The wind whistled among the trees which swayed in rhythm with the unsung music of the night breeze. The sun had set long ago but its warmth remained, trapped in the air surrounding the solitary hut. But the breeze did a lot to dispel some of the heat. Night animals scurried out of their hiding places as though they had been waiting patiently for that time when they could be free at last. An owl hooted a mournful tune in the distance, synchronizing with the bass of several crickets and the sounds of other unidentified insects and animals.
Dried leaves rustled under her feet as she hurried, in quick sure steps out of the hut. The Dongorayo tree in front of the hut had begun shedding its leaves in the typical late February nature. A squirrel scampered off to the safety of a tree as she treaded the narrow path that led to the stream, carrying an earthen water pot. As she hurried along, the animals ran off and watched her with curious eyes as if they were puzzled at the fact that a sane human being would tread the path that led to the stream, after sundown.
Her nerves were stretched taut with fear, all her wits were on edge. She jumped even at the sound of leaves rustling in the wind which was getting increasingly cooler as she went deeper into the bush and closer to the stream. She instinctively adjusted her shawl around her shoulders as the wind whipped her battered skin. She was terrified, which was not really saying much since she was the quintessential coward.
“This is not cowardice,” she muttered under her wheezing breath, repeating this phony conviction to herself. Maybe, just maybe if she did this then she could prove she wasn’t as lily-livered as everyone believed. And by the time they all saw they were wrong about her, she would have the first and only laugh. They would not find it funny because the joke would be on them. Not her, not anymore. This was her “breaking-out”. She’d show them. Oh, she certainly would. Colourfully.
She almost jumped out of her skin as a big rat hurried across her path. “It’s just a rat – a joke,” she chided herself, breathing deeply to steady her erratic heart, beating like a voodoo drum. So much for “breaking-out”. But then again, after tonight all these would stop. She’d become immune to fear. Ah, yes she was on her way to freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from them. Freedom from herself.
Ajoke was almost running now. She wasn’t scared of her decision anymore. No. She embraced it now. Herein lay surcease – to pain, to fear. Her bare feet thumped on the cool, dusty path. Objects pierced her feet but the pain registered vaguely in the numbed part of her brain that had been doomed to a life of pain and fear. And love. Hopeless, heartrending, cruel love. Her pace faltered as she stumbled on the thought. The tears she had been holding at bay threatened to break the dam. And they did. In hot, stinging streams they did. Her broken sobs filled the cool, night air harmonizing eerily with an owl’s desolate tune.
Ajoke grew angry. This was not the plan. The plan was to break out. Break out from pain, fear and this inherent weakness. Tears. She cried far too much and she had hoped against hope that with all her agony and pain that she had “outcried” herself. That the river had dried up. This had to stop. She wiped the watery weakness brutally, blinking to clear her vision. Her eyes and her real vision to break out. No one would have the power to hurt her again, no one. Ever.
With renewed resolution, she picked up her faltering steps, allowing her small feet lead her to her destiny, her hope. She was finally going to be free and she was not going to allow old fears hold her back. She heard the gurgle of the rushing waters and bile rose again in her throat. She quelled it cruelly, gritting her teeth as her mind ran over it all, tormenting her. She was strong, she told herself. She could do this.
The dusty path finally led her straight to the stream. She slowed her steps and her racing heart. She could feel the dampness of the river bank on her bare feet. She watched as the water glowed under the moon with a silvery blackness that was both eerie and comforting. Like a siren song it called to her and her feet moved her. There was no running anymore, she couldn’t run from this. It was too late, this was it. Here lay the fulfillment of her dream; the key to immortality, the doorway to freedom. The moon was full, the stream was full…the perfect night for redemption. She dropped her earthen pot on the river bank and let her feet and mind lead her to where it all began.