Author: Ricardo Segreda

The Procession of the Dead (from Ecuadorian Ghost Stories, edited by Mario Conde, translated by Christopher Minster) Back in the old days, Quito was a small urban settlement that extended from La Magdalena in the south to what is now known as Colon Avenue in the north. In spite of the small size, the National Police (which was then known as the Carabineros Corps) was hard-pressed to patrol all of the sectors of the city, in particular the area of the small plaza of Carmen Bajo, in front of the San Juan de Dios hospital. People used to say that the place was sort of creepy and spooky because of all of the people who had died in the hospital. When any of the carabineros were assigned to the area, they would always cross themselves at the start of their shift because they knew they were in for a long, terrible night, fearful that they might come across a ghost or some other sort of apparition from the other side. Julio Benítez and Aníbal Parra were two young carabineros. One night, it was their turn to guard the small plaza in front of the hospital, between García Moreno and Rocafuerte streets. It was very dark, and an icy wind was blowing. The young men were shaking from cold, and they spoke with each other to keep their spirits up. They were trying not to think about the stories of apparitions and ghosts that, according to local lore, wandered around the area. Back then, there were no streetlights, and the area was fogged in darkness. The howling of dogs seemed to announce that something very bad was about to happen. When the bells of the San Francisco cathedral rang eleven o’clock, the two young men went out on patrol. They walked along García Moreno Street toward May 24 Avenue. Back then, there was a ravine near there known as Jerusalem, and there was a little trail that ran alongside it which went up to the Robo chapel, San Roque, and the San Diego cemetery. When the young carabineros got to the ravine and made their way to Venezuela Street, they stopped when they saw that there were lights to the south of the chapel, as if someone was coming from the cemetery. The carabineros thought the lights must be thieves, so they hid to see if they could catch them. The lights were still far away, but they could see that they were coming their way. They gripped their nightsticks. But suddenly their bravery dissipated when they heard a mournful, eerie sound like the beating of a drum: tararan tan tan, tararan, tan, tan. They could hear the drumming in the still of the night, and it was soon joined by a high-pitched whistling, like a flute, as if in accompaniment. The young men peered into the night with confusion and apprehension. Either they were dreaming or the lights were part of a procession of beings from the other side, coming from the cemetery. The policemen hid more deeply in their hiding spot, barely daring to move a muscle. After a while they saw something at the back of the line of shadows that looked like a funeral procession. It was a carriage, rolling along surrounded by flames! When the drumming noise was no more than a block away, and in the light of that horrible fire, the terrified young men could finally see the whole procession. In the front were two specters dressed in red. One was beating a cylindrical box like a drum, and the other carried a small flute, with which he accompanied the macabre drumbeat. Behind them, there were two lines of ghosts wearing black hoods. In their skeletal hands they held long white candles, which were topped with weak, dim flames. At the end of the procession was the carriage wrapped in flames, driven by a creature with a black face, two curling horns like those of a ram and a red cloak that covered his body. It was the devil himself, bringing up the rear of the ghostly funeral procession. The two young carabineros were paralyzed with horror. They could barely breathe, and their hearts were pounding in their chests. They were hoping that the funeral procession would turn up García Moreno Street a block away and head toward San Juan de Dios. But the madness of fear gripped them when they saw that the funeral procession was headed directly toward them. When the specters were only a few steps away from them, carabinero Porra, who was the more fearful of the two, took off out of the hiding spot, screaming at the top of his lungs and running as if the devil himself were on his tail. Julio Benítez was right behind him, matching him step for step. They didn’t stop until they had reached their guard post, two blocks away. The policemen shut themselves inside their little guard shack, trembling and unable to speak. Just when they figured that they had avoided the procession, they heard a familiar noise that sent shivers up their spines: tararan tan tan, tararan tan tan...

The Guaguanco  (from Ecuadorian Ghost Stories, edited by Mario Conde, translated by Christopher Minster) San José de Chimbo - Bolívar Polibio and Floripa could not have any children. They had been married for six years, and they had visited every doctor, herbologist and midwife they could find, but all of their efforts to conceive a child had been in vain. They lived in San José de Chimbo, a small town about an hour away from the city of Guaranda. They owned large tracts of land that Floripa had inherited from her father, a wealthy man from the region. The marriage seemed to be a stable one. However, the truth was that it was all an act, because Polibio had only married Floripa for her money, and when no one was around, he was very abusive, blaming her for his own sterility. At first the couple was asked to be godparents to a whole generation of the children of Chimbo until one day Polibio grew sick and tired of bringing other people’s children to church, asking for a blessing from a God that refused him any children of his own. He changed. Although he was once a happy, lighthearted man, he became somber and greedy. One time, his wife was asked to be godmother for the daughter of one of their servants, but when he found out, he forbade her to ever help anyone again. Floripa promised to obey him, knowing how frustrated he was that they could not have any children of their own. Polibio became obsessed with the idea of having a huiñachishca or an adopted child who could keep him company. But it wasn’t that simple. One afternoon, Polibio took his wife to town with him to arrange some details regarding a land sale he was involved with. Their business went to about six o’clock. At that time, they walked back to their home, which was only about twenty minutes away. To get there, they had to walk along a trail that was lined with thick bushes. It began to get dark, and the couple quickened their pace. When they were about halfway there, a sudden silence fell over the area. There were a few tense seconds until they heard a cry, like that of a baby. It seemed to be coming from the bushes a few meters in front of them. Surprised, the couple went closer to see if the cry had come from a human baby or some mountain bird. They heard the same piteous whimper again: it sounded like a baby, hungry and cold. They looked at each other without a word. After a moment they had not heard any adult voices, and their curiosity drove them into the bushes. They hadn’t gone as far as ten steps when they saw a little package, bundled in baby clothes. It was a baby, and he was crying loudly in front of a small sigses bush. Polibio took the child and covered him with his own poncho, while the eyes of his wife moistened with happiness. Floripa asked indignantly what sort of mother would have so stony a heart as to leave her newborn in such a state, as if it were some little animal. Polibio replied that it must be the result of some sort of illicit love affair, maybe the son of a single woman who got rid of him to hide her shame. It seemed like a good explanation, and the couple was filled with joy. Finding the child they had always wanted was like a miracle. They left the bushes and went home, delirious with happiness. On the road, while they talked excitedly about their plans for the future, it got dark. They had to slow down, so that they would not trip. The child had stopped crying and was nice and warm, all snuggled in the poncho. Polibio, fearing that something might happen to the baby, sent his wife ahead to advise him of any holes in the trail. The couple had not gone far when Polibio, feeling suddenly nauseous and tired, asked his wife to wait a moment. “What’s the matter?” his wife asked. “The baby is heavy,” he replied, upset. They kept walking, but oddly, the baby kept getting heavier and heavier. Polibio didn’t get far before he didn’t have the strength to hold it. Feeling faint, he stopped again. Suddenly, from one moment to the next, the baby was not only very heavy, but also burning hot, so scorching that Polibio felt his body being burned as if he had red-hot coals in his poncho. “What is this? My God! What is happening to this baby?” he asked, shocked. Polibio was certainly not expecting an answer to his question. However, the baby responded in a shuddering, nasal voice: “I have teeth. Look, I have teeth!” The baby reached one of its hands out from within the poncho. It had long, black fingernails, and it pulled the poncho away from its head. Polibio was horrified to see that the baby had sharp, tusk-like teeth like a wild beast, a purplish face and burning eyes, blazing like two tiny fireballs. “I have teeth. Look, I have teeth!” the demonic baby repeated. Then, it leapt out of the poncho and grabbed onto Polibio’s neck with its long nails and bit down with its teeth. Polibio died almost instantly. Floripa screamed in horror and ran away as fast as she could, terrified, tripping and stumbling. It had gotten so dark that she could not see anything at all. Nevertheless, she kept running, horrified, without knowing how far she was from home. Instinct told her that at any moment the devil’s child would throw itself onto her throat. She went mad with fear the moment she heard its infernal cry in front of her, as if lying in wait for her in the bushes. She kept fleeing, but the more she ran, the more she heard the demonic child. Desperate, she kept tripping in the dark until she finally fell, exhausted. She couldn’t go any more. It felt as if her chest would burst. It was then that she heard the nasal voice: “I have teeth. Look, I have teeth!” A tiny shadow, with a demonic shape, was approaching. Floripa covered her neck with her hands and waited for the end to come. But at the last moment she heard another cry, which sounded as if it came from a different baby. She raised her eyes and saw a woman approach, carrying a baby. She was lit from behind by a white light. Without realizing it, she had made it home and was on her own patio. The woman was the servant, mother of Floripa’s goddaughter, and she had come outside to investigate the strange noises. When the servant felt the presence of the devil, she pinched her daughter, who began to cry. The innocence and purity of the infant frightened the devil-spawn, who let out a chilling shriek and vanished in a puff of smoke. Without the bad influence of her husband, Floripa returned to the gracious, sociable woman she had been before she met him. She became very devout and served as godmother for many of the children of her employees and even took children of single mothers into her own home. Floripa used to say that if an unwed mother abandons a child in the wild, and if the child has not been baptized, the devil will accept it as a godson and turn it into a Guaguanco. This creature lures its victims – evil men and women – by pretending to cry like a newborn....

March of the Devils By Ricardo Segreda Juan Paredes Garcia was eleven and woke up angry that cold morning in November in the south of Quito, as he has every morning of his life ever since his father left him four years ago for his new girlfriend in Guayaquil. He hated that alarm function on his iPhone (not the real thing, by the way, but a cheap imitation made in China), because it interrupted his sleep, the only peace he has, and reminded him of what a bleak world he has to face. He knew that his older brother, Tino, was getting up too, and in a few minutes, after he went to the bathroom and changed into his school uniform, it would begin all over again. Tino, who was five years old than Juan, would “wrestle” with him, grabbing him and holding him tightly in a locked position, twisting his arms and calling him a “maricon,” or “faggot,” until Juan screamed because this hurt so much. Juan’s mother, Margo, as usual, would ignore this even though it was going on right before her in the kitchen as she made coffee while she smoked Marlboros, until Juan screamed in pain. At which, she’ll yell at Juan and tell him to stop making so much noise. And that is exactly what happened. Afterwards, as Tino laughed, Juan grabbed the cheap toasted bread as well as the eight-ounce carton of milk his mother left out for his “breakfast,” and caught the bus to school. In his classrooms, Juan went through the motions of being a student, but he barely paid attention to his teachers, and barely took notes, as he sat in the back of the classroom and meditated on how his brother treated him, his father’s abandonment (it was the talk of the neighborhood for years, with Juan walking through a gauntlet of taunts on his way home), what his mother did for a living - rummage through garbage for recyclable goods - when so many of the other children were a little better off because their parents with “real” jobs, and that he rarely understood what the teacher was talking about when Juan did try to listen. When his father was around, he kept up with his homework, because that is what “Papa” expected of him, but when he left he gave up, and fell behind in his studies, and nobody, not even his mother, seemed to notice. That is also when Tino changed and became a bully (until then Juan regarded Tino as his best friend).  Now that he had fallen so far behind in his learning it had become harder and harder each year for him to catch up.  He feared that the other children now regarded him as “stupid,” and that only intensified his resentment toward them, especially the ones who were getting praise and attention from the teachers. Juan made up for it, all of it – life at home, school – during recess and lunch.  He was tough and mean, quick to figure out which boys are weaker and more insecure than he is, and how to get other students to join in with him in making fun of them. And with his right fist, he would soon make them regret any attempt they make to defend themselves, even with words.  Juan was especially proud of himself when he could make another boy cry.  And what could that boy do? Go complain to one of the teachers? That would only provide the ultimate confirmation of that boy’s weak character. But that particular day in when he woke up with his usual bitterness, would prove different. For the last few weeks the prettiest girl in school, also the smartest, with multiple academic honors, prompted a new and beautiful feeling in him. He knew what sex was – Tino introduced him to hardcore pornography years ago – but what he felt was a tenderness that almost bewildered him. “Is ‘this’ what people mean by ‘falling in love’?,” he wondered. Her name was Elsa, and though he had known her, from a distance, for years, it was only now that he found himself thinking almost constantly about her – when he wasn't distracted by his unhappy life. Otherwise, his mind kept returning towards her green eyes, her small mouth, her soft lips, her long black hair, her cute laugh...

The Package by Cristián Londoño Proaño Translated by Joan Gavey, Paula Weiss, and Ricardo Segreda I live together with my grandparents in a hacienda in a town on the Ecuadorian coast called Buena Fe, meaning "Good Faith," which is an hour and a half from the provincial capital and seven hours from Quito.  My grandparents adopted me when I was five years old, because my parents died in an unfortunate traffic accident. I grew up with them, and learned the family business. My grandfather, Carlos, dedicates himself to the sowing and cultivation of various products such as tomatoes and bananas. He still maintains some ancient agrarian techniques such as hydroponics. He has yet to bring in robots to automate harvesting. Rather, he prefers to hire people from neighboring communities to do the work. It's noon and it's raining cats and dogs. For three days it has not stopped. I am in my room listening to electronic music and emailing my last assignment for the semester. "Your grandmother requests your presence at lunch," states Rita, the virtual assistant. “Thanks, Rita," I respond. I leave my room. I walk down the corridor. On the walls are the photographs of the old cacao plantations that once covered a large part of the hacienda. My grandparents and I sit at the table. My grandmother, Rosa, makes an effort to prepare food with the hacienda's own produce. She cooks up rice with stewed, chicken. I like the traditional Ecuadorian touch of my grandmother's food. Grandmother has preserved the recipes she learned from her mother and tries to prepare them just like the originals. However, due to the fact that some ingredients no longer exist because they are no longer produced, she has to incorporate other elements. At the head of the table, Carlos, or as I call him, Grandfather, eats a spoonful with a piece of chicken. He chews it, swallows and afterwards he lingers, looking out towards the window. I admire his graying hair and green eyes, his wide nose and fine mouth. In his green eyes I perceive a lot of frustration, one that I totally understand. It began two years ago. It was early morning. Two sharp knocks on my door woke me up. "Lucas?" I hear my grandmother's voice. I stretch out. It was still dark in my room. I check my cell phone. Five in the morning, very early. "Tell me, Grandmother," I say, waking up. My grandmother slowly opens the door, the light of the corridor filtering faintly into my room. "The lights, Rita, " I say to the maid. They come on. My grandmother enters my room. The brown hair, turning gray, her green eyes and pink mouth; Grandmother looks distressed. There is something urgent. "Did something happen?,"  I say. My grandmother comes over to me, takes me by the hand and says: “Your grandfather…" I hurriedly sit up. My grandmother's words scare me. "What happened?" "It's okay," my grandma says slowly. However, she then she groans and speaks with heaviness. "But…" I sense something. Whatever it is, however, she is not eager to tell me. "It failed again," she announces. "It failed?," I say. However, I knew what she was referring to. The importance of the project that my grandfather had undertaken. He said he was a dreamer. That was how he defined himself. As for me, I am like my late mother. The limited memories I had of her involved her incredible way of encouraging my father in his innumerable projects. Here I had been by my grandfather's side in the project. For several days I had accompanied him to the field and toured the property, making sure that conditions were fulfilled so that the plant would grow healthily and would bear fruit,  that nothing would fail. But what, exactly, had failed? "Where is he? Where's Grandfather?," I ask anxiously. "In the dining room, Lucas," my grandmother answers. I walk, as quickly as possible, to the dining room. My grandfather is sitting at the head of the table. To one side was the plant. You could tell that it had atrophied and rotted. I approached, I sit on a chair and say to Grandfather: "What happened?" "It didn't make it, Luquitas." He took the fruit in his hands and added: "Every time I try to make the cacao grow back, this happens. I only want a strong plant that can survive the climate. I want to plant cacao just like the grandfather of my grandfather's grandfather, I want the cacao plantations to grow in my land. Is that too big a wish?" Starting from that early morning, my grandfather's frustration grew and grew. He was not able to dedicate part of his crops to cacao production, as his ancestors had done, because theobroma cacao seed was dying. With great sadness, I still remember when some media reported that chocolate was a luxury pleasure that was gradually being relegated to history. There was very little production and in the coming years it was expected that it would disappear completely because the theobroma seed had not withstood climate change, nor fungi and even less insects. The main producers such as the Ivory Coast, Ecuador and Central American countries had their crops decimated. The efforts made by an American company in the first decade of the 21st century to save cacao did not yield the expected success. Thus the seed was doomed to become extinct. Nonetheless, my grandfather was convinced that he could achieve a miracle through his techniques. He had tried to cultivate the plant through various means, but with no success. This filled him with frustration; he felt impotent, was not fulfilling the legacy of his ancestors. However, though it seemed to him that it was his fault, he did not understand that climate change had affected the entire world and all human activities. Now back to me.  Grandfather looks away, lifts a spoonful of food and puts it in his mouth. We all eat in silence, savoring the wonderful grained rice and the chicken stew seasoned with onion and garlic. Grandfather finishes his food, he pushes his plate aside and says: "Some of my plants will die. This climate seems like the enemy of farmers." Rosa, sitting to his left, raises her spoonful of rice, pauses, looks at Grandfather and says: "What is he talking about?" Then turning her face and looking at me with much tenderness she asks: "How are you doing in college, Lucas?" For a moment, I recall that it was two years ago, in 2049, when I decided that I would study in a foreign university, even though my Grandfather told me that he thought the institution was too far away. "Now the universities are closer," I say to Grandpa when we walk among the hydroponic tomato crops. "What do you mean?," he asked, plucking a tomato with his hands. "All the universities have virtual campuses and most allow online attendance," I answered. "That's why I say they are closer, you can spend short periods in your physical campus, but most of the study is done in the virtual campus." "In all the majors?" "No, only in some courses,” I said. “For example, communication classes are one hundred percent virtual, but for scientific careers there is a mixture of both modalities. In addition, the quality of the researchers at the university seems interesting to me. I have read some of their work and they seem to me to be both rigorous and serious." I had persuaded Grandfather and he decided to support me. Afterwards, I took the university virtual skills test, as well as the knowledge test. I applied for the scholarship. It was hugely satisfying when they sent me the email notifying me of my acceptance. After I matriculated they sent me my coursework in genetic biotechnology. Brimming with enthusiasm I attended my first classes, lectures and talks using the university's virtual reality platform. I put on my virtual glasses as well as my sensory gloves. I entered the password for my avatar and transported myself to the campus of the university. At the entrance there was a cement arch and at the top was the name of university. I entered via a path. On the sides were several gardens showcasing flowers of various colors as well as fruit trees. The details of everything represented was impressive, making it seem vividly real. At the bottom of the path were three buildings. The first building was in the Baroque style, and it housed the administrative offices of the university. The other two remaining buildings had ovular modules; they looked like spaceships, and inside these were the classrooms and laboratories. In the virtual classes, the avatars of the instructors allowed you enter into the settings of the subjects taught. For example, the science history professor created a virtual nineteenth century environment in order to teach us about the scientists of that era. You could chat with Darwin himself and hear him explain his theory of the evolution of the species. In the virtual laboratories there were humanoid robots that, on the one hand, gave guidelines for the experiments that had to be carried out; while on the other hand, supported the student's personal research project. The "in person" classes also motivated me, though most were developed with forms of enhanced reality. For example, the professor of genetics facilitated a didactic activity in which the structure of DNA was looked at and the chains could be altered with one's own hands. Due to my high qualifications I could apply to be an assistant in the genetic agriculture laboratory. Part of my work there was done in the virtual campus and the rest in my visits to the university. Coming back to the present. I look at my grandmother's sweet face and answer the question: "Very good, Grandmother." Grandfather smiles and listens to me admiringly. "I really like my 'in person' classes," I say, full of enthusiasm. "Would you believe I have Chinese, Malaysian, Finnish and Arabian classmates?" "And how do you communicate with everyone?," Grandfather asks. "Everybody speaks English?" "Now it's different, grandfather," I reply. "We all use our headset translators. There is no problem talking in your own language. The headset translates into your language." "Wonderful," says Grandmother. "If that had been available in my time, I certainly would not have bothered to study English." "And how do you develop your work in the laboratory?,"  Grandfather asks. I take a small sip of water. "Some processes have been automated," I answer." Robots and artificial intelligence help out in the laboratories of the university. Many processes that could have lasted months have been shortened to weeks. I believe that, in the next few years, they will be shortened to days." At that moment the doorbell rings. Rita, the virtual domestic assistant, informs us that there is a person at the door who wants to see me. "Thank you, Rita," Grandfather says. "You're welcome, Don Carlos," says the virtual assistant. Rita is one of the few technological acquisitions that my grandfather has allowed to be installed in the hacienda house. There are only a few things that he likes, since he considers most new technology an aberration. He still has an old iPhone, for example, which he will not change for anything, even though the new crystal cell phones are ultra-fast. "Who is it?," Grandmother asks. "He says he's a messenger," Rita informs us. "Thank you, Rita." "Should I relay some message to him?," she asks. "None, Rita," I say. I'm going out now. I stand up as my grandparents watch me attentively. Maybe I can intuit what this is about. I walk down the hall of the hacienda house. I take an umbrella from the coat rack and walk out the door. I open the umbrella and walk down the dirt path. In the background I see the banana plantations. I start thinking that, maybe, just maybe, I know what kind of package it is that I'm about to pick up. I've been waiting for that package with great expectations, the result of what I started two years ago. I open the door and look at the messenger’s face. He is a young boy with brown hair, brown eyes and a wide nose. He has a red cap featuring the logo of the delivery company, and he is holding a square package in his hands. "Lucas Mendoza?," the messenger asks. "It's me," I reply anxiously. The boy pulls out a device: "Look at the red light, please." He places it in front of my eyes and scans my retinas. My identity confirmed, he hands me the package. My university’s name is mentioned in the label, “send to.”  I thank the boy and we say goodbye I wak into the hacienda, holding in my hands the package that has come from the university, and leave the umbrella hanging on the rack. I worked a lot on this project, I believe. I spent many hours in virtual laboratories as well as university "in person" laboratories. Though I was only an assistant, I supported and assisted in the development of this venture. I involved myself enthusiastically. And it was in the laboratory that they developed a new genome of the cacao seed. The laboratory researchers wanted to modify the genetic sequence, changing the mobile chromosomes. In that way, the seed would be better adapt to the climate, resisting temperature changes, excessive rain, fungi and damage caused by insects. I remember that one of the researchers said that cacao would arise from death. After the researchers had the seeds genetically designed, I offered to plant them in my grandfather's farm. They accepted and thus, they sent the package to my house. I enter the living room. My grandparents are sitting in the armchairs. I sit on a sofa. My grandparents look at me expectantly. I take the package in my hands, unwrap it, then open the box inside and take out the hermetic capsule. “What is it?," Grandmother says. I smile. So does my grandfather. "Don't tell me it's...

The Unproductive Ones by Cristián Londoño Proaño Translated by Lorraine Caputo   Operator 220 arrived at six in the morning to his Stock Exchange Building in the north of the city. He entered the main door, walked down the main hall and placed himself at the end of the double line the other Operators had formed for the elevator. He didn’t talk with his neighbors. Scornfully, he barely looked at them. Today begins my rise to the top, he told himself with a sarcastic smile. He entered the elevator and took a corner. On the diminutive screen, the floor numbers counted off. I will achieve a just price for my effort, he thought, as the panel indicated 125. When the elevator door opened, he delved into his floor and saw the Operator of the Month hologram. A cold stinging sensation circulated throughout his body. It’s been a month since I was beaten, he said to himself, and I couldn’t stop it. But this month, I have the victory assured. I am the winner. For a few minutes, he contemplated that white-complexioned face with brown eyes and thin chin. He remembered that Operator 305 had thwarted his designation as Floor Manager. Eleven times he had positioned himself to be Operator of the Month, for eleven months – and last month he lost, thanks to a sufficient strategy Operator 305 had used. That twelfth month, Operator 305 had negotiated a block of food company shares at half the price. At first, he judged it was a horrible buy on the part of his rival. But within a few days, the value of the shares began to rise and triple. The woman took the opportunity to sell them and earn the points she needed to win the stock market competition. This strategy had impressed him and motivated him to make a decision, without realizing the consequences. The day after his defeat, just as he got off the elevator at his floor, he found himself face to face with Operator 305. He had a strange sensation he had never felt before for any Productive Being. Very spontaneously, he said: “Congratulations, Operator.” The stockbroker 305 kept her face stony, not moving a muscle, and replied with a sharp tone, “You lost, I won.” She then slipped away in the midst of a group of stock market employees who had entered the floor. He stood in the hall, wondering about the primitive emotion he had felt for his rival. In the course of the following days, he could not answer his question. He knew he had liked the emotion, he could describe it but not define it. It was like an electrical current that shot up his spinal cord and expanded down his extremities. Onc,e he was tempted to visit his rival’s cubicle and look her in the eyes. That simple act would have been enough for him to understand that primitive emotion. Although perhaps he would never understand. But he wasn’t courageous enough, nor did he want to throw his future away. He had an idea, he had it clearly: He had to arrive to the top. He would not stop until he was another Robert Zach. “It doesn’t serve you to compete unless you win.” The voice of the Global Television announcer pulled him out of his thoughts. Your neighbor can be your worst enemy … Being first is the most important … These phrases were the secret to success that made Operator 550, one of millions of productive beings, win the competitions in each of the buildings, in each of the cities and in each of the zones, climbing positions and earn the right to become “Robert Zach, The Maker.” He walked along his floor. He knew it was the same as all the floors of all the other stock buildings. All, absolutely all, were arranged on a mathematical matrix. Twenty rows by twenty columns repeated in 200 square meters. Four hundred cubicles, 400 Operators, 400 stockbrokers that traded at the same time, fighting for points to be the first on the monthly list. The location of his cubicle was U5: Column U and Row 5. He took Column U. “The Asians always acquire shares of the best companies!” He heard the furious shout of an Operator that was in the third row. He noticed that that individual had virtual goggles on and had turned off the holographic screen. It’s ridiculous, the man said to himself as if commenting to another person, complaining to the walls of his cubicle. He’s losing time. He should be detained for unproductive activities. He continued his course. At the fifth row, he turned and sat down at his workstation. He put on the neural crown and virtual googles. “On,” he muttered. Between the metallic porticoes, the holographic screen opened. He briefly reviewed the indexes of the main stock exchanges: Wall Street had risen seventy points, Tokyo had dropped ten points. London, Rio de Janeiro and Paris had remained unchanged. He asked the computer to display the monthly list of Operators in his department. He verified his score and placement. I’m in first place, he said to himself with pride and emotion. I just need to make one transaction. Perhaps I could buy a package of shares from a genetic lab and then sell them for three times the points. An excellent transaction. My point difference with increase in comparison to Operator 305 and I’ll reach my objective. At last, I’ll gain my twelfth month and I’ll be made Floor Manager. He cracked a sweet, pronounced smile. He continued to revise the list and discovered that Operator 305 was still in second place with 290 thousand points. His smile softened. The same number of points as two days ago, he told himself with admiration. Perhaps there’s a system error. He ordered the machine to check the system, looking for network errors over the past two days. “The system is operating optimally,” he read on his screen. What’s happened to this stockbroker? he said to himself, trying to find an answer. He felt uncomfortable. Could it be that Operator 305 had been a coward, that she had opted for inertia when she found that any of her attempts proved unsuccessful, because he would win this time? A malicious idea came to his mind. An idea that had evilness similar to what any productive being in the same situation would have. Perhaps the young Operator was afraid of her inevitable defeat, and couldn’t control herself and committed suicide. He heard several voices passing through his floor. “Video,” he ordered his computer. In one corner of his holographic screen transmitted the signal of the closed-circuit cameras. A pair of Detectors was crossing the floor. She was a small, svelte woman with a round face. The other, a middle-aged man with a strong body and a flattened chin. They entered cubicle 305. The Floor Manager had a pale face. He felt sorry for his boss. He recalled that a few months ago, the previous Manager had serious problems with the Detectors because of a case of unproductivity. The official had not systematically reported the case of an Operator who had arrived late for work for three days in a row. The Manager had only verbally reprimanded the unpunctual operator. The next day, the Detectors did not take long to arrive to the 125th floor and apprehend the unproductive Operator and the Manager, accusing him of concealing “a crime of unproductiveness.” On his holographic screen, he watched the Detectors’ procedures. One of the cameras focused on the agent that was adjusting his glasses and crossing his arms. The woman approached the metal porticoes of the cubicle. Meanwhile, the Manager did not stop observing the Detectors’ rigid movements. The man gestured with his hand to the Manager, requesting that he leave the cubicle. The woman remained seated in front of the metal porticoes. He heard the murmur of the Manager’s and Detector’s voices nearing bit by bit. “The first case of unproductivity that has occurred in your administration,” he heard the gruff voice of the Detector say. “As soon as I noticed that Operator 305 was not coming to work, I contacted the Service,” he heard the Manager's emphatic response. “Don’t worry, Manager 125,” said the Detector. “We haven’t filed any charges against you.” The voices fell completely silent. Intrigued, he got up from his chair and looked down the hall as the Detector and the Manager moved away from the cubicles and towards the manager’s office. He returned to his post and paid attention to the video window that was still open on his holographic screen. The Detector was sitting in the chair of cubicle 305. She put on the neural crown and virtual goggles, reviewing the Unproductive’s information. What happened to the Operator, to cause her to desert? she asked herself. The Detector ordered the machine to shut itself down, turned her body and rested her head on the back of the chair. One of the cameras captured her face. Her brown eyes shined brightly and her facial expression was relaxed. Suddenly, her fine lips formed a word that summarized in one word all the investigation in that workplace: “Nothing.” “Attention, Operators,” a female voice said over the floor’s loudspeakers. “Code Orange.” He settled back in his chair. He had not imagined that the defection of the Unproductive was so serious. As stipulated in the regulation, when the Detectors thought it was convenient, they could declare a Code Orange or a Code Red. Code Orange code was a DNA sample taken from everyone on the floor. Code Red was an interrogation of each of the Operators. He had heard many times, the stockbrokers got too nervous and ended up confessing to whatever behavior that may have been done that did not comply with procedures. Others thought it a good opportunity to get rid of rivals and lie, saying that so-and-so Operator had committed a crime of unproductivity. “Three hundred forty-nine,” announced the female voice. On one corner of his holographic screen, he watched the security camera video. Operator 349 got up from his chair with a slight tremor in his hands. He thought that it would not be at all odd for that stock market employee to plead guilty to having ingested unpermitted quantities of Boxin. The Detectors would smile compassionately and tell him not to worry, that it happened frequently, he had committed no crime. “As you should know, Operator 349,” the Detectors would say, “Boxin is a substance of unrestricted consumption.” The Operator would breathe a sigh of relief and apologize for the impertinence. On his holographic screen an icon flashed, indicating that a block of shares had been placed for sale in the virtual market. He verified the provenance. It was a package placed by an Operator in the West Zone. There were only ten shares from one of the laboratories that make Boxin. It seemed his prayers had been heard. These laboratories are revalued daily, he told himself. They elaborate a genetic product for mass consumption. The same Global Corporation distributes it free of charge in doses of twenty vials per month ...

The following are some of the new voices in Ecuadorian fiction: Gabriela Alemán Gabriela Alemán has emerged as one of the most prominent voices of the new generation of Ecuadorian writers. Her stories have been translated into multiple languages, including Croatian, Chinese, Hebrew, French, as well as English, and she has been much-honored for her work with fellowships and literary awards. The Peruvian author, Fernando Iwasaki has stated that she is "one of the best contemporary writers of stories in the Spanish language," (click here to continue reading).   Cristián Londoño Proaño Born in 1973, Cristián Londoño Proaño is a writer, producer, filmmaker and editor-in chief of the digital magazine, “Teoría Ómicron.” He has a Masters in screenwriting, and is currently working towards a PhD in Communication Studies.He has invented and developed the concept of the Andean fantasy novel. He has also published the novels, Doce Horas (2016), Underbreak (2015), El Tiempo Muerto (2015), Los Improductivos (2014) and El Instinto de la Luz (2011). Among his other publications are...

[caption id="attachment_15923" align="aligncenter" width="630"] From the graphic novel, "Andean Sky," by Carlos Kwasek (click here for his homepage).[/caption] According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, to "describe what is being done in the field of science fiction in Ecuador one must consider the early Fantasy literature, then the Scientific Romances of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, continuing to Science Fiction in the present. The roots of science fiction in Ecuador are in Utopian texts written after the arrival of the Spanish in America. In these works myth is mixed with fantasy. The myths of El Dorado, where there are perfect and idyllic cities with buildings made of gold, and the Garden of Eden, are well described in some of the writings of the colonial chroniclers, such as Antonio de León Pinelo's book El Paraíso en el Nuevo Mundo ['Paradise in the New World']." Samples of Ecuadorian science fiction (live links): Andean Sky, an interactive science graphic novel, set in Ecuador, by Carlos Villareal Kwasek. The short story, "The IWM 1000," by Alicia Yáñez Cossío, included in The Big Book of Science Fiction. Edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Ann VanderMeer (Penguin Random House, 2016). The first chapter from the novel, Los Improductivos (The Unproductive), by Cristián Londoño Proaño, translated by Lorraine Caputo. The short story, "The Package," by Cristián Londoño Proaño, translated by Joan Gavey, Paula Weiss, and Ricardo Segreda. Short film, "Héroe trabajando," ("Working Hero"), by José Zambrano Brito. Academic essays: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction chapter on Ecuadorian science fiction, written by Ivan Rodrigo. "New Worlds Collide: Science Fiction's Novela de la Selva in Gioconda Belli and Santiago Páez," by Vaughn Anderson, PhD, (Rutgers University). Articles: "A Sci-Fi Vision of Ecuador: Carlos Villarreal Kwasek," from the website, latinorebels.com. "Lenin Paladines: Science Fiction from Ecuador," from the website, globalvoices.org,.      ...

Horror is a popular genre in Ecuador, especially with young writers as well as young readers. Here are some samples: The Procession of the Dead, an Ecuadorian folk legend The Guaguanco, an Ecuadorian folk legend Revenge of the Guaguas, by Ricardo Segreda La Llorana, Amalgamated, by Ricardo Segreda The March of the Devils, by Ricardo Segreda...

  There were notable female Ecuadorian poets and essayists going back to the 19th century. However, it took much longer in Ecuador for women to be honored for their efforts as authors of narrative fiction. Elysa Ayala, born in 1879, for example, wrote short stories about the poor who lived on the coast, and her work was published in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Cuba, and even the United States and Spain, but it was overlooked until many years after her passing. Ironically, today Ecuador's most recognized author, nationally, is Alicia Yáñez Cossío. With her 1971 novel, Bruna and Her Sisters in the Sleeping City, Yáñez Cossío, who along with Eugenia Viteri with her short stories, became one of the first Ecuadorian authors in the 1970s to challenge the sexism and hypocritical puritanism of Latin American and Roman Catholic culture. Other well-regarded women in this period include Carmen Acevedo Vega, Fabiola Solis de King, Violeta Luna, as well as Luz Argentina Chiriboga and Aminta Buenaño, both much-honored for their articulation of the Afro-Ecuadorian experience, and from a woman's perspective. There are samples of there work below, as well as newer voices such as Gabriela Alemán and María del Carman Garcés. Gabriela Alemán The short story, "Spears," translated by Dick Cluster.  The short story, "An Amber Prison," translated by Sarah Jane Foster. The short story, "Red Lips," translated by Juanita Coleman. Aminta Buenaño The short story, "The Strange Invasion that Rose from the Sea," translated by Susan Brenner. The short story, "The Woman Who Mislaid Her Body," translated by Juanita Coleman. Mónica Bravo The short story, "Wings for Dominica," translated by Susan Brenner. Fanny Carrión The short story, “The Idol.” The short story, “Illustrious Paths.” Luz Argentina Chiriboga The short story, "The Mansion," translated by Juanita Coleman. The first chapter from her novel, Drums Under My Skin. The first chapter from her novel, The Devil’s Nose . María del Carmen Garcés The short story, "The Blue Handkerchief," translated by Susan Brenner. Nela Martinéz The short story, "La Machorra," translated by Susan Brenner. Sonia Manzano The short story, "Leda," translated by Juanita Coleman. Eugenia Viteri The award-winning short story, “Shoes and Dreams,” from the anthology, A Taste of Ecuador. The award-winning short story, “The Ring,” included in the anthology, Fire in the Andes. Alicia Yáñez Cossío The first chapter from her novel, Bruna and Her Sisters in the Sleeping City. The short story, “The Mayor’s Wife." The short story, “The IWM 1000." Additional reading: Fire from the Andes: Short Fiction by Women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, edited by by Susan E. Benner  Kathy S. Leonard. University of New Mexico Press. "Que cuenten las mujeres/Let the Women Speak: Translating Contemporary Female Ecuadorian Authors," by Juanita Coleman, B.A., Ohio University, (PDF download). "New voices: linguistic aspects of translation theory and application to the works of three Ecuadorian women writers," by Susan Brenner, Phd, Iowa State University, (PDF download). The Wikipedia list of women Ecuadorian writers.  ...

The Round By Marco Antonio Rodriguez [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] He goes into the bedroom to ask her yet again, to be patient with him and his mother, to forget mama’s crime, that second bowl of soup yesterday, Saturday. But she has his back turned to his plea, her head confined in a helmet of rollers, her hands covered with cream. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] In the light of the nightstand, he imagines the facial mask that leaves bare only a segment of her frivolous features and that makes her look like a fish out of water. He doesn’t know if he should like down next to her, considering that he doesn’t have anything more to say other than what he’s already said so many times, or leave and then come back an hour or two later, after deluding himself by pretending to read back issues of boxing magazines. On turning toward the hallway, he notices the almost astral odor of cosmetics and the obscene crack in the mirror, exactly like hers. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] He closes the door with the same troubled feeling he had when he opened it, but just then she waves her arm at the light as though it were a cloud of tiny moths, she coughs twice. He turns into a rag doll curved into the void, his right hand soldered to the doorknob, listening to the malignant murmur she spreads throughout the house. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] It’s cold and even colder on crossing the passageway that leads to his mother’s room. Perplexed, he looks at the sad olive miracle of her closed eyes. Beyond, his trophies expire, subdued by dust. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] Now in the street, he bends over to tie his shoes. The pale knit pullover leaves bare his neck taut with hands, inhales and exhales through his nose. He jogs down San Juan at an easy pace, annoyed by the dim lights in the shops, the boys in their street corner gangs who still recognize him and stand back to let him pass, the bars that exude their harsh orders. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] At La Merced, in the light of the church’s farthest dome, he thinks he sees the vapid grin of Ceferino Congo, the black deaf mute who lived for a hundred years taking care of the friar’s colossal clock. When Ceferino died, lay brother Valenzuela insisted in catechism class, there was no way to get the hands of the clock moving again. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] He crosses the plaza at the church of San Francisco and 24 de Mayo, where illusions are for sale. He climbs up the hill with the pawnshop and comes to Huascar. Weak, he hides from a pitiful shape, flattening himself against a door. He barely notices the bundle, picnic grounds over which cockroaches swarm, or their raspy razor sharp screeching that rips through the squid belly of the night. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] He breathes in rapid double time, bracing his head until the tendons in his neck jump like wet jackrabbits. (Punish his muscles and prove that they’re still vigorous or wander among his scattered joys like a caged jaguar looking for the freedom he’s misplaced, that generally brought him back to an acceptance of his routine lot in life, but now his resolve slipped away like the string of a broken toy.) [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] He’s worried that somebody might recognize him. Maybe if he were go to back home. Or look for his friends. Or lose himself in a whore from Lima and songs about love lost. A pretty impulse, like the foul smell growing at his side, flashes through his nerves. Exasperated, he checks his pockets, putting together all the money he finds. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] Two forces, both hazy, do battle in him: one compulsive but excessively soft, and the other like a rough, merciless mass in league with time. No matter how often he shuffles the dark deck of his brain, he finds no vengeance that in recent months ravages his blood announcing a death limply calculated. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] At La Esperanza, he can taste the penetrating fumes of stale beer, tobacco smoke, and clandestine sweat. There are only a few people in the bar – the word Sunday comes to mind – all men, except for one brittle woman who drinks alone at the back table. The walls are covered with grime interrupted here and there with etchings of sex organs and hearts pierced with trite phrases. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] Behind the bar, the bartender, disheveled, slides over to him. He’s a man as nervous as a little lizard, his face stale from long nights, with a fuzzy cap bobbing on his head. He makes stupid little hops, shakes his apron, blinks like a simpleton. He shouts champ and his shout wades through the notes, hastily arranged, of a cumbia that booms from the jukebox. Nobody else notices him, but he feels a comforting euphoria and comes in flexing his muscles. When he gets to the bar, the little man with the cap dazes him with a cross fire of shots of cane liquor and infantile accolades. He drinks diligently, quieting the flattery of the bartender. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] He’s startled by a slap on the back. He turns on the revolving bar stool, steeling his jaw and widening his eyes dulled by the first drinks. It’s Pup Cespedes, his old idol; a limping grey stew, his eyes almost invisible in rolls of fat, and a dirty tangle of hair at his neck. Champ, they say to one another, and surrender to an endless embrace, heavy with secret complicities. Still a champ?, the words bubble over to him. You bet boy, the old man answers, caressing him with a fake jab to the jaw. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] They sit down near the table near the woman’s. Pup swears: It’s One-Eyed Moncayo, Colonel Arcentales’ daughter. In the old days we used to call her the Lobster because she had the tasty part in the rear. The King knows the story just like everybody else in the barrio, but he laughs anyway and he looks at the little woman shamelessly. He’s intimidated by the look in her damaged eye, the grimace of her read, toothless mouth, but he keeps looking at her. Pup distracts him, pretending to hit him with his meaty fists. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] It’s like being at Arenas, except without the fans, he jokes. Sure, the King laughs, rubbing himself like a champion against the back of the chair. The drunks turn around to watch, timid, without meaning to, and they start laughing too. Pup orders a bottle of cane liquor and cigarettes, the King that they play Tormentos and Rebeldia on the jukebox. [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] The bartender runs back and forth, accommodating them, his big butt jiggling. Pup settles himself in the chair, works on getting his eyes focused, curls his lips, lights the little candle in the attic, says: The good times, boy, are the ones that get your crotch hot, the punches, on the other hand, they toughen up the soul. Now he pushes his cut rye face toward the middle of the table, knocks over a glass with the left, puts it back where it was, roars: “You what, King? Drink, and I ́ll give it to you straight: A boxer is a Roman candle, he throws off some sparks, four or five years, after that he spends the rest fighting with life, if they left him a whole man.” [vc_separator type='transparent' position='center' color='' thickness='' up='20' down=''] Torments and grief tear ayayayayayay, through my chest, my shattered heart...