The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 2

Last week Emmanuel, a failed artist, began a series of epistolary correspondence to a woman from a previous life in London. His letters related his abandonment of London for Madrid, where he planned to drink himself to death. His plans were stalled when he ran into his artistic hero, Edourado del Bosques, in Room 67 of the Museo Del Prado. Bosques, his hands rendered incapable by old age, asks Emmanuel to be his amanuensis. And to his disbelief, Emmanuel has a reason to go on living.

~

Dear Em,

You’re probably wondering why I decided to communicate with you via handwritten letters. On second thoughts, you’re actually probably wondering how I could be such a facile, heartless bastard. But I’ve no interest in answering that. But I will entertain your undoubted confusion with respect to the letters. You know me, old fruit: a terrible old throwback. Can you see me tagging you in TikTok videos? With this face? Unlikely. You’ll have to forgive the clutter I’m causing with all these old leaves, but there’s nothing like a handwritten letter, don’t you think? Plus, I always feel there’s more posterity in paper, isn’t there? Do you think they’d have kept a digital copy of the Magna Carta for 800 years on some server? Not bloody likely.

I’m in a bind, Em. I spent the last three days in a industrial, alcoholic fug. I’m renting an apartment in Lavapiés. Stuck Edouardo Bosques’s business card to the front of the fridge. It taunts me each time I reach for the chilled vino.

This city’s full of ghosts. I trawled the streets of Malasaña a couple of nights ago, though not before soaking myself in two gorgeous bottles of Malbec. I wish I’d been here in 1975, after the death of Franco. Can you imagine the roar of cultural re-awakening, the visceral, pulsating release of freedom? Now it’s merely vibrant. Dull word, that. Vibrant. Back in ’75 it would have been thrilling, intoxicating, filled with sex and life and ecstasy – not in the pharmaceutical sense, but the rapturous, glorious release of freedom! All it’s left with now are the ghosts of that time, faded into gentrification. Warriors, once all sinew and heft, calcified into statues. Vibrancy. Born too late, us. You were never safe, old girl, were you? Cut like a fucking razor, you did. 

Swung by a goth club near Gran Via. No-one gave me a second look in my grubby chinos and ruffled shirt and conspicuously unpowdered face. Posers. Where’s the danger? Teens swanning about in pink babydolls and men in suits; suits, for Christ’s sake! Thought about getting myself thrown out after a couple of questionably-sized vodkas, but instead got distracted by the look of the place. Saw a shadow in the corner of the club, and explored it. Thought I saw something move in it, like a feral creature hunched over a meal of some description. Biped, I thought, and the old ticker skipped. Made me laugh when I got closer; nothing there but wires and gear from the stage. Pity; a feral monster would have brought a touch of autenticidad to the place. Chucked my drink over the wiring. Disappointingly, no sparks or anything. Bloody modern insulation.

Left, head spinning, and returned home.

Why’d he leave that card by me, Em? Wished I could go back to the Museum.

Bugger it all, I thought. I’m emailing him.

So I did.

Don’t ask me what I actually typed; was too drunk to remember, but apparently not so drunk to forget to delete it from my sent items. Incriminating?

Anyway, woke at an abominably acceptable time and headed to Casa Toni for lunch. The crianza is €1.50 a glass! They might as well tape up “Police Line Here” outside the restaurant. Scoffed a plate of pigs’ ears, another of fried potatoes, and another of tripe dripping in paprika sauce. Sublimity made flesh. Almost makes living bearable. As I ate I sketched my dishes. In my sketch, the pigs’ ears were crawling off the plate, as if trying to get back to the grill. Drew the rotund geezer serving up the grub, all sweat and happy, greasy charm.

Returned to the apartment, feeling a combination of bliss from the food and giddy from the wine. Lo and behold, Señor Bosques had replied to me.

Asking to see me.

Funnily enough, in Room 67 of the Museo del Prado.

I’m going to meet him tomorrow. Will let you know how it goes.

Emmanuel.

~

Chapter 3

Published by Dan Jones

I'm a science fiction writer and podcaster. My debut novel Man O’War was published in 2018 by Snowbooks, and I’ve had a few short stories published here and there. I also host Chronscast, the official podcast of SFF Chronicles, the world's largest science-fiction and fantasy community. Away from writing I work for the UK Space Agency on a programme of space robotics for advanced satellite and planetary exploration technologies. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

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