Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Write...Edit...Publish...+ IWSG team up to write together! August 2018





This month is a milestone for Write...Edit...Publish... as it teams up with Insecure Writer's Support Group...so excited! I'm here with a flash, which is only very slightly over word count. Thank you for reading.


The Recovery

What can you do?

He comes back from the hospital after the transplant, a chance at a second life, and you are afraid even to smile, to show how happy you are in case you attract the wrath of the gods.  The post-op at home goes well, except you are still in the adrenaline-charged ultra-vigilant mode after it has stopped being necessary. You are afraid to let go of fear, that’s your comfort zone. The Lakshman Rekha beyond which you haven’t ventured for a long, long time.

At first you don’t notice anything different, if his manner is a shade brusque at times you think nothing of it, attribute it to the cascading pain that's part of recovery. But as the pain diminishes, the difference escalates. The way he brushes off your hand tucking his sheet, the way he brushes off your suggestion of sitting in the garden. But still, you make allowances. You are used to making allowances. That too is within the Lakshman Rekha, well-trodden, familiar territory. You are filled with a love that can forgive anything. You're too happy to sweat the petty stuff.

But it doesn’t stop there. The eyes on the pillow change subtly, a totally strange patina of roughness, direct, bold, searing. They follow you round the room silently and you end up feeling as if a hundred eyes were on you. They are on you those hundred-irises, a weirdly red-eyed Indra, when you are upstairs on the terrace, or in the back garden hanging out the laundry, even when you are in the bath. You feel his eyes and suddenly turn around when you are out alone at the pharmacy one morning.   

He starts speaking a language you’ve never heard before.  The characteristic laid-back gentleness is gone, its place taken by rudeness. The tone changes, peevish and complaining at the slightest perception of ill-use. You have no idea what you have done to deserve this behavior, the constant accusations of neglect. The brushing off of your hand changes to a sharp smack one day as his strength improves. He shoves you out of the way on another. In a fit of pique at some triviality he calls you a name so offensive  that you are stunned to silence.  But he denies it when you do speak up finally. Looks at you as if you are deranged.

You leave the room, he doesn’t call you back. You cry yourself to sleep that night in the spare room for the first time in years. For the first time you wonder if life before this was better? Is a precarious, medical crises-ridden life worse than this stable recovery and a future wrapped in roughness? Is this how a quarter century of love ends?

He begins moving around independently. At the follow up the doctors are pleased with progress. He speaks like his old self in the consulting rooms and you feel you must have imagined the whole thing. The atmosphere is so normal that you can’t figure how to get the consultant alone, to broach the subject at all. You both drive back home, in the car he criticises your driving nonstop, your tongue-tied demeanour at the hospital. You can’t believe the change that happens in half an hour, a complete flip.

You can’t believe it either when you come upon him in the garden, holding a pair of secateurs, running his finger along the cutting edge. He says you need to buy a new pair.  You don’t tell him that you got the odd-job man to buy one just a few weeks ago. Days later he is in the kitchen sharpening the cleavers. He looks at them and then looks at you and you don’t know what to think anymore. A new fear clutches at you, fuzzy, unfamiliar, beyond the farthest borders of all the Lakshman Rekhas you have ever known.

You stop crying yourself to sleep in the spare room, you lock the door at night. You visit a friend and talk about the problem in the vaguest possible terms. What if the donor was...a certain sort? She looks at you quite baffled and you can’t bring yourself to articulate anything more.

You finally find the courage to call the doctor privately and are less reticent with her. But she too is baffled. No, that’s impossible, she says in a tone that makes it clear she thinks you’re the one who is slightly unhinged. She suggests counselling, she knows this most discreet therapist you could consider. It’s stressful looking after someone who’s been an invalid for so long, Mrs Sen. Call if you need anything. Don’t stress yourself. Goodbye Mrs Sen.

At dinner he is more than usually irritable, questioning your whereabouts. He yells at you, nags you for being gone the whole evening when you weren’t. But you jump when he raises his voice, your hands tremble while serving the vegetables. Your nerves are shot. He smiles smugly as if the tremors prove your guilt. 

“Who are you seeing, why are you away so much?” he shouts and tears into the bread with unnecessary force, while you sit there incandescent with fury and heartbroken at the same time.

“This is insane, Mohan!” you barely manage to whisper.

He yells even louder at you. And he’s saying the same thing as the doctor only much less politely. You are the one who is insane, not him.

“No, it’s you Mohan. Stop yelling, it’s bad for you. It’s you who’ve changed. Your heart has changed towards me. I noticed it right after you came home,” you finally screw up the courage to say it. And as soon as the words are out you feel calmer.

“You crazy woman! A heart transplant doesn’t change feelings! What’s your game exactly?”


Yes, Mohan, it does. It has. They’ve put some unknown criminal’s heart into you and you’re behaving just like one. Who knows the chemistry of transplants and what affects behavior? The ancients thought the heart was the seat of reasoning and emotions, the source of all life force. But you don’t say anything. 

What can you do?


~~~

WC - 1021
FCA

A few explanations for those who are not familiar with Indian mythology

Lakshman Rekha – lit Lakshman line. Red line, a line that must not be crossed. From the epic Ramayana (composed around 500 BCE). Lakshman the younger brother of Ram, drew a ‘safe’ boundary around their cottage in the forest to protect Ram’s wife Sita, while she was alone. She stepped out of that boundary and was abducted and the whole epic hinges around the battle to rescue her.

Indra – is the king of the gods in the Hindu pantheon. While viewing a most beautiful celestial nymph called Tilottama, Indra developed a hundred red eyes on his body. From the epic Mahabharata, composed after Ramayana.

This flash is an excerpt from the story I'm developing at an ongoing MOOC from the International Writing Programme at University of Iowa - Moving the Margins : Fiction and Inclusion.  

Read the other entries here:








65 comments:

  1. Nasty. And insidious. And so very real. I am worried about all those sharp implements too.

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  2. As I began reading the story, I immediately noticed in the second paragraph that you were taking us down the road of someone who has had a transplant. There is a similar belief in African Mythology as well as the Native Indians from North America. I caught up in your story because I too question the changes that take place in a person with a heart transplant.
    Very well written. You had me all the way to the end. In fact, I was expecting him to kill her because of his suspicions.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. I think the first peoples who associated soul with the heart were the ancient Egyptians. Most cultures originally thought the heart was the seat of all character and emotions etc.

      One of the MOOC participants whose husband had a heart transplant, commented over there on this story with the idea that we can never really know how much of the donor passes into the organ receiver and how/whether it influences the behaviour of the living person going forward. Really made an impact on me! Thanks for your detailed feedback, Pat G.
      Peace to you.

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  3. Very emotional. Starting off, as you did, with subtle changes, you build until I worried for her safety. Good job.

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  4. This was brilliantly done! I've always enjoyed stories that explore the idea of someone changing after a transplant. You created such tension here, and I was on the emotional roller coaster the entire time I read this. I fear for her so much, and I feel the pain of losing that love they once shared together. Well done!

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    1. It is an idea that resonates with a lot of people, doesn't it? - despite the scientific evidence. Thanks for the feedback.

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  5. I love this very literal take on a change of heart! I feel so sorry for the main character, this is my idea of a bad nightmare.

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  6. I like the soft transition to his change. Good tension. So scared for her!

    My link didn't work earlier, so I've updated it on the list.

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    1. I didn't realise there were dud links thanks for pointing it out.

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  7. This is so scary. A heart transplant is not supposed to change a personality, but it did in your story, and I totally believe it. I fear for the woman's safety. Powerful!

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  8. An extremely quick paced if not tragic tale, that truly fits the theme well.

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  9. A change of heart
    would it change one's heart
    a question I would ask
    but would the heart
    be the part that turn
    Them into an a##

    One could question why
    they not have just die
    or even what they'll be
    so put him in stress
    it'll be the best
    for her life you'll see

    Nice story

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    1. Good questions but there are no comfortable answers. Always admire your comments done in verse.

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  10. With all those sharp objects catching his attention, she sure should get the heck out. Who knew a hear transplant could be so insidious.

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  11. This was a lovely piece of writing and it was clear that he'd had a heart transplant and his feelings had changed. I specially liked some of your language - the cascading pain of recovery being an example. I'm sure she'll find a way out. I hope she does. Quite a nerve wracking life to lead. I wonder why she can't confide in anyone. Isn't it her silence and self doubt that lead to her seeming simply 'stressed out'?

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    1. The backstory is complex :) in a nutshell she married him against the wishes of both the families. Not on good terms with either side...thanks for the feedback.

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  12. WOW, I was on the edge of my seat wondering if she would survive. So well done! I'm loving all the ways the prompt has been interrupted!

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    1. Yes, that is what is mind blowing time after time - the diverse stories the prompt inspires.

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  13. That's a great bit of suspense/horror, even if I'm with the doctor and say it can't happen :D You make me believe it did, so well done!

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    1. Of course it can't happen - the reader has a choice in who to believe - heart transplant making the recipient a thug OR wife getting unhinged with stress :) Thanks.

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  14. Clever use of the prompt, "change of heart." Very intriguing, actions and reactions all increasing in intensity. I'm reminded just a bit of The Hands of Orlac, in which a pianist loses his hands and is given those of an executed murderer. But your story has the intriguing concept of someone's heart being transplanted, playing on how traditionally, the heart is the location of emotions, conscience, and the like, not to mention romantic feelings... or lack of same. I really liked this!

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    1. Glad you liked it. And thanks for the book reco - must get my hands on it now, no pun intended :)

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    2. Actually, it's a 1924 Austrian film starring Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Thief of Bagdad, Casablanca, The Man Who Laughs), but based on the 1920 Les Mains d'Orlac by Maurice Renard. It's been remade twice, as 1935's Mad Love (starring Peter Lorre) and The Hands of Orlac in 1960. Plus, it's inspired many other movies and TV shows.

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    3. Ah, it's a film. I always think books because well, I guess that's what I want to see :) A 1960 book may be possible to chase down - there's a street in ye olde hometown where you can get these treasures, but a copy of a 60's film is a challenge.

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  15. I knew he had gotten an evil heart as soon as he started acting mean. If she doesn't leave, she's doomed.

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    1. I think so too. Doomed if she does and doomed if she doesn't. Tough life!

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  16. This is tragic, and all too familiar. In my husband's case his personality changed from a sweet and caring personality to a rude, threatening, and abusive person. I finally questioned his meds, and sure enough 4 of them had to be changed. They were causing aggressiveness and abuse. After four weeks, and a year and a half, he is well on his way now to being more like his old self (his wasn't a transplant but cardiac arrest and he was in the hospital 6 months). He will never be the same, but I can still see his former self now and the aggressive behaviour has ceased. It is an emotional see-saw when there is a personality change, so this really hit home with me. Very well done!

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    1. So sorry to hear DG that you went through that, but glad it's over. I can relate as a family member was given some tablets for an ordinary illness and then the person's mental health was affected temporarily and they had to change the medication. I was only a child then but I can remember how scary it was still. Side effects of meds can be baffling and deadly frightening!

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  17. Hi Nila - well done ... yes I'm sure his personality could change - though we don't usually think about it happening. Cleverly written ... drawing us along with her anxiety as to the worsening situation - and I wouldn't like to be in the same house as him .... you could carry on with the story? - cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary, the story has carried on in the MOOC. We don't really think of anything changing in the recipient, but basically it's somebody else's DNA which is being carried by him, literally a foreign body, so yes, all kinds of possibilities there for scary outcomes.

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  18. Wow, that was full of suspense! I have not heard of this mythology of a heart transplant, but it's an interesting concept. I also think you should be applauded for writing so well in second person!

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    1. Thank you. I don't use the second person POV - actively avoid it in fact, so that's great to know. Glad you enjoyed the story.

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  19. good story with quite a perspective. Oh, the mysteries of the heart...

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    1. Always mysterious benevolent or the opposite ... thanks for being here!

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  20. Ooh, so frightening, because what can you do if no one believes you? I read a book in French called La Coeur de la Baleine Bleu, which explored a similar idea -- what if a part of the donor's soul entered your body? But it wasn't a shivery creepy story like yours! I do hope she can get away safe!

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    1. I hope so too. The French book sounds super interesting. Wonder if there's a translation? Thanks.

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  21. That was a frightening, well written tale and thank you for the insights in to the mythology at the end.

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  22. This was a good slow build to a terrifying and uncertain end. Well done. I like the encorporation of specific cultural beliefs as well.

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  23. You can feel the tension building and see that he had more than a physical change of heart. There are theories about memories being stored in the body and I have heard of people having transplants and then developing different likes and dislikes or having personality changes. I just quickly looked this up and one article says these people who have changes are in the minority of transplant patients. It would be scary to think that you could change like this character.

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    1. Yes we never know the full ramifications of any medical procedure - whether it's something as small as meds or a huge thing like a transplant. All a leap of faith and sometimes things can go wrong.

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  24. What can you do? You leave at once! That was really creepy and in a good way.

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    1. Yup, she should have let the change of heart in the man bring about a change of heart in herself.

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  25. I really enjoyed the build up. At first it is subtle... but then it becomes intense. And scary.
    You really did a good job with the first person stream-of-consciousness style which adds the sense of immediacy allowing the reader "into" the mind of the main character.

    Thanks for sharing with regards to the Indian mythology. That's really intriguing.

    "Who knows the chemistry of transplants and what affects behavior?" Great question which got me thinking about possible avenues for continuing the story I wrote for the challenge... there's a good twist that I could explore...

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    1. Thanks Michelle. Several stories around heart transplants this challenge :)

      That question is actually something a kidney recipient's wife said in the comments at the MOOC where I wrote this story first (with a totally different ending)...

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  26. Nila, finally got here! What an awesome story inspired by your MOOC course. Love how you segue into the change of heart. I can totally agree that if it wasn’t actually the transplant it could be the anti-rejection drugs. Loved the escalation of tension. When he began fixating on sharp instruments I really worried for her. As always your language was entrancing. Adding the explanation from Indian mythology deepened the effect for me.

    Well done 👍🏼

    Denise

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    1. Not sure what inspired which :) whether it was the prompt that inspired the MOOC story or the other way around - but having done it I thought it would fit the bill here neatly if I truncated it. Thanks, Denise.

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  27. This had me on the edge of my seat and fearing the worse - which seems inevitable at the end and with so many sharp implements available...as well as a sharp tongue and attitudes.

    Although the Indian mythology was unknown - until you explained it - the sense of something beyond the normal was there, so for me no explanation seemed necessary. (But I admit to a leaning towards Durga and other goddesses- - and an interest in mythologies.) Maybe a reader coming cold would want a clue, even if I didn't.

    But well worth developing - and scaring me more.

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    1. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it - esp the mythological bits. The goddess Durga is worshipped by Ram in the Ramayana before going into battle. The practice of public worshipping of Durga in the autumn in Bengal/India stems from that tradition.

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    2. Thanks for that info on Durga - adds to my limited knowledge.

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  28. What an intriguing idea and I love the take on the theme. Could be a premise for a great horror novel. I felt the heartbreak as their love is disrupted by a hostile heart, and I also fear for her safety. Would love to read more - great job!

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    1. Thank you for the critique. Much appreciated!

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  29. Quite interesting. I have heard of the phenomenon of transplant patients getting a few qualities from the donor. Mostly liking a food or color they didn't previously favor. But this horror take is very interesting. And how brave of you to write it, given the number of pro-transplant people who are likely to judge you for it. Best wishes on making it longer!

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    1. Thank you. The bravery aspect didn't occur to me :) I'm pro-transplant myself - have close friends and extended family members who have been organ recipients with huge impact on their QOL. The idea of donor's criminal attributes 'transitioning' was completely imaginary as far as I'm concerned, although subsequent to reading, people with actual transplant experience have said things which give one pause for thought, certainly. The human body and soul are an eternal mystery!

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  30. What a fascinating and creepy story! And such a unique take on the prompt. I liked your use of second person to make the reader part of the story, even though it was a slightly uncomfortable place to be.

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    1. Thank you. Second person is the 'person' I fear the most, avoid writing it usually. Just thought I'd give it a try here - glad to know it worked!

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  31. I loved this, although I started off not sure of whose transplant it was. That was because of the use of 'you' I think. It was vibrant and truthful. Congratulations.

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