CHAPTER 28 – During Reboredo’s soliloquy, the Professor returns, by Maria Manuel Viana

©João Ferro Martins, Compêndio #46, 2020, alfinete, pedra, 8 x 12 x 10 cm /

Translated by Dominic Gourd

Edited by Lin Falk van Rooyen

“He felt a nostalgia for the cave, for the time when Cacilda would take off her helmet and set it down on the lab bench, when they believed they would overcome this evil, that no one would regress or revert to walking on all fours, that thumbs would always be opposable (…)”

“Don’t you find it hard being here, without anyone knowing, as if you were to blame for this whole situation, waiting for a resurrection that might never happen?”

“What do you take me for? A scapegoat?”

“A goat, yes – a stray goat.”

“Not astray – escaped.”

“An escape goat, then. You and names… Poor Cacilda told me how for months you called her Isilda, Cremilda, Ilda, Hermenegilda, Matilda…”

“Well, whoever heard of anyone called Cacilda, for heaven’s sake? And if I’m here, half-dead, revived only by your secret visits, it is you women who are to blame, vehicles of transmission of this wretched virus…”

“Vehicles? Like bicycles you rode, you mean? If you didn’t think you were such a Don Juan, you might not have gone around snogging Cacilda, Teresa, Lúcia – who, silly girl, also got involved with Teresa, Valéria and Maria – and … I’ve lost track of who kissed who. With such an exchange of fluids, how did you expect humanity to survive?”

They never varied much, the conversations between Ricardo and his ex-wife, who faithfully visited him, perhaps in search of lost love, now so much easier to find since he was unable to go around seducing younger women, usually work colleagues to avoid wasting time on dinners, or money on flowers, or possibly a ring that might appear to some like an engagement or a promise ring, or whatever it was those blasted rings were called. He felt a nostalgia for the cave, for the time when Cacilda would take off her helmet and set it down on the lab bench, when they believed they would overcome this evil, that no one would regress or revert to walking on all fours, that thumbs would always be opposable, that there would be no more burials without the deceased’s loved ones being present, and he was moved to learn how the Programmed sang and laughed and cried, and how Teresa had found a dog with three puppies which, unlike during the Great Pandemic, the 19th, would not be shot or brutally beaten to death, nor poisoned or abandoned, malnourished and dying and thirsty, because no one believed anymore in the once sacred books which taught that dogs were evil and impure. And she, his ex-wife, told him what was happening out there in the real world, if real was the right word for it. She told him of the wars during the years of the Crisis, when humans took up war tourism, which would go on to become their favourite pastime, hunting down the infected, despite never being sure if they were or not, and how these warriors had later been honoured by a President of the Republic whom Ricardo had never set eyes upon. To call that apparition the President of the Republic was frankly an euphemism, for it had not been a Republic during the years when the military had come to power and held onto it for what seemed like an eternity until the Revolution, a different eternity from that of the Professor, who, his body preserved at extremely low temperatures, was able, by means of a system of virtual reality, to go on living after death, perhaps not exactly as he had imagined, but at least living a dream so close to reality that the two merged into one. Because he, yes he, had believed in cryogenics, had believed he could be a new Jory Miller, the boy who, aged fifteen, had died and been preserved, his brain activity so great that it had devoured others to survive, becoming ubiquitous, not in the world where the characters believed themselves to be, but in an illusory duplicate of time itself, in this so very Dickian dystopia, or like Ella Runciter’s husband, who went on seeing in his wife, twenty years dead, the bright blue eyes he had fallen in love with, although she no longer opened them, floating weightlessly in an unknown space somewhere in the System, close to the stars, kept half-alive in her glass coffin, enveloped in an icy mist, forever young and beautiful.

Read the original chapter in Portuguese

Maria Manuel Viana (Figueira da Foz, 1955) studied in Coimbra and taught Portuguese and French for 35 years. She managed the cultural department at the Câmara de Castelo Branco, was the local chair for the Ministry of Education and coordinator of the first Panel for Equality, protecting women and children from violence, a cause she has campaigned for since the 90s. She writes fiction and translates from French and Spanish.

©Pedro Teixeira Neves

Dominic Gourd is a translator and musician based in Santos, Brazil. His published translations include ‘The Silence of a Man Alone’, by Manuel Jorge Marmelo, in Best European Fiction 2015 (Dalkey Archive Press). His current musical projects include the alternative rock trio Pinprick and settings of Shakespeare’s sonnets for guitar and voice.

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