El Chan

When I had gone to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and ventured from its cobblestone streets to climb the ladder hugging the cliff three hundred feet down to El Charco del Ingenio, I did it barefoot. Once below, I relished the feel of my toes curling around the edges of the granite, splaying where flat, a pair of extra hands that kept me from slipping into the Charco, the water carpeted green with algae in some parts, unpleasantly clear in others. My soles wore thick from years of running barefoot; grass-between-toes-no-goathead-can-pierce-this-skin calloused. I only paused and stretched on a slab of granite in the sun when El Chan—demon of the Charco, of these bottomless waters—poked his head from the water, blemishing it, his oil-drop eyes daring me, his shell curving into the dark waters of his home. And we talked of the stories surrounding the Charco. Yes, he says, the bandit Chuchuy did disappear into the caves of the cliffs when the hounds were nipping at his tail, but he could hardly attest to whether any of the tunnels led to a home in the heart of San Miguel, such as the stories went. And he talked of Don Baltazar Sautto’s headless ghost, and we wondered what urged this factory owner known for his cruelty to mount his steed and take to San Miguel’s cobblestone streets until the sun pierced him through at daybreak, overpowering his subtle luminance only those paying attention ever notice. I laughed, and when he asked why, I told him it was because he was not as terrifying as the stories said.

-- Danielle P., Adult