The Boy with a Dream

By Eugene H. Craig

 

 

 

Another wonderful story from Eugene, a short one this time, but a powerful look inside the mind of Zorro's first and most powerful nemesis.  

 

 

 

 

 

The woman put her hand on his forehead and knew that it was much too warm. She felt a great deal of compassion for him because it was in her nature to be compassionate and he was injured.

A boy opened his eyes. He saw the rich bed hangings and the open window. He heard birds singing outside. He closed his eyes again. His head hurt. It hurt a lot. He felt the womanís presence more than he understood it. He reached out his hand towards her and she took his hand gently and held it.

"How are you feeling, son?" she asked quietly.

The boy wasnít sure of her voice, but he thought that he knew who she was. "My head hurts a lot, Mother," he told her.

The woman was a little startled, not expecting the answer that was delivered so clearly. "Youíre going to be all right," she reassured him. "You had a nasty spill off of your horse."

"I donít remember what happened, Mother," he continued. "My pony jumped the fence." He paused, his brow furrowing, trying to remember exactly what had occurred. He was a good rider and was proud of his firm hand in the saddle. "I think that we were chasing something, but I canít remember what it was." He looked up at the woman and for some reason she seemed far away.

"Itís all right," she repeated. "Iím here and you are going to be fine in a few days. You hit your head against a rock when you fell."

The boy was quiet as if trying to understand all her words. "Will you be here with me now? You wonít go away?" He held her hand tightly so that she would not leave.

"I wonít go away," she told him and winced at the strength of his grip. "You donít need to hold my hand so tightly."

The boy relaxed his grip but still held on to her hand. Then, quite unexpectedly, the boyís eyes filled with tears. "But you do go away. You always go away. I donít want you to go away. I need you, Mother. Please donít go away this time. My head hurts a lot."

The woman swallowed hard and the tears welled up in her eyes at his entreaty. She sat down on the bed and moved his shoulders and head a little closer to her, cradling him. "There, now," she told him. "Iím here, but be careful, your head is bandaged. You need to rest some more. You have a fever. Iím holding your hand. All right, dear?"

The boy smiled in contentment and closed his eyes. He slept a long time. He did not know that during this time a man had come into the room.

The woman on the bed looked up at him. She shook her head sadly.

"How is he doing?" the man asked. He was a slim man with thinning hair and he had a thin moustache.

"He must be delirious," she informed him. "He thinks that Iím his mother. He thought that his pony threw him at a jumping fence."

"Has he said anything else, LuŪsa?"

DoŮa Luisa sighed heavily. "Itís very strange, Nacho. He doesnít want to let go of my hand. He thinks that Iíll leave him again."

Her husband was puzzled. "What does that mean?"

"He must have missed his mother. He said that his head hurts a lot and he wants me to stay with him and not leave," she said. "Itís as if he is in another world."

"A head injury can do strange things," he replied. "Well, stay with him a while. Doctor Aguilera is mixing up his herbs and will have a tea ready soon. He said that we should keep him," he indicated the sleeping form, "quiet, but that he should recover in several days."

 

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The boy felt calm, enveloped in warmth, and it made him happy. He saw his home with vast forests and meadows stretched out before a great two-storied white-washed hacienda with red roof tiles and rose gardens and grand stables. And there he was, riding on his pony proudly at his fatherís side as the other children watched. His father wore the dark blue and white uniform of His Majestyís Royal Guard and on his chest were shining medals. At his side was a saber.

His father turned and smiled approvingly at him and suddenly pointed to something up the road. At first, the boy saw only the trees and wide meadows with a carpet of wild flowers and grazing herds of sheep and cattle. Then, it seemed there was a great black crow flying towards them with its beak open. But this crow had a black mask on and held a sword in an upraised wing. The boy felt a sense of alarm. The crow was bad. He drew his own sword. He looked up at his father, but the man was calm and did not seem the least disturbed by the demon that rushed towards the both of them.

"Look out, Father!" the boy cried in alarm, but his father only continued smiling at him and encouraged him forward.

The boy suddenly felt alone, but he had his own sword and it was a fine saber. His pony was strong and swift. He felt no fear because he was a brave boy. He would show his father that he could vanquish the evil crow and save him from the threat.

He charged toward the crow and their swords clashed. It seemed to him as if his pony was taking flight up into the air and their battle reached the level of the sky and that they were flying near the clouds that looked like the fluffy pillows in his bedroom. He struck at the crow with all his might and the crow laughed at him although he knew that crows could not laugh and there was a mocking manís voice behind the face of the crow.

Then he saw his father, far down below, starting to leave on his horse and he called out, "I got him, Father! Look, I got the crow!" And he held the crow in his gloved hand and it was upside down like a chicken ready to be plucked. "Wait, Father, wait!" he called.

And the crow looked up at him and began to talk to him as if it was human. "You canít catch me! You canít catch me!" he mocked and began to wiggle free.

The boy held him tighter and tighter but somehow, the crow managed to get free and jumped on a great black horse and ran from him. And then, they were down on a road that led through meadows, past rocks and forests, and even over rivers and mountains, and he was chasing the crow who began to look less and less like a crow and then became a man in black and he could not see the manís face, but he knew it was the evil crow.

And his head hurt and he heard a strange noise. Someone was trying to make him drink something and he thought that it was his mother trying to help him because she had said that he had a fever and had to take the medicine. So he drank everything and felt secure because he heard his motherís voice and it was comforting to him. He told her that he was so happy that she was there, and that he loved her, and that he missed her because she had been gone for a long time and that he had been gone for a long time, too. He heard her cry and told her not to cry because he had caught the crow.

He felt her kiss his forehead and it made him feel content because she was there and he felt his hand in hers. So, he went back to sleep and had good dreams and his head hurt less and less. It was quiet and peaceful and even in his dreams he could hear the comforting sound of birds singing outside his bedroom window. He was home and his father and mother smiled down at him.

 

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Sergeant Demetrio GarcŪa Lůpez knocked on the door of the Ignacio Torres hacienda. An Indian servant opened the door, gestured him inside, and went to fetch the master of the house. GarcŪa fidgeted, not knowing what kind of answer he was going to get. It had already been a few days since the accident and his duty was clear, well, at least he thought it was.

Don Nacho Torres descended the stairs, greeting the fat sergeant. "Ah, Sergeant GarcŪa. Are you here to check up on our patient?"

"SŪ, SeŮor Torres," he replied. "How is he doing?"

"Dr. Aguilera says he will be better, probably in a few more days. Heís had a fever and been delirious, but heís sleeping a lot. Heís very strong and in good health overall, but that was quite a blow on the head."

The sergeant looked pensive a moment. "With your permission, I will return in a few days to check on him again and take him back in the carriage." The big man hesitated, then added, "It is very kind of you, and of SeŮora and SeŮorita Torres to care for him, despite everything he has done."

Don Nacho nodded in understanding. "You know, Sergeant, any person who is hurt needs our compassion and care, regardless of who he or she is. All of us are, in a sense, just children."

 

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So everything passed, like a dream within a dream, and the boy felt stronger and his head hurt less and less as the time passed.

Then one day he opened his eyes and saw a pretty girl dipping a small towel into a bowl of water, then rubbing it over his face and neck. The water was cool. It startled him that he knew her, but he didnít know how it was that he knew her. She was seated in a chair next to his bed, but it wasnít his bed and it wasnít his home although it was a grand house and the bed was like his bed at home when he was a boy and there were beautiful drapes at the open windows and the birds were singing.

And the pretty girl looked startled and even a little apprehensive when she saw that his eyes were open and he was looking up at her with a clear gaze. "Good afternoon," she said as she adjusted his nightshirt at his throat after drying it. "Are you feeling better today?"

He nodded and studied her a while before replying. "I know you," he told her, "but I donít know from where. Who are you?"

"Iím Elena Torres," she answered. "You donít know who I am?"

"Elena Torres," he repeated. "I know that name, butÖ," he paused. "Donít be afraid of me."

"Iím not afraid," she responded although she looked nervous.

"Yes you are," he said. He looked around. "Where am I? Iím not at home."

"You are at our home," she told him quietly. "You were hurt in an accident several days ago. You hurt your head on a rock."

"Where is your home?" he insisted and struggled to sit up in bed.

"Now donít get upset," she responded in alarm, beginning to rise out of her chair. "Calm down. My home is near Los Angeles." She looked toward the door of the room and called out, "Mother, would you come in here right away?" She seemed panicky and he didnít understand why. He just wanted to know where he was and how it was that he knew her although he didnít know her.

"Los Angeles," he muttered and frowned as he sank back on the pillows. The headache was still there and he didnít like it because he never had headaches and he was never sick because he was a strong boy, just like his father. Sometimes when he didnít understand things he would get very testy and his father would tell him that he needed to be patient and so, he would be nice to the girl who was very pretty and he thought that he knew her and that he liked her and he didnít know why she would be nervous or even scared of him. After all, he was the sick one, lying in bed, all proper in his fine nightshirt and not doing anything wrong except being sick and he never got sick so maybe this was serious. And she had said that there was an accident and he had hit his head on a rock and maybe thatís why he felt so bad.

He felt someone entering the room because he had closed his eyes again, and he thought that it was a woman because he heard her dress swish across the wooden floor, and he heard her whispering to the girl who had said that her name was Elena Torres. And he felt the woman come over to the bedside and look down at him. She laid a cool hand on his forehead and he heard her say that his fever was down a bit but that he was still probably uncertain of what was going on. He heard the girl tell the woman that he didnít know who she was or where he was.

Then he heard the girl tell the woman that he was more scary this way than he normally was and he began to think that wasnít it odd that maybe somehow they were talking about him and he didnít know why, but his head hurt and he was going to go back to sleep and to try to figure out what was going on because he was beginning to get very irritated about what was going on and why they were whispering and why his head was hurting and even why his thoughts just seemed to flow like a river and he could not stop them. And all these things made him think that he wanted to get his saber and demand that they had better tell him what they were hiding and what all this was about and why the girl was afraid and why he could not find his father and mother.

 

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And so it was that on the fifth day that the boy woke up early in the morning and looked into a mirror on the table next to the bed. He saw his reflection in the mirror and it was of a boyís bright blue eyes and fine brow, but the rest of his face was a manís face and he had a dark moustache and goatee. He looked down at himself and saw that he was in a very fine and comfortable bed, dressed in a long, soft nightshirt. There were beautiful oil paintings on the walls and the drapes over the window were rich and well-kept. There were birds singing outside and he saw that the door to the armoire was open and hanging inside was the dark blue and white uniform of a captain of the Kingís Royal Lancers, all fresh and clean. And he knew that the uniform was his uniform.

His skull only vaguely ached now and he gingerly felt his head, becoming aware that his hair was mussed and had not been combed in days. His hands moved down and felt his face. He didnít like to feel unkempt and he was very irritated to find that no one had shaved him either. So, he got out of bed and went out to the balcony, gazing out across to the stables below and then to the vast meadows that stretched to the yellow hills beyond that were covered with green oak trees and pines. Then he saw the dirt road that stretched for kilometers towards the pueblo of Los Angeles where he lived in some small quarters in the cuartel. And the hanging plants of the balcony reminded him of home and, for some strange reason, of the bodies of traitors in Peru and Venezuela dangling from trees, and of the grand things that he dreamed of for himself such as making the bed he had just risen from his own and of waking up in the mornings to the sight of the pretty girl who would lie next to him and who would no longer be afraid of him, but who would be grateful, instead, for his presence.

 

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And so it was that he ended up washing, shaving, dressing himself in his uniform, and carefully combing his hair. He made his way downstairs. No one seemed to be around and he was irritated because there were no servants about to wait on him or show him the way out. The sun had risen but everyone was still in bed, exhausted by the ordeal of his illness and his hallucinations that had gone on for days and long nights. But he knew nothing of this.

Down in the sala, he paused long enough to appraise the comfortable surroundings that reminded him of home, the vases filled with flowers, the great fireplace, and comfortable chairs. He attached his scabbard with its saber to his belt and put on his hat before opening the door and departing. He crossed over to the stables and found his white stallion waiting for him. He saddled the horse and led him to the gate that he opened himself. Within minutes, he was back on the road toward the pueblo of Los Angeles.

No one saw him leave and almost no one noticed his return except the sleepy sentry at the gates of the cuartel who sprang to attention as he rode up. Life seemed back to normal as the captain made his way to Sergeant GarcŪaís quarters and pounded on the door until the bleary-eyed man opened it, looking surprised at the officer's presence. He would have no more headaches on the account of the bandit, Zorro, he swore to himself, and he would whip the soldiers into line to make sure that such an incident would not happen again.

 

 

 

 

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