I was three miles into the mudflats. An airplane with a banner trailing behind flew over trying to sell me car insurance. Current flowed between my toes, around my legs. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt something different. Like spruce limbs rubbing against my face. The smell of terpenes emanating from pine trees.

I looked down at a hermit crab getting pushed around by the tide. Its shell rolled over the sand. The crab had no idea about the banner trying to sell us car insurance. Or at least I assumed it didn’t.

The tide was going out, getting further away from the cord grass along the shore. Minnows swam in rivulets.

I envied the mottled seagulls padding the sand for shellfish and the others bobbing leisurely in the sun. Regardless of their encounters with beach rubbish, they’d never understand the words capitalism or free-market economy. Their retinas wouldn’t burn with internet advertisements. Algorithms wouldn’t be designed to manipulate their taste for earthworms and larvae.

Above, a gecko gave us the thumbs up, telling us we’d save money. I was the only one in a three mile radius that could drive. I was tired of being stalked by salespeople, buy this razor, use this laundry detergent, try this bottled water that will give you life-enhancing abilities.

Unless the sandpipers were hoarding crustaceans, no one was hoarding wealth out in the mudflats. The ibis, the terns, the mussels, and amphipods weren’t monetising their interests to pay off loans. They were just trying to find food and not die. They weren’t aware of another alternative fate, one where they were captured and sold for a few bucks at a fish market or souvenir shop.

My shirt fluttered in the wind. I waded onward, edging towards the drop off.

Down shore, CEO yachts floated in the bay. Fortune 500 execs smoked cigars and golfed. I could smell their fermented tobacco.

I wondered why something good couldn’t have been written in the sky, like Don’t worry, you will find out the meaning of life or There’s a good reason for suffering. But no, it had to be something stupid about reducing car payments.

“We’re screwed,” I said to the hermit crab.

The crab extended a claw, pointing upwards.

I laid down in a stream, and water trickled over my skin. At least the molluscs didn’t want my credit card. Everything smelled of decomposing microbes and silt. If I laid long enough, the ocean would pulverise me into dust, like the papery flesh of dead fish.

So much for the pull of the moon.

Several billion years had produced airplanes, LaserJet printers, and overcomplicated systems designed by sociopaths to dominate the unsuspecting public. Back on land, I was swimming in nonessential information. Searching, sorting through noise, smoke signals, ideas. I envied the ribbon worms and periwinkles oblivious to the gravitational force of concepts. I was three miles into the mudflats, and I didn’t want to go back. I wasn’t buying anything. I’d eat krill if I had to, live out my days as a withered sea urchin in a driftwood shack. My decisions would be simple. I could roam unexplored channels of the mind. I would write my own messages in the dirt with a stick that said no thank you.

Below the waves, an oyster filtered excess nitrogen to thicken its shell. I was trying to turn nonsense into something useful.

Gabrielle Griffis

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