Eternal dream (Final)

IX

Alfonso stops by the door of the quickstop, where he finds the reflection of his face on the glass of the door, his long, white, gray hair, and his long, singeing beard.

Who am I?

The question has no answer. The golden, cracked skin, dry lips, characteristics that do not correspond to any glimmer of unity inside the observer.

Dry lips…

The sentence reminds him of something he cannot remember, a faceless nostalgia and nameless anguish. He decides to enter the store without answering the question, walks through the aisles full of candy, vibrant colors that fill him with wistfulness. Walking down the aisle at the end, Alfonso finds himself facing the row of refrigerators, he stares at a bottle of mineral water, the shape of the bottle reminds him of something he cannot realize, a diffuse memory that leads him to open the door of the refrigerator and take the bottle in his hands, the cold relaxes him, it leads him to take a deep breath. The woman at the cash register has been looking at him for a while. Alfonso knows this, but he downplays the issue, preferring to open the bottle and take a big sip of water. Refreshing, but he is interrupted by the woman’s voice.

Hey, what are you doing!

Alfonso stops, the woman approaches him, brings a red blanket, one that she had kept for the cold, she uses it to cover the body of the old naked man she has found in the corridor of the refrigerators. Alfonso thanks her, but she has not finished, she asks him to pay for the water before consuming it. Alfonso listens carefully and then puts his hands in his pockets, but he has no pants. The woman gets angry, asks him to leave the store, to take the water away but not to continue to mess the floor with sand, points to Alfonso’s dirty feet, feet with which he has painted a trail of sand everywhere he has stepped. Alfonso walks towards the exit, passes by the woman’s side, she backs up when she sees the depth of his eyes, there she finds the glow of the stars. Alfonso is happy to see her, he remembers her from before, although he doesn’t know when, he bids her farewell with a reverence. As he walks through the door of the quickstop, Alfonso sees the next object that catches his eye, an empty gas can, next to the gas pump hose. With eyes full of tears, a smile on his face, and arms raised to the sky in an attempt to embrace the sun, Alfonso celebrates the discovery. He doesn’t know why, he doesn’t remember, but that canister fills his heart with joy, an intense joy that drives him to run to the pump to get the canister and insert the nozzle of the pump inside. Alfonso presses the trigger and the gasoline is poured inside. And just then, the bathroom door, at the side of the quickstop, hits the frame announcing the arrival of a man on the scene. It’s a burly guy wearing a trucker’s cap on his head.

Hey! Hey, you! Are you going to pay for that?

Surprised by the statement, but even more surprised to see the face of the person who is questioning him, Alfonso kicks on the floor with joy, suffering hidden inside him disappears, a miracle without identification leads him to thank the heavens and Pedro, who continues to approach Alfonso and fails to understand anything of what is happening.

Did I miss anything? You’re going to pay, right?

Alfonso panics, grabs the drum with both hands and runs out, releasing the jet, which continues to expel liquid from its interior and spill it on the floor. Alfonso hugs the canister tightly as he escapes from the station, into the road and the desert. Pedro runs in pursuit, but stops at the pump to stop the gasoline pouring onto the ground uncontrollably. The time lost is enough for Alfonso to reach a considerable distance, insurmountable assumes Pedro, in the midst of the embracing heat of noon, so he desists in the pursuit.

X

Alfonso runs without stopping, he doesn’t give himself time to look back. He doesn’t run because he is being chased, he runs because he knows he still has time, although he doesn’t remember what for. Hours fly on the impulse, until his legs ask for a break, the sun lying down on the horizon, and the heat has dropped considerably. His guts are rumbling. When was the last time he ate? A blind confidence leads him to go into the dunes of the desert and to wait in silence. And then, between the lines described in the sand, a circular movement, like a whip drawing outlines on the ground, reveals the movement of a snake emerging from the depths. Alfonso observes it and without even thinking about it, he throws himself towards it, hunger drives him, instinct drives him, love for the imperishable time drives him to pursue it a long way, leaving the drum behind, because what will become of the can without someone to carry it? Alfonso manages to find the snake, grabs it by the tail, and strongly whips it against the ground until life escapes from it. When the killing is over, Alfonso says goodbye to the snake, thanks the universe for providing it, takes off his red cloak and places it on the ground, and deposits the snake’s body there. A furtive look at the canister, arranged on the side of the road, reveals that the object in question is not in its position; a young man has taken it and is carrying it. Alfonso hurries to hunt down the intruder, catches him and throws himself at him, managing to knock him down without much difficulty. The canister returns to his hands and Alfonso stays looking at the young man for a while. For his part, the young man spends the afternoon begging Alfonso to lend him the gasoline he needs to rescue a woman stranded in the middle of the desert. Words that unleash a series of diffuse, unconnected, but strangely familiar memories in Alfonso. One specific word echoes in his memory.

Amelia.

Alfonso remembers meeting someone with that name, a powerful feeling that brings him back to the desert sands, that ties him to the destination of the road, to the gasoline can and to the long journey he has undertaken. But Alfonso prefers not to say anything, he is not sure of these memories, of the story that they link, and for sure that saying things without being sure is a bad idea, he thinks to himself. Night falls on Alfonso and on the young man, a fire is lit in the dark, the flames dance to the rhythm of the night winds. Millions of thousands of years still unprocessed in his mind, Alfonso does not manage to stay long in the present time. Even so, he makes the greatest effort to pay attention to the words of the young man, who interrogates him with questions whose answer he does not possess. Questions about origins, about destinies, but Alfonso does not manage to position himself in the arrow of time, the situation seems to him an echo of something that had already happened, even without remembering what comes after or what came before this that is now happening. Only one sentence manages to thread, there is a woman he wants to find, he has lost her in the avatars of time, will it be enough to shut him up? Alfonso chooses not to say more, loses interest in the conversation and soon falls into a deep sleep.

The space is occupied, how to enter?

Among the veils of dreams, a car appears in the middle of the road, a woman opens up whole, her skin falls on the passenger seat, a flower emerges, a thorny rose, the stems grow and the thorns occupy the entire interior space of the vehicle.

Alfonso opens his eyes in fear, the young man takes the canister, tries to snatch it from his hands, forces him to stand up and fight, but why fight?

Better to let go.

Alfonso reflects and the forces he leaves aside, his body now moves thanks to the strength of the young man, the thrust pushes him towards the flames with the canister held in his arms. The touch of the fire and the explosion, as intense as sunlight, envelops him in flames. Alfonso bears the pain in silence, lets himself be burned, embraces the flames like old friends who come to guide him, angels who come down from the sky to illuminate the path. The fire is extinguished after a while, Alfonso’s body stiff, his eyes lost in the blink of the stars that receive him once more and beyond, beyond the most extensive and darkest depth, he knows that everything will start again.

The first rays of the sun timidly illuminate the contour of the desert and tickle Alfonso’s charred fingers. He agonizes, it is difficult for him to breathe, every breath burns him inside, every exhalation as if it were a nail in his chest. He remains still, almost does not feel anything, does not feel the movement of the sand around him, does not feel those beings that return to the surface hungry, in search of food, and that find him lying down, helpless. There will be two, then three, and soon more than twenty snakes sliding through the sand toward the burnt body. The feast begins. Teeth like fine needles tearing the flesh until they are satiated. The snakes finish eating the flesh and return to the sand. Later, a couple of vultures circles the sky over the charred body, taking their time before descending. A peck and another piece of meat is separated from the bone. The vultures devour every muscle with surgical precision, including the eyes and guts. Then they return to the skies and get lost on the horizon. After a while, a family of beetles makes its way through the sand, reaches the immobile body and takes its share. The days pass and only bones remain.

XI
And Alfonso? Where is he? Alfonso is in the snakes that roam the desert, he is in the vultures that sail the skies, he is in the beetles that bury themselves in the earth. But Alfonso wants to free himself, the desire to return to that place that he hardly remembers anymore, that place that keeps calling him, persists like the light of the stars. With great effort he manages to free himself from the flesh that imprisons him, helped by the fact that it almost disintegrates in the stomach of the beings that fed on him. One more effort and his soul separates entirely from the material, then he falls, falls as he has fallen before, as the stars collapse and separate in spite of all efforts to endure. But Alfonso does not want to be part of the history of the universe; his desire is to return to his memories, to retain them. And every time the galaxies collapse and everything begins again, he returns, countless times and under a thousand forms. At the beginning it is difficult for him, he can only be geometrical figures, he is a triangle embedded in a grain of sand, he is a cube, traveling in a beam of light, between the reflections of the dunes and the sun. A car passes by the road, a thundering music throws waves through the air, changing the nature of all things, even of himself and now Alfonso is part of a song, a specific strophe “stay with her”, “stay with her” is repeated like a mantra throughout the song and someone listens, but the sound waves last as long as a blink of an eye and that is not enough for Alfonso. Again at the end of the universe and back again. This time as a drop of rain that falls in a spring at the beginning of his life and then is taken, encapsulated in a bottle of water. The same drop that slips gracefully through a woman’s lips and manages to calm her nervousness in a tense situation, Alfonso remembers the happiness, but he wants more, he is not satisfied. This time he is a fly that is born on the putrid flesh of a corpse, as soon as his eyes meet the rays of the sun, his adventure through the air begins. He flaps his wings in search of an aroma that he can barely perceive, which is only an illusion at the beginning, but which, with each movement, grows in intensity. After having lost half of his life in the journey, the fly finds the origin of the aroma that drives him forward. The turbulence of the wind prevents him from advancing, it moves him in all directions. But the fly does not let himself be intimidated; he has been a man, has taken a life, has been robbed of his life, has traveled this existence countless times, the wind is not a rival, it is itself in another age. This is how he lets himself go and soon finds himself in the cabin of a car, amazed by the man and the woman who now talk and laugh inside. He approaches the man and, with all his strength, shouts at him not to waste time, that destiny can be cruel in the same way that men are or have been. But the man does not listen; the fly flies through the air once more, and goes around both looking for some solution. He does not find it; tired he stops at the mouth of the bottle, where he recognizes himself in the form of a drop of rain. Distraction prevents him from seeing the woman’s hand until it is too late, life is lost again. Again the end of the universe and the man returns as an animal, a fox that ventures into the desert dunes, that hunts snakes and faces vultures, that fights to stay alive long enough. Until a thundering sound changes the nature of things, “stay with me” is repeated and the fox knows that the time has come. One look is enough to change the life of the man who until then was walking the dark spaces of his own consciousness and then the epiphany, be an idea. The universe collapses and begins again, this time Alfonso is born from the vision of man, a set of synapses, of electrochemical impulses that form the powerful image of the majestic fox in the middle of the desert sands, a sticky idea that later translates into words that travel through the air and enter her ears.

XII

Amelia settles into the seat and closes her eyes, falling into a deep sleep. It is a calm dream, like the belly of a whale, warm and protective. Through the thick mist of her restful consciousness appears the image of a man walking along the road. It is Alfonso returning with a jerry can of gasoline in his hands. Amelia watches him from the window and smiles, their glances cross and they recognize each other as if only minutes had passed since they last saw each other. Alfonso arrives at the car and tells Amelia that he has found the can lying on the side of the road, which has been a miracle. She stretches to get rid of the laziness and gets out to stretch her legs for a while. Alfonso fills the pond with fuel, stares at Amelia, and can’t help but smile.

Something has ended.

Alfonso forgets everything else and returns to the car, Amelia enters with him.

Shall we go?

Shall we go? Amelia asks cheerfully.

Alfonso nods, turns the key and the engine starts. The car advances towards the horizon, where the desert ends.

Eternal dream (Part II)

II

The hours pass and Alfonso is left alone with the desert landscape and his thoughts. Lying down on the side of the car, he smokes one cigarette after another waiting for the announced rescue that still does not materialize. The sun is lost in the horizon, the flame of the lighter burns and lights the tip of the fourth cigarette, Alfonso takes a big puff and exhales the smoke into the wind in an attempt to stay calm. Looking inside the vehicle, Amelia continues to sleep. Then he looks to both sides of the road and manages only to measure the enormous space that separates him from civilization, a situation that reassures him. In a few words, Alfonso does not want to return to the everyday life he has built, he feels trapped in it, squeezed to the last drop of novelty that he could find in the same streets he has walked all his life, in the same living spaces, in the same people with whom he has shared his life. Put in this way, is it so bad to have been stranded in the middle of the road next to the only woman in his life for whom he has felt a true connection? Night finally falls on the desert and the cold forces Alfonso to return to the interior of the car. Amelia continues to sleep, surely she was very tired, after walking who knows for how long through the desert. Alfonso settles into his seat and closes his eyes. It takes him a long time to fall asleep, but he succeeds.

The next day, Alfonso wakes up with a sore neck, hanging from his seat for much of the night. He thinks he should have worn a sweatshirt as a pillow, but he has not wanted to copy Amelia. He prefers to open the door and stretch out, the morning wind receiving him fresh, enough to not make such a fuss about the fact that the people from the gas station haven’t shown up yet. Alfonso hoped they would show up during the night. Nothing to do and Amelia still sleeping in the co-pilot’s seat, will she have woken up? No, she is still in the same position she was sleeping the night before. At midday, Alfonso has made some laps around the car, he has walked to the limit of the road and the desert, he has taken the sand in his hands, it has slipped away completely, he has remembered the fox that influenced him the day before. And Amelia, continues sleeping in the same position. Alfonso despairs; at least eighteen hours have passed since she fell asleep. Has something happened to her? He doesn’t know and takes a long time before he dares to check. It occurs to him to move her from her position to try to wake her up. Perhaps she will be angry, but at least he will know that she is okay. He does it, he moves her from one side to another with delicacy, nothing. Then with strength, back and forth, he says her name, shouts her name and nothing, she does not open her eyes. Fear takes hold of Alfonso. Convinced that something bad is happening, he takes the bottle and pours what is left of the water over Amelia’s face, but she does not wake up. Without water and with his companion unconscious, Alfonso nervously meditates on the situation, which takes a dark turn when Alfonso notices that the phone has lost all of its battery life. Unable to ask for help, all lines of thought lead him to the same conclusion, the only solution is to venture into the desert in search of help. After more than a day of waiting, the arrival of external help seems to him to be an illusory idea. To remain waiting could mean not only his own death due to lack of water, but also the death of Amelia. A lot of questions impossible to answer keep him sitting in front of the wheel for a long time, it occurs to him to hit the handle to get even for the present situation. Already with sore arms, he decides to open the door to go out and start walking, and the desert receives him imposing and eternal.

III

One step after another, Alfonso advances through the empty road. His mind clings to the tireless gaze of the fox in the middle of the desert dunes, to the adventures of Amelia, who walked for so many hours in the desert. Can he do it too? He supposes that he has no other option, to walk until he finds help or perhaps to faint from the heat. Anyway, the situation amuses him, he feels alive, honest, whole, with a valid mission, with a different objective than the monotonous speech of simply staying alive. The sun crosses the horizon and in its movement it loses the incandescent pale tone that does not give truce, painting now the land of orange tones, then reddish, losing with it part of its intensity and making the trip more bearable. At sunset, Alfonso loses some of his initial impulse, it’s the tired legs, the feverish forehead, the dry throat that don’t allow him to move with the same ease. At the same time, he can’t stop walking, he doesn’t want to, he assumes that if he does, he won’t move again for a long time. The night almost falls completely when a new vision leaves him perplexed for the third time. Miracle, a gas can arranged on the berm. A mirage? No, it’s really there. Alfonso walks the stretch that separates him from this marvelous vision and finds the gas can, noting that it is almost completely full, enough to give new life to the car, to take Amelia to a hospital. However, as soon as Alfonso takes the can in his hands, a figure hidden among the dunes and the sand throws itself at it and knocks it down. It is an old man completely naked, with long filthy gray hair and a pronounced beard of the same color. From the ground, Alfonso notices that the eyes of the old man are shining as intensely as the stars that take possession of the sky; his vision leads him to discard assuming a hostile posture. And with those shining eyes, the old man does not stop observing, almost without blinking, Alfonso lying on the sand, while he picks up the gasoline can from the ground. Alfonso gets up from the floor and cleans his clothes with his hands. He tells the old man about the car stranded in the middle of the desert and the woman he had to leave behind to find a solution to the dilemma. However, after the story is over, the old man does not change his attitude; the gas can belongs to him and he has no intention of sharing it. Alfonso reluctantly accepts and sits down by the side of the road to rest, he has really been walking for more than four hours and night has fallen on the desert, to continue advancing in these conditions does not seem a good idea. While Alfonso is lost in thought, the old man gathers some branches and with some gasoline he prepares to light a fire, only to realize that he has no way to make a fire. Alfonso then approaches and lights the branches with the lighter, an object that causes the old man a lot of curiosity. The flames grow with the wind and the fire takes shape quickly. Alfonso and the old man sit by the fire and stare silently, both with the same lost gaze between the reddish crests and the small incandescent sparks that escape from the interior of the fire. Alfonso has not forgotten the gas can, he still has some hope of taking it away from the old man. He surprises himself by these Machiavellian thoughts, assuming they come from the desperate circumstances in which he finds himself. He decides to inquire about the old man’s motives, asks him what he is doing in the desert in the middle of the night, the old man scratches his chin and stays a while thinking, he seems not to remember what he is doing. After a long time he answers that he is looking for a woman who was lost a long time ago. Alfonso doesn’t know if the old man is pulling his leg, so he decides to ask for more details. The old man says that’s all he knows, that and that for no reason should he let go of the gas can he has with him, as it is necessary to rescue the woman. Alfonso responds, and assumes with insight, that the old man has released it when Alfonso has found it, at the side of the road. The old man goes off laughing for a long time. Irritated, Alfonso prefers to remain silent. Then, the old man gets up and from the side of the sand he takes a red robe, something is wrapped inside. The old man reveals the content hidden inside, it is a dead snake, which he presents to Alfonso, without hiding his pride as a hunter for having achieved it. Alfonso doesn’t hide his disgust for the discovery, the old man grabs the snake by its head, cuts it off with his teeth right there and buries it in a stick, which shows up towards the flames. The old man covers his body with the red robe and soon after, the snake is cooked, he takes it out of the fire and bites a piece, his face draws a wide smile. Could it be that he has not eaten in days? Alfonso wonders as he receives the piece of snake that the old man offers him. Both eat in silence, Alfonso says nothing, but the taste of the snake has seemed less terrible to him than he expected. It occurs to him to tell a joke.

  • It seems to lack a bit of salt.

The old man can’t understand. Doesn’t he know what salt is? A while later, the flames lose intensity, the old man’s eyes close and soon he falls asleep. Alfonso settles down on the sand to rest, but he cannot sleep. Another time passes, the flames burn agonizingly and Alfonso opens his eyes, in front of him, the can and the old man sleeping, a unique opportunity to get the gasoline and return to Amelia. He rises carefully from the floor and takes furtive, precise steps to avoid excessive noise. He manages to get so close to the old man that he can hear his breathing. Alfonso stretches out his hands to take the can and almost succeeds, but the old man wakes up excited, grabs the can with strength, pushing it towards his belly. Alfonso pulls once more but does not manage to take it away from him. The old man gets up and tries to run away, but Alfonso doesn’t let go and, without wanting to, ends up pushing the old man and the gas can towards the fire. The can falls first and then the old man, Alfonso cannot react, his intention is to help, but the explosion sends him flying through the air, along with a great flame that rises in the air, lighting up the night like the breath of a dragon, the column of fire rises in the middle of the darkness. The cries of the old man, wrapped in flames, keep Alfonso at the limit of consciousness, completely disoriented, he tries to stay awake, until the cries stop and only the flames remain. Confused, Alfonso tries to stand up a couple of times, but he doesn’t succeed, not until other hands pick him up and carry him to the back of a truck, where he is carefully placed. The doors of the truck close, Alfonso hears the voice of two people talking. These people, fuzzy silhouettes in the darkness of the cabin, ask him questions he can’t understand or answer. Tired, he lets himself go and falls completely asleep.

IV

The vaporous lines of the mirages, which meet on the horizon of the road at noon, form Alfonso’s body, which becomes flesh, comes alive and returns to the car in the middle of the desert. Walking he remembers the weight of noon and a bunch of foxes peep out among the dunes and receive him on his return. This fills him with joy, he takes the time to revere each one of them and wish them a prosperous journey. Smiling, he approaches the car and Amelia, soon he will see her again. A sudden impulse leads him to run the last stretch, and yet when he arrives he does not find her. Frightened, he looks out of the window to look at the inside of the car; what he finds there presses his heart and leads him to go back. There she is, but it is not her, but her body as if it were deflated, like her skin and clothes without muscles or skeleton to hold them, wrinkled and piled up on the seat. The vision is like a fabric that folds back but its tones still remember what she was. And then, from the inside, from the darkness that overflows in the tear in the middle of it, a red rose emerges that rises and the stems that accompany it take over the entire interior space of the car, until they break the windows and make Alfonso step back with blood on his hands.