In our land, fishing is not just for surviving, it is a way of life. I've been on fishing boats earlier than I've been standing on my feet, the same goes for the other children of the village. We live in the sea much more than we live on land, and for that we are grateful.
The man with the tank-top first came to our village two weeks ago. I remember seeing him for the first time in the middle of the night as he limbed to the outcast hut of the village. One of the huts that we keep to outsiders who pass by so that they do not disturb our people. That was a week ago, and ever since, we didn't see him come out. We were not even sure that he was inside, but the elders warned us of disturbing him.
We played outside by the river each day. Older kids would tease us to go near his hut, they would threaten that otherwise, they will not let us play. We were scared of the elders so we did not listen to them at first, we kept to ourselves and played with small twigs that we broke off the trees. Only the older boys had the ball and would not share. We really wanted to play with the ball.
On the fifth day of the blood moon, the older kids got very curious and impatient, and so they came to us ad took our little sticks and put them on top of a tree branch that we can not reach. They told us that the only way to get them back was to go to the stranger's hut and see what is inside. We still did not want to do it but then they threatened to beat us.
We have not seen the tank top guy since he came here, we did not know when he sleeps and when he is awake. We decided to go there at nightfall, when the village is asleep. We were three, and we gathered at the Rendez-vous point 1 hour into the night.
We were scared of going into that hut alone, scared of the punishment of the elders, but we were also scared of the other boys and wanted our twigs back. We looked at one another and decided to move through with it. We would go to the hut, open the door, look inside and run away.
The hut was located in the middle of a small clearing, so that the guests feel welcome but exposed. as we approached that clearing, silence took over sound. We could not hear the usual noise of the night. The boys started getting anxious and their movements crisped, which in turn infected me. Tension was rising and palpable. We did not know this man nor what he does, and the unknown is scary. But the elders agreed to let him stay with us, a fact that one of the kids reminded us of to ease the tension.
One of the kids abandoned us briskly, he decided to go for the punishment he knows. Two were left, me and my companion, and he started getting more and more uneasy. I was more and more alone and I, strangely, was fine with that. I smiled at my friend and stepped forwards. I could feel the hut calling me and I could not stop at this point, my fear made place and excitement slowly crept in. I inched forward.
I looked back at my friend and I could hear his heartbeats from a couple of feet away. His eyes wide and his face pale. He saw something and he was scared. His heart fluttered but his feet stood their grounds still. He was loyal and did not flee, and I appreciated that with my heart whole. He looked at me with a sadness in his eyes that I've never seen before, and his gaze slowly bowed to the grassy ground. He could not move beyond this point. I was alone for the rest of the night. He walked to a nearby tree and sat with his back at its trunk and looked at me. He would there for me. I nodded thankfully and continued towards the hut.
Eyes wide open
Bound to my mission, fear started to dissipate from my abdomen and my chest could expand again with air. My feet held on to their ground firmly, almost proudly. My chin rose up and I could see in front of mee more closely. The clearing was empty and full of moonlight. I liked that. I stepped on.
Walking towards the hut, I became more and more conscious of my surroundings, the grass below my feet, the dirt, the scent, the trees gently enveloping the clearing with the hut and me inside, like a frame does to a photo. I started enjoying this new state of mind and concentrated more and more on perceiving, the green of leaves, the air I breathed in, the air that came out, the darkness behind the trees and the life within it, the mist, the emptiness, the moonlight. I walked to the tree on my right, a dog pup was looking at me with eyes glowing in the dark, following my movements. I smiled involuntarily.
I opened the door of the hut, slowly but steadily. At this point, I was much more composed. I felt different than when the night started, fear has completely dissipated. I saw the man with the tank top sitting in the middle of the hut, eyes shut and legs crossed. For a brief moment, I felt as if there was someone else in the vicinity. He slowly opened his eyes. He looked at me. He did not seem angry or surprised, but rather mildly inconvenienced by my presence.
"It's late kid, what are you doing here?" He asked as he was getting up.
I did not respond. A sudden gust of fear took over me and my muscles crisped again as I followed his movement with my eyes. He went over to the back of the hut and picked up a bag and started collecting stuff. It almost seemed that my arrival was a sign for him of some sort.
He did not seem bothered by the lack of my answer to his first question and approached me, he pulled out something of the bag and tried to give it to me. It was a gold coin. I did not extend my hand to take it.
"What is your name?" he asked in a matter-of-fact manner.
" LE... NO" I muttered with a stutter. "My name is Leno" I repeated as if t prove to myself. My words gave me courage.
"Good" he said "Nice to meet you, Leno". I did not return the courtesy.
"Here" he said, as he kept his hand extended towards me, "give this to old man Toto, please". He was talking about the gold coin.
I took his coin and stayed fixated on it for a second. It was the first time I've held gold and looked at it this close, it's glow took me by surprise and bewitched my soul. My mind came back to me on the sound of the door opening. The man was leaving. I followed him outside.
"Where are you going?" I asked. He did not reply and continued onto the clearing.
"What should I tell grandpa Toto? That you left?"
"Yes" he said, "but I will probably be back, please kindly accept my gratitude for your hospitality"
He spoke while walking. I thought to myself that my presence was probably not enough to capture his full attention. That was fine by me though, I was simply happy to have been able to conduct this exchange. I kept looking at him and could not help but think of the beauty of the moonlight as it reflected on his back. Darkness was eager to swallow him but it would have to wait a couple of seconds. I wanted to ask for his name but did not. I took a strange joy in the scene I was witnessing and did not want to spoil it.
With his two bags, He slowly disappeared behind the trees. I stayed for a second after that, looking at the exact spot where darkness and moonlight merged into one.