Sea of Mud

BY LULA FALCĀO

Translation: Helena Cavendish de Moura with special thanks to Andrew Michael Brown

REGENCIA / LAMA

The ship propels from the earth that dissolves into the ocean and sludge can be seen from its bow and stern. On the radio, on the last contact, they were informed of the existence of a phenomenon,  still unnamed.  

The authorities’ main concern was to avoid panic, but that was two days ago. It remains unknown whether there are authorities still left on the continent or whether there even still is a continent. 

Through binoculars: everything passes slowly, a sluggish and pasty tsunami traveling as at the beginning of time, in two directions.

We have no ideas for a partial solution to the drama that is unfolding and could change everything.  At some moment it will be necessary to warn passengers that the port of destination no longer exists —nor does the port of origin.  

On board, however, the cruise goes on as a cruise and not like an emergency retreat: casino gambling, tidy beds, elderly couples on their final voyage.

The vessel is immense and passengers aren’t aware of what is taking place.  Everything was normal when they embarked.

To fend passengers off the deck, a falsified weather alert for thunderstorms is issued.  

The ship is safe, the crew lays brochures on display, and there is much merriment onboard. Everyone on the command bridge is attentive and concerned. 

Adélia is in her cabin. She looks through the hatch and sees disoriented birds. It’s probably nothing. She knows nothing about birds and their migrations.  She thinks of Otavio, of last night, and the tedium of cruises.  Why would a man be on his own, in a 230,000- ton transatlantic cruise ship with 5,999 strangers?

The sea is agitated, but it doesn’t rattle the cruise ship. Waves of mud are still far off,  far back and beyond, but we still have an advantage, the commander emphasized, thinking again that it could be just one wave instead of two. 

At a certain point, it closes in on us, whirlpools and swallow us. 

Another officer excused himself and asked how long this advantage might last —as it traveled from opposite sides—and where and when would it stop. 

The Captain scratched his forehead, as in a film, and replied that he’d change the course in order to sail between these two mud-covered Himalayas.  

Under the best of circumstances, we will be on a Fjorde.  In the worst, in a solid Pororoca, a paste from the end of the world. He knows a bit of geology.

Cut-off from communication with all places on earth, the lone ship swerves South, under a nebulous sky. Passengers are here to forget about their lives onshore and it isn’t worth concerning them with unpleasant news. The captain looks at the sea, asks himself from within himself, what could it be,  the texture of this sludge. 

Information released on the latest communiqué states that the phenomenon was not localized and reports inaccessible areas, ports destroyed, cities sliding away with the tepid lava. 

Suddenly, a roar and later,  silence. Passengers remained without internet. Once again, the Command blamed the mainland for this storm. And the storm, which the Captain did not expect, and of which he had lied about, was, in fact, just developing. 

An attack on opposite sides, between the still distant sludge and enormous typhoons of water. The transatlantic, nearly taken over by the waters, trembled. 

All along,  Adélia treats it like it’s a show. Her friends not so much, clenching their hands to the bed frame with horrified faces. 

A disaster imminent, Otavio and Adélia have a chance encounter in the corridor. And subsequently, in conversation, one that seemed more natural and complicit than the night before, they raise questions regarding the ship’s destination and of the public in general. 

They know it is the end or something like it. 

They decide to conduct an investigation,  like passengers in The Winners, which Adélia read during adolescence. 

But then they don’t. They want to get on to the deck in order to see what is happening in the sky and the water.  All doors are locked. 

They become suspicious when they come across the staff while deciphering their faces. An officer passed by wearing heavy make-up disguising her panic. 

To Otavio, it was the sobbing of another high-ranking officer who wailed while covering his mouth with both hands;  fingers moved upwards to dry the tears. 

On the bridge, a change of politics. There is nothing left to hide.  

The Captain just made the decision make an address and communicate what is happening. The good news: the giant mud wave came to a halt. It solidified in the sea several meters from the ocean floor creating a wall in the horizon’s new frontier, between passengers and the former continents. 

Everyone should remain on the ship which, for technical reasons, would drop anchor right on location.  It would be of no use to move forward without knowing whether there is still anything left ahead.  

To return, the same issue. The way out of this would be to remain still while waiting for outside contact. 

A speaker announcement states that passengers will receive a communique in their cabins concerning the situation. 

Everyone thinks about the storm, while the Captain and a press attaché stand on the bridge discussing the terms of the communiqué whose unprecedented nature causes some compositional challenges. 

What to say? Has the landscape changed? Could everyone’s relatives be dead? 

Only that which is known will be said, the Captain orders. 

A rogue wave, an alien topography, the clay mountain on both sides-caused by unknown factors—and the end of the storm; that’s all. The network is still down. 

The swimming pool is once again open to the public.

 

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