Carlos Castaneda's extraordinary journey into the world of sorcery  has
captivated millions of Americans. In his eagerly awaited new book, he  takes
the  reader  into  a sorceric  experience so intense, so  terrifying, and so
profoundly  disturbing that it can only  be described as a brilliant assault
on the  reason,  the dramatic  and frightening attack on  every preconceived
notion of life that is don Juan's remarkable legacy to his apprentice.
     At the center of the book is a new and formidable figure, dona Soledad,
a woman whose powers are turned against Castaneda in a  struggle that almost
consumes him. Dona Soledad has been  taught by don Juan,  transformed by his
teachings  from  a  bent  and gray-haired old  woman into a sensual,  lithe,
deeply sexual figure of  awesome  and  mysterious  power, a sorceress  whose
mission is to  test Castaneda by  a  series of  terrifying  tricks. In  dona
Soledad, Carlos  Castaneda has  recorded  for  the reader a  personality  as
instantly recognizable as don Juan himself and has illuminated the strengths
and  the  feelings of  a remarkable  woman who,  despite her sorceric gifts,
expresses  some  of  the  deepest  and  most  basic  feminine  concerns  and
ambitions. For  dona  Soledad, drawn out of the  shadows of  a  defeated and
meaningless life by don Juan, has herself become a  warrior, a hunter and "a
stalker of power." Castaneda's combat with her, his gradual realization that
she not only derives her power from don Juan but is fulfilling his plans, is
all a prelude  to  an  astonishing discovery. For Castaneda unfolds  for the
reader a sorcerer's family, in which dona Soledad, her "girls," Lidia, Elena
("la Gorda"),  Josefina and  Rosa, themselves changed and transformed by don
Juan, are part of a small closed society in which the teachings of don  Juan
have  become  a  way of life, touching  and  explaining every  aspect of the
world, altering the relationships between  them so that  they are no  longer
mother  and children,  man  and  wife,  sisters  and  brothers,  friends and
enemies, but disciples, witnesses, accomplices in don Juan's grand design.
     Extraordinary  as  all Castaneda's books  have been. The Second Ring of
Power goes far beyond  anything  he has written  before: it is a vision of a
more somber, frightening and compelling world than that of Castaneda's years
of apprenticeshipM-^Wthe world of a full-fledged sorcerer, in which  dangers
lie in wait  on  the journey to impeccability and freedom, and in which  the
message of don Juan must be transformed into real life.

     Jacket Painting and Design by Robert Giusti (C) 1977 Simon and Schuster


     A flat, barren mountaintop on the western slopes of the Sierra Madre in
central Mexico was  the setting for my final meeting  with don Juan and  don
Genaro and their other two  apprentices,  Pablito and Nestor. The  solemnity
and the  scope of what  took place there  left no doubt in my mind that  our
apprenticeships had come  to  their concluding moment, and that I was indeed
seeing don Juan and don Genaro for the last time. Toward the end we all said
good-bye to one another, and then Pablito and I jumped together from the top
of the mountain into an abyss.
     Prior to that jump  don  Juan had presented a fundamental principle for
all that was going to happen to me. According to  him, upon jumping into the
abyss I was going to become pure perception and move  back and forth between
the two inherent realms of all creation, the tonal and the nagual.
     In my jump my perception went through seventeen elastic bounces between
the tonal and the nagual. In my  moves into  the  nagual I perceived my body
disintegrating.  I could not think or feel  in  the coherent, unifying sense
that  I ordinarily do, but I somehow thought and felt. In my  moves into the
tonal I burst  into  unity.  I was whole. My perception had coherence. I had
visions of  order. Their compelling force was so intense, their vividness so
real and their complexity so vast that I have not been capable of explaining
them to my satisfaction. To say that they were visions, vivid dreams or even
hallucinations does not say anything to clarify their nature.
     After  having  examined and analyzed  in  a  most thorough and  careful
manner  my feelings, perceptions  and  interpretations of that jump into the
abyss, I had come to the  point where I could not rationally believe that it
had actually happened. And yet  another part of me  held on steadfast to the
feeling that it did happen, that I did jump.
     Don Juan and don Genaro are no  longer  available and their absence has
created in me a most pressing need, the need to make headway in the midst of
apparently insoluble contradictions.
     I went back to Mexico to see Pablito and Nestor to  seek their help  in
resolving  my  conflicts.  But  what  I encountered on  my  trip  cannot  be
described  in any  other  way  except  as  a final assault on  my  reason, a
concentrated attack designed by don Juan himself. His apprentices, under his
absentee direction, in a most methodical and precise fashion demolished in a
few days  the last  bastion of my reason. In those few days they revealed to
me one of the two  practical aspects  of their sorcery, the art of dreaming,
which is the core of the present work.
     The art  of stalking, the other  practical aspect of their  sorcery and
also  the crowning  stone of don Juan's  and  don  Genaro's  teachings,  was
presented to  me  during subsequent visits and was  by far the  most complex
facet of their being in the world as sorcerers.

     The Transformation of Dona Soledad

     I  had a sudden  premonition that  Pablito and Nestor were not home. My
certainty was so profound that I  stopped my car.  I  was at the place where
the asphalt came to an abrupt end, and I wanted to reconsider whether or not
to  continue that  day  the  long and difficult drive on the  steep,  coarse
gravel road to their hometown in the mountains of central Mexico.
     I rolled down the window of my car. It was rather windy and cold. I got
out to  stretch my legs.  The tension of driving for hours had  stiffened my
back and  neck. I  walked to the edge  of the paved road. The ground was wet
from  an  early shower. Rain was still  falling heavily on the slopes of the
mountains  to the south, a short distance from where  I  was. But  right  in
front of me,  toward the east and also  toward the north, the sky was clear.
At certain points  on the winding  road I had been able  to  see the  bluish
peaks of the sierras shining in the sunlight a great distance away.
     After a moment's deliberation I decided to turn back and go to the city
because I had had a most peculiar feeling that I was going to find  don Juan
in the  market.  After all, I had always done just  that, found  him in  the
marketplace, since the beginning of my association with him. As a rule, if I
did not find him in Sonora  I  would drive to central Mexico and  go to  the
market of that  particular city, and sooner or later don Juan would show up.
The longest I had  ever waited for him was two days.  I was so habituated to
meeting him in that manner  that  I had the  most absolute  certainty that I
would find him again, as always.
     I waited in the  market all afternoon. I walked  up and down the aisles
pretending to be  looking  for something  to buy. Then  I  waited around the
park. At dusk I knew  that he was not coming. I had then the clear sensation
that he had been there but had left. I sat down on a park bench where I used
to sit with him and tried to analyze my feelings. Upon  arriving in the city
I was elated with the sure knowledge that don Juan was there in the streets.
What  I felt  was more than the  memory of having found him there  countless
times before; my body knew that he was looking for me. But then, as I sat on
the  bench  I had another kind  of strange certainty. I knew that he was not
there anymore. He had left and I had missed him.
     After  a  while I  discarded  my speculations.  I  thought that  I  was
beginning to be  affected by the  place.  I  was starting to get irrational;
that had always happened to me in the past after a few days in that area.
     I went to my  hotel room to  rest for  a few  hours and then I went out
again to roam  the  streets. I did not have the same expectation of  finding
don Juan that I had had in the afternoon. I gave up. I went back to my hotel
in order to get a good night's sleep.
     Before  I headed for the mountains  in the morning, I drove up and down
the main streets in my car, but somehow I  knew that I was wasting  my time.
Don Juan was not there.
     It took me  all morning to  drive to the little town where  Pablito and
Nestor lived. I arrived around noon.  Don Juan had taught  me never to drive
directly into the town so as not to arouse the curiosity of onlookers. Every
time I had been there I had always driven off the road, just before reaching
the town, onto a flat field where youngsters usually played soccer. The dirt
was well  packed all  the way to a walking trail which was wide enough for a
car and which passed by Pablito's and Nestor's houses in the foothills south
of town. As soon as I got to the edge of the field I found that  the walking
trail had been turned into a gravel road.
     I deliberated whether to go to Nestor's house or Pablito's. The feeling
that  they  were  not there  still persisted.  I opted to go to Pablito's; I
reasoned  that Nestor lived alone, while  Pablito  lived with his mother and
his four sisters. If he was not there the women could help me find him. As I
got closer to his house I noticed that  the path leading from the road up to
the  house had been widened. It looked as if the ground was hard, and  since
there  was enough space  for my car, I drove almost to the front door. A new
porch with a tile roof had been added to the adobe house. There were no dogs
barking but  I saw an enormous  one sitting  calmly behind  a  fenced  area,
alertly observing me. A flock of chickens that had been feeding in  front of
the house  scattered around,  cackling. I turned the motor off and stretched
my arms over my head. My body was stiff.
     The house  seemed deserted.  The  thought crossed my mind  that perhaps
Pablito  and his  family  had moved away and someone else was living  there.
Suddenly the front door opened with  a bang and Pablito's mother stepped out
as  if  someone  had pushed her. She  stared  at  me absentmindedly  for  an
instant.  As I  got  out  of my car  she  seemed to recognize me. A graceful
shiver ran through her body and she ran toward me.  I thought that she  must
have been napping and that the  noise of the car had woken her, and when she
came out to see  what was going on she  did not know at first who I was. The
incongruous sight of the old woman running toward me made me smile. When she
got closer I had a moment of doubt. Somehow she moved so nimbly that she did
not seem like Pablito's mother at all.
     "My goodness what a surprise!" she exclaimed.
     "Dona Soledad?" I asked, incredulously.
     "Don't you recognize me?" she replied, laughing.
     I made some stupid comments about her surprising agility.
     "Why do you always see me as a helpless old woman?"  she asked, looking
at me with an air of mock challenge.
     She  bluntly accused me  of  having  nicknamed  her "Mrs.  Pyramid."  I
remembered that I had  once said to Nestor  that  her shape reminded me of a
pyramid. She had a very broad and massive  behind  and a small pointed head.
The long dresses that she usually wore added to the effect.
     "Look at me," she said. "Do I still look like a pyramid?"
     She was smiling but her eyes made me feel uncomfortable. I attempted to
defend myself by making a  joke  but she cut  me off  and coaxed me to admit
that I  was  responsible for the  nickname. I assured her  that I had  never
intended it as such and that anyway, at that moment she was so lean that her
shape was the furthest thing from a pyramid.
     "What's happened to you, dona Soledad?" I asked. "You're transformed."
     "You said it," she replied briskly. "I've been transformed! "
     I  meant it figuratively.  However, upon  closer examination I  had  to
admit that there was no room for a metaphor. She was truly a changed person.
I suddenly had a dry, metallic taste in my mouth. I was afraid.
     She  placed  her  fists  on her hips and stood with  her  legs slightly
apart,  facing me. She  was  wearing  a light green,  gathered  skirt and  a
whitish blouse. Her  skirt was shorter than those she used to wear. I  could
not see her hair; she had it tied with a thick band, a turban-like piece  of
cloth.  She  was barefoot and  she rhythmically  tapped her big feet  on the
ground  as she  smiled  with  the candor  of  a young girl. I had never seen
anyone exude as  much strength as she did. I noticed a strange  gleam in her
eyes, a disturbing gleam but not a frightening one. I thought that perhaps I
had never really examined  her appearance  carefully. Among  other things  I
felt guilty  for  having glossed  over many people during my  years with don
Juan. The  force of  his  personality had  rendered everyone  else pale  and
     I  told  her  that  I  had never  imagined  that she could  have such a
stupendous  vitality,  that  my  carelessness was to  blame for  not  really
knowing her,  and that no doubt  I would have to meet everyone else all over
     She came closer to me. She smiled and put her right hand on the back of
my left arm, grabbing it gently.
     "That's for sure," she whispered in my ear.
     Her smile froze and her eyes became glazed. She was so close to me that
I felt her breasts rubbing my  left  shoulder. My discomfort  increased as I
tried to  convince myself that there was no reason  for alarm. I repeated to
myself over and  over that I  really  had  never known Pablito's mother, and
that  in spite of her odd  behavior  she was probably being her normal self.
But  some  frightened part of me knew that those were  only bracing thoughts
with no substance at all, because no matter how much I may have glossed over
her person, not only did I remember  her very well  but I had known her very
well. She represented to me the archetype of a  mother; I thought  her to be
in her  late fifties or even older. Her weak muscles moved  her bulky weight
with extreme difficulty. Her  hair had a  lot of gray in  it.  She was, as I
remembered  her,  a  sad,  somber  woman  with  kind,  handsome  features, a
dedicated,  suffering  mother,  always in the kitchen, always  tired. I also
remembered her to  be  a very  gentle  and unselfish woman, and a very timid
one, timid  to  the  point  of  being thoroughly  subservient to anyone  who
happened  to  be  around.  That  was  the picture I  had of her,  reinforced
throughout  years  of  casual  contact.  That  day  something  was  terribly
different. The woman I was confronting did not at all fit the image I had of
Pablito's mother, and yet  she  was  the same  person,  leaner and stronger,
looking twenty years younger, than  the last time I  had seen her. I felt  a
shiver in my body.
     She moved a couple of steps in front of me and faced me.
     "Let  me  look at  you,"  she said. "The  Nagual told  us that you're a
     I remembered  then that all  of them, Pablito, his  mother, his sisters
and  Nestor, had always seemed unwilling to voice don Juan's name and called
him "the Nagual," a usage which I myself adopted when talking with them.
     She  daringly put her hands on my shoulders, something  she  had  never
done before. My body tensed. I really did not know what to  say. There was a
long  pause that allowed  me to  take stock  of myself.  Her appearance  and
behavior had frightened me  to the point  that I had forgotten to ask  about
Pablito and Nestor.
     "Tell  me, where  is Pablito?"  I  asked  her with  a  sudden  wave  of
     "Oh, he's gone  to the mountains," she responded in a noncommittal tone
and moved away from me.
     "And where is Nestor?"
     She rolled her eyes as if to show her indifference.
     "They are together in the mountains," she said in the same tone.
     I  felt genuinely  relieved and  told her that I had known  without the
shadow of a doubt that they were all right.
     She glanced at me and smiled.  A wave of happiness  and ebullience came
upon me  and  I embraced her.  She boldly returned  the embrace and held me;
that act was so outlandish that it took  my breath away. Her body was rigid.
I sensed an extraordinary strength in her. My heart began to pound. I gently
tried to push her away as I asked her if  Nestor was still seeing don Genaro
and don Juan. During our farewell meeting don Juan had expressed doubts that
Nestor was ready to finish his apprenticeship.
     "Genaro has left forever," she said letting go of me.
     She fretted nervously with the edge of her blouse.
     "How about don Juan?"
     "The Nagual is gone too," she said, puckering her lips.
     "Where did they go?"
     "You mean you don't know?"
     I told her that both of them  had said good-bye to me two years before,
and  that  all  I knew  was that they were leaving at that  time.  I had not
really  dared to speculate where they had gone. They had never told me their
whereabouts in the past,  and I  had come to accept  the  fact  that if they
wanted to disappear from my life all they had to do was to refuse to see me.
     "They're not  around, that's  for sure," she said,  frowning, "And they
won't be coming back, that's also for sure."
     Her  voice was extremely unemotional. I began to feel annoyed with her.
I wanted to leave.
     "But you're here," she said, changing her frown into a smile. "You must
wait for Pablito and Nestor. They've been dying to see you."
     She held my  arm firmly and pulled me away from my car. Compared to the
way she had been in the past, her boldness was astounding.
     "But first, let me show you my friend," she said and forcibly led me to
the side of the house.
     There  was  a fenced area,  like  a  small corral.  A huge male dog was
there.  The  first  thing  that  attracted  my attention  was  his  healthy,
lustrous, yellowish-brown fur.  He did not seem to be a mean dog. He was not
chained  and the fence  was not high enough  to  hold him. The dog  remained
impassive as  we got closer to him, not even  wagging his tail. Dona Soledad
pointed to a good-sized cage in the back. A coyote was curled up inside.
     "That's my friend," she said. "The dog is not. He belongs to my girls."
     The  dog looked  at me  and yawned. I liked  him.  I had a  nonsensical
feeling of kinship with him.
     "Come, let's go into the house," she said, pulling me by the arm.
     I hesitated. Some part of me was utterly alarmed and wanted to  get out
of there quickly, and  yet another part  of  me  would not have left for the
     "You're not afraid of me, are you?" she asked in an accusing tone.
     "I most certainly am!" I exclaimed.
     She  giggled, and in a most comforting tone she declared that she was a
clumsy, primitive woman who was very awkward with words, and that she hardly
knew how to treat people. She looked straight into my eyes and said that don
Juan had commissioned her to help me, because he worried about me.
     "He told  us that you're  not serious and go  around  causing a lot  of
trouble to innocent people," she said.
     Up to that point  her assertions had been coherent to me,  but I  could
not conceive don Juan saying those things about me.
     We went  inside  the house.  I  wanted to  sit down on the bench, where
Pablito and I usually sat. She stopped me.
     "This  is not the  place for  you and me,"  she said. "Let's  go  to my
     "I'd  rather  sit here,"  I said firmly. "I know this  spot and  I feel
comfortable on it."
     She clicked  her  lips in  disapproval. She  acted like  a disappointed
child. She contracted  her upper lip until it looked like the flat beak of a

     "There is  something terribly wrong here," I said.  "I think I am going
to leave if you don't tell me what's going on."
     She  became very flustered and argued that her  trouble was not knowing
how to talk to me. I confronted her with her unmistakable transformation and
demanded that she tell me what had happened. I had to know how such a change
had come about.
     "If I tell you, will you stay?" she asked in a child's voice.
     "I'll have to."
     "In that case I'll tell you everything. But it has to be in my room."
     I had a moment of panic. I made a supreme effort to calm  myself and we
walked into her  room. She  lived  in the back,  where  Pablito  had built a
bedroom  for her. I had once  been in the  room while it was being built and
also  after it  was  finished, just before she moved in. The  room looked as
empty as  I had seen  it before,  except that there was  a bed  in the  very
center  of  it  and two  unobtrusive  chests  of  drawers  by the  door. The
whitewash of the walls had faded  into  a very soothing yellowish white. The
wood of the ceiling had also weathered. Looking at the smooth, clean walls I
had the impression they were scrubbed  daily with a sponge. The room  looked
more like  a monastic cell, very frugal and ascetic. There were no ornaments
of any sort. The windows had thick, removable wood panels reinforced with an
iron bar. There were no chairs or anything to sit on.
     Dona Soledad took my writing pad away from me, held it to her bosom and
then sat down on her bed, which  was made up of two thick mattresses with no
box springs. She indicated that I should sit down next to her.
     "You and I are the same," she said as she handed me my notebook.
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "You and I are the same," she repeated without looking at me.

     I  could not figure out what she meant. She stared at me, as if waiting
for a response.
     "Just what is that supposed to mean, dona Soledad?" I asked.
     My  question seemed  to  baffle her. Obviously  she expected me to know
what she meant. She laughed at  first, but then, when I  insisted that I did
not understand, she got angry. She sat  up straight  and accused me of being
dishonest  with  her. Her eyes flared with  rage; her mouth  contracted in a
very ugly gesture of wrath that made her look extremely old.
     I honestly was at a  loss and felt that no matter what I said it  would
be wrong. She also seemed to be in the same predicament. Her  mouth moved to
say something but her lips only quivered.  At last she muttered that  it was
not impeccable to act the way I did at such a serious moment. She turned her
back to me.
     "Look at me, dona Soledad!" I said forcefully. "I'm  not mystifying you
in any sense. You must know something that I know nothing about."
     "You talk too much," she snapped  angrily. "The Nagual told me never to
let you talk. You twist everything."
     She jumped to her feet  and stomped on the floor, like a spoiled child.
I became aware  at  that moment  that  the  room had  a different  floor.  I
remembered it to be  a dirt floor, made from  the dark soil of the area. The
new floor  was reddish  pink. I momentarily put off a confrontation with her
and walked  around the room. I  could not  imagine  how I could have  missed
noticing the  floor when  I first  entered. It  was  magnificent. At first I
thought  that it was red clay that had been laid  like cement,  when  it was
soft and moist, but then  I saw that  there were no cracks in it. Clay would
have dried, curled up, cracked,  and clumps  would have formed.  I bent down
and gently ran my  fingers over it. It was as hard  as bricks. The clay  had
been fired. I became  aware then that the floor was  made of very large flat
slabs of clay put together over a bed of soft clay that served as a  matrix.
The  slabs made a most intricate and  fascinating design,  but a  thoroughly
unobtrusive one, unless one  paid deliberate attention to it. The skill with
which  the slabs  had  been placed  in  position  indicated  to  me  a  very
well-conceived plan. I wanted to know how  such  big  slabs  had  been fired
without being  warped.  I  turned  around to  ask  dona Soledad.  I  quickly
desisted. She  would not have  known what I  was talking about. I paced over
the floor again. The clay was a bit rough,  almost like sandstone. It made a
perfect slide-proof surface.
     "Did Pablito put down this floor?" I asked.
     She did not answer.
     "It's  a superb  piece of work," I said. "You should be  very proud  of
     I had no doubt that Pablito had done it. No one else could have had the
imagination and the  capacity to conceive of it. I figured that he must have
made it during the time  I had been away. But on second thought  I  realized
that I had never entered dona Soledad's room since it had been built, six or
seven years before.
     "Pablito! Pablito! Bah!" she exclaimed  in an angry, raspy voice. "What
makes you think he's the only one who can make things?"
     We exchanged a long, sustained look, and all of a sudden I knew that it
was she who had made the floor, and that don Juan had put her up to it.
     We stood quietly, looking  at each other for some time. I felt it would
have been thoroughly superfluous to ask if I was correct.
     "I made it myself," she finally said in a dry tone. "The Nagual told me
     Her statements made me feel euphoric. I practically lifted her up in an
embrace. I twirled her around. All I could  think  to do was  to bombard her
with  questions.  I wanted  to  know  how she  had made the slabs, what  the
designs represented,  where she  got  the  clay.  But  she did not share  my
exhilaration.  She remained quiet and  impassive, looking at me askance from
time to time.
     I  paced  on the floor  again.  The  bed had been placed  at  the  very
epicenter of some converging lines.  The clay  slabs had  been cut in  sharp
angles to create converging motifs that seemed to radiate out from under the
     "I have no words to tell you how impressed I am," I said.
     "Words! Who needs words?" she said cuttingly.
     I had a flash  of  insight. My reason had been betraying me. There  was
only one possible way of explaining her magnificent metamorphosis;  don Juan
must  have made her his apprentice.  How else could  an old woman like  dona
Soledad  turn into  such  a weird,  powerful  being?  That  should have been
obvious to me from the moment I laid eyes on her, but my set of expectations
about her had not included that possibility.
     I deduced that whatever don Juan  had done to her must have taken place
during the two years I had not seen  her, although  two  years seemed hardly
any time at all for such a superb alteration.
     "I  think  I know now what  happened to you," I  said in a  casual  and
cheerful tone. "Something has cleared up in my mind right now."
     "Oh, is that so?" she said, thoroughly uninterested.
     "The Nagual is teaching you to be a sorceress, isn't that true?"
     She  glared at me defiantly. I felt that I had said  the worst possible
thing.  There was  an expression of  true  contempt on her face. She was not
going to tell me anything.
     "What a bastard you are!" she exclaimed suddenly, shaking with rage.
     I thought that her anger was unjustified. I sat down on one end  of the
bed while she nervously tapped on the floor with her heel. Then she sat down
on the other end, without looking at me.
     "What exactly do you want me to do?" I asked in a firm and intimidating
     "I told you already! " she said in a yell. "You and I are the same."
     I  asked her to  explain  her meaning and not to assume for one instant
that I knew anything. Those statements angered her  even more.  She stood up
abruptly and dropped her skirt to the ground.
     "This is what I mean!" she yelled, caressing her pubic area.
     My mouth opened involuntarily. I became aware that I was staring at her
like an idiot.
     "You and I are one here!" she said.
     I was dumbfounded. Dona Soledad,  the  old  Indian  woman, mother of my
friend Pablito, was actually half-naked a few feet away  from me, showing me
her genitals. I  stared at  her,  incapable of formulating any thoughts. The
only thing I  knew was that her body was  not the body of an old woman.  She
had beautifully  muscular thighs, dark and hairless. The  bone structure  of
her hips was broad, but there was no fat on them.
     She must have noticed my scrutiny and flung herself on the bed.
     "You know  what to do,"  she said, pointing to her pubis.  "We  are one
     She uncovered her robust breasts.
     "Dona Soledad, I  implore  you!" I  exclaimed.  "What's  come over you?
You're Pablito's mother."
     "No, I'm not! " she snapped. "I'm no one's mother."
     She sat up and looked at me with fierce eyes.
     "I am just like you, a piece of the  Nagual," she said. "We're  made to
     She opened her legs and I jumped away.

     "Wait a minute, dona Soledad," I said. "Let's talk for i while."
     I had a moment of wild fear, and a sudden crazy thought occurred to me.
Would  it be possible, I asked  myself, that  don Juan was hiding  somewhere
around there laughing his head off?
     "Don Juan!" I bellowed.
     My yell was so loud  and  profound that dona Soledad jumped off her bed
and covered herself hurriedly with her skirt.  I saw her putting it on as  I
bellowed again.
     "Don Juan!"
     I ran through  the house  bellowing don Juan's name until my throat was
sore.  Dona Soledad,  in the  meantime,  had run outside  the house and  was
standing by my car, looking puzzled at me.
     I walked over  to her and asked her if don Juan had told her to  do all
that. She nodded affirmatively. I asked if he was around. She said no.
     "Tell me everything," I said.
     She  told me that she was merely  following don  Juan's orders. He  had
commanded her to change her being into a warrior's in order to  help me. She
declared that she had been waiting for years to fulfill that promise.
     "I'm very strong now," she said softly. "Just for you. But you disliked
me in my room, didn't you?"
     I found myself explaining that I did not dislike her, that what counted
were my feelings for  Pablito;  then  I realized that  I  did  not  have the
vaguest idea of what I was saying.
     Dona Soledad seemed  to understand my  embarrassing position  and  said
that our mishap had to be forgotten.
     "You must  be famished,"  she  said vivaciously.  "I'll  make  you some
     "There's a lot  that  you  haven't  explained to me," I said.  "I'll be
frank with you, I wouldn't stay here for anything in the world. You frighten
     "You are obligated to accept my hospitality, if it is only for a cup of
coffee," she said unruffled. "Come, let's forget what happened."
     She made  a gesture  of going into the house.  At that moment I heard a
deep  growl. The  dog was standing,  looking at us, as if he understood what
was being said.
     Dona Soledad  fixed a most frightening gaze on me. Then she softened it
and smiled.
     "Don't let my eyes bother you," she  said. "The truth is that I am old.
Lately I've been getting dizzy. I think I need glasses."
     She  broke into a laugh and clowned, looking through cupped  fingers as
if they were glasses.
     "An old  Indian  woman with glasses!  That'll be  a  laugh,"  she  said
     I  made up my mind then to be  rude and  get out of  there, without any
explanation.  But  before  I  drove  away I wanted to  leave some things for
Pablito and his sisters.  I opened the trunk of the car to  get  the gifts I
had  brought  for  them.  I leaned way into it to reach  first  for the  two
packages  that were lodged  against the wall  of the  back seat,  behind the
spare tire. I got hold  of one and was about to grab the other when I felt a
soft, furry hand on the nape of my neck. I shrieked involuntarily and hit my
head on the open lid.  I  turned to look. The pressure of the furry hand did
not let me turn completely, but I was able to catch a fleeting glimpse of  a
silvery arm or  paw  hovering  over my neck. I wriggled  in panic and pushed
myself away from the trunk and fell down on my  seat with  the package still
in  my hand. My  whole body shook,  the muscles of my legs contracted  and I
found myself leaping up and running away.
     "I didn't mean to frighten you," dona Soledad said apologetically, as I
watched her from ten feet away.
     She showed me the palms of her hands in  a gesture of surrender, as  if
assuring me that what I had felt was not her hand.
     "What did you do to me?" I asked, trying to sound calm and detached.

     She seemed to be either thoroughly embarrassed or baffled. She muttered
something and shook her head as though she could not say it, or did not know
what I was talking about.
     "Come on, dona  Soledad,"  I  said,  coming closer to  her, "don't play
tricks on me."
     She seemed about to weep. I wanted to comfort  her, but some part of me
resisted. After a moment's pause I told her what I had felt and seen.
     "That's just terrible!" She said in a shrieking voice.
     In  a  very  childlike gesture she  covered  her  face  with her  right
forearm. I thought  she was  crying.  I came over to her and tried to put my
arm around her shoulders. I could not bring myself to do it.
     "Come  now, dona Soledad,"  I said,  "let's forget all this and let  me
give you these packages before I leave."
     I stepped in front of her to face  her. I could  see her black, shining
eyes  and  part of  her face  behind  her arm.  She was not  crying. She was
     I jumped back. Her smile terrified me. Both of us stood  motionless for
a long time. She kept her face covered but I could see her eyes watching me.
     As  I stood there almost paralyzed with fear I felt utterly despondent.
I had fallen into a bottomless pit. Dona Soledad was a witch. My  body  knew
it, and yet I could not really believe it. What I wanted to believe was that
dona Soledad  had gone mad  and  was being kept  in the  house instead of an
     I did not dare move or take my eyes away from her. We must  have stayed
in that  position  for five or six minutes. She had kept her arm  raised and
yet motionless.  She  was standing  at  the rear of the car,  almost leaning
against the  left fender. The lid  of the trunk was still open. I thought of
making a dash for the right door. The keys were in the ignition.
     I  relaxed a bit in order to gain the momentum  to  run.  She seemed to
notice my change of position immediately. Her arm moved down,  revealing her
whole  face. Her  teeth were clenched. Her  eyes  were  fixed on  mine. They
looked  hard  and mean. Suddenly she lurched toward me. She stomped with her
right foot, like a  fencer, and reached out with clawed  hands to grab me by
my waist as she let out the most chilling shriek.
     My  body  jumped back  out of her  reach. I ran  for the car, but  with
inconceivable agility she rolled to  my feet  and  made me trip  over her. I
fell  facedown and she grabbed me by  the left foot.  I contracted my  right
leg, and I would have kicked  her in the face with the  sole of my  shoe had
she not let go of me and rolled back. I jumped to  my feet and tried to open
the door of the car. It was locked.  I threw myself  over the  hood to reach
the other side but  somehow dona Soledad  got there before I did. I tried to
roll back over the hood,  but midway I  felt a sharp pain in  my right calf.
She had grabbed me by  the leg.  I could not kick her with my left foot; she
had  pinned  down both of my legs against the hood. She pulled me toward her
and I fell on top  of  her.  We  wrestled on the  ground.  Her  strength was
magnificent and her  shrieks were terrifying. I could hardly move  under the
gigantic  pressure of her body.  It  was not  a matter of weight  but rather
tension,  and she had it. Suddenly I  heard  a growl  and  the  enormous dog
jumped on her back and shoved her away from me. I stood  up. I wanted to get
into the car, but  the woman and the dog were fighting by the door. The only
retreat was to  go inside the house. I made it in  one or two seconds. I did
not turn to  look at  them but rushed  inside and closed the door behind me,
securing  it with the iron bar that was behind it. I ran to the back and did
the same with the other door.
     From  inside I  could hear  the  furious growling of  the dog  and  the
woman's inhuman shrieks. Then suddenly the dog's barking and growling turned
into whining  and howling as  if  he were in pain, or as  if  something were
frightening  him. I felt a jolt in the pit of  my stomach. My  ears began to
buzz. I realized that I was trapped inside  the house. I had a fit  of sheer
terror.  I  was  revolted at  my  stupidity in running  into the house.  The
woman's attack had confused me so intensely that  I  had  lost all  sense of
strategy and had behaved as if I were running away from an ordinary opponent
who could be shut  out by simply closing a door. I heard someone come to the
door and lean against it, trying  to force it  open.  Then there  were  loud
knocks and banging on it.
     "Open the door," dona Soledad said in a hard voice. "That goddamned dog
has mauled me."
     I  deliberated whether or not to  let her in. What came  to my mind was
the  memory of a confrontation I had had years  before with a sorceress, who
had, according  to don Juan, adopted  his  shape  in  order  to  fool me and
deliver a deadly blow.  Obviously dona Soledad was not as I had  known  her,
but I had reasons to doubt that she was a sorceress. The time element played
a  decisive role in my conviction. Pablito, Nestor and  I had been  involved
with don Juan and don Genaro for years and we were not sorcerers at all; how
could dona Soledad be one? No matter how much  she had changed she could not
improvise something that would take a lifetime to accomplish.
     "Why did you attack me?" I asked,  speaking  loudly  so  as to be heard
through the thick door.
     She answered that the Nagual had told her not to let me go. I asked her
     She did  not answer; instead she  banged  on the door  furiously and  I
banged  back even harder. We went on hitting the door for a few minutes. She
stopped and started begging me to open it. I had a surge of nervous  energy.
I knew that  if I opened the door I might have a chance to flee. I moved the
iron bar from the door. She staggered in. Her blouse was torn. The band that
held her hair had fallen off and her long hair was all over her face.
     "Look what  that  son of a bitch  dog  did to  me!" she  yelled. "Look!
     I took a deep breath. She seemed to be somewhat dazed. She  sat down on
a bench and began to take off  her tattered blouse.  I seized that moment to
run out of the house and make a dash for the car. With a speed that was born
only  out of fear, I got inside, shut the door, automatically turned on  the
motor and put the car in reverse. I stepped on the gas and turned my head to
look back through the rear window. As I  turned I  felt a  hot breath  on my
face; I  heard a horrendous  growl and saw in a flash the demoniacal eyes of
the dog.  He was standing on the back seat. I saw  his horrible teeth almost
in my eyes. I ducked my  head. His teeth grabbed my hair. I must have curled
my whole body on the seat, and in doing so I let my foot off the clutch. The
jerk  of  the  car made the beast lose  his balance. I opened  the  door and
scrambled out. The head  of the dog jutted out through the door. I heard his
enormous  teeth  click as  his jaws closed  tight, missing my heels by a few
inches. The car began to roll back and I made another dash  for the house. I
stopped before I had reached the door.
     Dona Soledad was standing there. She had tied her  hair up  again.  She
had thrown a shawl over  her  shoulders.  She  stared at me for a moment and
then  began to laugh, very softly at first  as if her wounds  hurt her,  and
then  loudly.  She pointed  a  finger at  me  and  held  her stomach as  she
convulsed with laughter. She bent over and stretched, seemingly to catch her
breath. She was naked above the waist. I could see her breasts, shaking with
the convulsions of her laughter.
     I felt that all was  lost. I looked back toward the car. It had come to
a  stop after rolling four or five feet; the door had  closed again, sealing
the dog inside.  I could see and  hear the enormous beast biting the back of
the front seat and pawing the windows.
     A most peculiar  decision faced me at  that moment. I  did not know who
scared  me the most,  dona Soledad or the  dog.  After a moment's thought  I
decided that the dog was just a stupid beast.

     I ran back to the car and climbed up on the roof. The noise enraged the
dog. I heard him ripping the upholstery. Lying on the roof I managed to open
the driver's door.  My idea was to open both  doors  and then slide from the
roof into the car, through one of them, after the dog had gone out the other
one. I  leaned  over to  open the right door.  I had forgotten  that it  was
locked.  At that moment the dog's head came out through the opened  door.  I
had  an attack of blind panic at the idea that the dog was going to jump out
of the car and onto the roof.
     In less than a  second  I  had leaped  to  the ground and found  myself
standing at the door of the house.
     Dona  Soledad was bracing herself in  the doorway. Laughter came out of
her in spurts that seemed almost painful.
     The  dog  had  remained  inside  the car,  still  frothing  with  rage.
Apparently he was too  large and could not  squeeze his bulky frame over the
front seat.  I went to the car and gently closed the  door again. I began to
look for  a stick long  enough to release the safety lock  on the right-hand
     I searched in  the area  in front of the house. There was  not a single
piece of wood lying around. Dona Soledad, in the meantime,  had gone inside.
I assessed my  situation. I had  no  other alternative  but to ask her help.
With  great trepidation, I crossed the threshold, looking in every direction
in case she might have been hiding behind the door, waiting for me.
     "Dona Soledad!" I yelled out.
     "What the hell do you want?" she yelled back from her room.
     "Would you please go out and get your dog out of my car?" I said.
     "Are  you kidding?"  she  replied.  "That's not my  dog. I've told  you
already, he belongs to my girls."
     "Where are your girls?" I asked.
     "They are in the mountains," she replied.
     She came out of her room and faced me.
     "Do you want to see what  that goddamned dog did to me?" she asked in a
dry tone. "Look!"
     She unwrapped her shawl and showed me her naked back.
     I found no visible tooth marks on her back; there were only a few long,
superficial  scratches  she might have gotten by  rubbing  against the  hard
ground.  For all  that  matter, she  could have  scratched herself  when she
attacked me.
     "You have nothing there," I said.
     "Come and look in the light," she said and went over by the door.
     She insisted that I look carefully for the gashes of the dog's teeth. I
felt  stupid. I had a heavy sensation around my eyes, especially on my brow.
I went outside instead. The dog had not moved and began to bark as soon as I
came out the door.
     I cursed  myself. There was  no one to blame but me. I had  walked into
that trap like a fool. I resolved right then to walk to town. But my wallet,
my papers, everything I had  was  in my briefcase on  the floor of  the car,
right under  the dog's feet.  I had an attack of  despair. It was useless to
walk to town. I did not have enough money in my pockets even to buy a cup of
coffee. Besides, I did  not know a soul  in town. I had no other alternative
but to get the dog out of the car.
     "What kind of food does that dog eat?" I yelled from the door.
     "Why don't you try your leg?" dona  Soledad  yelled back from her room,
and cackled.
     I  looked for some cooked food in the house. The pots were empty. There
was nothing  else for me  to  do but to confront her  again. My despair  had
turned into rage. I stormed  into her room ready for a fight  to  the death.
She was lying on her bed, covered with her shawl.
     "Please forgive  me for having done all those  things to you," she said
bluntly, looking at the ceiling.

     Her boldness stopped my rage.
     "You must understand  my position," she  went on.  "I  couldn't let you
     She laughed softly, and in  a clear, calm  and very pleasing voice said
that she was  guilty  of  being  greedy and  clumsy,  that  she  had  nearly
succeeded  in scaring me  away with  her antics, but that  the situation had
suddenly changed. She  paused  and sat up in  her bed,  covering her breasts
with her shawl, then added that a strange  confidence had descended into her
body. She looked up at the ceiling and moved her arms in a weird, rhythmical
flow, like a windmill.
     "There is no way for you to leave now," she said.
     She scrutinized me  without laughing. My internal rage had subsided but
my  despair was  more acute than ever. I  honestly knew  that in  matters of
sheer strength I was no match for her or the dog.
     She said  that our  appointment  had been set up  years in advance, and
that neither of us had enough power to hurry it, or break it.
     "Don't  knock  yourself  out trying  to leave,"  she said.  "That's  as
useless  as my  trying to  keep  you here.  Something besides your will will
release you from here, and something besides my will will keep you here."
     Somehow  her confidence had not only  mellowed her, but had given her a
great command over  words. Her statements were compelling and crystal clear.
Don  Juan had always said that I was a trusting soul when it came  to words.
As she talked I found myself thinking that she was not really as threatening
as  I thought.  She no longer projected the feeling of having a chip  on her
shoulder.  My reason was almost at ease but another part of me was not.  All
the  muscles of my  body  were  like tense wires,  and yet I had to admit to
myself  that  although she scared  me  out  of  my  wits  I  found her  most
appealing. She watched me.
     "I'll  show you how useless it is  to try to  leave," she said, jumping
out of bed. "I'm going to help you. What do you need?"
     She observed me with a gleam in  her eyes. Her small  white  teeth gave
her smile a devilish touch. Her chubby face was  strangely smooth and fairly
free of wrinkles. Two  deep lines running from the sides of her nose to  the
corners of her mouth gave her face the appearance of maturity, but not  age.
In  standing up  from the bed she casually let her shawl fall straight down,
uncovering her full breasts.  She did  not bother to  cover herself. Instead
she swelled up her chest and lifted her breasts.
     "Oh, you've noticed, eh?"  she  said, and rocked her  body from side to
side as if pleased with herself. "I always keep my hair tied behind my head.
The Nagual told me to do so. The pull makes my face younger."
     I had been sure that she was going to talk about her breasts. Her shift
was a surprise to me.
     "I  don't mean  that  the  pull on  my hair  is  going to  make me look
younger,"  she went on with a charming smile. "The  pull on my hair makes me
     "How is that possible?" I asked.
     She answered me with a question. She wanted to know if  I had correctly
understood don Juan when he said  that anything was possible if one wants it
with unbending intent. I was  after a more precise explanation. I  wanted to
know  what else she did besides tying her  hair, in order to look so  young.
She said that she lay  in her  bed and emptied  herself of any thoughts  and
feelings and  then  let the  lines of her floor  pull  her wrinkles  away. I
pressed her for more details: any feelings, sensations, perceptions that she
had experienced while lying on her bed. She  insisted that she felt nothing,
that she did not know how the lines in  her floor  worked, and that she only
knew not to let her thoughts interfere.
     She placed her hands on my  chest  and shoved me very gently. It seemed
to  be a  gesture to show that she had had enough of my questions. We walked
outside, through the back door. I  told her that I needed a long  stick. She
went  directly to a pile of firewood, but there were no long sticks. I asked
her  if she could get  me a couple of nails in  order  to  join together two
pieces of  firewood. We looked unsuccessfully all over the house  for nails.
As a final resort I had to dislodge the  longest stick I  could find  in the
chicken coop that Pablito had built in the back. The stick, although it  was
a bit flimsy, seemed suited for my purpose.
     Dona Soledad  had  not smiled or joked during our search. She seemed to
be utterly absorbed  in  her  task of helping me.  Her  concentration was so
intense that I had the feeling she was wishing me to succeed.
     I walked to my car, armed with  the  long stick and a  shorter one from
the pile of firewood. Dona Soledad stood by the front door.
     I began to tease the dog  with  the short stick in my right hand and at
the same time  I tried to  release the safety lock  with the long  one in my
other hand. The  dog nearly bit my  right  hand and  made me drop  the short
stick. The  rage  and power of  the enormous beast were  so immense  that  I
nearly lost the long  one too. The dog was about to bite it in two when dona
Soledad  came to  my  aid;  pounding  on the back window she drew the  dog's
attention and he let go of it.
     Encouraged  by her distracting  maneuver  I  dove, headfirst,  and slid
across the length of the front seat and managed to release the safety  lock.
I tried to pull back immediately, but the dog charged toward me with all his
might  and  actually thrust his massive shoulders  and front  paws over  the
front seat, before I had time to back out. I felt his paws on my shoulder. I
cringed. I knew that he was going to maul me. The dog lowered his head to go
in  for the kill, but instead of biting  me he hit  the  steering  wheel.  I
scurried out and in one move climbed over the hood and onto the roof.  I had
goose bumps all over my body.
     I opened the  right-hand door. I asked dona Soledad to hand me the long
stick  and  with it I  pushed the  lever to  release the  backrest from  its
straight  position. I conceived  that if I  teased the  dog  he would ram it
forward,  allowing himself room to get out of the car.  But he did not move.
He bit furiously on the stick instead.
     At that  moment dona Soledad  jumped onto  the roof and lay next to me.
She  wanted to help me tease the dog. I told her that she could not  stay on
the roof because when the dog came out I was  going  to get in  the car  and
drive away. I  thanked her for her help  and said that she should go back in
the  house. She shrugged her shoulders,  jumped  down and  went  back to the
door.  I pushed down the release again  and with my cap I teased  the dog. I
snapped it  around  his eyes,  in front of  his muzzle. The  dog's  fury was
beyond  anything  I had  seen but  he would not leave  the seat. Finally his
massive  jaws jerked the stick out of my grip. I climbed down to retrieve it
from underneath the car. Suddenly I heard dona Soledad screaming.
     "Watch out! He's getting out! "
     I  glanced up at the car.  The dog was squeezing himself over the seat.
He had gotten his hind  paws caught in  the steering wheel; except for that,
he was almost out.
     I dashed to the house  and got inside just in time  to avoid  being run
down by that animal. His momentum was so powerful that he rammed against the
     As  she secured the door with its  iron  bar  dona  Soledad said  in  a
cackling voice, "I told you it was useless."
     She cleared her throat and turned to look at me.
     "Can you tie the dog with a rope?" I asked.
     I  was sure  that she  would  give me  a meaningless answer, but to  my
amazement she said  that we should try everything, even luring the dog  into
the house and trapping him there.
     Her idea appealed to me. I carefully opened the front door. The dog was
no longer  there. I ventured out a bit more. There was  no sight of him.  My
hope was that the  dog had  gone back to his  corral.  I  was going to  wait
another instant before I made  a dash for my car, when I  heard a deep growl
and saw the  massive  head of the beast  inside my car.  He had crawled back
onto the front seat.
     Dona  Soledad  was  right; it was useless to try.  A  wave  of  sadness
enveloped me. Somehow I knew my end was near. In a fit of sheer  desperation
I told dona Soledad that  I was  going to get a knife  from  the kitchen and
kill the  dog, or  be killed by  him, and I would  have done that had it not
been that there was not a single metal object in the entire house.
     "Didn't the Nagual teach you to accept  your fate?" dona Soledad  asked
as she trailed behind me.  "That one out there is no ordinary dog. That  dog
has power. He is a warrior. He will do what he has to do. Even kill you."
     I had a  moment of uncontrollable  frustration and  grabbed her  by the
shoulders  and growled. She did not  seem surprised or affected by my sudden
outburst. She turned her back to me and dropped her shawl to the floor.  Her
back was very strong and beautiful. I had  an irrepressible urge to hit her,
but  I ran my hand  across  her  shoulders  instead.  Her skin was  soft and
smooth. Her arms  and  shoulders were muscular without being big. She seemed
to have  a minimal layer of fat  that rounded  off her muscles  and gave her
upper body the appearance of  smoothness, and yet when I  pushed on any part
of it  with  the  tips  of my  fingers I could  feel the hardness  of unseen
muscles below the smooth surface. I did not want to look at her breasts.
     She walked to a roofed, open area in back of the house that served as a
kitchen. I followed her. She sat down  on a bench and calmly washed her feet
in  a  pail.  While she  was  putting  on her  sandals,  I went  with  great
trepidation into a new outhouse  that had been built  in  the back. She  was
standing by the door when I came out.
     "You like to talk," she said casually, leading me into her room. "There
is no hurry. Now we can talk forever."
     She picked up  my writing pad  from the  top  of her  chest of drawers,
where she must have placed it herself, and handed it to me with  exaggerated
care.  Then she  pulled up her bedspread and folded it neatly and put  it on
top  of the same chest of drawers.  I noticed then that the  two chests were
the color of  the walls, yellowish white, and the bed without the spread was
pinkish red,  more or less  the  color of the floor. The bedspread,  on  the
other hand, was dark brown, like the wood of the ceiling and the wood panels
of the windows.
     "Let's talk," she said, sitting comfortably on the bed after taking off
her sandals.
     She placed her knees against her naked breasts. She looked like a young
girl. Her aggressive and commandeering manner had subdued  and  changed into
charm. At that moment she was the antithesis of what she had been earlier. I
had to laugh at the way she was urging me to write. She  reminded me  of don
     "Now we have time," she said.  "The wind has changed. Didn't you notice
     I had.  She  said that  the  new direction  of  the wind  was  her  own
beneficial direction and thus the wind had turned into her helper.
     "What do you know about the wind, dona Soledad?" I asked  as  I  calmly
sat down on the foot of her bed.
     "Only what the Nagual taught me," she said. "Each one of us, women that
is, has a peculiar direction, a  particular  wind. Men don't. I am the north
wind; when  it blows I am different. The  Nagual said that a warrior can use
her  particular wind  for  whatever she wants. I used it to trim my body and
remake it. Look at me! I am the north wind. Feel me when I come through  the
     There  was  a  strong  wind  blowing  through  the  window,  which  was
strategically placed to face the north.

     "Why do you think men don't have a wind?" I asked.
     She thought for a moment  and then  replied that  the Nagual  had never
mentioned why.
     "You  wanted  to  know who made this  floor,"  she  said, wrapping  her
blanket around  her shoulders. "I  made it myself. It took me  four years to
put it down. Now this floor is like myself."
     As  she  spoke  I noticed that  the converging lines in the  floor were
oriented to originate from the north. The room,  however, was not  perfectly
aligned with the cardinal points; thus  her bed was  at odd angles  with the
walls and so were the lines in the clay slabs.
     "Why did you make the floor red, dona Soledad?"
     "That's my color.  I am red,  like red dirt. I  got the red clay in the
mountains around here. The Nagual told me where to look  and he also  helped
me carry it, and so did everyone else. They all helped me."
     "How did you fire the clay?"
     "The Nagual made me  dig  a  pit.  We  filled it with firewood and then
stacked up the clay slabs with flat pieces of rock in between them. I closed
the pit  with a lid of dirt and wire and set the wood on fire. It burned for
     "How did you keep the slabs from warping?"
     "I  didn't. The wind did that, the  north wind that blew while the fire
was on. The  Nagual showed me how to dig  the pit so it would face the north
and  the north  wind. He also made me leave four holes for the north wind to
blow into  the pit. Then he made me leave one hole in  the center of the lid
to  let the smoke out. The  wind made the wood burn  for days; after the pit
was cold again I opened it and  began to  polish and  even out the slabs. It
took me over a year to make enough slabs to finish my floor."
     "How did you figure out the design?"
     "The  wind taught me that. When I made  my floor the Nagual had already
taught me not to resist the wind. He had showed me how to give in to my wind
and let it guide me. It took him a long time to do that, years and years.  I
was a very difficult,  silly old woman at first; he told me that himself and
he was right. But I learned very fast. Perhaps because I'm old and no longer
have  anything  to lose. In the beginning, what  made it even more difficult
for me was the fear I  had. The mere presence of the Nagual  made me stutter
and faint.  The Nagual had the same effect on everyone else. It was his fate
to be so fearsome."
     She stopped talking and stared at me.
     "The Nagual is not human," she said.
     "What makes you say that?"
     "The Nagual is a devil from who knows what time."
     Her statements  chilled me. I  felt my heart  pounding.  She  certainly
could not have found a better audience. I was intrigued  to no end. I begged
her to explain what she meant by that.
     "His touch  changed people," she said. "You know that. He changed  your
body. In your case, you didn't even know that he was doing that. But  he got
into your old body. He put something in it. He did the same with me. He left
something in me and that something took over. Only a devil can do  that. Now
I am the north wind and I fear nothing, and no one. But before he changed me
I  was a  weak, ugly old  woman who  would faint  at the mere mention of his
name. Pablito,  of course, was  no help  to  me because he feared the Nagual
more than death itself.
     "One day the Nagual and Genaro came  to the  house  when I was alone. I
heard them by the door, like prowling jaguars. I crossed  myself; to me they
were  two demons, but I came out to see what I could do for them. They  were
hungry and I gladly fixed food for them. I had some thick bowls  made out of
gourd  and I  gave  each  man  a  bowl  of soup.  The Nagual  didn't seem to
appreciate the  food; he  didn't  want to  eat  food prepared by such a weak
woman and pretended to be  clumsy and knocked the bowl  off the table with a
sweep  of his arm. But the bowl,  instead of  turning over and  spilling all
over the  floor, slid  with  the  force of the Nagual's blow and fell  on my
foot,  without  spilling a  drop. The bowl  actually landed  on my  foot and
stayed there until I bent over and picked it up. I set it up on the table in
front of him and told him that even though I was a weak woman and had always
feared him, my food had good feelings.
     "From  that very moment the Nagual changed toward me. The fact that the
bowl of soup fell on my foot and  didn't spill proved to him that power  had
pointed me out to him. I didn't know that at the time  and I thought that he
changed  toward  me  because  he  felt ashamed  of having refused my food. I
thought nothing of his change. I  still was petrified and couldn't even look
him in  the  eye. But he began to take more and more notice of  me. He  even
brought me gifts:  a shawl, a dress, a comb  and other things. That made  me
feel terrible. I was ashamed because I thought that he was a man looking for
a  woman. The Nagual had young girls, what would  he want with an  old woman
like me? At  first I didn't want to  wear or  even consider  looking  at his
gifts, but Pablito prevailed on me and I began to wear them. I also began to
be even more afraid of him and didn't want to be alone with him. I knew that
he was a devilish man. I knew what he had done to his woman."
     I felt compelled to interrupt her. I told her that I had never known of
a woman in don Juan's life.
     "You know who I mean," she said.
     "Believe me, dona Soledad, I don't."
     "Don't give me that. You know that I'm talking about la Gorda."
     The  only "la Gorda" I knew  of was Pablito's sister, an enormously fat
girl  nicknamed  Gorda, Fatso. I had had the feeling,  although no  one ever
talked about  it, that she was not really dona Soledad's daughter. I did not
want to press her for  any  more information. I suddenly remembered that the
fat girl had disappeared from the house and nobody could or dared to tell me
what had happened to her.
     "One day I was alone in the front of the house," dona Soledad went  on.
"I was combing my hair in the sun with  the comb  that the Nagual  had given
me;  I didn't realize that he had arrived and was standing behind me. All of
a  sudden  I felt his  hands grabbing me by the  chin.  I heard him say very
softly that I shouldn't move because my neck might break. He twisted my head
to the left.  Not all  the  way  but  a  bit. I  became very  frightened and
screamed and tried to wriggle out of his  grip, but he held  my head  firmly
for a long, long time.
     "When he let go of my chin, I fainted.  I don't remember what  happened
then. When I woke up I was lying on the ground, right here where I'm sitting
now. The Nagual was gone. I was so ashamed that I didn't want to see anyone,
especially la  Gorda. For a  long time I  even  thought that the Nagual  had
never twisted my neck and I had had a nightmare."
     She stopped. I  waited for  an explanation  of  what had happened.  She
seemed distracted, pensive perhaps.
     "What exactly happened, dona Soledad?" I asked, incapable of containing
myself. "Did he do something to you?"
     "Yes. He twisted my neck in  order to change the direction of my eyes,"
she said and laughed loudly at my look of surprise.
     "I mean, did he. . . ?"
     "Yes. He  changed my  direction," she went on,  oblivious to my probes.
"He did that to you and to all the others."
     "That's true. He did that to me. But why do you think he did that?"
     "He had to. That is the most important thing to do."
     She was referring to a peculiar act that don Juan had deemed absolutely
necessary. I had never talked about it with anyone.  In fact,  I  had almost
forgotten about it. At the beginning of my apprenticeship, he once built two
small  fires in the mountains  of northern Mexico. They were perhaps  twenty
feet apart. He made me stand another twenty feet away from  them, holding my
body, especially my head, in  a most relaxed  and  natural position. He then
made me face one fire, and coming from behind me, he twisted  my neck to the
left,  and aligned my  eyes, but not my shoulders, with  the other fire.  He
held my head  in that position for  hours, until  the fire was extinguished.
The new direction  was the southeast,  or  rather he had aligned the  second
fire in a  southeasterly direction. I had understood the whole affair as one
of don Juan's inscrutable peculiarities, one of his nonsensical rites.
     "The  Nagual said  that  all  of  us throughout  our lives  develop one
direction to look," she went on. "That becomes the direction of  the eyes of
the spirit. Through the years that direction becomes overused,  and weak and
unpleasant, and since  we are  bound to that particular direction we  become
weak and unpleasant ourselves. The day the  Nagual twisted my neck and  held
it until I fainted out of fear, he gave me a new direction."
     "What direction did he give you?"
     "Why do you ask that?" she  said with unnecessary  force. "Do you think
that perhaps the Nagual gave me a different direction?"
     "I can tell you the direction that he gave me," I said.
     "Never mind," she snapped. "He told me that himself."
     She seemed agitated.  She changed position and lay on  her stomach.  My
back hurt from writing. I asked  her if I could sit on her floor and use the
bed as a table. She stood up and handed me the folded bedspread to use as  a
     "What else did the Nagual do to you?" I asked.
     "After  changing  my direction the Nagual really began  to  talk  to me
about power," she said, lying down again.  "He mentioned things  in a casual
way at first, because he  didn't know exactly what to do with me. One day he
took me for a short walking trip in the sierras. Then another day he took me
on a bus to his homeland in the desert. Little by little I became accustomed
to going away with him."
     "Did he ever give you power plants?"
     "He gave me Mescalito, once when we were in the desert. But since I was
an empty woman Mescalito  refused me. I had  a horrid encounter with him. It
was  then  that  the Nagual knew that he ought to acquaint me with the  wind
instead. That was,  of course, after he  got an omen. He had  said, over and
over that day, that although he was a  sorcerer that had learned to see,  if
he didn't get an  omen he had no  way  of knowing  which  way  to go. He had
already waited for days for a certain indication about me. But power  didn't
want to give it.  In  desperation, I suppose, he introduced me to his guaje,
and I saw Mescalito."
     I interrupted her. Her use of the word "guaje," gourd, was confusing to
me. Examined  in the  context  of what she was  telling me, the word had  no
meaning. I  thought that  perhaps  she was speaking  metaphorically, or that
gourd was a euphemism.
     "What is a guaje, dona Soledad?"
     There was a look of surprise in her eyes. She paused before answering.
     "Mescalito is the Nagual's guaje," she finally said.
     Her answer  was even more confusing. I felt mortified by the  fact that
she  really seemed concerned with making sense to  me.  When  I asked her to
explain further,  she insisted that  I knew everything myself. That  was don
Juan's favorite stratagem to foil my probes. I said to her that don Juan had
told  me  that  Mescalito was a  deity,  or force  contained in  the  peyote
buttons. To say that Mescalito was his gourd made absolutely no sense.
     "The Nagual can acquaint you with anything through his gourd," she said
after  a  pause. "That is the key to his power. Anyone can give you  peyote,
but only a sorcerer, through his gourd, can acquaint you with Mescalito."
     She stopped talking and fixed her eyes on me. Her look was ferocious.
     "Why do you have to make me repeat what you already know?" she asked in
an angry tone.
     I was  completely taken aback by her sudden  shift. A moment before she
had been almost sweet.
     "Never mind my  changes of  mood,"  she  said,  smiling again. "I'm the
north wind. I'm  very impatient. All my life I never dared to speak my mind.
Now  I fear no  one.  I  say what  I feel. To meet  with me you  have  to be
     She slid closer to me on her stomach.
     "Well, the Nagual acquainted me with the Mescalito that came out of his
gourd," she  went  on. "But he  couldn't guess  what would  happen to me. He
expected something like your own meeting or Eligio's meeting with Mescalito.
In both cases he  was at a loss and let his gourd decide what to do next. In
both cases his gourd helped him. With me  it  was  different; Mescalito told
him never to bring me  around. The Nagual  and I left that  place in a great
hurry.  We  went  north  instead of  coming home.  We took  a bus  to go  to
Mexicali, but we got out in the middle of the desert. It  was very late. The
sun was  setting behind the mountains. The  Nagual  wanted to cross the road
and go south on foot. We were  waiting for some speeding cars to go by, when
suddenly he tapped my shoulder and pointed toward the  road  ahead of us.  I
saw a spiral of dust. A  gust of  wind was raising dust on  the  side of the
road. We watched  it move toward us. The  Nagual ran across the road and the
wind  enveloped  me.  It actually  made me  spin very  gently  and  then  it
vanished. That was the omen the Nagual was waiting for. From then on we went
to the mountains or the desert for the purpose of seeking the wind. The wind
didn't like me at first, because I was my old self. So the Nagual endeavored
to change me. He first made me  build this room and this floor. Then he made
me wear new clothes and  sleep on a mattress instead of a straw mat. He made
me wear  shoes, and  have  drawers  full of  clothes. He forced  me to  walk
hundreds of miles  and taught  me to be quiet. I learned very fast.  He also
made me do strange things for no reason at all.
     "One day, while we were in the mountains of his homeland, I listened to
the wind for the first time. It came directly to my womb. I was lying on top
of a flat rock and the wind twirled  around me.  I had already seen it  that
day whirling around the bushes,  but this  time it came over me and stopped.
It felt  like a bird  that had  landed on my stomach. The Nagual had made me
take off  all my clothes; I was stark  naked but I was not cold  because the
wind was warming me up."
     "Were you afraid, dona Soledad?"
     "Afraid? I was petrified. The wind was alive; it licked me from my head
to my  toes. And then it got inside my whole body. I was like a balloon, and
the  wind came out of my ears and my mouth and other parts I  don't want  to
mention.  I thought I was going to  die,  and I would've run away had it not
been that the  Nagual held me  to the rock. He  spoke to me in  my  ear  and
calmed  me down. I lay quietly and let the wind do  whatever it  wanted with
me. It was then that it told me what to do."
     "What to do with what?"
     "With my life,  my things, my room,  my feelings. It was not  clear  at
first. I thought it was me thinking. The Nagual said that all of us do that.
When we are  quiet, though,  we realize that it is something else telling us
     "Did you hear a voice?"
     "No. The wind moves inside the  body of a woman. The  Nagual says  that
that is  so  because women  have wombs. Once  it's inside the  womb the wind
simply picks you up and tells you to do things.  The  more quiet and relaxed
the  woman is the better the  results. You may say that all of a  sudden the
woman finds herself doing things that she had no idea how to do.
     "From that day on the  wind came to me  all the time. It spoke to me in
my womb and  told  me everything I wanted to know. The  Nagual saw from  the
beginning that  I  was the north  wind. Other winds  never spoke  to me like
that, although I had learned to distinguish them."
     "How many kinds of winds are there?"
     "There  are  four winds,  like there  are four directions.  That's,  of
course, for sorcerers and for whatever sorcerers do.  Four is a power number
for them.  The first  wind is the  breeze, the  morning. It brings hope  and
brightness; it is  the herald of  the  day. It comes  and goes and gets into
everything. Sometimes it is mild and unnoticeable; other times it is nagging
and bothersome.
     "Another  wind is the hard wind, either hot  or cold or both.  A midday
wind. Blasting  full of energy but also full of blindness. It breaks through
doors and  brings  down walls. A sorcerer  must be terribly strong to tackle
the hard wind.
     "Then there is the cold wind of  the afternoon. Sad and trying.  A wind
that would never leave you in peace. It will chill you and make you cry. The
Nagual said that  there is such depth to it, though, that it  is  more  than
worthwhile to seek it.
     "And at last there is the  hot wind. It warms and protects and envelops
everything. It  is a  night wind for sorcerers. Its power goes together with
the darkness.
     "Those  are the four winds. They are  also  associated  with  the  four
directions. The breeze is  the  east. The cold wind is the west. The hot one
is the south. The hard wind is the north.
     "The four winds also  have personalities. The  breeze is gay  and sleek
and  shifty. The cold wind is moody and melancholy and always  pensive.  The
hot wind is happy and  abandoned and bouncy. The hard wind  is energetic and
commandeering and impatient.
     "The Nagual told me  that the  four winds are women. That is why female
warriors seek them. Winds and women  are alike. That is also  the reason why
women are better than men. I would say that women learn faster if they cling
to their specific wind."
     "How can a woman know what her specific wind is?"
     "If the woman quiets  down and is not talking to herself, her wind will
pick her up, just like that."
     She made a gesture of grabbing.
     "Does she have to lie naked?"
     "That helps.  Especially  if she is  shy. I was  a fat old woman. I had
never taken  off my clothes in my  life. I slept in  them  and when I took a
bath I always had  my slip on.  For me  to show my fat  body to the wind was
like dying. The Nagual knew that and played it for all it was worth. He knew
of the friendship of  women  and the wind, but he introduced me to Mescalito
because he was baffled by me.
     "After  turning my  head  that first  terrible  day,  the Nagual  found
himself with me on his hands. He told me that he had no idea what to do with
me.  But one thing was for sure, he  didn't want  a fat  old  woman snooping
around his  world. The  Nagual said  that he felt  about  me the way he felt
about  you. Baffled. Both of us shouldn't be here.  You're not an Indian and
I'm an old cow. We are both useless if you come  right down  to it. And look
at us. Something must have happened.
     "A woman, of  course,  is  much more supple than a man. A woman changes
very easily  with the power of  a sorcerer. Especially  with the power of  a
sorcerer like the  Nagual.  A male apprentice, according to  the Nagual,  is
extremely difficult. For example, you yourself haven't changed as much as la
Gorda, and she  started her  apprenticeship way after you  did.  A  woman is
softer and more gentle, and above all a woman is like a gourd; she receives.
But  somehow a man commands  more power.  The Nagual never agreed with that,
though. He  believed that women are unequaled, tops. He also believed that I
felt men were better only  because I am  an empty woman. He must be right. I
have been empty for so long that I can't remember  what it feels like  to be
complete. The  Nagual said that  if  I ever become complete I will change my
feelings about it. But if  he was right his Gorda would have done as well as
Eligio, and as you know, she hasn't."
     I could  not follow the flow  of her narrative because of  her unstated
assumption that I knew what she was referring to. In this case I had no idea
what Eligio or la Gorda had done.
     "In what way was la Gorda different from Eligio?" I asked.
     She looked at me for a moment as if measuring something in me. Then she
sat up with her knees against her chest.
     "The  Nagual told me everything," she said briskly. "The Nagual had  no
secrets from me. Eligio was the best; that's why he is not in the world now.
He didn't return. In fact he  was so good that he didn't have to jump from a
precipice when  his  apprenticeship was over.  He  was  like Genaro; one day
while he was working in the field  something came  to him and took him away.
He knew how to let go."
     I  felt  like  asking her if  I had really  jumped  into  the  abyss. I
deliberated  for a moment  before going ahead with my question. After  all I
had come to  see Pablito and Nestor to clarify that point. Any information I
could get on the topic from anyone involved in don Juan's world was indeed a
bonus tome.
     She laughed at my question, as I had anticipated.
     "You mean you don't know what you yourself did?" she asked.
     "It's too farfetched to be real," I said.
     "That is the Nagual's  world for sure.  Not a thing in it  is  real. He
himself told me not to believe anything. But still the male apprentices have
to jump. Unless they are truly magnificent, like Eligio.
     "The Nagual took us, me and la Gorda, to that mountain and made us look
down to the bottom  of it.  There he showed us the kind  of flying Nagual he
was. But only la Gorda could  follow him.  She  also wanted to jump into the
abyss.  The Nagual  told her that that was useless.  He said female warriors
have to do things more painful and more difficult than that. He also told us
that the jump was only  for the four of  you. And that is what happened, the
four of you jumped."
     She had said that the four of us had jumped, but I only knew of Pablito
and myself having  done that.  In light of her statements I figured that don
Juan and don Genaro must have followed us. That  did not seem odd to  me; it
was rather pleasing and touching.
     "What are you talking about?" she asked after I had voiced my thoughts.
"I meant you and the three  apprentices of Genaro.  You, Pablito and  Nestor
jumped on the same day."
     "Who  is the other  apprentice of don Genaro? I know  only  Pablito and
     "You mean that you didn't know that Benigno was Genaro's apprentice?"
     "No, I didn't."
     "He  was  Genaro's  oldest apprentice. He jumped before  you did and he
jumped by himself."
     Benigno was one of five Indian youths I had once found while roaming in
the Sonoran Desert with don Juan. They were in search of power objects.  Don
Juan told  me  that all  of them were apprentices of sorcery.  I struck up a
peculiar friendship with Benigno in the few times  I had seen him after that
day. He was from southern Mexico. I  liked him  very much.  For some unknown
reason he seemed to delight himself by creating  a tantalizing mystery about
his personal life. I could never find out who he was or  what  he did. Every
time  I talked to him he baffled me with the  disarming candor with which he
evaded my probes.  Once  don Juan volunteered some information about Benigno
and  said that  he  was very  fortunate in  having  found  a  teacher  and a
benefactor.  I took don  Juan's  statements as  a  casual  remark that meant
nothing. Dona Soledad had clarified a ten-year-old mystery for me.
     "Why do you think don Juan never told me anything about Benigno?"
     "Who  knows?  He  must've  had a reason. The Nagual never  did anything
     I had to prop my aching back against her bed before resuming writing.
     "Whatever happened to Benigno?"
     "He's doing  fine. He's perhaps better off than anyone else. You'll see
him. He's with Pablito and Nestor.  Right now  they're inseparable. Genaro's
brand is  on them. The same thing happened to the girls; they're inseparable
because the Nagual's brand is on them."
     I had to  interrupt her again and ask her to explain what girls she was
talking about.
     "My girls," she said.
     "Your daughters? I mean Pablito's sisters?"
     "They are not Pablito's sisters. They are the Nagual's apprentices."
     Her disclosure shocked me. Ever since I had met Pablito,  years before,
I had  been led to believe  that the four  girls who lived in his house were
his sisters. Don Juan himself had told me so. I  had a sudden relapse of the
feeling of despair I had  experienced all afternoon. Dona Soledad was not to
be trusted; she was engineering  something. I was  sure that  don Juan could
not under any conditions have misled me so grossly.
     Dona Soledad examined me with overt curiosity.
     "The  wind just  told  me that you don't believe what I'm telling you,"
she said, and laughed.
     "The wind is right," I said dryly.

     "The  girls that you've seen over the years are the Nagual's. They were
his apprentices. Now  that the Nagual is gone they are the  Nagual  himself.
But they are also my girls. Mine!"
     "You  mean that you're  not Pablito's mother and they  are really  your
     "I mean that they are mine. The Nagual gave them to me for safekeeping.
You are always  wrong because you rely on words to explain everything. Since
I am Pablito's mother and you heard that they were my girls, you figured out
that  they  must  be brother  and  sisters.  The girls are my  true  babies.
Pablito, although  he's the  child that came out of  my  womb, is  my mortal
     My reaction to her statements was a mixture  of revulsion  and anger. I
thought  that she  was  not only an  aberrated  woman, but a  dangerous one.
Somehow, part of me had known that since the moment I had arrived.
     She  watched me for a long time. To avoid looking at  her I sat down on
the bedspread again.
     "The Nagual warned me about your weirdness," she  said suddenly, "but I
couldn't understand what he meant. Now I know. He  told me to be careful and
not to anger you because you're violent. I'm sorry I was not as careful as I
should've been. He also said that as long as  you  can write you could go to
hell itself and not even feel it. I haven't bothered you about that. Then he
told  me  that  you're suspicious  because words  entangle  you.  I  haven't
bothered you there, either. I've  been  talking my head off,  trying not  to
entangle you."
     There was a silent accusation in her tone.  I felt  somehow embarrassed
at being annoyed with her.
     "What you're telling  me is very  hard to believe," I said. "Either you
or don Juan has lied to me terribly."
     "Neither  of us has lied. You understand  only what  you  want to.  The
Nagual said that that is a condition of your emptiness.
     "The girls are the Nagual's children, just like you and  Eligio are his
children. He  made  six children, four women and  two men. Genaro made three
men. There are nine altogether. One of them, Eligio, already made it, so now
it is up to the eight of you to try."
     "Where did Eligio go?"
     "He went to join the Nagual and Genaro."
     "And where did the Nagual and Genaro go?"
     "You know where they went. You're just kidding me, aren't you?"
     "But that's the point, dona Soledad. I'm not kidding you."
     "Then I will tell you. I can't deny you anything. The Nagual and Genaro
went back  to the same place they came from,  to the other world. When their
time was up they simply  stepped out into the darkness out there,  and since
they did not want to come back, the darkness of the night swallowed them up"
     I felt  it was useless  to probe her any further. I was ready to change
the subject, but she spoke first.
     "You caught a glimpse of the other world when you jumped," she went on.
"But maybe the jump has confused you. Too bad. There is  nothing that anyone
can do about it. It is your  fate to be a  man. Women are better than men in
that  sense.  They don't  have  to jump into an  abyss. Women have their own
ways.  They have  their own abyss. Women menstruate. The Nagual told me that
that was the door for them. During their period they become something  else.
I  know that that was the time when he taught my girls. It  was too late for
me; I'm too old  so I really don't  know what that door looks like.  But the
Nagual insisted that the girls pay attention to everything  that happens  to
them  during that  time.  He would take  them  during those  days  into  the
mountains  and stay  with them there until they would see  the crack between
the worlds.
     "The Nagual, since  he had  no qualms or  fear  about  doing  anything,
pushed them without mercy so they could  find out for themselves  that there
is  a crack in women,  a crack that  they disguise very  well. During  their
period, no matter how well-made the disguise is, it falls away and women are
bare.  The Nagual  pushed my  girls until they  were  half-dead to open that
crack. They did it. He made them do it, but it took them years."
     "How did they become apprentices?"
     "Lidia was his first  apprentice. He found her  one morning when he had
stopped at a disheveled hut in the mountains. The Nagual told me that  there
was no one in sight and yet there had been omens  calling him to that  house
since early morning.  The breeze had bothered him terribly. He said that  he
couldn't even open his eyes every time he tried to walk away from that area.
So when he found the house he knew that something was there. He looked under
a pile of straw and twigs and  found a girl.  She  was very ill.  She  could
hardly talk, but still she told him that she didn't need anyone to help her.
She was going to keep on sleeping there and if she didn't wake up anymore no
one would lose a thing. The Nagual liked her spirit and talked to her in her
language. He told  her that  he  was going to cure her and take care of  her
until  she was  strong  again. She refused.  She was an Indian who had known
only hardships and pain. She told the Nagual that she had already taken  all
the medicine that her parents had given her and nothing helped.
     "The more she talked  the more the Nagual understood  that the omen had
pointed her out to him  in a most  peculiar way.  The  omen was more  like a
     "The Nagual picked the  girl up  and put her on his  shoulders, like  a
child, and brought her to Genaro's place. Genaro made  medicine for her. She
couldn't  open  her eyes  anymore. The lids  were stuck together. They  were
swollen  and had a yellowish crud on  them. They were festering. The  Nagual
tended her until  she was well. He hired  me to look after her  and cook her
meals. I helped her to get well with my food. She is my first baby. When she
was  well, and that  took nearly a year, the Nagual wanted to return  her to
her parents, but the girl refused to go and went with him instead.
     "A short time after he had found Lidia, while she was still sick and in
my care, the Nagual found you. You were brought to him by a man he had never
seen before in his  life. The Nagual saw that the man's  death  was hovering
above his head, and he found it very odd that the man would point you out to
him at such a time. You made the  Nagual laugh and right away the Nagual set
a test for you. He didn't take you, he told you to come and find him. He has
tested you ever  since like he has tested no one else. He said that that was
your path.
     "For three years he had only two apprentices,  Lidia  and you. Then one
day  while he was visiting his friend Vicente, a  curer from the north, some
people  brought in  a  crazy girl, a  girl who did nothing else but cry. The
people took  the Nagual for Vicente  and placed the  girl in  his hands. The
Nagual told me that the girl ran to him and clung to him as if she knew him.
The Nagual told her parents that they had to leave  her with  him. They were
worried about the cost but  the Nagual assured them that it would be free. I
suppose that the girl was  such a pain in the ass to  them that  they didn't
mind getting rid of her.
     "The Nagual brought her to me. That was hell! She was truly crazy. That
was  Josefina. It took  the Nagual years to cure her. But even  to  this day
she's crazier than a  bat.  She  was, of course, crazy  about the Nagual and
there was  a terrible  fight  between Lidia and  Josefina.  They hated  each
other. But I liked them both. But the Nagual, when he saw that they couldn't
get along, became very firm with them.  As you know the Nagual can't get mad
at anyone. So  he scared them half to death. One day Lidia got mad and left.
She had decided to  find  herself  a young husband. On the road  she found a
tiny  chicken. It had just been hatched and  was lost  in the middle  of the
road. Lidia  picked  it up, and  since  she was in a  deserted area  with no
houses around, she figured  that the  chicken belonged to no one. She put it
inside her blouse, in  between her  breasts to keep  it  warm. Lidia told me
that she ran and in  doing so the little chicken began to  move to her side.
She tried to  bring  him back to the front but  she couldn't catch  him. The
chicken ran very fast around her sides and her  back, inside her blouse. The
chicken's feet tickled her at first and then they drove her crazy. When  she
realized that she couldn't get him out, she came back to  me,  screaming out
of  her  mind, and  told  me  to  get the damn thing out  of  her blouse.  I
undressed her but that was to no avail. There was no chicken at all, and yet
she still felt its feet on her skin going around and around.
     "The Nagual  came over then and told her that only when  she  let go of
her old self would  the chicken stop running. Lidia was crazy for three days
and three  nights. The  Nagual  told me to tie her up. I fed her and cleaned
her and gave her water. On the fourth day she became very peaceful and calm.
I  untied her and she put on her clothes  and when she was dressed again, as
she had been the day she ran away, the little chicken came out. She took him
in  her hand and petted and thanked  him and returned him to the place where
she had found him. I walked with her part of the way.
     "From that time on Lidia  never bothered anyone. She accepted her fate.
The Nagual is her fate; without him she would have  been  dead.  So what was
the point of trying to refuse or mold things which can only be accepted?
     "Josefina went off next.  She was already afraid of  what  happened  to
Lidia  but she  soon  forgot  about  it. One Sunday  afternoon, when she was
coming back to the house, a dry leaf got stuck in the threads  of her shawl.
Her shawl  was loosely woven. She tried to  pick out the small leaf, but she
was  afraid  of ruining  her shawl. So when  she  came into  the  house  she
immediately  tried to  loosen  it,  but  there was  no  way,  it was  stuck.
Josefina, in a fit of anger, clutched the shawl and the leaf and crumbled it
inside her hand. She figured that small pieces would be easier to pick  out.
I heard a maddening scream and Josefina fell to the ground. I ran to her and
found that she couldn't open her hand. The leaf  had cut her  hand to shreds
as if it were pieces of a razor blade. Lidia and I helped her and nursed her
for seven  days.  Josefina  was  more stubborn  than anyone else. She nearly
died. At the end she managed to open her hand, but only after she had in her
own  mind resolved to drop  her  old ways. She still gets pains  in her body
from time to time,  especially in her hand, due to the ugly disposition that
still returns to her. The Nagual told both of them that they shouldn't count
on  their  victory because it's a lifetime  struggle that each  of us  wages
against our old selves.
     "Lidia  and Josefina never fought  again.  I don't think they like each
other, but they certainly get  along.  I love those two the most.  They have
been with me all these years. I know that they love me too."
     "What about the other two girls? Where do they fit?"
     "A year later Elena came; she is la Gorda. She was  by far in the worst
condition you could imagine.  She weighed two hundred and twenty pounds. She
was a  desperate  woman. Pablito had given her shelter in his  shop. She did
laundry  and ironing to support herself. The Nagual  came one night  to  get
Pablito and found the fat girl working while a circle of moths flew over her
head. He said that the moths  had made a perfect circle for him to watch. He
saw that the woman was near the end of her life, yet the moths must have had
all the confidence in the world, in order for them to give him such an omen.
The Nagual acted fast and took her with him.
     "She did fine for a while, but the bad habits that she had learned were
too deep and she  couldn't give  them up. So one day the Nagual sent for the
wind to help her. It was a matter of helping her or finishing  her  off. The
wind began to blow on her until it drove her out of the house; she was alone
that  day and no one saw what was happening. The wind pushed  her over hills
and into  ravines  until she fell into a ditch, a hole  in the ground like a
grave. The wind kept  her there for days. When  the Nagual finally found her
she had managed to stop the wind, but she was too weak to walk."
     "How did the girls manage to stop whatever was acting upon them?"
     "Well, in the first place what was acting upon  them was the gourd that
the Nagual carried tied to his belt."
     "And what is in the gourd?"
     "The allies that the Nagual carries with him. He said that the  ally is
funneled  through his gourd.  Don't ask me  any more because  I know nothing
more about  the ally. All  I  can tell you is  that the Nagual commands  two
allies and makes them help him. In the case of my girls the ally backed down
when they were ready to change. For them, of course, it was a case of either
change or death. But that's the case with all of us, one way or another. And
la  Gorda changed more than anyone else.  She was  empty, in fact more empty
than I, but she worked her  spirit until she  became  power  itself. I don't
like  her.  I'm  afraid  of  her. She  knows me. She gets inside me  and  my
feelings and that  bothers me. But no one can do anything to her because she
never  lets her guard down. She doesn't hate me, but she thinks I am an evil
woman. She may be right. I think that she knows me too well, and  I'm not as
impeccable as  I want  to be; but the Nagual told  me  not to worry about my
feelings toward her. She is like Eligio; the world no longer touches her."
     "What did the Nagual do to her that was so special?"
     "He  taught her things he  never taught  anyone else. He never pampered
her or anything  like  that.  He trusted  her.  She knows  everything  about
everybody. The Nagual also told me everything except things about her. Maybe
that's why I don't like her. The Nagual told her to be my jailer. Wherever I
go I find her. She knows whatever I do. Right now,  for instance, I wouldn't
be surprised if she shows up."
     "Do you think she would?"
     "I doubt it. Tonight, the wind is with me."
     "What is she supposed to do? Does she have a special task?"
     "I've  told you enough about  her. I'm afraid that if I keep on talking
about her she will notice me from wherever she is, and  I don't want that to
     "Tell me, then, about the others."
     "Some years after  he  found la Gorda, the Nagual found Eligio. He told
me that he had gone with you to his homeland. Eligio came to see you because
he was  curious about  you. The Nagual  didn't notice him. He had  known him
since he was a kid. But one morning, as the Nagual walked to the house where
you were waiting  for him,  he bumped  into Eligio on the  road. They walked
together for a  short distance and then a dried piece of cholla got stuck on
the tip of Eligio's left shoe. He tried to kick it loose but its thorns were
like nails; they had gone deep into  the  sole  of the shoe. The Nagual said
that Eligio pointed up to the sky with his finger and shook his foot and the
cholla came off like a bullet and went  up into the air.  Eligio thought  it
was a big joke and laughed, but the Nagual knew that he  had power, although
Eligio himself didn't even suspect it. That is why, with no  trouble at all,
he became the perfect, impeccable warrior.
     "It was my good fortune that I got to know him. The Nagual thought that
both of us were alike in one thing. Once we hook onto something we don't let
go of  it. The good fortune of knowing  Eligio was  a fortune  that I shared
with no one  else, not even  with la Gorda. She met Eligio but didn't really
get to know him, just like yourself. The Nagual knew from the beginning that
Eligio was exceptional and he isolated him. He knew  that  you and the girls
were on one side of the coin  and Eligio was by himself on the  other  side.
The Nagual and Genaro were indeed very fortunate to have found him.
     "I first met him when the Nagual brought him over to  my house.  Eligio
didn't get along with  my  girls. They hated him and feared him too. But  he
was thoroughly indifferent.  The world  didn't touch him. The  Nagual didn't
want you, in particular, to have  much  to do with  Eligio. The Nagual  said
that you are the  kind of sorcerer one should  stay away from.  He said that
your touch doesn't soothe, it spoils instead.  He  told me that  your spirit
takes prisoners. He  was  somehow revolted  by  you and at the  same time he
liked you. He said that you were crazier than Josefina when he found you and
that you still are."
     It was an unsettling feeling to hear  someone else telling  me what don
Juan  thought of me. At  first I tried  to  disregard what dona Soledad  was
saying, but then I felt utterly stupid and out of place trying to protect my
     "He bothered with you," she went on, "because he was commanded by power
to do so. And he, being the impeccable warrior he was, yielded to his master
and gladly did what power told him to do with you."
     There was  a pause. I  was  aching to ask her  more  about  don  Juan's
feelings about me. I asked her to tell me about her other girl instead.
     "A month after he found Eligio, the Nagual found Rosa," she said. "Rosa
was the last one. Once he found her he knew that his number was complete."
     "How did he find her?"
     "He had  gone  to see  Benigno in his  homeland. He was approaching the
house  when Rosa  came  out  from the thick bushes on the  side of the road,
chasing a pig that had  gotten loose and was running away.  The pig  ran too
fast  for Rosa. She bumped into the Nagual and  couldn't  catch  up with the
pig. She  then turned against the Nagual and began to yell at him. He made a
gesture to  grab her  and she was ready to fight him. She  insulted  him and
dared him to  lay a hand on her. The Nagual liked her spirit immediately but
there was  no omen.  The Nagual said that he  waited a moment before walking
away, and then the pig came running back  and stood beside him. That was the
omen. Rosa put  a rope  around the pig. The Nagual  asked her point-blank if
she was happy in her job. She said no. She was a live-in servant. The Nagual
asked  her if she would  go with him and  she  said that if  it was what she
thought it was for, the answer was  no. The Nagual said it was for work  and
she wanted to know how much  he would pay. He gave her a figure and then she
asked what kind of work it was. The Nagual said that it was to work with him
in the  tobacco fields of  Veracruz.  She told him  then that  she  had been
testing  him; if  he  would have said he wanted her  to work as a  maid, she
would have known that he was a liar, because  he looked like someone who had
never had a home in his life.
     The Nagual was delighted with  her and  told her that if she  wanted to
get out  of the trap  she was in she should come  to Benigno's  house before
noon. He also told her that he would wait no longer than twelve; if she came
she had to be  prepared for a difficult  life and plenty of work.  She asked
him how far was the place of the tobacco fields. The Nagual said three days'
ride in  a  bus. Rosa said that  if it was  that far she  would certainly be
ready to go as soon  as  she  got the pig back in his  pen. And she did just
that.  She  came  here  and  everyone  liked  her.  She  was  never mean  or
bothersome; the Nagual  didn't have to force her or trick her into anything.
She doesn't like me  at all, and yet she takes care of me better than anyone
else. I trust her,  and yet I don't like her at all, and when I leave I will
miss her the most. Can you beat that?"
     I  saw  a  flicker  of  sadness  in  her eyes. I  could not sustain  my
distrust. She wiped her eyes with a casual movement of her hand.
     There was  a natural  break in the conversation at that point.  It  was
getting dark  by then and writing was very difficult; besides I had to go to
the  bathroom. She insisted that I use  the  outhouse before she  did as the
Nagual himself would have done.
     Afterward she brought two round  tubs  the  size of a  child's bathtub,
filled  them  half-full with warm water  and  added some  green leaves after
mashing them thoroughly with her hands. She told me in an authoritative tone
to wash myself in  one of the tubs while she did the same in the  other. The
water had an almost perfumed smell. It caused a ticklish  sensation. It felt
like a mild menthol on my face and arms.
     We went back to her room. She put my writing gear, which I  had left on
her bed, on top of one of  her chests of drawers. The  windows were open and
there was still light. It must have been close to seven.
     Dona Soledad lay on her back. She was smiling at me. I thought that she
was the  picture of warmth. But at the same time  and in spite of her smile,
her eyes gave out a feeling of ruthlessness and unbending force.
     I asked her how long  she  had  been  with  don  Juan as his  woman  or
apprentice. She made fun of  my cautiousness in labeling her. Her answer was
seven years. She reminded me  then that  I had not seen her for five. I  had
been  convinced  up to that point that  I  had seen her two years  before. I
tried to remember the last time, but I could not.
     She  told me to lie down next to her. I knelt on the bed,  by her side.
In  a very soft voice she asked me if I was afraid. I said no, which was the
truth. There in her room, at that moment, I  was being confronted  by an old
response of mine, which had manifested itself  countless times, a mixture of
curiosity and suicidal indifference.
     Almost in a whisper  she said that she had to be impeccable with me and
tell  me that  our meeting was crucial for both  of  us. She  said that  the
Nagual had given her direct and detailed orders of what to do. As she talked
I could not help laughing at her tremendous effort to sound like don Juan. I
listened to her statements and could predict what she would say next.
     Suddenly she  sat  up. Her face was a few inches from mine. I could see
her white teeth shining  in the semidarkness of the  room.  She put her arms
around me in an embrace and pulled me on top of her.
     My mind was very  clear, and yet  something  was leading me deeper  and
deeper into a  sort of morass. I was  experiencing myself as something I had
no  conception of.  Suddenly I knew that  I  had, somehow,  been feeling her
feelings all  along.  She was  the strange  one.  She had mesmerized me with
words. She  was a cold,  old woman. And her designs were not those of  youth
and vigor, in spite of her vitality and strength.  I knew then that don Juan
had not turned her head in the  same direction as mine. That  thought  would
have been  ridiculous  in any other  context; nonetheless,  at that moment I
took  it  as a  true insight. A feeling of  alarm swept  through  my body. I
wanted  to get out of her bed. But there seemed to be an extraordinary force
around me that kept me fixed, incapable of moving away. I was paralyzed.
     She must have felt  my realization. All of a sudden she pulled the band
that tied her hair and in one swift movement she wrapped  it around my neck.
I felt the tension of the band on my skin, but somehow it did not seem real.
     Don Juan had always said to me that our great enemy is the fact that we
never  believe  what is happening  to  us.  At  the moment dona  Soledad was
wrapping the cloth like  a noose around my throat, I knew what he meant. But
even after I had  had that intellectual reflection, my body did not react. I
remained flaccid, almost indifferent to what seemed to be my death.
     I felt the exertion of her arms and shoulders as she tightened the band
around my neck. She was choking me with great force and expertise.  I  began
to gasp. Her  eyes stared at me with a maddening glare. I knew then that she
intended to kill me.
     Don  Juan had said that when we finally realize what is going on it  is
usually too late to turn back. He contended that it is always the  intellect
that fools us, because it receives the message first, but rather than giving
it credence and acting on it immediately, it dallies with it instead.
     I  heard  then, or perhaps I felt, a snapping sound  at the base  of my
neck, right behind my windpipe. I knew that she had cracked my neck. My ears
buzzed  and  then they  tingled.  I  experienced  an exceptional clarity  of
hearing. I thought that  I  must  be dying.  I loathed  my incapacity to  do
anything to defend myself. I could not even move a muscle to kick her. I was
unable to breathe anymore. My body shivered, and suddenly I stood up and was
free, out  of her  deadly  grip.  I looked down  on the bed. I seemed to  be
looking down from the ceiling. I saw my body, motionless and limp on  top of
hers. I saw horror in her eyes. I wanted her to let go of the noose. I had a
fit of wrath for  having  been so stupid  and hit  her smack on the forehead
with my fist. She shrieked and held her head and then passed out, but before
she  did I caught a fleeting glimpse of a  phantasmagoric  scene. I saw dona
Soledad being hurled  out of the bed  by the  force  of my blow.  I  saw her
running toward the wall and huddling up against it like a frightened child.
     The  next impression I  had was  of having  a  terrible  difficulty  in
breathing. My neck hurt. My throat seemed to have dried up so intensely that
I could not swallow. It took me a long time to gather enough strength to get
up. I then  examined dona Soledad. She was lying unconscious on the bed. She
had an enormous red lump on her  forehead. I got  some water and splashed it
on her face,  the way don Juan had  always done  with  me. When she regained
consciousness I made her walk, holding her by the armpits. She was soaked in
perspiration. I  applied towels with cold  water on her  forehead. She threw
up, and I was almost sure  she had a brain  concussion. She was shivering. I
tried to pile clothes and blankets over her for warmth but  she took off all
her clothes and turned her body to  face the wind. She asked me to leave her
alone and said that if the  wind changed direction, it would be a  sign that
she was going to get well. She held my hand in a sort of brief handshake and
told me that it was fate that had pitted us against each other.
     "I think one of us was supposed to die tonight," she said.
     "Don't be silly. You're not finished yet," I said and really meant it.
     Something  made  me  feel confident  that  she was  all  right. I  went
outside,  picked up a stick  and walked to my car. The  dog growled.  He was
still  curled up on  the seat. I told him to get out. He meekly jumped  out.
There was something different about  him. I saw his enormous shape  trotting
away in the semidarkness. He went to his corral.
     I was free. I sat in the car for a moment to deliberate. No,  I was not
free.  Something  was  pulling me  back  into  the house.  I  had unfinished
business  there.  I  was no  longer  afraid  of dona  Soledad.  In  fact, an
extraordinary indifference had  taken possession of me.  I felt that she had
given me, deliberately or unconsciously, a supremely important lesson. Under
the horrendous pressure of her attempt to kill me, I had actually acted upon
her  from  a  level  that  would  have   been  inconceivable   under  normal
circumstances. I had nearly been strangled;  something  in  that  confounded
room  of hers  had rendered me helpless and yet  I had extricated myself.  I
could not imagine what had  happened. Perhaps it  was as don Juan had always
maintained, that all of us have an extra potential, something which is there
but rarely  gets to be used. I had  actually hit dona Soledad from a phantom
     I  took my flashlight from  the car, went back into the house, lit  all
the kerosene lanterns I could  find and  sat  down at the table in the front
room to write. Working relaxed me.
     Toward  dawn dona Soledad  stumbled out  of her room.  She could hardly
keep her balance. She was completely naked. She became ill and  collapsed by
the door.  I gave her some water  and tried to cover her with a blanket. She
refused it. I became concerned with the possibility of her losing body heat.
She muttered that she had to be naked if she expected the wind to  cure her.
She made a plaster of mashed leaves, applied it to her forehead and fixed it
in place with her turban. She wrapped a blanket  around her body and came to
the table where I was writing and sat down facing me. Her eyes were red. She
looked truly sick.
     "There is something I must tell  you,"  she said in a  weak voice. "The
Nagual  set me  up  to wait  for you; I had  to  wait even if it took twenty
years. He gave me instructions on how to entice you and steal your power. He
knew  that sooner or later you had to come to see Pablito and Nestor, so  he
told me to use that opportunity to bewitch you and take everything you have.
The Nagual  said that if I lived an impeccable life my power would bring you
here when there would  be no one else in the house. My power did that. Today
you came when everybody was gone. My impeccable life had helped me. All that
was left for me to do was to take your power and then kill you."
     "But why would you want to do such a horrible thing?"
     "Because I need your power for my own journey. The Nagual had to set it
up that way. You had to be the one; after all, I really don't  know you. You
mean nothing to me. So why shouldn't I take something  I need so desperately
from someone who doesn't count at all? Those were the Nagual's very words."
     "Why  would  the  Nagual want  to hurt  me?  You yourself said that  he
worried about me."

     "What I've done to you tonight has nothing to do with what he feels for
you or myself.  This  is  only  between  the two of  us. There have  been no
witnesses to what took place today between the two of us, because both of us
are part of the Nagual himself. But you in particular have received and kept
something of him that I don't have, something that I  need  desperately, the
special power that he  gave you. The Nagual said that he had given something
to each  of his six children. I can't reach Eligio.  I can't take it from my
girls, so that leaves you as my  prey.  I made the  power the Nagual gave me
grow,  and  in growing it  changed my body. You made your power  grow too. I
wanted that power from you and for that I had to  kill you. The  Nagual said
that  even if you didn't die, you  would fall under  my spell  and become my
prisoner for life if I wanted it so. Either way, your power was going  to be
     "But how could my death benefit you?"
     "Not  your  death  but  your power. I  did  it because I need a  boost;
without it I will have  a hellish time  on my  journey.  I don't have enough
guts. That's why I dislike la Gorda. She's young and has plenty of guts. I'm
old  and have second thoughts and doubts. If you want to know the truth, the
real struggle is between Pablito and myself. He is my mortal enemy, not you.
The Nagual said that your power could make my journey easier and help me get
what I need."
     "How on earth can Pablito be your enemy?"
     "When the  Nagual changed  me,  he  knew  what would eventually happen.
First of all, he set me up so my eyes would face the north, and although you
and  my  girls are the  same,  I am the opposite of  you people. I  go  in a
different direction. Pablito, Nestor and Benigno are with you; the direction
of their eyes is  the same  as yours. All  of  you  will go together  toward
     "Pablito is my  enemy  not because  his eyes were  set in  the opposite
direction, but because he  is my  son. This is  what I had to tell you, even
though you don't know what I  am talking about. I have  to  enter  into  the
other world. Where the Nagual is now. Where Genaro and Eligio  are now. Even
if I have to destroy Pablito to do that."
     "What are you saying, dona Soledad? You're crazy! "
     "No,  I am  not. There is  nothing more  important for us living beings
than to enter into that world. I will tell you that for me that is true.  To
get  to that world I live  the way the Nagual taught me. Without the hope of
that  world I am nothing, nothing. I was  a fat old cow. Now that hope gives
me a  guide, a direction, and even if  I can't take your power, I still have
my purpose."
     She rested her head on the table, using her arms as a pillow. The force
of her statements had numbed  me. I had not understood what exactly  she had
meant, but  I  could almost  empathize with  her plea, although  it  was the
strangest thing  I had  yet  heard from her that night.  Her  purpose was  a
warrior's  purpose, in  don  Juan's  style  and  terminology. I  never knew,
however, that one had to destroy people in order to fulfill it.
     She lifted up her head and looked at me with half-closed eyelids.
     "At  the beginning everything worked fine for  me today,"  she said. "I
was a bit scared when you drove up. I had waited years for  that moment. The
Nagual told me  that you like women. He said you are an easy prey for  them,
so I played you for a quick finish. I figured that you would  go for it. The
Nagual had  taught me how  I  should grab you at the moment when you are the
weakest.  I was  leading you  to  that moment  with  my body. But you became
suspicious. I was too clumsy. I had taken you to my room, as the Nagual told
me to do, so the  lines of my  floor would entrap you and make you helpless.
But you fooled my floor by  liking it and by watching its lines intently. It
had no power as long as your eyes were  on its lines. Your body knew what to
do. Then you scared  my floor, yelling the  way you did. Sudden  noises like
that are deadly, especially the voice of a sorcerer. The  power of my  floor
died out like a flame. I knew it, but you didn't.
     "You were about to leave then  so I  had to stop  you.  The Nagual  had
shown me how to use my hand to  grab you. I  tried to  do that, but my power
was  low. My floor was scared. Your eyes  had numbed its lines. No  one else
has ever laid eyes on them. So I failed in my attempt to grab your neck. You
got out of my grip before I had time to  squeeze  you. I  knew then that you
were slipping away and I  tried one final attack.  I used the key the Nagual
said would affect you the most, fright. I frightened you with my shrieks and
that gave me enough power to subdue you. I thought I had you, but  my stupid
dog got excited. He's stupid and knocked me off of you when I had you almost
under my spell. As I see it now, perhaps my dog was not so stupid after all.
Maybe  he noticed your  double and  charged against  it  but knocked me over
     "You said he wasn't your dog."
     "I lied.  He  was my  trump card. The Nagual  taught  me that  I should
always have a trump card, an unsuspected trick. Somehow, I knew that I might
need my dog. When I took you to see my friend, it was really him; the coyote
is my  girls' friend. I wanted my dog  to sniff you. When you  ran into  the
house I  had to be rough with him. I  pushed him inside your car, making him
yell with pain. He's too big and could hardly  fit over the seat. I told him
right then to  maul you to shreds. I knew that if you had been  badly bitten
by my dog  you would have been helpless  and I could  have finished  you off
without any trouble. You escaped again,  but you couldn't leave the house. I
knew then that I had to  be patient and wait for the darkness. Then the wind
changed direction and I was sure of my success.
     "The  Nagual had told me that he  knew  without  a doubt that you would
like  me  as a woman. It  was a  matter of waiting for the right moment. The
Nagual said that you would kill yourself once you realized I had stolen your
power.  But  in case  I  failed to  steal  it, or  in case you  didn't  kill
yourself, or  in  case I  didn't want to keep  you  alive as  my prisoner, I
should then use my headband  to choke  you to death.  He  even showed me the
place where I had to throw  your carcass: a bottomless pit, a  crack in  the
mountains, not too far  from here, where goats always disappear. The  Nagual
never mentioned your awesome side,  though. I've told you that one of us was
supposed to  die  tonight. I  didn't know it was  going to be me. The Nagual
gave  me the  feeling that I  would win.  How  cruel of him  not to  tell me
everything about you."
     "Think of me, dona Soledad. I knew even less than you did."
     "It's  not the same. The Nagual prepared me  for years for this. I knew
every detail. You were  in my bag. The Nagual even showed  me  the leaves  I
should always  keep fresh and handy to make you numb. I  put them in the tub
as if they were for fragrance. You didn't notice that I used another kind of
leaf for my tub.  You fell for  everything I had prepared  for  you. And yet
your awesome side won in the end."
     "What do you mean my awesome side?"
     "The one that hit me and will kill  me tonight. Your  horrendous double
that  came out to  finish me.  I will never forget it and if I live, which I
doubt, I will never be the same."
     "Did it look like me?"
     "It  was you,  of  course, but not as you look now.  I can't really say
what it looked like. When I want to think about it I get dizzy."
     I told her about my fleeting perception that she had left her body with
the impact of my blow. I intended to prod her with the account. It seemed to
me that the reason behind the whole event had been  to force us to draw from
sources  that are  ordinarily  barred  to us. I had positively given  her  a
dreadful blow; I had caused profound damage to her body, and yet I could not
have  done  it myself.  I  did feel I  had hit  her  with my  left fist, the
enormous red lump on her forehead attested to that, yet I had no swelling in
my knuckles  or the  slightest  pain or discomfort in  them. A blow of  that
magnitude could even have broken my hand.
     Upon hearing my description of  how I had seen her huddling against the
wall, she became thoroughly  desperate.  I asked  her  if she  had  had  any
inkling  of what I had seen, such as a  sensation of leaving her body, or  a
fleeting perception of the room.
     "I know now that I am doomed," she said. "Very  few  survive a touch of
the double. If my soul has left already I won't survive. I'll get weaker and
weaker until I die."
     Her eyes  had a wild glare. She  raised herself and seemed to be on the
verge of striking me, but she slumped back.
     "You've taken my soul," she said. "You must have it  in your pouch now.
Why did you have to tell me, though?"
     I swore to her that  I had had no intentions of hurting her, that I had
acted in whatever form  only in self-defense and  therefore I bore no malice
toward her.
     "If you don't have my soul  in your pouch, it's  even worse," she said.
"It must be roaming aimlessly around. I will never get it back, then."
     Dona  Soledad seemed  to  be void of energy. Her voice became weaker. I
wanted her to go and lie down. She refused to leave the table.
     "The Nagual said that if I failed completely I should then give you his
message," she said. "He told me to tell you that he had replaced your body a
long time ago. You are himself now."
     "What did he mean by that?"
     "He's  a  sorcerer. He  entered into  your  old body  and replaced  its
luminosity. Now you shine like the Nagual himself.  You're not your father's
son anymore. You are the Nagual himself."
     Dona  Soledad  stood  up.  She was groggy. She appeared to  want to say
something else but had trouble vocalizing. She walked to  her room. I helped
her to the door; she did not want me to enter. She dropped the  blanket that
covered  her  and  lay down on her  bed. She asked in a very soft voice if I
would go to a  hill a short distance away and watch from there to see if the
wind  was coming.  She added  in a most casual manner that I should take her
dog with me.  Somehow her request did not sound  right.  I said that I would
climb up on the roof and look from there. She turned her back to me and said
that the least I could do for her was to take her dog to the hill so that he
could lure the  wind. I  became very irritated with  her.  Her room  in  the
darkness gave out a most eerie feeling. I went into the kitchen and got  two
lanterns  and brought  them  back  with me. At  the sight of  the  light she
screamed hysterically. I let out a yell myself but for  a different  reason.
When the light hit the room I saw the floor curled up, like a cocoon, around
her bed. My perception was so  fleeting that  the next instant I could  have
sworn  that the  shadow  of the wire protective masks  of the  lanterns  had
created that ghastly scene. My  phantom perception made me furious.  I shook
her by the shoulders. She wept like a child and promised not to try any more
of her tricks.  I placed the lanterns on the chest of drawers and  she  fell
asleep instantly.
     By midmorning the wind had changed. I felt a strong gust coming through
the north window. Around noon dona Soledad came out again.  She seemed a bit
wobbly.  The  redness in her eyes had  disappeared and the swelling  of  her
forehead had diminished; there was hardly any visible lump.
     I felt that it was time for me to leave. I told her that although I had
written down the message  that she had given me from  don Juan, it  did  not
clarify anything.

     "You're not your father's son anymore. You are now the Nagual himself,"
she said.
     There was  something truly incongruous about  me. A few hours before  I
had  been helpless  and dona Soledad had  actually  tried to kill me; but at
that moment, when she was speaking to me, I had forgotten the horror of that
event. And yet, there  was another  part of me that could spend days mulling
over meaningless confrontations with people concerning my  personality or my
work. That part  seemed  to be the real me, the me that I had  known  all my
life.  The  me, however, who had  gone through a bout with death that night,
and then forgotten about it,  was not real. It was me and yet it was not. In
the  light  of  such  incongruities don  Juan's  claims seemed  to  be  less
farfetched, but still unacceptable.
     Dona Soledad seemed absentminded. She smiled peacefully.
     "Oh, they are here!" she said suddenly. "How fortunate for me. My girls
are here. Now they'll take care of me."
     She seemed  to have had a  turn for the worse. She looked  as strong as
ever, but  her behavior was more disassociated. My  fears mounted. I did not
know whether  to leave  her there or  take her to a hospital  in  the  city,
several hundred miles away.
     All of a sudden she jumped up like a little child and ran out the front
door  and down the driveway toward  the main  road. Her dog ran after her. I
hurriedly got in  my car in order to catch up with  her. I had to drive down
the path in reverse since there was no space to turn around. As I approached
the road I saw through the back window that dona Soledad was  surrounded  by
four young women.

     The Little Sisters

     Dona  Soledad seemed  to be  explaining something to the four women who
surrounded her. She moved her arms in dramatic gestures and held her head in
her hands.  It  was  obvious  she was telling them about me.  I drove up the
driveway to  where  I  had been  parked before. I intended to wait  for them
there.  I deliberated whether to remain in the car or to sit casually on the
left fender.  I  opted to stand by the car  door, ready to jump in and drive
away if something  like  the events  of  the  previous day were going  to be
     I was very tired. I had not slept a wink for over twenty-four hours. My
plan  was  to  disclose  to  the young  women as much as I could  about  the
incident with dona Soledad,  so they could take  the necessary steps to  aid
her, and then I  would  leave.  Their presence had brought  about a definite
change. Everything seemed  to be charged with new vigor and  energy.  I felt
the change when I saw dona Soledad surrounded by them.
     Dona Soledad's  revelation that  they  were don Juan's  apprentices had
given them such a tantalizing appeal that I could hardly  wait to meet them.
I wondered if they were like dona Soledad. She had said that they were  like
myself and that we were  going in the  same direction. That could  be easily
interpreted in a positive sense. I wanted to believe that more than anything
     Don Juan used to call them "las hermanitas," the little sisters, a most
befitting name at least for the two I  had  met, Lidia and  Rosa, two wispy,
pixie-like, charming  young women.  I figured  that they  must  have been in
their early twenties when I  had first met them, although Pablito and Nestor
always refused to talk about their  ages. The other two, Josefina and Elena,
were a total mystery to me. I used to hear their names  being mentioned from
time to time, always in some unfavorable context. I had deduced from passing
remarks made by don Juan that they were somehow freakish, one was  crazy and
the other  obese;  thus  they were  kept  in isolation. Once  I bumped  into
Josefina  as I walked into the house with don Juan. He introduced me to her,
but she  covered her  face and  ran away before  I had  time  to  greet her.
Another  time I caught Elena washing clothes.  She  was enormous.  I thought
that she must be suffering from a glandular  disorder. I  said hello  to her
but she did not turn around. I never saw her face.
     After the buildup that dona Soledad had given them with her disclosure,
I felt driven to talk with the mysterious "hermanitas," and at the same time
I was almost afraid of them.
     I casually looked down the driveway, bracing myself to meet all of them
at once. The driveway was deserted. There was no one approaching, and only a
minute before  they  had been  no more than thirty  yards from the  house. I
climbed up on the roof of the car to look. There was no one coming, not even
the dog. I panicked. I slid  down and was about to jump in the car and drive
away when I heard someone say, "Hey, look who's here."
     I  quickly turned around to  face two girls who had just stepped out of
the house. I deduced that all of them must  have run ahead of me and entered
the house through the back door. I sighed with relief.

     The two young girls came toward me. I had to admit to myself that I had
never really noticed them before. They  were beautiful,  dark  and extremely
lean, but without being skinny. Their long black hair was braided. They wore
plain skirts, blue  denim jackets and  low-heeled, soft-soled  brown  shoes.
They  were barelegged and  their legs  were shapely and  muscular. They must
have  been about five feet three or five feet four inches. They seemed to be
very  physical;  they moved with great  prowess. One of them  was Lidia, the
other was Rosa.
     I greeted  them,  and  then in unison  they initiated a handshake. They
flanked  me. They looked healthy  and vigorous. I asked them to  help me get
the  packages  out of the trunk. As we were carrying  them into the house, I
heard a deep growl, so deep and near that it seemed more like a lion's roar.
     "What was that?" I asked Lidia.
     "Don't you know?" she asked with a tone of disbelief.
     "It must be the dog," Rosa said as they ran into the house, practically
dragging me with them.
     We placed  the packages on the table and sat on two benches. Both girls
were  facing me. I told them that dona Soledad  was very ill and  that I was
about to take  her to the  hospital  in the city,  since I did not know what
else to do to help her.
     As I spoke I realized that I was treading on dangerous ground. I had no
way  of assessing how much  information I should divulge to them  about  the
true nature of  my  bout  with dona Soledad.  I began  to look for clues.  I
thought that if I watched carefully, their voices or the expression on their
faces would betray how much they knew. But  they remained  silent and let me
do all the talking. I began to doubt that I should volunteer any information
at all. In  my effort  to figure out what to do  and not blunder, I ended up
talking nonsense. Lidia cut me off. In a dry tone she said that I should not
concern  myself  with dona  Soledad's health because they had already  taken
steps to help her. That statement forced me to ask her if she knew what dona
Soledad's trouble was.
     "You've taken her soul," she said accusingly.
     My first reaction was to  defend myself. I began to talk vehemently but
ended up  contradicting myself. They stared  at me. I was making no sense at
all. I tried again to say the same thing in a  different way. My fatigue was
so intense that I could hardly organize my thoughts. Finally I gave up.
     "Where are Pablito and Nestor?" I asked after a long pause.
     "They'll be here shortly," Lidia said briskly.
     "Were you with them?" I asked.
     "No! " she exclaimed, and stared at me.
     "We never go together," Rosa explained.  "Those bums are different from
     Lidia  made an imperative  gesture  with her foot  to shut  her up. She
seemed to be the one who gave the orders. Catching the movement  of her feet
brought to my awareness a most peculiar  facet  of  my relationship with don
Juan. In the countless  times that we  had roamed together, he had succeeded
in  teaching me,  without really trying,  a system  of covert  communication
through some coded movements of the feet. I watched Lidia give Rosa the sign
for horrible, a sign given when anything that happens to be in sight  of the
signers is unpleasant or dangerous. In this case me. I laughed. I remembered
that don Juan had given me that sign when I first met don Genaro.
     I pretended not to  be aware of what was going  on in order to find out
if I could decode all their signs.
     Rosa made the  sign that  she wanted to step on me. Lidia answered with
an imperative sign for no.
     According to don  Juan,  Lidia  was  very talented.  As far  as  he was
concerned  she  was more  sensitive and  alert than  Pablito and  Nestor and
myself. I  had always been  incapable of making  friends  with her.  She was
aloof,  and very cutting. She had  enormous, black, shifty eyes  that  never
looked straight at anyone, high cheekbones and a chiseled  nose, which was a
bit flat and broad at the bridge. I remembered her  having red, sore eyelids
and everyone taunting her on account of that. The redness of her eyelids had
disappeared but she continued to rub her eyes and blink a great deal. During
my years of  association with don Juan and don Genaro I had  seen  Lidia the
most,  and yet we had probably never exchanged more than a dozen words  with
each other. Pablito regarded her as a most dangerous being. I always thought
she was just extremely shy.
     Rosa, on  the  other hand, was very boisterous. I  thought  she was the
youngest. Her eyes were very frank and shiny. She was never shifty, but very
bad-tempered.  I  had  talked  with Rosa  more  than anyone  else.  She  was
friendly, very bold and very funny.
     "Where are the others?" I asked Rosa. "Aren't they going to come out?"
     "They will be out shortly," Lidia answered.
     I could tell from their expressions that friendliness was not what they
had in mind. Judging from their foot messages they were as dangerous as dona
Soledad, and yet as I sat  there looking at them it occurred to me that they
were gorgeously beautiful. I had the warmest feelings for them. In fact, the
more they stared into my eyes the more  intense that feeling became. At  one
moment it was sheer passion that I felt for them. They were so alluring that
I  could have sat  there  for hours  just looking  at them,  but  a sobering
thought made me stand up. I was not going to repeat my bungling of the night
before. I decided that the best defense was to put my cards on the table. In
a firm  tone I told them that don Juan had set up some sort of trial for  me
using dona Soledad, or vice versa. Chances were that he had also set them up
in the  same fashion,  and we were going to be pitted against one another in
some sort of battle that could result in injury to some of us. I appealed to
their sense of  warriorship. If  they were the  truthful heirs  of don Juan,
they had to  be impeccable with me, reveal their designs and not behave like
ordinary, greedy human beings.
     I turned to Rosa and asked her the reason  for wishing  to  step on me.
She  was  taken  aback for an instant  and  then  she became angry. Her eyes
flared with rage; her small mouth contracted.
     Lidia, in a very  coherent manner, said that I had nothing to fear from
them, and that Rosa was angry with me because  I had  hurt dona Soledad. Her
feelings were purely a personal reaction.
     I said then that it  was  time I left. I stood up. Lidia made a gesture
to stop  me. She seemed scared or deeply concerned.  She  began  to protest,
when  a  noise coming  from outside  the door distracted me. The  two  girls
jumped to  my side. Something heavy was leaning or pushing against the door.
I noticed then that the girls had secured it with  the heavy iron bar. I had
a feeling of disgust. The whole affair was going to be  repeated again and I
was sick and tired of it all.
     The  girls glanced at each other, then looked at me and  then looked at
each other again.
     I heard  the whining and heavy  breathing of a large animal outside the
house.  It might  have been the dog. Exhaustion blinded me  at that point. I
rushed to the door, removed the heavy iron bar and started to open it. Lidia
threw herself against the door and shut it again.
     "The Nagual  was right," she said, out of breath. "You think and think.
You're dumber than I thought."
     She  pulled me back to the table. I rehearsed, in my mind, the best way
to tell them, once and for all,  that I had had enough. Rosa sat next to me,
touching me; I could feel her leg nervously  rubbing against mine. Lidia was
standing  facing me, looking at me fixedly. Her burning black eyes seemed to
be saying something I could not understand.

     I began to speak but I did not finish. I had a sudden and most profound
awareness. My body was aware of a greenish light, a fluorescence outside the
house. I did not see or hear anything. I was simply aware of the light as if
I were suddenly falling asleep and my thoughts were turning into images that
were  superimposed on the  world of everyday life. The light was moving at a
great speed.  I could sense it with my stomach. I  followed  it, or rather I
focused  my  attention  on it for an  instant as it  moved  around. A  great
clarity of mind ensued from  focusing my attention on the light. I knew then
that  in  that  house,  in the  presence of those people, it  was wrong  and
dangerous to behave as an innocent bystander.
     "Aren't you afraid?" Rosa asked, pointing to the door.
     Her voice disrupted my concentration.
     I admitted that whatever was there was scaring me at a very deep level,
enough to make me die of fright. I wanted to say more, but right  then I had
a surge of wrath and  I wanted to see and talk with dona Soledad.  I did not
trust her.  I went directly to her room. She was not there.  I began to call
her, bellowing her name. The house had one more room. I pushed the door open
and rushed inside. There was no one in there. My anger increased in the same
proportion as my fear.
     I  went out the back door and walked around to  the front. Not even the
dog was in sight. I banged on the front door  furiously. Lidia opened it.  I
entered. I yelled  at  her  to tell me where everybody was. She lowered  her
eyes and did not answer. She  wanted to  close the door but I would  not let
her. She quickly walked away and went into the other room.
     I  sat down  again  at the  table. Rosa had not moved. She seemed to be
frozen on the spot.
     "We are the same," she said suddenly. "The Nagual told us that."
     "Tell me, then, what was prowling around the house?" I asked.
     "The ally," she said.
     "Where is it now?"
     "It is still here. It won't  go.  The moment  you're weak it'll  squash
you. But we're not the ones who can tell you anything."
     "Who can tell me, then?"
     "La  Gorda!" Rosa exclaimed, opening  her eyes as  wide  as  she could.
"She's the one. She knows everything."
     Rosa asked me if she could close the door, just to be on the safe side.
Without waiting for an answer she inched her way to the door and  slammed it
     "There  is  nothing we can do  except wait until everyone is here," she
     Lidia came back into the room with a package, an object wrapped up in a
piece  of dark yellow cloth. She seemed very relaxed. I noticed that she had
a most  commandeering  touch.  Somehow  she imparted  her mood  to Rosa  and
     "Do you know what I have here?" she asked me.
     I did not  have the vaguest idea. She began  to unwrap  it  in  a  very
deliberate manner, taking her  time. Then she stopped and looked  at me. She
seemed  to vacillate. She grinned as if she were too shy to show what was in
the bundle.
     "This package  was  left by the Nagual  for you," she muttered,  "but I
think we'd better wait for la Gorda."
     I insisted that  she unwrap it. She gave me a ferocious look  and  took
the package out of the room without saying another word.
     I enjoyed Lidia's game. She had performed something quite  in line with
don Juan's teachings. She  had given me a demonstration of  how  to  get the
best  use  out  of  an average situation. By bringing the package to me  and
pretending that she was going to open it, after disclosing that don Juan had
left it for me, she had indeed created a mystery that was almost unbearable.
She knew  that I had  to stay if I wanted to find out the  contents of  that
package. I could  think of a number of things that  might be in that bundle.
Perhaps it was  the pipe don Juan used when handling psychotropic mushrooms.
He had  intimated that the pipe would be given to me for safekeeping. Or  it
might have been his knife, or his leather pouch, or  even his sorcery  power
objects. On the other hand, it  might  have  been merely  a ploy  on Lidia's
part; don Juan was too sophisticated, too abstract to leave me an heirloom.
     I  told  Rosa that I was dead on my feet and weak from hunger.  My idea
was to drive to the city, rest for a couple of days and  then  come back  to
see Pablito  and Nestor.  I said that by then I might even get  to meet  the
other two girls.
     Lidia returned then and Rosa told her of my intention to leave.
     "The Nagual  gave us orders to  attend to you as if  you were himself,"
Lidia said. "We are all the Nagual himself, but  you are  even  more so, for
some reason that no one understands."
     Both of them  talked to  me at once and guaranteed in various ways that
no one was going to attempt anything against me as dona Soledad had. Both of
them  had  such  a fierce look of  honesty in their  eyes that  my body  was
overwhelmed. I trusted them.
     "You must stay until la Gorda comes back," Lidia said.
     "The Nagual said that you should sleep in his bed," Rosa added.
     I began to pace the floor in the  throes of a weird dilemma. On the one
hand,  I wanted to stay and  rest; I  felt  physically at ease  and happy in
their presence, something I had not felt  the day before with dona  Soledad.
My  reasonable side, on  the  other  hand, had  not relaxed at all. At  that
level,  I was as frightened as I had been all along. I had  had  moments  of
blind despair  and had taken bold  actions, but  after the momentum of those
actions had ceased, I had felt as vulnerable as ever.
     I engaged in  some soul-searching analysis as I paced  the room  almost
frantically. The two girls remained quiet, looking at me anxiously. Then all
of  a  sudden the riddle was solved; I knew that something  in  me was  just
pretending to be afraid. I had become accustomed to reacting that way in don
Juan's presence.  Throughout  the  years  of  our  association  I had relied
heavily on him  to  furnish me with  convenient pacifiers for my  fright. My
dependency  on him had given me  solace  and security. But  it was no longer
tenable.  Don Juan was gone. His apprentices did  not have his  patience, or
his sophistication,  or his  sheer command. With them my need to seek solace
was plain stupidity.
     The girls led me to the other room. The window faced the southeast, and
so did the bed, which was  a thick mat,  like a  mattress. A  two-foot-long,
bulky piece of maguey stalk had been carved so that the porous tissue served
as a pillow, or a neckrest. In the middle part of it there was a gentle dip.
The surface  of the maguey  was very  smooth. It appeared to have been  hand
rubbed. I tried the bed and  the pillow. The comfort and bodily satisfaction
I  experienced  were unusual.  Lying  on  don Juan's bed I  felt secure  and
fulfilled.  An unequaled peace swept through my  body. I had  had a  similar
feeling  once before when don Juan had made a bed for me on top of a hill in
the desert in northern Mexico. I fell asleep.
     I woke up in the  early evening. Lidia and Rosa  were  nearly on top of
me, sound asleep. I stayed  motionless for one  or two seconds, then both of
them woke up at once.
     Lidia yawned and said that they had had to sleep next to me in order to
protect me and make me rest. I was famished. Lidia sent Rosa to the  kitchen
to make us some food. In the meantime she lit all the lanterns in the house.
When  the food was ready we sat down at the table. I  felt as if I had known
them or been with them all my life. We ate in silence.
     When Rosa was clearing the table I asked Lidia if all of them slept  in
the  Nagual's  bed;  it was the  only  other bed in the  house  besides dona
Soledad's. Lidia  said, in a matter-offact tone, that they had moved  out of
that house years before to a place  of their  own in the same vicinity,  and
that Pablito had also moved when they did and lived with Nestor and Benigno.
     "But  what's  happened to  you  people? I thought  that  you  were  all
together," I said.
     "Not anymore,"  Lidia  replied.  "Since the  Nagual  left  we  have had
separate tasks. The Nagual joined us and the Nagual took us apart."
     "And where's the Nagual now?"  I asked in the most  casual tone I could
     Both of them looked at me and then glanced at each other.
     "Oh, we don't know," Lidia said. "He and Genaro left."
     She seemed to be telling the truth, but I insisted once more that  they
tell me what they knew.
     "We  really  don't  know  anything,"  Lidia  snapped  at me,  obviously
flustered by my questions. "They moved to another area. You have to ask that
question of la Gorda. She has something to tell you. She knew yesterday that
you had come and we rushed  all night to  get here. We were afraid that  you
were dead. The Nagual told us  that you are the only one we should  help and
trust. He said that you are himself."
     She covered her  face and  giggled and  then  added as an afterthought,
"But that's hard to believe."
     "We  don't know you," Rosa  said. "That's the trouble. The four  of  us
feel the same way.  We  were afraid that you were dead and then  when we saw
you, we got mad at you for not being dead. Soledad is like our mother; maybe
more than that."
     They  exchanged conspiratorial  looks  with  each other. I  immediately
interpreted that as a  sign  of trouble.  They  were  up to  no good.  Lidia
noticed my sudden distrust,  which must have been written all  over my face.
She reacted with  a series of assertions about  their desire to  help  me. I
really had no reason to doubt their sincerity. If they had wanted to hurt me
they could have  done so while  I was asleep. She sounded so earnest  that I
felt petty. I decided to distribute the gifts I had brought for them. I told
them  that there were unimportant trinkets  in  the  packages  and that they
could choose any one they  liked. Lidia said that they would prefer  it if I
assigned  the gifts myself. In a very polite tone  she added that they would
be grateful if I would also cure Soledad.
     "What do you think I should do to cure  her?" I asked her after a  long
     "Use your double," she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
     I   carefully  went  over  the  fact  that  dona  Soledad   had  nearly
assassinated  me and that I  had survived by  the grace of  something in me,
which was neither my skill nor my knowledge.  As far as I was concerned that
undefined  something that seemed to have delivered a  blow to  her was real,
but  unreachable. In  short,  I  could not help dona Soledad any more than I
could walk to the moon.
     They listened to me attentively and remained quiet but agitated.
     "Where is dona Soledad now?" I asked Lidia.
     "She's with la Gorda," she said in  a  despondent tone.  "La Gorda took
her away and is trying to cure her, but we really don't know where they are.
That's the truth."
     "And where's Josefina?"
     "She went to get the Witness.  He is the only one who can cure Soledad.
Rosa thinks that you know more than the Witness, but since you're angry with
Soledad, you want her dead. We don't blame you."
     I assured  them that I was not angry with her, and above all I did  not
want her dead.
     "Cure  her,  then!" Rosa  said in  an  angry,  high-pitched voice. "The
Witness has told us that you  always know what to  do, and the Witness can't
be wrong."

     "And who in the devil is the Witness?"
     "Nestor is the Witness," Lidia said  as if  she were reluctant to voice
his name. "You know that. You have to."
     I remembered that during our last  meeting don Genaro had called Nestor
the Witness. I thought at the time that the  name was  a joke or a ploy that
don Genaro was using to ease the gripping tension and the  anguish  of those
last moments together.
     "That  was no joke," Lidia said in a firm tone. "Genaro and the  Nagual
followed  a  different path with the Witness. They took him along with  them
everywhere they went.  And I  mean everywhere! The Witness has witnessed all
there is to witness."
     Obviously there was a tremendous misunderstanding between us. I labored
to explain that I was practically a  stranger to them. Don Juan  had kept me
away  from everyone, including Pablito  and Nestor.  Outside of  the  casual
hellos and goodbyes that all of them  had exchanged with me over the  years,
we  had  never actually  talked.  I  knew  all  of them mainly  through  the
descriptions that don  Juan had given me. Although I had once met Josefina I
could not remember what she looked like, and all I had ever seen of la Gorda
was her gigantic behind. I said to them that I had not even known, until the
day before,  that the four  of them  were  don Juan's apprentices,  and that
Benigno was part of the group as well.
     They exchanged a coy  look with each other. Rosa  moved her lips to say
something but  Lidia gave her a command with  her feet. I felt that after my
long  and soulful explanation they should  not still sneak  messages to each
other. My nerves were so taut that their covert foot movements were just the
thing to send me into  a rage.  I yelled at them at the top of  my lungs and
banged  on  the table  with my right  hand. Rosa stood up  with unbelievable
speed, and  I  suppose as  a response to  her  sudden  movement, my body, by
itself,  without the notice of my reason, moved a step back, just in time to
avoid by inches a blow  from a massive stick or some heavy  object that Rosa
was  wielding in her left hand.  It came down on the table with a thunderous
     I heard again, as I had heard the night before  while  dona Soledad was
choking me, a  most peculiar and mysterious sound,  a dry sound like  a pipe
breaking, right behind my windpipe at the base  of my neck. My  ears popped,
and with the speed of lightning my left arm came down on top of Rosa's stick
and crushed  it. I saw the whole scene myself, as if  I had  been watching a
     Rosa screamed and I realized then that I had leaned forward with all my
weight  and had  struck  the back  of  her hand  with my  left  fist. I  was
appalled. Whatever was happening to  me  was not real.  It was a  nightmare.
Rosa  kept on screaming. Lidia  took her into  don Juan's  room. I heard her
yells of pain for a few moments longer and then  they stopped. I sat down at
the table. My thoughts were disassociated and incoherent.
     The  peculiar sound at the base of my  neck was something I  had become
keenly aware of. Don Juan  had  described it  as the sound one  makes at the
moment of changing speed. I had the faint recollection of having experienced
it in his company. Although I had become aware  of it the previous  night, I
had not fully acknowledged it until  it happened with Rosa. I  realized then
that the sound  had created a special sensation of heat on  the  roof  of my
mouth and inside my  ears. The force and  dryness of the sound made me think
of the peal of a large, cracked bell.
     Lidia returned awhile  later.  She seemed more calm  and collected. She
even smiled. I asked her to please help me unravel  that riddle  and tell me
what had  happened. After  a long  vacillation  she told me that when  I had
yelled and banged on the table Rosa got excited and nervous, and believing I
was  going to hurt them, she had tried to strike me with her "dream hand." I
had dodged her blow and hit her on  the back of her hand, the same way I had
struck dona Soledad. Lidia  said that Rosa's hand would be useless unless  I
found a way to help her.
     Rosa walked into  the  room  then. Her arm was wrapped with a piece  of
cloth. She looked at  me. Her eyes were  like  those of a child. My feelings
were at  the height of turmoil. Some part of me  felt  ugly and guilty.  But
again another part remained unruffled. Had it not been for that part I would
not have survived either dona Soledad's attack or Rosa's devastating blow.
     After a  long silence I told them that  it  was  very petty of me to be
annoyed by their foot messages,  but  that  there was no comparison  between
yelling or  banging on the table and what Rosa had done. In view of the fact
that  I had  no familiarity with  their practices, she could have severed my
arm with her blow.
     I  demanded,  in  a  very  intimidating tone,  to  see  her  hand.  She
reluctantly unwrapped it. It was swollen and red. There was no doubt left in
my mind that these people were carrying out some sort of test  that don Juan
had set up for me. By confronting them I was being hurled into a realm which
was impossible to reach  or accept in rational terms. He  had said time  and
time  again that my rationality comprised only  a very small part of what he
had called the totality of oneself. Under  the  impact of the unfamiliar and
the altogether real danger of my physical annihilation, my body  had had  to
make  use of its  hidden resources,  or die. The  trick seemed to be  in the
truthful acceptance of the possibility that such resources exist  and can be
reached. The  years of training  had  been  but the  steps to arrive to that
acceptance. Truthful to his premise of no compromise, don Juan had aimed  at
a total victory or a total defeat for me. If the  training had failed to put
me in contact with my hidden resources, the test would have made it evident,
in which case there would have been very little I could have  done. Don Juan
had  said to  dona Soledad  that I would have  killed myself.  Being such  a
profound connoisseur of human nature, he was probably right.
     It  was  time to adopt a new  course of action.  Lidia  had said that I
could help Rosa and dona Soledad  with  the same force that had  caused them
injury; the problem, therefore, was to get the  right sequence  of feelings,
or thoughts, or whatever, that led my  body to  unleash  that force. I  took
Rosa's  hand  and rubbed it.  I willed  it  to be cured. I had only the best
feelings for  her.  I caressed  her hand and hugged  her for a long time.  I
rubbed her head and she fell  asleep on my shoulder but there was no  change
in the redness or the swelling.
     Lidia watched me without saying a word. She smiled at  me. I  wanted to
tell her  that I  was a fiasco as a healer. Her eyes seemed to catch my mood
and they held it until it froze.
     Rosa wanted to sleep. She was either dead tired or ill. I did not  want
to find out  which. I picked her up in my arms; she was lighter than I would
have  imagined.  I took her to don Juan's  bed and  gently placed her on it.
Lidia covered her. The  room was very  dark.  I looked out of the window and
saw a  cloudless  sky filled with stars.  Up  to  that  moment  I  had  been
oblivious to the fact that we were at a very high altitude.
     As I  looked  at the sky, I felt a surge of optimism. Somehow the stars
looked festive to me. The southeast was indeed a lovely direction to face.
     I had a sudden urge that I felt obliged to satisfy. I wanted to see how
different the  view of  the sky was from dona Soledad's  window, which faced
the north. I took Lidia by the hand with the intention of leading her there,
but a ticklish sensation on top of my head stopped me. It went like a ripple
down my back to my waist, and from there it went to the pit of my stomach. I
sat down on the mat. I made an effort to think about  my feelings. It seemed
that at the very  moment I had felt the tickling on my  head my thoughts had
diminished in strength and number.  I tried, but I could not involve  myself
in the usual mental process that I call thinking.
     My mental deliberations  made me oblivious to  Lidia. She had knelt  on
the   floor,  facing  me.  I  became  aware  that  her  enormous  eyes  were
scrutinizing me from a few inches away.  I automatically took her hand again
and  walked to dona  Soledad's room. As we reached the door I felt her whole
body stiffening. I had  to pull her. I was about to cross the threshold when
I  caught sight of the bulky, dark mass of a human body  huddled against the
wall opposite the door. The sight was so unexpected that I gasped and let go
of Lidia's hand. It was dona  Soledad.  She was resting her head against the
wall. I  turned to Lidia.  She  had recoiled a couple of steps. I wanted  to
whisper that dona Soledad had returned, but there were no sounds to my words
although I was sure  I had vocalized them. I would have tried  to talk again
had it not been that I had an urge  to act. It was as if words took too much
time and I had very little of it. I stepped into the room and walked over to
dona Soledad.  She appeared to be in great pain. I squatted by her side, and
rather than  asking  her  anything, I  lifted her face to look at her. I saw
something on her forehead; it looked like the plaster of leaves that she had
made  for herself. It was dark,  viscous to the touch. I felt the imperative
need to peel it off her forehead. In a very bold fashion I grabbed her head,
tilled it back and yanked the plaster off. It was  like peeling  off rubber.
She did not move  or complain about pain. Underneath the plaster there was a
yellowishgreen blotch. It moved, as if it were alive or imbued with  energy.
I  looked  at  it for  a moment, unable to  do anything. I poked it  with my
finger and it stuck to  it like glue. I did not panic  as I ordinarily would
have; I rather liked the stuff. I stirred it with the tips of my fingers and
all of it came off her forehead.  I stood up. The gooey substance felt warm.
It was  like a sticky  paste  for an instant and then it dried up between my
fingers and on the palm of my hand. I then felt another jolt of apprehension
and  ran  to  don Juan's  room. I  grabbed  Rosa's arm and  wiped  the  same
fluorescent, yellowish-green  stuff from her hand that I had wiped from dona
Soledad's forehead.
     My heart  was pounding so hard that I  could hardly stand on my feet. I
wanted to lie down, but something in me pushed me  to the window and made me
jog on the spot.
     I cannot  recall how long I jogged there. Suddenly I  felt that someone
was wiping my neck and shoulders. I became aware then that I was practically
nude,  perspiring  profusely. Lidia had a  cloth around my shoulders and was
wiping  the sweat off  my  face. My normal thought processes came back to me
all at once. I looked around the room. Rosa was  sound asleep. I ran to dona
Soledad's room.  I  expected  to find her also asleep,  but there was no one
there. Lidia had trailed behind me. I told her what had happened. She rushed
to Rosa and woke her up while I put on my clothes. Rosa did not want to wake
up. Lidia grabbed her injured hand and squeezed it. In one single, springing
movement Rosa stood up and was fully awake.
     They began  to rush around  the  house turning  off  the lanterns. They
seemed to be getting ready to run away. I  wanted to ask them  why they were
in such a hurry, when I realized that I had dressed in a great hurry myself.
We were rushing together; not  only that,  but they seemed to be waiting for
direct commands from me.
     We ran out of the house carrying all the packages I had  brought. Lidia
had advised me not to leave any of them behind; I had not yet assigned  them
and  they still belonged  to me. I threw them  in the back seat of  the  car
while the two girls crammed into the front. I started the car  and backed up
slowly, finding my way in the darkness.
     Once  we were on the road I  was  brought face  to face with  the  most
pressing issue.  Both of  them said in unison  that I was the leader;  their
actions were dependent on my decisions. I was the Nagual. We could  not just
run out of the house and drive away aimlessly. I had to guide them. But  the
truth was that I had no idea where to go or what to do. I turned casually to
look at them. The headlights cast a glare inside the car and their eyes were
like  mirrors that reflected  it. I remembered that don Juan's  eyes did the
same; they seemed to reflect more light than the eyes of an average person.
     I knew that the two girls  were aware of my impasse. Rather than making
a joke  about it in order  to  cover  up  my incapacity,  I bluntly put  the
responsibility of a solution in their laps. I said that I lacked practice as
the Nagual and would appreciate it if they would oblige me with a suggestion
or a  hint as to where we should go.  They seemed  disgusted  with me.  They
clicked their tongues  and  shook their  heads.  I mentally shuffled through
various courses of action, none of which was feasible,  such as driving them
to town, or taking  them to Nestor's house, or  even  taking them to  Mexico
     I  stopped  the  car.  I was driving  toward town.  I  wanted more than
anything else in the  world to have a heart-to-heart talk with the girls.  I
opened my mouth to begin, but they turned away from me, faced each other and
put  their arms  around each  other's  shoulders.  That  appeared to  be  an
indication that they had locked themselves in and were not listening tome.
     My  frustration was enormous. What I craved for  at that moment was don
Juan's mastery over any  situation  at hand, his intellectual companionship,
his humor. Instead I was in the company of two nincompoops.
     I  caught  a gesture of dejection  in Lidia's face and that stopped  my
avalanche  of self-pity.  I became overtly  aware, for the first time,  that
there  was no  end  to  our mutual disappointment.  Obviously they  too were
accustomed,  although in a different manner, to the mastery of don Juan. For
them the shift from the Nagual himself to me must have been disastrous.
     I sat for a long while with the motor running. Then all at once I again
had  a  bodily  shiver  that  started on  the top  of my head as  a ticklish
sensation and I  knew  then  what  had  happened when  I  had  entered  dona
Soledad's room awhile  before. I had not seen her in an ordinary sense. What
I  had  thought was dona Soledad huddled against the  wall was in  fact  the
memory of  her leaving her body the instant after I had hit her. I also knew
that when  I touched that gooey, phosphorescent  substance I had cured  her,
and  that it was some sort of energy I had left in her  head and  in  Rosa's
hand with my blows.
     A  vision  of  a  particular  ravine went  through  my mind.  I  became
convinced that dona Soledad and la Gorda were there.  My knowledge was not a
mere conjecture, it was rather a truth that needed no further corroboration.
La  Gorda had taken dona Soledad to the bottom of that particular ravine and
was at that precise moment attempting to cure her. I wanted to tell her that
it was wrong to treat the swelling in dona Soledad's forehead and that there
was no longer a need for them to stay there.
     I described my vision  to the girls. Both of them told me, the way  don
Juan used to tell me, not to  indulge. With him, however, that  reaction was
more congruous. I had never really minded his criticisms or scorn,  but  the
two girls were in a different league. I felt insulted.
     "I'll take you home," I said. "Where do you live?"
     Lidia turned to  me and in  a most furious  tone said that both of them
were my wards and that I had to deliver them to safety, since at the request
of the  Nagual they had relinquished their  freedom  to act in order to help
     I had a fit of anger at that point. I wanted to slap the two girls, but
then I felt the curious shiver running through my body once more. It started
again  as  a  tickling  on top of my head which went down my  back until  it
reached  my  umbilical  region,  and  then  I knew  where  they  lived.  The
ticklishness was like a shield, a soft, warm sheet of film. I could sense it
physically, covering the area between my pubis and the edge  of my rib cage.
My wrath disappeared and  was  replaced by a strange sobriety, an aloofness,
and  at  the  same  time  a  desire  to  laugh. I  knew  then  of  something
transcendental.  Under  the  impact of dona Soledad and the  little sisters'
actions, my body had suspended judgment; I had, in don Juan's terms, stopped
the world. I had amalgamated two  disassociated sensations. The ticklishness
on the  very  top of my head and the dry cracking sound at  the base  of  my
neck: between them lay the means to that suspension of judgment.
     As  I sat in  my car with those  two  girls, on the side  of a deserted
mountain road, I  knew  for  a  fact that for  the  first time I  had had  a
complete  awareness of stopping the world.  That feeling  brought to my mind
the memory of another, similar, first-time bodily awareness I had had  years
before. It had to do with the ticklishness on top of the head. Don Juan said
that  sorcerers had to  cultivate such a sensation  and  he described it  at
great length. According to him,  it was a sort of itching, which was neither
pleasurable nor painful, and  which occurred on the  very top of one's head.
In order to make me aware of it, on an  intellectual level, he described and
analyzed its features and then, on the practical side, he attempted to guide
me in developing  the  necessary bodily awareness and memory of this feeling
by  making me run  under  branches  or  rocks that protruded on a horizontal
plane a few inches above my height.
     For years I tried to follow what he was pointing out to me, but on  the
one hand I was incapable of  understanding what he meant by his description,
and on the other hand I was incapable of providing my body with the adequate
memory by following his pragmatic steps. Never did I feel anything on top of
my head as I  ran underneath the branches  or  rocks he had selected for his
demonstrations. But one day my body by itself discovered the sensation while
I was  driving a  high panel truck into a  three-story  parking structure. I
entered the gate of the  structure at  the  same  speed I usually  did in my
small, two-door sedan; the result was that from the high seat of the truck I
perceived the transverse cement beam  of the roof coming at my head. I could
not stop  the truck in time and the feeling I got was  that the cement  beam
was scalping  me. I had never driven a motor  vehicle  which was  as high as
that  truck,  thus  I  was  incapable  of making  the  necessary  perceptual
adjustments. The space  between the  roof of  the truck and the roof  of the
parking structure seemed nonexistent for me. I felt the beam with my scalp.
     That day  I drove for  hours  inside the structure, giving  my  body  a
chance to store the memory of that ticklish sensation.
     I faced the two girls and wanted to tell them that I had just found out
where they lived. I desisted. There was  no way  of  describing to them that
the ticklish sensation had  made me  remember a casual  remark that don Juan
had once made as  we passed  a house on  our way to Pablito's place.  He had
pointed out  an unusual feature in the surroundings and said that that house
was  an ideal place for quietness but  was not a place to rest. I drove them
     Their  house was rather big. It was also an adobe structure with a tile
roof  like dona  Soledad's. It  had  one  long  room in the front, a roofed,
open-air kitchen in back of the house, a huge patio  next to the kitchen and
an area for chickens  beyond the  patio.  The most important  part  of their
house,  however, was a closed room with two doors, one  opening to the front
room  and  the  other  to  the  back. Lidia  said  that  they  had built  it
themselves. I wanted  to see it, but both  of them said that it  was not the
appropriate time because Josefina  and la Gorda  were not present to show me
the parts of the room that belonged to them.
     In  the  corner of  the front room there  was a sizable, built-in brick
platform. It was about eighteen inches high and had been  constructed like a
bed with one end against the wall. Lidia put some  thick straw mats  on  its
flat top and urged me to lie down and sleep while they watched over me.
     Rosa had  lit a lantern and hung  it on a nail above the bed. There was
enough light to write. I explained to them that writing eased my tension and
asked if it bothered them.
     "Why do you have to ask?" Lidia retorted. "Just do it!"
     In the vein  of a perfunctory explanation I told them that I had always
done some things, such as taking notes, which were strange even to  don Juan
and don Genaro and would perforce be strange to them.
     "We all do strange things," Lidia said dryly.
     I sat down on the bed under the lantern, with my back against the wall.
They lay down  next to me,  one on each side.  Rosa  covered  herself with a
blanket and went to sleep as if all she needed to do was to lie down.  Lidia
said that then was the appropriate  time and place  for us to talk, although
she would prefer that I turn off the light because it made her sleepy.
     Our conversation in the darkness centered around the whereabouts of the
other two girls.  She  said that she could not even imagine  where  la Gorda
was,  but that Josefina was  undoubtedly in the mountains, still looking for
Nestor, even  though it was  dark. She  explained that Josefina was the most
capable  one to take  care of  herself in eventualities  such as being in  a
deserted  place in the dark. That was the  reason why  la Gorda had selected
her to run that errand.
     I mentioned that in listening to them  talk about la Gorda I had formed
the opinion that she was the boss. Lidia replied that la Gorda was indeed in
charge,  and  that the Nagual himself had put her in command. She added that
even if he had not done so, la Gorda would have taken over, sooner or later,
because she was the best.
     I was compelled at that point to  light the lantern in order  to write.
Lidia  complained that the light made it  impossible  to stay awake,  but  I
     "What makes la Gorda the best?" I asked.
     "She  has  more  personal  power,"  she  said.  "She knows  everything.
Besides, the Nagual taught her how to control people."
     "Do you envy la Gorda for being the best?"
     "I used to, but not now."
     "Why did you change?"
     "I finally accepted my fate, as the Nagual told me."
     "And what is your fate?"
     "My fate. . . my fate  is to be the breeze. To be a dreamer. My fate is
to be a warrior."
     "Do Rosa or Josefina envy la Gorda?"
     "No, they don't. All  of us have  accepted our  fates.  The Nagual said
that  power comes only after we  accept  our  fate without recriminations. I
used  to complain a lot and feel  terrible  because I liked  the  Nagual.  I
thought I was a woman. But he showed me  that I was not. He showed me that I
was a warrior.  My life had ended before I  met him.  This body that you see
here is new. The same thing happened to all of us. Perhaps you were not like
us, but to us the Nagual was a new life.
     "When he told us that he was going to leave, because he had to do other
things, we thought we would die. But look at us now. We're alive, and do you
know why? Because the Nagual showed  us that we were himself. He's here with
us. He'll always be here. We are his body and his spirit."
     "Do all four of you feel the same way?"
     "We are not four. We are  one. That is our  fate. We have to carry each
other.  And you are the same.  All  of us are the same.  Even Soledad is the
same, although she goes in a different direction."

     "And Pablito, Nestor and Benigno? Where do they fit?"
     "We don't know. We don't like them.  Especially Pablito. He's a coward.
He has not accepted  his fate and wants to wriggle out of  it. He even wants
to chuck his chances as  a sorcerer and live  an  ordinary  life. That'll be
great for Soledad. But the Nagual gave us orders to help him. We arc getting
tired of helping him, though. Maybe one of these days la Gorda will push him
out of the way forever."
     "Can she do that?"
     "Can she do that! Of course she can. She's  got more of the Nagual than
the rest of us. Perhaps even more than you."
     "Why  do  you  think  the  Nagual  never  told  me  that  you  were his
     "Because you're empty."
     "Did he say that I was empty?"
     "Everyone knows you're empty. It is written on your body."
     "How can you tell that?"
     "There is a hole in the middle."
     "In the middle of my body? Where?"
     She very gently touched a  spot  on the right side of my  stomach.  She
drew  a  circle  with  her finger as if she were following  the  edges of an
invisible hole four or five inches in diameter.
     "Are you empty yourself, Lidia?"
     "Are you kidding? I am complete. Can't you see?"
     Her answers to my questions were taking a turn that I had not expected.
I  did not  want  to  antagonize her with  my ignorance.  I  shook  my  head
     "Why  do you think I have  a hole  here  that makes me empty?" I  asked
after deliberating what the most innocent question would be.
     She did not answer. She  turned her back to  me and complained that the
light of the lantern bothered  her eyes. I insisted on a response. She faced
me defiantly.

     "I  don't want  to talk to you anymore," she said. "You are stupid. Not
even Pablito is that stupid and he's the worst."
     I  did not want to end  up in another blind alley by pretending  that I
knew  what  she was  talking  about, so  I asked  her again  what  caused my
emptiness. I  coaxed her to  talk, giving her ample assurances that don Juan
had never explained that topic to me. He had said time and time again that I
was empty and I understood him the way any Western man would understand that
statement.  I  thought he meant  that  I was  somehow void of determination,
will, purpose  or even intelligence. He had never spoken to me about a  hole
in my body.
     "There is a hole there on the right side," she said matter-offactly. "A
hole that a woman made when she emptied you."
     "Would you know who the woman is?"
     "Only  you can tell that. The Nagual  said that  men, most of the time,
cannot tell who had emptied them. Women are more fortunate; they know  for a
fact who emptied them."
     "Are your sisters empty, like me?"
     "Don't be stupid. How can they be empty?"
     "Dona Soledad said that she was empty. Does she look like me?"
     "No.  The hole in her stomach was enormous. It was on both sides, which
meant that a man and a woman emptied her."
     "What did dona Soledad do with a man and a woman?"
     "She gave her completeness to them."
     I vacillated for a moment before asking the  next question. I wanted to
assess all the implications of her statement.
     "La  Gorda was  even  worse  than Soledad,"  Lidia went on.  "Two women
emptied her. The  hole in  her stomach was like  a  cavern. But now she  has
closed it. She is complete again."
     "Tell me about those two women."
     "I just can't  tell you anything more," she said  in a most  imperative
tone. "Only la  Gorda can speak  to  you about this matter. Wait  until  she
     "Why only la Gorda?"

     "Because she knows everything."
     "Is she the only one who knows everything?"
     "The  Witness knows as much, maybe even more, but he is  Genaro himself
and that makes him very difficult to handle. We don't like him."
     "Why don't you like him?"
     "Those three bums are awful. They are crazy like Genaro. Well, they are
Genaro himself. They  are always fighting us because they were afraid of the
Nagual and  now  they are taking their revenge  on us.  That's what la Gorda
says anyway."
     "And what makes la Gorda say that?"
     "The Nagual told her things he  didn't  tell the rest of us.  She sees.
The Nagual said that you also see. Josefina, Rosa  and I don't see,  and yet
all five of us are the same. We are the same."
     The phrase  "we are the same," which  dona  Soledad had used  the night
before, brought on an avalanche of thoughts and fears. I put  my writing pad
away.  I looked around.  I was  in a strange world lying in a strange bed in
between two  young women I did not  know.  And yet I felt at ease there.  My
body experienced abandon and indifference. I trusted them.
     "Are you going to sleep here?" I asked.
     "Where else?"
     "How about your own room?"
     "We can't  leave you alone. We  feel the  same way you  do;  you are  a
stranger, except that we are bound to help you. La Gorda said that no matter
how stupid you are, we  have to look after you. She said we have to sleep in
the same bed with you as if you were the Nagual himself."
     Lidia turned off the lantern. I remained sitting  with my  back against
the wall. I closed my eyes to think and I fell asleep instantly.

     Lidia,  Rosa and I  had  been sitting  on a flat area just  outside the
front door  for nearly two hours, since eight o'clock in the morning.  I had
tried to steer them into a conversation but they had refused  to  talk. They
seemed to be  very relaxed, almost asleep. Their mood of abandonment was not
contagious, however. Sitting there in that forced silence had put me  into a
mood of my own. Their house sat on top of a small hill; the front door faced
the  east. From where I sat I could see almost the entire narrow valley that
ran from east to west. I could not see the town but I could  see  the  green
areas of cultivated fields on the floor of the valley. On the other side and
flanking the valley  in every direction, there were  gigantic, round, eroded
hills.  There  were  no  high mountains in the  vicinity of the valley, only
those enormous, eroded, round hills, the  sight of which created  in me  the
most intense feeling of  oppression.  I had  the sensation that those  hills
were about to transport me to another time.
     Lidia spoke to me  all of a sudden  and her voice disrupted my reverie.
She pulled my sleeve.
     "Here comes Josefina," she said.
     I looked at the winding trail that  led from the valley to the house. I
saw a woman walking slowly up the trail, perhaps fifty yards away. I noticed
immediately the remarkable difference in age between Lidia  and Rosa and the
approaching  woman.  I  looked  at  her  again.  I  would never have thought
Josefina to  be that old. Judging by her slow gait  and the posture  of  her
body, she seemed to be a woman in her midfifties. She was thin, wore a long,
dark skirt and was carrying a load of firewood on her back. She had a bundle
tied around her waist; it looked as though she had a bundled-up child riding
on her left hip. She seemed to be breast-feeding it as she walked. Her steps
were  almost  feeble. She  could  barely  make the  last  steep slope before
reaching the house. When she finally stood in front of us, a few yards away,
she was panting so heavily that I attempted to help her sit down. She made a
gesture that seemed to say that she was all right.
     I  heard Lidia and  Rosa giggling. I  did  not look at  them because my
total  attention had been taken by assault. The  woman  in front of  me  was
absolutely  the most disgusting, foul  creature I had ever seen. She  untied
the bundle of firewood and dropped it on  the  floor  with a loud clatter. I
jumped involuntarily, due  in part to the loud noise and in part to the fact
that the woman nearly fell on my lap, pulled by the weight of the wood.
     She looked at me for an instant  and  then lowered her  eyes, seemingly
embarrassed by her clumsiness. She  straightened  her back and  sighed  with
apparent relief. Obviously, the load had been too great for her old body.
     As  she stretched  her arms, her  hair  fell  partially loose. She  was
wearing a soiled headband  tied over  her forehead. Her  hair  was  long and
graying and seemed dirty and matted. I could see the white hairs against the
dark  brown of the headband. She smiled at  me and sort  of nodded her head.
All  her  teeth  seemed  to be missing; I could  see the  black hole of  her
toothless mouth. She covered her  face with her hand  and laughed.  She took
off  her  sandals and  walked into the house without  giving me time to  say
anything. Rosa followed her.
     I was dumbfounded. Dona Soledad had implied that Josefina was the  same
age as Lidia and Rosa. I turned to Lidia. She was peering at me.
     "I had no idea she was that old," I said.
     "Yes, she's pretty old," she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
     "Does she have a child?" I asked.
     "Yes, and she takes him everywhere. She never leaves him with us. She's
afraid we are going to eat him."
     "Is it a boy?"
     "A boy."
     "How old is he?"
     "She's had him for some time. But I don't know his age. We thought that
she shouldn't have a child  at her age. But  she didn't pay any attention to

     "Whose child is he?"
     "Josefina's, of course."
     "I mean, who's the father?"
     "The Nagual, who else?"
     I  thought  that  that  development  was  quite  extravagant  and  very
     "I suppose anything is possible in the Nagual's world," I said.
     I meant it more as a thought to myself than a statement made to Lidia.
     "You bet," she said, and laughed.
     The oppressiveness of those eroded hills became  unbearable. There  was
something  truly  abhorrent about that area, and Josefina had been the final
blow.  On top  of having an ugly, old, smelly  body  and no  teeth, she also
seemed  to  have some sort of facial paralysis. The muscles on the left side
of  her face appeared  to be injured,  a  condition  which  created  a  most
unpleasant  distortion  of her left eye  and the left side of her  mouth. My
oppressive mood plummeted  to one of  sheer anguish. For an  instant I toyed
with the idea, so familiar by then, of running to my car and driving away.
     I complained to Lidia  that I did not feel  well. She laughed and  said
that Josefina had no doubt scared me.
     "She has that effect  on people," she said. "Everybody  hates her guts.
She's uglier than a cockroach."
     "I remember seeing her once," I said, "but she was young."
     "Things change," Lidia  said philosophically, "one way or another. Look
at Soledad. What  a change, eh? And you yourself have changed. You look more
massive than I remember you. You are looking more and more like the Nagual."
     I wanted  to say that the change in Josefina was abhorrent  but  I  was
afraid that she might overhear me.
     I looked at the  eroded  hills across  the valley. I felt  like fleeing
from them.

     "The  Nagual gave us this house," she said, "but it is not a house  for
rest. We had another house before that was  truly beautiful. This is a place
to steam up. Those mountains over there will drive you nuts."
     Her boldness in reading my feelings  gave me a respite. I  did not know
what to say.
     "We  are all  naturally lazy," she  went  on. "We don't like to  strain
ourselves. The  Nagual knew that,  so he  must have  figured that this place
would drive us up the walls."
     She stood up abruptly and said that  she wanted something  to  eat.  We
went to the  kitchen, a semienclosed area with  only two walls. At the  open
end, to the right of the door, there was an earthen stove; at the other end,
where the two walls met, there was a large dining area with a long table and
three benches. The  floor was  paved with smooth  river rocks. The flat roof
was about  ten feet high  and was  resting  on the two  walls and  on  thick
supporting beams on the open sides.
     Lidia poured  me a bowl of beans and  meat from a pot which cooked on a
very low fire. She  heated up some tortillas over the fire. Rosa came in and
sat down next to me and asked Lidia to serve her some food.
     I became immersed  in watching Lidia use a ladle to scoop the beans and
meat. She seemed  to have an eye  for the exact amount.  She must  have been
aware  that I was admiring her maneuvers. She  took two or three beans  from
Rosa's bowl and returned them to the pot.
     Out of  the corner of my eye I saw Josefina  coming into the kitchen. I
did not look at her, though.  She sat facing  me  across the table.  I had a
squeamish feeling in my stomach. I felt that I could not eat with that woman
looking at me. To ease my tension I joked with Lidia that  there were  still
two extra beans in Rosa's bowl that  she  had overlooked. She scooped up two
beans  with  the ladle  with  a  precision  that  made  me  gasp. I  laughed
nervously, knowing  that once Lidia sat down I  would  have to move my  eyes
from the stove and acknowledge the presence of Josefina.
     I finally  and  reluctantly  had to look across the table at  Josefina.
There was a dead silence. I stared at her incredulously. My mouth fell open.
I heard the loud laughter of Lidia  and Rosa. It took an endless moment  for
me to put my thoughts and feelings in some sort of order. Whoever was facing
me was not the Josefina I had  seen just awhile ago, but a very pretty girl.
She  did  not  have Indian features as Lidia and Rosa did. She seemed to  be
more Latin than Indian. She had a light olive complexion, a very small mouth
and a finely chiseled nose, small white teeth and short,  black, curly hair.
She  had a  dimple on  the  left side of  her  face,  which gave  a definite
cockiness to her smile.
     She was the girl I had met briefly years ago. She held my scrutiny. Her
eyes were friendly. I  became possessed by degrees with  some uncontrollable
nervousness. I ended up desperately clowning about my genuine bewilderment.
     They laughed like children. After their laughter had subsided  I wanted
to know what was the point of Josefina's histrionic display.
     "She's practicing the art of stalking," Lidia said. "The Nagual  taught
us to baffle people so they wouldn't notice us. Josefina is very pretty  and
if  she walks alone at  night, no  one  will  bother her if she  is ugly and
smelly,  but if she  goes out as she really  is, well, you yourself can tell
what would happen."
     Josefina  nodded  affirmatively  and  then contorted her face into  the
ugliest grimace possible.
     "She can hold that face all day," Lidia said.
     I contended  that if I  lived around that area I would certainly notice
Josefina in her disguise more readily than if she did not have one.
     "That disguise  was just  for you," Lidia said, and all  three of  them
laughed. "And look how it baffled you. You noticed her child even  more than
you noticed her."

     Lidia  went  into their  room  and  brought  out a package of rags that
looked like a bundled-up child and  threw it  on the table in front of me. I
laughed uproariously with them.
     "Do all of you have particular disguises?" I asked.
     "No. Only Josefina. No one  around here knows  her  as she  really is,"
Lidia replied.
     Josefina  nodded  and  smiled but  she  remained silent.  I  liked  her
tremendously. There was something so very innocent and sweet about her.
     "Say something, Josefina," I said, grabbing her by her forearms.
     She looked at  me bewildered, and recoiled. I thought that I had gotten
carried away by my elation and perhaps grabbed her  too hard. I  let her go.
She sat  up straight.  She  contorted  her small  mouth and  thin  lips  and
produced a most grotesque outburst of grunts and shrieks.
     Her whole face suddenly changed. A series  of  ugly, involuntary spasms
marred her tranquil expression of a moment before.
     I looked at her, horrified. Lidia pulled me by the sleeve.
     "Why do you have to scare her,  stupid?" she whispered. "Don't you know
that she became mute and can't talk at all?"
     Josefina obviously  understood  her  and seemed bent on protesting. She
clenched her fist at Lidia and  let  out another outburst of  extremely loud
and horrifying shrieks,  and then choked and coughed.  Rosa began to rub her
back. Lidia tried to do the same but Josefina nearly hit her in the face.
     Lidia sat down next to me and made a gesture of impotence. She shrugged
her shoulders.
     "She's that way," Lidia whispered to me.
     Josefina  turned to her. Her face was contorted in a most  ugly grimace
of  anger. She opened her mouth  and bellowed at the top of  her  voice some
more frightening, guttural sounds.
     Lidia slid off the  bench  and  in  a most unobtrusive manner  left the
kitchen area.

     Rosa held  Josefina by  the arm.  Josefina seemed to  be the epitome of
fury. She moved her mouth and contorted her face. In a matter of minutes she
had lost all the beauty and innocence that had  enchanted me. I did not know
what to do. I tried to apologize but  Josefina's inhuman sounds drowned  out
my words. Finally Rosa took her into the house.
     Lidia returned and sat across the table from me.
     "Something went wrong up here," she said, touching her head.
     "When did it happen?" I asked.
     "A long time ago. The Nagual  must have  done something to her, because
all of a sudden she lost her speech."
     Lidia seemed sad.  I had the impression that her sadness showed against
her desire. I even  felt tempted to tell her not to struggle so hard to hide
her emotions.
     "How does  Josefina communicate with  you  people?" I  asked. "Does she
     "Come on,  don't be  silly. She doesn't write.  She's not you. She uses
her hands and feet to tell us what she wants."
     Josefina  and  Rosa came back to the kitchen. They stood by  my side. I
thought that  Josefina was again the picture of  innocence and  candor.  Her
beatific expression did not give the  slightest inkling of the fact that she
could become so ugly, so fast.  Looking at her  I had the sudden realization
that her fabulous ability for gestures undoubtedly was  intimately linked to
her  aphasia.  I reasoned that  only  a person who had lost her capacity  to
verbalize could be so versed in mimicry.
     Rosa  said  to me that Josefina had confided that she wished  she could
talk, because she liked me very much.
     "Until  you came she was happy  the way she was," Lidia said in a harsh
     Josefina shook her head affirmatively, corroborating Lidia's statement,
and went into a mild outburst of sounds.
     "I  wish la  Gorda was  here," Rosa said.  "Lidia always  gets Josefina

     "I don't mean to!" Lidia protested.
     Josefina smiled at her and extended her arm to touch her. It seemed  as
if she were attempting to apologize. Lidia brushed her hand away.
     "Why, you mute imbecile," she muttered.
     Josefina  did not get angry. She looked away. There was so much sadness
in  her  eyes  that I  did  not  want to look  at her. I felt  compelled  to
     "She thinks  she's the only woman in the world who has problems," Lidia
snapped at me. "The Nagual told us to drive her hard and without mercy until
she no longer feels sorry for herself."
     Rosa looked at me and reaffirmed Lidia's claim with a nod of her head.
     Lidia turned to Rosa  and  ordered her  to leave Josefina's side.  Rosa
moved away complyingly and sat on the bench next to me.
     "The Nagual said  that one of these  days  she  will talk again," Lidia
said to me.
     "Hey!"  Rosa said, pulling my sleeve. "Maybe you're the one who'll make
her talk."
     "Yes! "  Lidia exclaimed as if  she had had  the  same  thought. "Maybe
that's why we had to wait for you."
     "It's so clear!" Rosa added with the  expression of  having had a  true
     Both of them jumped to their feet and embraced Josefina.
     "You're going to talk again!" Rosa  exclaimed as she  shook Josefina by
the shoulders.
     Josefina  opened  her  eyes and  rolled them. She started making faint,
muffled sighs, as if  she were sobbing, and ended up running back and forth,
crying like an animal.  Her excitation  was so great that she seemed to have
locked her  jaws open.  I  honestly thought that she  was on the  brink of a
nervous  breakdown. Lidia  and Rosa ran to her side and helped her close her
mouth. But they did not try to calm her down.

     "You're going to talk again! You're going to talk again!" they shouted.
     Josefina sobbed and howled in a manner that sent chills down my spine.
     I  was absolutely confounded. I tried to talk sense to them. I appealed
to their reason, but then I realized that they had very  little of it, by my
standards.  I paced back  and  forth in front of them, trying to  figure out
what to do.
     "You are going to help her, aren't you?" Lidia demanded.
     "Please, sir, please," Rosa pleaded with me.
     I told them that they were crazy, that I  could not  possibly know what
to do. And yet,  as I  talked  I noticed that  there was  a funny feeling of
optimism and  certainty in  the  back of  my mind. I wanted to discard it at
first, but it took hold of me. Once before  I had  had a similar feeling  in
relation to  a dear friend of mine who  was mortally ill. I thought  I could
make her  well and  actually  leave the hospital where she lay dying. I even
consulted don Juan about it.
     "Sure. You can cure her and make her  walk out of that  death trap," he
     "How?" I asked him.
     "It's a  very simple procedure," he said. "All you have to do is remind
her that she's an  incurable patient. Since  she's  a terminal  case she has
power. She  has nothing to lose anymore. She's lost everything already. When
one  has nothing to  lose,  one  becomes courageous. We are  timid only when
there is something we can still cling to."
     "But is it enough just to remind her of that?"
     "No. That will give her the boost she needs. Then she has to  push  the
disease away with her left  hand. She must push her  arm out in front of her
with her  hand clenched as if she were holding a knob. She must push on  and
on as she says  out,  out, out. Tell her that, since she has nothing else to
do, she must dedicate every second of  her remaining life to performing that
movement. I assure you that she can get up and walk away, if she wants to."
     "It sounds so simple," I said.
     Don Juan chuckled.
     "It seems simple," he  said,  "but  it isn't. In order to do this  your
friend needs an impeccable spirit."
     He looked at me for a long time. He seemed  to be measuring the concern
and sadness I felt for my friend.
     "Of  course," he added, "if  your friend had  an impeccable  spirit she
wouldn't be there in the first place."
     I told  my friend what don Juan had said. But she  was already too weak
even to attempt to move her arm.
     In Josefina's case  my rationale for  my secret confidence was the fact
that she was  a warrior  with an impeccable spirit. Would it be possible,  I
silently asked myself, to apply the same hand movement to her?
     I told Josefina  that her incapacity to speak  was due  to some sort of
     "Yes, yes, it's a blockage," Lidia and Rosa repeated after me.
     I explained to Josefina the arm movement and told her that  she had  to
push that blockage by moving her arm in that fashion.
     Josefina's  eyes  were transfixed. She  seemed  to be  in a trance. She
moved her mouth, making barely audible sounds. She tried moving her arm, but
her  excitation  was  so  intense   that  she  flung  her  arm  without  any
coordination. I tried to redirect her movements, but she appeared to  be  so
thoroughly befuddled that she could  not even hear what  I  was saying.  Her
eyes went  out of focus  and I knew she was  going to faint. Rosa apparently
realized what was happening; she jumped away and grabbed a cup  of water and
sprinkled it over Josefina's face. Josefina's  eyes rolled back, showing the
whites of  her  eyes. She blinked  repeatedly until she could focus her eyes
again. She moved her mouth, but she made no sound.

     "Touch her throat!" Rosa yelled at me.
     "No! No!" Lidia  shouted back. "Touch  her head. It's in her head,  you
dummy! "
     She grabbed my hand and I  reluctantly let her place it  on  Josefina's
     Josefina shivered, and little by little she let out a  series  of faint
sounds. Somehow they seemed to me more melodious than the inhuman sounds she
made before.
     Rosa also must have noticed the difference.
     "Did you hear that? Did you hear that?" she asked me in a whisper.
     But whatever the  difference might have been,  Josefina let out another
series of sounds more grotesque than ever. When she quieted down, she sobbed
for a moment and then entered into another state of euphoria. Lidia and Rosa
finally  quieted her.  She plunked down on the bench, apparently  exhausted.
She could barely lift her eyelids to look at me. She smiled meekly.
     "I am so very, very sorry," I said and held her hand.
     Her whole body vibrated. She lowered her  head and began to weep again.
I felt a  surge  of ultimate  empathy for her. At  that moment I would  have
given my life to help her.
     She sobbed  uncontrollably as  she tried to speak to me. Lidia and Rosa
appeared  to be so  caught  up  in her drama that they were  making the same
gestures with their mouths.
     "For heaven's sake, do something!" Rosa exclaimed in a pleading voice.
     I experienced an unbearable anxiety. Josefina stood up and embraced me,
or rather clung to me in a frenzy and pushed me away from the table. At that
instant Lidia and Rosa, with astounding agility,  speed and control, grabbed
me by the shoulders with both hands and at the same time hooked the heels of
my feet with their feet. The weight of Josefina's body and her embrace, plus
the speed  of  Lidia's  and Rosa's maneuver, rendered me  helpless. They all
moved at once, and before I knew what was happening, they had laid me on the
floor with Josefina on top of  me. I felt her heart pounding. She held on to
me with great force; the sound of her heart reverberated in my ears. I  felt
it pounding in my own chest. I tried to push her  away but she held on fast.
Rosa and Lidia had me pinned down on the floor with their weight  on my arms
and legs. Rosa cackled insanely and  began nibbling on  my side.  Her small,
sharp teeth chattered as her jaws snapped open and shut with nervous spasms.
     All at once I had a monstrous sensation of pain, physical revulsion and
terror. I lost my breath. My eyes could not focus. I knew that I was passing
out. I heard then the dry, cracking sound of a  pipe breaking at the base of
my neck  and felt  the ticklish sensation on top of my head,  running like a
shiver through my entire  body. The next thing  I knew I was looking at them
from the other side of the kitchen. The three girls were staring at me while
they lay on the floor.
     "What  are  you people doing?" I heard  someone say in  a loud,  harsh,
commanding voice.
     I  then had an inconceivable feeling. I felt Josefina  let go of me and
stand up.  I was lying on  the floor, and yet I was also standing a distance
away from them, looking  at a woman I had never seen before.  She was by the
door. She walked toward me and stopped six or seven feet away. She stared at
me for a  moment. I knew immediately that she was  la Gorda. She demanded to
know what was going on.
     "We were just playing a little joke on him," Josefina said clearing her
throat. "I was pretending to be mute."
     The  three girls huddled up close together and began to laugh. La Gorda
remained impassive, looking at me.
     They had tricked me! I found my stupidity and gullibility so outrageous
that I had a fit of hysterical laughter, which was almost out of control. My
body shivered.

     I knew that Josefina had not just been playing, as she had claimed. The
three of them had meant  business. I had actually felt Josefina's body as  a
force that, in  fact, was getting inside my own body.  Rosa's nibbling on my
side, which undoubtedly was a  ruse to distract my attention, coincided with
the sensation I had had that Josefina's heart was pounding inside my chest.
     I heard la Gorda urging me to calm down.
     I had a  nervous flutter  in my midsection and then a quiet, calm anger
swept over me. I loathed them. I had had enough of them. I would have picked
up my jacket and  writing pad  and walked  out of the  house had it not been
that  I  was not  quite myself  yet. I was somewhat dizzy and my senses were
definitely out of line. I had had the sensation that when I had first looked
at the girls from  across the  kitchen,  I was  actually viewing them from a
position  above  my  eye  level,  from a  place  close to  the  ceiling. But
something even more disconcerting was that I had actually perceived that the
ticklish sensation on  top  of my head  was what scooped me  from Josefina's
embrace.  It  was not  as  if  something  came out from the top of  my head;
something actually did come out from the top of my head.
     A  few  years  before,  don  Juan  and  don Genaro  had  manoeuvred  my
perception and  I had had  an impossible double sensation:  I felt that  don
Juan had fallen  on top of me and pinned me to the ground, while at the same
time I felt I was still standing up. I was  actually in both places at once.
In sorcerers' terms I could say  that  my body had stored the memory of that
double  perception and seemed to have  repeated it. There were, however, two
new things that had been added to my  bodily memory this time.  One was that
the ticklish sensation I had  become so  aware of during  the course  of  my
confrontations with  those women was the vehicle to arriving at that  double
perception;  and the other  was that the  sound at the  base of my  neck let
loose something in me that was capable of coming out of the top of my head.
     After a minute or two  I  definitely felt that  I was coming  down from
near the ceiling until I was standing on the floor.  It took a  while for my
eyes to adjust to seeing at my normal eye level.
     As I looked at  the four women  I felt naked and vulnerable. I then had
an instant of disassociation, or lack of perceptual continuity. It was as if
I had shut my  eyes, and  some force suddenly had made me twirl  a couple of
times. When I opened my eyes the girls were staring at me  with their mouths
open. But somehow I was myself again.

     La Gorda

     The  first thing I noticed  about la Gorda was her  eyes: very dark and
calm.  She seemed  to be examining me from head to toe.  Her eyes scanned my
body  the  same way don Juan's used  to.  In  fact,  her eyes  had the  same
calmness and force. I knew why she was the best. The thought that came to my
mind was that don Juan must have left her his eyes.
     She  was  slightly  taller than the other three  girls. She had a lean,
dark body and a  superb back.  I  noticed  the graceful line  of  her  broad
shoulders when she half turned her upper body to face the three girls.
     She gave them an unintelligible command and the three  of them sat down
on a bench, right behind her. She was actually shielding them from  me  with
her body.
     She  turned  to  face  me  again. Her  expression  was  one  of  utmost
seriousness, but  without a trace of gloom  or heaviness. She did not  smile
and yet she  was friendly. She had very pleasant features:  a  nicely shaped
face, neither round nor angular; a small mouth with thin lips; a broad nose;
high cheekbones; and long, jet-black hair.
     I could  not help noticing her beautiful, muscular hands which she kept
clasped in front of her, over her umbilical region. The  backs  of her hands
were turned to me. I could see her muscles being contracted  rhythmically as
she clasped her palms.
     She was wearing a long, faded orange cotton dress with long sleeves and
a brown shawl.  There was something terribly calming and  final about her. I
felt the presence of don Juan. My body relaxed.
     "Sit down, sit down," she said to me in a coaxing tone.
     I walked back to the table. She pointed out a place for me to  sit, but
I remained standing.
     She smiled for the  first time and  her eyes became softer and shinier.
She was not as pretty as Josefina, and yet she was the most beautiful of all
of them.
     We  were quiet for a moment.  In  terms of an explanation she said that
they  had  done  their  best in  the years  since the  Nagual left, and that
because of  their dedication they had become accustomed  to the task that he
had left for them to perform.
     I did not quite understand what she was talking about, but as she spoke
I felt more  than ever  the  presence of  don Juan.  It was not that she was
copying his manners,  or  the  inflection  of his  voice. She had  an  inner
control  that  made her act the way don Juan  did. Their similarity was from
the inside out.
     I told  her that  I had  come  because I needed  Pablito's and Nestor's
help. I said that I was rather slow or even stupid in understanding the ways
of  sorcerers, but that  I was sincere, and  yet all of them  had treated me
with malice and deceitfulness.
     She began  to apologize but I  did not  let her finish.  I picked up my
things and went out the front door. She ran after me. She was not preventing
me  from leaving but rather she  was talking very fast, as if she  needed to
say all she could before I drove away.
     She said that I had to hear her  out, and that she  was willing to ride
with me until  she had told  me  everything the Nagual  had entrusted her to
tell me.
     "I'm going to Mexico City," I said.
     "I'll ride with  you to Los Angeles if necessary," she said, and I knew
that she meant it.
     "All right," I said just to test her, "get in the car."
     She vacillated for  an instant,  then she stood silently and faced  her
house. She put her clasped  hands just below her navel. She turned and faced
the valley and did the same movement with her hands.
     I  knew what she was doing. She was saying good-bye to her house and to
those awesome round hills that surrounded it.
     Don  Juan had  taught  me that  good-bye gesture  years  before. He had
stressed that it was an extremely powerful gesture, and that  a  warrior had
to use it sparingly. I had had very few occasions to perform it myself.
     The  good-bye movement  la Gorda was executing was a variant of the one
don Juan  had  taught  me.  He  had said  that the hands were clasped  as in
prayer, either  gently or with great speed, even producing a clapping sound.
Done  either  way, the purpose of clasping the  hands  was  to  imprison the
feeling  that the warrior did not wish to leave behind. As soon as the hands
had closed in and captured that feeling, they were taken with great force to
the middle of the chest, at the level of the heart. There the feeling became
a  dagger and the warrior stabbed himself with it, as if  holding the dagger
with both hands.
     Don Juan had told me that a warrior  said good-bye in that fashion only
when he had reason to feel he might not come back.
     La Gorda's good-bye enthralled me.
     "Are you saying good-bye?" I asked out of curiosity.
     "Yes," she said dryly.
     "Don't you put your hands to your chest?" I asked.
     "Men do that. Women have wombs. They store their feelings there."
     "Aren't you suppose to  say  good-bye  like that only when  you're  not
coming back?" I asked.
     "Chances are I may not come back," she replied. "I'm going with you."
     I had an attack of unwarranted sadness, unwarranted in the sense that I
did not know that woman at all. I  had only doubts and suspicions about her.
But  as I peered into her clear eyes I had  a sense of ultimate kinship with
her.  I  mellowed.  My anger  had disappeared  and  given way to  a  strange
sadness. I looked around, and I knew that those  mysterious, enormous, round
hills were ripping me apart.
     "Those hills over there are alive," she said, reading my thoughts.
     I turned  to  her and  told her that both  the place and  the women had
affected me at a very deep level, a level I could not ordinarily conceive. I
did not know which was more devastating, the place or the women. The women's
onslaughts had been direct and terrifying, but the effect of those hills was
a  constant, nagging apprehension, a desire to flee from them.  When I  told
that to la Gorda she said that I was correct in assessing the effect of that
place, that  the Nagual had left them there because of that effect, and that
I  should not blame anyone for what had happened, because the Nagual himself
had given those women orders to try to do away with me.
     "Did he give orders like that to you too?" I asked.
     "No, not to  me.  I'm different  than  they  are," she said. "They  are
sisters.  They are the same, exactly the same. Just like Pablito, Nestor and
Benigno are the same. Only you and I can be exactly the same. We are not now
because you're  still  incomplete. But someday we  will be the same, exactly
the same."
     "I've been told that you're the only one who knows where the Nagual and
Genaro are now," I said.
     She peered at me for a moment and shook her head affirmatively.
     "That's right," she said. "I know where they are. The Nagual told me to
take you there if I can."
     I  told her to stop beating around the bush  and to reveal  their exact
whereabouts to me  immediately. My demand  seemed to plunge her into  chaos.
She apologized and reassured me that later on, when we  were on our way, she
would disclose  everything to me. She begged me  not  to ask her  about them
anymore  because she had  strict orders not to  mention  anything until  the
right moment.
     Lidia and Josefina  came to the door and stared at me.  I hurriedly got
in  the  car.  La Gorda got in  after me, and  as she did  I  could not help
observing that  she had entered the car as she would  have entered a tunnel.
She sort  of crawled  in. Don Juan used  to do that.  I  jokingly said once,
after I had  seen him do it  scores of times, that it was more functional to
get in the way I did. I  thought  that perhaps his lack  of familiarity with
automobiles was responsible for his strange  way of  entering.  He explained
then that  the car  was  a cave  and  that  caves had to  be entered in that
fashion if we were going to use them. There was an inherent spirit to caves,
whether  they  were  natural  or man-made,  and that  that spirit  had to be
approached with respect. Crawling was the only way of showing that respect.
     I  was  wondering  whether or  not  to ask la Gorda  if  don  Juan  had
instructed her  about such details,  but she spoke first.  She said that the
Nagual had given her specific instructions about what to  do in case I would
survive the attacks  of dona Soledad and the three girls.  Then she casually
added that before I headed for Mexico City we  had to go to a specific place
in the mountains where don Juan and  I used to  go, and that there she would
reveal all the information the Nagual had never disclosed to me.
     I had a moment of indecision, and then something in me which was not my
reason  made  me  head  for the mountains. We drove in  complete  silence. I
attempted at various opportune moments to start  up a conversation, but  she
turned me  down  every time with  a  strong shake of her head.  Finally  she
seemed to  have gotten tired of my trying and said  forcefully that what she
had  to  say  required a place of  power and until we were in one we had  to
abstain from draining ourselves with useless talk.
     After  a long  drive and  an exhausting hike  away from  the  road,  we
finally  reached our destination. It was  late afternoon. We  were in a deep
canyon.  The bottom of it was already dark, while the  sun was still shining
on the  top  of the mountains above it. We walked  until we came to  a small
cave  a few feet up the  north  side  of the canyon, which ran  from east to
west. I used to spend a great deal of time there with don Juan.
     Before  we  entered  the cave, la  Gorda carefully swept the floor with
branches, the  way don Juan  used  to,  in  order  to  clear  the ticks  and
parasites from  the rocks. Then she cut a large heap of small branches  with
soft leaves  from the surrounding bushes  and placed them on  the rock floor
like a mat.
     She motioned me to enter. I  had always  let don Juan enter first as  a
sign  of respect. I wanted to do  the same with her,  but  she declined. She
said I  was the Nagual. I crawled into the cave the same way she had crawled
into my car. I laughed at my inconsistency.  I had never been  able to treat
my car as a cave.
     She coaxed me to relax and make myself comfortable.
     "The reason the Nagual could  not  reveal all  his  designs to you  was
because you're incomplete," la  Gorda said all of a sudden. "You still  are,
but now after your bouts with Soledad and the sisters, you are stronger than
     "What's  the meaning of  being  incomplete? Everyone has  told  me that
you're the only one who can explain that," I said.
     "It's  a very simple matter," she  said.  "A complete person is one who
has never had children."
     She paused as if she  were  allowing me time to write down what she had
said. I looked up from my  notes. She was staring at me, judging  the effect
of her words.
     "I know  that  the  Nagual told  you exactly  what I've just said," she
continued. "You didn't pay  any attention  to  him and  you probably haven't
paid any attention to me, either."
     I read my notes out loud and repeated what she had said. She giggled.
     "The  Nagual  said  that  an  incomplete  person  is  one  who has  had
children," she said as if dictating to me.
     She scrutinized  me, apparently waiting for a question or a  comment. I
had none.
     "Now I've told you everything about being complete and incomplete," she
said.  "And I've told you just like  the  Nagual told  me.  It  didn't  mean
anything to me at that time, and it doesn't mean anything to you now."
     I had to laugh at the way she patterned herself after don Juan.
     "An incomplete person has a  hole  in  the  stomach,"  she went on.  "A
sorcerer can see it as plainly as  you  can see my head. When the hole is on
the left side  of one's stomach, the  child who created that  hole is of the
same sex.  If it is on the right side, the child is of the opposite sex. The
hole on the left side is black, the one on the right is dark brown."
     "Can you see that hole in anyone who has had children?"
     "Sure.  There  are  two ways of  seeing it. A sorcerer  may see  it  in
dreaming or by  looking  directly at a person. A  sorcerer who sees  has  no
problems in viewing the luminous being to find out if there is a hole in the
luminosity of the body. But even if the sorcerer doesn't know how to see, he
can  look  and  actually distinguish the  darkness  of the hole through  the
     She stopped talking. I urged her to go on.
     "The Nagual told me that you write and then you don't remember what you
wrote," she said with a tone of accusation.
     I became entangled in words trying  to defend myself. Nonetheless, what
she had said was the truth. Don Juan's words  always had had a double effect
on me: once when  I heard  for the first time whatever he had said, and then
when I read at home whatever I had written down and had forgotten about.
     Talking to la Gorda,  however, was  intrinsically different. Don Juan's
apprentices were not in any  way as engulfing as he was.  Their revelations,
although  extraordinary,  were  only  missing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. The
unusual character of those pieces was that  with them  the picture  did  not
become clearer but that it became more and more complex.
     "You  had  a  brown  hole  in the  right  side  of  your stomach,"  she
continued. "That means that a woman emptied you. You made a female child.
     "The Nagual said that I had a huge black hole myself,  because  I  made
two women. I never saw the hole, but I've seen other people with  holes like
     "You said that I had a hole; don't I have it anymore?"
     "No. It's been  patched. The Nagual helped you to patch it. Without his
help you would be more empty than you are now."
     "What kind of patch is it?"
     "A patch  in your luminosity. There is no  other way of  saying it. The
Nagual  said that a sorcerer like himself can  fill up the hole anytime. But
that that filling is only  a  patch without  luminosity. Anyone who sees  or
does  dreaming  can tell  that it  looks  like a  lead patch  on the  yellow
luminosity of the rest of the body.
     "The  Nagual patched you  and me and Soledad. But then he left it up to
us to put back the shine, the luminosity."
     "How did he patch us?"
     "He's  a sorcerer, he put things in our bodies. He  replaced us. We are
no longer the same. The patch is what he put there himself."
     "But how did he put those things there and what were they?"
     "What he put in our bodies was his  own luminosity and he used his hand
to do that. He simply reached into our bodies  and left his fibers there. He
did the same with all of his six children and also with Soledad. All of them
are the same. Except Soledad; she's something else."
     La Gorda seemed unwilling to go on. She vacillated and almost began  to
     "What is dona Soledad?" I insisted.
     "It's very hard to tell," she said after  considerable coaxing. "She is
the  same  as  you  and me,  and  yet  she's  different. She  has  the  same
luminosity,  but  she's  not  together  with us.  She  goes in the  opposite
direction. Right now she's more like you. Both of you have patches that look
like lead. Mine is gone and I'm again a complete, luminous  egg. That is the
reason I said that  you and I  will be  exactly  the same  someday  when you
become complete  again.  Right  now  what  makes  us almost  the same is the
Nagual's luminosity  and the  fact that  both of us  are going  in  the same
direction and that we both were empty."
     "What does a complete person look like to a sorcerer?" I asked.
     "Like a luminous egg made out of fibers," she said. "All the fibers are
complete;  they look like strings, taut strings. It looks  as if the strings
have been tightened like a drum is tightened.
     "On an  empty person, on the  other hand, the fibers are crumpled up at
the edges of  the hole. When they have  had many children, the  fibers don't
look like fibers anymore. Those people  look like two chunks  of luminosity,
separated by blackness. It is an  awesome sight. The Nagual made me see them
one day when we were in a park in the city."
     "Why do you think the Nagual never told me about all this?"
     "He  told you everything, but you  never understood  him correctly.  As
soon as he  realized that you were not understanding what he was  saying, he
was  compelled  to  change  the subject.  Your  emptiness prevented you from
understanding. The Nagual  said that it was perfectly natural for you not to
understand.  Once  a person becomes  incomplete he's actually empty  like  a
gourd that  has been hollowed out. It didn't matter to you how many times he
told you that you were empty; it  didn't matter that he even explained it to
you. You never knew what he meant, or worse yet, you didn't want to know."
     La Gorda was treading on dangerous ground. I tried to head her off with
another question, but she rebuffed me.
     "You love a little boy and you don't want to understand what the Nagual
meant,"  she said accusingly. "The Nagual told me  that you have a  daughter
you've never seen, and  that you love that  little boy. One took your  edge,
the other pinned you down. You have welded them together."
     I had to stop writing. I crawled out of  the cave and stood up. I began
to walk down the steep incline to the  floor of the gully. La Gorda followed
me. She asked me if I was upset by her directness. I did not want to lie.
     "What do you think?" I asked.
     "You're fuming!" she exclaimed  and giggled with an abandon  that I had
witnessed only in don Juan and don Genaro.
     She seemed about to lose her balance and grabbed  my left arm. In order
to help her get down  to  the floor  of the  gully,  I  lifted her up by her
waist. I thought that she could not have weighed more than a hundred pounds.
She puckered  her lips  the way don Genaro used to  and said that her weight
was a hundred and  fifteen. We both laughed  at once.  It was  a  moment  of
direct, instant communication.
     "Why does it bother you so much to talk about these things?" she asked.
     I told her that once I had had a little boy whom I had loved immensely.
I felt the imperative to tell her about him. Some extravagant need beyond my
comprehension made  me open up with that  woman  who was a total stranger to
     As I began to talk about that little boy, a wave of nostalgia enveloped
me;  perhaps it was the  place  or the  situation or  the time  of the  day.
Somehow I  had merged the memory  of that little boy with the memory of  don
Juan, and for the first time in all the time I had not seen him I missed don
Juan. Lidia had  said that they never missed  him because he was always with
them; he was their bodies and their spirits. I had  known instantly what she
meant.  I felt the  same way  myself.  In  that  gully, however, an  unknown
feeling had overtaken me. I told la Gorda that I  had  never missed don Juan
until that moment. She did not answer. She looked away.
     Possibly my feeling of longing for those two people had to  do with the
fact that both of  them had produced catharses  in my life. And both of them
were gone. I  had not realized  until that moment  how final that separation
was. I said to  la Gorda that that little boy had been,  more than  anything
else, my friend, and that one day he was whisked away by  forces I could not
control. That was  perhaps one  of the greatest blows I had ever received. I
even went to see don Juan to ask his assistance. It was the  only time I had
ever  asked  him for help. He  listened  to my plea and then  he broke  into
uproarious laughter. His reaction was  so  unexpected that I could  not even
get angry. I could only comment on what I thought was his insensitivity.
     "What do you want me to do?" he asked.
     I said that since he was a sorcerer perhaps he could  help me to regain
my little friend for my solace.
     "You're wrong. A warrior doesn't seek anything for his solace," he said
in a tone that did not admit reproach.
     Then he proceeded to smash my arguments. He  said  that a warrior could
not possibly leave anything to chance, that a warrior actually affected  the
outcome of events by the force of his awareness and his unbending intent. He
said that if  I  would  have had the unbending intent to keep and help  that
child,  I would have taken measures to assure his  stay with  me. But  as it
was, my  love was merely a word, a useless outburst of an empty man. He then
told me something about emptiness  and  completeness, but I did not want  to
hear  it.  All I  felt was a sense  of loss,  and the emptiness that he  had
mentioned,  I  was  sure, referred to the  feeling of  having  lost  someone
     "You loved  him,  you honored his spirit, you wished  him well, now you
must forget him," he said.
     But I had not been able to do so. There was something terribly alive in
my emotions even though time had mellowed them. At one point I thought I had
forgotten, but then  one night an  incident produced  the deepest  emotional
upheaval  in  me. I was walking to my  office  when a  young  Mexican  woman
approached  me. She  had been sitting  on  a bench,  waiting  for a bus. She
wanted to know if that particular  bus went to a children's hospital.  I did
not know. She explained that her little boy had had a high temperature for a
long time and she was worried  because she did  not have any money. I  moved
toward the bench and  saw a little  boy standing on the  seat with his  head
against the back of the bench. He was wearing a jacket and short pants and a
cap.  He could  not have been more than two years old. He must have seen me,
for he walked to the edge of the bench and put his head against my leg.
     "My little head hurts," he said to me in Spanish.
     His  voice  was  so  tiny  and  his  dark eyes so  sad that  a wave  of
irrepressible anguish welled up in me. I picked him up and drove him and his
mother to the nearest hospital. I left them there and gave the mother enough
money to pay the bill. But I did not want  to stay or to know any more about
him. I  wanted to believe that I had helped him, and that by doing  so I had
paid back to the spirit of man.
     I had learned  the magical  act  of "paying back to  the spirit of man"
from don Juan.  I had asked him once, overwhelmed by  the realization that I
could never pay him back for all he had  done  for me, if there was anything
in  the world I could do to even the score.  We  were leaving  a bank, after
exchanging some Mexican currency.
     "I don't need you to pay  me back,"  he said, "but if you still want to
pay back, make your deposit to the spirit of man. That's always a very small
account, and whatever one puts in it is more than enough."
     By helping  that sick child I had merely paid back to the spirit of man
for any help that my little boy may receive from strangers along his path.
     I told la Gorda that my love for him would remain alive for the rest of
my life  even though I  would never see him again. I wanted to tell her that
the memory I had  of him was buried so deep that nothing could touch it, but
I desisted. I felt it would have been superfluous to talk about it. Besides,
it was getting dark and I wanted to get out of that gully.
     "We better go,"  I said. "I'll  take you home. Maybe some other time we
can talk about these things again."
     She laughed the way don Juan used to laugh at me. I had apparently said
something utterly funny.
     "Why do you laugh, Gorda?" I asked.
     "Because  you  know yourself that we can't leave this  place just  like
that," she said. "You have an appointment with power here. And so do 1."
     She walked back to the cave and crawled in.
     "Come on in," she yelled from inside. "There is no way to leave."
     I reacted  most incongruously. I crawled in and sat next to  her again.
It was evident that she too had tricked me. I had not come there to have any
confrontations. I  should  have  been furious. I was  indifferent instead. I
could not lie to myself that I had only stopped  there on my way  to  Mexico
City. I had gone there compelled by something beyond my comprehension.
     She handed me my notebook and motioned me to write. She said  that if I
wrote I would not only relax myself but I would also relax her.
     "What is this appointment with power?" I asked.
     "The  Nagual told  me that you and  I  have  an appointment  here  with
something out there. You first had an appointment with Soledad and then  one
with the little sisters.  They were supposed to destroy you. The Nagual said
that if  you  survived their assaults I  had to bring  you  here  so that we
together could keep the third appointment."
     "What kind of appointment is it?"
     "I really don't know. Like everything else, it depends on us. Right now
there are some things out there that  have been waiting  for you. I say that
they have  been waiting for you because I come here by  myself  all the time
and nothing  ever  happens. But tonight is different. You are here and those
things will come."
     "Why is the Nagual trying to destroy me?" I asked.
     "He's  not trying to destroy anybody!" la Gorda exclaimed  in  protest.
"You are his child. Now he wants you to be himself. More himself than any of
us. But to be  a true Nagual  you have  to claim  your  power.  Otherwise he
wouldn't have been so careful in setting  up Soledad and the  little sisters
to  stalk  you.  He taught Soledad how  to change her  shape  and rejuvenate
herself. He made her construct a devilish floor in her room. A floor  no one
can oppose.  You see, Soledad is empty,  so the  Nagual set  her  up  to  do
something gigantic. He gave her a task, a most difficult and dangerous task,
but  the only one which was suited for her, and that  was to finish you off.
He  told her that nothing could be more  difficult  than for one sorcerer to
kill another.  It's easier for an average man to kill  a  sorcerer  or for a
sorcerer to kill an average man,  but  two sorcerers don't fit  well at all.
The Nagual told Soledad that her best bet was to surprise you and scare you.
And that's what she did. The Nagual set her up  to  be a desirable  woman so
she could lure you into her room, and there her  floor  would have bewitched
you, because as I've said, no  one, but  no one, can stand up to that floor.
That  floor was the  Nagual's masterpiece for Soledad. But you did something
to her floor and  Soledad had to change her tactics in  accordance  with the
Nagual's  instructions. He told  her that if  her floor failed and she could
not  frighten  and  surprise you,  she  had to talk  to  you  and  tell  you
everything  you wanted to know. The Nagual  trained her to talk very well as
her last resource. But Soledad could not overpower you even with that."
     "Why was it so important to overpower me? "
     She  paused  and  peered  at  me. She  cleared her throat  and  sat  up
straight.  She looked up at the  low roof of the  cave  and exhaled  noisily
through her nose.
     "Soledad is a  woman like myself," she said.  "I'll  tell you something
about my own life and maybe you'll understand her.
     "I had  a man once. He got me  pregnant when I was very young and I had
two daughters with him. One after the other. My life was hell. That man  was
a drunkard and beat me day and night. And I hated him and he hated me. And I
got fat like a pig. One day another man came along and told me that he liked
me  and wanted  me  to go with him to work in the city as a paid servant. He
knew I  was a  hardworking woman and only  wanted to exploit me. But my life
was so miserable that I fell for it and went with him. He was worse than the
first man, mean and fearsome. He  couldn't stand me after a week  or so. And
he used to  give me the  worst beatings you can imagine.  I  thought  he was
going to kill me and  he wasn't even  drunk, and all because I hadn't  found
work. Then he  sent me to beg on the streets with a  sick baby. He would pay
the child's mother something from the money I got. And then he would beat me
because  I  hadn't made  enough. The child got sicker  and sicker and I knew
that if it died while I was begging,  the man would kill me. So one day when
I knew that he was not there I went to the  child's mother and gave  her her
baby and some of the money I had made that day. That was a lucky day for me;
a kind foreign lady had given me fifty pesos to buy medicine for the baby.
     "I had been with that horrible  man for  three  months and I thought it
had been  twenty years.  I  used  the money  to go  back to my  home. I  was
pregnant again. The man had wanted me to  have a child of my own, so that he
would not have  to pay for one. When I got to my hometown I tried to go back
to see my  children, but they had been  taken away by their father's family.
All the family got  together under the pretense that they wanted  to talk to
me, but instead they took me to a deserted place and beat me with sticks and
rocks and left me for dead."
     La Gorda showed me the many scars on her scalp.
     "To  this day I don't know how I made it back to town. I even lost  the
child I had in my womb. I went to an aunt I still had; my parents were dead.
She gave me a place to rest and she tended to me. She fed me, the poor soul,
for two months before I could get up."
     "Then one day my aunt told me that that man was in town looking for me.
He had  talked to  the  police and had said  that he  had given  me money in
advance to  work and  that I  had run away,  stealing the  money after I had
killed a woman's baby. I  knew that the end had  come for me.  But  my  luck
turned right again and I caught a ride in  the truck  of an American.  I saw
the truck coming on the road and I lifted my hand in desperation and the man
stopped and let me get on. He drove me all  the  way to this part of Mexico.
He dropped me in the city. I didn't know a soul. I roamed all over the place
for days like a crazy dog,  eating garbage from the street. That was when my
luck turned for the last time.
     "I  met Pablito, with whom I have a debt that I can't pay back. Pablito
took me to his carpentry shop and gave me a  corner there to put my bed.  He
did that because he felt sorry for me.  He found  me in the market after  he
stumbled and fell  on top  of me. I  was sitting there begging. A moth  or a
bee,  I don't know  which, flew  to  him and hit him  in the eye. He  turned
around  on his heels and stumbled  and fell right on top of me. I thought he
would be  so  mad that he would hit me, but he gave me some money instead. I
asked him if he could give me work. That was when he took me to his shop and
set me up with an iron and an ironing board to do laundry.
     "I did very well. Except that I  got fatter, because most of the people
I washed  for  fed me with  their leftovers. Sometimes I ate sixteen times a
day.  I  did nothing else but  eat. Kids in the street used  to taunt me and
sneak behind me  and step on my heels and then someone  would push  me and I
would  fall. Those kids made  me cry with their cruel jokes, especially when
they used to spoil my wash on purpose.
     "One day, very late in the afternoon, a  weird old man came over to see
Pablito.  I had never seen  that man before. I  had never known that Pablito
was in cahoots  with  such a scary, awesome man. I turned my back to him and
kept on working. I was alone there. Suddenly I felt the hands of that man on
my  neck. My heart stopped. I could not  scream,  I couldn't even breathe. I
fell down and that awful man held my head, maybe for an  hour. Then he left.
I was so frightened that I stayed where I had fallen until the next morning.
Pablito found  me there; he laughed and said that I should be very proud and
happy because  that old  man was  a  powerful  sorcerer  and  was one of his
teachers. I was  dumbfounded; I couldn't believe Pablito was  a sorcerer. He
said  that his  teacher had seen a  perfect circle of moths  flying  over my
head. He had also seen my death circling around me.  And that was why he had
acted like lightning and had changed  the direction of my eyes. Pablito also
said that the Nagual had laid his hands on me and had  reached  into my body
and that soon I would be different. I had no idea what he was talking about.
I had no idea what that crazy old man had done, either. But it didn't matter
to me.  I was like  a dog that everyone kicked around. Pablito had  been the
only person who had been kind to me. At first I had thought he wanted me for
his woman. But I was too ugly and fat  and smelly. He just wanted to be kind
to me.
     "The crazy old man  came back another night and grabbed me again by the
neck from behind.  He hurt me terribly. I cried and  screamed. I didn't know
what  he was doing. He never said a word to me. I was deathly afraid of him.
Then, later on he began to talk to me and told me what to do with my life. I
liked what he  said. He took me everywhere with him. But my emptiness was my
worst enemy. I couldn't accept his ways, so one day he got sick and tired of
pampering me  and sent  the wind after me.  I was  in  the back of Soledad's
house by myself that  day, and I felt the  wind getting  very strong. It was
blowing through the fence. It got into my eyes.  I wanted to  get inside the
house, but my  body was frightened and instead of walking through the door I
walked through the gate in the fence. The wind pushed me  and made me twirl.
I tried to  go back to the house, but  it  was useless. I couldn't break the
force of the wind. It pushed me over the hills  and off the road and I ended
up in a deep hole, a hole  like a tomb. The wind kept  me there for days and
days,  until  I  had   decided  to   change   and  accept  my  fate  without
recrimination. Then  the wind  stopped and the Nagual found  me and  took me
back  to the house. He told me  that my task was to give what I didn't have,
love  and affection, and that I  had  to take care of the sisters, Lidia and
Josefina, better than if they were myself. I understood then what the Nagual
had been saying to me for years. My life had been over  a long time  ago. He
had offered me a new life and that life had to be completely new. I couldn't
bring to that new  life my ugly  old ways. That first night he found me, the
moths had pointed me out to  him;  I  had no  business  rebelling against my
     I began my  change  by taking care of  Lidia and Josefina better than I
took care  of myself. I did everything the Nagual told me,  and one night in
this very gully  in this very cave  I  found my  completeness. I  had fallen
asleep right here where I am now and then a noise  woke  me up. I looked  up
and saw myself as I had once been, thin, young, fresh. It was my spirit that
was coming  back to  me.  At first it didn't want to come  closer  because I
still looked pretty awful. But then it couldn't help  itself and came to me.
I knew right then, and all  at once, what the Nagual had struggled for years
to tell me. He had said that when one has a child that  child takes the edge
of  our spirit. For a woman to have a girl means  the  end of that edge.  To
have had two  as I did meant the end of  me. The best of my strength  and my
illusions went to  those girls. They stole my edge, the  Nagual said, in the
same way I had stolen it from  my parents. That's our fate. A boy steals the
biggest part of his edge from his father, a girl from her mother. The Nagual
said  that  people who have  had  children  could  tell, if  they aren't  as
stubborn as you,  that something is missing  in  them.  Some craziness, some
nervousness, some power that they had before  is gone. They used to have it,
but where is it now? The Nagual said that it is  in the little child running
around  the house,  full  of  energy, full  of  illusions.  In other  words,
complete. He said that  if  we  watch children  we can  tell  that  they are
daring, they move in leaps. If we watch their parents we  can see  that they
are cautious  and  timid. They don't  leap anymore.  The Nagual  told  me we
explain  that  by  saying   that  the   parents   are   grown-ups  and  have
responsibilities. But that's not true. The  truth of the matter is that they
have lost their edge."
     I asked la Gorda what the Nagual would have said if I had told him that
I knew parents with much more spirit and edge than their children.
     She laughed, covering her face in a gesture of sham embarrassment.
     "You can ask me," she said giggling. "You want to hear what I think?"
     "Of course I want to hear it."
     "Those people don't have more spirit, they merely had a lot of vigor to
begin  with and have trained  their  children to be obedient and meek.  They
have frightened their children all their lives, that's all."
     I described to her the case of a man  I knew, a father of  four, who at
the age of fifty-three changed his life  completely.  That  entailed leaving
his  wife  and his  executive  job in a large  corporation  after  more than
twenty-five years of building  a career and a family. He chucked it all very
daringly and went to live on an island in the Pacific.
     "You  mean he went there all by himself?" la Gorda asked with a tone of
     She had destroyed my argument.  I had to  admit  that the man had  gone
there with his twenty-three-year-old bride.
     "Who no doubt is complete," la Gorda added.
     I had to agree with her again.
     "An empty man  uses the completeness of a woman all the time," she went
on. "A complete woman is dangerous in her completeness, more so than  a man.
She is unreliable, moody, nervous, but also capable of great  changes. Women
like that can  pick themselves up and go anywhere. They'll do nothing there,
but that's because they  had nothing going  to begin with. Empty  people, on
the other hand, can't jump like that anymore, but they're more reliable. The
Nagual said that  empty people are like worms that look around before moving
a bit and then they  back  up and  then  they move a  little bit more again.
Complete  people  always jump, somersault  and  almost always land  on their
heads, but it doesn't matter to them.
     "The  Nagual said that  to  enter  into the  other world one has  to be
complete. To  be  a sorcerer one has  to have all  of  one's  luminosity: no
holes, no patches and all the edge of the spirit. So a sorcerer who is empty
has  to regain completeness. Man or  woman, they must be  complete  to enter
into that world out there, that eternity where the Nagual and Genaro are now
waiting for us."
     She  stopped talking  and stared  at  me for a  long moment.  There was
barely enough light to write.
     "But how did you regain your completeness?" I asked.
     She jumped at the sound of my voice. I repeated my question. She stared
up at the roof of the cave before answering me.
     "I had to refuse those two girls,"  she said. "The Nagual once told you
how to do that but you didn't want to hear it. His point was that one has to
steal that edge back. He said that we got it the hard way by stealing it and
that we must recover it the same way, the hard way.
     "He guided  me to  do  that, and the  first thing he made  me do was to
refuse my love  for those two children. I had to do that in dreaming. Little
by little I  learned not  to  like  them, but the Nagual said  that that was
useless, one  has  to learn not to care and not not to like.  Whenever those
girls meant  nothing to me I had to see them again, lay my eyes and my hands
on them. I  had to pat them  gently on the head and let  my left side snatch
the edge out of them."
     "What happened to them?"
     "Nothing. They never felt a  thing. They went home and are now like two
grown-up  persons. Empty  like most people  around them. They don't like the
company of children because they have no use for them. I would say that they
are better off. I took the craziness out of them. They didn't need it, while
I did. I didn't know what I was doing when I gave  it to them. Besides, they
still retain the edge they stole from their father. The Nagual was right: no
one noticed the loss, but I did notice my gain. As I looked out of this cave
I saw all my illusions lined up like a row of soldiers. The world was bright
and new. The heaviness of my body and my  spirit  had been lifted off and  I
was truly a new being."
     "Do you know how you took your edge from your children?"
     "They are not my children! I have never had any. Look at me."
     She crawled out of the cave,  lifted  her skirt and showed me her naked
body. The first thing I noticed was how slender and muscular she was.
     She urged me to  come closer and examine her. Her body was so lean  and
firm that I  had to conclude she could  not  possibly have had children. She
put her right  leg on a  high rock and showed me her  vagina.  Her  drive to
prove  her  change  was  so  intense  that  I had  to  laugh  to  bridge  my
nervousness. I said that I was not a doctor and therefore I could not  tell,
but that I was sure she must be right.
     "Of course  I'm  right," she said  as she crawled back into  the  cave.
"Nothing has ever come out of this womb."
     After  a moment's pause she answered my  question, which I  had already
forgotten under the onslaught of her display.
     "My left side took my edge back," she  said. "All I  did was to go  and
visit the girls. I went there four or five times to allow them time  to feel
at ease with me. They were big girls and were going  to school.  I thought I
would  have to  fight not to like them, but the Nagual said  that  it didn't
matter,  that I should like them if I  wanted  to. So  I liked them. But  my
liking them was just like liking a stranger. My mind was made up, my purpose
was unbending. I want to enter into  the other world  while I'm still alive,
as the Nagual told me. In order to do that I need all the edge of my spirit.
I need my completeness. Nothing can turn me away from that world! Nothing!"
     She stared at me defiantly.
     "You have to refuse both,  the woman who emptied you and the little boy
who has your love, if you are  seeking your completeness. The  woman you can
easily  refuse. The little  boy  is something else. Do  you  think that your
useless affection  for that  child is so worthy as to keep you from entering
into that realm?"
     I  had no answer. It was  not that  I wanted to  think it over. It  was
rather that I had become utterly confused.
     "Soledad has to take her edge out of Pablito if she wants to enter into
the nagual," she went on. "How in the hell is she going to do that? Pablito,
no  matter how weak he  is, is  a  sorcerer. But the  Nagual gave  Soledad a
unique  chance. He  said  to  her that her only moment would  come when  you
walked into the house, and for that moment he not only made us move out into
the other house, but he made us help her widen the path to the house, so you
could drive  your car to the  very door.  He  told  her that if she lived an
impeccable life she would bag you, and suck away  all your luminosity, which
is  all the  power  the  Nagual  left inside your  body. That would  not  be
difficult for  her to do. Since  she's going in the opposite direction,  she
could  drain you to nothing.  Her great feat was to lead you to a moment  of
     "Once  she had  killed you, your luminosity  would  have  increased her
power and she  would then have  come after  us.  I was the only one who knew
that. Lidia,  Josefina and Rosa love  her. I don't. I knew  what her designs
were.  She  would have taken us one  by one, in her own time, since  she had
nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Nagual said to me that there was
no other way for her. He entrusted me with the  girls and told me what to do
in case Soledad killed you and came after our  luminosity. He figured that I
had a chance to save myself  and to  save perhaps one of the three. You see,
Soledad is not  a bad  woman at all; she's simply doing what  an  impeccable
warrior would do. The little sisters like her more than  they like their own
mothers. She's a real mother to them. That  was, the Nagual  said, the point
of  her advantage. I haven't been able to pull  the little sisters away from
her, no matter what I do. So if she  had  killed  you,  she would  then have
taken at least two of those three  trusting  souls. Then  without you in the
picture Pablito is nothing. Soledad would have squashed him like  a bug. And
then  with all her  completeness and power she would  have entered into that
world out  there. If I had been in her place I would've  tried to do exactly
as she did.
     "So  you see,  it was all or  nothing for her. When you  first  arrived
everyone  was gone.  It looked  as if it was the end for you and for some of
us. But then at the end it was nothing for her and a chance for the sisters.
The moment I  knew that you had succeeded I told the three girls that now it
was their  turn. The Nagual had said that they should wait until the morning
to catch you unawares. He said that the morning was not a good time for you.
He commanded me to stay away and not interfere with the  sisters and to come
in only if you would try to injure their luminosity."
     "Were they supposed to kill me too?"
     "Well,  yes.  You  are  the  male  side   of  their  luminosity.  Their
completeness is at times their  disadvantage. The Nagual ruled them with  an
iron  hand  and  balanced them, but now that he's gone they  have no  way of
leveling off. Your luminosity could do that for them."
     "How about you, Gorda? Are you supposed to finish me off too?"
     "I've told you already that I'm different. I am balanced. My emptiness,
which was my disadvantage, is  now my advantage. Once a sorcerer regains his
completeness he's  balanced, while a  sorcerer who was always  complete is a
bit off. Like Genaro was a  bit off. But  the Nagual was balanced because he
had been incomplete, like you and me, even more  so than you and  me. He had
three sons and one daughter.
     "The  little  sisters are like Genaro, a bit off. And most of the times
so taut that they have no measure."
     "How about me, Gorda? Do I also have to go after them?"
     "No. Only they could have profited by sucking away your luminosity. You
can't profit at all by  anyone's death. The Nagual left a special power with
you, a balance of some kind, which none of us has."
     "Can't they learn to have that balance?"
     "Sure they can.  But  that has nothing to  do with the  task the little
sisters had  to perform. Their task was to steal your power. For  that, they
became so united that they are now one single being. They trained themselves
to  sip you up like  a glass of soda. The Nagual set them up to be deceivers
of  the highest  order,  especially  Josefina.  She put  on a show that  was
peerless. Compared to their art, Soledad's attempt was child's play. She's a
crude woman.  The  little sisters  are true sorceresses. Two  of them gained
your confidence, while the third shocked you and rendered you helpless. They
played their cards to perfection. You fell for it  all and nearly succumbed.
The only flaw was  that  you injured and  cured Rosa's  luminosity the night
before and that made her jumpy. Had it not been  for her nervousness and her
biting your side  so  hard, chances  are you wouldn't  be  here  now.  I saw
everything from  the door. I came in at the precise moment you were about to
annihilate them."
     "But what could I do to annihilate them?"
     "How could I know that? I'm not you."
     "I mean what did you see me doing?"
     "I saw your double coming out of you." "What did it look like?"
     "It looked like you, what else? But it  was very big and menacing. Your
double would have killed them. So I came in and interfered  with it. It took
the best of my power to calm you down. The sisters  were no help. They  were
lost. And you were furious and violent. You changed colors right in front of
us twice. One color was so violent that I feared you would kill me too."
     "What color was it, Gorda?"
     "White, what else? The double is white, yellowish white, like the sun."
     I stared at her. The smile was very new to me.
     "Yes," she continued, "we  are  pieces of the sun. That  is why  we are
luminous beings. But our eyes can't see  that luminosity  because it is very
faint.  Only the eyes of a sorcerer can see it, and  that  happens  after  a
lifetime struggle."
     Her revelation had taken me by total surprise. I tried to reorganize my
thoughts in order to ask the most appropriate question.
     "Did the Nagual ever tell you anything about the sun?" I asked.
     "Yes. We are all like the sun  but very,  very faint.  Our light is too
weak, but it is light anyway."
     "But, did  he say  that the  sun  was perhaps the nagual?"  I  insisted
     La Gorda did not  answer. She  made a series of involuntary noises with
her  lips.  She was  apparently thinking how to answer  my probe. I  waited,
ready to write it down. After a long pause she crawled out of the cave.
     "I'll show you my faint light," she said matter-of-factly.
     She  walked to the center of the narrow gully in front  of the cave and
squatted. From where I  was  I could not see what she was doing so I  had to
get out  of  the cave myself. I stood ten or twelve  feet away from her. She
put her hands under her skirt, while  she was still squatting. Suddenly, she
stood up. Her hands  were loosely clasped  into fists; she raised  them over
her head and snapped her fingers open. I heard a quick, bursting sound and I
saw sparks flying from  her  fingers. She again clasped her  hands  and then
snapped them open and another volley of much larger sparks flew out of them.
She squatted once more and reached under her skirt. She seemed to be pulling
something from  her pubis. She repeated the snapping movement of her fingers
as she  threw her hands over  her  head, and I saw a spray of long, luminous
fibers flying away from her fingers. I had to  tilt my head  up to  see them
against the already dark sky. They appeared to be long, fine  filaments of a
reddish light. After a while they faded and disappeared.
     She squatted  once  again, and when she  let  her  fingers open a  most
astonishing display of  lights emanated from them.  The sky was filled  with
thick rays of light. It was a spellbinding sight. I became  engrossed in it;
my eyes were fixed. I was not paying attention to la Gorda. I was looking at
the lights. I  heard a sudden outcry that forced me to look  at her, just in
time to see her grab one of the lines she was creating and spin  to the very
top of the canyon. She hovered there for an instant like a dark, huge shadow
against  the sky, and then descended to the bottom of the gully in spurts or
small leaps or as if she were coming down a stairway on her belly.
     I  suddenly saw her standing over  me.  I had  not realized that  I had
fallen  on my  seat. I  stood  up. She was soaked  in  perspiration and  was
panting,  trying to catch her breath. She could not speak for  a long  time.
She began to jog in place. I did  not dare  to touch her. Finally she seemed
to have calmed down enough to crawl back into the cave. She rested for a few
     Her actions had been so fast that I had hardly had any time to evaluate
what had happened.  At the moment of her display  I  had felt an unbearable,
ticklish pain in the area just below my navel.  I had not physically exerted
myself and yet I was also panting.
     "I think it's time to go  to our appointment," she said, out of breath.
"My flying opened us both. You felt my flying in  your belly; that means you
are open and ready to meet the four forces."
     "What four forces are you talking about?"
     "The  Nagual's  and  Genaro's  allies.  You've  seen  them.   They  are
horrendous. Now  they  are  free from  the Nagual's and Genaro's gourds. You
heard one of them around  Soledad's house the other night.  They are waiting
for  you.  The  moment  the  darkness  of  the  day   sets  in,  they'll  be
uncontainable. One  of them even came after you in the daytime at  Soledad's
place. Those allies now belong to you and me. We will take two each. I don't
know  which ones. And  I don't know how, either. All the  Nagual told me was
that you and I would have to tackle them by ourselves."
     "Wait, wait! " I shouted.
     She did not let me speak. She gently put her hand over my mouth. I felt
a pang of terror in the pit of my stomach. I had been confronted in the past
with some inexplicable phenomena  which don  Juan and  don Genaro had called
their  allies.  There were four of them and they  were entities, as real  as
anything in the world. Their presence was so outlandish that it would create
an unparalleled state of fear in  me every  time I perceived them. The first
one I had encountered was don Juan's; it was a dark, rectangular mass, eight
or  nine feet high and four or five feet across. It moved with  the crushing
weight of a giant boulder and breathed so heavily that it reminded me of the
sound  of bellows. I  had always encountered it at night, in the darkness. I
had fancied it to be  like a door that walked by pivoting on one  corner and
then on the other.
     The  second  ally I  came across was don Genaro's. It was a long-faced,
bald-headed,  extraordinarily  tall,   glowing  man,  with  thick  lips  and
enormous,  droopy eyes. He always wore pants that  were  too  short for  his
long, skinny legs.
     I had seen those two allies a great many times while in  the company of
don  Juan and don  Genaro.  The sight  of  them  would  invariably  cause an
irreconcilable separation  between my  reason  and my perception. On the one
hand, I had no rational ground whatsoever to believe that what was happening
to  me  was  actually taking place,  and  on the other  hand,  there  was no
possible way of discarding the truthfulness of my perception.
     Since  they had  always  appeared  while don Juan and  don Genaro  were
around,  I  had filed them away as products of  the powerful  influence that
those two men had had on my suggestible personality.  In my understanding it
was either  that, or  that don Juan  and  don Genaro had in their possession
forces they called  their  allies, forces which were  capable of manifesting
themselves to me as those horrendous entities.
     A  feature of the  allies was that they never  allowed me to scrutinize
them thoroughly. I had tried various times to  focus my  undivided attention
on them, but every time I would get dizzy and disassociated.
     The other two  allies were more  elusive. I had seen them  only once, a
gigantic black  jaguar with yellow glowing  eyes, and a  ravenous,  enormous
coyote.  The  two  beasts were  ultimately aggressive  and overpowering. The
jaguar was don Genaro's and the coyote was don Juan's.
     La  Gorda crawled out of the cave. I followed  her. She led the way. We
walked out of the gully and reached a long, rocky plain. She stopped and let
me  step ahead. I told her  that if she was going  to let  me lead us I  was
going to  try to get to the car. She shook her head  affirmatively and clung
to  me. I could feel her clammy  skin. She seemed to be in  a state of great
agitation. It was perhaps a mile to where we had left the car, and to  reach
it we had to cross the deserted, rocky plain. Don Juan had shown me a hidden
trail  among some  big  boulders, almost on the  side of  the  mountain that
flanked the plain toward the  east. I  headed for  that  trail. Some unknown
urge was guiding  me;  otherwise I would have  taken the  same trail we  had
taken before when we had crossed the plain on the level ground.
     La Gorda seemed to  be anticipating something awesome. She grabbed onto
me. Her eyes were wild.
     "Are we going the right way?" I asked.
     She did not answer. She pulled her shawl and twisted it until it looked
like a long,  thick rope. She  encircled my waist  with it, crossed over the
ends and encircled herself. She tied a knot and  thus had  us bound together
in a band that looked like a figure eight.
     "What did you do this for?" I asked.
     She shook her head. Her teeth chattered but she could not  say a  word.
Her fright seemed to be extreme. She  pushed me to keep on  walking. I could
not help wondering why I was not scared out of my wits myself.
     As we reached the high trail  the  physical exertion began to take  its
toll on me. I was wheezing and had to breathe through my mouth.  I could see
the  shape of the  big boulders. There was no  moon but the sky was so clear
that there was  enough light to distinguish shapes.  I  could hear  la Gorda
also wheezing.
     I  tried  to  stop  to catch my breath but she pushed  me gently as she
shook her head negatively. I wanted to make a joke to break the tension when
I heard a strange thumping noise. My head moved involuntarily to my right to
allow my left ear  to scan the  area. I stopped breathing for an instant and
then  I clearly  heard that  someone  else besides la  Gorda and myself  was
breathing heavily. I checked again to make sure before I told her. There was
no doubt that that massive shape was there among the boulders. I put my hand
on la Gorda's  mouth  as we kept  on moving  and  signaled her  to  hold her
breath. I could tell that the massive  shape was very close. It seemed to be
sliding as quietly as it could. It was wheezing softly.
     La Gorda was startled. She squatted  and pulled me down with her by the
shawl tied around my waist. She put her hands  under her  skirt for a moment
and then stood up;  her hands were clasped and  when she snapped her fingers
open a volley of sparks flew from them.
     "Piss in your hands," la Gorda whispered through clenched teeth.
     "Hub?" I said, unable to comprehend what she wanted me to do.
     She  whispered her order  three  or four times with increasing urgency.
She  must have  realized I  did  not know what she wanted, for  she squatted
again and  showed  that she was urinating  in  her hands.  I  stared  at her
dumbfounded as she made her urine fly like reddish sparks.
     My mind  went blank. I did not know which was more absorbing, the sight
la  Gorda  was creating with her urine, or the  wheezing of  the approaching
entity.  I  could not decide  on  which  of  the  two  stimuli  to  focus my
attention; both were enthralling.
     "Quickly! Do it in your hands!" la Gorda grumbled between her teeth.
     I heard her, but my attention was dislocated.  With an  imploring voice
la  Gorda added that my sparks would make the approaching creature, whatever
it was,  retreat. She began  to whine and I began to feel desperate. I could
not only hear but I could sense with my whole body the approaching entity. I
tried  to  urinate  in  my  hands;   my  effort  was   useless.  I  was  too
self-conscious and nervous.  I became possessed by la  Gorda's agitation and
struggled desperately to urinate.  I  finally did  it.  I snapped my fingers
three or four times, but nothing flew out of them.
     "Do it again," la Gorda said. "It takes a while to make sparks."
     I told her that I had used up all the urine  I had. There was  the most
intense look of despair in her eyes.
     At that instant I saw  the massive, rectangular shape moving toward us.
Somehow it did not seem menacing to me, although la Gorda was about to faint
out of fear.
     Suddenly she untied her  shawl  and leaped onto a  small  rock that was
behind me and hugged me  from behind,  putting her chin on my head. She  had
practically  climbed on  my  shoulders.  The  instant that we  adopted  that
position the shape ceased moving. It kept  on wheezing,  perhaps twenty feet
away from us.
     I  felt a  giant tension that seemed  to  be focused in  my midsection.
After a while I knew  without the shadow of  a doubt that if we remained  in
that position we would have drained our energy and  fallen prey  to whatever
was stalking us.
     I told her that we were going to run for our lives. She shook her  head
negatively. She seemed to have regained  her  strength  and confidence.  She
said then that we  had to bury our heads in our arms and lie  down with  our
thighs against our stomachs. I  remembered  then that years  before don Juan
had  made  me do the same thing one night when  I  was caught in a  deserted
field in northern Mexico by something  equally unknown and yet  equally real
to my senses. At that  time don Juan  had said  that fleeing was useless and
the only thing one could do  was  to  remain on the  spot in the position la
Gorda had just prescribed.
     I was about to kneel down when I had the unexpected feeling that we had
made a terrible mistake in leaving the cave. We had to  go back to it at any
     I looped la Gorda's shawl over my shoulders and under my  arms. I asked
her to hold the tips above my head, climb to my shoulders and stand on them,
bracing herself by pulling up the ends of the  shawl and fastening it like a
harness. Years  before don  Juan  had told  me  that one should meet strange
events, such as  the  rectangular  shape in  front  of  us, with  unexpected
actions. He said that once he himself stumbled upon  a deer that "talked" to
him, and he stood on  his head for the duration of that event, as a means of
assuring his survival and to ease the strain of such an encounter.
     My idea  was to try  to walk around  the rectangular shape, back to the
cave, with la Gorda standing on my shoulders.
     She whispered that the cave  was out  of the question.  The Nagual  had
told her not to remain there at all. I argued, as I fixed the shawl for her,
that my body had  the certainty that in the cave we would be all  right. She
replied that that was true, and it would  work except  that  we had no means
whatever  to control those forces. We needed a special container, a gourd of
some sort, like those I had seen dangling from  don Juan's  and don Genaro's
     She took off her shoes and climbed on my shoulders  and stood there.  I
held  her by her calves. As she pulled on  the ends of the shawl I  felt the
tension of the band under  my armpits. I  waited until  she  had  gained her
balance. To walk in the darkness  carrying one hundred and fifteen pounds on
my shoulders was no  mean feat. I went very  slowly.  I counted twenty-three
paces  and I had  to  put  her  down. The  pain  on my shoulder  blades  was
unbearable. I  told her that  although she was  very slender, her weight was
crushing my collarbone.
     The interesting part, however,  was that  the rectangular  shape was no
longer in sight. Our strategy  had worked. La Gorda suggested that she carry
me on her shoulders for a stretch. I found the idea ludicrous; my weight was
more than what her small frame could stand.  We decided to walk  for a while
and see what happened.
     There was a  dead  silence around us. We walked  slowly,  bracing  each
other. We  had moved  no  more than  a few yards when I again began  to hear
strange breathing noises, a soft,  prolonged  hissing like the  hissing of a
feline.  I  hurriedly  helped her to get back  on  my shoulders  and  walked
another ten paces.
     I knew we  had to maintain the  unexpected as a  tactic if we wanted to
get out of that place. I was trying to  figure out another set of unexpected
actions we could use instead  of la Gorda standing on my shoulders, when she
took off her long dress. In one single movement she was naked. She scrambled
on the ground looking for  something. I heard a cracking sound and she stood
up holding  a  branch from a low bush. She manoeuvred  her  shawl around  my
shoulders and  neck and made a sort  of  riding  support where she could sit
with  her legs wrapped  around  my waist, like a child riding piggyback. She
then put the branch inside her dress and held it above  her  head. She began
to twirl the branch, giving the dress a strange bounce. To  that effect  she
added a whistle, imitating the peculiar cry of a night owl.
     After a hundred yards or so  I heard the same sounds coming from behind
us and  from  the sides. She changed to another birdcall,  a piercing  sound
similar to that  made by  a peacock. A few minutes later the  same birdcalls
were echoing all around us.
     I had witnessed a similar phenomenon of birdcalls being answered, years
before with don Juan. I had thought at the time that perhaps the sounds were
being produced by don Juan who was hiding nearby in the darkness, or even by
someone closely associated with him, such as don Genaro, who was aiding  him
in  creating an insurmountable fear in me, a  fear that made me run in total
darkness without even  stumbling. Don Juan had called that particular action
of running in darkness the gait of power.
     I asked la Gorda if she knew how to do the gait of power. She said yes.
I told her that we were going to try it, even though I was not at all sure I
could  do it. She said that it was  neither the time nor the  place for that
and pointed in front of us. My heart, which had been beating fast all along,
began  to pound wildly  inside my chest. Right ahead of us, perhaps ten feet
away, and smack in the middle of  the trail was one  of don Genaro's allies,
the strange glowing man, with the long  face and the  bald head. I  froze on
the spot. I heard la Gorda's shriek as though it  were coming from far away.
She frantically pounded  on my sides  with her fists.  Her  action  broke my
fixation on the man. She turned  my head to the left and then  to the right.
On my  left  side,  almost touching my leg, was the black mass  of  a  giant
feline   with  glaring   yellow  eyes.  To  my   right  I  saw  an  enormous
phosphorescent coyote. Behind us, almost touching la Gorda's  back,  was the
dark rectangular shape.
     The man turned his  back to us and began to  move  on the trail. I also
began to walk. La Gorda kept on shrieking and whining. The rectangular shape
was almost grabbing  her  back. I heard it  moving with crushing thumps. The
sound of  its  steps  reverberated on the hills around us. I could  feel its
cold breath on my neck. I knew that la Gorda was about to go mad. And so was
1. The feline and the coyote were almost rubbing my legs. I could hear their
hissing  and  growling increasing in volume.  I had,  at  that  moment,  the
irrational  urge to  make a certain sound don Juan had taught me. The allies
answered me. I kept  on frantically making  the sound and they  answered  me
back. The tension diminished by degrees,  and  before we  reached the road I
was part of a most extravagant scene. La Gorda was riding piggyback, happily
bouncing her dress over  her head  as if  nothing had ever happened, keeping
the  bounces in rhythm with the sound I was making, while four  creatures of
another world answered me back as  they moved at my pace, flanking us on all
four sides.
     We got to the road in  that fashion. But I did not want to leave. There
seemed to be something missing. I stayed motionless with la Gorda on my back
and  made  a very special tapping sound  don Juan had taught me. He had said
that it was the call of moths. In  order to produce it  one had  to use  the
inside edge of the left hand and the lips.
     As soon as I made  it everything seemed to come to rest peacefully. The
four entities answered  me, and as they  did I knew which were the ones that
would go with me.
     I  then  walked to the  car and  eased  la  Gorda off  my back onto the
driver's  seat and pushed her over  to her  side.  We drove away in absolute
silence. Something  had touched me somewhere and my thoughts had been turned
     La Gorda suggested that we go to don Genaro's place instead of  driving
to her house. She said that Benigno, Nestor ami Pablito lived there but they
were out of town. Her suggestion appealed to me.
     Once we were in the house la Gorda lit a lantern. The place looked just
as it  had the last time I had visited don  Genaro. We sat on  the  floor. I
pulled up a bench and put my writing pad on it. I was not tired and I wanted
to write but I could not do it. I could not write at all.
     "What did the Nagual tell you about the allies?" I asked.
     My  question  seemed to catch her off  guard. She  did  not know how to
     "I can't think," she finally said.
     It was as though she had never experienced that state before. She paced
back and forth in front of me. Tiny beads of perspiration had formed  on the
tip of her nose and on her upper lip.
     She  suddenly grabbed me by the hand and  practically pulled  me out of
the house. She led me to a nearby ravine and there she got sick.
     My stomach felt queasy.  She said that  the pull of the allies had been
too great and  that  I  should  force myself to throw  up. I stared at  her,
waiting  for a further explanation.  She took my head in her hands and stuck
her finger  down my throat, with the certainty  of  a  nurse dealing  with a
child,  and actually made me vomit. She explained  that human  beings  had a
very delicate glow around the stomach  and that  that glow  was always being
pulled by everything around. At times when the pull was too great, as in the
case of contact with the allies, or even in the case of contact  with strong
people,  the  glow  would  become  agitated,  change  color  or   even  fade
altogether.  In such  instances the  only thing one could  do was  simply to
throw up.
     I felt better but not quite myself yet. I had a  sense of tiredness, of
heaviness  around my eyes. We walked back to  the  house. As we reached  the
door la Gorda sniffed the air like a dog and said that she knew which allies
were  mine.  Her  statement,  which  ordinarily  would  have  had  no  other
significance than the one she alluded  to, or the one I myself read into it,
had the  special  quality of a cathartic device.  It  made  me  explode into
thoughts. All at once, my usual intellectual deliberations  came into being.
I felt myself leaping in the air, as if thoughts had an energy of their own.
     The first thought that came  to my mind was that the allies were actual
entities, as  I had  suspected without ever  daring  to  admit it,  even  to
myself.  I had seen  them and  felt them and communicated  with them. I  was
euphoric. I embraced la Gorda and began  to explain  to her the  crux  of my
intellectual  dilemma. I had seen  the allies without the aid of don Juan or
don Genaro and that act  made all the difference in the world  to me. I told
la Gorda that  once  when I had reported to don Juan that I had  seen one of
the allies  he had laughed and urged me not to take myself  so seriously and
to disregard what I had seen.
     I  had never wanted to  believe I was having hallucinations,  but I did
not  want  to accept that there were allies, either. My rational  background
was unbending. I  could not bridge  the gap.  This time, however, everything
was different, and the thought that there were actually beings on this earth
that were from another world without being aliens to the earth was more than
I could bear. I  said to la  Gorda, half in jest, that secretly I would have
given  anything to  be crazy. That would  have absolved some part of me from
the crushing responsibility of revamping my understanding of the world.  The
irony  of  it was  that I could not  have been  more  willing  to  revamp my
understanding of the world, on an intellectual level, that  is. But that was
not enough. That had never  been enough. And that had been my insurmountable
obstacle all  along,  my  deadly flaw. I had been  willing  to dally in  don
Juan's  world  in   a  semiconvinced  fashion;  therefore,  I  had   been  a
quasisorcerer. All my efforts had been  no  more than my inane eagerness  to
fence  with the intellect,  as if  I were in academia where one can  do that
very thing from 8: 00 a. m. to 5:  00  p. m., at which time, duly tired, one
goes home. Don Juan used to say as a joke that, after arranging the world in
a  most beautiful and enlightened  manner,  the  scholar  goes home at  five
o'clock in order to forget his beautiful arrangement.
     While la Gorda made us some food  I worked  feverishly  on my notes.  I
felt much more relaxed after eating. La  Gorda was  in  the best of spirits.
She clowned, the way don Genaro used to, imitating the gestures I made while
I wrote.
     "What do you know about the allies, Gorda?" I asked.
     "Only what  the Nagual told me," she  replied. "He said that the allies
were  forces that a sorcerer learns to  control. He had two inside his gourd
and so did Genaro."
     "How did they keep them inside their gourds?"
     "No one knows that. All the Nagual knew was  that a tiny, perfect gourd
with a neck must be found before one could harness the allies."
     "Where can one find that kind of gourd?"
     "Anywhere. The Nagual left word with me, in case we survived the attack
of  the allies,  that we should start looking  for the perfect gourd,  which
must be the size of the thumb of the  left  hand. That  was  the size of the
Nagual's gourd."
     "Have you seen his gourd?"
     "No. Never.  The Nagual said  that  a gourd of  that kind is not in the
world  of men.  It's like  a little bundle that one can distinguish  hanging
from their belts. But if you deliberately look at it you will see nothing.
     "The gourd, once it is found, must be groomed with great care.  Usually
sorcerers find  gourds like that on vines in the woods.  They  pick them and
dry them and then they hollow them out. And then they smooth them and polish
them.  Once the sorcerer has  his  gourd he  must offer it to the allies and
entice them to live there. If the allies consent,  the gourd disappears from
the  world of men and the  allies become  an aid to the sorcerer. The Nagual
and  Genaro could  make their allies do  anything that  needed  to  be done.
Things they themselves could not do. Such as, for instance, sending the wind
to chase me or sending that chicken to run inside Lidia's blouse."
     I heard  a peculiar,  prolonged hissing sound outside the  door. It was
the exact sound I  had heard in dona  Soledad's house  two days before. This
time I knew it was the jaguar. The sound did not scare  me. In fact, I would
have stepped out to see the jaguar had la Gorda not stopped me.
     "You're still incomplete," she said. "The  allies would feast on you if
you go out by yourself. Especially that daring one that's prowling out there
     "My body feels very safe," I protested.
     She  patted my back and held  me down  against the bench on which I was
     "You're not a complete sorcerer  yet," she said. "You have a huge patch
in  your middle  and the force of those allies would  yank it  out of place.
They are no joke."
     "What  are  you  supposed  to  do when  an ally  comes to  you  in this
     "I don't  bother with them one  way or another. The Nagual taught me to
be balanced and not to seek anything eagerly. Tonight, for instance,  I knew
which allies would go  to you, if you can ever get a gourd and groom it. You
may  be eager to get them. I'm not. Chances are I'll  never get them myself.
They are a pain in the neck."
     "Because they are forces and as such they can drain you to nothing. The
Nagual  said that one is better off  with  nothing except one's  purpose and
freedom. Someday when you're complete, perhaps we'll have  to choose whether
or not to keep them."
     I  told her that I personally  liked the jaguar  even though there  was
something  overbearing about  it. She  peered  at  me.  There  was a look of
surprise and bewilderment in her eyes.
     "I really like that one," I said.
     "Tell me what you saw," she said.
     I realized at that moment that I had automatically assumed that she had
seen the same things I had. I described in great detail the four allies as I
had  seen  them. She  listened more  than attentively;  she  appeared to  be
spellbound by my description.
     "The allies have no form," she said when I had finished. "They are like
a presence, like a wind, like  a glow. The first one we found  tonight was a
blackness that  wanted to get inside my body. That's why I screamed.  I felt
it reaching  up my legs.  The others  were  just colors. Their  glow  was so
strong, though, that it made the trail look as if it were daytime."
     Her statements  astounded me. I  had  finally accepted, after years  of
struggle and purely on the basis of our encounter with them that night, that
the allies  had a  consensual form, a substance  which  could  be  perceived
equally by everyone's senses.
     I  jokingly told la Gorda that  I had already  written in my notes that
they were creatures with form.
     "What am I going to do now?" I asked in a rhetorical sense.
     "It's very simple," she said. "Write that they are not."
     I thought that she was absolutely right.
     "Why do I see them as monsters?" I asked.
     "That's  no mystery," she  said. "You haven't lost your human form yet.
The same thing  happened to me. I  used to see  the allies as people; all of
them were Indian men with  horrible faces and mean looks. They  used to wait
for  me in deserted places. I thought  they were after  me  as  a woman. The
Nagual used  to  laugh his head off  at my fears. But still I was half  dead
with fright. One of them used to come and sit on my bed and shake it until I
would wake  up. The fright that that ally used to give me was something that
I don't want repeated, even now that I'm changed.  Tonight I  think I was as
afraid of the allies as I used to be."
     "You mean that you don't see them as human beings anymore?"
     "No.  Not anymore. The Nagual told you that an  ally is formless. He is
right. An ally is only a presence, a helper that is nothing and yet it is as
real as you and me."
     "Have the little sisters seen the allies?"
     "Everybody has seen them one time or another."
     "Are the allies just a force for them too?"
     "No. They are like you; they haven't lost their human form yet. None of
them has. For all of them, the little  sisters, the Genaros and Soledad, the
allies are horrendous things; with them  the allies are malevolent, dreadful
creatures of the night.  The sole  mention  of  the  allies sends Lidia  and
Josefina and Pablito into a  frenzy. Rosa and  Nestor are not that afraid of
them,  but they don't want to have anything to do with them, either. Benigno
has his own designs so he's not concerned with them.  They don't bother him,
or  me, for that matter.  But  the others  are  easy prey  for  the  allies,
especially now that the allies are out of the Nagual's and  Genaro's gourds.
They come all the time looking for you.
     "The Nagual  told me that as long as one clings to  the human form, one
can  only reflect  that form, and since the  allies  feed directly  onto our
life-force in the middle of the stomach, they usually make us sick, and then
we see them as heavy, ugly creatures."
     "Is  there something that we can do to  protect ourselves, or to change
the shape of those creatures?"
     "What all of you have to do is lose your human forms."
     "What do you mean?"
     My question did not seem to have any meaning  for her. She stared at me
blankly as if waiting for me to clarify what I had just said. She closed her
eyes for a moment.
     "You don't know about the human  mold and the human form, do  you?" she
     I stared at her.
     "I've just seen that you know nothing about them," she said and smiled.
     "You are absolutely right," I said.
     "The Nagual told me that the human form is a force," she said. "And the
human mold is.  .  . well.  . .  a  mold.  He  said that  everything  has  a
particular  mold. Plants have molds, animals  have molds, worms have  molds.
Are you sure the Nagual never showed you the human mold?"
     I told  her  that he had sketched  the  concept,  but in  a  very brief
manner, once when he had tried to explain something about a dream I had had.
In  the dream in  question I had  seen a  man who  seemed to  be  concealing
himself  in the darkness of a narrow gully. To find him there  scared  me. I
looked at him for a moment and then the man stepped forward and made himself
visible  to me. He was naked and his body glowed.  He seemed to be delicate,
almost frail. I liked his eyes.  They were friendly and  profound. I thought
that they were very kind. But then he stepped back into the  darkness of the
gully and his eyes  became like  two  mirrors,  like the eyes of a ferocious
     Don Juan said that I had encountered the  human mold  in "dreaming." He
explained that sorcerers have the avenue of their "dreaming" to lead them to
the mold, and that the mold of men was definitely an entity, an entity which
could be seen by  some of us at certain times when we are imbued with power,
and by all of us for sure at the  moment of our death. He described the mold
as  being the  source, the origin  of man, since, without the mold  to group
together the force of life, there was no  way  for  that  force to  assemble
itself into the shape of man.
     He  interpreted  my  dream as  a brief  and extraordinarily  simplistic
glance at the mold. He said that my dream had restated the fact that I was a
simpleminded and very earthy man.
     La  Gorda laughed and  said that she would  have  said  the  same thing
herself. To see the mold as  an average naked man and  then as an animal had
been indeed a very simplistic view view of the mold.
     "Perhaps  it  was  just  a stupid, ordinary  dream," I said, trying  to
defend myself.
     "No," she said with a large grin. "You see, the human mold glows and it
is always found in water holes and narrow gullies."
     "Why in gullies and water holes?" I asked.
     "It  feeds on water. Without water  there is no  mold," she replied. "I
know that  the Nagual took  you to water holes regularly in hopes of showing
yon the  mold. But your  emptiness prevented  you from  seeing anything. The
same  thing  happened to  me. He used to make me lie naked on a rock in  the
very center of a particular dried-up water hole,  but  all I did was to feel
the presence of something that scared me out of my wits."
     "Why does emptiness prevent one from seeing the mold?"
     "The Nagual said  that everything in the world is a force,  a pull or a
push. In order for us to be pushed or pulled we need to be like a sail, like
a  kite in the wind. But  if we have a hole in the middle of our luminosity,
the force goes through it and never acts upon us.
     "The Nagual told me  that  Genaro liked you very much and tried to make
you aware of the hole in your middle. He used  to fly his sombrero as a kite
to tease you; he even pulled you  from that hole until you had diarrhea, but
you never caught on to what he was doing."
     "Why didn't they tell me as plainly as you have told me?"
     "They did, but you didn't notice their words."
     I found  her statement impossible  to believe.  To accept that they had
told me about it and I had not acknowledged it was unthinkable.
     "Did you ever see the mold, Gorda?" I asked.
     "Sure,  when  I  became complete again. I went to that particular water
hole one day by myself and there it was. It was a radiant, luminous being. I
could not look at it. It blinded me. But being in its presence was enough. I
felt happy and strong. And  nothing else mattered, nothing. Just being there
was all  I wanted. The Nagual said that sometimes if we have enough personal
power we can catch a glimpse of the mold  even though we are not  sorcerers;
when that happens  we say that we have seen God. He said  that if we call it
God it is the truth. The mold is God.
     "I had a dreadful time understanding  the Nagual, because I was a  very
religious woman. I had nothing else in the world but my religion. So to hear
the Nagual say the things he used  to say made me shiver.  But then I became
complete  and the forces of the world began to pull me, and I knew that  the
Nagual was right. The mold is God. What do you think?"
     "The day I see it I'll tell you, Gorda," I said.
     She laughed, and said  that the  Nagual used to make  fun of me, saying
that  the  day I  would see  the mold I would probably become  a  Franciscan
friar, because in the depths of me I was a religious soul.
     "Was the mold you saw a man or a woman?" I asked.
     "Neither. It was simply a luminous human. The Nagual said that  I could
have asked something for myself. That a warrior cannot let that chance pass.
But I could not think of anything to ask for. It was better that way. I have
the most beautiful memory of it. The Nagual  said that a warrior with enough
power can see the mold many, many times. What a great fortune that must be!"
     "But  if the  human mold is what  puts  us together, what is the  human
     "Something sticky, a sticky force that makes us the people we  are. The
Nagual  told  me that the human form  has no form. Like  the  allies that he
carried in his  gourd, it's anything,  but in spite of not  having  form, it
possesses us during our lives and doesn't leave us until  we die. I've never
seen the human form but I have felt it in my body."
     She then described a very complex series of sensations that she had had
over a period of years that culminated in a serious illness,  the  climax of
which was a  bodily state that  reminded me of descriptions I had read  of a
massive heart attack. She said that the human form, as the force that it is,
left  her  body  after a  serious  internal battle that manifested itself as
     "It sounds as if you had a heart attack," I said.
     "Maybe  I did," she replied, "but one thing I know for sure. The  day I
had it, I lost my human form. I became so weak that for days I couldn't even
get  out  of my bed. Since that day I  haven't  had the energy  to be my old
self. From time to time I have tried to get into my old habits, but I didn't
have  the  strength to enjoy them  the way  I  used to.  Finally  I  gave up
     "What is the point of losing your form?"
     "A  warrior must drop  the  human  form  in order to change,  to really
change. Otherwise there  is only  talk about change, like in  your case. The
Nagual  said  that it  is useless to think or hope that one can change one's
habits. One cannot change  one iota as  long as one holds  on to  the  human
form. The Nagual told me that a warrior knows that he cannot change, and yet
he  makes  it his business  to try to change, even though  he knows  that he
won't  be able to. That's  the only advantage a warrior has over the average
man. The warrior is never disappointed when he fails to change."
     "But you are still yourself, Gorda, aren't you?"
     "No. Not anymore. The only thing that makes you  think you are yourself
is the form. Once it leaves, you are nothing."
     "But you still talk and think and feel as you always did, don't you?"
     "Not at all. I'm new."
     She laughed and hugged me as if she were consoling a child.
     "Only Eligio and I have lost our form," she went on. "It was our  great
fortune that we  lost it while the Nagual was among us. You people will have
a horrid time. That is your fate. Whoever loses it next will have only me as
a companion. I already feel sorry for whoever it will be."
     "What  else did you  feel, Gorda, when you lost your  form, besides not
having enough energy?"
     "The Nagual told me that a warrior without form begins to see an eye. I
saw an eye in front of me every time I closed my eyes. It got so bad that  I
couldn't rest anymore; the  eye  followed me wherever  I went. I nearly went
mad. Finally, I suppose,  I  became  used  to it. Now I don't even notice it
because it has become part of me.
     "The  formless warrior uses  that eye to start  dreaming. If you  don't
have a form, you  don't have to go to sleep to do dreaming. The eye in front
of you pulls you every time you want to go."
     "Where exactly is that eye, Gorda?"
     She  closed her  eyes  and moved  her hand from side to  side, right in
front of her eyes, covering the span of her face.
     "Sometimes  the eye is very small and other times it  is enormous," she
went  on. "When it's  small  your  dreaming is  precise. If  it's  big  your
dreaming is like  flying over the  mountains and  not really seeing  much. I
haven't done enough dreaming yet, but the Nagual told me that that eye is my
trump  card. One  day  when  I become  truly formless I  won't  see the  eye
anymore; the eye will become just like me,  nothing, and  yet it'll be there
like the  allies. The Nagual said that  everything has  to be sifted through
our human  form.  When we  have  no  form, then  nothing has  form  and  yet
everything is present. I couldn't understand what he meant by  that, but now
I see that he was  absolutely right. The  allies are only a presence and  so
will be the eye. But at this  time that eye is everything to me. In fact, in
having that eye I should need nothing else in order to call  up my dreaming,
even  when  I'm awake. I haven't been able to  do that yet. Perhaps I'm like
you, a bit stubborn and lazy."
     "How did you do the flying you showed me tonight?"
     "The Nagual taught me how to use my body to make lights, because we are
light anyway, so I make sparks and lights and they in turn lure the lines of
the world. Once I see one, it's easy to hook myself to it."
     "How do you hook yourself?"
     "I grab it."
     She made a gesture with her hands. She clawed them and then placed them
together  joined  at the wrists, forming a  sort of  bowl,  with the  clawed
fingers upright.
     "You  have  to grab  the line like a jaguar," she  went  on, "and never
separate the wrists. If you do, you'll fall down and break your neck."
     She paused and that forced me  to look at her,  waiting for more of her
     "You don't believe me, do you?" she asked.
     Without  giving  me  time to answer, she squatted  and  began again  to
produce her display of sparks. I was calm and  collected  and could place my
undivided attention on her actions. When she snapped her fingers open, every
fiber of  her muscles seemed to  tense  at  once.  That tension seemed to be
focused on the very tips of her fingers and was projected out  like rays  of
light. The moisture in  her fingertips was actually a vehicle to  carry some
sort of energy emanating from her body.
     "How did you do that, Gorda?" I asked, truly marveling at her.
     "I really don't know," she said. "I simply do it. I've done it lots and
lots of times and  yet  I don't  know how I do it. When I grab one  of those
rays  I feel that I'm being pulled  by something. I really don't do anything
else except let  the  lines I've  grabbed pull  me. When I want to get  back
through, I feel that the line doesn't want to let me free and I get frantic.
The Nagual said that that was my worst feature. I get so frightened that one
of these days I'm going to injure my  body. But  I figure that one  of these
days I'll be even more formless and then I won't  get frightened, so as long
as I hold on until that day. I'm all right."
     "Tell me then, Gorda, how do you let the lines pull you?"
     "We're back again in the same  spot. I don't know. The Nagual warned me
about you. You want to know things that cannot be known."
     I struggled  to  make  clear  to her  that what  I  was after  were the
procedures. I  had really given up  looking for  an explanation from  all of
them because their explanations explained nothing to me.  To describe  to me
the steps that were followed was something altogether different.
     "How did you learn to let your  body hold onto the lines of the world?"
I asked.
     "I  learned that  in dreaming,M-^T  she  said, "but I really don't know
how. Everything for a woman  warrior starts in dreaming. The Nagual told me,
just as he told you,  first to look for my  hands  in my dreams. I  couldn't
find them at all. In my  dreams I had no hands. I tried and tried  for years
to find them. Every night I used to give myself the command to find my hands
but it was to no avail. I never found anything  in my dreams. The Nagual was
merciless with me. He  said that I had to find  them or perish. So I lied to
him that I had found my hands in my dreams. The Nagual didn't say a word but
Genaro threw his hat on the floor and  danced  on it. He patted  my head and
said that  I was  really a great warrior. The more he praised me the worse I
felt. I was about to tell  the  Nagual the truth when crazy Genaro aimed his
behind at me and  let out the loudest and longest fart I had ever heard.  He
actually  pushed me  backward  with  it.  It was  like  a  hot,  foul  wind,
disgusting and smelly, just like me. The Nagual was choking with laughter.
     "I ran to the house and hid there. I was very fat then. I used to eat a
great  deal  and  I had a lot of gas. So I decided not  to  eat for a while.
Lidia and Josefina helped me. I didn't  eat  anything for twenty-three days,
and then one night I found my hands in my dreams. They were old and ugly and
green, but they were mine. So that was the beginning. The rest was easy."
     "And what was the rest, Gorda?"
     "The next thing the Nagual wanted me to do was to try to find houses or
buildings in my dreams  and look at them, trying not to dissolve the images.
He said  that the  art  of the dreamer  is to  hold the image  of his dream.
Because that's what we do anyway during all our lives."
     "What did he mean by that?"
     "Our  art as  ordinary people is that  we know how to hold the image of
what we are looking at.  The  Nagual  said that we do that but we don't know
how. We just do it; that is, our bodies do it. In dreaming we have to do the
same thing, except that  in dreaming we have to learn how to do  it. We have
to struggle not to look but merely to glance and yet hold the image.
     "The Nagual told me  to find in my dreams a brace for  my belly button.
It took a long time because I didn't understand what he meant. He  said that
in dreaming we pay attention  with the  belly button; therefore it has to be
protected.  We need a little warmth or a  feeling that something is pressing
the belly button in order to hold the images in our dreams.
     "I found a pebble in my dreams that fit my belly button, and the Nagual
made me look for it day after day in water holes and canyons, until  I found
it. I made a belt for it and I still wear it day and  night. Wearing it made
it easier for me to hold images in my dreams.
     "Then  the Nagual  gave me the task of going to specific  places in  my
dreaming. I was doing  really well  with my task  but at that time I lost my
form and I began to see the eye in front of me. The Nagual said that the eye
had changed everything, and he gave me orders to begin using the eye to pull
myself  away.  He  said  that  I  didn't  have time to get  to  my double in
dreaming, but  that the eye was  even better. I felt  cheated.  Now  I don't
care. I've  used  that eye  the best way  I could. I let  it pull  me in  my
dreaming. I close my eyes and fall asleep  like nothing, even in the daytime
or anywhere. The eye pulls me and I enter into  another world.  Most of  the
time I just  wander around in it. The Nagual told me and the  little sisters
that during our menstrual periods  dreaming becomes  power.  I  get a little
crazy for one thing. I become  more daring. And like the Nagual showed us, a
crack opens in front of us during those days. You're not a woman so it can't
make any sense to you, but two days before her period a  woman can open that
crack and step through it into another world."
     With her  left hand she followed the  contour of an invisible line that
seemed to run vertically in front of her at arm's length.
     "During that time a woman, if she wants to, can let go of the images of
the  world," la Gorda went on.  "That's the crack between the worlds, and as
the Nagual said, it is right in front of all of us women.
     "The reason the Nagual believes  women are better sorcerers than men is
because they always have the crack in front of them, while a man has to make
     "Well, it  was during my periods that I learned in dreaming to fly with
the lines of the  world. I learned to make sparks with my body to entice the
lines and then I learned  to grab them.  And that's  all  I have  learned in
dreaming so far."
     I  laughed and told  her that  I  had nothing  to  show for my years of
     "You've  learned  how to call  the allies in dreaming,"  she said  with
great assurance.
     I told her  that don Juan  had taught me to  make those sounds. She did
not seem to believe me.
     "The  allies  must  come  to  you,  then, because they're  seeking  his
luminosity,"  she said, "the luminosity  he  left  with you. He told me that
every  sorcerer has only so much luminosity to  give  away. So he parcels it
out to all his children in accordance with an  order  that comes to him from
somewhere out there in that vastness. In  your case he even gave you his own
     She clicked her tongue and winked at me.
     "If you don't believe me,"  she went on, "why don't you make  the sound
the Nagual taught you and see if the allies come to you?"
     I  felt reluctant to do  it. Not because I believed that my sound would
bring anything, but because I did not want to humor her.
     She waited for a moment, and when she was sure I  was not going to try,
she put her  hand to her mouth and imitated my tapping  sound to perfection.
She played it for five or six minutes, stopping only to breathe.
     "See  what I mean?" she  asked smiling. "The allies  don't  give  a fig
about my calling, no matter how close it is to yours. Now try it yourself."
     I  tried. After a few seconds I heard the call being answered. La Gorda
jumped to her feet. I had  the clear impression that she  was more surprised
than I  was. She hurriedly made me stop, turned off the lantern and gathered
up my notes.
     She was  about to open  the front door,  but she stopped  short; a most
frightening sound came  from just outside the door.  It sounded to me like a
growl. It was so horrendous and ominous that it made us both jump back, away
from the door. My physical alarm  was so intense that I would have fled if I
had had a place to go.
     Something heavy was leaning against the door; it made the door creak. I
looked  at la Gorda.  She seemed  to  be even more  alarmed. She  was  still
standing  with her arm  outstretched as  if to open the door. Her  mouth was
open. She seemed to have been frozen in midaction.
     The door was about to be sprung open any moment. There were no bangs on
it,  just a terrifying pressure,  not only on the door  but all  around  the
     La Gorda stood  up  and  told  me to  embrace her quickly  from behind,
locking my hands around her waist over her belly button. She performed  then
a strange movement with her hands.  It was  as  though  she were  flipping a
towel while holding it at the level of her eyes. She did it four times. Then
she made another strange movement. She placed her hands at the middle of her
chest with  the palms up, one above the other  without touching. Her  elbows
were straight out to her sides. She clasped her hands as if she had suddenly
grabbed two unseen  bars. She slowly  turned her hands over until the  palms
were  facing  down and then she  made a most beautiful, exertive movement, a
movement that seemed to engage  every muscle in  her body.  It was as though
she  were opening a heavy sliding door that offered  a great resistance. Her
body  shivered  with the  exertion.  Her arms  moved slowly, as if opening a
very, very heavy door, until they were fully extended laterally.
     I had the clear impression  that as soon as she opened that door a wind
rushed through. That wind pulled  us and we actually went through  the wall.
Or rather, the walls of the house went through us, or  perhaps all three, la
Gorda, the house and myself,  went through the door she had opened. All of a
sudden  I was  out in an open  field. I  could  see the  dark shapes  of the
surrounding mountains  and trees. I  was no longer  holding onto  la Gorda's
waist. A noise above me made me look up, and I saw her  hovering perhaps ten
feet above me like  the black  shape of a giant kite. I felt a terrible itch
in my belly  button and then la Gorda plummeted  down to  the  ground at top
speed, but instead of crashing she came to a soft, total halt.
     At the  moment that la Gorda landed, the  itch  in my  umbilical region
turned into  a horribly exhausting  nervous  pain. It was as if her  landing
were pulling my insides out. I screamed in pain at the top of my voice.
     Then la Gorda was standing next to me, desperately out of breath. I was
sitting  down. We  were again in the room of don Genaro's house where we had
     La Gorda  seemed  unable  to  catch  her  breath.  She was drenched  in
     "We've got to get out of here," she muttered.
     It was a  short drive to the little  sisters' house. None  of  them was
around.  La Gorda lit a  lantern and led me directly to the open-air kitchen
in back. There she undressed herself and asked me to bathe her like a horse,
by  throwing water  on her  body.  I took  a  small tub  full  of  water and
proceeded to pour it gently on her, but she wanted me to drench her.
     She explained  that a contact with the  allies,  like the  one  we had,
produced  a  most   injurious   perspiration  that  had  to  be  washed  off
immediately.  She  made me  take  off  my  clothes and then  drenched  me in
ice-cold  water. Then  she  handed me  a clean piece of cloth and  we  dried
ourselves as  we walked back into  the  house. She sat on the big bed in the
front room after hanging the lantern on the wall above it. Her knees were up
and I could see every part of her body. I hugged  her naked body, and it was
then that I realized what dona Soledad had meant when she said that la Gorda
was the Nagual's woman. She was formless like don Juan. I could not possibly
think of her as a woman.
     I started to  put on my clothes. She  took  them away from me. She said
that before I could wear them again I had to sun them. She gave me a blanket
to put over my shoulders and got another one for herself.
     "That attack of the allies was truly scary," she said as we sat down on
the bed. "We were really lucky that we could get out of their grip. I had no
idea why  the Nagual told me to go to Genaro's with  you. Now I  know.  That
house is where the allies are the strongest.  They missed us by  the skin of
our teeth. We were lucky that I knew how to get out."
     "How did you do it, Gorda?"
     "I really don't know," she said. "I simply did it. My  body knew how, I
suppose, but when I want to think how I did it, I can't.
     "This was a great test for both of us. Until tonight I didn't know that
I could open  the  eye, but look what I did. I actually opened the eye, just
as the Nagual said I could. I've  never been  able to  do it until you  came
along.  I've tried  but it never worked. This time  the fear of those allies
made me just grab the eye the way the Nagual told me to,  by shaking it four
times  in its  four directions. He said that I should shake  it as I shake a
bed sheet, and then I should open  it as a door, by holding it right  at the
middle. The rest was  very easy. Once the door  was  opened  I felt a strong
wind pulling me instead of blowing me away. The trouble, the Nagual said, is
to return. You have  to be very strong to do that. The Nagual and Genaro and
Eligio  could go in and  out of that eye like nothing. For them the  eye was
not even an eye; they said it was an orange light, like the sun. And so were
the Nagual and Genaro  an orange light when they flew. I'm still very low on
the scale;  the  Nagual said that when I do my flying I spread out  and look
like a pile of cow dung  in the sky.  I have no light. That's why the return
is so dreadful for me. Tonight you helped  me and pulled me  back twice. The
reason I showed you my flying tonight  was because the Nagual gave me orders
to let you see it no matter how difficult or crummy it is. With  my flying I
was supposed to be helping you, the same way you were supposed to be helping
me  when you showed me your double. I saw your whole maneuver from the door.
You were so busy feeling sorry for Josefina that your body  didn't notice my
presence.  I  saw how your  double came out from the  top  of  your head. It
wriggled out like a worm. I saw  a shiver that began in your  feet and  went
through your body and then your double came  out.  It was like you, but very
shiny.  It  was  like  the  Nagual  himself.  That's  why  the  sisters were
petrified.  I  knew they thought  that  it was  the  Nagual himself.  But  I
couldn't  see all of it. I missed the sound because I have no attention  for
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "The  double needs  a  tremendous  amount of attention. The Nagual gave
that attention to you  but not to  me. He told  me that he  had run  out  of
     She  said something else about  a certain  kind  of attention but I was
very tired. I fell asleep so suddenly that  I did not even have time  to put
my notes away.

     The Genaros

     I woke up around eight  the  next morning  and found  that la Gorda had
sunned  my clothes and made breakfast. We ate in the  kitchen, in the dining
area. When  we had finished I asked her about Lidia, Rosa and Josefina. They
seemed to have vanished from the house.
     "They are helping Soledad," she said. "She's getting ready to leave."
     "Where is she going?"
     "Somewhere away from here.  She has  no more  reason to  stay.  She was
waiting for you and you have already come."
     "Are the little sisters going with her?"
     "No. They just don't want to be here today. It looks as if today is not
a good day for them to stick around."
     "Why isn't it a good day?"
     "The Genaros are coming to see you today and the girls don't get  along
with  them.  If all  of  them are  here  together,  they'll get  into a most
dreadful fight. The last time that happened they nearly killed one another."
     "Do they fight physically?"
     "You bet they do. All of them are very strong and none of them wants to
take second place.  The Nagual  told me  that that  would happen, but  I  am
powerless to stop  them; and not only that but I have to take sides, so it's
a mess."
     "How do you know that the Genaros are coming today?"
     "I haven't  talked  to them. I just know that  they will be here today,
that's all."
     "Do you know that because you see, Gorda?"
     "That's right. I see them coming. And one of them is coming directly to
you because you're pulling him." I assured her that I was not pulling anyone
in particular. I said that I had not revealed  to  anyone  the purpose of my
trip, but that it had to do with something I had to ask Pablito and Nestor.
     She smiled coyly and said that fate had paired me with Pablito, that we
were very alike, and that undoubtedly  he was  going to see  me  first.  She
added that everything that happened to a warrior could be  interpreted as an
omen; thus my encounter with Soledad was an omen of what I was going to find
out on my visit. I asked her to explain her point.
     "The men will give you very  little  this time,"  she said.  "It's  the
women who will rip you to shreds, as Soledad did. That's what I would say if
I read the omen. You're waiting for the Genaros, but they are men  like you.
And  look at  this  other omen;  they are a little bit behind. I would say a
couple  of days behind.  That's  your fate  as well as theirs, as men, to be
always a couple of days behind."
     "Behind what, Gorda?"
     "Behind everything. Behind us women, for instance."
     She laughed and patted my head.
     "No matter how stubborn you are,"  she went on, "you have to admit that
I'm right. Wait and see."
     "Did the Nagual tell you that men are behind women?" I asked.
     "Sure he did," she replied. "All you have to do is look around."
     "I do, Gorda. But  I don't see any such thing. Women are always behind.
They are dependent on men."
     She laughed. Her laughter was not scornful or  bitter; it  was rather a
clear sound of joyfulness.
     "You know  the world of people better than I do," she said  forcefully.
"But  right  now I'm formless  and  you're not. I'm  telling  you, women are
better sorcerers because there is a crack in  front of our eyes and there is
none in front of yours."
     She  did  not seem angry, but I  felt obliged  to explain  that I asked
questions  and made comments not because I  was attacking or  defending  any
given point, but because I wanted her to talk.
     She said that  she had done nothing else  but talk since the  moment we
met, and that the  Nagual had trained her to  talk  because her task was the
same as mine, to be in the world of people.
     "Everything we  say,"  she  went on,  "is a reflection of the world  of
people. You will find out before your  visit is over  that you  talk and act
the way you  do  because  you're clinging  to  the  human form, just as  the
Genaros and the little  sisters are  clinging to  the human  form  when they
fight to kill one another."
     "But  aren't all of you supposed  to cooperate with Pablito, Nestor and
     "Genaro and  the Nagual told every  one of  us that  we should live  in
harmony and help and protect one another, because we are alone in the world.
Pablito was left in charge of us four, but he's a coward. If it were left up
to him, he would let us  die like  dogs. When the Nagual was around, though,
Pablito was very  nice to us and took very good care of us. Everyone used to
tease  him  and joke that he took care of  us  as  if we were his wives. The
Nagual  and  Genaro told  him, not too  long before they left, that he had a
real  chance to become the Nagual someday, because we might  become his four
winds, his four corners.  Pablito understood it to be his task and from that
day on he changed. He became insufferable. He began to order us around as if
we were really his wives.
     "I  asked  the  Nagual about Pablito's  chances and  he told me  that I
should  know that everything in a warrior's world depends on personal  power
and  personal power depends on impeccability. If Pablito  were impeccable he
would  have a chance. I laughed  when he told  me  that. I know Pablito very
well. But the Nagual explained to me that I shouldn't take it so lightly. He
said. that warriors always have a chance, no matter how slim. He made me see
that I was a  warrior  myself and  that  I shouldn't hinder Pablito with  my
thoughts.  He said that I should turn  them off and let Pablito be; that the
impeccable  thing for me to do was  to help Pablito in  spite of what I knew
about him.
     "I understood what  the Nagual said. Besides,  I  have my own debt with
Pablito, and I welcomed the opportunity to help him. But I also knew that no
matter  how I helped  him  he was going to fail. I  knew  all along  that he
didn't have what  it takes to be  like the Nagual.  Pablito is very childish
and he  won't accept his defeat. He's miserable because he's not impeccable,
and yet he's still trying in his thoughts to be like the Nagual."
     "How did he fail?"
     "As soon  as the Nagual left,  Pablito had a  deadly run-in with Lidia.
Years  ago the Nagual  had given him the task of being Lidia's husband, just
for appearances. The people around here thought that she was his wife. Lidia
didn't like that one bit. She's very tough. The truth of the matter is  that
Pablito has always  been scared to death  of her. They could never get along
together and  they tolerated each other only because  the Nagual was around;
but when  he  left,  Pablito got  crazier than he  already  was  and  became
convinced  that he had enough personal power to  take us as his  wives.  The
three Genaros got together and  discussed what Pablito should do and decided
that he should  take the toughest  woman first, Lidia. They waited until she
was alone and then  all three of them came into the house and grabbed her by
the arms and threw her on the bed. Pablito got on top of her. She thought at
first that  the Genaros were joking.  But when she  realized that  they were
serious, she hit Pablito with  her head  in the  middle of  his forehead and
nearly killed him.  The Genaros fled  and  Nestor had  to tend  to Pablito's
wound for months."
     "Is there something that I can do to help them understand?"
     "No. Unfortunately, understanding is not their problem. All six of them
understand  very  well. The real trouble is  something else,  something very
ugly that no one can help them with. They indulge  in not trying to  change.
Since they know they won't succeed in changing no matter  how much they try,
or want  to, or need to,  they have  given up trying  altogether. That's  as
wrong as  feeling disappointed  with  our failures. The Nagual told  each of
them that warriors,  both men and  women, must be impeccable in their effort
to  change, in order to scare  the human form and shake it away. After years
of impeccability a moment  will come, the Nagual  said, when the form cannot
stand  it any  longer and  it leaves, just  as it  left  me. In doing so, of
course,  it injures the  body and can  even make  it die, but an  impeccable
warrior survives, always."
     A sudden knock at the front door interrupted her. La Gorda stood up and
went over  to unlatch the door.  It was Lidia. She greeted me  very formally
and asked la Gorda to go with her. They left together.
     I  welcomed  being  alone. I worked on my notes for hours. The open-air
dining area was cool and had very good light.
     La  Gorda returned around noon. She asked me if I  wanted to eat. I was
not hungry, but  she insisted that I  eat. She said that contacts  with  the
allies were very debilitating, and that she felt very weak herself.
     After eating I sat down  with la Gorda and was getting ready to ask her
about "dreaming" when the front door opened loudly and Pablito walked in. He
was panting.  He obviously had been running and appeared to be in a state of
great excitation. He stood at the door for a moment, catching his breath. He
hadn't changed much. He seemed a bit older, or heavier, or perhaps only more
muscular. He was, however, still  very lean  and  wiry.  His complexion  was
pale, as if he had not been in the sun for a long time. The brownness of his
eyes was accentuated by a faint mark of weariness in his face. I  remembered
Pablito as  having a  beguiling smile; as he stood there looking at me,  his
smile was  as  charming  as ever. He ran  over to where I  was  sitting  and
grasped my forearms for a moment, without saying a word. I stood up. He then
shook me gently and embraced me. I myself was utterly delighted to  see him.
I was jumping  up and down with an infantile joy. I did not know what to say
to him. He finally broke the silence.
     "Maestro,"  he said softly,  nodding  his head slightly as  if he  were
bowing to me.
     The title of "maestro," teacher, caught me by surprise. I turned around
as if I were looking for someone else who was just behind me. I deliberately
exaggerated my movements to let  him know that  I was  mystified. He smiled,
and the  only thing that  occurred to me was  to ask  him how he knew  I was
     He said that he, Nestor and Benigno  had  been forced to return because
of a most unusual  apprehension, which  made them run day and  night without
any pause. Nestor  had  gone  to their own  house to find  out if  there was
something  there  that would account for the feeling  that had  driven them.
Benigno had gone to Soledad's place  and  he himself had come to the  girls'
     "You hit the jackpot, Pablito," la Gorda said, and laughed.
     Pablito did not answer. He glared at her.
     "I'll bet that you're working yourself up to throw me out," he said  in
a tone of great anger.
     "Don't fight with me, Pablito," la Gorda said, unruffled.
     Pablito  turned to me and  apologized,  and  then added  in a very loud
voice,  as if he wanted  someone else in  the house to hear him, that he had
brought  his  own chair to  sit  on and that  he could  put it  wherever  he
     "There's no one else around here except us," la Gorda said  softly, and
     "I'll  bring  in  my  chair  anyway," Pablito  said.  "You don't  mind,
Maestro, do you?"
     I looked at la Gorda. She gave me an almost imperceptible go-ahead sign
with the tip of her foot.
     "Bring it in. Bring anything you want," I said.
     Pablito stepped out of the house.
     "They're all that way," la Gorda said, "all three of them."
     Pablito  came back  a moment later carrying an unusuallooking  chair on
his  shoulders. The chair  was shaped to follow the  contour of his back, so
when he had it on his shoulders, upside down, it looked like a backpack.
     "May I put it down?" he asked me.
     "Of course," I replied, moving the bench over to make room.
     He laughed with exaggerated ease.
     "Aren't  you the Nagual?" he asked me, and then looked  at la Gorda and
added, "Or do you have to wait for orders?"
     "I am the Nagual," I said facetiously in order to humor him.
     I sensed that he was about to pick a fight with la Gorda; she must have
sensed it too, for she excused herself and went out the back.
     Pablito put his chair down and slowly circled around me  as  if he were
inspecting  my  body. Then  he  took his low-back narrow chair in one  hand,
turned it  around and sat down, resting his folded  arms on the back  of the
chair that was made to allow him the maximum comfort as he sat astride it. I
sat down facing him. His  mood  had changed completely the instant la  Gorda
     "I must  ask  you  to  forgive  me for acting  the way I did,"  he said
smiling. "But I had to get rid of that witch."
     "Is she that bad, Pablito?"
     "You can bet on that," he replied.
     To  change  the  subject  I  told him  that he  looked  very  fine  and
     "You look very fine yourself. Maestro," he said.
     "What's this nonsense of calling me Maestro?" I asked in a joking tone.
     "Things are not the  same  as  before," he replied. "We  are in  a  new
realm,  and the Witness says  that  you're a  maestro now,  and  the Witness
cannot be wrong. But he will tell you the whole story himself. He'll be here
shortly, and will he be glad to see  you again. I  think that by now he must
have  felt  that  you are here. As  we were coming back, all  of  us had the
feeling that you might  be  on your way, but  none of  us felt that  you had
already arrived."
     I told him then that I  had come for the sole purpose of seeing him and
Nestor, that they were the  only  two people in the world with  whom I could
talk about our last meeting with don Juan and don  Genaro, and that I needed
more than anything else to clear up the uncertainties that that last meeting
had created in me.
     "We're bound to one another," he said. "I'll do anything I can to help.
You know that. But I must warn you that I'm  not as strong as you would want
me  to  be. Perhaps it would be better if we didn't talk at all. But, on the
other hand, if we don't talk we'll never understand anything."
     In a careful and deliberate manner I  formulated my query.  I explained
that there was one single issue at the crux of my rational predicament.
     "Tell me, Pablito," I said, "did we truly jump with our bodies into the
     "I don't know," he said. "I really don't know."
     "But you were there with me."
     "That's the point. Was I really there?"
     I felt annoyed at his  cryptic  replies. I had  the sensation that if I
would  shake him  or squeeze him, something in him would be set free. It was
apparent  to  me that he was  deliberately  withholding something  of  great
value. I protested that he would choose to be secretive with me  when we had
a bond of total trust.
     Pablito shook his head as if silently objecting to my accusation.
     I  asked him to recount to  me his whole experience, starting from  the
time  prior  to our  jump, when don  Juan and  don  Genaro had  prepared  us
together for the final onslaught.
     Pablito's account was  muddled  and inconsistent. All he could remember
about the last moments before we jumped  into the abyss was  that after  don
Juan and don Genaro had said good-bye to both of us and had disappeared into
the darkness, his strength waned, he  was about to  fall on his face,  but I
held him  by his  arm and carried him to the edge of the  abyss and there he
blacked out.
     "What happened after you blacked out, Pablito?"
     "I don't know."
     "Did you have dreams or visions? What did you see?"
     "As  far as I'm concerned I had no visions, or if I did  I couldn't pay
any attention to  them. My lack  of impeccability makes it impossible for me
to remember them."
     "And then what happened?"
     "I woke up at Genaro's old place. I don't know how I got there."
     He remained quiet,  while I  frantically searched  in  my  mind  for  a
question, a comment, a critical statement  or anything that would  add extra
breadth  to his  statements. As  it  was, nothing  in  Pablito's account was
usable  to buttress  what had happened  to me. I felt cheated.  I was almost
angry with him. My feelings were a  mixture of  pity for Pablito and  myself
and at the same time a most intense disappointment.
     "I'm sorry I'm such a letdown to you," Pablito said.
     My immediate reaction to his  words  was to cover  up my  feelings  and
assure him that I was not disappointed at all.
     "I am a sorcerer," he said, laughing, "a poor one, but enough of a  one
to know what my body tells  me. And right now it tells me that you are angry
with me."
     "I'm not angry, Pablito!" I exclaimed.
     "That's what your reason says,  but not your body," he said. "Your body
is angry. Your reason, however, finds  no reason to feel anger toward me, so
you're  caught  in a cross  fire. The least I can do for  you is to untangle
this.  Your body is angry because it knows that I am not impeccable and that
only an impeccable warrior can help you. Your body is angry because it feels
that I am wasting myself. It knew all that the minute I walked through  that
     I did not  know what to say.  I felt a flood of post-fact realizations.
Perhaps he was right in saying that my body  knew all that. At any rate, his
directness  in confronting  me with my feelings had  blunted the  edge of my
frustration. I  began to wonder if Pablito was not just playing  a game with
me. I  told him that being so  direct  and bold he  could not possibly be as
weak as he pictured himself to be.
     "My  weakness is that  I'm made to  have longings," he said almost in a
whisper. "I'm even to the point where I long for my life as an ordinary man.
Can you believe that?"
     "You can't be serious, Pablito! " I exclaimed.
     "I am," he replied. "I long for the grand privilege of walking the face
of the earth as an ordinary man, without this awesome burden."
     I found his stand simply preposterous and caught myself exclaiming over
and over  that he  could not possibly be serious. Pablito looked  at  me and
sighed. I was overtaken by a sudden apprehension. He  seemed  to  be  on the
verge  of tears. My apprehension gave way to  an intense feeling of empathy.
Neither of us could help each other.
     La  Gorda came back  to the kitchen at  that  moment. Pablito seemed to
experience  an instantaneous revitalization.  He  jumped  to  his  feet  and
stomped on the floor.
     "What the hell do you want?" he yelled in a shrill, nervous voice. "Why
are you snooping around?"
     La  Gorda addressed me as if  he  did not exist. She politely said that
she was going to Soledad's house.
     "What the hell do we care where you go?" he yelled. "You can go to hell
for that matter."
     He stomped on the floor like a spoiled child while la Gorda stood there
     "Let's get out of this house. Maestro," he said loudly.
     His  sudden shift  from  sadness  to  anger  fascinated  me.  I  became
engrossed in watching him. One of the features that I had always admired was
his nimbleness; even when he stomped his feet his movements had grace.
     He suddenly reached across the table and nearly snatched my writing pad
away  from me.  He grabbed it  with the  thumb and index finger of his  left
hand. I had  to hold  onto it with both  hands, using all my strength. There
was such an extraordinary force in his  pull that if he had really wanted to
take it he could have easily jerked it away from my grip. He let go, and  as
he  retrieved his hand I  saw a  fleeting image of  an extension to  it.  It
happened so fast that I could have explained it as a visual distortion on my
part, a  product of the jolt  of having to  stand up halfway,  drawn by  the
force of his pull. But I  had  learned by then  that  I could neither behave
with those people in my accustomed manner, nor could  I explain anything  in
my accustomed manner, so I did not even try.
     "What's that in your hand, Pablito?" I asked.
     He  recoiled in surprise  and hid his  hand  behind his  back. He had a
blank expression and mumbled that he wanted us  to leave that  house because
he was becoming dizzy.
     La  Gorda began to  laugh  loudly and said that Pablito  was  as good a
deceiver as Josefina,  maybe even better, and that if I  pressed him to tell
me what was in his hand he would faint and Nestor would have to tend to  him
for months.
     Pablito began  to choke. His face  became almost purple.  La Gorda told
him in a nonchalant tone to cut out the acting because he had  no  audience;
she was leaving and I did not have much patience. She then turned to  me and
told me  in a most commanding tone  to stay there and not go to the Genaros'
     "Why in the  hell not?" Pablito yelled and jumped in front of her as if
trying to stop her from leaving. "What gall! Telling the Maestro what to do!
     "We had a bout with the allies in your house last night," la Gorda said
to Pablito matter-of-factly. "The Nagual and  I are still weak from that. If
I were you, Pablito, I would put my attention to work. Things have  changed.
Everything has changed since he came."
     La Gorda left through  the front door. I became aware then that  indeed
she looked very  tired. Her shoes seemed too  tight, or perhaps she  was  so
weak that her feet dragged a little bit. She seemed small and frail.
     I thought that I must have looked as tired. Since there were no mirrors
in their house, I had the urge to go outside and look at  myself in the side
mirror of my  car. I perhaps would  have done it but Pablito thwarted me. He
asked me in the most earnest tone not to believe a word of what she had said
about his being a deceiver. I told him not to worry about that.
     "You don't like la Gorda at all, do you?" I asked.
     "You can say  that again," he replied  with  a fierce  look. "You  know
better than  anyone alive the  kind of monsters those women  are. The Nagual
told us that  one  day you were going to come here just to  fall into  their
trap. He begged us to be on the alert  and warn you about their designs. The
Nagual said that you had one out  of four chances: If out power was  high we
could  bring you here ourselves and warn you and save you; if our  power was
low we ourselves would  arrive  here just in  time to see  your corpse;  the
third chance  was to find you either the  slave to  the witch Soledad or the
slave of those disgusting, mannish women; the fourth chance and the faintest
one of all was to find you alive and well.
     "The Nagual  told us that  in case you survived, you  would then be the
Nagual and we should trust you because only you could help us."
     "I'll do anything for you, Pablito. You know that."
     "Not just for me. I'm  not alone.  The Witness and Benigno are with me.
We are together and you have to help all of us."
     "Of course, Pablito. That goes without saying."
     "People around here have never bothered us. Our problems are with those
ugly, mannish freaks. We don't know what to do with them. The Nagual gave us
orders to stay around them no  matter what. He  gave me a  personal task but
I've failed at it. I was very happy before. You  remember. Now  I can't seem
to manage my life anymore."
     "What happened, Pablito?"
     "Those witches drove me from my house. They took over and pushed me out
like trash. I now live in Genaro's house with  Nestor and Benigno.  We  even
have to cook our  own meals. The Nagual knew that this might happen and gave
la Gorda the task  of  mediating between  us and those three bitches. But la
Gorda  is still what  the Nagual used  to call her,  Two Hundred and  Twenty
Buttocks. That was her nickname  for years and years, because she tipped the
scales at two hundred and twenty pounds."
     Pablito chuckled at his recollection of la Gorda.
     "She was the  fattest,  smelliest slob you'd ever want to see," he went
on.  "Today she's half her  real size,  but  she's still the same fat,  slow
woman up there in her head, and she can't do a thing for us. But you're here
now. Maestro, and our worries are over. Now we are four against four."
     I wanted to interject a comment but he stopped me.
     "Let me finish what I have to say before that witch comes back to throw
me out," he said as he nervously looked at the door.
     "I  know  that they have told you that the  five  of  you are  the same
because you are the  Nagual's children. That's a lie! You're also  like  us,
the Genaros, because  Genaro also helped to make your luminosity. You're one
of us too. See what  I mean? So, don't  you believe what  they tell you. You
also  belong  to  us.  The  witches don't  know  that  the  Nagual  told  us
everything. They think  that they are the only  ones who  know. It took  two
Toltecs to make us. We are the children of both. Those witches. .."
     "Wait, wait, Pablito," I said, putting my hand over his mouth.
     He stood up, apparently frightened by my sudden movement.
     "What do you mean that it took two Toltecs to make us?"
     "The Nagual told us that we are Toltecs. All of us are Toltecs. He said
that a Toltec is the receiver and holder of mysteries. The Nagual and Genaro
are Toltecs. They  gave us  their special luminosity and their mysteries. We
received their mysteries and now we hold them."
     His usage of the word  Toltec baffled me.  I was familiar only with its
anthropological meaning. In  that context, it always refers to a  culture of
Nahuatl-speaking people in  central  and southern  Mexico which was  already
extinct at the time of the Conquest.
     "Why did he call us Toltecs?" I asked, not knowing what else to say.
     "Because that's what we are. Instead of saying that we are sorcerers or
witches, he said that we are Toltecs."
     "If that's the case, why do you call the little sisters witches?"
     "Oh,  that's because I hate them.  That has  nothing to do with what we
     "Did the Nagual tell that to everyone?"
     "Why, certainly. Everyone knows."
     "But he never told me that."
     "Oh,  that's  because  you  are  a  very  educated  man and  are always
discussing stupid things."
     He laughed in a forced, high-pitched tone and patted me on the back.
     "Did the  Nagual by any chance  tell  you that the Toltecs were ancient
people that lived in this part of Mexico?" I asked.
     "See,  there  you go.  That's  why  he didn't  tell you. The  old  crow
probably didn't know that they were ancient people."
     He rocked in his  chair  as he  laughed. His laughter was very pleasing
and very contagious.
     "We are the  Toltecs,  Maestro," he  said.  "Rest  assured that we are.
That's all I know. But you can ask the Witness. He knows. I lost my interest
a long time ago."
     He stood up  and went over to the stove. I followed him.  He examined a
pot of food cooking on  a  low fire. He asked me if I knew who had made that
food. I was pretty sure that la Gorda had made it, but I said that I did not
know. He sniffed it four or five  times in short inhalations,  like  a  dog.
Then  he announced that his  nose told him that  la Gorda had cooked it.  He
asked me if I had had  some, and when I said that I had finished eating just
before he  arrived, he  took a bowl  from  a shelf and helped himself to  an
enormous portion. He recommended in very strong terms that I should eat food
cooked only by la Gorda and that  I should  only use her bowl, as he himself
was doing. I told him that la Gorda and the little sisters had served me  my
food in a dark bowl that they kept on a shelf apart from the others. He said
that that bowl belonged to  the Nagual.  We  went back  to the table. He ate
very slowly and did not talk at all. His total  absorption in eating made me
realize that all of them did the same thing: they ate in complete silence.
     "La Gorda  is a great cook," he said as he finished his food. "She used
to  feed me. That  was  ages  ago,  before she hated me, before she became a
witch, I mean a Toltec."
     He looked at me with a glint in his eye and winked.
     I felt  obligated to comment that  la Gorda  did not strike me as being
capable of hating anyone. I asked him if he knew that she had lost her form.
     "That's a lot of baloney!" he exclaimed.
     He stared at  me as if measuring my  look of surprise and  then hid his
face under his arm and giggled like an embarrassed child.
     "Well, she actually did do that," he added. "She's just great."
     "Why do you dislike her, then?"
     "I'm going to tell you something, Maestro, because I trust you. I don't
dislike  her  at all.  She's the very best. She's the Nagual's woman. I just
act that way with  her because I like her  to pamper me, and  she  does. She
never gets mad at  me. I could do anything. Sometimes I get carried away and
I get physical with her and want to strike her. When that happens  she  just
jumps  out  of the way,  like the  Nagual used to do.  The  next  minute she
doesn't even  remember what I did.  That's a true formless warrior for  you.
She does  the same thing with everyone. But the rest of us are a sorry mess.
We are truly bad. Those three witches hate us and we hate them back."
     "You are sorcerers, Pablito; can't you stop all this bickering?"
     "Sure  we can,  but we don't want to. What do you  expect us  to do, be
like brothers and sisters?"
     I did not know what to say.
     "They were the Nagual's women," he went on. "And yet everybody expected
me  to take them. How in  heaven's name am I going to do  that! I tried with
one  of them and instead of helping me the bastardly witch nearly killed me.
So  now every one of  those  women is after my hide as  if I had committed a
crime. All  I did was to follow the Nagual's instructions. He told me that I
had to be intimate with each of them, one by one, until I could  hold all of
them at once. But I couldn't be intimate with even one."
     I wanted  to ask him  about his  mother, dona  Soledad, but I could not
figure  out a way to bring her into  the conversation at that point. We were
quiet for a moment.
     "Do you hate them for what they tried to do to you?" he  asked all of a
     I saw my chance.
     "No, not at all,"  I said. "La Gorda explained to me their reasons. But
dona Soledad's attack was very scary. Do you see much of her?"
     He did not answer. He looked at the ceiling. I  repeated my question. I
noticed then that his eyes were filled with tears. His body shook, convulsed
by quiet sobs.
     He  said  that  once he  had had a beautiful mother, whom, no doubt,  I
could still remember. Her name was Manuelita, a saintly woman who raised two
children,  working  like a  mule to support them. He  felt the most profound
veneration  for that mother who  had loved and reared him. But one  horrible
day his fate was fulfilled and he  had the misfortune to meet Genaro and the
Nagual,  and between the  two of them  they  destroyed his  life.  In a very
emotional  tone  Pablito said that  the two  devils took  his  soul and  his
mother's  soul. They killed his Manuelita  and left  behind that  horrendous
witch, Soledad.  He peered at me with eyes flooded with tears and said  that
that  hideous woman  was  not  his  mother.  She  could not  possibly be his
     He sobbed  uncontrollably. I did  not know  what  to say. His emotional
outburst was so genuine  and his contentions so truthful that I  felt swayed
by a  tide of sentiment. Thinking as an average civilized man I had to agree
with him. It certainly looked as if it was a great misfortune for Pablito to
have crossed the path of don Juan and don Genaro.
     I put my arm around his shoulders and almost wept myself. After a  long
silence  he stood up and went out to  the back. I heard him blowing his nose
and washing his face in  a pail of water. When he returned he was calmer. He
was even smiling.
     "Don't get me  wrong. Maestro," he said. "I don't blame anyone for what
has  happened to me. It was my fate. Genaro  and  the Nagual acted  like the
impeccable warriors they were. I'm just  weak, that's all. And I have failed
in my task. The  Nagual said that my only chance to avoid the attack of that
horrendous witch was to  corral the four winds,  and make them into my  four
corners. But  I failed. Those women were in cahoots  with that witch Soledad
and didn't want to help me. They wanted me dead.
     "The Nagual also told me that if  I failed, you wouldn't stand a chance
yourself. He said that if she killed you, I had to flee and run for my life.
He doubted that I could even get  as far as the road. He said that with your
power and with  what the witch already knows, she would have  been peerless.
So, when  I felt  I had failed to corral the four winds, I considered myself
dead.  And of course I hated  those women. But today, Maestro, you bring  me
new hope."
     I told him that his feelings for his mother had touched me very deeply.
I was in fact appalled by all that had happened but I doubted intensely that
I had brought hope of any kind to him.
     "You have!"  he exclaimed with great certainty. "I've felt terrible all
this time. To have your  own mother coming after you with an  ax is  nothing
anyone can feel happy about. But now she's out of the way, thanks to you and
whatever you did.
     "Those women hate  me because they're convinced I'm a coward. They just
can't  get it through their thick heads that we are different. You and those
four women are  different  than  me  and  the  Witness  and  Benigno  in one
important way. All five of you were pretty much dead before the Nagual found
you. He told us that once you  had even tried to kill yourself. We were  not
that way. We were well and  alive and happy. We are the opposite of you. You
are desperate people; we arc not. If Genaro hadn't come my way I  would be a
happy  carpenter today. Or perhaps I would have  died.  It doesn't matter. I
would've done what I could and that would have been fine."
     His words plunged me into a curious mood.  I had  to admit that he  was
right in that those women and myself were indeed desperate  people. If I had
not  met  don Juan I would no doubt be dead, but I could not say, as Pablito
had, that it would have been fine with me either way. Don  Juan had  brought
life and vigor to my body and freedom to my spirit.
     Pablito's statements  made  me remember something don Juan had told  me
once when we were talking about an old man, a  friend of mine. Don  Juan had
said  in very  emphatic  terms  that  the  old man's life  or  death  had no
significance  whatsoever.  I  felt  a  bit  cross at  what  I thought  to be
redundance on don Juan's part. I  told him that it went without saying  that
the life and death of that old man had no significance, since nothing in the
world  could  possibly  have  any significance  except  to  each  one of  us
     "You said it!" he exclaimed, and  laughed. "That's exactly what I mean.
That old man's life and death have  no significance  to  him  personally. He
could have died  in  nineteen twenty-nine, or in nineteen fifty, or he could
live until nineteen  ninety-five. It doesn't matter.  Everything is stupidly
the same to him."
     My  life  before I  met don Juan  had been that  way. Nothing  had ever
mattered to me. I used to act as if certain things affected me, but that was
only a calculated ploy to appear as a sensitive man.
     Pablito spoke to me and disrupted my reflections. He wanted  to know if
he had  hurt my feelings. I assured him that  it  was nothing.  In order  to
start up the conversation again, I asked him where he had met don Genaro.
     "My fate was that my boss got ill," he said.  "And I had to  go to  the
city market in his place to build a new section of clothing booths. I worked
there for two months. While I  was there I met the daughter of the  owner of
one of  the booths. We fell in love. I  built  her father's  stand  a little
bigger than the  others so I could  make love to her under the counter while
her sister took care of the customers.
     "One day Genaro brought a sack of medicinal plants to a retailer across
the aisle,  and while  they were talking he noticed that  the clothing stand
was shaking. He  looked carefully at the  stand but  he only  saw the sister
sitting on a chair half-asleep. The man told Genaro that every day the stand
shook like that around that  hour. The next day Genaro brought the Nagual to
watch the stand shaking, and  sure enough that day it shook. They came  back
the next day and it shook again. So they waited there until I came out. That
day I made their acquaintance, and  soon after Genaro told me that he was an
herbalist  and  proposed to make me a potion that no  woman could resist.  I
liked women so  I  fell for it.  He certainly made the potion for me, but it
took him ten years. In the meantime  I got to know him very well, and I grew
to love him more  than  if he  were my own brother. And now  I miss him like
hell. So you see, he tricked me. Sometimes I'm glad that he did; most of the
time I resent it, though."
     "Don  Juan told  me that  sorcerers  have  to have  an omen before they
choose someone. Was there something of that sort with you, Pablito?"
     "Yes.  Genaro  said that he got curious watching  the stand shaking and
then he saw that  two  people were making love under  the counter. So he sat
down to wait  for the people to come out; he wanted  to  see who  they were.
After a while the girl appeared in the stand but he missed me. He thought it
was very strange that he would miss me after being so determined to set eyes
on me. The  next day  he  came  back  with the  Nagual. He also saw that two
people were  making love, but when it was time to catch me, they both missed
me. They came back again the next day; Genaro went around to the back of the
stand while the Nagual stayed out in front. I bumped into Genaro while I was
crawling out. I  thought he hadn't  seen me because I was  still  behind the
piece of cloth  that  covered  a small square opening I had made on the side
wall.  I began to bark to make  him think  there was  a small dog under  the
drape.  He  growled  and barked back at me and  really made me believe  that
there was a huge mad dog on  the other side. I  got so scared I ran out  the
other way  and crashed into the Nagual. If  he  would  have been an ordinary
man, I would have thrown him to the ground because I ran right into him, but
instead, he lifted me up like  a child. I was absolutely flabbergasted.  For
being  such  an old man he  was truly strong. I thought I could use a strong
man like that to carry  lumber for me. Besides  I  didn't want  to lose face
with the people who had seen me running out from under the counter.  I asked
him if  he would like to work  for me. He said yes. That same day he went to
the shop  and started to work as my assistant. He worked there every day for
two months. I didn't have a chance with those two devils."
     The  incongruous  image  of  don Juan working for Pablito was extremely
humorous to me. Pablito began to imitate the way don  Juan carried lumber on
his  shoulders. I had to agree with  la Gorda that  Pablito was  as good  an
actor as Josefina.
     "Why did they go to all that trouble, Pablito?"
     "They had  to trick me.  You don't think that I would go with them just
like that, do you? I've heard all my  life  about  sorcerers  and curers and
witches and spirits, and I never believed  a word of  it.  Those who  talked
about things like that were just ignorant people. If Genaro had told me that
he and his friend  were sorcerers,  I would've walked out on  them. But they
were  too clever  for me. Those two foxes were  really sly. They  were in no
hurry.  Genaro said that he would've  waited for  me  if it took him  twenty
years. That's why the Nagual went to work for me. I asked him to, so  it was
really me who gave them the key.
     "The Nagual  was a diligent worker. I was a  little bit of  a rascal in
those  days and  I  thought I was the one playing a trick on him. I believed
that the Nagual was just a stupid old Indian so I told him that I was  going
to tell the boss that he was my  grandpa, otherwise  they wouldn't hire him,
but  I had  to get a  percentage of his salary.  The Nagual said that it was
fine with him. He gave me something out of the few pesos he made each day.
     "My boss was very impressed with my  grandpa because he was such a hard
worker. But the other guys made fun of him. As you know, he had the habit of
cracking all his joints from time to time. In the shop he cracked them every
time he carried anything. People naturally thought that  he was so  old that
when he carried something on his back his whole body creaked.
     "I  was  pretty  miserable with  the Nagual as my grandpa. But  by then
Genaro had already prevailed on my greedy  side. He had told me that he  was
feeding the Nagual a special formula made out of plants and that it made him
strong as a  bull.  Every day he used  to bring a small  bundle of mashed-up
green leaves  and  feed it  to him. Genaro said that his  friend was nothing
without his  concoction, and to prove  it to me he didn't give it to him for
two days. Without  the  green stuff  the Nagual seemed  to  be just a plain,
ordinary old man.  Genaro told me that I  could also  use his  concoction to
make women love me. I got very interested in it and he said that we could be
partners if I would help  him prepare his formula and give it to his friend.
One day he showed  me some American money and told me  he had sold his first
batch to an American. That hooked me and I became his partner.
     "My partner Genaro  and I had great designs. He said that I should have
my own shop, because with the money  that we  were  going to  make  with his
formula, I  could afford anything.  I bought a shop and my partner  paid for
it. So I went wild. I knew  that my partner was for real and I began to work
making his green stuff."
     I  had the strange conviction at  that point  that don Genaro must have
used psychotropic  plants in  making his concoction. I reasoned that he must
have tricked Pablito into ingesting it in order to assure his compliance.
     "Did he give you power plants, Pablito?" I asked.
     "Sure," he replied. "He gave me his green stuff. I ate tons of it."
     He described and imitated  how don Juan  would sit by the front door of
don  Genaro's house in a state of profound lethargy and then spring to  life
as soon  as his  lips touched the  concoction. Pablito said that  in view of
such a transformation he was forced to try it himself.
     "What was in that formula?" I asked.
     "Green leaves," he replied. "Any  green leaves  he could get a hold of.
That was the kind of devil Genaro was. He used to talk about his formula and
make me laugh  until  I  was as high as  a kite.  God,  I really loved those
     I laughed out of nervousness. Pablito shook his head from side to  side
and cleared his throat two or three times. He seemed to be struggling not to
     "As I've already said. Maestro," he went on, "I was driven by  greed. I
secretly planned to dump my partner once I had learned how to make the green
stuff myself. Genaro must have always known the designs I had in those days,
and just before he left he hugged me and told me that it was time to fulfill
my  wish; it  was time to dump my partner, for I had already learned to make
the green stuff."
     Pablito stood up. His eyes were filled with tears.
     "That son of a gun Genaro," he said softly. "That rotten devil. I truly
loved him,  and if I weren't the coward  I am, I would be  making his  green
stuff today."
     I  didn't want to write  anymore.  To dispel my sadness  I told Pablito
that we should go look for Nestor.
     I was  arranging my notebooks in order to leave when the front door was
flung open with  a  loud bang. Pablito  and  I  jumped  up involuntarily and
quickly  turned to look.  Nestor was standing at the door. I  ran to him. We
met in the middle of the front room. He sort of leaped on me and shook me by
the shoulders. He looked taller  and stronger  than the last time I had seen
him. His long, lean body had acquired an  almost feline smoothness. Somehow,
the person facing  me,  peering  at me, was not  the  Nestor I had known.  I
remembered him as  a very shy man  who was embarrassed to  smile because  of
crooked teeth, a man  who was entrusted to Pablito  for his care. The Nestor
who was looking at  me was a mixture of don Juan and don Genaro. He was wiry
and agile like don Genaro, but had the mesmeric command that don Juan had. I
wanted to indulge in being perplexed, but all I could do was laugh with him.
He patted me on the back. He took off his hat.  Only then did I realize that
Pablito did not have one. I  also noticed that Nestor was  much darker,  and
more rugged.  Next  to him  Pablito looked almost frail. Both  of  them wore
American Levi's, heavy jackets and crepe-soled shoes.
     Nestor's presence  in  the  house  lightened  up  the  oppressive  mood
instantly. I asked him to join us in the kitchen.
     "You came right in time," Pablito said to Nestor with an enormous smile
as we sat down. "The Maestro and I were weeping here, remembering the Toltec
     "Were yon really crying.  Maestro?"  Nestor asked with a malicious grin
on his face.
     "You bet he was," Pablito replied.
     A very soft  cracking noise at  the  front door made Pablito and Nestor
stop talking.  If I had  been by myself  I would not have  noticed or  heard
anything.  Pablito and Nestor stood up; I  did the  same. We  looked at  the
front door; it was being  opened in  a  most careful manner.  I thought that
perhaps la Gorda had returned and was quietly opening the door so as  not to
disturb us. When the door was finally opened wide enough to allow one person
to go through, Benigno came in as  if he were sneaking into a dark room. His
eyes were shut and he was walking on the tips of his toes. He reminded me of
a kid sneaking into a  movie theater through  an unlocked exit door in order
to  see a matinee, not daring  to  make any noise  and at the same  time not
capable of seeing a thing in the dark.
     Everybody was quietly looking at Benigno. He opened one eye just enough
to peek out of  it and orient himself  and  then he tiptoed across the front
room  to the  kitchen. He stood by the  table for  a moment  with  his  eyes
closed. Pablito  and Nestor sat down and signaled me to do the same. Benigno
then slid next  to me on the bench. He gently shoved  my  shoulder  with his
head; it was a light tap in order  for me to move over  to make room for him
on the bench; then he sat down comfortably with his eyes still closed.
     He  was dressed in Levi's like Pablito and Nestor. His face had  filled
out a bit since the last time I had seen him, years before, and his hairline
was different, but I  could not tell how. He had a lighter complexion than I
remembered,  very  small teeth, full lips, high cheekbones, a small nose and
big ears. He  had always  seemed  to  me like a child whose features had not
     Pablito  and Nestor, who had interrupted what they were saying to watch
Benigno's entrance, resumed talking as soon as he sat down as though nothing
had happened.
     "Sure, he was crying with me," Pablito said.
     "He's not a crybaby like you," Nestor said to Pablito.
     Then he turned to me and embraced me.
     "I'm so glad you're alive," he said. "We've just talked to la Gorda and
she said that you were the Nagual, but she didn't tell us how  you survived.
How did you survive, Maestro?"
     At that point I had a strange choice. I could have followed my rational
path, as I had  always done, and said that I did  not have the vaguest idea,
and I  would have been truthful at that. Or I could have said that my double
had extricated me from the grip of those women. I was  measuring in my  mind
the possible effect of each alternative when I was distracted by Benigno. He
opened one eye a little bit and looked at me and then giggled and buried his
head in his arms.
     "Benigno, don't you want to talk to me?" I asked.
     He shook his head negatively.
     I felt  self-conscious with him next to  me and decided to ask what was
the matter with him.
     "What's he doing?" I asked Nestor in a low voice.
     Nestor rubbed Benigno's head and shook him. Benigno opened his eyes and
then closed them again.
     "He's that  way, you  know," Nestor  said to me.  "He's extremely  shy.
He'll open his  eyes sooner or  later. Don't pay any attention to him. If he
gets bored he'll go to sleep."
     Benigno shook his head affirmatively without opening his eyes.
     "Well, how did you get out?" Nestor insisted.
     "Don't you want to tell us?" Pablito asked.
     I deliberately said that my double had come out from the top of my head
three times. I gave them an account of what had happened.
     They did not seem in  the  least surprised and  took  my  account as  a
matter of course. Pablito became delighted  with his  own speculations  that
dona Soledad might not recover and  might eventually die. He wanted  to know
if I had struck Lidia as well. Nestor made an imperative gesture for him  to
be quiet and Pablito meekly stopped in the middle of a sentence.
     "I'm sorry. Maestro," Nestor said, "but that was not your double."
     "But everyone said that it was my double."
     "I know for  a fact that you misunderstood la Gorda, because as Benigno
and I were walking to Genaro's house,  la Gorda overtook us on  the road and
told  us  that you and Pablito were here  in this house. She called  you the
Nagual. Do you know why?"
     I laughed and said that I believed it was due to her  notion that I had
gotten most of the Nagual's luminosity.
     "One of us  here is a  fool!" Benigno said  in a booming  voice without
opening his eyes.
     The sound of his voice was so  outlandish that I jumped  away from him.
His  thoroughly unexpected  statement, plus  my reaction to  it, made all of
them laugh. Benigno opened one eye and looked  at me for an instant and then
buried his face in his arms.
     "Do you know why we called Juan Matus the Nagual?" Nestor asked me.
     I said that  I  had  always  thought that that  was  their nice way  of
calling don Juan a sorcerer.
     Benigno laughed  so loudly  that the sound of his laughter  drowned out
everybody else's. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. He rested  his
head on my shoulder as if it were a heavy object he could no longer support.
     "The reason we called him the  Nagual," Nestor went on,  "is because he
was split  in two.  In other words, any time he needed to, he could get into
another track that we don't have ourselves; something would come out of him,
something that was not a double but a horrendous, menacing shape that looked
like him but was  twice his size. We call that shape the nagual  and anybody
who has it is, of course, the Nagual.
     "The Nagual  told us that  all of us can  have that shape coming out of
our  heads if we wanted to, but  chances are  that none of us would want to.
Genaro didn't  want it,  so I  think we don't want it, either. So it appears
that you're the one who's stuck with it."
     They  cackled  and  yelled as if  they were corraling a herd of cattle.
Benigno put  his  arms  around  my shoulders  without opening  his eyes  and
laughed until tears were rolling down his cheeks.
     "Why do you say that I am stuck with it?" I asked Nestor.
     "It takes too much energy," he  said, "too  much work. I don't know how
you can still be standing.
     "The  Nagual and Genaro split you  once  in the  eucalyptus grove. They
took you there because eucalyptuses are your trees. I was there myself and I
witnessed when they  split you and pulled  your nagual out. They pulled  you
apart by the ears until  they had split your luminosity and you were  not an
egg anymore, but two  long chunks of  luminosity. Then they put you together
again, but  any sorcerer that sees can tell that there is a huge gap in  the
     "What's the advantage of being split?"
     "You  have  one  car that  hears  everything  and  one  eye  that  sees
everything and you will  always  be  able to go an extra mile in a moment of
need. That  splitting is also the reason  why  they told us that you are the
     "They  tried to split  Pablito  but it  looks like it failed. He's  too
pampered and has always indulged like a bastard.  That's why he's so screwed
up now."
     "What's a double then?"
     "A double is the other, the  body that one gets in dreaming.  It  looks
exactly like oneself."
     "Do all of you have a double?"
     Nestor scrutinized me with a look of surprise.
     "Hey, Pablito, tell the Maestro about our doubles," he said laughing.
     Pablito reached across the table and shook Benigno.
     "You tell him, Benigno," he said. "Better yet, show it to him."
     Benigno stood up, opened his eyes as wide as he could and looked at the
roof, then he pulled down his pants and showed me his penis.
     The Genaros went wild with laughter.
     "Did  you really mean it when you asked that, Maestro?" Nestor asked me
with a nervous expression.
     I assured him that I  was deadly serious in my desire to  know anything
related to their  knowledge. I went into a long elucidation of how  don Juan
had kept  me  outside of their realm for  reasons I could  not fathom,  thus
preventing me from knowing more about them.
     "Think of this," I said. "I didn't know until three days ago that those
four girls were the Nagual's apprentices, or that Benigno  was  don Genaro's
     Benigno opened his eyes.
     "Think of  this yourself," he  said. "I didn't  know until now that you
were so stupid."
     He  closed  his  eyes  again and all of them laughed insanely. I had no
choice but to join them.
     "We were just teasing you. Maestro,"  Nestor said in way of an apology.
"We thought that you were teasing us, rubbing it in. The Nagual told us that
you see. If you do, you can tell that  we are a sorry lot. We don't have the
body of dreaming. None of us has a double."
     In a  very serious and  earnest manner Nestor said that  something  had
come in between them and their desire  to have a double. I understood him as
saying that a sort of barrier had been created since don Juan and don Genaro
had left.  He  thought that it  might be the result of  Pablito flubbing his
task. Pablito added  that since the  Nagual  and Genaro had  gone, something
seemed to  be  chasing  them,  and  even Benigno,  who  was  living  in  the
southernmost tip of Mexico at that time, had to return. Only when the  three
of them were together did they feel at ease.
     "What do you think it is?" I asked Nestor.
     "There is something out there in that immensity  that's pulling us," he
replied. "Pablito thinks it's his fault for antagonizing those women."
     Pablito turned to me. There was an intense glare in his eyes.
     "They've put a curse on me. Maestro," he  said.  "I know that the cause
of  all our trouble  is me. I wanted to disappear  from these parts after my
fight  with Lidia, and a few  months later I  took off  for Veracruz. I  was
actually very happy there with a girl I wanted to marry. I got a job and was
doing fine until  one  day  I came  home  and  found that those four mannish
freaks,  like beasts of prey, had tracked me down by my scent. They  were in
my  house tormenting my woman.  That  bitch  Rosa  put her  ugly  hand on my
woman's belly  and made her shit  in the bed, just  like that. Their leader.
Two  Hundred  and Twenty Buttocks, told  me  that they had walked across the
continent looking for me. She just grabbed me by the belt and pulled me out.
They  pushed me to the  bus depot to  bring me here. I got madder  than  the
devil but I was no  match for Two Hundred and Twenty Buttocks. She put me on
the bus. But on our way here I ran away. I ran through bushes and over hills
until  my feet got  so swollen that I  couldn't get my  shoes  off. I nearly
died. I  was ill for nine  months. If the Witness hadn't  found  me, I would
have died."
     "I  didn't find him," Nestor said to me. "La  Gorda found him. She took
me to where he was and between the two of  us we carried  him to the bus and
brought him here. He was delirious and we  had to  pay an extra fare so that
the bus driver would let him stay on the bus."
     In a most dramatic  tone Pablito said that he had not changed his mind;
he still wanted to die.
     "But why?" I asked him.
     Benigno answered for him in a booming, guttural voice.
     "Because his pecker doesn't work," he said.
     The sound of his voice was so extraordinary that for an  instant I  had
the  impression  that  he was  talking  inside a  cavern.  It  was  at  once
frightening and incongruous. I laughed almost out of control.
     Nestor  said  that  Pablito  had  attempted  to  fulfill  his  task  of
establishing  sexual  relations  with the  women,  in  accordance  with  the
Nagual's instructions.  He  had  told Pablito that  the four corners of  his
world were already set in  position and all he had to  do was to claim them.
But when  Pablito went to  claim  his first corner, Lidia, she nearly killed
him. Nestor added that it was his personal opinion as a witness of the event
that the reason Lidia rammed him with her head was because Pablito could not
perform as a man, and rather than being embarrassed by  the whole thing, she
hit him.
     "Did Pablito  really  get  sick as a  result of  that  blow  or was  he
pretending?" I asked half in jest.
     Benigno answered again in the same booming voice.
     "He was just pretending!" he said.  "All he got was a bump on the head!
     Pablito and Nestor cackled and yelled.
     "We don't blame Pablito for being afraid of those women,"  Nestor said.
"They  are all like the Nagual himself, fearsome warriors. They're  mean and
     "Do you really think they're that bad?" I asked him.
     "To say they're bad is only one part of the whole truth,"  Nestor said.
"They're just like  the  Nagual. They're serious and gloomy. When the Nagual
was around, they used to sit close to  him and stare into the  distance with
half-closed eyes for hours, sometimes for days."
     "Is it true that Josefina was really crazy a long time ago?" I asked.
     "That's a laugh," Pablito said. "Not a long time ago; she's crazy  now.
She's the most insane of the bunch."
     I  told them  what she had  done  to me.  I  thought  that  they  would
appreciate the humor of her magnificent performance. But my  story seemed to
affect  them the wrong way. They  listened  to me like frightened  children;
even Benigno opened his eyes to listen to my account.
     "Wow!" Pablito exclaimed. "Those bitches are really awful. And you know
that their  leader is Two  Hundred and Twenty Buttocks.  She's the one  that
throws the  rock  and then hides her hand  and pretends  to be  an  innocent
little girl. Be careful of her, Maestro."
     "The Nagual trained Josefina  to be anything," Nestor said. "She can do
anything you want: cry, laugh, get angry, anything."
     "But what is she like when she is not acting?" I asked Nestor.
     "She's just crazier than a bat,"  Benigno  answered in a soft voice. "I
met Josefina the  first day she arrived. I had  to carry her into the house.
The  Nagual  and I  used to  tie her down  to her bed all the time. Once she
began to cry for her friend, a little girl she used to play with.  She cried
for  three  days. Pablito consoled her  and fed her like a  baby. She's like
him. Both of them don't know how to stop once they begin."
     Benigno suddenly  began to sniff the air. He stood up and  went over to
the stove.
     "Is he really shy?" I asked Nestor.
     "He's shy and eccentric," Pablito answered. "He'll be that way until he
loses  his form. Genaro told us  that we will lose our form sooner or later,
so there  is no  point in  making  ourselves miserable  in trying  to change
ourselves  the way the  Nagual told us to. Genaro told us to enjoy ourselves
and not worry about  anything. You and the women  worry and try; we  on  the
other hand, enjoy. You don't know how to enjoy things and we don't  know how
to  make ourselves miserable. The  Nagual called  making yourself miserable,
impeccability; we call it stupidity, don't we?"
     "You are speaking for yourself, Pablito," Nestor said.
     "Benigno and I don't  feel  that way." Benigno  brought  a bowl of food
over and  placed it in front of me. He served everyone. Pablito examined the
bowls and asked Benigno where he had found them. Benigno said that they were
in a box where la Gorda had told him she had  stored  them. Pablito confided
in me that those bowls used to belong to them before their split.
     "We  have to be careful," Pablito said in  a nervous tone. "These bowls
are no doubt bewitched. Those bitches put something in them.  I'd rather eat
out of la Gorda's bowl."
     Nestor and Benigno began to eat. I noticed then that  Benigno had given
me the brown bowl. Pablito seemed to be in a great turmoil.  I wanted to put
him at ease but Nestor stopped me.
     "Don't take him so seriously," he said. "He loves to be that way. He'll
sit down and eat. This is where you and the women  fail. There is no way for
you to understand that Pablito is like that. You expect everybody to be like
the Nagual. La Gorda is the only one who's unruffled by him, not because she
understands but because she has lost her form."
     Pablito sat down  to  eat and among the four  of us we finished a whole
pot of food. Benigno washed the bowls and carefully put them back in the box
and then all of us sat down comfortably around the table.
     Nestor proposed that as soon as it got dark we should all go for a walk
in a ravine nearby, where  don  Juan, don  Genaro and I used  to go. I  felt
somehow  reluctant. I did not feel confident enough in their company. Nestor
said that they were used to walking in the  darkness and  that the  art of a
sorcerer  was to be inconspicuous  even in the  midst of people. I told  him
what don Juan had once said to me, before he had left me in a deserted place
in the mountains not too far from there. He had demanded  that I concentrate
totally  on trying not to be obvious. He said  that the  people of  the area
knew everyone by sight. There were not very many people, but those who lived
there walked around all  the time and could spot a stranger from miles away.
He  told me  that many of  those people had firearms and would  have thought
nothing of shooting me.
     "Don't  be concerned with beings  from  the other world," don Juan  had
said laughing. "The dangerous ones are the Mexicans."
     "That's still valid," Nestor said. "That  has been valid all the  time.
That's why the Nagual and Genaro were the artists they were. They learned to
become  unnoticeable  in  the  middle  of  all  this.  They  knew the art of
     It was  still too  early for our walk in  the dark. I wanted to use the
time  to ask Nestor my critical question. I had been avoiding it all  along;
some  strange  feeling had  prevented  me from  asking. It was as  if I  had
exhausted my interest after Pablito's reply. But Pablito  himself came to my
aid and all of a sudden he brought up the subject as if he  had been reading
my mind.
     "Nestor also jumped  into the abyss the same day we did," he said. "And
in that  way he  became the Witness, you became the Maestro and I became the
village idiot."
     In a casual manner  I asked Nestor to tell me about  his  jump into the
abyss. I tried to sound only mildly interested. But Pablito was aware of the
true nature of my forced indifference. He laughed and told Nestor that I was
being cautious  because I had  been deeply disappointed with his own account
of the event.
     "I went over after you two  did," Nestor said, and looked  at me  as if
waiting for another question.
     "Did you jump immediately after us?" I asked.
     "No. It took me quite  a while to get ready," he said. "Genaro and  the
Nagual didn't tell me what to do. That day was a test day for all of us."
     Pablito seemed  despondent. He  stood up from his  chair and paced  the
room. He sat down again, shaking his head in a gesture of despair.
     "Did you actually see us going over the edge?" I asked Nestor.
     "I am the Witness," he said.  "To witness was  my path of knowledge; to
tell you impeccably what I witness is my task."
     "But what did you really see?" I asked.
     "I  saw  you  two holding each other  and running toward  the edge," he
said. "And then I saw you both like two kites against the sky. Pablito moved
farther out in a straight line and then fell down. You went up a  little and
then you moved away from the edge a short distance, before falling down."
     "But, did we jump with our bodies?" I asked.
     "Well, I don't  think there  was  another  way to do  it," he said, and
     "Could it have been an illusion?" I asked.
     "What are you trying to say. Maestro?" he asked in a dry tone.
     "I want to know what really happened," I said.
     "Did you by  any chance  black out, like Pablito?" Nestor asked  with a
glint in his eye.
     I tried to explain to him  the nature of my quandary about the jump. He
could not hold still and interrupted me. Pablito intervened  to bring him to
order and they  became involved in an argument. Pablito squeezed himself out
of it by walking half seated around the table, holding onto his chair.
     "Nestor  doesn't see beyond his nose," he said  to me.  "Benigno is the
same. You'll get nothing from them. At least you got my sympathy."
     Pablito cackled,  making  his  shoulders shiver, and  hid his face with
Benigno's hat.
     "As far as  I'm  concerned, you two  jumped,"  Nestor  said to  me in a
sudden outburst. "Genaro and the Nagual had  left you with no other  choice.
That was their art, to corral  you and  then lead  you to the only gate that
was open.  And so you two went over  the edge. That  was  what I  witnessed.
Pablito says that he  didn't feel a thing; that is questionable. I know that
he was perfectly aware of everything, but he chooses to feel and say that he
     "I really wasn't aware," Pablito said to me in an apologetic tone.
     "Perhaps,"  Nestor said  dryly. "But I was aware myself, and I saw your
bodies doing what they had to do, jump."
     Nestor's assertions put me in  a strange frame of mind. All along I had
been seeking validation for what I had perceived myself. But once I  had it,
I  realized that it made no difference. To know that I had jumped and  to be
afraid of what  I had perceived was one thing; to seek consensual validation
was another.  I  knew then that  one had no necessary  correlation with  the
other. I had thought all along that to have someone else  corroborate that I
had taken that  plunge would absolve my intellect of its doubts and fears. I
was wrong. I became instead more worried, more involved with the issue.
     I began to  tell Nestor that although I had come to see the two of them
for the specific purpose  of  having them  confirm that I had  jumped, I had
changed my mind  and I really did not want to talk about it anymore. Both of
them started  talking  at once, and at  that  point we fell into a three-way
argument. Pablito maintained that he had not been aware, Nestor shouted that
Pablito was indulging and I said that I  didn't want to  hear anything  more
about the jump.
     It was blatantly obvious to me  for the first time that none of us  had
calmness and self-control. None of us Was willing  to give the  other person
our undivided attention, the way  don Juan and  don Genaro did. Since I  was
incapable of maintaining  any order in our exchange of  opinions, I immersed
myself in my own deliberations. I had always thought that the only flaw that
had prevented me from entering fully into don Juan's world was my insistence
on  rationalizing everything,  but  the presence  of Pablito and  Nestor had
given me a new  insight into myself.  Another flaw  of mine was my timidity.
Once  I strayed outside the safe railings of common sense, I could not trust
myself and became  intimidated by the awesomeness of what unfolded  in front
of me. Thus, I found it was impossible to believe that I had  jumped into an
     Don Juan  had insisted that the whole issue of  sorcery was perception,
and truthful  to that, he and don Genaro  staged, for our  last meeting,  an
immense,  cathartic drama on the flat mountaintop. After they made  me voice
my  thanks in loud clear  words to everyone who had ever helped me, I became
transfixed with elation. At  that point they had caught all my attention and
led  my  body  to perceive  the  only  possible act  within their  frame  of
references:  the  jump  into   the   abyss.  That  jump  was  the  practical
accomplishment of my perception, not as an average man but as a sorcerer.
     I had been so absorbed  in  writing  down my thoughts I had not noticed
that Nestor  and Pablito  had stopped  talking and all  three  of  them were
looking  at  me.  I  explained to  them  that  there  was no  way for  me to
understand what had taken place with that jump.
     "There's nothing to  understand," Nestor said. "Things  just happen and
no one can tell how. Ask Benigno if he wants to understand."
     "Do you want to understand?" I asked Benigno as a joke.
     "You  bet  I  do!"  he exclaimed in a deep bass voice, making  everyone
     "You indulge  in saying that  you  want to understand," Nestor went on.
"Just like Pablito indulges in saying that he doesn't remember anything."
     He looked at Pablito and winked at me. Pablito lowered his head.
     Nestor asked me if I had noticed something about Pablito's mood when we
were about to take our plunge. I had to admit that I had been in no position
to notice anything so subtle as Pablito's mood.
     "A warrior  must notice everything," he said. "That's his trick, and as
the Nagual said, there lies his advantage."
     He smiled  and made a deliberate gesture  of embarrassment,  hiding his
face with his hat.
     "What was it that I missed about Pablito's mood?" I asked him.
     "Pablito  had already jumped before  he went over," he said. "He didn't
have to do anything.  He may  as well have sat down on  the edge instead  of
     "What do you mean by that?" I asked.
     "Pablito was already disintegrating," he replied. "That's why he thinks
he passed out. Pablito lies. He's hiding something."
     Pablito  began to speak to me.  He muttered some unintelligible  words,
then gave  up  and slumped  back  in his  chair. Nestor also started  to say
something. I made him stop. I was not sure I had understood him correctly.
     "Was Pablito's body distegrating?" I asked.
     He peered at  me for  a long time without saying a word. He was sitting
to my right. He moved quietly to the bench opposite me.
     "You must take what I say seriously," he said. "There is no way to turn
back  the wheel  of time to  what we were  before that jump. The Nagual said
that  it  is  an  honor  and a  pleasure to be a warrior, and that it is the
warrior's fortune to do what  he has to  do. I  have to tell  you impeccably
what I have witnessed. Pablito was disintegrating. As you two ran toward the
edge only you were  solid.  Pablito was like a cloud. He thinks that he  was
about to fall on his face, and you think  that  you  held him by the  arm to
help him make it  to the edge.  Neither of  you  is correct,  and I wouldn't
doubt that it would have been better for both  of  you if you  hadn't picked
Pablito up."
     I felt more confused than ever. I truly believed that he was sincere in
reporting  what he  had  perceived, but I  remembered that I had  only  held
Pablito's arm.
     "What would have happened if I hadn't interfered?" I asked.
     "I  can't answer that,"  Nestor replied. "But I  know that you affected
each other's luminosity. At the moment you put  your arm around him, Pablito
became more solid, but you wasted your precious power for nothing."
     "What did you do after we jumped?" I asked Nestor after a long silence.
     "Right  after  you two had disappeared," he said,  "my nerves  were  so
shattered that I couldn't breathe and I too passed out, I don't know for how
long. I thought it was only for a moment. When I  came to my senses again, I
looked around for Genaro and Nagual; they were gone. I ran back and forth on
the  top  of  that mountain,  calling them until my voice was hoarse. Then I
knew  I was alone.  I walked to the edge of the cliff and tried  to look for
the sign that the earth gives  when a warrior is  not going to return, but I
had already  missed  it. I  knew then  that Genaro and the Nagual were  gone
forever. I had not realized until then that they had turned to me after they
had said good-bye to you two, and as you were running to the edge they waved
their hands and said good-bye to me.
     "Finding myself alone at that  time of  day, on that deserted spot, was
more than I could bear. In one sweep I had lost all the friends I had in the
world. I  sat down  and wept. And as  I got  more and more scared I began to
scream as loud as I could. I called Genaro's name at the top of my voice. By
then it was pitch-black. I could no longer distinguish any landmarks. I knew
that as  a warrior I had no business indulging in my grief. In order to calm
myself down I began to howl like a coyote, the way the Nagual had taught me.
After howling for a while I felt so much  better that I forgot my sadness. I
forgot that the world  existed. The more I  howled the easier it was to feel
the warmth and protection of the earth.
     "Hours must have passed. Suddenly I felt a blow inside of me, behind my
throat, and the sound of a bell in my cars. I remembered what the Nagual had
told Eligio and Benigno before they  jumped. He said that the feeling in the
throat came just before one was ready to change speed, and that the sound of
the bell was  the vehicle that one could use to accomplish anything that one
needed. I wanted to be a coyote then. I looked at my arms, which were on the
ground in  front of me. They had changed shape and looked like a coyote's. I
saw the coyote's fur on my arms  and chest. I was a coyote! That made  me so
happy that I  cried like a coyote  must cry. I  felt my  coyote teeth and my
long and pointed muzzle and  tongue. Somehow, I knew that I  had died, but I
didn't care. It  didn't matter  to me to have turned into a coyote, or to be
dead, or to be alive. I walked like a  coyote, on four legs, to the  edge of
the precipice and leaped into it. There was nothing else for me to do.
     "I  felt that I was falling down and my coyote body turned in the  air.
Then I was myself again  twirling  in midair. But before I hit  the bottom I
became so light that I didn't fall anymore but floated. The air went through
me. I was  so light! I believed that my death  was finally coming inside me.
Something  stirred my insides  and  I  disintegrated like dry sand.  It  was
peaceful and perfect where I was. I somehow  knew that I was there and yet I
wasn't. I was nothing. That's  all I can say about it. Then, quite suddenly,
the same thing that had made me like dry sand  put me together again. I came
back  to  life and I found  myself  sitting  in the  hut of  an  old Mazatec
sorcerer. He told me his name was Porfirio. He said that he  was glad to see
me  and began  to teach  me certain things about  plants  that Genaro hadn't
taught me.  He took  me  with him to  where the plants were being  made  and
showed  me the mold of plants,  especially the  marks on the molds. He  said
that if I watched for those marks  in the  plants I  could easily tell  what
they're good for, even if I had never seen those plants before. Then when he
knew that I  had learned  the marks he said good-bye but invited  me to come
see him again. At that moment I felt a strong pull and I disintegrated, like
before. I became a million pieces.
     "Then I was pulled again into myself and went back to see  Porfirio. He
had, after all, invited me. I knew that I could have gone anywhere  I wanted
but I chose Porfirio's hut because he was kind to me and taught me. I didn't
want to risk finding awful things instead. Porfirio took me this time to see
the mold of the animals.  There  I saw  my  own nagual animal.  We knew each
other  on  sight. Porfirio was  delighted  to  see  such  friendship. I  saw
Pablito's and your own nagual too, but  they didn't want to talk to me. They
seemed  sad. I didn't insist on talking  to  them. I didn't know how you had
fared in your jump. I knew that I was dead myself, but my nagual said that I
wasn't and  that you  both  were also alive.  I asked about  Eligio, and  my
nagual said  that  he  was gone forever. I remembered  then that when  I had
witnessed Eligio's and Benigno's  jump I had heard the Nagual giving Benigno
instructions not  to  seek bizarre visions or  worlds  outside  his own. The
Nagual told him to  learn only about  his own world,  because in doing so he
would find  the only  form of power available to him. The Nagual  gave  them
specific  instructions to  let their pieces  explode as far as they could in
order  to  restore their  strength. I did the same myself.  I went  back and
forth from the tonal to the nagual eleven times.  Every time, however, I was
received by Porfirio who instructed me further. Every time my strength waned
I restored it in the nagual  until a time when I restored it so  much that I
found myself back on this earth."
     "Dona Soledad told me that  Eligio didn't have to jump into the abyss,"
I said.
     "He jumped  with Benigno," Nestor said. "Ask him, he'll tell you in his
favorite voice."
     I turned to Benigno and asked him about his jump.
     "You bet we jumped together!" he replied  in a blasting  voice. "But  I
never talk about it."
     "What did Soledad say Eligio did?" Nestor asked.
     I  told  them that dona  Soledad had said that Eligio was twirled by  a
wind and left the world while he was working in an open field.
     "She's thoroughly confused," Nestor said. "Eligio  was twirled  by  the
allies. But he didn't want any of them, so they let him go. That has nothing
to  do with  the  jump. La Gorda said that you had a bout  with allies  last
night; I don't know what you did,  but if  you  had wanted to catch them  or
entice them to stay with you, you had to spin with them. Sometimes they come
of their own  accord  to  the  sorcerer and  spin him. Eligio was  the  best
warrior there was  so the allies came to him  of their own accord. If any of
us want the allies, we would have to beg them for years, and even if we did,
I doubt that the allies would consider helping us.
     "Eligio had to jump like everybody else. I  witnessed his  jump. He was
paired with Benigno. A lot  of  what happens to us as  sorcerers  depends on
what your partner does. Benigno is a  bit off his rocker because his partner
didn't come back. Isn't that so, Benigno?"
     "You bet it is!" Benigno answered in his favorite voice.
     I succumbed at that point to a great curiosity that had plagued me from
the  first  time I had  heard  Benigno  speak. I asked him how  he made  his
booming voice. He  turned to face me. He sat up straight and pointed to  his
mouth as if he wanted me to look fixedly at it.
     "I don't know!"  he boomed. "I just open my mouth  and this voice comes
out of it! "
     He contracted  the muscles of his forehead, curled up his lips and made
a profound booing sound. I  then saw that he had tremendous  muscles  in his
temples, which  had  given his  head a  different contour. It  was  not  his
hairline that was different but the whole upper front part of his head.
     "Genaro left him his noises," Nestor said to me. "Wait until he farts."
     I  had the feeling that  Benigno was getting  ready to  demonstrate his
     "Wait, wait, Benigno," I said, "it's not necessary."
     "Oh, shucks!" Benigno exclaimed in a tone of disappointment. "I had the
best one just for you."
     Pablito and Nestor  laughed so hard that  even Benigno lost his deadpan
expression and cackled with them.
     "Tell me what  else happened to Eligio," I asked  Nestor after they had
calmed down again.
     "After  Eligio and Benigno jumped," Nestor replied, "the Nagual made me
look  quickly over the edge, in order to catch the sign the earth gives when
warriors jump into the abyss. If there  is something like a little cloud, or
a faint gust of wind, the warrior's time on  earth  is not over yet. The day
Eligio and Benigno  jumped I felt  one puff of air  on the  side Benigno had
jumped and I knew that his time was not up. But Eligio's side was silent."
     "What do you think happened to Eligio? Did he die?"
     All three of  them stared at  me. They  were quiet for a moment. Nestor
scratched his temples with both hands. Benigno giggled and shook his head. I
attempted to explain but Nestor made a gesture with his hands to stop me.
     "Are you serious when you ask us questions?" he asked me.
     Benigno answered for me. When  he was not clowning, his voice  was deep
and melodious. He said that the Nagual and Genaro had set us up so all of us
had pieces of information that the others did not have.
     "Well,  if that's  the case  we'll  tell you what's what," Nestor said,
smiling  as if a great load  had been lifted  off his shoulders. "Eligio did
not die. Not at all."
     "Where is he now?" I asked.
     They looked at one  another again.  They gave me  the feeling that they
were struggling to keep from laughing.  I  told  them  that all I knew about
Eligio was what dona Soledad had  told me. She had said that Eligio had gone
to the other world to join the  Nagual and Genaro. To  me that sounded as if
the three of them had died.
     "Why do you talk like that. Maestro?" Nestor asked with  a tone of deep
concern. "Not even Pablito talks like that."
     I thought Pablito was  going to protest. He  almost stood  up,  but  he
seemed to change his mind.
     "Yes, that's right," he said. "Not even I talk like that."
     "Well, if Eligio didn't die, where is he?" I asked.
     "Soledad already told you,"  Nestor said softly.  "Eligio  went to join
the Nagual and Genaro."
     I decided that  it was  best not to ask any  more questions.  I did not
mean  my  probes  to be  aggressive,  but they  always turned out that  way.
Besides, I had the feeling that they did not know much more than I did.
     Nestor  suddenly stood up and began to pace back and forth  in front of
me.  Finally he pulled me away from the table by my armpits. He did not want
me to write. He asked me if I had really blacked out like Pablito had at the
moment of jumping and did not remember anything. I told him that I had had a
number  of vivid dreams or visions  that I could not explain  and that I had
come to see them to  seek clarification. They wanted to hear about  all  the
visions I had had.
     After they had heard my accounts, Nestor said that my visions were of a
bizarre order  and only the first two were  of great importance and  of this
earth; the rest  were  visions  of alien worlds. He explained  that my first
vision was of special value because  it  was an  omen proper.  He  said that
sorcerers  always took a first event of  any series as  the blueprint or the
map of what was going to develop subsequently.
     In  that particular vision I had found myself looking at an  outlandish
world.  There was an enormous  rock right in front of my eyes,  a rock which
had  been split  in  two. Through a  wide gap in it  I could see a boundless
phosphorescent  plain,  a valley  of  some  sort,  which  was  bathed  in  a
greenish-yellow  light.  On  one  side  of  the valley,  to the  right,  and
partially  covered  from  my  view  by  the  enormous  rock,  there  was  an
unbelievable domelike structure.  It was dark, almost a charcoal gray. If my
size was what it is  in the world of everyday life, the  dome must have been
fifty  thousand  feet high  and miles and miles  across.  Such  an  enormity
dazzled  me. I  had a sensation  of  vertigo  and  plummeted into a state of
     Once more I rebounded from it and found myself on a very uneven and yet
flat surface. It was a shiny, interminable surface just like the plain I had
seen  before. It  went as far as  I could see. I soon realized  that I could
turn my  head  in any direction I wanted on  a horizontal plane, but I could
not look at myself. I  was  able, however, to examine  the  surroundings  by
rotating my  head from left to  right and vice  versa.  Nevertheless, when I
wanted to turn around to look behind me, I could not move my bulk.
     The plain extended  itself monotonously,  equally to my left and  to my
right.  There  was nothing  else in  sight but an endless, whitish  glare. I
wanted to look  at the ground underneath my feet but my eyes could not  move
down. I lifted  my  head up  to  look  at  the sky;  all I  saw  was another
limitless, whitish  surface  that seemed  to be connected to the one  I  was
standing on. I then had a moment of apprehension and felt that something was
just  about  to be revealed to me. But  the sudden  and devastating  jolt of
disintegration  stopped my revelation. Some force pulled me downward. It was
as if the whitish surface had swallowed me.
     Nestor  said  that my  vision  of  a  dome was of tremendous importance
because that  particular shape had been isolated by the Nagual and Genaro as
the vision of the place where all of us were supposed to meet them someday.
     Benigno spoke to  me at  that  point  and said that he had heard Eligio
being instructed to find that particular dome.  He  said that the Nagual and
Genaro insisted that  Eligio understand their  point correctly. They  always
had believed Eligio  to be the  best; therefore, they  directed him  to find
that dome and to enter its whitish vaults over and over again.
     Pablito said that all  three of them  were instructed to find that dome
if they  could, but that none of them had. I  said  then, in  a  complaining
tone, that neither  don Juan nor don Genaro had ever mentioned anything like
that to me. I had had no instruction of any sort regarding a dome.
     Benigno, who was sitting across the  table  from  me, suddenly stood up
and came to my side. He sat to my left and whispered very  softly in  my ear
that  perhaps the two old  men had instructed  me but I did not remember, or
that they had not said anything about it so  I would not fix my attention on
it once I had found it.
     "Why was the dome so important?" I asked Nestor.
     "Because that's where the Nagual and Genaro are now," he replied.
     "And where's that dome?" I asked.
     "Somewhere on this earth," he said.
     I had to explain to them at great length that it was impossible that  a
structure of that magnitude could exist on our planet. I said that my vision
was  more  like a  dream and  domes of  that  height  could  exist  only  in
fantasies.  They  laughed  and patted  me gently as  if they were humoring a
     "You want to know where Eligio is," Nestor said all of a sudden. "Well,
he is in the white vaults of that dome with the Nagual and Genaro."
     "But that dome was a vision," I protested.
     "Then Eligio is in a vision,"  Nestor said. "Remember what Benigno just
said to you. The Nagual and  Genaro didn't tell you to find that dome and go
back to it over and  over. If  they had, you wouldn't be here. You'd be like
Eligio, in the dome of  that vision. So you see, Eligio  did  not die like a
man in the street dies. He simply did not return from his jump."
     His claim was staggering to me.  I could  not brush aside the memory of
the vividness of the visions I had had, but for some strange reason I wanted
to argue with him. Nestor, without giving me time to say anything, drove his
point a notch  further. He reminded me of one of my visions: the next to the
last.  That particular one had been the most nightmarish  of them all. I had
found myself being chased  by a strange, unseen creature. I knew that it was
there but I could not see it, not because it  was  invisible but because the
world  I was in was  so  incredibly  unfamiliar that I  could  not tell what
anything was. Whatever the elements  of my vision were, they were  certainly
not from this earth. The emotional distress I experienced upon being lost in
such a place was almost more than I could bear.  At one moment,  the surface
where I stood began to shake. I felt that it was caving in under my feet and
I grabbed a sort of branch, or an appendage of a thing that reminded me of a
tree, which  was hanging  just  above  my head on  a  horizontal  plane. The
instant I  touched it, the  thing wrapped  around my wrist, as  if had  been
filled with nerves  that sensed everything.  I felt that I was being hoisted
to  a tremendous height. I looked down and saw an  incredible animal; I knew
it was the unseen creature that had been chasing me. It was  coming out of a
surface that  looked like the ground. I  could  see its enormous  mouth open
like a cavern. I heard a chilling, thoroughly unearthly roar, something like
a shrill, metallic gasp, and the tentacle that had me caught unraveled and I
fell  into that cavernous mouth,  I saw every detail of  that mouth as I was
falling  into it. Then  it  closed  with me inside. I  felt an instantaneous
pressure that mashed my body.
     "You have already  died,"  Nestor  said.  "That  animal  ate  you.  You
ventured beyond this world  and found horror itself.  Our life and our death
are no  more  and no less real than your short  life  in that place and your
death in the mouth of that monster. This life that we are having now is only
a long vision. Don't you see?"
     Nervous spasms ran through my body.
     "I didn't go beyond  this  world,"  he went  on, "but  I  know what I'm
talking about. I don't have tales of horror like you. All I did was to visit
Porfirio ten times. If it had  been up to me I would've  gone there forever,
but my eleventh bounce was so  powerful that it changed my direction. I felt
that I had overshot Porfirio's  hut,  and  instead of  finding myself at his
door, I found myself in the city,  very close  to the  place of a  friend of
mine. I thought it was funny. I knew that I was journeying between the tonal
and the nagual.  Nobody had said  to me that the  journeys  had to be of any
special  kind. So I got  curious and decided to  see  my friend. I began  to
wonder if I really would get to see him.  I came to his house and knocked on
the  door just as I had  knocked scores  of times. His wife let me in as she
had  always done and sure enough my friend was  home.  I told him that I had
come to the  city on  business and he  even paid me some money he owed me. I
put the money  in  my pocket. I  knew that my friend, and his wife, and  the
money, and his  house, and the city were just like Porfirio's hut, a vision.
I knew that a force beyond me was going  to disintegrate me any moment. So I
sat down to enjoy my friend to the fullest. We laughed and joked. And I dare
say that I was funny and light and charming. I stayed there for a long time,
waiting  for  the jolt;  since it  didn't  come I  decided to leave.  I said
good-bye and thanked him  for the money and for  his  friendship.  I  walked
away. I  wanted  to  see the city before the force  took me away. I wandered
around all night.  I walked all the way to  the  hills overlooking the city,
and at the moment the sun rose a realization struck me like a thunderbolt. I
was back in  the world and the  force  that will disintegrate me was at ease
and was going to let me stay for a while. I was going to see my homeland and
this marvelous earth  for a while longer. What  a great joy. Maestro!  But I
couldn't say that I had  not enjoyed Porfirio's friendship. Both visions are
equal, but  I prefer the  vision of my form and  my earth. It's my indulging
     Nestor stopped talking and all of them stared at me. I felt  threatened
as I had never been before. Some part  of me was in awe of what he had said,
another  wanted to  fight with him.  I began to  argue with  him without any
sense. My inane  mood  lasted for a few moments, then I  became  aware  that
Benigno was looking at me with a very mean expression. He had fixed his eyes
on  my  chest.  I felt  that something ominous  was suddenly  pressing on my
heart. I began to perspire as if a heater were right in front of my face. My
ears began to buzz.
     La  Gorda  walked up  to  me  at that  precise  moment.  She was a most
unexpected  sight.  I  was  sure  that the  Genaros  felt the same way. They
stopped what they were  doing and looked  at her. Pablito  was the first  to
recover from his surprise.
     "Why do you  have  to come in like that?" he asked  in a pleading tone.
"You were listening from the other room, weren't you?"
     She said that she had been in the house only a few minutes and then she
stepped out to the kitchen. And the  reason she stayed quiet was not so much
to listen but to exercise her ability to  be inconspicuous. Her presence had
created  a strange lull.  I  wanted  to  pick up again the flow of  Nestor's
revelations, but before I  could say anything  la Gorda said that the little
sisters were  on their way to the house and would be coming through the door
any  minute. The Genaros stood up at once as if they had been pulled by  the
same string. Pablito put his chair on his shoulder.
     "Let's go for a hike in the dark. Maestro," Pablito said to me.
     La Gorda said  in a most imperative tone that I could not  go with them
yet  because  she  had not finished telling  me  everything the  Nagual  had
instructed her to tell me.
     Pablito turned to me and winked.
     "I've told you," he  said. "They're  bossy, gloomy bitches. I certainly
hope you're not like that. Maestro."
     Nestor and Benigno said good night and embraced me. Pablito just walked
away carrying his chair like a backpack. They went out through the back.
     A few  seconds later a horribly loud bang on  the  front  door made  la
Gorda and me jump to our feet. Pablito walked in again, carrying his chair.
     "You thought I wasn't going to say good night, didn't you?" he asked me
and left laughing.

     The Art of Dreaming

     The next day I was by  myself all morning. I worked on my notes, in the
afternoon I  used my car to help la  Gorda and  the little sisters transport
the furniture from dona Soledad's house to their house.
     In the  early  evening la Gorda and I  sat in the dining area alone. We
were silent for a while. I was very tired.
     La  Gorda  broke  the silence  and said  that all of them had  been too
complacent  since  the  Nagual  and Genaro had left. Each of them  had  been
absorbed  in  his  or  her particular tasks.  She said that  the  Nagual had
commanded her to be an impassionate warrior and to  follow whatever path her
fate selected for her. If Soledad had stolen my  power, la Gorda had to flee
and try to  save the  little sisters and then  join Benigno and Nestor,  the
only  two Genaros who would have  survived. If the little sisters had killed
me, she had to join the Genaros because the little sisters would have had no
more need to be with her. If I had not survived the attack of the allies and
she did, she had to leave that area  and be on her  own. She told me, with a
glint  in her eye,  that  she had  been  sure that neither one  of us  would
survive, and that that was why  she had said goodbye to  her sisters, to her
house and to the hills.
     "The  Nagual told me  that in case you and I survived the allies,"  she
went on, "I have to do  anything for you, because that would be my warrior's
path.  That  was why I interfered with what  Benigno was doing  to  you last
night.  He was pressing on your chest with  his eyes. That is  his  art as a
stalker. You saw Pablito's hand earlier yesterday; that was also part of the
same art."
     "What art is that, Gorda?"
     "The art of  the stalker.  That  was  the Nagual's predilection and the
Genaros are his true children at  that. We, on the other hand, are dreamers.
Your double is dreaming."
     What she was  saying  was  new to me. I  wanted  her  to  elucidate her
statements. I paused  for a moment to read what  I had written in  order  to
select the most appropriate question. I told her that I first wanted to find
out what she knew about my double and then I wanted to know about the art of
     "The Nagual told  me that your double is something that takes a  lot of
power to come out," she said.  "He figured that you might have enough energy
to  get it  out  of you twice. That's why  he set up Soledad and the  little
sisters either to kill you or to help you."
     La Gorda said that I had had  more energy than  the Nagual thought, and
that my double came out three times. Apparently Rosa's attack had not been a
thoughtless  action; on  the contrary, she had very cleverly calculated that
if she injured me, I  would  have been helpless: the same ploy dona  Soledad
had tried with her dog. I had given Rosa a chance to strike me when I yelled
at her, but she  failed  to  injure me. My double came  out  and injured her
instead.  La  Gorda said that Lidia  had told her that Rosa did not want  to
wake up when all of us had to rush out of Soledad's house, so Lidia squeezed
the  hand that  had been injured. Rosa did not feel any pain and  knew in an
instant  that I  had cured her,  which meant  to  them that I had drained my
power.  La Gorda affirmed that the little sisters were very clever  and  had
planned to drain me of power; to that effect they had kept on insisting that
I  cure Soledad.  As  soon as  Rosa realized that I  had also cured her, she
thought that I had weakened myself beyond repair. All they had  to do was to
wait for Josefina in order to finish me off.
     "The  little  sisters  didn't know that when you cured Rosa and Soledad
you also replenished yourself," la Gorda said,  and laughed as  if it were a
joke. "That was  why you had enough energy to  get your  double  out a third
time when the little sisters tried to take your luminosity."
     I  told her about the vision I had  had of dona Soledad huddled against
the wall of her room, and how I had merged that vision with my tactile sense
and ended up feeling a viscous substance on her forehead.
     "That  was  true seeing," la Gorda said. "You saw Soledad in  her  room
although she was with me around Genaro's place, and then you saw your nagual
on her forehead."
     I  felt compelled  at that  point to recount to her the details  of  my
whole  experience, especially the  realization I had had that I was actually
curing dona Soledad and Rosa by touching the viscous substance, which I felt
was part of me.
     "To see that thing on Rosa's hand was also true seeing," she said. "And
you were  absolutely right, that substance was yourself. It came out of your
body and it was your nagual. By touching it, you pulled it back."
     La Gorda told me then, as though she were unveiling a mystery, that the
Nagual had commanded her not to disclose the fact  that since  all of us had
the same  luminosity,  if my nagual  touched one of them,  I  would not  get
weakened, as  would ordinarily be  the case if my nagual touched an  average
     "If your  nagual touches us,"  she said, giving me a gentle slap on the
head, "your luminosity stays on the  surface. You can pick it  up again  and
nothing is lost."
     I told her that the content of her explanation was impossible for me to
believe.  She shrugged her shoulders  as if saying that that was not any  of
her concern.  I asked her then about her usage of  the  word nagual.  I said
that  don  Juan  had explained  the nagual to  me as being the indescribable
principle, the source of everything.
     "Sure," she said smiling.  "I know  what  he  meant. The nagual  is  in
     I  pointed out to  her,  a bit scornfully, that one could also  say the
opposite, that  the tonal  is  in  everything.  She carefully explained that
there was no  opposition, that my statement was correct, the tonal  was also
in everything. She said  that  the tonal which  is in  everything  could  be
easily  apprehended by our senses, while  the nagual which is  in everything
manifested itself only to the eye of the  sorcerer. She added that  we could
stumble upon  the most outlandish sights of the tonal and be scared of them,
or  awed by them, or be indifferent  to  them, because all of us  could view
those  sights. A  sight  of  the  nagual,  on  the other  hand,  needed  the
specialized senses of  a sorcerer in order to be seen at all. And yet,  both
the tonal and  the nagual were  present  in everything at all times. It  was
appropriate, therefore,  for  a sorcerer  to say that "looking" consisted in
viewing the tonal which  is in everything, and  "seeing," on the other hand,
consisted in viewing the nagual which also is in everything. Accordingly, if
a warrior observed  the world as  a  human being, he was looking,  but if he
observed it as a  sorcerer, he was "seeing," and what he was "seeing" had to
be properly called the nagual.
     She then reiterated the reason, which  Nestor had given me earlier, for
calling don Juan the Nagual and confirmed that I was also the Nagual because
of the shape that came out of my head.
     I wanted to know why they had called the shape  that had come out of my
head  the double. She said that they had thought they were sharing a private
joke with me. They had  always called that shape the double, because it  was
twice the size of the person who had it.
     "Nestor told  me that  that shape was not such a good thing to have," I
     "It's neither good nor bad," she said. "You have  it and that makes you
the Nagual. That's all.  One of us eight had to be the Nagual and you're the
one. It might have been Pablito or me or anyone."
     "Tell me now, what is the art of stalking?" I asked.
     "The Nagual was a stalker," she said,  and peered at me. "You must know
that. He taught you to stalk from the beginning."
     It occurred to me that what she was referring to was  what don Juan had
called the hunter.  He  had certainly taught me to  be a hunter.  I told her
that don Juan had shown me how to hunt and make traps. Her usage of the term
stalker, however, was more accurate.
     "A hunter just hunts," she  said. "A stalker stalks anything, including
     "How does he do that?"
     "An impeccable  stalker can turn anything into prey. The Nagual told me
that we can even stalk our own weaknesses."
     I stopped writing and tried to remember if don  Juan had ever presented
me with such a novel possibility: to stalk my weaknesses. I could not recall
him ever putting it in those terms.
     "How can one stalk one's weaknesses, Gorda?"
     "The same way you stalk prey. You figure out  your  routines  until you
know all the doing  of your weaknesses and then you come  upon them and pick
them up like rabbits inside a cage."
     Don Juan had taught me the same  thing about routines, but  in the vein
of a general principle that hunters must  be aware of. Her understanding and
application of it, however, were more pragmatic than mine.
     Don Juan had said that any habit was, in essence, a "doing, "and that a
doing needed all its parts in order to function. If some parts were missing,
a doing was disassembled. By doing, he meant  any  coherent  and  meaningful
series of actions. In other words, a habit needed  all its component actions
in order to be a live activity.
     La Gorda then described how she had stalked her own  weakness of eating
excessively.  She  said that the Nagual had suggested she  first tackle  the
biggest part  of that habit, which was connected with her  laundry work; she
ate  whatever  her  customers  fed  her  as she went  from  house  to  house
delivering her wash. She  expected the Nagual to tell her what to do, but he
only  laughed and made fun of her,  saying that as soon as he  would mention
something for her to do, she would fight not to do it. He said that that was
the way  human  beings are; they love to be told what  to do,  but they love
even  more to  fight  and not  do  what  they  are  told, and thus  they get
entangled in hating the one who told them in the first place.
     For many  years she could  not  think of anything  to  do  to stalk her
weakness. One  day, however, she got so sick and tired of being fat that she
refused to eat for twenty-three days. That was the initial action that broke
her fixation.  She then had the idea of  stuffing her mouth with a sponge to
make her customers believe that she had an infected tooth and could not eat.
The subterfuge worked  not only with  her customers, who stopped  giving her
food, but with her  as well, as she  had the feeling of eating as she chewed
on the sponge. La  Gorda laughed when she told me how she had walked  around
with  a  sponge  stuffed  in her mouth for years until her  habit  of eating
excessively had been broken.
     "Was that all you needed to stop your habit?" I asked.
     "No. I also had to learn how to eat like a warrior."
     "And how does a warrior eat?"
     "A warrior eats quietly, and slowly, and very little at  a time. I used
to talk while I ate, and I ate very fast, and I ate lots and lots of food at
one sitting. The Nagual told me that a warrior eats four  mouthfuls  of food
at one time. A while later he eats another four mouthfuls and so on.
     "A warrior also walks miles  and  miles every  day. My eating  weakness
never  let me walk. I  broke  it by eating four  mouthfuls every hour and by
walking. Sometimes I walked all  day  and all night. That was the way I lost
the fat on my buttocks."
     She laughed  at her own recollection of the nickname don Juan had given
     "But stalking  your weaknesses is not enough to  drop them,"  she said.
"You  can  stalk  them from  now to  doomsday and  it  won't  make  a bit of
difference. That's why the Nagual didn't want to tell me what  to do. What a
warrior really  needs in order  to  be an  impeccable stalker is  to  have a
     La Gorda recounted how  she had lived from  day to  day, before she met
the Nagual, with nothing to look forward to. She had no hopes, no dreams, no
desire for anything. The opportunity to  eat, however, was always accessible
to her; for some reason that she could not fathom,  there had been plenty of
food available to her every single day of her life. So  much of it, in fact,
that at one time she weighed two hundred and thirty-six pounds.
     "Eating was the only thing I enjoyed in life," la Gorda said. "Besides,
I never saw  myself as  being fat.  I  thought I  was rather pretty and that
people liked me as I was. Everyone said that I looked healthy.
     "The Nagual told  me  something  very strange.  He  said that I had  an
enormous amount of personal  power and due to that  I had  always managed to
get food from friends while the relatives in my own house were going hungry.
     "Everybody  has enough personal power for something. The  trick for  me
was to pull my personal power away from food to my warrior's purpose."
     "And what is that purpose, Gorda?" I asked half in jest.
     "To enter into the  other world," she replied with a grin and pretended
to hit me on top of  my head with her knuckles, the way don Juan  used to do
when he thought I was indulging.
     There was no  more  light  for me  to  write. I wanted  her to  bring a
lantern  but she  complained that she  was  too tired and had to sleep a bit
before the little sisters arrived.
     We  went  into the front room.  She  gave  me  a  blanket, then wrapped
herself in another one and fell asleep instantly. I sat with my back against
the  wall.  The brick surface of the bed was hard even with four straw mats.
It was more comfortable to lie down. The moment I did I fell asleep.
     I woke up suddenly with  an  unbearable thirst.  I wanted to  go to the
kitchen to drink some water but I could not orient myself in the darkness. I
could feel la Gorda bundled up in her blanket next to me. I shook her two or
three times  and  asked  her  to help me  get some water. She  grumbled some
unintelligible words. She apparently was so  sound asleep that she  did  not
want to wake up. I shook her again and suddenly she woke up; only it was not
la Gorda. Whoever I was shaking yelled at me in a gruff, masculine voice  to
shut  up. There was  a  man  there  in  place of  la  Gorda!  My  fright was
instantaneous and uncontrollable. I jumped out of  bed and ran for the front
door. But my sense of orientation was off and I ended up out in the kitchen.
I grabbed a lantern and lit it as fast as  I could. La Gorda came out of the
outhouse  in  the  back at that moment  and asked  me if there was something
wrong. I nervously told her what had happened. She  seemed a bit disoriented
herself.  Her  mouth was open and her  eyes had lost their  usual sheen. She
shook her head vigorously and that seemed to restore her alertness. She took
the lantern and we walked into the front room.
     There was  no  one  in  the bed.  La Gorda lit three more lanterns. She
appeared to be worried. She told me to stay where I was, then she opened the
door  to their room. I noticed that there was light coming from  inside. She
closed the door again and  said in a matter-of-fact  tone not to worry, that
it was nothing, and that she was going to make us something to eat. With the
speed and efficiency of a short-order cook she made some food. She also made
a hot chocolate  drink with cornmeal. We sat across from each  other and ate
in complete silence.
     The night was cold.  It looked as if  it was going  to rain. The  three
kerosene lanterns that she  had brought to the dining  area cast a yellowish
light  that was very  soothing. She took some boards that were stacked up on
the floor, against the wall, and  placed them vertically in a deep groove on
the transverse  supporting beam of the  roof.  There was a  long slit in the
floor parallel  to the  beam that  served to  hold the boards  in place. The
result was a portable wall that enclosed the dining area.
     "Who was in the bed?" I asked.
     "In  bed,  next to  you,  was  Josefina,  who  else?" she replied as if
savoring her words,  and then laughed. "She's a master  at  jokes like that.
For a moment  I thought it was something else, but then I  caught  the scent
that Josefina's body has when she's carrying out one of her pranks."
     "What was she trying to do? Scare me to death?" I asked.
     "You're not their favorite, you know," she replied. "They don't like to
be taken out  of the path  they're familiar with.  They hate  the  fact that
Soledad is leaving. They don't want to  understand that  we are  all leaving
this  area. It looks like our time is  up. I knew that today. As I  left the
house I felt that those  barren hills out there were making me tired.  I had
never felt that way until today."
     "Where are you going to go?"
     "I don't know yet. It looks as if that depends on you. On your power."
     "On me? In what way, Gorda?"
     "Let me  explain.  The day  before you arrived the little sisters and I
went to the city.  I  wanted  to find you  in  the city because I had a very
strange vision  in my dreaming. In that vision I was in the city with you. I
saw you in my vision  as plainly as I see you now. You didn't know who I was
but you talked to me. I couldn't make out what you said. I  went back to the
same vision three times  but I was  not strong enough in my dreaming to find
out what you were saying to me. I figured that my vision was telling me that
I  had to go to the  city and trust my power to find  you there. I  was sure
that you were on your way."
     "Did the little sisters know why you took them to the city?" I asked.
     "I didn't tell them anything," she replied. "I just took them there. We
wandered around the streets all morning."
     Her statements put  me  in  a  very  strange frame of mind.  Spasms  of
nervous excitation ran through my entire body. I had to  stand  up and  walk
around for a moment. I sat down  again  and told her that I had  been in the
city the same  day, and  that I  had  wandered  around  the  marketplace all
afternoon looking for don Juan. She stared at me with her mouth open.
     "We must have passed each other,"  she said and sighed. "We were in the
market and in  the park.  We  sat on the  steps  of the church  most of  the
afternoon so as not to attract attention to ourselves."
     The hotel where I had stayed was practically next door to the church. I
remembered that I  had stood  for  a long time  looking at the people on the
steps of  the church.  Something was  pulling me to examine them.  I had the
absurd notion that both don Juan and don Genaro were going to be among those
people, sitting like beggars just to surprise me.
     "When did you leave the city?" I asked.
     "We left  around five o'clock and headed for the  Nagual's spot in  the
mountains," she replied.
     I had also had  the certainty that don Juan had  left at the end of the
day. The  feelings  I had had during that entire  episode of looking for don
Juan became  very clear  to me. In light  of what she had  told  me I had to
revise my stand.  I had conveniently  explained away the certainty I had had
that  don Juan  was  there in the  streets  of  the city  as  an  irrational
expectation, a result of my consistently finding  him there in the past. But
la Gorda had been in the city actually looking for me and she was the  being
closest to don Juan  in temperament. I had felt  all along that his presence
was there. La Gorda's  statement had merely confirmed something that my body
knew beyond the shadow of a doubt.
     I  noticed a flutter of  nervousness  in  her body when I  told her the
details of my mood that day.
     "What would've happened if you had found me?" I asked.
     "Everything  would've been  changed," she replied. "For me to find  you
would've meant that  I had enough power  to move forward. That's why I  took
the  little sisters with me. All  of us, you,  me  and the  little  sisters,
would've gone away together that day."
     "Where to, Gorda?"
     "Who knows? If I had the  power to  find you  I  would've  also had the
power to know that. It's your turn now. Perhaps you  will have enough  power
now to know where we should go. Do you see what I mean?"
     I had  an attack of profound sadness at that point. I felt more acutely
than ever  the despair of my human  frailty  and temporariness. Don Juan had
always maintained that the  only  deterrent to our despair was the awareness
of our death, the key to the sorcerer's scheme of things. His idea was  that
the  awareness  of our death  was the  only  thing  that  could give us  the
strength  to withstand the duress and pain of our lives and our fears of the
unknown. But what he could never tell  me was how to bring that awareness to
the  foreground. He  had insisted, every  time  I  had asked  him,  that  my
volition alone was the deciding  factor; in other words, I had to make up my
mind to bring that awareness to bear witness  to my  acts. I thought  I  had
done so. But confronted with la Gorda's determination to find me and go away
with me, I realized that if she had  found me in  the city that day I  would
never have returned to my home, never again would  I have seen  those I held
dear. I had not been prepared for  that. I had braced  myself for dying, but
not  for disappearing for  the rest  of my  life in full awareness,  without
anger or disappointment, leaving behind the best of my feelings.
     I was  almost embarrassed to tell  la Gorda  that I was  not a  warrior
worthy of having the kind of power that must be needed to perform an act  of
that nature: to leave for good and to know where to go and what to do.
     "We are human creatures," she said. "Who knows what's waiting for us or
what kind of power we may have?"
     I told  her  that my sadness in leaving like  that  was too great.  The
changes  that sorcerers went  through  were  too  drastic  and too  final. I
recounted  to her what Pablito had told  me  about his unbearable sadness at
having lost his mother.
     "The  human form  feeds itself on those feelings,"  she said  dryly. "I
pitied myself and my little  children for years.  I  couldn't understand how
the Nagual  could be  so  cruel  to ask me to  do  what  I did: to leave  my
children, to destroy them and to forget them."
     She said that it took  her years to understand that the Nagual also had
had to choose to leave the human form. He was not being cruel. He simply did
not  have  any  more human  feelings.  To  him everything  was equal. He had
accepted his fate. The problem with Pablito, and myself for that matter, was
that neither of us had accepted our fate. La Gorda said,  in a scornful way,
that Pablito wept when he remembered  his mother, his Manuelita,  especially
when he had to cook his  own food. She urged me to remember Pablito's mother
as she  was: an old, stupid woman who knew  nothing else but to be Pablito's
servant. She  said that the reason all of  them  thought he was a coward was
because he  could not be  happy that his servant  Manuelita had  become  the
witch Soledad, who could kill him like she would step on a bug.
     La Gorda stood  up  dramatically and  leaned over the table  until  her
forehead was almost touching mine.
     "The Nagual said  that  Pablito's  good fortune was extraordinary," she
said. "Mother and son  fighting for the same thing. If he weren't the coward
he is, he would accept  his fate and oppose Soledad like a warrior,  without
fear or hatred. In the end the best would  win  and take all. If  Soledad is
the winner, Pablito should  be happy  with  his fate and wish  her well. But
only a real warrior can feel that kind of happiness."
     "How does dona Soledad feel about all this?"
     "She doesn't indulge  in her feelings," la Gorda  replied and  sat down
again. "She has accepted  her  fate more readily than any one of us.  Before
the Nagual helped  her she was worse off than myself. At least I was  young;
she was an old  cow, fat and tired, begging for her death to come. Now death
will have to fight to claim her."
     The time element in dona Soledad's transformation was a detail that had
puzzled  me. I  told la Gorda that I  remembered having seen dona Soledad no
more than two years before and she was the same old lady I had always known.
La Gorda said that the  last time I had been in  Soledad's house,  under the
impression that it was still  Pablito's house, the Nagual had set them up to
act as if everything were the  same. Dona Soledad greeted me, as  she always
did, from the kitchen,  and I really  did not face her. Lidia, Rosa, Pablito
and Nestor played their roles to perfection in order to keep me from finding
out about their true activities.
     "Why would the Nagual go to all that trouble, Gorda?"
     "He was saving you for something that's not clear yet. He kept you away
from  every  one of us  deliberately. He and Genaro told me never to show my
face when you were around."
     "Did they tell Josefina the same thing? "
     "Yes. She's crazy and can't help herself. She wanted to play her pranks
on you. She used to follow you around and you never  knew it. One night when
the  Nagual  had taken you  to  the mountains, she nearly pushed  you down a
ravine  in the darkness.  The  Nagual  found her in  the nick of  time.  She
doesn't do those things out of meanness,  but because she enjoys  being that
way. That's her human form. She'll be that way until she loses it. I've told
you that all six of them are a bit off. You must be aware of that so as  not
to be caught in their webs. If you  do  get  caught, don't get  angry.  They
can't help themselves."
     She was silent for a while. I caught the almost imperceptible sign of a
flutter in  her  body. Her eyes seemed to  get out of focus  and  her  mouth
dropped  as if the muscles of  her jaw had  given  in. I became engrossed in
watching her. She shook her head two or three times.
     "I've just  seen something,"  she  said.  "You're just  like the little
sisters and the Genaros."
     She  began to laugh quietly. I  did not  say anything. I wanted  her to
explain herself without my meddling.
     "Everybody gets  angry  with you because it hasn't dawned  on them  yet
that  you're no different than they are," she went  on. "They see you as the
Nagual and they  don't understand that  you indulge in your  ways just  like
they do in theirs."
     She  said  that Pablito whined  and complained and  played  at  being a
weakling. Benigno played  the shy one, the  one who could not  even open his
eyes. Nestor  played to be the wise one, the one who knows everything. Lidia
played the tough woman who could crush anyone with  a look. Josefina was the
crazy one who could not be trusted. Rosa was the  bad-tempered girl  who ate
the  mosquitoes that bit her. And I was the fool  that came from Los Angeles
with a pad of  paper and lots of wrong questions. And all of  us loved to be
the way we were.
     "I was once a  fat, smelly woman," she went on after a pause. "I didn't
mind being kicked  around like a dog as long as I was not alone. That was my
     "I will have to tell everybody what I have seen about you so they won't
feel offended by your acts."
     I did not know what to say. I felt  that she was  undeniably right. The
important issue for me was  not so much her accurateness but the fact that I
had witnessed her arriving at her unquestionable conclusion.
     "How did you see all that?" I asked.
     "It just came to me," she replied.
     "How did it come to you?"
     "I felt the  feeling of seeing coming to the top of my head, and then I
knew what I've just told you."
     I  insisted  that  she describe to  me every  detail of  the feeling of
seeing that  she was alluding to.  She complied after a moment's vacillation
and gave me  an account of the same ticklish sensation I had become so aware
of  during my confrontations  with  dona Soledad and the little sisters.  La
Gorda said that the  sensation started  on the top of her head and then went
down her back and around  her waist to her womb. She felt it inside her body
as  a consuming ticklishness,  which  turned into the knowledge that  I  was
clinging to my  human form, like all the rest, except that my particular way
was incomprehensible to them.
     "Did you hear a voice telling you all that?" I asked.
     "No. I just saw everything I've told you about yourself," she replied.
     I  wanted to  ask  her if  she had  had  a vision  of  me  clinging  to
something, but I desisted. I did not  want to indulge in my usual  behavior.
Besides, I knew what she meant when she  said that she "saw." The same thing
had happened to me when I was  with Rosa and Lidia. I  suddenly "knew" where
they lived; I had not had a vision of their house. I simply felt that I knew
     I asked her  if  she  had also felt a dry sound  of a wooden pipe being
broken at the base of her neck.
     "The  Nagual taught  all of  us how to  get the feeling on  top  of the
head,"  she said. "But not everyone of  us can  do it.  The sound behind the
throat is even more difficult. None of us has ever felt it yet. It's strange
that you have when you're still empty."
     "How does that sound work?" I asked. "And what is it?"
     "You know that better than I do. What more can I tell you?" she replied
in a harsh voice.
     She seemed to catch herself being  impatient. She smiled sheepishly and
lowered her head.
     "I feel stupid telling you  what  you already know," she  said. "Do you
ask me questions like that to test if I have really lost my form?"
     I told her that I  was confused, for I had the feeling that I knew what
that  sound  was  and yet it was  as if I did  not  know  anything about it,
because for  me to know something I actually had to be  able to verbalize my
knowledge.  In this case,  I did not  even know how to begin verbalizing it.
The only thing I  could do, therefore, was to ask her questions, hoping that
her answers would help me.
     "I can't help you with that sound," she said.
     I experienced a sudden and tremendous discomfort. I told her that I was
habituated  to dealing with  don Juan and that I  needed him then, more than
ever, to explain everything to me.
     "Do you miss the Nagual?" she asked.
     I  said that I  did, and that I had not  realized how much I missed him
until I was back again in his homeland.
     "You miss  him because you're still clinging  to your human form,"  she
said, and giggled as if she were delighted at my sadness.
     "Don't you miss him yourself, Gorda?"
     "No. Not me.  I'm him. All my luminosity has been changed;  how could I
miss something that is myself?"
     "How is your luminosity different?"
     "A human being, or any other living creature,  has a pale  yellow glow.
Animals are more yellow, humans  are  more white. But a  sorcerer is  amber,
like  clear  honey in the sunlight. Some women sorceresses are greenish. The
Nagual said that those are the most powerful and the most difficult."
     "What color are you, Gorda?"
     "Amber, just like  you and all  the rest  of us. That's what the Nagual
and Genaro told me. I've never seen myself. But I've seen everyone else. All
of  us  are  amber. And  all of  us, with the exception of you,  are  like a
tombstone. Average  human beings are like eggs; that's why the Nagual called
them luminous eggs. Sorcerers  change not only the color of their luminosity
but their shape. We are like tombstones; only we are round at both ends."
     "Am I still shaped like an egg, Gorda?"
     "No. You're shaped like a tombstone, except that you have an ugly, dull
patch in  your  middle. As long as you have that patch you won't be  able to
fly, like sorcerers fly,  like I flew last night for you. You won't  even be
able to drop your human form."
     I became entangled in a  passionate  argument not  so much  with her as
with  myself. I  insisted  that their stand  on how to  regain  that alleged
completeness was simply preposterous. I told her that she could not possibly
argue successfully with me that  one  had to  turn  one's  back to one's own
children in order to pursue the vaguest of all possible goals: to enter into
the world of the nagual. I was so thoroughly convinced that I was right that
I got  carried away and  shouted angry words  at her. She was not in any way
flustered by my outburst.
     "Not everybody has to  do that,"  she said. "Only sorcerers who want to
enter  into the other  world. There are plenty of good sorcerers who see and
are incomplete. To be complete is only for us Toltecs.
     "Take  Soledad,  for instance.  She's the best  witch  you can find and
she's  incomplete. She had two children; one of them was a girl. Fortunately
for Soledad her  daughter died. The Nagual said that  the edge of the spirit
of a person  who dies goes back to  the givers, meaning that that  edge goes
back to the parents. If the givers are dead and the person has children, the
edge goes  to  the  child  who  is  complete. And  if all the  children  are
complete, that edge  goes to the one  with power  and not necessarily to the
best or  the  most diligent.  For example, when Josefina's mother died,  the
edge went to the craziest of the lot, Josefina.  It should have  gone to her
brother who is a hardworking, responsible man, but Josefina is more powerful
than her brother. Soledad's daughter died  without leaving  any children and
Soledad got a boost that closed half her hole. Now, the only hope she has to
close it  completely is for Pablito to die. And by the same token, Pablito's
great hope for a boost is for Soledad to die."
     I told her in very strong terms that what she was saying was disgusting
and horrifying to me. She agreed that  I was right. She affirmed that at one
time  she herself had believed that that particular sorcerers' stand was the
ugliest  thing possible.  She  looked at  me with shining  eyes.  There  was
something malicious about her grin.
     "The Nagual told  me that  you understand everything but you don't want
to do anything about it," she said in a soft voice.
     I began  to argue again. I told her that what the Nagual had said about
me had nothing to do with my revulsion for the particular stand that we were
discussing. I explained that I liked children,  that I had the most profound
respect for them, and that  I empathized very deeply with their helplessness
in the  awesome  world around them. I  could not conceive hurting a child in
any sense, not for any reason.
     "The  Nagual  didn't  make  the  rule," she  said.  "The  rule is  made
somewhere out there, and not by a man."
     I defended myself by saying that I was not angry with her or the Nagual
but that I was arguing in the abstract, because I could not fathom the value
of it all.
     "The  value  is  that  we  need  all  our  edge,  all  our  power,  our
completeness in order to enter into that other world,"  she  said.  "I was a
religious woman. I could tell you what I used to repeat without knowing what
I meant. I wanted my soul to enter the kingdom of heaven. I still want that,
except that I'm on a different path. The world  of the nagual is the kingdom
of heaven."
     I objected to  her  religious connotation  on  principle.  I had become
accustomed by  don  Juan  never to dwell on that  subject.  She very  calmly
explained that  she saw no difference in terms  of life-style between us and
true  nuns and priests.  She pointed  out  that not only were true nuns  and
priests complete as a rule, but  they did not  even  weaken themselves  with
sexual acts.
     "The  Nagual   said  that  that  is  the  reason  they  will  never  be
exterminated, no matter who tries to exterminate them," she said. "Those who
are after them are always empty;  they don't have the vigor  that  true nuns
and  priests have.  I liked the Nagual for saying that.  I will always cheer
for the nuns and priests. We  are alike. We have given  up the world and yet
we  are in  the  midst  of it.  Priests  and  nuns would  make great  flying
sorcerers if someone would tell them that they can do it."
     The  memory  of  my  father's  and my grandfather's  admiration for the
Mexican  revolution  came  to  my  mind. They mostly admired  the attempt to
exterminate  the clergy. My father inherited that admiration from his father
and I inherited it from both of them. It was a  sort  of affiliation that we
had. One of the first things that don Juan undermined in my personality  was
that affiliation.
     I once told  don Juan, as if I were voicing my own opinion, something I
had heard  all my life, that the favorite ploy of the Church was  to keep us
in ignorance.  Don Juan had a most serious expression on his face. It was as
if my statements had  touched a deep fiber in him. I  thought immediately of
the centuries of exploitation that the Indians had endured.
     "Those dirty bastards," he said. "They have  kept me  in ignorance, and
you too."
     I caught his irony tight away and we  both  laughed. I had never really
examined that stand. I did not believe it but I had nothing else to take its
place. I told don Juan about my grandfather and my father and their views on
religion as the liberal men they were.
     "It doesn't matter what anybody says or does," he said. "You must be an
impeccable man yourself. The fight is right here in this chest."
     He patted my chest gently.
     "If  your  grandfather and  father would  be  trying  to  be impeccable
warriors," don Juan  went on, "they wouldn't have time for petty fights.  It
takes all the time and all the  energy we have to  conquer the idiocy in us.
And that's what matters.  The rest is of no importance. Nothing of what your
grandfather or father said  about the Church gave them well-being. To  be an
impeccable  warrior, on  the other  hand, will give you vigor and youth  and
power. So, it is proper for you to choose wisely."
     My choice was the  impeccability and simplicity  of  a  warrior's life.
Because of that choice I felt that I  had to take la Gorda's words in a most
serious  manner  and  that was more threatening to me than even don Genaro's
acts. He used to frighten me at a most profound level. His actions, although
certifying, were assimilated, however, into the coherent continuum  of their
teachings. La Gorda's words and  actions were  a different kind of threat to
me, somehow more concrete and real than the other.
     La Gorda's body shivered for a moment. A ripple went through it, making
her contract the  muscles of her shoulders and arms. She grabbed the edge of
the table with an awkward rigidity. Then she relaxed until she was again her
usual self.
     She smiled at  me.  Her eyes  and  smile were dazzling.  She said in  a
casual tone that she had just "seen" my dilemma.
     "It's useless to close your eyes and pretend that you don't want  to do
anything or  that you don't know anything," she said. "You can do that  with
people but not with  me. I know now why the  Nagual commissioned me  to tell
you  all  this. I'm a nobody. You admire great people; the Nagual and Genaro
were the greatest of all."
     She stopped and examined me. She seemed  to be waiting for  my reaction
to what she said.
     "You fought  against what the Nagual and Genaro told you, all the way,"
she went  on. "That's  why you're behind.  And  you fought them because they
were great. That's your particular way of being. But you can't fight against
what I  tell you, because you can't look up to me at all.  I am your peer; I
am in your cycle. You like to fight  those  who are better than you. It's no
challenge  to fight my stand. So, those two devils have  finally  bagged you
through me. Poor little Nagual, you've lost the game."
     She came closer to me and whispered in my ear that  the Nagual had also
said  that she should never  try to take my writing pad away from me because
that would be  as dangerous as trying to snatch a bone  from a hungry  dog's
     She  put her arms around me, resting  her head  on  my  shoulders,  and
laughed quietly and softly.
     Her "seeing" had numbed  me. I knew that she was  absolutely right. She
had pegged  me  to perfection. She bugged  me for a long time with her  head
against  mine. The proximity  of her body somehow was very soothing. She was
just like don Juan at that. She  exuded strength and conviction and purpose.
She was wrong to say that I could not admire her.
     "Let's forget this,"  she said suddenly. "Let's talk about what we have
to do tonight."
     "What exactly are we going to do tonight, Gorda?"
     "We have our last appointment with power."
     "Is it another dreadful battle with somebody?"
     "No. The little sisters are simply  going  to show  you  something that
will complete your visit here. The Nagual told me that after that you may go
away and never return, or that you  may choose to stay  with us. Either way,
what they have to show you is their art. The art of the dreamer."
     "And what is that art? "
     "Genaro told me that he  tried time and time again to acquaint you with
the art  of the dreamer. He showed you his other body, his body of dreaming;
once he even made you be in two  places at once,  but your emptiness did not
let you see what he was pointing out to you. It looks  as if all his efforts
went through the hole in your body.
     "Now it seems that it is different. Genaro made the  little sisters the
dreamers that they are  and tonight they will show you Genaro's art. In that
respect, the little sisters are the true children of Genaro."
     That  reminded me  of what Pablito  had said earlier, that we  were the
children of both, and that we were Toltecs. I asked her what he had meant by
     "The Nagual  told me that sorcerers  used  to be called Toltecs in  his
benefactor's language," she replied.
     "And what language was that, Gorda?"
     "He never told me. But he and Genaro used to speak a language that none
of us  could understand.  And here, between all of  us,  we  understand four
Indian languages."
     "Did don Genaro also say that he was a Toltec?"
     "His benefactor was the same man, so he also said the same thing."
     From la Gorda's responses  I could surmise that she either did not know
a great deal on the subject or she did not want  to talk to  me about it.  I
confronted  her with my conclusions. She confessed that she  had never  paid
much attention to it  and wondered why I was putting  so much value on it. I
practically gave her a lecture on the ethnography of central Mexico.
     "A sorcerer  is  a Toltec when that sorcerer has received the mysteries
of  stalking  and dreaming," she  said  casually.  "The  Nagual  and  Genaro
received those  mysteries from their benefactor  and then  they held them in
their bodies. We are doing the same, and because of that we are Toltecs like
the Nagual and Genaro.
     "The  Nagual taught you  and  me equally to be dispassionate. I am more
dispassionate  than you because  I'm formless. You  still have your form and
are empty,  so you  get caught in  every snag. One  day, however, you'll  be
complete again and you'll understand then that the Nagual was right. He said
that the world  of people goes up and down  and people go up and  down  with
their world;  as sorcerers  we have no  business following them in their ups
and downs.
     "The  art of sorcerers is to be outside everything and be unnoticeable.
And more than  anything else, the art of  sorcerers  is never to waste their
power. The Nagual told me that your problem is that you always get caught in
idiocies, like  what  you're doing now. I'm  sure  that you're going to  ask
everyone  of us  about the Toltecs, but you're not going to ask anyone of us
about our attention."
     Her  laughter was clear and contagious. I admitted to her that she  was
right. Small  issues had  always fascinated me. I also  told her  that I was
mystified by her usage of the word attention.
     "I've told you  already  what  the Nagual told me about attention," she
said. "We hold the  images of the world with our attention.  A male sorcerer
is very difficult to train because his attention is always  closed,  focused
on something. A female, on  the other hand, is  always open because  most of
the  time she  is not focusing  her attention on anything. Especially during
her menstrual period. The Nagual told me and then showed me that during that
time I could actually let my attention go from the images of the world. If I
don't focus my attention on the world, the world collapses."
     "How is that done, Gorda?"
     "It's  very  simple. When a  woman  menstruates  she cannot  focus  her
attention. That's the crack the Nagual told me about. Instead of fighting to
focus, a  woman should let go of  the  images, by gazing fixedly at  distant
hills, or by gazing at water, like a river, or by gazing at the clouds.
     "If you gaze with your eyes open, you get dizzy and the eyes get tired,
but  if you half-close them  and blink a lot  and move them from mountain to
mountain,  or  from cloud to  cloud,  you can  look  for hours,  or  days if
     "The Nagual used  to make us sit by  the door  and gaze at  those round
hills on the other side of the valley. Sometimes  we  used to sit there  for
days until the crack would open."
     I wanted to hear more about it, but  she stopped talking and  hurriedly
sat  very close to  me. She signaled me with her  hand to listen. I  heard a
faint  swishing sound  and suddenly  Lidia stepped  out into the  kitchen. I
thought that  she must have  been asleep in their room  and the sound of our
voices had woken her up.
     She had changed the Western clothes she had  been wearing the last time
I had seen her and had put on a long dress like the Indian women of the area
wore. She  had a shawl on her  shoulders  and was barefoot. Her long  dress,
instead of making her look older  and  heavier,  made her look like  a child
clad in an older woman's clothes.
     She walked up  to the  table and  greeted la  Gorda with a formal "Good
evening, Gorda." She then turned to me and said, "Good evening, Nagual."
     Her greeting was so unexpected and her tone so serious that I was about
to laugh.  I caught a warning from  la Gorda. She pretended to be scratching
the top of her head with the back of her left hand, which was clawed.
     I  answered  Lidia  the same way  la  Gorda had: "Good  evening to you,
     She sat down at the end of the table to the right of me. I did not know
whether or not to start up a conversation. I was about to say something when
la Gorda tapped my leg  with her knee,  and  with a subtle movement  of  her
eyebrows signaled  me to listen. I heard  again the muffled sound  of a long
dress  as it  touched  the floor.  Josefina  stood for a moment at  the door
before walking toward the  table. She greeted Lidia, la  Gorda and myself in
that order. I could not keep a straight face with her.  She was also wearing
a long dress, a shawl and no shoes, but  in  her case the dress was three or
four sizes larger and she had put a  thick  padding into  it. Her appearance
was thoroughly incongruous; her face was lean and young, but her body looked
grotesquely bloated.
     She  took a bench and  placed it  at the left  end of the table and sat
down. All three of  them  looked  extremely serious. They were sitting  with
their legs pressed together and their backs very straight.
     I  heard once more the  rustle  of a dress  and Rosa  come out. She was
dressed just like the others  and  was  also barefoot. Her greeting  was  as
formal  and the  order naturally included Josefina. Everyone answered her in
the same formal tone. She sat across the table facing me. All of us remained
in absolute silence for quite a while.
     La Gorda spoke suddenly, and the  sound of her voice made everyone else
jump. She said,  pointing to me, that the Nagual was going to  show them his
allies, and that he was going to use his special call to bring them into the
     I  tried  to make a joke and said that the Nagual was not  there, so he
could not bring any  allies. I thought they were  going  to laugh. La  Gorda
covered her  face and the little sisters glared at me. La Gorda put her hand
on my  mouth and whispered in my ear that it was absolutely necessary that I
refrain  from saying idiotic things. She looked right into my eyes  and said
that I had to call the allies by making the moths' call.
     I reluctantly began. But no sooner had I started than the spirit of the
occasion  took over and I found that in a  matter of seconds I  had given my
maximum  concentration to producing the  sound. I modulated  its outflow and
controlled the  air being expelled from my lungs  in  order  to  produce the
longest possible tapping. It sounded very melodious.
     I  took  an  enormous gasp  of  air  to start a new  series. I  stopped
immediately. Something outside the house was answering my call.  The tapping
sounds  came  from  all  around  the house, even  from the roof.  The little
sisters stood up and  huddled like  frightened children around la  Gorda and
     "Please, Nagual, don't bring  anything  into  the house," Lidia pleaded
with me.
     Even  la Gorda seemed a  bit frightened. She gave  me a  strong command
with her hand  to  stop. I  had not  intended to keep on producing the sound
anyway. The allies,  however, either  as formless forces or as  beings  that
were prowling  outside the door,  were  not dependent on my tapping sound. I
felt  again, as  I  had  felt two  nights  before in don  Genaro's house, an
unbearable pressure, a heaviness leaning against  the  entire house. I could
sense it  in my navel as an itch, a nervousness that soon turned  into sheer
physical anguish.
     The three little  sisters were  beside themselves with fear, especially
Lidia and Josefina. Both of them were whining like wounded dogs. All of them
surrounded me and then clung  to me. Rosa crawled under the table and pushed
her head up between  my  legs.  La Gorda stood behind  me  as calmly as  she
could.  After  a  few moments  the hysteria  and fear  of  those three girls
mounted  to enormous proportions. La Gorda leaned over and whispered  that I
should make the opposite sound, the sound that  would disperse them. I had a
moment of supreme uncertainty. I really  did  not know any  other sound. But
then I had a quick sensation of ticklishness on the top of my head, a shiver
in my body,  and  I remembered out of  nowhere a peculiar whistling that don
Juan  used  to  perform at  night  and had  endeavored to  teach me. He  had
presented it to me as a means to keep one's balance while walking so  as not
to stray away from the trail in the darkness.
     I began my whistling and the pressure in my umbilical region ceased. La
Gorda smiled and sighed with relief  and the little  sisters moved away from
my  side, giggling  as  if all of it had  been  merely a joke. I  wanted  to
indulge in some soulsearching deliberations about the abrupt transition from
the  rather pleasant exchange  I was having with la Gorda to that  unearthly
situation. For an instant I pondered over whether or not the whole thing was
a ploy on their part. But I was too weak. I felt I was about to pass out. My
ears were buzzing. The  tension around  my  stomach  was so intense  that  I
believed I was going to become ill right there. I rested my head on the edge
of  the table. After a  few  minutes, however, I was again relaxed enough to
sit up straight.
     The three girls seemed to have forgotten  how frightened they had been.
In fact, they were laughing and pushing  each other as they  each tied their
shawls around their hips.  La Gorda did  not seem  nervous nor  did she seem
relaxed. Rosa  was pushed at one moment by the other two  girls and fell off
the  bench where all three of  them were sitting. She landed on her  seat. I
thought that she was going  to get furious but she giggled. I  looked  at la
Gorda  for directions. She Was sitting with a very  straight back.  Her eyes
were  half-closed, fixed on Rosa.  The  little  sisters were  laughing  very
loudly,  like  nervous  schoolgirls.  Lidia  pushed  Josefina  and sent  her
tumbling over  the  bench to fall next  to  Rosa on  the floor. The  instant
Josefina was on the floor  their laughter  stopped. Rosa  and Josefina shook
their bodies, making an incomprehensible movement with  their buttocks; they
moved them  from side to side as if they were grinding something against the
floor.  Then they sprang up like  two  silent jaguars  and took Lidia by the
arms. All three of them, without  making the  slightest noise, spun around a
couple of times. Rosa and Josefina lifted Lidia  by the armpits and  carried
her as they tiptoed two  or three times around the  table. Then all three of
them  collapsed as if they had springs on their knees that had contracted at
the  same time. Their long dresses puffed up, giving them the appearance  of
huge balls.
     As soon  as  they were on the floor they became even more quiet.  There
was no other sound except the soft swishing of their dresses as  they rolled
and crawled. It was as if I were watching a three-dimensional movie with the
sound turned off.
     La  Gorda, who had  been quietly  sitting  next  to me  watching  them,
suddenly stood up and with the agility of an  acrobat ran toward the door of
their room at the corner of the dining area. Before she reached the door she
tumbled on her right side and shoulder just enough to  turn over  once, then
stood  up, pulled by the momentum of her rolling,  and flung  open the door.
She performed all her movements with absolute quietness.
     The  three girls rolled and crawled into the room like giant pill bugs.
La Gorda signaled me to come over to where she was;  we entered the room and
she had me sit on the floor with my back against the  frame of the door. She
sat to my right with her back also  against the frame. She made me interlock
my fingers and then placed my hands over my belly button.
     I was  at first  forced to divide my  attention between la  Gorda,  the
little sisters  and  the room.  But  once la Gorda had  arranged  my sitting
position, my attention was taken up by  the room. The three girls were lying
in the middle of a large, white, square  room with a brick floor. There were
four gasoline  lanterns,  one  on each  wall, placed on built-in  supporting
ledges approximately six feet above the ground. The room had no ceiling. The
supporting beams of the  roof had been darkened and that gave  the effect of
an enormous room with no top. The  two doors were placed on the very corners
opposite each other. As I looked at the closed door across from where I was,
I  noticed  that the walls  of the room were oriented to follow the cardinal
points. The door where we were was at the northwest corner.
     Rosa,  Lidia  and  Josefina  rolled counterclockwise  around  the  room
several times. I strained to hear the swish of their dresses but the silence
was  absolute.  I  could  only hear la Gorda breathing.  The little  sisters
finally stopped and sat down with their backs against the wall, each under a
lantern. Lidia sat at the east wall, Rosa, at the north and Josefina, at the
     La Gorda  stood up, closed the  door behind  us and  secured it with an
iron bar. She made me slide over a few inches, without changing my position,
until I was sitting with my  back against the door. Then she silently rolled
the length of  the  room and sat down  underneath  the lantern on the  south
wall; her getting into that sitting position seemed to be the cue.
     Lidia stood up and began to walk  on  the  tips of  her  toes along the
edges of the room, close to the walls. It was not a walk proper but rather a
soundless sliding. As she increased  her speed she began to move  as if  she
were  gliding,  stepping on  the angle between the floor and the  walls. She
would jump over  Rosa, Josefina, la Gorda  and  myself every time she got to
where we were sitting. I felt her long dress brushing me every time she went
by. The  faster she ran, the higher  she got on the wall. A moment came when
Lidia was actually running silently around the four  walls of the room seven
or  eight feet above the floor. The sight  of  her, running perpendicular to
the walls, was so unearthly that it bordered on the grotesque. Her long gown
made the  sight even more  eerie. Gravity did not seem to have any effect on
Lidia, but  it did  on her long skirt; it dragged downward.  I felt it every
time she passed over my head, sweeping my face like a hanging drape.
     She had captured  my attentiveness at  a level I could not imagine. The
strain of giving her my undivided attention was so great that I began to get
stomach  convulsions; I  felt her  running  with  my  stomach. My eyes  were
getting out of focus. With the last bit of my remaining concentration, I saw
Lidia walk down on the east wall diagonally and come to a halt in the middle
of the room.
     She was panting, out  of  breath, and drenched in perspiration  like la
Gorda had been  after her flying display. She could hardly keep her balance.
After a moment she walked to her place at the east wall and collapsed on the
floor like a wet rag. I thought she had fainted, but then I noticed that she
was deliberately breathing through her mouth.
     After some minutes of  stillness, long enough  for Lidia to recover her
strength and sit up  straight, Rosa stood up and  ran without making a sound
to the center of the room, turned on her heels and ran back to where she had
been sitting. Her running allowed her to gain the necessary momentum to make
an  outlandish jump. She  leaped  up in the air, like a  basketball  player,
along the vertical span of the wall, and her hands went beyond the height of
the wall, which was perhaps ten feet. I saw her  body  actually hitting  the
wall, although there was  no corresponding crashing sound. I expected her to
rebound to the floor with the force of the impact, but  she remained hanging
there, attached to the wall like a pendulum.  From where I sat it looked  as
if she  were  holding a  hook  of  some  sort in her  left  hand. She swayed
silently in a pendulum-like motion for a moment and then catapulted  herself
three or four feet over  to her left by pushing her body  away from the wall
with  her right arm, at the  moment in which  her  swing was the widest. She
repeated the swaying and catapulting  thirty or forty times. She went around
the  whole room  and then she went  up  to the beams of the  roof where  she
dangled precariously, hanging from an invisible hook.
     While she was on the beams I became aware that what I had thought was a
hook in  her left hand was actually some quality of  that hand that made  it
possible for her to suspend her weight from it. It was the same hand she had
attacked me with two nights before.
     Her display ended with her dangling from the beams over the very center
of the room. Suddenly she let go. She fell down from  a height of fifteen or
sixteen feet. Her long dress flowed upward and gathered around her head. For
an instant, before she landed without a  sound, she looked  like an umbrella
turned inside out by the force of the wind; her thin, naked body looked like
a stick attached to the dark mass of her dress.
     My  body felt the impact of her plummeting down, perhaps more than  she
did herself.  She landed in a squat position and remained motionless, trying
to catch her breath. I was sprawled out on  the floor with painful cramps in
my stomach.
     La Gorda rolled across  the  room, took her shawl and tied it around my
umbilical region, like a band, looping it around my body two or three times.
She rolled back to the south wall like a shadow.
     While she had been  arranging the  shawl  around  my waist, I  had lost
sight of Rosa. When I looked up she was again  sitting by  the north wall. A
moment  later, Josefina  quietly  moved to the center of the room. She paced
back and forth with noiseless steps, between where Lidia was sitting and her
own spot at  the  west wall. She  faced me all the  time.  Suddenly, as  she
approached  her  spot, she raised her  left forearm  and placed it right  in
front of her face, as if she wanted to block me from her view. She hid  half
of her face for an instant behind her forearm. She  lowered it and raised it
again, that  time  hiding her  entire  face. She  repeated  the movement  of
lowering  and  raising  her  left  forearm  countless  times, as  she  paced
soundlessly  from one  side of the room  to the other. Every time she raised
her forearm a bigger portion of her body disappeared from my  view. A moment
came when she had hidden her entire body, puffed up with clothes, behind her
thin forearm.
     It  was  as if by blocking  her view  of my body, sitting ten to twelve
feet away from her, a thing she could have easily done with the width of her
forearm, she also made me block  the view of her body,  a  thing which could
not possibly be done with just the width of her forearm.
     Once she had hidden her  entire body, all I was able to make out  was a
silhouette  of a forearm suspended in midair, bouncing  from one side of the
room to the other, and at one point I could hardly see the arm itself.
     I felt a revulsion, an unbearable nausea. The bouncing forearm depleted
me of energy. I  slid down  on my side, unable to keep my balance. I saw the
arm falling  to the ground.  Josefina was  lying on  the floor  covered with
garments, as if her puffed-up clothes had exploded. She lay on her back with
her arms spread out.
     It took  a long  time to get back my physical balance. My clothes  were
soaked in perspiration. I was not the only one  affected. All of  them  were
exhausted  and  drenched in  sweat. La Gorda  was the most  poised,  but her
control  seemed to be on the verge of collapsing. I could hear all of  them,
including la Gorda, breathing through their mouths.
     When  I was in full control again everybody sat on her spot. The little
sisters were looking at me fixedly.  I saw out of the corner of my  eye that
la Gorda's eyes were half-closed. She suddenly rolled noiselessly to my side
and whispered in my ear that I should begin to make my moth call, keeping it
up until the allies had rushed into the house and were about to take us.
     I had a  moment of vacillation. She  whispered that there was no way to
change  directions, and  that we had  to  finish what we  had started. After
untying her shawl from my waist, she rolled back to her spot and sat down.
     I put my left hand to my lips and tried to produce the tapping sound. I
found it very difficult at first. My lips were dry and my hands were sweaty,
but after an initial clumsiness, a feeling of vigor and well-being came over
me. I produced the most flawless tapping noise I had  ever done. It reminded
me of the tapping noise I had been hearing all  along as a response to mine.
As  soon as  I  stopped to  breathe,  I could hear  the tapping sound  being
answered from all directions.
     La Gorda signaled me  to go on  with it. I produced three more  series.
The last one was utterly mesmeric. I  did  not need to  intake a gulp of air
and let it out in small spurts, as I had been doing all along. This time the
tapping sound came out  of my mouth freely.  I did not even have to  use the
edge of my hand to produce it.
     La Gorda  suddenly rushed to  me, lifted me up bodily by my armpits and
pushed  me to  the  middle  of  the room. Her  action  disrupted my absolute
concentration. I noticed that Lidia was holding  onto my right arm, Josefina
to my left, and Rosa had backed  up  against the front of me and was holding
me by the waist with her arms extended backward. La Gorda was in back of me.
She  ordered me to put my arms behind and grab onto her shawl, which she had
looped around her neck and shoulders like a harness.
     I noticed  at  that moment that something besides us was  there  in the
room, but I could not tell what it was. The little sisters were shivering. I
knew that they were aware of something which I  was unable to distinguish. I
also knew  that la  Gorda  was going to try to do what she had  done in  don
Genaro's house. All of a sudden, I felt the wind of the eye  -- door pulling
us. I  grabbed  onto la  Gorda's shawl with all my strength while the little
sisters grabbed  onto me. I felt that we were spinning, tumbling and swaying
from side to side like a giant, weightless leaf.
     I opened my eyes and  saw that we were like a  bundle.  We were  either
standing up or we were lying horizontally in the air. I could not tell which
because I had no sensorial point  of reference. Then, as suddenly as we  had
been lifted off, we were dropped. I sensed our  falling  in my midsection. I
yelled with  pain and  my screams  were  united  with  those  of the  little
sisters. The insides of my knees hurt. I felt an unbearable jolt on my legs;
I thought I must have broken them.
     My next  impression was that  something was getting inside my  nose. It
was very dark and  I was lying on my back. I sat up. I realized then that la
Gorda was tickling my nostrils with a twig.
     I did not feel  exhausted or even mildly tired. I jumped to my feet and
only  then was I stricken by the realization that we  were not in the house.
We were on a hill, a rocky, barren hill. I took a step and nearly fell down.
I had  stumbled over a body. It was  Josefina. She was extremely hot  to the
touch.  She seemed to  be feverish. I tried to make  her sit up, but she was
limp. Rosa was next to her. As a  contrast, her body was icy cold. I put one
on top of the other and rocked  them. That motion brought them back to their
     La Gorda had found Lidia and was making her walk. After  a few minutes,
all of us were standing. We were perhaps half a mile east of the house.
     Years before don Juan had produced in me a similar experience  but with
the aid  of a psychotropic plant. He seemingly made me fly  and  I landed  a
distance from his house.  At the  time, I had tried to explain the  event in
rational terms, but there was no ground for rational explanations and, short
of accepting that I had flown,  I had to fall back onto the only two avenues
left open: I could explain it all by  arguing that don  Juan had transported
me to the distant field while I  was  still unconscious under the  effect of
the psychotropic  alkaloids of  that plant; or  by  arguing  that  under the
influence of the alkaloids I had believed what don Juan  was ordering  me to
believe, that I was flying.
     This time I had no other recourse but to brace myself for accepting, on
its face value, that I had flown. I wanted to indulge in doubts and began to
wonder about the possibilities of the four girls carrying me to that hill. I
laughed loudly, incapable  of containing  an obscure delight. I was having a
relapse of my old malady. My reason, which had been blocked off temporarily,
was beginning to take hold of me again. I wanted to defend it. Or perhaps it
would  be more appropriate to say, in  light of  the outlandish  acts I  had
witnessed  and  performed since  my  arrival,  that my reason was  defending
itself, independently of the more complex whole that seemed to be the "me" I
did  not  know. I  was  witnessing, almost in  the  fashion of an interested
observer, how  my  reason  struggled  to  find  suitable  rationales,  while
another,  much  larger portion  of  me  could  not  have  cared  less  about
explaining anything.
     La Gorda made  the three girls line up. She then pulled me to her side.
All of them folded their arms behind their  backs. La Gorda made me  do  the
same.  She stretched  my arms as  far back as they would go and then made me
bend  them  and grab each  forearm as tightly as  possible  as close  to the
elbows  as  I   could.  That  created  a  great  muscular  pressure  at  the
articulations  of  my  shoulders. She pushed my  trunk forward  until  I was
almost stooping. Then she made a peculiar birdcall. That was a signal. Lidia
started walking. In the darkness her movements reminded me of an ice skater.
She walked swiftly and silently and in a few minutes she disappeared from my
     La  Gorda made two  more  birdcalls, one after  the other, and Rosa and
Josefina took off in the same manner Lidia had. La  Gorda told me to  follow
close to her. She made one more birdcall and we both started walking.
     I was  surprised at the ease with which I walked. My entire balance was
centered in my legs. The fact that I had my arms  behind my back, instead of
hindering  my movements, aided me in maintaining a strange equilibrium.  But
above all what surprised me the most was the quietness of my steps.
     When we reached the road we began  to walk normally. We passed two  men
going in the  opposite direction. La Gorda  greeted them and  they  answered
back. When we arrived  at the  house we found the little sisters standing by
the door, not daring to go in.  La Gorda told them that although I could not
control the allies I could either call them or tell them to leave, and  that
the allies would not bother us any longer. The girls believed her, something
I myself could not do in that instance.
     We went  inside.  In  a  very quiet and efficient  manner all  of  them
undressed, drenched themselves with  cold water and put on a fresh change of
clothes.  I did the same. I put on the  old clothes I used to  keep  in  don
Juan's house, which la Gorda brought to me in a box.
     All of us were in high spirits. I asked la  Gorda to explain to me what
we had done.
     "We'll talk about that later," she said in a firm tone.
     I remembered then that the packages  I  had for them  were still in the
car. I thought that while la Gorda was cooking some food for us it would  be
a good opportunity to  distribute them. I went out and got them  and brought
them into the  house. I placed them  on the  table. Lidia asked me if  I had
already assigned the  gifts as she had suggested. I said that  I wanted them
to pick one they liked. She declined. She said that no doubt I had something
special for Pablito  and  Nestor  and a bunch of trinkets for them, which  I
would throw on the table with the intention that they fight over them.
     "Besides,  you  didn't bring anything  for Benigno," Lidia said as  she
came to my side and looked  at me with mock seriousness. "You can't hurt the
Genaros' feelings by giving two gifts for three."
     They all laughed.  I  felt embarrassed.  She was  absolutely  right  in
everything that she had said.
     "You are careless,  that's why I've never liked you," Lidia said to me,
changing her smile into a frown. "You have  never greeted me with  affection
or respect. Every  time we saw each other you only  pretended to be happy to
see me."
     She  imitated my  obviously  contrived effusive greeting,  a greeting I
must have given her countless times in the past.
     "Why didn't you ever ask me what I was doing here?" Lidia asked me.
     I stopped writing to consider her point. It had never occurred to me to
ask her anything. I told  her  that I had no excuse. La Gorda interceded and
said that the reason that  I  had never said more  than  two words to either
Lidia or Rosa each time  I saw them  was because I was accustomed to talking
only to women that I was enamored of, in one way or  another. La Gorda added
that  the  Nagual had told them that  if  I would ask them anything directly
they were  supposed  to answer my questions,  but as long  as I did not ask,
they were not supposed to mention anything.
     Rosa said that  she did not like me  because I was  always laughing and
trying to be funny. Josefina  added  that since  I had never  seen her,  she
disliked me just for fun, for the hell of it.
     "I  want you to know that I don't accept you as the Nagual," Lidia said
to me. "You're  too dumb. You know nothing. I know more than you do. How can
I respect you?"
     Lidia added that as far as she was  concerned I  could go back  where I
came from or go jump in a lake for that matter.
     Rosa and Josefina did not say a  word. Judging  by the serious and mean
expressions on their faces, however, they seemed to agree with Lidia.
     "How can  this  man lead us?"  Lidia asked la Gorda. "He's  not  a true
nagual. He's a man. He's going to make us into idiots like himself."
     As she was  talking I  could  see the  mean  expressions on Rosa's  and
Josefina's faces getting even harder.
     La Gorda intervened and explained  to them what  she had "seen" earlier
about me.  She  added that  since  she had  recommended  to  me  not to  get
entangled in their webs, she was recommending the same thing to them, not to
get entangled in mine.
     After Lidia's initial display of genuine and  well-founded animosity, I
was flabbergasted  to see how easily she  acquiesced  to la Gorda's remarks.
She smiled at me. She even came and sat next to me.
     "You're really like us, eh?" she asked in a tone of bewilderment.
     I did not know what to say. I was afraid of blundering.
     Lidia was  obviously the leader of the little sisters. The  moment  she
smiled at  me the other two  seemed to  be  infused instantly  with the same
     La  Gorda told  them not to mind my  pencil  and  paper  and my  asking
questions and that  in return  I would  not  be  flustered when  they became
involved in doing what they loved the most, to indulge in themselves.
     The  three of them sat close to me. La Gorda walked  over to the table,
got  the  packages and  took them out to my car. I asked Lidia to forgive me
for my inexcusable blunderings of the  past and asked all of them to tell me
how they  had become don  Juan's apprentices. In order  to make them feel at
ease  I gave  them an account of how I had met don Juan. Their accounts were
the same as what dona Soledad had already told me.
     Lidia said that all of them had been free to leave don Juan's world but
their  choice had  been  to  stay.  She,  in  particular,  being  the  first
apprentice, was given an opportunity to go away. After the Nagual and Genaro
had cured her, the  Nagual had pointed to the door  and told her that if she
did not go through it then, the door would close her in and would never open
     "My  fate  was sealed when that door  closed,"  Lidia said to me. "Just
like what happened to you. The Nagual told me that after he had put a  patch
on you, you had a chance to leave but you didn't want to take it."
     I remembered  that particular decision more vividly than anything else.
I  recounted  to  them how  don Juan had tricked me  into believing  that  a
sorceress was after him, and then he  gave me the  choice  of either leaving
for good or staying to  help him wage a war against  his attacker. It turned
out that his  alleged attacker was  one of his confederates. By  confronting
her, on what I thought was don Juan's  behalf, I turned  her against  me and
she became what he called my "worthy opponent."
     I asked Lidia if they had had a worthy opponent themselves.
     "We  are not as dumb as you are," she said. "We  never needed anyone to
spur us."
     "Pablito is that dumb,"  Rosa  said. "Soledad is his opponent.  I don't
know how worthy she is, though. But as the saying goes, if you can't feed on
a capon, feed on an onion."
     They laughed and banged on the table.
     I asked them if any of them knew  the sorceress  don Juan had pitted me
against, la Catalina.
     They shook their heads negatively.
     "I  know her," la Gorda said from the stove.  "She's from  the Nagual's
cycle, but she looks as if she's thirty."
     "What is a cycle, Gorda?" I asked.
     She  walked over to the table and  put her foot on the bench and rested
her chin on her arm and knee.
     "Sorcerers like the Nagual and Genaro have two cycles,"  she said. "The
first is when they're human, like ourselves. We are in our first cycle. Each
of us has been given a task and that task is making us leave the human form.
Eligio, the five of us, and the Genaros are of the same cycle.
     "The  second cycle is when a sorcerer  is not  human anymore, like  the
Nagual  and  Genaro.  They came to teach  us, and after they  taught us they
left. We are the second cycle to them.
     "The Nagual  and la Catalina are  like you and Lidia.  They  are in the
same positions. She's a scary sorceress, just like Lidia."
     La Gorda went back to the stove. The little sisters seemed nervous.
     "That must  be  the  woman who knows power plants,"  Lidia  said to  la
     La Gorda said that she was the one. I asked them if the Nagual had ever
given them power plants.
     "No, not to us  three," Lidia  replied. "Power plants are given only to
empty people. Like yourself and la Gorda."
     "Did the Nagual give you power plants, Gorda?" I asked loudly.
     La Gorda raised two fingers over her head.
     "The Nagual gave her his pipe twice," Lidia said. "And she went off her
rocker both times."
     "What happened, Gorda?" I asked.
     "I went off  my rocker," she  said as she  walked  over  to the  table.
"Power plants  were given to use  because the Nagual  was putting a patch on
our bodies. Mine hooked fast, but yours was difficult. The Nagual  said that
you  were crazier than Josefina, and  impossible like  Lidia, and he had  to
give you a lot of them."
     La Gorda explained  that power  plants  were used only by sorcerers who
had mastered their art. Those  plants  were such a powerful  affair  that in
order to be properly handled,  the most impeccable  attention was needed  on
the part of the sorcerer. It took a lifetime to train one's attention to the
degree needed. La Gorda said that complete people do  not need power plants,
and that neither the little sisters nor the Genaros had ever taken them, but
that someday when they had perfected  their art as  dreamers, they would use
them to get a final and total boost, a boost of such magnitude that it would
be impossible for us to understand.
     "Would you and I take them too?" I asked la Gorda.
     "All of us," she replied. "The Nagual said  that  you should understand
this point better than any of us."
     I considered  the issue for a moment. The effect of psychotropic plants
had  indeed been terrifying for me. They seemed to reach a vast reservoir in
me, and  extract from it a total world. The drawback in taking them had been
the  toll  they took on  my  physical well-being and  the  impossibility  of
controlling  their effect. The world they plunged me into was unamenable and
chaotic. I lacked the control, the power, in  don Juan's terms, to  make use
of  such a  world. If I would  have the  control, however, the possibilities
would be staggering to the mind.
     "I took them, myself," Josefina said all of a sudden. "When I was crazy
the Nagual gave me his pipe, to cure me or kill me. And it cured me! "
     "The Nagual really gave Josefina  his  smoke," la Gorda said  from  the
stove  and then came over to the table. "He knew that she  was pretending to
be crazier than she was. She's always been a bit off, and she's  very daring
and indulges in herself  like no one else. She always  wanted to  live where
nobody  would bother her and she could do whatever she wanted. So the Nagual
gave  her  his  smoke  and  took her  to live in a world of her  liking  for
fourteen days,  until she  was so  bored with it that she got cured. She cut
her indulging. That was her cure."
     La Gorda went back to the  stove. The little sisters laughed and patted
one another on the back.
     I  remembered then  that at  dona  Soledad's house  Lidia  had not only
intimated that don Juan had left a package for me but she had actually shown
me a bundle that had made  me think of the sheath in which don  Juan used to
keep his pipe. I  reminded  Lidia that she had said that they would give  me
that package when la Gorda was present.
     The little sisters  looked  at one another and then turned to la Gorda.
She made  a gesture with her  head. Josefina stood up and went to  the front
room. She returned a moment later with the bundle that Lidia had shown me.
     I  had a  pang  of anticipation  in  the pit  of  my stomach.  Josefina
carefully  placed  the  bundle on  the table  in  front of  me.  All of them
gathered  around. She began to untie it as ceremoniously as  Lidia had  done
the first time. When the package was completely  unwrapped, she  spilled the
contents on the table. They were menstruation rags.
     I got  flustered for  an instant. But the sound of la Gorda's laughter,
which  was  louder  than the others',  was  so pleasing that I had to  laugh
     "That's  Josefina's  personal  bundle,"  la  Gorda  said.  "It  was her
brilliant idea to play on your greed for a gift from the Nagual, in order to
make you stay."
     "You have to admit that it was a good idea," Lidia said to me.
     She imitated the look of greed I had on my face  when  she was  opening
the package and then my look of disappointment when she did not finish.
     I told  Josefina that her idea had indeed  been brilliant, that  it had
worked as  she had anticipated, and that I had wanted that package more than
I would care to admit.
     "You can  have it, if you  want it," Josefina  said and made  everybody
     La  Gorda  said  that the  Nagual had  known  from the  beginning  that
Josefina  was  not really ill,  and that  that was the reason it had been so
difficult for him to  cure  her.  People  who are  actually  sick  are  more
pliable. Josefina was too aware of everything and very unruly and he had had
to smoke her a great many times.
     Don Juan had once  said the same thing about me, that he had smoked me.
I  had always believed  that he was referring to  having  used  psychotropic
mushrooms to have a view of me.
     "How did he smoke you?" I asked Josefina.
     She shrugged her shoulders and did not answer.
     "The same way  he smoked you," Lidia  said. "He  pulled your luminosity
and dried it with the smoke from a fire that he had made."
     I was  sure  that don Juan had never explained  such a  thing to  me. I
asked  Lidia to tell me  what she knew  about the subject. She  turned to la
     "Smoke is very important for sorcerers,"  la Gorda said. "Smoke is like
fog. Fog is of course better, but it's too hard to handle. It's not as handy
as smoke is. So  if a sorcerer wants  to see  and know someone who is always
hiding,  like  you  and  Josefina, who  are  capricious  and difficult,  the
sorcerer makes  a fire  and  lets  the  smoke  envelop the person.  Whatever
they're hiding comes out in the smoke."
     La Gorda said  that  the Nagual used smoke  not only to  "see" and know
people but also to cure. He gave Josefina  smoke baths; he made her stand or
sit by  the  fire  in the  direction the wind was blowing.  The smoke  would
envelop  her  and  make  her  choke  and cry,  but her discomfort  was  only
temporary and  of  no consequence; the positive effects, on the  other hand,
were a gradual cleansing of the luminosity.
     "The Nagual gave all of us smoke baths," la Gorda said.  "He  gave  you
even more  baths than Josefina. He said  that you  were unbearable,  and you
were not even pretending, like she was."
     It all became clear to me. She was right; don  Juan had made  me sit in
front of a fire hundreds of times. The smoke used to irritate  my throat and
eyes to  such a  degree that I dreaded  to see him begin to gather dry twigs
and branches. He said that  I had  to learn to control my breathing and feel
the  smoke while I kept my  eyes  closed; that  way I could  breathe without
     La Gorda  said that smoke had helped  Josefina to be ethereal  and very
elusive, and that no doubt it had helped me  to cure my madness, whatever it
     "The Nagual said that smoke takes everything out of you," la Gorda went
on. "It makes you clear and direct."
     I  asked her if  she knew  how to bring  out with the smoke whatever  a
person was  hiding. She said that she could easily do it  because  of having
lost her  form, but that  the little sisters and the Genaros, although  they
had seen the Nagual  and  Genaro do it scores of  times, could not yet do it
     I was curious to know why don Juan had never mentioned  the subject  to
me,  in spite of the fact  that he had smoked me like  dry fish  hundreds of
     "He did," la Gorda said with her  usual  conviction.  "The Nagual  even
taught you fog gazing. He told us that  once you smoked a whole place in the
mountains and saw  what was hiding behind the scenery. He said  that he  was
spellbound himself."
     I  remembered an  exquisite  perceptual distortion, a  hallucination of
sorts, which I had had and thought was the product of a  play between a most
dense fog  and an electrical storm that was occurring  at  the  same time. I
narrated to  them  the  episode  and added that don Juan  had  never  really
directly  taught me anything about the  fog or  the smoke. His procedure had
been to build fires or to take me into fog banks.
     La Gorda did not say a word. She stood up and went  back to the  stove.
Lidia shook her head and clicked her tongue.
     "You  sure are dumb," she  said. "The Nagual taught you everything. How
do you think you saw what you have just told us about?"
     There was an abyss between our understanding of how to teach something.
I told them that if I were to teach them something I knew, such  as  how  to
drive a car, I would go step by step, making sure that they understood every
facet of the whole procedure.
     La Gorda returned to the table.
     "That's only  if  the  sorcerer is teaching something about the tonal,"
she said. "When  the sorcerer is dealing with the  nagual,  he must give the
instruction, which is to show the mystery to the warrior.  And that's all he
has to  do.  The warrior who  receives the mysteries must claim knowledge as
power, by doing what he has been shown.
     "The  Nagual  showed  you more mysteries than all of  us  together. But
you're lazy,  like Pablito,  and  prefer to  be confused. The  tonal and the
nagual are two different worlds. In one you talk, in the other you act."
     At the  moment  she spoke,  her words made absolute sense to me. I knew
what she was talking about. She went back to the stove, stirred something in
a pot and came back again.
     "Why are you so dumb?" Lidia bluntly asked me.
     "He's empty," Rosa replied.
     They made me stand up and  forced themselves to squint  as they scanned
my body with their eyes. All of them touched my umbilical region.
     "But why are you still empty?" Lidia asked.
     "You know what to do, don't you?" Rosa added.
     "He was crazy," Josefina said to them. "He must still be crazy now."
     La  Gorda  came to my aid and told them that I was still empty for  the
same reason they still had their form. All  of  us secretly did not want the
world of the nagual. We were afraid and had second  thoughts. In short, none
of us was better than Pablito.
     They  did  not  say  a  word.  All  three  of  them  seemed  thoroughly
     "Poor little Nagual," Lidia said to  me with a tone of genuine concern.
"You're as  scared as we are. I pretend to be tough, Josefina pretends to be
crazy, Rosa pretends to be ill-tempered and you pretend to be dumb."
     They  laughed, and for the  first time  since I had arrived they made a
gesture  of comradeship  toward me. They embraced  me and  put  their  heads
against mine.
     La  Gorda sat  facing  me  and the little sisters sat around her. I was
facing all four of them.
     "Now we  can talk  about  what happened tonight," la  Gorda said.  "The
Nagual told me that  if  we survived  the last contact  with  the  allies we
wouldn't be the  same.  The  allies did something  to us tonight. They  have
hurled us away."
     She gently touched my writing hand.
     "Tonight was a special night  for you," she went on. "Tonight all of us
pitched  in to help you, including the allies. The  Nagual  would have liked
it. Tonight you saw all the way through."
     "I did?" I asked.
     "There you go again," Lidia said, and everybody laughed.
     "Tell  me about my seeing, Gorda," I insisted. "You know that I'm dumb.
There should be no misunderstandings between us."
     "All right," she said. "I see what you mean. Tonight you saw the little
     I said to  them that I had also witnessed  incredible acts performed by
don Juan and don Genaro. I had seen them as plainly as I had seen the little
sisters and yet don Juan and don Genaro had always concluded that  I had not
seen. I failed, therefore, to  determine in what  way could  the acts of the
little sisters be different.
     "You mean  you didn't see how they  were holding onto the  lines of the
world?" She asked.
     "No, I didn't."
     "You didn't see them slipping through the crack between the worlds?"
     I narrated to them what I  had witnessed. They listened  in silence. At
the end of my account la Gorda seemed to be on the verge of tears.
     "What a pity! " she exclaimed.
     She stood up and walked around the table and embraced me. Her eyes were
clear and restful. I knew she bore no malice toward me.
     "It's our  fate  that you are plugged  up  like this," she  said.  "But
you're still the Nagual to us. I  won't  hinder  you with ugly thoughts. You
can at least be assured of that."
     I  knew  that she meant it. She was speaking to me from  a level that I
had witnessed only in don Juan. She had repeatedly explained her mood as the
product of having lost her human form;  she was indeed a formless warrior. A
wave of profound affection for her enveloped me. I was about to weep. It was
at the instant that I  felt  she was  a most marvelous warrior that quite an
intriguing thing  happened to  me. The closest way of describing it would be
to say that I felt that my ears had  suddenly popped. Except that I felt the
popping in the middle of my body, right below my navel, more acutely than in
my ears. Right after the popping everything became clearer;  sounds, sights,
odors. Then I felt  an intense buzzing, which oddly enough did not interfere
with my hearing  capacity;  the buzzing  was loud but did not  drown out any
other sounds. It was as  if I were hearing  the buzzing with some part of me
other than my ears. A hot flash went through my  body. And  then  I suddenly
recalled something I had never seen. It was as  though  an  alien memory had
taken possession of me.
     I remembered Lidia pulling herself  from two  horizontal, reddish ropes
as she walked  on the wall.  She was  not  really walking; she  was actually
gliding on a thick bundle of lines that she held with her feet. I remembered
seeing  her panting  with her mouth open, from the  exertion of pulling  the
reddish ropes. The reason  I could  not hold my balance  at  the  end of her
display was because I was seeing her as a light that went around the room so
fast that it made me dizzy; it pulled me from the area around my navel.
     I remembered  Rosa's actions  and Josefina's as well. Rosa had actually
brachiated,  with her left arm  holding onto  long, vertical, reddish fibers
that looked like  vines dropping from  the dark roof. With her right arm she
was also holding some vertical fibers that seemed to give her stability. She
also held onto the same fibers with her toes. Toward  the end of her display
she was  like a phosphorescence on the  roof. The lines of her body had been
     Josefina was hiding  herself behind some lines that seemed  to come out
of the floor. What she  was  doing with  her raised  forearm was moving  the
lines together  to give them  the necessary width to conceal  her bulk.  Her
puffed-up clothes  were  a  great  prop;  they  had somehow  contracted  her
luminosity. The  clothes were bulky only for the eye that looked. At the end
of her display  Josefina, like Lidia and  Rosa, was just a patch of light. I
could switch from one recollection to the other in my mind.
     When I told them about my concurrent memories the little sisters looked
at me bewildered. La Gorda was the only one who seemed  to be following what
was happening to me. She laughed with true delight and  said that the Nagual
was right in saying that  I was  too  lazy  to remember  what  I had "seen";
therefore, I only bothered with what I had looked at.
     Is it possible, I  thought to myself, that I am unconsciously selecting
what  I recall? Or is it la Gorda who  is creating  all this? If it was true
that  I  had  selected  my recall  at  first  and then  released what I  had
censored, then it also had to be true that I must  have  perceived much more
of  don  Juan's and don  Genaro's actions,  and  yet I could  only recall  a
selective part of my total perception of those events.
     "It's hard to believe," I said to  la Gorda,  "that I  can remember now
something I didn't remember at all a while ago."
     "The  Nagual  said  that  everyone  can see, and  yet we  choose not to
remember what we see," she said. "Now I  understand how right he was. All of
us can see; some, more than others."
     I told  la Gorda that some  part of  me  knew that I had  found then  a
transcendental key. A missing  piece  had been  handed down to me  by all of
them. But it was difficult to discern what it was.
     She announced that she had just "seen" that I had practiced a good deal
of  "dreaming," and that I had  developed my attention, and yet I was fooled
by my own appearance of not knowing anything.
     "I've been trying to tell you about attention," she proceeded, "but you
know as much as we do about it."
     I  assured  her  that my knowledge  was  intrinsically  different  from
theirs;  theirs  was infinitely  more spectacular  than mine. Anything  they
might say to me in  relation  to their practices, therefore,  was a bonus to
     "The Nagual told us to show you that with our attention we can hold the
images of a dream in the same way we hold the images of the world," la Gorda
said. "The art of the dreamer is the art of attention."
     Thoughts came down  on  me like a landslide. I had to stand up and walk
around the kitchen. I sat  down  again. We remained quiet for a long time. I
knew what she had meant when she  said that the art of dreamers was  the art
of attention. I knew then that don Juan had told me and showed me everything
he could.  I  had  not been  able,  however, to realize the premises  of his
knowledge in my body while he was around. He had said that my reason was the
demon that kept me chained,  and  that I had  to vanquish it if I wanted  to
achieve the realization of his teachings. The issue, therefore, had been how
to vanquish my reason. It had  never  occurred  to  me  to  press him for  a
definition of what he meant by reason.  I  presumed all along  that he meant
the  capacity  for  comprehending,  inferring  or  thinking, in  an orderly,
rational way. From what  la Gorda had said, I knew that to him  reason meant
     Don Juan said that the core of our being was the act of perceiving, and
that the magic of our being was the act of awareness. For him perception and
awareness were a single, functional, inextricable unit, a unit which had two
domains. The first one was the "attention of the tonal"; that is to say, the
capacity of average  people  to  perceive and place  their awareness on  the
ordinary world of everyday life. Don Juan also called this form of attention
our  "first  ring  of  power,"  and   described   it  as  our  awesome   but
taken-for-granted ability to impart  order to  our perception of  our  daily
     The second domain  was  the "attention of the nagual"; that  is to say,
the capacity of sorcerers to place their awareness on the nonordinary world.
He  called  this  domain  of  attention  the "second  ring of power," or the
altogether portentous ability  that all of us have, but  only sorcerers use,
to impart order to the nonordinary world.
     La Gorda and the little sisters, in demonstrating to me that the art of
dreamers  was  to hold the images of their dreams with  their attention, had
brought  in  the  pragmatic  aspect  of  don  Juan's  scheme. They  were the
practitioners  who had gone beyond the theoretical  aspect of his teachings.
In order to give me a demonstration  of  that art, they  had  to make use of
their "second ring of power," or the "attention of the nagual." In order for
me to witness their art, I had to do the same. In fact it was evident that I
had placed my attention on both  domains. Perhaps all of  us are continually
perceiving  in both fashions but choose  to isolate one for recollection and
discard the other  or perhaps we file it away, as I  myself had  done. Under
certain conditions of  stress or acquiescence, the censored  memory surfaces
and we can then have two distinct memories of one event.
     What don Juan had struggled  to vanquish, or rather suppress in me, was
not my reason as the capacity for rational thought, but my "attention of the
tonal," or my awareness of the world of common sense. His motive for wanting
me to  do so was explained by  la Gorda  when she said that the daily  world
exists because we know  how to hold its  images; consequently, if one  drops
the attention needed to maintain those images, the world collapses.
     "The Nagual  told  us that  practice is what  counts,"  la  Gorda  said
suddenly.  "Once you get your attention on the  images of  your  dream, your
attention is  hooked for good. In the  end you can be like Genaro, who could
hold the images of any dream."
     "We each have  five other dreams," Lidia  said. "But  we showed you the
first one because that was the dream the Nagual gave us."
     "Can all of you go into dreaming any time you want?" I asked.
     "No," la Gorda replied. "Dreaming takes too much power.  None of us has
that much power.  The reason the little  sisters had to roll on the floor so
many  times was that in rolling the earth was giving them energy. Maybe  you
could  also remember seeing them as luminous  beings getting energy from the
light of the earth. The Nagual said that the best way  of getting energy is,
of course, to let the sun inside the eyes, especially the left eye."
     I told her that I knew nothing about it, and she described a  procedure
that don Juan had  taught  them. As she spoke I remembered that don Juan had
also taught the same procedure to me.  It consisted in moving my head slowly
from side to side as I caught the sunlight  with my half-closed left eye. He
said  that one could not only use  the sun but could  use any  kind of light
that could shine on the eyes.
     La  Gorda  said  that  the Nagual had  recommended that they tie  their
shawls  below their waists  in  order to  protect their hipbones  when  they
     I commented  that don Juan had never mentioned rolling to me. She  said
that only women  could roll because they had  wombs and energy came directly
into their wombs; by  rolling  around they distributed that energy  over the
rest of their bodies. In order for a man to be energized he had to be on his
back, with his knees bent  so that the soles of his feet touched each other.
His arms had to be extended laterally,  with his forearms raised vertically,
and the fingers clawed in an upright position.
     "We have  been dreaming  those  dreams for  years,"  Lidia said. "Those
dreams are our best,  because our attention is complete. In the other dreams
that we have, our attention is still shaky."
     La Gorda said that holding the images of dreams was a Toltec art. After
years of consuming  practice each one of them was able to perform one act in
any  dream. Lidia  could walk on anything, Rosa could dangle  from anything,
Josefina could hide behind anything and she herself could fly. But they were
only beginners, apprentices of the art. They had complete attention for only
one activity. She  added that Genaro  was the master of "dreaming" and could
turn the tables around  and have attention for as many activities as we have
in  our daily  life, and that  for him the two domains of attention  had the
same value.
     I felt compelled  to ask  them my  usual question: I had to know  their
procedures, how they held the images of their dreams.
     "You know that as well  as we do," la Gorda said. "The only thing I can
say is  that after going  to the same dream over and over, we  began to feel
the lines of the world. They helped us to do what you saw us doing."
     Don Juan had said that our "first ring of power" is engaged very  early
in our lives and that we live under the impression that that is all there is
to  us. Our "second ring of power," the "attention of the  nagual,"  remains
hidden for the  immense majority of us, and  only at the moment of our death
is  it revealed  to us. There is  a pathway  to  reach it, however, which is
available  to  every  one  of us, but which  only  sorcerers take,  and that
pathway is  through "dreaming." "Dreaming" was in essence the transformation
of ordinary dreams into affairs involving  volition.  Dreamers,  by engaging
their "attention of  the nagual" and focusing  it on the items and events of
their ordinary dreams, change those dreams into "dreaming."
     Don Juan said that there were  no procedures to arrive at the attention
of the nagual. He  only gave me pointers. Finding my  hands in my dreams was
the first  pointer; then the  exercise of paying attention was elongated  to
finding  objects, looking for specific features, such as buildings,  streets
and so on. From there  the jump was to  "dreaming" about  specific places at
specific times of the day. The final stage was drawing the "attention of the
nagual" to focus on  the total self. Don Juan said that that final stage was
usually ushered  in by  a dream  that many of us  have  had at  one  time or
another, in  which  one is looking at oneself sleeping in bed. By the time a
sorcerer has had such a dream, his attention has  been developed  to such  a
degree  that instead  of  waking himself  up,  as  most of us would  do in a
similar situation, he turns on his heels and engages himself in activity, as
if he were  acting  in the world of everyday life. From that moment on there
is a breakage, a division of sorts in the otherwise unified personality. The
result  of engaging the "attention of the  nagual" and developing it  to the
height and  sophistication of our  daily attention of the world  was, in don
Juan's scheme, the other self, an identical being as  oneself,  but  made in
     Don Juan  had told  me  that  there  are no definite standard steps for
teaching that double, as  there  are no  definite steps for us to  reach our
daily awareness. We simply do it by practicing. He contended that in the act
of engaging our "attention of the nagual," we would find the steps. He urged
me  to  practice  "dreaming"  without  letting  my  fears  make  it  into an
encumbering production.
     He had  done the  same  with  la  Gorda  and  the  little sisters,  but
obviously  something in  them had  made them more receptive  to  the idea of
another level of attention.
     "Genaro was in his body of dreaming most of the  time,"  la Gorda said.
"He  liked it better. That's why he could do the  weirdest things  and scare
you half  to death. Genaro  could go in and  out  of  the crack  between the
worlds like you and I can go in and out a door."
     Don Juan had also talked to  me at great length about the crack between
the worlds.  I had always  believed  that he was  talking in a  metaphorical
sense  about  a subtle  division  between the world  that  the  average  man
perceives and the world that sorcerers perceive.
     La Gorda and the little sisters had shown me that the crack between the
worlds was more than a metaphor. It was rather the capacity to change levels
of attention. One part of  me  understood la  Gorda perfectly, while another
part of me was more frightened than ever.
     "You have been asking where the Nagual and Genaro went," la Gorda said.
"Soledad was very blunt and  told  you that they  went to  the other  world;
Lidia told you  they left this area; the Genaros were stupid and scared you.
The truth is that the Nagual and Genaro went through that crack."
     For some  reason,  undefinable to  me, her  statements plunged me  into
profound  chaos. I  had felt all along  that  they had left for good. I knew
that they had not left in an ordinary sense, but I had kept that feeling  in
the realm of  a metaphor. Although I had even voiced  it to close friends, I
think I  never really believed it myself. In the depths  of  me I had always
been  a  rational man. But  la  Gorda and the little  sisters  had turned my
obscure metaphors into real possibilities. La Gorda had actually transported
us half a mile with the energy of her "dreaming."
     La Gorda stood up  and said that  I had understood everything, and that
it was time for us to eat. She served us the food that she had cooked. I did
not feel like  eating. At the  end of the meal she  stood up and came  to my
     "I think it's time for you to leave," she said to me.
     That seemed to be a cue for the little sisters. They also stood up.
     "If you stay beyond  this moment, you won't  be able to leave anymore,"
la Gorda  went on. "The Nagual gave you freedom once, but you chose  to stay
with him. He told me that if we all survive the last contact with the allies
I should feed all of you, make you feel good and then say good-bye to all of
you. I figure that the little sisters and myself  have no place  to  go,  so
there is no choice for us. But you are different."
     The little sisters surrounded me and each said good-bye to me.
     There  was a monstrous irony in that situation. I was free to leave but
I had no place to go.  There was  no choice for me, either. Years before don
Juan gave  me a chance to back  out, I stayed because already then I had  no
place to go.
     "We choose  only  once,"  he had said  then. "We  choose  either  to be
warriors or to be ordinary men. A second choice does not exist. Not  on this

     The Second Attention

     "You have to leave  later on  today," la  Gorda said to me right  after
breakfast. "Since  you have decided  to  go  with  us,  you  have  committed
yourself  to helping us  fulfill our new  task. The Nagual left me in charge
only  until  you came. He  entrusted me,  as you already know, with  certain
things to tell you. I've told you  most of  them. But there are still some I
couldn't mention to you until you made  your choice. Today we will take care
of them.  Right after that you  must leave in  order to  give us time to get
ready. We need a few days to settle everything and to prepare to leave these
mountains forever. We have been here a very long  time.  It's hard  to break
away. But everything has come  to a  sudden end. The Nagual warned us of the
total change that you would bring, regardless of the outcome  of your bouts,
but I think no one really believed him."
     "I fail to see why you have to change anything," I said.
     "I've explained it  to  you already," she protested.  "We have lost our
old purpose. Now  we have a new  one and that new purpose  requires  that we
become as light as the breeze. The breeze is our new mood. It used to be the
hot wind. You have changed our direction."
     "You are talking in circles, Gorda."
     "Yes, but  that's  because you're empty. I can't make it  any  clearer.
When you return, the Genaros will show  you the art of the stalker and right
after  that all of us will leave. The Nagual said that  if  you decide to be
with us the first thing I should tell you is that you have to  remember your
bouts with  Soledad and  the  little sisters and examine every  single thing
that happened  to you with them, because everything is  an omen of what will
happen to you  on your path. If you are careful  and impeccable, you'll find
that those bouts were gifts of power."
     "What's dona Soledad going to do now?"
     "She's leaving. The little sisters have already  helped her to take her
floor apart. That floor  aided her to reach her attention of the nagual. The
lines had power to do that. Each of  them helped her gather a piece  of that
attention. To be incomplete is no  handicap  to reaching  that attention for
some warriors. Soledad  was transformed because  she got to  that  attention
faster than any of us. She doesn't have  to gaze at her floor anymore to  go
into that other world, and now that there is no more need for the floor, she
has returned it to the earth where she got it."
     "You are really determined to leave, Gorda, aren't you?"
     "All of us are. That's why I'm  asking you to go away for a few days to
give us time to pull down everything we have."
     "Am I the one who has to find a place for all of you, Gorda?"
     "If you were an impeccable warrior you  would do just that.  But you're
not an impeccable warrior, and neither are we. But still  we will have to do
our best to meet our new challenge."
     I felt an oppressive sense  of doom. I have never been one to thrive on
responsibilities. I thought that the commitment to guide them was a crushing
burden that I could not handle.
     "Maybe we don't have to do anything," I said.
     "Yes.  That's right,"  she  said,  and  laughed.  "Why don't  you  tell
yourself that over  and  over  until you feel safe? The Nagual told you time
and time again that the only freedom warriors have is to behave impeccably."
     She  told me how  the Nagual had insisted  that all of them  understand
that  not  only was impeccability freedom but  it was the only  way to scare
away the human form.
     I narrated to her the way don Juan made me understand what was meant by
impeccability. He and I were hiking one day through a very steep ravine when
a huge boulder got loose from its matrix on the rock wall and came down with
a formidable force  and landed on the floor of the canyon, twenty  or thirty
yards from where we were standing. The size of the boulder made its  fall  a
very impressive event. Don Juan seized the opportunity  to create a dramatic
lesson.  He  said that the force  that  rules  our  destinies is outside  of
ourselves and has nothing to do with  our acts  or volition. Sometimes  that
force would  make  us stop walking  on  our way and  bend  over to  tie  our
shoelaces, as I had  just  done. And by making us stop, that  force makes us
gain a  precious  moment. If  we had kept on walking,  that enormous boulder
would have most  certainly crushed us to death. Some other day,  however, in
another ravine the same outside  deciding force would make us stop  again to
bend  over and  tie our  shoelaces while  another  boulder  would get  loose
precisely above where we are standing.  By making  us stop, that force would
have made us lose a precious moment. That time if we had kept on walking, we
would have  saved ourselves. Don Juan said that  in view of my total lack of
control over the forces which decide my destiny, my only possible freedom in
that ravine consisted in my tying my shoelaces impeccably.
     La Gorda seemed to be moved by my account. For  an instant she held  my
face in her hands from across the table.
     "Impeccability  for  me is to  tell  you,  at the right  time, what the
Nagual told me to tell you," she said. "But power has to time perfectly what
I have to reveal to yon, or it won't have any effect."
     She  paused in a  dramatic  fashion. Her  delay  was very  studied  but
terribly effective with me.
     "What is it?" I asked desperately.
     She did not answer. She  took me by the arm and led me to the area just
outside the front  door. She made me  sit on the hard-packed ground with  my
back against a thick pole about one and a half feet high that looked  like a
tree stump which had  been planted in the ground almost against  the wall of
the house. There was a row of five such poles  planted about two feet apart.
I had meant to ask la Gorda what their function was. My first impression had
been that  a  former owner of  the  house  had  tied  animals  to  them.  My
conjecture seemed incongruous,  however,  because the  area just outside the
front door was a kind of roofed porch.
     I told la Gorda my  supposition as she  sat down next to me to my left,
with her back against another pole. She laughed and said that the poles were
indeed used for tying animals of sorts, but not by a former  owner, and that
she had nearly broken her back digging the holes for them.
     "What do you use them for?" I asked.
     "Let's say that  we tie  ourselves  to  them," she  replied.  "And this
brings me to the  next  thing the Nagual asked me to tell you. He said  that
because  you were empty  he  had  to  gather  your  second  attention,  your
attention of  the nagual, in  a way different than ours.  We  gathered  that
attention through dreaming and you did it  with his power plants. The Nagual
said  that  his  power  plants  gathered  the  menacing  side of your second
attention in one clump, and that's the shape that  came out of your head. He
said that that's what happens to sorcerers when they are given power plants.
If they don't die, the power plants spin  their second attention  into  that
awful shape that comes out of their heads.
     "Now  we're coming to what  he wanted you to do. He said  that you must
change directions now and begin gathering  your second  attention in another
way, more  like  us. You  can't keep  on the path  of  knowledge  unless you
balance  your second attention.  So far, that  attention of  yours  has been
riding  on the Nagual's power, but now you are alone. That's  what he wanted
me to tell you."
     "How do I balance my second attention?"
     "You have to do dreaming the way we do it. Dreaming is  the only way to
gather the second  attention without injuring it, without making it menacing
and awesome. Your second attention is fixed on the awful side of the  world;
ours is on the beauty of  it.  You have  to change sides and  come with  us.
That's what you chose last night when you decided to go with us."
     "Could that shape come out of me at any time?"
     "No.  The Nagual said that it  won't come out again until you're as old
as  he is. Your nagual has already come out as many times as was needed. The
Nagual and Genaro have seen to that. They  used to tease it out  of you. The
Nagual told me that sometimes you were a hair  away from  dying because your
second  attention is very indulging.  He said that once you even scared him;
your nagual attacked  him and he had to sing to it to  calm it down. But the
worst thing happened  to you in Mexico City; there he pushed you one day and
you went  into an office  and  in that  office  you  went  through the crack
between the worlds. He intended only to  dispel your attention of the tonal;
you  were  worried sick over some stupid thing. But when he shoved you, your
whole tonal  shrunk and your  entire being went  through the crack. He had a
hellish  time  finding you. He told  me that for a moment he thought you had
gone  farther than  he  could  reach.  But then he  saw you  roaming  around
aimlessly  and  he brought you  back. He  told me  that you went through the
crack around ten in the morn
     ing. So, on that day, ten in the morning became your new time."
     "My new time for what?"
     "For everything. If  you remain a man you will die around that time. If
you become a sorcerer you will leave this world around that time.
     "Eligio also went on a different path, a path none of us knew about. We
met  him just before he left. Eligio was a most marvelous dreamer. He was so
good that the  Nagual  and Genaro used to take him through  the crack and he
had the power to  withstand it,  as if it were nothing. He didn't even pant.
The Nagual and Genaro gave him a final  boost  with power plants. He had the
control  and the power to handle that  boost.  And that's what  sent  him to
wherever he is."
     "The Genaros told me that Eligio jumped with Benigno. Is that true?"
     "Sure. By the time Eligio had to jump, his second attention had already
been  in that other world.  The Nagual  said that yours had also been there,
but that for you it was a nightmare because you had no control. He said that
his power plants had made you lopsided; they had  made  you cut through your
attention of the tonal and had put you directly in the realm of  your second
attention,  but  without any mastery over that  attention. The Nagual didn't
give power plants to Eligio until the very last."
     "Do you think that my second attention has been injured, Gorda?"
     "The Nagual never said that. He thought you were dangerously crazy, but
that  has  nothing  to  do with power  plants.  He  said that both  of  your
attentions  are unmanageable.  If  you could conquer them you'd  be  a great
     I  wanted  her  to tell  me more on the subject. She put her hand on my
writing  pad and said that  we had a  terribly busy  day ahead of us  and we
needed  to store energy  in order to  withstand it.  We  had, therefore,  to
energize  ourselves  with the  sunlight. She  said  that  the  circumstances
required that we take the sunlight  with the left eye. She began to move her
head slowly from side to side as she glanced directly into the  sun  through
her half-closed eyes.
     A moment  later  Lidia, Rosa and  Josefina joined us. Lidia  sat  to my
right, Josefina sat next to her,  while Rosa sat  next  to  la Gorda. All of
them were resting their backs against the poles. I was in  the middle of the
     It  was  a  clear day. The  sun  was just above  the distant  range  of
mountains. They  started moving their heads  in  perfect  synchronization. I
joined them and had the  feeling that I  too had synchronized my motion with
theirs. They kept it up for about a minute and then stopped.
     All of them wore hats  and used the brims to protect  their  faces from
the sunlight when they were not bathing their eyes in it. La Gorda had given
me my old hat to wear.
     We sat there for about  half an  hour. In  that  time  we  repeated the
exercise countless times. I intended to make a  mark on my pad for each time
but la Gorda very casually pushed my pad out of reach.
     Lidia suddenly stood up, mumbling  something  unintelligible. La  Gorda
leaned over  to me and whispered that the Genaros were coming up the road. I
strained to look but there was no one in sight. Rosa and Josefina also stood
up and then went with Lidia inside the house.
     I told la Gorda  that I could not  see anyone approaching. She  replied
that the Genaros had  been visible at one point on  the road  and added that
she had dreaded the moment  when all of us would  have to get together,  but
that she was  confident that I could handle the situation. She advised me to
be extra careful with  Josefina and Pablito because they had no control over
themselves. She said  that the most sensible thing for me to do would  be to
take the Genaros away after an hour or so.
     I kept looking at the road. There was no sign of anyone approaching.
     "Are you sure they're coming?" I asked.
     She said that she had not seen them but that Lidia had. The Genaros had
been visible just for Lidia because she had been gazing at the same time she
had been bathing her eyes. I was not sure what la Gorda had  meant and asked
her to explain.
     "We  are gazers," she  said. "Just like yourself. We  are all the same.
There is no need to deny that you're a gazer. The Nagual told  us about your
great feats of gazing."
     "My great feats of gazing! What are you talking about, Gorda?"
     She  contracted her  mouth  and appeared to  be on  the  verge of being
irritated by  my question; she seemed to catch herself. She  smiled and gave
me a gentle shove.
     At that moment she had a sudden flutter in her body. She stared blankly
past me, then  she shook her  head vigorously. She  said  that she had  just
"seen"  that the  Genaros were  not  coming  after all; it was too early for
them. They were going to wait for a while before they made their appearance.
She smiled as if she were delighted with the delay.
     "It's too early for us  to have them here anyway,"  she said. "And they
feel the same way about us."
     "Where are they now?" I asked.
     "They must be sitting beside the road somewhere," she replied. "Benigno
had no doubt gazed at the house as they were walking and saw us sitting here
and that's why they  have decided to wait. That's perfect. That will give us
     "You scare me, Gorda. Time for what?"
     "You have to round up your second attention today, just for us four."
     "How can I do that?"
     "I  don't  know.  You are very  mysterious to us. The  Nagual  has done
scores of things  to you with his power plants, but you  can't claim that as
knowledge. That  is  what I've been  trying to  tell you. Only  if  you have
mastery over your second attention can you perform with it; otherwise you'll
always stay  fixed halfway between  the two, as you are now. Everything that
has  happened  to  you  since you arrived  has  been directed  to force that
attention to spin. I've been giving you instructions little by  little, just
as the Nagual told me to do. Since you took another path, you don't know the
things that we know, just like we don't know anything  about  'power plants.
Soledad  knows  a bit more,  because the Nagual took  her  to  his homeland.
Nestor knows about medicinal plants,  but none of us has been taught the way
you were.  We don't need your knowledge yet.  But someday when  we are ready
you are  the one who  will know  what to do  to  give  us a boost with power
plants. I  am  the only  one who knows  where  the Nagual's pipe is  hidden,
waiting for that day.
     "The Nagual's command is  that you have to change your path and go with
us. That means that  you have to  do dreaming with us and stalking  with the
Genaros. You  can't afford  any  longer to be where  you are, on the awesome
side of your second attention. Another jolt of your nagual coming out of you
could kill you.  The Nagual told  me that human beings are  frail  creatures
composed of many layers of luminosity. When you see them,  they seem to have
fibers, but those fibers are really layers, like an onion. Jolts of any kind
separate those layers and can even cause human beings to die."
     She  stood up and  led me back to the kitchen. We  sat down facing each
other. Lidia,  Rosa and Josefina were busy in the yard. I could not see them
but I could hear them talking and laughing.
     "The Nagual said  that we die because our layers  become separated," la
Gorda  said.  "Jolts are always separating them but they get together again.
Sometimes, though, the jolt is so great that  the layers get loose and can't
get back together anymore."
     "Have you ever seen the layers, Gorda?"
     "Sure. I  sou a man dying  in the street. The Nagual told  me that  you
also found a man dying, but you didn't see his death. The Nagual made me see
the  dying man's layers. They  were like the  peels of an onion.  When human
beings are healthy they are like luminous eggs, but if they are injured they
begin to peel, like an onion.
     "The Nagual told me  that your second attention was so strong sometimes
that it pushed  all  the way out.  He and  Genaro  had  to hold your  layers
together; otherwise you would've died.  That's why he figured that you might
have  enough energy to get  your nagual out  of you twice. He meant that you
could hold your layers  together  by yourself twice. You did it  more  times
than that  and now  you are finished;  you have no more energy to  hold your
layers together in case of another jolt. The Nagual has entrusted me to take
care of everyone;  in your case, I have to help you to  tighten your layers.
The Nagual said  that death pushes the layers apart. He explained to me that
the center of  our luminosity, which is  the  attention  of  the  nagual, is
always  pushing  out, and that's  what loosens  the layers. So it's easy for
death to come in between them and push them completely apart. Sorcerers have
to do their best to  keep  their  own layers closed. That's  why  the Nagual
taught us  dreaming.  Dreaming  tightens  the layers.  When  sorcerers learn
dreaming they tie  together their two attentions  and there is no more  need
for that center to push out."
     "Do you mean that sorcerers do not die?"
     "That is right. Sorcerers do not die."
     "Do you mean that none of us is going to die?"
     "I  didn't  mean  us.  We are nothing. We are  freaks, neither here nor
there.  I meant sorcerers.  The Nagual and  Genaro are sorcerers. Their  two
attentions are so tightly together that perhaps they'll never die."
     "Did the Nagual say that, Gorda?"
     "Yes. He and  Genaro both told me that. Not too long  before they left,
the Nagual explained to us  the power of attention. I never  knew  about the
tonal and the nagual until then."
     La  Gorda recounted the way don Juan  had  instructed them  about  that
crucial tonal-nagual dichotomy. She  said that one day the Nagual had all of
them  gather together  in order to take them  for a long hike to a desolate,
rocky valley in the  mountains. He made a large, heavy bundle with all kinds
of items;  he even put  Pablito's  radio in  it. He then gave the bundle  to
Josefina to carry and  put a heavy table on Pablito's shoulders and they all
started hiking. He made all  of them take turns  carrying the bundle and the
table as they hiked nearly  forty  miles to that  high, desolate place. When
they arrived there, the Nagual made Pablito set the table in the very center
of the valley. Then he asked Josefina to arrange the contents  of the bundle
on the table. When the table was filled, he explained to them the difference
between the  tonal and the nagual, in the same terms he had  explained it to
me in a restaurant in Mexico City, except that in their case his example was
infinitely more graphic.
     He told them that the tonal was the order  that we are aware of in  our
daily world and also the personal order that we carry through  life  on  our
shoulders, like they had  carried that table  and  the bundle.  The personal
tonal of each of  us was like the table in that valley, a tiny island filled
with the things we are familiar with. The nagual, on the other hand, was the
inexplicable source that held that table in  place and was like the vastness
of that deserted valley.
     He told them that sorcerers were obligated to watch their tonals from a
distance in order to have a better grasp of what  was really around them. He
made them walk to a  ridge  from where they could view the whole  area. From
there the table  was hardly visible. He then made them go  back to the table
and had them all loom  over it in order to show that an average man does not
have the grasp that a sorcerer has because an average man is right on top of
his table, holding onto every item on it.
     He then made each of them, one at a time, casually look at  the objects
on the table, and tested their recall by taking  something and hiding it, to
see if they  had  been  attentive. All of them passed the  test with  flying
colors. He pointed out to them that their  ability to remember so easily the
items on that table was due to the fact that all of them had developed their
attention of the tonal, or their attention over the table.
     He  next  asked  them to look  casually at  everything that was  on the
ground underneath the table, and tested their recall by removing the  rocks,
twigs or whatever else was there. None of them could remember  what they had
seen under the table.
     The Nagual then swept everything off the top of the table and made each
of them,  one  at  a time, lie  across  it  on  their stomachs and carefully
examine the ground  underneath. He explained to them that for a sorcerer the
nagual was the area just  underneath the table. Since it was  unthinkable to
tackle the immensity  of  the nagual,  as exemplified by that vast, desolate
place,  sorcerers took as their domain  of activity the area  directly below
the island of  the  tonal, as  graphically shown by what was underneath that
table. That area was the domain of what he  called the second attention,  or
the  attention  of the  nagual,  or  the  attention  under the  table.  That
attention was reached only  after warriors had swept the top of their tables
clean. He said  that  reaching the  second attention made the two attentions
into a single unit, and that unit was the totality of oneself.
     La Gorda  said that  his  demonstration  was  so clear to  her that she
understood at once why the Nagual had made her clean her own life, sweep her
island of the tonal, as he had called it. She felt  that she had indeed been
fortunate in having followed every suggestion  that  he had put to her.  She
was still a long way from unifying her two attentions, but her diligence had
resulted in an  impeccable life, which was, as he had assured her,  the only
way for her  to lose her human form. Losing the human form was the essential
requirement for unifying the two attentions.
     "The attention under the table is  the key to everything sorcerers do,"
she went on. "In order to reach that attention the Nagual and Genaro  taught
us dreaming, and you were taught about power plants. I don't  know what they
did to you to teach you how to trap your second attention with power plants,
but to teach  us how to do  dreaming, the Nagual taught us gazing. He  never
told us what he was really doing to us. He just taught us to  gaze. We never
knew that gazing was the way to trap our second attention. We thought gazing
was just  for fun. That was not so. Dreamers have to  be  gazers before they
can trap their second attention.
     "The first thing the Nagual did was to put a dry leaf on the ground and
make  me  look at  it for hours. Every day he brought  a leaf  and put it in
front of me. At first I thought that it was the same leaf that he saved from
day to day, but then  I  noticed that leaves are  different. The Nagual said
that when we realized that, we are not looking anymore, but gazing.
     "Then  he put  stacks  of  dry  leaves  in front of me. He told  me  to
scramble them with my left hand and  feel them as I gazed at them. A dreamer
moves the leaves in  spirals, gazes at them  and then dreams of  the designs
that the leaves make. The Nagual said that dreamers  can consider themselves
as  having mastered leaf gazing when  they  dream the designs of the  leaves
first and then find  those same  designs the  next day  in their pile of dry
     "The Nagual said that gazing at  leaves fortifies the second attention.
If  you gaze at a pile of leaves for  hours, as  he used to make me do, your
thoughts  get quiet. Without thoughts the attention  of the tonal  wanes and
suddenly your second attention  hooks onto the leaves and  the leaves become
something else. The Nagual called the moment when the second attention hooks
onto something stopping the world. And that is correct, the world stops. For
this reason there should always be someone around when you  gaze.  We  never
know about the  quirks of our second attention. Since we have never used it,
we  have to become familiar with  it  before  we  could venture into  gazing
     "The difficulty in gazing is to learn to quiet  down the  thoughts. The
Nagual said that he preferred  to  teach us how  to do that  with  a pile of
leaves because we could get all the leaves we  needed any time we  wanted to
gaze. But anything else would do the same job.
     "Once you can stop the world you are a gazer. And since the only way of
stopping  the  world  is  by trying, the  Nagual made all  of us gaze at dry
leaves for years and years. I think it's the best  way  to  reach our second
     "He  combined  gazing  at  dry  leaves  and  looking  for our hands  in
dreaming. It  took me about a year to find my hands,  and four years to stop
the world. The Nagual said that once you have trapped your second  attention
with dry leaves, you do gazing and dreaming to enlarge  it. And  that's  all
there is to gazing."
     "You make it sound so simple, Gorda."
     "Everything the Toltecs do is very simple. The Nagual said  that all we
needed to do in order  to trap our second attention was to try  and try. All
of  us  stopped  the world by  gazing  at  dry  leaves. You  and Eligio were
different. You yourself did it with power plants, but I don't know what path
the  Nagual  followed with Eligio. He never  wanted to  tell  me. He told me
about you because we have the same task."
     I mentioned that  I had written in my notes  that I had  had the  first
complete awareness of having stopped the  world only a few  days before. She
     "You  stopped the world before any of us," she said. "What do you think
you did when you took all those power plants? You've never done it by gazing
like we did, that's all."
     "Was the pile of dry  leaves the only  thing the Nagual made  you  gaze
     "Once  dreamers know  how  to stop the  world, they can  gaze  at other
things; and  finally when the dreamers lose  their form altogether, they can
gaze  at anything.  I do  that. I can go into anything. He made  us follow a
certain order in gazing, though.
     "First we gazed at small plants. The Nagual warned us that small plants
are very  dangerous. Their  power is concentrated; they have  a very intense
light and they feel  when dreamers are gazing at them; they immediately move
their  light and shoot it at the gazer. Dreamers have to choose one kind  of
plant to gaze at.
     "Next  we gazed at trees. Dreamers also have a particular kind of  tree
to  gaze  at.  In this  respect  you  and  I are the  same; both of  us  are
eucalyptus gazers."
     By the look on my face she must have guessed my next question.
     "The  Nagual  said that with his smoke you  could very  easily get your
second attention to  work," she went on. "You focused your attention lots of
times  on  the  Nagual's predilection, the  crows.  He said that  once, your
second  attention focused so perfectly on  a crow that  it flew away, like a
crow flies, to the only eucalyptus tree that was around."
     For years I had dwelled upon that experience. I could  not regard it in
any other  way  except as an inconceivably complex  hypnotic  state, brought
about by the psychotropic mushrooms  contained in don Juan's smoking mixture
in conjunction with his expertise as a manipulator of behavior. He suggested
a perceptual catharsis in me, that of turning into a crow and perceiving the
world as  a crow. The result was that I perceived the world in a manner that
could not  have possibly been part of  my inventory of past experiences.  La
Gorda's explanation somehow had simplified everything.
     She  said  that  the  Nagual next made  them  gaze  at  moving,  living
creatures.  He  told them that small insects were  by far  the best subject.
Their  mobility made them  innocuous to  the gazer, the  opposite  of plants
which drew their light directly from the earth.
     The next step was to gaze at rocks.  She said that rocks were very  old
and powerful and had a specific  light which was rather greenish in contrast
with the white light of  plants and  the yellowish  light of  mobile, living
beings. Rocks did not open up easily  to  gazers, but it was worthwhile  for
gazers to persist because rocks had special secrets concealed in their core,
secrets that could aid sorcerers in their "dreaming."
     "What are the things that rocks reveal to you?" I asked.
     "When I gaze into the very core of a rock," she said, "I always catch a
whiff of a special  scent  proper to  that rock.  When  I roam  around in my
dreaming, I know where I am because I'm guided by those scents."
     She said that the time of the day was an  important factor in tree  and
rock gazing. In the early morning trees and rocks were stiff and their light
was faint. Around noon was when they were at their best, and gazing  at that
time was done for borrowing their light and power. In the late afternoon and
early evening trees and rocks were quiet and sad, especially trees. La Gorda
said that at that hour trees gave the feeling that they  were gazing back at
the gazer.
     A second series in the order of gazing was to gaze at cyclic phenomena:
rain and fog. She said that gazers can focus  their second attention on  the
rain itself and move with it, or focus it on the background and use the rain
as a magnifying glass of sorts to reveal hidden features. Places of power or
places to be  avoided are found by  gazing through rain. Places of power are
yellowish and places to be avoided are intensely green.
     La Gorda said that fog was unquestionably the most mysterious thing  on
earth  for a gazer and that it could be used in the same  two ways that rain
was used. But it did not easily yield to women, and even after she had  lost
her human form,  it remained unattainable  to her.  She said that the Nagual
once made her "see" a green mist at the head of a fog bank and told her that
was the second attention of a fog gazer who lived in the mountains where she
and the Nagual were, and that he was moving with the fog. She added that fog
was used to uncover the ghosts of things  that were no longer there and that
the  true  feat  of fog  gazers  was to  let  their second attention go into
whatever their gazing was revealing to them.
     I  told her that once while  I was  with don  Juan I  had seen a bridge
formed out of  a fog bank. I was aghast at the clarity and precise detail of
that bridge. To me it was more than real. The scene was so intense and vivid
that I had been incapable of  forgetting it.  Don Juan's  comments had  been
that I would have to cross that bridge someday.
     "I know about it," she said.  "The Nagual told me that someday when you
have mastery over  your second attention you'll cross  that bridge with that
attention, the same way  you flew like a  crow  with that attention. He said
that if you become a sorcerer, a bridge will form for you out of the fog and
you will  cross  it and  disappear from  this world  forever.  Just like  he
himself has done."
     "Did he disappear like that, over a bridge?"
     "Not over  a  bridge. But you witnessed how he and Genaro  stepped into
the crack between  the worlds in front of  your very eyes. Nestor  said that
only Genaro waved his  hand  to say good-bye the last time you saw them; the
Nagual did  not  wave because he was opening the crack.  The Nagual told  me
that when the second attention has to be called upon to assemble itself, all
that  is needed is the motion of opening that door. That's the secret of the
Toltec dreamers once they are formless."
     I wanted to ask her about don Juan and don Genaro stepping through that
crack. She made me stop with a light touch of her hand on my mouth.
     She said that  another series was distance and  cloud  gazing. In both,
the effort of  gazers was to let their second attention go to the place they
were gazing at. Thus, they covered great distances or rode on clouds. In the
case   of  cloud  gazing,  the  Nagual  never  permitted  them  to  gaze  at
thunderheads.  He  told them that they had to be formless  before they could
attempt that feat, and that they could not only ride on a thunderhead but on
a thunderbolt itself.
     La Gorda laughed  and asked me to  guess who would be daring and  crazy
enough actually to try gazing at thunderheads. I could think of no  one else
but Josefina. La Gorda said that Josefina tried gazing at thunderheads every
time she could when the  Nagual was away, until one day a thunderbolt nearly
killed her.
     "Genaro  was  a thunderbolt  sorcerer,"  she  went  on.  "His first two
apprentices, Benigno and Nestor, were singled  out for him by his friend the
thunder. He said that he was  looking for plants in a very remote area where
the Indians are very private and don't like  visitors of  any kind. They had
given Genaro  permission  to be on their land since he spoke their language.
Genaro was picking some plants when it began to rain. There were some houses
around but the  people were unfriendly and he didn't want to bother them; he
was about to crawl into a hole when he saw a  young man coming down the road
riding a  bicycle heavily laden with goods. It was Benigno, the man from the
town, who dealt with those  Indians.  His bicycle  got stuck  in the mud and
right  there  a  thunderbolt struck  him. Genaro  thought  that he  had been
killed. People in the houses  had seen  what  happened and came out. Benigno
was  more  scared than hurt, but his  bicycle and all his  merchandise  were
ruined. Genaro stayed with him for a week and cured him.
     "Almost the  same thing happened to  Nestor. He  used  to buy medicinal
plants from Genaro,  and one day  he followed  him into the mountains to see
where  he picked his  plants, so  he wouldn't have to  pay for them anymore.
Genaro went  very far into the mountains on purpose;  he  intended  to  make
Nestor get lost. It wasn't raining but there were thunderbolts, and suddenly
a thunderbolt struck the ground and ran over the dry ground like a snake. It
ran right between Nestor's legs and hit a rock ten yards away.
     "Genaro said that the bolt had charred the inside of Nestor's legs. His
testicles were swollen and he got very  ill. Genaro  had to  cure  him for a
week right in those mountains.
     "By the time Benigno and  Nestor were cured, they were also hooked. Men
have  to be  hooked. Women don't  need that. Women  go freely into anything.
That's their power and at the same time their drawback. Men  have to  be led
and women have to be contained."
     She  giggled and said that no doubt she had  a  lot of maleness in her,
for  she needed to be  led, and  that I must have a lot of femaleness in me,
for I needed to be contained.
     The last series was fire, smoke and shadow gazing. She  said that for a
gazer, fire is not bright  but black, and so is smoke. Shadows, on the other
hand, are brilliant and have color and movement in them.
     There were two  more  things that  were kept  separate, star and  water
gazing. Stargazing was done by sorcerers who have lost their human form. She
said that she had fared very well at stargazing, but could not handle gazing
at water, especially running water, which was used by formless  sorcerers to
gather  their second attention and transport it  to anyplace they  needed to
     "All of  us are  terrified of water," she went on. "A river gathers the
second attention  and takes  it away and  there  is  no way of stopping. The
Nagual  told  me about your feats of water gazing. But he  also told me that
one time you nearly disintegrated  in the  water of a shallow river and that
you can't even take a bath now."
     Don  Juan had made me stare at the water of an irrigation ditch  behind
his house  various times while he had  me under the influence of his smoking
mixture. I  had experienced inconceivable sensations. Once  I saw myself all
green  as if I were covered with  algae. After  that he recommended  that  I
avoid water.
     "Has my second attention been injured by water?" I asked.
     "It has," she replied. "You are a very indulging man. The Nagual warned
you to be cautious, but you went beyond your limits with running  water. The
Nagual  said  that you  could've  used water like no one else, but it wasn't
your fate to be moderate."
     She pulled her bench closer to mine.
     "That's  all there is to gazing," she said. "But there are other things
I must tell you before you leave."
     "What things, Gorda?"
     "First of all, before  I say  anything, you  must  round up your second
attention for the little sisters and me."
     "I don't think I can do that."
     La Gorda stood up and went into the house. She came back a moment later
with a small, thick, round cushion made  out of the same natural fiber  used
in making nets. Without saying  a word she led me again to the front  porch.
She said that she had made that cushion herself for her comfort when she was
learning to gaze, because the position of the  body was of great  importance
while one was gazing. One  had to sit on the ground on a soft mat of leaves,
or  on a cushion  made out of  natural  fibers. The back  had to be  propped
against a tree, or a stump, or a flat  rock.  The body had to  be thoroughly
relaxed.  The eyes were never fixed on the  object, in order to avoid tiring
them. The gaze consisted in  scanning very slowly the object gazed at, going
counterclockwise but without moving the head. She added that  the Nagual had
made them plant those thick poles so they could use them to prop themselves.
     She had me sit on her cushion and prop my back against a pole. She told
me that she was  going to guide me in gazing at a power spot that the Nagual
had in the round hills across  the valley.  She hoped that by gazing at it I
would get the necessary energy to round up my second attention.
     She sat  down  very  close  to  me, to  my left,  and began  giving  me
instructions. Almost in a whisper she told me to keep my eyelids half closed
and stare at the place where two enormous round hills converged. There was a
narrow,  steep water  canyon there.  She  said that  that particular  gazing
consisted of  four separate actions. The first one was to use the brim of my
hat as a visor to shade off the excessive glare from the sun and  allow only
a minimal amount of light to come to my eyes; then to half-close my eyelids;
the third step was to sustain the opening of my eyelids in order to maintain
a uniform flow of  light; and  the  fourth step was to distinguish the water
canyon in the background through the mesh of light fibers on my eyelashes.
     I could not follow her instructions at first. The sun was high over the
horizon and I had to tilt my head back. I  tipped my hat until I had blocked
off most of the glare  with the brim. That seemed to be all that was needed.
As soon as I half closed my eyes, a bit of light that appeared as if it were
coming from the tip of my hat literally exploded on my eyelashes, which were
acting as a  filter  that created  a web of light.  I  kept my eyelids  half
closed  and  played  with  the  web  of  light  for  a moment until  I could
distinguish   the  dark,  vertical  outline  of  the  water  canyon  in  the
     La Gorda told me then to gaze at the middle part of the  canyon until I
could  spot  a  very dark brown blotch. She  said that it was a  hole in the
canyon which was not there for the eye that looks, but only for the eye that
"sees." She  warned me that I  had to exercise  my control as  soon as I had
isolated that  blotch, so that it would not pull me toward it. Rather, I was
supposed to zoom in on it and gaze into  it. She suggested that the moment I
found the hole I should press my shoulders on hers to let her know. She slid
sideways until she was leaning on me.
     I  struggled  for  a  moment  to keep the four actions coordinated  and
steady, and suddenly a dark spot was  formed in the middle of the canyon.  I
noticed immediately that  I was not seeing it  in the way I usually see. The
dark spot was rather an impression, a visual distortion of sorts. The moment
my control waned it disappeared. It was in my field of perception only  if I
kept the four  actions under  control.  I remembered then  that don Juan had
engaged  me  countless times  in a similar activity. He used to hang a small
piece of cloth from a low branch of a bush, which was strategically  located
to  be in line with specific  geological formations in  the mountains in the
background, such  as water canyons or slopes. By making me sit  about  fifty
feet away from that piece  of  cloth, and  having me  stare through  the low
branches  of  the  bush  where the cloth  hung, he used to create  a special
perceptual effect in me. The piece of cloth, which was always a shade darker
than  the geological formation  I was staring at, seemed to be  at  first  a
feature of  that formation. The idea was to let my perception  play  without
analyzing  it.  I failed  every  time because  I was thoroughly incapable of
suspending  judgment,   and  my  mind  always  entered  into  some  rational
speculation about the mechanics of my phantom perception.
     This time I felt no need whatsoever for speculations. La  Gorda was not
an  imposing  figure that  I unconsciously needed to fight, as don Juan  had
obviously been to me.
     The dark blotch in my field of perception became almost black. I leaned
on  la Gorda's  shoulder to let her know.  She whispered in  my  ear that  I
should struggle to keep my eyelids in the position they were  in and breathe
calmly from  my abdomen. I should not let the blotch pull me,  but gradually
go into it. The thing to avoid was letting the hole grow and suddenly engulf
me. In the event that that happened I had to open my eyes immediately.
     I began  to  breathe as  she had prescribed,  and thus I could keep  my
eyelids fixed indefinitely at the appropriate aperture.
     I remained in that position for quite some time.  Then I noticed that I
had begun to breathe normally and that it had not disturbed my perception of
the dark blotch. But suddenly the dark blotch began to move, to pulsate, and
before  I could  breathe  calmly  again,  the  blackness  moved forward  and
enveloped me. I became frantic and opened my eyes.
     La Gorda said  that  I  was doing distance gazing  and for  that it was
necessary to breathe the way she had recommended. She urged me to  start all
over again. She  said that the Nagual used to make them sit for  entire days
rounding up their second attention by gazing at that spot. He cautioned them
repeatedly about the danger  of  being engulfed because of the jolt the body
     It took me  about an hour of gazing to do  what  she had delineated. To
zoom in on  the brown spot and gaze into it meant that the brown patch in my
field  of perception lightened up  quite suddenly.  As it became  clearer  I
realized that something in me was  performing an impossible act. I felt that
I  was actually advancing toward that spot; thus the impression I was having
that it was clearing up.  Then I was so near  to it that I could distinguish
features in it, like rocks and vegetation. I came even closer and could look
at a  peculiar formation on one rock. It looked like a roughly carved chair.
I liked it very much; compared  to it  the rest of the rocks seemed pale and
     I don't know how long I gazed  at it. I could focus on every  detail of
it. I felt that I could lose  myself forever in its detail because there was
no  end to it.  But something dispelled my  view;  another strange image was
superimposed on the rock,  and then another  one, and another yet. I  became
annoyed  with  the  interference. At  the  instant  I became annoyed  I also
realized that la Gorda was moving  my head from side to side from behind me.
In  a matter  of seconds the concentration of my gazing had been  thoroughly
     La Gorda  laughed  and said  that she understood  why I had  caused the
Nagual such  an intense  concern. She had seen for  herself  that I indulged
beyond my limits. She sat against the pole next to  me and said that she and
the  little sisters were going  to gaze into  the Nagual's power  place. She
then made a piercing birdcall. A moment later the little sisters came out of
the house and sat down to gaze with her.
     Their gazing  mastery  was obvious. Their  bodies  acquired  a  strange
rigidity. They did not seem to be breathing at all.  Their stillness was  so
contagious that I caught myself half closing  my  eyes and staring into  the
     Gazing  had been  a  true  revelation  to me.  In  performing it  I had
corroborated  some important issues of  don Juan's  teachings.  La Gorda had
delineated the task in a  definitely vague manner. "To zoom  in  on it"  was
more  a  command  than  a  description  of  a  process,  and  yet  it was  a
description, providing  that one essential requirement had  been  fulfilled;
don Juan had called that requirement stopping the internal dialogue. From la
Gorda's statements about gazing it was obvious to  me  that the  effect  don
Juan  had  been after in  making  them  gaze was  to teach  them to stop the
internal  dialogue.  La  Gorda  had  expressed  it  as  "quieting  down  the
thoughts." Don Juan had taught me  to  do that very same thing,  although he
had made me follow the  opposite path; instead  of  teaching  me to focus my
view,  as gazers did, he taught  me to open it, to flood my awareness by not
focusing my sight on anything. I had to sort of feel with my eyes everything
in the 180 -- degree range in front  of  me,  while I kept my eyes unfocused
just above the line of the horizon.
     It was very  difficult for me  to gaze, because  it  entailed reversing
that training. As I tried to gaze, my tendency was to open up. The effort of
keeping  that tendency in check, however, made me shut off my thoughts. Once
I had turned off  my internal dialogue, it  was not  difficult to gaze as la
Gorda had prescribed.
     Don Juan had asserted time and time again that the essential feature of
his  sorcery  was  shutting  off  the  internal dialogue.  In  terms  of the
explanation la  Gorda  had  given me  about the  two  realms  of  attention,
stopping the internal  dialogue was an operational way of describing the act
of disengaging the attention of the tonal.
     Don Juan  had also said that once we stop our internal dialogue we also
stop  the world. That  was an operational description  of the  inconceivable
process of focusing our second attention.  He had said that some part of  us
is always kept  under  lock and key because we are afraid of it, and that to
our reason, that  part of us was like an insane relative that we keep locked
in a dungeon. That part was,  in la Gorda's terms, our second attention, and
when it  finally could focus on something the world  stopped. Since  we,  as
average men, know only the  attention of the tonal, it is not too farfetched
to say  that once that attention is  canceled, the world indeed has to stop.
The  focusing of  our wild, untrained second  attention has to be, perforce,
terrifying.  Don  Juan was  right  in saying  that the only way to keep that
insane relative from bursting in on us was by shielding  ourselves  with our
endless internal dialogue.
     La Gorda and the little sisters  stood up after perhaps thirty  minutes
of gazing. La Gorda signaled  me with her head to follow them.  They went to
the kitchen. La Gorda pointed to a bench for me to sit on. She said that she
was  going  up the road  to meet  the Genaros and bring them over.  She left
through the front door.
     The little sisters sat around me.  Lidia volunteered to answer anything
I wanted to ask her. I asked her to tell me about her gazing into don Juan's
power spot, but she did not understand me.
     "I'm  a distance and shadow gazer," she said. "After I  became  a gazer
the Nagual made me start all over again and had  me  gaze  this  time at the
shadows  of  leaves  and plants and  trees  and rocks. Now  I  never look at
anything anymore; I just look at their shadows. Even if there is no light at
all,  there  are  shadows;  even at  night there are shadows. Because  I'm a
shadow gazer  I'm  also a distance gazer. I  can gaze at shadows even in the
     "The shadows in the early  morning don't tell much. The shadows rest at
that time. So it's useless to gaze very early in the day. Around  six in the
morning the shadows wake up, and they are best around five in the afternoon.
Then they are fully awake."
     "What do the shadows tell you?"
     "Everything I want to know. They tell me things because they have heat,
or cold, or because they move, or because they have colors. I don't know yet
all the things that colors and heat and cold mean. The  Nagual left it up to
me to learn."
     "How do you learn?"
     "In my dreaming. Dreamers  must gaze in order  to do dreaming and  then
they  must look for  their dreams in their  gazing. For example, the  Nagual
made me gaze at the shadows of rocks, and  then  in  my dreaming I found out
that those shadows  had light, so I looked for the light in the shadows from
then on until I found it. Gazing and dreaming go  together. It took me a lot
of gazing at shadows to get my  dreaming of shadows going. And then  it took
me a  lot of dreaming and gazing to get the  two together and really see  in
the shadows what I was seeing in  my dreaming. See what  I mean? Everyone of
us does the same. Rosa's dreaming  is about trees because she's a tree gazer
and  Josefina's is about clouds because she's a  cloud  gazer. They gaze  at
trees and clouds until they match their dreaming"
     Rosa and Josefina shook their heads in agreement.
     "What about la Gorda?" I asked.
     "She's a flea gazer," Rosa said, and all of them laughed.
     "La Gorda doesn't like to be bitten by fleas," Lidia explained. "She is
formless and can gaze at anything, but she used to be a rain gazer."
     "What about Pablito?"
     "He  gazes  at  women's   crotches,"  Rosa  answered   with  a  deadpan
     They laughed. Rosa slapped me on the back.
     "I understand that since he's your partner  he's taking after you," she
     They banged on the table and shook the benches with their feet as  they
     "Pablito  is  a rock gazer," Lidia said. "Nestor  is  a rain and  plant
gazer  and Benigno is  a distance  gazer. But  don't ask me  any  more about
gazing because I will lose my power if I tell you more."
     "How come la Gorda tells me everything?"
     "La Gorda  lost her  form,"  Lidia replied. "Whenever I lose mine  I'll
tell you  everything too. But by  then you won't care to hear  it.  You care
only because you're stupid like us. The day  we lose our form we'll all stop
being stupid."
     "Why do you ask so many questions when you know all this?" Rosa asked.
     "Because he's like us," Lidia said. "He's not a true nagual. He's still
a man."
     She turned and faced me. For an instant her face was hard and her  eyes
piercing and cold, but her expression softened as she spoke to me.
     "You and Pablito are partners,"  she said. "You really like him,  don't
     I  thought for a moment  before I  answered. I told her  that somehow I
trusted  him  implicitly. For  no overt  reason at all  I  had a feeling  of
kinship with him.
     "You like him so much that  you fouled him up," she said in an accusing
tone. "On  that mountaintop  where you jumped, he was getting to his  second
attention by himself and you forced him to jump with you."
     "I only held him by the arm," I said in protest.
     "A sorcerer doesn't hold  another sorcerer by the arm," she said. "Each
of us is very capable. You don't  need any  of us  three to help you. Only a
sorcerer  who sees and is  formless can  help. On that mountaintop where you
jumped, you were supposed to go first. Now Pablito is tied to you. I suppose
you  intended to help us in the  same way.  God, the more I think about you,
the more I despise you."
     Rosa and Josefina mumbled their  agreement. Rosa  stood up and faced me
with rage in her eyes. She demanded to know what I intended to do with them.
I  said  that I intended to  leave very  soon.  My statement seemed to shock
them. They all spoke at the same time. Lidia's voice rose above the  others.
She said that the time to leave had been the night  before, and that she had
hated it the moment I decided to stay. Josefina began to yell obscenities at
     I felt a sudden shiver and stood up and yelled at them to be quiet with
a  voice that was not my own. They looked at me horrified.  I tried  to look
casual, but I had frightened myself as much as I had frightened them.
     At that moment la Gorda stepped out  to the kitchen as if  she had been
hiding in the front room waiting for us to start a fight.  She said that she
had warned all of us not to fall into one another's webs. I had to  laugh at
the way she scolded us as if we were children. She said that we owed respect
to  each other, that respect among warriors was a  most delicate matter. The
little sisters knew how to behave  like warriors with each other, so did the
Genaros among themselves, but  when I would come into  either group, or when
the two  groups got together, all of them  ignored their warrior's knowledge
and behaved like slobs.
     We sat  down. La Gorda  sat  next to me. After a  moment's pause  Lidia
explained that she was afraid  I was going to do to them what I had done  to
Pablito. La Gorda laughed and said that she would never  let  me help any of
them in  that manner. I told her that I could not understand what I had done
to Pablito that was so wrong. I had not  been aware of what I had  done, and
if Nestor had not  told  me I would  never  have known that  I had  actually
picked Pablito up. I even wondered  if Nestor had perhaps exaggerated a bit,
or that maybe he had made a mistake.
     La  Gorda said that the  Witness would not make a  stupid mistake  like
that, much  less exaggerate  it,  and  that the Witness was the most perfect
warrior among them.
     "Sorcerers don't help  one another like you  helped Pablito,"  she went
on. "You behaved like a man in  the street. The  Nagual had taught us all to
be warriors. He  said that a  warrior had no compassion for anyone. For him,
to have compassion meant that you wished the other person to be like you, to
be in your shoes, and you lent a hand just for that purpose. You did that to
Pablito. The hardest thing in  the world is for a  warrior to let others be.
When I was  fat I  worried because Lidia  and Josefina did not eat enough. I
was afraid that they would get ill and die from not eating. I  did my utmost
to fatten them and I meant only the best.  The impeccability of a warrior is
to let them be  and to support them in what they are. That means, of course,
that you trust them to be impeccable warriors themselves."
     "But what if they are not impeccable warriors?" I said.
     "Then it's your duty to be impeccable yourself and not say a word," she
replied. "The Nagual said that  only a sorcerer who sees and is formless can
afford to help anyone. That's why he helped us and made us what we  are. You
don't  think that you can go around picking people up off the street to help
them, do you?"
     Don Juan had already put me face to face with the dilemma  that I could
not  help my fellow beings in  any way. In fact, to his understanding, every
effort  to  help  on  our  part  was  an  arbitrary act guided  by  our  own
self-interest alone.
     One day when I was with him  in the city,  I picked up a snail that was
in the middle of  the sidewalk and tucked it safely  under some vines. I was
sure that if I  had left  it in  the middle of the  sidewalk,  people  would
sooner or  later have stepped  on it. I thought that by moving it to  a safe
place I had saved it.
     Don Juan pointed out that my  assumption was a careless  one, because I
had not taken into consideration two  important possibilities. One  was that
the  snail might have  been escaping a sure death by poison under the leaves
of the vine,  and  the  other  possibility  was  that the  snail had  enough
personal power to  cross  the sidewalk. By  interfering I had  not saved the
snail but only made it lose whatever it had so painfully gained.
     I wanted, of course, to put the snail back where I had found it, but he
did not let me. He said that it was the snail's  fate that  an idiot crossed
its path and made it lose its  momentum. If I left it where I had put it, it
might be able again to gather enough power to go wherever it was going.
     I thought I had understood his  point. Obviously I had only given him a
shallow agreement. The hardest thing for me was to let others be.
     I told them the story. La Gorda patted my back.
     "We're  all pretty bad," she said. "All five of us are awful people who
don't  want to understand. I've gotten rid of most  of my ugly side, but not
all of it yet. We are rather slow, and in comparison to the Genaros  we  are
gloomy and domineering. The Genaros, on the other hand, are all like Genaro;
there is very little awfulness in them."
     The little sisters shook their heads in agreement.
     "You are the ugliest among us," Lidia said to me. "I don't  think we're
that bad in comparison to you."
     La  Gorda giggled  and tapped my leg  as  if  telling me  to agree with
Lidia. I did, and all of them laughed like children.
     We remained silent for a long time.
     "I'm getting now to the end of what I had to tell  you,"  la Gorda said
all of a sudden.
     She made all of us stand up. She said  that they were going to show  me
the Toltec warrior's power stand. Lidia stood  by my right side,  facing me.
She  grabbed  my hand  with  her  right  hand,  palm  to  palm,  but without
interlocking the fingers. Then she hooked my arm right above the elbow  with
her left arm and held me tightly against her chest. Josefina did exactly the
same thing on my left  side. Rosa stood  face to face with me and hooked her
arms under my armpits and grabbed my shoulders. La Gorda came from behind me
and embraced me at my waist, interlocking her fingers over my navel.
     All  of  us were about the same height and they could press their heads
against my  head. La Gorda spoke very softly behind  my  left ear,  but loud
enough for all of us to hear her. She said that we  were going to try to put
our second attention in the Nagual's power place, without anyone or anything
prodding us. This  time there was no teacher to aid us or allies to spur us.
We were going to go there just by the force of our desire.
     I had the invincible  urge to ask her what I should do. She said that I
should let my second attention focus on what I had gazed at.
     She  explained  that the particular  formation  which we were  in was a
Toltec power arrangement. I was at that moment the center and  binding force
of the four corners of the world. Lidia  was the east,  the  weapon that the
Toltec  warrior holds in  his right hand;  Rosa  was the  north,  the shield
harnessed  on the  front of the warrior; Josefina was  the west, the  spirit
catcher that the warrior holds in his left hand; and la Gorda was the south,
the  basket which  the warrior  carries  on his back and where he keeps  his
power  objects. She said that the natural position of every  warrior  was to
face  the  north, since  he had to hold the  weapon,  the east, in his right
hand.  But  the direction  that  we  ourselves  had  to face was the  south,
slightly  toward the  east; therefore,  the act of power that the Nagual had
left for us to perform was to change directions.
     She reminded me that  one of the first  things that the Nagual had done
to us was  to turn our eyes  to face the southeast. That had been the way he
had enticed our second attention to perform the feat which we were going  to
attempt then. There  were  two alternatives to that feat. One was for all of
us to turn around  to face the south, using me as  an  axis, and in so doing
change  around the basic value and function of  all  of them. Lidia would be
the west, Josefina, the  east, Rosa, the south and she, the north. The other
alternative was  for  us  to  change  our direction and face  the south  but
without turning around.  That was the  alternative of power, and it entailed
putting on out second face.
     I told la Gorda that I did not understand what our second face was. She
said that she  had been entrusted by the Nagual  to try getting  the  second
attention of all of us bundled  up  together,  and that every Toltec warrior
had two faces  and  faced two opposite directions. The second  face  was the
second attention.
     La Gorda suddenly  released  her grip. All the others did the same. She
sat down again and motioned  me  to sit  by her. The little sisters remained
standing. La Gorda asked  me if everything was clear to  me. It was,  and at
the same time it was  not. Before I  had time  to  formulate a question, she
blurted out that one of the last things the Nagual had entrusted her to tell
me was that I had to change  my direction by summing  up my second attention
together with theirs, and put on my power face to see what was behind me.
     La Gorda stood up and motioned me to follow her. She led me to the door
of  their room. She gently pushed me into the room.  Once I had crossed  the
threshold, Lidia, Rosa, Josefina and she joined me, in  that order, and then
la Gorda closed the door.
     The room was very dark. It did not  seem to have any windows. La  Gorda
grabbed me by the arm and placed me in what I thought was the  center of the
room. All of  them surrounded me. I could  not see them at all; I could only
feel them flanking me on four sides.
     After a while  my  eyes became accustomed to  the darkness. I could see
that the room had two windows which had been blocked off by panels. A bit of
light came through them and I could distinguish everybody. Then  all of them
held me the  way they had done a few  minutes before, and  in perfect unison
they placed  their heads  against mine. I could feel  their  hot breaths all
around me.  I closed my eyes in order to sum  up the image  of  my gazing. I
could not do it. I felt very  tired and sleepy. My eyes  itched terribly;  I
wanted to rub them, but Lidia and Josefina held my arms tightly.
     We stayed in  that  position for  a  very  long  time.  My fatigue  was
unbearable and finally I  slumped. I thought  that my knees had  given in. I
had  the feeling that I  was going to collapse on the floor and fall  asleep
right there. But there was no  floor. In fact, there was nothing  underneath
me. My  fright upon realizing that  was so intense that I was fully awake in
an  instant; a force greater  than my  fright, however, pushed  me back into
that sleepy state again. I abandoned myself. I was floating with them like a
balloon. It was as if I had fallen asleep and was dreaming and in that dream
I  saw a series of disconnected images. We were no longer in the darkness of
their room. There was so much light that it blinded me. At times I could see
Rosa's face  against mine; out  of the  corner of my eyes  I could  also see
Lidia's and Josefina's. I could feel their foreheads pressed hard against my
ears. And  then the image would  change and  I would  see instead la Gorda's
face against mine. Every time that happened she would put her mouth  on mine
and  breathe. I  did  not like  that  at all.  Some force in me tried to get
loose. I  felt  terrified. I  tried  to push all of them away. The harder  I
tried, the harder they held me. That convinced me that la Gorda  had tricked
me and had finally led me  into a  death trap. But contrary to the others la
Gorda  had been an  impeccable player. The thought  that  she had  played an
impeccable hand made me feel better. At one point I did not care to struggle
any longer.  I became curious about the moment of my death, which I believed
was imminent, and  I let go of myself. I  experienced then an unequaled joy,
an exuberance that I was sure  was the  herald  of my end,  if not  my death
itself. I pulled Lidia and Josefina even  closer  to me.  At  that moment la
Gorda was in front of me. I did not mind that she was breathing in my mouth;
in fact I was surprised that she stopped then. The instant she  did, all  of
them also stopped pressing their heads  on mine. They began to  look  around
and by so doing they also freed  my head. I could  move it.  Lidia, la Gorda
and  Josefina  were so close to me that I could see only through the opening
in  between their heads.  I could not figure out  where we were. One thing I
was  certain  of, we were not  standing on the ground. We were  in the  air.
Another thing I knew for sure  was that  we had shifted our order. Lidia was
to my  left  and Josefina, to  my right. La  Gorda's  face was covered  with
perspiration and  so  were Lidia's and Josefina's. I  could  only feel  Rosa
behind me. I could see her hands coming from my  armpits and holding onto my
     La Gorda was  saying  something I  could  not hear. She enunciated  her
words  slowly  as  if  she were giving me  time to read her  lips, but I got
caught up in the details  of her mouth.  At one instant I felt that the four
of them were moving me; they were deliberately rocking me. That forced me to
pay attention to la Gorda's silent words. I clearly read her lips this time.
She was telling me to turn around. I tried but my head seemed to be fixed. I
felt that someone was biting my lips. I watched la Gorda. She was not biting
me  but  she was looking  at me  as she mouthed her command to turn  my head
around. As she talked, I  also felt  that she was actually licking my entire
face or biting my lips and cheeks.
     La Gorda's face was somehow distorted.  It looked big and yellowish.  I
thought  that  perhaps  since the  whole scene was  yellowish,  her face was
reflecting that glow. I could  almost hear her  ordering me  to turn my head
around.  Finally the annoyance that the biting was  causing me made me shake
my head.  And suddenly the sound of la Gorda's voice became clearly audible.
She was in back of me and she was yelling at me to turn my attention around.
Rose was the one who  was licking my face. I pushed  her  away from  my face
with my forehead. Rosa was weeping. Her face  was covered with perspiration.
I could hear la Gorda's voice behind me. She said that I  had exhausted them
by  fighting them and that she did not know what to do to catch our original
attention. The little sisters were whining.
     My thoughts  were crystal  clear. My rational  processes, however, were
not deductive. I knew things  quickly and directly and there was no doubt of
any sort in my mind. For instance,  I knew immediately that I had to go back
to sleep again, and  that that would make us plummet  down. But I also  knew
that I had to let them bring us to their house. I was useless for that. If I
could focus  my second attention at all, it had to be  on a  place  that don
Juan had given me in northern Mexico. I  had always  been able to picture it
in  my mind like nothing  else  in  the world. I did not dare to sum up that
vision. I knew that we would have ended up there.
     I thought  that  I had to  tell  la Gorda what I knew, but I  could not
talk. Yet some part of me knew that she understood. I trusted her implicitly
and  I fell asleep in a matter of seconds. In my dream I was  looking at the
kitchen of their house. Pablito, Nestor  and Benigno were there. They looked
extraordinarily large and they glowed.  I  could not  focus my eyes on them,
because  a sheet of  transparent  plastic material was  in  between them and
myself. Then I  realized that it was as if  I were looking at them through a
glass window  while somebody  was throwing water on the glass.  Finally  the
glass shattered and the water hit me in the face.
     Pablito was drenching me  with a bucket. Nestor  and Benigno were  also
standing there. La Gorda,  the  little sisters  and  I  were sprawled on the
ground in  the yard  behind the house. The Genaros  were  drenching  us with
buckets of water.
     I sprang up. Either the cold water or the extravagant  experience I had
just been through had invigorated me. La Gorda and the little sisters put on
a change  of clothes that the Genaros must have  laid  out  in  the sun.  My
clothes had also been neatly laid on the ground. I changed without a word. I
was experiencing the peculiar feeling that seems to follow  the focusing  of
the second attention; I could not talk, or rather I could talk but I did not
want to. My  stomach was  upset. La Gorda seemed to sense it  and  pulled me
gently to  the area in back of  the  fence. I became  ill.  La Gorda and the
little sisters were affected the same way.
     I returned to  the kitchen area and washed my face. The coldness of the
water  seemed  to  restore my  awareness. Pablito, Nestor  and  Benigno were
sitting around  the table. Pablito had brought his  chair.  He stood up  and
shook hands with me. Then Nestor and Benigno  did the same. La Gorda and the
little sisters joined us.
     There  seemed to be something wrong  with me. My  ears were buzzing.  I
felt dizzy. Josefina stood up and grabbed onto Rosa for support. I turned to
ask la Gorda what to do. Lidia was falling backward over the bench. I caught
her, but her weight pulled me down and I fell over with her.
     I must have fainted. I woke  up suddenly. I was lying on a straw mat in
the front room. Lidia, Rosa and Josefina were sound asleep next to me. I had
to  crawl  over them to stand  up. I nudged them but they did not wake up. I
walked out to the kitchen.  La Gorda was sitting with the Genaros around the
     "Welcome back," Pablito said.
     He added that la Gorda had woken up a short while before. I felt that I
was  my old self  again. I was hungry.  La Gorda gave me a bowl of food. She
said  that they  had already eaten. After eating  I  felt  perfect  in every
respect  except I could not think as  I usually  do. My thoughts had quieted
down  tremendously.  I  did  not like that state. I noticed then that it was
late afternoon. I had a sudden urge to jog in place facing the  sun, the way
don  Juan used to make me do. I stood  up and la Gorda joined me. Apparently
she  had had the same idea. Moving like that made me perspire. I  got winded
very  quickly and returned to the table. La  Gorda followed me. We sat  down
again. The Genaros were staring at us. La Gorda handed me my writing pad.
     "The Nagual here got us lost," la Gorda said.
     The moment  she  spoke  I  experienced  a  most  peculiar  bursting. My
thoughts came back to me  in an avalanche. There must have been  a change in
my expression, for Pablito embraced me and so did Nestor and Benigno.
     "The Nagual is going to live! " Pablito said loudly.
     La  Gorda also seemed delighted. She wiped her forehead in a gesture of
relief.  She  said that I had  nearly  killed all of them and myself with my
terrible tendency to indulge.
     "To focus the second attention is no joke," Nestor said.
     "What happened to us, Gorda?" I asked.
     "We got lost," she said. "You began to  indulge in your fear and we got
lost  in that  immensity.  We  couldn't  focus  our  attention of  the tonal
anymore. But we succeeded in bundling up our second attention with yours and
now you have two faces."
     Lidia,  Rosa and Josefina stepped out into the kitchen  at that moment.
They  were smiling and seemed as fresh  and vigorous as  ever.  They  helped
themselves to some  food. They sat down and nobody uttered a word while they
ate. The moment the  last one had finished eating,  la Gorda picked up where
she had left off.
     "Now you're a warrior with two  faces," she went on. "The  Nagual  said
that all of us  have to have  two faces to  fare well in both attentions. He
and Genaro helped us to round  up our second attention  and turned us around
so we could face in two directions, but they didn't help you,  because to be
a true nagual you have to claim your power all by  yourself.  You're still a
long way from that, but let's say that now you're walking upright instead of
crawling,  and  when you've regained your  completeness  and have lost  your
form, you'll be gliding."
     Benigno made a gesture with his hand  of a plane in flight and imitated
the  roar  of  the  engine  with  his  booming voice. The  sound  was  truly
     Everybody laughed. The little sisters seemed to be delighted.
     I  had  not been fully  aware until then that it was late  afternoon. I
said to  la Gorda that we  must have  slept for hours, for we had  gone into
their room  before noon. She said that we  had not slept  long at  all, that
most of  that time we had been lost in the other world, and that the Genaros
had  been  truly  frightened and despondent, because there  was nothing they
could do to bring us back.
     I turned to Nestor and asked  him what they had  actually  done or seen
while we were gone. He stared at me for a moment before answering.
     "We brought  a lot of water  to the  yard,"  he said, pointing  to some
empty oil barrels. "Then all of you  staggered into the yard  and we  poured
water on you, that's all."
     "Did we come out of the room?" I asked him.
     Benigno  laughed  loudly. Nestor  looked  at la Gorda as if  asking for
permission or advice.
     "Did we come out of the room?" la Gorda asked.
     "No," Nestor replied.
     La  Gorda  seemed to  be as  anxious to  know  as I was,  and  that was
alarming to me. She even coaxed Nestor to speak.
     "You  came from nowhere,"  Nestor said.  "I should also say that it was
frightening. All of you were like fog. Pablito saw you first. You  may  have
been  in the yard for a long time, but we didn't know where to look for you.
Then Pablito yelled and all of us  saw you. We have never seen anything like
     "What did we look like?" I asked.
     The  Genaros looked  at  one  another.  There was  an  unbearably  long
silence. The little sisters were staring at Nestor with their mouths open.
     "You  were like pieces  of fog caught in a web," Nestor said. "When  we
poured water on you, you became solid again."
     I  wanted him  to keep on talking but la Gorda said that there was very
little time left, for I had to leave at the end of the day and she still had
things to  tell me. The Genaros  stood  up and shook hands  with  the little
sisters and la Gorda. They embraced  me and told me  that they only needed a
few  days in order to get ready  to  move away. Pablito put his chair upside
down on  his  back. Josefina ran to  the area around  the stove, picked up a
bundle they had  brought from dona Soledad's house and placed it between the
legs of Pablito's chair, which made an ideal carrying device.
     "Since you're  going  home you might as well take this," she said.  "It
belongs to you anyway."
     Pablito  shrugged  his  shoulders  and  shifted his  chair in order  to
balance the load.
     Nestor signaled Benigno to  take the  bundle  but Pablito would not let
     "It's all right," he said. "I might as well be a jackass as long as I'm
carrying this damn chair."
     "Why do you carry it, Pablito?" I asked.
     "I have to store my power," he  replied. "I can't go around  sitting on
just anything. Who knows what kind of a creep sat there before me?"
     He cackled and made the bundle wiggle by shaking his shoulders.
     After the Genaros left, la Gorda explained to me that Pablito began his
crazy involvement  with his chair to tease Lidia.  He  did  not want to  sit
where  she had  sat, but  he had gotten  carried away, and since he loved to
indulge he would not sit anywhere else except on his chair.
     "He's capable of carrying it through life," la  Gorda said  to me  with
great certainty. "He's almost as bad as you. He's your partner; you'll carry
your  writing  pad  through  life  and he'll  carry  his chair.  What's  the
difference? Both of you indulge more than the rest of us."
     The little sisters surrounded me and laughed, patting me on the back.
     "It's  very hard to get into our second attention,"  la  Gorda went on,
"and to manage it when you indulge as you do is even harder. The Nagual said
that you should know how difficult that managing is better  than  any of us.
With  his  power  plants, you learned to go very far into that  other world.
That's why you  pulled us so  hard today  that  we nearly died. We wanted to
gather our second attention on the  Nagual's spot, and  you  plunged us into
something we didn't know. We are  not ready for it, but neither are you. You
can't help yourself, though; the power  plants made you that way. The Nagual
was right: all of us have to help you contain your second attention, and you
have to help all of us to push ours.  Your second attention can go very far,
but it  has no control; ours can go only a little bit, but we have  absolute
control over it."
     La Gorda and the  little sisters, one by one,  told me how  frightening
the experience of being lost in the other world had been.
     "The  Nagual told me," la Gorda  went on,  "that when  he was gathering
your second attention with his smoke, you focused it on a gnat, and then the
little gnat became the guardian of the other world for you."
     I told her  that that was true. At  her request I narrated to  them the
experience don Juan had made me undergo. With the aid of his smoking mixture
I had perceived a gnat as a  hundredfoot-high, horrifying monster that moved
with  incredible  speed  and  agility. The  ugliness of  that  creature  was
nauseating, and yet there was an awesome magnificence to it.
     I  also had had no way  to accommodate that experience  in my  rational
scheme  of  things.  The only  support  for my intellect  was my deep-seated
certainty that one of the effects of the psychotropic smoking mixture was to
induce me to hallucinate the size of the gnat.
     I presented  to  them, especially  to  la  Gorda,  my rational,  causal
explanation of what had taken place. They laughed.
     "There are no hallucinations,"  la  Gorda  said  in a  firm  tone.  "If
anybody  suddenly  sees  something different,  something that was  not there
before, it  is because  that person's second attention has been gathered and
that person is focusing it  on something.  Now, whatever  is  gathering that
person's  attention might  be anything,  maybe it's  liquor,  or  maybe it's
madness, or maybe it's the Nagual's smoking mixture.
     "You saw a gnat and it became the guardian of  the other world for you.
And do  you know what that other world is? That other world is the  world of
our second attention. The Nagual thought that  perhaps your second attention
was  strong enough to pass  the  guardian and go into  that  world.  But  it
wasn't. If  it had been, you  might  have  gone  into  that world and  never
returned. The Nagual  told me that he  was prepared to  follow you. But  the
guardian didn't let you pass  and nearly killed  you. The Nagual had to stop
making you  focus your  second  attention with his  power plants because you
could only  focus on  the  awesomeness  of things. He had  you  do  dreaming
instead,  so  you  could  gather  it in another  way. But he  was  sure your
dreaming would also be awesome.  There was nothing he could do about it. You
were  following him in his  own footsteps and he  had an  awesome,  fearsome
     They remained silent. It was  as if all  of them had  been  engulfed by
their memories.
     La Gorda said that the Nagual had once pointed out to me a very special
red insect, in the mountains of his  homeland. She asked me  if I remembered
     I  did remember  it. Years before  don  Juan had  taken  me to  an area
unknown to me,  in the mountains of  northern Mexico.  With extreme  care he
showed  me some round  insects, the  size of  a  ladybug.  Their backs  were
brilliantly red. I wanted to get down on the ground and examine them, but he
would not  let me.  He told me  that I  should watch  them, without staring,
until I  had memorized their shape, because I  was supposed to remember them
always. He then explained some intricate  details of their  behavior, making
it sound like a metaphor.  He was telling me about the  arbitrary importance
of our  most  cherished mores. He  pointed  out some alleged mores  of those
insects and  pitted them against ours. The comparison made the importance of
our beliefs look ridiculous.
     "Just before he and Genaro left," la Gorda went on, "the Nagual took me
to that place in the mountains where those little bugs  lived. I had already
been there once, and so had everyone else. The Nagual made  sure that all of
us knew those little creatures, although he never let us gaze at them.
     "While I was there with him he told me what to  do with you and what  I
should tell  you.  I've already told you most of what he asked me to, except
for this last  thing. It has to  do  with what  you've been asking everybody
about: Where are the Nagual and Genaro? Now I'll tell you exactly where they
are.  The  Nagual  said that you will understand this better than any of us.
None  of us has  ever seen the guardian. None of us has  ever  been in  that
yellow sulfur world where he  lives. You  are the only one among us who has.
The Nagual said that he followed you into that  world  when you focused your
second attention on the guardian. He intended  to go there with you, perhaps
forever, if you would've been  strong enough to  pass.  It was  then that he
first found out about the world of those little red bugs. He said that their
world was  the most beautiful  and perfect thing one could imagine. So, when
it was time for him and Genaro to leave this world, they gathered  all their
second  attention  and focused it on  that world. Then the Nagual opened the
crack,  as  you yourself witnessed,  and  they  slipped through it into that
world, where they are waiting for us to  join them someday.  The  Nagual and
Genaro liked beauty. They went there for their sheer enjoyment."
     She looked at me. I  had  nothing to say. She had been  right in saying
that power  had  to time her revelation perfectly if it  were  going  to  be
effective. I felt an anguish I could not express.  It was as if I wanted  to
weep  and  yet  I  was  not  sad  or  melancholy.  I  longed  for  something
inexpressible, but that longing was not mine.  Like so many  of the feelings
and sensations I had had since my arrival, it was alien to me.
     Nestor's assertions about Eligio came to my mind.  I told la Gorda what
he  had  said, and she asked me to narrate to them the visions of my journey
between  the  tonal and  the nagual which  I  had had upon  jumping into the
abyss. When  I  finished  they all  seemed  frightened. La Gorda immediately
isolated my vision of the dome.
     "The  Nagual told us that our  second attention would  someday focus on
that dome," she said. "That day  we will be all second attention, just  like
the Nagual and Genaro are, and that day we will join them."
     "Do you mean, Gorda, that we will go as we are?" I asked.
     "Yes, we  will go  as we  are.  The body is  the  first  attention, the
attention of the tonal. When it becomes the second attention, it simply goes
into  the  other  world.  Jumping  into  the abyss gathered  all your second
attention for a while. But Eligio was stronger and his  second attention was
fixed by that jump. That's what happened to him and he was just  like all of
us.  But there is no way of telling  where  he is. Even  the  Nagual himself
didn't know. But  if he is someplace he is in that  dome. Or he  is bouncing
from vision to vision, perhaps for a whole eternity."
     La Gorda said that in my journey between the tonal and the nagual I had
corroborated on a  grand scale the  possibility that our whole being becomes
all second  attention, and on  a much smaller scale  when I got  all of them
lost in the  world of that attention, earlier  that  day, and also when  she
transported us half a mile in order to flee from the  allies. She added that
the problem the Nagual had left for us as a challenge was  whether or not we
would be  capable  of  developing our will,  or  the  power  of  our  second
attention to focus indefinitely on anything we wanted.
     We were  quiet for a while. It seemed that it was time for me to leave,
but I could not move. The thought of Eligio's fate had paralyzed me. Whether
he had  made  it to the dome  of our  rendezvous, or whether  he  had gotten
caught in the tremendum, the image of his  journey was maddening. It took no
effort  at all for  me  to envision it, for I had the  experience of my  own
     The other world, which don Juan had referred  to practically  since the
moment we  met, had always been a metaphor, an obscure way of labeling  some
perceptual  distortion, or at best a way of  talking  about some undefinable
state  of  being.  Even though don Juan had made  me perceive  indescribable
features of  the world, I could not consider my  experiences to be  anything
beyond a play on my  perception,  a directed mirage  of  sorts  that  he had
managed to  make me undergo,  either by means of psychotropic  plants, or by
means I  could not deduce  rationally.  Every  time that had happened. I had
shielded myself with the thought  that the unity of  the "me" I knew and was
familiar  with had been  only  temporarily displaced. Inevitably, as soon as
that  unity  was  restored,  the  world  became  again  the sanctuary for my
inviolable,  rational self.  The  scope that la Gorda had  opened  with  her
revelations was terrifying.
     She  stood up and  pulled me up  off the bench. She said that  I had to
leave before the twilight set in. All  of them walked with me to  my car and
we said good-bye.
     La Gorda gave me a last command. She told me that on my return I should
go directly to the Genaros' house.
     "We don't want to see you until you  know what  to do," she said with a
radiant smile. "But don't delay too long."
     The little sisters nodded.
     "Those  mountains are  not  going to let us stay here much longer," she
said,  and  with a subtle movement of her chin she pointed  to the  ominous,
eroded hills across the valley.
     I asked her one  more question.  I wanted to know  if she  had any idea
where the Nagual and  Genaro would go after we had completed our rendezvous.
She looked up at the sky, raised her arms and made an  indescribable gesture
with them to point out that there was no limit to that vastness.

Популярность: 9, Last-modified: Mon, 29 Nov 2004 14:25:52 GMT