I had spotted them last night and a few nights before. Wrapped only in a cotton saffron cloth waist-down they always walked barefoot on the snow. I had never seen anyone dressed up like that in this part of the world. They looked harmless, in fact they looked benevolent. The one time they had seen me following them, the leader of the group had turned and smiled, his right hand raised in blessing. I had felt so stupid hiding behind the bushes a confused smile stuck on my face. By the time I exposed myself completely, mumbling something about having lost my coin there, they were already gone. That was the closest I had come to them. Their skin shone like the sun and their foreheads were smeared with a saffron colored paste.
I had transfigured into a dog to follow them last night. A dog lost in the snow was a perfect disguise I thought. My body would stay warm too. But something about the way they looked at me told me they had seen through it. I kept my distance and followed them nonetheless. I had to know who these men were, and what pull they possessed on me. How did I end up encountering them so many times when no one else in the town had even heard of them? It could not be a coincidence that I had inadvertently cancelled my routine plans to be at the most unlikely of places and spot them, not once or twice but each time I spotted them. They always knew I would be there. They would smile and look at me, nod in greeting and walk away without speaking.
I remember what happened last night in such details that I can still run it in my head in slow motion frame by frame. They had stopped at this very place and turned towards me. One of them had tears in his eyes as he walked towards me and cupped my face in his hands.
“So Long Son… How have you been?”
I don’t know why but something stirred inside me. A strange feeling of longing took over. I was certain I had never seen this man before, or anyone else present there.
The leader walked behind the man and gave his shoulder a little squeeze.
“Now is not the time. He is not ready yet. Maybe next time”
The leader turned towards me and smiled radiantly.
“You will be one of us very soon. I know it doesn’t add up right now. Have patience. Last time we met, you had fought me, and you had met me like a hunter. Today you meet me like a seeker. Next time you will find me on your own. You will insist on coming with me and I will relent. How long can I keep you away from me after all? You are so dear to me; you are a part of me!”
“Go home son. Your wife is getting worried. She is a great soul. One day, she will lead you to us. Not in this life but in another one.” said the other man.
My eyes quivered and welled. I slouched unable to speak due to my current form. Next thing I knew they all turned into flames and disappeared in thin air.
I am still standing here waiting but I don’t think they are coming back again. It’s dawn now. I am feeling lonely and forlorn. I think I should head back home.
This write up has three main influences: