Brevity is the width of soul.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


He had been so close to freedom. He had escaped their sight, convinced them all that he didn't exist.

Damn Blumenbach. Damn Blumenbach, his dogged research, and his diabolic machines. Damn him to Hell. There was nothing he'd like more than looking into his eyes and ordering him to cut his own throat. He wouldn't even drink his accursed blood, so hot burned hate in his old, dry heart.

But he no longer had eyes or a tongue. All he could do was struggle pointlessly against the metal restraints.

"Count, Count..." mocked the detached voice he hated so much. "Why won't you cooperate? There's so much we are learning from you."

Then came the by now familiar prick of a needle and the feeling of blood being drained from his veins.


Monday, February 26, 2007

The Price of Freedom

The first Presidential e-elections had been an astounding non-event so far. A very low turnout and a small but consistent Republican lead had all but killed, it seemed, interest in it.

Five minutes before polling websites would close down, pundits and reporters were already talking about the "no-show generation" and the expected policies of the new President.

Too old to be familiar with eBay, they had never heard about auction sniping.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Further Good News From The Vatican

He was alive and could communicate. Centuries of tradition, a million people in the street, a billion watching on TV, and God's own will, all expected and demanded the Pope to come to the balcony and give his first blessing after his illness.

But the Pope was a bedridden man hardly capable of moving his body, communicating only thanks to the electrodes reading his brain patterns and translating them using the best voice synthesizing system ever to come from IBM's laboratories. Even if the cocoon of machinery keeping the Holy Father alive could be moved, what kind of message would that send to Christendom at large? It wasn't easy to argue that the Pope was unable to fulfill his duties, not when he could argue back at you with a strong, almost inhumanly perfect voice, but still... It was a difficult problem that would require years of analysis by the Church's finest minds, if they couldn't already hear the demanding voices of the crowd outside.

A young technician, acting with the brashness of youth and the surety of the believer, took an holographic screen from the diagnostic systems and the Holy Father's speakers, and moved them outside.

The crowd hushed, the world's attention focused on the balcony. The holographic screen showed a rendered likeness of the Pope, while his voice came from the speakers blessing the world.

Everybody in the plaza bowed their heads and chanted amen.


Thursday, February 22, 2007


My paper's thesis was on the pre- and post-capitalistic linkages between the drug cartels and the civil society of the slums, but the man I was interviewing was stubbornly acting rather too much like my stupid MBA-obsessed brother.

"It's a business," the man said, finishing his coffee with a hint of impatience. "You look for ROI, that's all."

"But you do fulfill the functions abandoned by the Brazilian state in the slums," I pressed on. "Health, defense..." He shook his head and said nothing. As a last resort, I went for soccer. "I know you fund all those soccer schools. That means you act out of a shared culture, a..."

"Do you know how much you can sell a good soccer player to an European club for?," he interrupted me.

I blinked.

He smiled, looking through the window at the favelas we could see covering the hills. "There's going to be a good crop this year."


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


He was the best chess player the world had ever seen. Never lost in ten years; he could almost see entire games ahead.

Rich, famous, and seemingly bored, he was offered to run for Senate. "Why not?", he said. An afterthought, a game.

But I know better.

He once told me he had never cared for chess.


Saturday, February 17, 2007


A group of Roman legionaries charged me, quick and disciplined among the chaos. Probably from the late Republic, I judged, picking them off with my M16. At my back, somebody in a pinstripe suit was mowing down Vikings with a machine gun.

I was grateful for it. I hadn't died for a few hours now, and although it wasn't as permanent as it had seemed to be the first time, dying still hurt like hell.

The man smiled and yelled at me. "Hell of a party, right?"

I made a noncommittal gesture with my shoulders and kept taking my shots. Ammo -like dying- wasn't a concern anymore,  but habits died hard.

The man took a cigar out of his pocket and lighted it as he shot a wounded samurai in the back. "You think it'll end like it began? Another trumpet opening the skies and bam! we all go back to our graves?"

I shrugged again. When and how this battle would end were very good questions, but if it would end was a better one. I expected he'd start thinking about it a couple of days from now, unless he was quicker on the uptake that I had been.

What really worried me, though, was not knowing which side I was fighting for.

A young woman in a plastic-looking uniform jumped from behind a pile of awakening corpses and pointed a weird rifle at me. The ones from the future were the worst.

I shot her, hoping that she hadn't been a good person and that her uniform wasn't bulletproof.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Quest

The door opened and trouble came in. Brunette, as usual. She always liked to have her hair black.

"Are you a detective?"

Again? was what she meant. I shrugged and said "It's what it says in the door." Signs mattered, as usual.

She sat down in a chair and pleaded at me. "I need your help. My husband is missing."

I lighted a cigarette, not offering her one. We weren't yet at the right point, although we would soon be. "And you want him back."

"Of course, I love him."

It had been many years since I had last believed that story from her. I was a good man back then, a knight in shinning armor. Nowadays being a man was all I could aim to.

"I don't care, precious. Just tell me what you know and I'll find your guy."

She passed me a photograph. There was a handsome man on it, holding in his hand a big diamond.

"That's my husband Arthur. He's a geologist, an expert on diamonds. I'm afraid he's been taken because of that stone he found."

Her words made me feel older than usual. A husband named Arthur, an special stone to search for. We had done this thing many times, but at least there had been some change to it, some variation, even if the betrayal, the lust, and the greed had remained the same. There was a time when I'd have preferred a Grail to a Maltese Falcon, but that had been long ago.

"Alright, Guinevere, I'll find the bird."

Her eyes widened. She looked nothing like she used to, and was as beautiful as ever. "How did you know my name?"

She played the innocence game as well as ever, too. "I'm a detective, babe. It's what I do."

And I didn't have any choice on that. None of us ever did.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love Story

Their marriage in trouble, Jack and Jill went the extra mile.

Jack went to a therapist and bought True Love. An injected endorphin recalibrator later, what had been dubious was now clear.

He rushed back to his home and to his Jill, who was coming back from her own therapist.

She had bought True Hate and a gun on the street.

Jack forgave his loved one with his dying breath.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Trade Route

It wasn't the first cargo to come through the newly opened trade route, but it was the most important yet. Its symbolic and artistic value would justify by itself the countless men and women sent to death in the long search for the final leg of the route.

An small black boat parted the mist and approached the shore. The hooded figure standing on it delivered without words a bundle of papers to the trader nervously waiting. The trader quickly thumbed the pages.

It was, indeed, Homer's promised new epic. The Napoleonica.

Well worth the blood and toil spent to open the route. Well worth the two coins they had to pay for every trip of the ferryman across the dark river.


Friday, February 9, 2007

Of Crows and Fires

The creeping embrace of certain death was followed after an immeasurable interval by all the pains of Hell. He wasn't surprised; it was fitting punishment for what he had done.

He felt himself gasp in gulps that didn't seem to come from his own body.

"Open your eyes, Doctor Frankenstein," said a guttural, monstrous voice coming from deep in the darkness. "You are alive again, and there's work for us to do."


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Special Unit

Sam was clinging to his last hours of leave with almost insane desperation. But it wasn't insane; that was the problem. Sam knew he was sane, almost alone among the members of his special unit.

'Special Unit.' Sitting in a park bench with an ice cream he wasn't eating, the neutral words made him feel nauseous. Logistics planners with OCD. Sociopathic snipers. Technicians so neurotic they couldn't function outside the ordered environment of the unit.

Some 'special unit.' Sam cursed the psychology degree that had landed him this commission. Were it not for his sincere patriotism, he'd have considered leaving the unit and going back to his parents' home country, politics notwithstanding.

But he had a duty and he would do it, even if he lost his sanity in the process.

A woman sat next to him in the park bench.

"Do you remember me?" she said.

"No," said Sam, uncomfortable.

"You do, Ted."

Something shifted inside him. "I do."

The woman waited until the man's secondary personality surfaced completely, and then both spies exchanged information in quiet, even tones.


Monday, February 5, 2007


Once upon a time we thought ourselves haunted by spam.

There were just too many emails. Too much time was lost checking them by hand. Then they came up with Bayesian filters.

If it looked like spam -if the arcane maths matched up- then it was tagged as such. But people were lazy, and the filters were good, and pretty soon everybody was deleting the tagged ones at first sight.

One day people didn't even let them reach the inbox. Some legitimate messages didn't reach you, perhaps, but the alternative was too much work, the inconvenience too high, and nobody could argue against the impartiality of statistics.

Bayes' even hand.

Our inbox folders were cleaner. We moved on to other things.

Once upon a time we thought ourselves haunted by terror.

There were just too many suspects. Too much time was lost checking them by hand.


Saturday, February 3, 2007


I wave to Mike and Ted as I enter the crime scene.

The coroner is already waiting for me. "Hurry up," he says. "I want to bag this guy before it gets any hotter."

It's a quarter past ten in the morning, and the sun through the apartment's windows is falling right over the victim's face. There's a trail of blood leading to the body.

I grimace, remembering how heavy he had felt, and then raise my camera to cover my satisfied smile. The sunlight's effect over the pale skin was worth last night's effort.

I start taking pictures. Beautiful.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Great Escape

It became, over the years, a city of freaks, crazies, deviants, and nerds. So one day they built a wall around it, closed the door, and threw away the key.

Nobody ever escaped the lockup.

(Nobody ever wanted to. At night bright shadows dance over the city.)