©Ana Vidigal, Afterword: a vida é um soco no estômago, 2020, Téc. mista s/ tela, 30 X 25 cm anavidigal.blogspot.com
Translated by Isobel Foxford
Edited by Sarah Jacobs
Reboredo didn’t drink coffee during working hours or on home visits. As much as the success of his performances depended on exaggeration and deceit, there was a script to follow, well-established rules, a whole sacred manual which graduates of the Institute swore to abide by during the closing ceremony of the course. Verse One of Chapter One: “The Decontamination Institute is, in actual fact, the Institute for the Contamination of Fear.” Verse Eleven of Chapter Eight: “During home visits, Institute messengers will not accept food or drink at the risk of empathising with their subjects.”
There was a flash of recognition across Teresa’s face, as though she’d seen Reboredo before. He declined her offer of coffee and, with his back to her, packed away the trappings of his circus act. With the Fearvirus planted in yet another home, he continued to the next stop on a route determined by the Algorithm of Obedience and Loyalty: the great revelation of the century, the conclusive prophecy which would save man from deception. Only the ideologically perverse, Reboredo believed, could deny such a great civilisational leap. Only the wretched, the obstinate and the ill-willed could dismiss the discovery that would save us from error’s plight. Even Christ on the cross and intravenous penicillin had done less for humanity.
Everyday when he arrived home, after a twelve-hour shift on his motorbike, conveying fear to people’s homes, Reboredo would put on the audio version of the Institute’s Protocol Manual. As he removed his prosthetic limb and chose a packet of frozen food for dinner, he would recite the verses from memory, reaching a state of detachedness that stopped him thinking about the accident, the months spent in hospital, the universe (that crook) which had taken an arm, a wife and eleven years of sobriety away from him. If he had a beer now, he’d want a whiskey, which would spark the desire for something stronger, more euphoric and destructive until, a few days later, Reboredo would find himself alone in a motel room, arm in arm (just one arm, in his case) with another existential end-of-the-world crisis.
The Institute for the Contamination of Fear recruited a lot of ex-addicts as messengers. The most talented of them — Reboredo had featured in the student ‘hall of fame’ — always had something of St Thomas Aquinas about them, that fury which converted the corrupt into saints in the blink of an eye. Reboredo too had become a pilgrim, travelling the path from subjugation to something greater. The Algorithm of Obedience and Loyalty was tantalisingly powerful, resolving complex problems with simple answers, carving away the existence between light and darkness, putting forward indisputable information with absolute faith and that, thought Reboredo, would be the end of History, the beginning of a new celestial order, the promised Heaven on Earth.
In the kitchen of his small apartment, the telephone rang and Teresa’s name appeared on the screen. Reboredo experienced the same terror he was supposed to disseminate on his daily rounds. A primal fear, a fear of past guilt, and something resurfaced in his conscience, a face, a place, a name: Teresa. Yes, he remembered Teresa, and he now knew that it wasn’t the first time they’d crossed paths.
In every fanatic’s heart lies certainty and rancour. In Reboredo’s heart, however, there was still doubt. Maybe this would be his emergency exit. Or his downfall. He pressed the green button on the telephone and:
(video production by Edite Queiroz)
Hugo Gonçalves (1976) is the author of the novels O Maior espectáculo do mundo, O coração dos homens, Enquanto Lisboa arde o Rio de Janeiro pega fogo, O caçador do Verão, and the collections of crónicas Fado, samba e beijos com língua and Postais dos trópicos. He is co-author and scriptwriter for the TV series País Irmão (RTP). He has written for numerous Portuguese publications in New York, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Filho da mãe (2019) is his latest novel.
Isobel Foxford was born in Manchester in 1995, and currently lives in London. She is a literary and academic translator working from Spanish and Portuguese into English. She studied languages at the University of Oxford, then went on to obtain a master’s degree in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia. She has lived and worked in Paraguay and Brazil, and her main interests are Brazilian and Portuguese-African fiction.
Listen to this chapter read by Ben Slack
Escape Goat is the twin page of Bode Inspiratório
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