rating: +109+x

CompendiumSW 04/25/2016 (Mon) 10:56:30 #4810605

Transcription project entry 21, collected and annotated in Tucson, Arizona, July 5th 2006. Original recording unavailable.

"Something is happening all across the US southwest, and I intend to be far across the country when it gets going. Fifteen or twenty years ain't enough, and you're not gonna be looking like that at me for packing my bags now, once you hear what I have to say. So sit."

The bar was dark, and the man looked less than reputable. I was here recording stories, though, and I didn't have much reason to pass this one up.

"I'll listen," I told him.

He poured himself another drink and took a sip, holding the whiskey in his mouth before swallowing.

"Will it be long?" I asked, and hit pause on the audio app.

He swung one leg out of his chair.

"If you've got places to go, that's-"

"No, no! I'd like to hear your story."

He sighed.

"As long as you don't ask questions 'till the end, I'll tell it. I'm tired of your types getting bored before I can take a fuckin' breath."

"Very well then."

He settled back into his seat, and I unpaused the recording.

"I was a trucker once. I used to do eighteen hour stints down the Interstate 10, not that I have much to show for it."

He chuckled.

"Now this was during in the nineteen-seventies, the job was different back then. No GPS systems when you're lost, mile markers were never maintained, hell, the headlights on my truck barely worked half the time! But my job required straight deliveries gone thousands of miles, so fuck me if I didn't know the place.

Because some nights, something'd go wrong, and I'd have to hole up at the next place in east Jesus nowhere for the night. Nice diners, nicer people, considering the sand in every direction, I got to know a hundred or more of these little towns, by necessity or by choice. Could barely read a map in the cabin, I had to know 'em like the back of my hand. So you can understand I got a little upset when they started to disappear."

The man softly put down his cup, looked to two sides along the bar, and started again.

"Now this isn't aliens or any of that bullcrap, it ain't only lack of opportunities and economic depression neither. No, what I seen was a newly built guardrail and a flat patch of concrete where the little town used to be. The maps stopped printing their names in the newer editions, and I'd doubt if I could find any of 'em on the internet if I were to look. No, no fire, no fuckery, just up and gone. And I think I've seen how it happens."

He leaned back in his chair.

"Now back in the 'seventies, I was out on my own, I was thinking I was losing it, all those miles on the open road. Started repeating names of places to the nearest people who could stand to be around me. All I got were weird looks in response at best, people asking me to leave at worst. The smaller the town, the dingy rest stop or the no-name diner in question, colder the responses seemed to be. Got a sense there was something I wasn't supposed to be knowing.

So I really did think I was losing my mind until I met someone in a bar a lot smaller than this one, a Mexican man by the name of Pablo. I kept some old maps with me by now, try'na argue my point, but Pablo caught one look at a map and froze. Before I even started on a list of names, his finger fell on one in particular. A little town called Yunque, just on the edge between New Mexico and Arizona. He was silent for a moment, 'fore he cursed in seven different ways and said it shouldn't be happening north of the border now. He knew something. He took me out back behind the bar and started talking.

According to Pablo, this wasn't a new thing. It was a rot, he said, an infection that'd take hold in a town when the water started drying up. It first appears in the gutters, he said, before taking hold and pulling the whole town down with it, hitting before anyone could react. He was evasive about what it was, exactly. Said it was called Las Aguas Enegrecidas, and that he knew about it because it had taken his town. Coming up quicker than any could expect, hitting in a year when the taps run dry. He had made it out alive, he said, and he was the only one. Some trucks came by, sprayed the aftermath with something, and drove off, and the town was an empty gravel lot now, last he was concerned.

He asked me what I knew, what I was forgetting, getting more and more intense by the second. I didn't know much, but he insisted I write down the places that'd disappeared, and keep it in a place no one else knew. He'd known somebody in Yunque, and expected this to happen for a long time. You'd have pointed at him and called him crazy, but me? After five years of places I'd known not being places anymore? I believed him. I believed him, and when he offered to take me for a ride, show me one they hadn't gotten to yet, I accepted."

The old man pulled out a map, an old one that looked coffee stained or something, with a dark traced line scored into the paper that lead to somewhere in western Sonora, Mexico. He traced the line again and again with a ballpoint pen while talking.

"It was a long, loong trip. We loaded up into his truck, in the lot outside the building I'd parked my truck in a few days earlier. His was a beat-up Ford, white paint peeling off a dinged-up exterior. We got to going, but when I say something's long as a trucker, it's long. Only a few hundred miles total, but most of those hundreds of miles were on clogged up Mexican highways, unlit country roads at night, and eventually, two-tracked lengths of dirt as far as the eye can see.

We stopped a bit outside nowhere, and parked the truck in the late afternoon sun. We'd reached Fallecido, Mexico, a town of two hundred that had been lost five months ago, and had gone just quietly enough that no one had bothered to check. And, according to Pablo, an opportunity to see what Las Aguas Enegrecidas leaves behind.

We'd just gotten out of the truck when something changed in the wind, and we were hit by the smell. A heavy smell, hanging in the air, it was like wine and turpentine, heady and acrid and nearly alcoholic. We'd smell it whenever the wind changed, for just a moment, before it was gone again.

The second thing I noticed was the great black patch where the town used to be. I wandered inward, past half-sunken fences, toward what looked like a space where the ground could've been gone. The sand sloped just downward, and I stumbled a bit before Pablo caught my hand, steadying me and cussing at me for my stupidity. Look where you're going, he said. Told me he wasn't quite sure five months was long enough, that 'the hole' was barely in eyesight and that we shouldn't go much futher.

As if to explain, he pointed to a crack in the ground, one of the many radiating from that thing a quarter mile off. Pablo got down on one knee, and pointed out what looked like a fern growing up from the crack, but it was black and dark gray. Careful not to touch it, he told me to look closer. There was a spiral to it, like ferns have before they're grown, and in the center of that spiral, the size of a head of a pin, was a milky white eye. The wind changed again, and this time it smelled a little like fish.

I got up, turned, and looked around, before realizing the ground was riddled with the things. Small coiled plants and vines, black and dark grey, with tiny white specks that appeared here and there. This time I didn't look closer. Pablo spent a while considering, and then told me I deserved to see it. That no one else knew, people thought I was crazy, so I deserved to see the center. See what happened to Pablo's town.

We walked onward, but the walking was slow. Pablo would stop and look down. Once Las Aguas Enegrecidas got in you, he said, it never got out, so it'd help to be careful. As we walked futher in I could see his concern. The little plants and vines got closer together, and soon I was crunching 'em under my boot wherever I stepped. They bled a black-blue, and smelled awful. The plants started getting weirder, and where I did see buildings, they were half swallowed up. The ground was spongy now, and once I saw what looked like a desert bush, gnarled and tangled and dyed blueish-black. Little white berries hung from the tips of its branches. Looked closer, and saw they were fish eyes, shiny and perfectly round.

It wasn't long before I realized the black patch I'd seen earlier wasn't the hole. It was a field of dark grass and lichens, a bit obscured by the downward slope. We were clutching each other's shoulders by now; Pablo said he was glad the waters were dead.

I doubted that, exactly, saying I'd seen something moving in the cracks in the ground. It was hard to tell, but we looked, and there was something, deep in those cracks, dark against dark. It moved rhythmically, in and out along its length, and I heard a quiet whooshing sound every time it moved. It was the waters, he said. Still dead, but I was hearing the tides.

The cracks were converging. Pablo had mentioned a hole, and I saw it, sheer rock wall plunging downward, some sixty feet wide. What drew my attention away from that, though was what happened to the people of Fallecido. Bodies. A few dozen of them, dotting the soggy ground to the left and right of us, all up on their backs. It was hard to tell, because they were stained blue and black and sunk partways into the ground, but they seemed more preserved than what five months would do to you.

All of them, heads roughly facing the hole in the ground, with what looked like barnacles covering their faces till no skin could be seen. Their arms were gone.

I stepped a bit over them, more than a little sick to my stomach. I nodded at Pablo, and he just nodded back. As stricken as I was. It wasn't just the bodies that was making me nauseous, it was the smell- over here it was overpowering. Dark and salty and chemical and it practically billowed up from the edge of the hole, washing over our faces in waves. We walked forward.

Standing at the edge of the hole was dizzying. Not only because of vertigo, the ground was sloped like a funnel here, crawling with cracks and black plants. We were holding our noses, but the smell just came in through the mouth instead. The hole was deep, irregular in shape, and it was filled with dark water.

The water, like Pablo had said, was dead. Stagnant, so blue it was black, with a film on the surface, little eddies and whirls where it flowed into the cracks in the rock. Its surface was fifty feet below us, but I could almost feel how heavy it was, how much force was down there, and there was something floating in the water.

Clinging to the hole's back wall, looking positively tiny in comparison, was a mass of something that could be called bodies. Bones, but didn't look like human ones, all tangled in a big sloping mass, tied together by heads and limbs. It must've been hundreds of 'em. The ones on the ground here were the lucky ones.

In that moment I stopped bein' able to hold what was in my stomach. I vomited, and Pablo screamed, and pulled my back on my ass and everything was quiet, until the vomit hit the water. Just like that, it was like a bell was hit, there was this ringing that passed through me and the ground and everything around me, and I felt like I was hanging face first off the edge with a force pulling downward, and I looked up and the mountains in the distance looked blueish and wet.

My leg was stuck in a crack, and I could hear the rush of dark water, and something cold hit my leg, and then burning, like I was being bit by a thousand little pincers. I screamed, and I tried to run, but my leg wouldn't work, so I leaned on Pablo and he half guided me, half carried me back to the truck. I was sick and it felt like my leg was being sliced into pieces and I could barely hear the things Pablo was screaming at me not to do while he loaded me up in the truck and drove away.

I saw the hole from the truck, there, and the water level was higher than I remembered it being."

I watched, breathless, as he hoisted his foot up onto the bar, then took off his shoe and his knee-length compression sock. Before I could comment on the absurdity of the situation I saw it, speckled, on his skin.

Coiling black and blue scars, indented like they were carved out by a spoon, interrupted by scalie blotches of scar tissue. In the center of each of the coils, a little white sphere was nestled. A fish eye, peaking out through his dark growths of skin.

"Still hurts like a bitch sometimes. If ol' Pablo was right about one thing, it was that once the waters get in you, they ain't never coming out. If that's the proof you want, you've got it."

He pulled the compression sock and shoe back on, wincing. Something smelled wrong in the air.

"So that there's your story. Never seen Las Aguas Enegrecidas up close again, bless it, but the towns kept going. Only one or two a decade, I'd gauge it, but I've lived a long time and those decades add up.

We're running out of water, son, down here in the Southwest. We're running out of water, and something's rushin' in to replace it."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License