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Also by Nona Fernández in English

Space Invaders


• A Novel •

Nona Fernández

Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2016 by Nona Fernández

English translation copyright © 2021 by Natasha Wimmer

Originally published in 2016 as La dimensiĂłn desconocida by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, Santiago

Dialogue and title from The Twilight Zone courtesy of CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

“The Dark Room” by Enrique Lihn, translated by David Unger, from The Dark Room and Other Poems, copyright © 1963, 1972 by Enrique Lihn, © 1978 by Enrique Lihn and David Unger. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

“We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Words and Music by Billy Joel. Copyright © 1989 JOELSONGS. All Rights Administered by ALMO MUSIC CORP. All Rights Reserved Used by Permission. Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard LLC.

The author and Graywolf Press have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way. Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify Graywolf Press at: us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.

This publication is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Significant support has also been provided by Target Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the Amazon Literary Partnership, and other generous contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. To these organizations and individuals we offer our heartfelt thanks.

Published by Graywolf Press

250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401

All rights reserved.


Published in the United States of America

ISBN 978-1-64445-047-5

Ebook ISBN 978-1-64445-143-4

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First Graywolf Printing, 2021

Library of Congress Control Number: 2020937613

Cover design: Walter Green

For M, D, and P

my most important letters


Entry Zone

Contact Zone

Ghost Zone

Escape Zone

Beyond the known world there is another dimension.

You’ve just crossed over.


I imagine and give voice to old trees,

the cement under my feet,

the stale air circling this place.

I imagine and complete unfinished stories,

reconstruct half-told tales.

I imagine and bring to life the traces of gunfire.


I imagine him walking down a city street. A tall man, thin, black hair, bushy mustache. In his left hand is a folded magazine. He grips it tightly, seeming to draw strength from it as he walks. I imagine him in a hurry, smoking a cigarette, glancing nervously from side to side, making sure no one is following him. It’s the month of August. Specifically, the morning of August 27, 1984. I imagine him going into a building at Calle Húerfanos and Bandera. The editorial offices of Cauce magazine. I’m not imagining that part; I read it. The receptionist recognizes him. He’s come before with the same request: he needs to talk to the reporter who wrote the article in the magazine he’s carrying. I have a hard time imagining the woman at the reception desk. I can’t form a clear picture of her, not even her expression as she eyes the nervous man before her, but I’m sure she’s wary of him and his urgency. I imagine she tries to put him off, tells him the person he wants isn’t here and won’t be in all day, there’s no point waiting, he should leave and not come back, and I also imagine—because that’s my role in this story—a female voice interrupting the scene. A voice I can imagine as I write, if I close my eyes.

It’s me you want, the voice says. How can I help you?

The man studies the woman speaking to him. Probably he knows all about her. He must have seen a picture of her at some point. Maybe he tailed her once or read her file. She’s the person he wants. The one who wrote the article he read and brought with him. He’s sure of it. Which is why he approaches her and extends his right hand, offering her his armed forces ID card.

I imagine the reporter wasn’t expecting anything like this. She looks at the card in bewilderment—and fear, I might add. Andrés Antonio Valenzuela Morales, Soldier First Class, ID #39432, district of La Ligua. Accompanying this information is a photograph stamped with the registration number 66650. I’m not imagining that part either, I’m reading it right here, in a statement later written by the same reporter.

I want to tell you about some things I’ve done, says the man, looking her in the eye, and I imagine his voice shaking slightly as he speaks these words, which aren’t imagined. I want to tell you about making people disappear.

The first time I saw him was on the cover of a magazine. It was a copy of Cauce, the kind of thing I read back then with no knowledge of the people featured in all those headlines reporting attacks, kidnappings, strikes, crimes, scams, lawsuits, indictments, and other scandalous occurrences of the day. “Accused Bomber Was Local CNI Boss,” “Degollados Killers Still Doing Time in La Moneda,” “The Plot to Assassinate Tucapel Jiménez,” “Did DINA Order Calama Executions?” My reading of the world at thirteen was shaped by stories in magazines I didn’t own, that belonged to everybody, passed from hand to hand among my classmates. The pictures in each issue gradually arranged themselves into a confusing landscape that I never managed to map in its entirety, though each dark detail lingered in my dreams.

I remember a scene I

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