Omar Alvarez the author of The Heart of Consciousness, a pair of short stories that questions social convention and tackles the toxicity of machismo for gay Latino men. He illustrates the question “who can we truly trust,” and what it means to be in love with magic and drama.
An Excerpt from “Cero”
There was a boy with hair as black as tar, begging for coins. The wind blew through the holes of his cloak and chilled his frail skin underneath. His smudged pants sagged and his tattered shirt hung on his shoulders, his dull green eyes were sunken in. His eyes looked as if jade lost its luster, looking from person to person asking for a spare coin in a voice he could hardly muster.
Nobody, not a count, noble, or maid gave him as much as a glance. The sun was setting- staining the April sky with hues of purple jasmine and yellow marigold- as clouds chased it away, warning the star and those under it of a upcoming thunderstorm.
As the last of the light and warmth was banished by the night, the boy sought shelter from the storm. The drip-drops of rain began, softly like a light tapping on the boy’s shoulder. Michael ran fearing
the clap of thunder, he held onto his cloak as he zipped down the empty market looking for an empty box or a barrel. Anything, he thought, anything to keep him dry. An aching pain pulsed through his feet as he continued, swiftly shifting his head from left to right, still with no luck. His last chance was the forest.
Michael’s throat went dry. The Great Witch Luciphia’s Forest. No one dare enters, everyone fears it, even the caravans of the King must detour from it. She has lived for centuries, or that is what the townspeople say, preying on those who dare trespass on her territory. Though some say it is just legend, no one has ever seen Luciphia, but there is still fear of vicious two-headed beasts said to guard the forest.
Lightning cracked overhead, a cold fear stuck the boy to run to the forest. Thunder clapped again as the tapping of the rain transformed into a downpour, lashing at his cloak. The pain under his feet lighted as he ground turned into dirt then gentle grass. The trees above shielded Michael from the rain, but he did not stop, as lightning laughed at him like a vengeful angel from above ready to strike him for his mother’s sins. As thunder sounded like trumpets of the Almighty ready to smite him, he ran out of terror,
with his back wet with sweat and drums beating in his ears. He ran for what miserable life he lived as the son of a whore. His chest heaved, lost of breath he stopped and leaned on a tree.
Michael looked up, his joints aching and freezing. The cloak was soaked, and so were his clothes. Only small drops of rain fell through the leaves of the adult oak trees. The sounds of the forest surrounded the boy.
Howls, hoots, and a voice: soft yet audible. Singing a song, a lullaby. The boy had heard it before, with his mother. She sang it to him when he was just a baby. The slight thought of someone he loved made him chase after the flighting voice. Ama, he thought, please don’t leave me Ama. The boy stumbled on a massive oak’s root and fell, taking a pine cone to the temple, but he would not be dissuaded. He got up and continued. He would not be left again.