By Elisa Taber
Elisa Taber's An Archipelago in a Landlocked Country is out today with 11:11 Press. A lyric ethnography of two Paraguayan populations—a Mennonite colony and a Nivaklé settlement—the book blends fiction, observation, and myth. In the excerpt below, an evangelical pastor, Padre Pedro, describes a dystopic future.
The sky will refuse to seep water. The land will grow as hard as stone. Animals will bury themselves the way only reptiles do but will not reemerge to seek prey. The homes humans live in will be stripped of walls and ceilings, so torn cloth will be draped over what is left of the structures and it will not protect them from the heat of the sun or the cool of moonlit nights.
Dogs and horses will lay on their sides, their ribs separating and coming together as they gasp for air; doves and chickens will burrow into the soil until their slim necks give in and their heads meet their chests; rats and mosquitos will disappear, the first buried under fallen bricks and the latter incinerated by the sun.
Though life will be extinguished, a smell and sound will grow stronger and inescapable. It will be provoked by a fire still miles away burning through fields and homes, flesh of animals and humans. Leaving only the stone-hard ground, until the earth shakes.
At this point the voice in crescendo stalled and the radio clicked off. Before words merge with static and are subsumed by silence, Padre Pedro offers comfort in a warning: “Esto es el infierno. No pases el más allá acá.” (This is hell. Do not spend your afterlife here.)
A woman responds, “Mejor infierno conocido que por venir.” (Choose a familiar hell over the one to come.) She speaks softly but more sternly than the one whose voice propels to fill space. Those listening, including Estela, soak up the words like stale bread used to clean the oil off a plate. Not a gluttonous gesture but a refusal to waste.
From An Archipelago in a Landlocked Country by Elisa Taber. Published November 2020 by 11:11 Press. By arrangement with the publisher.
Published Nov 10, 2020 Copyright 2020 Elisa Taber