Ufa! A maratona de outubro acabou. Foram 31 textos — um para cada dia do mês. Embora, na verdade, não tenha produzido textos novos, acabei redescobrindo obras inacabadas e ganhando gás para continuar escrevendo. Além disso, como consequência de postar essas histórias, surgiu um novo projeto que pode ser bem legal. Bom, agora continuarei postando, mas provavelmente não nesse ritmo frenético. :] Fiquem ligados!
Estamos no Arizona, 1864. Estou entrando num salão para matar dezesseis homens. Gente comum: ladrões, vaqueiros, bancários… Nada pessoal, apenas chegou a hora deles.
Entro no salão. Minha imagem, vestido todo de preto, do chapéu às botas, incluindo as armas, chama atenção – todos olham para mim. Ajo rapidamente: saco as pistolas e começo a atirar. Os tiros são certeiros, uma bala para cada um. Termino em menos de um minuto. Os que sobreviveram, me olham com uma mistura de espanto e medo. Dou meia-volta e saio do salão. Monto no meu cavalo pálido.
Meu trabalho nunca termina, e ainda tenho de encontrar os outros três cavaleiros…
Eu caço monstros para viver. O povo desta cidadezinha me contratou para acabar com um lobisomem que tem dado problemas. Consegui rastrear o bicho até um chalé abandonado na floresta, e vim todo preparado para dar cabo dele. Tenho uma carabina de cano duplo e várias balas de prata. Logo que entro, localizo o monstro. Ele está parado no meio da sala, como se estivesse me esperando. Ainda está na sua forma humana. Não perco tempo e atiro. Faço um buraco do tamanho de um punho no peito dele, mas ele não cai; ao invés disso, fica rindo. Disparo de novo. Nada. Ele dá um passo para frente, ainda rindo, e a luz da lua cheia o ilumina. Vejo então os caninos protuberantes e os olhos vermelhos. Aí me dou conta do meu erro: ele não é um lobisomem, é um vampiro.
Prata não funciona com vampiros…
Um dos exercícios da oficina literária da qual participei em 1995 era reescrever o conto “Missa do galo“, de Machado de Assis, do ponto de vista de outro personagem. Escolhi o vizinho que havia combinado com Nogueira de ir ao teatro com ele. Que Machado me desculpe pela afronta literária. :]
Quando estou a divagar, viajando pelas minhas recordações, encontro-me sempre a retornar a uma data específica: a missa do galo de 1862. A missa em si não é o motivo principal da recordação, apesar de tais eventos serem, na época, motivo para fortes lembranças. A pompa, a riqueza, a ostentação da corte eram embriagantes, e qualquer motivo que permitisse sorvê-las era apreciado. Era costume meu nunca perder uma celebração daquele tipo, mas não gostava de fazê-lo sem companhia. Quis o destino que naquele bendito ano estivesse eu passando por uma fase solitária da minha vida. Sim, bendito, pois verão, após o meu relato, que fui uma peça fundamental para evitar a desgraça de duas vidas.
Havia eu combinado com o jovem Nogueira, um quase-parente do meu vizinho, o escrivão Menezes, de irmos juntos à missa. O combinado era que ele viria a minha casa por volta da meia-noite para me acordar e, então, iríamos à igreja. Fui deitar-me tranquilo, seguro de que à meia-noite o jovem estaria a minha porta.
Acordei subitamente ao ouvir as batidas soturnas do carrilhão de papai, único legado deixado por ele a mim. Era meia-noite e nem sinal do Nogueira. Fiquei preocupado. Poderia algo ter lhe acontecido no curto percurso entre a casa do Menezes e a minha? Não, estava exagerando. Provavelmente havia se entretido com algum livro e perdido a hora. Resolvi então ir chamá-lo. Me vesti tão rápido quanto pude, pois o tempo urgia, e segui para a casa do Menezes.
Ao chegar, vi as janelas fechadas, como era de se esperar dado o adiantado da hora e decidi bater. Porém, antes que fizesse algum som, ouvi vozes que vinham de dentro da casa. Eram duas, uma feminina e uma masculina. A mulher era, sem dúvida, D. Conceição, a mulher de Menezes; nós costumávamos chamá-la de “santa”, tal sua passividade e calma. Mas o que estaria ela fazendo acordada a tal hora? O homem, reconheci logo, era Nogueira. Os dois pareciam estar conversando. Não sei descrever o que me acometeu naquela hora, mas senti uma necessidade incontrolável de ficar ali escutando.
Nunca tive atitude mais sensata. À primeira vista a conversa parecia ser inocente, mas para um homem calejado pela vida como eu, era fácil notar as insinuações entrelaçadas nela. Nogueira, coitado, não devia ter idéia do que estava se passando ali, afinal, tinha apenas dezessete anos. Para mim, no entanto, era claro que ali estava a se formar o embrião de um adultério. Engendrado por Conceição. “Santa”, pois sim! Só se fosse do pau-oco! Não que eu seja um hipócrita, entenda-me, sei que há a necessidade do homem procurar conforto no seio de várias mulheres, e Nogueira tinha o direito de ter esta oportunidade. O problema era que Menezes não era um homem de temperamento fácil, e eu temia que, se descobrisse o caso, cometesse uma desgraça. Nogueira era muito jovem ainda para ter este tipo de problema.
Percebi, neste momento, que haviam parado de conversar. Um silêncio opressor tinha se instaurado. A calmaria antes da tempestade! Sabia que aquele era o momento de intervir. Se hesitasse, tudo estaria perdido! Bati fortemente na janela e bradei “Missa do galo! Missa do galo!” Repeti uma vez mais, sossegando apenas quando vi o jovem sair pela porta.
Durante a missa, foi fácil notar que Nogueira não estava presente, pelo menos em espírito. Mais uma prova de que, se não tivesse intervindo, o feitiço haveria se completado.
Hoje, anos depois, recordo deste fato como sendo uma das boas ações da minha vida. Uma que, se o Todo-Poderoso desejar, me valerá um lugar, ainda que pequeno, em Seu reino. Sim, porque Nogueira seguiu sua vida e veio a se tornar um advogado famoso e Conceição acabou se casando de novo, após a morte de Menezes. Talvez isto não acontecesse, não tivesse eu interferido.
I found her at the end of a nearby pier. She was having difficulty untying a boat with only one hand.
I pointed my gun at her and shouted, “Stop!”
She did and looked at me. Even from a distance, I could tell she was deciding between trying the boat anyway and reasoning with me.
“Jimmy, I didn’t mean to hurt you. It was Samedi’s idea. You know I lov…”
I shot her before she finished. The bullet made a perfect round hole in her forehead, exiting her skull in a crimson explosion. A fleeting look of astonishment passed over her face. Then there was nothing. Her body hit the floor hard. And stayed there.
I approached slowly, gazing at her still form. At that moment I realized that despite the disgust, hatred and contempt I felt for Zombietown, a tiny part of me had hoped that this trip, this walk down a very disturbed memory lane, would prove me wrong. That I would find a sign that there was more to this place than I had allowed myself to see.
That tiny part was wrong. I had always been right.
I had sworn I’d never go back to Zombietown again.
I rose and heard another shot. The left side of my abdomen exploded and I fell again. However, I’m not one of the nine percent who have their whole body as a weak spot. Despite the pain, I turned on my back and peered in the direction I heard the shot had come from. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Lenore. She still wore the long black dress from Samedi’s. Smoke rose from the barrel of the gun in her hand. She was standing next to the Baron.
“I’m impressed,” he said, “According to Lenore, that shot should have done you.”
He was right. After all, I belonged to the remaining one percent; the exotics that have their weak spot in some obscure part of the body, in my case, the spleen.
“But since you’re in pain, I must conclude there was a degree of truth to her claim,” he continued.
Again, he was right. That shot did take out my spleen, hence the pain ¾ a zombie only feels pains when its weak spot is damaged. However, thanks to the Army warlocks who magicked my weak spot to my appendix, I was still unlive.
“No matter,” he said, “A few more bullets and I’m sure we’ll hit something vital.”
“Whatever your plan is, Samedi, it won’t work,” I said, still in pain.
“Plan? You sound like a comic book character, Jimmy. And save the bravado, please. I know you came here all by yourself. You have a reputation as something of a maverick in the police department, even though you have that partner of yours, Gills.”
“His name is C.L. Black,” I forced between greeted teeth. Only his friends could call him Gills.
“Whatever. There’s nothing you can do now. The trucks have already left to deliver the flesh. That reporter though, she could have spoiled the whole scheme. I must confess her connections to the Gorgons took me by surprise, but luckily the police saw fit to send their most narrow-minded thananthrophobic detective to investigate the case.”
“What do you mean by trucks?” I asked, ignoring the insults and attempting to stall for time. His colossal arrogance, and perhaps my genuine look of confusion, made him explain the scheme.
“I had the idea several years ago, that’s why I invested in the flesh market — as you may recall, I’m the main importer and distributor of flesh in the city. I was inspired by Romero’s motto: all flesh must be eaten. But the key point here, Jimmy, is whose flesh must be eaten? When I realized that, I contacted some associates of mine overseas. After several years of research, they finally provided me with a mystically engineered flesh that will turn anyone who eats at least an ounce of it into one of us.”
One of you! I thought, but kept to myself.
“Of course, it won’t work on everyone. Other undead, for example, will be immune. That’s a minor problem though, since they represent a small proportion of the population. The important thing is that, once they join our ranks, they will feel our misery. They will know what it’s to be treated as the scum of society, to be…”
“Spare me the propaganda, Samedi,” I said, “I don’t buy you as a hero of the masses. There must be an angle here for you. Say, what tribe are all those people gonna be turned into? Surely not the Quick, or the Problem Solvers. I’d bet good money we are going to see a lot of Dead Joes, or even the Dumb. What else does this mystical flesh do? Make them more susceptible to suggestions?” I knew I had struck a chord when Samedi’s gleeful expression disappeared.
“I knew you were a selfish bastard the day you left us, Jimmy,” Lenore said, “Can’t you see he’s trying to help us all?”
“You’re not fooling me anymore. There must be something for you in this too, beside “happiness for all zombies” and all that crap!” I spat at her. She didn’t like my comment by her reaction. She pointed the gun at me and…
A shot rang. Her hand exploded. Another shot. Samedi’s chest exploded, blood flooding his white suit. Lenore fled and Samedi fell. Gills came running out of the darkness and helped me up. Good thing I had phoned him.
“Gurgle gurgle gurgle?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” I replied.
“Gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle,” he said.
“I don’t care if I don’t look okay, I am! Look, we don’t have time for this. You gotta radio the precinct and tell them about the trucks and the flesh.”
“Gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle?” he asked.
“I’m going after her,” I said, grabbing my gun and limping after Lenore.
After a brief phone call and a fifteen-minute walk, I reached the waterfront. All around the world, these areas are reputed to be seedy. In Zombietown, that was a gross understatement. The simple fact that the streets were deserted here was proof enough.
Locating Samedi’s warehouses proved easy, since he seemed to own most of the place. I didn’t expect much security, except for some thugs. Intricate and expensive security systems attracted undue attention to your property in Zombietown, as if you were advertising that you had something so precious it required the extra security. I picked the gate’s lock in two minutes. I ran across the large, empty parking space towards the first warehouse. Light streamed from inside. I took out my gun, stole over to a window and peered inside. Four zombies sat at a table playing cards. Actually, only three were playing, the fourth was nibbling what looked suspiciously like the bones of an arm. I kicked down the door and burst in, trailing my gun on them. A good thing about Zombietown is that “warrant” and “probable cause” are just words here.
“Hands behind your heads!” I shouted.
They ignored me, as I suspected they would, and started moving my way. A gun isn’t all that frightening to a zombie. Its threat level depends on the size of your weak spot and the skill of the shooter. Unfortunately for them, I had spent seven years in an Army special ops unit, the Nightcrawlers. I fired four times, hit four heads and dropped two of them. Over fifty percent of all zombies have their brain as their weak spot. Two more shots, two upper chests pierced and one more zombie down. The heart is the weak spot of thirty percent of all zombiekind. By then, the remaining guard, a big fella, had gotten close enough to jump me. We fell down, but I used the momentum to roll and throw him. He fell a few feet away; ending the movement with his back turned to me. I had managed to keep my gun and took the opportunity to put three slugs along his backbone. He didn’t get up. That put him in the ten-percent group of zombies with spines as their weak spot.
Lenore did, unfortunately for her. Her eyes were misty and, sure enough, the tears began rolling down. That calmed me. Tears have that effect on me. To tell the truth, I think they have that effect on most zombies — at least those who still have their wits about them — for two reasons. First, the vast majority of zombies is physically and psychologically incapable of crying. They kissed their tear ducts goodbye when they joined the undead, and the trauma of death precludes them from relating to most experiences from Before — one’s previous life in zombie parlance. Second, unlife in Zombietown beats all sentimentality into a pulp before long. It drains you of any softness, leaving behind a hard shell and a cold interior, hardly favorable conditions for an emotional display. The rarity of this event is best illustrated by the Zombietown equivalent of the expression “when Hell freezes over”: when a zombie sheds a tear.
Lenore’s tears allowed my more rational self to take control again. She had collapsed on the chair and was now sobbing with her face cupped in her hands. I knelt beside her and with my hand gently raised her chin. Her mascara had run down her cheeks, giving her a melancholic worn out look.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
I feel only a bitter hatefulness for Zombietown and its inhabitants. With Lenore is different, I feel affection too. This simple positive element should have enabled me to recognize how special she was, and how dumb I was for not telling her so. It had always been hard for me to express my feelings. Add in the resentment and the many years I spent building walls around me. That’s why I didn’t say anything else to her. I just stood, turned and walked to the door.
“Jimmy,” she called as I was leaving.
I paused and looked back at her.
“I don’t know if it’s important,” she said, “but that reporter… She was here. She kept asking me about Samedi’s warehouses on the waterfront.”
“Thanks, babe,” I said and left.
I knocked on her backstage door and waited. There was a faded golden star on it, with her name written underneath. I felt strangely numb. Repulse and anticipation canceling each other, perhaps. After a few seconds, she asked who was it. I didn’t know how to answer. If I was honest, she might not open the door. Then again, she might be curious about what had happened to me since we had broken up.
“It’s me, Jimmy,” I answered.
There was a long silence. Then footsteps, then the door opened. We stood face to face.
“What do you want here?” she asked coldly.
“I’m investigating a murder,” I answered, which was partly true. She didn’t need to know I wanted to talk to her again.
“A Zombietown murder? Being investigated? That is something!” she smirked, sarcasm oozing from her voice. She turned her back to me and walked to her dresser, leaving the door opened. I took that to be as welcoming an invitation as I was gonna get and so stepped into the room, closing the door.
She sat down in front of the vanity mirror and started slowly brushing her lovely red hair. That awakened memories I thought long dead and buried. No words were coming out of her mouth, so I opened mine.
“Her name was Medea Boid. She was a reporter for the Dusk Diary. A zombie killed her earlier tonight. The thing is, she had connections with the Gorgon family and now they’re pressuring us to find out what happened. Did you see her tonight?”
“You should ask Samedi about it,” she said, still brushing her hair.
“I already did,” I said.
“Then you have all the answers you need.”
“Not really. He blew me off with that small talk of his and…”
“Look, you thing you can just waltz in here after fifteen years and pretend nothing happened?!!” she snapped suddenly, rising and turning to face me. She had a half-angry, half-hurt look in her face. I was caught somewhat off-guard, but I recovered quickly.
“As I recall, you refused to come with me when I asked you,” I shot back at her.
“Leave Zombietown when people here needed all the help they could get?” she asked me, an incredulous look on her face. The same look she had fifteen years ago.
“Help people? Come on, this place was a cesspool. They deserved everything they got.”
“How can you say that? Romero was trying to change things,” she said. She believed it, I could tell.
“Oh please! Romero was a puppet. Samedi pulled all his strings. And what did they accomplish? More misery and pain. All those people died a second time for nothing!” I said with such intensity that I surprised myself. I was aware of all the resentment I carried. What I didn’t know was that it had festered all those years, growing into a dark disturbing thing. I felt relieved to finally let it out, to finally be able to express it to someone who would understand the full weight of it.
“But enough about me! I want to know what brings Jimmy Valadares back to Z-town,” he said, sipping his champagne.
“There was a murder earlier tonight — a reporter from the Dusk Diary. We found her body a stone’s throw from the Bone Gate. Forensics confirmed that a zombie did it,” I said, studying his face.
“Since when does the police care about murders in Zombietown?” he asked nonchalantly.
“She had connections to the Gorgon family.”
“I see,” he said, sipping again his champagne and letting nothing register on his face.
“My captain sent me here to investigate the case. I knew that a reporter in Zombietown would, sooner or later, come here to talk to you. So, did she?”
“Hmm, I don’t recall. It’s all a bit vague…”
“Her name was Medea Boid,” I offered.
“Oh! Snakes on her head?” he asked and I nodded. “Yes, yes. She came by earlier this evening. Asked some crazy questions about a conspiracy. She had a very active imagination.”
“Conspiracy? What kind of conspiracy?” I asked, intrigued.
“I don’t know. As soon as I realized she was wasting my time, I finished our interview. You know the Dusk Diary is not exactly respectable.”
I tried extracting more information out of him, but failed. He had already given me everything he intended to. To stay any longer would only waste my time. I stood up.
“What? Leaving already, Jimmy? Are you sure you don’t want to stay for the show?” he said. As if on cue, the lights dimmed and a spotlight turned on above the stage. The curtains drew apart. I stood paralyzed. Lenore. Bathed in bright white light, like an angel. The same cascading fiery hair and fair green-tinged skin. In a tight, long black dress that revealed she had lost none of her charms. She started singing “Someone to Wither for Me.”
I felt confident that I was over her. After all, she had chosen to stay instead of leaving with me, fifteen years ago. She had chosen to remain among that which I most despised. I accused her of having a misplaced sense of loyalty and she retorted that I had a very “well placed sense of shame.” I had left then and had never looked back. Until that moment, that is. Or was it? There was only one way to find out. Besides, I could also pump her for information.
Twenty minutes later, I arrived at Samedi’s. It looked exactly the same. The big, garish, blood red neon sign; the heavy oak double doors with gruesome scenes engraved on them; and Bull, the bouncer. He was a big fellow – six five, over two hundred pounds – with mottled skin and dead white eyes. He watched me as I approached. He didn’t say a word, but I detected a subtle smirk. I ignored him and entered the club. Just before the main saloon, there was a small foyer where you could leave your coat. Above the second set of doors that led to the saloon, stood a mahogany board engraved with the words “All Flesh Must Be Eaten”. That was Romero’s motto during the riots. What a joke!
The saloon was as spacious as I remembered it. A sea of tables and booths spread over three tiers. There was a big stage at the far end, but it was dark and quiet right now. The lighting was subdued and the speakers were crooning “Zombietown”, an old hit from an era when it was hip to “shamble”. The place looked busy, with many clients looking for dangerous shambling action, mostly from outside Zombietown, ironically. I had no difficulty locating the Baron, as he liked to be called. He always dressed in white Necromani suits to contrast with his dark, overstretched skin. I walked over to his table. When he saw me, he smiled.
“Well, well, well! The prodigal son returns!” he said, standing up and throwing open his arms as if to embrace me. I knew better than to trust anything he did or said. The Baron was a cold, heartless son of a bitch. Dealing with him was dangerous.
“Samedi,” I said coldly.
“Sit down, my friend,” he said jovially, returning to his chair. “How long has it been? Ten? Fifteen years? I want to know everything that happened to you since then, but first…” He signaled a passing waiter and ordered a bottle of champagne and a steak for me.
“I’m not hungry,” I said. I still felt a bit sick from the odors of the street and I didn’t trust Samedi’s source for flesh.
“Oh, don’t be silly! I know what you’re thinking. That it’s unregulated flesh. It’s not. I’m legal. In fact, I cornered the market in the city. I’m responsible for ninety percent of all import and distribution.” That was news. I remembered that Samedi started investing in it after the riots, but I had no idea he intended to create a monopoly. “See? You can eat it and forget that dreadful, synthetic golem-flesh crap.”
The waiter brought the champagne. Samedi popped the bottle and poured two glasses. I left mine untouched.