Chapter 30 – A Hundred Days for Every One, by Julieta Monginho

©Fernanda Fragateiro, A Poesia é, 2020 (modelo) /

Translated by Sophie Lewis

Edited by James Young

“Maria might not be dead, any more than she was in the phase we called simulation. Ricardo might not be alive, not even in a cryogenised eternity. Reboredo is a creature under construction, able to move through worlds and times, not like a hero but like a free man.”

Calm down, Teresa, think it through.

Calm down, reader, you’re not lost. Nothing is lost. The world goes on living, teeming, poised to multiply. The world, multiplied. Worlds, universes, times.

Teresa, calm down. Maria might not be dead, any more than she was in the phase we called simulation. Ricardo might not be alive, not even in a cryogenised eternity. Reboredo is a creature under construction, able to move through worlds and times, not like a hero but like a free man. If his prosthetic arm had used a sharp edge against Maria

jealousy? order carried out?

from it too a quivering goldfish had emerged, slinking in the corners until it attained survival at the bottom of a vase where some hyacinth stems were dying.

Get out, Teresa. But first remember, think, dream.

At ground level, the world accumulates waste, poisons, things that eat, sleep and breathe fear. It’s no good trying to hide underground or out in the vast night, the deranged bats will be with us until we understand them.

Think back, reader. Think back, Teresa. When exactly were you closest to understanding? Your fingers, when they touched your grandfather’s letter or traced the lips of a woman you loved. Your arms, when they carried Gaia the bitch, and hid her, along with her young, feeling relief instead of fear in the regression to a powerless state, tiny creature of this earth.

Think, Teresa. The dunes, from where you can glimpse the sea, the music, the unexpected laughter of the Programmed.

Yes, time and the world are waiting for someone to multiply them, for a birth, so longed for in this story, to occur.

Teresa turned off the bedside lamp. Nothing would disturb her intimacy with Maria’s cold body.

She turned on the room’s holographic function, transforming it successively into the summit of a lavender-sown hilltop; into a deep indigo sky with stars blinking on and off and changing position; into Georgia O’Keefe’s Blue and Green Music; into the scene in Spirited Away where they fly over the waves; and finally into a seaside balcony complete with brine on the nose, two glasses of wine on the white tablecloth, etc. etc.

The guileless reader will think that these scenes

or one of them at least

may have prompted a shudder in the inert body, just as the kiss of the prince, he charmed, she in love, bewitched time.

Pure delusion. The body continued to grow cold.

The experience, however, confirmed the discovery that Teresa had arrived at after so many years of research: no artificial creation, no simulacrum, would be able to stem the waves of contagion, from virus to fear. Restoring the profound sense of touch, lost over long periods of distancing: yes, this would be the way forward. A strategy she had been working on secretly, more in her head than in the lab.

There were obstacles on this path which ran contrary to the arrogance of wise leadership, obstacles inclined to sabotage her work, which demanded rare thoroughness and patience.

While she strokes Maria’s wrist, exactly the way she liked to be touched, and considers the best way to deprogram the creatures of fear, Teresa

who knew her grandfather’s letter by heart, who saved Gaia and her young, who missed Valéria and believed in the return to paradise,

mulls over a deep-buried doubt: if it were necessary, would she be capable of ending the lives of Cacilda, Ricardo and Lúcia

yes, Lúcia too stood in the way

to ensure the birth of a free people?

Read the original chapter in Portuguese

Julieta Monginho was born in Lisbon, where she graduated in Law. She worked as a public prosecutor, before publishing her first book, Juíz Perfeito, in 1996, followed by several works of fiction and a diary from the first year of the millennium, entitled Onde Está J.? Some of her novels have received literary awards: À Tua Espera (2000) – Prémio Máxima de Literatura; A Terceira Mãe (2008) – Grande Prémio de Romance e Novela APE/DGLAB;Um Muro no Meio do Caminho (2018) – Prémio Fernando Namora / Casino do Estoril and Prémio de Narrativa PEN Clube Português. This last novel was inspired by her voluntary work at refugee camps on the Greek Island of Chios.

Sophie Lewis is an editor and a translator. Previously at Dalkey Archive Press and And Other Stories, she is currently managing editor at the Folio Society. She translates from French and Portuguese, and has translated Stendhal, Verne, Marcel Aymé, Violette Leduc, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivia Rosenthal, Leïla Slimani, Sheyla Smanioto and João Gilberto Noll, among others. Her translation of Emilie de Turckheim’s novel Héloïse is Bald received the 2016 Scott Moncrieff Prize commendation. In 2018 her translation of Noémi Lefebvre’s Blue Self-Portrait was shortlisted for the Scott Moncrieff and Republic of Consciousness prizes. In 2016 she co-founded Shadow Heroes, a workshops series for students on critical thinking through translation:

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Listen to this chapter read by Ben Slack

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