"What You Have Done Layla?" by Naomi Moreira ('19)

"What you have done Layla?" by Naomi Moreira

"What you have done Layla?" by Naomi Moreira

        It was a common day like any other. The autumn breeze began to flow, and crows began to appear at day and night. Layla and her mother, Lucia, lived in a small town. That day she woke up like any other day, cheerful and with energy. Layla was fourteen by then. Her mother was known in the town for her Mishqui, which is what they called grilled cow guts. Her Mishqui was very popular because of its taste. It was chewy, salty, and delicious. 

           The town was very particular since it seemed like people never left and new people never came. It had a circular shape embraced by a forest. Every evening, as people say, it seemed that the trees moved to the different position around the forest. The sound of crunching wood could be heard each evening, but for the people it was very common. The forest appeared to have secrets. People said that the twisted branches of the trees seemed like they were whispering as they moved with the wind, and that as you walk in there you feel how the soil starts to drag you down as if it was hungry. There were not so many habitants in the town, and people didn’t die that frequently. They decided that they didn’t want a cemetery, instead they buried the people that died in the forest that embraced the town. “They will serve as fertilizer,” they said among themselves.

           Layla was like any other girl in the town. She was a slender tallish girl, with dark eyes, round face, and large hands. But compared to the other girls, Layla was a restless girl, who enjoyed walking through the forest. One day her mother sent her to buy cow guts. She was very upset because she had already made plans in the forest. Her mother gave her 13 dollars to buy the meat. That was enough to buy at least five pounds of guts. But as she walked through the narrow sides of the town, watching the dying leaves of the trees, she perceived a smell from the bakery: it was a sweet, freshly-baked cake. She decided to buy it and eat it, but she didn’t realize that she had to buy the cow guts. 

           When she realized what, she had done, she was afraid, very afraid, because her mother might spank her. Then after minutes of walking through the trees she had a macabre idea. She decided to unearth one of the cadavers that were buried in the forest. “But which one?” she asked herself. It was a long time since someone died, but then she remembered that a man died two days ago, when he fell from the roof of his house. She knew that every time someone died in the town, people buried the body in the forest two days after the body is deceased. She waited until the new corpse arrived that day. Then she proceeded to dig out the body with the help of a flat piece of wood that she found. The man appeared to be around his thirties, black, long dry hair. His nose appeared to be twisted. He was tall compared to the other men in the town, and his clothes didn’t cover most of his arms and legs. His skin seemed to start taking a dark color and the cold of his body was filling the space around Layla. Layla took a sharp branch from the trees and stabbed the cold blue skin of the man’s deceased body. She felt how the branch was cutting through the skin. With her bare hands, she took the fresh, and reddish guts of that person. The smell of the fresh blood coming out of the cut meat didn’t bother her; she thought that her mother would believe it was cow guts if it had a pungent smell.

            Three hours later when she went home, before her mother could ask her any questions she said, “I am late because… the butchers were filleting a cow that they just killed.” Surprisingly her mother believed her and she proceed to cut the guts into small pieces and grilled them. When the guts were ready, the smell attracted most people of the town. They came in groups. There were a great number of people in a line to get 10 small pieces of guts for 2 dollars. The people really liked it. Some of them ordered it again.

           The day was getting grey and the trees seemed to start moving. The air got cold and people started to return to their homes. “How I hate this time of the day,” thought Layla. At home, she helped her mother to clean the grill and the utensils that they used to grilled the guts. After they cleaned the things, her mother saved a little of guts and prepares with sweet potatoes, which Layla loved. She never thought that she would have to eat the guts of a dead person. She didn’t want to but she didn’t want to tell her mother the truth. She closed her eyes and took a big bite of brownish meat. She had her eyes closed all the time. Her face had a weird expression like she was chewing plastic. When she finished, she ran into the bathroom, and she wanted to vomit but she didn’t do it. She didn’t want her mother to hear. Layla began to feel fear and confusion, she felt strange. She went to her room where she usually went to feel relieved, but this time it wasn’t the same. She kept thinking about the man of the forest, and how she abandoned the decomposed body alone. The exhausted expression of the body was an image that she couldn’t forget. She didn’t want to leave the body like that in the forest. She didn’t know what to do.

                After her mother fell asleep, she went to the forest again to see the dead body. While she was walking, she thought, “The trees move every evening and the body might have already been moved.” She didn’t find the body. It seemed that the trees moved it, but the smell still permeated the area. She then decided that she would never come back to the forest. She thought that one day she might find the dead body. She went running home before her mother noticed that she was wandering through the forest. She went in the same way that she went out, through her room’s window that was near a tree. While she was climbing the tree, a crow appeared out of nowhere and stood on the branches of the tree. The animal had long black feathers, with big, green rounded eyes that dramatically stared at Layla. The crow stood there until she finally got inside. She didn’t feel intimidated by the animal because it was very common during that season and seen everywhere. The only thing different was the green of its eyes. They were beautiful as well as terrifying.

       When she got inside she abruptly closed the windows so that nothing could distract her from sleeping. Hours passed but she couldn’t rest. All of a sudden, she heard whispers that became louder as her breathing got quicker. It was unclear what the voice was saying; it was talking too fast. But then she heard “Layla” and she covered her entire body with the cold sheets that were on the floor. Then again “Layla,” and again “Layla,” until the voice said, “What have you done Layla?”

           Layla felt confused and horrified by the voice. Then the voice said, “Look what have you done to me.”

           Then a strong wind violently opened the window. Her mother from the other room shouted, “Layla go to sleep!”

           Then Layla screamed, “Can’t you hear the voice Mama?” The mother answered, “Stop creating excuses, I don’t hear anything and go to sleep!”

            She stopped. She realized that she was the only one hearing the voices. She wanted to cry but she couldn’t. Then she wanted to escape but she couldn’t. She didn’t know what to do. A figure appeared. It didn’t look real. It was large, and appeared to be a man with a wound on his body.

          The figure said, “The trees won’t let me rest Layla. Look at what have you done. Look at the misery that I live in!”

             Layla wanted it to stop. She didn’t know what to do or to say. She didn’t want to hear it anymore. She took a flat-head screwdriver that she kept on the floor and she stabbed herself in the stomach. The blood spread throughout her bed. The screwdriver was slowing digging into her intestines, cutting from one side to the other of her body. It was inexplicable but she took her guts out and said, “This is what you want, my guts! Now leave me!” Her wounded body fell off the bed, slowly bleeding out for hours.

                 The next morning her mother went to her bedroom, to see if she could help her prepare breakfast. But she saw the bloody body of her daughter on the floor. It seemed to be convulsing from the pain. From that day, she never prepared Mishqui again. She was too perturbed by the idea of the intestines of her daughter that she saw that deplorable day.