We would bleed from our eyes and mouths and assholes, and if any God was merciful we would die before splitting open like rotten fruit. (Blindsight 173)
The above line isn’t the most important in the story, but it was the most evocative for me. Most of this novel has been so dense that I’ve had to set it aside regularly, to come up for air. This was the first line that had me reeling, though. Do I think it’s the most important line in “Rorschach?” No. But when I had finished “Rorshach,” none of the other lines had created such an emotional reaction in me.
Why? At first I thought it was just the image of the human body being opened like rotten fruit. It’s like the difference we discussed in class about saliva versus spit; everyone but Sarasti is meat, to be hunted, coveted, devoured, but suddenly Watts has us thinking of our own organs as a thing to be rejected. When I had finished “Rorshach,” I still felt obligated to revisit this line. So many great one-liners resonated with the overall themes of the book- what was it about this line that had stuck with me?
Well, I thought, maybe it’s the passive voice. “We would bleed…” is a lot different than “We bled.” There’s a helplessness to it, and it echoes the helplessness the crew feels, sitting in Theseus. There’s also the sudden combination of the mouth and the anus- if science fiction is supposed to “cross boundaries,” this definitely did the trick. Anuses bleed. Mouths bleed. But to be bleeding from both at the same time, mixed with the image of your insides rotting, opening up… it’s a very violent image for such a passive, inevitable demise.
And it is inevitable. The fact that God’s only mercy here would not be salvation, but just a mercy killing, seals everything in this sentence with a chilling sense of resignation. Siri Keeton might be casually expressing fear, but in doing so, he’s provided another bone in the skeleton of this story: helplessness, abandonment, rejection, and a sickening sensation that the individual, the crew, and the human species are alive, but have already lost some aspect of themselves that gives that any worth or meaning. (For example, the value of sentience, which is discussed towards the very end of the section.)