Back to Paradise

“I have always imagined that 
Paradise will be a kind of library.” 
José Luis Borges

He entered the building; a structure as disfigured by the passing of time and disgrace as himself. He imagined all the time those books had been there without being touched by avid readers. Before the fatality, he used to read a great deal, too; eager for stories that would transport him to inconceivable places. He could not grasp what he felt at that moment: a combination of grief and relief, a bit of joy shadowed by weariness. He had not seen a living soul lately, but he was undeniably hiding from rest of the world. The sensation of being the only man on the face of the Earth was ever more intense, and he even preferred feeling like that―it would make everything easier.

If he looked harder, if he went further, he would find someone, that was a given; but he was tired, too exhausted for any act of resistance. Yes, he may be able to find someone alive, albeit as hapless as him, maybe more. Perhaps the non-infected were more unfortunate than the ones who wandered at nightfall. He knew they once had a life, work, a family, dreams, plans; but now he could do nothing but fight for his survival.

How much longer, he was not sure anymore―or he did not want to know. As a matter of fact, where had his life gone? Work, family, dreams, plans? In light of that, could he still be regarded as completely human? Even those who had not been transformed, how could they say they were alive, fully alive? He had had a strong sense of being dead for a long time, since all his relatives and friends had passed away during the multiple attacks that took place a while back. Losing count of the days was a strategy against falling into madness. He ran his fingers over the dusty spines―a familiar sensation, a type of comfort as being taken into arms of solace. Spines that seemed to say “welcome,” inviting him. How many precious things had been lost: people, books, lives...

Some volumes were on the floor where the man noticed many impressions. Feet and hands printed in the dust. Beings that now had to move about on all fours. They had been there. They could possibly be back at dusk.

He decided not to run away. He was tired. He almost did not feed himself anymore―yet what he most hungered for was reading, forgetting all the rest, not having concerns, having nothing to think about. That is why he had returned to that place. It had been a favorite spot in his youth. A place where he spent hours distancing himself from everyday problems, choosing the next adventure to be lived, the next world to be seen, the next civilization to be discovered.

On the Fantasy shelf, after observing so many titles, there was one that called his attention for being an old acquaintance: “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.” Verne.

He had never been by the ocean, but this was his favorite adventure. To him, swimming and diving were a type of phobia. He had almost drowned a couple of times trying to learn how to swim. However, how many times had he not desired to be with Nemo and Aronnax on board of the Nautilus? How many times had he read that adventure? He had lost track.

He sat down on an old armchair to read the story one more time and feel like his old self for a while. The ocean once again, just as an old friend, just as a fantasy world, one that had been abandoned a long time ago. He did not feel tired, hungry or thirsty. All he wanted was to live the story one last time, all that mattered was to be on board of the submarine once more and be reunited with old friends.

“Borges was right. I am in paradise. This is where I’ll stay.” Now he understood what the author meant when comparing that place to the Garden of Eden. Books were a fruit that had been forbidden to him for a while. To read any of them would open his eyes again.

Hours went by as he read. At nightfall came the creatures who no longer knew what all of that meant. Neither did they understand the motionless being in the armchair, holding a strange thing tightly; on his moist face, a smile.

BIA MACHADO was born in Cuiabá, State of Mato Grosso, but destiny never took her back to her hometown. She has lived in several places, until in 1993 she arrived in Campo Grande, State of Mato Grosso do Sul. There, she got married and had four daughters―one of them has already left the town.

She graduated in Teaching in 2006 at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul. She has been teaching full-time at Public Schools since 2006. She has also been working as a freelancer copywriter since 1995 and, in 2012, she has provided copywriting services to Estronho Publishers.

Bia has contributed her works to collections organized by publishers such as Hama, Multifoco and Estronho. In 2011, she self-published a mystery and horror book entitled Certa Estranheza ["A Certain Oddity"], which is available for download as an eBook.

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