She raced after the bicycle, not because she really wanted to hop on – no. It was the thrill of the chase, the wind in her face, the sound of her own laughter ringing through the leaves, filling the space.
Every afternoon, most days, when the bicycle man comes to get lunch, wrapped in a bundle, bound to the handmade wooden carrier at the back of the bike, with the smell of her mother’s food wafting through the folds – she chased.
That one afternoon, bicycle man was late. Just when she gave up waiting, there was the familiar rattle through the tall grass. Bicycle man was late. The day had gotten golden.
He picked up the bundle, strapped it on and started to pedal away. Girl chased.
But, the day had gotten golden; bicycle-man frowned, he turned around and asked her to go back – it was golden, it was late. She still chased.
Bicycle-man pedaled faster, trying to outrun her. Girl was relentless, she loved a chase. Sunset was sneaking in and the sky was full of hues, different but of one – pink, white, purple, orange, gold. Gold. The bicycle rushed through the tall, yellowed grass, dried stalks from the last corn harvest.
The wind whistles through Afro. The sun loves dark skin, they were made for each other. They dance cosmic tunes in each other’s arms.
It was getting harder to keep up. Less fun, more work. More work. More work. More work – her heart pounded. One, two, three, two more steps. She lets go, spins around. “Mamie will have a snack when I get back, she thought.”
And right there, before her eyes, he was. Walking towards her, one slow step at a time, whip in hand. Except, his step was not just any step, his step was not what we were told steps should be. His step was reverted, twisted. He had heels where toes should have been and ankles upon toes. One steady step at a time, sneaking up on little girls who run into the sunset. “A stroke of the whip will teach her to sit.” His beard trailed on the earth, leaving a snake in its wake, sneaking up on little girls who run into the sunset. Short, so short. A creature that wasn’t supposed to be.
For a split second Girl freezed then she bolted, sticking to the path. She glanced back and saw – the same slow steady walk, never too far behind.
She took a bend, into a path, hardly used. Beard-trailer took it too. He opened his mouth, said something. It sounded liquid-hitting-rock, soft, mushy, curvy, heavy tongued, lashing, all at once. Girl wasn’t supposed to understand the language spoken by creatures that are not supposed to be, but she did. “Agne Borreh” (lets wrestle).
She was petrified! With her last surge of energy, she pushes forth, leaves the path, plunges into brambles and stalks; scratches her thigh. The compass clicks in and she whips out into another path, a shortcut home. Longest strides of her short life.
Wooden door, balled fist. She couldn’t hear herself scream, she couldn’t hear herself banging on the door. She didn’t feel the splinters piercing her soft palms. The door opened and she fell into warm, protective arms. The world went black.