They say you came from deep underground, perhaps emerged from a fissure beneath the red hills of La Rioja. Others say it was the Church—the goddamn Church—from which you ruptured, splintering the floorboards, your sulfurous stench saturating the Sanctuary where you claimed your
first victim—the mind of the priest—before hitching a ride on Angel Ruiz’s back, walking out of the Roman arched exit, passing the mural of San Bartolomé saving Polemon’s lunatic daughter long before he was flayed alive. Angel failed to stop you from crawling over his back, chomping on his shoulders until
he hunched. When you finished coring out his bones, you climbed his battered spine, creeped near his ear and whispered the first of many lies:
Life is not worth living.
You jumped into his ear, slid down the canal until you reached his brain.
There, you sunk your eight magnificent claws into the dura mater, tunneling your way in, threading your web through the cerebellar cortex, the thalamus, the frontal lobe, and back and forth and around his brain, again and again, embedding a matrix of lies for years to come, while chanting:
Mátate. Mátate. Mátate.
At night while everyone else slept, Angel placed his faith in the grape-bearing vines, gulping wine straight from the barrel. But no matter how much he drank, he could not drown you out. No matter how much he slept, your voice spun demons haunting him day and night. No matter how much he begged, the earth cracked,
allowing El Caudillo to rise from within the militant ranks, unleashing the whips and steel of his Nationalist forces with the backing of the Church—the goddamn Church. Under a tar sky, with his wife and his daughters, Angel fled through the vineyards, hitched a ride to the coast, sailed west across the sea, leaving the turmoil
of the Old World for the uncertainty of the New. When he sucked in the Pacific air for the first time, he felt your absence, the weight of migraine gone. Angel smiled, the first smile his wife had seen since their honeymoon, thought he had lost you in the voyage to the Strait of Magellan’s icy winds, perhaps. But you lay dormant,
biding your time, quietly unlocking secrets Angel walled off in the forgotten recesses of his mind. Invigorated by your disappearance and the prospect of a new life, Angel built a home for his family in the foothills of the Andes, overlooking Valparaiso’s port. One Sunday amidst the clanging bells of the Church—the goddamn Church—you awoke in Angel’s new home, ravenous at the scent of decaying Democracy. You knifed your claws deep in Angel’s mind, gnawing on memory until Pinocho’s Coup erupted, stamping out the Marxist’s bread lines along with the Poet’s verses and their thousands of followers, their mangled bodies
carried along the Mapocho’s currents, dividing right from left, left from right. You fed on Angel’s ever-shrinking brain as the Coup advanced, subsisting on empty cells until the night he died. On the verge of extinction, you slinked out of Angel’s head, emaciated with nothing to eat—your hunger inevitable. Searching for a new
host you scoured his bedroom, sneaked into the hall camouflaged in evening shadows, investigated the bathroom, and headed to the guest room. That’s when you overheard a conversation from below. You eyed the terrace, found Angel’s widow with Salvador, his youngest, his only son. The scent of Salvador made you
fizzy with purpose, momentarily staving your hunger. You neared the bannister, spit out your silken threads, and leapt, rappelling down until you landed on Salvador’s collar, sneaking inside the fold. After Salvador’s Mama kissed him goodnight, after he stepped out on the street to head home, you emerged, primal
pest crawling over cloth, froze at the sight of Salvador’s blinking eyes, bright and silvery under the magenta sky. He crinkled his nose, opened his mouth, perhaps repulsed by your foul stench, but closed his lips, as if nothing and walked on. You jumped with malicious glee, crawled in his ear and whispered your ancient chant:
Mátate. Mátate. Mátate
Over time, you settled in Salvador’s mind with your claws, your silk, your webs, goring on every event, tainting memory, driving Salvador mad. But, having learned from his father’s mistakes, Salvador conspired to not let you win. On an ordinary Sunday morning in 1986, after he lived a decade and some years tormented by your
occupancy and your whispers, an elderly Salvador skipped Sunday mass and the Church—the goddamn Church—to stay home, telling his wife he felt sick. Once alone, he grabbed the revolver from his safe, sat at the foot of his bed, stuffed the barrel in his mouth, aimed at the parasite gorging on the back of his head.
Salvador shut his eyes and pulled the trigger. The bullet caught you by surprise, blowing out his brains along with your webs. Injured, with two missing legs, you limped out of the hole in his skull, crawled through a pool of warm blood and gray tissue to a corner of the room. There, you hid, shaky and shocked, crying in anger:
Mátate. Mátate. Mátate.
The police investigators whispered words like suicide, dementia, guilt, affairs as they scoped out the scene while the muffled wails of Salvador’s family pushed through the cement walls. After the disinfectant dried and Salvador’s body, blood, and brains were gone, his eldest son walked in, tears in his eyes, taking in the
absence of the room, saying egoísta under his breath, swearing to never be a cobarde and take his own life. You smiled. Smelled the naiveté of his youthful breath. As he walked past the corner you jumped on his leather shoe, pulled yourself up his khakis, up the alpaca sweater until you landed on his collar,
anticipating what was to come. He descended the stairwell to join the rest of his family hoping for answers to understand Salvador’s sudden demise. Noticing their black outfits and sunken expressions, you smirked invigorated, licked your furred lips, and leapt in his son’s ear, crawling inside, hissing your ancient chant:
Mátate. Mátate. Mátate.
Born in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, Eneida Alcalde discovered poetry at a young age when she sought light in a gray world. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in literary outlets such as Moving Words, The Chaffin Journal, and Magma Poetry. You may learn more about her at www.eneidapatricia.com.