Elaine Vilar Madruga
Translated by: Toshiya Kamei
Elaine Vilar Madruga is a Cuban poet, fiction writer, and playwright whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies around the globe. She has authored more than thirty books, most recently Los años del silencio (2019). Translations of her short fiction and poetry have appeared in venues such as The Bitter Oleander, The Café Irreal, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations of Latin American literature include My Father Thinks I’m a Fakir by Claudia Apablaza, South Exit by Carlos Bortoni, and Silent Herons by Selfa Chew.
Deus Ex Machina
They wanted a god.
Maybe they had lost their god by some twist of history, or maybe in an unexpected turn of events, or maybe at someone’s hands, or . . . who knows. They didn’t remember it themselves, but the truth was that there was no god, that they had no memory of ever having worshipped a god. No one in Ador gazed up at the stars with questions or even with one of those devotions we Earthlings would find so old. No one believed.
Ador was a quiet place.
Its bubble forests. Its winged birds like infinite loops. Its trees’ inverted roots. Its people, so similar to ours, with large eyes, their elders’ clothes that hung in tatters as long as time itself and their foreheads full of purple holes.
In search of a god.
They said only in silence would they be able to find what they had lost. When we tried to engage them in a dialogue—the briefest one—they would point with three fingers toward the sky and click their twin tongues in disgust. “Silence,” they told us. We didn’t know what else to say. “We seek God’s voice.”
I don’t know whose idea it was.
I suppose it was ours.
All good ideas are supposed to be ours.
We decided to sell them our God.
What did it matter?
We didn’t need a God, but we needed Ador’s land, its luminous, fertile soils, and the food that grew within and didn’t poison our cells as happened before when we tried to use Akla’s oceans.
As thousands of children died and mothers moaned, civil war erupted and threatened to tear us into pieces. Then a half-peace on Earth was somehow achieved, but it was always precarious even after so many years had passed since that event. Our quest for peace ran aground, so only one more cycle of famine was enough to trigger cannibalism among our people, and we all began to see food in our neighbors’ arms, legs, eyes. Only one cycle and we would return to the primitives’ hole.
We needed Ador’s water.
That liquid without radiation.
And the clean earth.
The land that could save us from cannibalism, from walking in herds like wild beasts.
The earth that could keep us away from the memory of poisoned children in Akla and two million people with liver, stomach, esophagus, and throat cancer, eight million starved to death, thirty-six thousand every day chose a rope, a maser on the forehead, a jump from a macro-building.
Ador was our Eden.
Ador had the manna we needed.
The idea was ours.
An exchange—our God for all their food, for their vassalage and service.
In other words, our God for their slavery.
They wanted it, and we made it to our image and likeness.
One of the many deities we had discarded.
The Man nailed to the Cross for reasons that certainly don’t matter now and perhaps never mattered.
The one we got tired of.
The one who ignores pleas and only replies with the long spit of his silence.
The people of Ador, with their elders at the front, kissed our hands, called us Fathers, dressed us in their herbal finery, and knelt to allow us to pass.
We brought them their God.
Their new God.
Soon we saw them bending in the furrows for us and lifting the Earth from its nuclear ruins.
Offering us everything we longed for and much more, while their God smiled at them from the thorns, with a thirsty beggar’s face, as he did for us so long ago.
And they were happy.
Each morning, the Machine passes through the fields of Ador—filled with their men who work for the Earth. The Machine from which their God hangs with a dead man’s lazy smile and then descends once a day over the silver fields, for a fleeting second, to wipe sweat and discouragement from native bodies and souls.
Only once a day, but it’s enough for them because they hear the Voice again, and they no longer need to find something in silence.
And we’re happy to be human.
We’re pleased the people of Ador are so well suited to our golden reality. It pleases us to know there are no longer poisoned children, threats of cannibalism, or tribes of madmen wandering forests on Earth in search of meat, water, or seed.
But sometimes . . .
Sometimes it’s better not to remember why we gaze at the sky and find nothing.
Why do we ask for silence with a simple glance or a click of the tongue? When the people of Ador ask us, why do we say, “It’s nothing. You’ve got a pretty good idea. I just want to hear . . .”?
But the word is interrupted.
Hear nothing, if that’s the right price for life.
Surely, God will understand.