I cautiously put my backpack onto the floor of the taxi cab. The driver sat motionless staring straight ahead. He was smoking a cigarette, the smoke curled off the end of it and swimmingly swirled itself throughout the cab.
As I stepped into the cab and settled my weight into the cheaply made leather upholstery, the cab driver turned to look at me. His skin was brown and wrinkled kissed by many years in the sun. Laugh lines etched the sides of his eyes, as his eyes themselves beckoned something deep within me. His eyes were a very pale blue so pale that they were almost white.
Before I could say anything, he asked me to hold out my hand. “I have something for you,” he said. Using his middle finger and thumb, he scooped his left eye out of its socket. It made no sound and in place of the eye was another eye, only this one was transparent and almost unrecognizable but if you looked at it just right the eye took shape again.
He placed the eyeball into my outstretched hand. I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came out. I stared at the man’s eye resting in the palm of my hand. It was smooth, completely rounded and etched deep within were shades of yellow and blues, colors that were hard to make out when it was hiding in the socket of his skull.
“That is all you need on your journey.” His warm hand closed my fingers around his precious orb. “It will protect you from…” Before he could say anything else, a black crow flew into the cab, I had forgotten to close the door and hit me on the side of the head before collapsing into my lap.
The cab driver closed his mouth, his one remaining eye became glossy like he was entering into a state of meditation. His holographic eye teetered between this world and somewhere else flashing brightly, then dimming. The beacon of a lighthouse.
‘Wake up! Move your stupid shoulder.”
I woke up slightly startled to my brother shoving me hard. I hit the wall to my right.
“Thanks for drooling all over the place.” He used a napkin from the tray table in front of him. The tray table connected to the back seat of a fairly overweight gentleman. The gentleman’s large frame spilled over the sides of his tiny seat and pushed the seat back a little further away from its resting position and closer to my brother.
I smiled, thankful the seat occupied in front of me, housed a small child of about 6 or 7 who slept most of the time. I realized that I was squeezing my left hand, making a tight fist. I slowly opened it and expected to find the cab driver’s lifeless eye, but it was empty. My eyes met flesh and palm lines slightly moistened from sweat.
“It’s so hot,” I muttered. My throat was scratchy and my mouth felt like it had switched places with the sands of Egypt.
My brother glanced at his watch. “We still have about an hour before we land.” He groaned and settled back in his seat. He turned his head to meet my gaze. “What were you dreaming of anyway? You kept opening and closing your mouth like a fish.” He opened his mouth and sucked his cheeks in so that his lips formed a little pout. He was trying to become the fish with a human face. His eyes were too big.
I shrugged as the last memorable pieces of my dream faded out into the universe, waiting patiently for someone else to bring it to life within their sub-conscious. He wouldn’t understand it anyway. He never understood my dreams. Only my grandmother understood…my mother would have too, but she died before I was old enough to relay to her the strange realms I lived within my head during the hours when I was asleep.
He turned his face from me and stared at the seat in front of him. He narrowed his eyes like he was trying to focus on something in the seat cushion, something hidden that only he could see. “I had a weird dream,” he said after a few seconds. He eyes came back into focus and he met my eyes again.
“It was a really bad dream. You were in it.” He dropped his words, his voice trailed off at the end of his sentence. The weight of his words hung in the air and gradually pressed themselves around me, trying to imbibe itself within my being. I imagined the words hitting a steel wall and disintegrating into dust, meaningless and intangible.
I was curious about his dream, what images he might have seen. If he also received a marble eye from the curious actors in his fatigue induced reverie. I didn’t press him on the matter and instead focused my attention on the small portal into the sky through which we were traveling. The wing of the plane commanded my attention and I watched helplessly as the wing took on a giant dagger slicing through the clouds making room for impatient people trying to transcend the laws of time and gravity.
“You were swimming in the pond behind grandma’s house…I found you out there and at first I thought it was someone else. You didn’t look like you…You were naked from the waist up. Your hair was longer and you were…” He cleared his throat. “Well, you were more endowed.” He looped his hands out in front of him and pulled them back in again, projecting breasts against his prepubescent chest.
I let him continue with his dream, though I found it strange how my brother’s subconscious portrayed me, a statuesque goddess bathing in the pond at night with my well-endowed chest exposed. A woman and his sister melded into one strange ethereal being.
“I knew it was you though. This woman had your eyes. She…you caught me watching and as soon as our eyes met, your face melted.” He shuddered and closed his eyes, trying to will the images away, although I think in closing his eyes, he only sufficed in burning the images into his brain even more.
“After your face melted off, the rest of your body crumbled into the pond and turned into a reddish blob, floating on top of the water. The pond water looked black…It was so dark. The moon wasn’t out, it was a starless night. The red and the black on the pond…” His words trailed off again, only this time he didn’t finish his train of thought.
My brother was visibly shaken as he relived his dream. His color was duller and he kept clasping and unclasping his hands. I knew that the rest of his dream, the part that remained unspoken had to be so tormenting that he struggled to put words to it.
“Promise me you won’t go swimming at night,” he finally said after he composed himself. A tiny smile spread across his lips, though the emotion behind it wasn’t there. I could tell he was still worried by what was playing in his head.
I put my hand over his hands and gave them a gentle squeeze. The act of humanity that would unite my brother and I for the rest of our lives. I wanted him to feel within that squeeze that whatever was so horrible in his dream didn’t reside in his sister. I was still the compassionate person who cradled him after he fell off his bike or cut himself while trying to construct a kite. I was still me and I needed him to believe that too.
Only a year separated my brother and I. I am 16. Mom died while giving birth to him. According to our father, she had premonitions of her impending death at the birth of her son. She also knew there was nothing she could do to change it though my grandmother and my father begged and pleaded with her, dragging her to different specialist who all confirmed the terrible horror, the only way to save my mother’s life was to abort the baby and even that was no guarantee.
There was a blood clot that had lodged itself in her uterus. it threatened to dislodge at any moment and my mom became a walking bomb. My father and grandmother were afraid that any small thing my mom did might ignite the bomb and kill them both. They forbid her to do anything and she was confined in her bed in the guest bedroom of the house.
My father became convinced that if he slept next to my mother, he might accidentally bump into her pregnant belly and scatter the clot and end it all. He continued to sleep alone in his bedroom and little did he know that in doing so, he had sealed her fate as well as his. The conception of my brother was the last night my parents slept together. The blending of two hearts spawned and made one more after me.
They named him Ambrosio, Brosio for short; which means eternal and indestructible. I guess in a way he is. He is the culmination of all the love my mother had to give and she lives on through him. The love that had brought my parents together separated them in a cruel way.
I was too young to know what was going on. My grandmother immediately filled the role that my mother was stripped of. She did that until I was 9 and then she moved back to Mexico, where she grew up as a little girl.
She always told me that even though there were angry hearts there, it was a sacred place. She recalled places she would wander to as a girl. Surrounded amongst trees so much bigger than her, they became her guardian. She claimed the trees talk and that if we listened, they had so much to say.
My grandmother still talks to the trees, though the places she traversed as a girl are no longer there. Industrialization and the need for more houses and buildings trumped the need to protect the environment. Grandma said she cried when the trees told her it was their destiny to be sacrificed to the steel teeth of the tree grinder as it rendered them useless and extinguished any sense of magic they may have possessed.
When the plane landed in Jalisco,Mexico the air was extremely thick and sticky. Immediately the passengers which moments ago were subdued in a pressurized cabin floating aimlessly through the sky, came to life.
I watched as the people around me scattered around looking for the cargo that they had brought with them. Pieces of a former life, left behind for a moment or forever from the United States. I clutched my own backpack to my chest. In it were very few items, though we were staying in Mexico the entire summer.
In the thickened air lived the thickened words of the fellow passengers. Words strung together to form deconstructed sentences composed of English and Spanish.
“Do you remember any Spanish,” my brother whispered into the shirt of his right shoulder.
“No, but the way these people are talking, it makes it sound like an angry language.” I listened to the heightened inflections and the words spewing out so fast from the mouths of impatient people. I could barely keep up with what they were saying, let alone what the words conveyed.
My brother smiled. “It’s the language of love.”
We were ushered outward, expelled from the belly of the plane, a colorful regurgitation of various people of all ages. We were greeted by a sea of worried, yet happy faces as they searched the crowd of people that emerged from the plane.
She stood just off by a bank of pay phones. Her silvery gray hair was pulled up into a messy bun. She wore her usual attire a lavender colored sundress with pictures of dolphins swimming across the bottom of it. The dress clung to her skeletal frame in a deranged taunt of serenity
She looked aged beyond her 60 years and unslept. The bags under her eyes stood out against the otherwise coffee color of her skin. She has never allowed herself to look so disheveled. A breath of unease went through my bones and I was slightly chilled despite the heat projected from the sun which had fused with the energy of the sea and formed a sickeningly, suffocating kind of humidity.
She greeted my brother and I with a quick hug and then urged us through the conglomeration of people towards the parking lot.
“Does she seem weird?” I whispered to my brother.
His eyes gave me an understanding look, understanding mixed in with tinges of fear. “It looks like her face is melting.” He gulped.
It looked like her entire body was melting. The flesh and bones were collapsing under the weight of her sundress.
“Grandma, are you okay?” I finally managed to ask. I chose the words carefully in my head and I replayed the sentence so many times. How to brooch the subject without making her feel worse. Are you okay was the best I could do.
Her bony hand ruffled the top of my head, she had to stand on her tiptoes to reach me and that threw off her center of gravity, she leaned in a little too far and almost fell over, I blocked her fall. “Zan, don’t worry. I’m fine. Just tired. I didn’t sleep all night in anticipation of your arrival.”
Though her voice sounded like hers, the words she chose to use were different. I tried my best to ignore it as well as the shockingly disheveled look of her appearance.
My grandfather had a heart attack that was the cause of his demise just about a year ago. My grandma took it in stride, she shed her tears and then one day she put away her handkerchief and said “It was God’s will.” I wondered now if her appearance was the grief for my grandfather that she kept locked away in her heart finally resurfacing in a terrible way.
When we got to my grandma’s house, the sun was starting to set. The light from the setting sun bathed my grandma’s house in an eerie glow. The sun was a huge ball of fire that could be seen peeking out through the forest of trees, no longer sitting within it’s throne in the sky. The sun was slowly kissing the earth goodnight.
“I made soup and tortilla’s.” My grandma turned off the car and we climbed out. “Hopefully it is still warm!”
The three of us ate in silence. Grandma hardly touched what she had prepared for herself. She had a faraway look on her face. Her eyes seemed disinterested.
Brosio and I unpacked in the single guest room she had prepared for us. Brosio staked claim to the twin bed before I could say anything and so as my consolation prize, I slept on the sofa.
I could look out into the backyard through her sliding screen door if I laid on my left side. It was a moonless night and a million twinkling stars could be seen overhead. It was as if someone had a container of silver glitter and created the night sky when it spilled.
I woke up a little after 3:30 AM. The glowing red numbers gave away the time from its position in the kitchen. The built in clock on the oven. I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water when something caught my eye.
There was a strange light coming from grandma’s back yard, I could make it out through the screen door. The light was still and didn’t seem to be moving, but it was bright enough that it illuminated the backyard. I couldn’t quite tell where it was coming from. It seemed to be manifesting out of the air around itself.
I peered through the sliding glass door. The rest of the house was silent. I couldn’t even hear the hum of the refrigerator.
Then I saw her…grandma was in the yard, well at the edge of her yard just before it turned into rough forest. She was pacing back and forth with her head hung down. I watched in silence and wondered what she was doing and if I should disturb her. The light bathed her in a harsh yellow glow. Her limbs seemed fuzzy, she was wearing a long gown.
She must have felt someone watching because she stopped her pacing and turned to cast an eerie stare towards me. Even though she was so far away from me, I knew that the woman standing outside was not my grandma. Her face was smoother, her hair was almost silky as it hung down her back. In fact this woman was almost 30 years younger than my grandma was and I wondered why I confused the two.
I continued to watch her and she continued to stare at me. She seemed to be communicating with me through her eyes. It was if the distance that separated us had come together and she was almost close enough to touch. I could perceive her just on the other side of the glass.
“Turn around. Home is not here.”
I didn’t understand what she meant by her words. Her eerie stare was replaced with a look of concern. Her mouth was lowered at the corners giving her an exaggerated look of sadness. Though she was so familiar, I realized that I had never seen her before.
She reached up to put her hand on the glass, at first I thought she was trying to make contact, trying to endearingly touch my face, but instead she traced invisible numbers onto the glass door. If I didn’t try too hard, I could almost see tracers her fingers left behind after she had scrawled the numbers that only she could see. I made out the numbers 0,1,1,2,3,and then I think a 5. She continued scribbling numbers and my tired brain and overworked eyes couldn’t pick up the rest.
Finally she stopped and looked satisfyingly at her work, work that only she could see. After the numbers that I thought I saw, the glass door only continued to reflect her in the outside world. There were no numbers or even clues of the numbers she had just wrote on the door.
She didn’t say anything else and before I could communicate my bewilderment, she turned and walked…glided over the backyard where the rough forest and grandma’s yard seamlessly blended. As soon as she crossed the boundary, she was gone as well as the light that lit up the yard. I realized that she must have been connected to the light.
“What are you doing Zan?” There was a whisper behind me.
I was so focused on what had transpired just moments ago as well as the weird sequence of numbers that I thought I saw on the glass door, that I didn’t hear Brosio come in behind me…not until he said “Turn around! I want to go home because you’re starting to scare me too.”
I shuddered and my body jerked involuntarily. I turned to find Brosio sitting on the sofa and wondered how long he had been there.
“What did you say?” I asked him carefully.
“I said to turn around! You were standing there staring dumbfounded out into the yard for the last 10 minutes. I tried talking to you, I even tried tapping you on the shoulder. Are you okay?” His voice went from slightly angry to concerned.
I was even more confused. I sat down on the floor cross legged and buried my head in my hands. How could he have been there that long and not have seen the woman, more importantly why didn’t I hear him?
I blew a huge sigh of air out through my hands as they shielded my face and concealed my bewilderment before saying “I thought I saw something…or someone.”
A look of terror came across Brosio’s face. “I think we should go home. Something isn’t right here.”
I waited a moment to see if he would continue on his own. He looked as if he wanted to say more, but he didn’t elaborate.
At that moment a sense of maturity and annoyance crept through me. I couldn’t understand why he would be so quick to leave grandma alone in her current state which we both agreed was out of the norm. Annoyance yielded to understanding and realization. He was scared. He was responding the way his years of training had taught him. Fight or flight turned into flight and he was ready to go.
“Brosio, I’m worried about Grandma.” All of the maturity and realization that danced around inside of my head turned into one sentence of honesty.
He threw his hands up exasperated. “Zan, before I came out here, I went past grandma’s room, her lights were still on. She was staring out of her bedroom window and she was mumbling weird things and then I came down here and you were staring out the glass door and you didn’t even notice me. I tapped you on the shoulder for crying out loud! “
My rebuttal died on my lips, lost in the air in front of me. I didn’t know what to say.
“You’re right,” I finally said after a few seconds. “Something weird is going on.” My thoughts were caught up in a tornado, revolving restlessly inside of my brain. Words and images broken up, a conscious attempt to organize the information I experienced and what my brother told me. I didn’t want to let on fear because I knew that would only get in the way of helping grandma…if she needed it.
I wasn’t sure how long she had been this way and if she was beyond the point of saving.
Brosio shifted uncomfortably and the sofa groaned underneath him. “I don’t like this Zan….Maybe we sho-“
“Children, for heaven’s sake, what is going on out here?” The hall lights came on and lit the way for grandma. She stood at the edge of the living room watching Brosio and I. She didn’t look angry, she didn’t look concerned. She just looked indifferent. Her voice betrayed little emotion. She was almost a shell of the grandma I had spent the first 9 years of life with.
“Sorry Grandma! Did we wake you?” I asked.
“No,” she shook her head. “Please don’t stay up too late.” She didn’t give us time to say anything else. She turned and walked back to her room. She hit the light switch as she went by and the hallway swallowed her in darkness.
“See!?!” Brosio practically screeched in an exaggerated whisper. “What the hell was that all about?”
I agreed with Brosio, but as fate would have it, we were stuck. Dad was over a whole country away and our plane tickets home were set for the end of summer. I didn’t think that dad would believe our concerns. Lately he has been too absorbed in his real estate business.
“I dunno,” I finally said.
Brosio and I didn’t sleep much the rest of that night. Grandma ended up snoring into the early morning hours and then she woke up and came out of her bedroom as the sun streamed through the glass sliding doors. We just watched in silence.
“Good morning guys,” she said as she walked into the kitchen. She began gathering items to make breakfast.
Her movements seemed mechanical, staged. She seemed to have rehearsed this routine a million times, her movements were flawless. I noticed that the dishes didn’t make a sound as she set them down, the cupboard doors didn’t have the familiar crash as wood met wood that followed when the cupboard door met its frame.
It was as if she anticipated the sounds and the time and force needed to set these objects down and she intervened before these objects could protest.
The ringing of the telephone stopped grandma’s show and seemed to be an alarm beckoning me back to reality.
Brosio offered to get the phone, but before he could reach it, Grandma’s hand reached out and snatched it up from the cradle where it screamed to life. She did all of this without noticing Brosio and treated it as a hiccup in her routine. She continued to scramble eggs while speaking partly in Spanish and English into the phone.
I decided that I didn’t want to watch anymore of this weird scene unfolding and decided instead to go take a shower. Physically I was feeling tired from the lack of sleep, the time difference and being in a different bed, not my own, but at the same time I was fueled by a deep unease that something was wrong with grandma.
I had to go through grandma’s room to get to the bathroom.
Her bed was against the far right corner and the bathroom was perpendicular to the foot of her bed. There was a faint odor of sickness in the air, sickness covered by time and laundry detergent. I noticed her bed was unmade which was unusual for her and that there were several pieces of crumbled up tissue paper all over the floor around her bed. I also noticed a dark colored ceramic bowl and a coffee mug on the floor near the head of her bed.
I forgot for a moment that I was going into the bathroom and that I had wanted to take a shower. I picked up the dishes that were near the head of the bed to carry them out into the kitchen. I thought maybe grandma had forgotten them after having a snack last night.
While I was making my way into the kitchen with the dishes, I was struck with a terrible pain that started at the fleshy part of my hand, where my thumb and index finger converged and then it spread through my entire body, a feeling of being on fire. My chest started to feel tight and I felt like I was gasping to take in air. I didn’t want to panic, or alarm the rest of the house, I set the dishes on the floor and put my forehead against the wall.
I focused on my breathing and willing my panicked self to quiet down. I tried to tell myself that I was okay. I was just tired. I must have had a cramp in my hand. It must be that time of the month. I realized just how easy it was for my brain to find “rationalizations” to what had just happened.
I could hear Brosio and grandma talking…well Brosio did most of the talking. Small talk about the trip in general.
Within a manner of a few minutes, I started to feel a little better and in control of my lungs and ability to take in air again. I looked at the dishes on the floor beside me and thought about the weird feeling that came over me and I unconsciously began to attach the sickened feeling to the dishes. It scared me to pick them up again, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave them on the floor.
At that moment, Brosio walked over.
“Zan, where did these dishes come from, why are they on the floor? What’s going on with you?” He bent over to pick up the dishes and I allowed him, curious to see if he had the same reaction as me.
He set them in the sink and started to wash them all without ill effects. I allowed myself to think that maybe the feeling I got from the dishes were just coincidence and that I was starting to feel the effects of the trip and traveling at such high speeds in a pressurized tube for so long was starting to catch up to me.
I excused myself from breakfast and instead went to lay down on the twin bed that Brosio claimed last night.
As soon as my head hit the pillow and I turned to my left side, my preferred side to sleep on, sleep was immediate. It embraced me with a feeling of warmth and I acquiesced without protest.
I’m not sure how long I slept, but it seemed to be restless. I didn’t dream and was abruptly awakened by some sort of chanting in spanish.
“Error en tiempo de…leccion aprendida…Pueden restaurar la fe y Dios…alma de esta mujer…”
On the other side of my doorway in the hallway looking into grandma’s room was an older women, with thinning wisps of hair that did little to cover her scalp. She was waving something that looked like a bundle of dried herbs that she must have lit on fire, a cyclone of smoke curled off the end it of producing a strong scent of burning sage into the air. She directed the burning sage and her weird cantillating whisper towards grandma’s room.
Around her neck were rattlers from rattle snakes strung together with twine. As she continued her chanting, her body seemed to writhe and contort forming the illusion of a snake.
It was frightening to watch.
“Who are you? What are you doing?” My voice quivered more than I wanted it too.
The woman turned to face me and she seemed surprised to see me standing there. I had never seen her before. I wondered where Brosio was.
“Your grandma is sick.” The old lady said. Her voice vibrated through me sending shivers up and down my spine. She fingered the rattle snake remnants around her neck and they clattered together stirring life in pieces of deceased reptiles.
I nodded. As politely as I could I asked the old lady to please leave. Her presence permeated the air and left a feeling of anxiety. She seemed cryptic and unexplained and it left me feeling uneasy.
I watched her leave through the front door. Brosio was snoring loudly on the couch, oblivious to the intruder we had just moments ago. Sometimes I wished I could sleep as deeply and be blissfully ignorant to life around me.
I found grandma sitting unfazed on her bed. She was staring out her bedroom window.
“Did you know that woman?” I asked. My voice was an intruder to the sudden stillness of the house.
It lifted grandma from her thoughts long enough for her to look at me and say “What woman?”
The heat from the mid afternoon sun made its presence known as soon as I stepped outside. Droplets of sweat beaded themselves underneath my arms, breasts and behind my neck quickly welcoming me to Mexico, and at the same time reminding me that I wasn’t home anymore.
I traipsed across the backyard. The grass was shortened and brown, withered. Just ahead of me, the yard ended and gave way to dry forest trees. Trees that adorned the Earth like majestic pendants from times long ago and partially forgotten. I recognized several types of Oak trees standing guard.
I continued through the trees over an unmarked trail.
Dried leaves crunched underfoot. The warble of the birds took on an almost hypnotic effect, lulling me without complete awareness into a dreamlike state. I wanted to forget grandma’s weirdness for a moment. I needed to immerse myself in the beauty and magic of just being…experiencing life in Mexico.
The trees finally parted about a quarter of a mile in to reveal a large pond covered with so much algae, the water became a green, speckled carpet undulating over the static pond. Mosquitoes buzzing around became quickly attuned to the lunch buffet that entered their meeting grounds.
Aside from the buzzing of the hungry blood suckers, I noticed a single geometric dome, emerging past the thicket of trees on the other side of the algae pond. It was about the size of a typical camping tent though constructed out of adobe and was situated in the middle amongst a circle of the sacred trees.
Smoke bellowed out of the makeshift chimney which blemished the otherwise oddly beautiful dome. There was a strong smell of meat simmering with various other herbs.
I took cover behind a large Pochote tree, careful not to impale myself with one of the many thorns that covered the branches and trunk of this sacred tree. The tree offered a glimpse of the dome without becoming a trespasser.
I could hear what sounded like chopping sounds knife meeting cutting board in a frenzied series of chops.
Behind the structure I noticed what appeared to be snakes, lifeless and slit open from the center, drops of blood splattered the ground beneath where the snakes were strung up between two Pochote trees.
The chopping sounds ceased and the wooden door of the hut opened. A small, lithe woman noisily announced herself from the confines of her small abode.
She carried a large stock pot and several other kitchen utensils.
I recognized the wispy strands of gray hair that dotted her scalp in patches and the string of snake souvenirs around her neck.
The woman from Grandma’s house.
I swallowed a gasp which ended up turning into a choked cough. It gave away my position behind the tree and before I could run from the forest back to Grandma’s house, the old woman had materialized beside me. She was there incredibly fast and seemed to have stepped out of a portal that allowed her to teleport.
Her bony, thin fingers wrapped itself around my forearm exposing thickened bands of tendons which bulged beneath her paper thin skin.
A knowing smile crept across her lips. She recognized me, it was written in her eyes. Her lips parted to reveal yellowing teeth proudly standing post in the otherwise darkness of her mouth.
“Ahh,” she crooned. Her bony hand started to rhythmically stroke my arm.
“Tu abuela muy sick,” she revealed.
I could sense the intention in the weird stroking she did to my arm. She continued to trace weird symbols, lightning bolts, squiggly lines, circles and triangles one symbol quickly replaced by another one.
Her eyes were gray, the color of overcast skies and they burned into mine. Her hand as if controlled by something other than her stopped its doodling on my forearm. She took my hand between hers.
I squirmed slightly at the thinness yet somehow muscular strength of her tendonous hands.
As the warmth from her small, deceptively fragile body enveloped my hand, I felt my legs loose ground.
The forest deconstructed around me. The colors swirled into spirals before being engulfed by darkness. Shadows licked the boundary of reality and illusion. I found myself void of body but complete in thought.
I became aware of a strong impression left over from a time already past. I found myself immersed in Grandma’s house before it was hers.
I became aware of all aspects of the house from the cobwebs that clung to the darkened corners to the backyard and the forest beyond.
I was immersed in such a way that I was the house. I was the walls, the floor and the furniture. I embodied the inanimate objects with the emotion of the environment and mainly the prior tenant. The emotion screamed and whined and burned a sickening brownish orange the color of a burning candle, the part of the flame with little oxygen. Life seemed to be on mute.
I could perceive the hurried determination of the man who inhabited this dwelling before grandma.
I ascertained in a rapid succession of images as different emotions that coursed through the body of the man took life.
Images of bizarre writhing dances against the light of a full moon, blood letting, infliction of trauma to otherwise private body parts, and sacrificial remains of forest creatures offered as compensation in a desperate attempt to gain the knowledge of the gods.
His determination impinged on the fabric of time and festered like an ulcer.
I was keenly aware of this while the old woman held my hand and before I could assimilate the images and layers of emotion, she broke contact and I found myself slightly woozy. My legs trembled and I carefully steadied myself on the tree I tried to hide behind, my hand resting dangerously close to menacing thorns. It was gone just a moment ago, but returned as soon as my hand was released.
“But why,” I finally managed after the tumbling of my thoughts slowed and my perception of the forest cleared.
“Error en tiempo. He slipped away.” Her mysterious words were followed by a suffocating silence. Her cloudy gray eyes welled up with tears. Her demeanor imparted a profound sadness that penetrated my heart.
“You better go,” she said, her eyes motioning upwards signaling the setting sun.
Suddenly I could feel the wind pick up around me, whistling through the leaves a shrill high pitched wail.
The old women intuitively nudged me and I found myself walking along the unmarked trail the direction I had come. I stopped to turn around, to see if the old woman was still there, to affirm that what I had just experienced actually took place.
My eyes met the stillness of the algae pond and the circular grove of Pachote trees but gone was the woman’s hut, the hanging dead snakes and the woman herself. In place of the dome was a mound of dirt, a mirage of the woman’s home.
Darkness was encroaching fast. The last light of day being smothered by the many trees. Everything seemed to be still around me. My brain reeled with my strange encounter and I was starting to feel slightly shaken.
I usually considered myself a level headed young lady with the wisdom of a much older soul, but being thrust into a country so far from home, surrounded by a language and foods and atmosphere that I didn’t grow up in was a test to my spirit.
As I continued down the quickly darkening path, I could hear my brother’s panicked voice calling to me, then I could see him pacing the backyard impatiently calling out my name every 3rd or 4th step and then he pivoted 180 degrees and continued calling.
He stopped mid call when I emerged out of the forest boundary back into grandma’s yard.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Where were you?” He demanded. He narrowed his eyes at me and tilted his head to the left.
I confessed that I was spooked earlier when grandma barely acknowledged a visitor we had, that he completely missed and that I decided to take a walk to clear my mind. I left out my second encounter with the weird old woman who seemed to appear and disappear when she wanted. I kept secret the weird images I was exposed to under her touch.
“Well, grandma left,” he said.
I stared at him questioningly, suddenly very confused.
“She was in her bedroom one minute, I was reading my comic book and then she came out of her bedroom and said she had to leave.” Brosio shifted his weight from one foot to the other in a nervous habit.
“That’s not all,” he continued. “She didn’t have any shoes on and she didn’t take her purse. I went after her with her purse and sandals, but by the time I opened the front door, she was gone…her car is still there.”
I felt the world tilt on its axis, similar to how I felt as a child after I twisted myself on the swing set, braiding the metallic chain of the swing as I twirled myself with my foot and then when satisfied lifted my feet off the ground and spun. I’d step off when the swing came to rest and walk drunkenly to my father.
This time there wasn’t a swing and Brosio caught me, interrupting my drunken gait.
“I don’t know what to do,” I finally admitted and with those words I started crying. Big giant tears, runny sinuses, increases saliva…the whole bit.
I could sense that it made Brosio uncomfortable, but I couldn’t control it at this point. Just shy of two days and our world was flipped. We were so far from dad and home. Grandma had wondered off somewhere, shoeless, moneyless and carless. The tears were the pent up discomposure we were thrust into.
“Zan, we have to call dad.”
Brosio was already heading back into grandmas house, already making his way to the phone. I struggled to keep up with his quickened pace. i felt like I was moving through a very strong current.