KING OF TEXCOCO.
The news that Mr. Nez, leader of the La Familia band of zombies, was indeed the legendary Aztec poet King Nezahualcoyotl was stunning. It made Pearl and I devoted students of “The Book of Life and Death,” the ancient Aztec manuscript archived at the Mano Poderosa laboratory library
As Mrs. Gonzalez, our new found teacher, had indicated, the English translation of the Nahuatl text as the end of the manuscript made our daily “lessons” if not easy at least manageable.
We spent the next several days totally immersed in a time and place six hundreds in the past. The first passage of the manuscript set down the tone and direction.
“In the year of 3 Rabbit, in the Valley of the Sun, the poet King ruled. Texcoco was his kingdom, the poet King ruled in Texcoco. Nezalhualcoyotl, builder of roads and aqueducts, builder of palaces and gardens, creator of song and flowers. And the great Nezalhualcoyotl did rule with wisdom and justice. Wisdom and justice was the rule of the king of Texcoco.”
Yeah, lot of repetitions. We discovered that 3-Rabbit translated to the year 1430 A.D.
Before long Pearl and I got into a pattern. We would breakfast together in the commissary. Then head for the library where Mrs. Gonzalez would give us our daily assignment and be on hand to answer any question we might have. Then we’d plow through the English translation of the ancient Nahuatl text. We took turns reading outloud to one another.
A week after we started I found myself reading outloud to Pearl from the Book of Life and Death. I had just read several pages extolling the grandeur of King Nezalhualcoyotl.
Then the manuscript translation gave a kind of bio of Nezalhualcoyotl. Turns out when he was only sixteen, he saw his father, then King of Texcoco, assassinated before his very eyes by the forces of neighboring Azcapotzalco. Thanks to the help of a servant, he barely escaped with his life and went into exile until he grew to be a man. Then he organized neighboring cities and went to war with the people of Azcapotzalco. He managed to defeat them and regained the kingdom of Texcoco. He ruled it for the next forty years until he was 71. That’s when he died.
Then the manuscript took a turn. The handwriting shifted from the careful hand of an abstract historian scholar to the uneven and labored scrawl of an old person. It was the voice of Nezahualcoyotl himself, on his death bed.
“Followers and friends, on my beloved family, I lie before you on the eve of my journey to Mixtlan, the Land of the Dead. Hear this and listen, listen and learn. In my living life I wondered about the afterlife. Are we not mortals? Humans within and without? We must all go away, we all have only a small time on earth. I welcome my journey to Mixtlan and look forward to meeting the Lord of the Near and Close. May I rest and may you join me someday.”
And then the narration really took a flip. I skimmed back to the original and saw that the parchment had changed, and the handwriting as well. This was a new document entirely. Now the writing was precise and determined, the handwriting of someone young and energetic.
“Oh calamity, oh lamentations! Did I not die? Was I not buried? And whence do I come forth anew? I am intoxicated. I weep of my life before. I wonder at this new life ahead. Am I mad? How I can be alive anew? And what of this young body? Where has age gone? What has the Giver of life given to me? And why? Indeed, I shall never die, indeed, I shall never disappear. I am now where death is overcome. By the most Powerful Hand of the Giver of Life.”
When we got to that part, Pearl stopped my reading.
“Oh my God, Lazaro, ‘Most powerful hand of the giver of life,’ that’s where Mano Poderosa must come from!”
“Of course,” I said. This was really neat getting to know the back story of our zombie ancestors. Wow!
The rest of the manuscript was all in the new handwriting. It went on to describe how Nezalhuacoyotl had gone temporarily insane after his resurrection from the dead. In a methodical and reasoned manner, the narrative described how he lived for years as a begger, hiding from his family or anyone who might know him. How he was so despondent that he tried unsuccessfully to kill himself several times. Then he finally came back to his senses and figured out that if he was alive there must be a reason for it.
“Gone is the smell of flowers only that of death abides with me now. Gone is the color of my father and mother on my skin, only the pale whiteness of death now. But is there not a purpose for me to exist? What task has the Giver of Life set before me?”
And then Nezalhuacoyotl wrote about how his appetite had changed.
“Do I not lust for the taste of human flesh? Yes, it is true. But what of the flower and song that gives to life so much meaning? Can this be only chimera? No! It is flower and song that sustains us all. Shall I eat then of human flesh? No, truly now rotting beasts shall fill my stomach, truly rotting beast shall give me sustenance. Would the Giver of Life not want it this way?”
This passage, of course, hit home to me in a special way.
I still remembered the thrill I felt when I tasted the human blood that had been used to write “Die Mutant!” on my apartment wall. There was no denying it. And yet, throughout my association with the La Familia zombies, no one had ever made mention of wanting to eat humans. Yet I knew that this was the driving force behind the Juan de Oñate zombies. And of course I had never even dared speak to Pearl about this.
But I decided that I must.
And so I finally did.
That afternoon, after reading the passage on Nezalhualcoyotl’s resurrection and his declared lust for human flesh, Pearl and I were getting ready to go back to our bedrooms to clean up before dinner. The library was almost completely empty so I took the opportunity.
“Pearl,” I said, “Can I ask you personal questions?
“Lazo, by now you should know that I have no secrets from you. Geez, Lazo, we’re in this together. And it is life or death, you know. What is it?”
“Human flesh,” I said boldly. I figured I might as well get it out there. “Have you ever…wanted to …eat human flesh?”
Pearl was silent for a long moment. She turn her eyes away from me. Was she embarrassed? Finally she looked back and made eye contact.
“Yes, of course. All of us zombies want to eat humans. That’s part of who were are.”
“But no one talks about it,” I said.”Mr.Nez badmouths the Oñate clan for eating human flesh but no one owns up the desires they have for it!”
“You’re right, Lazo, it’s the proverbial elephant in the room. Even though we have gone through the zombie transformation, we are all human being at heart. We know it’s wrong and we, what‘s the word, we sublimate it by eating other things. That’s why Mr. Nez is so adamant about fighting the Oñates. They’ve given in to this dark urge.”
Then I decided to really take bold step. As long as we were all getting it all out in the open.
“So why not eat human beings?” I asked her point blank.
“Lazo,” Pearl said looking into my eyes, “that would make us animals. We may be zombies, but we’re still human! We’re still part of the human race and we have a gift, the zombie gene that resurrected us can perhaps prolong human life. What Mr. Nez said six hundred years ago still holds true. Remember, “What task has The Giver of Life set before me?” The task is here in the Mano Poderosa lab and in our lives. The task is to protect the human race.”
Copyright 2013 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.
This blog was originally published on April 4, 2013.