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Excerpt: 'Rex'

The Writer awakens, opens his eyes in that grotto brimming with gold and jewels, and exclaims: Oh, Wonder of Wonders! Richly attired: the Malay kris at his waist, the turban at whose center the Koh-i-Noor, the Mountain of Light, glows ineffably. Toward the fantastic territory of the Book, where no one will ever be able to dethrone him, revoke his authority, cut him down to size with evidence. No principles to undermine, no evidence of his spuriousness to accumulate. No one, mounted on his shoulders, will be able to see any farther, as idiotic people (and the Commentator) claim. Farther than what? Than a bird? Farther than its feathers, farther than its beak, farther than its being as a bird? There is nothing farther, no "territory beyond"-a human construct that seeks to supplant the succinct and diaphanous idea of the Book.

The force and the shattering wonder of the passage where Marcel, on an exploration of the Arctic Circle, discovers a new and unnameable kind of water, a liquid thick as gum arabic. The commingled astonishment and intense chill this marvel arouses in his breast. And throughout this passage, the first description, the origin of a new machine, for he imagines this water, Petya, taking on density, condensing not only in the Writer's mind but also in that of the most minor and insignificant technician. The household use to which we could put it: no longer laboriously excavating swimming pools, but erecting in any garden a beautiful cube of these calm waters like the hues of a changeable silk, says the Writer, in every possible shade of purple.

A Mountain of Water! Sparkling in the sun. Can you imagine it? Imagine it!

In which we would swim, plunging in without causing the structure to collapse, for it would hold its rectangular shape, its cubic constitution. We would ascend through it, our arms open wide, like birds in a solid patch of sky.

Quite a vision, isn't it: men flying through this water that has somehow, we don't know how, been condensed? Isn't it?

And behind every house, in every garden, such a cube would rest on the surface of the earth where a swimming pool was once dug into it. Having learned to hold your breath and accelerate within the mass of water, pushing off from wall to wall, calculating and controlling your momentum so as to stick only your head outside, gulping in a mouthful of fresh air, your hair dripping, the sun sparkling on your wet head. Coming out, breaking the film of the surface before the astonished gazes, one head still below-heads up, guys!-laughing and taking a deep breath, shouting out for pure joy, then plunging back inside the cube.

A prodigy, a fabulous invention, this marvel that we would examine, attired like a couple in an engraving of the World's Fair, the bowler hat, the tiny, unnecessary parasol stuck into the lawn. Or else both of us in shorts, young ourselves, turning our backs on the cube, grown accustomed to the miracle, however strange it may seem, for it's still a miracle even in 2049, a miracle, and so is my vision of the young men rising up through the cube, slicing through it like birds soaring across the sky. The undulating block on the green lawn. Have you seen it? Shall I turn off the generator? The force field?

No, leave it on a moment longer, please-I'm still looking at it. (You should look, too.)

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Jose Manuel Prieto