Sunday, October 16, 2011

FICTION: The Moon and the Electrician by Steve Simpson

The thunderstorm rolled in from the sea and hovered over the serra. Lazy filaments of lightning lit up the clouds, and rain began falling on the cemetery. It was the evening of All Soul’s Day, and sodden chrysanthemums sagged against a few of the wooden crosses marking the graves.

Something poking up through the mud caught the attention of a gray fox. It sniffed around, dug a little and tore off a morsel, a finger that wriggled like a pale slug between its teeth.


The electrician sat at a table by the door, sipping his coffee and ignoring the diehard revelers in the praça outside. They were celebrating All Soul’s Day in their own special alcoholic way, which evidently didn’t include prayers for dear departed loved ones.

Alacantra, the company he was working for, had paid for his accommodation in a tourist hotel overlooking the harbor at Paraty, with few enough guests that they were happy to accept a long-term occupant at a reduced rate. The hotel was comfortable, and quiet, except for holidays like today, when the rooms were rented out by the hour. The sounds that moaned through the thin walls from the hourly guests kept him awake, reminded him that he was alone.

So the electrician was passing his time in a late-night bar at the praça with a pingado in front of him. He took another sip, it was latte colored, but it didn’t taste quite right. It was like his job at Alacantra: a new office, an imported computer, but something he couldn’t put his finger on made him uneasy. He ran through what he’d seen of the place, he’d been there a little over a month, and tried to pin down the source of his unease.

Alacantra manufactured metallic glass alloys for the construction industry, structural materials so attractive that architects put them on the outside of buildings, in buttresses and rings around skyscrapers like the pearly visions of a 1920’s utopia. The factory complex ran day and night, with four shifts, fed by a stream of trucks from the open-cut selenium mines in Minas Gerais, but it wasn’t enough to meet demand. That was why they’d hired him, to do an energy audit and design the new electrics for the expansion that would draw more power from the ElectroBras grid.

The worker’s village was up the road from the factory complex, rows of boxes made of cinder blocks stacked on cement bases, looking like they’d been built by oversized children, but with power strung from hut to hut, fresh water and sewers, still a good standard compared to the slums along the Dutra highway.

It all made perfect sense, commercial sense. And then there was the graveyard. He could see it from his office window, white crosses clustered like lambs on a steep slope to the north. He’d heard a few stories, but superstition was par for the course in Brazil. On his last job at the Itaipu power plant, the technicians had solemnly informed him that the ghost of Lieutenant Firmino, who’d founded the Portuguese settlement at the Iguaçu Falls and whose massive statue graced the entrance hall, liked to have the occasional stroll around the corridors at night.

At Alacantra they talked about mudslides in the cemetery, exposed body parts eaten by wild animals, field foxes and jaguars, and, in whispers, about lost souls.

“Excuse me, senhor.” His thoughts were interrupted by the cashier, a short dark-haired woman who always had a pilot light cigarette when she was working the register. “I’m sorry, we’re closing now.”

He looked around and noticed he was the only customer in the bar. The cashier didn’t seem particularly sorry. In fact, since he’d mentioned he was working at Alacantra, she’d been quite brusque, except for occasionally correcting his Portuguese and once suggesting he could probably attend primary school classes to improve it if he brought his own chair.


On his way back to the hotel there was a power failure. It wasn’t an unusual event in Paraty, but the electrician got lost in the darkness and found himself in an unfamiliar area. Someone whizzed past him on an invisible bicycle, too quickly to ask directions, but apart from that he saw no-one. He could knock on someone’s door, ask for help, but it was past midnight, and he kept wandering down Paraty’s coarsely cobbled streets, hoping to see a landmark he recognized.

Eventually, when the cobble stones gave way to gravel, and knew he had to be a long way from hotel, he saw a dark shape shuffling slowly towards him. The figure stopped in front of him, drawing deep shuddering breaths, and in the moonlight, the electrician could make out dark discolorations on the stranger’s cheeks.

“You look lost, senhor.”

The old man, who introduced himself as Pedro, offered to show him the way, since he was going in that direction. “It’s not contagious, I have a chest problem,” he said, although the electrician hadn’t asked. “It’s cooler out here at night, that’s when I like to get some exercise.”

After a few minutes, the power reasserted itself, and the mercury street lights stuttered into life. The electrician realized he’d been mistaken about Pedro. He was a young man, pale faced except for the sores on his cheeks, and with deep sunken eyes.

“My house is just here. Why don’t you come in for a drink to celebrate All Soul’s Day? I’ll draw you a map to get you back to your hotel.”

The electrician didn’t see why not.


After he’d lost track of the number of bottles of pinga, cane spirits, they’d shared, a car pulled up outside. Pedro drained his glass. “It’s my big sister.”

“I’ve brought your medicine from Dona Iracema,” she called from the hallway.

“We have a visitor, Célia,” Pedro called back. Célia came in, and the electrician recognized the cashier from the bar. She saw the bottles on the table and frowned.

“The gringo is an impressive drinker, I only had one glass.”

The electrician remained silent. In any case his tongue was numb, like a dead fish in his mouth.

“I don’t think so. At the bar he only drinks coffee. With milk.”

Pedro shrugged and poured himself a refill. Célia frowned and lit a cigarette. “Pedro has lung cancer, he can’t work any more, and he shouldn’t drink.” She turned to Pedro. “Did you know your companion works at Alacantra?”

“You’re not working in the purgatório, are you gringo?”

The electrician had heard the nickname the workers used for the main hall where the metals were electrically smelted and refined. It made sense, he supposed, purgatory: a place of purification. They wore suits fitted with palladium filters and air pumps because the vapors given off by the selenium and hexavalent chromium were highly toxic.

“No, I’m working the engineering section, on the new electrics for the plant. Why do you ask?”

“I used to work in the purgatório, that’s how I got sick.”

The electrician was shocked. “But there are the suits, safety regulations, protocols. How could that happen?”

Célia said nothing, just looked at him. Pedro raised his glass in a toast. “Here’s to regulations and protocols.” The electrician saw dark scabs on the back of his hand as they touched their glasses.

When they’d finished off the last bottle, it was time to go. The electrician thanked them for their hospitality. He hesitated when he said goodbye to Célia, still wondering about Alacantra, his mind too soggy with alcohol to think clearly.

“Try not to get lost again, gringo. I’m sure I’ll see you when you want one of your coffee milkshakes, caio.”


“What if we stop off for a couple of quick rooster tails?”

Once a week, the electrician traveled to Santa Efigênia in São Paulo, where dozens of small stores sold electronic bits and pieces that were hard to find anywhere else in Brazil. He’d come to know his regular driver, Salvador, an old man with a big nose, who’d been cheerfully pointing out the burnt-out shells of trucks and buses by the side of the Dutra, the Rodovia Presidente Dutra to the dead president’s friends, and explaining why the section of road they were currently negotiating at a reckless speed was called the Straight of Death.

“Yeah, sure.”

Over the drinks, which turned out to be sweet vermouth and cane spirits, the electrician thought it was time to try to find out a bit more about Alacantra, and with any luck, lay his vague disquiet to rest. He asked Salvador about the graveyard.

“Alacantra is a caring employer, they take good care of their workers, in this life and the next.” Salvador grinned, and the electrician thought about cleaning his teeth more often. “So those are the graves of employees?”

The old man nodded, finished off his cocktail and slid the glass across the counter for the bartender’s attention. “It was a busy place a couple of years back, a real growth area for the company.”

“Anything to do with the purgatório?”

“There was a scandal, a story in O Globo. The company said the deaths were just coincidental, nothing to do with the purgatório, but they improved the suits anyway. Back then it was just face masks.”

“So the cemetery is quiet now.”

“They’re not digging any more graves, if that’s what you mean. Alacantra has solved that little problem.”

“It’s just that I think I’ve seen something, people in there, during the thunderstorms.”

The tropical thunderstorms came over regularly in the evenings. The phones in the corridor would all start ringing in time with the lightning, and it wasn’t safe to go near the computers, so there was always an unscheduled coffee break. Unless he had paperwork to do, the electrician spent the time staring out his office window at the graveyard, and in the stroboscopic illumination from the lightning flashes, he’d seen dark shapes moving.

Salvador crossed himself. “What they are depends on what you believe, senhor doutor. They’ve found some bodies there, out of the ground. We’ve had a long wet season this year, a lot of rain, and some say the bodies have been washed out by mudslides. Others say they are lost souls, and that they are seeking revenge on Alacantra.”

There was something about what Salvador had said that that made the electrician think he wasn’t getting the whole story, but it was a long trip to São Paulo and back, and he needed time to search for components in Santa Efigênia.


On the return trip, the electrician suggested they stop off for a night cap, and Salvador pulled off the Dutra at the morning’s bar, a ramshackle collection of sheds outside São José dos Campos. When they went in, and the telepathic bartender put two cocktails down in front of them.

“What you were saying about the purgatório, the suits, you don’t believe it do you?”

Salvador shrugged. “Those shiny tinfoil suits, the workers look like astronautas, but they aren’t going into outer space.”

“I don’t understand.”

“The suits are a joke, they only slow things down a little. Now Alacantra buses in workers from Bahia, Minas Gerais, even foreigners from Paraguay. They put them up in the village and give them strict six month contracts, pay them well. It means they don’t need more places in their own cemetery. They go home and they’re buried somewhere else, far away from Paraty.”

The electrician had already accessed the accommodation records in the workers’ village as part of his energy audit, wondered about the short term stays. He knew that Salvador was telling the truth. There was a sudden hollowness in his stomach, and he finished his drink in one mouthful, pushed the glass across the counter.


Important beliefs aren’t changed by a single event, the evidence builds up gradually like weights on a scale, until the scale suddenly tips. The electrician was at the tipping point, about to see the company that paid his salary, that looked after him so well, in a different light. Alacantra’s profits were blood money, its success was built on the drawn-out and painful deaths of innocent workers.


The short black cafezinho was too strong for his taste, but it didn’t matter. He hadn’t come to the bar for coffee, he wanted to talk to someone about Alacantra, and that someone was Célia. She came to his table and asked him how he’d liked real Brazilian coffee. “Delicious,” he lied, and told her he wanted to talk somewhere private.

After work, she drove him back to his hotel, and as they walked across the seaside park in front of the Santa Rita de Cássia church, Célia stopped for a smoke break. The sea was calm, and the moon, almost full, was hanging low in the sky over the breakwater like a Paraty postcard.

“We can talk here. What about Alacantra, gringo?”

He told her what he’d found out from Salvador and from his own investigations. “It’s still going on. I’ve spoken to some of the workers, they have sores on their arms and legs. The company tells them it’s the suits rubbing on their skin, they give them skin cream.”

“That’s how it starts.”

“We have to go to the authorities, we have to stop them.”

Célia looked at him with the ‘you naive gringo’ face he’d already seen at her house. “That won’t work, you know that. I’d like to see the whole factory go to hell.”

“Yes, I suppose.” The electrician paused. “Well I’m going to do something,” he heard himself say, and because of Pedro and the other victims, because of Alacantra’s callous evil, and because of Célia, he realized he meant it.

“And what do think you’re going to do, gringo?”

He could hardly believe what he was thinking, what he was about to say. “If the furnaces in the purgatório were accidentally overloaded, the metal would boil off, it would make a flammable mixture in the air. A spark would cause a tremendous explosion.”

“That would be a real tragedy.”

“I know how to do it, but it’s impossible. Even if someone overloaded the furnaces, they couldn’t survive in the purgatório long enough to set off the explosion.”

“It’s a good idea, gringo.”

“I don’t think so. It can’t be done.”

Célia looked out across the sea. “Do you ever wonder about the moon? Why do we always see the same side? Perhaps one day it will turn around and show us the other side.”

As far as he could recall, the electrician had never wondered about the moon, but apparently Célia did, and in Brazil, if you were an electrician, or any sort of professional, everyone assumed you were qualified in everything, including astronomy.

“It’s called captured rotation, we always see the same side. That will never change.”

“Remember that the future is imprevisível, senhor electricista. You can’t be completely sure. You will think of a way to make your plan for the purgatório work, and I will help you.”


The electrician continued his energy audit at Alacantra, didn’t arouse suspicion, while he worked on his special project whenever he could. He’d come to know more of the workers, and found out more about the graveyard. The reburying was done by Ricardo, a swarthy man with a bushy moustache that looked like it was glued on.

“They give me a title, seu doutor, Coordinator of Cemetery Maintenance, but no extra pay. Coordinator of Shit is more like it.”

The electrician sympathized, said he would put in a good word with management. “I’ve heard it’s mudslides washing the bodies out.”

“Right, uphill mudslides, I’ve found bodies twenty feet up the slope from their graves, without any of the marks they’d have if wild animals did it.”

“But it does happen when it rains, doesn’t it?”

“Not rain, seu doutor, it’s the lightning, there has to be a thunderstorm.”

The electrician had an idea what was going on. The bodies in the cemetery were contaminated with rare metals from the purgatório, they were electrically conductive. Now it was time for some first-hand observation.


“You don’t have any concerns about the living dead, do you?” the electrician enquired nonchalantly. He’d asked Célia to come with him for the Saturday night graveyard shift, and he was working on a little Latino style machismo.

“There is nothing to fear from the dead.” She smiled. “Anyway, I’ve been on worse dates.”

He’d parked halfway up the slope, where they had a good view with the Renault’s headlights shining into the cemetery. Célia smoked, and the electrician opened the windows, letting the smoke seep out into the rain as they waited. Lightning was already flashing across the sky, and suddenly it struck a sassafras tree further up the slope, splitting the trunk open with a sharp crack.

Célia pointed. “Look. Over there, on the ground.”

The electrician ran out through the spattering rain with Célia following, to a grave where a hand was clawing up through the mud. He started digging, feeling a tingle of electricity in his fingertips, until the body was free.

The figure crouched and stood up, thankfully covered in a layer of mud. It wiped a hand across its eyes, leaving two dark holes because it had wiped away its decomposed eyeballs with the dirt. The creature turned around blindly, not seeing Célia or the electrician, and walked off in a random direction. After a few steps the body fell, a motionless lump on the ground.

“When lightning strikes, electricity flows out along the ground. It’s because of the toxins from the purgatório in their bodies. The surge of electricity reanimates them, but it only lasts while the electricity is flowing. When they stand up it stops.” The electrician had been whispering in Célia’s ear, for no real reason.

“And you think you can keep them alive.”

“Yes, and these poor souls will have vengeance on their mind, they’ll want to help us destroy the purgatório.”


The following Monday, the electrician borrowed a purgatório suit, on the pretext of measuring the power consumed as part of his audit. He made measurements, compared them with current of charged ions that radiates outward through the earth from the point of a lightning strike, and the numbers worked out. He modified the suit, added internal electrodes, straps and pads soaked in salt water, and removed the filters. He tried not to think about what he was doing, he told himself it was just another project.

When he returned to his hotel after work, he found Pedro waiting for him. Pedro couldn’t stand up for long, and they sat together on a bench facing the sea. The fishing fleet was out that evening, and behind them on the grass square in front of the church, dark skinned boys balanced a tired football on their knees, danced it around their feet.

Pedro was dark haired like his sister, with looks more reminiscent of the Spanish conquistadors from the other side of the Andes than the Portuguese who’d colonized Brazil. He was wearing a long sleeved sweatshirt, even with the rainy season’s oppressive humidity. He saw the electrician looking at the patches of blood soaking through.

“These are not the problem, senhor doutor. Inside my lungs is the problem.”

For a time they sat in silence, with the setting sun bleeding shades of pink and orange into the sky beyond the breakwater.

“At Alacantra, I always wore my suit, I was never careless, but we all got sick, all my comrades, and most of them are long gone. I’m the last, and now I’m going to join them.” Pedro coughed into a blood stained handkerchief.

“My sister told me what you’re going to do. I can help you. You tell me what to do before I die, and afterwards, when I’m dead, I’ll do it. I am ready.”

A car pulled up beside the church, and a moment later Célia came running over to them. “I thought I’d find you here. I know what you’re planning. Pedro, please, not this. This is unholy.”

“It isn’t vengeance, it isn’t punishment. That is for God. But what is happening at Alacantra, going on and on, that is unholy. It has to be stopped, querida.”

Célia sighed. “Pedro, are you certain about this?”

“I will ask only one thing, please return whatever is left of my body to the church graveyard. My soul might be going to hell, but my body will rest in holy ground.”


Lightning arced over the cemetery, Célia tried to light a cigarette between the raindrops, and the electrician kept his attention focused on Pedro’s body, which was lying in a shallow open grave dressed in the modified purgatório suit. “It shouldn’t be long now.”

Pedro sat up and clambered to his feet. He looked around, didn’t greet his sister or the electrician, but seemed fascinated with the Renault’s headlights. He walked over to the car with a shambling lopsided gait, crouched down and touched a gloved hand to a headlamp. The electrician came up behind him, “Pedro, are you okay?”

Pedro turned suddenly, growled and bared his teeth, and struck the electrician a stinging blow to the side of his head. He fell to his knees.

“Pedro, what’s come over you? You’re behaving like an animal.” Célia came to help the electrician, and the creature that had been Pedro charged at her, grunting and snarling, and knocked her over backwards into the mud.

Pelo amor de Deus, switch him off,” she screamed as the creature pinned her on the ground.

The electrician, still dazed, fumbled on the backpack of Pedro’s suit and found the power switch. The body collapsed and Célia rolled out from underneath, covered in mud.

Pelo amor de Deus, switch him on again,” she screamed, “he’s dying.”

The electrician threw the switch again and spun the voltage control down to trickle charge. There were tremors in the creature’s limbs, and when he rolled him over, his chest was rising and falling.

“I’m sorry, this is a disaster. It’s not Pedro, it’s just an animal.”

“We’re missing something, gringo. Pedro is more than just a body. We’ll take him to Dona Iracema.

She’s a holy woman, she prepared medicine for Pedro, for the pain. If anyone can help us, she can.”

They cleaned the mud off Pedro’s suit and strapped him into the back seat of the car, putting his helmet on to attract less attention.


“She’s a bit deaf,” Célia whispered as she knocked loudly enough to wake the neighbors several streets away. A sound of flustered hens came from somewhere out the back of the wooden shack and a grumbling, “I’m coming, I’m coming.” An old indian woman wearing a robe with a few dyed feathers attached answered the door.

The electrician recognised Dona Iracema from the praça. He’d seen her selling trinkets to tourists, everything from painted statues of Brazil’s black Madonna to incense that was guaranteed to turn an acquaintance of choice into an infatuated lover.

“Dona Iracema, we need your help.” Célia kissed her on the cheeks. “This is–”

“I know who he is, querida.  I am Dona Maria Iracema do Carmo Miranda.” She turned her head expectantly, and the electrician followed Célia’s suit.

They’d left Pedro in power saving mode in the car, and Célia, too muddy to come into the house, told the story on the front step. Dona Iracema produced a half full bottle of pinga and shared it with the electrician, and Célia gave her a cigarette that she smoked thoughtfully between mouthfuls.

“You want to be heroes, my children,” she said. “That’s fine, but you should have asked me first. We all have two sides. Our spirit casts its light on everyone around us, and keeps the dark side, our base instincts, under control. Pedro’s spirit has already left us. You have revived only his dark side, senhor electricista.”

Célia sighed. “So that’s it, we have to rebury him,” the electrician said.

Dona Iracema shook her head. “Mother Ja Cy, the Tupi Moon Goddess, is full tonight, and the real Pedro, his spirit, wants to help you. Ja Cy can call him back … for a time. Where is his body?”

“He’s sleeping in the car, Dona.”

“He must be awake for the ceremony.”

The electrician tied Pedro’s body to the wooden fence and removed his helmet, while Célia set up a semicircle of incense candles in empty pinga bottles. Dona Iracema reappeared carrying a bowl filled with enormous dried petals. “These are very important. My grandmother was Tupi, she taught me the ritual.”

“What are they, Dona?”

“Could you crush them for me?” Dona Iracema passed him the bowl and watched him work while she finished off the pinga.

“Long before the Portuguese came to Brazil, there was a young warrior, Naiá, who belonged to a great Tupi tribe. She had one desire, to be taken by Ja Cy, the Moon Mother, as the other girls in her tribe had been, to shine as stars in the firmament next to Ja Cy.

“She searched through the mountains near her village every night, but Ja Cy never came. One night, deceived by the moon’s reflection, she dived into a lake and drowned. Finally Ja Cy took pity on her and turned her into a Star of the Waters. That is this flower.

“When I scatter the petals on Pedro’s body, Ja Cy will come. Of course the gringos would call it a Queen Victoria lily, and you, senhor electricista,” Dona Iracema fixed him with calm brown eyes, “you don’t believe a word I’ve said. But perhaps one day you will understand that the truth has many ways.”

Célia had finished lighting the candles, and they were ready to begin. The neighbors had appeared in the street, woken up by Célia’s knocking and curious about what was going on. Dona Iracema greeted them, “Rosinha, did that potion work on your boyfriend?” But seeing the shape resting against the fence, they feared she was practicing candomblé, dark magic, and no-one came too close.

From inside the yard, the electrician turned up the voltage on Pedro’s backpack. Pedro growled, bared his teeth and pulled against the rope tied around his waist, trying to claw at Dona Iracema as she circled him, chanting her call to Ja Cy and throwing the Star of the Waters petals in his face.

Nothing happened, and the electrician noticed cracks were appearing in Pedro’s cheeks with pale fluids fizzing in them. There was an acrid smell penetrating the stench of decay.

“I think the electric current is accelerating the body’s decomposition, it’s electrolyzing. I don’t know how long we have.”

The moon, which had been obscured by clouds above the serra, suddenly appeared. Pedro’s face was illuminated as brightly as daylight. The growling and grimacing stopped, and he drew a long rattling breath through the mud clogging his throat.

“Thank you, Dona Iracema.”

“You are welcome, Pedro. Please untie him, senhor electricista.”

Célia, who had been watching in stunned silence, found her voice, “Pedro? Pedro, meu amor, is that you?” The figure nodded, and Célia ran towards him. Pedro raised a hand, the slightest gesture, and Célia stopped.

Queridinha, we don’t have long. There will be no more death at Alacantra.” He turned to the electrician, “Let’s go.”

It was still the rough voice with bubbling drool running from Pedro’s mouth, the shambling body, lopsided features that were part flesh and part mud, but something had changed. An invisible light was shining out from Pedro, and, even as he thought it, the electrician had no idea what he meant.


At Alcantra’s purgatório, the whistle sounded for the midnight shift change. Tired figures in suits straggled out through the air lock and went to the change room to shower. They chatted, in Portuguese, in Spanish and some in Guarani, and scratched at the small sores on their arms and legs. They were grateful their bosses had warned them about the rubbing sores from their airtight suits, given them skin lotion. They drifted up the road to the worker’s huts, thinking of their paychecks, the cash for their families back home.

When the workers for the next shift reached the airlock, one of them stood blocking the entrance door. He raised his arms in stop signs, and addressed them.

“There will be no more shift work here. You must leave this place. Run for your lives, go as far as you can. The purgatório is venomous, it’s killing you all. Go back to your homes, to your families.”

“What are you talking about, louco?” one worker said, then another, “This is a joke, is it? We’re paid to work here.” The indians started talking together in Guarani.

“Run,” the figure said and pulled the helmet off his head. “This place is death, and I’m going to send it to hell.

The workers at the front fell backwards instinctively, some screamed for help from the gods, the indians crossed themselves. “Corre, corre,” someone yelled, and they ran.


The electrician saw the windows of the factory beginning to reflect light, silvered like mirrors with condensing metal. A few minutes later there were flickering flames in the windows of the switch room, and he knew Pedro had caused an electrical fault, started a fire. If the electrician’s calculations were correct, it would act as a fuse.

Pedro came out of the airlock, but as he staggered towards them, the blaze that was visible in the switch room began to dim. The fire was burning itself out, it hadn’t been enough.

A moment later, the mixture of metal vapor and air filling the main hall reached ignition point. A massive white fireball blossomed behind Pedro, blowing the steel walls and reinforcements away like a bad dream at sunrise.


Afterward, in the flashing illumination from the emergency vehicles gathered around the crater, they collected what they could of Pedro’s remains for their true burial in consecrated ground. “You are an angel, Pedro,” Célia whispered, “Me perdoe, but you have to go to heaven”


Yes, yes, I know, the future, imprevisível, but I still don’t think it’s going to explode.”

Célia and the electrician had been to see a horror movie at the São José Cinemark. He’d found it doubly dull. For a start, it had been an English movie subtitled in Portuguese, so the audience talked loudly all the way through. Then there were the zombies, and he thought zombies were completely implausible.

“Are you absolutely sure?”

The electrician hesitated. He watched the fireflies, the tiny stars of Paraty, spiraling around the jasmine vines overhanging the fence of Célia’s house. He saw the moon reflected in her eyes. She wanted to fly, and she was counting on him not to clip her wings, to let her soar into the night sky.

He thought about Dona Iracema, and all the things he knew before he came to Paraty. The electrolysis had caused the electric currents to change, and higher order functioning had started in Pedro’s brain. That was one explanation. The truth has many ways.

“The moon doesn’t have any atmosphere, and it’s brittle. A meteor could hit it any time and shatter it. The sky will be filled with a hundred shining moonlets, all different sizes.”

Célia put her cigarette out under her heel. “It will be so beautiful, won’t it? I can’t wait to see that.”


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