Three stories from
Matando enanos a garrotazos (1982)
Link to the original text:
It is difficult to understand a case like that of Alberto Laiseca. This is an author whose oeuvre is immense and imaginative, a creator of worlds with an encyclopedic culture, a captivating story-teller, an artist that expresses horror and beauty with equal grace. This is no less than the father of that monster, Los sorias, the longest novel of Argentine literature and a book which, for many, should be placed alongside the greatest works of universal literature. But, curiously enough —and most unfairly—, Alberto Laiseca still lacks a readership and notoriety that are even remotely congruent with the measure of his genius. (We do have to say, however, that those who read him, admire him; and those who admire him, do so fervently.) A clear sign of the disparity between the specific weight of Laiseca’s works and the place they have is the scarce amount of books that have been translated. As an example, the monumental Los sorias, his undisputed magnum opus, has never been translated into any language!
I do not intend to write here about this issue, but it is essential to mention it in order to understand why, I would dare say, translating this author is an act of justice. These three stories from his first book of short stories, Matando enanos a garrotazos, are closely related to the world of Los sorias. In fact, these stories were first published in 1982, the same year when Laiseca finished writing his novel, published 15 years later. By translating them into English, my intention is granting at least a very small window into that mastermind that created a delirious realism. I wish these three stories to become a step towards the discovery of Alberto Laiseca in the English-speaking world, and a small act of justice with an underrated genius (at least for now).
Lastly, I would like to let know that, before uploading these translations, I tried to contact Julieta Laiseca, the writer’s daughter and owner of the rights over these works. Unfortunately, I still have not found a way to get in touch with her, and so I declare that, in case there is any problem regarding publishing rights, I shall immediately do whatever is required to remedy it. I would be pleased to contact Julieta and share this brief work with her; so, if she gets to read me, she may write to me through my e-mail address.
Matando enanos a garrotazos
Tramp Beach Reasort
Their learned Raggednesses, misters Moyaresmio and Crk Iseka, were resting that morning on the beach sand at Gazophylacium Bay; this place was located on the western Technocracy, by the Thracian Ocean, much below the parallel that passed through Monitoria, the country’s capital.
This bay was virtually the last garden before the great western desert, close to the Caliphal border, known as Satan’s Bronze.
As no one went to said paradise beach, because the tycoons had not discovered it in time, little by little it became a great tourist attraction for tramps. Bums and beggars from the entire Technocracy spent their holidays there, pitching sackcloth tents.
When the magnates and hierarchs realised what a place they had lost, it was too late. Who would dare —and by what means— to expel the little wretches, who numbered the hundreds and were protected by no less than the dreaded Benefactor (so was also called the Monitor or Head of State), with whom they had found grace?
The tramps for their part, most chuffed with the situation, travelled from one point to another of the enormous country doing whatever they pleased all the year, and spending one or two summer months in Gazophylacium Bay.
They arrived at the beach dressed up with their costliest plumages, and sparkling with filth.
Misters Moyaresmio and Crk were comfortably settled under so faded a parasol that it seemed taken from the sea bottom. They wore shorts made out of curtain scraps, with stitched flowers cut from fashion magazines, and cardboard havaianas tied with twines.
The morning was very beautiful; it was not too hot and the water was a few metres from them, clear and pure.
Said Mr. Moyaresmio, as he sipped a long drink of frozen white wine:
“There is nothing like natural life.”
While they drank, these two Enlightened despots of poverty, thanks to an antediluvian phonograph with a little handle for winding, adapted to 33 rpm and automatic sequencing, were listening to: Tales of Bavaria, The Beer March, Wenn der Toni mit der Vroni, Stachus Polka with Rudi Knabl on zither, Luisa the Shooter, and There’s a Beer Hall in Munich, with Otto Ebner and his wind orchestra.
Close to them there was a short train of stands selling sausages and hot-dogs, built with wood imported from Hindu huts, which grow like plants along the shore of the Ganges and came with worms and all; so rotten the planks that one could sink a finger inside.
Around the beach, there ran numerous rickshaws for wealthy tramps, who paid the pullers with sugar-coated sticks and matches.
There was no lack of lifeguards wearing football shirts full of holes, with two paper signs in their front and back held with pins:
The lifeguards could not swim, of course; but neither was it necessary, since the tourists were allergic to water, for obvious reasons; to be considered reckless, it sufficed to come close enough to the sea for its foam to splatter one’s feet. Those who stood guard made sure to give fair warning to any potential eccentric. Dirt is not washed away with water but with sand baths, as everyone knows.
Despotic women in the abundance of their sagged flesh, and who on account of their age could well have been chamber maids to Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, walked about most smugly, sporting impossibly tight thongs made of asbestos wires, stolen from corners destined to storing extinguishers, grenades and other things. Indeed, swimsuits made from pure asbestos were all the rage that year.
There were also, however, quite young ladies, elegantly dishevelled, of a swarthy complexion —impossible to know whether due to the sun, their race or dirt—, waddling sensually. I am sorry to say that not all of them were reputable, and they were particularly seduced by fat tramps with smoked glasses, drinkers of mate with sugar who never went down to light a cigar with a brand taken from the fire, but would exclusively use matches. With a squandering that left them astonished, they saw how these filthy rich men lit a hand-rolled cigarette and then, with indifference and half-closed eyes, threw away the then useless stick with a burned head. These fat men, rotten with tobacco and white sugar, I insist, never smoked a cigarette until their fingers were overburned. They took 13 or 14 puffs and afterwards threw them away.
Hours later, through a twilight of reddish waters, and after eating exquisite blood puddings and sausages, and spicy cheeses roasted on little grills improvised with wires, these victuals generously sprinkled with a couple of 20 October 1983 vintage wines, their Most Illustrious Wretchednesses, not before straightening their leaden tatters, belly-flopped onto the grass, quite close to the sand, smoking with a sort of pompousness only surpassed by caliphable emirs.
Said Mr. Moyaresmio, as he breathed a long sigh:
“These open-air parties, they remind me of the grimoires effected every now and then by magicians.”
Crk, somewhat drowsy:
“What’s a grimoire?”
“It is a sort of magical, ritual dinner. A great shindy alla grande thrown by the esotericists. There are fine delicacies, exquisite wines, sex, etc. Sometimes they eat nasty things, but they devour them with gusto and ask for more.
Classic grimoires… As far as I know, only one another tramp told me about when I was little. It is a long, complex story, of which the grimoire is but one of its incidents; so I do not know if…”
And Mr. Moyaresmio shrugged his shoulders, leaving his back exposed to the free play of the tensions of his filth.
“Proceed, Illustrious. When you began speaking, I got ready to divert some time from my tremendous and overwhelming activities as a magical animal: that is what the Monitor calls us, right?”
“If you are one of those freaks, make a Turkish dancer appear before me.”
“Oh, of course,” answered on the spot Mr. Crk, and he threw into the air a handful of sand, as he said: “In nomine Gromine.”
Naturally, nothing happened. Besides, in a sudden change of wind, the sand fell on Mr. Moyaresmio, making him shed some tears.
Any uncultured man would have uttered an invective. Not Mr. Moyaresmio, who was a Bonapartist aristocrat. He confined himself to saying, as he cleaned up his eyes with a brown handkerchief:
“I have the impression, Mr. Crk, that your magic has failed. A mistake while exorcising, perhaps. Far from materialising what was requested, you provoked a vectorial variation on the sweet Zephyrus. If my judgement is incorrect, I pray that you do not hesitate to refute me.”
“You are absolutely right. I have actually been practising this profession of magical animal for barely forty years. I am still inexperienced.”
The other one, very kindly:
“I understand. It is such an inconvenience.”
“I am coping with it. But you were about to tell me…”
Then, Mr. Moyaresmio Iseka began narrating the “Great fall of the indecorous old hag”. A while later, this very long story was cut short by Mr. Crk Iseka, he said in a sigh:
“Illustrious…, please. I think it’s enough. When you egg yourself on, you just won’t stop.”
“It is truly a pity that you have interrupted me. The sultan did not cut Scheherazade’s head, after all.”
“It’s true. But he did postpone it for the following day.”
“OK, alright,” admitted Mr. Moyaresmio. “In any case, I have told many things about the qadi. Enough for you to have an idea.”
“Notwithstanding, it is a pity. The sacred dogs appear at last, and they eat —in the famous grimoire— the despicable, arrogant, filthy, nosy old hag. What caviar could be compared to the flesh of a sulphurous chichi, the latter word meaning bad person in my lexicon? Only an allegory may devour another.”
Seeing that his friend remained unyielding and said nothing, Mr. Moyaresmio continued after a gloomy sigh:
“Well, well, alright. Your loss. Unimagined secrets of the grimoire are revealed, on the occasion of the judgement, punishment and obsequies of the double astral of the softened old hag —at last caught in the good one—, that… But anyway, let us leave that aside. In any case —and I warn you, I shall be inflexible on this—, the most I can agree to is waiting until tomorrow, after breakfast, to tell you the surprising and marvellous story N. 948, entitled ‘The clavichord mummy’.”
Reassured to know that he would be saddled with the drag only after a refreshing sleep, Mr. Crk Iseka did resign himself.
Some masses of clouds floated over the sea. Few, but dense and white-coloured; grey towards their inside. On the opposite side, from the centre of the Technocratic land, it was dawning. The Sun tried to rise from behind a far conic tree; surrounded by clouds, rosy with blue fringes, the latter had the appearance of a dessert.
An hour passed. The tree was now an ice-cream crystalled in icy blue and spectral stripes of lemon.
Mr. Moyaresmio woke up. He regarded the sky and the horizon with esteem. He lit a fire with many little sticks he had gathered and heated water to drink some mates.
“Mr. Crk… Mr. Crk…”
“A mate, perhaps? A doughnut with lots of sugar, maybe?”, and in parallel to the offered infusion, he extended with his other hand a disgusting sack, made of paper, but with shiny contents.
Mr. Crk, taking the mate and a doughnut:
“Saying no to you would be a discourtesy you do not deserve, Mr. Moyaresmio.”
The latter regarded the sky again, for the second time in the day:
“Have you ever thought, Mr. Crk, that certain dawns seem twilights and some twilights are identical to dawns?”
“Illustrious… take no offence, please, but… that phrase was unoriginal even when someone said it for the first time. It is quite similar to things like: ‘Now the Sun sinks in the twilight’; ‘The clouds swirling like a turbulence of shrouds trying to byyychck!’; ‘The pitcher goes so often to the well that etcetera’; and others.”
“So I seem unoriginal to you?”
“Absolutely not, Illustrious… But then: if you avoided the cumbersome sequences and went straight to the narration you promised yesterday…”
But Mr. Moyaresmio had his head somewhere else. He even forgot to keep preparing mate, and said absent-mindedly:
He lit an Egyptian cigarette, held it delicately and decadently with his left hand, and with a little stick he drew a tiny rifle on the sand. Then he raised his eagle eyes and noticed a sparrow evolving in the forest of its tree. He thought that, with the rifle he had just manufactured, that beautiful specimen of passer domesticus could go hunt beetles. The coleoptera evolving like rhinoceros from another dimension, before rifles for bigger game. Bullets ricocheting off the elytra. Bazooka launches, inoffensively hitting the armour of the Stalin III tank, in Korea: “Another attack like last week’s and they’ll end up throwing us into the sea, my sergeant. Take it easy, Benson. MacArthur will come and rescue us.”
“So? The story you were going to tell me?”, enquired Mr. Crk Iseka, taking Mr. Moyaresmio out of his daydreaming.
“Decidedly, my dear friend, you lack any sense of opportunity. I found myself immersed in a delicious delirium; who knows in what magnificent system of the mental arts or architectures could it have ended.”
“I am sorry.”
“Oh, that is not important,” Mr. Moyaresmio turned his body and remained face up; he resembled a sun-dried clay pharaoh. Impressive, sovereign and majestic, sporting his Portorrimerican sackcloth guayabera and his short socks, made from Virgin Islands-imported silk, held by means of telephone cables.
He began narrating, as he regarded the sky for the third time in the day:
“I must warn you: what I will now refer is a tale only in part. With the perspicacity that characterises you, I have no doubt that you will be able to discern the truth beyond the dislocation of exaggerations.
There was once a race in mental wheelchairs. They were the epileptics of humour: a shittily solemn bunch, in other words, since they lacked any flexibility for the minimal change of units that would allow them to adapt to new things and enjoy them. They were like big, floating piles of excrement. When they died, they plopped on the ground. Because I tell you, frigidity in any respect: sexual or mental, is a magical disease; just like epilepsy.
This was not a continuous race —like the Jews, Armenians, Baskes or Gypsies—, but a discontinuous one; their members born as if by mutation from all races. They had accomplished to form a nation, however, and therein they ruled.
Their characteristics were most interesting. There were some, for instance, who became rotten instantaneously in the midst of a conversation, or upon a turn of phrase. See what effect can have an improperly used word, or the discordant energy of a flaw in syntax! The individuals of this chichi race, when the aforementioned event took place, went on living, sleeping, eating and copulating, thoroughly rotten, with worms and foul smell. Until their pieces of flesh began falling off: first the muscles, then the anatomical pieces comprising the inner organs. Some very stubborn ones held until the last moment, and then finally collapsed; the small pile was dragged to some corner until someone took it away.
They ceased to exercise physical love very early in their lives, since their sexual organs were the first to undergo annihilation. When the rot manifested —something which always took them by surprise—, they ran to bed whatever came first, even if it had syphilis or leprosy, trying to make up in a few hours for what they had not done in their entire life. Once castrated, they took to indoctrinating the youth —quite rotten too, for its part— about the virtues of asceticism.”
“I have the impression, Illustrious, that you are talking about the sorias.”
“You delight in interrupting me.”
“That you delight in interrupting me, I say.”
“But you are referring to them, right?”
“You have great authority in soria affairs. I understand that before calling yourself Iseka, your surname was Soria, right?”
“You never miss an opportunity to remind me of my origins.”
Crk turned up the volume of his teasing, for he knew how far he could go with the other:
“Well, they say that you can’t make a silk purse out of a soria’s ear.”
If Mr. Moyaresmio felt offended, he did not show it:
“I shall repeat what a journalist from Camilo Aldao, a certain village I visited once, said: ‘I have a sad reliability’ to speak about all things Soria. Like I used to be a soria.”
Crk, making his teasing vibrate to the continuo harpsichord:
“And are you sure that the Monitor has included you in the exception list, etc.? Do you have your metaphysical pardon at hand, please? Or have you lost it?”
Moyaresmio avoided a direct answer. He proceeded exactly as if he had not heard him:
“As it happens, if we were sorias once and ceased to be so, we are not coming back to it. We know very well why we turned away from the chichi. On the contrary, those with the surname Iseka are the ones in grave danger of soriatising.”
“Well, well. Don’t take me wrong.”
“I am not taking you wrong. I am saying it, that is all.”
“Resume your story, I beg of you.”
“Returning to the characteristics of those floating pieces of shit I spoke about: the primary existential goal of those partial derivatives of the Anti-Being was ruining their antipodes. Each individual in this country knew that in some place, there or somewhere else, there was a human being whom they needed to —and could— piss off in a clever manner or way. When they achieved it at last, having lost the aim of their existence, they fell into a total apathy that hastened the process of organic destruction. It was as if the Anti-Being in person had begun to derive those monstrosities, according to innumerable coordinate axes, from itself.
Clearly, since these pestilent cusses had very few true enemies, sometimes thousands of chichis had to gather before finding a single common antipode.”
But Mr. Crk Iseka, perhaps due to the heat or some other cause, had ceased to listen. He raved inside himself: “A Sagittarian dog jumped to my throat. As quick as lightning I gave him an Aries blow with the edge of my hand, and he fell dead on the Aquarius. Screw you. Screw you per saecula. A Libra spider —its shape mimicked the scale, with oscillating plates around the fulcrum—, with Leo tassels, solar and refulgent, it had stolen to wear on its ears, was approaching me. I prepared to defend myself with the Scorpion’s sting, when my companion yelled: ‘Get him! Give him an electric Pisces in the ass, Mr. Crk!’”
Mr. Moyaresmio Iseka, realising on the spot that he was no longer heeded, became furious:
“You’ve stopped listening to me already! You must be thinking about something else!”, he gradually calmed down. “I sincerely know not why you ask me to tell you marvellous stories,” he pauses. “And mind you: the swine in my narration always began their rotting like that: being inattentive and absent-minded. So, be careful!”, he added sardonically.
Mr. Crk Iseka, fluorescent purple with shame, promised to make up for it and asked his friend, at least for that time, to forgive him. But then he tried to manoeuvre, within an uncultured fuchsia colour:
“I just think it would be convenient if you told me at once the surprising and marvellous story of the clavichord mummy, because I get lost with so many twists and turns.”
“Do not make excuses. Apart from that, if I do not describe the idiosyncrasy of that people, you will not understand what happened with the mummy.
In that country, it was remarkable how the chichis, unwillingly, sometimes performed acts of justice in spite of the system’s absurdity. It was as if the Being tried to capitalise favourably on misfortune. They dealt with catch-all terms and set phrases, and so these became transformed at last into devouring allegories that eviscerated their own creators.
The shortcoming of allegories is that they tend to integrate with members of the same species. If the addition has enough addends, it becomes the Final Weapon that destroys every civilisation. The only way to put an end to such a state of affairs would be to counter this tumour of diabolical slime with another allegory, stronger and opposite in sign. But that is not possible in a world dominated by the Anti-Being, who kills in its cradle any opposing allegory.”
Mr. Moyaresmio took a break to eat half a salami. He was about to tell other anecdotes about the people of the rottable cusses, when he noticed that his friend was beginning to observe the Sun’s position to check the time, as someone raising his wrist to see a gigantic watch. Then, he hastened to say:
“But it is time for me to tell the marvellous and incredible story N. 948, entitled ‘The clavichord mummy’.”
 All songs and performers mentioned were extracted from the LP: Punto de reunión Munich. B.L.E. Telefunken.
 Since that was the day when the first atomic war began, the wine bottled on such date was much sought-after, because it had all the bouquet of the first radiations.
 In spite of this, Mr. Moyaresmio should not be confused for a spiritualist. He regarded only the earthly sky, with its twilights and dawns. Limits are the most elevated passion of man; this made of Moyaresmio a normal person, which is a limit too.
 Definition of the word excrement, according to the Enciclopedia Sopena, vol. 1, p. 1080, fifth edition, Barcelona, 1933: “…in general, any filthy substance expelled by bodies in a natural way”.
 The sorias were the inhabitants of Soria, a nation against which the Technocracy had been at war for five long years. Both countries’ worldviews were antagonistic. In Soria, everyone had the same surname: Soria, only varying in their first names. Likewise, the entirety of the Technocracy’s inhabitants were surnamed Iseka.
The clavichord mummy
Robert Prescott and Pedro Pecarí de los Galíndez Faisán were Egyptologists and belonged to the discontinuous race of the rottable cusses. They were excavating in the Valley of the Kings of Music, and also in Gizeh. Their objective was to find the tomb of Tutanchaikovsky. They knew that, just like all large and small funerary monuments, it had been looted by tomb raiders; many of them barely an hour after the priests had sealed them.
Legend said that although Tutanchaikovsky’s tomb had been violated, the sacred objects knocked over, its gold and silver cups stolen —and what was more sacrilegious and useless: the mummy burnt by order of the Shepherd Kings—, it anyhow contained an archaeological treasure of priceless value which the successive generations of thieves had left untouched, considering it negligible: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s clavichord.
As I have said, there was virtually no tomb which had been left unvisited by these excellent people: Mendelssohn’s, Richard Strauss’s, Schumann’s. The latter composer had had his hands cut with an ultrasound gun that emitted an obsessive a, for the sorcerers had bought them from the raiders to prepare magical potions with them.
Not even Richard Wagner could avoid depredation, even though he had a two-kilometre-high Great Pyramid built for him, forcing his Nibelungs and the giants Fafner and Fasolt to work under the whip for twenty-seven years: almost the entire reign of this autocrat. The dedicated thieves, with an ingenuity worthy of better purposes, had managed to dig a tunnel in the rock up to the King’s Chamber. They set their hands on the Phantom Solar Boat which pharaoh Wagner used to travel to the Land of the Setting Sun; they dragged and knocked his mummy along the galleries, and also Cosima’s, taking them out to the desert. There, under the moonlight and on the Phantom Boat itself, they burned those solid fuels.
Nietzsche, much to his chagrin, had been immured with Wagner, as punishment for having written Ecce Homo. He was given the mission to guard the composer and defend him throughout the long journey. To avoid this penalty, he had begun a parliamentary motion of obstruction, but to no effect. Before the last row of bricks had been placed, completely sealing off the niche where he was wrapped in bandages like Christopher Lee, the priests handed him Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Nietzsche’s mummy protected the tomb for a long time. He first eliminated a band of one thousand eight hundred seventy raiders; forty-four years later, he kicked the shit out of another fourteen; but, when twenty-five years later another thirty-nine entered the tomb, he was overcome, and he burst like a blown-up toad. His potentials had been depleted, and besides the horoscope was not favourable for the mummy that day. Quite a fright, however, for those who had to fight him.
The tomb thieves stole absolutely everything —once triumphant—, and burned the rest. Only the monument and the great stone sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber remained.
At Tutanchaikovsky’s the matter was somewhat different, as I anticipated, since the violators at least left the clavichord.
Robert Prescott and Pedro Pecarí de los Galíndez Faisán ordered their workers to clear the entrance of sand entirely. Galíndez Faisán himself broke the priests’ seals; they were intact, because the raiders had entered from the other side.
Now in the interior, they could observe the havoc of looting: the broken tables, the statues shattered, the stone sarcophagus slashed by hammer blows, and the section of the ceiling above it, blackened by the smoke of the burning mummy.
At the end of a dark corridor, partially obstructed by sphynx debris, was found the clavichord saturated with hieroglyphs.
The two organisers of the expedition began reading:
On whosoever plays this clavichord lacking in respect or worth, the curse of Tutanchaikovsky shall befall.
Robert Prescott and Pedro Pecarí de los Galíndez Faisán broke into laughter. They did not believe in curses, in the first place; and besides: if the curse was so powerful, why did it not protect the tomb from the previous raiders? They also had in mind to become rich and famous with that clavichord. It had belonged to none other than Mozart himself!
It was curious that the predators had respected that object. Logically, it should have been destroyed along with every other thing; at least for the sake of damage, if nothing else. The expeditionaries’ luck was incredible.
Galíndez Faisán turned on his tape recorder and began playing the ancient musical instrument.
People would pay in gold to have record plates that reproduced the sounds of the legendary clavichord. On it he would perform Mozart’s own compositions, after making some orchestral arrangements under the slogan: “Mozart, but not for the exquisite”. He could imagine it: “Within the people’s reach, through popular arrangements; and besides… on the authentic clavichord, found after spending thousands of years in a desert-protected sepulchre!”
But what no one knew, neither the tomb raiders before nor the expeditionaries later on, was that inside the clavichord was Mozart’s mummy, stored as a secret weapon. The priests had given it the magical order of not intervening, come what may, unless someone played the instrument; because that one would then certainly pay for all. Hence, the mummy, filled with rage and helpless, had witnessed the successive defilements, even the burning of Tutanchaikovsky, without reacting. It awaited the moment when it would be authorised to set a hand on one of those guys and torture him endlessly, day and night; since because of that mission, he had deferred his own journey to the Land of the Setting Sun. With stiff arms crossed over the chest, it prayed: “Oh, Osiris! Lord of the Amenti! Let the hour of vengeance come soon!”
The two chichis, snootified, came out of the tomb giving orders to keep the clavichord safe, and making sure at all times that the carriers should not scratch the ideograms inscribed in the mahogany. But —and this was just the first in a long list of inexplicable events—, Robert Prescott, who had fallen a short distance behind, disappeared, swallowed by a slide of thousands of tons of sand which covered the entrance. It was impossible to explain, since the excavation had been carried out with enough bracing.
After said unfortunate slide of sand and rocks, a strange succession of catastrophes began. The expedition members died one after the other: mysterious diseases; suicides; guys who claimed to be chased by mummies at night; others whose walls became filled with blood and had to spend the whole night cleaning them, etc.
One of the assistants, Azafrano Capitular Mileto, deeply worried, went somewhere to have his astral chart drawn. According to the astrologist, the stars revealed that he would die because of a dog. Azafrano thought that such a thing was quite possible: he lived in a neighbourhood packed with those animals, all of them very evil. To protect himself, until moving away, he built a sprayer loaded with mineral oil and pepper. With it, he felt safe.
One night —he was moving in a few hours and so he took full precautions—, he was going home with the sprayer out of its belt, like Flash Gordon, since the following door belonged to a building with two dogs worse than Cerberus, which in previous occasions had torn some pieces from his clothes. He walked, ready for action and blowing an imaginary whistle to signal his invisible troops forward (Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory).
However, the unscrupulous canines gave no signs of life. They must have been taken to a doghouse or maybe they were sleeping.
Azafrano Capitular Mileto sighed with relief. Precisely at the moment when he said: “Ah! Thank God!”, a monstruous gargoyle broke off from a building and shattered his head. It is almost unnecessary for me to say that said gargoyle had the shape of a dog.
Pedro Pecarí de los Galíndez Faisán, for his part, had long ceased to laugh. Barely two months had passed since the opening of Tutanchaikovsky’s tomb, and he was the only one who remained alive. He donated the clavichord to a museum, that he might avoid the curse, but there was no case: in his mansion, during the nights, groans and strange noises were heard, such as the gnashing of some giant teeth, or someone dragging a huge fork along the corridors. He did not know why he thought it was something like this and not any other object.
The sale of record plates had made him rich and famous, but he did not have everything in his favour. He hired ten bodyguards, entrusted to guard him day and night; he had his car’s brakes and steering checked before going out, etc.
Certain midnight he had an abrupt awakening. He hallucinated that his bodyguards were sleeping. He got up to investigate and saw that that was the case. So profound was the narcotic commotion of that magical sleep, that he could not alter it even by kicking them.
Utterly shit-scared, he tried to run to his bedroom and lock himself in, but with those jinxes proper of terror, he constantly tripped over his own feet; so it took him exceedingly long to arrive and close the door.
He had not even sighed, when he heard a whisper at his back. He turned around suffocated and, from behind a red curtain, Mozart appeared wrapped in bandages, with all the power of his braid: from the nape, the famous one stuck out between the linen cloth, with a large black bow. He was wielding a huge fork in his right hand; the tip somewhat tilted towards the floor, at rest, like a reposing god.
“I’ve long wanted to get you, motherfucker.”
After the previous phrase, he began moving very slowly, calmly elevating the fork’s tines. The mummy seemed very tall, like three meters high, and yet it did not surpass the height it had when alive.
Pedro Pecarí de los Galíndez Faisán let out a moan, hampered by brakes and exhaustions he could not manage to explain. It was as if the air had become a viscous fluid filled with ground glass, imposing friction and strong bonds. It was painful to walk. Very uncomfortable, with delay and tardiness, he reached at last the stairs that granted access to the ground floor. He descended without using the steps: smoothly floating over a thin layer of sticky air. He moved, but each minute being a lengthier period than the previous one. Now close to the end of the stairs, he turned a little to see his pursuer’s progress. That nightmare of a mummy was preparing, right at that moment, to go after him. And that went down like the Pale One should, with its large naked feet and the long white shroud, heavy as the curtain of an opera theatre; sometimes it seemed to smile. It turned on and off the mirage of a smile, intermittently, through the alternating chiaroscuro on the bandages. He saw the mummy in flotation, very thin and trotting on the wind, with the bare fork. It flew silently, similar to roc birds when they hover moving great air masses; or pushing the waters heavily, like a huge blanket behind the frogman.
Pedro Pecarí Galíndez reached at last the stairs and like dust floated over the hall’s flooring, resuming his clumsy lunar walk. The very same invisible vapours that sustained him at that height oscillating between five and ten centimetres were what made him sticky, hindering his march.
He drifted aimlessly, in geometric figures. If he traced an ellipse, the mummy —always behind him— drew a parabola arm. If he designed a sine wave, the mummy limited it between the two parts of a hyperbola. A cardioid had as its immediate response a perfect, lethal circumference. It was like the ending of Don Giovanni, but the other way round; instead of the stone guest coming in search of the lover, here the allegory was inverted: Don Juan’s statue approached to kill the evil and prejudiced Commendatore, just when the latter was about to eat various tasty victuals.
Sometimes, in his marches and contredanses, Pecarí Galíndez Faisán lowered himself down to the ground; but then it was worse: it seemed as though he was wearing metal shoes, with a powerful electromagnetic field passing through the floor. By no means, then, could he lift his footwear. He was barely able to move shuffling his feet pitifully.
He wished to find the entrance door, but it was blocked by a white wall that made him rebound with each attempted approach.
He stepped back tremulous and convulsed, always confusingly linked to the ground. His grotesque puppet legs did not cease to pester him with their clumsiness, as the enemy doubled his monstrously and materially obsessive harassment.
He came out of the hall, entering other regions of the house.
With slow motions he wandered around the corridors, transformed into formidable avenues. All of his labyrinthine and spiralled turns were only useful to bring him back into the entrance hall, at the foot of the staircase. He went up again, always chased by that Minotaur.
The short three-metre stretch between his bedroom and the end of the stairs resembled an appalling motorway full of cars. He crept through it, moist as a toad, semi-paralysed and panting. Upon beginning to close the door, he confirmed once more what by now he knew very well: seeking refuge there was useless, because inside was waiting the dazzling mirror of death. The end tree lost its crystals, which descended slowly, torn to luminous shreds. These, their last days, sank to the bejewelled borders and lavish limits of the sarcophagus of eternal discontinuity. The princely military poverty of Death raised martial oriflammes, austere war banners and black, bellicose flags. The waters of consummation rose. The batrachian fled, followed by white flapping of harsh crane. Androgynous splashed from one puddle to another, now too close four fangs of resplendent tiger. Squashy fat tender and flaccid, trotting over a thin film of astral dust; extended over him dazzling snowy heavy hand. Before him reverberated iridescent mortuary reflections as of a shutting trap. He thought he was stepping on steppe lichen or the orient of frozen jewels.
Once again he floated downstairs, on a rectilinear trajectory. He understood that the mummy was waiting below, even though it was behind him a few seconds before. Faisán descended over the tips of the four-tined fork, similar to a projectile the course of which someone forgot to deviate. With a most violent effort, he somewhat modified its path. He touched the ground with his feet, after one of the skewers had passed a few millimetres from his thorax.
Thus they went on for a long while, from one side to the other, coming and going, without Faisán leaving his pursuer behind nor the mummy reaching him.
He understood how absolute is the fact of dying for real. Notwithstanding, so wretched was he that a part of his soul rejoiced. He was the man who some time ago had said “Life is hard. Luckily, one has its masochisms to keep oneself entertained”.
Keep yourself entertained now, Soria.
What masochists want is not dying but being castrated and then left dumped in a ditch. And living for a very long time, always whining. Or having their hands cut, or being blinded. Or getting themselves killed, in any case, but with death taking long to come. That is why people should not be castrated, but stabbed with a fork.
“Quick deaths are the worst,” said Mozart, now touching him.
In an attempt to escape, in his despair, Faisán became fragmented into eight pheasants, to see if at least one could flee. All of them fluttered inharmonically and stiffly, beset by eight mummies. Then he became divided into twenty, thirty and five, x Pedros Pecarí de los Galíndez Faisán, and there were x fierce mummies pursuing them.
And once all the pheasants had come to the last, definite wall, the entirety of them fused until the one true chichi remained, transformed into an agitated and gasping chicken. And from remote sideral distances, from lightyears, there gradually converged on this sole point the x distant mummies, each wielding a fork, and in the vicinity of his chest they joined with each other, and so did the ethereal additive coordinates of the weapons, until they constituted one solid, lethal object. The materialisation took place four centimetres away from Galíndez Faisán’s chest. And the fork came slowly closer, and the tips began penetrating him, at first painlessly, as if they were frozen humours.
The fork tines stabbed him like four magical words, or four operas.
Horror and pain. Horror and pain for Faisán. And it pierced through him like a golden chicken, leaving him nailed against the entrance door, now wooden, without the white wall, and which at some point could not be opened.
Thus they found him the following day. With that immense silver piece, fastening him to the door.
The serpent Kundalini
Monitor, in his infinite wisdom, took a decision regarding some man. He had him tortured with the most expensive method that has ever existed.
Building the torture machine required extracting no less than fifty thousand million cubic metres of earth, sand and rocks; that is, a little more than fifty cubic kilometres. Steel beams, planks capable of resisting high pressures, cables, cement, etc., comprised the body of the cavernous monstrosity.
Only the Technocratic power could achieve it; above all, considering the time it took to work on its construction, which did not reach the two years.
The device consisted, among other things, in a two-thousand-metre-deep pit; at the bottom, it gave way to a long five-thousand-kilometre-long tunnel, which was characterised by its imperceptible curve towards the left. Thus, at the end of its course, it arrived at the beginning tracing a perfect circumference. It was like a serpent biting its own tail.
The walls, both the pit’s and the tunnel’s, were initially much larger, since it was necessary to set some space apart to lay the reinforced concrete, the beams and the planks, meant to withstand the immense pressures.
To grasp the giant dimensions of the gallery, there is nothing better than thinking about how dampened its curvature was.
The tunnel was accessed by descending through the long pit, using an elevator equipped with solar batteries. Whoever marched through the long, five-thousand-kilometre passage would make some lights turn on ahead and off behind. Thus, those who walked were constantly moving in the centre of a hundred metre-long, permanently mobile luminous volume.
The lamps’ construction had been planned that way, so that the tormented was unable to notice the tunnel’s curvature; this would have occurred, however slight the deformation, if the entirety of its lengthy expanse had been illuminated.
Every certain number of metres there were food and vessels with water. When the walker felt tired and drowsy, he could simply lie down and sleep in the torturing passage.
The condemned, completely alone, felt however the Monitor’s presence. Since he knew him quite well, he had reason to suspect that, at a certain unknown point of the prolonged cavity, there would be some trap awaiting him: a hope-shattering cul-de-sac, or a torture chamber where many executioners would be waiting, or anything else.
All of that could be expected from the Monitor’s mentality, but he did not believe it would be exactly like that in this case. “He’ll most surely have me walking for years, so that at some moment I’ll end up discovering that I’m once again at the beginning and I’ll become mad.” He had come up for the first time with the idea that he might be marching along the perimeter of a circumference. A dot moving along an elementary and inflexible succession of dots. From all evidence, for the Monitor he must have been less than an abstraction at that point.
This did coincide with his idea of the Head of State’s pure thought when he felt like being subtle.
“Every section of this sort of coal mine is the same; however, when I eat and drink I’ll leave marks,” he argued. He imagined himself much later, thinking upon seeing scraps on the floor: “Someone else seems to have been around here some months ago”, misunderstanding the true character of the construction, just to get to discover, over time, something which only he could have left and understand with horror the exact nature of his punishment. All of this he supposed in a convulsion, now without walking, immobile due to the Attic fear covered with membranes.
He pretended to tie his shoelaces, stealthily leaving his watch on the floor. If he happened to return as he suspected, he would find it. He tried to attract attention to himself and away from the watch, in case someone was observing him.
He walked ten kilometres each day. Sometimes he went mad and marched with a goose step in a fit of anger, until he became exhausted. Other times, he started running as if he were to be boiled alive: hurting himself against the walls like professor Otto Lidenbrock’s nephew in Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. So possessed was he by the memory of this book that, as his head became full of bumps, he shouted foaming at the mouth: “Saknussemm! Saknussemm!”; falling at last exhausted. “I adore you Graüben, why do you flee?”
Sometimes he flatly refused to keep going. Sitting on the floor, bursting with mental electricity and earthing, he set out to return to the starting point after some rest, or else remain there per saecula. In those occasions, he quickly felt inside the warning that his only prospect of salvation was to keep going; if he let himself fall prey to nihilism, he was doomed. Little by little he disciplined himself, something he had done only occasionally during his life. Besides, why go back if he had already eaten and drunk the entire content of the vessels?
Perhaps they would refill them in case he completed the entire revolution, but not if he turned back now. Not without reason the food and water in the vessels grouped in each storage were exactly what he needed to be full; but no more.
He kept walking. One idea sustained him now: finding his watch and so proving that the passage bit its own tail. That is, he managed to reverse the torture; what was destined to torment him became transformed, by virtue of his will, into his main support.
Five hundred days after beginning to walk, he found his watch. He did not think: “So now what?”; he did not meditate about the long tunnel, with steel planks like the scales of a serpent biting its tail. He did discover that he was in the house of some God. He sat on the floor and made the lotus flower before his jewel. Bejewelled platinum measured the time; the last fraction of the definitive second was a spiral of colours over discontinuous white rails.
He attained the state of Samadi, or illumination.
The Monitor, upon seeing him thus, had him released and gave him a high office. Until the end of the war, he was his Minister of Propaganda.
Technocracy. Monitor. Triumph.