By Liz Prieto
I met Alma for the first time when I was a teenager. The first thing she said was “You look like a little worm” I decided to ignore her, but she followed me around. Most people did not care about her and seemed to me she only had eyes on me. I enjoy my own company, most of the time I would seat on the bus by myself. Alma would take advantage of this and seat next to me. “Hey there! You are going to school now? You look weird you know?” I tried to ignore her by not answering but it felt that she could read my mind. “Well even if you don’t care, it sucks not to have any friends, with these old rags, no one is going to seat next to you, girls will certainly run away from you, hahaha” All the way to school she continued to tease me. I wanted to punch her, but boys should not hurt girls. Anyway, she looked stronger than me. Who knows what she would be capable of. Alma was the same age I was, but somehow she looked outdated.
I still remember the first time she visited me at my place, I don’t even know who let her come in. I was just finishing praying the Angelus and going for lunch. I offered my hunger to Jesus. When I walked out of my mother’s shrine. Alma was there sitting on the sofa. She looked at me with a smirk on her face. Alma always wore the same outdated white dress all the way buttoned to her neck decorated with lace embroidery with large dark stains on her lap. Vintage like a hipster. Her platinum blond thin hair and hundreds of black bobby-pins disturbed me. It was messy and dirty. Dark-eyed full of death. I could hear the sarcasm in her laugh “Are you still believe that Jesus coming to save you?” Alma always found a way to offend me. “How are you little worm?” I knew I was Jesus’ child and he was my savior. My mother always taught us well. “Who let you in?” I asked, “I can go anywhere I want” I tightened my fist, I felt my veins protruding out of my neck “This is my house” Alme came straight into my face “What? What are you going to do? Are you going to hit me? Come now? Let’s see what will happens when your mother finds out you hit a girl.” I blew air out of my lungs “Leave me alone” I was alone, I just ignored her.
Alma sat in my purple lounge, with a straight back. Infinite. She was so full of herself. Why I did not kick her out? Because at the end of the day it was true, I was a little worm, scared of doing anything to offend her. I was nothing. Next to Alma, I felt powerless. She wore lots of makeup to cover her damaged skin, her breath smelled like rotten meat, her triangular teeth and swollen gums made me nauseous. Still, I could not find a way to get rid of her. I guess she scared me. Alma found ways to spiral my senses. She came up with all kinds of conspiracy stories. I remember when she got me into stabbing rats. “They are creatures of the Demon. In the bible, you will find they will bring all kinds of pestilence.” Off I went to stab rats. Then she started about cats. “Black ones. We need to get rid of all black cats.” Are you sure? I asked “Of course, witches use them. They go around looking for victims.” I was intrigued. “Well, I don’t know how to kill a cat, Alma!” “Don’t be a silly little worm, we burn them!” We killed all black cats of the neighborhood. I collected their tails in a wooden box. I kept it buried, just in case anyone sees it and think I was crazy. After every killing, she would disappear for a while and then come back again with new conspiracies. I started to enjoy our outings, the killings I mean. Not her company, never her company. I despised her.
In the coming months, she started with a new conspiracy, we had a witch in town. She was convinced it was my neighbor. Francisca. The old lady who always wore a cadmium picket coat. It did not matter what time of the year it was. Francisca only word that ugly and stinky coat. I’ve often wondered if she had anything else to wear. “Perhaps I could ask my mom to give her some clothes” Alma snapped back “She is too fat anyway.” “Under all that stinky garment, is a witch” I clicked my tongue, “She is an old lady, and she is friendly” But she insisted “Have you noticed that woman does not go to the mass on Sundays. She has that look of the Devil in her face. You, have to kill her first before she does to you.”
I did not specifically like or dislike Francisca or anyone. But I started paying attention to Francisca’s behavior. It was true, she did not join the mass on Sundays. She befriended that suspicious feminine man. They drink and laugh loudly. “You hear? They are probably sacrificing someone inside that house” Alma whispered in my ear.
It was on an autumn night, I heard the wind pushing through the window. Alma came for a sleepover, she woke me up “Leaves are finished” Moved with a killing pace like a shadow, “Francisca is coming to get you, you need to go first.” I had a bad day. Some kids broke my notebooks, punch me and kicked me, while I was at the bus. When I reached home my mother wanted to talk about traces of blood on my shirt. I didn’t. I begged for solitude in my bedroom, except for Alma. She could not take no for an answer. No matter how much you tried, you could not get rid of her. If she was after you, she would do anything to eat all of your soul. At night I woke up sweating with pain in my stomach. All of a sudden, I felt spiders crawling in my body. I jumped from my bed and it was covered with spiders. I ran out of my bedroom. I screamed at my mother’s dormitory. She kneeled in front of her little shrine “what is going on?” “Mom, spiders, there are all over my bed” She looked puzzled. “Spiders? How can it be? Let me check” We walked together and she saw nothing. “It was a nightmare, come to my bed, you can sleep with me tonight” I was behind the door. I could still see the spiders. Now I was sure there was something going on. Probably Francisca was involved.
I was scared. I told Alma the next day about the incident with the spiders. I let her feed her hate into my head. “My mother could not see them… You really think Francisca is a witch?” She smirked, “We could follow her.” We walked out of my bedroom, through our corridors, my house was always dark. The wooden floor creaked as we walked. We passed by the kitchen and I grabbed an apple. “Would you like an apple?” Alma shook her head “No thanks, I am not a big fan of apples” I opened the door and let Alma pass. She smiled at me. “You are learning manners now? Little worm? You don’t fool me, you will always be a little worm” I shrugged my shoulders “You are so mean Alma “’ She immediately answered back “’I am not mean, Francisca, is. Come! let’s check what she is doing.” We walked through the yard stepping over the burned Siena dead leaves, The trees were losing them rapidly at this time of the year. I walked behind Alma. We reached the fence and picked through the holes. Francisca trimming some plants and herbs “You see! She is preparing her witchcraft” I had a small paused, then turned “Let’s go back home. We will get more information tomorrow” Alma whispered in my ear “You are wasting time little worm”
I felt the situation was getting out of hand. The next day I decided to follow Francisca. I came back from school with the bus “First I will finish my homework.” Luckily Alma did not come until after I finished She came right while I tightened my shoes ready to leave the house. “I was on my way out to follow Francisca” She followed me with an approving smile. “Finally you are listening to me.” I grabbed my bag and we went. She was usually quiet when we were in public. She would always whisper and disappeared when we talked to strangers. “You see little worm, you and I are very much alike. I am a loner, just like you.” Alma vanished without even given me an explanation. She walked away while I stood in front of my door. I tried to call her but she did not answer. I put my hands inside my pockets looking for my keys and I felt spiders. I jumped and took my jacket “uff agh!” I muttered “shit, shit, is not real, this is not real” with desperation. I felt them all over my body. Perspiration soaked my underwear. At that moment Francisca came out of her house. She smiled at me. The crawling feeling disappeared. She wore as always, the stupid and stinky coat. She had grey hair and bony hands, just like a witch. That inhumane creature tried to fool me with her friendliness “Hello there! How are you today? I responded with a quiet voice “Hi, Mam Francisca I’m ok” She seemed busy, “well, ok I have a good day, I am running late for my shopping.” She walked fast for an older lady, I thought. I followed her. After a couple of blocks, I saw Alma waiting for me by the bus stop. “You disappeared?” I said with a sombre voice. “Since when I need to explain to you my whereabouts? You little chicken? I pretended I didn’t hear what she said. We followed Francisca, after a few blocks away. She arrived at a house with white walls and grey doors. The window frames were also grey. Two big trees by the entrance yard. She rang the bell and took from one her bags a what looked like a food container. A tall skinny man opened the door “Ah Francisca, you are too kind.” She smiled at him “Is my pleasure to share this with you. I hope we can repeat again some time. I had so much fun with you” He looked like he was under a spell. Alma jump in my back “This one is a different guy from last night. I am sure she put some stuff on his food, she will probably eat him later, that’s what witches do, they eat people. They are demons. They are not Jesus children like you or me” My heart beat faster “Shhhh let me listen” I focused my attention on the conversation. The man took the food and seemed he invited in “Please come and drink some tea” She politely declined “I am sorry, I need to run some errands now, but let’s call tonight, perhaps we can plan for dinner again.” The older man replied, “Yes, let’s do that.”
I was now convinced that there was something terrible about her I told Alma “Francisca throw some black magic over me again” She beamed and came closer, I could smell her rotten breath “I know, the longer you wait, the worst will be” I was intrigued by her assertions “Why do you say that? Do you think she is planning on something?” Alma rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “I know she is, I was at her house, I broke into her home just now, while she was with you. I checked. She has all planned, first she is going to kill your mother, she bought a hunter knife, and she keeps it in the kitchen. After she is finished with your mother, she is going to kill your sister” Alma opened her eyes wide and nodded with her head “Uhm” I felt itchy on my arms, perplexed and scared, I did not want to lose my mom and my little sister. Since my dad suicided, I was the man of the house, I needed to do something. I said: “How do I do that? How can I kill anyone, I’ve only killed rats and cats” Alma looked at me, “Tomorrow I will come back with a plan, for now, let’s sleep” That night I prayed for Francisca. I dreamed that I saved her soul. In the dream after I killed her, I saw a black transparent black smoked came out of her body, I liberated her from her demon. It was a good thing to kill her. Francisca would go to heaven.
The next day she came back, her eyes full of glee. “I have a great plan” I was dubious. “I am not sure Alma” She screamed and slapped me with force and pressure, I felt the metal taste in my mouth. “You!!! Stupid little worm” afterward scratched my arms with her long and sharp nails. “I’ll do it ok!” She took me with her to Francisca house. We broke the lock from the kitchen, then to her room. Francisca slept peacefully, almost like an angel. I took the knife and I inserted several times. Francisca tried to defend herself, but It was useless. Francisca faded away. I cleaned her up, change her clothes and left.
The smell caused me to vomit. Apart from that, I felt nothing. murder. Over the next days, the police came to our home. I heard a conversation between my mother and the policeman. I went downstairs and saw my mother standing with tears in her eyes. “Mama, what is happening? She startled “Oh my dear, it’s Francisca. She is dead. It seems there was an incident at her house.” I was used to never lie. “Mama, I had to save her. Francisca had a demon on her body. She was sending spells to me.” My mother’s eyes widened “Wa-it, w-what are you saying?” The policeman talked over the radio “We have a 34, please send unit and social worker” Mother reacted “Diego, what happened? What did you do? I dutifully explained again about the demon, coming out of her body, although I wasn’t sure anymore if I dreamt it or it really happened. That day a strange lady wearing a squares blazer came to pick me up. They brought me to a place with other kids, horrible kids, many with devil’s faces.
Over the next weeks, I went to courts, hospitals, doctors. I tried to explain to everyone that Alma and I saw everything happening. No one has ever seen Alma. it seems I am the only one who can communicate with her. I was assigned to a doctor. He explained that I suffer from psychosis. I am not sure what that is. I am taking medication; it makes me sleepy and I cannot think clearly anymore. I looked on the internet and the library to check any information about Alma. At first, I could not find anything on her name. So, I started to look for families who lived in my house. I spent months trying to find some information, but nothing came up. Every day it was a nightmare. Eventually, I started looking back on accidents. Finally, I found something. I did not find her on Alma, but with Caroline. She died in 1922, poisoned by a spider bite. She was 14 years old when this happened. She lived in the same house I lived in, the same bedroom. I found a newspaper article about it, her brother collected poisoning spiders. The spiders escaped while she was playing on her brother’s bedroom and bite her. She wore the same dress in the article.
My mother sold our house and moved with her sister in Alabama. I stayed in the hospital for the rest of my days. My mother came to visit me sometimes. She was afraid of me, she never hugged me or kissed me again. I was a freak. At the hospital nurses were mean, and anything I said was taken out of context. I knew I would never leave that place.
A new family moved in, they have a daughter Aura. She is twelve years old. At night she woke up and saw Alma sitting next to her bed. “Hello there! You little worm” Aura shook “Hi, why are you here” Alma looked at her with dead eyes. “Because I want to. You are horrible you know? Everyone hates you, I think is because your mom has the devil on her” Aura held her soft toy tight “My mom, loves me, you are ugly and stinky” Alma roared “Ill come back tomorrow and see who is right you or me” Aura ran out of the room to her mother. “There is a dead girl coming to my bed” Her parents went back to the room to find nothing. Aura became paranoid and never came inside the room again. She begged her family to leave the house. Over the next few days, the family moved out of the house.
No one ever moved back in. At night people see Alma walking down the corridors screaming “Little worm, where are you?”
Alma means soul in Spanish, she haunts me, Alma en Pena means a Pennant Soul. I know she is here with me. She is also there in my old home. She is everywhere. Alma is death. I am afraid of her. For the rest of my days, I am locked in a white room Alma comes but she does not talk. I only see blurry images now.
About Liz Prieto
Liz Prieto is a Venezuelan writer who moves around the world. She’s lived in the middle of the Borneo Jungle, Brunei, Gabon, West Africa, and now the Netherlands. Most of her writing is inspired by her motherland. At the moment, she is working on a novel about Venezuelan Immigrants. Previous work was published in Tendencias Magazine in Venezuela, non-fiction stories. Currently, Liz writes fiction and poetry. Some of her work was published in the International Writers from Amsterdam web portal, and Caribean Community magazine in Oman. Liz is an active reader, and her Instagram account is miniliza_pdb. If you like to read more about her work, please contact her firstname.lastname@example.org