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The Best Trasformation

 

by Carolina Marquez-Serrano

        

                                                                                        

A few years ago, when I was still trying to recover from my wounds, I arrived by chance at a fantastic place that was famous for practicing witchcraft. Some acquaintances and locals told me stories about healers and sorcerers who claimed to possess the ability to heal any illness or disease of the body or the soul that to me is really our mind. During the first days of my stay, I had the opportunity to learn about several places like the Island of the Garzas and the Island of the Monkeys among others whose names I cannot remember. I also visited thermal pools and springs and met people who affirmed they had been cured miraculously from their diseases in those waters. The faith of those people in those primitive healing practices, as well as the native beauty of the place impressed me deeply.

 

I, a mature man whose youth had escaped me along with my health and physical strength, doubted such wonders could exist. And if such a thing existed it would have a very high price. I imagined that if there was a cure for the human ailments, it should be a tonic that prevented old age instead of curing it, and it should be taken with another medicine to cure the disappointment of discovering the secrets of life, like the bitterness from a love’s disillusion, and the falseness and superficiality of the human beings. Nevertheless, I must admit that just being surrounded by those natural wonders made my body experience a great improvement. For moments, I felt enthusiastic again about the simple things that life has to offer, like the spontaneous smile of the young people who played with their friends in the street, free of worries.

 

I do not exaggerate when I say that I enjoyed every minute of my stay in that place, and the day before my departure, I felt sad but resigned to go back to my normal life, filled with unavoidable commitments and insufferable ceremonies. Because despite the way you see me now, I was a man of high social status that had accumulated a considerable fortune, who had a very stressful job with many responsibilities. I said that I was, because I have renounced all of it to devote the rest of my life to living in the simplest manner possible. All thanks to that night, in which one of the hotel workers knocked on my door.

 

I remember opening the door and feeling surprised that someone would come to look for me. He said he came to invite me to a special event that required a personal invitation. He acted overfamiliar and told me he chose me from all the hotel guests because I seemed to be an intrepid person who was interested in supernatural things. In addition, I was alone, and he must have imagined that I would likely accept his invitation, maybe because of boredom or vanity. I gave him a very generous tip and he left me alone in the middle of a procession of strangers. The truth is that it was worth it because I paid a laughable amount to have the opportunity to enjoy a most unusual experience that ended changing my life completely.

 

The people that were in the center of the procession claimed to practice the white or the black magic. Despite my skepticism, I felt very excited to be there with them in that moment. I imagined it would be something like a circus, or perhaps something like the reenactment of the Holy Week in Easter, but I was wrong. After asking around, I deduced it was some sort of witchcraft contest where people followed the contestants on their way to the top of the mountain. Climbing the mountain became harder as we advanced. There were so many people and the contestants and followers carried small candles that looked like shining stars in the dark night. I did not know who to follow, and I did not have a candle, which made my way through the stones much more difficult. Nevertheless, I advanced without stopping, sometimes I lifted my feet in an exaggerated manner, other times, I dragged them through the floor. Many of the followers were not able to keep climbing and sat on the big rocks along the way.

 

From what I heard that night, the contestants would try to surpass their adversaries’ limits and their own to become the best witch or wizard of the year. At the same time, their followers would have to demonstrate their courage to deserve the honor of witnessing such magical acts. To tell the truth, I never knew what they meant by that, but half of the crowd that was following the contestants had to stop in the middle of the road. I thought that I was not going to be able to continue because I lacked the strength.  I could barely feel my legs, and a shivering cold was going through my tired body despite the fact that the climate was very hot. For moments, I thought it was a madness to continue to follow that group of people because I heard voices, screams, and howling, it was horrible.

 

When we reached the top of the mountain, we were very afraid; some people even cried. More than one started to run down the hill in a hurry. The most logical thing to think was that the ones who reached the top of the mountain were the strongest and most athletic but that was not the case. A group of handicapped and old people who had fragile bodies were always ahead of everybody. They arrived at the top of the hill with the help of canes and crutches, while some young people full of muscles could not even reach half of the way and looked at us from far away. Despite my age and the fact that I was not in an admirable physical condition, I had managed to place myself right behind a group of witches and sorcerers.

 

Once we reached the top, the contest started, and the contestants of the white magic and their apprentices dedicated themselves to the task of healing the patients who needed it. I had seen their operations many times on television; they used eggs, herbs and prayed while they made gargled with alcohol and spit on their patients. When they finished their healing, the wizards and witches who practiced black magic made a circle and pulled the people that had followed them just like me and positioned us very close to them. Their appearance was overwhelming, their inquisitive eyes were trying to catch every detail about the followers. One of the witches who had a frightful appearance and fermented breath took my hand and for a moment she became me; it was like looking at my twin. I don’t know how, but I pulled my hand and released it from her hideous pressure, and without understanding what I had seen I thought it was a hallucination. However, that deduction was not possible because I had not had anything to eat or drink anything since lunch time. Then, I saw them become pigs, goats, dogs, cats, birds, endless animals’ shapes, sometimes beautiful, other times unpleasant. Those were horrible visions, because they exaggerated in a grotesque manner the noises those animals would make. The spectators screamed with fear and at times laughed in surprise.

 

When I thought I could not stand it anymore, a man with ferocious aspect appeared. He had won the title of the best wizard for many years. Some people said he came from a far place just to compete. He was famous for his ability to transform himself into unusual shapes and all shouted his name. He was a fearsome and horrible sorcerer that was dressed as an executioner. In the moment he got into the center of the circle, the spectators tried to get out rapidly, but they could not because a centripetal force or perhaps the inertia kept them in place. Of course, I stood looking at him. He removed his mask, and his ordinary face showed an arrogant indifference, his eyes had an undertone of evilness, and rancorous fierceness that I have not observed in any other face.

 

The fearsome wizard started to examine the spectators, and he took our hands one by one, until he stopped in front of a woman that looked like she was young but had become older prematurely. The face of the man seemed to lighten up the moment he saw her; one could say he knew her. The woman appeared to recognize him too, but before she could say anything, he continued touching the hands of other women and men that cried his name. I asked myself what kind of transformation he could be capable of to win against the wizards that had undergone done incredible transformations. He returned where the woman was and bowed at her politely, extended his hand as if he was asking her to dance, but then he pulled her brusquely as if she were a rag doll. The woman tried not to lose her balance, and she stood on one leg in a way that the whole maneuver looked somehow aesthetic. The wizard and the woman turned around twirling as if they were ice skating. He held her head until the woman screamed and then he made a movement as if he extracted something from her womb while they turned. I could not see what happened, but they both ended laying down on the floor. What I saw after that was incredible, the woman still lay on the floor and next to her, there was a small child, not older than three years old. I did not see how the transformation took place, but suddenly, a child was there. He was looking at everybody timidly. His eyes looked as if he were a scared squirrel, and he covered his face with his small hands. He looked as if he was about to eat a nut.

 

The woman got up quickly and used his cape to cover the child. That child could not be the bad boy that the wizard must have been as a child. It was a beautiful child, very different from the sorcerer. It was obvious that the kid was innocent and did not know anything about witchcraft, white or black. He would have to wait many years to grow and learn again everything he knew, and perhaps he was not going to be able to learn it again, but that is the way that the magic is. Nobody knows if the spells are reversible or permanent. We all shouted and clapped frantically; that was the end of the contest. There were no judges, no prizes, we all knew who had won.

 

The transformation of that wizard was unique, without any doubt, because he became the child that the woman wanted to have. I supposed maybe it was a child she had and somehow lost. This transformation changed my life completely; as I was going down the mountain I started feeling as if I were a new man, someone that could change the course of his existence. If a wizard had been able to transform himself in a total and irreversible way, I was sure could do it too. The people of the place commented that in witchcraft one had to pay a high price for every spell and some of the effects were unforeseen. I still ask myself sometimes if the wizard had contemplated the possibility that he was not going to return to normal when he got the idea of doing such a transformation. Maybe he was tired of being the best wizard. It is possible he did it to help the woman in an altruistic way, but I don't know. There is the possibility that he had romantic intentions, perhaps the woman and him had waited a long time to be together, but I am never going to know it. The woman is the only one that could know it, but it is possible that she doesn’t know what happened that night either, neither does she know the wizard’s reasons for transforming himself into a child. Nevertheless, it was evident that the woman got healed from the ailments that afflicted her body since her aspect improved impressively. When we saw her going down the hill she was rejuvenated and walked happy and light as a feather. She smiled happily at the crowd that surrounded her; she held the beautiful child on her arms. Once we arrived to the town, the loud multitude dispersed in a disorderly manner, and many like me went to the bars to celebrate that event. The woman and the child disappeared in one of the small cobblestone streets of that place. It was obvious that was not an appropriate place for such a small child.

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Professor Carolina Márquez-Serrano received her Doctorate in Spanish Language and Literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She teaches Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages, Communication and Philosophy at Tuskegee University, and has written several short stories, plays, and completed her fictional novel, La Noche del Jaguar. Currently she is working on her second novel, El Libro de las Transformaciones, from which she has published five anthologies of short stories for her classes.

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