This is in response to Susan’s LOVE GONE WRONG flash fiction prompt, and it is bang-on 500 words! “From the Heart” is a steampunk romance for your enjoyment:
I stared at the present my love had given me. I always knew he was unique but this…
“You do not like it?”
I did my best not to cringe – I had forgotten he could now read my thoughts. When I created the formula, I thought it a romantic idea for a St Valentine’s Day present. Now it was now simply an invasion of privacy.
“It is a symbolic gesture,” I gave my answer politically. “And I do appreciate the symbolism. However, the reality is… a little unpalatable.”
He smiled and closed the box. “Then you do not need to open it again. You now know the depths of my commit to our love.”
“Very deep indeed, if you had to break open your ribcage.” I eyed his chest carefully, looking for scars, but his unnatural healing ability must have already knitted over the wound.
He laughed, actually laughed at me. “I did not need to break any ribs. The way to a man’s heart is up and under his ribcage.”
My fingers reached out and instinctively traced his stomach, before trailing up to where his heart should be beating.
“How are you still alive?”
“That is a very good question, my dear apprentice.” He took my hand in his and brought it to his lips.
“I am serious.”
“Then you should propose a hypothesis.”
My brows furrowed as I sorted the facts from the bias. “Well, since you performed the surgery without my knowledge I expect you operated on yourself – you would not trust anyone else with such a task. The obvious conclusion to draw is that you rigged yourself to a machine that could pump blood consistently while you removed the heart. Something that harnesses perpetual motion, or clockwork? Obviously you are not connected to this machine now, so I expect you have since replaced your heart with some smaller device that could maintain the flow of blood without the act of pumping, which is why I felt no heartbeat.”
He raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. “Well done.”
“I trust you had the foresight to fashion this new invention out of rubber?”
“Some of it had to be, but it is most copper. It could not possibly work otherwise.” He smiled until he caught my expression.
“With all that metal in your chest, what will happen the next time you are caught out in a thunderstorm? You will not only burn your feet and your hands, but your lungs too.”
My love considered this briefly. “You are right. Burned internal tissue is particularly difficult to treat, and for a vital organ such as the lungs it would be… hmm… I will have to find a way to replace my lungs with rubber balloons. Oh, it will be tricky though, yes, to ensure the oxygen gets to the blood. How shall we go about this new project?”
“Just put your heart back in your body please. And next year? Flowers or perfume, darling. No more nonsense with hearts.”
Author’s note: I first read the phrase “The way to a man’th heart ith up and under hith ribcage” in a Terry Pratchett book (spoken by Igor, I remember that). I have since seen the phrase elsewhere in various forms on the internet. It is not an original phrase by me, and I expect Terry Pratchett was the first person to popularise it, if not the the first person to think of it. So credit where credit’s due.