Two American college kids are finishing a vacation in Mexico and want an authentic souvenir. They end up in a strange little shop full of strange artifacts. Once back in America they discover what they brought home may have more to it than meets the eye. What follows is a battle against a relentless being who seems to want the two guys for his own.
Chapter Description: Two Americans, DJ and Cody, are on vacation in Mexico. They are soon to leave but before they do they are determined to get something authentic to take back with them. Once back in America they discover their may be more to the little trinket than meets the eye. (Apologies for what I'm sure is bad Spanish sprinkled through this one!)
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The Diaper Man
“There’s some old Aztec temples a few hours south of here…” DJ was sitting on the edge of a bed in a sweltering hotel room on the edge of Mexico City.
“Man, we did that last week.” Cody was lying down and tossing a small ball in the air to catch it again, “You see one bunch of old ruins you’ve seen them all.”
DJ flipped through the tourist book and scratched his chin. After nearly two full weeks in Mexico the two best friends had done practically everything they had planned to. It had been a good time overall but the two nineteen-year-olds were ready to return home.
DJ and Cody had taken this trip together to celebrate finishing high school before they headed off to different colleges. They both firmly intended to stay in touch with each other but were also aware that most friends who promised this ended up drifting away from each other. They hadn’t had the best time at school, neither of them were popular and in fact suffered from bullying from one particular asshole and his group of cronies. Neither of them would miss James Spencer, the biggest bully that they had to endure.
“What do you want to do then?” DJ asked, “I can’t find anything cool.”
DJ tossed the small guidebook behind him at his friend as he picked up the remote and flicked through several channels of television that he couldn’t understand. Neither of the young men could speak more than the most basic of Spanish but thankfully a lot of the Mexicans they met were much more adept at English.
“We could just go to the shops.” Cody suggested, “The ones in the old town. The ones tourists don’t visit.”
“Why?” DJ asked as he turned around. He wasn’t much of a shopper and as far as he knew neither was his friend.
The two nineteen-year-olds had spent a majority of their vacation drinking tequila and trying out a cocktail of drugs as they partied throughout each night. The idea of going shopping, to DJ at least, seemed like a massive step down.
“I’m just tired.” Cody said with a sigh, “We are leaving tomorrow and I don’t want to get wasted and be hungover on the trip home.”
“OK, I’m cool with that.” DJ shrugged, “Could bring back some souvenirs anyway.”
The two young men started to get ready and were soon heading out the door. They walked out of their hotel and past the many people trying to peddle cheap crap for exorbitant prices. They walked further than they had on any of their previous days and left the tourist shops and restaurants behind them. Soon they were in an area that was obviously not commonly seen by outsiders.
Cody felt a little nervous despite suggesting it in the first place. He looked around and saw Mexicans staring at the two foreigners. Despite still nominally being in Mexico City it felt like the two of them had walked into another world. The loud sounds of the main streets faded away as the houses became denser around them.
“Maybe we should head back.” Cody had jogged to get alongside his friend and practically whispered in his ear.
“Go back? But you wanted to come out here.” DJ shrugged his friend off, “I like it here. It’s… authentic.”
Cody looked around again. His eyes fell on a group of four Mexicans who looked roughly the same age but much bigger and stronger than the two tourists. They were sat on a partially broken down porch and sipping some bottled beer.
“I don’t know, DJ.” Cody said as he looked away from the group, “I’ve heard stories. It’s places like this where Americans just… disappear.”
“You’re being hysterical.” DJ laughed and shook his head, “Look, if you want to chicken out and go back to the hotel be my guest. I’m going to find something cool to bring home.”
Cody was definitely caught in two minds. He did want to go back to the hotel, or at least back to the well-trodden path, but he couldn’t leave DJ alone. With a resigned sigh he carried on walking deeper with DJ. Cody had to admit his friend was right about one thing, there were some really interesting things in store windows in this area.
“Whoa, look at all this stuff!” DJ walked up to a small shop which looked like it had been standing there for the last century.
The windows were dirty and dusty but the items on display were rather dazzling in their brilliance. Old antiques in elaborate designs and colours were sprinkled around the windows on shelves, they seemed to mostly depict ancient civilisations and cultures that had long since disappeared.
“Are you seeing this stuff!?” DJ enthused to Cody, “Is that real gold!?”
“Come on, you really think these are actual historical objects and not some knock-offs to con people like you?” Cody replied sceptically.
“No way, man.” DJ said, “You said it yourself, tourists don’t come here! Come on!”
“Yeah but-” Cody started but it was already too late, DJ was on his way in to the shop.
The store was small but cluttered. It was dark, dusty and didn’t look like it had been cleaned in neither DJ nor Cody’s lifetimes. The room was completely silent and as the door closed it seemed like they had entered a vacuum, all the sound from outside the shop vanished.
DJ looked around in awe at what he could see. The items in the window were a good representation of what was in the store, the shelves were filled with little trinkets and statues everywhere. Everything was old and looked, if it was legit, like it would all be very expensive. DJ started walking and each step on the old floorboards produced loud creaks.
“Hello?” DJ called out. There was no answer.
“Come on, dude.” Cody said as he grabbed DJ’s sleeve, “Let’s go back.”
DJ shrugged off his friend’s hand and walked over to the far shelves. He was amazed by everything he saw, the little objects looked so intricately crafted and one statue in particular caught the young man’s eyes. Cody reluctantly followed his friend over to the shelf, he looked towards the window but it was so dirty it was barely letting any light in.
“I have to buy this!” DJ said as he held his hands out towards the object.
The item that so infatuated DJ was a small statue of a nearly naked woman with gemstones for eyes and holding out a safety pin that was gold. It was only seven or eight inches high but the golden layer glinted in an almost hypnotic way.
“Cuidado con la maldición del hombre del pañal!” An old lady seemingly appeared out of nowhere just before DJ was able to pick the statue up. She grabbed DJ’s arm.
DJ and Cody both jumped and exclaimed as they spun to see the sudden old woman. It was as if she had appeared magically behind them. She was hunched over but even if she stood up straight she would still be shorter than the young men. Her hair was grey and thin whilst her skin looked very dry and wrinkled. This old woman looked as old as the store itself, as if a strong gust of wind might tear through her and turn her into dust.
“I’m… I’m sorry, what?” DJ asked with a frown.
“No quieres esa estatua.” The old woman gesticulated and pointed at the men.
“What’s she saying?” Cody muttered.
“Dude, you’re the one who took Spanish at school.” DJ replied.
“Yeah… In middle school!” Cody hissed.
“Sal. ¡Abandona este lugar!” The old woman seemed agitated.
“We would like to buy this.” DJ said slowly and loudly.
DJ reached out his hand and picked up the statue with a smile. It was heavier than he expected but not so heavy that he couldn’t easily lift it.
“How much is-” DJ started.
Suddenly the old lady screamed. A blood curdling scream of pure terror. DJ and Cody both stepped back in shock and DJ passed the statue across to Cody who took it with wide eyes. The woman was hysterical and crying as she backed up, she was staring at the statue and covering her mouth as she continued to exclaim at an ear-splitting level.
“¡Sal! ¡Sal!” The old woman pulled her door open and pointed to the outside.
“I think she wants us to leave.” Cody said.
“No shit…” DJ replied sarcastically.
DJ was about to put the statue down when the old lady made a series of noises and got the boy’s attention.
“No.. No…” The old lady’s eyes were wide and bloodshot, “You… Take…”
“The statue?” DJ picked the statue back up and when the old lady nodded he dropped it in the bag.
The agitated old woman was still showing the men the door and they now made their way over. Cody was the first to step back out into the sunshine with DJ just behind. Just before he stepped outside the door his arm was strongly gripped by the elderly Mexican. She pulled him down with a strength that belied her small stature.
“El hombre del pañal! Cuidado con el hombre del pañal” The old woman whispered into DJ’s ear.
DJ was about to try and ask what she was saying but he was pushed out into the street. He turned to face the store but saw the elderly lady slamming the door, he heard the gentle click of a lock and then curtains pulled behind the window and door. For all intents and purposes it looked like the old store was shutting for good.
“Had enough of the local culture?” Cody asked as he put his hand on DJ’s shoulder. He tried to sound like he was joking but he was desperate to return to the hotel.
“Yeah.” DJ finally replied without looking away from the shop, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
When DJ stepped off the plane with Cody back in America they were quite frankly glad to be home. They had enjoyed their trip to Mexico a lot but the encounter with the old woman on the day before they left occupied both their minds even if they refused to talk about it. They parted outside the airport with a hug and the knowledge that they might not see each other again, soon they would both be going their separate ways. With their vacation out of the way nothing stood between them and college.
DJ went home and after saying hello to his family he went upstairs and dropped his bag on his bed. He zipped it open and there, on top of all his clothes and everything else, was the little statue he had taken from the old shop. DJ felt strange looking at it but swallowed his concerns to pull it out and stand it on his shelf. He thought back to that day in the store and those last words whispered to him by the old lady.
“El hombre del pañal” The words echoed around DJ’s head as if the old woman was in his room and saying them.
Pushing all of the weirdness to the back of his mind DJ logged in to his computer and started catching up on everything he had missed. Every now and then his eyes would catch the statue and for a second he would be transported back to that day in Mexico. Even on a shelf filled with little trophies and trinkets it seemed to catch his eye.
For a week everything seemed normal. DJ was preparing to go to college, he saw friends and went out with his family, everything was completely normal until one morning when DJ was suddenly woken by his phone ringing on his bedside stand.
“H-Hello?” DJ sleepily said into the phone without opening his eyes.
“Dude, there’s something wrong with my arm!” Cody’s voice sounded unusually animated.
“Your arm?” DJ sleepily replied, “Why are you calling me? I’m not a doctor…”
“It’s a freaking safety pin burned on to my wrist!” Cody was practically shouting down the phone.
“What?” DJ’s eyes opened at last and started adjusting to the bright room.
“Just like your damn statue!” Cody continued to shout.
DJ turned his head slightly and looked at the shelf above his computer desk where his statue was sitting just as he had originally left it. It was staring at the bed with it’s wide open gemstone eyes. It had an undeniably creepy air to it. The safety pin it held was front and centre, the faded gold was bright even in the low light of the bedroom.
“I… I don’t understand…” DJ said. It felt like this must all be a dream still. It didn’t seem to make any kind of sense.
“I don’t get it ei-” Cody started to say in a slightly calmer voice.
“Holy shit!” DJ suddenly exclaimed so loudly he was sure he would wake his parents.
DJ’s heart suddenly kicked into overdrive. He had sat up as he looked at the statue and then pulled the covers down. The blanket rolled down his arm and he felt a faint stinging feeling on his wrist. When DJ looked down he was horrified to see exactly the same mark as the one Cody was describing.
“What’s going on?” Cody asked from the other end of the phone. He suddenly sounded scared.
“Get over here.” DJ said breathlessly without looking up from his wrist, “Something is seriously messed up… Cover your mark up too!”
DJ hung up the phone even as Cody tried to keep talking. He couldn’t take his eyes off the burn on his arm. It was the exact same kind of pin as the one the statue held so prominently. He had to have his palm up to the ceiling to see it but it stretched across all the skin on that side. DJ reached over with a shaking finger from his other hand and touched the mark. It stung but not nearly as much as a burn like this would seem to suggest. It almost felt like he had been branded.
The words of the old Mexican woman rang through DJ’s head again. “El hombre del pañal” echoed through his brain as if someone was right next to him and whispering.