Valery Oisteanu


The City Where It Was Illegal to Die

The city was hot and dry, but never cool. The streets' asphalt melted under our steps and seemed to float away into the traffic. Broken, dilapidated cars abandoned on the central boulevard next to the fashion mall. In the city where it was forbidden to die, the inhabitants were basically consenting hostages - consenting to absurd rules and regulations. One of them was the law of erectability. No one was allowed to be either standing or seated erect. They were supposed to be bent, squatted or leaning all the time
Sad people waited patiently in long lines in a blazing sun to receive their daily rations. A sad looking bus was taking them away in a crowded-like-sardine style. In a garden, somebody was playing music, and that ignited the alarms of the cars parked in the garden. All the electrical connections shortcircuited for a while, but the show must go on.

The vast trading city, in this dreamscape on the shore of Necromancian Sea is built on the left side of a giant horseshoe peninsula looking very similar to a school magnet from an old science lab. The left side of the horseshoe was overbuilt with giant walls of rough granite and filters covered with burlap and suspended on high beams and plaster walls. The city is rarely visited, strictly for barter and trade, and its artisans display gold and silver at a large bazaar located in the main square. The biggest building in the city is the maternity ward called Permanent Desire. At the entrance a sign pronounces "We ignore time and eternity, and the main philosophy of such place is Voluptuousness is Holiness." The healthy women are encouraged to have as many children as they can, and often those children are adopted by childless families or singles.

The thing that struck me, entering the city, were signs and numbers inscribed on the doors and windows of every building. The inscriptions were the age of the occupant and his health status. If an occupant dare to become sick, a special commando would arrive and bring him to a sanitarium where he was forcibly treated until he promised or signed a note that he will not die. The air in the city was close to pure oxygen, no gases or emissions allowed. And even the walls were made as giant filters. The Standardland was entirely operated on bioelectric energy collected from its citizens during their sleep hours. For a century now, the right hand index and the thumb of the left hand were wired with a special circuit to collect bioelectric energy from its inhabitants. The authorities were designated by an obscure society ruled by a private closed-door committee that voted secretly and chose a grand masked bioelectrician called Numberone, who was trained and masterfully groomed as a bioelectrical vampire that could plug and unplug a huge energy web circuit at will, disconnecting sections of the Standardland grid at will.

The food in this city was mainly distributed in a pill form, with minerals and additives and vitamins, delivered only to higher classes.

The windows were marked with red arrows ranging from unsociable behavior to mental disease patients released on their own self-medication. Simple signs would read "This woman yells while making love," "This patient has Tourrette's Syndrome." Another sign read "Watch out for number 111 at the balcony on the top floor: attempted suicide twice." Next to it another sign was pointing out a man and his wife deliberately starving themselves. The sign above the window read "This family is high on Food Denial. Citizens, Please Feed Them. The City Cannot Afford Loss of Energy."

From time to time, someone actually did die, and immediately was declared an outlaw and buried in the mass graves at the cemetery with no markings. To die was considered a luxury, an illegal activity that has to be performed with approval of the special commission. No suicides, no euthanasia, no help received from doctors. Hospitals were large processing plants occupying half of the city, centered around a mammoth Laundromat. In this mysterious building, there were mysterious corridors going to mysterious rooms full of beds holding mysterious patients with mysterious diseases. The patients were identified by numbers, and all wore face masks for hygiene and a uniform assistance.They were disappearing and reappearing daily.

Standardland is a structural society in which each class has its own uniform, and although social promotion was possible, it was infrequent. Each member of a low class had to undergo a strict physical and a disinfectant bath to join the next superior social step. The colors of the uniforms in descending order were off white, light red, yellow, green, blue, gray and dark brown. They all knew that dueling is strictly forbidden, and poisons are as hard to get as drugs. Attending suicides was strictly prohibited, and for special express disposal, you could pay as much as $50,000 (perfumed instant death, revolver, pill or injection).

It was clear that the city was watching for anyone voluntarily getting killed or bent on suicide. The authorities didn't like the abuse of privilege of death. Only when the committee decrees that someone's output of energy was too low, then you are granted permission to travel to the Village of the Dead.

. When one died and fell down, that was immediately proclaimed illegal and dealt severely. The corpses were disposed without any pomp. So illegal mortuaries abound all over the city with secret branches in the basement of abandoned hospitals.

The suicide society was prohibited, and members were assembling illegally to discuss ways of helping each other in such endeavor. Due to technological advances, the secret suicide society was guaranteeing its members an instantaneous death. And this service was of big interest to those who have previously deterred from committing suicide or for the fear of making a mess of it. But the Ministry of Interior was against such endeavor, especially unlicensed, and forbid burial service for those using its service. A small amount of money was required from the members to cover the preparations, last meal, photographs, or special effects, or a religious ceremony optional, dependent on the wishes of the clients. Hanging was the suicide of the poor, and poison that of the rich. In between, electrocution, gun, drowning or special drug-induced perfumed suicide was a luxury. Members and friends could attend the procedure for a small fee. All other requests were ignored.

The After Suicide Village was founded by a suicide survivor who became the first inhabitant of this gloomy place full of unhappy and unsuccessful suiciders, few who miraculously escaped death in accidents, and transients, those who would be suiciders, illegally escaping from Standardland, ex-cancer patients, love-starved, bored and tired of Standardland life. The Suicide Village was located on the right hand of the horseshoe. The code of this village is "More fun before the end." The burials customs, burning the bodies in a collective ritual at the circular ruins.

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