Club Murmur

Personal Short Narrative

Key Quote

"She pressed her hand against her chest. The beating heart under her palm was not her own."

  • A world where emotions are bought and sold on the black market
  • Emotions are carried in the organs of those who experience them
  • People use the emotions of others to augment their lives

The story below is a work in progress and represents only a fraction of my passion for worldbuilding.

The Story
Club Murmur Title Image

Reiko Yamada was an expert in her field. Just one more successful heist and she would become a Blueblood - an elite among the heart thieves in Chiba city. On most days, Reiko loved her job, but at 11:57pm on November 5th, Reiko had a feeling that tonight wasn’t going to be like most days. Reiko was in a hurry. She felt uneasy after her latest heist and she just wanted to unload her cargo as soon possible and move on to the next assignment. She pressed her hand against her chest. The beating heart her under her palm was not her own, she had stolen it. Her latest victim was Mark, a young man in his mid twenties who had fallen in love with an ambitious artist - who couldn’t have cared less about him. Unrequited love. She had figured that Mark’s heart would be worth roughly 20,000 credits on the black market - a drop in the bucket with her outstanding debt. As she thought about removing the foreign heart in her chest her rate began to rapidly rise. Reiko clutched her left arm and doubled over in pain as a wave of despair swept through her entire body. She was starting to regret stealing Mark’s heart.

Hours ago she had broken into Mark’s upper town apartment where she found him soundly asleep in his small bedroom. She turned him over and began the careful process of swapping out his heart for the artificial one she had prepared for him earlier. She slowly unzipped her jacket, removed her shirt and folded back the bandage covering the fresh wound on her chest. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a small knife and syringe filled with a glowing orange liquid. She grabbed the syringe and injected it into the side of Mark’s neck slightly above his shoulders. Reiko picked up her knife and began to slowly cut into his chest. Her knife was anything but sterile, but the chemicals she had injected into him earlier would prevent any possible infection as well as heal the wound within minutes. It wouldn’t even leave a scar. With his arteries severed Reiko was free to replace his heart. She gently set his heart down on her jacket and braced herself on the bed while she used her free hand to reach into her chest. She closed her eyes and removed the fake heart from her own body. Reiko set the fake heart into the open cavity in Mark’s body and slowly connected the major arteries to the temporary replacement. The synthetic heart would take care of the rest. All she had to do now was close the wound and place Mark’s heart into her chest. A piece of cake.

Over the course of the next few months the fake heart Reiko installed in Mark would emotionally sustain him as his body slowly regrew a new heart in it’s place. Most humans couldn’t even tell the difference between their own real emotions and the simulated ones pumped out by the imposter organ. They were all too self absorbed, and the ones that did actually notice that something was different were usually quick to dismiss it as heartbreak. But this was too much. She had underestimated the intensity of these feelings. Reiko couldn’t get the thought of Mark’s love - the artist - out of her head. On her way to drop off the heart she had to constantly check her map as she found herself blindly chasing after a woman who she had never met. When another wave of despair hit her she thought about just returning the damn thing, but when she looked up she realized that she was at her destination, Club Murmur.

Reiko waved her VIP card to the bouncer at the front entrance who opened the door to the club for her. Inside, she casually pulled the hood on her jacket up over her head and glanced over her left shoulder. Normally very charismatic, she didn’t waste any time as she pushed through the sea of drunk teenagers and overly eager young adults as she made her way to the back room. At the far wall of the club she kicked open the door labeled projection and proceeded to make her way down the dimly lit hallway. Reiko sighed in relief as the club’s private room and newest bouncer, David, finally came into view. A former soldier, weighing 342 pounds and standing at over six feet tall, David was a tank. Hired after a break-in three weeks prior, he had excelled at keeping the club’s more rowdy patrons in order and was an effective deterrent for anyone that might think about venturing into the club’s private areas uninvited. Tonight he was apparently on guard duty. Reiko had always thought that hiring someone with David’s background was akin to putting up a neon sign announcing to the world that the club was a front for illegal activity, but tonight she was happy to see him. And while he certainly wasn’t her favorite person he had managed to be mostly professional and respectful -- a rarity lately -- about the nearly endless details of her love life which had become public domain amongst the Club Murmur staff. Reiko lowered her hood and walked towards the large steel door at the end of the hallway.

As she approached the door, David positioned himself between her and the door and gently touched the small headset awkwardly hanging from his left ear and gestured for her to stop. Reiko sighed, she knew the routine and impatiently tapped her foot as David was relayed the latest embarrassing question from the holding room behind him.

“Who was the first person to break your heart?” he asked.

“Do we really have to do this? You know it’s me.” she answered, holding back tears. Fucking bastard heart. She hadn’t cried in months and now some random stranger’s heart was on the verge of giving her an emotional breakdown. She was tough. She was going to be a Blueblood.

“Sorry, you know the rules, and hey it’s not like I’m asking the questions.”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“For what?” he replied, puzzled.

Reiko stood on the tips of her toes and brought her head close to David’s ear, her lips nearly touching the dangling bluetooth headset.

“Edward Hughes.” she yelled at the top of her lungs.

David winced at both the unexpected yell from Reiko and the cacophony of screaming that was relayed in nearly equal intensity through the earpiece.

“Sorry. Was I too loud? How’s it going back there perverts? ” she responded, still yelling. She quickly wiped the tears from her eyes and smirked at sounds of cursing coming through David’s earpiece. Reiko lowered her head and shrugged, feeling somewhat guilty for dragging the fairly innocent guard into her ongoing war with her coworkers in the holding area. The door made a loud clicking sound prompting David to step aside. Reiko opened the door and effortlessly walked into the large room at the other side. She looked around. Throughout the room there were countless rows of pedestals on top of which were disembodied human hearts floating gently inside glass jars. Attached to each heart was a series of tubes which connected to a bundle of cables that ran along the floor of the entire room.

At the center of the room was a single operating room chair. Reiko removed her jacket laid back in the chair and waited. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the door on the far side of the room open to reveal two men clad in full surgical attire. Thomas Konsum and Christopher Greger had worked at Club Murmur as surgeons longer than anyone else. They had seen heart thieves like Reiko come and go; most of them couldn’t handle the stress associated with experiencing another person’s emotions. A work hazard associated with having to transport another person’s heart inside of their body. As the duo got closer to her, Reiko noticed that one of them was carrying another heart in a jar labeled Yamada.

“Oh fuck you. We were just having a little bit of fun. My ears are still ringing, ” Christopher said.

“You’re lucky we didn’t ask about your college years. What was her name again, Rebecca, right? Your heart sure has some stories to tell about her.” Thomas added.

“Let’s get this over with.” she said not rising to the challenge.

For the next hour Reiko did her best to avoid looking down at her chest as the two surgeons worked to remove the foreign heart and return her heart to its rightful place. In an emergency she could’ve performed the operation herself, but it was always easier to swap out an artificial heart with a real one rather than replacing one real heart for another. The moment that Reiko had placed a stolen heart in her chest it began to form new connections and take root in her body, and filled her with the emotions of its owner. It was nearly impossible for someone to cut out their own heart, original or otherwise. Dazed, Reiko looked around the room. Normally, she had fought against the sedatives and stayed awake for most of the surgeries but this time she had fallen asleep. Reiko pulled her shirt down over her chest and looked around the room as the last of the sedatives started to wear off.

The surgeons had left and she was alone in the room alone surrounded by orphaned hearts. At the corner of the operation table to her right she saw a small receipt for most recent delivery. 42,001. Mark’s heart had earned her more than she expected. Sometimes hearts were sold to musicians or writers on the black market who would use them to fuel their creativity. For all she knew, the same artist that broke his heart could might soon be using it to paint her next masterpiece. Other times hearts were “borrowed” by anyone willing to pay enough to learn all of person’s deepest feelings and secrets. Without a brain to regulate it, an orphan heart would spill it’s secrets to anyone willing to listen. Fortunately, Reiko’s work was done and with her own heart safely back in her body she only felt the slightest tinge of guilt about her work - nothing that some of the club’s water downed drinks couldn’t fix. Besides, she thought to herself, one more heart like Mark’s and she would finally be a Blueblood.

She slid her legs over the side of the chair and gently stood up. She was still a little unbalanced. Reiko jumped when she heard the sound of one of the glass jars shatter on the floor. She shook her and checked to make sure she hadn’t accidentally knocked over a jar in her haze. Everything around her was intact, but she knew what she heard. Something definitely broke but none of the MurMur staff would be that clumsy. She wondered if it was another break-in; a rival group of heart thieves possibly trying to even the odds. Reiko lunged for the knife hidden in the pocket of her jacket still laying on the table beside her when she saw him. It was Connor Eisen, a young man no older than 17 whose heart she had stolen four weeks earlier. Connor stood amongst the hearts in wonder.

“I didn’t think I’d make it in after my last attempt. You guys tightened security. So this is where you take them, huh? Where’s mine?” he asked expectantly. Reiko told herself that she wasn’t going to feel guilty about what happened next as she pulled out the combat knife from her jacket pocket.