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I

He filled the cup with the warm serum and waited sleepily for the burning sensation from the fetid stench of the morning alcohol to settle. The spilt dried blood was shrunken into small splatters in the sink. No matter how many times he poured soap over it, it would not wash off; the limpid broth was reflected on top of the red colour, and it was as if there was twice as much blood. He decided to pour some booze over it, hoping that would clean it up. 


II

At the same time, he was drinking a few sips from the coffee pot. It tasted acrid, washed out, as if the colour of the alcohol had faded. He stared out of the window, the sky was bloated with the clouds and the rain that would not stop. In the background, the snow-capped mountain top was rising, while the smog was creating a natural frost in the atmosphere. The powerful cold winds created a strange humming sound and the cement road had been transformed by the rain into a river. After he had mopped up the soap from the sink, he filled the fridge with lemonade and checked the storage tanks. Outside, in the street, the milk trucks were driving past, like they did every day, the same route, the same course. A strange sound startled him and made him look towards the street where he saw the milk containers come crashing down. A sea of milk had coated the route, an invisible bath of dirty, bad milk that becomes one with the flow of the flooded street and turns into a diluted liquid that looks nothing like your mother’s milk.        


His face was dull, shrivelled, like that of a drunk trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol. He looked at the milk containers floating down the street like white boats sailing by. As he started to eat, he could clearly hear his mother’s voice telling him yet again: “It was raining the day we baptized you!” She had told me many stories about the day she baptized me – it was the season when the villagers sowed the fields – they never used to do baptisms during that season. As these thoughts passed through his mind, he ate a light soup – he preferred them to thick soups. He would cook it and pour it hot into his plate. When cooking he always followed the same ritual: he would take a glass half full of hot broth and a jug of cold broth. He would pour half of the contents of the glass into another glass to cool it down as he mixed it with the broth in the second glass which he had filled fresh from the jug. He recalled the summers when he used to go to the lake with his friends and swim for endless hours. “Oh, how lovely and warm were the curative baths!”, he thought and tried to suppress all these thoughts that were tormenting him. But he could not remember where he had slept the night before. His bedsheets were all smooth and starched. In the kitchen, on the marble top stood a china bowl, the tall jugs full of gurgling liquid and the copper spittoon. He went into the bathroom, taking with him into the bath his plastic ducks, a bar of green soap and several perfumed soaps. He soaped his whole body with the bathtub’s aqueous lukewarm lather. He picked up the sponge and began to scrub himself under the shower. Then he remembered the splatters of blood he had seen earlier in the sink and wondered: “Have I rinsed it properly? Was it cleaned with alcohol poured over it?” As he sat in the bath, he decided to lather himself again and then rinse off  the soap with the wet sponge. Suddenly, he heard a noise in the kitchen and had to go and see what was going on.   After splashing his hands, he grabbed a clean towel, the one he used when he was washing his hair, and quickly jumped out of the bath. When he saw his friend, who had the look of a fairy and had just come into his house holding a vase full of daisies, he felt like a fly in the ointment. Then she decided to tell him what had happened the night before: “Don’t you remember? Don’t you remember us sitting in the bar when that strange man at the next table spilled his drink all over me? Before I knew what was going on, all of a sudden he was bleeding”. She narrated the events while he was still in his snow-white, spotless, swimming trunks, having his bath and shaving. While he was thinking about his swimming pools, she arranged the daisies in the huge crystal vase in the hall.   

And the girl continued her narrative. “Just like every Saturday night, we went to down a few tequilas and several bottles of beer, and we managed to get ourselves caught up in some trouble. It was as if we had charged into the group sitting next to us, and the fight kicked off. Beer bottles rolled off the table and froth started pouring out. Then you picked up a broken bottle that was already drenched in blood and threw it at them. We threw several at them after that and the floor was steeped in red…It was blood!  Then, the weird guy who started the ruckus looked at us furiously. He picked up his tequila, sprinkled some salt on it, squeezed a lemon and downed it in one while pulling a gun out of his pocket. Well, I thought we’re not getting out of this one any time soon, but the guy just fired into the air clutching the gun in his bloody hand and disappeared. The bar owner was pissed off at the whole story and, furious about the broken fridge that was haemorrhaging lemonade, screamed at the woman who was mopping up the blood: “Go on, clean it up! Piss up some vinegar and clean the floor!” And then he said: “Get out and wash some dishes and have a bath – you stink of sweat!” Then she started to cry: “What are you crying for? I’m telling you for your own good!” he snarled at her and her eyes brimmed with tears and she wept uncontrollably”. That’s what happened last night...


III

“Because the lemonade seller had a really brilliant idea!”, he thought, pretending to be his ten-year old brother who loved making up stories using characters from children’s books. The odorless liquid which had soiled his clothes was a translucent mauve colour, like turpentine mixed with cheap spirit. He had poured a little on the stains and it swelled up like the liquid of sad eyes. His back was sweaty, and out of the filthy liquid he grabbed the cloth the child had left in his car to dry himself. Outside the bar, it was pouring down, and, though invisible the bubbling rain flooded the tarmacked alley whose sewers were boiling like freshly warmed soup.  He turned his head and looked at the drunks around him: one was throwing up, another was attempting in vain for the past ten minutes to put his coat on, as if he was trying to get into a cement overcoat. (By the way, who was the lemonade-seller? Irrelevant). He staggered to his feet, smeared some colourless liquid on his face with great difficulty and went outside. The door was too small to take in the spectacle that was unfolding before him – a rosy cloud with fluffy buttocks, large hands opening before him like venereal lesions, as if he had just landed in paradise, in purgatorial gardens. How many times would he wonder about the events of that day? He was home in a fraction of a second (could it all have been a dream?) He found the sofa and the cabinet covered with bottles and glasses…He thought about the previous night.  “She offered me a brandy”, he recalled and the last thing he could remember was a small marble fountain that bubbled softly just before his gaze dulled from the alcohol and whatever else was in the brandy. The smell from the jetty on the shore burned into his brain and he recalled the oil, the sea, a liquid you cannot easily suck, the air…He swallowed in one the amber liquid he was given– when had he not done so? He set the glass down and saw his face reflected in the bottom as if in a pale blue lake, wild and a little hurt.

"I have always been interested in water and in flows of water. On seeing ‘Burnt Waters’ by Carlos Fuentes I picked it up on instinct, and was taken by surprise. Composed of a series of Janus faced stories of tragedy and loss, haunted by specters of the past, Burnt Waters narrates the deaths and rebirths of Mexico City - much like the phoenix rising from its ashes. I spent a long time with Fuentes’ writing, collecting things that related to ‘liquid’ and ‘movement’. The following short stories play on these notions of flow, continuity and change.  Functioning as an abstract epistolary narrative - the words in ‘Burnt Waters’ have been reborn as new liquid fictions." - Kyriaki Costa


'Burnt Waters - a response to Carlos Fuentes' by Kyriaki Costa is the product of an online residency to learn new skills in cretive technologies funded by Arts Council England & The Cyprus Ministry of Culture .