe of my own confidence.  

She smiled, “Ain’t ya gonna introduce yourself first?” She quipped.

“I’m Dave. You’re Emily.” I said, looking at her name tag. 

“Okay, Dave.” She laughed. “Give me your cell phone, and I’ll put my number in it.”

I reached inside my pocket for my phone, but it wasn’t there. I looked back at the table and at Boris, who was holding my cell phone in his hand, looking at it.

I held up my finger to tell Emily to give me a second. I walked over to the table, looking at Boris, who had the “I’m caught look” on his face.

“I was just admiring your phone. I like the model, is it the newer one?”

“I dunno,” I said as he handed it to me.  

I looked down and saw he was looking at my contacts. I thought it was strange, but he was old. Ancient, to be exact. I didn’t take him for a tech guy. I walked back to Emily, and she added her name to my phone.

I called her that night, and we met at a local bar. One thing led to another, and I ended up spending the next morning searching for a way not to go on a second date. While Emily was hot, there was little substance to our encounter.

I left her place shortly after ten in the morning. She kissed me goodbye, but we didn’t even pretend that there was more to our encounter than sex.

When I pulled into my driveway, I happened to look across the street, and I was shocked to see my ex-wife’s car in Boris’s driveway.  

I was confused like maybe I was seeing things for a moment. Then I saw her. Sarah was grinning ear to ear as she got into her vehicle. I hid behind my own truck so she wouldn’t see me as she drove past.  

I had to know what that was all about. I could wait no longer, and then I marched over to Boris’s house. I knocked loudly on the door. It took him a while to answer, and when he did, he was all smiling.

“Can I ask you what the hell my wife Sarah was doing here.”

“Ex,” he said flatly.

“What?”

“Sarah is your ex-wife.”

“Yeah, I know why was she here, Boris?”

“Come in.”

I pushed past him and went into his foray.  

“I bought one of her sculptures.”

“Why?”

“Why not? You said she was a talented sculptor.”

“Because of why you might want it.”

“OH, you mean the hearts.”

“Why do you think I’m asking.”

“Why don’t we have a drink. I have some gin in the kitchen.”

“I don’t want a drink.”

Boris smiled at me and then walked into the kitchen. He slowly opened his cupboard above the sink and pulled out a bottle of gin. Pouring himself a glass and then Boris drank it sipping as he watched me. He waved the bottle at me, and I shook my head no.

Screwing the cap back onto the bottle, he put it back and then carried with him his glass as he walked towards me.

“Let me show you something.”

With a wave of his hands, he created what looked like a wormhole in his kitchen. A purple light swirled around in a circle until we seemed to appear in my old home magically. I was now standing in my kitchen, and for a second, I felt dizzy.  

I saw her then coming through the door. It was Sarah, and she had groceries with her.

“Mike? Are you back?”

“Yeah, I am here. Washing dishes.”

I saw him then. Mike, her new beau, was standing over the sink. Sarah was still in the living room while he was cleaning blood off his hands into the kitchen sink. He wiped the blood off the knife and then placed it back into the drawer.  

Why was Boris showing me this?

The room melted all around us, and then I saw it. Mike was burying something in the woods. It was a bag. The bag had broken open, and inside it were charred pieces of bone. Mike brushed the bones inside the large black bag and buried it deep inside a hole. Looking around, he cleaned himself off and then walked away.

From that point on, I saw more of his crimes. Mike was a serial killer who preyed on people. There was no discrimination, old young, male or female. Mike killed them all, but because of his job, no one ever suspected.

“How long?” I whispered to Boris, who turned off the vision as though he were pressing a button.

“Twenty years now. Mike is one of the best serial killers that have ever lived. Quite a genius at what he does. His heart would be quite the specimen to add to my collection.”

“So, you don’t want Sarah?”

Boris turned his head from me, looking down as he slowly sipped on his gin.  

“Both are prized specimens.”

“Both?” I questioned.

“Yes.”

“Mike is clearly the one you should kill.”

“I don’t kill anyone. They have to want to die.”

“So, how would it happen?”

“Time will tell.”

Boris sat his glass down and then smiled at me.

“I have to run into town now. Feel free to stick around, lock the door on your way out.”

I stood watching him as he slowly grabbed his jacket, walking out of his house.

I couldn’t understand the knowledge that my ex-wife was living with a serial killer. I had to do something. I just didn’t know what I was going to do. 

That night I began researching everything there was on Mike. He had been a decorated officer for nearly twenty years. I think I spent the entire afternoon trying to find something on him that I could use to go to the police myself.  

There were so many positive articles written about him. I researched missing people in the area. I guess I didn’t know what I’d find on Google. 

Soon it was dark outside, and as I looked out the window, I realized Boris was still not home. I began to panic. What if he had gone to Sarah’s house to collect her heart?

I had to face up to the fact that maybe he was right, and perhaps I still loved Sarah. We had spent several years together, only married for five and divorced for less.  

I decided to drive by my old house. I had to make sure Sarah was okay. When I drove down my old street, I saw the narrow yellow house we had promised to share the rest of our lives together in. A part of me still died whenever I looked at it.  

The lights were all turned off, and I realized it was nearly midnight. They were probably asleep. I slowed down in front of the house when I saw a shadow of a man in the bushes. I stopped and when I did he moved into the shadows making it more difficult for me to see him. 

I backed my truck up and peered out my drivers side window when I saw the porch light come on. Sarah was standing on the sun porch, looking out the window. I sped off before she could spot my vehicle.

I drove around the corner and then parked halfway up the next street over. I got out of my truck and snuck through the yards of nearby houses to see if I could spot the would-be person stalking their home. 

The lights to Sarah’s house were off again. I stood and watched the house for a while before I saw a cop car cruising by. It slowed down, pointing a flashlight in my direction.  SHIT get out of here, you moron! I told myself, hiding from the glare of the flashlight.

I managed to hide well enough not to get spotted, but it was a sure-fire sign that I needed to get the hell out of there fast. A restraining order will put you in perspective as will jail time.

I ran towards my truck driving home. I nearly texted Sarah to see if she was okay. I knew better than to do so.

I fell asleep quickly, but I spent a restless night having one nightmare after another. I was walking with Sarah again in a dream, and we had our new baby. When I bent over to peer into the stroller to look at our child, it was only a skeleton of a baby wearing a pink set of pajamas. I woke in a sweat to my phone ringing. It was a voicemail from Dr. Burns.

“Hello, David, I wanted to reach out to you because you missed your appointment Friday. I have not reported to the court that you missed it. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but we do need to reschedule. Please call me when you get this message.”

I grabbed my phone and called Dr. Burns right away. I barely knew what day it was. Was it Sunday? Was it still Saturday?

“Hello, David?” Dr. Burns asked.

“Yes, I’m very sorry, Dr. Burns. I was unwell most of yesterday. Is it possible for us reschedule for this week?”

“Yes, I’m sorry you weren’t feeling well. Next time if you could, please contact my office so that it isn’t an issue. While I have you on the phone, may I ask how you have been?”

“I’ve been good. Except for this flu going around.” I lamented.

“Oh, yes, there were a few patients that had to reschedule last week.”

There was always a reschedule due to the flu at any doctor’s office. It was a good cover, for now.  

“I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you, Dr. Burns.”

“I’m just glad I was able to talk to you. Like I said before if you need to reschedule, call my office.”

I thanked Dr. Burns and hung up.

Close call you idiot, I told myself.  

I sat up in my bed and then went to shower.

That is when I felt it. Something was off about my house. I could smell something in the air.  Was that cigarette smoke?

I didn’t smoke, and no one I knew smoked. I strolled into my bathroom, and then, I don’t know what made me do it, but I looked into the bedroom closet from the corner of my eyes. There was a man dressed in a hooded sweatshirt hiding in my closet. 

I had to think fast, so I stopped for a second, managing not to panic when I grabbed a large book from the shelf by my bed and threw it at the man.

From there, I saw him race towards me. When he did, he dropped a needle. I suspected he was going to inject me with it.  

I struggled as he jumped on me, but I had a head start and ran towards my front door. I suppose I could have stayed and fought, but what would the use be in that? When I had the chance to escape, why not take it? I saw his hoodie fall from his head, and I already knew who it would be before it fell from his face. Mike was behind me, but I was already gone. I ran towards my car, and just as he was about to grab me, I opened the door to my truck and hit him with it. He fell to the ground clutching his forehead.

“You son of a bitch!” Mike yelled

I couldn’t drive away because my lost keys were in the house, but he was on his feet before I could pull away.

Then I saw Mike drop to the ground.

I turned behind me and saw that Boris was standing there. He was walking towards me as Mike lay on the ground with a small ax in his thigh. 

“Come one. Let’s get you out of here.” Boris said.

I opened the truck door, and we both stood over Mike.  

“Now what?” I asked him in frustration.

“We wait.”

“For what?”

“To see what he does.”

I looked at Boris and then back to Mike.

Mike stood but barely.

“You two are under arrest.”

“For what?” Boris asked him.

“Attacking an officer!” he staggered backward.  

Boris looked at me with a smirk.

“We see no badge, why were you in my friend’s house? You attacked him.”

Mike said nothing else. Instead, he toppled in my direction, pulling out a gun. I was lucky enough to see it and stopped him from shooting at me. I wasn’t as big as Mike was, but he was injured so I had that on my side.

We struggled for a moment longer when he fell and hit his head on the concrete knocking himself out cold.

I had fallen next to him amidst the struggle, and I now got up to look at him. He was still alive.

“Now what?” I yelled at Boris

“We can take him inside.”

I struggled with Mike as Boris was relatively no help. I managed to get Mike inside my house.

“Should we call someone? He’s not waking up!”

“He will wake,” Boris said, sitting on my sofa.  

Mike laid on my living room floor, and we both looked at him. A snore erupted from his mouth, and Boris let out a giddy chirp of laughter.

“What?” I was annoyed at his giddiness.

“You will see.”

Finally, after what felt like hours, Mike began to come to. He tried to sit up but then screamed in pain as he did.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Boris exclaimed.  

Mike looked over at him, the confusion apparent. Then he looked at me.

“How are you still walking this earth?”

I kicked him out of anger.   

“Shut up, swine!” 

“Sarah can’t be happy because she is always worried about you and what you will do next!” 

“What about you? I know what you do!”

Mike looked at me as he realized what I was saying.

“Who are you going to tell?”

Boris looked over at me and then down at Mike.

“Tell me, what would you like more than anything?”

“To kill both of you!”

Boris was disappointed as he turned back towards me, shrugging his shoulders.

“Can’t you do something?”

“They have to want it.” 

“What are you two idiots talking about? I need a doctor.” Mike was now exhibiting pain.

“I have an idea,” I said, grabbing my phone.

Boris looked at me. 

I called Sarah and told her to come to my place.  

As soon as Mike saw me say, “Hello, Sarah, it’s about Mike.” He began to attempt at moving across the floor to get at me.

Without explaining too much, she could hear Mike yelling in the background from pain, which helped both Boris and myself.

Sarah pulled into my driveway, and soon we heard her pounding on the door.  

I went to answer it, and when I did, she looked past me towards Mike on the floor.

“What did you do?” She screamed at me.

“Nothing he didn’t deserve!” I spat back.

Mike held Sarah’s long slender fingers in his hands.   

“He’s a murderer, and he tried to kill me!”

“Is there no end to your lies? You belong somewhere you can get help!”

“I’m so sorry honey he attacked me outside our home last night and brought me here!” Mike life.

So the figure hiding in the bushes last night was Mike. But why? I figured I must have interrupted him when he was on his way to kill another innocent person. I just thought I was doing them a favor.

“You’re a god, damned liar!” I said, turning to Sarah. “I woke up, and he was already at my house.”

I knew she wouldn’t believe me, so I turned towards Boris. “Show her!”

The room began to swirl, and in it was a vision that both Sarah and I could see. Mike was slitting the throat of a young woman in a roadside motel. I could feel her heart breaking into pieces, and for once, I hated myself for hurting her. Her grip on Mike’s hand jerked back. Boris walked over towards Mike and looked at him.

Mike was now as pale as Sarah, and I knew he must have loved her amidst all of the killing and cravings. That part shocked me.  

Sarah didn’t look at me, but I knew she was broken.

Boris held out his feeble aged hand out to her.

“My dear, what is it that you desire?”

“I want to die.” She said as her chest heaved with overwhelming emotion. 

Sarah held Boris’s hand, and she cried so hard I felt her crumbling.

“No!” I yelled

Boris looked at me, smiling empathetically. “It was asked.”

“Take mine! Take my heart!” I said, not wanting Sarah to die at the hands of a death collector. 

Mike was still unresponsive as he laid on the floor, still quite shaken at what he was seeing.

I paid no attention to him even as he managed to slither out the front door to my home, leaving Sarah in Boris’s hands.

“My good chap, you are noble to offer yourself so sacrificially, but I did not come here for you. You have nothing I need or want.”

“You can’t take her! Take Mike’s heart!”

Boris looked at me and then back to Sarah. “But hers is so beautiful.”

His eyes changed to an amber color. I saw the light in his hands. Then I saw Sarah list in his gaze. There was a glow coming from her chest. There was something so beautiful about her all aglow as though she were an angel. I memorized Sarah’s face in my mind of what she looked like in the final moments of her death. The golden orb encasing her heart seemed to move from her chest as her heart gave itself to Boris willingly.  

Boris still held on to her as she took one last heavy breath. As she did, she looked back at me and smiled before she finally collapsed in Boris’s arms.

I watched in disbelief as he absorbed the scent of her precious heart, and then it disappeared as he placed the golden orb inside of his pocket.

Boris seemed to stand taller than he had been a few moments before. He collected the heart, and his reward was the beauty and the talent inside it.  

The light in his eyes dimmed, and he seemed to remember me.

I was so angry and so hurt. My eyes were wet as I grabbed Boris by the shirt collar.  

“Stop!” He said, holding out his hand.

“How dare you!”

“I have a gift for you. Please!”

I looked around the room, and I saw it swirl again. The room was now Boris’s home. We stepped inside, and I found myself inside the place where he collected those bright red hearts.

In an empty jar was Sarah’s name. He pulled out the orb and placed it inside of the jar on his shelf. He pointed to the empty jar next to it.

“What? Is that for Mike? That greedy son of a bitch escaped! You should have taken his!”

“For a smart man, you can be daft as shit. The jar next hers- read the name!” Boris said impatiently.

I looked at the name next to it and realized it was mine. DAVID SIMMONS and under it was my genius talent. I was shocked by what it said.

Sacrificed his life to save the most children in a burning building on April 25th, 2021.

I didn’t understand.  

“I don’t normally tell those whose hearts I collect beforehand. While you are of no use to me now, you will be because of what you suffered today. You will be a hero someday, son. I must go now.” Boris said as the room swirled, and once again, I found myself in my own home. Boris remained on the other side of the wormhole in my living room. 

“Where are you going?” I asked him partly because I was sad he was leaving and also because I still felt like I needed the heart collector’s guidance.

“Don’t worry, you will see me again. At the end of your life, when you have grown tired, I’ll be there.”

I kept thinking about Mike and before I could ask him. He seemed to read my thoughts.

“It wasn’t his time today.”

I knew by his words he’d be collecting Mike’s heart very soon.

Boris disappeared in a swirl of purple light. I looked around the room, and Sarah’s body was also gone. There was no trace of what had been or what had occurred.  

I walked towards my front door, opening it to look for any signs Boris was still there. The old house across the street was no longer there. In its place was an old tree and weathered shack. My house remained the only one on this deserted street.

I suppose I should take comfort in knowing that my life would no longer be worthless, but it didn’t change that emptiness inside me.

I have tried to move on, but it’s been a few years since I met the heart collector. All I have to prove he ever existed at all is my own beating heart.  

I know in time, it will no longer belong to me.  

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