Death of the Last Prophet

Veronica Vega

Ray Bradbury. photo

HAVANA TIMES — “Time hypnotizes,” wrote Ray Bradbury in his autobiographical novel Dandelion Wine. This is the “time” that constructs compulsions from unconsciousness, preventing us from seeing the changes of our reflection in the mirror, and which can suddenly strike us with an image of our youth, a too indecent wrinkle or the impact of a death.

That was how I felt, shaken by the news of his death. In the hypnotism of geographic distance — which I never thought of as being real, due to the complete accessibility that his work allowed me — I used to dream of one day meeting him (physically).

And, in the absence of the Internet, I made sure of his presence by looking at my most recent offline version of Wikipedia, which only lists his date of birth, not his death.

In one stroke — as also occurred with the Argentinian writer, painter and physicist Ernesto Sabato — I was forced to accept that Ray Bradbury had joins the ranks of my dead loves who are piled on a shelf.

It doesn’t matter that he and I were born in the same century or that for decades we found ourselves in the same hemisphere. It doesn’t matter who’s responsible for that now; never again will I look at the world the same.

Never mind that my teenage son (who hates reading) has reconciled with literature thanks to that “illustrated man,” and I have to confess that for him too nothing will be like before.

Bradbury came to me through a friend during those times when I still had black tea and the invocation of a book along with the music of Vangelis, which were enough to undertake a long journey.

My friend, who has the noble habit of giving away what hurts him most, handed me a book that looked more like a school test – ugly and not very easy to hold. Sparingly, its cover enunciated the title: Three by Bradbury.

If you could get past the text of that jacket, if you overlooked the faded color of the pages, only then could you obtain the reward of submerging yourself in his vibrant works: The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and the nightmare that is undoubtedly Fahrenheit 451.

But because of that temporal parallelism with Vangelis, the images of Bradbury and the atmosphere of that Greek musician combined forever.

It was such that in those Martian cities, deconsecrated by brutal terrestrial predators, I can still hear the melody of “12 o’clock,” in which that female voice emerges with a song of hope for the world’s first sunrise after the holocaust caused by humankind.

To our regret, Bradbury — like all prophets — was absolutely right in describing the unlimited greed of people and the frightening aspects of technological progress, or by posing children against their parents, in an emancipation without responsibility or mercy (The Meadow).

He showed us the desperation of a man who wants to destroy all televisions in the world (The Murderer). He moved us with the love of two corpses that, hands clasped, are revived by the flow of water from wastepipes (The Sewer), sliding into the freedom of the sea beneath the streets of a city built only for loneliness.

However there is also hope in Bradbury, where he makes trees planted from terrestrial seeds grow in the Martian soil, myriads of trees that spread all over Mars (The Green Morning), making it possible for there to be air, breathable air.

What can also be inhaled, through his innocent plant, is a remnant of human innocence. This is because he knew that only in people was there also another dilemma: that of regeneration.

I think Bradbury’s greatest legacy is the look of a twelve-year-old child (the child he was, the one in Dandelion Wine), a look with which everything is resized: the figure of his father teaching him to listen to the silence of the forest, his own fingers fluttering like “tatters of a strange flag,” the feeling of alarm because “Yes, something’s going to happen – I know it!,” and finally, the incredible discovery: “I’m really alive ! I never knew it, and if I knew it I didn’t remember it!”

He taught us to discover that “the world looks at us, like a giant iris of an even bigger world,” and he gave us a worry that was shared in the whispering voice to his brother: “Tom… does everyone, in the world… know they are alive?”

I have the obsessive idea that Bradbury is surrounded by those expeditionary souls who fell from the damaged rocket. They formed in the sky and left a fascinating kaleidoscope. And like the character Hollis, he dreamed of sending off the last beam of light before disappearing.

However I’m comforted in knowing that his soul (I know) was not only a spark that a child here on earth might confuse for a shooting star.