The Lady in White
Tomás was ten when he discovered his ability to see the future. It could be several days, hours, minutes into the future, though minutes were typical. He was at the park watching a ladybug crawl across the grass, when a searing pain flashed through his mind.
Tomás saw himself rubbing his temples and watching the ladybug crawl across a leaf... right into the claws of a praying mantis.
Snapping out of it as the ladybug went into the next life, he rubbed his temples and wondered whether that would really happen. Looking ahead of the ladybug, he saw the praying mantis lying in wait. Slowly, he turned the leaf away and the ladybug moved on, perfectly fine.
Tomás looked up satisfied; he just saved the life of an innocent ladybug. Then, his wandering eyes caught those of someone else across the park. They were cold and black; cruel as can be; they belonged to someone who just didn’t match, yet at the same time, did perfectly.
She was a tall, beautiful lady, long black hair, and a billowing white dress. Tear stains streaked her face, yet she made no effort to wipe them away. There seemed to be a breath of wind coming from her, almost like a trail into the sky, barely visible.
Then, a man walked in front of her, and once he passed, she, and the path to the sky, disappeared.
Tomás came home that night to find his hamster, Chupacabra, had died. Tomás’s mind flashed to the lady in white, but he immediately brushed it off.
That was a mistake.
Two years later, now 12, Tomás had learned to control his power, using it to figure out if he was going to embarrass himself when his friends told him to do something, or if the teacher was going to call on him in class.
One afternoon, Tomás was standing at the crosswalk on his way home from school with his best friend, Jordan, when pain flashed through his mind. Used to it by now, he only flinched a bit. Having mostly gained control of this power, it was less of a command to listen, and more of a phone call he could either accept or decline. Curious as to who was calling, he answered it.
Tomás and Jordan were standing at the crosswalk, when a woman with a baby in a stroller walked up to the curb. She was on the phone and released the stroller to turn away and talk into it. Tomás and Jordan were engaged in conversation, they didn’t notice the stroller beginning to roll down into the street. A large red car honked loudly and tried to stop. The mother turned in surprise, dropping her phone and rushing forward, but it was too late.
Coming out of it, Tomás was surprised to find tears in his eyes. Jordan looked at him, confused, and asked, “You okay mate?” Jordan was from England, and usually he would find Jordan’s use of ‘mate’ oddly funny, but Tomás just shook his head, blinking hard.
“I’m fine…” he started, but trailed off as the mother with the stroller arrived. Almost immediately after she had turned away, Tomás was ready to grab the stroller. Watching it carefully, the stroller inched forward, and he grabbed it quickly, watching as the red car drove past. Letting out a sigh of relief, and ignoring Jordan’s strange looks, the mother turned around and Tomás handed the stroller back to her.
She smiled at him gratefully, he smiled back, but it faded fast when he looked past her and found cold black eyes staring into his. Tomás had enough time to realize that he’d seen her before, when the lady in white disappeared behind a group of girls.
“Hey,” Tomás said, hitting Jordan’s arm and pointing at where the lady in white had been, “did you- did you see that?”
“See what?" Jordan looked at him, confused, "You doin’ okay mate? You’ve been actin’ a bit strange.” Jordan looked genuinely concerned, but Tomás knew he wouldn’t ask unless the information was volunteered.
That’s one of the things Tomás loved about Jordan. He wouldn't push, and he didn’t care what people thought. He could be the king of the school, not only from looks, but from the whole English accent, and famous actors for parents. He didn't care what people thought about him hanging out with the weird latinx kid. Jordan was a good guy, he deserved to have people praise him, not judge him.
Tomás glanced at where the lady had been, then back at Jordan and said, “Nah, I’m fine. Let’s grab some ice cream.” He turned away before Jordan could see his reaction.
When Tomás came home that afternoon, he found his mother sitting on the couch holding her phone in her hand, tears running down her face.
“Mom? ¿Qué pasa?”
“¡Está muerta!” she cried, the blank look switching to one of pure misery, beginning to sob furiously. “¡Mi madre está muerta!”
Tomás felt numb. His abuela had always been there for him, she loved her family with the biggest heart. He sunk to the floor, and began to shed silent tears. He later found out that she had died in a car crash. He then felt angry. His abuela was a great person who loved her family, and she deserved a peaceful death, surrounded by her family. Not a death by blunt-force trauma thanks to some drunk driver.
But life wasn’t fair. And Tomás had learned that the hard way.
The next time Tomás got an incoming call, it was the last day of sixth grade, and his seventh period class was having a party. One of the students had brought in cake, and he was cutting it up and putting it on plates. Tomás knew that he probably should answer, but he was having so much fun that he declined.
Everyone was eating the carrot cake, and Russel, who had brought the cake, was handing it to the teacher.
Suddenly, Mr. Blackwell started turning purple. Shocked yells filled the classroom, and Amalia, one of the smartest kids in class, took the lead and sent Jordan to the office to get the school nurse.
Mrs. Goldstein was an old woman who moved pretty slow most of the time, but she got there quick. She took one look at the situation and stole a piece of the cake off the table, examining it, before heading over to the teachers desk and dialing 911.
After she told the emergency responders what was happening, she ran out of the room. When she came back, she had a shot that Tomás later identified as an epi-pen. She shot it into Mr. Blackwell’s leg, but it didn’t seem to do anything.
20 minutes had passed by the time the ambulance got there, and the emergency responders didn’t look too optimistic. Apparently Mr. Blackwell had a severe nut allergy, and they were just too late.
That summer was a little less fun after his funeral.
After the funeral, Tomás’s mind flashed back to the incoming calls. He wondered if he had answered the call, he would’ve seen what happened, and could’ve saved Mr. Blackwell. Even though he didn’t know if this was true, he was thrown into guilt, and decided never to ignore the calls again.
He was walking down the beach early one morning in July, when he was called again. Tomás didn’t hesitate to answer.
There was a girl about his age in a wetsuit wading into the water. She was carrying a large teal surfboard, and was very pretty. There was a boy further in, surfing a large wave, but Tomás didn’t pay much attention to him. Suddenly, the girl gasped and dropped her surfboard. He saw several images further in the future, going from examining a jellyfish sting, to arriving at the hospital. The girl looked sickly pale as the doctor examined the sting, and somehow got even paler when she told her that it was poisonous, and that they couldn’t save her.
Returning to reality, he saw the same girl walking down the beach. Not wanting to waste another minute, he quickly walked up to her.
“Hey!” He called out, and she turned toward him in surprise.
“Um, hi?” She looked him up and down, making his face burn a bit. “Do I know you?” Tomás paled. He hadn’t thought this far ahead, and she was very pretty, kind of making his mind go blank.
“I… um…” think Tomás, think! “just wanted to say you have a really nice board?” It came out more as a question, but she didn’t really seem to care.
“Thanks! I’m Lilly.” She said, holding out her hand.
“Tomás.” He shook it, but before he could say anything else, such as “What school do you go to?” or “Are you single?”, they heard a yelp of pain from the water.
The boy looked about 14. He waded out of the water, examining his leg, and said, “Lilly, I know Uncle Mark told us jellyfish stings hurt, but I did not expect it to hurt that much.” he tried to smile, but it seemed more like a grimace.
“Do you think we need to get it checked out?” Lilly asked.
“Nah, I’m fine it’s just a-”
“It’s poisonous.” They both turned to him, surprised. “I-I mean the jellyfish sting.” Tomás stumbled, “It’s poisonous.”
Lilly and the boy looked at him, then each other, then the boy’s leg. “Darrell, if he’s right…” Lilly trailed off.
The boy stared at his leg, then met Tomás’s eyes. “How do you know?”
“I… um… my friend’s cousin is a marine biologist, and, um… he says that there may be some around this time of year.”
The next few hours were a blur, rushing to the hospital, and the doctor saying Darrell had got there just in time. Tomás had been invited because he was there at the time, and, thanks to his ‘friend’s cousin’, he knew what jellyfish had stung Darrell.
Lilly and Tomás got to know each other pretty well after that, and he found out that her family had just moved there and they were going to the same school. After agreeing to hang out again sometime, under better circumstances of course, Tomás went home feeling pretty great.
But right before he turned onto his street, he walked past a group of people waiting at a bus stop, and turned around fast when he saw a lady in a white dress standing among them. When Tomás identified the cruel, black eyes, and the long, dark hair, everything clicked.
Tomás raced into the house to find his mother and father peacefully making dinner.
“Tomás?” His father asked, setting down a spatula, “Are you okay?”
“I-I’m fine, it’s just… nevermind.” Tomás considered telling them everything, but he wasn’t completely sure he was right.
Tomás sat down on the couch, thinking. When he was little his parents told him the story of La Llorona, a lady with long black hair in a white dress, who walked the path of the dead. Only people with paranormal abilities could see her, and she would lead the dead onwards. Did he have paranormal abilities? Every time he saw her he had just saved someone’s life, and then, he found that someone else was dead. She took them. How could he not have realized sooner? Maybe he just didn’t want to believe it. But who was she going to take this time?
Then, the phone rang. It was a deafening noise, and Tomás felt like the whole world could hear how fast his heart was beating. His mother picked up the phone and looked at the number.
“It’s the army…” she said slowly, answering the call and walking into the next room.
No. Tomás knew he had only thought the word, but he felt like he screamed it. His older brother Miguel was in the army. And when he heard the wail of misery from his mother, he knew. La Llorona had taken his brother.
Tomás walked through his memories, remembering the ladybug for his hamster, then the baby for his abuela, Lilly’s brother for his… he caused this by trying to play hero, didn’t he? Then he remembered Mr. Blackwell. Tomás ignored that call, and Mr. Blackwell had died. He didn’t see La Llorona that day. I will just let fate be fate then. He decided, and had refused to take any calls after that day, not wanting to be the one who traded one life for another.
After the jellyfish incident, Jordan and Lilly had become his closest friends, though Lilly became a bit more than that pretty fast. Darrell had also become a good friend of theirs, and since he was leaving for college soon, he decided to take Lilly, Tomás and Jordan out to the movies. Lilly and Darrell had gone into a store to try and find a birthday present for their mother, and Jordan and Tomás were in the alley next to it, joking around, when a guy came up, blocking the exit.
“Empty your pockets,” he told them. He had dark hair and a cruel scowl, with eyes like shards of ice.
“Why should we?” Jordan asked. As much as Tomás cared for him, the guy could be so impulsive sometimes.
The man’s smile was worse than his scowl, and he pulled out a gun aiming it at Jordan’s head. “Because I said so.”
Then, for the first time since he was ten, Tomás was commanded to listen.
The sharp pain shot through him like a bullet, and he was forced to watch as Jordan looked at Tomás and said they should leave, the guy wasn’t going to shoot them. The man growled slowly and aimed his gun.
“Say that one more time.”
“You won’t shoot us,” Jordan said, despite Tomás’s pleading. “No decent man would shoot a kid.”
Tomás shook his head. That couldn’t-wouldn’t happen. He grabbed Jordan’s arm and said, “Jordan, let’s just give him what we have.”
Jordan, ever so stubborn, shook him off and said, “Nah, we should just leave, he's not going to shoot us.”
The man growled, just like in the vision, and said, “I’d rethink that if I were you.”
Jordan put his hands on his hips, and Tomás was almost tempted to laugh. “Why should we? Like I said, you’re not going to shoot us.”
Tomás saw the man’s arm tense and yelled, “NO!” as he lunged for Jordan and threw them both across the alley, the bullet missing by inches.
“I didn’t think he’d actually do it…” Jordan whispered, shaking slightly.
"Why you-" the man started, then they heard car doors slamming.
“L.A.P.D.!” A voice yelled. “Drop your weapon!” There were three policemen with guns pointing at the man. Lilly and Darrell were standing nearby; they must’ve seen what was happening and called the police.
The man slowly turned around holding his hands up, “Okay, okay…” But he was smiling… why was he smiling? “I’ll drop it.”
Then, across the street, Tomás saw a familiar white dress and those black eyes. “No…” he whispered, and the man dropped the gun.
It hit the ground and fired, just as Tomás yelled, “NO!” He rushed forward as the bullet hit its mark, and La Llorona disappeared, taking his love with her.
Everything else that happened that night passed in a blur. Jordan and Tomás holding each other, as their best friend made her way to heaven. Later, the speeches at the funeral, and Lilly’s bright green eyes, the color of life, looking so lifeless.
Tomás fell into a state of depression. La Llorona had taken so much from him, and he had helped her. He no longer went to school, just staying home and laying in bed, or watching the news. He hoped that if he never left, he would never have to choose. The strategy worked until one fateful afternoon.
“Breaking News:” said a news anchor, “Petty Officer Miller and her family were out for a walk the day before her deployment, when Robert Delfly drew a knife on her. Neither she nor her husband were armed, but, miraculously, their young son Charlie had a rock in his back pocket, and sent it flying at Delfly’s head. Delfly dropped the knife, enabling Petty Officer Miller to apprehend him. Charlie’s recount of the story also mentions that he’d had a vision of it happening a few days before, which is why he brought the rock. He also stated that there was a lady in white at the scene, who disappeared...”
Tomás slowly stood up, walking slowly to his room, grabbing some paper and a pencil on the way. He had figured when it was time, it wouldn’t be so easy. Of course, he had lost so many people. His abuela, who had helped him through everything, his brother, who had been his lifelong inspiration, and his girlfriend, with whom he had never been happier. He didn’t want this kid to live a life of loss. If both of them had the power to trade a life for another, could he make it a double trade? The kid’s father for someone else? He had to try.
When he got to the door of his room, there was a lady with long, black hair, eyes dark as midnight, and a billowing white dress. Tomás stopped to look her in the eye, and she nodded, ever so slightly. Surprisingly, that nod gave him the confidence to carry on.
So here he is, or, should I say, here I am, writing this all down so that the world will either think I’m crazy, or understand my story. La Llorona is standing next to me as I write, holding out her hand patiently. Once I am done, I will take it, and she will carry me on.
Thank you for reading,