There was once a little girl whose father was a wicked wizard who could turn gold into dross and back again. She, of course knew nothing of this. She lived in a grand house on a grand hill, in a grand city.
One day, an old man came to the house to speak to her father, but the butler wouldn’t let him in because he has shabbily dressed and spoke with an accent. Amnesia, for that was this little girl’s name, was playing in the garden and took pity on the old man.
“My daddy is always busy.”
“Busy ruining the world,” said the old man gruffly.
Amnesia had never heard a bad word said about her father. She was shocked. “Don’t say bad things about my daddy!” she cried.
“Your father,” said the old man, “is a monster!”
This shocked Amnesia even more. “And YOU,” she replied, remembering a phrase her mother often used, “are a nobody!”
The old man stared down at her in fury and cried: “I curse this house, and I curse this family, and I curse you! For your heart is no more than meat!” And with that he left.
Life went on as always for many years, but on her sixteenth birthday, things began to go wrong. After a lavish party, Amnesia’s mother died from complications due to unnecessary plastic surgery. Then some men came to the house and took away the furniture. Finally, one dark and stormy night, Amnesia’s father called her into his study.
“Princess,” he said, for that is always what he called her when he was drunk on good scotch. “Daddy’s having a little financial problem.”
There was a man, tall and dark and shadowy, standing behind her father’s chair. He nodded his head and smiled at Amnesia with curiously white, sharp teeth.
“You must go to live with Mr. Morningstar for seven years.”
Shocked beyond words, she stood for a while, glancing from her father to the sinister Mr. Morningstar and back again. Finally, not knowing what else to say, she cleared her throat.
“Can I take my pony?” asked Amnesia.
“No, I’m afraid not, sweetheart. But after seven years, all our fortune will be restored and we can live again in the manner to which we have become accustomed.”
Poor Amnesia was distraught, for she realized that her father and this man had done some dreadful business deal, and she was one of those liquidatable assets she’d heard so much about.
Mr. Morningstar took Amnesia away to his castle – well, actually it was a bleak urban redevelopment project, but it could have been a castle – and locked her in a cold dark room.
“I will come to you every night and take my due,” said the man.
This froze Amnesia’s already quite chilly heart, not only because his words sounded unpleasantly ominous, but because she could have sworn she’d heard that accent somewhere before.
The very next night, at midnight, the door creaked open the way dungeon doors do, and Mr. Morningstar entered her room. Before she could think of what to do or say, he’d caught Amnesia in his grip and, giving her nothing but a cursory kiss, proceeded to eat the heart right out of her chest.
It was both agony and ecstasy. Amnesia screamed and wailed and fought. But Mr. Morningstar was far too strong and far too hungry to be stopped. He devoured it like a steak dinner, wiped his mouth daintily with a linen handkerchief, and left her on the floor weeping.
The very next morning, Amnesia woke up to find that, other than a residual soreness in her muscles, there was really nothing wrong with her. And even more to her surprise, her heart had grown back. Not a scar could be seen on her chest.
Night after night, for seven years, Mr. Morningstar ate Amnesia’s heart and, morning after morning, it had grown back, leaving no blemish behind. As time went by, it was with some embarrassment that Amnesia had to admit that she rather enjoyed having her heart devoured. And, when things settled down somewhat, Mr. Morningstar was really quite affectionate in the way he went about eating it.
On the morning of the first day of the eighth year, Mr. Morningstar opened the door to her dark dank room. He said, somberly and with what Amnesia thought might have been a tinge of regret, “The debt has been paid. You are free to go back to your father’s house.”
So Amnesia packed her bags and, after kissing Mr. Morningstar goodbye, for she had grown quite fond of him, despite his cannibalistic habits, returned to her father’s grand house, on the grand hill, in the grand city.
When she arrived, she was surprised to find the house in a terrible state of disrepair. Everything was in ruins, including her father who was in a drunken stupor. He sat in the same chair he’d sat in on the night she left, snorting long lines of bad cocaine from a cracked mirror.
“What have you DONE, Daddy? Why is everything so shabby and poor and nasty? I thought that our fortune had been restored as you said it would be?”
“Well it was, but you know,” said her father, brushing white powder off his nose, “shit happens.”
Amnesia was enraged. She swept the drug paraphernalia to the floor and yelled: “I spend seven years in a dungeon and this is what I come back to?”
“Don’t scream at me, you spoilt little cunt. Can’t you see how hard it’s been for me? I lost my wife, my child, my fortune. And when I finally got it back, the money just seemed to run through my hands like water. How can you come here, after being gone for so long, and be cruel and disrespectful to your father. Don’t you have a heart?”
“I had one, Daddy. But you sold it for meat. Don’t you remember?”
She pulled her mobile phone out of her purse and called for a taxi. She was damned if she was going to spend her life with a heartless man. At least Mr. Morningstar shared.
(Author’s note: This was presented as a piece of twitter fiction on Friday, May 14, 2010, at 15:00 GMT. Written on the fly in 140 character snippets and posted to Twitter,
line by line with the hashtag #hearteater appended. I consider it part writing, part performance art. Spelling errors have been corrected and some small edits have been made to the original in order to post it here.)