©Vasco Costa, Land scape ground, 2020 www.vascocosta.info
Translated by Theo Bradford
Edited by Rahul Bery
In the blink of an eye, the television talked of nothing else. All the channels were focussed on a single issue, the most important of all humanity, perhaps, with panels where leading experts on the pandemic sat shoulder to shoulder, armed with their worn-out opinions, repeated so many times over the years. They seemed oblivious to the fact that, some distance away, people were mummifying in front of the screen, leaving their children unfed, with their nerves in shreds and little patience for the white noise of worldviews, in a contagion of apathy and silence that had succeeded in making even time stand still in a stagnant present.
It had been impossible to contain the news, the big announcement that the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic were going to make on live television. All it took was one person to leak the information, most likely someone from within the government, for all the channels to anticipate the official announcement and, in unison, inform the public that, according to a reliable source, a cure for the pandemic had finally been found.
After receiving a phone call from her mother, who was overcome with tears of joy and blissfully unaware that her daughter had spent years buried in an underground cave perfecting Professor Cacilda’s machine, Teresa randomly flicked on a channel to listen to the news as if she were hearing it for the first time.
The presenter was cautious. No wonder! After so many fake news stories, so many false announcements about the discovery of a cure, so many quack doctors spurring public opinion, the media wanted to be ready this time. All the questions began with “if it is true that they have discovered a cure…”
Teresa was listening to some of the so-called specialists, unable to contain a mischievous smile, the same one she had as she opened up Tinder, when she jumped at the sound of her mobile phone in one of the pockets of the baggy jeans that she liked to wear around the house. It was the government. No surprise there. She was to report to the Crisis Room, where she had been so many times before to tediously explain how her research was going.
As she waited for nightfall, she chatted on the phone to distant friends and libidinous lovers, somewhat disconnected from the world, from that wretched space beyond her physical desire.
On entering the Crisis Room, she was greeted with gloomy countenances and a heavy silence, much to her astonishment. She had imagined she would be received with champagne and rejoicing, that she would be ushered from room to room, with pats on the back and smiles all around. Instead, the Head of Government was sat on his own, wringing his hands, dwelling on unsatisfactory scenarios while he waited for the President of the Republic to free himself from the journalists who were trying to force a statement out of him, right there on his doorstep.
On a piece of paper, the Prime Minister had just one note, handwritten and struck out, which read: “This is mankind’s greatest discovery after penicillin.” He crossed out his first idea not because of audacity or exaggeration, but because he didn’t have any others.
Teresa could see what was going on, from the way he was looking at the mundane objects around him, his angst and weariness. Those lifeless eyes, his lack of confidence and the tell-tale signs of insomnia on his face betrayed his fear of not knowing what to do from that day forward. How would people return to human life and former ways of being, when so many of them had only ever experienced the darkness of caves and the artificial light of screens?
Carlos Campaniço was born in Safara, in the municipality of Moura. He has a degree in Modern Languages and Literature and an MA in Arabic and Islamic Cultures and the Mediterranean. His historical novels have focused on the lives of rural communities in the Alentejo, the stratified society of the period, and the collective imaginary. His novel Os Demónios de Álvaro Cobra was awarded the Prémio Literário Cidade de Almada in 2012, while Mal Nascer was shortlisted for the Prémio LeYa in 2013, and awarded the Prémio Literário Mais Literatura by Mais Alentejo magazine in 2014. His books are published by Casa das Letras (LeYa).
Theo Bradford is a translator from Portuguese and Spanish into English. She works primarily with art galleries and cultural institutions but also has a background in developmental studies and volunteers for a number of environmental and social justice publications. She has travelled all over Latin America and lived for several years in Brazil and El Salvador. She is currently based in the southwest of England.
(video production by Gabriela Ruivo)
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