See the end for author's notes.
"Has every ship gone sailing?
Has every heart gone blue?
Have all the songs been written?
Oh, I just need one to get through to you…" -The killers
Héctor considered the situation.
There was grass below him, some trees over that way, the sky above. And the moon, swollen and one great big opal eye in the night sky. Not a bad view, the musician mused. Certainly pretty, the kind of fresh summer night you'd spend thinking up new music, while you relaxed somewhere with your family.
Sí, this was all well and good, but the circumstances were a mystery. And worse, the way to fix his problems were also a mystery.
After all, a skeleton standing in a graveyard in the middle of the night was bound to set off a few superstitious folk.
The Land of the Living was just no place for a walking dead man. At the very least, Héctor mused to himself as he looked over his skeletal frame, whatever Great and Terrible power brought him back here could have at least had the foresight to put some skin or organs back on him. No dice, though. Shame.
The wind blew, a unfamiliar sensation to the man. It blew through his hair, the remains of his clothes, and the hollows of his frame. Yes, it was a nice night to be here, but Héctor didn't think he was supposed to be here, and at any rate, he missed his family already.
Ah, familia. Now, that single word gave him an idea, and Héctor tilted his skull at the plan forming like spider webs in his head. He was not a man to be kept down, not in Life nor certainly not in Death.
Héctor sighed-at least, he mimicked a sigh-and took another look at his surroundings. Was anything familiar to him? That was important to his plan. Grass, trees, oh, some more headstones…
It had been a year almost since his first trip here on Day of the Dead. Thinking back, he chided himself for not taking more care to commit the sights he saw to memory. Imelda would have. But then, Imelda did a great many things Héctor wished he could have done. And, Héctor comforted himself with a sheepish grimace, he was too busy trying to stare into the faces of all his family, all young and warm and lively. It had been a wonderful night, but a whirlwind of one. Still…
If Héctor was being frank with himself, there was a Pull. Over this way, to the South, he thought. It wasn't like a strain, it didn't feel painful. It was a simple, coaxing suggestion that seemed to vibrate from the marrow of his bones. This way, it whispered to him. As a general rule Héctor liked relying on his gut. The fact it was long gone was irrelevant.
So, that way he would go. It was a good a plan as any, and staying here certainly wasn't getting him home anytime soon.
Héctor lurched forward, his body creaking like the branches of the tree he walked under. His limp was gone, but his frame moved about as well as one could expect in the Land of the Living. He did not tire-no muscles to strain, you know-and he did not lose breath. No lungs to inflate and deflate.
He walked on all night, tirelessly. Only the moon's eye saw him, but it had no mouth and said nothing.
By the time Héctor started seeing bits and pieces of the village he could recognize, the moon was dusting over the mountains in the west. It was getting harder to find good, dark shadows to stick too. Last thing he needed was scaring some poor old abuelita into an early grave! And, since he wasn't sure yet if he could be seen or not seen, he didn't feel like risking it. He liked gambling well enough, but with cards and dice!
Héctor paused mid step by a stack of barrels, spotting the doors he knows he had walked through once before. His face light up, eyes brightening in his eye sockets.
He moved slower now, stopping at the locked doors of the compound. The shoemaker's homes were a tight knit cluster of modest houses, that had sprouted up over generations upon generations. If Héctor closed his eyes, he could remember before these walls, when it was one little two room house, when it was him and a young, fiery woman and he could come and go as he pleased.
Things had changed, but Héctor would be lying if there wasn't something bone-deep satisfying about finally being able to come back. Even if his way of getting in was far from what the Living would consider normal.
The Pull in his chest was insistent as ever, he was certain it was leading him to his spot on the Ofrenda. Where else would be so important to him after all? Skeleton or not, he felt like a Ghost here, and Ghosts had a way of becoming attached to things in an effort to remain Remembered.
Without a second thought, he wrenched off his left arm and tossed it over the tall doors. The hand moved by its own, fumbling along the wall until the bone scraped wood. Then the fingers scrambled up, found the lock and quickly managed to open it.
As Héctor pushed one door open, just enough for his scarecrow frame to slip in, he thought giddily to himself how well this was going.
It was about the same time he heard a high pitched shriek of terror.
Héctor froze, headlight wide eyes rolling in their sockets toward the direction of the scream behind him. It was not, as he feared, a little old lady. But a young child in the window of their home, no more than six or so, who was making the racket. When the child saw the skeleton man had responded to his cry by looking at him, the kid started a screech of terror.
Well, this confirmed his question about whether or not he could be seen.
Héctor scrambled, already hearing footsteps coming to the child's aid, lights flickering on, voices starting up. Families were protective of their bambinos, as they rightly should be. That didn't stop Héctor from dashing into the compound, almost forgetting to rehitch his own arm on, before he scrambled into the first good hiding spot his panicked mind could find.
The door of the compound swung shut, though the lock remained open. He would have to relock it if he didn't want to scare anyone else, especially if they all were on the lookout for a thief.
Unfortunately, this was an easier thought then action. The frightened child didn't quiet for a while, and by the time Héctor felt safe enough to move, the moon was gone and the sky was a dusty blue. The world seemed to lighten by the minute.
Sunrise, his memory told him. Héctor grinded his teeth in worry, wishing he still had fingernails to chew on. Worse of all, his descendants were apparently all of early risers. Already he heard a small amount of hustle and bustle begin to blossom up. The neighbor child must have been assured of a nightmare, for no one came to check on the Rivera's doors that the skeleton man was seeing stalking through. Another bout of good luck, and Héctor thanked anyone above who was listening for it. He detached just his hand this time, and sent it scuttling like a spider on all fingers toward the door. As soon as it was locked, Héctor started moving, not waiting for his own hand to catch up. It did a moment later, and he twisted the palm into his wrist like one would screw a bottle cap on.
He slipped from hiding spot to hiding spot, trying desperately to muffle the clack of his feet on the cobblestones. The Pull was growing stronger with every step, telling him he was at least going in the right direction. At the same time as he realized he had a bit of tunnel vision, he also knew he could not stop himself now if he wanted to. Dios mío his was an odd sensation! It was like he had no control over his own body!
The joint had certainly changed over the last several decades, that much could be said. Unlike the Land of the Dead, where everything went up, the Land of Living was where you sprawled out. The Rivera's homes were clustered together like little school children, the biggest building belongs to what he could only guess as the shoemaker family's factory. That wasn't where he was being drawn, though. (And why would he?! He was a musician, not a shoemaker! He loved his family, he did not love shoes,) No, Héctor was more certain than ever he was being drawn to his spot on the Ofrenda. The frantic, almost overwhelming urge to get to it made his steps faster and his eyes seemed overbright.
He didn't stop to consider he was lost.
He didn't think about how he was a walking deadman in a world with the Living, who apparently could see him.
He didn't consider that this was not the way to the Ofrenda at all, in fact.
But that last part couldn't really be Héctor's fault, all things considered. He certainly didn't live here anymore. How was he supposed to know he was pushing open the door to a child's bedroom?
Héctor froze, saucer wide eyes fixed on the groggy teen as he rose up from his bed. Héctor's ivory-white guitar sat by the bedside, but the skeleton man only had eyes for his grandson, his bony face lighting up in affection and joy. Miguel himself only noticed the creak of his door, and his face was that of tired resignation, as if he were expecting a (living) elder who was coming to see that he was awake. Imagine his surprise then, when all he saw was a skeletal figure in familiar torn clothes looking lost but with dawning delight on his bare bones.
While I'm mostly Mexican (as in, my father-absolutely-looked-like-the-guy-on-the-salsa-bottle-Mexican) I sadly don't speak enough Spanish. I mean, I can still remember enough to make sure I had the correct version of Sí but regardless, I'm certainly not fluent. (A huge source of frustration and embarrassment, trust me.) So if there's anything to fix in here, lemme know, yeah? Otherwise, I have found a new sandbox to play in. What a wonderful movie Coco was.