Disaster Drawer

Original fiction, usually abandoned projects

Andrea had never seen snow in all of her life.

She had been told several times at school that snow was something puffy, crunchy, cold and light that accumulates in cold places, but that never felt like an explanation to her. She had been told many times that it could fall gently or arrive wrapped in a gust of wind, or that it could be thawed away with salt, but what good was that information if she had never came across snow? Every single time, she asked, and asked, and asked, yet she never managed to get a satisfactory explanation.

Truth be told, it was not entirely her fault not to have seen the snow; no child in her class had first-hand experience with it, yet she remained the only one to ask. And every time, teachers would pull out a worn out picture and explain some trivia about snow, always trying to avoid the question as fast as possible. She was always left behind, singled out as the only one in class who showed no content in those evasive explanations.

When going home, Andrea would ask her parents what snow looked like. Clara was a cultivated person of science who prided herself in having read the most complete and succint volumes in a wide variety of topics. Her exposition was always elegant and precise; no missed comma, word or stroke to blemist her explanations. Whom better to ask about snow?

And Andrea asked, “mom, what is snow?”

“Imagine water falling from the sky. But that water is solid; it's perfectly round and falls slowly, being balanced by the breezes of air as it falls. When it comes to the ground, it does not make things wet because it's solid, but it covers everything like a bedsheet, And when you touch it with your bare hands, it is cold as ice, but melts instantly. That is snow.”

Although that definition closely resembled what she saw on pictures and what teachers would tell her class, she could not yet imagine what it was about snow that made stories feature it so prominently. And there they were, everywhere, clearly pointing at something she could not quite make out from pure words and poor pictures. However, she still ahd hope, for there was Beatriz to ask.

Unlike Clara, a woman who woulc see the world thorugh the lenses of pure reason and casual connections, Beatriz was a simpler kind of person, who liked to spend the day seeing the world through her hands. Beatriz had always had problems to see clear images from farther than a few inches away, and she would always complain of not knowing what the world looked like. Nevertheless, that had never stopped her from making herself a name in the artistic world, imprinting the world she perceived through her hands into wood and clay. She always had had a more hands-on approach on issues, wondering how to touch the things in order to gain additional insight.

And so Andrea approached Beatriz.

“Mom, what is snow?”

Upon having heard that quesiton, her mothing stopped what she was doing, standing still with her arms raised while her eyes closed and she took a deep breath. She then opened her eyes and left the tools on the table.

“I think you are asking the wrong person,” she confessed in a stifled laugh. “For me, snow has never been anything aside from lots of tiny white stars that don't glow, unlike the stars on the sky, and cover the fields with a white mass that is really, really cold.” She faked a shiver as she explained. “I think I already told you many times in the past, but mom cannot really see as well as she would like to, so my perception fo the world is so much different from most people's. But if you ask me, I would tell you that it is something that falls from the sky and accumulates on the ground, that is always really cold for some reason and that forms really big clumps.”

Andrea looked at the sky: there was the roof, but on top of that, it was the skies, with the Sun, the clouds and the stars.

“Mom,” Andrea said, “could it be possible the snow are stairs falling fromt he sky because it is really cold outside? Like, you say they look like stars...”

Her mother let out a good chuckle that confused Andrea. For her, it just sounded so logical and coherent; why was her mother laughing like she just said something funny and out of place?

“Sorry, honey, but I think that is now quite how it works.”

“But you just said-!”

“It is because of how many things I cannot see clearly in this world. Since my eyes are not as good as yours, I have to stay on my lane and say what I know. However, you seem to be really imaginative, and that is a good thing to be in this world... Once you grow up, you will find out not many people in this world have imagination, and spend their days frowning upon everything because they only know sadness and grief. Why don't you write that thing about the snow in a notebook?”

In the end, Andrea was yet to know what snow was, rendering all that conversation useless. Unless there was something the rest of adults couldn't see but her mom could, of course.

Yes, that sounded reasonable; that was the reason why she was capable of creating such beautiful furniture, the one everyone loved and bought from her at the town fair. Despite so many people would not ler her work as a carpenter for a living, saying she had so much of a poor eyesight, she just had the ability to see what no one else could see, beacuse her eyes were simply so unique. Perhaps, Andrea reasoned, it was liek the people who get killed in the takes for knowing too much – and Beatriz, ehr mother, wanted to protect her from being killed because she knew too much.

Yes, of course; that sounded to her like the only reasonable expanation out there.

That night, Andrea dreamt of a plain with a river. It was common for her to dream of that place, a place wherein she would always stay and different things would happen. One night, there was a festival down the plain, and she could eat cotton candy while she saw the fireworks, on eyes her mothing could never see. Other day, there would be a swimming competition upstream the river, and she found out the cascade where the water of the river came from, on top of which lay a forest, deep as the mouth of a wolf.

But that night was different. That night, she was seeing a figure on a cloak looking at the sky. The mysterious figure had grey hair, a wrinkled shin and a parched voice, that would try and sing what seemed to be a lullaby. It talked about a bird, about the trees, about the snow and about the Moon. She then noticed the figure hadn't noticed her back, and so she sat nearby to listen.


Once Andrea woke up, she took to the streets in order to tell everybody the good news, but nobody seemed to listen to her. While some just ignored her and walked away, others started looking at the sky concerned, sometimes running to take refuge in a nearby stall. In the end, just as the was about to give up, a cloaked figure pushed her to a side street and approached her.

“How are you so sure that snow is falling?”

“It was revealed to me in a dream, by a figure standing in the middle of a field. They were singing a lulalby about the birds, the weather and all – and as they sang, the things became real!”

“Were you ever told what the figure's identity was?”

“No, but-”

Before Andrea had time to further justify herself, they both noted something light was falling from the sky. It was like dust, but slower and more graceful. It was just like Andrea saw in her dreams, cold and pretty, before it formed a white sheet atop the hills. It was snow.

“Snow, snow – here it is!” Andrea yelled.

To her surprise, however, all adults showed an abject expression of horror in their faces, and the main street soon became a chaotic field wherein people were running up and down without any sort of pacing or order. It was ganderous to stay around, that much she did understand, and soon she found herself trying to find a safe place to shelter herself from the thunder of hooves storming the ground.

As she slid into a side street and started watching the people outside, she noticed a cloaked figure outside who seemed to bear an uncanny resemblandce to the cloaked figure she saw in her dreams. The cloaked figure took ehr hood down, revealing a ginger, young yoman with a mark across ehr foreheadf, which lit in a pale blue glow along with her eyes as she raised a hand, standing in the middle of the commotion, and scramed,

“By divine degree, I now summon the powers granted to me by the past generations and rule – That Which Has Stood a Thousand Years Shall Stay Upright,” she claimed in an authoritative voice.

Andrea looked up in the sky, seeing how a network of eyes started to spread across the sky and contain the falling snow. Everyone else had sought refuge by the point, and the main street became deserted.

As Andrea tried to get back, the figure placed a hand on her shoulder. She felt like she was being anchored in place by an infinitely heavy object.

“I need you to answer a few questions, young child.” Andrea tried to raise a complaint, but the figure tightened their grip on her shoulder, and she felt incapable of speaking aloud. “I am afraid this is not the kind of sitaution where you can just say 'no'.”

She heard the footsteps of two more people approaching behind her back.

“Miss Violet, are you not blowing this out of proportion?” A deep voice said. “She is but a mere child.”

“Rules are absolute. Upholding the law is fundamental for the well-being of the community as a whole. If we start making exceptions, no matter how extreme, the powers above will weaken and we will face our demise.”

“Are you willing to lose sight of your humanity in the name of those so-called 'rules'?” A high-pitched voice protested.

“If willingly giving up my own humanity allows for everyone else to hold onto it, so be it.”

As they walked away, a single snowflake fell on the ground.

The kerfuffle was starting to wane at the periphery of my hearing, which was growing ever so closely to my immediate surroundings due to the long hours travelling from one point to the next, still on a seat that would constantly rumble and wobble due to the unstable weather. My seat neighbour would tell me that it was a common occurrence, and frequent travellers eventually got used to it, but by that point I barely had any energy to nod along with it without further worsening my sleep deprivation-induced migraines, let alone say that I couldn't have cared less. All the same, I somehow managed to make it to the other side, barely hanging on as I walked behind what felt like an endless line of people traversing a small, square hallway in the longest path physically possible. I made a vow to myself to never travel again, as I held back my tears, trying not to make a scene before dawn. As I stepped outside the birder control office, I was greeted by a mellow scent of raspberry that awakened my senses. The sweet aroma filled my nostrils, wrought havoc on my stomach and moistened my aching palate. And then, I heard a voice.

“Thank you for making it all the way here.”

Although admittedly foggy, ransacking my brain bore no result; I was certain of having never listened to that voice ever before, even if those words rang a distant bell of days past. While the more cautious side of my was tingling for caution, such was my exhaustion that I could not bring myself to care about my safety anymore. Whatever happened beyond this point, I told myself as my vision drifted away, was up to the ever-advancing hands of the clock to decide.

The first thing that I felt after that was the faint rumble of a car. I felt cramped, my knees to the height of my chest and my thighs aching; if I tried to stretch my legs, I would hit something firm with my feet, giving me no respite. I took a deep breath, and the smell of fabric came to me. Confused, I opened my eyes, and found myself lying atop someone else’s lap. I tried to spring away from her, but I was firmly held in place.

“Don’t move so suddenly! The car’s moving.”

The car? Am I being kidnapped, after all? I tried to articulate that I had very little money in my possession, but all that came out of my mouth was incoherent blabber. A finger was laid on top of my lips.

“We’ll have time to talk once you’re a little better rested.” “Is it all okay back there, madam?“ “Yes, it is. Please forgive me; my significant other just came from a day long journey.” “Sounds exhausting.” “I didn’t even want to bother with public transport at this point. But it’s okay – because he’s safe now.”

Consciousness drifted away soon after.

Golden

Debían ser las seis de la mañana cuando nos detuvimos en frente de un café de carretera situado en las afueras de la ciudad. La luz de la luna era tenue aquella noche –era comprensible, la luna nueva andaba próxima– y no había ninguna luz artificial cerca más allá de las que proyectaban nuestras bicis –que sólo se activaba en movimiento–, por lo que las luces del café despedían un intenso aura que recordaba a un ángel salvador. Podría haber sido un mensajero celestial que venía a decirnos que toda la guerra había sido un mal sueño, una broma de mal gusto que ya había durado demasiado, pero no; tan sólo era un servicio de hostelería, tan mundano y atrapado en la miseria como nosotras mismas.

Por lo menos, cuando miraba al cielo, la luz de la luna seguía siendo real. Su brillo y su sonrisa quizá no hubieran sido tangibles, pero eso no la hacía una compañera de viaje menos digna en ningún grado. Mientras miraba al cielo, no podía dejar de preguntarme si Red estaría mirando al cielo en este momento. Era muy pronto, ella dormía hasta las diez o las once de un tirón –renacuaja, cómo te envidio–, pero me gustaba pensar que al menos estaba acostada de cara a la ventana y que podríamos haber visto juntas la luna sonriente de haberse despertado.

La guerra nos había traído dolor, desolación y confusión, pero no había podido separarnos; era en estos momentos de crudeza cuando la tan llamada naturaleza humana afloraba para recordarnos una vez más que no somos de piedra, y que dos personas pueden seguir juntas sin importar dónde se encuentren. Si esto hubiera pasado antes de la guerra, habría dado por sentado que volvería a ver a Red nada más entrar por la puerta grande de casa y colarme en su habitación. Podría ver su edredón rojo de lana tejido por la abuela, cubriéndola de los pies a la cabeza, haciendo juego con su pelo… sólo de pensarlo me parece estar viéndola aún después de tantos años. Pero estos tiempos en los que vivimos me han enseñado a no dar tantas cosas por sentado, a replantearme lo que significa una decisión y a sopesar de nuevo cuánto vale una sonrisa.

Por eso llevo plastificada una foto de las dos en el bolsillo de la americana, de forma que lo último que vea antes de morir sea su sonrisa angelical.

Purple

Le dije a Golden que esperase fuera mientras entraba a echar un vistazo, solo para asegurarme de que no era un lugar peligroso. Nada más entrar, pude sentir la presencia de un sinnúmero de espíritus protectores velando por la seguridad de la dueña del lugar y de todos los clientes presentes, que tampoco eran muchos. No había un solo rincón sin proteger ni una sola taza de café sin bendecir; era, en definitiva, un lugar en el que Golden necesitaba estar.

Estaba claro quiénes eran, aún sin utilizar mis útiles de zahorí: eran todos los viajeros que habían tenido que parar por ese café en algún momento de su viaje, asegurándose con una silenciosa sonrisa de que todo el mundo recibiese una buena comida y una velada tranquila. Nunca he creído en las llamadas señales gitanas, pero podría decirse que los espíritus veladores que custodian un lugar son la señal de los clarividentes como yo.

¿Alguna vez has sentido un escalofrío o una sensación de incomodidad al entrar en un sitio nuevo? Podría ser una advertencia, un lugar peligroso en el que no conviene permanecer mucho tiempo. Pero este no era un lugar peligroso en absoluto; más bien, era un lugar que te protegía de los males del mundo exterior.

Quizá si Golden permanecía allí el tiempo suficiente, las almas veladoras serían capaces de devolverle la tranquilidad ya perdida de su alma. Quizá, si permanecía el tiempo suficiente, incluso volvería a sonreír de forma sincera. Quizá esto le hiciera más bien que las escapadas, los paisajes y la luz del sol, ahora que la industria médica se ha vuelto inaccesible para todo el mundo y no podemos llevarla ante las manos de un profesional.

– No puedes confiar ni en los bares de carretera a día de hoy –le dije mientras entrábamos–, ¡pero este lugar es muy diferente! Las grandes compañías pecan de falta de alma, suenan a hueco y te dejan con mal cuerpo cuando sales, pero este lugar, tan pequeño y modesto, te va a proteger. Estoy segura de ello.

Golden trató de sonreír. Ella nunca creyó en estas cosas; a pesar de que intentaba interesarse por mis aficiones, siempre supe que no era un interés real. Me hacía muchas, muchas preguntas sobre ello, pero ninguna de ellas era una pregunta interesante ni quería profundizar en nada. Nunca se lo dije a la cara, ya que ella ya tiene bastantes problemas con los que lidiar, pero me dolía que no le interesaran de verdad estas cosas.

A veces sentía que estábamos destinadas a encontrarnos, pero siempre parecíamos chicas de mundos diferentes. Al final del día, nunca sabía qué pensar.

Golden

Lo primero que me pedí fue un caffé doppio; no es que estuviera cansada ni me gustara especialmente el café, pero habían pasado seis horas desde el último que me tomé y no me apetecía sentirme peor. El café se ha convertido en una de las cosas que más bebo –junto con agua para poder quitarme ese mal sabor de boca, pero al menos el día sólo tiene 24 horas y me paso 10 de ellas durmiendo, así que no me va a dar una sobredosis a corto plazo.

Purple por su parte era un espécimen especial, capaz de tomarse una cerveza en cualquier momento y lugar. A veces me preguntaba si no sería como una planta que sustituye la luz del sol por el alcohol, haciendo la etanosíntesis en lugar de la fotosíntesis convencional. Estuve a punto de decírselo, pero me pareció un chiste tan malo que me dio vergüenza –y eso ya es decir mucho.

Nos fuimos a una mesa que estaba junto a una ventana. No había nada que ver, era todo noche y polvo, con acentos de luz; sin embargo, teníamos que vigilar que no les pasara nada a nuestras bicicletas, porque se había convertido en el único medio de transporte que quedaba desde que estalló la guerra. Ya no había autobuses, ya no había trenes, y todo el petróleo que se podía extraer era destinado a alimentar las máquinas, por lo que era crucial encontrar un medio de transporte autopropulsado. Si alguna vez vuelve todo a la normalidad, el mundo que nos quedará será decididamente distinto al que hemos conocido, aunque no sé si quiero llegar a ver lo que será de todos nosotros.

Había retazos de conversación flotando por todas partes. Si bien los únicos rostros que podía ver eran los de la dependienta y su hija, pude contar una docena de voces resonando a lo largo y ancho del edificio. En tiempos pasados, habría creído que había sucumbido a la locura. Ahora, ya nada me importaba. Sorbí el café y guardé silencio.

– Purple, ¿qué crees que habrá sido de nuestras hermanas? – ¿Por qué preguntas eso tan de repente? – ¿A qué te refieres, de repente? Llevo preguntando eso todo el viaje. Que me hayas ignorado no quiere decir que no te lo haya estado preguntando, y varias veces.

Purple miró hacia la mesa, hacia el resplandor dorado que rebotaba contra la caoba. Era difícil discernir si estaba cansada o melancólica.

– Procuro no pensar en ello cuando estoy despierta, la verdad –confesó–. Ya es lo bastante complicado mantenerse cuerda cuando las ves en sueños una y otra vez. Quiero acercarme, preguntarles qué ha sido de ellas, dónde están… -Tomó un trago– Por un lado sé que no son ellas de verdad, que las de verdad están ahí fuera, pero por otro lado me da miedo que esté viendo todo lo que queda de ellas.

«Todo lo que queda de ellas.»

Purple siempre había podido ver a las voces que yo sólo puedo escuchar, y me explicaba que eran las almas de las personas que alguna vez habían estado en este mundo. Ella me contaba las historias que había detrás de ellas, como si pudiera ver su pasado completo de un chasquido, por lo que yo le preguntaba si podía ver a Red y a Ginger. Pero siempre me decía lo mismo: «en sueños, siempre las veo; despierta, todavía no».

– Pero, si las ves en sueños, ¿quiere eso decir que nos están buscando?

Guardó silencio.