‘Alive or Dead’ by Jorge Olivera Castillo


From Words Without Borders:

A metal gate bars his path, and thwarts any hope for the pursued. But then he leaps for it, and easily gains the top. It is his instinct of self-preservation that allows him to accomplish this intricately acrobatic maneuver smoothly. From the other side of the railings he observes with satisfaction the pack of hounds gnawing at the iron bars as if attempting to assuage their sense of impotence.

The man continues on in his flight, now at a regular trot. He smiles and manages to exhale with relief in the midst of panting so hard he almost suffocated. He is searching for a way out of this unfamiliar place. A loud bang revives the symptoms of a few minutes earlier. Its reverberations propel him on with increasing force until they seem to consume his whole body. His skin becomes bathed in layer after layer of perspiration. The report from the shot has knocked out the hearing in his right ear.

From my armchair, I can see a small package tumble onto the wasteland. The object has clearly fallen from inside the man’s shirt. Two of the buttons have come undone, and let a small packet, apparently wrapped in damp cardboard, fall to the ground.

I don’t know what it contains. What grabs my curiosity is the desperation with which the man tries to recover it, and his rush through the hail of bullets that render the order to “halt!” repeated to the point of exhaustion, nearly inaudible.

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