Portentous clouds drape a gathering of torn Nahua women. It’s been a cold drizzly afternoon in Ocotelolco. Taciturn, they convene around the fire to talk gossip and eat a sparse meal before going home to their husbands, who by now are returning from labor in the cornfields. They talk in lowered voices, so as to listen to the rain outside. The bowl with food goes around. There are old and young women here, and children and animals. The air is damp and the firewood green. One of the older women sits slumbering holding on to a shaky wicker chair. Her young skinny pretty daughter is near gazing at the others with sudden and distrusting eyes. A woman that just entered sneaks behind the sleeping witch and carefully places an open scissor under her chair. Now the old witch quickens and her eyes glow like a reddish fire. She is trapped and can’t get up. She struggles but the scissors under the chair hold her tied to it. Her screams are horrible, first a high yell like a hurt pig, then a loud barking like a howler monkey. The moment she utters a low grunt guajolote voice the other women gather around the fire and pray. Now they have the blood-sucking witch in their power – the daughter has escaped. She did a poor job of protecting her mother. That old witch.  She is known to have killed at least 12 babies. The ancient matrons of the town had told her in letters left in their graves that she had it coming but she refused to leave. They started suspecting her and her daughter last week at the market when she was not able to walk without her cane. An old injury and the moist weather and a pain in the back from hauling stones from down the river. They didn’t believe her since such an injury could only come from the little time she had left to affix her legs back to her body in a hurry. Yes – yes! They knew. Just days ago the town was visited by a strange glow and the night was very dark and farmers could see where it was coming from. They ran to Cosmes and shot their rifles to the sky. The Tlahuelpuchi in the form of a turkey barely escaped the men. Some believe when Cosme last shot at her she was wounded. But it was too late. The witch had already suffocated Cosmes daughter and sucked all her blood, she could not be saved. This happened just days before the old women saw her in the market and decided to put the scissors below the chair and unmask her. Now they had her and she was going to pay for all she had done. They should have her thrown her down the hang to the river, beaten and nearly dead. Nobody has pity on her. The daughter escaped. And they know they have to find her before night fall. The Tlahuelpuchi is not a witchcraft that can be learned. Women are born this way and it is a curse in the family. They have to find the daughter soon. Before nightfall she would be able to turn into a witch herself inherit her mother’s curse. The first night of a witch is the most frightful. She is enraged. Her rampage can be merciless. She can turn into an ant and escape every man or animal. This young Tlahuelpuchi is in danger. She has no daughter of her own so she would need to steal one. The daughter is very important for the witch. After midnight when her powers allow her to turn into animals she must light the hearth and take both of her legs off and arrange them by the fire crossed one over the other. The daughter must watch over the legs and the fire. If the fire goes out or the legs are discovered and moved her mother will not be able to turn back and will die soon after. The curse is then passed on to the daughter who has lived in constant fear of letting her mother die or be caught. But tonight she must run away. The town knows where she lives and she has no one to watch over the legs. She must find a new town and find a new house to start a live. The town is in a rage. The dead babies are too much to bear. The crop has been bad. People have little to eat and nights are cold. Tlahuelpuchis are unforgiving; they prey on the weak. The mothers that fall asleep at night because they are exhausted and can’t watch over their babies. The men are out drinking as every night and women have to live in fear of losing their children. They only prey on babies up to 6 months. Those witches are the worst nightmare of poor towns. Nobody knows where they came from or how long they have been here. Old stories tell that they used to prey on cattle and other animals. Why on humans now nobody knows. It is a curse maybe. She is now far away from town and hungry can’t think clearly her way lost. Now a young woman finds her scared and unable to speak. She tells her to come and stay with her at home. She has a daughter that would make a good friend and they could use the extra help. She goes with her and remembers nothing of her past.

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