That morning was no different than any other morning. They said that there was no need for a watch in the village when there was the old man. Even now as the women were fetching water, they looked up to see him take slow, sure steps past them.
‘Just like clockwork,’ one of them said.
‘Mama, where does he go?’
‘That one is a crazy one. He goes to the very edge of the village and sits there the whole day.’
‘The whole day? Doesn’t he eat?’
‘This is not time for stories! Fetch water and I will tell you everything when you are done.’
Though admonished, the young girl did not stop thinking about the old man. Why did he sit outside the village? For as long as she could remember, the old man had always been known to be crazy. Mama did not keep her promise to tell her more as they went on with the day’s chores. When she raised a question Mama told her not to ask her as some things were better left unknown. She knew better than to ask anymore, especially when Mama got into one of her moods, but curiosity had taken root and it was not going anywhere anytime soon.
So she kept her head down and out of Mama’s line of fire for the rest of the day. She worked slightly faster than usual, not wanting to gain Mama’s attention. She slipped out when mama had turned away. All her chores were done so there would be no reason for Mama to box her ears or to pinch the tender flesh of her inner thigh.
No one paid any mind to the small girl who passed them on the road. It was the middle of the day and no one was thinking with their head anymore, but with their stomach. It did not take long to walk across the village and soon, she saw him, the old man. He sat on a fallen trunk under the canopy of a big tree that she had heard to be the oldest in the area.
His chin rested on his staff as he stared off into the distance. She slowed as she approached, doubting now why she had come. She was about to turn back when he looked up at her. She stood rooted to the spot trapped under his gaze. Children in the village said that he was a man tormented the demons. But now as she looked at him, he didn’t seem tormented by demons. Tormented, yes. He seemed sad.
She walked to him slowly and sat beside him on the log. He watched her all the while but looked away into the distance. She followed his gaze and saw a cloud of dust. From afar she made out the forms of men and heard the sound of metal against metal.
She turned to him, not sure what she was seeing. He turned to her and said, “They are coming.”