24. Rebellion


Translated by Angela Telles-Vaz

    The death of Chump was followed by a period of silence and terror. Yes, there, nobody was willing to smile. My little friends told me that he had died as a result of too much beating. They spoke softly, fearful that another would listen and tell. Someone spoke about the funeral, about a wooden cross stuck on a grave. Playing stopped, the smiles fled from their cages like birds.
    The Angel of Death hovered over everything, like a black but invisible kite. The Angel of Death had the appearance of a white wax corpse: like a stone, the looks of a church saint, living-dead. He flew low and the mysterious muffled rustle of his cloudy wings could almost be heard. He came and went and, by feeling his presence, we looked seriously at one another, wanting to understand what was going to happen next. The eyes lowered, the heart stirred, like a wild cloistered puppy, who throws himself against the grids until he dies.
    Our little hearts full of fear.
    At night, he would also come to watch. Now his wings are made of frozen water. We tried to dream of our mother and sisters and godmothers but suddenly, noticed his face in front of ours, all black, with two holes for eyes and his breath was warm and smelled of rotting in wet soil. In a jump we would wake up. He had escaped. He would be breathing the face of another one. The mattress was pulled more, trying to cover also the head, but the legs, much shrunken, started to ache and the mattress fell off. The head would offer itself for another cursed breath.
    Gradually our terror ceased, sank like sand in water that was beginning to hum again. The cup of life returned to stillness, to the mermaids, to the small cars made of clay, to the ladybugs, who knows?
    Suddenly, everything is blurred and my heart races.

    Climbed on the wall, I see the big ones, screaming, cursing, I don't understand anything. I stick obstinately to Valdemar, fearful that we get close to the riot. They are on top of the wall, almost all, without exception. They throw stones and insults towards the priest's house. But the scream is always the same:
    I'm hungry!
    I'm hungry. This is not what they felt, they should be afraid to die from the beatings.
    It looked like a war, like a catastrophe, it was noise and too much horror for my frightened soul.
    Priest son of a bitch! I'm hungry!
    It wasn't a solitary and orphan voice. No, no! It was a crazy bunch of jackals, I'm hungry, that cried their throat out to the sunny sky, I'm hungry, a swarm of bees, priest son of a bitch, that someone made incited with a cane of fire, I'm hungry, an anthill under boiling water, son of a bitch, wasps willing to kill Achilles with ferocious stings on his mortal tendon.
    I'm hungry!
    We, the little ones, tucked in a corner, listened with cowardly attention, thinking about what would come afterwards.
    Sinuca arrived at the courtyard, shouted, roared, whistled, the big ones advanced with sticks in their hands, howling like a pack of wolves that found their prey.
    Pack of wild gorillas in anger. The supervisor came in and shut himself up.
    The stone throwing and the screams were fading. By then, we got the courage and, helping each other, climbed the wall to see, on the outside, the whole city in a circle, watching attentively.

    When the rebellion calmed down, the Angel of Death returned. With eyes of fire, it was no longer the Angel of Death but the god of Vengeance. Fear blew from the North and South and East and West and the shroud of silence covered the pack of jackals, drowned out the hum of the bees, started to suffocate the ants in distress and asphyxiated the rebel wasps. Shroud of terror.
    There's a flaw in my memory. As if, the next part that I lived, had been taken away from me. There's no fit between the previous scene and the next one.
    I'm already in the fatal line.
    The line runs through a corridor, up the stairs and ends up in a small room overlooking the dorms. There's a rumor up there, something like a waterfall of thin voice, no, no, something like the chant of crazy laundresses far away. Gradually, as we move forward the rumor changes. They are convicted souls now, who hallucinated, snarl. They are convicts that mourn with long moans. Now we can hear the sound of the correction paddle, mixed with the horrible cries. So much cry, and the paddle can be heard. It's a blow after another.
    Would this be the biblical weeping and the gnashing of teeth?
    "The angels shall come forth, and server the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth,"
    cries the huge man who looks like a giant of stone, victorious, in the center of the Sistine Chapel.
    We climb the steps do the slaughterhouse, to the bleeding. Somebody finds me. It's one of the big boys, he has already cried and gnashed his teeth, now is joined a group of old ones, that observe.
    Jorge, don't be afraid. Put out your hand, the other, repete without fear. Don't be afraid. If you remove your hand, he will hit with more power on top of the fingers. If you put out your hand with courage, he will hit lighter. Don't cry, don't be afraid.
     And he and the others also repeat to the younger ones: Don't be afraid, he hits a few times and move forward. Don't be afraid!
    Judgment day approaches, the earth shakes, the Lord of thunder explodes relentlessly, one, two, three, four, how many would they be?, but it wasn't enough to perceive the trumpets of the angels because the cry increased.
    The only consolation, the only relief, the only balm was that steady hand that held my shoulder and carried me, guided my steps, pulled me with delicate confidence, while the voice that I could no longer hear
    don't be afraid.
    His eyes lit me intensely, I felt no fear. In face of the god, he pushed me, I stretched my hand, the paddle fell on, my soul was on fire, I stretched the other one, my body charred, I continued to stretch my hand and felt that I had won the divine grace because the fury of the judgment decreased considerably. With burning hands, I started to cry and Zeus cried thunderous,
    the next one!,
    who stretched his little hands in distress, I didn't see, I heard the rays plunging in space and he began to scream desperately with his tiny voice of a child of six or seven years old, thin and malnourished.
    The dorm was the abode of pain and I always remembered that dark scene, when I was forced to pray a Hail Holy Queen:
    mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
    My little friends showed their hands, crying. We were ashamed of each other. All had, in place of hands, two inflated balls, with twisted fingers, bluish-red.
    Cringed in our beds, clumsy fetuses, sobbing, full of terror, there are times when the soul cannot think of anything.
    All the sobbing was drowned by sleep, as puppy dogs not wanted.

    On the next day, at dusk, we were put in line. The Priest! The black figure slid softly, walked in front of us, up and down, up and down. Finally, he stopped in front of all of us and threw up a mellifluous song, delicate and harmonious. The voice sounded like the skin of a small animal, fluffy, soft and warm. The black vulture walked and talked and kept moving up and down, up and down. I didn't understand anything. I understood that all was a lie. It was all very beautiful, but it was a lie. That silence of fear, the memories of the despair of yesterday, that was true. It was true. Not that voice slithering here and there, those sparkling little eyes; that snake stroll with its forked tongue stretched like the tail of the Chimera.  
    You are the salt of the world.
    In fact, all the tears of yesterday had been salted.

      to be continued on next sunday.