We Choose Only Once. We Choose Either To Be Warriors Or To Be Ordinary Men. A Second Choice Does Not Exist. Not On This Earth; Everyone Can See, And Yet We Choose Not To Remember What We See

(The Second Ring of Power by Carlos Castaneda)

I objected to her religious connotation on principle. I had become accustomed by don Juan never to dwell on that subject. She very calmly explained that she saw no difference in terms of life-style between us and true nuns and priests. She pointed out that not only were true nuns and priests complete as a rule, but they did not even weaken themselves with sexual acts.

“The Nagual said that that is the reason they will never be exterminated, no matter who tries to exterminate them,” she said. “Those who are after them are always empty; they don’t have the vigor that true nuns and priests have. I liked the Nagual for saying that. I will always cheer for the nuns and priests. We are alike. We have given up the world and yet we are in the midst of it. Priests and nuns would make great flying sorcerers if someone would tell them that they can do it.”

The memory of my father’s and my grandfather’s admiration for the Mexican revolution came to my mind. They mostly admired the attempt to exterminate the clergy. My father inherited that admiration from his father and I inherited it from both of them. It was a sort of affiliation that we had. One of the first things that don Juan undermined in my personality was that affiliation.

I once told don Juan, as if I were voicing my own opinion, something I had heard all my life, that the favorite ploy of the Church was to keep us in ignorance. Don Juan had a most serious expression on his face. It was as if my statements had touched a deep fiber in him. I thought immediately of the centuries of exploitation that the Indians had endured.

“Those dirty bastards,” he said. “They have kept me in ignorance, and you too.”

I caught his irony tight away and we both laughed. I had never really examined that stand. I did not believe it but I had nothing else to take its place. I told don Juan about my grandfather and my father and their views on religion as the liberal men they were.

“It doesn’t matter what anybody says or does,” he said. “You must be an impeccable man yourself. The fight is right here in this chest.”

He patted my chest gently.

“If your grandfather and father would be trying to be impeccable warriors,” don Juan went on, “they wouldn’t have time for petty fights. It takes all the time and all the energy we have to conquer the idiocy in us. And that’s what matters. The rest is of no importance. Nothing of what your grandfather or father said about the Church gave them well-being. To be an impeccable warrior, on the other hand, will give you vigor and youth and power. So, it is proper for you to choose wisely.”

My choice was the impeccability and simplicity of a warrior’s life. Because of that choice I felt that I had to take la Gorda’s words in a most serious manner and that was more threatening to me than even don Genaro’s acts. He used to frighten me at a most profound level. His actions, although terrifying , were assimilated, however, into the coherent continuum of their teachings.

La Gorda’s words and actions were a different kind of threat to me, somehow more concrete and real than the other.

La Gorda’s body shivered for a moment. A ripple went through it, making her contract the muscles of her shoulders and arms. She grabbed the edge of the table with an awkward rigidity. Then she relaxed until she was again her usual self.

She smiled at me. Her eyes and smile were dazzling. She said in a casual tone that she had just “seen” my dilemma.

“It’s useless to close your eyes and pretend that you don’t want to do anything or that you don’t know anything,” she said. “You can do that with people but not with me. I know now why the Nagual commissioned me to tell you all this. I’m a nobody. You admire great people; the Nagual and Genaro were the greatest of all.”

She stopped and examined me. She seemed to be waiting for my reaction to what she said.

“You fought against what the Nagual and Genaro told you, all the way,” she went on. “That’s why you’re behind. And you fought them because they were great. That’s your particular way of being. But you can’t fight against what I tell you, because you can’t look up to me at all. I am your peer; I am in your cycle. You like to fight those who are better than you. It’s no challenge to fight my stand. So, those two devils have finally bagged you through me. Poor little Nagual, you’ve lost the game.”

She came closer to me and whispered in my ear that the Nagual had also said that she should never try to take my writing pad away from me because that would be as dangerous as trying to snatch a bone from a hungry dog’s mouth.

She put her arms around me, resting her head on my shoulders, and laughed quietly and softly. Her “seeing” had numbed me. I knew that she was absolutely right. She had pegged me to perfection. She hugged me for a long time with her head against mine. The proximity of her body somehow was very soothing. She was just like don Juan at that. She exuded strength and conviction and purpose. She was wrong to say that I could not admire her.

“Let’s forget this,” she said suddenly. “Let’s talk about what we have to do tonight.”

“What exactly are we going to do tonight, Gorda?”

“We have our last appointment with power.”

“Is it another dreadful battle with somebody?”

“No. The little sisters are simply going to show you something that will complete your visit here. The Nagual told me that after that you may go away and never return, or that you may choose to stay with us. Either way, what they have to show you is their art. The art of the dreamer.”

“And what is that art? “

“Genaro told me that he tried time and time again to acquaint you with the art of the dreamer. He showed you his other body, his body of dreaming; once he even made you be in two places at once, but your emptiness did not let you see what he was pointing out to you. It looks as if all his efforts went through the hole in your body.”

“Now it seems that it is different. Genaro made the little sisters the dreamers that they are and tonight they will show you Genaro’s art. In that respect, the little sisters are the true children of Genaro.”

That reminded me of what Pablito had said earlier, that we were the children of both, and that we were Toltecs. I asked her what he had meant by that.

“The Nagual told me that sorcerers used to be called Toltecs in his benefactor’s language,” she replied.

“And what language was that, Gorda?”

“He never told me. But he and Genaro used to speak a language that none of us could understand. And here, between all of us, we understand four Indian languages.”

“Did don Genaro also say that he was a Toltec?”

“His benefactor was the same man, so he also said the same thing.”

From la Gorda’s responses I could surmise that she either did not know a great deal on the subject or she did not want to talk to me about it. I confronted her with my conclusions. She confessed that she had never paid much attention to it and wondered why I was putting so much value on it. I practically gave her a lecture on the ethnography of central Mexico.

“A sorcerer is a Toltec when that sorcerer has received the mysteries of stalking and dreaming,” she said casually. “The Nagual and Genaro received those mysteries from their benefactor and then they held them in their bodies. We are doing the same, and because of that we are Toltecs like the Nagual and Genaro.”

“The Nagual taught you and me equally to be dispassionate. I am more dispassionate than you because I’m formless. You still have your form and are empty, so you get caught in every snag. One day, however, you’ll be complete again and you’ll understand then that the Nagual was right. He said that the world of people goes up and down and people go up and down with their world; as sorcerers we have no business following them in their ups and downs.”

“The art of sorcerers is to be outside everything and be unnoticeable. And more than anything else, the art of sorcerers is never to waste their power. The Nagual told me that your problem is that you always get caught in idiocies, like what you’re doing now. I’m sure that you’re going to ask everyone of us about the Toltecs, but you’re not going to ask anyone of us about our attention.”

Her laughter was clear and contagious. I admitted to her that she was right. Small issues had always fascinated me. I also told her that I was mystified by her usage of the word “attention”.

“I’ve told you already what the Nagual told me about attention,” she said. “We hold the images of the world with our attention. A male sorcerer is very difficult to train because his attention is always closed, focused on something. A female, on the other hand, is always open because most of the time she is not focusing her attention on anything. Especially during her menstrual period. The Nagual told me and then showed me that during that time I could actually let my attention go from the images of the world. If I don’t focus my attention on the world, the world collapses.”

“How is that done, Gorda?”

“It’s very simple. When a woman menstruates she cannot focus her attention. That’s the crack the Nagual told me about. Instead of fighting to focus, a woman should let go of the images, by gazing fixedly at distant hills, or by gazing at water, like a river, or by gazing at the clouds.”

“If you gaze with your eyes open, you get dizzy and the eyes get tired, but if you half-close them and blink a lot and move them from mountain to mountain, or from cloud to cloud, you can look for hours, or days if necessary.”

“The Nagual used to make us sit by the door and gaze at those round hills on the other side of the valley. Sometimes we used to sit there for days until the crack would open.”

I wanted to hear more about it, but she stopped talking and hurriedly sat very close to me. She signaled me with her hand to listen. I heard a faint swishing sound and suddenly Lidia stepped out into the kitchen. I thought that she must have been asleep in their room and the sound of our voices had woken her up.

She had changed the Western clothes she had been wearing the last time I had seen her and had put on a long dress like the Indian women of the area wore. She had a shawl on her shoulders and was barefoot. Her long dress, instead of making her look older and heavier, made her look like a child clad in an older woman’s clothes.

She walked up to the table and greeted la Gorda with a formal “Good evening, Gorda.” She then turned to me and said, “Good evening, Nagual.”

Her greeting was so unexpected and her tone so serious that I was about to laugh. I caught a warning from la Gorda. She pretended to be scratching the top of her head with the back of her left hand, which was clawed.

I answered Lidia the same way la Gorda had: “Good evening to you, Lidia.”

She sat down at the end of the table to the right of me. I did not know whether or not to start up a conversation. I was about to say something when la Gorda tapped my leg with her knee, and with a subtle movement of her eyebrows signaled me to listen. I heard again the muffled sound of a long dress as it touched the floor. Josefina stood for a moment at the door before walking toward the table. She greeted Lidia, la Gorda and myself in that order. I could not keep a straight face with her. She was also wearing a long dress, a shawl and no shoes, but in her case the dress was three or four sizes larger and she had put a thick padding into it. Her appearance was thoroughly incongruous; her face was lean and young, but her body looked grotesquely bloated.

She took a bench and placed it at the left end of the table and sat down. All three of them looked extremely serious. They were sitting with their legs pressed together and their backs very straight.

I heard once more the rustle of a dress and Rosa come out. She was dressed just like the others and was also barefoot. Her greeting was as formal and the order naturally included Josefina. Everyone answered her in the same formal tone. She sat across the table facing me. All of us remained in absolute silence for quite a while.

La Gorda spoke suddenly, and the sound of her voice made everyone else jump. She said, pointing to me, that the Nagual was going to show them his allies, and that he was going to use his special call to bring them into the room.

I tried to make a joke and said that the Nagual was not there, so he could not bring any allies. I thought they were going to laugh. La Gorda covered her face and the little sisters glared at me. La Gorda put her hand on my mouth and whispered in my ear that it was absolutely necessary that I refrain from saying idiotic things. She looked right into my eyes and said that I had to call the allies by making the moths’ call.

I reluctantly began. But no sooner had I started than the spirit of the occasion took over and I found that in a matter of seconds I had given my maximum concentration to producing the sound. I modulated its outflow and controlled the air being expelled from my lungs in order to produce the longest possible tapping. It sounded very melodious.

I took an enormous gasp of air to start a new series. I stopped immediately. Something outside the house was answering my call. The tapping sounds came from all around the house, even from the roof. The little sisters stood up and huddled like frightened children around la Gorda and myself.

“Please, Nagual, don’t bring anything into the house,” Lidia pleaded with me.

Even la Gorda seemed a bit frightened. She gave me a strong command with her hand to stop. I had not intended to keep on producing the sound anyway. The allies, however, either as formless forces or as beings that were prowling outside the door, were not dependent on my tapping sound. I felt again, as I had felt two nights before in don Genaro’s house, an unbearable pressure, a heaviness leaning against the entire house. I could sense it in my navel as an itch, a nervousness that soon turned into sheer physical anguish.

The three little sisters were beside themselves with fear, especially Lidia and Josefina. Both of them were whining like wounded dogs. All of them surrounded me and then clung to me. Rosa crawled under the table and pushed her head up between my legs. La Gorda stood behind me as calmly as she could. After a few moments the hysteria and fear of those three girls mounted to enormous proportions. La Gorda leaned over and whispered that I should make the opposite sound, the sound that would disperse them.

I had a moment of supreme uncertainty. I really did not know any other sound. But then I had a quick sensation of ticklishness on the top of my head, a shiver in my body, and I remembered out of nowhere a peculiar whistling that don Juan used to perform at night and had endeavored to teach me. He had presented it to me as a means to keep one’s balance while walking so as not to stray away from the trail in the darkness.

I began my whistling and the pressure in my umbilical region ceased. La Gorda smiled and sighed with relief and the little sisters moved away from my side, giggling as if all of it had been merely a joke. I wanted to indulge in some soul-searching deliberations about the abrupt transition from the rather pleasant exchange I was having with la Gorda to that unearthly situation. For an instant I pondered over whether or not the whole thing was a ploy on their part. But I was too weak. I felt I was about to pass out. My ears were buzzing. The tension around my stomach was so intense that I believed I was going to become ill right there. I rested my head on the edge of the table. After a few minutes, however, I was again relaxed enough to sit up straight.

The three girls seemed to have forgotten how frightened they had been. In fact, they were laughing and pushing each other as they each tied their shawls around their hips. La Gorda did not seem nervous nor did she seem relaxed. Rosa was pushed at one moment by the other two girls and fell off the bench where all three of them were sitting. She landed on her seat. I thought that she was going to get furious but she giggled. I looked at la Gorda for directions. She was sitting with a very straight back. Her eyes were half-closed, fixed on Rosa. The little sisters were laughing very loudly, like nervous schoolgirls. Lidia pushed Josefina and sent her tumbling over the bench to fall next to Rosa on the floor. The instant Josefina was on the floor their laughter stopped. Rosa and Josefina shook their bodies, making an incomprehensible movement with their buttocks; they moved them from side to side as if they were grinding something against the floor.

Then they sprang up like two silent jaguars and took Lidia by the arms. All three of them, without making the slightest noise, spun around a couple of times. Rosa and Josefina lifted Lidia by the armpits and carried her as they tiptoed two or three times around the table. Then all three of them collapsed as if they had springs on their knees that had contracted at the same time. Their long dresses puffed up, giving them the appearance of huge balls.

As soon as they were on the floor they became even more quiet. There was no other sound except the soft swishing of their dresses as they rolled and crawled. It was as if I were watching a three-dimensional movie with the sound turned off.

La Gorda, who had been quietly sitting next to me watching them, suddenly stood up and with the agility of an acrobat ran toward the door of their room at the corner of the dining area. Before she reached the door she tumbled on her right side and shoulder just enough to turn over once, then stood up, pulled by the momentum of her rolling, and flung open the door. She performed all her movements with absolute quietness.

The three girls rolled and crawled into the room like giant pill bugs. La Gorda signaled me to come over to where she was; we entered the room and she had me sit on the floor with my back against the frame of the door. She sat to my right with her back also against the frame. She made me interlock my fingers and then placed my hands over my belly button.

I was at first forced to divide my attention between la Gorda, the little sisters and the room. But once la Gorda had arranged my sitting position, my attention was taken up by the room. The three girls were lying in the middle of a large, white, square room with a brick floor. There were four gasoline lanterns, one on each wall, placed on built-in supporting ledges approximately six feet above the ground. The room had no ceiling. The supporting beams of the roof had been darkened and that gave the effect of an enormous room with no top. The two doors were placed on the very corners opposite each other. As I looked at the closed door across from where I was, I noticed that the walls of the room were oriented to follow the cardinal points. The door where we were was at the northwest corner.

Rosa, Lidia and Josefina rolled counter-clockwise around the room several times. I strained to hear the swish of their dresses but the silence was absolute. I could only hear la Gorda breathing. The little sisters finally stopped and sat down with their backs against the wall, each under a lantern. Lidia sat at the east wall, Rosa, at the north and Josefina, at the west. La Gorda stood up, closed the door behind us and secured it with an iron bar. She made me slide over a few inches, without changing my position, until I was sitting with my back against the door. Then she silently rolled the length of the room and sat down underneath the lantern on the south wall; her getting into that sitting position seemed to be the cue.

Lidia stood up and began to walk on the tips of her toes along the edges of the room, close to the walls. It was not a walk proper but rather a soundless sliding. As she increased her speed she began to move as if she were gliding, stepping on the angle between the floor and the walls. She would jump over Rosa, Josefina, la Gorda and myself every time she got to where we were sitting. I felt her long dress brushing me every time she went by. The faster she ran, the higher she got on the wall. A moment came when Lidia was actually running silently around the four walls of the room seven or eight feet above the floor. The sight of her, running perpendicular to the walls, was so unearthly that it bordered on the grotesque. Her long gown made the sight even more eerie. Gravity did not seem to have any effect on Lidia, but it did on her long skirt; it dragged downward. I felt it every time she passed over my head, sweeping my face like a hanging drape.

She had captured my attentiveness at a level I could not imagine. The strain of giving her my undivided attention was so great that I began to get stomach convulsions; I felt her running with my stomach. My eyes were getting out of focus. With the last bit of my remaining concentration, I saw Lidia walk down on the east wall diagonally and come to a halt in the middle of the room.

She was panting, out of breath, and drenched in perspiration like la Gorda had been after her flying display. She could hardly keep her balance. After a moment she walked to her place at the east wall and collapsed on the floor like a wet rag. I thought she had fainted, but then I noticed that she was deliberately breathing through her mouth.

After some minutes of stillness, long enough for Lidia to recover her strength and sit up straight, Rosa stood up and ran without making a sound to the center of the room, turned on her heels and ran back to where she had been sitting. Her running allowed her to gain the necessary momentum to make an outlandish jump. She leaped up in the air, like a basketball player, along the vertical span of the wall, and her hands went beyond the height of the wall, which was perhaps ten feet. I saw her body actually hitting the wall, although there was no corresponding crashing sound. I expected her to rebound to the floor with the force of the impact, but she remained hanging there, attached to the wall like a pendulum. From where I sat it looked as if she were holding a hook of some sort in her left hand. She swayed silently in a pendulum-like motion for a moment and then catapulted herself three or four feet over to her left by pushing her body away from the wall with her right arm, at the moment in which her swing was the widest. She repeated the swaying and catapulting thirty or forty times. She went around the whole room and then she went up to the beams of the roof where she dangled precariously, hanging from an invisible hook.

While she was on the beams I became aware that what I had thought was a hook in her left hand was actually some quality of that hand that made it possible for her to suspend her weight from it. It was the same hand she had attacked me with two nights before. Her display ended with her dangling from the beams over the very center of the room.

Suddenly she let go. She fell down from a height of fifteen or sixteen feet. Her long dress flowed upward and gathered around her head. For an instant, before she landed without a sound, she looked like an umbrella turned inside out by the force of the wind; her thin, naked body looked like a stick attached to the dark mass of her dress.

My body felt the impact of her plummeting down, perhaps more than she did herself. She landed in a squat position and remained motionless, trying to catch her breath. I was sprawled out on the floor with painful cramps in my stomach.

La Gorda rolled across the room, took her shawl and tied it around my umbilical region, like a band, looping it around my body two or three times. She rolled back to the south wall like a shadow.

While she had been arranging the shawl around my waist, I had lost sight of Rosa. When I looked up she was again sitting by the north wall. A moment later, Josefina quietly moved to the center of the room. She paced back and forth with noiseless steps, between where Lidia was sitting and her own spot at the west wall. She faced me all the time. Suddenly, as she approached her spot, she raised her left forearm and placed it right in front of her face, as if she wanted to block me from her view. She hid half of her face for an instant behind her forearm. She lowered it and raised it again, that time hiding her entire face. She repeated the movement of lowering and raising her left forearm countless times, as she paced soundlessly from one side of the room to the other. Every time she raised her forearm a bigger portion of her body disappeared from my view.

A moment came when she had hidden her entire body, puffed up with clothes, behind her thin forearm. It was as if by blocking her view of my body, sitting ten to twelve feet away from her, a thing she could have easily done with the width of her forearm, she also made me block the view of her body, a thing which could not possibly be done with just the width of her forearm.

Once she had hidden her entire body, all I was able to make out was a silhouette of a forearm suspended in midair, bouncing from one side of the room to the other, and at one point I could hardly see the arm itself.

I felt a revulsion, an unbearable nausea. The bouncing forearm depleted me of energy. I slid down on my side, unable to keep my balance. I saw the arm falling to the ground. Josefina was lying on the floor covered with garments, as if her puffed-up clothes had exploded. She lay on her back with her arms spread out.

It took a long time to get back my physical balance. My clothes were soaked in perspiration. I was not the only one affected. All of them were exhausted and drenched in sweat. La Gorda was the most poised, but her control seemed to be on the verge of collapsing. I could hear all of them, including la Gorda, breathing through their mouths.

When I was in full control again everybody sat on her spot. The little sisters were looking at me fixedly. I saw out of the corner of my eye that la Gorda’s eyes were half-closed. She suddenly rolled noiselessly to my side and whispered in my ear that I should begin to make my moth call, keeping it up until the allies had rushed into the house and were about to take us.

I had a moment of vacillation. She whispered that there was no way to change directions, and that we had to finish what we had started. After untying her shawl from my waist, she rolled back to her spot and sat down.

I put my left hand to my lips and tried to produce the tapping sound. I found it very difficult at first. My lips were dry and my hands were sweaty, but after an initial clumsiness, a feeling of vigor and well-being came over me. I produced the most flawless tapping noise I had ever done.

It reminded me of the tapping noise I had been hearing all along as a response to mine. As soon as I stopped to breathe, I could hear the tapping sound being answered from all directions. La Gorda signaled me to go on with it. I produced three more series. The last one was utterly mesmeric. I did not need to intake a gulp of air and let it out in small spurts, as I had been doing all along. This time the tapping sound came out of my mouth freely. I did not even have to use the edge of my hand to produce it.

La Gorda suddenly rushed to me, lifted me up bodily by my armpits and pushed me to the middle of the room. Her action disrupted my absolute concentration. I noticed that Lidia was holding onto my right arm, Josefina to my left, and Rosa had backed up against the front of me and was holding me by the waist with her arms extended backward. La Gorda was in back of me.

She ordered me to put my arms behind and grab onto her shawl, which she had looped around her neck and shoulders like a harness.

I noticed at that moment that something besides us was there in the room, but I could not tell what it was. The little sisters were shivering. I knew that they were aware of something which I was unable to distinguish. I also knew that la Gorda was going to try to do what she had done in don Genaro’s house. All of a sudden, I felt the wind of the eye-door pulling us. I grabbed onto la Gorda’s shawl with all my strength while the little sisters grabbed onto me. I felt that we were spinning, tumbling and swaying from side to side like a giant, weightless leaf.

I opened my eyes and saw that we were like a bundle. We were either standing up or we were lying horizontally in the air. I could not tell which because I had no sensorial point of reference. Then, as suddenly as we had been lifted off, we were dropped. I sensed our falling in my midsection. I yelled with pain and my screams were united with those of the little sisters. The insides of my knees hurt. I felt an unbearable jolt on my legs; I thought I must have broken them.

My next impression was that something was getting inside my nose. It was very dark and I was lying on my back. I sat up. I realized then that la Gorda was tickling my nostrils with a twig.

I did not feel exhausted or even mildly tired. I jumped to my feet and only then was I stricken by the realization that we were not in the house. We were on a hill, a rocky, barren hill. I took a step and nearly fell down. I had stumbled over a body. It was Josefina. She was extremely hot to the touch. She seemed to be feverish. I tried to make her sit up, but she was limp. Rosa was next to her. As a contrast, her body was icy cold. I put one on top of the other and rocked them. That motion brought them back to their senses.

La Gorda had found Lidia and was making her walk. After a few minutes, all of us were standing. We were perhaps half a mile east of the house.

Years before don Juan had produced in me a similar experience but with the aid of a psychotropic plant. He seemingly made me fly and I landed a distance from his house. At the time, I had tried to explain the event in rational terms, but there was no ground for rational explanations and, short of accepting that I had flown, I had to fall back onto the only two avenues left open: I could explain it all by arguing that don Juan had transported me to the distant field while I was still unconscious under the effect of the psychotropic alkaloids of that plant; or by arguing that under the influence of the alkaloids I had believed what don Juan was ordering me to believe, that I was flying.

This time I had no other recourse but to brace myself for accepting, on its face value, that I had flown. I wanted to indulge in doubts and began to wonder about the possibilities of the four girls carrying me to that hill. I laughed loudly, incapable of containing an obscure delight. I was having a relapse of my old malady. My reason, which had been blocked off temporarily, was beginning to take hold of me again. I wanted to defend it. Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, in light of the outlandish acts I had witnessed and performed since my arrival, that my reason was defending itself, independently of the more complex whole that seemed to be the “me” I did not know. I was witnessing, almost in the fashion of an interested observer, how my reason struggled to find suitable rationales, while another, much larger portion of me could not have cared less about explaining anything.

La Gorda made the three girls line up. She then pulled me to her side. All of them folded their arms behind their backs. La Gorda made me do the same. She stretched my arms as far back as they would go and then made me bend them and grab each forearm as tightly as possible as close to the elbows as I could. That created a great muscular pressure at the articulations of my shoulders. She pushed my trunk forward until I was almost stooping. Then she made a peculiar birdcall. That was a signal. Lidia started walking. In the darkness her movements reminded me of an ice skater. She walked swiftly and silently and in a few minutes she disappeared from my view.

La Gorda made two more birdcalls, one after the other, and Rosa and Josefina took off in the same manner Lidia had. La Gorda told me to follow close to her. She made one more birdcall and we both started walking.

I was surprised at the ease with which I walked. My entire balance was centered in my legs. The fact that I had my arms behind my back, instead of hindering my movements, aided me in maintaining a strange equilibrium. But above all what surprised me the most was the quietness of my steps.

When we reached the road we began to walk normally. We passed two men going in the opposite direction. La Gorda greeted them and they answered back. When we arrived at the house we found the little sisters standing by the door, not daring to go in. La Gorda told them that although I could not control the allies I could either call them or tell them to leave, and that the allies would not bother us any longer. The girls believed her, something I myself could not do in that instance.

We went inside. In a very quiet and efficient manner all of them undressed, drenched themselves with cold water and put on a fresh change of clothes. I did the same. I put on the old clothes I used to keep in don Juan’s house, which la Gorda brought to me in a box.

All of us were in high spirits. I asked la Gorda to explain to me what we had done.

“We’ll talk about that later,” she said in a firm tone.

I remembered then that the packages I had for them were still in the car. I thought that while la Gorda was cooking some food for us it would be a good opportunity to distribute them. I went out and got them and brought them into the house. I placed them on the table. Lidia asked me if I had already assigned the gifts as she had suggested. I said that I wanted them to pick one they liked.

She declined. She said that no doubt I had something special for Pablito and Nestor and a bunch of trinkets for them, which I would throw on the table with the intention that they fight over them.

“Besides, you didn’t bring anything for Benigno,” Lidia said as she came to my side and looked at me with mock seriousness. “You can’t hurt the Genaros’ feelings by giving two gifts for three.”

They all laughed. I felt embarrassed. She was absolutely right in everything that she had said.

“You are careless, that’s why I’ve never liked you,” Lidia said to me, changing her smile into a frown. “You have never greeted me with affection or respect. Every time we saw each other you only pretended to be happy to see me.”

She imitated my obviously contrived effusive greeting, a greeting I must have given her countless times in the past.

“Why didn’t you ever ask me what I was doing here?” Lidia asked me.

I stopped writing to consider her point. It had never occurred to me to ask her anything. I told her that I had no excuse. La Gorda interceded and said that the reason that I had never said more than two words to either Lidia or Rosa each time I saw them was because I was accustomed to talking only to women that I was enamored of, in one way or another. La Gorda added that the Nagual had told them that if I would ask them anything directly they were supposed to answer my questions, but as long as I did not ask, they were not supposed to mention anything.

Rosa said that she did not like me because I was always laughing and trying to be funny.

Josefina added that since I had never seen her, she disliked me just for fun, for the hell of it.

“I want you to know that I don’t accept you as the Nagual,” Lidia said to me. “You’re too dumb. You know nothing. I know more than you do. How can I respect you?”

Lidia added that as far as she was concerned I could go back where I came from or go jump in a lake for that matter.

Rosa and Josefina did not say a word. Judging by the serious and mean expressions on their faces, however, they seemed to agree with Lidia.

“How can this man lead us?” Lidia asked la Gorda. “He’s not a true nagual. He’s a man. He’s going to make us into idiots like himself.”

As she was talking I could see the mean expressions on Rosa’s and Josefina’s faces getting even harder.

La Gorda intervened and explained to them what she had “seen” earlier about me. She added that since she had recommended to me not to get entangled in their webs, she was recommending the same thing to them, not to get entangled in mine.

After Lidia’s initial display of genuine and well-founded animosity, I was flabbergasted to see how easily she acquiesced to la Gorda’s remarks. She smiled at me. She even came and sat next to me.

“You’re really like us, eh?” she asked in a tone of bewilderment.

I did not know what to say. I was afraid of blundering.

Lidia was obviously the leader of the little sisters. The moment she smiled at me the other two seemed to be infused instantly with the same mood.

La Gorda told them not to mind my pencil and paper and my asking questions and that in return I would not be flustered when they became involved in doing what they loved the most, to indulge in themselves.

The three of them sat close to me. La Gorda walked over to the table, got the packages and took them out to my car. I asked Lidia to forgive me for my inexcusable blunderings of the past and asked all of them to tell me how they had become don Juan’s apprentices. In order to make  them feel at ease I gave them an account of how I had met don Juan. Their accounts were the same as what dona Soledad had already told me.

Lidia said that all of them had been free to leave don Juan’s world but their choice had been to stay. She, in particular, being the first apprentice, was given an opportunity to go away. After the Nagual and Genaro had cured her, the Nagual had pointed to the door and told her that if she did not go through it then, the door would close her in and would never open again.

“My fate was sealed when that door closed,” Lidia said to me. “Just like what happened to you. The Nagual told me that after he had put a patch on you, you had a chance to leave but you didn’t want to take it.”

I remembered that particular decision more vividly than anything else. I recounted to them how don Juan had tricked me into believing that a sorceress was after him, and then he gave me the choice of either leaving for good or staying to help him wage a war against his attacker. It turned out that his alleged attacker was one of his confederates. By confronting her, on what I thought was don Juan’s behalf, I turned her against me and she became what he called my “worthy opponent.”

I asked Lidia if they had had a worthy opponent themselves.

“We are not as dumb as you are,” she said. “We never needed anyone to spur us.”

“Pablito is that dumb,” Rosa said. “Soledad is his opponent. I don’t know how worthy she is, though. But as the saying goes, if you can’t feed on a capon, feed on an onion.”

They laughed and banged on the table.

I asked them if any of them knew the sorceress don Juan had pitted me against, la Catalina. They shook their heads negatively.

“I know her,” la Gorda said from the stove. “She’s from the Nagual’s cycle, but she looks as if she’s thirty.”

“What is a cycle, Gorda?” I asked.

She walked over to the table and put her foot on the bench and rested her chin on her arm and knee.

“Sorcerers like the Nagual and Genaro have two cycles,” she said. “The first is when they’re human, like ourselves. We are in our first cycle. Each of us has been given a task and that task is making us leave the human form. Eligio, the five of us, and the Genaros are of the same cycle.

“The second cycle is when a sorcerer is not human anymore, like the Nagual and Genaro. They came to teach us, and after they taught us they left. We are the second cycle to them.”

“The Nagual and la Catalina are like you and Lidia. They are in the same positions. She’s a scary sorceress, just like Lidia.”

La Gorda went back to the stove. The little sisters seemed nervous.

“That must be the woman who knows power plants,” Lidia said to la Gorda.

La Gorda said that she was the one. I asked them if the Nagual had ever given them power plants.

“No, not to us three,” Lidia replied. “Power plants are given only to empty people. Like yourself and la Gorda.”

“Did the Nagual give you power plants, Gorda?” I asked loudly.

La Gorda raised two fingers over her head.

“The Nagual gave her his pipe twice,” Lidia said. “And she went off her rocker both times.”

“What happened, Gorda?” I asked.

“I went off my rocker,” she said as she walked over to the table. “Power plants were given to use because the Nagual was putting a patch on our bodies. Mine hooked fast, but yours was difficult. The Nagual said that you were crazier than Josefina, and impossible like Lidia, and he had to give you a lot of them.”

La Gorda explained that power plants were used only by sorcerers who had mastered their art. Those plants were such a powerful affair that in order to be properly handled, the most impeccable attention was needed on the part of the sorcerer. It took a lifetime to train one’s attention to the degree needed. La Gorda said that complete people do not need power plants, and that neither the little sisters nor the Genaros had ever taken them, but that someday when they had perfected their art as dreamers, they would use them to get a final and total boost, a boost of such magnitude that it would be impossible for us to understand.

“Would you and I take them too?” I asked la Gorda.

“All of us,” she replied. “The Nagual said that you should understand this point better than any of us.”

I considered the issue for a moment. The effect of psychotropic plants had indeed been terrifying for me. They seemed to reach a vast reservoir in me, and extract from it a total world. The drawback in taking them had been the toll they took on my physical well-being and the impossibility of controlling their effect. The world they plunged me into was unamenable and chaotic. I lacked the control, the power, in don Juan’s terms, to make use of such a world. If I would have the control, however, the possibilities would be staggering to the mind.

“I took them, myself,” Josefina said all of a sudden. “When I was crazy the Nagual gave me his pipe, to cure me or kill me. And it cured me! “

“The Nagual really gave Josefina his smoke,” la Gorda said from the stove and then came over to the table. “He knew that she was pretending to be crazier than she was. She’s always been a bit off, and she’s very daring and indulges in herself like no one else. She always wanted to live where nobody would bother her and she could do whatever she wanted. So the Nagual gave her his smoke and took her to live in a world of her liking for fourteen days, until she was so bored with it that she got cured. She cut her indulging. That was her cure.”

La Gorda went back to the stove. The little sisters laughed and patted one another on the back. I remembered then that at dona Soledad’s house Lidia had not only intimated that don Juan had left a package for me but she had actually shown me a bundle that had made me think of the sheath in which don Juan used to keep his pipe. I reminded Lidia that she had said that they would give me that package when la Gorda was present.

The little sisters looked at one another and then turned to la Gorda. She made a gesture with her head. Josefina stood up and went to the front room. She returned a moment later with the bundle that Lidia had shown me.

I had a pang of anticipation in the pit of my stomach. Josefina carefully placed the bundle on the table in front of me. All of them gathered around. She began to untie it as ceremoniously as Lidia had done the first time. When the package was completely unwrapped, she spilled the contents on the table. They were menstruation rags.

I got flustered for an instant. But the sound of la Gorda’s laughter, which was louder than the others’, was so pleasing that I had to laugh myself.

“That’s Josefina’s personal bundle,” la Gorda said. “It was her brilliant idea to play on your greed for a gift from the Nagual, in order to make you stay.”

“You have to admit that it was a good idea,” Lidia said to me.

She imitated the look of greed I had on my face when she was opening the package and then my look of disappointment when she did not finish.

I told Josefina that her idea had indeed been brilliant, that it had worked as she had anticipated, and that I had wanted that package more than I would care to admit.

“You can have it, if you want it,” Josefina said and made everybody laugh.

La Gorda said that the Nagual had known from the beginning that Josefina was not really ill, and that that was the reason it had been so difficult for him to cure her. People who are actually sick are more pliable. Josefina was too aware of everything and very unruly and he had had to smoke her a great many times.

Don Juan had once said the same thing about me, that he had smoked me. I had always believed that he was referring to having used psychotropic mushrooms to have a view of me.

“How did he smoke you?” I asked Josefina.

She shrugged her shoulders and did not answer.

“The same way he smoked you,” Lidia said. “He pulled your luminosity and dried it with the

smoke from a fire that he had made.”

I was sure that don Juan had never explained such a thing to me. I asked Lidia to tell me what she knew about the subject. She turned to la Gorda.

“Smoke is very important for sorcerers,” la Gorda said. “Smoke is like fog. Fog is of course better, but it’s too hard to handle. It’s not as handy as smoke is. So if a sorcerer wants to see and know someone who is always hiding, like you and Josefina, who are capricious and difficult, the sorcerer makes a fire and lets the smoke envelop the person. Whatever they’re hiding comes out in the smoke.”

La Gorda said that the Nagual used smoke not only to “see” and know people but also to cure. He gave Josefina smoke baths; he made her stand or sit by the fire in the direction the wind was blowing. The smoke would envelop her and make her choke and cry, but her discomfort was only temporary and of no consequence; the positive effects, on the other hand, were a gradual cleansing of the luminosity.

“The Nagual gave all of us smoke baths,” la Gorda said. “He gave you even more baths than Josefina. He said that you were unbearable, and you were not even pretending, like she was.”

It all became clear to me. She was right; don Juan had made me sit in front of a fire hundreds of times. The smoke used to irritate my throat and eyes to such a degree that I dreaded to see him begin to gather dry twigs and branches. He said that I had to learn to control my breathing and feel the smoke while I kept my eyes closed; that way I could breathe without choking.

La Gorda said that smoke had helped Josefina to be ethereal and very elusive, and that no doubt it had helped me to cure my madness, whatever it was.

“The Nagual said that smoke takes everything out of you,” la Gorda went on. “It makes you clear and direct.”

I asked her if she knew how to bring out with the smoke whatever a person was hiding. She said that she could easily do it because of having lost her form, but that the little sisters and the Genaros, although they had seen the Nagual and Genaro do it scores of times, could not yet do it themselves.

I was curious to know why don Juan had never mentioned the subject to me, in spite of the fact that he had smoked me like dry fish hundreds of times.

“He did,” la Gorda said with her usual conviction. “The Nagual even taught you fog gazing. He told us that once you smoked a whole place in the mountains and saw what was hiding behind the scenery. He said that he was spellbound himself.”

I remembered an exquisite perceptual distortion, a hallucination of sorts, which I had had and thought was the product of a play between a most dense fog and an electrical storm that was occurring at the same time. I narrated to them the episode and added that don Juan had never really directly taught me anything about the fog or the smoke. His procedure had been to build fires or to take me into fog banks.

La Gorda did not say a word. She stood up and went back to the stove. Lidia shook her head and clicked her tongue.

“You sure are dumb,” she said. “The Nagual taught you everything. How do you think you saw what you have just told us about?”

There was an abyss between our understanding of how to teach something. I told them that if I were to teach them something I knew, such as how to drive a car, I would go step by step, making sure that they understood every facet of the whole procedure.

La Gorda returned to the table.

“That’s only if the sorcerer is teaching something about the tonal,” she said. “When the sorcerer is dealing with the nagual, he must give the instruction, which is to show the mystery to the warrior. And that’s all he has to do. The warrior who receives the mysteries must claim knowledge as power, by doing what he has been shown.”

“The Nagual showed you more mysteries than all of us together. But you’re lazy, like Pablito, and prefer to be confused. The tonal and the nagual are two different worlds. In one you talk, in the other you act.”

At the moment she spoke, her words made absolute sense to me. I knew what she was talking about. She went back to the stove, stirred something in a pot and came back again.

“Why are you so dumb?” Lidia bluntly asked me.

“He’s empty,” Rosa replied.

They made me stand up and forced themselves to squint as they scanned my body with their eyes. All of them touched my umbilical region.

“But why are you still empty?” Lidia asked.

“You know what to do, don’t you?” Rosa added.

“He was crazy,” Josefina said to them. “He must still be crazy now.”

La Gorda came to my aid and told them that I was still empty for the same reason they still had their form. All of us secretly did not want the world of the nagual. We were afraid and had second thoughts. In short, none of us was better than Pablito.

They did not say a word. All three of them seemed thoroughly embarrassed.

“Poor little Nagual,” Lidia said to me with a tone of genuine concern. “You’re as scared as we are. I pretend to be tough, Josefina pretends to be crazy, Rosa pretends to be ill-tempered and you pretend to be dumb.”

They laughed, and for the first time since I had arrived they made a gesture of comradeship toward me. They embraced me and put their heads against mine.

La Gorda sat facing me and the little sisters sat around her. I was facing all four of them.

“Now we can talk about what happened tonight,” la Gorda said. “The Nagual told me that if we survived the last contact with the allies we wouldn’t be the same. The allies did something to us tonight. They have hurled us away.”

She gently touched my writing hand.

“Tonight was a special night for you,” she went on. “Tonight all of us pitched in to help you, including the allies. The Nagual would have liked it. Tonight you saw all the way through.”

“I did?” I asked.

“There you go again,” Lidia said, and everybody laughed.

“Tell me about my seeing, Gorda,” I insisted. “You know that I’m dumb. There should be no misunderstandings between us.”

“All right,” she said. “I see what you mean. Tonight you saw the little sisters.”

I said to them that I had also witnessed incredible acts performed by don Juan and don Genaro. I had seen them as plainly as I had seen the little sisters and yet don Juan and don Genaro had always concluded that I had not seen. I failed, therefore, to determine in what way could the acts of the little sisters be different.

“You mean you didn’t see how they were holding onto the lines of the world?” She asked.

“No, I didn’t.”

“You didn’t see them slipping through the crack between the worlds?”

I narrated to them what I had witnessed. They listened in silence. At the end of my account la Gorda seemed to be on the verge of tears.

“What a pity!” she exclaimed.

She stood up and walked around the table and embraced me. Her eyes were clear and restful. I knew she bore no malice toward me.

“It’s our fate that you are plugged up like this,” she said. “But you’re still the Nagual to us. I won’t hinder you with ugly thoughts. You can at least be assured of that.”

I knew that she meant it. She was speaking to me from a level that I had witnessed only in don Juan. She had repeatedly explained her mood as the product of having lost her human form; she was indeed a formless warrior. A wave of profound affection for her enveloped me. I was about to weep. It was at the instant that I felt she was a most marvelous warrior that quite an intriguing thing happened to me. The closest way of describing it would be to say that I felt that my ears had suddenly popped. Except that I felt the popping in the middle of my body, right below my navel, more acutely than in my ears. Right after the popping everything became clearer; sounds, sights, odors. Then I felt an intense buzzing, which oddly enough did not interfere with my hearing capacity; the buzzing was loud but did not drown out any other sounds. It was as if I were hearing the buzzing with some part of me other than my ears. A hot flash went through my body. And then I suddenly recalled something I had never seen. It was as though an alien memory had taken possession of me.

I remembered Lidia pulling herself from two horizontal, reddish ropes as she walked on the wall. She was not really walking; she was actually gliding on a thick bundle of lines that she held with her feet. I remembered seeing her panting with her mouth open, from the exertion of pulling the reddish ropes. The reason I could not hold my balance at the end of her display was because I was seeing her as a light that went around the room so fast that it made me dizzy; it pulled me from the area around my navel.

I remembered Rosa’s actions and Josefina’s as well. Rosa had actually brachiated, with her left arm holding onto long, vertical, reddish fibers that looked like vines dropping from the dark roof. With her right arm she was also holding some vertical fibers that seemed to give her stability. She also held onto the same fibers with her toes. Toward the end of her display she was like a phosphorescence on the roof. The lines of her body had been erased.

Josefina was hiding herself behind some lines that seemed to come out of the floor. What she was doing with her raised forearm was moving the lines together to give them the necessary width to conceal her bulk. Her puffed-up clothes were a great prop; they had somehow contracted her luminosity. The clothes were bulky only for the eye that looked. At the end of her display Josefina, like Lidia and Rosa, was just a patch of light. I could switch from one recollection to the other in my mind.

When I told them about my concurrent memories the little sisters looked at me bewildered. La Gorda was the only one who seemed to be following what was happening to me. She laughed with true delight and said that the Nagual was right in saying that I was too lazy to remember what I had “seen”; therefore, I only bothered with what I had looked at.

Is it possible, I thought to myself, that I am unconsciously selecting what I recall? Or is it la Gorda who is creating all this? If it was true that I had selected my recall at first and then released what I had censored, then it also had to be true that I must have perceived much more of don Juan’s and don Genaro’s actions, and yet I could only recall a selective part of my total perception of those events.

“It’s hard to believe,” I said to la Gorda, “that I can remember now something I didn’t remember at all a while ago.”

“The Nagual said that everyone can see, and yet we choose not to remember what we see,” she said. “Now I understand how right he was. All of us can see; some, more than others.”

I told la Gorda that some part of me knew that I had found then a transcendental key. A missing piece had been handed down to me by all of them. But it was difficult to discern what it was. She announced that she had just “seen” that I had practiced a good deal of “dreaming,” and that I had developed my attention, and yet I was fooled by my own appearance of not knowing anything.

“I’ve been trying to tell you about attention,” she proceeded, “but you know as much as we do about it.”

I assured her that my knowledge was intrinsically different from theirs; theirs was infinitely more spectacular than mine. Anything they might say to me in relation to their practices, therefore, was a bonus to me.

“The Nagual told us to show you that with our attention we can hold the images of a dream in the same way we hold the images of the world,” la Gorda said. “The art of the dreamer is the art of attention.”

Thoughts came down on me like a landslide. I had to stand up and walk around the kitchen. I sat down again. We remained quiet for a long time. I knew what she had meant when she said that the art of dreamers was the art of attention. I knew then that don Juan had told me and showed me everything he could. I had not been able, however, to realize the premises of his knowledge in my body while he was around. He had said that my reason was the demon that kept me chained, and that I had to vanquish it if I wanted to achieve the realization of his teachings.

The issue, therefore, had been how to vanquish my reason. It had never occurred to me to press him for a definition of what he meant by reason. I presumed all along that he meant the capacity for comprehending, inferring or thinking, in an orderly, rational way. From what la Gorda had said, I knew that to him reason meant attention.

Don Juan said that the core of our being was the act of perceiving, and that the magic of our being was the act of awareness. For him perception and awareness were a single, functional, inextricable unit, a unit which had two domains. The first one was the “attention of the tonal”; that is to say, the capacity of average people to perceive and place their awareness on the ordinary world of everyday life. Don Juan also called this form of attention our “first ring of power,” and described it as our awesome but taken-for-granted ability to impart order to our perception of our daily world.

The second domain was the “attention of the nagual”; that is to say, the capacity of sorcerers to place their awareness on the non-ordinary world. He called this domain of attention the “second ring of power,” or the altogether portentous ability that all of us have, but only sorcerers use, to impart order to the non-ordinary world.

La Gorda and the little sisters, in demonstrating to me that the art of dreamers was to hold the images of their dreams with their attention, had brought in the pragmatic aspect of don Juan’s scheme. They were the practitioners who had gone beyond the theoretical aspect of his teachings.

In order to give me a demonstration of that art, they had to make use of their “second ring of power,” or the “attention of the nagual.” In order for me to witness their art, I had to do the same. In fact it was evident that I had placed my attention on both domains. Perhaps all of us are continually perceiving in both fashions but choose to isolate one for recollection and discard the other or perhaps we file it away, as I myself had done. Under certain conditions of stress or acquiescence, the censored memory surfaces and we can then have two distinct memories of one event.

What don Juan had struggled to vanquish, or rather suppress in me, was not my reason as the capacity for rational thought, but my “attention of the tonal,” or my awareness of the world of common sense. His motive for wanting me to do so was explained by la Gorda when she said that the daily world exists because we know how to hold its images; consequently, if one drops the attention needed to maintain those images, the world collapses.

“The Nagual told us that practice is what counts,” la Gorda said suddenly. “Once you get your attention on the images of your dream, your attention is hooked for good. In the end you can be like Genaro, who could hold the images of any dream.”

“We each have five other dreams,” Lidia said. “But we showed you the first one because that was the dream the Nagual gave us.”

“Can all of you go into dreaming any time you want?” I asked.

“No,” la Gorda replied. “Dreaming takes too much power. None of us has that much power. The reason the little sisters had to roll on the floor so many times was that in rolling the earth was giving them energy. Maybe you could also remember seeing them as luminous beings getting energy from the light of the earth. The Nagual said that the best way of getting energy is, of course, to let the sun inside the eyes, especially the left eye.”

I told her that I knew nothing about it, and she described a procedure that don Juan had taught them. As she spoke I remembered that don Juan had also taught the same procedure to me. It consisted in moving my head slowly from side to side as I caught the sunlight with my half-closed left eye. He said that one could not only use the sun but could use any kind of light that could shine on the eyes.

La Gorda said that the Nagual had recommended that they tie their shawls below their waists in order to protect their hipbones when they rolled.

I commented that don Juan had never mentioned rolling to me. She said that only women could roll because they had wombs and energy came directly into their wombs; by rolling around they distributed that energy over the rest of their bodies. In order for a man to be energized he had to be on his back, with his knees bent so that the soles of his feet touched each other. His arms had to be extended laterally, with his forearms raised vertically, and the fingers clawed in an upright position.

“We have been dreaming those dreams for years,” Lidia said. “Those dreams are our best, because our attention is complete. In the other dreams that we have, our attention is still shaky.”

La Gorda said that holding the images of dreams was a Toltec art. After years of consuming practice each one of them was able to perform one act in any dream. Lidia could walk on anything, Rosa could dangle from anything, Josefina could hide behind anything and she herself could fly. But they were only beginners, apprentices of the art. They had complete attention for only one activity. She added that Genaro was the master of “dreaming” and could turn the tables around and have attention for as many activities as we have in our daily life, and that for him the two domains of attention had the same value.

I felt compelled to ask them my usual question: I had to know their procedures, how they held the images of their dreams.

“You know that as well as we do,” la Gorda said. “The only thing I can say is that after going to the same dream over and over, we began to feel the lines of the world. They helped us to do what you saw us doing.”

Don Juan had said that our “first ring of power” is engaged very early in our lives and that we live under the impression that that is all there is to us. Our “second ring of power,” the “attention of the nagual,” remains hidden for the immense majority of us, and only at the moment of our death is it revealed to us. There is a pathway to reach it, however, which is available to every one of us, but which only sorcerers take, and that pathway is through “dreaming.” “Dreaming” was in essence the transformation of ordinary dreams into affairs involving volition. Dreamers, by engaging their “attention of the nagual” and focusing it on the items and events of their ordinary dreams, change those dreams into “dreaming.”

Don Juan said that there were no procedures to arrive at the attention of the nagual. He only gave me pointers. Finding my hands in my dreams was the first pointer; then the exercise of paying attention was elongated to finding objects, looking for specific features, such as buildings, streets and so on. From there the jump was to “dreaming” about specific places at specific times of the day. The final stage was drawing the “attention of the nagual” to focus on the total self.

Don Juan said that that final stage was usually ushered in by a dream that many of us have had at one time or another, in which one is looking at oneself sleeping in bed. By the time a sorcerer has had such a dream, his attention has been developed to such a degree that instead of waking himself up, as most of us would do in a similar situation, he turns on his heels and engages himself in activity, as if he were acting in the world of everyday life. From that moment on there is a breakage, a division of sorts in the otherwise unified personality. The result of engaging the “attention of the nagual” and developing it to the height and sophistication of our daily attention of the world was, in don Juan’s scheme, the other self, an identical being as oneself, but made in “dreaming.”

Don Juan had told me that there are no definite standard steps for reaching that double, as there are no definite steps for us to reach our daily awareness. We simply do it by practicing. He contended that in the act of engaging our “attention of the nagual,” we would find the steps. He urged me to practice “dreaming” without letting my fears make it into an encumbering production.

He had done the same with la Gorda and the little sisters, but obviously something in them had made them more receptive to the idea of another level of attention.

“Genaro was in his body of dreaming most of the time,” la Gorda said. “He liked it better. That’s why he could do the weirdest things and scare you half to death. Genaro could go in and out of the crack between the worlds like you and I can go in and out a door.”

Don Juan had also talked to me at great length about the crack between the worlds. I had always believed that he was talking in a metaphorical sense about a subtle division between the world that the average man perceives and the world that sorcerers perceive.

La Gorda and the little sisters had shown me that the crack between the worlds was more than a metaphor. It was rather the capacity to change levels of attention. One part of me understood la Gorda perfectly, while another part of me was more frightened than ever.

“You have been asking where the Nagual and Genaro went,” la Gorda said. “Soledad was very blunt and told you that they went to the other world; Lidia told you they left this area; the Genaros were stupid and scared you. The truth is that the Nagual and Genaro went through that crack.”

For some reason, undefinable to me, her statements plunged me into profound chaos. I had felt all along that they had left for good. I knew that they had not left in an ordinary sense, but I had kept that feeling in the realm of a metaphor. Although I had even voiced it to close friends, I think I never really believed it myself. In the depths of me I had always been a rational man. But la Gorda and the little sisters had turned my obscure metaphors into real possibilities. La Gorda had actually transported us half a mile with the energy of her “dreaming.”

La Gorda stood up and said that I had understood everything, and that it was time for us to eat. She served us the food that she had cooked. I did not feel like eating. At the end of the meal she stood up and came to my side.

“I think it’s time for you to leave,” she said to me.

That seemed to be a cue for the little sisters. They also stood up.

“If you stay beyond this moment, you won’t be able to leave anymore,” la Gorda went on.

“The Nagual gave you freedom once, but you chose to stay with him. He told me that if we all survive the last contact with the allies I should feed all of you, make you feel good and then say good-bye to all of you. I figure that the little sisters and myself have no place to go, so there is no choice for us. But you are different.”

The little sisters surrounded me and each said good-bye to me.

There was a monstrous irony in that situation. I was free to leave but I had no place to go. There was no choice for me, either. Years before don Juan gave me a chance to back out, I stayed because already then I had no place to go.

“We choose only once,” he had said then. “We choose either to be warriors or to be ordinary men. A second choice does not exist. Not on this earth.”

***

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