You Are Born from a Page and You Only Wanted a Home

Once upon a time, a concrete building sank partway into the sea. It sat at a crooked angle, halfway above the waves at low tide, submerged but for a corner at high. And out of it leaked a rainbow-patterned trail of oil, glistening in the sun.

This sounds like the beginning of a story about a curse, but I assure you that it is not. At least, not a curse that need be cause for concern. For from the pattern of this oil lifted a bird. Black as the inside of the most rotten, haunted shipwreak at the bottom of an abyssopelagic trench. 

You may have been told that rottenness and hauntedness and blackness are things to fear. And it is true that there is nothing quite so powerful as death and decay. The rich earth is as necessary as the sun, and seeds know its whispers, coaxing them to life, long before they ever see the light of day.

This bird of oil with dark rainbow tailfeathers could not remember whether it had been before, or whether it was just beginning.

The truth is that a gathering of adults (who sometimes dressed as scientists, but were the farthest thing from that) had mistaken this bird for a duckling. You may already be assured of the foolishness of this group, and let me further assure you by revealing that they thought the depths of good and evil were displayed in the pages of a Highlights magazine. 

That is what they taught me, anyway. I can only assume that something they taught with such emphasis and passion was something they believed in themselves. We may, therefore, dismiss the opinions that they thrust onto others and quietly step into opinions we have formed on our own.

These adults had already done their best to destroy the sanctity in the world, though whether with intent or not I cannot tell you. For they had stumbled upon an amazing truth. Stumbled upon it, over it, and far beyond into what must have been a god complex, but what looked far more sinister and mundane.

It is difficult to find words to describe their philosophy. “Vomit-inducing” is an insult to medicinal plants. “Horrifying” is an insult to spirits and demons who, quite rightfully, eat up those truly cruel and hollow humans who need to be destroyed. Maybe we will settle on “fitting to their purposes”. 

The oil that this bird had risen from was made of plankton – some of the youngest forms of life in their oldest shape. They did not belong in the sea anymore, and they told this to the bird as soon as they were able. The sea was their first known mother, rocking them to lullabies of starlight, and they did not wish to do her harm. 

And so the bird rose into the sky. You may find it surprising that they were able to, but they did. For there are secrets in the feathers of this bird. In fact, you may have heard stories about their feathers before. But I am getting ahead of myself.

As the bird flew, they saw below them the smoking ruins of human civilization. Roads melted into swaths of tar. Beaches melted into glass. 

“Have you ever seen this before?” they asked the plankton, for they had the feeling that the earth was not as they had left it. 

The oil had no answer.

At last, the bird sighted a gathering of children, living in a rain-eaten building in a city of sand. 

The world had fallen apart right before these children’s eyes. They were blamed for the demise of the world, just as they were powerless to stop it. Overwhelming guilt had broken the spell that the blue-gloved adults had tried to cast over these children, long ago. For they cared about saving the world more than anyone, and there was nothing they could do that they had not already tried. But even after the spell failed, the guilt remained.

The bird alighted on the glass before these children. For they felt that, long ago, they had once taken a form such as this. As the children drew closer, the bird gave to each of them one of their tailfeathers.

“These feathers spark white-silver-hot like a star. Strike them and they burn like a match, but not one that leaves you with blue-black iceblock feet, despairing at the window of those feasting and warm. They are a comet in and of themselves; strike them and make a wish.”

The liquor, the oil, the ink of stories older than the gaze of humans coated these feathers, if you remember. All the ancient children of the ocean, distilled into a toxin.

A toxin in the hands of the right assassin can change the world. And the wishes of these children were no different.

The wishes of these children conjured demons.

The demons crawled along the stretches of the decaying buildings’ shadows. They sought the adults who had tried to cast their guilt-based spell. A demon can smell a hollow, rotten heart from the other side of the earth. They remember where you are from, and they hear your cries of despair. No matter where you live they will hunt you down, you who cause the cries of despair in those they watch over.

There is nothing quite so terrifying or so comforting as a real demon. They are the fire that eats those who spread distortions and the shadow that consumes those who consume others. They are a swamp into which those mapless ones who colonize and enslave are prone to blunder.

And so all the hearts that the demons sought were devoured. There was nowhere for the adults to run.

The rottenness of the hearts that the demons consumed became new soil for the earth, which was ruined no longer. At last, the foolish adults had met their purpose. 

And so the children and the inky bird lived together – though not, perhaps, side-by-side.  They lived in anarchy, and this may surprise you. But be assured that it was the endgame of anarchy, a policy that only true utopia can conjure.

I will end my story with a riddle, though it may only be a foolish fancy of mine. In the anime Bungou Stray Dogs, Odasaku is to Dostoevsky as Shatov is to Stavrogin. But who does that make Dazai?


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