Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Mexico Harbinger: La Mala Hora

Northern NM night sky.

I first heard a version of this story in Northern New Mexico in the early 1980s. La Mala Hora in Spanish means “the bad hour.” 

When the frightening apparition in this story appears it is always at a fork in the road or crossroad where a lone driver in a car is traveling in an isolated area. 

This apparition is a harbinger of death.

I still can’t drive a deserted road at night without thinking about this story. I guess it is because the image of the harbinger is so scary. The story begins with a phone call.

My friend Isabella called sobbing to tell me that she and her husband were getting a divorce. Devastated for her I called my husband who was on a business trip in Chicago to inform him that I was going to drive to Santa Fe so I could comfort Isabella. My husband agreed and wished me well. 

It was late in the day when I started the drive. Santa Fe is a four-hour drive from where I live, so I estimated I would not reach Isabella’s house until midnight.

Tired, I found myself doing several things in the car, so I would not fall asleep at the wheel. I turned the radio’s volume up and rolled down the window to breathe some fresh air. 

As I drew nearer to the turnoff to Isabella’s house, I rolled the window up feeling a chill. The night was dark, and the rural road I traveled had no streetlights.

I was having trouble seeing the road that stretched ahead, and I slowed down so I wouldn’t miss the turnoff to the dirt road that led to Isabella’s property. 

A coyote howled in the distance, this distracted me for a moment; I almost missed the turn-off. Feeling relieved, this trip was almost over I relaxed. 

As the road split into two I took the left fork, out of nowhere a woman appeared in front of my car, I slammed on my brakes quickly to avoid hitting her.

Seconds later, the woman was gone. I inspected the area around my car, wondering if I had imagined her. 

Then I saw her right beside my window looking in at me. Her eyes glowed red, her short teeth were pointed, I screamed as she leaped at my window her clawed hands striking the glass. 

I jammed my foot down hard on the accelerator, rocks flew as my car sped away, terrified I watched, as she was able to quickly run alongside my car continuing to strike the window, despite my speed. 

She finally fell behind, and in my rearview mirror, I saw her grow taller and taller until she was as large as a tree. Red mist swirled around her, and she pointed at me mouthing words I did not hear. 

I jerked my attention back to my driving afraid what might happen if I ran my car off the road.

In a state of numbed panic, I reached Isabella’s drive and rushed to her entrance, I was still pounding on her door as she opened it. I fell into her arms, crying and shaking. She assisted me over to a chair and gave me water to drink. I somehow was able to tell her what I had seen. 

Shaking her head in concern, she asked, “Were you at the fork when you saw her?” Confused, I nodded yes. Wringing her hands, she told me it must have been La Mala Hora. 

"The bad hour?” I asked. 

Isabella turned to me, “this is bad, very bad when La Mala Hora appears it means one thing—someone is going to die.” 

Not believing in this superstition I laughed. But what I had seen still weighed heavily on my mind. Isabella was so distracted as she helped me bring in my luggage, she did not even mention her divorce.

The next morning I felt much better. But as the day progressed, I could not shake a feeling of dread. Neither one of us mentioned what had happened the night before, but we were both worried about La Mala Hora as I announced I best head home. 

Isabella insisted upon accompanying me home. We left the quickly, neither one of us wanting to pass the fork in the road at night. 

Within twenty minutes of pulling into my drive, a police car pulled up at my house. Isabella and I both knew what this meant. 

The police officer informed me gently that while returning from dinner, in Chicago, my husband had been mugged, at the same time I had seen La Mala Hora, his body had been found in an ally. He had been shot in the head and died instantly. 

No comments: