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It had been a long time since he had gone home to the village. His parents had succeeded in keeping him away after that incident 15 years ago.

After they had moved back to the city, the nightmares had started and then as he got older, they had turned into dreams which became more infrequent and eventually came once in a while mostly when he was extremely tired and fell asleep in that state. He didn’t know why they had finally agreed to let him come along on this trip and the fact that he had mixed feelings about being back in the village didn’t make him so comfortable. His discomfort was taken away by the memories of his first trip to the village.

*** *** ***

Akin, who was 10 years of age, was out playing with his friends. He was always happy playing with them, because he had been laughed at a lot upon his arrival since he didn’t know most of the things the other kids did in the village. That all ended after he snuck out with them in the middle of the day to go to the stream. He had been accepted and had begun to fit in. It was a big deal because his parents had told the kids not to take him to the stream. So his disobeying them and doing just that had made him a welcome member of the gang.

It was on one of those trips to the stream that his life would be changed forever.

Akin and the other boys had decided they would go to the stream at night when they could swim and play around in the water without the older women and girls who washed clothes during the day watching them and screaming at them. The way they rationalised it, they would have more space to swim if they went in the night. When Akin had asked about how they would see, he had been told it was a full moon night and they would be just fine. He had wanted to tell his mom, and ask her to keep it a secret from his dad because he was worried about being out late without anyone knowing where he was. He thought better of it when he imagined getting scolded and laughed at as a mommy’s boy if his mother didn’t keep her word. In his mind, this was highly probable, seeing as she had warned him to stay away from that stream at night, especially when there was to be a full moon. Something about a night of the water princesses or some other superstition.

He sighed wearily when he heard the signalling stone thrown at his window. The adults were all out in the front so his escape was made easy. When they got to the path leading to the stream, the boys made a turn and before he could ask where they were going, he found himself facing a huge lake that was surrounded by trees and hills. The light of  the full moon hit the lake and was reflected off the water, giving the whole place an eery but beautiful look. Even his 10-year-old mind knew that this place was somewhat sacred and that part of that was in its beauty.

He looked to his friends about to ask them if it was ok for them to be there when he noticed they had already gotten down to their briefs and were all jumping one by one into the lake.

After playing around for a while they decided to explore a little and left him in the water. He was floating on his back and had turned to look at a dense crop of trees when he noticed something bright flash by and disappear behind a tree. He pushed himself up from his floating position so fast that he lost his footing. After saving himself from drowning, Akin managed to gather enough courage to look back in the direction of the tree. He was stunned when a little girl, peeped from behind the tree. The little girl darted back behind the tree when she saw him looking her way. Akin could have sworn that it was a boys only group that had ventured out to the lake that night, but as he heard a quiet whimper then sounds of silent sobbing, he wasn’t so sure. Akin got out of the water and quickly dried himself and putting on his clothes so as not to get too cold, started out in the direction of the trees. Behind it, on her hunches and trying her best not to cry out loud, was a little girl.

The girl looked like she was 3 – 4 years younger than his age.

Her wrapper was tied in a way that he had seen only the dancing-girls at the festival do it. She wore gold jewelry in her hair and  had some of the jewelry braided into her plaits on her head. She wore lots of beads and more gold jewelry on her hands, feet and on her waist over her wrapper.

She looked like a mini version of the brides and traditional dancers he had seen dancing in the village square since coming here. He wondered why she was dressed like that and wanted to ask, but instead he asked her, “What is your name?”

She looked up at him, seeming to notice his presence and jumped back in fright. “What is your name and what are you doing here?”, he asked again. She started answering in the local dialect and was so fast he wasn’t sure what she was saying. After a few attempts he had gotten that she was trying to get home. He sighed an exasperated sigh and then smiled reassuringly as he held out his hand to her telling her he would take her home. She looked up at him  and as he looked into her eyes he thought that she had the most unusual eyes. He quickly averted his eyes as she stopped crying and reached for his hand letting him pull her up.

Akin turned and started taking her in the direction of he village and she suddenly stopped, pulled her hand free from his and started running towards the water. He ran after her and on getting close tried to grab her from behind thinking if he got a hold of her wrapper, he could pull her back before she jumped in. Instead of her wrapper, he grabbed hold of the chain that was hanging low on her waist.
She felt the tug and turned around to push him with enough force to knock him down. He fell on his behind and looked up just in time to see her get to the edge of the water and jump in, disappearing under the surface.

The water settled as he sat on his but blinking in disbelief.

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