I’m starting my writing journey today by taking on a flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wending at terribleminds.com. The challenge is to write a story using a title that incorporates a color into it. The Brazilian folklore of Saci Perere came to mind. He is a mischievous prankster who wears a red hat. Here is my spin on his legend…
The Boy With The Red Cap
I wake up with the distinct feeling that someone else was in my bed again last night, except I know it’s not true. Someone was in my head.
The past few weeks have been extremely difficult, as it always is this time of year. The cows were weak with thirst and hunger, their brown skins sagging over their tired bones. They blended in with the earth. Especially when they fell down from exhaustion. You could scarcely make them out unless you were close enough to touch them, and by the time they fell no one wanted to come near them. Either the swarms of flies that ate at them would get you, or the stench of death would keep you away. The vultures, too.
The sun seemed especially hot and mean today. It’s always bright and unrelenting, but today, after another night of uneasy sleep, it was especially torturous to my puffy, bleary eyes. Squinting, I wiped the dusty sweat from my forehead and continued my walk. It was eight in the morning and already it felt like midday. I was sure that soon my body would melt and I’d slither down between the cracked faded soil beneath my feet.
It was a torturous walk from my village to the other side of the nearest mountain, which was large and imposing, and the only place where any foliage dared to spring up in the wasteland that is my home. This was the only place within a day’s walk that had a good stream of water. I often had to make the trek here to catch small fish, or for the herbs and spices that I sold to make my living, but it was never as hot as today.
Of course today would be the hottest day – the day that I’d set out to rid myself of the invader of my dreams. He’d make sure to make things difficult for me.
I remember just days ago telling my old neighbor Maria Candida that I’d been plagued by the Boy With The Red Cap.
“Minha filha,” she said, her eyes bulging with surprise. “You done got yourself in trouble now.”
I knew that as well as anyone. Lore had it that Saci, the Boy With The Red Cap, was impossible to shake. Once he fixed his sight on you, he would never leave you alone. Not when he loved you. Not when you became his obsession. Not when he possessed your dreams.
People round here would smell him in the air and go running for the church. Evidence of his existence could be found wherever you looked. Anywhere there was bad luck, you’d be sure he had a hand in it. Chicken eggs would lay unhatched, or festered in your kitchen. Knives would dull mid-slice and ruin what little meat you had. Your milk soured, your soup was inundated with sickly flies. Nice girls would go astray.
He thought it was funny, we sure as heck did not. At night, you could sometimes hear him laughing at his misdeeds. I told Maria Candida I’d made the mistake of opening my window one night, hoping to catch a glimpse of this Boy With The Red Cap. He smelled me right away and invaded my head.
“I done told you never to do that,” said Maria Candida, her weathered arms churning the orange soap that she heated in a large pan. The scent permeated her kitchen, a mix of sticky molasses and rotting fruit. “Now you can’t invite him out.” She tsked and shook her head.
I’d walk around town in a trance, the townsfolk looking at me like a pariah. Men would shake their heads at me, women would gossip in each other’s ears. Mothers would shade their children’s eyes with their hands and hurry them along in the opposite direction.
After last night’s dream, which felt both good and bad, and also everything in between, I decided to put a stop to it. There would be no more dreams. Saci would stay out of my head.
I had heard from a benzendeira that there were many ways to get rid of Saci, but the easiest way sure had to be crossing a stream of water. Men would get rid of him by leaving gifts of tobacco for his pipe, or bottles of cachaca with which he could drown his sorrows, but I had no money for such luxuries.
So I set out through the dry, cracked earth to the only nearby stream of water, which was miles and miles away, beyond the mountain. I walked all day, only stopping occasionally to rest my back, which was tired with the weight of me. My linen shift was drenched with sweat, sticking to me like a second skin. When I finally reached the stream, I cooled my feet and splashed my face with water.
The sun was rounding down the sky, making its final descent in the horizon. I waited for Saci at the edge of the stream. It wouldn’t work unless he was nearby.
And then I felt him.
The hairs on the back of my neck prickled, and I could feel his longing for me. He crept up slowly behind me, and I walked into the stream. The water, which earlier was but a trickle meandering through the too-dry leaves, was now thunderous around my ankle. Afraid, I hugged myself and hunched forward in a protective stance, still moving through the storming waters. Saci was right behind me, silent as a nun, but I could feel his presence pulling me to him.
I rushed forward, stepping over slippery stones and trying to keep my balance. And that’s when it happened. I felt him, Saci, pulling me back and taking me down into the water with him. He held me firmly in his arms and I struggled to keep my head above water.
I should have never come here, I thought.
I fought against his hold as panic shot through me. He finally succeeded in keeping me under water, and soon enough sleep set in, coming in waves between the cold waters and the dark evening sky.
I was lifeless now, but I could still feel everything around me. Saci pulled me out of the water and laid my body across a large rock. The night was cold, a good respite from the treacherous daytime heat, and I thanked him for making me feel better.
He tucked wet strands of my hair behind my ear and laid my hands flat on my rounded belly. “Rest ,” said Saci. “Ain’t no one gonna shame you now.”
With that, I closed my eyes and let the darkness take me under.