Archive for the ‘April 1st-7th’ category

The River Crossing

April 12, 2007

It was a dark night. The only sound was the humming of cicadas and water softly splashing on the banks of the river. The sky was an unbroken mass of stars shinning like pinpricks in a vast black fabric. They were so bright compared to the dark night that they hurt your eyes to look at them. Even at night it is warm in Mexico. Delores sweated profusely under the three layers of clothing she is wearing. Two dresses- her Sunday silk on the bottom most layer- and one skirt. The fabric was stretched tightly over her bulging pregnant stomach. The sweat was the thickest and stickiest on the back of her neck but with her arms laden with packages there was nothing she could do but shake her thick black braid off her neck and over her shoulder. Under one arm was a heavy sack containing her stone mocajete, the irreplaceable mortar and pestle which had been passed down to her by her great grandmother. She had packed it tightly wrapped in socks and underwear but as she shifted the weight under her arm she heard a tiny little clink as the well worn pestle must have clinked inside the deep bowl of the mortar. Under her other was a bundle of the remaining clothing tied up in a sheet.

Bartolome had agreed to have the rest shipped to el otro lado. The indignity of their flight was almost more than Iraseme could bear. She took one look at the cold river and stood unmoving under the mesquite tree. Sergio was already waist deep. His bundles were floating around him like small boats, each packet wrapped thoroughly in plastic garbage bags sealed with duck tape. One barely floated and sunk below the surface of the water. It contained a sack of corn meal for tortillas, uncooked white rice and pinto beans. This was all they had in terms of provisions in addition to emptied milk gallon filled with water each.

Delores lifted her skirt and started to make her way into the black water but all of a sudden there was a loud sound like a gust of wind blowing past you and then a soft light in the distance appeared bobbing up and down like a lantern on a string. It was moving rapidly toward the three people about to cross the river. La Migra they all thought to themselves as the light got closer. Some how they had found them. But as the light neared them it brighter and brighter until they realized it wasn’t one light but several spreading across a line. Had the mob followed them this far? Delores thought to herself. They were twenty days travel from Tayahu and it hardly seemed worth the effort even if they did think her a cursed bruja. The glowing lights took on a smoky glaze. There was a shimmer around them and areas of opaqueness like dust kicked up by feet. As the lights got closer they spread further and further east and west. Soon it was almost like a horizon of light coming toward them.

Delores and Sergio turned around in the water and stared. It defiantly was not a mob of people or La Migra. Iraseme blinked repeatedly and slowly backed away from the mesquite tree toward the river where her son and daughter in law stood paralyzed. Delores clutched dropped her burdens and clutched at her womb. The mocajete fell from her hands and plopped into the black water. Ireseme’s black dress thwapped against her thighs in the wind. She held her hands up shielding her eyes from the light, but when she saw its true nature she fell forward on her knees genuflecting rapidly. “ Aye Nuestra Senora!” was all she managed to say out loud. The horizon of light came so close that there was only a few feet of no man’s land between the river crossers and the mass of whatever was causing the glow. Delores gasped when she saw the source, thousands of ghostly bodies. She had been wrong, it was a mob. There were faces they knew. Old relatives they often visited in their memories, friends and acquaintances long gone. The number of those they knew however was only a small handful compared to the number of strangers. Thousands of translucent illuminated bodies stood before them. The material that they were composed of was a mere shadow of flesh and blood. They had the same qualities as a white sheet hung on a clothes line. Their bodies seemed to mesh into one another. Some were on foot, others rood ghostly horses and burros. It was an entire league of dead souls. Their bodies emitted a brilliant white light but their eyes were as black as the night around them.

Delores took two steps forward until she stood close enough to touch Iraseme who was still on her knees. Sergio let go of the floating bundles and walked forward towards the two women on bank of the river. “What in gods name do we do” Delores whispered to him when he was close enough to hear.

“We cannot stop” Iraseme said. “We cannot turn our backs to them. We must cross the river as quickly as possible. I don’t think they can follow over running water” Her voice was trembling. “And pray for God’s sake. Pray that he will save our souls!” She spread her arms out beside her as if to display her hands were free of weapons. She slowly rose to her knees and began walking backwards towards the river. She stooped to pick up her tiny bundle and continue backwards into the black water not bothering to lift her skirt. Delores and Sergio followed her example. As she stepped into the water she tripped on something hard on the sandy floor. It was her mocajete. She bent down carefully feeling the cold water close in around her. She didn’t take her eyes off the ghostly crowd. As Sergio entered the water widening the gap between them and the mob she assumed the mass would move forward it did not.