Heart            Max sat amongst the dead, whistling to himself. There wasn’t must else to do during a hollowing . After all, it was punishment and, like the rest, he just had to do his time. But his whistling wasn’t out of boredom, but a natural reaction  to deal with the frustration of having to wait for Aiden.

If he could have, he would have reading material, or a game, something. But this was punishment. Their crime was arguably trivial, but technically yes, it was illegal. But that was over. Here they were being punished, and punishment meant no reading, and no games. None of the usual Federally regulated distracting were allowed during a hallowing. The condemned would sit there and do it.

A clinking came to his ears from awkward around the corner and Max lifted his head just as a bearded man emerged leading with a small bag. He stepped over several bodies, blank-staring and bloody, before saying anything.


“Just where I left ‘em.”


“Right, Aiden, just where you left them,” he started. “How about just where I told you they’d be. Our penance wouldn’t be so bad if we could just get our work done every day and be done with it.”

“What are you talking about? What do you think we’re doing?” Aiden let the whited bag fall atop the blank stare of a lifeless balding man, his dress shirt and salmon the heavily splotched with what had leaked down from a deep gash in his neck. Aiden bent over the bag and removed two pairs of gloves and a clatter of long-bladed knives. One more reach and out came a large folded canvas bag.

“I’m talking about efficiency,” said Max, standing and moving toward his partner to collect his gloves and two blades. “I’m talking about you actually doing what you say your going to do and bringing the shit we need when we need it.”

Aiden stood and sighed deeply, talking casual glances at Max as he donned his gloves.

“ ‘Snot all that bad,” he said, bending again and unfolding the bag. “I mean, what do we have here, “ he said, looking around and holding the bag open toward Max. “A buck, maybe two.”

Max raised his brows and turned his palms up, hoping the how-is-this-not-making-sense message would get across.

“Two eighty, Aiden. Two hundred and eighty. And we pay our time down by the body, not the minute, remember? So the more time you waste, the longer we have to wait.”

Aiden was silent, still holding the bag open toward Max.

“See?” Max said, pointing a frustrating finger at the empty bag. “This is a perfect example. We’re supposed to hollow close to three hundred today, right? But my “partner” is holding the bag open to me.” With gloves and knives in hand, Max did his best to make air quotes. “So, you’re suggesting that I do the hollowing hand you just sit there and hold a fucking bag open, right? Efficiency, Aiden! Ee-fish-en-see!”  The last word, emphasized with syllabic slaps with the back of one hand into a the pam of the other.

“Fine,” Max went on, realizing the futility of his partner’s enlightenment without adequate demonstration. With a plunge of blades downward, the chest of a body at Max’s feet, an adolescent girl, slender and blonde, cracked. Max dropped to his knees and tore at the flesh, cutting with a long blade and prying with fingers.

Ribs cracked and Max’s gloves were soddened as he dug into flesh. When he could reach, he made several slices with the blade and dipping into the sanguine chamber of the body, Max removed the girl’s once beating heart and tossed it lightly into Aiden’s open bag.

“That was Example A, “ Max said. “Now, Example B. Drop the bag.” Max pointed to the ground at his partner’s feet, and Aiden complied.


The next few hours had Max and Aiden punching through chest cavities of human flesh and filling the bag in the room with soft wet tosses.

Max heaved a sigh at the final toss and handed his carving tools back to his parner.

“And that’s it, my friend,” he said to Aiden. “All two hundred and eighty of them.”

It took several minutes to pack up their things, and lock themselves in the nearby hermetic chamber – a side room with large square windows allowing the operators to visually observe the waste disposal.

Aiden and Max sat in front of the windows and two large screens, each sprinkling their keyboards with their own respective tappings.

“Sealing us in,” Max said. Two more taps on the keyboard and the seal was an audible set of snaps in the room.

“Waste removal engaging,” Aiden followed. Two red lights began to twirl in the wide room dusted with heartless bodies. Then, there was a large crack in the far wall, and the floor began to drop away from the room with a robotic rhythm, revealing the black universe beyond.

Through the portal, Max watched the bodies empty into the ocean of space. Another day of waste reduction.

“Aiden?” Max asked.


“Where’s the bag?”

Silence was the reply, and seconds later, Aiden came to the portal and joined him. Amid the floating frozen bodies, a small canvas bag twirled amid a small cloud of human hearts.

“Any questions on today’s lesson?”





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