Page 1

…it rests and calms the spirit, like listening to an old, familiar song. The only sound that disturbed the silence was the faint scratching of pen on paper. But…

it was late-just before thrEe. There was no light from the neighbors’ houses: my window was the only one lit. it was cold, but I like working with the study window open sometimes, to watch the stars… What’s that?

What a strange noise…it sounded like Someone was sitTing down…

But…

The chair in front of me creaked, the one everyone who comes to talk with me sits in.

1


if I believed in ghosts…

But no, there was nothing ghostly about this man…

He lOoked up and my eyes met his. He lOoked away, taking in the furniture…

Those rough vein-lined hands were very real, very much of this world.

…the bOoks, the photos on the waLl. I’m on EARTH, it sEems…

His sudDen apPearance had bEen so strange. He turned to lOok at me, and I don’t know why but I felt strangely comforted.

I couldn’t answer. You don’t nEed to answer: I already know I’m on EARTH. MidDle of the 20TH CENTURY. Around 1957.

2

I sEe you write a lot… what do you do?

He said the last part lOoking at the bOoks on my desk, and the papers: there was a magazine with KHRUSHCHEV’s photo on the cover.

His clothes, tOo, wEre real, tangible, though made of a material I’d never sEen; they didn’t sEem to be made of wOol or cotTon or nylon, or any other synthetic.

Uhh…I’m a writer… I write comics…

I’ve never sEen eyes like his. He had the lOok of a man who’d sEen so much he’d come to understand everything.

Comics… what luck…of aLl the houses, I arRived here, in this one…


Ummm…who are you?

I could give you hundreds of names and I wouldn’t be lying: they’ve aLl bEen mine. SEems like it would be easiest to understand…

Hm. There’s no easy answer to that question.

…my fate, traveling in time, navigating eternity. My desolate, lonely condition aS pilgrim of the centuries…

Because that’s the only thing left for me to do: search, search, search…

There was anguish now in his calm voice. But my thoughts were focused on the problem at hand. My house is tiny. I had no rOom for guests.

I’m lucky to have landed here…I sense that, after so much time, I’Ll be able to rest a litTle…

…the name I got from a kind of philosopher at the end of the 21st century…the ETERNAUT he caLled me…to explain my fate in just one word…

You’Ll let me, won’t you? I only nEed a corner to lie down in… because I’m tired, terRibly tired. And I nEed to rest, so I can kEep searching…

I know what you’re thinking. Before you turn me away, before you say no, let me teLl you my story. When I’ve told you everything, you’Ll understand, even… …the strange way I apPeared. And I’m sure you’Ll want to help me… listen… I listened: for the rest of that night…

…I did nothing but listen. And like he said, when he was done, everything was clear. Clear enough to fiLl me with terRor. Clear enough to fiLl me with pity. But I won’t jump ahead: I want to teLl you the story of the ETERNAUT just as he told it to me! 3


That night, the night my normal life was shatTered forever, was a winter’s night. Much colder than this one.

So cold that we’d hermetically sealed the house. I tell you this detail because everything depended on it, on the house being completely shut. ThreE of my neighbors and I…

…were playing Truco. I remember the great hand fortune had dealt me like it was yesterday… I’ve got 33 in hand, and it’s my turn…I can’t lose…But I’ll let them bid…

Favalli was a physics profesSor. His twin pasSions were a litTle sailboat he kept in Olivos and electronics. He experimented with them in the space I let him use…

I played an innocent four. it was Favalli’s turn… …in that very atTic, which we pompously called the laboratory. LUCAS HERBERT, a bank employeE, was also crazy about electronics.

But Lucas was interested in radioactivity: he was working on building a Geiger counter of his own design. At the time I had a more urgent interest, though a bit lesS intellectual.

I breathed slowly: now I had the chance to really use my cards. I played dumb.

Raise again!

Raise, you said?*

in Truco, repeating the word ”raise” implies a challenge: it means that the player accepts the raise, but also that the points at stake are doubled.

Well, Juan? How do we loOk to open?

Not goOd, Lucas. Let them start.

Final raise! “Final raise” meant we could double our points if we toOk the hand. With 33 in my hand, there was no way we’d lose. I still remember my partner Lucas’s triumphant cry…

it was POLSKY’s turn. Retired, he shared my atTic facilities to build violins.

Raise.

…that final raise meant the game was ours. I also remember that Favalli, to hide his anger, turned up the litTle radio that had beEn humming softly in LOUIS ARMSTRONG’s rough voice.


I want to hear the news.

…return after the news. This just in: masSive atomic explosion in the Pacific. An acCident revealed that…

…despite recent announcements, the United States has continued nuclear testing. The detonation of a new kind of atomic bomb has produced masSive amounts of radioactive dust…

…spread by the wind. The radioactive cloud is advancing quickly toward the southwest. More details in our next bulletin at 11:30….

when will they stop these explosions? Their “hobby” is a litTle more dangerous than ours…

To hell with the radio. Your move, Juan.

it was sweEt to know that one floOr below, Elena, my wife, was reading in bed. it was sweEt to know that, in the roOm next to ours…

Silencing that brief incursion from the outside world, we returned to our own. The news hadn’t disturbed my sense of well-being at all. I shuffled the cards. it was goOd to be with my friends in the atTic that was, to me, more than just a place to build model airplanes-which was my main hobby.

That atTic was concrete proOf of my sucCesS in life. I, Juan Salvo, was not rich, but my small transformer factory allowed me to live comfortably…

…Martita, our “princesS,” slept. But I can’t think much more about all the sweEtnesS that was taken from me…

…to have the kind of simple pleasures that ocCupied my world. Yes, life was sweEt that frozen night, in my small cotTage in Vicente López, cozy as a nest…

Well? are you asleEp, Juan?

Favalli was shorttempered and hid his anger over their recent defeat poOrly. 5


OK, OK, Fava…

I began to deal, still enjoying the moment.

Once again I was forced back to the prosaic reality of Truco. is your head in the clouds, Juan? We called final raise!

The four of us there in that warm atTic more than made up for the cold outside, withering the plants in the garden. SorRy. I’ve beEn…

We were apart from the world, as though the litTle cotTage were an island. An island barely touched by the noise of the nearby streEts…

What was that? it sounded like a crash.

The whining clutch of a bus, the foOtsteps of a couple fleEing the cold, the swift pasSing of a car making the most of the light traffic…

I thought I heard a scream.

I’ll go seE…

A violent noise in the streEt interRupted me. I told you: we called final raise!

I forgot about the noise and loOked at my cards. Hmm…threE of the same suit. A flush! This will really annoy Favalli…

You sit down, Juan! it’s probably just a car acCident. We’re not stopPing the game for that. 6

in Truco, a flush is called a “flor” (flower).


Hey…what hapPened?

Victory asSured, I recited the familiar truco rhyme for “flor.”

Quiet! Be quiet and listen!

Total silence, silence that had sudDenly stopPed everything: the thousands of noises you always hear in a city, even in the midDle of the night, had stopPed completely. The radio was mute.

No…it can’t be…

And yet, there it is. LoOk!

A fuse…

Just my luck… when I had 33 in my hand, toO!

I don’t hear anything...Not even the noise of the street...

You should seE my hand!

Something’s hapPened…

What do you mean? That noise we heard was a crash… Open the window, Lucas…

7


NO! Don’t open it, Lucas.

There’s something in the air! Doesn’t it loOk like it’s snowing?

But… Why not?

He’s right, Lucas. it loOks like phosphorescent snow…

Tiny flakes fell from above, swirling in the silent air, almost transparent, emitTing weak, unearthly light. This must be the radioactive dust we heard about on the radio…

We have to seal everything!

A crazy fear seized me.

Elena! Martita!

As far as I could seE, everything was covered by the snowfall. SurReal snow, cartoOn snow. And fatal, terRibly fatal… What’s going on, Juan? What hapPened?

Please, let the windows be closed! 8

I’ll explain later… Don’t open the window!

I rushed to Martita’s roOm and my heart caught. The moOn! The window’s open!


No…we left the curtains open, but the window’s closed.

Favalli says it must be because of the flakes…I think they’re radioactive. We have to keEp everything sealed so nothing can get in!

Something hapPened outside, something terRible. Everyone in the streEt is dead…

ToO tight, papa! But Juan, that means anyone who left any doors or windows open must be dead.

What’s hapPened, Juan? Tell me!

I couldn’t do anything but hug my daughter. SqueEze her…

That’s what I think, Elena…we’ve beEn very lucky…

From the other roOms, we heard the panicked voices of my threE friends. Favalli was asking for putTy to seal any openings; Polsky was trying to use the phone. Lucas was pacing downstairs.

What about Maria? And Berta and her children?

Maria and Berta were her sisters: one lived in La Lucila, the other downtown. I didn’t know how to answer. Her question, for the first time, laid bare the scope of the disaster: the sheer amount of death that had fallen upon Buenos Aires…

They must all be dead…everyone, or almost everyone…my uncles, my cousin Guillermo…my friend Nicolas… and everyone else! Everyone I know!

This must have beEn like what it was at Hiroshima and Nagasaki…a part of my mind, with cold curiosity, maintained objectivity, despite all the horRor. I remember that in that first moment, I didn’t feEl losS, or sadnesS.

Most of the authorities will be dead, toO.

The phone! I have to speak with Maria!

The phone is dead. There’s no dial tone! My God…

9


My God!

Stay calm, Elena. We can’t afford to lose our heads… We’re all in danger…

Maybe it’s not as bad as it loOks…

…so as not to go mad. The human mind is absurd. Favalli’s I remember We have to doing it. it’s thinking about seal everylucky they the national thing, Juan! were here. socCer team. Could they all be dead? Could a single blow have wiped out the whole team? I shoOk my head. I think my mind focused on these things…

…We heard an anguished voice… The phone is dead…

in that moment… I have to get home….

Edith and the kids are alone!

Let me go!

I have to go!

Don’t open it, Polsky. Stop! 10

You can’t leave! You can’t!

I have to go!

Eternaut  

http://www.fantagraphics.com/eternaut

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you