The craving for the stage rests inside us all, Rémi says, entombed 'neath our feet. It grips and grapples, turning the strings of Fate to so tight a tautness that it is only time standing between the present tension and the imminent snap.

Before we die, he says, we must ensure that it rots and becomes once more terra firma.

I scoff.

To commit it to a life underground, I say, to imprison it without chance of reprieve, is to destroy one's sense of self, to single-handedly eliminate the pneumatic stay of execution. The soul withers and the corporeal entity persists, I say, as if that were a lofty aspiration, as if there were honor to be earned from the entrapment of mind; but no, I tell him, it is a loophole. It is a cathartic cop-out.

You may go ahead and slice your wrists, I say, but you will bleed no blood.

He squints at me, and his mouth curves toward the floor.

How then, he asks, would you suggest we exact exsanguination?