“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.”
HERMANN HESSE, DEMAIN
To Franz and his pal, Gregor.
I am my own worst nightmare. I’ve always known but try to hide it. That is why I write these tales that are so absurd and cruel. The motorcyclist and his passenger were right next to my window. How were they to know who I was? You can’t see it with the naked eye. There is nothing on the outside of my SUV to expose me. But they were there, like scabies. Infecting the streets of Caracas. Invading all vision, all space with their shapes of germs. Perhaps there were fewer bikers than usual, or maybe more. Who knows? How could they have guessed? They just looked at me. I was selected. By predator eyes. An expensive SUV, a distracted guy. One victim, a prey. Pure and easy meat. To me they were just bikers. Scourge. The usual pest in this city. A moment of weakness. A moment of inattention. Possibly I was absorbed tuning the radio. Or maybe not. Perhaps that’s just an excuse for why I allowed a motorcyclist and his passenger to get up alongside the window of my vehicle.
Sometimes Caracas is the pain behind a scream; other times it is the scream itself. The smog, the madding crowd, the anguish, the oblivion—all are disguises for the violence.
The next sound I heard was the knock of a gun barrel against the glass. In a split second, all made sense. I knew what was happening. I was a statistic. I was a victim. Stupid anonymous victim. A digit. Perhaps one in a number of six figures, because in this country, crime is recorded with many zeroes. How the hell would these poor fools know who I was? Not even my eyes, my nose, my mouth reveal it.
I lowered the window, and I could smell the scent of burning gasoline mixed with sweat from fear and the bitterness of gunpowder. And it was then when one of the bikers, the one sitting behind the driver, uttered those words that became like an epiphany and an epitaph:
“Quiet, bicho, quiet.”
Where did that phrase come from? How had this primitive and ignorant creature understood? Might he have read some of my horror books? Why in that moment of tension had his understanding brightened and exposed me for who I was? But tranquility is a state of meekness. How to be calm in these flooded streets of brutality? How to be gentle when all causes push one to hate, to loathe, these motorcyclists transfigured into animals—even those surrounding me right now? I said nothing. I moved slowly. Almost like a snake charmer facing an Indian cobra. Imagining so many years, so many dreamed situations of cold blood, cold blood of a jaguar stalking the stupid deer drinking in the river. So many moments when death, yours or another’s, becomes a line as fine as silence or dread or anger or reality. So many situations I’d written out hundreds of times in which essence becomes accident. Then I moved slowly. I put both hands on the steering wheel and let them operate. The sidekick, with his revolver, opened the door locks. And as if his agility was proof of intelligence, he jumped into the back seat. When he sat down, I felt the .357 Magnum slightly touching my neck. Then he hid the gun.
“Quiet, bicho, quiet.”
That line, repeated as if those words were new or unsaid. As if this skinny, black, greasy face with its inhuman gaze had been the inventor of the words he was saying.
I was forced to turn right at the next traffic light. The biker was escorting me, driving very closely—almost at the side of my window. And the motorcyclist wasn’t a person. He had to be an invention of my mind. A barely dressed silhouette of darkness with strangely vacant eyes. We entered a large avenue that was almost empty. To my right stretched a huge concrete wall full of graffiti and posters. And that’s when it happened. I don’t know why I did it right there on that site just one minute after having been kidnapped. Maybe because I am my most terrifying nightmare. In a click, my essence was altered. Like the insect that stops being a worm and extends its wings. Spontaneous transformation, unstoppable, total. The metamorphosis.
Without turning around, I threw my arm backward with all my force. My elbow smashed against the nose of the idiot who was scolding me directly to my nape, his revolver left absentmindedly between his legs where no one would see it. It was all so simple. With a crunch my elbow crashed into the nasal septum of the kidnapper. Blood began to flow immediately, and the guy, uttering a confused and lethargic groan, fell down between my seat and the passenger’s. But as he fell, he turned, revealing the side of his face that exposed his left eye, while his nose, or what was left of it, was gushing a red, sticky, and dark river. The temptation was too great. I got my fist above my shoulder. As if my fingers were darts, I threw my hand into the face of the moron. My nail stuck in his eye. It was such a shock that he could not respond, could not move, could not find the gun on the floor now, could not shout for help to his mate who was driving and keeping an eye on what was happening on the street. The man remained pressedinto my leather seat because then, with all my fury, I was pushing him down and could see his blood covering my fist. My thumb was entering his left eye, and my index finger was penetrating his nasty ear. That is how I was holding him, as if he were a bowling ball. The man tried to scream, but the blood drowned his nose, his mouth. While I felt the hijacker caught in my fingers, convulsing in pain, I twisted the wheel with my free hand and accelerated, sinking the pedal to the floor. The SUV crushed the motorcycle escort against the wall. Like a lemon in a juicer, he was gutted against the concrete. Thesubdued shouts of the blind man were joined by the squeak of crushed metal, plastic, and the bones of his companion.
I hit the brake and released the man from my fingers. He collapsed onthe back seat. I could not get out because my door was blocked. The wall and the body of the biker were preventing me. I got out through the door on the passenger’s side, and then I heard the man screaming inside my vehicle. In the avenue, cars began to stop. It looked like one of those daily accidents where a motorcycle is lying on the asphalt and the pilot is crying like a baby. But none of that was happening. I pulled the Cyclops from my vehicle and threw it into the street. Now I saw in front of me a mob of bikers swirling like pus about to explode from a wound. Like rebel bacteria seeking to spread all around. I ignored them and kicked the man on the ground two or three times until he was silent. Then I went to the wall. By the remaining gap between my car and the concrete, I watched the inert body of the biker, silent and twisted, crushed in absurd angles, bleeding. The motorcyclists—some on their machines, others walking towards me—were transformed into a sort of claw with the anxiety to destroy. Their gestures were challenging. Without asking what had happened, not knowing if I was the victim or the perpetrator, without assuming that what I did was defend myself, the pack of hounds approached. And that’s when I realized that this must be another of my demonic tales or maybe a nightmare. Yes, there was no otheranswer. It was a nightmare, and I was the nightmare itself. The horde coming to lynch me—they did not know. They had no idea. Howcould they figure out who I was? So I said aloud the phrase that would help me compose myself. To encage what I had become—the thing that had gotten free. Almost pitifully I uttered it:
“Quiet, bicho, quiet.”
But as before, the phrase did not work on me. I, the bug, would never calm down. Meekness never would be my home, my state of being. So it happened. Again. Right there, in that place, without my knowing why. Maybe because I am my most terrifying nightmare. Essencemutated into accident. I got back in the SUV. I turned on the engine, moved the steering wheel, pointed the vehicle at the herd of bikers, and accelerated, sinking the pedal to the floor.
JOSÉ TOMÁS ANGOLA HEREDIA was born in Caracas in 1967. He is a playwright, poet, short story writer, and stage manager. He graduated in journalism from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (Caracas, Venezuela, 1989). He received the Prize of Short Stories of the newspaper El Nacional (2005), the Municipal Prize of Theater in Caracas (2001), and the second-place prize for poetry in the National Biennial of Literature “Miguel Ramón Utrera” in Aragua (1996). His work has been published in Spain, the USA, and Venezuela.
*First published as part of Narrative Witness project*
Photo: Erika Julin