when I was young and unafraid (it was all a game)

by Aurelia Gonzalez

The first time I heard “Tell Your Heart Heads Up” by Mutemath, I was in an abandoned cabin, half a mile from the AK-1 highway, just north of Wasilla. I was looking for food. I was with Em, the only other living person I’d met between Peters Creek and Wasilla. We had thought we were still in a dead zone, where even lightbulbs didn’t work, and when we heard the noise we jumped. Em went straight for her gun. I ducked under the table in the kitchen. We realized after a minute that there wasn’t really anybody else in the house, and we both felt pretty stupid. Whoever was in the cabin last left a CD player on in the upstairs bedroom. The dead zones tended to shift in and out without warning; I guess we caught the edge of one. The CD kept playing right where it left off. It didn’t know that anything had changed. Em went upstairs and checked it out. When she said it was clear, I followed her up. We stood in the bedroom for ten minutes, I think, listening to the music. I don’t think it was my type of music. I couldn’t quite understand the lyrics. I think if I’d heard the song two months earlier I would have put in a different CD, or changed the channel. I think Em would have done the same. But we stood there and left the CD player alone. The song ended soon enough. The next track played. That felt like a miracle. I’m not sure I liked that next song—I couldn’t tell what it was supposed to be about, and the song itself felt sad. But I didn’t want the CD to end. If I could have, I would’ve spent the rest of my life standing in that bedroom and listening to a Mutemath CD I didn’t even like. The CD player turned off halfway through that second song. We stood there and looked at it for a minute. Em tried to turn it back on and couldn’t do it. “Dead zone,” she said. “You find any food downstairs?” I had found some, in the back of the cabinet under the sink. We went back downstairs and gathered everything we could find. I kept hoping the dead zone would pass again and we could go back upstairs. It didn’t—at least, we didn’t hear any more music, and Em never liked hanging around buildings for too long. When we’d packed up all the food and supplies we could find, we moved out. I kept humming that first song, singing “tell your heart heads up”—the only words I could remember—for as long as I could remember them. Em got fed up and told me to cut it out a few hours in. I sang under my breath after that. I forgot the tune eventually, but the words stuck with me. I’m still not sure why.


Aurelia Gonzalez is a writer of short fiction, regular fiction, and screenplays. She is currently in her senior year of high school. When she isn’t doing writing, doing schoolwork, or spending time with her family, she also enjoys analyzing books and movies to learn more about story structure, themes, and awesome characters.

One Comment

  • Gabriellle Pierce

    the spooky feel of this short story was what wanted me to get to the end, had me waning more and more because I thought the place was haunted or that you and Em were just going on this on foot adventure with no supplies. It reminded me a lot of the movie “The snow walker” due to its feel of needing to survive.

    The main part of your story, the song. Whilst I personally have never heard it, I ca relate to the fact that I have gotten only one part of a song stuck in my head and sang it over and over until someone told me to knock it off. I feel like there is more meaning to the songs part in the story but I am not sure what that meaning would be… lots pf ways I am interpreting it.

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