William Doonan

I write books and stories.

The Mummies of Blogspace9: Chapter Seventeen

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June 21, 2011
New York, NY
Duran                   http://www.harqubusier.blogspace9.ex 

You call yourself Perdido now?  They think you’re a demon, but you’re not, not quite that.  I remember you, brother.  I can still smell your stinking breath across the centuries.  And your litany of terror and damnation has little changed. 

Are you afraid to use your real name?  I can’t imagine why.  Who would remember Vasco Cuellar after such time has passed?  I fought alongside you that day in Cajamarca when the world was won, yet no book pays homage to me, the great conquistador Gumecindo Duran.

No swordsmen were we, Vasco.  No, we manned the Captain’s guns.  And what guns they were, do you remember?  Half as heavy as a dog, the harquebus was a tortuous weapon.  Two minutes it took to load, half again if your hands were shaking, and our hands were shaking.  Louder than an Andalusian whore on All Souls Day, and you couldn’t hit the broad side of the Andes even if you shut both eyes. 

But the noise they made – that was some noise – noise enough to scare half the life from an Inca.  Maybe that’s why Captain Pizarro made us his conspirators.  After he had the emperor prisoner, the gold came down the mountains on the backs of llamas, each more laden than the last.  And the Captain trusted you and me, his harquebusiers, to spirit away fully half of that gold, the secret hoard that the King was never to learn of.

I’ve often wondered what became of you, Vasco, and how many of us still walk.  I dare say walk is a poor choice of word.  I haven’t truly walked in centuries, not since the indian general Ruminavi cut of my feet with my own Toledo sword, demanding the whereabouts of the hoard.  We were high in the mountains near Cuzco where the battle raged, and I confess he was more skillful with my blade than was I.  No swordsmen were we, Vasco.

You spoke often of returning to Spain to take your vows, so perhaps you did.  You speak like a priest – nothing but fear.  I can’t fault you for that; I’m still not certain what happened to us that night we hid the gold.   In that rotten mud pyramid older than time itself; something did happen to us. 

Did you then return to Peru, to the scene of our crime? Did you go back for your soul?  I never did.  I was captured soon enough, and I didn’t fare well.  Footless I was; they burnt off my ears and most of my fingers.  I confess I have been typing this brief missive for close upon two hours, what with just the three fingers left.

They stuffed me in a stone tomb up in the mountains, left me to die.  But even then, I understood that I would not.  At first they returned every week to demand where we hid the gold, stabbing me with molten bronze pokers, even taking out an eye, but I never told them.  Then they came every month.  Then every year, and then they forgot.  Do you know what it’s like to be thirsty for two hundred and six years?

Not until a wayward silver miner took a pick to the capstones of my enclosure would I be free.  He screamed upon seeing me, imagining me some dread monster.  But I’m not a monster, I explained as I devoured him, leaving nothing to waste except the larger bones, as I had few remaining teeth.  It was my first and last instance of cannibalism. 

It took me four years to crawl down from the mountains.  I moved at night, drinking from clear streams, but finally I reached my destination.  I had no trouble finding that rotten pyramid, no worse for wear was it.  With some trepidation I committed my three remaining fingers to the task of digging through the mud bricks to find the chamber. 

Equal shares for Captain Pizarro, Captain Almagro, the lieutenants all, and for you and me, for our good work hiding the hoard that the King would never learn of.  Because that was the grand secret, wasn’t it, Vasco?  There was far more gold than anyone imagined.

You can predict my surprise, when two centuries after we buried the gold, my footless self entered that same chamber, and I cast my remaining eye on our gold, glittering by my candle, untouched, undiminished.

Entering the chamber, I stepped over the bodies of four Spaniards; soldiers wearing their armor.  Their heads had been cut off, but each breastplate bore the mark of the Egiptos, the Gitanos, like the low-born men who carried the lances for the Captain.  Why they were killed, I cannot know, perhaps to protect the hoard.

And yes, Vasco, those things were there too, but I dare say they moved more slowly, as if worn down by time.  And when they looked at me, they looked deeply.  But they let me be, perhaps feeling some kinship, having made me what I am.

I took only my share, loading the gold onto a mule-drawn wagon owned by a farmer and his two strong sons.  I paid them outrageously for this work, as they were afraid to approach that pyramid.  But all the indians were.  Wasn’t that why we chose this Godless place?

I determined to kill these men upon finishing, but having made their own plans, they came at me with their knives.  One put a gash across my forehead that causes me great distress even now.  The other took off my nose.  But I have unnatural strength, Vasco.  I suspect you do as well, so I squeezed those boys tightly, the father next.  That was the end of my predicament. 

I drove the wagon until the mules died, remiss I was in their feeding.  By then we had arrived at the outskirts of the city of Truxillo where I built a fine house and lived a respectable, if reclusive, life.  I confess I considered returning for the rest of the gold, but I never did.  There never is enough time in life to do everything one wants to do.

I remained in Truxillo for a hundred and ninety years.  I married twelve times, once taking two wives concurrently, which proved a disaster.  But one morning after paying my respects at the catacomb where my twelve brides lay, I determined to leave this land.  I counted enough gold left for several more centuries, sold my property, and boarded an airship to New York City.

And now, eighty years later, I am comfortable in my luxury apartments, my teeth, ears, eye, and nose now much repaired.  Good metal feet I have for the occasional hobble.  I share these memories, this missive with you for two reasons, Vasco:

First, to assure you that an old friend is pleased to learn that you still draw some manner of breath, though it appears you have grown quite insane. 

Second, to inquire about this Sebastiano.  Was he your apprentice?  My interest in his book is tempered with concern, you must understand.  I don’t know what we have become, Vasco, but you would do well to settle your nerves, and cease your counsel about demons and leaping from high towers.  The last of the Sopays was long gone from the earth by the time I crawled down that mountain. 

You took your vows, Vasco.  You became the priest you dreamed you would be.  So why cannot you do the one thing required of a priest – have faith?  As for me, I don’t know what I have become, but if God has no use for me, then I have none for Him.

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Written by williamdoonan

February 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm

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