The world is a terrible place. Men are have made it so. They lie, steal, cheat and kill. They’ve been given chances over and over again, but time is up. It is time for a new world. Time is a fickle thing. It has a personality of its own. It may be friendly when visited, yet dangerous when tampered with. The Seven better watch out.
Aima’s heart beat hard and fast as the sharp blade pressed against her throat.
‘’Down!’’ Lega said. They spoke English but it was broken. Her three companions obeyed, slowly kneeling on the ground. Bubbles sobbed on Tupo’s chest. Rema’s eyes never left hers. She was scared but the calm in his eyes lessened the fear. The other man, Tapa, searched their bags and pockets.
‘’You can take anything you want,’’ Rema said.
‘’Shut up!’’ Tapa said. He brought a pouch of coins from Rema’s pocket and shook it. He and his partner in crime laughed. A tear slipped down her chin and her mind raced. She couldn’t die, not now, not like this. Rema winked at her. What did that mean? The blade left her skin for a second and she immediately took advantage. She stomped Lega’s feet and jabbed his throat with her hand. He grunted. She started away from him but his rough hand pulled her back. He rose the knife and she squeezed her eyes close, waiting for the hit. But nothing came.
‘’It is okay Aima.’’ Rema’s deep voice vibrated. She tentatively opened her eyes and Rema was standing in front of her. Her heavy breathing echoed in her ears. She looked around. The robbers were gone.
‘’Where are they?’’
‘’Bubbles and Rema fought them off,’’ Tupo said.
Bubbles touched his shoulder. ‘’You helped too.’’
Tupo shrugged and rubbed his neck. Aima looked back at Rema and spotted blood on his arm.
‘’You’re hurt.’’ She held his arm. He’d stopped the knife from hitting her. Her eyes pooled and she tried to stop the tears from falling but failed. Why was she so weepy all of a sudden?
‘’It’s just a scratch,’’ Rema said.
‘’We should leave here before they come back,’’ Tupo said.
‘’And go where?’’ Bubbles asked. ‘’If we go back, they could be waiting for us.’’
‘’Let’s just keep on this path,’’ Rema said. ‘’We’ll find someone eventually.’’
Aima gently released Rema’s hand and picked her bag. She sighed. It was almost empty.
‘’Come on.’’ Bubbles said. She nodded and followed her team on the quiet, crooked, and sandy path. Hopefully, they’d find people, not robbers, who would help them.
Rema pressed the cut on his arm with his palm. His arm throbbed and every step he took came with a struggle. Aima rushed to his front.
‘’Sit’’ she said. He opened his mouth but the no-nonsense look on her face shut him up. She led him to a large rock and he sat.
‘’This is way more than a scratch.’’ She whispered. She was so close, he could feel her breath against his skin. She ripped piece of her dress and poured some water from a bottle on it. She placed the material on the wound and he hissed.
‘’Sorry.’’ She said. She fixed those deep dark eyes on him. He traced the features of her face with his eyes. Her long eyelashes, her soft curls that danced on her face, the curve of her neck, her bow-shaped lips…
‘’Why did you do that?’’ her question pulled him out of his thoughts.
‘’Why did you stop the knife from getting me?’’ she asked and looked down at his arm.
‘’I don’t know.’’ He said. ‘’I just reacted.’’
She wrapped the wound and knotted it. He ground his teeth. She was being gentle but it still burned.
‘’This should stop the bleeding.’’ She whispered and stared up at him. ‘’Thank you.’’
‘’Are you guys done?’’ Tupo yelled and Rema grumbled. Aima stood up. She gave him her hand and he took it. Her hand was so small in his.
She removed her hand. ‘’We should go.’’
‘’Guys I found something!’’ Bubbles screeched. They ran to meet her and then paused. Just below them was a village. Clay huts lined the street on both ends. Children were playing. Some of them sat on a mat in front of a house listening to a woman speak.
‘’We should go down and meet them,’’ Tupo said.
‘’Okay,’’ Rema said. ‘’Let’s hope they’re friendly.’’
Stares. All the people stopped what they were doing and stared at them. No one said anything, they just stared.
‘’This is getting creepy.’’ Bubbles whispered. Aima agreed. She looked at Rema. Why wasn’t he saying anything?
An elderly woman walked to them, with a walking stick. A younger woman walked beside her.
‘’Visitors?’’ the younger woman said. Her ‘s’ sounded like ‘z’
‘’Yes,’’ Aima replied. Thankfully someone spoke English. The old woman said something in Baliga.
‘’My name is Tera.’’ The younger woman interpreted. ‘’Mine is Zena.’’ She whispered with a smile. Aima smiled back, her eyes sparkled with life and intelligence.
Tera spoke again. ‘’You look terrible.’’ Zena interpreted with a chuckle. ‘’Come and eat.’’
‘’Thank you.’’ Tupo breathed out. It almost sounded like a cry.
‘’We’ll also treat your wounds.’’ Zena added.
Aima glanced at Rema. ‘’Thank you.’’ Other women came and held each of them by their arms leading them to different huts. Aima looked back at Rema. He looked pale. Hopefully they would treat his wound. He looked back at her and their gazes locked. His lips lifted, she smiled back and entered the hut. It was warm. There was a long mat on the floor, next to two clay pots and a bowl. The hut was small but neat. It smelled of spices mingled with the warm evening air. Zena entered with a bowl of water and a rag.
‘’Would you like to clean up.’’ She asked.
‘’Yes.’’ Aima said. ‘’Where did you learn to speak English?’’
‘’Some white men came to the village a year ago.’’ She said. ‘’They taught some of us how to read.’’
‘’Can I ask you something?’’ Aima asked.
‘’Do you know where the temple is?’’
‘’The village temple?’’
‘’What do you want from there?’’ Zena’s forehead creased.
Aima shifted. ‘’The crimson travertine stone.’’
Zena reached for Aima’s hands. ‘’I do not know what you have heard, but going to the temple is a death sentence.’’
Aima frowned. ‘’what do you mean?’’
’The temple is cursed.’’ She said. ‘’The very air there is like a poisonous fume. The piles of treasures there is what attracts people. But no man has ever come back from the Baliga temple alive.’’
Aima’s chest tightened and she struggled to breathe. This couldn’t be happening. They’d come all this way for nothing? Zena must be mistaken. She rushed out of the hut and doubled over.
‘’Aima!’’ she didn’t look up to see who it was. Hands held her shoulders and pulled her up. Tears blurred her vision but Rema’s face was clear.
‘’Deep breaths.’’ He said. He pursed his lips and inhaled deeply. ‘’Like that.’’
She imitated him, but her breaths were shaky.
‘’What is it?’’ He said gently.
‘’The temple is cursed.’’ She croaked.
His eyebrows shot up. ‘’What?’’
‘’Zena told me that no man has ever come back alive.’’
‘’It’s true.’’ Zena said from behind her. She didn’t even know she was there. ‘’Many people have tried. But then in the morning, we find their bodies lined up on the hill.’’
Rema looked down at her. His brown eyes were so kind. Wasn’t this the man she despised a few weeks ago? Why did his presence calm her so much? It was almost as if he was a different person from the one she thought she knew.
‘’We’ll figure out a way.’’ He said.
‘’How?’’ Aima asked. She didn’t see a way out. She’d failed her family. ‘’I’m never going to see my family again.’’
‘’Yes you will.’’ Rema quickly replied. ‘’You are not a quitter Aima, You are strong, brave and daring. We will find a way around this.’’
He released her arms. ‘’We don’t have any other choice.’’
Aima sniffed. Rema was right, she didn’t have any other choice but to try. She roughly wiped the tears off her cheeks. She had to stop being a damsel in distress around Rema. She glanced at him and frowned. He didn’t look so good. Before she could say a word, he staggered backwards and fell to the ground.
My name is Avanna, I have been hiding in the shadows, patiently waiting. I have big plans for this wretched world. You’ll see me soon enough.
© 2021 Emmanuella