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Jose Ismael Camacho- A life  



I’m sharing with you the life of a clever, funny and gifted writer, a man who could talk about any topic and knew everything. A father that I miss and wished he could have been preserved for eternity.

A quiet province in the north of Colombia at the beginning of the twentieth century, Santander del Sur had been rocked a few times by the wars between the liberales and the conservadores.

It had been spared the destruction of other towns in the region subject to the tantrums of local politicians, who had a dream of a grand Colombia.

In a village called Lebrija, an hour away from Bucaramanga, a young woman -Josefina Camacho- went in labour. She already had two other children and had lost a few others at birth.

Little Horacio Camacho was five years old and his sister Lijia, two years old as they waited with their father in the lounge. After pushing for the last time, Josefina delivered a rose faced child into the world.

The midwife cleaned the child, before placing him next to his mother. 
The children admired the new addition to the family, while the woman cut the umbilical cord.

Having lost another baby the year before, Josefina felt nervous.  The midwife wanted to make sure everything would be fine this time.

Father stroked the baby's hair as the children admired his rosy face. Then he led them to the kitchen, where they had their lunch. The children wanted to know how the baby had come in the world and if he would live with them.

That evening little Ismael slept in a small cot by his mother’s side. Cockerels singing, woke them up next morning, and as the baby cried, his mother put him by her breast.

Time went past and Jose Ismael grew intro a chubby child with golden curls, who liked to play with his brother and sister in the countryside around his home. He pulled his cars along the grass and hid his sister's dolls under the bushes.

After going to bed one night complaining of pain in his arm, his father didn't wake up the next morning. Jose Ismael was five years old while Ligia and Horacio were six and eight years old. They thought father would come back later to play with them before their bed time.

Sweet dreams had ended for the young woman, left alone with her three children. They traveled on the back of mules, to a town where their uncles lived. That journey across the mountains must have been exciting for a five year old boy.

The country didn’t have many roads during the ninety thirties. They had to trek to the other side of the cordillera, where another life waited for them in a bigger city.

Little Horacio recalled the slow pace of the mules by the edge of precipices and ravines. A friend, who had come with them, built the tents to sleep that night.

Playing in the field next morning, the children collected flowers growing alongside the path. It was a great adventure for them all, even if the weather turned cold and they felt tired.

After the children had climbed on the mules they resumed their trek through the mountains full of fog and dangers.

An immense kaleidoscope of rivers, hills and ravines, made up the countryside in the central cordillera of the Andes where the Chibchas had lived before the conquest.

Having left the province of Santander, the mountains had given way to pastures. Cows and goats ate the long grass, as an eagle circled above them, looking for pray and nature rejoiced in life.

The church steeple against a cloudy horizon, welcomed them, as they neared Choconta. Sensing the end of their journey, the mules trotted towards the houses at the edge of town.

Josefina with little Ismael were the first ones to enter the town.  People looked at them from their houses while dogs barked.

Where’s the church?” she asked a man.

He took them along the high street and up to the church, where the sound of people singing spilled into the streets.
"Alleluia," they chanted.

After helping her children get off the donkeys, Josefina led them inside the house of God, as a priest read the sermon.

Pushing his big glasses up his nose,he stood in front of the congregation talking of God's grace.

He paused for a minute as the new arrivals sat down, before resuming his preaching. Josefina hoped her uncle would welcome them in their home.

He hugged Josefina and the children after the mass
“I was expecting you,” he said.

As a catholic priest, Uncle Antonio believed in the value of his family amongst the kingdom of God.

After taking them to his house by the church, the maid helped them to bring their belongings and they had lunch in the refectory .

The man accompanying the family to Choconta, went back to Lebrija in Santander the next day.

Tired after the long journey, Josefina and the children went to sleep after dinner. They met Uncle Felipe next day after he had said mass.

The men admired the young widow who had journeyed through the mountains to come to Choconta.

The uncles taught the children all about religion and the bible and they paid for their education.

My father was 14 years old when the second war world started. After reading everything about the conflict, he liked going to the movies to see the films of the time.

A clever boy, he did well in the school and had inherited his mother’s blond hair and fair skin. His sister Ligia and his brother Horacio looked more like their father.

Jose Ismael finished school and studied medicine at the Universidad Nacional of Bogota. He got his degree in medicine and married his second cousin Cecilia Mogollon in 1952

This an extract of the novel Siete minutos written by Ismael Camacho Arango in 1971


Why am I writing this? I know how it started but I can’t say how it finished.

Is this the most important moment for humankind? All of these questions come to my mind now that I’m going back to the primordial matter, and I’ll cease to be me.

I have been many things that start and finish in a moment but I’ve never been sure of that. Will I be something now that I’m about to end?

Have the electrons found out that they’re electrons? Do the stars know what they are? I hear a noise as if the sun has blown in cosmic tones.

No one has ever heard anything like that and no one will hear it again. I have recorded it, and people in other parts of the world have done the same thing.

Why? Perhaps I want to teach my children to identify an atmosphere that has been perturbed by a coughing sun.

I hear shouts in the streets, hallucinated words, the crying of the dying and drunk men singing.

I had never seen or heard anything like that and I will never do again. Everything started simply and it was a day like all the others. Workmen went to their work, wearing their overalls and their packed lunches.

All men carried their solitude to pass another day somewhere else. It was a day without personality. Everybody went somewhere, or they thought so.

They all felt ashamed to be alive and did something else to pass the time or what they call work.

You put down your head and contract your fingers and muscles and we have to move them until the clock on the wall tells us to stop.

The middle class man, who goes into his Rolls Royce and greets the uniformed driver, is the gravitational centre of the earth.

He won’t give much bread to those poor people, who look from afar as they’re afraid to steal the light of his landscape.

Streets full of people, buses, trucks, taxis, and big automobiles, smaller automobiles, bicycles, women with dogs, policemen with whistles and revolvers, children.

Nobody looked at the sun.

They all knew they were a part of the sun, even if they didn’t notice it. It rose on one side and went down the other, with regular monotony and they couldn’t think anything different. Primitive man worshipped the sun as it was fresher than the ancestral message.

The Inca made a toast of chicha (16) to the sun from the highest point in the Andes, while some others offered the flesh and hearts of men.

Our father sun had decided to eliminate us, perhaps because he didn’t have any more chicha and hearts. He would leave our toasted ashes in the cosmic cloud, as a reminder of the children of the sun.

On that particular day, the news traveled fast everywhere.

I had just got dressed, when the radio programme was interrupted. Someone said: “Attention! Attention! Extra! Extra!!! Extra!!!”

I thought they wanted to sell soap for washing clothes.

“…northern lights in all regions, including the tropics. Several observatories all around the world are in contact to explain the phenomenon as a dense fog has descended all over the earth. We’ll keep you informed of any new developments.

Breakfast was ready. I had bought sausages the day before and felt hungry. What were the northern lights? I would look at the encyclopedia that evening.

I had forgotten to pay a few monthly quotas and had received letters from the seller but I stopped thinking about the problems. I wanted to have a good day.

The radio went on. The night before a bank had been robbed, while a jet plane with seven hundred people had fallen into the ocean and everyone died.

A Czechoslovakian man burned himself in a protest against Russia, while another one in Saigon did that as a protest against the USA.

The presenter tells me to buy chewing gum and smart shirts, while the pope says some bishops hate God, and a few bishops say the pope hates God.

The presenter tells us about three dimensional televisions with smells as they’re indispensable in our homes. “EXTRA!!! EXTRA!!! EXTRA!!!”

“Radio and television transmissions have been affected by intense solar activity.”

He talked of the sun again. What did it matter the solar wind and all the radio communications? I could hear the radio very well but it was a local station.

Would I have any problems with long distance programs? I lit my cigarette and heard: “EXTRA! EXTRA!”

The maid appeared at that moment.

“Come with me,” she said.

As she opened the window, a dense fog came in the house. Something had to be burning nearby. I had never seen anything like that.

“EXTRA! EXTRA! The authorities have informed the citizens of the fog over the city. They want people to stay at home. You must go out in the street only if it is urgent and cars should drive at low speeds and with their lights on to stop any accidents. The schools are shut. EXTRA! EXTRA!”

The neighbouring houses had disappeared under the fog, while shadows moved within the clouds, like lost angels. Lights appeared sometimes, driving slowly in the whiteness enveloping the world.

I felt hot in spite of the fog. I decided to stay at home and sat down to listen to the radio. As I tried to find radio stations in short waves, I only heard noise. I went back to the local station, but it had been put together with the national radio. The world had never seen anything else like this.

“Attention! All the radio stations are in contact with the national radio, to bring you information about the rare things happening in the country and the world. We have to do this because communications by radio are getting more difficult.

“We’re doing a resume of the situation in the country from the central station in Bogotá. Fog has invaded the country, and the air service has been stropped. Airplanes that were in the air have been declared in emergency. We don’t know what has happened to them.

“The fog is greater in the ports, while the level of the seas has receded. Small and big ships have been left stranded by the coasts. We don’t know the number of victims up to now. Rare atmospheric events have been seen. This glow in the sky looks like the northern lights or Auroras Borealis, and we beg our citizens to be calm.”

I saw the fog outside the window and then I noticed the dancing lights up there amidst the clouds. I remembered what the northern lights were.

I had seen an aurora boreal before but this spectacle surpassed everything else. I phoned my girlfriend and her mother told me that she had not arrived at her office yet.

“The national radio is in contact with central and North American radio. Similar things have been reported from all parts of the continent. It’s five o’clock in the morning in Hawaii, where the auroras have been a beautiful spectacle.

The situation is grave, that’s why we can’t leave any space for commercials. We can’t waist any time. We’re making contact with radio Barranquilla. Attention!

“This is Barranquilla, transmitting for the national radio. We’re driving away from the city by very crowded roads. Everybody is getting away from the sea as they fear the water might come back in a giant wave. We have seen terrible things amidst the fog, as buses and trucks full of people are waiting for the traffic to move. We ask everyone to be calm as we pass you to our central offices now. This is central station in Barranquilla. The city has been evacuated, and only a few people remain here as it’s difficult to see anything in the intense fog. I’m connecting with Bogotá.

“This is radio Bogotá. We don’t have any water now, and we advice our citizens to get bottled water. It’s indispensable at the moment. Attention! We ask everyone to remain in their homes if they don’t have an urgent business in the city. We beg people living near the coasts to keep calm. We mustn’t fear the sea as its waters are going down. We don’t have news of sea quakes. Doctors and nurses must report to their jobs.

“Most cities in the country don’t have electricity by now. All radio stations with a petrol plant or with electricity must get in contact with the central station. We are talking to different cities to find out the general situation in the country.

“According to communications with national observatories, and the latest international news, the sun is pulsating, and has thrown the world into chaos. Our sun seems to have more energy that its size requires. We must keep calm. Most of the victims have happened because of the general panic. Many people have died inside the churches here in Bogotá. The authorities have decided to shut them. The rest of the country must do the same thing.

“It doesn’t look good in New York, where the skyscrapers have disappeared amidst the fog. They have lost communications with all space craft in Houston. We don’t know the number of ships and planes involved in accidents as confusion reigns on earth. At the central station, we’ll try to keep in contact with the different countries of the world.

“Now we give you an extraordinary bulletin. The country has awoken today to a rare phenomenon. It’s caused by the sun pulsating, according to the experts. The things happening in Colombia have been experienced all over the planet, but the sun has gone back to its usual size and the problem has ended. We must keep calm until everything goes back to normal.

“We have dense fog everywhere, and it has interrupted all communications. The sea levels have gone down, increasing the fear of sea quakes. The ports have been evacuated in chaos and many people have died. We beg you to be calm.

This is the national radio and we have just read the number one news of the moment. It is raining in Bogotá. Attention! An electric storm has developed over the city, with rain and hale.”

As I looked out of the window, I saw rain pouring amidst the fog. Thousands of hail stones fell over the city while the house shook. I ran out of the room and stood in the middle of the patio. The earth moved and I felt like in the middle of an angry sea.

I had to go down on the floor as the water and hail kept on coming. The maids called San Emilio, who seems to know of these things. A rumble came out of the earth while houses fell down around us. I lay down with my head on the floor for about fifteen minutes.

We stood up sometimes, but the quake started again. It stopped later and the city was quiet as water fell on us. The house had been destroyed, except for two rooms by the back yard as they were small and tough.

The entire city seemed to have been destroyed and the fog had almost vanished. I found the radio by my side. As I tried to get a radio station, I heard only static, perhaps it was broken or they didn’t exist anymore.

I went out in the street followed by the maids. We saw a few wet and frightened people. The dust had mixed with the water and we looked like carbon miners.

We heard someone shouting from theearest ruins. As we tried to get over there, a wall collapsed and the shouts stopped. We were left in silence. I felt alone with nature as I sat under a big tree in the park. Something told me the end of humanity was near.

As I opened my eyes, I saw people looking like ghosts around me. They had mud all over their bodies and looked at me with empty eyes. Most of them sat on the floor but some others moved about. No one said anything. I switched on the radio to pass the time and heard a voice after a while:

“Here H.K.5 A.C.1….H.K.5 A.C.1…Attention! Attention! A terrible earthquake has destroyed most of the city of Palmira. Attention! We must mobilise all the help available: firemen, police, the army, doctors and nurses. Attention! This is an urgent call…

“Hello! Hello! We’ve received your message H.K.5. A.C.1. Here is H.K.9. D.G.U. here H.K.9 D.G.U. The quake has destroyed most of the city of Cali and we are the only human beings left around here. Attention! We ask everybody to help the cities of Cali and Palmira…

“Attention! Attention! Here is voice Bogotá. We are using the equipment we managed to find for this programme. Attention all the country. The capital has been destroyed by an earthquake. Attention! I repeat. Bogotá has been destroyed by a quake and we need urgent help.”

It was still raining. I joined a rescue group and as we went around the streets, we saw the remains of buildings amidst rivers of blood. We found a wounded man. We made a stretcher with a few sheets to take him to the clinic. Then we saw two dying women and a child and we made our way with the injured people towards the ruins of a clinic.

We improvised a hospital between the ruins and offered the wounded people water mixed with hail. What else could we do? I drank most of a bottle of aguardiente I had found in the ruins, and then I switched on the radio. I heard transmissions from Buga, Tulua and Medellin, asking for help. All of the country had been affected by the earthquake. Then I fell asleep.

I woke up as people ran around and screamed. Some of them had no clothes on while other wore rags. Everyone looked drunk. I supposed they had found more aguardiente. A woman, who had lost her right arm, swore while moving the other limb. She fell on the floor and didn’t move again.

A child looked in the mud for his missing left ear, while a river of blood ran down his shoulders. Aguardiente seemed to be the only medication available. I retired to my corner to drink from my bottle as the rain kept on pouring. I switched on the radio.

“This is the emergency radio. We ask for calm. All the stations must join us. We’ll have news about the rest of the country very soon. It has been a universal disaster. The sea quake happened after the earthquake and most of the sea ports have disappeared as far as we know. We have heard that Caracas in Venezuela has gone under the water.

“We are not transmitting personal messages for anyone and we are working for the whole community. The survivors must remain calm and alcohol should be consumed in small quantities.

We don’t have a government now as I think all the members of the republic have died in the quake. A doctor will tell us what to do with the wounded. Attention! Attention! People in charge of the groups giving aid must copy or record the following instructions…”

I moved down the street up to a place, where fired burned. Doctors and nurses gave first aid to wounded people in a few tents they had erected. It smelled of dirt and blood. I cried and vomited for some time. Humankind was dying but it held to life with force. I felt empty and lonely as I retired to a dark corner to listen to the radio. All the cars had to be taken to the emergency places that had been erected.

“Here is Palmira transmitting. Palmira has urgent news for the national radio. The road from Palmira to Cali has disappeared. A small mountain has formed in between the two cities after the earthquake.

Things are bad in the city but we have found some medical equipment in the ruins of hospitals. We are looking for drugs amidst the rubble, with the help of tractors we have found. Ninety per cent of the city has been destroyed.

“This is central station and you have just heard news from Palmira. The geography has been changed around Cali as a salty sea seems to exist a few kilometres at the south of the city. We’ll know more about it later. We’re in contact with the central station in Bogotá. Attention Bogotá!

“The capital of the republic has been completely destroyed. We have heard bad news coming from everywhere. The ports have disappeared and the sea has gone inside the country and groups of people trying to reach neighbouring towns tell us that the roads are gone. The fog has lifted and communication by radio is easier now. We’re trying to use small planes to survey the area, even though the airports have been destroyed.

“The city of New York and the towns near it have disappeared. Florida has been wiped off the map. It’s all due to the pulsating sun. We don’t have any news from Europe.”

I went to sleep and saw shattered bodies, giant suns exploding and seas of blood in my dreams. I woke up as the pale rays of the sun appeared in the small room where I had taken refuge the night before. At first I thought I had dreamed the whole thing, but then I noticed the muddy walls and felt cold. Someone was talking on the radio.

“…Ibague has been almost totally destroyed. Here are the names of the victims we have identified up to now…”

I was hungry. The street seemed to be having a carnival as naked and muddy people worked with rudimentary tools to take bodies out of the ruins. I saw drunken people singing and crawling in the mud.

Someone had gone inside a coffin where he had eaten sardines and had drunk aguardiente. Music poured out of speakers in a corner while naked men and women danced. They said: hurray to death, and shouted during the intervals. A beautiful girl came closer to me. She made me drink from a bottle of gin she had in her hand.

“Drink, comrade,” she said, pushing the bottle against my teeth. “This is the end of the world. Can you see that rubble? That’s where my family died. I only heard a knock: Bang! And then it finished. Drink comrade. Drink! UUUUUIIPPPAAA!!!”

A tall man sat on the ruins. He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I saw his contorted face, and he was still with his eyes wide open. I woman took the gun and then she shot herself in the heart. The gin made me feel hot and hungry. As I moved along the road, I saw dead bodies burning over fires. People discussed the number of fires they needed to burn them.

“Won’t it stop raining?” someone asked.

“I’m hungry,” I said.

A man gave me a damp piece of bread. I ate it, even if it tasted funny. Then I saw the shadows. Some of them prayed aloud as they carried something resembling a saint.

I had many friends but they had all disappeared and I didn’t want to die. I heard a choir of voices singing: Life, I want to live. They smelled of aguadiente. I went singing with them as a group of vultures looked at us. Then they went back to eating a dead body while someone shouted: “Hurrah to the vultures.”

We all shouted: “hurrah to the vultures.” The animals looked at us with indifference.

I was tired and wanted to phone my mother as I could feel the touch of her hands. I wanted my mother. A bus across the street served as my refuge. I lay down across a seat and cried while calling my mother. I woke up feeling calmer. I felt empty at first but glad to be alive and then I remembered my visit to Professor Alvarez with Jaramillo.

He had been worried about an Indian legend called: the end of business. The professor had to be under the rubble but Jaramillo had gone to Homer’s yacht. Was this the end of time? I remembered my visit to Homer’s home a long time ago when his mother had mentioned the dark sun.

Then I heard voices in the radio.

“Communications have been restored and this is a major crisis for humanity. We present you with the latest scientific explanation for the catastrophe. The sun has pulsated. Scientists think it might happen again, and we must be prepared. Mount Palomar hasn’t suffered major damage during the earthquake.

Astronomers think our star might explode as a nova, after a few studies they have done. The word means new, because stars appear in the sky, where nothing was there before. If this is true, things might get more complicated. We have an alarm to transmit all over the world, if this is the case. The communication satellites have disappeared that’s why we have to put together all the radio stations.

“When we give the alarm, we must all go to a secure place. The chain of radios covers the world, and we’ll be giving instruction in different languages. Seven minutes is enough time to proceed in the best possible way. You must lie down with your head on the floor. It’s recommended to be in a flat land far from buildings and rivers.

“Most of the victims of the earthquake died in the cities. If we take precautions this time, we might survive. A few observatories are working now, and we have convened the best phrase for the alarm. We must say in all places and in all languages: SEVEN MINUTES.

“That sentence means that we have to lie down, with our face to the ground, and far away from any buildings.

We urge our listener to give these instructions to everyone else. We repeat. The sun might explode again and it will be worse this time. We’ll say the sentence: WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES, several times. We have to be ready for some more intense seismic movements.

“The patrols must find petrol to use in tractors and other vehicles. We must use it to incinerate the bodies. We have to prevent an epidemic by burning dead people. You must count seven minutes in your watches, while trying to do everything necessary for your security. Then you’ll be prepared for the alarm: WE ONLY HAVE SEVEN MINUTES.

“We want people to stay away from rivers, as the water might overflow. A few planes have managed to fly over the land. They have found great changes in the geography of the country.

They saw mountains where plains used to be and parts of the mountains have disappeared. The Cauca Valley is by the sea shore, while the west chain of mountains has been flattened.

The city of Florence in Caquetá is high up the mountains now and a few radio enthusiasts tell us that it’s very cold over there. The Panama Canal has gone. North and South America are two different continents at this moment.

“Attention” Attention! We have more news from the observatories. Attention! Orbital observatories have been destroyed, just the same as the unmanned artificial satellites. We have lost contact with them.

Mercury, the closest planet to the sun has exploded, according to some Australian observatories. We repeat the last news, Mercury has exploded. It went out of its orbit and then it broke up in a thousand pieces, one of these fragments will come close to earth according to calculations.

“Our orbit around the sun has suffered some changes. The moon they’re seeing in Australia is much bigger. We believe our satellite has come closer to us. All the satellites and spaceships outside the atmosphere have been destroyed.

“ATTENTION! Attention! You’re listening to the radio for all Spanish speaking listeners. Attention! All the radio stations around the world have come together. We’re sending bulletins in all known languages, calling humankind! We must be prepared for a major catastrophe.

The sun’s going to explode into a nova. We’ll have major perturbations never seen before. It’s necessary to keep calm. The whole planet must listen to us. As soon as we know of the solar eruption, we’ll transmit this alarm: WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES. We must get ready in seven minutes to wait for whatever thing will happen. If you follow these instructions, we’ll have fewer victims and we invite you again to see what you can do in seven minutes.”

A lorry stops in the street and several patrol people deliver food and water to the crowd. One of them gives me a panela. I eat it in silence. It has stopped raining but thick clouds stop us from seeing the sun. Why do I want to see the sun? Mercury has been destroyed and its pieces are hurtling through the solar system.

The moon has come closer to us but I’m still here. A couple of teenagers make love by the swollen body of a dead dog. She cries a bit, but gives herself to the passion and has an orgasm. No one seems to care about the seven minutes. It’s a short amount of time but enough to choose a tomb. I want to go away from the ruins and the rotten flesh.

I follow a group of people that set off along the road. Everyone is in a hurry as if they only had seven minutes. They listen to the radio but the time hasn’t come yet. I see an old man wearing a white sheet. He looks like a Hindu in the way to the Ganges. A child asks his mother what are minutes. She tries to explain to him. What happens after seven minutes then? He asks.

The smell of burnt flesh fills everything as the bodies turn in the pyre. I stop to look at them. They seem to be alive while contorting in the flames and a woman moves her mouth as if she were talking. Someone gives me a bit of sugar cane and I suck the end of it. Then they give me a pound of sugar.

It might give me the vitality I need to face the horrors of this life. The smell of cooked flesh makes me sick.

The road seems to go on forever. As someone sings a sad song, we all sing in chorus. A drunken man walks down the middle of the road. He’s dirty and has a skull stuck to a stick. I take his bottle of aguardiente away and pass it around the crowd. We all drink a bit of it.

It burns my insides. It will help me to confront the terrible things happening to my world.

A truck drives by us with speakers on the back, while a voice repeats the advice of the seven minutes. A siren starts wailing as the stench increases and a woman with a wound across her face looks in the rubble.

Thousands of people are in an open field. Most of them lie down on the floor as if they had been given the order of seven minutes as a battery operated siren is at the entrance. They all listen to the radio and all the faces look frightened as I move on.

I don’t like to be amongst so many people. The road has big cracks. We see a hole seven metres deep later on. Then we find a bottomless pit but we have to go around it. Several patrols come with bags of sugar from the plantations.

The boss of a patrol talks to us. We are in a good place for the seven minutes.

It’s not crowded. They give us blankets and big plastics to erect a few tents while the boys bring wooden sticks.

Time passes by as we all act like happy tourists. The end of the world seems to be a long way away and I laugh aloud.

I had forgotten how to do that. They had bottles of aguardiente, a few beers, tin food and a lot of cigarettes.

We sat down on the floor after building a tent with the plastic. Some men went to find water while others helped to comfort women and old people. We’re all happy. We think in mundane things in the middle of this tragedy. I sit by a tent to listen to the news.

“…And conditions are improving in many parts of the world, as the aid organisations have to cope with different requirements.

“Commercial airlines and some other planes left in good condition have been working in emergencies. A small town in the middle of the mountains has been left isolated amidst the chasms. Helicopters went there with food and drink and took a small radio station to be in contact with the world.

“The greatest numbers of victims are in the cities that have disappeared like New York, London, Tokyo and San Francisco. According to the news they didn’t have a sea quake in the Mediterranean Sea. They only had an angry sea but the earthquake had been as strong as in the rest of the world. It left millions of victims.

“Most of the ships in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean have disappeared. Air force helicopters and planes have been looking for survivors. Up to now they have managed to rescue a few people floating in small boats and other life saving things. Most aerial and maritime patrols don’t want to go far from their bases because of the expected now.

“Mercury has been destroyed by the solar pulse. It has been broken into many parts, flying away at very great speeds. One of them will be visible from the earth in a few hours. The moon has come nearer to our planet. Its orbit is not stable. The earth has been thrown out of its orbit, just the same as the moon. We need a few observations to prove this.

“The sun has an unusual activity. Great spots cover its surface. It has had big eruptions and some flares have gone past the old orbit of Mercury. Venus is not seen at this time of the year but has appeared in a crescent. It must have suffered a big change in orbit.

“The observatories not damaged by the quake all over the world, are working hard to register the moment the sun has another perturbation. The Soviet Union have sent an artificial satellite around the earth, it has sent information to a chain of world observatories and they will give the alarm of the seven minutes.

All the stations are transmitting from towers in the country. We have found a good place to inform you about all of the things happening to the world.

“Attention! Attention! We want you to listen to us from now on. We think the sun will expand, and the chain of radios will give the alarm to find a safe place. You must be in a clear space, far away from rivers, as radios from all over the world transmit the phrase: WE ONLY HAVE SEVEN MINUTES, to indicate the time when we’ll feel the explosion.

“The observatories think that we’ll have some more seismic movements of different intensities, because of the instability in the interior of the earth.

So long as we don’t give the alarm, they must not be interpreted as solar phenomenon. You must give these instructions to your neighbours, so humanity will be prepared and we’ll have fewer victims.”

People’s patrols have kept the peace in most cities, while they help to deliver food and give first aid. Most human beings have accepted their bad luck with serenity and calm. The aguardiente, the panela and the sugar made me go to sleep.

I heard people snoring when I woke up. As I left the tent, I saw a starry night. A big moon threw its light all over the camp. The sky was clear and up on the north, another small moon added its light to the night. A man sitting on the floor told me that was a fragment of Mercury.

“Well be joining them soon,” he said and laughed.

I found the view strange but fascinating. I urinated nearby. As I lit a cigarette, I heard a voice shouting from a radio.

“…It’s getting worse by the minute. There is an earthquake. Attention! It’s trembling here again. Cucuta and neighbouring towns are shaking under a strong seismic movement. We hear that most of Venezuela is also moving.

“Many parts of the world have had earthquakes of different intensity. It’s impossible to say how many people have died. We have had tragic news from all over the world. Panama and Japan have disappeared under the sea.”

I saw a group of people carrying torches. An orchestra came behind them. They woke everyone in our camp with their dancing and shouting. Some of them had masks but most of them were drunk. Everyone in our camp danced a few minutes later. They rejoiced in the strange spectacle in the sky. A drunken man shouted to the moon.

“If you give birth again,” he said. “We’ll be left in the bones.”

He discussed the name to give the newborn, until someone told him that was a part of Mercury.

“Has someone broken a thermometer?” he asked.

The musicians drank aguardiente and sang rancheras.

Then they took their torches and went on their way, some of our people left with them. Dawn is coming.

The musical band left a few hours ago. Most of the people in the camp are awake now. Then we hear a distant siren.

“Attention! Attention! Attention! WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES… Attention! Attention! WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES. Attention! Attention! WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES! We have given the alarm to the entire world. WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES! This is an alarm for all humanity. Attention! WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES!”

We all lay dawn on the floor as the radio repeats the same thing. At this moment the whole of humanity has to be hugging the floor in a strange ritual.

No one says anything.

My tape recorder goes on, registering the end of the world as children cry.

As I look towards the raising sun, I see the horizon on fire. I notice an immense wave of flames that curves into a blazing arm.

I put my dark glasses and look in terror at the magnificent bridge in the sky. Another wave of fire surges underneath. Then it goes down slowly.

“Attention! Attention! We’ve given the alarm for all humanity four minutes ago. Attention! You have four minutes to follow all of the instructions.”

The deep noise I heard before gets stronger as a group of horses run by our camp and knock down a woman.

She bleeds but no one pays attention to her. As I look at the west, I can’t see the sun yet. The sky looks milky as another wave of fire crosses the heavens.

I see an immense explosion over the horizon, like a gigantic light of different colours. The cosmos appears to be having a party as the light expands slowly all over the sky.

“Attention! Attention! Attention! The chain of observatories has told us that Venus has just exploded. Attention! The planet Venus has exploded. In a few seconds, we’ll feel the effects on our planet. We have to be prepared.”

Now I see an immense ball on the west. It’s a kind of sun flooding the horizon, while the noise increases. Great luminous fingers dance over our heads and over the corpse of Venus.

An intense fog wraps us as the floor shakes. I remember that morning in Homer’s home when his mother spoke of the dark sun as I put my face on mother earth in a last hug.

don’t want to see anything else. The earth dances as the noise increases. Something hit my leg but I don’t feel any pain.

I want to write during my last seconds…
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