Emily Landsinger founded her eponymous colony in ’97, three years before the Bliss happened. She was spending money inherited after the death of her second husband, whose business interests both revolted and financed her. Unwilling to give up the luxuriously decadent lifestyle that the sale of weapons allowed her, but morally opposed to what she considered indiscriminate slaughter, she bought several islands in the Indonesian archipelago and created the Landsinger colony. The rules of admission were artistic talent only, though these were relaxed a little when she decided that she wanted shops and boutiques available too. Artists came to the colony by private jet or yacht, and paid nothing for the travel costs. Artists were supposed to leave the colony that way too, but Emily declared that no-one wished to leave after they’d arrived, and brooked no dissent to her opinion, for all that there were artists who now considered themselves kidnapped, or stranded, or shanghaied or any one of a number of other words that came out over cocktails at dinner.
When the Bliss hit, at 4am on the 1st of December, Emily had an aneurism and died. She was hosting her Advent Ball at the time and had walked out onto a marble platform above the swimming pool holding aloft a champagne flute and tossing her hair behind her like a wave of autumn fire. She froze in mid-step, and people close to the platform swore they saw her eyes cross. The champagne flute fell from her nerveless fingers and smashed on the marble, the ringing, shrill sound echoing from the low compound buildings where the party was being held. Everyone held their breath, wondering what she was doing, and then her front foot came down on the marble and her leg kept going, her knee bending outwards as though she were kneeling. Then her head came down to her knee and she pitched forward further still, sliding along the polished white marble until her head dropped off the head and for a moment it looked like she was done falling. Then she spasmed, jerking forwards and pushing her shoulders and breasts off the platform, and gravity seized her like a lover and pulled her into the swimming pool with a crystal splash. Tiny water droplets seemed to hang in the air like coloured jewels and then fell back, covering her as she sank gracelessly to the bottom, her dress sodden and heavy and weighing her down.
I was behind the bar, serving drinks to people who weren’t entirely sure that they wanted to be there and had a perfect view of the performance because the bar was set up on a bridge over the swimming pool, a little before the rocks that separated it from the sea. I was topless, as demanded by the party’s rules, holding in my gut which was starting to lose definition because Emily’s parties carried on through the night and the next day leaving me with no time to get to the gym or exercise; I would go home at 11 in the morning, sleep for five hours and have to get up and be back at the compound to clean-up and set-up for the next night’s party. I placed my cocktail shaker when she fell into the water and said a silent prayer of thanks in my head to any god or gods that might be listening, and hoped that her death might mean that we could all go home.
Of course, we had no idea what the Bliss was, or would bring. We didn’t know then that it would prevent all air-travel for five years, and even after that time the repairs and rebuilding of the airlines would mean that it was another three before any but the ultra-rich or the armed forces could afford flights. And we had no idea that it would mean that Emily Landsinger would sit up from her coffin during her own funeral, shake her head from side to side as though trying to shift a headache, and complain about the taste of formaldehyde in her mouth. Her sister, who had already called in the lawyers to try and break the covenants protecting the colony, was in the front pew listening attentively to the priest. She rose to her feet, her mouth falling open and her hands clutching her chest, having a heart attack at the sight of her sister rising up from the dead. When, another three days later, Emily’s sister sat up from her own coffin at her own funeral and asked why there wasn’t more crying, we began to get an inkling of what the Bliss was about.
No deaths, no births. Stasis, in a way. Bliss.
Some things died, the food chain didn’t end. But nothing that died of old age stayed dead for more than three days before it stood itself back up and started walking around again. There was no rejuvenation, no new youthfulness or reinvigoration. Just an unwillingness to die and decompose like a good corpse. Emily acted like she’d had a stroke; she slurred her words, she had trouble understanding people who spoke too quickly or all at once. She wouldn’t admit it, but her vision had been affected as well, and she frequently mistook people for objects and objects for people when she wasn’t at a party and pretending she was drunk. Her sister, Abilene, couldn’t run, or walk for long periods, and had to avoid stairs unless she could take them very slowly. It was supposed to be a secret, but her doctor told me that his best guess was that she’d had six more deaths in the first year of the Bliss and would be happier if she could just die now.
If you weren’t a dead man walking though, the Bliss had its moments. The feeling of permanent happiness that seemed to come just from breathing made life much easier. People didn’t argue much, or get into fights. People helped each other out more, and made more concessions for each other. They looked after animals better, and worried more about what they were eating (though that might have been because you didn’t want your food waking up while you were eating it). Even those of us trapped in the Landsinger colony with a pair of undead sisters imposing their will on us were happier than we had been.
The artists still wanted to leave though.