"Entonces vete!” (Then leave!) Was what Esperanza's mother had yelled at her when Esperanza refused to dance with a village boy. At first he had been trying to get her to dance and she firmly had told him no. She wasn’t one to dance, especially with a guy that used to bully her when she was younger. Esperanza was a bit snappy towards him when he wouldn’t leave her alone. And her annoyance grew as he continued to pester her, to the point that Esperanza was ready to throw a mug at him. She had called him a few choice words that caused him to glare at her and leave. It was midnight and she was irritated.
Her mother had dragged her to a party, even though she didn’t want to go. But her mother had insisted that Esperanza should at least be sociable with her family. Esperanza didn’t even want to go, but her mother had managed to guilt trip her into going. And Esperanza thought that this time things would be different, maybe her family members would finally talk to her without whispering amongst themselves as they stared at her eye bags. Or that her cousins would finally talk to her without looking like she was going to go crazy on them.
Her mother wouldn’t let her go to the party without putting a rosary around her and cleansing her with holy water, which only caused Esperanza’s insomnia to worsen. The only one in the party that had been tolerable had been Espernaza’s cousin who was the same age as her. But overall he was just nice to everyone, so she didn’t think much about it.
They had been close when they were younger, but when Esperanza’s ‘curse’ started to show, his mother had banned him from hanging out with her and Esperanza had been isolated. She hadn’t been allowed to be friends with the children of the other villages, and whenever she had tried to befriend them, their mothers would just call her a ‘freak’. And would get their children in on the shunning. So she couldn’t make a close friend. And honestly Esperanza had felt betrayed, by her family, her village, her home that was beautifully breathtaking, yet she couldn’t enjoy it without being ostracized.
She didn’t want to have a huge argument with her mother at the party, so when her mother yelled at her to leave, she did. None of her family members seemed to try to stop her, but she was used to it. Her mother made a commotion, and they backed her up, to the point where Esperanza was forced to leave. Every single time she went to a party, it just ended with her mother yelling at her or berating her, and telling her how much of a disappointment she was. How Esperanza wouldn't amount to nothing because she wasn’t a boy. She hated it. She hated the fact that as soon as she was born they thought that she wasn’t good enough.
Her accomplishments were overshadowed by her curse. From a young age Esperanza had to learn that no matter how hard she tried to make her parents proud, no one would forget the incident. She had turned five but her vivid description of her dead grandfather and grandmother, who she never met, had disgusted her parents. Her own mother had gone to great lengths to an exorcism done on her, but that had only caused Esperanza to become greatly ill, that even the priest had to scold her mother. And due to the frequent nightmares Esperanza was witnessing, she had considered running away from home.
It was way past midnight and Esperanza was walking down the dirt road to her village. The party had been at a nearby village, and she had forgotten that she had to walk down a small hill. The large rocks looked intimidating in the dark, with only the light of the moon to illuminate it.
Sounds of crickets and coyotes were heard from afar, it made Esperanza regret leaving alone. Especially so late at night. She wasn’t afraid of the coyotes, she was afraid that she would suffer an episode as it was nearing witching hour. Witching hour, it was the reason why her insomnia had grown so much throughout the years. As her visions only grew stronger. As the clock neared the witching hour so did her nightmares.
It was supposed to be a ten minute drive, but because she was walking, it would take her half-an hour.
It was cold and she was regretting ever agreeing to wear a dress, but as she was walking a sound stopped her in her tracks. The wind howled, but that wasn’t what stopped her, no it was the sound of wailing and crying that stopped her. It sounded like a boy crying. And Esperanza began to shiver, but not because of the cold.
Many knew that if you ever heard the sound of a child crying, there was trouble awaiting. But Esperanza never thought about that, her first thought was that maybe it was a lost child. When she was younger, she had gotten lost in the dark too, so when she heard the cries, she had a fight with herself. Her gut kept telling her to move, while her heart felt guilty if there was an actual lost child. Her heart was what won, so she started to look around, the flash light of her phone and the light of the moon being her source of light
“¿Donde estas?Quien anda ahi?” (Where are you? Who’s there?”) She called out as she walked forward and shined her light on the bushes when the crying got louder, she followed the sound, almost running to the source, her heels almost slipping.
It took only a few seconds before Esperanza saw the figure of a young teen in a fetal position. The child was small and seemed to have fallen, as their clothes seemed dirty from where she was. She approached him hesitantly and crouched down in front of him. There was something odd about him, but Esperanza dismissed it as she began to talk to him softly.
“Estas bien? Que paso? Te perdistes, mijo necesitas ayuda?” (Are you okay? What happened? Did you get lost? Mijo* do you need help?) She asked him, as she talked she made an attempt in comforting the young teen.
“Tengo miedo! No quiero estar solo! Quiero a mi mama!!” (I’m scared! I don’t want to be alone! I want my mom!) The teen kept crying as Esperanza kept saying encouraging things, trying to convince the young teen that she would help him.
“Todo esta bien, no te preocupes, te voy ayudar” (Everything is okay, don’t worry, I’ll help you) but the young teen wouldn’t budge.
It took minutes and all he was saying was. “No me quiero ir! No quiero ir! No quiero estar solo!” (I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go! I don’t want to be alone) It wasn’t until Esperanza sighed and went to hug the young teen that he looked up.
When he did so her eyes widened in shock and she fell on her bottom, a small gasp emitting from her mouth. The young teen had a lot of bruises on his face and there was a big gash right where his heart was. Blood was all over his spongebob shirt. When she saw his teary face, that’s when she noticed how no matter how much he cried the tears didn’t fall.
The teen had a startled expression on his face when he saw her reaction. Esperanzas hand had gone to her mouth and when she realized what happened tears began to well up in her eyes.
The young teen, was dead, the long gash on his heart being the cause, and because it took her a while to realize he was one, that meant that he had recently died. And the teen still hadn’t accepted it. And the fact that he was visible, the same way he died, meant that his body wasn’t properly buried.
Now she could see it, how his body glowed, and a dead give away were his almost black eyes.
Esperanza usually ran away when it came to ghosts, her ‘curse’ was something she had despised since she was younger, as it had isolated her from society. And she was seen as a freak of nature, but seeing the young and confused teen, she didn’t know what to do.
So she did the only thing that she knew she could do with her ‘curse’. Without saying a word she held both of his hands and stared at him.
And suddenly both of them glowed and the events that led to the teens demise flashed through both of their minds, it was like they both were living through it.
Memories from three days ago in the pueblo next to her village the young teen, who she'd learned was named Pablo had been hiding from his parents. He had been abused and neglected by them, and in this one instance Pablo had tried to fight back and stand up for himself, but that resulted in his demise.
It had begun a wild goose chase, Pablo had tried to get away from his parents but they had ganged up on him, and his mother had been the one who had stabbed him with a knife.
When everything stopped, Esperanza’s eyes rolled to the back of her head and she passed out as Pablo did the same, both still holding hands.
The night continued and the events played like a record in Esperanza’s mind.
Both of them seemed to be passed out, and nightmares plagued Esperanza, an aura of death was emitted from both of them, so no living thing dared to go near them.
Throughout the night in her dreams Pablo’s life played like a movie with a gruesome end. And all Esperanza could think of was to bury the teen properly.
Even if she had despised her ‘curse’ Esperanza had read a lot about spirits/ghosts, and because of her cultures tradition ‘Dia de los muertos’ she had found out that the people who had been given *ofrendas, and a proper burial didn’t walk amongst the living. And if they did it was because they have a score to settle or they didn’t have a proper burial.
It wasn’t until the sun hit Esperanza in the face that she woke up in a cold sweat. Her dress was covered in mud and leaves.
“Necesito hacer algo” she said as she turned around to find Pablo, his expression let her know that he had figured out what happened. She gave him a strained smile. His transparent body is now more evident.
She stood up and held her hand out to him. “No te preocupes, I know what to do”
He was hesitant in accepting her hand but he did, strangely enough she was a kind stranger, despite her resting bitch face.
The first thing Esperanza did was make an anonymous tip towards the police about a possible case of child violence, as she arrived home followed by Pablo.
Her parents had berated her about being gone the whole night but she snapped back at them and stole her father's car driving towards Pablo's house, having Pablo himself direct her there.
She arrived just as the police had and she ran inside looking into the basement where she had seen that Pablo had been stabbed leading the police to find Pablo’s bloody body. Both of his parents were arrested on the spot and Esperanza was thanked for the tip.
Everything had gone by too fast for Esperanza, but all she knew was that she had wanted to help the young ghost next to her.
He had suffered so much and was so young. It was the least she could do. Pablo was buried that afternoon, his other family members who were unaware of the abuse pitching in.
All Esperanza needed to do was an ofrenda, and that would mean Pablo’s spirit would rest easy. But when Esperanza was about to set up the offerings Pablo shook his head and told her he wouldn’t want to leave her.
As she was like the older sister he always wanted, causing her to nod.
After reliving what he had gone through Esperanza also saw him as a younger brother. When Esperanza realized this and what she did to help Pablo, she thought that maybe her ‘curse’ wasn’t so bad and that maybe she could help others who were wrongfully killed like Pablo. This was a new beginning for her and for Pablo.
Anahi Cabrera is twenty-three years old. She enjoys writing and reading. Lives in Texas.