lunes, 23 de junio de 2014

Holograms


Already lost in the maze of that implausible mansion, Vincent and Ava Fargo’s child, Frank, explored the rooms with the adventurous confidence a child can only get by putting himself in the fake shoes of whatever assortment of brave fantasy characters he has been spoon-fed in infancy. Saturated with freckles, with brown almond eyes exuding the glee of a constant sugar-rush, Frank opened and closed doors, taking less than a second to assimilate the contents inside those rooms weren’t of interest to his young imagination. His parents seemed so far away in another corner of the house that his impulse for mischief became urgent. On the inside of the hinges in one of the doors, he drew a little snake with an old green crayon he had been carrying in his pocket. He then smiled graciously; satisfied with the fact that he now had a tiny secret to keep from mom and dad.
            
“Vinnie, where do you want to keep your guns?” asked Ava, in the kitchen, as labeled boxes began to fill the entire first floor. Mr. Fargo shrugged and said he would take care of them later.
            
The couple took a break from unpacking and toured their new home in a virgin state. Deposits had been made and all the barriers of Bureaucracy trumped, all that was left now was making that bare edifice of gargantuan proportions their own. Trucks arrived with fragments of past lives and plastic-wrapped pieces that were to construct new ones. A couch here, the king-size bed there, careful with that, it was my grandma’s! A three-meter glass panel was carefully laid on a couple of baroque iron legs to make a grand dinner table in the center of a brightly sunlit room.
            
“Frankieeeeeeeee!” called Vincent, hoping in vain his echo would travel across the halls and alert his son. It must have died somewhere in the middle of its journey. The father sighed and set to look for Frank in the building, and Ava followed from behind, keeping one eye in the situation and another one in the incoming furniture.  
            
An open door at the end of an adjacent hallway instantly signaled the position of the child. Both mother and father crossed the threshold into the room and joined him as he stood in the center, contemplating in awe at the imposing dome that enclosed him. “Oh. This is exactly what we wanted to show you, puffin!” exclaimed Ava. Vincent traveled to a corner of the room and in front of a panel with buttons.
            
“That room we went into when we took you to that attraction park… uhm…”
            
“Funville?” Frank asked, his eyes glimmering with nice memories, before his father could untangle his speech.
            
“Look at this, son! It’s the first one of its kind in a private residence!” Vincent muttered in stately pride that statistic, which confused his child, ignorant of context and just curious about what stood above and in front of his eyes.
            
“Come on, Vinnie, turn it on!” cried Ava with excitement, metamorphosing herself into a creature no older or more mature than her offspring.

The touch of a few buttons transformed the world. Projections of light shoot from every angle and a vibrant luminescence engulfed the family of three into the sphere of a new existence. Sounds came to life, starting with an embryo of loud and indistinguishable electronic hums and branching into a complex orchestra of highs and lows. The spectrum of saturated wavelengths danced in the pupils of the youngster as his parents split their focus between expectancy for his reactions and their own senses being overcharged with a cavorting spectacle of sights and harmonies. Then the seemingly incoherent choreography of shades started organizing itself into recognizable patterns, at first blurry, then as sharp and defined as the eye could catch. The symphony dumbed down and only a subtle group of isolated sounds remained, synchronizing with the image. The light blue background was no longer a light blue background; it was a clear summer sky. The streaks of yellow and orange were no longer just streaks; they were wheat growing in a field. A couple of cumulous of deep, luscious green became trees in a distance. The sparks of black became the figures of birds acrobatically swinging around the forces of a very real wind, a wind that could actually be felt on the surface of the skin, messing around with hair and wrestling with timidly reclusive eyelids. And it could all be heard: the calls of the avian creatures crying for attention, the friction of the wheat straws touching one another subtly whispering in the background, and the gusts of frantically moving air shushing everything as they crashed against the bodies of the family. The house atop a hill in suburban Westport packed with boxes was but a recent memory, vanished for the time being from the totality of the existential plane.

“¿See that Frankie?” Asked Ava, anxious to shed light on that curious unfolding of audiovisual events “This is a Virtual Reality Dome. You control it through those buttons. You can program it to sync with the TV so you see what happens from here. We can call your friend Mitch and you can play here!” her voice tone became rushed as she became impatient to see a positive reaction come from her son. But he just gazed at her in a confused expression, then took a peek at the panel and slowly wandered towards it. Vincent gestured his wife to leave the room. Maybe Frankie would like to appreciate some privacy to play with that new, massive beast of a toy. “Call us if you need anything, Frankie!” And then, with the thump of a door, a little boy stood alone, accompanied only by his immeasurable imagination and a mighty tool to let it all come true.

Outside the house, in the dying forested hills that enclosed the wooden chalets of the quietly rich, a trail of footprints slithered among the white blanket of snow. Each one had been heavily engraved onto the ground by the soles of après-ski boots, carrying in their markings the weight of grief and vengeance. The night was closing in, and the moon arrived to witness that shady presence, to try and illuminate it and remove the shade of secretiveness that covered it.

But the moon could not. Even the silver glowing stroke of luminescence retreated fearfully at the sight of such menacing eyes; eyes that harassed the forest asking questions and demanding answers. They were the only part of his body that made contact with the frozen wind. The rest of him was covered in heavy layers of dark-colored fabric. A black wool scarf kept his breath warm. A hat, also black, hid his hair and kept it in place against the pestering wind. The gloves protected his precious hands against the rough surfaces of the forest and the aggressive sub-zero temperatures. On his left hand he held the semi-automatic pistol. Whatever he intended to do with that tool of death was left to the mercy of ambiguity. An ambiguity that could only shield his motives for so long as he approached the Bauhaus palace atop the hill that looked so out of place among the oversized suburban cottages of wood and stone.

He climbed the steep slope of slippery rock and found himself in a backyard. The translucent exoskeleton of crystal teased the private insides of the mansion. Every lit room in that place seemed completely devoid of activity, empty of furniture and desperately clamoring to be inhabited. His predator eyes scanned the windows until they were drawn by movement, like a snake to the thermal waves that radiate from a mouse. He focused on the far right corner of the first floor. It looked to be a kitchen. Among a pile of yet-to-be-distributed cardboard boxes, a couple faced each other, separated by an island; only a glass panel separated that fragile pair, blissfully covered from the snow inside their manufactured oasis, from the gun he squeezed in his frostbitten fingers, itching to set a hurricane of bullets free.

One foot in front of the other, he approached the window, but took a small detour as he detected a sliding door on the side he could use to enter the kitchen without being noticed. His footprints still burned in the snow as he crossed the backyard, his stealth tainted by a crippling impulse to slam full force into the house and wreak bloody havoc without any care in the world. But the infliction of death is a task that demands patience and poise.  The silence of an inert body, shut down for good as the essence of the person it supports vanishes in a blanket of perpetual nothing, is best appreciated in calmness. So he skipped not one step, and with a calm and assertive stroll found himself in front of the door, with his hand grabbing the handle, pulling it ever so lethally slowly.

Ava gawked at a TV screen with a sick expression. “I can’t believe they haven’t caught this psychopath.” She turned to her husband “He was last seen in Stanford. He wouldn’t come here… right? Vincent …” words struggled to surface from the mouth before drowning in her own paranoid thoughts.

Vincent was indeed about to calm his wife, about to dismiss her fearful rhetoric with a condescending micro-speech about the very slim, pretty much non-existent chances of serial killer just wandering into their address and turning them into corpses. “Plus, remember your dear husband has a collection of guns and is not afraid to use it” he would say in a vague attempt to cement his position as the alpha male against a hypothetical murderer who would stand right there in front of them, provocatively exhibiting whatever his weapon of choice was. Then, a startling bang, and Vincent lay in the cold linoleum, the lead lodged into his head, a waterfall of red flowing from the top of his scalp.

Pulses of heat ran through Ava’s veins as she, with a shriek of horror, dashed out of the kitchen, chased by a surge of broken glass caused by two failed shots the killer tried to take at her.

The predator did not, for one second, lose his temper. One foot in front of the other, he followed the distressed housewife onto the living room, his boots spreading on the spotless tiles the partially molten snow that had accumulated on his soles. The game of cat and mouse was on.

His eyes veered swiftly from corner to corner, lurking for even the tiniest flicker of movement, even the most minute shadow changing its place by a millimeter. A mortal silence filled the space as the air became heavier. 

Drops of sweat became rainfall; the sound of breathing became a deafening vacuum cleaner and the hands on a clock lay still. The universe held its breath, everything waiting for that lethal catalyst to begin pulsating again.  

Then again, one foot in front of the other, as a shivering pair of fingers teasingly allowed itself to be seen from the side of the couch. “Crack” screamed the floor of wooden boards, and for a moment, as Ava desperately got up and tried to sprint to safety, it seemed almost as if the universe had resumed its run.

And then a second bang ended it all in fiery red and a full stop of quietness. The woman’s body laid head down in a growing puddle of crimson liquid, the fingers at the end of her stretched arms twitching a couple of times, as if trying to hold on to mortality, before succumbing to the ultimate sleep. And yet again, one foot in front of the other, now towards another distant corner of the house.

Frankie could hear the steps from outside; the rhythm became progressively more frantic and hurried. His exaggerated mind of tan archetypal child sensed the danger and set to run towards a fictional safety, before realizing his body was between the only entrance door and a spherical dead end.

The door swerved open and a beam of incandescent light penetrated the dark dome. The silhouette was larger than life and paralyzed the infant in fright.

“Is everything alright sweetie? I heard some loud noises!”

Frankie quickly pressed the button on the remote control to shut the system off, and as Ava walked towards him her face became a frown of disgust and shock as she caught the last glimpse of her bleeding body stuck to the ground by the forces of lifelessness, before it dissolved into particles of virtual light. Frankie hid the semi-automatic pistol he had stolen from his father’s labeled box and welcomed his mother with a shivering smile. 

miércoles, 18 de junio de 2014

Rythm


I lounged by the pool. A depression-fueled gravity pulled me into the plastic chair and the gentle caress of the wind massaged my body, trying to wipe some of the heavy grief that had accumulated inside me. A heavy blanket of gray coated the sky, announcing rainfall that would prove murderous for the occasion, but that didn’t stop the hotel guests from making that space their own – regular people who, sunk in the context of the humid jungle, had their heads inside a dream.

The sounds travelled to my ear guided by the copper strings. The gentle, tickle-inducing vibration of the basses, the powerful thump of the drums, vocals of all pitches racing into my eardrums and slamming full force into the brain.

I saw birds gliding across the clouds majestically, flickering around the shadow of the hidden sun like oversized moths nearby a giant, cosmic light bulb. People moved. My ears sealed off to their activities, all I could see where their silhouettes diving into the water and launching waves of translucent water into the air, their lips moving, the old ones walking around with rainbow colored drinks on their hands, the young ones in riveting frenzy in and around the liquid mirage.

Suddenly the world became particles, a trillion tiny units in movement and interaction. A gust of wind made some palm trees dance in a corner in my pupils. In another corner, a soaked couple shared a tender kiss poolside, their atoms fused into one giant cluster. Droplets of water flew all over the place, hurled into the sky by the reverberations caused by those swimming below.

Everything was movement, everything was color: the lush greens of the wilderness bordering my sight, the rusty red of bricks, the glistening turquoise in the center of everything, moving spots of all hues of the spectrum - those same hues that had become so fashionable in the threads of swimwear. The gray of the sky dominated the top corner of my corneas, its sameness interrupted by swerving black dots. Those black dots were birds. Tiny as they seemed, the entire world must have seemed minuscule to their perception, and their colors thousands of times more densely packed than mine.

As I became more absorbed in the continuum of a reality that had been stripped of all sheer meaning and became nothing but a mass of sensations, those movements - those alterations in the particles, started to lose their randomness. A loud sequence of drums in my ear synchronized perfectly with yet another human bomb sending a huge cloud of H2O over the boarders of the pool. A soft piano stroking my temporal lobe accompanied palm trees’ soft ballet as guided by the breeze. A lenient harp seemed to trigger the movements of the birds, who changed directions and made stunts in the air as G turned into D. Energetic children running through fast choruses, sluggish elders sitting in their chairs through the stance of harmonic bridges. Groups of people retreating as one song finished, other groups of people arriving at the scene as another one commenced.

Sound and sight became one, and my body became the mezzanine that looked towards the spectacle in awe. Ballads, pop songs, hard rock, operatic grandness and subtle harmonies all gave the world different, equally perfect moods.

Every single rhythm fit into that giant puzzle that burst with livelihood.

Every tint, every movement, every fragment of existence was amplified by the decibels that took over my body, possessed me, allowed me to float while still chained to the floor.

Every part of me became just another set of particles, dancing, partying and wobbling to the melody.

Every corporeal hurdle was left behind as I let my mind dance.

And then everything danced. And under the resonance of the tune inside my ears, everything became one flawless microcosm.

“Battery drained, shutting down” read a digitally rendered sign. There was the sound of silence. And I went back to being just a bored, depressed teenager lounging beside a hotel pool. 

Séance


La multitud de velas que escupen diminutas llamaradas hacia el cielorraso no alcanzan a iluminar el lúgubre ático. Me gusta así. Siempre me sentí cómodo en esta habitación de porquería, con sus estanterías repletas de ornamentos empolvados y textos arcaicos; con las vidas enteras de seres humanos entregadas a la naturaleza, contenidas en pilones de cajas que se consumen en un cóctel venenoso de moho y humedad; en compañía de los bichos que fabrican sus hogares de seda en los rincones más insólitos. Aquí, en el centro del pentagrama desprolijamente trazado con tiza blanca en la baldosa, me siento yo mismo. Está todo en su lugar, como todas las noches: El mazo de cartas de tarot, la copa de vino que me robé de la alacena, los caracteres de la “A” a la “Z”, del “0” al “9”, y el “Si” y el “No” escritos en tarjetas y ordenados minuciosamente, y el cuaderno donde documento todo. No, por supuesto que nunca se lo mostré a nadie. Y si tuviese a alguien a quien mostrarle estas cosas, no creo que estaría haciendo lo que hago. Los fantasmas son más amigables que las personas, me gusta repetirme a mí mismo.
          
          A fin de cuentas lo hice. Nunca pensé que me animaría; pero aquí estoy, mirando lo que solía ser mi cuerpo, brutalmente perforado en la frente por un proyectil de plomo, descansando al lado del revólver. No siento nada. Veo las hojas de los árboles danzar, pero el viento no me pasa por el cuerpo. No registro mis propios pies en el frío pavimento. La leve llovizna que ha empezado a caer del cielo me atraviesa y las gotas se estrellan contra la calle justo debajo de mí. A medida que un grupo de mortales se abalanza con urgencia sobre mi inerte figura de carne y hueso, la confusión se adueña de mí. ¿Alguien puede verme? ¿Hay alguna presencia con la cual hacer contacto? ¡Que dé la cara cualquier espíritu que se encuentra en esta habitación! Hace dos horas que intento establecer comunicación, pero no hay señal de nada. Es como si las almas se estuviesen doblando de la risa en mi cara.

Rompí la copa en un acto de desesperación y tuve que escabullirme a buscar una nueva. No mama, no pasó nada, se me cayó un adorno, nada más; ese vaso de tequila que habías comprado en un lugar de suvenires de Acapulco, ni siquiera recordabas que lo teníamos. ¡No, no subas! ¡Ya limpié! Ella no puede ver esto. No lo entiende. Nadie lo entiende. Mi diálogo con el más allá es un enigma para todos los mortales ignorantes. ¿Están ahí? ¡Aquí estoy! Agito mis brazos, sacudo una rama que encuentro en las cercanías, pero aquel grupo de alegres camaradas agitando botellas de alguna burda mezcla casera no parecen percatarse. Compartimos espacio físico, pero su dimensión es un alegre prado de reunión, la mía un desolado páramo donde solo me platican mis propios pensamientos melancólicos.

En la penumbra de este frío crepúsculo invernal, ya uno más de varios que me ha tocado presenciar desde que abandoné el plano existencial, la soledad crece, el aislamiento persiste. Podría jurar que un gato me clavó la mirada ayer, pero admitirlo sería dejarle la puerta abierta al delirio. Ya han pasado un par de semanas desde que intenté hacer contacto. Creo haber perdido todas las esperanzas y lo único que me impulsa a probar una vez más es una sensación casi mecánica de rutina, como aquel hombre que se pierde por años en un ardiente desierto y cuando ya no puede despertarse cada día ilusionado con que aquel podría ser el día que fuese rescatado, se limita a seguir viviendo, simplemente porque no tiene nada que perder. Eso precisamente, se ha vuelto algo así como instintivo, subir al ático todas las noches después de mis padres conciliar el sueño, a tantear de vuelta con lo oculto bajo la tenue luz de la flama. Revolear la copa, juguetear con las cartas, ¿Quién está aquí, preséntese? Dibujar formas aleatorias en mi cuaderno, esperando con suerte ser poseído por algún demonio de trazos esquizofrénicos ¡En el nombre de Dios, da la cara, espectro! Nada. ¿Por qué no acuden a mí? ¿Qué más quieren? He entregado mi cuerpo y mi vida a ellos, cada día más, pero esperar hace de una alternativa antes drástica algo perfectamente viable.

Si mato a ese vagabundo su alma me hará compañía. Lo empujaría a la calle al pasar un auto, o lo noquearía con la rama de un árbol. ¡¿Pero qué estoy pensando?! No, no puedo condenar a otra alma a este turbio destino de eternidad taciturna. ¿Esto es para siempre? No puedo pensar otra cosa que en una existencia perpetua en este limbo de abandono. ¿Estaremos todos destinados a este horrible final? ¿O es acaso esto un castigo de Dios? Podría haberme arrojado a las abrasivas llamas del infierno, pero en cambio estoy aquí, expuesto a un frío punzante que ni siquiera siento. No hay nada que desearía más que sufrir este frío, que sentir mi gélida piel buscando calor, que sentir la presencia de otros seres en esta vacía calle, que aquellas inmundas cartas pronuncien palabras y me muestren de una vez por todas que hay detrás de esta espantosa subsistencia, y me haga darme cuenta de que nunca tendría que haber cruzado al otro lado, ¡De que la vida es preciosa! ¡La vida no vale nada! En soledad es solo un viaje insignificante, en el que el pecho arde de impaciencia y desesperación por encontrar algo que nunca llega. El fuego de las velas se extingue poco a poco y con la llegada de otra madrugada el viento helado se esparce por los huecos de las ventanas, y yo espero. Espero algo que jamás se presentará. Cuando algo no viene a uno, el llamado de uno ir a buscarlo. Si tan solo supiese donde encontrarlo, si tan solo supiese como salir de esta horrible condición en la que yo mismo me metí al venderle mi vida entera al diablo por una chispa de impulsividad momentánea. El revólver de mi padre debe estar en el galpón del patio.

Infinity


         “Lester, are you afraid of god?”

Enterprise DXIII sailed the darkness with the serene grace of a colossal metal whale. The Solar System was but a little signal on the digital instrument panel. At this distance, home veered dangerously close to the corners of an insignificance so significant that rendered it inexistent. Lester occupied one of the front seats of the crowded hull, his middle-aged face marred with the scars of somnolence. Whatever nonsense Clinton muttered to him would be quickly dismissed from any profound thought, and given a scripted answer in return to satisfy his kind curiosity.

“Aren’t you tired of pushing that on me in a time and place where being a believer is not unlike…? I don’t know…” he took a little pause to massage his forehead and breathe “…being black in the 1950s or gay in the 1980s?”

Lester had spoken true words. Religion wasn’t illegal, prosecuted, or condemned in a sufficiently explicit form in late 21st century America, but a parasitic stigma had grown over it like a tumor over the years. A lifetime of kilometers away from Enterprise, in the minute turquoise marble, houses of worship lay abandoned by the state, people roamed the streets ashamed to have their crucifixes seen, and the occasional news of the stabbing of a preacher in some shoddy neighborhood didn’t raise enough eyebrows to impulse change in the name of martyrdom. In some states, new legislation to ban spiritual propaganda from selected forms of public view created turmoil in some communities but those proved to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

“I guess so. Maybe it’s me, seeing all these stars and lights in the horizon. Where no man…”. 

“Let me guess: where no man has ever gone?” Lester’s contralto voice overrode Clinton’s soft whispers “Yes, little guy, we are the first people to ever venture this far from planet Earth, and no thanks to no god. It is thanks to science… and budgets. God can’t promise you will return home, Houston can!”
“Ugh, cut it out, Lester.” Exclaimed Sofia with a voice that exhibited the symptoms of a dwindling patience 

“He’s just baffling Clint. You know we are fine with whatever you want to believe” she glared at Lester with a constabulary look.

“Yeah, sure we do!” added Lester with a synthetic enthusiasm and a roll of his eyes.

“It’s also so freaking funny how you keep naming Houston. Mission control hasn’t been there for years. 

“Yeah thanks to that negligent Libertarian scumbag in the Oval Office.” Lester tried to mask the conversation as one of his tantrums, but Sofia’s ability to inject playfulness into every dialogue switched his mouth into an inevitable smile. “Listen I grew up with Houston. I don’t care if we are receiving orders from damn Puerto Rico, I’m keeping Houston.” He claimed with a conviction that was outweighed by the casual, laugh-coated tone the chat had acquired.

“Of course you are, old chap” giggled the lady.

Clinton took a deep breath and stared at the window pane. The translucent panel at the front of the cabin was the only real sensory contact the spaceship’s crew had with the outer space. Elsewhere, information was delivered digitally to the multitude of screens via coordinates, numbers and percentages based on the readings of sensors and the other synthetic stalkers that allowed Enterprise to pretend being another sentient life form floating in the cosmic void. The several-billion-dollar contraption was about the size of an old passenger airliner. A stately craftsmanship made of an exaggerated number of layers of reinforced titanium and carbon fiber, equipped with an implausible number of emergency shutdowns, manual overrides and evacuation plans. It was an ode to safety, meant to shield those inside from whatever catastrophic concoctions the cruel heavens might hurl towards them.

Clinton began a silent prayer.

In his late thirties, but with the blooming face of a young, passionate child of wondrous nature, Clinton was surrounded by a realized version of what he dreamt as a child. From an early age, he saw God in the stars. No, he wasn’t a bible-thumper, as one too many people in his life had jokingly called him. He hadn’t even read most of the scriptures, for he didn’t care about the wars, and the sacrifices, and the punishments. His interest laid just those parts that inherently commanded righteousness to reveal itself. He had earmarked two verses of the Romans as his favorite:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

There was always this flaming passion in the chest of blissful Clinton when he observed the firmament. It was an impatient wish to fly there and experience it corporeally. Why would a Deity dangle such stunning creations in front of man’s eyes, only to have it placed in the realm of the untouchable? Who would He call, if anyone, for the privilege of playing among those bright beacons and whatever fantastical figures that surrounded them, from the ground crudely covered by the earth’s atmosphere? Even now, after years of the most rigorous education, an assortment of degrees, thousands of hours of experience (though not nearly as much as his shipmates), and the opportunity to participate in NASAs first manned flight out of the Solar System, Clinton felt he wasn’t as close to the works of his most admired artist as he would like.

“Why is there only one window on this thing?” he inquired with a quiet yet tragic dissatisfaction, like that of an older child that doesn’t receive what he wants for his birthday.

“We’ve gone through this, little guy…” Lester replied in a compassionate way that still struggled to shake off the patronizing tease.

“I know, I know, genius. They take up valuable space that is needed to fit the stuff that makes this thing fly and not explode. Isn’t that what you would say, grandpa?” interrupted the young man in fiery sarcasm, which only made his older comrade laugh. Lester playfully stroked Clinton’s head in return.

The crew of three sat in a small table and ate their freeze-dried delicacies from plastic containers. Corn chowder, tuna salad, and ham sandwiches on Rye bread had been crushed by the burden of zero-gravity, and the dozens of artificial processes that allowed them to stay edible didn’t make for the most gourmet of cuisines, but they sure were ways ahead of the purees in tubes of toothpaste that men in their positions swallowed during the first baby-steps into space more than a hundred years ago.

Dinner was a mostly peaceful affair. The trio commented on the news, as well as whatever silence-filler anecdotes could have happened to them in that time-lapse. Sofia went on and on about how NASA had arranged a video call with her granddaughter for her 6th birthday.

“Yeah, they told me today. On Wednesday I’ll have little Luana on my screen!” Liquid emotion poured in small amounts from her soaked pupils. “It’s been so long…”

Rugged Lester rested his palm on her shoulder and Clinton issued a warm smile.

“Wonder what it will be like when we come back.” Added Clinton “Everyone will be there. Three years will have passed. I miss my bed already!” he said as he pushed his head back in an act of yearning.

“Yeah, I know what you’re saying. I don’t want no TIME people in my house, no fancy parades, just gimme my wifey Marla, her fine stew and a nice movie.” Lester’s speech showed that years of education and training that created one of the finest examples of human being in the Agency were just bells and whistles over a very simple man, tough one whose exterior shell was rough, rather intimidating.

Just as the three occupants of Enterprise were cleaning up their waste, their perfectly programed environment was disrupted by a surge of instability. There was the trembling of the white lights, the spontaneous resetting of the screens in the cabin, and a subtle tremor whose subtlety was a million times amplified by sheer uncommonness.

Then, came another tremor.

Then, the lights started a confusing dance that oscillated frantically between life and death.

There was the sound of metal cringing. Then tiny sparkles that were the screams of copper strings snapping.
Lester held onto a pole on the wall, his body being brutally beaten by inertia as his feet struggled for balance. Both he and Clinton, who had been pushed into a seat by those same intrinsic ghosts of physics, stood completely muted, their faces wrinkling in complete shock, their brains switching to instinct-based survival as the crushing of their manufactured shell became more violent.

“What in the name of…?” shouted Sofia in commotion, before another quiver slammed her body to the ground. “Shit, put on your helmets!” she screamed as her limbs fought their way out of the floor

Time slowed down to a crisp as all the computerized systems of Enterprise succumbed to the pounding and the hull became pitch black. Debris cracked the precious hull with mercilessness and cracks let the void of space into the treasurable sanctuary that was explicitly built to keep it out. Glass shattered, aluminum deformed with dry thumps, and suddenly, with the blink of an eye, the spaceship had just become floating wreckage at the mercy of the cosmic vacuum, with three occupants still inside.

“Is everyone OK?!” called out Lester, now grasping to hold onto something solid. He had managed to reach for his helmet and his confused eyes scanned the place trying to construct a stable image out of the hundreds of sightings that had been flung into his unstable pupils. A jolt of relief relaxed his body momentarily as he saw Clinton, still grabbing onto the seat, helmet firmly secured to his head.

“What the hell was that?!” shrieked the younger man in horror, his limbs in a twitch so nervous that one could practically see the blood pumping full force inside his arteries.

“What do I know? Something hit us. Space debris or… or… yeah it must have been space debris” stammered old Lester, who, in his calm assertiveness strived to hide the rush of utter fear that was beginning to propagate inside his self like a poison. “Where’s Sofia?”

Clinton, blinking compulsively and pulling his body awkwardly as he tried to regain the self-control the shock had taken from him, crawled around the hull, grabbing onto whatever stable thing he could, in order to locate the woman. He found Sofia lying on the floor. Her helmet was on, although not tightly attached, and the most generous of often unforgiving chances had secured her elbow to the leg of the table. “Sofia!” yelled Clinton. There was a wholly urgent absence of response which prompted the man towards her. He saw a small puddle of blood. “Lester! She’s unconscious and bleeding!” But the sounds coming off Lester didn’t coincide with his. The older man was onto something else.

“Enterprise to San Jose, enterprise to San Jose. We’ve been hit! Enterprise to… Oh you motherfucker!” Lester’s rough voice roared with distress before turning to Clinton “We are cut off. The whole system has turned to shit” Whispered him as misery choked his anger and forced him to retreat into himself.

Clinton tried to reanimate Sofia. One, Two, Three. Twenty-six, Twenty-seven, Twenty-eight, Breathe again. Another thirty, another gasp of air. A prayer. Three more, words of spiritual charge rushing out of Clinton’s mouth as if he had his mind locked in making some sort of connection. Sofia’s eyes lazily opened as she carried the weight of her body like dried-up cement. “Good lord, woman, are you alright?” Questioned Lester as his partner took a heavy lungful of freedom and silently muttered “thank you” to the nothingness.
All Sofia could do was producing a doubtful nod as she found herself back in reality. Her body trembled. “Is it Wednesday? Did Luana call?! Please tell me she didn’t!” Her delusions startled her male counterparts, who placed her in a seated position and tightened her helmet.

“No, sweetie, Luana hasn’t called yet. Tell us about you. Can you breathe? Can you move?” Probed Clinton as he examined her injuries. “Oh shit. Look at this, Lester.” A visible frown powered by the deepest of frustrations surfaced in him as he took a peek at her small bag pack.

“Her oxygen supply… Damn it” exclaimed Lester at the sight of her punctured device. His eyes fixated down, as if he didn’t dare to raise his head and look at the mess that had piled up in front of him.

“Lester she won’t last for more than a couple of…!” Clinton’s body trembled; the notion of death clogged into his throat and couldn’t find a way to come out of his mouth. “Lester, man, is there a way to tell San Jose what happened here?!” Clinton was comfortable to hold doubt. At least doubt had a place for hope, unlike the thought of demise. The couple seconds before Lester could respond were filled with what seemed the closest thing possible to an ignorant bliss. Sure, they already knew, they were on their way on the fastest vehicles the Administration had at its disposal. Everything would be solved.

“The entire communication system on this thing is useless.” Lester’s words seemed fiery bullets bursting the bubble of optimism that had formed around Clinton’s stream of empty suppositions. “But I did send a distress signal from the emergency transponder. It’s not a sophisticated thing unfortunately. The thing could take… I don’t know… half a day to reach Earth from where we are”.

Clinton began a silent prayer.

The possession of the abstract forces that the young man summoned filled him with a serenity that was so out of touch with the situation it seemed to serve a cruel comedic purpose. Lester squinted at this sight, adopting a stance of reluctant acceptance.

“While you do your thing I’m gonna tend to the lady.” He procured, protruding his body across the inexistent gravity, he managed to reach the back of the cabin and retrieve a small bag of water. “You need hydration, Sofia.” He spoke to her in an almost fatherly manner, despite the woman being actually older than himself. The long wave of messy hair that had already started fading into a dull grey framed a rounded face in leathery, wrinkly skin of a smooth brown shade. Her perky Latino features conveyed the expression of a loving woman, even in the face of agony. Lester slipped the bag of water into her helmet and she strenuously sucked the protruding straw like it was the most titanic of chores.

Lester, Clinton and the remnants of a Sofia formerly equal to them in strength sat adrift in the emptiness. They rested on the floor, grabbing onto nearby fixtures to defy the vacuum’s intrinsic urge to send them floating onto infinity. There was nothing to go out to. Not even danger, just a vaguely distinguishable panorama of cosmic bodies that could only feed desperation to the eyes; eyes that could perceive their images, attached to bodies that would never reach their materiality.

Clinton looked to the stars. Closer than ever before, yet so dismally distant in only fueled his irritation. He came so far, risked his life and left everything behind, yet, everything looked the same. Stars were brighter, spots more colorful and even a shape or two could be distinguished. But it was still too far away. It was God, again, playfully teasing him with his compositions and inviting him to play in a childish manner, more provocative than ever. “You came so far. Come on, you can make it!”

But he wasn’t to. His body, his own self, as freely as it floated, still stood protected in heavy clothing and tied to a giant, decomposing shell going nowhere. His vision of the grandiosity was still only fed by a couple of holes of various sizes on the walls, and the frames where the windows used to be placed.

“Sofia… Answer me.” Demanded Lester. His keeping of her conscious and alive had become a game he had become too absorbed in. “Come on, Sofia. Tell me about your daughter, Tanya. Tell me about Luana! Come on. You will see her on Wednesday, on that screen, won’t you?!” A very sane Lester became content himself on the sight of these declarations, as if that little game he was playing to stimulate his wounded teammate was a signal that everything was fine.

“Yes. She’s so beautiful! The Administration said on Wednesday at 2pm terrestrial time they will put her on the line!” Sofia answered. The power in her voice had declined and all she could do now was whisper, only at times did her actual mature voice of tenor range show itself. “Tanya told me that when I went back home, I could move into her house and be with Luana… For as long… for as long as I want” Her eyes gleamed with hope at this last affirmation.

But Luana wouldn’t call. Wednesday had already passed in earth as they spoke; more than twenty-four hours had been thrown to the waste by disarray, and the screen that Lester pointed to, radiated a condemning white noise.

“Clinton. The transponder has stopped responding. We don’t know if there was any message.” Old Lester shoot those words out of his mouth like giant nails that lodged into a celestial coffin.

Young Clinton had been silent for hours. Every inch of his body craved to be transported to the home of his creator. “So. That’s nice. The signal might have still reached Earth. Maybe they have tracked us. Something in here must still be on.” His sanguinity seemed to Lester delusional. Best case scenario, Clinton was faking assurance. Worst case scenario, he actually believed that.

“Clinton…” started Lester, prepared to blow his partner’s cover of harmony.

“Before you say anything. Yes, there is an almost zero chance of that happening. But… honestly. Do you have something better to do? When there is nothing to do, let me tell you pal, you’re not better off crying about it. Just let time pass while you expect something. At the worst, it passes faster and you die sooner and happier.” The speech took Lester by surprise. He was used to being the patronizing one. But in this situation, where rationality and the ability to contain oneself was at best unnecessary, at worst hindering, Lester felt like a child in need of protection, of protection from a mind more out of touch with reality.

He thought about all those times as a young man he filmed videos of his friends, beating a young altar boy in a parking lot for claiming sex before marriage was immoral. Those videos were all the rage at some inner-city schools. He never actually beat anyone himself, but the sickly pleasure of watching bible thumpers getting what they deserved was hyped by his contribution. He took pride in it.

Lester was forced out of the past at the sight of Sofia choking. “Clinton! Help me out here! She can’t breathe!” He announced in desperation. Young Clinton propelled himself to the resting spot of his teammates, but all he could offer was his presence. Sofia had started spitting red. “What… Wha… Why is she doing this? Has she run out of oxygen?!” he inquired.

“Do I look like I know, little guy?! This seems like internal injury… come on, help me hold her head!” Lester responded, the anxiety and urgency made his coarse voice all that much terrifying when he yelled, like he was about to destroy something in confused madness. The way he said “little guy” this time turned a playful call into a threatening taunt.

Both men maneuvered around Sofia as she strived for gasps of scarce air. Finally, she seemed to cease the will to move, instead lying on the hull, still tied to the floor. She didn’t know a lot about death, but she pronounced the following words as if she knew they were going to be her last. “If you talk to Luana. Tell her I’m not available. Tell her “pupa” loves her and wishes her a happy birthday.” Her eyes then dried up of their former glorious soul. The glow that had accompanied her even in the deepest pits of sorrow was now dissolving in the vacuum, spreading out of what was now only a body.

Both Lester and Clinton remained frozen by disbelief. There were no tears. Just tremors. There was no grief, just confusion. This wasn’t their beloved teammate departing the world of the living, this was the most recent discordant event in a series of happenings that seemed to happen away from reality, a halt in time, that would soon end and everything would reset to its original position dominated by order.

Clinton began a silent prayer.

“Just. Stop. That. Bullshit!” Demanded Lester in abrupt rage. “Just. Stop. It!” This wasn’t Clinton’s jokingly mocking yet sympathetic older teammate. This was a monster. This was a man who was letting out deep, long-harbored hatred. Clinton was paralyzed in fear as the buff man spit flames of abhorrence in his direction. “You know why every day more churches are burned by angry mobs? You wanna know why the government has outlawed spiritual gatherings in public places?! You wanna know why religion is a taboo you can’t talk about with anyone but close friends?” Interrogated Lester, veering close to his young partner by the forces of nothingness. “It’s because of that bullshit, you imbecile! Your fucking colleague has just died. You are stranded in outer space without any certainty of returning home. And there you are. Instead of figuring out a course of action, you are talking to your imaginary friend! You are holding your buddy in a pedestal trying to make peace with him instead of reality. You people work for your god, you don’t give a shit about the rest! Trying to convince us that you are happier than everyone, when in fact, all you do is seal yourself off from all the shit you make other people go through, you selfish little bible-thumper. We are going to die. What are you going to do about it?!”

These last words resonated inside Clinton like a shockwave. Ignoring the beast that was onto him, only a meter or so away, he glanced once again at the Universe. Millions of little lights of different colors and shapes, sharing immensity so immense that even that word wouldn’t do it justice. Wasn’t this so much bigger than whatever Atlas could ever hold in his back! And now Clinton, no titan but a mere mortal had it at his fingertips. This was the closest he would ever get to the lights. And now, he was going to die, being eternally seduced by the spectacle that would leave him wanting more.

Without warning, Clinton opened the emergency door with an assertive grab and boosted himself to the border.

“What the fuck are you doing you psycho?!” Cried Lester in elemental fear.

“You’re right. We are going to die. And we need to do something about it. I’m not going to spend the last chunk of my time sitting in some dark hull until my oxygen runs out. I’m going there” he stared again at the black heavens “I’m running towards the stars. Think about it. This is the most basic freedom you will ever have. The freedom to die, Lester. Get out of that thing, and die out here, where no man has ever died before. It’s the best death there is, Les!”

And so Clinton jumped; his eyeballs humid with nervousness, but also a gigantic glee. No longer was God dangling his precious creations in front of him only to hide them in the realm of the untouchable. He was among them, and better yet, he was going to die among them, in the very house of his creator, in the void that lifted his body like a feather and made him levitate. Oh, what a pleasure to be free from the shackles of gravity, of oppressing reason, of the prison of safety!

Lester looked at him dazed. Emotion overcame the man as his colleague drifted farther apart. “Clinton!” He called out once again, as if making everything he could to not let go.

“Lester, are you afraid of God?!” Shouted Clinton from the distance.

Yes, he was afraid of God. But in the face of certain death, fear became excitement. It became a complement. And so Lester took the leap and jumped into the oblivion.  The millions of stars that surrounded the two men, who were wandering further apart each second, witnessed the most incredible transformation. Two human beings escaping their artificial containers, and leaving their humanity to become one with the universe. They would not be seen or heard from ever again by another person. Only by God, who welcomed them with open arms as the two men - minds tired, hearts fulfilled, glided towards an ever-increasing infinity, on their way to finally touching the lights.
                                                       

Ninety Million Suns

       

    The sun was up and brilliant, like ninety million suns that had been up and brilliant before it. Inside the sanctuary, the primate seemed to entertain itself carving symbols with a piece of charcoal on the floor. The zoo had just opened its doors that morning, yet another one after the grand 2788 reopening. The tender laughs and shouts of children running frantically across the golden, magical pathways of that manmade jungle of wonder became louder as the families came closer. Billions and billions of children piled up in front of the glass with their faces twisting in awe at the sight of such a funny looking ape.

“Mommy, look at him, he is watching me!” said an adorable little gal with a ponytail of gold and pink polka-dotted dress and the innocent beauty only a loving family could cultivate in a tiny human being.

“It sure is very similar to us. Do you think we humans might be related to them?” added the mother, heading her attention towards the guide that was standing beside her.

“Well, we have been trying to study it for a very long time. Remember this is the only specimen in captivity in the world. We’ve had biologists, science people, camera crews from all over the globe come to the San Diego zoo trying to get their time with it. This big guy has gone to hell and back in the name of science; practically every part of his body has been hooked to electrodes and poked with needles… there is just a point in which the animal needs to be left alone. But from what he have found they do have a very similar physiology, so a common ancestor is likely. Look at this thing. So primitive yet so perfect. Mother nature never ceases to amaze us…”

The flamboyant guide’s cheesy, mellow words about Darwinism and love for all of the earth’s species were a magnet for an ever increasing number of curious crowds. The same speech performed infinite times by an infinite number of guides to the sweetened ears of even more infinite spectators.

At this time, the animal started to emit sounds. A curiously complex play of the tongue and lips that constantly wowed the bystanders who pretended to have a conversation with it and portrayed the special moment on their hologram recorders. “He said Popcorn, mommy, he understands me!” the golden lassie exclaimed between cheerful giggles. Her mother looked at her with affectionate condescendence. “I’m sure it did, honey.”

Everyone had heard it. The ape had pronounced the word “Popcorn”. Surely, it wasn’t intentional, but the similarity between the word and the resonance that came from his mouth was staggering. Soon, little kids were firing a trillion little grenades of butter that flew over the glass to the insides of the cage, and the primate ran around with a mixture of bliss and fear-induced confusion as the salty meteors fell from the sky, some hitting him in the face.

“Minerva, don’t be a brat!” yelled the mother of the shiny girl in polka dots, as she snapped the popcorn bag from her daughter’s palms “You’re not supposed to be feeding the animals, now get it together!” – The girl’s face slowly morphed into a frustrated, wrinkly portrait of sadness, the kind of funny grief only a kid can exude when confronted with a trivial issue, as tears and a discomforting shriek emanated from her humid eyes. The mother escorted her out of the crowd in a forceful dash propelled by the most powerful of fuels: embarrassment. 

It was noon and the big monkey napped after a tiring morning of being a show. His glass cage sat almost empty of an audience except for the occasional bypassing families who pressed their face against the glass and immediately left in frustration upon the sight of the San Diego Zoo’s most fantastic attraction lounging behind a rock.

Everything in that land reeked of colors and sweetness. A gaudy Garden of Eden oversaturated with hues and joy: a cluster of balloons floating across the sky, the information screens projecting giant holograms that communicated the zoo’s calendar of tours and activities, the pathways of shining gold, the lush trees in sickly green, cartoonish carnival music and the voices of thousands of people culminating in an explosion of happy decibels, an occasional storm of confetti. The ape woke up from his nap to this sight. A million balloons, a billion mountains of candy firmly secured to the fingers of a trillion tiny humans.

The gruesomely magical grandness of that panorama contorted the ape’s expression into an overwhelmed frown. It took a dive in the small lake that was set up in the cage, meant to mimic its natural habitat, before covering itself with some loosely fitted pieces of fabric in a quietly mind-blowing display of shame, and collecting the little pieces of food that lay of the floor after the frenzy of the infant, Popcorn-launching madmen.

The Popcorn was hoarded compulsively before being eaten even more compulsively – and savagely. Whenever the maintenance people had tried to clean the cage and remove the dirty treats, the primate had gone into a raging fury. It almost killed one of the zookeepers once in an event of this nature, tackling and throwing blind punches in between terror-inducing screams. A dart of anesthetic was the miracle savior of the beaten worker.

“It can become scared so easily, poor thing. We let it have its cage the way he wants it and only step in to leave supplies and in case of a medical condition” was a phrase added to the default speech of the irritating guides who conveyed a psychotically adorable naivety in their voice.

“Through years of sickness and treatment we have actually discovered this guy reacts to medicine pretty much in a very similar way we humans do. Our organisms are so alike it’s simply mesmerizing” they were to add. The similarity between human and primate had been so exploited in their adoring cult towards the animal that it became almost a selling point to the marketing people at the property. “The newest missing link in human evolution is the newest addition to the San Diego zoo!” claimed news sources.

And along came the night. The moon was white and solemn, just like the ninety million moons that had been white and solemn before it. The ape entertained itself drawing symbols on the floor with the charcoal. Stripes, geometric figures, a crude circle that was probably meant to reproduce the glistening orb that had watched him from the sky ninety million times. It knew the world surrounding it. It, like many animals, marveled people with an intelligence that was child-like but incredibly sophisticated for one of the more unpolished creations of Mother Nature. It’s that patronizing, guilt-magnified admiration not unlike that one the fairer person felt for other shades of skin after slaughtering them and claiming dominion.  The ape slept in a confined quarter, like all the other creatures that shared that space, it had been, at some point, brought by force into that cheap knockoff of a paradise from its real home in a less perfect yet more authentic corner of planet Earth, and narrowed to a slice of ever insufficient space, with a tag displayed in front of him for the humans to read and pretend to understand it’s essence.

“UNKNOWN GENUS”

“OMNIVOROUS”

“MAMMAL”

“AROUND 130 POUNDS IN ADULTHOOD”

“VIRTUALLY EXTINCT”

It also had a knack for keeping mementos stolen from the zookeeper or thrown by the audience: a shiny plastic ring thrown by an over-excited child, an empty syringe that had, at some point, been used to put him to sleep, a zookeeper’s hat that it sometimes wore on its head in a playful manner. But his favorite toy was a small metal slab, of around five inches, with buttons on the side. How had it gotten the thing was a mystery, but the ape had seen some similar devices on the hands of the pervasive visitors. They projected holograms and sometimes the humans talked into them. But his was broken, the glass crushed. Still, just manipulating it around and playing with the buttons excited the animal to the point of ecstasy. It only touched it at night, when no one was around. The loss of such an item was one that the ape wouldn’t allow.

That day had seen more camera crews around its cage than usual. The electronic eyes of the recording guns stalking the primate like a predator, hungry for information, the reporters talking in mechanical voices with an objectification of everything around them that boarded the morbid, the air drones with the “InterstellarNewscast @ 7” logo landing in front of the glass to deliver make up and other stage props for the broadcast…

“Finally the day has arrived in which Bilbo, the unidentified simian that has been the star of the San Diego Zoo’s grand reopening, will be getting a partner. A new specimen was captured yesterday in an abandoned shack near the boarders of the now deserted Chicago and will be brought overnight to the San Diego Zoo, to be close to the only other member of its species.

The savage creature had apparently made this abandoned place its home. Perseus, it’s amazing how nature reclaims what people have left behind.

And, oh, I hear it is a female. The scientific community will certainly be itching to see Bilbo finally interacting with another one of its own, and most importantly, we could finally have a chance to see this exemplary animal reproduce. Back to you, Perseus!”

That was the image of the cyborg talking in the hologram projector, which was tuned to the broadcast – the zoo staff left it on at night for they knew Bilbo was stimulated by these images. Bilbo observed the screen, and at one point recognized an image of itself gazing at that very own perverted camera that had trailed him that afternoon. The creature’s facial muscles produced something that looked like a human smile.

“CLANK!” Yelled the door that connected the cage to an employee-only hallway – the cringe worthy echo of metal being forced into movement startled Bilbo, who rushed into hiding behind a rock, only to quickly come out and face every possible risk that sound could have meant in order to recover the little buttoned slab it had left behind. Three zookeepers placed the unconscious female on the floor and removed her coverings. It sat there, completely naked and pure, just how nature intended.

Bilbo, in an almost nurturing manner, covered her with some fabric that lay around. That petite body needn’t to be exposed in such a crude manner. The male proceeded to poke its companion with a stick. Then a screeching sound, then a brutal contortion of the inanimate body, then Bilbo lay petrified on the floor at the mercy of its equally alarmed attacker. Then a look of utter shock. Then liberation from the teeth and nails of death. Then, an instinctive hug that welded the two bodies in a mutual blast of passionate caring. Then confusion, of the very worst and paralyzing kind.

“Stephen, where are we?”

The female muttered every single syllable of the question. Her speech was atrophied and rusted with years of proper communication, and this was only amplified by her stinging uncertainty.

“So long without seeing you, Alice. We don’t see each other since… since lab.” Responded the male. His brain had forgotten how to articulate sentences properly. The voice that came out was that of a scared child, someone with an inability to properly observe the world around him. The male did not once look at his new partner, eyes fixated on the scriptures that the charcoal, guided by the hand, had produced on the floor. “With charcoal I counting days since I got here. If not I forget easily. What year is it?” he continued to ask.

“Around the 28th century, I think” answered her. The speech coming out of that mouth was much more assertive, signaling a head that had fought much more effectively against the demons of cognitive deterioration. She then turned to herself and started inaudibly repeating the same couple of sentences over and over again, to the puzzled expression of Bilbo. “Alice McLaren, married, deployed in the military, volunteered in the Fountain of Youth Project just before cancellation, favorite movie is The Shining and love all kinds of pasta” “Alice McLaren, married, deployed in the military, volunteered in the Fountain of Youth Project just before cancellation, favorite movie is The Shining and love all kinds of pasta” “Alice McLaren, married, deployed in the military, volunteered in the Fountain of Youth Project just before cancellation, favorite movie is The Shining and love all kinds of pasta”. Thirty times this happened, each time more frantic and desperate, as if she was trying to hold on to herself by repeating this. Finally, she broke her schizophrenic trance and welcomed the sensations of the world into her body again.

“Fountain of Youth. We only two, ever… right?” questioned Bilbo. “Is that why we are this way?” The latest of the ninety million moons illuminated the cage with a white caress as it became bloated with curiosity.

“Immortality. Only we achieve it. Project is shut off right after experimentation step…”

“You remember anything, from ever?”

At this moment melancholy seemed to stem from every pore of her skin. “I stop remembering after two hundred. After that, survive here, survive there. Wasn’t I in Chicago?” she looked at her hands, as if trying to memorize what she had done with them a couple dozen hours earlier, which to her neurons saturated with time, were only moments. “Chicago was nuked, you know?” Bilbo stared at her with bewildered eyes of someone who has just heard something that doesn’t fit with the rest of reality. She picked up that look and held on to it, as if she had predicted it “Yes. Saddest thing is we alive when it happened. We maybe were there at the moment it happened. And yet you won’t remember it. Your name is Stephen, by the way”.

At that moment, steps were heard on the golden pathway, which now wasn’t gold but blended in a blue shade with the rest of the night, and a silhouette roamed the area carrying a levitating cart full of supplies for the cages. The zookeeper had greyish skin, disproportionally huge head dominated by black orbs for eyes, like those of a fly, each extremity having four fingers, an almost stick-like figure dressed in San Diego Zoo’s new fashion-forward fluorescent uniforms. He ran spastically and turned left in a corner, to disappear from the cage’s range of sight, dropping a bag of fish that must had been meant for one of the bigger inhabitants of the aquarium.

“I hate those things. Want to smash them all” exclaimed Alice in a wave of silent fury, her curly red hair evoking a demon fire with an appetite for destruction. But those weren’t things, they were people. They were what the world now called humans, their newest and most perfect itineration created by the formulaic natural rules of survival. “Time just made them… different. They talk funny, language not like ours. Only word we seem to share is Popcorn. They throw it to me, think I might be addicted but shush!” added Bilbo, with a mischievous smile as he gestured for silence, as if the addiction he had picked over a long time was his dirty little secret. “And now they think we’re primates” he finished that sentence with a hint of resignation, but it was mixed with a serene and optimistic understanding on how life worked, as if the male had nothing to lose, just keep living under the new rules destiny had set for him.

Both lay behind the rock, and Bilbo handed Alice his metal slab. She recognized it instantly and was filled with delight to see the remnants of her time... the time in which it was natural for her to be alive. And so, both fell asleep, under the foster of one of the ninety million moons, holding hands as if one was the last hope for the other in an existence that each second lost a tiny bit of its already dwindling meaning.

The sun was up and brilliant, just like the ninety million suns that had been up and brilliant before it. The millions of children, trillions of balloons, quadrillions and quintillions of smiles, pieces of cotillion and sweets, were all back one day more, to turn even more infinite. A multitude overran the front of the translucent cage, looking at the new, beautiful, red headed companion of the mysterious ape. “She’s even shier than he is!” “Come here, look at me!” “Oh look, she’s so perfect. Such wonderful animals.” “What name did the zoo give her? Puff, was it?” were phrases that came from the spectators in the close distance, in the newer languages of civilization that both Bilbo and Alice found indecipherable. A guide pushed his way across the crowd to change the sign in front of the cage, meant to reflect the newest discoveries that science had made of this mythical creatures. In the written language of the modern humans, it read:

“HOMO SAPIENS SAPIENS”

“OMNIVOROUS”

“MAMMAL”

“AROUND 130 POUNDS IN ADULTHOOD”

“VIRTUALLY EXTINCT”

The ominous significance of those letters, which were practically a death sentence, Bilbo and Alice didn’t care to read. Their lives weren’t to change anytime soon, but at least the newfound presence of the other made that eternal death a little happier.

“Talk them. They love it” whispered Bilbo in his ever more basic way of speaking. “Come on. Say Popcorn.”