Chapter 55: - Page 4 of 5

The Catastrophe

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Meanwhile, what had become of Elias? Leaving the house of Crisostomo, he had run like one crazed, without heeding where he was going.  He crossed the fields in violent agitation, he reached the woods; he fled from the town, from the light—even the moon so troubled him that he plunged into the mysterious shadows of the trees.  There, sometimes pausing, sometimes moving along unfrequented paths, supporting himself on the hoary trunks or being entangled in the undergrowth, he gazed toward the town, which, bathed in the light of the moon, spread out before him on the plain along the shore of the lake. Birds awakened from their sleep flew about, huge bats and owls moved from branch to branch with strident cries and gazed at him with their round eyes, but Elias neither heard nor heeded them. In his fancy he was followed by the offended shades of his family, he saw on every branch the gruesome basket containing Balat’s gory head, as his father had described it to him; at every tree he seemed to stumble over the corpse of his grandmother; he imagined that he saw the rotting skeleton of his dishonored grandfather swinging among the shadows—and the skeleton and the corpse and the gory head cried after him, Coward! Coward!

Leaving the hill, Elias descended to the lake and ran along the shore excitedly.  There at a distance in the midst of the waters, where the moonlight seemed to form a cloud, he thought he could see a specter rise and soar the shade of his sister with her breast bloody and her loose hair streaming about.  He fell to his knees on the sand and extending his arms cried out, You, too!

Then with his gaze fixed on the cloud he arose slowly and went forward into the water as if he were following some one.  He passed over the gentle slope that forms the bar and was soon far from the shore.  The water rose to his waist, but he plunged on like one fascinated, following, ever following, the ghostly charmer.  Now the water covered his chest—a volley of rifle-shots sounded, the vision disappeared, the youth returned to his senses.  In the stillness of the night and the greater density of the air the reports reached him clearly and distinctly.  He stopped to reflect and found himself in the water—over the peaceful ripples of the lake he could still make out the lights in the fishermen’s huts.

He returned to the shore and started toward the town, but for what purpose he himself knew not.  The streets appeared to be deserted, the houses were closed, and even the dogs that were wont to bark through the night had hidden themselves in fear.  The silvery light of the moon added to the sadness and loneliness.

Learn this Filipino word:

nagdaán sa butas ng karayom