(The Universal Spider Web by Armando Torres)
Don Melchor frequently insisted that I should go to look for a direct encounter with the spirit. The truth is that, at that time, I took his demands as metaphors. What else could they be? He must have gotten tired of my slowness because one day, giving me a shove and pointing to the mountains, he said that I had to go out and walk, and that I shouldn’t return until having encountered it.
I made the preparations and I set out on my trek. I went toward the lowest hills. I really didn’t know what to do; I just kept walking without a fixed destination. It was an excessively hot day. The sound of the cicadas filled the air. I found an alcove in a rock wall to pass the night. I spent several days wandering, without success, up in the mountains, while at night I always returned to that same recess; it felt secure there.
I had already finished my rations; the last two days, I had only eaten some wild fruit and drunk water from puddles. I was tired and wanted to return, but I didn’t dare disobey, so I resigned myself to my destiny.
As soon as I relaxed, I felt much better. An unexpected optimism came over me; I was deliberating what to do next when a man appeared literally out of thin air. The appearance was so abrupt that I didn’t have time to react. The man said to me without further explanation that I had already found what I was looking for, and that I should return to the house; then he took two or three steps into the vegetation and disappeared as uncannily as he had arrived. I looked for him among the overgrowth, but there was nobody there. I remembered about the magic with the cards.
I started my journey back. As I walked along, I pondered the stranger’s appearance, and I was eager to tell don Melchor what had happened; I wanted to know his opinion. It was already mid-afternoon when I entered the dusty street that led to the town. Beside a gutter of leftover rainwater, there were some muddied children playing with a red plastic ball.
I took the detour that led to the house of the healers, and as I approached, I immediately noticed that something was happening there. I saw everybody crowded inside the kitchen; in fact I couldn’t even go in, so I put my haversack aside and I stayed there looking through the window from the outside. As I looked, I had to make an effort to see inside because the contrast between the sunlight and the internal dimness was too much for my eyes. Among the heads of the others, I distinguished a strange man, seated and chatting with the abuelos, and around them there were the other partners.
I was shocked when I realized that the stranger was the same man I had seen in the middle of the mountains. He was a hefty Indian of copper color, almost black, wearing two braids in the style of the ancients. He seemed not to be more than fifty years old; he was dressed as a peasant and irradiated an unusual energy.
I thought that it had been a stroke of luck to have stayed outside, since from there, I had the best view of everything that was happening. Whispering, I asked the associate who was closest to me on the inside who that man was.
“That’s Shaak’Atl,” he answered, also whispering. When I heard that name, my hair bristled, my bowels contracted, and my ears began to buzz. I could hardly believe what he said.
I looked at him with a mixture of astonishment and scepticism, but there he was, in front of my own eyes, in flesh and bone. I felt frankly overwhelmed; my mind bubbled with the memories of all I had been told about Shaak’atl.
They said that he was a sorcerer who lived in very remote times; in fact, there was a whole collection of stories about him. They say that being the impeccable warrior that he was, he managed to fuse consciously with the source of everything. They said that this was how he became the traveler of the infinite, a free being who was no longer subject to the limitations of time and space.
I loved hearing those tales of power, but the truth is that I took them as something very distant from my reality. I believed that they were mere fables told to exemplify the warrior’s fight to achieve the connection with intent. To see him there chatting with the abuelos was something that I’d never expected! In the beginning, they spoke in Nahuatl, but later they began to speak in Spanish. He certainly had a very idiosyncratic way of speaking that’s difficult to describe.
For example, when saying “I offer you a word,” he joined his fingers, pointed to his mouth, and then opened the hand to the front. Or how he touched his eyes with his index fingers, and said pointing to the horizon, “These eyes, they have seen eternity.” In this way, adding gestures to the words, he told us his stories.
His way of speaking possessed an elegant accent similar maybe to how noblemen spoke in the past. Among his narrations, he told us that on one of his journeys, he met some very strange beings that had something like a crest that grew on the back of their necks, very similarly to how the fingernails or hair grow on the humans. He said that, in the same way, those beings were also deeply concerned about their appearance; they dedicated a lot of time to cutting and filing their protuberances that, among them, were a distinguishing characteristic of social class. Some kept their crests so short that they were hardly noticeable, while others had them long and even painted them in the way that was then in style.
He also told us about other beings that he described as night entities. He said that they lacked eyes, but that they could see as well as anyone. According to him, those beings resembled a type of pachyderm, although they had scales like snakes. He added that they were very introspective and that they lived in almost absolute silence, and when they talked, they communicated directly into each other’s heads, so they rarely emitted sounds. He described them as magnificent dreamers that passed most of their existence in dream voyages.
While he spoke, perhaps he felt my mistrust, because looking directly in my direction he said, “I come to visit from eternity, where today and yesterday mix with tomorrow.”
When I heard that I felt a chill because I knew what it meant: we were in front of an incredible being, a man that personified intent, or perhaps I should say that we were being visited by intent itself in the body of a man.
It cost me a lot of effort to remember the sequence of events that took place. Over the years, I felt a strange sensation; it was as if I had a plug in my head that prevented the free flow of memory. Maybe I could compare it to an annoying cold that never ends, and after a while, one comes to learn how to live with it.
Just as a seed that had stayed dormant for a long time, one day suddenly becomes a blossom opening up to the light of the sun, a memory flourished in my mind. It began as a vague memory, but the light inside my head got more and more intense until it clarified the scene completely.
I saw myself back again looking from the window, while Shaak’Atl told his stories. At a certain moment he made a sign for me to come closer; instead of going through the door, I entered by the lower window and I walked directly toward him. From my point of view, at that moment everything happened like in a dream.
He gave me his hand to greet me and, in the following instant, when I gained awareness, I saw that we were standing, contemplating a solitary beach. At the beginning, I thought it was a vision, but suddenly I felt the hot sand under my feet; that was a shock that brought me back to reality – but which reality? My perception was that in a blink of an eye, we had flown a long distance, from the house of the healers to that lonely beach. On his signal we climbed up a small hill; there was a space up there that seemed to have been prepared beforehand.
We sat down on some stones that conveniently served as seats; there was a constant breeze that blew on the swaying palms, which provided us with a very pleasant shade. The view was beautiful. I have the impression that we passed an eternity there, but even to this day I’m hard- pressed to recall some of the memories of that event. At a certain moment, I watched as some ships appeared on the horizon.
Gesturing with his chin, he said that those were the Spanish conquerors that were just arriving. It was then that I realized that he had not only transported me in space, but also in time. He commented that he had brought me to this specific moment to fulfill my desire. At that moment, I didn’t know what he was talking about; it must have taken years to remember a fortuitous event: it had happened when I was making small talk with a stranger on a bus trip.
In the middle of the conversation, he asked me, if I could go back in time, what I would choose to see? Without thinking about it, and just for the sake of giving an answer, I told him that I would have liked to have witnessed the arrival of the conquerors to the New World. I never believed that that conversation had any transcendency; however, at that precise moment, the infinite was listening in on us.
From where we were, we had a privileged view. I saw how they disembarked from their ships, the first soldiers struggling against the waves, and they pulled the ships toward the beach; then the commanders went ashore and, after them, the friars. It attracted my attention when one of them knelt down to kiss the earth; then they quickly set up a cross in the sand, where they celebrated a mass.
Soon after that, he took me by the arm and immediately we were back. We were walking on a road that was very well known to me. The clear light of the moon provided enough light to see all the surroundings, but suddenly, I no longer knew where we were; something was wrong. I could recognize the mountains, but everything else was changed; in fact, it was no longer night. I got scared, but Shaak’Atl told me as if nothing had happened that I shouldn’t worry. His words had such an immediate soothing effect that in a normal situation I would have wondered about it.
There were some naked, very clean kids playing with a ball, apparently made of cloth and fiber. He said that he had brought me to his house. I looked around; judging by the hills, we were obviously in the same town, but what I saw was a primitive village. There were people in rough, hand-made attire; they had paintings and indigenous embroideries, and looked at us with curiosity.
He invited me to enter one of the shacks. I asked him where we were, and he answered that it was not where but when. He said that this was his original house back when he still lived in this world. He commented in a tone that I found ironic that it had already been a long time since he came to visit, and yet the house didn’t seem abandoned. In the middle of the room, there was a place for the fire; it seemed that something was cooking there, and, beside it, there was a water basin carved in the volcanic rock.
We sat down on some mats that apparently were made of aquatic reeds, and then, as if it was nothing, he told me something extraordinary: “Past and future don’t exist; the only thing that exists is an eternal present, where absolutely everything is taking place here and now. For example, according to your reckoning, I left this stew cooking here for more than two thousand years, and yet here we are, just in time.”
I felt confused and didn’t know what to think of his statement. He got up, stirred the pot made of mud with a stick, and served two bowls of soup. I noticed that the bowls were made out of pumpkin shells cut in half. We ate; I found the soup very real; however, I didn’t feel myself, at least not in the way that I’m used to feeling.
After we finished eating, I tried to revive the topic, asking him how it was all possible.
To explain, he answered with what one could categorize as mathematical equations although I didn’t recognize any of the symbols and diagrams that he drew with a stick in a handful of ashes that he spread on the floor of rammed earth.
Suddenly, we were back in the house. He took my hand as if to greet me. At that moment, from my point of view, my interaction with him had lasted only the length of a handshake. Today I know that so much more took place; however, it took many years to be able to remember it all.
At first, I thought I was the only one who had undergone such an experience; however, after hearing what my partners had to say, I realized, that he had taken each one of us separately. One of my fellows almost died from the impact of remembering it. He related that, according to his perception, he had been with the traveler for more than thirty years and that he had almost already forgotten his previous life.
That day, just as he had come, Shaak’Atl simply vanished into thin air; from our point of view, his visit had not taken more than a moment. It was truly a great shock for all of us to remember that not only did we know him well, but that we were intimately bound to him; for all of us, he was another member of the family.
I felt stunned. The clarity of the memory was such that it was as if it had just happened; the reality of my forgetfulness was still fresh in my mind. I shuddered to think about that; I felt fragmented. I asked don Melchor how it was possible to have forgotten what had happened to me with the traveler so completely. He told me:
“We have two kinds of memory: one is a physical- chemical process that generates electric currents inside our brain; that one is a superficial memory that has to be ratified continually in order to become an effective memory.
The other one is a total memory that is kept automatically in diverse parts of the physical and energetic body. Our energy body records everything that happens, twenty-four hours a day, including when we’re sleeping. Even the small details that we don’t usually pay attention to are recorded in the lived moment. To recover that kind of unconventional memory, all you have to do is return the assemblage point to the same position where it was when the events took place.”
“In your case, the traveler made an artificial plug. He prepared the intensity of the experience as a dam, so that, in due time and under certain conditions, it was ruptured and the memory was made available. If he hadn’t prepared you in that way, it’s very possible that you would never have remembered anything of what happened to you.”
I was amazed at the thought that segments of the memory were so isolated from each other, perhaps as if they were stars in the firmament. Some time later, he referred to the strange visit himself, and that, in turn, led him to talk about intent, known as Teot’ocatl in their language, which in English would be like saying “interweaving awareness” in the sense that absolutely everything is connected by that force.
“The lesson that this visit left with us,” he said, “is that everything exists at the same time. The challenge lies in flowing with intent; each moment becomes unique and yet perpetual. Perhaps a form of defining that state of being could be to say that it’s an eternal flow of the here and now.”
He paused, looking toward the infinite for an instant; his eyes shone so much that I got scared, but then they were his eyes again.