Chapter 42: In My Arms Again
"I don't know if this is going to work…"
"C'mon. They're smelling salts, aren't they?"
"Sí, but I've only used them on dead people! Señor Rivera is not dead!"
"Well, he's not quite alive either."
Héctor heard the voices as he slowly clawed himself into awareness, a pounding pain on the back of his head convincing him that he was truly awake now. But at the mention of 'dead people' he forced his eyes to remain shut and kept his face slack. No no. This is a dream. I was asleep, probably hit my head or something, and this whole deal with skeletons has been a dream. Maybe even the entire day. The party probably never happened, nor that accursed contest. His fight with his family. His youngest son's terror. Yes! This had been just a terrible nightmare, and if he'd just keep his eyes closed and drift back to sleep he would wake up and the terrible day would be a bad dream swiftly forgotten.
"This is a mixture of brimstone, the memories of a thousand cooked chiles, and cempazuchitl flowers. Very supernatural. I just don't think-"
"It stinks! Stink will wake him up. Just do it!"
"Alright, alright! I just don't think it will be good for him."
All thoughts of staying asleep were abruptly ripped away when something small was placed under his nose and the foulest smelling and burning scent he had ever smelled propelled him off of the ground into heaving coughs. Eyes watering and lungs going crazy, Héctor could see that Gaspar and Mirasol were still with him -Great…- as well as a new skeleton who was staring at a small little canister in his bony hand with wonderment.
"Well what do you know?" he said as he smiled down at the smelling salts. "It works the same way as it does on skeletons. Good to know if this ever happens again."
"Told you." Gaspar grumbled.
Mirasol knelt to the ground to help keep Héctor upright, as well as fanning fresh air into his face as he slowly came down from his coughing fit. "There there, you're alright. Just take deep breaths." Making sure Héctor was starting to breathe normally, she turned towards the other skeleton with a smile. "Gracias, Dr. Rosales."
"Oh no problemo!" The doctor said cheerfully as he put the salts back into his pocket. "It's always handy to carry this around, especially when skeletons collapse into a heap of bones on the street. Plus not only is this a fascinating case of a human stuck between worlds, but Señor Rivera and I go way back! Well, at least Matty and I do. Right Señor?"
At the mention of his son's name, Héctor stopped panting and stared at the new skeleton. Matty? Rosales? As he put two and two together Héctor managed to take in the skeleton's features. He was much wider that Gaspar and Mirasol, enough that Héctor could easily assume that he would be considered fat. How on Earth could a skeleton be fat? Not only that but past the orange starbursts dotting his cheeks and brows were the familiar cocked eye ridges and the wide, goofy smile. Recognition was instantaneous.
"Hola, Señor Rivera!" Barto smiled cheerfully and waved. "It's been a while!"
Barto's overly loud voice sent a small spike of pain through Héctor's brain. Shaking his head and rubbing the back of it with a wince, Héctor groaned weakly. "Ay… What hit me?"
"The guitar." Mirasol explained. "As soon as you threw it came flying back to you like a boomerang. It wasn't pretty, but it was a little funny." She patted the guitar which, to Héctor's chagrin, was still in his grip. "I think you'd better keep this on you for your health, mijo."
Staring at the guitar still clinging to his hand like an ugly wart, Héctor sighed in disgust and nodded. "I guess I don't have a choice."
"Alright Barto," Gaspar stood with his hands on his hipbones and stared at the portly skeleton. "What do I owe you for this?"
"You wound me, Gaspar." Barto chuckled as he heaved himself off the ground with some effort. "Like I said, as a doctor I am fascinated by what has transpired here tonight. I am willing to make this a pro-bono case… Heh, get it? Pro-bone-o?"
"I don't buy it."
"Okay okay, maybe I could have some of your wife's famous candied pumpkins, some calabacitas, and you buy the first few rounds at the cantina. Oh, and a request!" Pulling a folded-up piece of paper out his pocket he handed it to Gaspar. "Abuela wants some mamey if you have any."
Snatching the paper away from him, Gaspar nodded. "The trees should be bearing fruit soon, tell her to wait a few weeks. Always a pleasure doctor."
"Why do they keep calling you doctor?" Héctor asked, having made it to his feet to stand next to Barto. "You're not a doctor. You were a bosun on an oil tanker."
All of a sudden there was a reaction from all three skeletons. Gaspar groaned and rolled his eyes while Mirasol tried to hide her smile behind her husband's shoulder. Barto, for his part, gave a prim little grin and hummed a smug laughed. "Ah, what a tale that is, Señor. One that I'm always glad to share."
Seeing his in-laws reaction, Héctor realized he might have made a mistake. "Oh, I don't really need to kn-"
"As you are well aware my boat was bombed by the Germans, apparently because they confused us for Italian vessels. I admit our flags are similar, but at times of war they should have been much more observant and less like the bunch pinche idiotas that they were." Barto spat out nothing to the ground, but the intent was still there. "Well anyway, my death was extremely traumatic for me and for a while I was a mess. Panic attacks, jumping at loud noises, collapsing into a pile of bones and sobs in the street. Sound familiar, Señor Rivera?"
Héctor bristled at that comment, but held down his ire while Barto continued. "I was suggested to go get counseling at the Department of Traumatic Deaths, and while it helped with my own personal feelings I also helped others deal with theirs during group sessions. And lo, I discovered my true hidden talents after death! That and there was no need for oilmen in the Land of the Dead."
"With your family's generous offerings for me on the ofrenda I was able to afford to go to school, and since skeletons can go for weeks without sleep I was able to finish my studies and residency in no time! So here you see what the limitations of life had shackled before and had been released with death: Dr Bartolomeo Rosales, Psy.D, Ph.D, MA. Impressive list of titles, huh?"
Héctor's brows furrowed at that, a sinking feeling in his gut. "So you're… a shrink?"
"Oye!" Barto rightfully looked offended and crossed his arms defensively. "I know I said I didn't need to sleep, but I didn't spend eight years slaving over books and writing two dissertations on war-related deaths to be called a 'shrink'. I am a professional, señor, and you should thank your son for it. He helped me be a better person than what I was as a child, and I helped him when he was so depressed he couldn't get out of bed. Come to think of it I was practically born to be a therapist after dealing with Matty."
"Get out of bed?" Héctor asked. Suddenly he had flashed back to times when Matty would hole himself into his room, but he had always presented himself as just a surly teen who wanted to be left alone. But to the point where he couldn't even move? "I… didn't know it was that bad. No wonder he's getting help now."
"Really, he is? That's fanatastico!" Barto smiled. "'Bout time too, he was always so pig-headed when it came to change. A bit like you, eh? I've been watching you over the past few years myself, and I couldn't help noticing some tics and behaviors that seem familiar with Matt-"
"No no, stop that right now." Héctor said as he held up a hand in front of Barto's skull. "Dios mio, you two are still thick as thieves even after you went and died. I'll tell you exactly what I told Mateo: I do not have shellshock and I do not need a shrink. Comprende?"
Again Barto flinched a little at the slight on his profession again as well as quirked a brow ridge to display his disbelieve to Héctor's claims, but with a click of his mandible he smiled good-naturedly and shrugged. "Well I can't really diagnose anyone on the spot nor without their consent, so I'll let the matter drop. It doesn't seem you have a lot of time to sit around anyway, what with the… weirdness of your situation. However…" Reaching into his pocket again he pulled out a much crisper white card and handed it to Héctor. "when you do die and have suffered, or know anyone else who may have suffered, a traumatic death then please… refer to me by name. My card, señor."
Héctor took the card and looked at it for a few seconds. Barto's dopey face was next to his name as well as some contact information that made no sense to him at all, and when he looked back up Barto was wearing the exact same expression. Glancing between him, then Gaspar and Mirasol, Héctor started to chuckle bitterly. Shoving the card back to Barto, Héctor started to pace as his laughing turned a little darker. Then, just as the three skeletons were starting to question his already fragile grip on his sanity, he turned towards them with a glare.
"This isn't fair."
As Barto and her father talked, Leti hid behind a tombstone.
This whole night was a mess. She was there to enjoy the holiday as well as her little brother's birthday, not witness the horrendous train wreck that had taken place. After Papá had gone off on Matty and he had to leave in distress, Leti couldn't take it anymore and she plus Barto followed after him and her sister-in-law. Wanda had comforted him enough to where Matty finally was able to speak without breaking down, and he agreed with her that they would take Charlie and Clara back to the house, pack, and leave as soon as possible.
As everyone slowly trickled in back to the museum, all calming their children and getting them cleaned up to be ready to go, Mamá had come in as well. Her eyes red rimmed and puffy, she was still calm as she explained that Papá had gone off on his own to find Miguel.
No sooner had she said that then the sound of struggles and screams alerted everyone to the gate.
Leti and Barto's jaws dropped as they watched the old gravedigger and his grandson struggle in earnest as they dragged Miguel in by his arms. Miguel looked almost mad with terror, tears streaming down his face, not even calming down as Mamá held him close and tried to keep him still.
When he finally got his words, the only thing that Miguel was able to say was that Papá was gone. Exploded into a cloud of golden cempazuchitl flowers and vanished without a trace.
As the living family tried to explain to him that was impossible, there was no way that could happen, Leti and Barto slowly stared at each other in shock. Something like that, on a night like this where the dead walked onto a magic flower bridge to the land of the living to sing and dance and eat with their living families seemed… not that far-fetched. But how did it happen? And why?
Before they could gather their thoughts on the matter Abuelito had come to fetch Barto. He had said that Papá was with Abuelita, something did happen to him and now he was seemingly trapped between two worlds. And that he was unconscious because of a flying guitar.
Every bone in her body tensed up at what her grandfather had said. Papá… was able to see the dead? To see her?! After over twenty years of only having one-sided conversations with her father, aside from that brief stint in Limbo which only she remembered, she was finally going to be able to talk to him! Before she even had a chance to be excited and joyous at the thought Abuelito had then asked Barto if it was a good idea to bring her along, since Papá had seemed so mentally unstable about the whole thing. Barto had taken a good hard look at her for a moment, then with an apologetic shrug and a wince had said:
"Sorry Leti. Maybe you should hang back for a while until I can tell if it's wise for you to come."
The very idea of it had shocked Leti out of all her happiness and left her mind blank for a moment. It was stupid, really, how she had numbly nodded in agreement and watched the two of them go off to see her Papá. That's right! Her Papá! Now that she thought more and more about it, it didn't seem right to her! Not right at all!
Bitterly she left the museum as the living family tried to calm Miguel down, and she found herself walking by herself down the streets of Santa Cecilia. Other skeletons had paused to greet her as she passed, but she was too angry to even acknowledge them and left confused souls in her wake. Kicking up an odd pebble or two, or tried to at least as she phased through them, Leti mumbled to herself with her hands shoved into her dress pockets.
"'I'm an expert of trauma'." Leti mocked out Barto's doofy voice as she tried to kick another stone. "'My own death was traumatic after all'. Please! You died taking while taking a leak off the side of a boat. You should ask me about traumatic deaths. Ha!..." Leti stopped then and looked to the ground sadly. "Well, the events leading up to my death were traumatic. But death for me was… peaceful."
Yes, peaceful. She remembered warmth, surrounded by her family as they kissed her and cried for her. Sang to her. Yes, her death was a release from her painful, traitorous body. But it had apparently torn something up in her family that had never really healed. And Tio Nesto's death had personally damaged Papá's heart forever. But why? She'd understand that he'd be heartbroken, but hating him? Never wanting to speak about him or honor him? Something didn't add up.
A sudden 'yip!' in the air startled Leti and she would have ended up exploded all over the streets if she hadn't lurched away in time. Dante skidded on his rump past her then scrambled to make his way back to her. Grabbing the hem of her dress, he urgently tugged her in the other direction with force enough to nearly knock her skull off.
"Whoa, hey!" Leti reached down and placed her hands on either side of his face, which gave him the opportunity to lap at each of her cheekbones. "Ugh, basta! Ha ha! What do you want, perro loco? Why are trying to drag me to the cem-… etary…? Oye, are you trying to take me to see Papá?"
If possible Dante's smile grew wider and his tail thumped rapidly against the cobblestones.
"Hmm… Well Barto and Abuelito told me to wait… But you know me, I hate waiting! Let's go!"
And so thanks to Dante's insistence that she should go, not that she needed that big of a push to begin with, she was in the cemetery watching her Papá grow increasingly angry with his situation. She clutched at her humeri until her knuckles began to creak, biting her lower bony lip as her heart ached for her to go to him. But now that she was here she found herself afraid. Papá had been so mad tonight, madder than she had ever seen. She didn't want to add to that. Or rather, she didn't want that anger directed at her. Despite Dante nudging her with his nose with some soft whines to move forward, she held her position.
Maybe Barto was right. She would send him over the edge. Her death had torn a hole into the hearts of everyone who knew her, and every once in a while she was afraid that they hated her for it. Despite her grandparents reassurances that fear still remained after all these years.
Yet seeing her Papá standing right there, glowing gold and talking to her grandparents and Barto? Knowing she could do the same but couldn't bear the thought of him yelling at her too? It was heartbreaking. And anger-inducing. It just wasn't-
"This isn't fair."
Leti blinked and peeked back over the tombstone, where Papá was still glaring at the other three. But he didn't look as angry as before. Now he just looked…tired. And sad. Still waffling on whether she should make her presence known to him or not, he continued to speak.
"This just isn't fair." Papá said again, glancing down at the guitar held loosely in his hand. "I didn't ask for this. Nobody would have asked for this. I just wanted to celebrate my son's birthday in peace. Instead I've been betrayed by my whole family and then whatever this is has happened to me. Now I'm being coerced to go to a land full of literal dead people, despite not being dead myself, and the only ones to greet me are my son's dead friend and two people I have never met before in my life. Believe me, if I were to meet anyone who was dead, it wouldn't be any of you, but…"
Leti's heart broke as she saw her Papá's face twist up in terrible pain for a split second before he was able to control himself with a slight sniff. "Well, it doesn't matter anyway…"
That did it. She needed no other push. Her Papá wanted to see her, not her grandparents. Not Barto. Her. Any concerns she had about exposing her location to him were gone, and she frantically jumped away from her hiding spot.
"N-no, I'm here too!" she cried out, flinching back when all eyes turned to her. "I'm h-… here…"
Héctor just glared at her, recognition not immediately coming to him but just annoyed that another skeleton was coming to annoy him to, but softened it when he realized it was a child. Barto and Abuelito both sucked in sharp breaths and grimaced, waiting to see what kind of fallout would happen next. Abuelita, however, just smiled warmly at her and nodded her approvement. It was high time to put a stop to this nonsense, and only Leti was able to do it.
"Oh, uh… Lo siento, that was too loud. I didn't mean to frighten you." Leti said more quietly as she slowly took baby steps to her father. "I mean, I can tell you're already scared, and I'm a little scared too. I d-don't know why you're here, but I know it can't be good, and yet…" Leti gave a trembling smile as she made her way even closer. "And yet I'm so glad to see you. And that you can see me. I m-missed you so much."
Leti was emboldened further when Héctor had immediately stopped glaring at her as she continued to speak, but now he was just staring at her, transfixed. His mouth had dropped open slightly, his eyes slowly widening and starting to shine, and it looked like he wasn't breathing. Beneath the orange glow she could see his face had paled considerably and his hands had dropped from his hips. Tio Nesto's guitar fell from his slacked grip to the ground with a soft thunk, and her grandparents looked at its position with astonishment and confusion. Something must have happened with it when she wasn't there. But she'd ask later, for now she was only focused on getting him to speak to her.
"Please say something," she asked as a tremble started to waver her voice. "Please… Papá."
He didn't want to believe it, hated himself for it, but he had forgotten what her voice sounded like. Oh he remembered it having an adorable lilt and how fast she could talk when excited, but he hadn't remembered exactly how sweet it sounded. Like a little song.
When the little girl first appeared he didn't know who she was supposed to be at first. Then the little quirks started to pop up and everything fell into place. The way she rocked back in forth and fiddled with her fingertips when she was nervous, biting her lower lip between sentences. And those clothes, he recognized those clothes. She had been buried with them. And those big brown eyes with a distinct spectrum that made them look almost magenta in the right light. Those were how his eyes looked too.
An unbearable pain was starting to well up in his chest as she kept talking and moving towards him while the rest of him became fully numb, his face getting incredibly hot and his vision getting blurry. And just when he thought he couldn't take any more, she called him Papá.
He fell down hard onto his knees. It would have hurt if he'd been aware, what with having fifty-year-old knees, but he felt nothing except the incredibly mixture of sadness, pain and hope. Finally he managed to find his voice, albeit a hoarse croak, to painfully force out one word.
Leti practically pounced on him. Wrapping her thin arms around him tightly while he kept his own off of her in shock, completely unprepared for the hug. She babbled of steady stream of how much she missed him, how much she loved him, how much she had to tell him about what she'd done and how she'd been. Héctor just knelt there, unsure of what to do or what to say. This had to be a dream. There was no way his daughter, who had been dead for the last twenty years, was now clinging to him as a skeleton.
Then the smell hit him.
It had faded much too quickly from her bedsheets, her toys and everything else that was hers, but as soon as he inhaled her scent it was like his brain and his heart were both sucker-punched at once. Fresh strawberries, lilac shampoo, and despite not having any skin she still smelled like the pure essence of Leti. That was what finally broke him. As soon as the smell flooded his lungs and the memories came bubbling up, Héctor let out a hoarse scream.
Leti looked up, startled by her father's scream, but then Héctor slammed her head back to his chest and cradled her so tightly that her bones bent and creaked. But she didn't care. Héctor's scream had turned into violent sobs as he held her as close to him as he could, with Leti hugging him just as fiercely and crying along with him.
Gaspar and Mirasol held each other as they looked at father and daughter reunite, both smiling while trying not to cry themselves. Barto wasn't so in control, as he sniffled and wiped at phantom tears while turning to look at them. "Well, even professionals can be wrong, eh? Looks like this is just what he needed."
Héctor's sobs died down to gentle weeping as he rocked Leti close to him, leaning his cheek on the crown of her head and burying his nose in her hair. Leti petted him and soothed him, assuring him that she was alright and that he shouldn't be so sad. It was still sad, but Héctor just couldn't contain his pure joy and relief. His daughter was long dead, and yet here she was cradled in his arms again. And she still fit perfectly in his embrace.
"My baby…" he whimpered softly, and that seemed to set off a fresh stream of tears down his already puffy face. "My baby…"
"I'm here Papá. Please don't cry anymore." she said, even though she had just moments ago been crying herself.
"Oh, let me look at you." Héctor finally pulled her up to look him in the eye, and cupped her cheekbones to trail his thumbs over her golden streaks. "I can't believe it. The last time I held you… You were so frail and cold. And so thin."
"… I'm pretty sure I'm thinner now than I was then."
At that Héctor laughed through his tears, then started to kiss her all over her face until she too started to giggle. "Skin or no skin, you'll always be my gordita."
"Papá stop! You're embarrassing me!"
"Never." Héctor whispered, pulling her into another tight hug. "I'll never stop. I'll hold you for as long as I can. I love you too much to stop. Mija…"
He would have done just that if anyone would have let him, and for a while they did. A few minutes of hugging, gentle words, kisses that he lost count of and hugging again. Just when he was finally starting to relax a gentle hand touched him on the shoulder.
"Héctor…" Mirasol said. "We need to get you to the Department of Family Reunions before it's too late. It's already almost ten o'clock, and we're here for only one night. They might be able to help you."
"But…" Héctor whispered, suddenly afraid again. "I don't… I'm not dead. I-I…" A short tug on his lapel made him glance down at Leti again, and he melted to see her smiling up at him.
"Don't worry Papá. I'll be right with you. You trust me, right?"
Without hesitation he nodded, and so he let Leti pull him up from the ground and put her little hand into his. He wrapped his fingers around it and gave it a squeeze, just like he always did when she was little and with all of his children. Just then he felt something solid come into his other hand and looked down to see the guitar back in his grasp once more. It was then that he dumbly realized that he had been holding Leti with both hands just a while ago. It had given up on it's annoying clinginess, at least for a little bit, to let him properly hold his daughter.
"I guess even it could tell that you two needed a moment." Mirasol said with a chuckle, and Héctor couldn't help but nod at that.
"Well I'll let you four go on." Barto said after composing himself and trying to look professional again. "This looks like a family matter after all, and I still have to go collect all of my ofrenda offerings. I'll get yours as well while you deal with this. Oh and Señor Rivera?"
"Oh, no! I meant. Uh, living Señor Rivera. Could you…" Barto ducked his head for a moment, then smiled sadly. "If you talk to Matty again, could you tell him… that I'm okay? Great, even? I know my death was hard on him, but I just want him to know that I'm alright."
Héctor's chest ached at that. Things had ended badly for him and Matty that night, enough that even his wife was beginning to cut him off from their lives, because of his caustic words that he hadn't mean to say. He'd doubt Matty would want to hear anything from him again, much less about his dead friend who had magically came back to the living world tonight, but he found himself nodding. "I will."
Barto smiled happily. "Great, gracias Señor Rivera. Good luck, and don't trip on the bridge!"
There was that bridge again. Why was everyone talking about a bridge? As Gaspar and Mirasol walked ahead, Héctor and Leti followed close by hand in hand. Héctor couldn't stop gazing at his baby girl, forever stuck in youth yet with a wisdom in her eyes that only came from adulthood. He never thought a skeleton would be considered cute, but he was proud to say that his daughter was the cutest little skeleton in the whole world. Leti caught him staring at her and giggled, before pointing ahead to divert his attention. And so he did, and…
Ohhh… That's the bridge.
It was enormous. The high walls of the cemetery had faded away enough to let a huge orange bridge come through from nothingness, disappearing into clouds of blue and purple fog. The fuzzy texture of the thing at a distance confused Héctor until he came closer to it, and was amazed to see that it was not made of stone nor wood. It was made of flower petals. The lovely, sweet scent of cempazuchitl flowers beckoned him closer to it and he could feel a pleasant warmth that the glowing bridge gave off. Other skeletons were coming and going on the bridge, passing through an invisible barrier that either gave them that golden glow or erased it all together. As Héctor passed through it his own glow was gone, and he was relieved to see that he was solid again.
"Back to normal, eh?" Leti asked.
"Well… normal as I can be, I guess."
They continued on across the bridge, some of the newer skeletons stopping to stare as a full flesh and blood man was walking on the same path they were. Héctor weakly smiled and waved at them, but found he was growing increasingly embarrassed at all the attention being turned on him. And it irked him that they knew who he was, apparently all of the deceased hailing from Santa Cecilia. Luckily, Gaspar was able to shoo away the more annoying onlookers so that they could continue on in peace.
Suddenly a dark shape darted from underneath Héctor and he was forced down onto his knees again. It was a good thing the ground was nice and soft so that the impact didn't hurt, or else he would have had a few choice words to give Dante. Leti laughed and pulled him up again while the dumb dog rolled around in ecstasy in the golden petals, sneezing out a few from his nose.
"Barto warned you not to trip on the bridge, didn't he?"
"Hey, it wasn't my fault. It was… all…"
Héctor trailed off as finally the smoke and fog cleared away to reveal what they had been walking towards this whole time. It was a city, but a city unlike anything Héctor had ever seen before. There were dozens and dozens of skyscrapers. Wait, no. Towers. There were towers of buildings stacked on top of each other in so many ways that the laws of physics would never allow to happen in the real world. Each jutted out at different angles and then those buildings had additions added on to them, construction equipment constantly on the move to make even more additions to that! Wires, stairs and more bridges connect these towers to each other, and Héctor could even see trolleys sailing high and low in ever different direction.
And the colors! Oh, it was the most beautiful array of colors he had ever seen in a landscape! Purples, blues, pinks and golds melded perfectly together as a millions of lights blinked and twinkled out of streetlamps and windows. And, if Héctor stopped long enough to count, he could see several skull motifs hidden amongst the architecture.
Leti smiled as she watched her father marvel at the city before them. "Isn't it the prettiest, most beautiful place you've ever seen before in your life, Papá?"
It was… It really was
Héctor swallowed thickly and managed to tear his gaze away from the beauty and looked down at his daughter. "You've… you've been here this whole time?"
"Of course, tonto! Where else would I have been?"
On his more bad days, he was ashamed to admit, Héctor believed that his beautiful baby girls was no where else but in the Santa Cecilia cemetery. Buried beneath a thick stone slab and rotting away into nothingness. Everything about her gone forever. On his better days Héctor was sure that Leti could be nowhere else but in Heaven, watching over all of them and guiding them throughout their lives. But Mirasol had said they were only on Earth one day out of the year, so he supposed that wasn't the case either.
Still, seeing the ethereal beauty before him, Héctor was sure that this was as damn near close to Heaven as he could imagine.
"This place suits you, mija." He whispered and hugged her close to him as they continued on.
Finally they had reached the end of the bridge and made their way to what looked like a gate for a train station. Skeletons coming in with huge amounts of food and other gifts in their arms, sacks and buggies. Skeletons going out after passing through some weird ticket taker machine that made dinging noises instead of giving out tickets. For now it seemed they were finally being left alone, and as the four of them got in line for re-entry, Héctor looked back behind him.
The golden flower bridge stood there, fading into the nothingness where his home, his family, and the Land of the Living were sure to be. Héctor was amazed. He was here, in the Land of the Dead with his daughter by his side, and all it took was a simple stroll across a bridge.
"Well…" Héctor said to himself. "… that was easy."