Heartless

Biologically, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary’s death was in no way unusual. One might even say that she’d overstayed her welcome on this planet by living to be 97 years old until the Grim Reaper finally decided to cash in her chips for good.

Politically, though, it caused a huge kerfuffle because of the inconvenient fact that she was the queen of a small but influential island that liked to call itself ‘Great’ Britain.

That was on top of the fact that the small island had already witnessed a political crisis not too long ago, with its last Prime Minister resigning after turning out to be a scandalous man with immensely great power and an even more immensely bad haircut.

The press went absolutely bonkers, the little island mourned the death of its beloved monarch, and the fourteen other commonwealth realms she officially ruled were officially bereaved. So was the rest of the world, officially, most of which the little island had ruled until a century or so ago.

There was nothing quite so dramatic as a power vacuum, though, since Prince Charles was to be the natural successor. A strapping young lad of seventy-four like himself was so burdened with the whole ‘King’ business that he couldn’t be bothered with his dead mother’s mysterious little note which the Buckingham Palace had, in good sense, decided to keep private.

Apart from her final will and testament, this unaddressed note elegantly scribbled in her trusty Parker 51 was the only correspondence the dead queen had left behind. At present, Prince William was rereading it for about the fiftieth time and pulling his non-existent hair out.

‘I put my heart in a locket

But I’ll never give it to you.’

That’s all it said. No salutation, no sign-off— just two lines of highschoolish poetry by Britain’s longest-ruling monarch and his grandmother, written in a manner so unlike herself. At least, so unlike The Queen he was used to both in public and private. Even with no onlookers, no guards, no servants, Queen Elizabeth II preserved the same uptight royal air, the same fake tabloid smile which wallpapered any sign of real emotion she might have been capable of feeling, the same calm calculated speech: each word like a soldier in its place, not one syllable out of line, each one doing exactly what it was supposed to do.

‘I put my heart in a locket

But I’ll never give it to you.’

It made no sense to him. It would maybe have meant something if Prince Philip had been alive; perhaps he wasn’t as good a husband as he seemed to be. Perhaps the sombre affection and the dutifulness had been restricted to his duties as consort and in front of the paparazzi.

But his grandfather had died two years ago in the same biologically anticlimactic manner his grandmother had.

It wasn’t that he had been particularly close to the queen. By its very nature, the royal family was but a partnership of power between people who happened to belong to the same bloodline. Still, Prince William had had that note x-rayed and shown to the top cryptographers in the country, without them knowing that it was a task from the now heir-apparent, much less the fact that it was written by the Queen. But to no avail.

It wasn’t just him who’d tried to solve the mystery, though. Almost everyone in the royal family apart from Prince Charles— now King Charles III— was using their many connections and redirecting their wry political heads to this schoolgirlish mystery. The Queen’s remaining children were working together for the first time in history. While Prince Andrew saw this as a chance to recover from the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, the Princess Royal was assisting her brother the Earl of Wessex who was blessed with a significantly lower density of neural connections than his sister who’d often been compared to a fox.

Although Catherine was taking the whole business seriously with him, Prince Harry and Meghan were of the firm opinion that the old woman had finally gone bonkers in her last days.

Not one of the royals, who were all accustomed to code words, could make head or tail of it. Even if they thought they could, none of their conclusions matched. Was it a prophecy? A warning? A threat? Some top-secret political bit of intelligence with a butterfly effect of worldwide implications? No one seemed to agree.

One thing that they’d all been able to agree on, however was to not release it to the public for the entire world’s population of puzzle-solvers to work on, desperate as they were. It would be a disaster. The United Kingdom was already in shock, the government in a panic, and this would cause a surge in conspiracy theories on a scale unlike that seen at the time of Diana’s death. The Queen’s entire legacy threatened to go up in flames if these two lines reeking of broken-hearted young romance were to get out. No, it was best to keep it to themselves and leave it be, for the time being.

***

It was done. Victor had received news of the note, and had successfully carried out the arduous task of removing the heart, carefully cutting it into seventeen equal pieces, and putting each of them in its own little formaldehyde-filled crystal spherules.

As the royal mortician, he’d never been starved of money, but when the Queen herself had requested him to do the task in return for the kind of wealth that’d not only last but also spoil his children and grandchildren after him, he could not refuse. He didn’t know why and frankly, didn’t care. When the Queen made a special request to you, alone, asking only a… special kind of post-mortem operation and absolute secrecy in return for the kind of wealth that’d make a millionaire look homeless, you didn’t ask questions. You simply complied.

His job was done. He hadn’t told anyone, royal or otherwise, about the strange little task he’d been assigned. Now all he had to do, apart from preparing the rest of her body, was to barter the pieces with a contact he knew only as Streetlight for a return ticket to The Bahamas and a shiny new private locker key.

***

Streetlight wasn’t your run-of-the-mill goldsmith. For one, she wasn’t thee royal jewellery-maker. For two, she was a 28-year-old Emirati girl fashioning a locket for Her Majesty the Queen of the UK, deceased.

And what a locket it was to be— 24-karat gold, with the biggest pendant she’d ever made: the size of a six-month-old baby’s head. But that wasn’t even the strangest part. It was to have exactly seventeen holes of the same size, to be encrusted with ‘mystery gemstones’ she’d receive when it was time, the Queen had told her with an uncharacteristic wink. Streetlight was pretty sure she was the only one in all of human history to ever be winked at by Queen Elizabeth II, apart from her dead husband perhaps. In return, an antique silver ashtray from the Buckingham Palace itself, and a sizeable investment along with a free tailored team of professionals for Al Yarae to expand into the largest jewellery store— nay, franchise— in Dubai.

Spinning the keys they’d given her on her forefinger like a chakra, she practically skipped to the royal mortician’s ‘unofficial residence’.

***

London, 1683

Sarah fit right in like a glove amongst Princess Anne’s maidservants. She’d always thought she was born in the wrong century, and after recovering from the temporal jet lag of jumping almost three centuries back in time, the 17th century had felt more like home than her original 21st. But then, if she had actually been born in the 17th century, she would never have got to be the world’s first temporal assassin.

As a former MI6 senior analyst, she’d been surprised to find out that there was something she didn’t know about when she was first contacted by Dennis (which was as much his real name as Sarah was hers), one of the nine people in the agency predictably known as MI7 which was so underground it might as well be a branch of hell itself. Known only to the Queen apart from the nine— now ten— people who worked in it, she was willing to bet that MI7 was probably the most covert organisation in not only the UK but the world. The Americans gave away their secrets by hinting at them in their media, encouraging Hollywood, and calling it ‘hiding in plain sight’. The British simply went about their business with the same resting face they might, say, clerk at a bank with.

The Queen, even in death, had a knack for the disturbingly poetic, they all had to admit. Instead of simply letting them do the job in a straightforward manner, she’d given them this peculiar instrument of her choosing to carry it out with. Wearing it on her neck all the time probably meant a bent spine for the rest of her life, but Sarah didn’t care, and it was too dangerous to let the locket out of her sight. After years at the MI6, she doubted she was going to live a long healthy life anyway; better to live out what days she had left in this newfound thrill. She caressed the locket hidden under that convenient 17th-century dress for the tenth time in five minutes. Soon, she would be called to carry the pregnant Princess Anne’s supper to her room, and before taking it to her she was to prise one of the pieces of Queen Elizabeth’s heart out from the locket she’d been given, and dump it, formaldehyde and all, into the princess’s stew. She was to repeat the same process sixteen more times until the turn of the century she’d been dropped off into. This was a delicate plan which would culminate with the murder of an eleven-year-old prince on 30th July, 1700.

Sarah knew the stakes. She knew the seventh piece of the locket would not work on the princess’s seventh, and what would seem like, a successful pregnancy. Even a time traveller cannot avert the course of history as it happened. She had willingly signed up for it, and alone in a different time with only one line of contact back to the MI7, there was no one to call her a psychopath but herself. Someone had to do the difficult jobs. If Princess Anne, who would be Queen Anne in another seventeen years, left behind any heirs, the baton would never pass to Sophia of Hanover. The grand reset of the British Monarchy would never occur and Elizabeth II would never even be born, much less be Queen.

Like all temporal assassins that would come after her, Sarah promised herself she wouldn’t get attached.


Yes, that is indeed prose you see, dear reader. Yes, it required research (a lot of which didn’t make it into the final story) as you can probably guess from the links peppered throughout. Yes, I now know more about the British Royal Family than I would’ve preferred. My royals-crazy best friend would be proud, which is not a desirable outcome of this exercise. However, I did get to kill off the Queen even if fictionally, which is most certainly a desirable outcome.

It was Starninja’s Blogversary prompt which inspired this self-indulgent little piece: “I put my heart in a locket, but I’ll never give it to you.” It made me write bad prose after a month of writing bad poetry and then a month of nothing, and it felt great! Let me tell you, it’s good to get back to fictional storylines after weeks of trying to ‘poetify’ real ones. It was honestly so refreshing to write a stand-alone story for the first time in *checks dates* two YEARS?! Damn. My prose game needs a comeback.

Because I’m two months late to this prompt, this response is about 3.5 times longer than the vaguely-prescribed word limit as recompense, and it’s definitely not because of my inability to write inside word limits. I hope Starninja accepts this extended story length as a token of my apology.

So… yeah. I think you can still go and try your hand at this prompt— it got me out of a writing slumber, and with a story, no less— I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have an expiration date, unlike the Queen.

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3 thoughts on “Heartless

  1. This. This…..
    How can I put this delicately…?
    I wrote before that a certain pair of sister poets had inspired me to be a better writer. Then one of these aforementioned poets takes one of my prompts and spins a tale involving Queens, England and Time Assassins. Reading this story has made me come to a realization, one that I do not admit to lightly. What I felt before was not inspiration. This. THIS IS FUCKING INSPIRATION.
    I want to Time Jump back to my naïve April self, slap him and pull him here to show him his embarrassing error. I want to peel his eyelids back and hold his face to the computer screen and tell him THIS! THIS RIGHT HERE YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER! LOOK AT IT!
    Ahem.
    What I felt reading a month of awesome kick-ass poetry stirred a great amount of admiration, fascination and maybe a hint of jealousy at your poetic abilities. But reading this threw me into an ecstatic trance. It made me realize how much I miss reading your prose, Anisha. I was engrossed in this story. I want to read more of it. And 3.5 times more story? Definitely worth the wait. Five thumbs up! Extraordinary! Supremely riveting! More! Moar! Aaahh!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A week ago I thought I’d somehow be more eloquent after a few days and better equipped to both leave comments on the Wormhole on the stories I’d missed, and also to reply to your comment which is practically a well-worn, well-loved childhood stuffed toy for my brain now. My week-ago self was clearly wrong because I really do not know what to say.
      I… if this is you putting it delicately, I suspect I would’ve merely crumbled at the sight of a non-delicate realization. First of all, my reaction to your April comments is summarised here.

      On top of that, making you feel inspiration through poetry is one thing, but PROSE?? Throwing thee Daniel ‘Starninja’ Gomez, one of the greatest storytellers I know, into an ecstatic trance and inspiring him through my high-schoolish short stories which do not hold a matchstick (much less a candle) to his carefully planned and well-executed storyverse, is another thing altogether. I realise I might sound sarcastic in the previous subclauses but I’m really not trying to be; I just cannot figure out how to thank you and tell you about the ecstatic trance you gave me in return without sounding overly grandiose.
      Any thanks I give will always lack. Congratulations, Dan. You’ve single-handedly motivated me to get my hands blissfully dirty with prose again.

      Liked by 1 person

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