He Said She Said by Rachel Attias

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, March 15th, 2016

"The apocalypse came and went and left me untouched..."

Mike Boening photography


He said not to come out of the room because I would perish. I would be vaporized, the air was noxious, there were hordes out there just salivating to tear me to pieces. I don’t know; he was not specific. He would come back for me, he said, when it was safe. So I stayed. From outside I heard nothing—inside was silent too.

The apocalypse came and went and left me untouched, like all great things that happen to man.

There was always enough to eat, a chair to sit in and a bed to sleep on. Sometimes I thought I could smell weather through some invisible crack. I was satisfied, content, I thought. So I waited, and I sat in that room reading the same three books although the words were different each time I picked them up. Wool rug on the floor with the floral pattern and the worn spot from where I would pace and read, pace and listen. Tall lamp whose bulb never went out, but never fully lit the place either. A mirror that I smashed my face into again and again, but would never shatter nor make me bleed. He did not come back.

Many times I ripped the pages out of the books. I hated them for never talking to me, never asking a single question. But each morning they were on the shelf again, pages intact, alphabetized.

After many years, I opened a book and right out of the center of its spine, clattering onto the floor, came a pencil. I had no paper and I did not know how to write. So I drew on my arms. The lead did not show on my skin, but I felt each image fuse into me and push something else out as if I were at capacity. Maybe I was. Soon enough pictures became words, and although I had never written, I knew they were real because I wrote them. I wrote onto my legs, and made my writing small to cover each toe. I rendered the room exactly, down to the number of flies that, drawn to the blinding afterlife, now lay dead in the belly of the lamp by which I worked. To this day I do not know how they got there.

I wrote until my flesh was raw and my body was full of words and pictures and empty of everything else. I unfurled myself and covered each inch I could see and when that was done I worked toward my inner thighs and upward. To the meeting place of my center and my farthest flung extremities. A place of quiet heat and dampness, where the pencil slid in easily and stayed, fossilized in blood and vitality.

When I was done I looked up and saw that the room no longer was a room, no longer had walls or carpet or even dust motes in the light. Instead there was space, so much of it, and fresh air. I was in a field, golden and dry and expanding in the wavering dusk. I could hear a highway in the distance. The heady aromas of cow manure and motor oil. A snatch of pop music tossed out of a car window with an apple core. A thing pulsed inside of me. I started walking, and as I went, I let the breeze brush against my eyelashes and tongue, my fingernails and breasts. I did not have to look back to know that the air in my wake was covered with words, was carrying them over cities and through holes in the ozone. It started with, “He said not to come out of the room because I would perish.” And it did not stop.

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If you liked this piece, then you might also like “Response: Violence” by many distinguished writers, here.

writer rachel attias

Rachel Attias is a recent Skidmore College graduate. She works in high school special education and is looking forward to warmer weather. She has previously been published in Skidmore’s Bare and Folio magazines.


Cover photo courtesy of: Mike Boening. To see more of his work, click here.


Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).