Heart Halt, Inc.

Concept Art Writing Prompt: A Boy in the Hall of Hearts

“I can’t believe it’s come to this,” he murmured.

Disturbed (though only internally) he was acutely aware that going through the doors meant that he would forfeit something innate, without hope of it ever returning again. He stopped abruptly and looked up: there was nothing special about the automatic glass doors except for a heart hologram, and when the doors opened, the heart would be pulled apart in half.

“How tacky,” he thought.

The year was 2828. Heart Halt, Inc. just won Best Company of the Year 5 years in a row. The increase in a Heart Halted population has reached an all-time high, and he was going to be another number on that already colossal statistic.

Some people only ever dreamed of switching their hearts off (to no avail), but Heart Halt, Inc. actually made it possible.

“You can imagine,” said his heart-halted grandfather to him, “how much noise the company made. The internet imploded and shut down completely. There was a simultaneous rise and fall in business stocks. Law suits, scandalous headlines, questions of transparency, side-effect speculations, human rights advocacies… it was a riot. In the end though, the amount of pain that needed to be placated outweighed any desire for a normal, biological life. Heart Halt, Inc. started taking over, giving anybody a clean break from their heart, for a very accessible price.”

(His grandfather decided to halt his heart after his grandmother passed away. ‘There’s no point for one,’ his grandfather explained. It made a lasting impression on him as a teenager.)

It is a funny organ, the heart. How can small contractions build up to bizarre — sometimes inhumane — endings? Loss of interest in personal hygiene, personal appearance; loss of sensitivity to other people’s pain; loss of verve; and unbelievably, loss of basic human instinct: survival.

Staring at the hologram heart, he took a step forward, and silently the doors opened.

Inside he was greeted by digital hearts, too many to count. His breathing thinned as the reality of having one of those digital hearts transplanted inside his ribcage started dawning on him — it was in this room that he was to pick his digital heart. It functioned in all the same ways that his biological heart does, except for its essence.

Now, it was just a functioning muscle — bereft of sensitivity, complexity, emotions.

It kept you alive, but at what cost?

He surveyed the room. A digital heart would not have scars, it would not carry traumatizing experiences. Indeed, it cannot hold those in. A digital heart promised him a fresh start, without guilt of the past, without fear of the future. A digital heart meant that it could never be broken, and he would thus have no fear in life. A digital heart meant a longer life, one that doesn’t age or sag or get sick. A digital heart meant no more heart attacks — yes, the body will still deteriorate, but it will not be influenced by the sicknesses or weariness of a biological heart.

He often wondered why people halted their biological hearts, and if they ever regretted it. (Heart Halt, Inc. always kept the reasons their clients undergo transplant confidential.)

He assumed that the biggest reason was heartbreak (like his grandfather), but for him it was fear of a heartbreak. He thought of safeguarding himself from any sort of pain life was going to throw at him, especially since this was the year he decided to start living on the edge.

“It’s a preventive measure. I’m going to be doing some pretty crazy things, and I can’t let this biological heart stop me from doing any of it,” he said to himself, picking up a glass case.

Inside, his future heart was beating like a blinking text cursor.

He crashed on his bed, ragged bursts of breath punctuating the silence of his room. Gaining wild popularity among his peers, he is the acclaimed world record holder of the most medals gained for extreme physical sports.

He has become unstoppable, chasing after fear and emerging undefeated. Cracked bones and dislocated joints and deep physical scars have been unable to deter his focus on living life with breakneck adrenaline. His digital heart has done its part.

He committed suicide; but he’s still breathing.

“Can’t believe it’s already been five years! Probably the best decision I made in my life. I don’t regret anything,” he peeled his shirt off his sweat-soaked back and tossed it on the floor, grinning wildly.

“I can’t.”