THE SECOND DAY OF HALLOWEEN: Dia de los Muertos
THE DAY I DIED IN T.J.
by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Mexico is magical, I know. I died there and lived to talk about it.
It was 1994 and my buddies and I were partying pretty hard in Tijuana that weekend, when a combination of too much alcohol, too little real food, exhaustion and dehydration, grabbed me by the chest and gave me a cardiac kick.
Death. This "ultimate unknowable" that will happen to all of us, you and I, drew back the curtain on me. And as certain as it is that you will be unprepared for that final experience no matter what you do, so was I.
After the briefest of pain, my friends and the other folks in the party abruptly changed in a snap. They didn't look human anymore. They appeared as still and unreal as bright paper dolls.
I had no idea what was happening.
Then the candy colored esqueletos came dancing in.
With festive enthusiasm they congratulated me and guided me through the door to a great fiesta on a hill by the beach. This grande gathering was held in Everyone's honor. We All deserved it: We made it through!
There, others like myself were walking, running, coming from all over to participate in a dance party. The dance party! We stood in a circle as we danced, clapping our hands.
The people who arrived first, got to go first. Which is to say, they shed their flesh like gift wrap and danced in their white and brightly colored bones. Then they stepped back to let the new ones come forward.
So it went, in time to the music, around the circle coming towards me and I couldn't wait to join in the fun. There were just two people ahead of me, when a hard hand fell on my shoulder, pulling me away. It was one of the esqueletos that brought me to the party.
"I'm sorry," the skeleton said, its hollow eye sockets deep with remorse.
I was stricken by a sudden panic. I needed to return to the circle. I had to! I looked back and my empty space already closed in. The person who would have been after me shucked off the flesh of her mortal coil and, whipping her useless body high over her calavera like a towel, danced naked and free in the sun.
"No!" I cried out, lunging toward the circle, pulling away from his hold, wanting my turn.
Other skeletons grabbed me, holding me back, keeping me from the Greatest Celebration Ever Known! Their smiling skulls were less than joyful.
"Please!" I begged, pulling from them. "Don't do this! Please!"
"Lo siento, mi amigo," another one said. "But I'm afraid…" he bowed his head for a moment, truly pained for what he had to say, "…I'm afraid you didn't make it."
The bottom dropped out of my heart as the sudden loss brought tears to my eyes. Light burst blinding across my vision and I woke on the bar room floor with an ambulance medic, kneeling over me, holding defibrillator pads.
"Whew, Senor!" the medic sighed to the ticking of a heart machine. "I was afraid you wouldn't make it!"
Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Inspired by my family and the 1998 game, GRIM FANDANGO.
Art by José Guadalupe Posada.
SILLY SYMPHONIES: The Skeleton Dance