A Portuguese Autumn Afternoon
There is something rather unpleasant about darkness. A promise of unknown menaces, of monsters under the bed, of dangers lurking in the darkness. An uncertainty born out of lack of adequate luminosity. It is only natural.
When our eyes are unable to provide the brain with the confidence that we are not under any kind of danger, the other senses are employed to make heads or tails of the situation.
The only thing Huan sensed was pain. Excruciating, unfathomable, inconceivable pain. A hot, dense pain, like his blood had been somehow set on fire and burned him alive from the inside. He managed to follow that trail of throbbing agony down to his legs, or at least to the place where his legs were supposed to be. He found himself unable to feel his lower body, incapable of controlling his limbs. Huan reached down with his hands (these, at least, appeared to be functioning) to make sure his legs were still attached to his body. Everything seemed to be in place, albeit non-responsive.
With no way of getting up, he focused his mind on his two remaining senses: those provided by his ears and his nose. A shame they both proved to be useless. No matter how hard he tried, Huan could hear nothing more but the sound of his own irregular heartbeat accompanied by his exasperated breathing, and he could smell nothing more but the heavy moisture around him. Complete silence. Complete nothingness.
The darkness made Huan question if he had lost his sight or not, so he had to resort to the only pain-reliever he had available.
He closed his eyes and instantly fell asleep.
He was tired. So tired.
Huan had never been a ladies’ man.
He was awkward, snappy, and his looks left a lot to be desired. Not that he was ugly, but you could say his appearance… a little sloppy. Unruly black hair tried to escape his scalp in every possible direction and the few curls that dared point to the ground were long enough to cover his generic brown eyes and common Portuguese face. He always wore the same old garments, almost torn apart from the constant abuse.
He was unimportant. A stable boy. A peasant’s son. The perfect raw material for a heroic fairytale of epic proportions. If only fairytales were true.
Day in and day out, he went on with his mundane life. Not that he objected, quite the contrary. Huan felt content. He had no family to care for or be cared by — they had all died in a carriage accident when he was but a small boy. He traded hard stable labor for two meals a day and a sleeping corner in the stables he could call his own. He did not attend school and there were no other children around to test his luck in friendship with.
They say that it is difficult to miss what you have never known. That it is almost impossible to reminisce on a language you have never learned. And when the gentleness of affection is absent from your vocabulary, how can you long for it?
Huan knew he was alone. But he never felt lonely. Because lonely was all he had ever known.
And then you meet someone and your whole life changes. Huan’s surely did. A year had already passed from the day she was brought to the ranch (a copper September afternoon Huan will never forget) and there hadn’t been a single day they spent apart. They were inseparable.
Her name was Autumn, a tribute to her auburn hair and gloomy temperament. He had his workload scheduled in such a way as to spend as much time with Autumn as possible. He was keen on taking care of her and she seemed to acknowledge his endearment.
They were in love.
Until one day, Autumn was sold to the races.
Huan knew what he had to do.
There are not many things you can do when you are buried inside a cave deep into the forest. Especially when the location is so obscure the trees have been untouched by a woodman’s axe.
The perfect hiding place. The perfect grave if you had been as careless as Huan. There was no way he could have known, but he should have considered the possibility. Yes, the cave seemed big enough to keep both of them safe from any prying eyes, but the uneven terrace, full of boulders and rocks, should have given him a hint of how unstable the cave really was. He had left Autumn outside so he could take a quick look inside. It only took a few seconds and a loud rumbling sound and the next thing Huan was able to recall was waking up in complete darkness.
A fitting end, he thought.
An unimportant end for an unimportant man. Run, Autumn. Run as fast as you can. At least we are both free now.
He had never vested his hopes and trust in Heaven. Now he was desperate for it; desperate for that bright white light at the end of the tunnel. And there it was. White. Bright. Beautiful. And it was getting whiter and brighter and bigger every passing second. But Huan was not getting any closer to it.
Wait, that’s not how it works.
A few moments later he heard a loud muffled sound and a familiar galloping. His eyes were still adjusting to light but he felt her cheek slowly caressing his. He heard his caretaker’s voice assuring his band that Autumn had lead them to the right place; they found him alive. A bittersweet relief filled his heart. You came back for me.
He run his fingers tenderly through Autumn’s mane in a most tender cafune — You came back.
Cafune (caf –OO — neh) Brazilian Portuguese
Closeness between two people — for example, to run one’s fingers tenderly though someone’s hair
What do you call a writer who doesn’t write?
What do you call a painter who doesn’t paint?
What do you call a boogie-wooger who knows it’s in him, but he doesn’t boogie-woogie?
“There is a Word for That” is a desperate try to boogie-woogie my way out of self-doubt. I will write one random story/week, based on a word taken from Andrew Taylor’s “The Greeks had a Word for it”.
This is the my second story. You can read the first story, “The Magnificent Garlic Balls”, here.