“His Giant Heartbeat” by Natalia Theodoridou (2033 words)
No Spoilers: This story follows a couple after the end of the world. Or an end of the world. Or...something strange and rather wrenching, where every heart on the planet suddenly stopped beating. Except, it seems, for a select few who become like magic. Who people will seek out to listen to the sound of their heart. B is one such individual, and the narrator of the story is his partner. The two move through this rather broken world bringing music and a kind of beauty, and while at the start it was something that really brought them together, there’s something cool about their relationship now. And this is a tender and careful look at intimacy and time and art, all wrapped in a rather bleak setting full of need and longing.
Keywords: Hearts, Post-Disaster, Concerts, Music, Relationships
Review: It’s really interesting to see the setting, this world that has been broken because people have lost their heartbeats, have settled into a kind of perpetual funk. And yet B maintains a beat, keeps on going through the desolation, selling himself in order for him and the narrator to live. And the narrator, his partner, isn’t really sure what to make of this, both sees the financial necessity and yet might hate it as well. Certainly they are struggling with the loss of intimacy with B while he is basically forced to be intimate with strangers who come in to pay to listen to his heartbeat. He’s dealing with being a public figure who isn’t sure so much about his impact and his place as an artist and person, as well as not feeling really understood. The lack of intimacy runs both ways here, as he can perhaps feel the resentment people have that he has a beat while everyone else doesn’t. Something that might be poisoning his relationship to the narrator. And the piece does reveal how so much has been broken just from this slow kind of apocalypse, this disaster by inches that has left so many so hopeless. What the narrator and B are doing is supposed to bring some beat back into the world, but if they’ve lost it with each other, can they share it out?
The answer becomes a sort of mixed yes, messy and complex and making a point that they can still reconnect through their work, through the magic of the beat and the music and how they can move together. I really appreciate that the story is about in some ways the passion going out of a relationship, and out of a world. Where two people find themselves at odds in ways that only deepen the divide between them. Where the narrator feels keenly the loss of their heart and feels second fiddle to B’s presence and beat. And where B is likewise hurt, dealing with things that obviously aren’t making him happy but that he’s not really allowed to quit. It points to the nature of the disaster in the world, that the narrator at least imagines as a kind of loss, a grief, a way that people were living trying to deny emotional connections to spare themselves pain. And it became too real. It’s a rather lovely and touching piece, finding tenderness even in a world as fragile as a single heartbeat. Because that one might resonate in others, and that might spread and become a song, a symphony, a movement. A wonderful read!