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Army of the Dead
S. E. Schlosser
A laundress, newly moved to Charleston following the Civil War, found herself awakened at the stroke of twelve each night by the rumble of heavy wheels passing in the street. But she lived on a dead end street, and had no explanation for the noise. Her husband would not allow her to look out the window when she heard the sounds, telling her to leave well enough alone. Finally, she asked the woman who washed at the tub next to hers. The woman said: "What you are hearing is the Army of the Dead. They are Confederate soldiers who died in hospital without knowing that the war was over. Each night, they rise from their graves and go to reinforce Lee in Virginia to strengthen the weakened Southern forces."
The next night, the laundress slipped out of bed to watch the Army of the Dead pass. She stood spell-bound by the window as a gray fog rolled passed. Within the fog, she could see the shapes of horses, and could hear gruff human voices and the rumble of canons being dragged through the street, followed by the sound of marching feet. Foot soldiers, horsemen, ambulances, wagons and canons passed before her eyes, all shrouded in gray. After what seemed like hours, she heard a far off bugle blast, and then silence.
When the laundress came out of her daze, she found one of her arms was paralyzed. She has never done a full days washing since.
S. E. Schlosser
A young woman lay suffering on her deathbed, her stillborn baby lying against her chest. Her young husband crouched close, stricken with grief. His beautiful wife crooned a lullaby to her dead baby, her voice growing fainter as death drew near. Finally, she looked at her husband and asked him to bury her back East, beside her dead mother. Choked with grief, the young husband agreed.
But after his wife lay still in death, her husband could not bear to be parted from her and their dead child. He had them buried together beneath a lonely pine tree on a gently sloping knoll near their home, where he could visit the grave. As spring drew near, fragrant wildflowers bloomed across the knoll and the small grave.
One night, the husband threw himself across the flower-strewn grave, head buried in his arms as he tried to control his grief. As he lay there, the stillness of the night seemed to deepen. A light breeze tousled his hair and swayed the branches of the pine tree. At that moment, he heard a soft voice crooning a lullaby. He started upright, searching about for his wife. He heard a gurgle from an infant, a happy sound of contentment. Then the breeze died away, and the branches of the pine tree stilled. Then a shining light seemed to descend from the dark sky and hover over the young husband and the small grave under the tree. The husband heard the singing again, and the happy laugh of a small child. And then there was darkness. The husband went home that night with peace in his heart for the first time since the death of his wife.
People say that on dark, summery nights you can still hear the young mother singing a lullaby, and hear the happy chuckles of her tiny child.
La Mala Hora
S. E. Schlosser
My friend Isabela called me one evening before dinner. She was sobbing as she told me that she and her husband Enrique were getting divorced. He had moved out of the house earlier that day and Isabela was distraught.
I called my husband, who was on a business trip in Chicago, and he agreed that I should go stay with Isabela for a few days to help her during this difficult time. I packed a small suitcase and got right into the car. It was late, and it would take me at least four hours to drive from my home to Sante Fe. Isabela was expecting me to arrive around midnight.
As I traveled down the dark, wet highway, I kept feeling chills, as if someone or something were watching me. I kept looking in the rear view mirror, and glancing into the back seat. No one was there. Don't be ridiculous, I told myself, wishing fervently that I was home in my bed instead of driving on a dark, rainy highway. There was almost no traffic, and I heartily wished that I would soon reach Sante Fe.
I turned off the highway just before I reached the city, and started down the side roads that led to Isabela's house. As I approached a small crossroads, I saw a woman step into the street directly in front of my car. I shrieked in fright and slammed on my brakes, praying I would miss her.
The car shuddered to a halt, and I looked frantically around for the woman. Then I saw her, right beside my window, looking in at me. She had the face of a demon, twisted, eyes glowing red, and short pointed teeth. I screamed as she leapt at my window, her clawed hands striking the glass. I put my foot down on the accelerator and the car leapt forward. For a few terrible moments, she ran along side the car, keeping up easily and striking at me again and again. Then she fell behind and in the rear view mirror I saw her growing taller and taller, until she was as large as a tree. Red light swirled around her like mist, and she pointed after me, her mouth moving though I could not make out the words. I jerked my attention back to the road, afraid what might happen to me if my car ran off the street.
I made it to Isabela's house in record time and flung myself out of the car, pounding on her door frantically and looking behind me to see if the demon-faced woman had followed me. Isabela came running to the door and let me in.
"Shut the door! Shut it!" I cried frantically, brushing past her into the safety of the house.
"Jane, what is wrong?" she asked, slamming the door shut. She grabbed my hand and led me into the living room. I sank onto the couch and started sobbing in fear and reaction. After several minutes, I managed to gasp out my story. Isabela gasped and said: "Are you sure you were at a crossroads when you saw her?"
I nodded, puzzled by her question.
"It must have been La malhora," Isabela said, wringing her hands.
"The bad hour?" I asked.
"This is bad, Jane. Very bad," Isabela cried. "La Malhora only appears at a crossroads when someone is going to die."
Ordinarily, I would have laughed at such a superstition, but the appearance of the demon-woman had shaken me. Isabela got me a cup of hot cocoa, brought my luggage in from the car, and sent me to bed. She was so concerned for me that she didn't once mention the divorce or Enrique.
I felt much better the next morning, but I could not shake the feeling of dread that grew within me all day. Neither of us mentioned La Malhora, but we were both thinking of her when I told Isabela that I wanted to go home. Isabela insisted on accompanying me. I flatly refused to drive after dark. I was afraid I would see the demon-woman again when I passed the crossroads.
We left the next morning, and we hadn't been home more than twenty minutes when a police car pulled into my driveway. I knew at once what it meant, and so did Isabella.
The officers spoke very gently to me, but nothing could soften the news. My husband had been mugged on the way back to his hotel after dinner last night. His body had not been found until this morning. He had been shot in the head and was killed instantly.
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