I wouldn’t have been too surprised by the sugar skull that met me face to face in the pantry, given that I was helping to mold several dozen for Dia de los Muertos, when my husband’s family would stop by to gobble up the confectionary creations, and I already had five trays of them stored on the pantry shelves. But this particular skull was attached to an entire sugar skeleton, was as tall as a man, and was standing on its own.
I could only gawk at the candy-coated collection of bones before me, adorned with brightly colored meringue frosting, sparkling sprinkles, and two golden-wrapped chocolates in its eye sockets. It flashed across my mind, Maybe Maria went overboard again, as my Mexican sister –in-law commonly makes grandiose pastries and cakes for special occasions, but then the sugar skull spoke.
“Shhh,” the skeleton hissed, although how it could do that without a tongue perplexed me. “Cuidado… teyollocuani.”
After a few seconds, I squeaked out, “Huh?”
The skeleton sighed. “No Spanish, eh? Of course, the Americana is the one that finds me. Escuchame. I need to hide here. I think if I hide among the sugar skulls, it will not be able to tell me apart from them. Maybe it will eat all these candies instead. So, never mind me.”
Never mind you? A six foot talking sugar skeleton in my pantry? “I don’t think I can do that,” I stammered, part of me trying to convince myself this was one wacky dream.
“Por favor, senorita. Just until after tonight. Then the doorway to the underworld will close, and I will return home and the teyollocuani will go back to sleep. Please, do this for Abuelo Sebastian, eh?”
Abuelo, I knew, meant grandfather. Grandfather Sebastian…not my husband’s deceased Grandfather Sebastian? I had never met the man, but there were picture of him in Pablo’s family albums—although there was no way I could have made the connection between those pictures and the thing standing in front of me.
“Abuelo, why are you here? What are you hiding from?” I asked.
He was about to explain when he froze. His jaw dropped, and he pointed a bony finger past my shoulder. “Alli! There!”
I turned, and saw a small child standing in my kitchen. She was barefoot, with long black hair that touched the floor. Her skin was slightly grayish, but it was her eyes that bothered me the most—solid, cold blackness.
“Dulces?” the girl whispered, and the word made my flesh crawl. “Para mi? Dulces?”
I actually took a step away from the girl, which put me closer to the skeleton. “Abuelo, who is that little girl?”
Skeleton Sebastian started to quiver, its sugar bones knocking together. “It is the spirit that changed me into this form to suit her appetite. She is a Teyollocuani…Soul Eater.”
I was petrified as the Teyollocuani started walking towards me, hands outstretched like some fervent trick-or-treater, but this was no childish masquerade...