In Ursula LeGuinn’s parable, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (1973), there exists a “shimmering city of unbelievable happiness and delight”. The city is utopian and egalitarian in every way except one. To perpetuate its existence, Omeals must keep one child in continual abject poverty, filth and misery. When each citizen comes of age, they are brought to see the child, and, though initially shocked and enraged, most settle down, accepting this small sacrifice in return for their prosperity. Some, however, do not return home and instead silently walk out of the city.

Each alone, they go west or north, towards the mountains. They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. {...} But they know where they are going.

Last night I talked to my grandfather, who is dying. I had resisted calling for some weeks. He said it was painful, but he should not complain, it was old age, and “what do you expect?”

There was a new quality to his voice; a preunderstanding of what was actually happening. And I could hear him silently wishing it to be otherwise. Appealing to me as if, together, we could stop time, hold all these parts in our arms before they unravel to evaporate.

Outside, the tapestry of nature loses its end­points. As do, often, our imposed object categories; the roots of a tree, the earth, the riverbank, the river, the falling leaves of the tree. The duration of my grandfather’s biology is prescribed in his cells. What I hear, down the phone line, through the apparatus of his voice, is another mode of time, the time of consciousness that is a­linear and cannot ever truly comprehend the duration of biological time or its own co­dependency within it.

The desire for emancipation from the body, is simultaneously a desire for life and rejection of it. The desire for the ultimate completion of one time, extricable from the other and a resistance to a calculus that binds them as the same, a want to live a life without its only guarantee.

We fantasise of apocalypse and we also fantasise utopia, as they are one and the same.