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Strange Farewell

by Francisco Ruiz Fernández

Translated from Spanish by Sandra Bayona

In the sinister darkness, ripped by the truly ghostly light shed by half-wrecked candelabra, an irreverent clamour sounded: “Sobachus” we all shouted while the mourners, in orange deep mourning, moaned farewell to the dead friend.

Their stupefaction and anger before our none too respectful attitude were perfectly logical, and we all knew it. To cap it all in the eyes of the mourners, we were stinking drunk, each of us with a cheap, half-empty bottle of spirits in our hands. Besides, we should add our clothing: we were wearing extravagant harlequin costumes, sewn with red tears, almost as if mocking the ritual tattoos which, as lachrymose bluish silhouettes, covered the faces of our partners.

None of them seemed to understand that all that pantomime of ours, resembling a Roman Saturnalia (alcohol and chaos intimately joined), was just a last homage to you, Txan. That strange cry simply was another of the mental acrobatics you enjoyed so much, you pigmy drunkard, our beloved So Bacchus, capable of beating the very god of wine at drinking.

But reality could be changed by nothing done by those fake, crying creatures anchored in an already decrepit puritanism. And this became real in the fact that inside a dirty bilge in the northern section of the ship (a filthy den, maximum instance of decrepitude) the funeral of a particular person, the last of a long tradition, was being celebrated.

Your death had been announced day by day in your obsessive love for wine. But even though you left a hole in the hearts of your few friends, it was terrifying to admit that the death of the last dog-warden is a minor event in a voyage to a long-forgotten planet, a voyage now cursed by fate. However, degeneration — the rule of entropy — has long taken possession of this crew. Neglect has taken up our lives, and activities well regulated have passed into oblivion, or at most have been kept by a pigheaded person like you.

Bad are the times, and worse times await us.

The burial proceeded with the traditional sluggishness. In our drunkenness, we almost did not realise it. But at last it finished, with the launching of your body to the outside. The anomalous blue in that incomprehensible region of space where bad luck had sent us received your mortal remains. Our show continued, and it was then we tore all our clothes in mourning and pain. While I tore my costume, in the depth of my soul a fibre, tiny but painful, was torn to see your remains going away.

I thought ironically that maybe you, inveterate drunkard, in this your last trip would get what we had as a mission and which we now consider impossible: to spread Humankind beyond Earth, to pollinate new worlds.

Maybe your seed, or at least that of the bacteria from your corpse, subsist somewhere else which is not this wasted ship; maybe the priapic erection that you suffered just before you passed may not be the useless: a vain effort of your subconscious, it may render some fruit; maybe in the outer space there might be an unknown lover waiting for you, receptive to a new sowing.

Who knows?

I do not know what destiny keeps in store for us, and I guess I will die this way, not knowing it. If I must be honest, it is all the same to me.

The ritual finishes, and I am about to pass out because of the alcohol of hydroponic grapes. While my friends take me in an improvised stretcher to the nearest pub, my drunken mind rambles about the final fate of this multitude, the huge population aboard this generation ship, walled behind the titanium-and-steel hull. For a brief moment, the story transmitted from father to son comes to my mind, that tells of our predicament: we descend from a crew which, generations earlier, witnessed how its course was altered by the unexpected presence of a wormhole.

Cheers, fellows! Cheers! Now you are giving up this damned voyage. Maybe you discover what is behind that particular blue veil that surrounds us in its strange texture. It is so beautiful, that deadly fabric...

Copyright © 2005 by Francisco Ruiz Fernández

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