It was a huge penthouse, and in that penthouse everyone froze and gazed towards the door. Behind them the world, the balcony and the view over smeared beaches, a horizon cloaked in smog and salt, queues outside of clubs, pale pink houses inside of golden gates, vibrant pillars that scanned the sky like floodlights in swamps where police helicopters searched for bodies. Like fallen, shivering lighthouses.
There stood an old woman. A granny. Her grey hair tied in a knot, a dark dress, a gold star resting on a crumpled chest. A cane in a frail hand on which blue veins lurched just beneath lucid skin and over staring knuckles. Black, thin tattooed lines formed eerie figures and ran straight along fingers and brittle bones and disappeared under the sleeves of the dress. Glaucoma so severe that her eyes looked like little stormy spheres filled with fog and ash. In the penthouse there was a large gathering of ordinary people that she had not come for. Dealers, bodyguards, smugglers, businessmen, hitmen, politicians and whores. And so Cuervo, at the bottom of a u-shaped sofa with a naked, sticky girl on his lap. The music and the voices died and washed out with the tide and far down on Collins Avenue and many floors up towards the deep, black vault they held their breath. From the other reality a distant bass pulsed like a loathsome heart and waves weared on a monstrous belly. Hungry hovered the spider-like silhouettes of the palm crowns that casted shadows in the sand during the day and edged the abyss at night.
”Khutspe. Our little fox”, the old granny muttered, staring blindly through the room of bodies, looking at Cuervo where he sat with a floury nose, a pale face and a haunted look that no one had seen on him before. On the table in front of him a white mountain on a mirror, a revolver, a bloody knife, a wet ear. The granny began to drag herself into the room, towards the sofa in black leather, over the marble floor, in the mirrors on the walls. Cuban and Colombian men in jeans and leather belts or wide, garish trousers with press folds, mustaches and pastel colored shirts, naked women in their early teens, mortuary makeup and pink complexion, at the beginning of what was left. They scattered where the old woman piled forward, her cane clinking against the stone and in the sky behind them swelled high, blue and rusty clouds.
“Like Moses,” she mumbled and smiled to herself in the great hall. She stopped at the table.
“Que pasa, b-bruja?” Cuervo stammered.
“Feh!” she spit back at him, baring her yellow teeth and molar crowns in shiny mercury. ”Where has our little fox been? What has he done? What does the fox say?”
“I’ve been here. I haven’t done anything. Nada! You can ask anyone”, he stuttered, threw his arms out, hurling away the young woman who had begun to liquefy all over his crotch. She fell to the floor and crawled away on all fours, under the table, in blood.
“I don’t need to ask anyone anything,” the granny replied, pointing to one of her stormy eyes. Everyone in the apartment felt it. A foul stench drifted in from outside, through the wide-open balcony doors and into the penthouse. Metal, sweet and thick, hard to swallow. Dirt and dead animals, something from the nation’s birth and the beginning of great slaughters, battlefields, slave boats.
“We have a little glitch, little fox. You know, and I know. They’ve seen you. Glitch … glitch … glitch … ”, she mechanically repeated as the words fell deeper, like one of those old toys with a voice box in its chest and a string on its back and batteries starting to fade. The people in the room instantly sobered, glanced at each other, at the door and in the mirrors that reflected the order of things that were.
“I knew it would end like this, with some mischief, klutz. Sooner or later. I just waited. Waited for you to slip up and step over. That’s what I do. Wait here, for you. Like a ferryman. ”
Cuervo squinted with his eyes, gasped for breath and flew out of the sofa, staring at the old woman. She glanced up at him, a distorted grin. He held something in, clenched his neck until the tendons stood out like tent strings, shook his head, began to twist.
”Eh! Chinga! What you gonna do in front of all people, eh? What do you think you can do to me? To me?! You don’t scare me anymore, sintiendo?! The order is falling! There is no Order! Huh?! It’s a new world, pinche bruja! You can’t do anything! Not in front of everyone!”, he barked.
“Kvetch, little fox. Look”, the granny calmly continued, pointing a bony finger at the sea. “A storm. I have heard whispers of a great storm, but a storm is just a storm. Tomorrow it will be clear again, clean. And no one cares about a little fox. Tomorrow you are already down there with the others, in the archive, forever, yes?”
“You can’t do anything here!” he yelled, his voice cracked and his eyes glossy.
They had begun to shift. The people in the room saw it. From ordinary with blushing whites and huge pupils to deep yellow, beastly with black, thin vertical shards.
”I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sins, openly for everyone to see …”, the granny mumbled, blowing gently on the white mountain on the mirror on the table. Small clouds of dust swirled between them where they stood and the crystal chandeliers flickered and waved as the wind rinsed into the room and searched every corner like a hungry and high wraith. The sound echoed and amplified as she struck her cane twice against the stone floor.
“Everyone leaves us now”, she commanded with a hollow voice drawn from another time and an early being, from the host animals and the beasts and creatures that once waded across the shallow seas and wandered over the ice. The people waddled through the room and crowded the exit and with their arms hanging heavily and limp and with their mouths sewn shut they poured out of the apartment and the door closed behind them.
“Schmuck,” the old lady murmured.
“You can’t …”, Cuervo pleaded as his ears grew pointed and harsh hairs began to protrude from his cheeks.
“Did you know that I am one of the few left who can deconstruct you while you are still alive and awake? It is said that you can see yourself through my eyes. Would you like to see yourself one last time, little fox?”
He reached down and grabbed the gun from the table, pointed it at her with a shaking arm and a hand where fingers had begun to shrink and soon was covered with fine bristles. His body wrenched and cracked and fell to the floor next to the couch and he was half the one and half the other and neither and he was barely at all anymore when she took a step closer, leaned over her cane and squirmed down at him.
”When I first came here, there was nothing. Swamps. Beaches. River. Sea. Some sheds. Maybe a port. I don’t remember everything. The river runs from the swamp and on it lived those who had almost always been here. Those who had seen old beings. You weren’t here then. I came from the town in the north, but I came from the desert from the beginning. It’s a clean world, the desert. Here … I don’t know, but my hands and feet grieves me less here than during the winters up north. But that is not why I come here. You see, I am order. “
The being on the floor twisted and wailed, moaned and bashed his deformed head against the stone floor, blindingly weathering.
“I’ve been longing for this, longing for you. But now that we are here it feels … empty. Oy vey. What does the fox say? Nu?”
The first lightning struck a few miles out into the falling gorge and the thunder split the rusty clouds and drowned a shrill scream.
When it was all over, she got to her feet, once again leaned on her cane and looked at the twitching and trembling legs still in human form, listened to the heels of the snakeskin boots as they scraped against the polished marble floor, and when the day dawned, only the mirrors would have witnessed. None of those who had just left them would ever return, because they would not remember this place, nor remember the old granny and the little fox. She lingered for a moment, by the black sofa and the glass table and the white pile, which gently dusted like the desert dunes. She stared down at the emptied being. Then she closed her eyes. In long, strained breaths she swallowed the entity within her, deeper and deeper until it ceased to struggle and became blind and paralyzed and gave up and fell asleep. When she opened her eyes again they had obscured yet further. She looked around and listened to the rolling thunder, all the more distant. Someone else would soon buy this apartment and stand on its balcony and look out over the sea and never would they know what the mirrors had seen. But it was still night, and the rain poured out of the hatched clouds. The palm trunks swayed in the wind. The spider shadows quivered, released from their stem and crawled soundlessly over Ocean drive, further inward in search of something to feed upon.