New Mexican Fiction (2)
Continúo con mi ponencia de la London Book Fair. Esta vez toca el turno de Isaí Moreno:
Isaí Moreno was born on Mexico City on 1967. He's a mathematician and has published two novels, Pisot, los digitos violentos (Pisot, The Violent Digits), which won the Juan Rulfo National Award for best first novel and Adicción (Addiction). The first chapter of his novel Pisot, which I'm about to read, makes me think of Rudy Rucker mimicking Edgar Allan Poe's style while writing a historical novel set on eightenth century Mexico.
Pisot, The Violent Digits. Chapter I.
On May thirtenth, 1752, at the ancient city of Mexico, a highly unusual, rather grotesque incident happened.
As if aware of a forecast calamity, several neighbors of the De Salazar house stared besides the gloomy funeral candles set for the last rites, a small, pale sillhouette that pronounced a hideous statement, so bizarre that it stroke them with such horror and repulsion that they couldn't forget it for the rest of their lives.
That day, a total sun eclipse had been accurately precdicted by contemporary astronomists. Eclipses had always provoked uneasiness. For a year then, wise men discussed and refuted about the cosmic circumstances that breeded the mists, like evil clouds spawned to darken mankind's hearts. Speaking of which, don José Mariano de Medina, a prominent astronomer from the city of Puebla wrote:
I'm certain that the disturbances suffered on eclipse years are not produced by the evil influence of the stars, but by the fears and terrors that the astologists' doom predictions strike on the uneasy characters.
These words circulated on a flyer that produced great controversy and was heavily criticized, specially by the Physics scientist Narciso Narcop who, on his turn, published a letter-brochure in which he revindicated the magical nature of eclipses and rebated Medina's illustrated rationalism. An so, between harsh debates and discussions, the predicted eclipse occured and no few people eased their fears by entrusting their souls to the Holly Providence, As twilight drew on, many elder women gathered on groups to hum lethanies in an attempt to dispel the Evil One and his wandering souls.
Dogs barked on the streets, emphasizing with their howling the certainty of human misery, covered by the veil of the eerie night that haunts mankind. So was thought by those who joined don Juan de Salazar on his agony. The hard working elder was a creole goldsmith who was painfully succumbing to asthma. Few sights are as pitiful as a slow death that doesn't end for good. The old man's troubled breathing, that of his final moments, reminded a decrepit old dog dying away on a corner, whose breath whistles away from a sore throat. Tragedy was boosted by the fact that the elder was struggling death in the middle of an eclipse, when men find themselves vulnerable against nature's forces that whip their destinies like a storm. The man's gasps, which momentarily seemed to end, ceasing his suffering, suddenly resumed as a desperate whistling that snatched away a few seconds from suffocation. By the end of the eclipse he finally gave away to the eternal sleep. Friends and relatives mourned him. Few noticed that even though the Sun shone again, it seemed dull and shineless, just as grim as the funeral candles that were lit to be used on the last rites. That long agony had finally ended. It was just then when the mourners heard astonished a child's voice saying "I know how many times he gasped before dying". Silence fell as everyone turned to stare the voice's owner. Surprised faces turned into shocked ones when Policarpo voiced a number. Oh! He'd counted the agonizing man's gasps, one by one on his dreadful agony, until the end. Women stuttered, trying to mutter forgotten prayers. A chill climbed up their spines. What kind of a spawn was that? Only demoniac entities were capable of the aberration they'd just beholded. This boy was insane. Or maybe possesed. That was it. Maybe it all could be beacuse of the eclipse. Everyone was haunted by the scene on their nightmares to come. All of them felt thei skeletons shook when they saw the pale young lad lukewarmly turn around and walk firmly into the house's yard.
Yes, all what happened was the true sign of a catastrophe to come.