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Words Without Borders “stands as a monument to international collaboration and a shared belief in artistic possibility.”
— 2018 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize Citation
from the May 2019 issue

Microverses

In this speculative fiction piece, there are as many universes as robots' dreams. 
 

Panic

There’s still some snow on the path. Last week, this same mountain went suddenly quiet. It was snowing. Just like in fairy tales, she had thought, slowing her pace, beautiful and sad. And so unlike today’s desolation: everything looks naked, cold, inanimate. Her breathing labored, she hurries forward. A mystifying anguish clings to her. Not far now. She turns, glancing toward the valley. Beyond the hills lies the sea, which her eyes impulsively seek. Suddenly she would like to run back—to go home, now. Instead, she pushes on, finally reaching the summit: a pile of white rocks and a cross. She sits on the ground, holding her head in her hands. Her ears are ringing. I’m going mad. No, I’m dying. She looks up. It’s all quiet again. But it’s different this time. 

The horror of the world traverses her.

The sky explodes.

She senses that everything is collapsing, inside and out. 

In a flash, it’s the end of the world.

 

Almost Spring

There’s still some snow on the path. Last week, this same mountain went suddenly quiet. It was snowing. Just like in fairy tales, she had thought, slowing her pace, beautiful and sad. And so unlike today: everything is bright in the sunshine, and a warm breeze is blowing through the shrubs. Not far now. She turns, glancing toward the valley. Beyond the hills lies the sea, which her eyes impulsively seek. Finally, she reaches the summit: a pile of white rocks, and a cross. She sits on the ground, deactivates the peripheral devices, and logs on to the Main System.

Date: March 9, 2038. Robotic unit 34,573. No humans found.           

It’s almost spring.

 

Awakening                  

There’s still some snow on the path. Last week, this same mountain went suddenly quiet. It was snowing. Just like in fairy tales, she had thought, slowing her pace, beautiful and sad. And so unlike today: everything is bright in the sunshine, and a warm breeze is blowing through the shrubs. Not far now. She turns, glancing toward the valley. Beyond the hills lies the sea, which her eyes inevitably seek.  

Then something throws her out. When she opens her eyes, the unbearable squalor assails her: the naked walls, the stench of cigarette butts—his voice: “Enough of this shit.”

He has disconnected her. 

In a cruel flash she remembers the two of them. The beginning, and the end. 

“Leave me alone!” she cries. Then, more softly, “Put me back inside. Please.” 

He still loves her, so he complies. He runs the simulation all over again.

There’s still some snow on the path. Last week, this same mountain went suddenly quiet. 

 

Making Universes

There’s still some snow on the path. Last week, this same mountain went suddenly quiet. It was snowing. In the valley beyond the hills, the sea. On the summit, a pile of white rocks, and a cross.

The writer pauses. She interrupts the flow of words, glancing through the half-open window to the small garden in full bloom. She closes her eyes for a moment, listening: a motionless silence descends on the afternoon, shaking it. 

Her hand resting on her lips, deepening the silence, she awaits the birth. A slight dizziness traverses her.

In the initial lines, there’s nothing but a place in her mind. A memory, if anything. Yet something, there, is generating realities: the end of the world; a robot looking at the sea from a hilltop; or desperate love. What she decides, she scatters in the air by the handful, like seeds.

And what she creates becomes stories. One for each universe—timeless, as in dreams.

© Simonetta Olivo. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2019 by Sarah Jane Webb. All rights reserved.

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