Aphelion Issue 248, Volume 24
March 2020
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El Cuco

by Theresa C. Gaynord

February 12, 1901 ~ Province of A Coruña, Galicia, Spain.

Agony coursed back and forth through every cell of Francisco Ortega’s body. His face burned from the fever and he writhed in pain while throwing up blood into a pail. His head lolled back from the heavy weight and he slumped against the windowpane watching the clouds drift passed the crescent moon while crying in shame at what he’d become. His eyes locked with the portrait of the bullfighter that hung over the fireplace mantle. Tuberculosis had systematically reduced him to the whimpering man he was today. He shifted his foot on the floor and caught himself from falling. A bang on the door of his home startled him as he heard metal click open. With flowing white gown and black hooded cape the curandera ~ healer walked in with a thick handkerchief over her nose and mouth.

“You came. Help me Eulalia. Don’t let me die like this.”

He took a step toward her but she held out her hand to stop him from approaching. She kept her distance as she whispered through the cloth.

“There is only one thing that will save you. Find a young boy and drink his blood. You must do this in the dead of night when all is still. Offer the sacrifice to the Acalica by leaving the remains of the boy in the banks of the river Miño.”

“No. I can’t. I can’t do that.” Francisco said.

“It is the only way.” Eulalia responded.

She turned to leave and Francisco noticed she was walking with backward facing feet. His eyes widened in horror and he wrestled with his conscience.

Three nights passed and Francisco woke from a deep sleep feeling a regenerative energy coursing through his veins. He sat down at the dining room table with a hearty breakfast before him. He ate fast, saliva drooling from the sides of his mouth, newspaper on his lap, headlines in bold ink, Boy Found Dead By The Banks Of The River Miño. Blood Drained From Body. Cause Of Death, Unknown.

The Present

Three women all dressed in black converged at the market in conversation, exchanging stories and town gossip. Bernardito swore under his breath and dug his nails into his flesh from the frustration of the two hour chatter. He sucked the blood from the wound then withdrew as his mother slapped his arm, striking him a couple of times.

“What have you done?” She asked, as the other women gasped, watching in horror.

“I’m bored! I want to go play! I don’t want to listen to you and the other two daily gassetts of the town talk all day!”

He curled his fists and beat on himself in a fit of rage. For a child of seven he was willful and his mother Elvirita could not handle him very well.

“Allright, Bernardito. Calm down.” She said, opening her purse.

“Here’s some money for a chocolate bar. Go play in the park and I will pick you up there when I’m done. But don’t leave that area. Do you understand?”

Bernardito shook his head yes and grabbed the money from his mother’s hand as he ran off leaving the three women standing there in shock.

“He’s a child. I understand his frustration.” Elvirita said.

The other two women gave her a wry smile.

Bernardito crossed the street and ran down the road to the park where the swings were. Clarita was already sitting on a swing licking an ice-cream cone. He sat down on the one next to her.

“I saw you, how you spoke to your mom.” She said.

“Yeah? So what?” Bernardito responded.

“Haven’t you heard? If you don’t behave, he comes for you at night and steals you away in a big black sack. Then he kills you slowly, draining and drinking your blood.” Clarita whispered, scaring Bernardito just a bit.

She was older than him around the age of nine and she knew how to get her little brothers to behave at home.

“You’re making that up! Say it! Say you're making it up!” Bernardito demanded.

“I’m not making him up. Haven’t you heard of him?” Clarita asked.

“Heard of who?” Bernardito asked.

“El Cuco! El Viejo Del Saco!” Clarita said.

“I don’t believe in that crap.” Bernardito responded as he began to swing high.

Clarita smiled at him and as she got up and walked away she said one last thing to him,

“You better behave or he’ll come for you.”

“Stupid bitch! There’s no such thing!” Bernardito yelled out.

The weather changed rapidly and a hailstorm ensued. It was so powerful that it disoriented Bernardito and he took off running away from the park into the wooded area by the banks of the river to a nearby cave.

A couple of minutes later Elvirita ran over to the park searching for her son, screaming his name. He was nowhere to be found.

Bernardito huddled in the cave shivering.

“She cursed me that stupid bitch.” He said to himself.

He pushed through the feeling of fear and became aggressive once again.

“My ancestor was a brave bullfighter! I don’t fear anything!” Through the ripples of steam forming in the cave’s entrance small wizened men appeared. Bernardito stood up slowly as they spoke.

“We are the Acalica. Stay in the cave and you will be safe. He’s following you and knows your name. We control the weather and caused the storm to save your life.”

“Liars!” The boy shouted as he hit his head repeatedly.

“I’m imagining it!”

He looked back to the entrance and saw the light of the full moon illuminating the darkness. He wondered how long he had been there before he darted outside.

The dark haired woman with backwards facing feet was the last thing he saw as the shadow of a man with a burlap black sack whisked him away.

La Ciguapa and El Cuco had claimed yet another victim.

© 2019 Theresa C. Gaynord

Theresa likes to write about matters of self-inflection and personal experiences. She likes to write about matters of an out-of body, out-of-mind state, as well as subjects of an idyllic, pagan nature and the occult. Theresa writes horror, as well as concrete gritty and realistic dramas. Theresa is said to be witch and a poet. (within the horror writing community).

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