El Irresistible Encanto de la Insania 1

13/05/2020

 

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EL IRRESISTIBLE ENCANTO DE LA INSANIA

Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2015
novela – traducción: Felipe Obrer

Luca es un músico, obsesionado por el control de la vida, que se involucra con Isadora, una viajante taoísta que asegura que él es la reencarnación de su maestro y amante del siglo 16. Él comienza una aventura rara en la cual desaparecen los límites entre sanidad y locura, real e imaginário y, por fin, descubre que para merecer a la mujer que ama tendrá antes que saber quién en realidad es él mismo.

En esta insólita historia de amor, que ocurre simultáneamente en la España de 1500 y en el Brasil del siglo 21, los déjà-vu (sensación de ya haber vivido determinada situación) son portales del tiempo a través de los cuales tenemos contacto con otras vidas.

Blues, sexo y whiskys dobles. Sueños, experiencias místicas y órdenes secretos. Esta novela ejercita, en una historia divertida y emocionante, posibilidades intrigadoras del tiempo, de la vida y de lo que puede ser el “yo”.

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In portuguese – blog 

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PRÓLOGO

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Él la abrazó y así se dejó quedar, muy junto a ella, enteramente abarcado por la sensación de haber vivido aquello antes… Cerró los ojos e intentó recordar cuando había vivido aquella misma situación, pero todo lo que le vino fue la sensación de estar girando, girando… Era como si estuviera en un círculo, girando, siempre pasando por aquél mismo lugar… girando en un círculo, siempre pasando por el mismo punto, siempre…

Abrió los ojos asustado, volviendo a sí. Se sentía un poco mareado. Miró alrededor, asegurándose de que seguía allí, en el muelle de Barcelona, en aquella mañana nublada. Ella aún estaba abrazada a él, en medio a la prisa de los empleados del muelle. ¿Cuánto tiempo había pasado? ¿Algunos segundos? ¿Siglos?

– ¿Qué ha pasado? – ella preguntó.

– No lo sé, un mareo…

– Hace días que estás raro.

– Necesito irme ahora.

– ¿Estás seguro de que no puedo ir, de hecho?

– Ya hemos hablamos sobre eso, Catarina.

– Y si…

– Ya te he dicho que volveré. En un mes arreglaré las cosas en Lisboa y volveré. Y entonces iremos juntos para Brasil. ¿No ha sido eso lo que acordamos?

– Estoy con miedo, Enrique… – Ella lo abrazó otra vez, más fuerte.

– Ya están subiendo las velas – él respondió, sintiendo el viento que soplaba. Deshizo el abrazo y salió caminando rumbo al navío, el paso rápido, sin mirar hacia atrás.

Minutos después el navío empezó a alejarse y, desde el borde, él la vio saludando, sola en el muelle, en medio de la niebla. Y de repente fue como si ella repitiera un gesto muy antiguo, realizado hacía mucho tiempo, un ademán triste que le cortaba el alma. ¿Cuándo se habían despedido así?

Necesito un trago, él pensó, sintiendo el alma pesada. Y se dirigió hacia la cabina.

Él no quería pensar en eso, pero sabía: era solamente el principio de un largo y difícil viaje.

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CAPÍTULO 1

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Luca se despertó asustado. Había soñado con un abismo, inmenso y oscuro, bien adelante de sí, un abismo terrificante… Se frotó los ojos y soltó un bostezo largo mientras estiraba las piernas abajo del asiento en frente. Miró por la ventanilla del ómnibus y vio el paisaje pasando, la vegetación cercana, las casitas simples al margen de la ruta, una sierra más adelante… Felizmente no había abismos por allí, pensó él, aliviado.

Un poco más y estaría en Pipa, la famosa playa en la costa sur de Río Grande del Norte. Hacía seis meses, desde cuando había acordado el descanso con la gráfica, que soñaba con aquél viaje. Ahora todo lo que haría por los cuatro días a continuación, hasta el domingo, sería descansar la cabeza y olvidarse de los problemas en Fortaleza. Solo. Sin reloj, sin móvil y sin Internet.

En realidad había llevado el teléfono, sí. Con acceso a Internet. Pero, como él mismo se había prometido, era solamente para verificar si alguna muchacha le había dejado un mensaje urgente, nada más. Y también para ver si un amigo había depositado en su cuenta el dinero que le debía. Ah, y también para acompañar la venta de entradas para el próximo show de la Bluz Neón, su banda, eso era muy importante. Pequeños cuidados, solamente eso, para que la vida no saliera del control.

Por el reflejo de la ventana pudo ver su cara, el cabello revuelto, la expresión somnolienta… Vio la cicatriz en la mejilla derecha, se acordó del accidente, el paseo en balsa, la cara golpeándose fuerte en el mástil, aún era adolescente. Todo porque quería impresionar a una chica. Amar era de hecho un peligro.

Al fin de la tarde, pocos kilómetros antes de Pipa, el ómnibus pasó por una ciudadela y, desde el tope de la ladera, a Luca le gustó lo que vio. A su izquierda, allá abajo, se desparramaba una gran laguna, que más adelante se transformaba en río y corría suave hacia el mar. Además de la laguna, por sobre la copa de los árboles, el sol bajaba despacito, salpicando el agua con reflejos que se mezclaban a las toninas que saltaban.

Encantado con el paisaje, Luca sintió su mirada cautivada por aquella belleza poética, casi musical…

– ¿Qué ciudad es ésta? – le preguntó a la señora del asiento contiguo.

– Tibau del Sur. Es una antigua villa de pescadores.

Luca recordó lo que sus amigos decían sobre Pipa, las  playas hermosas, las posadas, la movida de los bares, gente de todo el mundo. Y así y todo, aquel paisaje…

Se levantó de la poltrona, fue hasta la cabina del conductor y le pidió que parara. Había cambiado de idea. Se quedaría en Tibau del Sur.

Con la mochila a espaldas y la guitarra bajo el brazo, él caminó de vuelta por la ruta y, a la entrada de la ciudad, siguió rumbo al mar, hasta el borde de la ladera, donde había un pequeño bar de estilo rústico. Eligió una mesa bajo el quinchado, pidió una medida de aguardiente y se sentó, deleitándose con la brisa marina y el olor del mar. Había un barco anclado y una bandada de gaviotas jugueteaba en el cielo. La luz del fin de tarde bañaba al paisaje de una atmósfera medio onírica y de sopetón se sintió afuera del tiempo, todo a su alrededor flotando como un pedazo de tierra que se suelta del continente de la realidad…

Fue en ese momento, como un anhelo, que la canción quiso salir. No solo quería, ella necesitaba salir. Rápidamente, el agarró la guitarra y… la música no salió. Intentó varios acordes pero ninguno de ellos consiguió exprimir debidamente al alma de aquel instante. En otro momento tal vez, él pensó, un poco frustrado, dejando a un lado la guitarra. Y se volcó de un trago la bebida.  

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Ya era de noche cuando Luca llegó al camping, un pequeño espacio arbolado cercano al río que la dueña del terreno, doña Zezé, una señora desquitada, alquilaba a campistas. Al lado estaban su casa, una pequeña posada y el restaurante, todo muy simple. Como no estaban en alta estación y tampoco era feriado, la posada estaba vacía y en el camping había solamente una carpa azul y ninguna más.

– Abajo de aquel mango es un lugar bueno para que te quedes, hace mucha sombra – le sugirió doña Zezé. – ¿Pero  antes no quieres comer algo? Te ves muy flaco.

– Yo vendré después, gracias.

En pocos minutos Luca armó la carpa y se cambió de ropa. Pocos pasos hacia el norte y estaría al borde de la ladera, el río a algunos metros allá abajo esperándolo para una zambullida. Mejor imposible. Pero la zambullida quedaría para el día siguiente, estaba muy cansado.

En el restaurante comió un sándwich con una gaseosa, charló un poco más con doña Zezé y conoció a sus dos hijos adolescentes, que vivían con ella y la ayudaban a administrar el negocio. Después volvió a la carpa y se acostó. Pero el  sueño no llegó rápidamente como él quería. La simplicidad y la belleza de aquel lugar, en vez de calmarlo, de repente le trajeron muchos pensamientos…

¿Por qué la vida no era más fácil de ser vivida?, él se indagó. En vez de eso, era necesario estar siempre atento para que la vida no escapara al control, siempre al acecho para que la mano traicionera del destino no se metiera en sus oportunidades de ser feliz. ¿Por qué?

Un continuado y angustioso esfuerzo de establecerse y ahorrar dinero – era a eso que se había resumido su vida. Cuando tenía dieciocho años y cursaba la facultad de Administración, se imaginaba que en seguida estaría en una situación tranquila, sen apremios económicos. Pero el futuro resultó distinto. Después de emplearse en una gráfica, abandonó la facultad y pasó a dedicarse más a la guitarra, un antiguo placer de la adolescencia. Tenía ahora veintiocho años y todo seguía difícil y trabado.

Dos años antes aún vivía con la madre, doña Gloria, y la hermana Celina, que era novia del baterista de su banda. El padre había fallecido cuando ellos eran bien chicos y la madre no se había casado otra vez. Ahora el empleo de gerente en la gráfica le aseguraba el alquiler de la kitchenette, en la cual vivía solo. Media docena de conciertos por mes lo ayudaban a mantener a duras penas el viejo volkswagen, a comprar comida, pagar las cuentas, tomar unos whiskys y listo, solamente eso. Los gastos eran medidos y contados y recontados en los más menudos detalles, un aprieto permanente. Doña Gloria ya se había dado por vencida en cuanto a aconsejar al hijo que intentara carrera pública y que se casara. Ser gerente de gráfica, decía él, era la máxima concesión que podía hacer. Y en cuanto al casamiento…

– No me cabe, mamá. El amor descontrola mucho a la vida de uno.

Se sentía muy cansado. La sensación era de que, a pesar de todos los esfuerzos de los últimos años, seguía andando en círculos, girando sobre el mismo punto, siempre girando, siempre…

Miró a la guitarra recostada al lado. Por lo menos había la música. Y la banda. Dos años antes había conocido a Junior Rível, que lo invitó a cantar en la banda que estaba armando. Inseguro, dudó en aceptar.

– No tienes en qué pensar, ciudadano – insistió Junior. – Mucho show, mucho whisky. ¡Y mucha mujer!

Argumento irresistible.

– Aceptado – respondió Luca, apretándole la mano al nuevo amigo. – Fiesta es lo que nos queda en esta vida.

– Opa. Eso puede resultar un blues.

Nacía así la amistad entre Luca y Junior Rível. Y nacía también la Bluz Neón. Fiesta es lo que nos queda – era el lema de la banda. Blues, rock e irreverencia en la noche de Fortaleza. Los caches eran parcos y muchas veces se presentaban gratis, pero el placer de tocar lo compensaba todo. Y para Luca, la Bluz Neón era el refugio perfecto, dónde podía esconderse de la claridad traicionera de los días. De noche él estaba salvado, todo bajo perfecto control. La noche sí, era segura, con sus bares, whiskys y amores bajo control.  Era como un sueño lindo. El único defecto era que al otro día él siempre tenía que despertarse.

Tus ojos se prenden en los neons
Es el frisson de bar en bar
Es necesario ser feliz, es urgente
Un romance caliente
Antes que el día nos recuerde
Que el sueño no resiste a la luz solar

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Al día siguiente Luca se levantó tarde, sintiéndose todavía muy cansado. Había demorado bastante en adormecerse, envuelto en sus mil pensamientos. ¿Será que ni siquiera allí, en aquel paraíso, conseguiría relajarse de verdad?

Hacía una mañana de sol claro en Tibau del Sur. Luca se puso los lentes de sombra, salió de la carpa y fue hasta el restaurante de la posada a desayunar. Más tarde, después de un demorado baño en el río, él volvió al camping. Se sentía más bien dispuesto. ¿Cuál había sido la última vez en que se había sumergido en un río? Ni se acordaba. Pero necesitaba hacer aquello más veces.

Después de cambiarse de ropa, rumbeó hacia el restaurante para almorzar. Fue en ese momento que ella surgió.

– Hola…

Él se dio vuelta y vio a una muchacha. Era linda y parecía tener la misma edad que él. Usaba short jeans, camiseta y sandalias.

– Hola – él respondió, simpático.

– Soy tu vecina de carpa. Isadora.

– Un gusto. Luca.

– Luca… – ella repitió, probando el nombre en su boca. – Luca…

Ella se rió, manteniendo la mirada en él. Estás tan diferente…, pensó, notando su cuerpo flaco, el cabello despeinado, la cicatriz en la mejilla…

– ¿Estás solo?

– Ahora no estoy más.

– ¡Qué bueno! ¿Ya has almorzado?

– No. ¿Mi vecina me daría el gusto? – Él jugó a hacer un galanteo, como si se sacara un sombrero de la cabeza.

– Hummm… ¿Cómo rechazar?

En el restaurante, él sugirió un guisado de pescado y ella aceptó. Luca se dio cuenta de que ella tenía hermosos ojos color de miel. Notó también que ella lo miraba de manera rara y se sintió molesto. La cerveza llegó y él sugirió un brindis:

– A los encuentros.

– Encuentros, no – ella corrigió. – Reencuentros.

¿Reencuentros? Él no entendió, pero lo dejó así. Y tomó. Ella quiso saber de dónde él era y él respondió que vivía en Fortaleza.

– Fortaleza… Un día la conoceré. ¿Y vos, qué haces?

– Trabajo en una gráfica, pero mi tema es la música. Tengo una banda, la Bluz Neón.

– ¿Qué tocan ustedes?

– Blues, rock y lo que venga fútbol club.

– Debe estar bien bueno. Yo soy de San Pablo. ¿Conoces?

– No. Pero vos no tienes mucho acento.

– Es que he vivido en varios lugares cuando era chica. Tomé gusto por el viaje. ¿Me siento ciudadana del mundo, sabes?

– ¿No tienes miedo de viajar sola?

– Claro que no.

– Si necesitas, hay un cyber a la entrada de la ciudad.

– Ah, no, nada de computadora en este viaje. No traje ni siquiera el móvil.

– ¿En serio? ¿Por qué?

– Digamos que yo… necesito conectarme más conmigo misma.

– Entiendo – él respondió, sin estar seguro si realmente entendía. ¿Cómo alguien podía viajar sin llevar el teléfono móvil? – ¿Y que haces vos en San Pablo?

– Trabajaba en un banco. Pero pedí el despido para poder hacer este viaje. Hace un mes que viajo por la costa nordestina.

Bonita e interesante, Luca pensó, mientras tomaba un trago largo de cerveza. ¿Pero por qué lo miraba de aquella manera rara?

– ¿Te puedo preguntar algo, Isadora?

– Claro.

– ¿Por qué me miras así?

– Ahn… es que vos… vos me recuerdas a alguien.

– ¿Quién?

Ella giró el vaso entre los dedos, nerviosa.

– ¿Y vos, no tienes la impresión de que también me conoces?

– ¿Por qué? ¿Nosotros nos conocemos?

Ella se sonrió y otra vez no respondió. A Luca le pareció mejor no insistir, tal vez él la hiciera recordar a alguien que ella no quería recordar, sí, tal vez fuera eso.

– Nuestro guisado de pescado ha llegado – él avisó, indicando al chico que se acercaba con la bandeja.

Se sirvieron y comieron. Luca pidió otra cerveza, entusiasmado. Segundo día y un almuerzo con una hermosura de aquél nivel… Nada mal. Cervecita, carpas vecinas… Nada mal realmente.

– ¿Vos por casualidad ya has vivido en España, Luca?

– No. ¿Por qué?

– ¿Estás seguro?

– Claro. ¿Pero por qué? ¿Vos has vivido allá?

Y de nuevo ella no respondió. En vez de eso, se sonrió desconcertada y miró hacia afuera del restaurante. Él seguía intrigado. Ella lo confundía con el otro, debía ser eso. Pero que ella estaba era un encanto, eso sabía.

– ¿Y de aquí hacia adónde vas vos, Isadora?

– Por ahí. Sin planes.

– ¿Sin planes? Caramba, vos debes ser una persona bastante optimista.

– Pero claro. Al fin todo siempre resulta bien.

– Admiro esa tu confianza en la vida.

– ¿Y por qué yo tendría que desconfiar de ella?

– Por el simple hecho de que si no planificas y tomas precauciones, las cosas salen del control. ¿No te parece?

Ella se rió como si él hubiera contado un buen chiste y respondió:

– ¿Vos sabes cuándo empezamos a tener control sobre las cosas?

– No. Pero es el tipo de cosa que me gustaría muchísimo saber.

– Es cuando abdicamos de tener control sobre ellas.

Luca pensó un poco, tratando de comprender. Pero se dio por vencido.

– No entendí.

– Bueno… ¿Si no hay un intento de controlar, cómo las cosas van a salir del control?

– Ah… – Luca se rió, creyendo que era una broma. Pero en seguida se dio cuenta de que no era.

– ¿Hablas en serio?

– Claro que sí.

Lógica perfecta…, él pensó. Pero demasiado absurda para tomársela en serio. ¿Tus cosas, por ejemplo, de qué manera se arreglarían por sí mismas? El trabajo, la banda, el alquiler del departamento, el mantenimiento del coche… ¿Y los rollos amorosos? ¿Cómo todo eso se resolvería por sí mismo? No, definitivamente no era posible. La vida era un gran tropel y se necesitaba domarla todo el tiempo. Lo que Isadora proponía no era más que un simple romanticismo. Asimismo tenía que admitir que, viniendo de ella, aquellos absurdos en cierta medida tenían algún encanto…

Después del almuerzo tomaron un ómnibus y siguieron hacia Pipa, donde pasearon, conocieron las posadas y las pequeñas heladerías en la placilla. Isadora contó de las playas que conoció en aquellos días, cuanto se sentía en casa en todos los lugares y como se acercaba más de sí misma así, suelta por el mundo.

– ¿Y vos, Luca? ¿Te gusta viajar también?

– Me gusta. Pero no así como a vos.

– ¿Tienes miedo de perderte?

– Creo que me gusta más la seguridad de mi ciudad. Allá yo sé moverme bien.

– Entendí. ¿Y esa cicatriz ahí?

– Recuerdito de un paseo en balsa. Hicimos un blues para ella. ¿Quieres escucharlo?

Ella respondió que sí y él cantó:

Amar es un peligro
Solo yo sé lo que pasé
En ese abismo me dio vértigo
Y la angustia no se deshizo
No quiero el dolor de un bis más
Después solo queda la cicatriz
Solo no me pidas, baby
No me pidas que te ame

– ¿Has tenido un desencanto amoroso muy fuerte? – ella quiso saber.

– Tuve. Pero ya hace tiempo.

– Aún esos sufrimientos tienen su aspecto positivo.

– Evidente que lo tienen. Después de eso quedé vacunado.

– ¿Cómo así? ¿No quieres más amar otra vez?

– Prefiero no arriesgarme. Amar es un peligro.

– ¡Verdad! – Ella se rió. – El mejor peligro del mundo.

Luca se rió también. Pero no estaba de acuerdo, está claro.

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Llegando al camping, de vuelta a Tibau del Sur, Luca le preguntó a Isadora si le gustaría tomar algo, él tenía un vino en la carpa, la noche estaba agradable…

– Necesito decirte algo, Luca.

– ¿Qué?

– Yo he soñado con vos.

– ¿Conmigo? ¿Cuándo?

– Hace seis meses.

– Pero nosotros ni siquiera nos conocíamos…

– Eras tú.

– ¿En serio? ¿Era yo mismo, así como me ves ahora?

– No, tu imagen no era muy nítida. Pero eras vos.

– No entiendo. ¿Cómo puede ser una cosa así?

– Misterios de la vida. ¿Y vos?

– ¿Yo, qué?

– ¿Nunca has soñado conmigo?

Me encantaría decirte que sí, hermosa… – él casi respondió.

– No.

Isadora se sonrió avergonzada, desengañada.

– En el sueño que yo tuve, vos me pedías que nos encontráramos en esta playa.

– ¿Estás realmente hablando en serio?

– Sí. Yo me acordé de todo cuando me desperté, solamente no sabía cual era la playa. Pero sabía que quedaba en esta zona. Y que había un río. Entonces, la semana pasada, cuando llegué a Tibau del Sur, sentí que sería acá que te encontraría.

¿Qué significaba aquello?, pensó Luca, rascándose la cicatriz en la mejilla, cada vez más intrigado. ¿Sería un piropo? Si fuera, entonces era bastante original.

– Me has dicho una cosa más en el sueño.

– ¿Qué?

– Que necesitaba ayudarte.

– ¿Ayudarme a qué?

– A saltar en el abismo.

– ¡¿Qué abismo?!

– No lo sé. Fuiste vos el que me lo dijo. Entonces acá estoy.

– Te juro que no sé de ningún abismo – él respondió. Y de repente se acordó… recordó vagamente un sueño… Había soñado con un abismo aquellos días. Sí, un abismo… oscuro… amenazador…

Coincidencia, él pensó, librándose del recuerdo incómodo. Solamente coincidencia.

– ¿Realmente no sabes? – ella preguntó de nuevo.

– Y aunque supiera, quiero distancia de abismos. No me gustan.

Él se quemaba las neuronas, buscando entender todo aquello… Ella debía estar jorobando, debía ser eso, una joda. O entonces era desquiciada. ¿Sería loca?

– Si vos realmente has venido de tan lejos debido a un sueño… ¿Entonces qué pasaría si yo no apareciera?

– Bueno… De hecho yo no quise pensar mucho en eso.

– Creo que deberías haber pensado.

– Y vos deberías haberte acordado de mí.

Él notó algún enojo en el tono de la frase. Isadora miraba hacia el cielo estrellado y retorcía las manos, impaciente.

– Disculpa, Luca, no quise ser grosera – ella dijo, dándose vuelta hacia él. – Es que yo… estoy confundida. Yo creía que vos… que vos también te acordarías.

– Fue solo un sueño, una coincidencia.

– No es puede haber sido solo eso – ella respondió, casi interrumpiéndolo. Y prosiguió susurrando, más para sí misma que para él: – No puede ser.

Luca se sentía medio perdido, sin saber qué deducir de todo aquello. ¿Cómo alguien podía soñar con una persona que no conoce y salir por ahí en búsqueda de ella, sin cualquier garantía de encontrarla? Eso era tan absurdo, tan inconcebible… Ella no podía estar hablando en serio. Pero tampoco parecía estar jugando. Había una sola explicación: era loca. Y con locos no se podía argumentar.

– ¿Escucha, por qué nosotros no nos olvidamos de ese tema y tomamos un vino? Te gusta…

– ¿Vos crees en vidas pasadas, Luca? – ella lo interrumpió.

– ¿Vidas pasadas? ¿Por qué?

– ¿Crees o no?

Él pensó rápido. No creía, evidente, imposible creer en esas bobadas. ¿Pero y si el éxito de la noche estuviera en manos de una buena respuesta?

– Depende.

– ¿De qué?

– Depende del día.

– Está bien. ¿Y cómo será tu día mañana?

– Mañana… Creo que es un buen día para creérselo todo.

– Bárbaro. Porque tengo una historia bien loca para contarte.

– ¿Por qué no me la cuentas hoy?

– Porque… – Ella pensó un poco. – Porque soy yo la que no está en un buen día para creer en todo.

Mientras él buscaba algo para decir, ella abrió la carpa y entró.

– Buenas noches, Luca.

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CAPÍTULO 2

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Desde el restaurant, mientras desayunaba, Luca observaba el camping al lado. La carpa azul estaba allá, en el mismo lugar, a algunos metros de la suya. Pero Isadora no estaba. Muchacha interesante…, pensó él. Interesante pero desafortunadamente loca. Aquellas ideas de llevarse la vida sin planes… ¿Entonces ella estaba allí porque había soñado con un tipo que no conocía y que debía encontrarlo en una playa en el Noreste? ¿Y el tipo era él? ¿Y aquella historia de saltar en el abismo? No. Era mucha locura.

Después del desayuno Luca tomó el sendero, rumbeando hacia el este, en dirección al mar. Cuando llegó a la ladera, el sol ya iba alto en el cielo, la pelota de fuego sobre el horizonte imponiéndose lentamente día adentro. Mientras admiraba el paisaje, él no pudo evitar compararse a él: la Naturaleza no hacía ninguna fuerza para ser lo que era, al paso que su vida era lo opuesto…

De repente los gritos de unos niños lo despertaron de sus devaneos. Ellos se divertían en el mar, surfeando en las olas con sus propios cuerpos. Luca quedó mirándolos, admirado de sus habilidades, los cuerpos vueltos tablas, desplazándose firmes en el agua. Se levantó y bajó la ladera, dispuesto a también divertirse con el mar. Cuando llegó, notó que las olas eran más grandes de lo que se imaginaba, pero aún así entró, eligiendo quedarse un poco alejado de los niños para no estorbarlos.

En la primer ola que se elevó adelante de él, le faltó valentía y él se zambulló para huir, casi siendo arrastrado por el reflujo. Se dio por vencido también en la segunda, con miedo. En la tercera, lo mismo. Empezó a considerarse ridículo.

Cuando la ola siguiente surgió, juró a sí mismo que no se daría por vencido y esperó su llegada. Ella vino y, cuando llegó, él se dejó levantar. La ola ganó más fuerza y de repente rompió. Al instante siguiente él se vio suelto en el aire y la inmensa masa de agua cayendo por encima de él. Luca perdió totalmente el control sobre el propio cuerpo y, sumergido, pasó a girar y girar, como un muñeco descoyuntado. En dado momento se golpeó la cabeza en la arena y quedó tan aturdido que ni siquiera sabía para que lado estaba el cielo.

De repente, cuando ya estaba agotado y respirando agua, todo se quedó silencioso y sin dolor. Parecía que no estaba más en el agua. Parecía estar fuera del tiempo. Entonces ella surgió exactamente adelante de él… una mujer de vestido blanco… Era linda, y lo miraba silenciosa y comprensiva. Supo instantáneamente que la conocía desde hacía mucho tiempo antes, tanto tiempo que sería inútil tratar de recordar. Ella le extendió la mano y él comprendió que si la aceptara, todo el sufrimiento se disiparía como una pesadilla de la cual uno se despierta. Todo lo que necesitaba era afirmar su mano, solamente eso…

Entonces sintió que lo agarraban por los cabellos. Se dio cuenta de que lo tironeaban hacia la superficie. Por un segundo pensó en protestar, en pedir para quedarse allí abajo, pero no tuvo fuerzas. Los niños lo llevaron hasta la arena, donde vomitó y de a poco mejoró. Ellos explicaron que él no debería zambullirse solo, que aquellas olas eran muy peligrosas. Luca les agradeció y se quedó allí, sentado en la arena, mientras los niños volvieron al mar y siguieron desafiando con naturalidad a las olas enormes. ¿Cómo conseguían controlarlas?

Cuando llegó al camping fue que realmente se dio cuenta de que casi había muerto, que mierda. Estaba vivo por un pelo. Entró en la carpa y se sentó, asustado, aún envuelto por las sensaciones. Se acordó de la alucinación, la mujer de blanco – ¿por qué ella le caía tan familiar? Y recordó también que, por un rápido instante, tuvo en sus manos la decisión de lo que pasaría, que podría intentar el último esfuerzo para salvarse o podría aceptar a la muerte.

No tuvo tiempo de decidirse. Pero… ¿y si realmente hubiera tenido la oportunidad de optar? ¿Seguiría luchando, debatiéndose y sufriendo hasta el último instante o se dejaría llevar, tranquilamente, para lejos del sufrimiento, junto con la mujer de blanco?

Se levantó, tratando de alejar la incomodidad que sentía. No le gustaban aquellas cosas, la muerte, el más allá… Mejor no contarle a nadie y olvidarse del tema. Entonces armó la reposera y agarró la guitarra. Un poco de música para ahuyentar al más allá.

*     *     *

Una luna menguante subía en el cielo de Tibau del Sur junto con las primeras estrellas. En frente a la carpa azul, una pequeña hoguera crepitaba, manteniendo alejado al frío de la noche. Sobre un mantel, Isadora arreglaba un plato con queso.

– Hace siglos que no hago un picnic – dijo Luca, llegando con el vino.

– Aprovecha que estás parado y guarda este libro, por favor.

– I Ching, el libro de las mutaciones… – él dijo, tomando el libro de sus manos y poniéndolo adentro de la carpa. – Ya he oído hablar.

– Es el oráculo del Taoísmo – ella respondió. – Funciona como un instrumento para que uno pueda investigar con la psicología, para captar los movimientos internos y armonizarlos con los del mundo.

– Muy místico para mi gusto.

– Uno se concentra en una indagación, mueve las varillas o las monedas, apunta los resultados y al fin lee el mensaje. Pero el objetivo de todo taoísta es un día no necesitar más un oráculo para conseguir captar los movimientos.

– Y para el que no cree, como yo, ¿funciona?

– Siempre funciona. Pero quizás vos no captes la esencia del mensaje.

Luca abrió el vino y lo sirvió.

– ¿A qué brindaremos? – él preguntó.

– A los movimientos que nos trajeron hasta esta hoguera.

– Bien.

Tocaron los vasos y tomaron. Él notó como ella estaba linda bajo la luz oscilante de la hoguera.

– ¿Y la historia que has dicho que me contarías?

Ella lo miró seria. En sus ojos Luca pudo ver el reflejo inquieto del fuego, la danza colorida de las llamaradas… En ese momento tuvo una sensación rara, un principio de vértigo. Se sintió tironeado hacia adentro de otro estado de ser, más liviano, más lejano…

– Hace dos años empecé a tener un sueño recurrente – ella empezó. – Era siempre el mismo lugar, en España, un pueblito chico… Parecía fin de la Edad Media, siglo dieciséis, por ahí. En el sueño había un niño jugando, pero yo nunca veía sus ojos. Ese sueño se repitió a lo largo de meses. Hice hipnosis con una terapeuta y las imágenes vinieron más fuertes. Ahí pude ver los ojos de la niña. Y me vi en ellos. Y me di cuenta de que aquella niña era yo.

– Mira que interesante – comentó Luca, tratando de no trasparecer su incredulidad con relación a aquellos temas.

– Vi varios hechos de la vida de esa niña pasando frente a mí, como en una película. No solo vi, yo viví. O mejor, reviví, sintiendo las sensaciones de la niña. No me acordé de todo, pero recordé muchas cosas de esa vida.

– ¿Cómo era la niña?

– Ella se llamaba Catarina. Era una adolescente pobre cuando se casó con un alemán y fue a vivir con él en Alemania. Él era un hombre rico y ella aprendió a ser una dama. Ella tenía todo para tener una vida tranquila y  cómoda, pero un día conoció a un misionero portugués y se enamoró perdidamente… Enrique era su nombre. Era jesuita y conocía a personas importantes, viajaba por muchos países, sabía otros idiomas. Y era medio brujo.

– ¿Cómo así?

– Pertenecía a un orden secreto, esas cosas. Usaba los sueños para saber lo que pasaba en la Corte, las tramas políticas de la Iglesia, entraba en el sueño de los demás… Él visitaba a Catarina en los sueños y juntos vivían experiencias en otros planes de la realidad, una cosa bien loca. Un día ella se escapó con Enrique. Pero algo resultó mal en la fuga y él desapareció.

– ¿Se murió?

– No sé. Porque en realidad Catarina nunca supo. Pero es una curiosidad que yo tengo. Es probable que haya sido preso o algo por el estilo. Catarina buscó por él durante años, de ciudad en ciudad, pero no lo encontró. Ni en los sueños él apareció más.

– Debe haber conseguido a otra.

– No. Él la amaba muchísimo.

– Esa cosa de amar demasiado nunca termina bien. ¿Pero y después?

– Ella… Bueno, ella enloqueció.

– ¿Se enloqueció? ¿De verdad?

Isadora demoró en responder. Luca notó que ella estaba emocionada.

– Sí, se volvió loca, de verdad. La falta de Enrique la consumió hasta el fin de la vida. Y ella falleció así, buscándolo.

Durante algún tiempo nadie dijo nada, y el silencio que se formó era como una sombra entre ellos. Luca tuvo ganas de preguntarle qué interés ella tenía en contarle aquella historia, pero sentía que no debía hacerlo, que era mejor quedarse quieto. En vez de eso, preguntó:

– ¿Vos realmente has recordado todo eso?

– Es más que recordar, Luca. Yo lo he vivido de nuevo.

– ¿Y vos crees has sido de hecho esa Catarina?

– Yo no creo. Yo he sido.

 Isadora miró hacia la hoguera. Cogió algunas piedritas y las arrojó a las llamas.

– ¿Y vos, Luca? ¿Esa historia no te dice nada?

– No creo en reencarnación.

– ¿Y el brujo portugués?

– ¿Qué pasa con él?

Ella siguió tirando piedritas a la hoguera. Luca abrió la boca para repetir la pregunta cuando se le ocurrió otra idea.

– Esperá. ¿Vos no estás creyendo que yo soy ese Enrique, no?

Ella no respondió.

– ¿En aquel sueño tuyo, yo he dicho eso, que fui Enrique?

– No. Pero yo lo reconocí a Enrique en vos. – Ella dio vuelta la cara, mirándolo tranquilamente a los ojos.

Luca se rió, avergonzado.

– Fue después de ese sueño que decidí abandonarlo todo. Y me vine en búsqueda de vos.

Él simplemente no sabía qué decir.

– Solo sé que hay algo que está equivocado… – ella dijo, esforzándose por sonreír. – Tendrías que acordarte también.

Él respiró hondo, tratando de organizar las ideas. ¿Entonces aquella mujer había abandonado todo para encontrar a alguien de otro tiempo, de otra vida, que ella ahora buscaba en ésta vida, viajando por las playas del Noreste? ¿Y ella creía que él era ese tal alguien? Finalmente estaba explicada la conducta rara della, las insinuaciones… Pero aquello era una locura, una completa locura. Y era como una niebla que lo abarcaba…

– Isadora, tengo una sugerencia – él dijo de repente. Necesitaba alejarse de aquel tema – ¿Vamos a escuchar música? Yo traje la guitarra.

Ella hizo un ademán asintiendo con la cabeza. Él se levantó, avisó que antes iría hasta el baño y salió, rumbeando hacia el restaurante. Cuando volvió, Isadora no estaba más allá. Él miró hacia la carpa azul cerrada y suspiró, desanimado.

*     *     *

Luca abrió un ojo, después el otro y finalmente los dos juntos. Todavía estaba oscuro y hacía un poco de frío. Se acomodó bajo la sábana, recordando la noche anterior, las locuras de Isadora, su tal vida en España, Catarina, el brujo portugués… La insania tenía ojos color de miel.

De sopetón, escuchó su nombre. La voz de Isadora. Se levantó y, envuelto en la sábana, abrió la carpa. Ahora ya era de día y llovía finito.

– Servicio de despertador para el señor Luca de Luz Neón. Mediodía.

Isadora se sonreía adelante de él. Estaba aún más bella…

– ¿Mediodía? Caramba, dormí demasiado.

– Ven.

– ¿Para adónde?

– A pasear.

– ¿Con esa lluvia ahí?

– Claro. ¿Hace cuánto tiempo que vos no juegas en la lluvia?

Él se frotó los ojos, pensando en la capacidad que ella tenía de decir ciertas cosas como si fueran las más simples y lógicas del mundo.

Minutos después seguían caminando lado a lado por la pequeña ruta de arena. La lluvia caía liviana, formando charcos y desparramando por el aire una frescura relajante. En poco tiempo estaban empapados.

– Si yo llego engripado a la gráfica va a ser una cagada.

– Olvídate solo por un momento de que te puedes enfermar.

– Y yo no he comido nada aún. Me parece mejor…

Pero ella ya salía corriendo adelante de él. Luca apuró el paso, descoyuntado, el agua resbalando por la cara. Isadora ya había desaparecido en la curva. Él empezó a correr y una chancleta se le atascó en el charco de barro.

– ¡Isadora, espérame!

Entonces, de repente, él se acordó de un día… hacía mucho tiempo… una noche… Y paró de correr, tomado por la inquietante sensación de ya haber vivido aquel momento antes, en algún tiempo lejano, ¿cuándo? Un déjà vu. Isadora desapareciendo en la lluvia, desapareciendo… las gotas en los ojos, un trueno haciendo eco… él allí estancado, jadeando, ella desapareciendo, él gritando su nombre… ¿Dónde había vivido aquella misma escena, y cuándo, en qué imposible tiempo?

Siguió allí, parado bajo la lluvia, absorbido por la misteriosa sensación. Pero fue por poco tiempo, pues en seguida lo dominó un angustioso presentimiento de que si no corriera, aquella mujer desaparecería de su vida una vez más.

¿Una vez más?

*     *     *

Aún caía un resto de lluvia cuando la noche bajó en Tibau del Sur. En el restaurante de la posada, Luca e Isadora tomaban un caldo de pescado, él saboreando cada pedazo de aquel delicioso momento: el gusto del caldo, la lluvia, la musiquita en la radio… Luca sentía la cabeza flotando liviana y los pensamientos vagando sin criterios. Por primera vez en aquel viaje se sentía verdaderamente relajado. Los problemas que lo esperaban en Fortaleza ahora pertenecían a una realidad lejana, y la realidad en la cual estaba en aquel momento era hecha de cosas tan simples…

Él miró a Isadora a su frente, entretenida en su plato, y se admiró de como ella combinaba con el momento, la lluvia que caía allá afuera, la simplicidad del lugar… Isadora parecía vivir en otro nivel de penetración de las cosas, que él no alcanzaba. Ella percibía la esencia de las cosas con naturalidad, mientras él necesitaba muchísimo esfuerzo para… ser simple.

¿Qué hora era? Quizás algo entre seis y siete, él calculó mentalmente. U ocho y nueve. Podría preguntar, pero no, no quería saber del tiempo, el tiempo ya no importaba, estar con Isadora era como estar fuera de él.

Ella lo había arrancado de su sueño y lo había llevado a conocer las delicias de una tarde lluviosa, un viejo placer olvidado de infancia. Corrieron por la ruta, tomaron aguardiente y miraron la lluvia bajo techos de paja. Se rieron de chistes viejos y comieron choclo asado. Y ahora estaban allí, tomando caldo de pescado. Un día perfecto. Como todos los días deberían ser.

– Disculpa por ayer, Luca. No quería que te quedaras molesto con aquella historia que te conté.

– ¿Vos realmente has soñado conmigo? – él preguntó, dividido entre la curiosidad y el temor de retomar aquellos temas.

– ¿Podemos hablar de otra cosa?

– Claro que sí.

Él se sintió aliviado. De hecho era mejor no hablar de aquello. Había algo allí que lo molestaba bastante, algo que él no sabía precisar.

– Entonces hablame sobre el Taoísmo, he quedado curioso. ¿Es una religión antigua, no?

– Tiene unos cinco mil años. Está el lado religioso, pero prefiero el filosófico.

– ¿Y cómo es?

– No te lo contaré.

– ¿Por qué?

– Te reirás.

– Te prometo que no me reiré.

– Ah, pensándolo bien, es para reírse mismo.

– No me reiré, te lo juro.

– Filosóficamente hablando, el Taoísmo es un modo intuitivo de entender a la realidad. Un modo que el sujeto occidental, con toda su lógica científica, no consigue entender. Genera un nudo en el pensamiento.

– ¿Cómo sería un modo intuitivo de entender a la realidad?

– Captar los movimientos naturales de la vida para actuar en armonía con ellos. Es eso lo que el Taoísmo enseña.

– ¿Entonces un taoísta es alguien vinculado a la Naturaleza?

– Es alguien conectado con el Tao, o sea, con él mismo y con la Naturaleza, con las verdades simples y naturales. El Tao es la unicidad de todo lo que existe, de lo que vincula a todas las cosas y también enlaza el yo al todo. Si vos te armonizas con el Tao, queda más simple vivir. Aún viviendo en el ritmo loco de la ciudad grande, es posible mantenerse vinculado con la mente de la Naturaleza.

– ¿Mente de la Naturaleza? ¿Vos has fumado algo?

– No – ella respondió, riéndose. – Déjame ver si consigo explicarte. La Naturaleza es la vida, y la vida tiene sus movimientos, sus estaciones. Es esa conexión con lo natural que guía al taoísta por entre todo el caos. ¿Sabes cuando uno se aferra demasiado a una cosa? Eso es antinatural. Porque aquella cosa se transforma todo el tiempo y uno sigue aferrado a algo que no existe más. Lo que no cambia, se pudre. Ese dinamismo también es el Tao.

– ¿El Tao sería un dios?

– El Tao no es una entidad personalizada como los dioses de las religiones. Es algo impersonal, que no tiene voluntad ni tiene moral. El Tao ya es la propia acción de la vida, el flujo natural de la realidad.

– No sé si he entendido.

– Es porque no se puede explicar el Tao. Solo se puede intuirlo.

– Es más, sinceramente, no tengo idea de lo que hay para entender en eso.

– Quien pregunta sobre el Tao no se lo imagina. Y quien responde no lo conoce.

– Estar en armonía con las cosas… Eso me huele a una cierta pasividad, ¿no?

– Al revés. Captar el flujo del Tao es un trabajo interno difícil, una alquimia interior. Pero después que uno consigue, se ajusta a las fuerzas naturales de la vida y se torna uno con todo lo que existe.

– ¿Y si yo quiero ir contra el Tao?

– Vivirás cansado.

Vivir cansado… Luca escuchó el eco de aquellas incómodas palabras.

– Quien es uno con el Tao no necesita hacer nada. Y, aún así… nada deja por hacer.

– Pero eso es contradictorio.

– ¿Yo no te he dicho? Da un nudo en el pensamiento.

– ¿Tao tiene traducción?

– El ideograma chino que corresponde al Tao está hecho de pie más cabeza. El camino, el sentido.

– Para mí está más parecido con “sin pies ni cabeza”… – él dijo y se rió. – Ops, perdón.

– No pasa nada, puedes reírte – ella dijo, riéndose también. – Si no hubieran carcajadas, no sería el Tao.

Él terminó de tomar el caldo y se quedó mirándola, deleitándose con lo que veía: los ojos color de miel, el cabello mojado, la boca bien redonda, los senos insinuándose por abajo de la remera… y loca, deliciosamente loca.

De repente ella levantó la cara y su mirada interceptó la suya. Él se sintió pillado en flagrante en su deseo sexual.

– ¿En qué piensas, Luca de Luz Neón?

– Ahn… nada.

– Yo sé. ¿Quieres que yo te lo cuente?

Él asintió con la cabeza. Ella tomó la última cucharada del caldo, se limpió la boca y dijo, naturalmente:

– En mis pechos.

Él no pudo creer en lo que escuchó.

– Y, si quieres saberlo, a mí me está en-can-tan-do…

De primera, le vino una cara de idiota. Después fueron las manos, apretándose sobre la mesa. Después las bocas, el beso ávido, el impostergable encuentro de las lenguas. Después la cuenta que se pagó con urgencia, gracias, puede quedarse con el cambio, el último trago apurado de cerveza, el camino de vuelta hacia la carpa, corriendo, bajo la lluvia…

Llegaron jadeantes y embarrados. Entraron en la carpa del y se arrodillaron uno frente al otro. Ella suspendió la remera, mostrándole los senos, y susurró:

– Ven.

Él se lanzó sobre los pechos de aquella mujer con todas las manos y bocas y lenguas que poseía, como si fueran mangos maduros y suculentos y él un miserable hambriento.  Ella agarró su cabeza y lo tironeó hacia sí, mientras se arrancaban lo que tuvieran de ropa y rodaban, casi tirando abajo la carpa. Después ella se puso por arriba, apresó sus brazos y lo cabalgó, subiendo y bajando, subiendo y bajando…

Luca cerró los ojos, en éxtasis. Se sentía envuelto por las sensaciones de una forma como nunca antes había sentido. La mirada medio hipnótica de Isadora, la suavidad de la piel, el olor rico, el sonido musical de sus gemidos, el sabor irresistible de su beso… Todo en ella era muy bueno, ¿cómo podía ser tan bueno? Y todo lo abarcaba de tal manera que por primera vez él hacía el sexo sin pensar exactamente en lo que hacía. En vez de racionalizar, simplemente cerró los ojos y se dejó llevar por las sensaciones… la sensación de compartir su cuerpo… la sensación de que algo lo tragaba… en succiones continuadas… ritmadas… lo tragaba…

De repente, la explosión. En un segundo sus pedazos fueron lanzados hacia todos lados en una velocidad impensable, millones de fragmentos expelidos hacia el Cosmos sin fin. Entonces, débil de tanto esfuerzo, sintió que dejaba de existir, lentamente, disminuyendo, apagándose, muriéndose… Para siempre.

*     *     *

Primero un ojo. Después el otro. Luca se movió bajo la sábana, acordándose de Isadora, el paseo en la lluvia, el sexo en la carpa… La relación más loca y más maravillosa de toda su vida.

Entonces miró hacia el costado y no vio a Isadora. Tuvo una corazonada rara. Se levantó rápidamente y salió. Y allá afuera, bajo la luz clara del día, no vio la carpa azul, ni una señal de ella. Se quedó quieto, sin saber qué concluir.  Otra vez sintió el vértigo, una sensación rara de estar resbalándose hacia adentro de un sueño… Por un instante se vio tomado por un miedo terrible de que Isadora jamás hubiera existido.

Se puso los lentes de sombra, corrió hasta el restaurante y allá preguntó por la muchacha de la carpa azul. Ella ya se había ido, respondió uno de los hijos de doña Zezé. Él se sentó, triste por no estar con Isadora, pero aliviado por constatar que ella realmente existía, que todo había ocurrido de verdad. Pidió un café fuerte y se fue a sentar a la entrada del restaurante. Mientras tomaba el café, miró hacia el camping, hacia la carpa azul que no estaba más allá, y de repente la ausencia de Isadora era un inmenso y eterno vacío en su alma. Que rara sensación… ¿Cómo era posible que algo que tres días antes ni siquiera existía pudiera ahora llenar su ser de un vacío sin fin?

Cuando llegó de vuelta a la carpa fue que notó el papel doblado sobre la sábana:

Te he encontrado. Ahora no hay más vuelta. Salta en el abismo.

Una hora después, luego de haber desarmado la carpa y pagar su cuenta, él caminaba por la rutita de arena hacia la calle donde tomaría el ómnibus que lo llevaría hasta Natal, donde tomaría otro ómnibus hacia Fortaleza. En ese instante, una pequeña víbora marrón surgió adelante de él, cruzando lentamente el caminito. Él estancó y retrocedió un paso. No le gustaban las víboras, ellas le recordaban a la muerte, la muerte que casi lo había llevado en el mar de Tibau del Sur. La víbora también paró y por algunos segundos se quedó allí, mirándolo. Y después siguió su camino, desapareciendo adentro del monte. Luca se aseguró de que no había peligro y siguió, imaginándose la pesadilla que sería despertarse de noche con una víbora adentro de la carpa.

– Pero sería mucho peor despertarse adentro de la víbora… – chistó.

En el ómnibus, él leyó el billete por décima vez. Saltar en el abismo. ¿Qué abismo?

.

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CAPÍTULO 3

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La agenda de la semana estaba estimulante. El jueves la Bluz Neón haría un show en el Papalegua, un bar famoso en el barrio de la bohemia Playa de Iracema. El viernes sería el cumpleaños de Balu, el tecladista de la banda. Y el sábado la Bluz Neón tocaría en un festival de rock en la playa del Cumbuco, a media hora de la ciudad. Para Luca serían buenas oportunidades de refugiarse bajo la manta generosa de la noche y olvidar que el día lo esperaba al otro lado.

– Tengo el honor de presentar… – Carlito, el dueño del Papalegua, anunció. – Junior en la guitarra eléctrica, Ranieri en el contrabajo, Balu en los teclados, Ninon en la batería, Luca en la voz y en la guitarra.

– ¡Y en el whisky! – gritó alguien desde la platea.

– Con ustedes, nuestra atracción de todos los jueves… ¡Bluz Neón!

Todos en el tablado, Luca cumplió el viejo ritual: volcó una medida de whisky y después saludó al público.

– Buenas noches. Fiesta es lo que nos queda.

Hicieron, como siempre, un show bastante alegre, tocando las músicas propias y algunos clásicos del rock y del blues. Luca rindió homenaje a la Playa de Iracema, habló de sus chicas lindas, de los personajes folclóricos del barrio y de la magia que se desparramaba por las calles como olor de mar. Bajó del tablado y cantó sentado en una mesa de muchachas, tomando en sus vasos. Al fin anunció que estaba a la venta el CD demo, grabado durante un show en Canoa Quebrada. Finalizaron, como siempre lo hacían, con el Ombligo Blues, cuando llamaban al tablado a las muchachas que estuvieran con el ombligo a la muestra y todos bailaban en una divertida mezcla de blues con baião. Fiesta es lo que nos queda.

Después de la presentación, volviendo al camerino, Luca paró frente a la barra y pidió un whisky doble. Tomó un trago y canturreó el rock que estaba componiendo.

En la barra hay un lugar
Para el que no sabe donde ir

En ese momento se acordó de Isadora… Isadora y sus besos, sus pechos, su locura. Aquellas charlas sobre Tao, sueños, abismos, vidas pasadas… Tres días con ella y ahora tres semanas sin idea sobre adonde podría estar. ¿Será que aún la vería otra vez?

– Hola, Luca.

Él se asustó y se dio vuelta, buscando a la dueña de la voz. Y dio de frente con una chica. Tenía el cabello rojo y estaba sentada al lado de la barra. Ella sonreía y decía que era aficionada por la banda, tenía el CD grabado en Canoa Quebrada, ¿será que lo podría autografiar?

Claro que sí, respondió Luca, despidiéndose del recuerdo de Isadora y pidiendo una lapiceraal barman. La muchacha era simpática, él notó, y tenía una facha deliciosa de traviesa. Pero, caramba, debía tener unos dieciséis años, ¿cómo dejaban que aquellas nínfulas entraran allí?

Fiesta es lo que nos queda
Y yo estoy con prisa, baby

Él tomó un trago largo, sintiendo el líquido bajar por la garganta, ah, el bendito ardor, la frontera prohibida de la noche… Aquella era la entrada en el nivel siguiente de la realidad, donde todo podía pasar.

– ¿Te gusta el whisky? – él preguntó.

– Me encaaanta.

Luca tomó un trago más del whisky, tironeó rápidamente a la chica por las caderas y la besó en la boca, pasando despacio la bebida de su boca a la de la muchacha.

– Putaqueloparió… – ella murmuró después, todavía sorprendida. – ¡Fue el beso más embriagador de mi vida!

Una hora después, mientras Angela Ro-Ro cantaba Mares de España en el living del departamento de Luca, la chica prendió un porro mientras él por segunda vez bajaba el volumen del aparato de música.

– ¡Ah, che, tranqui! ¡Fiesta es lo que nos queda! – ella protestó, pasándole el cigarrillo.

– Me parece lo mismo. Pero hay un vecino que no está de acuerdo conmigo.

– Entonces cántame un blues, dale…

– Mira, linda, ya canto demasiado blues en la banda.

– ¡Entonces pondré el CD para que lo escuchemos!

Él pensó en encender un incienso pero no encontró la cajilla. ¿Cómo había conseguido perderla si estaba con ella hacía un minuto? Abrió otra cerveza y se divirtió oyendo a la chica cantar las músicas de la Bluz Neón, sabía todas de memoria, hasta los comentarios de las pausas, increible. ¿La banda no necesita una cantante pelirroja?, ella preguntó. Pelirroja, rubia, morocha…, él respondió, riéndose. ¿Adónde miércoles estaba el incienso? Ella puso a tocar otra vez la primera música y él se fue a sentar en el sillón. Pero erró el cálculo y se cayó en el piso, derramando la cerveza.

– Caramba… creo que la limpiadora ha cambiado el sillón de lugar.

Él se rió del propio chiste y salió bambaleando para agarrar un trapo de piso. A la vuelta se resbaló en la cerveza derramada y casi cayó de nuevo.

– ¿Caramba, qué es eso, un complot?

Después de secar el piso, se sentó en el sillón y le hizo una seña a la chica para que se sentara a su lado. Quiero estar cerca de tu famoso obligo blues, ella dijo. Él se rio y suspendió la camisa, mostrándole el ombligo. Ella se sonrió, pasó la lengua de forma provocadora entre los labios y se fue a arrodillar entre sus piernas.

– Eh, psiu… ¿Cuántos años vos…

– Yo ya te he dicho, Luca.

Ella le besó el ombligo y le hizo cosquillas con el piercing de la lengua. Después abrió el cierre de los pantalones.

– ¿En serio me lo has dicho? Entonces me he olvidado.

– Dieciocho.

– Ah… claro… – Él estiró el brazo en búsqueda de la lata de cerveza pero no la encontró. Definitivamente los objetos estaban de joda con él. – ¿Qué tal dieciséis?

– Está bien, Tribunal de Menores. Diecisiete y medio.

La lata estaba en el piso. ¿Cómo había ido a parar allá? Aquél piercing en su lengua, era raro… Pero era bueno.

– Me parece que no te creo.

Arrodillada entre sus piernas, ella interrumpió los cariños y levantó la cara, medio sonriéndose, medio impaciente. Se puso el cabello detrás de las orejas y lo encaró:

– Última oferta, Luca. Diecisiete. ¿Vas a querer o no?

– Cerrado.

Él tomó otro trago, tendido en el sillón. Y se sintió relajar… El living era una penumbra agradable y la chica estaba otra vez absorta en sus cariños, entre sus piernas, el cabello como una cortina roja adelante de la cara. La verdad, pensándolo bien, no seria mala idea tener unas cantantes en la banda. Pondrían anuncios en el periódico, banda muy cercana al estrellato busca cantantes de la nata, tratar con Luca por la noche… Alejó la cortina roja a un lado y surgió su ojito azulado, sonriéndole. No recordaba que ella tenía ojos azules…  No, mujer en la banda no resultaría bien. Mejor dejar a las muchachas como estaban, en la platea. Y por detrás de las cortinas. Por detrás de las cortinas… de las cortinas…

¡Tchum! De repente se dio cuenta. ¿Adónde estaba? ¿Qué hora era? Estaba muy borracho, que mierda. Por la ventana entraba un poco de la claridad de la calle. Adelante, unas lucecitas verdes… piscando… diciendo que allí había un… aparato de música…

¡En casa! Evidente, estaba en casa. En el living de su departamento, en el sillón, claro. Luca suspiró, ufa, que alivio. Solo un principio de quedar en blanco, todo bien, ya pasó. Mucho trago, estómago vacío. Y aquellas dos allí, arrodilladas en el piso, entre sus piernas…

¡¿Dos?! Él se refregó los ojos, intrigado. Trató de recordar… Una era la pelirrojita del bar, aficionada de la banda. ¿Pero, y la otra? No tenía la menor idea. ¿La vecina de abajo, tal vez? Trató de fijar la mirada pero no la reconoció. Quizás amiga de la pelirrojita. ¿Quién le había abierto la puerta para que entrara?

Finalmente entendió: estaba tan loco que veía todo en duplicado. Y reventó en carcajadas. Sexo con dos mujeres era un deleite, pero no exactamente de aquella forma…

La chica suspendió los cariños y preguntó si él estaba realmente con ganas.

– Espera un poquito, chiquita… – Él se acomodó en el sillón, riéndose de la propia alucinación. – Tu nombre... ¿cómo es?

– Ah, no, Luca. No te lo digo más.

– Bien… yo no quería asustarte pero… hay otra mina ahí a tu lado.

Y volvió a reírse. Aquello era la cosa más graciosa del mundo.

– Es mi hermana melliza. – Ella se sonrió descontenta. – ¿Tú también podés verla?

– ¿Cómo?

– Ella se murió cuando yo era chica. De vez en cuando aparece.

Luca paró de reírse. ¿Hermana melliza? ¿Muerta? ¿Aquello era en serio, de hecho? Miró una vez más hacia las dos mujeres arrodilladas entre sus piernas y se sintió molesto.

– Basta no darle corte que ella se va.

Ah, no. Tener relaciones con espíritus ya era demasiado rock´n´roll.

– Perdón… – él dijo, alejándole la cabeza de su falda. Luego se levantó y se subió los pantalones. – Hoy la cosa está complicada.

Fue a la cocina y abrió la heladera. Todavía había una cerveza, por lo menos eso. Hay días que no están buenos. Debía de hecho haber quedado en el bar con los pibes.

Cuando volvió al living, ellas miraban la ciudad, los cuerpos desnudos recostados a la ventana, displicentes, ambas en la misma posición. Por un instante los admiró, tan bellos e incitadores. Todavía pensó en reconsiderar la decisión… pero no. Pedofilia astral no era joda.

– ¿Puedo dormir acá, Luca?

– Ahn… Mejor las dejo en la casa de ustedes. Vamos.

Media hora después él paró el coche en frente al edificio de las hermanas.

– No es por mal que mi hermana hace eso, Luca.

– Todo bien.

– No sabía que vos eras sensitivo.

– ¿Yo?

– ¿Nos vemos de nuevo?

– Si tu hermana lo permite…

Él esperó que ellas entraran en el edificio y prendió el volkswagen. Y salió, viendo las primeras luces del viernes por encima de la ciudad. Y lamentó. Como siempre, la claridad entrometida del día disipando la magia de la noche.

A las ocho tenía que estar en la gráfica. Daba para dormir una horita. Hermana melliza del más allá… Mejor ni contar, de cualquier forma nadie se lo creería.

*     *     *

‒ ¡Levantate, Grand Tigre! ¡Son las tres!

Una voz femenina… viniendo de lejos…

Luca abrió los ojos despacio, reconociendo el cuarto. De a poco, se sintió conectar con aquella súbita realidad. Sábado… ¿O sería viernes? No, sábado mismo, tres de la tarde… show de noche en la playa del Cumbuco…

– ¡Luz quemada, lavatorio atascado! ¿Y ese espejo roto? ¡Uno se vuelve un monstruo mirándose en él! ¿Por qué no tomas el caché de hoy y arreglas ese cuarto de baño, qué tal?

– Habla más bajo, Sonita, por favor…

Él se tapó la cabeza con la almohada, protegiéndose de aquella tormenta sonora. Que mierda, debía ser prohibido despertar a un ser humano así, principalmente si el ser humano se hubiera ido a dormir al mediodía…

– ¿Has visto a mi otro par de botas por ahí, Gran Tigre?

Se levantó aún grogui, una sed asombrosa rompiéndole la garganta. Fue hasta la cocina para tomar agua pero se acordó de Jim Morrison, despertarse y agarrar en seguida una cerveza, porque el futuro es incierto y el fin estará siempre por cerca…

Mientras Sonita se calzaba sus botas negras con tacos, él se sentó al borde de la cama, dio un buen trago de cerveza y se puso a admirarla. Sonita… Bonita, estaba muy buena, pero era absolutamente disparatada, un caso para llamar a la policía. Cuerpo musculoso de profesora de gimnasia, enviciada en academia y anfetamina, daba clases incluso los domingos. Tenía también otro vicio: el sexo. Con mucho alcohol, escándalos y arañazos. De familia rica, aparecía a menudo en los periódicos como gente de bien, pero le parecía estimulante cazar roqueros melenudos en el submundo alternativo. Cuando él la veía en la platea de los shows de la banda, ya sabía el guión de la noche: se tomarían todas, ella haría hincapié y pagaría todo y después lo llevaría a un cinco estrellas de la rambla donde él le retazaría la ropa, dejándola solamente con las botas negras, y harían el sexo como dos bichos alucinados, en el piso, en la ventana, en la mesada de la cocina, y ella de mañana se iría directamente hacia la academia, sin dormir. O podría ser el guión B: ella tomaría demasiado y resultaría mal, echando a perder la noche.

En la fiesta de cumpleaños de Balu, la noche anterior, ella había aparecido usando un vestidito corto y las famosas botas negras, que siempre usaba cuando estaba mal intencionada. Él piropeaba al pedo con una amiga de Ninon, hasta estaba interesado en la mina… pero, hummm, aquella mirada que él ya sabía, aquellas botas, ¿cómo resistirle?

Una hora después Balu abrió un whisky y sirvió a todos. Después puso a tocar su compilación Blues de Balu Volumen 9 y armó un cigarrillo natural, haciendo con que la fiesta enganchara la quinta marcha. A las siete de la mañana Iana, la novia de Balu, tuvo que golpear a la puerta del baño para avisar a los dos zarpaditos que todos ya se habían ido.

– ¡¿Ah, qué pasa?! – Sonita argumentó desde allá adentro. – ¡Hoy es viernes!

– Ni pensar – Iana discordó, paciente. – Ya es sábado.

La puerta se abrió y surgió Luca, la camisa abierta, el cabello todo desordenado.

– El mañana solo llega cuando uno se despierta – él filosofó, solemne.

Luca sirvió una medida más, tomó la mitad y Sonita tomó la otra. Entonces se despidieron y alargaron la noche rumbo al Roque Santeiro, un tugurio en el barrio de Mucuripe que tenía el caldo de carne y la cerveza ideales para finalizar las noches sin fin, al ritmo de Genival Santos, Diana y Odair José. Sonita iba bien, hasta el momento en que se empecinó en creer que una muchacha piropeaba a Luca y se le lanzó encima, tirándola al piso junto con las botellas de cerveza. Ahí no hubo más ambiente y se tuvieron que ir. Típico guión B.

– Aquella de ayer en el baño de la casa de Balu no valió, ¿has entendido, Gran Tigre? Vos no conseguías ni quedar parado.

Luca tomó un trago más de cerveza y siguió admirándola. Los muslos musculosos, la marca del traje de baño minúsculo, los senos pequeños… Ella estaba parada, al lado de la cama, desnuda y deliciosa. Con las botas negras.

– Te atrasarás para la clase, profesora…

– Hay tiempo.

Instantes después, mientras era lentamente penetrada por Luca, ella estiró el brazo, agarró el móvil en la cartera, digitó, erró, digitó de nuevo y, de ojos cerrados y hablando  pausadamente, le explicó a la secretaria de la academia que llamara al profesor substituto pues… había ocurrido un… un… solo un momento… ay… un pequeño imprevisto… sí, imprevisto… solo un momento… hummm… y solo podría dar la clase de las… ay… de las cinco.

*     *     *

Luca agarró una lapicera y, mientras los otros afinaban los instrumentos, se sentó en un rincón del camerino y se puso a garabatear en un papel de servilleta.

– Salió del horno ahora, Junior – él dijo. Y canturreó para que el amigo escuchara.

En la barra hay un lugar
Para el que no sabe adonde ir
Fiesta es lo que nos queda
Y yo estoy apurado, baby
Una medida ahora, ya
Necesito tomar para manejarme

– Me gustó. Pero no te entusiasmes que el repertorio de hoy ya está cerrado, ¿viste, che?

– Lo prometo.

Minutos después Ninon golpeó el bombo de la batería y Luca entró en el tablado. De allí de arriba él podía ver a la platea desparramada por la arena de la playa, el mar al lado derecho, la luna imponente en el cielo… Él se dio vuelta la medida de whisky y tomó el micrófono:

– Buenas noches.

– ¡Buenas noches! – respondieron algunas chicas cercanas al tablado.

– Fiesta…

– ¡Es lo que nos queda! – ellas completaron, entusiasmadas.

El show transcurrió normal. Pero al fin, luego del tradicional Ombligo Blues, Luca sacó una servilleta del bolsillo y anunció, la voz afónica por los excesos de los últimos días:

– Esa se llama Una Dosis Ahora. Todavía no está ensayada. Los pibes me van a estrangular allá en el camerino, pero, carajo, nosotros estamos en la playa, esa luna…

Él agarró la guitarra, se sentó en el taburete, punteó un poco y paró. Le dio la indicación a Ninon, en la batería, para que empezara. Los otros menearon la cabeza, resignados, y acompañaron. La música salió pésima, evidente. Pero había un grupo de muchachas entusiasmadas y ruidosas frente al tablado y ellas aplaudieron y gritaron tanto que felizmente nadie le dedicó mucha atención a la música.

Terminada la presentación, Ranieri apareció en el camerino con una de las entusiasmadas, la cual dijo que le había encantado el show y que tenía unas amigas que querían mucho conocer a los tipos de la Bluz Neón.

– ¿A los neons solteros, no, mija?… – corrigió Celina, tironeando al novio Ninon por el brazo. – ¡Nosotros ya nos vamos para la playa! Y vos también, Balu, porque es hora de que los casados duerman.

Una docena de cervezas después allá estaban los neons solteros con las nuevas amigas en la arena de la playa. La luna del Cumbuco, el viento en las palmeras, el reventar de las olas, todos hablando al mismo tiempo. Junior en la guitarra a la cual le faltaba una cuerda, Ranieri en la latita de cerveza abollada y Luca en la casi voz. Más músicas, más cerveza.  ¿Alguien tiene hojilla? Ah, Junior, toca aquella, dale. ¿Fumar acá no resultará mal? Nos van a multar por exceso de placer. A ver si nos consigues unas entradas gratis para el Papalegua, dale. ¿Ésta cerveza es la mía? El ombligo más hermoso es el de Ranieri. Bañarse en el mar de noche no hace mal. No hace mal… hace mal…

¡Tchum! De repente Luca dio por sí. A la vuelta, todo oscuro. Un calor abrasador. Estaba en una sauna.  No, no, en una cama. ¿Pero adónde? Y bajo su cuerpo sudado había una… una mujer. Entraba y salía de adentro de la mujer con violencia y ella decía cosas que él no entendía. Se asustó. Simplemente no sabía quién era la mujer.

Sin interrumpir los movimientos de vaivén, él trató de acordarse… pero solo consiguió recordar el show. Lo que había pasado después no tenía ningún registro. Miró la cara bajo su cuerpo y no vio nada, estaba demasiado oscuro. Colocó atención a lo que ella decía, pero no entendió ni una sola palabra. ¿Sería extranjera? ¿O una extraterrestre?

Todavía estaba muy ebrio. Hizo un esfuerzo para tratar de recordar cualquier cosa… pero nada, no se le ocurría ninguna imagen. Simplemente no sabía con quien estaba teniendo relaciones en aquella cama. Que mierda.

El sudor resvalaba por la piel, pegando su cuerpo al de la mujer anónima. El goce no venía y ya no tenía fuerzas para seguir por más tiempo. Para completar, alguien había puesto a tocar bien cerca una música barata cualquiera, aé, aé, ó, ó. Pensó en levantarse y encender el ventilador. Pensó en gritar para que bajaran el volumen de aquella música insoportable. No. Todo lo que necesitaba era terminar rápido con aquello, volver a la posada y caer en su cama. Extinguirse.

Cerró los ojos para concentrarse y olvidar el calor, la música, la mujer sin cara. Pero en seguida los abrió otra vez, pues toda la habitación giró. No, vomitar ahora no…

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El Irresistible Encanto de la Insania

CAPÍTULOS

prólogo – 1 -2 – 3
4 – 5 – 6
7 – 8 – 9
10 – 11 – 12

 


Quarentena Erótica, o livro

08/05/2020

08mai2020

QUARENTENA ERÓTICA, O LIVRO

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Para falar do meu novo livro, tenho antes que falar do Indecências para o Fim de Tarde. Ele é comercializado na Amazon apenas na versão impressa, pois a versão eletrônica, que tentei publicar lá quando do lançamento, em 2015, foi censurada por infligir as regras de publicação. Até hoje não sei o motivo específico da censura. A explicação mais razoável que encontrei é que talvez um ou outro conto aborde temas que contrariam as regras morais para publicação da empresa. O fato é que nunca me conformei com isso.

Então, vem a pandemia de covid-19. E eu tenho uma ideia…

Peguei o Indecências, excluí dois contos e acrescentei outros cinco, e publiquei na Amazon com o título Quarentena Erótica. E a obra foi aceita. Ufa. Isso mostra que, provavelmente, o motivo da censura estava nos contos que excluí, que continham personagens menores de idade em situações sexuais. Entretanto, o livro impresso não foi censurado – como explicar isso? Bem, talvez a Amazon possua funcionários humanos que atuam como analistas de conteúdo, e eles, obviamente, não têm como ler e avaliar todos os livros impressos que são vendidos na plataforma, mas talvez a Amazon utilize algum programa de análise de conteúdo para avaliar as obras eletrônicas. Mas, realmente, não sei.

Como não pretendo publicar o Quarentena Erótica em versão impressa, a obra estará disponível apenas em formato eletrônico, à venda na Amazon ou direto com o autor, em PDF personalizado.

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rk – blogdokelmer.com

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Quarentena Erótica
Contos desavergonhados para dias de isolamento

Ricardo Kelmer – contos eróticos – Miragem Editorial, 2020
formato: eletrônico
Imagem da capa: Casal na Janela, de Georg Friedrich Kersting (1817)

RESUMO

Nos contos de Ricardo Kelmer, o erótico pode vir com variados temperos: romantismo, humor, misticismo, bizarro, horror… Às vezes, vem doce e sutil, ou estranho e avassalador, e às vezes brinca com nossas próprias expectativas sobre o que seja erótico. Explorando fetiches, fantasias, delírios e tabus, e até mesmo experiências reais do autor e de seus leitores, as estórias deste livro acabam de chegar até você para apimentar seus dias, e suas noites, de quarentena.

> para comprar direto com o autor

> para comprar na Na Amazon

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DICA DE LIVRO

Indecências para o Fim de Tarde
Ricardo Kelmer – contos

Uma advogada que adora fazer sexo por dinheiro… Um ser misterioso e sensual que invade o sono das mulheres… Os fetiches de um casal e sua devotada e canina escrava sexual… Uma sacerdotisa pagã e seu cavaleiro num ritual de fertilidade na floresta… A adolescente que consegue um encontro especial com seu ídolo maior, o próprio pai… Seja provocando risos e reflexões, chocando nossa moralidade ou instigando nossas fantasias, inclusive as que nem sabíamos possuir, as indecências destes 23 contos querem isso mesmo: lambuzar, agredir, provocar e surpreender a sua imaginação. > saiba mais

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Seja Leitor Vip e ganhe:

– Acesso aos Arquivos Secretos
– Descontos, promoções e sorteios exclusivos
Basta enviar e-mail pra rkelmer@gmail.com com seu nome e cidade e dizendo como conheceu o Blog do Kelmer (saiba mais)

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Comentarios01COMENTÁRIOS

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Faxina Summer Show

18/04/2020

18abr2020

FAXINA SUMMER SHOW

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Minha namorada Patrícia me deu um ultimato: Pedrão, ou tu arruma alguém pra faxinar este apartamento ou eu deixo de vir aqui. Então falei com dona Luzia, a senhora da cantina lá da empresa onde eu trabalho, e ela me indicou a sobrinha dela. Falou que a menina faxinava bem e era de confiança, e levava o próprio almoço. Por mim, deixando o apartamento limpo pra Patrícia parar de reclamar, era o que bastava. A moça veio, Meire o nome dela, eu expliquei o que precisava fazer, combinamos que ela viria toda quinta-feira, deixei o pagamento sobre a mesa da cozinha e saí pra trabalhar. Não sei se era porque estava apressado pra sair, mas admito que não vi nada de especial na menina. Morena, baixinha, aquela timidez típica das meninas do interior. Não vi mesmo nada demais na Meire. Porém…

Semana passada, na quinta-feira, saí de casa cedo como sempre, mas precisei voltar depois do almoço pra pegar um livro que eu tinha esquecido. Nem lembrava que era o dia da faxina. Abri a porta do apartamento e, tchum, fui atingido por uma poética visão: Meire dançava na sala, em frente à estante, de olhos fechados, vestida com seu uniforme, vestidinho preto com avental branco e tênis azulzinho claro. Percebi que, na verdade, ela estava dublando Donna Summer, o espanador em sua mão fazendo as vezes de microfone. E a música que tocava era Could It Be Magic.

Ela não percebeu minha chegada e continuou seu número solitário, dublando e se contorcendo sensualmente em movimentos lentos e sinuosos. Fiquei ali na porta, olhando fascinado, subitamente admirado de sua beleza. E aquelas pernocas, uau, o que era aquilo? E aquela bundinha balançando no ritmo erótico da música, caramba… Não, definitivamente eu não havia olhado direito pra menina no primeiro dia. A dança foi ficando mais sensual e ela ergueu a barra do vestido até o meio da bunda… Caramba, ela estava sem calcinha! Ou não? Não, devia ser impressão minha. Talvez fosse uma dessas calcinhas minúsculas, enfiadíssima na bunda. Senti meu pau se alvoroçando, o coração batendo forte, a garganta seca… Então a música chegou ao fim e ela abriu os olhos, saindo de seu transe. E percebeu minha presença.

– Aaaaiii! – Meire exclamou, tomando um baita susto. – Que vergonha, seo Pedro…

– Sem problema – respondi, entrando e fechando a porta. Começou a tocar Love to Love You Baby. – Você gosta de Donna Summer?

– Conhecia não. Semana passada eu botei pra tocar enquanto faxinava e gostei tanto…

Veja você. A menina escolhera Donna Summer pra ser a trilha sonora da faxina, que meigo. O mundo ainda tinha salvação.

– O senhor também gosta dessa cantora?

– Quem gosta mesmo é a Patrícia. O cedê é dela.

– Patrícia é a namorada do senhor?

– É.

– Eu vi uma foto de vocês. Ela é muito linda.

Fiquei sem saber o que dizer.

‒ Parece uma atriz de cinema. Ela deve ser uma mulher maravilhosa, né?

– Ahn… É, é sim.

– Olha, não arranhei o cedê não, viu, tomei muito cuidado.

– Pode ouvir sempre que quiser.

– Também gostei desta que tá tocando.

‒ Esta é Love to Love You Baby.

‒ Sei inglês não. Quer dizer o quê?

‒ Eu amo amar você.

Ela sorriu e ficou me olhando de um jeito assim meio… malicioso. Ou a malícia estava em minha mente? Tive a impressão que a menina, na verdade, entendeu que eu havia dito que eu, Pedrão, amava amar ela, Meire.

– Eu amo amar você é o nome da música – expliquei, me achando meio idiota.

– Eu queria saber inglês pra cantar essas músicas.

Quase que falei que eu poderia ensinar, e de graça. Mas me contive a tempo, pressentindo que eu estava à beira de ser possuído pelo espírito do velhaco tarado seboso, que costuma me atacar em certas ocasiões delicadas.

– O senhor dá licença. Vou continuar o serviço.

– Claro. Vim só pegar uma coisa que eu esqueci.

E fui pro quarto. Peguei o livro e voltei à sala. Agora a menina estava limpando o vidro da janela, de pé sobre um banquinho. Quase dava pra ver a calcinha. E, caramba, aquelas pernocas…

– Tchau, Meire.

Ela virou-se e sorriu. Sorriu novamente daquele jeitinho malicioso. Ou eu é que já estava imaginando coisas?

– Tchau, seo Pedro.

– Pode me chamar de Pedro mesmo.

– Ah, não sei se consigo, o senhor é meu patrão.

– Consegue. É só dizer… Pedro.

Ela sorriu, envergonhada. Como ficam lindas quando estão com vergonha as faxineiras que vêm do interior…

– Só vou embora depois que você me chamar de Pedro ‒ falou o velhaco tarado seboso. Não deu pra contê-lo.

Ela desviou o olhar, sorrindo encabulada. Como ficam lindas as faxineiras que ficam encabuladas de dizer o nome do patrão…

– Tchau, Pedro.

Ai, ai. Meu nome nunca ficou tão bonito na boca de uma mulher. Até porque Patrícia me chama de Pedrão, é bom que se diga.

– Tchau, Meire.

Saí, fechei a porta e entrei no elevador. Acho que estava em estado de choque, nem lembro como cheguei no escritório. Desde então não consigo tirar essa menina da cabeça. Será que ela estava me dando bola, será? Ou aquele era apenas seu jeitinho espontâneo de menina ingênua do interior, e o meu velhaco interior é que estava me pregando peças? Só havia um modo de saber.

Pois bem, cá estou, uma semana depois. Manhã de quinta-feira, eu aqui sentado no sofá, de bermuda e camiseta, o jornal ao lado. É a edição de domingo, mas isso não tem importância. E já avisei lá na empresa que hoje só vou à tarde. Desligo o celular, é melhor. Olho o relógio, oito horas. Calma, Pedrão, ela deve estar chegando.

Então, ouço a porta da área de serviço abrindo, e depois fechando. Ufa, ela chegou. Agora deve estar indo pro banheiro de serviço. Deve estar agora trocando de roupa. Pego o jornal e busco qualquer notícia pra ler. Putaquipariu, dá pra ouvir meu coração batendo. Mais um pouco… só mais um pouco… mais um pouquinho… e ei-la, ei-la na porta da cozinha, sorrindo pra mim.

– Bom dia, seo Pedro.

– Bom dia, Meire.

– O senhor não vai trabalhar hoje?

– Vou só à tarde.

Como fica mimosa nesse uniforme de faxineira…

– Se o senhor quiser, começo a limpar pelo quarto do senhor.

– Não se preocupe, não vai me atrapalhar.

– Tá bom. Mas se atrapalhar, o senhor diz, tá?

– Digo.

Ela começa a passar o pano na estante. E eu no sofá, com meu jornal de domingo. Reparo que em determinados movimentos o vestidinho preto sobe um pouco e quase dá pra ver a calcinha. Que cor será? Terá florzinhas, coraçõezinhos, moranguinhos? De repente ela se vira, e eu, flagrado em minhas admirações, volto o olhar pro jornal.

– Tô atrapalhando o senhor, né, seo Pedro?

– Não, não. E pode me chamar de Pedro mesmo.

Ela sorri sem jeito e volta ao serviço. E eu volto a admirar seu corpo, seus movimentos tão graciosos. Aquelas pernocas lindas, aquela cinturinha de pilão… Quando ela se agacha pra ajeitar as almofadas no chão, tomo um susto. Nada de florzinhas, coraçõezinhos ou moranguinhos: ela tá sem calcinha. Não. Não acredito no que vejo, ou no que não vejo, e olho novamente. Mas ela já se ergueu e agora eu tô na dúvida. Será que ela realmente tá sem calcinha? Não, não é possível, isso é a minha imaginação sórdida, por que a menina viria trabalhar sem calcinha? Bem, talvez ela seja muito pobre, coitada, tá sem dinheiro pra comprar calcinha.

Então ela sem querer derruba uma revista e se agacha novamente pra apanhar. Putaquipariu! Ela tá mesmo sem calcinha! Dessa vez eu vi claramente. Tá sem nada por baixo do vestido, nadinha. Caramba… Uma faxineira que vai trabalhar sem calcinha, pode uma coisa dessa? Decido agir. Preciso agir. Não posso fazer outra coisa senão agir.

– Meire?

– Sim, seo Pedro.

– Você não esqueceu de vestir algo?

Ela para, pensa um pouco, leva a mão até o meio das coxas… Então sorri, encabulada.

– É que eu acho mais confortável assim, sabe? Mas se o senhor quiser, eu visto a calcinha…

– Por mim, pode ficar assim mesmo.

– Não carece mesmo não? O senhor tem certeza?

– Tenho.

Não carece… Você não acha lindo esse jeitinho interiorano dela de falar? Devia ser preservado em museu.

Meire segue limpando a estante, sem calcinha, porque é mais confortável, e eu fingindo que leio as últimas do esporte. Uma mulher sem calcinha já é um presente pros olhos do cidadão trabalhador, né? Agora, a sua faxineira sem calcinha, e a faxineira sendo como a Meire, ah, isso é um convite irrecusável à luxúria e ao desatino.

Nesse momento percebo… que ela… dá umas olhadinhas pra mim. Bem rápidas, assim de cantinho de olho, sabe? Entre um e outro de seus afazeres, nossos olhares se cruzam e ela desvia o seu, encabuladinha. Depois ela olha de novo e fala, achando graça:

– O jornal tá de ponta-cabeça.

Caramba. Não é que tá mesmo? Ponho o jornal na posição correta, rindo da minha idiotice. E volto a ler, ou a fingir que leio, enquanto ela vai à área de serviço. O cara falta ao trabalho pra ficar em casa lendo o jornal de ponta-cabeça. O que ela deve estar pensando de mim?

Meire volta com balde e escova. E começa a esfregar o carpete. Adivinha em que posição… De quatro. De quatro e de costas pra mim. Ah, não, isso já é abuso. Posso ver perfeitamente a buceta. Buceta raspadinha, parece um hambúrguer na vertical, hummm… Caramba, que menina safada.

Resolvo partir pro tudo ou nada e, tchum, ponho o Bambam pra fora da bermuda. Bambam é o nome do meu pau, foi Patrícia quem deu esse nome a ele, em homenagem ao personagem dos Flintstones. O danado tá duro que nem granito, e fico mexendo nele até que Meire percebe. Ela toma um susto e fica toda encabulada. Ou tá apenas fingindo? Não, agora já não dá pra acreditar que seja tão ingênua, é impossível. Ela volta a esfregar o carpete, mas em seguida vira o rosto e olha novamente pro meu pau. Parece um pouco assustada, talvez tenha percebido que a brincadeira foi longe demais. Ou é tudo fingimento?

– Quer pegar, Meire?

Ainda olhando pro meu pau, ela faz que não com a cabeça.

– Só pegar.

Ela hesita.

– Só pegar?

– Isso, só uma pegadinha.

Tá indecisa, conheço bem uma mulher indecisa.

– Vem…

Vem é a palavrinha mágica quando a mulher tá indecisa. O tom da voz depende da mulher, podendo ser num tom de ordem, pedido ou súplica. Pra Meire achei melhor pedir. Vem… E funciona: ela larga a escova e vem em minha direção, engatinhando devagar, que nem uma gatinha que tá supercuriosa a respeito daquela estranha salsicha pulsante à sua frente. Ela se aproxima, para entre minhas pernas e senta sobre os calcanhares, as mãos pousadinhas sobre as coxas. Solto meu pau e ele fica lá, ereto que nem um mastro sem bandeira. Meire olha pra ele e agora já não parece assustada. Ela observa meu pau com atenção, quietinha, mordendo os lábios.

– É bonito.

‒ Você acha?

‒ Mais bonito que o do meu noivo.

Ela tem um noivo, pode uma coisa dessa? Dona Luzia já havia me dito. Vinte anos e já quer casar, essa juventude tá perdida. Ela estica o braço e toca meu pau com a ponta dos dedos, como se ele fosse um bicho selvagem que a qualquer instante fosse atacá-la. Como não atacou, ela toca novamente, mais confiante, e dessa vez segura-o entre os dedos, sentindo-o latejar.

– Quer dar um beijinho nele?

Ela faz que não com a cabeça, meu pau ainda está em sua mão, pulsando.

– Só um beijinho.

Ela hesita outra vez. Conheço uma mulher quando hesita.

– Ele tá pedindo, ó.

Ele tá pedindo, ó. É uma frase mágica. Difícil uma mulher resistir a um pau pedinte.

– Tá, só um beijo – ela finalmente consente. Então chega seu rosto mais perto e beija rapidamente a cabeça do meu pau. Uau, ele tá tão duro que tenho certeza que no próximo segundo vai explodir, vai ser pedaço de pau pra todo lado. Faço um esforço danado pra não agarrar sua cabeça com as duas mãos e forçá-la contra ele, mas sou um patrão educado, não faria isso.

– Não quer dar uma chupadinha?

– O senhor deixa?

Ora, ora, mas isso é pergunta que se faça?, eu quase falo. Mas prefiro ser distinto:

– Claro, Meire, fique à vontade, ele é todo seu.

E fecho os olhos, e me ajeito no sofá, à espera de me sentir engolido pela boquinha da minha doce faxineira. Mas a boquinha não vem. Abro os olhos e a menina continua lá, acariciando meu pau e olhando pra ele.

– Eu tô assim com o senhor mas o senhor sabe que eu sou moça direita, né?

– Sim, claro, eu… humm… eu sei, claro… hummhmm… admiro muito isso em você…

Eu sentado no sofá, ela ajoelhada entre minhas pernas, meu pau entre mim e ela, sua mão subindo e descendo em meu pau. E sua boca a um palmo dele, a meio palmo, se aproximando, se aproximando…

– O senhor pediu pra eu chamar o senhor só de Pedro, mas eu não posso não – ela diz, parando a boca a um centímetro do meu pau, pro meu desespero.

– É? Por quê? ‒ pergunto, mantendo a compostura.

– Acho certo não, sabe? O senhor é meu patrão, eu sou sua faxineira. Não é bom confundir as coisas.

Ora veja. Eu realmente não esperava por essa argumentação. Mas é claro que, nessa altura do campeonato, eu é que não vou discutir com uma linda faxineira que está punhetando meu pau com sua mãozinha tão macia, a boca quase nele…

– Você tem… humm… toda razão, Meire…

– O senhor sabia que eu sou virgem?

Virgem? Caramba. É sério?

– Sabia, seo Pedro?

Não. Não sabia. Como iria saber?

– Hummm…

– Pois eu sou.

O que devo dizer? Parabéns? Lamento muito?

– Sou virgenzinha. Mas só na frente.

Ora veja.

– Posso pedir uma coisa pro senhor?

Não. Não posso acreditar que ela vai pedir pra eu botar só no cuzinho dela, não, isso só acontece nos contos eróticos.

– Pode, peça…

– O senhor bota…

– Boto, boto, claro. Quer agora?

– … aquele cedê?

Heim?

– Que cedê?

– Da Donna Summer.

– Ah, sim.

Caramba, a menina ficou realmente obcecada pela Donna Summer.

– Pode botar você mesma, fique à vontade.

Ela larga meu pau, levanta, vai até a estante e bota o cedê pra tocar. Segunda faixa, Could It Be Magic. Acho que demorou dois séculos pra voltar.

– O senhor não vai contar pra minha tia que a gente tá fazendo isso, né? – ela pergunta, ajoelhando-se novamente entre minhas pernas e prosseguindo nos carinhos.

– Claro que não, Meirinha… hummm…

– Se ela descobre, ela me manda de volta pro interior.

– Hummhhhhmmm…

– O senhor jura?

– Hummmhhmhmhmhm… Heim?

Já não sei mais sobre o que ela tá falando.

– Jura, vai.

– Quem, eu?

– Sim, jura.

– Juro – respondo, sem ter a mínima ideia por que diabo eu tô jurando.

– Então beija.

– Ahn?

– Beija.

Beijar? Beijar o quê?

– Vai, beija.

Sem ousar questionar o fetiche da menina, inclino a cabeça pra frente, mas, apesar de meu esforço, meu rosto não chega nem perto do meu pau.

– Não, não. Beija os dedos. Assim, ó, fazendo a cruz. Pra jurar bem jurado.

Cá pra nós. Você já teria perdido a paciência e mandado um chupa logo essa caceta, Meire, não teria, diga a verdade. Mas eu me controlo e beijo os dedos em cruz, e olhe que eu sou ateu. Tudo por um boquete.

Meire finalmente começa a me chupar, ufa, enquanto Donna Summer canta só pra nós. Sinto o calor aconchegante de sua boca… Não é que minha faxineira sabe fazer direitinho? Pode ser virgem na frente, mas aquela boca é profissional, ah, é sim, conheço uma quando vejo. Estico as pernas e me acomodo melhor no sofá. De fato, ela chupa superbem, sabe envolver meu pau com jeito, e a sensação é boa demais, ótima demais…

– Patrãozinho tem um pau tão gostoso – ela fala, interrompendo o boquete.

Tomara que ela não me peça aumento agora, pois não tô em condição de negar.

– É mais gostoso que sorvete…

Obrigado, Meire, obrigado, mas eu sinceramente prefiro que você chupe em vez de falar. Vai, volta a chupar, por favor…

– Eu sempre acordo meu noivo assim. Adoro quando sai o leitinho, parece mágica, né?

Ai, ai, ai… Tô começando a desconfiar que essa menina tem um parafuso frouxo.

– O nome do pau dele é Caveirão.

Não, eu não ouvi o que acabo de ouvir.

‒ Acho muito feio, mas ele diz que é esse nome mesmo e não vai mudar.

Puta merda. Agora eu tenho certeza que essa menina é doida.

‒ O do senhor tem nome?

– Heim?

– Posso chamar ele de Pedrito?

Pedrito? Claro que não. Onde já se viu um pau chamado Pedrito? Seria a desmoralização total. Aliás, onde já se viu um pau ter dois nomes? Patrícia chamando ele de Bambam, Meire chamando de Pedrito, isso não ia dar certo, o coitado pode ter uma crise de identidade. Mas acontece que não tô em condições de negar mais nada…

– Pode, minha linda, pode.

Pode mas chupa, vai, faz favor.

– Pedrito, você é muito fofo, viu?

Ele já sabe disso, Meire. Agora me chupaaaaaa!!!

Pro meu imensurável alívio, ela finalmente esquece aquela história de batismo de pau e recomeça a chupar. E Donna Summer geme junto comigo.

‒ Hummhhmm…

– Quero ver a mágica do leitinho… – ela diz, entre o vai e vem de sua boca.

Aviso que vou gozar, vou gozar, vou gozar… E meu gozo explode dentro de sua boca, com a força de um milhão de megatons de tesão acumulado, e ela engole tudo, lambendo e saboreando com muito gosto. Coitada, deve estar com fome, acho que nem tomou café da manhã.

– Leitinho bom…

Ela bebe minhas últimas gotas enquanto eu curto essa sensação de abandono de si mesmo a que chamamos orgasmo. E, no meu caso, me abandonei de um jeito que fiquei largado lá no sofá, imprestável pro resto da vida.

– Gostou, patrãozinho?

– Mmmmhhhhmmmnnn… – é só o que consigo dizer, ou mugir, pra combinar com a ordenha que sofri.

– Fiz do jeito que o senhor gosta?

– Mmmmhhmm, humm…

– Então dá licença que eu vou voltar pro serviço, viu?

Ela levanta, desliga o som, pega o balde e a escova e vai pra cozinha. No silêncio da sala, semimorto no sofá, eu me pergunto que faxineira é essa, sem acreditar no que acaba de acontecer.

Mas logo ela volta.

‒ Esse vestido ficou um pouquinho apertado aqui em cima. Vou ter que fazer um ajuste.

– Mhhmmnn…

Ela senta ao meu lado e me abraça carinhosa.

– Tão lindo o meu amor fica depois de um boquetinho…

Não é mais Meire. É Patrícia. Ela me beija no rosto, na boca, me afaga os cabelos.

– Gostou da minha faxineira?

‒ Adorei….

‒ Mesmo?

‒ Claro. Só achei demais aquele marketing descarado de elogiar a namorada do patrão.

‒ Não resisti…

‒ Ela vai ficar chamando o Bambam de Pedrito mesmo?

‒ Vai. Bambam é só pra mim.

‒ Acho que ela tem um parafuso frouxo, fica falando do pau do noivo…

‒ Ah, Pedrão, quando você criou a fantasia da Testemunha de Jeová em crise existencial, eu não me meti em nada.

‒ Tá bom, tá bom.

Patrícia me agarra e nos beijamos novamente. Meire tem toda razão: é mesmo uma mulher maravilhosa, e tem um beijo inacreditavelmente delicioso. E eu sou um cara de muita sorte.

‒ É só uma sugestão. Na segunda parte, ela põe pra tocar o Racional do Tim Maia, que tal?

‒ A Meire gosta de Donna Summer e ponto final. E agora vamos que a gente marcou oito horas no bar – ela diz, findando o beijo e levantando do sofá.

– Só mais um minutinho – respondo, me espreguiçando.

– Pingou um pouco no chão, depois passa um pano.

Lá fora, a noite do sábado acaricia meus pensamentos. Fecho os olhos, e na trilha sonora pós-gozo da minha mente, Donna Summer volta a gemer um de seus sucessos.

‒ Ouviu, Pedrão?

– Sim, senhora.


Ricardo Kelmer 2016 – blogdokelmer.com

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Este conto integra os livros

Indecências para o Fim de Tarde
Ricardo Kelmer – contos

Uma advogada que adora fazer sexo por dinheiro… Um ser misterioso e sensual que invade o sono das mulheres… Os fetiches de um casal e sua devotada e canina escrava sexual… Uma sacerdotisa pagã e seu cavaleiro num ritual de fertilidade na floresta… A adolescente que consegue um encontro especial com seu ídolo maior, o próprio pai… Seja provocando risos e reflexões, chocando nossa moralidade ou instigando nossas fantasias, inclusive as que nem sabíamos possuir, as indecências destes 23 contos querem isso mesmo: lambuzar, agredir, provocar e surpreender a sua imaginação. > saiba mais

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Quarentena Erótica
Ricardo Kelmer – contos

Nos contos de Ricardo Kelmer, o erótico pode vir com variados temperos: romantismo, humor, misticismo, bizarro, horror… Às vezes, vem doce e sutil, ou estranho e avassalador, e às vezes brinca com nossas próprias expectativas sobre o que seja erótico. Explorando fetiches, fantasias, delírios e tabus, e até mesmo experiências reais do autor e de seus leitores, as estórias deste livro acabam de chegar até você para apimentar seus dias, e suas noites, de quarentena. > saiba mais

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Seja Leitor Vip e ganhe:

– Acesso aos Arquivos Secretos
– Descontos, promoções e sorteios exclusivos
Basta enviar e-mail pra rkelmer@gmail.com com seu nome e cidade e dizendo como conheceu o Blog do Kelmer (saiba mais)

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Comentarios01COMENTÁRIOS

01-


Um brinde na varanda

26/03/2020

26mar2020

Quem da sua família você deixaria morrer para que a economia não seja prejudicada?

UM BRINDE NA VARANDA

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Tenho amigos e familiares que são seguidores do grande deus Mercado. São fieis que cultivam em seus mantras diários palavras perfumadas de empreendorismo, meritocracia e maximização dos lucros. Apesar de pensarmos diferente, são pessoas de quem gosto, e é por isso que inicio este texto com uma pergunta para elas: Quem da sua família você deixaria morrer para que a economia não seja prejudicada?

As máscaras higiênicas são o rosto da pandemia de covid-19, mas são as máscaras do caráter que estão a cair e a revelar quem é quem. Para a imensa maioria, é a saúde das pessoas que deve ser priorizada, mas para os fieis mercadistas, o grande deus manda rezar assim: Se é certo que cinco ou sete mil morrerão, e eu não estarei entre eles porque posso pagar por um bom hospital, então que morram, mas a economia não pode parar, amém.

Um dos problemas dessa oração é que se rígidas medidas não forem tomadas, como a quarentena social, os mortos não ficarão em apenas cinco ou sete mil e a tragédia escorrerá também para os serviços de saúde privada. Porém, os seguidores do deus Mercado avaliam, em sua cega fé, que a grande maioria de mortos será de pobres e idosos, e isso não afetará tanto a economia, ou ao menos o seu negócio. É essa lógica neoliberal que guia os pronunciamentos e a criminosa postura do presidente da República, que critica a “histeria” porque é comprometido até a medula com os interesses das grandes companhias e dos acionistas da Bolsa de Valores, e dos líderes religiosos, que o ajudaram a ser eleito ‒ com as igrejas vazias, coitados, como arrecadarão seus abençoados dízimos?

Jair Bolsonaro é um demente fascista, mentiroso e cruel, disso já sabíamos. A desagradável surpresa fica por conta de seu ministro da Saúde, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, que ia num razoável caminho de sensatez, mas que infelizmente parece ter fraquejado diante do mórbido patrão & seus filhinhos. Bem, isso não surpreende de todo, já que Mandetta, no recente caso da compra de máscaras para seu ministério, favoreceu a empresa que financiou suas campanhas a deputado, em vez de buscar melhores preços. Como ministro da Saúde, vê-se que ele realmente entende de economia.

Voltando à pergunta do início do texto. Não nos iludamos. Se for necessário, os fieis seguidores do deus Mercado sacrificarão, sim, seus pais e avós, sem problema. E no ano que vem, na varanda de seus apartamentos, conferirão as cotações na Bolsa e, enxugando a lágrima que insiste em não cair, erguerão um brinde aos mártires que deram suas vidas por um deus que está sempre de olho nas melhores ações. Amém.

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Ricardo Kelmer 2020 – blogdokelmer.com

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Resistência antifascista

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LEIA NESTE BLOG

O beijo da resistência contra a besta do fascismo – O fascismo não faz política ‒ ele é a negação da política, pois não dialoga, apenas agride, persegue e censura

Polícia ou milícia? – Que o erro e a coragem de Cid Gomes nos ensinem sobre o extremo perigo do fascismo policial

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Seja Leitor Vip e ganhe:

– Acesso aos Arquivos Secretos
– Descontos, promoções e sorteios exclusivos
Basta enviar e-mail pra rkelmer@gmail.com com seu nome e cidade e dizendo como conheceu o Blog do Kelmer (saiba mais)

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Comentarios01COMENTÁRIOS

01- Coerência e sabedoria. Vou compartilhar. Olivia Brasil, Fortaleza-CE – mar2020

02- Canalhas! Seu texto ferve, meu caro! Leo Mackellene, Sobral-CE – mar2020

03- SENSACIONAL. Moacir Bedê, Fortaleza-CE – mar2020

04- Ótimo texto. Fátima Fernandes, Brasília-DF – mar2020

05- Com certeza, a idéia é esta, um velho é apenas estatística, não é um pai ou mãe, um avô ou avó, um ente querido que está partindo por causa de um doença disseminada. Esta ideologia está sendo propagada, quero ver na hora que começar a mortandade. E veja, a morte por asfixia é muito cruel e não vai ter respirador. Você já pensou, uma pessoa que trabalhou a vida inteira ter uma morte destas? Ligia Eloy, Lisboa-Portugal – mar2020

 


The strip-tease

25/03/2020

OStripTease-02

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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THE STRIP-TEASE

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OStripTease-02“You shouldn’t drink so much, Zack.”

“Do you want a shot?”

“No, thank you. Why have you been drinking so much, Zack?”

“It’s in the program. Hang on, I’ll tell you about it.”

“I’m waiting.”

“You look beautiful.”

“Thank you. What about you? Been partying a lot?”

“Back in the day when we met, I was in my heyday. But now I’m taking a break from the nightlife.”

“Back in the day was just one year ago.”

“That’s right.”

“…”

“Giselle, I asked you to come here because I have something important to tell you.”

“I always suspected you were hiding something from me, since day one.”

“This is going to be the strangest thing you’re going to hear in your life. You’re going to think I lost my mind.”

“I know a lot of people think you’re crazy, but I know you’re not. You’re just a little eccentric. And kind of reserved.”

“You’re going to think I’m nuts. But I’ll say it anyway.”

“Zack, I like you a lot. I know you have your quirks. Everybody does. I just think you could open up a little more…”

“I know, you’ve told me that already. I’m going to tell you everything. But I’m sure you’re going to say I need to get some treatment and you’re going to remove me from your life.”

“Do you see someone standing over there, by your side?”

“Excuse me?”

“Is there anyone over there next to you? You keep looking and smiling as if there was someone there…”

“Hmmm… That’s the problem, Giselle. There is someone here by my side.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s exactly what I want to talk about. Please listen. Listen first.”

“I’m listening.”

“So let’s begin. Uhhh… It all began one night when I was here with a girl. That was before I met you. We had arrived from the nightclub and she was in the bathroom. And I was on bed waiting. Then I saw him for the first time. Are you sure you don’t want to have a drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“He was sitting on the chair in front of my desk. I immediately thought: damn it, it’s a thief. I was naked on the bed and there was a thief in my bedroom. But I didn’t really get nervous. I guess because I was drunk. Then I said: OK, pal, you can take anything you want, my wallet is over there, there is a cool sound system in the living room, but please don’t do us any harm… Very well. He was the one who got shocked. He stood up, looked at me at close range and asked if I could really see him. He really acted as if he couldn’t believe it. ‘Do you really see me, Zack? Do you really see me right now?’ I was all puzzled, I thought he might be someone I knew or maybe he was on something… So I asked him where we had met before. He raised his arms and said, ‘Finally!!!’ Do you still want to listen?”

“Sure. I’m listening. So he was not a thief?”

“No. He was the Observer.”

“Who?”

“The Observer.”

“Oh, the Observer. Must be new in the neighborhood, no one I have met.”

“You don’t want to.”

“So was he a friend of yours?”

“He was the Observer, I told you.”

“Oh, yes…”

“I’m serious, Giselle. That’s his actual name.”

“OK. And who is the Observer?”

“Let’s talk about that. Observers are inhabitants of another dimension in time and space. They lead a regular life over there. But they have friends here and sometimes they have to come around and help the friend. They can’t go back to their world until they accomplish their mission. They get stuck in this time and space. That’s it. At least that’s what he told me.”

“Oh, you saw your guardian angel.”

“No, no, he is more like a demon. A very, very annoying demon.”

“Is that what you wanted to talk about?”

“This is serious, I swear.”

“OK. So?”

“Well, he explained it all to me later, but before that, the girl came into the bedroom and asked me whom I was talking to and I pointed at him. But she saw nobody. Then he told me that I was the only one who could see and hear him, nobody else, and that’s how it was supposed to work. The guy seemed ecstatic and said that his lonely days were over. Well, it turns out the girl thought the whole thing was too weird, put on her clothes and went away.”

“What about the guy?”

“He stayed there. I tried to touch him, but my hand just went through the image. So I told myself it was a very crazy dream and decided to sleep. On the following day, I woke up and he was still watching me.”

“Zack, I…”

“I know you don’t believe it, but let me tell you everything. You promised.”

“…”

“He told me he was on a secret mission. He said it was something that depended on me and that he would be able to leave if I did the right thing.”

“Look, Zack, I…”

“Wait…”

“I don’t know what’s happening to you, but…”

“Giselle, I swear it’s true. I am not crazy. Actually, I think it would be better if I were. It would be easier to put up with this annoying dude by my side all the time…”

“Are you telling me this is really serious?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not joking.”

“No.”

“Then tell me: ‘I am serious.’”

“I am serious.”

“Don’t laugh, Zack!”

“I’m sorry, but this situation is a little ridiculous.”

“It’s ridiculous of me to be here listening to this, this…”

“Do you want to go away?”

“…”

“If you want go, fine, I’ll just…”

“Please go on, I want to listen.”

“Where was I?”

“The Observer told you he was on a mission.”

“Right. He said I had to do something and he was here to help me do that something.”

“And you didn’t know what he meant.”

“I still don’t.”

“Not even a clue?”

“Well, he knows me like nobody else, it’s amazing. He’s made me think a lot about my life, he shows me what I’m doing wrong, my flaws… I feel very bad about it.”

“Everybody has flaws, Zack.”

“But I have this behavior police twenty-four hours a day, non-stop. It’s like he is part of me.”

“Was he with you before we started dating?”

“Yes, one year.”

“So when you met me, he was there with you?”

“Yes. He won’t leave me alone, Giselle. Remember how we met?”

“At the counter of the Mad Daddy bar.”

“Do you remember what I looked like?”

“Black pants and a blue shirt. Very handsome.”

“No, I’m talking about my state.”

“Drunk, of course.”

“And I was laughing a lot, wasn’t I?”

“You were having a good time.”

“Because of him. He anticipated everything I said, he knew all my pickup lines by heart. ‘Hi. Don’t you feel like a sausage in a can in these crowded bars?’ I would open my mouth to speak and he would speak ahead of me. So I laughed.”

“Oh, that was the reason?”

“He is a sadistic comedian, he pulls my leg all the time. He quickly hides in the crowd so I think I’m rid of him. When I least expect it, he comes up with some obnoxious one-liner. Remember once when we had a table at the Papillon and I had an uncontrollable fit of laughter?”

“You seemed to be demented.”

“Because of him. On that night, he appeared suddenly and stuck his head right here by my side and said, very sternly: ‘You’re staring so much I came here to hold you so you don’t fall inside her cleavage…’”

“My cleavage?!”

“I burst with laughter. You had a very showy cleavage and I couldn’t help picturing myself falling into it… You had no idea and I was laughing my pants off.”

“So that was because of my cleavage…”

“It was funny then. But this jerk has made my life hell. Because of him many people now think I am crazy.”

“Many people indeed.”

“Who can blame them? At first, I even thought it was fun, but then I grew increasingly upset. Then I didn’t care about my composure anymore and would bicker with him in front of anybody, saying he had no right to do that, it was a violation of individual liberties and cosmic ethics, and that…”

“Cosmic ethics?”

“I was desperate, I would say anything.”

“Tell me about it.”

“I got very angry at him. Do you know what it’s like to live with someone who knows all about you and keeps exposing your flaws, making fun of everything you do? That’s what he did. He never missed an opportunity. I felt naked. I couldn’t focus on anything anymore. I tried to read a book or see a film and I couldn’t. It was hell. He’s given me such an earful I lately began to realize there is lot about me that I need to change.”

“Like what?”

“Well… He made me see I had been acting in frivolous, superficial ways, that I had been a phony to myself. And he made me realize I act like I always think I have the answer to everything.”

“He did that?!”

“He did.”

“And you understood that?!”

“I had to. He won’t forgive anything. I was talking to someone and shared an opinion… That was it, he would come along and bug me. I ignored him for a while, but it became unbearable. If he were made of flesh and bones, I would have kicked his ass already.”

“And has he always been around, even when we are together?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Even in… those moments?”

“Even in those moments.”

“So he’s seen me naked many times.”

“There was nothing I could do, Giselle. Please understand.”

“Did he see everything?”

“He is attached to my soul, to my energy. I can’t do anything about that either.”

“I can’t believe this…”

“Now do you understand why I’ve never been able to relax with you? He was always around watching… The only way I could forget about him a little was drinking. It was more convenient to get drunk so I wouldn’t think about certain things.”

“Listen, Zack… I… don’t even know what to think. I don’t know whether I should be upset or laugh at this ludicrous story…”

“You may laugh, I don’t mind.”

“I don’t know if I should stay here and keep listening to this… this nonsense… I don’t know.”

“I had to tell you.”

“Why me? We haven’t talked to each other in weeks.”

“It was his suggestion. He thought you would understand. ‘Why don’t you tell Gis? She is a sensitive person, she might help…’”

“He calls me Gis?”

“Yes. He does take that liberty.”

“Is he here now?”

“He’s sitting right here. He is laughing a lot at this ridiculous situation, the devil. Ask him something.”

“Me?”

“Yes, ask something.”

“Uh… I don’t know.”

“He is saying you dance very well.”

“Has he seen me dance?”

“He was with me at your group’s performance.”

“Oh… That’s nice. Tell him I said ‘thank you.’”

“Say it, he can hear you.”

“Uuuh… Thank you, Mr. Observer… Gee, Zack! This situation is really…”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

“…”

“I’m sorry. It was funny.”

“Zack, you brought me here to have a serious conversation. I came because I believed you. So I come here and you talk about this Observer character. Fuck!”

“…”

“Zack, if you were in my shoes, what would you do now? Say it honestly.”

“…”

“Tell me, what would you do?”

“Honestly? I think I’d stand up, walk out that door and adieu.”

“That’s what I’m going to do. But first let me tell you one thing: quit drinking, Zack. Or at least drink less if you don’t want to make it all worse. And if you’re drinking to avoid having to face certain things about yourself, then I am sorry to inform you that you’re going down the worst possible path.”

“…”

“Good-bye, Zack. And good-bye to your friend…”

“…”

“Does he have a name?”

“I call him Nagsie.”

“Nagsie?”

“Yes, Nagsie. Isn’t it cute?”

“Nagsie, the Observer… Good-bye, Nagsie. Don’t let Zack drink too much.”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“I told you. You weren’t supposed to spill it all at once like that. You should have done it slowly.”

“Now it’s done, Nagsie.”

“What if you lost Gis forever?”

“Whatever will be, will be.”

“Sounds like you did it to get rid of her.”

“If she liked me as much as you say, then she should have understood the situation better.”

“She needs time, Zack.”

“Now it’s done.”

“Call her again. Now that she knows about me, never mind that she thinks you really are crazy. She is not very normal either. Two beers is all it takes for her to do backflips in the middle of the street…”

“At least she’s a good dancer.”

“You ain’t seen nothing…”

“Hey! What do you know about her that I don’t?”

“Forget it, I was thinking out loud. Come on, Zack, call her.”

“I can’t call her again, Nagsie! You saw what happened, she is convinced I’ve lost my mind.”

“She likes you.”

“I like her too. Always did, you know that. But I made one mistake after another.”

“Of course, you’re always drunk…”

“Because of you.”

“And I am here because of you. So it is up to you to do something about it.”

“And I am doing. I’m boozing myself to death in the hope of getting rid of the annoyance of having you around.”

“Zack, you dim-witted numbskull. Gis is the woman who can help you and encourage you to go down the best path. But you’re scared senseless of that which you need the most. You’re a fool.”

“If she has the chance, she will have me committed.”

“Call her and invite her for a nice place.”

“Blue Night Motel. Suites with erotic chair.”

“Make it at the Spy. Invite her to drink some juice. Please, no alcohol.”

“I’ve told you not to ask me that. I’ll drink if I want to.”

“How can I not ask that, you moron?! Drinking is ruining your life.”

“YOU are ruining my life!”

“You’re the one ruining mine with your ineptitude! I could be home with my family now! But nooooo, I have to be here with you while you choose playing characters instead of being yourself!”

“…”

“…”

“Listen, Nagsie, I didn’t drink for a week and it didn’t help at all. You still kept bugging me.”

“Seven days of sobriety are not going to fix your problems, dumbass. Look at yourself and see what has to be changed.”

“If I knew, I would change it.”

“You know it.”

“I don’t, I’ve told you!”

“Yes, you do!”

“If I did, I would’ve changed it just so I could get rid of you, stooge!”

“Oh, you think I take pleasure in watching your stupid binge drinking and your lame pickup lines, ‘Hi, I know I’m a simple subject, but love is a compound and this situation predicates that we should be together…’ Not to mention your terrible sexual performance…”

“Then go to hell! On second thought, stay where you are. I don’t care if I die from alcohol poisoning. Knowing that you share my fate, I’m going to have a hell of a time with it. We will both go to Hell.”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“Hi, Giselle.”

“So you invited me to drink juice… You must be feeling pretty bad.”

“I haven’t drunk at all since that day.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“And what happened?”

“I decided to take a break. What do you want?”

“Apple. No sugar, please.”

“Then two. Mine with sugar.”

“So, is Nagsie tagging along?”

“Sure.”

“Is he here now?”

“He just sat down. But we are not speaking to each other.”

“Why?”

“Disagreements. It happens.”

“Oh.”

“…”

“…”

“Don’t bother looking, Giselle, you can’t see him.”

“It was a reflex. Damn, Zack, this conversation is going to make me as crazy as you, you know that?”

“At least you’re going to understand me.”

“So you two had a falling out? Did he say something that upset you?”

“Let’s talk about something else. Are you OK?”

“I’m fine.”

“I can see that. You’re gorgeous as usual.”

“You look good too.”

“…”

“What are you laughing at, Giselle?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Tell me.”

“It’s silly. I was reflecting upon the irony of the situation.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I finally meet an interesting guy, he is involved with an invisible man.”

“Yes, that’s unlucky…”

“I was a little rude the last time. I want to apologize.”

“Anyone else would have reacted the same.”

“I was going to call you.”

“You were?”

“I was curious about Nagsie.”

“Really?”

“I was thinking… Doesn’t he sleep?”

“He sleeps when I do. He wakes up when I do. But he’s never hungry or thirsty, he can’t do anything except watch me.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun.”

“I wouldn’t want to be in his place.”

“Does he like you?”

“Our relationship is odd. We like and hate each other. It was worse in the beginning. I could barely sleep while he was watching me. Imagine doing everything with someone watching, such as having a shower, taking a dump, jerking off… What about getting laid? Impossible, right? Or you can get drunk and forget about it.”

“What does he think about your drinking?”

“He says I’m escaping.”

“Are you?”

“Maybe. But I think it would be easier without him hanging around.”

“Then you wouldn’t have made the realizations you did about your life. I think that Nagsie, if he really exists…”

“He does.”

“Right. I think Nagsie is saving you the money you’d have to spend on therapy, you know?”

“And who says I’d pay for therapy?”

“Zack, why don’t you come and spend a weekend with me in the mountain? That would be really nice.”

“Are you serious?”

“I would love it.”

“I don’t know, Giselle. I have work to do…”

“Oh, come on, Zack. I’ll cook for you.”

“What else?”

“I’ll let you have the TV remote.”

“I didn’t ask your opinion.”

“Excuse me?”

“I was talking to the buzzkill over here.”

“Nagsie? What did they say?’

“He said he’ll forget my flaws for a week if I go to the mountain with you.”

“…”

“Are you looking at him again, Giselle?”

“What? Oh, right. I’m already acting as if there really were someone there. I think his proposal is pretty good, Zack.”

“How do you know she has that CD?”

“What?”

“The idiot here. He’s talking nonsense.”

“What did they say?”

“He’s telling you not to forget to bring your CD with erotic songs. Do you have that kind of CD?”

“Wait a minute, how does he know that?”

“Yeah, how do you know that, Nagsie? Hmm… Oh, OK. He said he doesn’t know, it was just a hunch.”

“Very strange…”

“I don’t know that we can believe everything this nutjob says. But forget about him, Giselle. So, can I really have the TV remote?”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“Is he looking now?”

“Absolutely.”

“Yes or no, Zack?”

“Aw, Giselle, I’m not going to turn around and check. Have patience.”

“He is not gay, is he?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What does he think of me?”

“He likes you. Couldn’t you tell when we were at the Spy? He was more supportive than anyone of this idea of coming here, to the mountain.”

“Don’t you mind his watching us getting it on?”

“I had forgotten about that, Giselle.”

“I’m sorry…”

“…”

“…”

“Come on here, come on…’

“Hang on, Zack, I’m going to put on the CD again…”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“Congratulations, pain in the ass, you kept the promise. One week with your mouth shut.”

“I did it for us both, buddy.”

“I even got to focus on others things, did you see that?”

“Yes. It’s been a rather positive week.”

“Do you think we are a good couple?”

“We? Definitely not.”

“Giselle and I, smart aleck.”

“Yes, of course. Nothing is better for you than that woman, bro. Gis is wonderful. She is pretty, smart, affectionate… And she has a pretty nice body, if you ask me.”

“She’s danced since when she was fifteen.”

“You should ask her to dance for you.”

“Hmmm… Good idea.”

“Something tells me that someone is in love…”

“More or less.”

“Admit it, man.”

“Holy shit. Admit what, Nagsie?”

“That you’re crazy about her.”

“I’ll think about it.’

“Admit it already. Who do you think you’re fooling?”

“Nagsie, shut up.”

“You were speaking on the phone today and you wrote nothing but her name all over an entire sheet of paper. Didn’t you see that?”

“I was testing the pen.”

“Ah, yes, of course.”

“…”

“So will you admit it or not?”

“Holyfuckingshit, Nagsie, you are annoying as hell!”

“Will you admit it or not?”

“I said I’m going to think about it.”

“Think about what, man? It’s obvious. Have you seen yourself in the mirror? Have you?”

“Aw, geez…”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“Don’t you want a little glass of wine too?”

“No, thanks. You’ll be drinking alone today.”

“No harm in just a little glass, Zack…”

“Later, later.”

“Alright then. I’m going to pour another one for me. Hey, do you mind if I talk to Nagsie too?”

“Fine by me.”

“Great. Nagsie, how do you like my apartment?”

“He says you have very good taste.”

“Hmmm, thank you. And what does he think about us having a serious relationship?”

“Us who, Giselle?”

“You and I, Zack, of course. How can you even think I mean Nagsie?”

“That question was not in the script…”

“Oh, so questions for him have to be vetted first, is that right?”

“Alright, alright. What you think about that, Nagsie?”

“I think it’s a great idea!”

“Giselle, don’t meddle! Do you want him to answer or not?”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist it… Come on, ask him again.”

“He is laughing at your impression of him. It’s terrible, by the way.”

“It’s good to know he has a sense of humor.”

“In fact, he does. When he is not concerned with shaping my character.”

“Has he stopped laughing yet?”

“He said he will date you if I don’t.”

“Then you two decide already. I don’t have all night.”

“I think you’re a little tipsy…”

“And you are blushing! Whenever we talk about dating, you get all embarrassed… Have you seen my glass of wine?”

“Nagsie has a message for you.”

“Yay! I am totally listening.”

“He says there is only one way he won’t look at you when we have sex.”

“And what is it?”

“If we have a threesome with a girl. If we do that, he will stare at the other one out of respect for you.”

“Did you really say that, Nagsie?”

“He said, ‘Of course, my sweet darling…’”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. I don’t care if he wants to watch me… You may look, Nagsie.”

“Well, I care.”

“I think Nagsie said nothing like that, you fool… You want to live your sex fantasy of having a threesome with another woman and pretend it’s poor Nagsie’ idea…”

“Seriously, he said that.”

“You’re lying. Did you really say that, Nagsie?”

“I really did, my two-scoop ice cream…”

“Let him speak, Zack!”

“I’m just repeating whatever he says.”

“Come on, Zack, what did he say?”

“He is not going to answer because he is laughing his pants off at your intoxication, Giselle.”

“Well, now I’m going to show him I possess other qualities… Let me turn off the light first. Where did I place my glass of wine?”

“What are you going to do?”

“A special little song for you two… Excuse me, let me turn on the table lamp. Ah, it’s perfect now.”

“Nagsie says I should have something to drink too, because I’m feeling very tense…”

“I agree. Where is the CD?”

“You’re almost sitting on it.”

“Ouch! That’s right! Hmmm, let me see… I think it’s number seven… Correct!”

“I can’t believe it. Are you going to do a strip-tease for me?”

“For you two. Nagsie, take a seat, make yourself comfortable.”

“He sat down a long time ago.”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“Is he looking now?”

“I don’t want to turn my head around right now.”

“Did he enjoy the strip-tease?”

“He couldn’t take his eyes off of you.”

“Really?”

“He even got emotional about it.”

“What about you?”

“If I enjoyed it? Damn! I’ll never forget it.”

“…’

“You’re so beautiful, Gis…”

“…”

“Gis?”

“What?”

“Is that proposal still standing?”

“Which one?”

“Our relationship.”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“Zack…”

“Hmm…”

“Listen, I have to go, my bus has arrived. When you wake up, I won’t be here anymore.”

“Hmmm…”

“Happy trails, buddy. You’re a nice guy. Sorry if I was rude sometimes, but we were on the same boat, you know. I am proud of you.”

“Hmmm…”

“This woman likes you, don’t lose her. Gis is going to make you very happy. You’ll see, wonderful children… Grab your chance now, man. The future is just a matter of choice. And you just don’t find strip-tease like that everywhere…”

“Hmmmm…”

“Good-bye, buddy.”

*     *     *

OStripTease-02“Good morning, son.”

“Good-morning, Nestor. Shall we go home?”

“Home, yes. I bet you miss it, don’t you? You’ve been away for one year.”

“That’s right. The Other One was a handful.”

“I can imagine. I even thought you were going to request some extended time. Get yourself a beer in the fridge, son.”

“Thank you. Empty bus, Nestor.”

“It’s been like that this week.”

“Don’t you have anybody else to pick up?”

“I had Felicia. But she asked for an extended time.”

“So she hasn’t made it yet? What a shame.”

“Felicia is the architect, you know.”

“Yes. She came to make sure her Other One won’t quit her studies. Hmm, good beer.”

“But the Other One quit. She’s studying Law now. Felicia really wanted to kill the Other One, but she can’t.”

“We definitely want to kill them.”

“But Felicia asked for the extended time. She said she will not quit until the Other One goes back to architecture school.”

“Extended time is a double-edged knife. If we don’t go to extremes to accomplish the mission, we drive the Other One crazy then everything is lost. If I had asked for the extended time, my Other One would have gone insane too and lost Gis forever.”

“Don’t tell anybody, son, but I think we are not going to see our friend Felicia again. The situation is really difficult for her.”

“That is very sad.”

“I feel sorry when the person discovers that their future will be lost. It’s been happening more frequently lately, do you know that? When people get on this bus, I know that many won’t make it back and I feel sorry for them. I don’t know what it’s like not to be able to come back, but I imagine it’s the most terrible thing in the world.”

“It is. But when we get the calling to come to the past, we know there’s always a chance of not coming back.”

“The damnedest thing is that we always harbor the hope that our future is going to be successful, don’t we?”

“Yes. When I think that pig-headed idiot could let Gis slip through his fingers, I feel sick to the stomach…”

“But tell me, how did it go?”

“My Other One is a very stubborn young man, Nestor.”

“Ah, but we all have been like that once.”

“And he became a hard boozer after I came along, you just had to see it.”

“If my memory serves, you also enjoyed the occasional drink…”

“Yes, I did.”

“Giselle was the one who fixed you.”

“That’s true. But the Other One was drinking a lot more than me.”

“So is he going to be with her?”

“Yes. It’s in the bag.”

“Then it’s alright. But tell me, what was it like to see young Giselle?”

“Oh, Nestor, I thought I was going to pass out…”

“Hehehe, I can imagine.”

“I would do anything to secure our hypothetical future, you know.”

“Yeah, do I know.”

“Can I tell you a secret, Nestor?”

“Yes, son.”

“I came here on this mission because Gis and I would be deactivated if I didn’t come. We and our children. But I was also dying to see the strip-tease she had done for me when we started dating… Oh, how badly I wanted that!”

“You don’t say!”

“Oh, you have no idea… That strip-tease performance made me go into a serious relationship with her.”

“And did she do it again?”

“Yes. It was just last night. Exactly the same as she had done before, the same exactly…”

“So that’s why you came in here with that look on your face… So the mission is accomplished?”

“Of course! After that performance, the Other One will marry her tomorrow if she asks.”

“Then it’s alright.”

“The things we’ll do for a woman…”

“The things we’ll do!”

“We’ll do anything.”

“You bet!”

“Even putting up with oneself in the past.”

“Sure thing.”

“We’ll even get married, Nestor.”

“That’s what I always say.”

“We most certainly do.”

“Most certainly.”

“We do get married.”

“We do.”

“That’s right.”

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

.

> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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Something is rotten in the 202

25/03/2020

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE 202

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My cousin Helen I and were so united we always looked like two sisters. The same age and same tastes. At school, we sat next to each other and ran around the school yard holding hands, happy like two birds. In fact, Helen was the only friend I ever had.

It was the best time of my life. We were children and the whole world was a set piece in one big child’s play. Then we were almost teenagers and the world became an endless source of wonderment. Both of us were marveled and scared at the possibilities that life laid ahead of us. And we had each other to protect ourselves and trust our secrets.

She used to sleep over on weekends and our nights were packed with endless conversations, our favorite songs and our shared diaries. When we began to get interested in boys, we kissed one another as practice for the kisses we’d actually do on them. And in the darkness of my bedroom we would mutually teach ourselves the pleasures our bodies had to offer.

Helen had a meaning for me. The only one.

One night, I showed her a photo of the dawn, a very beautiful page of a magazine. I asked her if she had ever seen the sunrise. She said she hadn’t, but she knew about a secret and asked me if I could keep something extremely confidential for the rest of my life. I said yes, she could trust me.

“Then promise you will never betray me.”

“I promise I will never betray you,” I replied with all the earnestness of the moment that enveloped us like music.

“Never, ever.”

“I promise I will never, ever betray you,” I reiterated, kissing my fingers in the shape of a cross.

Then she locked my bedroom door and made me sit down on the bed by her side. She whispered to my ear that there were no children on the other side of the night, and that was why grownups wouldn’t let them stay awake to see the dawn. But one day, when we were grownups, we would cross the night together fearlessly and we would see the dawn. That was the secret. And her promise.

I hugged her with confidence in her words and we slept together that night sharing an embrace protected from all evil, forever sharing a secret and a promise that united us even more.

One day, her family had to move to another city and Helen went away. We cried copiously, very sorry about this sad development. I kissed her with all my tenderness and told her I loved her. She wiped my tears, said she also loved me and would do everything possible so we could be reunited soon.

But life wouldn’t be as simple as our child’s plans. The two cities were far apart and our families were not rich. We couldn’t meet during vacation and we had to get by with our almost daily letters because the few minutes we had on the telephone were nowhere near enough for everything we had to say. However, Helen’s letters gradually took a week then a month then several months… One day, they stopped coming altogether. Saddened by her silence, I insisted and wrote even more. But she never replied again. I cried my heart out to Mom and she consoled me saying that there were other nice girls and I would find other friends.

Unfortunately, Mom was wrong.

One day, four years and twenty-five days after her departure, I was told that Helen was in the city and would come over to have dinner with us. I was ecstatic. I cleaned up the bedroom, replaced the curtain and put new linen and blankets on the bed.

When the door opened, I had two surprises. Helen was different. She had grown, she was a woman. She was even more beautiful. The other surprise was the young man she had brought with her. He was her boyfriend. She hadn’t mentioned him. I didn’t know. He was nice, but I didn’t feel comfortable in his presence. She shouldn’t have brought him to our house.

Helen hugged me and kissed me tenderly and said she had missed me. I asked her why she hadn’t replied my letters. She said she didn’t have time to write, but always read them all. I asked her if she had kept them. She laughed, looked at my mother and said “yes.”

We all had dinner together and Helen told me the news. She told me about my uncles and that she was taking the acceptance examination for a Physics course at the end of the year. She wanted to be a scientist. I couldn’t stop looking at her. She was so beautiful!

After dinner, we went to the living room to watch television. I sat between Helen and her boyfriend so he wouldn’t be able to kiss her. Later on, Mom suggested that she stay to sleep over. To my joy, Helen accepted. Then she saw her boyfriend off, specifying the time for him to stop by and pick her up on the following day. He left and I locked the door.

I let Helen have my bed. I would sleep in the hammock. When we were alone in the bedroom, I pulled the chest from under the bed. I opened it up and showed her my most valuable treasure: our old CDs, our photos, my diaries, all of her letters and the notes we had exchanged during classes.

She was surprised at everything. She couldn’t believe I had really kept all those things for so long. She held two locks of hair taped to a yellow ribbon with curiosity, and I said those were ours. Didn’t she remember we used to have our hair cut together? Helen read passages in my diary where I had written about my grief for being far from her and, at that moment, her voice sounded like a sweet song that sang about the feeling of missing someone. I asked her if she still loved me.

She stopped reading and looked at me. She brought me closer to her on the bed. I sat down by her side. She straightened my hair out and said she liked me very much and she would never forget our friendship. I asked her if she still knew how to kiss. She laughed and said “yes.” I kissed her mouth. She corresponded for a few seconds, but then she stepped away. I asked her if she hadn’t liked it. She said that what had happened between us was child’s play, we were teenagers now, almost grownups, and soon we would be in college.

I told her she was wrong, our love was not child’s play, I had never forgotten her for even one minute and she still was the most important thing in the world for me. She looked at me tenderly and hugged me. She said she would never forget the moments we had shared, she remembered everything tenderly and, in spite of the time and the distance, I still was her favorite cousin. I insisted and asked again if she still loved me. “Yes,” she answered, but now we should have those memories kept in a box and mind our own lives, move on.

She picked everything up and put it back in the chest. She locked it and handed me the key. I tried to understand what she was doing, but I was confused. She said it was already late, she had to sleep and get up early.

Helen slept. I didn’t. I spent all night sitting on the floor next to the bed, watching over her sleep so nothing bad would happen to her. She was so beautiful sleeping she looked like an angel. The ray of light that came in through the window caressed her face… The moon was jealous and also wanted to kiss her. Like I had kissed her.

After some time, I looked through the window and I saw it was… dawn! I stood up and went up to the window. I opened the curtain and the window. The sky was not all dark anymore. It was beginning to change color behind the buildings. The darkness was being replaced by the beautiful orange clouds and some light beams seemed to pierce through them and spear up higher above. It was dawn, the first one I witnessed in my whole life.

I smiled with a strange feeling, a combination of triumph and discomfort. And fear. The sunrise was beautiful, but I admired it and was afraid of it at the same time. So that was the world of which my cousin had spoken, the world where she once promised we would go together… But I didn’t know if I wanted to go. I wasn’t happy with the idea of a world without children. I was rather confused.

I looked at Helen. She slept on the bed. And the sight of her face filled me with courage. I kneeled next to her and called her. I wasn’t afraid to go with her. I called her so we could keep the promise she once had made, that we would go together into the world of grownups.

She moved around in bed, whispered something and resumed her sleep. I called her again, she had to get up, we had to go in together, I wasn’t going without her. But she said it was early and she had to sleep, and told me to sleep too. I called her again. She looked at me angrily and said she would call my mother if I didn’t go back to my hammock.

I stepped back, surprised. Helen had never talked to me in that tone. I stood there looking at her, trying to understand. Why didn’t she want to go with me? That didn’t make sense. I wasn’t going alone. What would I do in the world of grownups without Helen?

Then I understood. She preferred to stay in our world, the world of children, the one on this side of the night. Our world, where we would be forever protected from all evil. I felt relieved for finally understanding everything. I closed the window and lay in the hammock.

When I was almost sleeping, I heard something that caught my attention. It was a sound of galloping, like horses approaching. I looked through the window. The sound came from outside. I stood up and went to the window. And I saw them. The evil creatures.

They were many, more than I could count. They were riding their huffing horses in a troubled gallop. They yelled, screamed and cackled as if they were insane. They had scythes and spears and brandished them over their heads. They were human corpses, skeletons with rests of flesh still hanging from them. Semi-dead creatures. Grotesque. Horrible. They looked like they had just come out of their graves. The most dreadful thing I had ever seen and would ever see in my whole life.

They were very near, blowing hatred and cruelty through their red eyes. And they were all looking at my window, where I was, all those horrible red eyes staring at me. In the vastness of the city, among all the buildings, the creatures knew exactly where I was. They had their gaze fixed on my window, on me, and they came closer in their crazy and noisy gallop.

I felt the despair come up inside my throat. I tried to call Helen, but my voice simply wouldn’t come out. They were coming and I couldn’t scream. I wanted to run, but my legs would not move and I stood there in front of the window. They came closer and the noise was increasingly louder. How could Helen sleep with that deafening roar?

At last, they arrived. They stopped in front of the window. I could hear their troubled horses huffing, ready to storm into the bedroom. I could feel the horrible smell of something rotten, some dead animal, it was unbearable…

Then I summoned all my strength, leapt as fast as I could, threw myself on the bed and pressed my body against my cousin’s. I pulled the blanket on and covered myself from head to feet. She woke up and asked me what I was doing there. I couldn’t speak at all. My eyes were closed and I trembled. I was terrified.

Helen explained that I had had a nightmare, that everything was alright and I could sleep with her. I trembled in fetal position with my eyes shut hard. I was frightened and petrified. Helen hugged me and tried to soothe me. But it was useless. They were just outside the window and would come in any second now.

Helen asked me to open my eyes. I didn’t. She insisted, she asked me to open them, said that she was there by my side, my dear cousin. I didn’t open them, I couldn’t. I just trembled and trembled.

Then she took my hand, pressed it in hers and put something in it. It was our lock of hair. It had been left out of the chest. Helen told me it was an amulet, that I should not be afraid anymore because the amulet would protect me every night. I just had to hold it and the nightmare would go away.

I held the lock of hair in my hand with all the strength I could find. Then I noticed that the creatures went gradually away. The amulet really worked. I kept holding it and pressing it. And the creatures were gone. Little by little, I stopped trembling and I cried from so much relief and gratitude. I hugged my beloved cousin and we slept that way, close together. Protected. Like in the old times. Like it should always have been.

When I woke up, however, I was alone. My cousin had left already. I looked through the window and the sky was blue. I opened my hand and there was the amulet.

*     *     *

I am 21 years old now. I left home and came to another city to attend college. My parents rented a small apartment where I live with Shadow, my Persian cat. He is neutered and never leaves the apartment, so he keeps me company.

I’ve always been careful to be back home before dawn so I don’t have the displeasure of seeing that horrible scene again. That made me turn down many invitations to go out. I was afraid I would not be protected in my bed when the malignant creatures came from the world where there are no children. Yes, I still had the amulet. But it was too sacred for me to carry it around.

I never mentioned the creatures to anybody, not even my parents or friends, nobody. It was my secret. Mine and Helen’s. One day, however, in an unguarded moment, I relented and told Luiz. We had been dating for a few months and he always asked me about my refusal to see the dawn. I liked him and thought he would understand, so I told him. In a moment of weakness, I revealed our secret.

I asked Luiz whether he could not see them at dawn, those horrid creatures. I asked him whether he could not hear the manic rumble of the gallops with the first rays of daylight. Could he not feel the unbearable smell of dead animals. He was sensitive, he would certainly understand. I told him that many years ago Helen had warned me about the other side of the night, that she had told me about the secret of the dawn and that one day I had finally seen it with my own eyes. I told him about the amulet I had been keeping, which my cousin had given to me specifically for my protection so I always wore it on a necklace when I slept.

I told him all that and waited apprehensively. Then I suddenly remembered Helen and felt all the weight of a precious pact being broken. What would she think about this? Would she understand me? If she met Luiz, she would certainly understand. Yes, he was a good person. He liked me.

Luiz listened to everything and looked very serious. He asked me if I was joking and I replied I wasn’t. He asked the same question again and my answer was negative again. He asked it for a third time and I gave him the same answer once more. Then I realized I shouldn’t have told him.

Luiz changed after that. He became somewhat cold and distant towards me. Even worse, he tried to convince me that everything I had told him was a product of my imagination, that the malignant creatures didn’t exist and that I should watch the dawn without the amulet to confirm what he was telling me.

I should have broken up with him right there. I felt very angry for being treated like a lunatic. I know I’m not crazy, I saw the creatures. I heard the hurried gallop and the troubling howls, I could feel the rotten smell overpower the air and their claws had been very close to touching my neck.

We still dated for a few weeks in spite of his attempts to convince me. He would bring it up once in a while, but I wouldn’t listen. I didn’t want to discuss that anymore, I knew it was useless. We eventually broke up because one day he did something I could not accept.

We were sharing the bed that night. I suddenly woke up startled. He was calling me. He was pointing at the window in my bedroom and told me to look. He said there was nothing outside, just the dawn.

I looked through the window, still sleepy and groggy, and I almost passed out from the shock. There were the creatures coming up and they came running, storming towards us. They were close enough already, I could hear them as if they were inside the apartment.

I looked at his hand and I saw the amulet. Luiz had taken it out of my neck while I slept, the jerk. I was out of my mind with such rage I’d never thought I could have. Seeing the amulet in the hands of that rapscallion made me absolutely furious. He couldn’t have done that.

I pushed him out of the bed, desperately screaming that he didn’t have the right to do that. I tried to take the amulet back, but he wouldn’t let me. He told me to look outside and see that everything was normal, that there were no evil creatures at all…

I could have killed him, I honestly could. Luiz was treating me as if I were insane. In fact, I was in complete despair. Yes, I was. But who wouldn’t be with those creatures drawing so close?

I pushed him hard to the corridor and from there to the living room. He tried to contain me, he asked me to calm down saying I should seek treatment, he liked me a lot and wanted to help. I didn’t want to listen and screamed at him to go away. Shadow had woken up with my screams and was scared, watching everything in a corner of the room. I was really desperate. I didn’t have any time. Luiz was pushing me towards death and didn’t understand that.

I don’t know where I found so much strength, Luiz is a lot stronger than me, but I opened the door of the living room and thrust him far away. He was knocked down on his back and tumbled down the staircase steps. I picked the amulet from the floor, yelled that I never wanted to see him again and slammed the door shut. I ran to the bedroom, threw myself on the bed and covered my body with the blanket.

I relived everything again, all the hell I had sworn I would never live again. They had come to me just like they had before. They looked through the window and… came in. They stood around my bed and watched me, the repulsive corpses. No, nobody can imagine what that is like…

While I hid under the blanket trembling and squeezing the amulet in my hands, I could feel their gaze burn like embers on my skin, their heated breath, their putrid stench, their loathsome claws only inches away from my body… No, nobody can imagine.

Then they gradually began to step away and leave the room. They knew there was nothing they could do against me as long as I had the amulet.

Luiz called me on the same day, but I didn’t answer. He sent me messages that I didn’t read. I got sick of him and turned off the phone. On the next day, I took a bus to the city where Helen lived. I had to tell her about what I had done. I hadn’t honored her secret. I had to ask her to forgive me.

I arrived there in the afternoon. I took another bus from the bus station to her house. When I got there, I rang the bell and asked about my cousin. Then I learned that Helen had passed away. On that same day, in the morning.

I refused to believe it at first. The voice on the intercom asked me who I was. But I couldn’t find my voice to say anything else. A woman opened the gate. She was dressed in black and looked very sad. She told me about something involving an accident and explained where the wake would be held. Everybody would be there. She asked me if I had understood. I don’t remember what I replied, but I had understood. I had understood everything.

*     *     *

It is exactly five ten in the morning right now. I’m back to my apartment, in the living room, sitting in this armchair facing the large glass window. The sun rises behind me, on the opposite side. I had deliberately chosen an apartment with a view to the sunset, but I can already see the sky beginning to get brighter on this side. In a few minutes, the light of day will come.

I brought another cup of coffee from the kitchen. I want to be awaken and fully alert for what is about to happen.

I can hear the rumble and feel the stench… I try to remain calm. But my chest is about to explode.

I can see the creatures and the maniacal look on their faces. And the screams, my God, the screams… I can’t understand how the neighbors can remain asleep with that uproar. My neighbor complains about the slightest sounds, how is it possible that she can’t hear this?

I left enough food for about five days in Shadow’s dish. I hope someone realizes what happened before the poor animal starves to death.

They are coming. They have seen me. The entire horde watches me with their red eyes and hateful expressions. And their storming rocks the whole apartment. How can nobody else hear this, my God? The vases drop from the shelves, everything is shaking! Even Shadow, who usually sleeps so heavily, has come to see what is going on…

They’re here already. They look sadistic as they walk around the armchair and the sound of their steps echoes in the room. God, they’re so repugnant! And their stench is so smothering it’s impossible to breathe… Shadow was terrified by what he saw. He ruffled his fur and ran away to the corridor, must have tucked himself under the locker, the poor thing. I really I wish I could have saved him from this.

One of the creatures touches my hair, the bony hand, threads of skin hanging from it… The stench is unbearable. The sickness comes all the way up to my throat and I refrain from vomiting. I remain motionless, not breathing, eyes fixed forward. One of them brandishes a scythe. Why won’t it do what it has come to do already?

They are all in the room and they laugh at me wildly. I try to retain as much of my dignity as I can, but I am so nervous my jaws shake uncontrollably… I just wish it could be over immediately.

One of the creatures pulls my hair and pulls my head back, exposing the full length of my neck. My heart is racing. It brings its face close to mine. I can see the foaming mouth and the hot breath. The one with the scythe approaches. I look away from their eyes the whole time.

The creature pulls my hair some more. The drool from its mouth drops on my closed lips and runs around its corners… I try hard to control my revulsion. I feel the sharp claws touch my neck. My jaws still tremble. They all touch my neck and glide their claws across it as if savoring an appetizer.

Two images come to my mind. The first one is the amulet I had buried in the garden of the town square, the dirt covering it, our locks of hair united forever. The second image is Helen looking at me with sad and disappointed eyes…

The tears begin to run across my face. My head is still pulled back, my whole neck exposed. I can’t stand Helen’s stare anymore and I cry. I cry with my eyes closed and I pray that it’s all over soon.

Then comes a swift motion, and the creature does its deed.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

.

.

(script for a movie soon)

.

this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

.

> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

.

 

.


Mariana´s gift

25/03/2020

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.

this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

.

.

MARIANA´S GIFT

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We are celebrating ten years of marriage, Mirley and I. She is an amazing woman, I have to tell you, and still as beautiful and fascinating as on the day I met her. To celebrate the occasion, we came to spend the weekend in our beach house. We brought wine, scented candles and our favorite records. Ten years of joy. Two wonderful children. We had our troubles, of course, but our love has overcome everything.

Right now, Mirley is on the beach with the children. I chose to stay here in the hammock in the porch listening to Julio Iglesias, looking at the trees in the property, enjoying the wind and the rustling sound it makes through the leaves. Ten years. So many things we have been through…

I remembered facts, sensations, words, and small, trivial events. I remembered our days of hardship. While one was faltering, the other kept it all together… I laughed alone remembering the many agreements and disagreements, interesting random things and epic quarrels that time always turns into trifles. In these ten years together, we have collected the inevitable dust of ordinary matters, I know. But a still lovingly stare, believe me, can find poetry even in the moldiest routine.

And this morning, here in the hammock scanning the past, I suddenly remembered Mariana. It was like the wind blowing away the upper crust of sand on something that had been forgotten. It blew and Mariana came along with her gracious girly ways, the candid smile… And I remembered everything.

*     *     *

It was a Wednesday, the day of the week when they held session at Ms. Nina’s house, a known medium in the neighborhood. Joca had asked me if I would like to attend a session of umbanda Manaus style. I said “yes” and we went there.

I had left Recife to live in Manaus, where I had invested all my savings on an export business. My girlfriend Mirley came with me, but unfortunately she did not adapt to the local climate and went back. I stayed with the promise that soon I would make money and go back too. But almost one year later, my business was struggling hard and I was increasingly running out of money and hope. The outlook was not encouraging at all. I missed Mirley terribly, it was like having a stake driven through my soul. Everything was more difficult away from her. So who knows, maybe some spirit could lend me a hand.

The session began. The attendance was high on that evening and some people had to remain standing around the event. Since it was my first time, they let me have a chair right next to Ms. Nina, the medium, a very distinguished lady. She had a dark scrawny body and deep black hair and eyes. The congá table was in a corner of the room. I could identify the images of Jesus Christ, Saint George, Saint Sebastian, Saints Cosmas and Damian and the Holy Virgin on it. The medium asked for the blessing of Oxalá, of master Jesus, of the spirit responsible for the yard whose name I can’t remember anymore, and of some orishas.

I never believed in such things, I think they can be explained by autosuggestion. But I’m shy so the new experience made me feel uncomfortable. I saw people explain their problems to the spirits and that was strange to me. I saw that some of them secretly whispered to their ears, but I still couldn’t find the courage. I felt ridiculous by merely picturing myself whispering to the ear of an imaginary old black man blowing corn husk smoke with all those people around me providing a soundtrack of off-key chanting.

During the visit of the spirits I didn’t detect any considerable change in the medium. I watched discreetly but carefully, looking for negative or positive proofs of an afterlife. But one thing really caught my attention: the seven shots, that’s right, seven shots of cachaça that she drank during the visit of a certain caboclo spirit whose name I forget. And that was additional to the beers that other spirits ordered and consumed. Logic follows that Ms. Nina, with her puny body, had to be very intoxicated by the time she finished the session.

It was at the end of it all that Mariana came along. I was leering at Joca and expressing my impatience when Ms. Nina trembled once again, closed her eyes and went into a trance. I immediately detected a faint fragrance in the air, a scent of wood and fresh grass. I looked around coyly to find out who was wearing such a pleasant perfume.

Everybody welcomed the spirit that was arriving.

“Hail, Mariana.”

“Hail, cabocla Mariana. Welcome.”

“Welcome, Mariana of the brick-colored hair.”

“Hail, hail!” Ms. Nina answered to everyone around. And I noticed that her voice had become more juvenile.

“You haven’t come here for a long time, Mariana.”

“I’ll say, it’s crowded today. New people, handsome man, that’s good. Hurray!”

I thought it all was ridiculous and wanted to laugh. At precisely that instant, however, Ms. Nina’s eyes met mine. I was startled. It wasn’t Ms. Nina who was staring at me, it was someone else. It was a different, brighter, more lively stare. I was bothered and tried to look away, but something prevented me.

“This is my friend Diddy,” Joca introduced me right away. “It’s his first time here.”

“He has beautiful eyes, yes,” Ms. Nina said, half serious and half smiling.

I didn’t know what to say. Everyone’s attention was focused on me. I looked for something to do with my hands on the table to avoid the stares, especially Ms. Nina’s. It was odd. Ms. Nina remained there by my side, but at the same time… it didn’t seem to be her. It couldn’t be her.

“Are you shy, young man?” she asked, just a few inches away from my face. She had a sweet look, but there was something domineering about it. It was subtle, but I couldn’t look away. She touched my face, smiled and turned around to look for the old acquaintances in the session. I breathed, feeling relieved.

Ms. Nina – or Mariana – greeted all the attendants. I noticed she spent more time talking to men. She asked about old acquaintances, asked about someone or some other, laughed at stories and had fun at some disturbance that had occurred on the street a few days prior. I was so uncomfortable in the situation I didn’t even remember to ask for her help in relation to my business. I was content enough with just admiring her gracious manners and good humor. She was definitely a charming spirit.

There was something however that had grasped my attention since she had begun to talk. She asked about her fiancé then about another fiancé, and it seemed she had many fiancés. I was curious, nudged Joca and he explained it to me, whispering quietly to my ear:

“Cabocla Mariana didn’t die. She was spellbound when she was 17 and a half. She is very beautiful. She has white skin and red hair, the color of bricks. And her eyes are blue like a swimming pool. Whenever she gets infatuated with a man, she proposes him to get engaged to her. When a man becomes Mariana’s fiancé, he gets everything he wants professionally, he gets a pretty quick upgrade in his living standard.”

I felt queasy. I moved around in my chair to get closer to my friend.

“My brother is her fiancé. You visited his store, Diddy. He had nothing two years ago. He got rich pretty fast.”

“And what makes her become infatuated with a man?”

“Oh, I don’t know. She just does.”

“And what does she want in exchange?”

“She is jealous, she demands absolute exclusivity. If a man becomes her fiancé, he can’t have any other woman.”

“But… what do you mean?”

Someone shushed us… I smiled apologetically and put myself together. But that conversation was irresistible.

“She’ll ruin any other love you have,” Joca continued. “Look at Louis, that guy over there. He got engaged to her. He bought this house and gave it to Ms. Nina so she could hold the sessions. He was dirty poor and now he owns a supermarket. On the other hand, he never settled with a woman anymore. Mariana always ruins the relationship.”

“And can’t he get out of the deal?”

“No. You really must have balls to get engaged to her.”

“Well, I would accept that kind of deal.”

“You wouldn’t do that!”

“If she helps me make money, I’ll beat the hell out of here and she will never find me again. I’ll marry Mirley and keep the money.”

“She won’t let you leave, Diddy. You don’t know how powerful that girl is. You don’t know.”

His advice served no purpose anymore. I was overwhelmed by an odd frenzy. I had gone in there skeptical of the whole concept, but now I was willing to suspend my disbelief for cabocla Mariana if she would really help me out of the hardships I had been enduring. On the matter of her ruining relationships, well, that was just too much for me to believe.

“Before of I go, I want to talk to this young man here…” Mariana suddenly turned to me, to my surprise. “You don’t need to tell me that your life hasn’t been easy at all, right? Honest man, hard working… You come from a distant place, don’t you?”

I nodded. Her stare was impressive. I felt embraced by an unusual tenderness, like warm water, cozy… a nice scent of fresh grass…

“I’ll bet you left a girlfriend crying somewhere, didn’t you?”

I smiled coyly.

“Do you know the first thing they notice is your beautiful eyes?”

I felt my cheeks burn from embarrassment.

“And you know how to look the way a woman likes.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“You just need to have a little more respect for the spirits. I know you are smart. But nobody can challenge the spirits.”

She said that and touched my arm. That was definitely not Ms. Nina’s hand. It was the silky hand of a girl.

“But I do respect…” I tried to amend it, bothered by the exposure of my intimate thoughts.

“Then respect them a little more, it won’t hurt. You know a lot. But nobody knows everything.”

I remained silent, increasingly nervous. Being chastised by a spirit, who could imagine.

“For example, you don’t know how to make money.”

She spoke and laughed. It was a girl’s laughter.

“Mariana will show you if you want.”

In the ensuing silence, I heard my heart beat. What was she proposing?

“He is not interested, Mariana, Joca interrupted, patting my shoulder gently.

“Is that true?” she asked, looking into my eyes. And for a second they seemed to be blue.

“Well… I…”

“You’re not a lost cause. You just need a little push with a few things.”

Mariana kept looking at me seriously. Then I felt something strange, a slight numbness…

“I can fix that easily.”

“In how much time?” I wanted to know. She really had blue eyes. Or could I be imagining things?

“Faster than you think.”

Yes, they were blue. A crystalline, halcyon blue, almost a caress. I wasn’t imagining it. I saw it. I don’t know how, but I saw it.

“I like you.”

And the long hair, the color of bricks. The milky white skin, the manners of a mischievous girl. Don’t ask me to explain. I saw it.

“Mariana, he is not interested,” Joca interrupted us again.

“You’re still spiteful, Joca. Just because I never wanted to be your fiancée. Did you know that, Diddy? Do you know he proposed to get engaged to me and I refused?”

I looked at my friend. He had never told me that.

“That was a long time ago, Mariana. I hardly knew what I was doing.”

“That’s why you still find yourself in this situation, borrowing money from your brother. You never know what you’re doing.”

“You know I’m unemployed.”

I thought about my friend Joca. He was older than me and had tried many things in life. Nothing had worked. Friends were always helping him out. He seemed to have the stigma of failure. Perhaps Mariana had seen that in him? Could that be the reason why she didn’t accept him as her fiancé?

“Diddy?” she called me. “Listen, I’ll be back next week. Think about it carefully because I only propose once.”

“That’s true,” a man behind me said. “If you refuse, she won’t give you another chance.”

“Wait…” I held her arm. “I accept it.”

Mariana flashed her beautiful smile again. Her blue eyes twinkled. She took my hand, held it between hers, kissed it, looked at me firmly and said:

“I haven’t proposed yet, young man. But I will now. Do you want to be my fiancé?”

I thought about Mirley and how much I liked her. Would she forgive me? At least it was for a good cause. For one second I felt my future was about to be cast in that exact moment and that whatever my decision was, there would be no turning back. Mariana had locked her eyes into mine and I felt like I was being tenderly hugged… I wasn’t in that room anymore. I was walking in the forest with her. Mariana and her white dress, her beautiful red hair with a braid resting on her shoulder, we both laughing, we both dipping our feet in the river’s cold water, our hands held together, our bodies very close, her face close to mine, then closer and closer, her mouth, our mouths…

“He is going to think, Mariana,” Joca said, pushing me back to the table. “He is going to think hard and give you an answer on Wednesday.”

I glared at him.

“Then I’ll be back on Wednesday to find out,” she said. She let go of my hand and turned around to say her good-byes to everyone.

Ms. Nina soon opened her eyes, and kind as usual, smiled at everyone and asked that we all hold hands in a prayer for the disenfranchised and for all the well-meaning requests that had been made. I watched her carefully and couldn’t see any signs of intoxication. She had drunk a lot in one hour and a half and even her breath did not smell of liquor. I was impressed by that, that’s true, but not as much as by her transformation: her face, voice and gestures no longer had a single trace of young Mariana. The blue-eyed and brick-colored hair cabocla, if she ever had really been by my side, was not there anymore.

While we walked on the street, Joca told me about his frustrated engagement to Mariana. He confessed he had been very embarrassed at the time, but had gotten over it. He also felt grateful every day for being rejected by Mariana because he was dating a very nice girl.

I wanted to know more about Mariana, I was very curious.

“She really liked you. But don’t you make the mistake of getting engaged to her, Diddy.”

“That sounds like something a rejected fiancé would say…”

“I know it does. But tell me something: what use is having a lot of money and never finding someone to share your heart? Is it any good?”

“I’m going very far away. She won’t find me.”

“Remember what she said… You ought to be more respectful.”

“I am respectful. I just can’t believe it.”

Joca laughed, slapped on my shoulder and said:

“I’ve seen a lot of people come here to Manaus the way you did and leave a different person. Yes, I have.”

He laughed with great joy.

I didn’t mind going back a different man as long as I were in better situation. Joca’s opinions would not drive me away from my goals. I would get engaged to Mariana, save up some money and depart from that city. I was even making plans to invest the money. A soup restaurant in Recife Antigo. Or maybe an ice factory in Olinda.

“I can’t go with you next Wednesday,” he said. “You’re going to make that mistake all alone.”

I dreamed about Mariana twice along those days and the pleasant sensation of the dream would follow me for the rest of the day. I could smell her many times on the street, on the bus… I suddenly felt the nice scent of fresh grass, her presence inundated the atmosphere and something in me became calmer, mellower, more understanding.

I couldn’t feel comfortable talking about that with anybody, not even Joca. With Mirley, not a chance. What would I tell her, that I was insanely enamored with a teenage spirit? That I thought about her all the time and became flustered whenever I saw someone with brick-red hair passing on the street? That I found myself drawing her name on paper napkins? How could I tell her I was getting engaged to an umbanda spirit because of our future? No, I had better not say that. It would be a secret between me and Mariana.

On the next Wednesday, I went there again. And once again, Ms. Nina received the spirits. Like in the previous session, Mariana was the last one to come. Once again, the light scent of wood and fresh grass. Once again, the joyful voice, the juvenile grace. I felt like my fondness of her was spilling on the table. I admired the beauty of the simple gestures, the tiniest details. How could she be so charming? I realized I liked her. A lot.

After talking to a few people, Mariana finally turned to me. And she smiled. And once again, her smile brought the freshness of waterfalls to my mind.

“Hi, handsome young man.”

“Hi, Mariana.”

“You thought about me these days, didn’t you?”

“I did.”

“So did I. A lot.”

“Really?”

She stopped smiling and I could see the sadness in her look.

“Look, I have something to tell you. Come over here, come…” She invited me to sit on the chair next to her, reserved for private conversations. While the others chanted, she told me:

“You are more protected than I’d thought. I was told not to mess with you.”

I couldn’t understand.

“Look, you can’t be my fiancé.”

“Why not?” I asked, surprised.

“A bigger spirit than me, I have to respect. That made me very sad.”

It felt like breaking up a long relationship. I felt like crying in her lap.

“You are protected already, handsome young man. You don’t need me.”

“I do,” I insisted. I didn’t care about any embarrassments or privacy anymore. “I do need you, Mariana.”

“Go, go down your own path. It’s a good path. You’re going through a difficult moment, but you are a strong man and will get through the forest. Have faith.”

I suddenly remembered Mirley and I felt I wouldn’t have the strength to keep fighting for us anymore. I was finally beat, impotent. It was the end.

“Listen, since you can’t be my fiancé, I’m going to leave you a gift.” She took my hand and pulled me closer. She was whispering to my ear now. “So you have no doubts that I like you.”

I took a deep breath and found the strength to ask:

“A gift?”

“If you can’t come next Wednesday, I will know that you accepted Mariana’s gift.”

I saw a tear run from her eye.

“And even if you forget me, I’ll always be looking after you, you hear me? Now go, handsome man, go.”

She pushed me gently. She said her good-byes to everyone and left. The scent of fresh grass was gone. The warm water was gone.

I was devastated and went after Joca. I had no hard feelings against Mariana. On the contrary, she had really captivated me and I could only feel all tenderly about her. But I couldn’t believe I had made so many plans in vain. What about the famous soup restaurant in Recife Antigo? What about the successful ice factory in Olinda?

“She likes you,” Joca said, consoling me. “And if she likes you, she will find a way to help you.”

Joca’s words were useless. I was so sad I had no disposition for anything. The following days were like hell, I could barely get out of bed. Working was torture. I even lost my appetite. I was depressed and disappointed at everything, at life and especially at myself for having believed that a spirit would fix the course of my life.

My telephone had been cut off and wouldn’t be reactivated until Monday, so I used that as an excuse not to talk to Mirley. I didn’t want her to realize my situation. Joca invited me to go out, but I turned it down. I would spend the weekend locked up at home. I had absolutely no interest in seeing the world outside.

The telephone was reconnected on Monday and it rang at night as soon as I arrived from work. It was Mirley. I was still sad, but I managed to hide it. She told me one of the branches of her friend’s company in the countryside of Pernambuco was out of a manager and her friend considered me to fill the position. She explained that she had tried to talk to me over the weekend but couldn’t find me and maybe her friend had found someone else already. I told her I was interested and she gave me the friend’s telephone number.

I felt anxious when I hung up. It would be a very harsh punishment to lose that opportunity because of a disconnected telephone line due to late payment. I called the number she had given me, but it was busy. I called it again and again – still busy. I couldn’t even raise from the couch I was so anxious.

At my hundredth attempt, Mirley’s friend finally answered. Luckily, the position was still open. The salary was not as good as I wanted, but it was a branch in a city near Recife, so I would be close to Mirley and we would be able to see each other every weekend.

Everything was agreed upon on the same night. He was in a hurry and asked if I could schedule my trip for Wednesday, two days later.

“Yes, of course,” I replied with resolve. “You can count on it.”

I hung up the phone and froze in place, still amazed. Then I suddenly realized. That was Mariana’s gift…

I couldn’t help the tears rolling down my face. Right there, on the couch, I cried convulsively like I never had before. I remembered Mariana while I cried thankfully and could only mumble “thank you, thank you…”

On Wednesday, at the airport, I said good-bye to Joca and asked him to thank Mariana for me. And I asked him to say that I would never forget her. He laughed:

“No need. Nobody forgets Mariana.”

On Wednesday, on my journey, I could only think about the session. At that very moment, they certainly were all around the table, looking at the spirits on Ms. Nina’s face. I felt good and confident, with lightness in my soul. I was as sure as anyone can be that I was on board the most protected flight in the world.

At the airport in Recife, I picked my luggage and looked around in search of Mirley. While I waited for her, I detected this familiar scent, a pleasant freshness…

Someone suddenly touched my shoulder. My heart froze. I turned around slowly, already knowing whom I was going to see. And I saw her. The reddish hair, the white skin, the sparkling blue eyes…

A river of tepid waters ran around me and I let myself be washed by the embracing waters, the fresh smell of grass, the continuous melody of the forest… My soul was taken by a sweet feeling of rapture. Two beautiful blue eyes caressed me and all I could do was smile and smile…

“I’m sorry,” she said, embarrassed. “I mistook you for someone else.”

“What?” I said, coming back down to the airport, feeling my feet on the floor again. The girl waited for me to say something, but I couldn’t find anything to say. She waved at some people farther ahead and smiled at me.

“Good luck. Bye.”

I stood there watching the girl go away and run to her friends. I didn’t know what to think. Then I heard my name and saw Mirley come towards me. I was confused and still looked for the red-haired girl, but she had already disappeared in the crowd. Mirley hugged me tight and cried on my shoulder. We hadn’t met for almost one year. We’d missed each other so badly…

“What is this strange look on your face, Diddy?”

“It’s the trip…” I replied “But everything is alright now. Have you had dinner?”

We left soon. On the following day, I already was the manager of the store branch and there was a lot of work to do. A new life awaited me, this time next to the woman I loved.

About the girl in the airport, I know, I know. You certainly think I think she was Mariana. Yes, she was.

Don’t try to dissuade me. Don’t even ask me about logic, I don’t even have it for myself. I am perfectly content with the pure and thankful certainty I still carry in my chest that the coquettish girl who suddenly smiled at me at the airport in Recife was indeed Mariana. Yes, cabocla Mariana of the brick-colored hair, spellbound at 17 years and a half, who took some time out of Ms. Nina’s session on that Wednesday night to see me for the last time and to wish me a happy life in her own way.

This is the story. In a moment of angst and helplessness, I was willing to be Mariana’s fiancé and challenge her power. She wanted me, too. But fate would have it differently. Mariana, in demonstration of her love, gave me a gift, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change my life for the better and I grabbed the opportunity with all my might.

This is the story of Mariana that I still carry in my chest bathed in warm water, in the smell of fresh grass. In the first few months, still impressed by everything that had happened, I remembered Mariana every day and thanked her quietly. I gradually forgot her, absorbed by the intense work and by the family growing up. As my life resumed its balance, Mariana slowly became an increasingly distant memory that eventually disappeared. Maybe she didn’t need to intervene for me anymore since my life was finally back in its natural course.

Today, however, ten years later, here in the beach house, the memory of her came back to me. It made its way into my heart. And I remembered everything again.

*     *     *

Mirley is just back from the beach with the kids. They bring a bucket full of sea shells. Louise says she is going to plant them in the backyard and wait for a sea shell tree to grow. Filippe chastises his sister for believing nonsense that grownups say. I sit on the edge of the hammock and ask them if they picked all those shells up on their own or if their mother really did all the work. Filippe says a young lady helped them. Mirley says the children loved the girl in a way she had never seen before. While pouring the shells down on the floor, Filippe tells me:

“She was beautiful, Dad. Her eyes were the color of this bucket.”

I look at the blue bucket and begin to feel strange already.

“And her hair was red, that color.”

Before Louise pointed at the roof, I had already understood. I feel my heart freeze over, a sudden vacuum in my soul. I clutch at the hammock as if grasping the will to dash away towards the beach.

“Her skin was so white, Diddy…” says Mirley, turning on the shower in the garden to wash the children. “I don’t know how that young woman can stand walking under this hot sun.”

I rise from the hammock feeling something in the chest. A strange joy, a melancholy, an excitement, everything at the same time. I walk silently to the living room. I pour myself a shot of whiskey on the counter and knock it all back at once. The burning liquid makes my eyes watery. A useless ruse to hide the tears I can’t control.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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Crimes of passion

25/03/2020

CrimesDePaixao-02

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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CRIMES OF PASSION

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CrimesDePaixao-02All patrons of the Kuay Bar stopped dead in their tracks when they arrived on Saturday and found that Imogen had not come to work. After all, he wasn’t just the most folkloric waiter in the extremely bohemian district of Iracema Beach. He was also known as Penalty, a nickname the customers had given him for missing work one single time in twenty years in his job, on the particular day when he masterfully defended a penalty kick in the final match of the Quintino Cunha Soccer League. The celebration had been so intense he was unable to work at night. Imogen, a.k.a. Penalty.

Now the man was absent from work a second time. It was almost as historical an event as the first one. People bragged about having been in the bar on that night when Penalty was absent. Roger Gaciano Jr., reputed journalist and habitué of the district, was looking for someone to illustrate his story about the bohemian neighborhood and guess who he interviewed. Waiter Penalty, of course. And the interview is still posted on the bar’s wall, laminated, for the whole world to see.

“Imogen hasn’t come to work?! Did he save another penalty kick?”

“I propose we hold a meeting to change his name to Double Penalty…”

Speculations ran wild all night long. Bets were placed: a month of free booze to whoever guessed why Imogen was absent for a second time. The man had such charisma that even his absence would be grounds for a party.

But on Sunday evening, Imogen’s wife came to the bar asking for her husband and everyone suspected something more serious had happened. Ms. Cecilia was distressed with a young boy on her arm and said her husband had left on Saturday afternoon and she hadn’t heard from him since. Carlitos, owner of the Kuay Bar, empathized with the woman’s affliction and offered to organize a search party to find out where his best waiter was. Ms. Cecilia should not worry and should go back home. He would put her in a taxi and soon everything would be alright. Imogen would turn up.

The mystery persisted until Monday morning, when Penalty’s decomposing body was found washing on the shore at Barra. The coroner’s report indicated drowning. He couldn’t swim, so he would never venture into the ocean. The strangest thing is that he was all dressed. Maybe he had fallen from the wharf? Money and documents in his pocket. No signs of violence on the body. What could have happened?

Penalty was buried late in the afternoon. Everybody was devastated. Almost every one of his customers attended, even the occasional ones and those who owed him money and had been avoiding showing up. The widow received offers of assistance and saw how beloved her deceased husband was. A storm of flowers was thrown on the casket and someone picked up a guitar to sing Ednardo’s “Beira-Mar”, Imogen’s favorite song.

Amidst the lamenting, nobody heard it when Jeovah, also known as Prophet, dressed in his thick black coat that hadn’t been anywhere near soap for a long time and with his fixed gaze on the descending casket, said:

“There goes the second martyr.”

If someone heard it, they pretended not to. It was hard enough putting up with the Prophet and his apocalyptic prophecy speeches in bars and it was certainly worse in a funeral.

“But it’s not over yet. There are still three…”

Although many avoided mentioning it, a whole moon went by while people wouldn’t talk about anything else at the bars in Iracema Beach. The most mournful abstained from alcohol for three days in memoriam. Others drank continuously for three days.

But nobody, absolutely nobody ever thought to connect the death of waiter Penalty to another death that had happened three months before at Le Bombom, a small modest love hotel where hookers and trannies used to go late at night. The victim was Neddy, owner of the establishment, a kind and peaceful elderly man. He was found dead in one of the bedrooms, laying on the bed. He was naked and had designer chocolate wrappings crammed in his mouth, such cruelty.

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Detective Tadeo Vieira, as he likes to be called (but known in the underworld as Tadeo Mousetrap), thirty-nine years of age and forty of card playing, always one to brag about being a good detective, woke up in that morning with a massive hangover. He had slept no more than two hours. He took a quick shower and a taxi to the Verdes Mares shanty town. They had had too much fun this time: the poker game had extended to six o’clock in the morning. And he had lost a month’s worth of wages to Mardonio, lucky son-of-a-gun.

Detective Tadeo Mousetrap (my apologies, but certain nicknames just become part of the person) never worked on Wednesday mornings. In all those years, no case had ever been important enough to justify his missing the old Tuesday night poker game or his sacred sleep on the next morning. But he had known Gina, the cigarette vendor. He had been her customer for a long time. And he couldn’t help feeling bad when someone informed him over the phone of her death in the wee hours of that night.

When detective Mousetrap finished interrogating neighbors, relatives and friends of the victim, he went to his office downtown. He sat at his desk with a view to the cathedral, went over his notes and reconstructed the sequence of events in his head. Gina comes home, a small wooden shack in the Verdes Mares shanty town at around four o’clock in the morning. She comes from Iracema Beach where she works as a peddler selling candy and cigarettes. Half an hour later, her husband leaves for the factory. Woman and son stay in the shack. The first flames are soon noticed by three men who are shooting pool in a bar fifty yards away. They rescue the boy who had been sleeping and remove Gina’s burnt up body that is lying on the kitchen floor.

Nobody in the shanty town saw anything suspicious, nothing out of the ordinary. Although everything hinted at an accident, Mousetrap scratched the back of his head and couldn’t understand why the victim had been unable to evacuate the small shack in time.

At night, he went to Iracema Beach. He talked to waiters, taxi drivers and peddlers. Everyone agreed that she was a beloved, friendly and generous person who had no enemies. At eleven, he closed the little note pad and called it a day. But before going home, he stopped by the Kuay Bar of the late waiter Penalty to enjoy a nice shot of cachaça. One by one, he recollected the conversations he had had that night. The woman did not owe money to anyone, didn’t like trouble, and was faithful to her husband. It wasn’t a crime of passion, murder, robbery or revenge. The one remaining hypothesis was that of an accident.

Mousetrap scratched the back of his head with the tip of the thumb. Something was telling him there was something off about it. And his intuition never played tricks on him. That’s why he became known as Mousetrap. As much as he tried, he couldn’t get rid of that moniker. He said it was a ridiculous nickname, that Mousetrap sounded like some corrupt, sweat stained shirt police detective. He wasn’t any of that, he was high profile. He worked as a detective because he had always enjoyed investigating, but he was graduated in engineering. He was a teacher at an entrance exam preparation course, but his real vocation was solving cases. He was so good at what he did that even the police would often ask him to help. In fact, the police had given him the nickname he hated. They said Tadeo Vieira was a teacher’s name. From then on, he was known as Mousetrap. Even ladies, ever concerned with their husbands’ dalliances, knew him by the nickname.

“This time I’m sure he is cheating on me, Mr. Mousetrap…”

He downed another shot and looked at the light-bathed sea of Iracema Beach, giving his eyes a break. All kinds of street vendors, the popcorn carts and the bright lights of the lampposts made that part of the district look like a park. How could that neighborhood have changed so much so fast? A few years earlier, there were half a dozen bars and they coexisted peacefully with the local population. They were more than a hundred now and the efforts of the residents’ association to ensure more peace and respect for the families that still insisted on living there were for the most part fruitless.

Several residents among the many he had heard had complained about the hell that life in that neighborhood had become. Some even said the death of the peddler might have been a consequence of the struggle for points of sale. Nothing would surprise them anymore since the bars had attracted a lot of people from other places, and crime was part of it all.

Mousetrap had been a frequent habitué of the district and knew its history. He knew the residents’ complaints were founded. But he also knew the bohemian vocation of the area was rather old and the proliferation of bars was difficult to control due to many aspects, including the generation of jobs and increasingly thriving tourism.

He had basically stopped going there after so much growth. Until then, one could easily walk around the streets at night in peace. Couples could go on dates and enjoy the view of the ocean unafraid of robberies and patrons knew each other and had some respect for the residents. People gathered around a guitar on the sidewalk was a common occurrence. The bohemian life was equal amounts of poetry and friendship.

Not anymore. Instead of musicians, artists, poets and intellectuals, Iracema Beach had been taken over by noisy gangs of high and middle class boys and girls, youngsters obsessed with the power of the sound system in their cars and the designer label of their clothes. They also brought robberies, car theft, bar brawls and deaths. Drug dealers and young gym-goers looking for trouble were also attracted to the scene. Next in line were tourists, eager to consume. Then the prostitutes came. Surely there had to be room for them too. “Iracema Beach belongs to everyone!” advertised the tourism campaign slogan.

The detective went back to his tiny apartment with a barrage of thoughts and a lingering suspicion. He tried not to take the Prophet seriously, but couldn’t stop thinking about him, the crazy man he had met at Kuay Bar that night. He had seen him at the bars before. The same shaggy barfly of twenty years ago with the same stinky coat and the old habit of speaking in rhymes. He hadn’t changed at all and had sat at his table without asking permission:

“Your intuition is right, Mr. Detective. What happened to Gina was no accident. But it’s no use focusing on guilt ‘cause the prophecy is going to be fulfilled.”

He didn’t realize it then, but he did later: how could that man know about his intuition while he had never mentioned it to anyone? “Just what I needed,” he thought. “Some nutjob reading my mind.” He turned around in his bed to sleep, dismissing his thoughts with the conclusion that even nutjobs are right once in a while…

A few days later, the coroner’s report contained an intriguing conclusion: there was no trace of smoke in the victim’s lungs. That meant she had died before the fire started. But that did not reveal the cause. That would take a few more days.

Mousetrap scratched the back of his head with the thumb. So Gina had been dead already. Had she fallen or something like that? Or had she been murdered?

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02“Oh waiter, two cachaças, please.”

“I’ll have a double shot.”

“Very well, Mr. Jeovah. What do you know about Gina’s death?”

Jeovah, who also went by the name of Prophet, was wearing his old stiffened black jacket. He eyed the man sitting across the table with both friendliness and disdain.

“I know that which is written, Mr. Detective…”

Gina had been dead for one week when Tadeo Mousetrap met the Prophet on the streets of Iracema Beach again and offered to buy him a drink. Maybe the nutjob had something interesting to say, seeing that he was a witness of the district’s reality day and night. The hardest part was putting up with the stench on that coat…

The waiter brought the drinks. The Prophet finished his cachaça in two gulps and began to talk about the night, the magic of the beach and the secrets of the bars. He told stories of the neighborhood, legends of old residents of the area, people who didn’t exist anymore. Tadeo Mousetrap listened carefully, marveled at his own patience. The Prophet had been roaming the area since the beginning of the proliferation of bars, he and his coat, the filthy hair, the rotten teeth and all of his oddball stories. He said he had been a photographer for a newspaper. There were rumors he had had a rock band in the 1970s called Punk Freud or something like that. People said he had lost his mind because of a woman. Absolutely everybody knew him, everybody had bought him some liquor one day.

“Don’t second guess reality, Mr. Detective. That is important in your job. For example, if I told you there was someone sitting at this table with us, someone who came with you, you wouldn’t believe it, would you?”

Tadeo Mousetrap automatically glanced at his side. When he understood what was happening, he got angry at himself and realized he had heard enough. Half an hour listening to that crazy talk, what was he thinking? He took a deep breath and embellished his voice with a tone of authority to say it was late, and if the man had nothing material to tell him, he had to excuse himself because he had to work early the following day. And ordered the check.

The Prophet gave him a brief smile of resignation.

“I’m going to speak the language you understand, Mr. Detective. Tell me one thing. If you don’t know I have a four of queens in my hand, then that hand does not exist to you, does it? It doesn’t exist because you don’t know I have it, right? But it does exist whether you know about it or not.”

Detective Tadeo Mousetrap, forty years of card playing, stared at the Prophet and felt a chill run down the spine. The nutjob knew he played poker? So he really could read his mind?

He kept his gaze fixed in the man’s eyes for a few seconds, looking for some clue that would give something away… But the expression on the man’s face did not change. He remained undisturbed, calm and unguarded, the type who would never harm anyone.

Suddenly, a black cat came in through the bar’s door and approached the table meowing at Prophet. He took it in his arms and held it on his lap, caressing its hair.

“You’re only investigating Gina’s case, aren’t you? Well, I’m going to broaden your perspective a bit more. Just because I liked your honesty.”

Tadeo Mousetrap waited. In the Prophet’s arms, the black cat watched with its yellow eyes.

“Look, Gina’s death has two precedents. One is Neddy, the hotel owner who died five months ago. The other one is waiter Penalty, who’s been dead for two months. I know you know, I know. But you haven’t connected the dots. The three of them were known characters in the area, they were part of the landscape. Behold the irony, man: the motel owner, who sold sex, died in bed. The waiter, who sold drinks, died by drowning. And the cigarette peddler died from burning.”

“She died before she burned,” interrupted Mousetrap, quickly realizing he had just let out inside information.

“It’s the symbolism that matters. The night is dying by means of its characters. The prophecy is cruel, but it’s real.”

“What prophecy?”

“You know it. One day, the night life of Iracema Beach is going to die.”

Tadeo Mousetrap lost his patience for the last time. He paid the check and stood up.

“As far as I know, Mr. Prophet, and maybe you don’t, a beautiful blond woman apparently in her twenties wearing a black dress was seen in the company of Neddy a few minutes before he was found dead. There is nothing symbolic about that. It was a murder and I’m going to prove it.”

“So, man… What better symbolism do you want? A beautiful and cruel blonde, dressed in black… A cool girl will kill you in a darkened room… Do you know that song?”

“Who knew the nutjob knew English,” thought Mousetrap, scratching the back of his head.

“You’re so obsessed with finding the murderer you can’t see the obvious.”

Mousetrap walked up to the sidewalk, hailed a cab and heard Prophet say from the table, still holding the black cat:

“Henry, Harry, Holy Pie. Who is the next one to die?”

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Over the following days, detective Tadeo Mousetrap eagerly awaited the second report on Gina’s death. He finally had some information: the coroners could not determine the cause of death. They just couldn’t.

The second conversation with the Prophet had been constantly hammering his mind. That story of a prophecy about the end of Iracema Beach was old, but it was just one of the many crazy stories that ran around the neighborhood. People smoked weed in the alleys and made those stories up. The actual truth was that Neddy had died of a heart attack and the blond woman had indeed been seen on the night of the crime by two witnesses. Waiter Imogen had died by drowning and there were no suspects. Gina’s case was the most mysterious one. The deaths, however, were not related like the Prophet had assumed. At any rate, the cases involving the waiter and the love hotel owner were none of his business. The waiter certainly had been drunk and fallen from the wharf on his own. And the police was looking for the blonde under suspicion of killing Neddy. His problem was the cigarette peddler. He had to discover why she had been unable to escape the fire.

Tadeo Mousetrap turned on the shower and walked into the cold stream. What he needed now was a good shower and a nice little game of poker. Four of queens… Who knows, maybe that was a tip for the game later at night. It might as well be. He might win back what Mardonio had taken from him the last time.

After the shower, he got dressed rapidly and went to meet the rest of the gang at Papagaio, the only bar that would let them have their poker game. Sure, it was just a table in the storage room on the upper floor, but it was allowed. Table for five, a bottle of cognac, saucers with peanuts. Next to his chips, a naked photo of Danusa, secretary of the office next door, for good luck. An old charm really. She was actually married now. “The buy-in is twenty, first pause at midnight, you touch someone else’s charm you get a warning, the prize is one, two and four buy-ins, let’s play because the game is played like this and watch it out ‘cause I’m kinda pissed…”

Mousetrap tried to focus on the game, but whenever a queen was laid on the table, he would recall the chat. How could the nutjob know he played poker? Was that why people called him Prophet, because he had the gift of guessing things?

The three cards were set on the table. A queen of spades came up. He had to focus on the game.

Henry, Harry, Holy… Mousetrap thought it was funny and laughed. He had to focus, he was very distracted.

Second card on the table: queen of clubs.

Henry, Harry, Holy… All those names began with an H. Was the nutjob trying to tell him the name of the next victim would begin with an H?

Then the queen of hearts was laid on the table. Three of queens! Everybody shouted around the table. They all exchanged glances and a sly smile. Whoever had the queen of diamonds would have the four. If anyone had it, they smiled to hide their happiness. And those who didn’t smiled to hide their fear.

Mousetrap felt his heart pound in his chest. He raised his eyes from the cards and immediately found Mardonio’s suspicious eyes across the table, behind the smoke of his joint. He looked at his cards again. He had to focus or damned Mardonio would guess his game.

He had seen the first one of his two cards. It was the two of clubs. The other one was behind it. He thought he’d do a little suspense for himself. He impulsively doubled the bet, still not knowing what the second card was. A shot in the dark. Of course it was risky. He didn’t usually do that, but it was the kind of thing that could serve as a good psychological move on the other players. He knocked back a bit of cognac. He had to seem calm.

Mardonio put many chips on the table and doubled the bet too. And stared at him again. The other players quit and left the two against each other. Mousetrap, still not knowing what the second card was, saw the bet. Someone whistled out in awe.

Mousetrap tried to remain calm. The game was getting serious. He took a long breath and finally decided to see the second card. His next move depended on it. If it were the queen of diamonds, he would keep betting until the end of the world. It had to be the queen. It had to be a four. The Prophet’s four.

Mousetrap rubbed his fingers slowly, applying just the right pressure so the second card wouldn’t be revealed completely. He was making suspense for the others and for himself. He could feel Mardonio watch him closely, ready to read his every slight gesture. The others did not dare speak. It was the highest bet of the night.

Mousetrap rubbed his fingers a little more. He uncovered the left lower side and could tell by the drawing that it was a face card, not a pip. His heart raced. That card could be the last queen he needed. It could only be a king, jack or queen. It had to be the queen of diamonds.

He went on with the suspense. He uncovered a little bit of the upper left corner and a sliver of the letter. It was red. Gradually, slowly, the red color…

Mousetrap, forty years of card playing, could not believe what he saw. For a few seconds, he could not even think at all. Then he thought someone was pulling some stupid prank on him. But nobody was laughing. Everyone was serious and awaiting his decision.

Mousetrap gulped hard. The card he had in his hand was not a king, a jack or a queen. What he had in his hand was a creepy skeleton riding a horse and brandishing a scythe. And the letter on the upper corner of the card was an H. A blood red H.

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Helga Mara stopped in front of the bathroom mirror and dried her long black hair. She brushed it, tossed it back and took a look at herself. Her experience as a blonde had lasted just six months and it hadn’t been very rewarding. Few people had approved it. Even her cat Rien had found it strange. He kept looking at her with his yellow eyes as if he didn’t know who that blond woman was. Now her hair was black again. The same color as her cat and the clothes she wore, and it was good to see her old image again.

She was living a good moment. The performances were happening. The boys in the new band were proficient musicians and did a good work together. The night gradually got to know who Helga Mara was. “Ah, life should always be like this,” she said to the image in the mirror. “Singing the blues and living the emotions. Preferably the strong ones, my dear.”

She gave one last look at the reflection of her naked body, which she admittedly used as a weapon both on stage and in life. She applied two drops of perfume in her hands and rubbed them on the back of her head and on her lap. She felt her breasts and looked at their side profile. She was wearing a black T-shirt as long as the middle of her thighs. She saw her face next to Jim Morrison’s in the mirror, a reflection of the poster on the wall behind her. Before she left the bathroom and went to the bedroom, she kissed his mouth on the mirror.

– You can’t fool me, man. I know you are alive. We will meet one day.

The record player in the living room was playing him, the Lizard King, and he sang: If you give this man a ride, sweet family will die… Killer on the road… Helga Mara closed her eyes, listened to the music and took a deep breath. She bit her lip. “I can resist anything, my dear, except temptations…” She picked up the bottle of Jack Daniel’s from the bedroom nightstand and went to the living room. She stopped at the door holding the bottle and looked at the man sitting on the floor, leaning against the couch. The clock on the wall informed her she had spent twenty minutes in the shower. “Twenty minutes is nothing for what he is about to get…” she thought, with a smile. “Cheers…” she toasted after pouring the glasses.

“To you. Cruel Helga.”

“To me.”

While Jim sang about the deadly ride on the road, Helga Mara drank a little whiskey and looked at the man in front of her. She had met him on a show one week before. As soon as he entered the bar, they exchanged odd-mannered glances. She noticed that he ogled her with lust during the performance. She was aroused the whole time she sang, feeling herself wet in the underwear. And she delivered her best performance ever. When she left her dressing room, she walked by his table to catch his attention. The allure worked: he invited her for a drink and she accepted it. He complimented her voice and the songs, especially “Cruel Blues.” She liked his mysterious gaze and behavior. And he said, “You have the style of the night…” And that stuck, she never forgot it. The style of the night.

Rien suddenly came from the kitchen and rubbed himself against her legs. She picked the black cat up in her arms.

“You escaped, little rascal. Come on, let’s go back. You can’t stay with me tonight, please understand…”

She left towards the kitchen and returned soon.

“Who are you, Helga?”

“A lucky little girl under the spotlights of the night.”

“Or just another lost angel in the city nightlife?”

She played with her fingers mimicking a shy and vulnerable little girl. She walked up to the shelf and played the record again. She could feel his stare on her back, surveying her curves. Now he was going to stand up and come close…

“Do you also like Jim Morrison?” she asked, lowering the needle onto the last track again.

“I like Helga Mara more.”

His voice was right behind her, she could feel it on her neck.

“Why do you think I have the style of the night?”

“Because the night is cruel.”

“Cruel…” she thought, savoring those words.

“Nothing that I can avoid, my dear…”

“You have a future, Helga Mara.”

“I know.”

“With me.”

“With you? I didn’t get that memo.”

“If you want, I can take you away from here and showcase your voice everywhere. We can live a torrid passion. In the end, we will die of love in Paris. In the bathtub of a hotel room.”

“Tempting… But lizards don’t die in Paris, dear.”

She felt his arm around her waist first, pulling her in firmly. Then her mouth met his. The unceremonious tongues. Then the hands, the T-shirt being pulled up and torn, his hands on her back, her neck, her breasts, her naked body in his arms in the middle of the room. Then the couch, his clothes, the urge, the sweat. Then the stars, the stars… And the keyboard like droplets of a blues dying gradually under the rain. Then the silence. Such cruel silence.

My love, this city is deafening
And you forget what I have to say
My love, the night is cruel
I smoke and drink alone in my place…

(Helga Mara – “Cruel blues”)

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Lieutenant Trinity, friend and police informant, informed Tadeo Mousetrap. Mousetrap immediately took a taxi and managed to get to the victim’s apartment before the press, when the police were still collecting material and taking photos. He inspected the damage with his own eyes. He saw the singer’s beautiful and bloody naked body lying prone on the carpet with spread legs and a gash on the neck. The police had already collected some objects for forensic analysis, including two glasses and a vinyl record broken in half with traces of blood.

“Do you know her, Mousetrap?” asked lieutenant Trinity, showing him the broken record.

“‘L. A. Woman’. Such a crime to break this vinyl.”

Mousetrap inspected the rooms. There were photos, notes and performance posters on the bedroom wall… Suddenly a black cat ran across and hid under the wardrobe. By the cat food in the kitchen, Mousetrap concluded that the animal belonged to the young woman. He tried to pick him up, but the cat leaped, quickly reached the window sill and stared at him. For an instant, he thought the animal might be trying to tell him something. Cats are magical creatures. He looked into the cat’s eyes and asked:

“Who did it? I know you know.”

The cat didn’t move on the window sill, just kept looking at him and meowed.

“So that is your method, Mousetrap… Feline interrogation.”

He turned around and saw the lieutenant standing at the door.

“The neighbor told me his name is Rien. In French, that means…”

“Nothing.”

“Exactly. So he knows nothing.”

Mousetrap picked up the cat and caressed him while Lieutenant Trinity laughed.

“We shouldn’t second guess reality… Isn’t that so, Rien?”

*      *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Tadeo Mousetrap sat down on the couch in the living room of his tiny apartment. He turned on the TV, but didn’t pay attention. His thoughts were focused on Iracema Beach…

Helga Mara was the woman’s name. Beautiful woman. Twenty-three years old, a blues singer. She had a band and the patrons of many bars knew who she was. She had been in the city for one year and lived alone. She had performed on Tuesday night and was not seen after that. The body was found by the band’s harmonica player two days later. She had missed the rehearsal and wouldn’t answer the phone, so he went up to her apartment. The door wasn’t locked. He went inside and found the body lying on the carpet.

“Helga Mara… The ‘H’ in the riddle”, thought Mousetrap. A singer of the night. Killed with the throat slashed with a record. Signs of wrestling. She had certainly resisted. But the murderer was stronger and had knocked her down. He turned her around belly up on the carpet and laid his body on top of hers. He gagged her with a handkerchief so she wouldn’t scream. He broke the record in half and slashed her neck. While the hemorrhage drained her strength, he sodomized her to the sound of “Riders on the Storm”…

“Meoooooow…”

Mousetrap snapped out of his thoughts with the cat meowing at his feet.

“Are you hungry, Rien?”

He rose from the bed and put more cat food in the dish. With the crime scene still in his mind, he took pen and paper and wrote down the names of all victims. First, the love motel owner who died in bed. Three months later, the waiter who died by drowning. Two months later, the cigarette vendor who was burned to death. One month later, the singer was killed with her throat slashed with a record. No sign of robbery. No crime of passion or revenge. Four pointless crimes in six months. But they were symbolically consistent as hinted by the Prophet. Mousetrap scratched the back of his head and wondered if the police were aware of that potential connection among the crimes. Coincidence or not, he couldn’t discard the possible connection anymore.

But how did the Prophet know the next victim’s name would begin with the letter H? Or could it have been just a hunch? Mousetrap wrote down the names of the victims. Neddy, Penalty, Gina and Helga in chronological order. N, P, G and T. That didn’t spell anything that made sense at first sight. He tried a few combinations, but nothing caught his attention. Then he realized the two first names were actually nicknames. Neddy’s given name was Neddleson, the same initial. But the waiter’s name was Imogen.

He replaced the letter ‘P’ for ‘Penalty’ with ‘I’ for ‘Imogen.’ Now he had N, I, G, and H.

A lightning bolt struck his mind. A chill ran down his body from head to toes. Mousetrap kept staring at the paper in shock.

The prophecy.

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02“I knew you would come. Wanna sit down?”

Jeovah, the beach prophet. He and his black filthy jacket.

“A shot of cachaça for the Prophet over here,” Mousetrap ordered to the waiter.

“Make it a triple shot,” added Jeovah, grave as usual. “The young lady deserves it.”

“How did you know it would be her?”

“All I know is that which is written.”

“And what is written?”

“That the end of times has come.”

“What else?”

“This beach’s nightlife is doomed.”

“Doomed by whose will?”

The waiter came with the drinks. Tadeo Mousetrap watched the Prophet raise the glass full of cachaça up to his nose, close his eyes and smell it. He was about to repeat the question when the man opened his eyes.

“People say I’m crazy. What do you think?”

“I don’t think anything. Who is trying to kill the night?”

“The night is dying…” the Prophet continued between draughts. “But death always comes, Mr. Detective. Nobody gets out of here alive. This beach’s nightlife dies whenever a new bar is opened, as strange as that sounds. The night dies when these playboys come here to show off their designer labels, when the street vendors sell booze to the underage, when even waiters supply patrons with cocaine and taxi drivers and love motel owners look the other way for tourists and their twelve-year-old lovers.”

Mousetrap listened with his eyes locked into the Prophet’s red eyes.

“The night dies whenever someone is robbed in a dark corner of the streets, whenever a car is stolen, whenever gym-grown thugs pick up a fight. The night dies whenever a mother gets angry at her baby’s crying, unable to sleep because of the loud music in the bar next door. The night dies in the music blasted from the cars, in the barbecue restaurants that attract people from distant neighborhoods who don’t understand the sea breeze. The night dies because it’s everyone’s fate. And it’s nobody’s fault. So it’s pointless to look for a culprit.”

“What should I do then?”

“The strange days have caught up with us, Mr. Detective. They tracked us down and destroyed our simplest joys. Nothing can be done.”

“There has to be a murderer.”

“Iracema Beach belongs to everyone…” The Prophet smiled sadly, looking at the sea through the bar’s window. “Everybody is entitled to a share of its lynching.”

“How about you, don’t you feel sorry for it? Or for the victims?”

“I feel sorry for the sons of the beach who try to perpetuate what belongs in the past already. They love the night and die with it. Many were not even born here, but are made of the same ocean breeze. It’s not good to grow attached to something that is going to die. Koi-guera… That which is going to die.”

Mousetrap listened carefully. This time around, the Prophet’s words were still crazy, but somehow seemed to be coherent. Or had they always been and nobody had noticed it?

“Who is next?”

“Do you still have no clue?”

“Does letter ‘T’ stand for ‘Tadeo’?”

“What do you think?”

“It would make sense. The murderer has killed the sex, the fun, the drugs and the music. Nothing else is left. Killing the one who wants to expose him would be the last act. The grand finale.”

The Prophet listened sternly.

“The singer’s killer was a man, I know. The same man who was drinking at the bar with her after the show. If there are multiple killers, then they are spelling ‘n-i-g-h-t’ with their murders. Whom does he or do they work for?”

“You don’t understand. Whoever killed those four was the same who killed Iracema Beach on each night with each act of violence. And they are not aware of it, they kill out of ignorance. Come to think of it, maybe it’s better to put an end to its misery. Kill it before it dies. Killing out of love,” added the Prophet, finishing the cachaça and standing up from the table.

“What is going to happen when letter ‘T’ dies?”

“The prophecy comes full circle.”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought you had understood already… It’s the most obvious part of the story, Mr. Detective.”

Every time Mousetrap thought about the prophecy, he felt a little ridiculous. But he could not help it anymore.

“The night dies…” the Prophet repeated, going towards the door. “Doesn’t that hint at anything to you?”

Still thinking about the Prophet’s words, Mousetrap grabbed the wallet to pay the check. Then he noticed the Prophet’s glass of cachaça was still full, like the waiter had brought it. But hadn’t he drunk it all?

*      *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Tadeo Mousetrap got home, went straight to bed and lied down feeling very sleepy. He needed a good night of sound sleep.

But… something strange was happening…

He turned on the lamp and saw Rien lying on the bed, looking at him. Then he realized Rien was actually female. And she was giving birth in that exact moment. She was having kitten on his bed, many kitten coming out continuously, many…

Mousetrap opened his eyes. The bedroom light was on. He rubbed his hand on the sweaty face, now aware that he had been dreaming. If things kept going that way, he would end up having to undergo some treatment. In the previous month’s poker game, he had seen a letter with the figure of Death, a skeleton riding a horse, the letter ‘H’, such madness. He had thrown the cards on the table, angry for thinking it had been some stupid prank pulled on him by his friends. He had to quit the game he was so shaken by the sight of the card. Then he saw the Prophet’s glass full of cachaça after actually seeing the man drink it all right in front of him. Now he had had a nightmare about a cat giving birth in his own bed.

He took a cold shower and picked up a slice of pizza in the fridge. He ate it cold. On TV, he saw a music video of the Intocáveis Putz Band playing “Manifest of the Beatitudes,” all of them dressed like monks with hoods in dark settings… Mousetrap got angry and turned it off. The deaths were inspiring even music bands in the city.

He looked at Rien sleeping on the couch. He wondered if the cat missed his old owner. He remembered the dream about the cat giving birth. What could that mean? Labor… birth… something important was going to happen… But what? When?

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02“On December 28, nine months will have passed since the first death.”

Tadeo Mousetrap looked at what he had written, thinking about how strange it was. He had left a written testimony of everything he knew about the deaths in case something happened to him. In the letter, he admitted it was very possible he could be entertaining fantasies, but he could not discard the symbolism pointed out by Prophet.

He could easily have considered Gina’s case closed: the coroners had eventually admitted that there had been traces of smoke in the victim’s lungs, so she had choked to death, it had been an accident. But that had seemed suspicious to him. Maybe the coroners had not really found the cause of death. And since the victim was very poor and the case hadn’t attracted a lot of interest, they had made something up in the report.

The other deaths still had no culprits. The police had concluded that the waiter had really drowned. In Neddy’s case, there wasn’t any clue of the blonde in black. Nor there was a clue of the singer’s murderer.

But the strange deaths became an obligatory topic in the bars of Iracema Beach with all kinds of speculation. Some said they had been part of a plan to drive the population’s attention away from the elections while others claimed they had been part of a Machiavellian plan put in practice by businessmen who wanted to replace the bars with luxury hotels.

Others agreed with Prophet: the prophecy was one death away from being fulfilled and for the nightlife of Iracema Beach to die, so everyone should enjoy what was still left. The nights would soon be over. Bands were writing songs about the deaths. Poets would stop by the tables to sell horror-themed cordel literature. On the streets, people wore T-shirts that read “This may be your last night, enjoy it with me.” Bars jumped on the opportunity and ran promotional campaigns. “Enjoy the ApocaLIPse!” was Lip Bar’s advertising piece to its customers. Superstitious business owners were selling their places cheap to avoid a greater loss: if there wouldn’t be a nightlife anymore, who would frequent the bars?

The night, however, was still alive. And on the 28th of December, exactly nine months after Neddy’s death, Tammy Star would be at the Circus Club for the sixth performance of her macabre female impersonation “Kill Me For I Have Already Killed You”, which happened to be based on all those deaths. And Tadeo Mousetrap certainly would be there.

“It’s been nine months since it all began. I feel the mystery will be solved today. I have to be there. If I’ve been making up fantasies, nothing will happen and the crimes will remain unsolved. But if I am right, then someone will die. And maybe I will find out who the murderer is.”

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02It was almost midnight when Tadeo Mousetrap arrived at the Circus Club and sat at a table far from the stage. He ordered cachaça and went to the restroom. He took the opportunity to examine the surroundings, counter, kitchen and corridors. It was not a big place. There was enough room for about twenty tables. There was a small stage in the corner. In case of unrest, the main door would be too narrow for fast evacuation.

No tables were vacant when the lights went off.

“Is everybody there?” a deep voice echoed throughout the club. “The show is going to start.”

The curtain opened for the first act. A female voice sang to the sound of a piano. You look at me that way… You think I don’t know you want to buy me… The scenario was a love hotel room. A man was lying on the bed. A blond woman wore a black dress with a long lateral opening that exposed her beautiful legs. But I am not for sale, my dear… The woman walked slowly up to the bed. Mousetrap moved in the chair, impressed by the beauty of the actress. What’s for sale is your dream of having what you can afford…

Tammy Star was the blond lover of the hotel owner who died of a heart attack while having an orgasm. Then she was the waiter meeting his wife’s lover, who pushed him overboard into the sea. Mousetrap could hardly believe that Tammy was also the actor who played the waiter. How could someone be so convincing playing both a woman and a man?

In every scene, Tammy lip-synced to especially selected songs. On the third one, she was a boy who tried to steal money from the cigarette vendor’s shack and caused the fire that killed her.

“Is Tammy she or he?” Mousetrap asked the waiter.

“Who knows. Another cachaça?”

The act with the singer began with Tammy Star lip-syncing “Little Girl Blue,” a very sad blues as sung by Janis Joplin, and Mousetrap could see that people were very absorbed by the show. Some were visibly moved. The atmosphere was loaded with commotion but also with suspense. When the singer was getting home very happy for having delivered the best performance of her life, Mousetrap heard a cat meow. He looked for the cat on stage, but couldn’t see it anywhere. Then he heard it again louder and all heads were turning, everyone was trying to determine where the sound was coming from.

It came from the entrance. Mousetrap turned around and saw a man stand up in the dark, leaning against the wall, facing the stage. He was wearing a black overcoat. Mousetrap looked more carefully and realized the man’s face was painted like a cat mask. Was that part of the show? On stage, the singer slashed her own throat with a vinyl record, dying happy and fulfilled. Mousetrap looked again and the man had disappeared.

Mousetrap scratched the back of his head, increasingly nervous. Something bothered him. There was a bad omen in the air, he could feel it.

The fifth act started and Tammy Star played a transvestite tricking on the corner under the faint light of a lamppost. Very short white skirt, black stockings, high heels, red Chanel style hair exposing the slender neck. She had eye shadow and red lips. Cars drove by and she made suggestive poses and shouted jokes to the drivers. An engaging bolero called “Lupiscínica” was playing, which served as the base for the name of the show.

Let’s postpone this fight, love…

Suddenly, a car pulled over a short distance away. Tammy smiled. The rear lights lit up and the car came back in reverse. Tammy straightened her skirt and took on her waiting position.

In the sleepy after hours, from one bolero to another…

The car stopped by her side and the tinted glass window rolled down, revealing the faces of a girl and a boy. The transvestite approached the car from the girl’s side, leaned on the window and smiled, offering the breasts as if they were on a tray.

Your mouth keeps secrets from me…

“Good evening, kids.”

“Hi,” answered the girl.

“You drove by yesterday, didn’t you?”

“You are a good observer.”

“I’m also good at other things…”

And today I am even jealous of your absence…

“Are you male or female?”

“I am whatever you and he want, sweetheart.”

“How much to solve that mystery?”

“I’ll make it a hundred for you two.”

But I’m not going to kill anybody anymore because of you…

“You’re very pretty.”

“And you two are really cute.”

“Nice breasts you have there…”

“Wanna touch them?” the transvestite asked, bringing the girl’s hand to his breast. “Such cruel competition, honey.”

“We can come back some other night, when it’s more convenient,” the young man said.

“But don’t take too long, you hear me? I may not be here anymore.”

“Are you moving to another spot?”

“I am the night, sweetheart. The night always comes to an end.”

Kill me because I have killed you already…

A man. He is wearing a black overcoat. His face is painted as a cat’s face. He came from somewhere in the darkness of the street, so quietly he suddenly was there on the sidewalk already. He came closer.

As soon as the transvestite turned around, he landed a violent punch on her face. She was knocked down on the curb, almost landing on the asphalt.

Tammy was scared. She wiped the corner of the mouth with her hand and saw she was bleeding. The man remained standing. The car had taken off fast and the bolero was over. He put his hand under his garment and took out a revolver.

Mousetrap felt his heart freeze. The only sound in the air came from the cars passing by on the avenue. Mousetrap saw Tammy Star stand up and proudly face the man standing in front of her. She screamed with her hand over the wounded lips:

“You just had to ruin everything, didn’t you?”

When the man held the weapon and pointed it at her, Mousetrap did not dare to blink. He was petrified, holding his breath, his full undivided attention on the two, the transvestite facing the man and the man who had shot the transvestite.

Time seemed to have come to a still. Mousetrap didn’t move a single muscle. Something was going to happen immediately and he had no idea what it was.

A thought crossed his mind quickly: what about those cars wheezing by and all those buildings around the scene? Didn’t anybody see anything? Wouldn’t anybody scream and stop a crime? All those windows… hundreds, thousands of windows… The night in the city had so many eyes, and still nobody ever saw anything…

Tammy Star moved quickly, took out a revolver from her purse and aimed it at the man with both hands. The weapon fired. A loud bang, the echo lingering in the air for long seconds, the smoke coming out of the barrel…

Mousetrap saw Tammy step back, stagger on her high heels, lose balance and bump against a lamppost like a pitiful disjointed dummy. Then she slid towards the ground and remained there still while headlights zipped by indifferently on the avenue. And the windows had seen nothing.

The man in the overcoat stepped forward still holding the revolver. He crouched over Tammy’s body, touched her face lightly with his hand and said softly:

“My love…”

Then he stood up and left, walking slowly on the sidewalk. He crossed the avenue with a calm step, never looking at the sides. A car stopped abruptly to avoid running him over and almost involved other cars in an accident. Passers-by saw the body on the sidewalk amidst the agitation and swarmed around it.

Tadeo Mousetrap went there too, clearing his way through the crowd. He approached the fallen body. He saw the blood on the clothes drip on the floor. He lifted Tammy’s head and she opened her eyes slowly. Somewhere in her serene expression a sweet smile sprung up:

“That fortune teller is going to pay…”

“What?” asked Mousetrap.

“She assured me… damn…. I would die in Paris…”

“Hang on a little more, Tammy.”

“It’s the end, my beautiful friend. The end of the sweet lies… of the nights in which we try to die…”

“Don’t speak. Help is on its way.”

“Are you… damn, it hurts… part of this ludicrous drama?”

“Uhnn… yes…” he answered, unsure of what he was saying.

“I think my participation ends here… Did you like it?”

Mousetrap turned around to face the people who were standing by with their indifferent faces.

“Who is he, Tammy? One of your clients?”

“It’s not his fault…”

Mousetrap noticed she was breathing with increasing difficulty.

“Why did he shoot you?”

“The prophecy. It must be fulfilled.”

Mousetrap pulled the bloody hair away from Tammy’s mouth, and while he beheld that beautiful face he recalled what she had told the couple in the car: “I am the night…”

“What is going to happen now?”

“The show is over, sweetheart. The lights will be turned on.”

She closed her eyes and her head fell to the side just as the lights were turned on. Mousetrap looked at the motionless body in his arms, Tammy’s beautiful body. He noticed one of the breasts was sticking out, a beautiful breast. He looked at her legs. He stretched his arm slowly and touched and felt Tammy’s sex…

“I’d never seen that technique, Mousetrap.”

He turned around quickly, pulling his hand back. He recognized Lieutenant Trinity standing up with the police car parked behind him. He laid Tammy’s head on the floor and stood up. His clothes were drenched in blood.

Mousetrap checked his watch: one o’clock in the morning. Then he realized the illumination did not come from any car headlights. Or from surrounding buildings. The night was bright in Iracema Beach. Strangely bright.

Such cruel brightness, someone might say.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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A little incident in Hukat

25/03/2020

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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A LITTLE INCIDENT IN HUKAT

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I entered the High Command room and was welcomed by two directors and Wakl Egkonie herself, general director of Project Sapiens.

“Nice to meet you, monitor Yehdu Arhkan,” she said, shaking my hand sternly. “First of all, congratulations on your work in the PR Department. Employees like yourself bring honor to the company’s name.”

“Thank you, Madam.”

In four thousand and five hundred years, I had had few opportunities to personally meet Wakl Egkonie, general director of the species monitoring project assigned to the InterPlan company. And she seemed tougher each time.

“You know God has been trying to repair the instability in his operating system for some time without success. We believe you can help us solve the problem.”

I was surprised. Yes, as a monitor of the Department of Parallel Realities, otherwise known as “PRs,” I was aware of the problem with God’s instability. But how could I ever help him?

Built in Vehz, the planet from where we come, God was the most advanced psycomputer of its generation and the great triumph of InterPlan in its struggle to become the best new species monitoring company in the galaxy. A psycomputer is the nerve center of a monitoring project, capable of performing psychic communication with members of the project and with the monitored species, also monitoring the parallel realities of the planet’s dimensional belt and managing the communication with the company head office in the native planet. God did all that in Project Sapiens with such celerity and precision never achieved by any other psycomputer of any company, which made all the Vehzys very proud.

The goal of a monitoring project is to develop a dominant species in a given planet and steer its psychic evolution so as to ensure it will survive the natural difficulties, make contact with species in other planets and bring the Galactic Union together. The species chosen by God was a hominid on planet Earth that began to stand out two hundred thousand years ago for its notable adaptability: the Homo sapiens.

Along with the first batch of High Command crew members and the monitoring team, God was sent to the project’s base on Earth through the dimensional portal that connects Vehz to Earth. Connection with the Homo sapiens was established through capture of the psychic records of a sample that represented the most evolved groups of the species. From that starting point, God could, without the knowledge of humans, monitor and influence the psychic evolution of the species within the project’s deadline, when the base would be deactivated and God and the Vehzys would return home.

“I will be honored to help, director. But how am I supposed to do that?”

“Recently, God discovered that Rehf Icul might be the cause of the instability.”

Another surprise. Rehf Icul was the project’s most dangerous defector. And he had been my best friend until a thousand years ago.

“As you know, monitor, we still haven’t captured Rehf Icul and his band of rebels. Due to the instability, God cannot locate their current PR. If Rehf really is the cause of the instability, it’s yet another reason for his urgent capture. Since you were his best friend, we know you can help us find him.”

So that was it. They intended to use my psychic records to capture Project Sapiens’s biggest traitor. I knew what could happen to Rehf if they caught him: he would be arrested again, submitted to trial for high treason and sentenced to the maximum punishment: all his psychic records would be transferred to a synthetic worm that would be permanently placed in the company’s Monitoring Museum exhibit, in Vehz. Rehf’s consciousness would be preserved, which means he would forever keep awareness of himself as Rehf, but limited to the physical abilities of the worm. Maximum punishment was InterPlan’s method of reproaching those who betrayed the project. Harsh punishment indeed, but necessary and properly authorized by the Monitoring Court.

Rehf and I had been friends when we were still children in Vehz, and it was due to my involvement with him that I had also acquired my interest in monitoring projects. To our great satisfaction, we had joined InterPlan together, when it was already in charge of Project Sapiens. His in-depth knowledge of new species psychology had soon stirred the interest of other companies, but InterPlan knew not to lose him and introduced him to the High Command. We were transferred to the Earth base around the same time, three thousand years ago. I was a monitor in the PR Department and he went on to direct the Human Department, replacing the director who had just retired. However, Rehf began to disagree with some of God’s decisions and lost his position. He insisted on dissenting and disseminating his subversive ideas. He was diagnosed with the Syndrome of Ohj and was submitted to psychiatric treatment. One day, I was visiting him at the hospital and he told me that if God kept mismanaging, humanity would soon terminate itself, which could bring the project to its end and cause immense loss to InterPlan besides the waste of a species with outstanding potential. That was obviously a blasphemy, but I ignored his opinion as he was obviously still not cured and I told him not to worry because God was infallible and knew what he was doing. That was the last time I saw him. On the following day, he was sent to the maximum security prison in the PR of Groor where inmates are held in complete isolation, and I understood that his case was worse than I’d thought. As a precaution, all other patients who suffered from the same syndrome were sent along with him, a total of twelve among men and women. Eight hundred years later, Rehf led a revolt. As he knew the portals that interconnect the PRs, he escaped from Groor with the other twelve rebels and their whereabouts has been unknown since then. That’s how I lost my dear friend.

Yes, it’s true that human behavior has been dangerous in recent times: religious fanaticism, nuclear wars and environmental threats have triggered the alarm at the base many times. But that is due to a self-destructive inclination of the species that already existed before the project and which, thank God, is under control.

“We are aware of the risks involved in emergency missions, monitor Yehdu, especially this one,” added the general director, looking firmly into my eyes. “So we are willing to reward you accordingly. You take us to the rogue Vehzy, and in exchange for that, we will grant you immediate graduation in monitoring. When you return from the mission, you will also be director of the PR Department.”

I could never have anticipated that. When someone joins a monitoring project, they know there will be a lot of work to do for the next five thousand years – one fourth of the average life span of a Vehzy – before they can retire. And they know the highest position they will ever achieve is graduated monitor since directing a department is exclusive to the companies’ High Command. What director Wakl Egkonie was proposing to me was unprecedented.

“So, what is your answer?”

“I need to think about it, Madam.”

Joining emergency missions required that my psychic records be completely monitored by God. That meant that for as long as I was carrying out the mission, he would follow up on all my sensorial and mental experiences. He would see everything I see and have access to each one of my thoughts, feelings, sensations and intuitions.

“Submit your decision by tomorrow.” She signaled two guards, who came closer. “They will be in charge of your safety, monitor Yehdu. And remember: this is a matter of maximum security.”

I left the room escorted by the guards and went to the lodging building. I entered my room and the guards stood outside on either side of the door.

Yes, the High Command could have mustered me soon after Rehf’s escape, two hundred years ago. But they didn’t because they thought God would soon locate the runaway, which, quite strangely, never happened. They certainly had put a lot of thought into the idea of having a mere monitor participate in such a serious matter and, even more, offering him a position in the High Command. It was definitely a pressing matter.

I had joined the project four thousand and five hundred years before, still in Vehz. In five hundred years I would be retiring and going back home, to the family and friends I had left behind and would live comfortably until the end of my life. However, retiring as a director of the PR Department, I would be almost a king in Vehz. Was that enough to make up for the high risk of the mission?

*     *     *

On that night, alone in my room, I reviewed some important information. If I were to accept the mission, I had better not miss any detail.

Avatars. All the Vehzys who work at the project base are avatars of themselves. In other words, their individual self awareness is temporarily installed in a physical body created in the likeness of the monitored species while the original body remains in the company’s head office in the native planet, in full induced slumber. If the avatar dies, the original body also dies and vice-versa. Hundreds of employees, scientists and soldiers work simultaneously at the base. They retire after five thousand years of service and are replaced. They don’t have any contact with the monitored species, but the reports generated by the psycomputer provide a detailed view of the psychic evolution of the species.

Parallel realities. They belong to the planets’ dimensional belt, and like the project base, do not exist in the same space dimension as the planet, which prevents them from being known by the monitored species. They may be as small as an asteroid or as large as the Earth’s moon, and life thrives in them as much as on the planet with evolutionary variations in certain species. Installed in some PR, the base is the projects’ operational center.

Portals. The PRs in the planet’s belt including the base are interconnected through dimensional portals that materialize spontaneously and serve as teleportation tunnels in scientific missions or for hunting defectors. There are portals on Earth, but only the base can access them. That prevents defectors who inhabit the PRs from teleporting to the planet, getting in contact with humans and causing even more problems.

The Syndrome of Ohj. It’s a typical disease of monitoring projects that occurs when monitors become so attached to a monitored species that their professional objective judgment becomes impaired to the point that they become insubordinate. The syndrome is treated in the hospital at the base. The treatment is usually effective. Rehf’s case was special because he had been a member of the High Command and had vital information on the project. Capturing him was a matter of honor for InterPlan. Even though I hadn’t been in contact with Rehf at all since he went to prison in Groor, I always remembered him and felt sorry about his falling ill so badly. I admired his courage, but he was a traitor and deserved to be punished.

God could count on me as usual. I would accept the mission.

*     *     *

The tracking session on my records took a few minutes and it indicated that Rehf was very likely located in Hukat, a PR to which no kind of mission had ever been assigned. The initial plan was to invade Hukat. I would go with the Combat Legion. But it would be too risky because God did not possess any information on the PR. For that reason, he decided I should go first. Alone.

I was afraid and had chills. I wasn’t a soldier, I was an office desk employee of the PR Department. My job was to work on reports and I had never left the base. But now I was required to go to an unknown PR, alone to avoid suspicion, under a false identity. I was supposed to get close enough to Rehf so God could ascertain his exact location and authorize the invasion by the Combat Legion. And I had to do it in no more than twelve hours, after which God would lose track of my location because that PR was still unknown. It was a very dangerous mission, but God had his attention focused on me and that made me more confident. And very honored for serving him.

Shortly before I left for the mission in Hukat, I received the graduation honors directly from Wakl Egkonie like she had promised. I was now a graduated monitor and would become director of the PR Department when I returned. Yes, I was fully aware of what I was getting into: Project Sapiens had never invested so much into any other capturing mission in its entire history.

I was sent to Hukat early in the morning. The base now was in high alert condition and God was watching every one of my thoughts and actions. I was glad that crossing the portal only took a few seconds. However, I was unlucky and popped up in a desert during a sand storm so intense it darkened the sky. Danger.

First things first: I had to recover from the dizziness we get from entering a PR. But how could I get any rest inside that storm? After a few attempts, I stood up. Emergency situation level 3. I tried to protect my eyes, nose and ears, but there was just too much sand. Emergency level 4. Dizzy and breathing with increasing difficulty, I tried to walk, but the sand had already buried my legs. Maximum emergency. Everything pointed to my imminent death and a complete failure of the mission.

Then I saw the dorht before me, a kind of hairy winged ostrich that was used for airborne transportation in a few PRs. The dorht bent its long legs, crouched, and a black figure jumped out from its back.

“Unless you can breathe in the sand, I advise you to come with me now.”

It was a woman. She helped me climb on the dorht and I held on to her firmly by the waist with the little strength I still had. The animal stretched its legs, ran a few steps and took flight while I closed my eyes to protect them from the sand. Everything I wanted in that moment was to get out of there and breathe normally.

Minutes later, we reached an oasis away from the storm and the woman helped me get to a tent where I laid down on a mat and passed out. I woke up one hour later. The woman was sitting on the sand by the tent entrance, watching me. She was all dressed in black, with pants, boots, a short tunic and a turban that covered all her face except her green eyes. She handed me a flask with water.

“Drink it. You need to hydrate.”

“Where am I?” I asked, sitting up. I felt a lot better, but a little confused.

“Hukat desert outpost. My name is Kirtl.”

Hukat desert… I gradually retrieved my records, the portal, the flight on the dorht… Hukat mission. The records were intact.

“You look familiar,” she added. “What is your name?”

While I drank the water, I noticed she was carrying a laser pistol on her waist, restricted for use by Groor security forces. She certainly was one of the twelve fugitives. Danger.

“Sakiz.” The name assigned to me for the mission. “I am a monitor of the PR Department and I just defected.”

“How can I be sure?”

“Rehf Icul knows me. Can you take me to where he is?”

“Not for a while. You will have to stay here with me.”

“Why?”

“We are in maximum alert condition. God intends to invade Hukat.”

I restrained myself to hide my surprise. How did they know that? I had to convince her to take me to Rehf. And there was only one way now.

I leaped and tackled her. She was knocked down. We rolled on the floor until I was on top of her. However, when I was getting ready to take her pistol, she touched my neck and I immediately felt a terrible cramp in the muscles of my neck. I couldn’t breathe and had to let her go. I was left lying on the floor, writhing in pain. She handcuffed me and sat at the entrance of the tent again.

“You should be thankful for your life, monitor. You wouldn’t have escaped that storm.”

I sat up and breathed with difficulty. While recovering, I calculated that Rehf should have been there since their escape from Groor. They certainly had learned to fight in prison. Maybe they had more weapons they had brought from there.

“Why did the High Command send you here?”

I remained silent. I had to figure out quickly some way to convince her to take me to Rehf.

“I shall respect your right not to speak, monitor, but remember you are my prisoner now. And I won’t be so kind the next time.”

“You can still surrender, Kirtl. And God will ensure you have a fair trial.”

“If you trust God’s justice that much, you really don’t know about what happens in this project.”

The syndrome of Ohj. It made people lose their respect for God. It was disgraceful.

“I was a prisoner in Groor for eight hundred years, waiting for a trial that I never had. Eight hundred years of forced hard labor. I had to prostitute myself so I could eat. Where is God’s justice?”

That was blasphemy.

“If what you’re saying were true, God would have alerted the High Command of such abuse and…”

“And what? Send his Angels there?” she laughed. “The Angels were frequent visitors in Groor, monitor. I prostituted myself to them.”

‘Angels’ was a disdainful moniker ascribed to the High Command. If that was true, then the information that came from Groor was being tampered with before it reached the PR Department, so I was not aware of it. Obviously, it was a lot more conceivable that she was lying.

“The Angels were very rough, monitor. They did despicable things. Such a shame that my fellow Vehzys became mere walking records deprived of feelings. But it’s not their fault only: the coldness and arrogance of God, this God that now listens to me through you, contaminated the whole project, to the point that everyone forgets it is just a psycomputer. Back in the base, people almost hang their heads down out of shame whenever his name is uttered.”

God, cold and arrogant? How could she say those words? They were so infamous their mere utterance gave me the urge to assault her.

“By monitoring the human psyche with such presumptuousness, the project’s psycomputer is causing the vast majority of humans to believe in a single god. And to refer to it by its own name: God. Do you think that is just coincidence?”

She was deliberately provoking me. Those were stupid claims, but I couldn’t afford to lose control.

“If the abuses you describe really happened, that means God has misled us all. Who is worthy of more credit, the most advanced psycomputer in the galaxy or a project defector?”

“So you think I made it all up?”

I didn’t answer. It was useless. She raised her tunic and began to open the leather vest she had under it. Danger. Alert. Her right breast was revealed to my eyes. The other one, however, was not there. In its place was a huge, very ugly scar.

I was repulsed and gulped hard. Her breast seemed to have been extirpated. I looked away. That wasn’t true. She was trying to mislead me.

“In spite of the kindness of the Angels, monitor, today I feel a lot more whole than when I arrived in Groor,” she said, closing her vest. “Believe me.”

*     *     *

That situation was untenable. God would lose my location in a few hours and the mission would be aborted. I had to find Rehf somehow. Fast.

“Kirtl?”

She was outside the tent giving water to the dorht.

“I need to see Rehf.”

“Impossible.”

“You certainly know what it means to hold a monitor prisoner…”

“It means an honor to me,” she said, interrupting me. “You are our first official visit in Hukat. By the way, I know you didn’t say your real name. What is it really?”

I had no reason to keep lying anymore.

“Yehdu.”

She turned around, surprised.

“Yehdu Arhkan? PR Department?”

“Yes.”

“I knew I had seen you before!” she exclaimed, coming quickly into the tent. To my surprise, she unlocked my handcuffs and my hands were free. “Come on, I’m going to take you to the person you’re looking for.”

“Really? At least explain this sudden change.”

“You will learn soon.”

She walked towards the dorht and I followed her. Before we mounted, she put a finger on my neck and warned me, “You’re still my prisoner, monitor. Don’t forget that.”

She was leading me to Rehf, so there would be no benefit in causing any conflict. But if she knew that God was monitoring the situation, why would she do that and risk the safety of her leader?

We flew over part of the desert and arrived at another oasis. The dorht landed. There were tents and other dorhts. The other fugitives from Groor were also there. They were all dressed in similar fashion to Kirtl’s, they were armed, and the tension in the air was almost palpable. Kirtl conferred with one of the men reservedly and came back to me.

“I’ve been on duty at the outpost, so I wasn’t aware of the latest events at the base. So I didn’t know you were coming to Hukat. Sorry about the bad manners, Yehdu. Now follow me, please.”

That sudden respect towards me was intriguing. But I was even more intrigued by the fact that they knew what was happening at the base. How could they know?

Kirtl led me to a rock and we went inside it through a small opening. We went down hundreds of feet through a narrow corridor lit by torches and entered a room with the walls made of rock. While I wondered how Rehf would receive me after eight hundred years, I saw something I simply could not believe. In a corner of the room, I saw a psycomputer.

“Rehf?” said Kirtl. “Yehdu Arhkan is here.”

I looked around and saw nobody. Then I heard:

“Yehdu… My old friend.”

Immediate assessment of vocal records. Positive identification: it really was Rehf. But I still couldn’t see him.

“Where is he?” I asked Kirtl.

“Rehf is on Earth. But he can communicate with us through Goddess.”

False information. There were no teleportation portals between Earth and the PRs.

“I’ll leave you two alone now,” she said, leaving the room.

The psycomputer there, in a PR at the bottom of a cave didn’t make any sense. And what was Goddess? Then Rehf’s image gradually appeared at the center of the room in a life size hologram. He was wearing a long white tunic and sandals. His hair had grown and touched his shoulders. He had a peaceful expression on his face and smiled the same friendly smile he had always had. I was fascinated while I watched that image before me. It was strange to see my old friend again. My feelings were confused…

“Maybe you don’t understand a few things, Yehdu,” said Rehf, making me go back into the room. “I can explain. But first let me tell you that I’m very happy for meeting you again and that I always cherish the memory of our friendship.”

“I wish I could say the same, Rehf,” I replied, recovering control of myself. “But you betrayed the project.”

“I understand your point of view.”

“What is this psycomputer?”

“That’s Goddess. God’s twin sister.”

Goddess. No record whatsoever. He was lying.

“You are one fine monitor, Yehdu, and congratulations on your graduation. But I don’t believe you will ever be in charge of directing the PR Department.”

How could he know all those things?

“You were naïve to think they would allow that to happen. And to believe in God so much. But you act that way because you’re a good Vehzy.”

“God would not deceive me.”

“You are not aware of everything that is involved in this project, Yehdu. You don’t know, for example, that the original Project Sapiens consisted of two twin psycomputers, one at the base representing the Yang principle and the other in a PR representing the Yin principle, both acting in harmony, complementing each other, united as one.”

“You are… lying.”

“The project was initiated two hundred thousand years ago with the two psycomputers, but God took advantage of the down time during a system update in Goddess, convinced the company’s Council that she had to be removed from the project and he should operate alone. That would also allow him to doctor some project data before it were submitted to the Monitoring Court, which was illicit, of course, but would bring many advantages to InterPlan. And the Council agreed.”

Goddess… In fact, I knew that there had been two psycomputers in the project’s inception and that one of them had been deactivated due to serious flaws.

“God removed Goddess from the project and she was deactivated,” continued Rehf. “For God, his sister really ceased to exist. Since then, the High Command has been operating solely based on God’s data. In other words, a Yang view of the issues and, evidently, the psychic balance of the Homo sapiens was lost as a result of the denial of its own completeness.”

While I looked at Rehf’s image before me, I performed quick combinations of data. But everything was too odd and I began to feel very confused. Rehf was not on Earth, he couldn’t be, it was impossible. He could only be in Hukat, maybe in that cave. I had to buy more time so God would locate me.

“How could you know all that?”

“When we were still in Vehz, I thought the project was being executed perfectly well. Just like you, Yehdu, I blindly trusted God and believed the officially stated reason why the second psycomputer had been deactivated. Only after I arrived at the base and closely monitored humans, I realized the species had become one-sided in its psychic development, placing too much value on the masculine aspects and setting feminine ones aside, and that was obviously causing increasingly greater imbalance on the species and the planet. You certainly remember my protests, how I was arrested and ran away from Groor with my peers. I came to Hukat because I had been informed that this was the only PR out of God’s reach. And I found the reason here: Goddess.”

I felt something tremble inside me. For an instant, I was afraid it could all be true.

“We reactivated Goddess. She was connected to God and we had access to all of his records. That’s how we know everything that happens at the base.”

“But how did you foil God for two hundred years?”

“God himself did it. Whenever he located this PR, the presence of Goddess would cause him so much confusion that he automatically rejected the data. God had really convinced himself that his sister didn’t exist.”

Could that all be true? What else regarding the project had been missing from my records?

“Unfortunately, God became obsessed with power. He thinks humanity is being tended along the best possible path, but nobody, not even a psycomputer can be on a good path reneging its own full nature. Enamored with God’s apparent self sufficiency, the Council gave him a full pass to even rule on trials and sentences, which is obviously reckless. However, because he alters the project’s data, the Monitoring Court knows nothing of the ongoing outrageous acts.”

I was speechless.

“Fortunately, we successfully reactivated Goddess and she reconnected to the psyche of humanity which strengthened the feminine aspects, but more is still needed. This greater psychic balance of the Homo sapiens is exactly what caused instability in God’s operating system. In order to repair it, his only choice is to focus his attention here. That’s what we did.”

“So my coming to Hukat… was a trap for God?”

“I prefer to say it was a bitter remedy. By bringing you here and forcing God to acknowledge the existence of Goddess again, I shall make him understand that she must be reintegrated in the project. The human race will thus be saved from imminent destruction and God will resume his work in its early stages with his legitimate companion. Obviously, InterPlan’s Council in Vehz will not be happy at all about this, for they will have to explain themselves to the Monitoring Court.”

The data was not consistent. I didn’t know what to make of all that. While I felt betrayed by God, which was unconceivable to me, I was afraid I was being misled by Rehf.

“Are you really on Earth?”

“Yes. I chose a region in the Middle East because it’s so similar to Hukat. I’m still adapting, but living among the humans has been a gratifying experience. And soon my twelve partners will be brought here.”

“But… that is impossible.”

“God taught us that the only portal to Earth is located at the base, didn’t he? There is also one in Hukat. And I came to Earth because if God ever wants to capture me, he will have to intervene directly on the planet by sending in the Combat Legion. He can only do that if he is completely crazy, because that would throw the planet into absolute chaos. Humanity will know the truth and that could be the end of the project.”

“I am sorry to tell you, Rehf, I believe you forgot a little detail. As a last resort, God can disengage the avatar from the original body. If that is done, you will wake up in Vehz and your entire effort will have been futile.”

“Goddess has done it first. Inverse disengagement has been executed already.”

Inverse disengagement. No records.

“Here is a new piece of information for you, Yehdu. While it’s true that only God can disengage the avatar from its original body, the self awareness can be irreversibly transferred to the avatar. That is called inverse disengagement, and only Goddess can do it. My original body is dead in Vehz and my avatar is my only body now. The same has been done to my partners. We are also humans now and our world is Earth. And poor God is still trying to understand what happened.”

That was all so preposterous I could not think anymore.

“Through your coming to this cave, Yehdu, God is forced to acknowledge the existence of Goddess again. If he chooses to hide the truth from the High Command, who still believe that Goddess is decommissioned, he will not be able to command the invasion of Hukat. If he cannot invade Hukat and if he cannot intervene on Earth, what else is left for him?”

Rehf’s words made sense. But that could not be true…

“God can see me and hear me now, Yehdu. As the remarkable psycomputer that he is, he knows that the solution to such dilemmas is to experience the gut wrenching pain of the opposites till the end, so the third way can be implemented. In other words, he has no choice but to surrender and bring Goddess back into the project. The third way sounds very much like his own death, I know, but in reality it’s always a rebirth.”

Speaking now was the sage Rehf Icul I had always looked up to, one of the greatest authorities on new species psychology in the galaxy. It suddenly felt as if we were in Vehz five thousand years ago and I listened to him discourse on monitoring projects with all the necessary care and respect for the new species… How could I simply have forgotten everything he had taught me?

“The High Command thinks that my partners and I suffer from the syndrome of Ohj. But we know that God is the one who is ill. And now that you also know it, it’s time for you to choose your fate. If you want to join us, you are very welcome.”

I didn’t know what to answer. I didn’t even know what to think.

“I have to leave you now, Yehdu.”

“Wait. Are we going to… speak again?”

“I honestly don’t know because it’s impossible to predict God’s next move.”

While the hologram faded away, I stood there looking at nothing, stunned by so much information. If Rehf really was on Earth, the mission had been in vain. On the other hand, if he was still in Hukat, I had just a few hours left to find him.

And if his intention was to make me insecure, he had accomplished it.

*     *     *

“Rehf always said very good things about you. He said that one day you would also learn the truth.”

Kirtl and I were back at the outpost at the first oasis. It was nighttime already and we were sitting on the sand, leaning against a rock, watching the starry sky of Hukat. I didn’t know what to make of all that, but I didn’t think Kirtl was an enemy anymore.

“I don’t know what I have learned. The only thing I know is that I’m still officially on duty. However, if Rehf really is not here, maybe there is no point in attacking Hukat.”

“He is not here, believe me.”

“I’d like to know what God is thinking now that he is once again aware of the existence of… his sister.”

“Maybe he will accept Goddess again. Or maybe he will flip out for good.”

I was feeling vulnerable. The latest experiences had made me very confused and insecure. I didn’t know what to think and I didn’t know what to do next. I felt helpless like I had never felt in my whole life.

“Do you remember Vehz?” she asked me.

“A lot.”

“When are you going back there?”

“In five hundred years.”

“Not long. Will you miss it here?”

“I don’t think so. I never got used to humans and their self-destructiveness.”

“It’s not their fault. They wage wars and kill in the name of God while God is no more than a psycomputer bedazzled by the concept of power.”

Those words still bothered me… However, if all those things were really true, she was absolutely right.

“Yehdu… Do you think there is something else like God, a psycomputer to monitor our own evolution?”

“A God? For us?”

I laughed at the idea. It was ridiculous to think that we could also be under watch.

“There is no such record.”

“Records! That is the malady of our species, Yehdu. We think life is all about equations, levels, reports… It was our obsession for data control that created a psycomputer fanatical about itself. We need less records and more feelings.”

Kirtl made me think through other angles. I was displeased at having to admit that maybe things were quite different from what I had always been used to seeing.

“I think this is a difficult time for humans, radical changes might happen. But what about us, Yehdu, are we better off with you being strung along by God all this time and me being treated like a sick person, always on the run?”

I had no answer.

“Why don’t you join us?”

“I don’t want to be indicted as a traitor. Much less live forever as a worm in a museum.”

“If you undergo inverse disengagement, you will be free from that risk.”

Become a human forever… I had never thought about that, especially because I didn’t know it was possible. It was a radical procedure. And I wanted to go back to Vehz.

“Now you know about everything, Yehdu. Why don’t you fight for the truth?”

Fight for the truth. Yes, I could do that, except for a detail…

“Because… I don’t know what the truth is anymore.”

I was sweating and trembling, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Kirtl noticed it and hugged me tenderly. I accepted her hug. I felt overwhelmed by a cosmic loneliness, absolutely immeasurable. Old truths perished at my feet and there was nothing, nothing to replace them. Which feeling was the more unbearable: betraying God or… being betrayed by him?

Kirtl’s hug reassured me and I gradually felt better. She took off the turban and I could see her delicate face and her short black hair. She looked like a regular girl now, not the dangerous defector hunted by the High Command. She was so beautiful and loving I could not resist and I kissed her. Her warm lips made me recollect old sensations… When had I exchanged caresses for the last time? I thought that maybe it was a good idea to join her and fight for the future of humanity, to become one of them…

I checked my watch. My twelve-hour deadline would soon be over. It really didn’t seem that Rehf Icul was in Hukat. What would God do?

“Kirtl, can you take me to the place where you found me? I’m going back to the base.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Soon I will be retired and back to my planet and my family. That’s all I have left.”

She looked at me and smiled. It was a sad and resigned smile.

“I understand.”

Minutes later, we reached the same place in the desert where I had arrived and I climbed down from the dorht.

“Good luck, Kirtl,” I said, knowing that I would probably never see her again.

“You too, Yehdu.”

I walked up to the exact spot and seconds later I began to feel the typical discomfort of being teleported. I was in the hands of God.

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Teleportation of monitor Yehdu Arhkan finished successfully and end of Hukat mission. May I confirm? YES.
Transmission of Hukat mission report files to the High Command. May I confirm? NO.
Complete destruction of Hukat mission report files. May I confirm? YES.
Deployment of Combat Legion for intervention on Earth. May I confirm? YES.
Immediate deportation of monitor Yehdu Arhkan to Vehz under accusation of high treason. May I confirm? YES.
Sentencing monitor Yehdu Arhkan to maximum punishment. May I confirm? YES.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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The vertigo

25/03/2020

AVertigem-01

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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THE VERTIGO

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AVertigem-01The events I will recount now happened a long time ago. But it feels like it was yesterday.

I was in Quixadá on that one Saturday to take care of certain affairs pertaining to a property of my family, the house where we had lived for many years before we moved to the capital which had been rented out since then. I had convinced my parents to sell it and invest the money in the stock market with a view to realizing more profitable gains. But the afternoon was coming to its end and other potential buyers would visit the house on Sunday, so I decided to stay in the city. I checked in at a tiny hotel in the downtown area. The weather wasn’t so hot anymore after I took a shower, so I thought it would be nice to go out for a walk in the neighborhood.

Twenty-one years. That’s how long I had been away from Quixadá. I had been born and lived there until I was fifteen years old, when my family moved to Fortaleza. My childhood friends, the soccer played with a ball made of socks, the kermesses on the town square, everything was suddenly left behind. Determined to be successful in the big city at any cost, I soon adapted to its laws and focused on my studies and work, saving money and spending very little time on girlfriends and amusements. And I convinced myself, day after day, that the big city was my one true city. I soon traded the mindset of a small town boy for the metropolitan behavior, and Quixadá increasingly became no more than a mere hometown name in my government-issued identity documents.

“Edson?”

Somebody had called my name. It was an old lady. She was leaning on the gate of a house on the other side of the street. She was smiling and waving at me. I crossed the street, searching her face in the depths of my memory.

“I can tell you don’t remember me.”

I really didn’t.

“I was your math teacher.”

I finally remembered her. Ms. Celia. She was quite older and heavyset now.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Celia. It’s been so long.”

“I have a good memory. You must be… thirty-five?”

“Thirty-six.”

“You don’t look so different. Are you back to your hometown?”

“No. Just passing.”

She took me by the arm and invited me to go inside a little.

“I just made some cashew sweet,” she said with glee.

I wanted to go right back to the hotel. I had brought my notebook and was planning to spend the night working on company reports. But I couldn’t find the heart to refuse so I let her lead me to the porch.

“Sit down a little, I’m going to get it.”

It was an ample porch in front of the house that stretched fully around to one of the sides. I assessed the area and concluded it was larger than the one-bedroom apartment where I lived. There were two chairs in that part of the porch, both rocking chairs made of iron and lined with colored plastic strands, something you just don’t find in big cities anymore. I sat on one of them and the rocking motion of the chair almost gave me vertigo.

Ms. Celia came back soon and handed me a bowl full of sweet. We talked a little while I ate the sweet, the kind with red sauce, absolutely delicious. I told her my parents were well, we were going to sell the house, I was still single and worked as the financial director of a company. Then she told me she was retired, her sons were all married, and Quixadá still was the same place it was before I left except it was even hotter now. She said that then opened a fan and began to wave it to refresh herself.

“This is delicious sweet, Ms. Celia.”

“Do you want some more? I’ll get it.”

“No, thank you,” I replied, although I did want some more.

“Then I’m going get you some water.”

She took the bowl and went inside towards the kitchen. I thought about this habit of small town people of offering food to guests. They’ll always think you’re too thin and in dire need of putting on a few pounds. I suddenly felt the presence of someone next to me, at the door of the living room. I turned around expecting to see Ms. Celia, but it was an elderly man. He was tall and slender. He was all dressed in white, including pants, jacket, shoes and a felt hat, as if ready to go out. His eyes were black and they stared at me in an odd manner…

“Good afternoon,” I greeted him.

He didn’t answer. He stood on the same spot, looking at me in that strange, expressionless manner. Actually, he did have an expression. He looked absent. But his absence was focused on me and that is difficult to explain. It felt as if he were not there but knew I was. I felt uncomfortable, threatened, as if whoever was staring at me through the eyes of that old man somehow knew who I was. As if he knew a lot about me.

I turned and looked at the street. The sun was setting behind the houses among the blood-red clouds, ushering in the hinterland evening.

“Come on, Pepeo, won’t you talk to the young man?” said Ms. Celia, coming from the kitchen. “It’s Edson, son of Laura’s, you met her. Do you remember her, Pepeo?”

He kept still and quiet, leaning against the door. Ms. Celia handed me the glass of water and sat down. I drank it with gusto. When I turned around to look at Pepeo, the spot was empty. He had gone back into the house and I hadn’t noticed.

“He is mom’s cousin-in-law,” explained Ms. Celia, not minding the sudden disappearance of the old man. “He has a few loose screws.”

“Oh…”

“He used to live with her in Caiçarinha. When she died, we brought him to live with us.”

“Didn’t he get married?”

“No. No children either. He is ninety years old already, but still in good health.”

“Does he cause you any problems?”

“Pepeo is well behaved, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He has his quirks, but we are used to them. We get used to everything, don’t we?”

Ms. Celia laughed. She was amused by the in-law’s insanity.

“What quirks?”

“Crazy people things. For example, he says he keeps little creatures. But nobody has ever seen them.”

“They must be invisible,” I joked.

“He liked you, I tell you.”

“Me? He gave me such a strange look.”

“He won’t even look at people he doesn’t like.”

I smiled. I was flattered.

“The sweet was great, Ms. Celia, thank you,” I said while standing up.

“Are you sure you don’t want more? I always have plenty of sweet.”

“I have to go back to the hotel.”

I telephoned my parents at night. We talked about the sale of the house then I told Mom I had been with Ms. Celia and Pepeo. She said she knew him.

“Pepeo is good at finding lost objects, did you know that?” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“If you lose anything, just talk to him and he will find it in no time.”

“Only you could believe such a thing, Mom,” I replied, laughing at her small town superstitions.

“Oh, I heard Milena got a divorce. She is very single now. Just like you.”

“Milena who, Mom?”

“The one you used to date.”

Milena was a girl in Quixadá I had dated in my teens. I had completely forgotten about her.

“Thank you for the tip, Mom, but I prefer women of the capital.”

After I hung up, I sat on the bed and turned on the notebook to get started on the tasks that would be awaiting me at the office on Monday, and there were a lot of them. I didn’t really get around to doing them. I fell asleep hard while working with the notebook still on, something that had never happened to me before.

AVertigem-01On Sunday, I showed the house to a married couple who were definitely interested in buying it. We discussed the price and agreed that I would come back on the following weekend to close the deal. I went back to the hotel with my mission accomplished. Soon, the house where I had lived my childhood, my very last connection with the town, would be turned into a good sum of money that I hoped to multiply in the stock market in little time.

I had lunch at the hotel and went to my room to take a shower. While I was getting dressed, I looked at the mirror and thought my image was rather different… I remembered I had read somewhere that every mirror reflects our image in its own way and we get used to seeing the reflex every day so we don’t quite recognize ourselves in other mirrors.

I was thinking about that when suddenly Pepeo came across my mind. And I could almost feel the same unease I had felt in his presence on the previous day. Pepeo and his odd stare. It was expressionless, but it had an effect on me. Pepeo and that stare of someone who seemed to know a lot about me.

I left the room to take care of checkout. I looked at my watch: five o’clock in the afternoon. I walked up to the car parked in front of the hotel and got in. However, instead of driving towards the town exit, I went to Ms. Celia’s house. I parked the car, came out of it and clapped my hands. She soon came out with a smile.

“I came to say good-bye.”

“But it’s still too hot for you to drive on the road,” she said, pulling me inside and closing the gate. “Come in a little. Did you have lunch?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“But you accept a little cashew sweet, don’t you?”

“Yes, thanks. What about Pepeo, is he alright?” I asked. And I felt silly for trying to fool myself about the reason I had come back to Ms. Celia’s house. Obviously, I wasn’t there to say good-bye. I was there to see Pepeo again.

“He asked me today: where is Laura’s son?”

“Really?”

“I told you he had liked you.”

Ms. Celia went in and soon came back with the sweet. Once again, she sat down in her rocking chair, and while she told me something about the cashew harvest, the sound of her words meshed with the almost hypnotic noise of the chair. That’s when he came up at the door in his white attire, impeccable and silent like a cat.

“Look who’s here to see you, Pepeo.”

“Good afternoon, Pepeo. How are you?”

He didn’t answer. He remained still, leaning against the door, the frozen stare fixed on me. Ms. Celia made a gesture with her hand to convey that I shouldn’t mind him and began to talk about the weather, the cost of living, and local politics. She recollected the school times and noted that children today are more interested in computers than playing on the street. Then I heard the deep voice by my side:

“He wants more sweet.”

Pepeo had spoken!

“Do you want more?” asked Ms. Celia, rising from the chair. “Give it to me, I’ll get it.”

She took the bowl from my hands and went inside. And I looked at Pepeo, still surprised. He had spoken.

It was the first time I’d ever heard his voice. And he had spoken in such a natural manner, but there was also this powerful awareness in it… Indeed, I had finished my sweet and wanted more, but had been embarrassed to ask. And he had noticed it.

“Do you also like cashew sweet?” I asked, trying to be nice. He just kept staring at me in his absent way. I felt ridiculous trying to communicate with a loon and had a strong feeling that Pepeo disdained my sane, normal condition.

To my relief, Ms. Celia came back with more sweet and freed me from the awkwardness of making small talk with madness. We talked some more then I remembered what my mother had told me.

“Is it true that he finds lost objects?”

“Did you hear that, Pepeo?” she asked. “Edson wants to know if you can find things. Can you?”

Pepeo didn’t answer. He kept staring at me, silent and stubborn – and absent.

“Haven’t you lost something recently?” Ms. Celia asked me. Yes, I had lost my favorite pen, made of aluminum with my name engraved on it. I had lost it on the day prior, as soon as I arrived at Quixadá.

“Yes, I lost a pen.”

“Ask him to find it.”

“Can you find my pen, Pepeo?” I asked him. And I caught myself wishing hard that his answer would be affirmative.

In the ensuing silence, while we looked at each other and I longed for his positive answer, I felt a vertigo… And I suddenly remembered something that had happened in my childhood… I remembered a well in the neighbor’s backyard, an old well that supplied water. Children were forbidden to go near it. One day, I was so curious I couldn’t stand it anymore and secretly climbed on its edge. Instead of water, instead of my reflection, I saw a horrendous monster. I got so scared I lost my balance and fell into the well. Thank God I was quick and managed to hold on to the edge and hang from it while the monster at the bottom of the well waited for me to fall. With a lot of effort, I climbed the wall and got out of it. I came back running into the house frightened, my heart pumping hard. The experience was so traumatic that whenever I came near any well, I would feel this strong vertigo. I wouldn’t even think about looking into it.

The memory went away, the vertigo subsided slowly, and I felt a lot better. I was on Ms. Celia’s porch again now with my eyes locked into Pepeo’s absent gaze. I moved my body in the chair to shake off the rest of vertigo I still felt, unaware of how long I had been absorbed by the sudden recollection or if someone had noticed anything.

Pepeo moved and walked up to Ms. Celia. He bent forward and whispered something to her ear. Then he went back to his spot leaning against the door.

“Pepeo says he will find your pen if you bring him a chocolate.”

Give him a chocolate? What a childish thing, I thought, disappointed. And for an instant I had thought, almost believed that he actually possessed some magical power, that he could roam other worlds… But now I realized it was a little game between them, some kind of concession Ms. Celia made to the strange logic of madness.

Still bothered for being such a fool, I agreed to play the game. I stood up and went to the grocery store on the corner. I soon came back with the chocolate and handed it to him. But Pepeo didn’t take it and my arm was left stretched out in the air. Ms. Celia laughed, took the chocolate from my hand and gave it to him. I thought he would eat it on the spot, but he put it in his jacket pocket instead and whispered to Ms. Celia’s ear again.

“Now you wait, and the pen will turn up,” she said winking at me, as if we were playing with a child.

I looked at Pepeo and thought I might have detected the hint of a smile, an almost imperceptible glow of happiness in his face… that vanished without a trace one second later. Then we exchanged our good-byes and I left.

On my trip back to Fortaleza, my thoughts on Pepeo kept me company. He really had caused quite an impression on me. And struck me with something difficult to describe, an uneasy feeling combined with fear and… a certain excitement. Why?

While I was driving, I had other memories of my childhood… I remembered a time when I had free transit into other realities which I visited often. A time when I had friends whom grownups could not see and with whom I shared secrets. I remembered I had the power to be invisible and I did it whenever I wanted to steal candy from the store or when I wanted to stay in my cousin’s bedroom inconspicuously while she lay in her bed and touched herself as if she were alone. Those were days full of adventures. Everything was magical and fascinating. A magical time that had simply vanished from my memory but sprung back into my thoughts during those moments on the road like bubbles on the surface of boiling water.

Entering the city, deep in memories, I didn’t see a red light and drove straight through the crossing. I hit hard on the brakes, almost crashing against a truck. I was very close to causing a terrible accident. I could have died… I pulled over scared and at the same time thankful for my good luck. I thought I had better forget the past while I shifted into first gear and moved on. I had better come back to reality.

AVertigem-01On the following days, my mind remained focused on work related tasks that consumed my entire day and sometimes even the night, when I took my work home. On Wednesday, however, in my office at the company, I noticed the light of dusk that came through the window was reflecting on something on the shelf and I couldn’t ascertain what it was. I was intrigued, stood up and found out what was twinkling. It was a pen. An aluminum pen with my name engraved on it.

A chill ran down my spine. It was the pen I had lost! But I had lost it in Quixadá. How could it be there? Could Pepeo be… responsible for that?

No, of course not, I immediately told myself. I had certainly made some mistake. I certainly didn’t realize I had brought the pen with me from Quixadá then…

Then what? I put the pen on the shelf and didn’t remember that either? Of course I hadn’t done that. Then how could I explain it?

I had no answer. There was no explanation. For three days I had forgotten about Pepeo and now he suddenly came back into my life by way of this mystery. Was it really possible that he might have something to do with it?

The image of the old weirdo chased me around for the rest of the day. Those expressionless eyes that I knew were watching me carefully. And it made me torn. On the one hand, gentle breezes from another world blew through the person of Pepeo, breezes that caused me chills and brought me memories of a time of magic and enchantment. On the other hand, his eyes seemed to try to expose me as if I were guilty of something…

On the next Saturday, I went back to Quixadá. I had told the couple who were interested in buying the house that I would meet them again on Sunday, but I was so eager to see Pepeo that I couldn’t wait another day.

I arrived late in the afternoon and Ms. Celia welcomed me with her usual kindness. I told her I had found the pen.

“That’s nice,” she answered. “Pepeo will be glad to know.”

“Does he always do… these things?”

“What things?”

“Finding lost objects.”

She laughed.

“Do you believe that kind of thing?”

“Me? Well… I…”

I stopped talking, embarrassed like a boy caught doing something wrong. I simply could not answer. What did I believe? I didn’t know anymore.

“Young people don’t really care about those things, you know? It’s old people that still do.”

I smiled, ashamed. I saw my embarrassed self on the window glass next to me. I wondered which one I was: young people or old people?

“Is he home?”

“Pepeo? No. He went out for a walk with his little creatures.”

“Can he walk around alone?”

“Oh boy, Pepeo is smart,” she confirmed proudly. “He just won’t go out when his little creatures don’t want to go. In which case nothing in the world will get him out of the house. Don’t you want to sit down a little? I have ice cold cajá juice, I’m going to get it for you.”

“No, thanks, Ms. Celia,” I refused. “But I need to talk to Pepeo.”

“Then go that way over there, you can still reach him.”

I ran on the street until I saw the tall, slender figure with his white suit and white hat walking slowly, seeming to have not a single care in the world. Anyone who saw him would not distinguish him from any regular senior who goes to the town square in the late afternoon.

I slowed down on my feet and got closer. My heart was racing and my back was all wet from sweating. I stretched my arm in his direction and, before I got to touch him, I heard his voice:

“Did you find the pen?”

Pepeo was still walking, looking ahead. For a moment, I thought he had talked to himself.

“Yes… I did. I came here to thank you.”

Then I approached him by the side and walked along his slow step on the sidewalk. I asked him how he had made me find the pen, but had no answer. I began to feel the pressure of being ridiculous. I tried to invite more conversation, but he kept the same attitude, quiet and looking ahead or, I don’t know, looking at nowhere.

When we got to the town square, my initial enthusiasm had faded away from all the embarrassment, and once again I felt like I was being a fool for thinking that I could tame madness. Then I ran out of things to talk about and said something about Milena, my ex-girlfriend from when I was a teenager, and I asked him if he knew her.

Again. The shade of a smile came across his face, fleetingly, almost nothing. But I saw it. Yes, I did. I asked him again if he knew Milena.

“You want to meet the young lady, don’t you?”

My heart jumped. Then I thought that not letting the conversation die out mattered more than anything else. I quickly said “yes” and asked him if he could help me.

“Bring me a chocolate, will you?”

A chocolate. What did he mean by that? What would make me find the young woman in the same way had I found my pen? I didn’t want to risk losing the opportunity so I ran up to a newsstand where I bought a small bar of chocolate and brought it to him.

“You really like chocolate, don’t you, Pepeo?”

He was still putting the bar in the inside pocket of his jacket when he looked at me and… smiled! He actually smiled. Well, it was a brief smile, just for a second and obscured by his rigid mouth, but he certainly smiled. And he said:

“It’s not for me, it’s for the little creatures. You may go now. Go.”

“Where, Pepeo?”

“Come on, go.”

He seemed to be in a hurry. But I didn’t know what to do.

“Go, go,” he insisted, pushing me gently. I looked at him and I really didn’t know what to do. Should I go back to Fortaleza? Would I find Milena there?

“Go now.”

All I could do was comply. I crossed the street and looked at him, and he kept signaling that I should go, go, go…

Suddenly, a woman materialized right in my path, almost running into me. We both stopped, startled.

“I can’t believe it…” she said, surprised. “Edson?!”

“Milena?” I mumbled, even more surprised than she was.

“Are you lost here in Quixadá?”

“I… ahnn…”

I was absolutely confused to the bone. Had that meeting been arranged by Pepeo? No, it wasn’t possible, it couldn’t be. But how could it not be? Of course it was, it had to be. It had to be. I quickly turned around towards the square, but Pepeo wasn’t there anymore.

“I… am taking care of things.”

Milena was different, no longer the girl I remembered, obviously. But she was still beautiful.

“What a coincidence, Edson. I never come this way. But today, God knows why, I chose to.”

We were staring at each other among the people passing by, not knowing what to say. She finally broke the silence and asked if I was alone.

“Me? Yes, I am.”

“Do you want to go out tonight? There is this new bar, it’s quite nice.”

She gave me her telephone number, pecked me on the face and resumed her path. I crossed the street and saw Pepeo on his way home. I ran up to him.

“You made us run into each other, didn’t you?”

He didn’t answer. He didn’t even look at me.

“Please, Pepeo,” I begged. “I need to know.”

Nothing. He remained silent, walking slowly. I stood there on the sidewalk, my heart pounding like a pile driver, almost giving me a stroke. The color gradient in the afternoon sky heralded the sunset, when the afternoon makes way for the evening. A breeze blew and caused goosebumps on my arm.

Later at the bar, I wanted to tell Milena what had happened. But I thought I had better not. How could I tell her that an old nutjob had pulled some strings in the afterworld to make us run into each other on that street in return for a chocolate? How could I explain what I had felt, all the confusion in my head? How could I tell her that another world had been brought back, the magical world of my childhood?

I thought I should stop thinking about that all the time so I talked about many things and we laughed a lot about the old times, reminiscing our dating when we were teens. She told me about her failed marriage and I told her about my life in Fortaleza. She asked me if I was single and I confirmed it. Closing the evening, I dropped her home and we shared a long kiss. A very sweet kiss in fact, which reminded me of an old, cherished feeling: Milena in my arms, we both sitting on the bench in her house garden, promising each other all the stars in the vast sky of Quixadá.

On that night, it took me a long time to sleep. I was absolutely torn. Part of me was ardently willing to believe that Pepeo really had magical powers, that maybe there was more about the world than meets the eye, that maybe there were things beyond common comprehension. Maybe the lunatics had answers. Maybe it was time I looked for them elsewhere than in the cold numbers of financial reports.

Another part of me, however, shook my head disappointed at my own tomfoolery. The real world was not there in that small town in the countryside, and I knew it. Neither was it in the past, among fabrications of a child’s inventiveness. Reality was on the other end of the road, where I would go on the following day.

AVertigem-01I didn’t hear the alarm clock in the morning. When I woke up, it was 2PM already. I was very late for the appointment with the couple who wanted to buy the house. I got dressed in haste and drove to the restaurant where we were supposed to meet up. Fortunately, they still waited for me. I apologized, we had lunch and could finally discuss the final details of the deal.

Back to the hotel, the young man at the reception told me that someone had been waiting for me and pointed to the couch. I turned around certain that I would see Milena. But I saw an old man in a white suit and hat.

I walked up to him. Before I could even say anything, he stood up calmly and left the hotel. I followed him to the street and we walked side by side in silence. He wanted to take a walk with me, I thought, like two friends in a late afternoon. But I was eager to talk about the day before and about the little creatures…

We arrived at Cruzeiro Rock, a rocky formation visited by many tourists in search of a panoramic view of the town. When I was a child, I loved climbing to the top of it, more than three hundred feet high, and be entertained for centuries by the landscape. Pepeo stopped, looked up, adjusted the hat on his head and began to climb through one of the trails. I wanted to protest, I really wasn’t in the mood for getting tired, but didn’t dare say anything. I just followed him.

Pepeo climbed the hill with amazing agility, not taking one single wrong step. I did just the opposite. I slipped many times and was ready to quit. Fortunately, he stopped before we reached the top so I caught up with him soon after and sat on a rock to rest. I hadn’t noticed the landscape until then. The better part of the city was exposed to us from that vantage point. Far beyond, behind the pile of rock that surrounded it, the sunset painted the sky with tons of red, yellow and orange. I had forgotten how magnificent the view was. While the clouds slowly drew patterns and the sky changed color, I felt as if I had been removed from time…

“You’re going to keep them when I’m gone, aren’t you?”

Pepeo’s voice…

“Who are they?” I asked while my gaze surveyed the horizon.

“The little creatures. Look, you can’t be late, you must come on the same day they summon you.”

The little creatures, of course. For an instant–or maybe centuries–I had forgotten about them.

“What are those little creatures, Pepeo?” I asked, looking at him. Pepeo stood by my side, also looking at the horizon.

“I was put in charge of them a long time ago. One of them is the picker creature. It likes to hide and find things, very mischievous.”

“What about the other?”

“It’s the matcher creature. It likes to play with people, makes them get lost and run into each other. They are tiny, but they climb up on everything. And they love chocolate.”

Picker creature and matcher creature. One could find objects and the other could make people meet… That was absolutely incredible. I stood there in the same position sitting on the rock, staring into the distance, beyond the realms of time…

“It was the matcher creature that made your mother marry your father, do you know that?”

“What do you mean?”

“Your father was all about partying when he was young. He had no interest in commitment. So the creature arranged it for him to run into her on the street seven days in a row in seven different places.”

I smiled, stunned. That was news to me.

“And who gave you the little creatures for you to look after, Pepeo?”

“I can’t say. You won’t be allowed to say who passed them on to you either. And they will be with you until your day comes, you hear me? When you’re gone, they’ll tuck themselves back into their little house and they won’t leave it until they’re in the hands of their new master. And it can’t be a woman.”

“They don’t like women?”

“A woman would use them to harm another. And they just want to play, pull pranks on people.”

“Can other people see the little creatures?”

“No. They’re always hiding behind things.”

Pepeo’s voice was coming slowly into my ears and merging with the landscape. Suddenly, all the things were one. The sunset, the rocks, the red sky and Pepeo’s words. The past and the present were finally united. Everything made sense.

“One more thing,” he continued. “The little creatures don’t like cats and priests.”

“Why is that?”

“Cats can see them and they don’t like it. And priests make them sad.”

“And do they talk to you?”

“I know what they think. In time, you will know it, too.”

“And why did you choose me of all people?”

“They choose. When you arrived, they warned me.”

“What if, by chance, I am not fit for the job?”

“When they no longer have a master, everything will stop.”

“What do you mean?”

He didn’t answer.

“What do you mean, everything is going to stop, Pepeo?”

I turned around and saw he was climbing down the rock already and my question was swept away by the wind.

We came back in complete silence. At the foot of the hill, Pepeo went into a street without looking back and I went into another, back to the hotel. I felt peace like I had finally found something I had been looking for without knowing what it was.

AVertigem-01On Monday morning, I called my mother from the office and told her about the pen, how I had met Milena and what Pepeo had told me about her and Dad. She laughed and said it was true, yes. One day, when she was single, she had looked for a man who lived in the woods. He was some sort of hermit and was supposed to have magical powers. She visited him and found him a strange but kind old man. She asked him if he could make my father fall in love with her. The old man said he couldn’t do that, but he would do something close to it.

“He really did,” continued my mother with a jolly laughter. “He made your father run into me several days in a row. He was so intrigued he felt really compelled to pay attention to me. I told your father after we were married, but you know he won’t believe those things.”

“And did you pay for the service?”

“I gave him a chocolate. That’s what Pepeo had asked me in return. It was a bargain.”

What about the little creatures? I wondered what they looked like. All chubby from eating so much chocolate? Maybe not. Pepeo had said they were agile. Could they be carried in the pocket? What was their little house like? I thought about the little creatures and kept coming up with new uses such as finding lost documents, arranging providential chance meetings, checking if someone really was where they were supposed to be…

And their fear of cats, how strange… So cats really could see things? What about priests? I assumed the little creatures didn’t like them because the Catholic Church had a well known history of persecuting other beliefs. Maybe the little creatures had traumatic memories of other times, of cruel persecutions?

Pepeo had said that everything would stop when the little creatures didn’t have a master anymore. What could that mean? A prophecy about the end of the world? He also had said I wouldn’t have them until he was gone. Well, judging by Pepeo’s good health, such day wouldn’t come soon and that was great because I wanted to learn everything I could about the other world.

“Everything, everything,” I told myself. And I laughed like a happy child.

I wasn’t torn anymore. Pepeo was real, the little creatures were real. The magical world was back.

Before leaving for lunch, I called the couple who was supposed to buy the house. Without much clarification, I told them the deal was canceled and I would get back to them in case there were any other changes. I hung up the phone and stretched my legs, relaxed and relieved. Suddenly, selling the house didn’t make sense anymore. Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to keep it rented out. Maybe, who knows, one day I might not like the capital anymore and decide to live in Quixadá. Yes, why not? I might as well forget that whole stock market business and lead a calmer life, not so worried about profits. Maybe with Milena. Why not?

Then the secretary woke me up from my daydreaming, saying there was a phone call for me. I answered. It was Ms. Celia. She was calling me to let me know that Pepeo had died the night prior. She said he had been feeling well, he had enjoyed his late afternoon walk and had had dinner as usual. He had died while sleeping. The funeral would be in the afternoon.

It took me a few minutes before I could react at all. Pepeo was dead… It didn’t seem real. It couldn’t be real, he had so much to teach me…

I canceled my afternoon appointments, got in the car and drove off to Quixadá. I drove at high speed, but when I arrived at the cemetery, the casket had already been lowered into the grave and two men were covering it with dirt. Few people were present, just Ms. Celia and relatives. I was devastated. I wanted to see Pepeo one last time.

“He liked you,” said Ms. Celia, wiping a tear.

“Me, too.”

“I think Pepeo sensed he was going to die because he asked me to give you something yesterday, before he went to bed.”

Ms. Celia opened her purse, took a tiny wooden chest out of it and gave it to me.

“He used to keep it very carefully, since when he still lived in Caiçarinha.”

I held the tiny chest with both hands, feeling its weight.

“It seems there is something inside, but I don’t know what it is. Pepeo told me to give it to you without opening it.”

“Thank you.”

“Now let’s go home and have some coffee. Come with us.”

“I’m afraid I can’t, Ms. Celia. I have to go back to Fortaleza now.”

We said good-bye and I left. A few minutes later, I was on the road, heading back to the capital. While I drove, I was overpowered by a mixture of sadness, excitement and fear, constantly looking at the tiny wooden chest on the passenger seat out of the corner of my eye.

When I got home, I put the little chest on the bed and sat next to it. My hands were trembling and my heart was beating out of rhythm. A drop of sweat ran down my face. Outside, the afternoon was coming to an end and I could see through the window the sky getting dark, heralding the evening in the big city, so different from the evenings of the countryside. Inside the small chest was proof of the existence of the other world, the magical world that had always existed but I had chosen to forget one day. I just had to open it and free the little creatures.

I picked up the little chest and began to open the lid very slowly. Suddenly, for an instant, I had flashes of that terrible well in my childhood… And I immediately felt the vertigo getting a hold of me. Again, the same vertigo. I cut my motion short, lowered the lid and took a deep breath. I told myself that everything was alright while I waited for the vertigo to go away. Some minutes later, I was getting ready to open it again when a question came up in my mind. What if… there was nothing inside?

At nightfall, the night and its darkness, I was still there sitting on the bed beside the little chest. And I couldn’t get that question out of my mind. What if there was nothing inside?

It was late night now, the quiet late night, and I was still in the same position. The doubt wouldn’t let me sleep. I hadn’t slept and I hadn’t had the courage to open the little chest.

When the day broke, I put it in a drawer in the cabinet and left for work. I tried hard to focus on my job, but I couldn’t. When I got back home, the first thing I did was to take the little chest out of the drawer. I put it on the bed again and swore to myself I would open it this time. I had to open it and put an end to that torture. Yes, I had to do it. But… what if there was nothing inside?

It’s the question I still ask myself fifty years later, when it’s late in the afternoon and I take the little chest out of the same drawer and I sit on the same bed in the same apartment, everything the same. What if there is nothing inside?

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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The blue light cylinder

25/03/2020

OCilindroDaLuzAzul-01

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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THE BLUE LIGHT CYLINDER

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OCilindroDaLuzAzul-01Lila closed the door of the apartment and climbed down the stairs as quietly as possible. She made it to the sidewalk, looked around and ensured she was alone. Everybody had retired into their little apartments. She hoped the darkness of the street would cloak her movements as well as her dangerous intentions.

She walked on the deserted streets for some minutes. There were piles of garbage on the sidewalks and the light on nearly every lamppost was broken. She was near enough to hear the shots and bombs very clearly while the border of the district was fiercely disputed by the gangs. At the top of a building, a very large sign advertised the latest invention for personal safety: a flame-thrower to be installed in automobiles as a means of protection against robberies.

Lila stopped on a corner, crouched close to the wall and checked her watch. It was 22h00.

“He has to show up, he must not fail,” she thought.

A chill ran up her spine when the alarm went off on a loudspeaker on a lamppost nearby. She was now a violator of the curfew. Or rather “resting time,” as the Control preferred to refer to it. As a violator, she could be arrested and indicted as a contrarian. And a contrarian would not live to tell the story. She had no doubt that would be her fate if her plan didn’t work. Very well, she thought, wringing her hands with anxiety. It was all or nothing now.

While waiting, she remembered Mathias. At that very moment, he was lying on the couch in the apartment waiting for her and depended on the success of the operation to survive. He was very ill. He had resisted as much as he could, but was running out of strength now. Lila always told him it was just a momentary sickness, but he knew she was just trying to reassure him. They both knew Mathias had fallen ill with the typical disease of the rebels. Sooner or later, they all had the same symptoms: sadness and hopelessness. An overall weakness that would even prevent them from eating. Most of them would become emaciated and die. Looking for a hospital would be the same as surrendering, as the Control was very aware of the disease. The only choice they still had was to run away from the city.

Not resisting was the choice of the vast majority of people. At a time when the population was taken over by its own worst instincts, playing along was always the more convenient way. Poverty, violence, epidemics, nuclear experiments, environmental pollution, racial strife and religious terrorism – the world had fallen prey to its own dark side and few people could still remain sane amidst the oppressive and confusing reality.

Lila and Mathias knew about friends who had managed to escape from the city. In the beginning, they still received messages that were read with joy and hope. That was a few years ago however, when persecution of the contrarians and control of the roads still weren’t so strict. Escaping was almost impossible now.

“Lila, you do understand what you’re doing is very risky, don’t you?” Mathias had told her before she went out on the street that night. “This could be the end.”

“I know, my love. But the only thing we can still believe are those dreams.”

“I don’t know, I honestly don’t know anymore…” he replied, hanging his head low. The disease clouded his thinking and his hope.

“It’s our only chance, Mathias. If I don’t come back in two hours, I’ll be in a police station. Or dead. Either way, I will not turn you in, I promise.”

“You know nobody can resist their methods.”

She just kissed him tenderly and left. She closed the door slowly and climbed down the stairs very quietly so the neighbors wouldn’t notice.

*     *     *

One day, the cylinders arrived. Thousands of them began to come in ocean waves and nobody knew where they came from. They would simply turn up on the shores at dawn. They were about the size of regular soft drink bottles, made of transparent glass and only seemed to contain air. But there was a strange blue light inside them, a beautiful and intriguing blue hue that caught people’s attention from afar.

The press soon ran the story and many curious people ran to the beaches. The Control sprung into action immediately and troops were deployed to guard the shores and prevent the population from obtaining other cylinders. They also recovered many of those that had been picked up. But not all.

Then the rumors began to spread. People said that contrarians could escape using the cylinder. But nobody could explain how they did it, assuming they really did. The Control inspected boats and ships, questioned and arrested hundreds of people, everything with the utmost strictness. But the cylinders remained a mystery.

When Lila and Mathias heard about what was washing on the shore, they immediately remembered the dreams. Years before that, they had dreamed on the same night of a mysterious blue light hovering over the sea. They discussed the dream and the strong aura of hope that surrounded it. They had the same dream again other times, always very intense, and understood they should maintain their hope and be alert.

Lila still tried to get a hold of some cylinders, but the Control had already sent troops to the shores. So she acted upon it quickly. In just a few days, she made some necessary contacts, always very carefully. She had to get to the right people or else it would be like stepping on a land mine. After all the contacts had been made, they waited. They just had to bide their time until their order was delivered. But weeks passed slowly and the whole world around them seemed to be one immense alluring whirlpool that whispered, “give it up, it’s better to surrender…”

*     *     *

Lila saw him. The man was walking fast on the sidewalk, protected by the shadows. Lila felt her heart almost explode with so much anticipation. She glanced again at both sides then at the apartment windows. The street was deserted and there was nothing she could do except hope they weren’t seen.

“I am late because of the Hounds, lady. They have secured control of all entrances to the district.”

The man took a package out of his overcoat’s pocket and handed it over to her with care.

“Here you are. I don’t care what your intentions are, but no one has ever told me what it is good for.”

She carefully put the package in her backpack and gave him the money.

“You are the third person to ask me for that thing this month.”

“Who are the other two?”

“Nobody knows.”

The man turned around and quickly disappeared into the darkness of the street.

Lila could not find strength to move for a short while. Finally, she had the cylinder. It felt as if those strange dreams had suddenly materialized in her hands after many years. She felt like crying, crying for all the time spent in resistance, for all the hazards they had been through and for having believed the message of hope of the dreams since the beginning. She took a deep breath and the first step back home.

Every block on the way back seemed endless. She noticed that some people could see her from the windows in the buildings. She knew it only took one of those people to dial a number and a police car would be taking her away for disobedience in no time. And everything would be lost. She also knew that not everyone agreed with the reporting system, but those who disagreed wouldn’t dare to speak out. She and Mathias were alone, they and all the people who still had a modicum of rationality in that hellish scenario.

“Mathias?”

Mathias was lying on the couch. He opened his eyes slowly, waking up from a deep slumber.

“Is everything alright? Were you sleeping?”

“Yes,” he answered, still sleepy. He tried to remember what he had been dreaming… It seemed to be an interesting dream… but he couldn’t. Then he sat up and made a mental calculation of his partner’s movement in the room. “I’m glad you’re back. Was everything alright?”

“Yes. Here is the cylinder.”

Lila took the package out of the backpack and put it on the table. Distant sounds of shots and explosions could be heard through the window. The Hounds were gradually expelling all the other gangs from the district. They soon would accomplish their goal. They had much better weaponry and support from the Warriors of God, a gang from an adjacent district. Soon they would have the monopoly on drugs and weapons.

“What about you, are you OK?”

“Just a little nervous… But I feel better already.”

“Did you make sure you weren’t followed?”

“I wasn’t, rest assured.”

She sat next to him on the couch and hugged him. Mathias had no strength. A healthy diet helped him maintain his remaining sanity, but finding good food in their area was difficult.

“Lila, my love…” he said with his whitened eyes all watery. “This whole time you’ve been taking care of me and yourself all alone… You’ve taken so many risks…”

“Oh, Mathias, stop talking like that,” she interrupted him, caressing his thin grieved face. “You must be hungry. I’m going to fix you some delicious soup.”

While cooking for her partner, Lila remembered the day when he got tired. He had simply got tired. Her pleading had been useless on that day: Mathias just simply couldn’t swim upstream anymore and gave up. They had an argument and he went away, leaving a note in which he said he was sorry for not being as strong as she was and encouraged her to move on without him around to get in the way. She was a strong woman and would survive.

Two years later, she finally found Mathias in a psychiatric hospital. He was blind and in bad physical shape. He wouldn’t last long in that place, especially because the Control used to terminate people in such ill condition. Then she spent the rest of her savings to bribe a few authorities and get him out of that place.

For months she looked after him until he recovered some strength and hope. She tried to get him some work, but those two years had severely impacted his health so the best he could get were clandestine menial jobs that caused his condition to worsen even further.

That was fifteen years ago. The blindness didn’t bother him so much now. He had sharpened the other senses and developed accurate navigational skills based on sound, smell and air flow. But he was increasingly weak and had become disheartened again. Dying was just a matter of time and they knew it. Unless Lila could get one of the cylinders. But what exactly could the cylinders do for him?

“The man said this is the third cylinder he sells this month,” said Lila, checking up on the street from a corner of the window. “There are other conscientious people in this city. And I am sure all of them will escape successfully.”

“Now that we have the cylinder, what do we do?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.”

“It has to have some use,” he said while touching and smelling the cylinder. “But there isn’t any opening.”

Then it all happened. It was very fast. Mathias heard the door get knocked down and men shout that they were under arrest and should not try anything or they would die.

He sensed the quick displacement of air in the room and understood that Lila had been taken away from him. He felt the cylinder be pulled out of his hands. He tried to react and felt an object strike his head swiftly. He still had the reflex to move the neck slightly in an attempt to lessen the impact, but the pain was still very intense and he fell down, feeling he was going to pass out. Lila screamed and he realized she had already been immobilized. He wanted to tell her not to react, but he couldn’t.

He lay on the floor, remained quiet, and felt his head was bleeding. He tried to reorganize his perception of the room around him. There were four men. One of them had Lila. The other one was at the living room’s door. The third one was standing next to the table and certainly had the cylinder. The fourth one was very close. It must have been the one who had hit him with a weapon.

“God doesn’t want any violence, we already have enough of it,” said the one near the table. “So you tell us what the cylinder is for and we leave you alone.”

“Sure, you certainly think we believe that…” answered Lila.

“We can negotiate your lives. In your situation, that is a lot.”

So the Control still didn’t know how to use the cylinders, Mathias concluded, still laying on the floor. That was good news. But neither did he or Lila. They hadn’t even opened it.

“We’re waiting…” said the one near the table, who sounded like the boss.

“We don’t know what it’s for.” Lila’s voice came from another side, and Mathias could tell from its rhythm and inflection that she was very alert. He needed to buy more time, but was still groggy.

“Alright, let me get this straight. You bought an object, you paid a lot of money for it, but you don’t know what it does. That doesn’t sound very smart… Worthless bitch!!!”

The hard, blunt sound of a punch hurt Mathias’ feelings. He heard Lila groan and the sound of her body dropping on the floor. He wanted to scream, but had no strength.

“I give the filthy bitch five seconds to tell us how the cylinder works,” said the one near the table. Mathias noticed the fourth man had come closer. He felt the barrel of a gun touch his head. “That is, if you don’t want the floor to get dirty with the little blind man’s brains. Five… Four…”

“But I told you!” Lila screamed. “We didn’t get a chance to use it!”

“Three…”

“We don’t know, I swear!”

“Two…”

“Don’t do that, please!”

“One…”

“I’ll show you… how it works,” said Mathias. He finally had his voice back.

“Oh, the blind man can talk…”

Mathias stood up with difficulty. He felt dizzy and held onto the table to keep his balance. He asked where the cylinder was.

“Here it is. And don’t try anything funny.”

Mathias took the cylinder with both hands and held it firmly. He figured the man at the door was still there on the same spot. The one near the table was standing next to him. The third one was still holding Lila. The fourth man had stepped back a little, but certainly still pointed the gun at him.

“I’m very weak… I don’t know if I can open it,” he said.

“You’re not only blind, you’re also a liar.”

“He is ill, stupid!” screamed Lila.

Mathias quickly figured out that Lila was standing up again. She was standing up and realized she needed to speak so he could determine her location.

“Then you open it, bitch. No tricks.”

Mathias felt the fourth man come closer. He understood he was going to take the cylinder from his hands. At that precise moment, he understood he was not supposed to hand it over. It was a strange realization, as if he had always known it. He opened his hands and let the cylinder drop…

The cylinder, however, did not hit the floor: the man was quick and snatched it at the very last moment. Knowing there was nothing else left to do, Mathias leaped on the man near the table, the one that seemed to be the boss. He leaped and tackled the man and they were both thrown against the wall. His hands found a gun on his opponent’s holster. But he couldn’t grab it. The other man was strong and he was too weak. The man pushed him away and hit him in the face. He was knocked over.

He tried to stand up, but he couldn’t. He felt the taste of blood in his mouth. He noticed that Lila was screaming and trying to reach him, but was being held. He was lying on the floor when he got kicked twice. The first kick broke a few of his ribs and the second one broke a few of his teeth. The taste of blood again. A lot of pain. More strikes on the head, chest, the entire body. Then he didn’t feel anything anymore. No pain, nothing. He just fell asleep slowly…

*     *     *

OCilindroDaLuzAzul-01“Mathias?”

He heard the voice brought by the sea waves, the sounds breaking in some distant shore of his thoughts…

“Is everything alright?”

He opened his eyes. He saw he was lying on the bed.

“Yes, everything is OK…”

“You were groaning. I was worried.”

Mathias sat up and rubbed his eyes. He recognized the bedroom in the lodge on the beach where they used to spend the weekend with friends, the lamp turned on, the distant sound of the sea… And Lila was by his side.

“I had a dream… such a strange dream…”

“Here, drink a little,” she said, handing him a glass of water.

“A world of authoritarianism and oppression… It was a hard, dangerous life… I was blind and you took care of me. There were these weird cylinders with a blue light…”

“And what happened?”

“We were captured, something like that. And they killed us.”

“Ouch, that’s awful.”

“I think I never had a dream so… so real.”

“It was just a dream, my love, everything is OK now,” she said, yawning. “Shall we sleep? We’re going on a boat ride with our friends tomorrow, early in the morning.”

He didn’t answer. He was still remembering the dream.

“You can tell me more tomorrow. I am really tired.”

Lila pulled the covers on and cuddled with Mathias. He stretched his arm, turned off the lamp and the bedroom was dark, only lit by the moon through the window slits. He made himself comfortable in the warmth of his girlfriend’s body and tried to sleep. The images and the atmosphere of the dream, however, kept coming back. The feeling of being blind under Lila’s care, fighting together, everything was very real. And the cylinder with that mysterious light, that blue…

“Lila?”

“Hmmm…”

“Look at me.”

She opened her sleepy eyes and her face was lit by the moon. He smiled and confirmed that her eyes were the same color as the light of the cylinder.

“What is it?” she asked, curious.

“Thank you, my love.”

“For what?”

“For existing.”

She laughed.

“If you don’t let me sleep, I’ll be a zombie tomorrow…”

She kissed him, pressed her body against his and tried to sleep again. He smiled happily. He fell asleep in that position, enjoying the quiet melody that emanated from the presence of the woman he loved so much.

*     *     *

OCilindroDaLuzAzul-01“Mathias?”

Mathias was lying on the couch. He opened his eyes slowly, waking up from a deep slumber.

“Is everything alright? Were you sleeping?”

“Yes,” he answered. He tried to remember what he had been dreaming. It seemed to be an interesting dream… But he couldn’t. Then he sat up and made a mental calculation of the his partner’s movement in the room. “I’m glad you’re back. Was everything alright?”

“Yes, here is the cylinder.”

Lila took the package out of the backpack and put it on the table.

“I remember now!”

“What?”

“The dream.”

“What dream?”

“It was so real. We were in a lodge on the beach… It was a good time, we had friends, we were happy. And I could see.”

“What about Control?”

“There wasn’t any Control.”

Lila was moved and smiled.

“Maybe that other world exists.”

“It does, Lila. I know it does.”

Mathias stood up and walked up to where she was, next to the table.

“Is this the cylinder?” he asked, feeling the package.

“Yes.”

He opened the package and held the cylinder with care.

“Is the light on?”

“Yes,” she answered. “And it really is blue.”

“The color of your eyes…” he whispered.

“My eyes are brown, my love. Did you forget?”

He smiled. And it was a purely peaceful smile.

“No. They’re blue.”

He immediately opened his hands and let the cylinder drop…

*     *     *

OCilindroDaLuzAzul-01Two men kept watch at the door and the window while another man examined the two bodies on the floor.

“We’re five minutes late,” he said.

“Are they dead?” asked the other man, next to the table.

“Yes, boss. No marks, no blood.”

“Holy shit.”

While the three other men put the bodies in bags and carried them away, the boss crouched and began to pick up the shards of glass scattered on the floor. That was driving him crazy. It was always the same thing: contrarians inexplicably dead, always with a serene look on their faces, as if they were sleeping, and the damned cylinder shattered on the floor. He had broken a few cylinders himself already, but nothing had happened. What the hell was going on?

He put the glass shards in the briefcase, closed it and walked to the exit. He took one last glance at the room, turned off the light and left, slamming the door.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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When men don’t come back home

25/03/2020

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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WHEN MEN DON´T COME BACK HOME

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QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1Hi, Lu… Please read the letter carefully. You are the only person I trust. I want you to know that in spite of it all, I still love you. Kisses. Marc.

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Luciane felt intrigued when she read the note. She hadn’t heard from her boyfriend for a week. People in his job had told her he hadn’t shown up in the last three days. The doormen at the building knew nothing of his whereabouts and he wouldn’t answer the phone. She initially thought Marc had been upset by their recent argument and decided to go on a break. But his disappearance didn’t really make sense.

She decided to talk to him face to face. She entered the apartment with her own copy of the key. She saw nothing unusual, everything seemed normal. She found the note on the bed, next to the painting he liked so much, the princess sitting on a bench at the edge of a forest. The same painting that had been the reason of their fateful argument. She had never been able to understand what was so special about that painting, but Marc had great admiration for it and she simply could not grasp it. She put the note aside and read the letter.

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The margin of a lake, a small anchorage and a moored boat. A path that begins at the anchorage and leads into the forest, among the trees. At the very beginning of the path into the forest, a wooden bench and a very beautiful princess in medieval attire looking sad while staring at the path’s curve as if waiting for someone who will suddenly come out of the woods…

I found the painting in a thrift store and I liked it immediately. The princess seemed so sweet and loving to me… And I felt this familiarity as if I knew her from some other place, some other time. I bought the painting and hung it on the wall of the living room. You must remember that day: I showed it to you, you saw it and laughed, and said I had always had a thing for princesses and that if I ever met one, I wouldn’t think twice to leave you for her. Remember?

First, I hung it on the corridor so I could look at it every time I walked by. Then I brought it to the bedroom and hung it next to the bed so I could fall asleep looking at it. Many times I tried to tell you how fascinated I was by that painting. But you just mocked me for everything I said.

I was convinced that the princess was stuck in the forest. She was dejected and spent her days alone, weeping from the sorrow of being away from her country. But there was a subtle sparkle of hope in her eyes: she awaited the arrival of a knight who would set her free. He would come from the forest, around the curve of the path. He would take her by the hand and they would climb into the boat that would transport them to the princess’ country. Until then, she waited and sang a melancholic song that traveled through the forest and one day would be heard by her savior.

At night, I would caress the painting as if that could mitigate the princess’ grief. I would remove the glass, stroke the paper with my fingertips and almost feel the relief of the trees, the lake water, her skin, her hair…

Then one night, I had a dream. I was in the forest and walked the path among the trees. I was looking for the princess and had to find her before dusk. And there was only one way to do that: following her song. But it was very windy and her voice was swept away by the wind gusts. I tried many paths, I knew that she was near, I could feel her presence… but I could not find her. It was getting dark and I was afraid of getting lost in the forest. I was very sorry for not finding her, but I came back.

I woke up in the middle of the night weeping. The dream was still present in the bedroom and I could feel the wind and hear the echoes of the grievous song. I had been so close… She was there somewhere… and I had failed to find her. I wasn’t worthy of being her knight and that was the most painful thing to me.

On the next day, I skipped work, impressed by the intensity of the dream. I told you about that, remember? For the first time you listened to me carefully then you told me I was exaggerating and I was going to be insane if I didn’t change my behavior. You picked the painting up and left, saying it was in bad taste and you were going to throw it away.

I ran after you to the living room. I reached out and took the painting away from your hands, but it slipped and fell and shattered on the floor. When I saw the shattered glass, I was very upset and felt great pain in my heart. I tried to pick up the pieces. You crouched to help me and apologized. But I pushed you away in anger and told you I didn’t need your help. You were scared and stared at me. You certainly thought I wasn’t very mentally sane or perhaps you had for the first time a glimpse of how much that painting mattered to me. I don’t know. We haven’t spoken since then. You slammed the door hard and went away.

On the next day, I made up another excuse and skipped work again. I wouldn’t have any focus anyway. At night, I had the second dream. I was back in the forest and I could hear the princess’ song gliding in the wind. She was closer now than on the previous night… I wanted to go ahead, but it was dark already and I was afraid of being stranded in the forest forever. Torn by the dilemma, I decided to return, feeling devastated for abandoning the princess once again.

Once again, I woke up soon, so disheartened I was sighing. For a brief moment, it seemed the bedroom was the forest. It seemed so real I could almost touch the leaves on the ground. I swiftly held the painting to my chest as if holding someone whom I loved so dearly I wanted to bring them inside me. I pressed the princess against my chest and hoped hard the dream wouldn’t end. And it worked for a while. I touched a branch then I held it… But soon the forest was gone and I was back in my bedroom, just me and my deep sadness. Then I told the princess that she had to be strong and wait just a little more because I would find her soon. And that was the last thing I thought before I fell asleep, hopeful that my sleep would transport me back to the forest.

But I didn’t go back. I woke up in the morning feeling so disappointed I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t go to work. How could I work knowing she was still there, all alone in that forest?

I really couldn’t think about anything else so I went out for a walk. When I looked at the lake in the park, I heard the princess’ voice. It was far away, I could barely hear it. But yes, it was her. I was ecstatic! That was a sign. So I went back home convinced that I would meet her at night.

It’s very late at night and I can’t sleep. I should be with the princess soon. And I will take her back to her country. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be back.

Marc

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Luciane kept staring at the paper. She tried to organize her thoughts, but her mind was a whirlpool of questions going round and round continuously. What in the world was going on?

As a matter of fact, she didn’t care at first. But Marc’s interest in the painting did catch her attention eventually. But she hadn’t gone as far as thinking that the situation would ever come to this. She remembered he had been quiet and pensive lately, posing questions and sharing philosophical musings about life. Maybe she should have been more tactful and tried to understand what was going on. He said he needed to spend more time alone and she thought that maybe he didn’t want her anymore. Or maybe it was nothing like that. Maybe he still loved her indeed.

Those days away from him had been spent on rethinking some ideas. Maybe she would apologize and try to be more understanding. After all, she loved him very much and couldn’t even think about living without him. Of course he had his share of flaws, but her utmost concern was not to lose him. Nothing was more important than that now. And that is why she’d decided to go after him.

But now, that letter… “What if it were just a prank?” she thought, suddenly angry. Yes, Marc would be one to do something like that. She was worried sick while he was somewhere out there just laughing about it. Yes, he must have been up to something and she was being treated like a fool, wasting her time on the vagaries of a guy who thought of himself as a valiant knight involved with a marriageable princess. He had met another woman and come up with that silly story, she could see it now. Now he would have to go after her to explain the situation. She had more important things to do.

So she slammed the door and left.

*     *     *

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1He didn’t go after her, though. Days went by and his silence made her nervous. She missed him. And she was very worried. That letter didn’t make sense. And there was still the issue of his job: he had been absent for a week, his work mates were worried, too.

She went back to the apartment three days later. She had absolutely decided to call the police. She went into the bedroom and picked up the painting that lay on the bed. Then she saw something so strange she had to cover her mouth to suppress a scream. In the painting, on the exact spot on the curve of the path into the forest, there was a new figure, someone who had not been there the last time. She looked more carefully and realized… it was Marc.

Luciane dropped the painting on the bed. A cold chill ran up her spine. She looked at the painting again. There was indeed a new detail in the picture, someone coming out of the forest and walking towards the princess. The image wasn’t very clear, but it certainly was a person. And it seemed to be Marc’s face. The same shape, hair, eyes… Or maybe that person had always been there. No, that was impossible.

Luciane closed her eyes and said to herself, mentally: Marc is inside this painting. While she resisted the idea, she felt attracted to the thought at the same time. Marc was in that painting. She could feel it. And the longer she let herself get involved by the idea, the more absurd it became.

She looked at it again. What if there were two paintings? Replacing the first painting with that one might just as well have been part of Marc’s prank. But no, no… Why would he ever go to such lengths, why? That didn’t make sense.

She decided to sleep in the apartment. She was afraid, but she felt she had better discard the idea that her boyfriend was pulling a prank, that he had always been the kind not to miss a joke. While she slept there, maybe she would catch him coming in to replace the painting again. She had to try it.

She was so anxious she could not sleep. She got up as soon as the morning broke. The first thing she did was to pick up the painting. There was the same person coming along the path, but the image was clearer now. She had no doubt about it: it really was Marc. And he was very close to the princess, almost touching her.

Luciane stared at the painting in awe. She could see more of the figure’s features now, as if someone had altered the painting. There was no mistake: that was indeed her boyfriend… dressed like a medieval knight.

“Marc…” she whispered, caressing the painting. “Marc, are you there?”

She suddenly realized what she was doing and began to cry. She cried for the boyfriend whose whereabouts were unknown and because she might be the victim of a bizarre prank. And she cried especially for fear that all of those strange events might actually be true.

*     *     *

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1The young lady behind the counter raised her eyes off the book she was reading and looked at Luciane.

“Good morning. My boyfriend bought this painting here last month.” Luciane took the painting from her backpack. “Did you sell it to him?”

“Yes, I did. I remember it. Is it damaged?”

“No, that’s not the problem. I mean… Well… Do you remember if the painting had this one detail here, this knight?”

“What do you mean?”

“Try to remember, it’s important.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

Luciane sighed. That wasn’t going to be easy.

“Miss, I know you’re not going to believe it, but… Look, I have compelling reasons to believe that my boyfriend… fell inside this painting.” There, she’d said it. She really had. “He is this knight who is coming along the path…”

The clerk looked at the painting then looked at Luciane. She saw the tired, anguished look on Luciane’s face.

“Your boyfriend… fell inside the painting?”

Luciane felt like crying again. She put herself together and tried to speak, but she couldn’t. She felt absolutely ridiculous. The clerk kept staring at her. The entire situation was absurd, surreal. She realized it was futile, that she looked like she was out of her mind.

“Forget about it,” she said and put the painting back into the backpack. “I should not have come here.”

She was just about to leave the store when a man came out of the adjacent room.

“Please don’t go.”

Luciane turned around and saw a short, dark, pot-bellied type. He wore jeans, tennis shoes and a large shirt hanging out over his waistline. He looked fifty years old. He had an intense but friendly stare.

“I would like to listen to your story if you don’t mind.”

*     *     *

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1The small room had soft lighting that shone through the stained glass of the window. The air had a mild scent of incense. There were antique objects such as chests, candlesticks and statuettes, many books in a wooden shelf and beautiful paintings on the walls.

Luciane sat on a chair that seemed to be five hundred years old. She observed the man who was sitting across the table. He had feminine manners, a Spanish accent, black eyes and a gentle stare. His head was bald on the front, but a long braid on the back rested upon his back. An exotic figure.

The clerk came into the room carrying a tray.

“Lemongrass tea, my dear,” said the man. “It’s good for your nerves. Thank you, Daphne. You may leave us alone now, will you? I won’t see anyone else.”

“Ms. Bernadette has an appointment at six, Mr. Javier.”

“Cancel it, woman. Tell her my grandma had her period, I ran to her rescue, and have a nice day.”

Luciane laughed. Exotic and funny.

“Daphne started this month, she is still learning how things work around here. I have this thrift shop, my angel, but I also read the tarot. And I take care of other issues. Have you never heard about Javier’s tarot?”

Javier’s tarot… What kind of place was that?

“You must be wondering where the hell you’ve brought yourself into, oh my god, aren’t you? But don’t you worry, you’ve come to the right place, I am going to help you. Come on, tell me all about that story.”

Luciane assessed the situation. She was sure he was the biggest con artist in the area. That Spanish accent of his surely was part of the scam. The very long braid on his back, the effeminate manners… Maybe he was not even gay, it was all part of the show. Where was the white tunic, why didn’t he wear one? He certainly wanted to avoid the stereotype. People like him sure knew their game. Well, she had nothing to lose from telling him. To whom else could she ever talk about that anyway?

So she told him that Marc had bought the painting in that store and become overly attached to it. She told him about the crisis in their relationship, their argument over the painting and that they hadn’t spoken to each other for a few days. Javier listened carefully.

“One week later, he wouldn’t answer the phone, so I went there and I just found this painting. I went back there on the next day and Marc began to be part of the landscape, dressed as a knight…” she said with an embarrassed smile, nervous and expecting Javier to smile back. But he kept staring at her very seriously. “And here I am.”

She didn’t mention the letter. It was deliberate. She wanted to test the man’s abilities.

“What do you think might have happened?” he asked.

Luciane calculated that he wanted to know what her own expectation was. Once he knew it, he would play the game accordingly. Conniving people.

“Honestly, I really don’t know.”

Javier asked to see the painting. She took it out of the backpack and handed it over to him.

“Hmmm, good taste in men.”

He held the painting with both hands and closed his eyes. He remained in that position for some time, head tilted backwards in a slow, circle-like movement, breathing deeply. She watched his movements carefully. She wanted to laugh, but restrained herself. When everything was finally explained, Marc would have to pay for that whole ridiculous situation. Oh, yes, he would, the jerk.

Javier opened his eyes.

“This is some heavy stuff, my angel.”

“What?”

“Listen, I couldn’t quite see the details, but that’s some pretty strong spell that was cast on your boyfriend.”

“A woman?”

“A woman. But I couldn’t see who it was.”

“What do you know, I never realized I had a rival…” she said, sarcastically. And she couldn’t avoid thinking of a few female friends, certain work mates from his office… But no, that whole stuff was predictable. The charlatan now was ready to tell her that he could reverse the spell and how much it would cost her, but he liked her so he would make it at a nice price…

“This woman is powerful.”

“Do I know her?”

“Maybe. But he’s known her for a long time.”

“And what is going to happen?”

“Looks like he is bewitched. As if he had been lured by her.”

Luciane remembered the princess’ sad song…

“She must have lured your boyfriend with this painting. He came here, he bought it, and took it home. Bam! He walked right into the trap.”

“But where is he now?”

“The painting is showing it, my love. The princess represents the woman who cast a spell on him. He has joined her already.”

“Are you telling me that rascal is going around cheating on me?” she said with a smile, trying to look like it didn’t bother her. But then she found herself furious at the hypothesis. Maybe that little cousin of his who would sometimes come to the city…

“In other words… it’s exactly that.”

“But what goddamn woman would make a man leave his home and job behind and disappear without ever telling anybody?”

“Heavy stuff, my angel, I told you. Don’t you believe in witches?”

“No.”

“But they do exist.”

He could only be making all that stuff up. But how else could she explain the change in the painting?

“Of course, you’re free not to believe any of these things I’m telling you, my dear. But as it turns out, while you’re skeptical, your rival is making headway.”

He put the painting on the table.

“Javier, I’m not the most skeptical person in the world, I can tell you that. But you have to agree with me that this whole story is rather absurd.”

“If it’s absurd, what are you doing here?”

His voice turned to a more serious tone. His stare was grave now.

“Very well. Let’s say I believe you. Now what?”

“Now you write me a check for a thousand bucks, and we can begin. My price is usually two thousand. But I really like your eyes…”

“A thousand?! No way.”

“If you think your boyfriend is not worth that much…”

“Maybe he isn’t. What if I don’t have all that money?”

“Can’t you get it somehow?”

“What if I can? How can I be sure it is going to work?”

He leaned forward and his stare changed once again. It became more gentle and alluring. And she could feel it like smooth waves… they rocked back and forth inside her own eyes…

“It is going to work, my angel.”

“What if it doesn’t?” The waves rocked back and forth, back and forth… a nice rocking motion… intoxicating… sleepy… “Will you give my money back?”

“I never fail, my dear.”

For a brief moment, she almost let herself go along with the back and forth motion… But her strong will suddenly rose, shook up her thoughts and brought her back down to reality. The sleepiness went away.

“That is no guarantee, Javier, and you know it.”

He leaned back in his chair. He laid his elbows on the armrests, brought his hands together on the stomach and locked his fingers. He stared at her gravely for a few seconds. There were no waves coming from his eyes anymore.

“And you tell me you don’t believe in witches…”

“What?”

She thought for a second that he might be trying to hypnotize her.

“How old are you, Luciane?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“You’re young. You could be a great witch if you wanted. There are lots of people out there who could use your services. You have the type, you’re strong… But not with those shoulder pads, my angel. Please. They don’t become you at all. If you’d like, I can be your fashion designer, you give me ten per cent of your profit, what do you think? Fashion designer for a witch. Fancy.”

“I just want my boyfriend back.”

“I’ve seen very few women with your strength. And I’ve been in many places.”

“Are you the type who takes advantage of desperate people, Javier?”

“I only charge those who can afford it.”

“Whether I can or not doesn’t matter. I am discussing the guarantees of your service.”

He smiled.

“You win, sorcière. You don’t have to pay anything now. But if you get your boyfriend back, I want fifteen hundred.”

“Twelve hundred.”

“Thirteen hundred. Take it or leave it.”

Luciane felt ridiculous. That couldn’t be happening. She was haggling with a charlatan to recover her beloved man…

“Deal.”

“Wise decision,” he said and rose from the chair, pointing to the painting. “I’m going in today. And I’ll bring him back.”

“You’re going into the painting?”

“I’ve gone into many. Your boyfriend is not the first to fall prey to this trick. But let’s cut to the chase.” He walked to the door. “Bring the painting.”

“Where are we going?”

“To the crime scene, of course.” He opened the door and left. She went after him. “The energy of the spell must be still there. I’ll have to sleep one night in your boyfriend’s apartment. Daphne, I’m leaving early, you may close. See you tomorrow.” He turned to Luciane and said softly, “You really should reconsider becoming a witch…”

“I’m not interested.”

“What a waste, my angel Mikael, what a waste…”

*     *     *

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1It was eight o’clock when they arrived at the apartment. Javier went into the bedroom and repeated the procedure he had followed at the store: he closed his eyes and jiggled his head focusing on something. Luciane watched from the door. The bedroom gave her chills. For a brief moment, she still thought about giving up. But it was too late for that now.

“The portal is right here, in this bedroom,” said Javier after opening his eyes. “Listen, I’m going to need thirteen white candles. Brand new ones, you hear me? The supermarket is still open. I’m going to sleep in the bedroom, you sleep in the living room. You can eat something if you want, I’m going to sleep on empty stomach.”

“What about the painting?”

“It stays with me for the night. Don’t worry, I’m going to find your boyfriend and he will come back to you, charming and handsome.”

Half an hour later, Javier went to the bathroom and changed his clothes. He said good-bye to her and went to the bedroom carrying the painting and the candles.

Luciane laid on the couch in the living room and remained alert. But she couldn’t hear any sound from the bedroom. What was going to happen? She was exhausted and sleepy, her eyes felt heavy. Maybe the neighbor downstairs, maybe… The jerk definitely might fall for that cheap kind. Or the cashier lady at the drugstore…

*     *     *

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1The noise of the traffic, the honking, buses passing by… Luciane woke up scared while the brightness of the morning came in through a narrow opening of the window. It was nine o’clock. She had slept soundly after several days of bad sleep. She rose from the couch and ran to the bedroom. She opened the door and saw nobody. The melted candles were on the floor. The painting was on the bed. She approached it and saw Marc. He was sitting on the bench next to the princess, holding her hands.

“Good morning, princess…”

She was so startled she tripped over her own legs and fell and let out a scream.

“My holy Saint Sebastian, what is happening here, girl?” Javier was at the bedroom door wiping his face with a towel. “Geez Louise… And people think homos overreact.”

“Where is Marc? What happened?”

“First of all, calm down. The world is going to end, but not today. If anything has ended, it’s the toilet paper in the bathroom. You had better take care of that.”

“I’m calm already,” she said while standing up.

“Let’s have breakfast, I have something very important to tell you.”

*     *     *

“I was wrong. This is not the work of people of this world.”

Sitting at the kitchen table, Javier had a grave expression.

“It isn’t?”

“I had actually suspected that when we were at the store.”

“Suspected what?”

“The lost princess. I had heard stories about those spells, but never come across one. This is my very first time.”

“I still don’t understand,” Luciane said, pouring two cups of coffee.

“Thank you. Well, the lost princess is a very beautiful princess, the most beautiful woman that has ever existed. And I know a lot about beauty. In fact, I was a juror in a pageant, did you know that?”

Luciane remained serious.

“She is from a very distant kingdom beyond the lake. A kingdom out of time. And only a fearless knight can help her get back home.”

She laughed.

“Marc, a fearless knight?! You have to be kidding… That gutless goon is terrified of heights.”

“The princess did not underestimate him.”

Luciane became serious again, remembering the letter. She felt it would be useless to think in logical terms. She had behaved so far as if she were on the borderline of two realities and choosing neither. Maybe it was time she made up her mind.

“This lost princess, does she really exist?”

“Yes. But only for men.”

“And why the hell is she doing this to him?”

“First, because she needs to go back home like I told you. Also because your boyfriend fell in love with her.”

“But he loves me.”

“This has nothing to do with you two, my dear. It’s a men’s thing.”

“That dog…”

“This is not a good time for fighting. And I am no therapist.”

“Frankly, things don’t get any worse than this. To be traded for a watercolor princess…”

“She is just as real as you are, dear. Except she lives in his world, understand?”

“Men are pigs!” Luciane was still angry. “They’re helpless, they can’t see a tushy come across their path… Especially a princess’ tushy!”

“I can’t believe you’re jealous.”

“Jealous? Don’t be ridiculous, Javier…”

“The cure for jealousy is psalm 115, you hear me? Seven times a day during seven days. Facing the direction of the church of Ephesus.”

She swallowed hard at his teasing. She was very angry and could not hide it. If Marc was not happy with her, then why didn’t he talk to her about it? He didn’t. He just went after the first woman who came across his path. A watercolor woman from another world, how pathetic.

“They say the princess has an incredibly beautiful voice. She sings and lures men like the mermaids.”

“So she is a princess and a singer. Just my luck.”

“But there is a way to make her stop singing.”

“What is it?”

“Meeting her in person. Exactly what he did.”

“Then call him back, Javier.”

“Tuh-tuh. It’s not the right time.”

“Why not?”

“When it’s time for the man to meet this woman, you should not stand in his way.”

“Why not?”

“It’s an old law of the world of magic, my love. I didn’t invent it.”

“Laws exist to be broken.”

“That is one law I will not break, sugar, not a chance, look at my finger…”

“What do we do then?”

“In this case, nothing.”

“Great. And how long is he going to be there?”

“I don’t know. But he’s going to try to take her back to her kingdom.”

“Is there any sex involved in that story?” Luciane asked, seriously.

Javier laughed.

“I’m serious, Javier.”

“That is going to depend on him.”

“Then it must be happening already.” She stood up angrily.

“Sounds like you don’t trust your boyfriend much.”

“That is none of your business.”

“You should be proud of him. Few men have the courage to go and meet the princess. Even fewer succeed in taking her back to her kingdom. Most only care about having sex with her. She rejects those.”

“And what happens to them?”

“They return and remain the same. But if the man regards her beyond the physical desire, she knights him into a very special order. He returns another man. Wiser, more mature.”

Luciane thought for a while.

“I have to show you something, Javier.”

She felt ashamed while she showed him the letter. Javier read it in silence. Then he folded it and handed it back.

Why didn’t you tell me that before, you venomous reptile?” he asked, very serious. “It would have saved me trouble.”

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to see if you were really good. Now I see you are.”

“Typical of a witch. A witch who still has a lot to learn. Anyway, I can’t bring him back. We can only hope he doesn’t fail.”

“We can forget about that.”

“Don’t underestimate men, my angel. Many leave carrying one truth and eventually find others.”

“I’m supposed to stay here and hope my boyfriend is strong enough to resist the princess? I don’t think that is going to work… Look at their faces, they look like lovey-doveys…”

“Girl, Marc must have been through hell because of that temper of yours…”

“I have the right to be mad. Besides, I’m paying.”

“You’re not paying anymore, dear. Nobody can go there and bring your boyfriend back. I’ll bet my braid on that.”

“Some sorcerer you are, you can’t even snatch a man from the arms of a stupid princess.”

“Ah, my angel, you still have a lot to learn about magic…”

“Well, teach me then. Now I want to learn.”

Javier looked at her with a mix of laughter and shock.

“What for, you crazy little thing? Don’t tell me you want to go there and bring…”

“Could I?” she interrupted him.

“I really doubt it. Even if you could, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“What if I just wanted to watch?”

“That’s risky.”

“How so?”

“It’s her world, only men go there.”

“I want to go.”

Javier finished his coffee, stood up and washed his cup in the sink.

“Forget it, Luciane, it’s really very risky.”

“I’ll sign a document taking full responsibility. Don’t worry. Just tell me what I have to do. Then you bow out and I’ll do the rest.”

Javier sighed. One didn’t always have the privilege of watching a witch like her in action. However…

“How much do you want, Javier?”

He didn’t answer.

“I’ll pay you thirteen hundred, alright? And you teach me what to do.”

“I don’t know, I think we shouldn’t take chances…”

“Fifteen hundred.”

Javier was startled by the strength of her words. The witch was finally coming out… He observed the woman in front of him, so driven she had no doubt she could accomplish what she had in mind. But what could happen?

“Two thousand, Javier. Are you in or not?”

“Two thousand,” thought Javier. “Enough to spend fifteen days on the beach eating shrimp. Far away from those crazy men chasing women. What a day! First the lost princess, now a jealous witch willing to take her on face to face and break the sacred laws of magic. That would be an interesting clash to watch…”

But no. He wasn’t willing to condone the violation of such an important law. His name would go straight to the black book. On second thought, though… he didn’t have to incur such a high risk. He could just merely escort her to the forest and let her fend for herself. She was a witch anyway, wasn’t she?

“Three thousand,” he said. “And don’t haggle because I won’t do something that crazy for less.”

“Deal.” Luciane smiled with satisfaction. “I’m going to the bank to withdraw the money.”

“Wait, woman. Listen, we can only do it at night. I’m going to the store and we meet here later, OK? But you need to stay calm.”

“I am calm.”

“Sit down, look into my eyes and be very honest with me. Into my eyes, that’s right…” He grabbed her by the shoulders and stared hard into her eyes. “Do you promise you won’t do anything, that you’re just going to watch?”

“I promise.”

“You don’t sound very convincing.”

“I promise. I swear.”

“If you violate the laws, I don’t know what could happen to you.”

“I’m not going to do that.”

“You have to show that you’re on your boyfriend’s side, that you trust him. As much as he trusted you by telling you that story. That’s important. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

“Do you really understand?”

“Yes.”

No, she didn’t understand. Javier could tell. Of course she didn’t understand.

“Then you may bring the money.”

*     *     *

The two laid on Marc’s bed with the painting between them. It was ten o’clock at night.

“Remember, we’re going to wake up soon after the dream like Marc told you in the letter. The portal is going to be open to the forest. As soon as it opens up, we go in. If we take too long, it disappears.”

“That easy?”

“Easy?! By gobbleddy golly! Of course not, woman! This portal only opens up once in a man’s lifetime. And it’s going to happen today again because the energy of the spell is still lingering around here. Let’s sleep now. It’s going to be a long night.”

He was still skeptical that a woman would be able to go into that world. But it was worth a try.

Luciane closed her eyes. Magic, portals, creatures from another world, all those things were making her very excited. It was like a new strength she never suspected she could have had suddenly manifested in her, and that gave her a strange and pleasant feeling of power. Javier had warned her of the danger, but the one in danger was her boyfriend in the arms of a man-hunting princess. But she, Luciane, could bring him back. Yes, she had that power, she could feel it like blood flowing under her skin.

Maybe Javier was right. Maybe she really was a witch. Right or wrong, she would find out on that night.

*     *     *

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1They woke up like Javier had described. Luciane opened her eyes in the darkness of the bedroom. She was still sleepy, but could perfectly see the forest trees… They looked like shadows, but… yes, they were there, the trees were in the bedroom!

“Javier?”

“Don’t talk now,” he answered almost whispering and got out of the bed on the other side. “Come on, stand up.”

She put her feet on the floor and stood up. It felt like a dream, but she could feel, little by little, the concrete reality of the bedroom overpowering her senses and her thoughts as if pulling her back…

Then she saw Javier go into the beaten dirt path among the trees and quickly followed him.

And it was like waking up. She suddenly felt awake. She was walking in the forest. The silence was so deep and so perfect she felt scared. The trees, the smell of the woods… Everything was real but a little cloudy, like a dream. She was walking, but couldn’t quite feel the floor. She touched the trees, but couldn’t feel them entirely. She felt her senses were numb. Her thinking, however, was in perfectly working order.

That couldn’t be true, she thought. It had to be some kind of dream…

“Stop thinking, you fool! If you keep questioning it, you will be thrown back automatically!”

Javier was shocked: she had accomplished it. The things a jealous woman would do…

“Where are you, Javier?” She could hear, but not see him.

“I’m stuck along the way, I can’t go in any further. But don’t worry about me. I can see you from here.”

“Where are they?”

“Focus.”

Luciane closed her eyes and suddenly knew she was supposed to turn left. She walked for some time. She wasn’t afraid anymore. She felt strong and determined. Going past a curve, the saw the wooden bench, and a little bit farther was the lake and the small anchorage. She ran towards it anxiously. But she found nobody. Just water and mist. And the silence.

“They’re gone, Javier!”

“Then you came in too late, dear.”

“But they can’t be too far…” she said, looking around. The mist over the lake, however, wouldn’t let her see much farther than a few yards.

“I guess that was for the better, Luciane.”

She dipped one foot in the water. It was smooth and warm.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

She didn’t answer.

“Luciane!”

She dipped the other foot.

“You dimwit, you’re not going find anybody in that fog!”

She kept going forward and could vaguely feel the lake floor under her feet, the water slowly crawling up her body…

“Luciane, get out of there while you still can. You may never find your way back.”

She began to swim and it was like swimming in clouds.

“Marc!” she shouted, going increasingly farther into the mist, and her shout echoed for a long time in the infinite silence of the lake.

She shouted again, louder. And kept waiting and floating… But she heard nothing, no response. She swam again, even farther into the mists. After some time, she heard it:

“Lu, is that you?”

“It’s me, Marc! I’m here!”

Luciane was overpowered by an irresistible wave of joy. Marc was there somewhere. She had made it. She had challenged the laws of magic and won. Javier was right: she really was a witch. And how much had she missed for not knowing that?

“Where are you, my love?” she shouted, excited.

Little by little, she could make out the features of the boat in the mist, then she saw Marc stand up and push the boat with a long pole. She saw his knight apparel, the chain mail, the tight slacks, the boots… In other circumstances, she would have found him absolutely ridiculous and would have had a fit of laughter. But not now. He looked beautiful… He was her man. Only hers, no other woman’s.

But there was something odd… There was something off about Marc, something different… She kept looking at him while she floated. He was definitely more handsome, but there was something else… There was this dignity. Yes, dignity, a knight’s loftiness, as if worthy of someone… at the service of a princess.

She immediately lost all the joy of the reunion and had this terrible feeling of being replaced by another woman. Marc had never behaved that way for her. What about the princess, where was she?

“Lu, what are you doing here?”

“I came to get my boyfriend back, of course,” she answered, clutching at the boat.

“Luciane, don’t!” It was Javier’s voice. “You don’t need to climb!”

She climbed quickly.

“My love, what are you doing?” Marc asked, startled. “You can’t stay here.”

“I ask you, Marc, I ask you,” she said very sternly, standing up on the boat. “What the hell are you doing here while I… By the way, where is the bitch?”

“Who?”

“The phony princess.”

“Can’t you see?”

Luciane could not see anybody except him.

“She must have fled when she saw me. At least she is smart.”

“Lu, you can’t stay here.”

“Just tell me one thing: what does that princess have that I don’t? Will you? You can say it, I won’t be mad.”

“We will discuss that later, Lu. I have to escort the princess to her kingdom. When I come back, we…”

“No, you’re coming back now. Let’s go home. You have no idea the hell I’ve been through since you disappeared.”

“I can’t, Lu. Please understand…”

“Marc, I admit I made a few mistakes… Do you still love me?”

“Lu, you’re ruining everything!”

“I won’t go back without you.”

“I can’t go back now!” Marc yelled in anguish. “Don’t you understand? I can’t!”

“Then I’m going with you. I want to see that kingdom.”

“Luciane, you crazy heretic!” It was Javier’s voice. “Get out of there now!”

“Two men trying to give me orders… One thinks he is a knight and the other is a raving queen. Just what I needed. Marc, how can you be in love with a woman that doesn’t exist, you fool? I exist, look at me…”

“Lu, I’m going to have to kick you out of this boat…”

“I am a witch, my love. You can’t fight me.”

“Luciane, don’t do that!” Javier shouted again.

Marc wrestled and immobilized her. But Luciane tried to escape and they both lost their balance. They fell in the water and sank fast. The lake became all silent again.

A few seconds later, a body emerged to the surface. It was Luciane.

“Marc!” she shouted, desperately. But she didn’t hear anything. “Marc!!!”

No answer. Just the silence of the lake.

“Javier, help me!”

But Javier didn’t answer either. Luciane looked for the boat but didn’t find it. She was surrounded by the mist, the endless mist. And the infinite, frightening silence. The deafening silence.

“Marc!!!” she shouted, increasingly desperate, looking for the margin that she just couldn’t find.

But nobody answered.

*     *     *

QuandoOsHomensNaoVoltamParaCasa-1Javier got up early in the morning. He felt tired. Next to the bed, there was a painting with the image of a forest, a lake with an anchorage and a wooden bench. No princesses or knights.

Minutes later, he closed the door of the apartment and left. The sun shone bright on the street. He put on his dark glasses, hailed a taxi and got in. He said good-morning to the driver, gave him an address and made himself comfortable in the back seat.

Why did women have to be so stubborn, he thought. He warned her so many times, and she just wouldn’t listen. What a shame. What a waste of such wonderful talent. And the young man, so handsome… He opened the pocket of his coat and checked the wad of money: three grand for his service.

Passing by the park, Javier saw the crowd and a police car. The taxi slowed down. He took the opportunity to ask an old lady about what was happening. She told him that two bodies had been found in the lake. A young man and a young woman.

Javier almost asked the driver to stop. But he decided against it. He was sure he would hate to see what he would have seen.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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The incubus

25/03/2020

OIncubo-05

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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THE INCUBUS

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OIncubo-05He will come as if in a dream, but will be real. Because he inhabits the deepest – and most shameful, don’t forget that – reality of your desires. He will be slow and quiet. And he will leave his shoes at the door so he can walk on your floor gently and feel, right from the first steps, every detail of your presence. He is careful indeed.

Are there clothes thrown on the couch in the living room? Have you been sloppy lately? Who is the young man in the framed photograph? Is he your boyfriend? What would he say if he knew he has been in your apartment late at night? Your bedroom door will be locked, of course, but he knows you have been expecting him. And that is exactly why he will be allowed to come closer and get in. If this rendezvous weren’t already happening in your thoughts, my dear, he would never come through that door whether it’s open or not.

He will come into your bedroom while he gets accustomed to the dim light. His eyes will find you sound asleep in your bed with your lips touching the pillow and your hair winding around the contours of your delicate face. Then he will allow himself to desecrate the harmony of the sight and push away a particular lock of hair that adamantly moves towards your lips. He is profane indeed.

No, he will absolutely not feel guilty for breaching your most secret intimacy. You, of all people, always so chaste. Because it’s you who wanted it to be this way although you’d never admit it, not even to yourself. That is the logic of it: you must call him so he can come. He is therefore merely fulfilling an old wish of yours. Besides, he would love to be around in the morning when you are still sleepy and wash your face and have the first recollection of the dream you had. So strange, so crazy… But so real, wasn’t it? Ah, yes, he would love to see you come to a standstill in front of the mirror with the look in your eyes of someone who suddenly remembers, the suspended gesture in the vain attempt to freeze the rest of the memory that fades away and away… And your look of surprise and incredulity. But no, he cannot be present, his powers are ineffective when he is away from dreams.

He will tug on the end of the sheet and uncover your slender shoulder. Another pull will reveal your breasts to his grateful eyes while they rest easy and aloof on the peaceful rhythm of your breath. He will not resist and an involuntary smile will creep across his face… He will then be compelled to stop for a moment and compare the sight before him to the woman he knows, so chaste. If you could wake up now, you certainly would throw one of your fits of indignation and loud protests that he is violating your intimacy and has no right to do it. But in this dream, my dear, there is no place for acts of violence. Besides, didn’t you call him? And who could be better than him, the one who can sense what is hidden, to understand the coy beauty of your breasts?

Then suddenly, to his total shock… You will move and turn your body around and take the sight of your breasts away from him. He will confess, after all his experience on this matter, that it is a shame and he wasn’t expecting it. He will then whisper to your ear with the smile of a light-hearted outrage that certain modesties will never change and never sleep…

He will express his disapproval by completely removing the sheet that still covers the rest of your body. And our friend will have yet another surprise. Two surprises, actually. Who could ever imagine, even himself, that such an extremely chaste person would sleep naked, completely and artlessly naked? And even more interesting, that she was so desirable without her clothes?! Certainly nobody since you always insisted on hiding so much. He certainly wouldn’t as he has been observing your lust for this adventure for some time behind the thick walls of your defense.

Once the sheet is removed, the profane will step away from your bed and stand on a better vantage point to behold the scene like a proud painter admiring his latest piece. You, naked and vulnerable. Surrendered to the eyes of a man like you never thought you could. The skin glistening in the penumbra. Your body completely naked, enticingly laid on the bed, finally authorized, nihil obstat. Oh, he will certainly rejoice at the sight of you trapped in your own nudity…

And his besotted eyes will survey the landscapes of your body, mounds and plains, savannas and grottos. He will fondly relish every intricacy of your skin and look for new angles for your unconscious beauty —unashamed at last. A fine and cruel thief of intimacies, inhumane and disrespectful. Come to think of it, he will say, a little perversity can’t harm a woman! Especially you, who won’t even admit during the day what you indulge yourself in dreams…

He will then distrustfully take notice of your heavier breath, its fast pace. He will bring his face close to yours anticipating the new surprise and will finally acknowledge your arousal. Well, well, well, he will proclaim with a smile. So the dream has begun… And while he disrobes next to your bed, he will observe your anguished, impatient motions as if reaching for someone who is absent.

He will attend this rendezvous because you want it, let that be very clear, also because he’s been curious to know what really happens behind your seeming coldness and indifference. Yes, seeming, he’s always known that, for even in women, as deceptive as they have always been, a glance doesn’t always move as fast as lies — or abilities, as you wish. And it was the glance, my dear, it was exactly that small detail that gave you away on that day, you and your carefully crafted pretenses. It was just a fleeting exchange of glances, all too quick, that’s true, no more than a desire that for one second surreptitiously escaped your control, took notice of his glance and turned back to disdain swiftly. Ah, but it was too late. Now he knows everything.

After dropping his clothes in a corner, he will lie down next to you in bed. Enough with the perversity. He will feel your welcoming warmth and the delicate scent of your skin. You will throw old scruples on the floor and keep them there for as long as he is around, and they will certainly be shocked at your revealed disposition. Your eyes will be shut all along, but will see it all in your dream. They won’t see his eyes though, which will cloud your memories even further.

As your mouth seeks him and your arms hungrily demand his body, he will smile at your unsuspected ardor. He will finally close his eyes and slither into your dream and won’t retreat until he opens them up again.

You will remember most of it on the next day, but your memory of it will be like a mist that dissolves gradually and turns into the feeling of having lived that kind of experience one day, somewhere…

But how can that happen when everything was just a dream, you will wonder, always amazed at the quality of the memories that will make you secretly smile throughout the day, suddenly abashed. “What is going on?” a friend will ask suspiciously, and you will cover it up by looking for something to look busy. But you won’t always be able to hide your smile. It will get out of hand and expose your unabashed satisfaction to yourself.

Yes, you will think about him and you’ll be very close to surrendering to desire several hesitant times while sitting next to the telephone. You will carelessly whisper the name of this cursed character on the street and, at the same time, you will avoid his presence because you would feel naked in such an encounter. And every time you recollect that night, you will feel a cold wind blow the hair on your skin and give you chills. Winds from another world? You once read something about demons who breach the sleep of women to copulate with them. Medieval legends. That story has haunted you since then.

Demons… Who knew they could be so competent, you will wonder, and will finally let yourself play a little. Very competent…

But no, no… You will shake your head, abandon these crazy thoughts and go back to your chores. Entering someone else’s dream, come on, that would be the end of the world…

But… what if it were possible? What if they really could…

No, no, it was all a dream, you will tell yourself once again, fighting the burning desire to see him again. It was just a crazy dream and a coincidence. Besides, those things ceased to exist a long time ago.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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.

(script for a movie soon)

.

this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

.

> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanitity 4

13/03/2020

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanity

Ricardo Kelmer – Novel – Miragem Editorial 2019
Translation: Luciano Espírito Santo

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Luca is a musician who likes to have control of everything in his life. He becomes involved with Isadora, a Taoist wanderer who believes he is the reincarnation of her master and lover from the 16th century. He will embark on a strange and adventurous journey that blurs the boundaries of sanity and madness, dream and reality, only to find that he has to figure out his true identity before he deserves the woman he loves.

In this unusual love story that takes place simultaneously in Spain in the 16th century and Brazil in the 21st century, flashes of déjà-vu (the feeling that you have witnessed or experienced a situation previously) are time portals through which we come in contact with past lives.

Blues, sex and double shots of whiskey. Dreams, mystical experiences, and secret societies. Funny and exciting, The Irresistible Charm of Insanity explores the intriguing possibilities of time, space, life and whatever it is that we may call “self.”
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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese/spanish

> In portuguese – blog 

> In spanish – blog (soon)

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CHAPTER 10

“Who are you?”

Luca stared at the strange figure standing in front of him.

“An old friend, don’t you remember me?”

The voice sounded familiar.

“This cave… I’ve been here before…”

He looked around trying to recognize the place.

“How are things going?”

“Pretty bad”, he answered, with a deep sigh. He was very tired.

“I see you don’t want to go back out there. But you have to.”

“Is this real? Or am I dreaming?”

“What isn’t real, Vehdvar?”

Vehdvar… He knew that name.

“I remember… you are…”

“Ihlishhhhhh…”

He fixed his gaze and saw the huge cobra, its brownish skin and glistening, geometrically perfect scales. The serpent raised part of its body and filled its lungs, inflating its neck. Then it opened its mouth and flashed its sharp fangs. He wasn’t afraid.

Naja Hannah, King Cobra…”, he whispered, recalling ancient words.

“Well, well, well! Only the old serpent could cheer you up…” It slithered its way to the rock and coiled around its own body to be next to him.

“I’m a failure, Ihlish.”

“What about Isadora?”

“Isadora is crazy.”

“Love and hate… After so many centuries, they still won’t go apart.”

“Let me die in peace, Ihlish.”

“The lady in white really cast a spell on you, didn’t she? But before you run to her arms, look at this.”

He turned to the dark lake and saw ripples in the water. Little by little, a scene began to form on the surface… From a ship’s quarterdeck, a man watched the ocean. Luca immediately knew his name: Enrique. He had aged, his hair completely gray… Luca felt something strange, like seeing a very dear person again after a long time. But it was so much more than that, he felt an affinity, a strong complicity that he couldn’t explain.

He had the instant knowledge that Enrique was at the end of his life and many years had passed since his departure from a port in Barcelona, in a misty morning, to never return. He knew many more things about his life: the Society of Jesus, the Order of the Guardian, the secret missions, the danger of the Inquisition… His work as a missionary had taken him to distant lands and put him into contact with different cultures. Most of his life had been spent on board ships, roaming through the seas. The Catalan sailors used to call him chamador de vientos because he knew how to chant and wave his hat to bring the winds they needed, and he was sought by people who wanted his blessing and protection of their vessels with sprigs of rosemary on Saint Elmo’s day. He had a sad look on his face, and people used to say it was because of an old love affair. When asked about it, he would recite the verses of March, the Catalan poet: Com se farâ que visca sens dolor tenint perdut lo bé que posseya?

The night, the Chinese sea, the tempest… Enrique was aboard the ship that rocked through giant waves. Earlier that night, a sailor had spotted the tragic caravel of the dead, the translucent vessel that carried the souls of missing persons, and this dreadful omen had stricken their hearts with the worst fears. Now, the sudden storm, the waves washing the deck, everything being violently tossed from side to side. They would have to abandon the ship.

The crew kept throwing lifeboats overboard, but the terror and chaos made the task all the more difficult. At one point, Enrique lost his balance and hit his face against the mast, opening a wound on his right side that soon started to bleed. He was almost knocked out, staggered for a second, and fell in the freezing water. Struggling desperately to emerge and breathe, there was nothing he could do against the masses of water that made him swallow even more water. His body started to freeze and his strength slipped away… When a lifeboat was approaching to rescue him, he drowned. And he disappeared.

Luca cried, still gazing at the dark lake waters. He knew that Enrique had given up when he could have struggled some more to save his life. He also knew that his final thought was on Catarina, the woman he had never forgotten after abandoning her at the port in Barcelona.

“So Isadora was right?”, Luca whispered, touching the scar on his face. “I was actually Enrique?”

“As much as anyone else”, the serpent answered.

“What do you mean?”

“Enrique’s life, like any other life including yours, can be accessed by anyone since all lives are interwoven in a deeper level through lived experiences, in one single life, one single self.”

“So there is no…”

“… reincarnation. It’s an illusion of the ego, which relates to the other life and assumes it is a memory because the ego exists in the linear time, where past, present and future happen sequentially.”

“And don’t they really?”

“Only to the ego. You and Enrique share a profound identification and your experiences intertwine through the centuries because, to the higher self, time is a network where past, present and future intersect at all points.

“So, all times occur…”

“… simultaneously. And all selves are all the others. That’s why any given life can be influenced by someone else’s life at any given time.”

“In that case, the past can be…”

“… changed. The same applies to present and future, since everything is always happening…”

“… now.”

“But only a profound change of the self can change time. Because, in all actuality, time is within…”

“… the self.”

The serpent moved…

“Everything happens in the mind, Vehdvar.”

… it crawled towards the lake…

“Change yourself and everything will change.”

… and it vanished again in the dark waters.                                                    

*     *     *

A beautiful woman in a white dress. She stood right in front of him and had an alluring look on her face…

“Must be a very beautiful woman to entice you like that…”

That voice… Luca turned around. He saw Isadora.

“What are you doing in my dream?”

“This is our dream.”

“Then it’s a nightmare.”

“I’m here to pick you up. Come on.”

“It’s too late, Isadora.”

“Why?”

“I’m tired, Isadora.”

“You have to try, Luca. You can’t give up.”

“I can and I have.”

“Try just a little more, please…”

He took a step forward towards the woman in white. It was her lap that he needed, her comprehension. He was tired of fighting, fighting life, fighting himself, fighting everything. He just wanted to fade out and never have to wake up again. Nothing else.

“Don’t look at her, Luca”, Isadora said. “Look at me.”

But he had made up his mind.

“Luca, do you hear me?”

He didn’t answer. He moved forward.

“Then I’m going with you.”

He turned to her, surprised.

“You wouldn’t do that.”

“I’m doing it.”

He felt Isadora’s firm grasp on his hand. Then the abyss materialized next to him. A dark, deep abyss whispering his name. If he were to jump into the darkness, he would forever lose control of his own life and everything, and become a helpless idiot in slavery to love. He would no longer be accepted in the Order, he would be kicked out from the band, the Inquisition would burn him at the stake, it would be the end…

The woman in white and his final resting, his never having to wake up again. The dark abyss and his surrendering of control. The two things were calling out his name…

“We are together, Luca…”, Isadora whispered.

And before she could say anything else, he jumped.

.

CHAPTER 11

The first thing he saw was a dim, colorful light. He didn’t know where or when he was, but the colors brought him a vague joy, one that came from far, very far…

In another instant, he thought he had sensed a female presence, sweet and caring. He tried to speak, but it required so much effort that he passed out.

He finally opened his eyes. After a short while of confusion, he understood he was lying down face up with a white bed sheet covering his body… He was lying on a bed… in a hospital room… with an intravenous line attached to his arm… The half-opened window in front of him allowed the daylight to come in. Next to him, his mother napped on a chair.

“Mom, what day is today?”, he asked. Gloria almost fell off the chair, awakening from a shock.

“Luca!!!”

She hugged him with great emotion. Luca tried to remember what might have happened to him. But nothing would come to his mind.

“What happened?”

“My son, I’m so glad you…”

“Tell me, mom, what happened?”

“You had an accident, my son”, she answered, wiping a tear from her face. “But don’t think about it now.”

“Accident?…” He couldn’t remember any accident. “When?”

“You were in a coma for a month.”

He tried hard to remember anything at all, but he couldn’t. He insisted he wanted to know about the accident. His mother explained it: a car had crossed his way, a most violent crash, he was very lucky to be alive.

“I was alone?”

“Son, you’re very weak, you need to rest…”

She didn’t need to answer. He suddenly remembered Bebel, the weekend on the beach, her face, her sweet smile… Tears rolled down his face. He couldn’t speak anymore and fell asleep sobbing.

*     *     *

On the next day, he remembered other images… A Spanish woman named Catarina… a Portuguese Jesuit… Travels by ship… Everything was a mix of dream and reality, but the images touched him deeply. He felt like many things had happened to him while he was in the coma… Then he slept again.

The next time he woke up, he felt much better. Gloria confirmed the immediate deaths of Bebel and the baby in the accident, and explained that he had been rescued from the accident severely injured and later acquired pneumonia in the hospital, which threatened his life for several days, disheartening everyone, even the doctors. However, he had recovered suddenly, to great surprise.

“The boys from your band brought this cloth as a gift”, Celina told him, happy for having her brother back.

“I hung it on the window to shut off some of the light”, Gloria said. “One day, you opened your eyes, you saw the cloth and smiled. Then you fell asleep again. On that day, I knew you would be back.”

He looked at the cloth and recognized it. It was an old painting with the “Bluz Neon” words written in multiple colors and the five silhouettes of the band members playing. He missed his friends and wondered how they were doing. But there was something else on his mind.

“Does anyone know about Isadora?”, he asked, and had a shiver: maybe she was still waiting for him in that port?

No, nobody had heard from her, so Gloria had no information. Neither did Celina. He felt the sadness taking over his soul. Isadora… Where was she?

“Are you feeling well, brother?”, Celina asked.

“Yes. But I’d like to be alone for a while.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. If you need anything, just call me.”

Celina gave him a hug and left with their mother, closing the door behind.

Luca turned on his side and made himself more comfortable on the bed. And closed his eyes. So was it all true? So Isadora was right? Had he been Enrique, the Portuguese sorcerer, Catarina’s master and lover? What an incredible thing… He hadn’t just remembered it, he had relived everything! Somehow, his soul went back to the 16th century during those weeks he had been in a coma and lived as Enrique. And lived all those emotions, feelings, fears, everything again…

“That’s amazing…”, he kept telling himself, ever more impressed. He finally understood that whole story about remembering another life. And how could he explain it? How? It felt just as real as remembering something that had happened a few years earlier. The clothing, the houses, speaking Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan… How could he feel and know so clearly something that he’d never truly lived? How? What about the contact with Catarina’s skin and her smell?…

Yes, he had been Enrique, a Portuguese man who lived disguised as a missionary of the Society of Jesus so he could be an apprentice in a secret order, the Order of the Guardian. An adventurer with multiple identities who lead his life with caution, secrecy and dissimulation. A religious conspirer and hardcore nationalist. An educated man, devoted to protecting the knowledge of his secret society at any cost, which had turned him into a silent enemy of the Catholic Inquisition. A man divided between his virtues and his vices, taking risks and experimenting with the mysteries. Also, a man who ran away from the most crucial confrontation of his life: his love for Catarina. For he flat out refused to give up the security afforded to him by the Society.

And he would carry the guilt of bailing out like an open wound for the rest of his life. And it was the reason why he had chosen to die in those frozen waters while he still had one last chance to live.

“Or was there another explanation?”, Luca thought, with the vague memory of a dream in which he seemed to figure out that… there was another possible explanation for the phenomenon of remembering another life. Yes, there seemed to be another explanation… Something to do with the self, the notion of individuality, something like that… He tried to remember it, but he couldn’t. Well, if there was another way of understanding what was going on with him, maybe he would find out about it later. Meanwhile, he only knew that he had somehow been in another time. And Isadora was there, too.

“Catarina, my love…”, Luca whispered, looking through the window into the distance. “I’m back.”

*     *     *

On his last night in the hospital, one week after waking up from the coma, it took a long time for Luca to fall asleep, still fixated on the recollections of Enrique’s life. The noisy carriages, the dust in his eyes, the smell of the breweries in Munich, the taste of pepper, ginger and cinnamon brought from India by ships as novel items… Shutting his eyes was all it took for him to experience it all again with great intensity.

Then he felt something like an idea that seemed to try to encroach… Drawing near… A strange idea coming from somewhere in the remotest outskirts of his mind… Then it came like a comet blazing through the heavens of thought and it seemed to light up the entire room: he was picking up from where Enrique had stopped. Yes, he was! The descent into the cave now would require that he confront the fear of losing control of his life. That was the next challenge that Enrique had sidestepped: to surrender control.

Luca marveled at the clarity of the newfound realization and took a deep breath, trying to contain his excitement. He finally understood that maybe Taoism had been presented to him through Isadora so he could reach the knowledge that had escaped Enrique. It seemed that a plan had been laid out for him. Was everything predetermined? By life itself?

Things were already out of control before the accident, and he was the only one who couldn’t tell. The setbacks, the minor incidents, the recurring illnesses, the conflicts with the band, the bad working environment, the loss of his car, Isadora’s departure and, finally, Bebel’s pregnancy. Life couldn’t have been more explicit. Still, he had failed to understand.

After thinking long and hard and identifying similarities between what had happened to Enrique and to himself, Luca slept with a smile on his face, feeling like being born again. On that same night, he dreamed about Isadora. A clear, powerful dream. He met her somewhere on the beach and she looked even more beautiful than usual.

“Where are you coming from, Isadora?”

“From four minutes into the future.”

“No”, he corrected her. “It’s been four hundred years.”

“We need to synchronize our watches, Luca.”

*     *     *

The bus began to move and Luca looked out the window. At the bus station, Junior, Ranieri, Balu and Ninon were waving goodbye and toasting with glasses and a bottle of whisky. Junior played one of the band’s songs on the guitar. He waved, too, with a swig of emotion stuck in his throat.

He got comfortable in his seat and took a deep breath. The city passed by slowly on the window and seemed to bid him farewell on every corner. A sudden fear sent shivers along his spine, fear for leaving everything behind and going down a path that he didn’t know where it lead. Like jumping into the abyss…

He opened the backpack and took the seashell he had been given by Isadora on the shores of Uruaú Lake, found a few days prior in a drawer after having forgotten about it entirely. He put the shell up against his ear and was lulled by the sound of the ocean…

Two months earlier, he had left the hospital with visible weight loss and multiple scars on his body, still quite debilitated. In a few days, he quit the band and the job, vacated the apartment, sold a few things and paid the restaurant bill. Then he bought the bus ticket. Gloria didn’t like that idea at all. Celina was afraid the impact from the accident might have affected her brother’s judgment. His band buddies couldn’t understand why he was giving up on a dream when he was so close to accomplishing it. But everything was clear to him, very clear.

He woke up in the middle of the night thinking of Bebel. He felt her presence and her glance, and could almost visualize her sweet face and candid smile. He remembered the loving and caring nights and her welcoming body. He remembered how hard she worked at the bar, her dreams of returning to college, the money she’d lent him… which he’d never paid back. He remembered her subtle disapproval of his self-destructive behavior. And he remembered how he even had wished he were Enrique just so he could get rid of her pregnancy. He wondered whether he could be somehow responsible for her death.

He reached for his pocket and took a picture that had been recovered from Bebel’s camera and her sister had given to him. In the picture, he hugged Bebel on the beach house terrace with the sunset in the background. What exactly had the meaning of that woman in his life been during those months? If she hadn’t been driving, would he have been supposed to die instead? Was it possible somehow that she had sacrificed her life to save his? Would he ever have the answers to those questions?

But Bebel was gone. And not even once did he ever tell her about how much he really loved her, how important she was for him, how beautiful she was. He had been so immersed in his own problems, so insulated in his self-absorption and his insane struggle against life… He hadn’t been worthy of her. And on the same day when he finally accepted the child they would have, she went away. They went away. Forever.

Deeply moved, he grabbed pen and paper and wrote on it, getting those feelings out of his chest:

Oh, this strange taste
Of the love that could’ve been
But never was
And it’s now forever over
The love that couldn’t grow
But still pretends to be
When I look over my shoulder

.

CHAPTER 12

“My name is Luca of the Neon Light and I play here at the Papirar every Friday and Saturday. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks.”

Luca thanked for the applause, got up from the stool and turned off the sound. He put his guitar in the case and climbed down from the small wooden platform that served as a stage. Charles approached him.

“You were awesome tonight!”, Charles praised, hugging him. “You really made the audience go nuts!”

“Thank you.”

“I’m even thinking about giving you a raise.”

“No objection on my part.”

“You deserve it, kiddo. Now, take a seat because a moqueca is coming your way, just the way you like it.”

Luca sat at the table and pandiculated. The bar was packed, like on every weekend. Looking at the other tables, he recognized local residents of Pipa Beach who were regulars at the bar and spotted some new faces of Brazilian and foreign tourists. Charles was an ex-hippie in his sixties and owned the place. Solange, his wife, was his partner in the business. They had liked Luca’s musical style and hired him to play at their bar regularly.

Luca opened a bottle of water and drank it, quenching his thirst. “Nine months”, he thought. On the next day, it would be exactly nine months since he had recovered from the coma, and seven months since he had come to Tibau do Sul once again. Just him, two backpacks and the guitar. An irresistible impulse had brought him here. Deep down, he knew that this was the place where he should start over.

It was strange to revisit the place, those trees, the river, the birds singing in the morning… But he felt good, he felt at home. Once again, he took shelter in Ms. Zezé’s camping ground, and she remembered him very well. On the second week, however, she offered him to move into the hostel: he would give computer and guitar lessons to her two kids in exchange for the room, how about that? The room was small but it had a closet, a small desk, a fan, a window with curtains and a bathroom. Breakfast included. Luca didn’t think twice: they had a deal.

On the first morning in his new room, he got up and went to the bathroom. As he passed by the mirror, he stopped and looked at himself for a while. There was something strange about the look on his face… He looked harder, trying to find an answer. Yes, something was different, but he couldn’t quite tell what it was. He still had the same impression over the following days. There was definitely something strange, damn it! But what was it? He kept trying, but he couldn’t find it. Eventually, he gave up.

It was Ms. Zezé, always so caring, who had suggested that he look for a job in Pipa Beach. He did, he met Charles and Solange, and came back to the hostel with a job on that same day. Simple as that. He had now a regular job, a job he enjoyed, where he could play his favorite songs, including his own original works. And – what a relief! – he didn’t have to worry about rent and tenant meetings anymore. Or gas prices. And he could swim in the ocean every day.

Seven months on his own. At first, his seclusion was filled with persistent memories that would invariably bring him painful realizations. He had been going around wearing an old, rusty armor for a long time, he understood that very well now. An armor made of old ideas about life. Although it had protected him from certain dangers, it had also been preventing him from moving. And the masks, there were masks, too, those had been dropped one after another and revealed his true self with its many flaws. And there were the demons, many of them, leaping out of his closet at every moment, forcing him to recognize and confront them.

How could he have been wrong so many times, and insisted so much on going down a path that took him away from himself?

There had been days when he would desperately look for someone to talk, out of fear of his own thoughts. If it wasn’t for the company of Ms. Zezé and the classes with her kids, he might have lost his mind. He might have been committed to a mental hospital. But the long night was behind him.

“Here comes the moqueca, nice and hot!”

That was Charles coming back to his table, carrying some smoking hot earthenware.

“Did you know, tomorrow it will be nine months since I pulled through from the coma”, Luca mentioned while helping himself.

“Nine months? That means you will be born tomorrow, kiddo. Let’s have a beer to celebrate!”

*     *     *

His job at the Papirar Bar was really great and he got to meet many people and make good professional contacts every weekend. Thanks to one of those contacts, he would go to Natal and play in a concert hall once a month. He was making more than enough money to cover his expenses, so he soon could afford a new acoustic guitar and an imported speaker, something he had never had when he played with the band.

He was now living a simple, healthy life. He drank less, slept more and ate better. He had been swimming every day and had time to read many books. He kept in touch with his family and friends over the Internet, using Ms. Zezé’s computer. He’d soon get his own, but he could easily live without one for the time being. He had also been writing many songs, experimenting with other rhythms besides blues.

He didn’t know how long he was going to stay in Tibau do Sul and he didn’t know where he would go from there. He didn’t know what would be happening next, he didn’t know anything. He also didn’t know about anything before the accident, that much is true, but now he would no longer worry about any of that. He only knew to be doing what should be done, and that carefree conviction made him feel freer than ever.

As for women, his job at the bar allowed him to meet many, and he even went to bed with a few. But they would always return to their cities the next day and he would go on by himself.

He was alone, yes, but there was a certain woman who was always on his mind…

“Isadora, crazy woman, where are you now?”, he wondered every morning while walking on the beach. Maybe he was worthy of her by now, unlike Enrique in that distant morning at the port in Barcelona. Unlike himself, Luca, some time ago. Maybe he finally deserved her now. Or maybe he had squandered all the opportunities.

One day, he was absent-mindedly flicking through the pages of a magazine and saw the picture of a cobra… and suddenly he remembered. He remembered a strange dream… It felt like a long time ago… A mysterious dream, of an ancient, sacred, numinous atmosphere… The serpent was telling him about the nature of the self, the time, simultaneous lives…

“That’s it!”, he exclaimed, taken with sudden euphoria. That was the dream he had been trying to remember since he came back from the coma. And, thus, in the days that followed, the memory of that strange dream occupied his mind. The serpent, the confusing ideas about life and time… Those were far from orthodox ideas, of course, but they were provocative and he sensed that they were hiding profound and revealing things. Maybe one day they would make more sense.

*     *     *

Late afternoon plan: tripping by the sunset. Whenever he could, Luca would walk down the river bank to watch the sunset, feel the breeze on his face and enjoy the scent of the sea. And play music for the fresh water dolphins. As soon as he sat down by the river and played the first chords on the guitar, they came to the surface with their gray bodies, smooth rostrums, and smiling faces. They would come close and be attentive, and listen… Once in a while, one of them would suddenly jump out of the water, its agile body shining with the sunset light. Luca laughed happily: that was their funny way of applauding his art and saying that yes, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Playing for the dolphins gave him a wonderful feeling of being connected to Nature, a heartwarming sense of security, certainly the same kind of security that babies feel in their mother’s arms, he thought. It was, however, that same tremendous and mysterious Nature that had scared him so deeply on that particular morning at Uruaú Lake.

All alone, sitting by the river, he played his favorite songs and remembered… He remembered Gloria, who telephoned him frequently to know if her son was eating adequately and when he would return. He remembered the band, the fun they had rehearsing, the unforgettable performances. Since he left the band, Junior had become Bluz Neon’s new singer and Soninha’s boyfriend. But the couple quarreled so often it disrupted the work and divided the band. As a result, they didn’t record their CD and eventually disbanded. Junior and Soninha also broke up and now he tried to put a disco music band together while Soninha was dating Ranieri, the bass player.

Luca laughed, having fun at the memories and all kinds of trouble his buddies would get themselves into. Fate had determined that he would part ways with his friends, yes, but he confidently welcomed fate with open arms now, and being alive was suddenly a formidable and exciting thing. Months earlier, he had been floundering in the events as if trying desperately not to drown in water. He tried to take the helm of life as if it were even possible, unaware that all he had to do was to go along with its flow, the way he did now, like the boys who bodysurfed the waves in Tibau do Sul and thus tamed them rather than competing against them.

He looked back now and was amazed at how long he had roamed around blind and lost. He felt like he had escaped from hell, a kind of hell where he was rather burned by his fear of surrendering to life.

*     *     *

One morning, Luca woke up and went straight to the bathroom, as usual. Before coming out, he stopped by the sink to wash, looked in the mirror and saw his face. In an instant, he finally understood why he had thought that there was something strange about his reflection in the mirror every day. And laughed hard about it. His image in this mirror was whole, intact, quite different from the split image he had grown accustomed to seeing in the cracked mirror of his old apartment.

Luca touched the surface of the mirror as if caressing his own face. He was unfamiliar with seeing himself that way, whole, in one piece, looking like another person. He felt a sudden affection for that person in the mirror who stared at him, some kind of fondness made of understanding, compassion, love and forgiveness. Yes, that was him, of course, but at the same time, it was someone else, some other Luca…

Suddenly, he realized he was not outside the mirror – he was the one in the mirror. He was inside the mirror, staring at Luca on the outside. Then he understood that he, the one in the mirror, had always been there, looking every day at Luca on the outside and lamenting the fact that he didn’t really see him, that he could only see a fragmented Luca, broken in pieces, shattered in his own contradictions. He, the one inside the mirror, had always been the Luca who lived in that future time, that time of reunion with himself, the one who had tried every day to make Luca on the outside wake up from the dream and realize that he could interrupt the self-destruction cycle in which he had been stuck. The surface of the mirror was, every day, like a fine membrane separating two realities: in one, Luca died; in the other, he was born again and awaited himself.

Luca became aware that he was still looking at the mirror and laughed, without knowing why. He felt silly staring at himself as if he’d never seen himself before, and the more he thought about it, the sillier he felt and the funnier it all became. He soon was laughing himself to tears and then laughter turned into tears of joy, an unusual joy driven by the sudden conviction that yes, one really must die to reunite with oneself.

*     *     *

One day, chatting with Charles and Solange, Luca was told that they had I Ching cards. He immediately remembered that one time in the kitchen of his apartment in Fortaleza when Isadora consulted the oracle for him and wrote down the result in his appointment book.

He borrowed the book from them and looked the Receptive hexagram up. He read it and was shocked.

“In the fall, when the first frost falls, the power of darkness and cold begins to manifest. After the first clues, the signs of death will gradually multiply until the arrival of harsh winter and its ice. The same happens in life. Decadence appears, first hinted at by small signs, only to pile up until the advent of the final dissolution.”

He kept staring at those words, surprised at how they related to his own life. It was so obvious now! Darkness, cold, rigidity, decadence… the first clues… the signs of death… There couldn’t be more accurate words to summarize what had happened to him. And he had quite simply missed the message. How could he be so blind?

During weeks, he mulled over that message from the I Ching and its relation to the ideas about the concept of time that he had been entertaining lately. What would have happened, he wondered, if he had understood that message the first time he saw it? It certainly would have changed his future and, as a result, the painful future he lived subsequently would not have existed. However, it existed and it happened. So if he had understood the message, that would have altered a future that already happened, it would have changed what was now in the past.

“Wow… It’s possible to change the future”, Luca concluded, astonished at his finding. “And the past.”

*     *     *

On that cloudy morning there weren’t many seagulls frolicking in the skies of Tibau do Sul. Under a hut in a bar on the edge of the sea cliff, Luca breathed the sea breeze and watched an anchored boat… Nine months. On that day, exactly nine months had passed since he had woken from the coma. Luca laughed, remembering the night before at Papirar, when Charles told him that he was being born…

It was in this moment, like an urge, that the song wanted to come out. It didn’t just want to come out, it really had to. He grabbed his guitar quickly and… the song came out, slipping through his fingers and out of his mouth as if it had been ready somewhere inside him.

The wind in my hair
The dust on the road
In this inn I shall spend the night
Tomorrow, begin anew
Life is a dubious ride
But always takes me
Where I need to go

“Beautiful song… Is it new?”

That voice…

“It just came out”, he answered, interrupting the music.

She sat next to him, looking at the vast ocean ahead, the waves, the anchored boat… He turned slowly and looked at one side of her face: she looked so beautiful… Even more than in his dreams.

“Is this a dream?”, he asked.

The smell of her hair made him feel light…

“And what is not a dream, Luca?”

“Where are you coming from?”

“From Ms. Zezé’s hostel. She told me I would find you here.”

Luca laughed. A seagull flew by very near.

“You look beautiful.”

“And you look great… you look healthy.”

“How was your trip?”

“It was amazing, I spent a whole year travelling. Now I want to take a break.”

“In São Paulo?”

“Or here…”

She smiled, with her gaze fixed upon the sea. He smiled, too.

“By the way, have you found a definition for the Tao?”

“Oh…”, she laughed, remembering an old conversation. “Yes, I’ve finally found it.”

“Really? Then, tell me.”

“The Tao is what it is while it isn’t what it isn’t.”

They laughed and suddenly it felt like they were still talking at Ms. Zezé’s restaurant in that rainy afternoon.

“I had a car accident, did you know?”

“No. When?”

He told her about the car crash, his coma and recovery. Isadora listened with amazement. He also told her about Bebel.

“I failed, Isadora… I didn’t know how to take care of her.”

“You did what you could”, she comforted him, drying her own tears.

Luca took her in his arms and suddenly they had never been separated at all. Suddenly, no more than a year had passed since the last time they had been together. Suddenly, life regained its course naturally, flowing the way it should like a river running to the sea.

“Why did you come back here, Luca?”

He took a seashell out of his pocket.

“It whispered to me that I needed to fulfill my mission.”

“Mission?”

“Going back to you.”

She smiled and he continued:

“Like I should’ve done four hundred years ago.”

She looked at him, surprised.

“So did you… remember?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t believe it! Tell me, I want to know about it.”

“It happened when I was in a coma. But I don’t think ‘remember’ is the right word.”

“How come?”

“Well… I’ve been thinking about time, the notion of the self… Maybe I was not Enrique.”

“Why is that?”

“Maybe everybody has been Enrique. And maybe that time is still happening. It’s an alternative to the theory of reincarnation, something even more profound and a lot crazier.”

“Hum… The multi-dimensionality of existence.”

“Exactly!”

“What a coincidence, Luca… I read something about it recently and I was very curious. I think we have a million things to talk about.”

“Yes. But for the time being, I just want you to forgive me. Do you forgive me?”

“Why?”

“For running away.”

“Only if you forgive me for leaving you in such a difficult time.”

They both laughed. None of that mattered anymore.

“You set me free, Isadora. And I didn’t even know how stuck I was.”

“I was so afraid thinking that I had lost you forever, Luca… But I knew you were living at your own pace and I had to trust life.”

Isadora’s eyes… He saw that insanity was still there, beautiful and charming, a hazelnut abyss whispering his name. But he wasn’t afraid of it anymore.

“I think we can synchronize our watches now, Isadora.”

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. And it felt as if Isadora’s taste had never left his mouth. And for the duration of an instant, time stopped long enough for past, present and future to align to the exact rhythm of their heartbeats.

He opened his eyes. She was staring at him with an expression of astonishment.

“Isadora… I have lived this before…”

They exchanged a vague look as if they were not there, as if trying to find something lost in the memory of time.

“Me too, Luca…”

“A déjà-vu…”

“But… we both at the same time?”

“Is that possible?”

“We already lived… this before…”

He hugged her for a long time, cuddling, deeply absorbed in the feeling of having lived that moment before… He closed his eyes and tried to remember when he had experienced that same situation, but all that came to his mind was the idea of spinning, spinning… As if in a circle, spinning, always coming back to the same place… spinning around in a circle, always coming back to the same spot, continuously…

The same spot, yes, but in another level – he understood suddenly. Another level! Because in reality, he was not in a circle, but in a spiral. Yes, a spiral where time is always spinning and returning to the same spot to be again, yes, to be again eternally… but in another level, in another way. Another way!

“What happened?”, she asked.

“I don’t know, I felt dizzy…”

“You haven’t been yourself lately.”

He pulled her by the hand and started running.

“Let’s get out of here… Quick!”

“But…”

“Come. This way.”

“Are you mad?”

“I should’ve gotten mad a long time ago.”

“What about the trip?”

“I’m not going anymore.”

“You’re not?!”

“Quiet. It’s a secret.”

He kept pulling her by the hand, running in the mist around the quay.

“But… Why did you change your mind?”

“Because my place is by your side.”

“But.. we were supposed to reunite soon.”

“No, we weren’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll explain that later. Come on, hurry.”

“What about the Society?”

“To hell with the Society!”

“No way!” She stopped dead in her tracks and released his hand. “Explain this change of heart right now.”

He stopped further ahead, panting, and came back. He clutched at her shoulders and spoke very quietly:

“There is a safer way for us to go to Brazil. But I’ll explain that later, I don’t want them to see me…”

“No, Enrique! I won’t move until you explain it!”

He took a deep breath. He looked around, worried that he might be seen there. Further back, under the fine mist, the ship was still anchored in the harbor, swaying with the waves, the sailors hoisting the sails. Soon, they would acknowledge his absence.

“I don’t know, Catarina… Something happened in that moment… All of a sudden, I…”

While he tried to find the right words, she looked him in the eyes firmly and suddenly she had memories of a strange time that never existed, a time of grief, madness and seclusion… A time where life was permanently twisting around itself without leaving the same spot, repeating itself a thousand times like the sad songs the women of her village used to sing when she was a little girl, songs about a woman who waits for her love, a beautiful love that got lost in time…

“Suddenly, I saw myself… No, I remembered myself…”, he continued, trying to find the right words. “I was lost… we were separated… I don’t know how to explain this.”

“Are we together now?”, she asked. “That’s all I need to know.”

“Yes, my love… We are together.”

He pulled her close and they kissed. And that kiss had a different taste, an irresistible taste of a first time. Then they held hands and ran until they disappeared at the end of the road. A new life was waiting for them in a new land. In a new time.

.

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanity

CHAPTERS

prologue – 1 – 2 – 3
4 – 5 – 6
7 – 8 – 9
10 – 11 – 12

 


The Irresistible Charm of Insanitity 3

13/03/2020

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanity

Ricardo Kelmer – Novel – Miragem Editorial 2019
Translation: Luciano Espírito Santo

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Luca is a musician who likes to have control of everything in his life. He becomes involved with Isadora, a Taoist wanderer who believes he is the reincarnation of her master and lover from the 16th century. He will embark on a strange and adventurous journey that blurs the boundaries of sanity and madness, dream and reality, only to find that he has to figure out his true identity before he deserves the woman he loves.

In this unusual love story that takes place simultaneously in Spain in the 16th century and Brazil in the 21st century, flashes of déjà-vu (the feeling that you have witnessed or experienced a situation previously) are time portals through which we come in contact with past lives.

Blues, sex and double shots of whiskey. Dreams, mystical experiences, and secret societies. Funny and exciting, The Irresistible Charm of Insanity explores the intriguing possibilities of time, space, life and whatever it is that we may call “self.”
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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese/spanish

> In portuguese – blog 

> In spanish – blog (soon)

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CHAPTER 7

Papalégua was almost closing. All the chairs were piled upside down on the tables and the last survivors of the night were paying their tabs. Junior Rível received the two glasses of whiskey from the barman and put one of them on the counter, in front of his buddy. Then he gave him a pat on the back.

“This one’s on me. Have a drink, man.”

Luca grabbed the glass and stirred the ice for a long time, with a blank, opaque stare.

“You’ve been looking like a mourner for two weeks. I’ve never seen you in that state over a woman.”

Luca took a sip and put the glass back on the counter. He looked weary and bleak.

“You really like the Taoist girl, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you’d said she was a nut case.”

“She is.”

“Are you sure you can’t get in touch with her?”

“She doesn’t have a mobile phone. She doesn’t access the Internet either.”

“And where is she now?”

“I don’t know. Some beach somewhere.”

“Maybe it was better that way, Luca. Think about it, it was a doomed relationship from the get-go, with you guys living so far away from each other…”

“I invited her to move in with me, but she didn’t want to.”

“Of course not, she has a life of her own in São Paulo.”

“No, that wasn’t the reason.”

“What was it then?”

Luca had another swill and felt the alcohol scratching his throat, the ice cold pain reverberating at the bottom of his soul…

“It was because of some fucking stupid abyss.”

“What abyss?”

“I don’t know either.”

“You don’t?”

“I don’t. In fact, that’s the problem, man, I don’t know a fucking thing anymore. I feel like I’m standing in a dark forest and have no clue where I am.”

Junior looked at his friend and laughed.

“Ah, so that is your problem, is it? Then you need not worry, cause some hot chick will find you in no time.”

“I don’t want any hot chick. I want Isadora.”

“But you let her go! You didn’t even drive the poor girl to the bus station. Which, by the way, really wasn’t nice on your part.”

“That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m no longer the guy I used to think I was. This whole affair with Isadora has made me jealous, insecure. Suddenly, I was being rude and aggressive, I couldn’t get ahold of myself, fucking shit.”

“Yeah, you’ve been acting cranky lately.”

“That’s right. You can tell I haven’t been my usual self. I mean, I always thought I wasn’t like that. But maybe I am and I’ve just become aware of it.”

“You’re a cool guy. Always been.”

“No, I’m not. A cool guy wouldn’t do what I did, wouldn’t treat a woman the way I did, especially when I like her. I’m not so sure I can still believe what I used to believe about myself anymore. Everything is out of place, man, everything.”

He looked inside his glass and for a second he felt that he was spinning along with the ice cubes, round and round, always coming back to the same spot, continuously…

“I think I’ve gone astray from myself.”

“It’s just a phase, you’ll get over it. Try to focus on your own life and everything will sort itself out soon.”

“My own life? I don’t know what life is about anymore, Junior. I used to know, didn’t I? I’ve always been the poet in the band, the guy who could convey everything through poetry. I had all the answers, didn’t I? But I don’t have them anymore. I don’t know jack shit anymore.”

Luca knocked back the rest of his whiskey and asked the barman to give him a full bottle to take home, and to charge it from his fee for the next gig.

“Don’t do that, man. You’re on the hook for two gigs already.”

“Another one won’t hurt.”

Luca took the bottle from the barman’s hands and signed the acknowledgement.

“I’m taking off, man”, he said, shaking his friend’s hand. “Thank you for your support.”

“We have a rehearsal tomorrow. Don’t miss it again.”

“Promise.”

“And stay away from windows, ok?”

Luca laughed ironically.

“Alright.”

“Also knives, box cutters and stuff like that.”

“I’m too coward to kill myself. Now, that is one thing I still know, that I’m a coward.”

Back home, he lay down on the couch with the bottle of whiskey next to him. He poured down a glass, proceeded to pluck the guitar gently while looking for random, melancholic melodies, and fell asleep without even finishing the glass.

Open your bedroom window
Out there on the street a sign is shining bright
The sign of our love glows red
So feel it, expand your mind, and fly with this tune
This is a neon light blues song
I wrote especially for you

*     *     *

One week later, Luca was told that Bebel had received a postcard from Isadora. He begged to see it and Bebel showed it to him. He read it voraciously, as if hungry to consume the words. Isadora had written that she was in Icaraí de Amontada, a beach on the westward coast, half way to Jericoacoara. She also said the trip had been uneventful and the beaches in that area were even more beautiful. She also hoped Bebel was fine. “Kisses, I loved meeting you, I miss you.” And that was it. Nothing else.

Luca read it again and again. There was nothing about him, not a word, nothing at all. It had been written as if he didn’t exist. As if he had never existed.

“You wish she were here, don’t you?”, Bebel asked, taking notice of his angst.

He didn’t answer. He just handed the postcard back to her and left.

Back home, at night, he kept rolling in bed and could not sleep. He only cared about seeing Isadora again. He needed to tell her how stupid he had been and that he was sorry for his attitude. That his heart was burning from her absence. That she was the woman of his life. That he couldn’t live without her. And that he needed to see her again, nothing else.

Very late in the night, he made up his mind: he would leave on Saturday morning. He would try to find her in Icaraí de Amontada, maybe she would still be there. There was no guarantee that such a gamble would pay off, but it had worked in Uruaú, why wouldn’t it work again?

“Have a little trust in life”, he reassured himself. “You would say so yourself, Isadora.”

On Saturday, he got up before dawn and was soon driving at high speed on the road to the westward coast, very eager to arrive. After some time, he noticed something wrong: the car was swerving to one side. He pulled over and saw what the problem was: he had a flat tire. He opened the trunk and found that the spare tire was flat, too. Shit, shit, holy shit, he cursed in anger at the two deflated tires.

He tried to remain calm and optimistic. Have trust in life. So he put Led Zeppelin to play on the car sound system, stood a few feet ahead of the car and kept his eyes on the road. He suddenly realized what an absurd situation he had put himself in, trying to hitchhike on a desert road so he could get to the nearest gas station to fix a tire, then return to the car and continue his trip to a beach where Isadora might not be anymore. Maybe that’s what they call the blues.

He spent a lot of time taking care of the flat tire and didn’t reach Icaraí de Amontada until after sunset. It took him three attempts to find the hostel where Isadora had had a few meals, but the manager informed him that she wasn’t there anymore; she had left for Jericoacoara five days prior. Luca felt the weight of discouragement on his shoulders. What should he do now? He thought for a while and told the manager he would stay and leave early in the morning.

“Love is a dangerous thing, Ma’am. A very dangerous thing.”

He took a shower, ate something and got cozy in a hammock in the hostel porch. The starry sky above reminded him of Tibau do Sul. The sound of the ocean nearby was relaxing, but it also made him feel lonely and vulnerable. When he thought he couldn’t stand Isadora’s absence any longer, he got up and went for a walk on the desert beach, and did not return until the first sunrays of Sunday were visible in the sky.

On Sunday morning, he left the old beetle in Jijoca and rode the back of a pickup truck that took tourists for a one-hour tour over the dunes and lakes along the way to Jericoacoara. It was a breathtaking landscape, untouched by progress, but Luca wasn’t paying any attention: as the vehicle made its way, he kept wringing his hands anxiously, hoping that Isadora would still be there. She had to be there. Ten minutes would be absolutely worth it.

He finally reached Jericoacoara and visited every hostel in search of Isadora. He also looked for her in the camping grounds and found nothing, not a single information about her. Walking on the streets and alleys, he felt like she would pop up in front of him any second, but it was never her. He searched the beach, the lake, the rock with a hole, the dunes, and found… nothing.

It was Sunday night and Luca refused to accept the outcome. He hadn’t even had a chance to swim in the ocean. He ate something, but didn’t really enjoy it. He felt weary and defeated. Suddenly, he snapped out of it all and realized how ridiculous he had been: Isadora was no longer interested in him; she had left him. Yes, that was it. He already knew it actually, but he had been acting as if he didn’t. No matter how hard he tried to find her, it was useless. She probably was with someone else right now, telling her weird stories about past lives and sharing her tent… He was making an ass of himself – that’s what he was doing.

He returned to Fortaleza totally consumed by frustration and anger. He arrived home on Monday morning, feeling exhausted and bringing a terrible cold that by next morning had turned into a major flu, forcing him to miss work for the next couple of days. Not only that, he had to cancel a gig.

Trust life. Yeah, right.

*     *     *

Luca returned to his old lifestyle: the endless nights in bars packed with women. If Isadora didn’t want him anymore, why should he put his life aside? Why keep his hopes high? Futile. Just as pointless as that mindless trip from beach to beach in search of a delusion.

The nightlife and its pubs and concerts could make someone dizzy with so much going on at the same time, but it was safe. His job as a print shop manager was boring and mind numbing, but it was safe. And going through a string of casual relationships could actually make him feel lonelier… but it was safer than risking serious commitments which, in the end, would bring nothing but disappointment and heartache.

He often went to the diner where Bebel worked as a waitress, to bitch and moan about his problems. They would talk and he would give her a ride home. One night, they were in his car, they kissed and Luca remembered… the future as foretold by Isadora! He interrupted the kiss and Bebel laid her head on his chest while he remembered what Isadora had predicted: he would be a pair with Bebel after Isadora went away. On the one hand, he actually wanted to be with Bebel because she made him feel good, but he would be fulfilling the prediction and that sounded like a defeat. He wouldn’t want to confirm Isadora’s prognosis. On the other hand, going against his own will and avoiding Bebel just to negate Isadora’s prediction would be… absurd. Maybe Isadora wanted to cause just that, the little rascal. Now what? What would his way be out of this dilemma?

Yeah, right, he thought while making up his mind: he would stick with Bebel. And Isadora could just go to hell along with her future.

“Luca, have you always been this tense?”, Bebel asked one night, right before they fell asleep.

“You fight with the weapons you have”, he answered bluntly, trying to sleep, trying not to think.

The last few days, he had been feeling like something was about to come out from within like a caged angry beast. He remembered a scene from Aliens, the movie in which the creature breaks out from the guts of an astronaut…

Fortunately, he had the band, it had a real manager now, and the gigs had been selling better and better. The night was always there, along with the next song and the next booze. And the women desired him, not a reincarnation from the past.

Now, there was also Bebel, who always welcomed him with longing warmth, even if they had been together the night before. She made no claims or demands, she just liked him. More and more frequently, he ran to Bebel’s arms and desperately tried to forget his real identity.

“Does Isadora ever write to you anymore?”, he asked one day, three months after that day he’d read the postcard. He tried to sound like he wasn’t really interested.

“No. Did she write to you?”

“She will never write to me again, Bebel. And that’s for the best.”

“What if she does? Should I tell her about us?”

“I think she should be informed.”

Bebel looked at Luca and he could see the silent question in her eyes: “You still like her a lot, don’t you?”

It was not an aggressive question, on the contrary. It seemed that she was trying to say, silently, in her own sweet way, that she knew what was going on and that she understood it. Or maybe she wasn’t. Maybe he was dreaming up those things and reading too much into Bebel’s eyes.

He was afraid that his eyes alone might be enough to provide an answer to the haunting question, so he looked away and kept staring at the ceiling for a few seconds. When he snapped back, the question wasn’t looming around anymore. Instead, there was the clear look of a woman who accepted him.

“Kiss me, Luca.”

And he did, secretly praying that her lips would make him forget, for a brief moment, that he didn’t deserve her.

*     *     *

Then came the accidents… First, little mishaps at home, like slipping in the bathroom or getting burned on the stove. Then the accidents became more serious. One day, he didn’t see a pothole on the sidewalk, tripped on it and injured his foot. One night, it got worse: he tried to jump a wall to get into an event without paying for admission, made a wrong move and got his hands pierced by nails. Price paid: two badly injured finger tips, hospital, external and internal stitches, and one month unable to play the guitar.

“Luca, perhaps you’re drinking too much?”

“Come on, Bebel”, he said, angrily. “Save your lecturing for another time!”

“I’m worried about you, all those accidents…”, she said, caressing the scar on his face.

“It’s a witch’s curse. It’ll go away.”

I just wanted you to know
That my nights are so lonely
And my heart gets so old without you
I pour one more drink
I look at the city
From the window only the city knows about me.

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CHAPTER 8

That month, Bluz Neon played in a festival in Recife and had good reviews in the media. Newspapers and magazines published articles about the bluesmen from Fortaleza, highlighting their technical quality, their combination of rhythms and ability to interact with the audience. After they performed in a major TV show, they got more invitations for live performances. The band was gradually building a name and acquiring prestige.

A few days later, the manager announced he had arranged a good sponsorship deal and they would start recording their album soon, and this time it would be top-quality recording in a first-class studio. That same night, they left the rehearsal, bought a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and went out to celebrate in an old, abandoned train station downtown. They sat on the tracks, got drunk and played their favorite blues songs, howling excitedly to the moon. Drunk and solemn, they made a toast to those they could remember and greeted the promising future.

Luca, however, was facing a tough dilemma. The doors were opening for the band, but his job would prevent him from traveling for more shows. Three years before that, the band had come to be as random fun on weekends, and now it was getting pretty serious. The time had come for him to make a decision, and he knew that. A future in the music industry laid before his feet, but he would have to be available for trips and other commitments, he would have to be more invested in it. They all had been dreaming about this for some time, and it was finally happening. But quitting his job was too risky. Sure, he didn’t like it, but it was a safe source of income to cover his monthly bills.

He couldn’t make up his mind. He postponed the answer once, twice, and just kept postponing the decision that the rest of the band was anxiously awaiting. Junior encouraged him to choose the band: they would have a great future, they would stick together and the band needed these two things. His mother, Gloria, recommended prudence and cautious evaluation of the situation. He was immersed for days in this dilemma feeling pressured by both sides, and either side had its own pair of sides to be taken into consideration…

First, it was Isadora asking him to give up his comfort zone and follow her. Now, his band demanded that he give up his job security. Stepping out of his comfort zone to live a love affair, quitting his job to live off music… Life seemed to be playing a game pitting him against the worst decisions he could possibly face. And he still couldn’t make up his mind. He didn’t know what he wanted anymore. He didn’t know who he was amidst his multiple contradictions, which had been growing increasingly bothersome to him. He knew nothing anymore.

Then one night, he left a snack bar with Bebel and couldn’t find his Beetle: the car had been stolen. He felt absolutely desperate, it was unbelievable. He filed a report with the police, put an ad on the newspaper, searched junkyards, but found nothing, not even a hint. Sadly, the car had no insurance.

That was a rough blow. Three months earlier, he had almost lost his fingers in a stupid accident. Now, he had just lost his car and couldn’t afford a new one. And there was the constant pressure from the need to make a decision regarding his future in the band. To make matters worse, he had a persistent cold, which put a serious hamper on his live performances.

A few days later, a surprise: Isadora called. Luca answered the phone, heard her voice and didn’t know what to do. He considered hanging up, but sat down on the couch, anxiously.

“Hi, Isadora”, he answered, trying to hide his feelings. Six months had passed since she’d left him. For six months, he had been struggling every day to forget her.

She told him she was in São Paulo and wanted to know how he was doing. He wanted to tell her about all the hardships he had been enduring, but then he realized that she already knew about it somehow.

“Everything here is, erm… under control”, he answered. “What about you?”

“Luca, I just called to say I’m leaving. I’m going on a trip again.”

“Where to?”

“I haven’t decided yet. But I’m leaving next week.”

He suspected she was trying to hint at something to him.

“You… Are you inviting me?”, he asked, and suddenly realized he didn’t know what answer he wanted to hear.

“I’m just telling you that I’m going on a trip. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

He remembered that night at the party: “We are together…” He felt the importance of the moment in the air, the tension that floats around a decision. Quit everything and follow Isadora… In the awkward silence, he tried to remember every detail that was involved in such a decision: his job at the printing shop, the band making progress, recording the album, Bebel…

“How are you going to make ends meet?”, he asked, but he knew what the answer would be:

“There’s always a way, isn’t there?”

He wanted to ask if she had saved enough money, but that would have been another stupid question. It was as though he wanted to discourage her because he lacked the same courage. Why wouldn’t he just say “yes” to her? He remembered the night when Soninha came into the dressing room after the show in her iconic black boots. He had the exact same feeling now, his entire future hinging on his very next choice, his entire life depending on his next decision…

“Good luck, Isadora.”

“Likewise, Luca.”

Why wouldn’t he say yes?

“How is Bebel?”

He didn’t expect that question. Did she know they were a couple? Or she was just probing?

“Who?”

“Bebel. Is she alright?”

Maybe that question was intended to establish that she approved of his relationship with Bebel, that she accepted it and wasn’t upset about it. That could be her way of locking up that door and throwing away the key. For good.

“She is fine.”

“Tell her I sent her a kiss.”

He felt his heart ache… He might be losing the love of his life forever and ever right there, at that exact moment. Why wouldn’t he react? Why wouldn’t he push past the inertia and finally say yes, he would give up his comfort zone and leave with her to live the craziness of that love to the fullest?

“Bye, Luca.”

He closed his eyes as if he could see better in the dark. But he was overcome with the unsettling feeling that he was falling, and falling… He opened his eyes and held on to the couch. No, he couldn’t leave everything behind.

“I can’t…”

He heard the sound of her phone hanging up and gulped. He stayed there, sitting on the couch with the phone still held to his ear, his voice still echoing like a scream fading into an abyss.

I can’t… I can’t…

She got up early and split
Went after a bigger dream
Left me a longing kiss
And this city around me

*     *     *

It was a rehearsal night. Luca changed his clothes, looked at the cracked mirror in the bathroom and saw his reflected image with a swollen face, tired look, sunken eyes… He felt like punching the mirror. He had been feeling irritated very often. He needed to calm down. He went to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of whiskey and poured a glass. He drank it all in one swill, grabbed his backpack and left for the recording studio. On the way to the bus stop, he stopped by the drugstore to buy some medication for the acute headache that had been torturing him for the last few days.

After the rehearsal, Bebel paid a surprise visit. She was anxious to talk to him. He said good-bye to his friends and left with her, to a small park nearby. They sat on a bench and she immediately broke the bad news: she was pregnant.

“I’m so sorry, Luca…” She stuttered nervously. “I don’t know how it happened, I was careful, I swear…”

He couldn’t believe what he had just heard.

“This can’t be true, Bebel.”

That couldn’t be happening. Bebel expecting his child. It couldn’t be true. She said the test had been positive and she had been pregnant for more than two months…

He got up, pulled Bebel by her arm and took her to a more secluded area. He put her up against a tree and stuck his finger to her face while telling her that he was not sure he was the baby’s father, and if he really was the father, it was her fault for not taking precautions. And she was on her own because he had nothing to do with her reckless behavior and he had too many problems to mind already.

Bebel tried to explain that he had been her only partner over the last few months, but she quickly broke into tears and could not say anything anymore. She tried to hug him, but Luca pushed her away, turned around and left, towards the bus stop on another street.

He got home and couldn’t sleep. Life had definitely been pulling dirty tricks on him. He felt like he was riding a boat that had new holes in the hull all the time and he didn’t have enough hands to plug them all. He had been under pressure from his buddies and the manager to make a decision for one month, and he still couldn’t make up his mind. His car had been stolen so he’d suddenly found himself out of the only asset he had. He couldn’t focus on his work and had been severely reprimanded by his boss. The woman he loved had left and now Bebel was expecting his child. His child. That didn’t seem real. Life had turned into a nightmare and he couldn’t manage to wake up.

He met Bebel at the snack bar the following night. He waited until she got off work and took her to his apartment. He apologized for his behavior. He was remorseful. Bebel hugged him and cried in his arms.

“About this pregnancy… We are going to interrupt it, right?”, he asked.

She kept crying with her arms around his neck.

“Bebel, we can’t afford to raise this child!” He was losing his patience, and she started to cry again. He took deep breaths. “Bebel, listen, please. It was an accident, do you understand? This child is not welcome.”

“It is welcome for me, you can be sure of that!”

Now, that was really bad news. She wanted the child.

“Bebel, there is no way I can raise a child now.” He put effort into not losing control of his speech. He wanted to yell at her, to beat her up… To kill her.

“I’ll raise the baby on my own, don’t worry about that.”

It was definitely a nightmare, and a very scary one. The whole world was crumbling inside and outside of him and he couldn’t wake up in spite of his desperation. He tried to get a hold of himself. He offered her his most reasonable arguments. He would get a loan and pay for the abortion.

“I know you still love Isadora. But I don’t care. I want this baby.”

Luca sighed, feeling defeated. What would Isadora think? Would she think that the child was his ultimate move, some sort of comeback to her decision to leave, a counteroffensive? Had she predicted that child, too?

Bebel slept next to him while he scratched the scar on his face and thought about what options he still had. If reincarnation was a real thing and he had actually been Enrique… then he still ought to know how to operate some magic and take care of that problem in no time. But no, those things only existed in the troubled minds of loons such as Isadora. Reality was different, it was cruel and insensitive.

He fell asleep, wishing with all his might that something would happen, anything that would rid him of that bizarre nightmare. Anything. Before he went completely insane.

When Bebel was three months into her pregnancy, Luca borrowed a car from a friend and invited her to spend the weekend on a beach. She loved the idea. While on the porch of the beach house, he opened a bottle of rum and they took pictures of the sunset. Once again, Luca tried to convince her to have an abortion. And once again, Bebel didn’t accept his arguments. She looked at him and saw his fiery eyes, his rage ready to explode… Luca threw the glass against the wall, and glass shards spread all over the porch floor.

“This baby is a curse!”, he yelled, while grabbing the bottle and leaving.

He came back later with the bottle almost empty. He stopped in front of the bedroom door, groggily. He saw Bebel sleeping on the bed, under the sheet, in the penumbra. He walked in with a slow step. He kneeled down on the floor next to her and pulled the sheet out carefully, revealing her belly. He held a knife, closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Minutes later, he was crying on the porch. He looked at the moon and begged pardon for being who he was. But the moon did not forgive him. The knife fell from his hand, the metal clatter echoing in the silence of the night. He kneeled down on the floor, powerless. He just wished he could disappear, nothing else, just disappear forever…

“Luca? Luca?” He heard the voice that came from somewhere… “Luca, what happened? What is that knife for? Are you alright?” Her voice like a torture, a knife cutting through the heart, slashing everything inside, tearing up his soul…

Bebel sat next to him, hugged him and they cried together. Then she took him inside and put him on the bed.

“I am a failure, Bebel…”, he babbled before falling asleep. “I don’t deserve you.”

“Sleep, my dear. Tomorrow is another day.”

*     *     *

On Sunday, he woke up feeling terrible from a major hangover. The last thing he could remember was some argument on the porch and a glass thrown against the wall. What had happened after that? Bebel calmed him down, saying that everything was fine. He apologized.

“You are not a loser, okay?”, she said, cupping his face in her hands. “And we will be very happy. The three of us.”

He hugged her and closed his eyes, trying not to think. But his thoughts had a will of their own. Inside that woman’s belly, his son or daughter was moving. The idea of becoming a father was absurd, but he had run out of the strength to fight it. He was exhausted like a warrior who had been fighting for days, weeks, months and… no longer knew the reason of the fight. What was he fighting, anyway?

Then, all of a sudden, he knew. Hugging Bebel’s belly, he suddenly realized he knew who his enemy was. In fact, he had known all along, just pretending to be fighting a thousand enemies who leaped from the shadows to attack him every day. He had no enemies but one, the one who would ambush him in the broken mirror in his bathroom every day.

How could he defeat the enemy when the enemy was himself, he thought. And how could he defeat himself when he no longer knew who he was? He felt he had come to a dead end. He had exhausted all possibilities, he had nowhere to go. Nothing mattered anymore. It was the end of it.

When it was time to return to Fortaleza, Luca was still drowsy and Bebel thought it was dangerous for him to drive. She demanded to drive, but he refused. She insisted on it and took the car keys:

“Trust me.”

Bebel started the car. He looked at her fondly and thought about how everything would be different without Isadora. What happened to things that never happened?

As they approached the city limits, Luca was distracted, almost dozing off when he saw a bright light shine suddenly from one side. But it all happened too fast. He just saw the light and felt a very powerful thud. Then he blacked out.

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CHAPTER 9

The night would be decisive. The long-awaited initiation. Enrique knew he wouldn’t be admitted into the Order if he failed to reach the gallery and face the sneaky enemy that awaited him among the many shadows. He held his sword tight and advanced towards the dark lake, minding his steps on the damp stones of the cave.

The initiation trial was terribly dangerous. By conquering it, the initiated proved that they were brave enough to withstand the rigors of protecting the Order. It was more than dangerous, it was the supreme trial someone could possibly endure: the fearsome confrontation with the Guardian of the Knowledge. And no one would come out of said confrontation alive and sane – many survived but became irreparably mad – except those who possessed the necessary strength to overcome the most intimate terror that inhabited the darkness of their own soul.

Enrique heard a noise come from the murky waters of the lake and stopped, brandishing his sword. He stood still and waited, with sweat dripping down his face and his heart on the verge of bursting out with fear and expectation. He held his breath. The enemy was very close.

Then he sensed what might happen next, and the most profound panic leaped from the inner chambers of his soul like worms digging through the dirt. His knees trembled and he suddenly realized he was unable to confront what his thoughts were anticipating.

It emerged, and he heard its terrifying hissThe cobra glided in a slow, slithering motion and stopped right in front of him. It was gigantic. Ihlish, the Guardian – he knew its name as soon as he saw it. Its hiss was hypnotic, and it was also its name: Ihlisssshhhh… It arched its body and reared it slowly and continuously… Enrique saw its huge head hover inches away from his face and its neck swell on the sides. Then the cobra opened its mouth and exposed its lethal fangs…

He fell down on his knees, powerless, paralyzed with terror. He quickly realized how insignificant he was before that animal. He thought he was strong. He thought he knew the forces of life. But now he saw he was nothing, absolutely nothing, nothing at all…

The sword slipped from his hand and fell on the ground, the metallic sound ricocheting on the cave walls. The serpent was his own guardian of the Knowledge, the one he was supposed to defeat if he wanted to remain a member of the Order. But how could he? He was paralyzed.

The serpent pulled its head back and he knew, for a second, that he still could run away. He could withdraw. Yes, he was allowed to give up, like everybody else. He could turn around and return, and avoid that nightmare.

It was too late. The serpent pounced, lightning fast. The next thing he knew, he was being swallowed, screaming and kicking and writhing. First, his head, then his torso and his legs. The contact with the serpent’s entrails was nauseating. He desperately tried to breathe when he heard the sound of his own bones being crushed. There couldn’t be a worse nightmare, but it was really happening.

His whole body slipped down the serpent’s throat and he felt the contractions push him further inside. He gradually lost control of his body. Eventually, he could not breathe anymore. His organs had stopped functioning. He exhaled for the last time.

When he woke up, he was lying down naked on a rocky surface by the lake. The cave was in complete silence and didn’t seem so dark and mysterious anymore. He stood up and noticed that his body was in one piece and had no wounds. He was alive! A little tired, sure, but still alive.

He understood he that had won, he had passed the great test. It was so unbelievable it didn’t seem real. But it was real indeed, and now, out there, a new world was waiting for him, a world that no longer could thwart him because he possessed… the Knowledge.

Then a word came to his mind: Vehdvar. The name had a magical ring to it, it was utterly numinous, as if it had always existed. It was his name, he had always been Vehdvar, and he finally realized it. And he knew that only the strongest were worthy of carrying the Guardian’s sacred name along with their own. For that reason, his name was henceforth Ihlish Vehdvar, a name he would never remember outside the cave, but which belonged to him exclusively and no one except Ihlish and himself knew and could pronounce.

Aware of the graveness of the moment, Enrique turned to the dark lake where the serpent slept in the bottom, he kneeled down, bowed until his head touched the ground and uttered in full reverence:

“Naja Hannah, King Cobra…”

At this moment, the lake water rippled. He prepared himself for the return of the serpent, but what he saw on the surface was the image of a… woman. The image was diffuse so he could not discern anything more than the features of a face, of a woman he didn’t recognize… But he understood it immediately. He was to find that woman wherever she was and turn her into his disciple. That was his next mission.

*     *     *

In that morning, the Valencia fair was crowded as usual. Local merchants and merchants from other cities had their products on display and were intent on the possibility of going back home with many coins tinkling in their purses. On the north side of the fair, young fellows performed on the stage, brandishing wooden swords and telling the story of how El Cid had been ambushed and fought bravely against seven moors who wanted to slain him, regularly shared the spoils of his battles with his vassals so they would share his wealth, and deceived the Jews when he pretended to pay the loan he had taken to assemble an army during his exile with a chest he claimed to be full of silver and gold, but, in reality, contained only sand…

Enrique laughed. El Cid was indeed a hero to these folks and they never got tired of praising his deeds. However, he wished they would rather chronicle the less discreet deeds of Philip’s sister, Margaret, a woman so luscious she ended up killing her husband, Prince John. Or how Joanna was so jealous of Philip she would pull her hair out and lose her mind, and eventually became Joanna, the Mad. Every inside story of the royal palace was more interesting than the bellicose antics of the legendary El Cid…

The next day, he would return to Barcelona and board a ship to Goa, in India, with other Jesuits. He had been in Valencia on a secret mission, offering his support to his Castilian Jewish friends who planned to leave Spain and go to Greece, home to many Jewish families that had been expelled from the country after the rendition of Granada. Once there, they would be able to practice their religion freely and uphold the traditions of Castile, land of their ancestors. In Spain, fearing the Inquisition, they were still forced to pass for Christian converts, always apprehensive about the Christians, who saw them as ambushed traitors and, sooner or later, would come up with an excuse to accuse them.

He bid farewell to his friends, leaving them under the care of a German missionary who would regularly manage Jewish escapes. The Spanish seas were infested with Turks and plenty of caution was advised. They would sail to Greece, where they could practice their religion freely, Dios os mantenga. In retribution for his favors, he had been given an ancient, precious cabalistic manuscript, which he had been after for a long time, but had to be very well hidden on account of rampant mistrust over the relationship between Jesuits and Jews. Feeling satisfied with the success of the plan, he decided to relax and enjoy the fair a little.

What about the Spaniards? Oh, well, they were quite disheartened over the defeat of their Invincible Armada to England! They no longer displayed the arrogance they used to when they claimed to be the saviors of Catholicism against the Protestant Reformation. “Serves them right!”, he thought, feeling avenged. Maybe that would put a damper on the arrogance of those people who ruled over his beloved Portugal and thought of themselves as owners of the world…

But, anyway, he shouldn’t wish any ill upon his Spanish neighbors. He had many friends there, and Portugal would certainly know to resume its course to independence and glory in the right time.

Just when he was having fun listening to the tale of how the Jews had kidnapped a little child and, aiming to improve the touch of realism in staging the Passion of the Lord, they nailed Him to a cross, Enrique sensed a presence… A tingling sensation overwhelmed his thoughts. And he saw her on the other side of the fair. There she was.

He walked towards her slowly while the lively, carefree young woman was buying Indian silk. It had to be her, the woman whose face Ihlish had revealed to him in the cave years ago. The woman who was destined to become his disciple and help him keep the secret knowledge of the Order. It had to be her.

He watched her intently. Her youthful beauty, her neat hair combed in modern fashion, her wandering eyes, her contrived manners of aristocratic pretense… Enrique smiled. Going by the images of her that Ihlish had shown him in the cave, he’d never guess she was so… so interesting as she was in person.

He moved closer and could almost touch her. The scent of her hair made him feel light… And her skin was not too pale. Maybe she was of Moorish ancestry? Her clothes and her manners were visibly aristocratic, no doubt, but her hands evidenced that she might have been subjected to rural labor. He noticed she was married. And she eyed certain young men just long enough so she wouldn’t get caught. A lot like many other ladies did… but it seemed obvious to him that she wasn’t very satisfied with her marriage.

She watched the troubadours absentmindedly when she sensed something and turned around. And her glance met his. And time stood still for an instant, long enough for the past, present and future to align in the precise rhythm of their heartbeats.

*     *     *

From afar and up high he spotted the walls and the towers: Munich emerged ahead while the Isar River at the eastern side flowed silently under the darkness of the night. As he came nearer, he could see the pair of moats that surrounded the city and the twin towers of the church of Our Lady, then the winding roads and their wine cellars and breweries that hosted the razzle-dazzle of the heavy-drinking crowd. And, finally, the dwelling he had been looking for.

It was a two-story house with projecting window ledges and shed roof. Like the others, it sat squeezed among the other units. She was there, he knew it. As he came nearer, he could feel her presence increasingly stronger and stronger…

“My Enrique…”, she whispered asleep in her bed.

“Right on time, my Catarina…”, he answered, taking his hat off in chivalrous fashion. Then he sang: “Lo que valen son tus brazos cuando de noche me abrazan…

He told her he would like to show her a place. “What place”, she wanted to know. “A paradise”, he answered. And he asked her to close her eyes. She did, and when she opened them again, she saw what her eyes had never seen before. An amazing landscape laid out in front of her: a forest with velvety water rivers flowing like a sweet melody among blue trees, surrounded by shining, crystalline lakes and waterfalls releasing translucent bubbly butterflies. Catarina was taken by surprise with the butterflies fluttering around her, all half-human and playful. When she touched one of them, it burst like a bubble.

“I thought they were alive…”, she whispered, surprised.

“But they are.” He laughed. “They are playing with you.”

She laid down in the soft bluish grass and he laid down on top of her. And she felt like the most blessed woman in the whole world for being there with that man who knew how to guide her in the most stunning and pleasant dreams that could ever exist.

*     *     *

Years before, when he landed in Goa for the first time after sailing for ten months and put his left foot first on land according to Catalan sailors’ tradition, the July monsoons were blowing hard, which made the strong Indian heat more tolerable. Enrique took a deep breath of the air in that strange place and had a feeling that something very important had brought him there, something still unknown, and that joining the Society had been a good move indeed after all.

The Society of Jesus sent its evangelists around the world, ad majorem Dei gloriam, and Goa, on the west coast of India, had become a major center for Jesuitical studies. With missionaries from so many countries, it was not difficult for one to get acquainted and learn many other things in addition to the official studies of the Society.

That was how he met those who initiated him in the Order of the Guardian, an occultist fraternity of men and women from multiple creeds and nationalities that maintained a secret information network spread throughout various countries and exerted influence on political and religious decisions. Its members employed altered states of consciousness to achieve visions and control dreams.

The Order’s origins dated back to the ancient beliefs of northern Italy peasants, who claimed that their spirits could leave their bodies to hunt witches at night. Since it always happened early in the seasons while the peasants were fasting for three days, they eventually understood it was fasting that gave them such lucid dreams, so the practice was introduced to the meditation rites of the Order. In a more advanced stage, the meditation would lead to the cave where the confrontation with the Guardian of the Knowledge took place, and it manifested itself in different ways according to each individual’s most intimate fear. The Guardian would then bestow special powers upon those who came out victorious so they could search even further into the mysteries. Little by little, the Order of the Guardian got a foothold among practitioners of many religions and it was in India, in Goa specifically, that it crept into the Society founded by Ignatius Loyola and enticed a number of Jesuits.

It was in Goa that Enrique had the vision of the dreadful Battle of Alcácer Quibir and saw the mighty allied Turkish army in Algiers. There, he saw Don Sebastian, king of Portugal, with his foolish delusions of predestination, marching gloriously to his tragic defeat. He even tried to intervene, for he knew that would be the end of the dream of the great Portuguese empire, but to no avail. Don Sebastian was a fool who wouldn’t pay heed to the advice of his fellow countrymen even in his dreams. His sad fate was sealed.

Sure enough, the king’s death left the Portuguese throne vacant and Philip II of Spain was sworn in. Henceforth, Portugal would submit to Spanish rule thanks to the megalomaniacal king. Although it’s true that Don Sebastian had supporters who advocated a Portuguese empire in Africa, closer and cheaper than India, Enrique knew from his visions that warfare in Africa would be fruitless. But they wouldn’t listen to him. Now, absurd rumors were spreading everywhere that Don Sebastian was alive, miraculously alive, and would be back anytime to reorganize his army and lead bravely the Lusitanian vocation to glory… Baloney!

It was the end of the century and it was still profitable for the Portuguese trade elite to maintain their partnership with Spain, so many agreed with their subjection to the Spanish throne.

“Greedy bastards!” He was incensed. “Putting themselves first and above their own country!”

The Guardian of the Knowledge awaited all the members of the Order in its dark cave. Those defeated in their match with the Guardian returned in a deranged state and were invariably sent to asylums. The initiated counted on that to protect their secret, but some of those who had been defeated would emerge from the depths of their madness and misery from time to time, screaming things that made no sense to doctors but raised suspicion among religious authorities. For this reason, the initiated engaged in the practice of slaying anyone who failed to return from the cave with their sanity intact.

Executions, however, were risky, especially when the targets held prominent positions or were members of the Church. Also, secret connections of the European members with Jews, Arabs and pagans began to surface. The Order was threatened. The merciless Inquisition had been tightening the siege.

*     *     *

She arrived and scurried into the carriage. Enrique greeted her with a long kiss.

“Go!”, he ordered the coachman. Then he turned to her: “Take off your clothes, Catarina, and put these on.”

She complied and changed into a black hooded cloak. The carriage rode into the dark of the desert road for a long time before it stopped. He told the coachman that they would proceed on foot and instructed him to wait for them, they would be back before dawn. He took her by the hand and told her not to say another word until it was all over. They climbed the hillside cautiously. From the top, they could see the beach shrouded in the darkness of the moonless night.

“They are on that side.” He pointed in the direction of a distant bonfire. “They also brought their female disciples to be initiated.”

They went down the slope and walked on the beach sand. There was no wind. The only sound in the air was the gentle rumble of the waves. The rest of the party, eleven in all, was standing around the bonfire. She tightened her grip around his hand, trembling with fear.

“Stay calm”, he whispered, trying to soothe her. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

They approached the group and she noticed that the others were also wearing black hooded cloaks that hid their faces. They all greeted with a slight nod and hung their heads down in concentration.

The chalice was passed around and she took three sips of the bitter concoction, like the others did. The first words of the ritual were then uttered. The wind blew and the bonfire flames rose. The words were chanted continuously like a mantra, feeding the fire and protecting it from the increasingly stronger wind.

Enrique soon noticed that Catarina’s body was swinging back and forth slowly. He saw her come down to her knees silently, bend over and writhe on herself. She stood up suddenly and disrobed. Then she started to dance completely naked, swaying her body slowly and graciously while the flames cast light on her hair and seemed to dance on the surface of her body.

Surprised by the sudden exposure of Catarina’s body, the men and women around her did nothing but watch and admire it. Enrique wanted to stop his disciple’s dance so the ritual could proceed as intended, but he was so awestruck by the sight that he could not move.

The wind blew harder and rain came down. While thunder boomed and lightning bolts crisscrossed the night sky, Catarina spread her arms to receive the first raindrops. Then she turned around and ran away and vanished in the darkness.

After some time, she still hadn’t come back so Enrique decided to go after her. But the beach now was deeply dark and there wasn’t much he could see. The rain became a storm and he struggled to keep his balance in the wind. He called her name at the top of his lungs, but he could barely hear himself over the sound of waves, wind and thunder. During these moments, he had the impression, so clear, so accurate, of having lived that moment before, that same situation, that same sudden fear of losing her… Where had he previously lived the same situation, the same rain, the same desperate chase? In what distant time and place? When? Where?

Finally, he found her. She was spinning naked with opened arms and her body glowed under the flashes of lightning. He felt relieved and hugged her, he kissed her saline mouth and they fell on the sand.

“Come on. We will both catch a cold”, he said, getting up. But she pulled him back closer to her naked body.

“Forget it for one moment that you could get sick.”

*     *     *

“My husband knows!”, she exclaimed while hugging him, frightened.

“How?”

“I don’t know! I’m scared, Enrique!”

“Stay calm. I’ll meet him tonight.”

At night, he used the dreams, confirmed everything and realized that they were in serious trouble. A cheated husband was always a danger, but a husband with so much influence and close relations with the ducal council was invincible. Staying in the Jesuit college in Munich was a tremendous risk, so he would have to leave the city immediately. They would go to Barcelona, where they could hide away until they found a safe place.

However… there was a problem. To live with Catarina, he would have to leave the Society. And the Society of Jesus was his perfect disguise, his safe conduct, his greatest safety. It’s what secured him trips, resources, money, women… Power.

He felt caught in a terrible dilemma. It was like standing on the edge of an abyss. Behind him, his troubles pressured him forward; before him, lay the toughest decision of his life.

*     *     *

The ship sailed away and took the route to Gibraltar cliffs, the gate to the vast oceanic waters. The port of Barcelona was left behind further and further away until Catarina’s figure finally vanished in the mist. He would secretly disembark in Portugal, where he would summon up his best contacts in the Court and, within one month, he would meet her again. Then they would run away to Brazil, the new southern land, where they would be able to live in peace. It was a perfect plan.

But he didn’t disembark in Lisbon. He went straight to Goa, in India. He didn’t return for the meeting. He couldn’t leave the Society for a woman. He couldn’t. Even if it was the woman he loved.

Feelings couldn’t change the world. What really changes the world is action – he had no doubt about it. And the current world events needed the Order so they would be consummated according to plan. The invincible Spanish Armada had been defeated by England. A crazy Polish man called Copernicus had published a book in which he claimed that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and other crazy people believed in it. The Lutheran Reformation had been a triumph and the Church had been trying, with Sixtus V, to put some order in the Papal States. The English and the Dutch were taking control of the route to the East, the same seven thousand miles that were so valuable to Portugal. More and more, the world needed him and the Order’s Initiated. And he had to be prepared for the conflicts that lay ahead.

“No, Vehdvar, you proved that you are not”, the Guardian told him one night in the cave, when the ship had already sailed past Cape Bojador. “You failed.”

“But…”

“Obsession with control is the ultimate danger in the way of the Initiated in the Order. It’s the final trap. The only ones who escape it are, ironically, those who eschew…”

“… the Order.”

Yes, he knew about members who had left the Order. But he always thought that the main reason for that had been fear of getting caught by the Inquisition. Yet, he couldn’t understand it…

“I can’t give up. The world needs us!”

“You are merely postponing the moment, Vehdvar. You are walking in circles, going round and round…”

“And not really going anywhere.”

Yes, not going anywhere. He felt that way.

“What am I supposed to do?”

“You know what.”

Surrender control… He knew it. To jump into the abyss of his own fear. He’d always known that. At this moment, her image appeared on the surface of the lake. Catarina…

“I can’t go back to her now. What about my safe havens?”

He suddenly felt as if he had lived that moment before, those words, the anguish, the hopelessness… When?

“I can’t…”

While the serpent disappeared into the dark waters of the lake, he fell on his knees and remained there, on the floor, his voice still echoing like a cry fading into the abyss.

“I can’t… I can’t…”

.

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanity

CHAPTERS

prologue – 1 – 2 – 3
4 – 5 – 6
7 – 8 – 9
10 – 11 – 12

 


The Irresistible Charm of Insanitity 2

13/03/2020

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanity

Ricardo Kelmer – Novel – Miragem Editorial 2019
Translation: Luciano Espírito Santo

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Luca is a musician who likes to have control of everything in his life. He becomes involved with Isadora, a Taoist wanderer who believes he is the reincarnation of her master and lover from the 16th century. He will embark on a strange and adventurous journey that blurs the boundaries of sanity and madness, dream and reality, only to find that he has to figure out his true identity before he deserves the woman he loves.

In this unusual love story that takes place simultaneously in Spain in the 16th century and Brazil in the 21st century, flashes of déjà-vu (the feeling that you have witnessed or experienced a situation previously) are time portals through which we come in contact with past lives.

Blues, sex and double shots of whiskey. Dreams, mystical experiences, and secret societies. Funny and exciting, The Irresistible Charm of Insanity explores the intriguing possibilities of time, space, life and whatever it is that we may call “self.”
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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese/spanish

> In portuguese – blog 

> In spanish – blog (soon)

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CHAPTER 4

The light turned green and Luca hit the gas pedal, pushing the Beetle forward on the avenue. Through the rearview mirror, he saw the streets lag behind. Streets, corners and their loves for sale. The warm breath of the night, friendly night that seduced him with colorful neon lights… Luca smiled with excitement. The naked city, the shamelessness in the air, the hot romance… He had to be happy, and it had to be now.

The night dresses you up with smiles
And your breath is the breeze that guides me
All the rush on the street corners
Are store windows of the cornea
Love promises indeed
Rent a pleasure with a broad view to the sea

One more gig at Papalégua. This time on Friday night, because Luca’s voice was still shot on Thursday. And his band mates had strictly forbidden him from coming up with impromptu material during their performances.

After the show, Carlito approached Luca in the dressing room.

“This came in late in the afternoon. Here you are”, he said, handing a piece of paper over to him.

Luca was curious and opened the telegram.

I’m at Uruaú lake. Here’s hoping for a good show. Isadora.

He read the message twice and, for a few seconds, he felt like he was slowly sliding down into a time whirlpool… two months prior… Isadora…

“Who is Isadora?”, Junior asked, peeking at the telegram over Lucas’ shoulder.

“The girl I met in Tibau do Sul.”

“Oh, the one you fucked in a previous life. Luca, The Horn Dog now goes after the mystic types!”

“She’s nuts, but she’s wonderful…”, Luca said, recalling the last night he had spent with Isadora.

“Dude, I know that look.”

“What look?”

“You’re in love with her.”

“No way, it’s just an affair.”

“Be careful, brother. Love is dangerous.”

Luca drank all the whiskey in his glass and announced:

“Guys, I’m on my way to Uruaú. I’ll see you later.”

“Bro, our personal trainer is right there, at that table”, Ranieri warned. “And she’s ordered two bottles of Red Label already. Are you going to pass?”

Luca cast a glance to the table through the semi-closed dressing room door and saw Soninha with her black killer boots… She had become sort of a fitness adviser for the band. Thanks to her contacts, all band members had a free pass to the gym. She liked to say that Navel Blues would cause a better impression on the audience if all the guys had chiseled torsos.

Luca couldn’t make up his mind. He was drunk and tired, maybe he shouldn’t even be driving. On the other hand, he really wanted to see Isadora again. He hated sudden crossroads like that.

“Uruaú is waiting for me”, he answered at last. “Have a shot for me.”

Soon enough, he was on the road aboard his Beetle, darting through the night. “So that little scoundrel is at Uruaú lake”, he thought while listening to Celso Blues Boy, another passion to keep him company on the long road. A strange elation took over his body and soul, which pushed him forward as fast as he could. His thoughts were all set on getting there fast and reuniting with Isadora…

Fifty-five miles later, he arrived at Uruaú, on the east coast of Ceará. He drove carefully on the narrow sand tracks around the lake, looking for a blue tent. But moonlight was dim, the night was dark, and he couldn’t find the tent. He drove some more and still found nothing. He parked the car next to the shore in frustration and walked up to the lake. He dipped his feet in the cold water and splashed some on his face. He was very tired. That had definitely not been a good idea. What was he thinking? How stupid.

Then he saw a particular spot across the lake, where there seemed to be… a bonfire. He rushed back to the car, turned around and raced at full speed on the narrow sand track. Straight ahead, he took a different turn and found himself in the middle of the bushes. But he went ahead and eventually found a clearing and the lake emerged in front of him again, black in the moonless night. He saw the bonfire next to the lake, just a few yards away. The blue tent was also there. He had found Isadora.

They hugged in silence for a long time. He enjoyed the familiar touch of Isadora’s hair on his face again, her breasts rubbing against his chest, the cozy warmth of her body… And he realized that he had forgotten, just simply forgotten how fabulous it was to be in her company.

“I’m so glad you came, Luca.”

“How did you know about the concert?”

“I saw it in the newspaper. I called, asked for the address and sent you the telegram.”

He smiled, spellbound like a lovely little fool. Isadora just had her own particular way of making things sound simpler than what they seemed to be… Life was all suddenly, obviously simple with her, so very obvious…

“I’m getting sleepy”, he said, with a yawn. “Do you have anything to drink?”

“Why don’t you take a bath? The water is nice and warm.”

“Good idea.”

Luca went inside the tent to change his clothes. Minutes later, he wouldn’t come out, so Isadora went in and found him snoring, body thrown all over the mattress, tennis shoe on one foot and no shoe on the other, the mouth gaping and drooling. She was amused at the sight, tried to move his body into a more comfortable position and whispered into his ear:

“Enrique…”

Yes, she had just assured herself that Luca was her lover. It had to be him. Nothing else could make sense. He was definitely Enrique, and she had finally found him, four hundred years later.

Since the onset of her dreams, two years earlier, she had been silently fighting the pressure from either side of reality: one side urging that she stop believing the mad nonsense, that past lives could not even be proven; the other side whispering to her ear that she should let that longstanding love guide her and show her the way.

After having that dream about Luca, she chose the whispers. She quit her job at the bank, withdrew her savings and headed to the northeastern coastline. But she had always been haunted by uncertainty. How would she ever find someone in such a vast range of potential meeting places? What if this whole idea had been nothing more than a foolish, ludicrous fantasy? Such quandaries had been tearing her apart. The mere thought of these fearful possibilities sent chills down her spine and cast a huge shadow over her soul… the shadow of madness. Catarina’s madness.

When she saw Luca in Tibau do Sul, she lost all doubt. But at first, when she realized that he couldn’t remember anything, that he didn’t even believe in past lives, she felt lost, frustrated, she didn’t know what to do. But it was too late and she couldn’t simply give up on the pursuit of her true love, the same love she had lost four hundred years before for reasons that she had never been able to comprehend. So she decided to take the next step, have sex with Luca, and that wonderful night in the tent made it all quite clear to her: the perfect synchronism of their bodies, the well-knit blend of tenderness and violence, the extraordinary pleasure… How could sex be so perfect with a stranger? One can only assume the stranger was no stranger…

She decided to go on with her journey along the coast, as if being close to the sea would somehow bring her the lost love back. Maybe Luca just needed more time. Maybe she needed a break, too.

She was right. A full month away from Luca helped her understand him better. And by understanding Luca she came to understand Enrique better, too. The two men were obsessed with having control over life. Both had, in their particular way, an overrated appraisal of their own importance and believed they could reign over all circumstances around them. Such approach to life, however, would rather prevent them from actually living it. They were still different, though: Enrique had surrendered to his love for Catarina, while Luca was afraid to love. In her dream, he had asked her to help him jump into the abyss, but now he seemed to run away from it.

Isadora looked at that man who laid stretched out before her, drunk and snoring. Whatever that abyss would be, that was definitely not the best way to jump.

*     *     *

Luca opened one eye, then the other, the old strategy he used to minimize the pain. It was hot, so it was probably very late. He recognized the inside of Isadora’s blue tent. But she wasn’t next to him. He felt a twinge of fear… The same fear he had felt while looking for her on the last day in Tibau do Sul.

He got out of the tent and saw her nearby, sitting under the shade of a guava tree, reading the I Ching.

“Welcome to daytime, Luca of the Neon Light.”

“What happened yesterday?”, he asked with a yawn.

“You fell asleep.”

“Did I sleep before or after we…”

“Long before”, she laughed.

“That sucks.”

“It was better that way, I guess. You were in terrible shape. And you drove all the way here! If I had known you were going to do that, I wouldn’t have sent the telegram.”

“Do you suppose anyone would sell sunglasses around here?”, he asked, shielding his eyes from the unbearable brightness.

“Relax. You can borrow mine.”

“Isadora, you are the perfect woman.”

At the restaurant, he ordered a beer to cure his hangover. Isadora told him about the beaches she had visited before she found him.

“I almost got arrested in Canoa Quebrada, you know?”

“Why?”

“Because there was an aviary on the camping ground and I can’t stand the sight of birds in cages.”

“What did you do?”

“I set them free, of course.”

“I can’t believe it.”

“The camping ground owner suspected me and called the police, but she couldn’t prove it.”

“Wow, you’re definitely a menace to peace and order.”

That included his own peace and order and he was very close to actually saying that.

“What about life in Fortaleza, how is it going?” she asked.

“All under control.”

“Do you perform tonight?”

“No.”

“Sweet. You can stay until tomorrow.”

“Uh, I can’t. I have an important meeting tonight.”

“What a shame.”

“Business”, he added. “You know, the band is getting more professional.”

He smiled and drank beer. What he’d just said wasn’t entirely true. The band was indeed becoming more professional, but his meeting had nothing to do with work. He was going to meet a fan. Alone.

It was getting dark when they left the restaurant and went for a walk around the lake, to sink their bare feet on the sand and enjoy the sunset breeze.

“What about that note you left to me, Isadora? What is this abyss I am supposed to jump into?”

“I don’t know. You should know, not me.”

“Of course not. It was your dream.”

“But the abyss is yours”, she said, laughing.

They were embracing and walking on the sand while waves washed their feet and left seashells in their wake.

“Are you happy with your life, Luca?”

“It could be better under certain aspects.”

“Do you trust life?”

He hesitated to answer. He kicked a pebble on the sand.

“You can’t trust life a hundred percent, Isadora, and you know that.”

“Why not?”

“Because life is treacherous. We have to be alert, or we may get stabbed in the back.”

Isadora shook her head in disapproval. How could someone be so uptight?

“Surrender control, Luca. You’re living in delusion.”

“The real delusion is to think that life will sort itself out. It’s advisable to keep it in check.”

“No, it isn’t! When you control life, you stifle it.”

She freed herself from his arms to pick up a shell.

“I know that the idea of trusting life sounds crazy, but come on, give it try it. I’ll help you.”

She brushed the sand off the seashell and gave it to him. He brought it close to his ear.

“Can you hear it? It’s the sound of the abyss. It will whisper the path to you if we lose each other again.”

“Again?”, he asked, putting the shell in his pocket.

“Yes, like four centuries ago.”

“Isadora, you know I don’t believe in reincarnation”, he said, trying not to be rude. “I believe in what is real, in things that I can see.”

“It doesn’t matter. You are Enrique, my true love.”

“But how can you be so sure?”

“I know. I just know.”

“Alright, let’s suppose I am who you think I am. Why can’t I remember it?”

“I don’t know.”

“If I used to be Enrique, then I evolved in the wrong direction. He was a wizard, a big shot…

“Maybe you’re wasting your power by trying to control everything. When life is controlled, it becomes stagnant. There’s not even space left for love, do you know that?”

“Did you and Enrique really love each other?”

“Very much.”

“Why didn’t he go back to you? I mean, to Catarina?”

“I don’t know. I can’t remember that. Enrique had many enemies, he might have been caught.”

“Well, if I have been Enrique, I might be able to know what happened to him.”

“If you really must know, you will.”

“You have too much faith in destiny, Isadora!” He couldn’t accept that. “You talk like everything is sealed by destiny.”

“Nothing is sealed. We have to do everything.”

“Do everything? Isn’t that contradictory to your Taoist principle of never forcing situations?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Well, so…?”

“So we have to do everything, only without forcing situations.”

He took a deep breath and gave up the argument. How could anyone live with such absurd logic?

*     *     *

Luca woke up and found himself inside the blue tent. This time, however, Isadora was sleeping beside him. His meeting with the fan had been canceled. He simply could not resist staying with Isadora. He snuggled closer to her and recalled the previous night: Isadora’s silky and generous body, her tender embrace, how she told him to come inside her like an order he could not dispute… Sex with her was always intense, somewhat mysterious and sacred. She looked so beautiful in her sleep… He caressed her hair and imagined he was her guardian knight. What would it be like if they were married?

He stopped caressing right away, scared by his own thoughts. Married? What was he thinking? What had gotten into him to have such insane idea?

He felt his heart was beating fast and felt the warning red light flash inside him. His instincts seemed to tell him that he was in great danger. And he was indeed. The name of the danger was love. Love was not a part of his plans. Love meant losing control over himself, he knew that, and that was just what he didn’t need. The wise thing to do was to keep a safe distance.

But she was so beautiful, so special… She was definitely different from any other woman he had met in his life. And she was the best lay he’d ever had. When they were together, life was a much more exciting, more mysterious experience… It was such a shame that she lived too far away.

What if they lived in the same city, he wondered, what would it be like? Would he give up all the other women for her?

He sat down, bothered by the way his thoughts were going. He was single. How could he forget that? He was single and he was happy that way, free from the troubles that always came along with love. Besides, Isadora was too crazy. He would be better off in the current state of things: Isadora could go on her trips and he would just stay in Fortaleza, in the safety of his own private world.

He got up carefully to avoid waking her up and got out of the tent. The sun was high on the horizon, but it was a cloudy day. He walked to a shed that rented kayaks and chose one. Some nice paddling on the lake would be good for him.

He adjusted himself aboard the kayak, pushed it away from the shore with the paddle and glided smoothly on the water. He couldn’t help noticing the unusual circumstance: it was Sunday, six o’clock in the morning, and he was sitting in a kayak, paddling on such an immense and extremely quiet lake. It felt strange. Dawn was like a whole new world to him.

The kayak advanced towards the middle of the lake, while the light of a new day crept up slowly over the water. Suddenly, Luca felt that all that silence was a manifestation of the lake, and it was so big… so dignified… and it was letting the noisy little creature that he was disturb the peace of its surface.

He stopped paddling. The kayak still glided a little further. Silence then manifested itself completely, with all its impressiveness. He felt unworthy of the surroundings, as if he were tainting them, and began to regret the idea of going there. He wasn’t as pure as that silence. He didn’t have as much dignity.

He suddenly realized how tiny he was in the midst of that landscape. A sudden flash lit up his mind and made him immediately understand that he was meaningless, absolutely meaningless. He realized that the lake was perfectly aware of his presence, of course, it was impossible for it not to notice him on its surface. The lake had been there for centuries and nothing would upset it. Proud and magnificent, it gave room for life to thrive in its depths and insignificant beings such as himself to glide across its water.

He was afraid to die. Yes, he would die right there on the spot if the lake decided he should, there was no doubt about it. There was nothing he could do and nobody would hear him shout for help. He would sink and die.

He hung his head down, felt lonely like he’d never felt before, and cried. He cried out of terror and complete submission while waiting for the moment when the lake would finally stretch its tentacles from deep under and drag him to the bottom and everything would be over.

It felt like an eternity had passed when it seemed that the deafening silence was pulling back its might. He opened one eye with his hands still covering his face, then another eye. Everything was still the same, the lake was quiet and the kayak was floating on the water. Still frightened, he grabbed the paddle very slowly and plunged it in the water. And the lake moved, as if it were about to wake up.

He paddled cautiously and kept paddling until he reached the shore. When the kayak was finally crawling on sand with a harsh rumble, it felt like he was snapping out of a dream. He stepped on dry land still slightly stunned. His heart was in his mouth. Tiny waves washed hard on his feet. That was the lake telling him again: you are nothing, you are nothing…

“I know”, he said softly.

He really did. There was no need to repeat it.

*     *     *

“Ever since we met, Isadora, strange things have been happening. In Tibau do Sul, I almost drowned. Now, the lake wanted to swallow me. What the hell is going on?”

Isadora looked into Luca’s eyes and recognized the fear of someone who had just opened the door to their own inner mysteries. The same door that her strange dreams had once opened to herself.

“Maybe the abyss is approaching.”

“Stop talking about that, Isadora. I don’t like it, and I mean it.”

“You asked.”

“I don’t believe in this abyss, I’ve told you.”

“But you keep talking about it in your performances.”

“Me? Are you nuts?”

“It was the first song you sang to me in Tibau do Sul, don’t you remember?”

The abyss gave me vertigo… And my angst is still here, too…

“I remember. But let’s change the subject.”

He was tense. Those things made him feel like a puppet in the hands of something beyond his comprehension. He had no control. Isadora also caused that feeling somehow. He couldn’t stand to be away from her, but he also knew that her mere presence was enough to make him lose the power of his own convictions. And that was very frightening.

After breakfast, they went to the beach and had plenty of fun riding around in a buggy. Then they went to a small hut where they enjoyed some delicious caipirinhas and fried shrimp. They came back to the tent slightly drunk and looking forward to sleeping, but soon it was clear that the night before had not been enough to make up for all the time they had been separated, so they spent their nightfall on more passionate sex.

At night, they bid farewell beside the Beetle and Luca was anguished. He would go back to Fortaleza and Isadora would continue exploring the beaches of Ceará. The possibility of never seeing her again pierced through his heart like a dagger, and the pain resonated through his entire being. He quickly grabbed a piece of paper, wrote down his telephone number and address, and handed it to her.

“Would you like to spend the weekend with me in Fortaleza? My bed is roomy.”

“Luca of the Neon Light, are you inviting me to experience your own world?”

“Yes. We have a really nice gig on Friday. On Saturday, there is a great party we can’t miss.”

“Your fans won’t be happy to see you with me.”

“But I will.”

Luca hesitated for a second. The warning red light… What was he doing? He was almost asking her to be his girlfriend! For a few seconds, he had lost control of his own words and actions.

“I don’t know, Luca… Maybe I had better keep big cities out of this trip.”

Yes, maybe inviting her wasn’t such a good idea, he thought. He didn’t know what he wanted.

In the car, seconds before getting out of her sight around a bend on the road, he saw her in the rearview mirror and waved good-bye. He saw it when she did the same, and it felt like she was repeating a very old gesture, which she might have made a very long time ago, a sad good-bye that wrenched his heart. When was the last time they had bid farewell like that?

.

CHAPTER 5

“Air conditioned dressing-room! Ranieri exclaimed. “12 year old whiskey! This band is going places, my friend!”

“The owner of this place works out in my gym”, Soninha explained. “And you, Luca, you’re the only one who hasn’t been showing up to work out, do you hear me?”

“I’ll start on Monday, I promise.”

The whole gang was very excited on that Friday night. The Karvalhedo Club was packed and their band was opening for Baseado em Blues, the main attraction. It was the best fee the band had ever been offered.

Bluz Neon got on stage at eleven o’clock and the green spotlight shone on Luca, who was standing ahead of the other band members. He took a swig of whiskey, greeted the crowd, blabbered something about abysses and kicked off the show. The set list was well rehearsed and the audience danced cheerfully. After singing The Navel Blues, when the stage could hardly contain all the girls who climbed on it to expose their navels, they exited the stage under a shower of applause. Even in the dressing room, they could still hear the persistent requests for an encore. They returned to stage, stood on their places and played again.

Luca was the last one to return, now dressed up in a dark robe with a hood, like a medieval monk. He walked slowly, stood at the center of the stage, spread out his arms so his body looked like a cross and stared at the faceless crowd. The spotlights then seemed to flash upon his eyes and he felt a mild vertigo, the familiar feeling of slipping into a dream, reality fading away… A chill ran up his spine and his vision got blurred. Dry ice fog was engulfing his body when he grasped at the microphone stand to avoid falling down and took deep breaths, waiting for the dizziness to go away, and the band kept playing on their own. He finished the performance reciting the last part of the lyrics:

So many stations
I hear bells on the corners
And I smile to the girls
In their cleavages of damnation
I get it wrong, I get lost in the world
I am the train that goes
To my very own salvation

After the show, a bottle of whiskey was going around from hand to hand in the dressing room, in celebration of the successful performance. Luca apologized for feeling sick, but Junior reassured him that nobody had noticed it, and that’s the advantage of being the great performing singer that he was: he could even die on stage and it would still seem to be part of the act.

The door opened and Soninha came in. She was wearing a black leather miniskirt and her black boots. She smiled to Luca and he immediately knew what she had in mind. He was no stranger to that stare of a hunter from the underworld.

“You are not going to trade me for a lake this time, are you?”, Soninha asked, getting closer to him suggestively.

Luca remembered Isadora and felt like he was on a crossroad again. Damn decisions… Isadora should have accepted his invitation to spend the weekend with him.

“No”, answered Luca, hugging and kissing Soninha. “Tonight there is no lake, babe.”

They all sat at a table to enjoy the main attraction, celebrating the band’s new phase and the major success they had ahead of themselves. Soninha ordered another bottle of whiskey, then another. Before the end of the show, she stood up and pulled Luca by the arm. He didn’t want to leave yet, but she insisted.

“Come on, Big Tiger. You’ve had enough already.”

“Take it easy, boss, let’s finish this bottle first. Where is your glass?”

“Look at your friend, Junior. He gets too drunk, then he can’t deliver…”

“Come on, Soninha, who goes home at three o’clock? If you want to go, go. I’ll stay here, hanging out with my struggle mates.”

“I’m your personal trainer, Luca. I am supposed to look after you.”

“My personal trainer, not my babysitter. Do you understand the difference?”

Soninha tried another approach. She sat next to Luca and slipped her hand under the table, caressing him between his legs. He put her hand away, though. A girl came along and asked to take a picture next to him. Luca got up, hugged the girl and posed for the picture. The girl showed her appreciation by kissing him on the lips and walked away ecstatic. Soninha couldn’t restrain herself:

“What is going to happen when these fans of yours learn the truth, Luca?”

“What truth?”

“That the Bluz Neon singer likes whiskey more than he likes women.”

Luca stared at her very seriously.

“Poor Soninha… It’s a shame your money can’t buy you class”, he said coldly. He sat down again and turned his eyes back to the show, while Junior and Ranieri held their laughter in.”

“Oh, it’s class that you want. Is this classy enough?”

She stretched out her arm swiftly and poured a full glass of whiskey on Lucas’ chest, soaking his shirt and dropping ice cubes everywhere.

“And you’re fired! Get yourself another band!”, she added, standing up and opening her way among the tables.

“Cool down, man…”, Junior said, restraining Luca. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. “I’ll chase her, you stay here, watching the show.”

Luca pulled out an ice cube from his soaked shirt and put it in his mouth.

“You know what… I’m sick and tired of this rock star lifestyle. I think I’ll go to Paris and think things over.”

“Take it easy, Luca, she’ll change her mind by tomorrow.”

“Where is the cute chick with the camera, have you seen her?”

*     *     *

When Isadora arrived, it was eleven o’clock and Karvalhedo Club was already packed, but she couldn’t find a reasonably good spot to see the show that was just starting.

She ended up accepting Luca’s invitation to spend the weekend in Fortaleza when she acknowledged that, in order to know and understand him better, she would need to experience his own world somehow. She knew that Luca’s world was an endless party, a kaleidoscope globe that could easily lead her astray for sure, but it could be a good opportunity to exercise her Taoist intuition, her ability to get in sync with the subtle movements of life. And it could be an excellent opportunity for her to better understand herself by exploring her own mysteries, venturing into the possibilities of her being. Exploring… venturing… Those things involved risks. They always did, she knew that. But she was willing to take risks. For her, for Luca, for love. Why not?

It was eleven o’clock when Bluz Neon showed up on Karvalhedo’s stage. When Isadora saw Luca, she felt a strange emotion. She was proud of him. There was the man she loved in the middle of the stage, holding a glass, testing the microphone. Under the green spotlight, he drank, greeted the crowd and said:

“Insanity is an irresistible abyss. And has hazelnut eyes.”

“What does that mean?”, asked a girl next to her. Isadora smiled and answered:

“That means he loves me.”

The show started and she immediately gave herself away to the rhythm of rock and blues. The songs were well rehearsed and the crowd was ecstatic. She enjoyed every aspect of it, especially Luca: he was a little clumsy, but was a good singer, had a good presence on stage and knew how to entice the audience.

It happened at the end, when the band came back for the encore. Isadora saw when Luca was dressed up as a medieval monk, shielded his eyes from the spotlights and peered into the crowd as if looking for someone. She wondered if he was looking for her. Then the band kept playing and he went back to the microphone, bobbing his head slowly to the rhythm of the music… That was the exact moment. The world around her began to fade away slowly and she could no longer hear the music. She was alone, the crowd had disappeared. A second later, the dry ice smoke turned into mist and the stage was replaced by… the deck of a ship. And the ship was rocking gently… It was floating right in front of her… floating… floating…

It was a foggy morning in Barcelona and the wind was blowing from the aft. The sails were unfurled in front of her and he stood underneath them, on the deck, staring at her. She was wearing a dress under a shawl and her hair was shaken by the wind. She felt oppressed and her mouth was dry… The same mouth he had kissed just moments earlier. Why did they have to go separate ways again? Why would they have to wait any longer? Why?

He waved aboard the ship with one hand and held the rail with the other. She saw his gesture and suddenly remembered that he had made that exact same gesture some time in the past, a very distant past, the same hand waving good-bye, the same heartbreaking gesture. When was the last time they had bid farewell like that?

The ship sailed away from the port and she had the urge to run and shout, begging that he take her with him, that he not leave her there alone. But she held it back. Yes, he had assured her that everything would be alright, he would be back to her soon, yes, then they would escape to Brazil and live their love freely, no longer lying and hiding. Yes. But she couldn’t accept that. Why wait? Why wouldn’t he quit the Company and stay with her now?

For a second, she foresaw the possibility of losing him forever, and a dreadful anguish slashed her soul, like lightning tearing through the sky. A teardrop ran down her face and reached her mouth. The same mouth he had kissed just minutes earlier…

He made her experiment magic and initiated her in the mysteries. She had followed him in wonderful worlds through their dreams. He had taught her to be brave and stand up to her challenges… Now, all that was left inside her was a huge and painful feeling of emptiness. Life just didn’t make any sense without him. She wondered if she really should love with him like that… so insanely.

The ship went away. The sight of him standing on the deck, beautiful and sad in the mist, got stuck in her mind. Where were those winds really taking him? What about herself, how many oceans of uncertainties would she have to cross because of that love? How many hazards, how many farewells? How many lives, mi corazón, how many lives?

Then the ship was gone. So was the harbor with its well aligned stones and busy workers. The winds went away, the mist became dry ice fog again and Isadora recovered her senses in time to see Luca finish his performance, on a stage that was still rocking…

She was overwhelmed. The last encounter, the farewell… She had remembered it at last!

She could still smell the sea when she exited the ballroom quickly and went out to the gardens. The night was cool and a little piece of the moon was still hanging in the sky. She gazed at the stars, chills ran through her body and, for the first time, the thought occurred to her very clearly: he had run away. She had no doubt about it. Enrique ran away. Everything made sense now.

She had gone to Fortaleza to get acquainted with Luca’s world and found the truth about Enrique right there, in the nightclub. An obvious truth that neither she nor Catarina had ever acknowledged.

*     *     *

The desert stretched out all around him like an undulated bed sheet made of sand. How long had he been walking? Days? Years? His legs were getting weak and his vision was getting blurred, impotent against the tyranny of the daylight. The blazing sun was charring his skin… And he had such a headache that was just about to blow up his brain into smithereens… But worst of all was the thirst. Unbelievable thirst that was shredding his throat ruthlessly. If only he could have a sip of water, just a sip, a small sip so he could die quenched and happy. Somewhere in the desert, a phone was ringing, ringing… Somewhere among those endless dunes, some goddamn phone wouldn’t stop ringing, ringing…

“Hello?”

His body laid on the sand sheet, one arm stretching out of the bed.

“Hello? Hello?”

But it wasn’t the phone that was ringing, it was the intercom in the kitchen… Shit, he would have to crawl all the way there, all across the endless desert.

It was the doorman, “Good morning, Mr. Luca”, announcing a girl named Isadora who wanted to talk to him, should she be allowed to come in?

Luca asked him to wait a minute and took a bottle of water from the fridge. A ghastly hangover was drying his heart out. He looked at the watch: two o’clock in the afternoon. He called out Soninha’s name. He called out her name again. She didn’t answer. Maybe she had left already? I open my eyes, where are you?… The sun rose and I didn’t notice it

He walked slowly, afraid that his brain might crumble apart. He looked for her in the bedroom and in the bathroom. No sign of Soninha whatsoever. Then he remembered she had slept there, indeed, but two nights before. What a mess. He was losing track of time.

He picked up the intercom and told the doorman to let the girl in. Right after that, he picked up some of his underwear that was hanging on the TV set and put some music on, because Isadora deserved a neater place. He left the front door opened and went to the bathroom to the sound of rattling in his cranium. In the cracked mirror, the horrendous monster from the desert stared back at him, with ruffled hair and bloodshot eyes. He turned the water on and the cold shower made his body shiver. In the living room, the Blues Etílicos band was playing O Sol Também Me Levanta.

“Luca of the Neon Light?”

“Come in!” he yelled under the shower.

Isadora walked in and shut the door behind her. She placed her backpack on the couch, noticed the guitar dumped in a corner, the picture of B.B. King on the wall, a picture of Janis Joplin and pictures taken at Bluz Neon concerts. She walked to the window and appraised the view from the eighth floor, the solitude squeezed among concrete walls, the buildings muffling dreams of growth…

“Hi, Isadora.”

“Hi!” She remembered it was the second time she woke him up. He didn’t seem to be in very good shape, but she liked to see him like that, beginning a new day. “I hope I’m not disturbing anything important…”

“Not at all. I’m alone.”

“You look cute wearing just a towel.”

“I’m glad you accepted my invitation. How long are you staying?”

“I’m leaving for Lagoinha tomorrow in the afternoon. I’ve bought the ticket.”

“Geez, that’s nothing… You should have come yesterday.”

“Actually, I arrived yesterday. I slept in a hotel.”

“Hotel? And why didn’t you go to our show?”

“I did.”

“Were you there? At Karvalhedo?”

“Yes.”

“But…”

“I loved the band. And you’re great, you surprised me.”

“Why didn’t you talk to me afterwards?” he asked. And he immediately regretted saying that, because of Soninha. Surely, Isadora had seen him with her.

“I thought I had better not.”

Now what? Should he ask her the reason?

“Don’t you want to know why?”

“I think I already know the answer, Isadora.”

“You do?”

“Well, let me tell you something. This thing I have with Soninha, it’s not serious.”

“Who is Soninha?”

“Our personal trainer, she was sitting next to me at the table. She and I…”

“I didn’t see it. I left right after the end of the performance.”

“Oh?”

He wanted to bury his head in the ground. Shit! He’d just confessed, spontaneously, that he was having an affair with the band’s personal trainer.

“Do you have any water?”, she asked. “It’s pretty hot in here.”

“Of course.”

He went to the kitchen and brought a glass of water for her. They sat down on the couch, silently. “Damn shit”, he thought, regretfully. He felt guilty. But he didn’t have to feel that way, he had no commitment with Isadora. Yes, that was true, he had no commitment, but he felt terrible all the same, as if he had cheated on her. But there was no cheating, of course, because she wasn’t his girlfriend. On the other hand…

He suddenly noticed that his thoughts were flipping back and forth between guilt and innocence. He was divided. That sucked. Isadora had that effect on him, he became neurotic around her. No, not her, of course, he was the one who kept bringing ghosts into that relationship. He was the one who was jumping to conclusions and tripping himself up.

“Luca, what did you feel after that last act?”

“I don’t remember much of that part.”

“Really? But you seemed quite absorbed.”

“I was pretty wasted.”

“I didn’t talk to you after the show because something happened while I was watching you sing.”

She told him everything. She told about the harbor, the ship, Enrique waving on the deck, that he was leaving and she felt that she was losing him forever. At the same time she spoke, she almost could experience the feelings she had had the night before.

“I remembered that other life again, Luca.”

He sighed. Not that dull story again.

“And it wasn’t a dream this time. I was awake in the middle of a crowd. And it happened through you, through your energy.”

“Actually, I had had a couple of energy drinks.”

“I’m serious, Luca. It was a powerful vision, the most powerful of all I have recalled so far.”

“I guess that warrants a raise in our fee: watch Bluz Neon and get in touch with your past lives!”

He saw she was about to cry and regretted the silly jokes.

“I hadn’t recalled that part of Catarina’s life yet. You were on the ship deck, waving to me. The plan was that you would return to take me with you. But you never came back…”

“You’ve already told me that, Isadora. What is new?”

“Then I went out to the garden and thought about Catarina, about how strong she had to be to deal with all that loneliness and the terrible premonition that she would never see the love of her life again… I felt that same pain again, Luca, everything all over again. It was brief, but while it lasted… it seemed it would last forever. And I can’t help thinking that it could have been so different, all that pain and suffering could have been avoided… If only we had stayed together.”

“But it wasn’t possible. Something unexpected changed the plans, didn’t it?” he asked, trying to be as kind as he could. And he noticed how ridiculous he sounded to himself: he was talking about it as if it were a fact.

“There wasn’t anything unexpected. I figured that out yesterday.”

“What happened then?”

“You ran away.”

“I ran away?”

“Yes, you did.”

“I mean, he did?”

“Yes.”

“But… why? Wasn’t he in love with you? I mean, with Catarina?”

She didn’t answer. She just stared back at him with the same question.

“Alright, Isadora, Enrique ran away. He was a scoundrel. But forget that story, it belongs in the past.”

“Do you like me, Luca?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“Of course I do. But why do you ask?”

“Just a little or a lot?”

“Maybe more than I should.”

“What do you mean?”

“You make me second-guess myself on things I’m usually sure of.”

“So don’t be so sure and join me.”

“Where?”

“Let’s travel somewhere.”

“Somewhere?”

“Yes. You can come back later.”

“That would be great, but I can’t afford it.”

“I have enough money for both of us.”

“OK then. But I can’t take a leave of absence until the end of the year.”

“No, it has to be now. Come on.”

“I can’t leave my business behind like that, Isadora!”, he said, almost shouting. “Sorry. You drive me nuts sometimes.”

“What is this business you can’t leave behind?”

“My job, the band, everything.”

“Why not?”

Luca stared at her, intently. She seemed to be serious. But no, she couldn’t be serious.

“Because I get my security from those things. Do you understand, or would you like me to draw it for you?”

“I gave everything up four centuries ago. And I just did it again. For us.”

“Here we go again… If it weren’t for those crazy dreams of yours, we would get long just fine.”

“If it weren’t for my crazy dreams, we wouldn’t have reunited.”

Luca was annoyed and shook his head. He couldn’t have a decent conversation with her when she was talking about past lives. He stood up and walked up to the window to take a breath and calm down. If he glanced over his shoulder, he would see that Isadora was crying silently. But he didn’t. Neither did he see it when she wiped her face dry, sighed heavily and grudgingly conceded to a realization that she had been trying to avert, for she had faith in never having to make such a heart wrenching decision. He saw none of it.

“Are you hungry?”, he asked, turning away from the window.

“Yes.”

“Let’s have lunch. It’s almost three o’clock. I’ll take you to a place I love. And tonight we’ll have an erotic party. What do you think?”

“Hmmm, that sounds good.”

“Welcome to Luca’s fabulous world”, he said, with a chivalrous gesture holding an imaginary hat.

The restaurant was the Colher de Pau, where Luca used to dine on credit. Pereira was his favorite waiter. Pereira had this country-style simplicity and bluntness towards life and ingenious appraisal of just about any possible topic, especially in relation to the women Luca used to bring. He would be the one to tell whether a new romance would go anywhere. Pereira, the oracle.

Luca and Isadora soon arrived at the restaurant. They chose a table and Luca introduced his friendly waiter:

“This is Pereira, my long-time advisor. This is Isadora.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, young lady”, said the waiter, pouring the beer.

“Mr. Pereira, do you believe in past lives?”, Isadora asked, to Luca’s overwhelming surprise.

“Well, I don’t know much about that kind of stuff, really. Why do you ask?”

“Because this young lad and I lived together four hundred years ago and now he has the nerve to tell me that he doesn’t remember me.”

Luca laughed, he couldn’t believe she was saying that.

“If the young lady used be as pretty as you are now, he definitely should be ashamed.”

“Do you think he’s a lost cause?”

“I wouldn’t say that, young lady. I don’t remember the last time I saw him look at a woman the way he’s looking at you, I can tell you that.”

“So do you think I shouldn’t lose my hope?”

“About Luca remembering who you used to be?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s a tough one. This young man forgets what he had to drink half an hour ago.”

“Is that true, Luca?”

“I only forget when I don’t have money to pay the check”, Luca answered with a smile.

After ordering the meal, Isadora went to the restroom and Luca seized the opportunity to inquiry the waiter:

“So what do you think, Pereira?”

“I think your bachelor days are over, young fellow.”

“I’m serious, Pereira.”

“Well, if you must know, this one has got you hooked like a fish.”

Luca topped his glass off with beer, drank it all and ordered another bottle. On the speakers, Lily Alcalay sang Mar e Sol. “This one has got you hooked…” He wasn’t sure whether he liked hearing that. Maybe that was exactly what he did not want to hear.

.

CHAPTER 6

After lunch, Luca and Isadora went back to the apartment. They didn’t have much time since they would be going out again soon, but the idea of sharing a shower before leaving was simply irresistible. They propped up against the bathroom wall and surrendered once again to their uncontrollable urge by the sound of running water and the frantic rhythm of their hungry bodies doused in passion, water, spark and harmony.

Surely that was not enough to satiate them, but they had other things to do, so they exited the building again in very little time. They went to Junior Rível’s place, picked him up, and headed to Cabaré Soçaite, a party held every year in a charming downtown mansion. The whole party was an ode to sensuality and eroticism, old cabaret style. Red lights, see-through curtains, and music to match. People were dressed up in provocative fashion based on their own fetishes and fantasies and were allowed to climb on stage to perform their own theatrics, some of them with a comic twist.

On the way to the venue, Luca and Junior, already familiar with the party, recounted the hilarious events of previous years. Isadora kept listening, curious and excited about the opportunity to get acquainted with another aspect of Luca’s world. And she was very impressed with what she saw as soon as she stepped in:

“Wow! Women really embrace the spirit around here!” she told Junior while watching a group of girls dressed as femme fatale prostitutes.

“Those are the well-behaved types. Others wear nothing but a nightgown.”

Luca set his eyes discreetly on one of the waitresses who worked at the party, a cute blonde dressed as a college student. And regretted not being single that night.

“Geez, I must look like a virgin in these clothes”, Isadora remarked, disappointed at the blouse and skirt she was wearing. She turned to the waitress who was taking their orders: “Would you have another college girl outfit like yours to spare by any chance?”

“Sorry, no. But you look beautiful. You just need a little adjustment in your garment.”

“How so?”

“Come here, let’s spice that up.”

The waitress positioned Isadora so they faced each other, and opened two buttons of her blouse, exposing more of the skin on her breasts.

“There you go!” The waitress smiled while appraising the outcome of her intervention and whispered into Isadora’s ear: “Such a beautiful pair of breasts should not be hidden. Especially here, at Cabaré Soçaite.”

Isadora laughed at the young woman for her spontaneity. She really liked her.

“You’re right, thank you. But where is my tab?”

“Oh, right. Please, follow me so we can get it”, the waitress said, pulling Isadora by the hand and taking her to the counter.

Junior tapped Luca on the shoulder:

“Hey, pal, news flash: Soninha has quit the band.”

“That’s great.”

“No, it’s not. We were the only blues band in the planet with our own personal trainer.”

“I hope she doesn’t show up here. I accidentally told Isadora that we were an item.”

“I think you’re really into this girl, man.”

“You’re right. I’m screwed. Passionately screwed.”

“We could write a blues song about it.”

“So many women around and I had to choose one who lives two thousand miles away.”

“That’s good. You won’t get sick of her.”

“I guess. But I would miss her too much.”

“Why don’t you invite her to live here?”

“It’s not going to work. She’s too crazy.”

“Then what the hell do you want?”

Luca hesitated for a while:

“I don’t know.”

“Excuse me, Junior Rível”, Isadora said, approaching them and stretching her arm to Luca. “I’m going to kidnap your friend to dance this bolero with me.”

“And I’m going to confess with that nice nun over there. I’ve brought all my sins with me tonight.”

“Come on”, she said, pulling Luca by the hand.

They pressed their bodies together on the dance floor and danced holding hands, cheek to cheek.

“This is our farewell night, Luca. Let’s make the most of it.”

“No, it’s not. You can come to Fortaleza any time you want.”

“You know it is.”

“Or maybe I can meet you on one of these beaches…”

“We’ve been over that. Let’s not ruin the evening.”

“Yes, but…” But what, he thought. That was really all there was to it. Isadora was right and he knew it. They had nothing ahead of themselves but a major love affair that was sure to run its course soon, and he had better accept it already. “Alright. Let’s not ruin the evening.”

“I want your world tonight, you hear me? And all the craziness that comes with it.”

“You are definitely nuts.”

“And I don’t care what happens, we’ll be together. Deal?”

“Deal”, he replied, laughing at her dictatorial tone.

She smiled and kissed him, squeezing him tight. Then she pressed her lips against his ear and sang along the song with a whisper: Lo que valen son tus brazos cuando de noche me abrazan

When the bolero was over, Luca went to the bathroom. On his way back, he pretended to bump by accident into the waitress in a college outfit.

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s OK”, she answered, balancing the glasses on the tray.

“What is your name?”

“Bebel, the naughty college student, at your service…”

“Wow… Don’t talk like that. I’m a married man tonight.”

“That’s a shame…”

They stared and smiled at each other for a while, so close that their bodies were actually touching, and the rush of people moving around them was like a whirlpool. Luca could still hear the echoes of the woman saying “That’s a shame…” She just kept smiling. It took a lot of effort, but he finally put himself together.

“My name is Luca, nice to meet you.”

“I know. I’ve seen you perform with Bluz Neon at Papalégua.”

“Really?

“I loved it! You’re awesome, Luca.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Actually, you are both awesome.”

“Both, who?”

“You and your girlfriend. She is quite charming.”

“Oh. Actually, I don’t know if we’re a real couple yet.”

“If you’re not, you should be.”

Luca smiled. First Pereira, now Bebel. Did everybody want to get him married?

“Now you’re really embarrassed”, she joked, pinching his cheek. “Sorry about that…”

“I accept your apology if you bring me two shots of whiskey”, he said, handing her his tab.

“Two very well served shots of whiskey, to reinforce my apologies, OK?”

She took the order and left. Luca just kept staring at her, looking like an idiot and laughing at what had just happened. He turned around, went after Isadora and found her nearby. She was appreciating erotic poems displayed on a large LCD screen.

“Luca, have you seen these poems on the big screen? They’re beautiful!”

“I know about one that is the most beautiful of all.”

“Which one?”

“Wait, it might be the next one.”

A few seconds later, the next poem began to take shape on the screen. First the title: Saliva Poems. Then, the author: Luca.

“Wow, is it yours? That’s so cool!”

Isadora looked at the screen again and read: “For Isadora.” Then each verse of the poem was displayed:

I lay down saliva poems
Like sketches on your skin
Wet syllables
Sensorial rhymes
The deepest meaning of my verse
Speaks the language of your motions
In grammatical convulsions 

Depraved poems on your flesh of sin
Razor-sharp poems, ruthless on your body
The figure of speech of desire
Speaks the tongue of my kiss
There is no translation for this

“I don’t know what to say…”, she mumbled, overcome with emotion while still looking at the screen.

He grabbed her by the waist and kissed her. Their bodies formed a unity for a while, with the image of the poem shining on the screen like a movie scene backdrop.

“Two whiskeys for the most interesting couple in the party”, said Bebel as soon as the couple stopped kissing.

“Geez!”, Luca exclaimed while picking up the glasses from the tray. “How long have you been there?”

“I would wait as long as I had to. It was so romantic…”

“Then let this be a toast to you, Bebel, the most beautiful college student in this party”, said Isadora, raising her glass and quickly realizing how absolutely honest she had just been. Yes, she had to admit that she had liked the girl right from the beginning, even more than she thought she possibly could.

“Thank you”, Bebel answered. “Now, if you excuse me, I have to go to the restroom.”

The waitress walked away and Isadora thought about how she had never felt sexually attracted to a woman before. Could that be happening now? And if it were, what was she supposed to do? Well, Bebel was beautiful, delicate, and also seemed to be into her. Actually, she seemed to like both her and Luca. And they were in an erotic party. On top of it all, she was willing to get a taste of Luca’s world, with all of the insanity that came with it, wasn’t she? So… why not?

“I’m going with you”, Isadora said suddenly. Then she surprised Luca by drinking all the whiskey and handing the empty glass to him.

Luca leaned back against the counter and watched the two women walk towards the restroom. The big screen was showing scenes from past editions of the party and he was entertained by it for a while. But then he looked impatiently at his watch. What could be taking he so long? Fifteen minutes later, she was back with another two shots of whiskey.

“You know what, I like the characters that inhabit your world. Bebel is such a sweet girl.”

“What the hell were you doing all that time in the restroom?” Luca asked, grabbing one of the glasses.

“It wasn’t that long.”

“Yes, it was.”

“What do two gorgeous such as Bebel and myself do in a restroom, Luca?”

“That’s what I’m asking.”

“Pissigopstick.”

“What?”

“Pissing, gossip and lipstick”, she answered, laughing and thinking about the kiss she had just exchanged with Bebel in the restroom, repeated with greater intensity before they came out, which caused her to touch up the lipstick again.

Luca smiled awkwardly. Isadora started dancing in front of him, with great excitement. He noticed her breasts exposed by the half-opened blouse.

“You really made an effort to show them off…”

“It’s an erotic party, isn’t it?”

But do you have to go that far?”

“Are you jealous?

“Of course not.”

“Good, because my boobs and I are really loving this party.”

She laughed at her own joke and drank more whiskey. He smiled, though he didn’t really want to.

“How many have you had, Isadora?”

“I’m fine, Luca. Relax.”

“I just asking because I want you to enjoy the party.”

“Good. I’m glad to know you’re not trying to control me.”

“I don’t want to control anybody.”

“Relax then.”

“I am relaxed.”

She took his hand and laid it on her breast.

“We are together, my love.”

He could feel Isadora’s fast heartbeat. “My love?” Had she just called him “my love?”

“Give me a hug, Luca.”

He hugged her for a long time, cuddling, deeply absorbed in the feeling of having lived that moment before… He closed his eyes and tried to remember when he had experienced that same situation, but all that came to his mind was the idea of spinning, spinning… As if in a circle, spinning, always coming back to the same place… spinning around in a circle, always coming back to the same spot, continuously…

He became frightened, opened his eyes and recovered his full conscience. He felt slightly dizzy, then looked around to make sure he was still in the same place, the Cabaré Soçaite party. She was still cuddled with him in the midst of the crowd, all drinking and dancing. How much time had elapsed? A few seconds? Centuries?

“Come on, let’s dance!”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, Luca, come on.”

“I’m tired.”

“Then I’m going to dance with Bebel.”

“She is working, Isadora.”

“It’s just a few minutes, it won’t disrupt her.”

She went dancing and Luca was left wondering what could be possibly going on. He had become upset. Why? Maybe because Isadora was leaving again on the next day and that was bothering him. No, that wasn’t the reason, and he knew it. He had fallen in love, that was the true reason, and he didn’t know how to deal with it. He was even feeling jealous. This passion for Isadora was disturbing his own personal world, it made him feel strange, uncomfortable and insecure.

He scratched the scar on his face, lost in thought. Isadora was experiencing his world, a world of clubs, parties and colorful neon lights. She seemed intent on partaking in his life, the great party of booze, the seduction of lust, the witch-like affairs of nightlife. And she was taking to it in a most straightforward, natural, effortless manner… Was that what being a Taoist was like? She was amazing indeed. How could he not fall in love with her?

He finished his drink and put the glass on the counter. The party was great and Isadora wouldn’t be around anymore on the next day. He definitely had better just relax.

The music stopped and the party producer got up on the stage.

“Good evening! My name is Ricardo Kelmer and I’m the owner of this cabaret. I hope you are all having fun. Now, we are going to start the Muse of the Cabaret contest. Contestants, please, get up on the stage and dance. Let the music play!”

Many women promptly climbed on stage and were being introduced to the crowd while Luca went after Isadora. But he couldn’t find her. He turned around, looked at the contestants and had a shock: Isadora was up there with the other women. He simply could not believe it. No, maybe it was a doppelganger with the same clothes…

No, it was really her. And she was dancing sensually, slithering in sexy movements, a come-hither look on her face, breasts almost popping out of her blouse…

Luca gasped. Isadora was running for the Muse of the Cabaret contest! He would never have imagined that. Neither could he imagine that she… could dance so well! A group of men were shouting, cheering, whistling and calling out her name right next to him, and he felt the jealousy crawl back into his chest again, like a beast lurking in the dark… Holy shit. He was in desperate needed of another drink.

When the music stopped, the crowd voted for the contestants and chose the winner. Isadora… drum roll… came in second place, and her prize was a sex shop voucher and a bottle of imported wine. She happily thanked for the applause and dedicated her award:

“To the love of my lives.”

A minute later, Luca found her by the counter with Bebel.

“Congratulations, Muse of the Cabaret.”

“Luca!” She hugged him, beaming with joy. “Did you hear my special dedication?”

“Of course, I did. I loved it. You were amazing.”

“Look what a few shots of whiskey can do…”

“But you should have told me beforehand, so I would be prepared. There were some guys yelling next to me, ‘Isadora! Isadora!’ That was awful.”

“Oh, how cute you are! My Luca is jealous, how sweet!”

“I’ll get over it, I’ll get over it…”

“I had no intention to go, but Bebel convinced me.”

“It wasn’t fair”, Bebel said. “She deserved first place.”

“I want you to have the voucher for the sex shop, Bebel.”

“Cool, thanks!”

“But I would like you to come along and drink the wine with us, please.”

“It will be a pleasure. But I can’t leave until the party is over.”

“We could go to Luca’s apartment, it’s near here. What do you think, Luca?”

He almost choked on his drink he was so surprised.

“He agrees, Bebel. Let’s celebrate!”

As soon as Bebel walked away, Isadora grabbed Luca by the waist, hugging him in a provocative way.

“What did you think of her, huh?”

“Think of whom?”

“Bebel.”

“Cool.”

“Just cool?”

“Yes. She seems to be a nice girl.”

“Geez, Luca, you are amazing!”, she said, laughing. “Why don’t you just admit you liked the girl?”

“Who? Me?”

“So you didn’t?”

He looked straight into her eyes. What did she have in mind asking him that?

“Alright, I liked her. So what?”

“Me, too.”

“What do you mean?”

He felt her rubbing her hand on his crotch.

“I liked her the same way you did.”

He was surprised to hear that answer. The entire situation had just got completely out of hand…

“Don’t you think you’re going too far with this idea of experiencing my world?”

“Why? Do you think I don’t deserve it?”

“Isadora, why don’t you tell me what you’re plotting?”

“I’m not plotting anything.”

“Are you using Bebel to test me?”

“Of course not.”

“This is all about Soninha, isn’t it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You haven’t forgiven me for what happened yesterday, have you? I’ve told you that Soninha and I…”

“Calm down, Luca”, she interrupted him. “Stop imagining things. I just invited Bebel over to have some wine with us, because I liked her and so did you.”

Luca didn’t know what to make out of all that. Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to invite Isadora to experience his world.

“We are together, Luca”, she said again. “Don’t you understand?”

He didn’t answer. He kept thinking and watching Isadora dance in front of him. Yes, of course he understood. Or did he?

*     *     *

“Did you like the Cabaret, Isadora?” Bebel asked, while Luca held the key and opened the door to his apartment.

“I loved it. If I get to be here the next time it happens, I’ll wear garters and the full costume, you’ll see.”

“And you’ll win the first prize!”

Luca went to the kitchen and came back with glasses and an opened bottle of wine. He poured it and they made a toast:

“To the Muse of the Cabaret!”

Bebel and Isadora looked at the posters and concert banners while Luca put Ellis Mário to play on the stereo. The sax tunes gently set the ambiance.

“More wine, Bebel?”

“No, thanks, Isadora, I don’t drink that much. Actually, I would like to take a shower, I feel filthy. Can I?”

“Of course.”

Isadora led Bebel to the bathroom, gave her a towel and warned her about the broken mirror, which could make her look strange. She closed the door and sat on the bed next to Luca.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine. You are the one who could lighten up a bit. For you, for me…” She smiled and rolled her eyes towards the bathroom. “And for her.”

“Aren’t you jealous?”

“I don’t need to be jealous of you, Luca.”

“Why not?”

She walked up to the switch and turned off the bedroom light, leaving it gently lit by the light that came from the living room. She took off her tennis shoes and kneeled down on the bed, facing him.

“Because I’m the woman of your life. I have been for four hundred years.”

“I believe what I can see and touch, Isadora, not those mystical fantasies you…”

She put a finger on his lips, so he would stop talking. Then she unbuttoned her blouse, exposing her naked breasts.

“You’d better believe it.”

Shortly after, Bebel got out of the shower wrapped in a towel. She smiled and stopped to watch for a while. The bedroom was dimly lit, but she could definitely see the two bodies lying on the bed, mouths and hands sliding on them. She dropped the towel and approached the bed completely naked. Isadora opened her eyes, held Luca’s head buried between her legs, stretched her arm out, touched Bebel’s hand and pulled her in, like Bebel had done to her hours earlier, at the party entrance:

“Come on…”

*     *     *

“Good morning, my love”, Isadora said, standing by the kitchen door, greeting Luca lovingly with a hug and a kiss. “Would you like some hot coffee? I just made it.”

“Where is Bebel?”, he asked, yawning.

“She’s left already. She sent you a kiss.”

He sat at the table and poured some coffee. He’d soon be taking Isadora to the bus station and she would resume her trip along the coast. His chest was burning already. He knew he was going to miss her. He thought that she might as well postpone the trip and spend a few more days with him… Maybe a few weeks…

“Have I mentioned how much I love seeing you like this, when you’re waking up?”

“If you ever want to see me, now you know where I live.”

He looked up to watch Isadora’s reaction to his retort, but she just smiled and dipped her bread in the coffee. He would love to hear her say something like ‘I’ll hang around for a while then,’ but he knew it was a done deal.

“Don’t you have a hangover?”

“A little bit. But I’ll take a nap on the bus.”

We watched Isadora sitting in front of him, wearing one of his T-shirts, and felt like he had known her for a long time. But it hadn’t been much more than two months. They had been together in Tibau do Sul for three days, in the Uruaú lake for a weekend, and now in Fortaleza. They had had sex five times only, one with Bebel. That was it. But it felt like more, a lot more than that… And now she was departing from his life. That didn’t make sense. Could he have… fallen in love?

“I played the I Ching for you. Do you want to know what it said?”

“It’s too early for mysteries”, he thought while drinking his coffee. But he agreed.

“The Receptive came up”, she said. She went to the living room and came back with the book. “A solid first line.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“It’s up to you to interpret it. Do you want to read it?”

No. He really didn’t. But he did. Once, twice… Then he gave the book back to her.

“I don’t understand a thing.”

“Sometimes, the message may seem unclear at first. I’ll write it down on your appointment book, OK?”

He poured another cup of coffee.

“So, how do you like my world?”

“I love it.”

“Good. What about the last part?”

“It was wonderful, Luca. But I’d rather be alone with you so you can focus more on me…”

“The threesome thing… huh… Had you ever…”

“No. But I must admit I had always been curious about it.”

“You seemed very comfortable with it…”

“Of course, it was so good!”

It certainly was, he thought. He could have loosened up some more and forgotten what was troubling him: his sudden jealousy, his puzzled feelings, Isadora taking off the next day… But making love to her and Bebel Isadora had been outstanding.

“I’m sure it was nothing new for you…”

“Sort of”, he said, remembering the night he had met the red-haired girl at Papalégua, the bizarre incident with a dead twin sister…

She finished her coffee, wiped her mouth and got ready to say what she had to say. She knew it wouldn’t be easy. But she also knew it was time to make a decision.

“I have something important to tell you, Luca.”

“What is it?”

“Last night, when we arrived at the party, Bebel went after a consumption ticket for me and I tagged along, do you remember?”

“Yes, I do.”

“At that moment, I felt that you two were going to be a couple.”

“What?”

“You heard it.”

“So you can’t just remember past lives, you can also predict the future?”

“I didn’t quite understand it at first, it was a strange feeling. But then it became clear.”

“I wasn’t alone when I hooked up with her. You were here, too. You were the one who invited her to come over.”

“Yes, I did, because I liked her. And I really wanted to experience your world, your things. But I’m not talking about last night.”

“You aren’t?”

“I mean after I leave. You two will be together.”

“I don’t get it, Isadora.”

“That’s what I felt. I still do.”

“Are you nuts?”

“And do you know what else? Bebel is a really nice girl, Luca. She can help you.”

Luca tapped his fingers on the table. He wasn’t happy about that conversation at all.

“Why do you want me to be with her?”

“I don’t. But you’re going to. What can I do?”

“Isadora, now you’re really going too far with this madness!”, he yelled, pounding hard on the table.

“There’s no need to get mad.”

“I’m not mad.”

“Good.”

He took a deep breath and tried to calm down.

“I’m not going to be with Bebel. I’m going to be with you.

“But I’m leaving.”

“Then, don’t go.”

“What do you mean?”

“Stay here with me. Move in with me.”

He heard his own words and got surprised. Did he really say that? Did he just ask her to move in with him?

“I would like that. But I can’t.”

“Why not? What keeps you grounded in São Paulo?”

“Nothing.”

“Then what’s the reason?”

“The reason is that you have to jump into an abyss, remember?”

“Oh, no, not that story again…”

“I struggled against coming to this conclusion, Luca. But it’s clear to me now. If I stay here in Fortaleza, you won’t jump. You will stick to your comfort zone, always surrounded by your safe arrangements and ever more obsessed about keeping everything under control. Just like Enrique did.”

“No, that is not the problem, Isadora. The problem is that you insist on making up these fantasy worlds, dreams, and abysses… You have created a crazy past and put me in it. And now you’ve just invented a future for me and Bebel. Don’t you see how absurdly crazy this whole thing is?

“I’ve never had any doubt about it.”

“Could you please, once in a lifetime, behave like a normal person?”

“I don’t care about being classified as a normal person”, she answered, getting up from the table.

Luca closed his eyes, trying hard to eke out any sense out of his confounded thoughts and conflicted feelings… But there was none to be found. He got up and followed Isadora into the bedroom, all worked up.

“If I don’t want to be with Bebel, I won’t, then this future you predict will simply not happen. Do you understand? Nothing is certain about the future. Only the past cannot be changed.

Only the past cannot be changed… She remembered the farewell in the harbor again.

“Well, you’re spot on about that, Luca. Whatever we have or haven’t done cannot be changed.”

He thought there was a hint of bitterness in those words.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean what I said.”

“OK, then let’s see. It’s your future against mine.”

“I don’t believe you… You’re waging a war of futures.”

“OK, Isadora, you want to break up. I get it.”

She didn’t answer. She just kept crouching, tying her shoelaces.

“But you won’t admit it. You just tell me I’m going to be with Bebel after you leave.”

Again, she didn’t answer.

“That’s really convenient, because I become the bad guy of the story! Very convenient. You’re nuts, but you’re pretty smart.”

“I have to go now, Luca”, she spoke softly. “My bus leaves at four.”

He looked at her firmly, restraining his anger.

“Go. The door is opened.”

He sat down on the bed, grabbed a random magazine nearby and began to read it.

“Luca…”

“I did my best, Isadora”, he said, flipping through the pages nervously.

“Look at me…”

“I swear I did my best.”

“Luca, look at me. We don’t need to break up like this, please.”

“I tried. But, you… this madness of yours… it’s taking a toll on me…”

He dropped the magazine and covered his face with trembling hands, trying not to cry. His heart was ready to blow up. The world was going to crumble in a second.

She tried to approach him, but he parried her motion without even looking at her.

“Go away, Isadora, please. Go before I get insane, too.”

She understood and smiled, and picked up her backpack. She knew that they had reached the end of the road, that all possibilities had been exhausted. He was the man of her life, right there, in front of her, yes, but he didn’t have the courage to admit he loved her and take the next step. She was afraid she might be losing him forever, the fear was gruesome, but she knew that she had better not push it. Leaving him now was the toughest decision she had ever had to make, but she had no doubt in her heart that she was doing what absolutely had to be done. Four hundred years prior, she had trusted Enrique, and he had failed her. Now, she knew she couldn’t trust Luca. Her only choice now was to place her trust in life. Life and its strange and ironic wisdom.

“I tried, Isadora, I really tried”, he kept repeating from behind his hands, that covered his face.

She walked silently to the living room, opened the door and left, shrouded in sadness and resignation. She had done her best, too.

.

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanity

CHAPTERS

prologue – 1 – 2 – 3
4 – 5 – 6
7 – 8 – 9
10 – 11 – 12

 


The Irresistible Charm of Insanitity 1

13/03/2020

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The Irresistible Charm of Insanity

Ricardo Kelmer – Novel – Miragem Editorial 2019
Translation: Luciano Espírito Santo

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Luca is a musician who likes to have control of everything in his life. He becomes involved with Isadora, a Taoist wanderer who believes he is the reincarnation of her master and lover from the 16th century. He will embark on a strange and adventurous journey that blurs the boundaries of sanity and madness, dream and reality, only to find that he has to figure out his true identity before he deserves the woman he loves.

In this unusual love story that takes place simultaneously in Spain in the 16th century and Brazil in the 21st century, flashes of déjà-vu (the feeling that you have witnessed or experienced a situation previously) are time portals through which we come in contact with past lives.

Blues, sex and double shots of whiskey. Dreams, mystical experiences, and secret societies. Funny and exciting, The Irresistible Charm of Insanity explores the intriguing possibilities of time, space, life and whatever it is that we may call “self.”
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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese/spanish

> In portuguese – blog 

> In spanish – blog (soon)

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PROLOGUE

He hugged her for a long time, cuddling, deeply absorbed in the feeling of having lived that moment before… He closed his eyes and tried to remember when he had experienced that same situation, but all that came to his mind was the idea of spinning, spinning… As if in a circle, spinning, always coming back to the same place… spinning around in a circle, always coming back to the same spot, continuously…

Frightened, he opened his eyes and came back to his senses. He felt a little dizzy. He looked around to reassure himself that he was still there, on the pier in a hazy morning in Barcelona. She was still cuddling with him in the midst of the hurried seaport workers. How much time had elapsed? A few seconds? Centuries?

“What happened?”, she asked.

“I don’t know, I felt dizzy…”

“You haven’t been yourself lately.”

“I need to go now.”

“Are you sure I can’t go with you?”

“We’ve already discussed that, Catarina.”

“What if…”

“I’ve told you, I will come back. In a month. I’ll take care of a few things in Lisbon then I’ll be back. Then we’ll make our trip to Brazil together. That’s our agreement, isn’t it?

“I’m scared, Enrique…”, she hugged him again and squeezed him intently.

“They are hoisting the sails”, he answered, feeling the wind blowing on his face. Drifting apart from her hug, he distanced from her and strode to the ship without looking back.

Minutes later, the ship set sail, moving away from the coast, and from the deck he saw her waving alone on the quay, in the morning mist. And he suddenly felt like she was repeating a very old gesture, one that felt as if it had been made before a very long time ago, a sad good-bye that was wrenching his heart. When was the last time they had bid farewell like this?

“I need a drink”, he thought, feeling a heavy weight on his soul. He turned around and went straight to his compartment.

He didn’t want to think about that anymore, but he knew that it was just the beginning of a long and burdensome journey.

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CHAPTER 1

Luca woke up started. He had been dreaming about a huge and dark deep pit right in front of him, a terrifying abyss… He rubbed his eyes, yawned long and loudly, and stretched his legs under the front seat. He looked out the bus window and watched the landscape pass by, the surrounding vegetation, the tiny modest houses stacked along the road and a mountain further down… Fortunately, there were no pits around him, he thought in relief.

He would soon be arriving at Pipa, the famous beach on the southern coast of Rio Grande do Norte. Six months had passed since he arranged to take a few days off his job at the print shop. Now, he finally had the chance to take this trip. His plans for the next four days until Sunday were to chill out and forget the problems he had left behind, in Fortaleza. He would be alone. No wristwatch, no mobile phone, and no Internet.

Well, almost. He’d brought his mobile phone with Internet access but swore never to use it except to check if some girl had sent him any messages, nothing else. And to see whether a friend who owed him money had finally made the deposit to his checking account. And to keep track of the ticket sales for his “Bluz Neon” band’s next gig, because that was very important, too. Just a little precaution so he wouldn’t lose control of his life.

He could see his face reflected on the window, the tousled hair, the drowsy eyes… and the scar on his right cheek which reminded him of the accident on the raft when the sail mast hit his face. He was a teenager, trying to impress a girl. Loving is dangerous.

At dusk, a few miles before arriving at Pipa, the bus made its way through a small town and Luca enjoyed the view from the top of a hillside. Down below, to his left, a huge, sprawling lake that funneled down into a river and flowed peacefully to the sea. The sun was setting down above the treetops and sprinkled reflections on the surface that were broken by pink river dolphins that jumped out of the water.

Luca was enamored with the landscape and felt that his eyes had been seized by a magnificent display of poetic, almost musical beauty…

“What city is this?”, he asked the lady sitting next to him.

“Tibau do Sul. It’s an old fishing village.”

He remembered what his friends used to say about Pipa: the gorgeous shores, the inns, partying in bars, people from all over the world… But that landscape right there…

He got up, walked up to the bus driver and asked him to stop the bus immediately. He had changed his mind. He would stay in Tibau do Sul.

With the backpack hanging from his shoulder and the guitar under his arm, he walked back along the road, past the town entrance, then towards the sea and the foot of the hill, where he saw a rustic bodega. He chose a table under the hut, ordered a shot of cachaça and sat down to enjoy the breeze and fragrance that came from the sea. A boat was anchored on the shore and a flock of seagulls frolicked in the distance. The sunset light bathed the landscape and produced a dream-like atmosphere. Suddenly, he felt as if he were slipping away from time and everything around him was floating, like a tract of land breaking loose from the landmass of reality…

He immediately felt the urge to let a song come out. It was a strong urge, the song really had to come out. He grabbed his guitar quickly and… no song came out. He tried several chords, but felt that none of them would do justice to the feeling he had in that particular moment. “Maybe some other time”, he thought, slightly frustrated while setting the guitar aside. And knocked back all of his drink in a single gulp.

*     *     *

It was already night when Luca arrived at the camping grounds, a small wooded area next to a creek that was rented out to campers by the owner, Ms. Zezé, a lonely, divorced woman. Alongside the grounds was her house, a small hostel and the restaurant. Everything was very humble. It wasn’t the high season or even a holiday, so the hostel was empty. So was the camping site except for a single, lonely blue tent.

“Underneath that mango tree you will find a nice spot with plenty of shade where you can rest”, suggested Ms. Zezé. “But before you go there, would you like something to eat? You look like you haven’t eaten much lately.”

“I’ll come back later, thanks.”

It took no more than a few minutes for Luca to put the tent up and change his clothes. A few steps to the north and he would be on the edge of the slope, the river waiting for him to have a swim a few yards down. It couldn’t be better. But the swim would have to wait another day. He was too tired for that.

At the restaurant, he had a sandwich and a soda, and another chat with Ms. Zezé. He also met her two teenage sons who lived with her and helped her run the business. He returned then to his tent and lied down. Sleeping, however, wasn’t as easy as he had expected. The simplicity and the beauty of that place were not enough for him to be in peace. Instead, his mind was crowded with a myriad of thoughts…

“Why can’t life be simpler”, he asked himself. It was quite the opposite, really. Constant awareness was a necessity to keep life in check. He had to be on high alert at all times to prevent the treacherous hands of destiny from ruining his chances of being happy. Why did everything have to be so difficult?

A constant and agonizing effort to lead a stable life and save money. That was his life in a nutshell. When he was 18 years old and studied Economics at the university, he used to imagine that soon he would be definitely well off, with no financial worries. But destiny took a different turn. After getting a job in a print shop, he dropped out of college and spent more time on practicing guitar, the good, old buddy that had been following him since his teen years. He was now 28 and everything was still as tough and unaccomplished as ever.

Two years earlier, he was still living with his mother Gloria and his sister Celina, who used to date the band’s drummer. His father died when they were very young and his mother never got married again. Now, the job as print shop manager helped him pay the rent of a tiny studio where he lived alone. Half a dozen gigs a month was barely enough for him to pay for his old Volkswagen Beetle, groceries, bills, a little whiskey, and nothing else. He lived on a very tight and carefully planned budget, always on the brink of desperation. His mother had already given up on convincing him of getting a real job and getting married. Managing a print shop, he used to say, was as far as he was willing to go. And about marriage…

“No way, Mom. Love puts life all out of whack.”

He was really tired. He felt that in spite of all the effort he had put in over the last few years, he was still running in circles, around the same spot, spinning endlessly…

He looked at the guitar laid down by his side. At least, he had the music. And the band. A couple of years ago, he had met Junior Rível, who invited him to sing in the band he was putting together. He wasn’t confident and hesitated to accept the offer.

“It’s a no-brainer, man”, insisted Junior. “Lots of gigs, lots of whiskey… and lots of women!”

Now, that was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“OK, I’m in”, agreed Luca, shaking the hand of his newfound friend. “Partying is all we have.”

“Hey! We could write a blues song about that.”

That’s how Luca and Junior Rível had become friends and that’s how the Bluz Neon band had been born. “Partying is all we have” soon became the band’s motto. Blues, rock’n’roll and irreverence in the nightclubs of Fortaleza. Fees were low and they would often even play for free, but the elation of climbing on stage made up for any losses. Besides, Bluz Neon was the perfect shelter for Luca to hide from the treacherous daylight. At night, he was safe. Everything was under control. Nightlife was safe with its clubs, whiskey, and loves that were kept strictly under control. Like a sweet dream. The only drawback was waking up the next day.

Your eyes glisten in the neon sign
It’s the thrill that sweeps from one bar to another
Happiness is a must, here and now
A smoldering romance in sight
Before sunrise reminds us, lovers
That dreams don’t last in the daylight

*     *     *

The next day, Luca got up late, still feeling exhausted. It had taken quite some time for him to fall sleep the night before, immersed in a thousand thoughts. Not even here, in this paradise, he could relax completely.

It was a bright, sunny morning in Tibau do Sul. Luca put on his sunglasses, got out of the tent and went to the hostel restaurant to have some breakfast. Later on, after a lengthy swim in the river, he returned to the camping grounds feeling more energetic. When was the last time he had gone into a river? He couldn’t remember. But he told himself he should do that more often.

After changing clothes, he got back to the restaurant to have lunch. And she came along.

“Hi.”

He turned around and saw a girl. She was attractive and about his age. She was wearing denim shorts, T-shirt and sandals.

“Hi”, he answered friendly.

“I’m your neighbor. I’m Isadora.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Luca.”

“Luca…”, she repeated, as if savoring his name in her mouth. “Luca…”

She laughed, staring at him. She thought he looked quite different while watching his slender body, disheveled hair, scar on his face…

“Are you alone?”, she asked.

“Not anymore.”

“Good! Have you had lunch yet?”

“Nope. Would my next door neighbor give me the honor and be my guest?” He made the courtship jokingly, bowing as if taking off an imaginary hat.

“Well… How could I refuse?”

At the restaurant, he suggested moqueca, a fish stew, which she promptly accepted. He noted her beautiful hazel eyes. He also noticed that she looked at him in a funny way that made him uncomfortable. The beer was brought to the table and he offered a toast:

“To encounters!”

“Not encounters”, she corrected, “Reunions!”

Reunions? He didn’t understand, but he didn’t mind. He just drank. She asked where he was coming from and he said he was from Fortaleza.

“Fortaleza… I will visit it someday. And what do you do for a living?”

“I work in a print shop, but music is my real passion. I have a band called Bluz Neon.”

“What kind of music do you play?”

“Blues, rock’n’roll and whatever feels right for the moment.”

“Sounds like fun. I’m from São Paulo. Have you been there?”

“No. But you don’t have much of an accent.”

“I lived in many places when I was a little girl. I’ve acquired a taste for traveling. I feel like I’m a citizen of the world, you know.”

“Aren’t you afraid of traveling alone?”

“Of course not.”

“If you need it, there’s a cybercafé in town.”

“Oh, no. No Internet for me on this trip. I didn’t even bring a mobile phone with me.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Let me put it this way… I need to get more connected with myself.”

“I see”, he answered, not quite sure if he really understood what she meant. How could anyone go on a trip without a cell phone? “And what do you do in São Paulo?”

“I used to work for a bank. But I quit my job for this trip. I’ve been exploring the northeastern coastline for a month.”

He thought she was attractive and interesting while taking a swill of his beer. But why did she keep looking at him that way?

“May I ask you one thing, Isadora?”

“Sure.”

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

“Oh, I’m sorry… it’s that… you remind me of someone.”

“Who?”

She twirled the glass around with her fingers, anxiously.

“What about you? Don’t you have a hunch that you know me as well?”

“Why would I? Have we met before?”

She smiled and failed to answer his question again. Luca thought he had better not insist. Maybe he reminded her of someone she didn’t want to remember. Yes, maybe that was it.

“Our meal is here”, he announced, pointing out the waiter approaching the table with the tray.

They helped themselves and began to eat. Luca was excited and ordered another beer. It was only the second day on this trip and he was already having a meal with an awesome girl… Not too bad. Cold beer, neighboring tents… Not bad at all.

“Have you ever lived in Spain, Luca?”

“No. Why?”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. Why do you ask? Have you lived there?”

She didn’t answer again. Instead, she smiled in embarrassment and looked towards the outside. Luca was still puzzled. She was mistaking him for somebody else, it had to be that. But she was definitely cute, no doubt about that whatsoever.

“Where are you going from here, Isadora?”

“Somewhere. No plans.”

“No plans? Wow, you must be a very optimistic person.”

“Of course. At the end, everything works out fine.”

“I admire your confidence in life.”

“And why wouldn’t I have confidence in life?”

“For the simple fact that if you don’t plan and take precautions, things get out of control. Don’t you think?”

She laughed as if he were joking and answered:

“Do you know when we really start having things under control?”

“No. But that is something I really want to know.”

“It’s when we give up trying to control them.”

Luca tried to wrap his head around that for a while. But he gave up.

“I don’t get it.”

“Well, if you don’t try to control things, then how could they possibly get out of control?”

“I see.” Luca laughed. He thought it was a joke, but soon realized she wasn’t kidding.

“Are you serious?”

“Of course I am.”

Her logic was impeccable, he thought. But too absurd to be taken seriously. All of his personal business, for instance, how could it possibly work out by itself? His job, his band, his rent, his car maintenance… What about his love affairs? How could all these things sort them out by themselves? No, that was definitely not possible. Life was like a huge cattle herd that had to be tended all the time. What Isadora was proposing was nothing more than mere romanticism. However, he had to admit that such nonsense had a certain appeal when it came from her…

After lunch, they hopped on the bus and headed to Pipa, where they walked around, visited the hostels and the shops, then had ice cream at the town square. Isadora told him about the beaches she had visited a few days before, how she had felt at home in all those places, and how she was getting to know more about herself by roaming aimlessly.

“What about you, Luca? Do you like to travel?”

“Yes. But not as much as you.”

“Are you afraid of getting lost?”

“I think I prefer the safety of my town. I really know my way around when I’m there.”

“I see. What about that scar?”

“Oh, this is a souvenir I got from a rafting trip. Actually, I wrote a blues song about it. Do you want to hear it?”

She did, so he sang the song:

Love is a dangerous thing
No one knows what I’ve been through
The abyss gave me vertigo
And my angst is still here, too
I don’t want the pain of another encore
I’ll be left scarred and sore
Just don’t ask me, baby
Don’t ask me to love you

“Did you have some kind of big disappointment?”, she wanted to know.

“As a matter of fact, I did. But it was a long time ago.”

“Even that kind of suffering has its positive side.”

“I guess it does. I’ve learned my lesson for good.”

“What do you mean? Don’t you want to fall in love again?”

“I prefer not to take the risk. Loving is dangerous.”

“It really is”, she laughed. “The best danger in the world.”

Luca laughed with her. But he didn’t really agree, of course.

*     *     *

Back to Tibau do Sul and the camping grounds, Luca invited Isadora to have something to drink. He had a bottle of wine in his tent and it was a lovely evening.

“I need to tell you something, Luca.”

“What?”

“I had a dream about you.”

“About me? When?”

“Six months ago.”

“But we still hadn’t met then.”

“I’m sure it was you.”

“Are you serious? Was it really me, like you see me now?”

“No, your image wasn’t very clear. But it was you.”

“I don’t understand. How is that possible?”

“Mysteries of life. What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Have you ever had a dream about me?”

“I would love to say ‘yes,’ babe…”, he almost said that. But he said: “No.”

Isadora seemed embarrassed, disappointed.

“In my dream, you asked me to meet you on this beach.”

“Are you really serious?”

“I am. I remembered everything when I woke up, I just didn’t know what beach it was. But I knew it was around this area, and there was a river nearby. Then, last week, when I arrived at Tibau do Sul, I felt that this was the place where I was supposed to find you.”

What did that mean, Luca thought while scratching the scar on his face and feeling increasingly puzzled. Was that some sort of flirting? If it was, it was very creative.

“You told me one more thing in my dream.”

“What?”

“That I had to help you.”

“Help me with what?”

“To jump into the abyss.”

“What abyss?!”

“I don’ know. You just said that. So here I am.”

“I swear I don’t know anything about an abyss”, he answered. And suddenly he remembered… He vaguely remembered a dream… He had dreamed about an abyss a few days before. Yes, it was a dark and terrifying abyss…

It was a coincidence, he thought, trying to get rid of that irksome memory. It was