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Pleasant Weather in a Mexican Port
Rodrigo’s crucifix was broken in two on the floor.
An obliterating smell of the outside mingled in with the odour of salt-water had forced itself into the house through a hole in the kitchen wall. The wood had been blown apart and from where he lay slumped, against what used to be the washing machine he could make out the flames.
He tried to move, but the numbness suited him. His forearm felt fractured but he couldn’t be sure. There was no pain anymore, there was no anxiety. He had reached his goal – all that was left now was to look at his Father in the eyes, arms wide open. Broken on the floor was His Son. That was the only hope left.
As his charred neck failed him and his head lolled back long black matted hair came into view. A slender body and a peaceful expression on her lifeless face. Rodrigo used his thumb and index finger to close her eye lids. He had given her that at least.
Padre nuestro, que estas en el cielo…
“Where are the supplies? I need to get moving, now!”
An old man swallowed his pride for the first time in his life just then.
“I’ll find them.” He hobbled off and descended the stairs. The lighting was failing with every ripping tremor that travelled through the hotel’s foundations.
Rodrigo worked as a cook in the Mexican hotel. He was young, of no more than thirty years. An ambitious young South-American, he spoke a little bit of English and Italian, picked up from tourists. Every day rich Americans, gringos, praised the hotel’s cuisine – obsequious credit all given to senior management when really, it was his work that got things done. He was the master of the kitchen of the Torre hotel. The Mexican port, home to him since birth, was practically reduced to rubble. The hotel stood only because of its peripheral location.
The explosions reached deafening levels as they got closer to the Torre. The guests had been evacuated two days before. Those too proud to run had been taken.
A bestial screech tore through the streets about half a mile away. Rodrigo could think only of his family as he quickened his step down the corridor. He clenched his fists, opening and then re-clenching them in quick succession. He was a drummer.
“Manuel! I need the supplies right now!”
The sky is always too blue. Rodrigo preferred rain. Black shadows stormed across a cloudless, sunny world, racing towards unknown targets. This town was nothing to them in the grand scheme of things. The young man leant over the balcony and screamed at Manuel, hurrying through the hotel gardens back into the reception area, his suit ripped in two places. That, thought Rodrigo, was his boss.
More screeching – animal-like, terrifyingly near to the hotel.
Rodrigo sprinted down to the reception. Glass had been shattered and paintings knocked from their perches. The hotel manager grabbed his employee by the shoulder in a desperate, vice-like grip. “Come with us. You’ll die out there and you know it! They aren’t just killing gringos anymore!”
Rodrigo wrenched away the briefcase he had asked for countless times and with his left arm thrust his old boss away violently. Manuel crashed into some chairs and then the floor, his glasses hitting the floor with a crack. Before he could even recover the younger of the two had been swallowed by the smoke and sunlight of the port.
He had sported running shoes before leaving, so he was dressed in his cooking overalls with Nike on his feet. They were the only part of him yet to be engulfed by the dust and grime – they stood out but he needed to be fast. The streets opened to him like old friends. Not even the endless expanse of broken concrete and burnt-out cars could overcome the memory of childhood.
There was no danger around, but pillars of smoke billowed into the clear, frustratingly pleasant sky. Twisted, mutated tarmac proved no match for his trainers. He turned a corner into what used to be a bustling street used for stalls.
Rodrigo was so determined that even when he found one of them standing, staring at him, he did not run back for cover. He just kept running, avoiding eye-contact.
For a split second the scene was peaceful: Rodrigo in limbo, briefcase flailing in his right fist, his legs exerting the most force possible. The other figure, human-like, just staring: dressed in black, arms hidden in a cloak. Hell was embodied in that creature – Rodrigo was running for heaven.
That split second wasn’t meant to last an eternity, but Rodrigo knew this of course. The cloaked figure let out an acute scream, warning the rest of them, calling for help. The hunt was on again.
In front of the running man was a collection of houses still standing, rubble surrounding them as they jutted defiantly from the ground. They were all built in a similar way, white-washed walls and terracotta roofs. This was where Rodrigo had grown up. Kicking footballs down the street, playing with the other kids, climbing onto people’s roofs (they were not hard to reach) – memories all flooding back as he fled from what he knew was behind him.
An explosion fifty metres away from Rodrigo disrupted his reminiscing: He could feel himself flying through the air and the ground rushing up to meet his fall. Mud sprayed everywhere, seagulls cackled over-head, and then his torso crashed onto broken concrete. His ears were ringing and he was disorientated but the young man knew that to stop was to die. Where is the briefcase?
Scrambling up he ran towards his old house, still vaguely recognisable. The screeching was coming nearer, piercing through Rodrigo’s spinning world and into his heart, striking a great fear in him. I will die fighting!
The beasts were chasing him and they were enjoying it. In the open, even Mexicans were fair game. If he could just get to the living room…
The front door has been blown straight off of its hinges – Rodrigo dived through into the shade of the wrecked house. The beasts roared in seconds behind, snapping at his back.
Rodrigo’s hand fell upon a vase, amazingly still intact, propped on a table in the entrance of the house. Before gravity brought him crashing to the floor, he whipped round the vase and with all his strength launched it at his pursuers. A loud crashing sound and then sliding violently on the floor – Rodrigo’s senses were obliterated.
Rodrigo never found his sister. She had fled with his parents and brother beforehand in one of the ferries. He had just refused to accept that she would desert him like that: such blinding pride. They had been united from the beginning, and now she was gone.
As the Mexican lay broken, leaning against a washing machine, he imagined her lying next to him. Dead. That was what she was to him.
The cloaked figures closed in on him. Peace had finally come. He had stayed to fight