Michael Díaz Feito
How the Memory Mechanics
Here's why the sacerdote made me guidedog of the fango: because I did inherit the memory of that Caribbean key, the home on Earth my family fled which is not my home; because I have mapped the memory of what I never touched onto every lived space of Mars, where I was born to find it all lacking and to find the religion; and because I know how the memory mechanics.
That was a smart sacerdote.
The iniciados of the religion trudged the fango. Lost in the great overwhelmed greenhouse that is our swamp, lit by the stars of this planet and by the glowing flora, the iniciados sunk to the knees in black water and mud. They crossed blind, because their heads were bagged in black hoods. They followed the olor of decay and orchids, wriggling to avoid troughs or sharp rocks. Toeing the finish line, the gumbo hammock where I, the guidedog, waited:
"Stop and show to me your machetes," I said.
They did what I said. If the machetes were washed in hog gore, then I let them into the gumbo hammock. If not, I turned them away. This was my job.
Iniciados must always love their hogs. I named them together. I fed them together. I stabled them together. I bagged the human heads daily with black hoods for rehearsal, and I told them to blindtouch the hogs' faces, so that when they finally hunted them in the trudge final, they could remember and identify their hogs.
Because of love, that first kill is not easy. It fires the memory. And in the gumbo hammock after the trudge final, I fired the cajachinas and cooked their hogs, so that they were well fed, not iniciados anymore but rebels true ready to kill again when the religion marched on the city court of Mars.
The memory I spoke about which I had inherited of that Caribbean key:
For me it is a flooded house of my family. Greensmeary marble steps, snaking ironwork saltrusted. An algae face, its ceramic tejas cracked among bushes of wild coffee. Light contorting in larded air. With dragonflies by the breakers always tolling.
It is a limewhite house, the memory.
Crawling the planetary tunnels, I led my new rebels true to the big meeting at Eunostos. The rest of the religion would be there and the whole and the sacerdote, and Watt too with her sindicat of teachers, cooks, techs, comicos, etc.
The big meeting at Eunostos had been set by scrawl letters by hand like what you are reading now. These letters are safe, very safe. Robots cannot read the scrawl. And, we had learned, neither can the managemen, because they forgot how.
I have somehow kept in this prison cell one of the sacerdote's most famous scrawl letters on me. It shows what he taught, so I am copying it here and here:
Oye to the religion oye. Soy the sacerdote.
I repeat to keep and know it: the memory of earth makes Mars's
rebirth. Since we were free from debt's slavery, we can be again.
Because when Adan planted and Eva sewed, what to who was really
There is a dusty hall in the rocks at Eunostos where the big meeting met. Our families first a long time ago landed nearby, and this hall people say was then their dormitory. Now many religious and many peasants too crowded the hall for the big meeting.
It is a simple hall and bare ugly. But I saw it then as now through the key memory like I was trained to do by the sacerdote. It became the limewhite house with the algae face. And I cried a little, because we, the religion, were making a new family in it.
The sacerdote rapped his familiar sermon for freedom over the clap of the clave. The clave was loud, like PAH fwa fwa. pah fwa. PAH fwa fwa. pah fwa.
Then Watt ranted about the internet, how it was not a mystery to our bisabuelos but a right unalienable. PAH fwa fwa. She told us again how to wipe the data farmed at the city court of Mars. pah fwa.
That was a strong time. Bloody in the eyes. Holy fire, the key memory, biting the brains.
One of my new rebels true suddenly came to me trembling fearfully, and he said:
"I been thinking I won't go. For example, I won't fight." He had a harelip and it also trembled, stuttering his fearfulness. He gave over his machete to me.
"Chico," I said, sighing because I did not want to do it. Because we were ready finally for the march on the city court of Mars, and the sacerdote had been clear with commands for the guidedogs' punishment of rebels coward. I swung the machete at his neck.
"Wait!" he said.
That is the only reply to death, no? Staring into those surprised eyes of his, so that I would remember out of respect his dying painfulness, I swung the machete again and again like I was cutting a way through the fango. My other rebels true were silent.
More teaching from the sacerdote's most famous scrawl letter which I have somehow kept in my pocket in this prison cell:
The birds at home they sang and flew and knew the memory of
Earth, mapped north/south with two electrons in the eyes split by
sight. No birds here, but we're like them in the fango, because killing
has entangled the memory. So we can map wrong and right.
Now watching out the prison cell's window of the past and wondering at these birds myself, I am more mystified by the meaning of the sacerdote. But let's not speak about this yet.
The city court of Mars grew as we marched toward it. A scary reef of exposed red rock whitespeckled with small windows like pores. And from those pores, exhaling, the robots, policial would fly.
We sang with the steady clave to keep the memory that shushes fear. It was the traditional song about Earth that the sacerdote taught us. Rebels true called out por qué por qué por qué dime por qué, and Watt's sindicat joined in the response:
porque estoy hecho tierra y si me tiran agua
ya tú sabes que me vuelvo fango
At the time I did not understand the traditional song's words, nor did anyone else of the religion or the sindicat. These are the Old Spanish words like our families a long time ago spoke. But the complaint of the song was clear enough to us all and to all of us.
I walked into an invisible wall that I had not seen. Like moving with the eyes shut, or the head bagged black, I was so surprised when my body stopped. I fell to the ground embarrassed by the force blunt. Clouds of robots policial had swarmed high above us. They hailed down colorful flashes. Our crowd of religious and peasants too burst, flowing in every direction.
The bullets had punched through my lungs. But when the painfulness got louder like hissing in the ears, I was happier, because the shame of falling so early faded. Weird shapes flitted me inside the eyes. I knew my body, drowning in the bloodwet dirt of Mars.
Like the sacerdote had promised, just only a few more blinks and the key memory would guide me back to Earth a martyr.
Hands grabbed and pulled me to kneeling. They slapped me around the face and ears. They spoke in the Old Spanish — "¡Levántate y marcha, cojones!" — and surprising to me I understood.
A bearded crowd dressed in linen costumes like the sacerdote's on tall holidays of the religion circled me. They put a machete in my hands, which in confusion I cradled like a child maybe, and the light shining from a sky too blue off the fresh blade was blinding to me.
Because of the light that was so suddenly blinding to me, I could not recognize much of the surroundings. It was all yellow light except the angry sweating faces of this crowd pressing close to mine. I walked with them anyway, apologizing for the misstep and fall, and I trusted, despite whatever trick this was of confusion or the painfulness of bullets, that we still marched on the city court of Mars.
The prison cell, in which I await trial tribunal for cowardliness and currently scrawl these letters, is just stone walls and a dirt floor. It is beautiful. The dirt is unbelievable and probably miraculous, as is everything else in this Caribbean key of the past.
It is not red dirt like that of Mars. It does not leak iridescence like that of the fango beloved. As I dig my toes into the dirt of this prison cell, the skin between the toes does not burn or shed, does not even itch neither. Instead the dirt just slips from my skin with gentle rubbing.
It is Earth, I now understand because I was told, and it is past. Through the window, a flock of round birds who are bright green with pink faces flies in spirals around a ropy tree, hiccuping in one voice at the glossy leaves.
The yellow light of the Caribbean key lessened its harsh effect on the eyes. I came to scan clearly that myself and the crowd marched through a flatland vast of powerful greenness toward an edifice that could not be the city court of Mars. There were many stick plants in rows and some damaged greenhouses.
The people of this crowd more agitated were so much taller than me that at first I could not shape adequately the edifice ahead of us. Those persons ahead of me lit torches and tossed them against it.
Screaming and coughing jolted from the edifice. Persons differently dressed dashed out of the smoking into the bearded crowd. They sprinted gutfirst into machetes there patient. While others ahead fell into low slashing and repeated, I could at last see the edifice toward which I was being pushed. I stumbled, and I started crying.
"No voy," I said. "No voy a luchar."
It was a limewhite house, the edifice. An algae face, yes like the key memory, and salty ironwork twisting, rusted. Greensmeary the steps of marble and the columns too. Cracked tejas, wild coffee, and that weird light.
Here in this prison cell for cowards, I smell the smoking and the bleeding from the home that is my family's if not mine. Breakers are tolling along a shore past the ropy tree with its birdspirals. Cotorras, I recall these birds are named, and I review the sacerdote's scrawl letter for better interpretation of the predicament into which I am wandered so far in time and blindly.
Michael Díaz Feito
is a Cuban American writer from Miami, Florida. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Axolotl, Big Echo, theEEEL, Flapperhouse, The Future Fire, Hinchas de Poesía, Jai-Alai Magazine, Jersey Devil Press, Milkfist
and Petrichor Machine
. You can follow Michael on Twitter @diazmikediaz