lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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This story was prompted by Wolfgang, who suggested the premise, and it was sponsored by [ profile] chaoticevil.  I apologize for the delay; I was spending Valentine's Day with my husband and took the day off.  Happy Shadowthon, folks!

This story takes place in the Reverend Alpert universe, but it doesn't involve any of the major characters.  However, a much-younger Prudencia and Lechuza were the subject of an earlier story, La Curandera.  If you'd like to get to know them better, feel free to read that story, but you don't have to.

The Cursed City

The boundary of the city was marked with rope and stakes, mounted with every hazard symbol known to man.  Someone had put up a sign: Peligro!  No entre!  The dumpy woman and the enormous stuffed owl next to her ignored it.

Technically, this was the responsibility of priests, but they’d long since abandoned the cities.  If lucky enough to avoid the ever-present plague zombies, they succumbed to madness and rot that devoured a person from the inside out.  Only a few wandering Gestaltists were crazy enough to risk it, and none had come through in years.

Doña Prudencia was not a Gestaltist or a priest.  She was a curandera, a healer of physical and spiritual ailments.  But when the priests failed, others stepped up, and she had experience with devoured cities.

The sun shimmered above a molten horizon, casting long, dark shadows behind her and the owl.  Beyond the ropes, the scorched pillars of concrete stood out like bones.  There was no sign of movement.

“No plague zombies today, eh Lechuza?” She said to the owl.

Hf,” Lechuza replied, and fluffed itself.  It had been with her since childhood and was getting too old for these journeys, but it made good company, and good protection.

Just outside the boundary, Prudencia found a patch of grass and pulled a blanket out of her bag, then lay it down and began pulling out candles and flowers to go on top of it.

“Go find my patients,” she told Lechuza as she lit the candles. “I’ll be here.”

Lechuza wheezed assent and laboriously pumped itself into the air, causing such a downdraft that she had to shield her candles with the sleeve of her poncho.  Lechuza really wasn’t designed for long flights, but it had a sharp eye and it was immune to madness and city rot.

Prudencia watched Lechuza long enough to make sure it was maintaining altitude, then sat in front of her makeshift altar.  She closed her eyes and began to pray.

She only rose from her trance when Lechuza landed with a loud whump.

She opened one eye.

Foof,” Lechuza told her.

“Good.  I was just finishing anyway.” She finished her prayer and got up, leaving the candles burning.  There was no one to disturb them here and she needed all the beneficence she could get.  Then she shouldered her bag and followed Lechuza into the city.

The first group clung to the skeletal remains of an old staircase, dark shadows that stood out against the bleached white stone.  One was apparently sitting on the steps; the other was standing, seemingly in mid-stride, a good twenty feet away.  She could feel them vibrating.

Prudencia clutched her crucifix in one hand and took a grip on Lechuza’s wing.

“You know the drill,” she said. “Rouse me if I’m gone too long.”

Then she slipped under.

I am bringing flowers to Lupita, it is her birthday and I am late and I can’t let her think I forgot I didn’t I have bought her carnations they’re her favorite—”

“Burning I am burning this can’t be it’s my birthday—

Doña Prudencia was not a priest.  She could not draw a diagram or chant some words and exorcise, banish, or bind.  But she could listen.

But I did remember she must know that I remembered always I remember—”


She sat, and she listened, until the words beat at her from all sides, a flood of words and pain, but she did not resist or try to silence them.  This was the part the priests always forgot, the listening.  They were used to malevolent ghosts with nothing good to say.  But these shadows were not ghosts, just echoes, last impressions blasted and scorched into the cement.  And when they finally tired of speaking, they waited to see what she would say.

To the man with the carnations, she swore, “I will tell her.  She will know,” and then she sat and prayed with him until he grew quiet and still and went to rejoin the rest of himself.

To the woman who burned, she told her about the flowers coming to her and then added, “I am la curandera.  I will soothe your burns.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a jar of ointment, which she began to rub into the air as though the woman sat in front of her, praying all the while.  And the woman cooled and calmed and went to rejoin the rest of her spirit.

Prudencia came back to herself and saw Lechuza looking at her with concern in its one glass eye.  Her legs and shoulders ached.

“Not so bad,” she said, stretching. “More.”

And Lechuza took her to the next group of shadows.  Doña Prudencia listened, and dispensed her cures, and they moved on again.

After the fifth one, though, Lechuza became recalcitrant.  It refused to take her any further, only glowered at her balefully and jerked its mangy head at the horizon.  The sun was low, and the sky was starting to turn orange.

“All right, all right,” she said, and let it lead her back to her altar.  No one could quiet a city in a day.  Weak as the echoes were, there were just too many of them.  Prudencia had been working through this city for the past four years, and still she could feel the weight of them, the cursed and the forgotten and the suffering.  Had she blundered into the city unprepared, she would’ve succumbed to madness from the constant agonized babbleroar.

At her altar outside the city, where it was quiet and still, she set a charcoal briquette to burning and burnt some copal, fanning the smoke over her skin.  She breathed in the soothing, cleansing scent and let it work through her.

After the last of it had burned away and her mind was clear, she looked up and smiled at Lechuza.  Weary as she was, she felt much lighter.

“Come,” she said. “Let’s go home.  We’ll come back tomorrow.”

She blew out her candles and packed up her things, and they left.  The sun was setting, and even Doña Prudencia wasn’t foolish enough to be near the city at night.


Date: 2014-02-16 02:16 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you!!! I appreciate this so much. And I love Prudencia!


Date: 2014-02-16 07:18 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Sra Prudencia es una mujer muy buena.

Date: 2014-02-17 01:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She is indeed a total badass, in a totally different flavor than Alpert. He probably could've blasted a good dozen or two of those shadows, and in less time, but he can't do SHIT about empacto.


Date: 2014-02-17 12:27 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wow, I loved this! I like the healer concept, and the writing was fantastic.


Date: 2014-02-17 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Curandera/os are a real thing! They exist today around the country, though they don't actually lay the dead to rest, that's very much a Prudencia/Alpert universe thing. You can learn more about actual curandera/os here (
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