Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Girl Who Kept Her Heart in a Jar

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Girl Who Kept Her Heart in a Jar

We're going a bit fanciful this week with the Concept Art Writing Prompt, spending a little time with a girl surrounded by broken hearts. What kind of story can you spin for this lady and the beating organ she keeps locked away?

This week's illustration is "Incubation," by Kmye Chan, via Design Your Trust. See if you can devise a short story based on Chan's illustration, and post your story in the comments.

Here's mine:

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Girl Who Kept Her Heart in a Jar

Every time he replaced their hearts, he replaced their heads. It seemed wrong not to.

The hearts were his own mechanical wonders, and they'd stay alive in their discarded jars, fractured and shattered and strained beyond recognition. But each time he put in a fresh heart, the girl opened her eyes with a completely different gaze than the one she'd possessed with a previous heart, and it gave him the eerie impression that she was a ghost haunting an old body. He couldn't bring himself to touch her lips with his. So he'd line the broken hearts up along the wall and he'd take the head out back where he'd carved out his own little cemetery of heads.

Sometimes, when he had trouble sleeping, he liked to scare himself with the thought that the hollow wind was truly the sound of the heads singing to him, luring him out to the makeshift graveyard. But he was too rational to hold on to such superstitions for long, and when the adrenaline of his childish fear was spent, he'd slip off into slumber.

This meant that each time, he had to find a new head for her body and he'd have to wait for a young woman to die. That wasn't to difficult. There was always something out killing beautiful ladies: consumption or influenza or a freshly escaped lunatic. He liked to fancy that the Reaper had a particular preference for beauty, but again he was too rational to entertain the notion for long.

This one was slender, with dark hair that, even in death, continued to tangle and curl. He had hoped for a redhead; it had been too long since he'd had a head whose coloring matched the body's original owner. But he noted with satisfaction that she was lean, just like his lady love had been. She would be a fine partner.

After he'd tightened the screws, but before he sent the enlivening jolt to the heart, he painted her blue lips pink, and then ran a hand down the still taut flesh of the body's legs. "These are your legs now," he whispered in her ear. His thoughts turned to Dara, just as they did each time he performed this rite, thought about how those powerful legs had thrashed and kicked at him in her final moments. Dara had teetered at the top of the stairs, those perfect legs trembling, fawn-like, in their spiked heels. "No one has enough love in their hearts for you," she said, in a growl that quivered her abdomen. "A heart would explode from the love it would take to love you." When she turned and, in the same instant, missed the step below, he'd reached out his hand to catch her, but half a breath too late.

Her heart, he supposed, was already broken. But he could make another heart. A pity her head broke as well, leaving behind the head and dancers' legs. He watched as the shards of heart bobbled in their jars and thought Dara might well be right. But that was no reason to stop trying.

Then he turned on the power.

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Dr.Nemmo and his time-travelling submarine

-Lives! My creation lives! -hollered the man in the white lab coat.

-Don’t you think that the phrase is over-used, sir?

-It’s never too much, Igor. Besides, it’s appropriate. I think that there’s no more appropriate moment to use it than now.

-My name is not Igor, sir.

-Shooo, silence, you fool, because my creation is almost finished, and I don’t want you to ruin it again.


-Silence, I say!

Bob (because his name was actually Robert, and not Igor), sighed. This was experiment number fourteen in a row, and his boss -I mean, his master- seemed this night too energetic, electrified -plutonic perhaps- to argue or even try to reason with. His salary wasn’t a excuse to keep this job. However, he was good at it. It fulfilled him. Sometimes.

-Why won’t she wake up, Igor?

-Perhaps because she is dead, sir?

-No. Can’t be. I put in her a new heart. This one must work. You took it from a virgin as I instructed, did you?

Bob nodded as he lied. The truth was that he wasn’t a murderer, not even a thief. He was just a janitor who needed money. And this madman provided it. And with the money he had already bought fourteen hearts at the butcher’s house.

-This is not working again. The girl is ready, the heart is in place, all the humours and bodily fluids are adequately mixed in the jar, and the flogisto has been infused. Where am I failing, Igor?

-Perhaps the master doesn’t know what makes a woman’s heart tick?

The scientist raised an eyebrow furiously against Igor- I mean, Bob. All his rage was contained in that eyebrow, and the stare alone was enough to penetrate two inches of lead. Bob raised both arms to protect his head, but the eyebrow stopped in mid-face and then it softened. It looked like a caterpillar relaxing its body over the madman’s eyes.

-…You are right, Igor. I don’t know what makes a woman’s heart tick. Is it gold, perhaps ? Money? Diamonds? I heard somewhere that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Bring me diamonds, Igor!

-I’m sorry Sir, but we ran out of diamonds last week. You used them for her lips.

-Ah, I remember, her cold and hard lips. So she has enough diamonds then.

-May I suggest, ahem, something… sir?

-What would you know about women, you vile servant? -insulted the scientist.

Nope, the money wasn’t enough, thought Igor. Yeah, why not call himself Igor now. If he was going to play along he might as well call himself Igor. So he hunched.

-I know I am just a servant, sir. However, we, as servants, are perhaps closer to the, uhm, common people and a little farther from the elevated ideas that populate your very focused mind- The sarcasm went through the scientist as a neutrino through a cloud of hydrogen.

-I mean -continued Igor- people like to live for something. They need a purpose.

The scientist stroked his chin. That was a good sign, thought Igor.

-A porpoise, you say?

-A purpose, sir. For example, apparently your reason to live is to madly cackle at midnight, while doing

weird experiments as lightning falls around the castle.

The caterpillar began to flex again. "Perhaps I’m pushing the sarcasm a little bit too much" - thought Bob. The scientist, however, opened a question:

-You mean, that this girl I built, she needs a purpose?

-Yes sir. That’s what I meant.

-But she has purpose! She will be the greatest demonstration of my genius to those idiots at the Science Council! "You can’t do that", they said. "That is not ethical", they asserted. "Stop electrocuting the students", they implied. "You are fired !", they suggested. This girl has no other purpose than to prove to EVERYONE out there that I am the greatest mind in the world!

And as soon as he finished uttering his exclamation point, both men stood astonished, realising that the girl’s heart had broken again. The jar’s contents went from yellow to a sickly pink in less than a minute.

-What? What did you do to it, Igor?

-I haven’t even touched, sir!

-Why did it broke? Why is this happening to ME?- cried the scientist. Bob looked at him, and felt compassion. The man was old, lonely, and he was seemingly stuck in a bad sci-fi movie from the 1930s.

-Sir, we need to take a break. It’s late, it’s almost two past midnight, and my wife and daughters await for me at home.

The scientist was about to raise his eyebrow in anger again, but then he let his both arms fall and looked at the floor, defeated. Deflated, perhaps.

-You are right. I don’t know what makes a woman’s heart tick, Igor.

-Probably neither do the idiots at the Science Council, sir.

This seemed to cheer the old man a bit, so Bob helped him to get off his lab coat and put on his long coat.

-I will get a cab for you, sir.


-Yes, sir?

-Thanks, Igor.

But the story doesn’t end there, dear reader. Because as soon as the cab lights had disappeared beyond the hills taking both men with it, the sitting girl with the heart in a jar opened her beautiful ruby eyes, and let the air go through her cold and hard diamond lips. She took a deep breath, and watched curious as her broken heart reassembled itself inside her.

She combed her copper hair with an ivory hand and then arranged her dress. Then she stood up and looked at her image on a nearby mirror.

"I don’t need a purpose", she thought.

"I don’t need diamonds, or gold, or money."

-I don’t need love, either, if that’s what you were thinking- she spoke in a clear voice to an imaginary reader who was skimming at her story.

-Those things can make me happy. Or they can make me sad. But they don’t make me. Even a creator can build a body, but no one can make a person but themselves.

A woman heart’s can be easily broken, but it can also be easily mended.

A woman can be described with a thousand words, but you need only one to reach her.

And it is not even a secret. There’s a single thing that makes a woman’s heart tick, and it is-

But sadly, dear readers, there are only a few beats that a cheap heart bought in a butcher’s shop can take before breaking again, and that was exactly what happened. Because as soon as the girl with her heart in a jar was about to reveal what made her heart tick, it stopped, leaving us with this story unfinished.

Do not despair, though. We can still theorise. We can guess. We can make accurate computer simulations. We can try unraveling that extra X chromosome so we can learn the secret to a woman’s heart. We have been trying for millions of years. We are monkeys with typewriters. Someday we will crack the secret open, and then we will finally know. We just must keep trying. Seriously, someday we will know.