In Memory of Atlas Moon

Marisa Barnard

 6502 , Quinn Keck

When I was seven years old, I looked out upon a graveyard and read each name written in marble letters. To my horror, I realized I did not know a single one of them. A name on a stone, the only trace of a human that once lived. Someday, I thought, my life would be worth more than a foreign name on a decaying stone. That was the day I decided to write.

-Atlas Moon

“Some people burn, sure, they brighten the room with passion. Atlas consumed, she was a forest fire. Everyone she met and everywhere she went was fuel. She left nothing sacred. She was a violent woman, violent in her silence and her innocence that drew you right into the inferno.” 

Tonight we celebrate the life and legacy of author, philosopher, and poet Ms. Atlas Moon. I am joined by Samatha Fuller, Atlas’s lifetime partner, and friend.” 

“Just Sam.”

Samantha, Atlas spoke very highly of you. She said you were very special to her.”

“Of course she did. She was hunting for fuel and I was covered in gasoline.” 

“You were a prominent figure in Atlas’s life, and Atlas touched upon your relationship in her bestselling novel The Death Of Hyacinth. Remind us again: how did you meet?” 

“We met in college. It was the second week in, and I was sitting by myself in a group of ten other people. Everyone seemed comfortable and I was a lost spirit just floating around the abyss between childhood and adulthood. I had a beer, I sat quietly, and at least three times I thought about leaving. 

“Then I saw her. Well, she saw me. She was watching me. She had these massive eyes, like black holes, that took everything in. She stared at me like I was a character in a movie. Looking back I wonder if that is what she saw, just a picture on a screen. 

“When she caught my eye she turned her head away and started twiddling her thumbs. I waited to see if she would approach me. It was like a game. Eventually, I was the one who had the guts to approach her. I was a little drunk, a little agitated. 

“I asked her what she found so interesting about me. She played it coy and tried to dismiss me at first, denying the obvious fact that she had been studying my frame like some scientist in a lab.

‘Do you make yourself invisible to hide who you are or because you don’t know yourself enough to be seen?’ she said, and I would never forget those words. 

“She somehow encapsulated every insecurity I had ever felt, every second I spent looking in a mirror and trying to find the soul behind my eyes. She had a way like that, a gift of language that could sum up a lifetime in a sentence. I guess it wasn’t a surprise she went so far.” 

You and Atlas shared a very close connection. You were seen at her publicity events and book signings. You even appeared on the Tonight Show, sitting in the front row of the audience. It was clear you cared about her. Yet in the weeks after Atlas’s passing, you remained isolated. Why is that?” 

“That’s the key isn’t it, I cared about her.” 

Atlas had a connection with you. She dedicated The Death of Hyacinth to you, describing you to be ‘the wall I loved to scream at.’” 

“That’s hysterical.” 

“The reason I avoided the public is because I’m not part of her life. I wasn’t for a while. I was a passing sign on the highway. She was so far beyond my reach when she passed that I saw no point in bothering with the aftermath. Atlas died in the same way she lived, running eighty on a twenty-five.”

It says here that Atlas attempted to contact you in the week leading up to her death.”

“Well, that’s news to me. She hadn’t spoken to me in five years.” 

There was an element of mystery to your relationship, something that was never discussed until The Death of Hyacinth’s publication. Tell me, what was it like in those early years?” 

“I was entranced by her. Every word out of her mouth was honey, and I was young enough to lap it up without thinking it might be laced with cyanide. 

“She didn’t just talk. Atlas had this way of listening to you. It was very distinct. Her eyes would focus so deeply. She would consume every word, sucking them up through her teeth. She’d sit on my bed, her legs crossed, her face open and suddenly, she knew everything. I told her my secrets, the boys I kissed in seventh grade, the girl I made out with behind the trees at Yellowbrook Summer Camp. The piercing I gave myself in the grimy bathroom mirror. The way my father used to scream at me, scream until the walls bled with it. The way I found a bottle of whiskey when I was eleven, and how I was in rehab by fifteen.

“We talked about movies, the strange hippie shit she enjoyed, and the more bloody flicks that I loved. We talked about death, and where we thought people went. I told her some nights I thought about dying myself. I told her about the video game I designed in the sixth grade, and she talked about her book. She talked about her book a lot, finding the threads of her favorite conversation on any topic. 

“She was brilliant even then. I loved hearing her talk about her work. The way she would grin and start bouncing in her seat like a child.” 

Which stories did she tell you?” 

“Her first, Diamonds, she published two years after our conversation. She was still in college; it was insane. I was so proud of her. We celebrated with a bottle of sparkling wine and I overdid it like I always do. That night I told her I loved her. She just nodded her head.” 

So you were involved with her publication.” 

“Never directly. I gave her advice and tried to support her. She was much better at these things than I ever was.” 

But you followed her at the beginning of her career.” 

“I followed her right into the storm. Book signings, publicity events, a tour. The New York Times Bestseller, Atlas Moon. The princess of prose. I trailed along, but it was hard to keep up with her. I thought about quitting college to spend full-time on her team. I told her as much and she frowned. She said ‘Sam I am, you’ve spent your whole life quitting; it’s time you finished something.’ 

“So I finished my degree for her. I got a comfortable job for her. I glued the cracking surface of my life back together for her. In the end, I think it was all for me too.” 

You were together for a long time.” 

“We were together, but not in the way you might believe, not in the way I would have wanted. I saw her every morning, every evening. It was strange living with someone like that. Someone whose name was worth something. She would laugh about it, tell me she looked awful in those pictures on the cover of the Times. I was a mortal in the presence of a god. It was daunting, to

hear your name on the news, to find people staring in the supermarket. I felt strange like I was being praised for breathing. It wasn’t right; it wasn’t mine. I tried not to let it get to me.” 

You tried to hide yourself from the media. It made for a lot of scandal.” 

“That’s the way she wanted it. She loved the attention my silence gave her. She’d stake out the right restaurant to eat at, or the right street to walk down then suddenly take my hand. The next day we would be on the cover of some cheap tabloid and she would giggle at the sight of her own name.” 

So was any of it real or was it all for show?” 

“It was real. I loved her. 

“Loving Atlas was like swimming against the sea, each time I thought I was moving forward, another wave would come to drag me down. I waited, patiently. I endured every blow she tried to throw at me. I sidestepped every swing. I asked her one night, I said ‘What am I to you?’ and she replied, ‘The railing stopping my fall to the sea.’ 

“So formal, so elegant. Her coordination was impeccable, the shot from her mind to her mouth always found its target. She always did that, coated her words in a thousand layers of paint when all I wanted was an answer. We walked side by side, but she was always apart from me. A thousand miles away in the ocean of her mind while mine was sharp and confining. I just wanted a way in, just a glimpse into the world that existed behind her eyes. A place I had thought she would want me to see if we were equal if I didn’t have to run to keep up with her stride. I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or what to say. I wanted to shake her. I wanted to scream. 

“So I stayed silent, as I always had, as I was taught to do. It was easier to hold my breath than try and let my clumsy words articulate the maelstrom of my mind. But I couldn’t stay quiet forever, I think Atlas knew it too.”

We will be right back, after the break we will talk about The Death of Hyacinth and the scandal that would change the course of Atlas’ life forever. Don’t go away.” 

I spent my youth wasting my words on trivial things. I never had enough for you.

-Atlas Moon 

Welcome back, I am here with Samantha Fuller and we are going to discuss The Death of Hyacinth.”

“There isn’t much to tell.” 

“I understand that The Death of Hyacinth was the end of your time together.” 

“You make it seem like we broke in a single moment. We weren’t cartoons dancing on a screen; we were people. Atlas was a person. Already, it’s like everyone has forgotten that.” 

“So how did it end?” 

“Slowly. It was a year before the publication. We talked about the future, she told me I was important to her. I told her I loved her, this time sober, this time with a ring in my hands. She said she would think about it. She thought about it for a year. 

“When I brought it up again, she gave me a thousand reasons why she couldn’t talk about it. She had a deadline coming up, she was too busy to think. I begged her to just let me in, to let me see what was going on in her head. She just kept saying she couldn’t think. 

“I said, ‘Then don’t think, just answer. Tell me, yes or no, do you want me?’ She stared at me, just stared. The woman who had written a thousand words couldn’t even spare me one. 

The Death of Hyacinth came out shortly after that.” 

Your fallout was one of the most widely viewed stories of the past ten years. Tell me in light of Atlas’ passing, has your view of the piece changed?” 

“No, it hasn’t.” 

“What was The Death of Hyacinth to you?” 

“Numbing. It was isolating, so isolating I felt that I could drown underneath my skin. 

“We were at a book signing. I was sitting alone in the back of the crowd. I didn’t know anyone there. Everything was new and strange, a funhouse of colors and senses that clung to me like a straightjacket. I waited. I listened. I remained unnoticed, toddling in Atlas’ shadow. I phased in 

and out of concentration until she opened her mouth to speak. She captured the room, her words pulling our attention from the thousand distractions to her eyes. 

“She described her new book, a story that I didn’t even know she was writing. As she spoke I felt it grow, deep in my skull. I thought, oh God am I having a stroke? Because it wouldn’t make sense for these words to be real. This was the maddening hallucination of a brain in peril. I listened as she laid my life out on a platter, every memory, every whispered moment of intimacy,

every giggling secret shared over sparkling wine. I watched as the crowd took it in. They snatched up the fragments of my shattered life and devoured them, suckling on the trauma and the pain, licking their fingers of my dreams. Everything I was, they consumed and she sat at the head of the table. 

“I was lost, more lost than I had been in years. I was a body without a soul. She took my soul. In the commotion of my shattering mind, I caught a single pair of eyes watching me. Eyes that seemed so foreign in a frame so familiar. 

“I stormed out. I walked right on out and into the first bar I could find, drowning ten years of AA meetings. It’s funny how short the distance between a skyscraper and the ground really is, a matter of seconds. I lost myself completely that night, I said things, awful things. Nothing I would come to regret.” 

You lost contact with Atlas shortly after the incident. In her final interview Atlas mentioned you, she said, ‘The sun creeps ever closer, without the weight of Sam to keep me from her scorn.’ Do you think that in some way your lack of contact caused her death?” 


“Is this a joke? 

“I loved her! I loved that woman, and she used me! She took what little self I had, what little life I had to give her, and she packaged it for display. Then, once she was done with me. Once she had sucked the marrow from my bones and left my cadaver to rot at the foot of her palace doors she accepted the fame of my suffering and didn’t look back. I owe her nothing.” 

I just think–” 

“I hate to break it to you, but no one gives a fuck what you think! 

“You want to know what killed Atlas Moon? She sucked the life out of everything around her, including herself. That is why she is gone. Atlas destroyed herself, bit by bit until there was nothing left to eat. 

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. I’m-”

“Samantha, wait.”

If you could say one thing to Atlas Moon if she were here right now. What would you say to her?” 


“I would say, life is a catastrophe of missteps. Your sure feet led you straight into a manhole, and I pity you for never finding your way out again. But I can’t feel too bad. In the end, you got everything you always wanted, a name that not only lit up the world but toppled buildings. I’d say that despite the agony of everything you took from me, I could never blame you.” 

This broadcast is paid for by the New Moon Poetry Foundation, dedicated to the life and legacy of Atlas Moon. 

In Memory of 

Atlas Daphne Alexandria Moon 

An even numbered date in the lonely month of December – four weeks prior to this broadcast, sometime in May, underneath a full moon. 

I once held my world in the palm of my hand, watching as my wicked touch slowly turned it to gold. Gold is bright and vibrant, but in the end, it is just another stone. 

– Atlas Moon

About the Author

Marisa Barnard · Le Moyne College

Marisa Barnard is a junior attending Le Moyne College in pursuit of a B.S. in Computer Science, and a B.A. in English. Marisa has always been interested in writing and testing the medium of writing to find interesting ways to convey characters. She received a Scholastic Golden Key Award for her short story “Peter” in 2019 and two Scholastic Silver Key Awards in 2019 and 2018. She was recognized within the Oswego Creative Writing Department for her flash fiction piece “Rescue Me”, and published in Young Writers’ Mission Catastrophe – New York. 

About the Artist

Quinn Keck· Hampshire College


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