Short Story
                                            The Keeper
                                                          By C.H. Brown


  The fate of a death is inevitable, never changing for anyone as each soul’s time among the living slips
away like sand streaming from an hour glass. No one knows how it will happen or how much time is left, no
one but him. The beating hearts echoed so loudly that he could no longer decipher if the flutter of pumping
life sounded out from the millions of organs which surrounded him or lied between his own ears. Each
began the same, starting off as a meaningless sliver of tissue before growing into a beating heart, a
lifeline waiting to meet its fateful end. Most carried out strong and steady while others faded out after a few
short years. Worse still were those he dreaded the most, the tiny ounces of flesh that shriveled before the
first heartbeat ever came.

  The keeper of hearts was a nameless, faceless beast for all intents and purposes. The thought had
crossed his mind to give a name for himself, but with no one to introduce himself to, the name would be a
meaningless end to insanity as he lurked in the dim room, addressing himself while chatting up a one way
conversation with the hearts. He supposed that he must have a face although he had never seen his
reflection, yet there must be somewhere for the hearts to go whether it be into a snarling row of teeth, a
hungry black hole, or any possibility in between as he regretfully shoved each one down his throat.

  He was as much of a mystery to himself as he was to the owners of these hearts. Trapped in a timeless
world, his mind had wondered away with the countless possibilities. He contemplated who had put him in
this wretched place, doubtfully hoped he would ever escape, or even if he himself ever had a heart. He
imagined that if he had, he must have been the first; perhaps he had not been the first one in existence but
the first to stop beating. The first heart to stop beating, his soul had been forced to spend eternity feeding
from the hearts of others, to end each human life as the time came one by one.

  Of course, this brought the unanswerable question of what had brought upon his own death if no one had
been here to consume his heart. He had never been able to make any real sense of it, but it was the best
guess he had been able to come to. In his world, waiting for the living to die, there was only the confusing
relentless desire, the uncontrollable craving which he loathed.

  He did not know when he came to be there or how he knew what to do; as far as memory would allow it
had always been this way, an endless duty to be carried out. He labored diligently without need to stop for
sleep. A worker on an assembly line, he moved from heart to heart running on instinct or something of the
sort. As the time came for each life’s end he could hear the dying heart, above all the others, begin to slow.
One called to him now, forcing itself into his unsteady fingers with the instinct that it stirred as he shoved it
into his body with frantic compulsion. He lifted his heavy head watching the blood drip from his rotted bony
fingers feeling both guilty and satisfied, but only for an instant, until the next heart began to call as always.

  He tilted his head and, for the first time in his existence, strained to hear where the dying heart lay. It
slowed into a lub-dub…lub-dub…lub-dub louder than ever before, ringing though his ears as the pounding
of his own heart might have once sounded. He scanned the room in confusion, the sharp nature of his
hearing never failing him before. The floor began to tremble underneath his feet at each pulse of the
deafening beat, and he gravely realized that every heart was coming to an end. He faltered taking a step
backwards, but there was nowhere to run as he bumped into another row of organs. There came a
blinding ray of light causing him to shut his eyes, feeling terror run through him like a hot bolt of lightning.
The fear was so overpowering he thought he might faint, never before feeling anything except the
exhausting cycle of guilt, hunger, satisfaction guilt, hunger, satisfaction until now.

  It stopped all at once; the light shining through his lids faded and the pounding was gone as quickly as it
came, allowing him to open his eyes after some hesitation. The room was empty, the endless feast
disappeared without so much as a trace of blood left behind. The room had grown so dim that at first he
had not noticed the silhouette of a stranger looming in the darkness. His heart leapt, excited and anxious,
as the first being he could ever remember coming into contact with emerged from the shadows; but that
was all he was, nothing more than the outline of a person’s burly silhouette.

  “There will be no more hearts,” the shadow man said, “Earth has ended.”

  Within an instant that was it; the keeper of hearts sinking in what he had believed to be eternal
mechanical existence was left without a purpose.

  “What will become of me?” The first words he had ever spoken to another croaked from his mouth in a
shaky panic.

  There was no answer, only the swift wave of his hand beckoning forward. The once keeper of hearts
looked out at the emptiness before him. The organs that had always given him both purpose and power
now vanished without warning into blackness. Seeing his chance for escape at last, there was no place to
go but forward. Curiosity got the best of him as he followed the mysterious figure. The scene before them
fell away, and was replaced by a swirling tunnel of white light that lead them on.

  It was then the thought struck him that he finally had someone to ask, “Who am I?”

  The shadow man said nothing, continuing to lead them through the tunnel as it grew brighter with each
passing second. There was another unexpected flash of light that, if possible, was even brighter than the
first, sending the once keeper of hearts shielding his face with his hands. When he opened his eyes again,
he found himself standing alone, surrounded by millions of spinning blue spheres glowing like the midnight
sky, each cutting through the thick air like a rotating planet. He picked one up tentatively feeling the weight
of it in his palm as the spinning began to slow. He tightened his fingers around the orb which had almost
come to a complete stop. Instinct overtook as he shoved it into his mouth, the warmth of the life form
spreading through his body like a guilty pleasure.

  Each began the same, starting off as a tiny speck of light before growing into a sphere, a lifeline waiting
to meet its fateful end. The keeper of orbs was a nameless, faceless beast for all intents and purposes. He
did not know when he came to be there or how he knew what to do; as far as memory would allow it had
always been this way, an endless duty to be carried out. He labored diligently without need to stop for
sleep. A worker on an assembly line, he moved from orb to orb running on instinct or something of the sort.
As the time came for each life’s end he could hear the dying orb, above all the others, begin to slow.
Trapped in a timeless world, his mind had wondered away with the countless possibilities. He
contemplated who had put him in this wretched place, doubtfully hoped he would ever escape, or even if
he himself had ever had an orb; he had never been able to make any real sense of it. In his world, waiting
for the living to die, there was only the confusing relentless desire, the uncontrollable craving which he
loathed.  
About C.H. Brown

C.H. Brown enjoys writing
speculative fiction with
themes of psychological
thriller, horror, and
science fiction.
Developing a taste for
reading as a young child,
Brown grew to have a
knack for the dark side of
literature. Inspiration was
found in the style of many
great writers such as
Edgar Allen Poe and
Stephan King. As further
education brought new
challenges, Brown took a
serious interest in writing,
placing in the Putnam
County Eyes of Diversity
contest. After earning a
degree in psychology at
Nashville State, Brown
turned focus to writing,
and is currently working
as a stay at home writer
developing a novel along
with a number of short
stories.
You can follow C.H. Brown
on Twitter @writerchbrown
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.