Science Fiction & Fantasy

728x90 The Perfect Assassin



The Lost Sepulcher of Huáscar Capac

When I was six my eyes started to fail, for reasons no one could understand. Now, tonight, in this dark hole, now that I’m a man, I can appreciate how hard this was for everyone. I can appreciate my father’s sadness, how it ate at him and wasted him and finally killed him. Doctors and neighbors also found themselves affected: I was the only child of a dead mother, and my father was already old. At a certain moment in their lives, men and women find a skill for recognizing stories; when I was six, I was too young. Too young to be sensitive to their idea of tragedy, though sometimes I was frightened. There was no need. The three years of my blindness now appear to me like other years, though at the time there was no reason to suppose I would recover.

I don’t mean that I was too young to remember. I can remember every day. I can remember almost every word of almost every conversation with my father, and can recite them backwards and forwards. That year when I was six, I was building my first memory palace. I was laying out the plans for a whole city. My father showed me how.

In my city, there is a street near the Hemicircle of Deformities, perhaps a half a mile away. It is lined with big stone buildings, Central Records 1952, 1953, and so on. In all that quarter of the city, it is perhaps the dullest street. The buildings are so grand, so dull. Each is laid out around twelve square courtyards, one courtyard for each month, three rows of four. I was six in 1951, and that building is identical to the rest, only most of the thirty rooms and antechambers (less or more) which surround each courtyard are locked; it is only from about September on that I can enter where I please, and take whatever I want out of the wooden cabinets that line each wall. In September, my eyesight was already very bad, and my father was in a frenzy of labor, helping me with the construction. This city, and especially this section of the city, was his gift, a place to wander and play among the bright mnemonic images as the world got dark.

Central Records 1945 through 1950 are doorless, windowless hulks—any objects or piece of paper that I possess from those years are copies of inaccessible originals, and they are all filed elsewhere. But in 1951, ’52, and ’53, the cabinets are filled with blueprints, and mimeographs, and sketches in my father’s minute handwriting. They are what remain of conversations that lasted sometimes ten or twelve hours each day. At the time, the detail was bewildering to me—this section of the city is his gift; also his legacy, for around the Central Records buildings are some of the strangest sights in the whole city. It is the part that we built first, and it consists of the contents of my father’s own memory city, which he was transferring then to me.

A palace in an adjoining alley, for example, is built around a sloping spiral almost forty stories tall. The spiral is lined with images, and during the years when I used to climb it, looking from one statue to another just to test myself, or else just wandering or exploring, I would remember how they were first installed, during three desperate evenings in the first week of March when I was seven years old. They are my father’s reconstruction of the causes and processes of the First World War—you enter underneath a marble pediment, inscribed with the dates of the conflict. Immediately to the left, at the beginning of the spiral, stands my father’s monument to Gavrilo Princip. The young man sits on the stone floor, his shoulder pressed against a grate. He holds a bloody napkin to his lips, and in his other hand he still grasps his revolver. Beside him, an untasted plate of sorbet, and twenty-three roses in a glass vase.

Although I couldn’t see it at the time of the first installation, the young man is beautiful. In this way my father demonstrated his own anarchist sympathies—the memorial to Princip’s victims, under the pediment on the right-hand side, is less impressive. The archduke and his wife are intensely fat. They are sprawled in the back seat of their car, covered with blood; the bullet has shattered the windscreen, shattered also the archduke’s spectacles.

This is the major image, but it is surrounded by twelve small grotesques, each one a mnemonic clue. For example, a black dwarf in a beret, naked from the waist down, carrying a book entitled “6,281,914 Spanish Eggs.”—an image meaningless to you, but for me it contains the location and the date of the assault. A toad upon a velvet couch gives me the victims’ names.

This palace contains thousands of such figures. Every six months or so, as I moved up the spiral corridor, I would pass von Schlieffen and von Kluck, Samsonov, the Kaiser, Lloyd George, von Moltke, and assorted Romanovs. This is the hall of personages—behind each of these statues is a chamber of events, loaded also with images. When I was a child, all this was overwhelming, and I dreaded my janitorial visits to the Ypres room or the Verdun exhibit—even a few seconds was too long to spend in there, and I would barely open my eyes.

Now that I consider it, I suppose some of the images, though obviously not these ones, in this section of the city antedate my father. I suppose some of them, perhaps some of the most grotesque and archaic ones from the Avenue of 1800 Gargoyles—that line of naked women disemboweling each other, for example—were his inheritance from the priest who was his teacher. I remember my despair as some of these streets went in: At the time I was afraid that this section of the city, this chaotic section of my father’s, would prove infinite. Then he was building antechambers and additions off of every room. But it is not; moving out from Central Records, one comes quite quickly to more ordered streets, laid out by myself without his help. Already when I was six there were huge vacant places in his memory where whole blocks of his city, perhaps whole neighborhoods, had collapsed. It was for this reason, I soon realized, that he was so desperate to effect this transfer of material, to drag these statues down out of his crumbling buildings and reinstall them in my new ones. Perhaps in my encroaching blindness he saw a similarity to the darkness that was overtaking him.

Though we never discussed it, I imagine his city was constructed in Victorian gothic style, full of nineteenth-century homage to castles and chateaux. I imagine something northern, something dark; my city is dark, too. In school that year when I was six, before my father took me out, my teacher was reading to us a child’s adaptation of Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Peru, and my mind was full of visions of old Cuzco. Therefore, when I planned my city, I conceived of it as the lost capital of an Inca prince, and I located it underground in a vast system of caverns. This was partly due to my illness and my father’s influence, but partly also because in this way I hoped to hide my city from Pizarro and his soldiers.

The city streets are lit with gas. From the summit of the Ziggurat of Viracocha, a traveler can see the whole floor of the cavern picked out with light, blurring finally in the dark distance. Beyond this cavern there are others, one of which includes the tomb of the Inca Huáscar Capac. It was during the exploration of this tomb, which I had known from the beginning was located somewhere in the city, that I quite suddenly regained my sight in January of 1954.

I have returned often to that court in Central Records, for it was during January also that my father died. I recovered my vision in the group home for Catholics where he had placed me during the previous November, and where he came to see me every day. After his death, I continued on in the group home, as a nine-year-old orphan instead of as a blind boy. I went to school there, storing the contents of my education in my memory city, in images, as my father had taught me. There also I learned the rudiments of photography, which was to become my profession.

Perhaps this was inevitable, but I prefer to think that I had undergone a change during the time of my blindness, when I had lived almost exclusively underground. Blind, I had played among the images, and I prefer to think that my gift of seeing, when it was returned to me, was changed by the experience. When I notice it is easier for me than for others to capture the significance in a pose, or a landscape, or a group of objects, I thank my early training. At certain moments, any image is a memory image, as packed with significance as any montage in my city, and the trick is to isolate it then.

A photographer will discard a hundred exposures for each one he keeps. What goes into that decision? When I am working in the darkroom, it is like discovering how to look. The paper is white, and then you put it in the pan. I never get tired of it, because each time it is like opening my eyes that January, when I was a child. First just lumps of shade and color, the way a baby sees. A swirl of colors from a central point. A man. Six men. Sky, and then as the lines resolve, an idea resolves with it, because there is a brain behind the eye after all, a brain that knows things. Soldiers.

This is a photograph that I took years ago. Six white soldiers stand in the shade outside a primitive straw hut. I must have shot the scene a dozen times, and the differences are subtle, but this was the only one which made any sense. And it’s not because it tells the story better. Other exposures show a jeep and telephone line, which account for the soldiers’ presence, and my presence also. But in my photograph—the one I kept—you just see a wall of mud and straw, and the men standing in the shade smoking cigarettes. The ground is cracked into octagons and the line of trees in the background is distorted, but it is something about the cigarettes that makes the heat oppressive.

Three black men dressed in t-shirts sit together in the foreground, and a little to one side. Yet they are not essential. They are not what made the image important to me, and important enough to other people for it to have appeared full-page in Paris-Match, opposite a story about Cubans in Angola. It is not, although perhaps the editor would have claimed it was, the stereotypically Latin attitude of the men against the wall. It is because the pose of two of the six soldiers corresponds to an image in my city, an image independent of the photograph itself, which of course is filed in Central Records and cross-referenced in numerous other places.

Or perhaps a combination of images, I thought. I have thousands of soldiers down there, for my father was a student of military history. In this photograph, only two have seen me. Or at least, only two are reacting to my presence. One has straightened up and is staring at me. For him this is a portrait, and he has chosen the way he wants to appear: cocky, stiff, his cigarette at an improbable angle. The other has been looking at him, and, at the instant the photograph was taken, has turned towards me. He must have expected to see something specific from the way his friend had straightened up—something good, perhaps, I don’t know what, but evidently not a dirty foreign journalist, for his expression of disappointment is clear, the clearest thing in the photograph. He is young, mustached, handsome, perhaps nineteen years old.

Thirty months after I departed from Angola, I discovered, quite by accident, these two soldiers again. As it happened, they were in the Verdun exhibition, and I saw them in the corner of my eye as I was flickering through. Two soldiers—French this time, though clearly of Spanish or Italian origin—are standing in poses identical to the photograph. Their faces, their expressions of cockiness and disappointment, even their uniforms, unlikely as it seems, are identical, and that is what disturbed me. For the first time I contemplated the possibility that each time I printed a photograph there was some movement down below, some tiny change.

It is stupid to become obsessed with these things—I’m sure the images shift and distort over time. Memory is, after all, a process of the brain. Only one of the processes, but the fact is, by the time I was in my early thirties, my journeys underground had taken the place of thinking, even of learning. When I was blind, other senses became more acute, and were able to take over the functions of sight—as time went on my memory was like that.

It is just laziness, as well as a new dissatisfaction with my work. This trip I took hundreds of photographs, not one of which will ever be developed. A crowd, people throwing things, a building on fire. Broken windows. I’ve never bothered to learn Spanish. I never tried to read the papers. My editor gave me some articles; I didn’t look at them. My writer knew it all, she said. She was the brains, and so I thought perhaps my pictures would be like something in a baby’s eye. In the last one, a man is shooting someone in the side of the head. Who are they? I don’t know. The district commissioner in Callao had warned me. He had given me a list of things I could photograph in safety—the railway station, the municipal post office—and I had thought he meant safety from him. Not that I cared one way or the other; it was hot, and we were staying in an 800-room Hyatt with about seven other guests, all newsmen. At night we sat around the huge neoclassical deserted bar, stinking drunk, listening to a pianist playing show tunes. Except for that first day, only once did I go into town. I staggered up through cold parsecs of lobby. I took a taxi. The streetlights were broken; we drove along a single narrow road. There were no other cars. We went fast at first, then slow, because gradually the street started to fill up with people—dozens, then hundreds: short men with bearded faces and white pants that would snatch at our headlights as we hesitated and went past.

All the windows were open, and from everywhere on the hot wind came smells so delicious they were almost mournful, as evocative as music. Slower and slower we went, for in some places the entire street was blocked by sudden masses of people, and in some places huge constructions of cardboard, which people would pull away to let us pass. And it was lighter, too, as we went on—the hotel was situated among dark acres of trees, but here every window had a light, and in the streets the men were carrying torches. Sometimes when we stopped, people bent down to peer into my window. Some would put their whole heads inside, and I would see their shiny skin, the shirts wet along their necks. At first I would shrink back onto the seat, but they would smile and reach out to touch me with their slippery hands. Soon I was laughing and smiling back, as if I understood what they were saying. My driver smoked a thin cigar. There was a party tonight, he said. He leaned out of his window to spit at a dog pissing against the tire. We had come to a complete stop.

That night I dreamed about the tomb of the great Inca. Though sometimes I have been able to revisit it in dreams, I saw it for the first and last time when I was nine years old, and have never been able to retrace my steps. This is because nothing distinguishes the building from the outside; also because the month I found it was the month of my father’s death, my sudden recovery—though this last, I think, cannot possibly have been unrelated. The tomb is at the center of the city. The Incas had no written language, yet even so this tomb is full of books, the only books in the whole city. Fictions, stories. There is a reading room with long tables. There are pens and stacks of paper. And in the middle, in a glass case, the tomb of Huáscar Capac, a giant man dressed in a cloak of hummingbird feathers. The corpse is almost twelve feet long.

What are these books, these stories? When I was nine, I needed my true eyesight, perhaps, to read them or to write them. I needed my experience of the world.

In my hotel I awoke suddenly, and got up to stand in the darkness, staring out the window. Far away, down in the city, something was on fire.

That night the American consulate burned to the ground. This was news, and news to me until days later, when I heard it on the radio. By morning, Rachel and I had already started out into the countryside, to Z—. In this we had accepted the district commissioner’s compromise: The town was not in an area specifically claimed by the insurgents. It was in a different kind of turmoil, following the deaths of almost forty miners in a cave-in. The mine had been closed by strikers for a month, but, despite the urgent petitions of Euro-Bauxite and the Belgian mission, the government had not yet sent soldiers.

Possibly the district commissioner believed the miners to have legitimate grievances that deserved the attention of the international press. I don’t know, and doubtless I do him an injustice to judge him by appearances, for as I say, I speak no Spanish. All this was grudgingly interpreted for me by Rachel, my correspondent for The Australian. Probably he just wanted us out of the way; I don’t believe that he was deliberately sending us into danger. Certainly he had seemed impressed by our credentials, even asking Rachel to point out Sydney on his globe and then muttering reflectively, “Kangourou.”

We left while it was still dark. The road climbed away from the coast as if through common sense; at sunrise, it was cooler than the night, and the city was like the clog in the bottom of a basin, the hills around it ringed with residue. There is a world where water is as thin as air. I can imagine standing on a shore, the air curling and lapping at my feet, the valleys of the sea open below me, and above me not one thing, not one thing that could muddy sunlight—in a way that is the foundation of hope. You can go higher and higher. We reached little iron-roofed villages where the air seemed dry to the touch, the sky kingfisher blue. But the people were as confused as ever; we kept on getting lost. At night the mosquitoes kept us from sleeping. Once the front axle sank to the hubs in gleaming sand. I got out my Hasselblad and walked a long way, until I could look back towards the empty hills and see the car like a rock or a stump, something that hadn’t budged one millimeter in a thousand years. Why am I telling you this? Why am I finding new ways to delay? We came to Z— all right in the end, of course. As it turned out, we could have taken a bus. But that would have been too fast. Because I am avoiding this part. Because even though I was there, my thoughts are the way my pictures would have been—focused on things perhaps only inches beside the point. None of them would have been worth keeping.

One of my cameras has an attachment so that you can appear to be shooting in a different direction from the one you actually are. It was as if the thing worked in reverse: You would line up your shot, and the picture would squirt out to one side. Even the last picture, the one of the man getting shot—when they smashed my camera, it was frustrating because I knew I hadn’t seen what they thought I had. The photograph would have shown the man’s head, his face strong and still. He knew what I was trying to see. Perhaps he knew already he was just a memory image. The gun is poking at him from the side. You can just see part of its black snout in the middle of a grainy cloud; you can see the man’s hair billowing, and the side of his head distended. I’m sure they thought the picture was some kind of evidence, but if they had asked me to point out which one had pulled the trigger, I wouldn’t have known.

The man was kneeling in the street outside the movie theatre, his hands tied in front of him. Early in the morning he had been released from the tree where I had seen him first, and brought into the square. He had been allowed to wash and feed himself. Nevertheless, he made a show of sitting with his back to his guards and ignoring what seemed to be friendly and solicitous remarks. He looked towards the mine, whose tower rose from a hill of rubble a mile away. I had been up there the day before, and I had as many pictures as I needed; Rachel was up there still. At around six o’clock, a man came down with news that panicked everyone. People came out of the adjoining buildings and made a semicircle around the prisoner. That was when they bound his wrists together. An hour later, a siren went off in the mine. It meant nothing to me, but at the sound, the group around the kneeling man went into some kind of a dance—some ran back and forth, others gesticulated and slapped their chests. This went on for a minute or more; I was taking photographs, and they did nothing of substance until some other men appeared at the far end of the square, yelling and throwing stones. But then they pulled the kneeling man to his feet and tried to drag him away. He stumbled and fell on his face in the dust, and by that time some of the people from the new group were almost upon them. No one had paid any attention to me, and I had shot almost a roll of film from a safe distance. But I needed a close-up of the man’s face with dust on it. I had no time to change lenses, so I ran forward cursing and went down on my knees about fifteen feet away. The man raised his eyes to me, and I knew he was thinking about how he looked. If his hands had been free, he would have brushed back his hair. I saw his face out of focus through the viewer. Was that a frown, a sneer? I twisted the barrel savagely but the expression was gone, resolved into fixed staring. You could no longer see the thoughts. Then I saw the pistol coming into the picture from the right-hand side, and I pressed the shutter once, twice. The aperture closed, opened, closed, but in that fraction of a second, I saw his breaking head, perfect, framed. I heard the shot. The men around him scattered. For an instant I was alone with him, and then the square was full of people. I got to my feet, looking for Rachel, looking for a face I recognized, and I had a brief impression that there were no longer any patterns of movement in the square, no clumps of people, and everyone was standing still, posed, equidistant, repetitive, like figures on wallpaper. The man was shot to death right there, and I think I must have gotten up too fast because I bent over and put my hands to my head.

One man was dressed differently from the others—his clothes looked vaguely military. From this and from his beard I guessed he was not from that locality, a real revolutionary, perhaps, or else someone from the Shining Path. But he was an idiot just the same, because he stood in front of me and pulled at my camera, as if he expected the leather strap to give way in his hand. I staggered forward and we knocked our heads together; perhaps it is because dignity is important to such a man that after I had handed him the camera, he turned and hit me in the mouth. Or perhaps he really thought I was American. He said, “American,” and then he hit me in the mouth, making me sit down. How could I deny it? My mouth was full of blood. Somebody kicked me from behind, several people—not hard, but no accident either. I had not been touched in anger since I was a child, when my father and I were building the memory city, and I was too stupid and too young. But these men were strangers.

I did not resist. In time they left me, and I settled with my back to a small tree. I sat and watched the square empty out. A policeman, a priest, and a doctor were gathered around the corpse, along with some women. They carried it to a waiting car, and then they came towards me. They said something, but I waved them away. Their accents sounded phony. If an actor on stage turns to ask you a question, no matter how pertinent, you feel no compulsion to answer. You are sitting in judgment, always.

Some olive shreds of film blew across my legs and blew across the street. A white dog came and sat beside me.

And gradually, as I sat there, the town came back to life. Shops that had been closed and shuttered all day opened their doors, and there were lights on inside, now that it was getting dark. The streetlights in front of the municipal building turned on, and some kids smoked cigarettes on the steps. Young men and women, some elegantly dressed, stood under the movie marquee—it shed a silver radiance. “Thunderball.” On a side street, men in soft hats played dominoes, perhaps, outside the place where I had eaten lunch. I could see the entrance to our hotel, our car parked along the curb. Someone standing on the porch looking out.

It got dark. I thought the town was making itself soft again, the way some brainless anemone or crab will stretch out after a small trauma. And I didn’t want to make it clutch up tight again. So that when I stood up, I did it slowly. And in fact there was no shiver of movement, not from the kids on the steps, not from the woman on the porch. It was as if I didn’t exist, and the whole way up to the mine, as I was walking, I saw no one. There was no one at the gate—it was securely fastened with shiny padlocks, but to the right the chain-link fence had been trampled flat. Farther up, everything was in shadow, the cage, the showers, the pit: I had been on a tour the day before. And if I make it sound as if all these distances were short, and all these places easy to find, I am giving the wrong impression. But why drag it out? I knew what I was looking for, a place among the sidings where the rails ran straight into the rock, lit by an endless line of naked fluorescent bulbs. It was the supply shaft, and I walked in under the lights, between the tracks. I picked my way through a barricade of smashed machinery—a broken generator, a line of smashed electric cars. Huge pieces of the roof had fallen in, and in one place the floor had subsided four feet in a single step, bending the rails into greasy bows. The walls were rent and fissured, but still the line of light stretched unwavering—it was my comfort, and it buzzed and whispered as if conspiring against the dark.

I stood in a puddle of inky water. Just ahead, the tunnel had collapsed completely, and the line of lights lay buried like a vein of ore. Above, the fall had opened up a cavern, and a wall stood thirty feet high. Along its uneven surface someone had painted a huge red cross, smeared and clunky, and beneath it on a ledge stood an assortment of candles in blue and red glass jars: stubs of wax, mostly, but some still burned. Below, personal effects were gathered in careful heaps—gloves and shoes, orange helmets, framed photographs. A young man with a bad complexion. His tie is stupid, and he is looking away from the camera, but the older woman beside him is staring into it. This must have been the only picture she could find of them together, for it is flattering to neither. But it must have been she who left his clothes washed and folded in a little pile. The woman looks too old to be his wife, too young to be his mother. His sister, perhaps. In the photograph he is not touching her. I borrowed his coat, and the flashlight of another man, the father of five children.

When the tunnel collapsed, it had opened a horizontal gash in the rock above it. Into this I shined my light, and I must have seen some evidence of an opening, because I climbed into it and crawled forward on my hands and feet. I think I wanted to discover a dead body or something. But in fact there was no place to go. One lip of rock had drooped away from another, and I crawled along the gap, flashing my light. It was cold—I could see my breath—and dark, too. I had clambered over an outcrop that hid the tunnel from my sight. It was a glow behind some rocks, and looking back all I could see was the outline of the square cross on the wall, thirty feet high, with spots of candlelight beneath it. In front, the beam of my flashlight illuminated quick sections of the rock.

I crawled forward into the dark, and it was only by looking back that I discovered that the ledge I crept on had curled around me. I saw the glow behind me outlined by the shadow of a circle, and I found myself in a volcanic tube almost six feet in diameter, curving gently upward, and there was no reason to be cautious, either, because the rock around me was level and clean. The passage continued in the direction of the buried tunnel, but above it. But already I suspected that the passage I was in had no communication with the modern mine. Perhaps I had read somewhere that the sources of precious metals in these mountains had dried up at the end of the sixteenth century, and that Z— was built on the ruins of a much older town. When I put my light up, I saw that smoke had been cooked into the stone the length of the ceiling. It made no mark on my fingers.

I climbed this passageway for hours, I think, moving quickly because it was so cold. I walked with my neck and shoulders bent, because of the low roof. But the floor was level under a layer of crushed rock, and the air was good. Twice I had to go down on my hands and knees under a gallery of wooden supports. In the beginning, these were the only artifacts I saw: blackened chunks of wood, the mark of the axe still on them. And once I passed a crude stick figure carved into the wall. A man on a horse. There may have been others. For of course I was in total darkness, except for my flashlight, and this I used to keep myself from stumbling or from bumping my head. In front and behind, the light seemed to diffuse very quickly, although it was a strong one. But I explored only when I stopped to negotiate some difficult section, or to rest. So that this part of my trip exists for me only as a series of images a few inches from my eye. The man on horseback with the light in a circle around it. A fat drop of water with the light glistening in the spray. I had stopped where I could stand and stretch, where a narrow shaft opened above me, and I could stand in a ring of wooden posts and stretch my back and knees. It was warmer here. Warm air came from above me.

At every step I had expected to turn back without thinking, before my light failed, before I got lost, but in the warm air the difficulties seemed less urgent. It seemed far to return. Here, something was close by.

I came through a big chamber. The roof was lost in darkness. But high up along the walls I detected the outlines of painted figures, up where my light was too vague to touch. Even here, things were escaping me, I felt. Again, closer to hand, the wall had been chipped clean of significance. Is that too much to ask, I thought, to hold something in your hands for sure? Now, I don’t understand what made me so dissatisfied. But I rushed forward like a drunk, hoping to catch up. It is that hope, you see. I am convinced of it. It is that drunkenness. Because I had passed holes in the floor before, places where the floor had collapsed. I had shone my flashlight into them cautiously. But this one, I must have fallen several feet. I hurt myself, and the light snapped out. But I didn’t even care, because I knew at once that I had fallen onto something real. A stone sphere the size of a bowling ball. A stone sphere covered with carvings and bumps my fingers couldn’t interpret. No, it was a head, the head of an animal. The head of an animal, with something in its mouth. It was cold and heavy; I lifted it into my lap and put my cheek against it.

As it happens, the flashlight fell close to where I sit. Yet I was prevented from reaching for it by a confusion of hopes. Because, like a child, I was not helped to action by knowing certain things. And there was something relaxing about sitting here like a blind man, reading the cold stone in the ringing, breathing darkness.

And in any case, in a little while I could see. In my lap is a tiger’s head. It is unusual because the sculptor has chosen to work from the outside in. Does that make sense? I mean the rock still holds its natural contours, though it looks as if it had been rolled in skin. The carving has no structure of its own. And yet the artist has taken care to select a rock that did not require much shaping. There are two holes for its eyes.

The head has broken from a larger piece, a stone image standing erect. It is carved in the same superficial style. I am going to use it now, because I know too little to make stone bones for this stone flesh. What is there to know? Only that I am sitting in the fifty-first chamber of the nineteenth court of the imperial treasury of Huáscar Capac, and it is years since I have passed this way.

What is there to know? Only that in time I will get up. I will move forward. I will search among the images with ever-increasing eagerness; I will find the tomb of the great Inca, and I will sit down at the table at his feet, and I will write this story.

Paul Park

Paul Park

Paul Park lives in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, with his wife Deborah and his children Lucius and Miranda. He is the author of A Princess of Roumania and its sequels, Soldiers of Paradise and its sequels, The Gospel of Corax, Celestis, Three Marys, All Those Vanished Engines, and a new collection, Other Stories from PS Publishing. “If Lions Could Speak” first appeared in Interzone in 2002, and was the title story in his first collection, which came out from Wildside Press that same year.