Fiction Science Fiction Speculative

"Please, don't do it," my last Giver said in her tiny, little voice. She did not plead; instead, she said it with resignation. It was as if part of her would not give up even though no other options were available. A Taker, me, loomed over her, shaking with the cravings I could no longer keep at bay. What luck for me that her lousy luck brought her here. The little ones brought me closer to that which I sought; the little ones, usually so carefully guarded, brought down all my defenses, giving me hope above all else that I could reach beyond once again.

It wasn't long after I took the little one, the last I'd ever take, that the doctors found me. They call themselves Doctors of Technology, DOT. They thought they threatened me when they told me I was required to pay for my indiscretions as a Taker by death or voluntary participation in the Heartrock Initiative. I laughed wholeheartedly at that word; indiscretions. I surprised myself with the sound of my laughter, something I hadn't known existed in me anymore. I do not know if I will laugh again; is laughing a feeling? I will consult my database when this is complete.

 I progressed to Taker to escape being a Giver, not knowing the taking would puncture my heart deeper than giving ever could. As a Giver, I was also a martyr but a Giver’s physical pain is nothing compared to the pain my heart endured collecting bloody little pebbles of lifeblood as a Taker.

Now I sit here, my head tightly bound to a cushioned headrest with bright red straps across my mouth and forehead. No other straps bound me to the blue chair, and if it weren't for the blood-red straps, I might be able to imagine myself at a Healer’s office undergoing a minor procedure. Instead, I close my eyes against the operatory lights above me and take a deep, deep breath.

 I feel a hardness in my chest where my heart resides. This, they tell me, is the heartrock. I bring my hands to my face to look at the backs, watching the blue lines turn dark gray. I think of the network of blue veins and arteries feeding my organs and see them fade to a dead gray. This new heart can only spew a dark sludge that will get harder and harder until my veins and arteries are an extension of that rock. A new species of stone, heartrock, stronger than any diamond, will command my body and replace my life. 

 I can feel my arms and legs start to stiffen as a searing hot pain spreads through my body. The greatest pain must be felt before there is an absence of pain. I wonder if that is a quote from some wise sage, or maybe I'm finally the wise sage. Will wisdom be mine once I access every nugget of information in the universe? 

At first I resisted the Takers. Once I willingly sacrificed my soul and cut open my veins so they could take my lifeblood, I became an official Giver and couldn't run anymore. The physical pain abated a tiny bit when I gave willingly, so, as a willing Giver, I sacrificed my body to the Takers.


Then I chose to become one of them, a Taker, when the physical pain of my sacrifices became unbearable. I never considered myself like the other Takers. I took each Giver into my heart; I thanked them for their sacrifice even when I forced it from them. I learned not to take all of them, and I stored tiny pebbles of what I took in my heart. Each pebble with a name and memories of who I took from. My final act today is not a sacrifice; instead, it is an escape from all the sacrifices that I have taken. Only Givers will ever understand sacrifice.

I had no choice, I told myself. How else can I live in this world? I wasn't living, though. The pebbles in my heart burnt a hole in me, tore into me like a dull dagger. That was survival, not living. Tears flow from my eyes, not of a life lost but a life not lived. My tears burn the soft flesh of my face searing a trail of regret and sorrow.

"Is he crying? It looks like lava flowing down his face." I hear someone say to the right of me.

"That is the heartrock. I've never seen a Taker cry, though," responds a deep voice.

"Maybe he's having second thoughts," the first voice says. I recognize this voice as belonging to the woman who believes herself my savior. I think her exact words claimed to "deliver me from evil."

I don't believe my evil, if that's what she'd prefer to call it, will ever be gone. I did it. I am responsible; I cannot take it back. Even if the pebbles in my heart melt and converge into the heartrock, my evil is still in the lifeblood of those I took. I took from living, breathing beings who were given no choice. Worse yet, I took choice away from them. I took, they gave. If I didn't take, I would have been forced to give. And once I took, giving became an impossibility. Taking took away my choice as well.

I promised myself I would only do it once to relieve the pain and then resume my role as giver. The first time I took, the lifeblood of the Giver filled my senses, their aura wrapped around me, pushing me beyond, and I saw the true meaning of the universe. I finally knew the secret to life, to happiness, to perfection. I saw into the great beyond and spoke to the higher powers in the universe. I became a higher power of the universe.

After the first time, the chance of me returning to the role of Giver, to stop taking, disappeared. Every time I took another pebble, I yearned to see what I saw the first time, but it was always just out of my reach. I could feel it brush my fingertips, beckoning me to take just a little more, and I would find the higher power. The universe could be mine with just one more taking.

I knew, somewhere in the depths of my addled brain, as the pain of the takings became a vise around my heart, that even if I could become that higher power, it wasn't mine to take. Taking wasn't the way to enlightenment. How could it be when the pain of taking, so utterly different from the physical pain of giving, felt even more unbearable than giving?

I didn't understand how the others did it. I'd never met a Taker filled with the remorse that threatened to bury me. Finally, I worked up the courage to ask another Taker how to avoid the hurt.

"Hurt? What hurt? Some of us are givers, some of us are takers. It's part of the food chain, natural selection." Then I knew I was not like the other Takera. Was it me that was broken or them? 

When DOT found me, they presented an offer I couldn't refuse. They could take away all the pain and give me the universe. An escape and a life that death would not give me. I would finally get to the beyond; I would finally be able to grasp it. However, a sacrifice would be required of me; my consciousness would no longer be mine.

A face appears before me, breaking me out of my reverie. My savior's wide, blue eyes search mine.

"The heartrock is active. This is where we will cross to the point of no return. Once we plug you into the network, there is no turning back. Knowing the alternative consequences, would you like us to stop the procedure now?"

Without hesitating and feeling more than I'd ever know again, I said, "Do not stop the procedure. Please, proceed.”

June 17, 2022 00:04

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Michał Przywara
15:45 Jun 19, 2022

A fun read! Taken literally, we're in some sci-fi world where blood, and possessing it, has taken a critical meaning. I'm reminded of vampires, though given some of the descriptions (like the heartrock network) maybe androids too. Vampiric androids? Perhaps machines that are trying to mimic an extinct humanity, and don't quite get it? Well, that's just speculation on my part :) Taken figuratively, we can say it's about relationships. Some people Give, and others Take, leaving ruin in their wake. But what then is the heartrock? A comparison...


15:56 Jun 19, 2022

I’m so happy that you saw so many different “takes” on my story. It was one of those stories that sort of spewed out of my brain, and I change my mind on what it meant every time I read it. One thing about the “heart of stone” is that this narrator isn’t like the other Takers because he felt the pain and suffering of his Givers. Or at least that’s the way it felt to me. Thanks for your comments!


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Kelsey Fish
23:52 Jun 18, 2022

Very interesting read! I particularly like the way you describe the feelings of the Taker throughout the story. I would, of course, like to know more about what is going on, as it's a bit muddy. Overall, good job!


01:23 Jun 19, 2022

Thanks so much!


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