The first snowfall of winter usually leaves the forest hanging in an eerie silence, as if the entire forest was waiting for something to happen. I sat, sitting in my cold, hard bed, looking out the window at the silent darkness which surrounded me. I sit up, and run my bony fingers through my thick dark hair. A cold draft sends shivers down through my skin and into the deepest depths of my body. I lay down on my creaking bed, and as the moon weaves in and out of the clouds, I watch as night shifts into morning.
When I woke up, the forest seemed to have changed clothes overnight. The sun baskes the evergreen trees in an orange light, turning them orange and golden. I notice Madre is still asleep. I didn’t expect her to be awake, she usually sleeps like the dead, which makes a lot of sense considering she is dead.
Since as long as I could remember, I have been able to see and talk to the dead. It didn’t scare me as it did before, but it was always unsettling. When Madre died, I moved to an old cabin in the woods. It was cold at night, even in the summer, and we didn’t have electricity, but it kept me away from the dead and dying.
Even so, a lost ghost or spirit finds its way to me begging me to help it move on into the afterlife. Over the years I have built an ofrenda for every spirit that needs help moving on to the afterlife. But Dia de Los Muertos is approaching, and I need to truly prepare, with marigold petals, and sugar skulls.
This time, I want to move every spirit in the area into the afterlife, so that I can finally have a moment of peace. I move quietly, careful not to wake Madre. She gets grumpy when she doesn’t sleep for a perfect nine hours. She keeps complaining that her skin will get saggy, and her hair too dry. Kind of ridiculo if you ask me, considering she doesn’t have skin. She does have the most beautiful head of hair I have ever seen, lush and dark. I don’t understand how a ghost can manage that. I love Madre, but she is dead. I can see her and talk to her, but never again will I feel her loving touch when I cry. BOOM, a crash from upstairs shakes me out of my reverie.
“Calanta, hija, yo necesito ayudar.” It's Madre. I rush to the stairs and find her bones scattered across the floor. She is trying to assemble herself, but I notice her femur is stuck under the bookshelf. She is complaining again, but I tune her out. She loves to complain. When I finally wriggle her femur out from under the bookshelf, she puts herself back together and stands up.
How should I even begin to describe Madre? Well for one thing, she is dead. She died in a car crash on the way to the cabin. I had to drive the rest of the way. Because she is dead, she has no physical form, but chooses to appear as a Catrina skeleton. She has dark lips, and Dia de los Muertos style makeup decorating her face. She has flowers around her eyes, and two dark lines running from her mouth up her cheek. It sounds scary, but it just looks like any other Day of the dead skeleton you have seen. Her long, dark hair is often tied in a braid and completed with flowers at the end. She is wearing a typical spanish Dia de los Muertos dress. She is beautiful, or at least was, when she was alive. Now she is just bones and makeup. Although I have heard that there are people who are alive that look like that too. They call them “beauty queens.”
“Calantha. Vamonos. Yo necesito comer
She says, sashaying towards the kitchen. “And you do too.”
“Madre. You don’t eat breakfast. And anyway, I’ve already eaten. Also, you will get plenty of offerings from me on your ofrenda.” She knows it's not true that I haven’t eaten yet, but I figure that I will eat plenty of things as I decorate. Sugar skulls and pan de muerto. She doesn’t argue.
“Claro que si. That's fine.” She walks past the kitchen and floats up and into her favorite spot on the mantle above the fireplace and her ofenda. She loves being up high, I would often see her working at the computer, sitting on top of her desk. I start to get the decorations from a plastic bin in the living room, when suddenly I hear a scream. I have just enough time to register the two hands coming out of the mirror and grabbing my mother before she disappears into the silver mist of the mirror.
I scream, and run to the mirror, “Madre!” but she’s gone, and nothing can bring her back. I fall to the floor, sobbing. But I know that tears won't bring my madre back. She is slowly fading from view.