Serein: En Vida y En Muerte
By Yadyvic Estrella Batista
This piece was inspired by a story my grandfather told me when I was younger about shape-shifting beasts in my home country of the Dominican Republic. I introduce you to both his world and a retelling of Mulan as we reach for a way to make our ancestors proud.
My mother’s father trained me ever since I was seven years old. While the thought of hunting beasts excites me, my mother never really approved. My mom, who holds the mundane above all else, has never held any interest in being my grandfather’s successor. The family duty then falls to the next in line, my elder sister—though she, much like our mother, has not one adventurous bone in her body. Now, there’s me, trying to uphold the legacy that rests upon me.
In a faraway place deep in my mind, I dreamed of having a Galipote-hunting family. It wasn’t so much about the hunting, it was more so about doing something together. However, taking into consideration that the sightings of Galipotes have become scarce, that dream died long before it became anything other than a day-dream. God forbid it became an all-consuming fantasy, at least I like to tell myself that.
The very first time I heard about Galipotes was when I was four. It was already dark. The cool-ish wind was a refreshing contrast against the all-year summer in the tropical island. My cousins and I were surrounding our grandpa like he was our only sense of warmth during a winter night. He didn’t much like the close proximity but his concern passed unvoiced. He was telling his favorite story set in a starry night just like this one.
My papá was walking home with one of his cousins, Marianela. She had decided it would be fun to sneak out and go visit her other cousin in the club. They mindlessly chat as they walk through the night. It was a quiet night, not even the stray cats dared meow.
From far away, it seemed like a big dog was planted in the middle of the road. As they drew closer, Marianela froze.
This was no ordinary dog—this was no dog at all. There, in the middle of the road, was a Galipote. Galipotes are monsters of the night. It’s said that they’re human during the day and feed on the flesh of those who dare go outside during the night. Everyone here knew about the beasts but few have encountered one first hand.
Slowly, the beast advanced toward them. Something you have to know about my papá is that he is fearless—the only thing that remotely stirs fear in his stomach is the angry face of his then-girlfriend and future mother of his kids. The only noise that could be heard is the beast’s heavy breathing, saliva dripping from his bared mouth and sharp teeth.
“Nela, I swear to God, do . . . not . . . move.” The young girl whimpered in response, scared for her life. Though the man’s body is as still as a mannequin, his eyes searched his surroundings for something to defend themselves with. To his left, he saw a multitude of rocks. He figured they would be able to do some damage. “Okay, get behind me in 1 . . . 2 . . . 3!”
Marianela runs behind her cousin. The beast sprints towards them, growling and snarking. Papá quickly grabs a medium-sized rock and waits for the beast to come closer. He aims at the beast’s hind-leg. He throws, hitting the beast at command. Maybe throwing rocks at mango trees does help for something. He doesn’t wait. In seconds, he throws another rock, then another, then another. He only stops when the beast whimpers, falling down to the dirt.
Papá and Nela don’t wait for the beast to get up. Nela sprints, she will only be safe when she gets home. Papá follows her, but he spares a backward look at the beast. He sees as the beast limps in the opposite direction, struggling to move.
The next morning, he gets up bright and early to follow his daily routine in the field. Though on his way, he sees Alejandro, a man who had moved to the village a few weeks prior. The man was limping.
Papá’s eyes train after him, even when the man refuses to make eye contact. Then, he is sure, Alejandro is the Galipote he and his cousin had encountered the night before, and he had confronted the man that same day.
Grandpa’s fearlessness is what got him killed. His reckless and stubborn need to protect those around him, putting himself right in the unforgiving hands of death. Every hunter is to die proudly, to know they fought well, and that their inevitable death by beasts was worth it for the lives they saved.
The beast that killed him was too strong, even for papá who had years of experience.
Even when the warm days turn into cold nights and the wind blows harshly against my neck, my fingers stoned, my limbs heavy with exhaustion and my stomach growling with spite, I will not give up my search. My mind nor my heart will be at peace until I find the beast and make sure it does not try to kill anyone else. I will not let the beast walk freely in the land papá died protecting. I will not let my grandfather’s death be in vain.
I will avenge my grandfather’s death by any means necessary.
Yadyvic Estrella Batista is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Bronx, NY.