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“La Lugaru”

In the Caribbean, there is a beautiful and mystical country known as the Dominican Republic. On the western part of the country is a city by the name of San Juan de la Maguana. It is in this city that the folklore of la lugaru, translated in English as the she-wolf, begins. 

       It was a dark ominous night in September, when Karina better known as Nina to her family and friends, decided to take a shortcut through the campo to make it home before midnight. As, she walked she noticed the coralillos. Admiring the beautiful orange petals, she decided to pick them. While Nina played with the coralillos, she failed to notice the dark figure that was rapidly approaching her path. When Nina unmistakably bumped into the mysterious figure she slowly raises her head to apologize for her mistake, but the words got stuck in her throat as fear seized her. The dark figure in front her was none other than La Bruja. 
       As a child, Karina was told the story of La Bruja, by her mother, María. The legend was told as a warning to children, especially girls. La Bruja was a haggard and soulless woman that roamed the campo looking for young girls that she can either curse or sacrifice. In return, she would become young, beautiful and immortal. She always wore a long black cloak with a pointed hood. This hid her scarred face and allowed only her alluring amber eyes to be seen. Only those unfortunate souls who encountered her would see her wholly. As María would say, “When you see her it would be too late, and you must deal with the consequences of that meeting.” After María finished, she tickled Nina, so that happiness would make her forget the foreboding story. 
       When Nina snapped out of this flashback she realized she was frozen in La Bruja’s enthralling gaze. In her wildest dreams, she never imagined meeting the creature from her mother’s tale was a possibility. La Bruja pointed her grotesque and maimed finger at Nina and said, “I have been waiting for a girl like you to cross my path.” Nina was lost in a myriad of thoughts and scenarios that ran through her mind. La Bruja continued, “I can smell your fear child, do not worry, tonight I will be merciful; instead of sacrificing you, I will curse you. You will become something to be feared and hated.” Nina yelled, “Oh no! I will be a hideous creature like you.” La Bruja reared her head back cackling loudly; and with a serious tone said, “Don’t be stupid girl! You will be la lugaru. At the time of your Quinceañera, the transformation will begin and there will be no stopping it.” Nina tried to escape, but La Bruja launched forward and squeezed her throat and hissed, “Be quiet silly girl! This is your punishment for crossing my path.” La Bruja whispered the incantation “Sanguinem vicissim nigrum et caro vicissim hyacintho maledicam,” and then slashed her neck three times. As her blood glistened black under the moon, she fell into a deep slumber. Immediately, La Bruja became the young beautiful maiden she once was and disappears into the darkness. 
       The next morning Nina awakened groggy and confused and whispered, “I hope that last night was just a dream.” While going through her morning routine she tries to put the peculiar events out of her mind, until she looks at her neck. Nina begins to cry seeing the three scars that La Bruja left. And like a freight train, her mind is reeling from the encounter. How could this be, in three days she will be la lugaru, a terrifying creature with an unquenchable bloodthirst. “Why did this have to happen to me?” lost in her thoughts and despaired by the thought of her future. “I have to tell mamá. She will know what to do.” Hastily dressing she heads out to look for María. She entered her mom’s room, rambling the events from the night before. María cannot believe her daughter put so much stock into childish tales, “Karina, for the love of God that was just a silly tale, so you and generations of children would learn not to talk to strangers and not wonder in the campo alone. You can’t honestly believe it was true.” Enraged she said, “Mamá, I don’t think that you are listening to me. La Bruja is real and she cursed me!” María slammed her fist on the table and bellowed, “Nina that’s enough! Now go to your room. I’m making the preparations for your Quinceañera and I will not have you ruining it because of some children’s story.” Nina tried to argue, but she knew better; especially when María gave her that “look” waiting to see if she’d defy her. Nina walked away feeling defeated and helpless. She did not even get the opportunity to show the slashes on her neck. 
       Three days passed, and her big day had finally arrived. Nina was a nervous wreck; her hands kept sweating, and she kept touching her neck imagining her guests witnessing her transformation, she was petrified. The entire party she walked on eggshells and jumped at every noise and encounter. As her guests observed her behavior they reasoned that her reactions were because of the immensity of this special day. As the Quinceañera ended, Nina was relieved that nothing out of the ordinary happened. She and the family began to clean up the mess that was left behind and to put the food away in the fridge. Upon finishing Nina headed to her room. Undressing and leaving behind the insanity of the day she entered the shower. Grateful that nothing happened she laughed at how silly she had acted. No sooner had the thought left her mind then it began…the crippling pain seized her insides. She closed her eyes tightly and saw phosphenes burst in her vision from how excruciating everything was. Immediately, the ache became too much to bear and her knees buckled as she fell into a fetal position unto the floor. She was almost catatonic from the agony. Nina believed with every shred of her being that she was going to die. Instantly, a thick blue-grey matted fur emerged where there was once skin and covered her entire body, while her joints snapped and let out a loud pop that could be heard from a great distance. Her bones now deformed and elongated to accommodate her new form. It was so chaotic that she let out a horrifying scream that turned into a howl as her face contorted; her jaw broke and a snout formed with teeth sharp enough to cut through bone. Then, her ears stretched out and her hands and feet morphed into paws and became menacingly claw-like. Nina was a conscious she-wolf and when she looked in the mirror she saw that her eyes were no longer brown, but luminous amber, the same as La Bruja. Nina was no more, as this beast emerged and usurped her life. 
      Nina’s transformation afforded her superhuman abilities. With her new ears she heard that her mamá was coming towards the bedroom and she knew she could not be seen like this. She would never understand what had happened and she had already not believed her. Rage and bloodlust instantly washed over Nina and it was overpowering her moral compass. Her whole life changed and there was no turning back. La lugaru just wanted to kill. She jumped through her bedroom window and ran away. Hearing the shattering glass, María ran and busted through the door and stood completely frozen as she saw her daughters’ room in tatters. It was like something out of a horror movie. The curtain was ripped and scratched with long gashes, there was a substantial amount of blood and hair on the floor and abhorrent pieces of skin that were torn off her poor daughters’ body. María began to cry and pray; she ran out of the house screaming Nina’s name. When the cops were called to verify the crime scene they could not come up with a reasonable explanation. Suddenly, María realized that the story Nina had recounted for her was true. Her baby had been cursed and she could not be saved. María began to wail, there was no consoling her. It was a hopeless cause her daughter was la lugaru and she would never see her again. 
      La lugaru became one with the night. Stalking every corner with no possible escape. Her hunger and thirst for blood was like nothing she ever experienced. An unfortunate young couple was walking down the road and they did not notice the danger approaching them. In the blink of an eye she pounced on them, knocking them over. When the girl was about to scream, Nina used her right paw to claw her throat, while ripping out the man’s jugular with her sharp teeth. She devoured them like a tantalizing steak. After she finished her meal all that was left were some scattered bones which were picked clean. As the sun began to rise in the east, Nina woke up and as she looked down she recognized her familiar hands. Relieved she took some deep breaths and thought it was all some awful nightmare until she realized that she was naked in the middle of a field. She walked slowly and carefully to not be seen, ashamed and frightened of what had become of her. She walked over to the closest river within sight to clean herself. Looking in the river beyond her reflection she faced the sobering reality that last night was not a nightmare. There was coagulated blood all over her face. Darting away from the revolting sight, she came across an empty home and took some clothes to hide her embarrassment. She went on her way and didn’t stop until arriving two towns over. 
      Nina understood that her life would never be the same. Seven years had passed, and she was miles away from who she once was. Nina was no more, she now was known as Lupe, which meant she-wolf. Lupe only changed at night and by morning she was human again. She had become an expert at living a double life. Being careful not make friends or let anyone get too close to her. She forced herself to forget that she had once had relationships that meant the world to her. One morning as she was basking in her temporary reprieve from the beast, her eyes locked unto the most amazing man she had ever seen, Acteón. You see, Acteón was not like any man Lupe had ever met; he was handsome, intelligent, but most of all persistent. He took a liking to Lupe’s mysterious ways and elusive charm. His nonstop pursuit won her heart and she could not help herself. Acteón wanted Lupe to sleep over his home, but she insisted that she was not that type of woman and she would not be with any man in that way unless they were married. The truth was she could not bear to have him know the truth and lived in paralyzing fear that Acteón would be her next meal. 
       Fate is a fickle thing, and the pair fell in love, while unbeknownst to them destiny played a cruel joke. Acteón’s name translated meant hunter, and bizarrely he came from a long line of werewolf hunters. For the past seven years his family had observed an unnerving spike in werewolf attacks, things which were out of the ordinary. News about the strange animal attacks on human beings in San Juan de la Maguana caught their attention and they sent Acteón to canvass the area. He did as his family wanted, but he instantly became distracted by the lovely Lupe. Alas, the attacks were harder and harder to ignore and soon both their alter egos would come face to face; la lugaru and the hunter would meet at last. 
      One fateful night long after they had said their goodbyes, Acteón decided he would go on a hunt. As he was following some disturbing signs he came across his lovely Lupe. Just as he was going to approach her she began to shapeshift into la lugaru. Heartbroken and dismayed his instincts kicked into overdrive. He rubbed dirt on himself to mask his scent and remained eerily quiet watching his beloved morph into a hideous monster. She ran away with murderous intent and he resolved what must be done. Tears fell from his eyes, and with a lump in his throat he walked home to meticulously plan his next steps. He would kill his darling. Lupe was ignorant of the fact that Acteón knew her secret. The next day he went with a heavy heart to gather the tools he needed to kill her. 
       Acteón headed to look for the juniperus gracilior, better known as the juniper tree or in Spanish as el árbol de cèdre, to cut a branch and carve it into a palo de cruz. After he completed this task he headed to the nearest Catholic church. He listened to the afternoon mass and then waited for the priest, so that he could bless the weapon with a prayer and holy water. He avoided Lupe that whole day assuring to cover his tracks. At night she carried on with her normal activities while unbeknownst to her that she was the prey this time. Acteón was hiding behind a tree waiting to kill her. Once la lugaru emerged and she saw him coming out of his hiding place, amorous ties were forever severed. The most intense altercation of both their lives began. They tussled back and forth severely wounding one another. Just as she was going to strike using her usual decisive blow and resolve to rip out his throat, he stabs her with the palo de cruz right in the neck, splitting her jugular and putting an end to the curse. Lupe returned fully to her former self and looking into her lover’s eyes she apologized, “I’m sorry.” Acteón looked tenderly at the one who had ensnared his heart and said, “I forgive you, rest in peace, my love.” 

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