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Hole Shaped Heart by Eireann Nankivell | flash fiction | #thesideshow

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March 2, 2017

Tape 187

Dated: Circa ‘94

Prelim notes: This sounds like a recording of a recording. Like one device speaking into the ear of another across a dark room. The whirring static and the sudden distortion of feedback is reassurance that life is revealed here in analogue.

0:32: ‘They say that the misrepresentation of the artist’s intent is part of the interplay and the process of true art.’ … ‘ I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say that.’ … ‘Well by they I mean me, babe.’… The pause is pregnant with white noise. … ‘What I mean to say is nobody loves you until you’re dead.’ … ‘If so why all these fans? They hate me? They want me to die?’ … ‘You’re being hysterical about this whole thing. We had a pact.’

1:02: The noise that follows is the muffled sound of items shuffled in the bottom of a box. A sheet of paper is torn from a notebook.

‘But in the end what is there to really say’ … ‘What you have always said. But say it louder. Scream it into the abyss’ … ‘It’s too fucked up.’ … A ballpoint pen scratches out a few lines over the surface of the paper, but the sound is virtually indistinguishable from the white noise played across the recording of a recording. ‘No matter what I write down here they won’t get it.’

2:56: ‘No, they won’t. And that’s the whole point. The distance between the space that is the ‘I’ and the space that is the ‘you’. It’s a bridge that can never be crossed.’ … ‘At any rate, I can’t do this sober. I need to be numb.’ Several minutes of seemingly blank tape pass. The voice that continues afterwards is dramatically altered. Slowed to near incoherence.

8:47: ‘You only have to pull the trigger, very softly. This small movement is a bold statement. Ever forgotten it would be a shame to them all.’

Crying that heaves up from the diaphragm, like choking coughs, a lament that seems to envelope the tape recorder as if in a cere cloth of extra-dimensional proportions, because the tape itself

seems to shudder and reverberate through time. The terror of death is in that retching sound.

A stifled scream and the sound of a shotgun blast, echoing as though at a great distance. Silence. Six minutes, 55 seconds.

19:08: A handle is turned. A door moans softly into the room, its reluctant voice caught on the magnetic tape as a final sigh. Footsteps grow louder as they cross the imagined space towards the still-running device. The tape stops recording.

Closing comments:

Tape 187 has been destroyed a long time ago. All that is left as evidence that it ever existed is this transcription, scribbled on a piece of graph paper, which I have used as an impromptu drawer liner for some years now. We cannot know the timbre of the speaking voices, if there is two speakers, or merely one, sounding off.


Eireann Nankivell lives in central Victoria, Australia and is accompanied in her literary adventures by Harris, her beautiful corgi.  In 2016, her short story “Eve” was long listed for the inaugural Los Gatos-Listowel Short Story Contest. Previously, her work has won the City of Greater Bendigo’s RAW Arts Award.