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Silently in the morning thou fliest upward
Enrica M. Corradini
Cover by ©Niccolò Sacco
Translation of Isa Tamagnini
Narcissus - Self Publishing made serious
Edizione digitale: dicembre 2012
Edizione digitale realizzata da Simplicissimus Book Farm srl
The following is a rough and quite partial reconstruction of the last months in wait for the biggest asteroid ever hitting the Earth since the age of dinosaurs.
On a normal day and without emphasizing it at all, government sources announced the collision between a meteorite and the planet. As usually happens on the release of such news, the majority of mankind dealt with it in the most obvious way: by taking no account of it.
The announcement was making thoughts hovering in the air, real, the same ones that once in a while, settle in the most unpredictable places as an old, dusty science fiction movie or a faded yellow Urania paperback book ended up among a chick lit collection. Possibly also a thought, like that summer night when you were running after a star dashing through the universe and were dreaming up how you could spend the money of a Super-lottery win as stratospheric as the meteorite itself.
Then, that thought too, like a paper streamer, together with a subtle unease, fell into the dustbin of the unutterable thoughts and there, it stayed.
However that may be, in one way or thousand others else, it is impossible you never thought about.
Most people’s imagination did not distance itself much from the idea of a fireball, aiming at Earth since ages at incredible speed. On a certain particular day, it would hit the Earth and give it a circular boost and the planet spinning round and round would have cast out human beings or what was left of them, to settle in other universes or to cruise for all eternity in the sidereal colds. When they decided to announce the official date of the impact too, after a few weeks from the release, the nearly three hundred atomic clocks, set at the time in strategic significant points of the earth’s crust, began a synchronic countdown in days, hours, minutes and seconds of time left.
After the first weeks of unavoidable bafflement, people digested the reports with a euphoric hope as if, in the end something new were right about to happen.
Some event would have broken up seemingly indissoluble bonds, got even with everybody, taken revenge for suffered abuses. The kind of situations a meteorite would have sorted out. Most of the human beings knew already that if the asteroid hit the planet, very little indeed would have left of the Earth. A boar tooth, maybe? A boar tooth or something of equal size could have certainly been the largest sized archaeological evidence of the old Earth.
In that period, as never before, the Star Trackers made such a roaring trade. After handing over, as per agreement, free information to officers of the Worldwide Multi-power Army, as hectic as lemurs on the alert against an ubiquitous enemy, they were selling at exorbitant prices the luminous tracks of the star movements in the Milky Way. Fortune tellers, showmen, communication experts and new prophets then translated them into public proclamations thus helping, in the relevant field, unleashing every kind of fears and exponentially increasing the stress levels. Not even on purpose, numberless quantities of meteorites had been falling in those years and, if getting used to them someone could consider them less dangerous, some others took this event as an ominous sign. Fortune tellers, by calling them “Maids of Death” belonged to the second group. Leaving out the usual wheeler dealers, the news the meteorite would stop the whole life process, in the end, began to nourish unexpected spiritual thoughts.
Still many were stubbornly thinking that whether the meteorite would drop good many miles far from their homes, this would not be a problem to them, and it became quite difficult for the Future Dealers explain that things would not properly go that way. Yet a certain amount of human beings went on living as usual, getting by and hoping that some event would have turned the situation around.
That morning, one of the many relentlessly counting the final term down, as foreseen the meteorite was travelling at stunning speed against his target planet. A steady sparrow footed rain was dabbing against Giorgio’s windowpanes who, after fantasizing about a strange phosphorescent beast haunting his dreams lately, half asleep, let his thoughts go caressing the hill shaped curves of his classmate. The meteorite would have spun them both, sticking them together, a human spindle beyond the magnetic boundaries of the Milky Way. He was not at all displeased by the image of himself lying in bed while the Earth underneath was cruising beyond the Pillars of Hercules of the Universe.
He rolled over, ready to resume his journey when a grunt disturbed him.
«Wake-up. Have you got it, it’s late? Move on, and go to bed earlier in the evening. Can you hear me? Move, it’s late!».
The voice had the same, urging concern of a man whose house is burning. Like an outburst of puke, it hit his auricles and reached his brain, making him firm in the final, this time, decision that by the end of the day he would answer to that ad waiting seemingly just for him for months.
After the nth sleepless night had been spent between catastrophic/purgative visions of the world and reveries of wild drowning into Dora’s body, it was a deep act of faith in life, with some rare exceptions, to push oneself finally out of bed and face another day. He knew that his father’s shouting would have reached the pain threshold when entering his room he would slam the door against the shelf edge, and plunked down that fluffy toy he always hated. His mother went on stubbornly setting it in that place, and his father would have trampled, slipping slightly on it and after cursing his god, he would have told him, as he has done every morning for almost eighteen years, to tidy up his toys in the evenings before going to sleep. It was obvious that, for him, time had stopped dead, forget those atomic clocks. Giorgio had just turned eighteen, and after an eighteen year training, he knew that every action his father performed, had mechanical consequences, involuntary and so recurring that one could time them down, as obvious as the fact that you needed wings to fly.
For all those years his mother never gave up putting the fluffy toy precariously on the shelf behind the door, his father never desisted entering, slamming it and the fluffy toy went on tumbling down. That morning too he entered slamming the door and the fluffy toy fell down. He stepped on it and slipped as usual. His yells wedged into Giorgio’s left eardrum, and he let a moan go.
«All right, I am».
«You are, my foot. You are still there! Mind what your father said». Here, the booming voice of his mother, out from the bottom of her stately rib cage, was full volume filling the whole space of the opened wide door. She was supporting her husband her way, as if he needed it.
«Ok but stop it». Now he was complaining in a slightly different way. He did not like himself at all. The interplanetary journey was over.
He sat up from the bed and pushed the pillow against his ears. His father pumped up to a higher volume, and when he finally got up lolling as soft as a ripe fig, his father shoved him a yank that sent him bumping out of balance against the wall edge. The fluffy toy did not turn a fake hair. He saw in the mirror on the opposite wall, a dark-red liquid trickling down from his left eyebrow. He felt no pain. In seeing the blood, the man shouted louder. Goodbye celestial bodies, silent driving forces of the infinite Space.
His father would only shut up when he was playing basketball. Giorgio cast sidelong glances at him sitting astonished, flat-faced and half open-mouthed. He seemed trapped up and set in a half-smile, silently waiting for his son to come out the locker room. They both went back home in dead silence. Sitting for dinner, after gobbling down few mouthfuls of pasta angrily, he began analysing the match in slow motion.
«Why that chap never passes you the ball? You must show what you are damned made of. Then, you had to go for the rim. What are you afraid of?...You have to tell him to stop assisting you like that. I say he can shove those assists up his fucking ass and you, you must train up every day, every single day in free throwing, have you got iiittt?», and so on, shouting the whole dinner long while Giorgio, speechless, was chewing on and on every single mouthful of that tasteless pasta that got stuck to the bottom of his tongue. Giorgio could stand the pain. He had a petrified core hidden under a seemingly understanding and compliant talking.
«Well, I got it, but now quit it, let’s eat, I can stand it no longer». He wondered why he always came out with that flabby voice he hated, and that conciliatory talk was like an agreed sign every time. In a split second, as in an already written play script, the sadistic educational marine drill sergeant flew off the handle. Invariably, hopped up by that call for reconcilement, he went screaming at three inches from his face: «You, worthless turd, don’t ever dare speak to me like that. You must respect me as I’m keeping you alive. I’m working my ass off to send you to school, your lordship. Do you get it? You fuck around the whole day, you klutz. I’m teaching you how to be streetwise, but you, you are a loser who will never pan out in life! Got it?” this one was a situation where he was praying for the asteroid to smash down.
Last time a spit of pesto sauce spurted from that mouth and landed on his left eyelid. He cleaned it up carelessly. He unfailingly felt like laughing for the domino effect situations when his father got angry and set his hate free. When he was shouting, his mother was silent, and when he calmed down, it was her turn to shout, thus exchanging, both had the time to recover. Should her mother be angry at him, his father was hard on her heels. He really looked forward to doing it, and any excuse would do. Hereupon his mother would tell him: «Stop it, now” in a firm, a little pleading voice. This was enough for restraining him by crediting him with power.
When his father was short of words, almost all the times, would try to beat him and while the lad was running away through the house screaming: «Enough, pack it in» he was even more excited, and not only did not stop but he would shout louder while their wild stomping boomed through the whole block.
Since they had their babies, these were the games the Paganellas played. Their yelling and sullen stomping did not apparently affect the mass of packed humankind holing up in the adjoining flats. Usually people turned nasty if on sunny days, just a few of a too abundant watering had dropped from above or if a hydrangea crumpled leaf, after surfing the air, fainted down among the cyclamens downstairs. In the condominium meetings, they would assert with unexpected emphasis their rights not to tolerate other people’s negligence but they would never dare to call up the Public Safety for the disturbance. Had they actually done it, once the report was found true, the Paganellas would be deported to a Rehabilitation Centre for Aggressive Parents, from which usually, one never comes back. Anyway, this was not the reason that kept the neighbours from reporting them. First of all, people feared such aggressiveness could turn against them, and then it was a common point of view that if the two had not killed each other yet, probably they would have never done it. In case, the crime correspondents were the real problem who, trading on the white roses of “Serenity” block, punch-drunk for the fertilizer would have pled for a tear or a still unpublished detail. So they could have spat into a microphone that the Paganellas were a normal family and then drifting away like real movie stars. A truly unpleasant event. To say more, in that period, the air was saturated with fear, and people were not much involved in Pannellas’ quarrels.
Reports on the meteorite were divulged by the Russians in ninety seven of the past century. By their astrophysicists’ calculations, a fireball would have hit the Earth in thirty-year time, that is to say, in this very period. Few scanty groups of pure souls living on inaccessible mountains excluded, the whole humankind knew that the crash with the asteroid would be a highly probable and shattering one. Media, after low profile dealing with the news for public order reasons, later on instead, for undeniable audience reasons, started trumpeting scare stories ending with a very unlikely touch of hope. Flash news, updating in real time about asteroid’s speed, was focused on constantly. As a consequence, the expert of the day, after a description of the aftermath of the crash, finished up by pouring out fatalistic statistics reporting it was easier to end up under a truck or to fall into a manhole. For comprehensible reasons, this thing was not reassuring at all. On the contrary, it strengthened in people already out of emotional balance, the prying idea it could solve another dilemma. Which death could be the best one to die off, considering that, either due to asteroid crashing or to Mrs. Maria’s flowerpot nose diving from the eighth floor, it was always a matter of death.
Was this then the reason for Giorgio’s parents to ease off their parental control getting worked up with their eldest son? Were they afraid of death? Hitting the Earth, the asteroid would spare no one, so why to be worried about, the boy thought, and before the news was on, what had his parents feared?
«I hate them». This was the only accomplished thought he could put forward that morning leaving home.
Maybe it was not a real hatred, maybe it had just to do with annoyance, impatience or pain and weariness too. That feeling was surely stealing any strength from him. For years, whatever he was doing, they and their shouting were a recurrent thought. Not even the asteroid, with all its load of death, succeeded in replacing them. Since few months, the image of his father was actually making him so sick he could not have breakfast together. Each single morning he left home followed by every day more fanciful curses that went on booming in his eardrums while walking to school, with empty stomach and cold.
That morning in the lift, the words “I hate him; I hate him” rolled out his mouth loudly. It was pure rage. He knew now what he was feeling for him, who gave him birth. It was something more than a simple discomfort, it was something he could no longer stand, a huge bullet bitten and swallowed while he, innocent, had been sleeping for years open-mouthed looking at the grow up in the house to learn how to do it, he the biggest bait eater.
He conceived the idea of going possibly away when as in a trance, he happened to gather into a big cardboard the significant things of his life. In the bad times, if nobody was at home, crouched in a corner of his room, he would examine those strange objects belonging to his past which he put together over time. He would touch them, feeling their silhouette with his fingertips and striving to evoke their memories. Kept together by an outworn and sticky rubber band, a deck of Magics would suffocate his mind with the many strategies he carried out during lonely and quiet afternoons. He ran his fingers down the backs of those worn, cardboard rectangles, one by one, a smile coming from far away, when also his father’s yells reached him, conveyed by an echo thinning down in the air. Why the hell did the two shout at him all the time? Actually, it was a long time he stopped wondering. It did not matter anymore. He already made up his mind and was going to get ready for his big journey. It had been a few days since the tune of the music box was playing in his head. It always hung above his bed until the day his father, blowing his top as usual, threw it aground, smashing it badly. After his father got out, he picked up the shattered pieces one by one. He tied them together with a string and hid it among his dearest memories. A little tin, violet scented box guarded three coloured pieces of chalk, a yellow, a light blue and a red one. It was set in a corner of the cardboard box near a small bag containing foreign coins in circulation until the end of the century, before the universal currency was introduced. Nothing else was in it. The most emotionally important object he ever owned was missing. A glass bubble full of water, as the ones with snow falling when turned upside-down. It was different from the standard and had a brown cliff surrounded by dark-blue water. When turned upside-down, the cliff too melted and foamed down in flakes as wet and snowy air. Back upright, the cliff built up again. He always felt a certain concern thinking back to the glass bubble. A sense of empty darkness he could not wipe out.
So, the morning we are talking about too, as every morning since he could remember, his father awoke him his way. Giorgio disinfected his wound followed by his father’s screams then, he put on his colour stripped shoes, picked up the shabby jacket he had been wearing for years and that was just short in the leaves and walked to school with his slouching gait. His head was in a daze and he could not but tell himself to gather the right things up quickly, neither one more, nor one less, small or big they might be. It had to be his basic baggage, because, once out of that house, he would never come back. While building up that box, he thought he would put the fundamental things of his life in it. He was daydreaming that one day someone could have known him just looking at its contents. He wanted everybody to know that he was not the one his father told.
The day he decided to leave, opening his door for the last time, he realized that he could do without all those things. Unexpectedly they did not seem to be so important. They did not portray him any longer, the only strong feelings were the memories buried deeply in his mind. Recalling them he sadly realized how little of his life he wanted to keep. He gathered the whole lot and threw it angrily into the yellow bin around the corner. After all, nothing could describe him but what his parents went on telling him for years, that he was a perfect nobody and that they were so unlucky to have him as a child. His stifle, astonished sorrow was hidden behind a mask of apathetic quiet. Since he decided to go, that sense of the void had changed into an inner strain he could barely control. When that strain became a pure rage, it was clear that he could put it off any longer.
He had bought a second-hand jacket different in colour from his old one and had hidden it into a plastic bag, down in the basement. He searched the house looking for all the existing pictures of him, from his birth onward. He had to delete any visible evidence of his presence as he did not want to end up on the wanting screens at the city entrance or on household TV appliances together with his birth-givers. Sitting on their couch at home as stiff as codfish, the picture of a roaring sea on the back wall, a wedding gift of a relative, they pretended they were sorry for his disappearance. He smiled at that image. Their lives were just like that. Two pieces of codfish in a stormy sea. He got lost in time, thoroughly searching the photo albums for his mournful, occasional face. He cut out those stolen gazes with pernickety accuracy, shoved them into his jeans pocket and headed for the countryside. He lit a small campfire with some dry twigs and stared at the many similar faces of his life disfiguring and shrinking in crackling curls of coal into the cold air. He cried. His tighten jaw clenched his teeth like a trap. Hunkering down by the fire, he neatly plucked lumps of soil and some dry leaf to cover that heap of black ashes.
On that day, the last Thursday in February, he would answer that advertisement in the school bulletin board. “People wanted for company keeping and dog-sitting, offer room and board and some pocket-money“. That was it. He looked for that advertisement every day and when he found it, he read it as if it was a personal message he had to answer to, once for all. When he finally phoned, he was reached by a gentle and thin voice that fixed him an appointment at half past four that very day in an address downtown.
For the first time in many months, Giorgio would not go in the afternoon to “Base1“, his shelter for quite some time. This district developed in the former industrial area in the city northern outskirt. With its abandoned warehouses and thousands of unfinished cottages stricken by the outburst of the big recession, it gave shelter to groups of homeless people of any age, and step by step it developed into a city in the city. Its core was a maze of hills and slopes twining deep into the ground around shelter facilities. The main entrances were actual gates shielded by extemporary group of people standing by to stop unwanted or suspicious looking individuals. Close to “Base1,” there was also the biggest open-cast dumping ground in the region. The air was permeated by the black smoke of spontaneous fires. A sub-category of mankind was milling about the illegal dump city, the one surviving thanks to a close interaction with its stomach, sucking and recycling other people waste, and carrying on each day, for years, a separate collection of everything and idea. The first time Giorgio walked up to the dump, he threw up all he had in his stomach then, he decided he had to get rid of the feeling of revulsion too. All of them, vegetal, mineral and biological leftovers, were still mankind of which he was part of. He assuaged his nose and he found himself doing what they all did: just looking for something. The least of the worries in that place was, getting food as the food waste were plenty and wide-ranging. In some part of the dump the menus could be changed weekly only by guessing the underground stream where the trucks coming from the same city area unloaded. Most of the people let themselves go for the chance, to what fortune could bring when they allied with rats and seagulls, each of them according to their tastes.