Feniseca Tarquinius

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: Write about a character who doesn’t want to go to sleep.... view prompt

1 comment

Latinx Fantasy

As Oscar locked up the house before bed, he heard the creaking of floor boards behind him. Glancing in the mirror by the front door, he caught sight of a white nightdress sliding its way underneath the overstuffed couch. He sighed and locked the door.  Sitting down next to the couch, Oscar stuck his hand in the gap between it and the floor. “Hola, mija…”

A little hand grabbed him and he squeezed, his fingers dwarfing hers. “Hola, Tío…”

“It’s past your bedtime.” Oscar waited a moment. She would have to come out on her own; the underside of the couch was far too small for him to drag her out without hurting her, and he was too tired and hungry to move the couch out of the way. “It can’t be comfortable under there.”

A sniffle. “I put a blanket under here earlier.”

Of course she did. Brilliant little María, too smart for her own good. Oscar scooched down so he could lay back on the floor. Turning his head, he could just barely make out the wet glint of her eyes in the gloom. “Did you have a nightmare?”

María shook her head and hid her face in the knit blanket. “I never fell asleep.”

Another sigh. “Mija, you need to sleep. Do you want to stay short and stout like your Tío forever?”

She huffed. “You’re short because you drink coffee, not because you don’t sleep.”

“I drink coffee because I don't sleep,” he corrected gently. “Come on, mariposita, tell me what’s wrong.”

“I’m scared of the monsters.”

“What monsters?”

She squeezed his hand, baby-sharp nails cutting into his skin. “The ones you fight every night.”

Did she mean… the hunters? “Mija, baby, they’re not going to hurt me,” Oscar tried to reassure, but since he didn’t entirely believe his own words, neither did María. “They’re not even monsters; they’re just people. They can’t do anything to us.”

“But they’re trying to kill you! What if they get me?”

“Get you? Why would you think…” His heart dropped into his shoes. “María, have you been going out into the forest at night?” There was no answer other than her sniffles. His voice turned stern. “María…”

“Tío, I’m sorry!” she cried, wrapping her arms around his bicep, the best hug she could deliver while under the couch. “I’m sorry, but… you were gone for such a long time, and I was worried, and I found you, but… they were there too…”

“Oh, María…” Using her tight grip on his arm, he slid her out and into his arms. Her nightgown was covered in dust, hiding the little butterflies he embroidered onto it. She quickly readjusted herself so her arms wrapped around his neck and her face was buried in his chest. He cradled her close. 

“And… and they were looking for me!” Tears wet his ruana. Grabbing the blanket that emerged with her, he wrapped it around them both. It was a blanket María’s mother, his sister, had made him, a colorful swatch of knitted butterflies in every shade of yarn possible. “They kept asking you where I was, and I was so scared, Tío, I thought they were going to kill us!”

Oscar ran a hand through her thick mane of dark curls, so much like his own. She was like him in so many ways… He didn't want to lie to her; he loved his María too much to hurt her, to allow her to be hurt. That was why he was raising her to begin with. But if it kept her safe… his sister would forgive him for giving her daughter nightmares.

“María… you can't ever do that again, do you understand?” Oscar held her back by her shoulders so he could look into her eyes. “You can't go into the forest anymore, not even if I go with you.

“But Tío!”

“But nothing, María. I wont lose you. Those monsters will kill you if they find you,” he lied. “They will kill you. I’m not going to lose you too.”

Slitted, gold eyes stared up at him. “Tío?”

Oscar held her closer, tucking her back up under his chin. It was easier to lie, he’d realized years ago, if he didn’t have to look his victim in the eyes. “There is a reason… why we are the only ones left of our family, mariposita.”

“...Did they kill them?” Her voice was quiet, barely audible even with his hearing. “Did they kill my Mama?”

“I–” He couldn’t lie about that, so he settled for a kiss on her forehead. His arms were shaking, but he forced them still. “That’s enough morbid things for today. Because, you know what? You don’t have anything to worry about. The monsters aren't capable of hurting me. I'm too strong for them.”

María peered at him, inspecting him before biting her lip. He could still see the fear in her eyes, the pain, but she smirked regardless. “Are you sure?”

“Ah! You doubt me!?” Oscar reeled back as if shot. Even with his thin frame, he easily supported her weight. “My own sobrina, betraying me like this? What's next?” 

A flash of fang was his only warning before she shouted, “An attack!” María pushed him and Oscar allowed his body to fall flat on the floor. “I am the strongest now!”

“So much stronger!” He agreed. Riling her up before bed wasn’t his best idea, but anything was better than focusing on those ghastly thoughts. “Those monsters will tremble before you!”

“They'll regret ever crossing me!” She shook her fist at the door, ready to hunt down the hunters like the predator she was. “I’ll destroy them all!”

Oscar allowed himself a small smirk before pressing a kiss into María's hair. He’d love to see that happen to those… to use María’s words for them, monsters. Perhaps one day, when María was older, he’d take her out there to hunt them, to haunt that family with their mistakes and failures. He could practically taste their flesh under his fangs. But until then…

He stood, carrying María with him. “It’s almost dawn,” he reminded her. “So any monster fights will have to wait until tomorrow night. Now is the time for little girls to be in bed.”

Her grip on him stayed tight. “Can I sleep in your bed?”

Was she still scared? “Of course you can, mariposita. You never need to ask.”

“...Can I have a snack before bed?”

Oscar huffed and smiled. Her taste for food had changed after his curse had infected her, and her appetite continued to grow in spades. “I think we still have a little bit of priest left over.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Priest tastes weird.” 

“It’s all we have until I go out hunting tonight. So unless you’d like to wait…”

Sighing, she pouted. “Fine. A little priest.”

“And then?”

“I’ll go to bed,” she finally agreed, rubbing her puffy eyes. She pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Love you, Tío.”

“Love you more, mija.”

March 25, 2022 12:10

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1 comment

Alice Richardson
23:47 Mar 28, 2022

Didn't see that ending coming! Good story.


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