by Cecilia Eudave
Translated by Toshiya Kamei
Cecilia Eudave is a Mexican fiction writer, essayist, and scholar based in Guadalajara. She has authored numerous books, most recently the short story collection Microcolapsos (2017). Her work has been widely anthologized and translated into various languages, such as English, Japanese, and Korean.
In a clearing in the forest, she fixed her gaze on the pale moon shining against the dark night sky. Tiptoeing on a small mound covered with sticky, moss–like grass, she made out the tiny craters and the barren lunar soil. Without binoculars, without a telescope, she spotted the erosion on the luminous, lifeless sphere. A shudder shot through her. Rather, this internal jolt forced her to put aside her melancholy thoughts. Yet as she tried to feel something, a presentiment of catastrophe filled her. While she hesitated, a gentle breeze tickled her face. It felt fresh, almost icy. When she brought her hands over her face, her cheeks crystallized a little, although her internal heat immediately thawed the thin layer of frost on her face and the rest of her body. She felt no cold. Felt almost nothing. It was about time—act now or lose herself forever in the internal revolution sweeping everything. Her pride crumbled. Her sex was merely a decorative, pale redoubt of pleasant echoes. At most, it expelled odorless, gray urine, viscous or watery, depending on . . . Who knows what the nanorobots were doing to her? Her cravings had gradually dwindled and eventually petered out. Sensations? About to fade away, devastated by the invasion.
“The nanorobots are equipped only with mechanical phagocytes. They will help you fight disease. They will be your new natural defenses. Don’t worry. We control them,” they assured her.
If no one can control nature . . . not even a new kind of nature . . .
The engineer came excited, anxious, alive. She felt disgust, as certain feelings still moved in her brain, not the noblest certainly, although her old consciousness was slowly relegated to the mental walls of logic and preservation. Something was left of her. Something.
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you for hours. Can’t you hide in a less cold place? If it weren’t for the fact that I can track down “the tenants,” I’d never find you.”
She always thought it silly to call them that. Perhaps the first ones fit the bill, because they went in and out after they operated some internal changes and deposited artificial cells that would verify the connections and establish contact with her DNA, building communication bridges between her body’s native cells and the foreign ones that would come to stay. She christened them with another name—selenites. Perhaps because she had loved gazing at the moon since she was a child, perhaps because she considered herself a lunar inhabitant.
“I’ve been all over the place,” she answered, without going into details. “I go anywhere, can’t I?”
“Quit it. We’ve got to talk. You can’t wander about. Not now. We’re so close. You shouldn’t just disappear like that.”
She had plenty of reasons to kill him right there. No, he never listened to her. He was only interested in knowing what went on inside her body—not how she felt—while “the selenites” roamed, striped, expelled her.
He stuck to the data. Blinded by the “positive” results, he paid no attention to the reasons that brought her and the others to the medical nanobiotechnology program in hopes of lessening pain. Participants didn’t come here to become better or to aspire for an absurd cellular eternity. And so they were filled with fourth-generation microvivores, cell cocktails under specific design. He and his fellow vital engineers sat waiting for chance to throw the necessary conditions at them—the perfect combinations for biomolecular dice to eject a new kind of nature.
She jumped down from the mound and stood in front of him.
“Amazing,” he said.
“You’ve seen nothing yet.”
“Well, I want to see everything,” he said and opened his briefcase. “I’ve got to give you an injection first. Not only did you break the safety protocol, but also you ignored your dosing schedule.”
She extended her arm, which now seemed increasingly leaden, just as her veins. As the engineer prepared the syringe, she gazed at his rough skin, his reddened, bluish capillaries, and his sweat from embarking on his journey on foot. She took a deep breath as if to sniff at his aged body, which was kept strong by the excitement of discoveries. For an hour, her senses had heightened. She could hear, smell, observe, feel, taste his entire body, each organ, each pump of his heart, driving blood through his veins. But far from being pleasurable or exciting, she found him ineffective, an overload of sensations, now useless. They deprived him of other activities which she believed were more essential at this stage of the body readjustment process.
The engineer couldn’t stick the needle into her hardened, gray skin.
“You’ve suffered from capillary fragility,” he said, looking for a softer spot for the needle. “Hooking you up to an IV was torture. It left you with purple bruises. Now I can’t even stick this standard needle into your skin. See it? You’re healed, stronger, even younger. In our last study, we verified that your body not only healed, but also it’s near perfect. I knew it. It wasn’t simple intuition—cells think and act accordingly. They aren’t merely oriented toward conservation and multiplication. We can copy their thought systems, their logic, standardize it, and subject it to our needs.”
In his euphoria, the engineer failed to see that she wasn’t only healed, but that she had no single wrinkle, her skin was impeccable and impenetrable. She emitted no aromas because she didn’t produce any type of fluid that would detoxify her organism. She had also lost the ability to gesture while she maintained a stoic, almost cryptic expression. She had stopped eating a week ago. Had stopped drinking two days ago. She closed her eyes and tried to escape, tried to imagine herself struggling to wake up from a slow nightmare. No, that wasn’t possible, but she could look at every milliinch of her interior. Her interior resembled a city inhabited by small automata—spherical, cylindrical, polytypical, conical, triangular, and polyhedral. Some were flat while others were volumetric. A dark universe went from an exuberant indigo to a black that was impossible to distinguish in its beginning and end, moved in ordered yet convulsive ways. She still distinguished some elements other than those small robotic circumstances that hunted white, red or magenta dots. They gradually filled small green or yellow holes, winning the battle.
“I was right. We mustn’t just rearrange the atoms and put them in their place to eradicate viruses, autoimmune diseases, congenital disorders, or the ravages of old age. We’ve got to replace old or diseased cells with artificial ones that think like human beings, feel and act in their likeness so that they convince the original ones that they aren’t intruders but their equals. Stronger, better endowed, without blind spots, without failures, so that the original ones will copy them, imitate them. In this way, we will no longer have to manufacture them. Individuals themselves will begin to develop them, self-build . . .”
After several attempts to inject her dose, he gave up. All the needles broke in half. He looked at her without seeing her, as he didn’t distinguish between himself and her. He saw only his success, but not his failure. Then something happened that neither of them could have foreseen. She kissed him. The kiss was intense, but lacked a loving touch, only communicative. A need born from an interior that was her and wasn’t at the same time, as it was forced to enter the organism that was only empathetic in appearance. And in that disparate exchange, her saliva, thicker and more powerful, invaded him. He fell onto the grass, convulsed for a few seconds until he fell asleep.
She went back up to the mound to lose herself again in the pale face of the moon, sterile, motionless. Was there another kind of life? She shuddered again. She still had a bit of her left. Fear of extinction was the only thing all species had in common.
Maybe that was why she kissed him, so as not to be alone in her new nature. Perhaps that was what she thought. Nearby yet apart, the engineer lay asleep on the grass, his good intentions intertwined with his ego, which already mourned for humanity, although he didn’t yet know it.