Mandkind, finally imortal, is condemned to eternal life and bliss in an unblemishable virtual world. Spared from the decay of the flesh, humans have found only one way to ensure their continued link with the concept of « existence » : authentic physical pain. A data center within a life sanctuary hosts the dreaming souls while they wait to be joined with a physical body. Thisbody alone makes it possible to rediscover the pleasures of the flesh. The Life Sanctuary, within the archetypal pyramid, offers a variety of spaces deidcate to « suffering to feel alive ». The spaces are organised according to four paintings : the Garden, the Tribunal, thePrison and the Clinic. In the center, a double-helix staircase is wrapped around a cylindrical mass grave. The one and only intendant, an immortal trapped in the bodyof a child, endlessly watches over the the machine and rids it of the butchered bodies. This figure is none other than the architect.
Gloved hands again closed around my throat. For hours these hands had been playing with my senses, toying with pain and pleasure until they blended into pure ecstasy. I squirmed with anticipation as they tightened their grasp but the intricate knotwork held my body in place at the very limits of its flexibility. I was exposed and vulnerable, entirely within his power, and he had made good use of me. At first, I had roamed in the musky dimness of the basement’s corridors, taunted by the resonating wails and groans. He found me in a sanctum, watching two bodies’ lustful entanglements attentively, and had surrendered me to his will. He had led me from vault to alcove, from bedchamber to dungeon, making use of as many contraptions as took his fancy. I was now bruised and weakened, sore and exhausted by his demanding performance. His heavy breathing was thick with desire. Air was scarce and I was feeling faint. I could hear raucous gasps coming from my throat and I relished in his power over me. Joy was building up in my loins as I choked, and blackness took over my mind just as I reached a final climax.
I hurried out of the massive concrete cylinder and scurried into hiding behind a mound of ferns, under billowing wet leaves. High above, a stormy sky was projected on the vaulted ceiling. Cool dampness oozed between my toes and fingers. I rubbed some earth and rotting vegetation on my body to cover my fresh, clinical odor. I could not hear anyone approaching, but I could sense a presence. The jungle had turned quiet. I lay low among the fresh shoots and breathed the dense humid air. Someone was there. She had not seen me, she was advancing cautiously, senses alert. I had no desire to fight quite yet, so I cowered beneath the low branches. She crept closer and closer, never making a noise, until she was almost on me. I noticed in panic that she was not a novice like myself. She was dirty and smelt strongly of sweat, with not a trace of the sterile neonate. What a fool, I hadn’t even armed myself! Escape was my only hope. I began to gather my limbs into a pouncing position, ready to flee. She took three rapid steps towards me just as I rose, and thrust a sharp stone into my abdomen. I scrambled forward and tried to run but she was on me, striking at my body and head. I fought her with all of my strength but her acute weapon tore at my skin and smashed my bones. When my eyes were blinded, my entrails exposed, my hands and right forearm crushed and my skull caved in, I finally left this body.
“Burn the witch, they cried, drown her! Make her pay for her abject maneuvers!’’ Yes, I was a witch! I had delivered their wives and saved their children. I had counseled them, healed them, consoled them and yes, I had loved. I had been free. I cursed them and fought them with my nails and teeth as they clasped heavy shackles around my wrists and ankles. A crowd of angry people looked down at me from the wide stairs. “She is the devil’s whore! She has crippled our children and made our wives barren. She has colluded with the devil and danced naked at midnight!’’ A heavily built man in a long crimson robe pointed at me theatrically “Woman! he cried, what do you have to say for yourself?” The congregation clamored as I cowered from his authoritarian aura. Their judgemental stares encircled me and pierced my soul with terror. “I am innocent! I cried, I am a child of God!’’ As they all slowly persecuted this old body, I admitted to everything and more, but they would not free me and they would not let me die. The mob bellowed and cheered as I howled. I invented crimes, I cursed them and I begged them to end my misery. After hours of ingeniousness, my tormentors finally tired of my erratic stories. As smoke rose from the stake at my feet, I trembled with anticipation at the final release. The crowd watched my suffering with avidity and I resolved not to cry out, but the agony surprised me yet again. As my flesh melted, I leant further into the flames, hastening my departure from this flesh prison.
When I regain consciousness, I realise my body has been lugged back to a cell. It has been dumped in the center, on the hard stone floor. I am cold, I ache terribly. My body feels wet. It smells of blood, urine, and fear. Through the bars, the ominous dark windows of the central tower stare at me and bore through me like a laser. I feel that they are watching me and I whimper in shame. I think of my pleas and humiliation. I think of my naked, exposed body. I try to drag it to a darker corner, but my bones are broken and I cannot move. Excruciating pain shoots through every fiber of my being in the attempt. I know I am finished, that I can take no more. I can no longer wait for my torturers to grant me death. They are well-seasoned, they know the body’s limits well, and they seem to find their significance not in pain and subsequent liberation from it, like most of us, but in inflicting pain upon others. I brace myself and prepare to face one last trial that will deliver me of this body. Despite this useless carcass, my resolve is unyielding. I take a small gulp of air and bury my nose and mouth in the fold of my elbow. My lungs start to cry for air, but I hold my breath hard. Anguish tries to take over but I resist this body's anchored, reptilian impulse. I struggle to hold on, increasing the lethal levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. Darkness closes in from all sides and I am finally free.
Everything is a haze. My mind is blurred. It is chained by the substances I am fed, it craves them, it cannot resist them. I no longer feel alive, I feel only emptiness. This body is a prison. It punishes my thoughts, it resists my desires, it pins me to this senseless place. My will has been engulfed, in its place there is only desolation. I am forgetting who I am. No safe word can put an end to my insanity. I can find no escape. I have reached the final stages of this torture playground, and I cannot leave it. I am a ghost in an empty white room. I stare into blank space, trying to remember what I knew. The angular profiles of the machines which enslaved me are oblivious to my anguish. They continue their assessments, calibrations and measurements, their rhythmic signals. The ineluctable drip keeps me under. I pay for every second of consciousness with debilitating fear and agony. The child visits me often. I see his small face with all-knowing eyes peering down at me, expecting to find me dead at last, but every time he leaves with a cruel smirk. He does not pity me. He despises me because, unlike all those other bodies he drags to the ossuary for genetic recycling, I have become like him. I cannot return to virtuality. I shall never know its timeless bliss again. I am an immortal trapped in a mortal body.