Warrior of the Dead by Natalia Fuentes

I had a normal life up until recently; my life even seemed dull and ordinary to whoever knew me. Of course, this all changed very drastically, but I feel I’m getting quite ahead of myself. I should probably introduce myself first. My name is Gloria Ramirez, and I’m nineteen years old. I am a warrior for the Gods of the underworld, the Lord of the dead Mictlantecuhtli, and the Lady of dead Mictecacíhuatl. I understand that is not a normal or ordinary introduction that some might expect. My powers or gifts were given to me on my birth, November 2nd, the official day of the dead in Mexico. Since I can remember, my family would always tell me that I was unique, and I never believed it; of course, that was before I realized who I was supposed to become. I’ve always had a bad temper. My grandmother would say that I had “el fuego por dentro,” the fire within me. For most of my life, I’ve lived with my grandmother; I can barely remember my parent’s faces as they died when I was very young. They died when I was eight years old. Like most loving parents, they wanted to give me all they could, and they believed that if they went to the US, they could accomplish this, but sadly they never made it. The only thing I have left of them is a small ruby necklace they gifted me on my first birthday. Even though my life may seem sad or tragic to others, I had the most beautiful childhood living with my grandmother Consuelo. While living with her, I had many crazy adventures filled with the smells of herbs and smoke. My Grandmother Consuelo is a folk healer. For the townspeople, it is a much cheaper way of seeking help than of going to the doctor as they cannot afford this. So, in my mind, I thought I had seen everything while living with her, that is until now.

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As work ended and most of my friends went home, I realized that I was the only one left, which meant that I had to close the shop all by myself once again. Since I started this job, I’ve been getting home every day late, which I knew my grandmother disliked, but that was the only option we had since most people have started to forget the old ways of medicine and don’t believe in such things now and prefer to go to real doctors. It’s been so hard to pay rent. I know that my mama Consuelo does the best she can, but I sometimes wonder what life would have been if my parents were still alive. As I walk and think of how life must really hate me, I think at least today can’t get any worse, but as I say those words, it begins to pour rain as if the sky was about to fall. Of course, with my bad luck, only this would happen to me. I try to walk as fast as I can home, and to get there faster, I decided to take a shortcut which meant I would have to walk through the back alley. As I start to walk, I truly feel as if I’m in a horror movie I watched when I was younger where the protagonist gets murder. It truly feels like this as the alley seems to never end, and the only light post flickers, making it hard to see. I hear a noise as if someone is standing in front of me, but I can’t see anything, so I start to walk slower just to be careful; I try to calm myself down. I’m just imagining things in this weather. As I feel my body begin to relax, I see this black figure standing right in front of me, and I freeze completely and even forget that I’m soaking wet in the rain. I try to act tough, as my grandmother showed me, to never show fear in front of others. I get the courage and yell out, “who is it”! The shadow figure stays silent for a moment and doesn’t speak. I feel as if an eternity goes by, and the only thing I can hear is the drops of rain. After a minute, the shadow figure responds very silently, “Juan Delgado. “I stand their eyes wide open in shock as I’m amazed; this can’t be true. Juan Delgado died almost ten years ago. I yell back, “who really is it ”! The shadow figure takes some step closer, and there right in front of me is Juan Delgado, one of the most famous serial killers in town to ever exist. His skin is pale and rotting with flies and worms surrounding his body; his clothes are all torn up; this can’t be real. I have to be dreaming. 

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How is this possible? How can the real Juan Delgado be standing in front of me? We both just look at each other for a moment. Then soon, he begins to walk more rapidly toward me. I walk as fast as I can back, but with each step I take, he only gets closer to me. I start to panic as I have nowhere to run anymore. I feel my heart pounding inside of my body, and suddenly I feel this warmth inside of my chest. I scream, “get away from me,” and out of nowhere, I see these flames come out of my hands. Juan is no longer standing in front of me; it is as if he has disappeared into the air. I look at my hands. They are entirely white, and the raindrops turn into vapor as they touch my hands. I think to myself, what is happening to me? This really must be a nightmare of some sort. I ran as fast as I could to my grandmother’s house. I finally see the house and rush in, screaming. I touch the door and leave this dark handprint on the wooden door, and the smell of burnt wood stays in the air. I enter the kitchen, and there is my grandmother standing in front of me. She looks at me and then notices my hands. She is so shocked that she drops her mug full of tea. She runs and grabs a bucket full of water and tells me to put my hands in the water. I do what is told of me, and as I submerge my hands, I hear this sizzling sound as I close my eyes. After a minute or two, I open my eyes, and my grandmother is just staring at me with a smile. How can she be smiling? She is acting as if this is normal as she did not just see my hands almost on fire. I ask “Why are you smiling?” She responds with, “It is finally time for you. I knew all along that you were special.” What is she talking about? For the first time in my life, I thought I had no clue what my grandmother was talking about. She sat down next to me and tried explaining herself. She told me how I was a miracle baby and how my parents had struggled so hard to become pregnant that my grandmother decided to step in. She said that she did a special ritual that she had never done before and didn’t even know if it would work but that each night she would ask the gods to send my parents a baby. She never expected her prayers to be answered until she got the news that my mom was pregnant. She, at the moment, didn’t know which of the many gods had blessed us family with this miracle baby until the day of my birth. She knew from that moment that I was special and that I was destined for something great. After hearing all of this news, I did not know how to process these emotions inside of me. I felt that if I slept, I would wake up, and all of this would be just a dream. I went to bed without speaking or saying anything at all. I lay there in bed thinking of my parents, and I slipped away in a dream.

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I opened my eyes. It seemed to be night still as it was dark, but then I realized I was no longer lying in bed. I seemed to be in some type of area with mountains. I thought to myself that I was dreaming again. I decided to take it with calm as I knew I was dreaming, or so I thought; I started to walk and realized that the land became stranger as I walked. I stopped in my tracks as I heard this booming voice that made the land tremble. I looked around as I could not recognize where this sound was coming from. That’s when I looked up and stood shocked as in front of my eyes stood this skeleton figure. It looked like a giant with eyes that glowed as if there was fire within him. I thought stupidly that if I didn’t move, he wouldn’t notice me, but I was wrong. He leaned in even more to look at me closely as to examine me. He then opened his mouth and began to speak, “YOU ARE MY WARRIOR” his voice was so loud it even made me almost fall as everything trembled. I spoke back, “This is only a dream; I will soon wake up.” He tilted his head as if he was confused and then let out a mighty laugh that made the mountains behind him shake and fall. He then said back, “YOU ARE NOT DREAMING MIGHTY WARRIOR; YOU ARE IN THE LAND OF THE DEAD.” For a moment, I thought I was going to be sick. I felt worse now, knowing that I wasn’t dreaming but actually dead. I asked him how it was possible that I was dead if I had only gone to sleep. He continued to explain to me how I was not dead, but in fact, my spirit had traveled to the land of the dead with the help of my ruby necklace. With all of the confusion, I had not noticed that my necklace was glowing like fire. He then explained to me things that would make my life change forever; I had to fight demons who were once living people. I now knew what my purpose was in life; it was to fight demons. Of course, most people have goals of becoming doctors or lawyers, but mine seemed to be completely different. I had no role model to seek for help who knew how to fight the dead. How was I supposed to do this? I had no clue, but the only thing I had clear in my mind was that I had to protect my grandmother and the town from the demons who had escaped hell and put them back where they belonged. The last thing I remember was the smell of smoke as I woke up laying in my bed.

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I woke up not knowing what to do with all of this new information given to me. What was I supposed to do? There was no manual or book that could teach me how to be a warrior. It is as if a light bulb had turned on inside of my head. I had the perfect person to ask for help, my grandmother. She was the only person that I knew who knew about the supernatural and of the dead. I rushed quickly out of bed with my pajamas and messy hair. She was in her healing room, sitting as if she was waiting for something or someone. I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “I’m waiting for you; you have a long journey if you want to become a great warrior. ” I told her, “What makes you so sure I want to do this?” She had a grin on her face and responded, “Stop playing around my granddaughter; I know you more than anyone.” She was right; it is as if my grandmother could read my mind; she always knew what I was thinking. I truly wanted to do this; I wanted to make my parents proud and show them that I could fulfill my destiny. My grandmother explained to me that even though this was my journey, I could not do this by myself. I didn’t want to involve more people in this, but she was right; I was going to need help in this journey. I knew who I could ask for help, Ana, she was my girlfriend. Ana was actually an apprentice of my grandmother, so it was perfect for this mission. She had been learning and practicing to be a curandera from my grandmother for the past five years, which was actually how I met her. After I was done eating breakfast and talking to my grandmother, I headed out first thing to see her. I grabbed my bike and peddled as fast as I could to see her. When I got to her house, her mother greeted me and took me to where Ana was; she was in her garden as beautiful as always. Plants were actually the first thing that made her get interested in curanderismo and seek the guidance of my grandmother. As I saw Ana, I felt the same butterflies in my stomach I felt all those years ago when I first met her. I quickly explained the situation to her as I had no time to lose. After a slight pause for her to process everything, she agreed no questions asked, which was a reason why I chose her. I knew she would follow me in all my adventures, no matter how normal or crazy. We both rushed back on my bike to my grandmother’s house as she explained to us everything that we would have to face. She gave Ana a book that was very special as it was passed down from generation to generation in my family. She explained to us that it was a very magical book as it was full of spells and special herb remedies that were said to cure the sick. She said that even though she would love to help with our battles, she was too old and could no longer be of much use outside our home. For about a week, Ana and I prepared every day for our first encounter with the dead. The lord and lady of the dead gave me a gift of some special herbs to give to Ana as they were special and could cure almost any kind of sickness if prepared correctly. Ana practiced her spells and potions with my grandmother while I practiced my fighting skills and firepower in the realm of the underworld while I slept.

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One night while I slept and visited the land of the dead, I met the lady of the dead for the first time. She was as enormous as the lord of the dead. She had this beautiful crown on her head filled with bones and green emerald feathers from a quetzal bird. She had so much jewelry on her neck that shined as if they were stars, and she dressed in a red blood gown. I stood amazed, admiring her for a moment. She spoke to me, and as I heard her words, it was as if there was thunder making the ground rumble beneath my feet. It was so strange how someone so beautiful could also be so scary. She informed me that tomorrow there was going to be an attack in the local market and that I should prepare for this. I woke up the next day and went to pick up Ana as I needed her help on our first official battle together. I quickly explained the plan to her but as I was about to turn the corner that led to my home I heard a commotion of people yelling and screaming, in that moment I realized where all of this noise was coming from, it was the local market. I pedaled as fast as I could when we got there, there were only a couple of people left and a stranger with their back towards me. I yelled out, “You don’t belong here; you must go back where you belong.” He turned around and grinned. I could see his rotting teeth, and he was running toward me; I pushed Ana out of the way and began to fight. I was able to use my fire to burn off one of his arms, but I had not noticed that in his other hand, he had a knife which he used to cut me. But Ana stepped in quickly and was able to use a potion that she had and cure my wound quickly; she then found a machete nearby and threw it at me to use. I was now able to fight successfully and use the machete as well as my fire abilities. I was able to wound his decaying body and finished him off with my fire abilities; the only thing that was left of him were his ashes. I jumped and hugged Ana; we were both amazed at what we had done. We were so happy that for a moment, we forgot to see how the townspeople were. I noticed that there was a small group of people surrounding a body. Ana and I ran towards the group as Ana could help cure the person’s wounds. But as we approached the group, I realized that the person laying on the ground was my grandmother. How could this be? I quickly pushed the people around her and threw myself to the ground. “What happened?” I asked. She explained to me that she tried fighting the dead to save a little girl who he tried to attack, and in doing so, she had gotten injured. My grandmother has always been the type of person to help others, but for a moment, I just wished she would have been selfish and saved herself. I implored her not to leave to stay with me as she was all I had left. She touched my cheek and said that I would never be alone because inside of my heart lived a small part of her, and as long as I lived, she would be with me. She gave her last breath of air, and then I felt her body become loose.

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After my grandmother’s funeral, Ana tried everything to cheer me up, but I felt that everything I had been doing was to protect my grandmother, but I had failed her. I was so full of anger that for a moment, I did not care what happened to the rest of the townspeople. I went to sleep that night, and as my body roamed the realm of the dead, my heart was only filled with anger. I stood standing in front of the lord and lady of the dead and yelled, “bring her back to me”! They looked at each other for a moment, and then the lady of the dead spoke, “YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE GODS OF THE DEAD, NOT OF LIFE WE CAN NOT BRING HER BACK TO YOU” my eyes filled with tears. Then the lord of the dead spoke, “EVERYTHING IN LIFE MUST COME TO AN END SOMEDAY, AND EVEN THOUGH YOUR GRANDMOTHER IS NO LONGER WITH YOU PHYSICALLY, YOU STILL MAINTAIN HER IN YOUR MEMORIES.” As he said that, I realized he was right; the memory of my grandmother came to me. After my parents passed away, she showed me that a person could never truly die if you still remembered them in your heart. I thought of how if my grandmother was still here, she would not like to see me sad and with my heart full of anger.

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As I woke up, all anger and resentment left my body; my goal and purpose were to finish sending the rest of the undead back to the land of the dead. As the months went by, Ana and I killed one by one all of the dead, sending them back to where they should have never left. After a year had passed, we were able to successfully send each and every demon back; we decided to throw a party to celebrate our accomplishment as well as celebrate my birthday. It wasn’t a big party, in fact, it was only Ana and me as we wanted it to be very private. I made a small altar where I placed a small picture of my grandmother as well as other family members as it would be one of my very first birthdays without my grandmother; as we finished our celebration, we went to bed. I asked Ana to stay with me as I did not want to be alone on my birthday; as I slept, my soul traveled to the underworld. In front of me stood the lady and lord of the dead, but this time, we were not in a forest-like place but in a field of beautiful cempasuchil flowers. I asked out, “What are we doing here?” They responded, “WE KNOW IT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY AND EVEN THOUGH WE CAN NOT BRING YOUR GRANDMOTHER BACK WITH YOU PERMANENTLY YOU CAN SEE HER FOR TODAY.” I felt the tears accumulate in my eyes as I saw the figure of my grandmother appear in front of me. She looked exactly how I remembered her. I was so happy I ran into her arms. She hugged me back, and I felt such warmth in my heart I couldn’t believe it was her standing in front of me. But as I looked into her eyes I knew that this was not the end of my journey but actually just the beginning.

 

Biography: My name is Natalia Fuentes. I am currently a  student at Aims Community College. I am the daughter of immigrant parents and the first in my family to attend college. I am attending Aims to pursue a better education not only for myself but for future generations in my family. I hope that by continuing my education, I can make my family in Mexico proud and for them to see that their sacrifices haven’t been in vain. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank those who have helped me be where I am today, including my Cousin Daisy Fuentes, who has always supported me. A thank you to Robert Garcia, Gisela Cardenas, and lastly, the biggest thank you to Jelly.