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ISMAEL CAMACHO ARANGO

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SIETE MINUTES

Homer, money you chased
From babyhood to old age
Then Mario wrote those letters
Of sweet, funny scenes

Throughout a country gone mad
While bureaucrats swam in an orgy
Of blocked roads and crumbling buses
And ghosts danced frantically

At the sound of drums
Homer, you’ve changed my life
With your yacht
And women

All false
And full of appeal
Until the most famous people
Gathered in that ship

To see the end of the world
As the Beatles played
Their melodious songs
And the sun exploded

In a big bang
Homer the clever
Dreamed by a glorious mind
Interred in the depths of a book

Never published to the world
Sulking in the midst of time
Buried in an orgy of dust
Under a bed

Homer you’re my hero



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SEVEN MINUTES

Fog has invaded my world
Since I awoke this morning
And the sun has swollen

I see a hazy land
Out of my window
As planes fall off the sky

And the northern lights
Dance up in the clouds
I have seven minutes

To prepare myself
For the end
Of life as we know it

Light gets more intense
Two minutes are left
Preceding Armageddon

One minute more
Before we see the sun blown apart
By forces unknown to me

The time has come
I say my farewells
As the end gets nearer

It’s time zero
As you hold my hand
And kiss me Good Bye

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Star exploding

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Doctor Ismael camacho Arango was born in Lebrija, Colombia in 1926. He got his degree in medicine in the universidad nacional de Bogota in 1952. His literary career started when he won a short story competition in 1967. He wrote his book siete minutos in 1971. The novel is a future vision of our industrialist society and the last rites of citizens who only thought of having money. The day will arrive when people will only worry about themselves. Laugh and cry with the characters and adventures the author describes in this book full of morbid humour, where he’s the master. Dr. Ismael Camacho died in Palmira, Colombia in 1995.


ARMAGEDDON by Ismael Camacho Arango

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Why am I writing this? I know how it started but I can’t say how it finished. Is this the most important moment for humankind? All of these questions come to my mind now that I’m going back to the primordial matter, and I will cease to be me.

Having been many things that start and finish in a moment, I wonder if I will be something now that I’m about to end.

I hear shouts in the streets, hallucinated words, the crying of the dying and drunk men singing.

I had never seen or heard anything like that and I will never do again. Everything started in a simple way. It had been a day like any other, when workmen went to work, wearing their overalls and their packed lunches.

They did something they call work where you move your fingers and muscles until the clock on the wall tells them to stop.

Nobody noticed the sun, rising on a side and going down the other, as it had been doing for billions of years. Primitive man worshiped it, the Inca made a toast of chicha from the highest points in the Andes, while some others offered the flesh and hearts of men.

Our father sun had decided to eliminate us, perhaps because he didn’t have any more chicha and hearts.

He would leave our toasted ashes in the cosmic cloud, as a reminder of the children of the sun.

On that particular day, the news travelled fast everywhere. I had just got dressed, when the radio program was interrupted. Someone said: “Attention! Attention! Extra! Extra!!! Extra!!!”

I thought they wanted to sell soap for washing clothes.

“…northern lights in all regions, including the tropics. Several observatories around the world have tried to explain the phenomenon as a dense fog has descended over the earth, and the seas have receded. We’ll keep you informed of any more developments.”

I heard more news while cutting my sausages. A plane had fallen down in the sea and a coach full of football fans had crashed in the mountains. The maid appeared by my side, looking worried.

“You must see this,” she said.

On looking out of the kitchen window, I noticed dense fog in the street. The neighbouring houses had disappeared, while shadows moved within the clouds like lost angels, and cars drove slowly in the whiteness enveloping the world.

I had not paid much attention to the news that morning, but as the maid went back to her duties, I listened to the radio again. I would look for the northern lights in Wikipedia before leaving for my job.

The local television station had been put together with the national radio as the world had never seen anything like that.

Everyone talked at the same time in a studio full of people, before a little man imposed the order.

“We bring you information about the rare things happening to the world,” he said. “Fog has invaded the country, and airplanes have been declared in emergency. We don’t know what has happened to them.”

A scene of total chaos appeared in the screen, as motorists crashed with each other in the harsh conditions, and then I noticed lights amidst the clouds.

That had to be the northern lights.

I had forgotten all about my breakfast as I heard the news again. The White House had declared the USA in state of emergency and rumours circulated that a terrorist had planned the whole thing.

It might be a perfect excuse to stay at home.

Reverend Marcos came in the screen speaking of God's power to stop all the tragedies.

"I must comfort the people," he said.

As the lamp in the lounge moved, I thought something had to be wrong but the man kept on talking.

“Attention,” the presenter said. “We have had a small tremor. Attention!”

Leaving my chair, I had to hold the table to keep my stability,and as I made my way through the lounge, the whole world moved around me, clouds of dust rising in the air.

Star exploding

I can’t recall those intense moments when I cried for my life amidst the cataclysm, as I stumbled out of the house, tripping on a cord and landing on my face.

Cracks appeared on the floor while the earth shook, but then the earthquake stopped, leaving everything in silence.

Struggling to my feet, I saw a city reduced to dust, my nose bled, my arm throbbed and the radio appeared by my side.

It must have fallen there when I ran outside fearing for my life.

On switching it on, I heard only static, the noise joining the anarchy around me.

People wandered the streets like zombies full of mud, but then I saw a woman in her nightdress, looking up at the sky, her clothes full of dirt and blood.

“It’s the end of the world,” she said.

On following her pointing finger, I saw the northern lights shining amidst the clouds like a staircase to heaven.

“It’s Armageddon,” she said.

It had started to rain, the buildings disappearing under the fog, while thunder echoed around us. The woman had gone away, when I looked back, leaving me alone with my fate.

The noise of people running and screaming brought me back to reality, as someone shouted something.

"I lost my baby," a woman said.

Then she coughed blood, before fainting on the mud, the rain cleansing her soul. I thought she had died of pain after losing her child in the quake.

On moving past the bodies lying on the floor, I saw a child sitting next to a pile of clothes.

"I'll find a doctor," I said.

"Where?" he asked.

Not knowing what to say, I walked away from the tragedy, a voice in the radio interrupting my reverie.

“Here H.K.5 A.C.1….H.K.5 A.C.1…Attention! Attention! A terrible earthquake has destroyed most of the city of Palmira. Attention! We must mobilize all the help available: firemen, police, the army, doctors and nurses. Attention! This is an urgent call…

“Hello! Hello! We’ve received your message H.K.5. A.C.1. Here is H.K.9. D.G.U. here, H.K.9 D.G.U. The quake has destroyed most of the city of Cali and we are the only human beings left around here. Attention! We ask everybody to help the cities of Cali and Palmira….

“Attention! Attention! This is voice Bogotá. We are using the equipment we managed to salvage from the tragedy. Attention all the country. The capital has been destroyed by an earthquake. Attention! I repeat. Bogotá has been destroyed by a quake and we need urgent help.”

I listened to requests for help from all parts of the country while people moved in a trance.

A woman went past me with a dead child in her arms, leaving a trace of blood on the floor.

I never thought this would happen while eating my breakfast an eternity ago. Our lives had been transformed in a few moments of death and desperation.

I heard the voice in the radio, echoing around me.

“The sea has flooded most of the ports of the world,” the presenter said. “The map of the continents has changed after the tragedy. New York, Tokyo, London and many other cities have disappeared, leaving an angry sea battering the coasts.”


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People moving between the cameras, as everyone talks at the same time, and a man with big glasses looks at the screen in front of him. One of his colleagues appears with a notebook.

“The sun is having hiccups,” he says.

Pushing back invisible strands of hair, Antonio studies the graphics where a sun full of flares looks at them from the darkness of space. He listens to his headphones for a few moments.

“It’s time for the news,” he says.

As Antonio sits in front of the cameras, the studio lights up ready for an audience hungry for news.

“Good morning,” he says. “Our sun seems to have more energy that its size requires, causing the fog and the lights in the sky we have seen this morning.”

The camera shows a row of cars lining the road and disappearing amidst the fog, as a few people argue with each other in the rain.

A fight starts between two men by a small blue car, but after punching each other a few times, they go back to their vehicles with sore faces.

“It is raining in Bogotá,” Antonio says. “Attention! An electric storm has developed over the city, with rain and hale.”

The camera cuts to the lights dancing amidst the fog as hail falls over the city. Moving through the blanket of mist, people try to get away from the sea, while a picture of the sun fills the screen, large flares shooting out into space. Antonio’s voice interrupts the drama.

“Attention,” he says. “Mount Palomar has photographed the eruptions taking place within the sun.”

More images of the sun adorn the screen, flames reaching towards the planets threatening to finish with the solar system.

The camera cuts back to a reporter standing in the road, where the cars have started to move.

“It is still raining,” he says. “But we’re driving away now.”

The cars move down the road, thunder echoing around them, as the fog gives an air of unreality to the scene, but a few people dance in the back of a truck oblivious to all the problems of the world.

The camera cuts to Antonio reading the news.

“Similar things have been reported all over the continent,” he says. “It’s five o’clock in the morning in Hawaii, where the auroras have been a beautiful spectacle. We can’t waste any time with commercials. We’re making contact with radio Cartagena. Attention!"

A thin man appears in a studio filled with people and confusion.

“This is Cartagena, transmitting for the national television. We have seen terrible things amidst the fog, as trucks and buses full of people wait for the traffic to move. We ask everyone to be calm.”

The camera cuts to another studio, where a man sits by a picture of the sun and a table full of books.

“This is central station in Cartagena,” he says. “Everyone wants to get away from the sea.

The camera focuses on a fat man sitting nearby.

“This is Professor Camacho,” the reporter says. “He should know everything about the sun.”

Pushing his glasses up his nose, Professor Camacho nods his head.

“Our star is coughing fire,” he says.

“Can you explain it, Professor?” the other man asks.

Gesturing at the screen, where the image of the sun appears surrounded by big flames, the professor pushes his glasses up again.

“Our sun is in the middle of its life.” He says. “We believe it has a long time to go.”

“What is happening then?” the reporter asks.

“We don’t know.”

The table shakes, as the two men stand up and people scream.

P3127685.jpg

After joining a rescue group, we went looking for survivors amidst rivers of mud. A man, blood pouring down his face, laid buried behind a wall.

He must have broken his arm in a few places, because he screamed every time we touched it, calling for his family.

“They must be under the masonry,” he said.

Looking at the rubble around us, we didn’t know whether they had survived the earthquake.

“My baby daughter was only a few days old,” he said.

“We’ll find her,” I said.

“Alive?”

“I don’t know.”

It broke my heart to give him the bad news, but we couldn’t expect anything else.

We carried him along the road in a stretcher we made using several sheets we found amongst the ruins. They must have belonged to someone else before the tragedy had changed our lives.

“There is a makeshift clinic in the corner,” a big man, wearing a hat said.

I could not see the other side of the street through the fog, as we carried the man in the stretcher under the rain.

The front room of a house served as hospital, where naked people surrounded us, their souls destroyed by the tragedy, and a woman shouted obscenities before collapsing on the floor.

A child muttered to himself, blood pouring down his clothes, as a group of people congregated around a fire by the front door.

Passing a bottle of aguardiente around, they sang rancheras out of tune, ghosts from another age when the sun had loved us.

I looked after a few patients clinging to life in spite of their wounds, while waiting for death to come amongst the mist and the rain.

"Why has he punished us?" an old woman said.

"It must be his second coming," another one said.

I shrugged. "Help must be coming soon."

"We'll be dead by then."

Tired of all the suffering around me, I retired to a room
I found a room at the back of the building, almost intact amidst the ruins.

On opening the door, I saw a table, with some books and papers. Its owner had to be dead, buried somewhere in the city.

Sitting down at the table, I wrote the account of the terrible things that had happened since I ran out of my house an eternity ago. Then I listened to the radio I kept in my bag.

A small mountain had formed between the cities of Palmira and Cali and the capital of the republic had been completely destroyed. New York, Florida and Mexico had also vanished but they didn’t know much about Europe.

I wanted to have my old world back where the sun never played tricks with us.

Feeling cold and wet, I dozed on the table amidst piles of rubbish, where I dreamed of suns exploding, and seas of blood drowning the city.

The voice in the radio woke me up later.

“Scientists think our sun might explode as a nova. The word means new, because stars appear in the sky, where nothing was there before. We have an alarm to transmit all over the world if this is true. You must go to a secure place when we give the alarm.

After we give instructions in different languages through the radio, you will have seven minutes to find somewhere safe, and lie down with your head on the floor far from rivers and buildings. We will say over the radio and in all languages: We have seven minutes.

“Attention” Attention! We have some more news. Attention! Orbital observatories and artificial satellites have been destroyed. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun has exploded, according to some Australian observatories. We repeat the latest news: Mercury has broken in a thousand pieces. One of these fragments might come close to earth according to calculations.

“Our orbit around the sun has suffered some changes. The moon over Australia is much bigger. We believe our satellite has come closer to us.

“Attention! Attention! You’re listening to the Spanish speaking radio for the whole world. The planet must be ready as we transmit this alarm: We have seven minutes.

We must lie down in a safe place far from houses and rivers. If you follow these instructions, we will have fewer victims.”

“…Ibague has been almost totally destroyed. Here are the names of the victims we have identified up to now…”
I hoped the seven minutes never came or the sun stopped playing games with us.

I saw a few books about the sun on the table. The picture of the corona engulfed in fire adorned the cover of one of them.

Leafing through its pages, I learned a few things about our star, its age, composition and all the chemicals it burns before its end.

The sun has not enough mass to be a supernova, and will expand into a red giant in four billion years time, before turning into a white dwarf, where it will remain for billions of years.

It wouldn't explode yet according to the book, but the scientists talked of our star having some kind of transformation leading us to the end of the world.

I took the book with me, but I was hungry.

After leaving my refuge, I saw naked people looking for bodies in the ruins with rudimentary tools.

A drunken man snored inside a coffin he had found on the road, oblivious to everything around him, as people danced at the sound of music, while shouting: hurray to death.

It seemed like a party, where everyone had gone crazy.

A beautiful girl, dressed in rugs, moved at the rhythm of the music, her breasts quivering with her movements.

“Drink, comrade,” she said, pushing a bottle of gin against my teeth. “This is the end of the world. Can you see that rubble? That is where my family died. I only heard a knock: Bang! And then it finished. Drink comrade. Drink! UUUUUIIPPPAAA!!!”

A tall man put a gun to his mouth before pulling the trigger. On falling down to the floor, his brains poured out of his head amidst the vapour and the rain.

Then a woman shot herself in the heart with his gun, leaving a pool of blood by my feet.

The rain and the mist had cleared a bit, showing a soggy landscape full of craters and rubble as I moved away from the carnage, and bodies burned on fires in a field, their faces crying for the end of humankind.

I moved down the road, wishing to wake up from the nightmare.

The city had ended, giving way to the countryside full of holes and a few new mountains. The fat man I had seen before, moved down the road muttering to himself.

“Won’t it stop raining?” he asked.

“I’m hungry,” I said.

I ate a piece of bread he gave me, even if it tasted funny.

Then the shadows came, praying aloud while carrying something resembling a saint on their shoulders.

“Alleluia,” they said.

They begged God to prepare them for his second coming after the seven minutes, when we would go to heaven or hell.

“Pray for your souls,” they said.

Their voices got lost in the wind and the rain, as they disappeared in the distance.

“Come with us,” the fat man said.

“Where?” I asked.

He shrugged. “To wait for the seven minutes.”

We sang, as vultures looked at us amidst dead bodies. Someone shouted: “Hurray to the vultures.”

“Hurray to the vultures,” we said.

The animals remained indifferent to our suffering. I missed my family and my mother.

I wanted to tell her about the terrible things happening to us but she had to be buried under the rubble, as I cried for myself, humankind and the end of life.

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A piece of painted wood
That’s what you are

Loved by millions
On this earth

Your hands and legs
Are painted pink

While your head has
A crown of needles

Made in Japan
With nails imported from China

Another plank of wood
Covers your waist

As tears of holy water
Run down your cheeks


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