PROLOGUEThe story of a curse
The story of a curse
My thoughts were changing rapidly as the strong smell of gasoline brought me back to consciousness. Under my chest, my mother’s hand, cold, like the night outside. My eyelids opened up slowly, but it didn’t matter anyway; everything was still dark. I was not waking up from a dream, but my mind Began to wander… just a few weeks before, I had arrived in Long Island, New York, from a place that many people called, ‘Hell on Earth.’
And—my God! They were not exaggerating. Not when the stench of burning human flesh was well known to everybody. I took a deep breath, hoping to clear up my mind, but it only made things worse. The strong smell of gasoline reminded me that I needed to move fast, but my body was still not reacting. I was trapped in a single moment in time.
There I was, in a great nation, but not belonging to it. Just an outsider; an American child born abroad… well, I didn’t feel like an American at all. If my mother’s decision to move out of The States wouldn’t have been in the way, I would’ve, probably, been born in this beautiful land, but I was born in a place of torture; a cursed nation; a place where a street-dog was worth more than a child.
It was September, 1984. Five months away from my fifteenth birthday. Almost 15 years walking on this Earth, but it was just a number to me; just another year that would go by without me seeing it… my eyes were taken out the year before. Not that I had some kind of illness, or anything like that; in fact, my eyes were perfectly fine, and didn’t need any surgery. The tip of a machete was the last thing that I saw. No anesthesia needed—I was tortured.
I was just a number… another war crime left in impunity. I would never get to see the years go by me again, nor the privilege to see the birds singing in the mornings. I would never get to meet my children, and see the world in all its wonderful colors. Life ended for me, before it even began, but at least I was alive; I could runaway—but runaway from who? Or should I say… from what? Thousands of miles away, and it seemed as if that thing was still following us… I say, ‘us’ because whatever it was, it was upon the entire family.
For some strange reason, though, there was a force helping me to sense the world around me. Like a sixth sense, perhaps; if one could call it that. I didn’t have my eyes anymore, but I could feel… I could smell; I knew when someone was sad, or irritated; I could smell it on their breath; I could smell it in their sweat; I could hear it in their voices; I knew if they were dead, or alive inside.
I learned that people’s secrets were not in their voices, but in their silence; not in what they said, but rather, in what they didn’t say… by their silence, I knew what they meant, and their thoughts were revealed. Darkness and silence… my way of seeing the world; my strength to be someone again. Now I could feel human, and not just a thing left in the dark… a dark world that needed no eyes to be seen.
Now I understood people’s behavior, but… did they understand me? That was the question. How could I explain the unspeakable? How could I tell them about something that was inconceivable in their minds?—but that’s beside the point. People saw me and didn’t think much of it, anyway. I was just another disabled child in their minds.
I touched my mother’s hand, I felt her heartbeats through it; I understood that she was unconscious—she wasn’t moving at all. The cars on the expressway where passing us by; I could hear their wheels turning every thirty seconds apart or so. It was 2 in the morning; too early for the normal traffic of the day.
Nobody was stopping, so we couldn’t have been on the shoulder of the road. We were in a ditch; probably behind some trees, where nobody could see us. Long Island has lots of trees along the expressways. That’s why many of them are called, Parkways, I guess. I never got to see the Long Island trees, but I heard their echoes beating on the window of the car.
We were on the Southern State Parkway. Just me and my mother. We were coming from Bridgeport, Connecticut. We had some relatives there, so we were coming back home from a weekend-visit. Two hours into the trip, my mother began to turn the steering wheel towards the right; I felt the motion in my head.
Then, the motion shifted towards the left, as she tried to regain control. It seemed as if she was fighting with it. As if there was some strange force making her turn the steering wheel. She struggled to keep it straight, but abruptly, the right won the deadly game…. That’s all I can remember. Fortunately, there were no cars behind, nor ahead of us. I tried to wake her up, but she was out.
The strong smell of gasoline reminded me again that I had to move—and fast. I tried to reach for my cane, but it was nowhere to be found; it must’ve flown out the window with the impact. I could live without it, though… If I had a choice that is. It made me look like an old man.
I brought my hand to my face, and surprisingly, my glasses were still on. I held them tight to my face when I felt the car shifting direction. My glasses were my hiding place; they were amongst the most precious things that I had. I didn’t want anybody seeing the horror hidden behind them.
I tried to move my legs to make sure that they were alright; then, I moved my arms, and everything was in its place. I extended my arm above my head, and it was all metal. I extended it to the right, and I could feel the coldness of the grass through my fingertips. There was a way out, so I went for it.
As I struggled to come out, I felt the cuts on my body; the broken glass was ripping up my elbows and my knees. As my body was almost completely out of the car, I felt a cold hand grabbing me by the ankle.
“William!” My mother regained consciousness.
I grabbed her hand. “Don’t move, Mom. I’m gonna go get us some help.”
“But, William… What happened, sweetheart?”
“Mom, try not to talk, you might be injured; let me go get some help. Someone will stop.”
“Ok, sweetie, be careful.”
I dragged myself as I could, towards the noise of the rolling wheels. I began to go up over the surface of the grass, and it was clear to me that we were in a ditch, hidden from the traffic passing by. I got out of the ditch… I knew it when I felt the hard pavement. I was on the shoulder of the Parkway.
The cars were passing by me as if no one saw me lying there, so I stood up as I could. I waved my hands. “Help me! Please… Help me!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. Suddenly, the sound of friction between rubber and the pavement, letting me know that it would all be alright.
The car stopped at a distance from where I was. I heard a woman running towards me. “Oh my God! Are you alright?” She said.
By the sound of her voice, she was in her 40s. I was with my head down trying to make out her position. “I think I’m alright,” I said.
“What’s the matter, can’t you see? Did you have an accident?” I guess she was surprised to see me wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night, but she got the point. She didn’t ask the silly question again.
“Yes, my mother is down there,” I said, as I pointed towards the direction from where I came out of. “She’s in danger, we need to get her out right now.” I knew that the gasoline was leaking out of the tank, so there was no time to call the police, but I don’t think she understood.
“Alright, wait here, let me go get a policeman.” As she said those words, another car pulled over, but it was not a regular car; by the loud sound that it made, it was a truck.
A man came running towards us, as the woman was holding me by the shoulders. “What’s the matter?” he yelled as he kept on running. By the way he smelled, I knew that he was an interstate trucker; he was not a New Yorker like my mother. He'd been, probably, traveling all night. The echo of his voice gave away his high; over six feet tall.
The woman let go of me, and got closer to him as soon as he got there. “Do you have a radio?” she asked him.
“Yes, I do. Is everybody okay?”
“I’m not sure yet. His mother is down there. There’s been an accident.”
“Are you ok, buddy? Looks like you have some cuts on your elbows.” he asked me.
“I’m okay,” I said, “but we need to get my mother out before anything else. There’s gasoline leaking out of the tank.”
“Alright, y'all stay here in case a State Trooper drives by. I’ll go see if I can get her out of the vehicle.”
“Hurry, please!” I said.
He went in the ditch, and the woman grabbed me by my shoulders again. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. Your mother will be just fine.”
I nodded, and as soon as I did, the wave from an explosion hit us without warning. We fell down on the ground, and the unknown woman pulled me towards her as I was yelling, “Mom! Mom! Oh, God!”
“Don’t worry, sweetie.” She tried to comfort me, but I knew that Mom was dead. The trucker had left just a few seconds before, so there was no way that he got to her in time, but something else did, something that we were running away from… Whatever it was, we’d brought it with us to The States, and it was here to stay… maybe, forever.
“Ma’am,” I said to her, “come with me.” My heartbeats betrayed my very thoughts. My mind didn’t want to think about it, but my heart wouldn’t let it, so I tried to hurry. I grabbed the lady by the hand, so she could guide me. She was nervous; I could tell by her cold sweat.
“Ma’am,” I said to her, “come with me.” My heartbeats betrayed my very thoughts. My mind didn’t want to think about it, but my heart wouldn’t let it, so I tried to hurry. I grabbed the lady by the hand, so she could guide me. She was nervous; I could tell by her cold sweat.
“Come this way,” she told me, as we walked in a hurry.
When we got there, the overwhelming smell of fire and burning rubber indicated how bad the situation was. The fire left by the explosion heated my face, and it would’ve been terrifying, but, once there, I knew that my mother was alive… I knew that she was okay, and that she had fooled death once again.
I could smell the burning rubber; I could smell the melting metal, and the paint going up in smoke… but not the familiar stench of burning human flesh.
“Here’s your Mom, little fellow.” The trucker’s friendly voice said to me, as he was still breathing rapidly from the fear caused by the explosion.
As the woman held me by the shoulder, “Yes, Sir.” I said to him. I knew that Mom was there, but I didn’t want to tell him that I knew… he wouldn’t understand. I also knew that she was unconscious again, but… How? How did she make it out in time? There was no way that the man got her out of the car. He only had a few seconds; one minute at the most. I was confused.
I got down on my knees and grabbed Mom’s hand. She had a pulse. The trucker was holding Mom on top of his laps, I could feel his cowboy boot touching my knee.
“Where’s your dad?” The man asked me, as the echo of his voice shifted to the left, and then, to the right… turning his head, looking for somebody. “I don’t see him.”
“My dad?” I asked. ‘Why is he asking me about my dad?’ I thought to myself.
Before we could say another word, a man came running down the Ditch. He must’ve seen the fire. “Are you guys ok?” he yelled in a deep voice.
Before we could say another word, a man came running down the Ditch. He must’ve seen the fire. “Are you guys ok?” he yelled in a deep voice.
“We need and ambulance, Sir,” the trucker said, so I knew that the man was a State Trooper.
The officer got down on the floor; his radio kept on emitting as he passed by me. “Ma’am, are you alright?” His hairy arm was next to mine, as he tapped on her face. “Ma’am, can you hear me?”
Suddenly, Mom began to move. The State Trooper’s hairy arm moved up, and his radio emitted one single loud ‘beep.’ “What’s your emergency?” a female’s voice made its way through the radio waves.
“I need an ambulance, I got a female injured in an automobile accident.”
“What’s her status?”
“Alive—breathing. Possibly, internal injuries.”
“What’s your position?
“Southern State Parkway; heading east… exit 22S, to the Meadowbrook State Parkway.”
After a brief pause, 'beep.' “Alright, it’s on its way.”
As we waited for the ambulance, the State Trooper asked Mom, “Could you talk, Ma’am?”
“Yes, Sir.” She tried to sit up.
“No… don’t move, Ma’am. Wait until the ambulance gets here.”
“Could you tell me a little about what happened? I need to fill out a report for insurance purposes.”
“I was getting ready to exit,” Mom said, “but it took control of the steering wheel. I tried to fight it, but… I didn’t know what to do.”
“It?” The State Trooper said. “What do you mean by, ‘it’?”
“I’m sorry officer. I don’t know how to explain it. The only thing that I know is that I couldn’t control it. The next thing I remember is seeing my son getting out through the window to get some help while I stayed back in the car. Then, I lost consciousness again… until you tapped me in the face.”
The trucker stood up. “Wait a minute… I’m confused. Wasn’t your husband in the car with you and your son?
“No, Sir. My husband is out of The States right now.”
“You mean to tell me that it was just you and your son? No man in the car with y'all?”
“Just me and my son, Sir.”
“What?” he said, as the echo of his voice shifted from left to right, and back and forth, “But… but then, who was pulling you out of the… but… wait—wait a minute!”
—Three years earlier…
January 10, 1981. The night outside, impressive as a vast black ocean, and not even one single cloud to cover the stars. I could see it through the window on the way back home from Grandma’s house. As Mom was driving, she kept on looking through her rearview mirror, as if there was something wrong. Dad and my three brothers were waiting for us at home.
That night was different than the rest. Back at Grandma’s house, out on her backyard—what a sunset! A radiant orange mixing with the night to come, but as the day gave way, the usual sound of the Central American birds singing began to fade away early. It was almost as if they were hiding from something... something, alright. A gentle breeze that made its way through the leaves of the trees gave me the chills, as if preparing me for the night.
The guerrillas had knocked down another electric tower, it was gonna to take days before the electricity was restored again, but—oh well! We were already used to it. For the past year or so, the same story was being repeated over and over again. Another night in the dark… Oh, yes, indeed! Dark it was.
Many of us, young boys, were not too happy about it though. It was a Saturday, Rock and Roll night on channel six. My generation loved Rock and Roll, and we were going to miss the show once again. The Rolling Stones, The Police, Led Zeppelin, U2. It was the dawn of the 80s era, and we were hooked. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be Rock and Roll that would stay in my mind for years to come.
In those days, People got closer than ever before. Every night the same story, and that night was no different—at least for a while, that is. Families got together to keep each other’s company; some would tell stories around a fire, others, would play cards around the Table; that was our favorite hobby, by the way… if one can call playing Poker a hobby because for us, it was an addiction.
There was absolutely nothing else to do—no AC, no fan, no TV, no nothing. Well, our nice neighborhood had lots of trees, so at least that gave us a gentle breeze at night. The houses were close to each other, so we could hear the neighbors talk, as the wind blew their conversations through the window… Not that we cared to hear their stuff, anyway.
We were just a normal family. With problems like everybody else, but we were close to each other. Mom was from New York, a beautiful Italian lady. She loved adventure, so she came with a group of college friends, to climb volcanoes in Central America back in 65, but she met Dad, a local businessman that stole her heart—her ‘Romeo,’ as she called him. Little that she knew that her adventure would last for a lifetime.
At 21, she married him, leaving her beloved New York behind, and changing her name from, Amelia Racchetti to, Amelia Carpio. For many years, they climbed wild volcanoes together, as they developed a well-established business and a beautiful family in El Salvador. Out of their love for volcanoes and for each other, came four children, with me being the youngest one.
My brothers, and I, grew up bilingual, as Mom spoke to us in English, and Dad, in Spanish. Coming from an Italian background, Mom learned Spanish fast. In 1970, the year that I was born, she brought her mother (Grandma Mary) to live closer to her.
Grandma was fluent in Italian, so it was easy for her to get around in a Spanish speaking country. As far as I can remember, Grandma was always there. She was the only Christian in the family—a family that found salvation, but not before touching the evil in this world.
For many years, Mom had everything in life, but it didn’t last forever. A beautiful American-Italian woman, caught in the middle of a cruel war thousands of miles away from home. A macabre war with no boundaries; where the unspeakable, and the most unimaginable human tortures became someone’s reality; a reality caused by pure evil.
—And this is that story. The story of the evil in this world. The story of humanity’s misfortune… the story of a curse.
As we got home that night, my brothers were sitting on the floor with Dad, telling jokes or something like that.
“Hon, we’re home!” Mom yelled, as we entered through the front door.
Dad stood up and kissed Mom, “Hi, babe. What’s up? Did you bring the milk?” Dad asked Mom as he grabbed me by the cheek.
“Oh my God! I forgot the milk. Sorry, hon.” Of course she did… she was so busy looking through her rearview mirror that she’d forgotten to make a stop at the local supermarket.
“Amelia, you always forget things. Are you okay, babe? You look worried today,” Dad said, as Mom closed the front door, she was holding the car keys in her hands… well, to be more specific, the car keys were shaking in her hand. She seemed to be nervous, alright.
“I don’t know, hon. Someone was following us on the way back home.” Mom said, as they walked towards the table.
“Why do you say that?”
“A man in a red car got behind me, right after we left Mom’s house, and he followed me for a few blocks. I took a different route, but he kept on following me until I stopped and parked in front of a group of soldiers.”
“Are you sure? Maybe it was somebody just trying to take the same route,” Dad said, as they sat at the table.
“I don’t think so,” Mom replied. “I drove around and came back to the same spot, but he kept on following me. Nobody drives around in circles to come back to the same place, you know.”
“But, Babe —”
“Hon, I think Lilian is trying to do something—she’s so evil, you know,” Mom said to Dad with her soft, gentle voice.
“I don’t think my sister would dare do something to you. As far as I know, she’s never done harm to anybody”
“C’mon, Oscar! You know that she is more than capable of harming someone, and she hates my guts.”
It was hard to believe that Aunt Lilian could do any harm to Mom. It was impossible. Aunt Lilian was very sweet to us—well, at least to me she was. Although, she was kind of strange, alright.
She was a heavy set lady; her voice was so loud that when she entered a room, everybody knew she was there. I hated when she grabbed me by my cheeks, but I guess she was tempted to do it every time she saw me. Mom didn’t like her at all, and I think that she knew, deep inside, that Aunt Lilian had a dark soul.
And how can a dark soul get so dark? Well, that depends on how much cash is on the table, and Aunt Lilian wanted it all, or nothing at all. Anyway, for now, she was at home resting like everybody else in the city; a dead city with no electricity… she was probably telling stories, like she always would; preparing herself for the night ahead.
Everybody could hear the conversation, so Dad said to Mom, “Let’s not talk about this in front of the children.”
“Okay, dear, but we need to talk about it later. It’s very important.”
“You bet,” Dad said to Mom. “Why don’t you have Maria and Rosa finish for the day?”
At the time, we had two maids, Rosa, who did the cleaning, and Maria, who did all the cooking. Rosa was a friendly, heavy set lady, in her mid-40s. She was like a second mom to us. When my parents traveled for business, Rosa would be in charge of the house.
But Maria was a timid girl, in her late 20s. She hardly ever said a word, but she was a pretty girl, I guess. They were both from out of town; two country ladies trying to survive in the city. As far as my memory goes back, they were always with us, and they stayed with us until the end… oh yes! There was an end.
Mom called them. “Rosa—Maria,”
They came into the dining room, where we were. “Yes, Ma’am,” they replied.
“Are you all done for the day?”
“Yes, Ma’am, we’ve finished,”
“Great, girls, just make sure that all the doors are locked and call it a day,” Mom told them.
“Thank you, Ma’am.” And they left the room.
My father, Oscar, was a very strict man, but he was always nice to us. He was very protective, and never abusive. Definitely, not the perfect father, but he was okay. I guess he took after Grandpa, Antonio, who also was a nice man; although, Grandpa was a womanizer, and never got married but was living with his girlfriend, Elvira, at the time... forty some more years younger than him, by the way.
Dad had a battery cassette player, so at least we could listen to some music. My oldest brother, Antonio, who was named after Grandpa, said to my father, “Pa, why don’t we play Poker tonight?”
“Sure, sounds like a plan,” my father answered. “Are you ready to get beat up tonight?”
“C’mon Dad, you should know by now… you know I’m the best,” my sarcastic 15-year-old brother replied. The fact was that he got beat up half of the times. He made too many quick decisions, and didn’t know how to hide his face expressions. As every good gambler knows… you show your emotions—you lose the game.
My father went to his drawer; took out a deck of cards; lit up a candle, and we sat at the dining room table to play while we listened to music on dad’s battery cassette player. I was only 10 years old, but I knew my stuff. My brother, Albert, who was 14 at the time, had taught me some awesome Poker moves.
Albert was the quiet one of the family, but he was extremely intelligent. Although he didn’t talk much, he could remember every single detail. He was a nerd, and I always sat next to him so he could help me out while we played.
My mother sat at a distance, and watched us play. Sometimes, she would sit and chat with the maids while we played, but this time, they were in their rooms and Mom was sitting alone. She seemed to be enjoying herself watching us. We began the first Poker round—Dad put on a Tango cassette, and placed the cassette player on top of a cooler. The room got filled with its mystical sound… Mystical? Oh, yes! Mystical it was.
—Tango, forever Tango, full of mystery and passion. With your exquisite sound, and magical spell, you were born to a high class generation. “Who knows if you would know that I have never forgotten you—back in your past, you will remember me,” says the lyrics of your song. “The friends don’t even want to visit me no more; no one wants to comfort me in my affliction. Since the day you left, I feel the anguish in my soul… tell me, what have you done to my poor heart?”
Tango, mystical Tango, strong enough to possess a human body with the sound of your music, but not strong enough to take away the essence of their souls. In your mourning dress you dance to the beat of your own accord, and take away the sorrows of the day, just to bring us down in the morning once again. Tango… mystical Tango.—
One after the other, the Tango songs came out of the cassette player, as we kept on playing Poker. My 13-year-old brother, Robert, was winning almost every round. He saw Antonio bring his hand under the table. “What you got there, you cheater?” He said to Antonio.
“What’re you talking about, you fool?” Antonio replied.
“What’re you talking about, you fool?” Antonio replied.
“You’re hiding an Ace under the table.”
“Oh, yeah? Prove it.”
Robert got under the table as Antonio brought his hand under his shirt. “You got the card there, cheater! Cheater!”
“No, I don’t… get lost, punk!”
Robert tried to lift Antonio’s shirt. “Give me that, you big cheater!”
Dad stood up. “Guys, stop it! If you keep it up, we’ll stop the game and go to bed right now.”
“Dad, but he’s got a card under his shirt.” Robert insisted. Well, we all knew that Antonio would do anything to win a Poker round, and sometimes… to get good grades in school, but Robert was no walk in the park, either; he was like the black sheep of the family; he was a very disturbed child. Every time my birthday came around, he would always do something to ruin it.
“Alright,” Dad said. “Let’s count the cards. There should be 52 cards on the deck, so throw all your cards on the table.”
“But, Dad,” Antonio said. “Can we do that later? I have a great hand right now.”
“See! See!” Robert yelled, as he pointed his finger at Antonio. “I told you… he’s cheating!”
“That’s enough!” Dad yelled. “C’mon, lay your cards on the table… No exceptions, Antonio.”
“Alright! Alright!” Antonio said, and we all threw our cards on the table. Antonio quickly pulled something from underneath his shirt, but kept his hands under the table.
Dad counted all the cards. “51 cards,” he said. “There’s one missing. Antonio… what do you have to say about that?”
Robert slammed the table. “See! I told you guys… Antonio is cheating!—Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!” he howled.”
“Ain’t got nothing to hide, you big idiot! Look!” He stood up and took off his shirt, “I’m not a cheater! You got issues, man! Big issues!” he said, and sat back at the table with his shirt off.
“Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!” Robert kept on yelling.
Antonio brought his hand under the table. “Here, Look… I got your card right here, buddy!”
Robert, foolishly, looked under the table. “DAD!!! Antonio is making nasty hand signs under the table! LOOK!” Robert cried out.
Dad sat back at the table. “C’mon, you guys, I said it was enough! Stop the harsh treatment!” he yelled.
“Well, he started, Dad!” Antonio said.
Mom had gone to her bedroom for a minute when all this was going on, but she came back when she heard all the noise that we were making. “What's the fuss all about?” She said.
“We’re missing a Card,” Dad said.
Robert got closer to Mom. “No, we’re not missing a card, Mom… Antonio’s hiding it.” He looked at Antonio. “Cheater!” and stuck his tongue out at him.
Mom looked at Robert. “Stop it, Robert!—Alright…” She paused for a moment, and then, brought her hand to Dad’s ear. “Is this the missing card?” She said as she pulled it out from behind his ear.
Dad’s eyes got wide open. “What the hell—”
“Well, you know… us, Moms, also know how to win a Poker round.”
“Seriously, how did you do that?” Dad asked.
“Well, I’m not gonna tell you how I did the trick. That’s my secret, but this probably wouldn’t happen if you were more careful while handling your cards. I found this one in our drawer.”
“It probably fell off the deck of cards when I pulled it out of the drawer.” Dad took the card in his hand. “No wonder I was losing all the rounds. It’s an Ace.”
Antonio took off his dirty sock, then, he stood up and slammed it on Robert’s face… And it was stinky too. I smelled it when the thing flew by me.
“Momma!” Robert cried out for Mom.
“Who’s the cheater now? Loudmouth! Tell me… Who’s the cheater now?””
“Shut your filthy mouth!” Robert replied.
Dad slammed the table. “Stop it! We’re going to bed now.”
“Alright! Alright! Robert and Antonio said.
“Are you guys going to behave now?” Dad asked.
“Yes, Dad,” Robert said. “It’s too early… just a few more rounds. Please!” He knew that going to bed meant staring at the dark ceiling because, without electricity, what else could we do?
“Are you gonna behave now, Antonio?” Dad asked.
“Sure, Dad. No more fooling around.
“Alright. Let the game continue. Dad said.
As we played through the night, that song began to come out, ‘El Choclo,’ one of the best Tangos ever written. Dad stood up and got close to Mom. Bowing his upper body, as a sign of humbleness, he extended his hand to her and said, “May I?”
“Of course you may!” She replied with her eyes filled with emotion.
The mystic candlelight, mixed with the darkness of the night, penetrated her beautiful, long Italian hair. As if she was a princess in her prince’s arms, she began to move within his gentle grip.
Their eyes, filled with passion, were fixed on each other as they turned around in circles. Then, they turned sideways—cheek to cheek. Their faces, not showing one single expression, contradicted their bodies moving forward in a sideways-motion. As they turned and turned around the room, it seemed as if they were no longer moving at their own will… as if they were dead and alive at the same time.
At the sound of a Tango, my mother began to lose control; no longer being herself—the music took possession. Her eyes, wanting to roll over as she danced, told the story of a soul yearning to come out… but it was not to happen yet—the night had other plans for us.
They kept on dancing while a gentle breeze made it through the open windows. The chandelier above our heads trembled as the beat of the music made its way through the walls of the room… or, could it be that there was something else making it tremble?
The candlelight began to smell like incense, as the dogs howled outside. It was almost as if they knew something… something that was getting closer and closer. Antonio’s eyes were fixed to the wall, and they were like fire as the candlelight reflected on them. It seemed that the music was taking possession of him as well. It was past 10 o’clock—a whistling sound began to mix with the sound of Tango.
It was a different sound that, in almost two years of war, we’d never heard before. It was a terrifying sound, like an airplane getting closer to us, but then, flew over our heads. Dad made a gesture for Mom to be quiet as they stop dancing. “Amelia, can you hear that?” My mother was still trying to put herself together—she didn’t even get a chance to reply.
From a far distance, the sound wave of a loud ‘bang’ made its way through the windows making them vibrate. We didn’t know what to make of it, but whatever it was, it was not good — not good at all!
Dad looked at us while holding my mother’s hand. “Don’t worry, you guys,” he said. “It must’ve been a helicopter that crashed in the mountains.”
The entire country had been at war for almost two years… well, officially that is. In those days, helicopters used to fly over our heads, at least 4 to 6 times a day. We were so used to hearing them, so we felt better after Dad said those words.
The actual movements began back in 78, and of course, people were dying since then, so, as far as I’m concerned, the war started the very moment the first body hit the ground. People were protesting out on the streets, they began to distribute propaganda, and some took off to the mountains to wait for the right moment.
In the countryside, people started to have meetings, and getting together in the houses to prepare for what was to come. High School students were being brainwashed to join the movement; some, were being killed by the government for attending meetings.
The Cold War was far from being over, and the Soviet Union was hand to hand with Fidel Castro, and with a clear plan in their minds… To bring the entire Continent of America under Communist control, and the smaller countries were a good place to start of course.
Countries such as El Salvador, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela… and the list went on. Why wouldn’t they? The plan was reasonable. Shoot at the little guys first and the big one will fall without firing one single bullet. Well, that was the theory at least, and we, the little guys, were a big part of it.
But we were not the goal… not at all. We were just a stepping stone for the Russians. They wanted more. They wanted the big northern Eagle to be crushed by their Soviet hammer. At least, that was the plan, alright, but it wouldn’t be easy. Yes, there we were—a small nation being supplied with weapons under the Eagle’s hunting eyes… right in its own backyard.
We fell under the Soviet Union’s master strategy: Control the masses, control the nations. Unhappy masses that is, and we had lots of them. It was a no brainer. We were given weapons and training by the Russians. Peasants, who only knew how to swing a machete, became guerrillas and expert shooters with the AK-47. As the Soviets taught us how to kill… the revolution began.
Well, after the loud bang, Rosa and Maria came running into the room—my mom looked at them. “Rosa—Maria, stay here, don’t go anywhere,” my mother said to them.
“Yes, Ma’am,” they replied.
My father sat at the table again. Mom got close to him and said, “Hon, I’m going to call mom. That didn’t sound like a helicopter to me—what if this is the attack that everybody’s been talking about.”
“Babe, if this was an attack, we would hear the massive gunfire,” Dad replied. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. We are in a safe city. They wouldn’t dare attack us.”
“I know, dear, but—”
“But nothing,” Dad interrupted her. “The attacks take place in the villages and mountains. They don’t have what it takes to launch an attack on a well prepared city.”
Meanwhile, Robert said to Albert in a sarcastic way, “You’re going to die tonight, buddy.”
“Shut up man!” Antonio said to him. “You crazy fool?”
“C’mon, you chicken, are you gonna be afraid too?” Robert answered back to Antonio. Then, he looked at me, and said, “Chubby, tell him to shut up.” Although my name is, William, they called me chubby because I was always a big kid.
“C’mon, you guys, stop it!” I yelled.
“That’s enough!” Dad said, as he stood up, “we’re going to bed now.”
As soon as he finished saying that, in the distance, that horrifying sound, but this time, it sounded louder, as if it was coming towards us.
“Get under the table, NOW!” Dad yelled.
My mother grabbed me and tried to extend her arms to my brothers at the same time. “Robert—Albert—Antonio, come closer to me,” she said terrorized as she was trying to gasp for air.
We were all under the table. Maria and Rosa were also with us. The sound, terrifying, but hypnotizing, was getting closer with each split second of the clock.
Everything was happening so fast, nonetheless, it felt as if time itself slowed down for us. So much that mom’s heartbeat, mixed with fear, could be felt in slow motion through her chest as she held me tight in her arms.
The sound became louder and louder as it got closer, and we just could not say a single word, it seemed as if we were all frozen in time, but time had other ideas for us.
In a split second, as we were getting ready for whatever was to come, the sound began to fade away, and then it stopped all of the sudden. Up until this day, we still don’t know what happened to it, and we will never know, at least, not while we’re on this earth, but one thing is for sure, the Lord was looking after us that January night in 1981.
My father got off from under the table. “Quickly, let’s all go to the backroom,” he said in a broken tone of voice.
His ghost-pale skin mixed with the brightness of the candlelight, and for the first time in my life, I saw fear in my father’s eyes.
Immediately, we went running to the backroom. That was the plan that we had agreed on in case of any emergency. We didn’t even have time to turn off the cassette player, so the Tango kept on playing as we run out of the dining room.
When we got there, we locked the door and covered the window with a mattress, we threw ourselves on the floor and began to pray. We were not Christians at the time, but one thing is certain, when death stares you in the face, you pray.
About 10 minutes went by, and everything was so quiet. We could hear the music coming out of the dining room as we were on the floor praying, and then, it happened again. That horrifying sound again... and up until this day, it’s so vivid in my mind. How could I forget? It was the sound of death and destruction coming towards us.
My mother grabbed me and my brothers again. Rosa and Maria, hugging each other in a corner of the room, began to cry as my father threw himself on top of us. My mother began to cry as well, and she kept saying, “I love you guys… I love you!”
The sound got louder and louder as a roaring lion coming towards us in an open field. There was nothing that we could do about it, we got so close to each other that it felt as if we were fusing together... as if we were one.
When the horrifying sound got so close that we could almost smell the fume of it, my mother, holding one single tone, screamed at the top of her lungs. “Stooop!!!”
The sound of her cry, mixed with the wave of a massive explosion that shook the foundations of the house. The mattress that was covering the window, as if it was a sheet of paper, flew into the air and hit the walls of the room.
The light bulbs, as if they were made out of sugar, exploded into a million pieces. Parts of the ceiling, mixed with dust, fell on top of us as the candlelight was extinguished with the wave of the blast.
The foundations of the house trembled so hard that it felt as if an earthquake had just hit us. Everything that was loose fell down to the ground as we remained on the floor holding on to each other.
Mom was crying as Rosa and Maria were praying in the corner of the room. “My mother—my mother!” Mom, as if she was a little girl, kept on saying.
The blast was horrifying, but in a few seconds, everything got quiet again. My father stood up from on top of us, and lit up the candle again.
“Everybody okay?” Dad asked with his deep, rough voice while he got the candle closer to take a good look at us.
“I think we’re all okay, Pa,” Antonio replied as he looked around the room.
“I’m going to go call mom,” my mother said.
My father looked at her and said, “Let’s go, I’ve got to call Dad too.”
As she stood up, Mom looked at us as if she did not want to leave us alone while they went into the living room to call Grandpa and Grandma.
“Maria—Rosa,” Dad yelled. “Keep an eye on the children, we’ll be right back.”
Rosa got closer to us, but Maria stayed in the corner petrified. My parents went to the living room while we stayed on the floor. We only had one candle, so we were left in the dark.
We stayed quiet for about 2 or 3 minutes; then, Antonio stood up. “Don’t you guys move,” Rosa said. “This is going to be over—”
“Shhh! Rosa. Be quiet,” Antonio said. “Can you hear that?”
Robert covered his head with a pillow. “Oh, no! Not again,” he kept on saying as my parents came running back into the room.
“Guys, cover your heads! Hurry up!” Dad yelled as he got down on the floor with Mom.
When they hit the floor, it felt as if the thing flew by over our heads. A few split seconds later, and explosion in the far distance. We had no Idea where these things were hitting. All we knew is that we were being attacked.
“Wow! That was a close call,” Antonio said.
My dad let out a sigh of relief, “You can say that again, Antonio.”
“I think it went the other way,” Mom said.
Robert looked at her, “Well, Mom, did Grandma and Pops answered the phone? Did you guys manage to get in touch with them?”
“No, sweetheart,” Mom said in a worrying tone of voice. “The phone lines have been cut off.”
Mom kept on staring at the wall as if she was in another world. At that moment, I realize that something worse was about to happen—that is— if it wasn’t happening already.
“What’re we going to do, Ma? How are we going to get in touch with Grandma and Pops?” quiet Albert asked Mom.
She hugged Albert and didn’t say a word. The fear in her eyes was coming out like smoke out of a chimney. Up until this day, the memory of her vagabond eyes staring at the wall, remains embedded deep within my mind. Mom was so worried because Grandma, Mary, lived alone. Ever since she moved from New York to El Salvador, she preferred to live by herself, so she bought a house close to our neighborhood.
Grandpa, Antonio, Dad’s father, and who was awomanizer, was living with his girlfriend at the time. He had company, but we had no idea how he was doing. My mother grabbed Dad by the hand and got closer to him, and Dad said to her, “Honey, if my judgment doesn’t betray me, this is a war strategy. I don’t want you to worry, but we must be prepared.”
“What do you mean Oscar?” Mom asked.
“We are surrounded by mountains, and I think the guerrillas are launching an attack to the 3rd Brigade from there.”
“So, what do you think is going to happen?”
“I don’t know, but if this is what I think it is, the guerrillas are preparing the battlefield, and they’re launching missiles from the mountains.”
I was only 10 years old, but it seemed to me as if Dad knew what he was talking about. Our neighborhood was sandwiched between the mountains and the 3rd Brigade, which was the main army station in our city at the time. This meant that our neighborhood was the battlefield. Through the mirror in the backroom, mom’s face was reflected so clearly, and at that moment, her eyes got wide open. “Oh my God!” She said to Dad, “We've gotta get out of here.”
“No, No, No!” Dad said while the veins on his neck were sticking out. “It would be more dangerous if we left the house.”
“So, what’re we going to do?” Mom asked.
“Wait… Antonio, Albert, Robert, come with me,” Dad ordered my brothers as he stood up. “You stay here with William,” he told Mom.
I was the little one, so it seemed as if Dad wanted to protect me. I stayed there on the floor with Mom, Rosa and Maria. Faced with a great threat, Dad began to take control of the situation. They left the room, and began to cover all doors and windows facing the street, with the furniture.
Dad took the candle, so we were left in the dark hearing every sound they made as they moved the furniture around. The squeaky sound from the friction of the furniture against the floor was like a reminder that something terrible was about to happen. “Mom, I'm afraid!” I said to her as she held me tight in her arms.
“Don’t worry, Honey, they’re just blocking the entrances to the house just in case, but I can assure you that nothing will happen.”
“Why are they fighting Mom?” I asked.
“I don’t know, sweetheart, they are bad people. They want to take control of the government, but it’s the government’s fault because they only think about themselves, and not in the needs of the people.”
“When is this going to end Mom?—”
“Shhh! Quiet!” Mom said to me as she stood up. It was very dark, so she slowly walked to the door of the room while holding herself to the walls. “Oscar! Oscar!” she yelled twice.
I stood up. “Mom, what’s going on?” I asked... At that very moment, and at the sound of Yira, the most infamous Tango, all hell broke loose.
“Get down!—Get down!” Mom yelled horrified as she rushed back down to the floor. “Rosa—Maria, get over here, NOW!” She yelled while gasping for air.
“What are we gonna do?” Rosa asked Mom with a broken voice as they got closer to us.
“Be quiet! Don’t move—stay where you are!”
The guerrillas descended from the mountains and the battle started. We could hear them shouting outside. “Long live Fidel!—Long live The Soviet Union!—Long live the revolution!”
Dad and my brothers came running back into the room. “Don’t move!—Don’t move! Get your heads down!” Dad yelled as he got down on the floor.
He put the candle out, and the room became really dark, but in a matter of seconds, our eyes adjusted to the darkness. A few rays of reflection from the Moon got through into the room, and that was our only source of light. I could see Albert trying to lift his head up. “I said don’t move, da…t!” Dad yelled at him.
The bullets hit the walls of the house outside while people were screaming in horror in the distance. One after the other, that whistling sound penetrated our eardrums as the bullets hit the sides of the walls. The dry sound of Russian AK 47s, mixed with the nearby explosions from grenades, and it didn’t seem as if it was going to stop anytime soon. The voices of the soldiers began to emerge as some of them yelled, “Die, filthy pigs! — Dieee!”
At times, we didn’t know who was outside, whether they were soldiers or guerrillas, but one thing we were sure of, people were dying out on the streets. My mother began to cry because Grandma lived a few minutes away, and there was no way to communicate with her, and we didn’t know if she was okay.
The cassette player stopped giving its music—a bullet hit it. The massive shootout continued non-stop, bullets coming and going from all directions. As we were all lying down on the floor, a bullet entered through the ceiling and hit about 5 feet from where we were. When Dad saw that, he stood up and lit the candle again.
“What the hell are you doing?” Mom yelled at him as she lifted her upper body.
“Stay down! C’mon!” Dad said.
“But it’s too dangerous, what’re you doing? Why are you standing up?”
“Amelia, don’t question me. I have to protect you guys.” A hail of bullets hit one of the walls outside the house. “Get your heads down!” Dad yelled as he got down again.
“Oscar, for Christ's sake! You’re gonna get yourself killed.”
“I have to go get the dining room table—it’s made out of thick wood. The roof and the ceiling are too thin and another bullet can enter at any moment.”
“But you can’t leave the room. It’s too dangerous!”
“Honey, I have no other choice. I need something to protect you guys, and the dining room table is the only thing that will work. It’s big enough to cover us all.”
“But it’s too heavy. How’re you going to carry it all by yourself? Are you crazy?”
“Don’t worry, babe. I’ll be okay. I'll figure something out.”
“Pa, I’ll go with you,” Antonio said.
“Antonio!” Dad said and he stayed quiet for a minute looking at him… as if contemplating him.
“Oh, no! You’re not taking Antonio with you. Over my dead body—you hear me!” Mom said.
“Babe, don’t worry.”
“Oh no, hon. This is something that we’re not going to discuss… Not in our lifetime.”
“What? Do you want us all to die? What if a grenade enters the room? Don’t you understand? We need to be protected.”
“I understand that, but what if a bullet hits you, or Antonio while you guys go get the table?”
“Amelia, what do you want me to do, eh? You tell me! We don’t have another choice.”
“Yes, we do… Take the mattress that’s covering the window. We can throw it on top of ourselves”
“That’s not a good idea. That mattress is not big enough to cover us all. Don’t you see it?” Dad said while pointing at the mattress.
“Yeah, but you’re not going out… period!”
“Amelia, I gotta do what I gotta do. It’s a chance we gotta take.” Dad stood up. “Come on, Antonio. Let’s do it, buddy.”
“Sorry, babe. Keep your head down and pray for us.” At that moment, another bullet entered through the ceiling and hit the far corner of the room.”
“Dad, I’m ready, we gotta move fast.” 15-year-old Antonio said, as he got up from the floor.
“Wait, here’s the plan: I’m gonna go first and put the candle in the middle of the hallway. When I say, ‘come on,’ you get right behind me—you understand?”
“Yes, Dad, I understand.”
“Okay. As soon as you get behind me, we’re both going to run into the dining room. We’re going to get the table, and every 10 steps or so, we’re going to get under it—got it?
“Oh, hon!” Mom said, as she let out a sigh of desperation. “What if something happens? You cannot just leave me here on my own. Oscar, I need you now more than ever before.”
“Babe, don’t think about that. Come, give me a hug.” Dad and Mom were hugging each other, and all 4 of us threw ourselves on top of them and held each other tight as a rain of bullets kept falling outside the house.
“I love you Honey,” Mom said to Dad.
“Babe, there is no other place on earth that I’d rather be than in this room tonight… because I know that you’re here—” Dad was going to continue talking, but mom’s lips met his words. She kissed him so hard that it seemed as if they were going to fuse into one single body.
“Promise me that you will come back.”
“I promise—and you know that I never break a promise,” Dad said to Mom as he smiled at her. It seemed as if she needed to hear that.
“Dad, let’s go.” Antonio said.
“Ok, buddy, are you ready?”
“Let’s do it, Dad—we’re gonna win this Poker round,” Antonio said, as they ‘Hi fived’ each other.
“You bet, champ. Let me go first—when I say, ‘come on,’ you go boy.”
“Got it Dad.”
“Amelia, pray.” Dad said, as he took the candle and kept on going without looking back.
When he opened the door of the room, a heavy storm was coming down—but they were not drops of water. He got all the way to the hallway and yelled, “Antonio, Come on!”
Antonio hit me in the shoulder. “Say a little prayer for me chubby.” he said, and took off running as if he had a ball of fire in his pants.
We stayed in the dark, and Maria began to cry. “Pray, Maria, Pray,” Mom said. She wanted to give Maria strength as if she was being strong herself, but her tone of voice said otherwise.
After Antonio left, we couldn’t hear them at all. We could only see the reflection of the candle as it made its way into the room. Mom got so quiet, and it was as if I knew what was going through her head at that moment. “Don’t worry, Mom, they’ll make it back without a single scratch… You’ll see,” I said.
“I know, sweetheart, Daddy and Antonio are going to be fine.”
Albert hugged her and said, “What’s gonna happen tonight Ma?”
“We’ll be fine, Sweetie. This is soon going to be over, and we’ll go to bed.”
“But, what if the guerrillas take the city?”
“I don’t think that they’re trying to kill us. They’re fighting against the government and not the people.”
“No, Mom, they also kill civilians. Remember a few months ago? They killed a whole bunch of people in Santa Ana.”
“I know, sweetheart, but those were people that were against them and in favor of the government. We don’t get involved in any of that stuff.”
We began to hear Dad and Antonio coming back as they dragged the table. “Shhh! Quiet guys,” Mom said, as the bullets were hitting the walls on the street outside.
We could hear them dragging the table, but they would stop at times. Suddenly, a few bullets hit the hallway from the outside. Mom stood up and walked to the door while hanging onto the wall. She stuck her head out the door. “Oscar!—Antonio! Are you guys okay?” No reply. “Where are you guys? Are you okay?”
“Get back inside Amelia! We’re doing fine,” Dad yelled.
“But, where are you guys?”
“Amelia, I can’t talk right now. We’re under the table—get back inside!”
Mom came back down to the floor and we remained quiet so we could hear Dad and Antonio coming with the table. Our house was big, and the hallway was long, with big Spanish style glass windows, so it was not easy to drag that heavy table all the way to the backroom.
Outside the house, it was hell on earth. I had that eerie feeling that something really bad was about to happen. Bullets coming and going in all directions. The sound of dogs barking mixed with the sound of people screaming out in the distance. At times, we could hear the neighbors, but in the chaos, it was hard to tell what was going on out there. As we waited for Dad and Antonio to make it back, Albert said, “Ma, you hear that?”
“No, sweetheart. What is it?”
“I don’t know—it’s coming from the roof.”
Robert threw something at him. “There’s so much stuff going on outside; how can you hear noises coming from the roof, dude?” Robert said.
“Never mind, I’m just saying.”
“Be quiet you guys, here comes Dad and Antonio now.” Mom said.
At that moment, a hail of bullets hit the hallway, breaking one of the windows as Dad and Antonio came running into the room. They left the table near the door.
“Antonio, are you okay?” Dad said.
“Yes, Dad, I think so.”
Dad lit up a match. “No, you’re not okay, buddy,” Dad said, as he shook his head, and took a good look at Antonio. “You have a piece of glass stuck to your elbow.” Dad pulled it out.
“Ouch, Yeah! I feel it now.”
“Hang on tight, let me go get the candle.”
“No, Oscar,” Mom said, “wait for a few minutes. Whoever fired into the hallway must be nearby still.”
“I gotta go get the candle—Antonio is bleeding.”
“But, hon. Just wait for a few minutes.”
“Okay, I’m gonna listen to you. I think the shooter is on top of a tree, and must think that the enemy is hiding in the house.
Albert pulled on Dad’s sleeve. “Dad, I think I heard noises coming from the roof a few minutes ago,” he said.
“Are you sure?”
“What did you hear?”
“It sounded like someone crawling, or something like that.”
“Okay, buddy, it must’ve been a cat, so don’t worry about it.”
“You got it Dad.”
“Let me go get the candle.” He took off his shirt. “Amelia, put this on Antonio’s elbow. Would you? I’ll be right back, Honey.”
“Be careful, Oscar—please!”
“Don’t worry, babe.” He kissed her, then, took a blanket and threw it on top of himself, and began to crawl like a snake.
We could only see his reflection through the little bit of light coming from the moonlight and the candle in the hallway. Although stubborn, Dad was a very intelligent man. He was the boss, and had a successful company, so we trusted him.
“Oscar, be careful!” Mom yelled as he left the room.
He kept on crawling under the blanket, towards the candle. I held Mom’s hand, and it was cold and sweaty. They say that women have 6 senses, so maybe she was sensing something that none of us did.
About a minute went by, and then it happened. A shower of bullets broke a window in the hallway as the sound of thousands of pieces of glass hit the floor. It sounded as if the fire was coming from the trees outside the house.
Dad was dead. That was the thought in everybody’s mind. There was no way that he could’ve survived. One after the other, the bullets impacted into the hallway; right outside, where Dad was.
Time began to slow down, as if it was a landing airplane, and everything seemed to be happening in slow motion… We could almost count each bullet hitting the wall, and probably, Dad’s fragile body. Mom stood up. “Oscar! NOOOO!!!” She screamed at the top of her lungs.
She wanted to run towards Dad, but Antonio stopped her. At that moment, the hail of bullets that kept coming into the hallway was met by another hail of bullets coming from the roof of the house, and then, everything became silent again. “Antonio, let me go,” Mom said.
“No, Mom, wait.”
“Antonio, let me go, da…it!” Antonio let her go and she run towards the hallway.
“You guys, wait here. I’ll go with Mom,” Antonio said to us. Of course, we didn’t listen to him, so we all followed Mom. The blanket was covered by thousands of pieces of glass. The hallway was full of smoke mixed with dust, and amazingly, the candlelight was still going as if nothing had happened.
I could feel my heart beat—and my heart, like a roaring lion inside a cage, wanted to come out. If Dad is dead, we’re gonna have to stay here with his dead body for the rest of the night… or maybe, for a few days, looking at him while he lies there lifeless, I thought to myself.
It was an awful thought, but it was on my mind. Something that I didn’t want to contemplate; almost unspeakable, but I couldn’t shake it off as I walked behind Mom. The seconds felt more like minutes, as if giving you more time to suffer… more time to think.
“Oscar… Oscar!” Mom kept calling Dad as she got closer to the blanket lying there on the floor.
“Wait, Ma, don’t kneel down, you’re gonna cut yourself,” Antonio said.
He lifted the blanket as the glass on top of it made its way to the floor. Dad was there, petrified and shaking.
“Oscar!—Oscar! For the love of God, are you Okay?” Mom asked as she tried to gasp for air.
He was speechless, but alive. Above him, the wall was more like Swiss cheese… freshly made Swiss cheese, that is. Smoke was still coming out of every bullet hole; each one, between one and two inches deep into the concrete wall; capable enough to disintegrate a human head.
But there he was, all in one single piece, just five inches away from certain death… five inches below of what could’ve been a lifetime of sorrow for us. A lifetime without the man who was our strength, our motivation to keep going ahead no matter what.
“Pa, are you okay?” Antonio asked.
“What the hell just happened?” Dad said, as he began to move slowly.
“Dad, come back to earth, we’ve gotta get out of here.”
“Alright Antonio. Grab the candle would you?”
“C’mon, we’ve gotta get out of here now!” Mom said. Antonio grabbed the candle, and we all run back to the room.
“Hon, let me take a good look at you,” Mom said, as we got down on the floor.
She checked on Dad, and amazingly, he didn’t have not one single scratch on him. The blanket protected him from the broken glass.
“I’m fine, babe. Why don’t you check on Antonio’s elbow?”
“Someone up there saved your life, Dad,” Antonio said, as Mom was cleaning his wound with a clean rag.
“Yeah, God!” Robert said.
“No, you big idiot! Someone up on the roof.”
“Antonio, don’t talk to your brother like that.” Mom said.
“What do you mean?” Dad asked Antonio.
“Listen, Dad, whoever was shooting at you, got stopped by someone shooting from the roof.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Amelia, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, hon. Everything happened so fast.”
“Dad, I heard the fire coming from the roof too,” Albert said.
“Then, that means that someone’s on the roof,” Dad said. “Antonio, let’s go get the table.” The table was already near the door, so they went to get it.
As they dragged the table into the room. “Shhh! Guys, you hear that?” Albert asked.
“Yeah, I hear it too,” Robert said. “It’s footsteps up on the roof.”
“I don’t hear anything,” Mom said. Dad and Antonio put the table in the corner.
“C’mon, guys, let’s get under it,” Dad said. “Rosa, Maria, C’mon girls.” We all got under the table and Dad made sure that the door was closed, and then, he put the candle out.
“Guys,” Dad began to whisper, “If someone is up on the roof, they are trying to gain advantage over the enemy. It’s better to attack from above than from below, so I don’t think that they represent a threat to us.”
“But, why would they stay so quiet? Why don’t they try to fight and advance?” Mom said.
“Sometimes they have to wait for orders from their superiors, Honey. Remember that these people are well-organized.”
“Do you think that they’re soldiers?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to tell.”
“What if they’re guerrillas?”
Antonio lifted his finger. “I think that they’re guerrillas. I recognize the dry sound of Russian AK 47s. That was the sound coming from the roof, and the guerrillas are the only ones who use them,” as Antonio was saying that—the sound of footsteps up on the roof became stronger.
“Oh my God, Honey!” Mom said.
“Shhh! You guys are being too loud,” Dad whispered.
“Hon, what’re we gonna do?”
“We cannot leave the house.”
“All the main doors are locked. Maria and Rosa locked them before the attack began.”
“It wouldn’t matter—some of the windows are broken, so anybody could come inside the house,” Dad said, as the sound became more apparent. Dad stood up. “Don’t move.”
“What’re you doing Oscar?” Mom said.
“I’m gonna cover the table with a blanket.”
He went into an old closet in the room, and took out a big blanket and threw it on top of the table, so it was like a little shelter, but far from being safe. He came under it and said, “Don’t you guys talk… don’t say a word, okay!”
Dad always seemed to have an answer and a solution for everything, and although he tried, this time, he had no idea what to do. We were truly in a hopeless situation. We were sitting ducks in the middle of hunting season.
“Hey, Pa, I think that they’re moving the antenna—you hear that?” Antonio whispered.
“Alright, guys, we need to be quiet,” Dad said, as the squeaky sound of the antenna pressing against the side of the roof became more apparent. We were quiet, but we could not help our hearts pounding inside.
The antenna was grounded to a base in the back yard, and the back yard was next to the hallway. We were in complete darkness, but I could feel Mom’s heartbeat as she held me tight in her arms. She was probably holding on to Dad and the guys as well—the only thing I knew was that we could not talk at all.
At that moment, Bryan came to my mind. He was Antonio’s best friend, who was captured by the guerrillas a few months before. We called him ‘Pinocchio,’ that was the nickname that we gave him because he had a big nose.
He was only 16, but he got drafted by the Army. In those days, boys as young as 14 were good to go. Bryan was found dead. Unfortunately, and as much as I hate to say this, but it’s the truth… he was tortured. I tried to think about it; there are places that our minds shouldn’t go, but sometimes, we simply cannot help it.
Our worst nightmare was becoming true. The sound of men sliding down through the antenna tube gave me the chills. Mom’s pounding heart, wanting to come out of her chest, was a sign of complete hopelessness. We counted one—we counted two—we counted tree, and then, there was nobody else sliding down through the antenna. There were three men inside the house. Our home—the safety that we embraced for so long.
We didn’t know who they were, or what they wanted. Why were they entering our house, the place where we had our greatest treasures? We had no idea what was going to happen to us. I don’t know about the others, but I began to pray like I had never prayed before in my short life. If there was a God, we needed him more than ever before.
Grandma told me once that if I ever needed protection, to cover myself with the blood of Jesus, but how? I had no idea how to do that, so I began to say softly, “Blood of Jesus, come to me please… cover my family, please.” I didn’t know if that was going to work, but I tried my best, anyway.
Mom was holding me so tight in her arms that I felt as if we were one. I knew that many civilians were being killed in those days, but not only killed, people were being tortured to death. Entire families were killed in their own living rooms, in their own backyards, and this might be the end for us—I thought to myself.
Out on the back yard, voices began to emerge. We couldn’t make out what they were saying, but one of the voices was very deep. The leaves of the plants and the bushes began to move as they were working their way in.The massive shootout taking place outside, and the bullets coming into the house, were no longer a threat to us… it was just background noise. —Suddenly, a single gunshot out in the backyard. The backdoor was busted. L
COMING THIS SEPTEMBER
COMING THIS SEPTEMBER
Click here to subscribe, and be notified when this book becomes available on Amazon.You will get a free eBook with your subscription (Not edited)
WAS THIS ARTICLE A BLESSING TO YOU?