The Heartbeat of a Heartless Man

A web extended underneath his fingers. Through the grey streets, across alleys and parks. The city was the ideal trap. A monstrosity, brought about by a fear that controlled lives. The men that inhabited the city breathed in its toxic air. They became enthralled in nets of events and information. Knowingly or unknowingly, every human was but a prey in the spider’s web. Tangled in a net, connected to others. Those connections were what allowed for the information to exist. A single person could be lifted from the net, revealing the thin, white filaments of the spider’s web. Connections would become visible and, in time, would lead to any information. Through such a method a single being could grant access to a sizeable portion of the web. The city was, without doubt, a trap. But as any trap, the city too had a key to its lock. Only few had access to it.

A broken radio hummed with static through the night. A dysfunctional lullaby. Luka’s breathing was, in contrast, husky and sharp. Seized by terror. The hidden town in the hills rested as if dead. By morning it would rise once more, breathe in the sun. But at night, a veil of blackness and stars covered it. Asphyxiated it. The old, broken radio was the sole proof of life. Except that night, because Luka’s breathing too proved existence. At last the young man turned in bed. He faced his partner, who pretended to sleep. Soren had anticipated that moment, but still wished he could have avoided it.

Propaganda permeated every aspect of their lives. About the war, encouraging support for the brave men and women on the front line, those that defended their country from the foe. The word was used indiscreetly. Children in elementary school were taught to hate the foe. The propaganda regarded the government too. Praised the leaders for their boldness and the sacrifices they had made for their country. Words such as valiant, brave, honest, were repeated constantly. Political and ideological enemies of the state were labelled terrorists, and the word soon replaced their faces. Oftentimes they merely disappeared in the dead of the night. The government took care to inject the propaganda straight into the city’s veins. The censorship fell to the background.

Luka’s breathing grew heavier. Soren could feel it on his face. Yellow light from a streetlight filtered into the window, through thin white curtains. The radio never once ceased its lullaby. Luka at last spoke. His words trembled on fine air.
“Soren, have you ever killed a person?”
Soren feigned sleep.

The city thrived. People walked the grey streets mindlessly, chatting about their inevitable victory in the war and the latest string of arrests. The arrests were frequently of intellectuals, members of non-violent underground organizations. Sometimes protests broke out and were forcibly put down by police. Those so-called heroes in white uniforms. They were disparagingly referred to as ghosts by some. The air was restless, but few noticed it. Information became a scarce resource. Something to treasure. Those that disappeared did so without leaving traces, and the cases were never investigated. Any information regarding missing persons came to cost extravagant amounts. Some made that into a source of income. Information had become a profitable, albeit dangerous, market.

He knew Luka could tell he was not asleep. Soren remained still. Why did it have to come to this? He asked himself but no answer came. It happened because that was the world they lived in. That was the time they had been fated to meet. Soren chose his words carefully. Eyes remained shut. He feared seeing Luka in tears.
“I’ve killed soldiers.”
“Aren’t soldiers people too?”
Soren turned around. He chose the coward’s route. The streetlight outside flickered, temporarily encapsulating the room in a void. Luka’s hiccups could be heard above the radio static. Had the world ended right then and there, Soren would have been thankful. Luka poked the man’s back in an attempt to attain a response. Soren ignored him and shut his eyes tighter. The hills around the town held their breath.