Chickens

Edited by Julia Rios

Translated by Julia Rios

September 2019

Listen to this story, narrated by C. S. E. Cooney:

A long, long time ago, in a little village in the mountains of Puebla, chickens started to disappear. Every morning two or three would be missing, always from different coops, from different houses. People murmured that surely the blame lay with doña Martha, an old woman who lived on the outskirts of town. Nobody knew where she came from or what she lived on, and soon the rumor started to go around that doña Martha was a nahual: that she had made a pact with the coyotes of the mountain and that the coyotes gave her their form and their strength in the night. That in her coyote form, doña Martha went out into the town and stole chickens and that the only reason she hadn’t taken a child was because the mothers didn’t let their children go out at night.

That’s what Abel and Marcelino were talking about outside of the school one day when Fabián approached them. He was the boy who looked after don Fausto’s sheep.

“What nonsense,” Fabián scoffed. “Doña Martha lived here when she was young. She left when she got married and came back when her husband died. She doesn’t ask anybody for anything because he left her enough to take care of herself. You’re the real chickens.”

“We’re not chickens!” Abel and Marcelino complained.

“No? Then I’ll look for you at ten tonight on doña Martha’s patio.” Fabián issued the challenge and left.

Abel and Marcelino didn’t want to go, but they also didn’t want to look like chickens. So it was that later that night, they snuck out of their houses and went to the rendezvous point. When they got there, they began whispering to each other. How did Fabián know all that about doña Martha? And come to think of it, how come Fabián never came into town? Where did he live? And with whom?

“When he gets here, we’ll ask him,” the boys agreed.

At that moment, the door to doña Martha’s house opened and two silhouettes slipped out. If they could have seen them well, Abel and Marcelino would have realized that they wouldn’t be asking Fabián anything. He and doña Martha walked up to them, still in human form, but with glowing eyes and sharp fangs … like coyotes ….

© 2019 Raquel Castro

About the author

Raquel Castro

Raquel Castro (Mexico City, 1976) is a writer, scriptwriter, professor, and cultural promoter. In 2012 she won the Gran Angular Prize for YA Novel and, as part of the production team for the Mexican TV series Diálogos en confianza, she has won the National Journalism Prize twice. She is the author of the novels Ojos llenos de sombra, Lejos de casa, Exiliados, Dark Doll, and Un beso en tu futuro, as well as the co-anthologist of Festín de muertos, a Mexican zombie fiction collection, featuring many of the greatest weird fiction authors from her country. She has a column about children and young adult fiction in Lee+ magazine. Her work has appeared in English in Latin American Literature Today, World Literature Today, Nagari Magazine, Palabras Errantes, and other publications. She can be found online at her YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/AlbertoyRaquelMX and on Twitter as @raxxie_.

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