It was late when we distinguished the lights of the city. At last, I thought. As we were approaching, the brightness became more and more amazing. Different shapes of incandescent light were projected up almost scraping the sky. And the night had not fallen yet.
Half an hour later, the sky closed completely until the next morning, when the lights became even more powerful. It was really hard to see without half-closing the eyes. We were walking side by side, staring at the floor.
“I don’t like this,” said Amsur, looking concerned. He was a man of few words, but his talking always had a ruling tone. I said to him:
“Don’t worry; we’ll see how we manage to avoid this annoyance. I suppose that the inhabitants of this city must have some sort of special glasses or they must have another kind of protection.”
“Still, I don’t like it. It doesn’t seem a friendly city.”
We quietly walked for a while until we reached a place where we could not move forward any further. The lights were blinding; our eyes were already too tired to keep on walking. With our back to the city, we decided to spend the night on the rocks, to avoid looking at such a spectacle. We were not far away. I said:
“We need to go to that city. We should buy provisions and several things for the journey. Otherwise, we would never reach our destination.”
“Well, I don’t want to go there. Not even during daylight.”
“Fine, I’ll go by myself tomorrow morning.”
We could not sleep well because the brightness of the lights in the sky woke us up every other minute. Until they arrived. The inhabitants of the city, or at least some of them. They were tall, fit, dressed in white, and armed with guns I had never seen in my life before. I took my hand to the grip of the gun under my clothes, just in case.
“Sirs, you should leave immediately. We don’t want you in the Sparkling City.”
Amsur was staring at them without expressing any feeling. I knew that, just like me, his hand was on his gun. With a soft voice, probably because he was still drowsy, he said.
“Fine, we’re leaving. But not to where we’ve come from. We’re heading east.”
“Go wherever you please,” said the man who had spoken first. “It’s not our business. But we don’t want you in the city,” he repeated, in case we had not understoond the first time he said it.
I was sure that we could kill them all in a hand-to-hand combat. They were men of the city; their faces showed that they used to live peacefully organized and that that dangerous expedition was not what they were used to do. But Amsur had already decided to head to the east and it was not for me to contradict him.
Amsur got up slowly, put on his jacket, then put all the belongings inside his rucksack and swung it up onto his back. I could not figure out where he had placed his gun. I hid my gun inside the right pocket of my jacket without anybody noticing it, before putting it on and swinging the rucksack onto my left shoulder. We did all this with our backs to the city to avoid the reflection of the lights against our recently opened eyes. Right there, I realized that they were wearing big dark glasses, which were not black, but had a light brown color, similar to honey, which seemed really effective against that unbearable luminosity.
“Would you let us buy some provisions? We’ll run out of them by tomorrow,” surprisingly asked my partner.
The citizens exchanged looks, a bit surprised. It seemed that some of them were sorry for us. However, the man that had spoken before, who seemed to be the one in charge, spoke again firmly.
“No way, you must leave right now, to the east or wherever you want, but we don’t want you here any longer.”
It was just a sign, unnoticed by the rest, but more than clear for my partner and me. In just a second, as the leader of the group was speaking, Amsur and I pulled out our weapons. As soon as he finished speaking, they began to fall to the floor, badly injured or dead, one by one. When everything was over, I counted eight bodies on the ground; some of them were still whining.
“We should finish them off,” said Amsur, with his back turned and ready to go away. “It wouldn’t be a good idea to let them live.”
He said that phrase and headed east. I had to finish three men off, and that was something I honestly loathed. They were defenseless. But Amsur had made a decision. I was sure that we owed our life to his decisions. That is why I did as he said.
“Can we quickly go the city and buy some food?”
Amsur turned around and skeptically frowned at me, offered an almost imperceptible smile and kept on walking as if he had not heard a word. Immediately, I realized he was bleeding. I could not see the wound because he was walking in front of me. He was moving extremely fast and I could not catch him up without running; but it seemed inappropriate for that moment, I don’t know why. I asked him.
“Are you bleeding?”
“Yes,” he answered without turning around or saying anything else.
I insisted. “Is it serious?”
“Let me see you.”
Amsur stopped and turned around slowly. When I saw him I almost fainted due to the revulsion. He was bleeding from near the ribs, on the right side of his body. As far I could see, I think he had been shot at least twice. He was losing too much blood.
“Sit down right now on those stones. I’ll go to the city. I’ll get something to heal that wound. Besides, we have to buy provisions. Keep the money; I’ll just grab some to buy food and some elements you’ll need to heal that.”
Amsur offered a half-smile and obeyed sitting down on the stones and slowly lying back. He looked really bad. I did not know how he had managed to walk that fast after the incident. I gave him the rucksack with half of my share earned in our last job in the bank of a neighboring city. I completely trusted in him and, besides, he did not seem strong enough to run away and abandon me.
Shortly after, I set out for the bright city. I walked by the battlefield, grabbed a pair of glasses and kept on walking; but I soon changed my mind and decided to come back to take the clothes of one of the deceased inhabitants. One of them had been shot in the head and his clothes were free from blood drops. I did not remember having shot him, it must have been Amsur. The clothes were completely white, just like the rest. They were a bit dirty, but I did not care.
I walked for twenty five minutes until I arrived at the city. Wearing the glasses, I barely noticed the amazing lights. I took them off for a second to appreciate the difference, but that nearly blinded me. The glasses were highly effective, though I could not figure out their material. I was sure it was neither glass nor crystal. They were so light, maybe it was some kind of plastic, I did not know.
I arrived at the city in the middle of the night. The buildings seemed to be made of crystal, but they were really hard to the touch. The interior could not be seen since they had a special process that avoided transparency. I could not see the place where the lights came from, since I did not take out my glasses, but I could not find any source of light, which was really strange. It was a strange city. It was already really late, but I had to find some place to buy food, alcohol, bandages and other useful materials. I had to find that, even during the night.
I walked and walked for more than twenty minutes without finding an open store. Besides, I saw no one walking down the streets; if they could be called that way. The only thing between the buildings was space. By that time, there was just enough space for one person on each side of me.
Then I realized that the space between the buildings was smaller and, even worse, that I was completely lost. In the rush to find a place to acquire what we needed, I forgot to get my bearings as I knew. I was getting desperate, I started to walk faster and to sweat. By then, I was walking between the buildings on “streets” of not more than three-feet wide. Then, the space reduced to one foot and a half, until I finally could not move any further. I tried moving backwards, but I could not go back either. It was obvious that I had fallen into a trap.
Damned city, I remember I cursed it a thousand times, with all the words that came to my mind. Amsur was dying out there, and I was trapped, and all the money we had robbed in the other city would be gone forever. I sat down trying to pull myself together. After half an hour of waiting for a miracle, I fell asleep.
I woke up in the city outskirts, next to Amsur’s body, who was clearly dead. In front of me, there were two persons dressed in white pointing their guns at me. One of them talked to me.
“You two have murdered eight of our men. You’ve behaved like beasts. But we’re not like you. Our city has excellent methods of defense and you have not been capable of understanding what happened to you when you entered. You’re a basic and primitive person. Your friend was just like you, or even worse. However, our superior minds were not able to fight against you in a field you are evidently more familiar with. It was a mistake to send those men to warn you to leave the city. We recognize that mistake. That’s why we are letting you go. But you’ll take a good memory of us with you.”
The other man approached me with an expressionless face –just like the ones the other inhabitants of the city had– and put a device on my head. The device gave me such a dreadful shock that I walked unconscious for several days. I figured that out because I was really dirty and extremely hungry when I regained consciousness.
Additionally, I noticed that after regaining consciousness, I could not feel a thing. I felt nothing about Amsur’s death, or the death of the men of the sparkling city. I could not even feel anything for myself. Neither could I hurt any other living creature anymore. From that moment, I have been living without conscious, without fears and ambitions, and I have almost forgotten about the money we took from the bank. I mean, I remember it, but it does not matter any longer. There is no signal of remorse or sorrow. They have stolen the best part of being a human from me. I do not feel joy, I do not feel like living, I do not feel pain. I cannot feel anything anymore. I need to eat, but I cannot decide what to do to gain some food. I just do not know how to survive.
Translated by Flavia Marcos and Natalia Riera: Rima Traducciones