I wandered through the sewers for what felt like ages, trudging along and continuing to make the same mistakes and tripping over pipes. But up ahead a chamber seemed to be more illuminated than the other tunnels. Inside of it a pool of luminous energy, the accumulation of light which streamed out of a gutter overhead, creating a patch of clarity in the chamber. Upon its edge, at the separation of light and dark, a giant figure loomed. It must've been 10ft tall, you could only just make out its shape. It stopped its humming and turned to look at me, its eyes glowing faintly in the shadows. We stood there, not moving, just staring at one another. Perhaps we were both a little surprised. I finally was able to gather enough of my wits about me to break the silence.
“Excuse me, sir? I was wondering if you could help me?”
“Perhaps,” it said slowly.
“I'm looking for something I've lost.”
“You've lost many things.”
“Yes...I suppose I have,” I said as I thought about the truth behind that sentiment. “But at the moment I only need to find one of them. You wouldn't have seen a heart around here, by chance, would you?”
It chuckled. “I've seen countless numbers of them.”
“Were any of them mine?”
“Thank goodness! I've been looking all over for it. I need to talk to it.”
The being cocked its head quizzically. “You aren't going to like what you see.”
“What? Of course I will. I've been looking for it, of course I'm going to be glad to see it once again. Can I please just talk to it?”
It stared at me and then broke the silence with a large shrug. “If you insist.”
You could see its form moving about, but what exactly it was doing was unclear. There was a nauseous sound like a bowling ball in a pile of compost then it crouched down and extended its dark hands into the light. They were cupping something. I took a few steps forward and offered my own hands up to accept his offer. Gently it poured something into my hands. It was slightly damp and earthy, like dirt but somehow more organic.
“What is this?”
“You don't recognize it?”
“But,” I wasn't exactly sure what to say. Was this some sort of cruel joke? “This isn't what I lost. This isn't what I've been chasing after.”
It began to laugh. A chuckle so large it filled the chamber and the walls seemed to laugh back in reciprocation. “I do not think I will ever understand how creatures with eyes can see so little.”
“How dare you! Is this some sort of joke to you? What are you talking about?”
Its eyes narrowed and it stared at me. “You people throw things away and then think you can just reclaim it whenever its convenient for you? As if there are no consequences to you actions?” His voice was cold now and I could feel the icy edge to his words against my skin. “You threw it away and you expected it not to rot? You don't take care for it and you expected it not to die? These are not the scarfs and mittens of the lost and found, these are beings with life. They have life and because of that they also have death.”
His words echoed inside my brain. Sounding and resounding again and again. Still cupping what he had given me I fell to my knees. I came all this way, I endured all this...and for what? I was doomed to a life of being numb. A life of blindly stumbling through the world unaware of everything around me. I couldn't help, but to begin crying. Not filtered tears elicited by a sad movie, but the true tears and bawls of a child who cannot help but feel too much. I clutched the remains to my chest and continued to weep.
“One mistake!” I wailed. “One idiotic mistake and I've cursed myself to be forever cut off from humanity? One mistake and it's all over? Doomed to a life with no heart.”
“No heart?” its quizzical look had returned, the chill gone from its voice.
His question took me by such surprise the tears stopped as my brain tried to wrap itself around its implications. “What?”
“You really are blind, aren't you.”
“You said it yourself, I killed it! It's gone. It's dead!”
“Yes. It is dead,” it said. “Dead does not mean nonexistent. Things that die do not disappear from the very fabric of existence. How can something you remember truly be gone? How can something you love not exist? Hearts are not some lone stone that sits as it is until it becomes dust. Hearts are alive, just like seeds are alive. Hearts are the seeds that you sow every time you share, every time you love, and every time you care. Every good word, kind act, and smile plants itself somewhere. The consequence of cutting down a tree is not extinction. A tree nearby will simply drop a seed in the empty plot and a new one will grow in the rotted nutrients of its fallen predecessor's trunk.”
“So...what do I need to do to get it back?”
The being crouched down, leaned forward, and for the first time I could see its face. It was less human and yet more human than anything you could imagine. It gently brought my cupped hands away from my chest then held up a tiny seed. Then slowly, as if to make sure I was following along, it poked the seed down into the remains.
“You just grow a new one,” it said with a subtle twinkle in its eyes as it smiled for the first time since I met it. It leaned back, returning to the shadows and then returning to its full and towering stature. “We do not love because we have hearts. We have hearts because we love.”
“Who are you?” I whispered more to myself than anyone as he began to disappear into the darkness.
“I am the golem of waste. I am the collector of humanity's jetsam. I am the home of the unwanted. My name is Throawae.”