THE HEART SEED
Once upon a time there was a girl who was certain everyone was her enemy. In preparation for the treacherous attacks against her she was convinced were coming, she cut her heart out of her chest. She wrapped it in silk and placed it in a wooden box, then put the box inside a steel casket and carried it up into the mountains. After walking for days up steep slopes, she reached an anonymous spot on the far side of the mountain range, exactly like any of a million other square feet of forest. The girl dug down beneath the roots of a nameless tree, and she buried the casket there under roots and stones and dirt.
When she returned to the real world, even she couldn't remember where her heart was buried; her enemies had no chance whatsoever of finding it. Invulnerable, she set her plans in motion, and from that day on her enemies could never defeat her.
On the mountainside, her heart still beat. But the girl pretended she couldn't feel it, lost as it was in the wilderness.
Once upon a time there was a girl. All around her, enemies crept and skulked and gnashed their teeth. They wanted to eat her alive, and only constant vigilance kept her safe. They wanted to crack back her ribs and eat her up, all her tender organs down to the core—and then that too. They wanted the marrow of her spine.
Their sniffing nostrils began to root out her delicate heart, but before they could rip it out, she did it herself, to keep herself safe.
She wrapped her heart gently in linen cloth, placed it in a wooden box, and set out to look for a safe place. The wild heard her hoping and gave her a place in the roots of a fir tree. She laid her heart down deep under the dirt and felt the bump-thump of it moving down there in the dark even long after she returned home.
It worked the way she hoped it would. Her enemies lost interest, and far away she could feel the roots and the earthworms and the mountain-stones that kept her heart company.
Once upon a time there was a girl and she was very small and always afraid because she was alone. She was a wrong girl, and everyone around her could see it in her body, and because of this they wanted to take her apart. But she refused to die no matter how they tore at her, and to protect herself she took out her heart and she wrapped it in cotton, and she buried it.
The tree she buried it under was a blue fir tree with wide-spreading branches and thick-clotted needles. It made a shelter for her heart and protected it from the churning seasons, the bitter cold and sluicing rain.
The girl's heart under the tree lived, separately from her mouth and hands and genitals. In the far-away city, the girl walked concrete streets in thick-soled shoes, but with every breath she could feel the wild passing into her blood from the mossy rocks and the sap that flowed through the blue fir tree.
Once upon a time there was a heart buried at the roots of a blue fir tree so high up the mountainside that human feet had only walked there once in the fir tree's remembering. The heart beat slowly in time with the wind that bent the alpine slopes, hurting and hurting at the distance from his body.
But the distance was necessary; the pain was a service he did for the girl he was protecting. So he dug himself deeper, reached out tendrils and wrapped a hold around the mountain's root-rocks.
After many years, his grip on the mountain was so entrenched that he could not have been moved by even an earthquake. Finally, he pushed a trunk up out of the soil, sprouted tough green needles like his guardian-fir, and slowly, slowly, he grew into a shape that was all his own. Storms came down from the peaks, cold sleet and rough wind. In the city, the girl swayed and creaked, but the heart held steady. He could not be moved.
Once upon a time there was a heart on the crest of a mountain whose roots went down so deep they fused with the bedrock in the mountain's core. He missed his body sometimes, but the air up at the snow line was so cold and clear he could see beyond the curve of the world.
JOANNE RIXON lives in the shadow of an active volcano with a rescue chihuahua named after a dinosaur. She is an organizer with North Seattle Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and her writing has appeared in venues including Crossed Genres Magazine, GlitterShip, and Stupefying Stories. You can find her yelling about politics and poetry on twitter @JoanneRixon.