Die and You’ll See

Die and You’ll See
(Muérete y verás)
by Pedro Escamilla

I

What in this world can be more terrible than doubt? What crueler torment could be invented to slowly destroy humanity?

I don’t know how the multitudes endorse so many facts in spite of the evidence that seems to destroy them.

This is about the testimony of a physician and a priest, of those who in such extreme and solemn circumstances should not—I will say more—cannot lie. This is about destroying an absurdity, a thing implausibly implausible, if you will allow me to use this phrase. This is, finally, about the most momentous event in the history of a mortal.

A man can live without virtue and without shoes, without a cloak in the winter and almost without a shirt.

But to live without life!

In what tolerably organized society do they admit a fact of nature so strange? What philosophical system admits the material existence of a dead person? Because now it’s not a question of the soul, of the spirit; it is no longer about the uncreated part, of the moral entity.

No.

It’s a much more intricate and arduous question…Damn it!

For at the end of the day I can’t find words to express this absurdity.

Read on, and judge.

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Exculpation

Exculpation
(Eximente)
by Emilia Pardo Bazán

Federico Molina’s suicide was one no one could explain. Hypotheses were advanced, taking into account the usual causes of these sorts of acts, so tragically frequent that they have their own section in the Press. People spoke, as they always speak, of green baize, dark eyes, incurable disease, money lost and unrecovered; in short, of all the usual things. But no one could settle on any of these reasons, and Federico took his secret to the forgotten niche in which his remains rest, while his poor soul….

Don’t you think about the destiny of souls after they emerge from their clay, like an electric spark from coal? Do you truly never think about what is never spoken of? Do you believe so firmly, like Espronceda, in the peace of the grave?

Prince Hamlet didn’t believe, and so preferred to suffer the evils that surrounded him, rather than seek out unknown ones in the undiscovered country from which no traveler returns.

Perhaps Federico Molina didn’t consider this serious drawback of his somber decision. We don’t know, we will never know, what Federico believed–not even what he doubted–because Hamlet, traumatized by the apparition of that vengeful shade, wasn’t saved from taking his own life by his faith, but by his doubt: the possibility of “perchance to dream”….

A coincidence of the kind that seems contrived, but couldn’t be made up, brought into my hands something resembling a journal: notes jotted down by Federico, bearing on the first page the date of a year just before the drama. The key to his misfortune was enclosed in an elegant album bound in Russian leather, with the intertwined initials F. M. in gold. It was sold to an antiques dealer at auction, then acquired by a bookbinding enthusiast, who carefully tears out the written or printed contents of his acquisitions and keeps only the covers, having amassed a superb–shall I say library?–of book bindings, and whom I have begged to give me what was inside, since he values only the outside—and perhaps he’s a wise man. Thus, I was able to penetrate into the psyche of the suicide, and I don’t believe anyone can interpret the evidence that I have uncovered and compiled any differently than I have.

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The Devil’s Catch

The Devil’s Catch
(La pesca del diablo)
by Pedro Escamilla

I

Gil was rightly considered one of the unluckiest fishermen on the entire Cantibrian coast. No one knew the cause of the misfortune that kept him imprisoned in its nets, since he was quite able to discern and appreciate the difference between an oyster and a turbot.

The silvery scales of the sardines, the speckled trout, the barbel and the slender elusive eels fled from his tasty bait and well constructed nets, only to break the nets of his companions with their weight. Gil gave himself over to all the devils known in the incantations of the Church, on seeing that while the novice fishermen were flush with money and enjoying themselves in the taverns of the port, he had hardly enough to buy the brown and bitter bread of the desperate, and to repair all the damage to his boat, which was always one of those that suffered the most in every storm.

It’s true that he had never once drowned, which perhaps would have been a blessing that would have saved him much sorrow.

This situation had a deplorable effect on his self-esteem: namely, that having reached the age of thirty there wasn’t a single young woman in the village who would accept his affection under such conditions, because then, as now, a fisherman was only worth as much as the fish that he caught.

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Lucifer

Lucifer
by Pedro Escamilla

I

There was in the village of … a poor young man named Antero, who was about to wed Marcelina, one of the comeliest girls in the region.

The event–I speak of the marriage–was taking place against the wishes of Auntie Ursula, a sort of village witch; for until quite recently all remote villages and sparsely inhabited neighborhoods enjoyed the odd privilege of a resident witch.

Auntie Ursula didn’t tell fortunes, or predict the future, or even give the evil eye. Yet she was considered a witch; everyone in the village thought so, because (and this is serious) she couldn’t remain in the church “while the missal was open,” an ailment peculiar to those caught in the flagrant offense of witchcraft.

Why did Marcelina and Antero’s wedding displease the good old woman? Who knows?

“Look,” Auntie Ursula would say when speaking to anyone about the matter, “that marriage, which seems so auspicious, will bring unhappiness to both parties. Marcelina, who is blonde, has a mole with black hair on the upper part of her throat; this is a contradiction, for in general the color of a person’s mole tends to match their hair color. And besides, Antero was promised to Lucifer by his mother; I know for a fact that she made this desperate vow so she could have a son. A marriage that takes place under such strange circumstances can’t have anything but a disastrous end.”

The vow by Antero’s mother was hypothetical; nobody except Auntie Ursula knew a word about it. As for the mole, that was true, but until then no one had ever noticed that blondes with black moles were doomed to misfortune.

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