All or Nothing IV

Samuel walked down an aisle at the library, dragging the fingers of his right hand over the spines of books — Wordsworth, Whitman — then dragging the fingers of his left hand over the spines of books — Byron, Blake. At the end of the aisle, he turned left and walked for about a hundred feet until he reached the aisles that run north-south instead of east-west. The books directly ahead of him had green covers with titles in Greek. He dragged the fingers of his right hand over the spines, trying to sound out the authors’ names from the basic knowledge he had of the Greek alphabet. “Ploh-tee-nos,” he said, quietly. “Plah-tone.” He looked down at the carpet, but kept touching the books — first smooth and cold, then scratchy, like wool, and finally the books felt rough and chalky, like dirt. Samuel’s head shot up. The green covers morphed and flowed into one another. He pulled his hand back as orange and brown swirled into the greens, vanquishing it, sending it elsewhere. The green flowed from the bookcase like liquid and spread over the carpet, shooting up thick, lush grass. He leapt out of the way of the flowing green substance as if it were poisonous, but it soon spread so fast that it surrounded him and he had no choice but to let it flow underneath his feet. He waited nervously, as if he too might morph into grass. Green life shot up, like a time lapse, around his white Chuck Taylors. The hard carpet underfoot became soft and spongy. After 3 or 4 seconds, the grass rose to the height of his knee, obscuring his feet, and then stopped. He slowly lifted his foot; his white shoe emerged and separated from the grass; he set it back down and exhaled.

The bookcase that had been on his right was now a wall of dry earth. Almost instinctually, he reached out to touch it. Dirt crumbled from the surface and rolled to the ground. The aisle of books now appeared to be a ravine carved in the earth from the previous flow of water.

As though he were finally home, he shed his clothing and walked through the ravine. First he hopped on one foot to rip a shoe off, then hopped on the other foot. The socks came off next, then the shirt and the pants. He wasn’t wearing underwear. The grass was smooth and soft, providing no resistance against his legs. The ravine leveled out, and trees surrounded him. Fruit trees, but of a kind he had never seen. Fearless, he picked a piece of fruit that hung eye level. No protective surface, like a rind or even a skin, covered the fruit. When he bit into it, no noise emitted.

Another hundred feet and the trees cleared. Samuel walked into the middle of the sun-bathed meadow and let himself fall straight back, like someone playing the trust game falls into a person’s arms, or like a singer falls off a stage onto the hands of the crowd. The grass caught him — enveloped him. He lay on his back, staring into the blue sky, and then he closed his eyes.

It began moving up his feet; soon the skin on his entire body was green. Grass sprouted from his pores — little chutes. The chutes became stalks that grew inches, and then feet. Where his body had been there was now a mound of grass. After a few hours, even the mound had spread and sunk into the earth so that no sign of Samuel remained. He had been absorbed, become one, with the place.