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Character Bleed This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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There is something frighteningly beautiful about hearts. Not the grade-school valentines, no, not the lollipops printed in ghastly white or the pretty round and pink cutouts, but the honest shape of a human heart. The dips and dripping curves and imperfections, gray-red-blue. Gray is best, gray in death. The stillness of a faded life is a gorgeous thing, the dying nerve-pulses of a fresh heart cut from a living body.

Excuse me, I'm being morbid.

The point is, there is a simplistic aesthetic appreciation to be found in the complexity of a heart. Human only, you see; animals are not quite as deliciously soulful. Dogs come close; rats are like taking handfuls of gravel from dirty roads and rolling them around on your tongue. Such dryness, rats' hearts. Such lack of emotion in their eyes and the deep tissues of their organs.

A man asked me for a book about rats today. I do hope he doesn't intend to eat his, or he will be sorely disappointed.

The bookshop closes at nine, enough time for me to dash home and prepare dinner, whatever I have in the icebox from last night's hunt. After dinner (a rather unfortunate pair of squirrels), I grow quiet and still, my movements deliberate and slow so I don't disturb the air around me. I begin to change, slowly, methodically. Human to beast.

I peel off stiff-starched clothes and leather shoes and cufflinks and undershirt, and then put them on again, in reverse. I wore my red tie today; there's a scarring stain in the rich red fabric, nearly the same color, so I pay it no mind.

I remind myself, as I near the end of my transition, that I must take proper notes tonight. Three thousand words by tomorrow, I swore to my editor. I swore, and promises should be kept, should they not? We're honest creatures, these creatures of such wonderful instinct. The honesty of predatory instinct. Ah, I need this next novel by September third. Yes, notes must be taken tonight. Every night I have this small conversation with myself, and every night, I forget to take notes.

I leave my house at the stroke of the midnight witching hour, climb to my roof and go from roof to roof in steady bounds. Note: no fear of heights. weightlessness. bound from one roof to the next; no stopping. land on pads of paws. shock through heels.

I flex my toes. Pads is a good word.

As per my usual habits, I skulk on rooftops to the darker, secret parts of the city where predators thrive on the fear thick in victims' throats, the last desperate fading light in a person's eyes as his blood leaks, inevitably, through clenched fingers and whitened knuckles.

A scream! My instincts on a hair trigger, I stop. Note: instincts. surge. silence rushes in pricked ears over sounds of city.

I go. Forward in a legless grace that living inside his head has given me. All my tricks, they're learned from character bleed, absorbed from his daily trials. I am the student to his teacher, transcriber to his word.

I hear the carnage before I see it, and there is the copper scent of fresh blood tanging on the underside of my tongue. Sight is overrated, useless in comparison to this sensual realm I am now privy to. Note: copper at first but not copper; conglomeration of scent-memories.

There is a man sprawled on his back in an alley, his throat slit, flesh torn jaggedly to reveal slick red jugular, tiny rippling veins, sweet-shiny, like pulling a bean pod apart one silken strand at a time. I hover on the rooftop and then drop down, grace, grace, fingers catching the handrail of a fire escape, cold iron flaking off into my hand, does this city care for nothing? Note: claws, fearless. one leap.

I drag my nails on the bricks as I slide to a halt, meeting the ground silently, legs retracting to absorb the shock. I linger in my crouch, observing the slaughter from a distance. Note: appreciate others' work. even if it is messy and artless.

When I have had my fill of visual rapture, I stand, hurry to his side and drop to my knees in the pool of fresh blood. No matter the stain; I will buy new clothes, as always. He, after all, is dapper at all times, a perfect wolf wrapped in a gentleman's coattails. Ah, his body and blood are still warm, this victim. Warm with vaporized life. I fantasize that I can see his soul trickling from his eyes, like smoke from a long-stemmed cigar. I tear open his shirt, spraying buttons in every direction.

His eyes are open, a gold that quite nearly captures my attention. Note: focus. Distraction is my downfall. I pull the knife from my heavy boot. Drag it down the center of his chest, tracing a delicate line down his sternum, through his xyphoid process. Skin splits, giving way to the untouched white of bone. Note: drag teeth down center of chest. taste.

I pry his ribs apart. Note: bare strength.

His heart. I stare, my hands slick with blood. Note: extensive cleanup. take care to hide.

My fingers find veins, pinch them off without my consent. I am moving before I realize it, leaning forward, over him, entranced by the beauty of the open cavern of his chest. The knife presses into my hand and I cut, slice, free the gorgeous thing from its containment. Slice arteries. Pull it out. Cradle it in my hands. Raise it to my lips. Breathe. Note: scent.

Macabre, really, this whole affair.

I taste. Thick blood, cloying, hot. Wet.

For some time I find myself unable to move, paralyzed by this forbidden delight. As the spell releases me, the dawn breaking upward, freeing itself from the mourning of night, I set the heart next to the man's open body. An example. Research.

I rise swiftly to my feet and return home by way of the rooftops, snagging a squirrel on my way. Tonight's dinner. I can write now. I can write. One more night, one more chapter. I have taken notes tonight, notes enough to understand.

His presence slips away into the light of the morning, the strange wild fit seeping from me. I will work tirelessly all morning to attempt to replicate what it feels like to be possessed by him, if for only a dreadfully short time.

Character bleed.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

NotLiam said...
today at 12:38 pm:
I'm not Liam. But this story is kinda macabre. I like that word.
 
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grendel said...
today at 12:29 pm:
Great work!! I loved the gore.
 
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AmazingAmy said...
Oct. 30, 2011 at 8:42 pm:
I love this! A totally non-cliche horror piece. Not to mention, gorgeous poetic language that was fantastically gory. I'm impressed (and slightly nauseated).
 
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Kvothe28 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 22, 2011 at 11:01 am:
Wow this was so good. I loved your voice throughout the entire piece. I hope you keep writing stories!
 
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LovelyMiss said...
Sept. 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm:
Absolutey Amazing! Your work is so good I was reading your other work and I thought is was just so incredibly great(: very creative, very original.. Good job and keep it up:D Im hoping to read more of your work(:
 
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