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Stars are heard in the far reaches of Sonora

49' | +16

Stars are heard in the far reaches of Sonora


Anti Ribeiro


In front of them, the highway met another broad street in the shape of an X. From the center of the intersection to there, however, nothing could be seen. It was as if there was a line and, from then on, a thick, slimy darkness took over. The dim light from the lighted street lamps that remained behind ended there.

Darkness cut the crossroads in half.

Crouching in the center of the X was someone who was sharpening a knife on a rock. Other knives were piled up near a lit campfire by her side. To the left, almost disappearing into the darkness, another person was lying down, tucked into a sleeping bag and did not move. It was as if she was dead. 

There were various objects and shrapnel around them: backpacks, pieces of glass, flashlights.

The one sharpening the knives noticed a new presence and raised her gaze, impressed - but not frightened. She, who was arriving, stretched out her arms and aimed the revolver, satisfied to see the target raise her hands. A voice like a guttural laugh seemed to come from within the darkness, more present than any sound had ever been. She pulled the trigger in a burst of fright, hitting the pile of knives. The darkness returned the shot as a sharp explosion that made her head almost explode in a momentary migraine. 

The knife sharpener stood up, her hands still raised. She looked like she wanted to demonstrate that she was not in danger.

– What the fuck was that?!

– She – the other one pointed with the knife at the person tucked in the sleeping bag – is dreaming. The border reflects everything back to us.

– Don't come any closer. – she still pointed the revolver at the other, who approached with a knife in hand – I won't miss it the second time.

Everything they spoke was returned by whatever lay beyond that obscure line in the form of indistinguishable whispers that made everything around vibrate. The clinking of the stacked knives caused by the vibration was countered in the form of neighs. 

The knife sharpener dropped the blade she was holding. 

– Where will you go after killing me? – The darkness returned a long, sharp and deafening mantra.

– Forward – laughter.

– And do you know what's out there? – giant wings flapping, spreading the air far and wide.

She didn't say anything. Her thoughts spread like wildfire and made the ground vibrate.

The sharpener made mention of taking the knife back. She shouted:

– Don't move! – dial-up internet noise.

The sharpener continued its movement. She put her finger on the trigger. The sound of a thousand gunshots was spat across the border. 

– Wait! – silence.

She continued with her gun raised, ready to shoot.

A huge, skinny dog came running out of the darkness and charged at her. In a quick reflex, she pulled the trigger, hitting it still in the air. The border laughed. The animal, now with part of its jaw destroyed, stood up to resume its attack. She pressed the trigger again. 

She was out of ammunition.

Before she could think of anything, the sharpener jumped on the dog and dealt the final blow with the knife she was holding. The fight had the sound of waterfalls across the border.

They looked at each other.

– We have dinner – and went back to sharpening knives.

* * *

She didn't know if a whole day had already passed. Ever since the sun had left the sky, she had lost track of time. What she knew was that no matter which way she went, the sound continued to acquire a presence, as if she was inevitably approaching it. And it didn't matter which way she went. She tried to go back in the opposite direction, to get away from the sound, but it seemed to get closer and closer. Again, it didn't matter which direction she went. She could no longer tell if that was the path she had taken before.

Those streets were like mazes. How long had it been since she had seen a horizon?

* * *

Everything was prepared. The knife sharpener improvised a backpack just like hers, strapped to her body, carrying all the blades she had sharpened with her. 

She had been in charge of the supplies: dog meat and bones, enough dry twigs for a small fire, they stole all the water from the sleeping person, and two doses of the substance she used to sleep (in case they needed to play dead). In addition, she carried her lighter under her breasts.

They held hands. That was less a gesture of trust and more a need to know each other's location once they crossed that line.

Her thoughts made the darkness crackle, hiss, scream, laugh, chew, all at the same time. 

They crossed over.

* * *

She saw someone in the distance, next to a lit campfire. Her back was turned. About five corners separated her from the person. She had not been seen yet. She felt the revolver under her breasts beneath her jacket, attached to her body by an elastic band that went around her torso and whose ends were tied in a knot over her back. He stopped two corners closer and hid to watch. 

The person had long blond hair. Her face was out of the field of view. She held a massive shovel with both hands, about to strike something she could not see. She was aiming downward as if the thing was about to come from the ground.

A screeching siren sounded, and it was as if it was inside her head. She covered her ears, but it was no use. The alarm turned into a rhythmic beat, like a heartbeat. The rhythm broke into raindrops and dissolved as if the gale had blown the sound away. 

The person had dropped the shovel as she brought her hands to her ears. As it hit the ground, the heavy object sounded like an explosion in the sea. It was as if the whole neighborhood was now submerging, and gigantic waves were heard as if they were breaking over the empty houses and destroying them completely. She had difficulty breathing as if those vibrations left no room for oxygen in the atmosphere.

The tsunami now turned into guitar strings.

* * *

After an impossible number of days to count - even the moon's cycles could no longer be used to track oneself over time since the moon and stars no longer appeared in the sky either - she came upon a very wide street, which must have been a highway before. She thought that maybe it was the way to go away from that abandoned neighborhood. The sound, however, gave fewer and fewer intervals and metamorphosed more frantically as she entered the highway. 

Further ahead, the street formed a curve and passed out of sight. From that point on, the poles were either destroyed or not working. She detached the revolver from her body.

She walked slowly and turned the corner with her gun in hand, finger on the trigger. Her footsteps sounded like trucks chirping gears. She turned the corner. 

All the noise disappeared as if it had been sucked into the ground. The silence, after so long in that sound storm, bothered the eardrums.

* * *

The deserted blocks seemed like labyrinths, the streets spiraled among themselves, her footsteps echoed inside the empty houses. Announcing her arrival worried her. Indeed, it looked like  anyone was on the perimeter of that neighborhood - but previously, places that appeared to be uninhabited have hidden ambushes. Even deserted, the streetlamps in that neighborhood were still intact, some even lit. After running in the dark for so long, she had never considered the possibility of electricity. If there was someone else around, being visible was not a good idea. She stopped walking and crouched down, untying the cloth that, tied to her back, imitated a backpack. She opened the cloth on the floor, and it was only not taken away because of the weight of the things she was carrying: an empty canteen, scraps of cloth blackened with dried blood, a lighter, a broken alarm clock, a piece of meat wrapped in plastic (which still attracted a few flies), a National Geographic magazine with most of the pages torn off, and a thick, intact notebook. She tied pieces of cloth to both of her feet to muffle the sound of her walking. It was very windy.

* * *

She realized that the first sound she had heard when she arrived in the neighborhood was the border's reflection to the sharpening of knives. That mere movement generated sharp echoes that bothered less and less. They were already part of the landscape.

The sleeping one had not moved at any time.

– She believes that is possible to cross through dreams. Without the physical body, you know? – she laughed to herself and received back a chewing sound that lasted longer than her speech – I don't trust sleeping around, in a vulnerable way. Dogs are as hungry as we are. If I wasn't here, this sleeper would have been dog food long ago. If we don't make them dinner, we become theirs. They have even learned to dig like moles, they walk underground. Sometimes I am so hungry that I spend a whole day at the door of a dog hole, waiting.

– And where do you get all these knives?

– From travelers like you. No one ever comes back. They always stop here before crossing, so I end up getting presents. Or the border spits back in. One of them – she pointed to the gun – has never been here. – An indescribable sound, like hearing the predator's digestion from inside the body of swallowed prey – She's dreaming again.

That sound lasted for many hours. 

– Doesn't she ever wake up?

– I only saw her get up once. She drank some water, ate something. Not much of a chatter. She is very well stocked, she prepared herself before arriving here. I think it's a waste for her to spend days in a coma. Work it out – she kept on sharpening knives, and it was as if mountains were collapsing around them. – I don't intend to be here when she wakes up again.

It was so dark that she wondered if there really were mountains somewhere nearby.

* * *

She needed to eat, and it was as if the rumbling of her stomach was sounding all around her. 

She found a house with wooden windows, where she could light a fire without the brightness being seen outside. 

She lit the fire over some debris and with the leaves of the magazine she was carrying. The crackling fire became thousands of swords being drawn. She roasted the dog meat on high alert, haunted by the possibility that the fire was being heard by some lurking creature.

* * *

They opened their mouths to call each other, but a thousand different sounds came out at the same time: crying babies, footsteps running on water, deep breathing, a throat regurgitating stones, cement coursing through the bloodstream, barking dogs, a piano plummeting from the seventeenth floor, fingernails tearing at boulders, screams of gigantic birds, rustling of wooden leaves, a thousand eggs hatching, snakes whispering prophecies that dissolved, chopped words, sounds of memories of the two of them, shovels digging into the sea, buried sirens, something winding through the earth, in-ear licks, burps, an opera singer with autotune, marching crowds, evaporating lava waterfalls, guttural screams breaking into water drops, feet kicking slimy surfaces, intestines working, obstructed breaths, locomotives being swallowed by caves, erupting volcanoes, underwater explosions, whale sonars, frequencies only bats can hear, her own heart beating so fast the sound became a single continuous scream.

The intention of the holding hands remained. However, there were no hands. They tried to turn on the lighter to see what was around. There was the heat of the lighter and the sound of an explosion.

The touch rippled, the sight vibrated, the smell arose in bass and treble. They listened to the colors.

It was as if they had become gigantic as if they could embrace everything in one movement, but it was so dark that you couldn't tell the dimension of anything. 

They were diluted there. The silence was not disturbing.

It was not as dark there as it was on the other side of the border. That place had never been abandoned. 

* * *

When she slept, she dreamed of symphonies.


Born in Sergipe and living in Pernambuco, Anti Ribeiro is a sonic producer, educator, curator, and researcher. Her work focuses on soundtrack production and sound dramaturgy, sound design, electronic music composition, curatorship in audiovisual festivals, and research-education processes based on orality. She works thinking of the curatorship-research-education key as an inseparable movement, one flowing into the other.

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