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Posts Tagged ‘Francisco Quiroga’

Horacio Quiroga (December 31 1878 – February 19 1937)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her entire honeymoon gave her hot and cold shivers. A blond, angelic, and timid young girl, the childhood fancies she had dreamed about being a bride had been chilled by her husband’s rough character. She loved him very much, nonetheless, although sometimes she gave a light shudder when, as they returned home through the streets together at night, she cast furtive glances at the impressive stature of her Jordan, who had been silent for an hour. He, for his part, loved her profoundly but never let it be seen.

For three months – they had been married in April – they lived in a special kind of bliss. Doubtless she would have wished less severity in the rigorous sky of love, more expansive and less cautious tenderness, but her husband’s impassive manner always restrained her.

The house in which they lived influenced her chills and shuddering to no small degree. The whiteness of the silent patio – friezes, columns, and marble statues – produced the wintry impression of an enchanted palace. Inside, the glacial brilliance of stucco, the completely bare walls, affirmed the sensation of unpleasant coldness. As one crossed from one room to another, the echo of his steps reverberated throughout the house, as if long abandonment had sensitized its resonance.

Alicia passed the autumn in this strange love nest. She had determined, however, to cast a veil over her former dreams and live like a sleeping beauty in the hostile house, trying not to think about anything till her husband arrived each evening.

It is not strange that she grew thin. She had a light attack of influenza that dragged on insidiously for days and days: after that Alicia’s health never returned. Finally one afternoon she was able to go into the garden, supported on her husband’s arm. She looked around listlessly. Suddenly Jordan, with deep tenderness, ran his hand very slowly over her head, and Alicia instantly burst into sobs, throwing her arms around his neck. For a long time she cried out all the fears she had kept silent, redoubling her weeping at Jordan’s slightest caress. Then her sobs subsided, and she stood a long while, her face hidden in the hollow of his neck, not moving or speaking a word.

This was the last day Alicia was well enough to be up. The following day she awakened feeling faint. Jordan’s doctor examined her with minute attention, prescribing calm and absolute rest.

“I don’t know,” he said to Jordan at the street door. “She has a great weakness that I am unable to explain. And with no vomiting, nothing . . . if she wakes tomorrow as she did today, call me at once.”

When she awakened the following day, Alicia was worse. There was a consultation. It was agreed there was an anemia of incredible progression, completely inexplicable. Alicia had no more fainting spells but she was visibly moving towards death. The lights were lighted all day long in her bedroom, and there was complete silence. Hours went by without the slightest sound. Alicia dozed. Jordan virtually lived in the drawing-room, which was also always lighted. With tireless persistence he paced ceaselessly from one end of the room to the other. The carpet swallowed his steps. At times he entered the bedroom and continued his silent pacing back and forth alongside the bed, stopping for an instant at each end to regard his wife.

Suddenly Alicia began to have hallucinations, vague images, at first seeming to float in the air, then descending to floor level. Her eyes excessively wide, she stared continuously at the carpet on either side of the head of her bed. One night she suddenly focused on one spot. Then she opened her mouth to scream, and pearls of sweat suddenly beaded her nose and lips.

“Jordan! Jordan!” she clamoured, rigid with fright, still staring at the carpet; she looked at him once again; and after a long moment of stupefied confrontation she regained her senses. She smiled and took her husband’s hand in hers, caressing it, trembling, for half an hour.

Among her most persistent hallucinations was that of an anthropoid poised on his fingertips on the carpet, staring at her.

The doctors returned, but to no avail. They saw before them a diminishing life, a life bleeding away day by day, hour by hour, absolutely without their knowing why. During the last consultation Alicia lay in a stupor while they took her pulse, passing her inert wrist from one to another. They observed her a long time in silence and then moved into the dining room.

“Phew . . .” The discouraged chief physician shrugged his shoulders. “It’s an inexplicable case. There is little we can do . . .”

“That’s my last hope,” Jordan groaned. And he staggered blindly against the table.

Alicia’s life was fading away in the sub-delirium of anemia, a delirium which grew worse throughout the evening hours but which let up somewhat after dawn. The illness never worsened during the daytime, but each morning she awakened pale as death, almost in a swoon. It seemed only at night that her life drained out of her in new waves of blood. Always when she awakened she had the sensation of lying collapsed in the bed with a million pound weight on top of her. Following the third day of this relapse she left her bed again. She could scarcely move her head. She did not want her bed to be touched, not even to have her bed-covers arranged. Her crepuscular terrors advanced now in the form of monsters that dragged themselves toward the  bed and laboriously climbed upon the bedspread.

Then she lost consciousness. The final two days she raved ceaselessly in a weak voice. The lights funereally illuminated the bedroom and drawing room. In the deathly silence of the house the only sound was the monotonous delirium from the bedroom and the dull echoes of Jordan’s eternal pacing.

Finally, Alicia died. The servant, when she came in afterward to strip the now empty bed, stared wonderingly for a moment at the pillow.

“Sir!” she called to Jordan in a low voice. “There are stains on the pillow that look like blood.”

Jordan approached rapidly and bent over the pillow. Truly, on the case, on both sides of the hollow left by Alicia’s head, were two small dark spots.

“They look like punctures,” the servant murmured after a moment of motionless observation.

“Hold it up to the light,” Jordan told her.

The servant raised the pillow but immediately dropped it and stood staring at it, livid and trembling. Without knowing why, Jordan felt the hair rise on the back of his neck.

“What is it?” he murmured in a hoarse voice.

“It’s very heavy,” the servant whispered, still trembling

Jordan picked it up; it was extraordinarily heavy. He carried it out of the room, and on the dining room table he ripped open the case and the ticking with a slash. The top feathers floated away, and the servant, her mouth opened wide, gave a scream of horror and covered her face with clenched fists: in the bottom of the pillow case, among the feathers, slowly moving its hairy legs, was a monstrous animal, a living, viscous ball. It was so swollen one could barely make out its mouth.

Night after night, since Alicia had taken to her bed, this abomination had stealthily applied its mouth – its proboscis one might better say – to the girl’s temples, sucking her blood. The puncture was scarcely perceptible. The daily plumping of the pillow had doubtlessly at first impeded its progress, but as soon as the girl could no longer move, the suction became vertiginous. In five days, in five nights, the monster had drained Alicia’s life away.

These parasites of feathered creatures, diminutive in their habitual environment, reach enormous proportions under certain conditions. Human blood seems particularly favourable to them, and it is not rare to encounter them in feather pillows.

 

 

 

 

 El almohadón de plumas

Su luna de miel fue un largo escalofrío. Rubia, angelical y tímida, el carácter duro de su marido heló sus soñadas niñerías de novia. Ella lo quería mucho, sin embargo, a veces con un ligero estremecimiento cuando volviendo de noche juntos por la calle, echaba una furtiva mirada a la alta estatura de Jordán, mudo desde hacía una hora. Él, por su parte, la amaba profundamente, sin darlo a conocer.

Durante tres meses -se habían casado en abril- vivieron una dicha especial.

Sin duda hubiera ella deseado menos severidad en ese rígido cielo de amor, más expansiva e incauta ternura; pero el impasible semblante de su marido la contenía siempre.

La casa en que vivían influía un poco en sus estremecimientos. La blancura del patio silencioso -frisos, columnas y estatuas de mármol- producía una otoñal impresión de palacio encantado. Dentro, el brillo glacial del estuco, sin el más leve rasguño en las altas paredes, afirmaba aquella sensación de desapacible frío. Al cruzar de una pieza a otra, los pasos hallaban eco en toda la casa, como si un largo abandono hubiera sensibilizado su resonancia.

En ese extraño nido de amor, Alicia pasó todo el otoño. No obstante, había concluido por echar un velo sobre sus antiguos sueños, y aún vivía dormida en la casa hostil, sin querer pensar en nada hasta que llegaba su marido.

No es raro que adelgazara. Tuvo un ligero ataque de influenza que se arrastró insidiosamente días y días; Alicia no se reponía nunca. Al fin una tarde pudo salir al jardín apoyada en el brazo de él. Miraba indiferente a uno y otro lado. De pronto Jordán, con honda ternura, le pasó la mano por la cabeza, y Alicia rompió en seguida en sollozos, echándole los brazos al cuello. Lloró largamente todo su espanto callado, redoblando el llanto a la menor tentativa de caricia. Luego los sollozos fueron retardándose, y aún quedó largo rato escondida en su cuello, sin moverse ni decir una palabra.

Fue ese el último día que Alicia estuvo levantada. Al día siguiente amaneció desvanecida. El médico de Jordán la examinó con suma atención, ordenándole calma y descanso absolutos.

-No sé -le dijo a Jordán en la puerta de calle, con la voz todavía baja-. Tiene una gran debilidad que no me explico, y sin vómitos, nada… Si mañana se despierta como hoy, llámeme enseguida.

Al otro día Alicia seguía peor. Hubo consulta. Constatóse una anemia de marcha agudísima, completamente inexplicable. Alicia no tuvo más desmayos, pero se iba visiblemente a la muerte. Todo el día el dormitorio estaba con las luces prendidas y en pleno silencio. Pasábanse horas sin oír el menor ruido. Alicia dormitaba. Jordán vivía casi en la sala, también con toda la luz encendida. Paseábase sin cesar de un extremo a otro, con incansable obstinación. La alfombra ahogaba sus pasos. A ratos entraba en el dormitorio y proseguía su mudo vaivén a lo largo de la cama, mirando a su mujer cada vez que caminaba en su dirección.

Pronto Alicia comenzó a tener alucinaciones, confusas y flotantes al principio, y que descendieron luego a ras del suelo. La joven, con los ojos desmesuradamente abiertos, no hacía sino mirar la alfombra a uno y otro lado del respaldo de la cama. Una noche se quedó de repente mirando fijamente. Al rato abrió la boca para gritar, y sus narices y labios se perlaron de sudor.

-¡Jordán! ¡Jordán! -clamó, rígida de espanto, sin dejar de mirar la alfombra.

Jordán corrió al dormitorio, y al verlo aparecer Alicia dio un alarido de horror.

-¡Soy yo, Alicia, soy yo!

Alicia lo miró con extravió, miró la alfombra, volvió a mirarlo, y después de largo rato de estupefacta confrontación, se serenó. Sonrió y tomó entre las suyas la mano de su marido, acariciándola temblando.

Entre sus alucinaciones más porfiadas, hubo un antropoide, apoyado en la alfombra sobre los dedos, que tenía fijos en ella los ojos.

Los médicos volvieron inútilmente. Había allí delante de ellos una vida que se acababa, desangrándose día a día, hora a hora, sin saber absolutamente cómo. En la última consulta Alicia yacía en estupor mientras ellos la pulsaban, pasándose de uno a otro la muñeca inerte. La observaron largo rato en silencio y siguieron al comedor.

-Pst… -se encogió de hombros desalentado su médico-. Es un caso serio… poco hay que hacer…

-¡Sólo eso me faltaba! -resopló Jordán. Y tamborileó bruscamente sobre la mesa.

Alicia fue extinguiéndose en su delirio de anemia, agravado de tarde, pero que remitía siempre en las primeras horas. Durante el día no avanzaba su enfermedad, pero cada mañana amanecía lívida, en síncope casi. Parecía que únicamente de noche se le fuera la vida en nuevas alas de sangre. Tenía siempre al despertar la sensación de estar desplomada en la cama con un millón de kilos encima. Desde el tercer día este hundimiento no la abandonó más. Apenas podía mover la cabeza. No quiso que le tocaran la cama, ni aún que le arreglaran el almohadón. Sus terrores crepusculares avanzaron en forma de monstruos que se arrastraban hasta la cama y trepaban dificultosamente por la colcha.

Perdió luego el conocimiento. Los dos días finales deliró sin cesar a media voz. Las luces continuaban fúnebremente encendidas en el dormitorio y la sala. En el silencio agónico de la casa, no se oía más que el delirio monótono que salía de la cama, y el rumor ahogado de los eternos pasos de Jordán.

Alicia murió, por fin. La sirvienta, que entró después a deshacer la cama, sola ya, miró un rato extrañada el almohadón.

-¡Señor! -llamó a Jordán en voz baja-. En el almohadón hay manchas que parecen de sangre.

Jordán se acercó rápidamente Y se dobló a su vez. Efectivamente, sobre la funda, a ambos lados del hueco que había dejado la cabeza de Alicia, se veían manchitas oscuras.

-Parecen picaduras -murmuró la sirvienta después de un rato de inmóvil observación.

-Levántelo a la luz -le dijo Jordán.

La sirvienta lo levantó, pero enseguida lo dejó caer, y se quedó mirando a aquél, lívida y temblando. Sin saber por qué, Jordán sintió que los cabellos se le erizaban.

-¿Qué hay? -murmuró con la voz ronca.

-Pesa mucho  -articuló la sirvienta, sin dejar de temblar.

Jordán lo levantó; pesaba extraordinariamente. Salieron con él, y sobre la mesa del comedor Jordán cortó funda y envoltura de un tajo. Las plumas superiores volaron, y la sirvienta dio un grito de horror con toda la boca abierta, llevándose las manos crispadas a los bandós. Sobre el fondo, entre las plumas, moviendo lentamente las patas velludas, había un animal monstruoso, una bola viviente y viscosa. Estaba tan hinchado que apenas se le pronunciaba la boca.

Noche a noche, desde que Alicia había caído en cama, había aplicado sigilosamente su boca -su trompa, mejor dicho- a las sienes de aquélla, chupándole la sangre. La picadura era casi imperceptible. La remoción diaria del almohadón había impedido sin duda su desarrollo, pero desde que la joven no pudo moverse, la succión fue vertiginosa. En cinco días, en cinco noches, había vaciado a Alicia.

Estos parásitos de las aves, diminutos en el medio habitual, llegan a adquirir en ciertas condiciones proporciones enormes. La sangre humana parece serles particularmente favorable, y no es raro hallarlos en los almohadones de pluma.

 

 

 

 

 

Parasites are gruesome creatures, and in particular the sort that kill their hosts or drive them insane, or cause them to change into a different life-form. Quiroga’s creepy insect, Colin Wilson’s mind-parasites, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, are all creatures that prey on unwary humans. They are entities that victimise human beings, and drain them of their lives and life-force.

In this tale of tragic anamorphosis,  the wily insect secretes itself in the pillow of a young wife, and from within its feathery nest it infects her sleep with fearsome images and drains her of her life’s-blood and life. Her coldly affectionate and undemonstrative husband does not detect the cause of his wife’s fatal malady until it is far too late.

The husband, in this terrible misalliance, is oblivious to his wife’s desperate unhappiness and of her sense of isolation as she is brought to live in the echoing emptiness of her new residence – since one can scarcely call it a home. She on the other hand, was aware of something’s being amiss from the very beginning, when the honeymoon gave her “hot and cold shivers.”

Francisco Quiroga, who has aptly been compared to Edgar Allan Poe, the originator of the psychological short story, leaves us in no doubt whatsoever about the nature of the pernicious insect in this story.
If only the husband  had been as perceptive!

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