La Dilema de El Duende
A horror story based on Hispanic folklore
Some horrors you can't unsee. That's a phrase I heard when I was just a boy. I didn't know what they meant… until one day there was a horror I had to unsee. For the sake of my village. For the sake of my family.
I lived in a small town in Mexico. Delicias, Chihuahua, Chihuahua. It wasn’t home to much but peace and harmony. A community of people dedicated to making sure everyone was safe and happy. We looked out for one another because what else was there? That's not to say bad things never happened. That's to say when they did happen, we took care of each other.
My family was little but it was perfect. I was 24 and my wife was 22. We only had one son but we were hopeful for a daughter. I was so grateful that I had a son first. “When we have our daughter he can protect her now,” I’d always say.
I cried. I must’ve cried for I don’t know… 45 minutes straight? Margarita Lupe Del Torro. Born January 5, 2028. What a special day for my little family. I knew she'd change the family. I just wasn't aware how.
It was last year. Margarita had turned 3. Shel wasn't great at walking by any means, but she was getting the hang of it. Chito was going to school and getting in trouble now. Taking too many pages out of his old man's book I guess. One day Margarita was taking a nap and I was home working in the backyard. I heard a noise that kind of sounded like crying but I paid no mind. The neighbors had babies that cried all the time. Margarita was usually quiet. I heard it again and recognized it to be my little girl and I went running. She was sitting on the ground, her little toe was bleeding. ¿Que te paso mija?(What happened sweetheart?) She just kept crying. Her Spanish wasn't so good yet so I suppose it didn't really matter. I couldn’t really come up with a way for her to have cut her toe. “Kids get hurt in wacky ways all the time. She probably found one on the way out of her crib.” I thought to myself. I cleaned her up and took her to the park where her favorite paletero likes to set up shop.
A few days later I was cleaning up after Margarita while she played with the neighbor boy. She loved to make messes and then go play with her friends but it was my day off and my beautiful wife was selling elotes to make some extra bucks so I didn’t mind cleaning. I found a little hat. Like what a garden gnome would wear but more of a pink color. Same shape and everything. Maybe even it was just the faded red. I tried to find the toy that it went to but it didn’t seem like it fit any of her toys. Too big for her small toys and almost too… wide for her stuffed animals. I figured she had taken the toy with her to little Juanito’s house. On top of that I kept hearing this weird… grunting noise. Quiet at first and continuously unintelligible. I would hear it on either end of the room but I usually heard it as I was going into Margarita’s room or leaving her room. I now wish I had paid more attention to it. We could’ve gotten an exterminator.
A few days passed and I continued to think nothing of the oddities. Margarita continued to hurt her toe inexplicably. I couldn’t figure out what to do or how it was happening even so I thought I’d talk to my mom about it. She was one of those classic Mexican Voodoo ladies. As soon as I told her about the bleeding toes she asked me about the grunting.
“Hijito, have you been hearing noises in the walls? Like especially close to her room?”
“Si, how’d you know?”
“You have to leave that house. You’re in real trouble,”
I laughed. I couldn’t imagine what superstition my mom was about to pull. Ghosts? Chupacabra? Some sort of evil wall spider?
“Mama, sin falta de respeto… what could it even be?”
“Un duende. You have a forest gnome in your house,”
I thought back to the faded red hat I found in Margarita’s room.
“Why would that make her toes bleed? And why are they in the walls?”
“They live there, hijito. They feed on kids toe nails because they don’t clip them. Every once in a while they bite too much and cut the toe or take it for breakfast. And that’s not the worst of it. Soon they start doing mischievous, little things. They take a toy or they rip your clothes. Eventually they progress. They decide the house is theirs and they can do as they please. Hijito, they’ll take Margarita and cook her in the woods for a feast for their friends. You have to leave that house.”
“Perdon ma. I meant to say holy cow. How do we get rid of them?”
“You don’t mijo. Those stubborn little guys. Once they decide something is theirs they hang around until they get what they want. Either you leave or they make a feast.”
I wasn’t going to sit around and wait. I went back home. As soon as I walked in I heard this awful screeching. I thought of Margarita and panicked. I ran into her room and a creature about 4 feet in length with what appeared to be little mushrooms growing on its lanky limbs had fallen to misfortune. It had one of Margarita’s book shelves fall on it, trapping it in place. What luck! My problem had solved itself. “All I have to do is trap it and release it,” I thought to myself. The words my mom had said echoed in my head.
“Once they decide something is theirs they hang around until they get what they want.”
I walked up to the creature and crouched in front of it. In my head there were two options and murder wasn’t in my nature
“Can you understand me?”
The creature continued to squirm however the screeching had stopped.
The creature's ears perked up.
“You seem to have caught yourself up in a bit of a mess. Maybe I can help,”
The screech had turned into a frantic grunt and a sort of nodding motion.
“I know it’s been you who has been biting at my daughters toes. I need that to stop. I know you consider this your home. It’s not. It’s ours. That’s the way it’s going to stay.”
The creature growled and began to drool and claw in a frantic manner as if to try and harm me. As silly as it looked I took it very seriously and responded in a serious tone.
“Easy there little duende. I know how your kind are. I’m not going to make you leave. That wouldn’t be sensitive to who… what you are. I have a different solution that suits us both.”
What came of my mouth next even I didn’t believe.
“Stop eating my child’s toes. We will feed you. You’re going to become our housekeeper and a guardian for our house. You will make sure my family is safe when they are home and that we always come home to a clean house.”
Once again the creature’s ears perked up.
“We will address you as Duende. We will make sure you have clothes, food, and shelter.”
The duende seemed to agree. It stuck its hand out as if to strike the deal.
“One more thing… I know your people are treacherous. If I even suspect that you’re up to no good, that you have a foul intention, or that you are conspiring, I won't hesitate to introduce you to your maker. In fact. I will take GREAT pleasure in doing so. Are we clear?” It was a bluff.
The duende hesitated and after a few seconds of deliberation stuck its hand out again to strike the deal.
Duende lives with us to this day. Margarita now is bilingual and fluent. Although Duende has never even raised its grunts to us.. we live in fear of the day it does. Duende might be the servant… but we’re the prisoners.
About the Creator
Howdy! I’ve been writing for about 9 years now. Everything from plays to graphic novels to short stories to haiku’s about hating retail. Thanks for the support! Feel free to follow me on social media. Enjoy
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
This was a funny one! Thanks for sharing. 🤣