A Tomb In Malacor can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



Weird Tales

September 1954

Vol. 16. No. 4

I had never heard of anyone suddenly finding
himself face to face with his own grave!

A TOMB IN MALACOR

By Felix Marti-Ibanez

Heading by W. H. Silvey

THE town of Malacor is small and ugly, a cluster of hovels at the foot of high mountains. A short distance from the town there is an expanse where airplanes plying between Managua and Guatemala City occasionally land due to bad weather or some difficulty with the motor or to land men attached to the nearby silver mines. In my case, a storm brewing on the other side of the mountains forced us to land in Malacor, which immediately loomed in my mind like a curse of God burned into the granite forehead of the country.

It was five in the afternoon when our plane came down. A rickety station-wagon was waiting for us. Two or three men, their faces even more weather-beaten than their clothes, stood alongside the wagon. The landing of the plane, the only break in the monotony of their lives, excited no more interest among the personnel of the improvised airport than that implicit in their inquiries about letters or packages.

We climbed into the station-wagon and sat among bales of merchandise and luggage. The sky was a pale blue, but the clouds over the mountains were dyed crimson, as if the sun had been wounded by the sharp peaks and was bleeding. The hot breeze smelled of parched earth. The only humidity in the air was the acrid sweat exuded by the men around me. The whirr of the motor pestered me like a swarm of invisible bees. There was no conversation. A dense cloud of dust kept us company the entire way. In the distance, under the last rays of the sun, the plane looked like a silver arrow that had fallen to earth suddenly drained of its impetus. Mosquitoes started to annoy us. Frightened by the noise of the car, huge lizards scattered in all directions, reverberating under the sun like living emeralds.

The auto stopped right at the entrance to the town. Viewed from above, Malacor was a blackish triangle at the bottom of immense peaks, but from the ground and only a few feet aw ay from it, it looked like some diabolic game of blocks of wood and stone scattered in the mud simply to show how sordid and wretched a human habitat can be.

THE men dispersed without good-byes or even a wave of the hand, as if the sun had dried up their very souls. Carrying my valise, I entered a house with windows of a color that was only a dim reminder of the original green. The cool dark interior smelled of bean stew.

A woman, whose flaccid obesity had withstood the burning suns and whose eyes shone like metallic flies behind glasses blurred by perspiration, pointed to a greasy book.

"Alfonso de Castilloblanco, engineer," she read aloud over my shoulder as I registered. "Only until tomorrow, when the weather on the other side of the mountains improves?" she asked.

"That's what the pilot said," I answered. "We should be leaving early tomorrow morning. Have someone call me. And I would like something to eat tonight at about eight."

"Have you ever been to Malacor before?" the woman asked as we went up the stairs to my room.

"Many years ago," I answered. "Many years. Ten, as a matter of fact. Planes were not yet landing here. I only spent one night. I was on my way to the silver mines, where I had to make some reports. But it has not changed much."

We entered the room. Like the hall downstairs, it contained only the furniture strictly necessary for the most meager hospitality: an iron bed with an orange-colored spread, a chair, a hat-rack and a washstand with an empty jug alongside of it. The walls were a dirty gray and naked, except for a single nail, long and rusty, to which every guest must have turned with a look of fear and a sinister thought. There was a window looking out upon the back of the house. Beyond it one could see the end of the only street in town tracing an absurd semicircle, and then the naked plain. Further away there surged hills of a dark green sheltered by the shadows of the mountains, and on them floated a sheaf of sun filtrating through the tortuous peaks like a fiery sword of an avenging archangel. The town was connected to the hills by a serpentine path covered by lime dust.

"No, nothing has changed," the woman repeated, smoothing the bed cover. "I came here eight years ago with my poor husband, who died of dysentery. The town will never grow because the mines haven't grown. Nobody wants to stay any longer than they have to, either the length of their contracts or a few days between planes. As soon as the miners have enough money, they leave by mule or plane to look for work on the other side of the mountains. This town has been cursed by God."

A FLY, fat and lustrous, alighted on one of the dusty window panes and sparkled in the sun like a ruby. The woman crushed it indifferently with her dustcloth and then passed the cloth over the scarlet stain.

"A town cursed by God," she repeated softly.

"What can I do until supper time?" I asked her, horrified by the idea of remaining shut up in this room.

She shrugged her shoulders. "It depends on how tired you feel. If you want to wait a while, the little cafe at the end of the street will open and you can have something to drink thereā€”if you don't mind the noise of the men who play cards. Otherwise, I can rent you a horse and you can take a ride to the hills and then come back in time for supper. There is grass there, and trees."

"I prefer the horse. Doesn't anyone live in the hills?"

"Live? No, nobody. But there's a cemetery there."

Half an hour later, after washing up a bit, I was jogging along on a horse as enormous as a small elephant and as pensive as a German philosopher. The horse knew the way and I didn't use the reins. With my eyes half-shut to protect myself against the sun which still burned though about to set, I gave myself over to my thoughts.

I was starting my longed-for vacation. A month of freedom to take inventory of my life and try to reorganize it. I am forty-five years old, I said to myself. I hold a good job with an oil company and I have a house and two servants. This month is mine to do with whatever I wish. And what I wish, what I have always wished, is to write. This frustrated desire has strangled me night and day. I haven't written a single line in my life aside from my professional reports, but I have always felt I had a great many things to say. If one can call oneself a musician simply because of a melody in one's heart, I can call myself the author of a thousand unwritten novels which, confused and inchoate, bubble inside of me like a brew fermented by witches.

IF I COULD live my life again, I would give up my arid work, the boring routine of professional duties, and live the unlived lives which at night assail me. For every night I am teased by the countless paths which my feet would have trod had they not followed the well marked-out line of my career. I am a writer who w...

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