If you're a fan of losing sleep you may have stumbled (or Binged) an episode of two of Black Mirror. One of the most notable episodes involves a series of vignettes or short stories that chill the spine in unsuspecting ways. One of these stories was authored by the near overwhelmingly cerebral Penn Jillette.
The story is that of a man who enjoys pain . He experiments with a new medical technology and it backfires, turning him into a human-monster that feeds off of the pain of others. The story takes many dark twists, when we say he "gets off on pain", it is no joke. The story is horrifying, disgusting, uncomfortable and brilliant. Everything You would expect from half of the legendary duo.
The original short story that Penn wrote was apparently SO dark, that it went unpublished for years.
During that time, I got this idea for this short story called “the Pain Addict.” I was postulating a future where you could put a gizmo on your head and feel someone else’s pain. So there would be doctors whose whole job it was to feel pain and say “His left arm is broken. That’s not actually appendicitis, that’s a cancer thing.” They felt every pain. Like prizefighters and childbirth and child cancer. And this guy gets addicted to it and starts beating people to feel their pain. He also goes through S&M and all he wants to do is jack into Jesus on the cross. He wants to feel that pain. I wrote this story. It was the first story I wrote when I got a computer. When we did Penn and Teller’s first book, we had short stories in it. I submitted this and the editor said “That’s too dark.” I’ve been trying to find a place for this story, which I thought was really good. I tried to write a comic book and they said no. I pitched it as a movie and they said no. So I told Charlie Brooker all of this and he said “Oh, pain addict. That’s good.” He revealed in an episode of his Podcast.
Almost four decades after the conception the story was finally told, but what is Penn Trying to say?
Is it a startling attack of the socio economic caste system of the united states? Is it a harsh critique of the dangers of international warfare? A metaphor for love?
Honestly, we think Penn just wanted to make a dope story.