Saturday, June 6, 2009

"The Empty Niches" by Juan Cueto-Roig

Juan Cueto-Roig was born in Caibarién, Cuba. Exiled from the Island in 1966, he now resides in Miami. In 1996 he published "En la tarde, tarde" (Poetry) Editorial Sibi, Miami. In 2000, "Palabras en fila, en clase y en recreo" (Poetry), Editorial Verbum, Madrid. In 2002, "Ex-Cuetos" (Stories), Ediciones Universal, Miami. In 2004, "Hallarás lobregueces" (Stories), Editorial Ultragraphics, Miami and "En época de lilas" (Spanish translation of 44 poems by e. e. Cummings), Editorial Verbum, Madrid. In 2007, "Verycuetos" (Chronicles), Editorial El Almendro, Miami. In 2009, "Veintiún cuentos concisos" (Stories), Editorial Silueta, Miami.


"...and happily we slaughtered the gods."
- J.L. Borges

On the 20th of January in the year 2030 the heads of state of the world’s most powerful countries gathered in an extraordinary assembly of the UN. They had been urgently convened due to the religious wars that were breaking out in various regions of the world at the cost of millions of lives.

Suddenly, in the middle of the debates, The All Powerful appeared, and, after a moving speech in which he declared himself guilty for the imperfections and calamities of his Creation, announced his intention to commit suicide.

The crying and begging of those present were useless. It is well known that the pleas of men have rarely changed the designs of the Almighty.

After the great act was consummated, which by virtue of its supernatural nature none of the witnesses were able to describe precisely, a state of emptiness and helplessness overtook the members of the global community, which sunk into an eerie silence. Minutes later, cutting through the terror that the unusual event had provoked, the scarcely audible voice of the Secretary General ended the session.

The following day a committee was named with the purpose of redacting those statutes and amendments pertaining to a world orphaned from God. And unanimously the committee declared what had been ordered by The Great Suicide in his dramatic final speech: delete the divine clauses and references in the constitutions, oaths and official acts of the nations, along with any invocations to or praise of the Disappeared Creator.

The contending religions ended immediately, but the panic and insanity that the Divine Absence caused provoked bloody disturbances. And like a fire that spread and spread, an iconoclastic fury spread throughout the world.

Angry mobs invaded the estates of the Vatican and sacked them. When, hours later, the police succeeded in reinstating order, the Pope lay dead in a puddle of blood beside the cadavers of his guards.

The plundering and destruction of churches, temples, monasteries, pagodas, mosques, and synagogues became a popular pastime.

A wave of suicides amongst monks, healers, the beatified, the devout, Daughters of Mary and Gentlemen of Colón broke out in nations with the most deep-rooted Catholic traditions.

And where fundamentalist Muslims were the predominant faction, the immolations and killings decimated so much of the population that many of those nations ceased to exist, at least in the form that they had been created.

Afterwards, as if by magic, the violence stopped. And for ten generations there was peace in the Land – a peace unlike any other known by humanity.

But one day strange rumors began to spread. Someone was said to have seen some burning bushes floating in the sea. A crowd gathered and many put their faith in the miracle. Lost in the desert, a Bedouin followed the bright tail of a star that guided his caravan. And the tribe genuflected and gave thanks for the miracle. Two Croatian children drew the face of a being that appeared in the foliage of an olive tree. Various people opined that it was of an ancient deity. In a country of the Orient a stone idol leaked tears of blood.

So many extraordinary facts were reported that an investigation was ordered of what happened that 20th of January 2030.

As the witnesses of the divine suicide had already died, it was very difficult to verify. The books of acts and other documents were reviewed, and after endless discussions that lasted many months, an entire special session of the UN declared that the portentous event had been nothing more than a colossal fraud, a ruse of the members of the global assembly of the era in order to secure peace in the Land.

Once they signed the rigorous protocols, the people began to resuscitate their gods. Recently sculpted images came to occupy the niches that had remained vacant for decades, and the ancient sacred books that had been relegated to museums and libraries returned to their lecterns. And with rites and liturgies of great pomp, a new era of the world began.

A few years later, the heads of state of the main countries of the world met in an extraordinary assembly of the UN. They had been urgently convened due to the religious wars that broke out in various regions of the planet, at the cost of millions of lives.

- Translated by Charles Iaconangelo

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