“ARE YOU AFRAID OF DYING!?”
The mistress of ceremonies shouts into a phallic microphone. She’s dressed in a dainty pirate’s outfit that hides little of her exquisitely engineered chrome figure. Her face is smooth with no visible features, except for a single eye patch bolted on her quicksilver facade.
“NO!” The audience hollers.
A silvery-green mechanical parrot hovers near her shoulder, glittering like a Christmas decoration.
“Lying dogs! Lying dogs!” The parrot whistles and squawks.
“Yes, Lorito is right. You’re all a bunch of lying dogs.”
Hooting and hollering, the attendees wave their arms.
The android heaves her bosoms and cracks her whip as she spins in micro-gravity.
“ARE YOU AFRAID OF DYING?” she asks again.
“YES!!!” The audience shouts, roaring with laughter.
The lights dim.
I look at Sarah. She's floating beside me, and she seems just as puzzled as I am, though a slight smile has appeared on her lips. I don’t like it when she smiles that way.
It’s our last day in the Three-Eyed Geisha. I’ve been trying to lay low and prepare for the trip tomorrow, but this is a show I cannot afford to ignore. We received an invitation from Hana Sensei herself early this morning. So, we had no real choice in the matter, given that she is now our patron and benefactor- our only chance to complete our ill-conceived mission.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” calls out the android, “I present to you, the magnificent flower of Spring, The Petal of the East, and our Chief Geisha Officer, Hana Sensei!”
In the silence, a bell tolls, and I hear a girl’s voice.
“We used to go to the hills and fly white paper planes. He taught me how to fold the pages. I love white paper planes.”
The silhouette of the kimono-clad Hana floats across the room. She’s holding the familiar box of gears on her palm. Her fingers dance above it, and an ethereal melody permeates the atmosphere.
The voice in the box changes, grows deeper and turns into a man. “Fear of death… that’s how they control you.”
Loops and electronic beats pulsate through my body.
The room spins, and soon we’re all floating uncontrollably through the circular chamber.
Ancient holographic cities rise. Spurred onwards by agricultural processes and industrial inventions, cultures evolve and become more complex. The men and women in the audience marvel at the intricate and fast-paced renderings. We see the exploitation of muscular and mechanical power, societies rushing headlong into the information future. Smoke rising from factories and transforming into a ring of digital fire.
“Manage the gene pool!” the parrot squawks.
The walls spin around us, and strong air currents send us tumbling through the air.
“Obey!” Shouts the pirate. “Submit to authority in the face of death. Food for the worms or cooked in the oven. It’s your only way out.”
“Submit! Submit” echoes her parrot, swiftly flying in micro-g.
Our bodies bump and press against each other.
“Weak and helpless,” the mistress shouts, “sacrifice your individuality for the collective. How else can we build a post-industrial society?”
Robed figures glide into the room, followed by a column of coffins and floating candles.
“Death! Death! Alarm bells!” shouts the parrot.
“That’s right, Lorito! Warning! Warning! Alarm!” She twirls and hovers before the procession. “They’ll activate your death circuit when you’re most vulnerable. In the hospital bed. They offer visions of graves and tombstones; the chanting of the last rites. Turn on reflexive primitive fears. Helplessness and submission. They’ll accept nothing less.”
A fine mist is sprayed into the room. I feel lightheaded. We hold on to the throbbing beat.
Graphical images hover like glowing ghosts. Pyramids, temples, houses of worship throughout the centuries materialize and crumble in an instant. Empires morph to the beat of technology. Cocoons for the next evolutionary phases. Two lovers thrown out of the garden. Wandering the earth as sinners. Arab harems blowing in the desert sand. Arranged marriages. Desperate housewives. The mating ritual controlled by community standards. Sperm-egg fusion in the service of the genetic hive.
“Ah, yes, they’ll show up at your deathbed and deal some instant karma. Your ticket to paradise between the hospital beds and the graveyard.”
“Warning! Submit! Obey!” Lorito squawks.
Holographic paper planes fly through the air.
“Obey! Submit!” Squawk!
“Yes, Lorito is right!” the mistress says and cracks her whip. “If you want salvation, they say, a ticket to the eternal gated community in the sky, then you must-“
“Obey! Submit!” Squawk!
“What lies beyond fear?”
Neon letters flash in the air:
Visions of a multiverse
The bass pounds in my chest and swirling frenetic loops disorient me.
I stumble towards Sarah.
Fingers reach but never quite touch.
She smiles as she disappears in a tangle of arms and legs.
“I love white paper planes.”
The funeral figures disrobe themselves. The coffins fly open, and a flock of android angels soar into the air.
A laser image of God reaching down with his finger. Pulsating, it burns afterimages on my retina. Multi-armed Siva destroys the holograms with his fire.
We’re a floating mass of sweaty flesh, gripping (and groping) in a maelstrom of sensuality.
“Death imprint!” the parrot squawks. “Fear!”
“We’re no longer living in the stone age or industrial eras when management of death by the select few was necessary. The individual didn’t matter. Only the structure and cohesiveness of the hive was of essence. But we’re in the post-biologic era, landlubbers, we should be free! They still refuse to give up control of your dying process, and you let them have that control. Eager to submit. The death reflex is your chain. Your fear of death is your prison.”
“Got you right by the balls!” shouts Lorito and sprays a shower of sparks across the air.
The music is frantic.
“Right to die, cybernetic consciousness, euthanasia, cryogenics, astral displacement, teleportation, immortality- any form of individual self-control over metabolic death is a threat to their power.”
“Pilot your own soul!” Squawk!
Whipped into a frenzy, our bodies collide.
“Social mechanisms of birth control.”
Hana’s third eye flies open.
“Navigate the postmortem rituals. Monopolize your own dying process.”
“Abolish fear of death!” Squawk!
Three-dimensional cities grow in the virtual night.
A flashing road sign reads, ‘terminal lane. Next exit.’
Pulled into the momentum of the carnal maelstrom, I’m flung towards Hana Sensei.
She holds up the box on her palm and her fingers dance around it.
“Death is a grave mistake,” says the voice of an old man with a chuckle.
I crash against the wall just as the melody subsides and a girl’s voice hangs in the air.
“I love white paper planes.”
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