Below is an excerpt from my upcoming short story collection titled The Black Rose and Other Scary Stories That Really Happened To Me! It will be available digitally next month on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to this blog for the latest updates.
"This really happened to me! When I was a child, my family often traveled to my grandparents’ ranch in northern Mexico. We did not have much money, so these trips were the closest thing to a vacation that I got with my sisters, Sarah and Miranda. The ranch held a mystic pull for me that I never quite understood until the summer I turned 10 years old.
One summer weekend, my parents packed us in my dad’s pickup truck and we crossed the Texas border to head to the ranch to meet my cousins and grandparents for a family gathering. As we drove up the unpaved road that led to the ranch, my sisters and I rode in the bed of the pickup. The hot wind whipped our faces and hair, but we did not care. We arrived covered in dust and grime. Our cousins, Anna, Pepe, Chuy, Chiquita, and Andrea greeted us with hollers and acrobatic jumps. The girls and I jumped out of the truck before it came to a complete stop and ran to hug our cousins. Dandy, my grandfather’s loyal, flea-ridden mutt, also greeted us jovially.
Andrea, my four year-old cousin, was the youngest of all of us. She grabbed on to my leg with the strength of a boa constrictor. I picked her up and hugged her tightly. Her sister, Anna, was one year older than me. All of the other cousins fell somewhere in between.
“Let’s go to the cemetery!” Anna said.
The cemetery was about one mile from the ranch house, past the corrals and corn fields. The narrow dirt road that led to the family cemetery cut through the Mexican brush full of mesquites, acacias, cactus, and small shrubs. I loved it all!
“First, you need to kiss your abuela,” my grandmother said in Spanish. We all did. She smelled like cinnamon and milk.
“Please eat first, then you children can run off wherever you want,” Abuela said.
We ate tamales and oranges on the front porch. My father went to find my grandfather, who was working in the fields. My mother retreated under the shade of a thatched roof pavilion with my grandmother and aunts to gossip and drink cold beers. Once we finished eating, we headed off to the cemetery with all the cousins. I stopped by the pavilion to let my mother know where we were going.
“Watch out for snakes and be back before dark,” she said.
I ran to catch up with the other kids. As soon as I did, Andrea slipped a sticky hand into mine. We held hands as we walked through the corrals and my cousin, Pepe, opened the corral gate that led directly to the cemetery road. Chiquita and Miranda ran ahead as the rest of us decided on a more leisurely pace.
The sun beat down on us as we walked. We all chatted about school, friends, books, and movies. Andrea held on tightly to my hand.
When we got to the cemetery, Chiquita and Miranda were waiting by the gate. Pepe and Chuy opened it for us, and we all walked inside. Chiquita and Miranda ran off to the opposite corner of the cemetery.
Anna, the oldest of the cousins, stood on top of a tombstone and said, “I am the queen of the world!”
Pepe and Chuy each grabbed her by an arm and pulled her off. She stumbled to the ground and laughed.
“Don’t do that!” Andrea said.
“Do what?” Chuy asked. “Pull her off the tombstone?”
“No, Anna should not climb on the tombstone. She doesn’t like it,” Andrea said.
“Who doesn’t like it?” I asked. I was puzzled. Andrea pointed to the tombstone.
“She did not like it when Anna climbed on top of her house,” Andrea replied.
A chill ran down my spine. I looked at Anna with wide eyes and an open mouth. She laughed when she saw my frightened expression.
“Don’t pay attention to her. Andrea is just being silly. Stop saying dumb things,” Anna said.
“I am not being silly. I am not saying dumb things. You are making her mad,” Andrea said.
“How does she even know if whoever is buried there is a girl?” Pepe asked as he leaned over the tombstone to read the engraved writing. When he saw the name, all the blood drained from his face. I pushed him aside. The writing was in Spanish, but I read the writing aloud in English.
“Rosalinda Ramirez, 1890-1906, devoted sister and daughter.” I could not choke out any more words after that. The young girl who was buried in that tombstone had not been much older than us when she died.
“How did you know there was a girl buried in that tombstone, Andrea? You can’t even read,” Sarah asked. Her calm voice did not hide the thinly-veiled terror in her eyes. I touched her arm to reassure her that she was safe, and she jumped two feet in the air. I saw a crop of goose flesh spring in her arms. Pepe and Chuy laughed nervously.
“I didn’t read it. She told me," Andrea replied with a smile......"
To find out what happens next, be sure to download The Black Rose and Other Scary Stories That Really Happened To Me! when it becomes available next month.
I welcome any feedback or comments. Let me know what you think!