Malena Salazar Maciá (translated by Toshiya Kamei)
A pungent odor filled the air. With each desperate puff she managed, her lungs burned with clogging phlegm. Her eyes stung as though they were full of sand, tears brimming over her eyelids, which were swollen and smeared with a sticky discharge. Her top and bottom lashes kept sticking together and tugging at her flesh, causing tiny pinpricks of pain.
She tried to move her hands and found them stiffly clenched against her body. They didn’t seem to belong to her, they no longer obeyed her, and she wasn’t even able to move a finger. Her legs also failed to respond. Her neck was stiff, immobilized by some invisible force. She was trapped facing the cover of her tomb. It was made of metal plates that began to smother her in the heat they radiated.
As terror filled her in a matter of seconds, she fought with all her strength against what paralyzed her. No, I don’t want to stop existing! Her mouth hung agape, but no words came out. She barely let out a harsh squawk before she burst into a fit of coughs. She moved convulsively from the action and pulled herself from one side to the other, desperate. The smoke grew more dense and suffocating. No, please no! She managed to open and close her fists. Then she peeled her hands away from her sides and rested them on the hot iron. Her hands were bony and fragile, and she didn’t remove them even when she felt her palms burning. She stopped shaking and pushed the metal cover a little until she heard it grind. With effort she shook her feet and raised her knees to drive them into the structure that covered her. Next, she struck a sudden blow against the plates, which emitted a muffled crack and gave in with a crash. Then she shut her eyes against the hurtful glow of the fire.
Trembling, she managed to sit up and crawled on all fours with difficulty. The air felt cleaner, but not entirely because when she raised her head she started coughing. Her long black hair dragged along behind her until it became gray from dust and ashes. She brushed it away from her face and looked scared without recognizing any of her surroundings. How did she arrive at that place? What had happened? She also noticed that she wasn’t dressed, her chest bones were visible beneath her skin, and the excessive heat hurt her. She tried to crawl away from the chaos, but her arms, exhausted from the effort to free herself, failed her, making her collapse. She felt the salty taste of the stone and her skin began to burn on contact with the tubes and metal plates. Her mouth was dry and her lungs ached again with each breath.
Afterward, everything was a procession of confused images and perceptions: the enormous head of a black dog with long, triangular, erect ears. He watched her with leonine eyes outlined by some golden pigment. Right away, she felt a sensation of floating, the cool air away from the fire, her body bent over something that kept her in the air, her hands wobbling, a slight pressure on her waist, sand that sank under some dusky feet that weren’t her own and left a trail of human tracks that were erased by the wind.
Malena Salazar Maciá was born in Havana, Cuba, where she still lives today. A winner of multiple literary awards, she is the author of the novels Nade (2016) and Las peregrinaciones de los dioses (2018), and Aliento de Dragón (forthcoming). English translations of her short stories have appeared in venues such as 4 Star Stories, Mithila Review, and Selene Quarterly Magazine. In addition, her work has been translated into Croatian, German, and Japanese.