A fairy tale about losing your heart.
Photo credit: Jordy Meow
My brother’s lip trembled. “But… the green men aren’t real. Da says.”
Cousin Hana grinned. “It’s true. Once you’ve seen the agiri, it’s too late. He’s already stolen your heart, and now you’ll never get to the afterlife.”
Garta shook his pudgy head.
I shouldn’t have joined the teasing, but Garta had followed me around all day, whining his stupid questions. “You wouldn’t remember it anyway. Although… you have any bruises you can’t explain? That’s a sure sign, y’know.”
Garta hastily covered one arm.
I feigned concern. “Too bad, brother. Now you’ll become agiri, too. Wandering the woods forever, looking for another heart.”
“I have a heart—here, feel it!”
“Only a fake one now. Won’t last long.”
Then I sneered. I remember that sneer.
The next day Garta disappeared. I was too terrified to cry for days.
* * *
I watch the woods from this bench now. My knees ache too much to sit on the ground.
So many to mourn. The plague took those the wars hadn’t. My drinking drove the rest away. Yet mostly I remember Garta. Sometimes I imagine I see him, darting behind a tree, so close.
If I still had a heart, he could have mine.
© Al Forbes / A Mixed Bag