I went to bed last night wondering what I could write for this cycle’s topic, “Lifting the Veil”. I woke this morning from a vivid, disturbing dream that seemed like the answer to my unspoken question.
In the dream, I was about to be dismembered, literally sawed into pieces. I’d somehow fallen into the clutches of some cabal who quite calmly informed me of their intentions. I had no idea why they wanted to do this, what they hoped to accomplish, or why I had been chosen (though there was some sense that other people had been subjected to the same fate). Immobilized, strapped to a table, I didn’t even try to escape. It’s as though I’d accepted my lack of choice.
Despite this tacit acquiescence, I was terrified. It seemed they planned to hack away at me while I was awake and alert. I pleaded with them to give me some sort of drugs or anesthesia, and they agreed. At first I just felt a bit foggy-headed, all my sensations muffled in cotton wool, but soon I began to sink into unconsciousness. As I slipped away, I imagined what awaited me. Were these the last thoughts I’d ever experience? Was I about to be obliterated, erased? Or was there some spark, some spirit, some essence of my being that would endure after my body was nothing but a pile of bloody meat? I didn’t know the answer. Even if I did, there was nothing at all I could do. I had to let go.
I’m not the type to brood, but when you’re in your sixth decade of life and your partner is in his seventh, it’s hard not to think about death at least occasionally. It could come at any time, for either of us. Am I ready? Is anyone, ever? (Actually, I think some people are. My ninety four year old aunt told me before she died that every morning she woke up thinking, “Well, I guess I’m still alive.) Am I afraid? As in the dream, I am probably more frightened by the possibility of pain than of oblivion.
I do believe (with varying degrees of certainty depending on the day and my mood) that there is a dimension of energy or spirit beyond the material world, that indeed spirit engenders and shapes physical reality. Death might destroy the ego, the self, personality and memories, but our life energy must be recycled. I try to convince myself that death is just another stage of existence, that what awaits on the other side of the veil might well be revelations impossible to grasp when we’re shackled and smothered in our meat selves.
Some days I am more successful in fostering this enlightened view than others.
I really don’t know where my near-nightmare came from. I might have been influenced by this article I read just yesterday:
In case you’re too busy to follow the link, the topic is RAADFest, the Revolution Against Aging and Death convention, part of a movement to use science to defer or reverse the effects of age. The ultimate mission? Immortality.
It’s easy to snicker when you read this article, but who knows? The human life span has more than doubled in a few centuries, and seems to still be on the upswing. Of course immortality has been staple fare in science fiction (not to mention paranormal erotica) for a long time. I recently finished Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, a scifi novel bursting with provocative ideas, including some notions about immortality. A technology is developed to “scan” a person’s mind, upload and store the entire sum of his or her thoughts, memory and personality, and later reconstitute the “person” as a disembodied intelligence running on a computer. In particular, this technology makes it possible to “reboot” you after you have physically died. The process is far from foolproof, and can be highly disruptive, emotionally, to the person involved. Probably the most traumatic aspect, when your scan is loaded and activated, is dealing with the idea that you’re actually dead.
But what does that mean—“actually dead”—when extinct animals can be cloned from historical DNA? When new organs can be 3D printed (already possible for some sorts of tissues)? When stem cells can be teased into any sort of body part needed? We’re used to thinking about death as a sharp line, “The undiscovered country, from whose bourn, No traveller returns”, but maybe things aren’t that simple. Ghosts. Vampires. Clones. Sentient androids. Energy beings from space. Who knows what the universe holds?
Another strand in this tangle involves the eroticism of death. Most of my stories tend toward the sex-positive and sunny, but when I pen a paranormal tale, I often find myself spinning into darkness. I’m drawn to the experience of surrender. Could there be a more profound surrender than releasing oneself to death?
I have a story releasing on the 17th that explores this idea, mixing it up with a bit of magic. My protagonist in Underground craves the experience of orgasm as she hovers at the edge of death. She spends long, frustrated years looking for a lover who can satisfy her needs, until she meets the mysterious Z at an exclusive sex club reputedly frequented by beings with occult powers.
He places his silver blade between my breasts, a sweet reminder of the blood he might or might not shed. The chill metal sucks warmth from my skin. His mouth dances over my lips, my straining nipples, my fresh-shaven mound. With every contact he draws the life from me, leaving exquisite languor in its stead. My limbs grow heavy. It becomes impossible to move, even if I wanted to. Meanwhile, profound pleasure circles and settles in my pelvis like a purring cat.
I open myself to him, mind and body both, desire overwhelming any residual instinct toward self-preservation. His luminous body is a magnet, attracting my essence. He drinks deep, taking what he requires.
To give him everything is my only desire.
Maybe working with this story kindled the strange dream. On the other hand, I’ve been aware of the emotional link between BDSM and death for years. Here’s something I wrote almost fifteen years ago, which captures this connection better than most of my tales.
They meet, infrequently, to perform the ritual. She waits for him to arrive, heart slamming against her ribs, stomach twisted with nervousness. When he enters, they embrace, awkwardly. It has been so long. She attempts lightness, a joke, a jibe, pretending that she does not know why she is here. Then he gives the sign - a mere eyebrow, arched in a question - and her protective humor slips from her along with her clothing.
The ritual demands much of them, the steps choreographed, but always with room for improvisation. First he binds her, with rope, or silk, or leather, ceiling-hung with thighs spread, or splayed across the bed, or bent double over a hassock. Sometimes he will position her limbs and bind her to stillness with his command alone.
Then he teases her, dabbles his fingers in her wetness, lovingly mocks her sluttishness. She melts at his slightest touch, sinks liquid and helpless into the ritual spirit, moaning just as he intends. She could drown in his rich voice, nuanced and full of power. He pinches her nipples into aching peaks, captures them in clothespins, or cinches them with rubber bands. All the while he strokes her pussy, calls her his pet, muddles the pains and the pleasures besieging her.
Next, he beats her. Here the ritual has many variants, but all with a single purpose: to invoke the purity of her surrender. She writhes under the lash, twists away from the hairbrush, whimpers as his bare palm reddens her buttocks. She does not wish to resist him; her only thought now is to please. But the pain is difficult to endure. Breathe, he says, soothing, encouraging, even as he scourges her. Open yourself. Yield yourself to me once again.
His voice is the key that unlocks her. Some barrier shatters and she floats free, each stroke of the whip an ecstatic kiss. His mind moves with hers now, sharing her agony and her joy. His breath comes in gasps like hers. His organ is granite. Now, come to me, my love, he whispers, entering her front or rear or spraying her marked thighs with his burning seed. She obeys, sliding into climax as he slides inside her, white hot fringed with red streaks of the pain.
Transcendence. Communion. Completion. They do not speak of it as they dress. There is no need for speech when the ritual is complete.
They meet infrequently. Sitting alone, on the plane or the bus taking her homeward, she savors the gaping, twitching sensations in her rear hole, the sharp echo of her stripes as she shifts in her seat, the slickness, still, in her sex. His voice echos in her mind.
Theirs is an old love. She thinks of him daily, imagines his life, her chest swollen with bittersweet aching. He thinks of her less frequently, but when he does, he gnashes his teeth, driven almost to madness because he cannot possess her. Then he recalls her sweet pliancy, her willing debasement, and his lips curve in a smile as he strums on his cock.
The ritual renews them. When she lies in a dentist's chair, or on the surgeon's table, when she wakes in fear in the night, she remembers him. Breathe. Open. Surrender. She relaxes into the fear, trusting as she trusts him.
She is sure that she will think of him, that way, when she surrenders herself into the arms of death. And then, perhaps, their meetings will be more frequent, and the ritual will be perfected.
Despite the terror, my dream held hints of this epiphany. I would like to believe that when the time comes, I will cross the threshold in grace and trust, not in fear.