THE SECOND RING OF POWER
The first thing I noticed about la Gorda was her eyes: very dark and calm. She seemed to be examining me from head to toe. Her eyes scanned my body the same way don Juan's used to. In fact, her eyes had the same calmness and force. I knew why she was the best. The thought that came to my mind was that don Juan must have left her his eyes.
She was slightly taller than the other three girls. She had a lean, dark body and a superb back. I noticed the graceful line of her broad shoulders when she half turned her upper body to face the three girls.
She gave them an unintelligible command and the three of them sat down on a bench, right behind her. She was actually shielding them from me with her body.
She turned to face me again. Her expression was one of utmost seriousness, but without a trace of gloom or heaviness. She did not smile and yet she was friendly. She had very pleasant features: a nicely shaped face, neither round nor angular; a small mouth with thin lips; a broad nose; high cheekbones; and long, jet-black hair.
I could not help noticing her beautiful, muscular hands which she kept clasped in front of her, over her umbilical region. The backs of her hands were turned to me. I could see her muscles being contracted rhythmically as she clasped her palms.
She was wearing a long, faded orange cotton dress with long sleeves and a brown shawl. There was something terribly calming and final about her. I felt the presence of don Juan. My body relaxed.
"Sit down, sit down," she said to me in a coaxing tone.
I walked back to the table. She pointed out a place for me to sit, but I remained standing.
She smiled for the first time and her eyes became softer and shinier. She was not as pretty as Josefina, and yet she was the most beautiful of all of them.
We were quiet for a moment. In terms of an explanation she said that they had done their best in the years since the Nagual left, and that because of their dedication they had become accustomed to the task that he had left for them to perform.
I did not quite understand what she was talking about, but as she spoke I felt more than ever the presence of don Juan. It was not that she was copying his manners, or the inflection of his voice. She had an inner control that made her act the way don Juan did. Their similarity was from the inside out.
I told her that I had come because I needed Pablito's and Nestor's help. I said that I was rather slow or even stupid in understanding the ways of sorcerers, but that I was sincere, and yet all of them had treated me with malice and deceitfulness.
She began to apologize but I did not let her finish. I picked up my things and went out the front door. She ran after me. She was not preventing me from leaving but rather she was talking very fast, as if she needed to say all she could before I drove away.
She said that I had to hear her out, and that she was willing to ride with me until she had told me everything the Nagual had entrusted her to tell me.
"I'm going to Mexico City," I said.
"I'll ride with you to Los Angeles if necessary," she said, and I knew that she meant it.
"All right," I said just to test her, "get in the car."
She vacillated for an instant, then she stood silently and faced her house. She put her clasped hands just below her navel. She turned and faced the valley and did the same movement with her hands.
I knew what she was doing. She was saying good-bye to her house and to those awesome round hills that surrounded it.
Don Juan had taught me that good-bye gesture years before. He had stressed that it was an extremely powerful gesture, and that a warrior had to use it sparingly. I had had very few occasions to perform it myself.
The good-bye movement la Gorda was executing was a variant of the one don Juan had taught me. He had said that the hands were clasped as in prayer, either gently or with great speed, even producing a clapping sound. Done either way, the purpose of clasping the hands was to imprison the feeling that the warrior did not wish to leave behind. As soon as the hands had closed in and captured that feeling, they were taken with great force to the middle of the chest, at the level of the heart. There the feeling became a dagger and the warrior stabbed himself with it, as if holding the dagger with both hands.
Don Juan had told me that a warrior said good-bye in that fashion only when he had reason to feel he might not come back.
La Gorda's good-bye enthralled me.
"Are you saying good-bye?" I asked out of curiosity.
"Yes," she said dryly.
"Don't you put your hands to your chest?" I asked.
"Men do that. Women have wombs. They store their feelings there."
"Aren't you suppose to say good-bye like that only when you're not coming back?" I asked.
"Chances are I may not come back," she replied. "I'm going with you."
I had an attack of unwarranted sadness, unwarranted in the sense that I did not know that woman at all. I had only doubts and suspicions about her. But as I peered into her clear eyes I had a sense of ultimate kinship with her. I mellowed. My anger had disappeared and given way to a strange sadness. I looked around, and I knew that those mysterious, enormous, round hills were ripping me apart.
"Those hills over there are alive," she said, reading my thoughts.
I turned to her and told her that both the place and the women had affected me at a very deep level, a level I could not ordinarily conceive. I did not know which was more devastating, the place or the women. The women's onslaughts had been direct and terrifying, but the effect of those hills was a constant, nagging apprehension, a desire to flee from them. When I told that to la Gorda she said that I was correct in assessing the effect of that place, that the Nagual had left them there because of that effect, and that I should not blame anyone for what had happened, because the Nagual himself had given those women orders to try to do away with me.
"Did he give orders like that to you too?" I asked.
"No, not to me. I'm different than they are," she said. "They are sisters. They are the same, exactly the same. Just like Pablito, Nestor and Benigno are the same. Only you and I can be exactly the same. We are not now because you're still incomplete. But someday we will be the same, exactly the same."
"I've been told that you're the only one who knows where the Nagual and Genaro are now," I said.
She peered at me for a moment and shook her head affirmatively.
"That's right," she said. "I know where they are. The Nagual told me to take you there if I can."
I told her to stop beating around the bush and to reveal their exact whereabouts to me immediately. My demand seemed to plunge her into chaos. She apologized and reassured me that later on, when we were on our way, she would disclose everything to me. She begged me not to ask her about them anymore because she had strict orders not to mention anything until the right moment.
Lidia and Josefina came to the door and stared at me. I hurriedly got in the car. La Gorda got in after me, and as she did I could not help observing that she had entered the car as she would have entered a tunnel. She sort of crawled in. Don Juan used to do that. I jokingly said once, after I had seen him do it scores of times, that it was more functional to get in the way I did. I thought that perhaps his lack of familiarity with automobiles was responsible for his strange way of entering. He explained then that the car was a cave and that caves had to be entered in that fashion if we were going to use them. There was an inherent spirit to caves, whether they were natural or man-made, and that that spirit had to be approached with respect. Crawling was the only way of showing that respect.
I was wondering whether or not to ask la Gorda if don Juan had instructed her about such details, but she spoke first. She said that the Nagual had given her specific instructions about what to do in case I would survive the attacks of dona Soledad and the three girls. Then she casually added that before I headed for Mexico City we had to go to a specific place in the mountains where don Juan and I used to go, and that there she would reveal all the information the Nagual had never disclosed to me.
I had a moment of indecision, and then something in me which was not my reason made me head for the mountains. We drove in complete silence. I attempted at various opportune moments to start up a conversation, but she turned me down every time with a strong shake of her head. Finally she seemed to have gotten tired of my trying and said forcefully that what she had to say required a place of power and until we were in one we had to abstain from draining ourselves with useless talk.
After a long drive and an exhausting hike away from the road, we finally reached our destination. It was late afternoon. We were in a deep canyon. The bottom of it was already dark, while the sun was still shining on the top of the mountains above it. We walked until we came to a small cave a few feet up the north side of the canyon, which ran from east to west. I used to spend a great deal of time there with don Juan.
Before we entered the cave, la Gorda carefully swept the floor with branches, the way don Juan used to, in order to clear the ticks and parasites from the rocks. Then she cut a large heap of small branches with soft leaves from the surrounding bushes and placed them on the rock floor like a mat.
She motioned me to enter. I had always let don Juan enter first as a sign of respect. I wanted to do the same with her, but she declined. She said I was the Nagual. I crawled into the cave the same way she had crawled into my car. I laughed at my inconsistency. I had never been able to treat my car as a cave.
She coaxed me to relax and make myself comfortable.
"The reason the Nagual could not reveal all his designs to you was because you're incomplete," la Gorda said all of a sudden. "You still are, but now after your bouts with Soledad and the sisters, you are stronger than before."
"What's the meaning of being incomplete? Everyone has told me that you're the only one who can explain that," I said.
"It's a very simple matter," she said. "A complete person is one who has never had children."
She paused as if she were allowing me time to write down what she had said. I looked up from my notes. She was staring at me, judging the effect of her words.
"I know that the Nagual told you exactly what I've just said," she continued. "You didn't pay any attention to him and you probably haven't paid any attention to me, either."
I read my notes out loud and repeated what she had said. She giggled.
"The Nagual said that an incomplete person is one who has had children," she said as if dictating to me.
She scrutinized me, apparently waiting for a question or a comment. I had none.
"Now I've told you everything about being complete and incomplete," she said. "And I've told you just like the Nagual told me. It didn't mean anything to me at that time, and it doesn't mean anything to you now."
I had to laugh at the way she patterned herself after don Juan.
"An incomplete person has a hole in the stomach," she went on. "A sorcerer can see it as plainly as you can see my head. When the hole is on the left side of one's stomach, the child who created that hole is of the same sex. If it is on the right side, the child is of the opposite sex. The hole on the left side is black, the one on the right is dark brown."
"Can you see that hole in anyone who has had children?"
"Sure. There are two ways of seeing it. A sorcerer may see it in dreaming or by looking directly at a person. A sorcerer who sees has no problems in viewing the luminous being to find out if there is a hole in the luminosity of the body. But even if the sorcerer doesn't know how to see, he can look and actually distinguish the darkness of the hole through the clothing."
She stopped talking. I urged her to go on.
"The Nagual told me that you write and then you don't remember what you wrote," she said with a tone of accusation.
I became entangled in words trying to defend myself. Nonetheless, what she had said was the truth. Don Juan's words always had had a double effect on me: once when I heard for the first time whatever he had said, and then when I read at home whatever I had written down and had forgotten about.
Talking to la Gorda, however, was intrinsically different. Don Juan's apprentices were not in any way as engulfing as he was. Their revelations, although extraordinary, were only missing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. The unusual character of those pieces was that with them the picture did not become clearer but that it became more and more complex.
"You had a brown hole in the right side of your stomach," she continued. "That means that a woman emptied you. You made a female child.
"The Nagual said that I had a huge black hole myself, because I made two women. I never saw the hole, but I've seen other people with holes like mine."
"You said that I had a hole; don't I have it anymore?"
"No. It's been patched. The Nagual helped you to patch it. Without his help you would be more empty than you are now."
"What kind of patch is it?"
"A patch in your luminosity. There is no other way of saying it. The Nagual said that a sorcerer like himself can fill up the hole anytime. But that that filling is only a patch without luminosity. Anyone who sees or does dreaming can tell that it looks like a lead patch on the yellow luminosity of the rest of the body.
"The Nagual patched you and me and Soledad. But then he left it up to us to put back the shine, the luminosity."
"How did he patch us?"
"He's a sorcerer, he put things in our bodies. He replaced us. We are no longer the same. The patch is what he put there himself."
"But how did he put those things there and what were they?"
"What he put in our bodies was his own luminosity and he used his hand to do that. He simply reached into our bodies and left his fibers there. He did the same with all of his six children and also with Soledad. All of them are the same. Except Soledad; she's something else."
La Gorda seemed unwilling to go on. She vacillated and almost began to stutter.
"What is dona Soledad?" I insisted.
"It's very hard to tell," she said after considerable coaxing. "She is the same as you and me, and yet she's different. She has the same luminosity, but she's not together with us. She goes in the opposite direction. Right now she's more like you. Both of you have patches that look like lead. Mine is gone and I'm again a complete, luminous egg. That is the reason I said that you and I will be exactly the same someday when you become complete again. Right now what makes us almost the same is the Nagual's luminosity and the fact that both of us are going in the same direction and that we both were empty."
"What does a complete person look like to a sorcerer?" I asked.
"Like a luminous egg made out of fibers," she said. "All the fibers are complete; they look like strings, taut strings. It looks as if the strings have been tightened like a drum is tightened.
"On an empty person, on the other hand, the fibers are crumpled up at the edges of the hole. When they have had many children, the fibers don't look like fibers anymore. Those people look like two chunks of luminosity, separated by blackness. It is an awesome sight. The Nagual made me see them one day when we were in a park in the city."
"Why do you think the Nagual never told me about all this?"
"He told you everything, but you never understood him correctly. As soon as he realized that you were not understanding what he was saying, he was compelled to change the subject. Your emptiness prevented you from understanding. The Nagual said that it was perfectly natural for you not to understand. Once a person becomes incomplete he's actually empty like a gourd that has been hollowed out. It didn't matter to you how many times he told you that you were empty; it didn't matter that he even explained it to you. You never knew what he meant, or worse yet, you didn't want to know."
La Gorda was treading on dangerous ground. I tried to head her off with another question, but she rebuffed me.
"You love a little boy and you don't want to understand what the Nagual meant," she said accusingly. "The Nagual told me that you have a daughter you've never seen, and that you love that little boy. One took your edge, the other pinned you down. You have welded them together."
I had to stop writing. I crawled out of the cave and stood up. I began to walk down the steep incline to the floor of the gully. La Gorda followed me. She asked me if I was upset by her directness. I did not want to lie.
"What do you think?" I asked.
"You're fuming!" she exclaimed and giggled with an abandon that I had witnessed only in don Juan and don Genaro.
She seemed about to lose her balance and grabbed my left arm. In order to help her get down to the floor of the gully, I lifted her up by her waist. I thought that she could not have weighed more than a hundred pounds. She puckered her lips the way don Genaro used to and said that her weight was a hundred and fifteen. We both laughed at once. It was a moment of direct, instant communication.
"Why does it bother you so much to talk about these things?" she asked.
I told her that once I had had a little boy whom I had loved immensely. I felt the imperative to tell her about him. Some extravagant need beyond my comprehension made me open up with that woman who was a total stranger to me.
As I began to talk about that little boy, a wave of nostalgia enveloped me; perhaps it was the place or the situation or the time of the day. Somehow I had merged the memory of that little boy with the memory of don Juan, and for the first time in all the time I had not seen him I missed don Juan. Lidia had said that they never missed him because he was always with them; he was their bodies and their spirits. I had known instantly what she meant. I felt the same way myself. In that gully, however, an unknown feeling had overtaken me. I told la Gorda that I had never missed don Juan until that moment. She did not answer. She looked away.
Possibly my feeling of longing for those two people had to do with the fact that both of them had produced catharses in my life. And both of them were gone. I had not realized until that moment how final that separation was. I said to la Gorda that that little boy had been, more than anything else, my friend, and that one day he was whisked away by forces I could not control. That was perhaps one of the greatest blows I had ever received. I even went to see don Juan to ask his assistance. It was the only time I had ever asked him for help. He listened to my plea and then he broke into uproarious laughter. His reaction was so unexpected that I could not even get angry. I could only comment on what I thought was his insensitivity.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked.
I said that since he was a sorcerer perhaps he could help me to regain my little friend for my solace.
"You're wrong. A warrior doesn't seek anything for his solace," he said in a tone that did not admit reproach.
Then he proceeded to smash my arguments. He said that a warrior could not possibly leave anything to chance, that a warrior actually affected the outcome of events by the force of his awareness and his unbending intent. He said that if I would have had the unbending intent to keep and help that child, I would have taken measures to assure his stay with me. But as it was, my love was merely a word, a useless outburst of an empty man. He then told me something about emptiness and completeness, but I did not want to hear it. All I felt was a sense of loss, and the emptiness that he had mentioned, I was sure, referred to the feeling of having lost someone irreplaceable.
"You loved him, you honored his spirit, you wished him well, now you must forget him," he said.
But I had not been able to do so. There was something terribly alive in my emotions even though time had mellowed them. At one point I thought I had forgotten, but then one night an incident produced the deepest emotional upheaval in me. I was walking to my office when a young Mexican woman approached me. She had been sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus. She wanted to know if that particular bus went to a children's hospital. I did not know. She explained that her little boy had had a high temperature for a long time and she was worried because she did not have any money. I moved toward the bench and saw a little boy standing on the seat with his head against the back of the bench. He was wearing a jacket and short pants and a cap. He could not have been more than two years old. He must have seen me, for he walked to the edge of the bench and put his head against my leg.
"My little head hurts," he said to me in Spanish.
His voice was so tiny and his dark eyes so sad that a wave of irrepressible anguish welled up in me. I picked him up and drove him and his mother to the nearest hospital. I left them there and gave the mother enough money to pay the bill. But I did not want to stay or to know any more about him. I wanted to believe that I had helped him, and that by doing so I had paid back to the spirit of man.
I had learned the magical act of "paying back to the spirit of man" from don Juan. I had asked him once, overwhelmed by the realization that I could never pay him back for all he had done for me, if there was anything in the world I could do to even the score. We were leaving a bank, after exchanging some Mexican currency.
"I don't need you to pay me back," he said, "but if you still want to pay back, make your deposit to the spirit of man. That's always a very small account, and whatever one puts in it is more than enough."
By helping that sick child I had merely paid back to the spirit of man for any help that my little boy may receive from strangers along his path.
I told la Gorda that my love for him would remain alive for the rest of my life even though I would never see him again. I wanted to tell her that the memory I had of him was buried so deep that nothing could touch it, but I desisted. I felt it would have been superfluous to talk about it. Besides, it was getting dark and I wanted to get out of that gully.
"We better go," I said. "I'll take you home. Maybe some other time we can talk about these things again."
She laughed the way don Juan used to laugh at me. I had apparently said something utterly funny.
"Why do you laugh, Gorda?" I asked.
"Because you know yourself that we can't leave this place just like that," she said. "You have an appointment with power here. And so do 1."
She walked back to the cave and crawled in.
"Come on in," she yelled from inside. "There is no way to leave."
I reacted most incongruously. I crawled in and sat next to her again. It was evident that she too had tricked me. I had not come there to have any confrontations. I should have been furious. I was indifferent instead. I could not lie to myself that I had only stopped there on my way to Mexico City. I had gone there compelled by something beyond my comprehension.
She handed me my notebook and motioned me to write. She said that if I wrote I would not only relax myself but I would also relax her.
"What is this appointment with power?" I asked.
"The Nagual told me that you and I have an appointment here with something out there. You first had an appointment with Soledad and then one with the little sisters. They were supposed to destroy you. The Nagual said that if you survived their assaults I had to bring you here so that we together could keep the third appointment."
"What kind of appointment is it?"
"I really don't know. Like everything else, it depends on us. Right now there are some things out there that have been waiting for you. I say that they have been waiting for you because I come here by myself all the time and nothing ever happens. But tonight is different. You are here and those things will come."
"Why is the Nagual trying to destroy me?" I asked.
"He's not trying to destroy anybody!" la Gorda exclaimed in protest. "You are his child. Now he wants you to be himself. More himself than any of us. But to be a true Nagual you have to claim your power. Otherwise he wouldn't have been so careful in setting up Soledad and the little sisters to stalk you. He taught Soledad how to change her shape and rejuvenate herself. He made her construct a devilish floor in her room. A floor no one can oppose. You see, Soledad is empty, so the Nagual set her up to do something gigantic. He gave her a task, a most difficult and dangerous task, but the only one which was suited for her, and that was to finish you off. He told her that nothing could be more difficult than for one sorcerer to kill another. It's easier for an average man to kill a sorcerer or for a sorcerer to kill an average man, but two sorcerers don't fit well at all. The Nagual told Soledad that her best bet was to surprise you and scare you. And that's what she did. The Nagual set her up to be a desirable woman so she could lure you into her room, and there her floor would have bewitched you, because as I've said, no one, but no one, can stand up to that floor. That floor was the Nagual's masterpiece for Soledad. But you did something to her floor and Soledad had to change her tactics in accordance with the Nagual's instructions. He told her that if her floor failed and she could not frighten and surprise you, she had to talk to you and tell you everything you wanted to know. The Nagual trained her to talk very well as her last resource. But Soledad could not overpower you even with that."
"Why was it so important to overpower me? "
She paused and peered at me. She cleared her throat and sat up straight. She looked up at the low roof of the cave and exhaled noisily through her nose.
"Soledad is a woman like myself," she said. "I'll tell you something about my own life and maybe you'll understand her.
"I had a man once. He got me pregnant when I was very young and I had two daughters with him. One after the other. My life was hell. That man was a drunkard and beat me day and night. And I hated him and he hated me. And I got fat like a pig. One day another man came along and told me that he liked me and wanted me to go with him to work in the city as a paid servant. He knew I was a hardworking woman and only wanted to exploit me. But my life was so miserable that I fell for it and went with him. He was worse than the first man, mean and fearsome. He couldn't stand me after a week or so. And he used to give me the worst beatings you can imagine. I thought he was going to kill me and he wasn't even drunk, and all because I hadn't found work. Then he sent me to beg on the streets with a sick baby. He would pay the child's mother something from the money I got. And then he would beat me because I hadn't made enough. The child got sicker and sicker and I knew that if it died while I was begging, the man would kill me. So one day when I knew that he was not there I went to the child's mother and gave her her baby and some of the money I had made that day. That was a lucky day for me; a kind foreign lady had given me fifty pesos to buy medicine for the baby.
"I had been with that horrible man for three months and I thought it had been twenty years. I used the money to go back to my home. I was pregnant again. The man had wanted me to have a child of my own, so that he would not have to pay for one. When I got to my hometown I tried to go back to see my children, but they had been taken away by their father's family. All the family got together under the pretense that they wanted to talk to me, but instead they took me to a deserted place and beat me with sticks and rocks and left me for dead."
La Gorda showed me the many scars on her scalp.
"To this day I don't know how I made it back to town. I even lost the child I had in my womb. I went to an aunt I still had; my parents were dead. She gave me a place to rest and she tended to me. She fed me, the poor soul, for two months before I could get up."
"Then one day my aunt told me that that man was in town looking for me. He had talked to the police and had said that he had given me money in advance to work and that I had run away, stealing the money after I had killed a woman's baby. I knew that the end had come for me. But my luck turned right again and I caught a ride in the truck of an American. I saw the truck coming on the road and I lifted my hand in desperation and the man stopped and let me get on. He drove me all the way to this part of Mexico. He dropped me in the city. I didn't know a soul. I roamed all over the place for days like a crazy dog, eating garbage from the street. That was when my luck turned for the last time.
"I met Pablito, with whom I have a debt that I can't pay back. Pablito took me to his carpentry shop and gave me a corner there to put my bed. He did that because he felt sorry for me. He found me in the market after he stumbled and fell on top of me. I was sitting there begging. A moth or a bee, I don't know which, flew to him and hit him in the eye. He turned around on his heels and stumbled and fell right on top of me. I thought he would be so mad that he would hit me, but he gave me some money instead. I asked him if he could give me work. That was when he took me to his shop and set me up with an iron and an ironing board to do laundry.
"I did very well. Except that I got fatter, because most of the people I washed for fed me with their leftovers. Sometimes I ate sixteen times a day. I did nothing else but eat. Kids in the street used to taunt me and sneak behind me and step on my heels and then someone would push me and I would fall. Those kids made me cry with their cruel jokes, especially when they used to spoil my wash on purpose.
"One day, very late in the afternoon, a weird old man came over to see Pablito. I had never seen that man before. I had never known that Pablito was in cahoots with such a scary, awesome man. I turned my back to him and kept on working. I was alone there. Suddenly I felt the hands of that man on my neck. My heart stopped. I could not scream, I couldn't even breathe. I fell down and that awful man held my head, maybe for an hour. Then he left. I was so frightened that I stayed where I had fallen until the next morning. Pablito found me there; he laughed and said that I should be very proud and happy because that old man was a powerful sorcerer and was one of his teachers. I was dumbfounded; I couldn't believe Pablito was a sorcerer. He said that his teacher had seen a perfect circle of moths flying over my head. He had also seen my death circling around me. And that was why he had acted like lightning and had changed the direction of my eyes. Pablito also said that the Nagual had laid his hands on me and had reached into my body and that soon I would be different. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had no idea what that crazy old man had done, either. But it didn't matter to me. I was like a dog that everyone kicked around. Pablito had been the only person who had been kind to me. At first I had thought he wanted me for his woman. But I was too ugly and fat and smelly. He just wanted to be kind to me.
"The crazy old man came back another night and grabbed me again by the neck from behind. He hurt me terribly. I cried and screamed. I didn't know what he was doing. He never said a word to me. I was deathly afraid of him. Then, later on he began to talk to me and told me what to do with my life. I liked what he said. He took me everywhere with him. But my emptiness was my worst enemy. I couldn't accept his ways, so one day he got sick and tired of pampering me and sent the wind after me. I was in the back of Soledad's house by myself that day, and I felt the wind getting very strong. It was blowing through the fence. It got into my eyes. I wanted to get inside the house, but my body was frightened and instead of walking through the door I walked through the gate in the fence. The wind pushed me and made me twirl. I tried to go back to the house, but it was useless. I couldn't break the force of the wind. It pushed me over the hills and off the road and I ended up in a deep hole, a hole like a tomb. The wind kept me there for days and days, until I had decided to change and accept my fate without recrimination. Then the wind stopped and the Nagual found me and took me back to the house. He told me that my task was to give what I didn't have, love and affection, and that I had to take care of the sisters, Lidia and Josefina, better than if they were myself. I understood then what the Nagual had been saying to me for years. My life had been over a long time ago. He had offered me a new life and that life had to be completely new. I couldn't bring to that new life my ugly old ways. That first night he found me, the moths had pointed me out to him; I had no business rebelling against my fate.
I began my change by taking care of Lidia and Josefina better than I took care of myself. I did everything the Nagual told me, and one night in this very gully in this very cave I found my completeness. I had fallen asleep right here where I am now and then a noise woke me up. I looked up and saw myself as I had once been, thin, young, fresh. It was my spirit that was coming back to me. At first it didn't want to come closer because I still looked pretty awful. But then it couldn't help itself and came to me. I knew right then, and all at once, what the Nagual had struggled for years to tell me. He had said that when one has a child that child takes the edge of our spirit. For a woman to have a girl means the end of that edge. To have had two as I did meant the end of me. The best of my strength and my illusions went to those girls. They stole my edge, the Nagual said, in the same way I had stolen it from my parents. That's our fate. A boy steals the biggest part of his edge from his father, a girl from her mother. The Nagual said that people who have had children could tell, if they aren't as stubborn as you, that something is missing in them. Some craziness, some nervousness, some power that they had before is gone. They used to have it, but where is it now? The Nagual said that it is in the little child running around the house, full of energy, full of illusions. In other words, complete. He said that if we watch children we can tell that they are daring, they move in leaps. If we watch their parents we can see that they are cautious and timid. They don't leap anymore. The Nagual told me we explain that by saying that the parents are grown-ups and have responsibilities. But that's not true. The truth of the matter is that they have lost their edge."
I asked la Gorda what the Nagual would have said if I had told him that I knew parents with much more spirit and edge than their children.
She laughed, covering her face in a gesture of sham embarrassment.
"You can ask me," she said giggling. "You want to hear what I think?"
"Of course I want to hear it."
"Those people don't have more spirit, they merely had a lot of vigor to begin with and have trained their children to be obedient and meek. They have frightened their children all their lives, that's all."
I described to her the case of a man I knew, a father of four, who at the age of fifty-three changed his life completely. That entailed leaving his wife and his executive job in a large corporation after more than twenty-five years of building a career and a family. He chucked it all very daringly and went to live on an island in the Pacific.
"You mean he went there all by himself?" la Gorda asked with a tone of surprise.
She had destroyed my argument. I had to admit that the man had gone there with his twenty-three-year-old bride.
"Who no doubt is complete," la Gorda added.
I had to agree with her again.
"An empty man uses the completeness of a woman all the time," she went on. "A complete woman is dangerous in her completeness, more so than a man. She is unreliable, moody, nervous, but also capable of great changes. Women like that can pick themselves up and go anywhere. They'll do nothing there, but that's because they had nothing going to begin with. Empty people, on the other hand, can't jump like that anymore, but they're more reliable. The Nagual said that empty people are like worms that look around before moving a bit and then they back up and then they move a little bit more again. Complete people always jump, somersault and almost always land on their heads, but it doesn't matter to them.
"The Nagual said that to enter into the other world one has to be complete. To be a sorcerer one has to have all of one's luminosity: no holes, no patches and all the edge of the spirit. So a sorcerer who is empty has to regain completeness. Man or woman, they must be complete to enter into that world out there, that eternity where the Nagual and Genaro are now waiting for us."
She stopped talking and stared at me for a long moment. There was barely enough light to write.
"But how did you regain your completeness?" I asked.
She jumped at the sound of my voice. I repeated my question. She stared up at the roof of the cave before answering me.
"I had to refuse those two girls," she said. "The Nagual once told you how to do that but you didn't want to hear it. His point was that one has to steal that edge back. He said that we got it the hard way by stealing it and that we must recover it the same way, the hard way.
"He guided me to do that, and the first thing he made me do was to refuse my love for those two children. I had to do that in dreaming. Little by little I learned not to like them, but the Nagual said that that was useless, one has to learn not to care and not not to like. Whenever those girls meant nothing to me I had to see them again, lay my eyes and my hands on them. I had to pat them gently on the head and let my left side snatch the edge out of them."
"What happened to them?"
"Nothing. They never felt a thing. They went home and are now like two grown-up persons. Empty like most people around them. They don't like the company of children because they have no use for them. I would say that they are better off. I took the craziness out of them. They didn't need it, while I did. I didn't know what I was doing when I gave it to them. Besides, they still retain the edge they stole from their father. The Nagual was right: no one noticed the loss, but I did notice my gain. As I looked out of this cave I saw all my illusions lined up like a row of soldiers. The world was bright and new. The heaviness of my body and my spirit had been lifted off and I was truly a new being."
"Do you know how you took your edge from your children?"
"They are not my children! I have never had any. Look at me."
She crawled out of the cave, lifted her skirt and showed me her naked body. The first thing I noticed was how slender and muscular she was.
She urged me to come closer and examine her. Her body was so lean and firm that I had to conclude she could not possibly have had children. She put her right leg on a high rock and showed me her vagina. Her drive to prove her change was so intense that I had to laugh to bridge my nervousness. I said that I was not a doctor and therefore I could not tell, but that I was sure she must be right.
"Of course I'm right," she said as she crawled back into the cave. "Nothing has ever come out of this womb."
After a moment's pause she answered my question, which I had already forgotten under the onslaught of her display.
"My left side took my edge back," she said. "All I did was to go and visit the girls. I went there four or five times to allow them time to feel at ease with me. They were big girls and were going to school. I thought I would have to fight not to like them, but the Nagual said that it didn't matter, that I should like them if I wanted to. So I liked them. But my liking them was just like liking a stranger. My mind was made up, my purpose was unbending. I want to enter into the other world while I'm still alive, as the Nagual told me. In order to do that I need all the edge of my spirit. I need my completeness. Nothing can turn me away from that world! Nothing!"
She stared at me defiantly.
"You have to refuse both, the woman who emptied you and the little boy who has your love, if you are seeking your completeness. The woman you can easily refuse. The little boy is something else. Do you think that your useless affection for that child is so worthy as to keep you from entering into that realm?"
I had no answer. It was not that I wanted to think it over. It was rather that I had become utterly confused.
"Soledad has to take her edge out of Pablito if she wants to enter into the nagual," she went on. "How in the hell is she going to do that? Pablito, no matter how weak he is, is a sorcerer. But the Nagual gave Soledad a unique chance. He said to her that her only moment would come when you walked into the house, and for that moment he not only made us move out into the other house, but he made us help her widen the path to the house, so you could drive your car to the very door. He told her that if she lived an impeccable life she would bag you, and suck away all your luminosity, which is all the power the Nagual left inside your body. That would not be difficult for her to do. Since she's going in the opposite direction, she could drain you to nothing. Her great feat was to lead you to a moment of helplessness.
"Once she had killed you, your luminosity would have increased her power and she would then have come after us. I was the only one who knew that. Lidia, Josefina and Rosa love her. I don't. I knew what her designs were. She would have taken us one by one, in her own time, since she had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Nagual said to me that there was no other way for her. He entrusted me with the girls and told me what to do in case Soledad killed you and came after our luminosity. He figured that I had a chance to save myself and to save perhaps one of the three. You see, Soledad is not a bad woman at all; she's simply doing what an impeccable warrior would do. The little sisters like her more than they like their own mothers. She's a real mother to them. That was, the Nagual said, the point of her advantage. I haven't been able to pull the little sisters away from her, no matter what I do. So if she had killed you, she would then have taken at least two of those three trusting souls. Then without you in the picture Pablito is nothing. Soledad would have squashed him like a bug. And then with all her completeness and power she would have entered into that world out there. If I had been in her place I would've tried to do exactly as she did.
"So you see, it was all or nothing for her. When you first arrived everyone was gone. It looked as if it was the end for you and for some of us. But then at the end it was nothing for her and a chance for the sisters. The moment I knew that you had succeeded I told the three girls that now it was their turn. The Nagual had said that they should wait until the morning to catch you unawares. He said that the morning was not a good time for you. He commanded me to stay away and not interfere with the sisters and to come in only if you would try to injure their luminosity."
"Were they supposed to kill me too?"
"Well, yes. You are the male side of their luminosity. Their completeness is at times their disadvantage. The Nagual ruled them with an iron hand and balanced them, but now that he's gone they have no way of leveling off. Your luminosity could do that for them."
"How about you, Gorda? Are you supposed to finish me off too?"
"I've told you already that I'm different. I am balanced. My emptiness, which was my disadvantage, is now my advantage. Once a sorcerer regains his completeness he's balanced, while a sorcerer who was always complete is a bit off. Like Genaro was a bit off. But the Nagual was balanced because he had been incomplete, like you and me, even more so than you and me. He had three sons and one daughter.
"The little sisters are like Genaro, a bit off. And most of the times so taut that they have no measure."
"How about me, Gorda? Do I also have to go after them?"
"No. Only they could have profited by sucking away your luminosity. You can't profit at all by anyone's death. The Nagual left a special power with you, a balance of some kind, which none of us has."
"Can't they learn to have that balance?"
"Sure they can. But that has nothing to do with the task the little sisters had to perform. Their task was to steal your power. For that, they became so united that they are now one single being. They trained themselves to sip you up like a glass of soda. The Nagual set them up to be deceivers of the highest order, especially Josefina. She put on a show that was peerless. Compared to their art, Soledad's attempt was child's play. She's a crude woman. The little sisters are true sorceresses. Two of them gained your confidence, while the third shocked you and rendered you helpless. They played their cards to perfection. You fell for it all and nearly succumbed. The only flaw was that you injured and cured Rosa's luminosity the night before and that made her jumpy. Had it not been for her nervousness and her biting your side so hard, chances are you wouldn't be here now. I saw everything from the door. I came in at the precise moment you were about to annihilate them."
"But what could I do to annihilate them?"
"How could I know that? I'm not you."
"I mean what did you see me doing?"
"I saw your double coming out of you." "What did it look like?"
"It looked like you, what else? But it was very big and menacing. Your double would have killed them. So I came in and interfered with it. It took the best of my power to calm you down. The sisters were no help. They were lost. And you were furious and violent. You changed colors right in front of us twice. One color was so violent that I feared you would kill me too."
"What color was it, Gorda?"
"White, what else? The double is white, yellowish white, like the sun."
I stared at her. The smile was very new to me.
"Yes," she continued, "we are pieces of the sun. That is why we are luminous beings. But our eyes can't see that luminosity because it is very faint. Only the eyes of a sorcerer can see it, and that happens after a lifetime struggle."
Her revelation had taken me by total surprise. I tried to reorganize my thoughts in order to ask the most appropriate question.
"Did the Nagual ever tell you anything about the sun?" I asked.
"Yes. We are all like the sun but very, very faint. Our light is too weak, but it is light anyway."
"But, did he say that the sun was perhaps the nagual?" I insisted desperately.
La Gorda did not answer. She made a series of involuntary noises with her lips. She was apparently thinking how to answer my probe. I waited, ready to write it down. After a long pause she crawled out of the cave.
"I'll show you my faint light," she said matter-of-factly.
She walked to the center of the narrow gully in front of the cave and squatted. From where I was I could not see what she was doing so I had to get out of the cave myself. I stood ten or twelve feet away from her. She put her hands under her skirt, while she was still squatting. Suddenly, she stood up. Her hands were loosely clasped into fists; she raised them over her head and snapped her fingers open. I heard a quick, bursting sound and I saw sparks flying from her fingers. She again clasped her hands and then snapped them open and another volley of much larger sparks flew out of them. She squatted once more and reached under her skirt. She seemed to be pulling something from her pubis. She repeated the snapping movement of her fingers as she threw her hands over her head, and I saw a spray of long, luminous fibers flying away from her fingers. I had to tilt my head up to see them against the already dark sky. They appeared to be long, fine filaments of a reddish light. After a while they faded and disappeared.
She squatted once again, and when she let her fingers open a most astonishing display of lights emanated from them. The sky was filled with thick rays of light. It was a spellbinding sight. I became engrossed in it; my eyes were fixed. I was not paying attention to la Gorda. I was looking at the lights. I heard a sudden outcry that forced me to look at her, just in time to see her grab one of the lines she was creating and spin to the very top of the canyon. She hovered there for an instant like a dark, huge shadow against the sky, and then descended to the bottom of the gully in spurts or small leaps or as if she were coming down a stairway on her belly.
I suddenly saw her standing over me. I had not realized that I had fallen on my seat. I stood up. She was soaked in perspiration and was panting, trying to catch her breath. She could not speak for a long time. She began to jog in place. I did not dare to touch her. Finally she seemed to have calmed down enough to crawl back into the cave. She rested for a few minutes.
Her actions had been so fast that I had hardly had any time to evaluate what had happened. At the moment of her display I had felt an unbearable, ticklish pain in the area just below my navel. I had not physically exerted myself and yet I was also panting.
"I think it's time to go to our appointment," she said, out of breath. "My flying opened us both. You felt my flying in your belly; that means you are open and ready to meet the four forces."
"What four forces are you talking about?"
"The Nagual's and Genaro's allies. You've seen them. They are horrendous. Now they are free from the Nagual's and Genaro's gourds. You heard one of them around Soledad's house the other night. They are waiting for you. The moment the darkness of the day sets in, they'll be uncontainable. One of them even came after you in the daytime at Soledad's place. Those allies now belong to you and me. We will take two each. I don't know which ones. And I don't know how, either. All the Nagual told me was that you and I would have to tackle them by ourselves."
"Wait, wait! " I shouted.
She did not let me speak. She gently put her hand over my mouth. I felt a pang of terror in the pit of my stomach. I had been confronted in the past with some inexplicable phenomena which don Juan and don Genaro had called their allies. There were four of them and they were entities, as real as anything in the world. Their presence was so outlandish that it would create an unparalleled state of fear in me every time I perceived them. The first one I had encountered was don Juan's; it was a dark, rectangular mass, eight or nine feet high and four or five feet across. It moved with the crushing weight of a giant boulder and breathed so heavily that it reminded me of the sound of bellows. I had always encountered it at night, in the darkness. I had fancied it to be like a door that walked by pivoting on one corner and then on the other.
The second ally I came across was don Genaro's. It was a long-faced, bald-headed, extraordinarily tall, glowing man, with thick lips and enormous, droopy eyes. He always wore pants that were too short for his long, skinny legs.
I had seen those two allies a great many times while in the company of don Juan and don Genaro. The sight of them would invariably cause an irreconcilable separation between my reason and my perception. On the one hand, I had no rational ground whatsoever to believe that what was happening to me was actually taking place, and on the other hand, there was no possible way of discarding the truthfulness of my perception.
Since they had always appeared while don Juan and don Genaro were around, I had filed them away as products of the powerful influence that those two men had had on my suggestible personality. In my understanding it was either that, or that don Juan and don Genaro had in their possession forces they called their allies, forces which were capable of manifesting themselves to me as those horrendous entities.
A feature of the allies was that they never allowed me to scrutinize them thoroughly. I had tried various times to focus my undivided attention on them, but every time I would get dizzy and disassociated.
The other two allies were more elusive. I had seen them only once, a gigantic black jaguar with yellow glowing eyes, and a ravenous, enormous coyote. The two beasts were ultimately aggressive and overpowering. The jaguar was don Genaro's and the coyote was don Juan's.
La Gorda crawled out of the cave. I followed her. She led the way. We walked out of the gully and reached a long, rocky plain. She stopped and let me step ahead. I told her that if she was going to let me lead us I was going to try to get to the car. She shook her head affirmatively and clung to me. I could feel her clammy skin. She seemed to be in a state of great agitation. It was perhaps a mile to where we had left the car, and to reach it we had to cross the deserted, rocky plain. Don Juan had shown me a hidden trail among some big boulders, almost on the side of the mountain that flanked the plain toward the east. I headed for that trail. Some unknown urge was guiding me; otherwise I would have taken the same trail we had taken before when we had crossed the plain on the level ground.
La Gorda seemed to be anticipating something awesome. She grabbed onto me. Her eyes were wild.
"Are we going the right way?" I asked.
She did not answer. She pulled her shawl and twisted it until it looked like a long, thick rope. She encircled my waist with it, crossed over the ends and encircled herself. She tied a knot and thus had us bound together in a band that looked like a figure eight.
"What did you do this for?" I asked.
She shook her head. Her teeth chattered but she could not say a word. Her fright seemed to be extreme. She pushed me to keep on walking. I could not help wondering why I was not scared out of my wits myself.
As we reached the high trail the physical exertion began to take its toll on me. I was wheezing and had to breathe through my mouth. I could see the shape of the big boulders. There was no moon but the sky was so clear that there was enough light to distinguish shapes. I could hear la Gorda also wheezing.
I tried to stop to catch my breath but she pushed me gently as she shook her head negatively. I wanted to make a joke to break the tension when I heard a strange thumping noise. My head moved involuntarily to my right to allow my left ear to scan the area. I stopped breathing for an instant and then I clearly heard that someone else besides la Gorda and myself was breathing heavily. I checked again to make sure before I told her. There was no doubt that that massive shape was there among the boulders. I put my hand on la Gorda's mouth as we kept on moving and signaled her to hold her breath. I could tell that the massive shape was very close. It seemed to be sliding as quietly as it could. It was wheezing softly.
La Gorda was startled. She squatted and pulled me down with her by the shawl tied around my waist. She put her hands under her skirt for a moment and then stood up; her hands were clasped and when she snapped her fingers open a volley of sparks flew from them.
"Piss in your hands," la Gorda whispered through clenched teeth.
"Hub?" I said, unable to comprehend what she wanted me to do.
She whispered her order three or four times with increasing urgency. She must have realized I did not know what she wanted, for she squatted again and showed that she was urinating in her hands. I stared at her dumbfounded as she made her urine fly like reddish sparks.
My mind went blank. I did not know which was more absorbing, the sight la Gorda was creating with her urine, or the wheezing of the approaching entity. I could not decide on which of the two stimuli to focus my attention; both were enthralling.
"Quickly! Do it in your hands!" la Gorda grumbled between her teeth.
I heard her, but my attention was dislocated. With an imploring voice la Gorda added that my sparks would make the approaching creature, whatever it was, retreat. She began to whine and I began to feel desperate. I could not only hear but I could sense with my whole body the approaching entity. I tried to urinate in my hands; my effort was useless. I was too self-conscious and nervous. I became possessed by la Gorda's agitation and struggled desperately to urinate. I finally did it. I snapped my fingers three or four times, but nothing flew out of them.
"Do it again," la Gorda said. "It takes a while to make sparks."
I told her that I had used up all the urine I had. There was the most intense look of despair in her eyes.
At that instant I saw the massive, rectangular shape moving toward us. Somehow it did not seem menacing to me, although la Gorda was about to faint out of fear.
Suddenly she untied her shawl and leaped onto a small rock that was behind me and hugged me from behind, putting her chin on my head. She had practically climbed on my shoulders. The instant that we adopted that position the shape ceased moving. It kept on wheezing, perhaps twenty feet away from us.
I felt a giant tension that seemed to be focused in my midsection. After a while I knew without the shadow of a doubt that if we remained in that position we would have drained our energy and fallen prey to whatever was stalking us.
I told her that we were going to run for our lives. She shook her head negatively. She seemed to have regained her strength and confidence. She said then that we had to bury our heads in our arms and lie down with our thighs against our stomachs. I remembered then that years before don Juan had made me do the same thing one night when I was caught in a deserted field in northern Mexico by something equally unknown and yet equally real to my senses. At that time don Juan had said that fleeing was useless and the only thing one could do was to remain on the spot in the position la Gorda had just prescribed.
I was about to kneel down when I had the unexpected feeling that we had made a terrible mistake in leaving the cave. We had to go back to it at any cost.
I looped la Gorda's shawl over my shoulders and under my arms. I asked her to hold the tips above my head, climb to my shoulders and stand on them, bracing herself by pulling up the ends of the shawl and fastening it like a harness. Years before don Juan had told me that one should meet strange events, such as the rectangular shape in front of us, with unexpected actions. He said that once he himself stumbled upon a deer that "talked" to him, and he stood on his head for the duration of that event, as a means of assuring his survival and to ease the strain of such an encounter.
My idea was to try to walk around the rectangular shape, back to the cave, with la Gorda standing on my shoulders.
She whispered that the cave was out of the question. The Nagual had told her not to remain there at all. I argued, as I fixed the shawl for her, that my body had the certainty that in the cave we would be all right. She replied that that was true, and it would work except that we had no means whatever to control those forces. We needed a special container, a gourd of some sort, like those I had seen dangling from don Juan's and don Genaro's belts.
She took off her shoes and climbed on my shoulders and stood there. I held her by her calves. As she pulled on the ends of the shawl I felt the tension of the band under my armpits. I waited until she had gained her balance. To walk in the darkness carrying one hundred and fifteen pounds on my shoulders was no mean feat. I went very slowly. I counted twenty-three paces and I had to put her down. The pain on my shoulder blades was unbearable. I told her that although she was very slender, her weight was crushing my collarbone.
The interesting part, however, was that the rectangular shape was no longer in sight. Our strategy had worked. La Gorda suggested that she carry me on her shoulders for a stretch. I found the idea ludicrous; my weight was more than what her small frame could stand. We decided to walk for a while and see what happened.
There was a dead silence around us. We walked slowly, bracing each other. We had moved no more than a few yards when I again began to hear strange breathing noises, a soft, prolonged hissing like the hissing of a feline. I hurriedly helped her to get back on my shoulders and walked another ten paces.
I knew we had to maintain the unexpected as a tactic if we wanted to get out of that place. I was trying to figure out another set of unexpected actions we could use instead of la Gorda standing on my shoulders, when she took off her long dress. In one single movement she was naked. She scrambled on the ground looking for something. I heard a cracking sound and she stood up holding a branch from a low bush. She manoeuvred her shawl around my shoulders and neck and made a sort of riding support where she could sit with her legs wrapped around my waist, like a child riding piggyback. She then put the branch inside her dress and held it above her head. She began to twirl the branch, giving the dress a strange bounce. To that effect she added a whistle, imitating the peculiar cry of a night owl.
After a hundred yards or so I heard the same sounds coming from behind us and from the sides. She changed to another birdcall, a piercing sound similar to that made by a peacock. A few minutes later the same birdcalls were echoing all around us.
I had witnessed a similar phenomenon of birdcalls being answered, years before with don Juan. I had thought at the time that perhaps the sounds were being produced by don Juan who was hiding nearby in the darkness, or even by someone closely associated with him, such as don Genaro, who was aiding him in creating an insurmountable fear in me, a fear that made me run in total darkness without even stumbling. Don Juan had called that particular action of running in darkness the gait of power.
I asked la Gorda if she knew how to do the gait of power. She said yes. I told her that we were going to try it, even though I was not at all sure I could do it. She said that it was neither the time nor the place for that and pointed in front of us. My heart, which had been beating fast all along, began to pound wildly inside my chest. Right ahead of us, perhaps ten feet away, and smack in the middle of the trail was one of don Genaro's allies, the strange glowing man, with the long face and the bald head. I froze on the spot. I heard la Gorda's shriek as though it were coming from far away. She frantically pounded on my sides with her fists. Her action broke my fixation on the man. She turned my head to the left and then to the right. On my left side, almost touching my leg, was the black mass of a giant feline with glaring yellow eyes. To my right I saw an enormous phosphorescent coyote. Behind us, almost touching la Gorda's back, was the dark rectangular shape.
The man turned his back to us and began to move on the trail. I also began to walk. La Gorda kept on shrieking and whining. The rectangular shape was almost grabbing her back. I heard it moving with crushing thumps. The sound of its steps reverberated on the hills around us. I could feel its cold breath on my neck. I knew that la Gorda was about to go mad. And so was 1. The feline and the coyote were almost rubbing my legs. I could hear their hissing and growling increasing in volume. I had, at that moment, the irrational urge to make a certain sound don Juan had taught me. The allies answered me. I kept on frantically making the sound and they answered me back. The tension diminished by degrees, and before we reached the road I was part of a most extravagant scene. La Gorda was riding piggyback, happily bouncing her dress over her head as if nothing had ever happened, keeping the bounces in rhythm with the sound I was making, while four creatures of another world answered me back as they moved at my pace, flanking us on all four sides.
We got to the road in that fashion. But I did not want to leave. There seemed to be something missing. I stayed motionless with la Gorda on my back and made a very special tapping sound don Juan had taught me. He had said that it was the call of moths. In order to produce it one had to use the inside edge of the left hand and the lips.
As soon as I made it everything seemed to come to rest peacefully. The four entities answered me, and as they did I knew which were the ones that would go with me.
I then walked to the car and eased la Gorda off my back onto the driver's seat and pushed her over to her side. We drove away in absolute silence. Something had touched me somewhere and my thoughts had been turned off.
La Gorda suggested that we go to don Genaro's place instead of driving to her house. She said that Benigno, Nestor ami Pablito lived there but they were out of town. Her suggestion appealed to me.
Once we were in the house la Gorda lit a lantern. The place looked just as it had the last time I had visited don Genaro. We sat on the floor. I pulled up a bench and put my writing pad on it. I was not tired and I wanted to write but I could not do it. I could not write at all.
"What did the Nagual tell you about the allies?" I asked.
My question seemed to catch her off guard. She did not know how to answer.
"I can't think," she finally said.
It was as though she had never experienced that state before. She paced back and forth in front of me. Tiny beads of perspiration had formed on the tip of her nose and on her upper lip.
She suddenly grabbed me by the hand and practically pulled me out of the house. She led me to a nearby ravine and there she got sick.
My stomach felt queasy. She said that the pull of the allies had been too great and that I should force myself to throw up. I stared at her, waiting for a further explanation. She took my head in her hands and stuck her finger down my throat, with the certainty of a nurse dealing with a child, and actually made me vomit. She explained that human beings had a very delicate glow around the stomach and that that glow was always being pulled by everything around. At times when the pull was too great, as in the case of contact with the allies, or even in the case of contact with strong people, the glow would become agitated, change color or even fade altogether. In such instances the only thing one could do was simply to throw up.
I felt better but not quite myself yet. I had a sense of tiredness, of heaviness around my eyes. We walked back to the house. As we reached the door la Gorda sniffed the air like a dog and said that she knew which allies were mine. Her statement, which ordinarily would have had no other significance than the one she alluded to, or the one I myself read into it, had the special quality of a cathartic device. It made me explode into thoughts. All at once, my usual intellectual deliberations came into being. I felt myself leaping in the air, as if thoughts had an energy of their own.
The first thought that came to my mind was that the allies were actual entities, as I had suspected without ever daring to admit it, even to myself. I had seen them and felt them and communicated with them. I was euphoric. I embraced la Gorda and began to explain to her the crux of my intellectual dilemma. I had seen the allies without the aid of don Juan or don Genaro and that act made all the difference in the world to me. I told la Gorda that once when I had reported to don Juan that I had seen one of the allies he had laughed and urged me not to take myself so seriously and to disregard what I had seen.
I had never wanted to believe I was having hallucinations, but I did not want to accept that there were allies, either. My rational background was unbending. I could not bridge the gap. This time, however, everything was different, and the thought that there were actually beings on this earth that were from another world without being aliens to the earth was more than I could bear. I said to la Gorda, half in jest, that secretly I would have given anything to be crazy. That would have absolved some part of me from the crushing responsibility of revamping my understanding of the world. The irony of it was that I could not have been more willing to revamp my understanding of the world, on an intellectual level, that is. But that was not enough. That had never been enough. And that had been my insurmountable obstacle all along, my deadly flaw. I had been willing to dally in don Juan's world in a semiconvinced fashion; therefore, I had been a quasisorcerer. All my efforts had been no more than my inane eagerness to fence with the intellect, as if I were in academia where one can do that very thing from 8: 00 a. m. to 5: 00 p. m., at which time, duly tired, one goes home. Don Juan used to say as a joke that, after arranging the world in a most beautiful and enlightened manner, the scholar goes home at five o'clock in order to forget his beautiful arrangement.
While la Gorda made us some food I worked feverishly on my notes. I felt much more relaxed after eating. La Gorda was in the best of spirits. She clowned, the way don Genaro used to, imitating the gestures I made while I wrote.
"What do you know about the allies, Gorda?" I asked.
"Only what the Nagual told me," she replied. "He said that the allies were forces that a sorcerer learns to control. He had two inside his gourd and so did Genaro."
"How did they keep them inside their gourds?"
"No one knows that. All the Nagual knew was that a tiny, perfect gourd with a neck must be found before one could harness the allies."
"Where can one find that kind of gourd?"
"Anywhere. The Nagual left word with me, in case we survived the attack of the allies, that we should start looking for the perfect gourd, which must be the size of the thumb of the left hand. That was the size of the Nagual's gourd."
"Have you seen his gourd?"
"No. Never. The Nagual said that a gourd of that kind is not in the world of men. It's like a little bundle that one can distinguish hanging from their belts. But if you deliberately look at it you will see nothing.
"The gourd, once it is found, must be groomed with great care. Usually sorcerers find gourds like that on vines in the woods. They pick them and dry them and then they hollow them out. And then they smooth them and polish them. Once the sorcerer has his gourd he must offer it to the allies and entice them to live there. If the allies consent, the gourd disappears from the world of men and the allies become an aid to the sorcerer. The Nagual and Genaro could make their allies do anything that needed to be done. Things they themselves could not do. Such as, for instance, sending the wind to chase me or sending that chicken to run inside Lidia's blouse."
I heard a peculiar, prolonged hissing sound outside the door. It was the exact sound I had heard in dona Soledad's house two days before. This time I knew it was the jaguar. The sound did not scare me. In fact, I would have stepped out to see the jaguar had la Gorda not stopped me.
"You're still incomplete," she said. "The allies would feast on you if you go out by yourself. Especially that daring one that's prowling out there now."
"My body feels very safe," I protested.
She patted my back and held me down against the bench on which I was writing.
"You're not a complete sorcerer yet," she said. "You have a huge patch in your middle and the force of those allies would yank it out of place. They are no joke."
"What are you supposed to do when an ally comes to you in this fashion?"
"I don't bother with them one way or another. The Nagual taught me to be balanced and not to seek anything eagerly. Tonight, for instance, I knew which allies would go to you, if you can ever get a gourd and groom it. You may be eager to get them. I'm not. Chances are I'll never get them myself. They are a pain in the neck."
"Because they are forces and as such they can drain you to nothing. The Nagual said that one is better off with nothing except one's purpose and freedom. Someday when you're complete, perhaps we'll have to choose whether or not to keep them."
I told her that I personally liked the jaguar even though there was something overbearing about it. She peered at me. There was a look of surprise and bewilderment in her eyes.
"I really like that one," I said.
"Tell me what you saw," she said.
I realized at that moment that I had automatically assumed that she had seen the same things I had. I described in great detail the four allies as I had seen them. She listened more than attentively; she appeared to be spellbound by my description.
"The allies have no form," she said when I had finished. "They are like a presence, like a wind, like a glow. The first one we found tonight was a blackness that wanted to get inside my body. That's why I screamed. I felt it reaching up my legs. The others were just colors. Their glow was so strong, though, that it made the trail look as if it were daytime."
Her statements astounded me. I had finally accepted, after years of struggle and purely on the basis of our encounter with them that night, that the allies had a consensual form, a substance which could be perceived equally by everyone's senses.
I jokingly told la Gorda that I had already written in my notes that they were creatures with form.
"What am I going to do now?" I asked in a rhetorical sense.
"It's very simple," she said. "Write that they are not."
I thought that she was absolutely right.
"Why do I see them as monsters?" I asked.
"That's no mystery," she said. "You haven't lost your human form yet. The same thing happened to me. I used to see the allies as people; all of them were Indian men with horrible faces and mean looks. They used to wait for me in deserted places. I thought they were after me as a woman. The Nagual used to laugh his head off at my fears. But still I was half dead with fright. One of them used to come and sit on my bed and shake it until I would wake up. The fright that that ally used to give me was something that I don't want repeated, even now that I'm changed. Tonight I think I was as afraid of the allies as I used to be."
"You mean that you don't see them as human beings anymore?"
"No. Not anymore. The Nagual told you that an ally is formless. He is right. An ally is only a presence, a helper that is nothing and yet it is as real as you and me."
"Have the little sisters seen the allies?"
"Everybody has seen them one time or another."
"Are the allies just a force for them too?"
"No. They are like you; they haven't lost their human form yet. None of them has. For all of them, the little sisters, the Genaros and Soledad, the allies are horrendous things; with them the allies are malevolent, dreadful creatures of the night. The sole mention of the allies sends Lidia and Josefina and Pablito into a frenzy. Rosa and Nestor are not that afraid of them, but they don't want to have anything to do with them, either. Benigno has his own designs so he's not concerned with them. They don't bother him, or me, for that matter. But the others are easy prey for the allies, especially now that the allies are out of the Nagual's and Genaro's gourds. They come all the time looking for you.
"The Nagual told me that as long as one clings to the human form, one can only reflect that form, and since the allies feed directly onto our life-force in the middle of the stomach, they usually make us sick, and then we see them as heavy, ugly creatures."
"Is there something that we can do to protect ourselves, or to change the shape of those creatures?"
"What all of you have to do is lose your human forms."
"What do you mean?"
My question did not seem to have any meaning for her. She stared at me blankly as if waiting for me to clarify what I had just said. She closed her eyes for a moment.
"You don't know about the human mold and the human form, do you?" she asked.
I stared at her.
"I've just seen that you know nothing about them," she said and smiled.
"You are absolutely right," I said.
"The Nagual told me that the human form is a force," she said. "And the human mold is. . . well. . . a mold. He said that everything has a particular mold. Plants have molds, animals have molds, worms have molds. Are you sure the Nagual never showed you the human mold?"
I told her that he had sketched the concept, but in a very brief manner, once when he had tried to explain something about a dream I had had. In the dream in question I had seen a man who seemed to be concealing himself in the darkness of a narrow gully. To find him there scared me. I looked at him for a moment and then the man stepped forward and made himself visible to me. He was naked and his body glowed. He seemed to be delicate, almost frail. I liked his eyes. They were friendly and profound. I thought that they were very kind. But then he stepped back into the darkness of the gully and his eyes became like two mirrors, like the eyes of a ferocious animal.
Don Juan said that I had encountered the human mold in "dreaming." He explained that sorcerers have the avenue of their "dreaming" to lead them to the mold, and that the mold of men was definitely an entity, an entity which could be seen by some of us at certain times when we are imbued with power, and by all of us for sure at the moment of our death. He described the mold as being the source, the origin of man, since, without the mold to group together the force of life, there was no way for that force to assemble itself into the shape of man.
He interpreted my dream as a brief and extraordinarily simplistic glance at the mold. He said that my dream had restated the fact that I was a simpleminded and very earthy man.
La Gorda laughed and said that she would have said the same thing herself. To see the mold as an average naked man and then as an animal had been indeed a very simplistic view view of the mold.
"Perhaps it was just a stupid, ordinary dream," I said, trying to defend myself.
"No," she said with a large grin. "You see, the human mold glows and it is always found in water holes and narrow gullies."
"Why in gullies and water holes?" I asked.
"It feeds on water. Without water there is no mold," she replied. "I know that the Nagual took you to water holes regularly in hopes of showing yon the mold. But your emptiness prevented you from seeing anything. The same thing happened to me. He used to make me lie naked on a rock in the very center of a particular dried-up water hole, but all I did was to feel the presence of something that scared me out of my wits."
"Why does emptiness prevent one from seeing the mold?"
"The Nagual said that everything in the world is a force, a pull or a push. In order for us to be pushed or pulled we need to be like a sail, like a kite in the wind. But if we have a hole in the middle of our luminosity, the force goes through it and never acts upon us.
"The Nagual told me that Genaro liked you very much and tried to make you aware of the hole in your middle. He used to fly his sombrero as a kite to tease you; he even pulled you from that hole until you had diarrhea, but you never caught on to what he was doing."
"Why didn't they tell me as plainly as you have told me?"
"They did, but you didn't notice their words."
I found her statement impossible to believe. To accept that they had told me about it and I had not acknowledged it was unthinkable.
"Did you ever see the mold, Gorda?" I asked.
"Sure, when I became complete again. I went to that particular water hole one day by myself and there it was. It was a radiant, luminous being. I could not look at it. It blinded me. But being in its presence was enough. I felt happy and strong. And nothing else mattered, nothing. Just being there was all I wanted. The Nagual said that sometimes if we have enough personal power we can catch a glimpse of the mold even though we are not sorcerers; when that happens we say that we have seen God. He said that if we call it God it is the truth. The mold is God.
"I had a dreadful time understanding the Nagual, because I was a very religious woman. I had nothing else in the world but my religion. So to hear the Nagual say the things he used to say made me shiver. But then I became complete and the forces of the world began to pull me, and I knew that the Nagual was right. The mold is God. What do you think?"
"The day I see it I'll tell you, Gorda," I said.
She laughed, and said that the Nagual used to make fun of me, saying that the day I would see the mold I would probably become a Franciscan friar, because in the depths of me I was a religious soul.
"Was the mold you saw a man or a woman?" I asked.
"Neither. It was simply a luminous human. The Nagual said that I could have asked something for myself. That a warrior cannot let that chance pass. But I could not think of anything to ask for. It was better that way. I have the most beautiful memory of it. The Nagual said that a warrior with enough power can see the mold many, many times. What a great fortune that must be!"
"But if the human mold is what puts us together, what is the human form?"
"Something sticky, a sticky force that makes us the people we are. The Nagual told me that the human form has no form. Like the allies that he carried in his gourd, it's anything, but in spite of not having form, it possesses us during our lives and doesn't leave us until we die. I've never seen the human form but I have felt it in my body."
She then described a very complex series of sensations that she had had over a period of years that culminated in a serious illness, the climax of which was a bodily state that reminded me of descriptions I had read of a massive heart attack. She said that the human form, as the force that it is, left her body after a serious internal battle that manifested itself as illness.
"It sounds as if you had a heart attack," I said.
"Maybe I did," she replied, "but one thing I know for sure. The day I had it, I lost my human form. I became so weak that for days I couldn't even get out of my bed. Since that day I haven't had the energy to be my old self. From time to time I have tried to get into my old habits, but I didn't have the strength to enjoy them the way I used to. Finally I gave up trying."
"What is the point of losing your form?"
"A warrior must drop the human form in order to change, to really change. Otherwise there is only talk about change, like in your case. The Nagual said that it is useless to think or hope that one can change one's habits. One cannot change one iota as long as one holds on to the human form. The Nagual told me that a warrior knows that he cannot change, and yet he makes it his business to try to change, even though he knows that he won't be able to. That's the only advantage a warrior has over the average man. The warrior is never disappointed when he fails to change."
"But you are still yourself, Gorda, aren't you?"
"No. Not anymore. The only thing that makes you think you are yourself is the form. Once it leaves, you are nothing."
"But you still talk and think and feel as you always did, don't you?"
"Not at all. I'm new."
She laughed and hugged me as if she were consoling a child.
"Only Eligio and I have lost our form," she went on. "It was our great fortune that we lost it while the Nagual was among us. You people will have a horrid time. That is your fate. Whoever loses it next will have only me as a companion. I already feel sorry for whoever it will be."
"What else did you feel, Gorda, when you lost your form, besides not having enough energy?"
"The Nagual told me that a warrior without form begins to see an eye. I saw an eye in front of me every time I closed my eyes. It got so bad that I couldn't rest anymore; the eye followed me wherever I went. I nearly went mad. Finally, I suppose, I became used to it. Now I don't even notice it because it has become part of me.
"The formless warrior uses that eye to start dreaming. If you don't have a form, you don't have to go to sleep to do dreaming. The eye in front of you pulls you every time you want to go."
"Where exactly is that eye, Gorda?"
She closed her eyes and moved her hand from side to side, right in front of her eyes, covering the span of her face.
"Sometimes the eye is very small and other times it is enormous," she went on. "When it's small your dreaming is precise. If it's big your dreaming is like flying over the mountains and not really seeing much. I haven't done enough dreaming yet, but the Nagual told me that that eye is my trump card. One day when I become truly formless I won't see the eye anymore; the eye will become just like me, nothing, and yet it'll be there like the allies. The Nagual said that everything has to be sifted through our human form. When we have no form, then nothing has form and yet everything is present. I couldn't understand what he meant by that, but now I see that he was absolutely right. The allies are only a presence and so will be the eye. But at this time that eye is everything to me. In fact, in having that eye I should need nothing else in order to call up my dreaming, even when I'm awake. I haven't been able to do that yet. Perhaps I'm like you, a bit stubborn and lazy."
"How did you do the flying you showed me tonight?"
"The Nagual taught me how to use my body to make lights, because we are light anyway, so I make sparks and lights and they in turn lure the lines of the world. Once I see one, it's easy to hook myself to it."
"How do you hook yourself?"
"I grab it."
She made a gesture with her hands. She clawed them and then placed them together joined at the wrists, forming a sort of bowl, with the clawed fingers upright.
"You have to grab the line like a jaguar," she went on, "and never separate the wrists. If you do, you'll fall down and break your neck."
She paused and that forced me to look at her, waiting for more of her revelations.
"You don't believe me, do you?" she asked.
Without giving me time to answer, she squatted and began again to produce her display of sparks. I was calm and collected and could place my undivided attention on her actions. When she snapped her fingers open, every fiber of her muscles seemed to tense at once. That tension seemed to be focused on the very tips of her fingers and was projected out like rays of light. The moisture in her fingertips was actually a vehicle to carry some sort of energy emanating from her body.
"How did you do that, Gorda?" I asked, truly marveling at her.
"I really don't know," she said. "I simply do it. I've done it lots and lots of times and yet I don't know how I do it. When I grab one of those rays I feel that I'm being pulled by something. I really don't do anything else except let the lines I've grabbed pull me. When I want to get back through, I feel that the line doesn't want to let me free and I get frantic. The Nagual said that that was my worst feature. I get so frightened that one of these days I'm going to injure my body. But I figure that one of these days I'll be even more formless and then I won't get frightened, so as long as I hold on until that day. I'm all right."
"Tell me then, Gorda, how do you let the lines pull you?"
"We're back again in the same spot. I don't know. The Nagual warned me about you. You want to know things that cannot be known."
I struggled to make clear to her that what I was after were the procedures. I had really given up looking for an explanation from all of them because their explanations explained nothing to me. To describe to me the steps that were followed was something altogether different.
"How did you learn to let your body hold onto the lines of the world?" I asked.
"I learned that in dreaming," she said, "but I really don't know how. Everything for a woman warrior starts in dreaming. The Nagual told me, just as he told you, first to look for my hands in my dreams. I couldn't find them at all. In my dreams I had no hands. I tried and tried for years to find them. Every night I used to give myself the command to find my hands but it was to no avail. I never found anything in my dreams. The Nagual was merciless with me. He said that I had to find them or perish. So I lied to him that I had found my hands in my dreams. The Nagual didn't say a word but Genaro threw his hat on the floor and danced on it. He patted my head and said that I was really a great warrior. The more he praised me the worse I felt. I was about to tell the Nagual the truth when crazy Genaro aimed his behind at me and let out the loudest and longest fart I had ever heard. He actually pushed me backward with it. It was like a hot, foul wind, disgusting and smelly, just like me. The Nagual was choking with laughter.
"I ran to the house and hid there. I was very fat then. I used to eat a great deal and I had a lot of gas. So I decided not to eat for a while. Lidia and Josefina helped me. I didn't eat anything for twenty-three days, and then one night I found my hands in my dreams. They were old and ugly and green, but they were mine. So that was the beginning. The rest was easy."
"And what was the rest, Gorda?"
"The next thing the Nagual wanted me to do was to try to find houses or buildings in my dreams and look at them, trying not to dissolve the images. He said that the art of the dreamer is to hold the image of his dream. Because that's what we do anyway during all our lives."
"What did he mean by that?"
"Our art as ordinary people is that we know how to hold the image of what we are looking at. The Nagual said that we do that but we don't know how. We just do it; that is, our bodies do it. In dreaming we have to do the same thing, except that in dreaming we have to learn how to do it. We have to struggle not to look but merely to glance and yet hold the image.
"The Nagual told me to find in my dreams a brace for my belly button. It took a long time because I didn't understand what he meant. He said that in dreaming we pay attention with the belly button; therefore it has to be protected. We need a little warmth or a feeling that something is pressing the belly button in order to hold the images in our dreams.
"I found a pebble in my dreams that fit my belly button, and the Nagual made me look for it day after day in water holes and canyons, until I found it. I made a belt for it and I still wear it day and night. Wearing it made it easier for me to hold images in my dreams.
"Then the Nagual gave me the task of going to specific places in my dreaming. I was doing really well with my task but at that time I lost my form and I began to see the eye in front of me. The Nagual said that the eye had changed everything, and he gave me orders to begin using the eye to pull myself away. He said that I didn't have time to get to my double in dreaming, but that the eye was even better. I felt cheated. Now I don't care. I've used that eye the best way I could. I let it pull me in my dreaming. I close my eyes and fall asleep like nothing, even in the daytime or anywhere. The eye pulls me and I enter into another world. Most of the time I just wander around in it. The Nagual told me and the little sisters that during our menstrual periods dreaming becomes power. I get a little crazy for one thing. I become more daring. And like the Nagual showed us, a crack opens in front of us during those days. You're not a woman so it can't make any sense to you, but two days before her period a woman can open that crack and step through it into another world."
With her left hand she followed the contour of an invisible line that seemed to run vertically in front of her at arm's length.
"During that time a woman, if she wants to, can let go of the images of the world," la Gorda went on. "That's the crack between the worlds, and as the Nagual said, it is right in front of all of us women.
"The reason the Nagual believes women are better sorcerers than men is because they always have the crack in front of them, while a man has to make it.
"Well, it was during my periods that I learned in dreaming to fly with the lines of the world. I learned to make sparks with my body to entice the lines and then I learned to grab them. And that's all I have learned in dreaming so far."
I laughed and told her that I had nothing to show for my years of "dreaming."
"You've learned how to call the allies in dreaming," she said with great assurance.
I told her that don Juan had taught me to make those sounds. She did not seem to believe me.
"The allies must come to you, then, because they're seeking his luminosity," she said, "the luminosity he left with you. He told me that every sorcerer has only so much luminosity to give away. So he parcels it out to all his children in accordance with an order that comes to him from somewhere out there in that vastness. In your case he even gave you his own call."
She clicked her tongue and winked at me.
"If you don't believe me," she went on, "why don't you make the sound the Nagual taught you and see if the allies come to you?"
I felt reluctant to do it. Not because I believed that my sound would bring anything, but because I did not want to humor her.
She waited for a moment, and when she was sure I was not going to try, she put her hand to her mouth and imitated my tapping sound to perfection. She played it for five or six minutes, stopping only to breathe.
"See what I mean?" she asked smiling. "The allies don't give a fig about my calling, no matter how close it is to yours. Now try it yourself."
I tried. After a few seconds I heard the call being answered. La Gorda jumped to her feet. I had the clear impression that she was more surprised than I was. She hurriedly made me stop, turned off the lantern and gathered up my notes.
She was about to open the front door, but she stopped short; a most frightening sound came from just outside the door. It sounded to me like a growl. It was so horrendous and ominous that it made us both jump back, away from the door. My physical alarm was so intense that I would have fled if I had had a place to go.
Something heavy was leaning against the door; it made the door creak. I looked at la Gorda. She seemed to be even more alarmed. She was still standing with her arm outstretched as if to open the door. Her mouth was open. She seemed to have been frozen in midaction.
The door was about to be sprung open any moment. There were no bangs on it, just a terrifying pressure, not only on the door but all around the house.
La Gorda stood up and told me to embrace her quickly from behind, locking my hands around her waist over her belly button. She performed then a strange movement with her hands. It was as though she were flipping a towel while holding it at the level of her eyes. She did it four times. Then she made another strange movement. She placed her hands at the middle of her chest with the palms up, one above the other without touching. Her elbows were straight out to her sides. She clasped her hands as if she had suddenly grabbed two unseen bars. She slowly turned her hands over until the palms were facing down and then she made a most beautiful, exertive movement, a movement that seemed to engage every muscle in her body. It was as though she were opening a heavy sliding door that offered a great resistance. Her body shivered with the exertion. Her arms moved slowly, as if opening a very, very heavy door, until they were fully extended laterally.
I had the clear impression that as soon as she opened that door a wind rushed through. That wind pulled us and we actually went through the wall. Or rather, the walls of the house went through us, or perhaps all three, la Gorda, the house and myself, went through the door she had opened. All of a sudden I was out in an open field. I could see the dark shapes of the surrounding mountains and trees. I was no longer holding onto la Gorda's waist. A noise above me made me look up, and I saw her hovering perhaps ten feet above me like the black shape of a giant kite. I felt a terrible itch in my belly button and then la Gorda plummeted down to the ground at top speed, but instead of crashing she came to a soft, total halt.
At the moment that la Gorda landed, the itch in my umbilical region turned into a horribly exhausting nervous pain. It was as if her landing were pulling my insides out. I screamed in pain at the top of my voice.
Then la Gorda was standing next to me, desperately out of breath. I was sitting down. We were again in the room of don Genaro's house where we had been.
La Gorda seemed unable to catch her breath. She was drenched in perspiration.
"We've got to get out of here," she muttered.
It was a short drive to the little sisters' house. None of them was around. La Gorda lit a lantern and led me directly to the open-air kitchen in back. There she undressed herself and asked me to bathe her like a horse, by throwing water on her body. I took a small tub full of water and proceeded to pour it gently on her, but she wanted me to drench her.
She explained that a contact with the allies, like the one we had, produced a most injurious perspiration that had to be washed off immediately. She made me take off my clothes and then drenched me in ice-cold water. Then she handed me a clean piece of cloth and we dried ourselves as we walked back into the house. She sat on the big bed in the front room after hanging the lantern on the wall above it. Her knees were up and I could see every part of her body. I hugged her naked body, and it was then that I realized what dona Soledad had meant when she said that la Gorda was the Nagual's woman. She was formless like don Juan. I could not possibly think of her as a woman.
I started to put on my clothes. She took them away from me. She said that before I could wear them again I had to sun them. She gave me a blanket to put over my shoulders and got another one for herself.
"That attack of the allies was truly scary," she said as we sat down on the bed. "We were really lucky that we could get out of their grip. I had no idea why the Nagual told me to go to Genaro's with you. Now I know. That house is where the allies are the strongest. They missed us by the skin of our teeth. We were lucky that I knew how to get out."
"How did you do it, Gorda?"
"I really don't know," she said. "I simply did it. My body knew how, I suppose, but when I want to think how I did it, I can't.
"This was a great test for both of us. Until tonight I didn't know that I could open the eye, but look what I did. I actually opened the eye, just as the Nagual said I could. I've never been able to do it until you came along. I've tried but it never worked. This time the fear of those allies made me just grab the eye the way the Nagual told me to, by shaking it four times in its four directions. He said that I should shake it as I shake a bed sheet, and then I should open it as a door, by holding it right at the middle. The rest was very easy. Once the door was opened I felt a strong wind pulling me instead of blowing me away. The trouble, the Nagual said, is to return. You have to be very strong to do that. The Nagual and Genaro and Eligio could go in and out of that eye like nothing. For them the eye was not even an eye; they said it was an orange light, like the sun. And so were the Nagual and Genaro an orange light when they flew. I'm still very low on the scale; the Nagual said that when I do my flying I spread out and look like a pile of cow dung in the sky. I have no light. That's why the return is so dreadful for me. Tonight you helped me and pulled me back twice. The reason I showed you my flying tonight was because the Nagual gave me orders to let you see it no matter how difficult or crummy it is. With my flying I was supposed to be helping you, the same way you were supposed to be helping me when you showed me your double. I saw your whole maneuver from the door. You were so busy feeling sorry for Josefina that your body didn't notice my presence. I saw how your double came out from the top of your head. It wriggled out like a worm. I saw a shiver that began in your feet and went through your body and then your double came out. It was like you, but very shiny. It was like the Nagual himself. That's why the sisters were petrified. I knew they thought that it was the Nagual himself. But I couldn't see all of it. I missed the sound because I have no attention for it."
"I beg your pardon?"
"The double needs a tremendous amount of attention. The Nagual gave that attention to you but not to me. He told me that he had run out of time."
She said something else about a certain kind of attention but I was very tired. I fell asleep so suddenly that I did not even have time to put my notes away.