"Duende" by Eneida P. Alcalde
By Eneida P. Alcalde
This story was originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, where it won the short horror fiction contest in 2018.
“Breaking news. Freddy Vega, a ten-year-old boy, disappeared from his home last night in the town of Las Cruces, last seen wearing a white shirt and gray shorts. If you have information on his disappearance, please contact your local police or call our hotline 800 383 6331. We will continue with this story after the commercial break.” A diaper ad with a crawling baby replaced Freddy’s picture on the screen.
Moisés got up and switched off the television, a secondhand gift from the church.
“Why’d you do that?” his six-year-old sister asked. She sat on a plastic chair, stroking her doll’s flaxen locks – a cheaper version of the Barbies their mother could not afford.
“Mami told me to shut it off if it’s too scary.”
Rosita stood clutching her doll. She met his gaze and defiantly turned the TV back on. She stuck out her tongue at him.
Moisés turned the TV back off, not letting go of the switch.
“I’m not scared,” Rosita growled, throwing her doll. “You’re the scarrredy cat!”
Moisés sighed. If he caved to her demands, she might wake up from a nightmare later that night. Mami would hold him responsible for letting her watch the adult news given that he was the older brother at ten years old.
“You shouldn’t throw Mami’s gift.”
Rosita looked at the doll on the floor. She picked it up, kissing it.
Moisés grinned, noticing the orange shirt she wore, her favorite color. It gave him an idea. He pulled a notebook and crayons from the old-milk-crate shelf Mami had put together.
“Give me that!” Rosita said, grabbing it from him. She plopped on the floor and plucked out the crayons from the box, one by one. “Want to color with me?”
“Nah. I have to study for a test.”
“Boring,” Rosita said as she drew with the black crayon.
“Well, I’m not in first grade like you. Just wait till you get to fifth grade.”
“Mmm. Do you know Freddy?”
Everyone in fifth grade knew Freddy. Their teacher yelling at him for sticking boogers on Lisa’s hair was the last memory Moisés had. He was likely at his dad’s place in the town next door. Moisés hesitated to mention this to Rosita, who cried anytime she heard the word “dad.” Theirs had died from dengue. So, he only revealed what he needed to reveal. “I know Freddy.”
“I heard he lived near us.”
“How do you know he lives near us? He’s in my grade, not yours.”
“Noelia told me. Do you know about Duende?”
“No,” he said, rolling his eyes at the thought of his classmate gossiping with Rosita. Noelia was the well-to-do pharmacist’s daughter. Popular, smart, and rich. She irritated him to no end with her constant smile and good grades, which were almost as good as his.
Rosita lifted the notebook, pointing to a black stick figure she had drawn, with horns and a spiked tail. “Noelia says Duende is an evil little man from deep in the jungle who kidnaps children… Maybe he got Freddy.”
“That’s stupid. Freddy doesn’t get along with his mom and her drunk boyfriend. He’s run away before. He’ll come back.”
Rosita pouted and picked up the brown crayon.
Moisés sat, eager to study and forget about Freddy, who would show up the next day as he always had in the past. But the ceiling light flickered, distracting him. He saw a giant moth flying around the bare bulb, its brown-eyed wings watching him. Annoyed, he jumped swatting at the winged intruder with his math book. On his third attempt, he knocked the moth, shattering the bulb.
Rosita cried out in the darkness.
Moisés hugged her. “It’s okay. Just a moth.”
She moaned. “Too dark to color now.”
A gust of wind rattled their thatched straw roof. Moisés felt Rosita’s small fingers dig into his arm. “Stay quiet,” he whispered, feeling a cold sensation pricking across the back of his neck. He rose and peered out the window.
He saw Doña Petrona’s hut, its lights turned off. Behind it, the wall of sugarcane he and Rosita were not allowed to go into. It was all as it should have been: gloomy, but familiar.
The sound of rapid footsteps outside their door stitched his chest, freezing him in place. He glanced at Rosita, illuminated by the moonlight. She was biting her lip and hugging her knees to her chest. He tiptoed to the door where the flashlight hung from a nail, wondering if the moth’s spirit had returned to haunt them – another myth of Las Cruces. As he reached for the flashlight, the door flew open, revealing a dark silhouette carrying a machete.
He screamed. Rosita’s high-pitched shrieks joined in. The shadow grabbed the flashlight and aimed the beam at them.
“Dios mío, ¿qué pasa?” their mother’s voice rang out.
“Mami! Mami!” Rosita and Moisés ran to their mother and held her tight.
“Guess what scarrredy cat?” Rosita said as she skipped, her blue-and-green uniform’s pleated skirt bouncing with each step.
Moisés reluctantly met her gaze, still embarrassed for not recognizing his mother’s machete last night. He hadn’t slept or studied much and was worried about doing well on his math test.
“Duende was in my dreams.”
Moisés yawned to show his disinterest.
“He told me I’ve been a good girl so don’t have to worry.”
“Worry about what?”
“Not being his friend.” Rosita giggled as she took out a folded paper from her shoulder bag, handing it to him. She fled ahead toward the town’s central plaza filled with palm trees, flowers, and grass.
Moisés unfolded the paper. It was another drawing of the horned stick figure with a brown butterfly. He hid the drawing in his pocket, hoping his sister’s fixation on Duende would go away. She had always had a quirky imagination; one time she claimed their neighbor Doña Petrona was a vampire. Rosita harped on about it until Doña Petrona pulled out her dentures in front of them, putting the matter to rest.
His sister’s new obsession made Moisés think about Freddy more than he wanted to. He reminded himself that Freddy had never gotten along with his mother and was likely at his dad’s, not taken by some made-up boogie man.
As he neared the plaza, he recognized Noelia standing next to Rosita among a chatty group of students, wearing her brunette hair in an obnoxious violet bow tied perfectly on top. She, like the others, wore leather sandals and a crisp shirt. Moisés stared at his worn out abarcas. They were cheap and made of old tires. Rosita was too young to understand these differences.
Seeking to avoid Noelia, Moisés made a left to the school.
“Moisés!” Noelia called after him. “Why don’t you join us?”
Moisés sighed. His plan to go by undetected, ruined. He headed toward the students. They stared at him with their porcelain smiles.
Noelia nudged him with her elbow. “We were just talking about Freddy.”
“His mom’s been crying nonstop since he disappeared,” one of the boys added.
“I’m telling you, Freddy was taken.” Noelia’s hazel eyes twinkled like they always did when she told her tall tales.
“Do you think it’s Encantado?” Rosita asked in a hushed voice.
Moisés bit his tongue as he watched Noelia turn to his sister. He was familiar with the legend of Encantado, a human-eating anaconda that roamed the nearby Miraí River. Moisés, though, did not believe in Encantado, Duende, or any other myths of Las Cruces.
“I don’t think so,” Noelia said. “Our maid says Encantado only goes after adults. Besides, the snake snatched that vile man this summer and we know it strikes only once a year.” The others shuddered, remembering the fate of Encantado’s supposed victim. Noelia glanced from face to face. “It is Duende,” she whispered. The students leaned in, engrossed by her theory, making the circle tighter. “Every few years, he finds his way back to Las Cruces to abduct children.”
Rosita’s eyes widened. “Why children?”
“Because if we escape, adults won’t believe us,” Noelia said. “He travels through the vast jungle beyond the sugarcane hunting for prey. They say the moths summon him from town to town…”
Rosita’s mouth dropped open. “Moisés killed a moth yesterday.”
The students gasped.
Moisés rolled his eyes.
He could almost see the steam escaping Rosita’s ears as her mind churned with Noelia’s words. He shook his head, summoning his courage to contradict Noelia before she could continue encouraging his sister’s growing obsession. “Duende is notreal,” he said. “Freddy is probably with his dad.”
Noelia smiled with contempt. “Freddy is not with his dad.”
“How do you know?”
“Don’t you watch the news?”
Rosita giggled. “We were but–”
Moisés placed his hand over her mouth. “But needed to do our homework,” he said, completing her thought.
“I see,” Noelia said, an I-told-you-so smirk spreading across her pink lips. “They found a trail of blood leading away from his home into the sugarcane. One of his flip flops as well.”
The school bell rang; classes would begin in two minutes.
Moisés glanced at Rosita. She was teary-eyed. The exchange, he was sure, had made her think of their dad. Before he could comfort her, she bolted to the school, found a block away. He saw her catch up to Noelia and the others. He was the last to follow, the disturbing news slowing his strides.
Later in homeroom class, he examined Rosita’s drawing as his teacher took attendance. “Duende,” he whispered, tracing the crooked horns Rosita had drawn on top of the creature’s head. Could it be? he wondered. He pulled out his dictionary, leafing through until finding the word. He read the definition: elf, ghost, goblin.
“Moisés? Moisés Suárez?” his teacher called out.
“Here!” Moisés responded, a little louder than he had intended.
“Care to show the class what you’re looking at?”
Moisés saw Noelia smirk from her desk at the front of the room.
“No,” he said.
“Then put it away.”
He stuck Rosita’s drawing inside his dictionary.
The teacher continued going down the list of students. When she reached Freddy’s name, she paused and then skipped it. Moisés glanced at Freddy’s empty desk, two seats to the right of his. The gravity of his absence dried his mouth and unsettled his stomach.
Moisés sat up on the bed, his bladder about to burst. He was careful to not wake Rosita as he stepped over her and the doll she hugged in her sleep. He slipped on his flip-flops and looked at Mami on the other bed, tempted to wake her. Hearing her snores, he decided against it, knowing she had a day of backbreaking work ahead. Besides, he was a big boy, as Mami always told him, capable of going to the bathroom alone at ten years old. A big boy who had decided he had no patience for silly make-believe things like Duende because he had seen real death up close on his father’s dying face.
Dashing to the latrine, he saw that the moon hung low in the sky. The sun would rise soon. He closed the latrine’s wooden door and pulled down his briefs to relieve himself. Once he was done, he scooped out ash from a pail and dumped it into the latrine’s hole, covering the stench of urine. Stepping out, he remembered his mother’s instructions to wash his hands after going to the bathroom and ran to the water tap, located halfway between the latrine and the hut. He stopped dead in his tracks upon seeing what looked to be a little girl ambling about near the sugarcane.
Squinting his eyes to see better in the darkness, Moisés spotted the doll tucked inside her arms.
“Rosita,” he whispered forcefully.
She did not reply. He groaned, realizing that she was sleepwalking, a habit she developed after Papi passed. Last time Mami had woken her in this state, it didn’t turn out so well. Rosita had a meltdown, not being able to eat or sleep for days, tormented by the memory of the nightmare she had been woken from about Papi. Mami had instructed Moisés to keep an eye on her if she slept walked again and to intervene only if she was in danger of harming herself.
Moisés approached his sister careful not to make any noises that might wake her. He kept his distance not wanting to risk bumping into her. His heart raced as she moved closer to the sugarcane, realizing he might have to stop her and she would scream. That would wake Mami, who needed sleep more than anyone. He was also not eager to go after her into the corridors of the sugarcane at this time of night. The memory of Freddy dug at him like a forgotten splinter. Moisés exhaled to suppress his rising anxiety.
Rosita stopped right in front of the field. He sighed in relief.
She looked odd standing motionless in the somber black of night, almost ghost-like in her white nightgown, her delicate black hair flat against her back. Was she dreaming of Papi, who had worked alongside Mami in the sugarcane fields? Moisés also dreamt of their father, sometimes waking to find his pillow damp from his tears, unable to escape the finality of his absence even in his subconsciousness.
Rosita’s giggling disrupted his thoughts. She ran into the field, swallowed by the shadows.
“Hey!” he hissed and ran after her.
The cane’s stems scratched his bare legs, and a few times he almost tripped. He continued to hear her giggling somewhere ahead and followed until he reached a narrow clearing. Catching his breath, he realized he did not hear her giggling anymore.
“Rosita!” he called out.
The birds tweeted their morning song, welcoming the day. He rose on his tiptoes to survey the endless sugarcane bathed in the red-ember light of dawn. He was searching for her when his foot knocked against something. It was Rosita’s doll, face down on the ground, with peculiar footprints next to it – hoof-like tracks with claws. He picked up the doll and gasped. Its face was wet with globs of saliva and mutilated beyond recognition, as if it had been chewed.
Moisés dropped the doll and sprinted into the sugarcane, in the direction of his hut, knowing that he needed Mami’s help. After several minutes, he came upon another clearing. Weird, he thought. He had only come across one earlier and this one did not have Rosita’s mangled doll or the strange animal prints. He hurried to the first clearing, the birds’ chorus seemingly louder than before.
A cool breeze rustled through the cane, wrapping itself around his legs and crawling up his back. Goosebumps spread over his arms and then he heard a crack behind him as if something or someone had stepped on a stalk, breaking it.
“Rosita?” he said, spinning around.
Nothing there but sugarcane and shadows, he continued home, his ears on high alert. He thought he detected the sound of muffled footsteps through the birds’ chirps and coos. His chest beat with the ferocity of a steel drum, gripped with the paranoia of being followed; perhaps he had been in imminent danger all along. Whatever had gotten his sister was now after him too.
He glimpsed the straw top of his house peeking above the hedge of sugarcane. A stalk cracked behind him. He clenched his fists as he gained speed. Stalk after stalk cracked and popped, the birds’ song crescendoed into a cacophony. He was a few feet from the edge of the field when a fierce leathery grip clutched his ankle.
Moisés fell face down on the ground. He clawed at the dirt, at the canes, at anything he could reach. He gritted his teeth and growled, kicking as violently as he could until he broke free.
He saw his mother feeding Doña Petrona’s chickens. “Mami,” he screamed, hobbling to her on his injured feet.
She dropped the basket of kernels and ran to him.
“Moisés!” she said as she hugged him. “¿Qué pasó?”
He sobbed into her nightgown, consoled by her familiar lemony scent and her strong hands rubbing his back. “I had to pee and saw Rosita walking to the field… And, and I lost her!”
She met his gaze as tears spilled from his eyes. “Sweetie, Rosita’s here.”
“W-w-what?” he stuttered. Rosita appeared from behind Mami with a slight grin on her lips, still wearing her nightgown.
“You were in the field,” Moisés said in a shocked tone.
“Don’t remember,” she replied.
“Where’s your doll?”
She shrugged with a weary expression as if she had just awakened.
“Let me talk to your brother. You go rest. I’ll let you know when breakfast is ready.”
Rosita walked away. Moisés noticed her feet. They were unscratched.
Mami examined Moisés from head to toe. “Next time you see her sleepwalk, get me. It’s not safe for you to watch over her so late at night.”
He nodded, wiping his nose on his shirt.
“What happened to your legs?” she asked, her hands inspecting the scrapes and bruises on his feet.
“Something grabbed me.”
“What could possibly grab you?”
He hugged her, crying, unsure how to answer.
She kissed his cheek and brushed his black wavy hair, trying to calm his nerves. “You scared yourself, silly. You fell over some stalks that scratched you.”
“Maybe,” he sniffled.
“Did something really grab you scarrredy cat?” Rosita asked, kicking her legs under the table.
Moisés drank his milk, ignoring her. He was still shaken by what had happened earlier that morning and was in no mood to be teased by his sister, the instigator. Had she gone in on purpose? Why would she do such a mean thing to him?
Mami narrowed her eyes on her daughter. “Let him be. He was looking out for you.”
“Mmm. I guess,” Rosita said, proceeding to smother her toast with butter. “Why didn’t you bring back my doll scarrredy cat?”
“Stop calling me that. I told you, her face was smashed.”
“Duende must not like my doll.” She bit into her toast, smiling as she chewed.
Mami laughed as she added sugar to her coffee. “Who told you that silly lie?”
“Noelia,” Moisés blurted. He frowned, irritated that she had started this Duende nonsense. Because of that he had found it difficult to concentrate on his math test – and got a lower grade than Noelia. Not to mention Rosita’s obsession with Duende, which had not gone away either.
“We all know she likes to invent stories, all those town kids do,” Mami said. “Yet most of ‘em never set foot in the fields or dipped their toes in the river. Remember that monster snake she gabbed on about? It was all imaginary. That man committed suicide.”
“But Noelia says it was Encantado who ate him!” Rosita interrupted.
“Encantado does not exist. I don’t want to hear any more of Noelia’s stories. Understand?”
Rosita scrunched her tiny nose. “I don’t want any more of this breakfast. Understand?” She pushed her dish away.
“Fine. Excuse yourself and go change for school.”
“May I be excused?”
“You may go.”
Rosita slid out of her chair and stared at Moisés. He saw her eyes flash. They looked nearly red in the sunlight that filtered through the window.
“Duende doesn’t like you either!” she shouted.
“Rosita!” Mami yelled.
Rosita ran into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
Mami crumpled a napkin. “You know how she is after sleepwalking. Duende isn’t real.”
Moisés stared at his plate. “What about Freddy?” he asked, voicing the fear that had been gnawing at him all morning.
“This world is full of bad people. Bad people. Not fairy creatures that jump out in the night. The police are on alert. They will figure it out.” Mami sipped her coffee. “You remember the rules about strangers, no?”
“Don’t talk to them.”
“That’s right. And don’t you dare answer the door when I’m not home.”
“Wish you’d come home earlier,” he mumbled, averting his eyes to keep himself from crying. He saw the picture of Mami and Papi at their wedding on the wall, one of the few photographs they owned. Mami’s honey skin glowed.
Mami grasped his hand, her eyes damp. “It’s harvest season and that means late hours. You know, I do it for you. Keep studying. Make something of yourself. Make me proud my big boy.”
“I will, Mami.”
Moisés didn’t talk to his sister on the way to school; or for the rest of the day. When school ended, he walked home alone, excited that he didn’t have to babysit Rosita, who was spending the night at Noelia’s. He had to study for another exam.
His goal was to be the number one student in his class at the end of the school year – the only gift he could give Mami that would mean something. Besides, he couldn’t afford much else.
As he entered their small plot of land, a few of Doña Petrona’s chickens greeted him by nearly pecking his feet. Moisés clapped at the hens to shoo them away. He watched as they scattered toward Doña Petrona’s hut and noticed her lights were on. The old widow was home tonight instead of visiting her grandkids. After what happened this morning, Moisés felt relieved knowing she was home in case something else happened.
Once inside, Moisés locked the door and attached the door chain Mami had installed that morning after the sleepwalking incident. He grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl and ate it, wondering about what foods Rosita was eating for dinner at Noelia’s. Mami was not sure about letting Rosita go at first, but it was in his sister’s nature to persist. She lamented on all the exquisite meals and rich desserts she would miss out on until Mami relented. Maybe Noelia won’t have time to study, Moisés mused to himself as he reviewed his history lessons.
When he finished, he dug through his school bag for his dictionary as there were a few words in the text he didn’t understand. But he couldn’t find it. He glanced around the room until he saw the thick book on top of a stack of Rosita’s drawings on her plastic chair. Moises found this strange as he didn’t remember leaving it at home.
Picking up the dictionary, he leaned over to examine the drawings, spotting a black stick figure with horns holding hands with a stick figure of a girl in an orange dress. Her misshapen eyes were red, the same color as her exaggerated smile. Rosita had signed her artwork in the corner with large block letters. The “s” looked like the number five and the “t” had the appearance of a giant plus sign. Underneath, he saw another drawing of the black figure and Rosita holding hands while standing in front of a green background – the sugarcane field. Moisés’s hands trembled as he looked at the other drawings, each depicting Rosita and the black-horned figure in different locations: the school, the house, the latrine.
He came to the last drawing and sucked in his breath, tasting bile. A brown butterfly hovered above Rosita, the black figure, and a boy with a red X over his body.
A knock at the door caught him off guard.
Moisés immediately glanced over at the chain, thankful to see that it was in place. He tiptoed to close the curtains on both sides of the living room, glimpsing the light still on in Doña Petrona’s hut, which reassured him somewhat. He snatched an old serrated knife from the cutlery and sat in the chair, facing the door. Twirling the knife in his hand, Moisés contemplated whether he had actually heard a knock. Maybe it had been a tree branch falling nearby or a creak from the door’s old wooden frame.
Another knock, fiercer than before.
The chain held in place, but the door knob started rotating. Moisés darted to the bedroom and closed the door, hearing more punches, each more powerful than the last, each shaking the frame of the hut. Dirt and dust fell from the ceiling like snowflakes. He cowered on the floor, wondering if he should hide in the closet or under the bed. But it didn’t matter. Whatever was trying to break in would likely find him in the two-room home. He needed to escape.
He remembered that his neighbor Doña Petrona was home. He crept to the window facing her hut and carefully pulled back the curtain. Her lights were still on. He opened the window and slid out and when his feet hit the ground he ran to Doña Petrona’s. He reached the front door and banged on it so furiously that it opened.
Footsteps closed in from behind. Moisés rushed inside and locked the door.
A flicking sound stiffened his gut. Gripping the knife in front of him with his sweaty palms, he slowly turned. A pair of moths danced around the ceiling’s lightbulb, flapping their wings as they circled each other, almost like a ritual. Moisés’s eyes darted from side to side, noticing a few more moths perched on the walls, their papery brown-eyed wings staring at him.
“Doña Petrona,” he whispered, seeing nothing else but a busted stool and a cracked cup on the floor. Where was she? His heart pounded in his ears as he watched the moths continue their dance, blinking at him.
“Moisssess,” a low gargled voice rasped through the door.
Moisés raced past the fluttering insects to the back room, easily opening the door and shutting it. The room was gloomy, except for the starry night visible through its window. Its musky, damp odor made him queasy. He placed his trembling hand on the wall, searching for a light switch, feeling cold papery bumps until finding a plastic knob. He whimpered, unsure of whether to turn on the light, afraid of what he might find. A sharp punch against the front door made him shudder, inadvertently causing him to flip the switch.
Moths papered every inch of the walls – thousands of them.
One approached from the front, flying into his face. He swiped at it with his bare hand, bashing it to the floor. More moths left the comfort of the walls, encircling him, swooping in to attack. Moisés swung left and right until he was forced to cover his face with his arms as the room droned from the intensity of the whirring moths, brushing over and against him. He groaned in desperation, on the verge of tears.
Then the droning stopped. In its silence, he peered through his arms to find the room dark again, quickly noticing its door had also opened. He could hear the swarm of moths now roaming in the front room of the hut drawn by its light, which also illuminated a rectangular patch on the floor of the back room he found himself in.
He lowered his arms, still holding the knife.
“Moisssess.” The hideous voice lingered closer than before.
Moisés’s chest swelled in terror and he struggled to breathe. Footsteps echoed along the dark edges of the room. He backed up to the window behind him. There were more quick steps within the shadows. Moisés reached the window and gripped the handle with his shaking hand. He pulled, but it would not budge.
Suddenly, something rolled across the floor to the patch of light. Moisés shrieked at the sight of the mangled face he had seen in the field. Rosita’s doll.
He sprinted to the front room, the only way out. Reaching the doorway, he froze in place. Fiery red eyes bore into him.
“What are you doing here?” he cried.
Rosita flashed a crooked smile as she petted a moth resting on her shoulder. The other moths flapped their wings, floating above, respecting her space.
A heavy slap knocked the knife from Moisés’s hand.
His sister giggled.
Something whipped at his feet, tripping him. He landed hard on his face, splitting his lip.
“Told you he was real scarrredy cat,” she sneered in a deep voice that was not her own.
Sharp claws snatched his ankles. He released earsplitting screams, begging her to help, but she did not move even when the claws began to tear into his flesh.
“A second child has been reported missing from Las Cruces. Moisés Suárez, a ten-year-old boy disappeared last night. He was last seen wearing his school uniform, a white collared shirt and blue pants. If you have information on his disappearance, contact your local police or call our hotline 800 383 6331.”
“Noelia! They’re here!” her Papa yelled up the stairs.
Noelia switched off the TV and ran to the pharmacy at the front of her home. There, she found Papa with Rosita and her mother. Rosita’s eyes were redder than ever before, likely from crying. Her mother’s face was drained.
Papa placed his hands on Noelia’s shoulders. “We are happy to take care of Rosita while the police search for your son. We’ll make sure she is safe.”
“Gracias,” Rosita’s mother whispered. “I’m afraid to leave her alone. She’s all I have.”
Noelia thought of mentioning Duende but was unsure if she would find it offensive. She remembered how opposed Moisés had been to the idea. “I’m sorry” was all she said.
Rosita’s mother forced a thin smile.
As she left to head home, they watched her slender figure cross the street, illuminated by a few street lamps. She vanished into the plaza’s darkness.
“What are we going to do now?” Rosita asked.
“You should sleep,” Papa said. “It’s been a tough day.”
“Come on.” Noelia grabbed her small hand and led her to her bedroom.
Rosita giggled at the sight of the guest bed, set up next to Noelia’s. It had been fitted with orange sheets, a contrast to Noelia’s pink comforter. Rosita jumped on it.
“Don’t jump. My mother will be home soon. Trust me, you don’t want to upset her.”
“Mmm,” Rosita said. “Is it okay if I draw? Helps me sleep.”
Rosita pulled out paper and crayons from her backpack and began to draw.
Noelia yawned as she slid into her pink bed, falling asleep moments later.
Rosita continued drawing, eventually feeling the weight of exhaustion pulling on her eyelids. She placed her new drawing on the floor. It was of a girl with a large violet bow on the top of her head. The horned-black figure stood next to her.
As she snuggled into the pillow, Rosita watched a moth crawl out of her backpack onto the drawing then fly to the wall.
“Duende,” she murmured and fell asleep.
Eneida’s Chilean-Puerto Rican background fuels her writing, which seeks to ask questions, explore mysteries, and elevate the underrepresented. Her stories and poems have appeared in literary outlets such as the Stoneboat Literary Journal, Parentheses Journal, and The Acentos Review. You may learn more about her at www.eneidapatricia.com.