All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

The World From This High by Andrew Jason Jacono

The World From This High

The stars are out chittering over the water and the bridge is cold on the backs of my thighs and for the last three years He The One has been jabbering in my head telling me to jump. I haven’t listened to Him until now, I’ve been strong and I’ve resisted, but there comes a point when you just can’t take it anymore and you give in and so here I am. I’m not happy about it but at least when I jump They’ll stop beaming all those messages into my head and They won’t be able to torture me anymore.

I don’t know how high I am but the fall looks long enough that I’ll definitely break my neck once I hit the water. He The One says there won’t be much pain, in fact probably none at all, I think He’s right but I’ve never died this way before so I can’t say for sure. All the other times I’ve died it’s been awful, like the time They found me hiding in my room and tied me to the radiator and ripped my soul right out of my chest, that was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. But then again that death and all the others were different, they weren’t permanent like this one will be and that’s why He The One is telling me I have to be the bravest I’ve ever been.

He The One is saying Go On You Son Of A Bitch and I start to shuffle off, my feet dangle in the air like fruit from a tree, He The One keeps saying Just Do It You Ugly Fuck and I tell Him I Am Stop Yelling At Me. Soon I won’t take any more orders from Him or anybody else and I’ll be free, I wonder what it’ll feel like to be free.

At the edge of the bridge my belly has that weightless feeling you get on planes, but I stop moving because I hear footsteps, there’s a man’s voice behind me saying Are You All Right Friend.

I don’t turn around to look at him, I don’t like looking at people, their eyes always make me feel like I’m an alien. Plus He The One is yelling again, He’s saying Don’t Pay Attention To Him Just Do What I Brought You Here To Do.

The man says Hey There Guy Don’t Do Anything Rash.

I say I Haven’t Got A Rash, I mean it as a joke but he doesn’t laugh. Hardly anybody laughs at my jokes, only He The One and sometimes They when the joke is really good but that’s not very often. Anyway I start to wiggle back off the ledge.

The man says Whoa Whoa Wait A Second, he sits down next to me, he’s got longish hair and a curly beard that puffs out at the sides, he hangs his feet over the edge too, he’s wearing flip-flops even though it’s cold, like Jack used to do. Maybe he wants to jump with me, maybe They’re after him too, maybe he’s They in human form and he’s here to beat me and handcuff me and rip my eyeballs out. I slide away from him.

He says No Reason To Be Scared, I Just Wanna See If You’re Okay.

I squint at him, I say Where Did You Come From.

He says I Was Just Driving By And Saw You Here, I Parked Right There, he points behind us, I look. He’s telling the truth, there’s a black SUV parked on the side of the road. He still could be They but for now I trust him because They always lie.

I say What Do You Want From Me.

He says Nothing, I Just Want To Talk.

I say About What.

He shrugs, he says About Anything. About What You’re Doing Here, Maybe.

There’s another man standing to his right, he’s wearing a black suit with a skinny red tie and a belt with a silver buckle that’s shiny in the streetlights, but his head is gone and his stump is squirting out jets of blood, he reaches into his jacket and pulls his head out and holds it out by the hair and it swings and twists left and right. I should be scared but sometimes I see things that aren’t there, it’s just this thing that happens to me, and I know it’s impossible for somebody to just appear out of nowhere so he must not be real. Knowing doesn’t make him go away though and he just stands there gushing blood and holding his head with its eyes rolling around in their sockets like marbles.

The man sitting with me asks Is Something Wrong.

I say I See Someone Else, You Can’t See Him Though, Only I Can.

He nods, he doesn’t look where I’m looking which is funny because people usually do that when I tell them I see something they can’t. He puts his back against one of the bridge’s big black cables and says You Know To Be Honest I Don’t Find That So Strange.

I say Really.

He says Yeah. I Know Someone Like You.

I say You Do.

He nods, he says He Sees People Sometimes. One Time He Said He Saw A Big Red Clown Trying To Cut His Own Arm Off With A Hacksaw And another Time He Saw A Half Monkey Half Skeleton Thing Jerking Itself Off.

He laughs but I don’t, I don’t know why he finds that funny, he’s like Jack that way, making stupid sexual jokes that don’t make any sense. Meanwhile the man in the suit lets go of his head, it hits the bridge and makes a squelch and it rolls over to me like a bowling ball and stares, I look away from it.

The man sitting with me asks So Why Are You Here.

I say Well I Don’t Really Want To Be Here.

He repeats So Why Are You Here.

I don’t know why he has so many questions, I still say He Told Me To Come.

He asks Who.

I say He Keeps Yelling At Me, He Says I Have To Jump And He Says If I Don’t They’ll Come After Me And I Don’t Want That Because The Last Time They Did I Died And That Was The Most Painful Thing In The World, I Ended Up In The Hospital And They Had To Give Me All Kinds Of Drugs To Save My Life.

He crosses his arms, he asks But You Didn’t Really Die Then.

I say Yes I Did, It Was For Real, I’m Going To Die This Time Too But It’s Different From The Other Times I Died.

He looks confused but I don’t explain any more, if he’s like most people he wouldn’t understand anyway. Then He The One starts screaming again, He says Do It Now You Pile Of Dung, and the dead head’s eyes start going wild with their blinking and their rolling and the man in the suit steps over and picks his head up and walks off the bridge with it, that means it’s time, I get ready to push off but the man sitting with me lunges over and holds my arm back.

He says Don’t Do It.

I say I Have To, You Don’t Understand.

He says No You Don’t, I Do Understand, Please Don’t.

Why is he so worried, doesn’t he know this will save me, doesn’t he know He The One promised it will. Maybe he does, so then maybe he’s just playing me, no not maybe, he’s definitely They and he just wants me to stay alive so he can sew me to my bedsheets and cut me open and steal my organs. Thankfully He The One is here to protect me, He wants me to tell the man that I know what he’s doing.

I say You’re Trying To Kill Me.

The man looks horrified, he says No I Am Not.

I ask Then Why Are You Here.

He says Because You’re Obviously About To Kill Yourself And I Don’t Want That To Happen.

I ask What Do You Care.

He says I Don’t Know You But That Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care, I Cared Enough To Come Talk To You Didn’t I.

I say You’re Playing Me, You’re Playing Me Like A Harmonica.

He doesn’t say anything this time, he just cocks his head and takes a harmonica out of his pocket like magic, he holds it up and gives it a shake.

I say How Did You Know I Was Gonna Say That.

He says I Didn’t, I Play The Harmonica And I Always Have It With Me.

The harmonica has carvings all over it, it’s antique and very pretty. Jack used to play one that had a similar kind of look, maybe he still does but I haven’t seen him in a long time, I haven’t seen Dad either, He The One says Jack and Dad and Mom and the rest of the family joined up with They and that’s why they haven’t called. I still remember the sound of Jack’s harmonica, it sounded so beautiful that sometimes it made me cry, I used to like crying, it made me feel like everything was going to be all right, I can’t remember the last time I cried.

The man asks Would It Make You Feel Better If I Played.

It wouldn’t, it might beam control waves into my brain, and then he’d be able to do whatever he wants to me, I shake my head but he ignores me and blows into the comb, the harmonica makes a whistling sound, I try to slap it out of his hand but he sees me coming and dodges away and holds the comb tighter to his mouth. The music jitters all the way down to the water and back up, I can feel the vibrations in my teeth. The more he plays the less I want to go for his throat because it’s the most wonderful music I’ve ever heard, I hate to say it but it’s even better than Jack’s, even though he’s probably with They I still miss him. I feel something inside me, kind of like a ball stuck in my throat, I start to cry very loudly, my teeth chatter like I’m in Alaska, it’s not pretty but that’s just the way I do it.

He stops playing, he asks Are You All Right.

I think I am, when I look at him sitting there all quiet with the harmonica in his lap I get the feeling that he’s all right too, he’s not trying to hurt me, he’s not like They, he’s like me. Even He The One seems to agree because He isn’t talking anymore, He must’ve gone off for a break, He sometimes gets tired with all the yelling He does.

I say That Was Very Nice.

The man taps the harmonica in his hand like a ruler, he says I’m Glad You Liked It. He scoots closer to me and looks out over the water, I do too, I can see the moon in the waves, there’s a tiny boat bobbing on a long way out. I feel safe, the world looks beautiful from this high.

He says It Was My Brother Who Saw People I Can’t See.

I don’t say anything to that.

He says He Hanged Himself.

I don’t say anything to that either.

He looks down at his harmonica, he looks at me, he says How About I Drive You Home.

I say Okay.

We get up, I wobble a little on the edge of the bridge but I keep my balance, I’m happy about that, He The One probably wouldn’t be. The man gets into the driver’s seat and I go for the passenger door and take the handle. But when I try to pull it there’s this weird electric tingle in my fingers, it runs cold all the way up my shoulder, I flinch and hop back a step and when I open my eyes again the car isn’t there anymore.

I hold my tingly hand, I hold it tight. I think about the harmonica, the man’s and Jack’s, both of theirs together, those beautiful sounds, my tears start to dry even though I want them to stay. Then I turn down the road and start my way back home.

Andrew Jason Jacono

Image by Peter Wolf from Pixabay

3 thoughts on “The World From This High by Andrew Jason Jacono”

  1. I have dangled one fictional character from a high place, twice, without sending her over. Yet. This writer’s dangle-ee is a very interesting person, as are most dangle-ees. The Choice to Present Standard Thoughts as though titles, is also interesting. Good taste displayed there; such a thing can get annoying after a while, but not so here. Best fictional harmonica since Once Upon a Time in the West.


  2. I worked with people suffering from these sorts of paranoid hallucinatory experiences for many years; I was told over and over how extremely frightening and realistic they are. This portrayal was very well written, convincing, and absorbing. The word associations the protagonist makes take me back to working with mental illness sufferers. Music affects the limbic area of the brain, those unable to focus because of a mixed up cerebral cortex can hone in on sound. The harmonica man is rather Jesus Like, yet indeed there are people like that; it’s a miracle that he was around….. this time. A guardian angel is hard to find.


  3. Hi Andrew,
    There were a few common ideas regarding the invasion of his mind, the confusion of reality, paranoia and the music soothing him but the extent of the hallucinations and the complexity and logic of them, I haven’t a clue about but I’m willing to go with. This shows good persuasive writing.
    This poor soul was fighting with himself in some form or another but the beauty of the story is depending on the reader, it can also be open to interpretation.
    This is a clever piece of work.


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