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The Prokaryotes Serenade

Written by Isabor Quintiere

Edited by Vanessa Guedes

Copyedited by Diogo Ramos

On an un­known date, an ob­ject pierced through the at­mo­sphere of an un­clas­si­fied exo­planet and fell with a thud on some­thing we would per­haps call a beach, but which had no name there, much like all other things also had no names. The ob­ject sank into the soft sand and spent some long days and long nights alone in that word­less land. That was not hard; it was already used to solitude. There, at least, it could rest in the com­pany of the sound of waves crash­ing. It had spent the last thou­sands of years sur­roun­ded by si­lence, ex­cept for the songs it re­peated in­fin­itely to it­self and to whomever, in that in­fin­ite black ocean, could listen.

After watch­ing its share of sun­sets, the ob­ject was fi­nally found. Nat­ives rap­idly began to in­vest­ig­ate it with their mul­tiple scanty mem­branes. The small trans­par­ent be­ings were starving and soon found them­selves frus­trated by the solid­ity of the ma­ter­ial they were rum­ma­ging through. The ob­ject had for­got­ten what it felt like to be touched by any­thing. Its singing went on, un­in­ter­rup­tedly, while it was un­der the severe scru­tiny of the planet’s land­lords. The golden disk, which the ob­ject car­ried in­side, skipped from one track to an­other, ini­ti­at­ing a new song with faster vi­bra­tions that promptly scared the nat­ives, mak­ing them run away. It was the maria­chi group El Cas­ca­bel play­ing, but they couldn’t know such a thing – whatever was a maria­chi, a Cas­ca­bel, or a song. From a safe dis­tance, they swayed their an­ten­nae to­wards the ob­ject, which now, fi­nally, had spec­tat­ors.

Des­pite not be­ing able to un­der­stand the com­plic­ated concept of bravery in­side their still un­soph­ist­ic­ated or­gan­isms, the nat­ives needed that to re­approach. While the sounds kept on play­ing, they gathered once again all over around the ob­ject. There was some­thing com­fort­ing in that noise; per­haps the way it made their im­possibly tiny bod­ies vi­brate for the first time, in an en­tirely new and al­most mi­cro­scopic dance. Did such creatures already know what pleas­ure was? Evol­u­tion would take care of that even­tu­ally if they were lucky, but they were still far from that. The nat­ives were not cap­able of feel­ing joy when faced with the cos­mic rhythms that had once awakened some­thing in hu­mans’ feet and hands. These creatures could not con­ceive what feet or hands were, let alone hu­mans. They could only keep them­selves alive. And that is how all the most in­geni­ous things usu­ally be­gin: by keep­ing them­selves alive.

From time to time, the sounds changed. That was easy to no­tice even for the smal­lest liv­ing creatures in the uni­verse. There was some­thing in­ter­est­ing about change. So in­ter­est­ing that the nat­ives did not want to aban­don the ob­ject nor its vi­bra­tions: they made it their home and, on top of it, they re­pro­duced, cradled by the love songs of a dis­tant planet. Who could have con­vinced Bach, a man already de­com­posed sev­eral times over in earthly soil, that his most en­thu­si­astic listen­ers would be the mem­bers of a life­form that still had no heart what­so­ever? Listen­ers that could fit com­fort­ably in­side his wig, un­noticed, while he went on com­pos­ing?

The nat­ives’ life ex­pect­ancy was forty re­pe­ti­tions of the ob­ject’s golden disk: enough time to calmly ex­per­i­ment the vari­ous vi­bra­tions it had to of­fer. And then, be greeted by eternal sleep in a bed of melod­ies. Evol­u­tion and ex­tinc­tion also came to­gether in that valse. Thanks to their in­flu­ence, nat­ives died and nat­ives lived in bal­anced quant­it­ies, and their des­cend­ants were re­war­ded with the chance to grow and de­velop, to be­come build­ers, to be­come more com­plex or­gan­isms. In their bod­ies, sev­eral entries star­ted to ap­pear over the gen­er­a­tions, like mul­tiple ears de­signed to help them listen more, and bet­ter, their singing home. Around the ob­ject, they de­veloped a struc­ture sim­ilar to a vast coral reef, for they in­stinct­ively felt their duty to pro­tect it from the passing years and the shift­ing tides. That was spe­cial, some­thing to keep safe.

Nowadays, it is still not pos­sible to claim that some ad­vanced life forms in­habit that planet of mi­cro be­ings. How­ever, an un­likely space trav­eler who stops by might be re­ceived by the pleas­ant night singing of Earth’s long-gone ab­ori­ginal groups, com­ing from an ob­ject which the ages have already si­lenced, but which is still home to thou­sands of loud nat­ive creatures, who con­tinue to re­pro­duce their be­loved sounds and to feel deep in their humble cells, the closest they will ever get to what true hu­man hap­pi­ness sounds like.

Isabor Quintiere

Is­abor Quin­tiere (1994) was born in João Pessoa, Paraíba, where she now lives. She has an un­der­grad de­gree in Lit­er­at­ure – Eng­lish and is, at the mo­ment, study­ing in a Mas­ter’s de­gree pro­gram in Lit­er­at­ure at UFPB. She is an Eng­lish lan­guage teacher and au­thor of the short story book A cor hu­mano [The Hu­man Color] (2018, Ed. Es­cal­eras), which is also avail­able in Eng­lish in a ver­sion cre­ated in part­ner­ship with the Uni­ver­sid­ade Fed­eral da Paraíba (UFPB). She finds in­spir­a­tion for her writ­ing mainly in Latin Amer­ican fant­astic lit­er­at­ure and sci­ence fic­tion.


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