Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

Ednodio Quintero: Cacería

Ednodio Quintero

Permanece estirado, boca arriba, sobre la estrecha cama de madera. Con los ojos apenas entreabiertos busca, en las extrañas líneas del techo, el comienzo de un camino que lo aleje de su perseguidor. Durante noches enteras ha soportado el acoso, atravesando praderas de yerbas venenosas, vadeando ríos de vidrio molido, cruzando puentes frágiles como galletas. Cuando el perseguidor está a punto de alcanzarlo, cuando lo siente tan cerca que su aliento le quema la nuca, se revuelca en la cama como un gallo que recibe un espuelazo en pleno corazón. Entonces el perseguidor se detiene y descansa recostado a un árbol, aguarda con paciencia que la víctima cierre los ojos para reanudar la cacería.

Charles Bukowski: The Most Beautiful Woman In Tow

Charles Bukowski

Cass was the youngest and most beautiful of 5 sisters. Cass was the most beautiful girl
in town. 1/2 Indian with a supple and strange body, a snake-like and fiery body with eyes
to go with it. Cass was fluid moving fire. She was like a spirit stuck into a form that
would not hold her. Her hair was black and long and silken and whirled about as did her
body. Her spirit was either very high or very low. There was no in between for Cass. Some
said she was crazy. The dull ones said that. The dull ones would never understand Cass. To
the men she was simply a sex machine and they didn't care whether she was crazy or not.
And Cass danced and flirted, kissed the men, but except for an instance or two, when it
came time to make it with Cass, Cass had somehow slipped away, eluded the men.
Her sisters accused her of misusing her beauty, of not using her mind enough, but Cass
had mind and spirit; she painted, she danced, she sang, she made things of clay, and when
people were hurt either in the spirit or the flesh, Cass felt a deep grieving for them.
Her mind was simply different; her mind was simply not practical. Her sisters were jealous
of her because she attracted their men, and they were angry because they felt she didn't
make the best use of them. She had a habit of being kind to the uglier ones; the so-called
handsome men revolted her- "No guts," she said, "no zap. They are riding on
their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils...all surface and no
insides..." She had a temper that came close to insanity, she had a temper that some
call insanity. Her father had died of alcohol and her mother had run off leaving the
girls alone. The girls went to a relative who placed them in a convent. The convent had
been an unhappy place, more for Cass than the sisters. The girls were jealous of Cass and
Cass fought most of them. She had razor marks all along her left arm from defending
herself in two fights. There was also a permanent scar along the left cheek but the scar
rather than lessening her beauty only seemed to highlight it. I met her at the West End
Bar several nights after her release from the convent. Being youngest, she was the last of
the sisters to be released. She simply came in and sat next to me. I was probably the
ugliest man in town and this might have had something to do with it.
"Drink?" I asked.

Salomé Guadalupe Ingelmo: El regreso del Dr. Hesselius / Dr. Hesselius Returns

Salomé Guadalupe Ingelmo

–Una sobredosis de té. No fue más que una vulgar alucinación producida por el excesivo consumo de ese mejunje. Cómico, ¿no? Desengáñese, amigo mío, cada caso horrendo en el que me he visto envuelto, por espeluznante que pudiese parecer a simple vista, tenía una explicación muy lógica. No existe lo sobrenatural; no son más que patrañas para convencer a los incautos. Los muertos, muertos están. Y no vuelven.
–Por supuesto, por supuesto –musita distraídamente.
Toma notas con un entusiasmo febril. Ni en sus más locos sueños ni durante sus vigilias más lúcidas habría imaginado tramas tan brillantes. Sin él seguiría escribiendo relatos de fantasmas al uso. Pero con su ayuda, está seguro, creará escuela.
Celebra el audaz espíritu racional del Dr. Hesselius. Sin embargo, al tiempo, le estomaga su exceso de escepticismo. Esa suficiencia germana. Por eso a veces sopesa si revelarle su condición –la memoria es siempre selectiva, piensa–. Pero la tentación dura escasos segundos. Sencillamente no puede; él es feliz así, con esas periódicas entrevistas nocturnas que le permiten rememorar sus casos más enrevesados y horripilantes. Además se le antoja de muy mal gusto decirle a un muerto que lo está. La reacción del espectro podría resultar impredecible. Quizá dejase de acudir a su llamada, y eso supondría la ruina como escritor: adiós a esa misteriosa inspiración que, desde que comprase el reloj que perteneció al doctor, ha encontrado en la noche, en el retiro de su sótano, y que todos atribuyen a la melancolía provocada por la pérdida de su esposa.
–Bien, creo que por hoy nuestro tiempo se ha acabado –acaricia agradecido el mecanismo muerto, parado desde el mismo momento en que Hesselius sufrió un infarto mientras investigaba su último caso, el más aterrador. Ése que tendrá la precaución de no hacerle recordar hasta que no se le hayan agotado las historias–. Es tarde y no desearía abusar de su generosidad. Debe usted descansar –aconseja.
Y el Dr. Hesselius, obediente, se va diluyendo al tiempo que bosteza.

Neil Gaiman: The Problem of Susan

Neil Gaiman

She has the dream again that night.

In the dream, she is standing, with her brothers and her sister, on the edge of the battlefield. It is summer, and the grass is a peculiarly vivid shade of green: a wholesome green, like a cricket pitch or the welcoming slope of the South Downs as you make your way north from the coast. There are bodies on the grass. None of the bodies are human; she can see a centaur, its throat slit, on the grass near her. The horse half of it is a vivid chestnut. Its human skin is nut-brown from the sun. She finds herself staring at the horse’s penis, wondering about centaurs mating, imagines being kissed by that bearded face. Her eyes flick to the cut throat, and the sticky red-black pool that surrounds it, and she shivers.

Flies buzz about the corpses.

The wildflowers tangle in the grass. They bloomed yesterday for the first time in, how long? A hundred years? A thousand? A hundred thousand? She does not know.

All this was snow, she thinks, as she looks at the battlefield. Yesterday, all this was snow. Always winter, and never Christmas. Her sister tugs her hand and points. On the brow of the green hill they, stand, deep in conversation. The lion is golden, his hands folded behind his back. The witch is dressed all in white. Right now she is shouting at the lion, who is simply listening. The children cannot make out any of their words, not her cold anger or the lion’s thrum-deep replies. The witch’s hair is black and shiny; her lips are red.

In her dream she notices these things.

They will finish their conversation soon, the lion and the witch…. There are things about herself that the professor despises. Her smell, for example. She smells like her grandmother smelled, like old women smell, and for this she cannot forgive herself, so on waking, she bathes in scented water and, naked and towel-dried, dabs several drops of Chanel toilet water beneath her arms and on her neck. It is, she believes, her sole extravagance.

Today she dresses in her dark brown dress suit. She thinks of these as her interview clothes, as opposed to her lecture clothes or her knocking-about-the-house clothes. Now she is in retirement, she wears her knocking-about-the-house clothes more and more. She puts on lipstick.

After breakfast, she washes a milk bottle, places it at her back door. She discovers that next-door’s cat has deposited a mouse head, and a paw, on the doormat. It looks as though the mouse is swimming through the coconut matting, as though most of it is submerged. She purses her lips, then she folds her copy of yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, and she folds and flips the mouse head and the paw into the newspaper, never touching them with her hands. Today’s Daily Telegraph is waiting for her in the hall, along with several letters, which she inspects, without opening any of them, and then places on the desk in her tiny study. Since her retirement, she visits her study only to write. Now she walks into the kitchen and seats herself at the old oak table. Her reading glasses hang about her neck, on a silver chain, and she perches them on her nose, and begins with the obituaries.

Rudyard Kipling: The finest story in the world

Rudyard Kipling by Sir Philip Burne-Jones

"O' ever the knightly years were gone
With the old world to the grave,
I was a king in Babylon
And you were a Christian slave."
—W. E. Henley.

His name was Charlie Mears; he was the only son of his mother who was a widow, and he lived in the north of London, coming into the City every day to work in a bank. He was twenty years old and suffered from aspirations. I met him in a public billiard-saloon where the marker called him by his given name, and he called the marker "Bulls-eyes." Charley explained, a little nervously, that he had only come to the place to look on, and since looking on at games of skill is not a cheap amusement for the young, I suggested that Charlie should go back to his mother.

That was our first step toward better acquaintance. He would call on me sometimes in the evenings instead of running about London with his fellow-clerks; and before long, speaking of himself as a young man must, he told me of his aspirations, which were all literary. He desired to make himself an undying name chiefly through verse, though he was not above sending stories of love and death to the drop-a-penny-in-the-slot journals. It was my fate to sit still while Charlie read me poems of many hundred lines, and bulky fragments of plays that would surely shake the world. My reward was his unreserved confidence, and the self-revelations and troubles of a young man are almost as holy as those of a maiden. Charlie had never fallen in love, but was anxious to do so on the first opportunity; he believed in all things good and all things honorable, but, at the same time, was curiously careful to let me see that he knew his way about the world as befitted a bank clerk on twenty-five shillings a week. He rhymed "dove" with "love" and "moon" with "June," and devoutly believed that they had never so been rhymed before. The long lame gaps in his plays he filled up with hasty words of apology and description and swept on, seeing all that he intended to do so clearly that he esteemed it already done, and turned to me for applause.

I fancy that his mother did not encourage his aspirations, and I know that his writing-table at home was the edge of his washstand. This he told me almost at the outset of our acquaintance; when he was ravaging my bookshelves, and a little before I was implored to speak the truth as to his chances of "writing something really great, you know." Maybe I encouraged him too much, for, one night, he called on me, his eyes flaming with excitement, and said breathlessly:

"Do you mind—can you let me stay here and write all this evening? I won't interrupt you, I won't really. There's no place for me to write in at my mother's."

"What's the trouble?" I said, knowing well what that trouble was.

"I've a notion in my head that would make the most splendid story that was ever written. Do let me write it out here. It's such a notion!"

There was no resisting the appeal. I set him a table; he hardly thanked me, but plunged into the work at once. For half an hour the pen scratched without stopping. Then Charlie sighed and tugged his hair. The scratching grew slower, there were more erasures, and at last ceased. The finest story in the world would not come forth.

Hans Christian Andersen: Under Piletræet

Albert Küchler Portrait of Hans Christian Andersen
Albert Küchler Portrait of Hans Christian Andersen

Egnen er meget nøgen nede ved Kjøge; Byen ligger jo rigtignok ved Stranden, og det er altid kjønt, men der kunde dog være kjønnere, end der er: rundt om flad Mark, og langt er der til Skoven; men naar man er rigtig hjemme et Sted, saa finder man dog Noget kjønt, noget, man paa det deiligste Sted i Verden siden kan længes efter! Og det maae vi ogsaa sige, at i Udkanten af Kjøge, hvor et Par smaa fattige Haver strække sig ned til den lille Aa, som løber ud i Stranden, kunde der være ganske yndigt ved Sommertid, og det fandt især de to smaa Nabobørn, Knud og Johanne, som legede her og krøb under Stikkelsbærbuskene ind til hinanden. I den ene Have stod en Hyld, i den anden et gammelt Piletræ, og under det især legede de Børn saa gjerne, og dertil havde de Lov, skjøndt Træet stod lige tæt ved Aaen, hvor de let kunde falde i Vandet, men vor Herre har Øie paa de Smaa, ellers saae det slemt ud; de vare ogsaa meget forsigtige, ja, Drengen var en saadan Cujon for Vandet, at det var ikke mueligt ved Sommertid at faae ham ud i Stranden, hvor dog de andre Børn saa gjerne vilde gaae at pjadske; han blev skaamet ud for det, og det maatte han taale; men saa drømte Naboens lille Johanne, at hun seilede i en Baad paa Kjøgebugt og Knud gik lige ud til hende, Vandet naaede ham først til Halsen og saa gik det ham heelt over Hovedet; og fra det Øieblik af, at Knud hørte den Drøm, taalte han ikke længer, at man kaldte ham en Cujon for Vandet, men henviste bare til Johannes Drøm; den var hans Stolthed; men i Vandet gik han ikke.
De fattige Forældre kom jævnlig sammen, og Knud og Johanne legede i Haverne og paa Landeveien, som langs med Grøfterne havde en heel Række Piletræer, og de vare ikke kjønne, de vare saa forhuggede i Kronen, men de stode jo heller ikke til Stads, men for at gjøre Nytte; deiligere var den gamle Piil i Haven, og under den sad de mangen god Gang, som man siger.
Inde i Kjøge er der et stort Torv, og ved Markedstid stod der hele Gader af Telte med Silkebaand, Støvler og alt mueligt; der var en Trængsel og sædvanligviis Regnveir, og da mærkede man Dunsten af Bondekofter, men ogsaa den deiligste Lugt af Honningkager, der var en heel Bod fuld, og hvad der var det prægtigste: Manden, som solgte dem, indlogerede sig altid i Markedstiden hos den lille Knuds Forældre, og saa vankede der naturligviis en lille Honningkage, hvoraf Johanne ogsaa fik sit Stykke, men hvad der næsten var endnu meget mere, Honningkagehandleren vidste at fortælle Historier, og det næsten om enhver Ting, selv om sine Honningkager; ja om disse fortalte han en Aften en Historie, som gjorde et saa dybt Indtryk paa de to Børn, at de aldrig siden glemte den, og saa er det vel bedst, vi ogsaa høre den, især da den er kort.
"Der laae paa Disken to Honningkager," sagde han, "den ene havde Skikkelse af et Mandfolk med Hat, den anden som en Jomfru uden Hat, men med en Klat Bog-Guld paa Hovedet; de havde Ansigt paa den side, som vendte opad, og der skulde man see dem og ikke paa Vrangen, der skal man aldrig see noget Mennekse. Mandfolket havde en Bittermandel til Venstre, det var hans Hjerte, Jomfruen var derimod bare Honningkage. De laae som Prøver paa Disken, de laae længe og saa elskede de hinanden, men den Ene sagde det ikke til den Anden, og det maa man, naar det skal blive til Noget.
Han er et Mandfolk, han maa sige det første Ord," tænkte hun, men vilde dog være fornøiet med at vide, at hendes Kjærlighed blev gjengjældt.
Han var nu mere glubende i sine Tanker, og det er altid Mandfolkene; han drømte, han var en levende Gadedreng og eiede fire Skilling, og saa kjøbte han Jomfruen og aad hende.
Og de laae Dage og Uger paa Disken og blev tørre, og hendes Tanker bleve finere og mere qvindelige: "det er mig nok, at jeg har ligget paa Disk med ham!" tænkte hun, og saa knak hun i Livet.

Horacio Quiroga: Más allá

Horacio Quiroga

Yo estaba desesperada -dijo la voz-. Mis padres se oponían rotundamente a que tuviera amores con él, y habían llegado a ser muy crueles conmigo. Los últimos días no me dejaban ni asomarme a la puerta. Antes, lo veía siquiera un instante parado en la esquina, aguardándome desde la mañana. ¡Después, ni siquiera eso!
Yo le había dicho a mamá la semana antes:

-¿Pero qué le hallan tú y papá, por Dios, para torturarnos así? ¿Tienen algo que decir de él? ¿Por qué se han opuesto ustedes, como si fuera indigno de pisar esta casa, a que me visite?

Mamá, sin responderme, me hizo salir. Papá, que entraba en ese momento, me detuvo del brazo, y enterado por mamá de lo que yo había dicho, me empujó del hombro afuera, lanzándome de atrás:

-Tu madre se equivoca; lo que ha querido decir es que ella y yo -¿lo oyes bien?- preferimos verte muerta antes que en los brazos de ese hombre. Y ni una palabra más sobre esto.

Esto dijo papá.

-Muy bien -le respondí volviéndome, más pálida, creo, que el mantel mismo-: nunca más les volveré a hablar de él.

Y entré en mi cuarto despacio y profundamente asombrada de sentirme caminar y de ver lo que veía, porque en ese instante había decidido morir.

¡Morir! ¡Descansar en la muerte de ese infierno de todos los días, sabiendo que él estaba a dos pasos esperando verme y sufriendo más que yo! Porque papá jamás consentiría en que me casara con Luis. ¿Qué le hallaba?, me pregunto todavía. ¿Que era pobre? Nosotros lo éramos tanto como él.

¡Oh! La terquedad de papá yo la conocía, como la había conocido mamá.

-Muerta mil veces -decía él- antes que darla a ese hombre.

Pero él, papá, ¿qué me daba en cambio, si no era la desgracia de amar con todo mi ser sabiéndome amada, y condenada a no asomarme siquiera a la puerta para verlo un instante?

Morir era preferible, sí, morir juntos.

Steve Rasnic Tem: Shadow

Steve Rasnic

“I just wasn’t prepared for them, to have so much shadow enter my life.”

The man in the video is your Uncle Mark, but you hardly recognize him. His face is puffy, unshaven, dirty. You recognize his weary voice only because of the resemblance to other male voices in your family. The poor sound quality emphasizes the weariness in his voice, in the world from which he speaks. This equipment is old—you haven’t watched television in years. At a certain point you found it too irritating to bear—the sounds it made actually hurt your brain. But you can’t remember exactly when that was. If the video player hadn’t already been hooked up to the television you would have been helpless to make it work. You are surrounded, in fact, by numerous appliances you never use and have forgotten how.

You wonder how old he was when he made this recording. You’re not good with ages, especially where men are concerned, but you think he might have been ten years older than you are now, which would place him in his early fifties. You think you must have been eight or nine years old, just a little girl, when he died. Which means, what? You must try to keep yourself from being annoyed by all these numbers because you will no longer be able to sit here and watch this man and find out some things. What, exactly, those things will be and what use you will make of them you have no idea. You do not want to be annoyed—bad things happen when you are annoyed.

Thirty years. It’s been more than thirty years since he made this recording. You wonder if he would be surprised by how different the world is now. From the look of his face you think not.

His lighting is harsh, inexpert, overpowering. Why so much light? Then you notice how it is concentrated in the area immediately around him, as if he were enveloped in some brilliant bubble. The rest of the room is gloomy, hung with curtains, sheets, bedspreads. You think of sailing ships, although you have never actually seen one outside old magazines. Sheets and curtains shroud the furniture, smother the windows.

He says nothing more for a while. He rearranges the lamps, moving them forward, in and out of the frame, burning your eyes so that you have to look away.

“I won’t be seeing you again,” he says, finally. “And you won’t much care, if this is my niece and nephew watching this. But I do wish you well.”

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer: Maese Pérez el Organista

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

En Sevilla, en el mismo atrio de Santa Inés, y mientras esperaba que comenzase la Misa del Gallo, oí esta tradición a una demandadera del convento.
Como era natural, después de oírla, aguardé impaciente que comenzara la ceremonia, ansioso de asistir a un prodigio.
Nada menos prodigioso, sin embargo, que el órgano de Santa Inés, ni nada más vulgar que los insulsos motetes que nos regaló su organista aquella noche.
Al salir de la misa, no pude por menos de decirle a la demandadera con aire de burla:
-¿En qué consiste que el órgano de maese Pérez suena ahora tan mal?
-¡Toma! -me contestó la vieja-. En que éste no es el suyo.
-¿No es el suyo? ¿Pues qué ha sido de él?
-Se cayó a pedazos, de puro viejo, hace una porción de años.
-¿Y el alma del organista?
-No ha vuelto a parecer desde que colocaron el que ahora le substituye.
Si a alguno de mis lectores se les ocurriese hacerme la misma pregunta después de leer esta historia ya sabe por qué no se ha continuado el milagroso portento hasta nuestros días.

- I -

-¿Veis ése de la capa roja y la pluma blanca en el fieltro, que parece que trae sobre su justillo todo el oro de los galeones de Indias; aquel que baja en este momento de su litera para dar la mano a esa otra señora, que después de dejar la suya se adelanta hacia aquí, precedida de cuatro pajes con hachas? Pues ése es el marqués de Moscoso, galán de la condesa viuda de Villapineda. Se dice que antes de poner sus ojos sobre esta dama había pedido en matrimonio a la hija de un opulento señor; mas el padre de la doncella, de quien se murmura que es un poco avaro… Pero, ¡calle!, en hablando del ruin de Roma, cátale aquí que asoma. ¿Veis aquél que viene por debajo del arco de San Felipe, a pie, embozado en una capa obscura, y precedido de un solo criado con una linterna? Ahora llega frente al retablo.
»¿Reparasteis, al desembozarse para saludar a la imagen, la encomienda que brilla en su pecho?
»A no ser por ese noble distintivo, cualquiera le creería un lonjista de la calle de Culebras… Pues ése es el padre en cuestión; mirad cómo la gente del pueblo le abre paso y le saluda.
»Toda Sevilla le conoce por su colosal fortuna. Él sólo tiene más ducados de oro en sus arcas que soldados mantiene nuestro señor el rey Don Felipe, y con sus galeones podría formar una escuadra suficiente a resistir a la del Gran Turco.
»Mirad, mirad ese grupo de señores graves: ésos son los caballeros veinticuatro. ¡Hola, hola! También está aquí el flamencote, a quien se dice que no han echado ya el guante los señores de la cruz verde merced a su influjo con los magnates de Madrid… Éste no viene a la iglesia más que a oír música… No, pues si maese Pérez no le arranca con su órgano lágrimas como puños bien se puede asegurar que no tiene su alma en su almario, sino friéndose en las calderas de Pedro Botero… ¡Ay vecina! Malo…, malo… Presumo que vamos a tener jarana; yo me refugio en la iglesia, pues, por lo que veo, aquí van a andar más de sobra los cintarazos que los Paternóster. Mirad, Mirad: las gentes del duque de Alcalá doblan la esquina de la plaza de San Pedro, y por el callejón de las Dueñas se me figura que he columbrado a las del de Medinasidonia… ¿No os lo dije?
»Ya se han visto, ya se detienen unos y otros, sin pasar de sus puestos… Los grupos se disuelven… Los ministriles, a quienes en estas ocasiones apalean amigos y enemigos, se retiran… Hasta el señor asistente, con su vara y todo, se refugia en el atrio… ¡Y luego dicen que hay justicia! Para los pobres…

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Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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