Veronica R. Casanova, CA, USA
Eight years ago, in the summer of 1999 a cousin of mine was planning her eighteenth birthday in such a way that all who attended would be sure to walk away with a memory of the most unique and ultra cool bash.
After a year of planning and careful execution, I received the invitation to this historic event and I was overly excited when I saw that it was to be held in a remote cabin in the woods found in a valley that was in a small town in Mexico.
Mazamilta was the town, a town frozen in some eden-like time where locking your doors at night was something so foreign it might as well have been a custom from some far away planet.
After an entire day of traveling to this unique and secluded local I was so elated to find my cousin with seven other teens fully equipped with backpacks, hiking gear and an overly powered desire to seek and execute the long awaited adventure and finally the bash of the century. I was nineteen at the time so that automatically made me the eldest and the official chaperone in my Aunt and Uncle's directive. Not only were these teens supposed to follow my every direction and abide by my rules but not one action was to be taken without my consideration of it first.
After I arrived and met up with the seven teens, we were later joined by four others. Thirteen in total, list checked off on equipment, buddy system structured we set off on our journey to the valley.
Along the way to the valley we stopped by an ancient looking grocery shop that was nothing more than a private home with the living room gutted out to store their goods in a feeble attempt to make it look like a store. Nonetheless we thought it was cute and part of this cool experience. We bought food, drinks, bottled water, toiletries in case the cabin happened to lack them. As I'm paying for my things and since I was the one who knew the most Spanish, I engaged the nine year old cashier in conversation. I told him we were headed to the valley to spend the weekend in one of the cabins and his face at one moment having been kind and courteous soon turned into a stunned silence. He then avoided my gaze altogether and slowly started counting the change that was due to me. I held out my hand and he dropped the coins in my palm without looking at me or the others, I asked him if I had said something wrong and he quickly said no by shaking his head. I then asked him if a lot of tourist go to the cabins and he just looked down, then as if by queu, an older woman came out and in broken English said that her son was just sad because he had come to believe a town legend about the woods in the valley. I asked her what legend that was and the little boy suddenly became animated with a peculiar rage. He said in a very mean and almost insulted tone that Aldo was not a legend and that it was true. His mother clearly embarrassed said that her son had heard the legend so many times since he was younger that he even believed he saw Aldo when he and his friends went to the woods in the valley to play the summer before. I of course asked who Aldo was and she said he was the son of one of the original founders of the town. That he was the ancestor of one the oldest families there and because of his tragic end in the woods, he haunts that place. S he went on to say that there had been so many sightings of the young man that the valley was known among the locals as "El Rincon De Aldo" (Aldo's Corner) and that the natural waterfall found deeper into the woods is known as "Las Lagrimas de Aldo" (Aldo's Tears).
I was so fascinated with the story that naturally I wanted to hear more about it but soon the group started getting restless that I had no choice but to part ways with the store owner and her son.
With sincere thanks our group continued the long trek to the valley.
We arrived to the the valley and it was some hike. Finally after an hour of treacherous trails and evil looking plants with thorns that scraped our shins, we reached the bottom of the valley and the edge of the woods where we were met by the cabin manager. He was standing next to his 4x4 truck checking his watch and with a light hearted sigh he mentioned how Americans have yet to learn how to tame the Earth. He then said that our hike down should not have taken more than twenty minutes. After light hearted banter back and forth he gave us our key to the cabin and directed us to where it was. He then looked at us and I could see the shadow of concern growing in his heavily lined face. He then asked us if we needed anything that now was the time to say because he still had enough time to drive us into town and back down again before night fall. After I assured him that we had everything he asked me if I was sure, I said I was and he then made me assure him yet again. I assured him we were ok as far as supplies and food and he then went on to explain that he had to make sure we were ok because he didn't want us to try to hike out at night because that was a terrible hazard. I said we were ok and with a tip of his hat he got in his beat up blue truck and off he went leaving behind a trail of dust.
We were so excited to arrive and now we faced yet another trek into the woods and eventually to our cabin. The excitement must have disappeared in all of us because I know everyone felt the same way I did: completely and totally alone, miles away from anything remotely familiar. Our hike through the woods was uneventful and quiet I attributed much of the silence to exhaustion. A lot of us had been traveling all day with nothing more than snacks here and there to keep us fueled.
We made our way through an especially thick part of the woods and finally we came upon our cabin. It was beautiful, enormous perched on top of a hill and massive stone steps that curved from the front door to the bottom of the hill. Our energy must have materialized into our bodies from some outside more active force because we all had the same reaction; cheers, high-fives, and even a few victory dances. We were finally here! Oh if only that excitement could have lasted...
Darkness came and with it the bash of the century. The music was blasting full force since not one soul was around for miles. Everyone was drinking, dancing, playing all sorts of games, jumping, destroying a few things here and there. Sometime during this joyous melee two girls whom I had not had the chance to get to know very well got into some kind of argument. Before I could diffuse the escalating tempers one of the girls was already crying and the other shouting a tiresome cliche teenage invective. The hysterical girl ran towards the door and before I could stop her she had already stepped outside. I reached the outside and I could just catch a glimpse of her running down the stone stairs and into the woods. I took a deep breath and went back inside to gather a group of guys to come down with me and get her to come back up. To my disappointment, not one guy wanted to come with me and the other girls were angry at her due to the others influence so they were quick to say no at my request for company. I became so frustrated with their attitude that I decided to go alone.
Surprisingly the night was bright and I didn't need a flashlight. I got to the foot of the stairs and the hill but there was no sign of the girl. I proceeded to call out her name and all that I could hear were the crickets. I looked up a lot of the group was gathered at the door looking down at me, watching to see how far I would into the woods to look for her. That angered me, I was so angry they wouldn't help but there they were watching. I proceeded to go into the woods and kept calling out her name. I was so afraid she had tried to hike out of the valley in the dark and I being in charge had it in my mind that I was not going back to the cabin without her.
After some time, I came to a clearing that I had not seen when making our way to the cabin. I got to the edge of the clearing and it turned out to be a picnic area. Benches, fire pits, the works. Ironically, the moon shined the brightest there, it was as though the moons light was a spot light and the picnic area the focus. What took me aback was not the brightness but the young man that sat upon the picnic table, legs resting on the bench, eyes fixed upon the sky, almost as though possessed by the bright light of the moon. I stood there frozen, I hadn't expected to find someone else in the vicinity of our cabin. From what the manager had told us, the nearest cabin was not for miles but he had not rented those. Still I was thinking that he was maybe a local who hiked down to pass the time and so I decided to approach him and ask him if he had seen the girl pass by that way. At least, I had hoped, he could tell me where to go, direct me in possible directions that she could have gone. At least I wasn't alone now, and with these self encouraging thoughts I stepped into the clearing and that's when I felt something that left me cold. Upon entering this clearing, I felt as the the entire atmosphere around my body had broken leaving me in this sort of void. My skin couldn't fathom the air anymore, even the temperature itself seemed like an alien dialect that I could not translate into something familiar. I tried to ignore the feeling because in my mind the girl was more important, now more than ever I had to find her. Fear was creeping up my spine causing chills that broke the numbness of my skin. I approached the young man and as I got closer my internal alarms sounded off, crying danger but for some odd reason my mind was not registering the warnings. I know I felt fear but my mind was not being affected only my body. My heart was beating a billion beats per minute, palms were sweating, skin was growing colder but more than anything my mind was overriding such feelings with curious wonder. I reached him and we were within hearing distance, I made sure we were not closer than necessary since I did not know what to expect.
I uttered an awkward hello in Spanish. He didn't respond, just kept staring at the moon. I said hello again but this time in English and to my shock he reacted. He turned his head in my direction but did so in such a slow and careful manner that it seemed as though his head weighed a ton. It was as though it took an enormous amount of effort. He saw me or at least I think he saw me because his eyes were totally vacant. There was not one ounce of light reflecting from them. He had the stare of someone who's been hypnotized or robbed of life. At this point I was feeling like a strange mosaic of emotions; fear, sorrow, danger, sympathy, and then a sense of mourning. I thought I was dreaming, he had to be an illusion and then he spoke...in English. He said, "I used to be like you once." I wasn't surprised at his ability to communicate in English but his voice. It was so haunting, like existing yet not existing. I didn't hear him because it was like his voice was refused by the air, as though it wasn't allowed to exist outside a living host. I felt his voice, I felt his words materializing in my head. Then as though compelled by some outside source I replied with words that I hadn't even been thinking. I replied, "You're not real." Once those words were spoken I felt as though I had woken up from some dream, drowsy and the air spilled upon my skin with violence because I felt more vibrant and alive and it was cold. I was shaking so bad that I felt like my knees were going to give out. I was trying to understand what my body was feeling that I didn't notice that the young man started to get up from the table.
I was now registering fear in every cell of my body, I wanted to scream but I couldn't, it came in waves, crashing and ebbing away. I was stunned out of that hypnosis by what I was seeing in front of me. He was now standing on the ground but his movements were so fluid so graceful that it seemed as though he were surrounded by liquid. His cheeks were stained with tears. I started backing up slowly and once I reached the edge of the woods, it was like my chest had been released by some terrible grip because now the air was crashing into my lungs. My head swam with dizziness, I hadn't realized I was barely breathing. I still had the young man in sight and he kept coming towards me. I then turned around and ran. Having been on my High School track team I was putting all technique into use. I filled my head with all the coaching tips I had learned. Steadily, I gained a steady speed and I was concentrating so hard on speed, breathing, and the ultimate goal which was the cabin. Then I heard footsteps close behind me. Fear invaded my body again, I turned saw him but a few feet behind, and all concentration broke. I started to run with limbs filled with nervous energy making me awkward and unsteady. I finally reached the edge of the woods and I could see the cabin stairs and like a bad horror movie I tripped and fell hard on my knees then toppled over to my side. I then rolled onto my back and with my elbows pulled myself up. I looked up and to my horror there he was standing at the edge just staring with the same vacant stare. Tear stained cheeks and tall he just stood there, still as the night, like a painted image. Then I felt like a veil came over my minds eye and as my physical eyes blinked like a nervous tick I noticed he was no longer there. Once I could no longer see him I felt as the blood rushed to my vocal chords with the power of the air and I screamed. I screamed as though I was about to be left mute for the rest of my life.
I heard footsteps rushing down the stairs and I thought it was him. The fear made me dizzy, so dizzy that my head swam once again and sleep came to alleviate the horror that was possessing my body. I woke up and I was in the same spot with the whole group present, some kneeling some standing, arguing, two girls in tears, my cousin screaming my name. I opened my eyes and tried to stand up but I felt a lot of hands keeping me down. I fought them off and was barely registering their pleas to lay back down. I then tried with more determination to get up and with my mind blank other than a desire to get up I was finally up and eerily serene. I proceeded to go up the stairs all the while my cousin kept asking me what had happened. I then made it inside, took a flashlight and proceeded to make my way outside again, at this point I was functioning on pure instinct. It was as though fear had wiped my mind clean and all my body could do was function on the last residual command which was to find the girl. My cousin then took the flashlight from my hands took my face into her hands and looking at me straight in the eyes says, "She came back! She's not lost anymore! What happened to you!?" I then look at her and registering the words carefully one by one and like a flood the emotions and the events that happened up until that point came washing into me like a tempest. I gasped so severely that my chest and throat ached in protest at the violent intake of air. I then breathed in and out rapidly causing me to shake and finally I fell to my knees and I cried.
I cried in sorrow, pain, and in total fright. I was a mess of gasps and tears, my cousin was then crying too and cradling my shaking body asking me what had happened, telling me I was OK, telling me that as soon as day broke we'd be leaving. I don't recall at what point I passed out in an exhausted sleep but I awoke with a start. My cousin was there to calm me down. She then made me some tea and after hours of catatonic silence I had enough strength to talk. I told her what happened and all she could say was oh my god. The fear in her face was almost laughable in it's severity. It was mid morning when we had all our bags packed and late afternoon by the time we reached the cabin manager's office. He saw us and was not really surprised to see us and with our presence our news that we would be leaving earlier than planned. He stayed quiet and then said he couldn't refund us the remaining days because of and before he could finish I just told him to forget it and keep whatever money was already paid. He made me sign some form that we were agreeing to the terms of the breach of contract and so on and so forth and as I'm signing the last form I asked him about Aldo. He asked me where I had heard such name, I then said the shop owner's son had said something about seeing a young man etc., etc., and that I knew that the locals called the valley Aldo's Corner. He then said that the boy and his mom had it all wrong. That Aldo was not a young man but a boy who had been maliciously murdered by a young man who was said to have been possessed by a demon. He murdered the boy in the woods and when the young man was arrested he was asked why he had done it. The young man, although in tears, was crying over his lost freedom and then he said that he shouldn't be executed. That it wasn't his fault he had killed the boy that the demon made him do it. That he shouldn't be blamed, besides-he said, I used to be like you...