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).

Enrique Anderson Imbert: El suicida

Enrique Anderson Imbert

Al pie de la Biblia abierta -donde estaba señalado en rojo el versículo que lo explicaría todo- alineó las cartas: a su mujer, al juez, a los amigos. Después bebió el veneno y se acostó.

Nada. A la hora se levantó y miró el frasco. Sí, era el veneno.

¡Estaba tan seguro! Recargó la dosis y bebió otro vaso. Se acostó de nuevo. Otra hora. No moría. Entonces disparó su revolver contra la sien. ¿Qué broma era ésa? Alguien -¿pero quién, cuándo?- alguien le había cambiado el veneno por agua, las balas por cartuchos de fogueo. Disparó contra la sien las otras cuatro balas. Inútil. Cerró la Biblia, recogió las cartas y salió del cuarto en momentos en que el dueño del hotel, mucamos y curiosos acudían alarmados por el estruendo de los cinco estampidos.

Al llegar a su casa se encontró con su mujer envenenada y con sus cinco hijos en el suelo, cada uno con un balazo en la sien.

Tomó el cuchillo de la cocina, se desnudó el vientre y se fue dando cuchilladas. La hoja se hundía en las carnes blandas y luego salía limpia como del agua. Las carnes recobraban su lisitud como el agua después que le pescan el pez.

Se derramó nafta en la ropa y los fósforos se apagaban chirriando.

Corrió hacia el balcón y antes de tirarse pudo ver en la calle el tendal de hombres y mujeres desangrándose por los vientres acuchillados, entre las llamas de la ciudad incendiada.

Hans Christian Andersen: Skyggen

Hans Christian Andersen by Christian Albrecht Jensen
Hans Christian Andersen by Christian Albrecht Jensen

I de hede Lande, der kan rigtignok Solen brænde! Folk blive ganske mahognibrune; ja i de allerhedeste Lande brændes de til Negre, men det var nu kun til de hede Lande, en lærd Mand var kommen fra de kolde; der troede han nu at han kunde løbe om, ligesom der hjemme, jo det blev han snart vant fra. Han og alle fornuftige Folk maatte blive inde, Vindues-Skodder og Døre bleve lukkede den hele Dag; det saae ud som hele Huset sov eller der var ingen hjemme. Den smalle Gade med de høie Huse, hvor han boede, var nu ogsaa bygget saaledes at Solskinnet fra Morgen til Aften maatte ligge der, det var virkeligt ikke til at holde ud! - Den lærde Mand fra de kolde Lande, det var en ung Mand, en klog Mand, han syntes, han sad i en gloende Ovn; det tog paa ham, han blev ganske mager, selv hans Skygge krøb ind, den blev meget mindre end hjemme, Solen tog ogsaa paa den. - De levede først op om Aftenen, naar Solen var nede.
Det var ordentlig en Fornøielse at see paa; saasnart Lyset blev bragt ind i Stuen, strakte Skyggen sig heelt op ad Væggen, ja saa gar hen ad Loftet, saa lang gjorde den sig, den maatte strække sig for at komme til Kræfter. Den Lærde gik ud paa Altanen, for at strække sig der, og altsom Stjernerne kom frem i den deilige klare Luft, var det for ham, som kom han tillive igjen. Paa alle Altaner i Gaden, og i de varme Lande har hvert Vindue en Altan, kom Folk frem, for Luft maa man have, selv om man er vant til at være mahogni! Der blev saa levende oppe og nede. Skomagere og Skræddere, alle Folk fløttede ud paa Gaden, der kom Bord og Stol, og Lyset brændte, ja over tusind Lys brændte, og den ene talte og den anden sang, og Folk spadserede, Vognene kjørte, Æslerne gik: klingelingeling! de har Klokker paa; der blev Liig begravede med Psalmesang, Gadedrengene skjød med Troldkjællinger, og Kirkeklokkerne ringede, jo der var rigtig nok levende nede i Gaden. Kun i det ene Huus, som laa ligeoverfor hvor den fremmede lærde Mand boede, var der ganske stille; og dog boede der Nogen, for der stod paa Altanen Blomster, de groede saa deiligt i den Solhede, og det kunde de ikke, uden at de bleve vandede, og Nogen maatte jo vande dem; Folk maatte der være. Døren derovre kom ogsaa halv op ud paa Aftenen, men der var mørkt derinde, i det mindste i det forreste Værelse, dybere inde fra lød Musik. Den fremmede lærde Mand syntes, den var ganske mageløs, men det kunde nu ogsaa gjerne være at han kun bildte sig det ind, for han fandt Alting mageløst derude i de varme Lande, naar der kun ingen Sol havde været. Den Fremmedes Vert sagde at han ikke vidste, hvem der havde leiet Gjenboens Huus, man saae jo ingen Folk og hvad Musiken angik, syntes han, at den var gruelig kjedelig. "Det er ligesom om En sad og øvede sig paa et Stykke, han ikke kan komme ud af, altid det samme Stykke. "Jeg faaer det dog ud!" siger han nok, men han faaer det dog ikke ud hvor længe han spiller."
En Nat vaagnede den Fremmede, han sov for aaben Altandør, Gardinet foran den løftede sig i Vinden, og han syntes at der kom en forunderlig Glands fra Gjenboens Altan, alle Blomsterne skinnede som Flammer, i de deiligste Farver, og midt imellem Blomsterne stod en slank, yndig Jomfru, det var som om ogsaa hun lyste; det skar ham virkeligt i Øinene, han lukkede dem nu ogsaa saa forfærdelig meget op og kom lige af Søvnen; i et Spring var han paa Gulvet, ganske sagte kom han bag Gardinet, men Jomfruen var borte, Glandsen var borte; Blomsterne skinnede slet ikke, men stode meget godt, som altid; Døren var paa klem, og dybt inde klang Musiken saa blød og deilig, man kunde ordentlig falde hen i søde Tanker derved. Det var dog ligesom en Trolddom og hvem boede der? Hvor var den egentlige Indgang? Hele Stue-Etagen var Boutik ved Boutik, og der kunde Folk jo dog ikke altid løbe igjennem.

Woody Allen: Tails of Manhattan

Woody Allen

Two weeks ago, Abe Moscowitz dropped dead of a heart attack and was reincarnated as a lobster. Trapped off the coast of Maine, he was shipped to Manhattan and dumped into a tank at a posh Upper East Side seafood restaurant. In the tank there were several other lobsters, one of whom recognized him. “Abe, is that you?” the creature asked, his antennae perking up.

“Who’s that? Who’s talking to me?” Moscowitz said, still dazed by the mystical slam-bang postmortem that had transmogrified him into a crustacean.

“It’s me, Moe Silverman,” the other lobster said.

“O.M.G.!” Moscowitz piped, recognizing the voice of an old gin-rummy colleague. “What’s going on?”

“We’re reborn,” Moe explained. “As a couple of two-pounders.”

“Lobsters? This is how I wind up after leading a just life? In a tank on Third Avenue?”

“The Lord works in strange ways,” Moe Silverman explained. “Take Phil Pinchuck. The man keeled over with an aneurysm, he’s now a hamster. All day, running at the stupid wheel. For years he was a Yale professor. My point is he’s gotten to like the wheel. He pedals and pedals, running nowhere, but he smiles.”

Moscowitz did not like his new condition at all. Why should a decent citizen like himself, a dentist, a mensch who deserved to relive life as a soaring eagle or ensconced in the lap of some sexy socialite getting his fur stroked, come back ignominiously as an entrée on a menu? It was his cruel fate to be delicious, to turn up as Today’s Special, along with a baked potato and dessert. This led to a discussion by the two lobsters of the mysteries of existence, of religion, and how capricious the universe was, when someone like Sol Drazin, a schlemiel they knew from the catering business, came back after a fatal stroke as a stud horse impregnating cute little thoroughbred fillies for high fees. Feeling sorry for himself and angry, Moscowitz swam about, unable to buy into Silverman’s Buddha-like resignation over the prospect of being served thermidor.

At that moment, who walked into the restaurant and sits down at a nearby table but Bernie Madoff. If Moscowitz had been bitter and agitated before, now he gasped as his tail started churning the water like an Evinrude.

Santiago Eximeno: Primero

Santiago Eximeno

¡Primero las mujeres y los niños!, gritó el capitán, y los tiburones exhibieron sus mejores sonrisas mientras esperaban.

Robert Murray Gilchrist: The Holocaust

Robert Murray Gilchrist

My husband and master the bishop being called to Court, I journeyed yesterday to Broadlow. This morning my cousin’s second lady vehemently desired me to tell all I know of her who once held the place she adorns so brightly. We were in the still room, and the bantlings played on the floor, pulling the buckles of their mother’s shoes and croodling like culvers. The request was over-sudden; to gain time, I opened the green lattice, and looking out to the herb garden, said that little Bab herself had mounted by Neptune in the empty tank, and that in the sun-haze her countenance bore a plain likeness to one dead. And the row of clarifying waters in the window span round and round, and I swooned in madam’s arms. But she consoled me, and now to her will, I write the following history, in trust that my lord may never be permitted to read. The fustian preface I will omit; ‘tis but a record, unprofitable to the would-be adventurer, of life among the Barbary Rovers, of voyagers to Feginny, of the saving of a ship’s crew. Its six volumes are in the library, bound in pigskin, and revered by all. Of my cousin’s three years in Bologna – years devoted to the joys of Italian gallantry – little is known, for on that score he hath ever been silent.

Thirteen years ago he returned for good – even then scarce more than a youth – with the Princess Bice. As you know report tells that ere he travelled to Italy he and I had had love passages. The grandams teased me, and (for I am assured, madam, that you have heard) once I stole away from Broadlow for a month, and came back lightened. We were close akin, and Bible patriarchs enjoyed their handmaids…When news came of his marriage I prayed for a renewal of his ardour; but at the first sight of the Princes Bice, as she sat at his side in the big chariot, I knew that all hope was unavailing. Yet she was not more beautiful than you, dear lady; indeed her face lacked the mysterious and tender charm that shines from a woman whom nature has intended for motherhood. Where you are snowy, she was olive, her black her was dull and lifeless, not all quick and gold. If at any time Bab be taken into a darkened room, and the curtain lifted aback of her head some faint resemblance may be seen. Once, peeping unawares to the princess Bice’s dressing-closet, I saw her naked afront of the mirror – her wondrous hair unbound and tumbling to the floor. At my appearance her body flushed and methought I watched a rashlight burning in a grove of firs.

Her manner was haughty; at first it seemed as she mistrusted me, looking from her spouse to me and back again with some suspicion. He leaned on her shoulder, and it was as though I head, ‘This is she – was not I foolish? nay, sweetheart, trust me!’ The roses I had greeted her with were out carelessly aside.

My lord took my hand with ancient friendliness, ‘Diana is your gentlewoman,’ he said. ‘She will conduct you to the chamber.’

Gilberto J. Signoret: La agonía

Un aturdimiento lo despierta. Abre los ojos. Es lo mismo de siempre. Siempre lo mismo. Siente su lecho. Mira hacia arriba y ve el techo bajar Como antes. Siente el piso subir. Como siempre. Es la insatisfacción, se dice. Y ve las paredes. Cuatro aún Como antes Cuatro de múltiples facetas. Pero hay una puerta. Su vida exterior es mediocre. No vale la pena. La puerta se abrió para dejarlo salir y se reabre para dejarlo entrar. Es lo mismo; el techo que baja y el piso que sube, cuatro paredes que se acercan. Duerme. Un sobresalto lo despierta. Todo igual. Cuatro paredes que se estrechan y dos planchas que se acercan. Es la soledad, se dice. La puerta es pequeña. Pero sale, y su vida mediocre retranscurre. La puerta se abre. Casi no cabe. Pero entra. Las paredes y las planchas se le acercan más aún. Como antes. Es el cansancio de la noche, se dice. Pesadilla. Despierta gritando. Se acercan más y más. Con dificultad logra salir Mediocre vida de perro. Entra, ayudado por la desesperación, dejando carnes y alma afuera, de tan chica que es la puerta. Toma el cráneo en sus manos, se recuesta y palpa el techo, el piso, una pared, otra, la otra y otra más. Son suaves. Es la agonía, se dice. Abandona la mente. Abandona la tierra. Abandona la vida. La tumba se cierra al fin.

Ambrose Bierce: The Isle of Pines

Ambrose Bierce

For many years there lived near the town of Gallipolis , Ohio , an old man named Herman Deluse. Very little was known of his history, for he would neither speak of it himself nor suffer others. It was a common belief among his neighbors that he had been a pirate - if upon any better evidence than his collection of boarding pikes, cutlasses, and ancient flintlock pistols, no one knew. He lived entirely alone in a small house of four rooms, falling rapidly into decay and never repaired further than was required by the weather. It stood on a slight elevation in the midst of a large, stony field overgrown with brambles, and cultivated in patches and only in the most primitive way. It was his only visible property, but could hardly have yielded him a living, simple and few as were his wants. He seemed always to have ready money, and paid cash for all his purchases at the village stores roundabout, seldom buying more than two or three times at the same place until after the lapse of a considerable time. He got no commendation, however, for this equitable distribution of his patronage; people were disposed to regard it as an ineffectual attempt to conceal his possession of so much money. That he had great hoards of ill-gotten gold buried somewhere about his tumble-down dwelling was not reasonably to be doubted by any honest soul conversant with the facts of local tradition and gifted with a sense of the fitness of things.

On the 9th of November, 1867, the old man died; at least his dead body was discovered on the 10th, and physicians testified that death had occurred about twenty-four hours previously - precisely how, they were unable to say; for the post-mortem examination showed every organ to be absolutely healthy, with no indication of disorder or violence. According to them, death must have taken place about noonday, yet the body was found in bed. The verdict of the coroner’s jury was that he “came to his death by a visitation of God.” The body was buried and the public administrator took charge of the estate.

A rigorous search disclosed nothing more than was already known about the dead man, and much patient excavation here and there about the premises by thoughtful and thrifty neighbors went unrewarded. The administrator locked up the house against the time when the property, real and personal, should be sold by law with a view to defraying, partly, the expenses of the sale.

The night of November 20 was boisterous. A furious gale stormed across the country, scourging it with desolating drifts of sleet. Great trees were torn from the earth and hurled across the roads. So wild a night had never been known in all that region, but toward morning the storm had blown itself out of breath and day dawned bright and clear. At about eight o’clock that morning the Rev. Henry Galbraith, a well-known and highly esteemed Lutheran minister, arrived on foot at his house, a mile and a half from the Deluse place. Mr. Galbraith had been for a month in Cincinnati . He had come up the river in a steamboat, and landing at Gallipolis the previous evening had immediately obtained a horse and buggy and set out for home. The violence of the storm had delayed him over night, and in the morning the fallen trees had compelled him to abandon his conveyance and continue his journey afoot.

Luis Ignacio Helguera: El cara de niño

Luis Ignacio Helguera

En carrera enloquecida, huyendo, entre las piedras, de los zapatos.

-¡Déjame ver su cara de niño, papá!

-No tiene cara de niño, se llama así nada más.

Voltearon con una rama la masa aplastada, con patas estertóreas todavía. Y un golpe de la luz radiante en plena cara del insecto reveló al verdugo una instantánea desconocida, en que aparecía él mismo cuando niño haciendo un gesto lastimoso y plañidero porque quería seguir jugando en el jardín y le habían dado alcance inapelable.

Ray Bradbury: Free Dirt

Ray Bradbury

The cemetery was in the centre of the city. On four sides, it was bounded by gliding streetcars on glistening blue tracks and cars with exhaust fumes and sound. But, once inside the wall, the world was lost. For half a mile in four directions, the cemetery raised midnight trees and headstones that grew from the earth, like pale mushrooms, moist and cold. A gravel path led back into darkness and within the gate stood a Gothic Victorian house with six gables and a cupola. The front porch light showed an old man there alone, not smoking, not reading, not moving, silent. If you took a deep breath, he smelled of the sea, of urine, of papyrus, of kindling, of ivory, and of teak. His false teeth moved his mouth automatically when it wanted to talk. His tiny yellow seed eyes twitched and his poke-hole nostrils thinned as a stranger crunched up the gravel path and set foot on the porch step.
‘Good evening!’ said the stranger, a young man, perhaps twenty.
The old man nodded, but his hands lay quietly on his knees.
‘I saw that sign out front,’ the stranger went on. ‘“Free Dirt”, it said.’
The old man almost nodded.
The stranger tried a smile. ‘Crazy, but that sign caught my eye.’
There was a glass fan over the front door. A light shone through this glass fan, coloured blue, red, yellow, and touched the old man’s face. It seemed not to bother him.
‘I wondered, free dirt? Never struck me you’d have much left over. When you dig a hole and put the coffin in and refill the hole, you haven’t much dirt left, have you? I should think…’ “
The old man leaned forward. It was so unexpected that the stranger pulled his foot off the bottom step.
’You want some?’ said the old man.
‘Why, no, no, I was just curious. Signs like that make you curious.’
‘Set down,’ said the old man.
’Thanks.’ The young man sat uneasily on the steps. ‘You know how it is, you walk around and never think how it is to own a graveyard.’
‘And?’ said the old man.
’I mean, like how much time it takes to dig graves.’
The old man leaned back in his chair. ‘On a cool day, two hours. Hot day, four. Very hot day, six. Very cold day, not cold so it freezes, but real cold, a man can dig a grave in one hour so he can head in for hot chocolate, brandy in the chocolate. Then again you get a good man on a hot day, he’s no better than a bad man in the cold. Might take eight hours to open up, but there’s easy digging soil here. All loam, no rocks.’
‘I’m curious about winter.’

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Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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