Nonetheless, she loved him dearly. He, for his part, loved her profoundly without letting it be seen. For three months—they had been married in April—they lived a special kind of joy. Without a doubt she would have wished less severity in their rigid heaven of love, more expansive feeling with cautious tenderness, but the indifferent countenance of her husband always restrained her desires. The house in which they lived had little effect on her shivers.
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Nonetheless, she loved him dearly. He, for his part, loved her profoundly without letting it be seen. For three months—they had been married in April—they lived a special kind of joy. Without a doubt she would have wished less severity in their rigid heaven of love, more expansive feeling with cautious tenderness, but the indifferent countenance of her husband always restrained her desires.
The house in which they lived had little effect on her shivers. The whiteness of the silent patio—friezes, columns, and marble statues— produced an autumnal impression of an enchanted palace. Inside, the shining glacier of stucco, the tall walls without the slightest feature affirmed the sensation of bleak coldness. Walking back and forth between the rooms, footsteps echoed throughout the whole house, as if its long neglect heightened the resonating sound.
In this strange love nest Alicia spent the whole autumn. However, she had thrown a veil over her old dreams, and still lived in the hostile house as if asleep, without wanting to think about anything until her husband came home.
It was not strange then that she grew thin. She came down with a slight attack of influenza that dragged on insidiously for days and days; Alicia never seemed to recover. Finally one day she managed to make it to the garden supported against the arm of her husband. She looked indifferently from one side to the other.
Suddenly and with profound tenderness, Jordan slowly passed his hand over her head, and Alicia instantly broke down into tears, throwing her arms around his neck. Then her cries ceased, and she stood awhile with her head hidden against his neck, unmoving, wordless.
That was the last day that Alicia was able to raise herself up. The following morning she awoke faint and without spirit. And without vomiting…I have no idea…If she wakes up tomorrow in the same condition as today, call me immediately. The doctor returned. Anemia was diagnosed, completely unexplainable. Alicia stopped fainting but she continued to move visibly towards death. All day long the lights were kept on in the profoundly silent room. Hours would pass without the slightest sound.
Alicia slept. Jordan lived in the living room, its lights also lit. He walked back and forth between the far away walls for hours without stopping, insatiable in his perseverance. The carpet drowned out his steps. From time to time he would enter the room and continue his silent pacing along the side of the bed, pausing a moment at each end to look at his wife.
Before long Alicia began to have, at first, confusing and floating visions that later seemed to bring her back down to the ground. The young girl, with her eyes excessively open, did nothing but look back and forth at the carpet to both sides of her bedhead. One night she suddenly transfixed her gaze.
After a moment she opened her mouth to scream, and her nostrils and lips pearled in sweat. Jordan ran into the room. Upon seeing him, Alicia let out a shriek of horror. She looked at the carpet, returned her gaze to him and after a long pause of frightened confrontation, she grew calm. She smiled and took the hand of her husband between her own and caressed it for half an hour, trembling.
Among her most enduring hallucinations was an anthropoid ape on the rug, resting upon its knuckles with its eyes fixed onto hers.
The doctors returned in vain. There in front of them was a finished life, bleeding out day by day, hour by hour, without even knowing why. In her last doctor visit Alicia laid in a stupor while they took her pulse, passing her limp wrist between themselves. They observed her silently for a while and returned to the dining room. Alicia was fading away in a sub delirious state from the anemia, worse in the afternoon but that always let up in the early hours.
During the day her sickness never advanced, but each morning she woke up livid, in and out of consciousness. Only at night did life seem to leave her in new waves of blood. Always upon waking she had the sensation of a thousand kilos on top of her pinning her to the bed. By the third day this sinking sensation never left her. She could barely move her head. Her twilight terrors came now in the form of monsters dragging themselves toward the bed and climbing up her quilt arduously.
Later she lost consciousness. In her final two days she rambled incessantly in a low voice. All the lights remained mournfully on in the room and in the living room. At last, Alicia died. The servant, returning alone to the room after stripping the bed, looked at the pillow for a moment in surprise.
The servant lifted it up but immediately let it fall and stood looking down at it, pale and shaking. Without knowing why, Jordan felt his hair stand up. Jordan lifted it up; it was extraordinarily heavy. They brought it with them and over the dining room table Jordan gashed open the pillow cover.
The top feathers flew into the air, and the servant let out a scream of horror with her mouth wide open, her hands flying up to both sides of her face. Over the sheets, between the feathers, slowly moved its hairy legs, it was a monstrous animal, a slimy and living ball. It was so swollen that its mouth was barely pronounceable. The bite was barely perceptible. The daily fluffing of the pillow without a doubt had slowed its progress at first, but ever since the young woman stopped moving the sucking went at a dizzying speed.
In five days and five nights, Alicia was emptied. The parasites that live on birds, usually very small, manage to grow to an enormous size under certain conditions. Share this:.
Horacio Quiroga: Cuento “El almohadón de plumas”
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