Paradiso (2007)

“…it has come as auxiliary to another favorite Speculation of mine, that we shall enjoy ourselves here after by having what we calle happiness on Earth repeated in a finer tone and so repeated—And yet such a fate can only befall those who delight in sensation rather than hunger as you do after Truth…” –John Keats

You already know the story I am going to tell you. You have heard this a million times before. In fact, this whole thing may have nothing new or useful for you at all. But it is all I know, all I have to say, and I do not demand that you listen to me. I am simply going to tell you what the truth is. You may not want to hear it, which is fine. But stay with me, if you are brave. Try to stop hiding from the pain of what you know, or nothing here will mean anything to you.

Our planet is called Paradiso, as it has for some years. After the mantra of Nietzsche grew popular, the star-ward gaze was abandoned and we got to calling earth heaven. Holy Science has salvaged our world, welded it like a casket impregnable to grave robbers. Huge bridges, like the cables of a spider’s web, have joined the continents, and Pangea is an apt name of the world-wide nation.

There is no hunger on Paradiso, as Pangea’s official records prove. The machines have pumped the life from the soil, and every human mouth is fed. There is no labor but luxury, for pursuits of the mind are the commandment of Pangea. Everyone is stylized a scholar, and violence is strictly and rigorously forbidden. There are no wars between factions, because Pangea says that every person is equally unique, and all individuality is carefully apportioned by the officials. The differences of the old world, we are taught, only cause pain, so we are relieved of dangerous heritage.

Disease is a fairytale on Paradiso, a story, told by the historians we call physicians. Medicine is kept in museums once known as hospitals. Life is longer now, and they say immortality will be on the market some day soon. The harder we work, the longer we are allowed to live, and Pangea is praised as a perfect government for how well we run its stipulations.

They call the old world Inferno in the texts. A place of horror where people found themselves unable to agree on the simplest beliefs and blood was spilt over things they thought mattered. Now we can be happy, free of their fanaticism. We no longer have to worry about the dangers posed by notions of immaterial truth. We have happiness meticulously manufactured, and the assurances that it is more than enough.

And happy we truly are. No one dies an untimely death, and everyone pursues what they should want. They – we – are blissful, as only ignorance can allow.

I was given the name Faustus, as part of my duty of recalling the infernal days of old. But of course this is not a story about me – it is a story about us, and the Pangean Paradise. For we are a people of peace. The citizens of the disunified Inferno would have been jealous at our widespread, global, organized machine of perfect utility. Pleasure is for nearly every human on Paradiso all that is known; there are no smiles tinted by sadness. Except for those proud few, who bear the sadness which comes with the joy of sacrifice.

Ah, you hoped that I would pass over in silence the secret to Paradiso’s success. I knew you knew what it was. But you almost forget it, absorbed as you are in your delights. This is understandable, and it couldn’t be helped anyway. But I will remind you.

At birth, I was assigned the task of Deliverer. There is a class on Paradiso known as the Champions. The highest of Champions, most honored, are the Heroes. They are the heartbeat, the source, of Pangea’s culture machine. Then there are the Attendants. Finally, there is my class. The Deliverers, we live between. We see and live in two worlds. We see the peace of Paradiso, and we see the small microcosm, the world entirely created by Pangea: Purgatorio. That is the realm of the Heroes.

I will familiarize you again with what merely slipped from your mind, occupied as it is with the meaningful demands of your business. As the Deliverer, I watch every child born into my assigned district. I mark them silently, and according to the criteria, carefully discern who are to be Heroes. I write this down in my personal files, and meet the parents clandestinely. I inform them, and console them with an understanding of the high honor Pangea proscribes.

At the proper age, I take the child from their parents. The Her is taken at its first lie. Usually in Paradiso this is not until very old, for humans are raised to strict codes of behavior. But Heroes are different. Lying is in their genes.

I remember my first Hero. Her lie was reported on a cool Monday morning—not too cool, for weather is carefully supervised—and I arrived to apprehend her at seven thirty a.m. Her lie was that she enjoyed waking early. Her personal diary, recorded orally, testified that early mornings made her unhappy. I took her from her parents at eight fifteen a.m. She was three and a half years old.

I took her to the Attendants. She held her storybook close, scared but brave. Her parents had told her they were proud of her. Their ashen faces told her that they were scared. I felt proud for her fortitude. I know why she is a Hero.

For six months she was prepared in Purgatorio. I am not an Attendant, so I had nothing more to do with her. Pangean code suggests Deliverers watch little or nothing of the process after one or two viewings, although the code is not enforced. After that first time, I seldom ever watched.

The child is put on a healthy but strict diet and put through extensive exercise during those six months. Heroes are expected to be in excellent physical condition. She was no different. At the end of the sixth month she was taken from the outer hall of the Purgatorio, to where the final steps are taken inside.

The child is stripped of outer garments, though left with decency and dignity. All hair is removed, down to each eyelash. Then a careful process removes the thinnest layer of skin across the body. This heightens the sensitivity. The instruments are brought out, and the attendant sets to work. The child is given something to bite on.

Usually the damage to the internal organs and the shock of pain kills the Hero within an hour. The process is necessary. It is the only way to generate enough innocent pain. The sciencists tap into the karma program, and for many years enough pain is generated, and enough energy, to produce relief across Pangea. Paradiso is a land of utter pleasure, thanks to the efforts of our noble Heroes. The machine runs on blood, but thankfully just a little is enough, every once in a while.

You seem upset. The emotion in your eyes seems defensive, as if you wish to remind me of all the lives this makes better. You want to point out that this process causes planet-wide healing. You want to ask, isn’t it reasonable to make the entire world better by means of this occasional, routine sacrifice?

Good, that reaction is as expected. You will make an excellent Attendant, just as the culture machine predicted.

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