jueves, 31 de marzo de 2016

True image

  Julie’s walk was very confident and full of energy. Every step she took towards the pool area in the cruise, made her noticeable to every single person on the boat. She was wearing a blue bikini with a large hat and sandals with quite a heel and she was pulling it off in the best way possible. All men had their eyes on her and all women wanted to be as confident as she was.

 Following Julie, however, was her brother Kevin. It was an absolute contrast because Kevin wasn’t dressed at all for a swimming pool; he just looked like one of those people that go to awesome place but don’t do that much. Well, that precisely was Kevin because he didn’t even wanted to come at first but he had being pressured by his parents to accompany his sister. The trip was her gift for finishing high school with great marks and she had been joined by some friends in the cruise. So the suffering was double for Kevin.

 Which was silly because he was older than him. He should have gotten over the whole high school thing but he actually hadn’t.. His experiences there had been so traumatic that he didn’t even liked to be around Julia when her friends were with her. He quietly went away, most likely to his room or he just wandered around the ship, which was large enough.

 For the swimming pool, he was wearing these big, long, baggy trunks that looked two sizes larger than him, not flip flops but actual shoes and big white t-shirt. Besides, his face was covered in white, like a ghost. When they got to some free chairs by the pool, Julia removed her sunglasses and look at her brother, a bit disappointed. He was covering himself with his towel and looking at everyone a bit scared.

 She told him to come near and helped him with the mask of sunscreen he had put on his face,. She made him look a little bit more normal. Julia told him she should enjoy the pool and the sun for once and that nothing was never as bad as he imagined it. “Everything is in your head”, she often told him.

 Kevin always ignored that phrase because he thought it was a very silly thing to say. His fears, for him, were extremely real and they weren’t only in his head. He could hear and see people mocking him all around, always, and he wasn’t as strong as Julia to take it all and just don’t mind or to be able to fight it back. Kevin had always been very shy and had even been bullied in school, so it was normal that even as an adult he was still afraid. But the thing was he had never attempted to defeat his demons and that’s what worried Julia.

 She took a last look at him and then removed sandals, glasses and a nice watch a friend had given her as a present for her most recent birthday. Then she walked to the other side of the pool, were several people her age greeted her. There were boys and girls and Kevin could recognize most of them from the first two days of the cruise. She had gone out almost every night to the disco they had there and he had been falling asleep really early as there were no TV sets in any of the rooms, for some reason.

 Maybe the people that had built the cruise ship thought that it was enough to put all these fun things to do for people to be happy and not need a TV but Kevin certainly disagreed with that. He really felt miserable and wished the week was over faster.

 Some girl passed in front of him and looked at him for a second. Her look was the one of someone who sees something gross by the road or something like that. Very affected by it, he decided to stand up, check for the room keys in his pocket and go back there. Julia wouldn’t mind and he certainly didn’t want to stay there. So he just left.

 When he arrived in his room, he was sweating heavily because of the clothes he was wearing and decided to shower in order to refresh a bit. He left the clothes all over the floor and just entered the bathroom and tried not to think about anything as he felt the cold water running over his body. He didn’t use soap or anything like that, he just enjoyed the cool shower that seemed like sitting on the rain. It was one of the few things he liked about the cruise.

 When he got closed the water, he remembered he had left the towel on the bed and the cleaning lady hadn’t come in yet. So he shook off some of the water and stepped out naked. For a moment, he didn’t realize it but he was looking at his own body naked. Then he remembered the bathroom door had a full body mirror behind it and he was surprised by it.

 Kevin had always hated mirrors. He had never liked mirrors because they made him look at him and he had passed years trying not to do that. He had been called so many names because of his ears, his body, the way he was smarter than other in school… And besides all of that, he had always thought he was fat and ugly and just didn’t wanted to be made to look at himself.

 But when he stepped out of the shower, he just froze there and saw his own body, after a long time.  Somehow, it was different that he remembered it. He got nearer and, unconsciously, started examining his skin, his face, his chest, his arms, his penis, his legs and feet. Everything.

 He took a long time watching his own body and he was fascinated because he realized he had never done that. Then, feeling like awakening from a strange dream, he opened the door and grabbed the trunks he had been wearing. He put them over his body in front of the mirror and realized how ridiculous it was to wear something so big on him. He was skinny but he certainly wasn’t an XL man.

 Kevin dropped the trunks on the ground and just kept looking at himself. He finally shed a single tear and said, in very hushed voice, “If only someone…” But didn’t finish the phrase because he had no idea how to finish it. He thought about how he wanted to be like his sister, who was strong and didn’t care what people said about her. She was strong and he felt so weak. But he also realized he wanted to do something about it. The mirror had helped him see that.

 So he grabbed some of the money his parents had given him, got dressed with the clothes he had before and went to one of the many stores on board. He didn’t like to try on clothes or to be around people that loved fashion but it was necessary for him to do it. So he approached a saleswoman and asked where he could find some trunks. She directed her to the right spot and even joined him. He was embarrassed to have her next to him but just took a deep breath and pretended she wasn’t there. He looked for a color he liked and then a size he thought would work and just bought it, without trying it on.

 He went back to his room almost running, got naked in the bathroom and put on the new trunks. The difference was huge. On the mirror, he could even see his butt and a pair of legs that weren’t so bad. He just needed a bit more sun because he looked pale and sick. But the trunks worked great and he smiled at his own image when he saw himself on the mirror.

 Some minutes later, he was sweating heavily again. But it wasn’t because of the sun but because of how nervous he was. He had decided to get out of his room in only his flip-flops and his new trunks. He had his towel on one hand and the room keys in the other and nothing else. He was shaking a bit but kept walking looking at his feet or very high in front of him. He did so slowly not to stumble against anyone.

 He found an empty deck chair not so close to the poll and decided to sit there. He had put on some sunscreen before leaving the room so he just laid there, a bit nervous and tensioned but certain that would help. He fell asleep for a while until his sister came and woke him up. She was angry at him because he had left her things unattended but a friend had noticed so nothing had happened. She asked his brother what was he doing.

 ¿What does it look like?

 And she just smiled. She kissed him on the cheek and told him to be careful with the sun. She was going to leave for the games area but she would look for him later. He told her he needed to get more tanned, so he would be there for a while. Amused, she left with her friends.

 Kevin saw her walk away and realized he had taken a huge step out of his shell. Right then though, he saw two guys with ridiculously chiseled bodies but instead of feeling less, he laughed. And he just closed his eyes again and turn around, to do the back.

miércoles, 30 de marzo de 2016

Lluvia de meteoritos

    Laura llevaba el mantel y los cubiertos en una mano y Miguel el cesto de la comida. Subieron una pequeña colina del parque y se sentaron en la parte más alta para tener una mejor vista de la situación. Era raro estar en el parque tan tarde en la noche pero no estaban solos: por aquí y por allá había más gente, parejas y familia que se habían reunido a ver el mismo espectáculo de la naturaleza. Al fin y al cabo, una lluvia de meteoritos no era muy común en la región y a la gente le encantaba tener alguna razón para armar un plan con amigos o con quien fuera.

 Laura y Miguel se habían conocido hacía relativamente poco, en un fiesta, a través de amigos mutuos. Al comienzo las cosas habían sido un poco frías. Luego se habían visto más, en otras fiestas y ocasiones, y habían empezado a hablar más. Esta era la primera vez que se veían a solas, sin la compañía de ninguno de sus amigos y se notaba en el aire un nerviosismo que mantenía la tensión al máximo.

 Por eso sería que en el camino del carro a la colina del parque, no hablaron una sola palabra. Laura extendió el mantel en el suelo y se sentó en una esquina y Miguel en la otra, con el cesto entre los dos. Contemplaron el parque en silencio y era evidente que los dos querían decir algo pero no había manera de decir nada. Era como si fuera la primera vez que salieran con alguien y eso no era verdad. Cada uno tenía su experiencia pero por alguna razón se estaban comportando como tontos.

 Unas risas cercanas, de un grupo de chicos adolescentes, los hicieron salir de su ensimismamiento. Miguel abrió el cesto y le ofreció a Laura algo de beber. Solo habían traído bebidas no alcohólicas porque estaba prohibido tomar cervezas y demás en el parque pero Miguel le mostró a Laura que no había podido resistir y había traído un par. Esa fue la manera perfecta para poder empezar a hablar.

-       No debiste. ¿Que tal si viene la policía?
-       Confío en que tengan mejores cosas que hacer.

 Rieron y a partir de ese momento la conversación fue fluyendo poco a poco. Como no se habían visto nunca a solas, decidieron hacer como si no se conocieran. Se preguntaron, con más detalles, que hacían en la vida, como eran sus familias y que les gustaba o no en la vida. Como eran preguntas amplias, estuvieron bastante tiempo respondiendo, uno interrumpiendo al otro y comiendo algunos de los sándwiches que habían hecho para la ocasión. Incluso hubo tiempo de compartir una cerveza.

 Alguien gritó, a lo lejos, que la lluvia empezaría en solo diez minutos. Laura y Miguel se alegraron. Jamás habían visto nada parecido y les urgía saber cómo era eso. A Laura todo el tema le parecía muy romántico, como algo salido de una de esas películas en las que uno sabe que las cosas, por mucho que terminen mal, de hecho terminan bien pues hay una enseñanza o algo así.

 Para  Miguel, el interés venía de otro lado. A él le encantaba todo lo que tuviese que ver con el espacio y la ciencia. Al fin y al cabo había estudiado física en la universidad. Laura ni siquiera fingió tener interés cuando Miguel se puso a relatarle cómo era que sucedían esas lluvias de meteoritos y cuantos asteroides enormes pasaban de un lado a otro, cerca de la Tierra. No eran cosas por las que ella se interesara. Era la primera vez que se notaba que algo no funcionaba entre los dos.

 Se podría decir que Miguel era muy cerebral y Laura no tanto pero no era exactamente eso. No tenía que ver nada con el intelecto sino con la manera de ver la vida y los puros intereses. Miguel, en todo caso, se dio cuenta y terminó de golpe su relato y por un momento solo observaron el cielo como si estuviesen esperando a que llegara la lluvia de meteoritos para poder irse cada uno a su casa.

 La verdad era que, a pesar de haber hablado tanto, no habían hablado de lo que habían venido a decirse. Cada uno de ellos quería comunicar algo al otro y por eso habían acordado la salida. Es increíble pero ninguno de ellos tuvo la iniciativa real de salir a ver la lluvia de meteoritos. Fue más bien un acuerdo en un momento puntual para verse y hablar. No se podía decir que algo acordado de manera tan fría pudiese ser una cita y mucho menos romántica.

-       Debimos traer binoculares.

 Lo dijo Miguel, señalando a una familia que incluso tenía un telescopio. La más pequeña de entre ellos, una niña de unos ocho años, miraba por el aparato y se quejaba de que no veía nada de estrellas. Eso reinició, a marcha forzada, la conversación entre Laura y Miguel. Comentaron la última fiesta en la que habían estado y, como es común, hablaron mal de un par de personas que les caían mal. Eso siempre ayudaba a crear una conexión entre las personas. No era lo óptimo pero peor es nada.

 Entonces, la misma persona que había gritado antes gritó de nuevo. La lluvia de meteoritos había empezado y todo el mundo quedó en completo silencio.

 Era hermoso ver como parecía que estrellas de verdad se desparramaran encima del mundo, bañando toda la Tierra como polvo de hadas o algo parecido. Era algo extrañamente mágico pero también muy real y por eso todavía más fantástico y fascinante. No hubo persona en el parque que no inclina la cabeza o se echara de espalda en el pasto para contemplar la escena de la mejor manera posible. Eso fue lo que hicieron Laura y Miguel sobre la suave colina en la que estaban. Se acostaron lentamente y observaron el espectáculo.

 Obviamente, fue el momento elegido por todas las parejas en el parque para irse tomando de la mano, juguetear con los dedos un rato y de pronto, si estaban muy atrevidos, robarle un beso a la persona con la que habían venido. Había incluso algunos que se emocionaban más de la cuenta y la policía seguro los pillaría más tarde. Pero el común denominador era ver gente tomándose de las manos, besándose con suavidad y luego tomándose fotos así, como para cerrar el circulo de ideas románticas.

 Pero entre Laura y Miguel no pasó absolutamente nada. Ella mantuvo sus dos manos sobre el vientre, dedos entrelazados. Él puso una mano detrás de la cabeza y con la otra arrancaba un poquito de pasto y lo deshacía lentamente. Se notaba que no había el mínimo interés en cogerle la mano a nadie. Ni siquiera se sentía ya la tensión inicial. No había nada entre los dos.

 Fue entonces que, de golpe y sin acabarse el espectáculo todavía, Laura se sentó y se sacudió el pasto del pelo.

-       ¿Porqué viniste?

 Miguel sabía bien qué era lo que estaba preguntando y no iba a ser tan tonto de hacerse el idiota, así que respondió con toda sinceridad: quería que fuesen amigos para así poder acercarse a uno de los amigos de Laura, que le gustaba bastante. Pero como era una persona muy privada y, aparentemente, fría, había optado por conocer primero a alguien que lo conociese bien para saber si valía la pena acercarse.

 Laura soltó una carcajada. Le contó a Miguel que a ella le gustaba ese amigo de él con el que había bailado la primera vez que se habían conocido. Pero qué le parecía un poco distraído y por eso también había pensado en hacer la conexión por uno de sus amigos. Rieron un rato por la coincidencia y ni cuenta se dieron que las estrellas habían dejado de caer y que incluso algunas personas ya se iban.

 El camino de vuelta al coche fue diametralmente distinto: hablaron bastante de los chicos que les gustaban y se contaron pequeñas anécdotas graciosas y no tan graciosas. La conversación se extendió durante todo el recorrido hasta la casa de Laura y allí hablaron más rato. Al fin y al cabo iba a ser de día dentro de poco así que decidieron conversar hasta el amanecer, compartiendo la comida que no habían terminado del cesto y café caliente.

 Se hicieron amigos, sin haber sido esa la intención, y se ayudaron mutuamente con sus respectivos prospectos amorosos. Pero su éxito o fracaso con ellos es cosa de otra historia.

martes, 29 de marzo de 2016

From the gutter to the sky

   Grant Tower used to be a gigantic building located in the limit between downtown and the industrial districts. It had been abandoned for many years until it was bought by a mysterious person who recuperated its former splendor. In a city filled with strange things happening everyday, the destruction of Grant Tower did not go unnoticed. After all, it had been Captain Incredible the one to destroy it during his battle with his arch nemesis, Doctor Perdition.

 The battle had taken place all over the city. The superhero and the villain were able to fly, so they moved from one area to the other and the destruction was palpable all over the place. Captain Incredible had promised it would be the last battle to fight in the city as, according to him, every other gang and criminal organization had been dismantled. Only Doctor Perdition stood in the way of a pacified city. So every single person affected by the last battle, tried to understand what was as stake.

 Many inhabitants of the city fled beforehand, others just locked themselves home (if they had a basement). The battle took several hours and affected every single inhabitant in the same way. They knew what they would get in exchange, but many were already pissed at both the bad guy and the good one because for years and years, their battles against the other side had caused devastation once and again. People were tired of all of it and Captain Incredible knew he was risking a lot by saying that was going to be his last battle.

 Inspector Paulson was the first one to arrive to the site of the former Grant Tower. The battle was still going on but it had moved to the port, where they could be less damaging to the people. Pieces of the tower had fallen all over the neighboring streets and some of the neighbors were attempting to move the pieces by themselves. Others were looking for objects to recuperate from the destruction.

 Delia Paulson put on her gloves and entered the destroyed building. Only a couple floors were still standing. All the other seventy floors had disappeared. She used a mask to walk inside and join two men of her team who had gotten there before her. Neighbors had told them that a sound could be heard coming from the building, from below the ground. So they had to look where it was, probably a bomb made by Doctor Perdition.

 Inspector Paulson descended towards the lower levels of the building, that had received no damage, and encountered the noise was coming from a boiler room. The machine that used o heat up the water from the tower seemed to be about to explode. A rapid move by one of the policemen, helped to bring the pressure down.

 When he moved away from the boiler, with a face of triumph, the policemen pushed a pipeline that changed positions. But not only that, it also opened a door on the wall, just in front of the boiler. The inspector told everyone to be on the lookout and entered first; illuminating her path with a flashlight she took from her long coat.

 She walked slowly, covering her face because the air was charged with dust particles, probably because of the violent movement suffered by the building when it had been destroyed. It was a long corridor and then a path that seemed to descend in a spiral, down into the ground. Paulson ordered one policeman to stay at the entrance and was only joined by two of them, one being the one that had stopped the boiler from exploding.

 They walked slowly through the narrow passaged until finally they could see artificial light. They arrived at a massive room, carved into the natural rock. It was very humid but there wasn’t as much dust as there was above. They could breath at ease and not feel trapped anymore. The policemen were visibly scared because they remained just behind Paulson and she didn’t say anything because she was scared too. What was that place? Why was it there?

 On the wall, there were dozens, hundreds of screens showing different TV channels and also some footage from closed circuit cameras. Paulson saw the inside of the Central Bank, the security cameras from the police department building and the mayor’s office. It was all live. Someone had them all cornered and they hadn’t realized it.

 One of the policemen attracted her attention to one of the screens. It was a news channel reporting that the battle between the superhero and the villain had ended: good had one versus evil. The two men cheered but Paulson did not say anything. The existence of that room was proof that things did not stop with Doctor Perdition. She kept walking to find more clues and all she saw were plans of every building in the city, including Grant Tower, weapons of every kind and a diary hidden on the drawer of a work table.

 She started reading and, at first, it didn’t make much sense. It was all about a boy telling his sad high school stories. Apparently he was mocked because of the way he dressed and the way he looked. He hated people for laughing at him but would only find solace in one friend he had away from school, another kid. Paulson kept on reading as the policemen looked around, still happy that the last evil plaguing their city had finally been defeated and was dead for good.

 Paulson kept on reading and realized the diary belonged to no other than Doctor Perdition. She then raised her head and told her men to stop walking round and touching everything. She did so just in the moment were one of the weapons fired a set of arrows against a wall, piercing the wall with incredible strength. The men decided to get closer the inspector, who told them to bring their scientific team in order to bag every single thing in that lab.  She told them they had probably gotten the big prize of the night.

 The two men went back upstairs but Delia stayed behind to wait for the science team and in order to keep reading. She didn’t excuse Doctor Perdition for what he had done; after all he was a felon that had served time after killing people and doing the most unspeakable acts of violence. But she kind of felt sorry for him, as she read more and more of the diary. Apparently, he was the only son in a family of only women and he had been mistreated by his parents because he wasn’t the man they wanted him to be.

 He also hated his family. Paulson wondered if he had them killed at some point but the diary didn’t say. It only spoke about his childhood and the most beautiful pages, because they actually were, were dedicated to his encounters with a friend that shared his vision of the world. He was a bit younger but seemed older than him because of his convictions. He was a strong believer that people that did wrong should pay, no matter what is was that they had done.

 She stopped reading and looked for more diaries in the drawer but it was the only one. When the scientific team arrived, she ordered them to scan the room for hidden compartments and traps. They found a small hiding space beneath a huge metal table, which the inspector moved by herself. There, covered in dust, she found something else. There were no diaries but papers that assigned this property to the kid she had been reading about. If the kid was Doctor Perdition, the building must have been his. He was the one to renew it, all those years ago.

 There was also an electronic book, which could be turned on but had a password to protect it. A member of the scientific team helped Paulson bypass the password in order to read whatever it was she had on her hands. And when she was able to read it, she almost dropped it on the floor. Because what was in that book was not only a diary or some legal papers. There were pictures, and statements and videos and text that talked about that other kid, the one that had been Perdition’s friend when he had been bullied in school.

 That friend had helped him seek revenge, which had resulted in the death of at least two children and it had been Perdition who had put a stop to it.

 That kid… That kid was Frederick Edwards AKA Captain Incredible.