Little Dema sat on the veranda of her aunt’s house with her rag doll on her lap. The afternoon sun pierced through the giant banyan tree and casted its dying shadow on her aunt’s small wooden cabin.
She was waiting for her mother. Her mother however was engaged in a deep conversation with her sister inside the cabin.
‘Why don’t you spend the night here?’ protests her aunt. ‘Oh we will be fine,’ replied her mother. ‘Anyhow, her father will be expecting us there by dinner.’
The good bye bidding inside broke her musing and stood up to leave with her mother.
They have come to her aunt’s house to reach her finished woven kira (dress). The distance was a half days walk from her aunt’s house to theirs’.
Get your shawl Dema. When the sun goes down, it gets awfully chilly because of the winter wind.
As they prepare to leave, her aunt handed them a fire torch to use on the way when it get dark. Dema secured her shawl on her shoulders and tossing one side around and over again, picked up the torch, which was already lit. Holding on her right hand, the pair proceeded with the trek back home.
Their way wound around the mountains and through the valley with two wooden bridges to cross. Once on the bridge, her mother started telling her story about a far away town. The little girl loved hearing her mother’s stories of all the big cities far away.
By the half of their journey, it was already getting dark. Dema feared darkness but her mother’s soothing voice calmed her fears. A hoot owl’s mournful cry floated out of the encroaching darkness and Dema tightened her grip on her mother’s hand.
Finally, night enveloped the landscape fully, and all that could be seen was the shimmering glow of their torch and the shadow of the figures behind it. It was a moonless night, and the faint glow of a few stars faded in between the moving clouds.
‘Mother, it’s so scary in the dark. Will God watch over us and protect us?’
‘Yes Dema, just chant your Ba Dza Guru (mantra). Nothing will happen to us.’
While contemplating her mother’s advice, Dema was distracted by a sound. The sound came from the direction they had traveled from, and the girl’s eyes peered into the ink like darkness. It was very faint, but unlike the other noises she had grown used to along the way.
‘Mother, do you hear that?’ ‘Hear what child?’
Dema moved closer to her mother and said, ‘somebody else is coming!
Her mother gives a comforting hug and replied, ‘You’re just imagining things Dema.’
After walking some distance, the sound that had unnerved the little girl began again. This time the steps were more distinct and lot closer. The heavy boot echoed in the dark.
Again her mother gives her a promising assurance and walks with faster pace. Dema secured the grip on her mother’s hand and holds her doll closer. The crickets kept filling the darkness.
Look Dema, it’s the last bend. After that bend, we will be home. But the sound was getting even closer. Dema felt like the stranger was catching on them.
Amidst the total fear, her mother started chanting prayer loudly to keep up the child’s spirit.
Just around the last bend, they saw their father coming towards them. So Dema felt relieved.
Her father lifted her and carried her rest of the way home. Once inside the house, Dema went straight to the bed skipping dinner.
Just before closing her eyes, her mother’s voice rang in her ear. ‘I heard the steps back there. I told lie because I didn’t want to scare Dema. I kept chanting prayers but on the last bend, I saw a figure of a man without head