Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Scientists Confirm: There’s a Black Hole in the Center of Your Heart

The black hole in the center of your heart devours everything around you. It always has, but when you were small, your event horizon was, too: you might pull in a teddy bear, your corgi puppy’s love, your grandma’s snickerdoodles. Small fuel for a small hunger.

But you didn’t stay small. In school, you pulled other children into your orbit, cool kids and nerds and loners, along with shelves of books, the faded basketballs from the gym, the classroom iguana. You drew them to you and consumed them, and your hunger only grew.

Bigger and bigger. Desks, filing cabinets, coworkers, they fall into you and vanish. Your first car. Two girlfriends, who barely got close enough to earn that label. Your grandmother. The paintings in your home, then the sofa, the bed, and finally, in a sign of what’s to come, the house itself.

How did this insatiable hole take shape within you? Pundits love to speculate on it while drifting closer and closer to the reach of your maw. You’re searching for your father’s love, the most popular theory goes. Or maybe you’re looking for a perfection that does not exist. Maybe it’s a reflex to protect yourself from the unkind world, and you never meant to destroy anything at all. One by one, all those theory-spinners have studied you too closely and fallen to your appetite, but their demise hasn’t stopped new fans from circling you, insatiably curious. Just as you can’t stop consuming the world, they can’t help being fascinated by you, even though they know where it will lead.

They never do the sensible thing and run.

I learned long ago to keep my distance. I’ve watched you carefully, carefully, from the edges of your life: from the far side of the schoolyard, from the office across the street. Always just out of reach. I know you better than anyone ever did, but I still don’t really know you, any more than you know me.

But I do know all the pundits are wrong. I wish this were the story they imagine, a story about loneliness and unresolved childhood trauma. It’s not that at all.

Here’s the real story. You were told your whole life that you deserved everything: your choice of college, job, woman. Success in all things. You were told that you deserved the world, and you believed it. It’s no surprise that a black hole formed in your heart. If you tell enough little boys that they should get everything they desire, eventually one of them will have desires so fierce they collapse in on themselves and become a super-dense gravity well, drawing everything to you.

You’re unstoppable, now. You’ve crossed a tipping point, consuming office buildings, roads, parks, schools. Taking a person is nothing; you gobble up whole crowds of glassy-eyed adoring spectators and leave only emptiness behind.

You never pause long enough to realize: the more you consume, the less is left. You’ve got a world inside you now, unreachable to you. Have you never considered how your story has to end?

Apparently not. You carve vast furrows in the ground and swallow oceans in a single gulp. Magma spurts from the world’s wounds, and you lap that up, too. I flee on a rocket ship, barely in time, and watch from a too-small window as the Earth crumbles and falls to your greed.

My escape is temporary. You are growing exponentially, sucking in the solar system: our beloved moon, our planetary neighbors. Saturn goes in a stream of orange gas. The sun glows as it stretches and stretches, a bright, horrible ribbon slurped down like a milkshake through a straw. I race past poor Pluto and Charon as they fall together to their end in you.

Do you understand yet? All the things you’ve taken haven’t filled the hole within you, and now you’re alone. You’ve stolen an entire solar system, and there’s no one left who’s capable of loving you.

No one except, theoretically, me.

Why is it that you never devoured me? I used to believe it was because I’ve been careful enough, kept enough distance, but caution didn’t save anyone else, and honestly, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. It took me too long to suspect that you’ve let me keep escaping because you need me free. I’m the girl next door, the one who was supposed to want you but never did. I’m the one you can keep chasing, forever and ever, and you believe my capture will be so sweet, never realizing it’s really the chase you love.

I assumed you didn’t know what it meant to have someone—you’ve always confused destruction with possession with love—but you must know you’re missing something, because you’ve singled me out. Saved me for last. It’s not flattering, you idiot. You’ve taken away everyone and everything, leaving nothing for me to love but you, but it’s like they used to say: Not even if you were the last man on Earth.

(You aren’t even on Earth anymore. You destroyed that, too.)

Maybe I’m the one who’s been too slow to realize: the struggle to escape you has become my life, and in that way, I’ve let you define me. All that’s left for me is running away from you. I might escape you, or I might fail, but my relationship with you is inescapable.

Unless.

I’ve had a theory for a while now: I think the people you consume don’t die. The more you take, the more I have to believe there could be a world full of people carrying on within you, and if they’re not quite the same as they were on the outside, they’re still people, full of hopes and joys and life and love. And most importantly, they’re beyond your reach. If I’m right, then everything you’ve devoured doesn’t become yours—it’s lost to you, forever. They dwell within you, but you can never touch them again, and that’s an existence I could live with.

I could be wrong. Maybe that’s wishful thinking born of desperation. Maybe there’s nothing but oblivion waiting beyond your jaws. I don’t want to be the girl who sacrifices herself to escape you, but I have to say, the gamble seems worth it. If I’m right, I’ll be free of you forever, and in the worst case scenario, being stretched away to nothingness in a black hole sounds better than a life alone with you.

So no more fighting to escape. I’m reversing thrusters, turning this ship around, and diving in. The change in direction will be so sudden that you won’t have time to examine your apparent good fortune. You’ll think you’re winning until I’m past your event horizon and you understand, too late, that you’ve lost.

And then you’ll be alone in the empty universe you’ve made, with no one to blame but yourself.

Jo Miles

Jo Miles. A non-binary white person with short brown hair, wearing a purple shirt and gray cardigan, standing in front of greenery.

Jo Miles is a Maryland-based writer of science fiction and fantasy. Their stories have appeared previously in Lightspeed, as well as Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Fireside, and more. You can find Jo online at jomiles.com and on Twitter as @josmiles.