YZAHIRA R. VALLE GARCÍA
She blames the lack of hitchhiking options on Puerto Rico’s high levels of carjackings. Too much poverty pushing people into a life of crime that results in a lack of free rides in the early evening. Her night job as La Llorona del Puente Las Calabazas doesn’t help her chances either. She has been unable get to the town of Coamo for months now.
She holds a smartphone stolen from a band of Yankees that loudly proclaimed themselves as ‘horror tourists’ to the locals. It takes time to familiarize herself with the device and its features, especially when the previous owner keeps calling.
“Hello?!” A woman’s voice speaks out.
“Hi, thanks for picking up! I’m guessing you found it, right? Thanks so much!”
“So, could you help reunite us? I would like to reward you in person!”
The next few calls raise the woman’s voice and desperation to a feverish pitch until Llorona learns the beauty of the block function.
She turns her attention to the apps and manages to book a nine-minute ride from the bridge to the Coamo Municipal Police department at 7:45 p.m. through Uber. Her would-be driver, Isis, quickly messages her.
¡Buenas noches! Mi nombre es Isis, su servidora y chofera de Uber. ¿Puede confirmar su localización es al frente del residencial de la 153?
¡Perfecto! Mi ETA es cinco minutos. ¿Tiene alguna pregunta o comentario?
Here, Llorona frowns. She could omit mentioning her quirk; she has no obligation to warn the driver about it. However, her ride could be canceled for not bringing it up, and she has spent far too much time learning how to unlock the phone for that possibility.
Her temporarily unethereal fingers hover over the screen before typing.
No puedo hablar y no estoy en el… mejor estado emocional.
Es posible que llore en llantos durante el viaje…
Llorona would have held her breath if her lungs existed. The message dots bounce like cattails on a windy afternoon before responding:
¡No te preocupes! Trataré de hacer el viaje lo más cómodo posible.
The cryptid chooses not to answer. The driver has been warned, and that was courtesy enough.
15 minutes later, a burgundy Chevy pulls to the curb, close to La Llorona. From the driver side, a short black woman with braided salt and pepper hair steps out and approaches the rider.
“¿Carmen?” Isis asks.
Right. Stolen phone.
‘Carmen’ nods. Isis smiles, in that kind and soft way that would have given Llorona some comfort in her mortal days. The driver then gently takes Llorona’s bony and clammy hand in hers. Carmen can only imagine its callouses and warmth.
Carmen weightlessly settles onto the front passenger seat, tucking her long dress under her. Isis returns to the wheel and pulls the car into the street.
Hardly had the ride started than Carmen could feel a wail build up and rise in her throat. She wants to hold off until they are closer to the town center, but the compulsion is as strong and persistent as her very existence. A sucking of air, a sob, and then a low groan growing to a loud cry. Her gloved hands fly to cover her lopsided face. As they pass by the Luis “Wito” Santiago Convention Center, she is in the throes of her signature wailing.
Llorona waits for the car to lurch violently, for its driver to freak out and scream. She thinks of leaving the car, of trying her luck with another driver. Instead, she feels something settle soothingly over her padded shoulders.
“Ssshhh…Sshhhh… Esta bien, amor. Déjalo salir”.
Isis’s hand. Carmen can’t truly feel it, but the genuine concern and comfort radiates and drapes over her hunched form. Even the people of her time, her own family, were not as kind. Slowly, as the sedan enters the outskirts of Coamo, Carmen’s wailing eases into soft hiccups.
“Muy bien”, Isis cooes. “Te sientes mejor, ¿verdad? Hay que soltar esas cosas para sentirse mejor”.
Carmen nods. Rarely has she felt the euphoria of being soothed.
“Yo sé que las cosas son difíciles ahora, pero van a mejorar. Yo antes era pobre con una plaga de esposo y ahora soy divorciada con trabajo que paga”.
Carmen lets out a growl at the mention of a husband.
“Lo se, mija. Son lo peor”.
Finally, the Chevy stops in front of the small beige building that is the Coamo Municipal Police Department.
Carmen pulls out her phone and messages Isis.
Gracias…por todo. Te voy a dar un regalo en tu mano. No lo veas hasta que entre al cuartel.
Isis glances at her phone before turning to her rider. “No es por nada, Carmen. No es necesario–”
Carmen takes the woman’s hand and pulls it to her lap. She presses something into the warm hand before closing Isis’s fingers around it.
The drooping veiled head raises. Her mouth twitches upwards, lips curl back to flash gnarled and rotten teeth. Her eyes widen, lit with bloodshot happiness signaling her gratitude.
Isis’s eyes widen, wet with shock slowly eaten by anxiety. Her warm smile grows tighter, nearly mimicking her passenger’s in size and intensity.
Carmen slowly opens her door sticking one pale leg after another out before standing up in a leisurely fashion. She takes deliberate steps forward. The car door slams shut like a passing thought.
Carmen hopes Isis can make use of the small fortune of Spanish doubloons. Money her own mother gave her after she married a green-eyed, brown-haired Spaniard. For an emergency in her marriage, or her life. Money could not fix her tragedy, but, hopefully, it might help Isis.
After making sure her tattered dress is creased and her long, matted hair is properly parted, La Llorona silently enters the station’s lobby, skulking towards the slumbering desk clerk. He has hair the color of dirt. Even with his eyes closed, she can sense they are green. A spitting image of her ‘beloved’ husband.
With a flick of her wrist, the lights illuminating the foyer explode into darkness.
The guard wakes in a start, surrounded in blackness, facing a woman who makes his very soul quake.