The grieving man cuts his heart out with a steak knife, places it on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. He cranks a dusting of sea salt on top and bottom. When the preheated oven light turns orange, he opens the door, puts the pan on the middle rack. During the thirty-minute cooking time, he does nothing but dwell on the brutality of silence. The timer beeps and he removes the tray from the oven, leaves it alone for a bit to keep the juices from escaping. Then he drops it on a plastic cutting board and slices against the grain. He grabs two paper plates from the cabinet and places a hunk of him on each one, then takes them to the living room and sits on the couch, snaps his fingers. Fiona emerges from her hiding spot under the sink, trots in to join him. He sets her plate on the floor next to his feet.
She sniffs the air, eyeballs her meal. “Charred and hard, just how I like my heart.”
The man rolls his eyes at her, stabs a fork into the black mass, brings a piece to his mouth and chews. Fiona is chewing too. It’s a synchronized chewing of his heart. And he laughs. And Fiona purrs. They finish eating at precisely the same time. He asks the cat if she wants another piece.
“No, I only want to sleep forever.”
“Forever might not be long enough,” says the man.
They drag themselves to his room and climb onto the queen-size bed, crawl under the plaid covers. Fiona asks about the crater in his chest. “What did you fill it with?”
“I crammed rose petals, lingerie, and pomegranates in there.”
Fiona winks at him. “You tasted like bruised crow. Just saying.”
“I thought I tasted like tragedy.” They share a smile. Fiona paws his face. He pets her head. Then they drift away for days, their minds united in grief, their bellies stuffed with baked, broken heart.
When they wake up, the man says, “I still feel the same, there is no cure. It’s beyond hopeless. I think for dinner this evening we shall have my brain.”
Fiona nods. “You’re thinking outside the box, I approve. Eating your brain would be an honor.”
“But what if I don’t survive? A worthless heart is one thing, the puppet master upstairs is another. I’m afraid you’ll be left all alone.”
“Everyone is alone behind the social mask, Glen. And you humans love to play the selfless martyr. But I’ll be fine roaming the apartment without a companion. Don’t sweat it. Do you.”
“You are wise, Fiona, the wisest of all lazy, house-trained predators.”
Later, she devoured a bowl of brain. With every bite, she understood him more, gained insight into his regrets, secrets, and triggers. His losses and obsessions. She consumed his sun and shade, felt closer to him now.
Fiona slinks away to the bedroom, her soul free of attachment, her belly stuffed with memories. She switches off the light, buries herself under the blanket. “You tasted like sad bluejay,” she whispers to his empty pillow.
She remembers all of them; decades of eating their nostalgic delusions. Fiona slips into sleep knowing she will never have to whine for a meal. She will never go hungry.
Chris Milam lives in the bucolic wasteland that is Hamilton, Ohio. When not writing, he sulks and vapes with ferocity. His stories have appeared in Jellyfish Review, WhiskeyPaper, Bartleby Snopes, Spelk, The Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris