A "witch" made of nothing but stereotypes appeared on the doorway of the house. Her bushy gray hair made her wrinkled, brown face look too small for her body. Dirty rags that may have once been indigenous clothing hung to her too-thin body. A glance at the dust settled into her wrinkles and the crazed way those beetle-black eyes stared into space, and Alice regretted having let her imagination drag her into that place.
"I'm... sorry," Alice said in her broken Spanish and turned around to leave. Five bony fingers perched on her shoulder.
"Why would you be afraid of me?" the woman asked. Alice turned around, disgusted at the mere idea that she could be afraid of such an extravagant woman. She shook off the witch's hand and made another try for her car. The sunlight made it impossible to keep on believing in nighttime creatures, even if the woman had worked very hard to create an aura of mystique around her. Once again, the claw-like fingers stopped. "No one gets here 'by accident'. You wanted to see me and talk to me about something. Come inside. Coffee? Or tea?" The woman grabbed Alice by the shoulders and steered her inside. Alice took one last look at her car, wondering if the windows would still be there when she left the witch's house.
"Coffee," she said, not wanting to find out what strange herbs were used in that woman's tea. Maybe her perfume was made of dope, too, since Alice couldn't understand why she didn't just mace the woman and make a run for it. When the witch had turned her back on her, Alice took a look at the card with the address. It said the old woman's name was Renata.
"Come, we'll talk in the kitchen."
'The kitchen' was actually a dirty concrete room with a rusted sink and an old-fashioned gas stove. The only clean thing was a large pot in the stove. A strong coffee smell drifted out from the pot, and Renata rushed over to stir it with a wooden spoon.
"You made the right choice, I was just making some café de olla. You're going to love it. Just excuse the mess," she said. "We used to have a table, but it broke, and we don't have money to buy a new one." Alice winced, she didn't like the mention of money at all; it could only mean she was about to lose more than a couple of bills. "So tell me, what is the problem that brings you here? Who steered you in my direction?"
"A nurse... at the hospital. She told me you helped her brother three years ago. She works at... a private hospital." She gave the nurse a vague reference to the location, worried that she might've given too much information already.
"Huh, I think I know who you're talking about. His house had been possessed by demons." The wandering eyes made it hard to tell, but Renata seemed to be talking to herself.
"You don't really believe in demons, do you?"
"Oh, but you do. That's why you're here, isn't it?" Alice began to feel nervous. She looked around herself, a part of her half expecting another window to shatter.
"I'm here because I've nowhere else to turn. My mother's been losing tissue... there's a huge hole forming on her leg and I don't know what's causing it... the doctors are baffled, too. And I've been having hallucinations. I dreamt some kind of creature was creeping under my mother's covers, eating away at her flesh. Maybe it's symbolic? Do you know how to interpret dreams?"
"And the creature was faster than sight?" Alice blushed and looked at the ground. The woman hadn't bought the "dream".
"Yes! It moved so fast I didn't even get a glimpse."
"And, even though the muscle is disappearing from your mother's leg, the skin is still intact, right? The damage has maybe reached the bone, but not the skin?" Alice's heart went berserk, pumping, smashing against her ribcage with every word uttered by the witch.
"It's the tzitzimimes, my dear. The tzitzimimes have taken hold of your mother." Alice stared, trying to form a mental image of the word. She didn't know whether to laugh in relief or in mockery, or to cry from happiness or frustration.