"And I celebrated that dark ritual, which would bring back from the dead, his ancient guard."
- Aztec rites of reincarnation
There is a rumour that Santos Gimenez began with such a humble life, a cemetery caretaker in a small village near the northern border of Mexico; the village of Ataualtepec, now no more than ruins. For many years after the event, it is said that Santos lived only for revenge. Gossipers spread tales of his strange plight, with whispers that spoke of man now consumed by a dark rage.
The truth remained untold. Santos himself was an elusive and unobtainable creature. He had spent six long years in the province of Badajoz. There he developed his skills and broadened his expertise - at killing.
Santos learned how to conceal himself in the shadows, to be quicker than the bats in the night sky. He sharpened his marksmanship and discarded the fear of death, preparing to undertake a personal crusade that would focus his rage and pacify the torment in his soul. Soon he would be ready to enter purgatory itself and retrieve his beloved wife.
Many travellers followed these tales and, in desperate times, they endeavoured to seek out this man and make use of his powers. It was said that Santos, once kind and unassuming, had become a force to be reckoned with, a hired-gun and a quick-shot assassin, who drifted from town to town, searching for ever more dangerous ways to vent his aggression.
They said he was numbed by tragedy and upon the verge of madness, and if you ever caught sight of his face, you would be scarred by the horror of it. Even strange were the tales of how this had come to be.
His previous existence had, until recently, been a haunting vision indelibly burned into his thoughts. Now, though, it was merely a detail. He never allowed himself to totally forget this life; he still remembered it afresh, but it no longer inhibited him in his plans.
Santos still remembered how the village of Ataualtepec had been quiet and peaceful, undisturbed until rumours spread of a terrible new outlaw in town by the name of Pellejo Martinez. When Pellego moved into a nearby ranch, the mood in the whole county was transformed. A darkness followed Pellejo Martinez, something borne out of evil itself.
Villagers saw how the plants withered and how the animals fled. There was talk of occult ceremonies, and the word that Pellejo was, in truth, the reincarnation of an Aztec priest who had lived over six hundred years ago. The final rumour - before anyone dared speak any more - was that Pellejo Martinez was working to bring his fanatical entourage back from the dead.
It was a dark day in January, and while Santos was alone in the Ataualtepec cemetery with only an unfortunate, nameless hobo to inter, a deep tremor was felt.
The earth around Santos separated into broad rocky shards that rose into the sky, and a black rent was torn into the ground. Santos staggered to regain his footing as the seemingly bottomless abyss widened around him, and he felt a distinct change in the atmosphere as a dark, unfathomable radiance of evil swam about in nauseating waves. The sky itself froze and, beneath a greenish moon, the vilage of Ataualtepec was suddenly engulfed in unearthly fire.
Santos ran toward his home, frantic and terribly afraid for the safety of his wife, Maria Fernanda. As he approached the village gates, he watched in horror at the terrible slaughter that ensued. The cursed outlaw had finally summoned his minions; footsoldiers from the grave, swathed in shadows and seemingly invulnerable to attack. They cut through the villagers who fought against them and dragged the others from their homes. Before long, all had been slain, and upon their mangled corpses, floating black spirits clawed and stabbed.
Santos was aghast and could do little but hide himself and relive the terrible scenario over and over in his mind. It was then that he caught sight of Maria, by some means saved from the slaughter by Pellejo Martinez himself. Somehow, Santos felt that this last vertige of hope was soon to be cruelly taken away. He heard the corrupted exchange of dialogue, of captured souls and of a vessel required to carry them. A human vessel.
Spellbound and entranced by evil magic, Maria was engulfed into the abyss, lifted from the physical world and cast into the dark realm of perdition. Pellejo, his henchmen, and the black spirits, each vanished with her, leaving nothing but the stillness of the grave.
There came a stifled lament as Santos - desperate, confused, and kneeling on the dusty yard of his home - cursed the devilment of Pellejo. His words pierced the deadened air and rang out in echoing chimes, and Santos felt a form of madness physically consume him.
It was as though an evil spell had been cast, for residual energy from the fading abyss was suddenly drawn to him. First it spiralled around him like a circling spirit, then it clung to his flesh where it instantly burnt through to permeate his bones.
He felt overwhelming pain driving itself to his very soul. But he did not respond to it. Santos felt the powers grow within his new skeletal body, and from within his skull he could actually feel a new well of control.
It was cold and calculating, and expecting the evil of Pellejo to have finally consumed him, Santos was surprised to open his new eyes with a strange feeling of hope. He felt the same in his heart - a just man, and a man desperate to see justice done. A final resolve had been shown to him, a chance at last to rid himself of this torment. To rid the world of Pellejo and his guard, and rescue Maria.
The legend of Santos, "The Zombie Calavera", had begun.