Towards a Path to Salvation

After her husband passed away, Cecilia Montriel locked herself up in the privacy of her home to properly grieve his death. Montriel went unseen for seven years and when she finally opened the doors that led to the plaza, many neighbors claimed to have seen her hair dragging behind her steps. Her nails, according to those who were close enough, swirled backwards like serpents dissuading the voices of God. She swore to mourn for her husband for two years but once she found herself within the walls of her own house – a house that she maintained clean and organized, a tradition that has been passed onto generations of daughters before her – she grew in love with the solitary air of her husbands absence. The nocturnal bugs decided to stay even after the sudden lockdown of lady Montriel and their everlasting insect conversations inundated the house, summoning entangling vines and trees to grow among the chairs.
The day after Cecilia Montriel emerged from the house, it was generally agreed upon that she resembled a wild princess discovering a new world beyond the walls of her castle. However, the growing horizons around her asphyxiated the hopes of her illusory freedom that lasted seven years of her voluntary imprisonment.

The following account is probably the longest yet, which made it even more difficult to place it among these others that length and depth. Her name was Prudencia Poshaliev and I ran into her – almost over her – when I was wandering through the streets of Barranca thinking about ways to best understand the city and its people.
Prudencia was probably the smallest person in the entire world. When sitting down, her head was as tall as my calves but when standing up, she struggled to reach two feet high. She stopped growing at the age of two, which made determining her age an impossible task. Her mentor discovered she was a lady when her childish breast bursted a few inches away from her body, after she found a trail of dried blood on her bed.
Her business as a nocturnal woman did not serve well partially because the clients barely noticed her developed feminine features, giving into the assumption that Prudencia must be the toddler of one of the prostitutes.
Her father was Ibrahim Poshalieva, a nomadic archeologist that moved to Peru on a quest to find the secret city of the Incas, but he abandoned his mission when he discovered something even more terrifying. A woman from his past carnal journeys approached him carrying a crying lump in her arms.
He escaped the city a few days after, leaving behind a written request to have the baby carry his last name for as he claimed, “no child of mine will carry the name of a whore”. He was never seen again, not even to save his daughter from accusatory stones that killed her years later.

Posters were hung up in every possible corner on the entire city, urging everyone to find Carlos Montero’s horse. A reward was set for the fortunate man that could find the missing gray stallion. For months, the entire city searched day and night for the horse, but they never had any luck.
Years later, when I returned to the city shortly after Prudencia’s death, I saw the horse galloping toward a distant mountain with Cecilia Montriel on its back. Their manes copulated in the wind. The wild horse never went back to his former owner.

The people of Barranca grew dependent on the ringing bells of the cathedral every day at six in the morning that announced the arrival of the sun. The day that Padre César José de María de la Concepción was not able to stand from his bed because of a bad cold, the city slept for the entire day and night. The next morning Padre César José dragged his body to the bell tower to continue his duty to wake the city up. After the bells rang, the priest fell asleep on the ground, without expecting to raise again.
Days later, when I found the dormant city to the persistently quiet and motionless, I visited the cathedral and found the priest sobbing on the ground. His lower body, paralyzed under the sun, kept him from carrying his morning responsibilities. I carried him into the church and placed him on one of the pews.
After his sobbing became passive, he confessed of breaking the vow of abstinence. The night before he fell sick, he invited Prudencia Poshaliev, from the nearby brothel. He made love for the first time, and now God was punishing him for breaking his devotion, at least that is what he told me. I asked why the city was asleep for so long, to which he answered with the procedure of the ringing bells. He ordered me to wake the city, followed by a short penance due to the bells’ acquired ability to absolve the sins of those who ring it and using the sounds of each sin to raise sleeping cities.

In the newspaper I caught the inspiring story of Flor del Valle, who carried her God-given beauty as a deformity. The story read the testimonies of those who witnessed her out-worldly looks and their synchronized grief after discovering her suicide. Her body, according to the article, was found floating graciously on a lake with no hint of decomposition.

The day after Cecilia Montriel opened the doors to her house, the city revolted. Not necessarily for the emergence of the old widow, but because of the news that carried a little boy. When his parents saw him playing with something in his hands, they did not anticipate the brutality that would come after. However, the stench that crawled from their son’s arms and onto them was enough to discover such tragedy.
The little boy was carrying a dead fetus wrapped in white stained blankets with the emblem of the church. The fetus, he found under the rocks by the banks of the coast, but did not know who or why it was abandoned there.
A few hours later, the entire city marched toward the church demanding the name of the whore that abandoned her stillborn child under the rocks of the coast.

Prudencia was stripped from her clothes and carried away to a statue of a Christ with his arms wide open. Thrown to the ground, her sobs became indicative of her pain mixed with fear. Everyone shouting and screaming derogative descriptions of her nocturnal occupation. The shouts became heavy with anger and soon became stones, with which they attacked the crying child-like woman that crouched in front of the city. A man with hot coals carried the order to hold her facing up, to which he followed by the placement of the heating coals where her mortal sin was conceived.
After her death, the body was thrown to the bank where it would rot and be taken away by the currents of the sea. However, hours after the crowd left, as I reached the coast struggling with my desperate feeling guilt, I witnessed Cecilia Montriel mounting her magnificent stallion, her hair dancing behind her, followed by the six former sisters freed from their old clothing. I watched as they carried away Prudencia’s diminutive body.