Why am I writing this? I know how it started but I can’t say how it finished.
Is this the most important moment for humankind? All of these questions come to my mind now that I’m going back to the primordial matter, and I will cease to be me.
Having been many things that start and finish in a moment, I wonder if I will I be something now that I’m about to end.
I hear shouts in the streets, hallucinated words, the crying of the dying and drunk men singing.
I had never seen or heard anything like that and I will never do again.
Everything started in a simple way. It had been a day like any other, when workmen went to work, wearing their overalls and their packed lunches.
They did something they call work where you move your fingers and muscles until the clock on the wall tells them to stop.
Rising on a side and going down the other, nobody noticed the sun.
Primitive man worshiped it, the Inca made a toast of chicha from the highest points in the Andes, while some others offered the flesh and hearts of men.
Our father sun had decided to eliminate us, perhaps because he didn’t have any more chicha and hearts.
He would leave our toasted ashes in the cosmic cloud, as a reminder of the children of the sun.
On that particular day, the news traveled fast everywhere.
I had just got dressed, when the radio program was interrupted. Someone said: “Attention! Attention! Extra! Extra! Extra!”
I thought they wanted to sell soap for washing clothes.
“…northern lights in all regions, including the tropics. Several observatories around the world have tried to explain the phenomenon as a dense fog has descended over the earth, and the seas have receded. We’ll keep you informed of any more developments.”
Wondering about the northern lights, I heard some more news while cutting my sausages.
A plane had fallen down in the sea and a coach full of football fans had crashed in the mountains.
The maid appeared by my side, looking worried.
“You must see this,” she said.
On opening a window, I noticed dense fog in the street.
The neighbouring houses had disappeared, while shadows moved within the clouds like lost angels, and cars drove slowly in the whiteness enveloping the world.
I had not paid much attention to the news that morning, but as the maid went back to her duties I listened to the radio again.
I would look for the northern lights in the internet before leaving for my job.
The local television station had been put together with the national radio as the world had never seen anything like that. Switching on the TV, I saw the presenter in a studio full of people.
“We bring you information about the rare things happening to the world,” he said. “Fog has invaded the country, and airplanes have been declared in emergency. We don’t know what has happened to them.”
I saw total chaos everywhere, as motorists crashed with each other in the harsh conditions, and then I noticed lights amidst the clouds.
I had forgotten all about my breakfast as I heard the news again.
The White House had declared the USA in state of emergency and rumors circulated that a terrorist had planned the whole thing.
As I saw the lamp in the lounge moving, I thought something had to be wrong but the presenter kept on talking.
I had to go to my job, but all of this talk about lights in the sky might be a perfect excuse to stay at home.
“Attention,” the presenter said. “We have just had a small tremor. Attention!”
As I left my chair, I had to hold the table to keep my stability.
It had to be trembling again. After I managed to go outside, I heard people screaming, clouds of dust rising in the air.
As the floor moved, I stumbled out of the room, tripping on a cord and landing on my face.
I can’t recall those intense moments when I cried for my life amidst the cataclysm.
Cracks appeared on the floor while the earth shook forever, but then the earthquake stopped, leaving everything in silence.
After struggling to my feet, I saw a city reduced to dust. The screams had died out, my feet faltered on the mud, and my nose bled.
I found the radio on the floor.
I must have dropped it there when I had run for my life an eternity ago.
After switching it on, I heard only static or perhaps it didn’t have any more stations.
People full of mud, wandered the streets like zombies lose on the earth.
Blood stained my clothes and my left arm hurt.
As I tried to stop the flow of blood with a handkerchief, a naked woman ran by my side, sagging breasts full of dirt, tears running down her face.
“I must find my baby,” she said.
I saw people roaming the streets, with no memory of that life they had lived before.
Feeling dizzy, I sat on a boulder with the radio in my hands, hoping to wake up from my nightmare. A voice interrupted my reverie.
“Here H.K.5 A.C.1….H.K.5 A.C.1…Attention! Attention! A terrible earthquake has destroyed most of the city of Palmira. Attention! We must mobilize all the help available: firemen, police, the army, doctors and nurses. Attention! This is an urgent call…
“Hello! Hello! We’ve received your message H.K.5. A.C.1. Here is H.K.9. D.G.U. here, H.K.9 D.G.U. The quake has destroyed most of the city of Cali and we are the only human beings left around here. Attention! We ask everybody to help the cities of Cali and Palmira….
“Attention! Attention! This is voice Bogotá. We are using the equipment we managed to salvage from the tragedy. Attention all the country. The capital has been destroyed by an earthquake. Attention! I repeat. Bogotá has been destroyed by a quake and we need urgent help.”
I listened to requests for help from all parts of the country while people moved in a trance. Another woman went past me with a dead child in her arms.
Crying and laughing at the same time, she left a trace of blood on the floor,as the radio presenter spoke.
The sea had flooded most of the coastal areas of the world, changing the maps of many countries.
People moving between the cameras, as everyone talks at the same time, and a man with big glasses looks at the screen in front of him. One of his colleagues appears with a notebook.
“The sun is having hiccups,” he says.
Pushing back invisible strands of hair, Antonio studies the graphics where a sun full of flares looks at them from the darkness of space.
He listens to his headphones for a few moments.
“It’s time for the news,” he says.
As Antonio sits in front of the cameras, the studio lights up ready for an audience hungry for news.
“Good morning,” he says. “Our sun seems to have more energy that its size requires, causing the fog and the lights in the sky we have seen this morning.”
The camera shows a row of cars lining the road and disappearing amidst the fog, as a few people argue with each other in the rain.
A fight starts between two men by a small blue car, but after punching each other a few times, they go back to their vehicles with sore faces.
“It is raining in Bogotá,” Antonio says. “Attention! An electric storm has developed over the city, with rain and hale.”
The camera cuts to the lights dancing amidst the fog as hail falls over the city.
Moving through the blanket of mist, people try to get away from the sea, while a picture of the sun fills the screen, large flares shooting out into space.
Antonio’s voice interrupts the drama.
“Attention,” he says. “Mount Palomar has photographed the eruptions taking place within the sun.”
More images of the sun adorn the screen, flames reaching towards the planets threatening to finish with the solar system.
The camera cuts back to the reporter standing in the road, where the cars have started to move.
“It is still raining,” he says. “But we’re driving away now.”
The cars move down the road, thunder echoing around them, as the fog gives an air of unreality to the scene. A few people dance in the back of a truck oblivious to all the problems in the world. The camera cuts to Antonio reading the news.
“Similar things have been reported all over the continent,” he says. It’s five o’clock in the morning in Hawaii, where the auroras have been a beautiful spectacle. We can’t waist any time with commercials. We’re making contact with radio Barranquilla. Attention!"
A thin man appears in a studio filled with people and confusion.
“This is Barranquilla, transmitting for the national television. We have seen terrible things amidst the fog, as trucks and buses full of people wait for the traffic to move. We ask everyone to be calm.”
The camera cuts to another studio, where a man sits by a picture of the sun and a table full of books.
“This is central station in Barranquilla,” he says. “Everyone wants to go away from the sea.”
After joining a rescue group, we went around the streets looking for survivors amidst rivers of mud.
A man, blood pouring down his face, laid buried behind a wall.
“I want my family,” he said.
Looking at the rubble on the floor, we didn’t know whether they were alive.
We made a stretcher using several sheets we had found nearby and took him to the makeshift clinic erected in a corner.
Naked people surrounded us, their souls destroyed by the tragedy, while a woman shouted obscenities before collapsing on the floor and a child searched for his left ear amidst the rubble.
As everyone drank aguardiente, a group of people congregated around a fire, ghosts from another age when the sun had loved us.
I moved about the corpses clinging to life in spite of their wounds, covered with rags other people had thrown on their bodies as they waited for death to come.
I found a room left intact after the earthquake, where I sat at a table to write my account of the terrible things that had happened, while someone talked in the radio.
A small mountain had formed between the cities of Palmira and Cali and the capital of the republic had been completely destroyed.
New York, Florida and Mexico had also vanished but they didn’t know much about Europe.
I wanted to have my old world back where the sun never played tricks with us.
Feeling cold and wet, I dozed amidst the rubbish and saw giant suns exploding,while seas of blood drowned the city.
The rays of the sun drifted through a window when I opened my eyes later.
At first I thought I had dreamed the whole thing, but then I noticed the muddy walls and felt cold. Someone talked on the radio.
“…Ibague has been almost totally destroyed. Here are the names of the victims we have identified up to now…”
I was hungry. After leaving my refuge, I saw naked and muddy people looking for bodies in the ruins with rudimentary tools, as drunken men sang.
After drinking aguardiente, a man had fallen unconscious inside a coffin, where he snored oblivious to everything.
Someone had found a radio and a few people danced at the sound of music, while shouting: hurray to death.
A beautiful girl offered me a drink from a bottle of gin she had in her hand.
“Drink, comrade,” she said, pushing the bottle against my teeth. “This is the end of the world. Can you see that rubble? That is where my family died. I only heard a knock: Bang! And then it finished. Drink comrade. Drink! UIIPA!”
As a tall man put a gun to his mouth before pulling the trigger, I saw his brains pouring out of his head.
Then a woman shot herself in the heart with his gun.
Bodies burned on fires in a field, their faces crying for the end of humankind, while I moved down the road, wishing to wake up from the nightmare.
“Won’t it stop raining?” someone asked.
“I’m hungry,” I said.
I ate a piece of bread he had given me, even if it tasted funny.
Then I saw the shadows. Some of them prayed aloud while carrying something resembling a saint in their arms.
I went singing with a group of people, as vultures looked at us amidst dead bodies and someone shouted: “Hurray to the vultures.”
We all shouted: “hurray to the vultures.”
The animals remained indifferent to our suffering. I missed my family and my mother.
I wanted to tell her about the terrible things happening to us but she had to be buried under the rubble. I cried for myself, for humankind and the end of life.
The voice in the radio interrupted my reverie.
“Scientists think our star might explode as a nova. The word means new, because stars appear in the sky, where nothing was there before. We have an alarm to transmit all over the world if this is true. You must go to a secure place when we give the alarm.
After we give instructions in different languages through the radio, you will have seven minutes to find somewhere safe, and lie down with your head on the floor far from rivers and buildings. We will say over the radio and in all languages: We have seven minutes.
“Attention” Attention! We have some more news. Attention! Orbital observatories and artificial satellites have been destroyed. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun has exploded, according to some Australian observatories. We repeat the latest news: Mercury has broken in a thousand pieces. One of these fragments might come close to earth according to calculations.
“Our orbit around the sun has suffered some changes. The moon over Australia is much bigger. We believe our satellite has come closer to us.
“Attention! Attention! You’re listening to the Spanish speaking radio for the whole world. The planet must listen to us, as we transmit this alarm: We have seven minutes. We must get ready in seven minutes to lie down in a safe place. If you follow these instructions, we will have fewer victims.”
I hoped the seven minutes never came or the sun stopped playing games with us. A man listened to the news by my side, his face full of mud and blood.
“What will you do in the last seven minutes of your life?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
We talked about the sun, life and death as time went past, bringing us closer to the end. Then we moved with a crowd of people looking for somewhere to survive the seven minutes.
“I had a shop, where I made lots of money,” he said.
We had been something else in that other world an eternity ago.
We moved through fields full of people dressed in rags, but after a lorry stopped, several men delivered food and water to the crowd.
I ate a panela but my companion had a mango, its juice running down his clothes
“It’s nutritious,” he said.
Thick clouds stopped us from seeing the sun as a couple of teenagers made love by the body of a dead dog.
No one cared about the seven minutes anymore. Someone played a drum, while an old man wearing a white sheet moved at the rhythm of the music.
A mother explained to her small son about the complexities of time.
“What happens after seven minutes then? He asked.
They burned human bodies in a nearby field, the smoke rising to the sky.
After lying down on the floor, I tried to ignore the smell of cooked flesh, wondering how long we had to wait before the end of humankind.
The sound of music drifted around us, as naked people moved through the camp, their souls dead to the world.
People looked like ghosts with their torn clothes and dirty faces. The sound of drums reminded me of a pop festival, where everyone had gone mad.
After linking hands, we sang to the sun sending us into this nightmare of blood and death. A man walked down the middle of the road with a skull at the end of a stick and drinking aguardiente.
“Have a drink,” he said.
I passed it around the crowd, as a truck went past us with speakers on its back.
“You must remember the seven minutes,” a voice said.
Sirens wailed as the stench increased and a boy with a wound across his face looked for something in the ruins.
Thousands of people sat down on the floor in an open field, as if they had been given the order of the seven minutes, a battery operated siren waiting by the gate. On moving down the road, we saw a hole in a mountain, and street patrols brought us bags of sugar from the plantations.
"This is a good place for the seven minutes," they said. “It isn’t crowded.”
We acted like happy tourists, after erecting a few tents and eating food. The end of the world seemed a long way away.
“I don’t want to die,” my companion said.
Tears ran down his face, mixing with the mud. We hugged each other, wishing the sun stopped acting funny and the seven minutes never happened. The voices of other people brought us back to reality. Some of them helped to deliver food while others looked after the wounded. We listened to the news.
“Astronomical observatories are working hard to register the moment the sun has another perturbation. After sending an artificial satellite around the earth, the Soviet Union will give the alarm of the seven minutes. We have found a good place to inform you about all of the things happening to the world.
“Attention! Attention! We think the sun will expand, and the chain of radios will give the alarm. You must be in a clear space, far from rivers, as radios from all over the world transmit the phrase: We only have seven minutes, to indicate the time the explosion will reach us.”
Most people had accepted their bad luck with serenity and calm.
The aguardiente, the panela and the sugar made me go to sleep. I heard people snoring when I woke up.
As I left the tent, I saw a starry night, while a big moon threw its light all over the camp.
The sky was clear and up on the north, another small moon added its light to the night.
My companion told me that was a fragment of Mercury.
“We'll be joining it soon,” he said.
“They might be mistaken,” I said.
He shook his head. “The sun is dying.”
I found the view strange but fascinating, while urinating nearby. As I lit a cigarette, I heard a voice shouting on the radio.
“…It’s getting worse by the minute. There is an earthquake. Attention! It’s trembling here again. Cucuta and neighbouring towns are shaking under a strong seismic movement. We hear that most of Venezuela is also moving, as Panama and Japan have disappeared under the sea.”
I saw a group of people carrying torches, while an orchestra came behind them.
They woke us up with their dancing and shouting, some of them had masks but they looked drunk.
Everyone danced a few moments later, rejoicing in the strange spectacle in the sky.
“If you give birth again,” a drunk man shouted to the moon. “We’ll be left in the bones.”
He discussed the name to give the newborn, until someone told him that was a part of Mercury.
“Has someone broken a thermometer?” he asked.
After the musicians drank aguardiente and sang rancheras, they went on their way, taking some of our people with them.
I sat down to look at the sky and talk with my companion about Armageddon.
“I wish my wife was here,” he said.
We dozed while listening to the radio and dreaming of other worlds full of fun, but then we heard a distant siren.
“Attention! Attention! Attention! We have seven minutes… Attention! Attention! We have seven minutes. Attention! Attention! We have seven minutes! We have given the alarm to the entire world. We have seven minutes! This is an alarm for all humanity. Attention! We have seven minutes!”
As I stumbled out of the tent, I saw people moving about the place like zombies, forgetting what we had to do.
The sky had acquired a purple tone with blue hues towards the horizon.
Remembering the advice they had given us, I went down on my knees in the middle of the field while listening to the radio.
I had to lie down with my arms on the floor.
My companion prayed to his God, wishing for the sun to stop punishing us for something we had not done.
I thought of my family buried somewhere in the rubble, as people called their children to be together during the last few minutes.
A man ran around the camp laughing aloud and shooting at random.
Hiding my face in my hands, I remained still, hoping to be spared the carnage.
He kept on shooting as cries of pain echoed around me, and people asked for mercy.
Falling to his knees, the man sobbed,pleading with God to stop the punishment.
I cried for all the times I had wasted my life in silly things,the seconds ticking towards the unknown.
I should have visited the pyramids, the Chinese wall and the Niagara falls.
Then I saw the lights dancing in the sky, as the sun shone on us for a final time, before leaving its molecules in a cosmic cloud.
On looking at the bodies strewn around the field, I wished I could stop this nightmare.
“We have six minutes,” the radio said.
The whole of humanity had to be hugging the floor in a strange ritual, as a wave of flames formed a bridge in the sky.
Then it went down slowly before disappearing behind the mountain.
A shot echoed around me. The gunman lay at my feet, a pool of blood forming by his mouth.
Lightning crisscrossed the sky, while people ran towards the tents, thunder echoing around us.
"Five minutes," the radio said.
A pack of horses ran through the field, killing some people and injuring others.
Asking for help, a man limped about the camp before sitting by my side.
After massaging his knee, he cried softly, wiping his face with a dirty handkerchief.
“It won’t be long now,” I said.
“Attention!” the radio said. “We have four minutes.”
Thunder rumbled around us, as another wave of fire appeared in the west, filling the sky with colours and noise.
Holding his leg, the man mumbled prayers with his eyes shut, awaiting the end of his suffering.
Then he started singing, his voice mixing with the roar of thunder and the cries of the dying.
"Alleluia," he said.
“We have three minutes,” the radio said.
A few people looked at the sun with dark negatives from pictures, the arch of fire covering half of the sky by now, pink clouds rising at the sides.
My childhood, teenage years, and marriage danced in front of my eyes, the clock of time marching towards the end.
“We have two minutes.”
As I thought of the last minutes of my life, my eyes filled with tears.
A reddish sun appeared from behind the clouds giving the farewell to humankind, before the final cataclysm.
“Attention! Attention! Attention! The chain of observatories has told us Venus has exploded. Attention! The planet Venus has exploded. We will feel the effects on our planet in a few seconds. We have to get ready.”
A brilliant light flooded the horizon, as the noise increased, and luminous fingers danced over our heads.
Someone played a drum, making me feel nostalgic for a disappearing world.
Then several stars crossed through the arch of fire, getting lost in the distance.
"One minute left."
Thunder echoed around us while the drum went on and more lights appeared in the sky.
Hugging the earth for a last time, I saw fire engulfing the clouds and everything went dark..