The silence in my ears woke me. I lay there, ocean rocking the docked boat, and mentally rewind to the beginning of the album. I couldn’t think of anything else to listen to. This is the only one of Isakov’s albums that are still preserved, and, of course, music’s much too expensive to create these days. For some reason, stories (especially those with notes attached), cost more than pictures. Hundreds of years ago, people would say a picture was worth a thousand words, but nowadays, it’s a word which is worth… at current market prices, 67 abstract pictures.
I couldn’t think of anything to do with my time. I was aware that I would be forced to vacate the cruise ship within a few hours and I decided to leave rather than experience boredom. The porter, on duty even before the first hint of molten gold had begun its relentless assault on the obsidian sky, was tipped a full half-portrait, the suggested fee for a Level 4 Assistance in The Handbook of Non-Arbitrary Numbers. As I turned away, I saw him consume the pill almost immediately. Poor fool. He couldn’t have been older than 15, too young to develop a resistance, too young to control himself, too young to learn not to enjoy the sensation that rolled his eyes back into his head and made him want to break the deathly silence with a song.
On my way home, I began to grow more agitated, more shaken than usual at the ecstasy on the boy’s face. I shivered in the cold night air, not from the below-freezing temperatures in C4802, but from the view into the clear night sky. The stars were back for the first time in living memory.
The Handbook of Non-Arbitrary Numbers says the stars were the number one cause of the creative-type suicidal epidemic of the 23rd century, causing 67,891 deaths in 2287 alone.
My neck began to ache as I stared at the one thing that still made people believe a God could exist. I told myself I was only questioning my sudden ability to see them. Perhaps the fog machines meant to keep the suicides in check had malfunctioned, I said, pretending I couldn’t feel the tears or taste the salt. What a mystery, my wandering soliloquy continued, beginning to stumble. I’d never know.
I’ll never know because as soon as I reached home, I withdrew my entire life savings – just over one abstract, and ingested it immediately in a rare moment of passion. As I write this, I can already feel it taking effect, the unique flash of inspiration – words bubbling forth as my blood follows suit.
The Handbook of Non-Arbitrary Numbers says I have 119 minutes left to live, based on the time of ingestion and the severity of the overdose. I’ve already wasted too long writing this. I must begin my work. My life will end like a star – in a bright flash of glory that spreads through the cosmos, blue fire scorching worlds light-years away.
In my mind’s eye, I can already see a bemused police chief unlocking my door to discover the reason for my absence. He is walking, cautiously, through each room. Now, he has found my body, but before he radios it in, something on the wall catches his eye. My supernova. He takes a step back and a breath in, staring at my magnum opus, the camera in his eye already spreading it across the worlds.
And it will be beautiful.