F   I   C   T   I   O   N 

La Bruja

I am here under the hot South American sun, a traveler. The cemetery’s old and tattered front gate hangs askew on a twisted hinge, and through it I can see the dirt road leading back to the village a half mile away. Amid the teetered crucifixes and broken gravestones, the smell of rotting flowers and the unending buzz of flies, something out here is lurking, waiting. From the corner of my eye I think I see a shadow dart behind a gravestone.

The shade of the trees which once offered peace and comfort for the dead here now only serve to hide something fearful. In the village, the whispers hint about a “bruja,” an old witch whose spirit hides here and lures visitors to their deaths, and a cold fear holds these whispers to vague allusions and forbidden murmurs.

The old man and boy who recently disappeared from the village have added to the list. The man’s head and the boy’s hand were discovered here a few days later. There was no blood. The village’s only policeman – an unassuming fellow – has witnessed and enumerated all the deaths, eleven so far, and will no longer investigate.

But I’m skeptical and curious and not a believer. I begin to walk among the gravestones, some small, others big enough to hide someone. I walk quietly, trying not to make noise, and there’s a slight crack behind me. A short dark figure shrouded completely in black is standing next to a monument in the distance. It does not move as I slowly and carefully step forward. I hear a very old woman’s voice beckoning me from within the shroud.

“Venga aquí, hijo.” I move forward a few steps, then stop.

“Venga aquí.”

Now the figure starts to move smoothly, to float, towards me. I step back and then in a second her shroud parts revealing a hideous black-eyed crone with sharp jagged teeth and she’s upon me and going for my neck. Her clawed hands slice through mine as I try to push her away, but she is very strong and rides me to the ground, screeching and biting. Through the incredible pain and shock at her strength, I manage to pull my knife out and, in our clinch, I stab her in the back once, twice, and on the third try her body gives way in a cloud of dark soot and I manage to stab myself. I lie there in the dust with an empty black shroud on top of me and a self-inflicted chest wound.

And now I’m still here and can’t seem to get up. I’m lying here and the shroud is now my shroud. I’m wearing it and I’m waiting for someone, anyone, to come for me.