Finally catching up with the two brothers after having struggled with the stubbornness of the donkey seemed to take up most of my energy left from the day. The journey had been long and boring. I still felt the heat from the sun lingering on my scalp, my dark hair had been heating up the entire time the sun’s rays had been beating down onto our heads. The skin around my cheekbones still felt warm, surely if I looked into a mirror I would find the red splotches that would appear on my face after spending the entire day out in the open without any protection. My dad would take one look at my face, laugh and call me chapeado. The teasing would cause my face to heat up even more, giving the nickname more accuracy. I hated it. But the closer I got to the small pueblito we would have to use as shelter and the strange feeling started to burn more intensely in the pit of my stomach, I found myself longing to have my father next to me offering his dad jokes and teasing as a distraction.
Finally making it back to the brothers, the excitement that had once illuminated their features had now turned to worry.
“What is it?” I asked, “Is something wrong?”
“Nothing.” Antonio answered a little too quickly. “It’s just a little darker than we thought it would be.”
Indeed. The small pueblo had seemed to dim the closer we had gotten to it. The houses were far apart enough that the lights coming from each one did not lighten the paths enough for us to see the entire town, not even a couple of houses away.
“Well, we need to keep moving so that we can find a place to stay for the night. Hopefully we can find a place soon or we will have walked all night.”
We walked farther into the town, staying close to the houses. Some of the lights coming from the inside would extinguish as soon as we walked closer to the building. Francisco would toss them dirty looks as we would pass and tug his brother closer to himself. The latter seemed to have lost the eagerness of finding a place to sleep and now looked like he was reconsidering convincing us to get closer to this eerie place.
“Maybe it’s best that we spend the night just on the outskirts of the place.”
“Are you sure? We can still-”
I was cut off as we all jumped at the sound of yells and breaking glass. A cantina had seemingly appeared out of nowhere and now had a mass of drunken men stumbling out into the streets. Yelling and throwing bottles onto the floor, the glass shards flying and making us all jump back as if we were to be hit, even our donkey moving backwards slightly at the noise.
As the sounds slowly started to increase in volume and more and more lights started to go out. The people of this town seemed to have the right idea. The only problem was that they were safe inside and we were not.
“We need to go now.” I said as I grabbed the reins tightly, my other hand grabbing at Francisco. “Now.”
I had never had an experience like this before but I had heard enough tales from my father and older travelers before. This was not a safe place and we needed to get to safety. Those men in the bar would only see the food and possible money we carried, they would not see the youth. They would not care.
“Start moving backwards slowly. We need to get back to the path and find somewhere else. I’m sorry,” I whispered.
The brothers seemed a little too eager to comply. They nodded. Antonio’s face fell at the idea of not finding the warm bed he wished for but I could see he could also feel the tension and fear that had overcome our little group. He tensed his jaw and nodded. He understood.
We started to move backwards. The loud sounds of fighting seemed to drown out everything else and no one had noticed us. I knew that we needed to get to safety, it didn’t matter that we would spend the night outside, it would be better to stay alive than stay warm.
I did my best to steer clear of the middle of the path and walk as fast as I could leading the donkey next to us without making the packages hanging make much ruckus. As soon as we made it a couple of houses away from the cantina I let out a deep breath. But it quickly caught in my throat when I heard the yelling come closer.
“Hey!” The sound of footsteps got louder, stumbling over shards of glass.
I froze and so did Francisco and Antonio as well.