“Mothers and Demons and the In-Between” – Fiction by Janelle Garcia

Night at the Fairground - Alexandre Benois, 1911
Night at the Fairground – Alexandre Benois, 1911

Our Winter 2016 issue is plagued by the perils of parenthood, and crawling with creepy monsters– both of which you can find in Janelle Garcia‘s haunting flash fiction “Mothers and Demons and the In-Between.”

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WE WANTED SO BADLY TO SPEAK WITH THE DEAD, to make contact, even if we didn’t yet know anyone who had died. Our grandmother’s older brother, Ramón, didn’t really count. He only spoke Spanish, after all. But we imagined her death, even if we never said so: our mother.

Our grandmother warned us about the demonios. They’d call to us, whispering our names when we were alone—desperate, pleading whispers. They’d snatch up our souls if we made the mistake of answering them, if we so much as turned our heads towards the source of those whispers. Demonios lurked in the shadows, crouching in the narrow corridor between wakefulness and sleep. Their yellow eyes glowed like beacons, luring us into their embrace, we innocent girls armed only with the name Jehovah.

Say it out loud, she told us.

We pictured demons splintering in the dark or dissolving into puffs of demon dust as we shouted Jehovah, our voices louder than thunder. But she never told us what to do when our tongues, our lips, our throats seized, incapable of even a whisper. What were we to do when our bodies sunk into the sticky tar of that place where our bedroom looked the same, and the clatter of dishes could still be heard from the kitchen, where our bodies remained, wrapped tight in our bedsheets, and yet the air was not the same? Our lungs were always the first to detect we were not of that world, that terrible world of not asleep and not awake.  In that place there was only the torpor of fate, an airless sinking. Our demons waited in silence, and there was nothing we could say.

But daylight was the treacherous one. Morning tempted us to forget our terror. With daylight, shadows were shooed away, unmasked. If a squat demon was a pile of laundry, then a sunlit whisper could be chased down with fingers outstretched.

We brought home Ouija boards, and when our grandmother discovered them behind the dresser and broke them in two or simply hurled them into the neighbor’s overgrown yard, we fashioned our own out of paper, the edges fringed as we tore page after page from spiral-bound notebooks. We asked yes and no questions, begging for certainty. We closed our eyes and willed our paper planchettes to silence our fears even as they spelled out the words we were already thinking.

Our mother had turned her faith to Santeros and discotheques. In her absence, she was expelled from the church. We secretly burned her pyramids of incense and dotted our wrists with her otherworldly perfumes. Hidden from our grandmother, we dipped our fingertips into the pots of makeup our mother left behind. But we still pulled the Bible close at night and practiced whispering the Lord’s name into the shadow ears of demonios because they forever groped for us, desperate to hold us in that terrible place of in-between.

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_MG_9446 (683x1024)JANELLE  GARCIA ‘s work has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Quarter After Eight, Rock & SlingBurrow Press Review, and is forthcoming inSaw Palm. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University and writes from South Florida, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and a corn snake named Ruby.

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