CHAPTER 26 – Get the Hell Out, by Afonso Reis Cabral

©Luís Alegre, Disconnected Trees /

Translated by Iona Macintyre

Edited by Lin Falk van Rooyen

“And as if that wasn’t enough, the Network has installed fear software in the hope hardware, and you have no idea what to do. Maybe everything can be fixed by dipping into some poetry. “

Get out, Teresa. You watch Cacilda cradling Alberto – who’s having a meltdown while trying to process Reboredo’s laughter and this is the final straw. Something tight in your chest lets go, you take a step back, and a little thought flutters free: just get the hell out! What are you even doing here with these wannabe scientists and their teenage kicks in the first place? They don’t know the first thing about science, technique, or method. Do you really believe they give a damn about the common good? When you found your grandfather’s letter that day it became your touchstone, you qualified as a scientist and now you’re on your first work placement. The pay’s good, but no pay is worth this. You’ve only just started the job, and they’ve already slammed a multiverse helmet with multi-options for contagion scenarios on you. You’ve lived a lifetime in the helmet, and this lot can’t even manage to sequence the genome of a bed bug? There was no winner in their virus scenarios, like in that Rick and Morty episode ‘Roy: A Life well Lived’. What does that reference even mean? American popular culture died around 2050. They forced the helmet on you, you sucked it up, and yet you still have to put up with the bats? Has no one thought to go at those winged rats with a feather duster and a good dose of killer yeast? Has it occurred to anyone to just take a shotgun to them? A 12-gauge, 7.5 lead shot at 20m, and just flatten a whole bunch of ‘em. OK, maybe some bat would splatter on the roof of the cave. But you’re not the cleaning lady, you specialised in post-2020 micro-epidemiology at Queluz de Baixo, the MIT of Portugal. Take a few steps back Teresa, discreetly place your hand on the doorknob, in case you need to run. Look at our esteemed Professor Ricardo (he’s so not worthy of the name Rick) who has the face of a 1960s stamp collector and yaps like a small dog, although he hasn’t actually bitten you yet. And look at Cacilda, whose invention to save the planet looks suspiciously like some kind of household appliance. Oh Teresa, do you really think that woman can find a cure? She’s not getting any younger, plus you know from the helmet that Alzheimer’s will make its way into her brain. You’re well aware she’s showing the first symptoms. Just ask her what 2 + 2 is and see what she says. Don’t stick your neck out, Teresa: there’s a Bram Stokeresque mutant bedbug on the loose and it’s going to destroy daylight for everyone. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Network has installed fear software in the hope hardware, and you have no idea what to do. Maybe everything can be fixed by dipping into some poetry. Maybe an android will dream of electric sheep and R’s laughter will light up the world. But listen, Teresa: get the hell out. Just go! A little sunbathing would do you the world of good.

Read the original chapter in Portuguese

Afonso Reis Cabral was born in 1990. At 15, he published Condensação, his first poetry collection. He studied Portuguese and Lusophone Studies, before completing an MA in the same subject and a post-graduate degree in Creative Writing. In 2014, he was awarded the Prémio LeYa for the novel O Meu Irmão, which has also been published in Brazil, translated and published in Italy and is currently being translated into Spanish. In 2018, he published his second novel, Pão de Açúcar, which was awarded the Prémio Literário José Saramago – Fundação Círculo de Leitores in 2019. Between April and May, 2019, he walked along the 738.5 km EN 2, a road that runs from the far north of Portugal to the deep south, in the Algarve. The book Leva-me Contigo – Portugal a pé pela Estrada Nacional 2 was the result of this journey.

©Marta d’Orey

Iona Macintyre is a Senior Lecturer in the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She teaches on the MSc in Translation Studies and researches the circulation of translated non-fiction in nineteenth-century Latin America. A fledgling literary translator, Iona and her colleague Fiona Mackintosh translated The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (Charco Press, 2019) which has been shortlisted for the Booker International Prize 2020.

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