The day had barely opened its gritty eyes, had not even gotten rid of the drunken and delayed stars and pushed them back under the mauve horizon’s blanket, and someone was already knocking at my door and ringing the bell like there was no tomorrow, as if the sacred right of weekend rest was suddenly repealed, or appealed – I was confused, probably still dreaming of trials from the book I had slept on last night.
“Whorucks who stole my cundong!” – I cursed, in a rampage of bad mannered creativity. “Can you wait for a second, for God’s sake? – I shouted while unlocking my six door locks. I looked through the peephole and didn’t believe my eyes: I could only see the chest of someone wearing a heavy jacket; the head would certainly start thirty centimeters higher. It had to be Rui Jirafales. I finally opened wide the door.
“God damn you, Rui. It’s not even five a.m. and…” – I jumped backwards. “What the hell you’re doing with this pig? Are you crazy?”
(Crazier than his normal standards, I meant).
Despite yesterday’s weather forecast, of a sunny day and temperatures around thirty Celsius degrees in Rio de Janeiro, Rui was wearing an overcoat that went down to his ankles and had also a leather hood, like those used by First World War pilots, with the typical matching goggles. He had a hairy pig in a collar, attached to a long chain made perhaps of Christmas lights, and was carrying a ridiculously big case.
“It’s not a pig, you repeat student of Elementary Biology whose sole interest was of how the reproductive organs do work, who used to have ice cubes under your balls for being afraid of getting infertile for wearing those horrible Disney’s lycra slips that your granny always gave you for birthday!” – he moved his hands up to his head, very upset. “This is a Sus scrofa scrofa, obviously. A European female wild boar. Her name is Ermengarde Piggly and we’re here, of course, to save the world!”
I must have been astonished for over a minute, thinking and re-thinking, absolutely catatonic. Ouch! Speaking about the ice thing was such a low blow!
“Hurry up, Lil’Fabio – he said to me (yeah, that’s my name, nice to meet you, by the way) – make us one of those 100% Arabica organic coffees that you hide in the deep dark dungeons of your cupboard from unwanted guests and get me some fresh bio vegetables for Emmy… I’ll explain everything!”
Rui bowed his head and crossed the portal, not even caring to clean his boots on the doormat. Ermengarde whispered and sat like a pasha on my Persian carpet in the living room, her sweet brown eyes staring at me, inquiring: “What are you waiting for?”
I first met Rui when I was fifteen and he, fourteen, at school. The boy was already over 6 feet and 3 inches tall and was so thin and shy that he quickly got very nice nicknames: Moon’s duster, Mr. Fishing O’rod, Professor Jirafales (from the Mexican TV show “El Chavo del Ocho”). I myself had been a bit bullied as well, because I was the shortest in our class and, let me say in a figurative way, I was some shades darker than the average in such an expensive private school. I thought that being friends with the skyscraper could provide me then, some protection.
“No way!” – he said.
“Why?” – I asked.
“I won’t be beat to defend you: I may be big but I’m peaceful. I don’t believe in solving conflicts by the usage of brute force. That’s so Cro-Magnon, you know? That’s not how we got to the top of the food chain!”
I started smiling and could not hold myself and began laughing out loudly. The chalky and full of pimples nerd boy was staring at me very seriously and then, started laughing too.
“No one speaks like that, no? My social interactions are so infrequent and maybe explain my mechanized speech. I need more rehearsing! I’m Rui, and you?”
“Fabio, but everyone calls me Little Fabio”.
“Well, I’ve just changed my mind. We do the following, Lil’Fabio: you can be my translator, my interface, and I can be your bluff.”
“Bluff? Like in poker?”
“Yes. I won’t hit anyone, but I can be some type of phantom menace, the sword of Damocles, hanging dangerously over the enemies’ heads. In exchange, you teach me how to speak like the other guys. So? Do we have a deal? It’s a typical win-win situation!”
I didn’t have even the most remote idea of who Damocles was and win-win sounded like Chinese food, but I spat in my hand and stretched my arm for a firm handshake.
We sat at the kitchen while my old Bialetti whistled on the stove and perfumed the little room of good coffee. Emmy was eating a bowl of cucumbers, apples and turnips which had costed me an arm and a leg at the bio supermarket. Rui had taken off his hood and the goggles. His hair seemed to ignore the existence of combs and brushes and shampoos.
“You’ve been taking your pills?” – I asked. I didn’t need to be indirect, although I was afraid of sounding somehow prejudiced. “Was it something that the voices told you? That’s the reason of your clothes and the sow?”
“Yes, I did it, mom. I’ve never heard the voices again” – he seemed to be a little offended.
“Hey, you’ve been here once because of the invisible cameras and microphones that NSA had installed in your apartment. Your phone was wired, your computer hacked. Can you picture it out? The government conspiracy stuff, the international human organs traffickers…”
“I had stopped taking my medication then, you know. They ‘kill’ my creativity, damn it! My head becomes empty like the intergalactic space… A 210 I.Q. mark and schizophrenia don’t make a dynamic duo, Boy Wonder!” – he smiled sadly. “You see, Lil’Fabio, I’m here precisely because I need the opinion of someone in whom I can thrust. I wanna know if I’m right or if I’ve completely lost my mind. If I’m right, we’ll have to act very quickly, otherwise, I’m gonna need an urgent appointment with my psychiatric. Can you listen to me?”
“Ta, ta, ta, ta, ta!” – I said in Spanish, but Rui didn’t smile to my Jirafales’ impersonation as he used to. He took a deep breath and then started speaking. A lot.
You know, when I had some spare time, when I didn’t have to be the respected PhD Rui Haas, famous post-doctoring from the National Scientific Computational Laboratory in Petrópolis, I created a computer worm which monitored news feeds in four different languages and in real time on the internet. Its algorithm is pretty sophisticated and it tries to connect events using keywords and A.I. for the context analysis. It compiles the results in a database stored in a grid of servers that I have at home. 24/7. It quickly became a hobby, almost an addiction; my every day’s after-hours booze. I always have, therefore, around 100 terabytes of garbage, often being refreshed.
Never found something exceptionally interesting in one year of monitoring: three Alaskan malamute dogs had fled their respective homes on the same week and in the same little town in Alberta, Canada. The dogs were named Ringo, Paul and John and were, of course, brothers. A burned toast, a window covered with a layer of dried mango juice and a peeled tree trunk, all showing the same image of Jesus, with open arms. Two girls called Helen and one called Neleh witnessed the mundane miracles. A tiger called Borges that had swallowed several Argentinian twenty cents coined in 1929, at the Buenos Aires’ Zoo. The poor thing moaned “zahir, zahir”, while defecating the hard pieces of metal.
Ah-ha! Yes, the last one is a big fat lie. I just wanted to confirm if you were really paying attention…
Then, about some months ago my program identified some other pattern out of the Gaussian Curve – my ‘Wow!’ signal! It bumped into the case of several wild boar meat farms located in the south of Brazil that had all their animals stolen, in periods of exact eleven days between each act; apparently, always at eleven p.m. sharp. A Chilean producer also had the same sad fate. At eleven p.m. too, but – curiously – according to Brasilia’s time zone and not Santiago’s. A security camera was filming the pigsty. In one moment, there were fifty animals sleeping over the straw. A second later, all gone!
Okay, I do know it could be just coincidence, the result of the efforts of some mystic wild boar thief gang with strange numerological intentions, but… I don’t know exactly why, something… A trigger… The number eleven! You recall when I became obsessed by such a number? One of the string theories, M-theory, manages the miracle of conciliating Quantum Physics and Special Relativity which are, otherwise, water and oil. By that time, when I got lost into my ‘eleven-madness’, I coded over a hundred programs, I’ve tried to use eleven universal constants in order to crack the residual Big Bang background noise frequency. Using the eleven radix system, like in Sagan’s book. PI, Planck’s constant, Cosmological constant and others. Don’t you dare to look at me with such a pity expression in your face! I’m currently aware that it didn’t make sense; everything was the result of my instability, caused by my mental condition.
A huge ‘what if’ was then built inside my brain, poking me, not allowing me to sleep. I decided to reprogram my worm for searching specific dates and patterns. I’ve discovered on the day of each stealing, lost in the sea of bits of the network, weird image files originated from an invalid IP address: a circle a bit barbed and full of scratches with two vertical lines in its center. Each image file, nevertheless, had similar but not identical file sizes. They could be encrypted messages, no?
After a month I’ve finally decoded the files and found new images inside them. See, it’s, they’re, they’re 121 spaceships! They look like giant porcelain sugar bowls, with ear-shaped handles and pointy lids, flying close to Saturn. Did you notice the rings and Titan up here? There was audio as well, listen: ‘Slaaaark Tzyorkmal Rrrdoshi Flushta Pilodon’. There’s much more, below the 20Hz line, but we humans cannot hear.
The unpleasant sounds woke up the sow; which was snoring happily after its expensive little snack. The animal started grunting, very nervously.
“You see?” – Rui pointed to her. “Wild boars are a threat because they can understand the aliens’ idiom and must resemble some species of their own planet, a probable apex predator of them! I believe that the invaders sent before some other scout race to eliminate the boars at first. I, I couldn’t create a proper translator for the aliens’ language but I can understand more than the basics of Ermengarde’s Boarish. She can hear in a much wider frequency range than us: ‘Radioactive attack. Morning holy hour. Octopuses and tourmalines rain. Geographical coordinates…’, that’s what she managed to translate. See: those are the coordinates of 121 big cities, including ours. 11 times 11! One spaceship for each… That’s why I’m dressing such plumb coated alpha and beta radiation proof clothes! That’s why I’ve bought Ermengarde from a farm before it was stolen; she can really be the last remaining individual of her species on Earth! I’ve got another overcoat for you in my suitcase. Lyophilized food and Geiger Counters too. The invaders are irrationally afraid of boars; they are going to attack today, at eleven a.m.! But, with Emmy’s aid we can send a very threatening message!”
“A type of bluff?” – I questioned, trying to hide my tears.
“Yes! Yes! Like one day I was your bluff. Am I crazy, Lil’Fabio? Tell me the truth! Does anything that I said make any sense?”
God! He’s way worse than I had thought! Everything was delusion, of course, although it was something built with impressive organization within its own absurd logic. Rui was a good friend, has always been. Once, when I divorced and got fired from my job and was later evicted and full of debts, he provided me his living room’s coach to sleep and paid my expenses for over a year. He never accepted his money back, not even said a single word about such a huge favor. It was my duty to take him back to normality, but in a gentle way, not offending his huge intelligence.
“This can make sense” – I commented. “But how on Earth do you intend to transmit a message, Jirafales?”
Rui smiled, clearly relieved. He took a notebook from his case.
“We need to send an image file using the same coding algorithm that they use” – he took a picture of Ermengarde with his cell phone. “They fear the boars; therefore, this is going to be a good image. Mmmm… – he said while checking the picture – I think I gotta photoshop it: she’s simply too cute, my cupcake. What time is it?”
“Holy shit! Nine o’clock. Time has flown by!”
“We just have two hours before the radioactive attack! They must have already surpassed the Asteroid Belt by now, according to my calculations.”
Rui squatted, cuddled the sow’s head, that started making happy sounds and licked his hand, very much like a gentle dog. He grunted then weird words in her ear while she seemed to be paying a lot of attention.
“Prepare to record, Lil’Fabio! My cell phone: password 1011, now!”
“D’oh! That’s eleven in binary, you Italian butter!”
The chubby swine stood up and began moaning something unnatural and incompressible, for about two minutes. It sounded as bizarre as the audio file that Rui said he had created from the images located by his worm.
He transferred the photo and the new audio file to his notebook. After some minutes executing command line programs, he showed me a black-and-white picture of Emmy, inside a barbed circle, full of random scratch lines.
“Are my senses fooling me, or is Emmy now cross-eyed?” – I inquired.
“She’s way more fearsome this way. I’ve made her teeth longer and thicker too. The image now must be sent to the invalid IP address.”
We moved to my building’s terrace at the roof. The clock-hands were approaching the deadly hour and I was wearing the radioactivity poof garments Rui had brought me. Emmy was in position; a soldier that ignored the meaning of fear, in case we needed any emergency translation. We then observed the skyline: waiting for one of the 121 colossal sugar bowls, ready to destroy humankind with a rain of burning octopuses and tourmalines.
“If, somehow, everything fails, Rui, please let me tell you that I’ll be eternally grateful for…”
“Will you please shut up and stop with the mumbo jumbo, you damned wanker?”
And we waited, and waited. And, perhaps, beyond Earth’s orbit giant sugar bowls would quickly halt and go back at maximum speed in that very precise moment, absolutely terrified, because of the unbearable, heinous image, of a cross-eyed sweet sow.