A Tale of Truth, Fiction and Crime

WINTER FORESTThe white, furry beast trudged through the forest, ahead of myself, who from time to time stopped to take in the icy scenery. The cold was bitter, to be sure, but it had not fully frozen the streams and ravines, so that their crystalline water sparkled as it flowed beneath imperceptible layers of ice, roaring gently, like a small sleeping animal. The rest of the forest, which in summer-time engulfed these sparkling waters with thick and lustrous flora, seemed to have a surreal, almost fairy-tale-like look to it in the winter, with icicles stretching from the tip of naked tree branches covered only by a white blanket of snow that sparkled as radiantly as the water; the slightly mountainous terrain gave the entire trip the air of a quest, as we trudged and climbed and even crawled at times; in the sun-light, which peered intermittently through the opened branches of the tallest eucalyptus trees, the entire thing felt enchanted behind an azure hue, though at night and against the bitter cold, the darkness behind the trees felt macabre, and you could almost hear whispers emanating from within the nothingness that seemed to lurk in there. But at this time we were safe, and practically felt serenaded by a concert only orchestrated for our quest – a mixture of nature sounds that seemed to still break through the bitter and lonesome winter cold in the humming of the waters, the guttural hollowing of the air and the rest of the subtle background full of hidden chitters and snapping twigs. But there was not much time to stay still, for my furry companion was still young and impatient, and he demanded that we carry on. Plus, remaining for too long in the same spot was an easy reminder to the bones of how cold it was outside, despite the breath-taking scenery.

However, despite moving quite quickly, by the time we arrived at the peak of the forest, where the little furry beast knew we’d set up camp, the sun was already slowly disappearing behind the trees at the western end, illuminating the sky above them a fiery purple and orange colour, which made it feel as if we were being set on fire. My wolf-like companion, full of energy and completely equipped to not only stand the winter cold but, indeed, to thrive in it, ran around frantically, barking and howling in a seemingly uncontrolled but elated fit. When I finished setting up camp, we played together, fighting as most brothers do – without a care in the world and full of confidence in the other. But as the night began to approach faster and faster, with darkness beginning to engulf everything like a gigantic devouring maw, we settled into our nest near the fire, and braced ourselves for the wonders and terrors that come with the night, especially under the open, vast and unforgiving winter sky. The cold was surprisingly tamed, so it was easier to stare into the nothingness without feeling assaulted at the joints. After a while, I realized I must have dozed off, or perhaps just lost myself in the night, because I suddenly became aware that the little furry beast had run off. I got up and began calling for him immediately but heard no response, so I started walking towards the thick blackness in front of me, where I was sure only trees and night critters lurked.

Nevertheless, as I approached the darkness, away from my camp-fire, I began hearing twigs snapping and a low growling that I recognized as that of my own furry friend. When I finally got near enough to make out a slight silhouette in front of me, with the aid of the beast’s white fur, I realized he was tugging at something that he held in his mouth, but which was attached firmly at the other end to something which I could not make out. I called out to the beast but he refused to come; he simply continued tugging and growling. When I got a little closer, and aiding myself with the scant moon-light that was sheepishly peering through, I realized it was only a tree branch. Relieved that it wasn’t anything or anyone else, I let out a deep sigh and rested my back against the nearest tree, still able to witness the scene. And that was it…The only thing that happened after that was that I watched the beast tug at the branch and pull it backwards until it snapped, making such a loud “THWACK” sound that it resonated through the hollow forest like a gunshot. I felt there was something sinister about that entire scene; that I was enjoying seeing the beast tear at that poor branch for no reason at all, and that I felt somewhat disturbed at that fact. NIGHT TREE

When it was all finished, a green scab covered what was now the stub of the branch, and the beast simply ran off with the rest of it in his mouth, happily prancing back to our camp-site. I was speechless, for I felt as if I had witnessed a crime, almost enjoyed it, and had done absolutely nothing to stop the perpetrator or even help the poor victim who, I immediately began to realize, had been utterly defenceless. I approached the mangled tree slowly, almost embarrassed to be in its presence and finally placed my hand on its wounded and severed limb. I began to feel infused with something; to feel something inside of me…Emotion…Yes, that’s what it was…I began to feel emotion for this victim, and I whispered, “I’m sorry…” I don’t know why. But I felt as if I were starring into the watery eyes of a bullied victim after the fact; as if I were responsible for not having stopped the tyrant when I saw what he was doing and had the chance to do so…

******

I realized then that all those fears of the night which I had held onto not long before, and the images of something horrendous lurking in there, waiting to snatch my soul or my mind away, were indeed unfounded. And not because they are impossible things, for the mind is powerful and can find any horror where it faithfully seeks to find one; but because what really lurks in the night in the deepest and thickest forests and jungles and parks and backyards are only Trees: Guardians of our most precious need – oxygen – and authors of our most coveted dreams – pure and awing beauty.

As we walked back the following night, now against a slightly harsher cold, the trek suddenly felt more alive…more holistic…more serious…more solemn. And the engulfing night no longer seemed tenebrous but rather tender, like a cozy and quiet womb inviting you to rest. However, what really felt different was the way these benevolent giant creatures, who’d never dare cause harm and who never speak a word, seemed to be watching over us, painting a picture of enchantment and reality far beyond the confines of our understanding.

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GRATITUD EN TIEMPOS DE CAMPAÑA

(English translation at the bottom)

Por Pancho Arce Chiriboga

Ya… Este proyecto que nos ha levantado la esperanza, que nos ha ayudado a reconocernos con el resto de Hispanoamérica y a mirar altivos y muy de frente al mundo, que nos está edificando un país moderno y funcional encima de lo hermoso de nuestra geografía  y lo fascinante de nuestra diversidad étnica, va por al menos otros cuatro años… Nuestros candidatos triunfantes y amables nos han agradecido profusamente porque con nuestros votos es que ahora son victoriosos, pero aunque sean ellos personalmente vencedores en la contienda electoral, el triunfo es también de nosotros.

Nuestros compañeros que pronto asumirán la inmensa responsabilidad de continuar la  forja de la mejor sociedad que ahora vislumbramos, también han cumplido con la cortesía de agradecer a quienes ofrecimos mayores o pequeños aportes a sus campañas, y bien que así sea, pero en realidad, lo que todos hemos hecho no han sido favores personales a los candidatos, ha sido el cumplimiento de nuestra muy personal e ineludible responsabilidad en la medida en que nos ha sido posible en la construcción de esta nueva patria NUESTRA.

Es necesario que, a riesgo de herir susceptibilidades, hagámonos entender que si bien la obligación más notable es de aquellos compañeros que ocupan cargos públicos, ya sea por elección popular o por designación o por concurso, en parte porque perciben una remuneración, en otra parte porque asumimos que tienen más capacidad para el ejercicio de esas funciones, pero principalmente porque nos han hecho creer que sienten un compromiso con nosotros y con este proceso que respaldamos, la responsabilidad es tan nuestra como de ellos.

Entonces, cuando nos agradezcamos por las tareas cumplidas como deber, hagámoslo a nombre de los beneficiarios de nuestra humilde o gloriosa lucha, hagámoslo a nombre de la causa que nos anima, hagámoslo por el pueblo, por la patria, por la humanidad…

La única manifestación de gratitud indispensable y trascendental es entonces el cumplimiento sin excusas de ese compromiso, lo demás no pasa de ser cortesía elemental y en el peor de los casos un protocolo con muy poco de sinceridad. Hay quienes sin haber alzado la voz, ni proferido una palabra soez, ni tener a su haber un exabrupto en toda su vida, traicionan, hacen todo el mal que pueden y roban recursos y esperanzas.

Lo que les damos al dar nuestro voto no es un obsequio ni es un favor, les encomendamos con carácter de obligatorio, una tarea difícil, una lucha encarnizada, un maravilloso deber a nuestros compañeros para que nos ayuden a cambiar la historia, a crear un sistema justo, una sociedad feliz (¡Qué honroso privilegio!).

Gracias a ustedes también compañeros por asumir tan grande pero hermosa responsabilidad. Ahora, a romperse el alma por la patria (Léase, LA GENTE), y cuenten con que también nosotros cumpliremos con nuestro DEBER irrestrictamente desde nuestra familiar trinchera.

******

Gracias, Pancho, por esta hermosa redacción.

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

*******

Gratitude in Campaign-Time

Written by Pancho Arce Chiriboga

Translated by Fernando Arce

Alright…This trip which has thus far painted such a hopeful future for us, which has helped us re-identify ourselves with the rest of Hispanic-America while giving us the strength and dignity to face the world head-on, that is chiseling a modern and functional country with a beautiful geography and fantastic ethnic diversity to enrich it — this great trip is set to last at least another four years. Our triumphant and grateful candidates have thanked us deeply, for it was with our votes that their victory became possible. But even though the electoral race and political office is now theirs, the real victory is for all of us to share.

Our comrades — who are to assume the immense responsibility of deepening the forging of one of the best societies that we could have ever envisioned — have thanked all of those who’ve in any capacity helped the campaign. However the gesture, while certainly not unnecessary, remains beside the fact that our actions have not been personal favors for the candidates, but the righteous execution of personal and indelible responsibilities that link us to the task of constructing our new Country, in whatever capacity is possible.

At the risk of wounding susceptibilities, it is necessary to understand that if indeed the highest degree of responsibility rests on the shoulders of our comrades who now occupy public offices, be it through popular election, appointment, or lottery — partly due to their remuneration, partly because we assume they’re better equipped for such positions, but principally because they’ve managed to prove their commitment to us and to the process we represent — then the responsibility is as much ours as it is theirs.

Therefore, when we thank ourselves for the duties which we have properly carried out, let’s do it in the name of the benefactors of our humble and glorious fight; let’s do it in the name of the cause that ignites us; let’s do it for the People, for the Father-Land, for Humanity.

The only manifestation of that indispensable and transcendental gratitude can thus only be the unapologetic and dutiful execution of that commitment. Anything more than that can be chalked off as a fundamental courtesy; in the worst of cases, only an insincerely executed protocol, for there exist those that, without having ever raised their voice, ever uttered a profanity, or ever had an unhinged emotional outburst in their life, nevertheless betray, pillage and plunder all of our resources and hopes.

What we give them along with our vote is neither gift nor favor. We commend to them a difficult and obligatory task – a fierce and betrothed fight; a wonderful duty handed to those comrades that have agreed to help us change history and create a just system and a happy society…What an honorable privilege!

We thank you as well, dear comrades, for assuming such immense though beautiful responsibility. Now it is time for you to give your soul for the Father-Land (Read, LA GENTE). And you can continue to count on us  executing our DUTY, faithfully and unfettered from our ever so familiar trench.

Uprooted Memories, Vol. 2: “The Possibility of Physical and Mental Collapse is Now Very Real…”

PAIN, FEAR AND INSANITY INSIDE THE BOWELS OF HELL

485817_287026561383202_928552709_n (2) (192x217)The body and mind are truly fascinating things. Perhaps even more amazing, is how much shit we put them through…and knowingly!! They are often put through grueling tests that don’t always mean anything – tests which only seem to prove that we can in fact do it, for whatever that’s worth…

******

We’d been up most of the night, only crashing in the last two or three hours of the morning, once all the drugs and alcohol had been consumed. That was the second or third fucked-up night in a row. During the days, we’d been tooling around town in our little grey sedan, completely twisted but definitely on the calm side. I’m sure that everyone we interacted with was able to tell, too; if not from the glazed eyes and huge bags under our eyes – since at least we were wearing sunglasses –, or the rambling though lucid conversations we’d establish with them, the powerful odour of Rum and Sweat emanating from us like steam out of subway vents was sure to give us away. Luckily, our charming personalities seem to have gotten through to them, because no one dared call the police on us…and for what? What would they say? Officer, these gentlemen reeking of rum keep bothering the help, jabbering about music and other things. Sure, we’d probably get some Public Drunkenness ticket, but it wouldn’t go further than that; there was no reason why it should, and The Fuzz doesn’t appreciate being called to places when there really aren’t any emergencies…The only hard time we came across was at some strip-joint, where we were being forced to leave for being too drunk and “harassing the help”. I can’t defend or attest or protest anything, because, quite frankly, I don’t remember. But nothing else came out of that. Once all the bars were closed, we’d head back to their place to reload on whatever it was we were packing for that night. But apparently shit was about to hit the fan, and our luck would run out…or at least mine.

We opened our eyes to the rays of light coming through the wide-opened window, which felt like daggers piercing our faces. My eyes hurt so much, way more than my head and body, which seemed to be vibrating and twitching all over; they felt like the amps in speakers when they throb violently back and forth because of the booming bass. I felt dizzy and groggy, and it took me a few minutes to realize exactly where I was. Eventually, after much noise and shuffling, everyone was up and sitting dispersedly around the room, on whatever they could find that was not wet, dirty or stacked with all kinds of things, from clothes to electronics and even some cutlery. We were watching T.V., just flipping around to find something easy to watch; something that wouldn’t take much effort to pay attention to – something like a funny movie or some cartoons. The dog also seemed lethargic and somewhat hung-over, though he had only drunk a few sips of beer and hadn’t really acted drunk, as other times, when he’d roll around with his ear to the ground, as if trying to dig out a tick gnawing at his brain. We sat quietly for a long time, unable to conjure any energy to even say a word. Suddenly, my insides began rumbling and in that calmness it was easily audible to everyone so that they all looked at me curiously. I instantly got up and ran to the bathroom, which was directly across the room, and slammed the door shut. I got down on my knees and was suddenly looking at chunks of half-digested food twirling inside a thick black and red liquid – which I was convinced was blood diluted in alcohol – pouring like a mini Niagara Falls into the toilet. But I wasn’t necessarily worried at that point – we’d all done the “Big Spit”, as the Good Doctor once described it, and knew what it was like and what was to be expected. But I did begin to get worried after my third trip – which was just as vile, if not more, and which happened within six or seven minutes from the first one. Everyone was beginning to ask me questions, though their words sounded like muffled woooas wooas wooas or something else nonsensical. I could hardly gather the strength to respond, much less move myself between rooms so constantly and frantically, so I decided to stay in the washroom after my fifth or sixth trip, when there were no longer any solids coming out but only a slimy residue which I figured was bale mixed with other stomach acids. I was now beginning to seriously worry, and my immediate though was that I should get to a hospital as soon as I get up and cleanse myself. But that would never happen, because almost as if being punished for even thinking that by some higher power, I began a descent into a physical and psychological hell I had never until then seen or been a part of, and to which I wish to never return.

The washroom door, which was half opened, became extremely blurry, and the little bit of light that was coming through it finished blinding me. Nevertheless, I could hear the background noise – voices, the television, water running somewhere – just a bunch of noises that clustered together into a deafening and constant hum. I felt as if I was tumbling around violently inside a running laundry machine. I wanted to say something to someone or to call them near, but I was losing my ability to speak. But I quickly lost sight of those facts when I began throwing up again, though this time nothing was coming out; I was dry-heaving savagely, completely reddened all over and pouring sweat and, more alarmingly, I was beginning to feel numb. First it started on my legs: like a small surge of electricity beginning on my toes, it kept creeping up my feet, then my legs and finally onto my torso, where it felt as if someone had smeared nitrogen inside and it was now spreading. Then my hands, which were clutching the sides of the toilet, began to contort: my fingers were slowly becoming warped, like deformed claws recoiling onto themselves, so that it was impossible to hold anything. Unable to hold the toilet, I fell back onto the wall, with my legs spread out in front of me and my arms paralyzed in the shape of tree-branches and half-opened claws twitching like spider legs after they’ve been stepped on. My neck was also beginning to stiffen on one side, so that by the end of my transformation I was left looking a paraplegic who had fallen off his chair, or some kind of disturbing realist sculpture symbolizing the Pain of Man or something of the sort. It was a horrific sight, like something out of a horror movie. With the bit of strength I had, I yelled out something incoherent and someone rushed in. Upon seeing me like that, they called someone else urgently, which worried me even more. It was all noise in the background to me; just voices without bodies moving around like wind and disappearing just like the same. At one point I heard one of them say, “no…I can’t see that again…just take him to the doctor’s…” or something like that. I couldn’t understand, but later, when everything had calmed down, he had told me that he’d seen too many of his friends die like that and he himself had been too close-a-call to go through it all again. Anyway, in that state I couldn’t even make sense of what was happening; all I knew was that I felt as if I were dying. Then I saw the legs of one of them moving around in the room again, and before they could leave, I pleaded the only thing I could muster at the moment: “Could you please…uh…just turn on the cold water….and shove me in the shower…”…

******

When I came to, the shower was running at full strength and freezing water was coming down on my face. For second, I thought I was drowning at the bottom of the ocean: that’s why I’m still fully clothed and I can’t move or breathe, I thought. But after a second or two I realized I was in the bath-tub, and that my fingers and legs were finally beginning to loosen up. Though my arms and legs laid in front me in the exact same position I was in when on the ground, my fingers were slowly moving until eventually I could make a fist and open it back up. Then I began moving my legs slowly, pulling them back and stretching them again; though they hurt, it felt wonderful to be able to move again. I laid there, letting the freezing water hit me for a good 10 minutes before I dragged myself out. I was shivering from the cold, but I was actually moving again, which was the only thing I cared about. Everyone was asking me if I was ok and if I needed a doctor. In retrospect, I should have gone, but at the moment I figured I should just rest.

After an hour or so, continuing to shiver and feeling my shins cramped up, though still able to move, I got up and decided to leave. I sat on the passenger seat staring out the window the entire ride home as my girlfriend, who had been with us only the last night and was unaware of everything else that had come before that, drove the car, quietly sobbing and wiping away tears. I knew it was a terrible thing to have seen, and I felt the fear and disappointment that emanated from her as strongly as her delicate yet powerful scent. I felt guilty, but mostly I felt scared: scared that I had nearly died; but particularly scared that I had exchanged what was then one of the most important things in my life for an unadulterated and savage physical and mental test that in the end, had meant nothing.

******

…Still, in some sinister corner of my mind, there was a perverse sense of victory at having stood on the edge of some kind of hell that most will never experience, and having pulled back just before it was too late…Though, of course, after one visit, I vowed to never return.