Alguna vez Jacknife Springs, personaje de unos supuestos cuentos que leían los persnajes de mi relato "Destellos en vidrio azul", que será el siguiente en este blog, quiso ser algo más, un inspirador de otras barbaridades. Era un detective brutal, con esa irrealidad y libertad que da ser un personaje de un libro que ni siquiera existe. El caso es que después de que se publicó la traducción de ese cuento en Estados Unidos y otro cuento mío en una antología de Mary Higgins Clark, hubo coqueteos de una editorial estadounidense para que escribiera una serie de cuentos en inglés. El barco no llegó a buen puerto, pero alcanzó a levar anclas con un par de cuentos. Éste es uno de ellos. Nunca se publicó hasta hoy, se escribió en inglés y si alguien lo quiere traducir al español, bajo licencia CC, lo agradeceré siempre y cuando me avise. Un adolescente, con voces en la cabeza, una novia prostituta, una madre insensible y un asesino en serie. Y algo de Jacknife Springs.
THE DARKNESS IN THE HEAD
I remember when I discovered death.You should remember it too, the time when you saw how living things petered out, stopped moving and someone explained they were dead. Death is only a fact of life after someone explains it to you. If people remained silent about it you might think that such a state was only a peculiar way of life.Darkness is another thing. You know darkness, and it's usually unwelcome. You don't need anyone to tell you about it.
From the unpublished memoirs
of Jacknife Springs
Simon was looking at his bloodied finger and thinking about rock and roll, hate and monsters. Given enough blood, no one could tell his finger from that of any other kid in the neighborhood, black, latino, asian or white. Bloody fingers could be quite unprejudiced.
He sucked on the finger and turned up the volume on the stereo.
Given enough rock and roll he might be able to even forget about the blood.
And the monsters.
Whenever Lillian came into their conversation, mother never failed to point out she was a whore. It was mother who actually brought Lillian as a recurrent topic in almost every conversation she had with her son.
Yes, Lillian was a whore. The word accurately described the tanned, girlish woman. It was not an insult, but a definition. Lillian went to bed with men for money, hard cash she used for her college tuition, her rent, her car payments and the slow buildup of a trust fund for the home she dreamed she might once have.
Maybe even with Simon.
She was a whore with the same ease with which other girls were burguer pushers at fast food joints or cashiers in a failing department store. And Lillian also had a job security other girls could never dream of. She was her own boss, managed her time with absolute freedom and had safety down to near-perfection. Safety involved avoiding drugs, Aids, pimps and other givens of the trade which ensured most girls never left the hooking they had originally undertaken only for a short while, just to get enough money for this and that, only for kicks, only for whatever they understood as love for a guy bent on exploitation, only for a fix, until a day in the life became their daily, unavoidable life.
And since Lillian was actually a whore, Simon never tried to argue the point with his mother. That drove her mad.
"She's a whore!"
"Right", he would say and calmly tried to steer the conversation back in track.
He always failed.
Silvery flakes falling inside his head.
He always wished it were Winter, especially when the Summer heat became a hammer that struck his head like Vulcan working on his anvil, incessantly, unavoidably. You could never run away from Summer. The heat made him angry, sweat made him uncomfortable and self‑conscious. His hand hurt, reminding him of a blow he had stricken three, maybe four months back.
He had been hit back.
The police said they were looking for a forty-year old man with thick glasses who might --just might-- be involved in the killings of three or four other hookers.
Monsters were not in rock and roll, no matter what small-town sheriffs with beer bellies and frigid wives liked to say when the TV cameras crossed their paths and asked about satanic cults. Simon knew monsters were inside the heads of people. They had been born there, their embryos planted by everyone around, bred carefully, fed through offhand comments, through the papers, through the voice of the teachers and all kinds of leaders.
Monsters learned how to roam inside the heads of people, to reach all but the best defended places.
They enjoyed attacking Simon by whispering, yelling and talking about his mother, and about Lillian.
"You know it's not right," they said. "Lillian is a hooker. She's gonna kill you in the end. A ruptured condom and she's got Aids, and then you get it and you all die."
The monsters also said worse things. And when Simon had his guard down, the monsters managed to make a whole area of his life smell like fresh, sick feces.
"Your mom's right. Imagine Lillian laying under a customer, sighing, yelling, asking for more... is she acting?"
"Is she acting when she's with you?"
Simon had a lot of defenses, but the monsters were many, strong and full of strange abilities.
Simon had been Lillian's lover for more than a year, and Mother's attacks had become tiresome. Both knew they were useless, but she couldn't stop and he had learned how to ignore her.
Then, in a moment of almost mystical illumination, mother managed to touch upon a new angle.
"Sure, you couldn't care less... you've become a pimp," she said. "I wonder how much money she gives you..."
All of a sudden Simon's right hand wasn't his anymore. It fired on its own like a defective handgun and struck his mother's mouth. She didn't bleed. She just stared at him.
For a moment Simon tried hard to feel guilty. He couldn't. His conscience was unavailable. He just knew she had it coming --and for a long, long time. It was almost a miracle that no one, in the almost half century his mother had been alive, had done exactly what he had. It might not be something to feel proud about, but it sure felt good.
Mother continued to stare at him.
A barrier had been broken, the dam had given way. Nothing would ever be the same again.
Mother began to stare past him. He had ceased to be. Her mouth trembled. It would soon be sore and swollen.
He turned around and left the apartment. For good.
Lillian was dead. Darkness had fallen.
Summer brought the stench of people, the persistent heat left Simon almost defenseless, walking through the scorching city, sweating, unable to even think where to go. His apartment was sweltering... no air conditioning here, we're just surviving on our own working in a second-rate lighting and sound company. Lillian´s place was full of her.
Lillian was dead. Strangled, beaten. A slow death, the son of a bitch who climbed in the coroner's car said calmly. They called Simon on time so he managed to reach the hotel when the ambulance was leaving with Lillian's body. His last glimpse of her was a gray plastic bag with no shape at all.
They asked a lot of questions. Harsh, accusing, relentless questions. They sounded very much like mom. The monsters awoke, hungry.
Lillian was dead. He wasn't quite alive.
Even the monsters wouldn't agree about this.
They spoke, interrupting each other gleefully, fueled by the hot sun and Lillian's blood.
"She had it coming, you know. Weirdos kill whores, wierdos kill hookers, weirdos kill strumpets, weirdos kill..."
"You can make good, ask mom for her forgiveness."
"It's your fault, you could have stopped her. But it was so chic, so alternative, so veeeeery liberal to be the lover of a hooker and pretend everything was so normal and pretty..."
"Mom was right..."
"You knew it when people saw you in a restaurant and their eyes betrayed that they knew who Lillian was. Customers, maybe. You enjoyed it..."
"It was Mom." A cruel whisper.
Simon gasped for air. The monster was quite pleased. He'd touched a nerve.
"Mom killed her."
The monster kept on working on that nerve, enjoying the pain and the anger.
"Oh, yeah, she did. For sure".
Rock and roll was a cry that drowned out the monsters most of the time. A fantasyland of what could be. Rosy colors even in the darkest heavy metal scene. No matter how awful, all the kids with the guitars and the drums were basically certain that there was a future. Simon tried hard to look past today but all he could see in tomorrow and onwards was a black nothingness.
Simon and rock and roll didn't agree about the future anymore. They had, surely, in the past. But at least the music still kept the monsters at bay.
After Lillian's death, he spent a lot of time listening to music, his back turned against the bed where he and Lillian had been one.
Simon listened until his sound equipment gave up on him and died.
The silent silver of the discs overwhelmed him. Monsters began to throw their reflections at him using the polished surfaces where music was now hidden, locked away with no key, no CD player to bring it back alive.
The monsters showed him silvery blood for the silvery flakes in his head.
Mom had taken so long.
He wasn't even trying to be cruel. He didn't enjoy her pain, her sweat, her blood. He just wanted to know for sure... he wanted her to admit she had killed Lillian.
Mom said it was a logical progression. First her son had run away from her side and teachings. Then he beat her just as if they were animals living deep in the inner city with the pimps, the junkies and the hookers. Then it was time for him to kill her slowly. That was what whores had their pimps do for them, Mom said. Lillian still had Simon on her payroll, even after her death.
Simon did not even listen. He just repeated what the monster had suggested in a whisper, but as a question.
"Did you do it, mom? Why did you do it?"
It was clear for Simon. Mom had given up on his rescue. She had become the kind of person who could employ someone for the ghastly job Lillian had suffered. Darkness had overtaken his mother and Lillian had died. And rock and roll couldn't save her anymore. He was here now, back in her apartment, demanding payment.
Mom insisted she didn't do it until it was too late. Her crumpled, pained body was stopping like a motor running on empty. Her blood was leaving her.
Then she smiled horribly. She lifted her head with her last drop of strength and looked at Simon. She had despised him, perhaps, but never before, even through the long hours he worked slowly on her with the pliers and the screwdrivers and the electric cable, demanding an answer right through her pain and blood, had she looked at him with hatred.
Now she did. Hatred cold and silvery. Winter hate.
The monsters were pleased.
She hated him utterly for a few seconds. Simon trembled visibly.
"Yes, I did it. And I'm glad," she said. Then she tried to laugh, but her cackle became a cough and a last rasping breath.
The monsters became wildly jubilant.
Simon washed and changed numbly into the clothes he always had at Mom's house.
He went home, gnawing on his finger, and on the way bought a small stereo equipment. The monsters had to be stopped.
He found himself listening, trying to forget, looking at his bloodied finger. He continued gnawing, thinking about forgetting the blood and the monsters.
Before drowning in the music, one of the monsters spoke softly, jesting:
"She lied to you."
And Simon knew it was true. Mom had lied.
That was the worst part.
He turned the volume up, up, up...
Mexico City, July 1994