By Archy Will He

We were having some fine wine in a bar in Old Town Shanghai, drunkenly chatting about my trip to Beijing and life after escaping the lockdown, when a revelation came to me. “Language is psychedelic!” I declared. We were not even tripping. Yet sounds turned into words and imageries were conjugated. “Language is an augmentation of reality,” I continued. “By fondling our tiny little ear drums, words touched us.” My travel companion, who had been a bit puzzled at first, nodded in agreement. “This is why we have poetry and music,” she added, touching my arm gently. “To intensify reality.”

It was almost noon. Across the street a few friends were playing tennis on the road. No cars were allowed on the road today. The bartender, a frail-looking Chinese woman, crossed the bar and put a file of napkins on our table. “The napkins,” I went on, “are made of bamboo, like the scrolls on which the ancient Taoist sages wrote their teachings.”

It has been half a year since my travel companion left Shanghai. The bamboo napkins from our last aperitivo in Old Town hang quietly on my balcony. Right next to them are a couple of teru teru bozu, traditional Japanese handmade dolls made of white fabric stuffed with rice to absorb moisture and keep away bad spirits. It was a parting gift from our friend.

The doorbell rings. I open the door. A delivery robot is standing there, holding a package. I sign for it and go back upstairs. I open the package. It is a book about the history of the city. I put it on the shelf and go to the kitchen to make some tea.

I do not know where my travel companion is. All she left was a note with the words

"Sorry, leaving Earth.”

More people are leaving Earth now. Despite other planets being less inhabitable than Earth, the number of people leaving is increasing. The reasons are many. Some are tired of the pollution, some the consumerism and its geopolitical implications, some the lack of freedom. Most just want to travel freely and live in peace and harmony with nature.

I sit down on the balcony looking at the night sky. The scent of fermented Pu’er fills the air. After finishing my tea, I take 400ug of Midnight Berries and go to sleep.