Based on Maritza Viquez’s childhood experience. Viquez is an FIU alumni. She graduated with her Bachelor’s in elementary education and her Master’s in reading.
From birth, Nicaraguan children hear stories from parents, grandparents, aunts and anyone staying the night, right before bedtime, that tell tales from far beyond the crypt. It’s a tradition seeped deeply into the culture, as a way to fright, scare, numb the wet-behind-the-ears into submission, to be good little boys and girls…or else. Impressionable as they are, with malleable, over-imaginative minds and a great respect for the monsters that go bump in the night, they listen, unmoving, and they are sent off to bed with enough nightmarish fodder for weeks, nay, years to come. Beds draped with mosquito nets, keeping the critters at bay, the elder usher them into their beds at night, but they do not tuck them in. The young walk on their own down hallways shaped by rock, clay and sand centuries ago, when the Spanish laid down their treasures here, and started these stories mixed with those from the indigenous.
One such night, an eight-year-old, sandy-brown haired, green-eyed girl, Maritza Del Carmen, heard one such story. She was not alone; she was with cousins and her elder sister by a year, Ana Maria. Maritza cannot quite remember the story, but she remembers how it haunted her back to her grandmother’s bed, where the cousins where staying the night.
There were two great rooms, connecting by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom. In this her grandmother’s room were two great beds, and along with her sister, they fell asleep soundly, with the rest of the family.
In the middle of the night, as it were, Maritza got the urge to use the restroom. The sound of the faucet running awoke her, and pushing the mosquito net aside, saw that her cousin, Johana, had beat her to the bathroom.
Johana wore green pajamas, her long, black, silken hair falling straight down her back.
“Johana,” Maritza called to her cousin.
Johana did not respond.
“Johana?” Maritza called again.
Johana did not respond.
A chill cold as the arctic crawled down her back and Maritza knew, somehow, that this was not her cousin. She retreated back behind the net and covered her little head with the covers, willing herself forcefully to fall back into sleep, along with her bladder.
With morning came safety. Maritza walked out to the breakfast table where some of the family had already congregated.
Johana was already at the breakfast table, digging into her plate of food.
“Johana?” Maritza said.
“Mm?” Johana responded.
“Why didn’t you turn around when I called out to you last night in the bathroom?” Maritza asked.
“Huh?” Johana responded, perplexed. “I didn’t use the bathroom last night.”
To this day, Johana promises it was not her; she didn’t get up to use that bathroom that particular night.
Who did Maritza see that night, or is the more appropriate question: what did she see?