Teoría Ómicron

Revista de ciencia ficción y fantasía

We published the short story "Morena" by Doina Roman

Doina Roman

It was Sunday, beginning of the Fall when the midday heat still felt like Summer and the late evening gusts of wind hurried your steps homeward. A thought was turning in my head since morning, to work up the energy to pull myself out of the weekend lethargy and buy a soup from the Turk.

            The Turk’s wife could make a finger licking good minty lintel soup, so naturally I had to hurry because it had a tendency of quickly running out. I wasn’t the only soul in the neighborhood who knew about it, so I threw my hoodie on and descended from my apartment to catch the steamy goodness soup for lunch.

            The restaurant wasn’t far, on my way I passed by Yula’s fruit and vegetable stand, and devil only knows where she gets her produce because the prices couldn’t be justified for five-star tomatoes. Truth be told they looked nice, smelled nice, but they were all identical… it was simply frightening how closely they resembled plastic Christmas ornaments.

            My suspicion was that the woman was in touch with smugglers from the straights and all their contraband landed on the shelves of our market, all neatly packaged.

            However, I was plain and simply happy to live in ignorance. Rumor had it they were fattening the earth with forbidden substances and that we should organize some protests. I was minding my own business, couldn’t be bothered getting into trouble. I just didn’t care. Even when the lady next door shouted at me:

            “If you keep your mouth shut, you’re an accomplice!” She gave me an irritated backwards glance as I left her in the queue without answering. Let her figure things out on her own.

            The townsfolk became dependant on the smugglers’ tomatoes. At seven in the morning, they were all lined up in front of Yula’s store, their eyes bulging to be the first to buy and their arms trembling to get hands on the merchandise. They bought seeds, manure in boxes and exchanged places in the queue in shifts. I stepped past the crowd, avoided the woman from my flat who was now whispering, after all her throaty yelling:

            “Accomplices, you are all accomplices to theft…”

            This year millions of tons of dung fertilizer were shipped in from Ynutk, the resulting scandal was monstrously overblown. Heads rolled, there was an inquiry from the people’s militia/ public police, the government squealed and howled, so too did the media, and that was it… folk died, livestock perished. After a while no one knew what happened to the manure, idle gossip suggested there had been plans to bury it in the swamp south of the river, where not even buzzing flies survived.

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            Yula might not be a criminal mastermind, but my hunch told me she was still involved… She always put on airs, stared down her nose at everyone, poked and prodded at me to get something while I was there… always muttering under her breath… “Buy some pumpkins, their stretched raw with freshness, one will last you a whole week, you will see, you won’t need anything else!”

             Best of luck to her, but what naïve simpleton could believe someone could live off a pumpkin for a whole week? Just because it was a pumpkin with ripples, doesn’t mean it’s the bear’s pumpkin from east of the estuary river grown on land fertilized with Ynutk dung.

             I overtook Yula, went behind the stall and tip-toed through a little street that lead into a private parking lot walled off by an impenetrable mesh of barbed wire fencing.

            My curiosity peaked at a grey strand of smog rolling upwards from somewhere behind the barrier, cursing as the sharp metal points nearly took out my eye. The rough wire had needle bushels that were thornier than the spooled zinc alloy. I scratched my nose. There was no way I could make heads or tails of anything happening inside, but I clearly heard whistling and swearing in a language that sounded like the barking of an enraged bulldog. Suddenly, a crazed guardsman sprung through a gate and rushed towards me:

            “You are not allowed to take pictures, lay your hand on anything, enter with ice-cream, lean against the wall, eat sunflower seeds, or blow your nose here…”

             He was small in stature, with a dark skin tone; he wore an ID badge and spoke in a raised tone while his eyes darted over me from my high heels to the hood of my coat. I shrugged and answered calmly:

            “I wasn’t aware.”

            “Yes, you were, I saw you around here every Sunday!” The guard spat.

            “That’s true but until now I’d never looked to see what was inside the parking lot.” I shot back.

            “It’s a damn parking space, what else could it be?” His glare was menacing and suspicious.

            “I was just curious to have a look.” I answered without moving a muscle, though I could clearly hear the pounding in my chest.

            “Look at what, a mall parking lot? It’s not even asphalted. Do you have a car?” He appeared a bit tamer but wasn’t budging the damn gate an inch wider.

            “No.” I spat dryly.

            “If you did, I would have allowed you to see.” And the man rolled his eyes over me again as if he was suffering a pang of sea sickness.

            “And so, what if I don’t own a car? You aren’t going to let me see inside?” I was dismayed how quickly I had lost my temper.

            “No!”

            “Maybe I want to rent a space, I am willing to pay.”

            “Impossible, not without a car… or without being a tomato consumer!” And he slammed the gate rattling in my face.

            “I will sit there, on my ass, in the car’s place! And you can shove the tomatoes up your nose!” I shouted furiously and turned to leave.

            I was steaming like a locomotive, chocked by helpless and pitiless anger. Damn that midget guard, I would have loved to pull his hair out for not showing me his so called unpaved parking lot, would have liked nothing better than to spy the place hidden behind the wall of barbed wire. This had to be the logistics front for the smuggler’s trucks bringing the tomatoes in. The township was full of strangeness, ever since those flatbed auto wagons started rolling in at night, covered by black canvas.

            When I turned back on my way towards the Turkish soup, because my mouth was already watering with hungry expectation, whoops and damn out of nowhere comes a colorful parrot flying over my head, bombarding me with a streak of excrement that landed all over the purse in which I was carrying the thermos for my soup. Good thing it hadn’t aimed for my scalp else I’d be going completely ape shit insane. I’d heard their droppings are acidic like those of crows and can even corrode sheet metal. I quickly grabbed a baby wipe I use for my makeup removal and briskly cleaned my purse, making sure my thermos wasn’t also stained. After a cautious look around over my surrounding I made sure the coast was clear, and thank God, I’d made it just in time to the Turk’s restaurant.

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            I get in, grab one of the very last portions of minty lintel soup, and as Lale the Turk’s wife is packing it, who do I notice perched on the backrest of one of the wrought iron chairs outside?

            The parrot!

            For crying out loud good people, the shock nearly had me drop the thermos with my mouthwatering lunch. He was so majestic in the way he moved his little legs, fidgeting and eyeballing the restaurant door that I hardly think anyone could have been left unimpressed. That was it, bang, my heart just snapped. I zipped up my purse so my soup wouldn’t tip over, eyed a sesame pretzel for the miscreant and made my way out. Lale shouted madly after me:

              “Don’t give the bird any attention, yesterday two sparrows made a mess of my windscreen. I only managed to get rid of them with pickled cabbage leaves and garlic. Look!”

            It was true; the van was wrapped in layers of sour cabbage like some strange Turkish wrap. I shrugged my shoulders. These Turks, the cooks especially have such bizarre habits. The stress of too much work in the kitchen probably gets to them. What a load of nonsense, turning your delivery van into vegetable wrap. By mid afternoon it would stink up the whole street.

            I called the flying menace with an open palm. He didn’t even notice the pretzel, and that’s when I got really angry:

            “Hey, are you a dumb parrot or what? I don’t know what the hell you’re doing here, who lost you, but you took a shit all over me, the crows in the park are going to kill you and you have some nerve! Eat, or else I’ll give you a serious beating.”

            He made a thin peep, a short screech like a mouse and inclined his head to see me better with one eye. Afterwards he simply whistled like some riotous hoodlum noticing a pretty dame. I burst out laughing. What can I say, he was some bandit.

            “You’re welcome.” I put the baked pretzel down on the pavement and left, not even turning to look back round.

             The parrot had other ideas. He whooshed past me in the air, landed on a branch, then on a lamp post as he followed me home. I stopped to shoo him away:

            “Go away, scram. I’m not letting parrots into my house, I’m allergic!”

            I finally arrived back home, barely managed to take a sip of soup and try to relax, when I hear a rhythmic tap-tapping outside by my windowsill.

            “Go away!” I shouted with my mouth half closed. After a day like today all I was missing were the hated pigeons from my nightmares coming to drop shit all over my window shelf. I rushed to the glass and what do I see? The damn parrot, stamping his clawed feet and holding a square of paper in his beak.

            I took the envelope; it was similar to the ones you got in the winter festival camps if you wanted the fortune teller to guess if you’ll fall in love. Inside was a postcard from Ynutk. Marvelous and great is God’s Garden of Eden! Is someone from Ynutk writing me? What exactly? “I miss you, take care of Morena!”

            “Who is Morena?” I spoke to the miscreant.

            “Morena?” The bird whistles affirmatively, short and clear like a hoodlum.

            I let him into my apartment, and he lands on the bookshelf, and then starts preening his feathers.

            I leave him be, then later bring him some water. He noisily sips, then drops his head down to nap.

            I fall asleep on the couch, Morena is sleeping on the cabinet, I am at peace. I dream about a dog putting lids on a case of cans. From time to time, he throws in a ripe juicy tomato and wiggles the tin cans to check they are full.

            When I wake, Morena is missing. I look for him, shout… Morena come to mama… nothing. I whistle, climb up to check the bookshelf, the more frantic my search becomes the more I shiver from cold sweat. That’s all I needed right now, for him to have stumbled and fallen into a wedge between the wall and some furniture. A dead parrot rotting in a hidden corner somewhere in my apartment. My eyes were swelling, I felt like there was water in my ears. And he was so charming, the way he danced and whistled.  Serves me right for not locking him in a cage. But where would I have found one?

            After tiring of searching, I say to myself, he will climb out somehow, then I switch on the television: a blonde with a microphone close enough to her face that she was shoving it down her throat, with blue eyes and the popular freckle on her forehead mutters an article:

            “The department of justice has issued an emergency warning; inspectors have discovered a new criminal racket employing Morena parrots smuggled from North Ynutk Land to pilfer valuables from citizens and public institutions. Just this afternoon a pair of Morena parrots have stolen an ancient coin of inestimable value from the Central Bank’s private vault.

            My stomach clenched and I felt sickened. I rushed to my jewelry box to check for my grandmother’s antique bracelet. The bracelet was still there, thank God! But then my heart thumped against my ribs, and I started trembling. Inside the box was also a brass coin weathered by age that I’d never seen before, and a pair of notes written in wide childish scribbling:

            “Take care of Morena,” and “Now you are an accomplice! Buy me tomatoes from Yula! Signed, Morena.”

PICTURE: Pixabay

Doina Roman

Romania (1965) use to work for the REUTERS International Press Agency and currently does business.

She published for the first time in 2014 the fantasy novel The Threshold to publishing house Tracus Arte. They followed: Threshold 2-Witness Shadow and Threshold 3- Last Sent Oserp, at the same publishing house. In 2017, he published at the publishing house Paralela 45, the novel Too Many Gods for a Desert.

All her books have won awards both at home and abroad as following:

• 2015 – RomCon – Romanian National SF&F Convention – Award for the best book at debut in volume. (Threshold, vol 1), 2017 – CHRISALIDE Prize – Dortmund Germany – ESFS – European Society of Science – Fiction (Threshold, vol 1,2,3) Colin Award -2017- 7th edition- Bucharest – for the best book in the category, new wired, gothic, horror, crime ”(Threshold, vol 1,2,3),2018 – RomCon- Romanian National SF & F Convention-Award for the best novel of the year 2017 (Too many gods for a desert)

 • 2019- Publishes in New Zealand the novel «The Threshold», Eunoia Publishing Ltd.

In 2020, he founded the literary magazine Utopiqa, of which he is still the editor-in-chief.

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