The headache began minutes after S. heard the last thunderclap, just the one that had sounded as if the remains of volcanic rock upon which the city had been built were adjusting themselves, preparing to awaken once more transfigured into caramel material of incandescent glass.
The silence of the end of the world did not allow them to open their eyes, even though their solar connector had activated almost six hours ago. There was a noise interference that diminished the elasticity of the golden body, rooting it to a black coral reef, on whose points ceaselessly vibrated the luminosity of an abyssal voice whose nature, as much as they tried to associate it with some earthly element, was unrecognizable.
It was not the first time that this type of interference slipped into the suprasensory liquid that the dispatcher provided every 8 hours. S. had detected it since they tried to decrease the dosage, provoking a short circuit upon inserting the point of their inked nib pen in the metal entrance of the apparatus, but the only thing they achieved was concentrating the liquid in the first three milliliters of the conductive hose, in such a way that, upon going through the venous branches of their thigh, the density of their blood caused an electric shock so sharp and intense that it made them perceive a luminous aura on every object of a phosphoric nature around them.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
////: Day 8
The-wor-st-fe-ar-ed-is-re-born with the bubbling of the dream The worst feared? Wouldn’t it be, better said [they enjoyed saying], the most feared?
[questioning themselves taking advantage of the vulnerability of consciousness was another one of their fascinations]
No. No, no, no, let’s see: the worst feared, it means [they said] that which is feared improperly ... So, if that which one should not fear stands out among all of the shadows —even those that are hidden beneath the obscene tongues of those shoes— if I begin to shut my eyes abandoning myself to the elastic languor with which The Supreme Sleep reveals itself in my body ... I would neglect my surveillance site at the defensive wall that this operating room // waiting room // crystallized cryogenic capsule // and I // have constructed over 12 days to defend ourselves from the walking pieces ... and ... so ... if my eyes begin to succumb to the heaviness with which the cold leaps over the eyelashes to close them ... my body would lose the uncontainable state of
Alert »°tachycardia°burning pulsation in the head°tachycardia°« which we have designed to recognize the beings cloaked in purple amber when they arrive carrying—with the help of two metal tentacles at the extreme left and extreme right of its indecipherable body—enormous containers of steel beetles which, upon varying the intensity of the light that the lamps direct toward them, change, subtly, almost imperceptibly, in porosity, in texture, in outline and look like—or they want us to think that they look like—pieces of flesh in the shape of a leg adhered to a foot from which IN REALITY hang small groups of viscous cocoons riddled with ocular thorns ... and they come, they approach hidden toward our exposed flesh, that flesh which we allow to be cut in exchange for silence and kan/trahc ... ah ... if the heaviness weren’t so sweet ... if the muscles tried harder not to give in ... that is what, well understood, is the worst feared...
///: Day 13
The isolation increases intolerance. 90 milligrams of contraximoxin and I can feel the gaseous particle that slips in with the moss that grows at a caterpillar’s pace in the crack in the wall, which, like a crumbling piece of stale bread, supports the window and its rusty electrified iron bars.
In the grassy island that floats over the opposite bench, various quadrupeds frolic. From their skin hangs fur of diverse colors, thicknesses and lengths. Some drool with impertinence. Others absorb—in a never-ending act that demonstrates their mechanical nature—the drool, with a cloth that they squeeze over the dry pasture that sur- rounds them. From among them stands out one whose animality reflected in the obsession with polishing every part of its body with its tongue, exasperates my nausea: the exasperation consists in the transfigurations to which this phosphoric hybrid must subject itself in order to execute its task successfully, as its tongue is so short and its body long and voluminous, that at moments it practices forward rolls and postures with which it seems to want to break its own neck, a leg or its coccyx. If at least its movement were less desperate and the expression in its eyes less human ... I could forget the automatic link that my brain makes upon connecting with the image, and control the nausea upon ceasing to recognize in that face my own, or that of all of those who frolic prostrated at my side. Upon seeing them / seeing myself, returns, like the flight of a boomerang, the daily question: What was it that incited the desire to submit myself to the deranged foolishness of manufacturing a phosphoric meat?
Ah! How could I forget the brief seduction that message produced in my bones!
If you, kind taxpayer, consider some part of your body a nuisance, a useless waste of space, an attack on the aesthetic logistics of our overpopulated community, and you don’t know how to remedy this terrible moral burden, worry no more: let us know which arm, which leg, which vertebrae, which bone or any old organ you’re not using anymore, and here we will exchange it for phosphoric meat:
The Energy of the Future!
I read the message exactly eight times in search of a secret code or deceptive offer before providing my information to the machine that attended pleasantly to my telephone call:
1. I would sign a contract.
2. Someone would explain the surgical process to me.
3. I would stay in observation for 18 days to ensure that the surplus body part would adapt to the process of manufacturing phosphoric meat.
3a. My presence during the Post Process, would be a precautionary measure in case they needed fresh portions of tissue, blood, DNA, various types of biopsies and even samples of gastric juice and bile waste, because of which I would not be able to leave the hospital until the exchange finished successfully ...
But, would it be worth such docility to experience assisted automutilation? Ah, most definitely! In exchange I would receive kan/trahc, endless supplies of that substance which activated the subtle perception of the ear to return to it the sweet and complicated function of discovering, defining, distinguishing sounds ...
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
In spite of the catatonic mechanization provoked by the depressing crisis that each and every human being lived due to the annulment of the acquisitive value of everything that surrounded them; in spite of the fact that nothing could be bought because money had lost all of its value and people acquired what they needed through exchange—thereby losing the compulsion to buy in the middle of an economic boom to a point so utopian that it had been disastrous; despite the fact that the governments of every society took great pains to keep the population distracted with vast quantities of images and audios superimposed one on top of another, S. still remembered what had been valued most before, long before: they were anxious to recover the placidity it brought them to hear sounds in distinct frequencies or outputs, and not in an
agglomerated mass of advertisements/welfare that was indecipherable, incomprehensible and that brought little more than bewilderment and the need to do everything in the fastest way possible to return and shut yourself in at home, to wait, in a silence clouded by endless echoes, for the next day to arrive.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
////: Day 15
If I had for sure what they advertised in that message, I could predict that within three days I’ll be ready to leave this place. However nothing that I expected to occur has happened, save the filtration of that white noise that is becoming defined little by little in a voice that seems to not tire of playing with the tonalities, the subtleties, the thicknesses that it can achieve, in the human, in the buccopharyngealthoracic apparatus when the air pierces through it ... And I can only hear that voice when I am provided a new dose of a certain luminescent liquid that robs my strength, consciousness and the willpower to impede the taking of a new piece of meat, either from some extremity or one of the organs which, although until now they haven’t turned out to be so “vital” ... I don’t know exactly which ones they are ... Maybe this is kan/trahc? ... What to do? ... The weakness has me adhered to the metal of this which seems more like a dissection table than a stretcher ... I can’t ... even sit up to see ... which body parts I still have ... not to mention feeling anything: the cold: the liquid: the immobility: the numbness ... white noise ... sensitive dyslexia ... the sound of blood in my brain ... black noise ... forest of black arteries ... of neurons ... of black leaves ... oh ... gravity shifting in my tongue ... oh ... shif...ting... at least... at most? ... at...most...I can still ... put together ... co he et...current...co he rent frak... frag...ments of...men...tal...ta...id... ideo...g...r...a...m...s...
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
But the third day never came.
Translated by Adrian Demopulos
Note: this short story was published in the book Habitantes del aire caníbal [Inhabitants of the cannibal air], Editorial
Resistencia, México, 2017.
Iliana Vargas was born on April 18, 1978 in Mexico City. She studied Spanish Language and Literatures at UNAM, where she participated in the Literatura Fantástica program coordinated by Ana María Morales, and where she also co-organized the Multidisciplinary Conference on the Fantastic in 2001. She has worked in various areas of the editorial world and has given workshops in several Escuelas Normales in Mexico. She has collaborated with literary and cultural publications like Asfáltica, Axxón (Argentina), Blanco Móvil, Cartón Piedra (Ecuador), Gaceta Cariátide. Brevedades literarias, Entremaresmagazine, Grietas. Pasquín Literario, Laberinto. Suplemento Cultural de Milenio Diario, La Hoja de Arena, La Rabia del Axólotl, Moria, Revista Cronopio. Ideas Libres y Diversas (Colombia), Página Salmón, Penumbria, Periplo (Spain), Punto de Partida, Registro, Revista eSpiral, Suplemento Tachas, Tierra Adentro and Vozed. Her work has been included in anthologies like Bella y brutal urbe. Narradores nacidos en la Ciudad de México de 1970 a 1989 (Édgar Omar Avilés, Editorial Resistencia, 2013), Penumbria. Año I. Antología de cuento fantástico (Miguel Antonio Lupián Soto, Ediciones Penumbria / KGB, 2013), Hic Svnt Dracones (Rodolfo J.M., Tierra Adentro, 2014), Emergencias. Cuentos mexicanos de jóvenes talentos (Alberto Chimal, Lectorum, 2015), La tienda de los sueños. Un siglo de cuento fantástico mexicano (Alberto Chimal, Ediciones SM, 2016), Latinoamérica en breve (Sergio Gaut vel Hartman, UAM, 2016), Territorio ficción. Antología de cuento joven (Alfredo Carrera y Víctor Solorio Reyes, SEP, 2017), Cuentistas de Tierra Adentro 2007-2017 (Secretaría de Cultura, 2017) and Lados B. Narrativa de alto riesgo (Mauricio Bares, Nitro/Press, 2018), among others.
Adrian Demopulos was born in Dallas, Texas. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with BAs in Spanish and communication. In the fall, she will be pursuing an MFA in Literary Translation at the University of Iowa. Her translations have appeared in Latin American Literature Today and in the anthology A Larger Reality: Speculative Fiction from the Bicultural Margins by The Mexicanx Initiative.
The eighth issue of Latin American Literature pays homage to Nicaraguan writer and politician Sergio Ramírez, winner of the 2017 Cervantes Prize and an important voice in a country currently gripped by crisis. We also feature poetry from Octavio Armand, as well as special sections dedicated to four indigenous writers of Mexico and Guatemala, bilingual sci-fi from Worldcon 76, and the poetry of Marosa di Giorgio, Olga Orozco, and Elena Garro.