We left Kunta at the vet, still unconscious. I really feared for the life of our little friend, but we had more urgent problems and Aunt Amalia had grown even more dramatic than usual, if that was possible. She said in a grave tone, “We need to find my nephew Edelmiro; I don’t want to, but we will have to turn to Uncle Restituto. Please girls, let’s get in the car, we all need to go to Echedo.”
Some 5 minutes later we were hitting the first houses of the picturesque and tiny village. Basically a bunch of traditional houses scattered over a small valley in the middle of large vineyards and motley fruit trees. Aunt Amalia gave mom directions until we arrived at the Echedo retirement home.
As we crossed the main gate, a friendly nurse addressed us to ask about our intentions. We mentioned Uncle Restituto, and the nurse smiled and nodded. It seemed as if Uncle Restituto normally didn’t receive too many visits. We went up one storey in the lift and made our way to a wide balcony at the end of a large gallery in which more elderly people, some of them physically or mentally handicapped, were wandering about. There was a certain feeling of sadness and abandonment in the place that could not be blamed on the staff. They were all very nice, friendly and diligent. As the needs of the retirees arose, they tried to cater to them. The smiling nurse who had received us at the entry led us to the balcony, where sitting on a wheelchair was an old man, absolutely absent, as if he were a vegetable. His deep blue eyes were completely fixed on the horizon, his hands lying carelessly on his apron, and, beneath his slightly open mouth, a thick white beard was the stoic recipient of a small creek of saliva that fell from a corner of the old man’s mouth.
“Hi, Restituto, how are you doing? Look who’s come to visit!! Aren’t you happy?” said the nurse. “Well, I have to go and attend to my multiple duties, hope you all have a good afternoon,” explained the nurse as she left. “Dear cousin, so long…” It was the first time I had seen Aunt Amalia act so hesitantly. “Do you remember me? I’m Amalia. Listen, we’ve got a problem. My nephew Edelmiro has disappeared…I’m afraid it has to do with something related to the family business. Your business,” I detected a certain tone of reproach here. The old man didn’t answer, and remained completely impassive.
Aunt Amalia sighed, took one step back and said, “Restituto! ¡Ave María Pusísima!” We were all amazed when we heard a deep low voice come out of that poor wrecked body, saying “¡Sin pecado concebida!” Uncle Restituto’s eyes weren’t absent anymore, his facial muscles started to settle and lose paleness. He raised his hand to clean the saliva from his mouth and, with a little effort and rumblings from his old articulations, he stood up. I felt what people who saw Jesus tell Lazarus to rise and walk may have felt. That man who, a few moments ago was nothing but a lifeless body had suddenly regained the status of a human being and was starting to walk.
With every step he felt more and more confident and gained a kind of momentum on his way out of the retirement home. Some of the nurses who saw us leave were speechless and others simply didn’t recognize him. “We are going for a little stroll so he can stretch his legs,” mom tried to explain.
We were all packed inside our tiny car. But Uncle Restituto gave no room for debate, “To El Hoyo de El Barrio,” he said. And there we all went, driving the steep road to a small village tucked between several hills.
As we got to the exact point indicated by Uncle Restituto, he got out of the car and started to walk towards a tiny ruined house. He opened the door and before our eyes appeared what looked like an old winery. The dust of many decades covered each and every object in the room. There was a row of old wine barrels. I didn’t know whether they were full or empty. The old man approached a tiny door, found a rusty key on top of one of the barrels and opened it. Then he stepped in, and all of us followed.
He switched on the lights and, one after the other, the fluorescent tubes lit up a large room that didn’t match the small dimensions of the house we had just entered. We were all amazed by what we saw in that place. It looked just like a museum or a XIX century Curiosities Chamber. There were all sorts of antique weapons and machinery hanging from the walls and inside vitrines. There were medieval weapons, Iberian Falcatae, Gladium Hispanicus, Moorish scimitars, rapier swords, daggers, sparkle arquebuses, a series of muskets, Mauser rifles, and all sorts of modern automatic and semiautomatic war weapons. Moreover, there were old paintings depicting religious or mythological scenes, as well as various pieces of craftsmanship representing coats of arms and other strange symbols.
On one of the walls hung a row of men’s and women’s portraits. They started in medieval times during the Reconquista and ended in the present with a likeness of a younger Edelmiro. “These are our ancestors. We belong to a long series of warriors who have fought throughout history to defend Spain. Once in the military orders, then in the Santa Hermandad, the Tercios, etc. We’ve joined every military organization either known to the public or secret in order to protect the kingdom and the interests of our country. Then the elites ceased to trust or need us, who knows, and then some of us viewed themselves as forced to earn a living by working privately for third-party companies or organizations as hitmen or mercenaries, like Edelmiro has done for the last 8 years or so.”
I couldn’t help but stare goggle-eyed and with my mouth wide open in amazement. I didn’t know anything about the darkest aspects of Edelmiro’s life. Uncle Restituto looked as if he were preparing for war; he acted quickly, carefully, without hesitation, nothing like the person a few moments before who was almost a vegetable at the retirement home in Echedo.
Restituto grabbed a weird wire from a box. He slid a small gun in the back of his trousers, a knife and a pistol. In a Hollywood movie the hero would have collected hundreds of guns, bombs and different weapons. “You have so many weapons uncle, grab some more!” said Luisa and Moneiba. The old man looked back at them in a way that made them shiver, and kept on walking. He knelt down before a copy of Murillo’s Immaculate conception, crossed himself and went out of the place with a resolute step. We couldn’t help but look at each other a bit quizzically and follow him.
Now it was getting dark outside. We got to a clearing in the woods surrounding the house, and the old man stopped. He used his left hand as a screen, placing it next to his cheek, bent his right index finger and, as he inserted it into his mouth, he began whistling in a very strange way, as if he were… saying something. I had heard about whistling languages in the Canary Islands many times before, but this was the first time I had the chance to see it live. He repeated more or less the same message over and over again. Nothing happened. Once again. Absolutely nothing… what was that?… nothing indeed.
Luisa was about to entertain us with a new witty comment when a pair of red eyes appeared between the shadows beneath the bushes next to us. “Paco, come here boy, time to work.” And we all had to swallow a scream in our throats as a big animal, resembling a wolf, jumped out of the bushes and approached Uncle Restituto. “Don’t be afraid of Paco, he’s one of us. He lives alone in the forest, but our people feed him and whenever we need him we call him. He’s a good boy,” he explained, caressing the head of the wolfish dog. The old man gave what looked like an old piece of cloth to the dog for him to smell, and we all began to walk through the woods behind him. It was so dark that very soon we had to turn on our mobile phone flashlights. Uncle Restituto had his own old-fashioned one.
Uncle kept on whistling every few steps and very soon we could hear other whistles answering back, some of them rather close, although we never saw anyone. It was quite a disturbing feeling being in the dark surrounded by a group of people we couldn’t see. And shivers ran down my spine as those whistles came closer and closer. In the dark. Paco kept searching for any possible traces of Edelmiro, but didn’t seem to be very successful.
(…to be continued…)
Series – Evanescent
January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)
February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
March: The Evening with Jackie Lee – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)
May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)
July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
September: To be announced – Diana Haidar (Syria)
October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
November: The Writer’s Daughter – Lauren Voaden (United Kingdom)
December: Translation Perfect – Zhang Lu (China)
Background – Context
Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)
In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Composite of La Garanona, Spain – Looming – Ana del Castillo (Shutterstock) + Spain – Antique winery – lunamarina (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed