‘Hanging Man’ by Matthew Lopacinski

‘Hanging Man’ is the winner of the Creative Writing category in the 2nd annual Student Writing Competition, hosted by the Conestoga School of Interdisciplinary Studies. 

TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains content about death and suicide that may be disturbing to some readers. 


Brisk evening wind whistles past the bench I sit on. I admire the man in front of me who had displayed courage. His face dull, shoelace missing from one of his boots, shoulders fallen with a finality. The darkness of night feels awkward, like an old friend whom you never liked, suddenly appearing at your doorstep. The tree he had chosen surprised me; shockingly frail and slender, resembling the body he once possessed now swaying in the wind. His face perks up, as if he had heard my thoughts. His voice reaches depths I did not know possible,

“I see we have come here united in similar aspirations.”

I stumble from the bench, terrified of the now speaking corpse.

“What brought you here is the same realization that began my journey to hanging on this tree…”

Suddenly there is no wind at all, I immediately scan the forest terrain around me, in search of something to fill the void of silence.

I find nothing.

As quickly as the apparition appeared, it vanishes. The body somehow seeming even more lifeless than it did before. His arms dangling by his sides. As I begin to search for a tree with a sturdier base than my friend has chosen, I pass the entrance sign to the forest. I notice for the first time the graffiti that has been painted over it. “Suicide forest”. I hear echoes of what the man had said to me pierce my mind. “I see we have come here united in similar aspirations…”. I question if he knew about my last attempt? I find a suitable tree and begin to tie my shoelace around the thickest branch I can find. As I bring the lace over my head and around my neck, I am bombarded with hallucinatory images. The dirt path in front of me begins to mould into the faces of those closest to me. My parents first, my siblings, my friends. I feel guilt for how I will make them feel. First time I have felt much of anything in recent months.

The images of my loved ones continue to flicker in the dirt. Seeing my mothers face one last time brings back long forgotten memories in me. I feel tears start to roll down my cheeks as I remember the meals my mother would cook for my brother and I, her face radiating with such joy as she took care of us. “Us”, it had not been us in a while. I have not seen that joy cross her face since my brother’s passing. I recall people reminding my family that the pain of his passing will heal with time. I feel lingering hatred towards them. The wound feels as fresh and deep as the day he died. Once more, the voice of the apparition whispers into my ear,

“What brought you here is the same realization that began my journey to hanging on this tree…”

The past few years have reminded me that life is nothing but suffering. I fully intend to leave this cursed life behind, and am eager to get on with it. I start to tighten the noose around my collar as I see one last image of my father. I recollect all the times he had driven us to my sporting events or to fetch ice cream-mint chip for him, blackberry for me. I think back on all those times we had sung his favourite Pink Floyd tunes together on our long road trips, or when he would tickle me half to death before I fell asleep. I feel the weight of the world begin to come down on my shoulders.

As tears continue to roll down my face, I listen to the silent forest. The natural world has always acted as a friend to me. I realize I cannot bring myself to put those who love me through more hurt. To grasp with yet another one of their beloved children leaving this world. I begrudgingly start to untie the noose around my neck as I lose my footing and slip. I struggle violently. Air escapes my lungs entirely. I call out in dire need for help; no one comes. My legs and arms turn completely numb, as I come to terms with my fate. This is what I have always wanted. I begin to hover over my twitching corpse, my heart taking one last beat.

I am alone. The woods are cold. It is quiet. I am alone. I am gone.

Some time later, I notice a traveller in the distance slowly approaching my lifeless body. A part of me hopes that if they reach me in time, I could still be saved. The traveller sits down wearily at a nearby bench with his head down, appearing to be away in thought. After a short time, he looks up at my remains now swinging in the wind. I push my soul back into my body. I immediately realize the foolishness in my thoughts. There is no bringing me back now. I am gone.

I felt as though I knew the man-I had empathy for him, an emotion I had not felt in years. I do not wish for him to succumb to the same fate that swallowed me. He must come to realize the answers to his problems do not lie in these woods. I launch into my plea with him…

“I see we have come here united in similar aspirations.”




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