Z. Cazares, You’re So Abstract. Digital media, 2023


By Galaxy Rodriguez


        Far on the outskirts of the city is a path called El camino de Calaveras, or to those of English dialects, The Road to Skulls. 

        It’s rare for people to visit, as it’s whispered a vicious Queen lives out there. While the time of monarchs is nearly put to rest, she still sits high in her castle surrounded by her army of shadow creatures. Some say she’s an evil spirit like the old legend La Llorona, while others whisper that she’s a witch that had lived for hundreds of years.

        But one thing is certain: the lady of the castle is very real. It’s rumored that soft laughs once echoed from the castle walls, but one can only assume  it was a trick to lure unsuspecting victims to her crypt.

        Queens were also notorious for the priceless objects littered around their houses. So, being an orphan, out of scores in town, young Stella got the bright idea to sneak into the old woman’s castle. She wouldn’t take much, just the things that would go unnoticed. While the journey on her vespa was windless, a little voice in her mind murmured to turn back. Stella chalked it up to nerves.

        This was meant to be an easy job; if all those stories were true, then this ‘Queen’ had to be quite old. Like all abuelas in the town, she’d probably be asleep or too deaf to hear anything. With that thought in mind, Stella parked her vespa in a covered area of the forest surrounding the castle. 

        Her eyes trailed up the walls of the castle. The ivy that wove through the stone and the railings gave the place a rustic feel. The endless windows showed only darkness.

        Stella walked by each of them, and finally came across one that was left ajar. The smell of warm steak and butter enveloped her as she leaned up against the frame. Her mouth watered and her shoulders fell as she let her nose carry her further, over the windowsill. 

        She landed with a soundless thud. The spotless white floor reflected the silver ovens and pearly stoves. Pans hung from their compartments and aprons with “Kiss the T.B.”  written on them hung from the swinging door. It appeared that whatever had been cooked had been taken to whichever lucky soul had ordered it. 

        Stella took the opportunity to pick at the scraps of the mouthwatering meal. A finger scoop of mashed potatoes and bits of fat from the steak made Stella hum along as her stomach sang a pitiful song. She rested her hand over her protruding ribcage and frowned. This job could not go wrong. Stella clutched her sash and pushed past the door to leave the kitchen.

        Her steps were quiet as she tiptoed her way through the castle, grabbing anything shiny–until she stumbled upon a study big enough to hold a ball in. Moonlight spilled in through the curtains and glossed over the hardwood floors and stone walls. At the far end of the room, the light also illuminated the painting of a seated young girl, a hand resting on her shoulder. The light shone only enough to see the girl, presumably the former princess. 

        Unable to fight her curiosity, Stella decided to take a further peek inside. Her bag of jewels and antiques was cast aside while she inspected the furniture and dolls scattered around. She’d never seen anything so beautiful. Boxes adorned by jewels and plush teddy bears with button eyes. It seemed she just couldn’t pull herself away from the toys she’d always longed for herself. 

        It wasn’t until the hairs began to stand on her neck that she slowly looked up. Her eyes met the ceiling above. A singular eye mounted on the roof darted around, stopping on her trembling figure. She looked to the rest of the room: the paintings on the walls bega,n to whisper amongst themselves. From her peripheral, a teddy-bear lolled its head to look directly at her shaking body. 

        “She’s coming!” declared a taxidermied deer head. The rest of the inanimate objects cackled. Stella paled at their unholy sonnet and her stomach dropped to her feet. She turned to head for the door, but she stopped in her tracks. The clicking of heels echoed in the distance. The dolls’ laughs reverberated off the walls, making her vision blur and her head throb. 

        The doors were pushed open with a loud creak. Two life sized teddy bears entered. Behind them, the click of heels echoed through the hall. Stella dove for the curtains. 

        With shoulders tense and legs trembling, Stella snuck a glance from behind her hiding place. Red eyes cut through the darkness as a woman clad in a tight, silk black dress made her way into the study. 

        The Queen glanced at her amalgamations before pressing forward towardsthe painting and the altar underneath it. With a wave of her veiny hand, the curtain shut fully, obscuring any moonlight. The Queen stepped forward to the altar and leaned over the table. 

        Her hand was unwavering as she lit the candles on the altar, illuminating the picture of the little girl. She looked much like the Queen with her raven black hair and chocolate-colored skin. A quiet hum echoed in the hall as the Queen sat down offerings: a hairbrush made of rose quartz, a ring of pan muerto, various little chocolates, and a purple bear. 

        As Stella peeked through the curtains, a force tugged her forward. She fell onto the wood floors, her knees and palms hitting the ground with a loud thud as they skid across the surface. The burning from the cuts stung like a million little firebites. Behind her, the curtains crashed to the floor. The queen’s head snapped back with an audible pop. Her eyes shone gold in the darkness and talons grew from her nails as she turned to face Stella. 

        The Queen was met with teary eyes and a timid trembling figure. While this little girl should have taken priority, the Queen only looked past her. For there stood her daughter, in a foggy mist, with that familiar smile and messy hair. Her dress wrinkled where her arms rested tucked behind her back, and she rocked on her heels. The queen’s eyes moved back to the little girl on the floor. 

        She stepped forward and knelt in front of the child. “Who are you?” Her voice was cold, and had a certain rasp that made Stella swallow hard. 

        Stella scooted back till her back hit the wall. In a panic, her eyes shot around the room for an escape, but upon seeing none, she looked back to the queen, 

        “Mi nombre es Stella, your Majesty.” 

        The queen inspected her, then rose to her full height. Her eyes drifted to the bag filled with golden treasure. She looked at Stella, unimpressed, then snapped her fingers. Stella was yanked onto her feet by one of the teddy bears. As she kicked and thrashed, the teddy bears dragged her away. 

        When Stella was gone, the queen searched the room for her daughter once more, only to see her standing by the window. Its light passed through her and made her radiant skin truly luminescent. The woman’s heart ached as she watched the girl wave, then fade into the night.  


        In the weeks to come, Stella was locked away in the palace. The more time she spent with the Queen, the more her memory became warped and distorted. Anytime they had meals together the queen would insist on Stella calling her Mother. When she didn’t, she’d lash out, then console her with gifts and loving words. When she behaved, she’d give even more love and care. After meals, Stella was to go to the ofrenda and pay respect to the former princess. The queen would tell Stella to refer to her as her sister. 

         The painting in her room would chat late into the night, and the bed complained about how she slept more on the right side than the left. In the morning, the wardrobe would holler for her to get up, so they could tailor the former princess’ clothes to fit. 

        At breakfast, the bears would gather at her legs and poke her with the sewing pins nestled into their heads till the clock told them to tick off. The last to arrive at the table was always the queen. She had to bend down to fit through the arch. Her long talons would leave scratches where she held the wall. 

        Once inside she’d take her seat at the head of the table. The fluffy teddy-bears would bring her chunks of meat that were cooked far too rare. At first Stella found the blood that stained the plate foul, but the more she saw it the more normal it seemed. The queen would pick up the chunk of meat between her talons and crane her neck back so her hair would fall a bit from her face. 

        This day, like every day, Stella’s eyes never left the Queen’s face as her jaw began to snap out of place. Like always, Stella could not stop herself from giggling. (The Queen looked at her) Stella motioned to her mouth: the Queen’s was covered in blood. When the Queen failed to understand, Stella got up from her seat and walked to her. As she grabbed the napkin to clean her face off, the queen grabbed her wrist. But, Stella only smiled, and waited till she let her go. 

        Stella and the Queen’s routine continued on and on. With time, the queen grew less harsh. Her daughter’s spirit calmed her soul before, but now as she stood outside her gloomy castle and watched this little girl chase around her golems she felt a sense of peace. As the knowledge settled in, she felt a hand slip from hers: her daughter’s final goodbye. The warm feeling turned cold as her child’s soul was taken with the wind. Her muñeca was truly gone. 

        As tears burned her cheeks she felt a hand tugging at her dress. She looked down to Stella with a frown. 

        “Que paso, Mamá?” Stella asked with a furrowed brow. Half her face looked like a skeleton with designs like a calavera. Her hand had the same bit of transparency. The queen knew the longer Stella stayed here the less human she’d become, but she no longer cared. 

        She picked the little girl up with ease and held her. “Es nada, let’s go back inside.” 

        Stella only giggled and held on as she was carried back into the castle. “Yo garo flores para Mamá.” 

        A parade of amalgamations and shadows followed them. “Que guapo…” the queen said with a look of pity. The last shadow entered and dust was blown up as the door shut.