Even though I don’t want to talk about this, I’m going to do it so that you leave me alone.
You’re not exaggerating, are you? Have you dreamed of it?
No, it wasn’t a dream and I’m not exaggerating
And… sometimes old people do
Are you going to tell me now that I am just like the boys, an old man turning into a boy
That would be changing the subject
Let’s leave it like so
Let’s go on, think that as long as you can’t put it into words, it will continue haunting you
Stop! I can manage my life.
There was no way to resume the conversation that day. I managed to collect a little information, but I needed more to complete it. If I had known, I would have kept insisting, but I chose to go to the river because it was hot, so I left it for later.
I wanted him to tell me exactly what he had seen that dawn before he woke up when a hand lifted his eyelids and forced him to look at a creature that he was never able to recognize, in any of the places I have taken him to. He didn’t want to describe it either because every time we got to the assembly of the figure he got stuck and refused to continue.
We had been trying for years. First, it was my mom who became infatuated with his talking about that demon, as she called it, that had flooded his days, especially his nights, with ill-gotten dreams. Until he told her, back off and don’t bother me anymore, respect me because I’m your father! I had never seen the old man so angry; mom got a little scared.
I grew up knowing grandpa’s fears. When I was a girl I would ask him innocently, and he would come out with any nonsense and I would end up crying. Every Sunday they would make a mess! Don’t scare the girl, and they ended up quarrelling.
Now it can’t impress me anymore, I thought, when I returned to town with my degree in my hands. Someone had to be the object of my practice, so I resorted to my grandfather’s fear to do a job that would help me with my postgraduate studies. I could enjoy the Summer, analyze my grandfather, and have fun with my friends in the river. We spent entire afternoons watching the water run, laughing out loud, and plunging off the cliffs. The last thing I remember is Meche’s voice, it’s your turn, and I heard a noise as soon as I jumped and felt the water. It was my head.
It was Winter, and you know that here in town the cold is more intense. I perceived that cold entering my eyes until I managed to wake up and noticed that they were open, grandfather told me, resigned.
A soft, cold, rubbery hand held his eyelids, forcing him to see. The creature was made of algae and smoke, with red eyes distributed all over its body, from which strands of green slime hung and watched him with a burning gaze. The smell it gave off was sour, and deep, with a fleck of metal. It moved around the room looking for something it didn’t find. It threatened to return to look for it. It also spoke and narrated an invisible story. It demanded that he kept both that apparition and what it was telling him a secret, that his life would end if he revealed it and the worst misfortunes would occur around him. It came back as many times as it wanted and there were many.
He cannot tell me why that figure was exhibited before him, nor if at any time throughout his existence, he found an explanation for it, nor does he know what it was pursuing with such an interest. I don’t know, I don’t know, he tells me, afflicted and trying to find a reason, and I never told anyone, since I was young. I have kept this anguish so that no one suffers the horror I have to go through every time it appears.
He reproaches mom for her obstinacy, which, according to him, she infected me with. We never stopped insisting that he tell us about that apparition in detail. If you and your mother had left me alone, you wouldn’t be like this; the darkness that it told me about will die with me, you won’t be able to get that out of me, he affirms with conviction. Grandfather looks at me crying, wiping the tears and saliva, which he can’t contain with his wrinkled handkerchief, as it falls from the corner of his mouth.
Somehow, we are going to continue living, grandpa, I comfort him in a metallic voice reproduced by the device that translates the movement of my eyes. The only thing I can move.
Cristina Mabel González (Argentina) is a professor of Literature, a specialist in Latin American Literature and Specialist in Women and Gender Studies. She has been published in literary magazines and anthologies.