Reading Time: 3 minutes

It whispers to me on the crest of each new wave. A voice rising quietly beneath the heart monitor’s beeps. It waits through the silence, unwilling to be overheard; its message must be sought – not stumbled upon. The voice has been with me for an hour, maybe more; time has been twisting since the blunt force trauma opened my skull. Parts of my memory are left on the sidewalk, but I still know one thing about time: I don’t have much left.

“This city,” a young nurse whimpers as a jaded ER vet delivers a gory bastardized version of how my body was demolished. She tallies up the number of broken bones and lacerations and quietly keeps score of how many times she can make the bright-eyed rookie flinch. I try to shush the nurses, but the drugs won’t allow me the control. Instead, I choke on a clot of blood that’s been resting in the back of my throat. The coughs send my heart rate skyrocketing, and the whisperer’s instructions come faster until the jaded nurse unleashes a surge of morphine into my body, and the words are forced to slow. They’re ready for me to die now.

“The lights will fade and you will be gone forever,” the whisperer told me. The thought of not existing carries with it a great relief, but, before blindly accepting that fate, my hidden guide offers me an alternative. What it promised filled me with fear, but now, at the edge of disappearing into eternity, I do not care about the price of life.

The fading rhythm of my heart calls from below just as the whisperer told me it would. I grasp the vertebrae of my spinal cord like a ladder and descend from the safety of my shattered braincase. I am a traveler within myself now, searching through the darkness for a second chance at being. It is freeing, detaching from the pain of mortality, but the fear is still with me, and I wonder if that is the only part of me I’ll never lose.

My heartbeat grows quiet; the journey has brought me too deep within myself; failing organs swell and muffle, the siren calls of my fading heart. I panic, splashing my way through the murky black caverns of my interior, but I only find failure and silence. There is no bone to grasp onto, and I lose my fight, allow myself to sink further into this sea.

It’s too late. I resign myself to my fate and congratulate myself on making it this far. In the distance, I hear a murmur – not my heart, but the sluggish beeping of the monitor – my savior.

“Claw,” the creature demands, his voice regulated with throbs that clutch me, “rip, tear, rise, survive.”

I lash out with talons I never knew I possessed, spilling through bile and blood, shredding my fragile human form until I find a rib and hoist myself up through the madness, up into the left ventricle of my dying heart. I hold, feel its faint rhythm, the magic that has brought me this far. The whisperer breaks its own rule and cries out in the valleys between beeps. “Kill it!”

I squeeze the four-chambers of my former existence; they cry out in protest and I in jubilation.

“Come alive!”

The final desperate beat thrusts me from this fragile sunken form, carries me up through the electrode and into the copper wire, and finally into the heart monitor itself. I’m greeted with the monotone squeal of my own expiration.

The whisperer and I can now speak openly about our plans, no waves left to hide between.

Jake Troxell Headshot

Jake Troxell grew up in Warrington, Pennsylvania on an unbalanced diet of horror movies and amateur theology. He has had a lifelong passion for creating heartfelt stories through words and art. He is the author of Takers and Stay.