sábado, 20 de diciembre de 2008

The Hounds of Tindalos

The Hounds of Tindalos de Frank Belknap Long fue publicado por primera vez en 1929 en Weird Tales (si mis fuentes no mienten). Creo que enriquece mucho la lectura repasar algunas cartas de Lovecraft. En: Cuasar -Cartas inéditas de H. P. Lovecraft; encontrarán algunas que han traducido, que atañen a nuestra lectura

Por cierto, aún estoy corrigiendo esta transcripción. Iba a colocar una en español pero, como no tengo ninguna traducción satisfactoria a la mano, tendrán que conformarse. Aunque en verdad, debo confesarles, creo que es mucho más agradable leer la versión original --de esta manera, las voces de los personajes resuenan en mi cabeza más vívidamente. Además me parece que es sencilla de comprender en inglés--no como algunas de Lovecraft, en las que emplea sin cesar términos arqueológicos y me tiene brincando de diccionario en diccionario.

Como regalito extra, lean (o relean) El sabueso de Lovecraft. Fíjense cuidadosamente en cada frase y, especialmente, en las fechas, nombres, lugares y movimientos artísticos mencionados. A veces, es en estas alusiones que encontramos el particular sentido del humor de Lovecraft; podemos corroborarlo en sus cartas.

Luis López Nieves nos ofrece una agradable traducción del cuento (El sabueso) en la biblioteca digital de su página, donde podemos pasar ratos amenos durante horas y horas. Les dejo un enlace hacia la sección dedicada a los cuentos de Lovecraft.

Espero, posteriormente, conseguirles más material sobre Frank Belknap Long.

The Hounds of Tindalos

Frank Belknap Long

I


"I'm glad you came," said Chalmers. He was sitting by the window and his face was very pale. Two tallcandles guttered at his elbow and cast a sickly amber light over his long nose and slightly receding chin.Chalmers would have nothing modern about his apartment. He had the soul of a mediaeval ascetic, andhe preferred illuminated manuscripts to automobiles, and leering stone gargoyles to radios and adding-machines.

As I crossed the room to the settee he had cleared for me, I glanced at his desk and was surprised todiscover that he had been studying the mathematical formulae of a celebrated contemporary physicist,and that he had covered many sheets of thin yellow paper with curious geometric designs.

"Einstein and John Dee are strange bedfellows," I said as my gaze wandered from his mathematical chartsto the sixty or seventy quaint books that comprised his strange little library. Plotinus and Emanuel Moscopulus, St. Thomas Aquinas and Frenicle de Bessy stood elbow to elbow in the somber ebony bookcase, and chairs, table, and desk were littered with pamphlets about mediaeval sorcery and witchcraft and black magic, and all of the valiant glamorous things that the modern world has repudiated.

Chalmers smiled engagingly, and passed me a Russian cigarette on a curiously carved tray. "We are justdiscovering now," he said, "that the old alchemists and sorcerers were two-thirds
right, and that yourmodern biologist and materialist is nine-tenths wrong."

"You have always scoffed at modern science," I said, a little impatiently. "

Only at scientific dogmatism," he replied. "I have always been a rebel, a champion of originality and lostcauses; that is why I have chosen to repudiate the conclusions of contemporary biologists."

"And Einstein?" I asked.

"A priest of transcendental mathematics!" he murmured reverently. "A profound mystic and explorer of the great suspected."

"Then you do not entirely despise science."

"Of course not," he affirmed. "I merely distrust the scientific positivism of the past fifty years, thepositivism of Haeckel and Darwin and of Mr. Bertrand Russell. I believe that biology has failed pitifully toexplain the mystery of man's origin and destiny."

"Give them time," I retorted.

Chalmers's eyes glowed. "My friend," he murmured, "your pun is sublime. Give them
time. That is precisely what I would do. But your modern biologist scoffs at time. He has the key but he refuses to useit. What do we know of time, really? Einstein believes that it is relative, that it can be interpreted in termsof space, of curved space. But must we stop there? When mathematics fails us can we not advance by--insight?"

"You are treading on dangerous ground," I replied. "That is a pitfall that your true investigator avoids. That is why modern science has advanced so slowly. It accepts nothing that it cannot demonstrate. But you--"

"I would take hashish, opium, all manner of drugs. I would emulate the sages of the East. And thenperhaps I would apprehend--"

"What?"

"The fourth dimension."

"Theosophical rubbish!"

"Perhaps. But I believe that drugs expand human consciousness. William James agreed with me. And Ihave discovered a new one."

"A new drug?"

"It was used centuries ago by Chinese alchemists, but it is virtually unknown in the West. Its occultproperties are amazing. With its aid and the aid of my mathematical knowledge I believe that I can go back through time."

"I do not understand."

"Time is merely our imperfect perception of a new dimension of space. Time and motion are bothillusions. Everything that has existed from the beginning of the world exists now.
Events that occurredcenturies ago on this planet continue to exist in another dimension of space. Events that will occurcenturies from now exist already.We cannot perceive their existence because we cannot enter thedimension of space that contains them. Human beings as we know them are merely fractions, infinitesimally small fractions of one enormous whole. Every human being is linked with
all the life that has preceded him on this planet. All of his ancestors are parts of him. Only time separates him from hisforebears, and time is an illusion and does not exist."

"I think I understand," I murmured.

"It will be sufficient for my purpose if you can form a vague idea of what I wish to achieve. I wish to stripfrom my eyes the veils of illusion that time has thrown over them, and see the beginning and the end."

"And you think this new drug will help you?"

"I am sure that it will. And I want you to help me. I intend to take the drug immediately. I cannot wait. I must see."His eyes glittered strangely. "I am going back, back through time."

He rose and strode to the mantel. When he faced me again he was holding a small square box in the palmof his hand. "I have here five pellets of the drug Liao. It was used by the Chinese philospher Lao Tze,and while under its influence he visioned Tao. Tao is the most mysterious force in the world; it surroundsand pervades all things; it contains the visible universe and everything we call reality. He who apprehendsthe mysteries of Tao sees clearly all that was and will be."

"Rubbish!" I retorted.

"Tao resembles a great animal, recumbent, motionless, containing in its enormous body all the worlds ofour universe, the past, the present, and the future. We see portions of this great monster through a slit,which we call time. With the aid of this drug I shall enlarge the slit. I shall behold the great figure of life,the great recumbent beast in its entirety."

"And what do you wish me to do?"

"Watch, my friend. Watch and take notes. And if I go back too far, you must recall me to reality. Youcan recall me by shaking my violently. If I appear to be suffering acute physical pain you must recall me at once."

"Chalmers," I said, "I wish you wouldn't make this experiment. You are taking dreadful risks. I don'tbelieve that there is any fourth dimension and I emphatically do not believe in Tao. And I don't approveof your experimenting with unknown drugs."

"I know the properties of this drug," he replied. "I know precisely how it affects the human animal and Iknow its dangers. The risk does not reside in the drug itself. My only fear is that I may become lost intime. You see, I shall assist the drug. Before I swallow this pellet I shall give my undivided attention to thegeometric and algebraic symbols that I have traced on this paper." He raised the mathematical chart thatrested on his knee. "I shall prepare my mind for an excursion into time. I shall approach the fourthdimension with my conscious mind before I take the drug with will enable me to exercise occult powersof perception. Before I enter the dream world of the Eastern mystic I shall acquire all of the mathematicalhelp that modern science can offer. This mathematical knowledge, this conscious approach to an actualapprehension of the fourth dimension of time, will supplement the work of the drug. The drug will openup stupendous new vistas-- the mathematical perparation will enable me to grasp them intellectually. Ihave often grasped the fourth dimension in dreams, emotionally, intuitively, but I have never been able torecall, in waking life, the occupt splendors that were momentarily revealed to me.

"But with your aid, I believe that I can recall them. You will take down everything that I say while I amunder the influence of the drug. No matter how strange or incoherent my speech may become you willomit nothing. When I awake I may be able to supply the key to whatever is mysterious or incredible. I am not sure that I shall succeed, but if I do succeed"--his eyes were strangely luminous--"time will exist for me no longer!"

He sat down abruptly. "I shall make the experiment at once. Please stand over there by the window andwatch. Have you a fountain pen?"

I nodded gloomily and removed a pale green Waterman from my upper vest pocket.

"And a pad, Frank?"

I groaned and produced a memorandum book. "I emphatically disapprove of this experiment," Imuttered. "You're taking a frightful risk."

"Don't be an asinine old woman!" he admonished. "Nothing that you can say will induce me to stop now.I entreat you to remain silent while I study these charts."

He raised the charts and studied them intently. I watched the clock on the mantel as it ticked out the seconds, and a curious dread clutched at my heart so that I choked.

Suddenly the clock stopped ticking, and exactly at that moment Chalmers swallowed the drug.

I rose quickly and moved toward him, but his eyes implored me not to interfere. "The clock hasstopped," he murmured. "The forces that control it approve of my experiment. Time stopped, and I swallowed the drug. I pray God that I shall not lose my way."

He closed his eyes and leaned back on the sofa. All of the blood had left his face and he was breathingheavily. It was clear that the drug was acting with extraordinary rapidity.

"It is beginning to get dark," he murmured. "Write that. It is beginning to get dark and the familiar objectsin the room are fading out. I can discern them vaguely through my eyelids, but they are fading swiftly."

I shook my pen to make the ink come and wrote rapidly in shorthand as he continued to dictate.

"I am leaving the room. The walls are vanishing and I can no longer see any of the familiar objects. Yourface, though, is still visible to me. I hope that you are writing. I think that I am about to make a greatleap--a leap through space. Or perhaps it is through time that I shall make the leap. I cannot tell.Everything is dark, indistinct."

"He sat for a while silent, with his head sunk upon his breast. Then suddenly he stiffened and his eyelids fluttered open. "God in heaven!" he cried. "I see!"

He was straining forward in his chair, staring at the opposite wall. But I knew that he was looking beyondthe wall and that the objects in the room no longer existed for him. "Chalmers," I cried, "Chalmers, shall I wake you?"

"Do not!" he shrieked. "I see everything. All of the billions of lives that preceded me on this planet arebefore me at this moment. I see men of all ages, all races, all colors. They are fighting, killing, building,dancing, singing. They are sitting about rude fires on lonely gray deserts, and flying through the air inmonoplanes. They are riding the seas in bark canoes and enormous steamships; they are painting bisonand mammoths on the walls of dismal caves and covering huge canvases with queer futuristic designs. Iwatch the migrations from Atlantis. I watch the migrations from Lemuria. I see the elder races--a strangehorde of black dwarfs overwhelming Asia, and the Neanderthalers with lowered heads and bent kneesranging obscenely across Europe. I watch the Achaeans streaming into the Greek islands, and the crudebeginnings of Hellenic culture. I am in Athens and Pericles is young. I am standing on the soil of Italy. Iassist in the rape of the Sabines; I march with the Imperial Legions. I tremble with awe and wonder asthe enormous standards go by and the ground shakes with the tread of the victorious hastati. A thousandnaked slaves grovel before me as I pass in a litter of gold and ivory drawn by night-black oxen fromThebes, and the flower-girls scream 'Ave Caesar' as I nod and smile. I am myself a slave on a Moorishgalley. I watch the erection of a great cathedral. Stone by stone it rises, and through months and years Istand and watch each stone as it falls into place. I am burned on a cross head downward in thethyme-scented gardens of Nero, and I watch with amusement and scorn the torturers at work in thechambers of the Inquisition.

"I walk in the holiest sanctuaries; I enter the temples of Venus. I kneel in adoration before the MagnaMater; and I throw coins on the bare knees of the sacred courtesans who sit with veiled faces in thegroves of Babylon. I creep into an Elizabethan theater and with the stinking rabble about me I applaud The Merchant of Venice. I walk with Dante through the narrow streets of Florence. I meet the youngBeatrice, and the hem of her garment brushes my sandals as I stare enraptured. I am a priest of Isis, andmy magic astounds the nations. Simon Magus kneels before me, imploring my assistance, and Pharaohtrembles when I approach. In India I talk with the Masters and run screaming from their presence, fortheir revelations are as salt on wounds that bleed.

"I perceive everything simultaneously. I perceive everything from all sides; I am a part of all the teemingbillions about me. I exist in all men and all men exist in me. I perceive the whole of human history in asingle instant, the past and the present.

"By simply straining I can see farther and farther back. Now I am going back through strange curvesand angles. Angles and curves multiply about me. I perceive great segments of time through curves. There is curved time, and angular time. The beings that exist in angular time cannot enter curved time.It is very strange.

"I am going back and back. Man has disappeared from the earth. Gigantic reptiles crouch beneathenormous palms and swim through the loathly black waters of dismal lakes. Now the reptiles havedisappeared. No animals remain upon the land, but beneath the waters, plainly visible to me, dark formsmove slowly over the rotting vegetation.

"These forms are becoming simpler and simpler. Now they are single cells. All about me there areangles--strange angles that have no counterparts on the earth. I am desperately afraid."

"There is an abyss of being which man has never fathomed."

I stared. Chalmers had risen to his feet and he was gesticulating helplessly with his arms. "I am passingthrough unearthly angles; I am approaching--oh, the burning horror of it."

"Chalmers!" I cried. "Do you wish me to interfere?"

He brought his right hand quickly before his face, as though to shut out a vision unspeakable. "Not yet!"he cried. "I will go on. I will see-- what-- lies-- beyond--"

A cold sweat streamed from his forehead and his shoulders jerked spasmodically. "Beyond life thereare"--his face grew ashen with terror--"things that I cannot distinguish. They move slowly throughangles. They have no bodies, and they move slowly through outrageous angles."

It was then that I became aware of the odor in the room. It was a pungent, indescribable odor, sonauseous that I could scarcely endure it. I stepped quickly to the window and threw it open. When I returned to Chalmers and looked into his eyes I nearly fainted.

"I think they have scented me!" he shrieked. "They are slowly turning toward me."

He was trembling horribly. For a moment he clawed at the air with his hands. Then his legs gave waybeneath him and he fell forward on his face, slobbering and moaning.

I watched him in silence as he dragged himself across the floor. He was no longer a man. His teeth werebared and saliva dripped from the corners of his mouth.

"Chalmers," I cried. "Chalmers, stop it! Stop it, do you hear?"

As if in reply to my appeal he commenced to utter hoarse convulsive sounds which resembled nothing somuch as the barking of a dog, and began a sort of hideous writhing in a circle about the room. I bent andseized him by the shoulders. Violently, desperately, I shook him. He turned his head and snapped at mywrist. I was sick with horror, but I dared not release him for fear that he would destroy himself in a paroxysm of rage.

"Chalmers," I muttered, "you must stop that. There is nothing in this room that can harm you. Do youunderstand?"

I continued to shake and admonish him, and gradually the madness died out of his face. Shiveringconvulsively, he crumpled into a grotesque heap on the Chinese rug.

I carried him to the sofa and deposited him upon it. His features were twisted in pain, and I knew that hewas still struggling dumbly to escape from abominable memories.

"Whiskey," he muttered. "You'll find a flash in the cabinet by the window--upper-left-hand drawer."

When I handed him the flash his fingers tightened about it until the knuckles showed blue. "They nearly got me," he gasped. He drained the stimulant in immoderate gulps, and gradually the color crept backinto his face.

"That drug was the very devil!" I murmured.

"It wasn't the drug," he moaned.

His eyes no longer glared insanely, but he still wore the look of a lost soul.

"They scented me in time," he moaned. "I went too far." "What were they like?" I said, to humor him.

He leaned forward and gripped my arm. He was shivering horribly. "No words in our language candescribe them!" He spoke in a hoarse whisper. "They are symbolized vaguely in the myth of the Fall, andin an obscene form which is occasionally found engraved on ancient tablets. The Greeks had a name forthem, which veiled their essential foulness. The tree, the snake, and the apple--these are the vague symbols of a most awful mystery.

" His voice had risen to a scream. "Frank, Frank, a terrible and unspeakable deed was done in thebeginning. Before time, the deed, and from the deed--"

He had risen and was hysterically pacing the room. "The deeds of the dead move through angles in dimrecesses of time. They are hungry and athirst!"

"Chalmers," I pleaded to quiet him. "We are living in the third decade of the Twentieth Century."

"They are lean and athirst!" he shrieked. "The Hounds of Tindalos!"

"Chalmers, shall I phone for a physician?"

"A physician cannot help me now. They are horrors of the soul, and yet"--he hid his face in his hands andgroaned--"they are real, Frank. I saw them for a ghastly moment. For a moment I stood on the other side. I stood on the pale gray shores beyond time and space. In an awful light that was not light, in asilence that shrieked, I saw them.

"All the evil in the universe was concentrated in their lean, hungry bodies. Or had they bodies? I sawthem only for a moment; I cannot be certain. But I heard them breathe. Indescribably for a moment Ifelt their breath upon my face. They turned toward me and I fled screaming. In a single moment I fledscreaming through time. I fled down quintillions of years. "But they scented me. Men awake in them cosmic hungers. We have escaped, momentarily, from thefoulness that rings them round. They thirst for that in us which is clean, which emerged from the deedwithout stain. There is a part of us which did not partake in the deed, and that they hate. But do notimagine that they are literally, prosaically evil. They are beyond good and evil as we know it. They arethat which in the beginning fell away from cleanliness. Through the deed they became bodies of death,receptacles of all foulness. But they are not evil in our sense because in the spheres through which theymove there is no thought, no moral, no right or wrong as we understand it. There is merely the pure andthe foul. The foul expresses itself through angles; the pure through curves. Man, the pure part of him, isdescended from a curve. Do not laugh. I mean that literally."

I rose and searched for my hat. "I'm dreadfully sorry for you, Chalmers," I said, as I walked toward thedoor. "But I don't intend to stay and listen to such gibberish. I'll send my physician to see you. He's anelderly, kindly chap, and he won't be offended if you tell him to go to the devil. But I hope you'll respect his advice. A week's rest in a good sanitarium should benefit you immeasurably."

I heard him laughing as I descended the stairs, but his laughter was so utterly mirthless that it moved me to tears.

II

When Chalmers phoned the following morning my first impulse was to hang up the receiver immediately.His request was so unusual and his voice was so wildly hysterical that I feared any further associationwith him would result in the impairment of my own sanity. But I could not doubt the genuineness of hismisery, and when he broke down completely and I heard him sobbing over the wire, I decided to complywith his request.

"Very well," I said. "I will come over immediately and bring the plaster."

En route to Chalmers's home I stopped at a hardware store and purchased twenty pounds of plaster of Paris. When I entered my friend's room he was crouching by the window watching the opposite wall outof eyes that were feverish with fright. When he saw me he rose and seized the parcel containing theplaster with an avidity that amazed and horrified me. He had extruded all the furniture, and the roompresented a desolate appearance.

"It is just conceivable that we can thwart them!" he exclaimed. "But we must work rapidly. Frank, there isa stepladder in the hall. Bring it here immediately. And then fetch a pail of water."

"What for?" I murmured.

He turned sharply and there was a flush on his face. "To mix the plaster, you fool!" he cried. "To mix theplaster that will save our bodies and souls from a contamination unmentionable. To mix the plaster thatwill save the world from--Frank, they must be kept out!"

"Who?" I murmured. "The Hounds of Tindalos!" he muttered. "They can only reach us through angles. We must eliminate allangles from this room. I shall plaster up all the corners, all the crevices. We must make this roomresemble the interior of a sphere."

I knew that it would have been useless to argue with him. I fetched the stepladder, Chalmers mixed theplaster, and for three hours we labored. We filled in the four corners of the wall and the intersections ofthe floor and wall and the wall and ceiling, and we rounded the sharp angles of the window-seat.

"I shall remain in this room until they return in time," he affirmed when our task was completed. "Whenthey discover that the scent leads through curves they will return. They will return ravenous and snarlingand unsatisfied to the foulness that was in the beginning, before time, beyond space."

He nodded graciously and lit a cigarette. "It was good of you to help," he said.

"Will you not see a physician, Chalmers?" I pleaded.

"Perhaps--tomorrow," he murmured.

"But now I must watch and wait." "Wait for what?" I urged.

Chalmers smiled wanly. "I know that you think me insane," he said. "You have a shrewd but prosaic mind, and you cannot conceive of an entity that does not depend for its existence on force and matter.
But did it ever occur to you, my friend, that force and matter are merely the barriers to perception imposed by time and space? When one knows, as I do, that time and space are identical and that theyare both deceptive because they are merely imperfect manifestations of a higher reality, one no longerseeks in the visible world for an explanation of the mystery and terror of being."

I rose and walked toward the door.

"Forgive me," he cried. "I did not mean to offend you. You have a superlative intellect, but I--I have a
superhuman one. It is only natural that I should be aware of your limitations."

"Phone if you need me," I said, and descended the stairs two steps at a time. "I'll send my physician overat once," I muttered, to myself. "He's a hopeless maniac, and heaven knows what will happen if someonedoesn't take charge of him immediately."

III

The following is a condensation of two announcements which appeared in the Partridgeville Gazette for July 3, 1928:

Earthquake Shakes Financial District

At 2 o'clock this morning an earth tremor of unusual severity broke several plate-glass windows inCentral Square and completely disorganized the electric and street railway systems. The tremor was feltin the outlying districts, and the steeple of the First Baptist Church on Angell Hill (designed byChristopher Wren in 1717) was entirely demolished. Firemen are now attempting to put out a blazewhich threatens to destroy the Partridgeville Glue Works. An investigation is promised by the mayor, andan immediate attempt will be made to fix responsibility for this disastrous occurrence.

OCCULT WRITER MURDERED BY UNKNOWN GUEST

Horrible Crime in Central Square

Mystery Surrounds Death of Halpin Chalmers

At 9 A.M. today the body of Halpin Chalmers, author and journalist, was found in an empty room abovethe jewelry store of Smithwick and Isaacs, 24 Central Square. The coroner's investigation revealed thatthe room had been rented furnished to Mr. Chalmers on May 1, and that he had himself disposed of thefurniture a fortnight ago. Chalmers was the author of several recondite themes, and a member of theBibliographic Guild. He formerly resided in Brooklyn, New York.

At 7 A.M., Mr. L. E. Hancock, who occupies the apartment opposite Chalmers's room in the Smithwickand Isaacs establishment, smelt a peculiar odor when he opened his door to take in his cat and themorning edition of the Partridgeville Gazette. The odor he describes as extremely acrid and nauseous,and he affirms that it was so strong in the vicinity of Chalmers's room that he was obliged to hold his nosewhen he approached that section of the hall.

He was about to return to his own apartment when it occurred to him that Chalmers might haveaccidentally forgotten to turn off the gas in his kitchenette. Becoming considerably alarmed at the thought,he decided to investigate, and when repeated tappings on Chalmers's door brought no response henotified the superintendent. The latter opened the door by means of a pass key, and the two men quicklymade their way into Chalmers's room. The room was utterly destitute of furniture, and Hancock assertsthat when he first glanced at the floor his heart went cold within him, and that the superintendent, withoutsaying a word, walked to the open window and stared at the building opposite for fully five minutes.
Chalmers lay stretched upon his back in the center of the roo. He was starkly nude, and his chest andarms were covered with a peculiar bluish pus or ichor. His head lay grotesquely upon his chest. It hadbeen completely severed from his body, and the features were twisted and town and horribly mangled.Nowhere was there a trace of blood.

The room presented a most astonishing appearance. The intersections of the walls, celing, and floor hadbeen thickly smeared with plaster of Paris, but at intervals fragments had cracked and fallen off, andsomeone had grouped these upon the floor about the murdered man so as to form a perfect triangle.Beside the body were several sheets of charred yellow paper. These bore fantastic geometric designsand symbols and several hastily scrawled sentences. The sentences were almost illegible and so absurd incontent that they furnished no possible clue to the perpetrator of the crime. "I am waiting and watching,"Chalmers wrote. "I sit by the window and watch walls and ceiling. I do not believe they can reach me,but I must beware the Doels. Perhaps they can help them break through. The satyrs will help, and theycan advance through the scarlet circles. The Greeks knew a way of preventing that. It is a great pity thatwe have forgotten so much."

On another sheet of paper, the most badly charred of the seven or eight fragments found by Detective-Sergeant Douglas (of the Partridgeville Reserve), was scrawled the following:

"Good God, the plaster is falling! A terrific shock has loosened the plaster and it is falling. An earthquakeperhaps! I never could have anticipated this. It is growing dark in the room. I must phone Frank. But canhe get here in time? I will try. I will recite the Einstein formulate. I will--God, they are breaking through!They are breaking through! Smoke is pouring from the corners of the wall. Their tongues-- ahhhh--"

In the opinion of Detective-Sergeant Douglas, Chalmers was poisoned by some obscure chemical. Hehas sent specimens of the strange blue slime found on Chalmers's body to the Partidgeville ChemicalLaboratories; and he expects the report will shed new light on one of the most mysterious crimes inrecent years. That Chalmers entertained a guest on the evening preceding the earthquake is certain, forhis neighbor distinctly heard a low murmur of conversation in the former's room as he passed it on hisway to the stairs. Suspicion points strongly to this unknown visitor, and the police are diligentlyendeavoring to discover his identity.

IV

Report of James Morton, chemist and bacteriologist:

My dear Mr. Douglas:

The fluid sent to me for analysis is the most peculiar that I have ever examined. It resembles livingprotoplasm, but it lacks the peguliar substances known as enzymes. Enzymes catalyze the chemicalreactions occurring in living cells, and when the cell dies they cause it to disintegrate by hydrolyzation.Without enzymes protoplasm should possess enduring vitality, i.e., immortality. Enzymes are the negativecomponents, so to speak, of the unicellular organism, which is the basis of all life. That living matter canexist without enzymes biologists emphatically deny. And yet the substance that you have sent me is aliveand it lacks these "indispensable" bodies. Good God, sir, do you realize what astounding new vistas this opens up?

V

Excerpt from The Secret Watcher by the late Halpin Chalmers;

What if, parallel to the life we know, there is another life that does not die, which lacks the elements that destroy our life? Perhaps in another dimension there is a different force from that which generates our life. Perhaps this force emits energy, or something similar to energy, which passes from the unknowndimension where it is and creates a new form of cell life in our dimension. No one knows that such newcell life does exist in our dimension. Ah, but i have seen its
manifestations. I have talked with them. In myroom at night I have talked with the Doels. And in dreams I have seen their maker. I have stood on thedim shore beyond time and matter and seen it. It
moves through strange curves and outrageous angles.Someday I shall travel in time and meet it face to face.

lunes, 1 de septiembre de 2008

"La dormilona" de Guy de Maupassant

Transcripción de "La dormilona" de Guy de Maupassant, extraída de El Horla y otros cuentos fantásticos, (1979). Madrid: Alianza Editorial. Traducción de Esther Benítez. Págs. 158-168. Lo transcribí apresuradamente, así que cruzo los dedos para no tener que hacerle mayores correcciones en el futuro. BTW, tengo problemas con las fuentes.

La dormilona

El Sena se extendía delante de mi casa, sin una onda, y barnizado por el sol de la mañana. Era una hermosa, ancha, lenta, larga corriente de plata, teñida de púrpura en algunos lugares; y al otro lado del río, grandes árboles alineados desplegaban sobre la ribera una inmensa muralla de verdor.

La sensación de la vida que empieza de nuevo cada día, de la vida fresca, alegre, amorosa, temblaba en las hojas, palpitaba en el aire, reverberaba en el agua.

Me entregaron los periódicos que el cartero acababa de traer y me dirigí a la orilla, con pasos tranquilos, para leerlos.

En el primero que abrí vi estas palabras: «Estadísticas de suicidios» y me enteré de que, este año, más de ocho mil quinientos seres humanos se han suicidado.

Instantáneamente, ¡los vi! Vi esa carnicería, repugnante y voluntaria, de los desesperados hartos de vivir. Vi gente que sangraba, con la mandíbula destrozada, el cráneo partido, el pecho agujereado por una bala, agonizando lentamente, solos en un cuartito de hotel, y sin pensar en su herida, pensando siempre en su desgracia.

Vi otros, con la garganta abierta o el vientre rajado, teniendo aún en sus manos el cuchillo de cocina o la navaja de afeitar.

Vi otros, sentados ora delante de un vaso donde empapaban fósforos, ora ante un frasquito que llevaba una etiqueta roja.

Miraban aquello de hito en hito, sin moverse; después bebían, después esperaban; luego una mueca pasaba por sus mejillas, crispaba sus labios; el espanto extraviaba sus ojos, pues no sabían que sufrían tanto antes del final.

Se levantaban, se detenían, caían y, las dos manos sobre el vientre, sentían sus órganos quemados, sus entrañas roídas por el fuego del líquido, antes de que su pensamiento estuviera levemente oscurecido.

Vi otros colgados de un clavo de la pared, de la falleba de la ventana, del gancho del cielorraso, de la viga del desván, de la rama de un árbol, bajo la lluvia de la noche. Y adivinaba todo lo que habían hecho antes de quedarse allí, con la lengua afuera, inmóviles. Adivinaba la angustia de su corazón, sus postreras vacilaciones, sus movimientos para atar la cuerda, comprobar que aguantaba, pasársela por el cuello y dejarse caer.

Vi otros acostados en míseras camas, madres con sus hijitos, ancianos muertos de hambre, jóvenes destrozadas por penas de amor, todos rígidos, ahogados, asfixiados, mientras en el centro del cuarto humeaba aún el hornillo de carbón.

Y vislumbré a los que se paseaban de noche por los puentes desiertos. Eran los más siniestros. El agua fluía bajo los barcos con un blando ruido. No la veían… ¡la adivinaban aspirando su frío olor! Tenían ganas y tenían miedo. ¡No se atrevían! Y sin embargo, era preciso. Daban las horas a lo lejos en algún campanario, y de pronto, por el dilatado silencio de las tinieblas cruzaban, pronto ahogados, el ruido de un cuerpo cayendo al río, unos gritos, el chapoteo de un agua agitada con las manos. A veces era sólo el paf de la caída, cuando se habían atado los brazos o sujetado una piedra a los pies.

¡Oh! ¡Pobre gente, pobre gente, pobre gente, cómo he sentido sus angustias, cómo he muerto con su muerte! Pasé por todas sus miserias; sufrí, en una hora, todas sus torturas. Supe todos los pesares que los llevaron a eso; pues siento la engañosa infamia de la vida, como nadie, más que yo, la haya sentido.

Cómo he comprendido a aquellos que, débiles, acosados por la mala suerte, habiendo perdido a los seres queridos, despertados del sueño de una recompensa tardía, de la ilusión de otra existencia donde Dios por fin sería justo, tras haber sido feroz, y desengañados de los espejismos de la felicidad, se han hartado y quieren acabar con este drama sin tregua o con esta vergonzosa comedia.

¡El suicidio! Pero ¡si es la fuerza de quienes ya no tienen nada, es la esperanza de quienes ya no creen, es el sublime valor de los vencidos! Sí, hay una puerta por lo menos en esta vida, siempre podemos abrirla y pasar al otro lado. La naturaleza ha tenido un movimiento de piedad; no nos ha aprisionado. ¡Gracias en nombre de los desesperados!

En cuanto a los simples desengañados, que sigan su camino con alma libre y corazón tranquilo. No tienen nada que temer, puesto que pueden irse; puesto que a sus espaldas está siempre esa puerta que los dioses soñados no pueden ni siquiera cerrar.

Meditaba yo sobre esa muchedumbre de muertos voluntarios: más de ocho mil quinientos en un año. Y me parecía que se habían reunido para lanzar al mundo una plegaria, para gritar un voto, para pedir algo, realizable más adelante, cuando se comprenda mejor. Me parecía que todos esos ajusticiados, esos degollados, esos envenenados, esos ahorcados, avanzaban, horda espantosa, como ciudadanos que votan, para decirle a la sociedad: «¡Concedednos al menos una muerte dulce! ¡Ayudadnos a morir, vosotros que no nos ayudásteis a vivir! Ya véis, somos numerosos, tenemos derecho a hablar en estos días de libertad, de independencia filosófica y de sufragio popular. Dadles a quienes renuncian a vivir la limosna de una muerte que no sea repugnante ni espantosa.»

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Empecé a soñar despierto, dejando vagabundear mi pensamiento sobre el tema en ensoñaciones extravagantes y misteriosas.

Me creí, en cierto momento, en una hermosa ciudad. Era París; pero ¿en qué época? Caminaba por las calles, mirando las casas, los teatros, los establecimientos públicos, y he aquí que, en una plaza, vi un gran edificio, muy elegante, coquetón y bonito.

Me quedé sorprendido, pues en la fachada se leía, en letras de oro: «Institución de la muerte voluntaria.»

¡Oh! ¡Singularidad de los sueños despiertos, en los que el espíritu echa a volar por un mundo irreal y posible! Nada en ellos asombra; nada choca; y la fantasía desenfrenada ya no distingue entre lo cómico y lo lúgubre.

Me acerqué al edificio, donde unos lacayos de calzón corto estaban sentados en un vestíbulo, delante de un guardarropa, como la entrada de un club.

Entré sólo por ver. Uno de ellos, levantándose, me dijo:

«¿Qué desea el señor?

--Deseo saber qué es este lugar.

--¿Nada más?

--Claro que no.

--Entonces, ¿desea el señor que lo lleve a ver al secretario de la institución?»

Yo dudaba. Interrogué aún:

«¿No le molestará?

--Oh, no, señor, está aquí para recibir a las personas que deseen informarse.

--Entonces, le sigo. »

Me hizo atravesar unos corredores donde charlaban unos ancianos; después me introdujo en un hermoso despacho, un poco oscuro, amueblado todo con madera negra. Un joven, grueso, panzudo, escribía una carta fumando un cigarro cuyo aroma me reveló su calidad superior.

Se levantó, nos saludamos, y cuando el lacayo se marchó, preguntó:

«¿En qué puedo servirle?

--Caballero, le respondí, disculpe mi indiscreción. Nunca había visto este establecimiento. Las pocas palabras inscritas en la fachada me han sorprendido mucho; y desearía saber qué se hace en él.»

Sonrió antes de responder, y después, a media voz, con aire de satisfacción:

«¡Dios mío! Señor, se mata con limpieza y suavidad, me atrevería a decir que agradablemente, a la gente que desea morir. »

No me sentí muy emocionado, pues aquello me pareció a fin de cuentas justo y natural. Me asombraba sobre todo que alguien hubiera podido, en este planeta de ideas bajas, utilitarias, humanitarias, egoístas y coercitivas de toda libertad real, atreverse a semejante empresa, digna de una humanidad emancipada.

Proseguí:

«¿Cómo han llegado ustedes a esto?»

Respondió:

«Señor, la cifra de suicidios aumentó tanto durante los cinco años que siguieron a la Exposición Universal de 1889, que resultaba urgente adoptar medidas. La gente se mataba en las calles, en las fiestas, en los restaurantes, en el teatro, en los trenes, en las recepciones del Presidente de la República, por doquier. No sólo era un feo espectáculo para los que prefieren vivir, como yo, sino también un mal ejemplo para los niños. Y entonces fue preciso centralizar los suicidios.

--¿A qué se debía esa recrudescencia?

--No lo sé. En el fondo, creo que el mundo envejece. Se empieza a ver eso con claridad, pero nadie se resigna a gusto. Ocurre hoy con el destino como con el gobierno, se sabe lo que es; se comprueba que todo es una estafa, y uno se marcha. Cuando se ha reconocido que la providencia miente, engaña, roba, defrauda a los humanos como un simple diputado a sus electores, la gente se enfada, y como no se puede elegir otra cada tres meses, al igual que hacemos con nuestros representantes concesionarios, se abandona el lugar, que es decididamente malo.

--¡Verdaderamente!

--¡Oh! Lo que es yo, no me quejo.

--¿Quiere usted decirme cómo funciona la institución?

--Con mucho gusto. Por lo demás, puede usted participar en ella cuando le plazca. Es un club.

--¡¡Un club!!...

--Sí, señor, fundado por los hombres más eminentes del país, por los mejores espíritus y las más claras inteligencias.»

Y agregó, riéndose de todo corazón:

«Y le juro que es muy agradable.

--¿Esto?

--Sí, esto.

--Me asombra usted.

--¡Dios mío! Es agradable porque los miembros del club no tienen miedo a la muerte, que es la que echa a perder todas las alegrías de este mundo.

--Pero, entonces, ¿por qué son miembros del club, si no se matan?

--Se puede ser miembro del club sin contraer por ello la obligación de matarse.

--¿Y, entonces?

--Me explico. Ante el número desmesuradamente creciente de los suicidios, ante los repelentes espectáculos que nos brindaban, se constituyó una sociedad de pura beneficencia, protectora de los desesperados, que puso a su disposición una muerte tranquila e insensible, ya que no imprevista.

--¿Quién ha podido autorizar semejante institución?

--El general Boulanger, durante su breve paso por el poder. No sabía negar nada. Y es lo único bueno que hizo, por lo demás. Así pues, se constituyó una sociedad de hombres clarividentes, desengañados, escépticos, que quisieron erigir en pleno París una especie de templo del desprecio a la muerte. Al principio, esta casa fue un lugar temido, al que nadie se acercaba. Entonces los fundadores, que se reunían en ella, dieron una gran fiesta de inauguración con Sara Bernhardt, Judic, Théo, Granier y veinte damas más; y con los señores de Reszké, Coquelin, Mounet-Sully, Paulus, etc.; y después conciertos, comedias de Dumas, de Meilhac, de D´Halévy, de Sardou. No tuvimos más que un fracaso, una pieza de Becque, que pareció triste, pero que a continuación obtuvo un resonante éxito en la Comedia Francesa. En fin, vino todo París. El asunto estaba lanzado.

--¡En medio de fiestas! ¡Qué broma más macabra!

--En absoluto. No es preciso que la muerte sea triste, es preciso que sea indiferente. Hemos alegrado la muerte, la hemos cubierto de flores, la hemos perfumado, la hemos hecho fácil. Se aprende a socorrer por el ejemplo; se puede ver, porque no es nada.

--Comprendo muy bien que hayan venido a las fiestas; pero, ¿han venido por… Ella?

--No de inmediato, desconfiaban.

--¿Y más adelante?

--Vinieron.

--¿Muchos?

--En masa. Tenemos más de cuarenta al día. Casi no se encuentran ya ahogados en el Sena.

--¿Quién empezó?

--Un miembro del club.

--¿Un abnegado?

--No lo creo. Un aburrido, arruinado en el juego, que había sufrido enormes pérdidas en el bacarrá durante tres meses.

--¿De veras?

--El segundo fue un inglés, un excéntrico. Entonces, pusimos anuncios en los periódicos, contamos nuestros procedimientos, inventamos muertes capaces de atraer. Pero el gran impulso nos lo dio la gente pobre.

--¿Cómo proceden ustedes?

--¿Quiere visitarlo? Se lo explicaré al mismo tiempo.

--Claro que sí.»

Cogió el sombrero, abrió la puerta, me hizo salir para entrar después en una sala de juego donde unos hombres jugaban como se juega en todos los garitos. Cruzó a continuación diversos salones. En ellos la gente charlaba con viveza, con alegría. Raras veces había visto un club tan vivo, tan animado, tan riente.

Como yo me extrañaba, el secretario prosiguió:

«¡Oh! La institución está muy de moda. Toda la gente elegante del universo entero forma parte de ella, para aparentar que desprecia la muerte. Después, una vez que están aquí, se creen obligados a mostrarse alegres para no parecer asustados. Entonces bromean, ríen, se burlan, alardean ingenio y aprenden a tenerlo. Ciertamente es hoy en día el lugar más frecuentado y más divertido de París. Las mismas mujeres se ocupan, en este momento, de crear un anexo para ellas.

--Y, a pesar de eso, ¿tienen ustedes muchos suicidios en la casa?

--Como le he dicho, unos cuarenta o cincuenta diarios. Son escasas las personas ricas; pero abundan los pobres diablos. También la clase media da muchos.

--Y… ¿cómo se hace?

--Asfixiamos… muy suavemente.

--¿Por qué procedimiento?

--Un gas de nuestra invención. Lo hemos patentado. Al otro lado del edificio, están las puertas del público. Tres puertecitas que dan a tres callejas. Cuando un hombre o una mujer se presenta, empezamos a interrogarlo; después se le ofrece un socorro, una ayuda, protecciones. Si el cliente acepta, se hace una investigación y con frecuencia lo salvamos.

--¿De dónde sacan el dinero?

--Tenemos mucho. Las cotizaciones de los miembros son muy elevadas. Y además resulta de buen tono hacer donativos a la institución. Los nombres de todos los donantes se publican en Le Figaro. Ahora bien, todo suicidio de un hombre rico cuesta mil francos. –Y mueren con afectación. Los de los pobres son gratuitos.

--¿Cómo reconocen ustedes a los pobres?

--¡Oh! ¡Oh! ¡Se los adivina, señor! Y además tienen que traer un certificado de indigencia del comisario de policía de su barrio. ¡Si supiera usted qué siniestra es su entrada! Visité sólo una vez esa parte del establecimiento, y no volveré jamás. Como local, está tan bien como éste, igual de rico y de cómodo; pero ellos… ¡Ellos! ¡Si los viera usted llegar, a los viejos andrajosos que acuden a morir; gente que revienta de miseria desde hace meses, alimentada en un rincón de la calle, como los perros; mujeres harapientas, demacradas, que están enfermas, paralíticas, incapaces de ganarse la vida y que nos dicen, tras haber contado su caso: «Ya ven ustedes que esto no puede continuar, ya que no puedo hacer nada, ni ganar nada.»

«He visto llegar a una de ochenta y siete años, que había perdido a todos sus hijos, y a sus nietos, y que, desde hacía seis semanas, dormía al raso. Me puse enfermo de emoción. Además, tenemos muchos casos diferentes, sin contar la gente que no dice nada y que se limita a preguntar: ¿Dónde es? A esos se les hace entrar, y se acaba enseguida.»

Yo repetía, con el corazón encogido:

«Y… ¿dónde es?

--Aquí.»

Abrió una puerta, agregando:

«Entre, es la parte especialmente reservada a los miembros del club, y la que funciona menos. Aún no hemos tenido más que once aniquilaciones.

--¡Ah! Le llaman ustedes una… aniquilación.

--Sí, señor. Entre».

Vacilaba. Por fin entré. Era una deliciosa galería, una especie de invernadero, que unas vidrieras de un azul pálido, de un rosa tierno, de un verde suave, rodeaban poéticamente de paisajes de tapicería. Había en aquel bonito salón unos divanes, espléndidas palmeras, flores, rosas sobre todo, embalsamadoras, libros en las mesas, la Revue des Deux Mondes, cigarros en cajas de la Tabacalera, y, lo que más me sorprendió, pastillas de Vichy en una bombonera.

Como yo me asombraba, mi guía dijo:

«¡Oh! Con frecuencia vienen a charlar aquí.»

Y prosiguió:

«Las salas del público son parecidas, aunque amuebladas con más sencillez.»

Pregunté:

«¿Y cómo operan ustedes?»

Señaló con el dedo una tumbona, cubierta de crespón de China color crema, con encajes blancos, bajo un gran arbusto desconocido, al pie del cual corría un arriate de reseda.

El secretario agregó en voz más baja:

«Se cambia a capricho la flor y el perfume, pues nuestro gas, totalmente imperceptible, da a la muerte el olor de la flor que más agrada. Se le volatiliza con esencias. ¿Quiere usted que se lo haga aspirar sólo un segundo?

--Gracias, le dije vivamente, todavía no…»

Se echó a reír.

«¡Oh! No hay el menor peligro caballero, caballero. Yo mismo lo he comprobado varias veces.»

Tuve miedo de parecerle cobarde. Proseguí:

«Está bien.

--Tiéndase en la Dormilona

Algo inquieto, me senté en la tumbona de crespón de China, después me estiré, y casi al instante me vi envuelto por un delicioso olor a reseda. Abrí la boca para sorberlo mejor, pues mi alma se había amodorrado, olvidaba, saboreaba, con el primer trastorno de la asfixia, la embrujadora embriaguez de un opio encantador y fulminante.

Me sacudieron del brazo.

«¡Oh, oh, señor!, decía riendo el secretario, me parece que se deja usted convencer.»

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Pero una voz, una voz de verdad, y no la de los ensueños, me saludaba con acento campesino:

«Buenos días, señor. ¿Qué tal?»

Mi sueño echó a volar. Vi el Sena claro bajo el sol y, llegando por el sendero, el guarda rural del pueblo, que se llevaba la mano derecha al quepis negro galoneado de plata. Respondí:

«Hola, Marinel. ¿A dónde va usted?

--Voy a reconocer a un ahogado que han pescado cerca de los Morillons. Uno más que se ha dado un chapuzón. Y hasta se había quitado los pantalones para atarse las piernas con ellos.»

L´Endormeuse, «L´Echo de París», 16 de septiembre de 1889.