3 - Spooky Tales
Two sisters that never got along will take their rivalry to the afterlife. In the afterword, we continue exploring more about the hereafter. Our last story is about a woman who will get the fright of her life after visiting a rural school.
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The Hooded Mass
(La Cuentista. Traditional Stories in Spanish and English. Edited by Teresa Pijoan. )
Adapted by Carolina Quiroga-Stultz
The following cuento happened between the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado, in a tiny isolated village, this is a story happened to Maria Rodriguez.
Maria and her sister Eleonor Rodriguez were not exactly the best sisters. They were constantly arguing about absolutely everything. It was a nightmare.
Well, it happens that Christmas ago, when their parents were still alive, both girls were given the same Christmas gift. It was the same shawl, and it worked. For a while, both girls were delighted. They were happy; there were no problems at all, no discussions, no fights, no arguments. Until one of the shawls got lost, and both girls began blaming each other. Well, now that issue was long gone, Elenor Rodriguez had recently passed away. Now that shawl belonged only to Maria.
Christmas was coming, and the Rodriguez family had never been late to a Christmas mass. Now, in those times, they didn't have cell phones or alarms, so Maria decided that the best thing to do was to go to bed early. After hours of sleeping, Maria wakes up hearing the bells calling for Christmas mass. Oh no! how could this be? Maria overslept! Maria got up, and then she peered through the window into that dark and cold night of winter.
Oh, the lights of the church upon the hill were on the bells are ringing. Oh no! Maria overslept. Now she has to hurry up. Quickly she puts on her boots, her coat, her globes, her skirt, and the last thing she grabbed was that shawl. She put it around her neck and over her head, then she grabbed her lantern, and she walked into that dark and cold night of winter into those spooky woods.
After running through the woods and up the hill, finally, Maria gets to the church. She puts down the lantern and begins to push in the door, and as she comes in, she realizes that absolutely everybody is in the church. She doesn't even remember seeing so many people in the village, but then Maria thinks that it is Christmas, that families get together and a little town gets bigger.
She also remembers that there is a new family in town, who knows how many are there. As well she noticed that the music from the piano is playing, and that means that the Christmas mass has not yet started. She still has time to sit down before people start talking. So swiftly, she rushes down the aisle to find her family's pew, but when she found her family's pew on her right, she observes that there are people sitting in her family pew. How dare they?
Then she remembers that maybe is that new family in town. Probably the priest knowing that she's already an orphan and that there is a lot of space there, had the kindness of inviting this new person to sit in her family's pew. But at least they could have warned her! They could have told her! Oh! She is so annoyed, but well, she can deal with this issue after the mass. In the meantime, all she needs to do is to find another place quickly before people start looking back at her and murmuring, whispering, gossiping.
When she is about to start walking, Maria feels that one of the people sitting in her family's pew have gently grabbed her right hand and is pulling her. Obviously, they want to talk. Maria doesn't feel like talking, but it is Christmas, and "you just have to be polite." so Maria leans down to listen but what she heard was very different from when she was expecting to hear.
Person: Sit, sit with your family.
Maria is way more annoyed. Who do they think they are? Calling themselves her family, but then Maria thinks that during Christmas neighbors that hated each other, all of a sudden are best friends. Everybody is a family at Christmas. Well, at this point, Maria feels that some of the people sitting on the front rows had begun to slowly turn their heads back, noticing her. So quickly she takes the invitation, and she sits down in her family's pew, and as she did, the music stopped.
And an awkward silence filled the entire room, but then seconds after that, the music began to play. Maria thinks that there must be some sort of delay. Normally the priest would come right after, but he hasn't. Then Maria remembers that last year the altar boy got stuck in a snowstorm, and the priest and some of the people in the church had to go outside to retrieve the poor guy. Most likely, that is what is going on right now.
As Maria is letting her thoughts wandering around in her mind, she begins to feel that the temperature in the room it is getting hotter, and then she noticed that the people sitting in the front rows had begun to pull down their hoods or their shawls, so she does the same thing.
Then Maria feels that that person sitting next to her on her right is staring at her. Maria doesn't feel like talking, but it's Christmas, and you have to be polite. So Maria forces a grim, and she slowly turns around her head to her right. But what she saw was that that person sitting next to her was staring at her from two empty sockets.
Maria looks down, and she sees that that person sitting next to her is wearing gloves, and Maria recognizes those gloves she recognizes the initials E.R. Could it be Eleonor Rodriguez? Maria looks back to her dead sister, and she sees that her mom and her dad, who had passed away a long time ago, are also staring at her from empty sockets.
Maria looks up front, and she realizes that absolutely everybody, the entire congregation, is staring at her from empty sockets. Maria looks down, and she puts her hands together as if she is going to pray, but instead, she began to slide off that pew and slide off that pew until she reaches the end of the pew on her left side.
She slowly stood up, and then she turned around, and she began to run, and run, and run as fast as she could towards the front door. But as she's running, she feels that all the bony hands of all those dead people are trying to keep her inside, they are trying to grab her skirt, they are trying to grab her from her coat. Oh! All those hands failed, but one hand almost succeeded, as that hand grabbed her from her shawl, from behind, and tried to pull her back, almost choking her.
Maria turns around, and she fights, and she wrestles against her sister, against that shawl. Until finally, she freed herself from that shawl, and she pushed the doors, and she ran into that dark and cold night of winter, into those spooky woods.
At some point, she stops in the middle of the woods; she looks back, nobody is chasing her, but she needs help. Who can help her? And then she remembers the priest. He never showed up at the mass. So Maria runs to his cabin.
Maria: Help! Help!
When the priest finally opened the door, Maria is a little bit annoyed; she doesn't understand why the priest is still wearing his nightgown. It is already 6 in the morning it is time for the Christmas mass, or not?
As she comes in and sits by the fireplace, and as she begins to recount what had happened, she begins to understand that the mass she just attended was not a mass for the living; it was a mass for the dead.
Finally, Maria and the priest went back to the church. They came in through the back door, and they both see that the church is empty, and it is very cold as it was supposed to be. And as they are walking down the aisle, Maria and the priest see pieces of the shawl that had been torn apart.
My mother always tells me to be very careful when you purchase or acquire or inherit something that is second hand, something that had been used by somebody else in the past because every object comes with a memory.
Well, friends, I bet some of you are already wondering about those things that you got at a garage sale or that were passed down on to you by your mom or grandpa. So, to help you understand a little bit more the story, I would like to share with you some notes.
The following note comes from the book "Get us out of here! An interview to Maria Simma" by Nicky Eltz. One day at a house where Maria had been invited, she witnessed the following event. The host had recently become a widower, and ever since, strange things have been happening in that house. Maria agrees to stay at the house and help. Soon after that, she began to hear a loud banging. As always, she asked: what can I do for you? And the banging came closer and louder, there is when she saw a huge animal that she had never seen before, and then all of a sudden, the vision disappeared.
Later she talked to somebody, and that's when she understood that that huge animal symbolized a cold and stoned heart. When she talked to the widower is when she understood the story behind it. Apparently, his wife had had an issue 30 years ago with a neighbor. But she never let it go, and she held on to that grudge for over 30 years despite that the neighbor had tried to solve the issue, but no, she didn't let it go. And that is why she ended up at the lowest level of the purgatory, where at the moment, she could not get help.
On another note from the book Between earth and sky (Entre el Cielo y la Tierra): curious stories about the purgatory by Maria Vallejo Naguera, published by Varie Editores, the author relates the anecdote of a religious German woman who in 1921 in 1928 wrote a treaty regarding the purgatory. The first anecdote happened one day when she was staying at some relative's house taking care of a baby.
When all of a sudden right in front of her appeared the most horrific sight of a furious man that had bloody eyes and an evil smile, the man smelled terrible, and he was wearing garments that looked as if he was coming from the Middle Ages. The evil man jumped to strangle the woman, and quickly the woman was able to pull out her rosary and began to pray to the Archangel Michael for his help. Soon she saw that the evil ghost was pushed against the wall. She kept praying and praying until finally, the evil man calmed down and began to talk.
He recounted that he had been in purgatory since 1479, and he had been suffering so much because he was very, very evil and meant when he was alive. He said to the woman: I know I am saved, but I'm not purified. The man said that in order for him to get out, he needed prayers. At the time, he was so close to hell that he was so full of hate that he couldn't feel love or kindness or sympathy.
However, since his mother had prayed for the soul, God had had mercy for him and compassion, and that is why he did not go to hell. The religious woman prayed for the man for months. She fasted, and she took on chores around the convent that nobody else wanted to do.
Eventually, after some time, the soul of that man came back to her again, but in a completely different shape; he did not look old or dirty or covered in rags or full of hate. It was a young man of about 20 years old and looked more pleasant and calmed and told the woman that he would never forget what she had done for him. Thanks to her, he was now in a better level of purgatory where he could be closer to God and finally be able to atone for his sins.
Very well, friends, today we will finalize the program with Un Cuento Mas, One More Story, and this one also comes from the same book La Cuentista by Teresa Pijoan.
The school teacher
One day, a tall and well-dressed woman came to a rural school and asked a little girl with brown hair who was playing on the patio, "Where is the teacher?"
The little girl looked at the woman, at her blue suit, at her leather black high heels, at the red polish on her fingernails, at the white silk blouse, at her pale face with red lips, but did not say a thing.
So, the woman grew impatient and asked again, "I am asking you where is the teacher?"
The brown-haired girl looked around the patio and then slowly raised her hand, pointing at a short man near the swing. Next, the little girl ran towards the swing.
The tall woman put her purse under her right arm and adjusted a long and black hair braid behind her ear as she walked with a very serious expression towards the swing, where she asked the man, "Good morning, are you the teacher?"
The short man smiled and answered, "I am the teacher."
The woman's facial expressions relaxed, and before she was able to say another word, the teacher stretched out his arm and said, "Good morning, Miss!"
The teacher did not take a step forward. On the contrary, the woman had to come closer and shake his hand. After this brief introduction, the woman felt ill at ease and almost stuttered when she said, "Sir, my name is Miss Cruz. I work at the Velarde Company."
The man smiled, showing his white and straight teeth, and as if he didn't care about where she worked, said, "My name is Carlos Cisneros. How are you?"
The woman did not smile back. "I am fine. Thank you!"
As the adults were talking, the children who had been playing by the swings gathered around the teacher, who began walking towards the school. The children were holding Mr. Cisneros's hands and those who couldn't had lined up behind him.
Miss Cruz, annoyed by the children's disruption, asked, "Sir, it is very important that I speak to you in private. You cannot keep managing the school. The governor has ordered the closure of the school!
Next, the woman opened her purse and pulled out several white sheets filled with typed words. Mr. Cisneros stopped in front of the school's white door, turned his head towards her, and asked, "What?"
Impatiently, the woman grabbed his hand and placed the papers in it, trying to force a grip, but the wind blew the papers away. Most of them landed on the ground.
Without losing his composure, the teacher kindly said, "Señorita Cruz, have you come so far to force me to close the school? Is that what you want?"
As he spoke, the woman fell to her knees, trying to gather the papers scattered around the children's feet.
"Yes Sir, yes...yes. This school is doomed. It is falling apart, and you are not qualified to teach. We have determined that you do not have the proper certificate to practice teaching in this state! Therefore, Sir, you need to let the children attend a different school in El Rito!"
The teacher called the children with a single clap. The children ran around him and hurried to the entrance. Once the children were quiet, the man tilted his head and said, "Señorita, this school doesn't belong to the state. This school belongs to the people. If you wish to observe, you are welcome to come in. If not, I wish you safe travels back to your town."
The teacher smiled at her, opened the door, and disappeared down the hall. The woman put the papers back in her purse, took a deep breath, and entered the school.
As she walked around, she saw a couple of empty rooms. In some, the ceilings had fallen to the floor. Only her footsteps reverberated over the dirty wood floor. Señorita Cruz reached the last room.
One light bulb was still flickering. The desks were broken but neatly organized in two straight lines. The windows had no glass, and a refreshing breeze filled the space. The room was empty. The woman turned to leave, but, as she did, her eyes stopped on the board, where she saw yellow chalk silently moving on the board's shattered surface.
The words were legible: EL SEÑOR CISNEROS IS A GOOD TEACHER. EVERY DAY WE LEARNED TO READ AND WRITE BETTER. IT IS TIME TO UNDERSTAND THE EXPRESSIONS AND DIARIES OF THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.
The chalk stopped and briefly moved to the far side of the blackboard and wrote, "HAVE A GOOD TRIP BACK HOME SENORITA CRUZ."
Miss Cruz nodded and hurried out of the building, leaving a trail of typed papers behind her.
My name is Carolina Quiroga-Stultz and Tres Cuentos at a time warns you to let issues go, and by all means, do not get attached to material things. Remember in the end, we don't take any of that to the grave. Nos escuchamos pronto, adiós.
1. La Cuentista. Traditional Stories in Spanish and English. Edited by Teresa Pijoan. Translated by Nancy Zimmerman. Published by Red Crane Books, Santa Fe, 1994.
2. Get us out of here! An interview to Maria Simma by Nicky Eltz, 2002.
3. Between earth and sky (Entre el Cielo y la Tierra): curious stories about the purgatory by Maria Vallejo Naguera, published by Varie Editores, 2013.
List of credits:
Ethnoamerica - Serveng
Day of Recon - Max Surla, Media Right Productions
Ether - Silent Partner
Darkest Child - Kevin McLeod, Creative Commons Attributions License
Disconcerned - Kevin McLeod, Creative Commons Attributions License
Agnus Dei X Bitter Suite - Kevin McLeod, Creative Commons Attributions License
Day of Chaos - Kevin McLeod, Creative Commons Attributions License
Skeleton Dance - Myuu
Lurking – Silent Partner
Doll Dancing - Puddle of Infinity
Far_The_Days_Come - Letter Box
Tragic Story - Myuu