On The Other Side of The River of Time

Lovely Horatia and the vastness of time

Lovely Horatia and the vastness of time

On the other side of the river of time, there dwell the ancients. We come from them, but they look alien to us, while their eyes stare at us through the ages. Yes, yes. We can tell there’s hope in their eyes, and fear, and surprise and resignation. Sure, they also cried and laughed and got married and bore children that later became us.

In their faces we can contemplate also our own future, generations ahead, in remote posterity, when our descendants will also look at our own pictures and feel weird at our attires and at the artefacts we use for simple hairdressing.

The frescoes of Herculaneum are full of images from past lives and among them I can see Horatia, her hair being trimmed by her mother on her very wedding day. How she realized that I was looking at her I don’t know, but she did, and she is gazing back at me from the spiral of the centuries and through the vacuum of inexistence. I bet she didn’t tell her mother about her extraordinary vision. I bet she just put it off her mind and concentrated again on her present moment.

In only a few hours the weeding party will be over and her husband will lift her up through the threshold of their new house. She won’t fall down and so the wedding omen will be good. She will bear healthy Roman citizens and bring them up while the old republic is disintegrating and the world around her changes forever.

Lovely Horatia, in the vastness of time

Dear ancestor now so quite undefined

Forget your vision and this voice of mine

Be merry, dance and drink some wine

Rome is no longer of the world the spine

But a little of you still lives in my line

Forgive your descendent for this poor rhyme

And may your years be long, happy and kind


That day, an abyss opened

An abyss opened

Und zuruck gekommen

That day, an abyss opened between ourselves, father, and it’s never been closed since. I went to my duties and didn’t look back at the places we used to go, never smiled again at the hardships of life, never saw any lizard tails proving a life had been spared there, or frightened pigeons soaring to avoid the attack of a down-coming eagle.

The city devoured me and turned my understanding of life into a torch that deceived me by illuminating only two steps ahead and inducing me to think I comprehended the whole wide world. I was seen just enough not to fall into life’s many other abysses. I got a good job and avoided the bite of poverty that scared you so much and I received a lot more love than I gave and a lot less harm than I made.

I pray every morning, you know, as you taught me, but still I don’t understand why I do it, and I address no particular God. Surely Apollo, Krishna, Thor, Yahweh, Allah or any of those guys, if they are real, which I don’t deny some of them could be, or probably just one of them, as you used to tell me, and so many people claim according to their own beliefs, must be laughing at my indecision.

I’m leaving tomorrow, father. I’m leaving for good. Maybe I already left for good many years ago, when your jokes stopped being funny to my growing self-centred teenage mind. Now I realize that should have never happened, but it did, and it’s too late now.

It’s rather curious, but greed no longer moves me and lately I think very often about those days when I walked with your hand, opening my eyes wide at the things you showed me: at the trees, older than life itself; at the mice, struggling for survival every second; at the serene dignity of the hunting wild cat; at the tricky plots of the owl in the darkness. None of them were motivated by greed, they just procured and planned and devised for immediate survival, and at the light of that, my life seems difficult to follow. Success, wealth, fame, all the things that I desired so badly and that I have achieved to such an astonishing degree, are meaningless compared to the strategy of the lizard when, its life being at risk, gets rid of half its body just to keep on living.

Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I’ve been wrong all these years. My time is coming and I feel I haven’t learnt anything worth. The end will catch me unprepared, in spite of all my triumphs and eruditions, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to pass away with the presence of Mitti, ¿remember, father? The kitten you gave when I was about eight or nine. I accompanied it, poor thing, during its last night, sick and feverish. Sleep overcame me while I stroke its fur and life vanished from it, and even in my dreams, I prayed uselessly for the vet’s remedy to work. But the day only brought its poor rigid body, and then the abyss.

I’m facing the same fate now, father. I’m old and, like Mitti, I’m sick and feverish and I would exchange all my wealth for a stroking hand to comfort my departure. And, above all, now I understand what it must have been for you not to have mine at the time of yours, so many, many, many years ago.



All about Rico Sanchez

Everything I know about Rico SanchezThey asked me to tell them everything I knew about Rico Sanchez. I was surprised, at first, at hearing such a demand. The name Rico Sanchez was, for me, little more than an echo, vaguely associated to my childhood.
‘It rings a bell’, I said to the agent. ‘I would bet I had a friend by that name, long ago, in my early years’
The man who appeared to be in charge, frowned and pointed to the suitcase his assistant was holding. It was the mix-mem, as people called it, a chemical compound capable of bringing back memories buried in the most hidden parts of our brain circuits. It has become common, these days, for extremely old people who can afford it, to take one or two of those pills when they have attacks of nostalgia in order to remember things of their past existence.
Life extension had allowed existence to be prolonged further than two hundred and fifty, in most cases. But it had also revealed that the human brain was incapable of recalling memories beyond one hundred years, until the Japanese invented the mix-mem.
Only ten minutes after taking the first pill, which I did willingly, for I knew it also improved other brain functions, the image of Rico was clear in my mind, though, it seemed to me like a legend, something not clearly identifiable as truth. The detective kept talking with his easy-going tone.
‘The precision age-scanner has identified you, as a boy, in these pictures Rico had among his belongings. And we need any help we can get to solve a very important enigma. Perhaps you could give us the key by looking at the images.’
Then they showed me some pictures and suddenly the doubts in my head cleared up.
Small and narrow is the world, and there I was as a kid; and there he was, besides me, Rico Sanchez, my best friend during childhood. His seven-year old boy face brought along a cascade of fresh memories, more than two centuries old.
One of the pictures showed Rico’s father tightening screws with a monkey wrench at the wheel of some old vehicle, his face stained with grease. Another one showed Rico’s family, all of them in their Sunday suit, promenading the streets of Barcelona. There was his mother, Dolores, whose egg biscuits I liked so much, and his lovely sister, Diana, a beautiful and sweet girl who, years later, became my first love.
An interminable train of images was now running through my mind and I couldn’t hold tears coming out of my eyes as I began to speak:
‘Rico and his sister Diana’, I said ‘We grew up together in the streets of Barcelona during the 1930’s. His father was a mechanic or a taxi driver. I lost contact whit him when we were…perhaps fourteen?’
Then I had to struggle a little to overcome my emotion and continued:
‘And what is this enigma, I may have the key to? I swear I haven’t seen Rico since, probably, 1950, and it’s now 2160, if I’m not mistaken’ Said I, and then added: ‘God in heavens, I haven’t seen him for two hundred and ten years! What key might I have? Couldn’t you be a little clearer? What kind of riddle are trying to decipher here?’
After a little pause and some hesitation, the agent said:
‘Your friend Rico Sanchez, wasn’t exactly an exemplary citizen. He was a spy, a double, triple, or who knows to what degree! He has been cheating big corporations by asking loans he never returned and escaping justice using the most refined legal tricks, practically since 2000. We suspect he is immensely rich. Not as much as the Martian tycoons, but the richest man on Earth, probably, and it’s all money stolen from insurance agencies and banks. We mean now to recover that money and give it back to their legitimate owners.’
‘I told you I haven’t seen him since 1950’ Said I, a little discomposed. How exactly do you expect me to help you recover the money?
‘The problem is’ continued the agent, ‘Rico has arranged his will in such a way that all that money will be transferred to charities and the companies will never be able to take it back unless we find evidence of his crimes, which is impossible, for he was extremely careful.’
‘And I wish you luck in that respect’ insisted I ‘But I still can’t see how I can help you’
‘There has to be something in these pictures that can help us unravel the mystery of his secret organization, especially the password to his accounts, which we believe to be the same for all of them. Surely it’s long, but it has to be something very simple, and we are at a loss how to proceed.’
I looked again at the pictures, one by one, very slowly. Meanwhile, the agent kept talking.
‘We have been following him for decades, here and in Mars. We believe he has been using a password that refers to his childhood, to his father, whom he loved so much. A moment before he died, he told us that he died happy because he had become his father’s pride’
‘His father’s pride?’ Asked I, as I couldn’t help my eyes opening wide.
‘Yes. That’s what he said’, confirmed the agent.
‘Gentlemen,’ I said, getting ready to fool them as best I could ‘I really have no idea what he may be referring to, but I promise I will think about it and call you back if something comes up’
‘Please’ said the agent ‘We only have two days before the will is made effective. The consortium is willing to be extremely generous to anyone that could help them.’
‘How generous?’ Was my question.
‘Very generous, indeed’ Answered the agent. ‘They are ready to give more than a Hextrillion marths, alongside a deed of property for a whole asteroid to anyone that can help them in the matter’
‘Then Rico’s fortune must be immense?’ Said I, affecting a coolness that I was far from truly possessing.
‘It’s all deposited in a myriad of those semi-legal no-follow accounts, in small Martian and Jovian banks, but it could reach a billion times the amount mentioned’
‘I promise I’ll do my best’ Lied I once again. And as the two detectives walked out of the room I thought of what Rico was always saying when we were friends. His father was an astonishing mechanic, the kind of man that could fix an engine with a loose strap and a button. Ha had bought almost at no price, and fixed an old Hispano-Alemana car, which inspired Rico a poem that run thus:
‘Con mi padre, mi madre y mi Hermana, montado en la vieja tartana, de marca hispano-alemana’
With the username Rico Sanchez and the above password, I went to a public computer terminal and signed in easily into a bank account in the Marineris Bank, and then smiled. Rico Sanchez had been my best friend in childhood and I felt admiration for his work. The question now was: what was better for an old bag of bones like me, to die filthy rich and owing a whole asteroid or to let a thousand charities be financed for the next two centuries?
The answer was clear.