THIS IS PART OF THE NOVEL SEVEN MINUTES BY ISMAEL CAMACHO (my father)
Why am I writing this? I know how it started but I can’t say how it finished. Is this the most important moment for
All of these questions come to my mind now that I’m going back to the primordial matter, and I’ll cease to be
me. Have I ever been myself?
I have been many things that start and finish in a moment but I’ve never been sure of that. Will I be something now
that I’m about to end?
Have the electrons found out that they’re electrons? Do the stars know what they are?
I hear a noise as if the sun was blowing in cosmic tones. No one has ever heard anything like that and no one will hear it
again. I have recorded it, and people in other parts of the world have done the same thing. Why? Perhaps I want to teach
my children to identify an atmosphere that has been perturbed by a coughing sun.
I hear shouts in the streets, hallucinated words, the crying of the dying and drunk men singing. I had never seen or heard
anything like that and I will never do again.
Everything started simply. It was a day like all the others. Workmen went to their work, wearing their overalls and their
packed lunches. All men carried their solitude to pass another day somewhere else.
It was a day without personality. Everybody went somewhere, or they thought so. They all felt ashamed to be alive and did
something else to pass the time. What they call work. You put down your head and contract your fingers and muscles. We
have to move them until the clock on the wall tells us to stop.
The middle class man, who goes into his Rolls Royce and greets the uniformed driver, is the gravitational centre of the earth.
He won’t give much bread to those poor people, who look from afar. They’re afraid to steal the light of his landscape.
Streets full of people, buses, trucks, taxis, and big automobiles, smaller automobiles, bicycles, women with dogs, policemen
with whistles and revolvers, children.
Nobody looked at the sun. They all knew they were a part of the sun, even if they didn’t notice it. It rose on one
side and went down the other, with regular monotony and they couldn’t think anything different. Primitive man worshipped
the sun. It was fresher than the ancestral message. The Inca made a toast of chicha (16) to the sun from the highest point
in the Andes. Some others offered the flesh and hearts of men.
Our father sun had decided to eliminate us, perhaps because he didn’t have any more chicha and hearts. He would leave
our toasted ashes in the cosmic cloud, as a reminder of the children of the sun.
On that particular day, the news travelled fast everywhere. I had just got dressed, when the radio programme was interrupted.
Someone said: Attention! Attention! Extra! Extra!!! Extra!!!
I thought they wanted to sell soap for washing clothes and didn’t pay any attention.
“…northern lights in all regions, including the tropics. Several observatories all around the world are in contact
to explain the phenomenon. A dense fog has descended all over the earth. We’ll keep you informed of any new developments.”
Breakfast was ready. I had bought sausages the day before and felt hungry. What were the northern lights? I would look at
the encyclopaedia in the evening. I had forgotten to pay a few monthly quotas, and I had received letters from the seller.
I stopped thinking about the problems. I wanted to have a good day. The radio went on. The night before a bank had been
robbed, while a jet plane with seven hundred people had fallen into the ocean. Everyone died. A Czechoslovakian man burned
himself in a protest against Russia, while another one in Saigon did that as a protest against the USA. The presenter tells
me to buy chewing gum and smart shirts, while the pope says some bishops hate God, and a few bishops say the pope hates God.
The presenter tells us about three dimensional televisions with smells. They’re indispensable in our homes. EXTRA!!!
Radio and television transmissions have been affected by intense solar activity.
He talked of the sun again. What did it matter the solar activity and the radio communication? I could hear the radio very
well but it was a local station. Would I have any problems with long distance programs? I lit my cigarette and heard: EXTRA!
The maid appeared at that moment.
“Come,” she said.
As I opened the window, a dense fog came in the house. Something had to be burning nearby. I had never seen anything like
EXTRA! EXTRA! The authorities have informed the citizens of the fog over the city. They want people to stay at home. You
must go out in the street only if it is urgent. Cars should drive at low speeds and with their lights on to stop any accidents.
The schools are shut. EXTRA! EXTRA!
The neighbouring houses had disappeared under the fog, while shadows moved within the clouds, like lost angels. Lights appeared
sometimes, driving slowly in the whiteness enveloping the world.
I felt hot in spite of the fog. I decided to stay at home and sat down to listen to the radio. As I tried to find radio
stations in short waves, I only heard noise. I went back to the local station, but it had been put together with the national
radio. The world had never seen anything else like this
Attention! All the radio stations are in contact with the national radio, to bring you information about the rare things happening
in the country and in the world. We have to do this because communications by radio are getting more difficult.
We’re doing a resume of the situation in the country from the central station in Bogota. Fog has invaded the country,
and the air service has been stropped. Airplanes that were in the air have been declared in emergency. We don’t know
what has happened to them. The fog is greater in the ports, while the level of the seas has receded. Small and big ships
have been left stranded by the coasts. We don’t know the number of victims up to now. Rare atmospheric events have
been seen. This glow in the sky looks like the northern lights or auroras borealis. We beg our citizens to be calm.
I saw the fog outside the window. Then I noticed the dancing lights up there amidst the clouds. I had seen an aurora boreal
before but this spectacle surpassed everything else. I phoned my girlfriend and her mother told me that she had not arrived
at her office yet.
The national radio is in contact with central and North American radio. Similar things have been reported from all parts
of the continent. It’s five o’clock in the morning in Hawaii, where the auroras have been a beautiful spectacle.
The situation is grave, that’s why we can’t leave any space for commercials. We can’t waist any time.
We’re making contact with radio Barranquilla. Attention!
This is Barranquilla, transmitting for the national radio. We’re driving away from the city by very crowded roads.
Everybody is getting away from the sea. They fear the water might come back in a giant wave. We have seen terrible things
amidst the fog. Buses and trucks full of people are waiting for the traffic to move. We ask everyone to be calm. We pass
you to our central offices now.
This is central station in Barranquilla. The city has been evacuated, and only a few people remain here. It’s difficult
to see anything in the intense fog. I’m connecting now with Bogota.
This is radio Bogota. We don’t have any water now, and we advice our citizens to get bottled water. It’s indispensable
at the moment. Attention!
We ask everyone to remain in their homes if they don’t have an urgent business in the city. We beg people living near
the coasts to keep calm. We mustn’t fear the sea as its waters are going down. We don’t have news of sea quakes.
Doctors and nurses must report to their jobs.
Most cities in the country don’t have electricity by now. All radio stations with a petrol plant or with electricity
must get in contact with the central station. We are talking to different cities to find out the general situation of the
According to communications with national observatories, and the latest international news, the sun is pulsating, and has
thrown the world into chaos. Our sun seems to have more energy that its size requires. We must keep calm. Most of the victims
have happened because of the general panic. Many people have died inside the churches here in Bogota. The authorities have
decided to shut them. The rest of the country must do the same thing.
It doesn’t look good in New York, where the skyscrapers have disappeared amidst the fog. They have lost communications
with all space craft in Houston. We don’t know the number of ships and planes involved in accidents as confusion reigns
At the central station, we’ll try to keep in contact with the different countries of the world.
Now we’ll give you an extraordinary bulletin. The country has awoken today to a few rare phenomenons. They’re
caused by the sun pulsating, according to the experts. The things happening in Colombia, have been experienced all over the
planet. The sun has gone back to its usual size. And the problem has ended. We must keep calm until everything goes back
We have dense fog everywhere, and it has interrupted all communications. The sea levels have gone down, increasing the fear
of sea quakes. The ports have been evacuated in chaos and many people have died. We beg you to be calm.
This is the national radio and we have just read the number one news of the moment.
It is raining in Bogota. Attention! An electric storm has developed over the city, with rain and hale. As I looked out
of the window, I saw rain pouring amidst the fog. Thousands of hail stones fell over the city while the house shook. I ran
out of the room and stood in the middle of the patio. The earth moved and I felt like in the middle of an angry sea. I had
to go down on the floor as the water and hail kept on coming. The maids screamed next to me. They called San Emilio, who
seems to know of these things.
A rumble came out of the earth while houses fell down around us. I lay down with my head on the floor for about fifteen minutes.
We stood up sometimes, but the quake started again. It stopped later and the city was quiet as water fell on us. The house
had been destroyed, except for two rooms by the back yard. They were small and tough. The entire city seemed to have been
destroyed and the fog had almost vanished.
I found the radio by my side. As I tried to get a radio station, I heard only static. Perhaps it was broken or they didn’t
I went out in the street followed by the maids. We saw a few wet and frightened people. The dust had mixed with the water
and we looked like carbon miners. We heard someone shouting from the nearest ruins. As we tried to get over there, a wall
collapsed and the shouts stopped. We were left in silence.
I felt alone with nature as I sat under a big tree in the park. Something told me the end of humanity was near.
As I opened my eyes, I saw people looking like ghosts around me. They had mud all over their bodies and studied me with empty
eyes. Most of them had sat on the floor but some others moved about. No one said anything. I switched on the radio to pass
the time. I heard a voice after a while: Here H.K.5 A.C.1….H.K.5 A.C.1…Attention! Attention! A terrible earthquake
has destroyed most of the city of Palmira. Attention! We must mobilise all the help available: firemen, police, the army,
doctors and nurses. Attention! This is an urgent call…
Hello! Hello! We’ve received your message H.K.5. A.C.1. Here is H.K.9. D.G.U. here H.K.9 D.G.U. The quake has destroyed
most of the city of Cali. We are the only human beings left around here. Attention! We ask everybody to help the cities
of Cali and Palmira….
Attention! Attention! Here is voice Bogota. We are using the equipment we managed to find for this programme. Attention
all the country. The capital of the country has been destroyed by an earthquake. Attention! I repeat. Bogota has been destroyed
by a quake. We need urgent help.
It was still raining. I joined a rescue group. As we went around the streets, we found the remains of buildings amidst rivers
of blood. We found a wounded man. We made a stretcher with a few sheets to take him to the clinic. Then we saw two dying
women and a child. We made our way with the injured people towards the ruins of a clinic. We improvised a hospital between
the ruins and offered the wounded people water mixed with hail.
What else could we do? I found a bottle of aguardient left intact amidst the rubbish. I drank most of it and felt much better.
I switched on the radio again.
I found transmissions from Buga, Tulua and Medellin. They all asked for help. All of the country had been affected by the
earthquake. I heard the voices of the survivors calling for help. I fell asleep.
I woke up as people ran around and screamed. Some of them had no clothes on while other wore rags. Everyone looked drunk.
I supposed they had found more aguardiente. A woman, who had lost her right arm, swore while moving the other limb. She
fell on the floor and didn’t move again. A child looked in the mud for his missing left ear, while a river of blood
ran down his shoulders.
Aguardient seemed to be the only medication available. I retired to my corner to drink from my bottle as the rain kept on
pouring. I switched on the radio.
This is the emergency radio. We ask for calm. All the stations must join us. We’ll have news about the rest of the
country very soon. It has been a universal disaster. The sea quake happened after the earthquake. Most of the sea ports
have disappeared as far as we know. We have heard that Caracas in Venezuela has gone under the water.
We are not transmitting personal messages for anyone. We are working for the whole community. The survivors must remain
calm and alcohol should be consumed in small quantities. We don’t have a government now. I think all of the members
of the republic have died in the quake. A doctor will tell us what to do with the wounded. Attention! Attention! People
in charge of help groups must copy or record the following instructions…
I moved down the street up to a place, where fired burned. Doctors and nurses gave first aid to wounded people in a
few tents they had erected. It smelled of dirt and blood. I cried and vomited for some time.
Humankind was dying but it held to life with force. I felt empty and lonely as I retired to a dark corner to listen
to the radio. I heard the voice again.
All the cars had to be taken to the emergency places that have been erected.
Here is Palmira transmitting. Palmira has urgent news for the national radio. The road from Palmira to Cali has disappeared.
A small mountain has formed in between the two cities after the earthquake. Things are bad in the city. We have found some
medical equipment indispensable for the rescue in the ruins of hospitals. We are looking for drugs amidst the rubble, with
the help of tractors we have found. Ninety per cent of the city has been destroyed.
This is central station. You have just heard news from Palmira. The geography has been changed around Cali. A salty
sea seems to exist a few kilometres at the south of the city. We’ll know more about it later. We’re in contact
with the central station in Bogota. Attention! Bogota.
The capital of the republic has been completely destroyed. We have heard bad news coming from everywhere. The ports
have disappeared and the sea has gone inside the country. Groups of people trying to reach neighbouring towns tell us that
the roads are gone. The fog has lifted and communication by radio is easier now. We’re trying to use small aeroplanes
to survey the area, even though the airports have been destroyed.
We don’t have much news from the United States. The city of New York and the towns near it have disappeared.
Florida has been wiped out of the map. It’s all due to the pulsating sun. We don’t have any news from Europe.
I went to sleep and saw shattered bodies, giant suns exploding and seas of blood in my dreams. I woke up as the pale
rays of the sun appeared in the small room where I had taken refuge the night before. At first I thought I had dreamed the
whole thing. Then I noticed the muddy walls and felt cold. Someone was talking on the radio.
…Ibague has been almost totally destroyed. Here are the names of the victims we have identified up to now…
I was hungry. The street seemed to be having a carnival. Naked and muddy people worked with rudimentary tools to take
bodies out of the ruins. I saw drunken people singing and crawling in the mud. Someone had gone inside a coffin where he
had eaten tin sardines and had drunk aguardiente. Music poured out of speakers in a corner while naked men and women danced.
They said: hurrah to death, and shouted during the intervals.
A beautiful girl came closer to me. She made me drink from a bottle of gin she had in her hand.
“Drink, comrade,” she said, pushing the bottle against my teeth. “This is the end of the world. Can
you see that rubble? That’s where my family died. I only heard a knock: Bang! And then it finished. Drink comrade.
A tall man sat on the ruins. He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I saw his contorted face, and he was
still with his eyes wide open. I woman took the gun. Then she shot herself in the heart.
The gin made me feel hot but hungry. As I moved along the road, I saw dead bodies burning over fires. People discussed
the number of fires they needed to burn them.
“Won’t it stop raining?” someone asked.
“I’m hungry,” I said.
A man gave me a damp piece of bread. I ate it, even if it tasted funny. Then I saw the shadowy people. Some of them
prayed aloud as they carried something resembling a saint. I had many friends but they had all disappeared. I didn’t
know where I was. I didn’t want to die.
I heard a choir of voices singing: Life, I want to live. They smelled of aguadiente. I went singing with them.
A group of vultures looked at us. Then they went back to eating a dead body.
Someone shouted: Hurrah to the vultures.
We all shouted: hurrah to the vultures. The animals looked at us with indifference.
I was tired and I wanted to phone my mother. I could feel the touch of her hands. I wanted my mother.
A bus across the street served as my refuge. I lay down across a seat and cried while calling my mother.
I woke up feeling calmer. I felt empty at first but glad to be alive. Then I heard voices in the radio.
Communications have been restored. This is a major crisis for humanity. We want to present you with the latest scientific
explanation for the catastrophe. The sun has pulsated. Scientists think it might happen again, and we must be prepared.
Mount Palomar hasn’t suffered major damage during the earthquake. Astronomers think our star might explode as a nova,
after a few studies they have done. The word means new, because stars appear in the sky, where nothing was there before.
If this is true, things might get more complicated. We have an alarm to transmit all over the world, if this is the case.
The communication satellites have disappeared that’s why we have to put together all the radio stations.
When we give the alarm, we must all go to a secure place. The chain of radios covers the world, and we’ll be giving
instruction in different languages. Seven minutes is enough time to proceed in the best possible way. You must lie down
with your head on the floor. It’s recommended to be in a flat land far from buildings and rivers.
Most of the victims of the earthquake died in the cities. If we take precautions this time, we might survive.
A few observatories are working now, and we have convened the best phrase for the alarm. We must say in all places and
in all the languages: SEVEN MINUTES.
That sentence means that we have to lie down, with our face to the ground, and far away from any buildings.
We urge our listener to give these instructions to everyone else. We repeat. The sun might explode again. It will
be worse this time. We’ll say the sentence: WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES, several times. We have to be ready for some more
intense seismic movements.
The patrols must find as much petrol as they can to use in tractors and other vehicles. We have to use it in the incineration
of the bodies. We don’t have any vaccines and the only way to prevent an epidemic is by burning the dead people.
You must count seven minutes in your watches, while trying to do everything necessary for your security. Then you’ll
be prepared for the alarm: WE ONLY HAVE SEVEN MINUTES.