And so it was that in Gurauna, city of the Softlands, a certain rich Huru was famous for his vast magical powers: the ability to invoke the spirits of the dead and force them to speak through his mouth. So celebrated was he that clients piled up outside his house and paid whatever he demanded. He was all that anyone talked about in the streets and squares and soon the dead began to have a very real power in the city; the people, from the humblest beggar to the king himself, followed his advice and his orders. It was this that angered Arud, a local sage who disbelieved everything except the bodily senses and the reason of the mind. And so one day he himself went to Huru’s house and waited in line for several hours like everyone else, until finally he entered the room, with its purple walls (badly) lit by black candles.
Huru welcomed him, surprised, because he had been told of Arud and his disbelief. Arud, to calm him, explained that because everyone in the city believed, he wanted to believe as well, and would pay for proof of Huru’s magic. While the magician was preparing, Arud spotted the bags in which Huru’s assistant kept fireflies, to release them and feign miraculous lights; he saw Huru place a metal whistle inside his mouth, like the one used by puppeteers, to change his voice; he noticed that the table before which the spirits were summoned was lightweight and thin-legged, easy to move and shake without seeing how he did it… He noticed these tricks, then, all of them, and prepared himself too.
When Huru, seated at the table, asked Arud to whom he wished to speak, Arud answered:
–With my father, who, like me, was a man of science and never believed in life after death, and was dedicated to teaching the truth and denouncing lies and deceptions, but who I miss all the same, very much. So that he may also come to believe in you and lift this weight from my heart. Huru’s expression grew worried, but only for a few moments. A spasm immediately shook his entire body, from the tip of his nose to his big toes, and his eyes rolled back, and he croaked like a frog and brayed like a donkey and fell from his chair, but upwards, to the ceiling, crashing against it heavily and remaining prostrate with his tongue out.
– “He’s never done anything like that before,” moaned his assistant, and he ran away and was never seen again in the city of Gurauna. Huru, however, without coming down from the ceiling, made an angry face and spoke loudly, and the voice was not his own, but that of another, who Arud knew well, and it complained:
– “How dare you come here and give your money to this man, who is a charlatan?”
Alberto Chimal (Toluca, Mexico, 1970). Winner of the San Luis Potosí Short Story Fine Arts Award, the Colima Narrative Fine Arts Award, and the Cuatrogatos Foundation International Prize, and a finalist for the 2013 Romulo Gallegos International Novel Prize. He is the author of the novels Los esclavos (The Slaves) (2009), Cartas para lluvia (Letters for Rain) (2017), and La noche en la Zona M (The Night in Zone M) (2019), and has published short stories, anthologies, and essays. He is a columnist and professor of literature and creative writing. His texts have been translated into Italian, English, French, Hungarian, Farsi, and Esperanto, as well as several indigenous Mexican languages. www.albertochimal.com