from Transfinite Things

Hugo Labravo

Artwork by Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

The Old Woman

She’d spent all of life sitting in the hammock. The kids who’d dared look under it said she didn’t lie down because it was no longer possible to distinguish the fabric of her dress from the hammock itself, and if she leaned back the material would tear.

It was also possible that she’d forgotten how to move. The weight of all those years had left its mark on her leathery skin: the sailors said her wrinkles were an exact copy of the cliffs where the seagulls nested, and her skin had so many creases that even a gypsy woman would get lost among the intersecting lines of millions of expended destinies. And her eyes were the sea. Her waves came and went from the unceasing source of her memories. Sometimes she’d get lost in them for days at a time, but she’d come back with extraordinary stories. She knew the most terrible tales utterable in human tongues and could make absolutely anyone cry. We’d get together in the evenings to listen to her and take bets on who could hold out the longest. Nobody ever won.

This went on until she got tired of us. She got up from her ancient hammock and walked towards the sea, uprooting the posts to which it was tied. On she went, impassive, dragging half her worldly belongings behind her, and we saw her sink into the water and turn into a rock. That’s the one, jutting out, the one that every now and then devours a fisherman.

Four Fingers at a Time

Into the establishment came the most beautiful head of hair he had ever seen: a mixed-race girl whose curls quadrupled the size of her skull. As soon as she came through the door, all eyes were drawn to the bush swaying on top of her head. She settled into one of the leather chairs and ordered, her voice crystalline:

“Cut it all off.”

He managed to accompany his astonishment with a clumsy search for the electric razor.

“No,” she interrupted him. “Do it with scissors. Four fingers at a time.”

The hairdresser collected himself, tried to look professional, and grabbed the scissors and comb. He pulled the curls straight, measured out four fingers and cut. After fifteen minutes, perplexed, he could confirm that he had made no progress whatsoever. The mountain of hair at his feet, on the other hand, was growing.

He thought about switching to the razor, but she was so engrossed in a magazine that he didn’t dare disturb her. He continued cutting, one great snip at a time, until the entire floor was covered in little coils. The hair level began to rise. It was moving. The boy who did the sweeping was swallowed up before he even had a chance to complain. The same happened to the regular customers, who in their surprise entirely neglected to defend themselves. Only when he finally decided to grab the electric razor did he realise he could no longer move. The curly swell crashed against the windows.

Out of the establishment came the most beautiful head of hair he ever saw.

translated from the Spanish by Ellen Jones

Transfinitas cosas
was first published by Literalia in 2018.