Sunday, December 19, 2010

Morosia - a (very) short story. (my hommage to Italo Calvino)

Morosia’s inhabitants follow the same custom with the dead as they treat their houses, banks, or official buildings. When a person is known to be dying, people would start talking about his replacement, as the work must go on. The person, from that stage onwards, has his mouth sealed up with a needle and white thread, and is home-bound. This in-between stage can last anything from a few hours to several months. A dying woman was known to have survived a whole 5 years, without talking.
At death, a few specialists, injecting chemicals that will keep the appearance of life to it for a year or so, prepare the corpse. The dead is set in the house, mimicking his favourite activity.
After a year, the corpse is disposed of by the family, part of it is buried in relatives gardens, part of it is preserved in jars – these would become highly-valued presents exchanged during important rituals in Morosia , and finally, part of the body is cremated and spread over the city. The very same day, a new person would join in, invited by the family, to take the role of the deceased, with the right to keep up to half of the Dead’s clothes, and a full right to the Dead’s job. The family would then pretend a distant relative of them died; for example, if the husband had died, the wife would say a distant cousin of her husband’s died.

Some say, in the far suburb of Morosia, families send pictures of the dead to a distant cousin, and the cousin would then contrive his next born baby to look like the dead, by the use of bandages, scissors, scalpels, and other contraptions. So that, when the age has come, the double is sent to the family, the live amongst “his” again. This probably amounts for the unusual amount of scarred faces and hunched men I have noticed when walking the streets of Morosia, like some derelict building showing the scars of a war or other.

All the streets are different, but all the streets look alike. Red brick is lining them, and two gargoyles look at each other, one seemingly new, and the other seemingly old, or a recent imitation of an older one, reflecting their gaze in each other’s empty sockets, thinking about the past thinking about the future thinking about the past…