Last I met Atticus

Submitted into Contest #168 in response to: Write a story that includes someone saying, “Bon voyage.”... view prompt


Fiction Inspirational Coming of Age

This story contains sensitive content

CW | mentions of addiction and drugs, murder, mental health (delusions, depression), religious talk that's generally negative ("god abandoned me"), slight talk of violence and ambiguous endings. Read at discretion.

I write when I'm in pain and I can't focus on anything but the little things, this tiny bit of introspection of my environment, the analysis of my ceilings and vertices of my walls, these make me who I am. Personality traits bundled up into tiny packages, delivered onto my metaphorical doorstep like amazon drone delivery bots. Good bot. Thank you for giving me existential dread. Thank you for giving me love. Thank you for giving me a new book.

I feel small when I write on the big screen, all of society watching me from the camera in my phone. I feel like Alice.

Alice in wonderland syndrome is when objects, limbs and really anything can change size and shape, depth and position, pose and everything. And it’s all a trick of your mind. A chemical reaction gone wrong. The potassium of my brain exploding when it hits the water of reality. I can't face reality.

Sadness is quite like that in a way. For a short while, or maybe a long while, really however long the episode is going on for, your perception will be violently changed. Or it might not be. Sometimes it creeps into your life like an ant, carrying metric tonnes of trauma and agony towards you to build you into a better and bigger home. Build up my walls. Make me a fortress. Break them down at the worst times.

“Bon voyage Mesopotamia,” I like to whisper to myself when I'm leaving my hometown, “Fuck off New York.”

The home of all civilisation is sitting on a train with a peculiar guy next to it, twitchy and whispering to prophets that I don't believe in anymore. The home of all wispy and crawling things that are wonderful is staring out the window, fading into the gray of the train wall.

Sometimes sadness comes barreling into your home, kicking down the door and punching the flower pots by the front step on its way down, kicking, screaming, yelling about taxes and happiness and how you don’t deserve it. Sometimes it bites.

And sometimes, if you’re not screaming and yelling and begging– begging anyone– for it to leave, you’re welcoming it back with warm and open arms. The aching feeling of a knife in your gut already making itself home. It's not sharp. It's warm. Welcome home baby. Stay with me forever baby. I made cookies for you baby. Please, baby.

“What are you thinking about?” One of my ringing ears asks, my eyes trailing by the fast gunshots of the trees. One after another. Again and again, repeating patterns. The natural fractal formation of the earth. Mother Gaia kissing your cheeks to sleep when the sun appears from the parting of the clouds, the hair under your arms and between your legs telling you what and what not to laugh about. This is human essence. You are a whole universe’s work of love and coincidence.

“What are you thinking about?” The prophet next to me asks again, with his tired eyes and itching hands. He needs a fix.

The universe smiles at him passive aggressively and I turn back around to look out the window. This would be a great polaroid picture. Snap. Snap. Snap. Sadness ebbs away like a slit inside the layers of your skin.

“What am I thinking about?” I ask him, eyes opening. The tiredness falling from my limbs and from my head, the cotton candy stars dropping one after another from above the sky into my hands. Do you think the sugar likes it when it dissolves? I’m reminded of sticky fingers and fireworks and laughter. I almost yawn.

He inspects me for a moment, my unruly grass strands of hair and my straw eyelashes. He inspects my strawberry stained cheeks and my apple core teeth. 

“You’re thinking of tomorrow.”

“Actually, I’m thinking of yesterday.”

“Could be today.”

“Aren’t you clever?”

“Yes I am.” He says.

The lunatic gives me a toothy smile, cheshire in all the wrong places, facial muscles twisting and squishing to fit together all of his emotion into one sack of skin and sin. His purpled eyebags and his dilated pupils, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t been plucked from the harvest yet. It's gross.

I feel small again, when you’re sitting in a room with the light casting a triangle into the door. It never hits you, and you wish you could sit on the floor and bathe in the sun but it’s not quite right to do that. The laws of this forbidden household stop you. 

Polaroids, people, where are they?

When one is paranoid and in fear of their life, they tend to forget to rationalize where they are on this planet. The ichor of the human mind, the forgotten hierarchy many find themselves stuck in. You could write for 26 hours and find yourself living for 200. You could live for 20 days and write for 1000 days. You could live a week and then die the same day. You could be normal. 

“You’re full of useful information” The crazed man says, his smile still gooey on his face, pulled taut with glittery pink glue and yellow caution tape. He’s free, he rocks with the train and stays stuck to the seat while I get up and move around to move the human inside of me a bit. To jostle the person within me a tiny bit, to make them laugh a tiny bit. He stays stuck because he follows the natural flow of the train, he sticks to his own relative gravitational weight. I always have something to fight. I fight the forces of nature.

“Don’t you have somewhere to be, sir?” I mumble out.

I don’t have any awareness of myself, everything is stuck in this constant tornado of inspirational quotes and funny dog images from the funniest of sites. I am the signpost of all human life, I have seen all and I laugh at all. Why are you sad? Where my home is, he asks. Where do I live. The address. Where?

“Home’s where the heart is.”

“Bon voyage!” He yells, spitting poison in a Bah Humbug sort of way.

I tell him that’s awfully cliche to say when you hiss it in such an angry and violent way. Bon voyage is about good wishes. He shakes his head and a canvas falls out, brown and ambers and oranges and tangerines. A vine tree, A wine cellar, Venice. These are all things about the man that this psychoneurotic male has murdered. He killed him violently, a syringe to the arm. He almost looks like the victim.

“You don’t get it.”

He says, face pinched and eyebrows emotive. A downcast prominent on his face like an arrow. His eyes darted everywhere but the face of the universe staring right at him. Nobody understands what I write anymore. I'm sure that if I looked at his arms I'd find them broken. This type of man does not have arms. Some men don’t have heads. Those men are stupid. This man is a shattered china plate.

A whirlwind of color and life, a tide pool of love and emotion, a cesspool of adoration, these are all things that you’d find on the tray that the workers bring from the caboose. A good liquor.

When you’re on holiday, somewhere far away, you don’t really think of the in-between parts of the journey. You get on the plane or the train and you sit for a while and you wonder what you’re going to do when you’re in your luxury suite, with a king sized bed and an at-home television with 500 channels you’re going to flip through when you can’t sleep at night, because of the neighbors smoking Mary’s brains to above and beyond with marijuana or because of the other people on the other side whispering sweet nothings to you (moaning, yelling, screaming, clawing). Ignore the ghouls.

You don’t think about the people you meet. The single use plastic friends you see on airlines or in the hotel or at the beach. The people you help out when they lose their sunglasses or their phone, the security guard you talk to and share one minute of comfort with before you go into the club. You don’t remember them years on unless they saved your life. Why don’t you remember yourself? You’ve saved your own life plenty of times.

“What don’t I get?”

“Goodbyes. You don’t understand them.”

“It’s not hard to figure out.”

He practically laughs at that and leans back, a triple layered jacket following him as he settles his elbow on his knee that's crossed over on his other knee. He rests his head on his palm, looking at me now, observing my grace. I could write a whole novel and by the end of it still not understand what this loony means in a few words. Polaroids! Hurry up!

“Goodbye,” He smiles again, his teeth are chipped and yellowed. He has freckles all over his face. He bathes in the sun that the child of the universe never got to. What is this? “What does that mean?”

“Good wishes.”

"You think they're liminal."

He practically spits in my face and he adjusts the cap on his head, putting it more securely on. He’s still stuck to his seat, the train still moves. I’m still standing. I can feel my roots becoming secured into the ground. What does he mean?

“Try again.”


He leans over, he goes against his nature, he looks stoic. What does he mean?

“Do you not know how to keep going?” With black wings and red horns, he asks me. The devil taunts me to come back to hell.

I feel the call of the world come back to me, like my wildly chasing thoughts get silenced all at once because my mother’s called me for dinner and it’s time to go home. I turn towards the window. A great field of wild screaming humans holding peonies and laughter and love all stand in uniform outside the window, the sun casting shapes of giant dark blobs onto them like watercolor. They stand green and tall and some turn away from the sun peeping through the clouds, the ocean in the far distance. Some stare at me with giant black pupils and yellow irises of different shades, but all the same. These are sunflowers. These are my life’s creations. These are the flowers I describe when I think of what to put on my dinner table with the plastic laminate over the antique wood.

“Come back, Do you not know how to keep going?” He repeats, but it seems like the first time. His voice is green and he’s like Lazarus, resurrected, when he comes to my side, shifting over to where I sat before.

He picks at my hand, bringing me back to the flaming pits with him when I look away from my daydream of bliss and babylon. I snatch away my fingers from his dirtied and crusted ones, disgusting, blood in the creases between his nail and his skin.

“Why do you desire to torture me?” I practically groan out.

“Why do you speak in hymns?” Genuine in his face.

“I don’t talk to God anymore.”

He is tender and gentle when he picks my hand back up, his fingerprints left behind in dust and grit. He leaves constellations in his path when he looks at the back of my skeletal paw and polishes at my sharp and pointed claws, he stares at me, a little less insane.

“He’s elusive, you can’t find him in a thesaurus.” 

“Maybe a dictionary.” I whisper, barely underneath the magma boiling to the surface when he draws a small smile into my skin. My skin.

I go to take away my hand again but he grasps it tightly with laughter that rocks his entire frame, deep and from his chest he giggles like a little girl, he giggles like he found a ladybug and is making make-shift flour in the school field. He chuckles like an old man who watched his dog slip on ice. He laughs like a guy who got tickled to oblivion and more. He laughs like his victim, he laughs like the guy he killed. He laughs at oranges and tangerines. 

“You’re full of useful information.”

“Are we on a feedback loop?”

“Why don’t you talk to God anymore?” Laughter in his face.

I feel the call of everything else much more important to me, the train begging me to go to a different cart. Begging me to find solace in another place. Begging me to find another heart to find home in, but this is too dirty. This heart is very dirty and he’s kind and I’m going to stay, because I want to prove his optimism wrong. I want to taint the hell he is in. I am going to liberate him.

“I’ll amuse you, for a second.”

He grins again, I doubt he has ever brushed his teeth. He probably picks his nose and wipes it on walls and blankets and he probably looks in the mirror for pimples to pop, even if it hurts to an immeasurable degree to touch. I made this man and he looks nothing like the victim now that i’m thinking of it. 

“God and I don’t talk anymore because I found someone better.”

The crazy man listens intently.

“I found myself in the trees and in the waters and in the house that i grew up in as a kid–” I hiss out, If the sky above becomes red then it does so because it bleeds for me,

”–I found my best friend that was in the empty swing next to me, was just myself fluttering further into the sky, no one was there.”

The crazy man listens intently, he swings his legs on the seat and his heels hit the ground. I feel my claws clench and extend. I feel my bones shift.

“I don’t talk to God anymore-” I feel wolf-like teeth extending from my gaping maw, my ears growing and fur appearing on my cheeks. I feel the pressure in my chest becoming harder and harder to ignore. The crazy man blurs in my vision.

“-because when I was calling out to God from the yard, and God stood in the kitchen while I bled from my knee, he stayed in place–in apathy–and then faded from my eyes like a ghost. I was alone in a cold house for years.”

I feel my lungs struggling to expand with every breath, the smell of old drinks underneath the seat growing harder to deal with each second with the hanging handle grips above my head beating into my monstrous looking skull. I am demonic.

“I don’t talk to God because God isn’t here anymore,” (I am blasphemous, I am a heathen.) "As if he ever was!"

The crazy man smiles wider and I almost want to grab at him, I want to shake him and scratch out his green eyes and his brown hair and his skeletal shoulders. I want to hit more purple into his bruises. My rage spreads like blood in cotton. I write when I’m in pain.

The train stops suddenly and I jerk into the man’s arms, the devil catches me non-gracefully and my legs tangle over one another and I can’t get my arms up because I’m so weak.

I turn my head to my left, to look at the devil’s neck to bite out his jugular but my eyes are so blurry that I can’t see. I feel gross. I can’t breathe. This is the closest I've ever been to someone else. He hugs.

"Might I know this God?" He murmurs.

I don't answer.

“Who are you again?” He asks, lifting me up and standing at the same time. 

All the while, I've stood over this creation of mine. I’ve been looking down at him, staring out the window. Looking everywhere but my privilege of perspective. I wonder what he saw, looking up. Did he see my galactic double chin? The pimples under my nose? The rosacea staining my forehead?

The addict stands and he’s taller than me, much taller. I look up at him now and he grins just as he did at first, eyebrows furrowed and cheek muscles clenched. Cheshire.

I can’t answer because I’m apparently wiping tears out of my eyes.

“Do you know how to keep going?”


“Do you know where this train goes?”

I look around and find a display, I do. I know where it’s going. It’s going far away.

He nods and he walks to the other side of the carriage, and hops out onto the pavement with the other passengers. I follow him, waiting at the exit. His hair is tousled from the wind, he is still a murderer. Less of a sinner. More of a normal guy.

“Who are you?” I ask, desperate.

He looks back at me momentarily, eyes full of stars. I’m not a monster anymore. I’m just an angry human. The sky is safe.

“I’m Atticus,” He laughs out, hands in his pockets that are high up on his chest. It isn’t comfortable.

"Bon voyage." He says, in spits that are like venom, he waves his hand in a goodbye motion.

I need to let Atticus know that I know we met and that he exists. I need to remember him. He's saved me.

“My name is–”

The doors close before I can finish my sentence, and I wizz away from Atticus at a slow increase until light speed. For the rest of my journey I never daydream about another world in my seat. For once, I’m going somewhere to do things. This is enough introspection. There's my polaroid.

Bon voyaged my ass, he was as prickly as a thorny plant. Good wishes, maybe.

My episode is finally over.

I never meet Atticus again.

October 21, 2022 03:42

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