Up and downhill we went, but always descending. We had left the hot wind behind and were sinking into pure, airless heat. The stillness seemed to be waiting for something.

“It’s hot here,” I said.

“You might say. But this is nothing,” my companion replied. “Try to take it easy. You’ll feel it even more when we get to Comala. That town sits on the coals of the earth, at the very mouth of hell. They say that when people from there die and go to hell, they come back for a blanket.”

“Do you know Pedro Páramo?” I asked.

I felt I could ask because I had seen a glimmer of goodwill in his eyes.

“Who is he?” I pressed him.

“Living bile,” was his reply.

And he lowered his stick against the burros for no reason at all, because they had been far ahead of us, guided by the descending trail.