The woman, a mound of dirt and rags pushing a squeaky shopping cart. Her long greasy hair hides her face. He looked away. The best thing to do with homeless mobs like this is to ignore them. Give them any amount and they cling on you like barnacles.
“Have you seen my children?” the woman asks
Her irritating voice felt like sandpaper to the ear. His heart started racing as if it was pricked with a needle. He kept on walking, but much more faster. Until he got home, till he realized that the voice of the woman rekindled the fear of an old folklore of some sort. It reminded him of Llorona.
“I’ve never thought of this in years” he said to himself.
Everyone in town had a premonition or a story about her. The most common of them was that she drowned her children in the river and afterwards roamed the town, searching for them at night; her cries were taken as a warning and a bad omen.
His great uncle also had a tale to tell about Llorona. It was during the rainy seasons, when the rivers have overflown the road and he was forced to take an unfamiliar path. He spotted a woman in white bending over some flowers at the side of the road. Her face was covered with the remains of mangoes she has eaten savagely. She turned around and faced him and then she smiled. Blood dripped from her open mouth and stained her white gown.
This was the kind of story whispered around the corners of the city. Left to him, it was nonsense.
The next morning, he sees the homeless woman sitting beneath a narrow ledge shielding herself from the rain. She weeps and hugs a plastic bag as though it were a newborn baby.
“Have you seen my children?” She asked as he rushed by, clutching his umbrella.
The dogs are howling. They scare him. He walked much more faster when he remembered his uncles story that told him dogs howled when they see the Llorona. He ran into his mother’s room and snuck into her bed, still terrified of the howling, his mother had to hold him till he falls asleep.
A week later, he’s gone out to get groceries and there she is, picking cabs out of the garbage at the back yard of the supermarket. He ignored and ran off. After crossing a few blocks, he hears a squeal; a high pitched noise like nothing he’s heard before. He turns around and sees the old woman he had nicknamed Llorona, pushing her shopping cart. ‘Squeak Squeak’ goes the cart as it matches each of his step.
“Children, children, children” she chants as the cart matches his pace.
He doubles his effort, he walks faster, hurrying to cross the street. The cart squeaks louder, it was about to hit him then all of a sudden the sound stops. He looks good vet his shoulder and sees no one. He lets out a sigh of relief. He looked forward and see an horrifying, disheveled old woman with nails longer than a knife.
“Have you seen my children” she asked with a creepy grin on her face.
He screamed so loud and runs home.
He’s home. The dogs are howling again. The wind roars like a demon and the rain scratched the window begging to be let in. He feels his mother’s arm around his body, her hands carefully rubbing his hair like she did when he was scared. His mother’s hand pats his own. He looks at his mother and her hair is a tangle of grey. Her white smile paints the dark.
He leaps from the bed. When he hits the floor he realizes the room is filled with at least three inches of water. A figure rises from beneath it. It was the old woman.
“Have you seen my children” the thing asks.
The dogs howl and he wakes up, his face sweaty as he buried his head in his pillow.
It’s another morning. He takes a cab to work. He feels safer this way.
Don’t ever let Llorona look at you, his uncle said. Once she’s seen you, she’ll follow you home and haunt you to death.
“Oh, my children,” she scream and drag you into the river. He tries to recall if there’s a charm or remedy against the evil spirit. His uncle never mentioned one. The only cure he know was his mother’s embrace. He works as fast as he could and hurried back home not to witness the presence of Llorona.
A new day, there’s a patch of sunlight. He dares to walk a few blocks to the super market. Even without rain, the city was washed up and its color, drained. Without bumping into her, Llorona’s presence lays thick over the streets. He hurried back home and licks the door. But when it rains again, water leaks into his room like a boil cut open and oozing disease.
The Llorona comes with the rain or maybe it’s the other way round. Something also comes. Darkness. His apartment grows dimmer. He remains in his bed, in the pool of light, away from blackness. Outside, up the street, Llorona scratches the dumpsters with her nails as the dog howls. He shivers in his bed thinking about his mother.
She’s sitting next to a heap of garbage. Dressed in black, water pouring from her shoulders. She clutched the rags and dirt and pieces of plastic against her chest, her head bowed and her face hidden behind the screen of wet hair.
“My children. My children” she says as she looks up at him, slowly. The rain coats her face.
He expects an image from a nightmare but this is just an old woman. She could be his mother. The woman looks at him. Parched, forgotten and afraid.
“I’ve lost my children,” she says
The street is a river. He goes to her, sinks few inches into the water. He embraces her as she strokes his hair. The sky is black and white, as he looks up and slowly disappears into the river in the hands of Llorona.
By reading this you’ve summoned Llorona, BEWARE.
Written by: Ibraheem Basheer
University of Ilorin, Kwara State, NIGERIA