titulo

Palabras Errantes Latin American Literature in Translation

Palabras Errantes
The Second Sun

By Erika Mergruen. Translated by Rachel Randall.

español

Dawn was breaking. The entire plain was covered with a thin layer of cloud. The inhabitants were stretching, some in silence, others chanting a hymn bequeathed from one generation to the next. There arose the buzzing of insects, the roar of a predator and its victims’ fearless but attentive looks.

We set out to nibble on the fleshy leaves surrounding the pond. Nothing can beat the sensation of sinking one’s teeth into them, allowing that sweet, thick sap to drizzle over the corners of the mouth. Everything was both the start and the end of the cycle. We were grazing, ignorant of the event that was looming closer, barely moved by the tear that was beginning to shatter our familiar landscape.

At first, the second sun hung timidly in the sky, barely a small luminous dot. As the days went by, it increased in size like a hungry creature that would devour something up there, above. The second sun was different, during the night it did not sleep, as though it hoped to overshadow the light of the moon. It had its victory. The last full moon never came, neither would it return in subsequent years. The red sun, like the mirror of a crater, became the forebear of the cataclysm.

Some days before, a meteor shower forced us into prayer. Particles landed all around: on the ground, in the springs; one set light to the little wood of cycad trees. A whiff of sulphur floated in the atmosphere. At dawn, the early-risers went to drink from the spring: fish, molluscs and small reptiles floated on its surface, their swollen stomachs on display. Those fragments were the solar whisper of a wider poisoning.

The countdown began. Larger species emigrated to the north, the smaller ones to the mountainside; some amphibians submerged themselves in the depths of the last few clean ponds. For many there would be no possible refuge.

The second sun began to cross the curve of the heavens, retreating towards the horizon. It collided against a distant coast. The flash of the explosion turned our old, yellow sun pale. The temperature began to rise. A rain of large, dark, boiling droplets flayed our bodies. We ran, prisoners of terror. During the stampede many fell from the cliffs.  The youngsters were crushed under the feet of the specimens blinded by the first flash of light. In abandoned nests, eggs hatched to reveal lifeless embryos.

Now the sky was an immense flame. We waited uselessly in the swamp, which hardly relieved our burnt skins. We rolled around in the sticky residue of what, days before, was a clear pool of trilobites. The heat began to melt our lungs. In the end, our only consolation was to surrender: to melt into that perishing humidity.

We will await the passing of millions of years, the work of bacteria and earthly minerals, until the uncertain day on which a prophesied species opens up the belly of the earth and, under the yellow sun discovers fossils of crania, jaws, humeri and the shells of the empty eggs that transcribe our story.

El segundo sol

Amanecía. Toda la planicie estaba cubierta de una tenue niebla. Los habitantes se desperezaban, unos en silencio, otros entonando un cántico heredado de una generación a otra. Surgía el zumbido de los insectos, el rugido del depredador y las miradas impávidas pero atentas de las víctimas.

Nosotros nos dirigíamos a mordisquear las hojas carnosas que vigilaban el estanque. Nada mejor que la sensación de hundir en ellas los dientes para dejar escurrir por las comisuras aquella savia dulce y espesa. Todo era inicio y fin del ciclo. Pacíamos ingenuos ante el suceso que se avecinaba, apenas conmovidos por el rasgo que rompía aquel paisaje familiar.

Al principio, el segundo sol asomaba tímido en el cielo, apenas un punto diminuto y luminoso. Conforme los días pasaban, su volumen aumentaba como un ser hambriento que devorara algo allá arriba. El segundo sol era diferente, durante la noche no dormía como si ambicionara opacar la luz lunar. Lo logró. El último plenilunio jamás llegó, como tampoco regresaría en los próximos años. El sol rojo como espejo de cráter resultó el emisario del cataclismo.

Unos días antes, una lluvia de estrellas nos obligó a velar. Las partículas aterrizaban por doquier: en tierra firme, en los manantiales y una logró incendiar el bosquecillo de cicadáceas. Un leve olor azufrado flotaba en el ambiente. Al alba las criaturas tempraneras se dirigieron a beber al estanque: peces, moluscos y pequeños reptiles flotaban en la superficie mostrando sus vientres hinchados. Aquellos fragmentos fueron el susurro solar de un envenenamiento mayor.

La cuenta regresiva iniciaba. Las especies mayores emigraban al norte, las pequeñas al este rumbo a la cordillera; algunos anfibios se sumergían en el fondo de los últimos estanques limpios. Para muchos no habría refugio posible.

El segundo sol comenzó a cruzar la curva del firmamento alejándose hacia el horizonte. En alguna costa distante se impactó. El resplandor de la explosión empalideció a nuestro antiguo sol amarillo. La temperatura comenzó a elevarse. Una lluvia de goterones oscuros e hirvientes flagelaba nuestros cuerpos. Corrimos presas del terror. En la estampida muchos cayeron por los riscos. Las crías eran pisoteadas por los especímenes enceguecidos desde el primer resplandor. En los nidos abandonados los huevos eclosionaban mostrando embriones sin vida.

Ahora el cielo era una inmensa llamarada. Nosotros nos resguardamos inútilmente en el lodazal que apenas lograba aliviar nuestras pieles carbonizadas. Nos revolcamos en el residuo pegajoso de lo que días antes fuera remanso claro de trilobites. El calor comenzó a fundir nuestros pulmones. Al final el único consuelo fue no resistirse más al hundimiento en aquella humedad perecedera.

Aguardaremos el paso de millones de años, la labor de las bacterias y de los minerales terrestres, hasta el día incierto en que una especie presentida abra el vientre de la tierra, y bajo el sol amarillo descubra fósiles de cráneos, mandíbulas, húmeros y cascarones de huevos vacíos que transcriban nuestra historia.

Erika Mergruen (Mexico City, 1967). She has published the poetry collections Marverde (1998), El Osario (2001) and El sueño de las larvas (2006); the short story collections Las reglas del juego (2001) and La piel dorada y otros animalitos (2010); and a collection of microfictions El ultimo espejo (2013). She has been included in numerous anthologies and has translated the Danza Macabra del Cementerio de los Inocentes (2007) and a modern version of Dança General (2009). She won the DEMAC Prize for Mexican Women’s Autobiographical writing for her book La ventana, el recuerdo como relato (2002).

Rachel Randall’s fascination with Latin American culture was cemented during the ‘sandwich’ year of her undergraduate degree, during which she studied and worked in Brazil and Argentina. Upon completing her BA in English and Hispanic Studies at the University of Nottingham, she lived and worked in Galicia, Spain for one year, after which she returned to the UK to undertake an MPhil in Latin American Studies. She is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her project focuses on the representation of childhood and youth in contemporary Brazilian, Colombian and Chilean cinema.

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