Life Without Breath: Is It The Human Soul Surviving – Or Just A Different Kind Of Death?

The Major sits in a darkening room. Wire serpents encircle her, curling, twisting; binding her. The flickering lights of computer screens refract off her shell in dancing prisms, making a mauve halo of her hair, a golden sunset glow of her skin. She is reclining, at ease entwined with her bonds, her weathered leather jacket slung carelessly over the arm of her chair. Still as a corpse, unblinking, her carmine eyes are fixed on the screen directly before her, as the other screens scattered about the room circulate their images in a near dizzying maelstrom. Locked intently into her dive, her mind in freefall, she can't see that she is watched. But he thinks she knows.

Her face in this trance is itself entrancing….. but painfully dismissive. And as always he's left wondering: What is her game? Is he a thief of this moment ... or does she know that he is near and not care? Is he a casually permitted spectator, disregarded; both trusted and denied?

This yearning for her is suffocating and still he can't stop. He wishes she would turn her blank face towards him and let him shatter her inertia. He's afraid for her; afraid that one day she won't come back; that with her next dive, she'll sink and drown.

She can't see that she is watched… but still she knows.

Her skin unheated by rushing blood, her body unmoved by a heartbeat.

Dead by so many definitions, yet still so tenaciously alive.

In this state she seems remote, unreachable, enshrouded by her snaking cables; her arrayed coils of information … the empty eye of this storm of rushing, pulsing knowledge; computer files, cyber chatter, words as vivid blue lights; and thousands of voices slam into her brain, like an eternally shuffling deck of cards.

He hates to see her take leave of herself so carelessly, hates her absence. Because what is left here with him? A shell and nothing more. The standard, mass produced model, which with or without her, remains a seamless mask, with no variations from the same robotic body so many others use; no scars or age; the stories inside her erased when they touch the surface. And if she were to die, or to simply let go and disappear, that shell would tell him nothing.

And he would never know … Who was she?

How can he ever know, while she is content to stay the lone wolf, the nomad, standing apart? But he remains with her: the faithful shadow. He keeps pace with her and hoards the moments when she shows her humanity, in her quick flares of humour, her phosphorescent temper. Or when she says his name in that hard, beguiling voice of hers; always with the surprise that he's still here, though he never left. Sometimes she lets him in, the armour dissolving as if it was never there, her ghost shimmering on the surface for a few precious seconds before she pulls it back behind locked doors. Sometimes she lets him be so near to her, so close. Then it's like flying: the kind of flying you don't know is falling till you hit the ground.

It's never close enough.

Lost in his thoughts, Batou starts slightly at a cacophony of clicks, as all the screens shut off, and looks down before him at a denser shadow in the new darkness. She's talking to him, his major; back from the tempest and brisk again, giving him his orders.

He wants to say screw it, and tell her; I love you. But trying to keep her is like trying to hold on to sand; the tighter he grips the faster she slips through his hands.

And once again he's too late - She's already moved past him and out the door.

Once again she's gone …