I walked along the sand, scarcely feeling the scorching heat of the sun beat down upon my neck, upon my unprotected skin. I passed the cactus patch at the edge of the pueblo and wandered out deeper into the desert.
Far in the distance, I saw a shape, a tiny moving shape, low to the ground. As I came closer I saw it was a tiny person, and I could see their face was unnaturally white, even from the considerable distance I was away.
Coming closer I saw it was a little girl. The little girl was wearing a mask; a white mask, that of a skull, of death – the kind that the revelers wore during Dia de los Muertos. She was playing in the dirt and hunched over something.
“¿Qué estás haciendo, niña? Why do you play in the dirt?”
She stopped and stood up and looked back at me, wordless and resolute. I saw now that thing she had been hunched over and paying so much attention to was a human head, the severed head of a person, old and rotted and turning green.
She stared at me, emotionless through the disguise of the mask, with those cold, cold eyes. Her silence was evil and full of dire portent.
I stared at the shriveled face, and the little girl beside it, a demon, and my blood ran cold in my veins. She slowly began to walk toward me, her black eyes affixed upon mine, never breaking her stare from behind that bleached white mask.
I awoke in my bed from the night terror, to the sound of my own voice calling out into the dry emptiness of the bedroom. Far off on the horizon the sun was rising and casting the golden rays of morning through the hole in the stone wall that was the window. I rose, still shaking, and walked over to the basin, and splashed water on my face. My tired eyes looked back at me in the mirror.
What a strange dream. It was The Day of the Dead, and I had awoken with only fear and the knowing that something terrible was going to happen today.
The dream was a sign of ill omen. The girl in the skull mask had visited me so many nights these past few weeks leading up to this day. But what did it mean? Because each time it was only upon waking that I realized I recognized the shriveled head she hovered over, the object of her interest in the dry, unforgiving heat of the desert. The face of the severed rotting head was one I knew all too well – it was mine.