Mizue Hayami (b. 1987). Ebb and Flow. 2017. Takashina Gallery, HS29.095:1054.

No! That means that you are, in fact, something of an anomaly. What else does that have to say, for the wonder of nothing in insubstantial —

The words trailed off the page, and all Stockman could do was watch them drip onto the floor with languid displeasure, like a bottle of ink upset on a writing desk. They made no sound as they expired in time with the echoes of Stockman’s heartbeat in his head. Thum-thum. Thum-thum. Thum-thum.

It was half past Monday morning. Whatever Stockman might have been able to do to keep his wits about him had been blasted away by the sunrise. It hadn’t been much to begin with. He tightened his grip on the bottle of acetaminophen pills, which was still a third full. The dose should have put him most of the way to liver failure by then, but that would require that his blood were still in his body, instead of running off the leaves of the book in his other hand in a stream of deceptively English-like characters. Thum-thum.

He sat in the armchair and breathed a long sigh, which coalesced into a sheen of rainbow colors in front of him, shimmering like the twisted reflections in an oil slick. Petroleum was all that was left of Stockman’s consciousness, and it burned into plastic and vapors and Gaia’s worst enemy, spidering into the ballpoint-pen capillaries that wrote the words that continued to fall.

What else was there but to dream? The words turned to digits, the occasional decimal point and dollar sign slipping into their midst, and Stockman growled like the earth splitting in two. He threw the book across the room, where it slammed into the wall in a shower of sparks that lit the oil, and suddenly he was nothing but fire. The numbers got larger as Stockman got smaller, the embers drifting away each taking part of what had been his physical existence off to God knows where, and eventually he disappeared, only his shadow on the landscape peeking through the holes in the wreckage left behind.

Stockman snapped to attention, and he was back, still holding the pill bottle in one hand and the book in the other, still bleeding his confused organic slime of black and green, still panicked as he waited for the bombs to drop out of the sky and obliterate him from where he sat. And he thought that, if he were lucky, the explosion would propel his lifeless body into the sky, and for just a second he could know what it was like to fly, before he came back down to the ground and the hydrocarbons in his body were crushed into the oil that would become the wax that would become the coating for the next rising species’ version of analgesic. That would be a gift to future generations, he thought, not realizing that the text yet leaking from the book was trying to tell him everything he needed to know about that future, and that text was the blood running through his veins that kept him tethered to the walls, and to the chair, and to everything else that he was not yet ready to surrender.