Prompt: Three children are sitting on a log near a stream. One of them looks up at the sky and says…
“It ends today”, he said, his eyes fixed on the shadow he had been chasing for ten years. His heart was thumping madly in his chest but he kept running. He tripped and grabbed the nearest tree for support. And then he heard the laughter, like the sound of water flowing from a bottle. It was so disturbingly familiar. It was all he could hear in the silence of the night when sleep took its flight and during the day when he was alone in his thought.
He was on a gentle rise with trees closing in around it from all sides. He turned around, straining his ears for any sound that would tell him where it might be, nothing except the gentle flow of a stream down the slope on his right. He had lost it again. His legs wobbled slightly as he trudged toward the stream. “Strange,” he muttered. “I have been here before.” He frowned as he searched his mind for when. He just knew he had been there with someone but who? He kept walking toward the stream, he had to get closer, even though he felt faint he had to. There was a log by the stream, it wasn’t there before. It was as if he conjured it up himself when he thought of resting. He sat on it, he just knew he should. The sky was grey, but the sun was still there fighting to take control.
He was rocking to the steady flow of the stream when he heard something. He turned and saw her standing about ten feet from him. The gentle breeze gave life to her powder blue gown, swaying to its beat. He got up and walked toward her. Her hair, woven in thick braids was tied at the nape of her neck with a white ribbon. Her eyes were huge and dark. “You are a woman” he said.
She cackled “And you’re always so slow. I see nothing has changed.”
His eyes hardened, “Why have you been tormenting me? Slowly she turned and melted into the breeze. He blinked, and she was perched on the log, staring at the sky. He frowned and followed her gaze. There was a very bright star in the sky, sparkling and beside it another one pale and fading. When he looked down at her again, she was a child of about eight years. She had the same face but her eyes were sad. Her face was glistening in the dark and when he peered at them, they were tears. She got up and started to walk away.
“Stop! Who are you? Why have you been haunting me?” She turned and resumed her pose on the log. He didn’t want to move closer to her, she might disappear again. He had to put an end to his misery and solve this mystery “for ten years you have tormented me, why?
“You are still slow, I have been teasing you all your lifetime.”
“What does that mean?
“It means it’s what I do, dreams notwithstanding”.
“This is a dream?
“Of course, Bablo, otherwise I wouldn’t be here”.
His eyes grew round and their brows went up. “How do you know that name? She smiled. “Speak now …”
“Or what? You are always all barks, Tade. And teasing you is my pleasure. It’s all I have now, unless you tell me to leave,” she said sashaying toward him with each word.
“Who are you”?
“What! I can’t believe you ask me that, she said, pouting. It hurts.
“Who are you”!
She shook her head “You have to remember me, Bablo. You have to.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You have to remember me, before it’s too late.”
“I can’t believe you lured me here for this child’s play. I had hoped baba was right about me having a woman in another realm, and I almost believed him for a while. Leave me alone, woman. Go, and never come back.” She shrank back, her dark eyes turned green and glowed. The little girl vanished and in her place was the beautiful woman with pink lips and fiery red eyes.
The pink lips opened and she spoke in a hoarse voice “There will be a time when you would need me. You would seek me but will never find me” there was rustling of leaves and trees and she was gone. The log sank into the ground and disappeared as well as the stream. When he looked at the sky there was only one star and then it was gone and so was the night.
He suddenly felt lonely. He placed his right palm on the left side of his chest and rubbed gently. “I didn’t mean it,” he said to the wind and the sky. He felt as sad as the woman and was surprised when tears dropped onto his chest. “Please, come back”.
He looked up to see his wife hovering over him her hands on his shoulders. “Wake up, Tade. Are you alright”?
“I think so”. She called me Bablo. How did she know my childhood pet-name?
“The dream again”? He nodded and rubbed his eyes.
“Did you dream too?” She shook her head
She swallowed hard and blinked back the tears. If Baba was right then she would never know the joy of motherhood. The woman in her husband’s shadow would never allow her to conceive. Her offspring would be limited to the three children playing by the stream in her dream. If only she could share his dreams.
“You must find out who she is and what she wants.” He nodded as he pulled her closer. For the first time in their seven years of marriage, he hid the dream from her.
“Do you think baba is right”? she asked after a while.
“No. We don’t need to worry about that now.” She rested her head on his chest, wondering who she was.
This post is part of the East Africa Friday Feature entry.
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The Hyena’s Marriage – Day 12