I Migrated to the US to Escape a Demon
by Javier Loustaunau
People have asked me a bunch of times why an industrial engineer like myself would move to the USA and become a custodian. I think life is just more predictable here, the laws seem a lot more settled. When I say the law is looser in Mexico, I’m not just talking about bribing your way out of a parking ticket. The laws of physics, metaphysics, reality… they seem less predictable. You might stop at an amazing restaurant late at night while drunk and then never find it again after you sober up. People all over are getting “limpias” or aura cleanses to break streaks of bad luck. Don't even get me started on stories about Smurf dolls that bite children, which seems really funny until you are alone with one.
That is the way these urban legends work I guess, they all seem really funny when you first hear them but then when you are alone they are creepy as hell. That is in part why I moved… I was spending too much time alone, creeped out while working overnights, praying under my breath. Our country is very catholic, even if the government is not supposed to be. That's me, engineer on the outside, a dozen candles with saints and the Virgin Mary burning inside me. We are surrounded by progress yet we continue to see the devil in all aspects of our lives. He makes food spoil by tasting it if you leave it unattended. He dances with gorgeous young women at parties until they realize he has one foot like a goat and another like a rooster. He shows up as a huge dog and trashes your business. Most stories are mischievous and end with him being scared off by prayer, these stories are ultimately empowering to believers.
One day I heard a story I really did not like, especially since it took place on the highway from Los Mochis to Topolobampo which I drove through alone at night for work. Back then I worked at the oil refinery. I mostly ran around fixing leaks and sensor errors. I was fresh out of college and really grateful to instantly get a job in my field which would likely set me up for life with a series of small and evenly spread out promotions. In a few years I would be a supervisor, then in a few years a daytime supervisor, and finally I would have my own office and working nights would be a distant memory. But I never made it to my first promotion, because of that god damned road and a scary story.
I had been at a party which was kinda low key, nobody had brought beer, we were really just snacking and drinking soft drinks and telling scary stories. Then somebody asked me, “You take the road to Topo, don't you, to the refinery? I heard a really scary story about that road.” And they told me the story, about a ghostly baby that appears in the seat next to you and tries to get you to look at it’s teeth, but if you do it will lunge for your throat, so you have to ignore it while it repeatedly says “mira mis dientitos.” “Look at my little teeth.” My friend laughed. All my friends laughed. I pretended to, but deep inside I was actually really angry. I knew a seed had been planted in my head and now my drives to work would be really creepy.
For the next few weeks I would feel my chest tightening on my way to work, driving at night with banda or corridos playing. I could no longer nap at work, and after my morning drive it would take me a while to really relax. Sleeping during the day is weird, you listen to so much traffic, so many honks and car alarms. Dogs bark more, birds chirp. But it was usually the sound of children playing that would wake me up from a dead sleep. I could not make out what they would say but I was primed to hear the voice of a kid next to me, insisting I look at him. I was a wreck for a while, and I drank a lot of coffee to make sure my car did not end up a wreck, too.
Finally one night I’m on my way to work around 11:30 to start at midnight. There is a whole lot of nothing along that part of the road, just dried brush, billboards and occasional exits to farms or small towns. Then I felt the presence before I even heard it, my whole body just kind of cramped up and I felt an intense chill. There was also a smell, it smelled like fireworks, mold and earth. It was not pungent enough to make it hard to breathe, but it was certainly menacing. And then I heard the voice, childlike and casual saying, “Señor, mira mis dientitos.” “Sir, please look at my teeth.” It was the moment I had been dreading for the last month, suddenly every muscle in my body contracted and ached all at once.
It could not be real though, obviously I was just super tired, super primed, super obsessed with this one event so my mind was playing tricks on me. But then again, a little louder I heard, “Sir, please, look at my teeth.” I wheezed as all the air escaped me, and I fought to catch my breath but my lungs took a second to respond. It was actually happening after all that time dreading it, but I was not about to acknowledge it. I ignored the voice and kept driving. That is when I realized that my music had turned off, I went to raise the volume but for some reason it was not playing. I turned the knob all the way and nothing happened. “Sir, don't ignore me, all I want is for you to look at me.” I was alone with that thing in silence, so I kept my eyes forward and watched the road.
“Sir, please why are you ignoring me?” it said, sounding more desperate, more frustrated, more like a child who needed help. “Sir, please!” I continued to ignore it, the drive was short and I knew I would make it to the parking lot if I could hold out 15 more minutes. “Sir, look at me! I promise I don’t bite…” There was a hint of malice in that last statement, I could almost hear a smirk. Involuntarily, my peripheral vision turned just a little, just to confirm that it was smugly toying with me, and then my vision darted back to the road. I had seen a shape, black and gray, like something burnt and buried and dug up again. I saw no eyes, no reflections, just darkness. But it was not an object, not a corpse, it was swelling and deflating in big breaths and its arms had been moving when I caught that glimpse. I felt light headed, my hands swerved a little but I quickly righted them and fixed the steering wheel in their tight grip. I wanted to cry I was so scared, and so angry that this was happening to me, that this possibility had even been planted in my head in the first place. But I did not sob or scream, I started to pray.
“Padre nuestro, que estáas en el cielo, santificado sea tu nombre.” As I muttered under my breath the presence grew more agitated, with more urgency in its voice. “Señor, mira mis dientes!” it cried. “Señor… señor… stop praying and fucking look at me!” it growled. Between each phrase it yelled at me, I could hear it’s teeth snapping shut, like a trap that opened to spit curses and closed again. “Señor, you rude piece of shit, you won’t even fucking look at me, shut the fuck up and look at me!” I kept praying and fought the urge to have my vision stray into the seat next to me… but it did, I did not want it to happen but I was seeing so much agitated movement, I could not avoid looking. It was small, but not baby small. It’s limbs were gaunt, not chubby and cherubic. It was coiled like a cat about to pounce. Its features were all gray but it reflected no light so the shadows on it were extremely harsh. Its eyes were just two bottomless holes and finally it’s teeth, the one god damned thing I should have never looked at, were terrifying. Lip less, snarling, framed by swollen and infected gums, they were impossible to miss. Two rows of pointy yellow fangs, with the occasional normal looking tooth in between. They were sharp and deadly, and they were coming at me. I freaked out, I swerved and my car started to spin. I can't explain the physics of it but somehow the thing that was in the air coming for me ended up flying sideways into the back seat, and my car flew off the road.
When I awoke I was being pulled out of my upside down vehicle, radio at full blast. I flailed my arms and fought the paramedics who yelled at me to calm down, that I was OK. I mean obviously I was not OK, I ended up in the hospital with a concussion. The police showed up and told me I had fallen asleep at the wheel, and I did not argue with them. My friends and family visited and asked me what happened, so I also told them I had fallen asleep at the wheel. I had no interest in telling people the truth. I had no interest in telling myself the truth. I did not want to think about what happened or plant that seed in anyone else's head. I spent a few extra days at home recovering, working up the courage to go back to work. Then I got a Mexpost from the insurance adjusters. It was a box and an envelope… I opened the envelope first and there was a letter that said, “We were able to recover the following from your car: your registration, a pair of broken sunglasses, one thermos, one rosary, 4 air fresheners, 1 broken animal tooth charm.”
I did not know what they meant by an animal tooth charm. I did not want to know. I never opened the box. Instead I submitted my two weeks’ notice and decided to get far away, I went to live with an aunt and uncle across the border. Finding work on a tourist visa was hard. Keeping a low profile when that visa expired was harder. Becoming a US citizen was extra hard. But it was all predictable, a series of milestones on a long straight road. It was the furthest thing from the dark road to Topolobampo with its sudden twists and unexpected turns. I only travel that road in dreams now, and I’ve heard the voice next to me a few times… but it only gets so far as the word Señor and I wake up with my heart pounding. I remind myself that stuff like that does not happen here, I say a prayer, and I try to go back to sleep.
Javier Loustaunau was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa where he lived until his 21st birthday. Shortly after 9/11 he decided to move to the US to work for a while, taking a break in his studies as a biochemical engineer. Instead he worked his way up from restaurants to banking, from banking to operations and is now a data analyst in the HRIS and Insurance field. He is a published author of poetry and prose, specializing in short scary fiction. You can find his work on the NoSleep podcast and in the anthology Monsters We Forgot.