Un jardín de claveles blancos
Por Alex V. Cruz
El chico de boca rosada le mordió los labios mucho antes de conocerlo en persona. Ocurrió en un sueño, pero Lucas no lo comprendió hasta el siguiente día que, mientras caminaba con la boca sabor a sangre coagulada, lo vio andar los pasillos de la universidad Utesa, recinto Moca, como si nada hubiera ocurrido.
Lo conoció por sus labios, largos y delgados como orugas de polilla, y por la manera en que caminaba, pecho alto y espalda recta como si llevara la torre Eiffel metida por el culo. Sus ojos las aguas azules del mar mediterráneo, y su pelo carbón carecía la textura característica de pelo malo. Se llamaba Mateo, y Lucas lo supo por las olas de bochinches en la que navegaban las chicas que lo veían caminar por los pasillos ardientes de la pequeña universidad cibaeña.
Lucas, con la punta de su lengua, pasó el día jugando con los agujeros que dejaron los dientes de Mateo en el adentro de su boca. Ya no sentía el dolor naufragante de la mañana, pero aún estaba ahogado en el sabor metálico cliché de la sangre. Cuando terminó su día universitario, se acostó en uno de los bancos por el jardín principal de aquella institución, donde podía ver las nubes oscuras contemplar cómo y cuándo arruinarían el día de los jornaleros diarios.
“Nos conocemos,” Lucas escuchó a alguien decir, y no tuvo que moverse para saber que era el chico español que traía a todos locos. Sus eses agudamente pronunciadas y el intercambio de la ce por la ze lo delató casi instantáneamente.
“No creo,” dijo Lucas, sentándose en el banco y mirándolo a los ojos, porque de que otra manera iba a explicar que lo conoció en un sueño, que todavía lleva el sabor de su boca y sus dientes marcado bajo sus labios. En lo profundo de sus entrañas, en un lugar cerquita al corazón, cuyo latía como locomotora del siglo XIX, llevaba la memoria de la humedad de su piel.
“Sabes,” dijo Mateo, “eres muy atractivo…” Lucas perdió el contacto con los ojos de Mateo. Sus cachetes sonrojaron bajo la melanina diluida de su piel. “… para ser dominicano.”
Mateo continuó por su camino, el viento jugando con su pelo y sol adorándolo. Lucas, aún sentado en su banco, vio como un chico, quien él conocía de cara, pero no de nombre, caminaba con su mochila a medio hombro, y su camisa ensangrentada en el pecho. La porción inferior de su boca totalmente devorada, y su espalda sudada. “Ese seré yo mañana,” dijo Lucas.
Las primeras gotas del diluvio de esa noche se encunaron en el pelo crespo de Lucas, y supo que era hora de echar camino a casa, donde su madre, con sus huesos de osteoporosis, lo estaría esperando con la comida servida en la mesa, y con el orgullo de ver a su hijo universitario plasmado en su cara.
Se esperaba el tercer huracán de esa temporada, y Lucas se aseguró de llevar en su mochila la sombrilla que no podría usar por los fuertes vientos. También encontró la bufanda olvidada de su primo americano y la envolvió en su cuello bastante veces para cubrir la sangre que caía por la falta de toda su mandíbula y parte de su cuello. No quería ensangrentar el examen de Civilizaciones Mesoamericanas que tenía esa mañana. Ya el maestro se las traía con él y no quería darle más pretexto para que le reprobara la clase.
Lucas llegó tarde a clase. El carro público de infinita capacidad que tomó esa mañana se averió a muchas cuadras de la universidad. Entre los fuertes vientos que amenazaban hacer volar esa bufanda teñida de sangre y el agua percusionista, Lucas pasó por el puertón principal sin despertar el guachimán que protegía la universidad para que nadie la atacara en sueños.
Los pasillos ya estaban vacíos y solo quedaba el mal olor de almas y cabello mojado. Se encontró con Mateo, nariz perfilada y pelo brilloso, que lo miraba por debajo de sus pestañas. “Quiero más,” él dijo, y fue en ese momento que Lucas reconoció que Mateo lo estaba esperando. La sangre hecha para el sonrojo brotó por la carne desgarrada de donde debía estar la mandíbula, enchumbando aún más la ya pesada bufanda. Lucas desenvolvió la bufanda poco a poco hasta revelar su labio superior y brotes de sangre fresca y coagulada. Mateo se le acercó y, con su lengua larga y puntiaguda, lamió la cara de Lucas por la frente y bajo las sienes hasta encontrar en su cuello un pedazo de piel aún no destripada por sus dientes y empezó a comérselo a mordidas, deleitándose de su piel morena. Una chica, que salió de un salón de clases, gritó y se desmalló al ver tanta pasión entre los chicos.
A Lucas no le quedaba nada en el cuello ni en la parte superior de las clavículas más que esa poca carne rosada y obstinada que no quería desprenderse de los huesos blancos. La bufanda ya no podía cubrir su cuello completo y temía que sus compañeros pensara que parecía zombi de una película de terror. Decidió tomar el día libre. De todas maneras ya era muy tarde para tomar el examen de Civilizaciones Mesoamericanas, así que regresó a la parada de carros para ir a casa, pero los choferes, al ver el derroche de sangre por todo su cuerpo, le negaron la entrada y no tuvo mas que irse caminando entre el viento, que soplaba tan fuerte que levantaba los vehículos y los hacia llegar rápido a sus destinos.
En casa, donde Lucas puso sus libros abiertos en la mesa coja para que secaran, su madre lo esperaba mientras revolvía el sancocho de tres días en la gran paila de aluminio. “Mira la televisión,” dijo ella, apuntando con los labios al televisor que usaba de antena un paraguas para desviar el gotero del techo de zinc. “El ojo llega hoy y va acabar con todo.” Lucas temía que cancelaran las clases. Temía que no iba a poder ver a Mateo. Temía que no iba a sentir sus labios sobre su carne cruda.
Esa noche, entre las fuertes ráfagas de viento, la inagotable lluvia, y los macos escabulléndose entre las tablas de madera buscando refugio, Lucas soñó de nuevo con el chico blanco de la escuela. Este le devoró el pecho y el brazo izquierdo dejándolo en huesos y tendones. Lucas despertó, solo su habitación quedaba en pie. El resto de la casa y su madre se los llevó el huracán y nunca fueron encontrados. “Maldición,” dijo Lucas. “Casi no me queda nada que ofrecerle a Mateo.”
Lucas, sin nada mejor que hacer en aquel pedazo de casa que espantar las incansables moscas, se puso su mejor ropa, la que le enviaban los primos y tías de Nueva York, y le envidiaban sus compañeros. Perfumó las llagas que cubría la carne mal comida de su cuello sintiendo el breve picor del alcohol tocando sus heridas y emprendió camino hacia la universidad con la esperanza de ver a Mateo, porque aunque no hubiera clases por la destrucción que dejó el huracán, tenía más oportunidades de verlo en las calles de Moca, que en su pequeño y aburrido pueblo.
Lucas llevaba su cabeza en alto, balanceada en casi los huesos cervicales, y con una sonrisa solo en lo que le quedaba de labios, navegaba los obstáculos dejado por el huracán. Ni los postes y cables eléctricos, ramas y árboles, hojas de zinc y cuerpos moribundos pudieron borrar su buen humor. Tenía el presentimiento de que no solo encontraría a Mateo en la universidad, pero que ese día el chico de pelo bueno terminaría el festín que era su cuerpo. Entrarían a un salón vacío y por fin Lucas y Mateo serían uno en un mismo cuerpo.
Le tomó horas llegar a la universidad. Su ropa toda sudada y ensangrentada. Limpió el banco, donde tuvo ese corto dialogo con Mateo, de las hojas lloradas por los árboles que aún quedaban en pie. Se sentó y esperó y esperó hasta que anocheció. Mateo nunca llegó.
Lucas amaneció sentado, espalda recta, en el mismo lugar donde esperaba a Mateo. No durmió, no soñó, solo esperó. Esa mañana, con la salida del sol, llegaron las moscas fastidiosas que le serenaban constantemente sus oídos. Lucas estaba cubierto de ellas, quienes lamían su carne y ponían sus huevos. Él no podía espantarlas, su columna dorsal estaba tiesa, no podía mover ni siquiera su cuello. Pero por fin lo vio. Mateo, el único en la universidad, llego a verlo.
La perfecta nariz de Mateo se arrugó al acercarse a Lucas, quien parecía carne seca al sol. Lucas intento sonreír con lo que le quedaba de labios, pero era difícil al ver la cara de disgusto de Mateo.
“Que patético eres,” dijo Mateo. “Me das asco.” Lucas miró como el joven europeo tomaba su alrededor, el desastre dejado por el huracán. Él vio como Mateo nunca perdió de su cara la revulsión que sentía por lo que veía, por la tierra que pisaba. Lucas entendió que ya este sitio lo aburria. Ya la gente le molestaba. Lucas sabía que Mateo iba hacer lo que los mismos dominicanos no podía. Iba a tomar sus cosas e irse a otro lugar por otras aventuras. Buscaría a otro que devorar.
Lucas no pudo moverse de ese sitio. Allí quedo como monje en meditación. Los compañeros le traían flores y le hicieron una tumba. Cuando sus huesos se hicieron polvo, fabricaron alrededor del banco un jardín de claveles blancos.
by Alex V. Cruz
The slender-nosed figure sunk his teeth into Lucas’s lips before their first encounter. It happened in a dream, and Lucas could not fully grasp what had occurred until the following day. He wandered about with the lingering taste of clotted blood when he noticed the guy strolling the hallways of Utesa University without a care in the world.
Lucas recognized him by how he strode along, chest puffed and back straight as though the Eiffel Tower were lodged up his ass. His eyes, waters of the Mediterranean Sea. His sultry lips were like long, thin caterpillars. His charcoal hair lacked the texture of “bad” hair. Lucas learned through the undulating waves of gossip that swept through the university that his name was Mateo. The news propagated and intensified with each new flock of girls and guys that gawked from afar as he navigated the sweltering hallways of that small Cibao university.
Lucas traced the wounds on his lips with the tip of his tongue, no longer plagued by the agonizing sting of Mateo’s bite. Still, he was intoxicated by the rusty taste of blood. After an exhausting day of classes, he lay on a hard concrete bench by the school’s central garden, peering at the sky as the dark clouds brooded over the ideal time to ruin the life of the daily commuters.
“We’ve met,” Lucas heard his voice, and without a glance, he knew it was the Spaniard speaking—the one that caused the entire academy to spawn in a frenzy. The way he pronounced the “S’es” and substituted the “ce” sound for “ze” immediately gave him away.
“I don’t think so,” responded Lucas—sitting up on the bench to face him directly—because how could he explain that they had already met in a dream and he could still savor his lips? Deep within his pulsating heart, he suppressed the memory of Mateo’s damp skin, which throbbed to the cadence of a nineteenth-century steam engine.
“You know what,” said Mateo. “You’re handsome…” Lucas eluded his gaze, finding refuge in passers-by. His cheeks reddened under the diluted melanin of his skin. “…for a Dominican.”
Mateo continued on with his day. Lucas was engrossed by how the wind tousled his hair, and the unforgiving sun chose only to caress his delicate pale skin. He fixated on his swaggering stride until the Spaniard was entirely out of sight.
A group of chattering students exited the school and Lucas recognized a class peer. His backpack carelessly hung loose off his shoulder, and his disheveled clothing belied his usually compulsively neat attire. His shirt was bloodied and torn near the chest area. Remnants of his jawbone, freshly nude of flesh, glistened like ivory, and his entire chin and lower lip were gone. Lucas felt a strong pang of jealousy but was comforted by the anticipation: “That’ll be for tomorrow.”
Lucas hesitated to leave where he and Mateo first engaged, but raindrops began to penetrate his spiraled locks of hair. It was time to go back home where his mother would surely be anticipating his return with a hot meal set on the table for her college son, pride plastered on her face.
The third hurricane of the season was approaching. Lucas packed an umbrella and rummaged through his chest of drawers until he found the old, forgotten scarf belonging to his cousin in America. He shrouded his neck as crimson excretions oozed from his shredded skin and absent jaw. Lucas didn’t want to stain the Civilizaciones Mesoamericanas exam the professor had prepared for class.
The small and rickety public car broke down on the side of the road mere blocks from the academy. Lucas squeezed passed the other passengers and pressed on, his back hunched against the battering winds and hailing rain droplets, a warning that the hurricane would soon anchor. He reached the main gate, where the watchman slept through the howling storm, fiercely safeguarding the school in his dreams.
The stench of decaying souls and damp hair permeated the empty halls. Thin-nosed Mateo, with glistening hair, leaned against the wall and gazed directly at him from underneath his thick lashes.
“I want more,” he said. Lucas realized that Mateo was waiting for him. The blood intended for the blushful reddening of desire gushed from his missing mandible and torn flesh, saturating the scarf.
Mateo unwrapped Lucas’ scarf unveiling the vestiges from the previous night’s feast. Mateo pressed closer and, with the tip of his tongue, caressed Lucas’ face around his forehead to his temples, exploring down the untouched skin near his collar. Mateo’s mouth widened, his teeth scathing Lucas’s flesh, and with firm pressure, tore a mouthful. An approaching schoolgirl shrieked and fainted at the sight of such passion.
Lucas felt for his flesh, his fingers encountered but a stubborn thin layer coating his white bones. His scarf was deemed useless and forgotten on the dirty floor of that school to later become the most beautiful red rose.
Already too late to take the exam, and with the professor fixed on failing him, Lucas embarked on the long journey home.
At his house, he set his soaked books on the flimsy table. His mother stirred the sancocho in the large aluminum pot.
“Look at the news,” she pointed with her puckered lips. “The eye of the hurricane will hit tonight and destroy everything.” Lucas panicked at the thought of classes being canceled, fearing he would miss Mateo’s lips all over his raw flesh.
Lucas dreamed of him that night, sleeping through the blustering gusts of winds, endless rain, and the macos that squeezed between the wooden planks of the house and searched for shelter. In his dream, Mateo devoured his chest and left arm, and left only bones and tendons. That morning, Lucas awoke to the house and his mother swept away by the powerful gust, never to be found; only his room standing. “Shit!” said Lucas, discovering what was left of his body. “I have nothing left for Mateo.”
With nothing better to do than swat tireless flies, Lucas laid out his finest clothes, the ones sent by his aunts from Nueva York, envied by classmates and others. He poured cologne on the exposed ribcage held together by the half-eaten flesh, indulging in the brief sting of the alcohol infiltrating his wounds. Classes were suspended due to the destruction of the hurricane. Still, his chance to see Mateo walking the streets of Moca was better than staying in his lifeless town.
His head held high, balanced on bare bones, and a contrived smile with what he had left of his upper lip, Lucas navigated the remnants of nature’s wrath—electricity poles and cables, branches and trees, and corrugated metal and corpses. He was confident he’d see Mateo and was convinced the thin-nosed slick-haired man would continue feasting on his body. They would stow away in an unlocked room and become one in the same body.
After hours of trekking to the academy, Lucas’s clothes were a spectacle of sweat and blood. With his one hand, he swept away the leaves on the bench and sat down as best as his weak body would allow. Lucas spent the night on the bench, his back stiffened by dry flesh. Refusing to sleep, to dream, he simply waited.
Mateo never showed.
With the sunrise, a legion of flies arose, competing for a nip of rotting flesh and repulsive enough to lay their eggs. His body hardened like meat hung to dry.
But finally, just as Lucas was beginning to lose hope, he came.
His perfect nose wrinkled as he neared Lucas. With the few teeth he had left, Lucas tried to smile but quickly became disheartened as he caught the look of disgust on Mateo’s face.
“Patético,” said Mateo. “You sicken me.”
The young man skimmed his surroundings and the devastation left behind by the hurricane. Steadfast and beyond reproach, Mateo’s revulsion never faulted; Lucas now understood that this place bored him, the people pestered him, and he was repelled by the soil he stepped on. With deep, inconsolable grief, Lucas knew Mateo would do that one thing Dominicans themselves could not; he would search for adventure in unexplored lands and find himself new flesh to consume.
Lucas froze at that moment and never moved again. The world around him retook its rhythm.
Classes resumed and Lucas's fellow college mates purchased a tombstone and planted white carnations around the rustic bench where his bones turned to dust.
Alex V. Cruz es un escritor dominicano de ficción especulativa nacido en la ciudad de Paterson, Nueva Jersey. Él es graduado con honores de la Universidad de Columbia en la ciudad de Nueva York con licenciatura en Escritura Creativa y Estudios Hispanos. Actualmente está trabajando en su master de la Universidad de Nueva York (NYU). Alex ha asistido a los prestigiosos talleres de escritura Clarion West 2022 y Tin House 2021. Alex comparte su conocimiento sobre la publicación de cuentos con su comunidad de escritores dominicanos impartiendo clases gratis en la plataforma de Asociación Dominicana de Escritores (@dominicanwriters). Sus cuentos pueden ser encontrados en las revistas SmokeLong, Acentos Review, LatineLit, y pronto en Azahares. También él cuenta con un cuento en Quislaona: A Dominican Fantasy Anthology. Pueden encontrar a Alex en las redes sociales Instagram, Twitter, y Threads usando @avcruzwriter.
Alex V. Cruz, a Paterson-born speculative fiction writer with Dominican roots, writes short fiction in both English and Spanish. Graduating Magna Cum Laude from Columbia University, he holds a degree in Creative Writing and Hispanic Studies. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish at NYU. Notably, Alex is an alum of Clarion West 2022 and a member of Tin House's 2021 Young Adult Workshops. His works have been published in notable online magazines such as Quislaona: A Dominican Fantasy Anthology, SmokeLong, Acentos Review, LatineLit, with two forthcoming stories in Azahares. He is an active member of the Dominican Writers Association, passionately supporting fellow Dominican writers by teaching free publishing classes. Alex is dedicated to sharing his knowledge and empowering his community of writers. Join him on Instagram, Twitter, and Threads using the handle @Avcruzwriter.
"Jenette was a warrior, had walked the warrior’s path, even if it was wayward at times where she stumbled with bad judgment. Now in this final test for the Marine Corps, she had to muster all the ganas of every soldier in her family who served before her. In this moment her bones weren’t made of calcium and marrow, but of steel. They would be steel for as long as she needed to get what she wanted."
From Aliens: Vasquez
Review of Aliens: Vasquez
by Scott Duncan-Fernandez
There’s more Aliens out there—the franchise has put out more video games, comics, and books—but it's the connected Predator franchise movie Prey that has people talking about Native women characters and representation in sci-fi lately.
There's already been a famous bad ass brown woman in sci-fi—Jeanette Vasquez from the 80s movie Aliens. Some might point out the actress who played her wasn't a Chicana and the writer wasn't either. I recall some claiming she was a chola stereotype. My rewatch of Aliens as an adult showed the character was capable, brave, and dealt with typical racism despite her not being written or depicted by a Mexican American. Yet the character needed more.
V. Castro in Aliens: Vasquez gives Jeanette Vasquez a Chicana soul and a past and goes beyond a plastic sheen of culture. The story pulled me in hard on the life Jeanette Vasquez and then her daughter Leticia living on Earth and as tough Chicana marines in space. Not only does the character from the movie Aliens get a real deal Chicana soul in this book, the Aliens franchise gets a Chicano outlook. The way Vasquez sees the world, how she lives, and how she fights xenomorphs is filtered by who she is. She is a brown woman who is connected to a chain of warrior women, particularly the Soldaderas from the Mexican Revolution, whose coiled hairstyle was famously borrowed by Princess Leia.
The Aliens franchise has thematically been about women fighting patriarchy, dealing with the monstrousness of reproduction, sexuality, parenthood and inheritance of roles. As we all know Vasquez doesn't make it in Aliens, though tough to the end, and the book eventually hands her story off to her daughter, who also aspires to be an elite marine. Her corporate ladder climbing twin brother and she eventually meet up again on a mission involving the heads of the Weyland-Yutani corporation on a planet little is known about.
The life of these two women, Jeanette and her daughter, is a struggle against the system, a patriarchy like many stories in Aliens, but compounded by poverty and racism. Chicano culture comes through as they honor Santa Muerte in xenomorph constructions and make ofrendas and a native weapon, a macuahuitl out of xenomorph bodies.
The author V. Castro knows Aliens. There are allusions to other Aliens media throughout the book, some characters are ancestors, some places get mentioned. This is Jeanette and Leticia’s story, as much as Alien was Ripley’s story. Jeanette and her daughter have more against them, they are working class Chicanas, but they are tough, they inspire and finally represent in the way Chicanos want.
Aliens: Vasquez isn't Aliens with taco sauce packets. It's a Chicana story that everyone can appreciate. This is more than representation, this novel is one of our stories, both in space and on Earth, in the future, something us brown sci-fi nerds always want. Of course, I want more and want to see sequels of Aliens: Vasquez and more from V. Castro.
Aliens: Vasquez is available October 25, 2020
Scott Duncan-Fernandez a.k.a. Scott Russell Duncan’s fiction involves the mythic, the surreal, the abstract, in other words, the weird. He is Indigenous/Xicano/Anglo from California, Texas, and New Mexico and is senior editor at Somos en escrito Literary Magazine. In 2016 he won San Francisco Litquake’s Short Story Contest. His piece “Mexican American Psycho is in Your Dreams” won first place in the 2019 Solstice Literary Magazine Annual Literary Contest. His debut novel will be published with Flowersong Press in 2023.
V. Castro was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Mexican American parents. She’s been writing horror stories since she was a child, always fascinated by Mexican folklore and the urban legends of Texas. Castro now lives in the United Kingdom with her family, writing and traveling with her children.
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.