Wednesday, 29 January 2014


When it started they all thought it would be a great advantage for the handicap mainly. It was, in a sense. I remember my grandpa got a new set of eyes and was able to see again. I mean, he was 115 already; he was one of the first ones. Before they picked him he’d lost his hopes. The only problem is that after that things kind of got out of control.

Do you remember, doc, the boy who received a liver while still in uterus? I think this was when it really started. It was just too much, you know? I mean, helping people is a nice thing to do, especially the old ones in need and everything. Like my grandpa: he understood what was going on and was grateful for all that. But then do that to an unborn child? They don’t even know what they are.

After the boy more and more babies were delivered already with bionic parts. That was crazy, doc. Be it an internal organ, limbs or even hair — I don’t understand, I really don’t understand. What’s the matter with being bald? We don’t see hairless people on the streets anymore. They’ve been fixed up before they were even born. There’s no differentiation; we’re all pretty much the same, except that some have more parts than others.

My father was one of the first “in uterus” cases, did you know that? He was born after my grandpa’s surgery, so they kinda offered him the privilege. They found out during a prenatal exam that my dad would eventually develop some kind of cancer in his stomach and then they replaced it with a bionic one. It’s a good thing, I guess. He’s 147 now, isn’t he? I mean, still healthy as a baby — he’s able to control the vitamins his body absorbs and whatnot. But is it fair? Everyone’s got one of this now. These things just make people lazier and lazier.

I still read books, doc. Did you know that in the past people would go on a diet? They had to. Not only for aesthetic reasons, no. Some people were actually allergic to things. I mean, as in they couldn’t drink milk or eat peanuts. Their organisms wouldn’t respond accordingly to some substances. How unthinkable is that? Took me a while to understand all that. Apparently it was a big thing in the 23rd century; they mention it on every book. There’s nothing about it nowadays, though. No studies, nothing. It’s like it never existed. 

The thing is: where do we want to get with all this? What do we still want to accomplish? People already live up to their 260s, and I wouldn’t be surprise if that chap from Okinawa made it to his 300s. I don’t even know why we die anymore! But what’s the point, doc? Why do we live like that? Our health is completely artificial, our bodies are manufactured by robots somewhere in the galaxy, even our happiness is somewhat invented. There’s dopamine in the cereal, for gods’ sake.

But I don’t want to live that way. I want real interaction with people, with the world. I want to learn things, not just order some new chip. We need to struggle, doc. This is the only way people build different things. This is the only way we develop. We’re still trapped in the 2700s, doc, don’t you see that? What have we achieved in the past few centuries? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Things have been exactly the same since Mars. Ever since we dealt with our last fear — what now?

Yes, I know this is the way the world is now, but don’t you think we’re exaggerating? I have my parts too — one of the lungs, some bones here in the right arm and my liver, but this only because they found out too late the gene that will lead me into alcoholism —, but how much is too much? Of course I am grateful for what they have done to me; it was preventive, even though I think I would enjoy breaking this arm at least once, you know? I’m not crazy, doc. This is human nature. We’re supposed to be weaker than the world around us. You see, even if I fall from an intercontinental hoover I wouldn’t break these bones. They’re indestructible. Trust me, I tried. Look at the scars. No, I didn’t want them removed.

And that’s what they want to do with my son, doc. They want to replace everything in him. If they go through with it he’s going to be 53 percent bionic, the first one to go beyond the limit. He’s going to be unbreakable. What is he going to be afraid of?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Mount Sullivan

It had been around for as long as everyone could remember. Books of history and geography alike had it mentioned in them. Wars had been fought upon and around it, with its various depressions and valleys working as natural trenches. It’s the Mount Sullivan I’m talking about. It even named our city. But then one day it simply woke up.

Aside the regular complications of a whole mountain suddenly arising from the ground of course there was a lot of distress among the population. An epidemic of heart attacks ensued on both old and susceptible young people (most of which of sturdy muscular complexion, who you’d think would be the most apt to fight the thing), and loads of people left with only their clothes on. Those who stayed were so appalled with the sighting of a moving creature who could pinch trees as they were mere pimples that all remained motionless. All residents were out on the streets just watching that ungracious being trying to find a more comfortable position probably to kill us all.

When a body of special military forces was finally assembled the thing had already seated on what looked like a lotus pose. It spoke our language.

“Thou shalt not fear,” it said solemnly. “I won’t be going about talking like yer aul’ fellas, I won’t. I know the way ye speak nowadays — I’ve been listening to it in my dream.”

Taken aback by the incredibly power of its voice — and also its accent of singular similarity to those of the adolescents who used to hang around the big “Sullivan City” sign, now a hanging earring on the mountain’s, well, ear — the army persisted on a defensive stand. Thinking about it now they were trembling from fear and the loudness of its voice, however the latter also affected everyone else and buildings within a five kilometer range.

“Sorry; I didn’t mean to cause any disturbance,” the thing now whispered, which still sounded like a rock and roll concert. “I know it seems a little bit odd, but I just want to be your friend. Well, I know exactly what some of you have been doing lately, don’t I?” Here it added a childish smile. “Right, Ralf? Stacey? It was right over my ear, guys.”

It took the population a little while to accept that our Mount Sullivan was now a living thing and another greater while to start to cope with the fact that he knew everything about everyone who’d ever been to the sign, ever, but once these things were settled and a more convenient way to communicate established Sullivan became part of the city’s landscape and culture. No one ever understood how he had learnt so many things having been asleep like forever nor what kind of creature he was, however his civilities towards the citizens and the airspace protection he provided proved enough to conquer everyone’s hearts. Sully was a friend of everyone’s and the guardian of the town, and with the precise advices of someone who sees everything from a privileged point of view he will eventually be proclaimed a saint.

That reminds me of the reason why I’m telling this story: not all abnormal creatures are bad for you. Some, of course, are — they climb skyscrapers, eat flying airplanes and talk about personal stuff in a business meeting —, but some definitely aren’t. You’ll only know for sure after its initial address to you. If it doesn’t know how to talk, which is commonly the case with outer space beings, you must always give it first the benefit of the doubt. You never know when you’re about to make a new, giant friend.

As for Sullivan, the city, it has since the occurred grown exponentially in both population and economy, despite many countries having ceased to trade with us because of the “menace to the standard-man self-esteem”. Sullivan, the man, an ex-mount, who has nothing to do with it, keeps going with his life, helping everyone, treating the ladies with the utmost respect and using his spare time for personal growth only, including activities like reading (some classics have been reprinted for him in a more convenient size) and taking care of the environment (replanting trees used in the paper industry and providing large quantities of natural fertilizer).

Long live Sullivan.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Lady of the night

Before I met Roberta (this is a fictional name; if I used her real one, Candy, you wouldn’t believe in this story) I had a much different opinion on the workers of the night. I thought them to be all very cynical, arrogant even, and that they only treated with respect and kindness those with money in their pockets. My brief encounter with Roberta on a summer evening, and our eventual intercourse later on, was sufficient to prove myself terribly wrong. I am grateful to her for that.

Roberta and I met for the first time in a rather unusual place for this kind of introduction. I was coming back home from a late shift and she was at the station reading “Madame Bovary” while the bus repeatedly failed to arrive.

“Oh, I’m used to it,” she said. “It’s always like that on Fridays. Who can blame them, right? It’s Friday.”

That sweet and stoical way of talking didn’t give me any clue on what I was about to learn. Instead it made me fight my own need to ride alone with my earphones on and engage in a conversation for a change. In my defense she had already closed her book and seemed interested in whatever I had to say.

“So,” I made sure to disappoint her. “Do you always take this bus?”

“Yes — yes, every time I go to work.”

Her constant smile, white but natural, wide but just enough, was captivating. It seemed like no matter what I had to say she wouldn’t be bothered. I wasn’t used to that. At the time it didn’t strike me it could be part of her job.

“This time of the day?” I asked.

“Well,” she replied. “One’s gotta do what one’s gotta do, right?”

Assuming from that she was a nurse the conversation went on just beautifully. She was always introducing new topics and making me feel comfortable; I just answered as plainly as I could trying not to look uncomfortable. I hadn’t had a chat with a stranger on a bus stop in years, probably since high school, so I had no idea of what would be polite to say and to what extent my touching her once we were inside the vehicle would be convenient. Her pushing me towards an empty seat when it arrived pretty much settled the matter and encouraged me to ask where I could find her later on for a cup of coffee.

“The Pinewood House,” she said promptly. “I’ll be there from now till six in the morning. You can come at any time and I’ll make some arrangements to be with you.”

I had no idea what the place was. By the name of it — and her profession — I assumed it was a retirement house. For that reason I decided to check in only later that night, to make sure the elderly would be already in bed and Roberta would be totally free.

When I searched the address on the internet nothing on the business came up. It must be new, I thought, that’s why I never heard of it. Or maybe this kind of place never got my attention before. In any case I put some cologne on and left to see my new friend. I could already picture her at the nursing room and shivered with the thought that she would want to introduce me to the other night-shifters. I have never been good with public appearances.

To my surprise when I got to the address I had in hands the place looked nothing like a resting house. It was surrounded by pubs and nightclubs, some of them of terrible taste, and its external decoration reminded me of Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard. The Pinewood House sign was minimalistic and dim-lighted, which led me to think it was closed and I would never see Roberta again. I checked again on my phone and there was no other business with the same name in the city. I felt miserable again, and looked around deciding where I would end up my night in. Alone.

But then out of the dark porch came a flashlight followed by a person wearing a police cap. It took me a few seconds to recognize her.

“I thought you were not coming anymore,” Roberta grinned. “Come on in; let me show you the place.”

She was not a nurse after all. The Pinewood House was a furniture store during the day, and my friend took care of it during the night. Roberta was the watchman, a night guard who reads Flaubert at the bus stop and talks to strangers in a pleasant way. I was really surprised.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

There's no place like home

Going to Brazil — or rather “home”, for all that matters — as a mere visitor is an unique and enlightening experience. It gives you the opportunity to see the things you know all too well from a slightly different point of view. You are able to perceive minor changes in appearances and behaviors that you wouldn’t otherwise, and even your level of acceptance is much higher towards some of the stuff (or people) that would annoy you on a daily basis. The most important realisation ensued from a visit like this, however, is that nothing in fact ever changes.

Yes, of course you might get shocked when seeing for the first time that cousin who’s gone into puberty during your absence. He’s now wearing only black, gothic clothes and talking back to his mom in front of the whole family; he’s experiencing those kind of developments both in body and mind that are not always comfortable. But you know, and you’re probably the only one who can see it, that his essence remains the same. His voice is the same, although lower in pitch and higher in stiffness; his hair looks exactly as before, except longer and dyed black; even his way of walking hasn’t changed, only now he struggles to balance on some high heeled boots. Only you can notice in his eyes the same old caring grandson and promising child. It’s all just a phase.

When it comes to catching up with your friends, which really isn’t the same in time of internet, Facebook and WhatsApp, this soothing feeling of sameness is even more accentuated. Your best friend is still your best friend, with the same idiosyncrasies that you always hated; your second best friend is still there for you no matter what; and your third best friend is also there, still waiting for a chance to step up in the ranking. That is because the reasons why you were once brought together haven’t changed a bit. Circumstances might have done so, which gives the impression that your friendship has somehow been altered, but few minutes seated at the same table and drinking from the same bottle is enough to bring everything back.

Learning that nothing ever changes is a very relaxing realisation. It gives you the freedom to go out there and try to shake things up a little bit. It provides you with the necessary courage to dive into the darkness of the unknown just for the sake of an adventure. Because you’re now aware that whenever you want it — whenever you need it — your happy and comfortable old life will be there waiting for you. With the addition of some spikes and eye markers, of course, but still the same convenient environment where you’re sure to be loose and satisfied.