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Lunes, 16 de mayo de 2022

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Mud Crawler

Short story.

His hands sank deep in the mud. Deeper. He could notice the slush earth crawling up his fingers, dwelling inside his fingernails. He could feel life shaking underground.
The drizzle stopped, and the rain and the storm took its place. Water ran down his bruised spine, drenched his mane of hair and came down his arms and hands to the ground, leaving his face untouched. The first lightning struck, and the night crawlers crept up to the surface, mingling with his fingers.
The thunderstorm roared on. The woods on his back trembled. He gazed at the distance, seeing nothing but darkness and overwhelming emptiness. He lowered his head, looked past his hands, the night crawlers and the mud. Sleep took care of him.
For the first time in what seemed an eternity, the boy dreamed.
He dreamed of a place he used to call home, a long time ago. Familiar, loving faces were around him, rudeness and cruelty had no room there. It smelled so good. The food smelled so good. Fried bacon, fresh orange juice, sweet milk, and off to a hopeful start aboard a yellow bus. Yet there was also a tainted scent, at least what would become tainted soon afterwards -the smell of coffee. Sour, unwelcoming, dark yet riveting. Dark, above all.
Darkness triumphed over light every morning. There was not even a battle, not a slight struggle. Nothing. It just did. Light would not get through the blinds and rest gently upon the boy's face, letting him know a new day had begun. It would not show him a changing array of hues, proof of the wonders that awaited him. No. Instead, it would just be darkness all over, and the only way he could relate to his surroundings was through smells and sounds.
Sounds like the chirping of the crickets beside him, black and delicate. Also like the indescribable horrors that crept underneath his cot. He could never tell what they were, he could just hear them move and drag their bounties with them. Those he never saw were the ones he feared the most.
Fear was common those days, and he had gotten used to it. Fear would rush through his body whenever he could perceive a new, unknown sound. He would try to eavesdrop and look through the keyhole, but then he would lower hid head, disappointed at his own failure. Yet most times, fear and scent would come hand in hand. The smell of homemade breakfast had turned into fear of the unattainable, the ungraspable, of what he could never reach but needed desperately, as all the signs in his emaciated body were yelling at him. There was also the fear of utter darkness, the ultimate companion that would eventually take his hand and free him from torture and what he perceived as punishment. Though the most imminent one, which haunted him every unending second of his new life, was the fear of the sour, unwelcoming smell of coffee.
One of the few things he could recall about his former life was that it aroused in him some kind of fascination, the same one that comes together with those pleasures of the adult life, the ones children can only get a glimpse of followed by stern warnings. Now coffee -its scent in particular- implied much more. With it came the inexplicable, the fury bestowed upon him, the blows of anger his decaying body had to put up with in a series of offenses by an undisclosed perpetrator. At times, shivering in fear, the boy could hear how he would stop to let his coffee mug rest on a wooden surface nearby, with the utmost care. All that followed was a quick shining and a storm of wrath that barely allowed the boy any strength left to question why he had been taken captive.
But now he was out.
Torture had become a routine, and routines may be many things but flawless. The boy had been through an ordeal and found his way out. He was not a boy anymore.
He raised his head, deeply buried in the mud, now dry and stiff. A thin ray of light shone on the horizon and made his green eyes glow.
The storm had ceased. The night crawlers had vanished. His hands were still covered in clay. The timber still stood behind him, now a solemn emblem of quietness. He gazed at the distance, again. This time he could see different shapes coming out the fading mist. They might have been buildings in a small town. It had been so long.
A new -yet somehow familiar¬¬- sound approached his ears. Nothing like the crawling horrors he knew, but a tune from a distant past. It surrounded him, encouraged him and almost lifted him. He found himself mumbling it, digging up memories of a remote past.
It was Christmas.
The town seemed empty. The last remnants of the storm washed down the cobbled streets. He kept walking, following the awakening tune to its source -a wooden, one story building.
He pushed the door open and walked in. There were people in there, yet no one paid attention to him. They seemed focused on the root of the rhythm, up on the stage.
He stood at the back of the crowd, approaching doubtfully and stamping his feet. Then he noticed it, right beside him, what he dreaded most in this new world. The smell, the gruesome scent of coffee.
He turned his head, drearily, and saw a mug containing the fearful beverage not too far from him, resting carefully on a wooden desk. It read: "Blessed Is a Man of Faith."
An undisclosed hand grabbed the mug firmly.

Género al que pertenece la obra: Narrativa
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