The Small River

by Harry
(Temanggung, Central Java, Indonesia)

The drought had come. It resulted in the lack of water in our house. We had water pump but of course, it would not be much of help if there was no water in the well. The only solution was I had to collect water from the river almost every early in the morning.

I chose three to four a.m. the best time to go there for I would not have to ‘wait in line’ with many neighbors of mine who also used the water for various purposes. I used to hold two pails of water in one go.

To fill the containers at home with water as the reserve, I and at times along with my mother had to go to the river three to four times. On one occasion, I set up to go by myself at around three o’clock in the morning. It was still dark and very quiet. I felt a bit uneasy. I was sure that something weird was ahead. What I was worried turned real.

Just above a small bridge not far from the river, there was an animal like a squirrel but a bit bigger getting in the way. It first moved from the bushes and then came towards me.

Feeling unsafe, I threw one of the pails I was holding at it. I missed! I tried the second chance picking up a piece of gravel and was ready to defend myself against the animal. Fortunately, it stepped away after only one throw. As it had gone, I continued walking to the river. When I got there, it was quite dark but I could still see the water flow. I could also hear the wind shrieked and the creak of the bamboo along the riverbank. It seemed that the air was getting colder. I didn’t mind it. I just had to do what I should do. I squatted and sank the pails.

I almost lost my balance when suddenly a pair of legs appeared out of the blue right before me. I wondered whose legs were they so I looked up to see the man’s face. Very strange! I couldn’t figure it out. He wore a hat (which the farmers usually put on each time they went to the field) but I failed to see his face. It was too dark to see any parts of his face, not even his eyes. Unlike any other neighbors I had known, he passed me by without saying a word. As soon as I finished filling the pails with water, I turned around to see if the man was still walking along the path. But I saw no one!

It took only a few seconds before I stood up and walked in the same direction the man did. He had disappeared anyway. It was impossible for human beings to do such thing. There was no place to hide around the river. No big trees or rock to cover one’s body. Moreover, I walked even faster but I couldn’t find him. He faded away in no time.

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