Prologue (Part 1)

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On the other side of the wall of riot shields deployed by members of the Bolivarian National Guard, a contained river of protesters held signs with messages like, "Expression without repression" and "Censorship is dictatorship." Among them, some wore the national flag like a cape, others had the Venezuelan tricolor (that had become synonymous with the opposition) painted on their faces, while the rest were gagged as a symbol of dissent. A cacophony of ladles banging against empty pots, coming from the residential buildings in the distance, was flooding a night that, in spite of everything, was beautiful.

The stars above, in the clear night sky, didn't seem to care that much about the chaos that was making Evelia feel so isolated down here; although if she was being honest with herself, the same could have been said about most of her fellow members in the Mission Hélice, including her boyfriend, Adam. None of her friends seemed to notice what was happening outside the new Palacio de Eventos; if they did, their capacity for denial was worthy of applause.

"I'll never understand why people still believe in astrology."

Adam looked at the sky through his empty bottle of beer as if it were a telescope.

"People are stupid," said Evelia.

"I propose a toast to stupidity!"

It was exactly four minutes to midnight. Evelia knew that because she had looked at her watch over and over again during the past hour. She wanted to leave as soon as possible.

"Human stupidity knows no limits," she said, trying to ignore what the protesters were chanting. "Can you believe that in Mexico and Spain astronomy is still a mandatory subject if you want to sail?"

Adam knitted his brows, confused.

"What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?"

"Astrology and astronomy are equally useless."

"Of course not! Astronomy is part of a numbers game, having the stars on your side if everything else fails." Adam put the bottle to his lips not remembering that it was already empty. "Besides, like my grandpa used to say, 'Better safe than sorry.'"

"What is that supposed to mean?"

Her boyfriend looked into the distance, thinking, and after a long pause, he said, "It's better to be in control than to regret hoping for someone or something to work."

"Ah! The illusion of control."

Evelia cast an oblique look at the crowd and felt uncomfortable. How did they find out about this? It was all supposed to be confidencial. Even though she and Adam were safe on a fourth floor, and the protesters were far away on the other side of the ample fenced parking lot that the National Guardsmen were protecting, a bad feeling was gnawing at her stomach.

"Let's toast to that as well!" Adam tried to take a sip of his bottle and once again, he looked at it bewildered when he found it empty. "I'm out of gas. Do you want something?"


"You haven't touched your drink."


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