The bench was deceivingly inconspicuous with its chipped paint and creaky wood. It practically promised that if you sat on it you could enjoy your brown paper bag lunch and watch the pigeons fight over crumbs without any life altering events but sometimes the unexpected happens in the most ordinary of places.
Just as he did everyday, Jonathan Harper sat on the white chipped bench with it’s rusted metal legs and ate his salami on rye, lettuce and tomato but no condiments; that would cause soggy bread. He’d drop crumbs for the pigeons and he counted as he chewed. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, swallow, bite, one, two, three.
He inspected his shiny, red apple for bruises just as he had done before packing it that morning but you can never be too sure of such things. He rubbed his apple across the chest of his crisp, white button down for that splendid extra shine. But today, something different happened. As he went for his first bite, a car drove by and blew its horn, startling poor Jonathan. His perfectly polished fruit tumbled from his hand to the ground and rolled under his seat.
Miffed with the idea that germs were now feasting upon his daily snack, he leaned over to rescue it from certain bacterial destruction. Little did he know that simple change in his routine would send the rest of his life into a downward spiral for under that insignificant bench a black, plastic bag was lodged in the swirling décor of the metal leg. He sat up straight, forgetting his apple and argued with himself on whether he should inspect it’s contents.
No, sir, this can mean nothing but trouble, just walk away, his sensible mind insisted.
Curiosity, a voice he hadn’t heard in quite some time, chimed in, what’s in the bag? We have to know.
With a deep breath, he bent forward again. He gathered up the apple and removed the mysterious plastic from its hiding place. He tucked the contaminated food into his paper sack then cleansed his hands with sanitizer he kept in his pocket. Satisfied that no remnants of dirt were left, he lifted the black bag and placed his hand in it. Sticky, wet, spongy.
He pulled his hand back in disgust and found himself staring down at a layer of red oozing between his fingers. The sight sickened him and intrigued him all the same. He felt his stomach lurch but his heart was fluttering with joy. A part of him, a part he’d never encountered, wanted to see more.
No, this is enough. We can not get any further involved in this. Put the bag back and walk away, the voice in his mind screamed.
But it was the whisper that caught his attention. The soft purr inside his brain that told him that this was fate and a new and exciting world would be unlocked if he just pulled out what was in that bag. He wanted it. He wanted the new and the exciting; he wanted the thrill. It was a strange sensation but he found himself yearning to satisfy that little whisper.
Wrap your hand around it, Jonathan. Remove it from the bag. We need to know.
So he obliged. He reached in and what he pulled out silenced the rational voice that for so long had authority over his reasoning. A new voice emerged. It was deeper and darker. He felt the chuckle escape his lips before he could stop it. It grew and swelled until it transformed into a maniacal laughter.
He dropped the cold, human heart back into the bag then tossed it into a nearby garbage bin. Licking his fingers one by one, he cackled as he walked through the park in search of a new heart; a fresh one.