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Death Comes to Mexico

July 29, 2010
File:CHS.J3056.jpg

Photograph taken by William Henry Jackson between 1890–1900

In a remote town in Mexico the hours of madness progressed on the bedside of an old friend. The sheets were soaked, the bed without adequate support and the room too warm for such a dark night.  The house was in shambles since the fever took over his body. His friends were inconsolable. His children too young to comprehend. Margarita, his wife, washed the blood soaked sheets mechanically. She made food when no one was hungry and rarely entered his room.

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Cantinflas: The Latin American Chaplin Photo Credit: Penarc

I pressed play and an old Cantinflas movie drew the attention away from the sores on his chest and into the world of comedy. When morning came, I found Margarita outside, peering in through the open window at his sleeping face. I heard her crying through the night, a fathomless sobbing even a pillow could not absorb. I motioned for her to come in. There was little time left.

A few hours later we huddled around him. I stared at his pale skin and remembered I’d already done this before. This was his second resurrection, his second death. I wiped the perspiration from his face and neck and turned him on his side. His children kissed him. Followed by Margarita. Words of love filled the room and my awareness heightened.

I whispered, “We’ll see each other again soon.”

As his body grew heavy and cold everyone began to leave the room. Margarita and I sat in silence, waiting for the second wave of sadness to descend. When it came, a soft tapping on the door followed. In the doorway, a thin woman stood looking into the house. Margarita must have seen a harmless old woman so she let her in.

But what I saw submerged my heart into a pool of anxiety. Her walking cane appeared too thick; my eyes remained fixed on its strange shape. She crawled over slowly and lifted her face to meet my eyes. A lifeless gaze came through those shadowy eyes.

In a few moments she would spin this room into another reality. The only thing left would be the house before the fever. Margarita in the kitchen with the kids. And I would be walking alone on a seedy path finding my way back into this town.

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A Western depiction of Death

The old woman lifted her hand and pointed a crooked finger. Her nails were long, bright red and bent in the direction of the ground. She floated over, my eyes mesmerized and frightened at once at the sight of such a macabre spectacle. She smiled, too. A dark, gaping mouth with broken teeth and the scent of death. As she overshadowed my vision, I felt a numbing substance penetrate the skin along my navel.

Out came the blue sky and clouds and the red dust. When I felt the hot grains under my back I sat up, dusted my dress and resumed the journey.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2010 10:38 am

    So good. I actually gasped towards the end. I loved the Mexican setting. It was very authentic and added to the underlying tone of superstition surrounding death. One of your best!

    • Wendy permalink*
      July 30, 2010 7:32 pm

      Selma,
      Thank you! It means so much to me (because your own stories are always fantastic) that you found the setting authentic since Mexico is particularly vivid in my dreams.

  2. July 30, 2010 12:17 pm

    I agree with Selma, Wendy, this is a magnificent piece. I can’t but help see paintings in the Mexican spirit. You have managed to capture in the story not just a moment in time but imbued it with the historic past as well.

    Wonderful!

    Sophia

    • Wendy permalink*
      July 30, 2010 8:11 pm

      Sophia,
      When I was writing the story I had some doubts as to whether I could weave the different textures of the dream. But if you saw paintings in the Mexican spirit then perhaps the dream was realized. I really appreciate your thoughts, thank you.

  3. August 6, 2010 10:31 am

    Such a warming and inviting style you use. Great stuff

    • Wendy permalink*
      August 6, 2010 10:53 am

      Thank you! So glad you enjoyed reading this.

  4. August 6, 2010 10:54 am

    Loved this. The whole thing. I’m a fan of Mexico and death, and this just really grabbed me. Thanks!

    • Wendy permalink*
      August 8, 2010 8:41 pm

      Carrie,
      Thank you! I’m fond of Mexico, too. This piece was inspired by one of my dream visitations there.

  5. yearzerowriters permalink
    August 6, 2010 3:54 pm

    I felt like I was there in the room, somewhere in Mexico, viewing the soon-corpse in the bed sweating blood. Thanks for releasing me at the end from such a nightmarish vigil.

    Well done, excellent piece.

    Marc Nash

    • Wendy permalink*
      August 8, 2010 10:08 am

      Thanks, Mark. So pleased you felt transported by this piece.

  6. August 8, 2010 6:04 pm

    Wendy, sad piece; very nice homage. Well-written.

    • Wendy permalink*
      August 8, 2010 9:07 pm

      Aidan,
      I suppose it is one of the saddest pieces I’ve written lately. Glad you liked it.

  7. August 15, 2010 3:33 am

    Seems he’s trapped in a loop without end, like a repeating nightmare. The writing is vivid and alive, and the story leaves me with disquieted — it will continue to nibble at my mind.

    Welcome to #fridayflash.
    ~jon

    • Wendy permalink*
      August 17, 2010 6:25 pm

      This is definitely in the category of recurring nightmare – very scary indeed! Thanks for the warm welcome, Jon!

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