The Disk, Part 3

The Disk, Part 3

photographed in Chicago, Illinois on October 2, 2013

I had bread and fish. We did not speak a word during the meal. Rain began to fall. With a few skins I made him a pallet on the earth floor, where my brother had died. When night fell, we went to sleep.

Day was dawning when we left the hut. The rain had stopped and the ground was covered with new-fallen snow. My companion’s staff slipped from his hand and he ordered me to pick it up.

‘Why must I obey you?’ I asked him.

‘Because I am a king,’ he answered.

I thought him mad. Picking up the staff, I handed it to him. He spoke with a different voice.

‘I am king of the Secgens,’ he said. ‘Often in hardpitched battle I carried my people to victory, but at the fateful hour I lost my kingdom. My name is Isern and I am of the race of Odin.’

‘I do not worship Odin,’ I said. ‘I worship Christ.’

He went on as if he had not heard me. ‘I travel the paths of exile, but I am still king, for I have the disk. Do you want to see it?’

He opened the palm of his bony hand. There was nothing in it. Only then did I recall that he had always kept the hand closed.

Staring hard at me, he said, ‘You may touch it.’

Excerpted from “The Disk,” appearing in The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges. Published by Penguin Classics, New York, 2007.